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Samus took a step away from the Elder.

“You cannot be Tony. You are not him. Tony is dead.”

“Yes, that is what everyone thought.” Elder Phazeas shook his head. “Unfortunately, or should I say, fortunately, the pit I had fallen into was full of Phazon. I absorbed it into my body, but I did not die. Instead, my body adapted to the new material, and I became more powerful than I could have imagined.”

“But that is absurd!” Samus cried. “You don’t look like my husband.”

“Time has had its way with me,” he said. “Besides, you do not look much like the woman I married, but it is undeniable that you are Samus Aran.”

“So you are saying that all of this time, you have been alive, and no one ever told me? The Elders sent me away – ”

“Those blasted Elders do not know what they are doing!” Elder Phazeas (as Cyrus could not bring himself to think of him as his father) spat on the ground. “They locked me away in the hospice chamber for six months, telling me that my wife was safe and that she had miscarried our child. For years I believed that lie. For years I worked with them to create this vicious beast, VEDO, to continue stockpiling our resources.”

“But if you had only been exposed to Phazon when you died–fell into the pit, why does Cyrus need Phazon to survive?”

“What?” Cyrus exclaimed. “I need Phazon to survive?”

“Finally, she tells you.” Elder Phazeas shook his head. “Yes, Cyrus, you do need this precious mineral in order to survive, as do most who live here. How you were born with that need, I have no idea. I can only imagine it comes from your mother.”

“From me?” Samus asked.

Elder Phazeas nodded.

“You have an uncanny ability,” he began. “You can channel Phazon from the ground into anyone you so desire.”

“So I didn’t need to spend those years searching for it endlessly.”

“Is that why we were always looking for it?” Cyrus asked. His mother nodded.

“It was probably because of this gift Elder–that he was talking about that I was able to find so much of it.”

“Mom. Did you really do that for me? Put your life on the line like that?”

“Of course, Cy. I wouldn’t want to lose you. Not like your – ” She couldn’t bring herself to say any more.

Elder Phazeas cleared his throat.

“Cyrus.”

“Yes.”

“This isn’t over. VEDO may have been destroyed, but we lost the key in that explosion.”

“I am sorry,” Samus whispered. Elder Phazeas shook his head.

“No worries. We will find a way to fix this, I know we will.”

Samus smiled a distant smile, almost as though she had recovered a lost memory.

“I believed you were dead. How can we ever?”

She didn’t continue. Elder Phazeas shook his head. Cyrus watched, feeling awkward. Elder Phazeas walked forward and wrapped his mother in an embrace. He had seen her with a few guys in the past, some of whom had tried to make advances on her, but she had never relented. She never told Cyrus this, but he felt that she was waiting. For what, he could never be certain. But now, as he watched her melt in the Elder’s embrace, he knew that she had been waiting for this moment. She had been waiting to fall into the arms of the man she loved once again. Cyrus choked back tears as he watched his parents share an embrace in the midst of the chaos that surrounded them.

A low rumbling broke this wonderful moment. Cyrus felt the ground shake beneath his feet and instinctively reached for his mother. She gripped his arm just as a chunk of earth fell from below his feet.

“What’s going on?” He shouted as she pulled him closer to herself. They backed away from the hole and Tony peered inside.

“It is as I feared.”

“What does that mean?” Samus asked, coming over to his side. He glanced at her, then at Cyrus.

“The foundation of this part of the cave is growing weaker due to those explosions you set off.

“Okay, so does that mean anything to us?”

“Yes. We can get into the resource room through here.”

“Well, what are we waiting for?” Samus dropped to the ground and swung her legs into the hole.

“We need a plan,” Tony replied, putting his hand on her shoulder. “You can go down there, but without the key, we have nothing.”

Cyrus looked into the hole. If his mother hadn’t acted quickly, he would be at the bottom right now, probably dead in combination with his earlier injuries.

But wait, he thought. I was completely healed of those injuries.

His eyes lit up.

“Mom, I think I know how to stop this.”

Both of his parents turned to him.

“What?” Samus raised an eyebrow.

“You have an idea?” Tony inquired from her side.

“Yes, but it is kind of risky.” Cyrus crossed his arms. “I can go down there and absorb all of the Phazon into my body as it leaves the machine.”

“That is out of the question.” Samus climbed to her feet. “There is no way – ”

“Mom, don’t you see? It is the only way to stop this thing.”

“Cyrus,” Tony stepped forward. “If you try to do this, there is a strong possibility that you will not survive.”

Cyrus’ face turned white. “But didn’t you do the same thing? You survived, right?”

Tony shook his head. “Yes, Cyrus, but I am from this planet. It is in my genetic makeup to need this mineral. You are a mere human; you will not be able to handle to amount of Phazon that will enter your body.”

“But, Tony, he isn’t a normal human.” Samus turned to her son, tears welling in her eyes. “You have your father’s blood in you, Cyrus.” She cast a pleading glance at Tony, who looked away. “That has to count for something.”

“Your mother is right.” Tony shook his head and rubbed his forehead. “I have already reached the capacity for Phazon absorption. That is why I have been able to help some of the others with this process.”

“You’ve taught others how to absorb Phazon?” Cyrus asked.

Tony nodded.

“It is not as simple as it may seem. It requires a great deal of concentration and patience–if you are to do it right, that is.”

“Time is of the essence here, Tony,” Samus said, standing to her feet. “We don’t have time for meditation or anything like that.”

“Then let me go in there now and get this over with.” Cyrus peered into the hole, then back at his mother and the man who claimed to be his father. “If this is something that I can do, please, let me do it. I’ve lived my whole life, shuttling from one planet to the next, always on the hunt for Phazon, the one thing that kept me alive. And if I have to die tonight because of that very same thing, then so be it.”

“Cyrus, I am astonished by your maturity.” Tony reached over and extended his hand to Cyrus, who smiled sheepishly.

“I told you I wasn’t a little kid anymore,” he said, shaking the Elder’s hand. Cyrus turned to his mother.

“Mom. You don’t have to worry. Even if you lose me, you’ve got Dad back again.” Cyrus inhaled deeply, drawing as much air into his lungs as he could.

Samus pulled the young man into a tight embrace.

“I’m proud of you, Cy. Know that I will always love you,” she whispered into his ear. He smiled and pulled away from her.

Turning to the hole beside their feet, he glanced in it one last time, then threw himself in before he could change his mind.

The fall was short, and he landed on a few large chunks of dirt and rock. Rolling to his feet, he quickly surveyed his surroundings.

Rows of wooden crates crowded the room, forming a small walkway between them. The crates stretched to the right for what seemed like miles and miles. On his left, however, was a small room with a few chairs and what appeared to be a computer. Cyrus looked up and saw his parents standing in the lip of the hole. He gave them a thumbs up sign and proceeded to walk left, into the small room.

The computer screen blipped and Cyrus caught his breath, startled. The computer was connected to a thick pipe which cut through the ceiling with small extending pipe that ran into each of the crates. Flowing through each of these transparent pipes was a purplish liquid.

Phazon, Cyrus thought to himself. He walked toward the computer. Small drawings on the screen dictated exactly how the machine worked. It collected the Phazon from the storage crates and transferred it into the computer, which compressed the Phazon into data crystals before transferring it into the Talman, a massive weapon that functioned as a tractor beam. The data crystals would be decompressed back into the liquid state of Phazon and projected through the Talman and into whichever planet the machine designated.

On the side of the computer was a long circuit board, which provided the energy to control the computer and all of its processes. In the center of the circuit board was a large keyhole, next to a sticker which read: ABORT. Cyrus sighed. His mother’s decision to completely destroy VEDO had not been the wisest. The only way he would be able to stop the machine would be to interrupt the transference of Phazon into the machine. Although he had originally assumed as much before, the reality of what he was about to do threatened to crush him.

Cyrus sucked in a breath and reached for the pipe above him. With all of his strength he tugged at it, but it wouldn’t budge. He pulled and pulled, lifting his body as he did so. There was no use. He was simply not strong enough. Cyrus stepped away from the computer. Suddenly, he remembered. Digging into his pockets, he retrieved the small tube like capsule that his father had given him earlier. He closed his eyes and squeezed, feeling the smooth surface transform into the ridged surface of the broadsword’s hilt. Cyrus grinned and swung the sword above his head in celebration.

The blade made contact with a glorious crack! Cyrus jumped and jabbed the pipe, ten, fifteen times before a crack appeared. Encouraged, he continued to jab and slice, hack and stab until a small hole appeared in the pipe. A steady stream of Phazon began to flow out of the pipe and onto the computer. Cyrus jumped onto the computer and attempted to widen the rupture in the pipe while raw Phazon rained down on him. He glanced at the computer. Phazon compression had halted to a mere 67%. This was good news.

With one final swing, the pipe burst open and began to dump gallons of Phazon onto Cyrus’s head. He shut his eyes tightly and covered his nose and mouth with both hands. There was no use drowning in the liquid before it had the chance to kill him. However, instead of falling into his face, the Phazon absorbed directly into his head, filling his body with a burning sensation.

“Ah!” he screamed as the pain coursed through his body. He could feel his toes start to grow numb, and as the feeling spread throughout his body, he began to panic. His breathing grew sparse and his pulse quickened. If only he hadn’t thought of such a dangerous plan. There had to be another way, a safer way to stop this from happening.

Cyrus forced his eyes open and turned to the computer.

Phazon compression had decreased to only 29%. It was getting there. He just needed to get it to zero, and then he could stop.

Just need to get it to zero.

His mind drifted to his parents. They would be fine, now that they had each other. Cyrus would absorb all of the Phazon, it would stop the Talman from destroying the galaxy, and they would go on to live full lives. His mother and father would be able to see each other in a new light, and they would be able to love each other again. That is why he had done this, even though he knew his mother or Tony would have eventually stumbled upon the idea themselves. Cyrus had seen his mother unhappy and broken for far too long. He had only just gotten to know the Elder, but what he knew of his father showed him to be a great man. Both of his parents had struggled with death, and in the end, they emerged victorious. If he was lucky, his own struggle with death would merit the same result.

Suddenly, his torso grew hot, and he screamed in pain. From the distance, Cyrus saw a dark shadow draw near to him. He could feel the darkness pulling at his mind, begging him to give up. Just give in, it seemed to say. Just give in and you will find rest. He wanted to, so badly. He wanted to let the darkness take him away. It was too much pain to stay awake. Even though his legs, feet, arms, and hands had grown numb, he could still feel the searing pain, and the smell of burning flesh reaching his nose. He was dying, this much he knew, and there was nothing he could do about it.

Cyrus closed his eyes, embracing the darkness. It gently caressed his mind, bringing peace and comfort, but most importantly, rest. He could not feel the pain anymore. The dark had threatened to take him, and now it had done just that.

He sighed deeply and surrendered himself to the dark.

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