Rebel Planet

“Oh great, it’s hunt the keys… in space!”

Rebel Planet by Robin Waterfield

Cover: Alan Craddock

Illustrations: Gary Mayes

Lizard man with sword. Did you think we'd get away from that in The Future? Hah!

I appear to have fallen through a wormhole into a fantasy universe.

Yes, the word planet in the title means the book is set in The Future and there is space travel and also that this is science fiction and I’m probably going to get killed by a robot.

This is a really good science fiction story, what with all the flavour and future technology and different human cultures that science fiction is supposed to be about. Oh sure, the technology is sometimes stunted in that old sci-fi way, but never so much so that it isn’t reasonable. The various planets are human colonies with different cultures, and the way the evil aliens fit in is interesting. I enjoyed it as a sci fi story. I also enjoyed it as a gamebook, except… well, you’ll see.

Okay, so, evil aliens: So by 2453 the planet, in fact all the planets humans colonized, have been conquered by some alien reptiles who are bastards. This is what happens when you give aliens the secret of space travel. After giving the human race an arse kicking that is more than a little embarrassing, they decided that this running a galactic empire thing was tricky, so they built a massive computer on their home planet. The Arcadians (they come in three varieties due to divergent evolution) decided to turn themselves into a group mind just so they could have an easier time running their empire. Yes, they are a bit stupid. But there’s a plan to free the human race from the yoke of the oppressor, and it’s an incredibly dangerous task.

Why yes, you’re right, the person being sent to do this seemingly impossible, certain death task is me. So basically the human race is screwed. But SAROS (Search And Research Of Space, they’ve had a bit of a shift in focus since we were conquered) has trained me up in martial arts and science, and has managed to whack an Arcadian over the head for a weapon, and they’re going to send me off undercover as a merchant, which is the only space travelling humans are allowed to do between our colony worlds. My mission is to blow up their computer.

Oh wait, no, that would be too easy! My mission is to find the rebel leaders who each have part of the code to the front door of the computer complex, and then get to Arcadion, and then blow up the computer. I guess if I don’t have all the pieces of the code when I get there, I get to sit down on the steps outside and have a bit of a cry or something.

Oh, and this was one of the Fighting Fantasy books which was turned into a computer game back in the distant past of the 1980s. It’s a bit different, having been turned into a text adventure instead of the slaughterfest these books usually are, but it sounds interesting enough.

48 kilobytes! 48!

Not pictured: Reel-to-reel version. Hey, and what’s with this “All-American” rubbish?

Statistics

Skill: 11 (haha!)
Stamina: 18 (whaaat?)
Luck: 12 (screw this secret mission, time to hit the casinos!)

Equipment: Laser sword, 2000 credits, anti-grav pack (it’s a backpack which is weightless).

Special: When I hit someone in unarmed combat, I have a 1 in 6 chance of killing them outright, because I am that much of a badass. Also I can only carry six other items. So I’m a poorly equipped badass.

Onward to Adventure!

Well, blue is a change from white.

Let me think… the only people who have spaceships are Arcadians, and me. So… no.

After an uneventful trip involving a lot of space chess – it’s like normal chess but the computer throws every third game so I don’t feel so bad – I arrive on Tropos, the planet otherwise known as retro world. For some reason the fashions of 21st Century Earth have become sort of a national dress here, so since the entire planet Earth turned into one big permanent retro costume party in the 1990’s, this means I’m moving through crowds of people dressed in fashion from the 20th century. But there’s no time for me to reflect on the sartorial history of Earth. First I have to find Bellatrix, rebel leader, who hangs out at a club called Fission Chips. Ugh, they kept all the old puns, too.

First things first, I have to go to the hostel for offworld humans to maintain my cover. The receptionist is unresponsive, possibly because Arcadians have no need nor desire to be respectful to us, so I go upstairs and find someone crying because he’s been made homeless by the Arcadians. They suspected him of being one of the rebels and naturally figured the best way to deal with this problem was to kill his family and burn his house down while leaving him free to go about his life. Then one of the guards downstairs comes running up to the dormitory floor and wants to slaughter us because the receptionist is dead, on the basis of some kind of ten-for-one deal they have going to make sure no-one tries anything funny. Well, I suppose this is what the super-secret rebel leaders gave me my laser sword for: Hilarity ensues. After I kill the guard, throw the other intended victim out the window to safety, and make my escape. Unfortunately I don’t have an address for this nightclub, so I wander about until I find a store and buy some gear. Rope, can of oil, klaxon. Thankfully the shopkeeper is an Arcadian so I don’t have to make any excuses to her. I then ask for directions, which she gives me in typical Southern Arcadian fashion – which means a cryptic statement that seems more than a little bizarre. But thankfully I figure out where to go with no trouble at all whatsoever.

At the Fission Chips, I am quietly told that I probably want to make a call from the visiphone booth. As I step inside I get gassed and dropped down a chute, because apparently the people in charge of the Tropos cell decided Get Smart! was the best bit of Earth nostalgia to base their secret rebellion tactics on. I wake up in the dark, being questioned by three people I can’t see. I manage to figure out that the woman in the group is indeed Bellatrix, and she tells me that the only information she has is that the Northern Arcadians, who are the warlike sub-species of our oppressors, have encoded part of the secret door code in a marching song. Apparently they think an acrostic poem is the height of clever encryption.

The next day I board my space ship and head for Radix, which is a decadent planet with slightly lower gravity, lots of robots, and I have no idea who my contact is or how to find them. Good thing the Arcadians on this world are as prone to lazing about as the humans, then. I make for a low-rent hotel and find out from the manager that the Arcadians aren’t so much slacking off on the oppression front as they are outsourcing it to robots – they have a machine that can destroy whole city blocks to deal with student protests. Oh, right. A giant death robot. Called the Street Fighter. Riiiight. I head to the university despite the risk of being attacked by a robot, and decide on a whim to check out the archaeology museum next door first. It’s not very exciting, apart from the shocking revelation that the original inhabitants of this planet were entirely wiped out by the human colonists before the Arcadians took over from the humans. So this whole situation is probably the universe handing down some karma on us. Okay then. The Arcadian on guard offers to show me around the basement archives, where I see a grenade which has been labelled as a religious artefact. In the fine traditions of my ancestors, I am overcome with desire for this destructive weapon. I could sneakily pocket it but instead, inspired by the destructive history of the human race I witnessed above, I decide to slice up the security guard so I can steal it. The human way is the violent way, after all. Then I get lost in a maze of passageways. But there’s stuff to loot, so that’s okay. What’s not okay is that there’s people chasing me. I dodge around the passageways stealing priceless artefacts and then finally find a hatch I can unlock with the keys I stole from the guard. Then it’s on to the university.

I wander about until a kindly student, seeing me feeling dejected because I’m all alone, asks me what’s wrong. I vaguely hint at needing to meet someone who is vaguely near the fringe of the vaguely revolutionary vaguely scene. She sends me to meet a Professor Zacharias, who is in a bit of a rush, so I attend his space history lecture. It’s more than a little boring, and I fall asleep in what I will insist later was a brilliant tactical move. I realise I’ll have to come back tomorrow and leave. On my way back to the seedy and cheap hotel I’m staying at, I run into the evil giant cylinder that’s going to try and collapse a building on top of me. Literally: It stomps the ground so that pieces of falling masonry come crashing down. I, however, have a grenade. One smithereened robot later, it’s back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. The people of Radix can sleep easier… at least, until the Arcadians come up with a Street Fighter 2.

In the morning I head to the university, only to find that Zacharias has been arrested for being the head of the underground. Oh, dear. But maybe the clutter on his desk cunningly hides a clue? Or maybe I’m clutching at straws. But my straw clutching takes too long, and some Arcadians turn up and arrest me on the basis that anyone staring at a known rebel’s desk is also a rebel. As opposed to someone who considers disorganised clutter to be found art. Given a choice between death and no chance to continue my mission, and selling out the rebels on Radix and getting set free – oh how hopefully optimistic I must be to take that seriously – I decide that selling out the rebellion is the only option. Then the guards decide to be colossal wankers and give me a choice between a certain death door and a maybe death door.

“So, where are the two guards for the doors?” I ask.

“What guards for the doors?” replies the commandant.

“You know. One who tells the truth, and one who lies.”

“What?”

“Sorry, I must have been a bit confused for a moment,” I say. Which isn’t a lie, I genuinely thought there would be two guards and a logic puzzle for me. Oh well, left it is.

The left door leads to a darkened corridor, which leads to a door with a grille next to it. One of the Arcadians is on the other side and seems pleased to see me, presumably because they prefer to have an excuse for gladiatorial games, rather than just abducting people. I’m allowed to sleep and then in the morning the guard tells me how to beat one of the monsters, and gives me a new laser sword. I do my thing and then am allowed to leave, which goes to show that the Arcadians aren’t all bad. Just 99% bad.

I set off, with a spare anti-grav pack from my ship, but no equipment. Thankfully I still have my money. Halmuris turns out to be the worst dump of a planet I have ever seen. Well, okay, I’ve only ever seen Mercury and Venus before this trip, so this planet is probably a bit of an improvement. It’s covered in volcanoes, has massive and dangerous tides, and the only people here are Arcadians and researchers. I’m looking for an assistant at an agricultural research station. But of course the first thing I need is a sword, so I ask someone if they can help me get one. This is probably the silliest idea I’ve had on this whole mission. But the technician leads me to a black marketeer who sells me a new laser sword for a thousand credits. Then he has two of his thugs block the door and tells me to cut him in on whatever scheme he thinks I have going on.

“Sure,” I say, activating my new sword. “I can cut you in on the action,” and proceed to kill him. What kind of fool tries to menace a woman he’s just sold a laser sword to? Especially one as good at dicing people up as me. Unfortunately I’m so shit-hot at swordplay that I’ve started a fire, and have to run away from the scene of destruction. I only have time to grab a pair of wire cutters before leaving. I sneak up to the starport’s high-tech boundary barrier – a wire fence – hack it open, and then make for the research station.

One set of mountains, flipped for the other side.

Hey, I bet this planet is a nice holiday spot. Why are you looking at me like that?

I have to spend the night in a cave and then the next day try to find the research facility. Of course, seeing a rock buzzard with something shiny clutched in a vicious talon as it glides to its aerie sidetracks me. I climb up to kill it and then shove my hand in one of two conveniently dark and spooky holes in the rock to see what I can find. I come out with some kind of weird alien staff, some credits, and… no! Not a mind probe!

I return to the ground and continue onwards, taking a side path where I meet a shadow roving about on the ground with nothing visible to cast it. Then it turns into some kind of hazy form. It’s life, but not as we know it. I call it Lamont. Lamont wants something but can only speak in 1950’s sci-fi alien speak, but thankfully I know that quite well. I have a sneaking suspicion what he wants is the staff I hauled out of the crevice, which turns out to be an incredibly impractically-shaped battery. With Lamont’s power restored he can speak properly, and he offers me a favour. I ask for the name of the rebel leader, and Lamont tells me to look for someone called Dorado, gives me the secret password, and then vanishes away to his home in a galaxy, far, far away.

I press on to the agricultural research facility and head for the fields to find this Dorado person. Unfortunately a flyer spots me, and they start incinerating the genetically engineered super shrubs that are being created to terraform this planet. As I run for some rocks the flyer follows, but it crashes into the cliff face and thanks to my space helmet I am merely knocked unconscious thanks to the falling debris instead of being outright killed. I come around almost an hour later and have been found by the rebel leader for this planet.

That staff is not really keeping in character as an agricultural worker.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

He tells me that the passcode for the computer facility is a palindrome, and gives me some gear, including a disguise so I can get back in to the starport (yeah, it’s a jumpsuit), and sends me on my way.

I decide to simply wire cutter my way back in, purely for amusement. Once there, I get ready for the last leg of my trip. Unfortunately my trip to Arcadion is not a simple cargo delivery. This time I’m delivering a passenger… no… it turns out there’s two of them. Crap. I set the ship in flight and settle down to an uneventful journey. At least, it should have been. Instead I have someone trying to break into my cabin. I throw the door open and find an Arcadian looking confused. I manage to get some information out of him: His name is Mucsa and his brain implant has started to fail, due to the amount of decision making he has to engage in in various administrative positions. This is slowly giving him back free will, but is causing terrible migraines and also wracking guilt. Before I can learn anything else, he’s taken away by the other Arcadian. Who is armed with a phaser. This is not typical at all. So I go and kick their door in and kill the armed one, and interrogate the other. I don’t learn much, but find out there’s an arsenal under the computer building and he also gives me the code.

Right then.

Arriving on Arcadion I head off on the pretence of doing some sightseeing. There’s actually a few humans around, who are clearly fanatically loyal to the Arcadians. The building housing Friend Computer is… well, it’s a building. There’s a keypad by the door, with two buttons. Arcadians, having only two fingers, think in binary. That must mean there’s little amusement to be had with an Arcadian pocket calculator. Inside, I quickly go to the armoury and grab a tube of some kind of explosive and a grenade.

Guard with gun gazing grimly.

I don’t remember this guard. I suppose the Arcadians are more organised in computer game world.

The grenade turns out to be useful for killing the patrol I meet when I come out. No problem there, now for Skynet. The computer turns out to be a bunch of sub-components linked together, which is not that thrilling. They don’t even have reel-to-reel tape spooling away. I separate the tube of explosive in to three parts, one for each of the largest units, and then get the hell out of there Outside I run into a platoon of Arcadians. They look a bit angry, right up until the sound of the explosion is heard. Then they just stand there. I walk up and give the on in the front a gentle push, and the whole group topple down like dominoes.

Well, here I am, at the centre of an evil galactic empire and in need of a quick trip home. I hope those loyalists aren’t pissed, because I’m going to need some help refuelling my ship.

Wrapup

Okay so that bit with the password to talk to the rebel leader on the third planet was horrible, since there’s no logical way to get it without deviating from a clearly defined mission. In the fantasy stories it’s more sensible to go clambering up hill and down dale to see what’s out there, but in this case it seems slightly unreasonable that the super agent on a mission to save humanity would deviate from their mission.

There’s a shock twist near the end of the book which you can, unfortunately, miss: The two passengers are not an implant failure case and a guard. They are someone who has developed a brain implant that works in Arcadians and humans, and their Arcadian test subject. The mission goes from important to vital, with failure not even remotely an option.

Oh and I just effectively committed genocide there when I won, since the Arcadians are totally dependent on the computer to function. So that’s two races of aliens the humans wiped out. I suppose this is the book with the highest overall body count for the reader.

Suspension of Disbelief Shattered: I need a weapon so my first idea is to go and ask some stranger. Yeah, that makes sense.

Ridiculous Battle: The Street Fighter (sk 9 st 16) seems reasonable, except each round it does more and more damage. Luckily there’s a way to outright thrash it, as well as a chance to figure out a way to reduce its Skill score. Otherwise, this book is rather kind.

Victory: Well, pretty much like I said: You run outside, there’s some Northern Arcadians, the computer is destroyed, you’ve reduced all Arcadians everywhere into vegetables. They were sort of evil thanks to their culture of ruthlessness, but this is a bit bleak, really. Good book, though.

What Was I Thinking? Um, pass? I don’t know if I did anything stupid or not. It’s a reasonably forgiving book, apart from that password thing and all the other 50-50 situations.

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4 Responses to Rebel Planet

  1. Wait til you see Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo.

  2. Greg says:

    Street Fighter 2. I really did laugh out loud.
    Nice review. Thank you.

    If you’re interested, here’s mine. http://fightingfantasyfan.info/rebel-planet/

  3. Jonas Juul says:

    I can’t believe you finished this one. It was actually because of this book I found your blog searching for clues. I do think translation has a point in this. Would love to read how the original english version of the poem/song is, because the danish version doesn’t seem to hold th same clues

    • I played Rebel Planet three times for the blog, and the lack of real problem solving threw me on the third planet after the reasonably logical first and second worlds.

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