Esther Velez

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Episode One: The Ark

 

In those days, the Earth was no more.

Most blamed it on global warming. It was the only way to explain the fact that the entire Earth had been submerged in water. Experts had cried for years about the effects of greenhouse gases, celebrities tagged their faces to the cause, raised millions in support, and yet, sea levels continued to rise. The inhabitants of the Earth got what was coming for them.

A smaller group believed Earth to be a myth. There was no evidence of the planet, and the only ones that claimed to know anything about it were old folks. This group of self-proclaimed rational thinkers insisted that past generations invented the Earth myth to keep everyone under their control. They disregarded all historical evidence and research, writing them off as falsified, biased works.

But Paige Romano had been there. And after what happened today, she was the only one alive who knew exactly why the Earth was destroyed. The Earth wasn’t a myth, although many were created about it. Global warming had nothing to do with it, although the inhabitants of the Earth were indeed being punished for their actions.

No. Paige knew exactly what had happened to the Earth three hundred years ago because she had been one of eight survivors who had been found worthy of salvation. Packed securely into a tight spacecraft, the Eight launched into the vast expanse of the universe, not daring to look back as the world they once knew wrapped itself in a blue blanket of water.

Paige had watched as one of the Eight worthy souls faded into the very pit of destruction they had been saved from. Evil, she realized, had not been eradicated. Despite all her best efforts, the dawn of a new era of civilization rose against the backdrop of murdered flesh.

And now, here she was, three hundred years later, an old woman, the last survivor of the Eight. Already she had seen the disintegration of society. Those who once knew the truth traded it for a tempting lie. Anger and hatred quelled their hunger for blood, but given a few more centuries, Paige knew the people of the Sagedell System would be no more. Like Earth, they would be subject to the wrath of –

“Excuse me.” A hand touched her elbow, anchoring her thoughts in the here and now. She turned around slowly. It was one of the young men from Adrian’s funeral.

Paige eyed him. He wore a simple white tunic layered over matching trousers. Around his neck he wore a round medallion with a dragon carved in the center. Her hand flew to her neck, which bore the same necklace.

The young man smiled, revealing straight white teeth.

“Yes, Paige Romano, I know who you are.” He extended a hand to her. “My name is Alasteir Moshiri. It is an honor to finally meet you.”

She shook his hand slowly, studying his face. Something about him was familiar to her, but she couldn’t quite place it.

“I was deeply saddened to hear of Adrian’s death,” the young man continued, looking away for a moment. “I am doing research into the planet Earth, and I had hoped for a chance to speak with him.”

Suddenly, Paige remembered.

“You are the young man from the Chestani Research Institute.” Paige shook her head. “I thought I told you I would not give any interviews.” The CRI was notorious for its unethical research methods. Under no circumstances would she tarnish her reputation by dealing with them.

“I have broken free from the CRI,” Moshiri said, crossing his arms. “They do not represent the Chestani well.” He paused and held her gaze. “That is why I am interested in the planet Earth. Our founder, Killy Hanrue, lived and taught there. He is our greatest prophet and spiritual leader.” He uncrossed his arms, then crossed them again. “I hoped you would be able to tell me more about him.”

Paige looked away from him. Moshiri had come to the right person. She knew everything there was to know about Killy Hanrue. She had taken charge of the translation of his works when the Eight first settled in the Sagedell System. They desperately needed structure, and his Chestani religion provided it. No one had ever asked her how she knew the man, and she never told them.

But here she had a devoted follower of his, wanting to know the truth. She had kept the truth hidden for so long, she had started to wonder if it really was true in the first place.

“I knew him, yes,” she replied. “What do you want to know?”

Moshiri’s face lit up like a child receiving a gift. He nodded fervently. “So many things, so many questions unanswered.” He paused and struggled for the right words. “I – I have chosen one,” he said, gesturing with his hand. “I would most like to know when the two of you met.”

Her heart caught in her throat. It was not the question she had anticipated. Paige looked at Moshiri again. He was young, obviously a committed Chestani. No one would leave a lucrative company like the CRI unless they truly believed in Hanrue’s teachings. But more than this, Paige could feel that there was something different about this young man. Something refreshing in his enthusiasm. She was more than three hundred years old. Deterioration of the human body was held in check by modern technology, but despite this, she felt weak, rundown, ready to pass on the baton to the next generation. Whatever his purpose in life, Paige knew that the information she possessed about Hanrue would be important to him. She breathed in deeply and closed her eyes.

“I came to know Hanrue on August 26 of the year 2091.”

Moshiri titled his head in confusion. “But that’s the day that he died.”

Paige opened her eyes.

“That’s the day that I killed him.”

 

M Chapter 01

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“Cyrus, can you hear me yet?”

The dual screens flickered as the lone pilot fiddled with the video monitor. The message was coming from over a thousand miles away, and he was having trouble getting clear reception.

That was over an hour ago. Cyrus Aran sat in the MPD III’s control room, replaying the recorded portion of that message. He had done this over a dozen times, and he was still hoping to learn something new.

“Yeah, I’ve got it now.” Cyrus watched as the images on the dual screens became clear. In the recording, he was wearing a dark purple wetsuit, which he wore now. His mother claimed it was a Phazon Enhancement Device, made to attract an enhancing element, but he didn’t believe her. It was just a wetsuit, and even though he hadn’t seen water in 15 years, it made him want to go for a swim.

“Are you ready to record Status Report 009?” Cyrus asked his mother in the video.

Outside of the recording, he studied his mother as she sat in the cockpit of her ship. She was dressed in a full body metal suit designed for space travel. A far cry from the space suits of pioneer astronauts, it allowed for extreme flexibility and customization. Her head was covered with a red helmet, which worked well with the yellow material used for the suit. Most people had never seen her out of her suit, but it wasn’t like bounty hunters had much time for themselves.

His mother was Samus Aran and she was probably the most famous bounty hunter in the entire galaxy. She had finally allowed Cyrus to fly the MPD III his own, but still did not allow the 17 year-old to go on missions with her. Instead, he was informed of her progress through hourly video messages.

The last one had come more than an hour ago.

“Well, I have reached the Elysian atmosphere but I am still a long way from reaching the planet.” The recording played back as it had for the past hour. At this point in the video, he still knew where his mother was.

“Ok, I’ve got your coordinates down…” In the video, Cyrus hesitated, confusion furrowing his brow. He suddenly looked up at his mother on the screen. “You disabled the tracking beam, Mom! How am I supposed to -”

“I didn’t disable anything,” Samus interrupted, reaching for buttons off screen.

Cyrus watched as the recording escalated into a panic.

“Mom, there’s something wrong!”

“Cyrus, I’ve got it. I…oh no, there is something wrong!”

“What is going on – ”

“There’s something out there, some sort of asteroid, I can’t tell, Cyrus. I’m heading back, there’s no way I can – ”

“Mom, what are you saying? Wait, don’t do it yet, Mom!”

“Cyrus!”

The recording abruptly ended. Cyrus resisted the urge to play it again. He had seen it enough times to recite it word for word.

It just didn’t make any sense. He had been over the charts dozens of times with his mother and even by himself. There was just nothing about an asteroid belt or anything of its kind in the Elysian atmosphere. Cyrus wanted to wait for his mother’s next report, but it was getting late. The longer he waited, the more danger his mother could be in, and the less help he would be able to offer her. He considered sending out an emergency signal, but then remembered that it was impossible.

The MPD III had been the first vessel of its kind, a fully operational research facility and extremely fast transport. Unfortunately, it had not been approved by the Universal Research Corporation. Therefore, their research was deemed illegal, and they had spent more than enough time dodging officials who were out to arrest them.

Normally, Cyrus and his mother were against breaking the law, but theirs was a special case. Their research was tailored to a specific element: Phazon. It was rare, valuable, and very important to his mother. Samus had been obsessed with Phazon for years, often visiting dead planets that emitted even the smallest sample of it, just to get a chance to experiment with it. Cyrus had never actually seen any of the Phazon, not in person at least, but he wasn’t exactly sure what its purpose was.

A few weeks ago Samus had detected several Phazon emissions from the planet Elysia II, a remnant of a planet she once visited in the past. They had planned the mission ever since then, which was why Cyrus was concerned when things started to go badly with her.

Cyrus glanced at the controls spread out before him. The MPD III was a high tech vessel, with tons of buttons that didn’t seem to do much. It hadn’t taken him very long to figure out that none were actually needed to command the ship. He reached for a few significant buttons now, and started the recorded Captain’s Log that his mother insisted he use.

“You never want to get stuck out there with nothing to go on but your memory,” his mother would say as she taught him to pilot the MPD III. “Describe everything you see, because you’ll never know when someone will have to play back those recordings once you’re gone.”

“Cyrus Aran, starting Log Number 205. It’s been more than an hour since last contact with Samus Aran, aboard an alternate vessel. She was supposed to check in hourly, and she has missed that check in.” Cyrus paused. His mother would never admit it, but he knew she was reckless. That was why she insisted on keeping the logs, even though they were tedious and annoying. Because she knew that if something like this happened and she didn’t make it, Cyrus would have at least something to go on if he needed to find her.

Which was exactly what he planned to do.

“Computer, chart a course to the Elysian atmosphere.”

The computer responded automatically, and silently. That was one of the things he loved about the MPD III. Most of the other ships in the UPC were run by supercomputers that had personalities and were keen on overriding the pilot’s orders. All he had to do was tell the computer where to go, and it went. Tell it what to fix, and it fixed it.

The MPD III was suddenly thrust into motion. Cyrus grabbed the seat’s armrest and quickly slipped on his seatbelt. The computer didn’t usually move the ship on its own, but he wasn’t worried.

It would take him more than an hour to reach the Elysian atmosphere. He settled into his chair, prepared for the long journey.

He had lived on the MPD III for all of his life. The son of a bounty hunter, he did not have any time for living on one planet and going to school. His mother, Samus, had been his teacher, caretaker, and friend. He needed no one else. There were times when he did wish he lived in one steady home, maybe on one of the planets his mother used to take him when he was younger.

But there are other people there, he reminded himself. He had never really been too good around other people; after all, he had lived in a ship for his whole life, and had never really had much experience interacting with them. Cyrus wasn’t sure if he’d survive for very long anyway if he was stationary. He was so used to the MPD III’s constant movement, that he often felt dizzy and sick when on land.

The ship’s lights dimmed. It was always near 11:00pm when the lights dimmed. Something about a tradition on Earth that his mother liked to keep. She said it made her feel “more at home”. Cyrus wouldn’t know. He had never been to earth.

Cyrus yawned.

As much as he wanted to stay awake, he could not help himself. Years of being put to bed at this time had caused a natural reaction in him. He immediately felt tired, and leaned back in his chair. When he reached the Elysian atmosphere, the computer would wake him. It always found a way to do it, every morning, without fail.

He closed his eyes.

Mom, I hope you’ll be ok until I get there.

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M Chapter 02

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The sound of the computer”s alarm woke him. Cyrus jumped with a start. He rubbed his eyes and resumed command of the vessel. He switched on the Captain”s Log.

“I am now here, in the Elysian atmosphere.” Cyrus paused as he looked out the massive viewing window. The pilot was the only one on the ship with such a view, and he was grateful for it. As the ship plunged further into the atmosphere, however, he wished he could not see anything at all.

“Asteroids!” he cried, frantically pushing buttons on the control panel. “There are hundreds of them, crashing all around me. I can”t see where they are coming from!”

Unlike other planets, Elysia II was unique for having its own special casing around it. Although called the Elysian atmosphere, it was more like empty space covered in a thick fog. Cyrus had never expected to find anything inside of it, though.

“This must have been what Samus was talking about when she spoke of asteroids.”

Cyrus considered turning around, but then realized that there was a strong possibility his mother was stuck in the atmosphere. Or if she had managed to get through, then she was on Elysia II. Of course, she would have contacted him, but he would not hold it to her if he found her there, alive and well.

The radar showed that there was little more to the atmosphere before he reached Elysia II, but there were more than enough asteroids to crush his ship. He performed some quick maneuvers, most of them jerky, but sufficient to get him out of the atmosphere

“Ok, I am out of the asteroids and the atmosphere. Things are starting to get a bit clearer now…” His voice trailed as he registered what he was seeing.

In the space where there should have been the planet Elysia II, there only stood piles and piles of floating rock and clumps of earth. Something had happened here, some massive explosion, which had caused the entire planet to explode!

“I don”t really know what it is I am looking at here, but it appears that either Elysia II faced some internal crisis which caused it to implode, or it was attacked.” Cyrus looked around, but there were no ships in the area. It was possible that hidden inside the floating pieces of rock could be his mother”s ship, but he wasn”t sure. It would take hours to search for her…unless…

Cyrus searched the buttons on the control panel until he found the one he needed: heat seeking missiles. He didn”t actually have to fire the missiles to find a target. If he could just set them up, he would be able to scan the area for any heat. Even if his mother was dead…no, he couldn”t think about it. She was not dead, she could not be dead, and Cyrus was going to find her.

It had been a full hour of searching. No luck. Cyrus flipped on the Captain”s Log.

“I haven”t found anything. Not even a fragment of her ship.” He leaned back and rubbed his eyes. “I haven”t even found anything. Were there even people living on Elysia II? I wonder what happened there, and if I”ll ever be able to find out.” He shut off the log and closed his eyes.

When things used to get difficult, his mother would rub him on the shoulders and tell him to relax.

“Stress is not going to help,” she would say. “I would know. I spend half of my time visiting strange planets filled with creatures out to destroy me. Then I come here and I find the hardest job waiting for me. Raising you.”

She would always laugh whenever she said that, but Cyrus never could. He knew how hard it was on her that she had to raise a child on her own, and continue to take missions from various corporations. He felt he had been a good son. Surely, the two of them had their difficult moments, but they had gotten along well with each other.

Cyrus couldn”t help but harbor bad feelings for his father. Whenever he said a bad word about the man, however, Samus was quick to chastise him.

“You didn”t know your father like I did, Cy.” Her whole face would light up then, and she even sat straighter in her chair. “He was the kindest, most soft spoken man I have ever met. Anthony cared deeply for me, and he devoted himself to you once you were born.”

“Well then, if he cared so much, why isn”t he still here?” Cyrus would shout angrily. Samus would cross her arms then. It happened like this every time. Then, she would shake her head and continue to chastise him.

“Now, you take that back young man. No man can hold back the hand of death. Not even a man as incredible as your father. I have told you this dozens of times. It was an accident. He fell into the quarry where he was digging.”

“That”s why I don”t want to live on land,” Cyrus would mumble.

“I needed to get back into work, Cyrus, you know that. That was why we had to leave.”

Cyrus wished he could see her now. He wished they could go through the whole argument about his father, if it meant he could be with her again. He wasn”t used to not knowing where she was. Even when she went on missions and got stranded, her ship always sent out a tracking beam that let him know where she was, even if only an estimate. He didn”t like thinking that the only person he knew, the only person he loved, might be dead.

It was well into the next day already, at least, by earth time, and he wanted to land somewhere. He needed to speak with someone about Elysia II, to find out what had happened there.

He pulled up an old chart onto the screen. Although more than 3 years old, it accurately depicted the general location of various ports and known planets. Even though new ones sprang up every year or so, you were good to go if you stayed within a five year distance.

The closest port he could see was QZ295. It was almost as large as a planet, but it was noticeably smaller. Made entirely out of metal, it was one of the few ports that needed to supply its anti-gravity equipment. Cyrus was uncomfortable enough on land, but the ports were closer to a ship than anything else.

“Computer, chart a course to QZ295.”

The ship slowly turned south and began to move forward. It traveled through the Elysian atmosphere – this time, there were no asteroids, and made it safely through the other side. Suddenly, Cyrus gasped.

He switched the Captain”s Log on.

“I have just exited the Elysian atmosphere, heading to QZ295. There are massive asteroids coming from the west. There are heading straight for QZ295. I have decided against landing at the port. The asteroids will reach them in a few moments…”

Cyrus shook his head. There was nothing he could do. Even if he got to the planet on time, there was no way he could evacuate everyone before the asteroids smashed the port to pieces.

If I could somehow follow the asteroids…

Cyrus switched the log back on.

“I have an idea. If I can follow the direction of the asteroids, I will be able to determine the source point. If it is a planet that has just exploded, I can find a way to…”

Cyrus wasn”t sure what he could do. He just felt like he needed to do something. There was no way he would find his mother in Elysia II, but he wasn”t sure where else to look for her. If she had gotten out, she would have gone straight to QZ295. But that was as good as destroyed now, which meant there probably was no hope for her. He wished it weren”t so.

His best bet was to find what was causing these massive asteroids to travel at such a speed and in such great quantities to destroy whole planets.

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M Chapter 03

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The first thing he saw was a bright light. He didn”t know how long he had been unconscious. Probably a few hours. Cyrus checked his arms and legs – both still seemed operational. He reached for his seat belt, removed it, and then stood up.

He didn”t remember much of the crash. He was tempted to replay the log he had recorded for the event, but his head hurt. There was such a bright light in his eyes that he couldn”t think straight.

Cyrus had been following the asteroids, when suddenly he lost control of the MPD III. The ship was traveling at such high speeds that once ground became visible from the viewing window, Cyrus was sure the ship would explode upon impact. Somehow, however, the ship remained intact, and here he stood. Alive.

This must be how Mom feels every time she survives a crash like that. Samus was known for her harrowing escapes, and her tendency to survive dangerous situations. He should have felt comforted by this thought, but it didn”t help.

The MPD III had been designed much like the ship Samus liked to use on her missions. It had an escape hatch in the cockpit, which made for easy exits. Cyrus pulled down the hatch now, and made his way to the top of the ship.

From the outside, the ship did not look damaged in the slightest. It sat halfway embedded in what appeared to be mud, but Cyrus was sure it wouldn”t do any harm to the ship. He landed on this soft mud on his bare feet. He had forgotten to put something on them before he left.

“Well, at least I can get some swimming done with this suit,” he said sarcastically. He moved away from the ship, looking around at the strange planet he had crashed landed on. The ground was muddy, and everything was foggy. There were a few trees here and there, but everything else was mostly huge mountains of rock. A puddle of water formed on top of the mud here and there, but it was scarce.

A few birds screeched as they flew overhead. Cyrus instinctively ducked, even though they were nowhere close to him. Harmless looking snakes slithered past his feet.

He wanted to return to the ship a few yards away, to get something for his feet. Even if the snakes hadn”t bitten him, he was sure to reach rocky ground somewhere, and he was sure his wet, muddy feet would not be able to handle it safely. He started to turn around, to head back to the ship, when he heard a noise from one of the mountains up ahead.

A deep cavern was dug inside of it, and there was a soft glow of light emanating from it. Maybe someone lived there? Cyrus had not expected to find any living beings on this island, much less humans. Whenever his mother went places, they were always uninhabited by intelligent life forms. Samus would disagree with him.

“You may not consider him intelligent, but Ridley has a mind,” she would say about one of her old enemies. He was a dragon of some sort, and he always managed to heal himself after she defeated him and came back, without fail, for a second helping. Cyrus hoped he wouldn”t run into anything like that here.

Cyrus decided that the sound was nothing, and turned back to the ship.

“Wait!” Someone shouted from behind him. Cyrus spun around. He wished he had taken a weapon from the ship. Why didn”t he think before he acted?

“Who”s there?” He shouted. A shadow from inside the cave grew bigger as it drew closer.

“There is nothing to worry about, young man.” The voice continued, even though Cyrus still could not see who was speaking. “In a few moments, I will be out there with you, so bear with me, and don”t leave!”

“I am going right back to my ship if you don”t tell me who you are, right now!” Cyrus yelled. “And when I get back, I”m bringing a weapon, and you”ll answer me then, or I”ll…”

His voice tapered off as the shadow disappeared, replaced by a living being. It was a man, well into his forties. He stood tall and was very muscular. He wore what appeared to be a cloth on his head which draped over his neck and a small portion of his back. It was held in place by a thick piece of red rope. Small strands of graying hair stuck out from his temples. His face was weathered and heavily bearded. He stopped moving once he got to Cyrus, and he was a full 6 feet in comparison to his own 5″ 4″. His mother had always teased him about his height, or lack thereof.

The man was shirtless, and aside from the head covering, he only wore a pair of loose fitting blue trousers. They looked faded, as though he had worn the same pair for years. His feet were bare, like Cyrus”s.

“So, this is what all the noise was about. You”re a short one, did you know that?”

“Hey, I will not have you insulting my height, not until you tell me who you are!”

The man chuckled. “You think you hold the cards here, mister? Well, I have something to tell you.” He leaned closer and flashed a broad, white smile. “You’ve got nothing. You land on my planet, cause a huge mess down here that will take weeks to clean up, and yet you demand from me.” He shook his head. “I am impressed with your courage.”

“It wasn”t my fault my ship crashed onto your planet,” Cyrus said. “I was sucked into your atmosphere and I couldn”t handle it.”

The man nodded and gave a little grunt.

“I see. Not many people would dare venture to our planet, though, so it would be safe to assume that you were looking for trouble.”

“I was looking for my mother.” Cyrus shook his head and looked at the man. “Have you ever heard of Samus Aran? Of course you haven”t,” he went on, “because you live underground in some dumb cave doing nothing but pushups all day.”

Suddenly the man grabbed Cyrus by the throat.

“You want to insult me, go right ahead. But I know who you seek, and if you wish to find her, you would do well to calm yourself down.”

“Ok, Ok, just let me go!” Cyrus choked out. The man loosened his grip on him, and he gasped for air. The man crossed his arms and paced while Cyrus regained his breath.

“You said you know where my mother is?” he managed. The man stopped moving and placed a hand on Cyrus”s shoulder. Cyrus flinched at first, afraid that he was going to choke him again, but relaxed when it was apparent that he was safe.

“A few moments ago, I brought you to the point near asphyxiation. You were spitting, gasping for breath.”

“Yes, I was, and what of it?” Cyrus asked impatiently. “You said you knew – ”

“I have been given special powers by my people, ones that I could never explain to you.” He paused and looked at Cyrus. “I am able to detect if a certain element resides in a human being through contact with their saliva.”

Cyrus shook his head, confused.

“What are you trying to say?”

“This element that I seek resides in you. Therefore, you must be one of us.”

“That is ridiculous, I have never heard of you, or your people before – ”

“We are the Phazeas. And you, young man, are one of us. After all, what led you to our planet, if not the element inside of you? It calls to its true home.”

“No, it isn”t true, I”m just here to find my mother,” Cyrus said. “You said you would help me find her.”

“And that I will,” the man said, “but all in due time.”

“Alright, but first, tell me your name. And what is this element you say “resides” inside of me?” Cyrus asked. The man smiled then, and stuck his hand out for Cyrus to shake it.

“I already know who you are, young Cyrus Aran.” He paused while Cyrus shook his hand. He was surprised by the man”s soft grip.

“You can call me Elder Phazeas. And the element that resides inside of you is called Phazon. It is our natural element, here on planet Phaze.”

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M Chapter 04

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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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