Okay, so initially, this was going to be the second last chapter, however I came across a cliffhanger so good that I could not continue. So you will be left on edge while I work on another chapter. Enjoy! 🙂
Jayna awoke with her head throbbing. Apparently the sleep inducement drug they had injected her with was not meant for her comfort, she thought wryly. Then all trace of humor vanished as her memories caught up with her. She shook Derson awake, then moved over to wake Mako up, while Derson roused the last person in their party.
Mako’s eyes groggily fluttered open. He got to his feet almost instantly, habit of years in suspense, but wavered and nearly fell while his perilymph fluid balanced itself out. His vision swam and for a moment, he could not see anything, but with a quick shake of his head, he cleared any previous blurriness away.
His sharp eyes caught the care lines that had begun to develop across Jayna’s face, and the black around her eyes told him of the sleeplessness she now suffered from. And to think that Cassie, her mentor, was on the side she had been taught to resist! Mako had a great capacity for empathy, being a very feeling character himself, and he understood the confusion Jayna was going through. It was because of this that he decided he would help her fight through this, no matter what the outcome was and– Mako caught himself to make sure he truly believed what he was about to think next, then he realized that he would truly help Jayna, even to the extent of going up against Liam.
Mako sighed. His eyes had changed from being bright and cheerful to clouded with shadow and darkened by sorrow. Even his posture showed the great burden of sorrow that he carried. Then suddenly he felt furious at himself. He had mentally committed himself to work with Jayna against Liam! That was not how a faithful friend acted even when abandoned. Then, as Mako searched his previous thoughts and memories for what could possibly have caused such a treacherous notion, he realized that Liam must have influenced him that way mentally.
We approach master. This was the mental message that Liam intercepted as Cassie sent it.
“It feels good to be in competition with you again– Cassie,” Liam said, his mask leaving his visage expressionless, though his blood coursed through his veins like a raging river. Being in a familiar position of command matched his disposition entirely. It had been so long since he’d been in a position of power, he’d forgotten the giddy feeling it gave him.
“Likewise– Nightmare,” Cassie returned with a small smile.
“How long did you know?”
“Ever since you arrived at the Outpost.”
“Ah,” Liam nodded knowingly, tapping his enerblade thoughtfully. “I knew you suspected me, but I did not think you would see through my changed personality so soon. I thought that my change would have disguised me for a little longer than that.”
“You flatter yourself,” Cassie said. “You may have been the Imperetor’s puppet right hand, but your skills of disguise are no better than when I first met you. You have some very telling signs.”
“Yes, such as your mental shields which stop any body from reading your emotions, your height, your terseness, your build, the mask is new though. Speaking of recognition, I am truly quite surprised that your dog – Mako I believe – did not recognize me. I did think he was one for observational capabilities.”
“Then your skills of perception are no better than when I first met you,” Liam returned evenly. “My former dog did recognize you, but he masterfully hid it. I see that you still have not learned how to mask your mental messages,” this last statement was made when Liam intercepted yet another message from Cassie to the Imperetor.
Cassie grimaced slightly, but the expression of distaste quickly faded when she received a message from her master; one which Liam was unable to read. Quickly she relayed an order to the pilot, and they slowed out of Machspace. Before them was the dark planet, so far from any star, nebula, or source of light that only all who had been under the subjection of the Imperetor knew of its existence. Imperetor Malvolent had named it Masoftal.
Liam turned to a mech, his cloak following him in a delayed motion. “Bring the captives onto the bridge.”
Jayna looked up disinterestedly as the door to their room slid open smoothly and twenty mechs marched in.
“You are to follow us to the bridge,” the robotic voice of the mech captain said.
“And if we don’t?” Derson challenged. All the blasters of the mechs instantly pointed at him.
“Then we will execute Protocol 43,” the mechanoid said flatly. Derson did not know what “Protocol 43” was, but he assumed it was not for the good of his health, so he quieted down and followed the leading mechs as they left the room. Inside though, he was seething with rage.
Mako looked up hopefully towards Liam as the group entered the bridge, but Liam remained motionless, his head did not even turn. It was Cassie who spoke first.
“We have arrived, Jayna, Derson, Rogers, and– Mako, was it not?”
“It still is!” Jayna said savagely. “How could you do this Cassie? How could you betray the Galactic Regime, the Assembly– and me?”
Cassie’s face remained as if set in stone, but Jayna felt a slight ripple of emotion pass out from her former mentor. This time it was Liam who spoke.
“You ask ‘how’, when really you should be asking ‘why’.”
“Then tell us why,” Mako said. His volume was soft, but the words filled the bridge with a soft ambience that contrasted greatly with the Imperetor’s robust resonance. Jayna thought for a moment that Liam was not going to answer Mako’s question, but she was mistaken.
“Many people have trouble making any kind of art because they focus in too much on a single problem they face; they work too much on one small point which the believe to be wrong. It is seldom somebody ever steps back to look at the full picture. Those that do do so see what nobody else does. They make decisions and choices based on that bigger picture, and so nobody understands the reasons behind their choices, until in the end, when the piece of artwork is complete, all is revealed.
Mako’s features had been working visibly as Liam had said this. Jayna did not really understand why, but Liam new only too well. In answering Jayna’s question, Liam had sent a secret message to Mako using a double meaning behind his speech. Mako’s heart leapt with joy, but, at the end of Liam’s speech, he was careful to maintain the same melancholy appearance he had initially had. How could he ever have doubted Liam? Of course Liam would have realized Mako had made a simple mistake!
Mako, the only person who had known Liam as long as the Imperetor had, now understood what Liam was doing. He would have seen it all along too, except for the fact he had been too focused on his relationship with Liam and Liam’s rehabilitation.
At this thought, Mako’s internal disposition sobered to match his external appearance. Liam was treading a dangerous line. He had not even recovered from his previous bloodlust. If he went too far… Mako did not wish to think about the consequences of that.
“Execute docking sequence,” Cassie told the pilot. Soon, they had landed in front of the temple that was the solitary structure adorning Masoftal.
Liam and Cassie led the way as they exited the spacecruiser and entered the temple. Slowly they ascended through the floors until they arrived at the top level of the structure. Jayna could not resist shuddering as her eyes discerned the cloaked figure among the inky blackness that encased him.
“Hello, Nightmare,” the deep, resonating voice that Cassie had grown so used to, spread through the room and echoed back. Jayna could sense a great deal of mental power pass between Liam and the Imperetor.
“Hello Malvolent,” Liam replied, the echoes of the Imperetor’s voice abruptly being silenced.
“Still as rude as ever I see,” the Imperetor said, casting back his hood.
“Oh forget the games,” Liam said, as the mechanoids beside him fell to pieces and the pieces flew to be deposited in a corner out of the way. He unhooked the enerblade he carried and ignited it, the black blade giving off an interesting aura.
“Still as direct as ever I see,” Imperetor Malvolent said, a smile that could have been genuine curving across his face. His enerblade still remained in its position at his waist. Cassie stepped over beside her master, while Jayna adjusted her position. Reaching among the rubble of the mechs mentally, she recollected her enerblade and the coms’ blasters.
The Imperetor and Liam began circling around each other. Jayna, noticing that the Imperetor still did not hold his enerblade, tried to take it from him with a quick mental grab. Without even looking in her direction, Malvolent said, “Have it my dear.” At the same time, his enerblade shot to her and ignited as it flew through the air.
Liam extended a hand sharply and the enerblade halted with the tip just before Jayna’s throat. “Good, good,” Malvolent congratulated clapping the same slow clap he had used to distract Cassie. Then the Imperetor’s enerblade shot like lightning from its suspension in the air and into his hand.
“I have broken you once before Nightmare,” he threatened.
“And I have killed you once before Malvolent,” Liam countered.
“It is said that those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it. I see that you have not learned, whereas I…” the Imperetor paused meaningfully. Then he no longer was walking on the floor, but floating in the air.
“Shall we begin?” Liam said, ascending into air up at the Imperetor’s height and igniting his enerblade.
“Most certainly,” the Imperetor replied, and instantly the two flew towards each other.