Written by Chuckg
The Watcher lay straining in his restraints, as he used the power of his Key to burn through more and more of the multitude of baffles, shields, cloaks, and other devices of both spell and science that shielded Ultimus from all detection. Due to the power of the Orb having been used to originally forge many of those protections, he had not been able to use his Key in its usual effortless wont, but had instead had to laboriously wend his clairvoyance's way through each and every defense.
Still, he had gained much useful knowledge, and seen many amazing things. An in-depth retro-cognitive view of exactly how and when the Battle of Khazan had been fought, and how the failure had occured, was not the least of those things.
Still, the ultimate prize had eluded him. In an ultimately buried and shielded portion of Ultimus lay the knowledge the Watcher sought -- the true origins and history of the Overlord. No one, not even the once and former Grand Vizier, possessed that knowledge -- while Locke had met the Overlord earlier than any others had, and had accompanied him on all his conquests, even he had no idea of what manner of man or demon the Overlord had been before originally choosing to embark on the path of the tyrant.
But that knowledge lay within the Watcher's grasp. Just a few more veils to pierce... a few more shields to sideslip... and he would be...
"Very, *very* disappointed, my dear Watcher."
The Watcher's eyes snapped open in an embarassment of rage and frustration, to see the utterly despised figure of the Overlord himself standing over him, the Watcher's Key held lightly between his fingers as he plucked it off the Watcher's breast.
"You didn't truly think that an intellect like mine could *forget* something, now did you? I left the Key there for a reason. The probability closely approached unity as a limit that you would first use it to scan for the exact whys and wherefores of Khazan's destruction, seeing as how the ethereal backlash of that destruction was something that had so... intimately... affected you. And I needed you to perform such a scan for me -- after all, it's a highly uncommon thing for even such loyal servitors as my Inner Circle to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when any one of them is returning with such a large failure to explain."
The Watcher ground his teeth in fury, seeing precisely how the Overlord had played him for a fool.
"Absolutely. Were I to order you to perform such a scan for me, it would have taken hours... I would literally have had to stand over you with a neuro-whip, grudglingly forcing each and every single bit of knowledge out of your mind. But for you to do such a scan *willingly*... ah, then there would be no delays, no obstructions... just a pure and refreshing draught of knowledge, borne on the tireless wings of your clairsentient powers.
And while I could have forced you to do it, that would have taken time I needed elsewhere. After all, the very last thing you want to do when you're recalling minions in disgrace is given them additional hours in which it would be possible for them to come up with a story... even if it turned out that he had at least enough remaining scraps of wit to deduce why he had best not even try it."
Watcher spat back. "And of course you had your nerve-taps and engram recorders working via induction, so that I'd think the leads were off when you were actually recording every image and word. But I got *more* than what you wanted, you demented freak! I got *lots* of interesting things..."
"... and each and every single one of them is on the record, so I know what needs guarding -- and besides, you cannot communicate with anyone save me, so what is the point in the first place?"
The Overlord chuckled ironically.
"Oh, and that one last chamber that you so desperately desire to penetrate -- the one at the very heart of all the shields, protections, and whatnot -- no, my dear Watcher, I shall not allow you in there. Were I ever to do that, the sheer realization of it all might very well break even your Immutable heart."
Still chuckling to himself, the Overlord turned to leave, the Key safely within his pocket.
"And we couldn't have that, now could we? Not, at least, while there is still so much use to be gotten from you...."
As the door slammed shut behind the Overlord, the Watcher stared wordlessly at the ceiling and raged.
Written by Chuckg
Still fingering the Watcher's Key in his pocket, the Overlord left his lab/prison vault and used a transport nexus to take him to yet another such ultra-secure lab/cell/vault, one of many scattered widely throughout the incomprehensibly vast volume of Ultimus.
A hundred-unit of Legion troopers awaited him there, faceless and uniform in their nanotech fighting armor. It would have taken the Watcher's eyes to note that this was the same hundred that had accompanied the Overlord back from the flagship, that had ridden back as the honor guard on the shuttle.
And it would have taken even keener eyes to note that only ninety-nine of the hundred were genuine Legion troopers. The hundredth was the one that the Overlord had come here to see. The hundredth was a prisoner, transported secretly in sealed independently-controlled life-support armor that was designed to be a prison, not a protection. The hundredth was a prisoner that not even the Inner Circle knew had travelled with them, that not even her own friends and loved ones knew had left their side.
The hundredth was the *true* reason that Boarding Party Alpha had been dispatched -- a reason that none of its participants save several faceless, thoroughly programmed and even more thoroughly secretive robots, had known.
As the vault/cell was made ready for its new occupant, the leader of the hundred-unit deactivated the restraint-suit, watching the nanites dissolve to reveal a beautiful, composed young woman. Seeing her, the Overlord smiled and made a courtly bow.
"Miss Kasumi Tendo? Welcome to Ultimus. The hospitality of my palace... is yours."
Written by Locke
In the bitter return to consciousness...even trapped in the midst of pain...she comes first to his gaze...
But what he sees...this cannot be.
It is with utter certainty he knows that he has not yet escaped this nightmare.This cup he has not yet drained to it's bitter dregs.
He stares about...trying hard to focus...this cramped dank chamber cannot be the flag quarters of Beria...it is scarely larger then a broom closest...where is he...this is no cell for surely he knows,he would be resting ever so securely in restraints.
The truth may be more then he can bear...these are his new quarters...the rankest private would surely merit better..not so much as a viewport...and the mocking empty stand that once bore so proudly his personal terminal...bears naught at all.
It is with extreme effort he climbs to his feet clutching his side...a medic must be summoned at once...it is not too late even now...she can still be saved...
OPEN UP THIS DOOR
He would do better to try commanding the tides.
The bastard...he could not in this condition escape this confinement...this utter humiliation...he knows with utter certainty who has done this.
And he knows with equal certainty that every second is being with the greatest exactitude recorded...not a single second of this degradation will escape note.
Very well...she is beyond his aid...he cannot risk the dire consequences of his power run amok.
She must be cast aside as if she has never existed.If he himself is to survive to know again his power and his high place such sentiment must be ruthlessly discarded.In truth even now such trite and empty sentiment threatens to be his undoing.
The Overlord he knows suffers no such weakness.If our Vi..if our ex-Vizier lives it is only because it serves His purpose.There can be no claim on mercy on friendship on..indulgence...
It little matters with what infinite loyalty he has served...the numberless awful and terrible things he has done on his Master's behalf..the sacrifice of all that was dear to him..the endless toil..it has been entered into the balance,measured out and found wanting.
He had deluded himself if he had thought he had claim on the Overlord's friendship...in all the unending reaches of Time had there ever been such a fool as he to dream such a thing?
This dirty unwashed floor on which he lies is surely answer enough to such an inane query.
Yet a second query,equally foolish enters his mind unbidden.
Can he hope to flee?To seek sanctuary among the Overlord's foes?There is so much that he knows...the sanctity of his mind has not been tampered with.Surely the rebels would find his knowledge useful...it might buy him his miserable worthless skin...
AND PIGS CAN FLY.
Escape he knows is a pipe dream. He knows as well as any nothing escapes his Master's eye. There will be no escape no flight. It is not within the realm of the possible.
And in any event one who has so casually slaughtered billions will find no refugee,no safe haven no warm welcome among the rebels. They'll rip the knowledge from my head and rend me limb from limb... oh yes now there's a practical course of action if ever there was one.
A final option now... long ago prepared... he can do it.
So simple... so direct... so straightforward.
Reach down inside himself to the soulless pit,the blackness where the demons dwell and command the Power.
He can end it now... end his pain.. end his misery... his bloody torment.. the Word can be uttered,the trigger pulled.He can escape his dread Master even now and know the embrace of sweet merciful oblivion.
Blackness.. the crackling energy building up... the blast will be moderately entertaining.
Enough my youngling enough
No not the damned Voice again.It has been so long,and that one is dead... he has been free of that for years. Not now... he is so close to escape.. so near.
You who chose to bear my blood brother's name...you who abandoned the gift of the Seer the Prophet to earn the Overlord's favor did you think I the Lord of the Gallows would so easily forget.. or forgive!
Oh yes when one overthrows gods a fearful price is to be paid. For those ancient Powers of olden days are never wholly forgotten.
And it would appear that an installment on the payment has just come due.
Death... even that door has been quite firmly and irrevocablely been barred against him.
He cannot join his beloved in the silence of the grave. There is simply no hope but to go on stumbling and broken along this Trail Of Tears.. to drink this Cup Of Sorrow to it's last and final,bitter bile-filled dregs.
Unending mockery and humilation, as well he knows will be his companions. For now of course his companion of old has been taken from him in the most petty,spiteful and childish of acts,a pointed reminder of how far he has fallen,to what low station he is come.. how utterly hepless he is to reverse this,he who has laid waste worlds and broken empires.
Such a small and tiny creature she was, so light in his arms,a few scant pounds,so graceful in life,so full of energy,so curious. A loving friend down through the years,endlessly pampered and indulged.
Our dear Manx-Siamese cat in truth may have been the only living creature that ever unconditionally loved the former Grand Vizier.
Maudlin to be sure but also quite simply true.
And now of course you may be quite sure there has never existed such a friendless wretch in all the world.
Who can know if tragedy is forged from such slight and small sorrow?Certainly no mortal man-and for all his power the ex-Vizier is only a man after all.
If there is One above who knows He does not answer.
Written by Chuckg
The Overlord sat at his desk in his private study, mentally ticking items off a list.
Re-arranged the balance of power among the Inner Circle... check.
Manipulated the Watcher to the next level of anger and frustration... check.
Ensured that Woundhealer is in the appropriate position... check.
Secretly locked Kasumi Tendo in secure confinement and established the link... check.
And that leaves just one more item on the to-do list for today....
A small, lithe form leaped on top of the desk and boldly meowed in the Overlord's face.
Feed the cat.
"Sasami? Dinner time."