PHANTASY STAR V: THE BALANCE OF ETERNITY

Introduction:

In Phantasy Star IV: End of the Millennium, The Profound Darkness was destroyed, ending the eternal threat of destruction to the Algo Solar System. Now, one thousand years later, the citizens of Algo are celebrating the first Millennium without the threat of Dark Force or the Profound Darkness.

However, something else has arrived at the Algo Solar System. The Great Light has returned, and is here for a mysterious purpose. What could this mean for the Citizens of Algo? Is the Great Light really the benevolent entity everyone has been led to believe?

Prologue:

"No, no, no! This is complete incompetence! I won't stand for it!" John Hansen bellowed, shaking a thick, ham-sized fist in the air, "everything is completely behind schedule! How the hell am I supposed to explain this to the Restoration Committee?" His gruff voice echoed loudly in the confines of his small office, causing the room's only other occupant to cringe.

"But sir, the gravity well generators are still placed exactly to specification," a thin, blue-haired man with a nasal voice attempted to assuage his increasingly irate superior, "and seem to be functioning at one-hundred percent capacity"

"Apparently there was a mistake, not that that's any surprise." Growling, the obese, penguin-shaped man flopped into his grav-chair, whose magna-lift units groaned under the stress, " we finally get these things to start working properly, and then about a fourth suddenly go offline. I'm curious as to why"

"I'll assemble a team to overview the generator modules," the thin man continued, knowing fully well had he not volunteered, Hansen would have ordered him to do it anyway.

"Good idea," Hansen replied, with more than a little anger still in his deep voice, "and while you're out there, stay observant. Something about this doesn't seem right. I've been overseeing the reconstruction of New Palma for over thirty years, and I've never seen anything like this"

"Yes sir!" The blue-haired man agreed hastily, before vanishing as quickly as possible.

Thirty years. John Hansen had been working in this tiny, stale office aboard the space station Palman Dream for thirty long, tedious years. The space station itself was situated near the asteroid belt that was all that remained of beautiful Palma after its destruction over two thousand years ago, the exact cause of which was forgotten long ago. It was suspected the Espers might know something about the matter, but if they did they were keeping it to themselves.

Hansen pushed a button on the underside of his desk, and one of the lower drawers slid open with a click. Muttering despondently to himself, John reached in and yanked out one of several bottles of liquor he kept appropriated for situations like these. Although, he reflected, merely being in his position was enough to warrant draining the whole thing. After indulging in a long draught, he slammed the bottle down, wiping dribbles of alcohol from his fat chin.

If it weren't for the booze and semi-annual vacations, he thought dismally, I'd have jumped out the airlock long ago...

He swiveled his chair to face the source of his damnation, the Palman asteroid belt. Through a large flexi-glass viewport, he could see the various chunks of the former planet as they serenely tumbled about, occasionally coming so close to the station they hit the powerful shielding, bouncing off as they did so. When John had first been contracted for this job so long ago, the outrageous pay seemed worth it, and he felt that he could finally put his expertise in astrophysics to good, practical use. Now, of course, after several false starts and dismal failures, it became apparent the restoration of Palma was more or less a prohibitively expensive pipe dream. Still, despite his jaded disdain for the job at hand, he'd see it out until his retirement sometime in the next decade or so. Besides, these new versions of the gravity well generators actually seemed to work. Already, he could see some of the asteroids coming together to form small clusters around the generators, although it would be several years before this phase of the process was complete.

Starting almost a millenia ago, the people of Algo overcame the destruction wrought by the Profound Darkness. Through the re-discovery of advanced technology, and the assistance of the remaining climatrol systems, Motavia was finally stabilized, turning the planet green and fertile once more. With this accomplished, civilization flourished across both Motavia and Dezolis, and what had once been struggling towns eventually swelled into enormous metropolises. Space flight was also re-developed fairly quickly, and trade was established not only between the two planets, but also to inhabited systems beyond. At one point, colony ships were also dispatched to seek out distant, inhabitable solar systems, although the success of these missions could only be guessed at, since transmissions would take hundreds if not thousands of years to reach Algo. The space-minus communication system, which made interstellar data exchange nearly instantaneous, had yet to be invented at that time.

In this scientific, cultural and economical renaissance, there were a radical group of astrophysicists who theorized that with advanced enough technology, and the aid of the ever-present ethereal energy that permeated the entire solar system, the shattered remains of Palma could potentially be restored into a complete planet. This mysterious energy, dispersed generously throughout Algo, was known by the acronym STE, which meant "Subatomic Transient Energy." This was also the same energy that Techniques drew upon, and it was generally accepted this had been the force that imprisoned the monstrous cosmic entity know as the Profound Darkness as well.

The exact process for restoring Palma was deceptively simple. By gathering the asteroids into small planetesimals with gravity-well generators, and then using powerful tractor beams to smash them together at high velocities, eventually a molten protoplanet would form. Once this was accomplished, the remaining asteroids would be gathered and simply dropped onto the infant planetoid's surface, increasing its size even further. Experimental and highly unstable new technology, capable of gathering and focusing STE, was being used to speed the process along; otherwise it would take millions if not billions of years. Current estimates stood at a complete, inhabitable planet within several millennia.

Somehow, Hansen was not optimistic. The technology necessary to both stimulate and expedite various necessary geologic functions, as well as cool an entire planet that would essentially be a ball of molten rock, had yet to go beyond the concept phase even now. The devices that had been invented with this purpose in mind had either malfunctioned (often with disastrous results) or simply refused to work.

Nevertheless, the astrophysicists had received the backing of the Motavian government, and public enthusiasm was overwhelming. In addition, several powerful corporations showed interest in the project, and contributed money and resources in exchange for generous future property rights on New Palma. It was only recently that the gravity well generators had been developed, and "Project Restoration," as it was popularly referred to, was finally underway. John Hansen, one of the most recent astrophysicists to work on the project, had labored tirelessly to get the gravity well generators, all several thousand of them, properly placed and activated. Naturally, they didn't work worth a damn, and only managed to attract cosmic dust. Decades had gone by, and the generator modules were re-configured, upgraded and replaced several times, and at great expense. After several waves of incompetent workers were factored in, it was a surprise the project hadn't been cancelled altogether. Hansen recalled with a grunt the time he'd actively caught some workers apparently mining asteroids instead of configuring modules like they'd been paid to do.

Thanks to events such as these, interest in the project had been waning rapidly, and John, of course, was often the scapegoat for such failure. Fortunately, generators that could tap in to the flow of STE had been produced, and signs of "Project Restoration" reaching fruition appeared promising.

Of course, now that everything was actually starting to work as it should, something very strange was affecting some of the generator modules, and John Hansen was unable to get any kind of diagnostic readings, or even make contact with their computers at all. It was as if they'd disappeared entirely.

Grunting as he shifted in his grav-chair, Hansen moved back to his desk, studying a view screen that was linked to the utility starship the skinny blue-haired man and his team were currently loading with supplies. As Hansen gazed at the readouts, making sure everything was nominal, the ship slowly rose from the hangar and left the Palman Dream. First, the starship stopped at the closest gravity well generator, and a quick scan showed what Hansen had suspected all along: nothing unusual. If there was a problem, it wasn't with the generators themselves. Were there aliens or pirates at work?

The ship began to gain speed and head to its next destination, when suddenly, Hansen's view screen began to fill with static, then promptly blacked out.

Cursing, Hansen tapped his ear piece to contact the pilot of the ship verbally. "Hansen, calling observation starship G-twelve. Come in, G-twelve," What the hell was happening?

"Sir!" came a panicked reply, "something's out here! We can't make a read…too much…visuals….can't…..bright….." and then there was again nothing but static. For the first time in his thirty years overseeing the terraforming of New Palma, John Hansen was panicked. After a few more futile attempts to contact the ship, the lights and all equipment in his office suddenly shut off. His grav chair dumped the large man rudely onto the cold, metal floor, and Hansen struggled to pull himself upright, using his desk as leverage. Puffing from the exertion, he turned to look out the flexi-glass window once more, and could only gape in awe. Something very large, and very bright, was slowly moving toward the space station, and it seemed to actually be absorbing the asteroids and occasional gravity generators it passed. Hansen could feel the hair rising on the back of his neck as his cholesterol-choked heart began pounding like a hammer. Abruptly, the remaining power in the Palman Dream died, meaning the artificial gravity went offline. Hansen's bulbous body immediately started rising, but he hardly noticed. Even though he had to squint to keep from being blinded, Hansen could not stop staring. The thing was so beautiful and radiant, it took his breath away. First figuratively, and then literally.

As Hansen floated there, dying, he could only feel the utmost happiness. The thing, a powerful entity, had called to him in a seductive voice that every fiber of his being told him was good and pure. He smiled as he passed away.