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The two of them walked inside the cave. Along the walls hung torches that gave off enough light to illuminate the cave”s narrow corridor.

“I am impressed with you, Cyrus,” Elder Phazeas said, glancing over his shoulder. Cyrus looked up at him from behind.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, you”ve taken this all pretty well. You don”t look hurt from your crash, and you aren”t panicking because you can”t find your mother.”

“I”m not some little kid,” Cyrus snapped. “I can survive without my mother. Unless, of course, she is lost and possibly injured, then I have a problem.”

“Ah, you misunderstand me. I was merely saying you are good with keeping calm in difficult situations.”

Cyrus nodded. They continued to walk further into the cave. Cyrus noticed that they were the only ones out there.

“So, Elder, can I ask you about your people?”

Elder Phazeas smiled.

“I would be happy to tell you all about us. We are an indigenous tribe, native to Planet Phaze. We have lived here for thousands of years, harvesting Phazon to give us strength and special powers.”

“What is this Phazon that you keep talking about?” Cyrus asked. “I mean, I know what Phazon is; my mother spent most of her time on the hunt for it, but I”ve never actually seen it, nor will she tell me what is so special about it.”

Elder Phazeas stopped moving. He turned around to face Cyrus.

“Your mother is a wise woman. She knows the value of Phazon, and therefore she wants its powers. She is not merely trying to harvest the element for herself, though, unlike the others. She needs it for something else.”

Cyrus crossed his arms. “That doesn”t make any sense. What does she need it for, then, if not to use as a weapon?”

The elder crossed his arms as well.

“Phazon is not only used as a weapon. It has special, regenerative powers, as well as other powers not yet known to mankind.” He hesitated. “However, the Phazeas are not human, at least not fully; therefore, we do know the uses of our beloved element. We will not divulge this information to the world, though, for it would be greatly misused.”

He abruptly turned and continued walking. Cyrus ran to catch up with him.

“Ok, ok, I”m not here to steal your secrets or whatever. I just want to know why my mother wanted to find it so badly.”

“That is not for me to tell,” Elder Phazeas said. “However, I can tell you why I search for it desperately.” They had reached the end of the tunnel. Before them was a massive circular room, the walls lined with torches. In the center rested a large circular brown carpet, and a single set of stairs led to the upstairs floors. There were at least ten floors, from what Cyrus could tell, and he was sure that even after he reached the top floor, he would still be well underground.

Along the walls were doors, which led into rooms. A quick estimate alone gave twelve rooms on each floor. If Cyrus was not mistaken, there were over…

“120 people live here?” he blurted out. Elder Phazeas turned around and smiled.

“150, to be exact. There are several families living here now.”

“But why are they all inside?” Cyrus asked. Indeed, they were the only two outside.

“We have much work ahead of us,” the elder said. “We are in a crisis, Cyrus.”

“A crisis?”

“Yes,” Elder Phazeas led Cyrus to the center carpet. He motioned for him to sit down, and then proceeded to seat himself. Cyrus hesitated before getting on the floor. After he settled down, he waited patiently for the elder to continue with his story.

“We have a major crisis on our hands. Our supply of Phazon is running thin. Once it finishes, there will be no more left in the entire galaxy.”

“Is that why we have such trouble finding any Phazon?” Cyrus asked. “Is it because it is running out?”

“I wish it were that simple,” Elder Phazeas said, shaking his head sadly. “Our people have limited the trade of Phazon, but there are ways for us to transport Phazon to other planets. If we take over the planet with Phazon, it will now be able to produce the element on its own. This is what we have been doing for the past year and a half.

“The time has come now for us to move from this planet and find one of the planets we took over that is now producing the Phazon we need.”

“You need Phazon to survive?” Cyrus asked. “I thought it was just something you traded for money or used as a weapon.”

“I told you before that we would not share the details of what Phazon can do to an outsider, even one who emits such high levels of Phazon as yourself, but, the answer is yes. We do need Phazon in order to survive, but not as much as before.”

“What do you mean?” Cyrus ventured to ask, but the elder held up his hand.

He stood up.

“I am sorry, young man, I cannot continue further. We must meet with the other elders. I have to show you to them, so we can determine what we are to do with you.”

“Do with me?” Cyrus stood as well. “You speak of me as though I am some sort of experiment.”

The elder smiled. “We will not harm you, Cyrus. Do not worry. Come, follow me.”

He headed for one of the doors below the staircase on the first floor. It was a red, wooden door, as opposed to the stone walls and brown wooden doors of the other rooms. Elder Phazeas pushed open the door gently, and held it open for Cyrus.

“You want me to go in first?” Cyrus asked, hoping that wasn”t what the elder wanted.

He nodded, and Cyrus sighed. He made his way through the door and walked down a long corridor. He didn”t look behind him, but he heard the elder closing the door softly behind him. Cyrus walked as lightly as he could on his feet. The elder was trying to be sensitive to noise, and Cyrus felt he should follow his example.

The hallway emptied into a tiny room, with just a table in the center. Four men and one woman sat with their legs crossed on the floor around the table. The men were wearing the same getup as the elder, head coverings, no shirts and loose, faded pants. The woman was more modestly dressed in a light blue dress. Her blond hair was pulled into a haphazard bun, and several strands hung out in various angles.

Cyrus did not go further into the room. They were arguing about something, that was sure, but he couldn”t hear them very well. He didn”t want them to see him, at least, not without Elder Phazeas.

Where is he? Cyrus thought to himself. He turned around, but the elder was still too far behind.

“Come in, Cyrus,” a voice said from the table. Cyrus jumped, startled. He turned around slowly.

One of the elders had seen him from the end of the hallway. One by one, the other elders turned to look at him as well. The woman turned, and Cyrus nearly fell over.

“Mom?” He shouted in disbelief. He wasn”t sure if he wanted it to be true.

“Hello, Cy.” Samus smiled as her son made his way toward her. He had inherited her startlingly green eyes and blond hair, but he had not inherited her radiating smile. Even though he had so many questions, and may have even felt a little fear, just seeing her smiling at him made him feel like everything was going to be alright.

“Mom, what are you doing here? And why didn”t you get into contact with me?”

“I”m sorry,” she said. He had reached the table, and she stood up to speak with him. She pulled him into a hug, and he did not resist.

“I wanted to contact you, I really did, but there are some things going on here that you don”t understand.”

“I”m not a little kid anymore, Mom,” Cyrus said. “I just traveled through asteroids, watched planets get destroyed, crashed through the mud, and you”re telling me you couldn”t contact me because of things I don”t understand.” He pulled away from her. “Am I supposed to take that? Come on, Mom. Tell me what”s going on.”

Samus sighed and crossed her arms. She glanced at the elders behind her and around the table. They nodded slowly. She turned around and rested a hand gently on her son”s shoulder.

“Cyrus, I am sorry. I understand the dangers involved with coming to find me, and I want to sincerely apologize.” She hesitated. “I didn”t come into contact with you, Cyrus, because I was hoping I would be back before you started to worry.”

“If you had sent me a message telling me you were alright, I wouldn”t have worried.”

Samus sighed again and nodded.

“You”re right, that would have made sense, but I wasn”t thinking clearly. I was just so concerned…” her voice trailed off and she looked like she was about to cry. Cyrus leaned closer.

“What happened, Mom?” she looked up to meet his gaze, and he knew that something was very wrong.

“I have to tell you the truth, Cyrus, about your father….”

“My father?”

“Yes, Cyrus. I met him here, in Phaze. It was wonderful, we fell in love, and we were married, all in less than two years. You were born and everything seemed like it was going to be great. I gave up on being a bounty hunter, your father was starting to move up in ranks here…everything was going well.” Samus looked away. Her voice choked up as she continued. “But then something terrible happened, Cyrus. Your father had his accident and we had to leave but we weren”t told, we didn”t know…”

Cyrus couldn”t understand what she was saying.

“Shortly before you were born, I was exposed to a massive amount of Phazon and survived, while others like me would have been destroyed. However, in order for me to continue living, I needed a steady supply of Phazon. That was the only way I could live.”

“Is that why you spent all of my life searching for it? Because you needed it to survive?”

“Yes, Cyrus. Yes and no.”

“What are you saying?”

“You needed Phazon to survive as well. I had you checked. You could live longer without it than I could, but you still needed it. I never showed any of it to you, but I did have a large supply in the cargo hold. Our supply was running low after 17years, though, and we needed more.”

“But why didn”t you just come back here and get some more?” Cyrus asked. Samus shook her head.

“I could never find this planet again. I searched and searched but I never could return. It was only by accident that I made it here this time. There were so many asteroids in the Elysian atmosphere, so I tried to find a way around them. The trail led me here.”

“The same thing happened to me, except this time it was QZ295 about to be destroyed, not Elysia II.”

“Destroyed?”

“Yeah, I tried to find you in the rubble, but you weren”t there, so I -”

“No, no, you said Elysia II was destroyed?”

“Yeah, those asteroids tore it apart, and they were about to do the same to QZ295.”

“This is terrible.” Samus covered her mouth and turned away from him. Cyrus looked at the other elders. They had been silent during his conversation with his mother, but he had a feeling they weren”t surprised by what he said.

“You guys knew this was going to happen, didn”t you?”

The elders did not make any movements. Cyrus took that as a yes.

“What are we going to do?” Samus asked them. Cyrus placed a hand on his mother”s shoulder.

“Mom, they aren”t going to do anything. They knew these planets were getting destroyed, and I don”t know if that was supposed to happen, but they knew it would happen.” Samus turned around to face him.

“I helped them, Cyrus.”

“What are you talking about, mom?”

“I helped them send the Phazon to other planets. I didn”t know it would destroy them. We sent it all over the universe…it wasn”t supposed to do this.”

“Mom, we can still fix this, right?”

“I”m not too sure.”

“Yes, you can fix it.”

Cyrus turned around. That voice…

“You can fix it.” Elder Phazeas repeated, stepping from the hallway and into the room. He stood slightly hunched over, though, as though he was carrying a heavy burden on his back. He walked toward them, never once looking up at them.

“Elder Phazeas…you can help us?”

“I can only tell you that you can stop this.” He paused and glanced at Samus and the elders. “This whole process is controlled by a computer down in the Phazon storehouses. Unfortunately, getting into the storehouses may present a problem.”

“And why is that?” Samus asked, crossing her arms.

The Elder kept his gaze on the elders as he slowly shook his head.

“There is a guardian in front of the storehouse. One that can tear even the most agile of hunters into shreds before they have a moment to strike.”

“What is this guardian you speak of?” Cyrus stepped forward as he spoke.

One of the elders rose from his seat and cleared his throat, commanding all attention. Every eye turned to meet his, and he gave a small, tight grin.

“The guardian we created fifteen years ago when we realized the situation we were in. It is called

VEDO, and it was designed for the express purpose of destroying dissenters and rebels like you.”

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