Onshir refused all offers for assistance back to Valik's Keep and made his way there on his own

Onshir refused all offers for assistance back to Valik's Keep and made his way there on his own. Upon arrival however the king's son placed himself into the expert care of the Dra'Keshi healers.

Back on Ember, Forsid breathed a mental sigh of relief upon hearing of the relatively safe resolution of the undead assault. Slowly to be sure, but with an unstoppable certainty the community on Ember returned back to their natural lives. It would take some time, of that there was no doubt whatsoever, the undead Dra'Keshi were given a place within the society of the FlameTalon clan.

After meeting with Zylen and a lengthy conversation that passed through the night and far into the morning hours, Alyndra and her small group of loyal undead followers departed from Heartstone in return to Ember. Uncertain of how they would be received, the spectral commander felt relieved and honored as the cheers from both living and undead Dra'Keshi rose to meet their return.

*****

The experiments had continued to go well following the initial few problems that Neeva and Tarsha had encountered. The attempt at performing the ritual in space had gone wonderfully and they had repeated it several times in various environments, including while in flight. Having decided that the knowledge was now well tested enough to be made available, Zylen released it to the entire empire and commissioned to have the records placed into the hall archives of Valik's Keep. The Xin'Draks would now be included in the patrols near the disputed zone as well as being used on other sensitive missions, which previously would have been only open to a single Drak. As more volunteers stepped forward to take part in this type of transformation, several groups were formed that would remain together at all times to enable better familiarity and compatibility in the Xin'Drak formation.

Following the success of the Xin'Drak, Neeva and Tarsha had moved on without pause toward researching the possibility of an even greater transformation which they would from this day forward refer to as the Zen'Drak. The popularity of the success they had achieved thus far left the pair with no lack of volunteers when they announced the need for 21 Dra'Keshi talents.

*****

Vel'te and Se'lena had been pleased to accept Zylen's request that they act as liaisons to the Maran guests as they found that culture interesting and wished to learn all that Fullor and Ina might be willing to share with them.

Arriving outside the suite, they activated the door chime and stepped into the common room to find Fullor and Ina quite excited by something they had discovered within one of the more ancient Dra'Keshi histories.

*****

Despite the delay caused by several unavoidable official matters, Ash remained prepared and enthusiastic about his role as Andorian ambassador. Feeling that the wait of a few days before all was in readiness for his departure was but little to pay for the honor he had been given as the chosen individual for that great duty.

Ash had been amazed by the likeness the sage had in his ability to change forms and wondered just how many others like him there were among the people and within the empire that he would soon come to call home.

*****

Seeking stone for a new statuette, a rather young Dra'Keshi stumbled upon an oddity while climbing around upon one of the more ancient peaks where some of the best stone had been found. The crystalline substance protruding from the rock face being a pale gray almost white in color matched closely with the rock around it. He would have missed it entirely had he not touched it while trying to climb up to a higher spot on the peak. The mental response he received from his touch upon the crystal nearly startled the Drak into a rather lengthy fall off the mountain. 'Take me to speak to Valik. There are things which need to be made light.'

Seeing no harm in doing so, and rather curious that no such thing had been reported before, the Dra'Keshi broke loose the extension of crystal and carried it back to Valik's hold to present the odd mineral to the Zylen.

Zylen raised his eyebrow with curiosity when he was told that a Dra'Keshi had arrived outside the palace with a shard of sentient crystal, which had requested to speak with Valik. Nodding his approval to let the Drak enter, Zylen took a seat within his throne. A shard, being an understatement, as the Dra'Keshi entered in elven form carrying a crystal easily twice his height and a little larger around. Had he not been of dragon blood the young man would not have likely been able to lift the object, much less carry it as he was now. Setting the large crystal spire down upon the floor before the throne, the young Drak bowed and turned to leave before being halted by the king's command. "Wait a turn…Val'len is it not? Certainly having brought this to me you are entitled to participate in what comes of it…" Val'len smiled thankfully to the king and stood off to one side to watch silently as the king stepped up to the crystal and studied it carefully. "You wished to speak to Valik…so I am told. While Valik himself has long ago gone to the realm of spirits, I am of his bloodline and currently stand as king of the Dra'Keshi people. Might I know who you might be and how you came to be where you were found?" Zylen finished his opening statement and waited somewhat doubtfully for a reply as he sensed no mental presence from the mineral substance before him.

The voice which filled the throne room was both a whisper yet carried a commanding tone. It could be heard as easily by Zylen as by those standing near the entrance a distance away. "Yes. Zylen. You are the current Valik of which we wished to speak with. We are Prime. Alone I am Gamma. Alone my twins are Omega and Delta. Combined we are GOD. But forever and always we are Prime." The tall spire of crystal suddenly became liquid in form and flowed down around itself taking the shape of a rather large replica of Zylen himself. A buzz of energy sounded through the room as the 8 black obsidian figures floating near the walls rushed forward. With a loud snap the elemental guardians were flung back against the stone walls of the pillar and held there by some unseen force. "You can see that we have power, yet we mean you no harm Zylen. We were once together, and wish to be joined once again. Will you help to make us GOD once again?" Zylen had backed off a step during the show of power. Stepping forward again the Dra'Keshi king studied the crystal replica of himself carefully and spoke guardedly. "If we did this which you ask, what then would stop you from bringing harm upon myself and the Dra'Keshi people?"

The crystal form twisted and became the shape of a dragon, while not of the proper size it appeared an exact replica of the form which Zylen himself became in transformation. "We cannot harm that which caused us to be. When the elf and dragon created you from themselves there was a residue left behind which they called
"waste". Yet we are not a useless byproduct, we are Prime. We grew where they left us without care or concern. Together we grew and listened, watched and learned, followed and studied. We lived without living and slept without sleeping. When the worlds flew apart we too were separated. We need the help of you who were loved to rejoin we who were cast aside without care. In return we shall help you fit in with the vast universe that you are just now becoming a part of. It is right that the you who were loved and the we who were not work together to be more than either can be alone. Use Prime to speak with the stars as a demonstration that we speak true." The crystal became elven in form again, yet this time did not resemble Zylen. With its right hand it broke off the left arm and held it out toward the Dra'Keshi king. Zylen hesitated for only a moment before taking the offered 'crystal limb' which then became a three-sided pyramid within his hand. A new limb grew into place where the crystal being had broken the prior one off and he again broke the limb off and extended it toward the king. Without hesitation this time, Zylen accepted the second piece that also became a pyramid identical to the first. "Take one to those who have contact with many stars. Keep the other for yourself and it will show you what the many stars have to say." Zylen understood then what Prime was meaning. The crystal being wished for one of the crystals to be placed with Omnet and the other would display the 'netcasts' as they had referred to them. After a moment of thought, Zylen nodded. "This will be done as you said. We shall see this of which you spoke before any agreement is made…" At the king's declaration one of the guards present stepped forward in protest. "Majesty! Is this not use of a tool? Does this very act not go against that which we have always followed? How…" "Silence!" Zylen growled low as the guard halted his speaking suddenly. "Do you wish to challenge me?" "Of course not my king…but…" The guard hastily replied. "But nothing! We do not use tools for the reason that doing so would be a weakness. Anything that we can do ourselves without the use of a tool makes us stronger. However…we cannot speak with the other races of the universe ourselves. Thus there is no weakness in allowing Prime to provide this means of gaining knowledge, which would otherwise be lost to us. If Prime speaks true and he is part of the process that created us, then he is not a tool, he is one of us. One of us who can do things that we cannot do ourselves. There is strength, not weakness, in this of which he speaks and I shall not again hear otherwise. Is that clear?" With a gulp and hastily nodded affirmative, the guard stepped back into position without another word. "Val'len. I wish for you personally to carry this Prime crystal to the Omnet fortress and see to its installation. You have gained honor in my eyes by your actions this day." The young Dra'Keshi smiled and bowed graciously before taking the crystal as commanded and leaving the palace without pause. Glaring toward the guard who had spoken out, Zylen commanded. "You will prepare a suite for our 'guest' and see that Prime Gamma is comfortable." Nodding silently, the guard left the palace followed by the crystalline elf.

Upon arriving at the Omnet fortress a distance outside the atmosphere of Heartstone, Val'len presented the crystal and after a rather long discussion the Vestis suddenly nodded with understanding and began assembling various mechanical pieces together and when finished he accepted the crystal and set it within the device. Connecting the new device to a snake-like cable, the Vestis nodded with approval and stated. "You should be receiving now. If the crystal is tuned as you say it should be." Val'len mentally passed along the statement to Zylen, who now sat within his private chambers, holding the matching crystal within his outstretched palm. Appearing nearly as soon as Val'len's notification, Zylen watched as an image appeared floating within the air above the point of the crystalline pyramid and a voice could be heard…

"...Honor is a vow never broken."
Zylen finished his response to the communication and passed a hand over the Prime crystal, returning it to standby mode.

Sending mental instructions to one of the guards, Zylen asked her to have Gamma meet him at the throne room. Descending to the throne level upon the crystalline lift, Zylen was seated when Gamma arrived. "I have decided. The Prime shall be rejoined as you requested."

*****

Onshir gave the command to halt as their combined Xin'Drak form arrived at the edge of Dra'Keshi space. The sound of rushing air echoed in their shared set of ears as the Xin'Drak completely filled its reserve lungs with air. The reserve lungs were generally used to hold and expel the gasses used for a breath weapon attack, however could just as easily simply hold air for use at some later time.

Receiving final confirmation and directions from his father, Onshir bid his farewell and the Xin'Drak form pushed forward cautiously past the bubble-like edge where the Dra'Keshi space ended and another zone began. Surprisingly enough the zone they moved into was quite similar to their own in makeup. Finding that it could breath normally in this zone, the Xin'Drak retained its store of air and began moving with full speed through this unexplored zone.

The next two zones the Onshir Xin'Drak passed through were likewise breathable, despite the air being of a different configuration than they were accustomed to. In the fourth zone from Dra'Keshi space the air was again of a type quite similar to their own, however they quickly realized a new difficulty. When the Xin'Drak's massive wings cleared contact from the zone behind them they stopped dead in place. For some reason the gravity well which for a being the size of the Xin'Drak was quite powerful had vanished entirely in this particular zone. As the gravity well provided the resistance, which allowed the dragon wings to move them along naturally, the absence of it left them floating motionless as the air being pushed by the great dragon's wings simply stirred around them providing no push at all.

A casting was attempted to create a magical variation of their natural gravity well, however had no effect.

'Did the magic fail?' Onshir asked into the minds of his companions.

'Nay Sir. The magic succeeded in casting however had no resulting effect.' Another mental voice answered. 'From what I can tell gravity has no function in this zone at all. Thus our magic works, however since the force of gravity is non-existent here there was no resulting effect.'

'I see.' Onshir replied thoughtfully and then ordered a casting of a simple flight spell. The flight spell, working under a different principal entirely functioned perfectly. The unseen workings of such a spell being that thousands of tiny magical arms reach outward and push against the fabric of space itself to propel the caster forward. The spell giving willpower over the movement of those arms so that the caster can alter and adjust the speed and direction of his/her flight.

Arriving outside the border into the fifth zone, the Xin'Drak pushed its head in and immediately recoiled back. Unlike the previous zones they had been through, this next zone was made up of water as its base rather than an air base. Calling for several spells, Onshir was strangely beginning to enjoy the unexpected, which they were finding upon moving further from their home zone. With the flight spell still active, the Xin'Drak cast a force sphere around itself and then Airy Space to fill the sphere with air from the elemental plane. Finally a spell was cast to continue regenerating the air by pulling fresh from the plane of air and exchanging it for the used quantities.

Pushing forward into the watery zone again, the Xin'Drak again recoiled its head back as the force shield vanished instantly upon entering the zone.

'Did the magic fail?' Onshir questioned into the combined mind of himself and the 10 members of the Xin'Drak squad.

'Nay Sir.' Came the mental response. 'The magical energies themselves remained intact, however the force energy ceased functioning in there. It appears that energy is incapable of taking that particular form within the zone before us.'

'A suggestion if I may...' Interrupted a third mindvoice. 'Rather than generating the air field within a force sphere outside our form. Why not instead cast the air spell to generate inside of the lungs themselves?'

'Make it so!' Onshir ordered, smiling mentally with admiration for the ingenuity of this team.

Having made the appropriate magical adjustments, the Xin'Drak sealed off its nostrils. Finding that the spell allowed it to absorb oxygen directly from the supply being magically regenerated within its lungs and thus the need to draw through its nostrils became unnecessary. Tentatively pushing its head into the zone for a third time, the Xin'Drak did not recoil this time and pushed forward until it was entirely inside the water zone. The air spell continued to function and they moved onward through the zone like some great sea creature. At several points during the trip through the zone they came upon schools of huge fish nearly 20 feet in length and easily 8 feet in diameter. Snapping one into it's massive maw, the Xin'Drak tasted cautiously and finding it to their liking they snatched up several more until the hunger of the massive Xin'Drak was completely satisfied, which in turn satisfied the needs of all of them joined as one.

The next 3 zones were of similar water base and the Xin'Drak made good time until it came to a stop outside the ninth zone away from Dra'Keshi space. Although the ninth zone was also of a water base, halfway into the zone they discovered that the air spell ceased functioning within the new zone.

A confirmation of the increasingly familiar voice told that their magic had indeed failed upon entering the zone. Experimentally the Xin'Drak unsealed its nostrils and tried breathing in the ninth zone. This zone, similar to the others was mainly a water base, however they found that it contained a high degree of air mixed within the water base. Flexing a set of muscles within it's snout, muscles which were used to filter out the harmful gases used during a breath attack, Onshir was pleased to discover that it adequately filtered air through while keeping the larger water base out.

Even more like a sea creature than in the prior zones, the Xin'Drak used its great wings and tail to "swim" through the zone as a line of expelled air bubbles trailed along behind it.

Arriving at the border into the tenth zone, the Xin'Drak pressed its head forward and lurched suddenly as they were nearly pulled entirely into the new zone. It took all of the huge creature's massive strength using its wings to "backwing" and pull it's head back into the water zone.

'Report!' Onshir mindspoke simply, having come to an understanding that at least one of them would have an answer for him.

'The zone ahead is a vacuum sir. There is no presence of air or water base there, which is why we were nearly sucked into it. It is similar to a void where there is a lack of any base at all.'

'Suggestions!' Onshir called with a mental nod of understanding regarding the explanation.

'If our magic will function there we should be able to use our flight spell for movement.' Came one reply followed by another that added. 'Generating air within our lungs will not likely work as the void would turn us inside out eventually.' Continued by yet another mindvoice that concluded. 'If magic works there we should be able to return to our method of forming a force sphere around us and filling it with air.'

'Unfortunately... Since our magic does not work here we must do all the casting from inside the void. Is there any way to tell from here if magic will function in there?' Onshir pondered openly to the group mind.

'If we can find purchase enough to hold us here... We could push in long enough to cast a missile spell and see if it functions...' Yet another mind suggested.

Wrapping the tail around a tree-like object nearby, the Xin'Drak pulled at it experimentally and found it solid enough to hold. Pushing their shared head into the tenth zone, the Xin'Drak's eyes bulged slightly from the effect as the casting sent a flare of energy streaking off through the void. Having prepared for the possible success, the Onshir Xin'Drak released its tail hold and they were pulled into the new zone.

The powerful force pulling at them from all sides came to a sudden stop as the force sphere shimmered around them and a moment later air began filling the sphere. Despite the void of this zone, the flight spell was able to find purchase and the great dragon form continued it's tireless journey onward.

Being of elven blood none of them required sleep, however they did each need periods of restful meditation to regenerate their natural energies. As such Onshir found the silence rather disconcerting during his "shifts". The trip had taken a little more time than had been expected, yet still well within the range to get them there a while before the proceedings. In the previous zones there had always been some environmental background noise to sooth the Dra'Keshi prince's nerves, however within this void and shielded within the force sphere, that background sound was now strikingly absent.

They finally came to an apprehensive stop before the border of the eleventh and final zone they would need pass through before entering into the Selesthian space itself. The arrival was none too soon in Onshir's opinion and he urged their huge form to press forward.

The zone they found next was surprisingly similar to their own, however required a massive extra push from the flight spell to break free of the void behind them. Dispelling the force sphere they confirmed both the similar air base and that their magic functioned here also. Dispelling the air and flight spells as well, the Xin'Drak moved rapidly onward until they finally arrived before the border into Selesthian space.

Pressing its head forward into the zone, the Xin'Drak tested the environment briefly before pulling back into its current zone. Finding that there was indeed a base, which contained a minimal portion of air that was in the form of micro-organisms. Determining that they would be able to gather a limited amount of breathable air from those surroundings, the rest of which could be made up for from the lung reserves for the length of time they would need to be in the Selesthian zone, the Onshir Xin'Drak filled it's lungs and reserves to full capacity and pushed forward fully into Selesthian space.

Waiting just at the edge of the border as instructed by Zylen, the Xin'Drak soon spotted the SeED escort. The escort would remain with them until they reached the Ring station and once Onshir had arrived inside the station the escort would remain with the Xin'Drak form until it again left Selesthian space.

Having found this border zone fairly comfortable, the Xin'Drak squad would separate once back in the 11th zone from Dra'Keshi space to "stretch their wings" and wait to pickup Onshir for the return trip.

Onshir privately wondered if the escort might raise any concerns regarding the Xin'Drak's size, as their technology would likely have already given them the specifications of the 20,000 foot long, 1,500 foot wide dragon with a 15,000 foot wingspan waiting just inside their borders.

'They say to follow them and warn to make no hostile actions.' One of the voices mentioned having received the transmission and converted it during Onshir's musings.

'Confirm and Make it so.' Onshir replied absently, his mind already turning to matters of a different nature. Somewhere on the station he was heading toward the leader of the spider elves lurked. He would not dishonor himself by starting any hostilities of course... However for some reason he felt it was necessary that he see this creature face to face.

A soft mental chuckle woke Onshir from his thoughts as he noticed the reason. The escort had been forced to make several adjustments during their flight due to the unexpected gravity well generated by the massive dragon.

When finally they arrived near the Ring complex and the escort advised that Onshir may proceed to the station, the Xin'Drak stopped at a safe distance and a portion of the huge wyrm's chest shimmered briefly as Onshir flew out. Much smaller in size than the Xin'Drak, yet still impressive to behold, Onshir's dragon body easily crossed the distance to the indicated bay.

Backwinging to a stop and dropping his tail to touch the deck, a slight screeching sound was heard as two nearby craft were nearly picked off the deck by the dragon's gravity well. They settled back with a soft clank however as Onshir began the transformation.

It seemed that he moved in slow motion as the dragon tail split in two at the end to form legs and then the entire form slowly shrank down. Seeming to compress inward upon itself until all which remained was an elven figure standing upon the dock floor.

Long black hair was braided neatly and hung nearly to the back of his knees, swinging side to side as Onshir walked along the path to enter the station itself. The brilliant crystal blue of his eyes glimmered in the lighting as Onshir strode confidently through the air lock and then into the Ring complex itself.

Dressed in his own formal dress of the Dra'Keshi Royal court, Onshir wore soft leather boots of a light black color. Matching the boots in color and texture the prince's pants tucked into the boots that were nearly to his knees in height. Onshir's shirt was a brilliant and deep shade of blue with the Valik crest in white and gold positioned just below his left shoulder.

The point of his ears and almond shape of his eyes leaving no doubt of his elven blood, however his build was muscular and toned rather than the delicate and fragile appearance that most elves were attributed toward.

No facial hair marred his face except for the trimmed and well-kept brows above either eye.

Standing patiently just inside the entry, Onshir waited to be greeted and shown about the station if such was the custom.

*****

"You take too long! I will just do it myself."

The voice dripped with malice even as several droplets of emerald-green
blood splattered softly upon the floor of Zylen's private rooms. The
Dra'Keshi King's heart realized the error of trusting so easily as the razor
sharp crystal cleaved it asunder.
Gamma held Zylen's elven form painfully still impaled upon its right arm
, which a moment before had become a razor sharp blade plunging into his back
from behind. Cursing that which had caused him to become complacent enough
to allow the crystal being to remain unguarded within his home, and further
still berating himself for dropping his own guard around the creature, Zylen
could do naught else but curse as his life slowly drained from the fatal
wound.

"Using your image I shall command a full-scale search for my two
counterparts on the other worlds... ...And using your image I shall command
them destroyed. Then without Delta and Omega to oppose me I shall teach the
entire universe to fear the name Dra'Keshi! How fitting dear brother...
For in that small matter I did not lie. We three crystal beings are
siblings of your own race. I tell you this only because I have for so long
wished to hear it myself."
Pulling the blade-arm free of the King's back, Gamma moved into Zylen's view
and changed so that not even Valik himself would have seen a difference
between them. Admiring the form in a mirror nearby, Gamma returned his gaze
to the dying monarch with a sneer that was uncharacteristic of the face it
now wore.
"We are the physical embodiment of the virtues instilled into the Dra'Keshi
creation. Delta was the first. Representing Honor and Courage. Omega was
next. Born of Logic and Wisdom. They would never see things as I do, they
must therefore be removed from the possibility of interfering with my plans.
For I am Gamma. I am Power and Glory!"

As the final light faded from Zylen's eyes, Gamma touched the fallen monarch
with a finger. Melting away like ice under the sun, the king's body
dissolved into dust to be scattered across the floor by the imposter.

In a short time two groups set out in either direction toward Dervish and
Ember with instructions of what to look for. With Zylen dead and Onshir
away there would be none left with authority to question Gamma's decisions.
By the time Onshir returned the other two Primes would be destroyed and with
them gone nothing else could stand in the path of his rule.
Onshir could slow his plans however, of that Gamma would not take a chance.
Onshir must not be allowed to make it back into Dra'Keshi space. He could
not leave to do the deed himself, that would surely raise doubts and
questions. Likewise he could not command any of the Dra'Keshi to attack the
Prince. Such a command would never be followed as he was well favored by
them and would doubtless shatter Gamma's precarious facade.

Departing from the Royal Pillar, the Zylen mimic informed the guardsmen that
he was going to feed. Slipping into draconic form as easily as the king
himself always had done, Gamma winged off toward the most remote of the food
worlds. Zenshee 3, being the most distant and least plentiful of the three
foodworlds in the Valik Prime system, was the least often visited of the
three. Locating a Mountainous region that would not serve well as hunting
ground for Farbles, the mock king landed within a sheltered canyon and
returned to elven form. Walking about the area, Gamma stopped occasionally
to break off a finger and drop it upon the ground. When he had left 10 such
crystalline digests scattered through the canyon, each left in an area large
enough to accommodate a small craft.
Rising back into the sky, the imposter king returned to Heartstone to await
news from the search parties and concentrate upon the growth of his
creations. It would take several days for the 10 crystals to grow to the
appropriate size and form themselves in the shape he had programmed them
for. When the process was complete, Gamma would have 10 fighter-sized
vessels at his psychic command. The shape they would form into, and the
Focus drives which would propel them, now only needed time to develop fully.
With luck the disappearance of Onshir would be attributed to a mishap in
space or other such disaster, which was not unheard of during long distance
travel. To ensure success all those who had gone with Onshir as escort
would also have to be eliminated.

The fool prince will undoubtedly contact me before leaving the station to
let me know he is returning home. Gamma thought to himself seated beside
the display crystal which he had lost control over 10 days after separating
it from himself. The assault must be timed carefully, as I shall likewise
loose control over the fighters a ten-day from now. Once they reach that
dormant state they shall become useless to me.
A soft chuckle echoed through the chambers as Gamma set the final irony into
his plan. The attack shall take place just outside the Selesthian Empire.
Thus if any blame is placed it shall be upon them, the resulting confusion
shall make my final assent to power all the simpler.

In a remote canyon on the world of Zenshee 3, ten small crystal fragments
absorbed the light of the rising sun and began growing in size and taking a
new shape...

*****

Rising as willed by Gamma, the 10 crystalline vessels were now fully grown
and obeyed his every command flawlessly. The time grew near when the
crystal of which they had been grown would become self sufficient and
Gamma's control over the vessels would be lost. Their purpose must be
fulfilled before that time arrived, and so at the crystal entities command
the ten vessels activated their focus drives and with a bright flash of
light sped off toward the ambush point.

Alyndra watched the stars flaring past at ever growing speed until the
individual systems could no longer be seen as light merged together in a
solid corridor of light within the view available to her. As the other 9
members of her small group were also doing, the spectral Dra'Keshi focused
nearly every ounce of her will into keeping their presence unknown to the
crystalline entity. As Queen of the newly reinstated clan SpiritFang,
Alyndra had not hesitated an instant upon hearing of Forsid's request for
assistance. The vessels had been difficult to locate as Gamma had hidden
them well, yet upon finding them the rest had been fairly simple. Now she
and 9 of her elite warriors sat within the interior cockpits of Gamma's
assassination squad spending all their power for the time to remain
undetected.

She could sense the crystalline's mind searching the space outside the
vessels for any sign of oddities, luckily he had put nearly no effort into
searching for anything out of the ordinary within the vessels themselves.
Alyndra felt the vessel shudder slightly as it passed through yet another
quantum front, and a few moments later another shudder, then another.
Judging by the time span between fronts and what she knew of light-speed
travel from her time as quantum magician back when she had been living,
Alyndra calculated they were traveling very near 100 times the speed of
light. Another shudder and the light corridor outside broke apart suddenly
as the craft activated a reverse light wave and slowed quickly to sub-light
speed.

The undead Dra'Keshi female could hear the gas building within the exhaust
port at the rear of the vessel and the roar as it was ignited and the 10
Shard vessels moved forward at .9 sub-light speed under the power of the
Photo-synth subsystems. After a time the vessels came to a stop and seemed
to be waiting further instructions. Having naught else to do but focus her
will upon remaining undetected, Alyndra and her companions waited with a
patience that few beyond the undead could match.

Sensing that his crystal ships had arrived at the ambush site, Gamma willed
them to maintain position and continue to absorb the ambient lightwaves from
a nearby dual-pulsar. Extending his senses out from the vessels in a wide
arc, Gamma would know the instant that Onshir's Xin'Drak form arrived within
the zone. Settling the awareness to edge of his attention, Gamma returned
his concentration to matters at hand around him within the Dra'Keshi Empire.
The Prime found such matters of maintaining the charade of being Zylen
tedious, yet still a necessity for the moment.

Gamma had momentarily considered interfering with the departure of Ash and
the Andorian sage as they prepared to depart from the Dra'Keshi empire,
however had seen no reason for doing so and allowed them to part unmolested.
As with the rest of the pitiful empires within this region of the galaxy,
the Andorians too would fall before Gamma's might when the time came for his
ascension. Until then however he would gain nothing by blocking the
installment of a single ambassador on either side.

Receiving a communication via crystalline display from Onshir, Gamma replied
affirmatively to the prince's news that he would soon be heading back home.
Closing the connection and resetting the crystal to standby mode, the Prime
smiled with satisfaction and returned to managing the mundane daily affairs
of empire management while waiting for the time which would soon arrive for
the death of Onshir'Valik and the reign of a new King over the Dra'Keshi
empire.

*****

Having concluded his business for the present upon the station,
Onshir'Valik made preparations to depart the station. Sending a mental
signal to the Xin'Drak squad waiting on the fringes of Selesthian space,
Onshir acknowledged the reply as he moved to stand beside the interface
within his quarters. Pressing his palm against the interface, the Dra'Keshi
prince made the appropriate arrangements to disembark from the station.
Departing the quarters that had been provided to him, Onshir made his way
back to the air lock leading into the docking bay where he had first arrived
and waited patiently for the arrival of the Xin'Drak.

Upon receiving word from the prince that he was ready to leave, the 10
Dra'Keshi took position and transformed into the huge Xin'Drak form once
again. Upon passing through the quantum front back into Selesthian space,
they awaited the arrival of the SeED escort. Following the escort until
they arrived near the Ring complex, the Xin'Drak moved into position a safe
distance from the end of the dock.
Entering the air lock once his "ride" moved into position, Onshir walked the
distance of the dock and reaching the end of the platform he leapt off the
edge and allowed himself to drift far enough that his gravity well would not
pull off any of the vessels parked there during his transformation. Upon
reaching a safe distance he took draconic form and flew toward the much
larger dragon nearby. Similar to the way in which he had departed, the
chest of the Xin'Drak shimmered as Onshir slipped back into the shared form
and became part of it.

Escorted back to the edge of the zone, Onshir sent his thanks to the
Selesthian's for their hospitality before commanding the Xin'Drak form to
make course for home. Remembering their journey out, the team used most of
the same tactics during the return journey. A few of the zone crossings
were different than the first trip, the reasons of which they were not sure
was because they had taken a slightly different path this time, or perhaps a
few of the zones themselves had moved.

As they entered a zone roughly half the distance back toward Dra'Keshi
space, Onshir received a mental warning only an instant before several beams
of focused light waves slammed into the chest and sides of the huge dragon.

Alyndra's warning was followed by the statement that she and her kin were
attempting to gain control of the crystalline vessels they had stowed away
upon. Another volley of beams struck the Xin'Drak form, which could not hope
to dodge them. Onshir felt the bond, which held himself and the 10 others
together within the single form, weaken and begin to falter. Knowing that
they could not withstand another impact and uncertain what result an
uncontrolled separation would have, Onshir had already commanded the massive
dragon to retreat back through the front when Alyndra sent confirmation that
they had finally wrested control of the ships away from Gamma. Halting the
Xin'Drak's retreat and urging it forward cautiously, it took some time to
spot the vessels which were all around them by the time the Xin'Drak was
finally able to notice them.

The ships were a very interesting design Onshir noted as they focused the
large dragon's senses upon one of the crafts. Due to the shape, form, and
perhaps the material of which they were made the crystalline vessels
appeared nearly invisible against the backdrop of space around them. Only a
slight distortion of the light around and behind them could be seen. They
seemed only like tiny shards of clear glass drifting around the huge dragon
as Onshir and Alyndra spoke more fully through their mental connection.

'Sir. I don't believe that Gamma is able to regain control so there should
be no further threat... From these vessels here at any rate. We felt his
control over them beginning to weaken only a few moments before your
arrival. With any luck he will be unaware that his plan was foiled.
Sir...your father...King Zylen has been assassinated by the crystal Prime
known as Gamma.'

Onshir and Alyndra continued to converse during the remainder of the trip
back toward Dra'Keshi space. The Xin'Drak, accompanied by the 10
crystalline vessels came to a halt a short distance from the front which
marked the border into the Dra'Keshi Empire.

"If Gamma is not aware of his failure this may provide a useful advantage."
Onshir mused as they discussed the best plan of action. "Did Forsid or
Lysia suggest any plans they might have devised before your departure?"

"They both support your right to the throne, however had not come up with
anything they felt was practical or would be effective before we severed
contact to remain undetected within these vessels. They did mention that
Gamma was particularly anxious to discover the other two Primes. Forsid
believes that possibly they might prove helpful in destroying Gamma."

"Or they might give him much greater power than he wields now..." Onshir
countered. "We must leave these vessels here for the time being. From the
way you described it Gamma was not expecting them to return following the
ambush. If possible we need to locate the other two Primes first. If they
are dangerous to Gamma he likely plans to destroy them...we cannot allow
that to happen. It is unfortunately best that as few others know about this
as possible, for there is no telling who might be under his control right
now."

Requesting that the Xin'Drak team initiate the separation procedure, Onshir
and the other 10 living Dra'Keshi moved apart into their separate individual
forms as the huge shared form shimmered and broke apart during the process.
Meanwhile Alyndra and her 9 followers hid the crystalline vessels within a
large crater of a nearby asteroid and floated back silently to join the
group around Onshir.

"I must remain here for now. Gamma would likely be alerted the instant I
enter our zone, so I shall rely upon you to act where I cannot. Rest
assured your loyalty and valor in this critical endeavor shall not be
forgotten and will be rewarded if...no, rather when our Empire is once again
under my control. I would suggest that you separate into two teams. Half
Dra'Keshi and the other half our spectral kin. One team should search
Dervish while the other searches Ember. I believe that Forsid and Lysia are
beyond Gamma's control thus far and can be trusted fully, so coordinate your
efforts with them.
Alyndra...I shall rely upon you to convey news to me regarding the progress
which is made. Of all within our Empire you are likely the most difficult
for Gamma to read and track. Has Ash already departed for the Andorian
empire?' Onshir questioned hopefully.
His hope fading somewhat as Alyndra informed him that Ash had indeed already
departed several days prior through the gulf stream that joined the
Dra'Keshi and Andorian zones.
Damn! Of all Dra'Keshi living and dead none know more about the secrets of
the homeworlds and most likely locations of the two other Primes than Ash
himself... If I can find a connection into the gulf stream from this zone I
may need to travel there myself to speak with him. If you don't find me
here I shall most likely be in Andorian space. And perhaps if I take one of
these vessels to them they can tell us more about how they work and what
use, if any, they might provide."

Raising a claw to silence the unstated objections and concerned looks,
Onshir spoke calmly. "My father was a wise and honorable leader, he and I
both discussed at length the long tradition of avoiding all use of tools and
we both agreed that times are dawning which require that we make some
exceptions to that belief if we are to become viable members of the galactic
community. Yes! I believe that is the best use for my time. I shall take
one of the crystal ships to the Andorians and request their assistance with
gaining a better understanding of it. The knowledge which Ash alone holds
shall likely be our best chance of discovering the other Primes before Gamma
does. Perhaps it is a boon rather than a curse that Ash is far beyond the
reach of Gamma and with him the fastest route to locating the others is
unavailable to him...

With a solid plan of action established, the Dra'Keshi and Shad'Draks
divided into two groups and crossed through the front into Dra'Keshi space.
As each group headed off toward it's destination they slipped into place
within the vast screen of Dra'Keshi patrols to hopefully remain unnoticed by
the crystal entity, which currently resided upon the throne.

Having never thought the day would come when he would be unable to enter his
own empire, Onshir gazed upon the distant systems through the transparent
front for a time before turning toward the asteroid and retrieving one of
the tiny crystal vessels. Grasping it gently within his right claw, Onshir
glided off to search for an entrance into the gulf stream.

*****

Gamma cursed loudly as he felt his control of the vessels begin slipping
from him. It was too soon, he thought. He should have control of them for
one more day still. Perhaps it was the distance or some cosmic effect which
was prematurely robbing him of his will over the creations. Just as the
last remnants of his control upon the vessels began to fade, the
inconceivable occurred. Onshir had entered the zone at long last. Pushing
his full willpower upon the 10 vessels to attack the immense dragon, Gamma
knew that even after his control failed the vessels would carryout the last
command they received and then become dormant while waiting for further
instructions. It mattered little to Gamma what happened to his crystal
ships afterward. As long as they destroyed the prince their purpose would
be served to his satisfaction.

Receiving reports that there had still been no success in discovering the
other Primes, Gamma issued orders that several more wings be taken from
patrol duty to join the search. He must find and destroy Delta and Omega.
With Onshir eliminated only they would stand in his way...