“I regret to inform you that The Soul Survivor has escaped our custody.”
Emperor Dyson turned from his workbench, and Zamona was struck by how different he looked. The Emperor, when dressed in his full regalia, acted stuffy, regal, and rarely personable, though often polite. No longer wearing his mask, crown, or robes and wearing his work outfit, he seemed happier, or at least more in place. An understanding smile crept across Dyson’s face, and he shook his head sympathetically.
“That’s a shame, Harry,” he said. “I’d been looking forward to figuring out how he worked. If I could have. Reportedly, some of the Soul Survivor’s technology is a mystery even to him… I doubt that on some level, though. It’s possible all of his upgrades have come through simpler technologies that he finds more accessible, but I expect that he knows, on some level, how it all works together.”
“Do you really think you wouldn’t be able to work it out?” asked Zamona. “We’ve been able to reverse engineer every piece of alien hardware we’ve come across so far. You do have a gift for this, if I may say so.”
“I’ve been lucky,” said Dyson, turning back to the scattered tools on his workbench. “The right insight at the right time… even just living this long. There will always be mysteries outside of our understanding, and it’s possible that The Soul Survivor, through accident or intention, represents some technology that our dedicated team couldn’t unravel. Over the years, his escapades have demonstrated a bizarre talent for denying classification. Which reminds me, what of Captain Ortega?”
“In custody, and cooperative,” said Zamona. “For now, at least. The two Morcalans are not cooperative, and one of them has escaped twice. She’s got an excellent grasp of strategy and combat. Nothing we can’t contain, but it is putting a strain on our local resources.”
“Understood. Do you believe that you will be able to reclaim The Soul Survivor?”
“Maybe,” said Zamona. “He’s missing. We presume that he is with the pilot who had pointed us to the crates that contained the, uh… water cooler parts.”
“Water cooler? Tell me, can you confirm that we ever even had The Soul Survivor captive?”
“I can’t,” said Zamona. “I’d say we didn’t. Unfortunately, the pilot’s vessel has vanished entirely. It was in formation for our assault on the Veskid system, but then it stopped being there. It’s either some sort of advanced cloaking, or a new application for your Virellium Wave technology.”
“Amazing. I want a report on all the details surrounding that disappearance.”
“I’ll arrange that. Shall we continue delaying?”
Dyson picked up a tool on his workbench and slowly turned it in his hand.
“No,” he said. “No, without any possible new insights from The Soul Survivor, delay makes no sense. All communications in and out of the system need to stop. I won’t have our quarry get away.”
“This won’t kill it, you know.”
“I know,” said the Emperor. “But it’ll hurt it. We’ve hurt it before. It’s been dying for a long time now, but it won’t die without a little more effort, and every time we hurt it we get closer. Even if we don’t succeed in our true goal, the Veskid system will make a fine addition to this new empire. Begin the attack.”