Science Fiction The Severed World
#11
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
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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?”


“What?”


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.


“And?”


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.”
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#12
I'm glad you're back writing! I look forward to more chapters.
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#13
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...
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#14
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.


“But—”


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.


“Kaze!”


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.


Vynce.


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.


“What?”


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
Reply
#15
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’d 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 softly. “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.
Reply
#16
Sorry for not posting last week. I had a family reunion that took up a lot of my writing time, so I hadn't finished this chapter by Monday.

--


Chapter Ten — Vynce


“You look awful.”


Kazeir lifted his head and looked over at Alexir, who lounged on one of the couches in the waiting toom outside of Vynce’s office. “Thanks,” he said drily, managing a smile. Truthfully, he felt awful. Not only did his eyelids ache to fall into sleep, but his stomach squirmed at the thought of talking to Vynce, making him both mentally and physically exhausted.


“Did you even sleep at all?” she pressed.


Kazeir crossed his arms. “I slept.”


“Probably for five minutes,” said Maxtom, sitting down on a chair next to them.


Kazeir let out a deep breath without saying anything, and both Maxtom and Alexir laughed.


Reluctantly, a smile spread across Kazeir’s face. “I think it was at least ten minutes. Maybe even fifteen.”


A thin man with a beak-like nose and a tan business suit entered the room and led them to the door leading to Vynce’s office. “Mr. Vynce will see you now,” he said, and Maxtom, Kazeir, and Alexir stood.


The man led them to the door and entered a long password into the keypad outside of the room. A few seconds later, the door slid open.


“Good luck,” said the man, rubbing his hands together, as they walked past him into the room.


Vynce’s office looked more like an elegant parlor than an office. Dark wood paneling lined the warm yellow and cream walls, matching the upholstered furniture. An ornate desk made of glossy dark wood dominated the room with a large cupboard on the side where Vynce likely kept a high-tech computer.


Vynce stood behind the box, leaning casually with his elbow on the top of a leather chair. He was younger than Kazeir, in his early or mid twenties, with smooth caramel skin and wavy black hair. He wore a crisp white shirt with the top button undone, his suit coat draped over the top of his leather chair.


He looked as if he were modeling for the cufflinks he wore—and squinting, Kazeir thought he might be. Their square crystals shone a faint purple color, indicating that they were probably made of amrithyn. Vynce prefered the subtle approach when it came to personal advertisements.


Vynce smiled as they walked in and motioned to the chairs. “Please, take a seat.”


Kazeir chose a seat a little to the side of the desk, and Alexir and Maxtom sat on either side of him. He closed his eyes for a second, clasping his hands together, trying to gather his wits about him. When he opened his eyes, Vynce was leaning against the wall, facing them.


“Thank you for your help,” said Kazeir. “With the officials.”


“Oh, it was easy, really.” Vynce waved his hand, standing up from his leaning position.


Was Arman successful in getting the anti-grav pod? (U)


(Unlikely | 8[d10]) Yes


“Your Jakamant friend managed to get to the anti-gravity pod, you see,” said Vynce, walking over to his leather chair and sitting down. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. “All the camera footage showed that he was the one who’d set off the alarms and was in the wrong. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He leaned back in the seat.


Maxtom had slid to the edge of his seat and looked as if he were about to stand up. “Arman made it to the anti-gravity pod? What happened? Did he make it out?”


Vynce studied Maxtom for a few seconds before answering. “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced.” He held out his hand. “Alorin Vynce.”


“Maxtom Jefrye,” said Maxtom, shaking his hand. He looked Vynce in the eyes when he said, “I will remember your name.”


A smile curled up the side of Vynce’s lips at the words, but he didn’t say anything. Kazeir’s hand gripped the armrest of his chair. He should have told Maxtom not to use the Jakamant greeting—not that Maxtom would have listened. Now Vynce knew that Maxtom was close enough to the Jakamant that he would use their greeting in public. He could only use that against them.


Vynce turned his head to look at Alexir. Her face was impassive, betraying no emotion. “Alexir Taren.”


He studied her even longer than he had Maxtom, eyes roving over her scarred face and cyborg arm, but Alexir didn’t flinch. She gazed at him steadily, and Kazeir felt his grip on the chair loosen the slightest fraction.


Vynce finally turned back to Maxtom.


Has Arman been caught?


(50/50 | 9[d10]) Yes


“I wouldn’t worry too much about your Jakamant friend.” Vynce shrugged. “He was arrested by the officials before he could even leave the church property.”


Maxtom stood up.


“Max,” Kazeir warned softly, but Maxtom was already talking.


“But there has to be something we could do—you could do—to help him. You could get him out of prison.” Maxtom’s hands clenched into fists. “He was just trying to help us.”


“And why would I do that?” asked Vynce, crossing one leg over the other.


“Maxtom,” said Kazier. “Sit down.”


Maxtom glanced over at him, face paling a little, then sat down in his chair. “Sorry,” he mumbled.


Vynce steepled his fingers. “There’s really nothing even I can do. The prison block runs rampant with the darkrest, so even if your Jakamant friend hasn’t contracted the disease yet—which is unlikely—the officials are far too worried about another outbreak to let a Jakamant go free.”


Maxtom seemed on the verge of saying something, but at a look from Kazeir, he slumped back into his chair and didn’t argue.


“So the Church of the Severance has the anti-gravity pod?” asked Kazeir. Maybe there was some way they could get it again…


Is there still a way they can get the anti-grav pod? (SU)


(Somewhat Unlikely | 3[d10]) No


Vynce chuckled softly, as if reading his thoughts. “In a sense. The Church of the Severance has moved their rock, along with the anti-gravity pod, to an undisclosed location that is purported to be invincible. Only the highest-ranking in their church will be allowed access to it.”


“But you know where it is,” pressed Kazeir.


Vynce smiled. “Perhaps. But you might consider why you are chasing after this pod in the first place.”


Kazeir leaned back in his chair. Act 3017. The bridge. He remembered Maxtom at the Church of the Severance, saying, We’re transporting a very heavy cargo.


What was Vynce playing at? Kazeir narrowed his eyes as he looked at him, trying to read what he was thinking behind that smirk. “What are you saying? You’re offering something else we could use?”


Does Vynce have something else they can use instead of the anti-grav pod?


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


Yes and what? (CQ)


Extravagance / Vehicle


“Of course.” Vynce shook his head as if it were obvious. “I practically have an armada of transport vehicles. How about a cargo ship?”


“A spaceship?” Kazeir asked.


“Why not?” asked Vynce with a shrug. “I have plenty. Even in Am Kasra.”


Kazeir’s jaw tightened. How had he known that was where the bridge was being stored?


Vynce lowered his chin and smiled. “So what do you say?”


“Why are you helping us?” asked Kazeir, hoping for a straight answer, though he doubted he’d get one. “If we use your ship, what are you going to ask from us?”


Vynce clasped his hands in his lap. “For the moment, our interests align.”


Kazeir frowned. “What do you mean? How does stopping Act 3017 benefit you?”


“Oh, Act 3017 is meaningless to me,” he said, shaking his head. “But Obror won’t accept trade from Giabromar. They’re too afraid of the darkrest spreading to them. If you’re successful in your plan, I can only assume that trade will open up, giving me far more financial opportunity.”


All three of them stared at him. Alexir spoke first, words cautious. “Obror hasn’t been infected by the darkrest yet?”


Vynce smiled slowly. “I didn’t realize that was news to you. Yes, Obror cut off all trade with Giabromar after they heard of the darkrest on this side of the world. The Sever serves as an effective quarantine for all of us.”


Kazeir looked over at Maxtom. As their eyes met, he knew his friend was realizing the same thing that he was. If they led the Jakamant over the Sever in a mass exodus from Giabromar, they would inevitably carry the darkrest with them.


Saving the life of one people could only mean the death of others.


Kazeir stood. “May I speak with Maxtom and Alexir in private, please?”


After a moment’s pause, Vynce smiled. “Certainly.” He stood and opened the door to his office, motioning out to the waiting room. “I’ll give you five minutes.”


Is there anyone else in the waiting room? (SU)


(Somewhat Unlikely | 8[d10]) Yes


Who? (CQ)


Move / Competition


Someone from a competing company.


Two men in suits sat on one side of the room, Kazeir led Maxtom and Alexir to the other side, where they huddled together.


“What do you think?” asked Kazeir in a whisper.


“I’m not sure if he’s telling the truth,” said Alexir. “We only have his word that Obror isn’t yet infected. He could just be trying to dissuade us.”


Kazeir shook his head. “But then he wouldn’t offer us his spaceship in the first place. I think...I think he might be telling the truth.” And that was even more chilling.


Maxtom nodded slowly. “Which means if we bring the Jakamant over, the darkrest will spread. I— I don’t know what we should do, Kaze.”


Kazeir breathed in and out slowly. “We have three weeks until the genocide. Jakamant are already being gathered from the further parts of Giabromar. Getting the bridge and travelling to the Sever will take a few days, and during that time, we’ll be under Vynce’s influence.”


He looked at Alexir and Maxtom. Both watched him intently. They were counting on him to give them hope, a plan. To come up with something. He couldn’t let them down. “He’ll be tracking the ship at the very least. He could be controlling it. Hopefully we can get to the Sever before he decides what he wants with us.”


“Then…” Kazeir put his hand on Maxtom’s shoulder and looked into his dark eyes. “Then it will be up to you, Maxtom. To figure out the darkrest. To find the cure.”


Maxtom shook his head, running a hand through his blond hair. “I can’t do it, Kaze. It’s not enough time. I’ve only spent a few months studying about the darkrest. Three weeks isn’t enough.”


“It will be,” said Kaze, and when he spoke the words, he almost believed himself. “You can do this, Max. I believe in you.”


He could see the emotions warring in Maxtom’s eyes.


Alexir stepped closer and laid her hand on Maxtom’s other arm. She smiled at him. “We’ll help you,” she said. “We’re going to stop this. We’ll save them, Max.”


Maxtom looked between both of them, then finally nodded, almost imperceptibly. When he spoke, his voice was so quiet, Kazeir could barely hear it. “Yes. We’ll save them all.”
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#17
Chapter Eleven — Something to Prove


Am Kasra sprawled like an anthill over the dusty land, with skyscrapers towering in the center of the city and houses scattered in the outskirts of the city. One of the largest cities in Giabromar, it housed millions of people. The streets flowed with humanity, but the city had always felt sterile and unfriendly to Kazeir.


“The next stop is ours,” he told Alexir.


She nodded slightly but kept looking out the window as buildings flashed by in streaks of silver and gold. She had one hand up against the window, almost squeezing the glass.


It was just him and Alexir fetching the bridge, since Maxtom had gone to Am Kasra University, where several specialists had been studying the darkrest since its first emergence over two years ago. Maxtom hoped to learn something about the darkrest that could help him with finding the cure.


Kazeir hoped it would turn out to be more than just an empty errand. If Maxtom didn’t find a cure before the day of the genocide, Kazeir had no idea what would happen next.


He looked over at Alexir once more and followed her gaze out the window. Alleys and slums flickered in the window of the train for seconds before the images skittered away behind them. Flashes of people living in squalor, of hooded eyes and hunched shoulders. While everyone else bustled home at the end of the day, they had no home to go to.


He and Alexir flew past the very streets she had once crawled through. Had dragged herself to a street corner to beg for money or food—the street corner where Kazeir had first seen her.


He leaned forward in his seat, but he still couldn’t see her face to try to read how she was feeling, traveling through their home city for the first time in years.


Kazeir’s stomach tightened at the thought of going home. It hadn’t been so long for him since he’d been to Am Kasra, only a couple of months, but it had been just long enough to forget how suffocating it felt.


At least it would be a quick errand. Go to their storage block, alert one of Vynce’s men to bring a transport car, then drive away with the bridge. It was as simple as that. His father wouldn’t even know they’d been there.


The train lurched to a stop. Kazeir stood, glancing over at Alexir. She finally turned from the window and met his gaze. Neither of them smiled, and somberness floated in Alexir’s eyes. Kazeir looked away first.


As they started walking, Alexir nudged him slightly with her shoulder. “I was talking to Maxtom yesterday, in the spaceship, while you were asleep.”


He glanced over at her but couldn’t read the expression in her face. “And?”


“He seemed pretty torn up over what happened to Arman,” she said softly. “He kept trying to think of ways that night could have gone differently. I think he feels guilty—for not stopping Arman when he had the chance.”


Kazeir barely refrained from rolling his eyes. “It wasn’t his fault, it was Arman’s, for running off to the Church of the Severance by himself.”


Alexir studied him. “So you’re saying that Arman deserves to die of the darkrest in a prison cell.”


He hesitated. “Well…”


She exhaled sharply. “He was trying to help the Jakamant! He was trying to do exactly what you’re doing.”


“No.” Kazeir held up his hands. “You weren’t there, Lex— Alexir. He wasn’t doing it out of some selfless loyalty. He was doing it to prove something to himself.”


“And that’s not exactly what you’re doing?”


He darted a look at her, at her fierce, unyielding gaze, then stared at the sidewalk beneath their feet and rubbed his arm. “No.”


Alexir didn’t speak for a while. He almost thought she’d dropped the topic when she said, “I just don’t get it, Kaze. You’re determined to save the Jakamant, to stop Act 3017, almost to the point of obsession. But when it comes to Arman… do you even see them as people?”


Kazeir gritted his teeth and didn’t answer. He wasn’t like Arman. He wasn’t going to rush into things, he wasn’t going to try to do everything himself, and most importantly, he wasn’t going to fail.


After a few minutes of walking in silence, they made it to the storage block. Several long buildings made up the block. Most people rented a room or single floor to store extra items. Kazeir’s father had bought an entire building.


“It’s this one,” he said, leading Alexir over to the gray, nondescript building. A rolling overhead door was set into one side, wide enough to bring a large moving vehicle in if necessary.


Kazeir reached for the keypad and typed in the code.


Does the code open the door? (L)


(Likely | 7[d10]) Yes


The door rattled open and fluorescent lights flickered on, illuminating a large unloading area and cargo lift. The wall to the right side of the cargo lift had a normal elevator and a door to the stairwell, which would lead up to the higher levels.


“I’ve never been in here,” said Alexir. “Wasn’t this where you had your shop?”


Kazeir had never let Alexir or Maxtom into his workshop, had tried to keep his father out. There was something deeply personal about his shop, a place where pieces and edges and scraps were sculpted into something whole and complete. Where broken things were fixed and unformed objects were given life.


He nodded. “That’s where the bridge is.”


He led her through the stairwell and into another door which led to his shop. Wooden tables and cabinets of supplies ran along the walls, with various machines in the center of the room. Most of the room, however, was blocked by the bridge, which was covered by white canvas.


“Wow.” Alexir spun in a slow circle, taking in the details of the room. “This is huge.”


It was the only place that had ever felt big enough for him in this crowded city. He swallowed. “I guess my father felt bad enough that he spared no expense.”


Alexir gave him a look, but Kazeir shook his head. He didn’t want to talk about it.


Is there anything amiss in the shop?


(50/50 | 7[d10]) Yes


Is it his father?


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


What? (CQ)


Postpone / Military


Ahh, interesting. I’ll put this at the end of the chapter.


“Is this the bridge?” said Alexir, walking toward the box-shaped white canvas. It was taller than her by a few feet, looking more like a wall than an object. “It’s also huge.”


“That’s why they’re bringing a flat-bed transport for it. You have the paging chip, right?”


Alexir nodded, pulled it from one of the pockets in her cargo pants, and stuck it in the port in her arm. A tiny red light pulsed on the corner of the chip, indicating that the alert had not yet been received. In only a few seconds, the light switched to green, signalling that those on Vynce’s end had received the message.


“Can I see it?” asked Alexir, placing her right hand flat on the canvas.


Kazeir motioned her over to the other side and lifted up a corner of the canvas. “There’s not much to see, since it’s all folded up right now. A bit like an accordion.” All she would be able to see would be bars of metal four inches thick, about half an inch of dark space between each of them. “These are the edges of the bridge, he said, motioning to the bars of metal.”


“This is going to be able to go across the Sever?”


When she looked at him like that, with wide and wondering eyes, she seemed so much like Lex again. The way she’d looked at the first prosthetic he’d made for her, like it was crafted by magic.


Kazeir looked back at the bridge. “The Sever isn’t that large. Just less than two miles across. This is made of a specialized steel alloy that is both strong and lightweight, but most importantly”—he probed a few fingers into the empty space until he felt a ridge under the bottom—“it will be supported underneath with anti-gravity bars.”


He moved his hand out of the way so that she could feel the bar underneath. “Like the anti-gravity pod?” she asked.


Kazeir nodded. “Only these are strengthened with amrithyn.”


Alexir cocked her head as she rubbed her finger along the metal. “Isn’t that what Alorin Vynce’s fuel is made of?”


“The amrithyn in his fuel essentially helps reduce the amount of fuel used by increasing the fuel efficiency. The amrithyn serves a similar function here, helping the anti-gravity fluid perform better.”


“But…” Alexir stepped away from the bridge and put her hands on her hips. “Are you saying that we could have just activated the anti-gravity pods, and there would have been no need to get the anti-gravity pod from the Church of the Severance?”


Kazeir gripped one of the metal slats, meeting Alexir’s eyes for only a second. “Anti-gravity pods decay faster the more they are used. These should be stable, but I wanted to make sure by preserving as much strength as possible.”


The excuse was lame, but it was better than telling her the truth. That he wasn’t sure if this bridge would be stable. That this whole plan seemed riddled with holes, like with one wrong breath it would all come crashing down. It was better than making her imagine thousands of Jakamant trusting him enough to step onto the bridge, then falling to their death.


“I can’t believe this,” Alexir huffed, shaking her head. “You risked our lives because you just wanted to make sure?”


Kazeir held his arm against the bridge and leaned his head against it, not looking at her. He’d risked their lives because it was all he could think of doing. Because he had to do this, even if he didn’t know why he was doing it, even if he didn’t love the Jakamant like Maxtom did.


“Kaze?” whispered Alexir. She took a few steps toward him, and he felt her warm hand rest on his shoulder, just for a second.


He took a deep, shuddering breath, then pasted a smile on his face and looked at her. “I’m going to grab some tools and supplies before the transport car gets here.”


She raised her eyebrows, like she could see right through the false cheeriness in his tone, but she nodded.


Kazeir walked around the other side of the bridge and started grabbing a few tools that would be most useful in affixing the bridge to the Sever.


He paused as he passed a worktable with a screwdriver lying on top of the table. He’d thought he’d cleaned up everything in here after finishing the bridge…


When he walked over to the table, Kazeir realized that the screwdriver held down a white piece of paper. The handwriting on it was his father’s.


Kazeir sat down on the workbench in front of the table and held the piece of paper up.


Kazeir,

I just wanted to let you know that I’ll be gone for a while in case you come here looking for me. There have been some logistical problems with maneuvering the military for the enforcement of Act 3017, so the board assigned me to travel to the Sever and help oversee things there. If all goes as planned, I should be back in about six weeks.

I hope to see you soon, my son.

Father


Kazeir stared at the paper. Its edges crumpled a bit under the force of his fingers. His father, Adrian Dameron, delegate in the Giabromaran government, had worked closely with the military for as long as he could remember. He’d never thought that would lead his father to supporting the Jakamant genocide.


To stand in Kazeir’s way.


“What’s that?” said Alexir, walking up to him and motioning at the paper in his hands.


“A note from my father.” Kazeir picked up the screwdriver and slammed it through the paper, into the table. Standing up, Kazeir picked up the box of tools he’d collected and started walking away. “We might run into him at the Sever.”


“Kazeir,” called Alexir.


He didn’t look back, just kept walking toward the door.


“He said he wants to see you again,” she said, exasperation evident. “Doesn’t that mean something?”


Kazeir’s stomach boiled, and he whirled around. “Sure it does. It means we’re even less alike than I thought, because I don’t want to see him again at all.”


He turned on his heel and stalked away.
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#18
You may have noticed that I haven't posted anything the past few weeks, and the truth is that I'm putting this story on hold, probably permanently. Like I said in the beginning, I'm more of a writer than a roleplayer, and in all honesty, working on this story over the summer was mostly a way for me to continue writing while I set aside my novel due to serious structural and character problems--not to mention my lackluster attitude toward it.

Well, a few weeks ago, I started thinking about my novel and got excited about it again. I began rewriting it, which is now taking my full attention. So while I do love the characters in The Severed World, I want to focus on my novel, since becoming an author is my ultimate goal.

I'd like to come back to TSW at some point and finish this story, since I've enjoyed writing it, but my first priority is my novel. On top of that, later this year I'll begin serving an 18-month, full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since that makes it at least 2 years before I'd return to this story, I'm just going to admit that I'll probably never finish it. Still, maybe someday I will write another post or two.

Thanks to all of you who read TSW and for your support. Smile

~Lana
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#19
Lana,

Thank you for sharing your story here and I wish the best for you on your novel.

Best regards,
Mark
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#20
This is typically a cue for someone to say, "Way to leave us hanging!" Just kidding! Just kidding! :-D

I've enjoyed reading this story and good luck in all your writing endeavors in the future. And certainly, stop by from time to time and catch up on the stories being posted here by the site's many talented roleplayers.

Teviko604
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