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Chapter Nineteen

ProFIRE knew the final battle would be coming soon. It would be a hard battle indeed. After all, Chaz and his companions did defeat the Profound Darkness. They all were adversaries not to be taken lightly.

"Ty," The robot called.

With his usual efficiency Ty presented himself to his master. The robot, whose armor was almost solid black, stood patiently with Juza beside him.

ProFIRE looked at Juza. He knew his attempt to transfer the human's consciousness into a robot had only been partially successful. ProFIRE understood that the spark that made Juza unique was now gone. All that had made it to the robot's body was the data of Juza's life. The emotions that accompanied each event, the flavor of the moment, was now gone.

"Ty, prepare yourself, Juza, and your most skilled fighters for battle. I fear I can no longer sit by and allow these subtle machinations to work. I must take direct action or Ashley andhis group will hunt me down."

Ty bowed his head slightly and rushed off to do his master's bidding. ProFIRE knew Ty would choose his fighters and weapons wisely. Juza, however, remained in the control room with ProFIRE. The former human stood there unmoving and uncaring. ProFIRE felt a certain distaste for the new robot. After a few moments, ProFIRE realized what he found so distasteful. The robot, even with his human spark gone, kept an inward stare. The machine always looked as if he was searching for something inside himself.

* * * * *
Chaz and the others gathered in the main control room of Zelan. They all gazed at a large screen showing the surface temperature of Motavia's surface. Most of the colors showed the how hot the arid surface of Motavia really was. The map also showed some areas were substantially cooler than the surrounding desert. The largest of these areas was Aiedo.

Orus noticed one of these areas of coolness was not where a town was located. Orus noticed his father had seen the discrepancy as well.

"This area," Wren began as he pointed to the cool spot, "is too cool to be a natural phenomenon. This also happens to be the Palman Worldship that crashed from orbit around twenty years ago."

Chaz looked intently at the cool spot. He and his friends had explored the worldship several years ago. Inside the wreckage had been several robots still functioning. Most of the robots Chaz had seen were combat and defensive models. He had also seen a few repair type robots moving about that had not posed his team any problems.

"Is it possible for a strike to be made by the weaponry on Zelan," Chaz asked.

"Unfortunately, No. Zelan's geo-synchronous orbit does not permit for the positioning of such a strike. If not for relayed orbital satellites, we would not even have this picture. ChangingZelan's position would require disconnecting from the network that allows the EnvironmentalSystems to interface with Zelan. Without Zelan, the system would run wild and cause severeenvironmental catastrophes."

Chaz stroked his chin and thought about the situation. It would appear there was no way to attack the FIRE robot without becoming directly involved. Chaz would have preferred to strike from a safe distance. However, that seemed to be impossible.

"Here is the plan," Chaz stated. "Rika, Orus, Kyra, and Sharon will go back to Birth Valley and continue the dig. Alys, Demi, Rune, and myself will go scout the worldship to see if there is a safe way in."

Orus and Sharon groaned at he decision of their father. Sharon wanted to go with Alys and learn more about her. Orus just would have preferred some kind of consultation before Chaz had handed down his decision.

"What do Niya, Wren, and I do?" Hahn asked.

"Wren has to stay on Zelan to monitor things for a while longer. I want you and Niya to return to Piata and tell our sponsors what has happened so far, but do not tell them too much."

The group took a few minutes to gather their equipment and made their way to the docking bay. Wren gave Rika's team some thermograph visors that would allow them to see the Crystal Spiders that lurked inside the Birth Valley Installation. They boarded the Landale in silence. No one knew what to expect from this FIRE robot.

* * * * *
Jayce made his way through a dense thicket. It was near this place he had been approached by the robot that told him where to find Chaz Ashley. Jayce scanned the ground for footprints of any kind that might tell where the robot had gone. The Guardian knew there was little chance of success.

Jayce did not bother to look at the plants for clues. This thicket was filled with Kajolla plants. The Kajolla grew at a rate of three inches a day. It had been several weeks since Jayce had met the robot here.

Jayce was methodical about his search. He took great care not to disturb anything that could provide him a clue. Most people do not have Jayce's patience or diligence. He would search for hours where as others would only search a few minutes.

The sun was setting before Jayce's patience paid off. Near a rock overgrown with Kajolla Jayce found a small box. The box had a panel that slid back to reveal a speaker with two switches. One of the switches was labeled on/off. Jayce toggled the power switch to the on position. His ears were greeted with a crackle and some static from the speaker.

Jayce waited for several seconds to see if the box would do more than crackle. He knew the box had a purpose. As to what that purpose was, Jayce could not be sure. The technology that had constructed the small box was beyond anything he had previously seen.

"Am I speaking to Jayce?" asked a familiar voice. The voice had come from the small box.

"I am Jayce. To whom am I speaking?"

"My name is ProFIRE. I am glad to see you found the communications device I left for you. Can I assume you are in need of more assistance in locating Mr. Ashley?"

Suddenly, Jayce was hit by an odd idea. The robot that had helped him before never asked for so much as the time of day when he told Jayce where to find Chaz. Would there now be a price or did the robot have other intentions?

"What is the price of your help, robot?"

"I am hurt, Jayce. I have no price to meet. The help is free."

"Then what do you get from helping me?"

There was a long silence. Apparently, Jayce had started asking questions ProFIRE did not want to answer. Jayce would not accept the robot's help if the death of Ashley would cause harm to others. Despite being consumed by the need for revenge, Jayce had an uncompromising sense of honor. If a greater good could be achieved by letting Chaz Ashley live, then He would not kill the man he had been hunting for since he was a child.

"If you have no price, then what do you gain from me killing Ashley?"

"My reasons are my own. But I will tell you that in my opinion Chaz needs to pay for his crimes. His death will bring about a better future for the planets of Algo."

Jayce heard it. He heard the truth and did not like it. There was no mention of a better future for the people of Algo. Only the planets were included in ProFIRE's plan. Jayce now knew he could not kill Chaz Ashley. At least, not for the time being.

"No deal, robot. I think I'll see how things play out between you and Ashley."

Before ProFIRE could speak further on the matter Jayce dropped the box to the ground and crushed it under his boot. Jayce felt small pops under his boot as circuits and electronics exploded.

Jayce had decided to put his quest for revenge on hold for the time being. He also decided to re-evaluate his opinion of Ashley. Jayce began to wonder why Chaz did not appear to be the man he had believed him to be. Murderers did not usually have friends and family with such high loyalties. Jayce also was curious as to why Chaz had released him. Surely the man that had killed Jayce's family for no reason would not hesitate to kill him to stay alive.

Jayce looked towards the setting sun. He took a deep breath and began walking towards the sunset. Jayce never saw the second device ProFIRE had left. The device, an energy weapon, took careful aim. The target was the base of Jayce's skull. The weapon fired its deadly beam andJayce slumped to the ground. Within just a few hours the Kajolla plants would cover his lifelessbody and he would be forever lost to the world.

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