Sweet Waters

 
Traitors
The emperor wakes early this morning, like every morning.
Teyus spends seven hours in bed, but his sleep doesn’t bring him the rest he needs.
He’s troubled almost every night by dreams of aliens destroying the homeworld.
Teyus shakes off the fear and fatigue, and sits up.
He reaches for a pitcher of juice to ease his thirst, but the pitcher is half-way across the room, spilled on the floor.

Many nights, the pitcher moves from where he left it, along with other random objects.
Security is uncompromised, and video shows the objects moving by themselves.
Despite the … Read more

Fear of the Wild

 
Cruelty and Purpose
The emperor calls me in to see him.
“Congratulations, Neyima.”
“Disu has made incredible progress in his fighting skills, and he told me that he has agreed to the Madar val.”

“Yes, great father.”

“I have a few questions for you.”
“I want to understand the training that you’ve been giving him.”
“My staff has been analyzing the sims that you use.”
“Acting?”
“Practicing silence?”
“Being insulted?”
“These seem like a complete waste of time, and totally different from what the other tutors did.”

“May I speak freely?”

“Of course.”

“The other tutors accomplished nothing with … Read more

Truth and Lies

 
The Rebellious Son
“Wake up.”

I hear the words from far way, but they help me fight my way back to full consciousness.
Finally I open my eyes, but everything is blurry.

“Good,” says the voice.
“You’re in a med station.”
“Do you remember what happened?”

“The attack on the prince.”
“Is he all right?”

“Yes, and so is the guard that you were found with.”
“She needed some surgery, but she’ll make a full recovery.”

I try to get up, but I just don’t have the strength.

“Lie down!”
“You’ve been in a coma for four weeks.”
“We … Read more

Death of a Child

 
Wenri
I’m dazed when I land, and it takes a few seconds for my vision to clear.
My skin still tingles, but at least I can feel my body again.

“Are you all right?” asks a guard, peering down at me.

I’m sitting on wet rocks a few feet from the lake.

“I was about to go swimming, but I must have slipped on the stones.”

The guard wears a headset with an embedded display.
She helps me up and stares at me to scan my identity chip.

Her posture instantly changes, and she almost salutes before she catches … Read more

Beyond Darkness and Light

 
Cloud of Darkness
The gate opens seven thousand feet into a dark sky, with no stars.
Light rises from the ground and the sea.
My field surrounds us and remains strong, even when the power of the nullifier runs out.
There are no cages here.

“Who are you?” asks Fenik, as we float in the air.
“What is this place, and where is Rishku?”

“My name is Yagrin.”
“There is no Rishku.”
“I wore that identity in the prison, so I could enter the women’s sims.”

Prisons of the Mind

 
Neyima
The next day, Brewky arranges for me to leave my job, and come to work for the syndicate.
My old boss isn’t happy, but Brewky pays him off.

“I’m surprised he didn’t just take you.”
“I couldn’t say no.”

“I think he wanted to make me happy, and I suggested that he treat you well.”

“Thanks.”

I begin several days of training at the Boss’s underground facility.
Blika and Brewky give me a new name, Neyima, and an identity chip.
An ordinary chip carries a single name, citizen code, and basic birth data: planet, dates, etc.
It … Read more

Children of Fire

 
Preparation
I float again in a world full of stars, the ship’s simulation of the third arm of the galaxy.
The Kizak homeworld is here.
I zoom in, and stare at the sun and its planets.

The charts from the bird-man helped us identify the star, but what do I do with the fact?!
If I go near their world, the Kizak will detect my ship and destroy it.
Even if I survive, I’ll be bound by the cage.
The empire will conquer Siksa while I sit in prison.

I move through the simulation, letting stars rush by me, … Read more

Dreams of Life and Death

 
Paths of Healing
The airship flies toward the school, only minutes away.
“Ilaz looks terrible,” says Keela.

Berek scans him.
“He’s gotten worse.”
“His pattern body was damaged when I drove out the alien.”
Berek streams healing energy over Ilaz, but the energy has little effect.

“His breathing is so weak,” says Keela.
“Have you lost your power of healing?”

“No, but this injury is beyond the strength of a single healer, and Ilaz has lost the will to live.”
“Tzina told me that his spirit said it would rather die than remain in its prison.”
“The alien spirit … Read more

Far From Home

 
Ancient Wars
Months have gone by.
When I left the Veezal, I went back to the star where the captured probe was last seen.
Since then, I’ve searched through many of the inhabited worlds along this arm of the galaxy.
The worlds here are unsophisticated technologically, and know little of energy ways.
Many have stories or ruins of an older civilization.
The ruins I’ve found are contaminated with radiation.
There was a devastating war here, a long time ago.

At least I have a name for the enemy: Kizak.
It’s the word that Dilasa heard in her last vision, … Read more

Lost Courage

 
An Honorable Death
I leave Siksa and my family, again.
Only Balshown is with me on the ship, and he is too quiet, lost in his thoughts.
We pass unnoticed through the atmosphere, and accelerate past Siksa’s moon.
Soon, we’ll be at a safe distance from the planet, where we can engage the star drive.

Balshown watches the view-screen until Siksa is out of sight.
“Why are we here, Yagrin?” he asks, breaking the silence.
“This ship is fast, but it will still take us weeks to reach my world.”
“You’re a PathFinder!”
“Open a gate, give me back … Read more