Fall

  Fugitives The yellow message light flashes slowly in Shazira’s room. It’s two inches wide, and is surrounded with a white circle that blinks rapidly on and off. The circle indicates a secure message, and the rapid blinking means that it’s urgent. The caller’s location and identity are unspecified, but who else could it be? Shazira enters the family code, loads the encryption algorithm, and waits a moment for the wall to glow. Tzina’s image appears, standing next to a black beast that holds her arm. She’s wearing strange clothes and holding a Kizak blaster. “You’re alive!” cries Shazira. “It’s been days since I saw your message.” “I thought I’d never see you again.” “Where are you, and what is that creature?” “I’m hiding at an old, forgotten platform, deep in the forest.” “It took me half a day to walk here.” “I’m surprised the platform and message wall still…

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Diplomacy and Death

  Secret Meetings “I don’t like it,” says her elder advisor. “There’s no way we can protect you tomorrow when you visit the emperor on his ship.” “At the moment, they mean us no harm, elder,” says Keela. “Besides, Berek will be there with me.” “They are heavily armed, and we don’t know how many guards are on each ship.” “Berek’s fighting skills are unmatched, but without the web, how can he defend you against hundreds of enemies?!” “One energy blast is all it takes to kill you!”

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Strangers and their Gifts

  Unprepared “It’s going slowly, Berek,” says Keela. “We have no experience in manufacturing the carbon fibers.” “And we don’t have enough engineers to redesign the airships, weapons, and other devices to incorporate the material.” “If only we had the shaping device that Mayla showed us,” thinks Berek. She never gave us plans for it, only a limited version with built-in models for a few weapons. That was long ago, and those weapons would be useless without the fibers, once the Kizak activate a tech screen. “We’ll be able to produce some devices that can resist the tech screen, but not enough.” “Can you use flow to shape the weapons, Berek?” “Not without a nullifier, but even then, my flow skills are surprisingly rough, and I can’t shape a complex device.”

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Allies and Enemies

  Home Watchtower island is two hundred fifty feet across, a circle of rock surrounded by a strip of sand. No more than a dot in the ocean, if not for the thin, sharp mountain that rises a thousand feet before leveling off, and the tower that rests on top. Few Jiku have seen the base of the island, except for the guardians and their children. Why would anyone else be interested in the thin beaches here, when they could visit the tower? Besides, there is better swimming on other islands not far away. Berek walks around the edge of the island, waiting for the sun to disappear over the ocean. The sand is still warm from the day, and welcomes his bare feet. He stops, crushed by a longing for his father, Yagrin, gone for two years, and perhaps, forever. “Why do I suddenly miss him so much?” he…

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Starlight

  Trust “Wait,” says the Bizra to me and the Gen. “Watchers must be taught Sindar’s laws, the Madar language, and the secrets of the towers.” Neebol and Vala back away from the tower, and the opening closes. “How long will this take?” I ask. “I need to leave for Siksa as soon as possible.” “But you’re a watcher!” says the Bizra. “You can’t just leave.” I never intended to stay in the tower, but it’s too soon to reveal the truth. First, I need to gain the knowledge that the watchers have, in case they know something I can use against the Kizak. “Sindar was also a watcher,” I tell them, “but he left Kihyez in his place, when there was a need.” “True,” says one of the Madar. “You can leave after you learn our ways.” “A few hours in the trainer should be enough.” “Let Yagrin absorb…

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Outsiders

  Pull The towers shine when seen with energy eyes, even the black tower that hides in the sea. As I approach it, I see that something has changed while I was with the Davow. The bottom edge of the tower has a visible glow. I need to get back to the surface, and go to Siksa, but something inside the tower pulls at me. Neither my fire body or my inner sight can penetrate the walls, and there are no openings. A voice within me whispers that I need a physical body to get answers, so I raise a shield, and fill it with a pressurized bubble of air. Then I take my Jiku form. The tower glows even brighter when I reach out to touch it, but the light fades the moment I pull away. I flow into a Davow form, and wrap myself around the base of…

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Bright Shadows

  Four Lands The travel suit is light-grey, a little thicker and heavier than ordinary clothing, and warm to the touch. It shapes itself to me when I put it on, and I feel a trickle of energy from the shield that spreads across the material. I soon forget that the suit is there, even the mask that covers my face. I hover over the towers at ten thousand feet, while I scan through terrain maps on the headset display. There are a few small islands scattered through the ocean, but only four continents, three of them joined to a fourth. The seven races and the guardians refer to them as the four lands: First, North, West, and East. FirstLand is the heart of them all, a near-perfect circle, fifteen hundred miles in diameter. The towers rest on a plateau at its center. Legend says that creation began here.

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Lost Light

  Watchers My energy sight is gone. I can’t feel the web, or the movement of energy. Still, I have a vague sense that Kihyez is scanning me. “What’s wrong with you?” he asks, a moment later. “You were a master when you first met us.” “Now you have no strength at all!” “How can you be a watcher like this?” “The others will crush you.” “Others?” He grabs me without answering, and flies toward the second tower. The towers are great stone cylinders, fifty feet wide and two hundred fifty feet tall, that glitter in the daylight. The surface of the towers is decorated with thin streams of colored crystal that move up the towers in gentle spirals that branch, merge, and disappear. A sharp crystal spire rises another thirty feet above the cylinders. The base of each tower is surrounded by a garden with flowers always in bloom,…

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Long Way Home

  Alone I walk slowly, letting the crowd move past me toward the shuttle. Mayani takes my arm, and we stop. He pushes on my mind wall, and I drop it. He gives me a series of three security codes. Can you remember them? Easily. Your identity has been authorized for full access to the facility, Lukara. Enter the main storage area, and find the control surface. Touch in the codes without requesting a command, and a hidden door will open, giving you entry to a ship hanger. Thank you. Where will you go? Do you have another ship hidden on another world that can travel between galaxies? How long will it take you to reach your home? The ship you’ve given me will be good enough. As soon as I get far enough from this planet, the effects of the cage projector will fade. I’ll be home shortly after…

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Colors of the Heart

A Free Heart   Late at night, the inside of the ship is quiet and dark, in the areas where the pilgrims sleep. The elders keep a close watch on the pilgrims, enforcing a rigid schedule, with an early bedtime. The common rooms for the crew are bright and noisy, hours after the pilgrims have gone to bed. I sleep near the crew, and I often stay up with them. The captain lets the staff decide their own hours, as long as the work gets done. The young body that I wear doesn’t need much sleep. Still, if I’m tired in the morning, I sleep late, or use healing energy to restore my strength. The ship has a cage projector that cuts me off from the web, but I can block it. I use a nullifier sparingly, to shield me from the projector, and reconnect with the web. We’re far…

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