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Chapter Sixteen

Alys felt her head pounding and her skin felt as if being heated my a hot iron. She woke to find herself in a cold room with a metal deck and walls. She swung her legs off the bed and onto the floor. He bare feet touched the cool metal. It provided a welcome relief to the burning sensation all over her body.

Alys noted the others were in the room with her. She looked at Rune and found several small scares over his face and arms. There were six tiny puncture marks that surrounded each scare. Alys looked at the arms of Chaz, Rika, Orus, and Sharon as well. They too had the same injuries. The fact that she had been injured did not bother her. What truly scared her was that she could not remember how she had been hurt.

Suddenly a door on the far wall opened. Without thought, Alys grabbed a rail from the nearest bed and ripped it off. She charged the figure standing in the open door with the intent to make his victory a costly one. The figure simply raised his hand to catch the bed rail as she brought it down toward his head. Alys's make shift club was stopped in mid swing.

"Are all humans this impulsive," Wren asked.

Alys took several steps back. She was dumfounded. A block like that should have broken this creature's arm. Yet, despite the force of her blow, he stood there with out any sign that he had been attacked.

"Forgive me," Wren began, "I had forgotten that you and I have never met. My name is Wren and I am an ally to Chaz and his friends."

Alys still eyed this being with suspicion. "And I am supposed to take your word for it?"

"If his word won't do, then how about mine?"

Alys turned and found Chaz sitting up in the bed. He looked as if he had been trampled by a stampede of Crawlers.

The others were beginning to stir as well. Alys sat in a nearby chair. She was still exhausted from her ordeal. When everyone had fully awakened, Wren began to explain what had happened while giving them each a minor injection.

"And that is the whole story as far as we know. Your inability to remember is the apparent result of traumatic amnesia. The injections I have given you should help speed your recovery."

Chaz looked thoughtfully at the floor. His mind was busy trying to figure out what method there was to FIRE's madness. So far, FIRE had managed to attack them several times and the best Chaz and his allies have managed is a successful defense. Chaz knew from military history that fighting a defensive battle was futile. Soon, FIRE would have to be the one on the defensive. Otherwise, the Warriors of the Great Light were doomed.

Wren walked over to a table and picked up a glass container with a blue liquid. Wren was uncharacteristically gentle with the object. The humans present stared with curiosity.

"This is a memory storage device," Wren stated. "It has a storage capacity greater than anything ever created. The chemicals in this liquid, if still intact, store the personality and memories of Seed. We need to take it to Zelan and see if it will be possible to bring him back."

* * * * *

ProFIRE gazed at his monitor. Juza stood chained to the wall. The fire of pure hatred and rage were very clear in his eyes. One of the technical robots walked over to Juza's side. The robot prepared for a surgical procedure by shaving Juza's head bare and marking his scalp. Soon, Juza would have devices placed between his brain and skull. These devices would copy every bit of information stored in his brain. Unfortunately, the procedure would completely fry every cell in his brain.

Try as he might, Juza could not summon the strength needed to make an escape of this dire fate. He strained against the restraints. He could easily use a Foi technique to destroy the present robots even though his hands were bound. That, however would only delay things. He had no way to free himself once the robots were destroyed. Surely more would arrive. The new arrivals would no doubt be wearing the new shield generators that he had helped create.

Finally, the hopelessness of his situation hit him. A mountain falling on his head would have had less of an impact than the realization that he would never again be able to walk the world as a human. Tears began to fall from the eyes of the proud disciple of Zio. He knew that he awaited death. Maybe that is why the voice he suddenly heard shocked him so much.

He looked around the room. None of the mechanical beings had apparently heard the voice. But, Juza had heard it. It was a voice that Juza would never forget. Juza faced forward and slowly lifted his eyes to the ceiling. There, floating in mid air, was Zio. No longer dressed in his black uniform and cape. Now, Zio wore a simple robe of gray.

"Master?!!!"

"I am here, faithful Juza," Zio said.

"But, how," Juza inquired with a hushed voice.

"It is time for you to join me, Juza. You must now take the final steps on the road that I myself laid before you. The road that I walked."

Juza straightened himself as best he could. He stood as tall as the shackles would let him. He looked unblinking into the eyes of his master. His god. If not for the restraints, Juza would have walked over molten lava to be at his master's side.

The surgical robot entered the room. Juza never noticed the highly articulated arms whirring about. He never felt the saw cutting into his head even though no form of aesthetic had been administered. Juza never even felt the top portion of his cranium being lifted so that the copying devices could be inserted around his brain.

The room faded from the man's sight. All that Juza could see now was Zio and the dark clouds that gathered around him. Juza took a step forward and the restraint fell from his leg. The other restraints also fell. Juza felt light as he floated up to meet his departed master.

"Now, follow me to that which awaits those that have taken our path," Zio said calmly.

Juza followed. And if Juza could have turned and seen the lab room that he was now free from, he would have realized that he was not free. He would have seen that his body was still in that lab. He would have known that he was walking the road of the dead.

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