"Ah, glad to see you're ready!" Kain said with a grin. He grunted as he
heaved a second large waterproof sack up on to the jet scooter.
The trio assembled on the beach north of Paseo, just east of the Green
Dam Aqueduct. Fortunately the jet scooter was solar powered, and so it
still functioned while the rest of Mota's technology didn't.
"It's surprising how much better one sleeps without the use of
electricity," Hugh said with a bright-eyed grin. "You know, it's been
proven in studies that people who live without electricity sleep better
Kain snorted. "Well, that's obvious. Without any light there's
absolutely no point in staying up late. So you actually do rise with
"That may be true, but I still feel a bit weary." Lore punctuated her
sentence with a yawn.
"Not surprising," Kain said, momentarily pointing a wrench at her before
turning back to his work, "considering you trekked all the way over to
Paseo from..." Kain's brows furrowed in thought. "Say, where do you
"Kueri," Hugh said for her. "I met her in Kueri while she was a biology
student at the university there."
Lore beamed. "Yes, even though my work here is as a historian, biology
is one of my greatest loves."
"You should have become my research assistant," Hugh interrupted with a
But Lore continued speaking, as if oblivious to his remark. "But I'm
afraid I just don't have what it takes to become a full-fledged
biologist. I think reading and learning about the past is easier for me.
However, I don't think I've forgotten too much of my biology..."
Hugh turned to face her, as he stepped a few inches into the water nearer
to the floating jet scooter. "All right then," he said, still smiling.
"Pop quiz! Where in the human cell are ribosomes located?"
Lore paused for only a split second before replying. "They're located on
the inside of the endoplasmic reticulum!"
Hugh nodded approvingly. "Good." She beamed. "At least you remember
your basic training."
The onyx-haired girl's countenance collapsed. "Hey! Well, why don't you
ask me something that's not basic then?"
"You'd better not," grumbled Kain, finishing his task of fastening down
their cargo. "You already lost me with that endoplasmic whatever. I
think I'll loose my sanity if you guys get any more technical than
"It's not that bad when you think about it," said Hugh as he climbed
aboard the scooter.
"I don't want to think about it."
"Ah, well that's where your problem is!"
"Great. So I'm stuck with a bunch of nature-loving queers. Just give me
a good old machine any day. Always logical, always dependable..."
"Like that one dinky terminal you actually managed to get up after two
Kain waved his wrench in mock anger at Hugh. "Don't push your luck, bio
freak! Or you'll find yourself pushed off of this scooter!"
Hugh chuckled, balancing himself on the rocking Motavian contraption.
"You know, maybe we should consider hiring some of those Mota people.
After all, they're pretty good at tinkering with things."
"And walking off with them went they're done," Kain growled. "Those
little buggers have no concept of private property. It's no wonder
Mother Brain didn't bother with them. Roron was as good as place as any
for them to live in. Stinkin' garbage dump..."
Kain looped his wrench to the belt of tools he wore around his waist. He
ran his eyes over the two sacks of equipment, visually double checking
"Ready?" Lore asked.
She stepped into the shallow water and hopped on to the jet scooter,
which bobbed beneath her landing. Lore steadied herself to keep from
falling off, and then scrabbled over into the passenger dome.
Hugh offered Kain a hand up, and then the two men joined her inside.
Kain dropped himself into the pilot's seat and turned on the power. The
clear plastic windshield descended around them, locking itself into place
from its previous upright position.
Lore glowed with obvious excitement as Kain started the scooter on its
journey. She stared outside the window as if she had never seen the
vastness of the ocean before. Her eyes locked on to the great white
rifts the scooter made as it parted through the waters.
Hugh smiled. Of course, a majority of the younger Palmans hadn't seen
the ocean from anything other than the shore or the occasional video
tape. Mother Brain had banned all terrestrial vehicular travel when she
halted interplanetary travel. Only the ever inquisitive Motavians, who
had never obeyed Mother Brain, much less heard of her, could have come up
with something like the jet scooter. He counted himself lucky that his
participation in Rolf's quest had allowed him to see so much more than
any other Algolian had since the days of Alis.
But then he had forced himself to do things that he would have not
ordinarily done, seen things that perhaps he shouldn't have seen; the
tortured mutant creatures living in Skure, that dreaded being that called
itself Dark Force, and the Earthmen. Oh, the Dark Force he could fight.
Mother Brain he could fight. The Earthmen... No! he shouted to
himself. No more thinking about that! That was in the past. And
there is so much to look forward to. Try to remember that...
Hugh turned his head to look out the right side of the scooter, opposite
of the direction Lore was facing from her seat behind Kain. He could see
the whiteness forming and spreading from the first agitated tips formed
by the scooter's bow. Much like anything, the whiteness started at one
simple point and grew until all around it was covered in its froth. But
after a time, the turmoil would pass. And the waters would be calm as
before the trouble ever came. Hugh wasn't very fond of religion. But he
prayed that Algo would recover as well.
* * * * *
"Here we are," announced Kain, popping the windshield open.
The water over them barely even rippled except where the jet scooter
touched it. Without Climatrol's interference, it was as though the
atmosphere had gone dead around them. Indeed, with only the blue water
as far as the eye could see, the rest of the world might have been dead as
Kain handed Hugh and Lore each a stick of maruera gum before scooting
outside and over to where he fastened the watertight bags. He yanked out
his wrench and immediately began unscrewing the nuts holding the straps
in place. Hugh sat on the edge of the scooter, legs already dangling in
the water as he waited for Kain to finish.
When the blue-haired Palman at last slipped his wrench back on to his
belt, he easily shoved the two sacks in to the water. Lore could see
them slowly sinking down towards a dull gray structure far below the
"Well, last one down is a rotten amoeba!" cheered Kain, tossing a stick
of maruera gum into his mouth.
He dove into the water, even as Lore finally climbed out of the passenger
dome with a loud "Hey!"
Hugh shrugged, giving her a small smile. Then he stuffed his own gum
into his mouth and slid into the water.
"I sure hope I know what I'm doing," she grumbled. She slipped the gum
into her mouth, trying to ignore its bitter taste and rubbery texture.
As she had been told, she could feel the chemical reaction taking place
in her mouth as the special properties of the maruera gum interacted with
her saliva to produce the life-giving oxygen she would need.
She warned herself that she'd better not waste it and to remember
everything Hugh and Kain told her about their first experiences. It
wouldn't do to wind up with a lung full of water after this. And she
jumped into the water.
Once below she could see that Hugh and Kain had almost caught up with the
sacks. Her eyes smarted from the salt water, and she reminded herself to
breath. Suck in the air from the mouth and release the waste carbon
dioxide through the nose. Lore almost sneezed, if that was possible
underwater. She never liked being underwater for long due to her
annoying tendency to accidentally sniff water up her nose.
Hugh waved to her as he and Kain had gathered the waterproof bags
together not far from the gray structure she had seen from above. She
noted several muted discolorations of the coral reef between them and the
entrance to Climatrol. That didn't look promising. Undersea pollution
wouldn't be as readily absorbed by the environment as that in the air.
Lore kicked harder, propelling herself towards them that much faster.
Kain nodded to her as she drifted to a halt alongside them. He motioned
for her to help him with his sack, and she snatched hold of one of its
Then the three swam forward, pulling their loads after them.
Hugh was careful to point out all the hazardous areas where chemical
spills had occurred and still polluted the ocean floor. Lore found
herself pretty good at evading them without Hugh's help. But the
talented biologist steered them clear of a few more dangerous areas that
neither she nor Kain would have found on their own. However, avoiding
the toxins by swimming above or around them didn't completely protect the
three from the chemical gradient, and Lore felt her eyes water from more
than the salt.
But soon the metal stairs leading inside the metal structure that lead to
the Climatrol proper loomed into their murky view. Kain swam faster,
feeling the oxygen bubbling less from the warm bitter gum in his mouth.
Lore quickened her pace to match Kain's so that he wasn't pulling all the
weight of their sack.
Hugh let them speed ahead. The three of them couldn't make it up the
stairs at once, and if Kain needed air, then he might as well go first.
Personally, the biologist had yet to suffer from oxygen deprivation. His
usage of the oxygen generated by the gum had been easy and measured. Of
course, he and Lore both weighed less than Kain, and thus theoretically
would require less oxygen to maintain the same level of bodily function.
Or, Kain might simply have gotten out of shape these past couple of
Kain stumbled up the narrow steps as Lore let go of the sack. He yanked
it up with him as he broke through the surface. Kain gasped mightily as
he looked around at the water tank around him. He was almost to the
first floor. This was a special holding room designed to compensate for
the water pressure of the ocean floor and prevent it from getting to the
upper levels of Climatrol. Kain waded forward along the metal floor,
dragging the sack with him.
The water level went up to his chest. And the waterproof sack dragged
along behind him. He didn't feel too bad right now, but he knew as soon
as he reached the ladder that would take him out of the tank he would
feel the effect of being waterlogged so far underwater.
Lore's head burst through the water's surface. She sucked in a deep
breath, and let out a whoop rather then a sigh of relief. Lore brushed
the water from her eyes, blinking rapidly as she waded after Kain. Her
long onyx hair was plastered against her head and spilled down in front
of her shoulders, part of it still waving beneath the surface.
Hugh emerged, bringing up the second sack with him. He brushed his
purple bangs out of his eyes, unsuccessfully trying to get them to stick
with the rest of his hair.
"Lore, why don't you go up first?" suggested Kain. "That way we don't
accidentally drop these bags on you while we climb."
"How gentlemanly," Lore commented. And Kain wasn't sure whether or not
there was any sarcasm in her voice.
The historian grabbed hold of the first rung above her head and then
pulled herself out of the water with a combination of a thrashing hop.
She felt for the next pair of rungs under her and began hauling herself
up. The weight of her waterlogged clothes and body seemed incredible for
her weakened knees to support. A head full of soaked long hair wasn't
helping matters either. And the guys were carrying up those sacks with
them? Granted they weren't much larger than two rolled sleeping bags
slapped side by side, those sacks contained their weapons and Kain's
Once Lore was sufficiently far enough ahead of him, Kain clambered after
her. And when they both had almost reached the top, Hugh followed them
up. With that they climbed up the final staircase and up to the first
actual floor of Climatrol.
* * * * *
"This is the spot," said Kain, gesturing to a grate in the floor not far
from the stairs to the second level. According to Kain, after traveling
down that long corridor that made up most of the first floor, they had
moved from below the ocean floor to below the great lake in the center of
Lore had difficulty believing that. But then there were always those
rumors that Climatrol's walls held properties not completely unlike that
of a ryuka technique. And if that was actually true, then she could
understand. Besides, she had no other explanation. And if Hugh and Kain
would believe it, them both being scientifically inclined, then she
supposed she should be able to accept the phenomena as well.
Kain offered Hugh his wrench, which the biologist mutely took. Hugh
began loosening the bolts holding down the grate as Kain opened
up the first of the two sacks. Lore grabbed hold of the other and began
pulling off the airtight plastic seal that had been placed around its
Kain first pulled out a towel to wipe himself off before setting up a
small terminal that resembled a laptop computer. He hadn't been able to
figure out what entirely wrong with this computer either. The only
function that would work was the database. However, that was about all
he needed of it right now. He could afford to worry about the rest
"All right. You guys ready?" Kain asked.
Hugh and Lore nodded. They had retrieved their equipment from the other
sack. And now each carried a flashlight and their weapons, just in case
they should find any rogue machines still roaming free. In addition to
that, Hugh also carried the Neishield, part of the enchanted collection
of arms that Rolf and his friends had found on the frozen planet of
"Okay, then," said Kain. "Here's another stick of maruera gum for each
of you. I don't know how far up the flooding went, so you may need it.
I'm sure at least Hugh will. Of course this means we're going to have a
time limit on us. But we should have more than enough time to get the
Kain punched up a layout of the tunnel structure below them on to the
screen of his terminal. He swiveled the computer to face them. "You see
this? The tunnel continues horizontally for about a hundred meters before
heading straight down to the energy reservoir's control room. Lore,
you're to follow Hugh down to about thirty meters after the turn. That
will be as far as our communicators will let us keep in contact. You
should still be able to hear Hugh at that distance.
"And remember, the two of you might both be underwater so speech will be
"No kidding," muttered Hugh.
"So here are your improvised communicators." Kain smirked, heading the
two each a headset and an object resembling a can with a large rubbery
rim. The "cans" had long straps dangling from them. "I pretty sure you
know what to do with the headsets. They'll work even underwater. As for
the cylinder things, I've attached waterproof microphones on the insides
of them. Strap them around your mouths before you enter the water. That
way you'll have an air medium to speak in. It's not the easiest way to
talk, but it was the best I could come up with for now. The rubber
should be able to form an air-tight seal around your mouth and prevent
the water from getting in. Try to breath out your nose when you're not
speaking, just like we did outside of Climatrol. That will lessen the
build up of air pressure in there, and lessen the likelihood of any water
Hugh nodded and slipped the headset over his head. The headset had only
one speaker, which fit over his right speaker, leaving his left free to
hear other sounds. Then he lowered himself into the narrow shaft and
began half walking, half crawling in Kain's indicated direction. Lore
shrugged and likewise put on her headset. She dropped in place behind
Hugh and scrambled a couple seconds to catch up with him.
The tunnel was far too narrow to accommodate any sort of upright walking,
and there were only inches between their bodies and the cold metals
walls. Only Hugh had his flashlight on right now. Lore stumbled along
behind him, using what light glared past his hunched form.
The passage dragged on, and it felt like they have traveled thousands of
meters rather than hundred when they finally reached the drop in the
passageway. Hugh shone his flashlight down, and a glare bounced back up
"Lore," he whispered, although there was really no need to be quiet. "I
think that water's just about where Kain wants you to stay."
Lore nodded, holding up the can and relaying the information to Kain.
"He says 'Don't worry about it. Keep going.'"
"Easy for him to say!"
Hugh shuffled around and backed himself down the steel ladder of the
tunnel. "Okay! I'm going down!"
Lore smirked. "Hey, I'm not leaving you just yet."
She scuffled down after him, trying not to grasp the freezing rungs too
Hugh paused for her a few meters above the waterline. They were roughly
thirty meters down. He nodded to her before chewing his stick of maruera
gum. Better than those old oxygen tanks, he thought to himself.
Then he strapped the can-like muzzle over his mouth and waved good-bye to
"Take care of yourself, Hugh," she said into her communicator so that she
would be sure he would hear her.
He nodded and then plunged into the water.
Lore sighed, hooking her legs around the ladder's rungs as she turned on
her flashlight. If she sat here long enough, the metal would be bound to
warm up beneath her. "Kain, Hugh's gone in," she relayed.
"All right," came the reply.
* * * * *
Hugh's descent into the tunnel was made easier by the water-filled shaft.
He simply let himself sink to the bottom. When his feet touched the
bottom, he found a thick steel door with an electronic combination
He glanced around, but this appeared to be the only way in. And it just
had to be shut. Hugh sent a question to Lore, asking to see if Kain knew
how to get in. For a while he heard nothing, and then a muffled reply
asking how many keys there were on the combination panel and if they were
Hugh shone his flashlight directly at the panel. "The panel is five by
five keys. They have colors, but they don't appear to be in any
particular order." He thought a moment. "But I don't see what good
figuring out the combination will do. All the power's been cut."
There was another pause, and then, "Oh yeah. Kain says don't bother with
Hugh chuckled despite himself. "Wouldn't that be fun? Pushing in
buttons and waiting for something to happen. I think we'll have to wait
until we get into the control room before anything of the sort is going
to happen." He eyed the door carefully. "But we still have to get
inside somehow. Ask Kain how thick this door is."
"He says it's about six inches."
Hugh nodded although he knew she couldn't see him. "I think I can get
in. We don't really need a steel door do we?"
"What? What do you mean?"
"No one's gonna be mad if we lose the door to this control room."
"Well... I suppose not. But I fail to-"
Hugh concentrated, drawing strength from the nexus of power within him.
The warmth spread from his chest, through his shoulders, and down his
right arm. He raised his hand, palm facing the door, and focused his
thoughts. Hugh could feel the pressure building within him. His eyes
locked on the door, already envisioning his result.
The steel door quivered, buckling, crumpling towards the vacuum Hugh had
created before it. Just a couple more seconds and it should give in
completely to the suction. Suddenly the door popped free of its frame,
curling in upon itself.
Before the door could even sink to the floor, free of the vacuum's pull,
the darkness beyond, devoid of the water pressure in the tunnel, sucked
in all the water, and Hugh along with it, inside the blackness of the
"Hugh! Hugh! What is it?" Lore demanded into his ear. "I heard you
shout. And the water level just dropped about twenty blasted meters!"
He groaned, looking at his surroundings from where he lay in his back. A
dull pain throbbed in his right shin where he had banged the sinking door
as the suction pulled him inside. His flashlight lay some few feet from
him on the floor. He must have dropped it. But at least it still
worked, illuminating what Hugh guessed to be about half of the room. And
the half he could see was the half he needed.
The wall to the right of his entrance was lined with gauges and panels
on an inclined desk-like shape. The remainder of the wall above it
appeared to be a window. But without any power to the outside lights,
the window appeared to be merely a sheet of opaque blackness.
"Lore, I'm all right," he said. "The control room apparently wasn't
flooded. So when I used my gizan technique to open the door all the
water rushed in."
He heard a sigh of relief at the other end, and then news of his well
being relayed to Kain. That was soon followed by a set of instructions
now that he was inside.
Hugh quickly absorbed his orders and staggered up to the controls. He
leaned over them, searching for the ones Kain had indirectly indicated to
"I found the gauges you wanted," he said. "I'm not sure if they're
working though. They're all the way to the left, as if it's utterly
"They should be working, Hugh," Lore replied. "Kain says they're powered
by a hydraulic system. No electricity is required."
"Well, then the energy reservoir is empty."
"Are you sure you're looking at the right set of gauges?"
"Is that you doubting me, or Kain?"
"Both of us."
"Look, I'm positive these are the right gauges. They're located right
where Kain told me they would be. And they're the appropriate size as
"Kain says that something else must have gone wrong then. Somehow none
of the energy has gotten into the reservoir. Have you checked if the the
central aqueduct is open?"
"No. Kain hasn't told me where to look."
"All right. I'll ask him."
Hugh muttered a response as he stared down at all the controls. Then
something caught his eye in the reflection of the window above him.
Small intense bright lights whirled peered out from the darkness behind
him. And a darker form was behind it, approaching him; just like in the
battle with Dark Force, when its glinting eyes had been able to instantly
corrupt him; just like Mother Brain's glow before she blasted the living
daylights out of him and his friends; just like the pleading gaze of the
No... Not this pain again... He needed to focus!
"Hugh," Lore's voice crackled over the speaker, "Kain says to..."
But Hugh wasn't listening. He couldn't turn around. He couldn't move,
trapped as he was within the brilliant lights of the danger behind him.
Only when the shadow behind him opened fire could he at last scream.