by Dayton Ward
LAST TIME: Having defeated the ION ROCKETS launched by EMPRESS ENTROPIA from within the hazardous asteroid field, SPACE MARSHAL DYLAN McCADE and DEPUTY JACQUELYN BLAKE make their way to the planet PLUTO, home to Entropia’s empire and her dreadful new creation, the ICE CANNON. The giant weapon is capable of enveloping an entire planet inside a gigantic shell of solid ice, and Entropia has announced her plans to turn the cannon against EARTH. McCade and Jax are Earth’s only hope of foiling Entropia’s diabolical plan, but first they must deal with a legion of her DOOM SENTINELS.....
Space Marshal Dylan McCade and Deputy Jacquelyn Blake watched as the Doom Sentinels rose from beneath the Plutonian soil and began a slow, terrifying advance toward them. McCade noted, “I count twenty-five of them.”
“We’re cut off from the ship!” Jax shouted. “What do we do now?”
By way of reply, McCade raised his laser pistol, sighted in on the closest of the Sentinels, and fired. A bright beam erupted from the weapon, striking the robot squarely in its chest plate. The Sentinel promptly exploded, McCade’s laser beam having struck the machine in its control center.
“Nice shooting,” Jax commented.
“I thought so,” McCade replied. They watched as the smoke cleared and the first of the remaining Sentinels marched into view. As they emerged from the cloud, blue bolts of energy spat from the metallic claws of the lead Sentinel!
McCade and Jax only barely managed to dodge the attack, the bolts kicking up dirt right they had been standing an instant before.
“That’s new!” Jax exclaimed, aiming her own laser pistol at the lead Sentinel and firing. Her shot managed to cleave the robot’s left arm off, the appendage falling abandoned to the dusty soil as its owner marched onward.
Watching the army of robots continue their approach, McCade gave the matter several seconds of careful thought and then made his decision.
Turning on their heels, McCade and Jax sprinted for the base of the nearby mountain. With several hundred yards of ground to cover, they dodged and darted between and around the various boulders and rock formations littering the landscape. Every few seconds, more energy bolts came from behind them, plowing into the soil all around the duo as they ran.
McCade dashed beneath a large stone arch which probably had been carved from millennia of rushing water untold eons ago. Jax was right on his heels when another blast of blue lightning caught some of the rocks behind them, causing them to explode outward from the rest of their formation. They both felt the concussion from the small explosion and McCade suddenly stopped running.
“That’s it!” he shouted in triumph. “The rocks must contain some kind of combustible minerals!”
“Shoot the arch!” Jax yelled, aiming her own weapon. McCade sighted in just as the first of the Doom Sentinels appeared from among the rocks. Three of them were marching closely together as they walked beneath the stone formation.
“Now!” McCade barked, pulling the trigger on his pistol. Jax did the same and twin laser beams lanced out, striking the stone arch. Rock exploded outward in all directions as whatever volatile elements embedded in the stone ignited. A chain reaction took over, obliterating the base of the arch and causing the spanning length of rock to collapse. The three Sentinels caught in the blast were instantly buried under tons of Plutonian rock.
“We did it!” Jax exclaimed. “The path’s blocked!”
McCade nodded. “Good. Let’s get out of here before they find another way around. We’ve still got to find Entropia’s subterranean lair!”
Far beneath her opulent castle, Empress Entropia watched as preparations continued for the Ice Cannon’s next test. Below her, workers scurried about weapon, making final adjustments and taking status readings. The cannon itself hummed with barely restrained power, anxious to unleash its fury on its next target.
“Bring the weapon to full power,” Entropia ordered. Unlike the test against Neptune, this would be the first time the Ice Cannon would utilize its maximum energy potential. The previous test, which still had encased Neptune in a shell of ice, had only used a fraction of the weapon’s total capabilities. If this next experimental operation was successful, Entropia knew she then would be ready to employ the Ice Cannon on her ultimate target: Earth!
“Weapon is at full power, Majesty!” reported the worker manning the Ice Cannon controls.
“Excellent,” Entropia replied. “Target the planet and prepare to fire. Put it on the imaging screen.”
The view on the imaging screen shifted to show a giant sphere hanging in space. Its distinctive patterns of swirling colors and the large red spot in its Southern Hemisphere would be enticing to watch on any other occasion. Today, however, the mighty planet Jupiter was merely an object of scientific curiosity; a means to an end.
The glowing red crosshairs of the Ice Cannon’s targeting control system moved across the imaging screen, finally centering on the gas giant. Entropia, now seated upon her ornate throne, could only barely contain her excitement.
“Fire!” the Empress of Pluto shouted, clenching her fist and waving it in the air.
Deep inside the mountain, Dylan McCade and Jax found themselves in an underground tunnel. The passage was narrow at first, but as they walked further it began to widen. Soon, the pair emerged from the tunnel’s confines into an enormous cavern.
“Whoa!” Jax exclaimed.
The cavern was perhaps only a hundred yards wide, by McCade’s estimate, but it extended far into the distance to the right and left of the adventurers, disappearing into the Plutonian depths. Their path turned into a stone bridge that crossed a chasm in the cavern’s center. As they reached the bridge, McCade looked over the side and saw nothing but darkness.
“Careful where you step,” he advised.
McCade pointed across the bridge. “The path continues that way. Entropia’s base has to be somewhere in this direction, beneath her castle.” With that, he started across the bridge.
Jax moved to follow, but suddenly stopped.
“Wait,” she said. “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” McCade asked.
A deep rumbling echoed from somewhere deep inside the mountain.
“That,” Jax said.
The rumbling grew louder, and a flash of light caught their attention. Turning to their right, they saw……
“It’s the Ice Cannon!” McCade shouted.
Jax said, “This must be the conduit through which it fires its beam! We have to get out of here!”
A monstrous wave of blue-white energy surged from the darkness of the cavern, bearing down on the adventurers with incredible speed....