“Security override accepted.”
Mintra’el’s voice startled both young men.
Quicker than Masterson had ever seen, Desslok’s hand flashed out and snagged the now-silent message capsule and slipped it smoothly into a concealed pocket.
An instant later the door of the suite slid open.
“Masterson!” Admiral Talan’s voice came crashing through the peaceful moment, shattering it to pieces.
The admiral’s son immediately leapt up from where he sat and ran to the open door. The tone of his father’s voice told him that something was dreadfully wrong.
“Perimeter breech.” The A.I. announced.
“They’ve finally done it.” the Admiral said to Masterson. “The zealots are here – in the palace. I have to go. Whatever you do, do not leave him” his father pointed to Desslok, “alone. There are forces at work here that no physical attack will be able to unseat. You are his last line of defense.”
Masterson gave a curt nod and the door closed, re-locking automatically.
“Mintra’el.” Desslok addressed the computer as also shot up out of his seat, “What’s going on out there?”
“The Guardiana followers have penetrated the southern perimeter of the palace grounds. They did not trip the alarm until a group of them had entered the palace itself.”
“I’m going down there.” the prince stated determinedly.
“That would be a bad idea.” Mintra’el replied, echoing Masterson’s thoughts. “The zealots are already almost through their summoning ritual. To go down there with them would be suicide.”
“She’s right, Sir.” Masterson agreed.
“I said, I’m going down there.” the fire began to rise in Desslok’s eyes as he started towards the door.
Instead of moving to stop the prince Masterson instead said, “Mintra’el, security override,” then a series of foreign syllables rolled off of his tongue.
“Override accepted.” the computer replied.
“Mintra’el, open this door.” the prince demanded.
“Voice authorization not recognized.” came the response.
Masterson winced, waiting for the inevitable reaction from Desslok.
The prince cursed at the still-closed door, then turned to Masterson, “What did you just do?”
“Your life has been entrusted to my care. I have chosen to safeguard it, Sir.” Talan replied.
The prince glared at his friend with a mix of frustration, and maybe just a tiny bit of gratitude, but his stubbornness wouldn’t let him simply accept his fate.
“I am leaving. Now.” then the prince shouted, “Mintra’el!”
“I cannot override my programming, Sir.” the computer replied.
“You can if I tell you to.”
“On the contrary, Sir.” said Mintra’el, “I have been ordered to seal this door. The Master Key has been invoked. I cannot, under any circumstances override it except by another authorized individual using the Key.”
The prince muttered under his breath before saying, “Very well then,” and uttering the same words he had heard Masterson speak a minute before.
“Voice authorization not recognized.” said the computer.
“What? Why?!” Desslok demanded of the A.I.
“I do not know, sir. I simply follow my programming.”
“But I programmed you.”
“But you did not program the Master Key.” Mintra’el offered. “It is the Key that instructs me to seal the door, and sealed it will remain until the Key allows it to be opened again.”
All of a sudden there was a thunderous beating on the door. The force with which the would-be intruder struck the door caused it to deform slightly.
The prince, undaunted by the rabble outside drew his weapon. “Let them come.” he said.
“There are some things in this world, Sir, that even you cannot simply shoot down.” Masterson cautioned.
Desslok let out an overconfident huff, “If the shêdim want to kill me, they’ll need more than hadean might to do it.”
Masterson said nothing but thought to himself, “One day you’re going to realize just how potent the powers of Hell can be.”
The door exploded inward.
One man, normally sized and plain-looking stood in the gap where the door used to be. His eyes blazed with dark fire as they locked onto the prince.
“Shachat!” came the order from the Guardiana follower, ominous finger pointed directly at Desslok.
“No...” thought Masterson, “It can’t end like this.”
The dark presence of the foul spirit flowed through the opening and into the room. With it came an oppressive blanket of fear and terror. The presence was so strong that even Desslok looked stricken.
Masterson stepped in front of his friend and opened his mouth to utter the only defense he knew – the only one there was against such evil, “In the name of Yeshua Mashiach, and Adonai His Father, be gone!”
An audible roar of pain echoed through the thickening dread in the room. “He speaks the Name!” it shrieked. “He has the Spirit of the One!”
“We did not come for him. Kill the other one!” the zealot ordered, grasping a the silver disc he wore around his neck.
The spirit shrieked again, this time in shock.
To Masterson’s astonishment, there sprang into his vision the shining, mighty form of another otherworldly being. For an instant, he thought that the angel met his gaze before turning to sweep his radiant blade through something Masterson could not see, but judging by the scream and sudden deafening silence that followed it was the summoned killer who met the other end of that heavenly sword.
The prince gave no indication that he had seen any of the supernatural exchange.
“There are others, fool.” the zealot’s voice broke through the stillness and the angel disappeared from sight again, but Masterson knew he was still there.
“He is no fool who accepts the rule of Yahweh.” replied the admiral’s son.
The zealot’s eyes narrowed. In one smooth motion he swept his sidearm out of its holster. A quarter of a second later he fell to floor, eyes open wide, dead.
“I believe that makes us even.”
Masterson turned to see Desslok standing with his freshly-fired gun still pointed at the fallen Guardiana follower.
Masterson nodded to the prince and said, “We should leave, Sir.”
Without argument Desslok followed the other young man out the mangled door and down the palace halls, looking everywhere for evidences that other zealots had penetrated this far into the palace.
Masterson would have taken them farther up into the top floors of the capitol building, but Desslok would not follow him. Instead the young prince forged down through the lower levels of the palace.
“Sir, we must get out of here.” Masterson’s voice echoed down the hall as he followed Desslok.
“You have already told me that, Talan. We are of no use hiding in some forgotten corner of this place.” the prince’s tone had turned fierce.
The closer they got to the raging, double-fronted battle in the lower levels of the palace, the more intense the prince became.
The two young men came to the fifth level and rounded the corner to see a knot of armored guards and zealots fighting hand-to-hand.
Desslok flew into the fray without a moment’s hesitation, managing to knock out one or two zealots before they realized somebody else had jumped in. Masterson followed the prince, landing a punch right in one man’s face, knocking him out cold.
Talan heard the smack of leather hitting flesh followed by a thudding sound and he knew that the prince had just scored another winning hit.
The guards swept around the teenagers, incapacitating or killing the rest of the small horde that had made it this far.
“Sir!” one of the guards addressed Desslok with a respectful nod.
“Where is the shêd?” the prince demanded.
“There wasn’t one, sir.” the guard replied.
Desslok’s eyes narrowed. “After the Summoning there is always a shêd with every group. Always. Be watchful, it may yet show its foul presence.” With that he and Masterson took off down the corridor, heading down to the next level.
The two came to the second floor just in time to see Admiral Talan spread his body in front of the Leader, arms stretched open wide to the oncoming invisible onslaught, and shout the Name of Yeshua into the face of the demon who had come to claim Deun’s life. The spirit screamed, just as the one who had come after the prince had when the angel cut it down.
Masterson noticed more wailings and howlings radiating from all around the area and he saw a good portion of his father’s battalion playing the same role as their Admiral, petitioning the power of Heaven to banish the devils back to the fiery realm from whence they had been summoned.
Desslok’s eyes flew swiftly over the fray, “Where’s Deun?”
“Your brother is not here, Sir.” came the answer from one from Raymond Talan’s soldiers who had just run up to the prince and Masterson. “No one has seen him since the alarm was raised.”
Desslok nodded to the soldier and the man returned to the fight.
“Come, Talan.” said the prince a moment later as he turned his back to the battle and ran back up through the levels of the palace, closing in on the very place Masterson would have taken them in the first place – the most heavily protected place in the palace – the throne room.
As they whisked upwards through the halls the two began to noticing the increasing signs of the zealot’s presence. When they reached an area a few hundred yards away from the door to the great chamber, Desslok halted mid-stride, almost sending Masterson tumbling over him.
The prince clamped a hand over his friend’s mouth, effectively shutting him up.
“They’re everywhere.” Desslok hissed. “And the men assigned to guard the entrance are all...” he took a breath before levying his consensus, “dead.” he looked down at the polished floor.
“How did we get past them then?” Masterson whispered, no longer incapacitated by the prince’s hand.
“Your estimation is as good as mine this time, my friend.” the prince whispered back.
“So how do we get in?” Masterson asked, turning the conversation back to something less gruesome than the sight that lay before them.
Desslok looked around, quietly took several steps back down the corridor and looked straight up. A smirk began to spread across his sharp-featured face.
Yeshin stared at Deun with a mixture of scorn, and reservation. “Why should I trust you after what you did the last time we met?” he asked.
“Yeshin, my friend.” the prince said smoothly. “Would I ever do anything that would truly undermine the... agreement... we have made? Hm?”
The man continued to glare at the crown prince. “You are a strange one.”
Deun shrugged. “If it gets me what I want, why should it matter to me what you think? After all, I did just get you out of that cell, didn’t I? Would I have done that if I intended to betray you?”
Yeshin’s features relaxed the slightest bit.
“Now that we’ve settled that, let’s get down to business then, shall we.” Deun said, walking confidently across the throne room towards the majestic platform on which sat the coveted symbol of power that Deun so craved. “Why should a tired, old, grief-ridden man remain in power when another, more capable heir is clearly available? Why should I sit by and do nothing when I could have not only the power of all Gamilon at my disposal, but also the might of the Guardiana? You tell me, Yeshin. Which would you choose?” the prince paraded up to the throne, looked haughtily down at the man he had freed and sat down with an air of severe egotism.
Yeshin rolled his eyes, careful not to let this pompous brat see him doing it. If he had not been so loyal to his own commander-in-chief he would have beaten some sense into the little twit ages ago. But orders were orders: give the eldest son of Leader Deun the means to destroy his father and take the throne early – and make him think that he was going to inherit the power of the Guardiana if he staged this coup. The tipesh was too stupid to realize that he lacked one major qualification to be the next heir to such power. In the history of the line, no man, or boy, had ever – or would ever – inherit the position.
“Yeshin, are you going to answer my question or just stand there looking like an idiot?” Deun II’s voice broke through the zealot’s thoughts.
“Oh.” he said trying to prepare himself for the sour taste the next words would bring to his mouth, “Yes, I would do exactly as you have done... Sire.” he said the title grudgingly, feeling as though he had just committed blasphemy against his true ruler. But they had told him to do whatever was necessary to lead the crown-prince into this, so he supposed such words were permissible.
“You might.” Came a voice surprisingly like Deun’s, “But I wouldn’t.” Desslok stepped out from behind the throne, pointing a gun at his traitor-twin’s head. “You won’t get away with this, brother.”
Deun let out a sudden snort of laughter, “You really think that?” he said, scoffing at his younger sibling. “And you think threatening me will get you anywhere? You’re more of a fool than I thought you were, Desslok.” He was ignoring the weapon trained on him.
Masterson stepped out from the hiding place just then, his own weapon pointed at Yeshin who was staring dumbfounded at the twins, realizing exactly what had happened that day in his cell, and turning a bit pale – at least, as pale as his blue skin could get.
“You – You -” the zealot pointed shakily at the mirror images before him.
“Be quiet, Yeshin.” Deun ordered dismissively.
“I said, be quiet!” Deun glared at the zealot.
The man gave up trying to speak but continued to gawk in horror at the revelation he had just uncovered. No wonder the little snit hadn’t known what Yeshin was talking about when the prince came to the cell that day. It hadn’t been him. Why hadn’t Deun mentioned this little piece of trivia? For that matter why hadn’t his own leader mentioned it – they would certainly have known about this...
As the Guardiana follower stood frozen in introspection, he noticed one thing about the twins that was odd. He remembered the one who had come to his cell had worn a glove on one hand – the left if he recalled correctly. Deun wore no glove; the other one – Desslok did though. What was he hiding...?
Then the zealot noticed that the throne room had become deathly – chillingly – silent. He heard nothing; the door should still be sealed – but how had the two young men gotten in here? They had seemingly come out of nowhere. Doubt began to rise in Yeshin’s mind.
In an instant, the door to the great room flew open, slamming into the immaculate walls on either side of them, scarring the perfect finish. Also in that moment, Deun whipped out a hidden weapon of his own and pointed it at Yeshin, masking his true intentions.
“Get your hands up where I can see them, militant.” an anonymous voice ordered.
Yeshin growled angrily, the snarl directed just as much at the soldier at his back as at Deun. If the Guardiana follower had had time to summon a shêd, he would have.
“They’re in here, Sir!” the voice of the unknown soldier called out to someone else running down the hall towards the throne room.
“We held him off, Father!” Deun said triumphantly as he saw the Leader come into view. “He was going to destroy the palace and escape in the sefina!”
The look on Desslok’s face went from one of determination to utter disgust. Then he realized that somewhere along the way he had lowered his weapon so that it was pointed at the floor instead of Deun.
“You shoat!” the marked prince hissed at his brother before calling out to his father, “He’s lying! He’s just as much a part of this as the zealot.” Desslok pointed to Yeshin who was being hauled away – again – by a cadre of guards.
The Leader ignored his younger son and instead addressed the crown-prince. “You have done well, my son. We owe you our lives.”
Deun sneaked his brother a smirk accompanied by a condescending look.
Desslok hid the hatred that was boiling up inside him now. The man he called “father,” was, at this moment the biggest imbecile in the whole empire.
“How is it that he cannot see it?” Desslok fumed after everyone else save he and Masterson had left the violated throne room.
Masterson sighed. “Your brother has always been one to deceive, Sir...”
“Go on, Talan.” Desslok said, sensing his friend’s hesitation.
“And your father believes him because he cannot bear the alternative...”
The prince bowed his head and nodded slowly in agreement. “It has always been so...”
he said. “But I never thought he would go this far... He’s become insane – mad with the mere thought of power: siding with the Guardiana, willing to kill me and to overthrow the rightful king of this empire, willing to plunge Gamilon and its people into chaos simply because he wants control.”
“What is it Masterson?”
“If I may ask...” the admiral’s son said, “How do you know you wouldn’t do exactly as he has done if your roles were reversed...?”
Desslok stood quietly – thoughtfully – staring up through the transparent plating of the vaulted ceiling, an eerie faraway look in his eyes as he gazed at Gamilon’s sister-planet Iscandar.
“That’s part of what unsettles me, Talan.” the prince forced his eyes to come back to meet Masterson’s faithful gaze. “I don’t know...”
The room was indescribably silent for a long moment before the the prince said, “It’s more important than ever now that we finish the history my mother left me. Things are unfolding here in the present that only the past can shed light on.”
“Back to the past then.” Masterson said, happy to be rid of the troubling thoughts conjured by Desslok’s frank admission.