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The Gothic prison was quite a small building, nestled in among the mountain ridges. Built long ago, it had seen little use in the past decades. But Lassic's turn to evil had caused an upsurge in its occupancy: most of those 'criminals' who were not killed outright were brought here, or to the prison of Baya Malay.
It was constructed of dark, thick stone and cold steel. Ever uninviting, the large gate at the front was locked solid. As they approached, it occurred to Alis that they had no way to gain entrance. But as Noah strode to the gate, leaving the others behind, she knew what was to happen.
Noah began to gesture, and silently, instantly, the lock on the gate was open. Wonders never cease.
Without saying a word, the four heroes entered the prison; Alis and Odin held their weapons tightly, while Myau pricked his ears and Noah led with his staff. They were in a narrow passageway that turned sharply just ahead.
"Where's the resistance?" Odin whispered. The silence remained, and they crept ever forward.
As they turned the first corner, a small robot stormed into view. It held a blaster ready as it spoke. "What business have you here?" its mechanical voice droned. Suddenly, Odin ran forward and to the left, jumping up onto the wall and launching himself towards the robot. Before it could angle its blaster around to face him, Odin brought his axe crashing down upon its neck, severing away its head. It collapsed, a sparking, smoking hunk of metal.
"I doubt there'll be any more trouble," Odin said. "No one in his right mind would raid one of Lassic's prisons, so there's no need to post many guards. Come on." He now took the lead, leaving Alis to wonder if his comments were meant to be funny. They certainly didn't sound funny.
They faced another long passageway, but they could see in the distance that a side passage branched off to the right. It was moments before they reached, turning the corner, to notice a locked door a few feet ahead.
"He could be in there," Odin offered. "I assume you can open this one too, Esper?"
"Of course I can. It's a simple matter. All I have to do is cast a..."
"Not that I wish to interrupt your monologue, Noah, but I think we'd best make this quick. There's no telling if that last guard may have alerted some companions." Alis' words were true enough. Noah stepped forward, froze again, and a second later the lock popped open. Cautiously, Alis led the way inside.
Before them, in a darkened, dank room, a man sat slumped over on a bench. He was quite old, made older by his obvious lack of food and water.
"Dr. Luveno? Is that you?" Noah whispered. The man slowly raised his head, and Alis could see that his eyes held an eerie emptiness. "Luveno?" Noah repeated.
"I'm Luveno..." came his scratchy response. He looked down again, seeming to ignore the strangers. "If you've come looking for help, you'd best forget it. Leave!"
"Dr. Luveno, it's me, Noah. We've come to rescue you. We traveled to Gothic to find you, and they said you had been captured."
"I said leave... I've no longer the strength to go on..."
"But doctor, we need you. All of Palma needs you. We require a spaceship..."
Luveno's head shot up, a maniacal grin on his face. "You want me to build a spaceship for you? Not a chance! I can't accept such a responsibility. All my life I've lived a world of technology, and look how I've ended up? They imprisoned me once... next time they very well may kill me..."
Noah's response reeked of desparation. "But doctor, it is for all of Algo! You must! Tajim believes it to be so..."
"Tajim? Tajim..." He seemed to ponder something momentarily; silence ensued for an entire minute. "Very well... You are certainly persistant. If you do as I say, I will help you. ...For Tajim..." He rose slowly, as if a tired old man of five hundred years. "Come, let us return to Gothic to make preparations." Noah began to grab his shoulder in assistance, but Luveno resisted. "Do not waste worry on me...I can make it myself..."
The trip back to Gothic took far longer than the reverse, in part because they had to slow themselves for Luveno, and also because night had fully fallen. When they finally made it back to the town, they decided to take the doctor to the hospital to spend the night. The heroes slept in Tybal's house, mindful that the longer they stayed, the more danger the town would be in. They had to leave the next day.
At dawn the next morning, they spoke in Luveno's home; he had recovered fairly well with just a night's rest and some healing medicine.
"I must tell you, my friend, that this plan of yours... I cannot see how you might succeed. Lassic controls the entire planet, and you think to dethrone him, just the four of you? Madness..."
"As you, say, doctor, he controls the entire planet..." Noah explained, "and as such, any large force raised against him would immediately be crushed. But a small group will likely go unnoticed until it is too late for him... or so we hope..."
"And we have the added bonus of a magic user on our side," Odin added.
"Too true, I see. But even so, it is said that Lassic himself controls a dark magic. Noah, you are, for all your talent, still only a student of Tajim. Do you believe that you can triumph?"
"We must, doctor. Or Algo will die. But we will also have quite a valuable item to utilize. That is why we need you to get us a spaceship."
Luveno brought his hand to his chin, striking an unintentional pose of ponderance. "I've still access to the components I need in the mountains just near here... in fact, there is a near-complete ship still hidden there. My assistant and I should be able to retrieve it, if Lassic's patrols avoid the area..."
"We shall do whatever we can to assist you, doctor," Alis told him.
"You'll be otherwise engaged, lass. That is, unless any of you know how to pilot a ship?" Alis, Odin, and Myau exchanged glances. "I didn't think so. You'll need to find Hapsby."
"What's a Hapsby, doctor?" asked Myau. "Not a what, really, more of a who. Hapsby is a robot I created long ago that can fly a spaceship. I lost him several months ago... we were traveling through the forest, and were attacked by a roaming pack of thugs. I'm not as spry as I used to be in my youth, but I managed to escape when they discovered I had no money."
Myau responded, "And they took Hapsby, presuming it was of some value?"
"Most likely, I imagine. I've searched that area a few times since then, but he was not to be found." Alis thought perhaps that she noticed a bit of sadness in his tone. "He was quite dear to me... but to fly the ship, you'll need to find out what they did with him, and bring him back here."
"Can you not merely build another, sir?" Odin wondered.
"Why, dear boy, Hapsby was the culmination of years of effort. He cannot be replaced. And I'm too old to go galavanting around the planets... no, you'll need to find him if you hope to go anywhere..."
"We'll bring him back, doctor Luveno, not to worry. I think I may know where the thieves might have headed." Alis sensed that Noah was not patronizing when he made the promise.
"Very well, then you'd best get going. I'll contact my assistant, and we'll see about that ship. Good luck to you, Noah."
"Live well to you, Luveno."
The four stepped outside. Myau was the first to speak.
"Where are we headed, Noah?"
"To a town called Abion."
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