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Chapter Three

Paseo was the capital city of Mota. And, basically, of all of Algo. Dezo didn't really count, as the Dezorians didn't want anything to do with the other planet. Algo's former capital was Camineet on Palm, but Palm was destroyed now. Dezo's capital was the city of Aukba.

This is where the office of Dezo's leader, K'Cren, was located. The office was high in the clouds, on the top floor of the President's Building, the giant skyscraper that was Dezo's capital building. (The eqivilant of the Central Tower on Mota.)

But the President's Building was a misleading name, because K'Cren was not President of Dezo, but rather it's dictator. He was sitting in his office, wearing the President's robes and sitting with his back to his desk, looking over the white fields of Dezo. General K'Cren truly, truly loved his planet, and was indeed a good leader. From here he could see what was once Skure, in its entirety. Considering how massive the now abandonded Skure city complex was, it showed how high the President's Building truly went.

He could also make out the Alplatin plateau. From this high he wouldn't be able to see the Esper Mansion, as it was but an ant from here, but he could spot Alplatin by searching for the shimmering blue forcefield that surrounded and protected the plateau. That wasn't hard to see.

A chime sounded and the General turned in his chair to face the door. It seemed to be a mile away; the office was that long and big. "Come in," K'Cren called in Dezorian, the common language of Dezo.

The door opened to reveal a tall, well-built Dezorian. His pure black eyes were mere slits in the middle of the green, oval-shaped face. The nose merely two dots in the middle of the face. The mouth a black slit. His face looked like every other Dezorian.

But his clothing immediately showed that he was something big. His tall kem'pallah, the hats all Dezorians wore to display social status, showed his rank to be so high that only one on the planet outranked him: General K'Cren himself. The uniform this man wore was a brillant red with yellow decorative ropes draped about the neck and at the wrists. Tall black boots nearly touched his knees.

"Kensec," K'Cren called to the man. It was a greeting in Dezo's most elogent tongue, Pennzat, the language reserved only for the highest of social classes. The General motioned the Commander of his army, D'zkot, into the room.

"Kensec, Pai'tekkan," D'zkot called and stepped into the room. After the short march to K'Cren's desk, the Commander went to one knee in an eloquent bow to his superior, then seated himself.

"I am aware that the events on Mota mean nothing to you, Pai'tekkan," D'zkot began in Pennzat, "but I believe something has arisen you may find of interest."

K'Cren waved his hand in a continuing gesture.

"A group of Rebels has arisen in Paseo on Mota. These Rebels are in conflict with the Guardians, and the Government and its' Agents are fighting them both."

K'Cren was silent as he assessed the situation. "What would it mean for Dezo if this inner turmoil on Mota continued?" he asked.

"Our space program is advancing. If new races were attracted to Algo, I believe that Mota would be too busy with its own struggles to deal with alien life." D'zkot smiled.

K'Cren nodded, allowed a grin to show. "My thanks for bringing this situation to my attention. It could prove to be... profitable... for Dezo in the future."

D'zkot stood, and again performed the ceremonial bow. He turned and left the room without a word.

Lucky for the Commander, the General could not see the giant out-of-place grin on his face.

- - - - - - - - - -

Sinc'tekkan D'zkot returned to his own office after his visit to Pai'tekkan K'Cren's. His office was not nearly as large as K'Cren's, but whereas K'Cren's was furnished with only a few paintings and a chair or two, D'zkot's was lined with bookshelves, had a case that contained various weapons on one wall, and a computer terminal and Visiphone on the desk.

D'zkot went to his desk immediately and activated the computer with a hand register and a passphrase in Pennzat. Once into the computer, he accessed the program that ran the Visiphone on the desk, and in the process added security measures and an encryption code. "Secure channel to Mota," D'zkot ordered the computer, again in Pennzat. His light-green-skinned hand with its three fingers and thumb then turned to the Visiphone and punched in a sequence. The screen came to life with a Dezorian symbol, and the words "Secured channel -- Sinc'tekkan D'zkot" below, in Pennzat.

Suddenly, the screen flickered, and on it was a Motavian man with green hair that went past his shoulders. He wore a Rebel uniform.

"Ricktus," D'zkot said in the Mota tongue. He spoke Mota with a very precise, clipped accent.

Ricktus, the Rebels' leader, nodded his head in a bow to D'zkot. "Hello, D'zkot." He seemed to search for the phrase. "Palah."

D'zkot hid his disgust at the Motavian's weak attempt at the Dezo tongue. "Report on the Central Gardens bombing."

Ricktus seemed to sink in his chair. Maybe he was the leader of the Rebels so far as anyone knew, but only two men -- D'zkot and Ricktus -- knew that D'zkot was the true leader of the Rebel faction on Mota, and that Ricktus was merely his pawn for secrecy.

The supposed Rebel leader apparently didn't realize he was silent. "I'm waiting, Ricktus," D'zkot said quietly.

"Umm, err..." Ricktus looked up at D'zkot through the screen, saw a stone cold emotionless face with a trace of fury beneath it.

"Searching for words, Ricktus?" D'zkot spat out from between clenched teeth. Ricktus met Dezo's Sinc'tekkan's eyes on the screen. "Words to inform me that you and your Rebel unit messed up?"

Ricktus dropping his eyes was the answer.

D'zkot shook his head, rambled in Pennzat. "By D'zris, I let this ant with an intelligence less than a g'grat's social status plan a major Rebel activity, and so of course it is a Guardian victory." He looked back at Ricktus, continued on, now in the Mota tongue. "I will send orders shortly for a major operation, Ricktus. By major I mean extraordinarily major. If you botch this next mission -- and believe me, it is more important than anything I should give you -- I will personally make sure you veiw beautiful Dezo."

The Rebel leader looked at his master with confusion.

"Most noteably, our system-famous s'dkini. Torture palaces."

Ricktus's face went whiter than the snow that covered the Dezo ground.

"I... I... I won't fail you, D'zkot. Err, Sinc'tekkan."

D'zkot's mouth stayed a straight line. He cut the channel without a word.

Only then did he swivel in his chair and smile. Shortly after that, his office was filled with maniacal laughter.

- - - - - - - - - -

As the laser blast came in, Rolf ducked to the ground, rolled forward. He let the inertia carry him into a summersault, and in the middle of the roll, unholstered his Sonic Gun. As he rolled again, his feet touched the ground. The timing was perfect -- it had to be -- for the second Rolf felt his feet on the ground, he kicked out of the roll and onto his feet, turned, aimed, fired.

The blast of Sonic energy assulted both Rolf's ears and the Rebel's he fired at. Unfortuneately for the Rebel, it also pierced his forehead. A few drops of blood exploded from the smoking hole in the Rebel's face, and then the Rebel fell.

And disintegrated shortly after that. Rolf called to the computer to end the training program, and the simulation of the streets of Arima vanished as the Agent left the HoloCube.

He had to give Mother Brain credit: the HoloCubes she made were much better than the new ones the government had recently come out with. But getting used to less-sophisticated technology was the only drawback to not having Mother Brain's presence in the space above Mota any longer.

He arrived back at his office just in time, as his Visiphone flashed to life, signalling an incoming call. He keyed the button.

The screen remained blank, but the light on the console showed that a channel was indeed open. "Umm, hello?" Rolf asked quietly.

"Is this channel secure?" came the familar voice from the speaker. No other Agents were around to hear, but just to be safe, Rolf turned the volume down to a minimum. Then his finger explored the bottom of the phone, and pushed open a hidden panel underneath. Rolf had rigged his phone for cases such as these.

His finger flipped a switch, and an internal light in the phone signed that scramblers had been activated. The channel still wasn't completely safe, as Rolf knew the Visiphone on the other end didn't have scramblers running (and even if it did, the channel still wouldn't be 100% safe) but Rolf said "Yes" anyway.

The screen came to life then. Rolf looked at Kip's features. He apparently hadn't shaven yet that day -- a beard of stubble lined his cheeks. His clothes were not Guardian standard, they were street clothes, which told Rolf right there that he was undercover.

"You shouldn't have called me here, Kip," Rolf protested.

"Well just wait until I tell you why I've called you. Can we meet at your house?"

"Why?"

"Because what I have to tell you shouldn't be told except in person."

Rolf understood, and nodded. "Five minutes," he said, and cut the channel and killed the scramblers.

He drew his Sonic Gun, examined the clip. He had fired this one a little in the HoloCube, so he dumped the clip into a desk drawer and took out a new one. Loaded it. Then he went home.

- - - - - - - - - -

As he approached his front door, he turned and scanned the street for Kip. Then a voice scared him half to death.

"Pardon me, but that was lousy. Anyone could have told you were looking for someone."

All Rolf did was open the door and say, "Get inside, Kip."

The Guardian leapt from the bushes near Rolf's front door and bolted into the room. Rolf closed the door behind him. Anna was in the kitchen. "Heya, Rolf, Kip," she said. "What's up?"

"Where's Rudo?" Kip asked his leader. Rudo emerged from his bedroom, which Anna had so graciously allowed him to use to get dressed.

"Yes, Kip?"

The small Guardian leaned into the couch, rested his arms along its the back. Rolf gave him a hard stare from where he sat in the nearby chair. Rudo leaned against the wall. Anna rested her arms on the kitchen counter and watched her friend.

"Boss," he addressed Anna, "last night when I left, I got into the tunnels and was on my way home, when I overheard a couple of Rebels on the street. Apparently they missed the teleport and were stuck here.

"Anyway, I listened to their plan on how to get home, and it gave me what I believe to be the Rebel leader's name. Ricktus. Ever hear it?"

Anna began to shake her head, then Rudo cut in. "He was a Hunter. And I do mean was. He was booted out. Ricktus is a little nutso. A criminal who joined the Hunters to quench his need to kill."

"I could get files on him if he has a record," Rolf said.

"I wouldn't doubt that," Rudo nodded. "The only question is whether or not it's been re-entered into the computer systems since the Great Crash." Rolf trotted into the bedroom. The other three waited. A few minutes later Rolf emerged, with a computer hard copy in his hand.

"Ricktus Tenbern. His current age would be..." A quick mental calculation. "Twenty-four. His parents kicked him out of the house when he was fifteen. First arrested at seventeen. In and out of prison all his life. He got parolled when he offered to join the Hunters," Rolf finished.

"Nice work, Kip," Anna smiled. "You've come through once again."

"That's not it. They dropped hints -- and I used a tracer to be sure -- but I also got the location of the main Rebel headquarters."

That got their attention. Rudo, Rolf, and Anna all snapped their heads at Kip, and widened their eyes. Kip was a little shocked at their sudden, quick response, and it must have shown, as he was silent for a moment. Then--

"Well, spit it out!" Rudo demanded.

Kip looked at him for a second, turned his gaze back to Anna. "Biosystems Lab."

Rolf's response was to go to his room, emerge with his coat. Draping it over himself, it hid his uniform and weapon. "Get geared up, everyone. I'll be back in an hour. When I do, we prepare to leave."

. "Great," Rudo sighed. "Last time I invaded Biosystems, I almost got killed by Biomonsters."

Anna waited until Rolf was out the door before she added, "Well... let's just hope that two's the charm and you never have to go back again."

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