Chapter 6- Upheaval

"Commander," the expressionless, totally obedient voice of a low- ranking soldier sounded out behind Battle Commander Dar'than V'g'no'kor just as he was about to enter his retiring cocoon, and he nearly swirled around and killed the pitiful creature with his blistering arsenal before the red tint of rage disappeared from his ocular implants.
Still, it would not do for the thrall to go unpunished. As he rotated his massive, metal-enhanced body on its frame, Commander Dar'than stretched out one of his gleaming, chrome-finish fists and clutched it on the back of the thrall's neck as it knelt before him. With only a segmented breastplate and metal spikes protruding from the backs of its hands, it was truly an insignificant being compared to the might of Commander Dar'than's glorious enhancements.
"Speak," the half-machine warrior commanded in a tone that promised instant death should the news not please him. He sensed a tremble run through the thrall as it suddenly comprehended its danger.
"Commander," it began in a voice with no more expression than before, yet its posture indicated sudden and inexplicable terror. "General D'harhan bids me tell you that there is much on the bridge that you should come and inspect. He has news for you."
The cloudy green of confusion wound its way across his metal eyes. D'harhan had had strict orders not to send for him until the weaklings of the planet were finally crushed beneath the renewed might of the Kar'shan Legions, and the massive metal soldier had no concept of disobedience. There must indeed be something important if he already had need of his commander.
Commander Dar'than looked back down at the thrall, still trembling in the grip of his immense hand. With a whine of servomotors and a rumbling sigh like a furnace, he released the confining hold of his steely fingers and allowed the thrall to stand, gazing with distaste on its largely unmodified, imperfect form.
"You have delivered your message," he told the smaller being. "Therefore, remove yourself from my sight."
"Commander," the thrall genuflected, and sped hastily on whatever duties it had to perform elsewhere.
Commander Dar'than nodded, and then strode purposefully down the hallway towards the nearest lift tube. Now for D'harhan.

The main strategic display of the flagship's bridge was a massive, invisible ball of energy that assembled or dissolved shapes and symbols out of thin air to represent the situation. A pasty, faded globe dead center in the sphere was the beleaguered planet they had ensnared, and the massive cloud of green triangles represented the fleet of the Cremlevian Order. However, contrary to what had become common enemy tactics over the past months, a steady stream of red blips was fountaining outwards from the planet's equator, making purposefully for the inward third planet of the system.
Commander Dar'than frowned with a creak of stressed joints. What in space were the barbarians doing? The planet they were bearing on was habitable, yes, but possessed no military or tactical significance; no settlements or emplacements marred its surface with their ugly organic blisters.
"Suspicions, General?" Commander Dar'than rumbled to the massive, laser-topped D'harhan as the two mechanically-enhanced officers continued to watch the befuddling display.
"If you will permit me, Commander?" D'harhan suggested in a flat monotone, gesturing towards the controls of the holo system. When Commander Dar'than nodded, he reached out and began punching in commands.
When D'harhan had finished, the display shifted radically, transforming more into an actual camera than a tactical image. The focus zoomed in at lightning speed, and when the blurring had stopped, they were looking at the main landing field of the barbarians, loaded with their organic warships. However, the warships that were obviously fleeing the planet were not the only warships that the barbarians possessed. Almost half of the ships remained steady on the ground, and the spindly figures of barbarians had climbed onto the hulls of their living abominations and shook fists or shouted in their language at the fleeing craft.
Commander Dar'than's eyes filmed yellow, a sign of intense pleasure that many of the mechanical soldiers had not witnessed before in their existence. "Then there is a civil war," he said in the satisfied tone of one who has just eaten the most filling meal of his life.
"That is my conclusion, Commander," D'harhan said in his monotone voice, segmented tail flexing gently due to some unidentifiable impulse. The tracking signals on his laser cannon head flashed yellow amidst a spout of steam that occasionally jetted from his innards.
"Excellent," Commander Dar'than said as he turned away from the display. "We shall let the barbarians destroy themselves for us."

The war council of the remaining intendants, Warmaster, and Yo'gand's loyalists, was held hurriedly in the same chamber of the Citadel as when Steng's impassioned words had fractured the already endangered Yuuzhan Vong and threatened to send their entire species into annihilation. The mood was grim, and not even the simmering Vua'sa could seem to conjure up words to inflame the warrior's minds.
Thass sat uneasily in the seat that had been hastily given to him. He felt even less confident about their position now than he had when Yuuzhan had first given him this assignment. The confrontation with Yo'gand down on the landing field had unnerved him. It was clear that whatever- whoever- Yo'gand used to be, he was now moving along a path of blood and conquest.
The angry mutterings of a thousand little squabbles ricocheted off of every coral wall and especially inside Thass' mind. The entire planet had been pushed to the edge of exploding into a thousand more factions with Steng's abrupt decision to divide the Yuuzhan Vong, and by all appearances, it could very well happen within this very chamber.
"Order!" Yo'gand's voice cut through the quarreling with the intensity of a blast bug. Even the rumbling Vua'sa silenced itself as everyone turned to the impassioned warrior who now stood on his side of the table.
"We cannot argue amongst ourselves," he said when the atmosphere had quieted enough to permit conversation again, eyes flashing in a frightening kind of purpose, a strange intensity pouring off of him. "That is merely the seed which the traitorous Steng has planted in our midst. Should we continue along that path, the Yuuzhan Vong shall squabble and die in a hail of mechanical blasphemies."
"Abominations," someone muttered.
"Yo'gand is correct," the Vua'sa growled. "The Yuuzhan Vong must stand together as a whole to face this invasion. Stand together, or be crused."
Another of the warriors rose defiantly to his feet. "And yet now we are fractured, finding ourselves on the brink of a civil war. How, exactly, do you propose that we circumvent that particular shortcoming?"
Yo'gand's eyes flashed again with that fanatical rage that had possessed him since his self-inflicted transformation into the battle- hungry warrior he now was. "Do you lack courage that you should withdraw from such a struggle with the traitorous Steng? Or are you simply a cowardly subspecies of Yuuzhan Vong that I have failed to notice infesting our ranks?"
His fists struck the table with devastating force. "We are the true warriors!" He thundered to assembled Yuuzhan Vong, and in spite of himself, Thass felt his blood race through his veins. The man was nothing if not charismatic. "We have the favor of the gods, and nothing can stand in our way. All that the gods ask of us is that we be true to their service!" His voice rose in pitch. "Let the sacrifices be redoubled! Let us show the gods exactly how faithful the true Yuuzhan Vong are!"

The conference chamber at the peak of the Citadel was silent now, absent the quarreling intendants and commanders that had so angered Yo'gand less than an hour previous. Already, ashes and wisps of greasy smoke wound skywards from altars raised to Yun-Yammka, his command for sacrifice already beginning its grisly work among the people.
Thass watched as the zealous leader paced in a loose pattern around the Vua'sa, whose glowing eyes never ceased to track his movements. The Warmaster stood utterly still, a terrifying symbol to the bloodshed that it promised to unleash upon the universe. In contrast, Yo'gand's jerky, unsettled motions brought to mind a pacing bissop, and one very learned in the ways of the hunt. Short, ragged breaths rung themselves from his lungs, and his eyes raved about, seeing nothing.
Thass himself stretched out to the Force for calm, letting its soothing flow wash over his mind, focusing him, giving him clarity. He knew he would desperately need it in the coming months. The war against the machines was far from over, and he was certain that Yo'gand at least did not trust him in the slightest.
"I have completed my calculations," the Vua'sa rumbled suddenly, breaking Yo'gand's feverish circuit of the room and snapping his head around as if by a slapping blow. "There may be a way to defeat Steng, if caution is used."
Yo'gand hissed in delight. "Speak, warmaster," he commanded, turning his eyes to Thass. "I have no doubt that my comrade wishes as well as I to hear how best we may unite the Yuuzhan Vong for the glory of the gods."
A sickening feeling blossomed in the pit of his stomach as Thass inclined his head in a slight acknowledgement. "Indeed." Anticipation and anxiety soured his breath as the massive Warmaster leant forward to speak.
"Because of the relative youth of Yuuzhan Vong military tactics," the Vua'sa began slowly, "there has been little time to adjust to those same weapons being used against other Yuuzhan Vong."
A snarl erupted on Yo'gand's features. "No one could have predicted the betrayal offered up by Steng."
"This gives us an advantage," the Vua'sa continued implacably, as though the high-caste Yuuzhan Vong had not spoken.
"What do you mean?" Thass interjected calmly, though his bowels churned with an acid fear he could not describe or fully analyze with his mind. Roughly, he shoved the emotion away.
The Vua'sa's many glistening teeth bared themselves in a predatory smile. "We have a Warmaster," it confided slowly, as if revealing some great and noble secret that would be instantly enlightening.
So, it is not immune to temptation or conceit, Thass thought, somewhat smugly, and realized at the same time that this was not necessarily a beneficial development.
"I have completed a line of thought which suggests of a way to possibly bring Steng to defeat without a major battle," the Warmaster said.
Yo'gand took in a gasping breath. "That would be most desirable," he said quickly. "How?"
"We will have to rely on subterfuge," the Vua'sa said firmly, and then turned its awful gaze on Thass. "And I highly suspect that the perfect candidate for such a venture stands before us."

-AN: I apologize for delaying, both on this story and my other projects. However, summer holidays are slow for everyone, and I hope that I can resume full speed when the year begins. Hope everyone is enjoying the story! – Sci-Fi Nerd

P.S.- A continued thanks to skwalker 05, who is always pushing for more chapters! Keep it up!