Remember! This isn't the guaranteed final incarnation, so don't be surprised to see a tweak or two in the final draft :)
Part 1, Chapter 1
“They’re not going to let you graduate. You’re not going to flight-test the first Mechalarum suit.”
Kiellen, crouched on the plasticrete floor of an open platform high in the Citadel’s tallest tower, blinked at Taim as if not able to process his words. She unwound herself from her stretch and carefully rolled her shoulders in silence. Her eyebrows furrowed, and Taim cringed at the gathering storm on her face.
“I don’t understand,” she said.
Taim lowered himself to a squat and looked her straight in the eyes, willing her to believe. “It’s over. You need to get out of here. They’ll be after you soon. There’s no way they’ll let a loose cannon like you wander the Citadel knowing they’ve just trashed your dreams. And you basically have no reason to live by their rules anymore. I mean, to the extent that you did so before, I guess.”
Kiellen put her thumbs under her chin, clasped, her hands, and stared at him for a long moment. Finally, she said, “But they can’t do that. I’m the best.”
“Don’t you get it?” Taim jumped to his feet in frustration. “I’ve lost count of the times I told you to at least pretend like you can follow directions. They don’t give a damn about the height of your jumps and the tightness of your rolls if they don’t have control over your.”
“Hold on a sec,” Kiellen said as extended her left leg and leaned into the stretch. “I’m sure they know that we’re friends. If they really wanted to catch me off guard, wouldn’t they be more secretive about releasing that information to the whole Science sector?”
“They didn’t release it,” Taim dropped his gaze. “I overheard some people talking, and when they wouldn’t tell me what was up, I hacked a little in the system to find out the truth. Here’s the memo they posted.”
Taim stroked two fingers across his left wrist, and a soft light pulsed to life beneath his skin. He looked at his palm, curled his fingers to shape the resulting three-dimensional projection, then used his right hand to manipulate shapes and symbols within it. In a moment, Kiellen’s face popped up in the projection, along with the words “Top Secret” and a lengthy description, the summary of which matched Taim’s words exactly.
Taim had braced himself for Kiellen’s rage. He’d even prepared for her fear, however unlikely that emotion might be. He knew that, in her situation, he’d be terrified by the prospect of the Council hunting him down and banishing him to the will of the constant dust storm that raged just outside the protective nanofiber dome above their heads. But this taut, calculating silence of hers wasn’t something he’d expected, and he didn’t know how to proceed.
From high above them, a low keening started, and soon grew into the wail of an alarm. Taim sucked in his breath and Kiellen’s face paled in the dim glow from the light panels around them. “Are they after me already?”
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