Canto 113 – Prisoners on the Shadowcat
Ham sat at the pilot-seat controls aboard his safari ship, looking out the main portal into the cavernous docking bay of the Bregohelma. It was depressing. Trying to suicidally destroy his enemy, he had become a mere prisoner instead.
Admiral Tang didn’t see him as anything more than a flea that needed to be slapped. He was glad he and his crew were not dead, but he was irked by the fact that he had been far less of a factor in the Battle of Coventry than had his friend the Goofer. And worse, now Goofy and all those potential allies on Coventry were all dead too. What step comes next?
There was activity in the docking bay. Armed men in combat armor were filing in, keeping together in highly organized tactical formations. Dang! Imperial Marines! There would probably be little hope of surviving this encounter.
“Boss! Yo, Boss!” Sinbadh came stumbling into the bridge of the ship with an armload of unattached plasma gun parts. “We gots plenty o’ buccaneers ready to board us!”
“Yes, I know. Stow the guns away. We are gonna meekly surrender and hope they don’t kill us.”
“Blimey, Cap’n! We surrender without a fight?”
“Yes, my friend. The Madonna is pregnant. Sahleck is a little boy. Professor Marou is really, really old…”
“Not that old!” I said as I revealed myself from where I had secretly been watching Ham from behind the bulkhead.
“Hey, Professor, what were you doing hiding back there?” Ham asked.
“Well, I…” I tried to think of a quick excuse. It suddenly wasn’t necessary.
“Ham Aero! Han Ferrari! Come out!” came the strangely compelling voice. We all felt a deep black fear swelling in our guts and pulling us painfully toward the voice like a nose ring attached to a chain being pulled by a steady, relentless strength.
“Good Lord!” swore Ham. “It’s Admiral Tang, and he has us in his power.”
Ham was right. It was Tang’s special Psion power. He could manipulate us with our own fear. He controlled us completely.
“Don’t shoot! We’re coming out!” I heard Duke Ferrari saying it from the exit ramp beneath us. And there was no choice. We filed out of the Shadowcat like puppets on strings.
Admiral Brona Tang was not only the scariest being I had ever met up to that point in my life, he was also the biggest. He was easily six foot eleven, and encased from head to toe in powered battle armor. The armor was even a bright red color, as if to emphasize the blood he had spilled and the blood he still intended to spill. His face was a red mask with black eye portals, an alien, evil sort of face. He also wore a hat on top of the helmet, a wide-brimmed red hat that looked vaguely like the kind of hat worn by Catholic friars in the long-ago Dark Ages, the fourteenth century. In fact, as I thought of it, images of the Inquisition and power-mad Cardinals leapt to mind.
“Good. You have decided to relent and surrender.” The voice was electronically enhanced and almost sounded like three voices in one to me.
Ham, Duke Ferrari, and I stood in front, as if to shield the others. Sinbadh stood behind with the poor Nebulon Madonna on one side, and the trembling Lupin boy, Sahleck Kim on the other side. The wolfman put a hairy paw around the shoulders of each.
“Neither you nor your brother can escape me, Ham. I have you in my possession, and one of my most trusted agents is by Ged’s side, reporting his every move. Your brother is even now beginning the quest that will dispose of that Ancient device that proved to be such a thorn in my side here at the Battle of Coventry.” Tang laughed. “I couldn’t ask for a sweeter vengeance.”
“Who… who is the agent?” asked Ham, against the force of Tang’s terrible will.
“Ah, no! It’s not that easy! How do I know you haven’t manifested some terrible Psion power too by now? It runs in our families. Mine comes from my father. Your brother’s is from Mammy Aero, a powerful Psion as well known to my father as Ged. My mind is shielded, and I will tell you nothing.”
“Aren’t villains always supposed to brag about their evil plots to take over the galaxy?” I asked sarcastically.
Tang laughed again. “I know you too, Dr. Marou. I learned of you from those accursed Time Knights. You are the one person here that future history books guarantee had to survive this encounter. The same is not true for the rest. Most of you will live no longer than the coming battle against Tron Blastarr at Outpost. Oops! Did I give something away? How about this; I am committing what remains of the entire Imperial Navy to that battle. I am going to win it and put an end to any possible time line where your so-called good guys can win. The Imperium has kept order for hundreds of years. It will last for thousands more.”
Sinbadh winked his doggy eye at me. “Clever how ye got him to spill the ol’ soliloquy there, Doc.” he whispered. “Tip o’ me hat to ye.”
“What will you do with us, then?” asked Ham.
“You will sit right here in the docking bay, prisoners aboard your own ship. I am told I cannot destroy you tonight. It has to wait for the battle. But if I can outthink and kill a Time Knight, I can kill you.”