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Dantu Dabei strode confidently down the hallways of Space Station Sagittarius, barely seeing the salutes from the lesser Exploriens and cadets he passed. He tried to keep a calm mask on, tried to follow the strict rules of na'vo, but it was hard. Anger kept marring his calm, like a melt in a perfect ice crystal.
In the three years since his first important job, he had risen high in the Explorien organization. First promoted to Sentry, he had barely gotten into the routine when a message had come for him, saying that he was to be promoted to the rank of Centurion, to personally command one hundred Exploriens aboard a Space Station or on his very own Cruiser. Dantu had risen high in his... other works... as well. But now it was his current orders that troubled him.
He had to get to Planet Arctica now, and Explorien Ventelo had agreed to meet him in this corridor twenty minutes ago. Marching stiffly, Dantu reached the end of the corridor and turned on his heel to march the opposite way. Fuming at Ventelo, he thought of all the things he would do to him one day. But not today, no, Ventelo had uses still. Finally he saw the short, stocky Velexian Explorien standing in the center of the corridor, worry plain on his face. Inside, Dantu sneered at how the lesser alien species wore their emotions so clearly and openly. How superior Krigoni were to everyone, yet Dantu had to depend on lesser beings, even take their orders! He came to a sharp halt in front of Ventelo, and refused to vent the volcano inside of him. He just used his normal icy voice, if a bit louder then nessecary. "You were supposed to be here twenty-two minutes ago, Explorein Ventelo. Well? Where were you? You must learn to obey the commands of your superior officers, yes?"
"Sir, I was finishing up a task set to me by Centurion Pelevve, and she said she would speak to you about it, sir." Ventelo's tone, so deferential, made Dantu sick enough to vomit, though he did not let a hint of it onto his impassive pale blue face.
"Very well. Now, you have are to pilot me, yes? Well, pilot!" Dantu stepped into the Saucer Ship as he said this, and gestured to the control panel. "The destination, it has been preprogramed. All you need to do is take off and land." The Saucer Ship left the station smoothly, and in no time they were in trans-space. It was only seventeen minutes until the ship fell back into full reality, and into the orbit around a white pearl of a planet. Planet Arctica, to be precise, and Dantu liked to be precise. Ventelo recognized the planet, as well.
"Planet Arctica? Why are we here? Nothing but ice and snowghosts." A snowghost was one of the six large land animals on Planet Arctica; it was twelve feet tall, ran as fast as a cheetah, could leap more then fifty feet, had nasty teeth and huge claws on its disturbingly human hands, and was as quiet as its name. It was Planet Arctica's only predator, but who needed another? No one ever saw a snowghost before it eviscerated them, its favorite method of killing.
"Because, Explorein, I order you too. Bring us down."
"But-" Ventelo began, and Dantu was forced to abandon na'vo and yell.
"No buts, Ventelo! Just do it!" Dantu wanted to pinch the bridge of his nose; Ventelo always had ways of making him abandon na'vo. Not that his... works... had left him much honor to hold onto, but his work was nessecary, and one should always fight for the scraps.
The ship slowly descended into the white blizzards that were a constant on Arctica's surface. Finally, with a soft ‘crunch', they were down. Dantu ordered the doors opened, which apparently broke what little was left of Ventelo's control.
"But the snowghost-!" he began.
"Shut up, Ventelo."
"They'll kill us-!"
"Shut up, Ventelo!"
"We'll be eaten alive!!-" he wailed.
"SHUT UP, VENTELO!!!!!!!" Dantu quivered with rage, and Ventelo quivered with fright, but the doors slowly opened. Dantu moved to leave the ship. It was only a thirty second walk to where he needed to be, but it always unnerved him. If not for Ventelo's presence, he would have ran for the elevator shaft that protruded on the surface. He was half way down the ramp and about to turn and tell Ventelo to wait in the ship for him, when the fool Velexian started to panic again.
"I have to get out of here!!! We have to leave! I have to tell the Explorien Council about this-" Ventelo ranted, but was cut off as something invisible cut his throat. He collapsed in a pool of bright red blood that drained through the grate-like floor of the Saucer Ship. Dantu stalked back into the ship. He was going to kill her!
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"Come out!" He yelled at the Control Center, apparently empty except for him and Ventelo's corpse. The Velexian's body was twitching feebly; it had been slow. Just how Rhendra liked it. "Now!" He yelled, and the air coalesced into two humanoid shapes, transparent and seemingly carved from the air itself, which slowly filled out into muscular Havien and reptillian Sabrak. They were using the new cloaks of invisibility made available to sho'gan vin assassin seven months ago. Dantu almost scowled at the two assassins he employed personally. "Rhendra!" He snapped at nothing. A third shape formed from air, a female shape, and Rhendra seductively stepped out of nothing to look challengingly at Dantu with empty grey eyes and snakelike smile.
"Why did you do that behind my back? I had uses for him yet." Dantu said calmly while gesturing to Ventelo's corpse. Havien shrugged uncomfortably, and Sabrak went as far as to hang his head and shuffle his feet, but Rhendra did not drop her defiant stare.
"It seemed... prudent. He was about to leave and report us to the High Council of your beloved Exploriens, after all." Rhendra was a Myren, and she moved with even more of the snake-like, deadly grace that her race was famous for then most of her kind. For the millionth time Dantu asked himself why he had chosen her as one of his three personal assassin. Havien was only hired muscle; stupid, and Sabrak made Havien seem brilliant, but Rhendra was deadly ambitious, intelligent, and a direct threat to the person she worked for. But that decisions was past changing, far past, and Dantu was confident that no matter how difficult Rhendra was to handle, she was only an irritation compared with his other troubles.
"It is yet another death I have to explain when I return to Space Station Sagittarius." Dantu hated having to explain himself to this creature, but it was nessecary, not matter how excruciatingly difficult."Now, you will accompany me to the complex, and instruct me on events that have occurred here while I was away." Dantu walked into the wall of white that was the air on Planet Arctica, walked into the blinding snowstorm, the demented wind, the ever-present snow whipping through the air frantically, confident that his three personally assassins would follow him the thirty feet to the elevator shaft.
Planet Arctica was a perfect place to have the headquarters of the sho'gan vin, which was why Dantu was here. A resource-less, barren planet, it only had six land animals, two predators, lichen and moss in the warmer areas, and a few types of sea and microscopic life. It was close to Velex though, a few light years at the most. It held no interest for scientists, explorers, industries, corporations, or colonists. Dantu hated it. But he was sure that soon he would take his promised position, on Krigon, and rule with more power then most people dreamed of. It had been promised.
As Sabrak, the rear guard, stepped aboard the small elevator, Dantu instructed Havien to press the button, which of course he did. Soon the four people were speeding down into the subterranean of Planet Arctica. At least Havien remembered Dantu's other request, and began to tell him all he had heard lately. Which did not amount to much, it seemed. He was not sure even of what other council members were present on the Planet at this time, although he said that there were rumors that Perry and Drumond were there. Sabrak agreed readily to that, at least. Dantu took it all in silently. Perry was the greasy little Terran who was in charge of sho'gan vin intelligence, a SpyMaster, as he liked to call himself. He disgusted Dantu. Drumond was the aging Velexian who command the military, or would once the master plan, which was Dantu's responsibility, was enacted. He had worked for the Exploriens during the Vorgon War and was generally considered the best military tactician alive. Both were members of the council that Dantu had been raised to eleven months ago; the ruling council of the sho'gan vin. His rise in his... darker work was just as rapid as his rise among the Exploriens.
Rhendra was silent the whole trip, empty grey eyes staring as the always did, full lips pursed in thought. Or perhaps not; Rhendra seemed to think that acting differently then she felt would benefit her somehow. Havien and Sabrak talked on and on, about the same things, trying to satisfy Dantu's need for knowledge. Finally their prattling annoyed Dantu enough for him to say, sharply, "Stop!" Sabrak looked confused, and reached out to the button that would bring the elevator to a halt. "Talking, you fool!" Dantu had to add. He hated being surrounded by idiots. Idiots and Myren snakes. Dantu regretted that his works as an Explorien so often took him away from his other duties here, because it meant he was never quite as involved in the intrigues as he needed to be. Just about everyone who was in the sho'gan vin was a schemer if they were not a pawn. Rhendra was a difficulty, true, but there were others, his equals, who were ten times more dangerous. Kobol, and Kresov, the two heads of Research and Development, Sarenne, an Aravillian diplomat who Dantu was very wary of, Janiculien, the Lengrumi biologist, Perry and Drumond, Gharhena, the Myren lead assassin, others, who all plotted as hard against each other as against their future enemies. He needed to stay on top of everything if he was to survive, and here he was depending on two idiots and a meddlesome Myren.
Finally the elevator stopped, miles under the frozen ground of Planet Arctica, in the secret headquarters of the sho'gan vin. Dantu stepped out of the elevator briskly, and saw Sarenne walking down the stone corridors in front of him. Seeing Dantu, the Aravillian woman stopped and walked smoothly towards him, as if Dantu was the one she was seeking in her wandering. Smiling in a sickly sweet fashion, the bronze skinned alien stopped before Dantu and smiled warmly. Dantu did not believe the emotion displayed. Sarenne had exquisite control over her face; she could appear one way while feeling the opposite, and her facades never slipped or cracked one bit. Dantu had to stop himself from sneering at the skimpy outfit she was almost wearing. He hated dealing with simple minds like Sarenne's.
"So nice to see finally see you, Dantu. I was being to think that you had abandoned our cause, yes?" Sarenne's conversational tone was all bland pleasantry, but she was one of the best diplomats alive today. Dantu swept past her; he had more important things to do then to indulge Sarenne.
"Sabrak, you will be my bodyguard on this trip." He said in icy tones, and started walking towards where he feared to go, but had to. His footsteps echoed as he stalked down the hallways.
* * * * * * * * * * * Rhendra watched Dantu walk down the hallway in his normal determined stalk. He was a fool. Dantu was smart enough to know that Rhendra was not a simple minded pawn like Sabrak or Havien. Havien was scowling at Sabrak's back as the Rektullian trailed Dantu with a triumphant grin. Rhendra did not understand it. Havien was completely simpleminded, but he was at little smarter then Sabrak, not that it mattered. The clear choice was her. But not being selected to trail Dantu like a lost dog did tell her something- he was afraid of her. She smirked, but it did not touch the empty complete greyness of her eyes.
Rhendra turned her gaze to Sarenne, walking in a swaying manner down the halls. Dantu did not know the half of what was going on underneath Planet Arctica, mainly because he believed Sabrak and Havien. The information they had fed him had been at least partially false, something Rhendra had seen to personally. Perry, the Terran SpyMaster, was present, but Drumond was on a secret mission on Aravil, of all places. Dantu had been too simple to see that; at least, Rhendra hoped it to be so. Sometimes black Krigoni eyes were as good at masking thought as the grey Myren ones she herself possessed. No matter; Rhendra had a perfect plan to take him down and instate her in his place. She started to glide down the halls in her serpentine walk, but with such a look on her face that even people who outranked her leaped out of her way.
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Dantu very nearly stalked as he threaded his way through the meandering underground tunnels, all but ignoring the trailing Sabrak. He was late, but he had had a good reason; the shoganarlan vi had to understand that. Dantu never paniced- panicing was worse then useless -but he wanted to right now. Six days ago, he had been summond to a meeting with the Leader of the sho'gan vin, and only now he was arriving. Normally Dantu would not have cared, but this could be counted as an exception.
Finally he reached the huge doors made of a type of onyx whose origins Dantu very much wanted to know. They slid open soundlessly for him, and Dantu had no explaination of how. Inside there was a normal, empty room, dismally lit but still normal. Dantu knew the truth of the room, though, and knew enough not to trust the deceptive outer appearance. That knowledge had become a metaphor for his life, lately.
Dantu stepped across the threshold of the doorway, and instantly everything was black. Dantu could see himself, perfectly, as if his body was illuminated strangely, but he stood out against pitch black. Moving by instinct, mainly, Dantu felt as if he was walking a treadmill, but he knew what to expect. Soon, even as he walked, he entered a grey area of half-light. The ground was of dusty, grey brick, and everything seemd covered with ancient filth. Still moving by rote, Dantu knelt just outside the inner circle of brick.
A swirl of blackness appeared above Dantu, and he put his head to the ground completely, feeling the old dust and grit that could not be old, but was. He still saw, though, saw what puzzled him. Or perhaps disturbed him.
The shoganarlan vi was that swirl, somehow, and he stepped out of it, swarthed in black cloth, a swirling black cloak. Only eyes and hands showed, but they were of no distinguishable alien race that Dantu could discern. He had bizarre... powers, though, which led Dantu to suspect him of having an Aravillian, Metaijjerian, or Krigoni background, because they were the races with such powers, yet none of those races had power such as he. It puzzled Dantu to no ends just who this person was. Not that that knowledge was important at the moment, but knowledge was power, and Dantu always sought to gain more power.
"Dantu" The voice of the Leader of the sho'gan vin was strangely resonant. "You were summoned six days ago. Yet only now you choose to appear. My orders are not to be taken lightly, Dantu." The voice was what Dantu would call a monotone, yet it held none of the dullness that a Lengrumi's voice carried. It.... echoed.... throughout wherever it was that Dantu knelt. HIs reply was uncomfortably small in comparison.
"I had reasons, Leader. If I am to keep up the facade of being an Explorien, I must devote some time to it, and-" He was cut off. Dantu had no idea why, but all of a sudden he stopped talking. Frowning mentally, he tried to force himself to speak. He was not gagged, and his mouth worked perfectly, but his very own brain seemed to rebel, and would let no sound escape. He tried not to frown at this.
"No matter. You must be taught to respond with... alacrity." He moved his black-gloved hand, and Dantu knew pain.
His world exploded in seering fires, blood fountaining from every pore. He would have howled but it seemed as though blood got in the way of that as well. Bones cracking so that they jutted out from red flesh, and marrow dripped from the shattered bones. His eyeballs were melting, everything gone. For a second. The next moment, he was knelling before the Leader once more, physically unharmed. He very much wanted to huddle in the Krigoni fetal position on the floor. As it was he still shuddered, and his knees threatened to give way automatically. Almost quivering with the memory, Dantu touched his face, blinked his eyes, and looked unsteadily at the shoganarlan vi. He was very proud that his reaction was so small. He was sure even proud Kobol would be reduced to sobs after that.
"Go, now, to the meeting room. I am done with you." And he was gone even before that resonant voice was finished speaking. Dantu had not seen him go. Even as those words finished their last echo the room was normal. Dantu had not seen that change, either. Sabrak was looking in at Dantu, still kneeling on the dirty floor in pristine Explorien uniform, and flicked his reptillian tongue, the Rektullian sign for confusion. Almost hissing with suppressed vexation, Dantu left the room in a stalk, not caring if the Rektullian fool followed or not.
It made no sense at all to send for Dantu only to punish him. Dantu tried to ponder just why he had been summoned to Planet Arctica, but since the Meeting Room was just across the Room of The Presence (as the place where the shoganarlan vi was present was called) he had almost no time for thought, and it was nessecary to be prepared for the idiotic intrigues he had to be involved in.
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