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Child Of Darkness

Chapter One


Some say that time eventually heals all wounds. Still, others say that time is merely a festering wound biting deeply into one's life, more of a hindrance than anything else. In a scientific sense, time is linear, moving in one continuous direction -- forward. Though the very reality of time may be this way, it is not so within a person's mind. If it was, then no one would be capable of reliving memories. Memories shape a person, whether good or bad, by influencing behavior based on past experiences. People learn from their mistakes and meander through life day by day like mindless automatons.

No one can judge a person by goods or bads committed in his past, though it is very difficult to overlook them. Who a person is or wants to become is in the realm of present and future -- people do not live in a backward flow of time, meaning they do not live life running in reverse. Consequently, it is difficult for some to understand why many choose to constantly reminisce about times gone by and live in a time that no longer exists. For the elderly it offers an escape from an encroaching demise, where their minds can instantly teleport them back to when they were youthful and healthy. For others, however, it seems to indicate mental deterioration.

The past, for all intents and purposes, is an asylum.

From what? Anything, everything -- corporeal or ethereal. An escape from substance, yes. An escape from concept, yes.

It is disconcerting to see a person living in the past, for the concepts of present and future seem to be clouded from his vision. He is looked upon as strange, deluded, not being able to form a tangible thought or even care for himself. A few may totally free themselves from the horrible restraints of present and future and immerse their minds in the past, creating a state of catatonia, never to return. They are institutionalized and locked away, forgotten, and someone else steps up to take their place.

Yes, the mind is truly an amazing instrument, allowing people to defy the linear, one-way locomotion of time. In the Algo solar system, time is no less significant than in anywhere else in the universe. There are, however, certain elements of time that cannot go unnoticed here.

Encircling the gaseous, heavenly body known as Algo are its four children -- two planets which still exist, one planet that exists as an asteroid belt, and a fourth that could be looked upon as the "good" stepchild. They are, respectively, Motavia, Dezoris, Palma and Rykros.

Many aspects of life on Motavia in particular wrap around time like a Serpent might wrap itself around its prey. There are many "time honored" ideals that are recognized religiously, and some that seem to fade away with the passing of time. Among Algo's most recognizable is that of Queen Alis Landale, who offered deliverance to worlds under siege. Though it was difficult for some to believe that Algo once was governed by a monarchy, Queen Alis was celebrated as one of the most significant figures that ever lived. As the story went, she and a small band of brave adventurers usurped their tyrannical King, Lassic, and brought peace to all of Algo. Her companions -- Myau, a Musk Cat , Odin, a powerful warrior, and Noah, a gifted wizard from a race of people known as the Espers -- sacrificed much so that their people might live. There was, however, a darker side to Lassic's tyrannical rule, one that would cause even the most courageous man to cringe and cry like a newborn babe. Alis and her companions did battle with a spectral being known as Darkfalz, the total embodiment of evil, later to be known as Dark Force. In the end, Darkfalz was defeated, banished back into the dimension from which it came, but not before leaving its lasting impression and legacy on everyone in Algo. Children are taught to never forget what Alis and her friends did, and to keep that knowledge close to their hearts forever.

Another "time honored" person in Motavian history is a government Agent known as Rolf (surname unknown), who lived on Motavia over a millennia past. It was he that first recognized that under Mother Brain, a super-advanced computer system which controlled every aspect of life on Motavia, people became weak and lethargic beings incapable of doing, or even thinking, anything for themselves. Under the guidance of his commanding officer, Rolf assembled a rag-tag party of individuals, among which there was Rudolph Steiner, a Hunter; Amy Sage, a doctor; Hugh Thompson, a biologist; Anna Zirski, a Guardian; Josh Kain, a wrecker; and Shir Gold, a thief.

One other member, a cross-breed between a Palman and a Biomonster, was said to have had the greatest influence on her comrades. Nei, whose name was originally believed to mean "The human who was not human," but is now known to be synonymous with "Power," sacrificed her life in a battle with her doppleganger, Neifirst, to spare those who had so ruthlessly scorned her -- the people of Algo. She was created as the first product of Palman/Biomonster genes and was essentially supposed to be terminated. Still in formative stages, the Nei/Neifirst entity split from one another, each possessing her own consciousness, creating two separate entities. Neifirst remained within the system, determined to get revenge on those who so foolishly played with of nature. With most of her memory of her creation gone, a very confused and naive Nei went out into society to gain an acceptance that would never reach fruition.

She was befriended by Rolf, who saved her from a marauding crowd of lynchers, and quickly developed a close relationship with him. He came to look upon her like a sister, but there are some who said that their relationship was something beyond words, beyond emotion. It was, therefore, not hard to believe that he suffered most from her untimely passing.

After being pursued by Motavian law, witnessing the destruction of Palma, and saving Paseo, Motavia's capitol city from flood, Rolf and his companions fled to Dezoris to find answers. There, in a place known as Esper Mansion they came upon Lutz, Algo's last Telemental. He explained to them his plight as Protector of Algo and revealed to them the existence of the Armaments of Power, items that beared the name "Nei." As protector, he was obliged to return to a cryogenic sleep chamber where he would rest for a period of a decade, awakening to attempt a restoration of power to the Espers, a race of people who protected Algo for countless millennia, but had long since lost their Telemental powers.

It was also then that Lutz revealed to Rolf that during the last period of his awakening, he saved him from a shuttle accident that killed his parents. Rolf was ten at the time. He and his parents were returning on a shuttle trip, a trip that was to be a final one in Motavian history, when it suddenly and unexpectedly exploded. Lutz, sensing an importance to the survival of a boy on that shuttle, Rolf, rescued him and returned him to Motavia where he was raised by adoptive parents.

Under Lutz's guidance, Rolf was able to retrieve the Armaments of Nei and returned to Esper Mansion, where he received knowledge of his lineage. Rolf, Lutz revealed, was sole heir to Alis Landale's heritage. Accompanying her heritage also came a responsibility as protector to all those in Algo, and to succeed the power of Light as Alis had.

Darkness fell at Rolf's hand, once again sealed into an unknown dimension where it would plan its return in a millennia. Mother Brain also fell, its influence removed from all of Algo.

It was then that Rolf discovered that a species of people known as "humans" created Mother Brain with an intent to claim Algo as their own. They were not interested in peaceful coexistence, but wanted to repopulate Algo with their own kind. The humans' leader revealed to him that they caused their planet's demise, polluting and destroying the very mother that breathed life into them. They attacked Rolf's party, but ultimately committed suicide and genocide of their entire race. The events following that are obscured from the pages of history, but not from time.

* * * * *

Over a millennia had passed since then.

For a third time in Algolian history, Protectors of Light stepped forth to once again prevent forces of Darkness from entering their world. For Chaz Ashley, a young Hunter taken under the protective wing of a certain Alys Brangwin, it was to be an experience that would not soon be forgotten.

One would expect that such an experience would have profound repercussions on a person of Chaz's youthful demeanor. He was, after all, a mere sixteen years of age when he accepted the responsibility to succeed the Power of Light, just as Rolf had a millennia before him. He made many friendships along the way: Wren, an android who was as calm and logical as an ocean breeze. Gryz, a Motavian with a strong sense of family and loyalty. Hahn Larsson, an apprentice archeologist and scholar with an extensive knowledge of Algolian history. Demi, a female android who served with Wren and possessed human-like qualities. Raja, a Dezorian Priest with an annoying knack for bad humor. Kyra Tierney, a fiercely devoted Esper who had just begun to rediscover her powers. Rika, a female Numan created by an advanced Artificial Intelligence system known as Seed, who was the result of a thousand-year improvement on a failed attempt to genetically splice genes, an attempt known as the Nei/Neifirst entity. And Rune Walsh, the Fifth Generation Lutz who selected Chaz as Protector and wielder of Elsydeon, a weapon forged through the memories and experiences of those chosen to protect Algo during its darkest times.

It was during this course of events that Chaz lost who he referred to as a friend, a confidant, and a mother figure -- Alys. Her passing was an untimely one, just as many were. Zio, a dark disciple of Darkness itself, infused a portion of the Black Energy Wave into her. It was that which eventually killed Chaz's friend and mentor.

Travelling to Dezoris, Chaz and his companions learned that within an asteroid belt that used to be Palma existed a castle, an evil fortress that was home to King Lassic's reincarnation. Somehow Lassic gained possession of Dezoris' most holy possession, the Eclipse Torch, which Chaz needed to help a town that had fallen under the influence of the Black Energy Wave.

They were successful in their attempt, and soon afterward, a Dezorian Archbishop imparted to them knowledge of the Aeroprism, and of Rykros. So, having not a single clue to what Rykros was, Chaz returned to Motavia and retrieved the Aeroprism.

It was much to Chaz and his companions' surprise to discover that Rykros was actually a planet with a highly elliptical orbit, allowing it to return once every thousand years, when a seal containing all the powers of Darkness weakened. LaRoof, omniscient being of Rykros, revealed to Chaz and his companions the existence of two entities, one the paradox of the other, known only as the Great Light, and the Profound Darkness.

For eons Light and Darkness battled, one not able to get the better of the other. Finally, the Great Light was able to defeat its nemesis and sealed it in another dimension, placing a seal over its portal. That seal, LaRoof explained, consisted of four planets encircling a great white star -- Algo and its four daughters. As a precautionary measure Rykros' orbit around Algo was created to be highly elliptical, like that of a comet, so that once every one thousand years it would return to ensure would not cause more destruction beyond what was already done. LaRoof advised Chaz that his enemy had not completely entered their dimension, and that he must enter its dimension and defeat it. So, with his friends fierce devotion, Chaz entered what was to be the greatest battle in Algo's recorded history.

The Profound Darkness, malevolent entity responsible for every major catastrophe in Algo, both past and present, was finally sealed away by Chaz and his party of brave adventurers in what was to be known as the Great War, never to return -- or so it was said. The ties he formed with his companions were strong and nothing could sever them, but Fate dealt him a cruel hand and soon they were on their separate ways. Chaz and Rune formed a special bond, and Chaz was most disheartened to see him leave, for it was Rune's own words that said they would probably never see each other again.

All was not lost, though. Rika, who also formed a bond with Chaz, one of a more personal nature, chose to stay with him. Gryz returned to his hometown of Molcum with his sister, Pana, to rebuild that which was destroyed. Raja and Kyra returned to Dezoris, both picking up where they had left their lives. Wren and Demi chose the artificial satellite, Zelan, as their new home, where they would continue to monitor Motavia's last AI systems until the day came when they would become obsolete. And Rune -- no one knows exactly where his road lead, but surely good fortune would follow wherever it took him.

* * * * *

That was three years ago.

Ever since that time, Chaz Ashley's life began to return to normal, or as close to normal as could be expected. After his battles with Darkness were complete, both he and Rika returned to Aiedo, and to the Hunter's Guild. With his new-found experience gained from countless confrontations, Chaz quickly became one of the Guild's most valuable members, earning a high status among his peers. Rika, though, tired of fighting, hung up her claws and made a home for both of them at Alys Brangwin's former residence.

Chaz, though very young in others' perceptions, excelled in his craft and became accepted by even those who were Hunters all their lives. He spent many a day shooting the breeze with them, creating casual conversation even when it was not desired. Rika noticed that he talked less and less of his past, and even less of his friends. It was unlike Chaz to forget his roots, and she began to worry.

That was until that special day, a day that Rika would not soon forget. Chaz had just returned from work, and was in unusually high spirits. He sat her down and though he tried to pretend to be upset over something, he amused her even more. Guiding her to a chair, he dropped to his knees and gently kissed her hand. He then reached into his pocket and brought forth a small box, a box that contained a ring. Though it was not much by anyone's standards and he almost seemed embarrassed to reveal it to her, Rika thought it was the most beautiful thing her eyes had ever seen. She welcomed his marriage proposal with open arms, and she everything she was worrying about faded into obscurity. A year later, Chaz took her hand in marriage, vowing to become her lifelong partner, and she took his name -- at long last, Rika Ashley.

It was only around their first anniversary when things took a turn for the worst. Ever since the Great War ended, Biomonster populations began to decrease. Without them, Hunters were put out of work, and soon the Guild's once swelling members declined. Only through perseverence was Chaz able to keep his profession, but soon even he was out looking for employment elsewhere. The Hunter's Guild closed its doors, its profession a dying art.

Rika found her calling in farming, tending to a small garden just outside her home in Aiedo. Chaz saw her natural talent with plants and with her blessing, used their last meseta to buy an acre of land where they could work to sustain themselves and make a profit by selling what they could. Their small farm flourished at first, but Motavia's climate control system was not what it used to be and the planet was beginning to return to its original state -- a sandy wasteland.

With nothing to keep his mind occupied, Chaz finally began to reminisce about his past and found that he missed his friends profusely. He talked of them constantly, longing for the days when a Hunter could not walk a hundred feet and encounter a Biomonster of some sort. When he talked, Rika noticed, there was an eerie calmness about his voice, one that was never present before. She knew that he was hurting -- he was, after all, being denied his one true talent. This went on for several weeks while they watched their crops wither and die and soon the inevitable happened -- depression cast its long shadow over Chaz and he began to suffer signs of mental collapse.

Rika sold their land for less than half of what they bought it for and moved Chaz and herself back to Alys's house in Aiedo. Her relationship with her husband became strictly platonic, having to care for him in his state of decline. They did have one last night together, a night full of happy memories that she would remember for a long time. It was that night that she clung to so tenaciously when she took her husband outside of town to practice his Skills. Handing Chaz his sword, she watched in despair as he struggled to remember a simple Crosscut Skill. He broke into tears and fell to his knees, lamenting. Rika ran to her husband and cradled his head. How she loved him, and it broke her heart to see him in such a condition. As Chaz wept, she told him just that, and no matter how long it took, she would be there to see him through.

Always.

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