1.10 Dead City

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*** Woohoo! I stayed up super-late, but I stayed on my self-imposed schedule and got this chapter done! ***

Alex was a hollowed container encased by a thick hull and surrounded by pressure. He curved his awareness around the streamship, and he had to be gentle. Everyone he cared about was cradled within.

Half of his attention faced outward. Whenever he perceived a missile, he knocked it aside with whipping arms of wind. For concussive shockwaves, he had to reinforce his shield around the ship.

Lightning webbed the sky. That was no threat, just natural phenomena, but it fascinated him. Lightning made him eager to spike out and see how fast and how strong his power could be.

The storm was a temptation. Enormous towers of clouds loomed, forged into frightfully elongated shapes by racing winds. The very air was violent and he wished to join it. He could direct this storm. Make it his own. Winds flowed in ways that he could see and touch, and it would be the simplest matter to ...


He had a heart. He was a person, not a storm. The streamship was his heart, and the rest of him had to be arms, whipping around to form a protective shield.

"Is this world the place where Jonathan Stead freed a thousand slaves?" Kessa asked.

Alex was amazed that he could dimly see her, even with his awareness stretched and busy. He was vaguely aware of his human body. It was a lot to juggle. He was energetic wind surrounding the ship's hull at the same time as being Alexander Dovanack. He hadn't been able to handle this much at once back on the planet Umdalkdul. He was getting more proficient.

"Jonathan Stead escaped from this world?" Kessa asked.

"Yes," Thomas snapped. "More than a hundred years ago. The key takeaway is that no one knows how he did it. I can't tell you how he got free from the Isolatorium, or how he made it to Earth. There's nothing useful in the legend."

Despite Thomas's cross dismissiveness, everyone was paying attention now.

Alex decided to risk withdrawing his protection just a little bit, to lend his human side enough bandwidth to ask some questions. He craved details about Jonathan Stead; the legendary hero who had later established himself as the Dovanack family patriarch. Alex had inherited his storm powers. Maybe, if he was lucky, he might follow in his great-grandfather's footsteps.

"If he did it—" Margo began to say.

"First of all," Thomas said, "Jonathan Stead wasn't bogged down with people he had to protect. He was smart enough to stay solo. Second of all, he didn't attempt to wreck and kill his way towards safety. After he broke free from the Isolatorium, he wisely spent the rest of his life sneaking around and hiding. He never openly killed again. He snuck into that spaceport. And he snuck his way to Earth."

"Even so," Margo said.

"The Torth won't fall for the same tricks twice." Thomas gave her a flat stare. "They won't write us off as dead until they have our corpses in custody, and I'm sorry, but—" he nodded towards Alex "—he isn't built for sneaking."

Margo looked offended on Alex's behalf.

Outside, the lightning had diminished to crackles. The ship gained a plunging, roller-coaster sensation, shuddering from turbulence. Ummins gazed outside with frightened eyes. This no longer resembled the starry night of deep space. Gigantic, ghostly clouds appeared with flashes of lightning, but mostly, the storm had gone pitch black.

Distant lights, brightly artificial, penetrated the gloom. Those must be jumper shuttles and transports. The Torth would not allow them to escape, and there was no way to be stealthy with so many watchful eyes out there.

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