This serial is presented in draft form and will be updated each Thursday. Your comments are always welcome!
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Ch 14 ~ Ch 15 ~ Ch 16 ~ Ch 17 ~ Ch 18 ~ Ch 19 ~ Ch 20 ~ Ch 21 ~ Ch 22 ~ Ch 23 ~ Ch 24 ~
Ch 25 ~ Ch 26 ~ Ch 27 ~ Ch 28 ~ Ch29 ~ Ch 30 ~ Ch 31 ~ Ch 32 ~ Ch 33 ~ Ch 34 ~ Ch 35 ~
Ch 36 ~ Ch 37 ~ Ch 38 ~ Ch 39 ~ Ch 40 ~ Ch 41 ~ Ch 42 ~ Ch 43 ~ Ch 44 ~ Ch 45 ~ Ch 46 ~
Ch 47 ~ Ch 48 ~ Ch 49 ~ Ch 50 ~ Ch 51 ~ Ch 52 ~ Ch 53 ~ Ch 54 ~ Ch 55 ~ Ch 56 ~ Ch 57 ~
Ch 58 ~ Ch 59 ~ Ch 60 ~ Ch 61 ~ Ch 62 ~ Ch 63 ~ Ch 64 ~ Ch 65 ~
Zephryn jerked away from Da'nat and went to kneel down beside Chloe. Unsure if he was safe to touch her, he looked up at Da'nat. But Da'nat was focused on Granny.
"What did you mean," Da'nat said to her. "Fire and water, earth and air?"
"It was our doing," she said in a wondering tone of voice. "All our doing. Had we not meddled in that which we should not, none of this would have come to pass."
"What's she talking about?" Zephryn asked.
Da'nat hesitated. "I believe events have led to the unbalancing of her mind. She but speaks nonsense. Do not fear, it is safe to touch her," he said with a gesture towards Chloe.
Zephryn gingerly gathered Chloe in his arms. When nothing untoward happened, he held her more closely and rose to her feet.
"We should leave this place," Da'nat said, laying a hand on Granny's shoulder. "You must come with us."
She stirred and looked at him, eyes glassy.
"I was not meant to survive."
"But you did. And now your people have need of your wisdom."
"My people." She gave a sharp laugh. "I do not even know who they are any more."
"Then you will learn," Da'nat said gently, leading her into the ship. Zephryn followed behind, hitting the hatch control as he passed it, sealing the ship.
Da'nat led an unresisting Granny to the lounge and seated her in one of the chairs. Zephryn followed in their wake, unsure what to do with Chloe.
Da'nat turned towards him. "Though it will be some time before she recovers, she is in no immediate danger. A bed should suffice for her recovery."
"But she will recover, right?" Zephryn was not ashamed that he needed the Illezie's reassurance.
He nodded and carried Chloe to his quarters, making her as comfortable as possible on his own bed. He lingered, brushing a hand over her hair before turning and heading to the bridge.
Da'nat was already there, in his customary seat. Before going through the instrument check, Zephryn turned on the scanners. It appeared that the danger was over - the seismic activity had all but stopped. The planet was stabilizing again.
"Do you think Martin was able to warn the other mines in time?" he asked.
"I do not know. I believe . . ."
Zephryn turned to look at him. It was unlike the Illezie to leave a though unfinished.
"Even if he did, there is no way of knowing whether they listened to him or not. If they did not, then the casualties will be high."
Zephryn turned back to the controls, running through the lift off protocols. Once they'd cleared the planet's atmosphere he had another question.
"Do you think the survivors will rebuild?"
"It is doubtful. This planet was close to being mined out."
"In that case, there's a cargo ship full of pantarium in orbit. I think we should contact Martin - I think he can be trusted to distribute the wealth fairly."
"That is a noble gesture. I concur."
Zephryn sent out the call and in a short time made contact with Martin. The miners had not gone far, rendezvousing at a mutually agreed upon point. Martin was all but speechless when he was told of the pantarium. It was a blessing for the group, who had lost pretty much everything but the clothes on their backs.
"So now what," Zephryn asked, itching to go check on Chloe.
"Set the co-ordinates to zero-alpha-alpha-seven," Da'nat told him.
"And this will take us . . . where?" he asked, laying in the course.
"On the way to completing our mission," Da'nat told him.
Zephryn turned to look at him. "But . . . I thought . . ."
"At this point we need only to confirm the trajectory of the energy beam."
"But we already know its trajectory."
"Perhaps," Da'nat said enigmatically.
Zephryn sighed, knowing there was no point in trying to get any more information out of the Illezie.
"Course laid in," he said. He set the automatic controls and rose from his seat. "I'm going to check on Chloe." He turned at the door. "But when I come back, you and I are going to have a long over-due talk.
Zephryn smoothed a hand over Chloe's hair. There was no change in her condition. Despite Da'nat's assurances she'd be fine, he used a portable medical scanner on her. He was by no means an expert at interpreting the readings, but it appeared there was nothing seriously wrong with her. As Da'nat said, she just needed rest.
Covering her with a light blanket, left his quarters in search of the Illezie. He found him in the lounge with Granny, who was looking only slightly better than she had been.
"When was the last time you ate?" Granny asked him.
He blinked in confusion. "I . . . that would have been early this morning, with Chloe."
"Sit and eat, and I will answer your questions."
Zephryn hesitated for a long moment in the doorway before going to the food processor and programming a meal. When it finished cycling through its program, he carried the tray to the small table near the view port.
"How did you get the ship unburied without Chloe's help?"
Da'nat made as if to answer but she shook her head at him. "The boy's done well. He deserves the truth."
"I am not without power, you've sensed that. I merely used some to free the ship."
"You're an Earth Elemental? Like Chloe and her mother?" He frowned. "But why keep it a secret from them? You--"
"I am not an Ardraci, nor am I an Elemental. I am . . . something else."
"I do not know any more," she said sadly.