There Is Only One Life
Live it well , Lore told herself. She clasped her titanium cape
around her and pulled her long onyx hair back into a ponytail to keep it
out of her way. Lore had never had to wear a full compliment of armor
before, though she had practice using various means of protection at
different times during the days the biomonsters held Motavia's
population captive in their cities. She dug around in her duffel bag
and pulled out a jewel crown which she placed on her head for
protection. Finally the historian picked up the sheath containing her
laconian sword and fastened it to the belt around her waist.
The two ships had found Noah with relative ease considering that they
had searched for less than half a day before the Landale sensed
hostile fire and Tyler kicked in his hijammer. The space pirate did not
understand how or why the invisible ship revealed itself so swiftly
considering that he had never sensed it in all his journeys and that it
had never attacked anyone to his knowledge. The hijammer worked
however, and Tyler left it up to those three to figure out what was
going on from the inside. He gave them a healthy warning to be careful
as Kain turned on the cancellation device and brought the Dipwad
alongside the larger ship that could only be Noah.
The Earthmen's ship loomed dark and heavy on the monitors, an alien
dreadnought with no windows, no signs that there could be life within
its fearsome belly. It had no apparent way to move, but it slipped
through space with the stealth of a practiced predator.
Kain had guided their shuttle to what appeared to be an airlock so that
once they drilled through the hull with the emergency lasers installed
on the Dipwad they would be able to find a place to stand
within. He matched drifting speed with Noah then locked the shuttle's
controls into place. Once they connected their airlock to the
Earthmen's ship the Dipwad would hold steady alongside it.
"Well, are we ready?" asked Kain, straightening the work gloves on his
hands. The wrecker had decked himself out in laconinish for body armor
and storm gear to protect his head. Kain stashed his computer equipment
in his backpack and picked up his laser shot.
"Just... about," muttered Hugh. He finished pulling the amber robe over
his body and buckled his ceramic chest over it. The amber garment had
the property to endow its owner with the powers of the gires technique
without taxing any of the user's own mental strength, and Hugh was not
about to leave such a valuable possession behind. Hugh lifted the
Neishield in his right hand and a laconian mace in his left. An
acidshot was holstered at his side and a laser knife device in his
boots. The Neisword was strapped to his back.
Kain shook his head. "Man, you are decked!"
Hugh shrugged. "I'm not the one who stashed eight sticks of dynamite in
Lore gaped. "You did what!"
"Eh..." Kain slung his backpack over his shoulder. "We might need it.
Never can tell."
She tugged on the edges of her protective cape. "I just hope that
doesn't get set off because you get hit by a foi technique."
"Heh. If that happens I'll be taking out whoever shot at me along with
the rest of us."
"I hope you know that's not very reassuring."
Kain chuckled. "I do. Now if you'll let me by, I'll start carving our
way into Noah with the lasers attached to the ring around our airlock.
You two stand by in case anything tries jumping at me."
The three entered the extendable airlock of their shuttle with Kain in
the lead. Hugh slung his Neishield back over his shoulder and pulled
out his acidshot. Lore drew her sword and stood off to one side where
she could better evade an initial range attack. Kain took his place at
the airlock's computer terminal and began the commands to move the
passenger cabin away from the shuttle and towards Noah.
Slowly the mechanisms whirred, bringing them closer to the entrance to
the monster's lair. Hugh knew he would have to concentrate on their
immediate danger, but he could not help fighting the memories of almost
exactly one year ago.
* * * * *
In an instant, Rolf and his companions had been attacked by several
Rudo hefted the Neishot and took aim. "We will show you how it feels to
lose something that you love!"
Amy raised her hands, preparing the power for her deban technique. "I
see the confusion and pity in your eyes. I will never forgive you for
what you have done."
As Amy's defensive power surrounded him, Kain slashed his way through
the first rank of Earthmen. Screaming his anger he shouted, "How dare
you ruin Algo!"
"I refuse to be a slave of fate! I am the master of my own future!"
With those words Shir unleashed the fury of her nazan technique.
Hugh narrowed his eyes. "You have shown me the ugliness of continued
Anna dodged a poorly aimed strike and hurled her slashers at the rows of
Earthmen before her. "These are my parting words to you: Those who give
up are doomed!"
The six of them rallied around Rolf, blades and guns flashing and
techniques flaring in a massive conglomeration of light. The
blue-haired agent looked about him, seemingly confused but proud of
their steadfast loyalty.
"I wonder what the people will see in the final days," he murmured.
"We're ready, Rolf," said Rudo. "Use it."
He nodded, sheathing his sword as he raised his hand to draw on their
power. Seven minds prepared themselves as each member of the outer ring
willed his or her life force to fuel the strength of Rolf's megid.
All of their power joined at a nexus, then burst from Rolf's hand as a
chain of fiery explosions. The outer six staggered and collapsed at
once, older wounds bursting open the instant the megid technique sucked
their lives' energy from them. Nothing could ever fully prepare them
for the drain. As Amy used her healing technique to revive them, they
looked up to see less than a third of the Earthmen had been affected.
"This is nuts!" breathed Kain. "We'll all be withered husks if you keep
Anna's slashers whistled as she hurled them in another arc. Half a
dozen Earthmen collapsed as she caught them on their return. "Who
cares? We'll all be dead anyway. Use it!"
"But we're not used to using megid against so many targets!" said Amy.
"Does Rolf have enough technique left that we can actually take out
enough clumps of them?"
"Eat a nagra!" yelled Shir, crushing more Earthmen within the confines
of her mentally induced gravity well.
"I don't know!" Rolf shouted back to Amy. "I might only have enough for
one more megid, but I'm not sure!"
"Only one?" asked Kain. "We're sandworm bait!"
Hugh swung his mace into the chest of an Earthman, making bones crack
with a sickening crunch. "What else can we do? We've got to try!" He
spoke brave words, and he wanted to believe them, but he knew that there
was an else; an else he did not want to use. This battle was already
terrible, looking to all outward appearances as though Palmans killed
Palmans. He found the thought revolting.
Rolf raised his hand again, to summon the power of megid. Hugh felt the
pull, but it was weak, hardly enough to bring forth the destructive
force of the dreaded technique.
"I can't get it! It's just not enough!" shouted Rolf as an Earthman
charged him. The agent darted to one side then finished the man off
with a nafoi.
"Anyone else got any bright ideas? I'm sure open to them!" said
Shir backflipped out of harm's way, throwing one of her laconian daggers
into the gut of her latest assailant. "Not me. I'm almost out of
technique. One more nazan then it's back down to the puny stuff."
"Hugh!" shouted Amy. "Use your savol! I know you didn't drain much
with your gifois against Mother Brain."
His world changed then, and he felt sick to his stomach. Savol? How
could Amy suggest he use such a thing against sentient beings? Beings
who likely had every right to live as they did. It was one thing to
kill a charging dragon with it, and even then he mourned for the
creature, but savol did not give a reasonable chance for survival once
it held its victims in its thrall; not unless the wielder willed it to
stop. At least the Earthmen had a chance at dodging his mace.
"Amy's right," said Kain. "If you use it we might stand a chance!"
But did he have the heart for it? Would he spare the Earthmen at the
last second rather than live with the guilt of their murder? His
friends' lives, Amy's life, depending on him. He could not fail them,
"Please shoot me afterwards," he muttered.
No one heard him.
Hugh raised his hand, finding within himself the nexus of power that
would direct his thoughts into reality. Images burst into his mind's
eye in the split second it took for the technique to activate. Aspects
of the Earthmen's anatomy flashed before him and he absorbed everything.
Their bodies were so similar to Palmans it was unbelievable. Hugh
nearly reeled back from the shock, but recovered himself just as
quickly. He sighted their vital organs and closed a suffocating
pressure around them. It would not be an easy way to die, but he could
make it swift.
"Hurry up, Hugh!" yelled Anna.
He could have make it swift. But he did not. Gasping cries had filled
the air, and he was paralyzed by their sound. People--yes, they were
people!--had crawled towards him as their organs stopped functioning.
Their hands were raised, either in supplication or anger. He didn't
know. He was horrified, and could only watch in morbid fascination as
they slowly dropped one by one. Their anatomy was far from unfamiliar
to him, and that made them all the easier to slay.
He could only take out so many at a time. His friends surrounded him to
protect him but he did not want to be shielded. He hoped, even prayed,
he would be struck down before he could take any more lives. But he
lived, and cast savol again and again against the diminishing horde of
Earthmen. His power was such he could catch the few who fled, discover
who watched from the shadows, and locate those who had hidden away in
They wanted them all dead. His friends wanted them all dead. They all
died. None of the Earthmen escaped, but the last few lives he took,
those who had been hidden away, slipped free with such ease amid his
panic driven madness that he suddenly realized just who those last
victims had been.
"No! It can't be," he sobbed, dropping to his knees. "Kill me!" he
shrieked. "I can't live like this... knowing what I have done."
He could no longer speak, only hiccup and regret with all his heart as
his tears fell. He squeezed his eyes shut, but he was all too aware of
the many corpses around him. And in the hidden rooms he knew that their
children joined them in death.
* * * * *
Genocide. It had been genocide. They were the last of their race and
he had killed them. Were they truly evil or corrupted by a hardship no
one should endure? Would their children have grown up to be like them
had they been spared?
"Hugh," Lore said softly.
He came out of his reverie with a start and found that Kain had already
latched the exterior of the airlock with the Earthmen's ship. The
airlock's outer door seemed an insignificant barrier to place between
them and Noah, and the lasers had almost finished breaking through
"I'm sorry," he murmured. "I was just remembering." He made a show of
renewing his vigilance, but that did not hide the disturbance within
"Just remembering, he says," Kain snorted. "Don't be dangerous, Hugh.
We're counting on you, and you'll see there's no reason to fear those
"I hope you're right, but it's not easy," he said. Not when I
haven't told you the whole story.
The lasers met, completing the job. Kain pushed the cut metal away and
it fell back into Noah revealing an empty hallway. He crouched
immediately, expecting an attack, but none came.
Lore lowered her sword. "Some welcome, huh. No one's even here to
greet us. You'd think someone was aiming those lasers at us."
"Someone probably was," said Kain, straightening himself. "Let's not
let our guard down."
Once he made certain the seal between the Dipwad and Noah was
airtight, he opened the outer door of the airlock. The air in Noah and
the shuttle met in a swirling rush of wind. Taking his laser shot in
hand, Kain gestured for Lore and Hugh to follow him. "I think I
recognize this place. Let's go."
The floor inside Noah was made of stone, a fact that Lore found
remarkable. The Earthmen were eccentric, she supposed. She could not
find the use in such an unlikely building material. Perhaps the
Earthmen came from a metal poor world was her second thought. In any
case she remained wary of every corner and every alcove that appeared
where it did for no particular reason at all.
"Do you think the monsters survived?" she asked. "The life support
systems are still working."
"I hope not, but that's what these weapons are for," said Kain. "Some
of those monsters were pretty smart. If any of them survived they
probably were the ones firing at us." He tapped his laser shot against
his leg as he considered which direction to take. "At the very least
there are no Earthmen, assuming we got them all."
"We did," Hugh murmured almost inaudibly.
"And that they had control of the them," Kain continued. "The monsters
looked an awful like some of the stuff in the Nei dungeons. But I don't
think the Earthmen had anything to do with the guarding of the Nei
Lore considered that as they resumed walking. "I wonder if we should
have asked your friends for their Nei stuff. All we have is Hugh's
"And Rolf's Neisword," said Kain. "But I wouldn't want to have to rely
on that thing. I don't trust it. What it does it does of its own free
will. That's not the type of sword I would want to give to a hero."
* * * * *
Kain continued to guide them through the irrationally arranged corridors
and Lore could only speculate about the sanity of these Earthmen. The
three found no signs of living creatures, though it was not long before
they began to find the carcasses of battles past. They stumbled on to
the skeletons of two archdragons, among the most ferocious beasts to be
found in Algo. Kain recalled a few details of the battle to Lore, who
listened with a keen ear in the event that any of these dragons should
still live in Noah.
Then near the end of the convoluted maze Kain pointed out where they
fought Dark Force. They did not linger there long. The evil aura of
the ancient being permeated the air around its former lair and Hugh
inexplicably marched full speed away from the area with the gait of a
man trying too hard to avoid trouble. He only said that the place made
him feel uneasy and left it at that.
The three reached Mother Brain's chamber as a group, Hugh lurking in the
rear and Kain in the lead. Kain walked to the center of the room and
looked around him, careful to avoid looking in the next chamber where
the bodies of the Earthmen were.
"Well, we're here," Kain said. He set down his backpack with a grunt.
He popped open the top and pulled out his portable computer. He looked
around for a place to connect it and muttered, "Let's hope this
"Mother Brain designed your computer to interface with her system back
on Mota. They should be compatible." Lore folded her arms across her
chest as she looked at the remains of the massive computer. Even
battered and torn, the Mother Brain held an aura of power and majesty.
Lore picked up a jagged panel of silicon circuitry. "So this is what's
left of the Mother Brain," she murmured as the metal reflected in Noah's
"But Mother Brain probably used satellite relays to talk to us from
Noah. She was not directly connected to any of Mota or Dezo's control
towers," said Kain as he removed what appeared to be a maintenance panel
from an unscarred section of the computer. "And I can't plug my
portable into a satellite."
Lore shrugged, setting the circuit shard back down. "She had to have
sent the signal to the satellite from somewhere though. Plug it in
"Are you sure we can download anything at all?" asked Hugh, coming to
life. "She's turned off after all."
"No, I'm not sure," said Kain, dumping various shaped cables beside his
computer. "I'm not sure about anything right now. But if we can't
download anything then chances are neither can the Council's team. I've
learned a lot in the past year and I think I have just as good a chance
at breaking in as they do."
Hugh nodded then turned his gaze back to the path through which they
entered. His expression was calm, though thoughtful. "Okay, try not to
take too long."
"I have no intention of doing so."
Lore prowled through the debris, approaching the door to the Earthmen's
hall. She peered only briefly inside and remained silent about what she
Kain leaned deeply into the space behind the panel he removed, dragging
in long coils of cable after him. He emerged shortly to pull a
flashlight out of his backpack, then crawled back inside. The light
shone from inside the darkness to those outside. "Nah, this is a dud,"
came Kain's voice. "My cables aren't going to be long enough coming in
through here. But I think I'm getting a feel for the layout of this
mainframe. And I really mainframe . The inside of this thing is
like a hallway to some building!"
He emerged again and began prying open another panel. He had better
luck this time and started making his connections. "The trick is to
only stimulate the parts I need information from. I don't need the
whole computer system on at once," said Kain as he worked. He wrung his
hands eagerly as he turned his portable on. "And maybe once we get this
done I can shift off of these homemade batteries of mine. We might even
get the factories up again!"
Hugh watched Kain begin typing in his commands and shifted his stance
uneasily. He turned his gaze back to the portal through which they
entered. The sword on his back felt very warm.
"It's working," Kain breathed with a smile. "It's working! We're
getting something out. I don't know what it is, but some of her data
banks are still intact!"
Lore smiled. "Good. I wonder if there's any information about the
Earthmen in there. I wish we knew more about them, especially if there
were any that were not on this ship."
"Looking through this stuff is the first thing we'll do once we get back
to Paseo," Kain assured her.
"No, making sure the Council hasn't missed us terribly is the first
thing we'll do." Lore playfully wagged a finger at him as she winked.
"Then we'll invite Rolf, Rudo, and Cass over, so they can see what they
risked helping us to get."
Hugh had not listened to his friends' conversation. He continued
looking out towards the rest of the ship. "They're coming," he said.
"What?" asked Kain, suddenly looking at the biologist.
"I thought I was wrong--it was my imagination--but I'm not." The
biologist focused his gaze at the entrance to the chamber and lifted his
mace as he took a combative stance. "The residents of Noah..." --the
first rank of caped fiends and enchanted firefalls came into around the
corner-- "are here." Hugh's words ended with a dead tone of
Lore stepped up beside him, drawing her sword from its sheath. Dozens
more creatures filed into place behind the ones already present. "Oh
Alis, this is gonna be some fight," she breathed.
"These must be all the monsters left on Noah. They've never attacked us
en mass before."
"We've ruined all their plans, I suppose," said Kain. He stood up from
his computer, hefting his laser shot in both hands now. "No surprise
they hate us. I'm just surprised they let us get this far." Lore and
Hugh stood between him and the monsters, but he believed he could get a
clear shot before the melee commenced.
"They wanted us to." Hugh held his Neishield in front of him. "Now we
have nowhere to run, except to the room of death behind us."
Lore lanced forward, black tresses streaming behind her as Kain opened
fire through the space where she once was. The laser caught a fiend in
the shoulder as Lore swung her sword through its body. The twelve foot
giant fell in a great billowing of its robes and feeble twitching of its
Lore parried the thrust of an animated sword and ducked the wild swing
of another fiend. She tumbled back and let go of her sword with her
right hand as she called up the image of a technique. A charge of
electrical energy shot from her palm, striking the darkly outlined
figure of a shadow being. The historian gasped in a breath of air as
she prepared for an attack by the firefall nearest her.
Kain touched the side of his storm gear with a fingertip, activating the
headgear's embedded technique and capturing the creatures nearest to
Lore in cruel pockets of vacuum. He lifted his laser shot again and
picked off more enemies in a rain of covering fire.
Hugh tried to keep up with Lore, but the historian moved swiftly and
erratically, picking off clumps of enemies wherever she could stall
them. He settled instead for catching the monsters that barreled past
her. Surprisingly many went out of their way to fight him and he called
up his gizan technique more times in a minute than he thought possible.
He batted away a firefall with his mace but did not escape without being
The end of the monster army came into view with a quartet of imagio
mages leading it from behind. They gestured and shouted orders in a
dark tongue that sounded as though it sucked the the brightness from the
room around them. One of them turned his masked face to look at the
trio's combative efforts. He raised a globe of light between his hands
and hurled it above the monster forces. It landed exploding between the
three Palmans, scattering them.
Kain stumbled back out of the way, Hugh to one side with his shield
raised, and Lore leaped forward, using the awkward opportunity to bring
a fiend into range of her sword.
She never struck. Lore crashed to the stone floor from midleap as the
force of a lung sword's attack clipped her in the shoulder. She
gathered herself, vision spinning from the pain, when she saw the giant
form of a fiend looming over her. She knew she should move, but the
flickering memory of a Dezorian dream came back to her.
Lore did not scream when the fiend's bony fingers pierced her back and
passed through her ribs.