The brightness seemed to go on for a good while, almost like an eternity.
"What happened to us, Empath?" Dreamy asked, worried. "Are we dead?"
"This smurf does not believe we are dead yet, Dreamy," Empath answered. "It feels as if we are strapped onto some tables, being examined by something or somebody."
"I can't even smurf my arms or legs around, but I can sure feel them," Handy commented.
"Where's our smurfship?" Dreamy asked. "Was it destroyed by that other smurfship?"
"This smurf does not know," Empath answered. "But wherever we are right now, this smurf can sense the presence of other beings within this realm of existence."
"You mean, we've been smurfed to another world?" Handy asked.
"Maybe…or we've just been transported onto the larger vessel and are now being held prisoner for some unknown purpose," Empath guessed.
The brightness began to dim, and soon the three Smurfs could make out some features that came clearer as the brightness further dimmed. They were in a large domed room with metallic walls and supports and circular lighting units overhead. Within the room itself were all sorts of machines similar to those inside Flyro's own vessel, most of them lined up against the walls and some near the examining tables where the three Smurfs were sprawled out on, strapped and restrained from moving.
They could also see the beings that Empath had sensed were in this room. These beings roughly looked like the Swoof creatures from Dreamy's fantasy, except that their skin was a dark mustard tone, their bearded faces were ridged with small bony features, and long wild brown hair had framed their bald heads. They were also dressed in what looked like a cross between a warrior's armor and a pirate's outfit. Whatever these beings were, the three Smurfs could see that they were anything but friendly.
"Empath, could you smurf what any of them are saying?" Dreamy asked when they heard some of the beings conversing with each other in a very strange unfamiliar tongue.
Empath tried to enter any of their minds, but found out that he couldn't.
"Unfortunately, their minds are too alien, Dreamy," Empath answered. "But this smurf does have a feeling that they are talking about our presence in here."
"So how are we going to smurf to them that we come in peace?" Handy asked.
Soon, the three of them could see one of the alien beings approaching the table, carrying what looked like a drill from Handy's workshop. "I don't think we're going to smurf around long enough to find out," Dreamy said fearfully.
The alien being placed the bit of the drill inside Empath's left ear and pulled the trigger. He felt a sharp stinging pain that lasted a brief second as something was projected from the drill bit into his left ear. Dreamy and Handy felt the same sensation as the alien being did the same thing to each of them.
"How long will it take for the microtranslator devices to properly encode and decode what these pathetic blue alien beings are saying," the three Smurfs could hear one of the alien beings saying to the other with the drill.
"If it works as those beings from the Orion sector that we captured said they would, they should start working immediately after injection," the other alien being replied.
Great Ancestors, Empath relayed to Dreamy and Handy through telepathy. Those devices they implanted into each of us are enabling us to communicate clearly to them.
"This being with the star mark is the most interesting among their type," the second alien being went on, using a flat handheld device to relay his findings. "His physical makeup suggests that he is capable of controlling objects as well as communicating with others through his mind. His brain activity readings may indicate that he is using that ability now to share his thoughts with his companions."
Somehow they can also sense this smurf's ability to use telekinetics and telepathy, Empath added, though they don't seem able to figure out what we are saying to each other.
"I really don't care about any special abilities these anthropoids may possess, Dablargh," the first alien being snarled. "Either they will make great fighters or great slaves for the Schliphargonian Empire or they will be eliminated by us…that's all I am interested in!"
Just then, another alien being like the other two, only with whiter hair and a long white beard, almost looking like Grandpa Swoof, had entered the room. "What has been recorded about these stowaways on board the runaway vessel, Heftargan?" he asked one of the other two alien beings.
"These beings are from the blue-green planet indigenous to this solar system, Captain Cullivargh," the being named Heftargan replied. "They somehow found the vessel we've been tracking since it left the Centauri sector and have boarded it for some unknown purpose. According to the ship's tracking system, their projected course was to the moon that orbits this planet."
"Is the vessel safely stored in our hangar bays?" the older being named Cullivargh asked.
"A tractor beam and our force field will prevent that ship from escaping anytime soon, Captain," Heftargan replied.
Cullivargh now looked at the three Smurfs strapped to the examining tables. "They look too soft and too vulnerable to be effective warriors," he commented, "though this one with the star mark has a ferocity in his eyes, almost as if he is determined to fight his way out of this room at any given moment." He shook his head, dismissing the thought. "Heftargan, remove these beings from the tables and bring them to a holding cell until I can figure out what we can do with them."
"As you wish, Captain," Heftargan nodded as Cullivargh left the room. He then turned to Dablargh, who pressed some buttons on a control device. The restraints soon retracted and the examining tables tilted downward, enabling the three Smurfs to regain their full movements.
"Who are you people," Empath asked, "and what are you doing with us?"
"We are Schliphargons," Heftargan answered, "the proudest warrior race that has ever existed in this galaxy. We capture, examine, and enslave beings like you from other worlds to serve our empire, which spans a hundred or more solar systems like yours. And you three are our latest acquisitions that shall serve our purposes."
"Acquisitions?!" Handy exclaimed, not believing what he was hearing. "You mean...we're your prisoners?"
"And your people have smurfed to other worlds besides ours?" Dreamy asked, more curious than frightened by the existence of Schliphargons. "I would like to smurf with these other beings and find out how they smurf their lives."
"You won't be able to, p'targaphne!" Heftargan sneered. "All you'll be able to do is survive long enough on this ship to be used as labor fodder, and then eventually be terminated when your abilities have been completely exhausted, just like all other beings from the worlds we have conquered and captured." He then turned his comments toward Empath. "Except for you, a being with the markings of a possible warrior inside such a soft-bellied shell. We may have need for you to serve us as a member of the honorable Schliphargon Talektharkon...if you are able to prove yourself worthy in hand-to-hand combat!"
"This smurf is no warrior, Heftargan, and has no intentions of becoming one for the likes of any group that intends to use other beings for their own ends and purposes," Empath objected.
"But you will fight for the sake of your companions' existences, won't you?" Heftargan asked, enjoying seeing the fear in Dreamy's and Handy's eyes and hearing Empath speak defiantly. "I'm sure you won't choose to refuse a fight because their lives are so dependent on yours to protect them, and that you would give up your own so willingly for them."
"This smurf is not afraid of dying for them, Heftargan," Empath replied. "Though this smurf is no warrior, this smurf will do everything possible to protect them from the likes of you."
Heftargan laughed. "Then we shall arrange the trial by duel, and see whether you stand against the entire Talektharkon or fall to them like a soft-bellied coward."
The three Smurfs soon found themselves herded out of the examining room and down a long corridor, seeing dozens of mechanical and semi-humanoid beings going about their business. They crossed through a large open area where they saw more beings like themselves, looking like mindless zombies, operating various forms of machinery. Then they entered yet another corridor, where soon they found themselves pushed into a small room together with a thick metal door slamming down shut, sealing them inside.
Empath felt that he wasn't going to allow these Schliphargons to hold them prisoner inside their spaceship. He tried to throw a punch straight at the door, amplifying it with his minds-eye to create a powerful enough shockwave to knock it down. Instead, the shockwave had rebounded off the door and knocked Empath, Dreamy, and Handy back against the rear wall of the cell.
"Empath, couldn't you just simply try to smurf down the door without smurfing to such physical extremes?" Dreamy fussed as he pulled himself out from under Empath and Handy got up from being behind Dreamy.
"This smurf apologizes for the rash action, Dreamy," Empath confessed. "This smurf had allowed this smurf's feelings of bruised egos to cloud this smurf's better judgment."
"How was that door able to smurf that to us, Empath?" Handy asked, more curious than upset about what they had witnessed.
Empath scanned the entire room with his minds-eye and found his answer. "This room has been enclosed with an energy field that prevents this smurf from using telekinetic abilities, Handy. This smurf cannot even determine where on this ship this field was generated from, so this smurf can only determine that it must be able to block this smurf's telepathic abilities as well."
"So how are we going to smurf out of here if you can't even smurf down a door with your minds-eye, Empath?" Handy asked.
"That's what this smurf wants you to figure out, Handy," Empath answered. "Despite the fact that this spaceship may be more advanced in its technology than Flyro's, this smurf is fully confident in your steadfast ability to study any kind of closed environment like this and find some possible weaknesses that we can use to our advantage."
Handy felt a bit uneasy with Empath's high appraisal of his fellow Smurf's abilities in this situation, but he accepted it nonetheless. "I'll smurf myself right on it," he pledged.
"I'll try to help Handy smurf our way out of here, Empath, but I only hope we can smurf with these Schliphargons peacefully before we need to smurf that," Dreamy stated.
"That in itself may be difficult, Dreamy, since their only expressed intent with us is to keep us enslaved on this ship like those unfortunates we have encountered on our way to this cell," Empath commented. "However, even though this smurf can't read any of their minds, this smurf has a distinct feeling that their leader may have something on his mind other than exhausting our physical abilities."
Soon the cell door opened, and a few Schliphargon guards came inside. "We want the star-marked being called Empath Smurf to accompany us to the arena," one of the guards demanded.
"This smurf will accompany you," Empath replied, allowing himself to be taken into the custody of the Schliphargon guards. He then looked at Handy and Dreamy. "Do not look upon this smurf in fear for this smurf's life, my fellow Smurfs. This smurf will make sure this smurf survives whatever these Schliphargons call hand-to-hand combat."
"Good luck, Empath," Dreamy said. "May the best Smurf win."
"Smurf 'em all you got, Empath," Handy added enthusiastically. "We'll be here smurfing on your side for you."
Empath smiled looking at Handy before he was herded away. For a moment, Handy sounded just like Hefty did when he encouraged Clumsy to chop a block of wood with a single axe swing.
Empath was led into a large arena, armed with nothing but a spear with triple-edged blades on both ends. Again, Empath could sense that his minds-eye abilities would have no effect here. This reminded him of the time where he was forced to fight a fellow Psyche to the death with nothing more than his own physical prowess. The other Psyches used their minds-eyes to prevent Empath and his opponent from using theirs. Empath had fought his opponent for several rounds, but he refused to kill him since he made a promise to Papa Smurf that he as a Smurf will never take a life. His refusal, however, only prolonged the fight, for his opponent wore Empath down and had nearly beaten him to death. Fueled by his own rage and fury, Empath rose again and killed his opponent, claiming victory for the moment but costing him his soul, for he was guilty of taking a life. The Pool of Souls, however, looked into Empath's heart and gave him a second chance at living. Here, though, Empath had the sense that these Schliphargons would be more ruthless than the Psyches in their duels.
His first opponent was Vanegkhar, who was similarly armed with a weapon like Empath’s. He charged at Empath with his weapon ready to strike, letting out a warlike shout. However, as Empath found out, though Vanegkhar was a spirited fighter, he wasn’t as skilled as Empath was with the same kind of weapon in hand. Empath easily defended himself and knocked Vanegkhar to the ground, wounding him but not killing him. Then came another Schilphargon warrior into the arena, armed with the same kind of weapon, charging Empath with his weapon ready to strike. This one was a little tougher than Vanegkhar was, managing to wound and bruise Empath with his swings. Nonetheless, Empath fought back and knocked that warrior to the ground, also not killing him. A few more Schliphargons came into the arena one at a time, each one equally armed as the previous two, and also proving to be more challenging. Empath sustained a few more injuries from their weapons scraping and slicing him and his spacesuit, and he also felt that his physical energy was slowly starting to wane. But Empath’s skills as a fighter, being trained in Psychelia and then further honed in the Smurf Village with his sparring partner Century (Vanity’s “mirror” clone, who was so named because he was the “hundredth Smurf”), continued to come through for him as he defeated those Schiphargons with the same skill and determination as with the previous opponents. And as he did with the previous warriors, he also spared their lives.
Then finally came Heftargan, who seemed pleased that Empath managed to survive the training thus far. “A warrior like you should have killed those who have served under me in the Talektharkon,” he said in a tone that basically despised Empath with his whole being. “But you only survived long enough to meet a warrior who has killed thousands like you in honorable combat. Let’s see how honorable you truly are, if you are able to defeat me, the greatest of the Talektharkon warriors from the ages until now.”
Heftargan let out a warrior cry as he swung his bladed weapon towards Empath, who blocked the swing with his weapon and tried to attack Heftargan. But Heftargan was no pushover. He easily blocked all of Empath’s swings and countered with some moves that Empath couldn’t defend himself against. Empath felt himself weaken as the one-on-one battle progressed. Finally, Heftargan knocked Empath to the ground, where he became unconscious.
Heftargan sneered as he prepared to plunge a triple-edged spear into Empath when he heard the voice of Cullivargh, his commander, booming loud in the arena. "Heftargan, cease the trial by combat at once and return Empath to his companions in his holding cell! You will report to me afterward when he is safely returned!"
Heftargan lowered the spear away from Empath, looking terribly displeased. "As you wish, Captain!" He called out to some of the Talektharkon guards to pick Empath up and deliver him back to the holding cell. Afterward, he returned his weapon to the rack on the wall and left the arena himself, disgusted.
The one thing he hated was a victorious kill being interrupted for any reason.