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 herself.

“Officer Neyima,” she whispers, looking around, “sorry to have disturbed you.”
She must be in charge of a security detail, so she has access to a database that identifies me as a member of the Special Corps.
Most scans wouldn’t show it.
The corps is an elite part of the military that does not wear uniforms, and keeps their actions secret from the general public.

“No problem, but let’s be quiet about it.”

“Sure.”
“Have you been to the lake before?”

“No.”
“In fact, it’s my first time on the homeworld.”

“Wenri is the most beautiful world in the empire, and the lake has incredible underwater caves!”
“Do you own an air fountain?”
The air fountain extracts oxygen from the water.

“No.”

“Get one, and a waterproof headset, that connects with the fountain.”
The headset is a wearable computer with an intelligent voice interface.
It provides communication, entertainment, and information services.
It’s lightweight, and slips over the head and ears, with retractable visual displays that come down over the eyes.

“Tell the set to download a tour module for the lake.”
“Then you can ask the headset questions about the caves, and see a map that highlights areas of interest.”

“Are you enhanced, or does your biosense still work?”

“I’m from one of the fringe worlds.”
“Almost no one gets enhanced out there.”

When the Kizak race was younger, they used to hunt in the water, and the biosense was used to locate prey and predators.
It enables us to sense the approach of living things, by sensing the electromagnetic radiation that they all emit.
The empire tells the public that they’re providing an intelligence enhancement to infants, with the unfortunate side effect that the biosense is lost.
The truth is that the empire is intentionally disabling the sense, and weakening certain areas of the brain to make the people more docile.

“Get one of the old bio-maps.”
“It generates a weak electrical field that your biosense will read as a map.”

“Why do I need that, if I have the tour module?”

“Many of the caves are officially closed, because they’re too dangerous for kids.”
“The tour module shows the entrance, but nothing more.”
“The old maps will show you the interior layout of those caves.”
“You have to see the Rainbow Caves, and the Three Circles.”
“Be careful though, and don’t tell anyone I suggested it.”

“Do I need ropes or any special gear?”

“No, but wear a shirt and swimming shorts.”
“Parts of the caves are pretty narrow.”

“Thanks for the advice.”

“You’re welcome.”
“My name is Talika.”

“Neyima.”

“I know.”
“I scanned you, remember?”

I laugh.

“I’m going to a song room tonight with some guard friends.”
“Would you like to come?”

“I don’t know if I should be seen with guards.”
“I’m supposed to pretend to be an ordinary citizen.”

“Guards have plenty of citizen friends.”
“I won’t tell anyone, even the other guards.”
“I’ll just say you’re ex-military.”
“You should come.”

“I could use a break.”

“Tough last assignment?”

“Can’t talk about it, but it involved torture.”

“That’s terrible!”
“I don’t know if I could actually torture someone.”

“I was the one being tortured.”

“You seem like such a happy person!”
“How can you do things like that and still be normal?”

“Hard to explain.”
“Still want me to join you tonight?”

“Of course.”

“Leave a message on my account with the location and time,” I tell her.
“I’ll meet you there.”

“Great.”

“One more question, Talika.”

“Yeah?”

“Where can I get a military upgrade for the headset?”
Brewky told me about it.
With that software I can query the central network and get information on anyone wearing a headset, including their current location.

“The civilian government outlawed the software except in cases of emergency.”
“Nobody sells it, and you would need a high clearance to use it, even if you had the module.”

I don’t answer, waiting for her to figure it out.

“Sorry I”m so stupid,” she adds, after a few seconds.
“Your clearance is high enough.”

“Can I get it on the black market?”

“The module is military property and much harder to get than the maps.”
“The place I’m sending you for the map might have it, but I don’t know if she’ll sell it to you.”
“She’s a guard informant, so we let her do business, but she can’t be caught doing anything that illegal.”
“Give her my name, and tell her I said thank you for the red dress.”

“Dress?”

“Code word.”
“Maybe you can convince her.”

I go to the nearest shopping tower to find a store with swimming clothes and sandals.
The city’s walkways were not meant to be used with bare feet.
People stare at me like I’m crazy when I enter the tower naked.
The owner of the swimming store is surprised to see me walk in to her store like that, but she’s happy enough to scan my chip and get the credits.

I ask shoppers in the tower for advice on where to go to buy street clothes, a waterproof headset, and an air fountain.
The corps maintains generous accounts for its members, so I don’t even look at what things cost.
How long, I wonder, before they decide that I’ve gone rogue, and come after me?
They know that I’ve disappeared from the prison with a couple of the inmates.
They probably think that we used some unknown tech to transport to a hidden ship.
They’ll be happy that I went with the prisoners to get the tech.

I guess I’ve got about a year.
Undercover missions often last longer than that, but the corps will expect some results from me within a year.

 
Shopping
I travel by tube-train to a different shopping tower, fifteen miles away, to get the map.
The neighborhood there is more run-down, and the tower is much smaller.
I find the small jewelry shop on the fourth floor.
“Is the owner here?” I ask one of the workers.

“She’s in the back.”

“Tell her that I’m looking to buy something that will go with a red dress.”

A few minutes later, an older woman comes out.

“Have you been here before?”

“No.”
“I’m a friend of Talika.”
“She said to thank you for the red dress?”

“Come in the back with me.”

We go into a small room, and she closes the door.
“Where did you hear about the red dress?”

“From Talika.”

“I don’t know her.”

“She’s a guard.”
“She told me you’re an informant.”

“She talks too much.”
“What if you were a rebel or a crime boss?”
“I’d be dead or out of business.”

“She knew she could trust me.”

“What about me?”
“The guard hasn’t been treating me so well recently, and you have an old code word that I haven’t used in months.”

“I’m here, and I’ve got plenty of credits.”

“Your clothes are brand new.”

“I just arrived, and fringe world clothes aren’t in style.”

She laughs nervously.
“I guess not.”

“What were you looking for?” she asks.

“I need a map of the lake.”

“Maps?”
“You can get a module for a good price one floor up.”

“A bio-map.”

“They’re not being made any more, and they’re illegal to sell.”

“Illegal?”

“Yes, all objects that use the biosense have been outlawed as a misuse of empire resources.”
“Where have you been?”

“Far away, in the military.”
“This is my first time on the homeworld.”

“I can’t get away with selling biotech.”

“Of course not.”
“You might just happen to have an old object in your possession that had recently become illegal to sell.”
“I might buy an expensive piece of jewelry, and knowing my interest in antiques, you might decide to give the old item to me as a gift.”

“An interesting thought, but I can’t help you.”

“Now you’re wasting my time.”
“If you prefer, I can call my friends in the guard and ask them to harass you, doing frequent searches for illegal items.”

“I’ve done nothing!”

“The guard won’t care about your protests.”
“They’ll still do the searches, and the tower may decide that you need to go elsewhere.”

“You’re not a nice man.”

“I want the map, I asked for it, and I’m prepared to pay generously for it.”
“You’re the one who is making this difficult.”

“Wait here,” she says.
She comes back in a few minutes with a long tube, and a container of water.
Inside is a map made of a flexible material like plastic.

“This one is really old, and the projector element is a little weak, but it’s the only one that I’ve got.”
“You’ll have to hold it near your chest or your hands where the body’s main bio-sensors are.”

“I can do that.”

“Test it out.”
“I don’t accept returns.”
“This container is small, but put your hand in the water with a corner of the map, and you’ll sense it.”

I try it, and a piece of the map comes into view.

She points a weapon at me.
“Don’t move or activate your headset or I’ll kill you.”
“I’ve called some friends of mine who don’t like the guard.”
“Maybe you can convince them to trust you.”
“Either way I won’t have to deal with you!”

She’s shocked when I take the weapon away from her.

“No one moves that fast.”
“You’re Special Corps, and you’re here to interrogate me!”

“The corps doesn’t exist.”
“Everyone knows that.”
“But if it did, you wouldn’t want them after you.”
“Call off your friends.”

She speaks into a headset, and tells them that she worked out the problem by herself.
“What do you really want with me?”

“Only the map.”

“Take it as a gift and get out.”

I feel light pressure on my mind wall.
She’s a mind thief, and has a jammer.
One of the weaknesses of the jammer is that it works for both sides of the connection.
I drop my shield and pull some useful information out of her mind.

She feels me there, and shuts off the jammer, but I grab her hand to hold the connection.

“Jammers won’t help you,” I tell her.
“I’m like you, but I have a mental shield that protects me.”
“I know a lot about jammers, by the way, including how to build them.”

“I don’t care.”
“Just go.”

“Too bad you didn’t get to meet Illwi when you were in the school.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“You were in the school of blessings, but you never met the caretaker.”
“I know you can’t speak of it, but I can walk through your memories.”

“You can’t read that!”
“No one can.”

I tell her details that I’ve stolen from her memory.

“Who are you really?” she asks.

“The caretaker sent me to this world, but I can’t tell you more than that.”
“I’m not your enemy.”
“How can I convince you?”

“You can’t.”

I give her a blessing in Madar.

“I don’t speak Madar, you fool, but I recognize the strange tones.”
“No one speaks it aloud, except the caretaker.”
“You’re way too stupid to be part of the corps.”
“Even a member of the corps would be executed for speaking it aloud.”

She speaks into the headset again.
“Cancel the call,” she says, “school3628.”
“The first time I cancelled, I didn’t use the code.”
“They knew I was being forced.”
“Now, they’ll leave you alone.”

“I also need a military module.”

“You’re trying to get me killed!”

“Look, I may be reckless, but I’m trying to bring down the empire, and I need those items.”
I do want to stop the empire, but I don’t think I can help them kill a child.

“You know I’ve studied the old ways.”
“That’s enough to get me tortured.”
“I can’t get in more trouble my selling you what you want.”

“Let’s do what I suggested,” I tell her.
“I’ll buy something, and you slip the bio-map and module into the bag.”
“And add the cost of the blaster, if you can spare it.”
“I’d like to take it with me.”

“You planning to visit the lake?” she asks.

“Yes.”

“Don’t go near it tomorrow, especially after 1.”

“Why not?”

“A protest, a prank, a terrorist attack, who knows?”
“Whatever it is, word is spreading to stay away from the lake.”

 
Song Room
I’m too busy today for swimming.
I need a place to live.

I find a small apartment with floor to ceiling windows and a great view of the lake.
I rent time on a fabricator to form my knives and some custom parts.
Then I buy tools and parts, and set up a work table by the window.
The first thing I assemble is Mehkoos’s nullifier.
The nullifier adds more structure to the web’s energy streams, and counters the excessive chaos created by a local cage projector.
I need the opposite effect to counter the star cage generator, which creates too much order in the web.

I wanted to modify the nullifier to introduce chaos.
The only thing I succeeded in doing is making myself nauseous.

What if I customize a local cage projector instead?
Can I generate enough chaos to balance the web near me, even for a few seconds?
If I succeed, how do I make a projector small enough to carry under my clothes?

I’ll need more parts to build the projector, but that will have to wait for another day.
Evening is already here, and I get dressed to go out, strapping the knife sheaths on my legs under the pants.

I find the song room easily enough.
Talika’s waiting for me outside, and introduces me to two men and two women that are with her, all guards.

“You came, Neyima.”

“I’m happy to join you.”

She smiles.

“What’s the big deal?” asks one of the other guards.
“We expand the empire and face death.”
“What does he do except sit around and earn credits?”
“He’s just a citizen.”
The guard reaches out to flick my ear, the equivalent of a slap in the face among the Kizak.
His hand never reaches my ear.
I grab his wrist and twist it just enough to cause pain.

“Let go,” he says.

I do.

“So you’re fast.”
“Big deal.”

“I’m pretty good in a fight,” I tell him.
“I could have broken your wrist.”
“How about I show you?”

Talika steps between us.
“Stop it,” she says, looking at me.
Then she turns to the guard.
“He’s ex-military, Khisay, and a martial arts expert.”
“No fighting tonight boys, understood?”

Talika sits next to me.
“What do you like to drink?” she asks.

“I’m not much of a drinker,” I tell her.
I order something fruity and low-alcohol.

“I knew you weren’t very tough,” says Khisay.

“Ignore him,” says Talika.
“He would rather get drunk than breathe.”

I can’t find anything to like in the music that they play here.
The sweet voices of the singers are hidden behind the chaotic sounds of the instruments.

I try to ignore the music and talk with Talika and the others.
After an hour, my discomfort shows on my face.

“You’re bored with us, Neyima?” she asks.

“I like being with you and your friends.”
“It’s the music I hate.”

“Let’s get out of here while Khisay can still walk.”

Talika, Khisay, and I walk together along the street, enjoying a light breeze.
Now that he’s drunk, Khisay is friendly and fun to be with.
The other guards are gone, off to another song room.

We wander along the streets, following Khisay, until we come to a place that’s pretty deserted.

“It’s time to find a tube-train, Khisay,” says Talika.

“I want to show you something,” he says.
He shows us a place where a new building is half-finished.
“I led a raid here on the old building.”
“There was a group of rebels occupying one of the floors.”
“They wouldn’t come out, so we cleared everyone else out of the building and burned them out.”

“Proud of yourself, guard?” asks someone behind us.
“There were women and children in there.”
We turn, and there are a group of twelve people near us.

“If they were all rebels, good riddance,” says Khisay.

What an idiot he is!
We’re surrounded.

Everyone in the group pulls knives.
It’s rare for anyone to carry energy weapons on the street.
The penalties are too severe.

I take off my pants, and the group looks at me like I’m crazy.

“What are you doing, Neyima?” she asks, until I pull my knives out.
Then she whispers, “Khisay and I are unarmed.”
“Besides, there are too many of them.”
“Run!”

“How do you plan to get through the crowd?” I whisper back.

“Are you planning to kill all of us?” I ask the group.

“That’s the idea,” says the leader.
“There are too many guards, as it is.”

“I’m not a guard.”
“I’m just with them.”

“Close enough.”

“Nothing happened yet,” I tell them, putting my knives back in the sheaths.
“There’s still time to walk away.

“Not for us,” says the leader.

I could disarm them all, but Talika or her friend might get hurt.
One deep breath, and I kill the leader with his own knife before he can move.

“Get out of here,” I scream, with a voice designed to frighten them.
Eight run away.
I disarm the three remaining ones quickly, just knocking them out.

Khisay looks sober, as I wipe off the blood that splashed on my face.
“Let’s get out of here,” I tell them.

“We need to bring the guards,” she says.
Talika pulls out her headset and calls them.
“Khisay’s brother was killed in this building,” she whispers to me.
“He was killed when he knocked on the rebel’s door to ask them to turn down the sound, a year after he saved one of their children from drowning.”

We wait for the guards to arrive.

 
Madar Places
It’s morning.
I should be back in my room, building a projector, but something pulls at me to go to the lake.
I’m curious what’s going to happen today, but it’s more than that.
I sit on one of the beaches to relax while I review the caves on the headset.
A few minutes later I get up.

I tell the headset to show me the way to the rainbow caves.
It displays a map, and directs me to another beach with a gentle slope into the lake.
Dozens of people rest on each of the lake’s six beaches, but almost no one goes in the water.
It’s still a little cool this time of year.

I touch the water with my webbed feet.
Not bad.
I jump in and reach the first cave in eight minutes, well before I feel any pressure to breathe.
This is the first of the seven rainbow caves.
Each oval cave is covered with glowing crystal of a different color.
The entrance to the first cave is at the bottom of the lake, and just big enough for me to fit through.
Without the headset’s guidance, I’d never find the opening.

The seven caves form a chain, and I pass through one to reach the next.
At the center of each cave is a beautiful pillar of colored crystal, a foot wide and four feet tall.
The base of each pillar is a two foot wide hemisphere, flat end down.
Another hemisphere the same size forms the top of the pillar, flat end up.
The top hemisphere has a white, slightly raised edge, a thick ring of colored stone, and a six inch black center.
The pillar has the same black core.

I find an electronic door at the far end of the seventh cave.
The headset doesn’t show the door or what’s behind it.
The bio-map shows a closed eighth cave, with a series of tunnels that go to the surface.

I wonder what’s in there?
I touch an old, over-sized handpad, never expecting it to open for me.

The upper cave walls are covered with clusters of glowing green crystals, shaped like flowers
There’s a small stone dome at the top of the cave, also covered in green.
This is Gen birthing crystal, just like the cave that protects Filarin.

There’s a modern light spreader, a kind of flashlight, resting on a charge pad.
The guards have been in here, but they’re preserving it for some reason.
The over-sized handpad must be Madar technology, now connected with a Kizak security database.

The cave is perfectly round, with a solid black pillar in its center, and dimly glowing words engraved on the top in the Madar language.
“Death is the greatest teacher of all.”

How did the Madar enter here?
Not through the small opening at the bottom of the lake, or any of the old tunnels.
There are three tunnels leading to the surface, all sealed with a material that feels like stone.
The blaster might open the tunnels, but I’ll try that another day when I have more time to explore.
Besides, this cave might be monitored.

My biosense is struggling to make sense of streams of energy that fill the cave.
I realize that it’s like a primitive version of energy sight, that only works in water, but I’m looking at the web.
This wasn’t visible in the last cave.
I reach for my energy sight and find that it’s here!
The cave normalizes the web that’s within it.
I try to reach beyond the cave with energy eyes, but my sight fades in places where the web is still under the influence of the cage.

I hear a tone, but not in my ears.
I look around the cave, and realize that the inner sound is coming from the pillar.
There’s an energy stream in the black pillar in the shape of a circle.
I feel a strong urge to touch the top of the pillar.
Nothing happens.

I scan the area looking for any devices which are monitoring the room.
The handpad by the door is connected wirelessly to an outside database, but there are no other electrical devices here except for the light spreader and a chargepad.
I seal all three within a dark material which blocks all energy signals.

I take off my clothes, headset, and air fountain.
Then I flow myself into a Madar form.
I shape a large air fountain that will support my body, and put it on.
As I approach the pillar, the energy stream reshapes itself into an image of Sindar’s symbol.

Why is it here?
I have the same strong urge to touch the pillar.
When I do, the world fades.

 
The Color of Death
I wake up on the floor, dizzy and nauseous.
What happened?

I look at the pillar and the image of Sindar’s symbol is gone.
The urge to touch it is gone, but I reach for it anyway.
Nothing happens.

I change back into my Kizak form, and put on the clothes, air fountain, and headset, glancing at the time display.
I’ve been unconscious over an hour!
It’s after one.
I have to get back to the surface, and see what’s going on.
A weapon appears in my hand.
I didn’t flow it consciously, although I recognize it.
It’s a Madar energy weapon that works underwater.
Most don’t.

I put the weapon in a waist-pack, planning to figure out later where it came from.
I stretch out my empty hands, palms up, and the long knives appear in sheaths.

I left my knives back in the apartment.
What’s happening?
I strap the sheaths to my legs.
Then I uncover the handpad and the other devices, and touch the pad.
The door opens and I swim out as quickly as I can.

I approach the surface, but something feels wrong.
There’s a group of four boys about thirty feet away, swimming madly in my direction.

Far behind them are two small boats chasing them at full speed, one a few minutes behind the other.
I feel energy blasts hitting the water, about forty feet behind the boys.
Soon the weapons will be in range.

It doesn’t make sense!
Why would guards fire on children?

I break through the surface in front of the boys, and slip the air fountain off my face.

“We’re trapped,” says one of the boys.
“They’ll get us now.”

“Leave us alone,” says another boy.
“You’ll suffer a horrible death when the guard catch you.”
I recognize him from images the caretaker showed me.
It’s Disu, the emperor’s son.
All I have to do is turn away, and he’ll be killed, and perhaps the empire will fall.

I can’t do it.
Instead I grab his hand, so I can read his thoughts.

Disu expects me to kill him, but I push past the thoughts of fear.

He doesn’t want to be emperor when he grows up.
Disu hates the wars that the empire fights, and the killing that comes with them.
He reads forbidden books about the energy ways of the Madar, and waits for the day that he can experience the world without the cage.
His greatest fear is that he will change as he grows up, and become just like his father.

I let go of his hand.

When there is no blood left to follow his ways, the Madar will come again.

We don’t need to kill Disu.
He’s already abandoned his father’s ways.

“I’m ex-guard, and I’m not after you.”
“Get in the water now, where their energy blasts can’t reach you.”

“We don’t have air fountains!”

I give mine to Disu.
“I can get us to a safe place where there’s air, but you have to follow me now!’
“The air fountain can support all you boys if you share it, two minutes at a time.”
“Just hold your breath when it’s not your turn for the fountain.”

“What will you do?”

“I’ll have to hold my breath longer.”

“Follow him,” says Disu, “we have nothing to lose.”

I hand him my headset.
“It’s waterproof.”
“Message the guards to send help.”
“Then ask the headset to lead you to the rainbow caves.”
“When you get in, go straight to the last cave.
“I’ll be right behind you.”

I follow them underwater, and then stop, twenty feet under the surface, as they swim toward the bottom.
I wait until the boat comes in range of my energy weapon, and fire.
If I’m lucky it will kill all of them.

No luck.
The boat has some kind of shielding.
I keep firing, exhausting the weapons’s charge, but finally the boat breaks up.
Two bodies float on the surface, but four of them enter the water, wearing air fountains.
They shoot at me with their energy weapons, but the weapons fail in the water.

I swim away toward the caves.
The last of the boys enters the cave, just before I get there.

The four men are split into two groups.
Two are right behind me, while the others stay near the wreckage of the first boat, waiting for the other boat to arrive.
I turn, pulling both knives from the sheaths.
The men near me have knives, but they are no match for my training and speed.
I take their headsets and air fountains.
Then I sheath the knives, enter the cave, and swim quickly to the end.

I gave away a headset and fountain for the boys to share.
One of Disu’s friends points to the blood seeping into the water from my sheaths.
I touch the handpad, and the door to the eighth cave opens.
I gesture and they all enter.
When I’m in, I seal the door.

My energy abilities are back, but I don’t want to reveal myself.
I give the captured headset to Disu, and take back my own.
I tell the headset to keep headset conversations within this cave private,

“What is this place?” asks Disu over the headset.

“A strange, old place.”
“At least we’re safe for now.”
“What happened?”
“Why didn’t the guards protect you?”

“They were spread out around the lake, doing a final sweep after sending everyone away.”
“We came a few minutes early, and we were waiting by the water, hidden by some trees, for the guards to finish their job.”

“Heavily armed groups of men dressed as guards ambushed the real guards with high-power energy weapons.”
“A small airship moved around the lake directing the attackers to remaining guards.”

“Why didn’t the guards call for help?”

“The attackers must have been jamming communications.”
“My friends were frantic.”
“They wanted to hide until more guards came and saved us, but I knew we shouldn’t wait.”
“At this point, we couldn’t trust anyone wearing a guard’s uniform.
“The attackers dragged the bodies out of sight and took the guard headsets.”
“The airship left.”

“Do you think the attackers spoke with central command and told them everything was fine.”

“I don’t know.”
“Once the airship was out of sight, I led my friends around the lake for about a hundred feet.”
“There were no more trees after that, so we went underwater and swam as long as we could hold our breath.”

“We came up far into the lake, but still, a boat found us.”
“They called me by name from a distance, saying they wouldn’t harm me.”
“After what they had already done, I didn’t believe them.”
“Then you showed up.”
“That’s it.”

“Did you reach guard headquarters on the headset?”

“The local headquarters was bombed, so they’re sending men from farther away.”
“My father is sending some of the Palace Guard.”
“At least one hundred men are coming, heavily armed, but it may take them fifteen minutes to reach us.”
“They identified you from the headset, and told me I can trust you.”
“Thank you for saving us.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Why didn’t the door open for me?” asks Disu.
“I tried it.”

“This is a secure and dangerous place.”
“I have high clearance.”

“Look at this,” says the other boy wearing a captured headset.

“It’s Madar script,” says Disu.

What would he say if I told him that this writing is shared by seven ancient races, and found in multiple galaxies across the universe?
This is the same ancient script that I’ve seen on Siksa on the harbor wall!
I bury all these thoughts.
“You’ve seen it before?” I ask.

“A few times in museums.”

Someone starts banging on the door.

“Headset,” I say, “scan the identity chips of all Kizak in the first seven caves and the lake.”
“Are they guards?”

“No.”

“How many in the caves?”

“Twelve.”

“In the lake?”

“At least another twenty.”

“Identify how many of the twelve in the caves have active headsets.”
“Specify locations of any men that don’t.”

“Ten have active sets.”
“There are two men in cave three with damaged headsets.”

“Override safety protocols and initiate fatal shock through headsets in caves one through seven.”
“Jam all network connection and communication for headsets in or around lake.”

“Done.”
“One headset in cave two did not kill its wearer, only stun her.”

“Disu, keep everyone here.”
“I have to go out.”

He reaches out his hand, with an astonished expression on his face.
There’s a Madar weapon in it, like the one I shaped earlier.
I pretend to reach behind the pillar, and find another weapon.

I take Disu’s hand to strengthen the mental connection.

No time to talk, Disu.
If we survive, I’ll explain.

I leave the Madar cave, and pass through the others.
When I reach cave five, I start slitting the throats of every body I find, just in case one is pretending to be dead.
I move into the lake and find the three attackers just above me.

“Headset, are any guards still alive in the lake, or on its surface.”

“No.”

“Initiate fatal shock to all headsets in or on lake except mine.”

“Command given, but some of them are too far away for me to tell whether effort was successful.”

The surviving attackers are shocked by the sudden death of most of their group.
A few turn to face me, while the rest head for the surface.
I turn the weapon on all of them.

When I reach the surface, I find an empty boat, and head straight for the main dock.
The boat stops dead a hundred feet from the dock.
My weapon is off-line also.
The arriving guards must have activated a tech screen, to shut off all tech around the lake.

I swim the rest of the way.
A dozen of the attackers are left, trying to open the electronic door of an airship.
A few approach me with knives, while the others continue to work on the door.
Soon, they’re all lying on the ground.

“Headset, are there any guards in this area who are hurt, but still have life signs.”
It directs me to a woman on the ground near the airship.
I pull off her headset, and feel for a pulse.

It’s Talika.
Her pulse is weak.
Even if the guards show up now, she won’t last long enough to reach a med station.

I still have a shadow of my healing sense, but it saps my strength when I use it.
I need to touch her skin so my listener can move through her.
It moves slowly, but it’s able to locate internal bleeding and other problems.
Maybe I can slow the bleeding enough, so she’ll survive to reach the med station.
I feed her my own strength as healing energy, before I black out from the effort.


Empire of Stone -- 2: Lost SonsPrevious StoryNext Story
  1. King’s Son
  2. Lost Courage
  3. Far From Home
  4. Dreams of Life and Death
  5. Children of Fire
  6. Prisons of the Mind
  7. Beyond Darkness and Light
  8. Death of a Child
  9. Truth and Lies
  10. Fear of the Wild
  11. Sweet Waters

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