She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Fanfiction: Genetic Composite - 7. Anything At All
Disclaimer: I do not own She-Ra or its related characters. All is the property of Noelle Stevenson, Dream Works Animation, Netflix, NBCUniversal Television Distribution, Filmation, Larry DiTillo, and J. Michael Straczynski.
Chapter Seven: …Anything at All
Scorpia didn’t know what she would find upon her return to the Fright Zone. She really only went back because the ships in Redwater Bay already had the coordinates and course for Beast Island programed into their navigation. Etherian ships didn’t even have navigation softwear. Scorpia had no idea how to pilot a boat on her own. …Did one ‘pilot’ a boat? Or did they ‘sail’ it? ‘Row’? Hm. It might depend on the type of boat, she supposed.
Either way, it didn’t matter. Scorpia had no idea how to pilot an Etherian boat on her own, and she similarly wasn’t too sure about the prospect of hiring an Etherian boat captain to pilot it for her. It was best to stick with what was familiar with. What she knew. Rescuing Entrapta would be problematic enough without getting unfamiliar craft or stranger boat captains involved.
She was still –technically- a Force Captain. Scorpia walked right back into the Fright Zone.
She was stopped within the sector.
“Halt!” A pair of guards stopped her. “State your business in the Fright Zone.”
Turning around, Scorpia lifted a pincer as if to wave, and offered a friendly smile. “Hey. You might not recognize me if you weren’t in my division, but I’m a Force Captain. I’m just on my way to the Bay to get a ship.”
The guards did not lower their weapons. “There are no more Force Captains.”
Scorpia blinked at the pair, confused. “What? But that can’t be right. I’m a Force Captain. Catra is a Force Captain. Octavia and Grizzlor-“
“Grizzlor deserted, and Octavia’s been captured.” They informed her. “You and Catra have been missing since the Princess’ attack! How do we know you aren’t in league with the Princesses?” A pause. “In fact, aren’t you supposed to be a Princess yourself!?”
“Oh, jee, I mean… technically that’s true. I am a Princess.” Scorpia admitted. “But I’ve never been with the Alliance. And I’m not spying for them right now, or anything. I just need to borrow a ship from Redwater Bay to get to Beast Island.” Scorpia held out her claws in a pleading gesture.
“Keep your hands up!” Both guards barked. “We’re taking you to the Commander.”
“The Commander?” Scorpia blinked as she fell into step following them. “Not Lord Hordak? Who’s the Commander?”
“Silence, prisoner!” One of them snarled. “I’m still not convinced you’re not a spy.”
They lead Scorpia through the Fright Zone. Most of the damage from the Princess’ attack was limited to Central Command and Hordak’s Sanctum. Any damage to other buildings outside of Commander was sustained during those chaotic few hours when the deserters started looting anything that wasn’t bolted down.
The segments of buildings that were damaged looked to already be in the early stages of repair. Scaffolding being erected up their walls, or around their perimeters. Whoever this ‘Commander’ was worked fast. They must be a very practical and capable leader. But if it wasn’t Grizzlor, Octavia, Catra, or herself, who them had appeared out of nowhere to take over the Horde? There weren’t any other Force Captains that Scorpia new of.
Who would have been in a position to seize power?
Scorpia was brought into Horde Command. Not to Hordak’s throne room. The entire Sanctum was still in shambles. They passed the lab on their way through Commander. The blast doors still broken and hanging open. Through the gap, Scorpia saw that there were still piles of rubble strewn through out the chamber. The remnants of the portal machine, fallen scaffolding collapsed monitor screens, the legs of a Horde bot sticking up at vertical angles. A Horde bot with pink and fuchsia trim. Not a Horde bot, Entrapta’s bot! Emily!
Ignoring her guards, Scorpia dashed through the broken doors into the lab. “Emily!”
“Halt!” The guards called after her. “Stop!”
Throwing debris off the bot, not caring what it was or what else she was throwing it on, Scorpia unburied the bot as best she could. Indeed, it was Emily, the Horde bot Entrapta found, reprogramed and repurposed as a companion for herself while she was in residence in the Fright Zone.
Emily gave a subdued little wirring. The bot –she- was still active.
“Hang on, Emily, I’ll get you out!” Scorpia promised.
The bot gave a weak little trill of appreciation.
But the guards seized Scorpia by both her arms. They hadn’t cuffed or bound her before, out of respect that she used to be a Force Captain and came along peacefully. Now, the two of them together forced her pincered hands into a pair of bindercuffs.
“Let me go!” She ordered, as if she still held any kind of authority in this new and unfamiliar Horde. “That’s Emily! I have to get her out! Don’t you know who Emily is? That’s Entrapta’s bot! That’s Emily!”
They did not let her go. They did not help her dig out Emily. Instead, Scorpia was brought to a briefing room.
Projected on the screen, was a map of the Fright Zone. Places where active construction or repairs were going on, were marked in yellow. Places where construction or repairs still needed to begin, were marked in red. There were also columns to one side of the screen detailing their inventory of weapons, ammunition, fuel, food rations, vehicles, clean water, uniforms, blankets, sanitary supplies, cleaning supplies, all the necessary items for people to live, not just serve in a military police state.
The moment those already gathered in the briefing noted the guards had interrupted with a prisoner in tow, they shut off the briefing screen.
Then blinked when they recognized who the prisoner actually was.
“Force Captain Scorpia!” Kyle gasped.
Rogelio was close at his side, looking equally as shocked.
“We thought you were dead!” Lonnie announced.
“Hey, what are you guys doing?” To spite her concern for Emily and anxiety over not being allowed to help the bot out of the destroyed lab, Scorpia couldn’t help but smile at them. They were part of her team. “I thought I was being brought to meet some kind of Commander.”
“They brought you to see me. I’m the Commander.” Lonnie informed her.
Scopia’s eyes went wide, disbelieving. When she left the Fright Zone, Lonnie was just a simple foot soldier. She wasn’t even a squad leader –technically- now here she was all of a sudden claiming to be the Commander in charge of the entire Horde. Scorpia looked to Kyle and Rogelio, thinking one of them might give away the ruse that this had to be.
But they just raised their chins, as if they weren’t afraid of being rude in front of a Force Cpatain anymore. They felt safe. They worked directly under the Commander. Scorpia and Catra weren’t their superperior officers anymore. Scorpia couldn’t punish them for a perceived insult. (Not that Scorpia would, she always felt it was important for subordinates to be able to express opinions. But that was just the kind of Force Captain she was.)
She looked back at Lonnie, genuinely impressed by the other woman’s ingenuity. “Wow!” She said. “That’s just amazing! I always knew you had it in ya, Lonnie! Commander of the Horde. That’s great!”
Lonnie just raised an eyebrow. Coming from literally anyone besides Scorpia, that would have been a completely over-the-top and unnecessary reaction. In short, it would have read as fake. But Force Captain Scorpia had always been energetic, optimistic, cheerful, and, yes, over-the-top. From their first mission together when they were ‘on a boat with Catra’ Lonnie knew that any interaction with Scorpia was going to be energetic and loud.
She waited until the other woman seemed to have calmed down enough for an actual conversation to start. “What I really wanna know is, why’d you come back to the Fright Zone after you’ve been missing this long? Where were you when we needed leadership? What was so much more important that you couldn’t come back until now?”
Scorpia’s expression fell, her happy mood at sharing in the other woman’s success deflating. She was sober, almost subdued, when she answered. “I’m not really back. I’m just passing through. There’s something I need to do, and I need a ship to get to Beast Island to do it.”
Lonnie raised the other eyebrow. “You want me to give you a ship?” She concluded. Then sighed. “Captain, did you not see all the work going on outside when they brought you here? We are trying to rebuild our Zone. Our numbers aren’t what they used to be. Half our forces have deserted, and they took more than half our supplies with them. I have food shortages, fuel shortages, and staffing shortages all over the Horde, and you want me to just up and give you one of my boats? A craft I could, instead, be using to ship in some grain, or rice, or clean water from one of our territories.”
Scorpia cringed. “Well, when you put it like that…”
Heaving another sigh, Lonnie called up the debriefing screen again. This time, instead of a map of the Fight Zone and statistics on supply stockpiles versus speed of expenditure, it was a map of the surrounding area. The Fright Zone, all the way down to the coast. From Redwater Bay, to Seaworthy.
Lonnie pointed to Seaworthy on the map. “You can find a ship and a captain to sail it here.” She informed the other woman. “Your Force Captain badge it gold. Offer it as payment and you might actually get a competent sea captain.”
Scorpia looked crestfallen. “So, you’re not gonna help me?”
“This is me helping.” She informed the other woman. “I’m not going to give away resources that I need to keep my Horde fed while we try and rebuild something resembling infrastructure. I don’t know what you, and Catra, and Hordak were doing this whole time. But whatever it was, you left us in pieces when you all just up and disappeared.”
“What about Emily, then?” Scorpia asked. She promised the bot she’d get her out of the rubble. The moment the AI realized that it was her creator Scorpia was leaving to rescue, Emily would probably want to come along too.
“Who’s Emily?” Lonnie blinked. She didn’t know of any soldier named ‘Emily’.
“Entrapta’s bot.” Scorpia explained. “She’s buried under some junk in the Sanctum. You don’t even have to spare any people to help me dig her out. I can do that on my own. Just let me take her.”
“Fine. Done.” Lonnie nodded. They had no use for a single broken weapons bot.
“Hordak really is gone too?” Scorpia asked, still kinda disbelieving. She always assumed Hordak was some version immortal. Like a vampire. He had the right look to him. All sharp fangs and glowing eyes… like Little Dak, but nowhere near as cute and loveable. (Gosh! How did Entrapta ever catch feelings for that… guy?)
“Nobody’s seen him since the Sanctum blew.” Lonnie informed her. “For all we know, Lord Hordak is dead.”
After days of fiddling, Hordak finally managed to get the service panel open.
After trying every tool both he and Catra could find in the crashed First Ones’ ship –every tool that hadn’t already been looted by desert dwellers that is, and prying or twisting from every conceivable angle. After pushing random buttons on the console in case one of them was the panel release. After shouting at it, snarling menacingly, after threatening the panel’s life and the lives of its panel-wife and panel-children. Hordak finally managed to get the service panel open.
Completely by accident.
He was laying on his back on the floor, trying to get a better angle to try prying with a tool they’d already tried earlier with no success. The First Ones crystal on the collar of his exo-suit inched close to the panel. The crystal glowed a neon-pink for half a second, and a previously unseen crystal –no larger than a finger nail- glowed in response. There was a soft ‘click’ sound, and the panel fell open.
Actually, it fell on Hordak’s face.
The curses he uttered were so profane, they would have made even the malevolent Host blush.
But when his heart rate jumped from being smacked in the face, and his blood pressure increased from his rage and frustration, it was just a little too fast for his implants or the exo-suit to compensate for and the prosthetics suffered a little ‘tizzy’. The shoulders visibly sparking as the exo-suit locked up. Preventing him from being able to move.
Hordak laid on the floor, unable to get up for several moments until his heartrate lowered and the exo-suit unlocked.
The first thing he did after he had motion in his arms again was touch the First Ones crystal on his collar. A gem placed there by Entrapta.
It was the crystal that opened the panel finally, not anything he did. First Ones tech recognizing First Ones tech. First Ones tech he would not even be wearing were it not for Entrapta. In a way, Entrapta had opened the panel for him. She was still helping him, even from beyond her absence.
And then the panel hit him in the face and his exo-suit locked up, because she was also still betraying him from wherever on this Host forsaken mudball she was.
Hordak let out a growl of frustration and lowered his hand.
Somehow, she managed to trick him into defeating himself.
Entrapta didn’t even have to do anything. Not really. She let her allies in. She wasn’t even present when She-Ra destroyed his portal and one way home. Entrapta did not wield the sword of his destruction. All she did was open a metaphorical door and let situations unfold. She let him destroy himself. She didn’t even have to do anything at all!
‘If you do things right, Zero-Zero-Three, you won’t have to do anything at all.’
Somehow, Entrapta managed to master one of Hode’s more difficult lessons without having ever met the man at all.
Hordak laid next to the open panel under the console. His armor was no longer locked up, he could push himself off the floor at any time. But, for some reason, he just didn’t seem to have the will to in that exact moment. He laid there, staring up at the dim ceiling, and recalled lessons he never took the time to fully learn on his climb from Horde Soldier to Imperial cabinet.
Zero-Zero-Three stood nervously at parade rest. He was all the more aware of how tight the high collar of his uniform was. He wanted to reach up a talon to unclasp one of the clasps and allow himself some breathing room, but he refrained. He was a Force Captain under the direct command of a cabinet Lord. One did not allow themselves to look disheveled within the presence of a cabinet Lord.
The climate control system within Lord Hode’s chamber clicked on, blowing cool air through the air conditioner vents. It ruffled the tails of Zero-Zero-Three’s robe, allowing a refreshing breeze to caress the exposed skin of his thighs. It offered a little relief and Zero-Zero-Three, but not nearly enough to relax the tension in his spine.
“You seem nervous, Zero-Zero-Three.” Observed Lord Hode, looking over the frame of the datapad he was reading. A datapad that was currently projecting the conclusions of data that Zero-Zero-Three had spent months compiling.
Perched on the back of Hode’s chair, the Lord’s loyal deamon opened its mouth an echoed the accusation at him. ‘Nervous, nervous, nervous.’
Zero-Zero-Three opened his mouth to reply, but only a croaking sound came out. One did not admit weakness to a cabinet Lord, and nervous was considered a weakness. Instead, he said, “The information on that pad is very… provocative, my Lord.”
“Provocative.” Hode snorted. “It’s downright damning, Zero-Zero-Three.” A pause in which he just grinned a malicious grin. “It’s wonderful.”
The younger clone swallowed. Was his uniform collar always this tight? “My Lord, with that information, I am basically accusing a cabinet Lord of treason.”
‘Lord of treason.’ Hode’s deamon repeated.
Did a little of his fear show through? Zero-Zero-Three was afraid some of his fear showed through. One did not accuse a cabinet Lord of anything. Not if they wanted to remain happy, healthy, and alive.
Hode fixed him with a critical stare. The red glow of his eyes tracing Zero-Zero-Three’s form. Studying him from the disciplined and controlled neutral expression on his face, to the slight droop of his ears that betrayed his nerves. The perfectly starched collar of his uniform, the Force Captain badge pinned to his breast, the perfectly pressed hem of his robe, the pale skin of his exposed thighs, and his thigh-high perfectly polished boots.
Zero-Zero-Three was a model soldier.
Hode leaned back in his seat, tossing the datapad down on his desk. Unlike the other cabinet Lords, Hode did not dictate to his subordinates from a throne. He dispatched his staff from a work desk. He did not believe in posturing or pageantries of power. Hode believed in getting things done.
He steepled his talons, allowing Zero-Zero-Three to stew in his own nerves for a moment longer. “Did you falsify this information, Zero-Zeor-Three?”
“No, my Lord!” The mere question launched him into a panic. Zero-Zero-Three laid his palms flat on the desk, leaning forward, almost pleading with his superior. “I just followed the data. That’s the conclusion it led me to! Lord Horrin has been secretly syphoning funds out of the Imperial Treasury and into the pockets of rebel factions all over the Empire.”
Hode smiled again. “Then why are you so uneasy, Zero-Zero-Three?”
The younger clone straightened. He adjusted the collar of his uniform, even though it didn’t need to be straightened. “He’s a cabinet Lord.”
“He’s a traitor to the Empire.” Hode corrected. “And he’s not even a smart one. You did well to bring this to my attention. You don’t have to do anything more, Zero-Zero-Three. I’ll take care of the rest. Horrin doesn’t know this yet, but by his own actions, he’ll destroyed himself.”
‘Destroy himself!’ The deamon chanted in Hode’s voice. ‘Destroy himself, destroy himself.’
Hordak didn’t hear anything about Lord Horrin’s betrayal for several standard Imperial months.
Not until Horde Prime convened the court –the whole court. Not just the cabinet Lords, but all their Force Captains, Wing Captains, sub-Commanders, and Lieutenants. Any Horde clone in the Empire who held any version of what could be called ‘authority’ was commanded to attend.
Zero-Zero-Three stood in an alcove behind Lord Hode.
Large court gatherings were rarely held, and so Zero-Zero-Three rarely got to see the Grand Throne Room.
A wide expanse of obsidian floor. Black glass kilned in the fires of volcanos. It reflected the starlights and planetary glows streaming in from the windows. Large, tall cathedral-stye windows. The walls of the chamber were more transparasteel than they were hull plating. It gave one the illusion of not being inside a ship at all, but standing out in the void of infinity.
On the opposite end from where Zero-Zero-Three stood with the court, a narrow column of steps rose up out of the obsidian floor. As black as night, but unlike the volcanic glass, these did not reflect the starlight. All light seemed to die on their surface. A lightless, lightless, matte black, so dark one might call it ebony. The narrow stairs lead up to a throne. Utilitarian and dull compared to the rest of the splendor around it. The figure that sat upon it wreathed in shadow. The only part of their form that was visible through the veil of dark were the greaves of their armor, and just the tail corner of their cape.
Zero-Zero-Three stared at that small triangle of green fabric, as if studying the cape were the same as studying the man. He’d never actually seen Horde Prime before. The Emperor of the Known Universe. His genetic template.
Everyone called him ‘Older Brother’. But few had ever actually even seen him up close.
Seeing him now, it still was not up close.
“Lord Horrin.” Prime’s voice rang out over the wide chamber. Sounding louder than Zero-Zero-Three felt it should. And echoing oddly, though the space should have been too large for sound echoes to occur. The acoustics did not seem to fit the room.
Horrin stepped forward, out of line from the rest of the cabinet Lords. A self-satisfied smirk on his face. He probably thought he was about to receive honors and rewards from the Emperor. It was true that Horrid had just returned from a successful destruction of a rebel base. However, while the base was destroyed, the rebel faction’s leadership managed to get away. Former-King Randor, his brother Keldor, and Randor’s Man-at-Arms, Duncan. All three of the rebellion’s leaders escaping with a level of incompetence that bordered on treason-by-proxy.
Horrin went to one knee, humbling himself in front of Prime. Still smiling like a loyal Vulpimancer expecting a biscuit.
“You stand accused of embezzling, spying, and consorting with the enemies of the Empire.” Prime announced, the list of crimes continuing to echo through the chamber long after the Emperor stopped talking. “How do you answer to these charges?”
Mouth hanging slightly open, Horrin just stared up at the shadowy throne. No words came from his mouth. Only a hollow croaking sound.
A murmur rustled through the gathered court. Force Captains, Wings Captains, and sub-Commanders all whispering to one another. Asking if the accusations could be true. What was the evidence of these crimes? Horrin was a cabinet Lord. Surly he was innocent and this was just baseless slander! What reason would a cabinet Lord have to betray his brothers, his Empire, and Horde Prime whom was Brother to all.
But Horrin didn’t offer any words to his defense. He didn’t deny the charges. Neither did he offer any context for them. Or even try to shift the blame to a lower ranking member of his staff.
Instead, Horrin turned around, his glowing eyes fixing on Hode.
It was rumored that Lord Hode and Lord Horrin were bitter rivals. But surely that couldn’t be true. The cabinet was a single unified force, with a single unifying purpose: to serve the Emperor and carry out his will. Surly there could be no rivalries within such a close-knit fraternity.
Horrin’s crimson eyes blazed with hate. “I don’t know how, but I know you did this, you Old Ghoul!”
That was the only warning anyone got before Horrin was throwing his cape open and pulling out his weapons.
Horrin preferred weapon of choice was a short curved sickle on a weighted chain. He jumped in the air, lashing out with the blade, using the chain to extend his reach. Meaning to kill Hode. Right there in front of the court. Right there in front of Horde Prime.
Zero-Zero-Three didn’t think. He just reacted. Someone had threatened his Lord. Nobody threatened his Lord!
Before he was even aware that he was moving, Zero-Zero-Three found himself between the two Lords. His own weapon of choice, a force-pike, in his hands. He blocked Horrin’s initial attack, knocking the sickle out of the way and coiling the chain around the shaft of his pike. He meant to yank on the chain to try and pull the weapon out of his opponent’s hands, but froze, as the realization of what he’d just done sank in.
Everyone in the chamber was staring at him. Zero-Zero-Three could even feel Prime’s eyes on him. Glowing a low crimson smolder in the darkness he was shrouded in. His ears drooped.
Horrin smirked a humorless smile, sharp red teeth seeming somehow sharper than the average clone’s in that moment. “Are you so feeble you need your underlings to fight your battle for you? You’re old and weak, Hode. It’s you who should be on trial here, not me!”
Zero-Zero-Three felt a hand squeeze his shoulder. That was the only warning he got before he was pulled off his feet and thrown back into the crowd. He stumbled and fell on another Force Captain, one from Horrin’s own division.
Zero-Zero-Three didn’t know his batch number, but he recognized the variation on the uniform –a short jacket instead of a cape, and long pants instead of robes. Force Captains were allowed some liberties with their uniforms. They could augment the base design for personal preference or practicality of fighting style. (It was one of the reasons why Zero-Zero-Three no longer included pants on his. He preferred the freedom of movement mostly bare legs offered him.) This one was Force Captain Four-Zero-Eight.
“Keep being dumb like that and you won’t last long.” Four-Zero-Eight informed him.
Zero-Zero-Three did not need to be told. He realized only after it happened that he just called his Lord weak by presuming to defend him. Cabinet Lords did not need their subordinates to protect them. He lowered his head in shame. Lord Hode might be older than average for a Horde clone, but that just meant he was more experienced. Seasoned. Formidable.
“Now get your head out of your cloaca and you might learn something.” Four-Zero-Eight informed him.
Raising his eyes again, Zero-Zero-Three watched the two Lords circle each other.
Horrin had his cape thrown back. Over his shoulders and out of his way. He was spinning the weighted end of the chain, building up its momentum so that it could hit with deadlier force.
Hode, on the hand, kept his cape draped over him. He wore it longer than the other cabinet Lords, all the way down to the floor, and with a hood pulled over his head. When he moved, it gave the illusion that he was not so much taking steps as he was gliding across the black glass floor. A living shadow moving over darkness.
It made it hard to see his movements or predict his attacks.
Horrin lashed out with the weighted end of his sickle, the heavy projectile sailing through the air with enough force to break bone.
But it hit nothing but empty air. The chain pulling taught and the weight slamming into the glass floor hard enough to crack the obsidian shine.
Hode had jumped –jumped!- several meters in the air to dodge the attack. One arm lanced out to throw something at Horrin’s feet. A small and innocuous looking marble. It burst on impact with the dark floor, releasing a cloud of noxious smoke into Horrin’s face.
The other clone coughed, covering his nose and mouth with on hand. Blinking his nictitatingeyelid to try and clear the irritation from his eyes. He staged too close to the crowd of spectators and Four-Zero-Eight kicked him back into the center of the room. His own Lord!
When Hode came down from his jump, he landed behind Horrin, a tiny blade in his hand. No larger than his own middle digit. But sharp, and multi-pointed like the wings on their banners. Hode carried many of them to use as throwing weapons. But he only needed one for this, and he wasn’t going to throw it.
Hode grabbed Horrin by his tuft of blue hair, pulling his head back, and dragged the blade across his throat.
The arterial spray made it all the way to the first row of court spectators watching the display. Dark purple blood spattering other the floor, their feet, and their uniforms. Zero-Zero-Three raised an arm to block the words of it. Blood sure could get some distance when there was a strong heart pumping it.
Next to him, Four-Zero-Eight reached a hand up to wipe at his face, unconcerned.
Horrin fell to the floor, bleeding out. He was dead in moments.
Hode stood over him. Hooded and cloaked. All anyone could see of his face were his scarlet eyes glowing from under the shadow of his hood. Like a wraith from Olde Revena mythology. Darkness given physical form.
From up on his throne, Prime clapped his hands once. A deafening ‘smack’ of a sound.
It made Zero-Zero-Three jump. He hadn’t realized just how quiet it had gotten in the Grand Throne Room.
Hode immediately lowered his hood, displaying his face. He was older than most Horde clones. Most clones did not live more than six to eight years outside the tanks. Battle field deaths mostly. It was said that if they survived eight years of service on the front lines, they were Force Captain material. If they made it to twelve years, they were destined for a seat on the cabinet and a name. Lorde Hode was twenty-three years out of the tank. Practically ancient!
He dropped to one knee. Humbling himself before the Emperor. Cape splayed over the floor like a dark halo around him. Next to him, Horrin’s body continued to leak all over the floor.
“You have killed one of your fellow cabinet members.” Prime informed him.
Hode did not look up. He kept his head down. Even so, one could hear the mocking contempt in his voice. “A misunderstanding. I was under the impression he was a traitor to you… my Brother.”
There was the heartbeat of a pause, and Zero-Zero-Three feared Prime might order his Lord’s execution as well. After all, one did not threaten cabinet Lords if they wanted to remain among the living.
Then a short bark of a laugh issued from the throne. “Bah. He was weak. Killed by an old man. If you didn’t do it, I would have.”
Zero-Zero-Three let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding in.
“Still,” Prime was still talking, “I’m now short a member of my cabinet.”
This statement was followed by another tense silence. Was Prime going to punish Hode after all?
Then, “Force Captain Four-Zero-Eight, you served your Lord well and preformed your duties admirably.”
“Thank you, Your Grace.” Four-Zero-Eight replied, having to raise his voice for the sound to carry across the wide space. Funny how that unnatural echo only seemed to work if one was speaking from the throne. He stepped out from the crowd, stopping just two steps behind where Hode still knelt, and took a knee of his own.
“Will you serve me as diligently and loyally?” Prime pressed.
Still on his knees, not raising his eyes, Four-Zero-Eight placed a fist to his heart. “Even more, Your Grace.”
“Then I elevate you to the vacant position in my cabinet.” Prime announced. “By what name would you like to be called?”
Zero-Zero-Three thought that was absurd. No clone could just think of a name that would be their identity for the rest of their lives so quickly. On the spur of the moment. Not when all their lives their only identity had been a number.
“Red Hord.” Four-Zero-Eight answered without pause. Without time for thought.
From the throne, Prime’s glowing eyes nodded. “Then I name you Red Hord, Lord of the Second Division.”
The example made, the display over with, the court was dismissed.
With Lord Hode exiting first as he held the highest seniority of all the cabinet Lords. Then Lord Hordren falling into step behind him. Lord Hordwing third in line. Finally, the newly named and elevated Lord Red Hord got up off the floor and exited, taking up the tail position of the Lords’ procession out of the chamber.
Once the Lords were gone, all the rest of the Force Captains, Wing Captains, and sub-Commanders moved to follow. There was far less order. They were all of equal rank and all though their divisions were better than all the others.
Zero-Zero-Three caught up to his Lord in the corridor outside.
“I wasn’t expecting you to become part of the show, Zero-Zero-Three.” Hode informed him.
Zero-Zero-Three instantly demurred. “Forgive me, My Lord, I was not thinking. I was only-” a pause as he tried to think of the correct words to describe that split second moment when all thought left his head and his body acted of its own accord “-acting on instinct.”
He risked a glance up at his Lord.
Hode was staring at him oddly. “How strange. A Horde clone with instincts for protection.” He mused aloud. Then immediately dropped the subject. “In any event did you enjoy the show?”
“Show?” Echoed the younger clone.
“That’s all it was.” Hode informed him. “A show. A show of power. A show of intimidation. A show of loyalty. Take your pick. But all still just a show. There was never going to be any trial here. Horrin already defeated himself the moment he became careless enough for a Force Captain who wasn’t even part of his division to learn of his treason.”
“Did you take my data directly to Prime, then?” Asked Zero-Zero-Three, genuinely wanting to know. What did his Lord do with the datapad be brought to him so many months ago?
“Our Older Brother, in his wisdom, would not even entertain such direct accusations. He knows perfectly well that his cabinet is always vying for his personal favor. He does not take kindly to those who fling accusations at their equals.” Hode informed him. Then smiled a cunning smile. “But if he were to stumble across something incriminating on his own… now that is a different animal entirely. Measure your steps carefully, and know your allies as well as you know your enemies. If you do things right, Zero-Zero-Three, you won’t have to do anything at all.”
Entrapta had done things right. If Catra hadn’t informed him of her betrayal, he wouldn’t have thought she did anything at all.
Hordak was reluctant to admit it, but Entrapta made a better Horde soldier than he did.