Chapter Thirty-Eight: War

Robert Charles and the Shkah entered the building and set their explosives.  The explosives were normally used for construction. Sometimes farmers who resided along the cliffs used them to clear land of large rocks after a slide. But the Shkah had stolen the explosives for another reason, and this was it.
Getting inside the building had been easy.  The Hakaanen never locked their doors, and even with Douglas's warning they were hardly guarding the building.  They placed two sets of explosives in a hall close to the atmosphere-making machinery. The other pair of men placed two sets of explosives outside the building. The intent was to damage, not destroy, the building and the machinery.
 Robert Charles left the building first.  He started up the path when he heard a boy's voice behind him.  "Robert Charles?"
Robert Charles turned and peered into the darkness.  Between him and the Shkah man was a boy.  The man grabbed the boy and pulled him up the trail. When they were out of sight of the building, Robert Charles and the man shined their flashlights on the boy.
"Well, look who's here.  Hey, Jordan, what's going on?" Robert Charles greeted him pleasantly. Seeing Jordan was a welcome surprise.
"I'm so happy to see you.” The words tumbled out of Jordan’s mouth.  “Can I go with you?  Please?  They all hate me."
"Oh really?  Well, they aren't worth your while anyway.  You just decided to join the winning side, dude."  He put his arm around Jordan and led him up the hill to the Shkah hiding place. The man followed closely behind them.  Robert Charles was happy. Jordan not only gave him a touch of home, he was somebody he felt he could dominate.


The boys arrived at the building and went in through the front door.  Douglas split them into groups.  Mike, Scooter, and Travis were to check outside the building and wait on the side of the building that faced the cliff.  He, Alex, and Stevie walked around inside, not sure what they were going to find.  Alex had one laser gun and Mike had the other.
Nobody stopped them from walking down the hall past the offices to where the machinery was located.  When they got close to the machinery they saw the entrance to another hall. Alex glanced down it and saw something.
"Douglas, look!"
Douglas looked down the hall.  He could see lights flashing.
"I don't remember seeing those before on our tour," Douglas said.
"Me either.  Let's go take a look."
They walked down the passageway.  They found a plastic device with a blinking red light attached to the wall.  They saw another one at the end of the corridor.
"What are they?" Douglas asked.
Stevie looked at it closely.  "Shit!  I think they're bombs, and I think they're armed."
"Then let's get out of here!" Alex yelled.  He and Stevie started taking off.
"We have to warn the workers," Douglas yelled.
Stevie and Alex stopped.  "You're right," Alex said.  "But let's hurry, this place could go any time."
"Should we try disarming them?" Douglas asked.
"No way!" shouted Stevie as they ran in the direction of the machinery room.  "We might set them off just touching them.  Let’s warn everybody and get out of here!"
They ran into the machinery room.  There were just two workers there and the boys started shouting, making explosion noises and throwing their arms into the air.  They never thought that they would need somebody who could speak the language.  The workers looked at the round-eared boys like they were crazy.  Douglas knew they would have to act fast.
Outside the building Mike’s team also saw blinking lights.  It didn't take long for them to figure out what they were looking at.
"Damn, Douglas, Alex, and Stevie are in there.  We have to warn them."  Mike didn't know that there were bombs inside the building as well.
Mike and Scooter started into the building.  Mike turned to Travis and yelled, "Go back around to the front of the building and warn everybody to get away from the building.  We don't know how much is going to blow up!"
Travis took off running around the building while Mike and Scooter went inside.  They raced along a corridor to a set of stairs and then down to the machinery.  As they headed into the machine room they heard Douglas, Stevie, and Alex yelling at the workers.  Mike and Scooter knew right away what the commotion was about.
Scooter yelled out in Hakaanen, "The place is sabotaged with bombs.  We have to get out of here!  Quick!  Now!"
The two workers looked up the stairs and wondered what the hell Scooter was yelling about.  How could there be bombs in the building?


Robert Charles looked down at the lights of the building below him.  Bazel was holding two remotes.  One was for the bombs outside the building and the other was for those on the inside. As Robert Charles looked down at the building, he knew that by pushing the buttons he was going to change life on Inferno forever. The question for him was, which one did he want to push first?
"You know that Douglas and some of those guys went inside the building, don't you?" Jordan asked.
"They did?  When?"
"Probably while we were going up the cliff."
"Do you think they are in there now?"
"Yeah, I'm sure they are," Jordan said, even though he wasn’t. He was trying to make Robert Charles think he was useful.
Robert Charles grinned an evil smile.  "Good," he said.  He pointed the remote for the inside at the building and pushed the red button just like he had with the "Moonduster".


Mayor Andorn sat in the governor's office.  His face was red with anger.
"How dare you accuse me of treason!  That is so ridiculous.  I sent that flier to save some lives, including one Hakaanen boy!"
"I am not going to press charges until after I beat you in the election,” the governor said haughtily. “I will make your all but stealing the flier a campaign issue so everybody knows exactly what you did. I don't want anybody to think I'm going to have you arrested because you are running against me, so that will wait."
"I did nothing to be arrested for."
"You ordered the flier to get the round ears.  In fact, you let the round ears go into Shkah territory, which was why they were in danger to begin with. Your actions seem to be the reason why they are so angry now. If the Shkah come to battle with us it will be because you helped to anger them.  The Hakaanen have not fought for hundreds of years, and now because you would not leave well enough alone, we are going to have war in our peaceful valley unless I can make the Shkah happy."
"And how do you plan on doing that?" the Mayor asked.
"By giving them everything they ask for."
"And what is it they want?"
"All of the round-eared boys."


Robert Charles stared at the building, waiting for it to blow. But nothing happened—nothing but silence, that is.  The lights burned down below him as they always did.  He punched the button on the remote hard and still nothing happened.  The meter on the remote indicated it was fully charged. He handed the controller to Vordkan. 
"You try it," he said through Orzano.  Vordkan pushed the button and nothing happened for him either.  They pushed the button on the remote that controlled the outside charges with the same result.
Vordkan called Bazel, who was Arkron’s second in command.  Bazel joined the boys, pushed the buttons and cursed in Hakaanen when nothing exploded. He called some of the other Shkah men over and conversed with them. He said some things to Vordkan, who walked over to Robert Charles and Orzano, telling them what Bazel had told him.
"He thinks we're out of range," Vordkan told Robert Charles.  "We are a lot farther away from the target than we were when we blew up your shuttle craft." He gestured to Bazel to join them and he and Arkron joined the boys.
Vordkan started talking to the two Shkah men, who both nodded yes.
"We need to go down the hill and get closer to the building,” he told Robert Charles.
Vordkan immediately started down the trail. Bazel gave Robert Charles the remote and nodded to the Earth boy, indicating he trusted him to get the job done.  Robert Charles, Jordan, and Orzano followed Vordkan.  Bazel followed the boys at a distance so an adult would be available if the boys needed assistance.  He also followed them because he didn't totally trust Robert Charles, especially now that he had another round-ear with him.


Scooter finally started getting his point across to the machinery maintenance workers. The workers rushed to the exits with the boys following after them—it was time to get out of the building and get out fast.
Travis got to the front of the building and warned the boys there to get away from the building. He didn't know how big the explosion would be; in his head he saw the whole building blowing in a gigantic fireball.  The boys ran a few blocks from the building, far enough away that they felt safe but close enough to see the action.
Douglas, Mike, Alex, Scooter, and Stevie got away from the building and decided to head in the direction of the path that led up the cliff.  They wondered if maybe they might find something or see someone there. They went slowly up the path, not knowing what they would run into at each turn and blind spot.



Robert Charles and his group stepped off the path and onto a small ledge.  From it they could look down at the roof of the building.  He held the remote in his hand—he wasn't even sure which was which now.  He was going to push one then the other and see what happened.
He handed the remote in his left hand to Vordkan and pushed the button on the remote he kept.  There was a loud BOOM and the walls on one side of the building blew up and out.  A huge cloud of dust and debris blew into the air.  Bazel looked at the explosion and grinned—they were succeeding in their mission.  That explosion had caused only outside damage. It was time for Robbachass to push the button and damage the machinery.


The boys climbing up the path heard the explosion.  They turned around and watched one side of the building go up in flames and dust.  They were discussing what to do next when they caught a glimpse of Robert Charles on a ledge above them.  Mike switched on his flashlight and illuminated his one-time peer. Mike could see that Robert Charles was aiming something at the building down below.  Alex lifted his laser gun and aimed it quickly at Robert Charles.  His beam, set to stun, hit the teen in the chest and shoulder, sending the remote flying out of his hand and down the side of the cliff.
The four boys turned and took off down the trail.  Vordkan was the first to recover and headed after them.  Robert Charles was stunned and stayed where he was.  Jordan followed Vordkan, as did Bazel and Orzano, following the lights of the boys ahead of them.
When the boys got to the end of the trail they stopped and waited to see how many of their adversaries were following them.  Vordkan came around the final turn in the trail and Alex hit him with a laser beam, knocking him on his ass.  Mike hit Bazel next.  Orzano stopped, too frightened to come around the turn. 
None of the boys was sure how many more were coming, so they turned and ran toward the front of the building, avoiding the side that was burning. Stevie saw the remote that Robert Charles had dropped on the ground and picked it up.  He looked up the steep cliff and could see the ledge that the trail switch-backed to. He knew the chances of the remote falling this far were slim. It’s about time we had luck on our side, he thought.
They all could see that the side of the building was destroyed and in flames.  At the front of the building they could see the rest of the group a few hundred feet away illuminated by the street lights.  Douglas breathed a huge sigh of relief when he saw that everybody was safe. 
Travis ran up to them and gave Douglas a huge hug, almost crying with happiness. "You guys are alive.  I was so afraid you were inside the building when it blew up.”
"We all made it out, but we need to get away from here.  I don't know who is following us.  Let's head back to where we spent last night."
The boys ran down the street as they saw fire trucks arriving at the building.



The governor and the mayor heard and felt the explosion.  "What was that?" the governor asked.
"I think your troubles with the Shkah just started in earnest," the mayor answered.
They looked out of the window and saw smoke coming from where the terraforming building was.  "Oh my God, it looks like the Building of Life is on fire!" the governor exclaimed.
"What was it the Shkah told you about not having plans to attack us?" the mayor asked. “It would appear they had something very big planned out.”
"There has to be an explanation.  This had to be an accident.  I'm going to call the Chief Engineer now."
He got on the phone and the mayor heard him talk and answer.  Then he heard the words, "A bomb!  A bomb went off?"  The governor set the phone down and glared at the mayor.
"It was a bomb.  The building was sabotaged.  I have to call Arkron and get his explanation.  I know this is all a big mistake."
He picked up the phone and tapped in a number.
"This is the governor speaking, I wish to speak to Arkron…What do you mean he isn't there?  I need to speak to him now!...How dare you speak to me like that!  Do you understand who I am?...Well, you tell your precious leader when he arrives that the governor wishes to speak to him immediately!"  He slammed the phone down.
"Who do those Shkah think they are?” he screamed. The man had obviously lost his cool.  “That was his number two man.  He told me that Arkron will speak to me when he is good and ready.  Who does he think he is?"
"Did he admit to attacking the building?" the mayor asked.
"No, but he did say that if the round-eared boys are not turned over by tomorrow the next attack won't be so easy on us.  EASY!!!  Our lives depend on that building!  How can this be easy?"
The mayor waited for the governor to calm down and asked him what he planned to do.
"Why, turn the round-eared boys over to them, of course."
"They already tried killing two of them. I have a bad feeling about what the Shah plan to do with those boys once they are turned over to them. Do you want all of their blood on your hands?" the mayor asked.
"It's them or us.  I'm going to have those boys all rounded up now.  And if you warn them in any way, Andorn, I won't be so easy on you, election or no election.  Because that will be an out and out act of treason!"
“And what makes you think that will be their last demand?”
The governor ignored the mayor’s question and called his chief aide into the office.  "Find the round-eared boys and have them locked up. Now!"
The assistant left.  "Have you thought about maybe fighting back” the mayor asked in a calm voice.
"With what?  Our tiny police force?  The Hakaanen don't fight anyway. We will meet their demand and bring an end to this foolishness.  The round-eared boys are nothing to us.  I am willing to sacrifice them for peace."
"And who will you sacrifice after them?  Who will it be the next time the Shkah ask for somebody?  My son?  My neighbors' sons and daughters? Will it mean turning control of the Big Valley over to them?  When will you draw the line against them?"
“We give them the round-eared boys and they will be happy. In the end the Shkah are Hakaanen and will be reasonable.  There will be no war and no battles.  We don't know how to fight a war anyway—fighting is not in our blood."
The Mayor thought of the group of boys who, without giving it a second thought, bravely went up against the Shkah and rescued two of their friends. "It might not be in our blood, governor, but I think I know who does have it in their blood."


The boys were back to the hall where they planned on spending the night. The first thing Douglas did was call a meeting.
"We got lucky," he said.  He showed them the remote Robert Charles dropped. “This must have been the remote for the bombs inside the building.”
“They could have another remote for those bombs,” Brandon speculated.
“I’d be willing to bet on it,” Stevie said.
They all wondered how much damage had been done by the bomb that went off. They figured the mayor would tell them when he got back from his meeting. For now they wanted to discuss what happened.
"I can't believe Robert Charles is on their side," Jeremy said.
"I can," Alex said, “and it doesn’t surprise me.  He not only is he a total asshole, he is totally evil asshole. Shooting him on stun is too good for him."
"But what's worse is Jordan is with them," Mike said.  "Why did he become a traitor? What did we do to him?"
"It's not what we did," Scooter told him, “it's what we didn't do.  We never helped him feel a part of us.  Now he's going after the attention he thinks he deserves.  We let him down.  He needed us and we didn't come through."
Douglas knew that listening to what Scooter had to say hurt, but Scooter was right.  His talk with Jordan had been too little too late.  Now Jordan had gone back to his old buddy, Robert Charles.
"It was weird, those two Shkah coming down the trail with their lights on, knowing we probably were at the bottom.  It's like they had no idea what they were doing," Alex was saying.
"I don't think they did," Douglas said.  "Think about it.  We grew up on vid games, and things like laser tag, and sport where we compete.  We learned the strategy of war and fighting.  They haven't learned any of that.  They haven't thought about wars for hundreds of years.  Even the way they came down the hill, picking the trail they were expected to be on.  I just don't know why they weren't seen earlier."
"Maybe nobody took us seriously.  It works both ways,” Travis speculated.
The meeting was interrupted by the door to the room opening.  Three Hakaanen men entered and stood guard at the door.  One of them pulled out a piece of paper and read it.
"Under order of the Governor, the boys from the planet Errrrrtd are restricted to this building and cannot leave for any reason without the permission of the Governor."
Scooter translated it.
"Why?  What have we done?  What is his reason for this?" Douglas asked.
"What you have done is put Hakaanen citizens close to war for the first time in centuries.  And for that you must pay."
"How have we done that?" Douglas demanded.  "We've done nothing to deserve this."
"You caused the explosion in our Building of Life.  Because you are here, the Shkah attacked it.  It was because you went into their territory and attacked them that they came to get revenge on us.  You broke the peace we had between us."
Douglas's temper was rising up and everybody could see it.  Careful, Scooter thought at him, don't make things worse.  Watch your temper.
Douglas heard Scooter's thoughts but kept on going.  "Because we attacked the Shkah?  They came after us.  They almost killed my boyfriend and they kidnapped two of us. If we hadn't gone to rescue them, they would have been killed, too.  And as for your building, we kept the machinery inside from being destroyed by stopping the Shkah.  How is it we are the bad guys here?"
"The Shkah have a round-eared boy helping them," one of the men said.  "He is one of your friends.  Until you arrived here we got along with the Shkah.  Now we are at war.  The Shkah see this too.  They have told us that if we turn you all over to them there will be no more attacks."
"You're going to turn us over to the Shkah?" Douglas asked.  "If you do they will kill us."
"That isn't our concern.  The Governor wishes only peace for the Hakaanen and the Big Valley.  You are the key to peace."
Douglas remembered his history lessons from school.  He remembered learning about the wars on Earth and how they started.  And he knew that even though the Shkah were new to this game of war that after they got what they wanted there wouldn't be peace.  The Shkah would only ask for more.  He knew most of the Hakaanen didn't feel the way the governor did, but the governor was in charge right now.  And he knew that the governor was a coward.  And he understood that the Shkah knew that as well and would keep pushing until they got what they wanted. He was certain that what they wanted was control of the big valley.
One of the men noticed that Enghar, Prekan, and Bandar were in the room.  He called them over.
"You young ones must leave now.  A wagon will be coming to pick the round-ears up in the morning and take them to their new home."
Bandar looked at the man like he was crazy.  "What new home?" he asked. "Dooglass is right.  If we give them to the Shkah, they will be killed."
"I don't believe that," the man said.  "The Shkah are not evil, they are simply Hakaanen who have gone astray.  They will merely use them like they use the round-eared boy they already have—to help them in some way. And even if they do imprison them, we will have peace in the valley and will keep our Hakaanen way of life.  We cannot have war with the Shkah because we would never be able to win it.
"Now, you must all leave,” he told the three Hakaanen boys.
Prekan started to obey like a good Hakaanen boy, but he stopped when he noticed that Enghar and Bandar hadn't budged.  They stared at the Hakaanen man in front of them, whom they knew was one of their few policemen. Usually the biggest job for Hakaanen policemen was keeping boys out of mischief and dealing with stray vorts, the Hakaanen equivalent of an Earth dog. They weren't used to Hakaanen boys not obeying their orders.
"I don't believe you heard me," the policeman said.
"We heard you," Bandar told him.  "You are the one who hasn’t been listening.” Bandar found himself in new territory with his disobedience. “We aren't leaving our friends.  Dooglass is right when he said they saved the machinery in the Building of Life.  The round ears have shown us nothing but love and loyalty.  Now it is our turn to return that loyalty to them.  We aren't leaving."
"Mattoo is my boyfriend," Enghar said.  "I won't leave him.  Ever.  For anything or anyone."
Prekan wasn't sure what to do.  He didn't know the Earth boys the way Enghar and Bandar did, but he wasn't about to turn his back on his friends.
"We'll see about this.  You have to leave now!" the policeman ordered again.
Enghar walked over to Matthew and put his arm around him.  Bandar put his arms around Douglas and Alex.  "We refuse," Bandar said.  "We go where they go. So if you turn them over to the Shkah, then you turn us over too."
"That won't happen," the policeman said.  "We will be guarding the doors until morning.  Then a wagon will come to pick you up and deliver you to the Shkah." He walked out and closed the door.
Douglas and Alex hugged Bandar.  Matthew hugged Enghar.  And Prekan smiled when Ryan and Travis gave him a big hug.  Prekan wasn't totally sure what was going on, but he had decided to follow Bandar.  He didn't know Enghar, but he did know Bandar.  He liked the older boy and trusted him.  He didn't think Bandar would ever let him be hurt.
"Thank you, Bandar," Scooter said.  "We love you.  And we love you Enghar. And you too, Prekan."  Scooter hugged all three of them.
"It's going to work out.  You'll see.  The Shkah aren't going to end up with any of us. My father won't allow it," Bandar said.  "He will think of something."
The boys crawled into their beds and sleeping bags.  Nobody could sleep. Some of the boys thought of sex, but even though they couldn’t sleep, they didn’t have the energy to pursue those thoughts. Some of the boys slept together, cuddled for security and comfort, but not for sex.


In the early morning Arkron led the rest of his Shkah men down the trail. He didn't care if they were seen.  What were the Hakaanen going to do to them? They possessed hardly any weapons.  He and all his men carried bows and arrows and a lot of them had laser guns.  It was time for them to start their raids.  He just needed to wait for word on what was happening with the round-eared boys.
Down in the town a wagon pulled up to the community center of the capital city.  Two men got out and walked into the center.  One of them talked to the policeman guarding the meeting room door.  The policeman opened the door and let them into the room.  The boys were still asleep, many of them in pairs.
The man from the wagon woke the boys up.  "It's time for you to meet the Shkah," he said loudly.
"Let's see you make us go," Douglas said. "Because being dragged out is the only way we will leave here."  Douglas was going to say more when he saw Bandar put his finger to his lips.  Douglas stopped talking, but it wasn't going to be for long.
"Go with him," Bandar said, with Scooter translating.
"What?  I thought you were on our side!" Douglas exclaimed.
"Trust me. Just go with them."
Douglas stopped.  He knew he could trust Bandar.  He remembered on the mesa how for a moment he had doubted him.  Then the flier appeared to rescue, and it explained all of Bandar's actions.  He decided Bandar must have a good reason for his behavior this time, too.
Douglas nodded to the rest of the boys.  They folded up their bags and grabbed their backpacks.  What they had on them in the room was everything they owned.  Douglas made sure Bandar could see the laser guns in Alex's and Mike's packs.
They went to the wagon and were loaded into the back.  The policemen were expecting trouble from the boys and were surprised when they didn't get any.  They didn't stop Bandar, Enghar, and Prekan from accompanying the Earth boys.  They figured somebody would take care of that later.
The wagon, which was drawn by two unicorns, took off down the road and made a turn onto a main road.
"Douglas, both of these men work for my father,” Bandar revealed as he pointed to the two men driving the wagon.
"Hi, Douglas," the man who had picked them up said.  "The governor needed a couple of drivers.  We volunteered," he said laughing.  "We have a hiding place for you.  Nobody is going to harm you boys."
"And those policemen didn’t know who you were?" Scooter asked.
"Sure they did, and they trusted us.  But by the time they figure out what happened, we'll be in hiding."


Arkron was at the rendezvous spot.  He had received word that the round-eared boys had been picked up.  This was the place where they would be delivered.  From here he would take them so far out into the desert they would never make it back.  He had the feeling that only the round-eared boys could defeat them.  With them gone then only he would have his own two round-eared boys who had been very helpful and still had some uses. Once he had used them they could go join their friends out in the desert.
 He had no intention of killing anybody—after all hadn’t they crossed the desert already? He didn't think getting rid of the round ears would be this easy. And as far as he could see, only the round ears had the balls to stand up to him and his Shkah warriors.
He looked at his watch.  They should be at the rendezvous in about an hour.  After he had the boys he would lead another attack, and then ask for one more concession before he would stop the attacks. And he would keep doing that until it was too late, and then the Big Valley would belong to the Shkah.
But the hour went by, and then another hour passed.  There was no wagon and no round-eared boys. Arkron went into the farmhouse where they were staying.  He picked up the phone and called the governor.
"They aren't here yet,” he yelled without any greeting. “We had an agreement.  I know they were picked up, so where are they?”
"What do you mean they aren't there?  The policemen called me as soon as they left."
"Did you take an escort?  Did you have somebody watching them?"
"Well, now they're just boys and I know the drivers."
"You idiot!" Arkron yelled at him.  "Those boys are your way to ending our little conflict.  They stand between you and peace.  I will have those round ears here in an hour or we burn this valley to the ground.  Starting with the house I'm in right now."  He looked at the two farming women and their daughter sitting in fear in the corner of the living room.
The governor was furious.  Nobody talked to him like Arkron was talking to him. But he was afraid to hang up.  Peace meant everything to him right now.
"I will find the round ears," he told Arkron.  "Just give me one day."
"If I don't see them in exactly one day, then we are at war," Arkron threatened. "And while there are many more of you than of us, we are stronger, better armed, and better prepared. We are prepared to fight and to kill. You will not win.  I want those boys tomorrow." This time Arkron was the one who slammed down the phone.  He turned to the other Shkah men in the house.
"If the round ears aren't here in a day, it's war.  And next time the Building of Life won't be spared.  They got lucky this time. Next time there will be no playing.  We will burn the valley down to the ground.  Get the other group and bring them here.  We need to plan our attack."
The governor picked up his phone and spoke to his aide.  "Dial up Mayor Andorn for me."
His aide called the mayor, but got the mayor’s partner instead of the mayor.
"I'm sorry, governor, the mayor isn't in,” the aide reported.  “His partner doesn't know where he is or when he will be back."
The governor called the policeman who had been guarding the boys.
"So who picked them up?" he asked.
"The men you sent in your wagon.  And it was your wagon."
"Who were the men driving the wagon?"
The policeman told him.
"You fool!  They both work for the mayor!"
"Well, what difference should that make?"  The Hakaanen were quickly showing how naive they were in the ways of war and intrigue.
"Never mind.  We need to find that wagon and those boys.  And we need them in the next day.  So you better get started now!!!"  The governor hung up the phone. “How did they end up with my wagon?” the governor yelled in frustration.
The mayor is a traitor, he thought.  Election or no election, Andorn was going to pay for this now!


Douglas sat in the hay in the loft of a barn kissing Scooter.  His hands were all over him.  They finally came up for air. He had needed this contact badly.
"How long are we going to stay on this farm?" Scooter asked.
"I don't know.  Bandar's father said for at least a day, at least until we see how the Shkah react to our disappearance."
Douglas had been told the whole story by Bandar after Bandar talked to his father.  He learned about the Shkah demands for the governor to turn them over.  He found out how the governor had agreed to give them up.  Bandar knew why the bombs inside the building didn't go off, thanks to their attack on Robert Charles. The only damage to the building was to the walls of one side of the building and to a set of blowers on the roof.  Everything that was damaged could be fixed.  If the other bombs had gone off it would have been a major disaster.
Douglas learned about the Shkah’s new demand that they be turned over to them in one day.  Bandar told him how his father, the mayor, planned their rescue and had them brought to this farm, which was owned by a distant cousin of his partner. 
The Hakaanen aren't used to these kinds of games, Douglas thought, but Mayor Andorn was learning fast.  If there is to be war, neither the Hakaanen nor the Shkah were going to be prepared for the kind of thinking and strategies he knew he and his friends could come up with.  The only ones on the planet who could think with them were Robert Charles and Jordan.



The Hakaanen police had no idea where to look.  They tried friends and relatives of the mayor, but had no success.  Night came and then morning came, but they could not find the boys. The deadline came and went, with still no luck.
The phone rang in the governor's office.  The governor knew who it was without even checking and picked it up. 
It was the call he expected from Arkron. "I don't see anybody, governor,” was all the Shkah leader said.
"Give me time.  I need another day."
"You had your day.  You wasted it.  The deadline has passed.  Be prepared for war, Governor Rebosh."  Arkron hung up the phone. The governor stared at his phone. He hated the round ears and wished they had never set foot in his peaceful valley. The Shkah could do whatever they wanted to remove them from his domain permanently.
Arkron walked out of the farm house.  He looked at the two frightened ladies tied up in the living room.  He gestured to the other Shkah.  They all walked out of the house.  Robert Charles saw their signal and set fire to the barn. They mounted their unicorns.  If the fire happened to spread to the house, well, it wasn't their fault.  They took off for the next farm; it was time to take the Big Valley down.
Fortunately for the ladies and their child, the fire did not spread to the house. They were rescued by neighbors before sunset.


"The deadline has passed," Alex observed.  "I wonder what is going to happen now."
"I think we're going to find out soon enough," Douglas told him. "Mayor Andorn will be coming here this afternoon to talk to us.  I don't think he plans on having us just sit around here doing nothing."
Douglas decided to look for Scooter, but before he could move he heard Ethan yelling.
"Help!  Help!  It's my brother!  It's Logan!  Something's happened to him!"
Next: In Hiding
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