My mind is still linked with Makish.
Her thoughts are a mess.
Her emotions rise and fall and spin.
She’s nearly in shock.
“I can’t find him, Yagrin,” she sobs.
“The stasis fields are gone, but there’s no trace of Botzar or B’tzel.”
“Maybe they died long ago,” she says quietly, her hope gone.
“No, Makish,” I answer.
“They were alive in the fields, when the ship was still in orbit.”
Have you scanned the ship yet, to find them?” I ask.
“Help me, Yagrin,” she says.
“I can’t touch the web right now.”
“I can’t even think straight.”
I open my energy sight and scan the ship.
There are two men moving toward the control room.
“They’re still on the ship, Makish, but they’re dangerous.”
“I’ll be out of the tank in a minute, and we’ll meet them together.”
I break the mind touch with Makish.
“Captain Fwitay, I say aloud, hoping that the communication channel is open.
“I’m still listening, Yagrin.”
“Are you well?”
“The two prisoners have escaped.”
“Prisoners?” he asks.
“Yes, one imprisoned the other long ago, and then imprisoned himself.”
“They are both responsible for a great war that occurred on our world.”
“Our instruments,” he says, “show them moving about your ship, with no trace left of the artifact energy.”
“They are extremely dangerous,” I say.
“Your companion is friends with one of them,” he says, and moves his tentacles for emphasis.
The communication link sends me a sound-based image of the captain, along with the sounds of his communication.
“True, but the two of them have been trapped for a thousand years, with their minds still active.”
“They were powerful energy binders, and both of them must be insane by now.”
“They will find nothing of use in the control room,” he says.
“We removed the star drive and the possibility drive from the ship.”
“Your ship is dead in space, far from any planet.”
“I’ll send a scout ship for you.”
“You and your companion must return to our ship now, and leave the prisoners behind.”
“A reasonable plan, Captain, but don’t approach us yet.”
“Leave the communication channel in the tank open, and move your ship a safe distance away.”
“The two masters lived a thousand years ago, much closer to your war with the Jiku.”
“If they realize that a Fiklow warship is nearby, they will take pleasure in crushing your ship.”
“This is not a warship,” says Fwitay.
“This is a science ship.”
“Why would you send a science ship to retrieve the artifact?”
“The possibility drive on our ship is experimental.”
“The military didn’t expect it to work.”
I return to my own shape, and fly out of the tank.
Makish is on the floor, holding her knees, and sobbing.
I pick her up.
I spread my listening body on her, and feed her with healing energy.
I relax her muscles and her breathing, and let her emotions calm.
“You look so much like Botzar,” she says, staring at me in a daze.
“About the same age that he was when he disappeared.”
“Let’s go, Makish.”
“They’ve gone to the control room.”
I transform myself into the fur-covered, Gen form.
“Why did you leave behind your Jiku form?” she asks, as we move toward the control room.
“B’tzel will attack me, Makish, if I stay in my Jiku form.”
“I look exactly like Botzar.”
“Besides, this form is more powerful.”
“I met B’tzel a few times,” she says, still lost in her thoughts.
“I knew his wife, and I built his wintzal.”
“B’tzel won’t connect me with Botzar, even if he recognizes me in this young form.”
“I was close with Botzar when I was young like this, but after Botzar’s bonding, we never spoke again.”
We reach the control room in a few minutes, and I surround us with an energy shield, as I reach the door.
The door opens automatically as we approach.
They turn as we enter, and Botzar starts a mental attack, before he even sees me, but my wintzal is in place.
When he sees me, he stops.
“Are you Gen?” he asks in wonder.
“Have we come to your universe?”
“No,” I answer, wondering how he knows of the Gen.
“This is the Jiku home universe.”
“I can take the Gen form, but I am Jiku like you.”
It’s so strange to look at him.
He looks just like my Jiku form, though his personality is different.
He seems tougher, somehow.
Botzar looks at Makish.
“I never expected to see Bizra eyes again,” he says sadly.
“You look like a friend of my youth.”
Makish can’t find the words to answer him.
B’tzel and Botzar seem calm, and completely normal, as they stand together.
“How can your minds be clear after a thousand years of isolation?” I ask.
“Besides, you were enemies.”
“Why aren’t you killing each other?”
“How do you know our story?” asks B’tzel.
I explain that I can touch the past of any object, and I tell them what I’ve seen of their story.
“An amazing gift,” says B’tzel.
“Are you,” he says to us, “the two Fiklow that we saw in the cargo hold?”
“Yes,” I answer.
“We took the Fiklow form to speak with them.”
“We’re trying to prevent another war.”
“That wanted me to go with them voluntarily.”
“When I refused, we were imprisoned.”
“We thought you were really Fiklow,” says B’tzel.
“We looked to see if you were using a mask to take that form, but there was no mask.”
“I thought that the energy field around you was for life support,” says Botzar.
“I tried to kill you by disrupting it.”
“It was an inhibitor field.”
“We would have died after the tank shattered, if you hadn’t disrupted the field.”
“Why would you transform into such evil creatures?” asks B’tzel.
“In our time,” he adds, “transformation was dangerous, and rarely done.”
“Have you discovered safer ways to transform?”
“No,” answers Makish.
“I rely on Yagrin to transform me back when necessary.”
“It’s safe for Yagrin to transform because his awareness and memories are independent of his physical form.”
“Like the Gen,” says Botzar.
“Yes,” I agree, “I can live without my physical body, just like the Gen.”
“How did you become Gen?” he asks.
“I’ll tell you, Botzar, but first, answer the question I asked you.”
“Why are you two still sane after a thousand years of isolation?”
“After the destruction,” says Botzar, “I was half mad.”
“My family and most of the world was dead.”
“At first, I wanted to free B’tzel and ask his forgiveness.”
“It was a ridiculous plan at the time.”
“I knew that his mind was twisted, and he would probably kill me.”
“Fortunately, I gave up the idea.”
“I had imprisoned B’tzel with the sword, and I thought that only the sword could free him.”
“Nothing could bring me to touch the sword again.”
“I was lost, suicidal, desperate to find a reason not to kill myself.”
“I searched for a Dream Hunter, and found the last one, preparing to leave Siksa.”
“Tell me what to do with my life.” I begged her.
“She opened her vision, and saw that it was me who had caused the destruction.”
“She screamed, and put her hands on my neck to strangle me.”
“I didn’t resist.”
“I wanted to die, and end my suffering.”
“I was surprised when she removed her hands from my throat.”
“Another vision had come to her.”
“Hide the sword, and tell no one,” she said.
“In the future, your family will use the sword to bring peace.”
“This made no sense to me, since my whole family was dead, but I did as she asked.”
I returned to her after hiding the sword in the place she named.
“Death will forget you for many years,” she said.
“Go back to the ship, and touch the stasis field that holds B’tzel.”
“Together, you will be forgiven, and find peace, and a second chance.”
“If she knew, she didn’t tell me that I would be here for a thousand years.”
“When I touched the field, I was trapped, like B’tzel.”
“The only thing I could do was think, and raise and lower my wintzal.”
“Sometimes I felt him on the outside of my wintzal, trying to contact me with a mind touch, but I left the wintzal in place.”
“I probably wanted to kill him,” says B’tzel, “but I don’t remember those times.”
“Within our prison,” continues Botzar, “we had something like sleep.”
“We could let go of our awareness, and even dream.”
“Within a few days, my dreams turned to traveling.”
“It must have been the same for him.”
“We traveled as observers, for many years at a time, just watching the lives of beings on distant worlds.”
“I’d heard of traveling, but never experienced it.”
My heart beats fast, and my face lights up when he mentions traveling.
“I knew it, Yagrin!” says Botzar.
“How else would you know of the Gen?”
I tell him of the old ones, the temple, and my time in the vats, but I don’t reveal that I was a traveler before I ever saw a vat.
“We spent little time awake,” says Botzar.
“B’tzel and both traveled, and we were rarely awake in the ship at the same time.”
“When we were awake, we ignored the other’s mind touch, but the traveling healed our spirits, and one day we spoke.”
“Eventually we forgave each other.”
“Our last journey,” he says, “we took together, to the world of the Gen.”
“Yes,” says B’tzel.
“We watched the same host, without ever knowing that we were both there!”
“We were still in that journey, watching a Gen tournament, when the field shattered.”
“Our host never became a Gen, but he loved to watch the tournaments.”
“One of my last journeys was to the world of the Gen,” I tell them, “but my host became a Gen.”
“His name was Neebol.”
“Neebol and Vala?” asks B’tzel.
“I saw the tournament where they disappeared,” he says.
“The Gen announced that the two of them simply moved on to other worlds, but my host didn’t believe it.”
“Everyone pretended that the disappearance was planned, but it was obvious the Gen were upset by the tournament.”
“I don’t understand, B’tzel.”
“I traveled there months ago!”
“You were just there, among the Gen?”
“I don’t know,” he answers.
“When we travel, we move through space and possibility.”
“Why not time, also?”
“It makes sense, but I never thought of it.”
“What happened to Neebol and Vala?” asks Botzar.
“When they left the arena, they went to the world of the seven towers.”
“I wonder how many years ago this really happened.”
“It may not have happened, yet,” suggests B’tzel.
“We have to get going,” says Botzar, “before the Fiklow come back.”
“We need to return to the other universe and help the Jiku prepare for the next war with the Fiklow.”
“We can’t let those worm massacre our people again!”
“Botzar,” I tell him, “there won’t be another massacre.”
“I don’t think that the Fiklow want another war.”
I tell them Shilann’s story, and what happened to the original Fiklow homeworld.
“It’s no wonder,” says Botzar, “that they’re afraid of the artifact, after it destroyed their homeworld.”
“I’m just as afraid of the sword.”
“Even if the Jiku caused the war by stealing the artifact,” says B’tzel, “it’s still the Fiklow who killed trillions of us!”
“How can you trust them?”
“I don’t trust them, but I’m determined to prevent another war.”
“I hope you find your peace, Yagrin,” says Botzar, “but even if there’s no war, B’tzel and I still want to go home.”
“You can’t travel in this ship,” I tell him.
“The Fiklow removed the possibility drive and the star drive.
Botzar and B’tzel look at me.
Botzar touches the screen for a few seconds, and then pounds the control panel.
“He’s right, B’tzel.”
“This ship is no better than a rock.”
“Then, we’ll abandon the ship,” says B’tzel, and find a ship with the possibility drive.”
“You’ll need the drive setting,” I tell them, “that will return you home.”
“I can give you that, but where will you find a possibility drive, without starting a war with the Fiklow?”
“There were hidden shipbuilding facilities near the Jiku homeworld,” says Botzar, and I know the location.”
“How?” asks Makish.
“My father made me study every boring detail of the Fiklow wars.”
“I know the location of the facility, and it may still hold a possibility drive that we can adapt to our ship.”
“How will you get this ship there, with no star drive?”
“Not this ship,” answers Botzar.
“There’s a scout ship with a star drive, hidden within this ship.”
Botzar takes us to another deck, and opens a door to a small hanger.
Robots move away as he enters.
“I left maintenance machines here to preserve, and repair the scout ship as needed, for my return.”
An energy field drops when he approaches the ship.
He sits and tests the controls.
“All systems are operational,” he says after a few minutes, “and there’s enough room for four.”
“Will you join us?”
“No,” I answer.
“At least, not yet.”
“I have to do whatever is necessary to prevent another war.”
“You,” he says to Makish.
“What’s your name?”
“Will you come with us?”
“I promised to help Yagrin,” she says, stumbling over the words, and ignoring the first question.
“I’ll stay with him until he’s ready to return.”
Botzar removes a small device from the ship.
“Take this,” he tells me.
“With this, we can communicate, even light years apart, as long as we are still in the same universe.”
“Another one like this, is built into the scout ship.”
“Message us if you need help,” says B’tzel.
I nod, and then give them the settings for the possibility drive.
“We’ll contact you when we’re ready to go home,” he says, “in case you want to come with us.”
“Be careful when you return to Siksa,” says Makish.
“Don’t tell anyone who you are.”
They look at each other.
“We’re embarrassed by what we’ve done,” says B’tzel.
“We don’t want anyone to know who we were.”
“That will be easy for you, B’tzel,” I tell him, “but Botzar will not be able to pass unnoticed.”
“Why not?” asks Botzar.
“I arranged for all known images of me to be destroyed.”
“Did one survive to your time?”
“There’s no image to connect your face to King Botzar,” I answer, “but there are old ones, and others from that time who will recognize you as Botzar.”
“You also have a living double, who looks enough like you to be your twin.”
“People will see your face, and call out his name.”
I give Botzar the coordinates of the city.
“The City of Life is an isolated, hidden place.”
“Broadcast a message when you’re close.”
“Tell them who you are, and that Yagrin sent you.”
“It’s not Tshuan, but you’ll be welcome in the city, and you’ll be safe.”
Something flashes urgently on the scout ship’s display.
“The Fiklow ship is approaching,” says Botzar.
“We need to go, before they stop us.”
“Yagrin,” he says, “message us when you can.”
“It’s important that we speak about my double.”
He turns to Makish, and smiles.
“You’ll have to tell me your name eventually, even if you’re shy, and a thousand years younger than me.”
Botzar laughs, but the laughter dies away quickly.
“Both of you have to leave us now,” he says, “so I can open the outer doors, and launch this ship.”
“Safe journey,” I say, raising my hand in the greeting of palms to Botzar.
“Safe journey,” says Makish, repeating the greeting to B’tzel.
We run out of the hangar and back to the tank.
I transform after I enter the water.
“Are you there, Captain?” I ask.
“I’m here, Yagrin,” he answers.
“A ship launched and activated its star drive.”
“At first I thought it was the two of you.”
“Was it the prisoners?”
“Yes, I answer, “but they’re not dangerous, after all.”
“They’re surprisingly sane and calm.”
“I’ve asked them to avoid the Fiklow, and cause no trouble, and I hope that they listen.”
“They just want to return home.”
“We’re going to tow the ship again,” says the Captain, “and rendezvous with my commander.”
“She wants to meet you, and now, she will want to hear about the two who have escaped with a ship.”
“Will you pursue them?” I ask him.
“Not right away.”
“They don’t have any trace left of the artifact energy, so we’ll ignore them for a while.”
“Which ship do you prefer to travel on?” asks the Captain.
“You can stay on the old ship, or travel with us.”
“I think that we’ll stay here,” I answer.
“It’s dangerous for my companion to stay so long in your form.”
“I’m going to leave the tank now to join her.”
“Strong swimming, Captain.”
“Strong swimming, Yagrin.”
I transform back, and climb out of the tank.
I touch her mind, so the Fiklow can’t hear us.
They may have a way to hear and translate our Jiku speech.
“You didn’t tell Botzar who you are, Makish.”
“No, Yagrin,” she says, looking away.
“I’m not yet ready to face him.”
Botzar’s communication disk lights up, but I don’t activate it.
Makish looks at me.
“I don’t want to speak with Botzar while I’m on this ship,” I tell Makish.
“The Fiklow will detect it.”
“Besides, I’m not yet ready to tell Botzar that I’m his twin.”