"This campaign of harassment is going quite well." Captain Simms said, "We're clearly having the desired affect."
"Agreed." General Zuzu said, "We be meetin' th' expected opposition."
"We're bound to force a reaction out of the enemy soon." Simms said, "They can't let us hit and run like this for much longer."
"Agreed." Homsar said, stroking his chin.
"I know that look." Simms said.
"What you be t'inkin'?" Zuzu said.
"Bring up the map." Homsar said, and Simms wordlessly ordered it so.
"Mark out our actions, the fleet's actions, and all known enemy actions." Homsar said, and Simms made it so. The stellar cartographer marked out on the star chart all of the campaign events to date. Fleet engagements with the enemy's forces, refugee patterns, piracy reports, planetary upheavals, and their own raiding actions in the enemy's rear all came on screen to compose a picture showing an emerging pattern of the enemy's strategy. Pirates and planetary upheavals preceding enemy fleet action in nearby systems, diluting Patrol responses and allowing the enemy to engage on their terms. If not for Homsar and his friends running rampant in their rear, the enemy would have a clear advantage over the Patrol.
"I think I see what you're on about, Homsar." Simms said, "There's a clear pattern."
"So do I." Zuzu said.
Homsar scanned the picture, staring at it, searching through it for something he seemed certain was there. He saw the that the pattern of enemy behavior not only followed a linear pattern, but a three-dimensional one also; the strategy served to draw the Patrol's fleet further from its bases of support and keep it from concentrating all of its assets, instead drawing the vanguard into the the bottom of a cone-shaped well.
"Do you see this?" Homsar said, marking on the map what he perceived.
Simms and Zuzu watched, and as they comprehended the implications they nodded in agreement.
"Dey be layin' a trap for da Fleet." Zuzu said.
"Which means that their leader is there. This is a web, and the Fleet's been entangled in it." Simms said.
"We be needin' ta get in dere first." Zuzu said, "Dey not be expectin' anyt'in' like us."
"No." Homsar said, "Not yet."
Simms and Zuzu looked at expectantly.
"It's a trap all right." Homsar said, "But not for the Fleet, not primarily. The Fleet is the bait."
Simms looked at each other, and then gasped.
"Yes, my friends. All of this is meant to do one thing: draw me into the trap. This 'Master' is no fool, and I can only deduce that he learned what became of his counterpart."
Aboard the Algolian flagship, The Master studied a stream of data coming in from all of his minions. In the last 30 seconds, he ordered the execution of 700 officers for incompetence, approved the deployment of Generation Four hybrids for terror operations throughout the sector, and received word that the remnants of The Dragonsworn are now in position. He now addressed their leader by viewscreen.
"Warlord Moonguard." The Master said, "Your time has come. I now transmit the coordinates of a Patrol ship, the Kinneson. Aboard that ship is Homsar Delgana, who leads the raiders harassing our logistical chain. Seek, locate, exterminate!"
The reptile-man made the same obsequious salute as the other minions, and winked out of view. The Master's wretched minion slide into view before him.
"Master, they go to certain death."
"Of course." The Master said, "The Agent expects that I do something about his actions, so I fulfill those expectations. That they succeed in stopping him is not an issue."
"Then they will convince him to come?"
"No. He will come. That I already know is certain. What I must do is to compel him to come as I desire, not as he desires. I shall also pull the Patrol Fleet, drawing them in further than they would like. Playing on their known operational priorities makes them predictable, and predictable opposition is easily controlled- and easily destroyed. The Fleet needs to believe that they must come to the rescue of the planets I attack, and then to their most treasured Agent, while said Agent needs to believe that my destruction of the Fleet is immanent and he must rush to the rescue or all is lost."
"So, you play on their benevolence to bring prey to the kill?"
"We will kill both of these targets before they can unite against us. Besides, I have several surprises in reserve that I alone am aware of and will put to use at the proper moments. Victory was certain before I let slip that I existed to the Patrol, and once we are victorious here I shall go on to break the Patrol and restore our power over those fools who think that they can escape The Master."
The wretched minion suddenly convulsed in spasms, and then slumped to the floor dead.
"Minions need to remember not to question their Master."