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The Fall

Written by Dru1076 :: [Friday, 29 June 2018 15:52] Last updated by ::

The Fall

by Dru

Editor Note: This story is the prequel to Constantine's Portal Part 1 and Part 2.

It was hard to see the buildings in this part of Palydor City, because everywhere you looked from any of the multitude of pedestrian levels in the CBD all you could see was an onslought of slick advertising. As Doctor Fitgerald Hopkirk wandered leisurely toward the Cafe Lucielle he noticed with no small amount of disgust that at least two-thirds of the hi-tech billboards were now informing people how wonderful life was under the protection of Emperor Joppa. Hopkirk laboured to keep his eyes from being drawn to the attractive light displays, and kept his mind on the meeting ahead.

Cafe Lucielle was one of those rare places that men from all walks of life could find comfortable. The interior was dimly lit… but not dark, the food and drink excellent… but modestly priced, and they had a house band that played soothing tunes day after day. The fact that every window was blacked out only increased its appeal, as for just a few moments the customers could ignore the busy world and enjoy their coffee and conversation. Hopkirk arrived to find that the man he wanted to talk to didn’t seem to enjoy the music very much.

“Fitzgerald! Over here.”

A dark steamy beverage was wating on the table for him.

“Thanks for agreeing to meet me, Dennis.”

“I know it allows us to talk without being overheard, but did we have to meet

here? I can’t stand this place.”

“Did you look over the data I sent you?”

“I did.”

“I assure you none of my tests were fudged. Those figures are accurate.”

“I believe you, Doctor. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be here.”

“And you will help.”

“I’m still not sure how I can. You’re well on your way to creating the perfect

soldier here.”

“You’re jumping to conclusions.”

“But I’m not wrong am I? It’s fairly obvious. And knowing you as well as I do, Fitzgerald, there’s only one possible thing you’ve got in mind for your army of super-soldiers.”

“This is our only chance to be rid of our oppressors.”

“I knew it. Your crazy.”

“I’m a genius.”

“Some of us aren’t doing so bad under our new government, you know.”

“… While millions are enslaved to make men like you and I comfortable. Maybe some of us are comfortable. But at what price to the majority?”

Dennis squirmed a little at that statement. He had a son who had been sentenced to the slave farms fifteen years ago.

“I’m in no position to help.”

“I need money. A great deal of money.”

“What for?”

“The test machinery isn’t nearly powerful enough. In order to work safely on a human the control device requires modifications. The material costs alone are beyond my budget.”

“How much are we talking?”

“Fifteen million.”

“You really are crazy! Where do think I’m going to put my hands on that kind of capital?”

“You have access to the Imperial ear. Surely you know that’s why you’re here.

I want you to speak with him.”

“Come again?”

“Once you show him my research, he’ll give you a lot more than fifteen.”

“But if you show Joppa this, he’ll want it for himself!”

“That’s what I’m banking on.”

“His money will come with complications.”

“With fifteen million I can have the thing built in two days, and operational in three. The candidates have been selected, and there’s enough energy in my power source to enhance all five-thousand of them.”

“An army like that wouldn’t need much training.”

“Will you help?”

“It’s possible that I could. But there’s a lot I need to know. Who’s going to be in charge of this army? You?”

“There are many men involved in the plot, and you know them all. Once ready, the army will be under the direct control of the Order of Elders.”

Dennis was stunned more by that statement than by all Hopkirk’s previous revelations. “The Order survives?”

“They are few. But yes, my friend. A piece of the old world remains intact. And if you help they will be restored.”

“And if I refuse?”

Hopkirk smiled. “You won’t. You haven’t changed nearly so much as you think you have.”


“They are ready for you.”

Mary-Jane rose from her seat and followed the nurse towards her destiny. She was taken to a large room and laid on one of many medical beds. She could see the Doctor and his team watching on from a control booth half-way up the tall wall.

“Are you comfortable Mary-Jane?” Hopkirk asked her, his tone deep and soothing.

“Yes Doctor.”

“Then Harriette will proceed to put you under. Your parents will be with you

when you wake up.”

Nurse Harriette placed a breathing mask over the girl’s face and instructed her to take long deep breaths. She held the mask there few moments after the girl’s eyes closed.

“She’s unconscious Doctor Hopkirk.”

“Thank you, Nurse. Could you take her into the chamber for me, please? Malcolm is waiting there to help you place Miss Johanssen in the device.”

“Yes Doctor.”

Harriette, whose cold demeanour had been mistaken for professionalism by Doctor Hopkirk, wheeled the bed into the next room. With the assistance of the man who waited for her, her part in the procedure was done for the time being, and Hopkirk was ready to test his expensive equipment.

“Okay, gentlemen. It’s time to activate the machinery. You all know your tasks. Let me know when the Stone is online.”

The room calmly erupted into activity. Everyone present had been involved in the project since the beginning, and there was a great deal of excitement as they powered up their equipment for its first real run. This was the day when they would finally see if all their work was going to pay off, or if the good doctor was indeed as insane as many believed.

“Everything’s ready, Doc.”

“Is the Stone stable?”

“We have an ideal curve, Doctor Hopkirk.”

Fitgerald took a deep breath. If this worked, all his dreams would be realised. If not, he was unsure how far-reaching the consequences would be. At best he would be able to try again. But if something did go wrong there was slim chance that the process would be fatal to the girl, a girl he had known his whole life. A girl whose parents were old friends… no. He turned his mind away from that line of thought and concentrated on the bigger picture.

“Okay. The subject is stable, I see. Let’s begin.”

Mary-Jane looked very small as she lay in the large machine. When things started to move and other things started to light up, she looked even smaller. There was a low rumble, and then a hum joined with it in perfect harmony. Around the narrow bed that Mary-Jane lay upon were placed several field generators that suddenly surrounded her with a pink energy field.

“We have containment.”

“Very good. Continue.”

While everyone else nearby was active and alert, Mary-Jane was dreaming. In her dream she was walking through a lush green field. She’d always had a fascination with open spaces, because she rarely left the confines of her family’s lavish home. She was happy and content, running free in the vastness. Suddenly there was flash of lightning, and dark brooding clouds rolled out of the clear blue to blot out the sky. Mary-Jane stopped running and wondered what was going on. This had never happened in her dream before, and she’d had it many times. It didn’t scare her, but she was a little curious. No rain fell, but the threat of it was thick in the air when suddenly there was another bolt of lightning. It arced across the sky and before she could move to avoid it, Mary-Jane was hit right in the chest.

“We have established a connection with the girl, Doctor Hopkirk.”

“Excellent. Is the Stone stable?”

“We’re maintaining an ideal curve, Doctor.”

“Then it’s truth time. Begin the infusion.”

Rather than knocking her to the ground in agonising pain and then vanishing, the lightning bolt remained lodged in her chest, seeming to draw Mary-Jane up onto the tips of her toes. She had never known a moment in all her nineteen years that she had felt so good as she did now. If Mary-Jane were a woman rather than a girl she would have known that the miracle taking place inside her delicate feminine body was a long, unceasing orgasm. As it was, she didn’t care what it was, she just closed her eyes and let the sensations grow. And grow they did. A warmth grew in her groin and spread into her hips and thighs, running quickly up her spine to her brain and down her legs to the make her point all ten toes down. She found herself floating with all her limbs stretched and a huge lusting grin on her face. As the moments passed she felt better and better.

“We have reached our goal.”

Everyone cheered.

“Hey! We’re still up and running here. Let’s not pat ourselves on the back just yet. How’s our subject?”

“She’s breathing very deeply, and her pulse is racing. I can’t tell anything more than that, because her flesh is blocking the sensor array. Just as you predicted.”

Hopkirk smiled. “Then let’s power down.”

Just as Mary-Jane started to wonder how much better she could feel, the sensations started to subside.


She didn’t want this to stop. She didn’t want it to ever stop. She strained her entire being into the fading experience and chased it, yearning to feel even more pleasure… and it came back, stronger even than before. Much stronger.


“Doctor! Something’s wrong.”

Hopkirk rushed over to the terminal the alarmed man sat at.

“What’s the problem?”

“The energy flow from the stone is not responding to the control device. It started to back off, but just as it did we got this spike.”

“Shutdown the flow altogether.”

“You got it…”

Everyone was frustrated as there was no change in the readouts.

“I don’t understand. There’s no way…”

Hopkirk returned swiftly to his own workstation and hit the big red button. Nothing changed.

“What the hell’s going on?”

“The power won’t cut off.”

“But you just… it’s physically disconnected!”

“The Stone. It’s powering everything…”

Terminals started to burn out, and every light in the complex intensified. Hopkirk realised with great dismay that somewhere in his extensive calculations was there was a mistake. There was something, some factor that his thorough research had overlooked.

“Doctor, the flow of energy is increasing at an exponential rate. What are we going to do?”

“Do whatever you can. Anything you think might help. That goes for all of you.”

As it turned out there was nothing anyone could do. Those workstations that were not fried by the overflow of power proved ineffective, the scientists and technicians finding themselves to be nothing more now than spectators. None of them had any idea exactly how profound the changes taking place within Mary-Jane’s body would prove to be. The thought on most minds, including Hopkirk’s, was just how much longer they had before the imbalance of energy within the system would cause an explosion.

Mary-Jane was floating higher than ever, the imaginary field now far below her. At the edges of the horizon she was vaguely aware of blue sky coming though the dense bank of angry cloud. A corner of her mind paid attention as the cloud cover shrank inward toward the point from where the lightening flowed. Inevitably the clouds disappeared altogether, and the lightning bolt with them. Even though Mary-Jane knew the strange storm in her dream was responsible for bringing her the feeling of complete euphoria she felt enveloping her entire being, the sensations she felt did not vanish and she remained floating well above the ground after it had gone. As she closed her eyes within her dream, she could sense that the storm raged on within her…

“It’s slowing down.”

“The Stone’s energy is running out,” Hopkirk surmised, flicking a button to bring up the camera monitoring his power source. At first the head-sized jewel that lay at the heart of all his work looked to his eyes as it always had done. But just before he turned his attention away he realised something was different, and the longer he watched the clearer that change became.

“It’s shrinking.”


More of the team, unable to work their consoles anyway, gathered around Hopkirk’s station and watched as the unique stone shrank little by little.

“What’s going on?”

In a matter of moments the crucial element of their elaborate machinery became so small no-one could see it. With a tiny flash, like a ray of sunlight bouncing from a grain of sand, the Stone Hopkirk had extensively studied for two decades blinked out of existence.

“Where did it go, Doc?”

Hokirk turned his attention to the girl, and felt a chill deep in his spine. She was awake already, laying within the device with an expression of deep contentment on her face. Operating the camera manually he zoomed in on the girl, and gasped as her features became clear. The all male team were stunned by the girl’s apparently perfected face.

“Woah… She wasn’t much to look at before, was she?”

“I didn’t notice,” someone answered, “And I’m damn sure I would’ve noticed that.”


The thrown-room of Emperor Joppa was just as bold and elaborate as the man who’d ordered its construction. It was more the scene of parties than state business, but today the news that reached the Emperor had filled the lavish hall with an air of sobriety.

“I gave them my money! My own personal funds!”

“And they have betrayed you, Emperor. My spies inform me that the device is already operational. It has been tested, and now they plan to use it make more soldiers.”

“This is outrageous. How dare they! Have I not been kind with these lesser people of the South? Why do I find traitors and thieves everywhere I turn in this cursed country?”

“If I may, Emperor, I suggest swift action is needed here. These people are planning a war against you. They deserve to taste the fullness of your wrath.”

Joppa calmed himself, and scratched his bearded chin. “You will go to this estate they use as a base, Commander Yemin. Once there, I want you to destroy every building and kill every man woman and child you find. When the last brick is dust and the last child of this band of traitors vaporised, I want you to find this Stone they speak of and bring it to me.”

“But my lord, what of the device?”

“My own scientists have all the skills needed to build a new machine. I will not use the mechanisms of my enemies. Destroy everything until not a tree remains…”

“Good morning, Mary-Jane.”

“Good morning, Doctor Hopkirk.”

“We have a big day planned for you. Do feel up for a big day? Your mother informs me you still haven’t slept.”

Mary smiled at him, aware of the funny way he averted his gaze. “I feel wonderful. Can I do more running today?”

“It’s going to be a while before we recalibrate the treadmill after yesterday, Mary. Your mush faster than I thought.”

Mary’s smile widened briefly, and she stood there subconsciously rubbing her incredibly capable thighs. “I’m sure I can go faster than that.”

“So am I. But we have to know a lot more about you, Mary-Jane. And you’ve been stuck indoors for days, so today we’re going outside.”

“That’s nice.”

“Shall we get going?”

As they walked down the hallway Mary-Jane surprised the doctor with a question.

“Doctor Hopkirk, with all that’s gone wrong… now you don’t have the Stone anymore, will I be the only soldier?”

“You know about that?”

“In a way, I think I may be responsible.”

“Do you want to go back to my office and talk about this?”

“No. It’s a long way to the field.”

“How do you know we’re going to the field?”

“Because that’s where the tank is. And that’s where the weapons you plan to shoot me with are laid out on tables.”

“Wait a minute, you can see that?”

“I heard everyone talking last night,” she continued, ignoring his question, “And some of them were wondering how I was going to fare in a battle, now that I was the only ‘super-soldier’ in the program.”

Hopkirk sighed. “That’s right Mary. You have become our only hope.”

Mary strode gracefully beside the awkward Doctor, silent for a moment as she thought about what that really meant.

“I’m going to have to kill people, aren’t I?”

“It is hoped that the fear of a new weapon will force the Emperor’s surrender.”

“I hope I’m powerful enough.”

Nearing the door, Mary noticed that the two guards flanking the exit were both glaring at her with the vacant expressions she was becoming accustomed to from every man that laid eyes on her. She smiled at them and both went bright red. The door was open long before the Doctor and his stunning young companion reached it. She turned her thoughts away from the conversations of the previous evening… all of which she could still remember word for word, and most of them covered the topic of her perfected physical form. Not a man on the estate had been immune to the power of her bursting sexuality, and she could understand why. She was thinking about the glorious sensations she experienced every time she moved her improved body when she stepped out the shadow of the large mansion and into the sun. Despite all her worries, she could not help but lift her face to feel the warmth of the sunlight and let a smile rise to her lips. Everything felt so good…

“You said something about being responsible, Mary. What did you mean by that?”

Mary explained the dream she’d had during the experiment, and the doctor listened with very attentive ears. As she spoke, he realised what it was he had overlooked.

“Don’t blame yourself Mary. You were not responsible at all. The mistake was mine, and though you’ll have to share the consequences with me, there is no need for you to share my guilt.”

“We haven’t failed yet, Doctor. The things that Joppa has done to our land are terrible, and if I am to be the one chosen to bring justice… then I will do whatever the Elders ask of me. I’m just not sure I believe in killing people. I mean… I’ve never even killed a snail or anything. And killing people is the greatest sin…”

“No Mary. Enslaving a world is the greatest sin.”

Arriving at the test site, set up in the nearest field to the Manor, Hopkirk instructed Mary to stand in the grass fifty paces away from the three men who were going to shoot her. They had at their disposal a range of weaponry used by various divisions of the Imperial Legions, and even a tank that had recently been the subject of much anxiety at Palador Cirt’s supply depot. Hopkirk wasn’t keen on the idea at all, but before the Elders went ahead and delivered their demands to the Emperor they wanted to be certain the weapon they were going to defeat him was all it was meant to be.

“After our tests with the power tools yesterday I’m sure you’re as confident as I am,” Hopkirk assured his subject as she started to pace out the required distance.

A smile came to Mary’s face as she recalled how the high-speed drill felt as it burnt out several diamond tipped bits in a futile attempt to break her skin. And she grinned at the image of her forearm tearing teeth from the wheel of the mitre-saw they had asked her to place it in. Taking her last required step, she turned back to the tree that shaded the doctor and his three helpers with a grin still on her face.

“Shall we start with handguns, gentlemen?”

The three men chose a pistol each from the table, all of various size, and looked them over professionally before turning and aiming the weapons at the patient target. Checking the two cameras he’d set up one last time, Hopkirk picked his clipboard up from beside an oversized rocket-launcher and ordered the man with smallest gun to go first.

“The men will fire at your command, Mary. That way you’ll be ready for the impact, okay?”

“Okay.” Mary closed her eyes and clenched her teeth. Even though she knew the changes in her body were dramatic, she still had a lingering doubt about being shot. But she trusted the doctor, and the things she had done the previous day had boosted her confidence tremendously. Opening her eyes, but keeping her fists clenched, Mary nodded at the gunmen. “Shoot me.”

There was a sharp rapport, and Mary felt something tap her on the stomach. It was gentle, far less of an impact than she had expected. Feeling the site where she’d felt the tap Mary discovered that the fabric of her overalls had been torn there. She felt a giddy happiness flood her whole body as she brushed her fingertips over the spot, finding the knowledge the she really was bullet proof very assuring. Looking up at the next man with her fingers still inside the small hole in her clothes she smiled at him and suggested: “Shoot.”

This bullet provided a slightly clearer sensation three inches below the first and closer to her navel. The hole that appeared was larger, and this time was a distinctive sound of the bullet shattering on the surface of her skin. Looking over at the doctor, she saw that he was smiling as well.

“Did that one feel different?” he asked her, the smile suddenly gone.


“Was there any pain when the bullets hit you, Mary?”

“No, Doctor. It felt nice.”

“I think we’ll keep going, whenever you’re ready.”

Mary told the third man to fire, and the large gun in his hand produced the loudest blast yet. This time the bullet hit her chest. The results, though her flesh there was far softer, were really no different. Only the hole was bigger after the lead had splattered off her skin.

Hopkirk suddenly realised that if they continued with his planned experiments then his subject would soon be completely naked. And the more of her he could see, the more distracted he became by her disturbing beauty.

“We’re going to have to do something about your clothes, Mary. Clearly they’re not holding up.”

Mary laughed, not the least bit embarrassed by her exposed nipple… and doing nothing to hide it.

As Hopkirk tapped his chin wondering whether or not to keep going, and Mary carefully observed the two marksmen as they tried unsuccessfully to hide their natural reaction to her shamelessly bared breast, a missile streaked out of the clouds and bore quickly toward the manor-house. No-one had time to do more than curse before the missile had hit its target. Mary felt the ground shudder as the east-wing was engulfed in a debris-ridden fireball. Her mouth dropped open as another missile came out of the clouds, followed by another two.

“Oh my god, we’ve been betrayed!” Hopkirk dropped his clipboard and bolted at Mary.

“What’s happening…?”

“Mary, it’s the Emperor! He’s attacking us! You’ve got to do something!”

Shocked that the moment of truth had come so soon, she was unsure she was ready for battle. “I can’t… Doctor Hopkirk… I… I don’t know what to do!”

“You have the power to stop those missiles, Mary. I’m sure of it. You’re the only one who can!”

BOOM! Another explosion rocked the estate.

“Can what?”

“Mary… your parents are in there. Everyone in that building is going to die!”

Realising the truth of his words as another fireball erupted from a violent impact, Mary glared at the incoming hail of destruction. They were all so fast… everything was happening so quickly… she wasn’t sure she had time enough to do anything. If only she were faster…

As soon as this thought entered her mind, Mary-Jane discovered the first in what would become an immeasurably long list of abilities Doctor Hopkirk had not anticipated she would possess. She felt a rush of joy as the missiles stopped in mid-flight to hover noiselessly in the sky. For a moment she thought she had done it, but then she noticed that the rest of the world had stopped as well. Standing in the eerie silence Mary quickly worked out that her metabolism had sped up fast enough to create the illusion that the world had been frozen in time. She stood there calmly thinking about how to deal with the missiles, unhurriedly pondering how she could knock them out of the sky.

As Mary started to walk forward the fabric of her clothes disintegrated from flesh as though it been transformed to lint. Stepping clear of the fibres Mary looked at her naked body in brief confusion before realising that though her body was accelerated her clothes had been as frozen as everything else in her environment.

Being naked was a surprisingly good feeling. She could sense her physical power subtly churning beneath the taut surface of her skin, her entire being filling out and intensifying with every breath. Staring up at the nearest missile Mary considered how to destroy it. With the feeling of physical freedom her exposure gave rise to, she wanted to smash them with her bare hands and use the incredible strength in her improved body directly on the menacing weapons. But as they were in the sky and she was on the ground, that appeared to be impossible.

The obvious solution was to throw something at them, so Mary looked around for something suitable. A rock would be perfect, but the green landscaped field offered nothing but blade after blade of grass. Mary wandered over to the tables that the Doctor’s assistants had covered with weapons, and picked up a pistol. The metal melted at her touch, feeling more like chocolate in the sun than gunmetal, and as she tried to pick it up the incredible fast movement deformed the weapon until it exploded in her gentlest grip. Trying for another she realised that at the speed she was moving she would be unable to pick up anything without destroying it, much less throw it at something.

Then she got an idea. With great care she lifted a shotgun between the finger and thumb of one hand, Mary positioned herself so any possible explosion would not endanger the three men standing nearby. Very slowly she took her other hand and cupped it over the barrel, then closed the distance between her hands watching the weapon wad up. Getting the rest of her other hand involved she soon had rolled the whole gun into a red-hot ball of super-compressed molten steel. Smiling with satisfaction she cupped her hands tightly and turned around to face the hail of missiles in the sky. Getting the metal ball into one hand she peeled her arm back and threw it at the missile closest to the manor. The molten metal streaked through the sky, heated to the point of glowing white, and slammed through the warhead of her target. But rather then detonate anything, it just punched a hole right through the missile and emerged on the other side unslowed by the collision.

She stared at the missile in disappointment, straining her eyes at the hole to see if the damage. To her astonishment, the missile grew to fill her vision, and she could clearly see every minute detail as if the hole were inches from her nose. Waving her hand in front of herself in surprise, she realised that her eyes were just as powerful as the rest of her new body. Examining the hole she realised she’d have to try something else. If only she could get her hands on them she crush and twist the missiles as she had done with the shotgun. But how could she get up there…?

Mary recalled how she had performed on the specially prepared treadmill the previous day. The over-sized device had started making bizarre screeching sounds the instant she started building up speed. Looking down st her legs she realised that if they were strong enough to out-perform a treadmill designed to exercise super-human soldiers, then there was a good chance she could jump up and grab hold of a missile.

Gathering herself ready to try, she sprang up at the missile she had made a hole in and reached for it with her hands. She grinned and squealed in surprise as the ground seemed to fall away and she shot into the air, the incredible strength in her legs propelling her into the sky with joyful ease. Unfortunately, as she tried to catch hold of the missile she had targeted the whole thing tore to pieces and she passed straight though almost as if it had been a mirage. While she was happy about accomplishing her objective, she was a little perturbed by the way she kept rising into the air without any sign of slowing down.

In a matter of moments Mary-Jane was in space, and still travelling. She started to panic, worrying about how to get back to the manor. Looking down at the Earth she scanned the landmass she recognised as home and surprised herself by spotting the manor in matter of seconds. She gasped as she saw the source of the missiles. Above the clouds over the property hovered a small fleet of twenty-four state-of-the-art assault platforms. Her desire to get back down to Earth increased, and she started to swing her arms about in an attempt to ‘swim’. All that achieved was to make her tumble rapidly around. Trying to stop herself spinning, Mary was astonished to instantly succeed. In fact, she had somehow managed to stop herself altogether.

Taking in the fact that was floating in the most deadly environment known to man without any feelings of discomfort, Mary looked around in wonder at the naked beauty of the universe. Probing deeper than even the best funded astronomers had seen before, she lost herself for a brief time in the displays of deep space before remembering that everyone she cared about was in grave danger back on Earth. She had to get back, and quickly. But how? Almost as soon as her mind was set to the problem she realised that by stopping her forward motion in the vacuum of space, she had done the impossible. And if she could stop herself, then surely…

A few moments later Mary was a streaking white light bearing down on the still frozen-in-time surface of Earth. Coming to an instant stop above the missile-toting machines of Emperor Joppa, overjoyed that flying was as easy as carefully flexing her over-powered muscles, Mary forced the grin from her face and thought about what to do with the men who were trying to destroy the manor. Confident as she was that these machines would prove no more substantial the guns she destroyed, she was certain she could pop them with nothing more than a restrained slow-motion flick of her finger. But there were men inside them. Living breathing men, probably with families.

Mary’s internal struggle went on for the best part of an hour. It was as her eyes cast over the manor house far below that she found her answer. Through the static cloud of dust and debris surounding the site where the first missile hit, Mary spotted three broken bodies laying askew in the rubble. Her brow creased with anger. If she did nothing, these men and their machines of war would reduce the entire structure to nothing but a corpse-strewn scene just that. If she did not kill these men, they would surely kill everyone she knew or cared about. And Mary could not let that happen.

Steeling herself, she set about her task with energetic determination.


Joppa regarded the Elder who stood before his thrown with disdain.


“Your Highness, I beg you to reconsider.”

The Emperor laughed. “You expect me to give up my throne, my army and my income… all that I have striven for and attained through labours you could not begin to imagine… because of a girl?”

“She has already defeated Commander Yemin. And all the men you sent after him. You have seen her at work, Joppa. She is far more powerful than we ever dreamed, and she is all the Order of Elders need to end your tyranny.”

Joppa laughed heartily.

“You have tremendous courage, Sachat. Coming here to my palace was very brave. But asking me to lay down all I that have, and threatening to take from me that which i do not give freely… threatening my life in my halls… these are the actions of an old fool.”

“I am here not out of courage, foolishness, or even the arrogance you once accused my Order of. I am here out of respect for life, and hope for peace. You rule has seen too many die, and too many suffer. The Elders will not allow your greed and lust to govern the world any longer, and to see an end we will bathe the world in the blood of your armies. But I would rather avoid the spilling of blood. You can save the lives of millions by accepting these terms, Joppa. Once more, I beg you… surrender. You have no chance against our weapon.”

Joppa scowled. “Once more you threaten me in my home. You southern dogs have no respect for your hosts at all. Foolishness is often mistaken for courage, and now i see my mistake.” Joppa gestured at his nearest guard. “Take this old fool and put him in the cells. Make sure it’s a damp one.”

“You’re condemning the lives of millions!” Sachat warned as his arms were cruelly twisted behind his ageing back.

“My understanding is that there only a few thousand involved in your little plot,” Joppa sneered. “I think you’re exaggerating your sums, don’t you?”

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