Chapter 6

     Klaw Zarden stood on the bridge deck overlooking the lowly tech personnel that were running the Centrattian warship. He had been pacing continuously back and forth across the deck in a weak attempt to not look bored. Lately, everything seemed to bore him. The only reason he tagged along on this little jaunt was to quell some Krenoxian rebel upstarts just so he would have something to do. He was getting rather impatient of Zapato’s strategy. The only worthwhile thing he had accomplished lately was the kidnapping of the Tranaxian girl. Though to be honest, that wasn’t Zapato’s idea. That was another reason why he didn’t want to hang around Zapato’s palatial compound. The spiritual advisor, Shongol, rather unnerved him, not that he’d ever admit to it though. There was something about him he did not like and the further away he was, the better. Shongol was here as an agent for someone else, but who was something Klaw didn’t know. Again, that was something he cared little about.
     As the warship shook from the stressful throes of a small asteroid field, Klaw made his way to a window so he could watch the careening asteroids. Though an uncomfortable ride, there was no real concern over the asteroids. The warships powerful shields were disintegrating them as they collided. As the warship shuddered from the bombardment, Klaw muttered about Markus’ incompetence under his breath.  Though he had no regrets for his past, he only wished he had joined up with more intelligent allies.
     With a heavy sigh, he returned to pacing again, while his patience began to wane. He glanced down at the metallic claw-like hand that was attached to his arm. He was supposed to have had an upgrade, something more powerful than what he now possessed. Zapato had told him it would take some time to find the right metal for the hand, but Klaw was getting a little anxious. He had been doing Zapato’s dirty work for some time now and had nothing to show for it. He did not like being taken advantage of. The anger welled up inside him as he balled his fist. Seeing an empty console, he pounded the heavy fist into it. The sound of the damage made a few heads turn, but none dared to speak anything at first.
     “Temper, temper, Klaw. You could break a hand from doing that, oh wait, you don’t have one,” said a sneering voice from behind. “I wonder what the Emperor would think if he thought you were on the losing end of sanity.”
     “I really don’t care, Markus,” Klaw snapped back in his deep permeating voice without turning his head. “As usual your threats don’t scare me.”
     General Stieg Markus smiled arrogantly. “Are we missing the Tranaxian girl?” He asked with vindictiveness. “I hope you’re not left-handed.”
     Klaw narrowed his eyes as he turned to face Emperor Zapato’s highest ranking military officer. He did not care for the General. He saw him as a weak-minded, simple fooled coward beyond reproach. He also knew that if General Markus stood toe to toe with someone like Ramon Romero, Markus would have either have been severely beaten or would have cried for his mother and ran. The General had obviously rode the shirttails of his father, who was a military genius. Klaw thought more than once that Markus was adopted or found under a rock.
     As his eyes seethed with red, he replied with an angry tone, “I tire of senseless, idiotic comments, Markus.” The spite and edginess in voice were far from rattled. “The coward in you doesn’t have limits but I do and you won’t like the ramifications!”
     General Markus rolled his eyes and laughed heartily as he walked away. Klaw just sneered as he turned and stared back out into space. General Markus’ voice then boomed over the com, making the announcement to jump to lightspeed. Stars and planets flew by them at outstanding speeds as they raced the solar winds to return home. Normally he would listen in on Markus’ report to Zapato, but this time, Klaw left the command deck and made his way down to the docking bay and prepared his private drop-ship. He wanted no part of Markus’ report of obliterating a bunch of ill-prepared rebels or Zapato’s righteous arrogance for that matter. If either of them had any inclination of what they were actually doing, they’d be dangerous. As it were, they were both buffoons.
     As they emerged out of light speed near Centratta, Klaw ordered the docking bays opened and proceeded to exit the warship. He easily piloted the drop-ship down into Centratta’s cold, dark atmosphere. He gave a shudder at the sudden temperature drop. The coldness of the planet did not suit him, but he  had gotten used to it the past couple of star-years. It’s not that it was a frigid planet, but he was used to a more warmer climate on Osage. Hell, even Earth was warm compared to this.
     He docked the shuttle on his own personal shuttle pad near his rather small cottage. A lone figure, cloaked in black, was standing near the landing zone. Klaw knew immediately who it was and cringed at the sight of him. Whenever Shongol wanted you, it usually wasn’t a good omen. With a sigh, he lowered the ramp and slowly made his way out. Shongol seemed to cover the distance between them very quickly. His black, piercing eyes seemed to zone in on him and the vague smell of brimstone burned the air around his nose.
     “I knew you would come here, my friend,” Shongol said to Klaw, his high-pitched voice seemingly grating on his ears as he clasped his hand. “Too much of General Markus would soil anyone’s nerves.”
     When Klaw just stared at him, Shongol roared with laughter. He waved his hand as if Klaw didn’t understand and resumed talking with a change of subject.
     “You may be wondering why I have called upon you?” He asked with a capricious grin.
     “The thought had crossed my mind,” Klaw replied back cautiously.
     “My master knows of you and wishes you to embark on a mission for him,” Shongol said.
     “Your what?”
     “My master,” Shongol replied, a big smile still on his face, but with a more serious tone. “Yes, I have a master and you would do well not to repeat any of this.”
     The look in Shongol’s eyes meant it. The cold stare that emanated from them froze even Klaw’s dark heart. Though apprehensive, working for Shongol and his “master” might be a better bet than Zapato.
     “You have my word and attention,” he told Shongol, trying not to look unnerved.
     small sinister smile slowly ran across Shongol’s face as he first rubbed his chin with his thumb and forefinger before placing his right hand on Klaw’s shoulder. His dark, piercing eyes met Klaw’s once again as he stated his intentions.
     “I was sent here by my master, Ganelon, to keep an eye on things. He’s been the power behind Zapato for some time now and it was because of Ganelon that Zapato overtook Krenox and is the reason he still holds it.”
     “I figured you worked for someone though I didn’t know it was Ganelon,“ Klaw relied.                      “Though maybe I should’ve. So, why the sudden urge to use me?”
     “Because,” said Shongol. “Zapato is also a fool. There are things that are set in motion that he does not comprehend and because of that he cannot be trusted with the work my master desperately needs done. Ganelon is not a patient man.”
     Klaw covered his mouth with his right hand and mulled the offer that Shongol had given him. As Shongol eyed him curiously, Klaw tried to avoid eye contact. He knew that if he turned down the offer, it was no guarantee that Shongol would let it slide. Though not outright, it would happen when he least expected it to. On the other hand, this could also be what he needed to get out from under Zapato’s thumb.
     Finally, he spoke. “Fine,” he began. “But I do have a few requests and questions that I’m sure one such as yourself would understand.”
     “Go on.”
     “Well,” Klaw continued as he looked at his damaged hand. “An upgrade on this would be beneficial. Also, I want to know what’s going on and why this kidnapping of the Tranaxian was so important.”
     “I will see to it about the upgrade,“ Shongol replied as he looked down at the mess that was Klaw’s left hand. “The Princess holds precious information Ganelon wants.” He looked at Klaw expectedly. “Anything else?”
     “Yes,” he answered. “Ganelon.”
     Shongol’s lips turned curved up into a cruel and merciless smile that shivered the foundation of Klaw’s soul. For a second, he had thought he had gone too far.
     “He is from a race called the Ecoute HuDar, or as they are known to some, the demon masters,” Shongol replied. “They have been enemies with the Dark Elders for as long as one can remember and it is because of the Dark Elders that Ganelon wants Starfleet to fall, but there is a problem that Ganelon wants you to solve.”
     “And that is?”
     “Ganelon is also the reason that Rian Lirian was killed,” Shongol continued. “He believed Rian Lirian was the one prophesied to slay him. That has recently changed. Ever since Zapato informed Ganelon of Aran Lirian, my master has been, shall we say, upset. He wants Aran Lirian dead. He does not trust Zapato with this. He believes Aran Lirian will also be looking for the sword known as Aushen”
     Shongol went rigid for a second and then relaxed. He breathed in the Centrattian air as if trying to gauge it. His eyes bulged and his hands jerked in the strain before settling down. Klaw assumed that Shongol was having a hard time adapting to the atmosphere as he was not usually out in the open.
     “The son of Rian Lirian draws nearer to his destiny,” Shongol continued as he opened his eyes. “It is in the air even here. This must not happen. He must be destroyed. He will eventually go to Krenox. That is where the remaining Dark Elders reside. I will deal with Zapato on your future whereabouts”
     “Aran Thazgo has a destiny?” Klaw asked with a smirk of laughter.
     Shongol smiled. “This is no laughing matter, Klaw Zarden.” He handed Klaw a disk. “The information you need is on this.”
     Klaw nodded uneasily in understanding. Shongol again placed his right hand on Klaw’s shoulder and looked him deep in the eyes. Klaw tried to back away but Shongol’s icy stare stopped him in his tracks. Sweat began to slowly run down Klaw’s face as Shongol continued to stare. The fear and awkwardness began to show a bit too much in his eyes.
     “Succeed in this mission and Ganelon will reward you,” Shongol finally said as he released his hand from Klaw’s shoulder and turned around and began to walk slowly away. “Until we meet again, Klaw Zarden.”
     “Wait!” Klaw asked, forcing Shongol to turn back around. “Are you a demon master as well?”
     Shongol grinned and turned around and disappeared into the night fog that had begun to swirl, leaving Klaw to wonder what was really going on.
     

     Emperor Zanto Zapato paced back and forth in front of his throne. He was not a happy man. One of his best agents had been sent off to only who knows where and he was not given a satisfactory reason why. He blamed the damned Calanian for that. His tolerance of Shongol and Ganelon for that matter, was beginning to wane. He knew why Princess Ashlynn was to be kidnapped. Ganelon had always had a sick fascination of kidnapping the daughters, wives, or some sort of family member of enemy leaders and siring sons and daughters to use against them. That was why the sister of Rian Lirian was kidnapped. He smirked at that thought. If he remembered correctly, she escaped with her daughter and they were never found. It was presumed that they were dead.
     Rian Lirian. That name hadn’t come up in a while. Lately it was his son that did. He again smirked. Ganelon had always thought it was Rian Lirian that was to destroy him and was overjoyed that he and his men killed the Tranaxian. No one knew that he and Danyelle of Krenox had had a son. That lowlife Kamal Thazgo had somehow gotten the little brat off the planet before they had taken over. Apparently the girl had been killed in the attempt. Ganelon was not happy she had been killed. He wanted her for obvious reasons. They did get the old man, though; Count Hurchanek. Zapato still couldn’t believe the old geezer was still alive. Twenty-two years in captivity. He never thought Krenoxians were so tough or so thoroughly stupid.
     The opening of his chamber stilled his thoughts as he looked to see who the intruder was. It was a Krenoxian slave girl. He smiled at the sight of her. They were also an efficient breed. As he stared mesmerized at her, the chamber door opened yet again. This time it was someone Zapato did not care for.
     “Zapato,” Shongol called out with a sense of sarcasm. “I was told you wanted to see me.”
     “Shongol,” Zapato acknowledged. “I want to know what is going on. First we kidnap the Tranaxian girl as requested and now you’ve sent one of my best agents to Krenox.” He narrowed his eyes and gazed hard at the Calanian. “What is Ganelon’s plan?”
     Shongol smiled at him as he walked to a bar filled with all sorts of interplanetary liquor and poured himself a drink. As he did so, he also caught site of the Krenoxian slave girl. His eyebrows raised in obvious attraction. He took a drink and looked back at Zapato.
     “Why are you concerned?” He asked. “You are paid well to do our bidding and nothing else. I don’t understand your problem with everything.”
     He turned his head back toward the Krenoxian slave and began admiring her figure. A small wry grin formed on his cruel mouth. He had always admired the females of Krenox. Their lithe figures and large chests had always aroused him so. She glanced at him, finally noticing him staring at her. She smiled weakly and hurried to get done with her cleaning.
     “I want to know why you sent one of my best agents off to Krenox?”
     Shongol turned once again to face Zapato. He did not understand why Ganelon tolerated this fool of a Emperor. Still, he relished the misery he wrought on him. Zapato was an easy target.
     “Well, my dear Emperor,” Shongol began as he walked over to the slave girl. He thrust his hands into her silky black hair and began caressing it. “I have orders from my master and as our contract states, I am allowed any resources I deem necessary, whether you approve of it or not.”
     He then turned from the slave girl, who was now standing docilely as he continued to run his hands through her hair. With one hand, he slowly caressed the nape of her neck, causing her to spasm in both pleasure and duress. His eyes then narrowed and his nostrils flared up as he stared hard in discontent at Zapato.                          “You would do well not to upset me or Ganelon,” Shongol said as his free hand clenched. “You would not like it if he would have to come here. You would not like it at all.”        Zapato’s own eyes narrowed. He did not like to be bullied and he wasn’t going to let Ganelon’s stooge attempt it. His hands clenched as his blood boiled at the injustice that the Calanian had rendered. He watched with disgust as Shongol continued to run his hands over the Krenoxian slave girl. Finally, he had had enough.                                                                                    “For one, I do not fear your master,” he said boldly as he felt the adrenaline in his chest rise. “Second, I solely stated I wanted to know what use you are making of Klaw.”                                                      Shongol just grunted. “In due time, my dear Emperor Zapato,” he said. “In due time.”

     “And the Tranaxian girl?”
     “I am taking her to Ganelon as instructed,” Shongol replied wearily. “If this is all you wanted, then I shall take my leave of you.
     With that, Shongol grabbed the Krenoxian slave girl and shunted her toward the door. As he closed it behind him, Shongol shot him one last impatient look and then was gone.
His face reddening with anger, Zapato grabbed a glass of lava juice from a nearby table and threw it at the large door. As it made contact, the glass shattered, sending shards of glass and lava juice everywhere. For a long time he stood there, rooted to the spot and breathing heavily. He was angry, angry at Shongol for treating him like garbage, and at himself for making that horribly stupid deal with Ganelon. It hadn’t brought him anything but pain and aggravation ever since Shongol showed up two years ago. That was when he found out about Aran Lirian. He grimaced. Everything began and ended with him. He had to do something about him eventually but first he had to find out what Shongol was up to. He reached down to his wrist com and pushed a tiny little button. Within seconds, the image of General Markus appeared. Though he knew the General to be inept, he figured this would keep Markus out of his hair and he would be able to find out what was going on. If there was one quality that Markus had, it was tracking people.
     “General Markus, I have need of you,” he said.
     Markus’ head bowed. “Yes, my liege,” he replied as his image faded out.
     Within a few minutes, General Markus had entered the chamber and kneeled before Zapato. The Emperor had finally sat on his throne and had his chin propped up under his hand, which was twirling his graying goatee. He stood up and motioned for Markus to stand as well. Zapato then began to pace back and forth again, every few seconds glancing at Markus.
He looked hard into his eyes and noticed that where there should have been a deep determination, there was only sheer stupidity etched on his face. He was down to low tolerance with any of Markus’ stupidity. They had been friends since he could remember and it was because of that friendship that Markus attained the rank he now held. It was clear very early on that Markus lacked his father’s brilliance. He knew that if Markus failed this mission, it would be over for him. Shongol, if not Ganelon, would demand his head.
     “I do not trust Shongol,” Zapato began. “ I need you to follow Klaw. He is on his way to Krenox.”
     Markus’ lips turned up into a nasty grin as he nodded his head.
     “Do not let him know you are there,” Zapato went on. “I want to know everything that is going on with him. Do you understand?”
     “Yes, Sire” Markus replied as he bowed his head.
     “Do not fail me again, Markus,” Zapato said as he dismissed the General with a wave of his hand. “Send in Mosak on your way out.”
     Markus bowed and turned. The same nasty grin was still etched on his face. He knew that with any luck, he could end that miserable wretch’s life. He would show his Emperor that Klaw was nothing. As he passed through the doors, he stopped and turned to Mosac and sneered at him. This was another one of Zapato’s agents he did not like.
     Mosak took the sneer as is and entered the doors and shut them behind him. He laughed quietly to himself at the sneer that the idiot Markus gave him. As he walked closer to the Emperor, he noticed that Zapato seemed to perk up. His eyes seemed to radiate with a maniacal malice that only few possessed.
     “Aahh, Jion Mosak, is our plan ready to formulate?” Zapato asked.
     “Yes,” came Mosak’s reply. “Admiral Ramon Romero will soon be dead.”

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