Countdown to Destruction

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Setting the Pieces

"What did you say?!" Divatox snarled.

"I said you are wrong, my dear sister," General Havoc replied with his annoyingly calm and cultured voice as he sipped his tea. "Your assessment is incorrect, although you are right in your first conclusion that this does represent Dark Specter's efforts to conquer the planet Earth. You have however failed to identify the vessels you reported seeing. They are not the Dark Fortress as you suggested. They are merely support vessels for Dark Specter's forces. The Dark Fortress is much larger and unlikely to position itself inside the Earth's orbit. Dark Specter prefers to layer his forces, which you would know if you had read my comprehensive appraisal of his forces and strategy."

"So, this is not an invasion then?" she asked.

"Of course, it is an invasion, Divatox. Why do you insist on not listening to your advisers?" her mother snapped. "Dark Specter is mobilising his forces and you have witnessed five of his support vessels being positioned. The Dark Fortress will arrive later. Correct Havoc?"

"Yes mother," General Havoc replied. "Although whether we will see it arrive or not depends on Dark Specter's plan. Remember the Dark Fortress can prevent others from noticing its presence."

"Yes, that wretched Dimensional Cloak of his," Zonette Mommadee the First, Queen Mother of the Dianthe Pirates, murmured. As one of the most powerful figures within the pirate clan, and Divatox’s mother, she had taken a keen interest in her daughter’s activities.

"Either way there is very little we can do at this time," Havoc continued. "Dark Specter's power dwarfs our own, his forces outnumber anything we could manage, and his fleet is vastly superior. At best we could engage in hit-and-run offensives, but in all likelihood… he would crush us."

"Then we will need to find another way," Mommadee decided. "Divatox, you should continue to watch Dark Specter's forces. If as you suggested, he has sent one of his servants to oversee the mission there is a chance they will make a mistake and you can be there to clear up the mess."

Divatox did not like it. It still meant stepping aside and losing her claim to the planet. She consoled herself that when a mistake was made, Divatox would be the one to let Dark Specter know of the failure. And then she would make certain that it was a mistake whatever servant had lucked into the role of commander would never recover from.

Dark Specter's decision to attack the Earth directly had not gone unnoticed by his adversaries. It was easy to miss the movement of one vessel amongst the vast armada that the UAE had at its disposal, but when planets that had been on the verge of surrendering to a superior force were suddenly left unmolested, it could not be ignored. It was obvious that Dark Specter had changed his targets, but for the councillors it seemed likely that he had conquered enough territory that he was ready to turn his forces back toward the home of the Galactic Council.

The council chambers were placed on high alert as the council's fleet were recalled to protect their leaders. An urgent request for assistance was sent to the Morphin Masters of Eltare and Lantern Corps, both of which were turned down when the recipients learnt that Council had offered to pay for the services of the Masked Riders.

And while they were turning their attention to saving themselves from a non-existent threat, no thought was spared to the devastated worlds that Dark Specter had left on the brink of desolation. Calls for assistance were ignored as even the councillors that were supposed to represent those planets were too caught up in their own selfish quest for survival.

"More vessels?" Havoc queried, placing his cup down and reaching for a scone.

"Yes General, lots of them," Rygog answered.

"How large?"

"Varying sizes but some are more than a kilometre in size," came the reply.

"Those would be the attack vessels moving into place," Havoc decided. Then asked. "Did they make any attempt to cover their activities?"

He had originally thought that Dark Specter had been planning a sneak attack, something that would be exceptionally difficult given the size of the ships involved. Although if Dark Specter had cloaked them there was a good chance Zordon would never have noticed their approach given how large an area he monitored.

"The first few were cloaked until they reached their destination," Porto told him. "They then covered the arrival of the rest…"

"Allowing them to move into position quickly without the risk of collision," Havoc concluded.

One drawback of any sort of cloaking device was that it would leave friendly forces blinded as well as the enemy. He shuddered to think of the damage that could have been done had just one cloaked vessel collided with another.

"Expect the Dark Fortress to arrive shortly and then they will move to their final attack positions."

"And there's nothing we can do?" Divatox demanded.

"Oh, there is plenty we can do, my dear sister." Havoc answered. "Dark Specter has withdrawn his forces from hundreds of worlds and the Council have started to panic now that they have no idea where he might strike. We can take full advantage of this by sending our fleet to ransack those worlds before the Council realises their mistake and decides to help them."

"An excellent idea, Havoc," Mommadee commended. "Perhaps there is hope for you. Ready the fleet."

"Mother!" Divatox complained. "I am the Queen of the Dianthe. I make the decisions… Havoc, ready the fleet."

"If you were a better queen the Earth would already be ours," Mommadee snapped back. "Never forget that you can be replaced, Divatox. The only reason you remain Queen of the Dianthe is that nobody has demanded a vote."

As much as she hated to admit it, Divatox knew that her mother was correct. The position of Pirate Queen allowed the individual complete control over the Dianthe, with maybe a few exceptions such as the council of former leaders. The downside was that any senior member of the Dianthe's council could call for a vote to remove the current queen and replace her with a new monarch. And with her recent track record and failure to find a suitable husband, Divatox knew she would never win such a vote.

"Then this will be the first step in making sure the Dianthe are remembered as the greatest pirates the universe has ever known," she declared.

"And you will remain where you are and continue to watch Dark Specter's movements," her mother instructed, completely ignoring the motivational speech. "I expect regular reports."

Divatox wanted to tell her mother ‘no’. She wanted to order the old witch's arrest for sedition and treason, but somehow, she knew that if she did so it would be the end of her time as Queen of the Dianthe. So, with a hiss that clearly showed her displeasure and a promise that somebody would pay, she just said: "Yes Mother!"

The Dark Fortress slipped into position, sending instructions to position the rest of the fleet. The saucers that had arrived earlier dropped through the atmosphere, hidden by the cloaking technology that Dark Specter's forces had decided would play an essential part of their plan. Once the vessels were in their final positions, the Dark Fortress took up its position in orbit, ready to strike.

"Everything is prepared Princess," Ecliptor advised.

Ecliptor was one of Dark Specter's most trusted followers and his loyalty to Astronema was second only to the absolute loyalty he showed the Grand Monarch. He was everything she needed him to be a trainer, a warrior and an advisor. She gave the orders and he handled the details.

"Start the countdown," she ordered. "Make certain the trasfer points are aligned."

He nodded and moved to obey, setting the controls.

"We are ready," he confirmed.

Dark Specter had told her the strategy he wished her to use in this battle. But Astronema was ambitious and eager to prove herself a capable leader. So she had changed the plan, preferring to subdue the planet after allowing it every opportunity to defend itself. So far her plan was progressing better than she had hoped.

End of Part.

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