Circles - Part Three: Eldrige II

[06.26.01] » by Chad Harger


Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter I: Reunions

Time has passed but has not stopped. No matter what, the truth always comes out.


In human's standards, the Zevsehn home world was a barren wasteland. Very cold and barely uninhabitable, no human would want to live on the surface for very long. Right now the temperature on the surface was that of cold winter near the freezing point. To a Zevsehn, it felt very warm.

A lone Zevsehn walked through the ankle knee snow. He wore a t-shirt and shorts. Sandals were on his feet. To him it felt good as he walked toward his destination. He was surprised when the news reached him. Even he believed the quest for answers was over. It was a lesson he learned about doubt and determination. As long as one person fought then the quest was never over.

The Zevsehn saw smoke rising from what the humans called an igloo. He knew he found who he had been looking for. The search had taken a week but he did not mind. It felt good to be alone for awhile. He could see why the person he was searching for wanted to get away from everything but being away from those around him was also dangerous.

He walked to the igloo. He saw fresh footprints in the snow. He smiled and bent over. "Hello?" he asked through the entrance of the igloo. "You there?"

The owner stuck his head out of the igloo. His hair was much longer than the Zevsehn remembered. The human's beard was down to his stomach. The human put on glasses and looked a the Zevsehn. He blinked a couple of times. "Perenth Dro'Wrin?"

Dro'Wrin smiled. "I'm glad you remembered me. How have you been Citan?"


Three years passed by human time. For the Zevsehn, it was only two and half years. For Citan it did not matter. He wanted to talk to someone but he was nervous and scared. Scared that the decision he made was wrong and that when he ran away made him look like a coward. He smiled at the Perenth. "In the middle of nowhere you find me."

Dro'Wrin shifted uncomfortably inside the igloo. It was a tad to warm inside for his tastes. "The Teacher makes a good Guide," he said.

"Indeed He does," said Citan. "People usually do not search out a hermit unless there is a reason."

"Yes," said Dro'Wrin. "Others and I have been looking for you for the past six months. Most people who live on the surface are actually easy to find."

Citan nodded in agreement. An asteroid impacted with the Zevsehn home world. It had destroyed a previous civilization but they had rebuilt. Most of the population lived in flying cities made of crystal while the other half lived on the surface.

"I do not see what I can do for you," said Citan.

"What do you think of the truth?" asked Dro'Wrin.

"That it always comes out," said Citan. "The planet I used to live on is a prime example. Even though it took ten thousand years the truth did come out."

"There is another saying about the truth," said Dro'Wrin. "As long as one person searches for the truth it can never be hidden."

Citan frowned and took a sip of tea and looked at the Perenth carefully. Dro'Wrin was craftier than what most people believed. "Cards on the table."

"Cards?" asked Dro'Wrin. "Oh yes, a human metaphor. I believe it means not to hide anything further?"

"Close enough," said Citan.

"So be it," said Dro'Wrin. "It has been agreed that the mission to the human planet of origin should resume."

"They want me to be the captain," said Citan. His frown deepened. "With all due respect I will not get involved with that. Not as the captain or whatever the council has in mind."

"I understand," said Dro'Wrin. "Are you happy? Right here and now, are you happy?"

"Loaded question," said Citan. "No one is ever truly happy. I am sure as the religious leader of the Zevsehn you have doubts and while you want to be part of your people you also have to keep distant because you need the time to be with the Teacher."

"Indeed. Then the truth. As you say the truth always come out."

Citan laughed. "It has always come before I was born and will still do so after I die. You are a good debater."

"Does that include your fear?" asked Dro'Wrin.

Citan's smile vanished. His fear, the one thing he truly feared, his Dark Side. The Darkness that he could not describe. A nothingness that nearly cost him his wife and daughter. The Dark Side which Citan, as a doctor and psychiatrist, could not find a cause physically or mentally. His Dark Side which even Emperor Cain and the Gazel Ministry were weary of. The Dark Side which not even Krelian or Miang, in her days of being manipulated and manipulating others, dared not, and even if they tried, could not control. "My Dark Side is gone. The most logical explanation is that the part of my mind that controlled Ether could not handle the raw power of Arcane."

"What about the how and why?" asked Dro'Wrin.

Citan looked Dro'Wrin with confusion. "Why?"

"Miang filled many gaps concerning the history of your pervious home world," said Dro'Wrin. "Did you know you are the only one who had Arcane?"

"Emperor Cain explained all of that."

"From what I understand one's Ether strength is hereditary in most cases except for the Contact and Anti-Type," said Dro'Wrin. "Did your parents have any unique abilities?"

"I never knew my father," said Citan. "He died in battle when I was just a child. My mother was in the Solaris Court. She did have a good amount of Ether strength."

"Did she have Arcane?" asked Dro'Wrin.

Citan frowned. "No."

"Maybe you were experimented on by Krelian."

Citan frowned and growled. Even after two hundred fifty years the mentioning of Krelian still angered him. "I doubt it," said Citan. "If he had I would have been under his control all my life."

"How and why," said Dro'Wrin.

Citan looked at Dro'Wrin "Are you saying that if I go to the planet of origin, I will find those answers?" asked Citan.

"Sometimes the answers are found in unusual places," answered Dro'Wrin.

"I will think about it," said Citan.

"You're not one to run away from your problems," said Dro'Wrin. "Stand and be tall."

The truth, the one thing Citan held close to his heart. The one thing he always fought for. "I ran away from the truth," admitted Citan. "It was not the feeling of betrayal that I feel toward Emeralda. I was afraid of the truth that I might find on the planet of origin among other things."

Citan got up and walked outside. Dro'Wrin followed behind him. "What will you do?" asked the Devsehn.

"I have doubts the answers about myself will be found on the planet of origin but I have to try. Even if I do not find those answers I cannot sit around in the middle of nowhere for the rest of my life."

Dro'Wrin took a map from his pocket and handed it to Citan. "This will take you to the nearest village that has a shuttle. Take a shuttle to Deliktor."

"I do not need a map," said Citan.

"Then you know where it is."

"No," said Citan. He smiled and put a hand on Dro'Wrin's shoulder. "When I walked away I was alone. When I return I want to be with a friend."


The human colonists thought they had to search for a new home out among the stars. The Zevsehn knew of a planet in a same system as one of their own colony worlds. A temperate world like the one the humans left.

A few people had business to do before they could move to their new home. One of those people came to the new planet to visit a friend. She walked in the country land. Farms could be seen as far as the eye could see. She found the farm that was owned by the person she was looking for.

She heard the sounds of an engine. She went around back and saw a harvester working the fields cutting down the crops. She waited fifteen minutes for the harvester to return.

The owner got out of the harvester and looked at her. "Its been a long time Miang," said Mikhail.

"Three years," clarified Miang. She looked at the fields. "Nice job."

"You were a farmer?" asked Mikhail. He knew she lived many lives through other women's bodies. She did whatever the host used to do to keep up the illusion.

"Briefly," said Miang. "When are you expecting the final harvest?"

"In a month or so," answered Mikhail. "I like this planet. The weather actually cooperates with the farmers."

"Good," said Miang. "That's plenty of time."

"Time for what?" asked Mikhail.

"They approved my proposal," said Miang.

Mikhail crossed his arms across his chest. "Ain't happening."

"You don't even know what I'm talking about," said Miang with confidence.

"You don't even have telepathy," pointed out Mikhail. "I may live in the country but I still get news and rumors. Especially rumors about someone's crazy idea to restart the mission to the planet of origin."

"I see," said Miang. "I'll tell Dr. Tomia you said hello."

"She's going?" asked Mikhail. That changed everything for Mikhail. He still would not admit it but he had feelings for her. When the journey first began he tried his best to get to know the doctor better until disaster struck.

"Yes," said Miang.

Mikhail rubbed three days worth of beard. "What about Emeralda?"

"I still have not decided on her," admitted Miang. "Her role will not be up to me."

"Oh," said Mikhail. "That means Citan is going to be captain."

"I hope. There is something that you need to see," said Miang. "You'd have to go to the Zevsehn home planet. During a survey mission, Del'Doun found. . .something."

"I feel reassured," said Mikhail with sarcasm.

"As I said you don't have to make a decision," said Miang. "Even I'm having doubts."


The asteroid was one mile in length. There was only one way in or out. Sensors surrounded the rock. Inside the rock there was no atmosphere except for one small area. The location of the asteroid was only known to three people. It was the perfect prison.

Doctor Aria Tomia floated gently through the tunnel leading to a singul room where her adoptive mother was kept during her person term. Aria hated it with a passion. It should not have happened but her mother disagreed. Emeralda said that she was responsible and that she had to take her punishment. Because of her uniqueness Emeralda was imprisoned to a barren rock. Aria had to fight tooth and nail for visitation rights. What surprised Aria was the letter from Citan saying that to take that right away would be wrong.

Aria stopped before the door that entered to Emeralda's room. She looked through the small windows. She saw that her mother had broken down to her individual nanomachines and was gently floating in zero gravity. Aria smiled seeing the odd beauty of the floating molecular machines.

Aria pressed a button on the wall beside the door. "Mother," she said. "Its me."

The air in the cell started to glow as the Emeralda activated her electromagnetic field. The nanomachines started to move faster and coming toward each other and interconnecting and merging. Aria closed her eyes as there was a flash of bright light. Emeralda the woman stood in front of the door looking at Aria. "Hello Aria. I'm glad you came."

Aria placed her hand against the window separating them. "I'm glad you are well.

"Thank you," said Emeralda. "What brings you here?"

"I may have a way to get you out," said Aria.

Emeralda blinked and looked at her daughter impassively. "What did I tell you? I told you I was responsible. What I did cost peoples' lives. I have to make amends for that. This cell is my punishment."

"I don't care!" said Aria. "You might as well be back in Kim's laboratory still asleep!"

"Like Citan's trial there was no defense in mine," said Emeralda. "I always wondered why he never had a lawyer." There was the thing about wanting to be forgiven. Emeralda was the only other person besides Citan who knew that fact. "I think it was because he did not want to stretch it out and make it harder on his family. I feel the same way. I pleaded guilty because I was. I wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible and spare you any further pain."

"What if you had to chance to change your sentence?" asked Aria.


"Exile," said Aria.

"I thought I was," pointed out Emeralda.

"Exile means you leave and never come back. You're imprisoned," replied Aria.

"Were would I go?"

Aria took a deep breath. "If everything works out the planet of origin."

Emeralda did not show any surprise. "They are going to continue."

"Something was discovered that changes everything," said Aria. "Its being kept secret so I can't talk about it."

Emeralda looked at her daughter with a blank stare. She was going through calculations and probability. "There is a ninety four percent chance that Citan will continue on as captain," she said in a matter of fact tone that unnerved Aria.

"Please don't do that," said Aria.

"Sorry," said Emeralda. "I also calculate that Citan will ultimately decide about me. The decision will be his."

"For sure?" asked Aria. "I'll buy you dinner at most expensive restaurant in the sector."

"Agreed," said Emeralda.

Red lights turned on. A sign that Aria's visit was over. "Take care mom," she said.

"Goodbye," said Emeralda.

Aria left her mother to her imprisonment. She had the feeling something was wrong with her adoptive mother. Emeralda walked to a corner of her cell. She picked up a cluster of nanomachines that glowed white. The cluster was big as a baseball. Emeralda looked at it analytically. Many would say it was her soul or heart. To punish herself she expunged the one thing she fought and nearly died for on many occasions. The one thing Kim and Elly told her what made a human a human.

Chapter II: Enough with the Questions!

They all met at Zevsehn home world. There were hand shakes and hugs. Talking and catching up. They spent their time together enjoying each other company (although Aria kept her distance from Mikhail).

Three days after the gathering, they went to the council to meet and talk about the renewed mission to the planet of origin.

Klais looked that group. "I'm happy we are able to meet. I don't know about everyone else, but the destruction of the Elhaym and the results afterwards ended the mission the Eldridge II was created for, I believed it was over."

"Miang said something was found," said Mikhail. "Something that changed your minds. Better be good I have to finish this year's harvest."

"It is important," said Xi'Del. She still sat on the council but was more of an ear for her fellow Zevsehn back home. "Del'Doun discovered something incredible during an exploration mission. Something that raises more questions and also raises the stakes."

Citan stepped forward. He did not get along with the council and investigated if they ordered Emeralda to stay inside the star system. He could never prove it but he was sure someone on the council had to have overridden Emeralda. That was the past and Citan knew he had to concentrate on the present. "Is Del'Doun here?" he asked. "I would like to hear from him."

"Yes," answered Dorothy. She pressed a button in front of her. Del'Doun entered and smiled at Citan and Miang. He waved at Aria and Mikhail. "Del'Doun," said Dorothy. "Please tell them about what you discovered."

Del'Doun had the lights lowered and a holographic projector was activated. "First of all its good to see you all again," he said. "I wish we could've met under better circumstances but what my crew and I discovered this could be considered an emergency."

The projector showed an image of a planet. "This is a planet we found ten months ago," said Del'Doun. "We believe it used to be an old human colony."

"Used to? What happened to them?" asked Mikhail.

The image of the planet turned red in certain parts of the land masses. "The red areas are radioactive. The most likely cause was a nuclear war." Del'Doun blinked in the dim light. His glowing eyes casting their eerie golden glow. "We also know the cause."

He changed the image to show the cause. Citan was the only one who recognize it besides Miang. "Good lord," he said. He looked at horror of the remains of a demon made by human hands. A demon created by Miang. A demon by the name of Deus. The way it was when Citan and his friends went to the reborn Eldridge. "Was is. . .active?"

"No," said Del'Doun. "We are extremely thankful for that. We got the scans and got out. When we found out what it was we returned and finished the job. We used a micro-fusion bomb on it. I know it sounds like overkill but it was the only sure way."

"Miang, how many of those things did you build?" asked Zeck.

"One," said Miang. "How there can be more than one is something I don't know. As soon as I finished the original defensive computer, I deleted the data."

"Are you sure no one stole the data?" asked Yung. "Are you positive that someone did not betray you and those who were on the Eldridge to whatever threat it was you were running from?"

"I. . .don't know," admitted Miang. "I'm sick of the questions not having answers."

"I do have one answer," said Del'Doun. "Its one answer no one is going to like. We discovered during the scans that this particular attack computer is only five hundred years old according to the materials used to repair it."

"Hold on a minute!" said Mikhail. "Are you saying that those ten thousand years on the old planet happened somewhere else?!"

"Maybe," said Klais. "All we know is the dimensions of the thing Del'Doun discovered matches what Citan, Fei, and Bart discovered on the Eldridge after the Gazel Ministry activated the remains of the ship."

"What we fought was not the remains of the original computer," said Citan. "At least I do not believe so."

"It was my computer that went berserk," said Miang.

"It might have been the body of the computer, but not the computer itself," replied Citan. "There might be a slight possibility that the computer was. . .possessed."

"As in a demon?" asked Zeck. "That is weird. I hope you are serious about this."

"I am," said Citan. He started to pace and the people who knew him best knew what he was about to say would not be good. "I believe Miang's computer was sabotaged. Wether through possession or mechanical means."

"I put in precautions," said Miang with conviction. "There's no way it could have happened!"

"I just had a thought," said Mikhail. "What if the Wave Existence was the threat?"

"No," answered Citan. "The Wave Existence was an innocent victim of whatever war the Eldridge was escaping from. For all its power the Wave Existence was just a child."

"A powerful one," said Dorothy. "Now to the present. With the help of Zevsehn technology we refitted the Eldridge II. We got rid of the Zohar Modifier and put in a Zevsehn warp device. The ship is now able to go to warp within a star system."

Aria held up a hand. "What did you do with the Zohar Modifier? Given the history of those things I doubt you can just break them down and throw them in a trash can."

"Don't worry," said Klais. "We launched it into a black hole while it was inactive. Granted it was the cleanest source of energy but it was to unwieldy."

"Citan will you resume your status as captain?" asked Xi'Del.

"Yes," said Citan. "I'd like to keep the original command staff with one exception."

Klais rolled his eyes. "Here we go! Why is it every time we ask something of you, you have to wheel and deal?"

"Helps you keep on your political toes," said Citan. After everyone stopped laughing, Citan continued. "The lawyers should be going through the paperwork. I am trying to get Emeralda's sentence changed. She agreed to exile to the planet of origin."

"Hold on Citan," said Dorothy. "She got the punishment that was meted to her. We-

"Do not make me open an investigation!" yelled Citan. He looked at every council person in the eye. "I have my own suspicions of what happened. Do not make me pull the cork out of the bottle. This time the cork may be impossible to put back."

Everyone was quiet until Xi'Del spoke. "We will do as you ask."

"She will not be my second in command," said Citan. "As much as it pains me I cannot have her as my second in command with the rift between us."

"Who will be your second?" asked Yung.

Citan smiled and looked at the person he wanted.

"Me?" asked Del'Doun in disbelief.

Chapter III: Reacquainting with Friends

Citan and Del'Doun ate at a nearby café. Del'Doun wore sunglasses to keep the harsh light from blinding him. "Why me?" he asked.

"Because you are the most qualified person I know of," said Citan. "You have a good record as an explorer. You know more about space than any human."

Del'Doun took a careful sip of his coffee. Caffeine had the same affect on a Zevsehn as alcohol on a human. "What about my command? I don't want to give that up."

"How about a promotion?" asked Citan.

"I've heard that human logic can be strange at times," said Del'Doun with skepticism. "Please explain to me how a reduction in rank is a promotion."

"Since our two people met we had a good alliance. Think about how big the galaxy is. I refuse to believe ours is the only intelligent races in the galaxy."

"Depends," said Del'Doun. "Whatever threat that existed back then might have wiped everyone out."

Citan pushed that idea out of his mind. "What you must realize is that someone must represent your people if we do meet another intelligent race."

"Like Emeralda was an ambassador," said Del'Doun. "What will Emeralda think about this?"

"I am sure she will agree. I will ask for her to be head of the science departments. That will keep her on the bridge and still be part of the command staff."

"I just hope this does not end up being one ship with two captains," said Del'Doun.

Citan took a drink of his tea. "There should be no problem. You have to understand one thing about me, whenever I look around corners to find a solution I usually end up looking at my own back. Unless you have a reason to countermand or question my orders please do not do so. If you do please do it in my office if possible."

"Agreed," said Del'Doun.

Citan finished his tea. "We will leave after Mikhail finishes with his crops. That will leave us time to finish up with the Eldridge II."

"Who's going to get Emeralda out?" asked Del'Doun.

"Aria will be working on that," answered Citan.

"One last question," said Del'Doun. "What happens if we run into one of those things of Miang's and its fully active?"

"I have a contingency plan," said Citan. "Only Miang and Emeralda know of it. They helped with it."

"You're not going to share," said Del'Doun.

"It's a trump card. The less said, the better."


Three months passed and the Eldridge II was almost finished. In the meantime Aria waited for her mother to be released. She paced back and forth on the Zevsehn ship waiting for her adoptive mother to be freed.

She was finally alerted that Emeralda was on board. She ran to the shuttle bay and waited for her. The doors opened and Aria nearly knocked Emeralda over as she hugged her. "Mother," she said.

Emeralda hugged backed. Again Aria felt there was something wrong with her mother. She broke the hug and looked at her mother. "Mom, are you ok?"

"We need to talk," said Emeralda.

Aria was taken aback at her mother's behavior. She was acting like on of those robots Miang once mentioned. In Aria's quarters, Emeralda explained. "The three hundred year sentence is not enough. The three centuries are nothing in comparison to the four thousand years. I decided to punish myself."

Emeralda took the glowing white nanomachine cluster from her duffel bag. "In a sense this is what makes me human."

Aria was afraid to ask. She looked at her mother not knowing what to say. Emeralda set the cluster on a table. "These nanomachines are what allow me to experience emotions."

"Mom!" yelled Aria. "Why?!"

"I could not handle the stress and the guilt. Mentally I was having a breakdown."

Aria took hold of her mother's hands. "I could've helped."

"I did not wish to add any burden onto you," said Emeralda. "You have had enough stress on your shoulders. As illogical as it seems, I felt if I talked to you about this, I would be harming you."

"Mom," said Aria. "You would not have harmed me then. Now you have. You didn't ask me or anyone else for help."

Emeralda looked at Aria with a blank stare. "I am sorry. I did not realize that."

"Its alright," said Aria. She looked at Emeralda with hope. "Can you regain your emotions?"

"Yes," said Emeralda. "I just have to reabsorb the cluster. Someday I will. . .just not now."

Aria sighed with relief. "That's all I need to know."


Mikhail entered the new and improved Eldridge II. This ship was only one mile in length. It was more streamlined around the nose and wings. The crew was also cut in half. The computer systems were rebuilt from the lighting system on up. There were more tests ran this time then when it was originally built.

Mikhail entered the bridge and whistled. Even the bridge was smaller. Circular in design the pilot's station was in front of the main screen. The captain's seat was raised on a dias while the second in command's station next to the captain's seat. On the right of the bridge was the engineer's station to be used if Miang or one her people were on the bridge while the science station was directly across.

Mikhail resisted the urge to sit at his station. It was a tradition with him. Until a ship was ready to go he would not sit in the pilot's seat.

He looked at the blank screen and swallowed. When that crazy Zevsehn set off that bomb the screen became so bright that it blinded him. He was in such shock that when he heard someone screaming he did not realize it was him doing the screaming. Somehow in his shock and blindness he managed to get the ship away with minimal damage. He was very happy when he was healed up.

The lift doors opened and Miang walked onto the bridge. "Hello Mikhail."

"Miang," he walked toward her than stopped. He looked at her wrist making sure she was wearing the bracelet.

"I'm wearing the bracelet," said Miang.

"Rats," replied Mikhail in a tone that Miang could not tell if he was serious or not.

Miang smiled at Mikhail. "Wondering what it would be like?"

"Tempting," replied Mikhail.

Miang stepped closer to Mikhail. "You claim to be a risk taker. Here's a risk right in front of you."

Mikhail shook his head. "I know two people who would violently disagree."

Miang nodded with approval. "Very good. You do have control."

Mikhail blinked. "Were you. . .just testing me?"

"Yes," said Miang. Her smile vanished. "This trip is going to be long. Could take almost a year."

Mikhail's mouth dropped. "A year? B-b-but the farm. . ."

"Will be fine. As I was saying this trip will be long. Not to sound egotistical but I'm attractive. I have to let it be known that I'm off limits."

"No problem here," said Mikhail. "What happens if couple has a relationship on board and the woman get's pregnant?"

Miang smiled. "Don't worry about it."

"Why don't I like that answer?"

Miang's smile vanished. "The food is spiked with a natural contraceptive."

"Is it safe?" asked Mikhail.

"Yes. I'm not sure how it works. That's something you have to ask Aria," said Miang.

Mikhail decided to see how far he could push Miang. "We could always have a pre-flight orgy."

Miang laughed and looked at Mikhail seductively. "I'm afraid I'd wear everyone out."

That was not the answer Mikhail was looking for. He looked at her and trying to talk.

"I'll see you later Lieutenant," said Miang. She walked to the lift swinging her hips in such a fashion it made Mikhail swoon.


Citan entered sickbay to get his physical. To his regret, Aria was the one giving the examinations. They kept the conversation professional. After the physical, Citan decided to talk about it. "Do you hate me?" he asked.

Aria's reply was clenched teeth. "Why should I hate you?"

"Because of what I did to your mother."

"The trial," said Aria. "I can forgive you for turning in my mother. What I cannot forgive is that you didn't hang around for the trial." Aria got right up in Citan's face. "She told me she sat through your trial. From the beginning to the bitter end, to being at the Goliath Hanger when you started you sentence."

Citan hung his head. "I know what I did was selfish. I was more tired than I thought. Tired of being caught up in the struggle and the death that followed."

"What struggle was there when you gave up on your family?" asked Aria.

Citan stood up. "How dare you!"

"What? Speak the truth!?" demanded Aria.

Before Citan could reply, a nurse came in. "Is everything alright? I heard shouting."

"No," said Aria.

"Maybe this was a bad idea!" said Citan. He walked out and walked through the ship.

He stopped on his way to the bridge. He looked out the a window at the infinite sea of stars. None of his friends could understand what he had did, the prices he had to pay. Citan calmed down and promised himself to have a talk with the command staff. He owed them that much.


After a couple of hours and calming down, Aria went back to sickbay to finish the physicals. Her day became one of the worst in her life. She found Mikhail waiting in the examination room. "What are you doing here?" she asked, nearly yelling the question.

Mikhail looked at the doctor. Fifty different sarcastic replies came to mind. He started to say one of them. "I'm here for my examination." Mikhail became confused. "What did I just say? That wasn't what I was going to say."

Aria forced herself not to smile but did anyway. "Take your shirt off."

This time Mikhail did say something crass. "About time Doc. Do you know how long I've been waiting for this?"

"Can't you ever be professional?" demanded Aria.

Mikhail stopped taking his shirt off. He pulled it back on. He knew Aria enough to know something or someone had set her off. "What happened?"

"I had an argument with someone," said Aria.


Aria gave Mikhail a dirty look. "How did you know?"

"A rumor is going around two of the command staff had an argument," replied Mikhail. "Was it that bad?"

"I basically told him that he walked out on his family like he did to my mother."

"Ouch!" replied Mikhail. "I'm surprised you're not in the ICU ward."

"So am I," said Aria. She went over to her safe which held her private stock and poured a couple drinks. She handed a glass to Mikhail.

"Thanks," he said taking the glass. "So when are you going to apologize?"

Aria nearly choked on her drink. "After what he did? Hell no!"

"I've been thinking about this," said Mikhail. "Remember what Citan said at the council meeting? I think he was scared of something."

"Him? Scared? Right," muttered Aria.

"He has admitted to fear before," said Mikhail. He finished his drink. "When we have the pre-flight meeting we can ask him about it." He took off his shirt and smiled. "Now about that physical."

Aria's face turned red. A reaction that had nothing to do with her drink. "You've been keeping yourself in good shape."


They were once enemies, they were friends, they both paid a heavy price for who they are. Miang shook her head with disappointment. Citan had wondered the ship and ended up in engineering. By then the news of the altercation between him and Aria had reached Miang. She invited him to her office to talk to him about it. "Citan, Citan, Citan. . .what will I ever do with you?"

Citan was wondering if the Universe was conspiring against him. "If you are trying to make me feel better you are failing."

"What I'm trying to do is knock some sense into that stubborn head of yours," clarified Miang. "So when are you going to apologize to them?"

"To Emeralda, yes. To Aria when she apologizes first. She was making assumptions that were not warranted and she insulted me in the worst possible way."

Miang saw the anger and hurt on Citan's face. She saw that look before and it was not a pleasant experience. "I don't know what she said but I have a good idea. People will start wondering about you and your relationship with your family. They will ask why you walked out on Emeralda during her hour of need."

"I'll will explain everything during the meeting," said Citan.

Before Miang could speak, Citan left the office. "Damn," said Miang.

Chapter IV: True Confessions. . .Maybe

Rumors had floated back and forth about Citan. Some people were starting to doubt him and the mission. On the day before the launch of the Eldridge II the command staff sat in the meeting room. They waited for Citan to arrive.

Citan arrived and everyone started to rise. "Sit," said Citan. He started to pace back and forth. "I know about the rumors going back and forth about me. Those I do not care about. What bothers me are the ones about Yui and Midori." He stopped and looked at his people. "Those rumors stop now. If I ever hear such. . .things again, I will find the originator and he or she will regret it."

Citan looked at Emeralda. "I have to apologize to you. Aria was somewhat right. What was said and not said between Aria and I will remain private. The rumors caused enough damage. . .and for the record, she did not knee me in the crotch."

Citan could see everyone hold back. "Go ahead, let it out." Everyone laughed. Even Citan smiled.

"There are things I have to say. Explain certain behavior that is unusual for me," he said after the laughter died down. "After the war with Deus I did a lot of thinking. Just before I turned myself in to be tried I came to a frightening conclusion. A conclusion that made Deus look insignificant."

"What could make Deus be that?" asked Mikhail.

"Remember what I said at the council meeting," answered Citan.

"You do believe some unknown enemy sabotaged the computer?" asked Aria.

"I said as much at the meeting. At the time I did not say anymore than necessary."

"Do you have proof?" asked Miang.

"I have a hypothesis," answered Citan. "After the great war I discovered an anomaly. A small historical anomaly that frankly confused me. It is true that I wanted to get away from the strife of three years ago. I also had a another reason. To do a lot of serious thinking. I was killing two birds with one stone. Miang, how many times did the Contact and Anti-Type appear throughout the ten-thousand years?"

"Five times, or four if Abel and Elhaym were the original survivors of the crash. That was something Cain and the Gazel Ministry could never prove or disprove," answered Miang.

"With the exception of Abel and his Elly, there was always a crisis that needed the Contact and the Anti-Type. The couple I knew that helped save the world and Kim and Elly who created Emeralda to be a ray of hope in a time when humanity was on the verge of extinction," said Citan.

"I know you aren't the absent-minded type intellectual, but you forgot Sophia and Lacan," said Mikhail.

"Did I?" asked Citan.

"Sophia and Lacan are the anomaly?" asked Aria. Everyone looked at Citan with disbelief.

"Miang, from the start of that war, how was Solaris doing?" asked Citan.

Miang closed her eyes and thought back. Generations of lives that were not her's flashed through her mind. "We-Solaris wasn't doing very good."

"Just as Fei told me," said Citan. "When did things turn around."

Miang still had her eyes closed. The memories of the war flashing through her mind. She opened her eyes in surprise. "It was small victories at first. Those victories started when Sophia and Lacan joined the war."

"Indeed," said Citan. "Whatever hidden forces were at play might have known about the war and forced a Contact and Anti-Type into existence. Remember that Deus was damaged. I believe that whatever forces that once controlled the computer knew that if Solaris lost the war they in turn would lose."

"To what end?" asked Emeralda.

"You were created to be a ray of hope. What did Krelian try to do to you?"

"Turn me into a weapon. Just like Miang tried soon after I was created," said Emeralda. She turned to Miang and said, "Sorry."

"It's alright," mumbled Miang.

"Regardless of that example we know that the computer was purely defensive in nature. Yet something happened to subvert it. Like Sophia and Lacan the computer was manipulated by forces that could be greater than the Wave Existence."

"I still don't understand how Sophia and Lacan are an anomaly," said Aria.

"I would like Miang to explain what happened on the Eldridge between her and Elhaym," said Citan.

Miang took a deep breath before speaking. "When the alarms went off, Elhaym, a Devsehn female, and I were together in a corridor. Some force tore apart the Devsehn female. What was left was forced into me. For those who do not know, my body was useless but my mind was still sharp. Somehow that murderous act gave me this body." Miang took a breath and continued. "I don't know if it was the Wave Existence or my computer but one of them was trying fuse Elhaym and I into one being. Just as we were about to touch something jerked us apart."

"Could the force that dragged you away from Elly be the Wave Existence?" asked Aria.

"I doubt it," said Miang. "For some odd reason the computer couldn't function without me. Why, I don't know."

"As its creator it could have chosen Miang as an important tool. Just as a child with a small cut will go to their parents to get a bandage," said Emeralda.

"And as such the computer hoped that Miang could repair the damage," said Del'Doun.

"Correct," said Citan. "The nanomachines and other materials that Krelian used could be analogous to a salve and Miang was the bandage especially for the 'brain damage'."

"Hold it!" said Mikhail. "I really didn't pay attention in school that much, but I remember reading that Deus was created to wipe out planets!"

"Bad translation on my part," said Citan.

"The actual translation is 'a last resort made against the enemy's home planet'," said Miang.

"So how did the same thing happen on another planet?" asked Mikhail.

"Because Miang does not have her full memories before the crash we cannot be sure," said Citan. "Another thing that always bothered me since I helped find the remains of the Eldridge is the technological gap. When the Eldridge II was being built, we used the latest technology. Although I am still not up to date I know the technology that was used on the Eldridge II is more advanced than what was used on the original except for two exceptions."

"My computer and the Zohar Modifier," said Miang. "It doesn't make any sense." Miang slammed her fist on the metal table and put a dent in it. "Sorry, but I'm frustrated. The only thing I can think of is that people back then were lied to."

"I don't understand," said Del'Doun. "How could a whole planet be fooled?"

"With the forces that may or may not still exist it would not be a hard thing to do," said Citan. "Solaris kept the war between Aveh and Kislev going for a long time. They were basically played both sides against the middle."

"We weren't with war with anyone on the planet of origin," said Miang.

"No," said Del'Doun. "I think Citan might be right. Our two races had an alliance at one time. My people vanished from human history. All records were pulled. That's the current conventional wisdom."

"I believe that this unknown enemy made their first move against the Zevsehn. I also believe Zevsehn tried to get word to their human allies. Somehow the enemy stopped humans from getting the warning."

"I wish I could remember what happened," said Miang.

"We all feel the same," said Aria. "When we arrive at the planet of origin, we'll have all our answers."


The reborn Eldridge II was ready to continue the mission to find the answers of humanity's past. Citan made his final rounds of the ship and went back to the bridge. Miang stayed in engineering and ran final system checks. Mikhail stood by his position on the bridge waiting for the word for him to pilot the ship.

Aria was in Del'Doun's office arguing with him. "I can override you," said Aria.

Del'Doun stood up and crossed his arms. "I don't care. I refuse to be examined."

"I know about Zevsehn anatomy. I've been learning for the past three years," said Aria. "I was the best student in my class."

"Then you know about Ack'Den's Disease," said Del'Doun.

Aria inhaled sharply. A rare disease among the Zevsehn. While not fatal to the carrier their blood was a highly toxic airborne contagion. The toxin has a short life span when exposed to air but acted fast while active. Aria read the history that assassins would kill the carriers and use the blood as poison. Medicine was made to keep the toxicity down in case of an injury that caused bleeding. "Do you take your medicine everyday?"

"Yes," said Del'Doun. "The formula is in my medical file so you can synthesize it."

"Does Citan know?" she asked.

"Most likely from my personal files," answered Del'Doun. "The details will be in my medical records."

"I haven't checked that," said Aria. "I usually go over a person's medical record with them. One thing that worries me is how your blood could affect a human. I can't take the risk of drawing your blood."

"I can do that," said Del'Doun. "Wouldn't be the first time. As for the risk, if I'm ever injured and bleeding, treat it as you would any serious contagion."

"I hope you will be fine," said Aria. "I just hope people don't react negatively."

"It won't be bad. There was always misgivings throughout my life. Eventually people understand I'm not a walking plague," said Del'Doun.

"Ok," said Aria. "I want you to come down to sickbay. After I give you your physical you can draw your own blood in the isolation lab."

"There's no way out of the physical?" asked Del'Doun.

"Unless you want to it be done by computer. Then you would have to lay on your back for ten hours," said Aria in a tone that stopped any more arguments.

Chapter V: Sea of Stars

Hours later after Del'Doun passed his physical, the ship was ready to begin its journey. The crew of the Eldridge II waited anxiously for the command to be given. The ship orbited the Zevsehn home world.

"You can sit down," ordered Citan.

"When I get the command to fly the ship," said Mikhail who was standing beside his chair.

Citan looked at the pilot from his seat. He shifted uncomfortably in the chair. "Who's idea was it to put the captain's chair on a dias?"

"The Chief's," said Emeralda. "She said this would give the crew the impression who was in charged."

Citan shook his head. He contacted Engineering. "Chief, this is the bridge."

"Something wrong?" asked Miang.

"After we get going I want the center chair to be lowered."

Citan could imagine what kind of arguments Miang was making. Arguments she would not use while crew people were around. "Yes sir," she said.

"Is the ship ready to go?" asked Del'Doun.

"Yes Commander," answered Miang. "I just want to say I feel more safe with the Zevsehn warp drive then the Zohar Modifier. Now if Mikhail decides to sit down, we can go."

"I think we can agree with that. . .on both counts," said Citan. He turned to Mikhail. "The light is green."

Mikhail rubbed his hands together. "On the upside, don't have to fly through an asteroid field." He sat down and ran his fingers across the smooth control panel. He smiled and said, "Away we go!"

The ship turned and left orbit and flew past the closest moon. "So when do we go to warp?" asked Mikhail.

"At anytime," answered Emeralda from her station. "One million kilometers away from a gas giant is considered safe."

"Then lets do it," said Mikhail. He activated the warp core and the Eldridge II went faster than light.

"Real nice," said Citan. It was if the ship traveled through a white tunnel.

"Does it look the same on your ship?" asked Emeralda.

"Yes," said Del'Doun who was smiling. "You should go see the quantum anomaly. It's like looking at a symphony of colors."

"I think I will," said Citan. He had to go anyway to hear what Miang had to say about the order concerning his seat.


Citan stared at the quantum anomaly that was kept within a transparent tube that it trapped. Inert gasses kept the anomaly from touching the tube. Creating and capturing a quantum anomaly was harder than making a functional Zohar Modifier. Citan placed his hand on his chin when he did heavy thinking. The questions about the Zohar Modifier and Deus. Citan could understand the computer. It was the Zohar Modifier that concerned him. He was not sure why but he was glad when the Eldridge II's main power supply was replaced. That was his current problem. Even when he and the others discovered the Zohar Modifier over two hundred fifty years ago his first reaction was to either run away or attack it.

"I had to snap three people out of it for staring too long," said Miang.

Citan turned and looked at her. She had not changed in three years and neither did he. They both discovered their time in suspended animation had slowed their aging process. He thought of people like Queen Zephyr and Emeralda who lived for centuries and friends they watched die as they remained the same.

"Let's go for a walk," said Citan.

They left Engineering and walked down the corridor. "Why in the Gazel Ministry's rotting bodies did you raise my seat?" asked Citan.

"Symbolism," said Miang. She held up her hand before Citan could object. "I know you hate symbolism. Its my way of making sure the same thing doesn't happen again."

"I appreciate the thought. I just don't like the idea of people having to look up at me that way. . .besides. . . people on elevated seats tend to live short life spans."

Miang shook her head. "Do you really hate being in charge?"

"No," said Citan. "I do not like people trying to make me a type of leader that I am not."

Miang's face blushed. "Oh. I didn't realize that."

Citan smiled. "Its alright. I just have to find my own style of command."

"Firm but far?" asked Miang.

"Yeah," said Citan. "I have to get back to the bridge."

"Oh," said Miang with disappointment.

Citan was confused by her sudden change in behavior. He wondered if she was trying to impress him. "I am flattered that you did it," he said.

"Don't lie," said Miang. "I know this is hypocritical, but Cain and I had one thing in common. We both hated lying even though we told enough ourselves."

Citan looked away from Miang when she mentioned Cain. They both still had to talk about the last Emperor Cain clone among other things. Neither had the courage or the time to talk about those events let alone how they felt about each other. "Miang, we really have to talk."

"I know," replied Miang. "Someday we will but for now we have to concentrate on the mission."

"Yes, ma'am!" said Citan with a salute.

Miang smiled and was tempted to punch Citan in the arm. "Quit trying make me take the center seat. I don't want it."

"I could always request you stay on the bridge. There is a station there for Engineering," suggested Citan.

"Nice try," said Miang. "Being an absentee leader isn't wise."

"I know," said Citan. "I had to try." There was so much more he wanted to say. They had to wait for the right time.


"It is a reasonable request," said Emeralda.

"Ah, come on Emmy! We don't have time for that!" argued Mikhail.

Del'Doun rubbed his temples. Emeralda and Mikhail had been arguing for past half hour ever since Emeralda had made her discovery. "I can understand your eagerness," said Del'Doun. "Such astronomical events are a rarity."

"It is not my request," said Emeralda. "My staff is very interested in what is going to happen. They would like to see it happen. This is a once in a lifetime event."

"That's all and good but we have a mission to do," pointed out Mikhail. "I'm sure you can use the shuttles and fly there."

"That is a foolish and dangerous idea. As a pilot you know a shuttle will not stand up to such forces. Not even a probe will last as long and will not get the results we are looking for," said Emeralda.

"We get the scans," said Del'Doun. "This is indeed a rare event. Not even my people have witnessed such an event."

"This will be the first and last time," said Mikhail. "I don't like deviating off course for any reason except for emergencies."

"I know the scientists want to discover as much as possible but we do have the primary mission,"said Del'Doun. "My idea is that we do not stop for anything unless it is out of the ordinary."

"Describe out of the ordinary," Emeralda and Mikhail at the same time.

Del'Doun held up his hand. "Citan asked me to fix this problem and I have. What will be considered out of the ordinary will be ultimately up to him."

"Fine by me," said Mikhail. "If that's all?"

"No," said Del'Doun. "Poker night is tomorrow."

Mikhail flashed them both a nasty smile. "Revenge night," he said on his way out.

"If I had my emotions I would be concerned," said Emeralda.

"When I was invited to the staff poker games I studied the game. I wonder if he was losing on purpose," said Del'Doun.

"Given his nature and behavior I would not be surprised," said Emeralda.

"Emmy," said Del'Doun. "Why did you remove your emotions? That doesn't seem like you."

"I was not sleeping well. I was having nightmares," admitted Emeralda. "I was losing my mind while in prison."

"And to punish yourself?"

"Yes. I could not function normally with all that guilt," said Emeralda. "Have you ever woken in the middle of the night screaming?"

"It's happened to me before," said Del'Doun. "Most people don't realize they have Ack'Den's Disease until they bleed. I was only ten when I was helping my mother in the kitchen. I had cut myself on a knife. The toxin put my mother in a coma. I was trapped in the kitchen for hours before help arrived. I remember her waking up and coughing up blood. She knew what had happened and did not blame me. Just before help finally arrived she died."

Emeralda did not know what to say. Without her emotions she could not find the right words. She was beginning to discover how illogical her decision had been. She could not feel awkwardness but knew Del'Doun was. He waited for her to say something. "I have to go," she said.

Del'Doun felt as though he had been shot. "Emmy, please don't go."

"I am sorry this happened," said Emeralda. "I do not know what to say or what to do."

"Let me help you," said Del'Doun. "Don't give up what you fought for so easily."

"I have things I must do," said Emeralda.

Del'Doun watched her leave. There was one thing he did not tell her about that fateful day. He had received a vision from the Teacher. The Teacher had showed him a woman with green hair with strange beauty. He was too young to understand what it meant. When he saw Emeralda for the first time, he finally understood. A strange exotic woman who was immune to his condition. Del'Doun could not push too hard lest he drove her away.


Citan approved of the idea. That way everyone would be satisfied and their timetable would not be thrown off. "Go to sub-light speed Mr. Balthasar," he ordered.

"Aye, sir," said Mikhail.

The ship came out of warp halfway in the star system that interested the scientists. The viewer showed three stars orbiting each other. "Have you ever seen anything like that Commander?" asked Citan.

"A few times," said Del'Doun. "We never seen it like this. With one of the stars ready to go nova the other two should go with it. If the theory is correct."

Mikhail looked at the three stars. "Which one is going to go boom?"

"The smallest one," said Emeralda. "We want to see if it is close enough to cause some kind of a reaction with the other two."

"How close do we have to get?" asked Mikhail.

"Thirty million kilometers," answered Emeralda.

Everyone looked at Emeralda. "Won't we be risking heat exposure?" asked Mikhail.

"No," said Emeralda. "As soon as the star starts to go nova, we can go to warp. We can move faster than the explosion."

"I hope so," said Del'Doun. "I've seen stars go nova before. The explosion takes out the inner system planets."

"We will be in sub-light," said Citan. "If we misjudge, we can always gain speed."

Mikhail smiled and said, "Why not. I always wanted to outrace the ultimate force in the Universe."

"Why would you want to outrace knowledge?" asked Del'Doun.

"The smallest star is about to go nova," said Emeralda. "Scanners are ready."

"Mr. Balthasar get ready to get us out of here," said Citan. "How long?"

"Thirty seconds," replied Del'Doun. "Lowering luminance." The main viewer darkened to prevent blindness.

"Hope it works this time," said Mikhail. He was furious when he found out the viewer's automatic luminance adjustors did not activate when the micro fusion bomb went off.

"Do not worry," said Citan. "The problem has been fixed."

"Damn well better," muttered Mikhail under his breath.

The smallest star contracted as it was ready to give up its life. On the viewer, the star seemed to vanish then exploded. The explosion reached toward its fellow stars. The largest star absorbed the detonation while the middle sized star gaseous form warped and stretched like taffy. The middled size star touched the largest. The largest star reacted violently as solar flares erupted from the fiery surface. The medium size now too wounded to keep its form went nova. Its shockwave passed through the largest. The majority of the shockwave passed through the giant star disrupting the core and biggest one exploded causing the Eldridge II's main viewer to go black.

"Shit!" yelled Mikhail. "I'm taking us out of here!"

"Not yet!" replied Emeralda. "We are still safe!"

"When the shockwave reaches the five million kilometer mark, we go to warp," ordered Citan.

"Understood," said Emeralda. "The shockwave has reach the second planet and has destroyed it," she said as if reporting on the weather. "Data is coming in fast. Shockwave at six million kilometer mark. Shockwave from medium and large novae six million and ten million kilometers behind the first shockwave. I suggest we leave at warp one at the two million mile mark. That way we can still get comparable data and results."

"Is that safe?" asked Del'Doun.

"The ride might be a little shaky but as long as we remain in warp we will be traveling faster than light," answered Citan. "Do as she says Mr. Baltasar."

Mikhail had an odd grin on his face. "Just like para-gliding."

"Two million mark," said Emeralda.

"Going to warp," said Mikhail. The ship went to warp keeping an equal distance from the shockwaves.

Second and third planets have been destroyed," said Del'Doun from his station.

Emeralda looked up from her monitor. "We got all the information we need."

"Then go to warp four," ordered Citan. "When we are far enough away we will make a course correction and then resume our original course."

Citan looked at Del'Doun and behind the sunglasses he wore the Zevsehn was in thought. "You alright, Commander?"

"Yes, sir," answered Del'Doun. "I was just thinking about Deus."

"Oh?" asked Emeralda.

"There is something more powerful than a computer gone mad," said Del'Doun. "That force is nature itself."

Chapter VI: gears

Three months passed. The ship's scientists kept busy by studying the data collected from the nova.

Emeralda had the day off. Her replacement at her station, Yara Dubio, who looked like the stereotype of the shy librarian took Emeralda's shift. It was a slow shift and Mikhail flirted with the scientist while the ship was on autopilot. What Mikhail did not know was that Yara was in fact beautiful. She was also an old friend of Aria's. Mikhail also did not know was that the two women were going to setup Mikhail.

Mikhail was busy believing he was impressing Yara as she lead him on when the sensors went off. "I have to check this," she said. She looked at her display. "Commander I'm showing an unknown energy source."

Del'Doun was in on the joke and had a hidden transmitter in his ear. Aria had been listening in the whole time. "Did you check the Zevsehn database?"

"Yes sir," said Yara. "There's nothing in that database either."

Mikhail went to the helm. "Shall we go check it out?" he asked.

"Drop out of warp," ordered Del'Doun. "Relative stop. This is one of those situations that the captain has discretion." Del'Doun contacted Citan and he entered the bridge from his office.

Citan walked to the center chair. He was very happy that someone from Engineering got rid of the dias. "What is going on?"

"We got an unknown energy source originating from a system two light years from our position," answered Yara.

Citan knew the scientists checked both Human and Zevsehn databases. He stifled a smile knowing Del'Doun did ask. That was one of things the commander had to get used to. "Anything unusual about the energy?" he asked instead.

"Well. . .its at rest," said Yara.

"At rest?" said Mikhail.

"Energy is based on movement," said Yara. "Everything from a Zohar Modifier to wiggling your fingers. Both requires energy to do what it does. In this case the energy is just sitting there. Think of a battery. Even when not being used it's still active even though its in a small way."

"Could it be used as a power source?" asked Citan.

"Yes," said Yara. "Its seems to be very pliable."

Citan got up and walked over to the science station and looked at the data. "You mean you have never seen this before?" he asked in a tone that questioned her qualifications.

"No, sir," said Yara. "You mean you have?"

"A long time ago," said Citan. "I am sorry. I did not mean to sound accusing. All detailed information was kept secret and investigations by outside researchers was punishable by death." Citan turned and said, "That energy source is Ether. Whatever secrets Solaris had about Ether was lost when Id destroyed Solaris."


The command staff met in the meeting room. "Citan," said Miang. "Are you sure this is Ether?"

"Look at your display," said Citan.

Miang looked her monitor and shook her head. "Where there's Ether there's a Zohar Modifier."

"My thoughts exactly," said Citan.

"We should be getting the location from the probe we sent," said Emeralda. "The strongest Ether signature will be from the Zohar Modifier."

"What will you do after you find it?" asked Aria.

"That depends on what of the planet is like," said Citan. "This is what we know so far. The planet we lived on had a Zohar Modifier. Before Del'Doun joined us he discovered the remains of another attack computer. One of the purposes of the Zohar Modifier was a power source for the attack computer."

"Since when did my computer use a Zohar Modifier?" asked Miang.

"It was in the records," said Citan.

"No," said Miang. "It was solar powered. The Zohar Modifier drew power from the vacuum of space. On a planet's surface it should not have even worked."

"Maybe when the Wave Existence was trapped the computer tried to leech off the Wave Existence like a parasite," said Emeralda.

"Could be," said Citan. "After we get the data from the probe, and if there is no danger, we will send a shuttle down. Mikhail will pilot. I want Emeralda to come with us. I also want a geologist and archaeologist from your department, Emeralda."

"I'll be coming also," said Aria.

"No," said Citan.

"Sorry Citan," said Aria. "According to the regulations one medical personnel has to be on any away mission. That decision is up to me and I pick myself."

"Ok, ok," he said. "If the planet's atmosphere is viable we will go down tomorrow."


The shuttle landed two miles from the Zohar Modifier. Citan, Aria, and the famed married archaeologist and geologist couple, Harriet and Patrick O' Day followed Citan.

Mikhail stayed on the shuttle with Emeralda. Emeralda wanted to go with Citan but he said no. He wanted her to remain on the shuttle in case he and the others ran into any problems.

Mikhail became bored and asked, "Emmy, mind if I ask you a question?"

Emeralda ran the calculations through her collective mind and figured there was fifty/fifty chance Mikhail was going to ask about how she worked in one fashion or another. Even without her emotions she still did not like revealing secrets about herself. "As long as it does not involve how I function."

"Well. . .," said Mikhail. "Its like this. You're a collective mind. What's that like? I mean do you feel everything that goes on in your body?"

Emeralda thought about. The question did not deal with how she worked but it seemed a personal question. "I guess I can answer that question. When I was learning about humanity I decided to mimic humanity mentally and physically."

"That would mean you have bones and a heart," replied Mikhail. "Wow. Must take a lot of concentration to do that."

"At first," said Emeralda. "Like a human body, I have automatic functions like the heart and breathing. If I choose to I can also see within myself. For example, I can see my equivalent of neurons working. It is quite interesting."

"And beautiful," said Mikhail.

"In a biological sense it is," said Emeralda.

That was not the answer he expected or wanted. "You really did get rid of your emotions."

"I still have them. They are not within me," said Emeralda.

"Same difference," said Mikhail. "Emotions are what make a human, human. No matter how hard someone tries they can't get rid of them. You fought hard for your humanity and emotions. Don't give them up so quickly."

"You have tried?" asked Emeralda.

"Yeah," said Mikhail. "After the shuttle crash I put up a wall around myself. In the long run I was harming myself and pushing my friends away."

"Are you saying what I did was wrong?" asked Emeralda.

Mikhail shrugged. "I don't know. You're unique so I can't say."

"I will reabsorb my emotions someday," said Emeralda.

"When will that day be?" asked Mikhail in a challenging tone. "Tomorrow? The day after? If you decide to fall in love again? When Aria marries and starts a family of her own? Will you decide to reabsorb that cluster when Aria grows old and dies so you can mourn?"

"I. . .do not know," admitted Emeralda. "Maybe if I decide to love again or if Aria does marry. Whichever happens first, I suppose."

"Good," said Mikhail.

"Are you helping to get closer to Aria?" asked Emeralda.

"I suppose," said Mikhail. "I guess I can tell you I'm sort of attracted to her." Mikhail frowned and pointed a finger at Emeralda. "You're not to tell her that."

"Why not?" asked Emeralda. "I know she has feel-

"Don't say it!" said Mikhail. He saw the confused look on Emeralda. " I know she and I like each other. I don't know about her but I just don't want to push. You know as well as I do that she is a firebrand."

"I know," said Emeralda. "As you are."

"Thank you," said Mikhail. "The thing is Aria doesn't like being pushed into things and I don't want to push. I just want it to happen naturally."

"I understand," said Emeralda. "I will not interfere. . .and please do not let her down. I still have what is referred to as a mother's love for her child. I do take that seriously."

"No argument here," said Mikhail.

"Shuttle One, this Citan!"

Emeralda and Mikhail looked at each other. The urgency of Citan's voice filled the shuttle. Something happened out there. "Captain," said Emeralda. "What is the emergency."

"Emeralda get out here now! If you can you can trace us by my comm signal through your colony. Mikhail, get the shuttle ready! We will be leaving. While you are waiting contact the ship and tell them to have a med-team standing by!"

"I hope she's alright," said Mikhail. He went to the pilot's seat and started the shuttle.

"She will be," said Emeralda.


"Is this the cave?" asked Harriet.

"Yes, hon," answered Patrick. "According to my preliminary scans, the rocks have been affected by the closeness of a Zohar Modifier releasing Ether."

"How so?" asked Aria.

"A planet's age can be determined by the layers. From the crust to the core. Each layer is usually the same age with maybe a millennia of difference. In the cavern Citan and his friends found the age of the rocks. . .was eschewed."

Citan stop and turned to the geologist. "With the exception of the Zohar Modifier and Id's cocoon everything seemed fine."

"From what we can see normally," said Patrick. "It was my theory that the rocks closeness to the Zohar Modifier did strange things to the minerals around it. From simple rocks to jewels. After getting permission from the council I went to the cavern and did the tests. What I found was strange. One rock showed an age of being ten years old while the one next to it would be thirty thousand."

"Are you sure there was not any Ether residue?" asked Citan. "When the others and I found the Zohar Modifier our sensors were messed up." Citan took a deep breath and slowly exhaled.

Harriet took hold of Citan's hand and patted it as if he was her grandson. "You ok? You look like you had a fright."

Citan smiled at the old archeologist. When he first saw the old couple, he wondered if he and Yui might have been like that. Citan immediately pushed the memory away. That life was gone forever. Citan let go of Harriet's hand. "I was just thinking how lucky we were with Id. The only thing that saved us was the fact that not even Id could use sensors while so close to the Zohar Modifier."

"Indeed you were. To answer your question, no. Even when I took samples back to my lab and ran every test conceivable, the results were the same," said Patrick.

The group entered the cave and were hit by a cold wave. "That was not what I was expecting," said Aria.

"What were you expecting?" asked Harriet.

"Heat and plenty of it," answered Aria. "I remember reading that the cavern on the old planet was warm."

"I know," said Citan. "I had the cooling system going full blast."

"More of the strangeness," said Patrick. "There was also lava."

"Yes," said Citan. "There was plenty of that also. Most likely from an inactive volcano."

"That's were you're wrong, Captain," said Patrick. "That whole area was geographically inactive. To melt half the minerals we discovered in that cavern would require the heat from a star. If the Zohar Modifier was responsible the Ether power must have been more than what Emperor Cain or a Contact could produce."

"Then there's the Wave Existence," said Aria. "I figured it was the combination of the Zohar Modifier and the Wave Existence that produced Ether."

"That is the current theory," said Citan.

"I found something!" yelled Harriet.

That all went to her. She stood over a shattered piece of metal. The others walked over to see what she found. They looked at Harriet's discovery and everyone looked at Citan.

Citan took a step back. He tried to look away but could not. He was transfixed by the shattered image of the mysterious unblinking eye that was imprinted on the Zohar Modifier. Somehow this part of the Zohar Modifier had been shattered. "What happened?"

Harriet bent over and looked at the eyes. She took a small brush and carefully brushed the dust away. "Be careful!" warned Aria.

"She knows what she is doing," said Citan.

Harriet smiled at Citan. "Thank you." She continued dusting. She finished her examinations and stood up with help from Patrick. "I guess I'm not as young as I thought," she said.

"What did you find?" asked Citan.

Harriet dusted herself off. "It was done deliberately. If it had fallen and broke the pieces would be just about even in size." Harriet pointed at the center of the eye. "See how small the pieces are in the center? I believe someone hit the center of the eye. Just like hitting a piece of shatterproof glass in the center with a nail. The pieces at the center of impact will be smaller and will spider web outward."

"It must have taken a lot of power to do that," said Citan. "During the battle with Id, Id deflected one of Brigandier's whips. The whip stuck the Zohar Modifier."

"I'll bet that raised a few neck hairs," said Patrick.

"The fight stopped for about fifteen seconds," said Citan. "Strange as it may seem even Id was concerned."

Harriet coughed violently. Aria went over to her. "You alright?" asked the doctor.

"I-I'm fine," wheezed Harriet. "I must've inhaled some dirt."

"Will you be fine?" asked Patrick.

"As long you aren't trying get me into an early grave," replied Harriet.

"Are you sure you don't want to go back?" asked Citan.

"I'm fine, I'm fine," said Harriet. "I'm not that old."

"Lets rest up for a few minutes before continuing," ordered Citan who knew better than to argue with the elderly woman.

They continued on after their break. They entered the resting place of this planet's Zohar Modifier. What was left of the Zohar Modifier glowed with very little Ether. They approached the device and its insides were becoming visible. When they could see it clearly, Citan pointed and screamed. "No! That is goddamn impossible!"

The others stopped both at what they saw and Citan's reaction. Aria saw Citan running toward the device and tried to follow but was held back by Patrick. "Let him be. He has to handle this himself."

Citan stumbled toward the device. He recalled a windup watch he got for his birthday so long ago on his tenth birthday. Eternally curious, he took a screwdriver to the watch to see how it worked. Now he saw those parts before him. Citan walked toward the Zohar Modifier. He hoped, prayed, wished, and demanded it was either a hallucination or he was dreaming.

Citan stopped before one of the gears that laid on the ground away from the Zohar Modifier. He knelt and traced his fingers along the gear. He shuddered at the feeling. It even felt like a clock gear. The insides were like the watch he opened up a lifetime ago. Very few gears and other mechanical pieces were still intact.

Harriet's coughing fits became worse. She placed her hand over her mouth and coughed hard. She brought her hand away to wipe the phlegm off her hand when she saw blood. "Doctor Tomia," she said. She showed Aria her hand.

"Don't move," ordered Aria. She took her medical scanner and passed up and down Harriet's body. She looked at Patrick and frowned. "How are you feeling?"

"Now that you mention it, I do feel a little bit nauseated."

Aria ran her hand through her hair. She scanned the planet with probes six times and found nothing that would endanger them. She looked at the her hand gasped. She was holding a clump of hair. She ran her other hand through her hair and more hair fell out.

"Doctor, what's wrong?" asked Patrick.

"Radiation poisoning. Don't panic!" ordered Aria. She looked at Citan. "Citan! Citan!" He was looking at what was left of the Zohar Modifier. She decided to try the one thing that would snap him out of it. "Hyuga Ricdeau!"

Citan turned toward them. "Do not call by that name!"

"No choice," said Aria. "There's radiation in here. We're all exposed!"

Citan pulled his comm from his pocket. "Shuttle One, this Citan!"

He felt relieved when Emeralda replied. "Captain, what is the emergency?"

"Emeralda get out here now! If you can, you can trace us by my comm signal through your colony! Mikhail, get the shuttle ready! We will be leaving! While you are waiting, contact the ship and tell them to have a med-team standing by!"

Citan ran over to them. He saw Aria inject the married couple with an antitoxin then herself. He went over to her. He knew the symptoms right away. On a battlefield long ago he saw the victims. "Radiation."

"Yeah," said Aria. She wiped her forehead. "Come over here," she said in her commanding voice.

Citan came closer and Aria scanned him. She frowned and tried to inject him with the antitoxin. Her hands started to shake because of the radiation.

Citan took the device and injected himself. "Your nerves," he said.

"This planet was supposed to be clean," complained Citan

"We should have known something might have been wrong when Patrick talked about the rocks," said Citan. "It makes no sense. On the old planet there was no radiation in the cavern."

"Captain! Aria!" yelled Emeralda.

"Wait!" yelled Citan. "Is your colony set to guard against radiation?"

Emeralda's eyes moved back and for in rapid movement. "It is now but not for long."

"Grab the couple," ordered Citan. "I will carry Aria."


They made it back to the shuttle and flew back to the Eldridge II. Citan would allow no more missions to the planet. After Aria, Harriet, and Patrick had complete blood transfusions and were placed in nanoreactors until they were healed. Citan's demeanor did not improve during the crisis and would not improve till near the end of their destination.

Miang was as baffled as Citan and everyone else about the insides of this Zohar Modifier. During her free time she set out to solve this particular mystery. She was becoming as frustrated as Citan. She went over the records so many times she started to know them by heart.

After finishing her shift one evening, Miang went back to study the data. She tapped her fingers on the desk as the data scrolled down the screen. She went through every conceivable chaos theory, theoretical science, and fringe science she knew of. All of them told her nothing.

She closed the file and brought up the file menu. She looked at the files deciding what file to go over again. She looked at them all and stopped and looked at the file names. She thought about how old the files were. "Computer, given the age of the original files and the times they have been copied since their discovery by Fei, Citan, and Bart, what would be the chance of data corruption?"

"Zero," answered the computer.


"Razeal's Tree was created by unknown material. This material permitted the storage and protection of all files."

"Humanity's knowledge," said Miang to herself. "Kept safe by a supercomputer and protected along with those colonists by my defensive computer. Somehow the enemy knew about the first Eldridge and caused those ten-thousand years of misery."

Miang leaned back in her chair. "The enemy did something to the files. If I was like I was before the fall of Deus, what would have I've done knowing the enemy was after the same information?" She looked at the file names on her monitor. Her frown deepened then she smiled. "I'd make sure they got that information. . ."

Miang opened her program for compiling new programs. She used it to look at one of the Zohar Modifier's blueprints. She looked at every line of code. She was thankful that in the ten-thousand years of rule, the Gazel Ministry and Emperor Cain demanded consistency. The computer code near the end of their rule was still the same and changed very little since the beginning.

Miang found what she was looking for among the code she recognized. "I'd make sure they got that information and I would've made sure it was changed just enough so they wouldn't know the code had been changed."


Two weeks later and the radiation victims were released. Patrick and Harriet went back to their duties while Aria immediately went from nanoreactor, to five trips to the bathroom, and then straight to the command staff meeting room. When she entered she found an angry Captain.

"How is it in little over two-hundred fifty years no doctor or healer did not consider this!" asked Citan.

"What's the problem?" asked Aria. She went to her seat and sat down.

"You are late," said Citan.

"By body is flushing nanomachines out of my system," said Aria.

Citan took a cleansing breath. "That is. . .ok," said Citan. "I did not mean to snap at you like that." He smiled and said, "Take it from someone who knows all too well. . .stay away from nanomachines until they fix that problem."

"Yes, sir!" laughed Aria. She stopped laughing. "Is something wrong?"

"That radiation that affected the three of you is actually Ether," answered Miang.

"That can't be," said Aria. "Ether is a clean energy."

"For Emeralda, Miang, and I, yes. For everyone else including Del'Doun its poisonous," said Citan.

"I don't understand," said Aria.

"Look at your terminal," said Mikhail. "I don't understand it myself."

Aria looked over the data. "Good lord." She looked at Citan. "Who's brain patterns are these?"

"Mikhail's and Bart's," said Citan. "When your assistant discovered that the Ether was actually radiation he preformed these tests. Because of they are related, their brain patterns are more similar and showed the best results. Do you understand the data?"

"Yes," answered Aria after looking at the data. She brought up a hologram that projected from the center of the table. "This is an image of their brains. The two red dots can be considered the telepathic center of the mind." Aria looked at Citan and Miang. "With a couple of known exceptions, the telepathic center is inactive. The most humans have in terms of any psychic ability is precognitive flashes or gut instinct."

"From what I read about psychic ability among humans I know my people are ESP blind," said Del'Doun. "All our visions are from the Teacher. I'm sort of lost on what you're talking about."

"The simplest explanation is being able to read another person's thoughts," said Miang.

"Then I'm thankful such things aren't commonplace," said Del'Doun with relief.

Neither Citan or Miang replied. They knew from personal experience what those abilities could do.

"What does this have to do with Ether?" asked Mikhail.

"Ether was manipulated by will and thought," answered Aria. "As for visual effect, that was all will. It was what the person wanted the affect to look like."

"You must've been pretty imaginative in battle Citan," said Miang.

Citan shrugged and said nothing. After Gasper removed part of his friends' Limiters it was then he knew he could go all the way with his abilities that were locked down by Emperor Cain. "What about how much a person could use at one time?" he asked trying to stick to the subject at hand.

"That's were it gets tricky," answered Aria. "Mikhail's center is a dull red while Bart's is bright red. The brighter the red, the more Ether a person can use." The holograph of Mikhail's brain vanished and was replaced by another brain. "This brain is from the medical record of the only telepath on record."

"That can't be mine," said Miang. "My ability was kept secret and after you and Citan woke me up, my telepathic center was inactive."

"Midori!" said Citan. He got up and glared at Aria. "You have no right!"

"I'm sorry Citan, but it's the only way to explain!" replied Aria. "You have no right challenge me!"

"You should've asked first!"

"Calm down!" said Emeralda in a deep tone of voice that she never used. "We need answers and unfortunately this must be the price. Aria is not disrespecting Midori's memory but showing us the truth."

Citan tugged on his shirt and sat back down.

Aria continued on as if nothing happened. The holographs zoomed to the telepathic center of the brains. "For a telepath of Midori's caliber, this is normal for her brain. Its just a little enlargement of telepathic center. Bart's on the other hand is larger than what it should be. I believe the larger that area of the brain, the more Ether a person could control. Ether is not only physical energy but mental. What happened to the others and I was that our brains could not filter the mental aspect of Ether and it affected us like radiation. It would also explain the headaches many people like Bart and Citan would have after using Ether so much in battle. Medicine like Rosesol not only recharged the brain but also brought the swelling down in the telepathic center."

The holograph changed to just the telepathic centers. "This answers the other question," said Aria. "Why does Bart who had great Ether but no telepathy while Midori had telepathy but according to her birth records, her Ether ability was nil. For reasons that are beyond me I suspect that Bart's telepathic center was hollow. That allowed Ether to rest in his brain to be used. It filled up the telepathic center like a balloon while Midori's center was whole."

Citan looked at Miang and his expression was not friendly. "No wonder many of Krelian's experiments died of strokes and other kinds of brain damage. He forced people to use more Ether than what their minds could allow."

"Yeah," said Miang who was uncomfortable with the accusation. She was the other perpetrator in those experiments and everyone in the room knew it.

The room was silent until Del'Doun asked, "Miang, you also made a discovery."

"Yes," she answered after collecting herself. "My research began after we found that Zohar Modifier. I went over the records from the Eldridge. Nothing could explain what was found. I thought about the files themselves and wondered if they weren't changed. I looked at the actual code and found this." Miang activated her own holograph and among the normal computer code their were symbols no one recognized. "Does anyone recognize it?"

Del'Doun looked at the code and shook his head. "No. This is not from my people that much I'm sure off."

"I doubt any race that ever lived in this galaxy used such code," said Miang. "I asked the archeologists and linguists what they thought. They said as such."

"So that threat from so long ago was from another galaxy?" asked Emeralda.

"Maybe," said Miang. "I don't want to jump the gun. I was able to fix some of the gaps caused by the alien code. We were. . .wrong. Its not the vacuum of space that powers the Zohar Modifier. . .its energy source is extra dimensional."

"Are you sure?" asked Mikhail. "That pretty wild even for you."

"She may be correct," said Emeralda. "What is the saying? Patterns of order in chaos? It also explains a few things. For example, the Wave Existence. It is a being from another dimension. By rights it should not be bound by our laws of physics. The ability it had to do what it did to the Contacts is also proof that it should not have been imprisoned inside the Zohar Modifier. If the Zohar Modifiers did indeed draw upon dimensional energy, then it could have trapped the Wave Existence. It could also be possible that particular Zohar Modifier drew power from a dimension that produced Ether. What Aria said earlier proves that Ether cannot exist in our plane of existence naturally."

Citan rested his hand on his chin in thought. Something he had not done in a long time. "Then the Zohar Modifier that had the gears inside it could have drawn energy that originated from a dimension where the laws of probability and logic do not apply. The same thing could be said about the Eldridge's Zohar Modifier. There were too many factors that do not make sense. For example, Miang's computer that should not have betrayed them. Maybe the dimensional energy made the impossible possible. There is also the fact that when that dimension rift opened, our dimension and the Wave Existence's dimension should have been destroyed." He saw the shock and fear on the others' faces. He smiled and said. "Do not worry, that is just an old theory that if one dimension encroaches on another it would be mutual destruction."

"Let's not test that theory, ok?" asked Mikhail.

"It would be illogical to try such an experiment," said Emeralda. "We would not be able see the results."

"We'd be dead," said Mikhail. "Of course we couldn't see the results."

"People!" said Citan sharply. "Like anyone else, I want answers but not at this price! We almost lost three people! Emeralda, I am sorry, but I cannot allow anymore side trips! Do not forget what happened to the Zevsehns who crashed on the old planet! I do not want to stumble onto a planet that shares the same history as the one we left and be stuck there! Until we finish the primary mission, anything else is moot!"

Citan calmed down. He wondered why he was being temperamental. "I am sorry but I refuse to risk anyone's life for the truth. Dismissed."

"I have some things to go over with the command staff," said Del'Doun.

Citan looked at his second in command. "Is there a problem?"

"No," said Del'Doun. "Just a minor thing making shift scheduling easier."

"Desk piloting," muttered Citan. "Run it by me later." Without further word he left.


"If he had his sword he would've taken our heads off," said Mikhail. "What crawled up his exhaust port and died?"

"He's a complicated man," said Del'Doun. "He's not that easy to understand."

"Miang and mom know him best," said Aria. "What do you think?"

"It is likely he is feeling guilty about people nearly dying while in charge," said Emeralda.

"No," said Miang. "He's more professional than that. He would never behave like that in front all of us. If he was going to chew us out he would do it one on one."

"He didn't do that three years ago," muttered Aria.

"He was following procedure," explained Emeralda. "He gave you a way out and you did not take it."

"Regardless he is stressed out," said Del'Doun.

"Thank you doctor," said Aria dryly. "You're right though, I'm going to order him to take some time off so he can unwind."

"Do you think he will listen?" asked Mikhail.

"He's a captain of a ship. They never listen," said Del'Doun. He smiled and his eyes glowed with humor. "Trust me, I know."

"He'd better," warned Aria. "Or else I'm going to pump his quarters with knock out gas." She got up and walked out.

"She's kidding," said Mikhail.

"She is not," said Emeralda. "You would be surprised what she will do to get her patients to listen. Are you sure you want to pursue a relationship with her?"

Mikhail grinned from ear to ear. "Yes."

Chapter VII: Heart's Apart

Citan's temper did not lessen any nor did it get any worse. He was temperamental and got into arguments over little things. Because the crew look at him as an inspiration, they wondered what was wrong with him. He snapped at people for no reason and stopped his weekly checks to see how the crew was doing. As Aria put it, the moral on the ship was ejected out the nearest airlock. Citan refused to listen to his friends and pushed them away. The bridge became silent whenever he was on duty.

Del'Doun sat at his desk in his office with his feet on the desk. "I'm getting sick of this," said Del'Doun. "Citan hasn't overreached his authority so I can't do anything. He refuses to listen to Aria and everyone else. We are only two months from our destination. If he doesn't get it together by then I'm putting my foot down."

"I am more worried about the crew," said Emeralda. "Aria has said that moral is getting bad."

"I've been thinking about that. We're nearing the planet of origin and Citan's behavior isn't helping. I'm surprised the crew isn't climbing the walls."

"Do you have a plan?" asked Emeralda.

"I talked it over with Aria and she agrees. We are going to have a little party," answered Del'Doun.

"Ship wide?"

"Yes. We can leave the ship on auto for about a week," said Del'Doun. "I know it sounds radical but the crew needs this. Who knows what we'll find on the planet."

"Have you asked Citan?"

"Not yet. I'm bringing Aria with me. If he doesn't agree. . .well I'm sure Aria has some threat she's going to use," said Del'Doun.


Citan's office was half lit. Citan stood up from his chair. It was like half his body was nothing more than a shadow. "No," he said.

"Captain, Citan, please. The crew needs this," said Del'Doun. "Haven't you been reading Aria's reports? Everyone is stressed out."

"Do not presume I do not read reports that reach me," said Citan with a hint of anger. "If the crew cannot handle the stress then they should not have come."

"Its not only that," said Aria. "People tell me they're nervous about the planet of origin. Other people are both nervous and scared."

"They are afraid of the truth," said Citan.

"They're afraid of history repeating itself," said Del'Doun. "A ships leaves that planet and is destroyed. Another ship by the same name is returning. I'd be nervous also."

"You both make good arguments. The answer is still no," said Citan. "That is my final word."

"I tried to be nice," said Aria. "As ship's doctor, I'm ordering the party to go on."

"You are disobeying my orders again?" asked Citan.

"No, I'm exercising my right to supercede your orders," said Aria. "The stress on this ship is so high that if we run into trouble there will be trouble among the crew. The last thing we need is for someone to overreact and endanger the ship. I'm also responsible for the crew's health." Aria stood nose to nose with Citan. "You know what I'll do to ensure people's health."

Citan clenched his fists. Del'Doun saw the motion and stood up calmly. Citan returned Aria's gaze. "Alright. . .doctor. I will give you this little victory." He backed away from Aria. "Doctor, Commander, if either of you ever pull another stunt like this again I will not be responsible for the consequences." Citan pointed at the door. "You are both dismissed."


The party was in full swing. The ship stopped in the middle of nowhere and was on autopilot. Games and contests were set up in the giant recreation room. A holographic replica of the Battling stadium was set up while on the other side a unique card game was being played.

Miang stood in the back of the crowd watching the players run back and forth trying to get rid of their deck first. She tried to enjoy the week long party but found it hard. She was worried about Citan. He basically shut himself out. What hurt was when she went to him he accused her of being same as she was during those ten thousand years.

She knew him well and not once that she could remember did he ever act like that. Miang read Midori's and Yui's memoirs. Citan was depressed after his daughter was born. Scared out of his wits when he heard Shevat fell to the planet because Yui and Midori were on the city at the time. He was at peace soon after the war. She saw him angry at injustices and guilty whenever he took an innocent's life on behalf of Solaris. She even saw his Dark Side at work. The one thing she never saw was him closing everyone out like that. If he wanted to be alone he would have grabbed the nearest shuttle and head toward the closest inhabitable planet.

Miang was distracted by someone swearing. She turned and saw Mikhail walk away from the Battling area. She smiled knowing what happened. "Lost, didn't you?"

Mikhail walked next to her. "Yes, damn it! If she had her emotions I'd swear she was cheating!"

"You used Xenogears?" teased Miang.

"Me and the rest of the crew," muttered Mikhail. "She used Crescans."

"If it makes you feel better she kicked by ass," said Miang. "I wonder if she didn't take Battling lessons from Rico."

"I wouldn't be surprised by the way she fought," said Mikhail. "Well I'm in the semi-finals here and I have to get ready. I wonder who my opponent will be?"

"I was busy with Battling so I don't know," said Miang. "The other person is said to have broken a few win records."

Mikhail loved the thought of a worthy opponent in this game. For centuries, the card ga