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Chapter Three

"He said he was going to a place called 'Zelan', wherever that is," stated the woman behind the desk.

Hahn's jaw swung wide open. "Zelan! How on Motavia are we supposed to get there? Come to think of it, how will he?"

Rune stepped up to the desk and asked, "Did he say how long he would be gone?"

"Yes. He said he would be a week at Zelan, a week at the mansion, and a week in Termi. I didn't know Chaz had a mansion."

"Neither did we," Rune stated.

With that, Rune grabbed Hahn's collar and led him out the door. Hahn was still mumbling to himself.

"Ok, Rune. How do we get to Zelan? From What you've said, you need to speak to him as badly as I do. Perhaps, more."

"You've be with both Chaz and me when we use RYUKA. Now imagine a form of that technique that is so powerful that it is used only for stellar travel. It's call STARSTEP."

"Wait. I thought you couldn't use any magic during the Col Ra Time."

"That's right. But, I know someone who can. She lives here in Aiedo." There was a disturbed look on Rune's face. It was obvious that this person and he had a history.

"She?"

Rune didn't respond to Hahn's little prodding joke. He simply waved for Hahn to follow. Rune started for the eastern side of the city. They traveled to a house near the graveyard. Rune lightly tapped on the door. A woman about Chaz's age answered the door. When she saw Rune's face a look of ice fell over her face. Hahn felt more than a little uncomfortable at this tense reunion.

"Hello, Rune," she said as friendly as she could.

Rune reached out his hand in a gesture of friendship. A look of hurt simply filled her eyes.

Hahn stepped forward and interrupted, "Hello. My name is Hahn. Rune and I are in some what of a fix. He said you might be able to give us a hand."

The woman's eyes quickly shifted to Hahn's face then back to Rune's.

"He's pretty direct, isn't he. It reminds me of someone else."

"Where are my manners?"

"You have manners," she asked. "They must be a new development in your personality."

"Be that as it may. Hahn, this is Niya Stellat, my ex-fiancee."

Hahn had gotten more than his share of surprises this week. First the Birth Valley stuff, then Rune's gift to Chaz, and now he has met Rune's ex-fiancee. He needed to find a group of friends that were relatively normal. Or at least not so full of surprises.

"So, what do you need from me?"

"We need to get to Zelan. I can't do it because of the Col Ra Time."

"So, you need to STARSTEP to this place for who knows what. Well, you have a deal. But, I have to go with you."

Rune dropped his head. The idea of her coming along didn't seem to sit well with him.

"Is there anyway I can talk you out of coming?"

Niya shook her head.

Rune agreed to her terms. Niya stepped back into her house. She emerged a few minutes later wearing battle armor and carrying a single edged sword. Her long, black hair had been pulled back into a ponytail. Her sapphire blue eyes held a sparkle that was quite bewitching.

Niya raised her hand and cried out, "STARSTEP."

A swirling mist of blue and green formed and raised up around them. The colors began to merge. There was a bright flash and the trio vanished.

* * * * *

The dark figure sat at his controls. He was skimming over the files he had obtained on Chaz Ashley. The data didn't prove interesting until just a minute ago. Thanks to certain unsavory sources and a few illegal intrusions into law enforcement agencies, he has found out where Chaz grew up. He has also found a record regarding a murder trial. Chaz's name came up repeatedly. So did another's name. Jayce Dazzak, the brother of the victim.

"I want some more information, Two Eighty-Three. The name is Jayce Dazzak. Find out if he is still around."

"Yes, sir," the little android said. It then rushed to find the information on the new subject.

"Surveillance. What is the status of Rune and Hahn?"

"They met up with some woman and teleported somewhere. Destination: unknown."

"I'll bet mesetas to circuit boards that they went to Zelan. Who was the woman?"

"One moment, sir." The surveillance robot accessed some files. "Niya Stellat"

"Hmm, a new player. Now let's see where this game takes us. Two Eighty-Three, do you have that information?"

* * * * *

Chaz stepped out of the shuttle first. He looked around the hanger. He could see Wren and Demi standing at the entry door. He walked over to them quickly. He gave Demi a hug and a handshake to Wren.

"Welcome, Chaz," Wren said. "I hope your trip was uneventful."

"If you mean boring, it was that."

Rika, Orus, and Alys came running up behind Chaz. Rika greeted her old comrades and teachers. The children had been reunited with two old friends.

"Chaz," Wren began, "I have so much to show you. Events of the past few years have proven most troublesome. We have developed some new defenses."

Chaz stroked his chin. "I don't know. I know you need to secure the environmental support systems. But, do you need to turn those places into forts. The people of Algo don't need to be fooling around those installations. Especially if they're in the government. If it were anyone else taking these steps I would be very concerned."

"I do not approve of using any kind of force to secure anything. The honor system is far more appealing. But, that system only works when there is honor in humans. Too many humans lack honor."

Rika and Demi were busy fawning over how big the children were getting. Alys stood there impatiently waiting for the ritual to end. Orus was only slightly less disapproving.

Suddenly, A bright flash caught everyone's attention. When Chaz's sight had returned he noticed that Wren was already in a battle stance, his weapon drawn.

"Whoa!!! Hold your fire, Wren." Rune yelled.

"Rune, what are you doing here?" Chaz asked. "And Hahn. You made it to."

It was at this point that Chaz noticed the woman with them. She was dressed and ready for battle. She was probably what tripped Wren's battle mode.

"Chaz, Rika, Wren, and Demi. I need to talk with the four of you. It's about Birth Valley."

Chaz's mood was immediately shattered. Hahn had a bad habit of being too direct.

Rika moved closer to Chaz as if the very mention of her birth place brought fear. She held his arm tightly. "What about Birth Valley?"

"The Academy wants to reopen the dig. They were at a deadlock on whether or not to do so. Because of my experience in Birth Valley they asked me to cast the deciding vote. I want your help in deciding."

Rika stared at Hahn. She looked almost as if she refused to believe him. She asked, "Why do they want to go back into Birth Valley?"

"They want to see what data and technology can be recovered. I wouldn't mind seeing medical technology being recovered but, they are also talking about military uses as well."

Rune stepped forward now. He looked straight at Chaz and said, "This may affect you more than anyone else, Chaz. If the right info is still intact and can be recovered, you may be able to get Alys Brangwin back."

All eyes turned toward Rune. Had he just suggested that Alys could rejoin the living? All but one wanted to know what Rune meant.

"Well, not to sound like a cold, vicious snake, I say let the dead stay dead. Especially Brangwin."

Chaz stared at the newcomer anger burning bright in his eyes. His temper got the better of him as he began yelling at her, "Who in Algo do you think you are? You have no idea what that woman means to us. And what right do you have showing up here in the first place?"

Rune quickly stepped between Chaz and Niya. Chaz already had his hand on his sword. Niya was not far behind. Rune fought to keep the two apart. He finally had to resort to striking Chaz with his open hand.

Chaz looked at Rune. He was more stunned than hurt.

"Chaz," Rune began, "Niya is here at my request, sort of. She has more right than you know of. She has the right of being one of the people in the background of our quest of twenty years ago."

"What do you mean?"

Rune glanced at Niya. To tell this story would open a wounds that still hadn't healed. But everyone needed to know if Niya was to be accepted.

Rune took a deep breath and began the story, "Some years before I met you, Chaz, I was engaged to Niya. We were only a few months away from getting married when I met Alys. I never started out to care for Alys but, that's how it ended up. When I confessed my feelings for Alys to Niya, she struck me and left. Alys left shortly after finding out what had happened. Alys blamed herself for my engagement falling apart."

"When I discovered that Chaz had been orphaned, I managed to talk Alys into taking care of you. I even managed to talk Niya into keeping an eye on you. It must have hurt Niya so much to watch over the woman who had won her fiancee's heart. I think the only reason she agreed was that we all knew of Chaz's importance. That is what gives her the right to be here."

The entire group fell into an odd quiet. Chaz did not know what to say. Rune had beared more of his soul than any man should. Now Chaz knew why Rune was the aggravating person he had known. He didn't resent other people. He resented himself.

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