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CH 12: QUALOSA GUILD
 
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MERCY [NOVA AFTERMATH], CHAPTER 12: QUALOSA GUILD

M12-0
     Qual Planetary System was a highly industrialized World specialized, mainly, in commercial spaceships building. From political point of view, Qual was an assimilated alien culture to the past Empire, as opposed to the colonized Imperial Worlds. The System was composed of a small white-blue Star, Qual, and eight Planets, out of which the beautiful Qualosa was very rich in many precious minerals, and it had excellent natural living conditions. In addition to the famous Qualosa, Qual people lived in six more large space-colonies where they searched for scarce isotopes, and they worked on developing strong trade relations with other Worlds.
     Qual people were, on average, medium in height and very agile, with a robust anatomy, wonderfully adapted to the strong ultraviolet component of the Qual starlight. They had ovoid heads with reptilian, yellowish-brown scales, and elliptic all-green eyes positioned in “V”. Their facial features suggested an intelligent, though a very proud race. Generally, Qual people considered themselves superior to anybody else in Imperial Worlds, and they enjoyed, mostly, their own companionship.

     Social and political life in Qual System had been, for millennia, under the ruling of the Suta Priests. Once their System was accepted to join Imperial Coalition, Suta Priests went on spreading almost everywhere in Imperial Worlds, thus creating the Archea League—an organization intended to promote the Archea philosophy, for a harmonious mind and body coordination.
     All Suta Priests had some rudimentary mental powers, therefore they were feared by many. Only the Imperial System with their famous Imperial Guards was able to defeat them. After the Nova, a lot of Worlds, and particularly the Batlan Federation, were anticipating great troubles with Qual System because various secret reports indicated there was an enormous Imperial Fleet Unit stationed there!

     The capital of the System was Qelen City, on Qualosa, and there were the grounds of the Suta Palace—a colossal construction built entirely out of the black polished rock from the Artawe Mountains, the place of birth of the first Great Hurda, The Great Archea Suta. The Palace, build continuously for about two millennia both above and below ground, was a true labyrinth hiding many terrible secrets, and it was a factual reality that only a fraction of its extents had ever been officially mapped. Specific to its architecture were halls and enclosures having ceilings at astounding heights, the abundance of colossal columns, huge corridors, very many spacious offices, public plazas, interior gardens, training and educational facilities, plus countless of living accommodations.
     A few ancient prophecies stated that, as long as the Suta Palace would continue to cast boldly its black shadows over Qualosa, the Qual race itself would maintain its prosperity. Those were just old superstitions, though each Great Hurda had made it a purpose of his reign to build a new sector of the Palace bearing his name, and to generally improve the facilities throughout the Palace. In time, modern installations had been implemented for better transportation, ventilation, illumination, security, and communications. Still, the old-time style of architecture was preserved, because Suta Priests loved generously spaced constructions which created reverberation! That phenomenon was greatly admired by the Priests, as they had an entire philosophy about mental benefits coming from mysterious powers of the harmonic sounds.

*

M12-1     Three i-std. years after the Nova, Qualosa Guild was still a young political organization completely unknown amongst the ex-Imperial Worlds. Initially, the Guild had been founded by Dr. Dembrah Velkon, the Imperial Chief Scientist, and by Haetan Sellon, Great Hurda of the Suta Priests. Korta Mortek, the Commander of the Imperial Guards Army stationed in Qual System became the third power of the Guild, soon after formation. Later, the person known as Gray Master and his sister, Shadow, joined the Guild as full partners with equal rights by means of forceful admission.
     Dr. Velkon was the one who had initiated the formation of the Guild, about one i-std. year before the Nova, though he did it in the rush of the moment. Later, he regretted his haste a lot, particularly after Gray Master and his sister became associated with the Guild.

*

     The Imperial Chief Scientist was a man of sixty-two i-std. years old, medium tall and rather thick, with a generous bald patch on top of his head surrounded by a collar of short cut gray hair. His face was round, with a pink skin and pale-blue eyes, and he appeared to be a nice, ordinary, reliable person. During his youth years Dr. Velkon had been a good Scientist, though never brilliant. His best quality, however, was the ability to deal with people. He knew perfectly well how to attract the interest of the audience with a shy voice and a modest, full of consideration attitude.
     When he reached the Section Senior level, Dr. Velkon started developing a few interesting applications of the E-Fields theories. Those efforts brought him the recognition among his fellow Scientists, and then the advancement up to the supreme position of Imperial Chief Scientist.
     His inner mental drive had always been the continuous progressive movement towards the executive power positions, since he was a great admirer of the Enlightened Emperor. Dr. Velkon had studied methodically Dr. Duvart’s life, therefore he knew details about the true and the secret history of the Enlightened Emperor more than anybody else.

     As soon as he was offered the position of Imperial Chief Scientist, Dr. Velkon decided that his next purpose in life was to become The Emperor himself! In order to fulfill his dreams, he concluded he needed, as a minimum, the military biochip implant technology used to control Imperial Forces.
     As Imperial Chief Scientist, Dr. Velkon had been given a set of codes which allowed him to take control over Imperial Fleet and Imperial Guards in case of emergency, and he considered that was exactly the lever of power needed to set his plans into motion. Dr. Velkon was well aware that there were other codes, superior to the ones he knew; however, if they were not used, his codes remained the strongest. Almost immediately after his nomination he started looking for political support from the outside of Imperial System.

     The most natural choice as a partner to his efforts of seizing the Empire was the strongest imperial opposition, namely, the Qual System and the Suta Priests. Although they joined the Imperial Coalition voluntarily, and they had sworn obedience about four hundred i-std. years before, Suta Priests were a permanent menace to peace and security. Consequently, due to the Qual System threat the Empire kept there a permanently stationed Imperial Fleet Unit of two hundred seventy Super Destroyers, escorted by one thousand eighty Destroyers, and a very strong Imperial Guards Army on the ground, as “Protectors”.
     Suta Priests wanted to get rid of those Imperial Protectors more than of anything else. Therefore, when Dr. Velkon began his secret dealings with Great Hurda, he found almost immediately fertile grounds for his endeavors. Together, they started to define the Qualosa Guild association by setting a few simple rules of power sharing, and by elaborating their plans: to destroy the Imperial System Lioth, and to take over the Imperial Fleet Unit deployed in Qual System.
     Their problem was the Imperial Guards Army: about three hundred sixty thousand officers quartered throughout the Qual System and commanded by Korta Mortek. Dr. Velkon promised to deal with him and, soon, Commander Mortek became the third power of Qualosa Guild. Dr. Velkon knew superior codes which allowed him to bring Commander Mortek and his powerful Imperial Guards into total obedience to his person, only he kept that information secret, as a surprise weapon for future developments.

     The most stringent needs of the Qualosa Guild were to obtain the military biochip implant technology, then to design a weapon capable of destroying the entire Lioth System. They had almost everything they needed, although not enough, when the newly formed organization was forced to take immediate action.
     Dr. Velkon had proposed to the Imperial Council of the Scientists the development of an experiment for harvesting energy directly from the Star core. That experimentation had been approved, though with substantially reduced energy levels than those initially suggested; in addition, there was a strict time limit for the duration of the experiment. That time limit pressured Qualosa Guild to act prematurely.

     Lioth System was a true wonder of nature, since only a few multi-Star Systems were capable of sustaining the carbon-based organic life. In fact, Lioth was the only ternary System in Imperial Worlds having Planets with natural living conditions, and many alien races considered that particular astronomical structure to be the true cause behind its advanced level of civilization.
     The System was composed of three Stars: Lioth, Felun, and Voja, each having its own Planetary System. Lioth was a big, yellow Star, close to the maximum life sustaining limit, and it had a huge Planetary System of forty-eight Planets divided into the Inner Circle of Planets, and the Outer Planets. Inside the Inner Circle of Planets there was one Planet with good, natural living conditions: Nottam, the home Planet of the Empire. Within the Outer Planets, there were two little Stars, Felun and Voja, each having a small Planetary System.
     Felun was slightly bigger than Voja; its light was white, and it had eight Planets in its System, including the Planet Naxel having natural living conditions. On Naxel were the grounds of the Imperial Neurophysics Department which also hosted the Imperial Council of the Scientists.
     Voja was the smallest Star, white-blue in color, and it had its own Planetary System of five Planets. Amazingly, one of the Planets had, again, good living conditions: it was Dene, the birthplace of the Imperial Subatomic Research Department.

     Dr. Velkon’s experiment intended to extract limited quantities of energy directly from the Voja Star core, by opening a subatomic channel on a primordial energy layer, from a place very close to the center of the Star to a fusion power plant on Dene. The importance of that experimentation was in finding the energy coordinates of the Star core point on the E-Fields energy layer used, Lemga, and the difficult part was that the magnitude of those energies was terrific! As a result, the Council of the Scientist had recommended they should better use a Star core point displaced at mid radius, inside the convective region, in order to reduce the dangers and the costs of the technologies implied.
     Dr. Velkon had studied that experiment for years. However, in order to set his own demonic plan into motion he needed yet another exceptional experiment which was intended to regulate the orbit of Planet Dene around Voja. Both projects were under his direct control, though they were developed individually; therefore, the teams of Scientists assigned to them had rare contacts with one another.
     Behind the official proposal, Dr. Velkon’s infernal plan was to use the energy from the Star core to power the enormous net of generators used to change Dene’s orbit, then to drive Dene at zero and zero, zero, zero, zero, zero one point E-Fields speed, back on the subatomic energy channel, right inside the Voja Star! As a result, Voja was supposed to explode, due to the massive sudden addition of heavy atomic elements inside the Star core. Moreover, the explosion was going to reach Felun which would also be made to explode—due to strong magnetic and space distortions—and, in turn, all those events could cause the Lioth Star to explode or, at least, it would certainly wipe out the Imperial Planet Nottam. In addition, a particular spatial alignment of Voja, Felun, and Nottam was required, therefore Dr. Velkon had a rather narrow time-frame of optimum proximity distances.
     In order to run that entire hellish scenario, Dr. Velkon had developed an independent intelligent system to take total control over the two experiments, and he used his Chief Scientist priority codes to override all the safety procedures.
     Everything was ready for action, and the only things left to do were to set the date and then to depart quickly, away from the doomed Imperial System.

     The Council of the Qualosa Guild, represented at that time by Dr. Velkon, Korta Mortek, and Great Hurda, decided hastily that the Imperial Family Reunion should be the date of their celestial strike, because the time limit for the Star-core energy harvesting experiment was close to completion. Although they would have liked to have additional time to prepare meticulously for that destruction of the Empire, the opportunity was right there, within their reach, though it was possible it would never come up again if missed.
     Dr. Velkon checked that both experiments worked properly, and that his infernal control system was perfectly isolated and also working very well. He set the program to start the action after two i-std. days, then he left Lioth System.
     Those had been the most traumatic two i-std. days of fears and doubts in Dr. Velkon’s life, until his instruments recorded the Nova: history had been altered, and from there on there was no turning back!

*

M12-2     Korta Mortek was well aware he had serious intellectual limitations, therefore he would never advance over the rank of Imperial Guards Commander class twenty-eight. He had been nominated Commander of the Imperial Guards Army stationed in Qual System because he was very quick to get into action, though many superior Officers from General Imperial Command were looking disapprovingly at his strategies.
     He had only one i-std. year left to start his next gradation examination, and Korta knew he was not going to pass. Then, he would be required to prove through examination his previous gradation level, and so on: it was a disaster for him!

     His father, Luvod Mortek, had sacrificed his life to prevent the development of a terrible accident which could have destroyed the entire Planet Naxel, when Korta was seventeen i-std. years old. A few i-std. years later, father’s act of heroism helped him join the Imperial Guards. Following, Korta’s career ascending had been favored by some good friends and admirers of his father. In time, however, most of them had retired, therefore Korta was left with no support in the General Imperial Command: no support meant no possibility to pass the gradation examinations without a strong intellect.

     When Dr. Velkon approached him with his plans to change the ruling of the Empire, Korta got scared, at first. However, very soon he noticed the opportunity, and he got involved into the game without further delays. Korta hated the Scientists, and anybody who had more than a certain minimal intellectual level, but Dr. Velkon was different: he was a bad man without scruples inside his soul, very much like Korta himself.
     The only wish Korta had was to see the plans of the newly formed Qualosa Guild brought to a favorable conclusion before the time for his next gradation examination. Although he had a full partner position within the Guild, Korta had no means to influence Dr. Velkon or Great Hurda into a quick and decisive action. Besides, the truth was that he had absolutely no idea what action was strong enough to overturn The Great Almighty Empire!

     Korta’s worst nightmares became reality one day when he received the invitation from General Imperial Command to attend the next gradation examination session. He tried to get help from Dr. Velkon, but he was told to be patient, and to wait. That waiting job was exactly the hardest thing for Korta because he had way too little time left.
     Soon, he lost all hopes to save his career. He was preparing to release his command codes to the closest in rank Officer, and then to leave Qual System, when he received the news: the Imperial System had gone Nova!

*

M12-3     Great Hurda was the two hundred forty-sixth Hurda since the death of The Great Archea Suta, and he was old. He was counting on a maximum of eighteen more i-std. years of psychical equilibrium left; after that, he was required to select a successor to kill him in an easy and painless manner. Great Hurda had longed his entire life to accomplish something exceptionally great for his people, so that his memories would forever remain alive, preserved inside the minds of his successors, same as the memories of The Great Archea Suta.
     Similar to many of his predecessors, Great Hurda continued extending the Archea League throughout the Empire—the true purpose of the League was technological spying, tactical information gathering, and support for insurgent groups ready for action. In addition, he continued extending the Suta Palace with his own sector bearing his name, Hetan Sellon.
     Unfortunately, all those actions were far from the glory needed for his memories to become eternal, therefore Great Hurda was looking feverishly for opportunities to achieve something TRULY GREAT!

     When Dr. Velkon approached him with his plan to destroy the Empire, Great Hurda sensed in an instant that the destruction of the Empire was exactly what he had been hoping to achieve his entire life, subconsciously. He asked Dr. Velkon for some time, for a meditation session, before answering to his proposal. Following, Great Hurda entered in a five i-std. days relaxation stasis, to research his motivations and the memories of The Great Archea Suta. At the end, Great Hurda performed a logic analysis, then a counter-logic analysis of his conclusions, and then he accepted the proposed change of the Empire.
     The memories of The Great Archea Suta were clear as his own: they told him to grab any little opportunity for more power. His own reasons pointed out that the Suta Priests had prepared for taking over the Empire since the day they accepted to became a part of it—the Archea League itself had been designed and extended for the same secret purpose. Both logic analyses revealed that Suta Priests would have never gained an opportunity similar to the one offered by the Imperial Chief Scientist. The Empire was going to continue developing its powers and technological secrets, and Suta Priests would continue to weaken, until they would become, eventually, totally archaic and irrelevant!
     The good part was that only one person from outside the Suta Priests was involved in the plan, and that person could easily be made to disappear in case of failure. As a result, all connections to the Suta Priests involvement would also disappear.
     Later, Dr. Velkon asked that Korta Mortek, the Commander of the Imperial Guards, to be added to their plan, and Great Hurda conceded. It was obvious that Dr. Velkon intended to consolidate his position within the newly formed Guild, because Mortek represented his natural racial alliance. That political maneuver however brought only little additional worries, since Commander Mortek also could easily be arranged to disappear in the shortest amount of time, in case of emergency.

     Together with Dr. Velkon, Great Hurda went analyzing the strategy for that radical historical change. They reached the common conclusion that they needed to get the military biochip implant technology and, if possible, the imperial armors manufacturing secrets.
     Dr. Velkon offered to get all the required data, though soon he came back with the situation development news. He said the experiment that was needed to destroy the entire Lioth System had been approved, only there was a time limit imposed by the Council of the Scientists. In addition, the planetary alignment allowed for an optimal action-window of ninety i-std. days, beginning after one hundred ten i-std. days.
     The news was both good and bad: it was good because their critical destructive plan was taking a real, potential form; and it was bad because they had to rush into action and finish their preparations prematurely. At that moment the choice the Qualosa Guild had was either to go ahead with the initial plan, or to abandon everything: they all decided to continue with the plan. Consequently, Dr. Velkon went on developing his infernal technology, while Great Hurda was monitoring carefully spatial deployment of the Imperial Fleet Units.

     The opportunity came with the Imperial Family Reunion which gathered in one place all nobility of the Empire, and almost all Imperial Fleet Units. Amazingly, that event was timed right inside the window of optimum planetary alignment! Great Hurda was profoundly excited by that unique, unbelievable prospect, therefore he simply pushed Dr. Velkon to start the execution. The Doctor objected, saying they should wait for another event, fifteen i-std. days later, the Celebration Day on Planet Naxel—the most important ceremonial in the entire Empire. To his surprise, Great Hurda got a very strong supporter in the imbecile Mortek who, for some obscure reasons, voted in favor of immediate action.
     Great Hurda went on counting the days, and even each passing Qualosa hour, until both his hearts filled with happiness when he was announced the news: the Imperial System Lioth had disappeared in a cataclysmic explosion!

*

M12-4     Soon after the after the Nova, Qualosa Guild structure changed in a dramatic way with the forceful addition of two new members: Gerak Santrem and his sister, Vara Santrem. The way things happened was, Gerak took over Qualosa Guild!

     Gerak and his sister were outsiders of the Empire. They had been born in the family of Nalar Santrem, the Kosh-Gon of the Gadas System from the Free Worlds cluster of Stars. Although he was the son of the Kosh-Gon, Gerak had no chance to ever reach the throne of his father, because he had thirty-seven brothers and sisters ahead, in line to the throne. It happened that Kosh-Gon Nalar of the Gray Clouds House enjoyed intensively the company of his beautiful one hundred sixty-two slave-wives and they, in turn, repaid his attentions with a large number of children. In addition, Kosh-Gon Nalar was still young, therefore he had many years of vigorous ruling power ahead of him due to a permanent diet with Kardaay—a plant having miraculous geriatric powers!
     Almost everybody lived up to two hundred i-std. years in the Free Worlds, though some reached ages around three hundred due to Kardaay, plus many other fortifying treats. Even more, in addition to long lives, most people in the Free Worlds enjoyed particularly robust physiologies, and a few of them also exhibited extraordinary mental powers!

     Every twelve local years, mental athletes from all over the Free Worlds came to the Colova System, in the magnificent Lathan Khon Kop City, to fight for the right to rule, during the next twelve local years term, as the Daj-Gon of the grandiose Planet Traffle. The rules of the Traffle Games were simple: if someone managed to win two terms in a row, and then managed to win the Games for the third time consecutively, that person won the Traffle Daj-Gon forever! The single serious obstacle was, the third time the challenger was one of the sixteen Kudalen Masters, the Defenders of the Traffle Daj-Gon.

     Like all children from the Santrem Family, Gerak and his sister started training since young with Kudalen teachers to achieve the status of Dolg-Djaben for the Traffle Games. In time, they became some of the best.
     The rules to enter the Traffle Games competition asked that each competitor needed the Dolg-Djaben qualification but, in order to achieve that exceptional status, each fighter had to prove through other seven inferior levels. Typically, it took a mental athlete about eighty i-std. years of mental fights, and many wins, to rise up the Dolg-Djaben condition. Gerak, on the other hand, was a phenomenon: he had managed to become a Dolg-Djaben after thirty-five i-std. years only!
     When the time came, Gerak decided that his Dolg-Djaben name would be “Gray Master”, which expressed perfectly clear his intention to become the best. His sister Vara, although exceptionally strong in mental powers, had been eliminated since young from the Dolg-Djaben qualification because her behavior was contrary to the Kudalen Rules. Most of the Free Worlds Systems were governed according to the Kudalen Set of Rules which promoted, among other things, a certain degree of honesty, a strong psychical control, and a respectful attitude towards the challenging part.

     Gerak won the Traffle Games the very first time he competed, and then came the most beautiful twelve years of his life for him, and for Vara, because she was under his protection. The disaster happened when he had to fight for the second term of ruling. He met with the terrible “Red Volcano”—a colossus from Buselta System having a mind resembling a volcano sprinkling red-hot lava. Gerak managed to defeat his opponent after five local hours of terrible fights and intolerable mental burning pains, but then he lost his control: he rushed to end the fight, and he killed Red Volcano.
     In that moment all sixteen Kudalen Masters lowered their staffs, meaning, Gerak had lost his qualification as a Dolg-Djaben, and he was forever banned from the Traffle Games!
     When he saw that resolute decision Gerak became so furious he had an impulse to attack all Kudalen Masters, although he knew very well he had no chance against any of them. The elder of the Kudalen Masters, the Master of all Masters Therghedje D’Radja-Kadje, raised just one eyebrow, and Gerak felt he could barely stand the weight of his body; as for mental powers, he couldn’t remember his own name!

     Gerak started to recover when he left Colova System, according to Kudalen Masters' ruling. Later, he analyzed the reasons for his disastrous lack of psychical control. He concluded that the cause were the temptations he had indulged in, during his twelve years of ruling as a Traffle Daj-Gon, instead of continuing with a rigorous program in mental training.
     There was no more hope to ever compete in the Traffle Games for Gerak, therefore he decided to look for the means to defeat the Kudalen Masters themselves. It was not possible to fight against a Kudalen Master with mental powers; with proper technologies, however, and with smart political maneuvers, he could eliminate them all, one by one. Consequently, Gerak started thinking of where to get that necessary, powerful technology.

     In the Free Worlds cluster of Stars there were only a few Systems capable of building advanced technologies based, mostly, on bought or stolen models and designs, as the efforts for native technological development were rather timid. Almost everybody was interested in building up mental powers, instead of developing a logic intellect. However, all Scientists in the Free Worlds were regarded with the utmost respect by everybody, due to the fact they had to sacrifice about one hundred i-std. years of their lives to studying the Unholy Science. Nobody dared reading the mind of a Scientist as they feared they would lose their common sense and mental balance, after being mentally poisoned by demonic theorems, by monstrous formulas, and by many other malefic scientific sorceries.
     The main sources of new designs and technologies in the Free Worlds were the two neighboring Empires, the Gentle Empire and the Dour Empire; between the two, the Dour Empire had a superior technology. However, since racial differences were far greater between Gerak’s race and the dominant race in the Dour Empire, he decided to depart with his sister towards the Gentle Empire.

     Their travel lasted for almost five i-std. years with many commercial ships, until they reached the borders of the Gentle Empire. There, the level of technological development was a lot more advanced, therefore local interstellar transports were way faster.
     Gerak managed to get in contact with the Suta Priests almost as soon as he arrived in Imperial Worlds. One i-std. year later, he was the personal trainer of Great Hurda himself! The payment he received from Great Hurda was generous, in valuables and in people, though it meant nothing to Gerak since he was interested only in ways to acquire advanced, powerful technologies.
     Gerak had presented himself to the Suta Priests, and later to Great Hurda, as Grey Master—the Imperial Standard translation of his lost Dolg-Djaben name. His sister Vara was invisible for everybody. She was his personal spy and protector, although she had a few difficult to satisfy, newly acquired habits, such as playing with, then killing and partly devouring of at least one person every ninety i-std. days.

     Great Hurda was not quite happy with the deal to supply a healthy living individual to Gray Master each ninetieth day. However, life was relatively cheap those days, and there were a lot of unfortunate aliens wandering temptingly around Qualosa. Besides, he was very curious to find out what happened to those people who entered Gray Master’s quarters, and they never came out! No surveillance equipment ever worked inside Gray Master’s suite, and nobody knew there was a second person living there.

     While being Hurda’s personal mental trainer, Gerak took control of his actions. Therefore, it was Gerak who helped him decide on Qualosa Guild formation, and then on the premature Nova action. Once that Nova became a reality as planned, Gerak went to Great Hurda and told him that he and his sister wanted to become full members of the Guild.
     Contrary to his wish and to any logic analysis, Great Hurda accepted the proposal because his internal vital fluids changed to frozen solid when he saw the terrible face of Vara Santrem appearing from nowhere, and smiling at him with a ferocious grin.

*

M12-5     Soon after the Nova, and supported by the Great Hurda, Gray Master and his sister—she had presented herself as “Shadow”—became the fourth and the fifth powers of Qualosa Guild. Together, they went analyzing the plans of future actions. They decided that, once Dr. Velkon finishes the fabrication process of the military biochip implant technology, the Guild should start to conquer, one after the other, all the Systems of the past Empire.
     Unfortunately, however, Qualosa Guild organization was not a homogenous political structure, since each power of the Guild was planning secret plots to eliminate all others. In the same time, none of them dared or wanted to initiate the first move, and they were all waiting for some favorable developments in order to implement decisive actions.

     In terms of powers, Great Hurda had the advantage of being at home in the Qual System, and inside the Suta Palace. He had a vast army of Suta Priests close to him and spread throughout Imperial Worlds, plus he was the one who supported financially the entire operation of the Guild.
     Great Hurda was very much interested in obtaining the military biochip implant technology, plus imperial armors technologies, and then to get rid of Imperial Fleet, of Imperial Guards, of Gray Master, and of Shadow. Great Hurda was confident he could accomplish all his goals, though he needed both time and opportunities. Within Guild’s Council, Great Hurda was siding with Gray Master, most of the time, against the combined Dr. Velkon and Mortek’s terrible powers.

     Dr. Dembrah Velkon was also interested in developing the military biochip implant technology, except he knew very well he needed more help because the biochip had been manufactured under the strictest control at the Neurophysics Department by a team of Senior Level Biophysicists. Although he had most of the fabrication process of the biochip, the basic, live, synthetic neuro-protein never lasted for more than a few i-std. hours.
     In order to push further the development of the biochip implant technology, Dr. Velkon needed badly survivor Scientists from the Neurophysics Department. In addition, he was building in secret a few devices for his own protection, in order to fight the dreadful mental powers of Gray Master and his sister.
     Dr. Velkon had the power to destroy the entire Qual System with his Imperial Fleet Unit, and to conquer back all the Worlds belonging to the past Empire. However, there was a far greater threat of which he was very scared, and he needed the collaboration of all the other powers of the Guild to clear it: the Imperial Investigators of the Science Division!

     Commander Mortek was well aware that Dr. Velkon had superior command codes to his, therefore he could become a mindless soldier under his control at any time. Mortek also was waiting for his own proper time. He considered that, when the other powers of the Guild would start fighting each other, it was only a matter of being faster than the Doctor, to eliminate him as well. However, until that favorable moment, Mortek was always siding with the Doctor at Guild’s table.

     Gray Master knew all the plans the other powers of the Guild were building up. In order to make his own plans to work, he needed the most advanced technologies. He wanted the military biochip, imperial armors, Imperial Fleet, Imperial Guards, and anything else he could get his hands on.
     It was not his intention to help anybody rebuild the Gentle Empire; therefore, he decided that it was sufficient to hold the other powers of the Guild in a mental truce, while also waiting patiently for some favorable developments. He was hoping that Dr. Velkon would finish one day the manufacturing process of the military biochip, and he had the advantage of a lot longer life span—even without the Kardaay diet—and of a very well trained psychic.

     The woman known as Shadow wanted to leave the Worlds of the Gentle Empire because the people there were too frail, and they couldn’t satisfy her need for some true, painful distractions—and for a healthier diet. She hated her brother, though she was well aware that, without his protection, back in the Free Worlds she would be hunted and killed in less than one i-std. year.
     She didn’t care at all about the lousy political games developed around Guild’s table. One day she hoped she would succeed in killing her brother—although he was stronger and able to sense her—and to become someone powerful herself. All she had to do for that was to be very patient, obedient, and to wait for her own good time.

*

M12-6     All five powers of the Guild had agreed to postpone any military action, and to allow Dr. Velkon some time to gather as many surviving Scientists as he could. Consequently, Dr. Velkon embarked on visiting the Worlds of the past Empire with a grandiose Fleet of twenty-seven Super Destroyers and two hundred forty-three Destroyers. The rest of the Fleet was left to supervise the Qual System for any unpleasant events.
     After forty-two i-std. days since the beginning of his lavish journey, Dr. Velkon met with a good old friend, Dr. Tireza Vasteh, in the Hoka System. They partied together for a few days, then Dr. Vasteh confided that, at the time of the Nova, he was in a secret audition with an Investigator of the Science Division, and he admitted, happily, that he was allowed to go away unpunished when the Investigator heard about the Nova news.
     That confession was the irrefutable proof that at least one Investigator of the Science Division had survived the Nova. Consequently, Dr. Velkon got so scared he immediately abandoned his expedition, and he went straight back to Qual System to consult with his partners in crime. It was then when Great Hurda, Mortek, Gray Master, and Shadow found out the first time about the powers of the Imperial Investigators of the Science Division. They all decided to keep a low profile, while preparing as many traps as they could to capture the surviving Investigator.

     One of the traps was the Zelhane sisters, the nieces of the deceased Emperor Kytel and also the legal heiresses of the past Empire. Great Hurda wanted them dead, same as the rest of the Imperial Family, immediately after the Nova, but Dr. Velkon insisted to be left alive and further used as a bait for any surviving Scientist. Gray Master supported the plan proposed by Dr. Velkon, and so did Mortek, therefore Zelhane sisters were allowed to live, although in deplorable conditions.
     Commander Mortek was assigned with traveling discreetly throughout the Imperial Worlds, in order to collect information about the Imperial Investigator, or about any Scientist belonging to the past Neurophysics Department. Meanwhile, Dr. Velkon continued his research on the military biochip, and he was firmly opposing to any violent action of the Guild, until they managed to eliminate the surviving Investigator.

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