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Chapter Nine
Perpetual Midnight

  Trys and BWS-1 stood veiled in the shadows of the Whitil sector of Pioneer 2. They were near the transporter to Ragol, waiting for their comrades to arrive. It was very early in the morning, and the shopping promenade was mostly empty. Iris and Tear were somewhere down on Ragol, and they had to be stopped. A look of nervous apprehension took shape on Trys’ face as she paced back and forth in front of BWS, who leaned back against the wall behind him and folded his arms across his chest. “I don’t understand”, Trys said, “why Master Zoke would do something like that. It trivializes the blade...” Trys thought back to her conversation earlier in her apartment with BWS. She had only just opened a sword box sent to her my her departed master when BWS arrived. They had both been sent identical swords, and holographic messages from Zoke. He had asked them to carryout his final wishes and defeat the danger he sensed beneath Ragol’s surface. The swords were perfect copies of a legendary blade called the Agito, The “Final Sword of the Heavens” it was called, a masterwork of craftsmanship and design. Zoke had used nano replication technology to duplicate the sword, and Trys was having a difficult time understanding why.
  “The blade is only trivialized if it’s use is unjust.” BWS calmly replied. “If the master felt we needed such strong power on our side then he surely thought this entity below Ragol to be strong.”
  “I suppose...” Trys eventually replied, “but still, it’s not right to... copy, something like the Agito.”
  “Perhaps, but dire times require desperate measures.”, BWS replied.
  “Very true” the a voice from the shadows spoke up, “Now, what in Golla’s name did you call me out here in the dead of night for?” A short Numan force wearing black garbs emerged from the shadows. Her outfit was a standard guild “uniform”, trimmed with red. Her hair was a pinkish purple color, but it was mostly obscured by her enormous hat, which had two gigantic yellow fuzzy balls attached to the ends of the hat’s two backwards slanting points.
  “Lola!”, Trys exclaimed “Finally!”
  “And just what was so important that I meet you here at this hour? Why couldn’t you transmit over the datalink network?”
  “Oh yes, do tell” a deep voice from around a nearby corner chimed in. A tall male Numan force with spiked hair and a golden outfit stepped out from behind the corner.
  “Hello XPunanny.” BWS-1 calmly replied.
  “C’mon B, call me Pun...”
  “Okay,” Trys interrupted, “it looks like we’re all here...” Trys quickly looked down the empty promenade and made sure there wasn’t anyone else in the vicinity. She faced Lola and Pun, and slowly explained the situation, about her past, about Iris, photonic life forms, Master Zoke, the Agitos, and the creature called Falz. When she finished explaining neither Lola or Pun said a word. It was several minutes before anyone spoke.
  “So.. what you’re saying,” Lola slowly said as she struggled to make sense of what she had just heard, “Is that you want us to go with you, right now, down to the ruins on Ragol... and do what? Kill your sister?” Trys lowered her chin and glanced at the floor, her eyes closed and she saw brief flashes of the night she and her sisters had escaped from the labs. She quickly opened her eyes and looked Lola and Pun.
  “If it comes to that,” Trys slowly and coldly replied, “Then yes. She has to be stopped.” All three looked at Trys.
  “I’m in.” Pun exclaimed.
  “You know where I stand.” BWS-1 proclaimed calmly. Lola stood silent for several minutes, deep in thought.
  “Right then,” she slowly mumbled “guess I’m going too.”
  “Okay everyone”, Trys proclaimed, “We leave in ten minutes, get anything you need and meet at the Whitil Ragol transporter.” The group split up, Lola and Pun walking off in the direction of the Check Room. BWS left briefly to return to his home and explain the situation to his better half. Trys stood in the cold of the night, in front of the Whitil Ragol transporter. She gazed up at the stars. Images of the night she escaped from the labs slowly drifted through her mind. A symphony of memory flooded her brain, feelings she had long repressed slowly surfaced. Tears slowly began to creep down her cheeks. She did not look forward to what she somehow knew she would soon have to do. A gentle voice pierced the stark silence.
  “They’re beautiful aren’t they? The stars I mean. There’s so many of them, but I never tire of looking at them. Here on this ship... we live in a perpetual midnight. A haze of neon and artificial light our only beacon to guide us.”
  Trys let the images and feelings fade from her thoughts, and slowly lowered her head to look at the source of the voice. A Numan woman wearing a yellow guild “uniform” with cherry red spiked hair was standing no more than a meter away.
  “My name is Ophelia”, the woman began, “I’ve been looking for you for several hours now Solstrys, I’m glad I finally found you.”
  “And what can I do for you?”
  “Well, earlier today I met one of the most rude people I have ever run across in my life. I believe you know her, she looks remarkably like you as a mater of fact...”
  “Iris...”
  “That’s her. A real charmer your sister.”
  “What do you want?”
  “It’s quite simple dear. I know that the principal ordered you to stay on Pioneer 2 and not interfere, and I also know your android friend knocked two army guards out cold. So, it’s simple, I go with you down to Ragol, or I go to the guild and report this illegal expedition.” Trys pondered the situation for several moments.
  “Fine, I have no problem with you joining up. Just know that this isn’t some school field trip we’re taking. We’re going straight into the heart of the ruins.”
  “All the more reason,” Ophelia replied, “For you to take me with you.” From the far end of the promenade Lola and Pun returned.
  “Who is this?” Lola questioned Trys.
  “This is Ophelia...” Trys began.
  “You can call me Ophie!” Ophelia jubilantly responded, “I’ll be going down with you.” Pun stifled a laugh, and wound up snickering rather loudly. A slight flash on the transporter pad signaled the return of BWS-1.
  “What’s so funny Pun?” BWS asked.
  “Er,” Pun looked at Ophelia, who was blushing bright red, obviously realizing the unintentional implications of what she had said in popular vernacular, “um, nothing.” Pun smirked.
  “B, this is Ophelia...” Trys began.
  “Ophie!” Ophelia interrupted, “Do get it right dear.”
  “Right, Ophie,” Trys rolled her eyes, “anyway B, she’s coming with us...” Pun began to laugh uncontrollably. Trys suddenly realized what she had said. It had been too long since she had been around Pun, she had forgotten about his more unrefined personality traits. Ophelia suddenly punched Pun in the gut with great strength, he stopped laughing.
  “Well,” BWS-1 began, “It’s fine with me if she joins us, it’s obvious she can handle herself...”
  “Okay then, I’ve set the transporter to take us to the teleport in point closest to where Tear is. Everyone,” Trys looked at the assembled group of people, “let’s go, and... thanks...” All five walked onto the transporter pad, and one by one they disappeared in flashes of light.
  It had been almost twenty minutes since they had arrived in the mines, and they had yet to encounter a single foe. Piles of scrap metal and broken robots were everywhere. The mines were eerily quiet, tensions were high as if everyone were walking on glass. “I don’t like this,” BWS said, “Something’s not right. I’ve heard the stories about the crazy program, that AI called Volt Opt. Supposedly it regenerates after it is defeated. The guild always knows when it’s back online because the Ruins transporter goes dead. But the mines are off-line, the ruins transporter should be active.”
  “We’re close to the AI now,” Pun said, “I’ve fought it before, if it’s operational I don’t think we’ll have much difficulty defeating it...” True to Pun’s word, the party soon encountered the transporter leading to the AI core, and Volt Opt. The transporter was low on power, and barely functioning. BWS inspected the transporter, and determined it had enough power in it’s buffers to send the entire party to the core. They stepped on and vanished in pale flashes of subdued light. When they rematerialized, they were standing in a circular room, with a giant heap of scrap in the middle. It was the remains of the armored core of the AI, Volt Opt. Someone had severed it’s connection with the rest of the mines, and it had lost power. For now, it was helpless. The only exit from the room led to a descending staircase, an eerie oscillating light softly emitting from the depths. At the bottom of the passageway was a large door, inscribed with ancient writings none of the party could read. The door had been opened, and Trys knew that somewhere, beyond the door Iris and Tear were slowly making their way to the inner ruins, and the creature called Falz.

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