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Chapter Four

The Agent fought back bile as the stench hit him. The teleport to Zema was easy. So was the hike. Now came the final approach to the Roron trash complex. It was the hardest part.

Not because of danger. There was none. It was because the stench was... Well, just so god awful nasty. All of the trash of Mota was sent here to be mashed into energy and then re-distributed through power conduits world-wide. It was a truly effective system... or at least it would be if the government ever got it running at Mother Brain levels of efficiency.

But the part that really got to Rolf was that some people actually lived in Roron. He shuddered at the thought of waking up in the morning to the smell of all Mota's trash and waste in one place, and then dreaming about the muffins you were about to devour. More bile tried to ease up his throat.

From outside of Roron, you had to climb a ladder that got you to the top. Roron was like a pyramid, built only half-way up, and then resting on the flat plane at the top were two small shacks. The first shack's door was wide open. Rolf looked inside and saw the TransTube that sent you down into Roron or back up from it. This was for everyday people to come in and deposit or, if they wanted to for some reason, to take a particular piece of trash before it was re-energized.

But Rolf wanted the second shack, the one who's door was closed and locked tight. It wasn't really for security, just to mark the door "PRIVATE." This shack also had a TransTube inside, but this one led to the resident sections of Roron, where the workers of Roron lived and worked.

The trash center was in two parts, and each shack led to one of them. The first shack, the public one, simply led to the "New Arrivals" section, Department A-2, or the department for trash that had yet to be moved to B-2. The second shack led first to B-2, and then to B-3, where the trash was fed down into the huge energizer that took up all of B-4. B-5 was the quarters for the residents.

Rolf didn't have to break in. He pulled out a key and snapped open the lock to the B-Shack. Closing and locking the door behind him, he eyed the TransTube, plugged his nose, and jumped in.

He rode it to its first stop, B-2. Here, working, were all the residents of Roron. There were three trash handlers, and another man who was handling trash now, but whose main job it was to repair the robots and other machines in Roron.

One of the handlers turned, sucked in air. He looked at the man in front of him, the man that saved Algo from the Mother Brain, and bowed. Rolf thought it was a strange reaction from a man who should be used to it by now, what with living with the Mechanic and all.

The Mechanic turned then, smiled. He took off his gloves, ran a hand through his light purple hair, and fixed Rolf with a grin. Rolf grinned too, and then they both chuckled and met each other half way. Their handshake turned into a hug, and the Trash Handlers retreated into the TransTube on break, to leave the two men alone.

"You're looking great, Kain," Rolf said to him as they pulled away. Kain looked Rolf over.

"And you look like crap," he joked, and they laughed again.

"Like the new job?" Rolf asked as they began to walk towards the TransTube themselves.

"Yeah, it's great!" When Rolf first met Kain, he was an aspiring Mechanic who broke anything he tried to fix. He called himself a Wrecker. After returning from Noah, Rolf made sure Kain got Agent-quality Mechanic training. Kain emerged from the training a Mechanic, just at the time when so many Mechanics were needed to repair and rebuild. "I guess I, uhh, owe it to you," Kain said softly.

Rolf waved it off with a hand. "Nonsense. But if you would like to repay me, you'll come with me."

"What's up?" Kain asked seriously.

"I'll tell you on the way," Rolf said, and jumped into the TransTube.

- - - - - - - - - -

When she threw open the door, her mouth and eyes widened in shock. Rolf fixed her with a stare, his eyes almost coldly still. Then his mouth cracked, and a smile pasted itself across his face. He laughed at her exclamation of "Well this is a surprise!"

"Hello, Shir," he said happily, and accepted the embrace that the Thief offered. Rolf walked into her house, across Paseo from Rolf's own, and Shir offered Kain a hug as well. He accepted and Shir followed him in, closing the door behind her.

"Take a seat!" she said to the men, but Rolf stood.

"I'm afraid we're not here socially. We need your help."

She folded her arms across her chest and frowned at Rolf. "Who's we?" she demanded. "The Agents?"

Rolf shook his head, seeing her misunderstanding and correcting it. "No, no." He glanced at the couch. "Maybe I better sit down." He took a seat, as did Kain. Shir grabbed a chair from the kitchen, spun it around, and straddled it.

"A Guardian friend of mine, Kip, has found the location of the Rebel headquarters. They're hiding out in the old Biosystems Lab. We're preparing a strike force to infiltrate and shut them down. 'We' being Anna and myself. This force consists of myself, Rudo, Anna, Kip, Kain, and, hopefully, you." Shir was still fixing him with a stare. After a long moment's silence, she relaxed and rested her arms on the back of the chair. Buried her face in her arms.

"I gave up that killing and combat stuff when we got back from space, Rolf. You know that."

Rolf nodded and silently wished Kain wasn't here right now. Kain and Rolf were friends, but Shir was Rolf's absolute best friend. They had grown up together in Paseo. They had shared anything and everything with each other. In many ways they were the textbook definition of "best friends." Some things he wanted to tell her he couldn't in Kain's presence.

"I know..." Rolf bowed his head. Kain looked to Rolf, his head down, and to Shir, her head the same. He looked back at Rolf and thought to himself what his subconscious had been screaming from the second he saw Rolf in Roron. Something has changed about you, buddy. I'm still not sure what it is but SOMETHING has changed. You're not the man you used to be.

Shir apparently was thinking the same. She looked up at Rolf. Rolf looked back up at her. "But I would for you," she said softly, very softly, and smiled. Rolf smiled back. He needed that -- a little laugh now and then, an occasional smile... All of it would help his mental recovery in the long run. His head was still quite haunted with remnants of his past, mostly of the events that took place on a certain space ship a little over a year ago. Shir knew she had to help him, and even if it meant fighting other Palmans, something she had sworn off of after the massacre on Noah, she would do it for Rolf.

- - - - - - - - - -

"So what's the plan, boss?" Kip asked his leader. They were all in Rolf's living room. Rolf and Anna stood at the head of the room. He was in a full standard Agent CarbonGear Riot Suit, and equipped himself with a pair of blasters, which sat in holsters at his belt. Anna had a pair of AC Slashers holstered and was in a CarbonGear Riot Suit as well, but not the Guardian one. If they were to stick together and teleport at the same time, they couldn't sport Guardian uniforms.

Rudo, Kip, Shir, and Kain stood across from them in the room. Rudo was dressed the same as Rolf, and Kip and Kain both wore costumes like Anna's. Shir had applied a simple CarbonVest underneath her blouse, and twirled knives between her fingers. Kip held a staff calmly at his side, Kain held a Shotgun, and Rudo held a massive Energy Pulse Vulcan.

"Well," Anna said, beginning to answer Kip's question, "we teleport to Oputa, where we rent a Land Rover. From there we drive out into the woods to the remains of the Biosystems Lab building, and, depending on what kind of set-up they've got going, take it from there."

"Sounds good," Kain said, accompanied by the CL-CLICK of his Shotgun being pumped.

Rolf looked over his team, met Shir's eyes. She stared back. The exchange really meant nothing, at least on the conscious level. Rolf had sent an expression of need to Shir, and Shir replied with comfort. Not even Rolf's real or adopted parents would have caught the look. It was an understanding between the friends. But it was subconscious. Neither realized they had done it.

"Let's go," Rolf said as they left.

"Whip some butt," Kip added with a grin.

- - - - - - - - - -

"Kip," Kain whispered to the Guardian, "just where did you get your information that the Rebels were shacked up here? Because it looks like we were totally screwed over."

Kip shot a look of contempt at Kain. "The information came straight out of the mouths of two Rebels."

"And did it ever occur to you that it might have been a set-up?" Kain added the last word sharply, but Kip ignored them.

"The Rebels are here, Wrecker," Anna said, addressing Kain by his former profession. "I... can feel it."

They sat in the rented Land Rover and waited for some kind of sign that the Rebels were, indeed, here. Rudo sat in the driver's seat, Rolf at the ops, Anna in the front passenger seat, and Kain, Shir, and Kip in the back passenger seats. The Rover was parked in forest near the Rebel camp -- the former Biosystems Lab. They had came in slowly, Rolf scanning everywhere for booby traps and other security. Nothing. Curious...

Only a few minutes after Anna said she was sure they were here, two men in Rebel uniforms approached the base. Once they were a few feet away from the building, they reached to the ground, opened a hidden hatch, and jumped into a hidden TransTube.

"Well I'll be damned," Rudo whistled, impressed. Everyone got out of the Land Rover and approached the hatch. Once there, they noticed a lock-like contraption on the door. The Rebels must have opened the door with the thumb-print reader on the handle.

"Back off," Kip said as he pulled a wad of putty from his pocket. The rest of them ran back to the Rover as Kip rolled a detonator into the putty before throwing it down on the hatch. The detonator alone would cause a minor light show -- a firework, for all purposes. But the putty -- made of a mixture containing high amounts of carbomite -- would blow the thing sky high.

And it did. When Kip got back to the Rover, he stared at the hatch, then lipped the words, "One. Two. Three." With his next word the explosion went off. "Boom."

"Let's go!" Rolf yelled to his team. Rudo and Kip reached the hatch first, followed by Anna, who jumped in first.

On the other side of the shaft, Rebels were running frantically in response to the explosion. When a Guardian -- the Guardian leader -- came flying through the entrance tube, they were taken completely by surprise.

She threw her AC Slashers into the room and rolled behind the tube, flat up against the wall. The weapons took out a pair of Rebels, and the minute Anna caught them she rolled to a new cover and threw them again.

That's when Kain came through the tube. The screams and confusion noises were joined with the BOOM ka-CHIK BOOM ka-CHIK BOOM of his Shotgun. Next came Rolf, and the room was filled with blaster fire. It was about this time that the Rebels finally got around to attempt returning fire.

Rolf and his unit dodged easily.

- - - - - - - - - -

"Shir..." Rudo began, grabbing his Pulse Vulcan closer to him, "Jump!"

The Thief followed Rudo's eyes to where giant doors were opening on the front of the Rebel base, revealing their own Land Rovers: ones that were fully armed and armored. Her eyes widened and with a gasp she jumped into the TransTube and the chaos below.

Kip had put away his staff and was drawing out a rifle. Five shots to the windshield of the first Rover bounced off harmlessly. Rudo aimed his Pulse Vulcan at the ground just a bit in front of the Rover. As the blast approached, so did the Rover, until the blast hit, blowing the front of the vehicle apart and ejecting Rebels onto the battle ground, where Kip took them out with rifle blasts.

Meanwhile, below, most of the Rebels had been knocked out and were being tied up in preparation for teleport to the Central Tower for questioning and incarceration. Rolf, Anna, Kain, and Shir explored the giant remains of Biosystems Lab.

"Remember any of this?" Shir asked Rolf. She hadn't yet joined Rolf on his mission at the time they permanently shut down Biosystems Lab, or at least until the Rebels arrived.

"Kinda," was Rolf's reply. He continued to look around.

The whole place had an odor of filth to it. But there was more, or so Rolf thought. He thought he could smell evil here as well. And if he did, would it be all that surprising? This complex is where scientists venturing in cloning had first made a cross between a human and a monster, or more correctly, where Mother Brain made the cross. The creature was a shared mind of two bodies, one human and one monster. Biomonster. Biosystems Lab was immediately shut down. The creature, Neifirst, made another half human/half Biomonster: Nei, the hero that was rejected by her world. Rolf took her in, and she became the sister he never had.

And then Nei died, struck down by Neifirst herself, in the Battle of Climatrol.

But Rolf had never really gotten over the death. The people he killed after that -- Neifirst herself, Dark Force, Mother Brain, all kinds of Biomonsters, the Earthmen... -- they were all in revenge of Nei. Sometimes, the people who cared for Rolf wondered if the level of near-insanity he had reached wasn't due to the deaths of the people of Palm, but due to the amount of killing he had done a year before.

Now he stood, his face an expressionless mask, staring at the old laboratory where Neifirst was originally made. He thought it would be exactly as it was before, in ruins, but it had been changed by the Rebels. It was once again a fully functioning lab, but this time a chemical lab instead of a biological lab.

The Agent came close to a beaker nearby. It was completely sealed, and marked as a hazardous chemical. The poison symbol was on it, and so was a date along with a number: F-5.

This could have been anything, if not for what he found nearby in a cargo bin. Opening it was not easy; it required a blaster shot. Inside, sealed under more protective layers, were more of the chemical marked F-5.

"Hey, Rolf," Kain called to him from the doorway. Rolf turned quickly, fixed his eyes on Kain. "C'mere."

Rolf followed him to a small door off of the main room that they fought in. Opening the door, it revealed a room the size of the one they were just in, only this one had racks filled with the same kind of cargo bins Rolf found in the lab.

Kain led him to where Anna and Shir were, the Guardian holding up a pink vial from one of the bins. "What's this?" she asked. "Doesn't look familiar. F-5..."

Rolf's eyes seemed to go blank for a moment, in thought. Watching him gave Shir a terrible, scary thought. Rolf, it seemed, was becoming more and more like some kind of zombie; his life completely beyond his control. And who could blame him? He'd lost his sister, he'd killed and killed, he'd watched a planet die in one deadly explosion...

That's when Rudo and Kip came flying into the main Rebel hall from the TransTube. Rolf, Kain, Shir, and Anna ran out to meet them.

"What happened?" Rolf asked quietly.

"Their Land Rovers nearly flattened us," Kip spat out. "We barely made it into the Tube in time."

"We did take out a few of them, though," Rudo said as Rolf helped him up to the ground. The Agent told the fellow Agent about their battle and the discovery of the F-5.

"So, what's next?" Shir asked everyone.

Rolf pondered for a moment, then he began to calmly issue orders. "Rudo, you supervise the teleporting of the prisoners to the Central Tower. They won't like it that they've been turned in by the man they want King but that's tough. Anna, Kip -- make yourselves scarce. Commander won't mind that you guys were here -- he understands me -- but the other Agents won't. Go."

Anna nodded. She hugged Rolf and Rudo, and then walked with Kip towards the Lift back up to the surface. They'd return the Land Rover and teleport back to Paseo, where they could re-join the other Guardians in the tunnel headquarters.

"Kain, Shir -- you are both welcome to stay and help," he added. They both nodded. Rolf nodded back and then walked to Rudo. "Have a few bins of that F-5 stuff delivered to dock seven at the Tower, will you, please?"

Rolf walked away after that, but Rudo turned to face him in shock. "Dock seven? What are you planning on doing?" Rolf didn't answer him. Instead he pulled out his communicator and began to inform Central Tower of their situation. A few minutes later, he was teleported away.

- - - - - - - - - -

"All systems nominal. A-okay."

Rolf checked his seat belt one last time. The space fighter Paseo was all ready to launch off for planet Dezo, with a cargo of F-5, just as soon as he got the all-clear from Central Tower Command.

Commander didn't ask. All Rolf had to say was that he had people who could figure out what this unknown chemical was. Unfortunately, those people lived on Dezo. One year ago there were only two ships left in Algo. The first was the space fighter Paseo, a vessel in the hands of the Agents, and the only way to the desolate world of Dezo. Besides, who really went there anyway?

The other was the Gaira Space Satellite, a flying prison that was to transfer Rolf and his companions to Palm to stand trial for the destruction of Climatrol. Something went wrong though. Mother Brain interfered and crashed it into Palm, causing the destruction of the entire planet. Tyler the Space Pirate saved them.

The all clear came and Rolf fired the engines. The Paseo flew off of the Central Tower's roof and out over the city, heading towards Oputa, when its trajectory curved upward and it headed into the atmosphere. Rolf didn't think to enjoy the scenery. The only thing he observed were the controls in front of him.

Soon, he was in space.

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