by Dayton Ward
LAST TIME: Deep within her secret base on the planet Pluto, evil EMPRESS ENTROPIA has unveiled her latest creation: the ICE CANNON. Drawing from the energy of the very planet itself, the immense weapon is capable of encasing entire worlds within mammoth shells of ice. Having successfully tested her creation on the planet Neptune, Entropia already is setting her sights on a vastly more tempting target: EARTH!
Deputy Jacquelyn Blake’s voice echoed through the bowels of the spacecraft D-68E as Space Marshal Dylan McCade climbed the ladder into the cockpit. Only after entering the tiny compartment did he even bother strapping on the ray gun belt he’d slung over his shoulder before running from his cabin. “What is it, Jax?”
Looking up from her control panel, Jax replied, “It’s the President of the League of Planets. He’s calling on the Disaster Channel!”
McCade dropped into his pilot’s seat and pushed the lever to activate the imaging screen set into the console just below the cockpit’s forward windows. The screen flared to life, displaying an image of the President of the League of Planets. He was an older man, with thick white hair and a well-groomed black and gray beard and dressed in a black suit with a bright red tie.
“Marshal McCade, we have an emergency!” the President said without preamble. “It seems Empress Entropia has returned.”
Jax groaned. “Entropia again? Are we ever going to be rid of that evil scourge of the universe?”
The President frowned, shaking his head. “It doesn’t appear so, Deputy Blake. I’m afraid that Entropia has outdone even herself, this time. She’s created a massive energy weapon which can trap an entire planet within an impenetrable shell of ice.”
“An entire planet?” McCade asked, aghast.
Nodding, the President continued. “She built it deep beneath her castle on Pluto. She tested it on Neptune this morning. Very successfully, I might add. It’s only a matter of time before she turns her attention to Earth. Marshal, I don’t have to tell you that we would be totally defenseless in the face of such a weapon.”
“I wonder why she didn’t just hit Earth right off,” Jax asked.
McCade replied, “Maybe she’s not finished with it yet, and she’s testing it on planets closer to her base. Pluto is a long way out, Jax. That Ice Cannon would have to be very powerful to reach all the way to Earth.”
On the imaging screen, the President leaned forward until his face filled the screen. “Entropia must be stopped, Marshal McCade. You know more than anyone what she’s capable of. You’re also the only one who has any chance of defeating her. I’m authorizing you to do whatever’s necessary to destroy that Ice Cannon!”
Drawing a deep breath, McCade nodded. “Will do our best, Mister President. McCade out!” Turning to his loyal deputy, he said, “Jax, let’s go to Pluto.”
Empress Entropia had just settled into her plush throne when a voice from a lower level of the control center called out, “Majesty!”
Not even bothering to look for the source of the voice, Entropia examined her fingernails as she responded, “What is it?”
“We’re tracking a Space Marshal ship!” the worker answered. “It’s flying away from Earth and heading into deep space. It’s the D-68E; Dylan McCade’s ship!”
Though she felt anger boiling from within her, Entropia also could not help the sensation of excitement beginning to grip her. She bolted from her throne, hands clenching into trembling fists. “McCade!” Her greatest rival was coming to meddle with her affairs yet again! Entropia quickly descended from her throne’s raised platform, striding across control center’s main floor until she stood behind the worker manning the imaging screen. “Where is he?”
The worker adjusted the controls until a picture of a Space Marshal Patrol vessel appeared on the imaging screen. “They’ve just passed Mars, Majesty. They are approaching the asteroid field.”
The asteroid field! A vast collection of rock, ice, dust, and debris trapped between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Years ago, Entropia had learned of the wide variety of treasures and resources the asteroid field could provide. She also knew what a natural means of defense the field could provide, and had planned accordingly.
“Activate the asteroid defense perimeter,” the Empress ordered. “Let’s see how skillful a pilot Dylan McCade truly is!”
Aboard the D-68E, Dylan McCade leaned forward in the pilot’s seat. “We’re coming up on the asteroid field, Jax.”
“Roger,” replied his partner as she adjusted the imaging screen controls so that the field came into sharper focus. “They sure look bigger than the last time we were here.”
McCade smiled. “Don’t worry, Jax. Flying through asteroids is a piece of cake.”
“Isn’t that what you said last time?”
Ignoring the comment, McCade grasped the steering controls. “Here we go!”
Under his expert handling, the D-68E entered the asteroid field. His eyes moving between the cockpit windows and his console, McCade guided the ship in a series of dodges, twists and turns as the ship darted around the gargantuan, tumbling masses of rock and ice. Some of the asteroids were no larger than a tennis ball, while others were miles in diameter.
“I’m really not enjoying this,” Jax said, her fingers digging into the armrests of her chair.
“Relax,” McCade replied. “I’ve got everything under control.”
Jax continued to hang on as McCade maneuvered the rocket ship ever deeper into the asteroid field. McCade was just beginning to think they’d make it through safely when Jax suddenly pointed to the imaging screen.
“Uh, Dylan? Look at that one big asteroid.” She gestured to the screen’s upper left-hand corner where one asteroid was moving in a manner altogether different from the others. Instead of tumbling randomly through the void like its brethren, it moved on a deliberate course.
“Uh oh,” McCade said, watching as smaller asteroids impacted on the larger rock’s surface, none of them affecting the juggernaut in the slightest. He and Jax exchanged looks and said in unison, “I think we’re in trouble.”
Jax again pointed at the imaging screen. “There’s another one!” she said, indicating a second asteroid moving in a similar fashion. “Those can’t be real asteroids.”
“They’re not,” McCade replied. “Probably something Entropia cooked up as a trap. She knows we’re coming.”
A warning klaxon sounded in the cockpit and a bright red light began flashing on Jax’s console. “Rockets are launching from those fake asteroids!” She stabbed a control on her console and the view on the imaging screen shifted. One of the odd asteroids was now centered on the screen, with a quartet of bright red rockets arcing through space away from it. “Those look like ion rockets!”
McCade nodded. “Look! More rockets on the way from the other asteroid!” He changed the imaging screen again so that he and Jax now could see a total of eight ion rockets rapidly bearing down on them.
Checking the straps on his pilot’s chair, McCade reached for the steering controls once more. “Hang on, Jax! This ride’s about to get bumpy!”