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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, '08, 7:17 pm
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Part Three: In Jeopardy

I/A missiles- according to the classified information Nero Landale was able to pass along to the organized resistance against LaShiec, they were high velocity, short-range missiles capable of penetrating up to four inches of Laconia armor, delivering an electromagnetic pulse before exploding. One missile was able to easily destroy the Luveno.

Tairon couldn't help but dwell on this knowledge as Hapsby chimed in, "Sirs! Another fighter has launched a missile!"

Two I/A missiles could not only easily destroy the Luveno, but completely incinerate most of the falling debris. This thought also crossed Tairon's mind, and he wasn't too fond of the imagery it provided.

"Both missiles will strike us in twenty seconds." Hapsby manipulated a few controls, then called back, "Everybody, brace yourselves!"

Immediately, Lutz and Tairon buckled themselves into the ship's acceleration couch, grabbing the impact webbing above it. Myau looked first to Tairon, then to Lutz, then back to Tairon and asked, "Hey, guys?! Where am I supposed to sit?!"

"Where you usually do!" Tairon replied. "Here- get into the impact web!"

"And hold on tight!" Lutz added.

"Ten seconds... hold on tight back there!"

The small robot commanding the Luveno tapped a few more controls, then shucked the ship's control stick to the right. The Luveno pitched wildly to the right, charging forward and around one of the fighters. The missiles followed their new trajectory, arcing ever so slightly towards their quarry.

At the ship's controls, Hapsby quickly calculated the velocity of the missiles, the Luveno's trajectory, and the fighters' bearings and trajectories- all important for getting the ship and all aboard to safety. After some number-crunching, Hapsby pushed the control stick forward. The ship dipped as Palma's surface suddenly filled the control cabin's window.

"Wha... Hapsby, is that Camineet Spaceport!?" Myau asked, sweatdropping. "We're not gonna survive landing like this!"

"I don't think he's landing, Myau," Lutz told him. "I think he's trying to evade the missiles."

"Yeah, but... a big crash, big fireball, kill everybody in the spaceport?" Myau sighed. "We're gonna make LaShiec look like Lord Weiss at this rate!"

"Lutz, I think you're right," Tairon interrupted before Myau could say another word. Turning towards the Musk Cat, he continued, "And Myau, never use those two in the same sentence. Ever. Again."

The ship bucked again, this time nosing up. There was a deafening boom from outside the ship, and Hapsby reported, "One of the missiles is gone- it impacted with one of the fighters!"

"How?" Tairon asked.

"There's a defect in its tracking system. I maneuvered the Luveno so that the fighter was between us and the missile."

"Uhh... what about the other missile?! I'm sure that wants to blow us sky-high, too!" Myau demanded, nervousness creeping into his voice.

"I have a plan. I can improvise a chaff field by ejecting all the spare parts from the service deck." Hapsby whirred, then continued, "If I'm right, that should confuse and prematurely-"

"Hapsby, dissertation later, preservation now!" Tairon ordered. "Dump the spare parts!"

"Of course." As soon as Hapsby pressed the button, everyone could hear hydraulics hissing somewhere within the ship, followed by an alarm klaxon blaring. Below the four, the Luveno's stock of replacement parts poured from the service deck towards the spaceport. The massive cloud of metal had caught the missile's attention. Sensing a larger target than the Luveno, the missile dipped lower to follow the rain of parts.

"...Closing service deck access ramp," Hapsby told the passengers. "Engines are ready... we're heading to Uzo Island on Motavia, yes?"

"Hold on..." Lutz urged. "Hapsby, wait four seconds, then take off for Paseo."

"Strange, but... as you wish."

Four long seconds passed, then Hapsby fired the ship's engines. Just at that moment, the other missile exploded, trapped in the moray of raining nuts, bolts, and complex circuit boards. Concealed by the explosion, the Luveno quickly left Palma's atmosphere.

To anybody watching from the proper angles, it had appeared that the Luveno had been destroyed. Hundreds of passengers and spaceport employees rushed to visiphones, calling Emergency Services or various news outlets.

Up in the Luveno, Tairon sighed, relieved. "Well, that's over," he said. "Myau, you can let go of my hands now."

"Right. Sorry 'bout that, Tairon!" The yellow cat leapt from the impact webbing towards the ship's acceleration couch, while the two Palman occupants unbuckled themselves.

"We shall approach Paseo Spaceport in three hours," Hapsby said. "Should I announce our arrival?"

"Wait a minute, Hapsby. Re-alter the system ID- the number we're using now is useless, now that half of Algo thinks we're shrapnel on the tarmac in Camineet."

"Adjusting. Shall I unmask the sensor emanations from the ship, Tairon?"

"Yeah. We want to look legitimate." Taking a deep breath, Tairon added, "Think we can do something about altering those wavelengths also, Hapsby?"

"I believe so."

Hapsby immediately set to work on reidentifying the ship. Myau stretched and said, "Hey, guys! You know what would have been really helpful about two minutes ago? Weapons!"

"Urgh, here we go..." Tairon groaned.

"Myau, you were there when we spoke to Doctor Luveno," Lutz told him. "We were lucky enough to get the funds to have this ship built."

"I know, but... he could have at least thrown a couple rack drivers in, you know?! Some quark beams, those MEGA-class missiles you told me about last year, Tairon... Stingy jerk could have at least comped us some ablative armor or shielding so we could fill those gun nodes!"

Lutz sweatdropped. Tairon picked Myau up and said, "Hey, the Kerouac class comes with those standard, Myau. Luveno had the blueprints for a Kerouac class in his lab, so that's what he built for us. Besides, even if he did have enough starship weapons to wage war on Algo, how were we going to pay for it?"

"Uh-"

"Myau, I'm no technical genius, but..." Lutz stood up, clutching his Psycho Wand. "Even a simple starship cannon costs fifty thousand Meseta."

"We did the best we could for twelve hundred Meseta, I guess," Tairon added. "Myau, the kind of weapons you want on the ship, those would cost... a lot. Millions of Meseta. You know how many people in Algo have that kind of money?"

With a sigh, Myau realized, "...Yeah. And I don't think he's willing to spend it to help us kill him."

-=-=-

Myau was wrong, but only slightly. Out of the seventeen billion assorted Palmans, Motavians, Dezolians, Musk Cats, and state-registered Androids inhabiting Algo, two people had enough money to build Myau's dream spaceship.

Unfortunately for him, those two people were Reipard and Alisa LaShiec. LaShiec sighed as Alisa shifted her weight in his lap, giving him a soft kiss on his cheek. She smiled and said, "Reipard, darling, I think we should increase the energy tax on the Dezolian colonies."

"Hmm." LaShiec scratched his chin in thought. "Increase it to ten percent... we can put some of that into robot construction and funding the military. And the rest..." He smiled at Alisa. "Let's just say the people of Skure will be paying for my wife's jewelry for the next few years."

Alisa laughed, then pulled herself closer to LaShiec. "You treat me too well, my love," she breathed.

"I treat you as a queen deserves to be treated," LaShiec replied, bringing his lips to Alisa's. She replied to LaShiec with a satisfied murmur as he brought his arms around her. The two kissed, pulled away from each other, then kissed again, repeating the process for about a minute before the sound of footsteps echoed through the throne room.

"Your Majesties!" a POLEZI intoned as it entered the chamber, kneeling before LaShiec and Alisa. "I bring urgent news from Camineet Spaceport!"

"Well, then," Alisa said, looking down at the robot. "Speak, robot."

"The illegal starship Luveno has just been destroyed by unmanned fighters as it attempted to take off this morning. There are no survivors. We're still combing the wreckage for anything salvagable."

"Very good!" Both the king and queen smiled at the news. LaShiec continued, "Anything that identifies resistance members, analyze. Have anyone identified arrested and shipped to Triada Prison. If you find anything salvagable, bring it to the factory at Baya Mahlay."

"As you wish, my Lord."

"And," Alisa told the POLEZI, "Any body parts or other remains of the passengers are to be publically displayed in Camineet's town square- a public warning to any who dare oppose us."

"As you wish, my Lady," the POLEZI replied, before turning and leaving the throne room. Once they were alone again, LaShiec looked to Alisa.

"Well, Alisa, it seems your friends are dead," he said. He started to say more, but Alisa brought her lips to his, muffling his question. Once LaShiec stopped talking, Alisa broke the kiss, putting a finger to his lips.

"Now, Reipard," she whispered. "They were never my friends in that sense, if they fled at the first sign of danger. Still... I am grateful. If they hadn't ran away like the cowards all resistance members are, then..." Her crimson lips formed a warm smile, and her sapphire eyes sparkled with admiration as she leaned towards LaShiec. "I never would have become your queen, and for that..." She kissed LaShiec, then said, "I..."

Another kiss. "...am..." And a third. "Eternally..." She kissed LaShiec again, a bit longer than the previous kisses, then told him, "...and I do mean 'eternally,'... grateful."

"You honor and flatter me, Alisa dearest," LaShiec replied. "Now that the biggest threat of the resistance is over, we can relax for a bit."

"For a bit. After all..." A cruel chuckle escaped Alisa's lips as she continued, "There is the small matter of the resistance cell in Eppi Forest that has to be dealt with. Their camp is hidden deep within the forst, but..."

"But? What do you mean, Alisa?"

She winked at LaShiec. "I can tell the robots exactly how to get there..."

For the next hour, Alisa gave LaShiec detailed directions to the rebel camp in Eppi Forest, and gave names of everyone who had helped her- "Co-conspirators with the now-deceased Myau, Tairon, and Lutz," she called them. "They should be dealt with."

"Swiftly," Alisa whispered, giving LaShiec another kiss. "As the Lord King of Algo is expected to..."

-=-=-

"We are now approaching Paseo Spaceport on Motavia. Expected to land in three minutes," Hapsby said. "If you do not mind my asking, Uzo Spaceport is lesser-known than Paseo Spaceport. Why not land there?"

"Because, Hapsby, we need to hide in plain sight," Lutz replied. "And where else to do that than in the busiest spaceport on Motavia?"

"That, and we're looking for Tajima," Tairon replied, settling himself on the ship's acceleration couch. "His cave was by the Great Sea, right?"

"Yes. We'll have to drive across the antlions' nests, though."

Hapsby bleeped, then worked on some controls. "Understood. I'm unsecuring the Land Rover, and having the automatics refuel it," the tiny robot told his passengers. "It should come in handy."

"Thanks, Hapsby," Tairon said. "We'll have the spaceport workers unload it once we land."

Just as Hapsby said, the Luveno- under the newly assumed name Ulysses- settled down at Paseo Spaceport. Two valets drove the Land Rover out to the outskirts of town, handing Tairon a numbered ticket. "Don't worry," the valet said. "We'll hold her for you until you're ready!"

"Thanks a lot," Tairon replied as he, Myau, and Lutz disembarked from their ship.

"This planet's still really hot," Myau groaned. "And there's no fish."

"I know it's hot, Myau," Lutz replied. "I was born here, and I hate the heat, too. Still, think of the people who live in Skure and Akuba. I'm sure they hate the cold."

"Lutz? I was born on Dezolis," Myau told the Esper. "And I hate the cold. Palma's so great."

"All right, we can discuss the temperature later," Tairon said, starting to walk to the spaceport's moving sidewalk. "Right now, we're looking for Tajima."

Once Myau and Lutz joined Tairon on the sidewalk, a sign blinked to life near them. "Good afternoon, from the Paseo Tourism Board! The time is now 1:35 local time, seventeenth of Six-month, AW 342! The outdoor temperature is now 109 degrees Farenheit, with no clouds in the sky. Tourists are advised to drink plenty of water and stay indoors as much as they can-"

Tairon sighed. "109 degrees, and the sun beating down on the sand... this is gonna be another looooong trip."

"Actually, this is one of the cool spells," Lutz corrected. "It can get as hot as 135 degrees during the dry season." Tairon sweatdropped.

"I thought we were gonna talk about the heat later?" Myau asked.

"It's later. At least the Land Rover's got air conditioning."

"That is true." Looking at Paseo, Tairon caught a glimpse of the Governor's mansion, sitting on a hill overlooking Paseo. "Think we should talk to Governor Hope?" he asked. "He could get us some more help."

"Besides another nightmare? No, thanks," Myau replied.

"I think we should," Lutz told Tairon. "I don't know why, but... there's this foreboding feeling surrounding him. It's like... I think his life might be in danger."

"What makes you say that?" Tairon asked.

"If Alisa still has her knowledge of our journey, she'll know LaShiec and Governor Hope didn't get along all that well. And now that she's in a position to tell LaShiec as much, he might send some of his robots to kill him."

"You really think so?"

"I believe so, at any rate." As if to underscore his point, Lutz started walking down the moving sidewalk, the unspoken indicator to his comrades that time was of the essence. Myau bounded behind him, followed by Tairon a second later.

End of Part Three

Following their supposed deaths, Myau, Lutz, and Tairon can now operate under LaShiec's radar. But with a squad of ANDROcops on their way to the Governor's mansion, who will arrive there first? Can Governor Hope help the three on their journey? What will happen to the citizens of Eppi? Will Suelo and her family survive Alisa and LaShiec's wrath?
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