Written by argonaut :: [Sunday, 11 August 2013 10:31] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 10 May 2014 11:28]
Jace pressed the communicator on the front of his uniform. “Jace calling Space Ghost. Jace calling Space Ghost. Come in, Space Ghost.”
There was a crackle of static, followed by Space Ghost’s resonant baritone. “Space Ghost here. What is it, Jace?”
Jace peered out cautiously from the cleft in the rock wall where he’d taken cover. “I’m under atack by a swarm of drones on Regulus-4. Request back-up.”
“Sorry, Jace. I’m in a tight spot myself at the moment. I suggest you call your sister.”
Jace grimaced. “Do I have to? You know how bossy she’s become ever since …”
“Can’t talk now. Space Ghost out.” The communicator went silent.
Jace considered his situation. The Space Coupe was several kilometers away, in the clearing where he’d made an emergency landing. His jet-pack was low on power, his force-shield needed a recharge, and his inviso-power wouldn’t last much longer. It was just a matter of time before the drones spotted him. He didn’t have much choice.
Once again he pressed his communicator. “Jace calling Jan. Jace calling Jan. Come in, Jan.”
* * * * * * * *
Jan breathed a sigh of contentment as she lay back in one of the lava pools that dotted the surface of the planet Molmak. It had been a busy week. No sooner had she captured the slave traders of Sector 7 than she’d had to save the planet Kraal from a giant meteor. Even with her super-strength, pushing that skyscraper-sized chunk of rock into a new orbit hadn’t been easy. She’d definitely earned a little R-and-R – and there was nothing in all the galaxy more relaxing than a nice hot lava bath.
Narrowing her eyes, she used her heat vision to turn the bubbling lava pool into a cauldron of churning red-hot magma. She lay back again, luxuriating in its pleasant warmth.
“Jace calling Jan. Jace calling Jan. Come in, Jan.”
Jan raised an arm and pressed the communicator on the uniform that lay folded neatly beside the lava pool.
“Jan here. What’s up, bro?”
“I had to make an emergency landing on Regulus-4. I’m being attacked by a swarm of drones. I could use a little help.”
“What’s the magic word?”
The communicator was silent for a moment. “Please.”
“Be right there. Jan out.”
Gobs of lava fell hissing from her invulnerable body as she stepped out of the pool. Quickly, she put on her uniform, pulled her domino mask over her eyes, and flew off toward Regulus-4 at super-speed.
* * * * * * * *
Jace was weighing his options. If he could evade the drones, and if his jet-pack didn’t run out of power, maybe he could get back to the clearing and repair the Space Coupe. But that was a lot of ifs and maybes. Where was Jan? Probably fixing her hair or something. Just like a girl to be late.
“Well!” said a familiar voice. “It looks like my little brother has gotten in over his head – again.”
Jan was hovering just outside the fissure where Jace had taken cover.
“Careful, Jan,” he said. “There’s a swarm of drones out there – and they’re not very friendly.”
Jan waved her hand. “I know. I’ve met them already.” She pointed to the ground a hundred meters below. Jace looked down. Sure enough, the floor of the jungle was littered with the twisted and mangled remains of the drone fleet.
“So what happened?” Jan asked.
“I was passing by this planet in the Space Coupe when a tractor-beam pulled me down to the surface. I was able to land, but as soon as I got out, those drones came out of nowhere and started attacking me.”
“Well, it’s a good thing you called me,” Jan smirked. “Isn’t that right, little brother?”
“Knock it off, Jan. We’re twins.”
“Yes, but I’m five minutes older than you are.”
“And just because you’ve got super-powers now doesn’t mean you can boss me around,” Jace retorted. “I can look after myself. Well, mostly,” he added lamely. “I’ve got a jet-pack …”
Jan shrugged. “Who needs one?” she asked, twirling gracefully in mid-air.
“And laser gauntlets …”
Jan yawned. “Heat vision.”
“A force shield …”
“Uh … inviso-power.”
Jan shook her head in mock defeat. “Got me there,” she sighed. “All I have is super-strength, super-speed, super-breath, super-vision, super …”
“Okay, I get it.” Jace wished he hadn’t started this discussion. Were all sisters this annoying, he wondered – or just the ones with super-powers?
“So who fired the tractor-beam?” Jan asked. “And sent those drones after you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Hmmm.” Jan turned to scan the terrain, her super-vision penetrating dense foliage and massive rock formations, until …
“Follow me,” she said.
“Huh? Where to?”
“We’re going to pay our host a visit.”
“Uh – how far is it?”
“About ten kilometers. Why?” Jan was getting impatient.
“My jet-pack’s kind of low on power,” Jace said sheepishly.
“Well, I’m not.” She grabbed Jace by the wrist and flew off toward the north.
Faster and faster she flew, skimming treetops and skirting mesas, dragging Jace behind her. He gasped for breath as the wind blasted his face and roared in his ears. He’d never flown this fast before, but he was darned if he was going to ask his sister to slow down. Suddenly his eyes grew wide with alarm. Jan was flying straight toward a towering cliff that loomed ahead …
“Look out!” he shouted. “You’re about to …”
His stomach lurched as Jan made a ninety-degree turn and began flying up along the rock face.
Jan grinned down at him over her shoulder. “About to what?” she asked.
Moments later, she set him down on the edge of a wide plateau. Bending over with his hands on his knees, Jace took a few moments to catch his breath. When he looked up, he saw that they were standing in front of a massive fortress carved from the plateau’s volcanic stone. It had no doors, no windows, no opening of any kind. Directly in front of them was an enormous slab of gleaming grey metal, about ten meters square, set in the high stone wall.
Jace stepped forward, raising his right arm. “Stand back, sis. My force-beam will get us inside.”
A blast of concussive force shot from Jace’s gauntlet and struck the door like a thunderbolt – but without effect.
Jan leaned forward to inspect the door’s metal surface. “It does look like you scratched it, a little,” she said, standing up. “Now it’s my turn.”
She drew her fist back, then struck the door with all her strength. It crumpled inward with a loud metallic groan, snapping loose from its stone frame until it hung creaking by a single massive hinge. Jan poked it gently with her finger. The slab fell inward with a loud crash which echoed from the surrounding mesas.
“Show-off,” Jace muttered.
Jan held up her finger and blew on it like a gunslinger blowing smoke away from the barrel of his six-shooter. “Come on,” she said, flying through the open doorway. “Let’s see if anybody’s home.”
“Wait up.” Jace followed his sister into the fortress, his jet-pack humming.
For several moments they flew down a long cavernous corridor. Suddenly Jace pointed toward the far end. “Look!” he cried. “A door – and it’s opening!” He put on a burst of speed, overtaking his sister in his haste to reach the doorway. “Hurry up, slowpoke!”
“Careful, Jace,” Jan said as she followed him through the opening. “This could be a …”
The door clanged shut behind them.
“ … trap.”
They found themselves in a vast domed amphitheater lined with high, wide doors, barred like the doors of cages or prison cells. The room was empty except for a throne-like chair at the far end, where a familiar figure sat – a dwarfish figure with spindly limbs and an oversized head enclosed in a gleaming helmet.
“The Creature King!” cried Jace.
“Indeed,” cackled the space-villain. “When I disabled your craft with my tractor-beam, I was hoping that Space Ghost would be inside – but no matter. Destroying his meddlesome young friends will be a fitting appetizer to my revenge!”
He pressed a button on the arm of his throne and one of the doors slid open. “Allow me to introduce my champions,” he said as three nightmarish creatures emerged from the shadows behind the doorway. “A giant ape from Rigel-9 ... a space-bat from the Omicron Nebula ... and a Jovian basilisk!” He touched his helmet with the tip of a finger. “Destroy them!” he commanded, pointing to the two figures standing at the other end of the room.
The space-bat was the first to attack. As it swooped toward them with a high-pitched shriek, Jace’s jet-pack sputtered, then died. Not now, he thought in dismay. But before he could use any of the weapons on his gauntlet, the bat’s talons had closed around him. Jace struggled to free himself, but the claws were holding him fast. “Help!” he cried.
“I’m on it!” Straddling the winged monster, Jan leaned forward and pressed her hands over its enormous ears. She knew that bats navigate by echolocation …
Deaf, disoriented, the bat flew blindly against the domed surface of the amphitheater. Stunned, it loosened its grip on its captive and plummeted to the floor of the arena.
Jan swooped down and caught her brother as he fell, then set him gently on his feet. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah,” Jace gasped. “I’m fine. Just – look out!”
Before Jan could turn around, the giant ape had leaned down and grabbed her in its huge leathery hand. Roaring in triumph, it lifted her off the floor and glared at her with malevolent yellow eyes.
“Let go of me,” Jan demanded, squirming in the creature’s grasp. “You darn – dirty – ape!”
A short burst of her heat vision caused the ape to bellow in pain and open its hand. Freed from its grip, Jan wrapped her arms around the behemoth’s thumb and flew straight up, toward a small skylight in the center of the domed ceiling, pulling the ten-ton beast up with her. She swung the ape round once, twice, three times, then let go. The amphitheater shook as the ape struck the wall, then slumped to the floor, dazed and motionless.
Just then she heard a strangled cry behind her. The basilisk’s scaly coils were wrapped around Jace like a cocoon. The serpent’s ruby eyes glittered, its red tongue flickered, as it tightened its embrace, squeezing the breath from its victim. Its jaws gaped evilly …
“Oh, no, you don’t!” Diving in at super-speed, Jan grabbed the end of the serpent’s tail and pulled back with a snap of her wrist. Jace spun like a top as the powerful coils loosened around him. Still gripping the monster by its tail, Jan began twirling it round and round over her head. The giant ape was rising to its feet. Jan flung the serpent across the arena, using it like a bolo to pin the ape’s arms to its sides. Ape and basilisk toppled to the floor with a crash like thunder.
The Creature King was pressing his spindly fingers against his helmet. “Get up!” he ordered the beasts. “Attack them! Destroy – no!”
Jan had circled behind the Creature King’s throne and grabbed his helmet. Now she began to squeeze it. Its shiny surface crumpled; sparks flew from its circuits The Creature King watched in horror as Jan’s dainty fingers crushed his helmet into a softball-sized lump of mangled metal, which she let fall to the floor.
“Cursed female!” the space-villain shrieked. “Without my helmet, I can’t control my creatures!”
“Too bad, your majesty,” Jan said. “By the way – it looks like your subjects would like a word with you!”
It was true. Freed from their evil master’s telepathic control, the three creatures were advancing toward him – lumbering, fluttering, slithering – revenge gleaming in their eyes.
Ignoring the Creature King’s terrified screams, Jan flew across to where Jace was rising shakily to his feet.
“Ready to blow this popsicle stand, little brother?”
Wrapping an arm around her brother’s waist, Jan flew up through the skylight as a cacophony of screaming, bellowing, hissing and shrieking rose from the arena below.
* * * * * * * *
Thirty minutes later, Jace and Jan were sitting in the Space Coupe, en route to the Ghost Planet.
“Listen,” said Jace. “I want to thank you for – you know – helping me out back there.”
“Hey, what are big sisters for?”
“And I have to admit, some of the stuff you did – punching down that door and fighting those monsters – well, it was pretty impressive.”
“You mean it?” Jan was pleased.
“Yeah,” Jace grinned. “For a girl!”
Jan bristled. “And just what is that supposed to mean?”
Jace held up a hand for silence. “Hold that thought.” Space Ghost’s voice was coming over the communicator on his uniform.
“Space Ghost calling Jace. Space Ghost calling Jace. Come in, Jace.”
“Jace here. Go on, Space Ghost.”
“Are you all right?”
“I’m fine. We ran into an old friend of yours, but I don’t think he’ll be giving you any more trouble. I’ll tell you all about it later.”
“‘We’? Is Jan with you?”
“Yeah. She helped me out, a little.”
Jan tossed her head. “Hmpf!”
“Good,” said Space Ghost. “I need both of you back here right away. Metallus is preparing to attack the Ghost Planet with his robot army.”
“We’re on our way. Jace out.”
Jace reached for the controls of the Space Coupe. “Better buckle up, sis. I’m about to put the Space Coupe in hyperdrive.”
“It’s okay,” said Jan. “I can get there faster on my own.” She pressed a button on the console. “Last one there’s a rotten egg!”
Next moment, the eject mechanism had shot her out of the Space Coupe. Pausing only to stick out her tongue at her brother through the window, she vanished in a burst of super-speed, leaving a bright streak of blue and yellow against the velvety darkness.
“Sisters,” Jace grumbled. “Who needs ‘em?”