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Obedience

Part 1

by Mathew Martin



"Time: 1837. Position: 0.7 km 28 degrees north-northeast of Snake Mountain. Situation: Atmospheric electrical activity high, precipitation appears immanent. No other abnormal events."
"Very good, Faker,” Skeletor's voice came back over Faker's internal communications link. "Continue your patrol until you receive word that Trap Jaw has the computer system back up."
"Understood", the android said. As Skeletor switched off the link, Faker performed another scan of the surroundings. There was still nothing unusual, until his gaze fell upon the twisted and lightning-struck trees 97 degrees west-southewest of his current position. “Energy signature of unknown nature. Approximately 9 cm across. 10.2 meters away--it must be extremely powerful to be registering at that range.”
Faker reached the sight with a quick run. There, in the ash of one of the most devastated trees, was a small shard of crystal, glowing with a strange form of light. The energy it radiated was like nothing Faker had ever seen before. As the first few raindrops fell onto the gem, there was a hiss and some rising steam.
“This could be an opportunity--or a danger. It must be taken back to Lord Skeletor immediately.” Faker opened a small chamber in his right arm, a perfect hiding space for the crystal, and slipped the treasure inside.
Just as the compartment closed, Faker heard a noise coming out of the trees. A few moments later, Beast-Man staggered out of the dead grove, soaked by the rainshower.
"He-Man! Grr, I’ll teach you to come snooping around Snake Mountain!"
"Cease hostilities, Beast-Man,” Faker said, as a long flash of lighting illuminated the robot's blue skin and brass hair. "It is Faker."
Beast-Man looked up. "Urgh, yes, it is. The light was bad. Why Skeletor built you I'll never know. What are you doing out here, anyway? This is my patrol area.”
Faker frowned--a trait he had acquired from his months among Skeletor’s minions. It seemed to put them more at ease, although he felt no need for it. “This is my patrol zone, isn’t it?” The robot mentally retraced his steps over the past few hours--no. 15.2 minutes ago, his turn had been off 11 degrees. The resulting variance had brought him into Beast-Man’s patrol area.
“You are right. Apparently an error slipped into my guidance systems. Remind me to have Trap-Jaw perform a diagnostic when we get back--after he finishes work on the computers.”
“Ur, yes. You’d better get back to the patrol zone. With the sensors and alarms down, who knows what the Eternians might pull. Grgh, I hope Trap Jaw gets them back up soon, I “hate”patrol duty. I’d rather be tearing those do-gooder soldiers limb from limb than hiking about to see if they’re going to be stupid enough to pull anything!”
Faker nodded. “I understand your desire to win a victory against our enemies, but we must do what is necessary to serve Lord Skeletor.”
Beast-Man scowled. "Gr, don't you ever think of anything but pleasing that bucket of--I mean, Lord Skeletor?"
"What else is there to think of? After all the times we've failed him, we should be grateful he still lets us live.” Faker began. The robot then stopped. "Hold on. Do you hear it?"
"Hear what?"
“Aerial vehicles, approximately 12 with a single rocket engine and one of tri-engine design, closing at 200 kph. Current distance, 3.7 km.”
"Arrgh, we need to let the others know so we can teach those twits a lesson. Contact Tri-Klops.”
Faker nodded again, but he hesitated a bit this time. Something about this didn't feel normal.
"Faker to Tri-Klops. Tri-Klops, do you read?"
"Right here, Faker."
"I am here with Beast-Man. There is an Eternian aerial assault wing closing on Snake Mountain. Prepare to defend the fortress."
"Understood."
Beast-Man snarled into Faker’s ear. "Tri-Klops, if you”re hearing this, be sure to leave a few alive--Skeletor and I want to have some fun with them!”
The two warriors rushed back to Snake Mountain, arriving at the fortress 2.3 minutes later, just in time to see the Eternians arrive.
The laser bolts began to rain down from the Sky Sleds as the rest of Skeletor's forces emerged from the castle. Tri-Klops was carrying the plasma cannon, but the rest of the soldiers were armed with blasters and laser rifles. Webstor’sgrappling hook dragged one of the Eternians off of a Sky Sled, but the hook’s cord was quickly severed by a laser bolt from another one of the vehicles.
“Why the poor weapons, Tri-Klops?” Faker shouted over the din of laser fire.
“When the computer went down, the doors to the arsenal were locked, and not even I can pry them open.”
Had he been of humanoid nature, Faker would have sighed. “Sabatoge?”
Trap Jaw joined the conversation. “Definitely. I found one of Man-at-Arms’ little viruses in the computer.” The cyborg’s energy bow brought down one of the Sky Sleds. “Tri-Klops, do you have that blasted cannon up yet? That Wind Raider’s going to take us all out!”
"Something's wrong with the cannon. The circuits are messed up. Let me try and...argh!"
Tri-Klops' repair attempts found themselves interrupted with the explosion of the cannon. A burst of violet plasma fire surged forth to strike Tri-Klops, with the fringes of the blast lashing out at Faker. The three-eyed warrior slumped to the ground, unconscious and badly burned. Faker, meanwhile, stood as though nothing had happened.
“Strange. Plasma fire should have disintegrated any bits of my synthetic flesh it touched.”
"Retreat!” Mer-Man gurgled in between his parries of an Eternian’s spear.
“Argh, fish-face is right. We’ve got to take this fight into Snake Mountain!” Beast-Man agreed, as a missile from the Wind Raider struck next to Faker's position, with a shockwave that would have sent any of the other troops to their knees.
The rest of the Evil Warriors fled back into the safety of Snake Mountain. Faker stood around, unmoving.
"Faker! Come on, what's the matter?” Trap-Jaw called just before disappearing.
“Tactical Analysis Program 7-Eta dictates a retreat. But for some reason, that just doesn't . . . feel right.”
“Urgh, Faker, get in here!” Beast-Man shouted.
Faker shook his head. “No. I won’t let these rabble approach Lord Skeletor--or best me. What? That’s not part of my programming . . . is it?”
“I always knew Skeletor programmed you to be an idiot!”
Beast-Man leaped through the hatch just before a blast from Man-at-Arms’ wrist laser.
“Surrender, Faker!” the old scientist shouted.
“Program 7-Epsilon dictates . . . ”
The compulsion of the programming vanished altogether this time, washed away in a wave of rage as Faker snarled and lunged at the band of warriors.
Man-at-Arms’ mace both shattered and was shattered by Faker’s shoulder. The android responded by ripping half of his opponent’s chest armor off in a single motion. One Eternian soldier was thrown into two of his colleagues. Fisto’s studded iron fist reduced most of Faker’s right side to a mass of crushed and twisted metal, but a sudden kick threw the Eternian brawler out of the fray. Mekaneck and Man-E-Faces fell before a flurry of Faker’spunches.
“Retreat!” Man-at-Arms cried above the din.
“But Father!” Teela protested as her longsword cut Faker’s left foot off at the ankle.
“No buts, Teela! We’ve got to get the others back to Eternia--they’re hurt badly.”
The rage began to vanish as the Eternians loaded most of their warriors into the back of the Wind Raider. It was replaced by a sense of pleasure, but also of dissatisfaction.
There had been little point to this fight. Faker--and Lord Skeletor--had gained nothing but the defense of their rightful home. Greater things would be required.
Still, they had won. Faker smiled, just before his system collapsed from shock.


“Faker, I don't know how ya get yourself into these things,” Trap Jaw complained as he searched through his pile of gadgets.
“I did what had to be done, Trap Jaw,” Faker answered from the operating table.
“Yeah, yeah,” Trap-Jaw muttered. "I tell you, between you and these computer glitches, it's a wonder I'm getting anything done."
"We all have our duties."
"Duty, missions--don't ya ever think about anything else?"
"That comes for later, Trap-Jaw, once we've restored Skeletor to the throne."
“You think he can beat the Eternians? We’ve been at this for a long time, after all.”
“And we’ve been gaining ground steadily. Projections indicate that at present rates, Eternos will fall in 3.43 months, with Grayskull following 6 weeks and 3 days later.”
“Boy, Skeletor did a number on your brain when he brought ya back, didn”t he?”
“Please clarify, Trap Jaw--what did you mean, and how can it be interpreted so that I don’t have to report you to Lord Skeletor for treason?”
"Uh, nothing. Nothing at all. Now, let me use this on that shoulder."
A bolt of pure fire coursed across Faker’sbody--at least, that’s what it felt like. "What exactly are you doing, trying to destroy my entire skeletal structure?"
"Quit yer whining, droid. Most of that damage wasn't as bad as ya thought, but they did slam ya pretty good.” Trap-Jaw picked up Faker's left foot. "This looks pretty bad, too.” A small piece of metal fell from the foot. Trap-Jaw's left hand snapped it up, and it disappeared into the cyborg's mouth.
"Trap-Jaw, please, don't eat your work."
"Hey, do ya know how hard it is to find high-grade ultraduranium around here? I almost never get to taste it!"
Faker sighed. "With procedures like this, you're right; it is a wonder you get anything done."
"We didn”t program ya to give lip like that! And hey, I rebuilt ya, after all!"
This was something new. "Rebuilt me?"
"Well, Skeletor provided most of the plans, and I had a lot of Eternian and Horde tech lying around to try. But yeah, I put ya together. All except the brain. “Trap-Jaw's welder arm sparked, and the foot connected again to the ankle. "I think that's the big stuff. Ya didn’t get beat up as bad as it looked. I wonder why?”
“No reason that I can think of,” Faker answered.
“Okay. Anything else?”
“No . . . wait a minute. I’ve got an idea.”
“Ya ‘never’ get ideas! You’re not supposed to, anyway.”
“Be quiet and listen to me! Now, I was designed to impersonate He-Man, wasn’t I?”


The Council of Snake Mountain was even darker and more tense than usual this day.
“If you fools hadn’t been so cowardly,” Evil-Lyn snapped, “we might have been able to take one of the Eternians hostage!”
“Ur, I didn”t notice you out on the battlefield, witch,” Beast-Man retorted.
“I had more important things to worry about.”
“Gurgle, some of us, gurgle, have other things to worry about as well,” Mer-Man answered, “but we still find the time to, gurugugle, help here.”
“Because you know Skeletor will punish you if you dare to disobey!”
“Enough.”
The Evil Warriors had been so caught up in their bickering that they hadn’t even noticed Skeletor’s entrance. Trembling, they turned to the throne and knelt before their lord. Even Evil-Lyn, although she remained standing, was startled.
“Very well,” Skeletor continued. “Be seated.”
“As you command, Skeletor,” Tri-Klops answered. “Where’s Faker?”
“Don’t worry about Faker!”
Hardly daring to turn their backs on Skeletor, the rest of the warriors looked to the source of the voice. He-Man stood at the entrance to the council chamber, his sword in his hand.
“Urgh, Tri-Klops, Webstor, stop him!” Beast-Man shouted.
“No. Leave him be.”
Tri-Klops froze in mid-lunge as Skeletor’s command reverberated throughout the room. Webstor wasn’t so lucky, finding himself caught by He-Man and thrown across the room. Not even breaking his stride, He-Man approached the throne and dropped to his knees before Skeletor, offering his sword to the Lord of Destruction.
The warriors could not take their eyes from the scene. Even Evil-Lyn, for once in her unnaturally long life, was speechless.
“Excellent,” Skeletor continued. “Indeed, quite impressive.”
He-Man’s skin and hair seemed to shimmer, and suddenly, the tanned skin had become blue, the hair had shifted from blond to bronze, and the sword and armor were once again copper in color instead of shining steel.
Beast-Man and Tri-Klops stared, dumbfounded, while Trap Jaw snickered and Evil-Lyn laughed wholeheartedly.
“A most remarkable trick,” the witch noted in between laughs. “Nicely done, Trap Jaw.”
“Uh, well, um . . .”
“It was my idea,” Faker cut in, rising to his feet. “And now, Lord Skeletor, I stand ready to serve you.”
“Very well, Faker,” Skeletor answered. “Be patient, all will come to pass.”
“Lord Skeletor, I beg of you that you let me strike now!”
“Silence, Faker!” Skeletor commanded. “Now, take your seat. You have much to learn this night.”



“Faker."
Faker heard the word whispered in the darkness behind him as he journeyed to the training center. Turning around, he say Evil-Lyn step out of the everpresent shadows of Snake Mountain.
“Yes, Evil-Lyn?”
“You want to attack Eternia.”
Faker paused, then nodded. “And it must be done quickly.”
The witch stepped closer. “Very well. I can give you a chance to do whatever you want. Skeletor need never know.”
“And your price?”
Evil-Lyn smiled. “Just that you assist me when I ask for it.”
Faker paused. “What kind of assistance?”
“Aid in protecting Snake Mountain and securing our aims . . . ”
The wizardess's words were cut off as Faker drew his sword and placed its point on her throat. "The only aid I would give to you, Evil-Lyn, is advice: either serve Skeletor loyally--something that is probably as far beyond you as it is beyond Beast-Man--or leave now, before we send you to the realm of demons."
Quickly and precisely, Faker's sword drew a long, thin cut in Evil-Lyn's pristine yellow-tinged skin. The robot sheathed his sword once again, as blood began to ooze from the small wound.
"I trust _you_ understand."
Evil-Lyn’s smile grew wider. “Well, Faker. 8-O-Infinita.”
The android didn’t flinch.
Evil-Lyn glared. "Didn't you hear me, robot? You're supposed to submit to my authority when you hear that command!"
“That command was disabled a few hours ago, traitor. You have no hold over me.”
“And what about Skeletor? Will you let _him_ maintain a hold over you?”
“Lord Skeletor gave me life and a purpose. I will serve him until my destruction.”
Evil-Lyn glared. “Pathetic wretch! You’d do anything for that bag of bones! He even let you die, and still you follow him! Well, some of us aren’t willing to sacrifice ourselves for someone who doesn’t care anything about the rest of us!” The witch then vanished in a blinding flash of light.
Faker watched for a moment to make sure that she was well and truly gone, and then resumed his path. As he headed to the training room, thought, Faker thought he could hear a voice in the back of his mind. Not so much a voice, actually, as simply Evil-Lyn's taunting laughter . . .


He-Man struck a double-handed blow with his sword. Faker managed to parry it, but his own sword cracked beneath the strength of the strike. Throwing the blade aside, Faker grabbed He-Man’s sword with his left hand and shattered it by clenching his fist, while his right hand grabbed He-Man’sthroat and threw the warrior to the floor.
“Training complete. Another fight?”
Faker shook his head. “No.”
That was the eleventh time he’d beaten the He-Man robot today, always in less than a minute. While the robot could not compare with the real thing, the success was still intoxicating. Faker had never felt so strong, so full of energy.
It would surely be a waste to let this moment of peak strength pass by unused. Lord Skeletor had forbidden it, but that must have been out of his concern for Faker. If Faker could perform a mission to Eternia successfully, Skeletor would doubtlessly understand.
It was time to get to work.



The dawn was breaking over the Fertile Plains, and the guards at Eternos' East Gate were glad to see it. The night shift of guard duty was long, boring, and thankless, and they were all glad of relief.
"Finally,” a junior officer muttered as the sun touched the red-orange walls of Eternia's most glorious city.
"Visitor!” another guard called, looking to the northeast. The soldiers immediately gathered around the gate, focusing on the approaching figure. It took them a few minutes, with the sun casting the stranger in shadows, but the young officer finally managed to make out the Cross of Grayskull on the newcomer's harness.
"He-Man!"
The soldiers immediately began chattering as the gate began to open.
"I never thought I'd see him!"
"No one ever sees him come in through the gate. "
"The Hero of Eternia . . . incredible!"
He-Man nodded and smiled as he stepped through the gate. "Well met, soldiers of Eternia.” He unsheated his sword and raised it in salute; the sunlight flashed off of the shining steel of the legendary Sword of Power. "And thank you."
The soldiers cheered as He-Man walked through. The gates shut behind him, and the soldiers returned to their posts, newly invigorated.
The young officer watched He-Man a moment longer, though. There was something wrong about him, something he couldn't quite put his finger on. He finally realized it just as the Hero turned a corner and vanished from sight.
"Where's Battle-Cat?"


Faker did all he could to keep from smirking as he walked through the city of Eternos. He paused by a pool of water and took a look at his own reflection. Quite impressive. Not perfect, by any means; he could identify two dozen flaws. There were spots where the skin's color wasn't quite right, and the hair wasn't as glossy as it should be. But it fooled the Eternians just as well as it had fooled his subordinates, and that was what mattered.
Cheers and shouts of praise followed Faker down the streets of the city. The people apparently loved and respected He-Man, for all his faults. How much greater would that love and respect be for him, Faker wondered, when he and Lord Skeletor sat upon the throne of Eternia, and justice was made manifest for all?
A small child stepped into Faker's path, carrying a kitten. He almost kicked the brat out of the way, but stopped, remembering how his opposite would act in this situation. Instead, he picked the child up and held her, petting the kitten as he whispered some friendly words and lies. The cheering increased by 1.23 factors as he did so. He then set the girl down, who ran back to her mother.
"Mommy! I met He-Man! He petted Fluffy!"
Faker did smile at this. “No, child, you didn't meet He-Man. But you did meet the Champion of Eternia.”


“Shoddy”, Faker thought as he walked into the Palace. He could understand fairly easy entrance into the city proper, but this was something totally different. The guards had just let him pass, without challenge or even question. Some of them had even said hello to him.
Ah, well, they couldn't be blamed. He--or rather He-Man--was the beloved of Eternia's people, after all; he was trusted and respected. They depended on him, perhaps even more so than on that insipid Randor and his alien witch-queen Marlena. Hopefully those weaknesses could be exploited.
Faker did his best to ignore the feeling of deja vu that tugged at him as he walked the courtyards and avenues of the Palace. It almost felt as if he had walked these before, in some other life or dream.
"He-Man!"
Eternia's Captain of the Guard--Teela--had noticed him. Faker had been looking forward to this; He-Man seemed to care about this girl, and thus she probably knew him better than most. It would be an interesting test of his skills--and perhaps he would get revenge on her for wounding him.
"Hello, Teela."
"Have you seen Adam anywhere? He's been gone since yesterday afternoon!"
"No, Teela, I haven't. Have you checked with the King and Queen?"
"Didn't you know? They're on a tour of the western duchies."
Confound it! Plans foiled by coincidence and unforeseen problems . . . this must be how Lord Skeletor feels when the others bungle his own plans. “I just got here this morning. Why isn't Prince Adam with them?"
"They said they wanted him to stay here. Something about him not being respectable enough--you know the problem. And now he's missing . . .. how am I supposed to do my job when he keeps running off all the time?!"
So, the Prince shows his indolence and cowardice. To have reports from spies about it is one thing, but to hear it from the lips of his bodyguard . . . "Sorry I couldn't help."
"That's all right; he's bound to be around somewhere.” The woman smiled. "Up for some weapons practice?"
"I'd love to, but I've got some important work I need to do here."
"Really? More important than keeping up your skills for the fight against Skeletor and his clowns like Faker?” This was delivered in a light, almost mocking tone.
Some day, wench . . . "I'm afraid so. I've got to get to Man-at-Arms' workshop. If you'll excuse me?"


There. That should be the last of it. Faker disconnected a small wire from the computer and slipped it back into his right arm. A complete download of the Eternians’ computer system wasn”t as impressive as kidnapping the false king and his consort, but it would have to do. Now, all he had to do was slip out of Eternos without being noticed.
Faker began to head out of the workshop, and nearly bumped into the Trollan magician that the Eternians kept around for amusement.
"He-Man! What are you doing back? I thought you and Man-at-Arms were going to Darksmoke!"
Darksmoke? Ah, the mythical home of the dragons. Obviously, He-Man inflates his reputation with children’s tales. "We got back early, and I”m just fixing a few things . . . Orko."
“Well, let me show you a great new trick I learned! I can make it snow in the middle of July!"
"Thank you, but that's not necessary. I really have to get going."
"Come on! Not even a flurry? Or a snowflake."
"No, Orko."
"Well, how about some roses. Something nice for Teela or the Queen?"
"No, Orko; the last time you tried that . . .” Faker paused, trying to come up with something he knew from his limited interactions with Orko. “. . . you came up with stuff that made man-eating plants look good."
"Really, Tar Swamp skunkweed isn't _that_ bad. Are you sure?"
"For the last time, Orko, I don't have time for your parlor tricks."
The wizard kept following him. "So, where are we going?"
"Snake Mountain. Care to join me?"
Orko collapsed into his hat. "S-S-Snake Mountain? What are you going there for?"
"I've got work to do."
"Well, all right . . . I'm not letting you go alone!"
Faker sighed. "You'd better, Orko, unless you want to end up as Skeletor' handkerchief."
The jester trembled. "Well . . . I'm still going!”
Faker snarled. This was getting to be more trouble than it was worth. "For the last time, Orko, the answer is no. You're more of a nuisance than a help in any case."
"What the . . . you never talk to me like that!"
"Don't be so certain."
"What's going on here? And where's Battle-Cat?"
"He wanted a rest."
"You _never_ let him have a rest."
"I made an exception. I'm about to make another one.” Faker drew his sword. Lord Skeletor would love to see this silly little magician stuffed and hanging over his throne.
"Who are you? You're not He-Man!"
Come now, little alien, you mean to tell me you can't guess?"
"Faker.” It was at least pleasant to hear Orko' voice go cold with dread.
"Exactly. Unfortunately, the Royal Family isn't here, so I can't do what I came to do. But I can at least get rid of your incessant patter."
"Guards! Guards!"
Teela rushed around the corner, followed by two more of the Eternian guards. "He-Man? Orko? What’s going on here?"
"Don't listen to him, Teela; it's one of Skeletor's tricks."
"Hey! That's my line! Teela, it's Faker!"
Teela shook her head. "Even Faker wouldn't be stupid enough to walk right into the middle of Eternos!"
"And I would be?” Orko retorted. "Well, l'll prove it to you!” The little Trollan began to wiggle his fingers. "In the name of all magics good, nice and true, I command this Faker to return to--"
The silly little chant was cut short as Faker pulled Orko's hat down again.
Teela glared at him. "He-Man wouldn't do something like that. Well, Faker--or whoever you are--I hope you won't mind answering a few questions after you've thawed out.”
Faker neatly parried the first bolt from the freeze ray. “So much for sneaking out.” The sounds of an alarm blared through the palace as Teela gathered her guards. That confounded droid had run off just after a few shots. Orko had tried to follow him, but he had been tossed back around the corner a minute later, folded and flattened into a disk. "Faker's in the palace, disguised as He-Man. I need him stopped before he does something drastic!"
"Yes, Captain!” The guards ran off, splitting into teams of three or four as they began to search the palace.
Teela started thinking out loud. "Thank goodness the Royal Family’s gone. Now, what's the best way to capture a robot?"
She turned to her first lieutenant. "Set up the forcefield grid, and try to drive Faker into it!"
"Yes, Captain!” The soldier paused for a moment. "What if the real He-Man shows up?"
Teela sighed. "Then capture them both, and someone can sort it out later!"


Faker looked cautiously around the corner. There were three guardsmen standing there, as alert as possible for humans. He could rush them without much of a risk.
"For Grayskull!” Faker shouted, drawing his sword. “Best to confuse them as much as possible.”
"What the--?”
"He-Man?"
"No--Faker!"
The guards didn't even have their laser pikes up before Faker had run into them, his sword swinging wildly. Unlike the Sword of Power, Faker's blade was sharp and keen. One of the guards had perished quickly; the other two weren't dead by the time he was finished with them, but they would be unless someone got to them in a few minutes.
"Look! Over there!"
Faker whirled about. Blasts of energy began to fill the chamber, and Faker's blood-stained sword came up to parry them. Most of the blasts were knocked aside and dissipated quickly, but one lucky shot got through. However, it didn”t even scar a bit of Faker. He charged the soldiers again, but then stopped just a second away from the unit. There was an odd flickering in the air just in front of him. . . .
"A force field?” He turned around. "Impressive, Teela. It would have been even more impressive if it was really invisible."
Teela stepped out from the corner, followed by a dozen guards. "Invisible or not, not even the real He-Man could break that force field. And we've got them lining every corridor. You've got nowhere to run, Faker."
Faker smiled. "Really, Teela, haven't you seen me get out of these kinds of traps often enough?"
"You're not He-Man!"
The smile broadened. "You're right. I'm better.” Sheathing the sword again, Faker jumped straight up, going through the roof.
Teela shook her head. "Somebody stop him!"
“The Sky Sleds are in the air, Captain,” one of the soldiers told her. “I’m getting reports that Faker’s come under fire--he’s heading for the wall.” The soldier listened to the communicator for a moment, and his face went white. “He just punched through the city walls, Captain.”
Teela sighed. “Pull back the Sky Sleds. Let’s just hope he didn’t do too much damage.”



The Grayskull Library

Part 2


Obedience

Part 2

Obedience
by Mathew Martin



“Ten minutes. Not even He-Man can move that fast.”
Faker stood on the far edge of the Evergreen Forest, having dashed there straight from Eternos.
This was an interesting situation. In the wake of his encounter with the Eternians, Faker couldn’t risk returning to Snake Mountain; Skeletor would surely be justly angry with him. The Royal Family was gone, and there was no one else worth anything in Eternia--even that pathetic wench Teela and her magician would be more or less useless. Their only use would be as bait, and those plans had failed so many times it was a wonder Skeletor kept trying them.
And so, Faker had come here. The only way to prove himself to Skeletor would be to defeat He-Man--and the only way to find He-Man and ensure that the warrior couldn’t escape was to fight him in the place he cared about most, the place he would not dare abandon.
Castle Grayskull. Faker felt a twinge of hesitation as he prepared to step out of the shadows of the trees. Was there a better way? No, Skeletor would destroy him out of righteous anger if he returned to Snake Mountain without satisfaction.
But why return to Snake Mountain? Faker was the most powerful being on Eternia now; it looked like even He-Man could not stand against him. Why not establish himself as a ruler apart from Skeletor; an ally and equal--or even a superior?
“No,” Faker muttered. Skeletor had created him.
But why is that any reason? Skeletor had turned on his own mentor; why shouldn’t Faker continue the cycle?
“Even if Skeletor was a traitor, I cannot become one!”
What is the treachery? All this is is recognizing the valid order of things. The strong must rule the weak--and you are now the strongest.
Faker could almost feel his circuitry sparking. No, this wasn’t right!
Might makes right, you stupid robot!
On impulse, Faker opened the small cell in his right arm and looked at the gem he’d been holding. He’ d nearly forgotten about the crystal, but he could see it pulsing now, with a strange, almost hypnotic light.
“So, you would have me turn on Skeletor,” Faker said to the gem. “Well, then,” he continued as he ripped the jewel from his arm, wincing in pain, “you--will--not--control--me!”
With that, Faker put forth all of his strength and hurled the gem over the horizon.
It was a long moment before the last glimmer of light from the crystal faded into the distance. Faker sighed. Whether that was a good idea or not, he couldn’t tell, but it had felt right.
“The proximity of Grayskull must be making me sentimental. Best to finish this.”
Assuming his disguise as He-Man, Faker prepared to enter the heart of evil on Eternia.



The stone bridge and imposing face of Castle Greyskull loomed before him, as powerful and reminiscent of Lord Skeletor as Faker had always found it. He had never seen Greyskull in person before, and it was even more impressive than the holograms and models had made it.
“Sorceress!” he called, putting as much as he could into imitating He-Man’ s voice. “Sorceress, are you there?”
The falcon-cowled woman appeared at the castle’ s window. “Faker. What is it?”
“Faker? I’m He-Man!”
The smile on the Sorceress’ s face was gently mocking. “I can tell who it is, Faker. What do you seek here?”
Snarling, Faker restored his normal colors. “I seek He-Man. Call him here, or I will destroy this castle and then all of Eternia until I have met him in battle.”
The smile slipped away. “You could do nothing against this castle, Faker, but I will call He-Man. In the meantime, I have something to ask of you as well.”
The jawbrigde of Grayskull opened. “Please, come inside.”
“And if I don’t?”
“I can make no threats--and no promises.” “Very well, witch.” Steeling himself, Faker crossed the threshold into Castle Grayskull.
The fortress was not the domain of horrors he’d pictured it as. There were no tortured servants of Skeletor, or trophies from the Eternians’ ancient conquest of this world. It was simply dark, cool, and a bit damp--rather reminiscent of Snake Mountain.
The Sorceress, in her pride, was sitting on a raised throne waiting for him. “Welcome, Faker. Congratulations--you’re the first of Skeletor’s minions to be invited into this castle.”
“Not the last, I hope. Once I’ve defeated He-Man, the Sword of Power will be Lord Skeletor’s--and that’s all we will need to take Grayskull from you.”
“Defeating He-Man may not be as easy as you think, Faker. But why the need to fight him?”
“To satisfy Lord Skeletor.”
“Skeletor cannot be satisfied, Faker. Even if he were to rule all the dimensions of the multiverse, it would still not fill the emptiness within him. If you give him this castle, all you will do is bring more pain and suffering to the innocent.
“Enough with the lies, Sorceress. I’ ve already been tempted to betray Lord Skeletor once today, and I have no patience for a second attempt.”
“I know, Faker. I was impressed by your ability to withstand the temptations of that gem. It pains me to see such loyalty and inner strength directed towards one who doesn’ t deserve it.”
“Lord Skeletor created me, Sorceress; if that is not worthy of loyalty, what is?”
The Sorceress raised a hand. “Watch, Faker, and see why you were created.”
Images began to flow in the great mirror on the left wall. Faker saw himself being formed out of thin air, but with He-Man’ s form instead of the blue skin and brass hair that he wore when the illusions were stripped away. He saw his first deception of the Sorceress-rather impressive-then his fight with He-Man, and his fall into the Abyss.
“He-Man tired to stop me, and Skeletor let me fall?”
The image then shifted to the bridge over the Abyss. Skeletor stood on the edge of the Abyss, with the Havoc Staff raised over the chasm as lighnting cut through the clouded skies.
“Come forth, Faker! Return to your master!”
The Sorceress appeared in the window of Greyskull. “Faker is gone, Skeletor, released from your bonds.”
“Curse you, Sorceress! I’ ll make another Faker, one less vulnerable to your magic! And then MY Champion will take the Sword of Power and use it to conquer the universe for me!”
“No one who serves you can wield the Sword, Skeletor.”
“We will see, Sorceress!”
Another change of scene, this time to Trap-Jaw’s lab.
“I want you to build the best robot you can, Trap-Jaw. These plans should suffice; I want a perfect physical likeness of He-Man!”
“Sure, Skeletor.” Trap-Jaw looked over the plans. “How come there’s no brain?”
“Leave that to me, fool!”
Faker looked to the Sorceress. “Is that it?”
The enchantress shook her head. “Watch.”
It was Eternos now, and Skeletor’ s troops were assaulting the main gate. Faker shook his head. This was a clumsy attack; all it did was draw the Eternians’ attention. What was the point in that?
He-Man came into the picture then, riding on that flea-bitten Battle-Cat. Skeletor raised the Havoc Staff and pointed it, and a bolt of white light lashed out at the pretender. He-Man struggled as the light turned crimson, and then fell to the ground as the spell ceased.
The lab again. Skeletor looked over Trap-Jaw’s new construction- Faker’s inert form.
“Well done, Trap-Jaw. Now, with this spark of He-Man’ s life force, I’ll have my own He-Man! But this one will be completely loyal to me! Whatever I do, whatever I ask of him, he’ll keep crawling back, hungry to serve me-not like the rest of you dolts! And when I'm through with him, he'll even accept execution with a smile!”
The images faded as Skeletor infused the red light into Faker, and the robot’s eyes began to open.
Faker looked again to the Sorceress, who looked saddened somehow. “Was that it?”
“I fear so, Faker. Do you understand now?”
Faker nodded. “I was created to replace He-Man.”
The Sorceress shook her head. “Not to replace him, Faker, to imitate him. You’re nothing more than a puppet for Skeletor, just like all the others. He bound you to him with programming and dark magic.”
The Sorceress stepped down from the throne. “We can help you. I want to help you. Join us, and we can give you a life of your own.”
Faker shook his head. “My life is Skeletor’s, Sorceress; that is the order of things.”
The Sorceress sighed. “Very well, Faker. But should you wish to repent, this castle stands forever open to you--but never to Lord Skeletor.” She turned towards the depths of the hall. “Welcome, He-Man.”
“Hello, Sorceress,” the warrior answered. He-Man then turned to look at his counterpart. “Faker. Is this really necessary?”
The only answer Faker gave was to draw his sword.
Sighing, He-Man drew the Sword of Power. “I guess there’s nothing I can say to make you listen to reason.”
"Reason dictates that it is time to end this. Either you or I will die this night, He-Man,” Faker said as his first swing slashed in towards He-Man.
“I don’ t want to hurt you, Faker,” He-Man said as he dodged the blow and countered with a thrust of his own.
“Don’ t worry about me,” Faker answered as he ducked out of the Sword’ s range. He then kicked to He-Man’ s midsection, catching him off-guard and throwing him halfway across the room. He-Man rolled with the blow and got to his feet just before he collided with the wall.
Just as He-Man began to rise, Faker came rushing in, swinging his sword above his head. He-Man parried the wildly twirling blade and knocked it towards the mirror.
“Careful, He-Man, that could have been seven years bad luck.”
“I didn’t know Skeletor’ s robots had a sense of humor.”
“Some of us do--and this could be very funny.” Faker’ s punches struck He-Man’s chest and head, trying to drive the hero off his feet. He-Man withstood the assault, though, and his own punch knocked Faker towards the mirror--and back towards his sword.
Faker picked up the blade just in time to parry He-Man’s own Sword of Power. The two warriors struggled to break the clench.
“By the power--”
“By the power--”
“--of--”
“--of--”
“--Greyskull!”
“--Skeletor!”
Faker finally managed to push He-Man back. The hero slipped on a patch of loose stone and fell on his back. Moving faster than the eye could follow, Faker snatched the Power Sword from He-Man and held it with the point above his enemy’ s heart. The hilt burned Faker’s flesh and circuits, but he refused to give in.
“Prepare for your death, He-Man’ !”
“Not today, Faker!” A quick trip brought Faker to the floor with He-Man. The two warriors wrestled for a moment, and then He-Man’s final punch caused Faker to release his grip. Several other blows left Faker near-paralyzed on the floor. He-Man stood up and took back the Power Sword.
“It's not over, imposter! The Sword will be Skeletor's!”
“Don’ t worry, Faker,” He-Man answered. “There’ ll be another time--until you realize you don't need to kill me. In the meantime, you’ve got someplace to go. Sorceress?”
Smiling, the Sorceress raised a hand. He-Man picked up Faker and hurled him towards the giant mirror. As Faker hit the mirror, there was a flicker of golden light, a faintly musical tone--
and Faker found himself lying, battered and broken, on the central table of Snake Mountain’s own throne room.
“Faker,” Skeletor snarled, glaring down at the damaged robot, “there had better be a good explanation for this.”
The other Evil Warriors, for the second time in two days, had nothing to say.
Faker shook his head weakly. “There is nothing to say, Lord Skeletor. I have failed you, and I deserve to be punished.”
“Very well.” A bolt of electricity leapt from the Havoc Staff to Faker, coruscating up and down his inert form. The pain was unimaginable, but Faker refused to cry out.
After five minutes, the lightning ended. “If you ever disobey me or fail me again, Faker,” Lord Skeletor said, “I’ ll tear you limb from limb with my bare hands and feed you to Trap Jaw myself!”
“I understand and accept, Lord Skeletor. Even if it costs my life, I will not fail you again.”
“Good.”



Part 1

The Grayskull Library