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Villain
By Dark
HOMEPAGE

Presented by: Xenogears: God and Mind

Author's notes.

Here's the sequel to Hero, the conclusion of Fei's past. I've just finished writing it and it's 2:25am. Before I pack up and have some much needed sleep, I'd better say thanks to anyone who bothers to read my fanfics, It's nice to think that these sleepless nights aren't in vein.
     Before you read this it'd probably a good idea if you read Hero. As, though this is a complete story in itself, there are some things which are referred to in the story and which only happened in Hero. I'm sorry if this one's also a little too depressing but remember Xenogears isn't precisely comedy central and I'm trying to keep the spirit of the game going.
     Krelian's experiment write up is in-fact, done as correctly to scientific protocol as I can make it, though obviously real introductions and abstracts would be a little more sane and a little longer.
     Well I'm going to get some sleep and I hope you enjoy reading this more than I enjoyed writing it ---- except for the soppy ending of course… Aaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh! aren't Fei and Elly sweet?

Chapter One
Childhood Trauma


     Kahn awoke slowly to pain, consciousness slamming into the comfortable black oblivion in huge sickening lumps like congealed napalm. The pain throbbed and swelled in waves, boiling in his back, stomach, face, shoulder, and most of all in his shattered wrist. It was as if his body was being steadily gnawed upon by the teeth of a vampire's, poison tipped fangs squeezing into his veins. But Kahn was used to pain --- if not this much. So he grabbed the vampire by the throat and started to try and filter other sensations through the screen of agony.
     He was lying on his back, a soft surface pressing into his back and the side of his head, there was the steady thrum of an engine and the distant swerves of travel.
     He opened his eyes to see the night sky streaming past the windows of a small car clouds steadily covering the bright jewels in the night like cigarette smoke from some evil polluter of the skies.
     Kahn's mouth opened to omit a soft sound of exhaustion, it was not conscience only a reflex reaction. Instantly the car stopped and there was a click and the light of a powerful torch made Kahn's eyes squint. The face that stared down anxiously at Kahn was young and earnest, an honest open plane of smoothed lines with two extraordinary bright eyes that danced with an inner light when not clouded with concern as they were now. It was not what you might call a handsome face, merely honest open and young, seeming hardly touched by the 23 years of checkered life and the changing of allegiances he had gone through.
     "Your really bad Kahn, broken wrist lots of bruises, couple of cracked ribs I'll do what I can when I get you back to your place."
     Kahn didn't try to reply as the car swept forward again, he had been hurt before but not this badly. The explosion --- when Seth was killed that had been bad. They had been laying charges in the back of a Solarian transport ship. Kahn remembered the satisfaction as his combo had knocked one of the guards into two others, falling to the floor of the ship in a flurry of limbs.
     Kahn sighed, it was good to remember, to plunge his mind back into the exploits of yesteryear, in some way alleviating the misadventures of the present. They had been laying the charges when one of the fragile detonators had exploded with an unexpected lurch of the ship. Seth ----- a big Shevite with a hook nose and gimlet eyes had been holding it. He had died instantly as the detonator ignited his ammunition pouch. Shrapnel had shivered around Kahn splinters like a storm of flying knives howling past. Several had struck him and dug in like snow foxes building a den. He had managed to crawl off the ship and had got picked up by the Shevat recovery team ---- Karen had been furious, and the episode had cost him a painful few weeks in hospital but nothing vital had been damaged only stitches had been required to patch the warrior back to strength.
     Isaac had been Seth's replacement, all Shevite agents worked in pairs so that the less experienced agents could gain support from the veterans. Kahn could still see him standing in the sunlight that first day, his platinum blonde hair cut short in a military crewcut. Like most ex-Solarian's he wore a special forces uniform with all the barbaric Solarian symbols removed replaced by the badge of the Shevite forces, a square of blue with a stylized cloud in white almost covering a yellow sun.
     Kahn had looked searchingly into that honest face and dismissed the boy as a young hothead, willing but incompetent. How wrong he'd been. Isaac was cool efficient and above all silent. Though he lacked the complex mental training that was as much part of the Chi martial arts as the learning of blocks blows and gear movements, he learned quickly, and his long schooling in Jugend had given him that robotic obedience to orders that in social settings is horrifying but in any precise cooperation, whether building a house or detonating a bomb is vital.
     They had been together now for two years, though Isac had never met Kahn's family. In all that time they had carried out a number of successful missions for Queen Zephyr from ambushing a convoy and freeing prisoners, to stopping the Assassination of major political leader in both Kislev and the thousand islands, it was a hard life, with the risk of death always one step behind, and Kahn had often despaired of spending time with his wife and young Fei, but still he felt that he was in some way helping to ease the world of evil.
     The car turned into Kahn's driveway, it's tires scraping on gravel. Isac had been driving at speed so when he stopped Kahn was flung forward and a hoarse cry of pain was rung out of him as his injured ribs were jerked forward and then slammed back into the padded wall of the seat.
     With gentle precision Isac removed the house keys from Kahn's belt and unlocked the door of the darkened house, Odd Kahn thought why wasn't Karen ----- Then it came back to him through his haze of pain. Karen had been there! Standing like an indifferent rock watching with cold eyes as the dark figure had slowly and methodically attempted to kill Kahn. But her eyes ---- Kahn had never noticed before, her eyes instead of that warm brow he loved so much had been blue, a cold iceberg azure that pierced him through with bolts of lightning fear.
     And there had been another, a youthful evil figure, dressed in clothes the color of fresh blood, his mad golden eyes beaming out a message of religiously zealous hatred to the world, a figure with skin pale as a corpse light, and hair of a brilliant fiery red. Waves of twisted fury seemed to emanate from those terrible eyes like heat from a furnace.
     "Karen." Kahn croaked. Isac had been in the laborious process of carrying Kahn from the car paused, his young honest facing going somber as a judges. "There's nothing you can do Kahn she's -----" "Where is she? ---- wha ---- what ----" "Later Kahn." Kahn held his peace, making a mental shield against the waves of concern for his wife that threatened to break his self control.
     Isac carried Kahn into the house and into that comfortable living room where so many happy memories had been shared. He laid the wounded man down on the sofa, and gently started to remove his clothes. With skilled hands and in complete and utter silence Isac cleaned splintered and bandaged, using supplies from the small stock of medicinal implements that Kahn always kept in the small cupboard in the hall.
     After the wounds were treated as best they could be Isac stood raising one hand. Green light filtered down over Kahn and washed slowly in a myriad spiraling cloud of emerald fragments, washing over the wounded body and injecting it with life. It wouldn't heal him Kahn knew, nor would it revive a dying man but it would help his body recover faster.
     "You better go and get Fei." "Your son?"
     Kahn nodded, he didn't want the boy shocked by the sight of his father in this condition the next morning and it would be easier for Fei to know now than to try and explain things later. Isac returned later a worried look on his face. "I can't find anyone anywhere upstairs." "Fei's room ---- on the right" "No." Alarm bells started to go off in Kahn's head, red signals the color of the hater's clothes rang off and on like klaxons warning of attack. "Danger! Danger! Son missing!"
     "Where's Karen?" Silently Isac left the room, the electric glow of the lamp he had lit winking in his crumpled white uniform, and on the red shoulder stripes and purple lines. He returned walking slowly, something wrapped in a water proof sheet across his shoulders. His short platinum hair outlined his head like a hallow accentuating the plainness of his young face and the darkness in his usual bright hazel eyes. He laid the bundle down on the floor beside Kahn. Tenderly the injured warrior stretched back a corner of the water proof sheet like a lover gently turning back the sheets to kiss his sleeping beloved into wakeful bliss.
     But there was no waking Kahn's beloved. She lay enfolded in the gray plastic like some package from hell. One glimpse was enough, Kahn pulled the sheet across her again.
     Tears came to his eyes as he turned his face away from the bundle, an after shock, as if they could wipe away the vision of the blackened skin, the dull dead eyes, the charred hair that had once been so soft and lustrous under his stroking fingers, those beautiful full lips that he had kissed, now dead and burnt like a used up peace of firewood.
     "What ----- What happened?"
     He asked, but this time it wasn't the pain of his wounds that made his words falter, but the much greater pain from the wounds in his heart; wounds that would never be healed.
     "I don't know. I was just going up in my gear when I registered the biggest Etheric discharge I've ever seen. I flew over to investigate and I found the grass blackened in a huge strip as if some one had fired a heavy duty artillery piece straight along the ground. In the middle was your wife ---- you were over to one side. I borrowed a car and got you back here." "Who?" Isac shrugged, the casual gestured some seeming somehow important compared to the open sympathy on his face. "I don't know." Kahn's eyelids started to droop shut, but before he let his mind sink into uneasy sleep he had one more thing to say. "Thanks." But he never heard the reply.

* * * * *

     The disciple followed his dark master up the hill, stars winked on his red hair and the darkness of night seemed almost a blessing, as it concealed the smile on his twisted face. At the hills crest Grahf turned, an outline of black like a cut out from the inside of a wolf's mouth, shadow upon shadow, with the negative lights of his absolutely black eyes fixed on Id's face.
     "Here."
     He stretched out one hand to a dim house standing at the hills brow. Fei would have recognized it, Fei had spent many hours there, playing various childish games or simply sitting and chatting, in the small but comfortable building a boy called Marcus slept peacefully unaware that he would never wake again. Id looked up to the curtained window behind which he knew that Marcus slept.
     "This will be fun I hope he wants to play."
     The voice that came from that cruel mouth was like the squeak of a pencil on the slate of a condemned prisoner, signing the warrant of execution.
     With one smash Id broke the lock on the front door and as Grahf waited outside the killer slipped in. Like a fox of the shadow's he snaked upstairs to the room where the boy slept, his blonde hair fanned out on the pillow, his face had the potential for handsomeness written into it, lying innocent and sleeping. Id stood over Fei's playmate glowering down with contempt in his golden eyes, he would destroy, he would kill them all he was the hero. He stretched out two hands like the tools of some hellish murderer and grasped the boy's throat.

* * * * *

     Kahn woke the next morning to find Isac sitting a patch of sunlight in the padded window seat Karen had always liked. The young Solarian looked haggard and unkempt as if he had been up all night. Kahn felt a stab of gratitude almost as intense as the pain of his stiffened wounds.
     "Here."
     Isac held out two small white capsules and a glass of water. Kahn swallowed them gratefully, knowing that they would banish his pain in minutes.
     "Anything good in the paper?"
     The idle question was oddly forced between his scabbed lips, but Kahn needed to ask idle questions, to use them as a pain killer for the mind dulling the nerves of grief until his mind had accepted the reality that his son was gone and his wife a bloody corpse. With a strange detachment he noted that Isac had moved her body from beside his sofa and wondered if she'd been buried.
     "Two murders." Isac answered briefly to Kahn's breakfast time inquiry. "Murders!" A sudden wave of foreboding swept Kahn, suppose they'd found the body of Fei lying mutilated or burned out there somewhere like some grizzly end to a child's treasure hunt.
     "Two kids a ---- Marcus Molotov and a Nathan Amytol were killed last night, one strangled the other beaten to death." The names rang a bell in Kahn's mind, a sickening bell like the tolling of a funeral gong ---- a death knell for the dead innocence.
     "Those were Fei's friends --- his best friends"
     Images of the deceased struck Kahn with almost physical violence, the quick clever Nathan and the sensible Marcus, with Fei providing the contrast between the two.
     "Fei's best friends?"
     Kahn nodded, then he sensed what Isac was trying to do. His silent young partner was trying to get him on to a discussion of his son's disappearance in the gentlest way possible. Once more Kahn was amazed at the young man's tact. "Yes ---- Fei's best friends both dead. And ----" He swallowed, biting the bullet, taking the medicine, and trying his best to hold off the tears that glistened in his expressive brown eyes.
     "And Karen?" "Solaris."
     Isac didn't need to finnish the sentence. Kahn knew well what happened to the families of known Shevat agents ---- he had told Karen the danger the night they'd decided to get engaged.
     It had been a beautiful evening, Kahn had been stationed on a small island somewhere towards the equator --- and being only the setting up of a radio transmitter on a remote part of the island he had taken his darling with him. They had been sitting outside Kahn's camouflage tent; probably an unnecessary move but Kahn was a careful man. The sun had been setting into the sea like a huge flaming ball falling into a bath of heated metal. The waves coming into the white beach had been sea goddesses each topped with a ruby diadem. Behind the cent the smell of jasmine and orange trees wafted exotically out to join the fresh scent of the sea.
     "We should get married Kahn ----- properly I mean." "That would be dangerous my love. You know that I'm an agent for Shevat." "What does that matter, I might be in danger of a broken heart if you got yourself killed but I doubt that would change if we were married." Kahn had put his arm around her bare shoulders and kissed her gently on the cheek.
     "It's not that ---- it's what Solaris do to the families of agents. There was one girl I knew ----- her name was Erosa, her husband and child were captured by Solaris ---- They left a note saying that if she didn't provide them with information about Shevat her family would be -----"
     Kahn had paused, he was a honest man ---- sometimes tactless but he couldn't describe word for word what he had read on that note, as he lay on the sofa wounded and afraid for his son it's contents came back to haunt him ----- not just the words but the photographs. But to his now dead darling he had only said: "Hurt them very much."
     He had sighed a gusty sigh like the sea wind, full of bitter salt.
     "Erosa killed herself --- she thought that if she was dead then the Solarians would stop ----- would kill her family outright." "Oh Kahn ---- that's so awful! But if that's what I have to risk marrying you then I will. You risk your life every mission for the good of the world, I don't see why I can't do the same"
     The thought brought a new twist of grief, thinking that that loving woman was dead and gone.
     "Maybe not Solaris Kahn ----- no note and your wife is ------" Kahn clutched at the suggestion like a man clutching at a straw.
     "You're right, Solaris would have left it pinned to the door with a lock of hair or something to show it ---- and I don't understand this murder of Fei's friends." Tears suddenly unbidden sprang into Kahn's eyes.
     "Oh my God! Let it not be Solaris! If Krelian lays a finger on Fei, I swear I'll kill him!"
     Isac remained silent. As an ex-Solarian he had seen Krelian --- and heard the stories that circulated about what went on in the depths of his white tiled laboratory where he conducted "Scientific!" experiments. Prisoners who were sentenced to be dismembered and processed into food in the Soylent system complex often felt glad that they were spared being guinea pigs in Krelian's lab.
     "When your recovered we'll search ---- we can go to Solaris if need be and find out what's happened."

* * * * *

     Karen's funeral was held that afternoon. It was a small private affair, a few close friends, a priest, Kahn in an old wheelchair Isac had found in his attic. The sky was overcast and cloudy, and the church behind the graveyard seemed to lurk beneath lowering gray masses of heavy air. The priest was young and inexperienced and his voice shook as he recited the litany, but Kahn scarcely listened, his big brown eyes were fixed on the light pine coffin in which his wife rested. He didn't hear the condolence of the friends and neighbors either, he only sat and stared as his body healed, tears rolling slowly down his face like a foreshadow of the rain that would soon weep down on the world. The coffin was lifted and like some great treasure, lowered down into the thick soil. "I love you" Kahn's lips whispered as his wife began her sleep beneath the thick brown blanket that would cover her bones until that planet died. He refused to speak to anyone but allowed Isac to wheel him home to the empty house. His wife was dead --- and if Solaris had taken his son he hoped he was dead too.

* * * * *

     The night after Fei's mother had been laid to rest, Id and Grahf began their walk across the fields. They had laid low during the day corpselike themselves. Neither had slept but simply hid in cover like wolves waiting for a kill. Now they were leaving and as he strode through the night the red haired evil that was Id followed his new master hoping for pastures of blood to reap, and a crop of agony that would be slow in the sewing and sweet in the tasting. After all he was the Hero, he was the one who was above all others, he was the good one the one who deserved life whilst all others deserved death and pain and misery.
     "Where are we going? To kill somebody?" "We go to find mine gear, the instrument with which thou and I shall beat this world to it's knees as a mother whips her erring child into obedience." "Oh Good!"
     Those eyes like desert suns danced with the glee of the bullying child who pulls wings from flies and twists the arms of those less fortunate in strength. Grahf did not reply but glided forward like a specter of night, his dark cloak flowing behind him as if he were some grim pied-piper of the shadow's. They saw the gear long before they reached it as a dark and pointed outline of purest black against the clouded stars. As if wishing to show off his engine of destruction, Grahf raised one hand and launched an ether fire attack at a small copse nearby. The trees burst into bloody flame and in the lurid light Id could see the massive gear like a giant vampire. It was black metal and embossed in red which gave it a predatory look, it also had many sharp pointed edges, spiked and pronged like a torturer's hook. Behind was the suggestion of two huge bat-like wings giving the machine an almost gargoyle like appearance.
     "Look mine apostate brother, Look on that which thou and I shall make feared in all kingdoms of the earth. Men will quail from our shadow as timorous rabbits from the path of an eagle do run scurry to their burrows." "Does it have a name? If not I'd like to call it ---- Death!" Id's voice hissed as he pronounced the name, and in the hellish light of the flames the creature of hate rubbed it's pale hands together with unholy joy, the light seeming to amplify rather than dim the blood scarlet of it's hair and jacket.
     Grahf laughed, an obscenely paternal sound which had all of the old devil welcoming the new.
     "It is a fine title. But alas this gear hath alright been ennobled by a title. Alpha Weltall it is named, that is the first universe. In ages past two such were made, This that thou sees and another. These of all gears that were ever forged have the power to become one with the spirit of God. Thou and I shall use the power of God's spirit to destroy first God then the world ---- thou God's majesty wilt ravage much of the world when he awakens from his eons of slumber"
     Grahf straightened, and it might almost have been possible to see an expression of cold resolution on his black steel face.
     "Come, thou blithe soul of youth, I shall teach unto thee the arts of killing, and thou and I will thus be better equipped and prepared to face the challenge that awaits us, the challenge of the slaying of all life"

* * * * *

     The next two weeks were torture for Kahn not from the pain of his wounds but from the shear madness of indecision that gnawed at him like a hungry terrier. Isac was constantly having to urge the slowly healing martial artist to lie down and give the etheric cure he had worked a chance to gather the energy it needed and cure Kahn. But Kahn refused to stay in one place. As soon as his body could take it he paced the house by day and night. He would pick up objects distractedly and replace them. If they had been Karen's he would stand holding them, tears coming to his eyes as he would gently stroke the comb, garment or little momento that she had prized. If the object were Fei's, he would stare at it like a man hypnotized, stare deep into it like a wizard with a magic crystal, as if by shear willpower he could make the toy, or piece of clothing lead him to it's owner. No object was too mundane for these two reveries. A broken shoelace off one of Fei's boots lying in a waste paper basket, a handkerchief of Karen's, her scent still on it, his wife's silver salt seller --- a wedding gift from her parents, the coins left in Fei's money box.
     It was on the 15th day after Karen's death that Kahn found the book. Like most matters that profoundly affect history it was a piece of shear accident, the first small pebble that bounces down the mountain side to begin the avalanche.
     Kahn had distractedly started rifling through Karen's chest of drawers. They were well made of white wood to match the furniture of her bedroom, going well with the light pink coverlet on the bed and pink curtains and carpet. As if looking for a specific treasure Kahn reached one strong tanned hand into the bottom drawer and pushed to the back, the sharp feel of the wood biting into his one undamaged wrist. He blinked as a sudden shift in the clouds caused sun to stream through the open window and dazzle his red rimmed eyes. But like a man in the desert who knows he must keep going, Kahn pushed his hand deeper into the drawer and felt the small hard shape of a cash tin. He withdrew it carefully, wondering if it contained some of Karen's jewelry that he could array with the rest on the dressing table, so that he could mourn over each peace and imagine her wearing it.
     The tin was a standard hard steel model, with one padlock keeping it shut. With out thinking Kahn pulled a small marble statuette --- some long forgotten souvenir, from the drawer and gave the padlock a tap in the right place that would spring it open. Picking locks could be useful to an agent, and it was a skill that all Shevite operatives were taught along with advanced combat training.
     Kahn turned the box upside down on the floor, it's lid gaped like the mouth of a panting dog. Out onto the blushing pink carpet fell a single small red leather notebook --- no jewelry and no money but this one book. For no other reason than curiosity Kahn picked up the slim volume. What was this Karen had hidden away so carefully --- letters from old boyfriends maybe? Kahn felt a new wave of love for her, it would be just like her to hide them away where he wouldn't find them, to attach herself only to him and forget all others.
     With a fond sad smile he opened the book. His brown eyes widened in surprise, his lips shrank back from his teeth and his face went white, his hands holding the book shook like those of a very old person close to death. Then his mouth was open and he was screaming, nothing else just screaming, and as Isac's footsteps ran up the stairs he couldn't tear his eyes away from the kneat rows of text that ranged across the pages like an army in full formation.

* * * * *

     Experiment to determine whether specimen 3601 is Contact of Zohar.
Aim: to assess stimulation of the autonomic nervous system and axon transmission in the specimen and compare results with other specimens of simelar age and Lamb decent (result obtained in previous experiments) to determine if specimen 3601 (Wong F.F. age 3) is the Zohar Contact.
     Introduction: Karen Wong (Current incarnation of Miang) brought the specimen to be tested to see if he is the Contact. If the Contact can be found then his power when awakened could greatly aid the awakening of God, also the Contact will not be able to destroy God and so the purpose of humanity shall not be in vain. I Krelian chief citizen of Solaris, solemnly promise to bring forth the Contact's power for the ultimate Good.
     Abstract: Nervous stimulation probes were used to assess the axon efficiency of Specimen 3601 and the results were analyzed as compared to specimens of similar age and Genetic make up. Using the Krelian statistical analysis test (see appendix 1 for calculations) the specimen was found to have significantly higher rates of nervous efficiency than other subjects, the results were also analyzed graphically (see apendix 2) and the same high level of nervous reactivity was found. It is therefor appropriate to conclude that the specimen is Zohar's contact though further tests will be required.
     Experimental Hypothesis: The tested specimen will have a significantly higher rate of nervous reaction along Axon pathways than other specimens.
     Apparatus: Dendrite Stimulation probe with humation voltmeter to measure point discharge in axons, body clamps to insure subject remains still (the process induces intense pain therefore use of restraints is advised) --
     Kahn read on, still screaming as the full horror of what had happened to his son beneath the probes and instruments of the world's most evil man struck home. He did not understand how his wife could have done such a thing, or what "Miang incarnation" meant, but clearly the death of Karen and the disappearance of his son were inextricably linked, all he had to do now was follow the bloody chain from Fei's cradle of pain back to the destruction of his wife ---- or what he had thought his wife and the place to start that search would be Solaris and the death dens of Krelian.
Chapter Two
Sudden Understanding


     It was a further six weeks before Kahn was well enough to attempt the search for truth. Though the etheric cure had healed his physical wounds in three weeks, Isac insisted that he wait a further three weeks to get back his energy and strength, so for the last three weeks of his confinement Kahn trained and exercised, cycling 26 miles, swimming two miles and running another 6. At night he would engage in sparing matches with Isac, and concentrate his thoughts on producing the Chi attacks that had been so useful in the past. He forced himself to read the entire contents of the small leather book, and then gave Isac the edited highlights.
     Though Krelian's purpose for experimenting on his son was unclear, he knew that it was evil. But the thing that troubled Kahn most was Karen's betrayal of her child. He sat for hours on end, staring at her photograph and wondering just what had been behind those dark eyes, he had loved Karen, and now the vestiges of that love flocked around him like misshapen crows, pecking at his grief. How could she!
     "How could she!!!!"
     His howl of anguish struck the sky with it's pain and frustration. The book mentioned a "Miang consciousness" but what this thing was he could not guess, and how his wife who had always seemed so loving and kind to him could have hurt their only child so cruelly?
     Sleepless nights he spent, remembering a chance word of his son's a
     "Mummy took me to the doctor and I didn't like it" or: "I really hate Mummy" or: "Daddy does mum have to come out with us? She's a devil."
     Each time he had brushed the comment aside, giving reprimand or encouragement as the occasion demanded but now he saw what they had been and cursed himself.
     The one thing that kept Kahn from going completely mad with grief and the frustration at his lack of knowledge was the solid practicality that was built into his character and which had given him a cool head in so many dangerous ventures in the service of queen Zephyr. He didn't know something, so he would find out.They began to gather supplies, Kahn already had a conniving copy of a special forces uniform for each of them along with swipe cards of reasonably high ranking officers. "But they won't help us get to Krelian --- that's level one clearance. We'll have to sneak in." Kahn had nodded in mute acceptance of the difficulty.
     They left for Solaris on a dark and starless night. Kahn held a powerful flash light in one hand, thrusting a beam of light like the sword in the hand of a blind man out into the night. They left the house on foot, walking out from beneath its looming shadow and scouting forward into the dark.
     They walked confidently across wet grass, past the already shrinking strip that marked the place where Kahn had seen that young figure of destruction, and up into a small cops where Kahn habitually left his gear. The two gears stood silent and watchful, camouflaged by the trees and their systems locked out by password just in case anyone came prying. Kahn looked up at his gear, a massive emerald colored monster with a gattling gun mounted on one shoulder, Hern it was called.
     As he settled his muscular body into the grips that controlled each hand and foot, Kahn felt that familiar sense of power, of being higher and stronger than other mortals, of being some benevolent giant, an atlas keeping the sky from crashing down upon humanity.
     Isac was inside his own gear and powering up. The young Solarian had chosen a "White night" type gear, slim and fast and built of dazzling alabaster colored metal. It was not the most powerful gear in the world, but combined with the solid and well armed Hern it was deadly. Athena was it's name.
     Kahn flicked on the various monitors and screens, there was nothing with in scanner range so he powered up and engaged the jets. The two gears lift from the wood with a hawk like grace, skimming along at terrific speed above the sleeping earth. Below Kahn could see the lights of towns and villages snaking away on the dark earth like worms of light.
     They arced south, down across the great continent of Ignas towards one of the great Soylent system outlets that polluted the planet with demi human monsters from the feted bowels of Solaris.
     They landed on the gear pad outside the huge mechanical building, and spotlights clicked on as they came to rest. Kahn put Hern into the landing position and got down moving with the feigned confidence that went with the white uniform, his handsome tanned face twisting into the expression of lofty contempt that all high ranking Solarians held for lesser beings.
     Beside him Isac exited his gear, his face similarly arrogant, the broad bladed short shafted rods that were his weapon of choice gleaming at his belt like the gold flashes on his uniform.
     "Who are you?"
     A voice floated across the gear pad to them, a nervous voice Kahn thought. They turned towards the voice and Kahn rested one hand lightly on the shiny revolver that was holstered at his hip --- though his hands were more deadly weapons than any.
     "I am Colonel Daverk, primary element and special forces member, this is my aid Lieutenant Merik secondary element."
     He spoke in a clipped officious voice and in matchless Solarian --- hoping that he could properly pronounce the long vowels of the flowing language.
     "We require immediate transport to Etrenank."
     A man in the uniform of a Captain strode out into the square, his hair was deep gold and his skin was ruddy. His eyes looked them over with an odd mix of respect, fear and suspicion.
     "What do you need transport for and why? What is your authorization?" Kahn could see Isac's side long glance, this man's line of reasoning was going to get them in trouble, if they gave the wrong password or wrong authorization they would be in trouble. But this was Solaris and in a hierarchy of fear, fear was the best authority of all.
     "Merik! Please take down this man's name for charges of insubordination."
     Isac, wooden faced produced a small note pad and pencil from one pocket, the obnoxious captain's face went white.
     "I am sorry sir ----- I ---" "Your name captain?" The man was visibly shaking as he stammered out his name which Isac dutifully scrawled down neat Solarian ideograms, writing the word "Insubordination" next to it.
     "Transport to Etrenank for the Lieutenant and myself Captain." "Sir I --- please sir I'm sorry I ---"
     Kahn felt a stab of pity for the man, he was starting to visibly sweat as the possibility of being charged came close. Kahn knew that most Solarians lived relatively comfortable lives, but that if those in authority chose they could sentence anyone to pain or death. It was not fair for him to bludgeon this poor official like this but if it were the only way to get to the truth and the whereabouts of his son he would do it ten times over.
     "If you arrange transport immediately for the Lieutenant and myself then we shall forget your little prank, if not, then I think a transfer to the science department might be in order." The euphemism for becoming one of Krelian's guinea pigs almost made the guard faint. "Transport!"
     The captain scurried away and returned a few minutes later wiping his hands nervously on his uniform. Kahn felt that stab of remorse again, most Solarian officers didn't abuse their power but when one did he could have whole regiments of people destroyed.
     "It is arranged sir, come with me."
     The transport ship was comfortably appointed, Isac and Kahn --- or Colonel Daverk and Lieutenant Merik, lounged on leather seats looking idly out of the windows to see the ground of the night lit world fall away. There was the slight lurch as they crossed the dimensional barrier that separated Solaris from the rest of the world but apart from that the journey was smooth and quick. The left the transport in the main square of Solaris, Isac thoughtfully crumpling up the note he had made in full sight of the relieved captain.
     The city of Solaris is one of the cleanest in creation, the buildings are white and the streets don't have a speck of dust on them. They touched down on the exclusive military landing pad in the opulent first class sector of the city. There were few people about, and the wide white houses of the rich first class citizens slept under lights. Ark lamps were hung from the buildings lighting the streets with a warm glow that belied the dead whiteness of the city. Kahn and Isac slipped down a side alley and away from the pad.
     "What now how do we get to Krelian?" Kahn asked Isac nodded to a manhole cover. "Down and through the sewers then up the dust shoot." Kahn paused in the act of checking for pedestrians before he pulled up the cover. "How do you know how to get to Krelian's lab anyway?" "I once had to hunt down an escapee who got out that way." "Did you catch him?" "Her ---- yes I caught her but I was already in love with her so it didn't matter." 'What happened?" Kahn asked curiously, Isac had never given a clear reason for why he left Solaris but perhaps this was it.
     "She was shot trying to get on a transport --- but that doesn't matter now." As if not wishing to continue the conversation Isac levered up the manhole and they slipped down.
     Kahn had been expecting some kind of dark and smelly hole full of putrid water, but the sewers of Solaris were surprisingly clean, a small trickle of liquid ran along their bottom and the walls were white tiles. At intervals small naked bulbs were strung along the wall stretching away into darkness. Kahn followed his young partner along the twisting passage towards revelation.

* * * * *

     A couple of hours before the worried captain had been frightened into letting the Colonel and Lieutenant get to Solaris, Grahf told Id that he would leave him for a while.
     He was standing at the mouth of the cave they had adopted as a temporary home his black cloak billowing. Id sat over a fire, tearing apart burnt rabbit wolfishly with long pale fingers. After they had left the region of Fei's childhood they had come here to the mountains and Id's training had begun. Grahf's idea of combat training was simple, to fight Id until Id learnt to fight back. For the first week Id could barely follow the flickering of the dark gauntlets that crashed into his body, and only by using short blasts of ether could he hold his own. But Grahf was wise to the ways of ether so every shot that Id hurled was countered by the red blasts of the dark man, power canceling power like two waves meeting. But slowly Id's reflexes had gained in strength and his body gained in speed, and now he could last against Grahf for a long combat session. Grahf had refused to teach the young killer how to use a gear until he had mastered the arts of individual combat. Id had hissed and spat like an angry cat, and as he lay curled like an adder in the depths of the night in a small hollow of the rocks, he cursed the unhappy fate that made Grahf the only one in the world who could teach him how to kill, but he was the Hero and he would endure, and when he had sucked the dark man of all knowledge he would destroy him.
     "I shal leave thee on a short errand." Id looked up from his gobbling, the juices of the stewed meet dripping from his pale claws of fingers, his golden eyes filled with speculative hatred. "Where are you going?" "That is nothing for thou to concern thyself over. I go wither I will and thou art powerless to stop me as yet. When thou art as powerfully as I, we shall become one and then shall the destruction begin." Id picked petulantly at the unraveling seems of his red jacket. "I want to kill somebody now!" Grahf chuckled, that sound of blackest night that even made Id stop in his tracks. 'Soon my brother in soul --- soon. But I must away."
     Grahf crossed to the dark form of Alpha Weltall which reared like a night statue of Grahf himself, it's sharp torturer's blades and points ripping up into the stars. He seemed to float into the cockpit and then suddenly he was gone in a rush of night wind that made the flames of Id's camp fir flicker and dance like lovers having one last manic waltz at some infernal ball.

* * * * *

     There are few which unequipped could pierce the dimensional shield of the gate that surrounded Solaris and made it all but invisible from the other side. But Alpha Weltall slipped through the barrier like a knife through butter, red flame surrounding it for an instant as it crossed through the field. It hovered above the night time city like some harbinger of doom, a few gears came out to fight but Grahf obliterated them with a single wave, red ether first surrounding them then exploding them. Ignoring the frequent shouts of alarm over the radio he circled down to a landing pad next to the palace. Exiting his gear he began the walk --- blowing his way through reinforced steel doors as he did so, towards the laboratory and his old friend. He moved across the white floors like a speck of dust on the moon, gliding soundless and deadly like a plague of bad omen.

* * * * *

     Kahn and Isac emerged from the dust shoot --- carefully avoiding fans, and made their way slowly across the shadowy expanse of the Lab. Emergency lighting made small pools of dim yellow on the white tiled floor, and as their footsteps echoed from the harsh pristine walls, Kahn wondered how many screams of agony had ached in that place before them. Yet as they made their way into the light, Kahn saw that some of the just revenge had been met out upon this room of clinical torment. For the equipment lining walls and scattered about the floor, was smashed, shattered, twisted and destroyed. Monitor screens were splintered fangs of broken glass, long steels probes and measuring instruments --- for what unthinkable purpose Kahn could not imagine, were withered stumps of blackened metal, scoured like trees in a hurricane by a storm of Ether. Kahn never knew it had been his son who had caused this strangely apt desolation, yet if he had known he would have only been sorry that the destroyer hadn't taken the rest of Etrenank and all the dark works of the Gazel with it.
     As they approached the far end of the room they saw that an attempt at reconstruction had been made, some of the instruments had been replaced or repaired, and the debris of Id's passage had been cleared from the floor, leaving those cold white tiles behind. In one corner a nannomachine reactor hummed and glowed spilling golden light out into the room like accidentally scattered petrol, awaiting only a spark to bring violence and burning heat. Kahn saw Isac's eyes drawn to a long metal slab with steel cuffs attached and he suppressed a shudder, trying not to think of his three year old son strapped down and helpless enduring whatever mad torture Krelian and Kar ---- and that woman could devise.
     Footsteps began to clip down the corridor outside the laboratory door, Kahn and Isac concealed themselves beneath the table, the heavy base of a computer hiding them from view but allowing just enough space for them to look out and see the tall white coated figure of the chief scientist of Solaris enter the room.
     He stood before the reactor, the golden light giving his smooth scholarly face with those gray eyes like pointing guns a strangely god like cast. His coat and pale hair were turned a flame, and as he raised one slim hand in some strange benediction to his machine, he almost seemed angelic, his many crimes washed away in a flow of golden light.
     Then suddenly harsh ceiling bulbs flared into life, burning down on the white desert of the floor and making the shadow's of the equipment harsh and jaggid like the shadow's of pillars of rock and ancient gears in the deserts of Aveh. All Krelian's godliness evaporated to leave the cold scientist, his distant gray eyes looking soullessly out at the world, his hands like claws of some assembly machine, turning humans into gibbering wrecks and mutated monsters.
     With stiff robotic movements he crossed the lab to a work bench where he began to straighten out a bent probe in a vice.
     "Krelian"
     The voice was deep and resonant, dark as the mouth of a cave and cold as mist. The cold man turned, his gray eyes and scholarly face showing no emotion, nothing! As the dark figure walked slowly into the room.
     Kahn started as the blackness advanced, and beside him he could feel Isac's body stiffen as if for flight. He had been planning to wait for Krelian to leave, then search for records, but now he wondered if he would live long enough.
     Grahf walked into the dead whiteness of the room, and his dead blackness made a hateful contrast --- Death walks like Grahf did then. Those absolute pits of black that were Grahf's sunless eyes fixed on Krelian's hard gray marbles. And for an instant, for the first time in several centuries, a flicker of emotion, the merest iota of unease flitted across Krelian's inscrutable face.
     "Who are you?"
     His voice was clipped and cold as a surgeons knife, evidently he had regained control of himself. Grahf laughed his dark chuckling laugh, and raised one gauntlet fingers spread in mocking solute.
     "I am Grahf seeker of power and destroyer of life."
     He took a step forward as if to intimidate Krelian, but the upright figure in it's spotless lab coat remained unmoved, infallible as an image carved in stone.
     "I come unto thee pain giver and tormentor of the weak. I come to tell thee of mine success in that matter where thy scientific genius did falter as an old man bereft of his supporting oaken staff." "I know who you are Lacan."
     The dark shape seemed to shudder, and the dark eyes behind that steel mask seemed to glow crimson for a second.
     "Lacan? ---- It is foolish to name the winged butterfly chrysalis but thou didst know Lacan."
     Krelian gazed steadily at Grahf's mask and Kahn wondered what strange mischance could placed these two evils --- the dark and the bright on the same side.
     "I will create God and purge the universe of humanity --- and you wished for power?" "What Lacan wished for mattered not, the past is dead and gone to the void --- but thou wilt awaken the first and the last, he that is called the Eternal" "I will." He spke it as a flat statement of purpose. "And I know that is your purpose Lacan to attempt to destroy God." Grahf laughed again and it's echoe was more horrible than any scream that had echoed in that place of pain. "I assay to destroy all life, for I am the dark fire of entropy that shall obliterate the world, and yet thy rode and mine run together I deem, for I canst not destroy God if thou dost not awaken him. And it is to that end that I have come to thy lair, as the hunter comes to the den of the jungle dwelling tiger. For I have accomplished what thou couldst not and yet it was thou that made it possible."
     Krelian stood perfectly still, it was odd, Kahn thought, to meet a man with a total lack of physical expression and body language --- but what kind of man other than a cold eyed machine could destroy innocence.
     "Do not digress Lacan, what have you done"
     Kahn pricked up his ears, sure that in the next burst of arcane language he would gain information about his son.
     "Even as torment brought forth me from the shell of the third contact's mind five centuries past, so the agonies which thou suffered upon the Contact did bring forth his power and hatred. For not alone could that mind that is called Fei endure the pain, so didst he create a shield of adamantine strength and dark power. Id is the name of that shield, and behold with the coming forth of Id into the world didst the power awaken as the sleeping dragon is roused by the well aimed arrow shaft. And behold! Using that power has Id crafted his body into a form that seems good to him and wears it as raiment, all in black and red is he clothed with fires of wars awakened in his blazing locks, and his skin is pale and his eyes blaze golden as the kingly sun on high."
     Kahn almost shouted, his hand tensing on the butt of his revolver, Now he understood! Now! That figure who had destroyed Karen and looked at him with those blazing golden eyes had been his own son.
     "How poetic, but I was already aware of the psychological change brought about by my experimentation. Psychological problems often occur in specimens --- usually learned helplessness, catatonia or extreme anger, though the first is wholly desirable the latter are often difficult. Unfortunately, the Contact's power caused extreme damage."
     Krelian cast a cold scanning glance over the desolation of his laboratory then turned back to Grahf who seemed to suck the harsh light into himself like a black hole in the cold golf of space.
     "But what is your intention regarding the Contact?"
     "I shall teach him the skills of killing as a man hones the blade of his sword, then when he reaches his full growth and strength we shall become one, I shall take his body and merge with his mind, I shall use all the energies of Id and we shall wreak havoc upon the world together."
     Krelian cocked his head on one side, his long pale hair --- it's color still indistinguishable, on one side as if trying to solve a puzzle.
     "I have conducted experiments in this field, if the mind is forced to exit the brain both mind and body are destroyed for the mind is tied to it's image of itself in the body and without that image the basic self concept is destroyed and the mind dies."
     Grahf leaned forward to lift a thick rod of steel from a bench, with abstracted movements of his black fingers he snapped the rod with a sharp crack like a pistol shot.
     "I am not tied to my body as other weaklings for I was birthed long after the slow process by which one grows to learn all it's confines. I am a spirit of destruction, a complete person needing no body. Oft times over the last five hundred years I have been unboddied for a span of time whilst I searched for a new host." "Interesting,' said Krelian coldly.
     "Previously only the Miang consciousness was the only known example of total mental transference and even that is merely a compulsion and memory, resting in the subconscious of the mind like a new superego, But that is not the same as your own total transference. But what do you want of me? You have the Contact and will get your desire. I shall awaken God and then God will destroy you." If he heard the insult to his power Grahf showed no sign, he picked up a small disk of steel an inch thick and squashed it into dust with his finger and thumb like a man squashing a fly.
     "Name me a city which thou wouldst wish destroyed and I shall have the Contact destroy it." "Why do you wish to destroy a city?"
     Krelian might have been asking about why Grahf wanted marmalade on his morning toast. Once more Kahn was amazed at the coldness of the man. Grahf shrugged Krelian's inquiring off with one shake of his midnight clad shoulders. "Why destroy anything? Because it seemed good to me to do so. And I wouldst not destroy a city dear to Solaris for then surely thy forces wouldst attack, and I wouldst perforce have to obliterate Etrenank and that wouldst cease thy work."
     Krelian crossed to a computer and began tapping keys, the screen lit up with rows of Solarian ideograms, but too far away for Kahn to make out. "The city of Elru has been noted as a center of sedition --- destroy that and you shall spare our resources."
     Grahf nodded calmly, and without a word he turned and made for the door like the night fleeing from the dawn, but Krelian stopped him with one cool dry word.
     "Lacan, tell me, what was your real reason for this visit?" Grahf turned and faced Krelian deep eyes gleeful. "I wished to speak with one who causes so much pain" "It is all in the service of God, humanity after all is nothing but a part of God so it does not matter what happens to it. The fate of individuals is unimportant, but the fate of God is the true purpose of existence." "Dost thou speak of God or of Zohar?" Grahf's voice was strangely gentle, filled with a kind of black sorrow. "I speak of both, through God I shall find the Existence and so find rest." Grahf straightened as if fearing weakness. "In half a year the city of Elru shall be as corn before the harvester and thou shalt see the power of Id." Krelian moved to a light metal chair and sat down, his back ramrod straight. "It might have pleased the boy if he knew what power was in him. I remember he cried for his mother in his agony, but of course the Miang would not allow her to interfere with the experiment, after all the awakening of the Contact's power is a crucial part in the Deus system, and his mergence with the Zohar modifier is vital to the completion of Deus."
     Kahn clenched his teeth, his eyes going narrow and savage like an animal protecting it's young. Now he understood, how Karen had stood by and watched her son tortured, some strange mental parasite within her brain restraining her. He wondered if her pain at seeing her son suffer had been as great as his. He looked on Krelian with hatred.
     "I'll kill him"
     He hissed to Isac, but still his practical nature prevailed.
     "Get your gun and hold off Grahf while I settle with Krelian. He'll die for what he did to Fei and my wife."
     He didn't need to hear his young partner's assent hissed in his ear like an urgent snake. The red mist of battle fury clouded his mind and adrenaline pumped through his body. Then with one convulsive heave, he lurched upwards hurling the bench backwards, leaping round the computer bank and charging for Krelian, hands stretched to grip and tear, ready to obliterate the man who had destroyed his life and family.

Chapter Three
Approaching Crisis


     The scientist didn't move, he stood impassive as an image carved in stone, a mild flicker of disinterested surprise in his deep gun metal eyes, like a man who finds that the beetle he steps on is a rare specimen. Kahn's fist blow was a lancing stab of the fingers at Krelian's throat, thrusting forward like the sword in the hand of a night sworn to honor and gentility, an incongruous gesture in this white desolation that lacked even a value for human life.
     Krelian didn't move, he didn't even rock on his feet. Kahn drew his hand back and slammed it into his enemy's face, but again there was no reaction, and as he withdrew his fist he saw that the terrific force of that punch had left not even a bruise on Krelian's pale skin.
     "It is impossible to injure me Mr. Wong. My body has been heavily reinforced with nano-mechanical compounds that are far more durable than normal bodily tissue. And besides ----" Krelian paused, a slight; almost infinitesimal smile of triumph adorning his lips, a smile that made Kahn launch a savage kick at the torturer's belly, which had as little effect as the other blows had done. In his calm reasonable monotone Krelian continued as if lecturing to a seminary.
     "--- And besides, were you to injure me my body would regenerate through the process of a nannomachine constructed enzyme which accelerates the production dispersion and utilization of Acityyl Choline, not only giving me strength to destroy my opponent before he could injure me further, but also allowing my bodily cells to recover at a rate far in access of the fittest human."
     Through this speech Kahn had smashed at Krelian, uppercuts to the chin, right hooks to the side of the head, knees in the groin ---- all useless. Finally giving up all finesse and allowing anger and a thirst for revenge take him over completely the infuriated father jabbed his fingers at those gun metal eyes, hooked into gouging claws. But before they made contact, Kahn heard a short choked gasp from behind him accompanied by a resonant and darkly amused voice.
     "Trust I the words of wise Krelian implicitly, butly, but whether thou canst do him grievous hurt or not is of no import, for I have thy young friend."
     Kahn spun round like a fox at bay and forgetting the still unmoving Krelian dashed across the lab to where Grahf held Isac in a classic arm breaking hold, the young Solarian's left arm pinned behind him and his hand pushed up almost to the level of his neck, his left wrist in the vise like grip of one black gauntlet.
     "Let the boy go Lacan your quarrel is with me! Where is my son?"
     For no reason that Kahn could think of Grahf released Isac, seeming to flinch. Once more Kahn remembered the way this malevolent being had flinched when the name Lacan had been mentioned and for some reason he knew that was important.
     "I am Grahf seaker of power and thou shalt address me as such." The black voice was a little hauty as if pronouncing a tittle. "Well Grahf, Where's Fei what have you done with him?" 'There is no Fei, thy son is dead only his creation remains as the legacy of his torment. But 'tis always so, the artist's work lives on in crumbling splendor long after the partioner is dust --- as shalt thou and thy boy be Kahn of the house of Wong."
     Grahf sidled forward and sideways hands raised, Kahn retreated his Solarian special forces issue boots slipping on the polished tiles. Kahn sidled round a long shelf filled with test tube racks and strange metal machinery, edging away from Krelian and the kneeling form of Isac who was clutching his broken arm and gritting his teeth in silent pain. Krelian, of course hadn't moved but stood perfectly still, Kahn wondered briefly if the scientist were testing Grahf, using this --- Kahn's attack as an excuse to see the power of this new ally. And Kahn knew that that test could only have one outcome. On that night of storm and fire scarcely two months before Grahf had almost ended his life there and then, Kahn knew that without some extra help he would die at the dark man's crushing hands.
     Yet he wasn't beaten, he still had cards to play and he played one then. With a lightning movement too quick for the eye to follow he plucked the army issue revolver from his decorated Solarian uniform belt, aiming it at the black steel mask he fired, the gun making a sharp gasp of a report as the bullet sped forward.
     Though no visible mark appeared on his body, Grahf fell backwards, and at that same instant Kahn heard one of the most welcome sounds he could have heard, the shimmering of ether spells being cast and the crackled of fire.
     Grahf's cloak was a mass of flames as Isac, his right arm dangling uselessly, his face contorted with effort conjured fire down on the dark man in waves of pure destruction.
     Kahn didn't waste a second, he knew how much energy needed to be expended to launch ether attacks and he knew that a man who used them when already wounded could quickly make themselves exhausted. With one swoop he scooped Isac onto his muscular shoulders and ran for the door.
     Behind them Krelian strode across the lab to stand over Grahf who stood wreathed in flame, once more on his feet, through the fire that consumed his cloak his eyes glowed crimson.
     "I shall kill!! them!!!!!!!!!!!
     The maddened shriek pursued them down the corridor even as Grahf beat out the flames came after them like a cloud of utterest despair, his cloak smoldering, glints of the black clothing he wore beneath showing through. Despite his immersion in fire he seemed unharmed and as he looked back Kahn put on a burst of speed, his legs given the extra strength of terror.
     "Do you know the way?" "---- left ----- right left ---- barracks --- get --- help." Kahn understood, it did no good fleeing blindly with Grahf on his tale, he needed the help of others.
     Following Isac's directions along the long white corridors, Kahn was relieved to find that they'd lost Grahf in the maze of branching passages, but it wouldn't be long before he was on their trail again. The sentry who stood on guard outside the door to the Barracks blocks --- where privates and low ranking officers were quartered in varying degrees of overcrowding, stared as a full colonel, the body of another officer across his shoulders, with what were clearly special forces marks on his uniform, pelted round the corner and skidded to a halt before him. The sleepy sentry, --- Who was not in uniform --- not young and hardly sober goggled at them from bloodshot eyes.
     "Anarchist, at loose --- in the corridors --- call out the guard get the robots Hurry! The sleepy guard sobered up speedily and slapped one hand onto a button by his side, in the pristine tiled corridor red lights began to flash and klaxons started to sound and from 1000 small niches and scarcely seen hiding holes, a platoon of Solaris security cubes started to trundle, they were small triangular things of white metal with red strips adorning their sides.
     "Where's the gear pad?" "At the roof sir, you just take the stairs up the passage but sir ---" Kahn positively spat at the sentry, hissing like an angry goose.
     "Hurry man, Lord Krelian's life could be at stake."
     Then he ran, leaping up the corridor to where a long flight of stairs shot straight up to a door through which stars beckoned. Outside he found a vast space on the roof of one of the buildings nearest the palace, gears scattered around like giant's children's carelessly dropped toys. He made for a large lumbering excavation model, not fast but reliable, colored a dull sandy brown and with no weapon but a drill tacked to one arm. With more concern for speed than for his friend's comfort Kahn wrenched Isac up the ladder painfully jarring his broken arm on the iron rungs. The hatch was sealed tight with combination lock, Kahn cursed, such locks could be dealt with but not in a hurry, he pulled at the bolts attaching it to the frame of the hatch. Damn! Installed recently, it would take a good hour with good tools to get rid of this bastard of a lock. Kahn pulled his gun from his belt and put a bullet through it and as the hatch swung open he dragged his young partner inside, slammed it shut and powered up and out of Solaris.
     Isac healed quickly under the influence of Etheric cures, and the care of Kahn's own medical knowledge. But after the 15 days of his partner's recovery were over, and the two gears had been retrieved from the Soylent system outlet, Kahn's thoughts started to prowl like a restless lion.
     It was evening, one of those beautiful summer evenings that Kahn remembered with so much pain as having spent with Karen. His young partner sat beside him on the patio at the rear of Kahn's home, looking out across the tilled fields to where the setting orb of the sun sank away like the last hope of day.
     More for something to keep his hands busy than anything else, Kahn had set out a barbecue and charcoal and roosted sausages and potatoes, along with strips of meat and a liberal seasoning. The food crackled appetizingly but though Kahn's belly was hungry, his mental stomach was emptier still and what it craved could not be barbecued.
     "Well?"
     Isac's short questioning monosyllable cut through the crackling silence like a knife. Kahn knew what that question was, but like a man hanging on to a breaking branch in a seething flood, he didn't relinquish the support of ignorance.
     "Well what?" "Well those steaks are burning. Going senile?" "Probably" Kahn replied with an absolutely straight face. "I've noticed, we better get you off to the old folks home." "Fine, all those pretty young nurses giving me sponge baths ---- suits me."
     Isac smiled at Kahn's rather stiff innuendo and for an instant Kahn could pretend that nothing was wrong. But then he sobered, the tragedy of the situation reasserting itself like a cold blanket of mist over the setting sun's glory.
     "I can't retire yet, there's Elru." "Nice place, very picturesque, friendly people."
     Kahn sighed, he knew well what would happen in a month, in the small grave yard up the road was a burnt woman's body with the destiny of Elru printed upon it. In six months time it would be a nice picturesque ruin, complete with added smoldering wreckage and lots of friendly ---- agonized human bodies.
     "I can't help feeling that it's partly my fault ---- if I'd noticed"
     Isac cut the self pity short with a stroke of his hand, a sweeping chop through the air like the blade of an axe. The young man stood, the fading light making his short pale hair into a glowing hallow, he strode forward seeming oddly out of place in this pleasant garden and in his casual blue trousers and shirt. With deft movements he started to turn the food on the barbecue and as he worked his voice floated back to Kahn, an old voice from a young throat.
     "Non of that, it's happened,, it's gone wrong, fix it, don't moan about it." Kahn gave a bitter laugh. "And how am I going to do that? Even if there were some way of getting rid of Id other than -----" He blanched, despite what he knew of the twisted evil that his son had brought forth, he still quailed at the possibility of killing what was left of Fei.
     "I'd still have to deal with Grahf and he's invincible." "Gasper." Isac said simply. Kahn blinked, remember the tall straight man in the red robe with the thinning hair and long nose who'd trained him in the arts of combat. "You think Zephyr would help?" "Of course, the destruction of Elru's not beneficial to anyone." Kahn nodded, he would go to Shevat, to the city in the sky, and there he would seek the final solution.
     The sun set down into the grass and tides of Grahf colored night began to over take the world, but across the fields, as Kahn and his young partner gnawed meat of bones and looked into the east, the moon rose like a tiny silver ship, emissary of some mighty unnamable power, a cosmic reminder that humanity is never alone.
     Tears came to Kahn's eyes as a silver carpet fell on the grass. Karen and he had made love hear, lying on a blanket lapped in the warm ethereal glow, each giving part of their soul together so that for a few moments the universe shrank to a small warm space between their two buffed bodies. Then later they had sat side by side, a dark haired baby sleeping on Karen's lap, and as the light of that mercurial brilliance fell on his son's face, Kahn thought his heart would bust as the sure knowledge that he was not alone flowed through him like a warm alcoholic tide.
     But now the light was cold and brutal, a million small steel daggers each with it's point of memory, sharper and deadlier than ever the hatred of Id or the anger of Grahf could ever be.

* * * * *

     The throne room of the city of Shevat was as ethereal as any moonlight, as the mosaic tiles of the floor shifted back and forward in endless rippling motion. Light flooded in through the windows, a brilliant blinding blueness for Shevat hovered above the clouds and so lived in eternal sunny skies what ever tempest might ravage the surface. But unlike the other city that wandered these path lights heights of air, the Shevites cared, if it rained on the surface the Shevites would lend shelter, and if the evil minions of Solaris took surface dwellers for torture and death and slavery, the Shevites would do their best to help.
     In the center of the ancient lightness of the room sat Zephyr behind her protective shield. The sea green robe that was her garment of office wrapped about her tiny body in folds and drapes like mist. Her skin was pale as cloud and her face unlined with it's two large luminous green eyes staring out at the world with eternal sorrow. It was a face to fall in love with Kahn thought, a child's face reflecting the sorrow of ancient youth, but a face with wisdom stamped clear upon it.
     "Your Highness."
     Kahn said, bowing and sensing Isac --- once more in his not quite Solarian uniform, doing the same. Kahn plucked at his own fine clothes, a jacket and trousers of deep blue with a matching white silk shirt and sky blue tie. He felt a little out of place in such finery, but it was only the sign of the respect he had for this tiny girl who had instigated and coordinated the movements of Shevat and it's agents for the past five centuries. How her youth was maintained non knew, but Kahn would rather die a slow and painful death than have immortality like that of queen Zephyr.
     "Kahn Wong."
     The voice was light and childish, but with a firmness in it that was definitely adult.
     "I know that something bad happened in your life but I do not know what --- if you need to speak, speak freely."
     And Kahn did so, words wrenching out of him like some brutal bodily organ removal performed by Krelian himself. Tears started to stream from his eyes as he recounted the death of his wife and the transformation of his son, and when he ended with the final escape from Solaris, the little queen got down from her throne, crossed the room and put her arms around him with a comforting maternal warmth. He looked down into those huge green eyes and saw a mirror of his own tears glowing in their emerald depths.
     "I am sorry." She said releasing him and walking back to her throne.
     "You would not have come into this distress if you were not my agent, and I grieve for you as I grieve for all ills that I cause however indirectly. But I know some of what you have told me for Grahf once made war on Shevat, using the power of the servants of God which he had summoned, Diablo's.
     But some vestige of Lacan remained to him then and at the last Lacan managed to come to surface and halt the destruction. Lacan was executed, but Grahf was able to escape using his hatred of Lacan's body to divorce himself from his original self, in the same way that the Miang consciousness once divorced itself from the mother at the dawn of time ---- though Grahf is a more complete example of mental transference than is the Miang."
     "What caused this third Contact this Lacan to create Grahf, as Krelian's experiments created Id in Fei?" Zephyr shrugged her slender shoulders, and strands of brown hair fell down from beneath the hood of her sea green robe and lay on her pale skin like lines of contour on a map of a battlefield.
     "Lacan --- and it would seem your boy Fei as well, are contacts, those whose genetic destiny it is to speak with the God behind God. With each Contact a female is born, the Antitype who aides and loves the Contact, she is the incarnation of the mother, in Lacan's time the Antitype sacrificed herself and the grief sent him on a search for ultimate power."
     Kahn didn't think he followed the business of God, but he understood that Grahf and Id were in some way the same, and that his son had a great destiny if he survived.
     "You say Lacan came back" He clutched at a straw of hope. "Couldn't Fei be made to come back in the same way?" Zephyr gave him a worried smile and her green eyes went distant. "Perhaps, there are techniques for setting barriers in the mind and creating breaks in memory. Often traumatic experiences are pushed into the unconscious regions of the Id ---- which your son's alternate persona is named after. We can teach them to you, but also you must learn sophisticated fighting techniques for Grahf is the prominent fighting force of all the world." Kahn nodded. "Will Gasper teach Isac and I?" Zephyr inclined her head. "Master Gasper will. You shall learn the ancient arts of Chi, even as Lacan learned them long ago." Kahn walked forward, and picking up the eternal child's white hand in both of his, he kissed it gently, a sign of respect gratitude and love. "Thank you your Highness." Zephyr bent and lent one hand on Kahn's brow. "Go in peace and learn well, you will need all your knowledge"

* * * * *

     In the city of Elru the following morning Kahran Ramsus, Commander of special forces and primary element of Solaris woke with resentment. The room was plain but the height of fashion in those days did tend toward minimalism. The big double bed was covered in frosty white, with only a light lace trim on the satin pillows. Beneath the white covers Ramsus could feel the smooth coolness of silken sheets, warm from his nights rest. The sun tried it's best to push light though pale blue curtains with no pattern or board, and the rest of the room was white and blue conservatively spartan but for all that far too friporous for Ramsus's taste. But the sky colored tones of the room matched the woman who now lay with her sleeping head nestled almost tenderly in Ramsus tangled bronze hair. Her own long hair was a deep indigo, a strange unearthly color that non the less was sill beneath the commander's stroking fingers. Her skin was pale almost pallid, hard and white and unlined and in the center of her fine-boned coldly beautiful face Ramsus knew were the enchanting indigo eyes, that glinted with a cold blue destiny that went back to the dawn of time.
     "Wake up Bathshiba."
     The woman opened her eyes and Ramsus felt her draw her body away from his as if now the night's business were over she had no further use for him.
     "I have told you before do not use that name, I am Miang and always Miang." "Right ---- fine whatever you say. Doesn't matter what I call you, we're still stuck here in this shit pit of a city with nothing to do but punch the prolitariad every time it gets mad." "It is necessary." Ramsus flexed his bronze muscular shoulders that lay naked beneath the silken sheets. "I know but why me? I sometimes think I'm still trash." "It is necessary to protect the interests of Solaris. The rajim has it's faults but it is the most likely in since the fall of Zeboim to achieve the level of technology sufficient for the awakening of God." "Is that all you think about?" Ramsus resentful, half criticism sparked animation in Miang for the first time, she reached across him with one pale naked arm and gripped his shoulder, not hard but firmly.
     "That is! All I think about. That's who I am, every thought must be of the purpose. I can spare no other feeling that might jeopardize the purpose." "No other?" Miang smiled, and for one instant of time Ramsus saw the girl he knew so rarely, the girl who he had fallen in love with, despite her coldness --- which had existed even before she had fulfilled her destiny as Miang. 'Perhaps a little Kahr --- perhaps a little."
     She kissed him gently, and then the moment passed and she was off to find the Elruian maid and sort out breakfast.

* * * * *

     The moon rose slowly in the mountains, shedding a pale luminescence over dark and jagged rocks, their hash and greedy fangs spearing up into it's silvery sheen as if desiring to swallow it. In the side of one smooth cliff was the mouth of a cave, gaping like the mouth of some huge rock demon ready to engulf the world in spews of darkness, and it seemed that the demon did spew darkness for the two figures that stepped from the cave were the darkest that could be imagined.
     "Attack!"
     Grahf's voice rang out across the rocky desolation that lay about them like the last trump of doom. Id needed no urging, he flung himself on his dark teacher, striking out with hard learned precision at pressure points on Grahf's body. Grahf countered with a crush chop with one dark hand, Id blocked and seized the wrist flinging his opponent down on the rock then jumping forward in a crushing kick that might have cracked ribs. He never worried about hurting his teacher in these all too realistic bouts of combat that lasted from sunset to dawn every night while they were together. Even if he had had the capacity to show concern, he needn't have, it would take powers greater and more deadly than he to defeat Grahf, seeker of power.
     "Excellent thou learnest well. Now show my thy ether."
     Grahf stood beside his young protégé, as Id, red jacket freshly brushed, skin pale in the silver wash of light, flaming locks seeming almost luminous launched his ether attack. The wave of blinding energy struck out with terrific force, and the rock wall that stood seemingly invulnerable before Id crumbled into dust as if the slow weathering of centuries had been condensed into a single moment.
     "Thou art ready" Gahf boomed. "Can I learn to use a gear now then? I really want to. I could kill lots of people. That would be fun!"
     Id's blood lust showed in his golden eyes with a terrible kind of childish eagerness. Grahf laughed a darkly paternal sound from behind his mask.
     "Indeed, thou hast learnt well and before we depart for our first city thou shall master the complexities that lie within the metallic shell of mine gear." Grahf pointed to the dark bat winged shape of Alpha Weltall that stood like some ghastly monolith on the cliff above the cave in which the teacher and student had set up home. Id scurried up the path, wind whipping at his brilliant hair and his twisted face filled with unholy joy. He shimmied up the iron ladder like a monkey after a flung banana.
     He swung himself into the cockpit and grasped at the grips. His radiant eyes scanning the controls with feverish haste, finding the switch marked power and pressing it with a pale finger that seemed dyed with blood by the red light of the dials and scanners that were the only illumination in the dark cockpit.
     From outside Grahf looked on expectantly, two gears had been made with the capability to respond to the contact, Weltall and his own the perfected model Alpha Weltall. The blazing fury of Id had convinced him of the psychotic boy's power, the very existence of an alternate personality with it's own distinct appearance also was a clue to his identity. And with all that there was the word of Krelian, a man who's scientific judgment Lacan would once have trusted with his life, for though the part of his being that had once been Lacan's Ego was gone Grahf had access to his old self's memories.
     So now as the roar of the gear engine started to echo from cliffs and age warm stone, Grahf waited expectantly for the metamorphosis. Alpha Weltall was black with red facings, two bat wings (partly for decoration but mostly for stability during flight) and a great amount of spikes and sharp prongs that lent it a villainous appearance. But now the red facings seemed to glow, growing brighter and brighter so that the moonlight was pale and wan as a sick child. It seemed as each was a tiny heated star steadily expanding. Then suddenly threads of fire began to connect the facings, like Satan's dot to dot puzzle. And the lines grew brighter and spread like trees of fire until the original black of Alpha Weltall was obscured in a coat of blood colored light. The wings behind began to enlarge and to split, becoming gosimer strips of energy like the leavings of some cosmic spider. The two eyes that were an affectation on all gears blazed gold as Id's own and Grahf could feel the power of the Contact emanating from the demonic statue. Grahf, the almost perfect incarnation of the dramatic villain stood silent and awestruck, running his eyes up and down the flanks of the engine of destruction that stood before him, and those eyes were crimson as the light of the God gear that streamed around him.
     The moon rose higher, walking in it's heavenly causes and beneath it's unfeeling glow a new evil was born, an evil with a heart of great good still beating beneath it's skin ---- but it's skin was deep.

* * * * *

     These then are the players, Kahn and Isac benieth the hawk-like eye of Gasper, learning a desperate strategy for the destruction of Grahf and the reawakening of Fei's damaged Ego into his conscious mind. Kahran Ramsus and Miang unsuspectingly ruling their little empire in Elru for the good of the greater empire of Solaris, both have stakes in the final destiny of humanity and both have little love for Har's Contacts. And finally Grahf and Id, each racked with torment, tragic figures, so full of agony that it can't help but spill over, but how much will spill. These then are our six players, standing like the black spots on a smooth white polished dice, pick up the dice in your hand and roll, and hope that your roll is favorable for the side of humanity when the climax comes at Elru six months from now.
     

Chapter Four.
Loss of parental influence.

     The moon shone down through scattered clouds like a lost child peaking around a curtain. Down below the savage hard rock of the peak another lost child looked up at the moon with blazing golden eyes. He stood hard and bright as a dagger of ice, defiance against the world plain to see on his face. He was the Hero, he had power, he would never be hurt again, never! Like the weight of some lion's paw on his shoulder he felt a dark gauntlet fall heavily.
     "My disciple, my little brother. Thou who art as blood kin to me in this venture."
     "Yes Grahf? Cut the flowery language, is it time yet? I want to blow that city just like you promised."
     The infinitely dark eyes stared down from that steel face with an almost tender expression.
     "Now thou hast come into thine inheritance, and I have for thee a mark of this day, a momento of the death to come that thou wilt wear."
     Grahf reached into the folds of his black cloak and brought out something small and gleaming. Id peered down at it, like a child fascinated by the slight of hand of a magician.
     "what is it?" He breathed. "A token, wear it with pride about thy neck."
     Id took the small pendent and hung the slender chain about his white throat, feeling the cold silver cross slide down his chest like a finger of frost. The ruby lay in the center of the cross, reflecting the blood red of the cloth of Id's jacket. Id didn't know what significance attached to this pendent or where Grahf had come by it, but he knew that it was a thing of power, and an object of strength in the turmoil to come.

* * * * *

     Miang stroked one hand through Ramsus mass of thick hair and kissed him again, Ramsus felt his body grow hot, he put out one caressing hand and then suddenly the dark sanctuary of the room was full of the clamor of klaxons and the red flashing of alarms. Ramsus pulled away from his lover and dragged on his uniform, belting the heavy razor sharp Solarian sword at his waste --- not the light rapier he wore for official function but a brutal killing weapon with no ornament accept the embossed G for Gebler on the pommel.
     He dashed out of the house to find the streets of Elru awash with fleeing people, their fair skinned faces twisted into terrified masks beneath the streetlights as they flowed past in a river of panic. Ramsus judged his moment and suddenly grasped at a woman's shoulder, with one yank he pulled her from the herd and spun her to face him, a street drab he saw but pretty enough in her way with long dirty red hair and deep brown eyes that stared into his with terror.
     "What is it?"
     He grated, knowing from the new fear in her face that the woman recognized his uniform and still noticeable Solarian accent.
     "Le' me go sir please sir I ain't done nofing."
     Ramsus grimaced at the common gutter accent but held on to her shoulder, hating Lambs all the more.
     "What's going on? Answer now or die" "Oh sir ---- attack sir, big red gear bowin' up everfin' in sight sir." "Where?" "Over enda town sir." Ramsus let the woman go and she scampered away with out a backward glance. Calling for Miang he dashed for where his gear was parked, pushing his way through a crowd of weeping maid servants and butlers who had streamed out of his residence to join the general panic. But even as he ran elation filled him, here was a chance to prove his worth.

* * * * *

     The rage filled Id, the glorious and heady brew of resentment and hatred that had been slowly boiling over the past 9 years of agony. He was the Hero, the killer the one with the power no one would strap him down and torture him ever again. His thin pale hands gripped the gear controls so tightly that his finger nails left small claw prints in the plastic coverings. But that didn't matter nothing mattered.
     Before him he saw the city of Elru, a pleasant peaceful place by day full of flowering parks and stately alabaster houses fronted by many columns. Id broke those columns like trees, smashing in walls with blows of his mighty fists for he had the power and the right. A crowd of people scurried from beneath his gear's feet, several he stamped on, men, women, children it didn't matter all were guilty and all must die. He saw a small knot of officials in long robes coming forward bearing a white flag, stained red by the light of the God gear's glowing body. Id didn't care for the gesture, so he fired his etheric weapon, blasting the delegation of peace into a million blood scraps, dying their falling flag a more permanent red with their blood.
     A squadron of gears were approaching, the red G of Gebler emblazoned on their backs. Id laughed and with one smashing punch smashed the driver of one gear into oblivion with pinpoint accuracy. He sent a blast of white sending two huge red colored titans into blazing wreckage. This was too easy. He unstrapped himself and exited the gear climbing down to street level. A group of soldiers fired their puny guns at him but Id raised one pale hand and neatly destroyed them.
     Now for the gears. Gathering his will and strength he leapt upwards, jumping perhaps 30 feet with the force of his eternal power beneath him like some mighty spring board. He wrapped his hands around the main fuel intake valve and wrenched it off, falling to the ground as the gear toppled, black gear fuel staining the surrounding area. He turned to another gear that was stamping up towards him, leveling it's cannon. An ether blast and the monster toppled to fall in fiery ruin, to Id's satisfaction taking out several more houses and crushing a party of women and children who'd been sheltering there.
     Ramsus washed the destruction from a distance, in his gear out of it this strange pale child with the blazing hair and red jacket seemed invincible. He moved his own Solarian gear forward, spraying the area around Id with bullets from his gatling gun. The red clad stranger ran forward, leaping in a perfect kick that shattered the main power connection. Ramsus felt the controls go limp as a dead man's limbs and the lights on the control panel all went black. He looked down in despair through the cockpit window to see a malign twisted face grinning up at him with two huge golden eyes. Ramsus blinked his own tawny eyes and unstraped himself. He would kill this little fool who flaunted amazing power so stupidly.
     He scrambled out of the hatch and down the ladder, un-slinging his sword as he went.
     "Come down and play Mr. Soldier"
     A grotesquely merry voice called from below, a voice that sounded like the phonic equivalent of a sharpened razor. Ramsus dropped to the ground and took up a classic fighting stance, his tawny eyes intent upon his opponent.
     Id ran one hand through his blazing blood colored hair and smiled wolfishly at Ramsus, showing all his teeth in a gesture of hunger.
     "That's not fair Mr. Soldier is it, you have a sword and I'm unarmed."
     Ramsus didn't trouble to answer, but tightened the grip of one tanned hand on the hilt of his sword and waited for the attack. Id jumped forward, smashing one steel tipped shoe into Ramsus scull, a second connected and the third struck again.
     Dazed, Ramsus staggered back, keeping a grip on his drooping sword as blood welled in his bronze hair. Almost contemptuously Id chopped at the commander's sword hand, Pain like a million vaults of electricity exploded, and Ramsus screamed as he heard his own arm snap.
     With a torturer's precision Id grasped the fingers of Ramsus broken wrist and twisted so that two splintered edges of bone beneath the skin grated together. The commander fell writhing almost blacking out from the pain. Id kicked him again twice in the back. But then he saw that a party of Elruvians with a few Solarians among them was making good their escape. With a howl of frustration Id rushed to the gear and climbed it's ladder. Taking the controls he soared up into the sky, the six wings misty outlines against the stars, the body blazing like the first blow.
     He smashed down at the little knot of survivors, stooping on them like a hawk, washing them in lethal white incandescence, obliterating all. Then he fell back to earth and started smashing houses and picking up frantic fearful people in his gear's red hands to crush them like wall nuts.
     The whole city was a blazing inferno of burning gear fuel and steadily igniting houses. Fruitless acts of heroism occurred in that hell beneath the stars, a young mother hurling her baby from a blazing window to the waiting father, only to have both crushed by a cascade of falling masonry from the exploding house across the shattered street. A middle aged man in the clothes of a town official running into a blazing inferno and coming out a mass of flames holding the body of his still living grandson ---- both were instantly obliterated by a wash of etheriic fire.
     Id grinned from his cockpit, leering down at the chaos, wreathed in smoke like some demonic god, the wings of his blazing red gear in constant motion, it's golden eyes mirroring the expression of blazing ecstasy that was in Id's own. Miang found Ramsus groaning body and bent gently to lay a spell of etheric cure on him, he looked up at her blood dripping into his eyes.
     "It's hell Miang that power ----"
     Her face had such a painful expression of concern on it that Ramsus had to turn his head away. Gently with out a word she helped him to his feet and they made their way through the fires and out of the city which was now nothing more than a graveyard of burning wreckage.
     Id stood lord of his apocalyptic kingdom, his bright eyes full of the joy of power that can often be seen on the faces of dictators as they watch helpless captives destroyed for some twisted ideal. Id was master, Id was the Hero. All resistance seemed to have crumbled away like paper in a fire, no enemy of gear stood to challenge the Hero's splendor, and all inside the walls of Elru were dead save a handful of frightened people that died in small clusters as Id rooted them out and destroyed them like a rat catcher in execution of his duty.
     But not all resistance had been destroyed, out of the sky where pawls of dark greasy smoke rose to obscure the stars, two gears slashed down side by side, one was a light speedy white arrow, the other a solid mass of green strength, Hern and Athina.
     "Okay Isac, you distract him while I fire, we need to at least disable his gear ----"
     "Roger"
     Kahn heard the white gear's pilot respond over the radio link and he knew that Isac was ready. But to their surprise, the blazing red gear with the six diaphanous wings did not attack. Instead they saw a hatch open and a figure in red descend a ladder. The red figure ran forward and leapt up to drive a fist through the white metal of Athina's chest, wrenching out a bundle of delicate connections and causing every light on the control panel to go black. Isac threw himself out of the straps as Id leapt to the ground and seizing one of Athina's legs heaved with an inhuman strength, the mighty gear no longer on balance toppled to the ground, and as it hit the flaming wreckage Id launched a devastating Ether bolt which blazed into the wreck of Athina and set it burning.
     Kahn tightened his grasp on Hern's controls but to his relief he saw a small white figure role out of Athina's cockpit, beating out a few sparks on his white uniform but otherwise seemingly unharmed. Kahn saw the red figure who he now knew to be his son turn to face Isac and he threw himself out of Hern's straps opening the hatch and slithering down the ladder, hardly pausing to grasp the metal rungs.
     When he reached the ground, clad once more in his favorite fawn colored martial art suite, he saw a figure with blazing red hair aiming a kick at Isac's prostrate body.
     He rushed forward to face the twisted little creature and faltered. He had been prepared for his son's mental creation to look somehow different but this was too much. The creature's skin was pale as that of a corpse and it's face was thin and twisted beneath it's mop of flaming red hair. It's clothing too was of a blazing blood color and on it's feet were heavy soled boots with metal spikes at the toe caps who's purpose was only too self evident by the stains of dried blood on them. But it was the creature's eyes that fascinated Kahn, Fei's eyes had been brown like his mothers, a deep expressive liquid brown, beautiful with childish innocence. The eyes that stained at him from Id's face were gold, not merely tawny like those of commander Ramsus but truly gold, and blazing with an inhuman savagery that Khan would have only expected to see in the eyes of a kicked abused and rabid wolf.
     "Stop this!" "Oh daddy." The little twisted thing rubbed it's hands together in glea.
     "I'm so pleased you could see this. But I'm surprised your here after all you were never there before. But if you had been I would never have been born." Id kicked Isac in the face almost absently, his foot gouging the young Solarian's cheek only just missing his left eye.
     "Let Isac go your quarrel is with me." The thing's golden eyes gleamed. "On no! I can't let him go. But just for you I'll kill him quickly"
     So saying it raised one pale hand, and before Kahn could move the hand fell like the gavel of a judge assigning a sentence of execution. Isac's skull shattered like a lemon spilling onto his killer's spiked boots. Kahn looked down at the dead body that had once been his young partner, a man who'd saved his life on numerous occasions and to whom he owed an unpayable debt. He had been in many fights, had even killed, but the sight of his young friend's skull smashed like an egg made bile rise in his mouth, he turned aside and was violently sick.
     "Well daddy find it appalling do you? Funny I wonder what you would have thought of your poor little son lying under the needle in the lab." "Fei would not have wanted this, why are you doing this?"
     Kahn's voice was steady but only just, he ran his tongue along the bristles of his mustache and wondered if he would survive this night of fire and death.
     "Fei doesn't matter, I am Id I am the Hero, I am real!" "No. You're just an aberration, a dream a fantasy from the worst part of Fei's mind. If anything you're the Villain, you kill and destroy where a Hero would save." Id hissed like an angry cat his lips drawing back in a feral snarl.
     "I am the Hero, people are bad and should be punished." "Fei!" Kahn's voice was firm and gentle, and he saw Id visibly wince. "Fei, it's daddy, I've come to help you Fei." Id stood still. Kahn set in motion the telepathy Gasper had taught him, he let his mind drift to touch his son's, to pierce the skin of evil, to break through the clouds of violence that shrouded the ego and find Fei, his lost boy. He felt his son, felt his image in the wastes of blackness, felt his self like a boy with long hair and deep brown eyes clasping at his father's hand.
     "It's alright Fei, daddy's here."
     In the city of Elru Id's hair started to darken, and to lengthen as the power that filled his body started to obey it's awakening new master. The skin became tanned the face strong and handsome about it's huge brown eyes. Then suddenly a darkness fell like a cloud across Kahn's mind and he felt his probing thought slammed back into his body as if it had struck a brick wall. And Id stood before him, defiant and blazing, and beside him towered the eternal darkness of Grahf his eyes red as rubies.
     "Thou! Shall! Not!!"
     Grahf's voice echoed above the boiling flames and as a dark accompaniment he charged forward gauntlets outstretched to seize and kill. Id ran forward too, pale hands gripping like claws.
     "This is for abandoning me!"
     His fingers grasped Kahn's throat and squeezed, Kahn felt his breath leave him, and his vision blurred. One dark gauntlet slammed into his chest, a hard boot caught him in the thigh. Another slam of Grahf's fist smashed into his skull, and he rocked on his feet, his struggles weakening. Then a peace passing anything he had ever felt before filled his dying brain, and it didn't matter that Id had spat in his blue skinned face and called him a uncaring bastard, and it didn't matter that Grahf had clubbed him again with one hard fist, and it didn't matter that his mind was sinking down into the dark. Nothing mattered anymore.

Chapter Five
Id and Superego


     The first sight Kahn saw on awakening was the shattered and twisted wreckage of Hern, lying in pieces burnt and blackened by Id's ether power. The first sound he heard was the steady hiss and crackle of the dying flames and the first feeling he felt was sorrow as his eyes fell on Isac's dead body. His young partner had been murdered, murdered by the child of darkness, the child of which he was the father. He got painfully to his feet and started to walk, slipping stumbling occasionally, burning his hand on a hot ember once when he fell. Sickened grief stricken, his body battered and his brown eyes clouded Kahn strode from the wreckage of Elru into the night.
     He wasn't sure how long or how far he walked. He just walked, the firs of hell receding behind him as he strode towards his appointed destiny.
     He made his way into cultivated fields and after several miles of steady trudging in an unspecified direction, he curled himself up under a hedge and slept the sleep of the truly exhausted. In the morning he woke, grubby and dirty, his body reflecting his mood, as the blackness of the soiled on which he had slept stained his martial art dress. He thought of his partner, of the laughing eyes in that plain but honest face, beneath it's hale of short blonde hair. He remembered the last time he had almost died, and how he had woken to find himself in the back of that small car with Isac sitting in the front seat his face full of concern. And now he was dead.
     Kahn wept.
     He walked on for several hours, the people he passed were of Elruvian race, pale skinned and for the most part dark haired. They cast pitying glance at the shambling tramp who walked past, but any who looked into his deep brown eyes drew away seeing the spark of purpose. Hunger stirred in him but he ignored it, he would go without food or rest for a thousand nights if he needed, if it would allow him to right the wrong to which he had lent his disinterest. There was still much he didn't understand, but one thing was clear, Fei had to return and Grahf had to be defeated.
     Months past. Kahn walked. Occasionally he would work for a week or so at any job that took his fancy, to gain enough money to buy simple food, a bed for the night in whatever town on the continent of Ignas he happened to be in, and newspapers which he would scan rapidly for signs of massacres or destruction of towns. These he found in plenty, and he traveled his way from battlefield to battlefield, searching for the perpetrator.
     But war and death and destruction are demons the world over, and in spite of the waves of chaos the creation of Id caused they were bit ripples in the storming turbulent lake of troubled water that was all of humanity. Once he came upon a village in Kislev where Demi-humans had rampaged, killing burning and raping with wanton ferocity. Once he came upon a city in northern Aveh where the populous had revolted against Prime Minister Shakahn's rule and had been slaughtered, men, women and children, and their city burned to the ground.
     But perhaps six months after the destruction of Elru he came across a lead.
     A small town high in the mountains of Northern Aveh had been obliterated, every house a smoking ruin. The survivors however had repeatedly testified of an angel of death that had scooped down on their village with destroying fire and served out God's revenge against the unholy. Kahn's eyes lit up as he read the report, it was tenuous, but perhaps a lead.
     He traveled up into the mountains, and following long twisting trails came to the shattered ruin of the town. It had been as he'd expected, a broken and burnt blister on the earth's surface, houses crumpled and smashed to rubble, under which corpses lay smashed and destroyed.
     Kahn picked his way up the main street, his lips beneath their slight ornament of mustache set in a hard line. He saw smoke drifting from the mouth of a cave and boldly walked in, his strong body rippling with muscle beneath the martial art dress he wore.
     In the mouth of the cave afresh faced young woman was washing clothes in a tub, Kahn walked up to her and straighten his shoulders. She looked up her hands red and dripping beneath the shirt that lay across her palms like a freshly killed stoat.
     "What do you want?" "Nothing miss I just wanted to ask about what happened here if you don't mind." She gave him a cross look. "I do mind, we've had nothing but reporters and newspaper men since the angel came. And not an offer of help"
     The woman's clothes were patched and mended Kahn saw, and her hair was long and slightly greasy.
     "I could pay, I have little money." The woman's eyes lit up. "Alright then, ask away."
     Kahn cleared his throat, thinking how odd it was to talk of death and destruction to this pleasant girl on a day of sun in the mountains, but his purpose called him as sharply as the Miang calls those bestowed with it.
     "Was it red this angel?" "Yes sir, with six fiery wings ----"
     For the first time the woman paused as if thinking how to tell something difficult. Kahn felt sympathy wondering how hard it would be to talk about such destruction. But the expression on her fresh face was rather one of awe than of fear.
     "It was huge, and it destroyed whole houses in one sweep of it's arm. It had most wonderful golden eyes, I know it came from God I just know it! My husband and, we always said that God would punish the unworthy and now he has." "Where were you when it happened?" "We were sitting on our porch, when this huge angel started smashing houses we all ran, but only my husband and me got past. We stood on top of this mountain here and watched as it punished the unjust." "Was there any one with the angel?" "Oh yes, a little boy with red hair, and the most fantastic golden eyes you ever saw, he must have been an angel too because he fired white lightning from his fingers and burned half the town." "Which way did they go?" "When all the town was ashes, they flew off west into the mountains."
     Kahn thanked the woman, and leaving her all the money he had collected he trekked on into the west.
     It took him perhaps three days to cover the 100 miles between the ruined town and the last resting place of his enemy. There was barely any sign that the cave had been occupied, only a scattering of bones from killed animals, and the ashes of a small camp fire. But burnt into the rock as if by some blasting energy of amazing power were two letters I -----D. Kahn smiled grimly, just like the arrogance of the red psychopath to burn his name into living rock.
     He walked on into the west, climbing a rocky mountain, sleeping huddled in a single blanket in cracks in the rock, eating what he could catch and skin with his knife and cook by the old method of rubbing two flints together to spark a fire.
     The mountains lead down into the desert, and to a small town who's name Kahn couldn't remember. He worked there for the next fourteen months as a dogs-body for a mechanic, slow laborious work, long hours of back breaking labor mostly composed of holding pieces of gear engine up for the mechanic to fix, or leaving armor plating off the chest of battle torn gear so that the mechanic could look underneath and repair the damage. He ate as little as possible, and saved at least two thirds of each weeks pay in order to buy a gear, for only with the speed of a gear would Kahn ever catch up with his enemy. He kept himself to himself, ignoring all other human beings but brooding on what he would do when he finally caught his errant son. And the purpose never slept, he would be holding a tool kit and passing implements to his employer when the face of Grahf would come before his eyes, or Id laughing in triumph, or the honest face of Isac, who cursed Kahn for letting him die.
     Each night as he lay on his cot in the dark workshop Kahn would dream of the past, of Krelian standing over Fei and probing at his innocent child's body with unspeakable instruments of death, and of his beloved Karen, cold and unmoving as Fei called again and again for his mother. He would wake sweating and terrified but all the more ready to continue his journey.
     Finally he bought a rusting excavation gear, who's armor was scratched and scarred with 1000 battles. But it was a gear and he was glad of it. His son would be 15 now, and Kahn wondered what he would look like. But there would be only one way to find out and like a man readying himself for pain Kahn took that way.
     For another five months he continued the round of massacre sites, a war torn city in central Kislev which had been brutally bombarded by Aveh gears, a small village in southern Aveh by the sea which had been almost totally destroyed by a tidal wave, caused by some gigantic storm far out to sea. Once in the far north he heard a report of a red gear attack but rushing to the scene like a late party guest, Kahn found that it had simply been a marauding band of deserters from the Aveh army who used their huge red gear to extort food and other luxuries from the surrounding villages. Then was another stroke of look, he read of a village in the desert that had been totally obliterated by an unknown opponent. He rushed down there to find his bird had flown and no sign of Id or Grahf if they'd ever been there.
     For a month he worked in the fields of a small farming village in southern Aveh and the hours of grueling weeding and reaping bought him a radio with which he could scan the military wave bands and find out the location of his adversaries.
     For a further six months he lived the life of a vagabond, his radio turned constantly to the emergency wave band, waiting for a report of a powerful red gear with diaphanous wings.
     The report came in central Aveh, while he was flying his rusting hulk of a gear ---- which he hadn't even bothered to name, over a vast forest. If he had troubled with a map he would have known that this forest was Blackmoone forest, and that not far off was a small hill beneath a larger mountain where a village huddled against the cold.
     The report came screaming into his cockpit, a man's voice frantic and terrified.
     "May-day! --- may-day, under attack, petrol 8013 Sergeant Mort hear. It's attack a big red gear, it's -----Oh! My! God! It's blowing up Private Linch, it's turning and coming for me Waaaaa, it's firing ---- help!!! help!!!!"
     The voice cut off in a roar of static, but that was all Kahn needed. He locked onto the transmission and flew straight and true as an arrow, the old system of the gear belching smoke and rattling as it flew, the trees rushing past below him as clouds gathered above. The sun set as he flew, and the stars were obscured in the great mass of the clouds that ate up the stars and blackened the night.
     His first sight of the quarry that he had pursued for close on two and a half years was a red streak flying above the forest. Kahn flicked the power switch and flung his gear after, his hands gripping the controls so tight that his knuckles were like white nubs of ancient wood. Sweat coursed down his face as his jets carried him ever closer to his foe.
     It streaked across the sky in front of him like a commit of ill omen, a harbinger of imminent doom and death and destruction. Kahn watched as it spiraled down towards a bare hill top poking out of the forest like the balled head of some ancient old man. He arced down, aiming to land behind the hill. But that was not to be. The red gear turned, and Kahn had a dim impression of it shooting upwards as if fired from a gun, then suddenly etheric light struck his own ancient machine and lights on the control board were flashing red, and he felt his gear plummet downwards.
     With no parachute he could only hold tightly to the straps and prey as the old machine made it's last suicidal flight down towards the trees below.
     It struck the forest at a flat angle, sithing down avenues of trees like some gigantic lawn mower. Kahn's body was bounced and bruised by the impact, and he felt his head whip forward and back, his neck cracking. The straps held him, but they dug painfully into his skin, through the fawn colored martial art suit he wore.
     The gear came to rest lying on its face, and Kahn wasted no time in unstrapping himself and clawing the hatch open. He had gone perhaps 100 yard away from the gear before the main fuel tank erupted in flame, sending a pillar of fire arcing up towards the stars. Kahn felt the heat like a blast from a flame thrower and dashed into the forest as the trees around him started to burn.
     He dashed towards the hill that pushed out of the forest and clawed his up the side, his face set his long hair blowing in the wind. When he crested the hill he saw a figure in a glowing nimbus of red light, and he felt a strange sense of awe. Grahf stood tall and dark against the sky, towering like a statue to some evil god, his eyes blazing red. At his side stood Id, his hair a blaze of red fire, his jacket of blood colored cloth flapping loosely in the wind. His golden eyes lit up as he saw Kahn crest the hill, but for an instant Kahn though he saw a flicker of brown in their blazing depths, but then it was gone and the blazing hate remained.
     Grahf loomed down, and even as his eyes lit upon Kahn, lightning flashed, followed by a roar of thunder and rain smashed down like a salvo from heaven, dampening Kahn's martial arts costume to clinging folds and falling from the tips of his hair. The rain beat a tattoo on Grahf's mask like the sound of the drubs of war beating for the final battle.
     "I never though to see you again like this------ Fei, it must be fate." Kahn gazed into Id's golden eyes for the tell tale flicker of warmest brown, but there was nothing, only blazing gold hatred.
     "Let us join together." Grahf's voice was almost gentle, the gentle seduction of absolute power that has destroyed so many in the long range and time of humanity. "How ironic." Kahn's voice was scornful for the ironic was implicit, that these two forces of destruction wished to become one, as the truest lovers are supposed to do. But this would not be a union of love but a union of hate, Grahf's poison and power added to Id's, creating a body within which rested the power of a God and who's mind was that of a thousand devils.
     "I will never! Let you have him." Kahn's voice was strong, and as he spoke he raised his hands, balling fists, ready to defend Fei with his last dying breath.
     Graaf laughed then, a dark and deadly sound amid the violent rain.
     "Thou canst do nothing Kahn, his power is mine to command. Thou speekest of fate, but know that by denying him to me thou art denying his destiny." "Even so. You will not have him." Kahn's eyes blazed, a brown fury lit with flickers of lightning like distant ether shots.
     Without warning he launched himself at Grahf, hand going out in an expert punch at Grahf's throat. The dark man was caught unawares and Kahn's punch landed firmly and squarely, knocking Grahf backwards to strike the ground, his cloak billowing around him. Grahf stood slowly eyes blazing red.
     "Stay out of this mine disciple. Thy father shall die now."
     And Grahf attacked, a blur of speed in the rain. But Kahn was ready, all the energy, all the years of waiting and the built up sorrow thrilled through him.
     Grahf's foot flickered out but Kahn blocked the kick. Grahf's right hand struck forward in a crushing chop at Kahn's wrist, but the martial artist swayed aside, and Grahf was blocking a vicious counter punch that had it connected would have seriously dented his skull. Blow after blow, each parried or avoided, the two opponents seemed almost equal. Id moved forward but Grahf turned his head to snarl at the young killer with fury greater than that of the howling storm so that even Id the Hero of destruction felt fear.
     The two stood apart, each watching the other weary eyes, one pair black as a wolf's mouth, the other sad brown.
     "Thy skills have much improved since last we met." "Probably. I've been practicing so that I can kill you properly." Grahf ignored the taunt but raised both hands. A ball of red ether blazed through the night, followed almost instantly by a second and a third. Dodged aside with speed almost to quick for the eye to follow as the balls of blazing energy steamed in the air. Then he launched his own attack, a devastation combination of moves, punches throws, and then again, a sequence of destruction that left his opponent battered. Grahf stood dark eyes like holes into a negative universe. "Thou ---- art powerful Kahn Wong." "I am. I'll kill you!" Grahf laughed then, and fixed his eyes on Kahn's.
     Kahn stood still, rain pelting him, thunder crackling around him, his body standing like a monolith. His mind was being slowly but surely invaded. A dark and hideous wroth was pouring from those black eyes and into him, it was hot and scolding with hatred, and Kahn knew what it was like to die, he felt himself sinking, memory by memory into the swamp of Grahf's dark thought as more and more of the ancient evil flooded his mind.
     Then suddenly another memory struck him, of standing by a clean white bed on which Karen lay, her brown hair out like a fan on the pillow. Across from him was his old midwife, her experienced hands cutting and tying Karen's umbilical cord. And on Karen's stomach lay a small blanket wrapped bundle, two brown eyes gazing wonderingly out of a pink infant face. Kahn reached trembling fingers to lift and hold his son and he felt glad.
     He! Would! Not! Die.
     Like a drowning man suddenly given new strength he fought on, pushing the darkness back with rays of reason, clutching a raft of memory and logic on which his ego could float, he almost felt that he heard Grahf scream as the darkness descended to the nether regions of Kahn's Id.
     Kahn looked around to see his son standing red hair plastered to his head with water, arms by his sides, twisted face looking out at the world with a permanent expression of ghastly hatred that Kahn now pitied.
     The martial artist raised one hand to his eyes and found it clad in one blue glove of soft material, he had not escaped unchanged. Like Grahf, the power of the mind had clad him in cloak and mask, but both of deepest blue the color of evening sky, and his face was not the steel face, but a mask of ornamental blue and white soft yet concealing.
     Grahf was not destroyed, Kahn knew that, he could feel the darkness seething and boiling in the back of his mind. He would return and take this body into which he had thrust himself, in a last desperate effort to destroy Kahn. He would return, but for now Kahn was in control and Kahn would heal his son.
     "It's daddy Fei, I've come to help you. Everything's alright, you're safe now, come out." "No! I am Id! I am the Hero! I must survive!"
     Kahn gazed down on the twisted thing with compassion in eyes that were now black starless depths, though not void of feeling.
     "I am sorry Id, but you're an evil Villain, you kill and destroy. That is not what Fei would have wanted. Come out Fei!"
     Kahn's voice was quiet, scarcely audible over the anger of the skies that still flickered boomed and pelted down around them in seeming contempt for the events taking place on the bare hill in the middle of the forest.
     Kahn stretched out with his mind, his ego probing gently into Fei's, piercing the skin of evil that had grown like a dark callous across Fei's tender young ego, gently, he searched for the memories, like a pearl diver at the bottom of a black sea.
     Lying on the metal bench ------ screaming ----- lights white tiles ----- the Doctor-man ----- the Scientist ------- whiteness ---- long metal rods ----- pain ----- pain ---- pain. For your own good ---- blood ---- crayons --- drawing --- Hero --- Hero! Hero! Id.
     Kahn gathered the memories like a shepherd with a flock of dazzling white sheep who's faces were needles of agony and who's wool was a blanket of sorrow. He gathered them and pushed, slamming down into the deepest darkest crevice of his son's mind, past the weak and cowardly superego who sat before a golden screen of pleasure, down into the dark blue depths. Then Id, he seized the persona in a death grip like a wrestler, and dragged him screaming into the void.
     On the hill Fei's limbs started to change, his skin becoming tanned, his clothes altering to those of his self image, white shirt, boots and casual khaki trousers, the blazing fury of Id's hair started to darken, like the sun setting into brown twilight.
     Id's voice screamed.
     "I am Id! I cannot Die! I am the hero! You need me Fei! You need me to take the pain!"
     His hands, already changing from pale claws to strong tanned limbs clawed at his changing face, digging deep bloody furrows in his skin, down the shirt they crawled like animals and scraped at his chest. Then Id threw the body on the ground, slamming it with stones ignoring the flaring pain as Kahn slowly and remorselessly pushed his personality down. Stones slammed into Fei's back and chest, a gouging fragment of flint gashed his body and his nails were in the wound, lengthening it and making it bleed more.
     Kahn's mind gave one final push that sent Id down into the dark, and then he started the wall. With out experience of the strange half mental melding of a Shevite telepath it is impossible to describe of what the wall was made. It's bricks were amnesia, hard and unyielding as adamant, dark as sleep and built higher than the most soaring of good dreams. It's cement was impassable blankness, melding the amnesia into a solid lump of night, stretching across the mouth of the unconscious like a dam, leaving only the lighter regions of preconscious and consciousness free from all traces of Id.
     Behind the wall there Kahn knew was pain and death and agony for his son but out here in the light was nothing but the sobbing superego, destroyed and twisted by all Fei's pain and Fei himself, his Ego standing wearily for the first time in three years, waiting to think and feel and be again, fearing to face the world without it's protective armor of the other, but eager to be in control again. It had no name, no memory, no knowledge of the world of the existence of others beside itself, but it was unquestionably Fei Fong Wong.
     Kahn retracted his mind and looked down at his bleeding son, and sorrow was in his eyes. How could he ever look into the pools of his son's deep brown eyes again now that he knew what pain and misery lay behind them, how could he ever face Fei again and dare to call himself his father.
     Like a pawl bearer shouldering a coffin, Wiseman heaved the boy onto his shoulders and set off pelted by rain and grief and battle weariness.
     But Grahf's pendent was still clasped about Fei's neck, a symbol that all was not over and that Id would return.
     Through lightning and thunder he climbed, bearing his child to a place of safety. He didn't know what lay ahead, or whether he could ever make peace with his son or with himself, but he hoped fervently that wherever Fei lived and whatever happened to him in the years ahead. He would experience true happiness, as Kahn never could again.

Chapter Six
Self Actualization


      It was a dreamless sleep, a slow wash of glorious oblivion that comforted and restored, sleep as sleep should be , long and slow and warm like a mother's embrace. It was good to sleep, restoring the body and heartening the mind. After all both minds had been stretched almost to breaking point over the past year and at the last one mind had gone out into the dark of another dimension, there to rescue the other and bring her back to the world of time and space and love.
     Fei woke with mid morning sun trying it's best to penetrate the curtains at the porthole, he blinked and disentangled his limbs from Elly's enough so that he could look at his watch. With amazement he realized that they had both slept for almost 20 hours, having returned from that final confrontation with Krelian in the strange nonphysical world of Deus in Mid afternoon of the previous day. Fei looked down at Elly who was snuggled up close to him in the bed, it was only a narrow birth in his Yggdrasil cabin, so she was partly pressed against a wall, that dear sweet face he had though never to see again lying in peace on the pillow with the smooth metal of the cabin wall behind. Slowly he bent and kissed her. They were both almost fully dressed having been too exhausted the night before to do anything but fall into bed and sleep. He remembered that morning so long ago when he had awoken in Blackmoon forest to find a girl in a crumpled Solarian uniform staring down at him with bright violet eyes.
     Slowly he bent and gently kissed her, smoothing the gorgeous auburn hair tenderly. She woke then, opening her violet eyes to clouded bemusement.
     "Fei" she said thickly, her voice still fogged with sleep. Fei laughed slightly.
     "Remembered my name Elly, that's a good start to the day." She pulled the pillow from under his head and thwacked him with it playfully. "Don't lets start our first day with an argument." Fei feigned disappointment and swung his legs off the bed. "I thought that if we argued we'd have to kiss and make up." "You did that anyway when I was asleep." She accused in mock fury. "You were! A sleeping beauty ----" "And you're a handsome prince." She asserted sarcastically, also getting off the bed to stand in the sunlight beside Fei. He shrugged his muscular arms. "Well I suppose if you want to be finicky I'm not a prince but -----" "Oh stick your head in a bucket!" She interrupted smoothly. They both laughed and hugged each other full of the pleasure of being alive. Their embrace was interrupted by a knock at the door. Fei yelled a jaunty, "Come in Maison."
     The old butler entered in his familiar blue suit and cumberband carrying a tray laden with two full plates of fried breakfast a rack of toast and a steaming pot of coffee." "You've been asleep for hours master Fei --- Miss Elly, I wondered if you could do with some breakfast" "Oh Maison, I could kiss you, I'm starving!" Elly had almost lost her Solarian accent in the months she had spent as a member of the Yggdrasil crew, and Fei preferred it that way, though he loved Elly he didn't like to be reminded of her racial origins. It wasn't that he had anything against Solarians, it had been their rajim that had been wrong not themselves as Citan would probably testify at length if he had chance.
     As Maison set the tray down on a small table Elly pulled up a chair and started to attack the food wolfishly, mumbling something in Solarian though a mouthful of bakon. "What was that Miss Elly?" Maison asked, as Fei sat down and followed Elly's example, for his own stomach was growling. "Compliments to the chef."
     Elly translated and then went back to guzzling. "Save some for me." Fei protested as she buttered her third slice of toast. "Sorry Fei, but in war and at breakfast it's each man for himself"
     "What now?" Fei asked as they sat over their coffee once more alone. Elly leaned back in her chair, after she'd attacked the enormous breakfast she'd bathed and washed her hair and put on a light blue track-suit of the comfortable kind favored by sportsmen. Fei had followed her example and now sat feet stretched out gazing into her eyes and sipping his coffee.
     "Rebuild. Most of humanity was destroyed by Deus and we have to start again, let's hope we do better that the last lot." "Adam and Eve?" Asked Fei, remembering the fairy story of the first man and woman he'd been told at Karen's knee. "Not quite. There are still a lot of other people around and the world's hardly paradise ----- yet. But now Deus is finished we can start again." A strange memory struck Fei, perhaps a genetic hang over from a past Contact, or perhaps a memory of a memory of the brief time Id had guided him through the genesis of Grahf and the fall of Lacan.
     "No --- it's not finished, not yet there is still one last task I have to complete, at Nisan." Elly nodded quietly, and her violet eyes showed that she understood too.
     Bart didn't mind taking them back to Nisan in the least, after complimenting Elly on her looks and good recovery he set the controls and made speedily for that small oasis in the heart of the Aveh desert where so much had happened.
     Fei was surprised and pleased to see that the cathedral still stood, though it's massive naïve was now silent, and no music filled it's ancient walls. He walked confidently across the balcony, passed the two hanging angel images to the small shrine where the light of the sun cast the shadow of the broken Nisan pendent on the floor in shimmering brightness. At the end of the room was the portrait of Sophia, staring out at the world with sad violet eyes, her face cast in it's eternal smile of melancholy joy. From the bag on his shoulder Fei took a pallet of paint and several brushes, then he strode towards the painting, brush in hand like a warrior going to fight his last battle.
     "Where would you like me to sit?"
     Elly asked and Fei directed her to the appropriate light. It was not a difficult job, Elly's hair was slightly more brown than Sophia's had been, but Fei was able to copy Lacan's system of coloring on the hair and so the painting was complete with the minimum of fuss. Elly sat still and quiet as Fei worked, his brown eyes intent on his task, his face solemn. He had insisted that Maison wash his old battling clothes for this task, and as he stood before the painting face so serious, Elly could almost believe that he was Lacan, and that she in the long antique dress she had had Maison find for her, was the Mother of Nisan.
     When he was finished the sun had climbed up the sky and now the silver points of the Nissan pendent were washed with scarlet.
     "Lacan loved Sophia you know." Fei said almost coyly. Elly's eyes filled with tears, and through them she could see that in the depths of his brown liquid eyes, tears glimmered too, but unshed. "Sophia loved Lacan." She answered, just as softly. Fei sighed a long sigh full of regret for the life that was gone and the love that was wasted like glittering life giving water poured out on dry desert sands in front of a man dying of thirst.
     "They never had a chance. I can almost understand why Grahf ---- If I was to ever loose you like that ----" "Shhhhhh…" She traced his lips with one finger. "You never will."
     With slow soft steps, she crossed the red carpet to the portrait, where the new paint was drying on the old canvas. From beneath the portrait she took a small box of dark polished wood wordless she handed it to Fei.
     He took it reverently, his strong tanned fingers stroking it's smooth varnished surface. Then with a flick he opened the catch. Inside on a bed of red leather were two rings, each was a finely sculpted golden serpent swallowing it's own tail, two glowing rubies it's eyes. On each head was set as a crown a cross of silver with in the center a tiny grain of red, the image of the Nisan pendent. "What are they?" Fei asked in an awed voice, his brown eyes flowing with a kind of expectant adoration.
     "They were commissioned by Sophia while Lacan was finishing this painting, no one knew about them except her and the craftsman who made them. But then the war began and they were never worn. When the portrait was hung up hear the rings were put up here too, as a reminder of lost love, it is the symbol for infinity" Elly picked up a ring and put it against her eye peering through the circle of gold at Fei, like a woman wearing strange mascara composed of flex of gold dust.
     "What do you want with them?" Fei asked. Elly reached forward and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
     "Don't you know? It's supposed to be the man's job but I suppose I'll have to do it" To Fei's astonishment she knelt down in front him picking up one ring and holding it to his left hand's fourth finger. "Fei Fong Wong." She began formally. "Will you marry me."
     Fei was dumb struck. "Well I ----" "It's not a hard question." Elly prompted exasperated. "Well I ---- er I will." Fei said unsteadily, then suddenly as the gravity of the situation struck him he repeated his answer more forcefully. "I will." He knelt down beside her and slipped the other ring onto her left hand's fourth finger.
     "Elhaym Van Hutan ---- I love you." "Kerenye Selkren tan." Fei frowned at the lilting Solarian holding Elly's left hand between both of his. "What does that mean?" Elly smiled radiantly at him, and then her violet eyes glowing with happiness his knew bride translated the sentence. "My Darling I love you too"
     The cathedral stands in the center of green Nisan, a monument of stone in the center of a verdant field which is surrounded by dead desolate sands. The sky above is red with sunset, like a great fire dying into ash, it's violence stilled. In the top most room is love and peace and joy, where two young people, both with long destinies both fulfilled have nothing but each other and the world to worry about.
     Time stretches thin like the fabric of the universe threadbare after a million centuries, this little world where a race of manufactured life has been and is still being stands alone in a desolated emptiness, stars surrounded it like the sequins on the fabric. But Fei and Elly do not care, why should they, their pain is over, for ever.
     The past is dead. The future is surety. The present is love.

 

~ End ~