hen Hogan finally came to, he wasn't at all surprised at his surroundings - a dank, sparse prison cell. It was the third time he'd seen one of these from the inside, and he barely bat an eyelash at the situation. He was wearing nothing more than a ragged shirt and a dingy pair of shorts, his original clothes having been totally ruined from the aftereffects of his transformation.
Unlike previous instances where he was imprisoned, he didn't even bother calling for anyone outside his cell. He decided to wait until the ones who had imprisoned him came looking for him first. It would be half an hour before such a visit was made: walking into the cell block was none other than Commander A'ris himself, heavily bandaged and obviously smarting from his previous encounter with Hogan.
"I see you're awake now," the commander sneered. "And I guess you know why you're here."
"Lemme guess," Hogan said flatly. "You're gonna try me for criminal negligence since I never got the talisman before A'nake used it."
"Oh, we've got much more to work with now than those trumped-up charges," A'ris replied. "Assault. Destruction of property. Attempted murder. Treason. I think it's safe to say that you're in quite a bit of trouble now - and it's all your own doing."
"My own doing my ass. You knew fully well I wasn't going to get anywhere with the way you sent me out to the A'nakite base. Everything you told me to say blew up in my face. They found the communicator on me as soon as they started searching. You just wanted me out of your hair for good."
"That very well may be," A'ris explained, beginning to pacing back and forth in front of the prison cell, "but nobody told you to join their side when we attacked. Nobody on our side ordered you to attack our troops in the field. That was your decision, not ours." He sighed wistfully. "But, that's all in the past now. What's done is done. And nothing you can do now will change any of it."
Hogan felt a bit uneasy with the way A'ris was phrasing his words. "So when's the trial?"
A'ris stopped pacing and looked straight at Hogan. "Who said anything about a trial?"
Hogan's eyes widened. In a flash of anger, he charged at the commander from behind the bars, but stopped when A'ris brandished the familiar spirit tazer. "Calm down, Hogan. Take it easy. As much as I would love to see you stand in front of a jury and hear them find you guilty on all counts, then send you to your execution, Emperor O'bire has something else in mind."
"What would that be?" Hogan asked cynically.
Suddenly, Hogan's spirits arose. Maybe, he thought, I knocked enough sense into the Du'imites to realize that this war was headed nowhere. But his hope lasted only for a moment, until reality set in again.
"Come on," Hogan moaned. "It couldn't be that easy. What do you want from me?"
"Nothing. You're simply a prisoner of war, as are the three Minions who stopped you from ending my life and adding first degree murder to the charges you face. His eminence has simply decided that this war has gone on long enough, and that both sides need to hammer out some sort of agreement. As a token of our good faith, his eminence has promised the release of all our war prisoners. Moreover, his eminence is offering the designs behind some of our technology, so that when they find their own land - as they had wanted from the outset - building it up into their own society will be much easier."
"And what do you guys want in return?"
"Obviously," A'ris replied, "we would like our own prisoners freed as well. But in exchange for the Du'imite technology, we ask for one thing and one thing only. A small token of your honesty - something that the Minions don't even want to use anyway."
"And what's that?"
Hogan blinked a few times in disbelief. "You honestly think the A'nakites will part with that?"
"Boy, they really brainwashed you over there, didn't they? You're even referring to them by the name they gave themselves!" A'ris chuckled. "In any event, I'm sure those Minions will realize the sort of deal we're offering and take it before his eminence changes his mind."
"So what are you doing here, then?" Hogan asked.
"I'm merely waiting until I get word from his em-" A'ris was then interrupted by a warbling sound coming from his chest pocket. He reached in, grabbed a small elliptical device, and put it to his ear. "A'ris here. Yes. They agreed? Very well. I take it you want me to bring him along, then? Acknowledged." He placed the device back in his pocket. "Well, Hogan. It looks like your compatriots have indeed agreed to our offer." He reached into another pocket, pulling out a key. He inserted it into the cell door and slid it open. "His eminence requests your presence at the signing of the peace treaty. After that, you're free to go."
Hogan couldn't shake the feeling that some sort of trap was waiting for him, but decided to play along. A'ris motioned towards the corridor, and the two of them headed out of the prison.
It was a short hovercraft ride to the emperor's palace in the city of Lo'pon. When Hogan and A'ris entered the throne room, he saw a large conference table situated in the center, where Emperor O'bire was standing, scepter in hand. A'ris knelt at the presence of his leader.
"Your eminence," A'ris began, "it is such good news to hear that the Minions have agreed to your terms."
"Yes, it is," O'bire sighed. "For years, I have wondered if I would be the one on our side to finally bring this nightmare that has now lasted more than a century to an end. Hearing that the Minions have accepted this truce is truly a step forward for all of us."
The large door to the throne room opened once more. Hogan and A'ris both turned around to watch as Captain I'kali, as well as the emperor of the A'nakites and what looked to be an advisor of his, walk into the throne room.
"Hogan!" I'kali called out. "You're all right!"
Hogan smiled. "Yes, I'kali. I'm back to normal again."
The three A'nakites met the others at the conference table. "Emperor O'bire, I present to you, Emperor I'taina of the A'nakites, and his ambassador, I'theki."
The two emperors met at the head of the table and shook hands. "It is an honor to be a part of this historical moment," I'taina said cordially.
"An honor we both share," O'bire replied. "We will celebrate this truce in due time, but for now, let us get to business." The Du'imite emperor picked up a box filled with about two dozen metallic, cube-shaped objects. "On these memory cubes are the findings we have made in the last 100 years in farming, construction, technology and medicine. I am sure that you and your fellow people will put this information to good use as you rebuild your society from the wreckage that this war has caused."
I'taina smiled back. "I promise you, your eminence. The A'nakite people will not let this generous offering of yours go to waste."
"I am glad," O'bire replied. "As for your part of the agreement - you have the talisman with you, do you not?"
"But of course." The A'nakite emperor looked at his advisor, who was carrying a wooden box. On the emperor's signal, I'theki opened the box. Situated inside a purple velvet casing was the fifth talisman. I'taina took it in his hand. "For 100 years, we have kept this talisman locked in a heavily-guarded vault. No one was ever allowed to open it - not even myself - until the time had come for it to resurface. I can think of no better use for this talisman than to bring upon the end of this war." With that, I'taina offered the talisman to O'bire, who took it out of the A'nakite's hands.
"I guess this means that the war is over?" Hogan asked.
"Indeed," O'bire replied. "The war of Du'im is officially over." He snickered.
"I shall arrange for the release of all or prisoners of war, then?" A'ris said back.
"Oh, yes. Go ahead and do that." O'bire giggled again.
I'taina stepped forward. "Your eminence, could you tell us what you find so funny?"
"Oh, nothing." O'bire could barely keep a straight face now.
Hogan watched as the Du'imite emperor was struggling to hold back his laughter, until it finally dawned on him. "It's a trap!"
Suddenly, the emperor pointed his scepter at Hogan. A ray of crimson light was fired at Hogan from the gem at the top of the wand, and it caught Hogan directly in the chest, sending him flying into the back wall.
"What is the meaning of this?" I'taina asked, confused.
"You're eminence!" A'ris gasped. "What are you doing?"
O'bire finally broke into outright laughter. "I don't believe it!" he said amongst his giggles. "I never imagined it would be so easy! On my own planet, no less! I never had to throw any punches, take anyone by surprise, or deal with any sort of resistance! I just possess the emperor's body, whine and moan a little about making peace, and all of a sudden, everyone is more than happy to just give me the talisman!"
Everyone made the same realization at the same time. "You- you're not the emperor, are you?" A'ris asked.
"Nonsense!" the emperor replied. "I've just been on vacation… for about a hundred years."
Next chapter: A'nake escapes with the fifth talisman… but like Hogan, he plans on holding onto this one for a while.