The Festival came to an end and all the royal families gathered in the stadium. Feemnaf took her place at the podium and cleared her throat. "With the day winding down, so too does the Over-union Festival," she began. "I must say, this is one for the books. In all honesty, I wish I saw Uncle Yentil's ghost. Still, I'm glad he's moved on and is in a better place. On top of that, Lardeth's tour of duty ended this week, so that's the entire Felompha family that proudly had their command skills tested out! But, it looks like Lar's been bitten by the travel bug and is going with his fiancés, one of them on her tour, to go across the Realms again. To that, I say best of luck to you, my favorite cousin!"
"You say that to every single one of your cousins!" called Lardeth.
"Doesn't make it any less true," countered Feemnaf. "Now, all that's left is to close the day out by lighting the Closing Torch and setting off the fireworks! If all the heads of the royal families may stand, please tell us your name and what kingdom you rule as you donate your mana to light that sucker!" Larana was the first.
"I am Queen Larana Ignarsen and I rule the Blasarda Desert," she purred as she and her family let their mana drift to the torch.
"I am King Elm Stonewood and I rule the Rooka Forest," rumbled Elm as he and his family did the same.
"I am Empress Rellmeer Almaydia and I rule the Drelda Forest."
"I am Queen Glanmaj Janfo and I rule the Chromanian Sea Merfolk Kingdom."
"I am King Lektem Yantoru and I rule the Coliamdii Kingdom."
"I am Queen Ulumeye Yantefa and I rule the Lunarimba Sea Merfolk Kingdom."
"I am King Hekcho Tolandah and I rule the Falchineve Drider Colony."
"I am King Gekshar Stonefoot and I rule the Altiam Mountains."
"I am King Heenda Untarfu and I rule the Ralandren Plains."
"I am King Jeltam Yalunai and I rule the Regalin Sea Merfolk Kingdom."
"I am Queen Yalmu Ilmator and I rule the Calando Merfolk Kingdom."
"I am King Henjar Yerumal and I rule Dwalna City."
"I am Queen Keelma Maropwem and I rule the Sacchrinda Kingdom."
"I am King Belnki Lorpeth and I rule Vorkath, on top of being a new daddy!" Belnki showed off his new daughter. The crowd cheered as they congratulated Belnki and Balma.
"I thought Balma looked pregnant!" chuckled Arsha to Lardeth.
"Since Feemnaf's going to be spared saying all of our names," called Roomef, "I am Queen Roomef Felompha and I rule Wysper City." Once all of the mana had been donated, the torch leapt into the air with the largest flame imaginable and lit the fireworks surrounding it. They sailed into the sky, whistling as they traveled, then exploded in a spectacular array of colors. Once the fireworks show ended, the royal families filed back to their ships. Arsha and her lovers led the Felomphas to the Endeavor so Lardeth could give his goodbyes.
"Now you call us as much as you can, you hear me?!" asked Olmarfa.
"Loud and clear, Mama," promised Lardeth. After all of his family got him in an embrace, he had to wiggle out to get some breathing room and finally say his goodbyes. "I shall return!" he called. Once he and his lovers got inside, the ramp closed behind them.
"Come on, all of you," invited Arsha. "It's time for us all to be on the bridge." They made their way to the bridge to see everyone at their station. Lardeth, Malnar, and Falnii gasped in amazement.
"So...pretty!" breathed Falnii.
"She's a sight, ain't she?" agreed Gorfanth.
"Feels better now that your visit IS authorized?" asked Malak.
"...What's THAT supposed to mean?" quizzed Lardeth.
"Nothing!" yelped Foresna.
"Remember when I told you guys about my hairpiece and what happened while it was being drained off?" reminded Arsha.
"What about it?" asked Malnar.
"Those two knuckleheads," answered Arsha as she pointed to Foresna and Gorfanth, "decided to tour the bridge while I was napping!"
"Boys!" admonished Falnii as she, Malnar, and Lardeth glared at them with their hands on their hips.
"We wanted to see the bridge!" wailed Foresna.
"Okay, let's not rib on them anymore," advised Arsha. "Shalvey, do we have a mission?"
"Over-splitter activity has increased by the Drelda Forest," replied Shalvey. "Something's making them desperate enough to attack any ship trying to get into it, even Fae ships. Rellmeer's requested an escort."
"Tell the Majestic," ordered Arsha, "that we'll be happy to escort them safely to the Capital Tree."
"The Majestic's acknowledged the offer," reported Shalvey, "...correction, they've accepted the offer. Rellmeer wants me to extend her personal thanks to you, Captain. She's suggested that they'll go first and we bring up the rear."
"Tell her we'll be right behind her," answered Arsha. "Nazay, once the Majestic is cleared for launch and is high enough in the air, follow her, nice and easy."
"Understood, Captain," replied Nazay. After the Majestic took off, the Endeavor followed suit.
What caused the Over-splitters to attack? Simple, Dr. Borg's Realm Trinity Empire. They had received word that associates of hers had left prison and were after them. An Over-splitter ship concealed itself as a Realmfleet prison ship appeared. Inside the ship's bridge were four people, three of them Arsha personally knew: Jargoon, Reb, and Melgem! The woman in the Captain's chair was a Succubus/Zephyr Blender with no wings or tail. "Aaaand, we're clear!" cheered Jargoon. "Say goodbye to Realmfleet Max, say goodbye to security guards with personalities like broken coral, say goodbye to boring routine, and say hello to freedom!"
"Of a sort, Jargoon," corrected the Blender woman, "victory of a sort. You work for me now, all of you do."
"And I, for one," praised Reb, "am IMMENSELY grateful for the opportunity to work with you, Remsu! Together, we can achieve EXCELLENT things! Together, we shall show those HORRID Realmfleet idiots what we can do against those VILE Splitters!"
"Splitters, Realmfleet," dismissed the Blender woman, Remsu, "my organization's plans reach far beyond both."
"Yes, well, not to sound ungrateful," remarked Melgem, "but, for a member of a shadowy organization with such overweening ambitions, you've picked decidedly underwhelming crewmates. I fail to see why you insisted on the likes of Hanthar staying behind, but letting the likes of Fenfir and Jargoon coming with us."
"Remsu, you've been hailed, Ma'am," called Jargoon as he snarled at Melgem. "Says he wants to talk to you privately. Patching him through now." Remsu picked up a communicator and held it to her ear.
"Well? Who is it?" asked Remsu.
"I'm known by many names," answered a deep, intimidating male voice. "Today, however, today you can call me Death!"
"...I think I'll stick to your real name of Oltor," muttered Remsu.
"As you wish," chuckled the voice of the Supreme Over-splitter, Oltor. "It makes no difference, mud-blood. Your odds aren't good. Your time has come."
"You expect me to be surprised," mused Remsu. "Did you expect me to not know about this? Word about me making it onto your hit-list, at the top, I must add, reached me while I was still in prison.
"She's not trying to talk to Oltor, is she?" Melgem gulped to Jargoon.
"I'm trying to listen in!" hissed Jargoon. "It sounds like she IS talking to Oltor, but don't panic. He's not after us."
"Your chances of survival are negligible," taunted Oltor.
"You talk about chances as if I can't control how this plays out," purred Remsu. "Scan this whole ship and run a life-form check against your list. You'll find that the entire crew is made up of people on your list."
"What are you proposing?" asked Oltor.
"An exchange," answered Remsu. "Their lives for mine."
"The b***h's selling us out!" hissed Jargoon to Melgem.
"Disengage, now!" Melgem hissed back.
"What?! Why?!" demanded Jargoon.
"Because Reb and I know from personal experience," answered Melgem, "that the Splitter Branches DON'T negotiate and this isn't a good time to eavesdrop!"
"No deal," Oltor scoffed to Remsu. "I work my way through the list in order, no deviations. Rest assured, I'll hunt down the others in due course, but, today, mud-blood, is all about you!"
"While I can't say that response was unexpected, that's still incredibly inefficient," sighed Remsu. "The amount of wasted effort involved is..."
"Sssshhh, now it's MY turn to talk and your turn to..." Remsu wasn't having it as she crushed the communicator.
"The line's dead," remarked a scarred, white-furred Inu, Oltor, "but Remsu isn't. Could it be she knew what I was trying to...?" His musing was interrupted as the ship rocked. "Report!" he barked.
"Dr. Borg's ship just decloaked and fired!" reported his Pixie First Officer. "Our ship's about to blow! The engine core can't be ejected!"
"ABANDON SHIP!" ordered Oltor. "ALL HANDS, ABANDON...!"
Oltor's ship exploded before any escape pods could be launched. Meanwhile, the Scorpion moved towards the prison ship. "Reb!" called Melgem. "The Scorpion's coming at us at attack speed! We've got to get out of here!"
"Jargoon, where's the escape pod?" asked Reb.
"These kinds of ships don't HAVE escape pods!" answered Jargoon.
"Do you have any suggestions?" quizzed Reb.
"I suggest that we use a teleportation spell," Jargoon went on, "and get to the ground!"
"I know a good spot!" called Melgem.
"Then get us there," ordered Reb. As the three vanished in one teleport spell, Remsu was caught up in another as the Scorpion prepared its weapons.
Remsu ended up on the Scorpion's bridge next to Dr. Borg. A Merman and a male Cecaelia stood by her as well. Yulduk and Jansha were at their stations and Scorpo was in the First Officer's seat. Dr. Borg keyed in a command and the Captain's chair widened to allow for four people to sit in it. The Merman, Cecaelia, and Remsu sat next to Dr. Borg with the two ladies in the middle of the men. "Much better," purred Remsu. "I see that Shefarn and Tensam evaded capture."
"Always, my lovely, blended bride," replied the Cecaelia, Tensam.
"Oh, we've missed you," sighed the Merman, Shefarn, as he pulled Remsu into an embrace.
"So, Cy," mused Tensam, "when do we strike? I wish to see the Eternal Age of Unity."
"Have patience, Tenny," replied Dr. Borg as she took one of his tentacles and placed in her lap, giving him a sign to coil her in it. "We shall start when our armies are built up. When the time is right, we shall take our rightful place as rulers of the Realms, the eternal rule of Cytanek, Remsu, Tensam, and Shefarn Borg!"