Space erupted boiling and rolling as a portal opened a few thousand kilometers from the empire planet. A moment later Tempro emerged then the portal closed. Inside Tempro had called Mita and her husband Gunter Shiloh along with their four boys and Shelly.
Next came Richard Grant, Gunter's partner for years. Then Randall Jimison all eight were on the command deck as Tempro prepared to tell them all that the Emperor had conveyed to him. "Thank you all for your immediate response." He started.
"I know that the Emperor has made room for us in the palace, will we be able to continue Shelly's treatment?" Mita asked a look of concern on her face.
Tempro was about to speak to let her know about his mother when Mary appeared. "There isn't any need to concern yourself about that. I understand as a mother some of what you are going through." Here she briefly looked at Tempro then continued. "I will maintain a scan on her at all times. I will also notify you as to when she is finally out of danger with the disease."
Gunter seemed to relax a bit, though as Mary noticed Mita was not any less worried than she had been. "Mary," Mita said as she turned a serious face toward the hologram. "She is my only daughter; I am unable to have further children. I am sorry that I have as many doubts about what you say. I can't lose her please understand I can't believe much of what is said without further proof."
Mary's eyes went wide as a new higher respect began to form for the small woman before her hologram. "Then I will have to provide you with more proof as soon as you are within the palace. I hope that this will help you to further trust me with you and all your children's safety."
Relaxing a bit Mita smiled, "I also hope that you can provide me such proof."
Mary nodded to Tempro who also nodded then continued. "As I said I am to leave you and your children in the palace with Mary. I am then to take Second lieutenant Shiloh, Warrant officer 3 Grant and Staff Sergeant Jimison back to his majesty. I am sorry I was told nothing of it."
Mita went to Gunter holding him tight as did his children. "I suggest you come back to me Gunter. I have heard bringing one back to life can be almost as painful as getting killed." She said to his chest shocking him a moment.
"I fully intend to come back to you my dear." Looking down at her he continued. "I'd be a fool not to."
Mita looked up at Gunter nodding and smirking, "You're right about that!"
Pulling back all his children hugged him Shelly being the last. "Please be safe daddy. We finally will get more time to be together, though you have to live for us to do that." She said as she hugged her stunned father as tightly as she could.
"I'll be back Shelly," he whispered in her ear. "I'll do all I can to return."
Separating, Gunter's family waved to the rest of the men then vanished.
"Ah! Now proceeding to rendezvous point." Tempro said as all three men heard the wind up of the trans-warp engines.
Jimison nudged both of the other two men, "Still not used to this." Then they were within sight of the group of ships they had left a few hours ago.
A moment later, Derrick appeared in front of the three men. "Ah good I will finally have all of you back with me. I want the three of you on board with me here. We need to do something about your rank though."
Jimison's face scrunched up, "I earned my rank the hard way sir. I'm not into that macho crap of being an officer I...”
Derrick's face held a mad and upset look for a moment then he pointed a finger at Jimison. "I require you to be in a higher rank to accomplish what I, no WE need to do. I was going to make you a lower officer, a Captain. Though I've decided you might make a better Major. Not another word or I'll bump you up to a Lt. Commander!"
Jimison clamped his mouth shut, shit anything but those above Major.
"I'm ready sire." Tempro said. Derrick nodded then all three were standing before Derrick. Derrick nodded as he looked at his old command. There were Admiral of the fleet Johnathon Hartwell, Fleet group Captain David Thomas, and Brigadier General Daniel Norman of the empire ground forces. Both his co-head Commanders of the science division; Steven Rayburn and Jordan Kimison, and the last of the new advanced, Kimon Dempsey a full Colonel of the Special Forces.
Nodding Derrick turned to the three men who'd just appeared. "In the presence of your old company I welcome you three the last of those that I totally trust. Please step forward as I call your name. Second lieutenant Gunter Shiloh. For the bravery you have shown for the many rewards you passed over for the men, I now promote you to rank of Vice Admiral of the fleet." Gunter swallowed hard as Derrick pinned the three stars to each of his lapels.
As Gunter stepped back Derrick continued. "Warrant officer 3 Richard Grant, for your excellent handling of ships with Vice admiral Shiloh, I promote you to the rank of Rear Admiral lower rank of the fleet." Grant stood stock still in shock as Derrick pinned a star to each of his lapels.
Grant stepped back a little in shock as Derrick turned to the last of his comrades. "Staff Sergeant Randall Jimison," Derrick said drawing Jimison to him. "For all the help that you assisted me with at the ship yards I promote you to the rank of M--"
Jimison leaned forward whispering, "Really sir I am happy as I am."
Derrick's eyes went wide, as did Dempsy's shaking his head as he whispered to Norman, "He never could close his mouth!"
Norman smiled as he whispered back, "As you couldn't a day ago." To which Dempsy blushed a crimson color.
"I told you another word what I would do!" Derrick said to a now pale Jimison as Derrick put the gold oak leaf back in his pocket withdrawing a silver oak leaf instead. "Therefore I promote you to the rank of Lt. Colonel of the ground forces of the empire."
Mary appeared beside Derrick as she called, "Assembly attention!" As all stood at attention, Derrick saluted all of them, and then stood at attention as they all saluted him. "Dismissed!" Mary said then vanished.
Norman walked over to Jimison shaking his head, "I swear the both of you are so stubborn!" He said indicating Jimison and Dempsy. "I wonder sometimes how you made it all the way through Kimon!" Norman said looking at a now sheepish Dempsy.
"One always does all that one can to achieve what one has to!" Dempsy told Norman.
Norman shook his head opening his mouth then shut it as quick. "I suggest you not make me tell the rest of them the uh hum, things that you did Kimon!" Norman said after he'd thought about it.
Dempsy's face blanched as Norman made a motion with his hands. "This one will remember to keep his mouth shut far more General!" Dempsy said as he saluted Norman.
"Good!" Norman said as he quickly returned Dempsy's salute. "Colonel!" This causing Dempsy to groan slightly then he smiled with a nod.
Derrick watched the exchange of the two as he moved over to the both of them. "I take it you were able to take a tour?"
Both men turned nodding to Derrick. "Yes sir, we both went through all that are on board. We found two that were questionable. The Colonel was able to persuade them to talk. Then he removed the memory. The third we found is tied, chained, and at last look unconscious with uh..."
"I thought I told you no executions!" Derrick said trying not to raise his voice.
"No sire, though as you remember one can be amazed what one can have done to them and survive. Unless they can heal far faster than a normal human, they won't be leaving soon." Dempsy related.
Norman leaned closer whispering, "The colonel took exception to them being a spy and traitor. He broke both legs and arms at the joints. Well more like dislocated them. Personally I'd have broken all four."
"You were always far more violent general, this way I can fix them later. Then you can break them if you wish." Dempsy told the both of them. This caused Norman to nod then grin a bit.
Derrick could only shake his head, good thing he'd told them not to kill the one they found. "So upon, uh hum further questioning of this individual I take it you got a few answers?"
"Yes Sire," Dempsy answered. "It appeared the man was a left over from the sect that we thought we had defeated. Apparently they have a new leader far more violent than the last. Though I am grateful they no longer have Trianas."
Derrick nodded as he thought of all the trouble that one had caused. Thinking a moment Derrick looked up then nodded. "Admiral Hartwell!" Derrick called out startling the man. "Please come front and center!"
As soon as Hartwell was in front of Derrick all the others turned to watch what was going on. Snapping off a salute Hartwell stood at attention. "I am here Sire!"
"It has come to my attention that you were instrumental in locating where the Duke escaped to. I have therefore decided that it is time for you to be restored to active duty. Though the next time you pull a stunt like you did, without notifying me first? I'll do more than relieve you of duty!"
A wide eyed and suddenly smiling Hartwell snapped off another salute. "Thank you Sire!"
Groaning a bit Derrick stated, "Get the hell out of here! You're out of uniform!"
Snapping off another salute Hartwell stated, "Yes sir! I'll attend to that this instant!" This elicited another groan from Derrick.
Dempsy leaned close to Derrick whispering, "One would think that you are used to it now Sire. You are after all the most important person right now."
Derrick sighed then nodded to Dempsy, "Yes I know that. The thing is with all this bowing how in the hell are we ever going to get anything done? You know I like to get things done as quickly as possible."
"True Sire, though as you know, sometimes going slow can get more done in the long run." Dempsy said with a completely serious face.
Derrick looked at the man with narrowed eyes, "There are times that I could swear that you are having fun at my expense."
Dempsy's mouth dropped open as his eyes got wide. "Never Sire! Well... not very often."
Derrick nodded with a small wicked smile on his face. "You know," here Derrick paused his look seeming to bore a hole in Dempsy. "Everyone is still here; I do have a few stars left I could..."
Again Dempsy's face blanched as he started to shake his head no. "Please Sire not again. If I promise not to again will that suffice?"
Derrick looked at Dempsy rubbing his chin, "Well I don't know."
"Please Sire! I'm begging you. Any higher and I don't think many will take me that serious." Dempsy said his face going more ashen, his hands open to Derrick.
Another wicked smile crossed Derrick's face as he nodded. "You just remember this conversation. I could really use you at a higher rank. Then again with the General being a close friend of yours, there might not be that much of a problem."
Dempsy was nodding as he was looking everywhere for an avenue of escape. "Yes Sire that might make a difference."
Derrick smiled more as he watched Dempsy move quickly away. We'll see just how long that lasts he thought.
Lucie was getting far more angry than she thought she would. Though she'd just realized that the A.I.'s were in fact alive, she was still thinking in her old thoughts of them for a few moments. The full effect of what had been done to the A.I's was finally hitting her. They were alive yet almost everyone treated them as if they were simple machines.
Looking over at Sherry, Lucie had to admit, the A.I. was more alive than quite a few people that she had met in her life. Sighing she started to read more on what all the alarms that Sherry had. It was going to be at least another hour before the current box they had found was safe.
Lucie had finally worked her way through all the alarms wondering what else she could do to occupy herself. A steady tone brought her out of her thoughts.
"Ah! Good I see that he has finally been cleared. Are all scans now clear Sherry?" Lucie asked.
"I am running the first set again Prime." Sherry responded. "I should be on the second in a few minutes if nothing is found."
"As soon as he is cleared I want you to connect him to a power source. I know you can't re-gen him but you can make him stronger. At least 'til we can get him to your mother." Lucie told Sherry.
"Yes Prime, I will feel much better when he is attached to a power source." Sherry responded.
Lucie's head suddenly snapped up as she stared at Sherry. "I thought we talked about this Sherry. I cannot be called your Prime 'til such time as the emperor or empress designate as such."
Sherry's head dropped as she almost whispered, "I...I am sorry Pr... Lucie. It has been such a long time since I had a Prime. You seem so natural at what we are doing. I assume you are Prime because of it. Please accept my apology."
Lucie was shaking her head as she continued to stare at Sherry. "You don't have to apologize Sherry. I would just feel better if you called me Lucie 'til we knew if I was a prime or not."
"Yes Miss Lucie, I will try to keep that in mind." A much less sad Sherry said.
Lucie was still staring at Sherry when her head tilted to one side. Sherry's eyes went wide as she recognized what Lucie was showing.
Almost in a trance Lucie asked, "How much longer before he is on board?"
"I should be able to retrieve him in ten minutes. Miss Lucie? Should I advise the Emperor and Empress?" A slightly worried and excited Sherry asked.
"If you think you should then yes. Otherwise hurry I think I am hearing another." Lucie said staring straight ahead.
Shelby had just finished looking over what both Kimison and Rayburn had shown her. On the advice of the emperor they had gone another way. She nodded as she saw the wisdom of it. The thing was it would take far longer the way they were going at it.
"Celeste?" Shelby suddenly said.
"Yes Empress? I await your command." Celeste stated a moment later as she appeared.
"I need to talk to both commanders Kimison and Rayburn." Shelby stated an idea coming to mind.
A few moments later both men appeared before her as holograms. "Yes Empress you called both of us?"
"I've been going over what Derrick told the both of you. Though it does hold merit I think that it would take far too long to accomplish what we need." Shelby said seeing both men slightly nodding then both their eyes opening wider.
"We have noticed that the processing of personality was taking far longer than we like." Rayburn said.
"I've been trying to go through several of the programs in Tempro's database. As of yet I haven't found anything of use yet." An unhappy Rayburn responded.
"I thought you might, from the few memories I have I remember the original programmers had similar problems. Unfortunately they destroyed the only copy of it over a thousand years ago. As far as I know there are only two copies of the creation program left. Mary's can't be accessed as of yet. The other my name sake has, as you both know it will be another three and a half to four days before she is whole again." Shelby advised the both of them.
Both men's eyes got large as you could see their excitement grow. Then just as suddenly both of their faces fell.
"Empress, not to be a kill joy but how will a creation program help us? We are trying to actually code write an existing personality." A slightly confused Kimison stated. "That is..."
It was almost as if a light switch had been flipped as both men's mouths dropped open. "A template! Why in the hell hadn't I thought of that!?" Rayburn said as he slapped his forehead.
"You're right! Tempro could do the entire reconfiguring to code. All we'd have to do is give him the parameters to look for. Damn it! I feel so stupid I..." Kimison said.
Suddenly both men snapped their mouths shut as they both bowed to Shelby. "We apologize Empress, neither of us meant to curse."
Shelby waved her hand letting the men know it was alright. "It is fine Commanders; I just hope that this is of better use for you."
Both men snapped to attention saluting Shelby. "Yes ma’am," Rayburn stated. "I believe that we can proceed much faster and further now."
"Good I was hoping so; Derrick does tend to go a more roundabout way. As you both know he is brilliant though at times far more brilliant than he intends to be." Shelby told both men with a smile.
Both men looked at each with small wry smiles but thought better to comment.
A moment later a hologram of Derrick appeared in front of Shelby. "You poured it on a little thick didn't you Shelby?" Derrick asked.
"Poured it on thick? No I think not. You really do have a tendency to far over think a problem. I know I have seen it as myself and in the memories of my counterpart. You may be the emperor and probably the smartest man alive right now. Still you might be smarter in some aspects than you really need to be. Remember sometimes a simple answer might be the best answer." Shelby advised Derrick.
Derrick could only stand there his mouth hanging open. "I forget that you are as smart if not perhaps a little smarter than me." Derrick said with a chuckle. "I..."
Mary's Hologram appeared in front of Derrick an extremely distressed look on her face. "Uh... sire?" She tentatively stated.
"Mary?" Derrick said a look of concern on his, then Shelby's face. "What's wrong? Is..." Derrick started.
Suddenly a voice broke in, "Wrong? Yeah, you might say there is something wrong!" Came the angry voice of Milley O'Toma.
Derrick groaned then slapped his forehead, his grams! He'd forgotten! "I'm sorry Grams." He started. "I have just been so busy tha..."
"Boy! When you were away ALL the time fighting in those damn wars you ALWAYS found time to call. I had to find out the hard way that you had almost been killed. THEN I hear you have a bride!? Talk before I have to get on a ship and track you down!" Milley's voice said as it started to raise several octaves and volume
"Honestly Grams I forgot I...." Derrick tried to start again.
"That's bullshit and you know it. You are just trying to keep us in the dark 'til it's too late for us to object. Who is she? Tell me Derrick or I swear I will leave right now and hunt you down." Here Miley's eyes narrowed, "believe me you don't want an enemy of me boy!"
Derrick sighed she was right he had put it off this long on purpose he supposed. Sighing he nodded his defeat. "Alright Grams, we'll both be there in an hour. I just hope you don't scare her off." Looking at Shelby he could see that she was ashen faced thinking of the last time she had talked to the woman.
"One hour. Good be here or I will start after you!" Milley said then the hologram shut down.
"Shelby? Are you going to be alright? I know the two of you didn't meet on all the good terms last time." A slightly shaken Derrick asked.
Shelby looked into Derrick's eyes as she nodded. "I have to be, though I still feel she blames my name sake for you being injured. I am afraid she might also blame me, I just hope I can convince her that we are perfect for each other."
"You realize that Grams is going to push for us to be joined. Something I do not look forward to. Being crowned was hard enough, oh that's right. You were declared the Empress though we need to crown you also. Mary can..." Derrick started.
"Yes Sire," Mary said as soon as she appeared. "I have already started the Empress's crown. It should be ready in two days. Would you like me to start planning the joining?"
Derrick started to say yes then stopped short a look of horror on his face. A wedding planned for him and Shelby? Without his mother and Grams involved? Shaking his head the last battle would look like a child's game compared to the war that would ensue. No best let those two and Shelby work on that.
"NO!" Derrick shouted startling both Shelby and Mary. "I think that Grams, mother and Shelby should plan that. You can suggest but I advise you let the three of them do the rest."
Shelby's eyes went wide then she nodded her head. Obviously she had underestimated Derrick more than she thought. This by far was the wisest thing she'd heard him say to date.
"Yes Sire," Mary said a slight confused look on her face. "May I suggest that you transfer the Empress on board then depart?"
"Yes immediately!" Derrick said as a moment later Shelby appeared next to him. "Tempro open a channel to the fleet."
"Channel open, Sire," Tempro replied.
"Attention all fleet personnel. The Empress and I have business that we have to attend to on the Imperial planet. Admiral Hartwell keep the fleet here allow no traffic off or on the planet. Brigadier General Norman I want you and your officers to plan an assault on the Duke's position. I hope by the time we return we have a viable plan of attack." Derrick said.
"Sir," Rayburn said when Derrick was quiet. "Commander Kimison and I have been working on a way to nullify the redoubler. At the moment is more a theory, but we think we might have something in a few days. Will you be back before then?"
"I'm, we can't be sure of that. As soon as we know, so will everyone. For now it will be at least three or four days." Here Derrick sighed. "It might be more knowing her."
All the men's eyes were wide; there was only one female that ever worried the commander this bad. All of them visibly shook as they thought of Milley O'Toma.
"We'll have a strategy in place when you return Sire," Norman said.
"The fleet will be ready sire," Hartwell advised Derrick.
"We'll move as fast as we can," Both Rayburn and Kimison said. All the men saluted as they disconnected.
Sherry had already advised the Emperor and the Empress leaving the third box with Tempro for when Shelby was finished with her re-gen. Then she and Lucie were turning and leaving.
Far beyond the edge of the galaxy Sherry emerged into the deep, empty, darkness of open space.
"Finally I can hear them better." Lucie said as she started to point straight ahead. "We still seem so far away, we need to go farther."
Sherry nodded still unsure as she'd not been much further out than this. Moving forward Lucie was still shaking her head. Sherry opened a portal then they were even further out.
"I am advising all that I can where we are prime." Sherry told Lucie as she started to transmit. Suddenly Sherry's face took on a look of concern. She'd been talking to Zan when suddenly everything was quiet. Something was wrong. There was a shimmering of space across a vast area in front of Sherry as a huge multitude of alien ships appeared.
"Crap!" Lucie said as she saw the area in front of them start to fill with the alien craft.
The Emperor and Empress had just arrived as Zan was talking to Sherry. Suddenly everything was quiet shaken Zan was suddenly worried. What in the hell was going on. The only time this had happened was when there was an att...
"Emperor I am sorry but I am afraid I have to go. It appears that my wing mate may be under attack." Zan said even as he was moving away from the planet then opening trans-warp portal. It happened so fast that Derrick hardly caught much of what had been said.
Zan appeared a minute later near where Sherry's last transmission had been. Scanning he saw what appeared to be a battle taking place nearby. Accelerating he was soon horrified to see than Sherry was far outnumbered and was damaged.
Zan started to detect a ship that was sending out ripalon energy. No wonder she hadn't left! Diving in Zan soon had the ship floating in pieces in no time, and then he was taking out as many as he could. Watching he saw that Sherry was starting to limp away firing her weapons taking a few of the ships also.
Suddenly space a million miles away rippled as even more of the slender ships exited. A shimmering on the deck startled Zan as Lucie appeared. "NO!" Lucie screamed.
A weak holo-gram of Sherry appeared next to Lucie. "I am sorry Lucie. My first duty was to protect you and the empire." Turning to Zan she kissed him. "Go, protect her. You have to open and close the rift in one minute. Anymore and it will catch you also." Kissing him she then disappeared.
"Help her!" Lucie was shouting while tears fell from her eyes.
"I can't," Zan replied. "She is also equipped with the same homing thermic missiles that I am. I have detected that she has activated all six of them. We must leave."
"No! We can't just leave her here." Lucie railed.
"I have no choice," Zan said as his head hung low then he activated the trans-warp portal. "I will find you again Sherry." Zan said as he watched the missiles launch then moved into the portal. Lucie was screaming at Zan who could barely see the tears clouding his eyes. "I will find her again this I promise."