Chapter 7: Assassination

"We favor assassination. For all practical purposes, it is how we work. In any purge, our mission is functionally complete when we eliminate the lavoid in question. It is easiest this way. Why should we have to eliminate all of the followers when it is unneeded? Their lives end shortly after their creator-lavoid can no longer feed them Chaos, anyway. To kill the lavoid is to kill the hive, and to kill the lavoid, assassination is a commonly employed technique.

"All through history, empires have risen and fallen through the lives and deaths of their leaders. Cut out the leader and you cut out the command. Cut out the leader and you cut out the empire. It is simplistic in its core. Why should we not follow such a practice when we are capable of it?"

–Jack McKlane, on LEA Ideology

.

Duncan stirred, tapping his sword against his shoulder as he stood in the ready room before his jump. The Vendetta had swung into orbit above Junum III twenty minutes ago and Kyrie had just finished syncing up with the time zone where the Amphitheatre was located. It was just a few minutes away now. The ship started lowering itself into the planet's atmosphere and activating its stealth modules to avoid detection. They would never see it coming. It would work perfectly.

Why was Duncan nervous, then? Something within him felt wrong. He had tried looking into the timelines a few moments ago, but found them nothing but a thick, cloudy mess, even just a few moments ahead. Surely something couldn't be right here. Was there some sort of distortion throwing off his sense of the fourth dimension? He hadn't been alerted to anything by the ships computers. He was positive that Lyris would have picked something like that up! Still, something was wrong. There was uneasiness in the air, in the planes, and in time.

"Bridge to Duncan," Kyrie's voice came over the com. "We're moving into position. You're a go in tee minus forty four seconds."

"Thanks, Kyrie," Duncan said. He stopped tapping the Dreamblade against his shoulder and swung his arms in circles a few times, stretching out. He took a deep breath, waving his hand to the right and magically pulling the sheath off of his weapon, placing it on his back. He flipped the loosed blade over his hands a few times and reached into his coat, drawing out his sunglasses. The counter above the door counted down. 5….4….3…

He lowered his gaze and drew the sunglasses over his eyes. 2…1…

"Punch it," he said. The door in front of him slid open and he hurled himself out of it like a bungee jumper on speed. The air briefly rushed past his face before he snapped on a Ray Wing bubble to deflect the flow. Downward he streaked, head into a dive, sword swept back, careening into uncertainty.

Thirty thousand feet below him in the Imperial Amphitheatre, Emperor Cain walked up to a tall marble podium on top of a wide, wooden stage. The audience, some several thousand in attendance, stood up and began applauding. Yral walked up beside him as Cain leaned over to whisper in his ear.

"Is everything ready?" he asked. The young councilman nodded.

"Everything is up and running. We don't have any verification on his craft, but that was to be expected. The sequence is designed to go off when the machines read a Chaos signature within a designated distance from you. No matter how hard he tries, he can't cover up that signature. It'll all go fine."

"How close?" Cain asked.

"Not more than a few inches," Yral said. "Or we'd never be able to catch him by surprise."

"Good," Cain said, standing up and looking forward. "See to it that it does. I'd rather not have to fight in open combat with him." Yral nodded, turning and walking away. Cain looked ahead again and finished climbing up to the podium. Extending his arms for dramatic effect, he began to address the crowd.

.

Duncan continued to pick up speed until he reached the terminal velocity for his mass. His Ray Wing bubble was being warped by the force of the air rising up past him, but it didn't distract him. He counted the seconds that he had fallen, having already figured out how long it would take before he would be on top of Cain. Originally, he had hypothesized that he would need to magically slow down, but he later scrapped that idea in favor of simply drilling his victim some ten meters into the ground before stopping. He decided that he liked that idea much better.

The amphitheatre was coming up now and he could almost see it distinctly. Adjusting his course slightly, he brought the sword forward slightly into striking position. He looking momentarily ahead into the timestream, but it was still a misty haze. He shrugged it off. He'd play this one as it went. It was far too late to pull back now, and inwardly, he didn't care. Finally in position to take out one his largest threats, he mentally began to count down. Fifteen…fourteen…thirteen…

Definitions were clear now. He saw Cain's form. He saw the podium and he saw the stage. On the periphery of his vision, he saw the audience, standing and cheering like a bunch of fools. Most importantly, though, he saw his target: the Emperor's heart. He altered his angle a little to make sure he came in and hit right. Twelve…eleven…ten…

His heart raced. Adrenaline flowed. This was different than killing lavoids, yet there was a thrill here that he had been lacking for some time now. He was doing something potentially dangerous again. He focused. There was only one goal, now, and he would meet it. His blood flow quickened, his ultra-effective planeswalker heart working harder. Nine…eight…seven…six…five…four…

Three more seconds. The energy around him flared as he came crashing into the view of the Amphitheatre. He could sense Cain's energy. He could sense the Lifeforce that he was about to destroy. His mouth drew up in a thin grin.

"I have you now, Cain…" he said. Three…two…

But suddenly something changed. There was a flash: something distant in the back of his head. Whatever was eating him prior to the jump sprung out of hiding like a predator hunting its pray. Something had activated and before he knew it, all the energy that he was using to control his descent was lost. Anti-Order Fields! Another machine went off. Time froze. Cain suddenly disappeared. Impossible! A teleporter!? In the split second before he would have hit his target, he lost complete control of his power. What was this?!

Duncan crashed through the floor of the stage like a comet -his target not even there anymore- and tore into the foundation of the building, finally slamming into the concrete base with a thud. It cracked open in places, nearly cracking him open as well. He thanked his planeswalker skeleton for surviving the blow, but there was a new sense here: fear. Something had gone terrible awry, and he sensed an imminent danger about him. The timestreams suddenly came into view again, but he didn't like what they said.

A field of energy hummed around him and he felt himself being lifted upwards against his will. He tried to fire a blast of magic at the field, but no Order came to his grasp. He flared up, trying to express the Black Wings, but was greeted with an intense electric shock that no one save the most magically tolerant could have survived. He continued to be lifted upwards into a room above the one he had fallen into. Survival instinct told him to panic. No, he told himself, arguing against instinct. Panic gets you nowhere! But still, it looked as if he was running out of options. Just now he fully recognized the energy field that he was encased in. It was an Anti-Order field coupled with a suspension array being focused via adamantine. Any magical energy, even Chaos, couldn't exist in this place. If Chaos was summoned through the adamantine powered field, all he would feel was pain.

Brilliant, he couldn't help but think. He had looked into this kind of design himself just a few months ago as a method for entrapping a lavoid Queen, discarding it because the field also prevented him from attacking her. The spark then hit him that those who had planned this were not intent on his death right away. No, he had a feeling from the timestreams that there was something much worse in his future.

As he rose into the room above, a few figures were soon standing before him, presumably his captors. He recognized two of them, perhaps two people that he had never wanted to see again. Multani and Cain, the only two Wanderers left in this timestream that he knew of, loomed over him like hunters about to gut their freshly caught prey. Off to the side, Duncan caught the sight of an unfamiliar face.

"Amazing, Yral," Cain told the man Duncan didn't know. "Your trap worked absolutely perfectly! I must admit, I had some doubts about it at first, but you have really come through this time." Duncan struggled to move, but the suspension array locked his body in place.

"All as promised, Emperor," Yral smugly said. "I had faith in my technology." He crossed his arms over his chest and walked up to the captured planeswalker. "And so this is Duncan McKlane? The strongest planeswalker left in the galaxy? I must admit, I'm rather unimpressed." Duncan grimaced.

"Too true," Cain agreed. He also walked closer to the suspended planeswalker. "Now, your loss of powers was not exactly your fault, Duncan, but did you suppose I would give myself up in an area so easily attacked? For someone who is supposedly prescient, I would have thought you'd have more foresight than this!"

"You speak pretty highly of yourself as someone who clearly fears fighting me in fair combat, Emperor," Duncan said bitterly, his body still coursing with electricity while he tried not to show sign of pain.

"Bold words from a captive," Multani interjected. "You should speak to the Emperor with more respect. Perhaps if you do so, your death will be painless."

"Hah," Duncan laughed. "And you're going to kill me now, you arrogant bastards? Anti-magic fields are one thing, and I'll give you that, but you don't have the energy at your disposal to actually kill me and you know it."

"In your current state, probably not," Yral said. "But when we're done with you, you may be eating those words." Duncan ignored him.

"I'm going to kill each of you," he said plainly. "You can't keep me suspended here forever. Whatever power you're using to generate these fields will eventually die and than I'm going make sure you all are sufficiently punished for…inconveniencing my planned activities for the day."

"Your confidence is your flaw," Cain said. "And we'll see how confident you are when you're on the dissection table." He looked towards one of the scientists by the computer consoles to the left. "Knock him out." A switch was thrown and the electrical flow through Duncan's body increased ten fold. His face distorted as he went into convulsions and smoke began to rise off of his body. The current was increased further until he eventually went limp, hanging helplessly in the energy field. Technicians quickly moved his body onto the floor and bound him. The Cain and his councilmen walked up to the smoking form.

"Amazing," Yral said. "Even that much energy is only capable of knocking him unconscious?"

"He doesn't stray far from the truth when he says we don't have enough magical energy to harm him," Cain admitted. "I fear spells as powerful as the Dragon Slave would only be distorted by his natural resistance. Even worse, I've seen that even in unconsciousness, he's capable of planeshifting and dodging such an attack as if it were sheer instinct."

"Not for much longer," Yral said. "It's only a matter of time. Once the genetic limiters are in place, it'll only be a few hours before his natural intake of Chaos has dropped to non-existent levels, diminishing his magical resistance and destroying his ability to planeshift. At that point, Emperor, he will be ours." A few soldiers came into the room and hoisted up Duncan's limp form. They carried him out of the room and off to the labs.

.

When Duncan woke up, he found himself strapped to a wide steel table. Around him, he could sense the buzzing of the same anti-magic field that had subdued him the first time. His head was groggy. They were keeping him on some sort of drug that was being pumped into him fast enough to counteract his hyper-detoxification. He tried to look around but found that his vision was blurry. He tried to focus his sight and was able to make out a few forms moving about. The next instant, someone was leaning over him, lifting up his eyelids and shining a light into his eyes. He tried to pull back, but found that his muscles didn't feel like responding. His brain hummed.

"Awake?" the voice of the scientist over him said, the sound bouncing back and forth between his ears, the echo being almost painful.

"What…?" he asked, not having any real conception of what was doing on. He was capture, he remembered that much. They had probably taken him to their ship, and only Iluvitar knew where it was headed at this point. Kyrie would hopefully be tailing them, knowing something was wrong when he didn't report. With any luck, he'd be able to sober up and blow these guys away and make a quick escape to his ship. The only problem was that sobering up seemed like the absolute hardest thing to do right now.

"You're finally coming around," the scientist said. He squinted again and the image of a man in a white coat came into view.

"Where am I?" Duncan asked, his own voice reverberating in his head just like the scientist's had.

"You're on the Dominion Warship Preeminence, just as you have been for the last two hours."

"And what…are you doing with me?" he asked.

"Well, not so much what we are doing," the scientist answered. "But what we've already done." Duncan tried to sense out the room better. Not much was familiar, but off to the far right, there was something that he recognized. The Dreamblade! They left it in the same room as him? How stupid…or confident could they be? Now if he could just force his body to listen to the orders his mind tried to give…

"And that is?" he asked.

"We've been busy realigning some of your genetic code, is all," the scientist said. "Most notably your lavoid Factor which, if I might add, is quite an amazing thing. I'm going to have months of fun researching the information you've been…nice enough to give us." He stood up, moving almost entirely out of Duncan's field of focus. His voice still echoed in Duncan's head, though, as he continued talking.

"At any rate, we've inserted into you genes something called a genetic limiter. Actually, if you want to get picky, we've inserted many of them. It's quite advanced nanotechnology, you see, and if you'll notice, your latent absorption of Chaos has started to decline, has it not?" Duncan considered it, only then noticing that he did feel a much weaker flow of the stuff coursing through his Jurai Apparatuses. He didn't say anything.

"You'll soon be unable to channel any Chaos as all," the scientist continued. "And as you know, along with Chaos, your ability to use the Black Wings will also disappear, so none of that interesting planeshifting will save you now."

"Why?" Duncan asked in a strained voice.

"Because when you are unable to take in Chaos, planeshift, or do any of those other fancy tricks of yours…"

"We'll kill you," came a sharp new voice. He couldn't discern its source, but he recognized it as belonging to that man from before, Yral.

"You…" Duncan said, trailing off. He started to think about what he could do. They had tied down most of his physical and ethereal manipulation down, but what if he manipulated his own astral form to try and free himself? Now if he could just get a gauge of how well they had him tied down…

"You're quite the resistant son of bitch," Yral told him. "I'm sorry we had to go through all of that to capture you, but you understand that normal means just wouldn't have cut it, don't you?"

"Why set me up?" Duncan asked. "Why go through so much to try and catch me off guard. Why had I done to attract such attention?"

"You existence alone warranted it, according to the Emperor," Yral answered. "And you apparently were looking to assassinate him."

"It's only because of your collection of the Eldarion," Duncan answered, some of his voice coming back to him, but his body still too sore to move. "What else was I to do when you were clearly moving to attack either me or others of my kind?"

"Collecting the Eldarion?" Yral asked. "Planeswalker, I haven't the slightest idea of what you're talking about."

"You killed Hyrial," Duncan said weakly. "Our Brotherhood had been provoked. You and your Emperor deserved whatever we decided to administer."

"Hyrial? Who is he?"

"The planeswalker you disposed of recently. His name was Hyrial."

"I was unaware of such action, and I assure you, I would have known if something such as the assassination of a planeswalker had taken place."

"What?" Duncan asked, now thoroughly confused. "You didn't kill him?" he asked.

"No," Yral conceded.

"Then…" Duncan suddenly had a sinking feeling. Had he put himself into this peril for no reason at all? How did he fall into this trap so willingly?! He shook his head with what little energy he had, realizing that now, very quickly, he needed to get out of here.

"You're quite helpless, Duncan," Yral said. "We've shielded all of your Order emanations. You have no more Chaos access. I'm afraid this is the end of the line for you." Duncan chuckled, not nearly ready to let his opponent get the satisfaction of breaking him.

"You forgot something, though," He said, some strength coming back to him.

"Hmm?"

"My ability to manipulate my own astral form…" Duncan said. Yral's eyes lit up in a moment of surprise as something flew in from the periphery. He dodged barely in time to allow the Dreamblade to slide past him and neatly impale the other scientist. He looked down at Duncan, who was visibly smiling. Yral was suddenly thrown up against the wall by an unseen force.

"Chi power?!" Yral asked in surprise, his voice choked as Duncan applied astral pressure to his neck.

"It's…easy," Duncan said, his vision still blurred and his strength not all together there. Now he would make it seem that he was not as weak as Yral perceived him to be. "With a little practice, you can manipulate your own astral energies to have effects on real space. In raw terms, it's not as powerful as manipulating the other energies that exist, but it's still effective, and you seemed to have forgotten to block me from it." Dizzy, his mind felt its way to his bindings, forcing them open with applied chi energy. He slowly freed himself, keeping Yral suspended against the wall. Finally standing up, he used similar energies to pull the Dreamblade into his hand, moving forward with a bit of a stumble until he was holding the weapon against Yral's neck.

"Now how do I get out of here?" he asked coldly.

"I…I…" Yral stuttered, not sure what to do. "My trap was perfect!" he managed to say. "How did you get out?" Duncan smiled.

"Ingenuity," he said. He applied a little more pressure on the blade. "Now how do I get out of here?" he demanded again. As he said this, there was a crash and the entire ship bucked and swayed. His lost his concentration, allowing Yral to fall to the floor. The Councilman quickly scrambled up and out of the room while Duncan swayed back, the motion of the ship magnifying whatever dizziness he already suffered from. Red lights started to flash and the ship went into security mode.

"Warning, warning!" the ships computer shouted in a feminine voice. "Hull integrity breeched. Alert level Five. Warning, warning!"

"What the hell?" Duncan asked aloud. A few moments later, there was gunfire outside of the room he was in. Some people were giving battle orders, but they were quickly drowned out by screaming. Human screaming. Something was in the ship.

The door. Something slammed against it. Duncan hadn't seen it open or close when Yral left, but while it was not opening automatically, it was quickly being bashed in. After a few more attacks, the metal caved and a swarm of blue skinned humanoids poured into the room. Leading them was one with longer hair-tendrils. On his hand was something that made Duncan quiver.

"That weapon!" Duncan said, lifting the Dreamblade up to block as the Heaven Fist –the Eldarion that Hyrial had wielded- was brought down on him by the Farilii Hunter-Killer in the lead. Duncan was knocked down and the Hunter-Killer was quickly perched on top of him.

"Lavoid Bane!" it hissed at him before he woozily kicked it off. He managed to fight for a few moments, deflecting a few blows and bringing down several of his attackers, but his body was still not entirely synced up with his mind yet, and it was only a matter of time before the Farilii managed to detain him. Before he knew what had happened the Heaven Fist dealt a blow that shook his astral form, knocking it unconscious. His physical form followed suit quickly after.

.

Twice in one day, Duncan was lost in the unconscious realm and he was starting to lose track of what was real and what wasn't. To make matters worse, when what he was almost sure was real finally came into view, all he could do was hope that it wasn't. It couldn't possibly be right; this was a place that he had sworn he would never again be detained. Not after that time…

Despite his inward protestations, it did look like he was trapped in the last place any sane person would ever want to be: the underbelly of a lavoid Fleet ship.

He had seen them before. He recognized the sickly, unnatural looking walls made up of brown and yellowish bio-matter. He recognized the tubules that ran across the floor, conducting the living liquid that kept these ships flying. He recognized the dim lighting created by bio-luminescent chemicals in the ceiling. Most of all, he recognized the Farilii in front of him: the Hunter-Killer from before that had knocked him out. He looked around the room. It was roughly circular in form, about thirty paces across. The ceiling sloped up into a dome-like shape, though the geometry was not entirely right. He was bound upright, held directly to the wall.

His mind was not as dreary as it was before. They had bound him, but they hadn't drugged him. He never took lavoids to be stupid though, and the drugs from the Dominion were wearing off. With a little luck, this oversight could be taken advantage of and…

"Don't," the Farilii in front of him said flatly, sensing Duncan's gathering of Order energies. Duncan narrowed his eyes and let out a growl.

"I'm not so drugged up as before," Duncan spat. "Want to try your luck again?"

"I wouldn't recommend it," the Farilii spoke, his voice ringing with haunting intelligence. This had been someone powerful and smart before the lavoids had turned him.

"You'll have to try and stop me, then" Duncan said. He closed his eyes and gathered the energies entailed in a Gaav Flare…

"I'm telling you," the Farilii said again. "It's for your own good…" He turned from Duncan and waved his hand over a discolored portion of the wall. With a slurping sound, the far walls of room slid apart, revealing a larger area. When he saw what was there, he lost concentration and dropped the Gaav Flare energies, suddenly understanding the threat.

"They're all quite drugged up," the Farilii said. "So they won't understand if you call out to them." True enough, that's exactly what Duncan's first instinct had been. He wanted to call out with all his energy to the three figures that were bound unconsciously against the newly revealed far wall. Three people. Three pairs of amethyst eyes. Three heads of blue hair. Caina. Tyrus. Hyrial.

The last one was actually a pleasant surprise. At least now Duncan knew where Hyrial was (and that he wasn't dead). Of course the problem now was that his friends were being held hostage, no doubt being kept in a state where killing them would be easy. Duncan was helpless. If he attacked, he was sure they were as good as dead.

"Where's Rydial?" Duncan asked coldly, the Order he had gathered completely dissipated.

"The blue-eyed one?" the Farilii asked. Duncan nodded. "Oh, he was very strong and we weren't fortunate enough to have found him in such a weakened state as you were. I believe he killed upwards of seventy of us before escaping. It was…disappointing."

"And what do you want?" he asked. The Farilii walked back to him, stretched up towards Duncan's face and gave a simple response.

"You," he said. He leaned back down and took a few steps back. "Or more importantly, your genetic code."

"What?" Duncan asked. The Farilii ignored him, snapping his fingers. To Duncan's surprise, the bonds on his hands and feet separated and he fell off of the wall. Again, his first impulse was to charge forward and strangle the living hell out of the Farilii, but reason got the better of him; he'd never be able to free his comrades and escape safely.

"Why?" Duncan asked, rubbing his newly freed wrists.

"I'm not the one to explain it to you," the Farilii said. He turned his back to Duncan. "Follow me." He took a few steps, then paused. "Your sword, by the way, is fine. We'll give it back when we release you."

"Release?" Duncan asked, confused. The Farilii made no answer, but continued to walk out of the room and into the hall. Duncan followed, being sure to let lose a scowl at whatever walked past him in the hallways. The creatures that bustled about seemed to know of him, and they were visibly scared. Taking some solace in that, Duncan walked behind the Farilii peacefully, all the while knowing that the lives of his friends were resting on him.

The halls were lined with the same bio-matter that made up the room he was detained in. They were dimly lit, but everyone on the ship seemed to know where they were going as if directed by some higher force. Duncan thought of that higher force and came to the conclusion that he was no doubt being led to the strongest lavoid on this ship. There, he would hopefully get some answers.

He was led up a spiraling stairway and through a great vaulted arch that gave way to a large chamber. Against the far wall, a blue humanoid with no nose and long blue hair-tendrils sat in a throne-type chair. As Duncan was led into the room, the lavoid stood up and walked up to the beleaguered planeswalker. The Farilii that had led him here turned and left the room.

"Good day, Dr. McKlane," the lavoid said as it approached him. The civilized tone it used was always unexpected, but actually very typical of lavoids. "It's good finally meet you."

"Drop the formal bull shit and call me Duncan, at the very least," Duncan spat. He quickly scanned the lavoid. "Judging by your emissions, I'd say you're a reasonably powerful Class A, huh? Well, just speak knowing the only reason I haven't killed you yet is because I don't think I'd be able to do so and save my friends before they were killed."

"A temper fulfilling the legends," the lavoid said. "Oh, I am pleased." He let out a chuckle. "I am called Valra, and given what our readings say of your emissions, I don't think you'd have such a simple time killing me. Ironically enough, that is why you've been left alive."

"Explain," Duncan said curtly.

"Your genes," Valra said. "Specifically, your lavoid Factor. It's been…shut off. Your Chaos emissions are non-existent and I don't think you'd even be able to channel the stuff if you tried. I take it this is what those Dominion pigs were doing to you whilst you were detained."

"Genetic limiters…" Duncan said. Damn, bastards! They're right. I can't channel Chaos! A lavoid Slave wouldn't even be feasible!

"Yes," Valra said. "Very well placed ones, I must admit. Moreover, they are limiters that, sadly enough, we don't have the technology to remove."

"What does this have to do with anything?"

"Well, Dr. Mc…er…Duncan, it happens about that we need that nice, first generation planeswalker genetic code of yours. We tried examining the codes of some of your brethren, but they're all too far removed from their original parent lavoids. Their codes have already begun to degenerate, so they are useless to use. We need a clean, fresh lavoid Factor, Duncan, and we suspect you're the only creature left in the universe that possesses one."

"That's ridiculous," Duncan said. "Why not just take your own?" The lavoid looked at him with a confused glance for a moment, before realizing an important truth.

"So you really are unaware of the predicament that your father threw us in fifteen hundred years ago?"

"What?"

"Oh yes," Valra said. "I'm sure you know of the Second Fall of Terra, Duncan." The planeswalker nodded. Valra continued. "Well the Mera Flux, the spell that your father cast to tear through Chaos and annihilate anything it touched happened to have an interesting little side effect that we as a species have only come to realize over the last two hundred years or so. Are you aware of the temporal distortions that occurred around that time?"

"All the lavoids were kill except Pyriorias, who undid the deaths of about half them. Supposedly, the others were left dead out of respect to my father."

"Right," Valra confirmed. "However, to say that Pyriorias escaped unscathed would be falsehood. The Mera Flux…altered her lavoid Factor. It set it into a slow decay that has been occurring ever since. It's somewhat of a mutation, you could say. To make matters more complicated, when she revived the other lavoids, she revived them from moments before the Flux. Since the mutating effect was a precursor to the actual wave, all the lavoids reborn that day were also cursed with an eroding genetic code." Duncan considered this for a moment, realizing that if the Mera Flux did have the results it was supposed to have, this was probably true.

"Ha!" Duncan exclaimed, laughing out loud. "And you poor bastards are going to slowly die off as you lose your abilities!"

"Not quite, Duncan," Valra corrected. "As of course we've taken counter measures. Hence, you and your companions are here. You four, with the exception of Rydial, are the eldest remaining planeswalkers, and the ones with the most intact DNA. Since you survived the Second Fall, your DNA was never mutated. In fact, when we are able to fully copy your genetic code, developing a process for healing our disorder will be easy. It's just the slight matter that-"

"The Dominion screwed my genes up before you could get to them," Duncan said, inwardly laughing at the fact that the Dominion had actually done something good in a backwards sense. "Serves you fucks right."

"Again, we thought we could just assemble a proper code from your allies, but they have all been too far removed from the source of their code. That only leaves you, Duncan. You have what we need." His eyes narrowed. "And we will kill your friends if you do not help us get it." Duncan recognized the threat, shaking his head for a moment.

"What do you want me to do?" Duncan asked.

"It's quite simple," Valra said. "You are to get your limiters removed. Then you are to come back here and we will extract your code. If you do this, we will allow you and your allies to leave and allow your defeats to come in natural combat."

"What makes you think I won't just use my restored power to screw you guys over?"

"That will not be an option," Valra said. "If you desire the security of your brethren, you have no choice but to cooperate with us."

Inwardly, Duncan knew he was right.

"So where do I go?" he asked. "Because I don't think the Dominion's going to be ready to just undo their own little bit of handiwork."

"We have scouted an area," Valra admitted, turning back around, walking to the throne and sitting down again. "And we believe that there is a scientist capable of performing the proper operation in the Eldar Confederacy. You will go there and do whatever it takes to get these limiters removed."

"Tch…" Duncan muttered, shaking his head again. A pawn to the lavoids? Him? How could this have happened? He ran the facts over in his head, realizing one truth: if he wanted the lives of Caina, Tyrus and Hyrial saved, he would have to do this.

"I've already contacted your partner, the elf-woman," Valra said. "Your ship is already nearby. I will transport you there and you will get on with your quest."

"How long do I have?" Duncan asked, straightening up.

"As long as you need," Valra said. "Barring the time that it would take for our genetics to degrade to noticeable levels. That will give you at least a century, which should be plenty of time." Duncan decided then that there was no chance in hell he'd take that long.

"Okay, then," Duncan said. "I do this, you get my code, and you let me and my pals go. That's the deal, right?"

"Correct. If you like, I shall teleport you to your ship now."

"Fine," Duncan said. "Do it. But listen to me when I tell you that if you double cross me, I will bring you suffering the likes of which you have never felt. If you even think for a moment of harming any of those captives, I'll invoke upon you a spell that makes the Mera Flux look like a professional massage."

"Agreed," Valra said, already having gathered the energy in the room to teleport the planeswalker away. "Now, go!" He waved his hand and Duncan was encased in a sphere of energy. A moment later, the sphere was gone and the room was quiet. Pleased with himself, Valra folded his hands across his lap and continued to send out the neural commands that guided the ship.

.

Duncan appeared in the main hallway of the Vendetta. In an instant, Kyrie was in the room, helping him up. On the floor next to him lay his sword, the Dreamblade, returned as promised. With Kyrie's help, he slowly climbed to his feet.

"Holy shit, Duncan, let's get you to the infirmary," she said. "You look like hell." Duncan brushed himself off. His shirt long since destroyed, he ran his hands over the scars that laced his chest, remnants of another time he was trapped in a lavoid vessel.

"That's probably because I just paid it a visit," he said coldly. "But I'll be fine. We need to get moving."

"I'm just glad you're alive, Duncan," Kyrie admitted, looking at him worriedly. Duncan managed a nod.

"Me too, Kyrie," he said, turning towards the bridge. "But we've got a hell of a job set ahead of us."

"What's the deal, Duncan? Why did they let you go?"

"I'll explain on the way," he said. "For now, set a course. We're off to Escillian, capital of the Eldar Confederacy…"