After a few hours of hyperspace travel in a Z-95 Headhunter, Zolph entered the Lehon system and was introduced to the sight of the largest Valkoran fleet he has ever seen, all ships repainted to have the Valkoran flag symbol blotted out to separate them from those still loyal to Valkor. This fleet included the Doomsayer, Maesterus’s personal flagship and the largest ship in the fleet. Thankfully, this also meant that the Alliance wouldn’t have to be fighting this Whaladon-of-a-ship in the battle ahead.
Not long after getting a good view of the fleet, a squadron of Firaxa fighters prowled around him like the sharks they were named after before sending him a communications transmission.
“You have entered Valkoran Separatist space. Identify yourself or we will open fire.”
The Z-95 he was flying was a massive downgrade from the Manthis and wouldn’t survive in a fight against Firaxas, but he didn’t come here to pick a fight with them anyway, so he complied and responded back.
“This is Zolph Vaelor of the Jedi Order and Galactic Alliance. Maesterus told me about the fleet gathering in this system.”
“Commander Vaelor, you have been cleared for entry. Please proceed to Hangar 6 on the command ship, Doomsayer. We look forward to working with you.”
This was an unusual turn of events for Zolph. The last time he was on the Doomsayer, he and Besh Squad were infiltrators stealing intelligence. Now, almost a year later, he’s a guest.
After setting down in Hangar 6, Zolph was greeted by a contingent of Valkoran troopers and Skakoan commandos led by Lieutenant Will Helms. He was initially put on guard by the Skakoans because of his past experiences fighting with them.
“Calm down, Vaelor. They’re not here to blow you or me up this time. If their history is anything to go by, what Valkor did on Christophsis reminded them too much of that other Empire that enslaved their people back then.” Helms said to Vaelor.
One of the Skakoans spoke to Zolph as well. “Actually, only a minority of us are mad suicide bombers. Besides, we’re mercenaries. We are paid to fight, not kill ourselves.”
“Touché.” Zolph responded before turning his attention back to Helms. “Anyway, I’m glad you’re on our side, Helms, and not just because of your quirk.”
“Same here. Anyway, Admiral Gravlek is waiting for you.” Helms then gave an order to one of the soldiers accompanying him. “Varson. Please escort our guest to the command bridge.”
“That won’t be necessary. I’ve been here before.” Zolph answered nervously.
“I insist. This is only the second time you’ve been here, and this is a really big ship.”
“Very well, then.” Zolph complied reluctantly before following Private Varson.
As Zolph followed Varson to the bridge tram, Zolph noticed a few familiar faces along the way. One of them was General Colm Varek, the Fortress Tank commander he almost killed during his psychotic episode on Krantisi, and Zolph gave him an apologetic glance for that incident as he passed by. Another face was Doctor Cham Beneska, the Twi’lek medic who helped him recover after almost being killed by his first hallucination of Dynn on Dagobah.
Once they made it to the tram and took off, Varson briefly took off his helmet - revealing himself to be a bald human male with a thin mustache – and spoke to Zolph.
“So what has you worried about the Admiral?”
“You know what happened to his eyes? I kinda did that.” Zolph answered.
“And you think he wants to kill you for that? He doesn’t hold grudges for injuries.”
“Oh yeah.” Zolph then remembered that Gravlek didn’t give any fuss for being left to die during the Battle of Ithor.
“Also, I’d like to say thanks for what you did on Christophsis. If you hadn’t talked me out of pulling the trigger on myself, I wouldn’t even be helping this movement.”
“It’s no problem at all. I just don’t like people going through the same despair I may still be going through after being forced to kill Dynn.”
“Wait, were you and Commander Manthis…?”
“Yep.” Zolph answered Varson before he could finish asking. “And we might still be even after her death if the last few months are anything to go by.”
“I think you should see a therapist.”
“I already have, and believe me, I’ve met far more messed up people.”
Later, Zolph and Varson made it to the spacious crate-filled sections of the bridge module, a part of the ship he remembered all too well.
“Oh, I remember this place. Fun times.” Zolph said sarcastically before asking Varson. “So, what’s in these crates anyway?”
“Absolutely nothing.” An energetic, high-pitched female voice said to him from inside one of the crates. “These sections are actually a makeshift training course.”
“Well, that would explain why it is big enough to be chased by a rancor through.” Zolph then came to a realization before looking at Varson. “Wait a sec. If that wasn’t your voice, then…. Oh no. Sweet Force, no!”
One of the crates next to Zolph suddenly busted open and he was tackled and pinned down by Neur.
“Hiya, Zolph.” Neur greeted Zolph.
“Why were you in that crate?” Zolph asked with a confused and annoyed tone.
“I was… playing hide-and-seek with Machinus.”
Zolph wasn’t convinced. “You’re actually stalking me, aren’t you?” For him, it was the early days with Maesterus all over again, except the stalker in question was clinically insane and apparently had a bit of an unhealthy crush on him.
“No, really. I actually am playing hide-and-seek. And that reminds me, I need to get moving before…” Neur then heard the sound of Machinus’s mechanical joints sneaking up on her from behind. "Machinus figures out where I am.” She then glanced behind her shoulder. “Okay, you got me, Cid.”
“I told you that I could find you even without my x-ray scanners. Anyway, Neur, would you please get off of Zolph and let him up? You’re making him feel uncomfortable and he needs to see the Admiral.”
“Okay!” Neur then got her feet and apologized to Zolph as he did the same. “Sorry about that. You should have said something.”
Zolph then spoke Machinus. “Thanks. Anyway, nice you two are our side as well. Valkor’s not only lost half his army, but also one of his best scientists.”
“After he set up some of my colleagues deaths in his decoy superweapon scheme, there’s no way in hell I’d be inventing any more stuff for him, and I don’t want him or Masochus laying any or their ugly fingers on Neur. Even droids with artificial consciousness can have more empathy than those two. Was there really any doubt I’d join this rebellion? Unfortunately, Valkor’s loyalists still have access to some of the factories.”
“What about Neur? Did she join by choice? I wouldn’t want to think you just dragged her along with you out of some obsessive paternal instinct or that she only joined because you joined.”
Neur then answered Zolph in a tone that was uncharacteristically serious for her. “You’re right. I’d follow Cid no matter where he went, but that’s not the only reason. I’d never side with a man who kills planets to torture people, and Masochus reminds me too much of my so-called ‘sisters’. Real family wouldn’t forcefully cut parts of your head off just because they look out of place, constantly practice hexes on you and treat you like dirt.”
“You sound serious for once.” Zolph responded.
“Do you really think I’m cheerful and innocently clueless all the time? You’ve seen what I’m like when my lekku stop working. These things were designed to restore my higher thought processes, but all I did was act like a child in a grown-up body. When you’ve been denied a proper childhood, you sometimes try really hard to reclaim it.”
“I knew your personality had something to do with your childhood lobotomy, but I didn’t realize…”
“In short, it was all just an act, and I’m sorry if I came off as an insensitive stalker. I’ve had all the days before the war to be something I was denied from being, and I never really got a full picture of this galaxy and this war’s true nature until Christophsis. And now, you’ve given me a wake-up call.”
Neur then pointed Zolph towards the door leading to the bridge.
“You shouldn’t keep Gravlek waiting.”
Varson and Zolph eventually made it to the bridge. With his back turned towards them and looking out the viewport, the cyborg Admiral Marx Gravlek turned around and looked at them with his somewhat-menacing glowing red mechanical eyes, surrounded by some burned skin tissue.
“Welcome back to the Doomsayer, Zolph Vaelor.” Gravlek greeted Zolph.
Zolph nervously replied back. “Uh…long time no see, Admiral Gravlek. Nice eyes you got there.”
The admiral sighed with annoyance before pressing a tiny switch on the side of his head casing that changed the glow from his eye implants to yellow instead of red. “Is this better?”
“It’s passable.” Zolph answered. “And no hard feelings about the last time we met, right?”
“My eyes glitch sometimes, but other than that, none. Besides, if we fought a third time, I’d probably be more machine than man than I am already.” He then looked to Varson. “Private, you may report back to your squad.”
“Yes sir.” Varson responded before leaving the bridge.
Gravlek then turned his attention back to Zolph. “Anyway, you seem a bit disappointed.”
Zolph answered honestly. “Yeah, I was hoping to meet with Seferin again.”
Zolph also thought about the irony of his statement. Before he knew who Maesterus was under the helmet, he was not only trying to avoid him like the plague, he also hated him. Now, he wished to know him more.
“Maesterus is away and making preparations for the battle ahead at the moment. He also has to worry about Valkor knowing everything he sees.”
“Right.” Zolph acknowledged. “Wouldn’t want to give that freak any ideas on how to further sabotage us, and he more than likely already knows about this gathering here.”
“We don’t need to worry about him sending his supporters to destroy us right away. It would take all of them to evenly match us, and that would leave Ockla Prime an even easier target for the Alliance than it is already.
But if you do want to meet with Maesterus, he should be returning soon.”
“Good. I have a lot of questions for him. Any other supporters I should know about? I already know Neur and Machinus are with us.”
“Arcidus is with us, and so are Juganak and Armogeist. Masochus is still on Valkor’s side, and we wouldn’t let him join us even if he begged on his knees. Gestroma is also part of the ground force.”
Zolph was surprised when he heard that name. “Wait a second. Hiriss and I threw him into a chemical vat and blew him up on Nelvaan. Are you saying he’s still alive?”
“Obviously. The only difference is that he’s now working for free.”
“I’m guessing Valkor assimilated him, because last time we met, he was a Forceless herald trying to create his own army.”
“You don’t say? Then don’t be surprised he survived the things that happened to him. You already know how resilient Maesterus is, after all.”
“Yeah, but not all of them are that resilient.” Zolph then changed the subject. “So, what do you plan to do once Valkor’s finished?”
“I haven’t really thought that far ahead.” Gravlek answered. “We’re already war criminals, so I don’t see a bright future for this Valkoran splinter faction. We’ve been involved in piracy, terrorism and genocide among other things before and during the war. We’ll most likely be tried and imprisoned, or worse.”
“But wasn’t Valkor the one ordering you to do all that?”
“You don’t get the full picture. Yes, he did order the attack that killed your parents six years ago, but we could have chosen to defy him.”
“But that wouldn’t have done you any good seeing as what he’s capable of.”
“However, Valkor wasn’t planning to carry out a galactic scale war so soon, so it actually was Maesterus who started the Valkoran War by carrying out the attacks on Ithor and the Jedi academy. And he’s aware of the damage he’s caused in the process of alerting the galaxy to the threat Valkor poses, even if he’s tried to minimize it in the process.”
“But why wait five years?”
“The Yuuzhan Vong invasion happened not long after the attack over Yavin IV, and that war was already catastrophic enough as it was, though not as catastrophic as legends make it out to be. We kept the Vong out of most of our territory, but we didn’t want to get caught in a three-way war with the Republic and the Vong. And we needed a credible excuse for going to war with the Alliance that wasn’t galactic conquest.”
“And what excuse was that?”
“The New Republic was economically efficient, but lacking in military strength. The Galactic Alliance had the manpower to fight the Yuuzhan Vong without relying on impractical superweapons, but they weren’t really in the position to be rebuilding planets so soon after the war without starting an economic crisis. After all, the Vong did destroy some of the Banking Clan’s power bases – including the one on Muunilinst - and they only have a few bases left such as the Vault on Scipio.”
“I’m not an expert on galactic economics, but I see one problem with that excuse. Sabotaging a planetary restoration project when it’s already started only ensures that the money was spent on it for nothing.”
“But it would have wasted more money had it continued and succeeded, and even more planets followed suit.”
“And where do you get the resources for your army if you claim our galaxy is a state of economic collapse?”
“The worlds the Valkoran Empire controlled were rich with resources and didn’t already have claims on them by other entrepreneurs. We thought the Alliance was a corrupt and broken system and we could have done a better job at rebuilding the galaxy. That was partially true, but you then learned we were primarily a cult that worshipped another would-be galactic conqueror, and now, we want to get out of that cult.”
Zolph then reassured the Admiral. “I wouldn’t worry too much about your fate. If you help us out in the attack on Ockla Prime, you’ll most likely get a lighter sentence than imprisonment, or better yet, receive amnesty for your actions under Valkor’s service.”
“That would be pretty nice. When does the Alliance plan to attack?”
“In about a week. But I have suggestion: Don’t tell Maesterus about the attack until then, and don’t even let him know you’re withholding that information.”
The door to the command bridge then opened and Maesterus walked in with his wings folded down.
“Welcome back, my lord.” Gravlek greeted Maesterus. “The guest you admitted came while you were out.”
“Thank you for keeping him company, Admiral Gravlek. You may continue overseeing fleet preparations in my stead.” He then addressed Zolph. “Come with me, Zolph. We have much to discuss and our own non-military preparations to make.”
Zolph then followed Maesterus off of the bridge.
As Zolph and Maesterus made their way back to the rest of the Doomsayer, Zolph skimmed over what he just discussed with Admiral Gravlek before Maesterus showed up. Once they boarded one of the trams, Maesterus removed his helmet and revealed his face to Zolph for the first time since Krantisi. Seferin’s appearance was still somewhat unsettling due to the glowing red Forceless eyes and unnaturally blackened skin for humans of any anthropology, but unlike most Forceless hosts, his face at least still translated as being human and a relative of Zolph’s. Zolph then took the opportunity to ask his ancestor some more personal questions.
“When did Valkor give you your symbiote? Before or after Mr. and Mrs. Sarlacc fused together?”
“Stop.” Seferin answered not wanting to go into too much detail or even think about it.
“Judging by Belluzub and Facadma’s kids, Forceless symbiosis seems to be inheritable. I’m just wondering if the gradually strengthening immunity in our bloodline is a result of…”
“Okay, I got it after Grein left. Valkor ‘rewarded’ me with it in exchange for selling my life to him. And unlike some of my longtime acquaintances, I didn’t get the luxury of sleeping through millennia of isolation from the rest of the galaxy, and I had to live with the regret of never meeting my first child. Juganak and Arcidus were people I could count upon and teach, and they were of sound mind, but still as mortal as other members of their respective species. The only consistent companions I had were Machinus and Armogeist since their conscious lives were preserved at the cost of their original bodies, but it also took a toll on their mental health. Machinus was well-meaning, but he had a slight disdain for most organics due to common Plaristean ideology from our day. I could sympathize with Armogeist and the abuse he suffered from Masochus, but he was still influenced by the teachings of the Sith, just to a lesser extent.”
That may explain why he threatened to stop us from progressing into the temple on Krishar with violence when we could have just teamed up to take down Xixixix. Well-intentioned, but not exactly rational. People who aren’t Force sensitive sometimes like to romanticize Dark Force users, but really, all it does is make them broody, insane, stupid or any combination of those. Zolph thought to himself.
Seferin continued. “It wasn’t until Valkor sent me to kill you and your parents that I was reminded of who I really was. And you know the rest from there. Again, I am sorry for some of the pain I put you through.”
“And again, it’s not really your fault. The immunity wasn’t as strong as it is now.” Zolph then prepared to ask another question just as the tram made it to its destination and Seferin put his helmet back on to hide his face from the lower-ranking Valkoran soldiers, even though most of them already knew he was a Forceless due to the wings coming out of his back and the abilities he’s displayed on the battlefield. “I don’t really have a defined homeworld or nationality, seeing as my mom and dad were always going from place to place after the Galactic Civil War, and we humans have multiple homeworlds. I currently live on Ossus, but that’s where most Jedi live and that doesn’t count for much.”
“What planet were you born on?” Maesterus asked as they disembarked.
“My birth certificate said I was born on Coruscant, and my family did live there for some time before we started living on other planets for only a few months at a time. My mother was of Alderaanian descent, but I want to know what planet your side of the family tree originated from.”
“My birth family was from Corellia if that helps.”
Zolph then thought about the irony of his lineage. One of his ancestors was a Corellian, but he was inept at flying their freighters, or at least the ones with asymmetrically-placed cockpits. It was an interesting design aesthetic, but it was impractical to him.
“I heard you were worried about letting Valkor know of our plan by openly speaking with me, yet why are you doing it now?”
“I never got the chance to be a good father, and right now, you’re the closest thing I’ve got to a son aside from Aiken.”
“But why now of all times?”
“I’m not quite certain if I’ll survive the battle ahead, and like the Admiral said, even if I do, I don’t think I’d be able to get that second chance.”
“Even at the risk of giving Valkor more ammunition against us. But like I told the Admiral, I think we can work out an amnesty plan.”
“Even if the Valkoran Separatist movement in general is given amnesty, I doubt that I will get off as easy seeing how I started this war and was the public face of the Empire during the first year of the war.”
A few minutes later, Zolph and Maesterus arrived in what was officially designated as a training ground. They witnessed Juganak and Armogeist – or if they’re being called by their real names, Argem Nylek and Balos Oiren respectively - sparring, both large men clashing suitably large lightsabers and the Force. They were using almost everything at their disposal. Juganak used his superhuman strength and Armogeist used his large, lightsaber-resistant shield.
Armogeist repeatedly jabbed his cyan-bladed lightpike at Juga, but the dark-skinned Miraluka dodged or blocked every blow from the animated suit of armor. Juga then gave Armogeist some advice as he played defensively.
“Remember, Balos. There is no pecking order of weapons, and even the so-called ‘ultimate warriors’ have a fatal weakness. What is the best weapon depends on the situation. For example, modern-day Mandalorians love to boast about having armor that resists lightsabers, but it isn’t as protective as they think. Not only can the alloy be worn down with enough force, there are still weakpoints in the armor so as to allow the wearer movement. A few even make the decision to not be fully armored so as to allow better freedom of movement.”
“That and a lot of them think too highly of themselves. They even act like they can kill Jedi by the dozen in a minute when they’re really just as mortal as any other soldier.” Armogeist answered as he blocked a few blows from Juganak’s lightsaber ‘club’ with his shield. “But don’t the Mandos have a rule saying they’re all required to wear full body armor?”
“They actually do not. Whichever one of them said that, I can only describe with one word: pretentious. For all their talk of individualism, that’s pretty hypocritical. If they really did want to be individualized, they wouldn’t act like it’s the end of the galaxy every time one of them goes against their social norms. That’s asking to be stereotyped as trigger-happy religious crusaders, in case going to war with the entire galaxy just because they want to fight wasn’t enough of a stereotype.” While Juga was answering, he Force-pulled a large training box towards Armogeist’s back. Armogeist quickly turned his left arm backward to block the box with his shield, but while he was distracted, Juga batted Armogeist’s lightpike out of his right hand.
“You must be alert to everything around you.” Juga told him.
Armogeist suddenly snapped and fired a stream of Force lightning from his right hand, but Juga effortlessly blocked it with his lightsaber before Armogeist stopped and realized what he did.
“My apologies, Master Nylek. It appears that I let my anger get the better of me again.”
“I understand your frustration, Balos. Now that we’re enemies of Emperor Valkor, you now have the opportunity for revenge against Masochus, and you have the longest history with him out of all of us.”
“I won’t lie, Master. I despise Masochus more than the Sith tried to get me to despise the Jedi. He not only robbed me of my flesh and blood and denied me death, he also forced me to skin my own parents alive among other things. And that’s just getting into the things he’s done while he was a Sith Lord. He got away with things just as horrific while under Valkor’s claws. For instance - and this happened while you were in cryostasis - he had a pregnant woman slowly melted down in a vat of acid just because she called the ancient Sith homeworld by a new name.”
“You have a lot of right to want him dead, but if you wish to overcome the Dark Side, you must learn not to revel in his death if you are the one to kill him.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You are a Jedi, and I am a Sith. The way we control our emotions was drilled into us at early ages.”
“Past tense, Balos. I left the Jedi Order because I didn’t entirely agree with it. The Council members could make wise decisions independently, but they were at their least efficient when deciding collectively. And you are no longer a Sith, even if the taint of the Dark Side is still within you. Not every person who was raised as a Jedi stays with the light, and not every Sith stays consumed by darkness.”
“I think Masochus has been a lost cause since the day he was born. I don’t just want him to die. I need him to die. Not just out of a desire for justice, but so he doesn’t inflict any more suffering.”
“You’re on the right track, and you’re doing a much better job of it than a long time ago, but you still need to keep your lust for vengeance in control. Then again, I didn’t necessarily think of myself as a model Jedi despite sitting on the Council. And like the rest of us, I found myself in the employ of another petty tyrant when it seemed we were in the process of creating the perfect society. As we all learned, a perfect society is unrealistic, and there will always be a few bad eggs in there.”
“For all your self-deprecation, I will say that you are the least messed up out of all the Valkoran leadership. You’re the only one of us without a traumatic past and keeps their emotions in check. I was apprenticed to the most monstrous Sith Lord of my time and lost my body, Maesterus got banished from the Jedi Order for being romantically involved with Grein and fighting in the Mandalorian Wars, Grein was a victim of racial persecution and forced to abandon her sister for thousands of years, Machinus lost his body and was subject to anti-droid discrimination, Arcidus accidentally killed his own parents when he was young and had a very sheltered life in the Jedi Order, Neur was brain-damaged and spat upon by her own people, and Emilin was possessed by an Archfiend for thousands of years. I can’t see anything having gone wrong with your life.”
“If you can call slightly regretting being Maesterus’s master and serving an abomination in the Force non-traumatic, then yes. And no, being blind since birth doesn’t count since it is normal for my species and I have the Force to see for me.”
Maesterus then interrupted and addressed Juganak. “All you did was teach me the good parts about being a Jedi, Argem. You can’t take the blame for everything Valkor’s done. And don’t even say that last part to the Kur’Ada remnants.”
“Welcome back, Seferin. And I sense that you brought Zolph as well.”
Zolph responded in turn. “Hello again, Juganak and Armogeist. Thank you for noticing us and greeting us. And the Kur’Ada are on your side again?”
Maesterus then answered Zolph. “We secretly helped what’s left of them escape total annihilation after Valkor ate their leader and ordered the destruction of their enclave on Alpheridies. And don’t worry, they’ve given up their crusade against Force sensitives.”
“Since they’ve learned to reconnect with the Force despite their impairment and that all life is connected to it regardless of whether they can call upon it or not.”
“So they’ve acknowledged their hypocrisy and quit. And now, we have some more Force sensitive allies.”
“One of the only ways that could go wrong is that they’ve been learning to use the Force for only a few months now, and considering most of them have a vendetta against Valkor, they could potentially tap into the Dark Side.”
“Well, we can’t have an army of brooding psychopaths.” Zolph then looked at Armogeist. “No offense. I’m just saying that based on my personal experience with it.”
“None taken.” Armogeist answered.
Juganak then got them back on track. “So what brings you two down here?”
Maesterus answered. “We’re here for… a different type of training. I would recommend that you and Balos leave this area for an hour or two. Things could get pretty rough.”
Juganak then complied. “As you wish, my lord.” Juganak and Armogeist then exited the training ground.
Zolph then questioned Maesterus. “If this is combat training, I don’t think that’s entirely necessary. After all, I just recently killed one of Valkor’s most powerful Archfiends.”
“But we don’t know how much more powerful Valkor is compared to them. And this isn’t combat training, by the way.”
Maesterus then pulled out a syringe from under his cape, and this syringe had some Black Matter inside it.
Zolph then asked him with concern. “Why do you even bother wearing cape anymore? Wouldn’t that get in the way of the wings? But more importantly, where did you get that Black Matter from?”
“Myself, of course.”
“So you’re going to inject me with your own blood?” Zolph then got defensive seeing as he knew what was coming up. “No! No way! That’s way too dangerous! The last two times that happened, I became a homicidal lunatic!”
“Zolph, if things get really serious in the upcoming battle, this may be our only way to defeat Valkor. What I need you to do is control your emotions. Those last two times you were injected with it, you were in an intense state of emotion, and said emotions only got amplified by the Force-channeling.”
Zolph then reluctantly complied. “Okay, then. I’ll try to do better this time. It’s not like there’s anyone around to tick me off this time.” Zolph then took the syringe from Maesterus and injected the Black Matter into his left arm.
Like the last two times he got Black Matter into his blood, he transformed, but unfortunately, the results were the same. He still resembled a Forceless-like abomination and his rage was still amplified. At least there was no one to enact his bloodlust on this time.
“What the hell are we waiting around here for?!” Zolph yelled at Maesterus in a distorted voice. “Every minute we waste, that metal faced bastard continues to taint this galaxy with his existence!”
“We don’t want to attack Ockla Prime unprepared. Even after the Great Split, the Valkoran Empire still has enough forces to put up a fight. It also wouldn’t look good to have one of our champions be a rage-induced psychopath. Besides, I only gave you enough Black Matter to stay in that form for about a minute. And that minute’s almost up.”
Zolph then formed an aqua energy blade around his right arm and prepared to strike Maesterus. “You useless, treacherous mynock!”
Maesterus prepared to defend against the strike, but the minute promptly expired and Zolph reverted back to his human form.
Zolph then apologized for his outbursts. “Sorry about that, Seferin. Looks like I’ve still got a long ways to go.”
“Similar to Armogeist, you still desire revenge on Valkor, and I do, too. I know you already heard this lecture a hundred times, but if you want to tame this power of yours, you must not let your emotions control you.”
“Yeah, but the problem is every living thing has emotions. It’s impossible even for Jedi to be completely emotionless.”
“I’m not saying that you should completely purge yourself of all emotions, as that would make you only human in biology. If the Jedi didn’t have emotions, they wouldn’t even be able to show compassion or make wise decisions.”
“That’s true, and sometimes we make questionable decisions because we put our emotions behind us. But it isn’t easy to not hate Valkor after all he’s done. Not only did he try to kill me, he ordered the deaths of mom and dad, he forced me to kill Dynn, he had an entire planet annihilated while I was helpless to watch, and he tormented some other family members I barely knew until recently.”
“You’re not the first person he’s repeatedly tormented just to defeat them. And if we win, hopefully you’ll be the last. Until we’re ready to attack, we shall continue trying to tame this power.”
The door to the training grounds suddenly opened up, and Arcidus entered.
“I have returned, Master.” Arcidus then looked to Zolph. “And hello again, Vaelor.”
“Nice to see you too, Arc.” Zolph responded. “But this wouldn’t have been a good time to come in here.”
Arcidus then took off his mask. “And why wouldn’t that be?”
“We were experimenting with your surrogate father’s blood, which happens to be infected with the same stuff our enemy is made out of. Aside from it being a body-possessing parasite, it can turn me into a temperamental idiot that may shout ‘UNLIMITED POWAAAH!’ at the top of my lungs.”
“So where were you anyway?”
“I’m getting to that.”
Maesterus then addressed Aiken. “So, what’s the situation on Ockla Prime?”
“They definitely know we and the Alliance are coming, and they most likely know I was spying on them.”
“And as usual, Valkor knows that I know that he knows.”
Zolph then asked Arcidus. “Why have they not killed you?”
“They’re probably setting up a trap.”
Maesterus then asked Zolph. “So when and how does the Alliance plan on attacking Ockla Prime?”
Zolph then answered. “That’s easy. I’m not telling you anything yet.”
“I see where you’re going.”
At this point, it was a game of who could out-predict the other.
Meanwhile at the Valkoran capital on Ockla Prime, Masochus was summoned by Emperor Valkor to his throne room sitting atop the tallest building in the citadel.
“My Emperor,” Masochus addressed Valkor. “Maesterus’s pet has escaped and knows we’re preparing for them. Why didn’t you have him captured and devoured?”
“You don’t comprehend mercy? That hardly surprises me, Sith. I don’t carry out executions unless there’s a purpose behind it. And it’s a waste of resources.”
“But you’re the leader of the greatest army in the universe! You have the power to do anything you want! Why would you just wait?!”
“But it’s important that you not misuse this power. Where I come from, Masochus, there are Force cults similar to yours. The Dark Force cults wielded a lot of power, but they didn’t learn to control it properly. And some of their members are like you: ambitious and stupid. And some of the Sith-ruled Empires had this problem as well.”
Masochus then got nervous. “Whatever do you mean?”
Valkor then lashed a Black Matter out of one the slits on his mask and lifted Masochus by the throat. “I know your kind, Sith. I know about your ‘insert lightsaber in back to advance’ policy. And if there’s anything I don’t tolerate in my Empire, they are power-squabbling, loose cannons and sycophants.”
“But….but…!” Masochus stuttered as he gasped for air.
“I had a few followers who were like that before, and there are ways to keep them in check without having them completely possessed.” Valkor then placed a few inches of Black Matter onto one of Masochus’s perpetually unprotected eyeballs before it soaked into his body tissue. Valkor then dropped Masochus to the floor.
“What did you do?!” Masochus asked as he used the Force to levitate his skinless body back into position.
“You now have what I call a sleeper agent inside you. It doesn’t possess you immediately, but it won’t grant you any alterations immediately like it did for my other lieutenants. Do you remember that arm I had you graft onto Dynn Manthis? That was one of them. Attempt to betray me or usurp me, and I will make cessation of existence your second-most feared fate.”
Valkor pointed Masochus towards the turbolift.
“Now, resume the military preparations, but we cannot afford to waste any more subjects on your petty experiments. You can continue your experiments, but conserve the resources.”
“A-as you wish, my lord!”