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Prologue

It has been over a year since the Agent Rolf and his friends destroyed the Mother Brain. The planet Mota was thrown into a temporary Dark Age with little technology, and the Government Agents have been busy not only rebuilding the planet, but re-establishing government as well.

A small band of Rebels has arisen, and their goal is simple: they wish to overthrow the government and in its place declare monarchy, with Rolf as King of Algo. Why they would want this, with it commonly known that Rolf is in an unstable mental state after the battle on Noah and the death of Nei, is unknown.

The Rebels are left to be dealt with by the Guardians, a band of protectors now led by Anna. Right now the government on Mota is ignoring the Guardians, allowing them to do the Agents' job of taking care of the Rebels. But what happens when the Agents have restored peace and order to the government?

And what of Dezo? One ambitious young Dezorian has arisen through the ranks of red tape and brass and now holds the chair of Sinc'tekkan, second in command of the entire planet. He is a man with sinister plans and a hidden agenda... and a terrible secret.

As we begin, the city of Paseo is being turned into a warzone, rocked by skirmishes between Rebel and Guardian forces. Commander has called in his best Agents for a meeting.

Chapter One

Commander looked around the table at the men and women assembled. It was an assembly of Mota's leaders, the highest-ranking Agents. He glanced to his right, and saw an empty chair. Figures, he thought with a sigh. To the right of the empty chair sat Agent Price, and to the right of Price was a Quiet Man who did not participate in the casual conversation that floated around them before the meeting began. On Commander's left was Agent Chris, followed by Agent Peter, and lastly Agent Gwen.

Commander ran a hand through his silver hair and stole a glance outside the picture windows that lined the outside wall of the conference room. From this high up in the Central Tower, Paseo looked beautiful. But that was probably because one could not see madness until one was down on the street.

From here he could see the Central Gardens, a memorial park built only a few months ago and only dedicated recently, on the one year anniversary of the destruction of planet Palm. How many had died? Millions? Billions? The park was a small monument to them, all innocents for the most part, and all killed by the Mother Brain computer.

He glanced at the empty chair again.

Odin Lake could also be seen from here. Months ago boats and aqua-skimmers could be seen slashing across the waters but no one left town any more to go to the docks. It just wasn't safe. Sometimes even the cities weren't safe anymore, not even Paseo. These days, the people thought, you leave your house to go to the store and risk getting caught in the middle of a Guardian-Rebel skirmish.

That's why the meeting had been called today. But the Agents sat and waited for their last comrade to show up. Commander didn't think he would, though.

So he reflected on the chaos and panic that erupted after Mother Brain's destruction. Oh, yes, at first there was celebration, for the government revealed to the people Mother Brain's true intentions and the people celebrated at her death, but not for long. Soon, without Mother Brain, every computer system in Algo had crashed. A whole new communications system had to be built. Essentially, Algo was thrown back, technologically, centuries. It was a shear miracle that they had re-built this much in just a year.

With thanks to the Guardians, Commander noted to himself. They kept the people under control and out of revolution during the Great Panic time, reassuring them the government could handle things, all the while probably not completely believing it themselves. And now that they were out of the Panic, Commander didn't know what he should do with the Guardians. They were vigilantes, basically, but they had good intentions and with the Rebels around and the Agents busy, they were needed. They were staying underground now, and all the reports that came across Commander's desk said that all they were trying to do was eliminate the Rebel group that was also living underground. The Rebels want to overthrow this government, it seems, and the Guardians see that as a threat to the people.

With another glance to the empty chair, and to the Quiet Man who sat with head bowed, it was obvious to Commander that he wasn't showing up, so he called the meeting to order.

"All right," he announced to the people around him, "let's get this thing in order." And with a final glance to the empty seat next to him, the meeting started.

"First of all," Commander said, after the roll had been called, and Commander had noted on his sheet the man who's empty seat he glanced at, "what to do with the Rebels?"

"That's simple," Chris said, looking at the others. The others all looked back to Chris, except the Quiet Man, who seemed to be involved in a careful examination of the table. "We send Agents undercover and underground, find their base, and blow 'em away."

Price grunted. Peter spoke up. "Good idea. But 'blow 'em away'? Sounds real professional," he chuckled. Peter went off in a giggle of laughter. Chris smiled, a smile that said You just wait, buddy. You just wait.

Gwen shook her head. She briefly thought that with she being the only female in the room it may also be she was the only sentient being, har de har har. "What about the Guardians? They're already going after the Rebels as it is now. Why not let them continue while we here in the government work on putting Mota back together?"

Quiet Man nodded, silently. That was the way to go, and he knew it. But he could never convince them, even he and Gwen put together. It just wasn't a popular idea anywhere. Heck, not even all of the townspeople liked the Guardians, and, ironically, the townspeople were the reason the Guardians were formed: to protect the townspeople, first from over-zealous Biomonster Hunters; then, during the Panic, from themselves; and now, from the Rebels. But the Guardians still hung in there, and that showed courage. They were okay in the Quiet Man's eye, but not for that reason alone.

"The Guardians," Price began, "are vigilantes. A whole underground unit of them. Thank God that the people still have faith in the government, and they haven't started siding with the Guardians, or worse yet, the Rebels."

"Some have, to a degree," Commander said. He wasn't giving out any news, but they all looked at him the same, even the quiet man. "I mean it is the Rebels who want a monarchy in place of the current government, if memory serves me. There are some people who have started to think that might be the right thing... if the right man, or woman," he added with a nod to Gwen, "was in the big chair."

And everyone in the room knew who it was they wanted. This time everyone glanced at the empty chair, and thought about the man who was supposed to sit in it.

The Agent named Rolf.

"With full apologies to Mister Rolf," Price began quietly, "that would be... bad. To say the least."

Everyone nodded to that. Even Commander, even the Quiet Man. Then Peter broke out laughing.

"No," he laughed sarcastically. "It'd only send Mota, and all of Algo for that matter, straight into a Dark Age. You'd probably think Dark Force was awake and at it again the way things would sink! Rolf's insane. Period. He's a loony, at least, you know, after... he came back from his little trip into outer space."

Commander made a few notes to demerit Peter for conduct, and was about to put him into line himself when the Quiet Man spoke.

"Pardon me, Commander." The Quiet Man put his eyes on Peter. "And excuse me, Peter," the Agent Rudolf Steiner, called Rudo by his friends, said, "but you have absolutely no idea of what went on up there on that spacecraft."

Peter returned Rudo's gaze. Then he glanced at Commander. "Permission to speak freely, sir?" Commander nodded, and Peter returned to Rudo. "It's all classified, that's why, Steiner. You guys returned from outer space and Rolf went into Commander's office, and when he came out that file was sealed and you, pal, were an Agent."

Rudo smiled, but it didn't reach his narrow eyes, not even by a light year. "You don't like me. You don't like Rolf." Rudo gave him a hard stare, then added, "And yeah, you don't like Commander either, I can see that in your eyes." Peter glanced at Commander quickly, and when he looked back to Rudo, the Hunter turned Agent had a different kind of smile that said that was exactly what he had wanted Peter to do, and that Peter had just confirmed what Rudo had said for him. "Let me ask you a question, Peter. Do you have a sister?"

"Yes."

"Do you love her?" Rudo prodded.

"Of course!"

"How much?"

"A lot! She's my sister, Steiner!"

Rudo lost any trace of a smile that he had on his face, and all warmth drained from his eyes. "You didn't see her die in battle, did you?" Of course he spoke of Nei, the half-human, half-Biomonster being that he met on his journey with Rolf one year ago. "And you didn't just see her die, you didn't see her die for a world that rejected her. I'm going to say something to you, I'm only going to say it once, and it will never leave this room. Nei was the bravest person I ever knew. She was rejected by her world, and still she fought for it... died for it."

He paused for a second, then began again, in a quieter tone. "I loved my wife. And Liz loved me. Rolf loved Nei. And Nei loved him. Liz may have been my wife, but our love did not reach as much -- was not as deep -- as the brother-and-sister-like love Nei and Rolf shared. They didn't know each other for very long, no. But it was there." He paused, swallowed hard. "And then he saw her die in front of his face. And then he destroyed the computer that made her and..."

He glanced to Commander, and then shook his head. What was he going to say? Ohh, yeah, Peter, I forgot, then we encountered an alien race, the last survivors of an entire civilization, in fact, and yes, they attacked us first, but we killed all of them, ALL of them. Algo's first contact with alien life, and they were slaughtered.

Peter grunted, rolled his eyes. "I still say he's crazy."

Rudo stood, his chair flying backwards, and in the same movement drew his Sonic Gun from its holster, brought it up, and placed the barrel on Peter's forehead.

"Steiner!" Commander yelled, jumping from his own chair, but Rudo paid no attention.

"Just for a minute here, let's imagine that even if I pulled the trigger right now and blew your damn head off, you'd still live. What you would be doing is living the rest of your life without something you consider quite vital to your very existence." He sat down, but did not holster the gun. Instead he sat it on the table in front of him, and crossed his arms in front of him, leaning back in the chair. Peter took a good hard look at the man from eyes as wide as the space between Mota and Dezo. His deep blue eyes and the short blond hair. He had never realized it, but was Steiner ever massive! No wonder this guy used to be a Hunter...

"That's Rolf's case, Peter, my friend," Rudo said. Then, finally, he took the gun from the table and holstered it. Gwen, Chris, and Price looked towards Commander with mouths dropped open and practically resting on the table, but Commander was doing nothing. His mouth was open himself, shocked at Rudo's bluntness. For perhaps the first time, Commander truly realized that Rolf was, in a couple words, screwed up. I ain't ever gonna blame him for being late to or absent from meetings ever again, Commander decided.

Then Peter spoke aloud. "You've got some guts, Steiner." His voice was just above a whisper.

Rudo smiled -- turning the sides of his mouth upward would be a better term -- and nodded. "Call me Rudo," he said.

After a moment, Commander spoke. "I think that will be all," he said. With a final glance towards Rolf's empty chair, he added, "Dismissed."

Rudo stood first and was out the door quickest. Peter watched him go. Then he added, mostly to himself, as no one even right next to him would of been able to hear it, "But he's still crazy, Steiner. And so are you."

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