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Interlude Three

Sirus had retired to his personal reading room. The lights were dimmed, and no guards were present. He walked to his desk, settling quietly in a chair. He put a hand to his tired brow.

"It has come. The time is upon us, old friend." The voice was not Sirus'. It came from the shadows, recessed from the feeble light that the small desklamp produced.

"Are you sure? Perhaps we are misinterpreting this." There was strain evident in the governor's exhaustive tone.

"Alis' return can mean nothing else."

"I suppose so... it's been so many years... if only we had known then what threat would necessitate the hiding of the children. We might have saved young Nero's life."

"Esper powers do not always work in obvious ways. It is sad, but what must be must be."

"Do you think that Alis can succeed? After all, she knows nothing of the events that have built her life... I fear that lack of knowledge may be detrimental to her cause," Sirus continued.

"She must not learn, until she destroys the tyrant. Such knowledge would only hinder her. And our decision to place Noah with her can only increase her chances."

The governor was quick to respond. "And what have you told Noah of her destiny? Does he know who she is?"

"He knows only that she is integral to the survival of Algo, and that it is his duty to protect her. That is all." Through all this, the unknown voice never wavered, never faltered. It was an unending, unvarying sound of confidence. Sirus was not so assured.

"I wish I shared your view. You yourself have said that you never knew why they had to be shielded so many years ago. What makes you sure now? What if you're wrong about her destiny?"

"In all our years, my friend, you have never doubted my predictions. Why now?"

Sirus closed his eyes and was silent for an entire minute. Slowly, he began. "Because I followed your instructions seventeen years ago, and now Nero is dead. I do not wish to see Alis suffer the same fate. Challenging Lassic is an insane task... how could it be that so young a girl will meet him in combat? If you are wrong, and Alis fails, she will surely die. I will have failed to protect the children, the last wish of my most dear friend. Can you stand there and tell me that I must stand idly by while she decides Algo's future?"

The reply was firm and absolute. "Yes. That is exactly what you must do. It is what we must all do."

- - - - - - - - - -

Far across space, on the planet Palma, a sinister meeting was taking place. An evil mirror of the governor's session, it was held deep inside a dreaded building in the town of Abion. The mighty overload, Lassic himself, had journeyed to the small town; so rare was an appearance by the king these days that every Palman in the town thought their existences would soon cease. All but one Palman, that is.

Their meeting room was filled with odd whirring machines, liquid filled test-tubes, and various scientific paraphenalia. There were also empty cages, and devices that look like nothing less than elements of pure torture.

As always, Lassic, attired in his malefic armor, carried his staff. His cadre of personal guards waited outside, leaving him and the stranger alone. "You have results, good doctor?" the requisite threat of Lassic's tone was implicit.

"I have made progress, my lord, but our goal is not yet achieved. I have..."

"Do you hold your life in so little value that you would continuously deny me my request, my decree?"

"No, my lord. But things go slowly. It is not my fault! The test subjects I have are not responding to the materials brought from Dezoris. And their supply is low. I do the best I can with what I have, I swear!"

"You excuses do not sate me," Lassic bellowed. "If you need more subjects, go back to Scion and tell those ants that I command them to give you more! And would you fly to Dezoris itself and gather the nuts? Perhaps you fancy yourself capable of surviving the beasts that roam there?"

"I... I... My work requires that I stay here, my lord. It is just that the supplies I have do not seem to be pure... surely..."

"You will make do, toad! You have the subjects, you have the nuts, but I have no result! You will find the secret of the nuts, and you will find a way to extract their power! I will not be denied my quest for eternal life! DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME!?!" Lassic swung his staff violently, knocking the man to the floor. As he wiped the fresh blood from his lip, the man answered.

"Yes, my lord. I will speed my research... you have my word... you have my word..."

"Your word means nothing to me, Dr. Mad. I demand only results." With that, the king turned, and swiftly left the doctor, still on the floor.

- - - - - - - - - -

On the third planet, yet another meeting was held. Perhaps more evil than the last, this one took place in a hidden installation somewhere amidst the frozen wastelands of Dezoris. As a blizzard raged outside, a group of men gathered to discus the end of the world.

These faces were familiar: the four priests who had visited the tyrant before. Yet now, they were joined by many others; scores of men, all seated, silent, listening to their leader.

"The time of ascension draws near, my friends," Gerod began. "Though our search for the magic talisman is stymied, we make great progress in deciphering the nature of Laerma. If will not be long before all its secrets are unveiled and we can grant our lord the ultimate weapons."

A voice from the front row came, questionably. "But what of Lassic?"

"He remains but a tool... he suspects nothing, and we will continue to send him tainted samples... all the while as we rip his very goal from his fingertips."

The same questioning voice continued. "I still believe that it is a mistake... if he discovers our duplicity..."

Gerod raised his voice, quickly shunting all opposition. "His fairytale quest for immortality keeps him just occupied enough to allow us unobserved reign, while still allowing him to focus on the task of clearing his planet for us... and if the fool ever sought to rebel against us, our lord would swiftly deal with the gnat."

Marlowe rose, speaking for the first time. "There you go again, Gerod, placing all our futures in the hands of one being... if the day ever comes where our lord fails us, you will have much to answer for! We should be taking command of our own destiny, not..."

"Silence!" Gerod screamed, his face glowing red, "You will not question our lord in my presence! Your continued existence is but a gift that I give you, do not make me repeal it!" Defeated, Marlowe sat, though his rage remained. "We will destroy the Palmans and take their planet! From there we will do likewise with Motavia, then Dezoris! WE WILL RULE THIS ENTIRE SYSTEM, GUIDED BY OUR LORD'S HAND! NO ONE, BE HE PALMAN, MOTAVIAN, OR LASSIC HIMSELF WILL DENY US OUR RIGHT! NO ONE!" Gerod was screeching now, exploding upon his followers.

But Marlowe was not intimidated. You old fool... you'll lose it all in your zealousness... heaven help you if your megalomaniacal piety costs me this system... The words were not spoken; thy only passed through Marlowe's mind, accompanied by a burning hatred unseen.

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