Child Of Darkness
"Then we must go!" Gryz exclaimed.
Rika, Hahn, Gryz, and Pana had listened intently as Demi relayed to them Dezoris' present
state. A few minutes into her story, Chaz stumbled into their presence, withdrawn, but happy to
be home. His wife updated him on what Demi said, sensing some kind of emotional distress, but
he assure her that everything was fine. She wanted to press him about it for she knew when
something was wrong. He would just clam up, she thought, so I guess I better just let it be.
Gryz's outburst came after Demi finished. He knew as well as everyone else that their
friends Raja and Kyra were probably in danger, too. A typical response from him, the Motavian
took pride in his devotion to his friends. That devotion, however, led him into many a situation in
which the circumstances were dire. Fortunately, he was able to get out of them, but that was his
luck-of-the-draw and his closest friends worried that it would run out before he realized it.
Chaz wondered how Kyra and Raja were doing. He had not thought about their well-being in quite a while now and felt guilty about it. Raja was annoying to him sometimes, but his
heart was in the right place and that's what really mattered. Kyra, on the other hand, developed a
big-sister complex that endeared him to her. The Esper was a little overbearing at times which
was nothing more than a minor inconvenience at most. Gryz's statement mirrored everyone else's
opinion, that much was evident. The Hunter looked forward to seeing their friends again.
At about the same time, Wren walked in. He took everyone by surprise; they lost track of
him in their discussion. Already they could see a change in him, a change that spoke of hope
reborn, of vigor renewed. He walked with confidence, taking a seat next to Demi. "Did you find
what you were looking for?" asked Chaz.
"Yes, I did. Thank you, Chaz."
Chaz and his companions could not just get up and leave on a moment's notice. There
were things, people, that need to be taken care of. Pana already decided she was going to remain.
She was not the fighter her brother was. In fact, she had never even held a hunting knife. Even
though she worried about Gryz, she promised that she would not keep him this time like she did
the last. Her brother was so worried about her he decided not to go with Chaz and Rika to Zelan
to retrieve Wren the first time. She was happy that he did not go, but she understood the
importance of this trip and assured everyone that they had her blessing.
Rika, on the other hand, was more ambivalent, ambiguous. At one point she seemed
eager to go, to see Raja and Kyra again. Then a few moments later she would dispute going at
all. While her friends did not understand, Chaz was fully aware of her quandary. She came into
this world an adult, infantile in experience, but possessing knowledge which surpassed those thirty
times her age. She was thrust into a world of endless battles, of saving life and all of Algo. For
all intents and purposes, Rika never had a "normal" life from which she could form fond
memories. Of course she would feel reluctant to leave a peaceful life, as marred with bad luck as
it was, and return to her former self where she was never at peace. Perhaps, Chaz thought, Rika
was the only sane one among them.
Hahn was no stranger to reluctance. When Alys was on her death bed, the scholar chose
to remain with her. When she passed away, he was torn between staying in Krup with Saya or
continuing on with his friends in search of vengeance for Alys' murder. In the end, he stayed with
his fiancee, but he was never happy with that decision. Knowing that Chaz and company would
return eventually, Hahn began to train in secrecy, honing his prowess with the dagger, increasing
his arsenal of Techniques and Skills. Eventually, after many hours of training, soul-searching, and
meditation, Hahn mastered the incredibly powerful Skill, Astral, which drew in power from the
Astral realm and projected it into a lethal energy beam. Also, once Hahn mended his relationship
with his father, they were able to forge special armaments from a metal his father had cached
somewhere beneath his home. These armaments, which his father dubbed Mahlay, a word taken
from Hahn's distant past, were extremely durable and contained within them a hint of magical
power. Needless to say, despite the ever-present reluctance in his life, the scholar became a
valuable asset in their fight against Darkness.
For Demi and Wren, their paths were predetermined even before they left Zelan to come
to Motavia. There was much to be said about them, primarily about their strength of conviction.
Once they were set on a specific goal, nothing short of death could
prevent them from reaching it.
From that characteristic they were able to form strong bonds with their
friends, bonds they would
defend to the very end. When Demi and Wren first discovered that Darkness was rearing its ugly
head again, they knew what must happen. Somehow, someway, the Defenders of Light had to
reunite to rise and meet its challenge. If that did not happen, then the consequences could be dire.
Everything was so straight-forward to them, and they did not understand this reluctance that
Palmans, Motavians, and Dezorians sometimes displayed.
Never in his wildest dreams did Gryz ever believe that he would actually be leaving his
native planet in an attempt to save it. He felt bad about leaving Pana alone, being that he and
Grandfather Dorin were her only living relatives. He did not want to go off to another planet, die
there, and leave Pana to fend for herself, even though she was more than capable of doing it.
Ever since their parents' death, they had became closer, strengthening the bond between brother
and sister. Motavians hold family in reverent regard due to the fact that their life-span only
numbers between forty and forty-five years. Gryz entered his reproductive age at about thirteen,
but he was at mid-life now and had not started a family. Pana, therefore, was everything he had in
life and was a little overbearing at times, not wanting her to take unnecessary risks. Her brother
rarely went out for recreation or anything else and that worried her. Besides, she often thought,
I'd like to go out and meet some people, too!
Using his Ryuka Technique which allowed instantaneous transportation between any of
Motavia's cities, Chaz returned Pana to Tonoe where she would stay with grandfather Dorin and
took Hahn to Krup so he could inform everyone of his intentions. While the Hunter was gone,
Demi took an opportunity to pull Rika aside and converse with her. In their previous travels, the
android discovered that she enjoyed "female" talk as it was sometimes called. Being in space for
the past few years, she was not able to do anything of that sort and missed it sorely. Wren was
good company, but he was never able to fully appreciate the emotion involved. Rika was
different, though, because she was wise beyond her years and was just plain fun to talk to.
It was evening again and Aiedo bustled with activity. Rika and Demi walked together
under the night's coolness, children dashing between them in playful frolic. While the Numan was
strangely withdrawn, her companion seemed to enjoy their walk, not having an opportunity to
actually derive pleasure in her walks within Zelan. A light breeze blew in from the surrounding
desert, wafting dry smells through their nostrils. "Rika," Demi spoke, "have you and Chaz had
any thoughts about starting a family?"
Rika remained wordless.
"I was just wondering because I see all these children running around and I can't help but
feeling that you would make a wonderful mother! I suppose if I ever had a chance to procreate, I
would. There is a possibility that I may someday follow in Wren's footsteps and build an AI, but
I don't foresee myself doing so in the near future. Wren never told me what he was feeling when
he came up with the concept of my assembly," Demi continued, not aware that she was rambling,
"but I'm sure he intended me to be just a loyal AI and not the spitfire android I am today. You
know what I'm saying?" Although her companion made no conscious movements, she thought
she saw her nod. "I knew you would! It seems like you're my only friend I can talk to in this
manner. Talking to Wren is like talking to a sandworm sometimes -- never pays attention. I'm
sure Chaz isn't like that, but hey -- he's only Palman!" Demi laughed loudly, her voice filled with
mirth, but her humor escaped Rika's notice.
"Seriously, though, I'd be lost if I didn't have him and I think he feels the same about me.
It's hard for me to get him to express himself. He does it in his own way, subtle albeit, but in his
own way all the same." Three children ran into the two friends accidently and pushed them aside.
They apologized profusely, then headed on their way. "Kids."
Demi and Rika approached the Trans-communication center where numerous citizens
scampered in and out like ants raiding an adjacent nest. Across from it was one of Aiedo's
taverns, also bustling with activity. Laughter poured outward, telling stories of health and
prosperity. Demi, starved for activity, beckoned her friend to follow. A seemingly mindless
automaton, Rika let herself be led into an establishment notorious for housing ruffians and
At precisely the same moment Rika and Demi entered the tavern, all conversation ceased,
seemingly drowned out of existence. The android led her defunct companion to an obscure table
furthest away from the bar where countless numbers of eyes were watching. An obese woman,
one that Demi would have acknowledged that she was not pleasant to look upon, approached
them. She wore a single apron that was soiled and had probably gone unwashed for many weeks.
This woman, though masculine in appearance, was their waitress. "What'll you have?" she asked
in a gruff voice. Demi was taken aback by her demeanor.
"I'll have nothing," she replied, "but my friend here would like some water, if you please."
"What? You think we're a rich establishment? We have wine, ale, and hops, but nothing
"Okay, then I guess she'll have a small glass of wine." The waitress nodded, muttering
some snide remark about damned AI's beneath her breath, and went to fetch their drinks. After a
few moments, conversation returned to normal.
"For some reason I think I could have chosen a better place to stop and rest," Demi
commented. Her enhanced hearing was able to pick up and pinpoint many references to them by
some of the tavern's occupants, some mentioning Chaz which indicated that they knew who Rika
was. "Rika, what's bothering you? You've been quiet the entire evening. I thought we were
supposed to be able to tell each other everything."
"I'm sorry, Demi," Rika apologized, the first time she had spoken since they left her
home. "My thoughts are kinda wandering." The Numan's android friend nodded, still not
understanding her inner debate, but not wanting to pressure her into talking about it. From her
studies of Palman emotions, she knew that there was a difference between being supportive and
being nosy. If Rika wanted to express herself to her, she would do it on her own accord. Their
burly waitress returned, slamming a small glass on the table, spilling some of its contents. She
snorted, then retreated without another word. "I hope you drink wine. I didn't know what you
"Demi," said Rika without emotion, "I might not be going to Dezoris with you."
The android was flabbergasted and for the first time in a long time she did not know what
"Rika!" she exclaimed after a few seconds of thought. "Why?" Rika realized that her
proclamation would cause distress in her friend, and everyone for that matter, but she need to let
at least one person know if only as a test. She had not even told Chaz which filled her with guilt,
but in the end she knew that Demi was a good choice. "If you don't come --"
"I haven't made my decision yet."
"But why?" the android pursued her inquiry.
"Demi, I've discovered that after three years of marriage, I enjoy our quiet life here in
Aiedo. I know it's hard for you to understand when your determination is so stolidly set, but just
as you can set your own programming, so can I easily change my mind. From the exact moment I
emerged from Seed's protective wing, I was submerged into a world of battle, a place where
death and dying was almost as commonplace as births. During that time, I discovered what love
truly was and when all of our fighting was over, I decided to let it supersede battle as my life's
Here, Rika paused, unsure of how to continue.
"You see, Demi, I will be the first to admit that I am undoubtedly one of Motavia's most
intelligent creatures. When Seed finally sent me on my way, it was sure that it had prepared me
sufficiently to meet all of life's challenges. But like many AI's, you and Wren excluded, Seed was
unaware or unable to process part the part of existence called emotions. Being an organic life
form capable of such things but sheltered from them all of my short life, I didn't know what to
expect once I left. I was plunged into a world of emotion, one that stupefied and mystified me. It
was then that I quickly found out that all of my knowledge was paltry without experience, without
feelings. Talk about the blind leading the blind!" Demi smiled as did her friend who had not since
before their walk began. "Knowledge and emotion are integrally linked, as you know well
enough. To have one without the other is like fighting with dull claws . . . you don't get much
accomplished. Do you know what I'm trying to say?"
Demi shook her head negatively.
"What I'm trying to tell you is that even though I know Motavia will eventually return to
its natural state, I'd be content with living life to its fullest rather than fighting a hopeless battle
that will do nothing but cause all of us heartache." A few of the tavern's patrons began to move
toward the exit, but Rika paid little notice. "There is nothing we can do to alleviate what is
happening to the planet's climate. Battling Darkness again is not going to alter Motavia's orbit
around Algo, which is the only way the necessary changes to it's climate will take place.
"And as for all your queries about us starting a family, I don't think it's going to happen.
Yes, I've often wondered what it would be like to have children and also whether or not we'd
make good parents. The need to procreate is strong within both of us, but like we were
discussing before you arrived, Palman birthrates have been rapidly declining because of Motavia's
climate change. There simply is not enough food or water to sustain my people."
"It doesn't have to be that way," Demi stated, shaking her head in despair. "Why deny
yourselves the happiness a family can bring when it very well could be a couple of centuries
before Motavia's reversion is complete?"
"Think of how selfish that would be!" Rika snapped as she stood up from their table,
attracting casual interest. "Motavia is deteriorating! It's not getting better . . . it's steadily
getting worse!" The Numan seated herself calmly, reaching over to pat her friend's hand in a
friendly apology for lashing out. "What I mean to say is that we -- I can't bring myself to want
children when I know I will leave them to a world which will eventually kill them and if not them,
their children or their children's children."
"Rika, let them worry about that when the time comes. Who knows, perhaps technology
will have advanced to the point were the planet's weather patterns can once again be altered.
You can't know what the future has in stake. I guess I'm a bit selfish, but knowing that I'll
undoubtedly outlive you, I'd like to have a reminder of you through your children. I promise you
this, Rika -- if you do decide to have a child or children, I will personally guarantee their safety
into adulthood and beyond."
"That's a flattering offer, Demi, but I still haven't discussed my concerns with Chaz. I
suspect that he'll be angry, but I will deal with it just as I've dealt with everything else."
From across the tavern, two men stood up and approached Demi and Rika whose
conversation had come to a standstill. The two friends failed to take notice and remained
motionless. Obviously inebriated, they lumbered over, slamming their drinks down. Many
patrons casually got up and left; they knew what was about to occur. "Excuse you," Demi
commented. One man, perhaps seeing two Demis, responded in kind.
"Shut up, you stupid androids," he said. "Step aside . . . we'd like to have a few choice
words with Mrs. Ashley."
"Yeah, as if," said Rika. "And you will refer to my friend as Demi." The second man
grabbed hold of Demi's arm and attempted to lift her.
"Yeah, well, we don't need her," he said, "so lets just get rid of her." Not expecting the
sheer power of Demi's android strength, the second man was caught completely by surprise when
she lifted him over her head and tossed him away from them. His companion veered completely
around and struck Demi squarely across the face. The android merely flinched, showing no other
signs that his attack had any effect on her. Following her previous motion, she threw him on top
of his predecessor, smashing tables and glasses. Instantly, every man still within the tavern was
on his feet, preparing to come to their friends' aid. Fearing for Rika's safety, Demi lifted a table
and tore its legs off. The moment one man made a slight move, she flung the table at them,
injuring a few, knocking others out-cold. The remaining Palmans, about thirteen or so, rushed in
on Demi, piling themselves on top of her. Rika, seeing her friend in danger, retrieved two legs
from the broken table and held them menacingly.
"Get away from her!" the Numan ordered. Five of Demi's attackers ceased their struggle
and turned to face her.
"What can you do? We're five and you're but one."
"Not for long!" Rika closed her eyes and concentrated intensely. After a few moments,
she felt a spark inside her body and suddenly four spectral images of herself appeared. Rika
attacked viciously, the images following her every move like marionettes attached to every muscle
in her body. Then, they disappeared as quickly as they appeared, and her Disrupt Skill was
completed. All five men lay unconscious, unmoving and barely breathing.
Having seen their friends' demise, the remaining men quickly turned to face their new
threat. Rika took a few steps backward, but was determined to hold her ground. They
approached, cautiously, not fully confident that she did not have any more tricks up her sleeve.
She swung her weapons, keeping them at bay, but they would eventually wear her down. Again,
she closed her eyes, hoping that another display of her Disrupt Skill would convince them that
they should find an easier target. One of her attackers, however, recognized that she was about
to attempt something and launched himself on top of her. Instantly, his friends rushed in to get a
piece of the action.
Rika felt strong hands grasp her arms, her legs. She felt her hair being ripped out by the
roots as she was lifted into the air. Then, to her horror, she heard a strange ripping sound as a
piece of her clothing was ripped off. Rika screamed at the top of her lungs, fighting, resisting
with every fibre of her being, but someone cupped a hand over her mouth and she was silenced.
Suddenly, loud, heavy footsteps became audible, and Rika tried to turn to see who had
walked into the tavern, but her attackers would not permit such a movement. One man was
seized from behind and thrown violently against a wall. Another man was kicked so hard he went
through the wall in front of him. Rika was dropped harshly onto the floor while the remaining
five men turned to face their attacker. Three of them were thrown around like refuse and the
remaining ones turned and fled.
Rika heard the heavy footsteps approach her and stop. "Lie still," Wren said, "you are
injured, but first I must attend to Demi so she can assist me." The Numan lay still, taking a brief
moment to examine herself. She looked to her right shoulder and saw her clothing torn, relieved
that no other parts of her clothing were in that condition.
Within seconds, Wren returned to his fallen friend with Demi close behind him. "Rika!"
she exclaimed in concern. "Rika, are you all right."
"I . . . I . . . ." was all she could manage.
"Don't try to talk, just stay still and I will use my Medic Power to return some of your
strength so you can use your own restorative Techniques to heal yourself."
Rika nodded and did as she was told. She watched her android friend place her hands
about an inch above her body, discharging a powerful electric jolt downward. Excruciating pain
shot up and down the Numan's body like millions of tiny daggers were racing through her veins
and arteries. The pain lasted only a few seconds, followed by an unmistakable numbness which
caused muscular relaxation, allowing her body to begin to heal itself. Finally, when the numbness
faded, most of the pain was gone.
Almost fully healed, Rika sat up from where she lay, stretching her weary muscles.
Without hesitation, she then used her Nares Technique, engulfing her body in a shiny aura of
energy resembling shimmering falls of water pouring out of thin air. She felt all of her strength
return, enabling her to stand under her own power. "Thank you, Wren, Demi." Rika straightened
her clothes, making herself more presentable. "Now, I have to ask you two for another favor."
The androids exchanged puzzled glances, but nodded in compliance. "Please, do not mention any
of this to Chaz. He's extremely protective of me and I'm afraid he might go berserk if he finds
out what happened."
"Rika --" Wren began.
"Please, Wren. Promise me." Reluctantly, Wren decided to acknowledge her request and
vowed to not tell Chaz, as did Demi. They knew that Chaz was and even-minded person and
would never do anything to intentionally hurt another living being unless it was in self defense, but
obviously Rika had her reservations about telling everything to her husband. She smiled warmly,
then exited the tavern, Wren and Demi following behind.
"Wait," Demi stopped her master, laying a hand across his shoulder plate. The big
android turned to face his counterpart, curiosity in his expression. "Wren, when I used my Medic
Power on Rika, I inadvertently compiled a medical scan and I was alerted to something that I
don't believe she or anyone else is aware of." Wren's attention became suddenly focused
completely on what she was saying, but she did not elaborate on it any further.
"What is it Demi? Is she in danger?"
"She, herself, is not, but I do believe there is another that may be. We don't have time to
discuss this right now, she'll be expecting us to follow her. I'll tell you all about it later."
Wren and Demi hurried along, catching up with Rika only within a few moments. Demi
walked a full stride behind her friend, watching her as a mother bird might watch her young in
concern. She wanted so much to tell Rika what she had discovered, but was not sure how it
would come across, especially after their heated conversation in the tavern.
Wren did not have a clue of what his counterpart was thinking, but rest assured, he did
know that she would eventually divulge everything she knew to him. That was her way. He only
needed to wait and be patient about it. The few, brief words Demi shared with him gave cause for
a sufficient amount of concern. If Rika was in immediate danger, she would let him know without
reserve. He would just have trust in her judgement.