Chapter Eight:

The Letter.

Sven collapsed on a floating medical bed in the Pod and Dr. Treborn and Kat were quick to remove his duster and shirt to look at his chest and back.

Sven was breathing heavily and he asked, "How bad does it look, docs?"

Kat smiled and Dr. Treborn answered. "You have severe punctures under your right breast, but for as big of a shot as what you took to your back, it actually looks as if you'd only been scratched." Dr. Treborn paused, "Very interesting. I wonder…" He stood and walked across his lab, explaining. "I've got a new healing product in the works, but if you would like, we could test it on you."

"What does it do?" Sven asked in rasps; he felt like he'd been smacked in the gut by a log or a pole.

"It is Elven magic extracted from pure elves only. It'll sedate you – so you don't feel the pain as your cuts bind to a close – but all-in-all I think it will work perfectly. Elven magic very rarely fails its use, regardless of how poorly-made the craft." Treborn explained as he reached into a drawer and drew a rather larger syringe of a yellow liquid.

Sven looked to Kat, who shrugged. "It's worth a try."

Ruine and Kaya (a twelve-year-old Ozma boy; Ruine's practice partner) were in the very bottom floor of the Desert Scorpion in a swordsman training room (almost like a training room for boxing; with tall, impermeable sandbags of all different sizes hanging from chains on the ceiling) late that night with wooden practice swords at the ready.

They slid back from each other after their last powerful clash and then charged one another again. Their swords clacked together and Kaya called out. "Your form, Ruine; work on your left foot; you seem to be having problems steadying yourself after each clash."

They threw each other backward and then charged again and their swords clacked (Kaya's even splintered a bit at the edges). "Good; that one was at least better than your last. But you're going too simple on my Ruine; aim somewhere other than my chest. Surprise me this time."

They jumped backward and Ruine attacked toward Kaya's head. Kaya lifted his wooden blade, only to be surprised that Ruine faked him and smacked his right knee. Kaya fell to his good knee and Ruine held the tip of his wooden sword up against the side of Kaya's neck.

Kaya looked up at Ruine (who was smiling; proud of himself for beating someone twice his age and twice his size) and he nodded. "For a fifty-pound kid, you're not bad. Sadly, you didn't finish me quite so well."

Before Ruine could react, he felt a searing smack as Kaya thrust the edge of his dull, wooden blade into Ruine's hip. Kaya kicked off the ground and landed perfectly straight with his blade out to the side. Their facial expressions had swapped; it was he who now wore the smile and it was Ruine who grimaced in pain.

"Cheater," Ruine winced, "You know you can't do that after you've lost."

"But in true combat, Ruine," Kaya countered, "do you believe the enemy will just sit there while your blade is up against its neck?"

Ruine stood and picked up his sword and held its hilt in both of his small hands. Kaya smirked and he too lifted his sword. "Again?"

"What do you want, Kerschov?" Sven's waking words were from his lying position on his floating medical table. About ten feet away from the foot of the bed was Lucas Kerschov; pacing, as if there was something on his mind.

Kerschov stopped his pacing and looked to Sven with a smile on his face, as if suddenly excited he were awake. "Ah, good; I needed to speak with you, Sven."

"About what?" Sven asked with an expression of confusion. "Is there something wrong?"

Kerschov shrugged, "So to speak." He walked across the lab to Sven's medical bed and he sat in the floating chair beside it. "It's about that night – when the biohazard experiment escaped here; the Pod. Can I tell you about it?"

Sven sat up, suddenly interested. There were very few times he would care to hear what Kerschov said (though Kerschov always listened to Sven; Sven over-ranks him), this was one of those few moments. "Go on?"

"Well," Kerschov said slowly, looking for words. He gave up and leaned forward. "Sven; you were the biohazard break-out."

"What?! That's impossible, I was sedated in…" Sven's eyes grew wide. In a couple of hours your vision should be back to normal… Kat had told him days ago. He remembered seeing the clock when she'd said that (7:04 AM) and then seeing it when he finally came- to (8:19 PM) and he suddenly realized with great horror what Kerschov was saying. "How bad was it?"

"Well, I was just fine. There were only three humans reported to have been missing from the galley when the emergency lock-down commenced."

"Who?"

"You, Kat," Kerschov paused, "and the kid; Rayne Sykes."

Sven's eyes grew wide again and this time he recoiled. "Rayne?!" He paused. "Did he see anything?"

"Like what?"

"Blood? Horrific images of some sort? Things seven-year-olds shouldn't see?"

"He shot your shoulder with an Ozma magnum, Sven, what do you think?"

Sven looked at his bare shoulder and ran his fingers over it. No sign of bullet wounds, but he remembered the injection Treborn had given him earlier that day, and he decided it must've faded. "Anything else?"

"Well," Kerschov laughed softly, "Kat bashed your head in with an aluminum pipe. Nothing too serious." He said sarcastically. "But the boy didn't see it; claims some mystery man told him to look away."

"And that did it? The pipe, I mean."

Kerschov nodded. "Yup… but Kat told me the mystery man had slid an envelope into your coat pocket that night, did you find it?"

Sven looked into Kerschov's eyes before shaking his head. "No, not yet." He then realized his coat from that night was still probably on the floor in his wardrobe, and he climbed out of his bed and left the pod; still shirtless, but he didn't care.

"Here, kid," Magnet said to his co-pilot, handing over the floating, wireless steering wheel to the great Desert Scorpion.

"What?!" Rayne exclaimed, jumping to his feet to steer the ship. "Where are you going?"

"I'm going to be leaving you to this for a while. If there's an emergency, just push this blue button here and announce something over the intercom. It's an easy job, kid; we're the largest ship in space, and there are no planets around us for a couple of hours. Though," Magnet winked, "try to watch out for space garbage and meteoroids, ok?"

"But where are you going, Magnet?" Rayne asked, eyes locked on the giant glass pane in front of him.

"I've been flying for three days, kid; I think we both know where I'm going." Magnet said with a yawn before leaving the shuttle control room. "Good luck, kid, wake me on a galley couch if you need something."

The door hissed shut behind him and Rayne was alone again. Well, sort of; in the corner of the rather large control room he could hear the soft breathing of his four-foot-tall Firewolf.

I still don't understand what Mr. Kerschov said, Rayne thought as he stared out the glass pane with the steering wheel in his hand. Why do I need a guardian to train me how to fight if all I'm ever going to do is this? There's something the adults aren't telling me…

Mr. Yrugeai:

This letter comes to you in part from my father – Sin Sharonimous of Sharunga – and concerns yourself alone.

In the act of your very unique survival of the first battle of the Universal War, we regret to inform you that the gas bomb that struck the city of Karumuchi withheld a virus used as a bioweapon by the Sharungan Armada. The virus – called the G-R virus – is a contained airborne virus found only here on Sharunga; and though it is supposed to suffocate, there have been a few cases in which the virus did not suffocate, but did stay inside the victim's lungs, and, soon after, the bloodstream. We understand you already possess a virus similar to its structure, but we now regret to inform you that you were one of those 'few cases'.

The virus is a three-stage type, meaning just what it sounds like; the first activation of the G-R virus will send you into a fit of rage that you cannot control, if it hasn't already done so. A simple smack on the forehead from another party with the palm of a hand should deactivate that form.

The second activation of the G-R virus will occur about four days later. It will try to kill you, and, like this first form, you will have no control. There is no way to deactivate this form, but it wears off in only about ten minutes. We suggest you restrain yourself in a very tight, very secure area.

The third and final activation will occur about ten days later, so track of time is the key here. This third activation will stop your heart without any signs or warnings. We suggest you stay close to an Elven or Shadow-demon land, for they're the most common chance of survival. Once death occurs, the virus will start over again from the beginning all over again. The first outbreak usually occurs again about a month later, once the virus realizes it still has a purpose… assuming you are revived in time, that is.

And so now you must be wondering; why are we helping you? There are very few victims of this virus in this galaxy, Mr. Yrugeai, and we are here to help you along until a mass-produced anti-virus is created so that you might see that the Sharungan Armada is not the enemy here.

There is one anti-virus to our knowledge, and it exists in our possession at the moment. We can give you the anti-virus, Mr. Yrugeai, but on one condition:

Roy Diablo (and the rest of the Mada Corporation) is our only threat in this war. Could we ask of you to dispose of them properly? It's a shame that they have taken over the Black Tower's main power in the Magnus-Kharlon base, or we would have done it for you. But, sadly, they did, and now – secretly – the Black Tower and the Sharungan Armada are temporarily unavailable to fight. Had it not been for Sharunga's allies, this war would've been over. Take out Diablo and his men and you will be free from this infection.

Do we understand each other, Mr. Yrugeai?

With high hopes,

Aaronarnious Sharonimous, Son of Sin.

Take a day of rest, Sven, Sven heard a voice speak calmly, soothingly into his mind. Take a day to think; to recap all that you must know about. Take a day to sleep. Take a day to build up the energy that you're most known for.

Sven was staring up at a spinning ceiling fan from his bed in his darkened bedroom. He watched each blade spin; following one in particular with his eyes to make everything around him seem as though it were slowing. Unknowing to him, sitting against the outside of his door (in the hall) sat Katherine Parker with her head rested beneath the knob.

"How am I supposed to rest," Sven whispered to the voice in his head, "knowing that in thirteen hours, I'll lose control of myself again?"

In thirteen hours, you will be in a state of slumber, Sven. In thirteen hours, you will pretend you are sleeping. In thirteen hours, the worst of it will all be over.

"Whatever," Sven said before rolling onto his side.

Outside his room, Kat was singing a hymn very softly, beginning to fade into exhausted sleep:

… And do not wake

The bird in skies

O'er by the lake

So I say fly…

"How am I to think when all that is on my mind is how I've failed myself and those who look to me for help?" Sven asked the voice in a timid whisper.

How are you not to think, Sven? When all your life you've been planning ahead instead of seeing where your body stands, what hope is there for present thoughts now?

"Who are you?" Sven whispered into his pillow as he lay on his chest.

Who am I not, Sven? I am the one you search for, but I am the one you do not know. I am always there, and I am not recognized by any. I am the start of all this, yet I have nothing to do with anything at all.

"That makes no sense." Sven whispered, rolling onto his back.

Did it have to?

"Do you always ask questions without point?" Sven asked, rolling onto his left shoulder.

Do you always have conversations that seem to get nowhere?

"You're wasting my time," Sven hissed as he sat up.

He was thrown back down. You have thirteen more hours left, Sven; aren't you at least going to tell someone about your infection? Aren't you going to tell someone that you only have thirteen more hours until you finish yourself off and end all that is your great, historical journey?

"Nobody cares." Sven said before he climbed to his feet and walked across his room to where he'd thrown his clothes onto the floor earlier that night.

You have a mission, I'll leave you be. We'll meet again.

"Is that a promise or a threat?" Sven asked before the intercom chimed.

"Sven." It was Kerschov.

("Sven, Diablo called-in a few minutes ago. I don't know what he's up to, but he told me to send you to the Azure Kaplan; it's just outside Crucix; Rainania's capital city." Kerschov had said when Sven had entered the conference room. "Load up, be careful; you know the routine.")

("Yes, Kerschov," Sven said rather harshly, "But thanks for reminding me.")

"Ah, Sven," Roy Diablo called without turning around. He was standing at the corner of one of four posts in the four corners of a long bridge that carried over a long fall to a dried-up creek. Fallen leaves were everywhere, painting the earth with warm colors as Sven walked through them – hearing them crunch subtly under his boots – toward Roy Diablo.

At this point, Sven was beginning to get very nervous – agitated – knowing that he was in the final hour before he would lose control of himself again.

A light breeze lifted leaves all around the only two men for miles, brushing back Diablo's long, brown hair and his black cape that hung to the grassy ground below him. Diablo turned around – the tips of his fangs pressing against the outside of his bottom lip – and he waved one of his white, gloved hands at him emotionlessly. "It's a shame you didn't arrive twelve hours ago – when I made the call – or I could've been a tad bit more excited in seeing you on such a day as this in my home country.

"Sorry to keep you waiting," Sven said; feeling slightly uncomfortable for he'd forgotten a hat this time around. "I found more important things to take care of along the way, you know?"

Diablo could sense his sarcasm, and Sven could tell; he frowned. He decided to drop it and he took a few paces from side-to-side; gently kicking mounds of dried leaves further ahead with each step in his black leather boots. "I don't suppose you really know exactly why I called you here, huh?"

"Believe me," Sven said, "if I knew, I wouldn't have come. Just cut to the point, will you? I have other things I have to attend to soon."

"Like your second viral outbreak?" Diablo called out, suddenly stopping his pointless pacing. He smiled at the shock on Sven's face. "Perhaps I know you more than you think I do, Mr. Yrugeai?"

"I should just kill you and get it over with." Sven growled to him.

Diablo glanced at him. "Yes, but why just give the power of the Ozma and Mada Corporations over to Sin just like that? Do you not understand what he could do with so much power? Or perhaps you're just so desperate to get rid of that virus – the G-R virus – or you're just so afraid of death that you just don't care either way what happens to us all?"

"We will all die sooner or later, Diablo." Sven said plainly; carelessly. "You going somewhere with this, Diablo? I'm still in a hurry to get in and get out, you know?"

Diablo nodded and reached into the black jacket beneath his cape and he drew a small tube with a rather bright green liquid. "Princeton Sykes – Ruine's father, but not Rayne's – is a medical researcher for the Mada Corporation." Diablo paused to allow Sven take all this in. "Do you know what this is?"

"My partner was telling me a few days ago that there had been a found cure in the world, but I didn't know it was one of your researchers!" Sven exclaimed. He remembered well two nights ago when Kat was telling him this news, when they were leaving the Hasman after their night out on Mars. She was about to say something else, something about Dr. Treborn, but then Rayne had greeted them at the bridge and she stopped talking. He never thought about it until now, but he was beginning to wonder just what she was about to say. Oh well, he decided now was not the time to ponder…

"What's the catch?" Sven called out, knowing Diablo – being still his enemy – would never just hand out free samples; especially to the man who'd destroyed his bridge only days ago…

"Just the opposite of Aaronar." Diablo said plainly. "You kill Aaronar; I give you the anti-virus."

"But that would mean giving you power. Do you not understand that the Ozma and Mada Corporations are in total war right now? It's a wonder Kerschov even let me go to see you, I can't imagine him allowing me to give you power."

"When are you going to quit taking Kerschov's orders? You outrank him by three whole ranks, Sven!" Diablo exclaimed, taking large steps toward Sven while frantically swinging his hands in wild gestures. "Kerschov is the one who sent you…"

"What does it matter to you?" Sven asked when he and Diablo were only about a yard away. "You're just saying all this to convince me you're the good guy and Kerschov's the bad guy. You're also just saying this so that I'll kill Aaronar instead of you. Both attempts, Roy, have been poorly performed, even by the means of a mediocre leader like you." Sven paused. "Look, I know that Kerschov and I may not get along… ever… but that doesn't make me prefer you over him. You're still my enemy, and you're still going to plan up a hundred ways to kill me squarely. I see it when I look into your cold, black eyes, Roy, and I'm going to tell you now; you'll never be satisfied."

"What?"

"You're a power-hungry one-shot leader of a failed corporation, and you can never seem to have enough success in this world to stand up against someone like me. That's why you cower, Roy, and that's why you decided to go against the Ozma Corporation." Sven took a step forward, Roy took a step back. "You chose to challenge my corporation because you wanted to look like your company could actually make it somewhere, but do you know what, Roy?"

There was a long pause before Sven pulled back his fist and punched Diablo's completely pale white face perfectly in the tip of his nose. "You will always be second of two, Roy. Always." Sven did a back-flip and kicked Diablo backward, watching the vampire slide a line of green in the maze of oranges, reds, yellows, and browns.

Sven landed on his feet only to hear Diablo's voice echoing throughout the empty field of fallen leaves. "Think about it, Mr. Yrugeai. I'll keep in touch." The voice faded and Sven was completely alone again.