Keela and Ilaz
We leave the shelter and return to the blue city.
“Take us to the surface now, Yagrin,” says Niyta.
“The Jiku need our help.”
“It’s dangerous there for the children.”
“Leave them here with a few of the sisters.”
I turn to Hukal.
“Can you contact your AIs?”
“I need help finding Ilaz and Disu.”
“The infonet is slow,” he says, “but it’s working.”
“The AIs have no information about our friends.”
“And there’s no response to the messages I’ve sent to their commdisks.”
“You won’t be able to reach them.”
“The sword’s energy drained power from whatever it touched, and damaged electronics all over the planet.”
“How did the infonet come back?”
“The satellites were offline but intact when I scanned them. It took them a few hours to recharge from the sun.”
“Commdisks weren’t so lucky.”
“Most of them caught fire, while the rest have dead power cells.”
“And the central power stations in each city will take days or weeks to repair.”
“There was no damage here,” says Niyta.
“The sword’s energy wave was blocked by a combination of ensai and seawater.”
“You have to find Ilaz,” says Hukal.
“What if he’s still hurt and needs help?”
“Maybe he went to Chessa to join Keela.”
“I’ll look for him after I bring the sisters to the surface.”
I shape a new commdisk embedded with my Jiku id.
The Kizak gave the Jiku a few of their own communication devices.
Berek has one, and I’ll use it soon to negotiate their surrender.
I look at the transport pad.
“Contact me if Ilaz or Disu returns.”
“I gave my family the transport id for the city, but it’s unlikely they’ll use it.”
The pad activates, and a girl lies there face down, moaning.
“Who is it?” asks Hukal, as he struggles to turn her over.
I restore her original shape, healing her bruises and cuts.
It takes a minute for Keela’s head to clear.
Then I help her up.
“Are you all right, Keela?”
“I’m bruised, but nothing more.”
“How did you get the transport id?”
“Did Berek get to Chessa already?”
She looks terrified.
“Berek can’t be going there!”
“One of the Kizak warships crashed and the city is full of radiation.”
“Calm down, Keela.”
“Berek’s shield would protect him from radiation, but you must be confused about what happened.”
“There’s no way a warship could crash.”
“I immobilized their ships and destroyed their weapons.”
“The city is dead.”
“Only Ilaz and I survived.”
“He knew the ship was coming before it was visible in the sky.”
“Soon, it was heading for the city at full speed, and everyone panicked.”
“We had to fight our way through the crowd just to reach a transport pad.”
“Ilaz used Kruta to clear a path and locked the door behind us.”
“You had power?”
“The sword knocked out the city’s power, but Ilaz had a working cell that he connected to the pad.”
“When the ship crashed, Ilaz kept us safe within his shield while he set the controls to bring us here.”
“Why are you asking so many questions?”
“Where is my brother?”
How did the Kizak manage to crash a ship and kill tens of thousands of Jiku, and why did they pick Chessa Ri?
“Watch over her, Niyta.”
“I have to find Berek.”
I search for a gate to Chessa Ri, and look through it.
There’s nothing left of the city but an expanding cloud of radiation.
I use a different gate that opens into the sky, hundreds of miles off the Chessan coast, and move toward the cloud.
My shield protects me as I pass through, transforming the radiation and heat into a warm rainstorm.
I feel Berek’s thoughts trying to reach me.
Help me, Ina!
A Kizak ship crashed in Chessa!
I’ve got to find Keela.
She’s safe in the blue city.
Are you all right?
Did your shield protect you?
My shield held.
I arrived just after the crash, and I felt Keela’s presence for a few seconds, but then she was gone.
Are you strong enough to hold your shield for a few hours and search for Ilaz?
He was last seen at a transport pad.
I’ll find you when I’m done.
I clean up radiation from the land, put out the fires, and heal the people irradiated by the cloud as it passed through the countryside.
Then I return to the center of a ruined Chessa Ri to find Berek with a body.
“It’s Ilaz, ina.”
There’s radiation damage, but not enough to explain his death.
All physical things have energy patterns that underlie the shape, but living creatures are far more complex, with intelligent creatures the most complex of all.
While we live, our life energy and our physical form are dependent on an energy structure called a pattern body, which has its own sort of life.
When the physical body dies, the pattern body dissolves, leaving simpler energy patterns tied to the dead tissue.
I find a unique energy residue in Ilaz, clinging to the patterns, the sign of an energy body damaged before death.
“What do you see, ina?”
“Ilaz died a strange death, but I can’t explain it yet.”
“Let’s go to Keela.”
I take the body in my arms, and bring us through a gate to the blue city.
I lay Ilaz down near Keela, and she screams.
“How could this happen?”
“He said he would follow me here.”
I take my commdisk out of the carry pouch.
It’s connected to the infonet again, and the urgent message indicator is lit up.
When I see it’s from Ilaz, I turn up the volume and play it.
I’m almost gone, Yagrin, a few minutes from death.
I tried to reach you, but the infonet is just starting to come back, and the connection is still too weak to get a message through the radiation that hangs on Chessa Ri.
The commdisk will record my words, and transmit later.
Sorry, but I wrecked your ship.
Hukal discovered that the aliens were coming to search the sea.
We had to stop them before they found the city, so I told the AI to take us to the edge of the ensai disk, and out of the ocean to fight.
I planned to draw them away from the city, and I never expected to survive.
Then, five ships like yours rose out of the water to join me, and we downed all twenty Kizak ships.
My father give my years of military training and I hated it, but this was a good fight.
I never thought I would take any pleasure in killing until I had to protect my friends.
Everything has a cost.
The five ships who saved me are gone, fallen in battle into the ocean.
I never found out where they came from or who was aboard.
Your ship was damaged and I was wounded, but we reached the coast of Chessa.
I ordered the AI to leave me, hide underwater, and make repairs, but it exploded a minute after it passed out of sight.
A guild healer named Twaya was on the beach, and sealed the worst of my wounds in a few minutes.
I glanced at the time marker I carried, and tried to stand.
The healer tried to hold me down and yelled at me.
“Let me finish my work!”
I ignored him.
The eclipse gripped the sky, and everything was still dark, but the marker showed that the time of first light was coming, and I knew I had to hurry.
A flight band took me to Chessa Ri, and I entered Keela’s house just moments before you released the sword.
I sensed the wave of energy before it arrived, with just enough time left to activate an accelerator, and put up an energy shield around us.
The shield protected the tech near us including my accelerator and commdisk, but our flight bands were trashed, the city lost power, and dozens of fires broke out.
There was chaos in the streets as the Chessans abandoned their houses, full of fear.
Keela and I locked the doors and planned to stay inside until you came for us.
We had food and water to last several days.
When the wave passed, I could feel that the web was restored, so I shut off the accelerator and dropped the shield.
My energy senses opened wide and I saw a large Kizak ship fall from orbit.
I grabbed Keela and we fought our way through the crowd to a nearby transport platform, where I hooked up the commdisk cell to try and activate the pad.
I knew before I started that it would never work, but I couldn’t tell Keela what I was planning.
The ship crashed, and my shield protected us from the blast, but the city is hot enough to melt metal and covered in radiation.
We couldn’t walk or fly away, and there wasn’t much breathable air within the shield.
How could we wait to be rescued?
Hanli once taught me how to harness the energy of the pattern body to power a small device.
The method is dangerous, only for emergencies, and never meant for anything as large as the transport pad.
I knew my pattern body would unravel, but if I delayed, Keela and I would both die.
So I did what was necessary to send her to safety.
Keela, little sister, my final words are for you.
I thought I would have more to say, but my awareness is drifting, and my shield is failing.
Don’t be mad or upset that I sacrificed myself.
There was no other way.
One of us had to survive so the royal family could live on.
The kingdom seems to be gone, but the story isn’t over.
Tshuan will look for a strong leader again, and you’ll find a new place among our people, with Berek by your side, and your new family, Yagrin’s family, around you.
I love you.
“This is my fault,” says Keela, crying.
“If I went to the blue city as you suggested, then Ilaz would never have gone to Chessa.”
“And what if the Kizak chose that place because of me?”
“I’m responsible for all that death.”
Berek puts his hand on Keela’s shoulder, but she pulls away and runs to a private room where she can be alone.
I too must carry the dead.
There was no wholesale destruction and death from the sword this time.
And I believe that fewer died this way than what would have happened over years of Kizak rule.
Still, there are more than a thousand dead on Siksa from the fires caused by the sword, people are still dying, and tens of thousands are dead in Chessa Ri from the crashed ship.
They never chose this fate.
I contact Mayla, tell her what I’ve done with the sword and the Kizak ships, and ask her to watch for the Kizak warships getting free, and the approach of more Kizak and their probes.
“Contact me at once if there’s any problem.”
“If I’m not available, destroy the ships at all costs before they enter the atmosphere.”
“My commdisk will be active, but I might miss your contact while I’m busy extinguishing fires and healing the wounded.”
“I want to stay here, help with the children, and protect the city,” says Berek, when I break the connection with Mayla.
“And watch over Keela.”
“I know it’s selfish ina, but I can’t leave her.”
“No one can match your strength at flow except me.”
“Think of the lives you could save!”
He starts to speak but I cut him off, raising my voice.
“Keela is hurting, and you want to be here in case she needs you, but there’s another way.”
“Convince her to go with you.”
“Remind her that we’re all responsible for the death that came to Siksa.”
“And ask her if she wants to sit here while others die, or stand up and help them.”
“That’s what a queen would do.”
“I can’t say that to her when she’s in so much pain.”
“You don’t have to,” says Keela, re-entering the room.
“Master Yagrin is right.”
She walks to Berek and hugs him.
“Your brother is dead,” says Berek.
“You need time to mourn.”
“There will be too much time for that later.”
“Now, my people need me.”
“Take us there, master Yagrin.”
I deliver them to the Tshuan capital with the first group of sisters, and find Shazira and the girls at work there.
“It’s not safe to be out in the open, Tzina, while you have a Kizak body.”
“The Jiku will attack you.”
“They don’t know that the Kizak are helpless, so I’m safe for now.”
“Still, I’d like you to change me back to my own shape.”
“There’s a trace of the sword’s energy in your fire body.”
“I’ve tried, but my flow has no effect on you.”
“I can’t even move you.”
“Can you still harness the web?”
“Yes,” she says, rising up.
“I’m stronger than ever.”
“The sword’s energy doesn’t stop you from drawing power from the web, but no one else can use the web against you.”
“For now, you’re stuck in this form.”
I scatter the sisters, guild healers, sleepers, and other masters across Siksa to the areas with the greatest need.
Then I accelerate to Gen speed.
It’s good for travelling, but I have to slow down to help those that are trapped, and heal the wounded.
Mayla sends maintenance ships to repair the power systems in major cities.
When the ships finish their work, most areas of the cities remain dark.
Too much damaged wiring that would catch on fire if the power was turned on.
Weeks or months will pass before all power is restored.
It takes five long days to put out the fires, and end the dying.
With the healing done, the masters turn their skills to years of rebuilding.
Niyta contacts me.
“What good is it, Yagrin, to rebuild the cities if we ignore the children?”
“It’s time the sisters start teaching again.”
“Some of us will stay on land to rebuild, but the rest will return to the blue city, so we can reopen a school for the children there.
It’s late at night when we arrive.
“I’m surprised you’re still awake, Hukal.”
“Did you find Disu?”
“Someone saw his ship, not long after I released the sword.”
“I looked for him there, and scanned many places I visited or passed by, but there’s no trace of him.”
“What do you hear from your AIs?”
“Are the Kizak planning another attack?”
“The warship networks are a mess, so the AIs have little to report.”
“Speak with the Kizak directly.”
“Why would they tell me anything?”
“Two urgent messages arrived after the emperor’s ship crashed.”
“And they’ve been trying to contact you since then.”
He enters Keela’s passcode, and plays the message on her Kizak commdisk.
The emperor’s image appears on the screen.
You think you have won, Neyima, but you’re wrong.
One of the other warships will pass you this message after we crash.
You crippled the ship’s drive, but we managed to activate emergency thrusters, just enough to slow our speed and fall.
I wish we were crushing a larger city with millions of cursed Jiku, but we had little control of when the thrusters fired.
The remaining warships have their orders.
They will learn from us, and break orbit at a better time for a sweeter revenge.
Hundreds of probes will come to disrupt your weather and poison your atmosphere.
And more warships with new weapons that even you can’t stop.
For months I waited for the time when I must choose death for my cursed bloodline.
Now I die, but I promise the curses will end.
I swear it, by the memory of those who ruled before me.
“Why did you tell me to speak with the Kizak?”
“This message tells me all I need to know.”
“I need to get the warships away from Siksa now, or destroy them, and start hunting down the probes.”
“Another message arrived a minute after the first one.”
“You need to see it.”
It’s in Kizak.
There’s sound, but no visuals.
This is acting captain Delawki of the Kizak warship Star Arrow, ready to negotiate our surrender.
The emperor’s orders to the fleet have been reversed.
Warships will stay in orbit, and our probes will not approach Siksa.
Food synthesizers and life support are erratic, and we can’t repair them alone.
“Did you contact them, Hukal?”
“I told them that all of our resources were focused on saving our own people, and to let us know if their situation deteriorates.”
“They keep asking when we’ll be able to send help, but I guess they’re managing.”
I initiate a connection to the Kizak ship, accepted within a few seconds.
“Explain yourself, captain,” I answer in Kizak.
“Why should we help you repair your ships when you’ll use them to poison our cities as the emperor has done.”
“Video circuits are damaged so I can’t see you.”
“Let me speak with the queen.”
“We hope she can find a working ship.”
“What good will that do you?”
“Our medical centers have shaping devices.”
“If one or more are functional, we can use them for repairs.”
“We also want to bring aboard any Kizak who survived on the ground.”
“The queen has no ships.”
“No one on Siksa can help you except me, and I have no reason to help.”
“Who are you?”
“My name is Yagrin, but the Kizak know me as Neyima.”
“The one who lived among us.”
“Why are you ignoring a direct order from the emperor?”
“What do you care if we ignore him?”
“I need to believe you’re telling the truth.”
“Support for the emperor was dwindling before this trip.”
“Outside the palace, most of the guard don’t share the emperor’s zeal for wiping out the curses.”
“People want the government to devote our resources to building up the poorer worlds in the empire.”
“And many think we should take advantage of the curses to make our people stronger.”
“We’re not fools, sacrificing ourselves to destroy a Jiku city when that means nothing.”
“None of the ships were willing to follow the emperor’s lead?”
“A few hundred of the guard supported the order on each ship, along with two of the three captains.”
“When those captains gave the order to break from orbit after the emperor crashed, the ships mutinied.”
“And the emperor’s supporters are dead?”
“Every one we know of, and we have mind thieves on our side.”
“Palace guards would have stopped the mutinies, but they died on the emperor’s ship.”
“What does it matter to you?”
“I was friends with one of them, once.”
“I knew her a little.”
“Too bad she joined the palace.”
“What will happen when you return to Wenri?”
“The emperor is gone, and he has no heirs but Disu.”
“Do you think the boy will accept the throne?”
“He would pardon us.”
“No one would accept him as emperor.”
“The people have heard rumors that the emperor’s behavior was irrational and cruel.”
“There are more rebel attacks each month.”
“Before long, the empire will be caught in a civil war.”
“And there is talk of conspiracy, of secret parts of the military that want to rule.”
“With all this uncertainty, the Kizak are looking for a leader who thinks differently.”
“Disu is young, but he has strength of will.”
“He rebelled against his father’s inflexibility, and studied the curses in secret.”
“The people want change, and Disu can give it to them.”
“And the guard?”
“Difficult to say, but word has spread that Disu was tortured at the command of his father.”
“That will get him some sympathy.”
“And the leaders of the guard may decide to support him because they believe he will be easily manipulated.”
“Probably the boy will get enough support to be crowned emperor.”
“The only question is how long he can survive in the position.”
“I don’t know where he is, or if he’s still alive.”
“The last I heard of him was a story from a few of the Kizak on the ground.”
“When the energy wave passed they were in a squad of three patrol ships, a few hundred feet above Siksa.”
“They lost power and were about to crash when a small ship spread an energy net around them, and set them down gently.”
“Their communications was down, so they couldn’t speak with the pilot, but the description matches the ship I gave Disu.”
“It’s the only one of its kind on Siksa.”
“What happened to him?”
“Your people claim the ship was hovering and then just disappeared.”
“That seems unlikely, but I listened to their thoughts, and the guards believe what they say.”
“Will you help us?”
“I already helped you.”
“Who do you think stopped the fires, cleaned up the radiation, and healed the injured?”
“We assumed it was one of you, but how could we know more than that?”
“I’ll repair your life support and medical equipment tonight, and tomorrow I’ll transport your people marooned on Siksa, and work on your food synthesizers.”
“But I won’t repair your star drive until I’m ready to send you away.”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“And stop calling our gifts curses.”
“They are blessings, and without them, you’ll never get home.”
Days of Silence
I sleep with my family in Tshuan in my rebuilt house.
I don’t need to sleep. I can simply refresh my body with healing energy.
But it helps me feel like I’m still Jiku, and not an energy being who dances with death, and doesn’t need this flesh.
Still, I get up much earlier than the others.
The quiet is soon broken by the urgent beeping of the message wall.
I recognize the pattern.
Mayla is contacting me.
“Get into space now.”
“There’s a small ship coming fast toward Siksa, and three dozen Kizak probes with it.”
“They’ll arrive in fifteen minutes if they maintain current speed.”
“I have weapons locked onto their flight path, and could attack when the ships get close to Siksa, but I’d rather not fire and reveal my location.”
“See if you can stop them on your own.”
“If they get by you, and reach the atmosphere, I’ll take them down.”
I head into space, carrying Kizak and Jiku commdisks.
When I contact the captain of the Star Arrow, he denies any knowledge of the ships.
“We told our probes to leave this galaxy, and carry word of the emperor’s death to Wenri.”
“The orders were broadcast across a wide area of space.”
“Clearly, they didn’t receive your message.”
“Some probes may have been inactive or out of range during the transmission.”
“We’ll repeat the message for a complete orbit of Siksa each day, but we can’t be held responsible if they ignore our direction.”
“Their communications systems could have been burnt out by the energy wave.”
“They’re your probes.”
“Of course, I’ll hold you responsible.”
“The ship leading them isn’t a Kizak vessel.”
“And there’s no response when we try to contact it or the probes.”
“Wherever it came from, it’s taken full control.”
I jump closer and wait near the project flight path.
My senses can’t penetrate the hull, but I recognize the unique shape.
It’s a Mehkeel design, with familiar modifications.
This is the ship I gave Disu!
Has he been brainwashed again, or has someone else taken control of the ship?
I watch as it passes, slows and stops.
It pauses and turns back toward me, leaving the probes behind, then waits a few miles away.
I touch the comm id of Disu’s ship into the disk, and announce my presence.
The connection to the ship opens, showing two Madar lying on the floor and one young Kizak sitting.
His face is covered.
“What’s going on?”
The image of the boy and the Madar fades, replaced by Disu’s face.
This is a pre-recorded message to anyone who encounters this ship.
I am Disu, son of the Kizak emperor Teyus.
My father is dead, and tradition demands that I keep the week of silence, in his memory.
The Madar are my guests and want to be left alone until we land on Siksa.
The ship’s AI will answer any questions you have.
I move to the airlock, and broadcast the command sequence to the AI, who opens the outer door.
Soon the airlock is closed and pressurized and the inner door opens.
The veiled figure turns toward me.
I scan the body and verify that it’s Disu sitting in the pilot’s chair.
“Open your shield, Disu.”
“I have to verify that your mind hasn’t been tampered with.”
There’s no sign of foreign thoughts.
“Report highlights of ship’s history, from the first encounter with the energy wave.”
“When the wave first struck, we didn’t feel it.”
“Disu cast a binding net around three falling Kizak ships, and lowered them to the ground.”
“But our immunity was short-lived.”
“A few seconds later, energy surged through the ship, opened a hyperspace gate and pushed us inside.”
“It took three hours to regain control and drop into normal space, leaving us at a planet fifty light years from the Kizak home world.”
“In three hours?!”
“It should take you almost a week to reach Wenri.”
“The surge altered the hyperspace tunnel, and gave it an unfamiliar energy signature.”
“Can you reproduce the effect?”
“Possibly, but I won’t attempt it with life forms aboard.”
“How soon did you start the return trip?”
“I suggested we go immediately, but Disu refused.”
“He noticed that the web was normal near the planet, instead of being caged, and he wanted to investigate.”
“So you went to Wenri?”
“Not at first.”
“The planet near us had Kizak military networks, and we knew the e-codes needed for access.”
“What did you learn?”
“The energy wave passed through the empire, shattering the star cage around every sun it touched, leaving the web far stronger than before.”
“And putting many of the Kizak into a coma for a day.”
“None of the Jiku were hurt like that.”
“Only the Kizak with enhancements were effected.”
“Brain scans showed that the wave reversed the effects of the enhancements.”
“The Kizak planets reported damage even worse than Siksa.”
“Thousands of people on each world had uncontrolled bursts of power driven by the blessings, particularly during sleep.”
“Objects appeared, disappeared, and moved wildly through the air in buildings and open areas.
“Where available, the planet-based cage projectors were activated, dampening some of the wild effects.”
“Let them solve their own problems,” I suggested to Disu.
“We should return to Siksa and help the Jiku.”
“Disu got angry.”
Yagrin and his family took care of me, but the Kizak are still my people.
I have no desire to see Wenri again, and relive what my father did to me, but the people are suffering.
“We went to the home world, and Disu contacted the council.”
“He suggested a radical solution to the problems the empire faced.”
“They argued for a whole day, but with the chaos spreading and people dying they reluctantly agreed.”
“What about the guard?”
“The military refused to accept it, so Disu went to the palace and faced the emperor’s guards.”
“How could he do that?”
“He knows the palace guards and their leaders are animals.”
“They tried to kill him, but his shield held, and he put out an energy burst that killed them all.”
“Disu did that?!”
“He hates killing.”
“It was the only way to get the rest of the military to follow, and stop the unraveling of the empire.”
“Disu walked to the council building, and broadcast a message to the people, surrounded by the council.”
The emperor left you months ago on another journey of conquest.
He is still far away, his ship damaged by the same energy wave that rolled over us.
No one can say when or if he will ever return.
I am his heir, and I invoke my ancient right to declare an emergency, stand in his place, speak with you, and save us all.
The cage is gone, and our cities are crumbling.
We’re lost, surrounded by death, and tempted to blame all our troubles on the curses and the people who show strange abilities.
Do we kill our friends and families because of powers they can’t control?
Are they different than us?
Tomorrow, you or your child will have this power burst out of you!
It has already touched me.
We fought against the curses for many lifetimes, but no more.
We can’t hide from this strength, but we can learn to control it, and turn it from a curse into a blessing.
Hear my words and the words of the council.
We declare amnesty for anyone accused or convicted of rebellion or use of the curses.
All laws against the curses are abolished.
Let everyone with knowledge of the blessings come forward and help us stop the chaos.
The Dahwee have long led us in ways of the spirit.
There are some among them who secretly practice the blessings, and we hope they will come forward and teach us.
The council has directed the military and other government offices to give their full support to anyone who offers to teach.
Finally, we say to the rebels: give up your fight, and help us build the empire you have always dreamed of.
Still, the truth is bitter.
There are relatively few Kizak who understand the blessings, not enough to bring order quickly.
We must look to other races, even our old enemies, that can teach us how to survive in this new world.
All your life you were taught that the Madar are beasts and killers, their wildness driven by the curses.
This is a lie.
The cage we built drove them mad, made them kill.
Madar imprisoned on Wenri have escaped.
Some are insane from their long captivity, but others are not.
They hate us for what we have done, so stay far from them.
Do not harm them unless you have no choice, for we need their help.
To the Madar I say, “contact me.”
I will take you home to the towers, where I will beg your elders to teach us, as they once did.
We don’t deserve your help, but we need it.
My people, many of you have seen the images of a man, Neyima, who I shot in the arena.
Neyima saved my life when I first met him, then became my teacher, and taught me about the blessings.
The emperor called him a traitor, and I believed it, but only after I was tortured and brainwashed.
Neyima never sought to harm Wenri or the emperor, only to stop us from attacking his planet, far from here.
He survived my attack, healed my mind, and saved my life again.
I go now to his world.
He will bring me to the Madar and other races who understand the blessings.
Many of them hate us, and have little reason to help, but what alternative is there?
Ask the creator to speed my path.
“After he spoke, Disu showed the people how he was touched by the blessings.”
“He radiated light from his hands and floated some of the objects around him into the air.”
“The Kizak people went along with this?”
“Disu is young, but trained to lead.”
“The people were divided, but the majority followed.”
“Desperate times call for strange choices.”
“How long did he stay on Wenri?”
“We left a few hours after the broadcast.”
“What are the Madar doing here?”
“Why are they unconscious?”
“When the energy wave reached the home world, the caged Madar regained their senses, at least the ones still sane.”
“Some were killed, but others escaped and went into hiding.”
“After Disu gave his speech, two of the Madar contacted him.”
“They offered to meet him alone in a desolate area where sensors don’t function.”
“The council advised against it, but Disu went.”
“The Madar saw he was different than other Kizak, with small traces of Madar energy, a product of the healing that was performed on him at the towers.”
“They didn’t trust him, but accepted his offer to leave the home world.”
“As soon as they came aboard, they tried to control him, but the mind shield protected him.”
“I stunned them and injected a sedative to keep them unconscious.”
“Each time they start to wake up, while they’re still weak, Disu feeds them food and drink with more sedative.”
“What about the probes?”
“The Kizak have a communication system that penetrates hyperspace.”
“Disu brought the device aboard before we left.”
“I analyzed it to make sure it was safe, modified it to work with this ship, and installed it while we flew.”
“As we traveled, I broadcast a command from Disu to the surviving probes to cancel their missions and return to Wenri.”
“We received responses, but nothing more than a simple acknowledgement.”
“After three days, a probe met us on its way to Wenri and informed us that the emperor was dead.”
“Disu gave me several orders, including one for the probes, and covered his face to begin the week of silence.”
“According to Kizak tradition, unmanned ships accompany the remains of the emperor as he flies into the sun that lights the world of his death.
“We commanded the first thirty-six probes we encountered to follow us to Siksa and form the traditional honor guard for the emperor’s death journey.”