Chapter Thirty Five

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Kiris touched the pod, and the miracle machine opened. Jaquan groaned, much like a man stirred from a nap.

"I'm going to need some help here," the mechanic muttered with a bit of a slur.

"He'll stay drunk for a little bit longer," Kiris said.

"'m not... drunk..." the man replied.

Gaylen took his left arm and helped him out of the pod. The terrible burn wound had been replaced with smooth, reddish, hairless flesh. It was as if he'd received a transplant from a baby.

"Still can't really... move it," Jaquan commented, looking down on his right arm.

"That's on purpose," Kiris said. "Give your new nerves some time to adjust."

"Right."

Gaylen helped him put the coat back on. There was a hidden camera in the connecting room, and a screen on the wall showed it to be empty. Kiris opened their side of the hidden door, then closed it behind them again.

"I think I can walk on my own," Jaquan said.

Gaylen let go of him experimentally, and after a bit of swaying Jaquan managed it. He really did look drunk, but no worse than that.

"Herdis?" Gaylen said into his comm, kept silent until now.

"We're fine," the woman said.

"We're on our way back."

Almost a full day spent inside that dull little room with no entertainment and nothing to do made stepping out into the hallways again quite an ambivalent experience; great relief mixed with tension.

There was less foot traffic by the locals, and generally things had settled down somewhat. But the soldiers were still present, and very deliberately visible at intersections. What locals he did see looked tired and nervous, and two people stood and radiated impotent frustration as Ulaka soldiers wheeled containment boxes out of a storage.

"Taxation", presumably.

They were just out of Kelan Unn Ter's territory when a door opened, and out stepped a man in a fancier version of the green and white uniform. It had a golden symbol on the front torso, and instead of a helmet it was topped by a green and gold cap.

The man was accompanied by three soldiers, and his eyes fastened on them. Gaylen sensed that he was to stop, and did so.

"I don't think I've met you three yet," the man said.

He stood with his hands behind his back, radiating authority through his bearing and satisfaction with the fact through his face. His gaze wandered to Kiris. She'd covered up as usual, but her golden skin and eyes were still plainly visible.

"No. I definitely haven't."

"No," Gaylen said. "We've just been resting.

"I am Commander Gama Treko, and I head the Ulaka Authority. Were you the ones who arrived after we set up our blockade?"

"We are," Gaylen replied.

"Outside Hangar 8, wasn't it?" the commander said.

He gestured down along a corridor. The one leading to the hangar.

"Let's go for a walk."

"Sure."

Treko let the three of them walk on ahead, then followed along with his three soldiers. There was nothing to do but go along with it, and nothing to say during the short walk.

"Now, why does someone..." Treko said slowly as they stepped out into the hangar, "... set down on a planet being blockaded?"

"We needed a recharge," Gaylen said. "And it's not like I have anything to hide."

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