Tishla's JourneyTishla questioned the wisdom of coming to Cyal when they reached the foothills. Overhead, an elevated maglev line snaked out of the mountains beside the pitted road they traveled. They rode in a human vehicle converted for Gelt use. Having seen such conversions on Hanar, she guessed the natives would not recognize the vehicle as one of their own. She did recognize the large railgun weapon held by one of the humans standing in the middle of the road. “Kuna, stop!”

Kuna did not stop. The pavement, what remained of it, exploded in front of them, lifting the frontend of the vehicle for a moment. Her teeth clacked together as it dropped back to the ground. Her ears rang.

The humans charged at them. “Get out. Put your hands up. Do not show your weapons except to drop them. I know these people. They’ll kill you on sight.”

“We live here, Rayna,” said Dopak. “We know.” They climbed out with their shock pistols at their sides.

Stupid thing to do, she thought, when two men are charging at you with assault rifles. She dove out of the vehicle and dove into the bushes beneath the maglev.

Shots rang out in staccato bursts. Tishla closed her eyes. I’ve failed Kai. I failed my daughter. Right now, more than anything, she wanted to suckle Athena one last time. Palak, please keep your promise.

Something moved in the bushes in the direction she had come. Without thinking, she unsheathed Kai’s dagger. Only for a fleeting moment did she consider killing the human. Her trembling convinced her she would die instantly. As the human emerged, she turned the dagger so that she held it by the blade, hoping not to cut herself.

He was young, late teens or early twenties based on how slowly humans developed. He might have been a boy. Pale, like Colt, but with a mess of shaggy brown hair, she might have found him handsome if they met on Hanar. Yet his blue eyes, the eye color that unsettled Gelt the most in humans, bore into her like lasers. This was one who had suffered much. The scowl told her that suffering had come from her people. Tishla had grown up a servant, not a Warrior. So, she did what servants did.

She knelt.

One hand held the knife out, point aimed at her heart. The other went out from her side, palm out. She hoped this one understood the Gelt gesture of surrender. She wanted to say, “I am your servant.”

Her first thought was to say it in Humanic, to make a connection. She caught herself. As she reformulated the thought in the Mother Tongue, she stopped herself again. Better he not know what she could and could not do.

He took the knife from her. “Get up.” Patting the top of his head, then making an upward gesture, he said, “Hands on your head.”

She made a show of giving him a questioning look before standing and putting her hands on her head. He nudged her with the rifle he carried, one she had learned on Hanar to be a “KR-27.” For a slug thrower, it was an impressive weapon.

The human marched her out to the road. She gasped when she spotted the bodies. The other human stood over the bodies of Dopak and Kuna. He looked younger than this first one, skin somewhat darker, eyes shaped slightly different. Hanarian humans called this type “Asiatic,” though he was also what humans meant when they said, “Tianese.”

“Look what I found,” said her captor.

The Tianese one cocked his head as he looked her over. “You didn’t kill her?”

“Let Suicide decide what to do with her. She may be useful.”

They wanted her to kill herself? Or was “Suicide” someone’s battle name?

“And Suicide’s going to flip.”

So, Suicide was a person. She wondered what kind of man called himself “Suicide.”

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