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After a few minutes, making sure that Bronson was completely gone, Enad the Encephalon leapt to his feet and shouted, "Kwamkut! Change course to Pluto!" A set of lights flashed on the console, but Enad felt no change in motion. He stepped up and flipped on the vocal mode of Kwamkut. A set of blurred electronic voices screamed. "My controls have been cut off! All changes in course must be done manually!" With great cautiousness, Enad adjusted a few switches and gizmos in front of him, causing the ship to arc to the right. He sat back, relieved. "Good thing I had my Knophisghtian innate abilities," he thought, "or else that drug would have had some effect on me."

Doug cheered heroically as the news of the Act's demise reached the Mercury. "Three cheers for Bronson!" he cried out. "The Domain is destroyed, and we are now undoubtedly the Champions in space!"

Doug, it seems, was the captain of the Ranierian space carrier Mercury. He had worked hard to gain this position, and he was one of the most talented officers Bronson had. So talented was he, in fact, that he felt only a sense of challenge when he heard the contents of the message now coming in over the scanners.

"Captain," said a small ensign to his right, "I am detecting, on long-range scan, two abnormal ships. They are, apparently, the same ones that were to leave to the Snicker's galaxy. Shall we destroy them?" The ensign had a strange power-hungry look that prevaled throughout most of Bronson's fleet.

Doug, however, was smart; he knew the power of those ships, and he rightfully feared the zim-bam gun. "Call the Archangel and tell them that we're going to have a look at an unidentified object in that sector. Tell them that we will find our own way home."

The ensign, obviously sad that Doug wouldn't let the entire fleet pound the two ships, did his chore regretfully. Then another crewmember plotted a new course, and the Mercury raced toward the Pents.

**T. G. Taft**

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Adena was preparing to receive a cordial call from two friends of hers. She had chosen, for the call, a room high in the castle; one which had many windows. The windows were surrounded by a grey brick, accented by white curtains. This was one of Adena's favorite sight-seeing rooms, as one could see almost all of Furanose from it. But back to the business of guests. Adena had asked one of Leffy's friends--Leffy, as you will remember is on T'mir--to send the pair in as soon as they arrived. Adena smiled as she looked out one of the many windows. The lovely land of Furanose spread as far as the eye could see. Soon she let her mind wander. You know, everybody was happy under her reign. Not one single soul could complain. Everything was so great, in fact, that Furanose must have the greatest government that there ever was or ever could be anywhere. Traditions were kept without hesitation, and no one bothered to feel jealous that most of the wealth in the land belonged to one clan. Man, things were great. Suddenly she heard a knock on the door. "Thou may enter."

A jiffle named Miffy entered the room and smiled in a broad, unaltered grin. Jiffles, if you will recall, are just plain fun. "The men whom you are entertaining have arrived, M'lady." Miffy said in a very feminine voice.

"Send them in." Adena said with a smile.

In through the door walked her guests, Bronson Colt Randolf and his mentor friend, Madison. They bowed to the Enchantress, and sat down on a couch facing her.

"What can I do for you gentlemen?" Started Adena.

Bronson looked at the beautiful hair the Enchantress had. "Aaaah... I don't know, exactly, maam, aaaaah, you see, Madison wanted to talk to you, and I just wanted to tell you that all of the Domain's ships have been destroyed, and, my, but that's a beautiful blouse you're wearing today, Adena..."

Madison quietly mumbled a silence spell at Bronson. He looked at Adena in a daring sort of way. "I will come directly to the point, Adena. Did you not kill Dion Cameo Puriantio, as I have heard?"

Adena looked hard at him, as if she were trying to watch her words as she said them. "Yes, I did. She tried to take my Amulet, my main source of power..."

"Then I have, according to tradition, one recourse. Adena, Dion was my one and only daughter. According to my family heritage, I must revenge her death. Adena," he said with a sigh, "I'm going to have to kill you."

**T. G. Taft**

Doug watched keenly as the ships grew larger in the dark void of space. "Get them on communications," he cried to one of his subordinates.

"Pents on line three, sir."

Doug pushed a button on a console in front of him. "I thought you were asked to leave the galaxy, Pent."

A strange voice came through the Mercury's speakers. "This is not Pent. This is his next in command, Sir Veyor. Sir Pent and Siress Pent are in the Snicker's galaxy."

"Then why aren't you there too?" Doug said, slightly miffed.

"It seems that the white hole we entered in our galaxy cannot be found in this one. It was like a one-way passage here. We could find no trace of where we came out; therefore we surely cannot return. Enad, that great guy that he is, took the Pents back to their galaxy on the Cantible. We, however, are stuck in this galaxy. That's why I was taking the Myomycophyta and the Coniferophytae back to the Earth. I thought maybe we could find an uninhabited area and settle..."

"No, I have a better idea. Why don't you go to the sixth planet in this solar system, to one of its moons named T'mir. They will have plenty of room for you."

Silence came from the other end. "OK, thanks."

Doug watched quietly as the two Snicker ships made a turn towards Saturn. He smiled to himself and then said aloud, "no use having them on Bronson's planet."

**T. G. Taft**

Adena twitched a little, and immediately grabbed for her Amulet. She wasn't quite sure what Madison might do, but after all, he was a retired Wizard. "Madison, that was her punishment. She stole one of my Keys. She had to die."

Madison motioned to her with his hand, and turned his face away from hers. "In Ranier, as in the other two civilized nations on earth, the only thing punishable by death is death itself. All other reasons of execution are known as murder. What other things are punishable by death in Furanose?"

Adena took a small swallow. She followed this with a deep breath, which seemed to give her confidence. "In Furanose, tradition remains the kingpin. Death can be ordered by the stealing of a Key, the breaking of an oath, any attempt on my life..."

Madison rudely interrupted her. "Then I feel sorry for the people living here. Adena, according to my tradition, I am supposed to kill you at the first chance I might have. But I will not. I am more civilized than that. But let it be known that our long friendship is over. You killed my offspring without due cause. I think I'm letting you off easy."

Madison stood up, pulling Bronson with him. Bronson tried to mumble out something, but his words were absorbed by Madison's spell. Adena sat still, thinking. "But she caused the death of many others, especially in Ralle..."

Madison turned around slightly. "Did she knowingly, and on purpose, cause anybody to die in your jurisdiction?" Adena closed her eyes and let her face drop to the floor. Madison and Bronson quietly walked out of the room.

**T. G. Taft**

Doug slowly turned the Mercury toward Earth, smiling as he thought of his position. He was part of the strongest nation in space--even stronger than Alarius--and one of the more prominent men within its society. He thought about his wife and two children at home. Just another hour till home; then he could relax in Betty's arms...

And then the lights aboard the bridge flashed warily. The buzzers went off all over the ship, and a huge thud came over her starboard bow. The ship weened as crewmen were thrown to the portside. Electric sparks flew in all directions as computers burst in the faces of men. "Shields... up!" Screamed Doug.

But it was no use. The minimal shielding that was routinely kept up was instantly destroyed at the same time all other systems aboard the Mercury went out. She had no shields, nor any hope of ever retrieving them. Doug flew around as he heard a shimmering noise behind him. Three men filtered onto the bridge and grabbed Doug by the shoulders. One man pushed a button in his pocket, and the shimmering effect appeared once again to take the four of them off the Mercury's bridge.

They reappeared aboard the Adhesion. Doug looked around waringly, curiously noticing that it was a perfect match of the bridge of the Mercury; perfectly, that is, except that the yellow and gold of Ranier had been replaced with the orange and white of the Domain.

A strange man, sitting in a custom-made command chair, turned around to look at Doug. Doug stared at the strangely misshapen man. He appeared to be skinny with a twisted body; he had near-bald brown hair, and wore a black patch over his left eye. His nose had a deep, long gash down the center of it, and his lips appeared to be only relics from left-over wounds. "Welcome, commander of the Mercury. My name is Wayne J. Max, commander of the Domain space forces. And you are...

Doug stood straight up in a saluted position. He rumbled off a memorized speech... "Name: Norman D. Exeter. Rank: Captain. Serial Number: 09253212..."

"Oh, spare me the formality. Aren't you a little curious as to what this ship is, and what happened to yours?"

Doug remained stiff, even when poked by one of the men around him.

"Very well, I will tell you anyway. While Ranier was busy building its monstrous fleet, the Domain was not idle. What we sent into battle against Alarius was merely the first phase of our galactic control project." He stared a bit at Doug. "But you see, Norman D. Exeter, we noticed that you Ranierians had very powerful ships. So, we called on our spy in Ranier to gain the needed information... isn't this getting to you, Norman D. Exeter?"

Doug stood straight up, not moving a muscle.

"We have all of Ranier's technology, plus our own! Your ship was hit by your own powerful laser!" Doug stood straight up, not making a single move.

"Maybe this will make you listen. He pushed a button on his console, making a big screen in the front of the bridge illuminate. In the center of the field was the Mercury. Wayne directed one of the officers below him to push another button. A stream of red issued from the sides of the screen and impacted on the Mercury. Nothing could withstand two of Bronson's lasers, and it immediately incinerated. But Doug continued to stand straight up, not even flinching.

Wayne looked exhausted. "All right. Then perhaps if we told you who the spy we sent was you will listen." He motioned to someone standing by the exit. Then he leaned back and whispered something to a man behind him. "Have the carriers Atrocity, Autopsy, Axis, and Addict pull to the front of the fleet, with the Madison class Richard, Wayne, Dion, John, and Gibbenhide near the rear. Keep the twelve battle cruisers to our left and right, and, make sure they have their scanners on at all times. I don't want to be "surprised" like our first fleet was."

After he had said this, the man who had been sent returned escorting another man. Wayne smiled evilishly. "Norman D. Exeter, I want you to meet the spy." Said he, jesturing at the escorted man. Doug stammered a bit as he recognized the man as Marlin F. Exeter, his only brother.

 © 1985, 

K. Blaire, L. Charles, D. Conrad, Enad the Great, A. Mann, J. Pierce, B. C. Randolf, and T. G. Taft

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