Sacrifice and Rebellion

Keela and Ilaz
We leave the shelter and return to the blue city.
“Take us to the surface now, Yagrin,” says Niyta.
“The Jiku need our help.”

“It’s dangerous there for the children.”
“Leave them here with a few of the sisters.”

I turn to Hukal.
“Can you contact your AIs?”
“I need help finding Ilaz and Disu.”

“The infonet is slow,” he says, “but it’s working.”
He pauses.
“The AIs have no information about our friends.”
“And there’s no response to the messages I’ve sent to their commdisks.”

“You won’t be able to reach them.”
“The sword’s energy drained power from whatever it touched, and damaged electronics all over the planet.”

[Continue reading: Sacrifice and Rebellion]

Peace and Destruction

Filarin’s cave is hidden within the ring, a circle of mountains that once surrounded a lush plateau home to Taluk, the most beautiful city of the old kingdom.
When Botzar used the sword, it erased every trace of the city, leaving an unnaturally thick forest always covered by clouds.
Within the trees is the Breath of Life, the place where I first found the sword, and must soon return, to release its energy.

The cave is deep within a mountain and difficult to reach, but I find a PathFinder gate that takes us there quickly.
Can this be the same place?
All of us shiver from the extreme cold, and fight the urge to escape from the dull, strange darkness that makes us feel heavy and old.
The green birthing crystal still covers the ceiling and walls, but the glow is extinguished and the air is stale.
Whatever protection the cave had is gone, and the web is as weak here as anywhere in the world.
Only the gifts still shine from within the red stone.

“It feels dead here,” says Shazira.

“It was bad when I came for the necklace,” says Dilasa, “but it’s worse now, like there’s a crack in the barrier between life and death.”
“We can’t stay here, ina.”

“Tell us how you retrieved your gift.”

“I forced myself to come, but was afraid from the moment I arrived.”
“There were no tremors, but before long I felt closed in and I believed that the mountain would crush the cave at any moment.”
“I searched for Filarin so I wouldn’t be alone, but he was gone.”

“You fought the Spiral,” says Berek.
“Why would you be afraid of an empty cave?”

[Continue reading: Peace and Destruction]

Choosing Death

The Deadly Sun
A few days pass and the distribution of the inhibitors is complete.
Chiwan, the healing master, joins them in their work.
Just as he guided the sisters when they left their cave, so he guides the sleepers.
He joins me when I reassemble the masters, to answer their questions about life on Siksa and their mission here.
When their questions are done, they wait for me to dismiss them.

“There were fights between you and the Kizak guards.”

“They’re arrogant,” says Uzel, “and claim that Siksa is already an empire world.”

“Fortunately, none of you used the web in obvious ways while you fought.”
“And perhaps the Kizak got a healthy appreciation for Jiku strength!”
We laugh together.

“But the fighting stops, unless you must defend yourself or another Jiku.”

The group murmurs its agreement and scatters, all except Uzel.
“Can we talk, Yagrin?” he asks.

“What’s wrong?”

“Why did you wake us?”
“We don’t belong here.”
“The web is twisted out of shape.”
“We can pretend the world is normal when we use the accelerators, but without them the world becomes strange and sick again.”

“It’s good for you to experience the world a few hours a day as your brothers and sisters do.”

“You have your shell, and never need to feel what we feel!”
“We’ve seen your strength, Yagrin.”
“You touch the web stronger than any of us.”
“How can you ask us to go a moment without it?”
“How can you bear to live in a world where the web is broken?”

[Continue reading: Choosing Death]


Truth and Lies
The message wall is covered with hundreds of clustered video links, categorized by the search AI with different colors, textures, brightness, size, shapes, and icons, to characterize the words and emotions within. New messages appear on the wall as I watch, and move toward the clusters where they belong.

The memories that we floated on the infonet have spread, along with a program that translates the Kizak language.
Jiku from all over Siksa have responded with anger and disbelief.

Berek doesn’t notice when I enter the room.
He’s too busy moving along the wall, scanning text summaries of a few dozen of the videos, and watching
My words wake him from the world that he’s caught in.
“Have the comments changed in the last few days, Berek?”

“They’re mixed, as always, ina.”

I feel there’s something troubling him, and I wait a few seconds for him to continue, but when he doesn’t speak, I prompt him.
“Half the planet has seen the memories we floated on the infonet.”
“Isn’t that great?”

“I need to do something, ina, not sit here.”
“I don’t add much to the AI’s reports, and I don’t understand how this will help us.”
“Everyone has something to say, and I guess that’s good, but will it turn the vote against the Kizak?”
“Too many of the Jiku think the memories are made up.”

[Continue reading: Sleepers]

Into the Storm

The storm covers me, as I hover alone far above the ground, safe within my shield.
I smile with pleasure as lightning bursts all around me, every few seconds.
There’s no fear, only a feeling of kinship with the wild forces playing in the sky.
I stay in one place for a few minutes, and then fly through the storm, falling toward the ground and then rising to the clouds.
I’ve been flying for hours, but first light is almost here, and I have to go home.
The large round house sits below on a small hill at the edge of Tshuan, overlooking the ocean.
The hill is still royal land, but Keela sold me the hilltop a few months ago.

The land was wild when I started building.
First, I shaped a large accelerator and connected it to the power grid, to normalize the web for a hundred feet in all directions.
Then I filled the air with salt water, and let the house take shape.
Twelve pillars of dark hardwood separated by curved slabs of white stone with streaks of black, and speckles of green.
The roof begins with a ring of silver, below a dome of ensai, the clear, blue stone that covers the city deep in the sea.
The walls are dotted with crystal windows that glitter with color when the sun strikes them.
Inside the house, flowering vines cover the upper edge of the walls, just below the dome.

My shell touches the accelerator field as I hover, so my energy sight penetrates all the way into the house.
Shazira, Dilasa, and Berek are awake, while Keela is still sleeping.

[Continue reading: Into the Storm]