1.5 Son of Storms

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Alex ducked under alien branches, and tried to avoid getting hit in the face with ropey vines. He was all too aware of Margo. She trotted by his side, watching him as if strategizing how to catch him, if he fell.

"How are you feeling?" she asked.

Not like vanquishing an army, he considered telling her. "My shoulders are a little sore," he said.

"That's it?" She sounded impressed. "Most people would need a few weeks to recover physically, from what you went through." She lowered her voice. "Can you feel that ... inhibitor serum?"

"I can hear you," Thomas said from the hovercart. He was a distance away, floating through the widest gaps between trees. The width of the platform forced him to take a meandering path, and his only passenger was Alex's mother. She rode on the back and looked grateful that she didn't have to hike.

"The inhibitor is hobbling Alex, whether he feels it or not," Thomas said. "He shouldn't even think about exploring his powers right now. He doesn't have any skill."

Margo shot a disapproving look towards Thomas. "You know, he built really nice furniture." Her voice was soft, yet firm. "He's figured out how to do that well, and he taught himself."

Alex's face heated up. Margo couldn't possibly be impressed by his rough-hewn giant armchair, couch, table, and bookshelves. Everything he built was unadorned, since he had no taste for filigree or crystal. He liked comfort without worrying about breaking things by accident. But his mother said the sky room furnishings were too plain, and he figured Margo secretly thought the same.

She must be humoring him. She probably didn't want to get on the bad side of the giant with alleged powers.

Up ahead, Kessa had been chatting with the leader of the blue-painted ummins. Now she turned towards Thomas. "Irarjeg says we must leave our vehicle."

Thomas responded rapid-fire in the slave tongue. Alex wished he understood a word of it, because Irarjeg stiffened, as if offended.

"Thomas says the Torth will find our hovercart if we leave it in the open." Margo listened intently, and Alex realized, with surprise, that she was being kind enough to translate for him.

"When the Torth find our hovercart," Margo translated, "they'll destroy everyone in this slave farm."

No wonder Irarjeg and his people looked furious. They had begun to argue amongst themselves.

"Why can't we bring the hovercart?" Alex asked.

Margo listened to a rapid reply from Irarjeg. "Apparently it's too big," she said.

That meant that if there was a hiding place, the hovercart was too wide to fit, which meant Alex and Weptolyso would have trouble cramming themselves in with everyone else.

He saw his concern reflected in the nussian's red eyes. Weptolyso looked resigned, and dipped his head slightly to Alex, as if to acknowledge that they might die together while fighting an army. Alex returned the nod, and Weptolyso looked satisfied.

Irarjeg spoke a command, and blue-painted ummins sprang forth, seizing dead vines and draping jungle debris over the hovercart railing. They were making an attempt to hide it.

"So this is how it ends." Thomas said.

Kessa had another rapid conversation with Irarjeg. She switched fluidly to English. "Get off the hovercart, Thomas. They will bury it for us."

The blue-painted ummins shot mistrustful, angry looks towards Thomas. But they pulled carved scoopers out of their waistband flaps, and began to dig in the sand, ready to bury the vehicle.

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