ithin minutes, Hogan and his companions had made it out of A'nake's stronghold. The now captive A'nake, his body now in Hogan's control because of the ceremony, was as docile as he had been when the two of them were drinking tea in A'nake's den.
"Now comes the hard part," Hogan sighed. "How do we get back? I don't know if carrying all four of you is such a good idea. Someone might fall off."
"I can radio for a hovercraft," I'kali replied. "Shouldn't take too long to get here." He tapped a small button located on the strap around his wrist, brought it up to his mouth, and spoke into it. "I'kali here. Please send a 4-passenger hovercraft to this position immediately."
Hogan quickly did a headcount. "Wait. There's five of us. Who's not going to get a ride?"
I'kali looked at Hogan and smiled. "You, of course. None of us can fly."
Hogan smirked. "I guess not."
As they waited for the hovercraft to arrive, the group contemplated what the next step would be. "So what's going to happen with A'nake?" I'kali asked.
"He'll be brought to trial," Emperor O'bire responded. "We have a multitude of war crimes we want to try him for, and I will see to it personally that our people get the justice they deserve."
"Our people?" I'theki repeated. "You mean…"
"This war is over," O'bire confirmed. "It is time for both of our races to come together and rebuild Du'im to the civilization that it once prided itself on. After hearing how your kind defeated A'nake a second time, I know without a doubt that my subjects will show their gratitude and welcome you with open arms."
"Hey, Hogan," I'kali said. "You know what this means, right? A'nake's been captured. He won't be able to go after the last talisman. You're home free."
Hogan thought about this development for a moment. Maybe, he thought. Maybe this is the last time I'm ever going to have to deal with A'nake.
"I'm afraid not," I'theki sighed. "A'nake may in our custody, but I doubt this is the end of it all. If there's one more talisman left, it's going to be just as hard to obtain as the rest of them. And I wouldn't put it past A'nake to get in the way somehow." He looked at the captive werewolf, looking placidly at the Ki'rath as if it was waiting for its next command. "You can bet that A'nake's still in there. And he's not going to just give up the last talisman if he can do anything about it."
Roughly 15 minutes later, a large hovercraft appeared in the distance. As it neared, the group began to wave their arms wildly in the air to flag it down. When it arrived, the A'nakite that was piloting it was fairly surprised to see his two more A'nakites than he had expected, along with the Du'imite empreror. "Who are those people, Captain?" he asked.
"That," I'kali replied, pointing at the golden-furred wolf, "is the Ki'rath. And that," he pointed at the wolf wearing spirit cuffs, "is A'nake."
"A-… A'nake?!" the pilot stammered.
"That's right, we got 'em," Hogan answered back.
"You got A'nake? But, wasn't he a Du'imite?"
I'kali smirked. "Not anymore."
Hogan stayed back as I'kali, I'theki, O'bire and A'nake boarded the hovercraft. "We'll see you at Ni'mar," I'theki instructed. "I've got some things for you before you leave."
Hogan nodded. "What is it?"
I'theki grinned. "It's a surprise." Seconds later, the hovercraft started up again and headed to the northeast.
Hogan sighed as he watched the craft disappear into the horizon. He then looked down at the fifth talisman, which he fingered slowly. Five down, one to go, he thought.
Hogan arrived at the A'nakite capital of Ni'mar a few minutes after the rest of them had made it there. By the time he reached the palace, it was apparent that word of A'nake's capture and the end of the war was already spreading throughout the city. From above, Hogan looked on as he witnessed practically the whole population of the city cheering, celebrating, and dancing in the streets. He couldn't help but feel a swelling of pride in knowing that he had just given everyone on this world some hope for a better future.
He landed in front of the palace's main gate when it started to rain. He knew that his time to leave was drawing near, but remembered that I'theki wanted to give him something before he left. The guards ushered Hogan inside the palace, and saw Emperor I'taina greeting the others, with a crowd of onlookers watching it all in gleeful anticipation. The room went quiet when Hogan entered. He politely kneeled in front of the A'nakite emperor.
"Kneeling is not necessary, Ki'rath," I'taina instructed. "Your actions are more than sufficient for me."
Hogan stood back up. "So, is it official? Do we have a truce?"
"Most definitely," Emperor O'bire replied. "The A'nakite emperor and I have come to the mutual decision that both sides have fought long enough. Now the time has come for Du'imites and A'nakites to come together as one and make peace. When I return to Lo'pon, I will tell my people that their days of pain and sorrow are over, and that days of hope and prosperity are on the way. Thanks to your courage and valor, I have realized how foolish it is to hold a grudge against those different from my own kind."
"Who will be the emperor of the whole planet?" Hogan asked. "And what about A'nake?"
"A'nake will be put in Du'imite custody, and tried for a wide array of crimes against the Du'imite people," O'bire answered. "And I have decided that I'taina is better suited to lead than I am. I was the one who allowed A'nake to threaten this land a second time; for that reason I do not deserve my power. I merely wish to return to my home in Lo'pon and serve as an advisor to our new ruler."
"You know that there is no way we can repay you for your deeds," I'taina explained.
"No payment is necessary," Hogan replied. "It's my responsibility to find the talismans. Now that I have the one from this planet, I have all that I need."
"Very well," I'taina sighed. "But if there ever comes a time when you should need to return here, rest assured - you are more than welcome on the planet of Du'im."
"As your life companion," I'kali added, "I know that I won't be able to accompany you to whereever it is you must go next. But remember, if you ever need me, I will be more than happy to pledge my life to you once more. That is my promise, Ki'rath."
Hogan smiled. "I appreciate that." He looked out the door as the rain intensified, and a flash of lightning lit up the sky. "I'd better get going."
I'theki quickly remembered his part "Not before I give you this." He picked up a medium-sized box from a nearby table, adorned with a wide, red ribbon. "I know this isn't much, but I hope you'll accept it as a token of our gratitude."
Curious, Hogan undid the ribbon and opened up the lid of the box. He was astonished to see the contents: A black leather jacket, a burgundy shirt, a pair of blue jeans and sneakers - the very same outfit he had worn when he arrived on Du'im. "Holy cow! Where did you get these?" Hogan asked breathlessly.
"When you lost your clothes a few days ago," I'theki explained, "I had some local tailors make those for you. I hope they fit," I'theki replied.
"I'll try them on as soon as I get a chance." Hogan looked back at the open door and sighed. "Well, I guess this is goodbye."
"Farewell, Ki'rath. We will never forget you," Emperor I'taina said back.
Hogan turned around and started for the door. He was almost outside when he heard I'theki's voice shouting behind him. "Hogan!"
Hogan looked back at the ambassador.
"One more thing. When you get to Earth," I'theki paused. "Tell Mom I said hi for me."
Hogan idly nodded until the meaning of the favor clicked in his brain. He almost dropped the box he was carrying. He gawked at the A'nakite, barely able to get his mouth around the word. "D… Dad??" he nearly whispered.
I'theki smiled and winked back at him.
Seemingly in a trance, Hogan started to back away, his eyes never breaking contact with I'theki's. As he reached the door way, he heard Emperor I'taina speak. "My subjects!" he announced. "All hail the great Ki'rath!" Everyone in the foyer bowed down, observing the departure of their hero.
Hogan passed through the doorway to the outside of the palace. He felt the rain sprinkle through his fur coat for a few seconds before a bolt of lightning came down, spiriting him away from the planet's surface.
Next chapter: Hogan prepares for his return to Earth, and begins his search for his family and friends.