Commander Reno stood in the central command center of the Zentraedi Factory Satellite contemplating the vast area of space before him.
It had been a long tour of duty to reach this point he thought. Battle after battle. Conquest after conquest. Rising from lowly soldier to commanding his own ship to Dolza giving him the task of protecting the Zentraedi’s only means of producing their mighty dreadnoughts.
One without appreciation would see this as a menial job so far away from what the alien giants thrived on.
And of course, those misguided souls had never once seen the satellite up close, much less seen the magic it worked inside each one of its tentacled pods.
The satellite was enormous, almost organically rose-colored in starlight, shaped in some ways like a primate brain, with at least half a dozen replicas of itself attached to the factory's median section by rigid stalk like transport tubes.
Around it were Zentraedi vessels of all types; dreadnoughts, battle mecha, and Cyclops recons.
A swarthy male with large eyes, dark busy brows, and a square jaw, Reno wore a blue uniform with red piping and a green command tunic. Let Dolza and Breetai have their fleets. Reno nodded in satisfaction. This was power to behold.
If the transmissions received by the satellite were to be accurate a dreadnought was approaching at subliminal speed with news of the battle with the Micronians and Hajoca.
The Zentraedi Supreme Leader and his planetoid sized command station had folded to the planet where the cursed Zor’s fortress had supposedly been found by Commander Breetai. It had spread as rumors that the inhabitants of this world, Micronians in size, had at every turn, bested Breetai, Azonia and even humiliated the crazed Backstabber, Khyron himself.
Even more unsettling was the chatter of a Micronian weapon that was nothing like the Zentraedi had ever encountered. So much that it required a fleet of over 4 million warships to handle.
Dolza’s final communique to Reno before folding to the Micronian home world was that Breetai along with the Imperial fleet had now formed an alliance with those Micronians.
This meant an automatic death sentence. One which Dolza would unleash not just on his best commander, but also the Micronian plague.
But would even the Grand Fleet be enough against an enemy that had defeated your very best up until this point?
The Old One also gave strict orders that no contact be made with the Robotech Masters. For the most part they gave the Zentraedi free reign on their campaigns of conquest. But as this was the mission to recover Zor’s Protoculture factory, the last of its kind, the Masters commanded Dolza to keep them abreast of the mission.
Reno knew Dolza enough to know that he had his own ambitions of power and it was safe to predict that once the Micronian vermin were obliterated; Dolza would turn the Grand Fleet’s weapons in the direction of Tirol.
The dog would fetch his owner’s prey. Then it would maul the owner.
Since that last transmission though, nothing.
Of course, one would have to assume that against such a veteran commander such as Breetai, the Grand Fleet would still have a fight on their hands.
And then there were these troublesome Micronians and their supposed secret weapon.
Reno believed Dolza would be in touch when the Supreme Commander saw fit. As it always was.
Now a ship approaching the satellite. A ship from that same battle where Dolza was.
But it was the transmission that made Reno feel for a split second, his body fill with dread.
Though he would die in the flames of a supernova before admitting it.
He pressed a key on the console to replay the transmission.
A burst of static and then voice began, “This is lieutenant commander Golnar of the Seventh Mechanized Division of the Botoru Battalion requesting permission to dock with the factory satellite. We are survivors of the battle between Commander Dolza’s Grand Fleet and Micronian forces. Please acknowledge.”
Reno pondered, Seventh Mechanized Division, Khyron’s division.
He knew Golnar from his dealings with the Backstabber. He was a quiet and intelligent officer but with full devotion to his Flower of Life addicted commander.
But there was something amiss with what was happening.
It did not make any sense. They were no longer comrades, but rather targets. Khyron and the Seventh were considered just as much Micronian plague carriers as Breetai.
But there was still something else that made Reno unsteady in thought.
Survivors? Did this mean that Dolza was successful?
One of Reno’s subordinate tech officers suddenly appeared on one of the view screens. A giant of green hair with a pasty skin color.
“My lord,” he began, “a scan of the ship shows heavy damage to their fold drive. Perhaps why they are making their approach at subliminal.”
“Bio scan?” Reno inquired.
The subordinate replied “There are multiple casualties and injured aboard. However, it seems that a better part of the crew complement is in satisfactory health.”
Reno locked his hand behind him. The ship offered answers that he sought. And perhaps the direction of the future of the Zentraedi.
Should he inform the Masters? But that would mean his possible destruction and quite possibly, all assembled at the factory satellite should Dolza execute a fold to his location.
After a moment, he addressed his charge on the screen, “Send escort ships to meet Golnar and they will guide his ship to the repair area on extension two. Warn him if deviates from that course, our ships will open fire with no preamble.”
“As you command,” answered obediently the tech officer.
“And,” adding Reno, “advise Golnar that I will meet with him personally once docked, but his crew are to remain quarantined on their ship until I command otherwise.”
“Understood,” the tech said knowing Reno had finished with his commands. The view screen returned to a live shot of the approaching ship.
Reno exhaled. Until he got answers from Golnar, the Masters would not be interested in anything but hard facts. To waste their time was to flirt with disaster.
No, he must get Golnar’s report of the battle and what exactly “survivors” meant and where the Zentraedi now stood in the overall scheme of things on the Universe.
Victors, or victims.
Commander Reno stared out to the view port. He stared at the mighty power at is command.
Now, more than ever than at any point in the history of his race; it was this same power that could perhaps be its last hope for survival.
It had taken almost two hours for the to guide the damaged ship into the repair pod. The satellite had the means to pull it in by tractor beam as well as the two battleships that had been ordered to escort it. But Reno leaned on the side of caution. This was a ship that in Dolza’s judgment was a plague carrier of whatever the Micronians had infected Breetai and the rest with. He would take no chances. With an order not to deviate from its course, Reno allowed it to approach under its own power.
Once docked, a transport disc moved towards the main entrance of Golnar’s ship. After some time, a lone Zentraedi came out and stepped into it. The disc glided towards a platform where Reno and several armed Zentraedi soldiers, weapons drawn, were there to greet Khyron’s lieutenant.
The disc landed slowly on the platform where with hesitance, Golnar stepped off it. He had met Reno only a handful of times when the Botorus came to the satellite for ship repairs and mecha replenishment. And even these times were all with Khyron, so their dealings were brief to be sure.
Contemplating the armed welcoming committee, he chose his words carefully.
“Permission to come aboard Commander Reno,” addressing the senior Zentraedi with full military formality.
The soldiers behind Reno did not lower their weapons. All trained on Golnar. Reno gave him a long cold stare. His reply was just as cold, “What is the purpose of your coming here?”
Revealing no emotion, Golnar answered, “I have much to report regarding the events surrounding the battle between Dolza and the Micronian forces.”
“Do you now?” Reno said with sarcasm, “Are you aware that you were part of the contagion that Dolza sought to eliminate?”
“Commander,” Golnar cut in, risking life, “The Botoru’s loyalties have always lied with the Robotech Masters. And I am authorized to speak for Khyron Kravshera on this as well.”
The plasma rifles did not move an inch from their aim at Golnar’s head.
Reno scoffed, “Why Commander Golnar. You who have been known to be so rigid when it came military hierarchy, suddenly Dolza is easily bypassed in the chain of command.”
Golnar stiffened in his stance. Not backing down from his statement.
Reno continued now pacing, “That would constitute betrayal, treason against the Supreme Commander now, wouldn’t it? An act punishable by immediate death. As I still know what the Zentraedi command structure is and where Zentraedi loyalties lie first; it is left upon me to carry out said punishment.” He motioned at the soldiers who accompanied him, “Power weapons!”
A simultaneous hum came from about twenty plasma rifles ready to unleash their fury upon Golnar.
Knowing his assured fate, he stood defiantly in the face of his coming execution. He spoke with conviction, “It was no secret to anyone Dolza had his own designs to try and overthrow the Robotech Masters. That is something that you can’t even deny.”
Reno’s eyes locked into Golnar’s intently. The order of execution on the tip of his lips. Yet the lieutenant commander was not speaking lies.
Golnar caught Reno’s pause and continued, spitting on the ground, “He betrayed The Imperative with one his own.”
A phrase as impactful as the word Hajoca in the Zentraedi language.
The Zentraedis’ burning desire to conquer at ALL costs.
It was The Imperative that made the alien giants the most awesome force in the Fourth Quadrant. Battle after glorious battle. Conquest after glorious conquest.
All in the service of the Robotech Masters.
For as far as any Zentraedi could remember, they carried out the orders issued by Tirol’s Lords without question. And carried them with no room for criticism.
Enemies became memories. Entire planets became balls of lifeless dust.
It was only when the Zentraedi began to suffer the sting of defeat against the savage and vengeful Invid, that some began to question whether with all their might, they should continue to sacrifice themselves for their Masters. Diminutive ones at that.
The collective Imperative became for some, the Imperative of the individual Zentraedi.
But there was not a commander in the fleets that did not have that…ambition…cross their being. Dolza, Breetai and the rest.
Even Khyron, Golnar admitted in mute.
But the Universe had decided the role the Zentraedi would play in it. Why resist it he thought? He slept better because of it.
It was a gamble using The Imperative rallying cry on Reno. No doubt that even he had grown tired of having the Robotech Master’s chain around his neck.
Reno looked at Golnar. Khyron’s messenger ready to accept death. He stepped towards him, hands behind him. The satellite commander towered over the wary Golnar.
“Perhaps,” Reno said in a dismissive tone, almost enjoying it, “I should just let the Supreme Commander have the honor of killing you. I’ve heard his torture methods would make even the bravest Zentraedi beg for mercy.”
Golnar was stunned though his face did not betray the emotion. No word had reached Reno yet.
He broke out into a genuine, but sly smile, “Dolza will never be able to lay a hand on me.”
Reno laughed. Whether it was because of Golnar’s attempt at humor in the face of death or complete ignorance of how Dolza dealt with insubordinates, he would painfully regret taking the Backstabber’s order to return here.
“Entertain me,” Reno said smiling sardonically, “how do you intend to best the Zentraedi’s greatest warrior?”
Golnar smiled again, “I don’t have to,” said looking at Reno with almost pity, “Dolza is dead.”
Reno’s smile left him at that last word, “What?” he asked, all traces of enjoyment gone.
“Dead,” repeated Golnar said chucking, “As a Zentraedi you do still understand the concept?”, he said mockingly.
He continued to mock Reno, “No longer living. Terminated. Execu-“
Before Golnar could finish the last word, Reno had lunged forward, stunning him. Before he could mount any sort of offense, Reno’s right hand was enveloped around his throat.
“YOU LIE!”, Reno thundered. His hand tightening around Golnar’s neck as he said it.
Gasping, both hands uselessly trying to pull Reno’s massive arm off, rattled, “It’s true!”
Reno’s hand tightened. “You lying trog!” he shouted, “Dolza had the Grand Fleet, 4 million ships, his command center and you’re going tell me that an army of pathetic Micronians bested all of that?”
Golnar could feel himself losing consciousness…dying…with what he believed would be his final moments, he managed to cough out, “I, I haaave vid recor..dings of DDDol..za’s final mmmo…ments!”. His eyes rolled to the back of his head.
And Reno released his hold, Golnar falling to the deck on which they stood.
He stood over Golnar while he coughed violently.
“Then you’d better order the men on your ship to transmit that footage to my ready room,” Reno said menacingly.
With a slight gesture of hand, Reno ordered his troops to stand down. The whole time, they had never once lowered their weapons.
He motioned to two of them pointing to Golnar’s weakened form, “Pick him up and take him to a rest area with a console transceiver.”
The soldiers obeyed and picked up Golnar up with no care for his current state. He hung from the troops’ massive arms.
Reno stood in their path, leaning in to Golnar, “Your ‘report’ had best be accurate and convincing,” he said icily, “otherwise I will have the machines of this factory ‘work’ on you, in parts…and slowly.” He stood to the side letting the troopers take Golnar to the rest area.
Despite almost being strangled, Golnar felt an almost deliciousness that he provoked Reno the way he did. The Backstabber would be proud.
If he were capable of pride for anyone other than himself.
He did have a report ready for Reno. And hopefully, it would be enough to convince him.
For the Imperative.