Child Of Darkness
Chaz Ashley, Rune Walsh, Hahn Larsson, and Nei arrived at Vahal a few
hours before daybreak. They disembarked and entered the fort without
hesitation. According to the Numan, Siren and Miun should have all the
AI's in order by now. When they left this place a couple days before,
they seemed adamant about doing whatever they could to put some order to
the chaos that existed there. They did not know why they were there or
even how they got there. Both explained their last clear memories, but
nothing they said made sense. It was like they were from an entirely
different society. How could they share such remarkable similarities to
Nei and Wren if they were not created somewhere in Algo?
The four friends rounded the first corner and did not expect to
encounter any resistance, but they did expect to see at least a few AI's
busy with some work or standing at guard. What they did see was a
complete absence of anything, and a strong metallic smell filled their
nostrils. It was almost like they entered a molten metal factory where
they poured the foundations for structures of iron and steel. Vahal was
so vast and so hollow that one could hear the movement of an AI from all
levels of the fort. There was no such movement, however, and the mixture
of both silence and odor was both frightening and sobering.
Nei's memory of Vahal was more refreshed than any of her companions so
she took the lead in guiding them to the first hydraulic lift which would
take them down to the second level. Chaz became lost in his thoughts,
delving into thoughts he did not know he possessed. Here were these two
androids, Siren and Miun, who were inexplicably present, yet not supposed
to be there. If they were always present on Motavia, then surely Wren and
Demi would have detected them earlier. That was conclusion enough for the
Hunter to believe that they were, in fact, not from Algo. Still, if what
his friends' said about the two strangers and their appearances was true,
and he did not doubt them, then there had to be some kind of connection
that no one was aware of. There had to be a clue somewhere, perhaps
embedded in his memories which were readily available, yet hidden from his
Somewhere on Motavia, in his recent past, he felt, was the answer --
the missing link. If the Darkness was somehow responsible for bringing
them into the present time, then they must be here for some other purpose.
Darkness was evil, not stupid. Surely it would have known about the
androids' betrayal. Chaz was positive that it would not simply overlook
that fact. It would not simply allow them to continue to exist without
being subservient to it. Darkness was not benevolent, nor was it
compassionate. Once its lackeys did what they were required to do, they
either continued serving it or were simply annihilated. There was no
reason why Miun and Siren should be any different.
Chaz did not believe that those they sought once again were created on
the basis of committing great evil. Somewhere inside of them shone a
light that was strong enough to override their rewritten primary
programming and prevent them from destroying the lives of his friends.
Their reasoning, their sensibility, also kept them from continuing into a
battle which would have ended their lives eventually. Unlike people like
Lassic and Zio, these two did not sell their souls to Darkness, but were
enslaved by it. The Hunter guessed that somehow their original
programming kicked in during their struggle, perhaps triggered by seeing
his friends struggle so hard to preserve their lives and each other's
Where did they come from? Where could Darkness have reached it greasy
paws and drawn these two AI's into their world? To look to Algo's own
distant past would be too easy an answer for there were over a thousand
years to choose from assuming that Miun and Siren were created about the
same time of Wren's creation and Nei's death. With the power that it had
at its disposal, it could have simply snatched them away from Palma
moments before the planet was destroyed. That kind of reasoning was
faulty, however, because beings who have only been functioning for a
little more than a few years would not possess the knowledge that Chaz was
told they possessed. They had knowledge that reached beyond the boundaries
of Algo, beyond even the brightest stars in their sky. But how could
Algolian technology reach such a drastic distance from where it
originated? How could two functioning relics of their distant past gain
so much knowledge of people, of cultures, that were so different from
Perhaps he and his companions were looking for answers in the wrong
place. Perhaps the answer even lay on their own planet, right in front of
their faces yet hidden from their sight. Chaz could not shake the feeling
that, unlike looking to historical figures and events from their past for
answers, they should be aiming their sights to their more recent past.
The answer was there, the Hunter would bet his life on it. Based on
Siren's design, Wren's age, Miun's similarity to Nei, and the time elapsed
since her first death, the AI's had to be over a thousand years old. But
how? The technology of their designs must have perished along with Palma
since no record of them existed on either Motavia or Dezoris. Was there
some lost fragment of Palman society floating around space somewhere?
"Hahn," Chaz called out to his companion, "do you remember that
spacecraft wreckage we discovered near Nalya three years ago?"
"Of course I do," the Scholar replied. "Now there was an interesting
part of Algolian history."
"Suppose that not all of those ships were destroyed and that maybe some
of them are still out in space floating around even after a thousand
years. How far away do you think they are from Algo?"
"I couldn't even make an educated guess on that now knowing the
intricacies of space travel, but I would say that it's a greater distance
than any of us can imagine. Who knows -- ancient Palman science might
have even been able to find a way to travel at the speed of light, which
means that they'd be over a thousand light-years away from us now."
"Now, suppose that the Darkness could reach across that distance --"
"Darkness, as the Light, knows no boundaries and its grasp is virtually
infinite," Nei interjected.
"That's what I guessed. Anyway, let's say, for argument's sake, that
there was at least one ship from Palma still sailing through the stars.
The Darkness never would have forgotten about one of its greatest triumphs
against its nemesis, the destruction of Palma, and would have kept tabs on
those who were intelligent enough to leave their planet before its
"So what are you saying?" Rune questioned.
"Don't you get it? The age of the crashed spaceship, the design and
apparent age of Siren and Miun, the ability of Darkness to reach across
space and time -- it all adds up. We know from the visual records left in
the wreckage that hundreds of spacecraft left Palma. Don't you think that
maybe a few of them survived even to this day? Yes, I think that them
being here has to do with a great distance of space, but I don't think
that time has a lot to do with it. I know that all of us must be thinking
that because of their similarities to Wren and Nei that they must have
been brought here from the past, but I think that time has nothing to do
with it. I think that, somewhere out there, a Palman spacecraft with our
people is still searching for a place to call home if it already hasn't
"Hmm," the Scholar thought out loud, "you know, my friend, that
actually makes sense."
"It would explain the sort of kinship I felt about those two," said
Nei. "I realize that none of you, even you, Rune, can possibly know what
it feels like to exist for over a thousand years, either as a spirit or a
mechanism, but I sensed it within them. Something told me that they have
existed almost as long as I have, but I couldn't put a finger on why I
felt that way. Now, only after you've done a superb job at explaining the
causality of their presence, can I begin to understand why."
"Maybe we can ask them some more about it when we get there," Rune
offered. "I'm sure both would be willing to engage in some intelligent
"Intelligent conversation," the words echoed through Chaz's mind like
scream of a slaughtered lamb. It was almost like he heard the words
"intelligent buffoon" instead, because neither of the words were used in
reference to him much; and just like those words, his life had been
nothing short of an oxymoron. He never considered himself as intelligent
as some of the people he chose to keep company with although he did have
his moments. Also, he had never been much of a conversationalist,
choosing to always take a backseat role and acting like an 'insert here'
tab when he felt compelled to express his feelings or opinions.
Now the Hunter felt something different, like his companions were
beginning to develop a newfound respect for his intelligence. Rarely did
he ever have the time to ponder enough to form legible thoughts that he
could express without feeling like he was being scoffed at, even around
his friends. He put his mind to work and discovered that if he needed to,
he could do more than hack and slash, become more than what he was brought
up to do.
Nei continued in the lead and it seemed that she remembered every
detail of her last visit, remembered every corner they rounded, every spot
they stopped or battled -- even the places they fought for their lives.
Her stern and calculating demeanor was unnerving at times. Still, they
did not hear a sound except for their own footsteps. They were nearing
the lift that would take them another level beneath the ground and already
he could feel his excitement growing inside him. The Numan, however, was
more reserved in her excitement.
Chaz, Nei, Hahn, and Rune emerged onto the bottom-most level of Vahal
and stepped into a veritable scrap yard. Littered across almost every
square foot of floor, as far as their eyes could see, were the remnants of
every last mechanism which once inhabited the fort. Sparks fizzled, small
fires burned everywhere, and failing CPU's struggled to continue fighting
some unseen enemy.
Nei gasped. Never in her countless lifetimes did she ever imagine the
destruction of life, either natural or artificial, in this manner. She
pressed a silencing hand against her lips for she feared crying out in
sorrow. She had feared these things when first she encountered them, but
the Numan could not help feeling a grievance for their passage. In her
eyes, they were no different than any of her friends were. They were a
slave to their programming much like Palmans, Motavians, and Dezorians
were slaves to their destinies. They, too, fought for what they believed
in, or whatever 'belief' they were programmed to accept. Apparently, much
like some unfortunate mortals, they also perished for that belief.
"By the Light!" was all Rune could manage.
"I'll say," Hahn added, "if Wren and Demi were here they'd both blow a
Proceeding ahead carefully, Nei led her comrades through the maze of
twisted scrap metal. The ambient light was dim and everyone but the Numan
was having difficulty seeing. Some fragments, she observed, were sharp
enough to pierce through even their boots. It would not do them any good
to get Lockjaw or some other ailment.
Rune felt like he tread over graves in an eerie kind of cemetery.
Massive metal heads lay scattered everywhere like melons across a field.
The Reverent Fifth felt like eyes were watching his every step and even
caught a glimpse of optic lights flaring out. Hundreds of chassis were
piled on top of each other and the four friends found themselves moving
into a clearing which appeared to have been left specifically for them.
After his last visit to Vahal over three years ago, Rune never would have
believed that any of these AI's could have been slaughtered so swiftly.
Even the mighty Dominators lay broken and shattered, their cores
extinguished. Bits and pieces of Broren were the most disconcerting for
they closely resembled their own bodies. There was nothing more
refreshing than a reminder of their own mortality.
Eventually, after moving very slowly, they finally reached the adjacent
room where they expected to see Siren and Miun standing strong despite
what they just walked through. What they saw, however, almost completely
removed any hope of discovering the Darkness' plans.
At the center of the room lay two bodies side by side, nonmoving. It
did not take more than a few moments for them to figure out who they were,
not more than a few extra moments to figure out what happened to them.
Whatever had destroyed the warbots of Vahal did not make an exception for
them. Nei ran to them, able to do so now that the path was completely
clear of debris. Chaz and the others followed, but were a little more
When the Hunter approached the fallen androids, the first thing he
noticed was that they did bear a remarkable resemblance to his friends
except that they were more damaged. Half of the synthetic, fire-red hair
that Siren adorned was burned off. There were peculiar scratch marks
across his face which lay bare some of his internal circuitry. One of his
arms was missing; his weapon sat where his missing limb should have been,
mocking him. Miun was in no better shape. Of the synthetic skin she had
left on her face, over seventy percent of it was torn off. The same
peculiar scratch marks on her companion's face covered almost her entire
body. Nei fingered them, seemed almost loathe to touch them. Like Siren,
her hair was blackened and charred. The once sturdy claws she wore on her
arms were bent out of shape and some were even broken off.
"Miun," Nei whispered, "what happened."
"I do not think she can hear you," Siren said, startling the Numan.
"She has not said a word in over half the day. My power reserves are
failing as well. Soon, I will meet my creator."
"I . . . still . . . function," Miun spoke weakly, straining with the
"What happened here, Siren?" Nei redirected her question.
"The Child," he said. "It must have came back to check on our progress
with Daughter. When she found that we had abandoned our efforts, she
attacked without provocation." Siren paused, finding it difficult to
speak. "We summoned every single AI in this fort, but she was merciless.
Just when we were getting the upper hand, a portal opened up -- and it
"It?" Rune asked, his interest piqued.
"I never got a look at what it was because that was when the slaughter
began. Between It and the Child, we did not stand a chance."
"The hands . . ." Miun chanted, "the hands . . . ."
"These hands larger than even my body appeared out of nowhere. Ghostly
hands, they took out five, then ten, and our numbers were dwindling faster
and faster. I felt the icy claws as they knocked me senseless, but Miun
was quicker than I was. She managed to avoid the hands for a little while
longer, but when It finally struck her, I had to watch as It tore her
apart. Miun, my companion for over nine centuries, virtually destroyed
right before my very optics."
"Forgive me, Siren," Chaz spoke up while at the same time kneeling next
to the big android, "but I must know something. The Child, was it a
"How old? What did she look like?"
"She must have been about twelve or thirteen as mortals age. She is
approximately one point five meters in height, has long, blonde hair, and
possessed auditory units not unlike your friend, Nei's. "
The Hunter stood up and walked away. He hoped and prayed that somehow,
someway, his daughter was not involved. He felt foolish having come to
the conclusion that Darkness was creating an army of children earlier when
he knew the truth in his heart. Ever since he witnessed Lian removing her
and Rika died in his arms, Chaz foresaw that his own flesh and blood would
one day grow into a servitor of that which enslaved her.
"Siren," Nei continued, "is there any information that you can provide
us? We're stuck in a rut and we don't know what the Darkness has planned.
It was our hope that you might be able to enlighten us."
"All I know is what was programmed into me. Even though Miun and I
were able to override the programming, we are without knowledge as to what
the Darkness has in store for you and your planet. I did overhear the
Child speaking to its companion. Now that I think about it, I think she
meant for me to hear them. It was almost like she knew that you would be
"What did she say?"
"She said, 'When the Light is gone from Algo and its children are
plunged into Darkness, the Master will return and the universe will fall
under its shroud.' I do not know what she meant."
"Is there anything else?"
"Damn," the Numan swore, "there has to be a hidden message somewhere in
"Siren," Miun's weak voice raised above all others, "Siren, my power
source is fading . . . I need to feel your touch, Siren." Nei watched in
sorrow as the two androids' hands struggled to find each other. Neither
was able to move very well and Miun was getting weaker by the second. She
reached down and guided their hands together.
"Our legacy and duties among the lives of mortals have come to an end,
Miun," Siren said. "Let your processors deactivate. We are required here
no more. To the Beyond, my counterpart. At long last, the struggle is
Nei watched, with tears in her eyes, the passing of a life which had
existed for over a millennia. Miun's body became tense, then went limp.
Like a child's doll laid upon the floor, her eyelids snapped shut and her
CPU shut down for the last time. "Tell me," Siren continued weaker than
before, turning his attention back to Nei, "do you think that androids
have souls?" His grip on his deactivated companion's hand tightened. "Do
you believe that there is a higher plane of existence for us?"
"As sure as my soul has lived for a thousand years in the Light, my
friend," Nei told him.
"My time in this mortal world is growing short and . . . now, after a
thousand years, I, too, feel mortal. I'm . . . regretful that we were
could not be more useful to your cause. I know now that you are . . .
noble . . . as is your cause."
"Let your processors deactivate, Siren," Nei spoke softly. "You are
required here no more. To your Beyond, my friend. At long last, your
struggle is over."
"I am . . . ready. Thank you . . . Nei."
Siren's hand squeezed Miun's for one last time. Nei and her companions
heard his processors and actuators shut down. The clicking and hissing of
micro-components and vacuum pumps ceased and like a with great sigh, his
body shut down altogether. Unlike Miun's eyes, his did not close on their
own. The Numan reached down and closed them for him.
Nei stood up and walked a few paces away from her companions, turning
her back toward them. Chaz went to her while Rune and Hahn remained near
the defunct androids. "Are you all right?" the Hunter asked.
"I will be," she replied. "Just give me a moment."
But Nei was not all right; in fact, she felt more fear now than at any
time in her past two lives. Her eyes turned to Siren and Miun, their
lifeless bodies, and to the battle wounds strewn across their mechanical
bodies. The Numan's thoughts went to those of the androids' words: "The
hands . . ." Miun had said. She felt a cold hand wrap around her heart
and begin to squeeze away her life-blood. Her fear was not one of the
unknown, but one of recognition. As much as she hated to admit it, Nei
felt that the greatest sin of her past was about to be revisited on her
and her friends.
Chaz returned to his friends' sides who were standing above Miun and
Siren, lurking like death itself. He found it hard to look at them while
they were in this state; he might as well have been staring at Wren and
Demi. For some reason, he could never picture them in as nonfunctional.
The Hunter just assumed that they would go on surviving with time. Wren,
after all, had already lived for over a thousand years and there was no
reason to think that Demi would not. The big android was showing no signs
of deterioration or weakness. As long as he kept his systems tuned-up and
in check, he could live indefinitely.
Now that he watched Siren and Miun die, he looked upon his android
friends with a new light. They were as mortal as he was. Chaz never
before looked at them as machines, but simply as his friends. When his
friendships began, it seems that he and whoever he shared it with felt
immortal, that they could live forever. He never even stopped to consider
what it would be like for Wren and Demi to watch the people they grew so
close to die one by one while at the same time knowing that they could do
nothing about it. In an existence such as theirs, one might assume that
avoiding friendships would be the most logical course to prevent
heartbreak. How hard it would be to say good-bye to a new set of friends
every fifty or sixty years. The Hunter had always assumed that his
android friends would outlive him. Now, he was forced to see that their
lives were just as fragile as his.
"What do you think it means to do?" Hahn asked aloud, bringing the
Hunter out of his reverie.
"Well, I think it's pretty obvious," Chaz answered. "It's all about
vengeance this time. Instead of trying to break the seal, its coming
after us, the last people in Algo who can stop it." The Hunter stopped,
letting his companions consider the weight of his words. "We have to
think about protecting ourselves from now on. It's already taken one of
numbers and I'd be willing to bet that it's not going to stop until every
one of us has been destroyed."
"That would be the most logical reasoning," Rune agreed, "but I think
that all of us have learned that logic has no place when it comes to the
"Maybe we should think about this on a more global scale," the Scholar
interjected. "Think about it -- it has been a thousand years since Palma
was destroyed and that was possibly considered one of its greatest
triumphs over the Light. Perhaps now it feels it needs to weaken the
planetary seal again by destroying Motavia."
"Why not just destroy Dezoris instead?" Chaz challenged. "It certainly
would be easier to do considering the planet's distance from Algo."
"The Espers' power and the Dezorians' religion probably has something
to do with that," the Reverent Fifth pointed out.
"You're right," Nei jumped in, coming back to rejoin the group. "I
agree only because I have seen for myself the light that shines from
Dezoris. The Espers and the native Dezorians make their planet a
difficult target to destroy despite their tainted past. The Palmans,
however, have made Motavia into a logical choice for destruction with
their warring ways. Much of their culture is divided in comparison to the
other inhabitants of Algo and their minds are cesspools of unclean
thoughts." Hahn and Chaz shot vicious glances at the Numan and even Rune
added a disapproving stare. "Present company excluded, of course."
"'When the Light is gone from Algo and its children are plunged into
Darkness, the Master will return and the universe will fall under its
shroud.'" Hahn repeated Siren's words. "There has to be a message hidden
in there. What is it?"
"The Light represents everything in the universe that is good," Rune
offered. "When all the goodness is purged from Algo the seal will be
broken. The Profound Darkness will enter our dimension and the age-old
struggle will begin again. Based on the corruption that occurs in Algo, I
could only guess that the same happens in any of the countless galaxies in
the universe. Surely the Profound Darkness must be gaining strength from
them as well."
"And because Algo sits upon the great seal which prevents Darkness from
returning fully," the Numan added, "we not only serve as the Protector of
Algo, but also of the universe as well."
"So when we, the Children of the Light are gone," Hahn mused, "or
'plunged into Darkness,' then the entire universe will fall under its
"I don't think we're thinking about this right," Chaz pointed out. He
spent several minutes keeping to himself and was beginning to rethink
things. "We are not the only Light that shines in this universe. We are
not the seal which prevents it from returning. We are not the key to its
return. The Darkness knows that we may be able to thwart its plans and I
think that's why it sent the Child to stop us." The Hunter paused,
shocked by his own words. It was the first time he referred to his
daughter as "the Child" instead of "my child" or "my daughter" and the
words stole his thoughts for a moment. His companions stood silent,
patiently waiting for him to continue. "We can't be the Light that she
was referring to."
"He's right," supported Hahn, "the Great Light would never place an
onus like that on such a small group of people. While it depends on us
because of the mortal struggle for survival against all odds, I don't
think it would overwhelm us with more than it thinks we can handle. The
plight of mortals to continue existing gives Light some of its strength,
but it is not solely responsible for keeping seal shut."
"Yes -- it is Algo and its planets that keeps it shut."
"I would surmise that even if the Profound Darkness succeeded in
destroying Motavia," Nei said, "the remaining planets of Dezoris and
Rykros would be sufficient enough to prevent the seal from being
"Then why not destroy Rykros?" Rune questioned. "The planet is far
removed enough from the rest of the system and no one would know that it
had been destroyed or remember its passing."
"Because Rykros is a bastion of Light. LaRoof and everything that
exists on that planet are pure beings and evil does not thrive there.
Just as the Dezorians and Espers keep their planet from being destroyed,
so does LaRoof and its comrades."
"Then how can the Profound Darkness possibly hope to destroy the seal?"
asked Hahn, his turn to question the Numan. "It seems to me that even if
it manages to destroy all life on Motavia and Dezoris, Rykros would
continue to keep it sealed away for eternity. LaRoof is not mortal and
has been existing on its planet ever since its creation. Would the
Darkness then divert all of its effort into destroying it?"
"I think that because life itself is not the only factor concerning the
strength of the seal, it would have to completely destroy the planets as
well, just like it did with Palma. Once the difficult task of destroying
both life and planets is complete, the seal will have weakened enough for
it to reach its power into different parts of the universe and gain
strength from outside sources. Once it is strong enough, it would
probably just incorporate the planet as one of its conquests and remove
the seal itself."
"So," Chaz spoke again, "this is what we have determined so far: The
combination of both life and planets adds to the strength of the seal and
that we are not the only targets. We're not getting anywhere, people.
The answer has to be in what Siren repeated to us. Maybe we're
"'When the Light is gone from Algo . . .'" the Reverent Fifth thought
out loud. "Surely the Darkness would not expect us to simply lay down and
die? It must know that we would fight to the very end."
"No! No! No!" the Hunter fumed, frustrated that they had not yet
discovered the answer that they were searching for. "We are not the
'Light' that it's referring to! Damn, my head hurts!"
"Maybe we should return and discuss this with the others," suggested
Nei. "Perhaps they can offer some insight on the subject that we do not
"I don't think so," Hahn disagreed. "By taking this back to them we
only add five more opinions on the subject and it will be harder to sift
through all of them. No, the answer lies here, with us. We're just not
searching hard enough or, as Chaz suggested, we are searching too hard."
"You're right," Rune concurred, "the answer is here, just waiting to be
found. Now, if only it would stop playing hide-and-seek with us . . . ."
"It will probably decide to try and destroy us first -- wait a second,
Chaz, don't say anything. I'm just hypothesizing. Because we are
considered to be the Protectors of Algo, it will be easier for it to
target the rest of life on Motavia, then the planet itself. Once that
part of the seal is broken, I would think that it would move on to
Dezoris. Somehow, someway, it will try and annihilate all life there,
perhaps with natural catastrophes. If not that, then maybe with
pestilence or famine. When those Lights are gone from Algo, all of its
children will be plunged into Darkness."
"It's so logical," commented Chaz, "and yet illogical. It's an answer,
but not the answer. I'm beginning to talk like Wren."
"How can we expect do defend ourselves and everything else when we
can't even figure out the meaning of a simple statement?"
The Hunter walked away from his companions and felt like pulling his
hair out by the roots. The intelligence in these individuals was great
and yet they could not put the pieces of a simple puzzle together. Hahn,
Nei, and Rune continued to discuss among themselves and did not even seem
aware of his departure. He was beginning to think that maybe their
intelligence was too great to see what was plain as day. Chaz suggested
before that he thought they were thinking too hard, that they were
straining their minds too much. Nei, whose soul was over a thousand
years-old, was just as confused as any of them and she was fighting for
answers. Rune, through all his wisdom, could not offer a feasible
thought. Hahn, educated Scholar of Motavia Academy, could not make sense
of any of their questions.
So what if they were overanalyzing? What could the Child's statement
"It's too dark in here," the Scholar observed. "A little more light
would be nice."
Something about what Hahn said made sense. It was the first thing
anyone had said that did. Light, dark -- both were concepts and not
literal terms. The answer had to be in that, Chaz hoped. Light and dark
-- the difference between day and night. Both were a permanent part of
everyday life just like eating, drinking, and sleeping. Take away eating,
drinking, and sleeping and an individual dies. Take away light and
darkness and . . . .
"Let's look at this in a more literal sense," the Hunter proposed.
"What do you mean by 'literal?'" asked Nei.
"Well, I was thinking that maybe there was no hidden message, that what
she said was just a simple statement. Perhaps she knew that we would
spend so much time mulling this over that our attention would be diverted
from its true intentions."
"By taking a more literal look at her statement," Rune began, "one
would tend to see the term 'light' as any visible electromagnetic
radiation such as that which occurs when one lights a lantern or what Algo
gives off. Darkness would simply be the absence of any visible light."
"'When the Light is gone from Algo and its children are plunged into
Darkness, the Master will return and the universe will fall under its
shroud,'" Hahn repeated again. "'When the Light is gone from Algo --'
hmm. You don't think that it's planning to create some kind of massive
solar eclipse or something?"
"See!" Chaz exclaimed, excited that he believed that they were starting
to get somewhere. "Now we're beginning to make progress! That's probably
the most reasonable suggestion I've heard since we began this discussion!"
"But how can the Profound Darkness create an eclipse for as long as it
would require to make a significant impact on both planets?" Nei queried.
"Perhaps by placing itself between Algo and us;" suggested Rune, "or,
perhaps, by consuming Algo itself." An uneasy silence inserted itself.
They were now just beginning to realize that all their efforts to save the
planets may have been in vain. "That's it, isn't it? We were so busy
thinking about Algo as the planets that we failed to see that Algo, the
star, was truly the target. I've been noticing how the past couple of day
have been --"
"Then it's already begun," interjected the Numan. "The star, Algo, is
essentially the source of all life in this system, and the 'plug' on the
seal. It causes the seasons to change, warms and cools at its will.
Without the light of Algo, nothing in this system can survive, not even
Rykros. I don't know why I didn't see it earlier."
"Don't beat yourself over the head about it," said Chaz. "There's no
way any of us could have known. Now, what can we do about it? There must
be some way of preventing the Darkness from snuffing Algo out all
together. If it is removed, then no amount of Esper power or Dezorian
religion will be able to save us. Within a matter of weeks we will all
have perished and it will have no opposition. The Profound Darkness will
break the seal and all the universe will fall under its shroud.
"We have to return to Aiedo quickly and gather our friends. Only with
them, working together as one, can we possibly hope to put a stop to
"Wait!" Nei hesitated, halting her companions who were already heading
for the exit. "There is something else you must know. I've been doing
some thinking on another subject and now I fear I must --"
"What is it?" Chaz, Hahn, and Rune waited patiently for her answer.
Nei saw concern in their eyes plus a twinkling of triumph at having solved
the riddle and had a change of heart.
"Perhaps I'll tell you later. Right now I think the important thing is
to return to Aiedo and inform our friends of our discovery. Surely
they'll want to know."
"Well of course they would want to know," Chaz said to himself. It was
obvious that Nei knew something that they did not; her hesitation told him
that much. In the time the Hunter knew her, he never knew her to hold
back vital information or the truth from them, especially not from him.
One of the things he respected most about her was that she always spoke
her mind, no matter who's feelings she may hurt. The Numan was blunt to
say the least, but she always found some way to soften the truth.
Whatever the reason she had to keep information from them must have been
good. Chaz would have to trust in the faith he had in her to keep the
doubts locked tightly away.
Before they left to exit, Chaz and the others said their good-byes and
their thanks to Siren and Miun. They would have been powerful allies had
they not been murdered. The Hunter thought some things over on the way
out. He missed his wife terribly and would have liked to have her by his
side. Luckily for him, Nei was there. Lucky for all of them.