Chapter Seventeen

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"Did I just hear another one coming loose?" Ayna asked around her shoulder.

"You did," Kiris told her. "That's three out of four."

"And they're all good?"

"I don't have the equipment needed to state that as a fact. But on a surface level... yes, the coils look fine."

"Good."

Ayna looked to the left, down the hallway and at the chemical glowstick they'd dropped for Kiris's benefit and to mark the way back.

Almost out of here.

The squeaks of Kiris's tinkering continued, as she carefully worked the fasteners around the final coil. Ayna continued her watch. The distant glow of that stick, as well as the ones Kiris had lit in the engine room, was all Ayna needed for perfect clarity. But a big ship had plenty of turns and doorways and corridors. There were plenty of spots danger could spring from.

At least Kiris had agreed to hand over the gun while Ayna guarded the only open door. She would actually have time for a second shot in case of danger.

"I just hope Bers doesn't wander off."

Halfway to the engine room they'd come upon the scene of a deeply penetrating hit from that battle, and the stairs they needed had been utterly destroyed. Rather than wander about in search of another route they'd just agreed that Bers would wait there to pull them back up.

"He doesn't strike me as duplicitous," Kiris told her. "Or stupid, even. Just different."

"Is that your official Chanei verdict?"

"If you want to call it that."

Ayna automatically suppressed a smile.

"I know people tend to say this about Dwyyk, but: It's simply eerie how much you notice."

"It's just observation," came Kiris's voice through the doorway. "Collating the data from all the little ticks and clues."

She was silent for a moment.

"Us subtypes were designed for a purpose. Or so they say."

Ayna shrugged, although the Chanei couldn't see it.

"Those Pure Blood bastards insist Dwyyk were created by the First Civilisation to be assassins and spies. And not to... you know... adapt to a very dangerous world."

"Well, it's a bit different for us," Kiris said.

Ayna cringed a bit.

"Chanei, the..."

She hated that her tongue caught in this moment.

"Sex pets?" Kiris said.

"I was... going to say... concubines."

How did I end up in this spot?

"The Kingdom's nobility insists we were engineered by the First Civilisation to be their slaves," Kiris said in a dull tone. "That freedom is unnatural to us."

"They would say that," Ayna said.

"Of course they would. They wouldn't want to lose beautiful obedient lovers and status symbols."

Kiris paused for a short while, and Ayna just let her.

"Of course... they might be right. About the Chanei being designed to be servile. I mean, who is to say those ancient bastards didn't? We probably were always intended to be slaves, and who is to say the First weren't thorough?"

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