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

Peace and Destruction

  Power 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…

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

Sleepers

  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?” “No.” “They’re mixed, as always, ina.” I feel there’s something troubling him, and I wait a few seconds for…

Continue reading

Into the Storm

  Action 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…

Continue reading

Standoff

  Safe Return “They’re close!” shouts Niyta. “Is Shazira there?” asks Dilasa, nervous. “There are two dragons,” says Niyta, “probably Shazira and Ilaz, moving impossibly fast.” “The rest of the group are still Jiku.” “But I don’t understand how Shazira can pull the group, and move like that.” “She isn’t even an energy weaver.” “Maybe it’s one of the sisters who was rescued.” “It might be, but the dragon’s energy is so strange.” The sisters and others enter through the airlock, carrying the ones who are unconscious or too weak to walk. The dragons transform and enter last. “Shazira!” yells Dilasa as she enters, hugging her tightly, and holding on. “I was worried you wouldn’t come back.” “We would have been killed, but we had some help at the last moment.”

Continue reading

Eclipse

  Alone Sakool approaches the emperor’s work room, nervous about the message he has to deliver. The advisor signals his presence, and indicates that he has an urgent need to speak with the emperor. “Come in, Sakool.” “You’ve been in isolation the last two days, Great father.” “I wasn’t sure you would see me.” “Our plans for Siksa are progressing.” “I have personal matters which need my attention.” “But you indicates the matter is urgent.” “Of course, Great Father.” “What is it?” “The detention facility in Tshuan was attacked, as we expected.”

Continue reading

Rescue

  The Twins The Jiku guards are gone, and the royal compound is nearly deserted. One Kizak guard brings him back to the ship, and returns his commdisk. “This isn’t mine,” says Ilaz. “It is,” says the guard. “I put it in the storage area myself, and no one else has been there.” It looks right, but feels wrong. They’ve switched it, or tampered with it. His disk is keyed to his unique genetics. When he holds it, a pleasant trickle of energy circles his wrist. This disk feels ordinary.

Continue reading

Treason

  Reunion “Prince Ilaz!” says Siya, the director of the research center. She’s about seventy years old, middle age for the Jiku. “Director Siya, you’re still alive!” She laughs. “You know I’m not that old.” “I missed you.” “I haven’t seen you in over ten years.” “You stopped coming, and then I heard you were in a waking coma.” “I recovered.” “Sorry I never visited or messaged you.” “Do you have a hug for an old friend?” He hugs the older woman. “I never expected you to hang around here like you used to.” “You were a boy of fifteen when you last came here.” “When your strength returned, you were grown up.” “I wasn’t sure if you remembered your old life.” “I still love the sea,” he says, “but I’ve been busy with other things.” “And I’m not a prince anymore.” “The kingdom is gone.”

Continue reading

Sanctuary

  Dragon Stone Siksa is rich with a beautiful, dark blue crystal called ensai, that glows softly in the dark. On land, the greatest concentration of the stone is in Bizra territory, under the meadows where the Bizra lived for centuries. In the ocean, the most visible deposit of ensai is found in three undersea mountain ranges. But the largest mass of the crystal is a great disk, hidden seven feet below the deepest part of the sea floor, extending for a thousand miles in all directions. The disk generates an energy field in the shape of a sphere. The sides of the sphere begin twenty feet beyond the edge of the crystal, and rise high above the surface of the stone. Visible light, ultraviolet, and infrared waves pass freely into the sphere, yet the same waves are absorbed when they try to pass out of the field. Other waves…

Continue reading