In the last chapter Commander Lightyear got a coded message to Ace McGuire en route to a mysterious rendezvous with Dr Zahn, while the rocket containing Princess Taegan and the space pirate Xasaphrax disappeared from the astro-radarscope. But what has been happening on planet Dormientes Draco with its strange ancient towers that threaten the whole galaxy? Let us now find out.
The large fleet of Imperial rockets were arrayed refuelled and ready for launch. As before there was a final inspection, gallingly the magi-lord Dr Axon the man-machine had usurped the military role, insisting on the inspection of every crew lined up in parade and every rocket before the next gridsearch launch. While mercifully swift it still angered every member of the Imperial fleet from the highest commanders to the lowest of ground crew.
Captain Atrius was not yet sure what the aim of these inspections were. Some show of political force encouraged to reinforce the magi-lords position of authority? If so it was excessive done more than the once let alone at every refuelling and only increasing morale problems in the ranks. But Atrius was increasingly suspicious that some form of paranoia or other motive was behind the inspections. It would be logical that Dr Axon suspected Zenithian spies had infiltrated the ranks, but it was his inspections of the rockets themselves that seemed the greater focus of these inspections.
The great metal bodied giant swung away from another rocket, huge metal arms resting clasped behind his back, the bubbling liquid around the visible brain in it’s glass tank, all that remained of the man that Dr Axon once was, swashing about with the swift turn. Finally it seemed the bizarre ritual was complete and they could return to searching for whatever it was the Magi were searching for that would unlock the dilemma of the strange towers, but then Dr Axon changed his pattern.
“An Announcement” intoned the mechanical replacement of a voice, and always Atrius wondered how so much smugness could carry in such a dispassionate monotone voice. “A Crew/Magi rescheduling.”
Atrius heard in his minds ear the echoing groan surely filling the inner thoughts of all on the parade ground, yet trained to perfection as they were not one soldier of Marduk betrayed the slightest visual sign of displeasure or reaction at all to this news.
“Myself and my team and equipment will now shift to the Shaheen and be transported by the crew of Captain Atrius.”
Unlike the rest of the warriors of Marduk, Atalleph, the Princesses pet viper-bat left in Atrius’s care, or perhaps it was vice-versa, and wrapped about his arm, voiced it’s displeasure as Dr Axon swung his brain to regard them with whatever hidden marvel of technology served for his eyes with a long sibilant hiss of aggression and a display of leathery wings somewhat between those of a bat or flying fish.
Within mere minutes the equipment was transferred and a storm-browed Captain Atrius and a skittish hissing Atalleph escorted Magi-lord Dr Axon into the skies over the barren rocky ochre landscape of Dormientes Draco.
“Captain Atrius” the soft rumbling voice of Dr Axon intoned, “break off from gridsearch vector to these coordinates in precisely 20 minutes.”
Atrius, with eyes narrowed, obeyed. The new trajectory took them well away from the rest of the Imperial fleet, to a point on the planets equator in an area already covered by the searchers and devoid of any of the tower ruins. The Shaheen raced through the dusty lemon skies of the dead world and came to land on a small flat-topped escarpment in a ruddy landscape of crags and fissures.
The Man-machine Dr Axon said but a single word “Wait”, before stoopingly exiting the side hatch and down the groaning and protesting telescoping ladder to the rocky ground below and then disappearing from view over the rocky edge of the escarpment. But Attaleph, the Princesses pet jewel-scaled Viper-bat from the shadowed forest moon of Eth did not recognise Dr Axon’s authority, and quietly slithered in pursuit, this Atrius observed with a smile and a nod of respect.
Unawares of his stealthy slithering pursuit Dr Axon clambered his way ungainly but efficiently into a heavily eroded gully, once, long ago, a part of a watercourse long since dried. There was no sign whatsoever of life, but it was not the living he was looking for. In the shadow of an overhanging outcrop luminous electronic eyes irised open, and the Centurion of the Robot Legion strode forth, hand raised in greeting….
In a darkened throne room on a world orbiting a far distant star a hunched figure peered over steepled fingers at instant images that were seen by his eye alone as Emperor Marduk watched as if from the point of view of Attaleph the revealed treason of Dr Axon.
“It was only a matter of time with you Dr Axon, wasn’t it. Even with the extension of life I granted you. And now for you the inevitable reward for traitors. Enjoy your last minutes, for they are now numbered.”
Without turning he reached to his side with a practiced air and placed a long finger on a concealed button concealed beneath a jewel on his throne.
“You have, I presume, the guarantee of Amnesty in writing? I am not about to go further without certainty that your Queens extermination of inefficient organic life will exempt my own person.”
“Affirmative.” The Centurion raised a hand and passed a metal cylinder to Dr Axon, who immediately unfurled the translucent flexible metal scroll to analyse the particulars.
“This says my brain will eventually be transferred into a mechanical brain at a time of my own choosing…”
“My Queen assumed you would be dissatisfied with the meagre lifespan an organic brain imposes, and that this eventual choice on your part would be mathematically inevitable.. however the particulars are up to you.”
“Yes, quite.” Replied Dr Axon with a hint of uncertainty in his mechanical voice.
“So may we proceed? The Queen is quite eager for confirmation that you have control of the stellar weapon.”
“Yes. The entrance is hidden just a few metres from here, I trust you brought the weaponry I requested?”
As an answer at some wordless and motionless command from the Centurion a Warbot Destroyer buried in the Draconian soil sat and then stepped up towering over them, it’s arms huge energy weapons. And at Dr Axon’s pointing gesture began tunnelling into the ravine wall, rock glowing then melting in rivulets like wax that flowed and cooled reshaped and discoloured.
In the darkened room the Emperor Marduk watched with grim glee as the time ticked down to Dr Axon’s execution, drumming his fingers in an ever increasing rhythm on a countdown unknown to all others in the universe, swiftly that rhythm reached a crescendo..
Attaleph watched coiled and hidden amongst the rocks watching as a great gate of unknown crystalline material was gradually revealed by the rays of the warbot destroyers raygun-limbs. Dr Axon waited with his metal feet mere centimetres from the flow of molten rock eager to get his electronic senses closer to the strange inscription on the crystalline door.. then, suddenly, his whole body twitched and spasmed! From the iconic bejewelled eye emblem worn upon the uniform of every citizen of the Imperium of Marduk and in Dr Axon’s case set into the mechanism of the translucent case which sustained his life, pulsed a strange radiant series of concentric circles of light followed by arcing and deadly electricity that lashed around the brain case and into the brain itself! The sustaining liquid boiled and frothed as portions of the brain popped and burst till at last the glassteel shattered and the remaining fragments of cerebral matter streamed out like a stew to pour onto the sand! The lifeless form of Dr Axon slumped forward on it’s feet, as the slurry continued to drain to a trickle before the impassive features but shocked poses of the robot legionnaires!
“Thus perish all traitors to my reign.” Whispered Emperor Marduk to the image seen by him alone. He depressed a hidden button on his throne. “Orders to Captain Damqi, redirect all your forces to the current coordinates of Captain Atrius, I want a sizable ground force ready for combat within the hour. Orders for Captain Atrius, once the force of Captain Damqi arrives you are to return to searching for the missing Imperial Daughter, this order cannot be countermanded until fulfilled.”
The Emperor, the Man-God, Marduk the First and Only, had lived for aeons and had found little in life surprising… still when he returned his gaze to the image before him after giving those orders something caused his mouth to drop open and all 3 eyes widen in astonishment!
Dr Axon’s body returned to an upright stance! The wrecked brain cylinder mechanically ejected from the shoulders of the machine body. Then from inside the barrel-like torso another brain cylinder arose bearing within it the true brain of Dr Axon shielded from Emperor Marduk’s assignation device and without the jewelled insignia all citizens were required to wear!
“Hahahaaaaa! It worked! I live! I live! Free of the tyrant Marduk today, to be his master tomorrow! Now to unravel the mysteries of the ancients and harness their power!” and with that Dr Axon strode over the cooling stone to examine the crystal door to the complex below…
Will the treacherous Dr Axon hand ultimate power over the galaxy to the dread Robot Legion of Queen Mechanica? Can Dr Axon trust the promises of the dread Machine Monarch or she trust him? What new thrilling mysteries horrors and fantastic sights await in the hidden depths of the core of the planet Dormientes Draco? What will become of the marooned Commander Lightyear? What fate awaits Princess Taegan at the base of the Space Pirates? Be sure not to miss the next edge-of-your-seat installment of Hydra Serials Waaar Roooocket The Missing Princess Chapter 16: The Shrouded Star Fortress! Proudly brought to you by the Caprican Toaster Co. the toasters which cut your corners for you! And by the Planet Arous Policeman’s Union Retirement and Medical Fund.