1973 - MATERIA
Rainer Castor

The past.

The Errands are a race derived from the Porleyters and later on, from the Cosmic Engineers which Rhodan met in Andromeda during the fight against the Masters of the Island. Their ancestors were in good terms with the Hathors, the Guardians of the Light (see episode 298). When the Errands noticed that the Hathors were degenerating, they decided to go on their way. They joined with thirty five other people and undertook the construction of a Swarm. Then, they set off to distant galaxies.

After fighting a supraheterodynamic being, the Errands gained the power to control energies, and therefore to master stars in order to build defensive barriers. From Cosmic Engineers, they became Solar Engineers. They were asked by the Knight of the Deep to build various facilities. The Hathors then had to face an enemy from another continuum and only two of them survived : Yuga and Marduk Lethos. Some time later, the Solar Engineers were called upon once more as Cosmic Factories began to appear in the galaxy.

Materia traveled through thousands of galaxy, manufacturing carit, the Ultimate Material. One day, a new commandant by the name of Torr Samaho took control of the factory. He was joined by Cairol the Second. The two new leaders started replacing parts in Materia, pushing the Engineers away in a restricted area where they eventually got nothing left to do. Probably because of the carit hull, the Engineers realized that they were no longer able to have children. Most of their people had been slaughtered by the Masters of the Island, but now, what was left of their race was inexorably dying.

Then the Sol was brought to Materia to be re-engineered. However, once again, Cairol's robots, the Korragos, took care of the work, and the Engineers were confined to meaningless tasks. They considered rebelling at this point and use the Sol to escape, but this didn't happen.

The present.

Pucky, Blo Rakane and Monkey are trying to find they way inside Materia. They notice that somehow, the performances of the Cosmic Factory are not optimal, probably because of the interferences caused by the black hole. Pucky tries to teleport inside Materia but is violently bounced off by the carit protection. He senses three presences in Materia : Cairol the Second, Shabazza and Torr Samaho.

Ki thaRao is one of the two-hundred Cosmic Engineer who live on Materia. He is worried about the future of his race. He has been sabotaging various parts of Materia but now, he is being chased by robots. Only his ability to dissolve and travel through solid structures saved him so far, but they are closing in. Alerted by his thought impulses, Pucky teleports in front of the Errand and rescues him. Pucky explains the situation to the engineer, how he previously met likes of his race in Andromeda, previously called Hathorjan. Pucky is stunned to see that the engineer knows about the Hathors.

The Engineer tells the Galactics about the antennas, one of the few weak points of Materia. Maybe the bombs they brought with them might damage the factory. Pucky considers going to the Ultimate Material stores and steal some of it but is quickly discouraged by Ki thaRao. The Engineer confers with his people to decide if they are going to help the Terrans in their fight. The three Galactics are not invited to the meeting. Shortly after, Ki thaRao tells them that they will cooperate and that the two-hundred Cosmic Engineers left on Materia will make the Sol their new home.

Sixteen hours have gone by since the last time Materia dived into the Black Hole. Pucky thinks it might mean that the Cosmic Factory is about to find the super-intelligence. Materia dives and Blo Rakane shivers when he recognizes the round-shaped landscape that appears on the screens : it's Wanderer.

There is no possible doubt, Materia is hunting It.

Cedric Beust

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