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Issue #2
"Pomp and Circumstance"
David Marshall


"I have seen firsthand the impact these savages wreak on an unsuspecting planet! Look at Rimbor! While some may feel our little corner of the galaxy is better off without it, may I remind you that it has been transformed from a den of thieves to a full scale weapon-producing economy practically overnight! Imsk! Braal! Phlon! Will Earth be next? Or maybe Durla? Or Kathoon? We must unite the remaining worlds under one flag, dedicated to preserving one another's freedom, before the flag of Khundia's tyranny flies over all our worlds! I urge those of you here today to petition your governments through whatever legal means necessary to support my ideas. Now is the time to unite our planets!"

Several in the gathering crowd echoed the phrase in unison, "United Planets Now!"

The chant grew louder as the crowd picked up on it. For Rokk Krinn, who came into his teen years on a world already under Khundian rule, this freedom to gather in such a manner, and to express such ideas seemed peculiar. Did these poor souls not realize that when Khundia does conquer their worlds, they will be executed for their brashness? Surely they've heard the tales from the other worlds. Rokk shook his head in disbelief. "What do you make of all of this Ranzz? Do you believe a remaining handful of worlds can mount an offensive against the Khundian Empire, even if they do unite?"

Garth shook his head. "The Free Worlds would be lucky to mount a defensive effort when Khundia attacks them. Brande does speak well though, doesn't he?"

"He certainly does."

The voice was female. Rokk recognized its melodious tone from earlier. Imra Ardeen. She had slipped in behind them during Brande's speech. "I think his ideas are interesting. They would work, if the governments of the Free Worlds gave them a chance."

Rokk shook his head. "I know the Khundian war machine firsthand. The Khunds are simply too powerful for such a force, and they plan their attack so well. Three-hundred thousands Braalians died before we realized they re-configured their weaponry with non-magnetic materials."

Imra covered her face with her hands. "You're Braalian? Now I feel even worse," she said.

"Worse? What do you mean?" Rokk asked.

Imra's lowered her head. "That kiss...earlier. I know how you must feel about my people. I hope you're not mad. I don't usually act so...forward with strangers." She glanced at Garth Ranzz and then turned back to Rokk. "I was just...I...I'm sorry."

Rokk shrugged his shoulders. "As long as you're not Khundian, it doesn't bother me. Besides, our worlds fought so long ago...."

The three acquaintances watched as Brande wrapped up his speech to enthusiastic applause. Reporters representing most of the free worlds of the galaxy crowded around him as he descended from the stage. "Please, I ask that you focus on the issues! This old man's face need not be plastered on the cover of every holo-vid from here to Zoon! As these people are saying, 'United Planets Now!'"

"Mr. Brande, would you care to pose for the cover of Mars Today?" asked a middle-aged man wearing a long red coat.

Brande resigned himself to the inevitable. He assembled a few of the dignitaries who had been on stage with him to pose for the holo-camera. He glanced at the beings around him and cried, "For Unity of the Planets!"

The reporter seemed to have other ideas. "No, no! That will never do! I need everyone else to step back. I want a shot of Brande alone!"

Brande reluctantly dismissed his colleagues and faced the camera once more.

"...try to find my Ayla and Mekt. Last I heard they were on Starhaven."

Imra nodded. "Maybe you're not as bad as I thought Ranzz. Listen, I'm with Tel-Net, Titan's Profiler Unit. I'm headed to the Science Police Academy, maybe I could run a check...."

"No, I've got to do this myself. I appreciate it though," Garth answered

Rokk cleared his throat. "I hate to break up the party, but I need to find a place to stay. It was great meeting the two of you. Before I go though, download my P.C.I.D.*, and we'll keep in touch." (*Personal Communications Identification*- Dave)

Garth quickly found his PCID. Imra searched through the small purse draped over her shoulder. "It has to be here somewhere. I just had....Ohmigosh!"

Rokk jumped. "Imra, what's wrong?"

Imra pointed across the room to the news reporters surrounding Brande. "Those men are going to assassinate RJ Brande! No time, the camera!"

Without a moments hesitation, Garth extended his hands. Bolts of lightning spewed from his fingertips, arcing over the crowd. His aim was true, as the electrical energy emanating from his hands blew the "camera" into tiny pieces. Two larger men saw what was happening and lowered laser rifles at Garth.

Panic swept through the crowd at the sight of the weapons. Many hit the floor, covering themselves as best they could. Some sought refuge underneath the many tables around the conference hall. A few braved the danger and raced to the door.

Rokk gathered his senses. "Didn't your mother ever teach you not to play with these things? Someone could get hurt." Using the magnetism which made the natives of his homeworld so proficient at MagnoBall, he ripped the guns from the men's hands. The weapons flew across the room and into his waiting arms.

The two men made a break for the door. They got only half way before they collapsed to the floor. They seemed to be in agony, clutching their heads. In moments, both lay unconscious.
The holographer fell to his knees. "Please, don't kill me! Whatever you did to my friends, don't do it to me!"

Imra walked toward the cowering man. She pointed toward the Titan Telepath badge on her blouse. "It's called a Mental Blast. They'll be fine in a few hours. Now are you going to tell me who sent you, or do I have to ferret the information from your numb skull?"

The man replied with a pathetic whimper and folded his body into a tight ball at Imra's feet.
Imra furrowed her brow. After a few moments, she turned to Garth and Rokk and shook her head. "No good. He has a telepathic shield implanted. I can't get through."

The man suddenly seemed more confident, uncurling his body from the previous position. He started to stand. "That's right, little girl! Men like Brande need to be silenced for all our sakes, and as long as someone is willing to pay..."

Imra looked at the man in disgust. She pointed to his two cohorts."Two things, creep. One, you may have an implant, but those frag-heads over there don't. I know who sent you and why. Two, I don't need a mental blast, when I still have a perfectly capable foot!" Imra kicked the man, her foot striking him above his cheekbone. He crumpled to the floor.

With the three men subdued, the hall erupted with deafening applause. In a matter of moments, holo-cameras filled the room once more. Those who fled the assassination attempt gathered back into the room chanting, "United Planets Now!" Everyone wanted a glimpse of the new heroes.

Including one very determined "old man".

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