In the last chapter Imperial Princess Taegan, Galacteer Commander Lightyear and Space Pirate Captain Woz were heading for the Imperial Watchstation orbiting the planet Iratus Est Draco in a damaged Zenithian saucer, while back on the planet Dormientes Draco the loyal Captain Atrius had been left guarding the strange engines beneath the ancient ruined tower rebuilt by the Zenithians and the Princesses beloved pet Vyper-bat Atalleph was left guarding Captain Atrius. While Emperor Marduk the all-seeing Man-God sees all….
Dr Axon entered the command room of the mighty Manticore Class Imperial war rocket The Sirrush, flanked as always by a coterie of assistant Magi and several slaves.
The Magi were robed in lavish black and gold, the mark of the Lords of Knowledge in the Empire. In a state where knowledge was power and all power was held in the tight fist of Marduk the Man-God a Magi’s loyalty was absolute. None outside the Magi knew how Marduk ensured that loyalty, what extra pains or threats or measures were taken to do so, but none of the Magi would ever even hint at it. It was rumoured that sometimes a low ranking Magi might occasionally keel over dead with not a mark upon them but none who wanted to live for long, or live happily, ever spoke of it.
The slaves were learned too, the captured scientists of other civilisations, their lack of trustworthiness clearly marked by their white coats and the ornate and decorative collar about their necks.. from which horrible electric shocks or even fatal injury could be given by the electronic wands that were every Magi’s seal of office.
Dr Axon was the 2nd most senior of the known public officials of the Ministry of Magi. When he had been injured in a battle between the Fangs of Tiamat and Ace McGuire’s Blue Devils he had been deemed too useful to be allowed to die and now was a disembodied brain in a Jar of sustaining fluids often set within all manner of interchangeable mechanical bodies. This transformation proved useful to the Empire, but did nothing to soothe the doctor’s infamous temperament.
Commander Kurigalzu’s trigger finger kept twitching where he held it hidden behind his back as he looked at the large metal humanoid body the brain-jar was attached to, looking all too much like a Robot Legionnaire for his combat reflexes from his time in the Infantry to not kick in and require constant irritating repression. He snapped his feet as he stood to attention before the high-ranking Magi lords.
“These delays are unacceptable!” growled the mechanical voice of Dr Axon, though if anything the clear tone of angry emotion in the voice broke some of the illusion of similarity to the Robot Legion whose voices, on the rare occasions Kurigalzu had heard them speak, were monotone and emotionless.
“The strange Ice-Teroid formations have increased since the last charting Lord, if we are to reach the planet’s surface with the entire fleet intact then this is our maximum possible speed.” the Commander replied respectfully.
“Considering the rates of change in the sun of this world Commander every minute may be the determinator between destruction of the fleet, the universe and even worse than that the Empire! Any casualties but myself are acceptable. Consider this the very word of Marduk in this matter.”
“Hail Marduk!” Replied the Commander.
“Hail Marduk!” echoed all within the room in unison.
The order given the fleet began to speed through the ice-teroids, other ships physically ploughing and blasting a channel for the Sirrush to pass safely. Within minutes a third of the fleet was lost and the atmosphere was entered. The destination, the strange mysterious ruins on planet Dormientes Draco!
Captain Atrius stood at attention in the cold stone room with its table covered in the vis-graphs and sketches he and the Princesses scouts had produced, standing before the assembled Magi and high ranking officers as he gave his report. He had to start by explaining to the strange machine-bodied Dr Axon that the creature coiled about his arm was the property of the Princess Taegan and had been charged specifically to his care till she returned and thus was unable to be removed. The Magi Lord stopped just short of overtly exerting his full considerable influence to the point of trying to obtain the creature for his dissecting table out of deference to the Princesses place in the order of succession, but only just. Atrius was thankful that while Emperor Marduk was ageless and immortal succession mattered still for other important positions within the Empire because he could imagine no more terrifying a force than the Princesses wrath if someone had harmed Atalleph!
The days since the Princess had left had been difficult. With the Zenithian force destroyed with the colossal detonation on the landing pad He and the handful of men had to constantly battle the enraged berserker fury of the Dino-men in several fierce skirmishes underground while above the towers were seized by Imperial forces preventing a force of Galacteers from taking it before finally Atrius and the Princesses force were relieved and possession of the strange stone engine belonged for certain to the Empire.
He requested permission to join the search for the Princess whose whereabouts were unknown following the detonation of refined MacGuffinite, it was very much her style and the earring left behind suggested she escaped in a hurry and the absence of her remains after the explosion left him assured that she must have survived. But the Magi overruled the Commander and so here he must remain till she returned.
“Well then,” droned the mechanically produced and malevolent voice of Dr Axon, “there is clearly more than one such device operating on this planet to account for the massive effects. The activation of this device woke the others from their ancient dormancy but somewhere there must be a master control system. We shall have to mathematically determine its location and then capture it! With the secrets of this technology at our grasp nothing will be beyond our power, NOTHING!”
“My Lord.” intoned the oldest looking of the Magi, like most Magi his beard was much longer and less precisely trimmed than the military standard and the tight-fitting metal skullcap resembling a smoothly shaved head unlike the stylised feather like hair of the warrior’s helmets. The Magi proceeded to lean in and whisper into a small microphone in the torso of the hulking metal bodied scientist.
“Acknowledged” replied the man-machine and the bubbles within the glass container rose more quickly and in greater numbers. “We will need to requisition a series of patrol rockets 6 groups in total, made up of Class 2 Raptors with Class 1 Scorpion escorts. We will install machines within the Class 2 Rockets and scan for the relative strengths of the hyper-spatial gravo-kino field in several key areas of the planet for our calculations.”
“I regret to report,” replied Commander Kurigalzu, “that insufficient Raptors and Scorpions survived our entry through the ice-teroids for this purpose even if we left this tower defenceless.”
“Ahhh…” said Dr Axon, his metal fingers making a grasping motion in the air and his voice holding back none of his sly emotion, “There is a fleet going to waste scattered around this planet and it’s immediate environs right now Commander, call them back and let us put them to proper use. Every body to a purpose and a purpose to everbody as the Ministry of Information reminds us eh?”
The Dr’s intonation clearly implying the Princess must be dead or allowed to die abandoned, Captain Atrius’s muscles bunched and his jaw clenched so much he wondered that his teeth didn’t crack, only with the greatest of efforts he held back the furious response he wished to shout at the honourless wretch before him. Atalleph reacted too, perhaps simply to the tensing of Atrius’s muscles or perhaps the Vyper-bat had more than animal intelligence and knew what had just been implied as Atalleph hissed, wings opened up and jewel-like neck scales lifted in a fierce display that alas was lost on a brain behind glass and embodied in steel goldrantium and zorastrianite! Commander Kurigalzu however had less self-control.
“Abandon a search for an Imperial Princess? Dr Axon have you not seen the edicts of vengeance pledged by every Prince and Princess in the Empire? Have you not been watching the hourly mandatory transmits of merciful executions in your rest cycles? To abandon the search for the Princess would be Treason!”
“Would it be more treasonous or less treasonous than allowing this sun to turn into a super-massive black hole and its subsequent annihilation of the entirety of the Empire as a consequence?”
The Commander bristled, but he knew that he had to compromise somewhere and the Magi Lord by starting at a play for everything was pushing for the strongest compromise possible. Kurigalzu prayed that the Princess and the Emperor might forgive him for it.
“We can strip the search back to minimal, but solely for the time required for these scans, after that the search must return to full strength.”
“I see you do have enough intelligence to warrant your position Commander.” smirked the voice of the faceless brain insultingly, “We will begin preparations and the assigning of warrior-Magi to every squad and rocket. Hail Marduk.”, the latter spoken softly with insufficient respect to the Emperor and all who responded firmly and loudly and proudly found a tiny suspicion nestled into their hearts like a grain seed nestled into watered and fertile floodplain soil that one day Dr Axon might possibly be the first Magi ever to try and rebel against the Emperor.
The mighty metal manlike frame of the Dr turned to leave with his coterie of Magi but paused at the door, his glass head rotating 180 degrees so the eyeless brain faced them, seeing with whatever mechanical means that the Dr was supplied with vision. “Oh and Commander?”
“Yes Dr Axon?”
“Thankyou for telling me about the executions, I shall enjoy watching some during my less taxing work. You see I was unaware of them for but a simple small reason. I never have rest cycles” and with that disturbing boast he ducked under the door and exited.
Commander Kurigalzu turned to Captain Atrius, “Whoever the Dr assigns himself to amongst the fleet you are caretaker of till the Princess returns, make sure they know to watch him closely. And I will ensure that a report is passed to the division of loyalty that he at first proposed wholly cancelling the search for the Princess. The Empire may need Dr Axons knowledge in this crisis, but I doubt the Secret Police will leave him unpunished.”
“Yes Sir!” Saluted Captain Atrius.
“And for what it’s worth Atrius, I’m sorry I have to pull those ships, I hope that any casualties from loss of escort will be light and above all I hope that Princess Taegan is found alive and well and soon.”
“Thankyou Commander” Atrius bowed in respect to the compassion showed him by the honourable commander, Kurigalzu reminding him of all the good in the universe and that Marduk’s justice would always be brought to traitors.
Deep within the tunnels beneath the secret passage under the ancient altar where sacrificial blood was collected by ancient machines and transformed into the elixir that kept the old gods sleeping bodies fed plunged the green scaled dino-man priest, deeper than he’d been in millennia. He visited the sleeping gods and saw that, despite the ages of starvation wrought by the treachery of the blue-scaled apprentice who knew nothing of the deep secrets, still the gods lived and were returning to full health from the glut of food he had sent to them when he returned to power. But that was days ago, now he travelled well beyond the lava shell that encapsulated the true heart of the planet like that layer of fluid in which the brain resides within the skull. Through ancient passages of grown diamond he passed to the sacred paradise within. To the fierce steamy hot jungle in the centre of the world where the life of the surface was preserved since the calamity, waiting for the time the whole world must awaken. That time was not yet, despite the lights which flashed and the ancient song that chorused in the depths. The surface dwellers had started the machines and blasphemed against the sacred purpose. So he was here to find those most terrible things that would answer to him and to him alone because of the talisman he wore. Terrible things with a hunger that never slaked, things he would drive to the surface and unleash upon the blasphemers!
What new perils will be unleashed by the Dino-men? What secret schemes lurk in the hidden metal heart and visible mind of Dr Axon? Does Captain Atrius’ heart yearn for the Princess in vain or can she resist her forbidden affection for Commander Lightyear? Can Atalleph escape the Dr’s dissection table? Will Princess Taegan and her fleet ever be reunited? Do not miss the next thrilling installment of the Hydra serial Waaar Rooockeet! The Missing Princess Chapter 11: The Orbiting Tomb! Brought to you by Von Neumann Cybernetics the best in robotics outside Mechanika’s Realm of Metal and by Donovan’s Brain-jars for that extra comfy fit and that attractive look.