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*Training and War, Part 2*

*Multimage Chronicles, Section 2 of Part Gamma*

Back on Earth, Jed told them that there was something more "important" that they had to attend to, as opposed to zero-G training, with Eric. Again, he didn't say what. The trip back to the Mansion seemed dull, but the activity that was going on wasn't. Several Dropships were on the fields, Aerofighters were screaming left and right, The Klaxon was blaring, and all three galaxies of battlemechs present were out and going. Apparently something was up, and Serena didn't know what.

"Epsilon-1 to CNC, what's going on?"

Mercury's Tactical visor, which she had left on since Firearms practice, displayed the text of the transaction:

Jed: Epsilon-1 to CNC, what's going on?

CNC: We stirred up a hornet's nest with that last strike, sir. the reason why we didn't get much resistance during the strike is that 90% of 'em were en route here.

Jed: I'm coming to you. Tell the boss that his charges are waiting.

CNC: Through already, sir?

Jed: Aff. What kind of assault are we going to expect from them? CNC

: Sats show it won't be 'nuff.

Jed: BRT.

He looks up from his maps that he had in a pouch on his uniform. "Ladies, wait here. The Emperor will be around soon, once he finishes being a greasemonkey. Apparently he wants you to be on this excursion he's going on a LOT for some reason." Jed walks off, in the directioon of the entrance to the mansion.

True to Jed's word, Eric arrives quickly, from the direction of the 'Mechbays.

"Scouts, take 15 to get cleaned up. This is a "prestige" class assignment, and it wouldn't serve well to have you looking worn-out."

"How'd your mission go?" Mercury asks.

"Too well, Amy. While I was making sushi out of their base complexes, they were pulling strikes at every base on this planet. Too bad they can't throw enough of themselves at us to do a good job. Please, hurry. We're on a tight scedule if you want to get home in time." They leave and Eric waits for some reason. Then he notices what he was waiting for. "You really wouldn't try to backstab your former employer, would you?"

"If it clears the way for the Negaverse to take control here, as it was originally meant to be, I'll do it."

"Is your view of the scope of this conflict really that jaded? Or has Queen Metalia tricked you into thinking you'd get a holding here, once my influence is removed?"

"What do you mean by that? I have been promised nothing, and I was told that the Negaverse would rule this place as soon as you were eliminated."

"Neg, Queen Beryll, and her Mentor, Queen metalia, Plan to destroy this dimension and all traces of the Silver Millenium. Not take control."

"What he says is a Lie, Malachite. I intended you to take full lordship of this planet as soon as he was eliminated." Serena recognized the sinister voice of her most-hated foe, Queen Beryll.

"Who invited you to this little sware`? And I think that Uller is probably thinking the same thing."

"That toy? You embarass yourself, Emperor," Beryll made his title out to sound like a slur, not a prestigous position.

"Not when that UAC/5 it wields has a Force Hypercharge Module on it..."

"Ohh, crap." She mutters, and the cannon fires, but the rounds whizz straight overhead, apparently not hitting the target.

"Now, Malchite, what cause do I have to lie to you? You do know, if she gets ahold of the Imperium Crystal, this dimension is as good as gone."

"Why should I listen to you?"

"Because, I didn't have cause to lie to you before, and I have no cause to lie to you now. If you really think you are being decieved, take an objective look at ALL the facts, and you will see what I mean."

A pause ensues, and then the next one to speak is Malachite. "Is she really that insane?"

"I'm afraid so. She hates what I managed to swing during the Silver Millenium, she Hates what has become of the Galaxy as a whole, she hates me, she hates everything without justification. Demonspawn without a decent purpose. That's what she is, and that's her goal. Total annihalatiuon of this and every other dimension."

"And I turned coat for a 50 c-bill bonus on my paycheck. Man, that was real brilliant. By the way, was my old position filled?"

"Aff, but I have a better job for you. You are the closest to the Negaverse any Warrior of mine has ever gotten. You are in deep, per se, which gives me a bonus: you can do me more good on the inside than you can out here. Go with haste, watch your ass, and be discreet with Comms to me, quiaff?"

"Aff, sir. Eliminated twice: First by Sailor Moon, then by you, and now, I don't think I'd like to die a third time. I'll see what I can grunge up for you, but try not to make it look like there's a spy in her ranks, okay? She has a small grasp on your powers..." Serena hears the sound of a gate spell being used. She immediately rounds the corner.

"Is that wise, Eric?"

"Yes, he's the closest to Her as anyone can get."

"What if he feeds her intelligence on your moves? Or gives you the wrong figures?"

"Triple agency? Little did he know, I was silently scanning his thoughts during the conversation. He now knows what's at stake, and he doesn't want to be on the losing end of this stick. He wouldn't turn back to her side if she paid him a mint. But little does she know, He's now back on our side. He's already returned, looking worse for the wear, and pretending "a narrow escape from certain doom at my hands". I doubt she'll think he turned coat again."

"Will he..."

"No, but if circumstances dictate, he may have to use one of you as a message relay. I'll inform you if that need arises." By now, all of the scouts had returned to the courtyard, and they knew of what just happened between their former foe and their mentor.

"Now, ladies. The time for you to get an insight into politics on the Galatic scale has arrived. First, we'll be dropping in on "an old friend", the tree of Life. Second Stop is my Brother's joint, third is the Khan Meeting hall on Strata Mechty, and then back here to enjoy the fireworks. There's a bonus on being here on this date: 4 July is a threefold holiday: 1: the anniversary of the declaration of independence for the US, 2: the Official beginning of my Empire, and 3: the official beginning of the Silver Millenium. This year, it'd have been going for exactly 2,004 years. I do so miss those days..."

"What were you doing then, sir?"

"I was the guard captain at the Palace. I was called off-moon for some riot control when Beryll struck. The rest is history. Let's go," and he opens a gate to another part of this dimension.

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They arrive in a pitch-dark room, untill Eric lights a Flare. Then they see what Serena had been attacked by some 2 years ago: the Doom Tree. They also See Ann and Alan, students from shool, sitting on the tree. They don't notice the group of warriors, which suggests invisibility.

"HELP ME!" An eerie voice croaks.

"Was that the Doom Tree?" Ann says.

"It can't be. Trees don't talk," Alan answers.

"Normal trees don't. But this tree is one of four that can, 1 of 4 that is intelligent and wise. It has had nothing to say for so long because it has had not the energy to speak, nor has it had anyone to speak to." Eric dispels his invisibility, drawing their attention in that direction.

"Who are you? What do you know about the Doom Tree?"

"I'm an old friend of this tree, for it used to reside in the palace on Luna major, during the Star League era, as did I."

"I'll make you pay for this, you..." and she raises her hand to launch a shockwave at Eric, but the whole building shakes as the tree begins moving itself. a root swings at the Grangers, Ann and Alan, and strikes them both out of midair, and felling them to the ground. The same root winds up to nail them again.

"Don't!" Eric Shouts, and Teleports in front of the two downed warriors, and winds up to launch a fireball at the incoming limb.

"You really think so, Emperor?" They hear from all around them.

"Aff. They, and you, are not evil by nature, you have been listening to my sister too damn much."

"True, I wanted to do something about this evil, but could not gain the energy to do something. Can you help, sir?"

"I'll see what I can do, old friend." Eric begins walking up to the base of the tree. Ann and Alan wake up from the hits.

"Wait...What are you doing? Get away from that!" Ann shouts and fires a shockwave at Eric, knocking him flat forward.

Tiffany reacted first, teleporting in between Eric and Ann, with her Glaive up and ready to charge, pointing directly at them. "Stand fast, warrior. The Emperor means only to help, not harm."

Eric gets up and continues to the base of the tree. Ann and Alan both rush forward to stop him, but are met by the handle of Saturn's glaive. Eric stops right next to the trunk, winds up like to launch a fireball at the target. The energy that gathers in his hands is Blue and bright, not red like fire.

"Here goes. *Force PowerBurst OMEGA*!" He shouts the incantation, and thrusts his hands fore almost against the tree, but stops short. The tree begins glowing, gradually at first, but rapidly increasing, from red to blue-white, untill the whole room is lighted to intensity beyond that of the sun. The glow dims back to nothing, and everyone sees a beautiful tree, with pink, white, and blue leaves.

"He...he did that? He gave it more energy in one shot than we've managed to give it in 2 years!"

"HE is the most powerful entity in the universe, Ann." Saturn says, spinning her polearm to a vertical position and dropping the end to the floor.

"My thanks, Emperor. How can I repay you for this service?" the tree says again.

"There is a crystal, big and Onix black, hard to miss, down the road, that needs to be removed. Can you do it?"

"Easily, sir." The ground begins shaking again violently, and the pavement below cracks. Everyone goes to the edge of the roof, which was a dark room, and looks down the road at the ominous crystal that has grown there. The roots of the usge tree encircle the crystal, and halt it's rapid expansion. "I can stop it growing in power, sir, but you'll have to neutralize the control mechanism if I'm to destroy it. Once again, thanks." The tree opens a gate to their next destination for them.

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Their next goal is the last place anyone would have expected to go. Diamond's throne room, overlooking the Crystal Chamber, which housed the now-neutralized Dark Crystal's control mechanisms. As soon as they phase in, Diamond drops the wineglass he was holding, shattering it on the marble dais.

"Eric! What are you doing here?"

"I came to speak to you, about your operations on Terra."

"To me?"

"No, the wise-ass. Of course you. You, Emerald, Rubeus and Sapphire are the only reasonable ones around here."

"What...about my operations on earth?"

"You are catering to the Doom Phantom and trying to destroy what you wanted to see again...up close and personal."

"WHAT? The Doom Phantom? Who?" Diamond Shreiks. As this as a Cue, Emerald, Sapphire, and Rubeus all teleport in to see Eric talking to Diamond.

"The Wise-man. He's been playing you for a succer, brother. You knew your goal was not revenge, but to get back to what you were exiled from. You always wanted to live in peace on Earth, but your connections to the Wise-man got you and your crew booted. It was not easy passing that order on, comrade."

"He's...really..."

"I can prove it. I gave you an incentive to clean up and shuck that loser, right before you left: I gave you a rose from the garden outside the UN, and told you that if you cleaned up, I'd remove your Exile status and give you that building for a mansion. Remember?"

"I do..."

"I was there when you said that, Eric." Rubeus said. "Can you still accept us?"

"Not all of us are as evil as the Wise-man, and I didn't want to destroy earth to begin with," Emerald says, looking first at Eric, then at Diamond.

"I speak for myself when I say I'm sick of listening to that jerk. Count me in, if the offer still stands?" Sapphire shouts.

"My offer still stands, though that particular building was destroyed 1000 years ago by a friend of the Wise-man; my Sister-in-law. I can get you some other accomodations, though."

The wise-man gates in, right next to Diamond. "What is the meaning of this? Who are you?" he says to Eric.

"This is a Family affair, Doom, so see yourself out of here. Quiaff?"

"Diamond, what has he told you?"

"He told me the truth for a change and your origins."

"Lies! all-"

"Consider yourself dismissed PERMANENTLY, Wise-man. Leave here and never return."

"You can't be-"

"I believe he just said 'LEAVE', wiseass, so BEAT IT!" The scouts chant.

"Do you leave willingly or do I remove you?" Eric asks.

"You can't do this to me, Diamond. He's lying t-"

"My own brother has no justification to lie to me, maggot. How dare you make such an accusation without proof! Now, for the last damned time, YOU ARE FIRED!!! GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY SIGHT!" everyone in the room recoils at the last statement. The wise-man disappears.

"O1kay, Wiseass, now you are asking for it." Eric says, and prepares to attack. The Wise-man reappears, wielding his sicle. "*Thunderball!*" Eric chants, and whips a ball of lightning at him, phasing him out. "Now, will one of you tell me how to neutraize that dark crystal?"

"The controls are behind you. It shouldn't be too hard to deactivate, figguring it was made using ol' Star League technology..." Sapphire gates out, just as Eric reaches the controls. He presses several buttons, and punches the control box.

"Bullshit. No response. Mercury, see if you can do something with it." Eric steps out of the way, to let her get at it. Hooking her new laptop minicomputer to the control main I/O jack, she begins with a basic analyze program. She then opens the control box and inserts a card into it, and tries several more strings of commands. When nothing works, she turns around to look in Diamond's direction.

"Any luck?"

"No. I don't know what command strings it uses to activate/deactivate."

"And I know were it is," Eric says. "Sapphire thinks bringing the control mechanism to the crystal'd do something to it. He'll be there in about an hour. I have somewhere else to go."

"Later, Emperor," Emerald says.

Eric opens the next gate to their final business destination: Strata Mechty, a miserable little planet out there in the middle of nowhere, but at the same time, somewhere, for it is the birthplace of the Clans. A society which holds the Warrior caste in the highest rank, Ruthless, barbaric, Techno-warriors that were bred for destruction. The Inner Sphere (all the rest of the human-colonized planets during the Silver Millenium) was/is literrally no match for the Clanners, But Eric's empire is. They respect him, and they respect his authority.

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