[The Price of Power]

Written by ZeusLegion. Edited by Auspex Turmalis.

Broker sat in his plush command chair aboard the battlecruiser Temujin, wrapped deep in thoughts of extending his power. He vividly recalled the days when he was fighting for loftier goals alongside his rebellious friends in the Kelanis Guild more than a decade earlier. Back then I was idealistic and naive, he told himself. An utter fool.

But he had come a long way since then. After his superiors had formed the Combine with those wretched Morian scum, he had only begun to learn what the universe was all about: power. Political, physical, mental, monetary. Every aspect of it was more revered than all the minerals in the sector.

The Confederacy proved it when they turned Korhal into a planet-sized desert... and again when they coerced the Combine into capitulating to their terms in the peace accord. With those two lessons he learned all he needed to know and seized upon it, strengthening his body through rigorous exercises... honing his mind to a razor's edge through his education by Umojan tutors... sharpening his bureaucratic skills by studying those who had achieved what he desired... building his military career on the bones of both his enemies and one-time allies... gaining wealth through his multitude of schemes and double-crosses.

And for all of that, he had not obtained nearly enough power.

Soon, he told himself. Soon I will have anything I could possibly desire.

One of his bootlickers brought him back to reality. "Sir, we're having a problem disposing of that equipment you ordered smelted."

"Wonderful. What is the problem now?"

"I'll put him on screen, Sir," the comm officer replied.

"Him?"

One of the monitors flashed to life, and a blond-haired man with a neatly trimmed goatee appeared.

"Whoa. Uh, Sanitation Officer Gurney reporting, Sir!" the man grinned. Broker found it annoying.

"What is the problem down there?" Broker snarled.

"Uh, yessir... I was just wonderin' if you guys really wanted this stuff melted down. I mean, I could recycle it or..."

"Silence, you half-witted baboon! I ordered that equipment to be destroyed! Do as you were ordered or I'll have you executed for insubordination. Broker out."

The screen went black just as Broker caught the man's face turning from shock to anger. That's right you imbecile, he thought. Get angry. Show me you aren't a moron and do the job right.

"Clayton, see that Sanitation Officer Gurney is relieved of duty and stripped of all rank and privileges... then have him taken down planetside with an armed escort and beaten in a dark alley. After he destroys that equipment."

The comm officer smiled viciously. "Yes, Sir. It will be my pleasure."

Broker laughed inside but he felt weary. It felt good to exercise some of his power now and again, but he was tired of dealing with idiots and the flood of daily annoyances they caused. He rose from his seat and left the bridge.

Walking through the hallways, he allowed himself to relax a bit, eyeing his people going about their business. He couldn't wait for his current scheme to bear fruit. He was sick of dealing with these people. Always questioning their orders or being incompetent enough to botch whatever they were doing. Sometimes, he wondered if putting up with it all was worth the price.

But, of course, if his latest plan worked this would all be nothing but an annoying memory. With that thought, he grinned and entered his quarters.

His desk was cluttered with forms awaiting his signature. He pushed them all into a box and switched on his computer. The HoloNet came up and as usual. His mailbox was crammed. An icon began flashing, telling him that a call was incoming. He looked at the name of the sender and raised his brow. Now what does that mutant freak want? he thought as he authorized the transmission. Ro'taann appeared on-screen smoking one of his ridiculous Juphori pipes and smiling in that self-effacing manner Broker hated so much.

"Hello there, my esteemed colleague," the mutant said between puffs. "I just wanted to inform you that your pal Mox is on Bora Dalis."

Broker's temper flared like a volcano but he forced himself to keep it in check. "I do hope you mean he's on Bora Dalis and in a body bag."

Ro'taann's eyes turned silver and his grin widened to reveal his jagged teeth as he leaned closer to the camera. "On the contrary, my dear friend. He is alive and kicking... and currently intoxicated at one of my drinking establishments. I thought you would enjoy killing him yourself."

"More likely, you hope to collect on the credits he owes me so that you can collect your ten percent!" Broker fired back.

Ro'taann managed to form a half-convincing mask of hurt. "Oh, that stings," he said as the smile returned. "But it is so true. Nevertheless, if you want him, he's here. I'll expect my finder's fee either way. Ro'taann out."

The screen blacked and Broker's fury erupted in a roar as he began kicking and punching his office decor. After wearing himself out, he slumped into his chair. Ro'taann will learn not to test my patience ever again, he thought. Your days are numbered just like Mox, cretin.

He punched in some commands on the computer console and moments later a bearded man clad in red armor and an eyepatch appeared.

"Avast ye, matey!" he said in a growl. "Oh, it's you. What do you want?"

"Charles Mox. I'm uploading the data to you now. He owes me fifty thousand credits. I want him dead and all his property confiscated. Bring me his body and you'll receive triple the usual," Broker said.

"Ho ho, well that sounds like quite an offer. Anything else I can do for you?" the pirate smiled.

"Yes. Ro'taann is becoming a nuisance again but I still need him. I want you to harass the air traffic and visitors. Plunder them, kill them. I don't care. Give them something to fear. Let's see how he likes having a thorn in his side for a change. Put more of your men in his elite guard. As soon as I give the order, I want them ready to overthrow his puppet government and take Bora Dalis by force. And don't worry, I'll have more than sufficient backup for you when that time comes."

"Aye, it's always a pleasure doin' business with you, Broker."

The screen again faded into nothingness and Broker activated his classical music collection. A soothing rendition of Nebur Onerom's The Conqueror began to play as he leaned back in his chair and put his feet up.

Is it all worth it? he asked himself. Yes. Some days it can be very gratifying, indeed.

The Antioch Chronicles™ © 1998, Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. All rights reserved. The Antioch Chronicles™ trademark and associated logos are the exclusive property of Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. Characters and distinctive likenesses thereof, character names, item names, place names, named events, artwork and all other related material not disclosed herein are protected under the laws of the United States of America and other countries. Any reproduction, retransmission, or unauthorized use herein is prohibited without express written permission.

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