[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Interlude One

Far above the Palman skies, distantly remote from the plains below where Alis returned to her home of Camineet, an impossibly massive ship floated. Its orbit was unknown to nearly all of the inhabitants of Palma; its cloaking field disguised it from all the planets of Algo. Almost dormant, the vessel inexorably followed the elliptical path necessay to maintain its presence in Palman airspace.

There had never been a ship of such size in Algo in all of history. Built to house an entire society, the technology needed to construct such a behemoth would not be developed in this area of the galaxy for centuries to come.

The halls of this space-borne leviathan were dark, silent, and empty. Nothing stirred beyond the endless whirr and beep of machinery, the hiss of pneumatic compression and exertion. Whomever had piloted this city-ship, if indeed any living being had, was nowhere to be seen in the endless corridors. Its presence and purpose all but unknown, the ship floated on, as oblivious to its surroundings as a sun might be to a passing comet. But there were a few in the world below who were not oblivious to it.

- - - - - - - - - -

"Speak up, fool, what is the governor's response?" Lassic bellowed, shadowed again in the giant hall of his mysterious castle. His most trusted Chief, Lusar, bowed before him. Although Lusar's respect was plainly evident, his mein was far less groveling in nature than Lassic's servants and messengers. Moreso than any other, this man could claim to be almost as important to Palma as Lassic himself.

"As we predicted, my lord, he has refused your, ahem, request to allow your representatives to function as a part of Mota's ruling council. He staunchly maintains that Motavia will remain independant of Palma, in all respects." Here Lusar chose his words carefully. "He has stated, however, that he is more than willing to persuade the council to increase their export of laconia and titanium to our humble planet, at the newly increased price, of course."

Flames seemingly not of this world burned in Lassic's eyes. But his tone and manner remained calm, belying his anger. "So, the fool thinks to squeeze more money out of us, eh? All the while keeping me from gaining a foothold on his measely planet. The utter audacity." The cold emptiness of his words disturbed Lusar; he had seen Lassic in such moods before. A storm was surely nearing.

"My lord, Motavia's vast resources, both abundant and untapped, are key to your plans to extend your rule over..." Here Lassic held up a gloved hand, a solemn symbol that Lusar had overstepped his bounds.

"Do not lecture me, Lusar. I am the one that allows your continued existence."

"M'lord," Lusar offered in atonement, as he again bowed.

"Very well. If the governor and his council think so highly of their beloved independence, then let them have it. Withdraw all troops from Paseo. We will see how the governor's mining operations fare with no guards or weapons to protect them from the desert beasts. Station guards only at the Paseo spaceport, and triple the cost of return trips to Palma. After all, is the spaceport not our sovreign property? Let the Motavian merchants try to sell their wares here, if they can afford to. They'll continue to lose money, and Paseo will wither until the governor comes crawling back to me. He does not have enough people living on his pathetic world to sustain it without our help. He will accept my terms. This is how is must be. Now, leave me be."

Again, a bow, "M'lord." Lusar quietly left the great hall; Lassic sat alone in the near-darkness.

Standing, Lassic turned, staff in hand, and walked slowly to the black stone altar that towered fifteen feet above him, directly behind his throne. He fell to one knee.

"My god, you have shown me the way. Through your might I will crush the feeble Motavian resistance, as I have crushed the resistance here on Palma. Your beasts roam free, slowly killing my populace. Soon, I will control Motavia, and will see its own renegade peoples destroyed. From there, Dezoris will be conquered. All of Algo shall be offered up to you, and only I, my faithful servants, and your cosmic agents will survive. This system shall become a fiery blaze relishing your evil, and it shall be so forever more. This I swear, as your agents have sworn to me the Dark Power. So have they delivered, so shall I."

[an error occurred while processing this directive]