A/N: Okay, so I finally updated, and I'm thinking about taking this off hiatus... Read and review please!

In Absentia Luci

Chapter 2

Rydas closed and locked the door behind him and headed for the spacious living room of his apartment. A single, beaten couch sat in the center, while a small coffee table and TV rested opposite it. A bookshelf, its innards lined with many volumes, leaned against the far wall, while what appeared to be a small computer station with several panels surrounding the monitor lay just beyond the couch. Nearby, a large circular disk that had been welded to the floor, cords running from it to the computer. Taking a seat in the swivel chair in front of the computer, Rydas made himself comfortable before hitting two keys on the flat shimmering keyboard in front of him. On the monitor, a box requesting a password appeared. B-Stl & J-Stl, typed the bounty hunter, and both the monitor and the panels surrounded it flickered to life. "Establish a connection to L-Stl," said Rydas, enunciating clearly, and waited as the circle began to whir and glow with energy. Within a minute the image of a familiar, moth-like alien creature appeared within its confines, its gossamer wings folded neatly across its back and long. The alien's seemingly fragile arms pecking away at what appeared to be a keyboard made purely of plasma. "Hello there, L-Stl," greeted the man, opening up a suit diagnostic on his own computer screen. Upon hearing his name L-Stl looked up and bowed in greeting.

"R-Stl! How fares the hunt?"

R-Stl. His Luminoth name. Rydas broke into a smile for the first time in what felt like years. "It's going well. And how are things on Aether?" asked Rydas, not willing to ask for advice yet. He hadn't talked to L-Stl since leaving Aether over a year ago; surely a bit of advice could wait until after they'd caught up?

"The planetary healing is going well, though some fear that Torvus will never regain its former glory as a forest. I reside on one of the stations that orbit Aether now." L-Stl continued to type away at his keyboard. Despite the distraction caused by Rydas, his fingers were going as fast as they had been when the bounty hunter had first contacted him. "To what honor do I owe this conversation, brother?"

Rydas grimaced. In his earlier conversations he'd usually had some sort of request when he'd talked to L-Stl. This time was no exception, either. "What, the younger brother can't check up on the older one every once in a while?" he asked jokingly. L-Stl stopped his work to look at the side-screen that showed Rydas and part of his computer.

"Is that a suit diagnostic I see there?" the Luminoth asked, gesturing at the screen. R-Stl nodded.

"Not what I wanted to talk to you about, but if you want to have a look at it, go ahead." A couple of keystrokes later the schematic and analysis of Rydas' now-dormant suit appeared on L-Stl's screen.

The Luminoth peered thoughtfully at the screen in front of him. "This is impressive, Rydas; you increased the shielding by ten percent?"

The bounty hunter shrugged. "There was a bug in K-Yul's algorithm - I ended up rewriting a huge portion of it."

L-Stl nodded, his eyes fixed on the diagnostic. "I see you're using my beam upgrades."

"Having beams that don't rely on ammunition helps when you're in a firefight. Come to think of it, I never did properly thank you for that," said Rydas. The Luminoth waved one thin arm at him.

"Don't bother. Seeing you alive and well is all the thanks I need." Closing the schematic, L-Stl looked back at his work, then his brother.

"Care to help me, R-Stl?"

Rydas considered the offer for a moment. "What are you working on?" he inquired.

L-Stl was typing again, Luminoth characters flashing quickly across the screen. "The relationship between the toxicity in parts of Torvus Bog and the organisms within it."

R-Stl blinked. "Uh, L-Stl? Those two subjects are completely unrelated."

L-Stl was smiling now. "You would think so, wouldn't you? And yet they are related." The excitement that Rydas had so often heard in his youth was creeping into the winged creature's voice. "I am on the verge of a breakthrough here. Imagine what the findings could do to help the planetary restoration!"

Rydas rolled his eyes. "Always the scientist. Fine, send me the equations. I'm going to warn you though, it's been a while since I've tackled any of these."

"Done," replied the Luminoth without looking up from the screen. With a sigh the bounty hunter set to work on the impressively complex equations he'd been given. For several minutes, only the sounds of keystrokes could be heard as both focused on their work. At last, L-Stl pressed a single key to save his data and turned his attention to the screen showing his brother.

"So what was it you wished to talk about?"

Rydas held up one hand. "Hold on... sine of pi over two times the ninth root of i to the fifth power..."

"It's okay, R-Stl; I'll pick it up from there," said the Luminoth, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

With a sigh of relief, Rydas sent the half-completed equations back to their owner. "I always did hate math."

"You're avoiding the question," said his brother pointedly. The bounty hunter winced and faced the hologram squarely.

"I apologize. But you know how I feel about the Galactic Federation, L-Stl," replied Rydas. Now that the moment was upon him, he carefully collected his thoughts, arranging them in a coherent manner as he'd been trained to do.

L-Stl sighed, his wings fluttering slightly. He hovered just above the ground with no apparent effort, his brain constructing possible scenarios. "Am I to assume, then, that they have approached you with an offer? I told you it was only a matter of time."

So you did, he thought wryly. "Yes, they did. And they made an offer that's hard to refuse," he added darkly. "It boiled down to 'accept this mission or we'll make your life miserable,'" seethed Rydas, a scowl on his face. "May the light of Aether burn their -"

"R-Stl!" hissed the Luminoth, his wings flapping furiously. "Hold your temper!" When the bounty hunter failed to respond, L-Stl spoke once more. "As I see it, you have three choices."

Rydas blinked. "Three? I'm afraid I don't follow..."

His brother held up one slender finger. "Your first option is to refuse the mission and accept the consequences." Another finger went up, followed by a third. "Your second option is to take the mission and complete it. The third..." L-Stl paused. "The third is not so far removed from the second. You can accept the Federation's offer, but at the same time use it to your advantage."

Slowly, the man nodded. "I see now; I could get access to their database if I chose to accept their offer... but I have to say, the idea of helping the Federation does not sit well with me." He hesitantly pulled out the paper he'd been given, placing it next to the computer terminal.

L-Stl was silent for a moment. "There are times in life, R-Stl, where we must do things that we would rather not do," he said finally.

The scowl worked itself back onto Ryda's visage. "I suppose so." His expression slowly softened. "But thank you for the advice, L-Stl. What would I do without you?"

"Something rash, no doubt," said the Luminoth dryly.

"I'm ignoring you," Rydas grumbled, indignant. "Hear that? I take no notice of you."

"And I feel so unnoticed," chuckled L-Stl, and glanced at his computer. "Not to put you off, brother, but I'm very close to finishing my work. Do you mind if I contact you at another time?"

"Not at all," replied the bounty hunter, and gave a slight bow towards the hologram. "May the light of Aether shine upon you, L-Stl."

"Good hunting, brother, and may the light of Aether guide your aim!" The hologram vanished as Rydas closed the connection, leaning back in his chair to consider his options once more. It was already a foregone conclusion that he'd accept the Federation's offer: they'd made sure that he couldn't refuse it without dire consequences. A bounty hunter unable to hunt bounties legally was hard-pressed to find any sort of work in any sector of space. Rydas nodded in resignation. He'd accept the job, all right, and maybe, just maybe, find the answers he'd been looking for since he'd left Aether.

Aether. He sighed and closed his eyes, remembering. Two of the Luminoth, B-Stl and J-Stl, had found him 16 years ago on their migration from the stars to their new homeworld. He'd been aboard a damaged frigate with his parents, fleeing from the Federation vessels that pursued them...

"I don't know how much longer we can outrun them," said his father, his hands darting over the controls with the ease of practice. As soon as he'd finished speaking, twin pinpricks of light shot past the cockpit window. "They're shooting at us, Isabel!" he yelled, and slammed one fist on the console in front of him. "Damn it! I don't believe this! After all that we've done, how could they...?!" He trailed off as he watched Isabel calmly comfort their son.

"Hush, Rydas," she murmured soothingly, wiping the tears from the young child's face. "Everything will be all right." She glanced at her husband, an unreadable expression fixed on her face. "Your shouting isn't helping, Jonathan," she said quietly. The ship rocked violently as twin lasers blasted into the back of the ship.

"Main thrusters offline," said the on-board computer tonelessly.

Jonathan left the controls and went to his family, crouching alongside his wife. "I don't think anything will at this point," he whispered back, and there were tears in his eyes. He turned to Rydas. "Son, listen to me. Are you listening?"

The boy nodded his head, too scared to even speak.

"Your mother's right. Everything will turn out perfectly fine," he said hesitantly but firmly. "But for now..." He grasped one of the vent covers and, with a grunt, pulled it off. "You have to hide in here, Rydas."

"Jonathan?" There was a hint of uncertainty in Isabel's voice. He caught her eye for a moment, and after several seconds, she nodded in acceptance. "Go on, Rydas," she said, and now there were tears in her eyes as well. "Think of it as a game. Don't come out until we tell you to. And always remember that..." The words stuck in her throat as the tears flowed freely down her cheeks. "Always remember that we love you."

Rydas nodded. "I love you, too," he chirped, and crawled into the vent, turning around so that he could watch his parents as they talked in low whispers.

"Are you sure about this?" said his mother.

"I won't let him pay for our mistakes, Isabel -"

An explosion jarred the ship as shouts filled the halls. Federation troopers, covered from head to toe in regulation gray armor, burst into the room, training their guns on the couple. "I admit, you gave us a run for our money," said one of the troopers. Before either of them could answer, the soldiers fired, riddling their bodies with bullets and blasts of energy. Rydas stared wide-eyed in horror as his parents' bodies slumped to the ground, blood pooling around the edges of the vent. Their job done, the troopers filed out of the room and back into their ships, leaving a cowering Rydas to cry quietly into the folds of his shirt.

He didn't remember much after that, didn't remember how long it was until he'd found his way out of the vent and into one of the halls, where an inferno was hungrily devouring everything in sight. He watched, frozen in fear, as two creatures that he'd later come to know as Space Pirates studied him.

"Leave him or kill him?" There came a grunt, two yellow eyes glancing over him before turning away.

"What's the difference? He'll die one way or the other. Let's go, there's nothing to see here." And so the Pirates had left him to die.

That was when the Luminoth had shown themselves, braving the fires to rescue him from that damaged frigate.

From out of the fire came two strange beings. They walked upright without any trouble, their wings resembling those of an insect. Two strange ear-like protrusions sprouted from their head, while various marks on their bodies seemed to glow with the light of the fire. Their small, orange eyes peered at him curiously.

"The survivor appears to be a human child," said one of the aliens. The other nodded.

"Shall we take the child with us, B-Stl?" it asked its partner.

The other, B-Stl, nodded. "I do not see the harm in it, J-Stl. He might die here otherwise."

Rydas took a step backward in fright as B-Stl stretched out one thin arm toward him.

"Do not be afraid, little one," said B-Stl softly.

For the first time since his parents' death, Rydas spoke. "What are you?"

What appeared to be a smile graced J-Stl's face. "We are the Luminoth."

They'd taken him then, and raised him alongside their own son, L-Stl, as a Luminoth. Despite the fact that he was human, his new family treated him as though he were one of their own. In L-Stl, he found a brother whose curiosity was unmatched. In B-Stl was the same gentle grace that he had seen in his mother. And in J-Stl was the strong, wise father he had lost. The memory of his parents' death lessened with each passing year until it faded completely, relegated to the back of his mind. Once he was old enough to understand what had happened, only his hatred of the Federation remained. His life settled into a peaceful routine of learning and relaxing that he never thought could change.

He had been twelve, and had lived among his new people for seven years, when the meteor impacted Aether and changed his life forever. With the destruction of most of the natural beauty of Aether came the creation of the Ing and the inter-dimensional rift that split the world into two. Never quite touching, but never quite apart, Light and Dark Aether existed side by side, overlapping each other at certain points. It was from the depths of Dark Aether that the Ing Horde emerged, hellbent on killing off the Luminoth and taking control of the planet. When more and more of their brethren fell, the peaceful Luminoth resolved to fight. Rydas had helped then, creating weapons and crystals that their warriors would use to fight in the poisonous atmosphere of Dark Aether. But as more and more warriors were slain, B-Stl and J-Stl had ushered their children into a cryostasis chamber with the other Luminoth despite their protests...

"I'm not going," yelled Rydas, and stomped one foot on the ground, his arms folded across his chest. "You can't make me!"

"Nor can you expect me to go," spoke L-Stl clearly. "I will not stand by and watch as the Ing destroy our home!"

"You can, and you will," said J-Stl firmly, and steered them toward the chamber. "It is not your place to fight. It is ours."

"Please understand, R-Stl, my starlight," murmured B-Stl. "If this youngest generation of Luminoth is lost, our race is finished." She turned to L-Stl. "You and R-Stl must survive to bear our light," she said, and placed her arms on their shoulders. "Please, do as we ask."

Neither boy said anything until L-Stl quietly turned and walked toward the pods that would cast him into a deep sleep.

"L-Stl, what are you doing?!" shouted Rydas. A familiar memory tugged at his thoughts, but he brushed it aside. "You can't be serious...?!"

"Mother's right," said L-Stl, and looked at his younger brother, sorrow etched onto his features. "This is how it must be. They fight for us, R-Stl. Let their sacrifices not be in vain."

He opened his mouth to argue, only to shut it in defeat as he thought the situation through. Unable to argue with his brother's logic, the boy looked back at his parents. "May the light of Aether shine over you," he said, his voice little more than a whisper, and ran toward his brother...

When he'd awoken, the Ing had been defeated by a lone bounty hunter, but his parents had fallen. He and L-Stl had mourned for weeks, shunning all contact with those that would comfort them. When at last the tears would come no more, Rydas began to train using the weapons left over from the war, trying to take his mind off of their deaths. Aether had suddenly become unbearable for him. Too many memories remained of his foster parents, threatening to drag him down into the pits of despair.

It was then that U-Mos, the sentinel whose charge had been to watch over his sleeping race, provided a shining ray of salvation. He had spoken of the hunter's various armaments and how they had integrated seamlessly into the strange suit she had worn, noting that she had, in fact, been human. Rydas took the idea and ran with it. Being a bounty hunter would get him away from Aether and allow him to search for the answer to the mystery of his birth parents' death, something that had resurfaced during his mourning. And besides, if a woman in a mechanical suit could take down the Ing, then surely he could do the same thing?

He enlisted L-Stl's help, salvaging what little remained of the bounty hunter's light armor from the Light of Aether. They had been analyzing the metals for more than a week with little progress when the first Luminoth wordlessly began to help. More followed, and soon the whole Luminoth population seemed to be aiding them. It was six months before the final touches were added to the Power Suit to render it usable by Rydas. Even with the Luminoth's technological expertise, mimicking the Chozo technology had been a hard task. The mathematics behind the suit were complex and had required several months to replicate, but in the end, they'd succeeded...

"So," said L-Stl, his voice full of excitement, watching his brother attempt to move in his suit. "Does it work?"

Rydas grunted, struggling to move one leg and failing miserably. "The joints won't move unless the suit's online," he said, and turned to stare as L-Stl's hand brushed his, bringing a gentle warmth to metal that covered his body. "What did you -- wait a moment. It's booting up..." The dormant HUD flared to life, displaying all the essentials: shield percentage, beams, ammunition, and the like. Near the top left corner, words began to scroll as the suit processed its software.

----------Luminoth Battle Suit ver. 1.0-----------

Loading software... complete

Running diagnostic check...

Pwrbm.mod... online

Lhtbm.mod... online

Drkbm.mod... online

Msllnchr.mod... online

Skrmsl.mod... online

Shielding... 100

Visors.cfg... ok

Diagnostic check complete. All functions online.

Rydas twiddled his fingers, then took a few steps forward, bringing up his arm cannon and blasting an empty can off the counter with a well-placed shot. The suit, once unbearably heavy, now weighed almost nothing; the once-recalcitrant joints how responded as if they were his own. He shuddered as a gust of wind waltzed through the window and over the exoskeleton, feeling the cool breeze through the micro-sensors that covered every inch of the suit. They sent impulses to his spinal cord, letting it relay them to the brain and then back down to his body. Even though he was encased from head to toe in metal, he could feel everything as though he were in plain clothing. The protective, organic metal pulsed with Rydas' breathing in an almost lifelike fashion. The armor truly was a second skin to him, fitting snugly around his form.

"Well?" inquired L-Stl.

"It works beautifully," he replied, and looked at his brother. "But what did you do to make it start up?"

L-Stl stared at the tiled floor. "Several of the elders mentioned that without a constant power source, your suit would not function..."

"So you provided a power source?" Rydas lifted his left hand, inspecting the back of it carefully. A small circle of light was glowing where the Luminoth had touched it. "What was it?"

L-Stl met his brother's eyes with his own. "The light of Aether," he said quietly. "Now, no matter where you go, you will always have it watching over you and shielding you from harm."

Had he not been wearing his helmet, his brother would have seen his jaw drop in shock. The light of Aether was the planet's energy source; for L-Stl to even consider taking a part of it, let alone sacrificing a small portion to power his armor, was a testament to just how much his brother cared for him.

"L-Stl," began Rydas, and stopped, turning his eyes to the floor. Mere words couldn't express the emotions welled up within him. Nothing he could think of would ever encompass the whole of their bond. "We will always be brothers," he said simply. In that single sentence were the memories, good and bad, that they'd shared; the gratitude that he felt, and a farewell.

The Luminoth nodded his head, knowing all too well what was going through his brother's mind. "Always, R-Stl."

Rydas yawned and checked the clock; he'd been reminiscing for over an hour. He shook his head and reached out for the piece of paper. Re-living past memories could wait. He had a job to do.

A/N: If I got anything wrong, please tell me so I can fix it; it's been a while since I played Metroid Prime 2.