Peril on Pluto!
by Dayton Ward
LAST TIME: SPACE MARSHAL DYLAN McCADE and his trusted partner, DEPUTY JACQUELYN BLAKE, learn of the evil EMPRESS ENTROPIA’s newest dastardly creation, the ICE CANNON. Knowing that it can only be a matter of time before Entropia turns the weapon on EARTH, McCade and Jax set out to stop her. Bound for Entropia’s base on Pluto, their ship enters the ASTEROID FIELD between Mars and Jupiter and encounters Entropia’s malicious asteroid defense field. With ION ROCKETS closing in, the McCade and Jax find themselves facing certain doom.....
Space Marshal Dylan McCade pulled a pair of steering levers and the D-68E lurched to the left. On the imaging screen, the eight ion rockets continued to chase them.
“They’re getting closer!” shouted Deputy Jacquelyn Blake from her seat next to McCade’s. As they watched, the rockets changed direction to match that of the ship.
McCade wiped sweat from his brow. “I can’t shake them, Jax! We’ll have to try that new Ionic Deharmonizer.”
Jax muttered something under her breath as she undid the straps holding her down and rose from her seat. Her hands flew out to steady herself as McCade maneuvered the ship into another tight turn. Now balanced against the bulkhead, Jax made her way across the cockpit to the new panel she’d only recently installed.
“You know this thing is still experimental, right?” Jax asked. “And dangerous?”
“I know,” McCade replied, keeping his eyes on the windows, the imaging screen and his controls. “That’s what you keep telling me.” If the Ionic Deharmonizer worked properly, it would disrupt the power flow of the rockets, causing them to veer off course and, hopefully, away from the D-68E.
Jax said, “For all I know, this thing will just blow up, and us along with it!”
Some days, McCade thought, it’s better to just stay in bed.
“We don’t have any other choice!” McCade shouted. “The rockets are closing! Fire it up!”
Jax pulled a large brass lever on her console and after a moment reported, “Ionic Deharmonizer is at full power!”
“Fire!” McCade snapped.
Jax pressed a large red button next to the brass lever and the entire ship groaned in protest as the Ionic Deharmonizer fired its brilliant red beam into space, expanding rapidly as it pulled away. On the imaging screen, McCade saw the ionic beam wash over the rockets. Immediately, they began to veer off course.
“It’s working!” he exclaimed.
One by one, the rockets curved away from their pursuit of the D-68E. Three of the rockets surged forward, arcing past the ship and heading at full speed into the asteroid field to impact on the massive bodies of rock. The resulting explosions cast off the asteroids from their normal drifting course and sent them surging into still more rocks.
“Look!” Jax exclaimed, pointing at the imaging screen. “The rockets are creating a path through the asteroid field!”
McCade was already pulling the control levers on his console. “Hold on!” he shouted. “I’m pushing through!”
Jax grabbed the Ionic Deharmonizer console as the ship tilted alarmingly to the right before angling downward. On the imaging screen, McCade saw the last of the asteroids pass by the ship as the D-68E sailed clear.
“No!” Entropia screamed, her entire body trembling with rage. She lashed out with her right arm, striking the worker manning the imaging screen console. The man was thrown from his chair and crashed to the floor.
Entropia watched the imaging screen as Dylan McCade’s ship flew out of the asteroid field and away from the danger of her ion rockets. “How could they have survived?” She began pacing about the control room, anger clouding her thoughts. “Obviously, McCade’s insufferable harlot of a sidekick, Jacquelyn Blake, installed some new device which gave them the ability to thwart my asteroid defense perimeter.” Entropia turned to one of the workers standing near the rear of the room. “You!” she bellowed, aiming an accusatory finger at the worker. “Were you not responsible for the programming of the defense system in the asteroid field?”
The worker nodded his head quickly. “Yes, Majesty! I oversaw the tests myself!”
Satisfied with that answer, Entropia abruptly drew a laser pistol from the folds of her robe and blasted the worker into atoms. Ashes fell to the floor, the only evidence of the servant’s prior existence.
“Feel better now?” a voice from behind Entropia called out softly. She whirled, the laser pistol coming around to aim at her dear old friend, Zan. Years of friendship reined in Entropia’s anger long enough for her to lower the laser pistol and return it to the holster at her waist.
“Not as satisfied as I should be. If that idiot had done as he was supposed to, Dylan McCade would be dead and I could proceed with my plan. As it stands now, he is most assuredly on his way here in a pathetic attempt to stop me.” Clasping her hands behind her back, Entropia turned to face the long bank of control consoles and their subjects. There was work to be done, and she would not be deterred from the next test!
The worker manning the imaging screen controls suddenly turned. “Majesty! A ship is approaching the planet! It’s Space Marshal McCade!”
Entropia nodded idly at the report. “Very well. If Dylan McCade thinks he can stop the Ice Cannon, then he is sorely mistaken, as he will find out when he lands.”
Zan stepped forward to stand next to Entropia, a move that would have been met with certain death if anyone else had attempted it. “What do you have in mind?”
With a sinister smile taking shape on her lips, Entropia replied, “A welcoming committee for our dear friend, of course.”
“Ready for landing?” Dylan McCade asked.
From her own seat in the ship’s cockpit, Jax nodded. “Ready as I’ll ever be.”
McCade leaned forward and grasped the steering levers. “Okay, here we go!” He pulled the levers and the D-68E sped forward. Beyond the cockpit’s windows, roiling clouds rushed past as the ship rapidly descended through the dark forbidding sky of the planet Pluto. The ship tossed and lurched in the rough atmosphere.
Jax was studying the readings on her console. “Dylan, the detector beacons are picking up immense power readings coming from underground.” She pointed toward the imaging screen. “The highest readings are coming from that mountain range straight ahead.”
McCade nodded. “That’s where we’ll find Entropia’s castle, and the Ice Cannon.” He studied his own controls. “There looks to be a level area at the base of the mountain directly in front of us. I’m going to land the ship there.”
Moments later, the D-68E stood on the surface of the planet Pluto. McCade was the first out as the ramp lowered to the dry dusty soil, and the pair of adventurers paused at the base of the ramp and took in the rough Plutonian terrain around them.
“Not a very friendly place,” McCade observed.
Jax nodded. “No kidding. It’s no wonder Entropia likes it here.”
Pointing toward the large mountain that lay to the north, McCade said, “I saw what looked like an opening in the base of the mountain when we came in. We’ll try that and see where it goes.” With that, the duo set off.
“This place reminds me of Mercury,” Jax noted as they walked. “Remember the big castle Entropia had there?”
“Yep,” McCade replied. “No such luck this time, though. You can bet with a weapon like the Ice Cannon, she’s buried herself deep down inside that mountain.”
A noise from behind startled them, and they turned to look for the source.
“Uh...Dylan?” Jax said, and McCade turned to see that her eyes had widened in shock as she pointed back the way they had come.
An enormous metallic creature—standing at least nine feet tall—was rising out of the ground on what McCade guessed had to be some type of elevator platform. The soil had covered the opening from view and he and Jax had walked right over it!
“Is that what I think it is?” he asked.
Jax nodded, and when she spoke McCade heard the nervousness in her voice. “Yeah. It’s one of Entropia’s Doom Sentinels!”
“Her elite guard,” McCade said. The Doom Sentinels were robots, possessing no mercy whatsoever. Entropia used them to guard her various palaces and castles around the solar system.
“I guess Entropia knows we’re here,” Jax quipped. Then, she turned and pointed at something else. “Look!” More openings had appeared in the ground, each one producing an identical Sentinel. “How many of them are there?”
McCade felt his gut tightening as he drew his laser pistol. “I don’t know. I stopped counting when I ran out of fingers and toes.”
Slowly, the Doom Sentinels continued to advance....