Chapter One

I am the Historian. I am immortal. I am ageless. I am nameless. I am carried by my own feet through times and worlds to witness great stories.

This is one such story.

“At least it’s starting to warm up a little,” Kip commented. “The sun is out longer and longer each day.”

“Yes,” I nodded sagely, as if I really had some sense of this planet’s seasons. Kip seemed to enjoy it when I acted old and wise, though I spent most of my time asking questions like a curious child. “Spring is right around the corner.”

“I feel it, too,” said Chuck, the talking plant. He often chimed in to agree with me. “Of course, we plants always know about that stuff.”

Now, I feel it’s my duty here to clarify something about this situation. Chuck is not actually a talking plant. There’s no such thing. Chuck is a regular plant.

Kip is insane.

Luckily for everyone, Kip is not the violent, creepy kind of insane. Rather, he is the charming, tragic kind of insane that happens when a sensitive mind is overloaded with the world’s brutality. Something snaps and often never heals again.

It’s the kind of insane that talks to plants, then tells everyone else what the plant said back.

Kip certainly had enough opportunity to have been exposed to brutality. He was a veteran of this world’s most recent and horrific war. It was one of those game-changing wars, the kind optimists and fools call a war to end all wars.

This world had been a long time coming to its great war. The planet was composed primarily of the lighter elements. Useful metals like iron and copper were rare and valuable; gold and silver were unheard of outside of scientific labs.

Therefore, their technology did not evolve along the customary metallic lines. These people would never achieve the heights of inorganic chemistry and metallurgy that allow for nuclear power or armies of steel juggernauts that tear the land to ribbons.

Unfortunately, that did not spare them the horrors of mass war. Their technology had developed around carbon, silicon, and all of the different configurations that were possible with their unique chemical properties. It had taken their civilization longer to achieve, but they had managed to refine natural fibers and ceramics into materials that would nearly rival the toughest carbon steel.

The latest war had already seen the development of rapid fire projectile weapons, roaring guns that shredded through lines of infantry like invisible demons. Sadly, these weapons only played a minor part in the war’s massive casualties. Their real power in technology had derived more from their organic roots: poisons.

These people had developed incredibly advanced biological and chemical weapons. They had managed to engineer compounds, pathogens, and custom viruses that dealt out death with the surety of an artist’s brush. Poisons had been used from the very beginning of their culture, so there wasn’t the usual shock and horror that often comes when a populace faces such atrocities.

Millions died without even a wound on them. Entire cities were massacred without even one drop of blood to mar the carpets. It was like the old occupants had moved out by choice, leaving a fully functioning city for the victors. No messy bombings.

Of course, as is usually the case, the dead are the lucky ones. It’s the survivors that must struggle on with broken bodies and minds in a world that doesn’t need them anymore.

Kip was one such survivor. As a veteran, he had survived, endured, participated in, and witnessed countless poison attacks. Some were against the enemy, some were against his own people, and some were against civilian populations who had the bad luck of living in strategically desirable locations.

It’s impossible to say whether Kip’s mind was wrecked by the things he witnessed and did, or by the inhalation of just enough toxins to burn out his neurons, but not kill him.

This was a common issue concerning veterans, too widespread to investigate and solve, so the government offered “assistance” by letting their damaged veterans stay in free housing, eating government bread. The bare necessities of life were granted freely, in gratitude for their service. The rest of what makes life worth living was left to the veterans themselves.

The place Kip, Chuck, and I shared was a cubic concrete room, one of hundreds in a massive housing edifice that looked exactly like the buildings on either side of it. The plain concrete structures spread themselves over a section of the city like a gray mold. Other patches like this one would be in other places around the city.

As each one represented its own kind of slum, the government had chosen to space them out so as not to create one large area of unstable people that could become a focal point for riots and crime.

While good in theory, it mostly meant there was nowhere in the city a person could go to be far away from the slums.

It was one of my favorite places to live.

For someone without an identity, living among the insane was a breath of fresh air.

I could ask a thousand questions about the world, its history, and its workings, and it would be no stranger than Kip with his talking plant, or Gilda down the hall, who was purportedly visited by aliens every evening as soon as she was alone.

Oddly, these aliens did not seem very interested in world domination or scientific study. Rather, they most often discussed recipes. During the day, she made these recipes. The results could almost be considered proof of alien life, namely, the kind of alien life that enjoys gravel in many of their meals.

Most people avoided Gilda.

Frankly, everybody generally avoided everyone else. While on most worlds, slums gave rise to gangs and the evils that came with them, these slums made out of broken people were much less cohesive. The various states of mental degradation had produced a population of loners.

Of course, that rule had plenty of exceptions. Little pockets of people formed here and there as they found others like them, friends who could understand. Apparently, Kip had found that in me. He hadn’t participated in the larger community at all, preferring the company of his plant, Chuck. So I had accepted his invitation to share their little space with great reverence and gratitude. That had been two months ago.

Since that time, nothing at all had happened. We sat and stared at walls, had lively discussions with Chuck about when the weather would change, and did our best to avoid accepting any food from Gilda.

In my eons of wandering, I had often spent long periods of time without any story to observe, but I had usually spent that time walking, driven always by my compulsion to set one foot in front of the other. Only the compelling allure of a story could ever distract me enough to overcome that basic drive.

In this place, however, there didn’t seem to be any story going on. I’m sure there had been many during the war, but everything had remained quiet since, as the wounded lands tried to piece together the wreckage they had wrought on each other.

Still, I stayed on. I had an instinct for stories, a deeper sense of great events on the horizon. That instinct blared away in my head like a siren now. It had drawn me to this land, this slum, and even to this apartment. I had never felt a story draw me so powerfully.

And yet, there was no story here.

I had waited two months. Nothing had transpired at all. Nobody arrived, nobody left, and the greater powers of the land stayed quiet. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to leave. The instinct that had drawn me here didn’t even like to let me leave the apartment, even if there had been somewhere better to go.

I was waiting for something, I just didn’t know what.

So now that you understand that Chuck isn’t really a talking plant, I can continue with my story. When Chuck speaks, it is actually Kip telling me what Chuck said. However, in honor of Kip, I refuse to write the entire story with him parroting a plant. So Chuck will retain his own voice for the remainder of my tale.

“You want to get something to eat?” asked Chuck. “I’m starving.”

“How can you be starving when all you need is water and light?” Kip shot back.

“Because I’m not getting any water and light, that’s why!”

Kip opened his mouth to argue back, but found no holes in Chuck’s logic. Instead he turned his attention to me.

“I suppose we could go get something. Do you want anything, Phillip?”

Phillip, in this case, was me. I had been Phillip all week, and it was looking like it might stick. When Kip and I had first met and I suggested that he pick a name for me, he had been positively delighted. However, his excitement about being able to name me had been too much for him, apparently. He had changed his mind many times over the past couple months.

In the space of about eight weeks, I had been called Sam, Curly, Tom, Betty (a confusing time for all involved), Roy, Mathias, Kilak, and a host of others. None of the names had lasted more than a day or two.

Not that this had led to much confusion. Chuck’s name was set, as was Kip’s, so I knew that any name spoken that wasn’t one of these was likely referring to me, as there was never anyone else in the apartment.

“Sure,” I responded. “I could go for some cake.”

“Cake,” in this context was the slang term for the standard government welfare bread. It was available free for anyone who asked at any of the multiple distribution centers around the city. The government fortified with all the proteins, vitamins, minerals, and calories necessary to sustain life. A man could live on cake and nothing else and show virtually no ill effects.

It also tasted a bit like dried out paper pulp, both dry and dense. The residents in this building occasionally held informal challenges to see who might be able to eat an entire loaf of it without using any water. Usually, these challenges ended with no winners; the stuff simply had to be washed down with water or it wasn’t going down at all.

The government had also dyed it red with a cheap food dye that rubbed off in the mouth and left people walking around with red-colored tongues, as if they had just finished a cherry popsicle. The officials had mumbled some sort of rationalization for this, but the real reason was so that only the truly needy would depend on the bread.

In this society, a red mouth was a sign of poverty and shame. The wealthy of the city went to great lengths to make sure no red foods were served at any of their high society parties. It was a simple but effective welfare system, ensuring that none would starve, at least not against their will.

“Are you coming along this time?” Kip asked hopefully. I shook my head apologetically. In the beginning of our friendship, I went along with him on these little errands the few times he left the apartment, and he had been very glad of the company.

Lately, however, the pull had been growing even stronger. The last couple days, I couldn’t even bring myself to leave the room. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen any moment.

It had gotten to the point that I even had a fair idea where it was going to happen in the room. There was a spot towards the back corner that had become like a glowing beacon in my mind. I had even gone so far as to rearrange the room to leave the spot clear.

What was going to happen, on the other hand, I had no idea. For the past two months, this had been one of the dullest spots I had ever stayed in, broken up only by occasional arguments between Chuck and Kip about how Chuck’s humming kept Kip awake at night.

“How about you, Chuck, you coming?” Kip looked hopefully towards the broad leaves of the stubby plant. He listened for a moment, then brightened. He gathered up the plant and the two of them left the room, leaving me to myself.

I stared expectantly at the spot in the room where the story would commence. I felt like a kid waiting in line for a roller coaster ride. Every instinct in my body screamed at me that the story was starting, right here, right now. However, every sense told me that I was sitting alone in a quiet concrete box on a peaceful planet.

That’s when the sound started.

Chapter Two

The currency of dreams and great causes is risk.

-Musings of the Historian

It started out soft, a high-pitched whisper that I felt more than I heard. The sound was oddly familiar, though I couldn’t figure out where I had heard it before. It was like one crystal being scraped across another.

Over the next hour, the sound grew louder, emanating from the empty spot in the room. I couldn’t see anything making any noise, but now the sound was loud enough to be heard easily. Much louder and it would start being noticeable in the surrounding rooms.

As it grew louder, the tone changed, becoming rougher and more grating. If one could imagine the sound of glass being torn like a sheet of paper, that’s what it sounded like–a piercing crystalline distortion.

My spine tingled with excitement and the energy in the room. I couldn’t keep the broad smile from my face. Whatever this was, it was going to be big.

Neighbors started to gather around the door, which Kip had left open. Security could be lax when there was nothing worth stealing. As expected, the sound had drawn them like a siren song. Not by its beauty, of course, the sound was terrible to hear. At high volume, it now vibrated right in people’s bones and skulls, a resonance of reality.

They held back from actually coming into the room, as if the concrete walls and open door might somehow form a barrier to protect them from whatever otherworldly presence was approaching.

Kip returned just as the air started to bend. He shouldered through the crowd, shouting both his and Chuck’s questions, two loaves of cake under one arm and Chuck under the other. No one answered him because there were no answers to be given.

He finally broke through the crush of bystanders to stand in his own room once again. His jaw stood slack and even Chuck was speechless. The air had somehow thickened around the spot where the sound emanated and was now closer in appearance to water.

The thickened air started to swirl in two directions at once. As if on cue, everyone watching blinked and shook their heads, like people seeing an optical illusion. The air swirled both inward and outward at the same time.

It seemed impossible, but it was happening all the same. Suddenly, people found it very hard to watch and many turned away, holding their hands up to their eyes.

I myself was transfixed. Being impossible myself, I couldn’t help but feel a little kinship to this anomaly. Anyone who ever looked directly into my eyes often felt similarly disconcerted. The human mind was built to perceive things according to the laws of physics, so anything that didn’t match up often caused the mind to skip or lag, like a computer encountering an error in its programming.

For me, it was perfectly clear what was happening. The air was separating from itself; that’s why it appeared to be spiraling in both directions at once. Physics generally demanded that when one thing left, another thing would fill its place. That wasn’t happening here. The empty spaces were remaining as the air pushed and pulled itself out of the way, forming a two-dimensional gap like a large circle.

Abruptly, the sound stopped and the circle solidified, the edges taking on a solid look and the center filling with images that didn’t belong in the apartment.

The images were blurry and obscured, like looking through a broken magnifying glass, but it was clear enough that we were now looking into some other world or reality.

No one watching had any context for such an event, so even the chattering at the doorway was minimal. Some took it as a bad sign and slipped away, likely not stopping until they had left the building entirely.

Most of us remained, staring at the spectacle and waiting to witness whatever would come next. It took nearly half an hour before anything changed.

A shape took form in the circle, growing larger until the images warped around it and it pressed against the barrier. The glass-ripping sound returned for a fraction of a second and then the figure burst through, tripping as it emerged and landing on all fours in the middle of the room.

The face rose. It was a beautiful woman with strong features. Her eyes locked on me, being the closest bystander.

“Take me to your leader.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I groaned softly, though not softly enough.

“This is no joke, I assure you,” the woman continued. She rose up onto her knees, but remained there, as if begging. “I must talk to whoever or whatever is in charge of this world as soon as possible! Why would I joke about such a thing?!”

“I didn’t mean…” I started, but Kip interrupted me.

“What did she say?” His voice held equal measures of horror and awe. I realized at that moment that I had made a mistake. I understood everyone on every world I visited and they had always understood me. Clearly there must have been many different languages, but where I heard them all the same, I had no way of telling them apart.

Obviously this new visitor would be speaking an entirely different language than the many people assembled around her, but only I had understood. Worse, I had already shown that I understood. Nothing for it now, I thought to myself, I’ll have to figure out some way of explaining this later.

“She said she requires an audience with the government.”

“That’s not what I said!” protested the woman.

“Maybe not exactly, but I’m not going to say what you said,” I retorted.

“Why not? This is very important, I assure you!”

“I don’t doubt it, I just didn’t want to say…”

“What’s she saying now?” Kip interrupted again.

“She’s saying I didn’t translate her directly,” I explained.

“Well, you didn’t,” the woman shot in.

“So what did she really say?” Kip pressed.

I sighed, feeling more than a little silly.

“She said, ‘take me to your leader.’”

Kip nodded solemnly, approached the woman, and put Chuck down in front of her. He then stood and made a grand sweeping gesture, like a steward introducing a king.

“Dear lady, this is Chuck, our leader. He says he is honored to make your acquaintance.”

The woman looked at Chuck, then up at Kip, then to me.

“Why did this man give me a plant? Am I supposed to eat it?” She reached a hand forward, about to rip off a leaf.

“No!” I shouted, maybe a little bit too loudly, as Kip and the woman jumped. Both looked at me expectantly for an explanation.

The absurdity of the situation hit me all at once, and I looked down at my feet, hiding my smile. My whole body shook with the contained laughter. The room was deathly silent, all eyes on me, which only made the situation that much funnier. I laughed until tears ran from my eyes.

I finally managed to rein in my laughter when Kip and the woman both started looking deeply annoyed at my irreverence. However, I had no intention of telling the woman that the plant was being presented as supreme ruler of this world. I also had no intention of letting Kip think that this woman had ripped through time and space to come eat his houseplant.

Only distraction remained.

“What is your name, dear lady?” I asked, bringing the conversation back to where it should have started before it got derailed by cliché demands and houseplant overlords.

“My name is Yrris.” she said, finally standing and composing herself. “I am First Lady of Argoth. I volunteered to be first through the Vortex. I’ll confess I am a little surprised to be alive.”

She said this last with a trace of a relieved smile, the first sign of relaxation from her. Kip sidled over to me and tugged on my sleeve, a silent request for translation.

“Her name is Yrris,” I explained.

“Seemed like she said more than that,” he accused.

“I gave you the short version,” I shrugged. He scowled at me for a moment before turning his attention back to Yrris. He gave her his broadest smile and pointed to his own chest.

“KIP!” he shouted at her. She took a defensive step back at the sudden shout. He repeated the gesture and the shout. She looked at me, threads of panic on her face.

“Have I done something wrong? If I have, please help me make amends. My people need your help desperately.”

“You have done nothing wrong, milady.” I spoke in soft, soothing tones. “He was merely introducing himself. His name is Kip.”

She looked back at him and granted him a careful smile.

“Kip?” she said. He nodded enthusiastically. She then pointed to her own chest, mimicking his motions, “YRRIS!”

I heard a murmur behind me and I remembered the people gathered at the door. It occurred to me that this scene must be quite frightening to them, especially now that people had started shouting. Kip, however, was beaming at his new-found powers of communication.

He pointed at me next.

“PHILLIP!” he shouted. She nodded politely and turned to me to shout her own name, having adapted quickly to this odd custom. I bit my tongue to stop myself from laughing again.

“CHUCK!” he finished, pointing proudly down at the plant. This brought her up short as she was once again confronted with the plant. She looked at me for an explanation, but I was only barely keeping it together.

“The plant’s name is Chuck,” I offered before I had to go back to biting my tongue. Her eyes stayed on my face a moment longer, trying to discern if maybe this was some sort of bizarre joke. My manic chuckling didn’t help.

Finally, she squared her shoulders and shouted her name one more time, this time to the plant.

Once the formalities had been observed, she turned back to her original request.

“Who leads this world?” she asked me.

“There’s a parliamentary form of government with two primary branches,” I explained to her, drawing on my very limited knowledge of the local leadership. “So there’s not just one leader, though I suppose the Minister would probably have the most pull. In truth, this world itself is not fully united, there are different factions who war against each other.”

She looked especially distraught about this last tidbit of news.

“Then who would I talk to about helping us?” Despair laced her voice and it was more a plea for help than a true request for information.

“I wouldn’t worry too much about that, milady. Someone will be in touch with us shortly.”

“How do you know that? Have you signaled someone?”

“There’s no need. Human nature will take care of notifying the right people. By now, the scared people in the hallway will have contacted the local constable. He will be here momentarily.”

“And I will talk to him?”

“Heavens no. Chances are, we won’t even see him. He will only come as far as is necessary to verify the stories he’s been told. He will then decide that it’s too much trouble for him and he will dash to tell his supervisor.”

“And I will talk to the supervisor?” she pressed, anxious for an answer. While I sensed she was in a hurry, I knew full well that there was no way to hurry the process, so I took my time explaining.

“I’m afraid not. The supervisor will follow the exact same course as the constable and come to the same conclusion. The pattern will repeat itself many times over as the message of your arrival moves up the chain of command.”

“Until it reaches the leader?” she asked hopefully. I shook my head again.

“Until it reaches someone willing to take ownership of the situation. It might not be the leader of the nation here, but it will be someone with power and a burning ambition to acquire more.”

She looked fully unnerved at my explanation. Her eyes even darted back towards the portal for a moment, checking her escape route.

“Someone like that would be a very dangerous person, yes?”

I smiled and leaned forward, meeting her gaze. She averted her eyes from meeting mine, but I knew I had her full attention.

“Yes, it will be a very dangerous person indeed who comes to talk to you. But then, that’s exactly what you came looking for, wasn’t it?”

Chapter Three

The line between technology and magic is a thin one.

-Musings of the Historian

Her eyes flashed back to mine and narrowed. The suspicious look passed immediately, but a cold curiosity remained.

“Maybe I am talking to a dangerous man right now,” she said softly.

“Maybe,” I agreed. “But not in this story. I am no danger to you or your enemies.”

Hmph,” she grunted. Either she did not believe me, or she was a bit disappointed. It was hard to tell.

“Okay, what has she said so far?” Kip was back in the conversation now. He had been busying himself around the apartment as if making it appropriate for company. Some sort of ribbon was pinned on his shirt. On a uniform, it likely would have looked impressive. On his shirt, it looked more like something that had landed there by mistake and needed to be brushed off. Still, he puffed his chest out proudly as he rejoined our little group.

From out in the hallway, I heard new footsteps and a whispered conference. The constable had shown up. I glanced out in the hallway and could already see the crisp uniform retreating hastily back the way he had come. The supervisor would know what was happening very soon.

If the constable had a solid reputation, this would go a lot faster. If not, the supervisor would insist on coming to check the situation himself before passing it up the line.

Luck must have been with us, because we never saw the supervisor or any other middlemen. It took only about half an hour before a real commotion started.

Slate gray uniforms filled the hall like a smoke grenade. Soldiers pointed weapons and shouted. The people still crowded in the hallway were quickly and efficiently rounded up and herded away like cattle, undoubtedly to be quarantined, questioned, and tested.

Yrris stood up, worry on her face. Kip moved between her and the door protectively. I motioned them both to sit back down.

“This is only the lightning, a bright flash. Wait for the thunder.”

Both of them sat back down, but neither of them looked comforted as we watched the building locked down under military control. The room itself was left entirely alone. A few soldiers dared to glance in, but even they looked away as if stung.

I guessed that their orders were to not pay any attention to the room at all. The fact that they looked so guilty when their discipline slipped told me that the orders were given by someone they feared.

A dangerous man.

Finally, the hallways were cleared of civilians and most of the soldiers left as well, only a couple remaining behind as guards.

Then the door at the end of the hallway opened and new footsteps approached down the corridor. These new steps weren’t hurried; they had the steady cadence of a military march. When they rounded the corner and we could see the party, I was surprised at how young the man was. I had expected someone with more gray in his hair, but this man was likely still in his thirties.

He was flanked by two attendants, a man and a woman who looked to their leader occasionally as if trying to read his thoughts, anticipate his needs.

They took the room in with a single glance. Not that it was much of a task. Even taking into account the bizarre portal in the corner, it was still a very small and plain room. The male attendant produced a folding chair and set it down for the man in the middle. He declined to sit, however.

“I am Colonel Daws,” he stated, addressing himself directly to our new visitor. While still human, she certainly had a different look about her than the local populace.

Her head was a little wider at the forehead and slimmer at the chin, giving her face the appearance of a triangle pointing down. The effect was not pronounced or unpleasant, however. She was still quite pretty.

Yrris looked to me for a translation.

“He says his name is Colonel Daws.”

She nodded and stood. She pointed to her chest and I smiled.

“YRRIS!” she yelled. The two attendants started at the sudden outburst, as if they had been expecting an attack. The Colonel was unmoved. In fact, he hadn’t seemed to notice at all. As soon as I had repeated what he had said to her, his eyes had locked on me like a cat eyeing a mouse.

“Why repeat what I said?” he asked me.

“So the Lady Yrris could understand.” I bobbed my head submissively, keeping my eyes down.

“But you didn’t say anything different,” he pointed out.

“So it would seem, Colonel.”

“So she understands our language?”

“No, Colonel.”

“But she understands you.” His eyes continued to bore into me, suspicion furrowing his brow.

“Yes, Colonel,” I bobbed my head again.

“Why?” The word was loaded with equal measures of curiosity and accusation.

“I don’t know! I was just waiting here for Kip and Chuck to get back with cake, and then Chuck started going off about how Kip doesn’t get him enough sun…” I rambled off an incoherent narrative and Daws cut me off again.

“Where is Chuck?” The attendants were already combing through papers they produced from legal looking cases. Most likely the papers were a catalogue of the tenants that had been taken away.

“He’s right there,” I pointed down to the plant at Yrris’s feet.

“Pleasure to meet you,” said Chuck.

The Colonel’s narrowed eyes now turned on Kip, who had of course supplied the voice to Chuck’s friendly salutation.

“And I’m Kip,” Kip offered.

The female attendant found a paper and held it up for the Colonel. He scanned it briefly and turned back to Kip.

“Pleasure to meet you and Chuck, Kip. Thank you for letting us use your apartment.” The Colonel’s military stiffness faded in a second and he was all charm. Kip smiled broadly at the Colonel’s friendly manner.

“Of course! Anything to help,” Kip answered.

“You can count on us,” Chuck added.

“And what is your name?” Daws turned his attention back to me.

“I can’t remember,” I shrugged. “I think somebody took it away from me.”

Kip nodded enthusiastically. “We call him Phillip, but you can change it if you want to, he doesn’t mind.”

“Phillip is fine. Nice to meet you, Phillip.” Daws inclined his head in a slight bow, though I didn’t miss the added suspicion in his eyes. It wasn’t over between Daws and me, but he was picking his battles.

“Could you please tell Lady Yrris that we are happy that she has chosen to visit us? Then please ask her why she has chosen to come here.”

I could feel Daws’s frustration as I seemingly repeated back the same words in the same language to Yrris. Still, she lit up once I was done and struck right at the heart of the matter.

“My people need help and your people need to be warned, so I have come through the Vortex as an ambassador from my people.”

When I had translated this for Colonel Daws, he breathed deeply to the sound of his two attendants scribbling away rapidly on fresh sheets of paper behind him.

“What is the danger you face?” he asked through me.

“Our world is ruled by the Tanniks.” Her eyes flicked nervously to the Vortex behind her as she said the name. Daws caught the meaning behind the glance even before I had finished translating. A whispered command sent the male attendant out the door and running down the hall.

Unless I had greatly underestimated the Colonel, the building would be surrounded by their heaviest weaponry within the hour, if it wasn’t already.

“The Vortex is the source of their power, though we have never seen it open like this. They use this power to enslave us all; we are a world of cattle.”

Kip laid a hand on her shoulder in solidarity as I translated this newest bit of information. I’m sure the thought of her being enslaved made him quite sad. The Colonel, however, had drawn entirely different conclusions from the same story.

“What is this power they are drawing from our world?”

“They use it to fuel their magic.”

The Colonel scowled at me again when I translated this, thinking that I was messing with the translation. Still, it wasn’t the time to argue with the only translator he had, even if he didn’t understand how parroting back his words counted as translating.

“What kind of magic do they possess?” he asked, trying to work his way around my mistranslation to get a description of whatever technology these aliens used.

“Each Tannik specializes in its own type of magic. Most of them dominate through pure elemental force, but there are those whose powers are simply beyond description.”

The Colonel waved this aside with a shake of his head. Her subjective views on the Tanniks’ power didn’t give him any useable intelligence.

“Could you give me an example of their magic?” he asked instead, trying again for some objective view of the threat.

Yrris shrugged once she understood his request.

“I can’t give any example that would be close to their power, but I suppose it would look similar to this.”

I never got a chance to translate what she said, because even as she said it, she put her hands out in front of her and turned them palms up. Instantly, the air rushed upward through her hands like a wind tunnel.

The female attendant staggered backwards and Kip tripped over his chair. Only the Colonel and I leaned forward to get a closer look at the display.

Once she had the momentum going, she focused the air currents into a tight spiral that barely disturbed the air in the rest of the apartment. She used the pressures to lift Chuck off the ground, buoying him up with the rapidly cycling air.

She then gently lowered him to the ground, letting the air currents weaken in intensity until Chuck’s pot clattered softly to rest on the concrete. She turned her hands back down and shrugged again.

“As I said, it’s not much. Shawen, the Air Tannik, could rip a mountain from its roots.”

Main Menu