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Chapter Seven

"ProFIRE to Ty."

"Ty, go ahead."

"I'm afraid my plans have been upset, somewhat. I am heading back to base. I want you to check the Exodus Run and find as many Wren units as possible and repair them. Also, find Kyra Tierney, ASAP. I want her dead."

"Understood, Sir. Will that be all?"

ProFIRE stood in silence for a moment. His mind quickly scanned through all the scenarios he could imagine. Then he hit upon an idea.

"No. I want you to gather a research team and develop a way to neutralize the special abilities of my targets. Be sure we aren't caught by our own devices. Also, send Jayce out as soon as he is ready. ProFIRE out."

ProFIRE looked down at the remains of his new robots. He kicked what appeared to be an arm out of his path. Four hundred robots destroyed in the blink of an eye. Now, ProFIRE knew what it meant to be truly ticked off.

He walked out of the production area. He made his way down the winding paths of the Weapons Plant until he saw the exit. Just before he exited the facility, ProFIRE saw a small insect-like thing. He looked closer.

It was a small six legged robot. It was used to repair circuits in other robots and computers. ProFIRE leaned in to take a closer look. Then something occurred to him. Humans would call it inspiration. ProFIRE would simply call it a random possibility.

"ProFIRE to Ty. I have a knew idea. I'll tell you more when I get back to base. Out."

* * * * *

Wren had gone to the Landale to find FIRE's base. The others in the group continued to explore the possibility of reentering Birth Valley. All of them remained silent. Rune had begun to explore areas outside the main entrance. Wren had made the suggestion that there was another way in.

"Dad," Alys began, "What's wrong with you lately?"

Chaz looked at his daughter. She could be too astute at times. She had learned to pay attention to the small details.

"Rune told me I might be able to bring Alys Brangwin back to life. I have been grappling with wether or not to do it."

Alys thought for a minute. She had spent most of her life hearing about Alys Brangwin. She had made this dead woman her idol. She wanted to meet this woman.

"What are you going to do?"

"I don't know. But, we need to get the current situation out of the way first."

Chaz went straight back to work. Alys stared at her father a minute longer. Her mind was now full of possibilities. She needed to talk to Rune.

Rika heard the conversation between Chaz and her daughter. She felt that the past was returning to cause nothing but pain. Rune, Chaz, and herself had all been affected by recent events. She didn't want to see Seed's demolished body. Rune did not like dealing with his ex-fiancee. Poor Chaz was being asked to decide the fate of someone he cared about. The past wasfull of pain for many.

Rika watched as Alys ran off. She seemed to be headed to the inn for a little rest. The children had been working hard to clear the debris from the entrance.

* * * * *

Rune had made his way up the eastern side of the mountain. It was now late afternoon, so Rune was in the shadow of the mountain. He had to more or less feel his way up the mountain side.

Rune's movements were slow and careful. If he were to loose his grip it would mean some bad bruises and broken bones at the least. His body strained with each movement. His breathing came in labored gulps.

(I'm getting too old for this kind of thing) Rune thought.

Rune's fingers found a new hold and began to move up. He felt the rock shift and break free of the mountain side. The man quickly shifted his hold. He heard the rock bounce down the mountain. More rocks broke free and began to fall to the ground below. Rune never heard the rocks hit the ground.

"Hey! Watch who you throw rocks at," Alys yelled.

Rune looked down and saw a Alys climbing after him.

"Sorry, I thought you were at the dig. What are you doing here anyway?"

"Well, I needed to talk to you."

"I'm kinda busy right now. Can it wait?"

"No!"

Rune blinked. Very few people would dare to speak to him in such a manner. He had been treated like a god for so long that he sometimes forgot he was human.

"Alright. Start talking."

"It's about my dad. He's hurting because of what you have offered him. He wants to do right by Brangwin. I have my own ideas."

Rune looked at Alys. She was much closer now. While he had been listening, she had been steadily climbing and was almost even with him.

"So, what are your ideas?"

* * * * *

Jayce Dazzak was only a few hours away from Zema, now. His heart beat faster at the thought of seeing Chaz again. It had been so many years since he and Chaz had last met. If all went well, this would be the last time they ever met.

Jayce replayed those last few days in his mind. The court room where Chaz was on trial came sharply in to focus. Chaz's sentence was about to be pronounced. The boy was almost surely going to be executed. Jayce sat and stared at Chaz. He was about to get his revenge.

As the Tribunal entered the court room, all present fell silent. The three people who stood in judgement of Chaz Ashley took their seats. They looked around at the people in the court room.

"Chaz Ashley," the center Tribunal began, "Rise."

Chaz rose. His heart began to beat faster. His throat tightened.

Just as the Tribunal was about to render the verdict, a bright flash of light blinded all in the court room. Guards, still without sight, ran to where Chaz was standing. They reached for his arms only to grab empty air.

"He's gone," one cried.

Jayce screamed his objection. His sight was just now beginning to return. He saw Chaz had disappeared.

Now, as Jayce looked toward where Zema lay. Soon he would execute the verdict that surely would have meant the end of Chaz's life.

* * * * *

Rika and Chaz were in their hotel room. Their bodies hurt. They had spent most of the day clearing debris. Backs were sore, muscles hurt, and joints ached.

Chaz sat on the edge of the tub Rika relaxed in. As the water glistened on her nude body Chaz thought back to the first time he had seen her nude. It was shortly after the fight with the Profound Darkness. Chaz had failed to knock on Rika's door before entering. She was asleep. Her sheets were on the floor as if she had tossed them during a nightmare. Chaz quickly exited before she had woke, or so he thought. She joked about it later that day. Chaz didn't find it quite so funny. His face was almost as red as his uniform.

The sound of water swirling about brought Chaz out of his reverie. He looked at Rika's face. She still had not aged. Her skin was as soft and unblemished as the day they met. Chaz looked at his hand and saw the rough skin and callouses.

"Rika," he began hesitantly, "I've been thinking. I know you're not entirely human."

The words he was looking for eluded him. How did he ask her without offending her? She waited patiently as her formulated what to say.

"What I meant to say is do you age? We've been together for twenty years and you still look the same. I don't mean to sound like it's a bad thing. I . . I don't know what I mean."

Rika looked at Chaz. He looked like he had just kicked a helpless dog and now felt regret. He was terrified he had hurt her.

Rika rose in the tub and sat on the edge next to her husband. She took his face in her hands and brought his lips to her. She held the kiss for a few minutes and slowly let herself drift away.

"That wasn't something Seed ever told me. The data my genetic code was based on was incomplete in that regard. The prototype was unstable and split into two different entities. They destroyed each other. The life duration was never determined."

"You're part musk cat. We met one that was at least two thousand years old. The Old Man. He knew Alis Landale. Does that mean you can live that long? If that's the case, what does that mean for our children?"

"I don't know, Chaz. As with anything, only the future knows. I could die tomorrow just as easily as decades from now."

They stared at each other for a moment. Chaz had touched an issue that caused them both distressed. He didn't want to leave her alone and she didn't want him to cross without her. They couldn't leave one another.

A knock at the door disturbed the silence. Chaz went to answer the door while Rika dressed.

Chaz found Alys and Rune at the door. Rune looked his usual arrogant self.

"Hey, Chaz. Alys and I have been talking. If we're going to take on this FIRE thing, we'll need help. I don't think we have the skills we need. Others might."

"So what do you propose? We round up a posse and go hang a robot."

"Dad, Rune and I are going to find a few friends of his and bring them here. We've already talked to Wren and he has a shuttle we can borrow. He won't let me aboard without your permission."

"You really think we need help?"

Rune and Alys both nodded.

"Alright. You can go. But, Rune is in charge and I want you to stay in touch with the ship comm system. Understood?"

As Rune and Alys began to leave, Chaz grabbed Rune's arm. Rune saw the look an Chaz's face.

"I'll take good care of her, Chaz."

Rune and Alys were boarding the shuttle. Alys hesitated at the entry hatch. Were they doing the right thing?

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