The great fortress on Cadavra was destroyed, including The Cluster’s weapons factories. The Zebulon scientists under The Cluster’s yoke were placed into the custody of their own kind for ﬁnal disposition. Most of them had been guests in The Cluster’s mesmer room, so they would be exonerated. There was, however, no quarter given the Minions, who died to the last—again.
“We haven’t found The Cluster,” Quake regretfully told the DimensioNoids when it was long over and twenty thousand piles of dusty debris littered the battleﬁeld.
“And Chaos?” Fractal asked.
“Unaccounted for,” Quake replied.
“Then our conﬂict continues,” Fractal snarled. “Search the entire planet! We can’t let them get away!”
“We are not occupiers,” Flex, leader of the Frobenian forces, explained. “Cadavra is vast. It could take years to search every possibility. And still there are great numbers of the enemy in our homelands. Our people still suffer.”
“This is true,” Quake agreed. “It will go even harder on them, now.”
“They are right,” Starla said over the burn band communicators. “Return to the Forbidden Land, DimensioNoids. We will ﬁnd Chaos and The Cluster by other means.”
“Do you have a ﬁx on them, Starla?” Josh asked.
“No, there is some sort of interference. Something cloaking their whereabouts.”
“Can we leave a force here on Cadavra?” Denso suggested. “To be certain The Cluster don’t reestablish their armies?”
“Who would stay when they are needed at home?” Starla responded.
Starla’s statement struck a chord in Josh. He’d been away from home for six days, his longest adventure, yet. Even the words of comfort with which he left his parents, for them not to worry, for them to trust him, would be stretched thin by now. Josh looked up to see the entire contingent, the DimensioNoids, the Frobenians, the Ramanujans, the Huen, the Kolomogorons, the Zebulons, even the Yotobian Dragons who were really morphs from Quaternion. They were all looking to Josh for a decision.
“Let’s go home,” he decreed.
They all cheered. Josh let them go on for a while. They deserved celebration for what they’d accomplished. Then Josh held up his hand, and they all fell silent.
“But Starla will keep close watch on this area,” Josh announced. “If we detect any attempt to rebuild their efforts here, we will reunite the rebel factions and destroy that attempt. We have won this ground, this foothold in Cadavra, and we will never give it back!”
The crowd cheered wildly and Josh was proud. A ﬁfteen foot tall Yotobian Dragon stomped up and looked down at Josh with black saucer-sized eyes. Then with the gurgling sound Quaternions make when transforming, it reduced down in the extreme and became Tempo in the form of Emily Kinicki wearing that pretty yellow dress and pumps.
“You fought well, Joshua Miles,” she said, “and I like your new armor. It goes with your eyes.”
He swept her into his arms. Their physical contact made telepathy more than possible. She looked into his deep green eyes with the eyes of Emily Kinicki, but seeing him with her own. She, composed of rare liquid metals and minerals found only in her dimension, was in love with a boy from a world so different from hers only friendship was possible. But she loved him as only a Quaternion could, without reservation—except for the one reservation that would forever keep them apart. She loved him, and was not afraid to tell him so.
Telepathically, he responded, “I loved you even before I ever met you,” and they kissed, bringing a huge cheer from all the rebel factions, though most had never before even seen a kiss.
* * *
The DimensioNoids returned to their command center. There Josh prepared again to go home. There was no telling how long it would be before he would again be needed in interdimensional space, how patient The Cluster might be before they struck again. How much time might pass before Josh and Tempo would again see each other. They all went down the main entrance to the secret door and ventured out into the swirling snow that draped its white veil over the black mountain. Josh did the uniquely interdimensional two handed handshake with the brooding Fractal.
“Don’t worry. We’ll get Chaos someday,” Josh smiled.
Fractal merely nodded unconvinced, sullen as ever.
Josh then grasped both of Spindle’s hands with his.
“Someday, Frobenius will be free,” Josh promised.
“With you as our leader, I know it shall be so,” the elastic birdman said, giving Josh that lipless smile.
Josh was about to offer a handshake to Starla, as well, but thought better of it, and instead affectionately patted the top of the glowing, ﬂoating orb of spectral light.
“Keep everyone well fed and on their toes,” Josh said.
“As you have no doubt noticed, I have little data on the concept of toes,” the glowing globe said. “But you need have no concern, Joshua Miles. I shall be ever alert.”
Josh gave to Denso, as best he could, the shoulder slaps of the Ramanujan warrior.
“Keep thinking, big guy,” Josh told the blue high-density man.
“Can’t help it,” Denso said, shoulder slapping Josh back with such force it nearly knocked the boy down.
Then Josh turned to Tempo, who retained the form of Emily Kinicki for Josh’s departure.
“I will once again experience the uniquely organic emotion of missing you,” she said.
“Come with me,” Josh irrationally suggested.
“You know I cannot,” Tempo smiled.
She kissed him with the lips of Emily Kinicki, then touched his cheek with Emily’s tender ﬁngertips.
“Be well,” the Quaternion said telepathically inside Josh’s head.
Josh stepped away. He turned and waved from a short distance. By now the others had grown accustomed to this uniquely Solarian practice, and all, who had arms and hands, waved back. Josh hit the activator on his burn band and vanished into the ﬁery dimension burn that took him home.
* * *
The mountains known as the Forsakens were the most desolate and uninhabitable region in the entire dimension of Cadavra. The swirling black clouds were their blackest and thickest, here, drenching the dreary Forsakens with a constant torrential rain. It was a ﬁtting place for The Cluster to conceal their secret stronghold.
An added beneﬁt was the purple lightning. It crackled continuously down from the dark clouds that swarmed over the craggy peaks of the Forsakens. There was so much lightning, the air had become highly charged with ions, simple electricity. This made it impossible for Starla to monitor The Cluster. Here, The Cluster had discovered a network of great caverns deep within the mountains. Here, they’d secretly built a jump facility, weapons factories, and a science laboratory. They’d carefully selected their best Zebulon scientists, faked their deaths so no one would suspect and, over the years, cloistered them here in the bowels of the Forsakens, here, to invent new and horrible weapons.
Even Chaos was unaware of the secret base, so as Number One led him down a long passageway, Chaos testily asked, “Why was I not told of this?”
“It was important we keep it a secret for just the circumstance that has now befallen us,” Number One replied in its robotic, compassionless voice. “You are our creation, confronting our enemies, and putting our plans into motion. But quite frankly, Chaos, you talk too much.”
Chaos was now even more inﬂamed. He considered killing Number One, popping out his deadly slashers and gutting his creator from behind. A healing shroud couldn’t stop cold steel. But Chaos was no fool. He knew where his future lie, regardless of how corrupt and murderous that future might be.
“We will set the great power we have secreted here to one primary purpose,” Number One said, as the passageway opened onto a wide escarpment that overlooked a vast chamber. “That purpose will be complete and utter victory!”
There, on the ﬂoor of the cavern below, stood a much larger army of Minions than the one just destroyed by the rebels. All stood unmoving in perfect ranks and carried disruptor weapons at the ready. There were also attack skimmers, battle cruisers, and even a few dimension destroyers. Since zombies required no food or comforts, the Minions could remain at attention, available for The Cluster’s purposes, indeﬁnitely.
Number One led Chaos down a catwalk to a steel door that recognized the leader of The Cluster and hummed opened at his approach. Inside were row upon row of black operating tables with chrome instruments and devices for ghastly invasive surgery. On each slab was a captured Kolomogoron, both men and women, all in the process of being turned by enslaved Zebulon technicians into an army of warriors similar to, if not the equal of, Chaos.
“When these delicate operations are concluded, this army of converted Kolomogorons will make us invincible!” Number One said with ﬁnality.
“You have planned well, master,” Chaos noted, with no hint of the clawing malice toward his creator that festered deep within him.
“It is our mission to plan. Plan for the subjugation of all the dimensions,” Number One replied. “For you see Chaos, your purpose is conquest, while ours is—revenge.”
“Revenge? For the defeat at the hands of the rebels?” Chaos said, confused.
“Revenge for the destruction of our society,” Number One responded. “For the endless torture of the undead. You are aware of Lord Eddington Lowe, who ruled interdimensional space and created the so-called Great Coalition.”
“Of course,” was Chaos’s perplexed reply.
“Lord Lowe was a Solarian,” Number One said.
“Yes, and it is a Solarian who frustrates us now!” Chaos growled, clenching his clawed ﬁsts at the recollection of Josh’s many escapes and victories over him. It was embarrassing! “This—boy!”
Number One interrupted. “Lord Lowe was a different sort. What Solarians call—a medicinal practitioner.”
“Yes, his knowledge of medicines and pathological sciences overcame the diseases that once besieged us,” Chaos offered. “Therein was his way to power.”
“So history records, but history can be incomplete. Lord Lowe feared that, upon his death, the huge armies being assembled in Cadavra would be used to overthrow the Great Coalition. It was never our intention. Our only purpose was to insure the security of the society we’d built over thousands of years. A world we cherished beyond all. Before he died, Lord Lowe was determined to prevent the perceived threat he saw in us. He used his pathogens against us,” Number One shuddered, revealing the only trace of emotion Chaos had ever witnessed in the ruthless leader of The Cluster. “Lord Lowe secretly sent to Cadavra the plague that killed us all. For this,” the fog-shrouded entity resolved, “we shall have our revenge!”