Science Fiction The Severed World
New post! Now that I'm back from college and have more time, my goal is to post a new chapter every Monday. Hopefully I'll be able to do it!  Smile

Chapter Six — A Change of Plans

Kazeir grabbed Maxtom’s sleeve and waited for Maxtom to focus on him. “I need you to follow him, Max. Try to catch up with him and stop him if you can. If not, wait outside the church. Got it?”

Maxtom nodded. Kazeir released his sleeve and started running, but not to the north. To the west.

“Where are you going?” Maxtom called after him.

Kazeir paused for a second, looking back, and shook his head. “Go!” he yelled, and finally Maxtom started running toward the Church of the Severance. If he caught up to Arman before he arrived, he might be able to convince Arman to stop, but Kazeir doubted it. Arman had too much of a head start. And too much determination to do this.

Kazeir sprinted through the streets. Every time he turned a street corner, he breathed a sigh of relief when it was empty of Giobromaran officers. The few people still in the streets as the evening deepened into night stared at him as he passed, but he doubted they’d report him.

Does Kazeir make it there without incident?

(50/50 | 9[d10]) Yes

Finally, he saw Alexir’s beat-up spaceship, glinting dully beneath the street lights that had just flickered on. Kazeir cursed under his breath. Alexir closed her storefront well before curfew each night, and he doubted tonight would be any different.

Still, he stumbled around the rubble and into the makeshift entryway, where the outside of the exposed hull had been torn away. Breathing heavily, he pressed the disguised button outside the door multiple times.

Is it unlocked? (VU)

(Very Unlikely | 6[d10]) No, but...

Rifts. The door was locked. Kazeir ran his hand through his hair, trying frantically to think of how he could find Alexir. Then he stopped. He could hear footsteps behind the door.

He pounded on the door as hard as he could. She had to answer the door.
Does she answer?

(50/50 | 4[d10]) No

Kazeir paused for a few moments, but there was no response. He couldn’t even hear the footsteps anymore. He kicked the door, then started pounding again. “Alexir, it’s me!” he shouted. “Let me in!” There was no response. “Lex, please!” he called out.

Does she answer now?

(50/50 | 5[d10]) No, but...

Kazeir let his hand fall flat against the door, where his knuckles burned red beneath the shadows of the streetlights. But the pain in his fingers was nothing compared to the steady, sharp ache inside his chest. If he couldn’t get in… He didn’t have the courage to finish that thought.

Footsteps thumped against the street behind him, and he whirled around, shrinking into the shadows and peering out of the edge of the spaceship. He squinted at the figure in front of him, then blinked. “Lex?” he asked.

Alexir startled, then caught sight of him. “I told you not to call me that,” she hissed as she advanced toward him. Then she stopped and tilted her head. “What are you doing here? Where’s Maxtom?”

Kazeir shook his head numbly. He’d been ready to explain it all to her in thirty seconds or less, had planned out what he’d say to convince her to come with him. But all of that had fled from his head. The only thing he could say was, “Who’s inside your ship?”


He motioned slightly to the door behind him. “I heard footsteps… I thought it was you…”

Her eyes widened, and fear flashed through them. It only stayed for a second before her face set in hard determination, but that moment of fear sent another ache through Kazeir’s chest, this one almost more piercing.

She stepped to the door, getting ready to open it. Kazeir put his hand on her shoulder before she could. “Wait.”

Alexir jerked away from his hand. “What?”

“I thought it was you inside. I knocked on the door… they’ll know someone is out here.”

Her eyes narrowed as they flicked to his reddened hand. She shook her head—in disappointment or disgust, he wasn’t sure. More cautiously now, she examined the button. “It doesn’t look tampered with,” she said, then pressed her thumb to it.

The door slid open, the hallway in front of them slick with shadows. Kazeir hesitated, but Alexir forged through the darkness, pressing the light switch.

The interior of the ship blinked into harsh fluorescent light. Kazeir searched the room, but from his vantage point, he could see no one. “Do you think—?”

Alexir slammed her hand over his mouth, and Kazeir quieted, heart thumping. After a few seconds, she removed her hand, then fiddled with her cyborg arm. Whirring, a small gun emerged above her wrist.

“Show yourself,” Alexir called out, voice steady and firm.

No answer.

Has the intruder left? (L)

(Likely | 7[d10]) Yes

“We’ve got to search the ship,” Alexir said quietly. “He could still be in here.”

Kazeir nodded, then hesitated. “I...don’t think there’s time for that. They probably left when I started knocking, anyway”

“What are you talking about, there’s not time for that?” she asked as she entered the storefront, scanning the racks of weapons for anyone who was hiding there. She gave him a piercing look. “What happened with the recruits?”

“None of them trusted me,” Kazeir said, then hesitated.


He ran his hand through his hair. “And one of them decided he was going to go to the Church of the Severance and steal the anti-gravity pod on his own.”

Alexir turned to face him. “What?”

Kazeir backed off, involuntarily raising his hands. “Woah, don’t point that thing at me.”

“It’s a stunner,” she said impatiently, not moving her arm. “What happened? What did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything,” Kazeir snapped, then started walking past her. “I need to get into my room.”

“It’s not your room,” Alexir called after him.

He gritted his teeth together and made his way into the hallway, opening the door into his room.

Did the intruder do anything in here?

(50/50 | 7[d10]) Yes

Something immediately felt off when he stepped inside The fake anti-gravity pod he’d spent the last few days building was resting just as it had before, but his eyes caught on his tools. They were all in different locations than before, as if someone had searched through all of them.

Everything in Kazeir pulled him to look through them and make sure nothing had been stolen, but the fake anti-gravity pod was more important. He had to make sure it was still usable.

Did the intruder do anything to the fake anti-gravity pod?

(50/50 | 9[d10]) Yes

What did he do?

Communicate / Messages

Kazeir switched the pod on and watched as it flared to life, humming with blue light. It wouldn’t hold up the church’s “remnant” for more than a few hours, but it would give them a little bit of time. It still seemed to work as he tossed a heavy toolbox on top, so what had the intruder been doing…?

Kazeir’s eyes landed on a folded piece of paper wedged between two metal pieces. He pulled it out, tearing the paper slightly, and unfolded it.

Nice work, Dameron, but I hope you know what you’re doing. It would be a shame if things turned out the way they did last time.
— V

The paper crumpled beneath Kazeir’s fingers, and he stuffed it into his pocket. His fingers fumbled over the anti-gravity pod near the crack until he felt a sharp plastic corner. A calling chip. He yanked it out of the pod and stared at it, heart racing. The blue light from the pod curled around the chip, glinting off the glossy black plastic.

Alexir walked into the room, and Kazeir closed his hand into a fist around the calling chip, trying to calm his heavy breathing. She looked at him and the lit-up anti-gravity pod. “Why do I feel like you’re going to say there’s been a change of plans?”

He looked at her, standing there with her hand on her hip, dark skin glowing in the light of the anti-gravity pod, and he remembered the flash of fear in her eyes. He looked at her, and he forced himself to smile. “Change of plans. We’re going to stop Arman and steal the anti-gravity pod tonight.”

“We?” she asked, raising her eyebrows. “If you think I’m coming with you—”

Lex,” he said, exasperated, then caught himself as her eyebrows slashed downward. “Alexir. I need your help. Max and I can’t do this on our own. The alarms, the dome— let alone any damage Arman may have already done—”

Alexir held up her hand. “Stop.”

Kazeir ground his teeth together to keep from saying anything. The calling chip dug into his hand, pain sparking up his arm. If Alexir hadn’t been gone when Vynce had come… His heart constricted even further, pressing against his lungs, making it hard to breathe. Kazeir wouldn’t see that happen to her, wouldn’t see her get hurt because of him.

He’d just opened his mouth to start pleading with her again when she shook her head and pressed her lips together. “Sever you, Kaze. I’ll come. But won’t we look a little conspicuous carrying that thing around?”

Has Kazeir already planned for that? (L)

(Likely | 10[d10]) Yes, and...

Relief washed over Kazeir, and this time his smile was real as he slipped the calling chip into his pocket. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve got it all figured out. This time, Giabromar is going to be on our side.”
I'm glad you're back writing! I look forward to more chapters.
Chapter 7 — Run

“I still can’t believe you stole a Giabromaran transport car,” Alexir muttered. “And then you got mad at me for stealing a book.”

Kazeir couldn’t keep from smiling as he turned the wheel and guided the car onto a new street. The large and bulky vehicle tugged a little under his fingertips, but the turn was smooth enough. It had been years since he’d driven a car, since he was a teenager. Thankfully, the transport car was an older model, and his muscle memory had come back when he’d first climbed in. “I think this was a bit more important,” he said.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see her fold her arms and look out the window. “Hmm.”

Despite his good mood, Kazeir couldn’t help searching the road around him for Giabromaran officials. Since transport cars were often driven at night to avoid people on the roads, the officials wouldn’t disturb them—or at least they shouldn’t—unless they recognized the stolen vehicle. Which shouldn’t happen either, since it was too dark to see the identification number clearly, and Kazeir had made sure the model was old enough that it didn’t have a tracking device installed.

Still, he worried. If they were caught before they even reached the Church of the Severance...well, he’d heard Ithyke wasn’t kind to night wanderers. And Giabromar would not forgive the stolen vehicle.

Would his plan to stop Act 3017 end right here?

Kazeir gripped the wheel tighter. It wouldn’t. It couldn’t. He would do this, would save the Jakamant, even if he had to fight his way out of prison to do it.

His eyes flicked to Alexir, sitting in the passenger seat, eyes focused on the passing houses and buildings. Even if it meant putting her in danger?

Kazeir swallowed and pushed the unnerving question away. He would save the Jakamant, and he would save her. No matter the costs.

They arrived at the Church of the Severance only a minute or two later. Rather than showing off its two-pillared structure, the building now looked like a fortress. Some kind of wall covered the alleyway that represented the Sever, blocking it off from any outsiders. Rifts. They took their security seriously.

This was why they hadn’t been ready to steal the anti-gravity pod tonight, Kazeir couldn’t help thinking. If Arman would have just listened to him… But there wasn’t any helping that now. Now, they just had to deal with the consequences.

Kazeir scanned the outside of the church as he drove up, searching for Maxtom or even Arman.

Did they arrive before Arman and Maxtom? (U)

(Unlikely | 5[d10]) No, but...

Arman only got here a couple of minutes ago.

“There,” said Alexir, and Kazeir followed her pointing finger to a big silhouette walking away from them and glancing back occasionally. “It’s Maxtom. I don’t think he realizes it’s us.”

“We’ll have to catch up to him.” Kazeir drove the car forward and followed Maxtom as he rounded the corner, parking next to him. Alexir opened her door and jumped out. “It’s just us,” she whispered.

“Alexir?” said Maxtom as Kazeir slid out of the car. “What are you—?”

“Where’s Arman?” asked Kazeir. They didn’t have time for a long-winded explanation.

Maxtom eyed Alexir for a second before answering. “He got here just a minute or two ago. I actually caught up to him, tried to convince him to stop, but…” Maxtom shrugged. “He wouldn’t listen to me.”

Restlessness shifted inside of Kazeir. Arman was already in the building, and they were just standing here talking? “You didn’t try to restrain him?”

Maxtom lifted up his hands. “Are you crazy? Of course not!”

“What?” The restlessness was growing now.

Maxtom shook his head. “One of the greatest violations of a Jakamant’s culture and personal freedom is to physically restrain him from—”

Kazeir sighed, cutting Maxtom off. “Got it. Jakamant propriety again.”

“More like religion, but—”

“Stop it,” snapped Kazeir. “We don’t have time for this.”

Maxtom grunted, folding his arms.

Thankfully, Alexir stepped in. “So he’s in the church already? How did he get in? The walls seem pretty fortified.”

“He went through one of the windows on the actual building. I guess he thought the security would be lighter if he went through the building to the dome rather than over the wall.”

Alexir tilted her head as she looked up at the church. “Smart.” She turned back to Maxtom. “Which window did he go in?”

Maxtom shook his head. “I’m not sure. I can try to guess, but—”

“Does it matter which window he went in?” asked Kazeir.

Both Maxtom and Alexir looked at him. Obviously, her face said, but she explained patiently, “If we know which window he went in, the alarm should still be disabled. It will save us some time and it will bring us one step closer to catching him before he gets to the dome.”

“Great,” said Kazeir flatly. “While you two figure that out, I’ll get the anti-gravity pod out of the back.”

He walked to the back of the transport car, breathing in and out deeply. Where was his self-control? He needed to be working with Maxtom and Alexir, not snapping at everything they said. But still, the fact that Maxtom hadn’t even tried to stop Arman made his hands clench into fists.

Forget it, he told himself. Focus on Act 3017. Getting the anti-gravity pod. That’s all that matters.

Kazeir unlatched the door to the holding area and pushed it open. It squealed into the night air, and he winced at the sound. Hopefully no one had heard.

The anti-gravity pod he had built was wedged into the holding area, tilted at an angle because that was the only way he and Alexir had been able to fit it in. The casing around the anti-gravity pod make it look a bit like a Saucer, a class of spaceship he’d read about in books as a child. Only this was upside down, with the flat disk on top and the rounded bulge on the bottom. Blue lights would blink out of the bottom half of the sphere when it was turned on, and they would also glow in a circle around the top of the disk, making the shiny metal gleam.

Kazeir surveyed it for a moment. He’d made it look as close as possible to the device that the Church of the Severance used to hold up their remnant. He’d just have to hope that no one noticed the difference before his much less powerful anti-gravity pod broke from the strain of holding up the remnant.

He started to pull it from the holding area, and a few seconds later, Alexir appeared behind him, tugging at the pod. It shifted slightly, and she grunted. “How in the Sever is this so heavy?”

Maxtom walked around the car as well, and Alexir moved out of the way so he could take her place. She wiped her hands on her cargo pants as she watched the two of them. “It’s like you need an anti-gravity pod to move the anti-gravity pod.”

Kazeir forced himself to smile, and he saw Maxtom’s stiff shoulders relax a little. It seemed like something the old Lex would say. Maybe there was still hope for the three of them.

So...I thought I should ask this: Did Arman get inside without setting off any alarms? (SL)

(Somewhat Likely | 1[d10]) No, and...

Ooohhh boy. Must be one of those silent alarms or something.

They’d nearly pulled the anti-gravity pod out of the holding area of the car when Alexir said, “Um, guys…? I think we might have company.” As she spoke, Kazeir heard the low whine of approaching sirens.

Though he already knew what it was, he let go of the anti-gravity pod and stepped out of the holding area. In the distance, green lights reflected off distant buildings. Giabromaran officials.

Kazeir dashed back into the holding area and grabbed the anti-gravity pod, pulling with all his might. “I thought you said he got inside without setting off any alarms.” He couldn’t help the accusation that bled through his voice as his fingers scrabbled to find a better grip on the smooth surface of the pod.

“That’s what I thought.” Maxtom threw his weight into pulling the anti-gravity pod, but it didn’t budge, jammed against the walls of the holding area. “I didn’t hear anything.”

Kazeir cursed. “They must have silent alarms. Rifts.” He bit his lip before he could say, I thought you said Arman knew how to disable alarms. That would only cause more problems.

He bent down and began searching for the cause of the jam, if the anti-gravity pod was stuck on something.

“We need to get out of here,” said Alexir, stepping into the holding area. “We’ve got to leave it here and let them find Arman instead of us.”

No,” said Kazeir, voice strained as he squirmed underneath the pod. “We— have— to— do this.” He reached his arm underneath the anti-gravity pod and felt around on the other side.

“What? No. We need to—”

Kazeir found the switch and pressed it. With an enormous screech, the anti-gravity pod lit up, scraping against the sides of the transport car as it tried to right itself.

“Pull it out, Maxtom!” Kazeir shouted above the noise, wriggling out of the way.

Maxtom shoved one end of the anti-gravity pod down, steepening the angle. The pod ripped free of the confines of the transport car, and Maxtom slid it out into the night air, where it stabilized and became horizontal again, hovering in the air.

Are there any windows big enough for the anti-gravity pod to fit through?

(50/50 | 1[d10]) No, and...

Alexir stared at it. “That thing is not going to fit through a window.”

“We’ll make it fit,” said Kazeir, gritting his teeth. He started pushing it toward the church. “Help me, Max.”

“You’re not listening to me!” shouted Alexir, while Maxtom took his place next to Kazeir, and they started running, pushing it toward the church. “If you would just listen to me, we could get out of this alive.”

The sirens were louder now, pounding into Kazeir’s skull while green lights swirled around him. They were almost there, almost to the church…

“Sever it, Kaze!” Alexir yelled, running up beside the two of them. She grabbed his arm. Her voice went soft, but it pierced through the noise and chaos of the sirens. “If you would just listen to me, it wouldn’t turn out like last time.”

Kazeir stopped. Ice flooded his body. His hands went numb as he turned to look at Alexir. Her black hair clung to her face as she stared at him, dropping her hand to her side. The blue light cast harsh lines on her scars and illuminated the curve of a single tear trailing down her cheek, while green lights burned in the background.

He put his face in his hands, but his shaking hands couldn’t stop his head from pounding. He lifted his head from his hands and looked at her. “What can I do?” he whispered.

Run,” she said, putting her hand on his shoulder and looking him in the eyes. “We can get out of here before the officials find us. You’ll find another way to help the Jakamant. You’ll find another way to save them.”

Kazeir searched her dark blue eyes, fierce and determined. Her fingers dug into his shoulder.

You’ll find another way to save them.

He let his gaze fall to the shadowed ground. He tried not to think of the Giabromaran officials finding Arman. Tried not to think of the anti-gravity pod and the bridge. Tried not to think of his father’s face.

Kazeir looked one last time at the anti-gravity pod, shining blue, and hunched his shoulders. “Let’s go,” he whispered, while the sirens wailed around them.

And they ran.

Well, that was unexpected...
Chapter Eight — Another Life

Do they manage to get away before the Giabromaran officials catch up to them? (SU)

(Somewhat Unlikely | 7[d10]) Yes, but...

The officials aren’t far behind and will catch up to them soon.

Kazeir led the other two into an alleyway covered in papers and garbage and stumbled to a stop. He leaned against one of the night-chilled walls, breathing heavily. After a few moments, the cold from the cement wall seeped through his shirt, and he tried not to shiver.

Sirens whined in the distance. The Giabromaran officials had surrounded the Church of the Severance. There would be no getting the anti-gravity pod now.

Kazeir rubbed his face with his hands, hoping the shadows disguised the aching emptiness that swallowed him up. Maxtom and Alexir needed him to be strong, to be their leader.

“I don’t think they saw us run,” he said finally. His voice came out a little unsteady, and he took a deep breath before continuing. “But I doubt Zimon will hesitate to tell the officials about our visit to the Church of the Severance. We need to get out of here.”

I’m having trouble figuring out how Maxtom and Alexir are feeling. How does Maxtom react?

Politely / Mysterious

How does Alexir react?

Roughly / Young

Maxtom glanced over at Kazeir for a second, then sighed and stared at the ground. He had his stone face on, emotion unreadable. Kazeir couldn’t tell if he was angry or frustrated or disappointed. Maybe all of the above.

Alexir, on the other hand, had levelled a glare at him. “You want us to just follow you out of here? They could have killed us or sent us to the Sever to work in the mines. They would have broken us, all for one of your crazy, sever-bound ideas. And then you think we’ll just waltz after you, ready for another chance at death— well, I won’t.”

Folding her arms tightly, Alexir spun around and started walking away. A flash of cold fear slid through Kazeir. She couldn’t leave now. Not when he had no idea what he was supposed to do next.

“Wait,” he called, reaching his arm out slightly.

Alexir stopped, but didn’t turn around, her silhouette framed by white light from a streetlight.

Kazeir racked his brain for anything to convince her to stay. But he had nothing. No solution, no plan. Not even the hope that he could keep any promise he made. He pulled back his arm, tucking it underneath his other one.

He couldn’t keep her here.

Maxtom walked past Kazeir, toward Alexir.  “Where are you going?” Maxtom asked her.

Alexir looked over her shoulder at Maxtom, then went back to staring out at the street, not answering. Kazeir trailed Maxtom until the two of them stood on either side of her.

“You think you can just walk away and they won’t find you?” said Maxtom.

“Maybe,” she said, but her shoulders curved forward, and she stared at the ground.

Maxtom shook his head. “They’ll find you eventually.”

Alexir looked up at Maxtom. In that moment, Kazeir saw the despair trickling through her eyes. The way her fingers slowly unfurled from clenched fists, how she tugged a stray piece of hair behind her ear, like she was angry at it for being out of place. Like she was angry at herself.

His mind flashed back to the day when he’d first seen her, huddled under a ratty blanket on a street corner that straddled the city and the slums. He’d stopped walking and started staring at her; at the skin that puckered and bubbled over the left side of her neck and face, causing her eye to droop; at the warped, blackish pink nub of her left arm, twisting into a little point.

He’d felt his cheeks get hot when she turned and caught him staring at her. But before he could turn away and keep walking, he saw the look in her eyes. Despair, like the way his mother had described a black hole, with gravity so strong that even light could not escape. The kind of smothering sadness he’d seen in the eyes of his sister.

At that moment, Kazeir had known he would stay there. He would stay until that look of despair flitted away. Until he heard her laugh like silvery water and he saw her smile. Until she could hope again, for happiness, for a future—until then, he wouldn’t leave.

Taking a deep breath, Kazeir stepped forward and put a hand on Maxtom’s shoulder. “No. Alexir is right. She should get away while she still can. She wasn’t at the Church of the Severance, and Arman doesn’t know about her. She can make it out. If it wasn’t too late for you, too—” Kazeir stopped. “I’m sorry.”

“Shut up, Kaze,” growled Maxtom, practically shoving Kazeir aside so he could move in front of Alexir.


Maxtom shot a glare at him. “I’m not leaving, so just shut your mouth and let me talk.”

He turned back so he faced Alexir, looking her in the eyes. “You want to get out of here, go back to your little spaceship, and sell your illegal weapons, be my guest. You can spend your nights alone and your days devoid of friendship. Watch the sun rise from a cold little room and watch it set without a single person who really cares. To me, it doesn’t seem like much of a life you’re living, but you know what? You only have that much of a life because Kaze gave it to you.”

“Maxtom…” Kazeir took a step forward, but Maxtom didn’t even spare him a glance.

“Without him, you wouldn’t have this life. You probably wouldn’t even be alive. And here Kazeir is, asking for your help, asking you to help him save more lives, and you act like all he’s trying to do is kill you. So what if it’s crazy and dangerous and we’ll probably all end up dead? You’ll be doing something that matters. He’s giving you another chance, another life. So leave if you want, but don’t blame it on Kaze. If life leaves you broken, it’s not his fault. It’s yours.”

Kazeir finally managed to pull Maxtom away from Alexir. “What are you doing? You can’t— You shouldn’t—”

Maxtom looked over his shoulder at Alexir, and his face hardened. “I was giving her a taste of the truth. I’m sick of her acting like you ruined her life. You saved it, Kaze.”

“But it wasn’t her fault. She shouldn’t have needed someone to save her life. And the only reason I was able to…” Kazeir trailed off, shaking his head, when Maxtom turned away, clearly ignoring him.

He walked over to Alexir.

How does she feel/react?

Officially / Good

Huh. I guess I’ll take that as she has a good/positive reaction…

She leaned against the wall of the alleyway, staring out at the street. It had started to rain, and the raindrops glistened as they sprinkled through the halos of light around the streetlights. The whole street shimmered.

“I’m sorry,” Kazeir said.

Alexir kept her eyes trained on the street, hugging herself with her arms. “He’s not wrong. You did give me this life. It just wasn’t the life I wanted. I wanted… I want a normal life. A life where my biggest worries are being late to work and what to make for dinner. No worrying about the officials, no wondering who will try to take advantage of me next.”

She sighed. “That life’s not possible, though. It never was.”

Kazeir clenched his hands into fists. There had to have been something he could have done, should have done, for her. “But you should have been able to have that life. It was just chance that that accident happened, that you lost your arm and leg. You could have had so much more.”

Alexir laughed softly. “And you could have stayed a stuck-up rich kid. But it’s what we do with the chance that life gives us that really matters.” She looked over at Kazeir, and he was surprised to see her smile, just a little. “I’ll try to help you stop Act 3017. If you want me to.”

Yes. But also, no. If something happened, if he had to see that despair in her eyes again… If he had to live with himself, knowing that he was the cause of that despair…

He suddenly couldn’t say the word. So he gave her a curt nod and walked over to Maxtom, Alexir following him.

Maxtom lifted his chin. “So you decided to join us after all.”

Max.” Kazeir shot him a look. “Stop it.”

Maxtom shook his head several times but didn’t say anything.

“Good,” said Kazeir after a few moments. “Now, we need a plan for how to get out of here without the officials seeing us. If we can get to Am Kasra without them finding us, we should be safe.” And then… And then he would come up with another plan. Another way to save the Jakamant.

“Wait, what?” said Maxtom. “Aren’t we going back for Arman? We need to help him.”

Kazeir looked to the side, toward the sound of the sirens.

Before he could answer, Alexir spoke. “Maybe he should have thought about the consequences before he decided to run off on his own. This isn’t our problem, it’s his.”

“It is our problem,” said Maxtom. “Helping the Jakamant—all the Jakamant—is our problem.”

Okay, I think it’s time to bring back the “Yes, but…” answer from the beginning of the chapter, with the officials catching up to them.

“I think we—” Kazeir stopped as he heard something in the alleyway behind them. Footsteps? He whirled around, trying to see anything in the darkness.

Can he see anything in the alleyway? (SU)

(Somewhat Unlikely | 1[d10]) No, and...

And the officials can take a shot at them. How many are there? (d4)

1 = 1[d4]

Lucky. Does the shot hit anyone? (SL)

(Somewhat Likely | 4[d10]) No, but...

Kazeir turned back to Maxtom and Alexir, deciding he’d just imagined it, when a buzzing sound crackled through the air around him. He flinched, and Alexir’s hand latched onto his arm. A stun blast.

He pushed at Maxtom and Alexir to move out of the alley. As they scrambled away, Kazeir’s foot landed on a piece of paper and slid out from under him. He slammed to the ground, unable to breathe.

Does Maxtom or Alexir stop to help him up? (L)

(Likely | 7[d10]) Yes

Who? (d2— 1 Maxtom, 2 Alexir)

1 = 1[d2]

Kazeir managed to take a breath in and felt someone gripping his arm. “Come on, Kaze!” said Maxtom, tugging at him.

The official gets a shot at Maxtom. Hit?

(50/50 | 8[d10]) Yes

Kazeir had gotten to his knees when a stun blast shot past him. Electricity sparked over Maxtom’s leg, and he dropped to the ground with a cry, leg twitching uncontrollably.

Is Maxtom still conscious?

(50/50 | 4[d10]) No

Frozen in place, Kazeir stared at Maxtom, his eyes closed. If that had been a real gun… Maxtom could have been lying here dying. Or already dead.


Kazeir looked up to see Alexir at the mouth of the alleyway, holding out her cyborg arm, gun mounted on top. “Move!”

Kazeir finally got his legs to work and started dragging Maxtom out of the alleyway. The blast from Alexir’s stunner whirred in the air above him.

Does she hit the official? (SU)

(Somewhat Unlikely | 8[d10]) Yes

Nice. Is he still conscious? (SL because her gun is smaller)

(Somewhat Likely | 8[d10]) Yes

The blast snapped into the official’s arm. He fell to the ground with a groan. Not unconscious, but Kazeir managed to drag Maxtom around the corner of the alleyway and out of the line of fire.

Alexir stood against the wall, occasionally looking into the alleyway. “What now?” she asked Kazeir.

He searched the streets for anything that could help them, blinking through the rain. He couldn’t see any Giabromaran officials, but it was only a matter of time before they came. And with Maxtom unconscious, they wouldn’t be able to get far enough away.

The official’s voice echoed inside the alleyway, rattling off a string of numbers.

“He’s calling for backup,” hissed Alexir. “I knew I should’ve shot him again.”

Kazeir shook his head and scoured the street for anything that could help.

Is there a car on the street? (VU)

(Very Unlikely | 6[d10]) Yes, but...

It’s the backup the official called for.

Several cars turned onto the street. Even without sirens or lights, they were unmistakably enforcement cars. Kazeir cursed. “More officials,” he told Alexir. “They’re going to surround us.”

Dread pooled in him as the cars roared closer. Kneeling on the ground, he shook Maxtom, trying to get him to wake up.

Does he wake up?

(50/50 | 5[d10]) No, but...

Maxtom moaned slightly, starting to regain consciousness but not yet fully awake.

“Through the alleyway?” asked Kazeir.

Alexir shook her head. “There are more officials on that side, too.”

The enforcement cars screeched to a stop and officials started pouring out. The green stripe running down the arms of their black uniforms glittered under the streetlights as they raised their firearms.

“Drop your weapons. Put your hands in the air,” one of them shouted.

Kazeir felt Alexir inch closer to him. “Those aren’t stunners,” she whispered.

He started to raise his arms, then stopped as he felt something shifting in his pocket. The crumpled-up paper.

The calling chip.


Kazeir took a few steps backwards while raising his hands further, into the shadows. Where maybe they wouldn’t see…

“Do you have a calling port in your arm?” he asked her.


The officials were still advancing, calling out at them to hold their hands up.

Do you have a—”

“Yes, but

“My right jacket pocket. Use the calling chip. Hurry!”

He felt her hand reach into his pocket and feel around for the chip.

Do the officials notice Alexir doing something?

(50/50 | 4[d10]) No

Alexir’s hand pulled away, and Kazeir waited, exposed. Rain slid down his face to his chin and down his arms to his elbows. He could feel his hands shaking.

The parts in Alexir’s arm purred behind him. A click.

Alexir walked up next to him, both arms raised.

Then a muffled voice came from inside her arm. “Thanks for calling. Please leave a message after the tone.”

The street went silent. “What was that?” barked one of the officials.

“Just kidding,” Vynce said. “I’ll see what I can do.”

How does the calling chip work? Is it a hologram?

(50/50 | 4[d10]) No

Okay. Does it just call someone then, like current phones?

(50/50 | 8[d10]) Yes

Does Vynce pick up?

(Likely | 9[d10]) Yes
This chapter ended up being really long...hopefully the next one will be a bit more snappy. Wink


Chapter Nine — Fracture and Fear

What does Vynce do? (CQ)

Befriend / Plans

Attach / Information

I asked some further questions here. Some I’ll add later or some will just be inserted into the narrative, along with my interpretation of the CQ answers. Some aren’t relevant to this chapter and may come up later.

Kazeir paced the length of the detainment room. After cuffing them, the officials had brought them to an enforcement facility and locked them each in their own detainment room. Kazeir wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but he guessed at least three hours, if not more.

The same questions had beat endlessly against his mind as he paced. What would Vynce expect from them after this? What would they owe? And would it be worth it to have called him for help, in the end?

Kazeir rubbed his forehead. He needed to talk to Maxtom and Alexir before they talked to Vynce again. To warn them to be on their guard.

The lock on Kazeir’s door clicked, and he stopped midstep, swiveling to the door. It slid open, revealing two Giabromaran officials. The shorter of the two, with two green stripes on his arms showing his higher rank, beckoned him out.

Hesitantly, Kazeir stepped out of the room and fell in line with the two officials as they walked down the hallways of the enforcement office, painted white with green trim.

“I’m Sergeant Nix,” said the official with two stripes, holding out his hand for Kazeir to shake. “And this is Officer Canning.”

Kazeir took the sergeant’s hand. “Kazeir Dameron,” he said slowly. The two officials seemed friendly enough, which meant Vynce had probably already worked his magic.

Sargeant Nix nodded and smiled at him, running a hand through his receding hair. “Sorry about the detainment, but there, uh, was a situation at the Church of the Severance, and, based on the evidence, it seemed like the three of you were related, but, uh—” He cleared his throat. “We’re going to let you go with just a warning to not break curfew next time.”

“That’s kind of you,” said Kazeir. Of course, he owed Vynce now, but at least one problem was solved. “So, a situation at the Church of the Severance? What happened?”

Is Sergeant Nix willing to talk?

(50/50 | 4[d10]) No

Does Officer Canning say anything? (U)

(Unlikely | 2[d10]) No

The sergeant massaged his hands together. “We’ve been instructed to keep things under wraps for now. Suffice it to say that everything is cleared up now, and you know the saying. What people don’t know won’t hurt them.”

If everything was cleared up, what did that mean for Arman? Kazeir doubted he’d been able to get out of the Church of the Severance without getting caught. He probably hadn’t even gotten to the anti-gravity pod.

Kazeir grimaced at the thought of Maxtom hearing about that. Hopefully, he would realize they’d done all they could do for him now. Asking Vynce to help them get him out of whatever trouble he was in now wouldn’t be worth the repercussions later.

“So where are we going?” asked Kazeir as Sergeant Nix swiped a card to open the doors to an elevator.

“Oh, just to the front doors,” said Sergeant Nix. “We were going to keep you here overnight, so that you wouldn’t be breaking curfew again, but Mr. Vynce insisted on arranging rides to take you home.” The sergeant cast a sidelong glance at Kazeir. “Alorin Vynce. You have heard of him, haven’t you?”

“Yes, I’ve heard of him,” Kazeir muttered. Who in the New Lusia region hadn’t heard of Alorin Vynce, the young tycoon who’d discovered a more efficient fuel source and probably turned more profits with his corporation than most of Giabromar combined? “Why is he…?”

The elevator dinged, and they walked out of it onto the ground floor. “Oh, well...he was the one who, uh, cleared things up with our situation. I guess he wanted to do something charitable when he heard you three were stuck here.”

More like he wanted to make sure he could turn a profit on them, too. Without a doubt, the rides Vynce had arranged would take them straight to him. “That’s...generous.”

Sergeant Nix snorted. “With all the money he has, it’s about as generous as me donating my fingernail clippings.”

Kazeir couldn’t stop the smile that spread onto his face. “I suppose.”

“Sergeant Nix is just upset that Mr. Vynce decided to fund a new school in Ithyke rather than donating to the enforcement facility,” said Officer Canning, grinning widely as he looked past Kazeir at Sergeant Nix.

“This place is falling apart,” grumbled Sergeant Nix. “It’s been around since my grandfather was training for the force. I don’t know how it’s still standing. And you don’t even want to see the state of the...”

They turned a corner into the front entryway of the facility, and Sergeant Nix trailed off at the sight of all the people sitting and standing in the lounge area.

Kazeir found Alexir first, then Maxtom. They both looked all right, but were practically guarded by men and women in business attire. Vynce’s people, clearly, but Kazeir was still surprised to see so many of them there, at least ten. It had to be well into the night by now.

A tall woman with stick-straight blond hair, wearing impossibly tall red high heels, walked up to Kazeir. “Thank you, officers,” she said, thinning her deep red lips into a condescending smile.

Sergeant Nix lifted his arm, as if about to point out that the double stripes meant he was a sergeant, not an officer, but he swallowed his words when the woman raised a perfectly styled eyebrow at him.

Where are they going? (Get setting)

Setting is fortified hangar involving very high quality decryption key and feared space station.

Haha, having his private office in a space station seems like just the thing Vynce would do.

“Come along, Kazeir,” the woman said, motioning to him with a wave of her pointed fingernails. “We must be off if we don’t want to miss our flight.”

Kazeir sighed and followed her into the darkness outside. He’d only met Avea Belenne a few times, but he knew better than to disagree with her. As Vynce’s personal assistant, she wielded almost as much power as he did. And she was an expert in attacking and ensnaring people with her words.

Avea’s hills clicked along the street as she led him to one of several chauffeured cars parked outside the enforcement facility. “I assume Vynce wants to see me,” Kazeir said.

“Yes, Alorin is looking forward to meeting with all of you.”

It took him a second to realize she was talking about Vynce. As far as he knew, Avea was the only one Vynce allowed to call him by his first name.

All of you. Rifts. That didn’t sound promising if Kazeir wanted Maxtom and Alexir to leave this encounter unscathed.

They entered the car, and before they drove away, Kazeir could see Alexir and Maxtom being led into other cars as well.

“You know, I’ve missed having you around,” said Avea.

Kazeir looked over at her, trying to read in her face or eyes where she was going with this, but she had always been good at keeping that almost-smiling mask on. “Really,” he said, voice flat.

She nodded, gray eyes sliding over him. “Alorin always gets so...excited when you’re here.”

Kazeir met her gaze for only a second before shifting to look out the window as the world blurred past them.

Avea kept up a stream of chatter as they left Ithyke. Kazeir knew he should probably be listening, trying to glean some information on what Vynce wanted with them, but instead he nodded and agreed without paying attention.

Does he get to talk to Alexir or Maxtom at all?

(50/50 | 10[d10]) Yes, and...

He gets to talk to both of them.

After about a forty-five minute drive, they pulled through a gate marked with Evynce Industries, Inc., and Kazeir soon recognized the buildings and structures around them. They were approaching the launching pad that would take them to dock with Vynce’s private space station.

“We only have one rocket available right now, and it only holds three people,” said Avea. “So unfortunately, I won’t be able to come with you.”

They parked in front of the launching pad, a dark silhouette of metal cross beams and platforms. Two cars parked behind them, and Maxtom and Alexir exited them, craning their necks to stare up at the launching pad. Kazeir imagined he’d looked like that the first time Vynce had brought him to the space station. Now all he felt was dread.

Avea followed his gaze and leaned close enough to him that her hair brushed his shoulder. “You could do so much better, Kazeir,” she whispered.

He stepped away from her and didn’t respond. His method for dealing with Avea was to stay quiet. The less you said, the less she could use against you.

After a considering look, Avea walked in her stilettoed shoes to Alexir and Maxtom. “The flight takes about four hours. I suggest you try to sleep if you can. Garvin will take you up to the top. Good luck.”

Kazeir didn’t say anything to Alexir and Maxtom until they were all strapped into the rocket, helmets nearby to block out sound during flight. Those had a speaker system in them, but Kazeir didn’t know if Vynce might have someone listening in on them. They had about fifteen minutes before launch in which to talk.

“Have you ever tried to build a rocket, Kaze?” asked Maxtom, smiling.

Kazeir glanced over at him. “No. I don’t think that’s a job for just one person. Anyway—” He hesitated for a second before continuing. “When we talk to Vynce, I want you to be on your guard.”

“What do you mean?” said Alexir. Before he could respond, she looked up at him and met his eyes. “How do you know him anyway? You had a personal calling chip for the richest person in Giabromar.”

Kazeir looked out of the cockpit window, where lights speckled the launching pad and surrounding buildings. “What I mean is… Vynce is a powerful person. That means he can help us, but he can hurt us, too.”

Kazeir tilted his head, searching for the stars, but all he could see above the launching pad was a murky purple sky. “He runs the most successful business on Giabromar—everything he does has a purpose and a price. He helped us because he’s making an investment. We’ll have to pay him back eventually.”

“You offered Zimon 30,000 reiks for the anti-gravity pod,” said Maxtom, tugging at the straps on his shoulder so they didn’t dig into his neck. “It’s not like you don’t have enough money to pay him back.”

30,000 reiks?” Alexir’s eyes flicked between Maxtom and Kazeir. “Are you serious?”

Maxtom laughed, but Kazeir didn’t smile. “Vynce is rich enough to own his own space station,” he said. “He doesn’t need money. That’s why asking for his help can be so dangerous.”

“You keep saying that,” said Alexir, “but how is he dangerous?”

Kazeir clenched his hands around his arm rests. He had to make them see this. If they didn’t… “You saw how easily he got us out of an arrest. It would be just as easy for him to produce evidence leading to our arrest. He owns almost every single mine in the Sever, and consigning us to one would take the snap of a finger. He could do anything to ruin your life or the lives of those you love.”

Maxtom slowly nodded. “I’m glad he’s on our side.”

Kazeir tried to lean forward but was stopped. Rifting straps. “What I’m trying to say is that he’s not on our side. He’s not on anyone’s side—he just takes the better offer. If he thought the Jakamant genocide would give him an advantage, he could have it wrapped up and tied in a bow by the end of the week.”

“Then—” Maxtom leaned back in his chair, exhaling. “Then if he wanted to stop Act 3017...he could?”

Kazeir clasped his hands in front of him, looking away. “I don’t know,” he said finally. “Maybe. The darkrest— Well, he wouldn’t, anyway, not for us. And not for the Jakamant either. He cares about Evynce Industries, not the world.”

“So why did he help us, then?” demanded Alexir.

“I think he wants me to help him somehow.” Kazeir leaned back on his head rest, staring at the ceiling. “With any luck, he’ll let you two forget he ever helped you.”

Someone kicked his leg, and Kazeir lifted his head to see Alexir glaring at him. “Something happened between you and Alorin Vynce. And if anyone deserves to know what it was, it’s us, since you called him without even consulting us.”

Heat rolled up in Kazeir’s chest. “What did you want me to do? We were—”

“And more than that, we’re your friends.”

Kazeir tilted his head. Alexir kept her gaze steady on him, as if daring him to disagree with her. She was leaning forward as far as her straps would let her, and her eyes glimmered as she stared at him.

“Alexir’s right,” said Maxtom. “We should know this.”

“Fine.” Kazeir rubbed his hands together, then on his pant legs. “Fine.”

What happened previously? (MAG)

MAG: hulking guy, flaming arrow, shield with four-leaf clover, big arrow pointing down, farmland view, pair of boots, three different keys, six-pointed star tangle, an Egyptian symbol (ankh).

The big arrow pointing down could represent some kind of special drill...  Interesting that there are two religious symbols at the bottom. Farmside seems to represent land... land that Vynce wants to drill on but he can't because people own it and some famous church is there.

Kazeir tried to run his hand through his hair, but the straps blocked him from moving his arm past shoulder height. He dropped his hand to his lap awkwardly. He hadn’t tried to tell this story to anyone. Had almost tried to forget it himself.

“I… I met Vynce a few years ago. His fuel was starting to gain traction, and he decided to start some of his mines in the Sever. He needed more amrithyn, but the veins are so delicate that normal drills weren’t effective. He hired me to design a drill that could sense that and not break the veins.

“I worked closely with a woman named Reygan.” Kazeir closed her eyes, remembering her. Her straight nose and short black hair, and the temper that belied her petite size. And the wide, contagious smile that made her whole face lift. “Her family lived on a large plot of land near the Sever. They had been caretakers of an ancient cathedral there for generations. But Vynce found out that their land stood on the largest deposit of amrithyn in Giabromar.”

Kazeir glanced at Alexir and Maxtom. Both were listening intently. “They refused to sell him the land. Giabromaran law should have protected them because of the historical and cultural significance of the cathedral, but Vynce was one step ahead of them. Before I’d started working for him, he’s found out that Reygan and her husband Dayne were unable to have children. He’d paid the medical bills for her to try some different procedures…

“Reygan thought it was all just a gift. She would hold her baby girl and talk about how wonderful Vynce was to anyone who would listen. She said he was the most generous person in the world.”

Kazeir looked down at his lap and interlocked his fingers. “I don’t know. Maybe he was that person once. But when he found out that Reygan’s family wouldn’t sell him their land, he threatened to take her daughter away, bring up ‘evidence’ that she wasn’t really her daughter.”

He tried to push down the feeling of helplessness that rose inside him, even at remembering. The things he couldn’t save. “I offered to pay the fare for them to travel to another planet, get out of Vynce’s grasp, but Reygan didn’t want to leave her parents behind. She worried that Vynce might do something even worse to them. They sold the land. I stopped working for him.”

Reygan and her parents had said it was an easy choice, in the end. Reygan’s daughter was more important than any cathedral, and Vynce had destroyed his so-called evidence afterward. But Kazeir knew how easy it would be for Vynce to recreate it, if he found something else he wanted from Reygan.

Better to escape. Better to get away from him before it was too late.

“It’s how he works,” said Kazeir, looking both Alexir and Maxtom in the eyes. “He does things for people, gives them what they want, and then makes them pay for it later. All I’m saying is, the less we let him do for us, the better.”

“But if you don’t have anything he wants…” said Maxtom.

“Then he’ll find something,” said Kazeir. “Trust me.”

Alexir watched him silently, head tilted a little, blue eyes searching.

“What?” he asked her.

Her forehead wrinkled. “If that’s how Vynce works, then what did he do for you?”

Kazeir looked away, gazed out of the cockpit window into the night. “Nothing,” he said. “I guess he couldn’t give me anything I really wanted.”

A few hours later, while Alexir and Maxtom slept, Kazeir continued to look out of the window. Space stretched out around them, billions of stars glimmering white against the deep blackness. Who could say how far the universe expanded? How many stars, how many galaxies, how many worlds lived out there, ready to be wondered at?

Vynce had offered him a spaceship. A Starfarer that could take him to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. To see black holes and nebulae, to see moons made of ice and planets made of lava. And countless worlds filled with countless people with different beliefs and cultures and dreams. How many dreams floated out there, in the universe?

Kazeir had almost agreed, almost taken the contract, but he had hesitated at the last second. It was a good thing he had, because the spaceship wouldn’t really have been his own, if Vynce had given it to him, but that wasn’t why he’d hesitated.

He’d been afraid. Despite all that he’d always said growing up about escaping this broken planet and seeing everything there was to see in the universe, he was too afraid to leave the life he’d always known.

Kazeir tore his gaze away from that window and looked through the other one, visible just above Alexir’s drooping head. He could see the entire planet in the little window, the Sever like a giant crack running through a marble. The sun was on the other side of the planet, and for a few seconds, its brilliant light snaked through the jagged Sever and gleamed into Kazeir’s eyes.

This was the world where he belonged, the world he was meant to help. Maybe, just maybe, he could make it a place where no one had to fear ever again.

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