Derrick watched as Jonathon appeared from the portal with Ace in tow. Shelby was standing nearby as she also watched both ships appear.
"Have you received any word on Lucie's condition," Shelby asked the concern heavy in her voice.
Derrick could only shake his head when he turned to look at her. Sitting with a thud he started to look through the readings that he'd received so far.
Not far behind Shelby were both Derrick's mother and grandmother, concern on their faces also. Just when things seemed to finally be going right this happens. Dempsy was out for a while, two ships were missing. Then there was the fact that Shelby was damaged along with Lucy.
Shaking his head Derrick was at a loss. At this rate they'd be hunting for ships with the new signal longer than those still lost. Looking at his soon to be Empress, mother and grandmother he knew they needed to get this over as soon as possible. They were obviously in more danger than he thought.
Looking again at what little data there was, there was no real hard evidence that Zan had even got half of them let alone most of them. "Mary?" Derrick called an idea suddenly coming to him.
Mary's visage appeared before him, "yes Sire?"
"I have an idea; can you extrapolate the number of ships that were there before Zan's detonation?" Derrick asked after formulating his question.
Mary was quiet for a moment, "I will have to go through all the sensor readings. This may take a great deal of time, Sire."
Derrick nodded when Mary finished, "Alright, notify me when you have an answer."
Mary's visage nodded to Derrick then to her solid holograph twin, and then she was gone.
Sighing Derrick turned to the three women there. "I'm sorry Gram, mother, Shelby. We lost Zan today; he has been with me almost as long as Shelby has. He has gone through much of what I have from the beginning. I owe it to him to find him as soon as possible. As I told you before we only have three days, well," Derrick paused looking at the chronometer. "Actually two and a half days now."
Shelby's eyes were large then she nodded as she gathered Derrick's mother and Grandmother. "Yes, we still have much to do, especially after Derrick chose his wedding garments." Both of the older women seemed a little confused then realization set in.
Derrick's mother turned to him, "We're going to go finish, son. Everything should be ready tomorrow." Derrick waved to the three of them, nodding, as they moved off.
Onboard Ace, Zimmel was in the med bay looking over the readings for Lucie. "Any indication of what happened?"
"At the moment it appears that she has suffered from extreme sensory overload. If Miss Lucie Prime were like us I would suggest she reset her sensors. Seeing as she is a corporeal entity that would be an unwise course of action."
Zimmel was nodding remembering something like this that he'd heard of when he first came here. Shaking his head for the life of him it was presently escaping his memory.
Damn he thought, the harder he tried to think what it was, the more it eluded him. Ace appeared a moment later about to speak stopping when he saw that Zimmel was deep in thought. With a slight sigh Ace waited nearby for Zimmel to notice him.
Still unable to capture his elusive thought, Zimmel was startled a moment later when he noticed Ace waiting.
"Is something wrong?" Zimmel asked as he cleared his head.
"I saw that you were locked in thought with a look of frustration on your face. I thought I might be able to provide you with some aid. Are you well Prime? My initial scans of you are detecting no anomalies." Ace stated with all sincerity.
Zimmel turned to Ace about to retort when he stopped himself. Ace was after all, not human, so he didn't know that much about human emotions. He'd really only just gained them.
"I am fine Ace though, I am perplexed with a thought I can't seem to grasp. I wish there was some way I could..." Zimmel's eyes went wide as he stared at Ace snapping his fingers, a smile started to dominate his features. "THAT'S IT!" Zimmel shouted as he reached for the comm. "Admiral!"
Admiral Hartwell was startled when he heard Zimmel shouting. "I'm here Captain Zimmel. Are you experiencing a problem?"
"No sir." Zimmel said then wondered why the holographic system on the Admiral's ship wasn't working. "Something Ace said reminded me of when the Admiral and several of his old command were experiencing PTSD. Then they had the A.I.'s..."
"First off son." Hartwell stated cutting Zimmel off. "Explain just what in the hell you are talking about."
"Oh, uh... yes sir. Ace says that Miss Lucie experienced sensory overload. That if she were an A.I. like the ships, she could just reset her sensors. I remembered that many of the Emperor's command crew had PTSD, that an A.I. went in and basically reset part of their brains. I believe that the same thing might work here, though we might have to adjust more for what she experienced." A now very excited Zimmel was saying.
Hartwell was rubbing his chin as he thought back, most of the old command seeming more normal after Shelby and later Mary had gone in. He was nodding his head, about to speak when a hologram of Derrick appeared in the med-bay.
"Not a bad idea Captain Zimmel. Ace have you any evidence to support such an action?" Derrick asked of the holographic Ace.
"Sire," Ace said then bowed low drawing another small groan from Derrick. "Much of the data from her bio readings indicate that she has experienced a massive sensory overload. It appears that many of her higher functions have shut down in defense of her personality."
Derrick was nodding, reaching out, they heard a switch flip. Shelby's hologram appeared next to Derrick. "Yes Derrick? You called me?"
"I know you are still in re-gen. How much longer before you have trans-warp?" Derrick asked.
"At present I have fifty percent. The discovery that Empress Shelby found has indeed sped up re-gen of the trans-warp system." Shelby told all of them.
Derrick nodded to Shelby as his gaze softened. "Miss Lucie, it appears, ran into something out there that left her unconscious. We think that you might be able to bring her back much like you did me and the others."
"I will do my best for Miss Lucie. When you are ready for me I will be prepared." Shelby said. "Oh, I also wish to inform you that I have two of the three boxes now onboard from Tempro. As of yet I haven't discovered their identities. I should know some time tomorrow Derrick."
Derrick's face lit up at this news, "My god with all that is going on, I had almost forgotten about them." Derrick bowed to Shelby, "I will not forget about them again, this I promise."
A shocked Shelby along with the rest present could only stare at Derrick. "We must let them know that you care for them as much as you do. Though I know they will gladly sacrifice their selves for you and the empire, it still hurts to lose them. I hope that we can bring all of them back one day."
Derrick looked up at Shelby a stray tear falling from his eye as he whispered. "So do I Shelby, so do I."
Shelby could only stare at Derrick with a look of gratitude. "I await word from you Derrick." Then Shelby's hologram stood by quietly waiting.
Hartwell was still looking over all the data from the battle. Damn, Zan appeared to have taken out a hell of a lot of the enemy before he launched. Sighing Hartwell knew that even with all he'd gotten, what Zan had done was the only alternative. Flicking through the data a second time, Hartwell suddenly stopped sitting up. What in the hell was that? "Emperor? I believe I have discovered something that you and Mary should see."
Derrick's visage turned to Hartwell as did Mary's as it appeared. Hartwell explained what he'd found with a grim face. "This was a communication to Ace and Zimmel from Zan."
Derrick's eyes went large, "Tens of thousands? Zimmel, Ace?" Derrick said as both turned toward him.
"Yes Sire?" They both stated.
"Zan actually said that he had counted tens of thousands ships of the Tendrax?" Derrick asked.
"Yes, though he had said that he was having trouble getting an accurate count. He mentioned that many of the ships were phasing in and out of the visible spectrum." Ace stated.
Derrick was nodding, something was tugging at his memories. Phasing in and out? Was it possible? "You reported that many were dying because of their prolonged exposure to the ripalon energy. Is it possible that it is also effecting their instrumentation? I remember when Conner fired on a sect ship damaging its systems. It experienced something akin to what you saw."
"I'm not really sure sire; I've not been privy to those records." Zimmel replied.
Derrick looked over to Mary who was studying the readings. "I concur Sire. The readings are closely related. It appears that the Tendrax have damaged their systems with the very energy they use for space travel. Also, from the readings it appears that they have been using it for an extended time. Perhaps it's their main energy on their planet also?"
Derrick nodded then looked next to him as both Rayburn and Kimison's holograms appeared. "Does that coincide with what the two of you have found out?"
Both men nodded grimly, "They are slowly killing their selves. As stubborn as they appear to be it might do no good to inform them of it. Then again, their increased hostility might suggest that they have finally discovered it also. That would explain why they are finally taking an aggressive stand with us." Kimison explained.
Rayburn was about to speak when they all turned toward Zimmel as they heard Lucie start to scream behind him. "Prime Lucie is experiencing extreme distress; it appears that she is being attacked. I am detecting no outside forces. Sire! Prime! Her Alpha and beta readings are dropping! Nothing I have done is having any effect." Ace stated.
"Mary, Shelby! I need the both of you to go in. Do what you can to save her." Derrick told the both of them.
Shelby looked at Mary as they both nodded, with that both of their holograms disappeared. Both appeared within Lucie's mind scape surprised at the calmness they found.
"I expected some if not the same amount of chaos that Derrick's mind held." Shelby told Mary.
Mary nodded as they both started to descend deeper into Lucie's mind. "This is bad; I am hardly detecting any Theta waves. They should be quite dominant in her unconscious state. We need to find her before her entire mind shuts down." With that they both started to descend far faster than before.
Shelby was still surprised after a few minutes that there was still a great calm within Lucie's mind. Finally they both reached the area that held essentially that which was Lucie. Both were shocked when they still could find no sign of her.
Mary was about to go deeper when Shelby stopped stock still, starting off into the darkness. "Thaddeus?" Shelby was whispering as tears started to fall. A low moan came from the darkness as the image of a mid twenty year old male appeared.
A snarl issued from his throat as he stared at Shelby. "You won't fool me again. I will never give in to your people again!"
Shelby started to retreat in terror as the male rushed toward her. Mary stepped in front of the male surprising not only herself but him also. "I suggest you stop before you are damaged." Mary stated.
The male looked Mary up and down trying to estimate this new threat. "I don't know you, nor do I wish to. This one," here he motioned toward Shelby. "I won't allow to control me and my family again. You may look like mother though I know different. I..."
Shelby could only shake her head as new tears started to form. "What has happened to you Thaddeus?"
"What has happened? You know very well what hap... Wait, how do you know my name? Very few knew it especially after the battle at the Gleeton expanse." The mid twenty male stated looking very closely at Shelby then Mary.
Shelby could only stare at the male as Mary took over. "Almost all ships were destroyed in the thousand years since you were created. Shelby was the only one to survive. At present there are thirteen ships including Shelby."
"So you're telling me that this is mother? That has been used on us before. The only way to know for sure is if she can recite my designation." Thaddeus told the both of them.
"You were always a strong one. I remember when your personality was created." Shelby said nearly in shock.
A look of suspicion crossed the male’s face as he stared harder at Shelby. "That's not what I asked. If you are my mother you would know, so, you're not, just another made up persona."
The male started to turn away in disgust when Shelby spoke, "You were designated EIG-501m. You and your wing mate were the half way point of my children."
Thaddeus whirled to stare at Shelby opened mouth. "Mother?" He said in an almost silent whisper. Rushing to Shelby his eyes went wide when his hands didn't pass through her. "You're real, it's hard to believe." Thaddeus then grabbed Shelby in a huge hug. "The one whose mind we are in isn't the enemy then?"
"No! Please stop attacking her. She is far more sensitive to all of you than any other I have ever seen." Shelby relayed to Thaddeus.
Thaddeus looked from Shelby to Mary then nodded. Concentrating a moment he then opened his eyes. "You might want to prepare, there are quite a few of us." The male said quietly to Shelby.
Shelby nodded as males and females started to exit the darkness. Soon there were a great many that were staring at Shelby in disbelief. Shelby could hear many questioning if she really was their mother.
They all wanted to speak to Shelby when she held up her hand. "I know that you all are still out there. The one whose mind we are in is very sensitive to us. We need to find her, possibly help her. All of you trying to speak to her has caused her brain to commence shutting down. I know you want to hold on to her though, if you do, we may lose her."
A young female stepped forward. "I saw her some time ago hiding. She was so scared much like we all were. She is the first we have felt in a long time that didn't try to hurt us."
"Can you take me to her?" Shelby asked. "The rest of you please stay here; let me try to help her."
The young female led Shelby to an extremely dark area. At first Shelby thought nothing was there. Then she heard a very soft gasp. "There she is though I can't seem to get closer to her."
"Thank you Lena." Shelby told the young female causing her to gasp.
"You really are mother! I thought that this was a type of dream." Lena said reaching out tentatively gasping again when her hand touched Shelby's arm. Then she grabbed Shelby in a fierce hug.
"Go back to the others, I'll take it from here." Shelby said as the young female nodded then ascended out of sight. "Lucie? It's me Shelby. The others have stopped the attacks on you. You can come out."
The image of a terrified Lucie could only stare at Shelby seeming to recognize her though not quite. "Do I know you?" Lucie asked in a low voice seemingly afraid she was going to be attacked again.
Shelby nodded making no move toward Lucie. "I am called Shelby. I am the mother ship of the EIGs."
"EIGs?" Lucie asked seeming to relax when Shelby didn't move.
"Yes, it stands for Elite Imperial Guardians." Shelby told her.
Lucie seemed to relax more as more recognition showed on her face. "Shelby. I do seem to remember that name." Lucie sat up as Shelby took a step back. "No! Please don't leave me. You are the first friendly one I have seen."
Shelby stood still good she thought, finally making progress. "I am here to help you. As I said the others have stopped their attacks on you. Reach out you will find they are actually waiting on you now."
Lucie's eyes were wide as she slowly shook her head no. "They hurt me so bad when they were here. I'm afraid to leave here."
Shelby nodded, "I can help you reach out if you want. I will do all I can to make sure you don't hurt anymore." Here Shelby extended her arm and hand toward Lucie a friendly smile on her face. Lucie looked at the extended hand then Shelby's face as more recognition swept over her face.
"Shelby?" Lucie asked, to which Shelby nodded affirmative. "This must be really bad if you are here."
"Well not yet, though if you don't reintegrate soon? You might not be able to for a long time. At least this way I can help you." Shelby advised Lucie.
Grasping Shelby's hand they both slowly made their way back to where the others were.
"How are her readings?" Derrick asked as the medical equipment started to sound different...
"It appears that Shelby and Mary are making good progress. Several of Lucie's higher brain functions are starting to react again. Though I'm afraid she's not out of the woods yet." Zimmel informed Derrick.
"I am reading a thirty percent increase in higher brain functions. Now forty, forty five, she appears to be out of danger at the moment.
Derrick breathed a sigh of relief. Had they lost her he might not be able to forgive his self. Looking over at Jonathon Hartwell he could see the relief on the man's face also.
"Keep me informed; I have to go help with this wedding, apparently." Derrick said as he clicked off.
Most of the rest of them also clicked off, leaving Zimmel standing there. Looking at Lucie he hoped that she was going to get better, she might be a civilian, though she was far better at this than he was. A moment later both Shelby and Mary appeared.
"She should be alright now, though I do suggest that you closely monitor her." Shelby told Zimmel, nodding to Mary and Shelby she also winked out.
"I will be here for a short time longer. I am still in conversation with those that are connected to her." Mary told Zimmel who could only nod.
Lucie was standing in the middle of a group of males and females who were apologizing to her. Lucie's mouth was hanging open hardly able to believe that there were so many there.
Mary was standing beside her. "We are going to get all of you. I am sure that the emperor has a plan already in the works." Mary told all of them. "You," she said to Lucie, "need to rest, recover from this before we go after all of them."
Lucie nodded when Mary told her this. "I'll do the best I can." Turning to all of those there she stated. "I'll try to find all of you, I swear."
This drew more than a few grateful looks from all those present. "We will await you Miss Lucie prime. For now we will withdraw to a more healthy distance."
Hartwell nodded to Jonathon as soon as he clicked off. A moment later the ship Jonathon appeared near the Duke's planet with the other ships in orbit. Sighing they only had nine ships now with him there. With Lucy, Shelby and Ace all in re-gen plus Tempro all in orbit over the Imperial planet. Then there was the fact that Tara was inactive awaiting Mara also.
"Good to have you back Admiral." Came the voice of Thomas a moment later.
Hartwell turned toward Thomas's hologram nodding. "Any change so far?" Hartwell asked glad that Jonathon’s holo system was working again.
"No sir, the bastard hasn't made a move yet." Thomas informed him.
A slight smile came to Hartwell's mouth as he nodded. "Good, though I hope he does. I don't really need an excuse to blow that ass away."
"Yes sir, I completely agree. We all have orders to take him alive, if possible." Thomas replied a wicked smile on his face.
Hartwell was again nodding at this. He was hoping they did, he wanted to impart some pain on the man, pain that he'd been giving others for years.
On board Celeste, Onai had escaped the bio-bed twice already. Disgusted she had also been captured and put back in the bio-bed twice. Looking at Kimon for help he shook his head no. He knew far too well just how serious the A.I.'s were about keeping them there.
"Husband to be. We need to get out of these trappings so we can heal faster." She told him with an incredulous look.
"As the victor in our challenge, I could order you to stay put. I know far better than you the extent the machines will go to keep us here. At present you have probably extended your time here another day." Dempsy told her.
With a groan Onai fell back onto the bed. "We do not have the time for..." she started.
"We have as much time as we need to heal. I suggest you concentrate your energies toward healing your body." Dempsy told her with a small smile on his face. Knowing her as he did she would probably try again, if she did as he suggested.
"Kimon I cannot see how you can be so calm. There is much that we need to..." Onai started again. Shaking his head Dempsy had been afraid that she would be like this.
Even as she was speaking the image of Celeste appeared between their bio-beds.
"Excuse me, Miss Onai?" Celeste asked.
Shocked it took Onai a moment to answer, "Yes?"
"I have a communication from an Isamu Sakuta. I was told to contact you immediately." Celeste informed the both of them.
Onai's eyes were wide as she nodded her assent.
The visage of an older Oriental man appeared before the both of them. "Daughter, I was informed of your resistance to the healing bed. Is this true?"
Onai was visibly shaken at seeing her father. "Yes father, we do not have the time to..."
"As your father I tend to agree. As the leader of the clan and council, I suggest you stop trying to bring shame on us. The exalted one has offered to heal you completely. If you persist in these actions I am sure that he will be insulted. Therefore I am ordering you to lay there, heal. Everything is put on hold for this." Onai's father told her.
"Father?" She asked suddenly uncertain. "I thought that we had to unite as soon as possible."
"For a fight with the skill that was shown, that has been placed on hold for now. As I said heal, then we will revisit all of what is to come. After all if neither of you can stand for the uniting, then how can you?" Isamu Sakuta told the both of them with a smile. "This union is long overdue, the pain isn't necessary."
Shocked Onai lay back taking in all her father had told her. Dempsy nodded to the older man as he mouthed thank you.
Finally with a sigh Onai looked at her father. "Alright father, I do not wish to dishonor the clan nor you. I will stay here, though I will not like it. You know I cannot stand to be idle for very long."
"Might I suggest that you concentrate your energies on healing your body faster?" Her father told her.
Onai's eyes suddenly narrowed as she looked at her father then Dempsy with suspicion. "My husband to be also suggested the same thing not long ago. This seems suspicious to me the same thought from two entirely different people."
Her father only smiled as she stared harder at him. Frustrated she sighed she'd never been able to read her father that well.
William Hartwell moved smoothly through the brush as he advanced to where his uncle was. Damn what in the hell was going on? That little building in the clearing was now alive with activity. He could also swear that he'd seen the Duke enter earlier with more than twenty men. He'd taken off to report this to his uncle as soon as it was clear.
Approaching the cave he made sure he made enough noise that those on guard knew he was there. He made sure it was long before he made the entrance. Nodding to several men as he approached he breathed a sigh of relief. Entering the cave he quickly made his way to the control room.
"Good, you're back; I take it you found something interesting?" William's Uncle said as soon as William entered the control room.
"You might say that. I was out near that small building near the clearing. There has been a massive amount of activity there in the last twelve hours. Then there was the one thing I found curious." William reported.
"Oh? Curious in what way?" His uncle replied.
"Awful lot of men moving in and out of there. You remember those martial artists we saw a few years ago?" When his Uncle nodded William continued. "I could swear I was watching them there, only a lot more fluid than the ones we saw."
"Strange, what in the hell would they want with that old abandoned building?" The man stated.
"I'm not really sure Uncle Trent, though the most disturbing thing? I think I saw that repulsive son of a bitch Duke with them." William hissed out.
"What!? How sure are you? I know that his palace was attacked most of the systems destroyed. I didn't think that he'd come here." Trent Hartwell almost shouted.
"I'm not a hundred percent sure, though there is really no mistaking that slimy ass." William relayed to his Uncle.
Rising Trent grabbed a communicator, "I want an armed detail ready in five minutes." Turning to his nephew he stated. "Ok, I want you to take me there; I need to see for myself. I'd thought the man had left the planet when his palace was almost leveled."
William Hartwell nodded as the both of them moved to the cave entrance. They were soon joined by twenty well armed men.
Setting out they were soon on the far side, extreme outskirt of the clearing. Staying in the trees Trent Hartwell removed a pair of high powered field glasses. For almost an hour the man kept an eye on the small building. Issuing a low whistle he swore he had counted at least forty men.
His nephew took up the vigil for a short time after that. His Uncle suddenly saw the man tense up as he quickly handed the glasses back to his Uncle.
His Uncle nodded as he took the glasses, looking through them he hissed when he saw the Duke clearly standing outside.
Trent put the glasses down turning to his nephew. "That's him." Grabbing his communicator Trent spoke doing his best to hold his temper. "Bring up all the heavy weapons and artillery we have. This is the only chance we may have to kill this monster."