Chapter 17 (part 3 of 3)

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Even now, only their fear of Gallen held the locals at bay. Except for Jagget. Jagget alone seemed to be a true patriot, and he was begging for Gallen to end it all. Set this world afire rather than leave it in the hands of the Dronon Empire. Perhaps he knew the hearts of his people too well.

In that one moment, Gallen would have freed the nanotech warriors within the Terror, if he had had the ability. Jagget walked up to him, grabbed Gallen's wrist, shook it so that the Terror fell to the ground. He stared into Gallen's eyes.

"You can't do it, can you?" Jagget whispered fiercely, as if Gallen had just betrayed all of his hopes. "You've got only one Terror, and you're trying to get it to Dronon—just as Maggie said."

Jagget spun, spoke to his soldiers. "I'll be escorting these people to their destination."

"Sir," one young woman objected, "shouldn't we report their capture to Lord Kintal?"

"You may report it to the dronon bastards if you wish," Jagget said calmly with just the slightest hint of a threat. "But of course, our orders to stop these people were based upon the false assumption that they had many Terrors in their possession. Since that report is obviously spurious, we have no reason to detain them."

The woman looked at him warily, took a step back. "I'll report that everything was quiet on my shift," she said. "May I take a car thereafter, along with my personal leave?"

"Yes," Jagget said. "I think that would be wise."

"You mentioned Maggie," Veriasse said to Jagget. "Where is she?" Veriasse had Everynne on the bike, his arms cradled around her. Everynne's eyelids fluttered. She tried to raise her head, struggled to regain consciousness, then fell back.

"She will join us shortly." Jagget unclipped a small commlink from his belt, spoke swiftly in some personal battle code.

"We'll need a room for a few minutes," Veriasse said. "And some hot food."

"Very well," Jagget agreed.

Veriasse lifted Everynne, carried her to the back of the compound, down to a small apartment. There he laid her on a bed, lightly tapping her cheek as she struggled to awaken. A dozen soldiers followed them into the apartment. Veriasse turned on them, shouted for them to leave.

Only Gallen, Veriasse, and Jagget stayed to nurse Everynne. Veriasse removed her robe, turned her on her back. She had two burn marks from the stunners, a light one on her lower back, a severe wound on her neck.

Veriasse caught his breath, pointed to the neck wound. "This one may leave a scar." Jagget went to a sink, returned with some water and began spooning it over Everynne's back. Meanwhile

Veriasse took out his sword, nicked his wrist and let the blood flow over her wounds.

"What are you doing?" Gallen asked.

"The nanodocs in my blood will help heal the skin," Veriasse said. "Unfortunately, the burn has seared the blood vessels at the subdermal level. The nanodocs in her own system will not be able to combat the wound very effectively. I am hoping to prevent a scar."

Gallen sat, and together they watched the wound. Over the next fifteen minutes, much of the burned and blackened skin dissolved; the swollen red welts reduced in size. Everynne finally woke during that time and whimpered at the pain. Veriasse bid her to be still.

At the end of the fifteen minutes, fresh new skin began to grow over the wounds, but there was a distinct red mark on the back of Everynne's neck, shaped like an I.

Veriasse put his head in his hands, sat still for a long time. "I fear," he said heavily, "that all my years of preparation have been jeopardized. Now that the nanodocs have finished knitting the tissues together, we can do nothing to speed the healing process. The blemish should clear in a few days but ... We must delay our trip. Everynne's blemish makes her ineligible to challenge the Lords of the Swarm."

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