Chapter Thirty

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Chapter Thirty – Lies, Deception and Destruction

Above the enclosed garden in a hidden valley on Earth a giant elderly eagle perched, watching the proceedings below while eating the juicy insect it had caught. Below him, an old warrior lifted his magnificent head and looked at the assembled group standing before him. A beautiful young woman was silhouetted by the sunlight that passed through her translucent white sari. His eyes followed the exquisite curves of her body up to her breathtaking face framed with honey blond hair that cascaded across her shoulders. She reminded him of his sister Auset when she had been the same age. Hor got to his feet and straightened his still magnificent frame. It had been seven hundred and fifty years since he had last taken up arms. Now he held the magnificent jewelled double-edged sword that Shu had gently placed in his large hands when she begged him to join them. He turned the blade over admiring its exquisite craftsmanship and the richly embossed shield, which she had also offered. He understood why his young kin Akhen and the rest of his brothers blindly followed her. But something in the blue pools that are her eyes, troubled Hor. He sensed more about her than she disclosed – something dark. A part of her was shielded from his gentle probe of her mind, yet… “I need time to think over what you propose, lady. You shall have my answer when I return. The eagle above our heads will carry any message you may have for me to my home in the city. And now I must take my leave. Farewell Akhen, son of Horus, son of Auramooth; farewell Lady Shu of Kallorn.” He bowed his head and kissed her hand, then strode through the doorway out to his waiting Mordred fighter and flew towards the city beyond the pyramid shaped hill to the south. Hor felt worried for his great grandnephew and the nine other berserker warriors.

~~~

The news that there was now a fourth combatant in the arena flashed through the combined Drana and rebel fleets with the speed of a prairie fire. The panic caused by the catastrophic attacks by the unseen aggressor across the many galaxies, often within days of each other, made Eugene’s senseless wholesale slaughter seem unimportant. Thinking the new aggressor would turn on the Alliance fleet as well, the Alliance of Planets’ diplomats wanted to sue for peace with Nagesh. The military turned their attention to defence rather than offence but as Lord Seth had so eloquently stated in his speech to the Alliance council, “It’s too late for defence, too late for diplomatic solutions with Nagesh, and too late to try catching Maas and his mutineers. The simple fact is we do not know who the new aggressor is. Nor do we know where or when it will strike again. So far, it seems to be indiscriminately attacking all Drana and rebel ships in the war. Soon it will turn on us as well. Therefore, I propose a truce between the Alliance and the Drana. We need to join forces to fight this new aggressor!”

The speech was greeted with jeers and cries of ‘Traitor, resign!’ Seth left the Council chambers for the last time and retired to Cydon. Unbeknown to the Council and Seth, his failed appeal to unite with the Drana, in a way had come true when Eugene and Nagesh finally agreed on their own ‘New Alliance’. Nagesh handed command of the combined fleets to Eugene, charging him with securing all Alliance of Planets’ territory within the five galaxies bordering the Drana system of planets for the empire. In return, Eugene would take planets in any other galaxy system to set up his own base of operations. And the remainder would be evenly split between the two men, with a guaranteed inviolate border between the armed camps and an agreed non-aggression pact. While it looked alright on paper, both men knew deep down they would never honour it once they had achieved their own objectives; but for now it was convenient and served a dual purpose. The first objective was to take territory. The second and most important was to find and destroy the mysterious new aggressor.

The first target in Eugene’s sights was the home of the Suraa people, the Suron system. The Suraa home planet Opaal woke to find itself surrounded by the ‘New Alliance’ armada. Thousands of Drana commandos, together with Eugene’s marines, landed across the planet, destroying everything and rounding up the population, sending them to their death in the reopened Negan mine on Jalnuur. The Suraa chief ministers were arrested and executed on every planet in the system. Nagesh smiled at the news of his latest acquisition. Things were going according to plan at least from his point of view. Now that the Suron system was his, he felt secure enough to shift his base of operations to Janus Omega away from the political intrigue of his court. He made his home in his ‘uncle’s’ house, spending most of his time in the garden where the ‘New Alliance’ had been agreed. But elsewhere events were rapidly unfolding, altering Nagesh’s ultimate destiny.

~~~

A Haast eagle soared on the thermals over the scrub grass covered, pyramid shaped hill, and flew north to the house at the head of the valley. The giant raptor landed silently on one of the pergola beams above Akhen’s head. “Lord Hor wishes you to travel to the city, Lord Akhen. He has something of interest for you there,” the old bird told him. His massive beak snapped shut around the succulent body of a dragonfly. He never passed up the opportunity for a quick snack.

“I’ll get the others and go,” Akhen said, quickly rising to his feet.

“No! Only you must travel to the city; no one else, especially the Lady Shu,” the old bird replied, preening one of his giant wings, while looking for more tasty morsels.

Akhen shouldered his sword and shield, and left the tranquil confines of the house where his Human-Nephile kin Tom had first visited the valley centuries earlier. His effortless loping stride shortened the journey along the valley floor past ancient species of flora and fauna. Reptiles and birds, which had vanished from the rest of the Earth millennia ago, still survived here in the cloaked protection of the valley at the bottom of the planet.

Eventually Akhen stood on the summit of the pyramid hill that disguised the hardened shelter beneath it, looking down at the magnificent city where his grandmother Auramooth was born. As he entered the city the original Human-Nephiles stared at the magnificent berserker warrior in total disbelief as he made his way to the council chambers guided by the eagle above him. Akhen pushed the tall copper sheathed wooden doors open and strode to the centre of the room where Hor sat at a circular marble table surrounded by the council. At his right shoulder was the Lady Auset, Akhen’s great grandmother, still beautiful despite the eight hundred and twenty five years of her existence. And on Hor’s left was Akhen’s great grandfather Tom, balding with white wispy long hair, his face covered with a flowing white beard. “Akhen we have news, grave news for the Alliance of Planets, and for all who now exist,” Hor said, quietly.

Auset got up from her place at Hor’s side and came round to where Akhen stood. “Akhen, my dear, the one you follow blindly, Shu, is not who you think she is. She is more dangerous than our old enemy the Drana,” Auset said, looking into Akhen’s dark eyes.

“You’re wrong lady, you’re all wrong about her. She is the mother of all,” he said.

“Great grandson, listen to my wife. Heed her words,” Tom pleaded, slowly rising to his feet.

“No! I will never believe Shu is anything more than our mother and protector!” Akhen was angered by the way his relations were trying to place doubt in his mind. “If these lies are all you brought me here for, then I will return to Shu and my brothers, and we shall leave.” He turned towards the doors of the council chambers.

“Wait!” Hor commanded.

Akhen turned and looked back at Hor. “More lies, Hor?”

Hor waved his arm beckoning the guard at the side entrance to come to him. He spoke to the guard who quickly left the council chamber. Signalling Akhen to take a seat, Hor sat in silence. moments later, the side door opened and a party of guards entered with a prisoner in chains. “Tell my great grandnephew what you told me,” he commanded.

~~~

Hesket’s dark eyes stared unblinking at the magnificent berserker warrior. ‘So a new sentient species did exist after all; the rumours were true!’ Panic spread among our brethren across the cosmos, when Hesket’s devious thoughts were picked up by those of us still left alive. Unless it could be controlled, what was about to be unleashed would spell the end of everything! Hesket stood for a moment carefully studying Akhen, trying to probe the mind of the new species. He began to quake with fear. The resulting stench filled the council chamber. “Lord Hor, it is far worse than I thought!” Hesket said, trembling uncontrollably. “Shu has created a race of pure evil. If she is allowed to continue she will dominate every known corner of the cosmos!”

“What lies are these, Hor? Do you expect me to believe the poisonous bile uttered by this Khaz filth?” Akhen drew his sword, his black eyes flashing with uncontrollable rage.

The guards quickly closed ranks around Hesket. “Enough!” roared Hor. “Akhen, sheath your sword! If need be I will order the guards to kill you.” Then turning to Hesket, Hor bade him continue.

My cousin began to tell the hushed assembly the reasons why Shu had been imprisoned on Kallorn so long ago. And why her people fled the planet never to return. According to Hesket, Shu was the high priestess of a religious death cult who ruled for years through fear, torture, and bloody sacrifice. The people of Kallorn were peace loving people, simple farmers, and traders mostly. Sickened by Shu’s insatiable appetite for pain and control they searched for a way to rid the planet of her evil rule forever. Then two thousand years ago, a scientific expedition from Dranaa arrived. After they died tragically from exposure to salt, the people of the planet found the abandoned research ship. On finding the ship, they searched its interior.

One of the things they came across was a specimen containment vessel in the laboratory onboard, which they somehow adapted, and gave to Shu as an offering at the annual celebration of the triple suns. She loved the ornate pyramid shaped object and kept it close to her during the rest of the ceremony. When she retired for the night, the containment enveloped her, stealing her essence, leaving her dead body behind. The people buried the pyramid deep below one of Shu’s many temples, burned her body, and made a collective decision to leave Kallorn forever, to escape should she ever return someday and seek revenge. They spread across the cosmos, settling on hundreds of planets and eventually became the many nations that now exist.

Akhen had slumped to his knees with tears flowing down his handsome face after Hesket had finished his explanation and was escorted back to his cell. As much as he wanted to disbelieve the Khaz, the main body of the story was undeniably close to Shu’s version back on Kallorn. Auset held him in a gentle embrace while Tom and Hor offered him encouragement over what he must do. Akhen tearfully ran from the chamber and returned to the northern end of the valley. In the dead of night, he beheaded her, burying her body in the inner garden of the house. Then he left Earth with his berserker brothers.

~~~

Job done, after he absorbed the meal brought to him by a young Nephile girl in his dimly lit cell beneath the council chambers, my cousin Hesket’s large dark eyes flashed with satisfaction as he made preparations for his evil plan. He congratulated himself, content with his work. When the guards left with the girl, the door to his cell silently opened then closed behind him as he escaped into the night.

~~~

Nagesh was beginning to tire of Eugene and his mutineers. While they were spearheading his conquest across the galaxies, reports coming in from his commanders disturbed him greatly. In his own inimitable fashion, Eugene was creating unrest among Nagesh’s faithful commandos, turning them against one another, placing their unquestioning loyalty to him in jeopardy. He had to go. But he was still a useful tool in Nagesh’s plan to dominate the cosmos. Because of Eugene’s bitter hatred of all nonhuman races the progress across the galaxies and the systems they contained, slowed to a snail’s pace. The trouble was Eugene loved to toy with his victims. Often spending days slowly torturing and killing, purely for pleasure. Knowing that with each barbarous pointless act of unadulterated hatred his fearsome reputation grew, putting whole nations to flight as they deserted their homes. With the result that the Alliance of Planets’ two main galaxies, Andromeda and the Milky Way, were now fast becoming the safe haven for all exiles, leaving nothing but deserted planets, devoid of future slaves to the Drana Empire. And since he had temporally halted his attacks on the Alliance fleets, the politicians gave the military leaders of the Alliance of Planets time to reinforce their fleets with new, more powerful ships, and to train new recruits.

~~~

Eugene sat across the table from the Andrasian envoy, listening to what he had to say. “Let’s see if I’m hearing you right, boy,” Eugene said, with a nasty look in his eyes. “The Alliance of Planets wants me to lead an all out attack on the Drana empire, and in return I get to keep the whole goddamn shooting match, providing I guarantee never to set foot inside Alliance territory again?”

Ambassador Tomaa nodded. “That is correct, General Maas. In return for your cooperation, the Alliance of Planets will make you a hero and honour you by declaring the Drana Empire your new home, where you and your people may live as you see fit with no interference from us.”

Eugene rolled his customary cigar across his mouth staring coldly into Tomaa’s eyes. “And just what in the hell is going to stop me coming back here and taking these here galaxies when I want – huh?”

Tomaa returned Eugene’s stare. “Preparations are already under way general, to make sure that you do not I do assure you!” he coldly replied.

“Whadda you mean, boy, you bastards threatening me now – huh! You know I’m more powerful than you or the lizard bastard Drana put together!” Eugene yelled, thumping the table with the butt of his pearl handled colt pistol.

“Perhaps a small demonstration is in order. Please be so good as to follow me general,” Tomaa said, calmly opening the door of the room. The two men stood outside the small derelict building. Tomaa pointed to a small uninhabited planet nearby. “Observe.” The planet suddenly erupted, torn apart by an unseen force, shattering into billions of small fragments, which created a spectacular fireworks display in the night sky.

The smouldering cigar fell in a slow spiral from Eugene’s gaping mouth. “Damn!” Eugene’s face turned white as he stared in disbelief.

“Well general, do we have an understanding?” Tomaa enquired. Eugene nodded his head, his mouth still open, his eyes transfixed by the deadly display of power.

High above the planet other eyes watched then turned away. Kalki, still cloaked, pointed toward Janus Omega. Hidden in the vast belly of the giant ship, not realizing that Tuluk was also there, Hesket’s large dark eyes had witnessed the demonstration with satisfaction. Tomaa had served his purpose. Now it was time to turn his new-found army against his next target – Nagesh!

 ~~~

Next time – Chapter Thirty-One

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