Chapter 5: Tribulations




Karonne, The Seeker Complex


"This is Designate 5428 requesting permission to land, Seeker HQ." Meryl said into her ship's intercom. They were currently holding over the planet of Karonne, directly above the Seeker Complex on the planet.


"Designate 5428?" The voice of a spaceport controller spoke back. "Designate Sara, is that you?"


Meryl looked over at Cynewulf curiously. "Looks like they still remember us, anyway." She punched the intercom button. "That is correct, control."


"Well, certainly, then… permission to land granted. We'll meet you at the third docking point."


With that the intercom cut off.


"Just how well are you two known out here, Meryl?" Terra, finally having recovered from her injuries several days ago, asked.


"I didn't know that they'd really remember us at all… a lot can happen in 15 years." The former trader returned as she took the ship into Karonne airspace. As they came down on the planet, Darrell found himself looking out the side viewports.


Karonne was a fairly desolate planet, for it possessed only a very thin atmosphere, a fact made apparent by the large number of craters that pockmarked the planet's surface. The huge Seeker homebase, then, was like an oasis in this desert wasteland. It was a silvery, domed building about 10 stories tall, with four identical spiraled towers extending from the north, east, south, and west points.


"Welcome to the Seeker Complex, friends." Cynewulf said, looking over it with a kind of nostalgia.


As they neared the huge building, a rectangular slot opened in the center of the dome, and a bluish-white flash became visible as what was apparently a deflector shield turned off around the building. Meryl pulled her trader ship through that opening with ease, it seemed, and manipulated it into a spot among a surprising number of ships in a docking area.


When they exited from their craft, they were immediately met by a small group of about 4 people. They all wore simple black tank tops with bulky grey pants, along with boots. On their belts, a strange sort of rod was strapped, along with various weaponry.


"So it is you, Meryl… and I believe I recognize Cynewulf, as well… but who are these other people?" the speaker, an older woman, looked over Darrell and Terra curiously, but her gaze lingered longest on Zohar.


"Aunt Kyra?" Meryl said, looking the woman over. "It is you!"


"And, since Meryl seems to have forgotten your question entirely," Cynewulf said after a moment, "these people are our new friends… Seekers, even."


Kyra looked over the people suspiciously. "We shall see, Cynewulf. Regardless, it has been a long time since we have seen you two. Follow me, and we shall get reacquainted."


"Madam Kyra." Another of the entourage, a young man with sharp green eyes, came in. "Do we really have time for this right now?"


Kyra waved the young man's question off. "Whether or not we do, I'm making time. It doesn't matter how bad things seem, we always have time for family."


The young man shook his head, but kept silent.


"Now then," Kyra said. "Right this way, if you would." With that, the entire group started walking out from the docking area, through a large set of automatic doors into a truly huge area.


Darrell was basically in awe, trying to remember every detail of the place to write down later. While he had expected something like the long, twisting hallways of the Sol Dominion base on Yrrs, he had instead been granted a vision that he never would have expected to find on a planet like Karonne. The ceiling was far, far up, and all around them, vegetation grew around babbling brooks. In the seemingly forested areas in the distance, animals ran between the trees. The only thing that really gave away the fact that the entire thing was inside was the huge enclosing wall of the spaceport, the only one in the entire place that reached all the way up to the ceiling. All of the other rooms in the Complex were more akin to separate buildings, made with a charming and angular architectural design that was wholly unfamiliar to the young man.


"I see you admiring the buildings." Cynewulf said to Darrell as they walked along a stone pathway. "The elders say they're modeled off of a `Victorian' style, once popular on Earth. In fact, everything here is made to remind the Seekers of what Earth used to be like."


After a few minutes of traveling - which was quite pleasant, due to a constant, windless temperature of about 72 degrees fahrenheit - they came upon a large, three storied building made of a red brick. It fit in nicely among a huge number of trees that were planted all around it.


"My humble home, friends." Kyra said, allowing one of the men in her entourage to open the door for her. As they entered the house, they were greeted with the sight of a perfectly cleaned brownish carpet, with numerous hallways and a staircase leading upstairs. Kyra lead them all through a door on the right to a room that resembled a kitchen. Kyra and her guests all sat down around a circular table, though the other Seekers that had entered with them remained standing, seemingly anxious to be done with this business.


"Now, tell me, Cynewulf, Meryl… who are these people?" Kyra asked.


"Their names are Darrell Shanning," Cynewulf motioned to each person in turn as he spoke, "Terra Lyles, and this small fellow is Zohar. Darrell and Terra come from a planet called Zion in the Planetary Union… their planet was destroyed by a Class B."


Kyra looked down at the table, and shook her head. "A pity, that… and this other?"


Meryl leaned forward in her chair. "Zohar's… a Finori."


Kyra's eyes widened, and the other Seekers standing in the room seemed equally shocked. "A… Finori? Is that, then, what you two have been after in all the time since you left? Are you still wanting to… kill the lavoid that defeated your parents?"


Cynewulf shook his head. "I gave up that quest a long time ago, Madam Kyra. Simple vengeance against the Lavoids is not enough. Meryl and I have spent the past years searching for… meaning in our lives. Meryl may have found some, but I never did. Every time I tried to give up the creed of the Seekers, I was inevitably drawn back into searching out ways to destroy the Lavoids…" the large man shook his head, looking up at the ceiling. "I don't know if Zohar's enough to kill things like the class A's back toward Earth, but… I have a plan, and I'm going to destroy Grendel."


Kyra cocked an eyebrow, and rested her chin in the palm of one hand. "Grendel? Would this be the Class B that destroyed your homeland, young ones?" She addressed Darrell and Terra, who gave a short nod in return. "I see. What, then, brought you back here, Cynewulf, Meryl?"


Cynewulf sighed. "Several things. We need access to the old weapons… as well as your engineering labs. We need better equipment if we're even going to manage to find Grendel."


"I'm… afraid that that's hardly possible at the moment, Cynewulf." Kyra replied quietly.


"What?! Why in the name of Earth not?!" Meryl exclaimed, her dark eyes wide in confusion.


"We've had… some rather major problems ourselves, Cynewulf, Meryl… Follow me, I'll explain."


She stood up, and walked out of the room. Cynewulf exchanged glances with Meryl, and, shrugging, followed suite. Darrell, Terra, and the other Seekers followed close behind.


They eventually came to a large, dark room with a computer monitor making up one wall. One of the Seekers sat down behind a smaller computer and typed in several lines of coding. As he did, an image appeared on the large screen.


"This," Kyra began, "Is a floor map of the Seeker Complex. If you'll notice, every sector beyond this point" she motioned to a thinner area in the dome, "is marked in red. Basically, we've been forced to put a lockdown on the entire East Sector of the Complex."


"Why would you have to do that?" Darrell asked, looking intently over the map.


Kyra pointed to a large building marked Weapons Research Facility on the map. "That's why. Two months ago, one of our Seekers came upon a rather powerful weapon on Draconis. It was a rather incredible sword, made of a hybrid of technological and ether energy… basically, rather than simply being powered by the ether, like most hybrid weapons, the ether was simply used to augment an already working energy system.


"Naturally," she continued, "We wanted to study this weapon. If we were able to incorporate such technology into weapons such as, for example, our own TAGs, we would quite possibly have enough energy power to take on some of the lower class lavoids on a fairly good standing."


"What went wrong?" Terra asked, nervously cracking her knuckles as she did.


"We were unaware that the weapon had an AI system installed until after we had begun the deconstruction process. We linked it to our main systems, and, sensing a threat to its existence, it began taking over our computers, one by one.


"Thankfully, we've been able to cut it off from reaching further areas, but it's been at great cost… basically, we're completely unable to get into our armories, or any of the research facilities. Anyone who has passed through the sealed area has been either immediately killed, or we've lost contact with them after but a few minutes. None… have returned."


Cynewulf looked up at the ceiling, and let out a breath of air. "Geez… Looks like we're screwed, then."


Meryl also shook her head. "What can we do now?"


Terra looked at the two of them, her mouth dropping open. "What, we're giving up, just like that? `Oh, they haven't managed to stop this thing, so there's no way we can.' Come on!!"


"And just what, praytell, can we do that the other Seekers cannot?" Meryl asked.


Darrell shook his head. "Well, for one thing, we've got Zohar here. For another… look, it doesn't matter if we can pull it off or not. We've been alright so far, haven't we? And… besides, if we give up now, I'll never be able to live with myself."


"Ouch. Good point, Darrell." Cynewulf said, looking down at the ground as he did. "You're right. We have to at least try to get rid of this weapon… there's nowhere else where I can build the weapon I need to."


"Are you all insane?" A Seeker, the one with the piercing green eyes, asked. "There's no way you can get through there alive."


Darrell shrugged. "We're going to try, anyway. We won't give up here."


Kyra, who had remained silent all this time, suddenly spoke up. "You're all… very interesting. I had not thought that two wayward Seekers and some strangers would want to help us in our problems."


Meryl shrugged. "I spent a lot of my life here, Aunt Kyra. I can't just turn my back now."


"Very well, I've decided." Kyra said. "My personal guard, the Seekers here, shall create a diversion at the seal while you enter another way."


Cynewulf's eyebrows shot up. "What? There's another way into the East Sector?"


Kyra nodded. "Indeed… the power grid below us. It shouldn't be as heavily guarded as the gate."


Darrell looked at the onscreen map. "This power grid of yours looks like a maze…"


"It wasn't originally intended for human passage… just as a place to run all of the piping and wiring this place requires… however, it is large enough for you all to walk through."


"It's settled, then." Cynewulf said, stretching his arms. "We'll go in through there."


"My… what trials and tribulations you humans put yourselves through, and all just for the chance to face certain death. Interesting…" Zohar said to himself, drawing annoyed glares from Darrell, Terra, Cynewulf, and Meryl.




Mox leaned back in the seat of his ship, and finally allowed himself to relax for the first time in nearly two weeks. It had taken him several days after his initial realization of the fact that his wallet had been stolen by that demihuman to actually track him down, and another four to figure out a plan to get the thing back.


By then, of course, the demihuman had spent all of the credits in it, and had ditched the wallet itself entirely. It had taken a rather long and painful - on both sides - interrogation to figure out just where the wallet had been dropped. Then… just an hour earlier, he'd finally found it lying in a water-filled gutter in a rather bad part of town.


And now, he got to take a wild guess at where in the universe those others had gone.


"Now… if I were a border-crossing Unionite, where would I go?" He thought for a moment. "There's that great casino on Cheron… and the black market headquarters on Ivirne… but they couldn't really be expected to know about those places, could they? Hmm…" he thought a moment longer, then sat up straight in his seat as a thought struck him. "Of course!! Why would Unionites want to come into the Dominion unless they were trying to do something to our government! They must be heading to the capital on Nova!!!" With that thought in his mind, he flipped on several sets of switches, and began inputting the commands for the quark destabilizer sequence to begin. There was an unmanned, little-known beacon point right near Nova that he could use.


As the incredible discomfort of being taken apart on a subatomic level began to rip through the young border pilot, he wondered momentarily of what the exact odds were for him being right on their destination.


Thankfully, he didn't have enough time to come up with an answer, or he probably would have been rather aggravated with himself.




Darrell, Terra, Cynewulf, Zohar, and Meryl stood at the bottom of a long stone staircase, along with two Seekers.


"Each of you take one of these." One of the Seekers said, handing each of them a small radio. "Those com-links are each set on the frequency for all of the radios in the Complex. You call for help on those, and we're sure to hear you. We'll also use those to tell you all when the diversion at the gate has begun." He then pulled out two small, rod-like objects from his belt and handed them to Cynewulf and Meryl. "Also, you two will probably want these. While those blasters should work well enough for most of the robots you'll come across, we'd been developing some with shields impervious to them… we imagine that the AI would be making good use of them."


Cynewulf held the strange rod up in the air, and pressed a button on one side of it. As he did, a three-foot-long blue blade of energy shot out of the end. He fell into a fencing stance, and made a few experimental swings with it.


"I'm a bit rusty, but I think I can still handle this thing."


"Good. I believe the diversion's about to begin, so if I might take my leave…" without further adieu, the Seekers ascended the staircase, leaving the group.


"What are those things, Cynewulf?" Darrell asked. As he did, Meryl pressed a small button on hers, causing a matching blade to shoot out.


"TAGs… Tritanium Arcwave Generators." Cynewulf said rather cryptically, still jabbing the weapon here and there.


Meryl rolled her eyes. "Basically, they harness ether energy, the user's own willpower, and technology to create a blade of energy that can cut through most any type of substance."


Darrell studied the weapons closely. "Fascinating… you'll have to tell me more about them later."


"Yeah… emphasis on later." Cynewulf said as he switched his TAG off. "Let's get this show on the road, guys."


As they all walked through the dimly-lit hallway, Zohar scratched his head. "Interesting… I thought TAGs originated on Elosia, and yet you Seekers have them… and from what's already been said, you couldn't have possibly seen Elosia… what has Lavos's offspring been up to?"


"What?" Terra asked the finori.


"Nevermind. Just talking to myself." Zohar returned.


After a moment, the group came upon a large, thick door that had been electronically sealed. On the wall to the right of it, there was an electronic keypad. Cynewulf punched several buttons on it, until a tinny beeping sound informed him that it had been unlocked.


Shortly after that, a call came in on the com-link.


"The diversion has commenced." A voice that seemed to be Kyra's said. "You can enter the power grid now."


"Affirmative." Cynewulf replied, then cast the small radio into a pouch at his waist. "Here goes nothing…"


The large Seeker punched another code into the keypad, and the door slid open with a hiss of air. They were greeted on the other side with utter and complete darkness.


"Geez…" Darrell mumbled as they entered, the door closing behind him. "Somebody turn on a flashlight."


Terra mumbled agreement, and a moment later, an electric lantern gave off its white glow on the surrounding hallways. It was a rather narrow corridor, just wide enough for two people to walk side by side, with the ceiling located just 8 feet above them. Mostly, the wires and pipes were in good working order, except for a small area just around the door they'd entered through. The walls had been slashed to ribbons, seemingly with some sort of heat-powered weapon, and the door itself had several huge gashes in it.


Looking at that, Cynewulf flipped on his TAG, its blue glow adding to the light of the lantern. Meryl turned hers on as well, adding a green glow to the mixture of colors. Darrell fingered his blaster nervously, and Terra clenched her fists.


"Be on your guard, people." Cynewulf said, looking around. "There could be about anything down here."


As the large man spoke, a reddish-green laser shot right past his head, ricocheting off a wall and nearly hitting him again on the rebound. "Holy…" he said to himself, putting his blade in a defensive stance as he turned to face the direction of the blast. Darrell pulled his blaster out of its holster and fired it a few times… only to watch the red lasers come flying right back at him.


"You know, before I started traveling with you, Cyne, blasters typically worked very well on anything I came across." Darrell observed casually as he jumped out of the way of the blasts.


Cynewulf had no chance to reply, though, for just then a huge robot came into view from out of the darkness. It was about 6 feet tall, and humanoid in most respects - excluding the fact that the knees bent backwards.


Meryl cursed. "It looks like an Avenger, Cyne… and apparently it has that new shield technology we heard about."


Shaking his head, Cynewulf spread his feet out in a defensive stance. "And these things are hard enough to take apart WITH a blaster. Great."


Avoiding another blast from the Avenger's right gun-arm, Cynewulf rushed in low and swung at the robot's legs. It seemed to anticipate this action, though, and subsequently leapt back several yards, a move made possible entirely by its oddly formed knees.


Meryl, meanwhile, had ran around behind the Avenger, and brought it down on the thing's head as it leapt back. Her attack was met with a flash of red energy that seemed to slow her attack, and what should have split the robot's head in two merely grazed a sensor in its neck. Meryl barely managed to pull her hand back in time after the ill-fated attack, for the shield was holding onto her blade like quicksand.


The two warriors jumped back, while Darrell, Terra, and Zohar - the former two of whom were feeling rather useless - simply watched. "Crap… that shield is a bigger problem than I thought!" Meryl said loudly, ducking under another blast.


"Yeah, but its attack is a little bit predictable, and it's taking that cannon about five seconds to recharge after each shot." Cynewulf returned, and ran at the Avenger again, trying to thrust his sword into its torso. He was rather shocked when the robot took his left arm and batted the TAG away. While it did damage that arm, it also served to throw Cynewulf off-balance, and the Avenger followed up by bringing his gun arm down on Cyne's wrist. The Seeker cried out in pain, and dropped his weapon. It sputtered out as it hit the ground, but another overhead attack from Meryl allowed Cynewulf to escape a similar fate.


Still, though, they could do no major damage. Cynewulf had picked back up his TAG, and was holding it awkwardly in his left hand as the group was forced to keep on backing up from the robot's onslaught.


"By all the Eternals, and the Ethereals too, you guys are pathetic." Zohar said as his back hit the back wall of the room. "You think you can take on a lavoid, but you come near getting yourself killed in a fight with a robot. Honestly." The finori rolled his eyes, and shrugged. "But still, I'm intrigued by all of you. Here." As he spoke, he pressed his palms together as though he were about to pray. He then pointed them so that his fingers were toward the Avenger, and mumbled a few words. As he did, white energy began oozing out from his fingertips, and shot forward into the Avenger. As it did, the energy shield surrounding it flared red for an instant, then dissipated as the robot itself exploded into several hundred pieces.


Cynewulf dropped his TAG again as he looked at the thing's broken form, and everyone turned to Zohar in nothing short of complete amazement.


The Finori shrugged as they tried to question him. "What? It was just a low-level version of photon blast. What's the big deal?"


Meryl shook her head, and started walking into the depths of the power grid. Everyone else followed silently behind.




"Earth… it is at once the most blessed and cursed of places in the universe. It is the home of our race, of our grace, vision and imagination. …However, it is also the home of greed, corruption, and of… the Lavoids." - Meryl Sara, Final History of the Seekers.




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