I grab Makish, to stop her from entering the tank.
“What?” she asks.
A wave of sadness comes over me as I think of death.
I imagine how close we came to the Jiku ship exploding and killing Makish.
Then I think of death taking the queen who I only knew for a day.
I need a good excuse to stay on this ship, and find out who is trying to kill us.
If I lie, the Fiklow will smell it, and the crew and killer will hear of it.
Perhaps he’ll flee, or try to attack us another way.
“I’m tired,” I finally tell Makish.
“Let’s rest here before we return to the Jiku ship.”
I smell the surprise that Makish and the others feel.
I never speak of being tired, and they have all seen how powerful I am.
“You’re a healer!” says Makish.
“A simple thought will erase fatigue and renew your strength.”
“I am tired and sad,” I admit.
“I want time to be alone and remember the queen.”
“I’ve never met anyone like her, and she’s gone.”
My sadness is real, and they all swim aside, as I return to my chamber.
It’s hard for me to think through the sadness.
But still I wonder who sent me the mental warning, and stopped us from going to the other ship.
Keesha escorts me to the chamber once used by the queen, and leaves without speaking.
I settle down to rest and think.
My thoughts are interrupted when Makish tries to speak mind to mind.
I open my wintzal long enough to push her away.
Then I relax, and think about the queen, until sleep claims me for a short nap.
I wake to a loud sound, and I see that the messager is activated.
Someone is trying to contact me.
“Activate the security screen, Lord Yagrin.”
“The orange control.”
I can’t see who is contacting me, and even the voice sounds distorted.
I find the orange area on the touch screen.
“Good,” she says.
The room fills with Fiklow sound, carrying the image and undistorted voice of Vendik.
“Lord Yagrin, I need to warn you.”
“Don’t go aboard the Jiku ship.”
“It’s set to explode when you activate the communications device.”
“Thank you, Vendik, for the warning.”
“How did you discover this?”
“One of my security officers intercepted a transmission from my ship to someone on Captain Fwitay’s ship.”
“It was an order to rig the messager to set off an explosion.”
“My officer thought that I would be pleased with your death.”
“So you’d rather that I stay alive?”
“I believe that you’re more valuable to everyone alive.”
“Do you know who sent or received the message?”
“The message was filtered to hide the bodies and location of the sender and receiver.”
“Even their voices were altered.”
“When did this transmission take place?”
“While you and I were busy with the queen’s death journey.”
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
“I was just informed, Lord Yagrin.”
“I didn’t order your death, but in a way, it’s my fault.”
“Most of my crew are against the old ways, but I think that many of them voice this attitude just to please me.”
“A few minutes ago, I sent an order to my staff that no one is to interfere in the selection or birth of the queen.”
“The queen will be under my protection in the future.”
“I thought about what you said, and I decided that I can use the queen, and even the energy binders, to strengthen the union.”
“As head of the union, this works to my advantage.”
“What do you suggest I do about the ship?”
“Confide in Commander Keesha and Captain Fwitay, but do it in a secure area.”
“I’ll contact you when I have more information.”
I gather Makish, Keesha, and Fwitay together.
“I need to speak to you in private,” I tell them, and lead them to my room.
Keesha is surprised when she sees me activate the screen.
“How do you know about the security screen?” she asks.
“Vendik showed me how to use it.”
They’re shocked when I tell them about the order to kill me.
“Many of my crew are anti-queen,” says Fwitay, “but I am surprised that they would carry out a plan to kill you.”
“What would happen, Keesha, if we were killed aboard the Jiku ship?”
“The traditionalists,” she says, “will blame those who are anti-queen.”
“The anti-queen faction will blame the energy binders.”
“Others will blame the Jiku.”
“The union will shatter, and all cooperation with the Jiku will end.”
“Who would benefit from the end of the union?”
Fwitay and Keesha look at each other.
“Unfortunately, Lord Yagrin, there are many possibilities,” says Keesha.
“Some worlds think that the union interferes too much in local matters, and has lost the power to protect its people.”
“These worlds want to abandon the union, and use the union tax money to focus on their own needs.”
“The union has been unable to stop a series of mysterious attacks on military and civilian ships.”
“The attackers leave no trace, and no messages.”
“Some say that they are scouts of a powerful alien race that is preparing to invade.”
“Others suggest that they are Jiku terrorists, possessing an unknown technology.”
“There a few who think that the attackers are Jiku or Fiklow energy binders, testing their strength.”
“We call our enemy the Fenas,” says Fwitay, “the hidden ones.”
“There are endless theories about them, but we don’t know who they are, or why they attack us.”
“Is there any pattern to the attacks?” asks Makish.
“The first attack was on the Fiklow world closest to Gunal.”
“The attacks have spread outward from Gunal toward the most distant worlds.”
“Where are the Jiku worlds?” asks Makish.
“The closest colony to Gunal is the new joint colony, twenty-six light-cycles away.”
“The Jiku worlds spread out from there, in the opposite direction from the Fiklow worlds.
A New Home
Makish and I go alone to my chamber and I active the security screen.
Then, I reach out to her with a mind touch.
I tell her about the mental warning that stopped me from going aboard the ship.
She scolds me, as though I’ve been a bad little boy.
“You were reckless, Yagrin, to open your wintzal without first making sure that you recognized the touch.”
“You’re right, Makish, but this time, that touch saved your life.”
“Who in this universe can warn us with a mind touch?” she asks.
“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.”
“We’ll message Botzar.”
“Then I’m going to listen to the past of the Jiku ship, and see who set it to explode.”
I shape a tank with soundproof walls.
“What’s this for, Yagrin?”
“Follow me,” I tell her.
Once we enter the tank, I seal the top, and flow the water into air.
I transform Makish back into her Jiku form, and I take the furry, Mehkeel form.
Then I release my glow to fill the space with light.
“What are you doing, Yagrin?” asks Makish.
“The security screen is active, but we need air, and a soundproof barrier, while I contact Botzar.”
I shape a messaging device, like the one that Botzar left with us, and activate it.
An image of the inside of Botzar’s ship appears on the device.
“Yagrin,” says Botzar, “we thought something happened to you, when you didn’t respond to our message.”
“We’re all right, but it’s a long, strange story.”
“Did you find a working possibility drive?”
“We’re not sure.”
We see an image of a planet with one moon.
“The Jiku homeworld used to have four moons,” he tells us.
“Three of the moons had military bases on the surface, and were destroyed by the Fiklow.”
“The surface of the fourth moon was barren.”
“The Fiklow searched it, found nothing, and left.”
“Within the moon are artificial caverns, deep below the surface, that were sealed and shielded by the military before the final battle.”
“Our energy eyes penetrated the shields.”
“The caverns and their contents are still there.”
“Unfortunately, we can’t open the caverns and test the equipment without attracting the attention of the Fiklow military.”
“They have spy satellites and regular patrols in the area, because the moon is close to the Jiku homeworld.”
“There are Jiku there, Yagrin!”
“We’ve heard that there are thirteen more Jiku worlds.”
“We know,” I tell him, and we’re planning a trip to the homeworld and other colonies.”
“We’d like you to come with us to speak with the Jiku.”
“It’s a waste of time, Yagrin.”
“We’ve already tried to speak with them, but they don’t trust us.”
“Because the Fiklow don’t allow Jiku to have ships as powerful as this.”
“A ship like our scout vessel, with its fast star drive and attack weaponry is completely illegal.”
“The Jiku think that we are smugglers, rebels, or spies.”
“If we go together, you’ll get the same welcome.”
“Maybe I can find a way to change their minds.”
“Instead,” says Botzar, “just find a way to explore the moon without attracting attention, so we can get home.”
“We don’t need the moon, Botzar.”
“The Fiklow have promised to take us all back to Siksa when I’m finished here.”
“Can you trust them, Yagrin?”
“Some of them.”
“I’ve made powerful friends.”
“When will we you be ready to return?” asks Botzar.
“Soon,” answers Makish, “but there’s something you have to know about our trip.”
“It’s the last one that we can make across the possibility sea.”
“We can’t ever return to Sinesu.”
“Why not?” asks B’tzel.
“We’ve traveled once on the sea.”
“Going home to Siksa will be our second trip.”
“A third trip will result in irreversible damage to our fire bodies.”
“A day or two later, our physical and energy bodies will shatter, and we’ll die in this world and the next.”
“If I have to choose between Siksa and Sinesu, I’ll take Sinesu,” says B’tzel.
“I’d love to see Siksa again, but I can’t stay there — too many dark memories.”
“Here I can start fresh on one of the colonies, maybe as a teacher.”
“There’s so much these Jiku need to learn about energy.”
“I agree with him,” says Botzar.
“I’d like to visit Siksa to see how it has healed and changed, but I’ll never call it home again.”
“No one needs me or wants me there.”
“Here, I can make a difference.”
“Leave us behind, Yagrin,” says B’tzel.
“The two of you need to get home, and back to those who love you.”
“Do you both have families?” asks Botzar.
“I have a bondmate and two children.”
“Wonderful, Yagrin, though I’m sure your bondmate can’t have beautiful eyes, like the shy girl with you.”
Makish is silent.
“My bondmate also has Bizra eyes, Botzar, and is related to my companion here.”
“Will you tell me your name before you leave, young one?” says Botzar to Makish.
“And you, Yagrin, will you finally show me your true form?”
“You both are so strangely mysterious.”
I look at Makish, and we silently agree that it’s time to reveal ourselves.
“We’ll contact you in a day or two, Botzar, and arrange a place to meet.”
“Then we’ll answer all your questions.”
I shut off the messager, and flow it into air.
Makish is troubled.
“You’re unhappy that Botzar is staying here?” I ask.
“I remember,” she says, “when the Bizra chose me to be one of the old ones, a thousand years ago.”
“We all promised to dedicate ourselves to the world’s peace, when we came out of our isolation.”
“My place is with my sisters.”
“Also, you and Shazira are my family.”
“I want to see your children grow up, and ensure that you’re safe.”
“But I can’t leave Botzar here, and return home, Yagrin.”
“I just can’t.”
“Makish,” I tell her gently, “it’s been a long time since you and Botzar were close friends.”
“He had a family, and lived through several lifetimes without you.”
“Just as you have lived as an old one without him.”
“These experiences have changed you both, and this is another world.”
“Will you abandon our world for an uncertain future here?”
“What will you do if Botzar rejects you again?”
“I’d still rather stay here, Yagrin.”
“A new world is the perfect place to let go of my sorrows, and begin again.”
“What would you do, Makish?”
“The Jiku here know little about energy ways, and nothing about Mind Weaving.”
“We’ll miss you, Makish.”
“I’ll miss you too.”
Makish and I find Fwitay.
“Captain, Makish has spent too long in the Fiklow form.”
“Are there any rooms on this ship, safe for air-breathers?”
“Yes,” he says.
“There’s an air chamber that we use to transport Jiku guests.”
He takes us to a transition room that borders the air chamber, and leaves us.
I transform us, as the water is pumped out of the room, and replaced by air.
A door opens into the air chamber.
“Stay in your Jiku form, and travel in the air chamber to the colony.”
She contacts me with a mind touch.
“Where will you be, Yagrin?”
“I’ll scan the past of the messaging device in the old ship.”
“When I find the Fiklow who did this, I’ll probe her mind to get to the truth.”
“I should stay with you,” says Makish, with a pained expression, “to protect you.”
“Now that I’m the queen’s shadow, Makish, they have turned off all the inhibitors.”
“I’ll be safe, even without your protection.”
“Are you laughing at me, Yagrin?”
“I always welcome your help, your friendship, and your strength, Makish, especially in this strange place, but am I so weak?”
“You know I can protect myself, and you need to rest.”
“Stay here, and think about what you’ll say to Botzar when we meet him.”
Makish walks from the transition chamber into the air chamber, and closes the door.
I send a secure message to Keesha and Fwitay, and tell that I’m going to explore the Jiku ship to see if I can discover who sabotaged it.
I warn them to move their ships far away from the old ship in case it explodes.
Then I let go of my physical form, and fly to the Jiku ship.
I find the messaging device where Fwitay told me it was placed.
I shape an exact copy of the device, and bind my energies to it.
Then I spread my healing body over the original device, and touch its past.
I watch the Fiklow technician bring the device from Fwitay’s ship and connect it.
There are no explosives, and nothing else that would cause the ship to explode.
He finishes his work, and returns to his ship.
A second technician comes from Keesha’s ship, and connects an explosive device to the messager.
Both technicians wear water suits, so they can breathe within the air-filled ship.
Their suits have multiple robotic legs, so the Fiklow can move easily through our environment
The faces of Fiklow are little different, so they are usually identified by their size and smell.
Protected by their suits, I can’t identify them by smell, but there are other ways.
Every suit has imperfections, and its own energy signature, and every Fiklow has an energy fingerprint.
I register the energy patterns of the suits and the Fiklow, and return to the present.
I let go of the messager object, and fly back to Keesha’s ship in my fire body.
I scan the ship for the energy signature of the second crewman.
It’s not here.
I jump to Fwitay’s ship, and search again, quickly finding the second technician.
I enter her mind quietly.
An ordinary being would barely notice my presence.
She might feel slightly anxious, without knowing why.
An energy master would know that I’m there, but the binders in this universe are weak.
What would a Fiklow energy binder sense?
It doesn’t matter.
This saboteur must be an ordinary soldier.
That’s what I assume, until I feel that she is frantic.
She knows I’ve invaded her mind, but pretends not to!
She is a binder, and the Fiklow binders are familiar with the mind touch.
Does she have the skill?
I put up a wintzal in her mind, and speak to her from inside it.
“I’ve put up a mind wall around us.”
“No one can hear our thoughts.”
“Tell me who you are, and why you sabotaged the messager.”
“How did you get in my head?” she asks.
“No one can do that.”
“I have nothing to do with any messager.”
“I’m just an ordinary technician.”
I can tell that she’s lying to me, even though I have no body at the moment to smell it.
“I can see your lies.”
“Tell me what I want to know,” I scream in her head, “or I’ll take the thoughts by force.”
She responds with a weak mental attack.
I’m prepared, and I redirect the force aside, and go deeper into her mind.
Her name is Kaneesh and she’s an energy binder, a believer in the old ways.
She sabotaged the ship, and she is the one who warned me of the danger.
I can’t read all the details, but somehow Keesha is involved.
Kaneesh resists me, and it’s difficult to see clearly.
I can force my way further in, but this might damage her permanently.
“Let me in, or tell me the truth,” I tell her, as I pull back from within her thoughts.
“I know that you’re an energy binder.”
“You sabotaged my ship, yet you warned me of the danger.”
“Lord Yagrin?” she asks.
“It’s an honor to speak with you.”
“I should have realized that it was you.”
“None of us can make such a powerful mind connection.”
“When I first tried to contact your mind, I couldn’t make the connection at all.”
“Then, when I finally made the connection, I could only send you a short message before the connection broke.”
“Besides, I couldn’t risk telling you any more.”
“Someone might have been listening.”
“Does this mind wall truly protect our thoughts?” she asks.
“Then here’s the truth,” she says.
“I’ve been a spy among anti-queen factions for years, supposedly a former traditionalist, who has been convinced by the ways of reason.”
“Who do you spy for, the military?”
She laughs inwardly.
“No,” she answers, “for a group of energy binders.”
“The anti-queen group knew that I was stationed on Fwitay’s ship.”
“So they told me of a plan to kill you and the Jiku female.”
“I volunteered to carry out the plan, and then I warned you.”
“I intended to remotely detonate the bomb, and destroy the ship, when no one was on it.”
“The anti-queen group would, of course, be disappointed that the ship exploded without you.”
“How is Commander Keesha a part of this?”
“I can’t believe that she wants to kill me!”
“No, Lord Yagrin, Commander Keesha is a binder.”
“She is the one who told me to volunteer for the plot, and give you warning.”
“Still, she cannot risk revealing herself, even to you.”
“Tell me, Kaneesh about this group of binders you work for.”
“Yes, Lord Yagrin.”
“Our group of binders was founded a few hundred cycles ago.”
“We call it, the school.”
“Jiku and Fiklow worked together to create it.”
“We stay in close contact, and share discoveries about energy.”
“The new, joint colony makes our work together much easier, and most of the residents are binders.”
“For many years we had no distractions and the school flourished.”
“Then the mysterious attacks began, and we have been trying to discover their source.”
“At first, we thought that some rogue binders might be responsible, but the energy at the attack sites is immensely powerful and unfamiliar.”
“Who is responsible?” I ask.
“Is it the anti-queen factions?”
“No,” she answers.
“We have high-placed spies who tell us that those groups are as troubled by the attacks as the rest of us.”
“There are those that say that one of the world leaders is behind this attack, and wants to try and break the union.”
“The truth is more frightening than any of these suggestions.”
“I believe that the attacks are the first sign of an alien invasion.”
“Lord Yagrin, we have no defense against this!”
“Can we convince you to stay in our universe, and help us?”
“Your skills are far beyond anything found in the school.”
“I wish I had the time,” I tell her, “but there are others who can help you.”
“The female with me is a powerful energy master, and two other male Jiku masters have come with us.”
“The three of them intend to stay in this universe, when I return home.”
“It will be a great help to us,” she says, “but it will not be enough.”
“Enough for what?”
“The Spiral,” she says.
“We have a tradition that the Fiklow will one day be challenged by an alien invasion.”
“The aliens are referred to as Diwan, the burning Spiral.”
“They are described as alive and intelligent, but many of us suspect that they are an inorganic life-form.”
“How certain are you, Kaneesh, that the tradition will come true, and the threat will come soon?”
“The pattern of attacks forms the shape of a spiral,” she says, “but there’s much more than that.”
“Listen to the words of one of the last queens:”
The sea burns, and endless spirits are bound to dust.
An age of waiting will pass.
Twin suns approach.
One rises from a distant sea, and gives birth to an old sea.
Lost, a dead queen rises for a day.
“Lord Yagrin, we have seen these words come true.”
“You must be one of the suns that the queen spoke of.”
“You came from the possibility sea, helped Gunal’s ocean to be reborn, and you awakened the last queen from death.”
“The words continue:”
When a new queen rises in the sea reborn, the Fiklow feel the Spiral’s sting.
Diwan has no end.
It rides the web and lives in crystal, but the twin suns will rule over it.
“Lord Yagrin, the strange attacks are the beginning of Diwan’s approach.”
“You are the sun of the prophecy, and only you and your twin can help us against the Spiral.”
“I’m also needed on my own world, Kaneesh, and I can’t travel between the worlds as I please.”
“The energy of the possibility sea is deadly.”
“Do you know what the twin is, Lord Yagrin?” she asks.
“It may be Gunal’s sun,” I answer, “but it probably refers to one of the masters who came here with me.”
“His name is Botzar, and he is, in a way, my twin.”
“Kaneesh, is there no other way for you to overcome Diwan?”
“Perhaps, Lord Yagrin,” she says, “but you need to hear the end of the queen’s words, and their warning.”
The sun is born of those who live out of water.
Without their light, the world turns dark, and all the straight ones are broken, forever.
“We believe, Lord Yagrin, that the straight ones are the Jiku, and that, without your help, all of the Jiku in our universe will die.”