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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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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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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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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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…

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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…

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