MERCY [NOVA AFTERMATH], CHAPTER 18: SUTA PALACE

M18-0
     One day, Ghethe stopped in front of Petha. He looked at him with empty, unfocused eyes, then asked, “You want to leave?”
     “No, Ghethe. I shall stay here and help you rescue the Ladies even if you want to kill me for this,” dared Petha to answer. He was almost paralyzed with fear by Ghethe’s unnatural looks.
     “Come with me,” said Ghethe without expression.
     Petha went with Ghethe into the Laboratory, and he discovered that day that the science he knew was at least three hundred i-std. years old! He went late to bed, with his head buzzing of impossible E-Fields theories, of unsettling experimental application, and of terrible secret inventions. As always, Ghethe was outside on the access ramp waiting or, possibly, sleeping . . .

     The courier came twenty-three local days after the Ladies had been abducted, and he was again an innocent child. The message was short; it said only, “Come to the Qual System, Qualosa Planet, Qelen City, Suta Palace.
     Ghethe commenced preparing for action. First, he told Arpel to take them to the Qual System, Qualosa Planet.

*

M18-1     Arpel appeared near Qualosa in less than two i-std. hours since take off. On the three-dimensional projection of the surrounding space, Ghethe and Petha could see more than two hundred Super Destroyers, and over eight hundred Destroyers, plus tens of thousands of smaller ships, all guarding the Planet.
     Ghethe told Arpel to open a communications channel to the Imperial Fleet, then he asked to speak with the highest Imperial Fleet Officer in command.
     After a while, a high-ranking Space Commander popped up. He looked angrily at Ghethe, then he asked in a curt voice, “What do you want?”
     “Hallave asellos telci nar terdabte,” said Ghethe.
     The officer turned to an expressionless facial mimic, then he took a perfect attention position. “I am waiting for your orders, Sir!” announced the Commander with the spirit of a fresh recruit.
     “Make this channel secure, Commander,” ordered Ghethe.
     The man worked for a while on his controls, then reported, “The channel is secure, Sir!”
     “Who was your previous Commander?”
     “Dr. Dembrah Velkon, Sir, and each Base Ship has a Suta Priest assigned in the highest command position, Sir!” reported the officer.
     Ghethe paused for a few moments, in order to assimilate the news, then he asked, “Where is Dembrah Velkon?”
     “He is on Qualosa, the Suta Palace, Sir!” came the reply.
     “You shall transmit the new codes to all Imperial Fleet military personnel. Dembrah Velkon is a traitor, and he must be killed on sight. Kill all Suta Priests on your ships. You shall destroy anything that tries to leave or to land on Qualosa. The orders are, nothing moves inside the Qual System without my permission. What is your name and rank, Commander?”
     “Dalbesh Kolwan, Space Commander class thirty-two, Sir!”
     “Dalbesh Kolwan, you are now Space Commander class forty, and you are in charge of all Imperial Fleets.”
     The Officer froze for a few moments, then he replied, a lot more relaxed though still very respectful, “Thank you, Sir.”
     “My name is Ghethe Dakka; I am the Imperial Chief Investigator of the Science Division.”
     “Thank you, Sir.”
     “Commander Kolwan, I want you to deploy your ships throughout the Qual System, and to destroy any ship that moves around. You shall take measures so that no communications goes from this System out, Commander. For further orders, you shall monitor only the new telepathic channels opened with the new command codes.”
     “Yes, Sir.”
     “I am testing the Fleet telepathic channel, Commander.
     “I read you perfectly clear, Sir. This new channel is stronger than any other.
     “Wait for my orders, Commander, and be prepared for a very strong ground action on Qualosa.”
     “Yes, Sir.”

     Ghethe asked Arpel if he could jump through E-Fields close to the planetary surface. After hearing the ship’s affirmative answer, he set the new coordinates.
     Arpel appeared instantly, close to the main gate of the Suta Palace, then landed swiftly. Ghethe told Arpel to open a comnode channel to the Palace, then he asked to speak with Great Hurda. The man appeared promptly on Arpel’s projection, as if he was waiting for that call.
     “I am here,” announced Ghethe in a blank voice.

     Great Hurda watched in terror the dark shape on his projection. Ghethe Dakka was dressed in a black spacesuit integrated within an armor of a strange design, and in a large, black mantle. In addition, he was wearing an opaque black space-helmet, and he had mounted on his shoulders two pieces of complex weaponry looking very threatening.
     Great Hurda was thinking he could ask him to strip, but from Ghethe’s impassive voice he understood the man would go on with or without his permission. He concluded that it was best not to provoke Ghethe Dakka before the proper time.

     “Step out of your ship. An escort will lead you to your women,” said Great Hurda, and he was hoping his voice had revealed enough logic control, and sufficient relaxation.
     Ghethe severed the comnode connection, then he told Arpel to raise shields and to defend against any armed action. He went out the ship.

     There were thousands of soldiers everywhere around, and many more came rushing, mostly Imperial Guards in black armors, then Suta Priests in brown hooded robes, and then Qual soldiers in gray uniforms.
     Ghethe paused for a few moments on top of the access ramp. He looked around and noticed the escort prepared for him, then he started to climb down slowly. He went straight to the Commander of the Imperial Guards escort and transmitted telepathically, “Yatasan fol anheta deba yajarawan.
     The Officer froze. He took the attention position, then reported, “I am waiting for your orders, Sir!
     “Use only the new telepathic channel, Commander. Transmit the new command codes to all Imperial Guards, except Korta Mortek. Mortek is out of command, and out of the Army. What is your name and rank, Commander?
     “Terel Vatano, Imperial Guards Commander class twenty-five, Sir!
     “Commander Vatano, you are now Imperial Guards Commander class forty, and you are in charge of all Imperial Guards Forces.
     After a few moments in which the military biochip released the new enhancements that came with the rank, the officer said, “Thank you, Sir.
     “My name is Ghethe Dakka; I am the Imperial Chief Investigator of the Science Division. You shall command my escort, Commander. After we enter the Palace, tell your Guards to take positions: nobody should enter or leave this Palace alive. Prepare yourself and your people for a very strong action inside the Palace.
     “Yes, Sir.
     “Lead, Commander.
     “We need to mount on transport modules, Sir.
     “Keep the Suta Priests at a distance, Commander.
     “Yes, Sir.

*

M18-2     Inside the Suta Palace, four of the persons representing the powers of Qualosa Guild were in a Control Room, and each of them was prepared for decisive actions following the confrontation with Ghethe Dakka. The Control Room was hidden deep below the ground level, and it was protected by an enormous, five i-std. steps thick metallic gate, by many armored shells, and by powerful subatomic energy shields. Inside were controls for supervisory equipment, automatic weaponry, defensive shields, communications, power distribution, plus many more.

     Dr. Velkon was dressed in a prototype Imperial Guards armor, much superior to anything Commander Mortek had ever seen before. In addition, Dr. Velkon was equipped with an enhanced mental shield, and with many protective, offensive and defensive devices of a personal design, which included an universal energy converter and a hand-held field disruptor. Those two pieces of equipment worked together as a single unit, and his intention was to use that weapon as soon as he was certain that Ghethe Dakka was dead. His targets were, in priority order: Gray Master, Great Hurda, and lastly Mortek.

     Commander Mortek was concealing under the dark-red mantle of his uniform the strongest plasma and laser shield he had, plus a pair of high-energy pulsing-lasers used only by the High Command Officers having military qualifications over class thirty-five. Those lasers worked with a particular wave-length, and they were specially designed to penetrate any imperial shield. Mortek intended to use the lasers immediately after Ghethe’s death to eliminate: Dr. Velkon, Gray Master, and then Great Hurda.
     Mortek was very fast with those weapons, and he was confident he would kill them all, long before they would become aware of his actions. Moreover, just to be on the safe side, he had an excellent mental shield equipped with the most sensitive contamination sensors.

     Great Hurda was protected by a strong plasma and laser shield, ingeniously concealed beneath his brown robe, although he was aware that his shield was inferior to the imperial ones. His plan was, in the moment he was certain the Ghethe Dakka threat was over, he would take a certain seat, and then he would touch a hidden sensor. Next, he would exit the Control Room via a special chute, while the Control Room was going to be quickly depressurized, and then filled with an instant-action lethal gas!

     Gray Master was well aware of all the plans the other partners had, though he knew that none of them had any chances of implementing what he would not allow. He was dressed in a very old, gray, hooded cloak which he had used in many glorious mental battles as a Dolg-Djaben—just in case he would have to use it again. His sister Shadow was waiting inside the infernal trap-room, since he wanted her to read, if possible, Ghethe Dakka’s memories before he died—the knowledge the man possessed was way too precious to waste.
     His plan was, if technology could not kill Ghethe Dakka, then Shadow would have her try. In the end, if everything else failed, he was well prepared for a dangerous and decisive mental fight.

     Great Hurda was stepping nervously up and down while watching at the rows of projections filled with Ghethe Dakka’s figure, from all possible angles, facing the Commander of Imperial Guards escort. For some time, both men were just looking at each other perfectly motionless. He asked, “What is he doing? What is happening out there, Commander?”
     “I do not know . . . I . . . I have been detached from the command chain on the telepathic channel,” announced Commander Mortek highly distressed.
     “You WHAT! Are you telling us that he stole your Guards?” asked Great Hurda in disbelief and greatly alarmed by the looming disastrous perspective.
     “I am out . . . Nobody answers to me,” replied Mortek perplexed while checking his connections to the electronic amplifier of the telepathic channel. Everybody could see that he was very pale, and his hands were trembling badly.
     “Now he has an Army . . . and the best one!” said Gray Master in a thoughtful voice, then he added, “Dr. Velkon, could you, please, check your command channel to the Imperial Fleet?”
     “Do you think that—” started Great Hurda even more alarmed.
     Gray Master interrupted him, “If he had superior codes to take over the Guards, he may have the same thing for the Fleet. Please, check your connection to the Fleet, Doctor.”
     After working feverishly on his controls for some time, Dr. Velkon reported, “The Fleet is not responding to my commands. We are in his hands now.” He realized that the time for a life or death fight had come, and that though made him feel the sweat all over his body cold as frozen ice.
     “STOP IT EVERYBODY! We have a plan and we shall continue with it, and then we see how to get out of here!” cried Great Hurda hysterically. It was clear to all the people present that he was far away from his normal peace of mind, and he needed a meditation session badly.
     Gray Master let the man calm down for a while, then he said in a relaxed voice, “Great Hurda, I think it would be wise to send additional Suta Priests to Ghethe Dakka’s escort.”
     Great Hurda took a few moments to analyze the proposal, then he sent a telepathic order for additional nine hundred Suta Priests to Ghethe’s escort. When he got the confirmation that his order had been received, he replied, “Thank you, Gray Master. The order has been sent.”

*

M18-3     Ghethe was in a transport module with Commander Vatano, plus a few more Imperial Guards. Each transport module carried eighteen soldiers and two heavy pieces of artillery. In total, there were fifty-four Imperial Guards modules in his escort, plus another fifty-four modules filled with Suta Priests following them. Inside the Suta Palace the access corridors were large enough to accommodate for five transport modules positioned horizontally, one near the other, and there was even more space above. Before the major intersections, enormous energy shields disconnected in front of them, and reenergized after their procession passed through.
     Ghethe noticed that additional transport modules with heavily armed Suta Priests were coming both ahead and behind them, but he was not worried because the Guards were better fighters than the Suta Priests, and even way better if he would set their military biochips to the “Planetary System War” condition. Throughout the Palace were stationed platoons with heavy artillery and armored military gear belonging to Imperial Guards, to Suta Priests, or to Qual soldiers.
     “How many Guards you have inside the Palace, Vatano?
     “One hundred five thousand three hundred sixty-two, Sir.
     “Have they received the new command codes?
     “All of them, except Korta Mortek, Sir.
     “Order your Guards to take strategic positions inside the Palace and outside. Bring more heavy artillery units inside the Palace, and secure all the main access routes. Tell the Guards to be ready to destroy all power sources inside and outside the Palace, when I give the signal. Do you, or your men, know all the power sources, Vatano?
     “Sir, I am confident we do not know all of the existing power sources. The Guards are taking positions right now near the ones we know. We may have to fight, Sir.
     “You shall kill and destroy anyone and anything that opposes to you, Vatano. I want you to destroy all the power sources, all the energy conduits, and all the control nodes throughout the Palace, when you receive my command. Use heavy artillery, if you have to, and bring down the walls, but do it fast and radical.
     “Yes, Sir.
     “Also, when I give the signal all the Guards shall start killing the Suta Priests and the Qual soldiers inside and outside the Palace. You shall hold positions so that nothing goes in and out the Palace. Nothing must move inside the Palace. Then, I want groups of engineers to detect and to destroy all the remaining power sources, power cables, and control nodes. Is everything perfectly clear to you, Vatano?
     “Yes, Sir. On signal we destroy all power sources; we kill all Suta Priests and Qual soldiers; nothing goes in and out the Palace; nothing moves inside the Palace; we search and destroy all remaining power sources, cables, and control nodes, Sir.
     “Good. What do you know about the place we are going to?
     “Nothing, Sir. The Suta Priests behind us know, Sir.
     “Switch on the new Inter-Armies telepathic channel, Commander Vatano.
     “Channel switched, Sir.
     “Commander Kolwan, do you read me.
     “Loud and clear, Sir.
     “Switch on the new Inter-Armies telepathic channel, Commander Kolwan.
     “Channel switched, Sir.
     “Commander Kolwan, you shall coordinate your actions with Commander Vatano. I declare the Planetary System War status: the enemy is the Qual System, the Suta Priests, and anybody who doesn’t have the new telepathic channels, excepting the persons I protect directly. When Commander Vatano receives his attack orders, he will transmit them to you, and you shall deploy Interceptor-Proctor ships to protect the Palace and my ship. I want no movement of alien troops. Your ships shall fire at any enemy within sight, or detected by scans. Understood?
     “Yes, Sir!” replied Fleet Commander Dalbesh Kolwan.
     “Commander Kolwan, your Fleet shall start destroying all the enemy ships, all the military strongholds in the Qual System, and any strategic ‘Automatic Firing Units’. This System is closed, and nothing goes out, not even communications.
     “Yes, Sir.
     “Most important, Commander Kolwan, I want you to destroy all the power plants on Qualosa, all the power transmission lines, and all transmitters-captors stations. Do you know them all?
     “We started mapping them as we speak, Sir.
     “Good. Both of you wait for orders.
     “Yes, Sir!” replied in one voice on the Inter-Armies telepathic channel Space Commander Dalbesh Kolwan and Imperial Guards Commander Terel Vatano.
     Ghethe commenced probing telepathically the minds of the Suta Priests behind him. All of them had strong mental shields of imperial military construction, though none was equipped with contamination sensors. It was nothing to Ghethe to penetrate their shields and look for the information about the trap—if he could find any. He almost lost all hopes; then, a high-ranking Priest hidden in the middle of the pack told him everything he wanted to know. Ghethe thought that there should be other dangers of which the Priest was not aware, but he was confident he would find them all.
     He checked his mental link to the three Probes he had transferred from Naiollah to Arpel. They were one of his most secret weapons, since they had been prototyped during the last years of the Empire, together with Naiollah. The Probes were very intelligent, undetectable by scans, small, cylindrical in shape, and they were moving permanently—in circles, around and above him when not in mission and when the space allowed—at such great speed that the eye, and even very fast cameras could not see them. Only ultra fast laboratory cameras could have caught a glimpse of the Probes, but Ghethe had no reasons to suspect the inside of the Suta Palace was monitored by advanced visual laboratory equipment. Besides, he didn’t care if it was.
     The link was fine; the Probes were in the “observation-mode” following his mental reflex position signal, and they were moving like the electrons around the nucleus, while watching for any danger. He instructed the Probes on what kind of traps to look for, and how to annihilate them when they reached their destination.
     When he finished instructing the Probes, Ghethe checked his mental link to the ship, “Arpel, is the Resonant Frame working?
     “Yes, Ghethe. The Resonant Frame is working according to your orders. It is draining a lot of power, Ghethe.
     “I know, but you have plenty, Arpel. Tell Petha to be prepared to refill the Probes as fast as possible, and to exchange their power sources when the Probes come for refill.
     “I told him, Ghethe. His reply is, ‘I am ready, Ghethe’.

*

M18-4     Down in the Control Room, Dr. Velkon was watching the indications on his instruments. He announced in an apathetic voice, “I read a lot of telepathic communications around Ghethe Dakka.”
     “Of course there is a lot! I keep contacts with all Priests,” answered Great Hurda nervously.
     Great Hurda and Commander Mortek used cable links to their neuro-telepathic amplifiers of imperial military construction in order to keep contacts with their people. Each of them had a much too weak telepathic signal to clearly penetrate through the subatomic frequency shielding of the Control Room.
     “I know, but these ones are of a strange nature . . .” replied Dr. Velkon thoughtfully.
     “Of what kind of a strange nature are you talking about? Talk like a Scientist, not like a poet!” asked Great Hurda with irritation. It was obvious to everybody that he was very close to losing everything that was left from his psychical control.
     “I do not know. They seem to be of bio-EM type, but I am not certain. The bad part is, they come from thousands of points around and above Ghethe Dakka,” said Dr. Velkon beginning to be concerned.
     “Thousands!” exclaimed Great Hurda alarmed.
     “My instruments have counted over four hundred fifty thousand points and, from time to time, others are popping up by the thousands,” replied Dr. Velkon with doubt.
     “Is there anything? Did you check with different frequencies and other equipment?” asked Gray Master. He was deeply impressed by the sophisticated technological activity around, and his voice revealed great excitement.
     “Yes, but there is nothing. It may be a new form of a mental shield, similar to Ghethe Dakka being surrounded by a cloud of strange energy,” tried Dr. Velkon to give a scientific explanation to the unusual data coming from his instruments.
     “Look, people, what if we try to negotiate with him?” asked Great Hurda in a pleading voice. Everybody turned towards him in wonder.
     “Great Hurda, your own logic analysis said that our only chance of survival is if we kill the man,” replied Gray Master deeply confused.
     “Yeah,” added Dr. Velkon and Mortek in the same time.
     “I know, but my current analysis indicates that we cannot kill Ghethe Dakka,” explained Great Hurda. His face revealed he had lost any logic control: the man was really scared!
     Gray Master tried to reason with him, “Hurda, my sister is in the trap-room, and she is waiting. She is risking her own life to save ours. We have to give her at least a chance.”
     The memory of the horrible Shadow brought Great Hurda back to his senses. Visibly relaxed, he said, “I pray for her, Gray Master.”
     “Me too, my friend,” replied Gray Master, also relaxed.

*

M18-5     Ghethe had finally reached the trap-room. He could see through the wide open gate that far inside, in a niche under a spot of light, there was a group of people down on the floor: THE LADIES! He amplified his optic sensors until he could clearly distinguished all three Ladies, then he sent a mental scan. He found out that they were all alive and unharmed, although they were all very scared.
     He stopped before entering, and started studying carefully the room and the access gate. The room had subatomic energy shields, and it was planked with a gray, heavy metal alloy, probably of the radiation-dampening type. That was bad news, because it meant he needed to get out of that room in order to achieve a reliable Resonant Frames connection.
     The gate was of a single side moving construction, though it was composed of three independent gates, one behind the other, and each was built of a different metallic alloy. Ghethe noticed the gates were mirror polished, and the metal was of the high energy dissipation type, meaning, they had been specially designed to be very difficult to cut by plasma, or by the lasers. Each gate was very thick, of roughly half i-std. step. Ghethe instructed the Probes how to deal with them, then to enter the room and to annihilate all the traps they could find.
     He contacted telepathically the Imperial Guards Commander, “Vatano, take positions around this gate, at a certain distance. Call for additional Guards. Nobody is to come close to it, especially the Suta Priests. When the gate will open again, kill them all.
     “Yes, Sir. Do you think the gate will open again, Sir?
     “If it doesn’t open in maximum one i-std. day time, you shall find a way to open it, Vatano. Once I get inside, wait for my signal to destroy the power sources, and for the attack orders to Commander Kolwan.
     “Will your telepathic signal penetrate through these shielded walls, Sir? You do not seem to have an amplifier—
     “It will, Vatano.

*

M18-6     Inside the Control Room the tension was building up. Everybody was standing and looking at the projections, except Dr. Velkon.
     “What is he waiting for?” cried Mortek impatiently.
     “He is not stupid, Korta,” explained Dr. Velkon in a calm voice, “he knows it is a trap, and he prepares himself to defeat us.”
     “Patience, let him get in . . . Come on, they are in there, Ghethe Dakka . . . They are all well, and they are waiting for you,” said Gray Master jokingly.
     “We need very much calm now, Gentlemen. I want no more rush actions,” said Great Hurda appearing he had finally found his badly needed psychical balance.

*

M18-7     The Probes reported to Ghethe when they finished the job, and they added a warning about an anomalous spatial disturbance inside the room.
     “Where is that disturbance located?” asked Ghethe.
     “The disturbance is on the right side near the entrance. There is a strange mental field surrounding it,” answered the Lead Probe.
     “Aha! I want you to monitor that disturbance at all times and, if it moves, all of you fire the lasers until any mental field disappears.”

*

M18-8     “Come on, Ghethe Dakka . . . I know you are burning to get in there . . . Ha, ha! He will get in,” assured Gray Master. He was greatly pleased and highly excited with the anticipated show.
     “This is the moment I feared the most!” confessed Great Hurda with pain in his voice.
     The tension was incredibly high in the Control Room, and Dr. Velkon could barely control the spasmodic tremor of his hands—the hands that were going to execute the commands to fire the weapons . . . He was thinking if he could be that lucky to kill Ghethe Dakka with his own hands!
     “Yes! He is moving in! Watch out, Doctor, maybe you squash him with the gates from the very beginning,” advised Gray Master jokingly.
     “NO! I said I want him IN and the gates CLOSED! People, this is not a joke! Please, act with calm, like professionals,” pleaded Great Hurda nervously while cursing in his thought the horde of uncontrolled idiots surrounding him.

*

M18-9     Ghethe entered the trap-room, then he went to the left side of the gate and pressed his back on the wall. He transmitted to the Probes to guard him and the three Ladies on the floor, while monitoring the anomalous disturbance on the right side. The gates started to close, one after the other, with massive thuds.
     “I want to talk to you,” said Ghethe in a loud, blank voice.

*

M18-10     “NOW DOCTOR! START WITH THE LASERS!” cried Great Hurda highly excited while watching Ghethe’s projections with green, bulbous eyes.
     Dr. Velkon activated the automatic lasers. Out of the fifty-four enhanced-design pulsing-lasers, only three managed to send a few trains of pulses towards Ghethe’s shield: it held well, although the lasers were greatly over-oversized. The other fifty-one lasers exploded when they received the firing command, and the remaining three were quickly disabled by the “Automated Tracking Liquefier” units mounted on Ghethe’s shoulders.
     “Thunders of Stinking Curses! Try the plasma cannons, Doctor!” swore aloud Great Hurda. Everybody was watching Ghethe Dakka in disbelief. Great Hurda was shocked by his own disgusting lack of psychical control because he had never cursed in a loud voice in his entire life!
     Dr. Velkon commanded all thirty-six high caliber plasma cannons to open fire—also specially built and greatly oversized—but only one of them managed an anemic burst of plasma up to Ghethe’s shield, then it exploded soon after. The rest of the plasma cannons exploded when they were fired, and they had vaporized large portions of the wall near their location. The room was filled with vapors, particles, and smoke, therefore Dr. Velkon switched some of the projections to high frequency sweep and location, and others to infrared.
     “How does he do that? This is not possible!” wondered Gray Master perplexed.
     “The poisonous gas, Doctor,” advised Great Hurda while shivering noticeably.
     The Doctor announced in a voice emptied of any hopes, “It doesn’t work.”
     “WHAT DO YOU MEAN ‘IT DOESN’T WORK’?” cried Great Hurda hysterically. His green eyes were almost round in shape and looked like ready to pop out from their eye sockets.
     “The gas doesn’t flow. The pipes are probably blocked, and I have no idea how he did it,” explained Dr. Velkon with a blank expression on his face.
     “Fire the Isty arrows, Dr. Velkon,” suggested Commander Mortek shyly. The Isty arrows were his addition to the trap, since they were capable to penetrate the laser and plasma shields.
     A score of arrows managed to eject from their self-guided, high-pressure tubes, but they were destroyed while moving by Ghethe’s “Automated Tracking Liquefier” units long before they reached their target. Soon, the few working tubes were all destroyed.
     “Focus the energy induction generators on him, Doctor: let’s fry this monster!” suggested Gray Master with hope in his voice.
     Dr. Velkon executed the command, although he was convinced it was not going to work. Indeed, when he touched the “ON” command sensor, all three high frequency, high power energy induction generators shorted out. Soon after that, the Doctor noticed that the available power was dropping rapidly, then all projections and almost all controls began shutting down.
     “We are losing power,” announced Dr. Velkon in a dry voice.
     “How? What have you DONE, you idiot? We cannot afford to lose power NOW! We still have the field disruptors, the neutron cannons, and then the protons concentrators to fire!” shouted Great Hurda way out of any logic control.
     “Shut up you stupid old witch! It is from outside! Somebody is shutting down the generators, and they are cutting the outside power supply lines; others are destroying the control nodes, and almost all active circuits,” replied Dr. Velkon with such a force that Great Hurda felt stunned by his energy. He continued, “I shall start the emergency generators, and I can only hope they haven’t destroyed them all.”
     “What are we going to do? Can you give us some images, Doctor?” asked Gray Master. His voice was fainter than usual, and a lot less confident.
     “Yes, wait just a few moments. For the time being he is trapped inside that room because nobody can open those gates now—not even I—and Shadow is in there: maybe, she will finish him,” replied Dr. Velkon. Everybody present was surprised by Doctor’s reserve of psychical control. He worked on his controls array until two projections came alive, only the trap-room was dark. The Doctor continued working until the image of the projections turned to infrared. They could see that nobody in the trap-room has moved from their old positions.
     “We need to distract him, so that Shadow could move closer without being sensed,” advised Gray Master, then he added, “Doctor, try to open an audio channel, please.”
     Dr. Velkon worked for a while trying to bypass the damaged circuits and to find little energy to power the undamaged ones. He said, “In a moment, Grey Master . . . Here!”
     “Ghethe Dakka, I want to talk to you,” said Gray Master, and his voice sounded very faint inside the trap-room.
     “Go ahead,” said Ghethe.
     “We shall let you leave, and you may take your women with you,” said Gray Master hoping to distract Ghethe’s attention.
     “How? You do not have much power left, and you will remain soon without any,” replied Ghethe. His voice was loud, equal, and it showed no interest.
     “Can you stop this power shortage, Ghethe Dakka?” asked Gray Master.
     “Of course—”
     In that moment the invisible woman tried to move closer to Ghethe. Three large colored circles appeared instantly in the middle of the room, one above the other, and each was emitting thousands of laser pulses in a different color: the uppermost were violet, the middle were blue, and the bottom ones were yellow. It lasted for a few moments, only, then all three circles went lighting continuously, with a gradually stronger yellow light. Soon, it became impossible to watch the projections in infrared, therefore Dr. Velkon had to switch them back to normal visibility.
     “What are those things there, Doctor?” asked Great Hurda in a lost voice.
     “I do not know. You should tell me . . . they look like magic,” replied Dr. Velkon. He was calm, without any hopes or wishes, and he intended to finish himself, and many around him, once the show with Ghethe Dakka was over.
     “Shadow is visible now and is down!” announced Mortek alarmed. He was watching everything petrified and powerless like in a bad dream.
     “My sister—” slipped Gray Master disbelievingly.
     “Quiet! Ghethe Dakka is talking,” said Dr. Velkon.

*

M18-11     The woman known as Shadow was on the ground, visible, and she appeared to be injured. Ghethe knew the tiny energy laser pulses didn’t harm her much, though he had sufficient time to paralyze the woman, and then to purge any knowledge she had about mental powers. He started searching through the memories of the Shadow woman while watching her.
     She was dressed in a one-piece light-gray garment, which also covered a part of her head. All over her body, plus on her face and hands, there were thousands of tiny burned spots marking the lasers penetration points. The woman had some feminine features, although they were hard to distinguish given her curled position; only her face was well visible in the yellow light of the Probes.
     Shadow had no facial colors, except for white: her irises were either all white, or she had none, and her pupils were just two black, vertical, thin lines. Her face was hideous, with a huge mouth and a grotesque nose, though inside her memories there were even way more horrible things! In her right hand she had a strangely shaped dagger having a transparent crystal blade, and Ghethe had to command four liquefier pulses, each additionally amplified, in order to render that ugly weapon useless.
     Ghethe couldn’t afford to lose the time studying her. He said, “So, this is the invisible Vara Santrem, alias Shadow. Your famous brother Gerak is watching you now. I shall get to him, and he is going to share your fate—do not worry about it.”
     “You think you won? Check your women,” said Vara in a faint, hoarse voice, still full of hate.
     Ghethe scanned the mental activity of each Lady. They were scared . . . very scared . . . but all right . . . No, they were not all right! He said, “Whatever you did to them, woman, rest assured that I shall repair it. Now, you are the first one to be punished.”
     “How?” asked Vara with a vague trace of curiosity.
     “You will see—it is the hardest possible,” promised Ghethe. He suggested her to forget about her mental powers permanently, to be incapable of taking her life or someone else’s, to recover from her paralyzing condition after two i-std. days, and then he applied the punishment.

     “Commander Vatano,” inquired Ghethe telepathically.
     “Yes, Sir.
     “There is a Control Room at the following coordinates: Sector Joghele Shewilen, Level minus one hundred six, Quadrant KE two hundred ninety. Do you recognize this address?
     “Yes, Sir, I have troops in the area . . . They tell me they are close to the location, Sir.
     “Tell them to start tearing the walls down, and to cut or to destroy any cables connecting to that room. Send additional Guards there with heavy artillery. Check all levels below and above; check around that Control Room. Look for explosives all over the surrounding areas. Nobody is to get out of that room, Commander!
     “Nobody will, Sir; at least, not alive, Sir.
     “Good. Now watch out, Commander: I shall open the gate, and you should start killing the Suta Priests around you.
     Ghethe commanded the Probes to detonate the explosives on the gates, one after the other, then he went to check the results. Each gate had been cracked opened more than one palm width. He started with the first one: he pulled, then pushed, until it was sufficiently open. The gates were very heavy, though Ghethe’s job was somewhat easier because they had been built to glide on the lower edge. Sounds of dragged, broken mechanisms could be heard while he was pulling and pushing, making levers with his arms, with his body, and with his legs. He opened all three gates sufficiently to pass through, then he started moving cautiously, closer to the Ladies.
     Outside, in the entrance passage, the fight was fierce between Imperial Guards and the Suta Priests.

*

M18-12     There was a perfect silence inside the Control Room. One of the two projections went out right after the first explosion which opened the first gate. Everybody watched horrified how Ghethe Dakka struggled to open all gates. He was directing carefully towards his women, and the circles of lights hovered above him forming a large dome of three circles having an increased light intensity, close to white.
     “Do you still have any controls left, Doctor? Detonate the explosives,” whispered Gray Master.
     “No, everything is down. It is a pure miracle that projection is still active. Besides, no EM command could have been received in that room since Ghethe Dakka entered due to some very strong communications scrambling sources,” replied the Doctor while thinking about the easiest way of killing himself. He felt almost happy to die, therefore to prevent Ghethe Dakka to apply his justice on him.
     “We lost him,” concluded Mortek thinking that it was a good moment to start his own show: to kill the others, and then himself.
     Gray Master sensed the increased mental tension around. He rushed to send a strong mental suggestion to all persons in the room to forget about killing themselves and the others, and to focus on killing Ghethe Dakka with everything they had.
     The last projection went out, and the Control Room was left in total darkness.

*

M18-13     Once he disconnected the detonators on the explosive charges surrounding the Ladies, Ghethe came close to check on them mentally. All of them had the speech centers blocked. He looked for explosive devices around their necks, then he released the mental blocks to each of them, one at a time.
     “Silence. Only Ahlane shall talk,” ordered Ghethe.
     “Ah, I can talk,” said Ahlane surprised, in a faint voice.
     “Are you all right, Ahlane?” asked Ghethe.
     “Yes, Ghethe, we are, but we were told that the cuffs will cut our hands if we move,” replied Ahlane whispering. She was very scared, although greatly relieved that Ghethe was so close to them.
     “Do not talk, Ahlane.”
     Through his helmet amplifier Ghethe’s voice sounded strange, unemotional and dour as a machine voice. He was ordering them, though Ahlane knew that it had to be that way due to the extremely dangerous situation they were in.
     Ghethe could hear the sounds of the fights from the outside corridor, though he focused his entire attention on the cuffs the Ladies had. They were very dangerous due to their mechanical simplicity: the rectangular cuffs contained spring-loaded blades, therefore any sudden move could have triggered their release. Ghethe decided to squeeze between his fingers the guiding channels through which the blades slid, only he had to do it faster than the blades could move. He started with Ahlane, on both sides of her cuffs once, and he lay on the floor to have a better holding position. He took three deep breaths, closed his eyes, then he squeezed fast and as hard as he could: both blades had been trapped, and they couldn’t finish the trip.
     He repeated the operation for each Lady, then asked, “Is there anything else, Ahlane?”
     “I think you cannot separate the chains between the cuffs, because they could explode or something.”
     “Let me study them,” said Ghethe. He put his gloved hands on one chain and the additional handcuff, then he closed his eyes. There was something there . . . proximity sensors . . . and small amounts of explosive charges inside each cuff! He scanned mentally for the minuscule detonator, then he severed its electrical connections. He disabled the firing mechanism also, then he went on scanning even further until he discovered the miniature battery and shorted it out. He checked again the cuffs and detected nothing else, then he repeated the operation carefully for each Lady.
     “Anything else, Ahlane?”
     “Yes. Each of us has an explosive device close to the heart.”
     Ghethe changed his position, slowly, to see Ahlane’s front. The device was on her breast, monitoring the tiny electrical currents within the heart muscles. If departed from those currents, or on sudden moves, it would explode, and that device contained two small transparent tanks filled with some dangerous liquids. It took Ghethe about half i-std. hour to annihilate all three devices and take them away.
     “Is there anything else, Ahlane?”
     “I suspect there is something hidden in my hair.”
     He began checking Ahlane’s hair very gently, with his thoughts. After he found the device, he went on analyzing it. It was powerful enough to kill her, and it was remotely controlled, though he knew that all wireless commands were disabled. He picked all devices from each Lady and threw them away.
     “Anything else, Ahlane?”
     “No, nothing more.”
     “Wait,” ordered Ghethe. He asked the Probes to check the Ladies for metals and explosives, then he discovered even more explosive devices hanging on or hidden into their clothes. He withdrew them all, one at a time and very slow.
     “Now I shall remove your cuffs, Ladies, but continue being perfectly still,” said Ghethe. He tore apart the chains holding each pair of cuffs to the next one, then he started to tear off each cuff very gently. When he finished, he said, “Do not move, Ladies. I need to check the floor you are sitting on.”
     Yes, it was there! There was an entire surface area with pressure and infrared sensors connected to an enormous quantity of explosives hidden under the floor. Ghethe worked with his mind, only, therefore it took him more than one i-std. hour to disarm the trap.
     Finally, he announced, “I am going to take each of you out, one at a time, therefore continue remaining perfectly still.”
     Ghethe ordered the Probes to guard the Ladies on the floor. He lifted Ahlane slowly, with all his perception sensors strained at maximum, then he quickly took her away and out of the room. It was pitch-dark outside, so he switched his helmet to infrared. Ghethe dismounted the “Automated Tracking Liquefier” units from his shoulders, then he took his mantle off. He asked Ahlane to sit on the floor, then he covered her completely inside his mantle. He said, “Do not move, Ahlane.”
     He looked around and noticed the Guards in combat positions around the gate. There were piles of bodies scattered throughout the place, but most of them belonged to the Suta Priests. He ordered, “Vatano, guard this Lady with your very lives.”
     “Yes, Sir!”
     Ghethe went back inside the infernal trap-room, then he bent down to lift Mlane.
     “Ghethe, may I tell you something?” asked Mlane timidly.
     “Yes.”
     “I feel nothing from my neck down,” said Mlane, and she appeared to be ready to start crying.
     “I know, Mlane. You are going to be all right. Tell Petha about your condition, and ask him to move you very careful, and very little,” said Ghethe in his expressionless voice. He took Mlane out of the room and he positioned her carefully in Ahlane’s arms, then he went to bring the last Lady. Heile also was paralyzed from her neck down, and Ghethe assured her that she was going to be all right just the same.
     When all three Ladies were properly positioned inside his mantle, he commanded the Resonant Frames transport. After receiving the confirmation from Arpel that all Ladies were fine aboard, he turned towards Vatano and told him to start organizing his troops.
     His orders were the same: nobody in, nobody out, and no enemy moves inside the Palace. In addition, the Guards should continue searching and destroying all the remaining power sources and all communications nodes. He told Vatano about the woman temporarily paralyzed and harmed inside the trap-room, and he ordered that nobody should help or kill her, though she was not allowed to leave that room if she recovered. He wanted more troops and heavy artillery to guard the Control Room from all sides, and Commander Kolwan to continue fighting the Qual troops throughout the System, until total control.
     When he finished ordering, he returned to Arpel.

GREEN LEAVES




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