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.
The Kizak ship seems larger than he remembers, but there’s no one there.
“Where are the other guards?” he asks.
“There’s only me, but I’m the pilot.”
“I’ll take you to your students.”
The ride is short, and ends at a landing pad in the middle of the city.
Jiku guards escort him into a nearby building, and into a room with a sim chair.
“You’re keeping the sisters and others in a sim?!” asks Ilaz.
“It’s for their own benefit,” says one of the guards.
Ilaz puts on the headband and leans back.
Just before he closes his eyes, he sees red-orange words hovering a few feet in front of him.
“It’s only a sim.”
“Was that a hallucination?” he wonders, as the room fades.
He’s standing in a large outdoor area, beautifully landscaped with trees and flowers.
A few stone paths pass lazily through gardens, and lead to five buildings.
He hears children playing in the distance.
As he approaches, he sees one of the sisters, watching the twins.
“Ilaz,” says the woman, smiling.
“Are you all right?” he asks.
“How do you like our school?”
“The Tshuan council gave us a new facility to live in.”
“For our own safety, we can’t leave the area.”
“We miss the other sisters, but the disruptions will be over soon.”
“Did the council send you here to join us?”
“No,” says Ilaz.
“I’m just visiting.”
The twins run to greet him, their golden eyes sparkling in the sun.
“Is Hukal here?”
“No, but he’s safe, and he misses you so much.”
“We miss him, too.”
None of them know they’re in a sim!
No surprise they haven’t been told.
They’re happier, less likely to cause trouble, and completely helpless.
Ilaz speaks to the twins for fifteen minutes asking questions about their classes.
When he notices that they’re getting impatient, he tells them to go play.
“I’m sorry,” he says to the sister, “but I’ve forgotten your name.”
He takes the sister’s hand and extends his mind, as Berek taught him.
“We’re being watched at all times.”
“Why would they watch us.”
“The Kizak think you’re all cursed, and plan to have you killed.”
She leads him into one of the buildings, and shows him weapons.
“Why would they give us weapons to protect ourselves, if they want to kill us?”
“This isn’t real.”
“It’s just a simulation.”
“Leave us alone, Ilaz,” she says, aloud.
He reaches for her hand, but she pushes him away.
A grey fog forms around them, and words write themselves in the air, this time with a different message.
“It is a sim, and you’re all in danger.”
The words fade away, and the fog clears.
He takes her hand again.
“How did you do that?” she asks.
“I’m guessing that Hukal hacked into the sim, and inserted the fog and the words.”
“The twins’ brother?”
“He’s just a child.”
“Hukal is a genius, especially around infonets.”
“But forget about him.”
“Pass on the message silently to those you trust, so you’ll be prepared.”
“There are Jiku terrorists who want to kill you all, and the empire plans to let it happen.”
“I’m going to arrange a rescue, tomorrow, before the attack comes.”
“Some of you will be dizzy when you wake in the open sim tanks.”
“Anyone who doesn’t know what’s happening will be frightened, especially the children.”
“Warn them that they’re going to have a strange dream.”
“Maybe that will help.”
“There’s a drug that will counter the effects, but I’m not sure I can get enough doses for everyone.”
He lets go of her hand.
“I still don’t know if I believe you,” she says aloud.
He puts his hand over his mouth, to encourage her to be quiet.
A fog surrounds them again, and an image appears of the building.
Then the image shifts to a large room below ground and row after row of sim tanks.
The image of one tank grows larger, and then shifts focus to show her body within a tank, hooked up to a variety of tubes and sensors.
Fahnsu disappears from the sim for a few seconds.
She looks frightened when she returns.
She takes a few deep breaths, and then grabs his hand.
“How did you do that?”
“I was in the tank, Ilaz, full of tubes!”
“I felt so helpless.”
“Hukal did it.”
“Do you believe me now?”
“This world seems so real.”
“Have you ever been in a sim before?”
“It’s been a long time, and I forgot how it feels…”
“It’s crazy, but I believe you.”
“I’ll pass on the message.”
The fog dissipates and she lets go of his hand.
Ilaz spends a few minutes with the twins, says goodbye to the twins, and walks out of the building and along the winding path until he’s out of sight of everyone.
Tall flowers and trees surround him, with the air full of a sweet scent.
He takes it all in for a moment, and then claps his hands.
Ilaz steps out of the sim chair and leaves the building.
The city looks as he remembers it, except it seems too quiet.
There aren’t many people here.
But then, the letters appear again.
“It’s a sim, Ilaz.”
He’s doing it again!
I’m out of the sim.
He pauses for a few seconds, and then claps his hands, over and over, until the scene fades, and he’s back in a sim chair.
He goes outside, and finds himself in the royal compound.
The Kizak ship and its original crew are waiting on the landing pad.
“Are you trying to trick me?” asks Ilaz, angrily.
“What are you talking about?” asks one of the Kizak guards.
“You never told me that the sim has multiple levels!”
“I thought I left the sim after I visited Keela, but I just moved away from the area where she and Berek are contained.”
“That’s how our sims work,” says the guard, defensively.
“Am I Kizak?!”
“You said you’re responsible for my comfort.”
“I’m sure the emperor will agree you’ve failed.”
The guard’s face loses its color.
“We meant no harm.”
“The emperor doesn’t need to know.”
“Why shouldn’t I tell him?”
“Where would you like to go next?”
“We can drop you anywhere in Tshuan before we return to the emperor’s ship.”
“Leave me at terminal one where you picked me up.”
He waits impatiently for them to land, then quickly exits the ship and passes through the building, anxious to be free of the Kizak.
A spinner is waiting for him.
It’s not as fast as an airship, and travels near the ground for most of the trip, but he’s not going far.
“Let me off at the main entrance to the sea trail,” Ilaz tells the AI.
From there, it’s only a mile to his home, and he needs a few minutes alone.
He walks slowly, filling his senses with the waves crashing on the rocks a hundred feet below him.
Too soon, he reaches the short crystal path that leads to his house.
Then he turns his attention to what he must do in the days ahead.
Hukal greets him when he enters.
“Thank the creator!”
“I thought you were trapped in the sim.”
“I didn’t know I was still in the sim, until I saw your messages.”
“How did you do it?”
“It wasn’t so hard.”
“I found a way to break into the private net that touches the isolation sims.”
“It’s a prison.”
“They have the best security.”
“They can’t imagine someone wanting to break into the sim.”
“What good what it do?”
“The building is still surrounded by guards, and the prisoner’s bodies are in the tanks.”
“Besides, the first sims were for training, and they didn’t need any security.”
“When the Kizak modified the software to make a sim into a prison, they only protected it against prisoners.”
“The guards need instant, open access, with no passcodes or bioscan.”
“How does the sim recognize the guards, and give them access?”
“The sim chairs.”
“Sit in one, and you have complete control over the sim at that site.”
“I never saw anything like that.”
“You have to know how to reach and use the command system.”
“In a training sim there’s a visible link to command menus, but not in an isolation sim.”
“All the commands are hidden.”
“How did you control the sim from here?”
“The original Kizak training software is on the infonet, along with the specs for a sim chair.”
“I studied the code and found a hidden way of issuing commands.”
“The isolation sims use a similar command system.”
“I created a virtual sim chair, and set its location as the detention site.”
“The software can’t tell the difference.”
“Can you release everyone from their tanks when we’re ready to save them?”
“I’m not sure.”
“I could cut off power to the whole building, but I don’t know what that would do to the tanks.”
“The twins might drown before you could reach them.”
The commdisk tingles pleasantly in Ilaz’s hand.
He places it on a scanning pad.
“Yes?” comes the voice of the house.
“You examined this disk the last time I was here.”
“See if it’s different.”
A few seconds later the AI responds.
“The programming is unchanged, and its circuits are undamaged and unaltered.”
Ilaz gives the disk to Hukal.
“Check it out for me.”
“But the AI found nothing.”
“Test it anyway.”
Ilaz goes to one of the inner rooms while Hukal works, and contacts Siya.
“Hello Ilaz,” she says.
“Were you able to visit the queen?”
“Commissioner Woen was very helpful.”
“He’s caught up in politics now, but he was a great scientist once.”
“Don’t trust him too much, but he can be a useful contact.”
“I have a question for you, Siya.”
“How did you find the dragon?”
“We do a research trip every three months.”
“Our ship was anchored near the island when the creature rose to the surface and approached us.”
“I thought it was a predator and I was scared.”
“The dragon kept its eyes on me as it circled slowly around the ship.”
“At first we were hesitant to take it from the water, but it showed no resistance when we deployed the net.”
“I’ve never had such an easy time capturing a specimen.”
“It acted like it wanted to be caught.”
“How long were you stationed near the island?”
“Are your schedules as detailed as they once were?”
“You know I overplan everything.”
“Every major stop of the ship is on the plan.”
“And your schedules are posted on the infonet?”
“What’s the point of all your questions, Ilaz?”
“I don’t believe in luck.”
“Anyone can find your schedule on the net.”
“Someone knew you’d be near that island, and sent the dragon toward you.”
She looks nervous.
“That’s ridiculous, Ilaz.”
“Who would know about the dragon, and why would they send it to me?!”
“I haven’t figured it all out, but I have a clue.”
“Your ship recorded a few energy pulses in the water in the minutes before the dragon appeared.”
“It was from the creature.”
“The first pulses were nothing like the others.”
“Where else would they come from?”
“I remember when the center deployed underwater sensors at key locations for tracking sea life.”
“The sensors had a pulse generator to drive away large creatures if they came too close.”
“The energy signature of the sensor pulse is the same as what your ship recorded.”
“There might be an old sensor there, but we haven’t used it in years.”
“Maybe the dragon came too close, and the sensor fired an energy burst.”
“There were three initial bursts.”
“Even a creature as strong as the dragon would swim away after the first.”
“Someone triggered the sensor remotely.”
“No one cares about me, or my research.”
“Who would watch a sensor in the middle of the ocean?”
“I don’t know, Siya, but be careful.”
“I’ll message you if I discover anything else.”
When the message wall goes dark, Siya’s assistant speaks.
“Why didn’t you tell him?”
“That the Kizak are watching our old sensors?”
“That they were the first ones to see our dragon, and they’ve seen other dragons near the sensor?”
“And they asked us to catch the dragon?”
“You’re not doing anything wrong.”
“No, but I don’t like helping them.”
“And Ilaz won’t like it either.”
“What did you find, Hukal?” asks Ilaz.
“The Kizak marked the commdisk with an unusual energy.”
“The disk still works, but the aliens can use the energy to track its location.”
“I’ll ask the AI to dispose of the disk and get you another.”
“No! I need this one.”
“See if the AI can neutralize the energy.”
Hukal returns to Ilaz after a few minutes.
“Still a trace left.”
“I’m out of time.”
“I’ll have to risk it.”
Ilaz leaves the room.
“It’s done,” he says, when he comes back.
“What did you do?”
“What’s so important about this disk?”
Ilaz hesitates, and stares at Hukal for a few seconds.
“The disk seems ordinary.”
“It has the usual sixteen character commpath, embedded in the device when it was made.”
“The commpath is recorded in the net registry, tied to my contact id.”
“A disk can’t send or receive a message unless the commpath and contact id are registered.”
“What’s the big secret?”
“It’s possible for a disk to access the net without a contact id.”
“The test registry?”
“An old myth, Ilaz.”
“No one has ever found it.”
“It’s real enough, Hukal, left over from the early days of the net, before the energy wars.”
“But only the royal family knows how to access and use it.”
“So you can register a disk, and hide your contact id.”
“The message and your physical location are still recorded.”
“Tell me what happens when two disks are tuned to the same commpath.”
“Are you testing me?!”
“I know more about the network then you’ll ever know.”
“Just answer, Hukal.”
“The network refuses to communicate with the second disk that uses the path.”
“The disk can’t send or receive messages.”
“There’s an exception.”
“The net will allow two disks with the same path when the commpath is stored in the test registry.”
“The Bizra have a disk that uses the same path as mine.”
“You send a message without a target path!”
“It bounces back and displays on both disks.”
“Yes, and failed messages are more secure.”
“They’re not saved in the net.”
“But you said the commpath is already registered with your contact id.”
“Besides, the Kizak scanned your disk, and know its path.”
“They’ll monitor your messages as they’re sent, and find the disk in the undersea city!”
“The path they see is just a mask.”
“When I enter a passcode in this disk, I access the net with a different path.”
“The Kizak aren’t stupid, Ilaz, and their AIs are faster than ours.”
“They’ll break the code and find the path you’re hiding.”
“No, because there isn’t just one code.”
“The disk accepts billions of passcodes, and generates unique secondary commpaths from each one.”
“But only one passcode translates to the path in the test registry.”
“Smart, but what good is the disk if you don’t use it to help the twins?!”
“You went into the next room to message the Bizra so they can take us back to the city.”
“I won’t go.”
Ilaz puts his hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“No, Hukal. I contacted the sisters to tell them about the emperor’s plan.”
“Yes, but we don’t have much time to prepare.”
“They’ll arrive only a few hours before the twins are attacked.”
“What will you do?”
“You can’t free the twins without a struggle!”
“The sisters will never agree to that.”
“We’ll fight if there’s no choice.”
“And if the guards resist?”
“Will you kill?”
“No one has to die.”
“We’ll just stun them.”
Ilaz opens up a hidden chamber beneath the floor, exposing dozens of weapons.
Hukal stares at Ilaz.
“You really plan to do it?”
“Why is it so hard to believe?”
“We left the twins behind when we escaped from the Kizak.”
“We had to.”
“Yes, but no one cared except me.”
“Then the Bizra showed us a vision that the twins could be rescued, and no one did anything.”
“I left the city, so I could find a way to do it myself.”
“That was brave.”
“It was stupid.”
“I was stuck in that tank, and I didn’t know how to get rid of the dragon shape.”
“I thought the sisters might come to rescue me, but I soon gave up hope.”
“I can’t promise that we’ll succeed, but I have a plan and weapons.”
“Take me with you.”
“Don’t make me sit in this house, waiting.”
“You’re not trained to fight, Hukal.”
“You’ll get in the way.”
“Besides, you’re part of my plan.”
“I need you here to hack into the building’s net and the sim.”
“Let me explain.”
Ilaz leaves after dark with the weapons and enough armbands for everyone to fly.
“He trusts me,” thinks Hukal,
“He doesn’t know I’ve been lying to him.”
The boy roams aimlessly around the house, watching the time displays.
He knows it will be hours before Ilaz signals him, but he can’t sit still.
His thoughts haunt him.
“Most of it is true,” thinks Hukal, trying to convince himself.
“I did overhear the emperor speaking with an advisor.”
“There are Jiku who plan to kill the sisters and the twins.”
“The danger is real.”
“We can’t identify the ones planning the attack,” said the advisor, “but we are confident it will take place.”
“What do you suggest?” asked the emperor.
“Let the sisters be killed,” suggested the advisor, “along with the ones with strange eyes.”
“No,” replied the emperor.
“The cage is in place.”
“The ancient cursed ones are no danger, and they may have knowledge of hidden technology that we can use.”
“We’ll use them as bait to attract and kill the terrorists, but we won’t let them be harmed.”
“As you wish, emperor.”
“When will the attack come?”
“We don’t have an exact date, but it will be during the week commemorating the end of the ancient energy wars.”
“They’ll attack when it’s dark, a few minutes after midnight.”
“Reduce the number of guards in the sim building during that week, and double the guards in the surrounding area.”
“Activate the automated defenses to protect the building.”
“The AIs will kill anything that moves inside, except for the guards.”
“The emperor told his guard to protect the sisters, but who knows if they will?”
“I had to lie!” shouts Hukal, “and say that the Kizak will let the sisters be killed.”
“Everything else was true.”
Ilaz touches the armband that lets him hover above the water, and waits anxiously for the sisters to surface.
“You’re here,” he says, as Niyta’s head comes out of the water.
“Thank the creator.”
Seventeen others follow her, each one with a waterproof bag.
Ilaz gives them armbands, and they all fly to a nearby island, where they dry off, and put on dark clothing and masks.
He explains the plan.
“Are you sure of this?” asks Niyta.
“It’s not too late to stop the raid.”
“Hukal heard the emperor’s words.”
“I trust him.”
“He’s just a boy.”
“Too much of this plan relies on him, and his ability to break into secure networks.”
“Even if he’s as good as you say, there are systems that he hasn’t seen.”
“And vital information about their defenses that we don’t know.”
“What choice is there?”
“Do nothing and let the others die?”
“Should we die with them?”
“We can’t be reckless.”
“There are risks, but it’s a good plan.”
The sisters talk among themselves.
“We’ve decided,” says Niyta.
“We’ll go with you.”
They separate into groups of two or three and make their way via different routes to a rendezvous point a half mile from the sim building.
Ilaz reviews the plan.
“There are six buildings around the sim center where guards are stationed inside,” says Ilaz.
“Six groups of two will release sleep gas into the air intakes at the same scheduled moment.”
“Exactly three minutes later, Hukal will seal the buildings, close the vents, and cut the external power.”
“The guards will be asleep for fifteen minutes.”
“When we’re ready to enter the sim building, I’ll signal Hukal.”
“He’ll cut off outside communications and disable every interface to the control systems.”
They reassemble a few minutes later, near the main entrance to the sim building.
“There are six guards in the building.”
“Five are unconscious in the room with the sim chairs.”
“Hukal took control of the defense system in the room, and stunned three guards that were in the chairs.”
“Two more guards came to investigate when they couldn’t contact the others, and were also stunned.”
“Only one is awake and armed.”
Ilaz and the sisters turn on visors that enable them to track each other’s life signs, and see in the dark.
The group splits into three parts and positions themselves by the three entrances.
Ilaz leads the group at the main entrance, Niyta leads one of the others.
“Do it now, Hukal,” says Ilaz.
“Lock the doors open, disable the emergency backup systems, and cut power to the whole building.”
The doors open, and the light in the building fades.
Ilaz throws a stun grenade through the doorway.
“The last guard was waiting by the main entrance,” he announces through the commdisks.
“He’s unconscious now.”
“We have less than three minutes to release everyone from the tanks.”
A minute later Niyta’s voice bursts through the commdisk.
“Ilaz, two of our groups are under attack.”
“Seven have fallen, and their life signs are weak.”
“I need to get them back to the ocean, where I can heal them.”
“Get us help now!”
“Hukal,” calls Ilaz through the commdisk, “we’re under attack.”
“What’s going on?”
“It must be dembees,” says Hukal, “mobile defense systems with their own power sources.”
“Switch your visors to daylight mode.”
“I need building power to fight them, so the lights are coming on in three seconds!”
“No, Hukal,” says Ilaz.
“We shut off the power because we don’t know what other defenses the building has.”
“You can’t control it all!”
“Before we cut the power, I replaced the central AI with an AI that answers only to me.”
“I can control the building with its help.”
Hukal turns on the power.
The dembees connect with the main AI to provide their current status, but refuse to accept new programming.
The AI traces the messages, and finds the dembees.
It jams their signals, so they can’t communicate with each other.
The building’s cameras lock onto them, and report their position every few seconds.
Many of the rooms have built-in weapons systems in the ceilings or walls.
The weapons are designed to operate independently after they’re programmed, unless the central AI takes over.
Hukal’s AI tells the weapons to target the dembees near Ilaz and the sisters.
At first the dembees are confused by the attack, but then they begin to defend themselves.
“The units near you are destroyed,” says Hukal, “but some of my weapons are damaged.”
“Did you attack them all?” asks Ilaz.
“As many as I could reach.”
“Some of the dembees are in rooms where I don’t have weapons.”
“Attack the rest whenever they come in range of your weapons.”
“I’ll feed you a map of the the remaining dembees as they move, along with the rooms where I have no defenses.”
“I’ll reach the tanks soon,” says Ilaz.
“Release everyone but the guards from the sims.”
“Niyta, bring your two groups together.”
“I’m sending three sisters to help.”
“Watch the map of the active dembees, and stay clear of them.”
“All of you fly away as soon as possible, and get the wounded back to the ocean.”
“The three sisters still with me will help get the captives to the rendezvous point.”
Hukal’s map shows a dembee leaving a storage room, and entering one of the tank rooms
Ilaz and his group enter the hallway that leads to the tank rooms.
A melted dembee rests against one wall.
“Hukal, there’s a dembee in tank room 3!”
“I know, Ilaz, and the tanks are open, but I can’t fire on it.”
“It’s hiding between the tanks.”
“Has anyone left the tanks yet.”
“No, but I’ve already administered the wake-up stimulants.”
“Close the tanks!”
“The tanks won’t close during a waking cycle.”
“I told the Jiku that they’re in sim tanks and being rescued.”
“I warned them not to leave the tanks, but they’re frightened.”
“The dembee must have sensed their active life signs.”
Ilaz rushes toward the room and sees energy bursts.
The dembee is smoking, but seven tanks are destroyed, with their inhabitants.
“What happened?” asks Ilaz.
“The dembee moved into the open and attacked the tanks where Jiku were sitting up.”
“Who was in the tanks?”
“Four sisters and three Mind Weavers.”
Ilaz and his group helps the captives out of the tanks and out of the building.
Everyone gets a flight band.
There’s no time to get dressed.
“Everyone’s out,” says Hukal.
“I’m going to destroy the building.”
“There are still guards in there!”
“I’ve started the destruct sequence.”
“Get away now.”
Ilaz and the three sisters split the captives into four groups and lead them away.
The building crumbles in on itself, without causing significant damage to the nearby buildings.
Ilaz is already far away.
“Time to join us, Hukal,” says Ilaz.
“I’m almost at the water, and I have the twins with me.”
“So many Jiku died.”
“Three of the sisters survived long enough to reach the ocean, where Niyta and the Bizra healed them.”
“No one would have gotten hurt if I hadn’t brought you here.”
“The captives would have died.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Maybe nothing would have happened!”
“There’s no time to argue.”
“I’m not going.”
“The Kizak must suffer.”
“Tell the twins that I’m sorry.”
Hukal breaks the connection.
A minute later, Ilaz arrives at the water, where the Bizra are waiting to transform everyone into dragons.
“Stay as long as it’s safe,” says Ilaz, “but no longer than an hour.”
“I’m going to get Hukal.”
The boy is surprised to see him, when Ilaz enters the house.
“What are you doing here?” asks Hukal.
“We’re going now!”
“But I haven’t hurt them, yet.”
“I’ll stun you if I need to,” says Ilaz, pointing the weapon at Hukal.”
“The twins have suffered enough.”
“I won’t let them lose you.”
Ilaz shuts down the house, and gives a mask to Hukal.
The two of them rise a thousand feet and head out over the water.
Five hundred feet away, an airship stops, and blocks their path.
“You’re ordered to land by order of the Tshuan council.”
An energy blast passes within a few feet of Hukal.
“Land now, or we’ll kill the boy.”
Ilaz is furious.
What’s wrong with them, that they have to threaten a child?!
If I could, I would destroy the ship and kill them all, but my weapon can’t penetrate their shields.
“Get behind me, Hukal, and fly away.”
Hukal flies two hundred feet before he hears Ilaz shout, “watch out!”
He turns to see a huge blast of energy strike the ship and shatter it into burning fragments that fall toward the water.
A blinding flash of light follows the explosion, and for a few moments, Hukal can’t see.
His armband still works, so he hovers in place.
“What happened, Ilaz?” asks Hukal, as his vision clears.
Ilaz isn’t there.
The boy looks down and sees his teacher falling unconscious toward the water.
Hukal flies at maximum speed, and catches Ilaz with a holding field before he reaches the water.
His clothes are half gone, and his skin is badly burned.
Hukal brings Ilaz to the Bizra and the sisters as fast as his armband will fly the two of them.
“Will he be all right?” he asks Niyta.
“I can heal his skin once we get into the ocean.”
“At the same time, I’ll check if there’s any internal injuries.”
“How did this happen?”
“A Tshuan ship threatened us, and demanded that we land.”
“There was an explosion that destroyed the ship and burned Ilaz.”
“I was farther away, so I wasn’t hurt.”
They enter the water where they become dragons again, except for Ilaz.
He can’t be transformed until after he’s healed.
Niyta holds his body in an air bubble while she works on his skin and counteracts the effects of a concussion.
Finally his eyes open, and the Bizra change him into a dragon.
“What happened?” asks Ilaz.
“You don’t remember?” asks Niyta.
“I felt my skin burning, and saw the ship explode.”
“Hukal was unhurt,” says Niyta, “and caught you before you hit the water.”
“We don’t know what caused the explosion.”
“Hukal?” asks Ilaz.
“I have no idea,” he replies.
“I had no weapons, and no way to hack into the ship’s systems.”
“We’ll talk later,” says Niyta.
“We need to get back to the city now, in case anyone saw us fly here.”