Hahn sat in his office in the great town of learning called Piata. He
had wanted to get some work done before this afternoon, but his mind
kept racing off task. Had it been only six months since the epic
battle with the Profound Darkness? Had he really survived it?
Although these questions weren't new to Hahn or any of the other
Protectors that had gone to the Edge and come out alive, they still
played in his mind, robbing him of his concentration. The rational
part of him tried to resist the pressing of these irrelevant queries,
but he wasn't an android, after all. He couldn't get the thoughts out
of his head.
As he was going over the utterly boring reports of soil reclamation
projects and the biosystems upgrades, Hahn felt the need to get some
fresh air. Unfortunately, he wouldn't get that wish, as he heard a
knock at the door.
"Principal Hahn? Are you busy?" a familiar voice came.
Hahn wished he could say yes, but he knew that he wouldn't get any work
"No, professor. Come in," Hahn replied. The door opened, and standing in the doorway was professor Holt, his energetic expression hiding his age. Although he was 60 years old,
Holt never seemed to tire out. From even back in his days as a student, Hahn could never remember Holt taking a rest.
"Principal..." Holt began.
"Just Hahn, professor," Hahn cut in. "We've known each other for
years plus I don't exactly feel like a principal."
"Nonsense, my boy," Holt replied. "If anyone is right for this
position, it's definitely Motavia's most distinguished scholar and
"Thanks," Hahn said, "but I know you didn't come here just to laud my
"Right you are, Prin... er, Hahn," Holt corrected. "I have come on
business in truth. It seems that we have a problem that will take the
efforts of the best minds in the Academy to solve."
This peaked Hahn's interest. Since the Final Battle with the Profound
Darkness, everything had changed. Nowadays, problems were the
exception, not the rule. Thanks to the efforts of Demi and Wren, the
Plate and Climatrol systems have stabilized, and the land was actually
slowing its decay. In fact, data projections show that, within five
years, the soil should stop it's decay completely. At that point
reclamation could begin. Algo might actually have a chance to rebuild
for the first time since the Great Collapse.
"What is this problem, professor?" Hahn queried.
"Well," Holt responded, "there seems to be signs that the rainfall is
increasing too rapidly. If this keeps up, with the present soil
conditions, we could see flash flooding and mudslides all across the
The news troubled Hahn. In the past, rainfall was an uncommon
occurrence, but when it did come, it was a mixed blessing. The wells
filled up, but there were terrible disasters when the dry, cracked soil
couldn't absorb the water. Now that the rain came in controlled
amounts, the disasters were seldom, and occurred only in unpopulated
"Has anyone contacted Demi about the situation?" Hahn asked.
"That's the other problem I've come to talk to you about," Holt
replied. "We can't raise Demi on the communications gear she provided
the Academy with. In addition, no one wants to get close to Nurvus.
They all say it `creeps them out'. What with the history of the place,
or, more to the point, what's on top of the place, everyone is too
frightened to go near it."
Hahn knew what Holt was saying all too well. He was referring to
Zio's Fort, the tall castle built on top of Nurvus by the evil magician
Zio back before the Battle. Hahn couldn't blame the students for being
afraid of it; he himself feared to tread in that place. It was one of
his secret shames he never told anyone, not even Saya. It was also the
reason he so readily stayed behind to watch Alys rather than go with
the Chaz and friends to fight the black magician. Hahn didn't know why
Demi even left the place standing after she went back to Nurvus. Being
held captive in that place by Zio, being used as bait. Hahn was
disturbed just by the thought of it. However, Demi was an android, and
so probably wasn't affected by those silly emotions. Sometimes, Hahn
thought, it would be good to be an android.
"Well, I can certainly understand their fear in the matter," Hahn
admitted. "However, something must be done to contact Demi. I suppose
I'll have to go and find out what the problem is."
"But Hahn," Holt said, "don't you have plans with a certain someone in
a few days?"
Hahn flinched. He had totally forgotten about Saya. Over the last
few days, he had been swamped with work, too busy to remember that he
was getting married in two days. Hahn certainly couldn't miss his own
wedding day, but this problem was serious.
"Oh, yeah," Hahn said, "Saya and the wedding."
"You bet `oh, yeah'" Holt said. "If you miss your own wedding, Saya
will throw a fit!"
Hahn had never seen Saya angry, but he knew Holt was right,
nonetheless. It was all she could talk about in her letters, and if
Hahn missed the wedding, there would be hell to pay.
"Well, there must be a way to find out what's going on without missing
the wedding," Hahn remarked. "I know, I'll just send for the
Landrover! I'll have Seno bring it over from the Machine Center. That
should get me to Nurvus in about an hour."
Ever since the Battle, the Landrover had been in the Machine Center
being studied and pulled apart by eager scientists from the Academy.
Hahn hoped it would still function after the rigorous tests it was put
"Are you sure Hahn?" Holt said. "There must be a better way than to
ride in that contraption."
However, it was Hahn's only choice for a quick resolution of the
problem. At least he hoped it would be quick. Things always seemed to
take an unexpected twist in his life, exactly when he didn't need it.
Wren was watching the status monitors in Zelan flicker on and off.
There was no malfunction in them; to an android, what looked like
flicker was actually data whizzing by at a phenomenal rate. Usually,
the android controller of the two satellites Zelan and Kuran would be
directly plugged into the system for such a data transfer as this,
however the systems were undergoing a lengthy memory purge, and Wren
would have had his memory wiped clean had he been directly interfaced
with the massive computers. It was also a favorite activity for Wren:
he so seldom got to experience life as a human that he took every
chance he could to mimic human behavior, even if reading at one
thousand words a second was superhuman. However, to an android, it
gave time to read each word and have deep thoughts about them.
The system purge had been going on for a month now. Getting rid of
all traces of the Dark Force's programming was an imposing task. It
seemed to have known more about the computer systems of Motavia than
even Wren did. As a result, there were firewalls and viruses
everywhere Wren went in the system. I guess Dark Force still left a
legacy behind him, even though his master was defeated, Wren thought.
He wished it was as easy to restore weather controls in computers as it
was to fix them in Dezoris's Gumbius Tower. No programming, no
viruses, just a simple fight and go. Although it was highly
unscientific, Wren was lately finding himself wanting for the days when
he battled with the minions of the Profound Darkness, but he knew such
thoughts were irrational and could lead to terrible actions. He
decided to do a self memory check later.
As the files went by, being deleted one by one, Wren noticed an
interesting file he wanted to check.
"Computer," Wren said in his usual monotone he spoke on the station.
"Halt deletion program, authorization Wren 775."
Immediately the computer screen stopped flickering and a complicated
string of numbers came up. Wren deciphered the lines of zeros ones and
twos that had halted in front of his optic sensors, with great
"Computer," Wren requested, "confirm authenticity of file 8675309."
"Working," the computer replied in its best imitation of a human
female. One of the details that the Palmans and Mother Brain included
in the computer systems of Algo were human-synthesized voices, placed
mainly to make Palmans more comfortable with using the computers.
There was probably a bit of ego involved in it too.
"File 8675309 has been authenticated," the computer said.
"Give me time file stamp and installer profile," Wren commanded.
"Working. File created AW 1500.72 at 0913 hours. Installer profile
proceeding... Installer was Terran engineer... Born AW 1487.95 on Noah
worldship. Listed killed after the shutdown of Mother Brain computer
network. Subjects name was... cannot be relayed without password."
That's strange, Wren thought. I wonder if my password will work?
"Computer, relay name, on screen only. Authorization Wren 775."
Then the name came up on screen, and Wren saw the terrible truth.
"Oh, dear!" Wren exclaimed. "Computer, end deletion program 001,
authorization Wren 775. Also created a file of all data on subject X95
and download to monitor."
Wren knew what this file was, and he also knew what it would do if it
was deleted. He had to contact Demi quickly, or all of Algo could be
"Computer," Wren commanded as he walked to communications. "Open a
channel to Nurvus. Use frequency 517 Delta, and rotate frequencies
every ten seconds. Heavy encryption, narrow beam. Notify if the
channel is broken into, and shut down after end of communication.
Authorization Wren 775."
"Confirmed," the computer replied.
Wren quickly arrived at the communications display and set up for
transmit. In a moment, the screen blinked on with a picture of the
Nurvus central core. However, Demi wasn't there. Wren had expected
this might happen, so he instantly demanded a search for Demi's
whereabouts from the Motavian Global Positioning System.
"Android Demi location, sector 196.84," The computer fed out.
Section 196.84... the location of the shut down Daughter nucleus.
Wren knew that Demi had been taken captive, and would probably have her
memory wiped if he wasn't quick enough.
"Computer," Wren demanded, "access Motavian GPS. Locate Chaz Ashley."
Soon the computer display its results. CHAZ ASHLEY IS NOT ON MOTAVIA.
Chaz must have gone to visit the Espers on Dezoris. And if he did,
Rika was probably with him. That left only two Protectors: Gryz and
"Computer," Wren said, "access Motavian GPS. Locate Motavian Gryz.
Locate Human Hahn *****."
Again the computer printed out its response: Motavian Gryz location,
sector 114.99: city of Molcum. Human Hahn ***** location, sector
067.81. Approaching city Mile.
Gryz's location Wren could understand. He had been aiding in the
reconstruction of Molcum for months now. But what would Hahn be doing
going toward Mile? Wren had to find out quickly before the whole
system shut down.
"Computer," he said. "Repeat search of subject Hahn."
The computer gave a new readout: Human Hahn ***** location, sector
069.76. Approaching city Mile.
Wren wondered how Hahn could have moved so far in such a short time.
The speed was faster than any human could run, especially Hahn. Then
it hit Wren.
"Computer," he requested, "contact Landrover Odin."
"Working..." the computer replied. With Gryz too far from any
communications gear to be of use, it would be up to Hahn to deal with
this problem. Wren just hopped he was the right man for the job.