Chapter 3

Commander Comet and the party of Lizardmen returned through the gates of Chief Goloth's village. Comet stopped in front of the house that had been lent to them for their stay.

"Chief, I would like to speak with my people. There are some things I need to know before I can decide on a plan. Can I meet you in a while?"

"Of course," Goloth said. "You all may join me for the mid-day meal. Be sure to bring King Alano's daughter."

Comet agreed and entered through the oversized door. He found Rusty returned with the extra equipment. "Good to see you Rusty," he said. "Did you have any problems?"

"Not a bit, Sir. The Lizardmen took me out to the Antares in a canoe and it was a simple job to get down to the airlock. Sparks and Omniac are making good progress on repairs. Sparks says he believes the ship would fly again, if we could get her back up on her landing pads. How about your recon, Sir? Did you find the Uranians?"

"Yes, I did," Comet said. "Just one ship, just like the ones we fought on our approach to Venus. I would bet that it is the ship that got away from the fight."

"Jumpin' Jupiter, Commander, what's the chances of us crashing right next to their base, what with the whole planet to choose from?"

"It is an unlikely coincidence, but apparently our approach trajectory was pointed at a landing at their base," Comet said. "When they saw a Patrol cruiser on their scopes, they decided to attack rather than wait for us to land. Since we never made any course corrections during or after the attack, we did come down near them and crashed in the swamp."

"Okay, now that we're here, what do we do about it. We can't let these guys arm one tribe against all the others, can we? Besides, these are the no-goods who shot us down. We owe them one."

"You are absolutely right, Rusty. They must be brought to justice both for their interference with the natives and for their assault on a Patrol vessel. We will arm the Shaloree with the ray-guns you brought from the ship and show then how to use them. You will lead an attack on the Uranians' base, but it will be a diversion. While the Uranians are distracted by the attack, I will fly into their airlock, enter the ship and disable as much of their equipment as I can. With luck, I'll capture their televisor and contact King Alano's government."

"Excuse me, Commander," Princess Liana said. "I admire your courage, but your plan seems very risky. What if they spot you and close the airlock before you get in? Or suppose the attack does not draw them out of the ship and they overpower you when you enter?"

"That's true, Your Highness, but if we don't take their ship out of action, there is no way we can overcome them with the resources we have at hand."

"If disabling their ship is the main goal, there may be another way," she said. "I know the Lizardmen seem primitive and they are, as far as mechanical science goes, but they are very skilled in using the things that grow in their jungles and swamps. You saw the thorn wall they grow around their village and the way they persuade these trees to grow into houses for them. Those are only the most obvious signs of their skill with biology. My people have been trading with them since before recorded history. We give them manufactured goods, they give us biological products that can do things our science can't explain. One of those is a liquid that can dissolve any metal, but is perfectly harmless otherwise. If the Shaloree have that, perhaps you could use it against the enemy ship."

"Thank you, Princess, that is very interesting. And I think I know how we can use it," Commander Comet said.

They'd had to modify the ray-guns to fit the huge hands of the Lizardmen, and it would take a lot more practice before they would be crack shots, but nine of them hunched behind the foliage at the edge of the clearing where the Uranians' spaceship towered above the tallest trees. Nearly a hundred more Lizardmen, armed with their stone axes and spears filled the jungle around them. Commander Comet had tried to persuade Princess Liana to remain in the village, but she would not have it. She pointed out that she already could use a ray-gun and could help any of the natives who had trouble. And her presence would free Rusty to help Comet attack the ship. It was an unassailable argument.

2002 John Dunaj &Dan Thompson
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Four Uranians in black and silver uniforms stood near the fins of their grounded ship. A few dozen Shapeth tribesmen gathered in groups around the clearing. The Shaloree outnumbered them, but all the enemy Lizardmen were armed with ray-guns that appeared to have been manufactured to fit them. That did not faze Goloth who, with a fierce shout, charged into the clearing followed by his tribesmen. Princess Liana, perched on the shoulders of a particularly large Lizardman who seemed not to notice her negligible weight as he stampeded into the clearing, fired over his head with cool precision, picking off an enemy warrior with each shot. The ray-gun equipped Shaloree were firing, too, but with much less accuracy and results. But the sight and sound of ray blasts filling the air served the real purpose of pulling the Uranians away from their ship. They ran after their reptiloid allies, firing into the charging Shaloree,

Commander Comet and Rusty twisted the knobs on their flight suits' control panels. With their rocket packs blasting, they lifted into the sky and flew straight for the spaceship. The Uranians spotted them above the heads of the battling Lizardmen and concentrated their fire on the rocketing Patrolmen. The two lawmen jinked and twisted to avoid the beams and zoomed toward the nearest fin of the enemy vessel. As they passed it on either side, each threw a large gourd that smashed against the shiny metal. Instantly, a clear liquid spread across the fin's surface and smoke boiled up from the dissolving alloy. The Patrolmen banked in crossing turns and again attacked the fin with solvent filled gourds. Deep pits now marred the once gleaming metal and the areas of corrosion spread and joined. The fin buckled and collapsed. The tall spire of the ship leaned, moving slowly at first, and then accelerating as the planet's gravity had its way. It crashed onto the ground with a tremendous roar. The hull split and tore in huge gashes from the force of the impact. This ship would never fly again.

2002 John Dunaj &Dan Thompson
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Comet hovered above the heads of the motionless combatants, who had been stunned into silence by the shock of the crashing ship. He aimed his ray-gun at the leader of the Uranians. "Lay down your weapons," he shouted. "You can't win now. Tell your allies to surrender their weapons, too. Tell them Chief Goloth has promised them fair treatment."

Chief Goloth was saying the same thing in his own language to the Shapeth tribesmen. The Shapeth looked at their human allies for guidance, and when the Uranians dropped their weapons, they did too. It was all over but for getting the gun runners back to human civilization for trial.

Chapter 4

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All text, illustrations, photographs and design are 2001-2002 Dan Thompson, except where otherwise noted.