SEOH looked up from his rare wood desk–real mahogany wood –where he’d been scanning the latest hologram report on production in City Three as Rustaad entered his office. “Your message said there’d been developments in the Sphere.”

“Odd ones.”

Pushing back in his chair, SEOH rested his elbows on the chair arms. “Vid report or a Scout report?”

“Scout. We lost one today. A croggle attack.”

“How could that happen when they have full control over summoning the beasts?”

“Phen T-112 said his Scout partner accidentally hit the button while they were in the middle of transender landing space Zulu.”

“Accidentally? No TecKnati can be that stupid.”

“T-112 explained it as the other Scout ‘fooling around’ with the MystiK child they were delivering.”

Idiot. “In that case, the croggle did us a favor by eliminating a waste product.” He turned back to his hologram.

Rustaad gave a mild smile of agreement. “I’ve called for an immediate review of all Scouts being sent into the Sphere to determine future suitability.”

“How did Phen T-112 stop a croggle with the stun unit?”

“He didn’t. A foursome of the older MystiKs attacked the croggle and took T-112 captive.”

SEOH slammed his fist down on the chair arm. “Did they get any information out of him?”

“No. Fortunately, this worked in our favor. The MystiK we planted in the Sphere freed T-112 and sent information with him.”

Easing back against the plush leather only the elite TecKnati enjoyed, SEOH chuckled. “They’re too stupid to realize we’d put one loyal to us among them.”

“Perhaps, but that’s not the odd part of the report. He claims there are interlopers in the Sphere.”

Too impossible to consider. “Were there any unauthorized transender trips to Komaen?”

“Not from here. Our security system released no alert of a transender traveling from here to the Sphere or back without authorized hand recognition. But when I looked closely, our system picked up a transender landing in the Sphere that did not originate here.”

“What? Did someone hijack one of ours?”

“I don’t know. Every person is scanned for identification when they leave home base and when they exit a transender upon return to home base. I ran a thorough check on the systems. Nothing shows up.”

SEOH pounded his desk. “If it’s a closed world–and it damn well better still be–where did interlopers come from...and are they MystiK?”

“Two questions I can’t answer as yet, but I will very soon. The Scout said one of the strangers that fought the croggle killed it on her own, with nothing more than stabbing a stick into the beast. Next thing the beast exploded into flames. That’s far more powerful than anyone we anticipated having in the Sphere.”


“Yes, her.”

SEOH mulled over everything Rustaad had shared and decided he’d been too lenient with this program. “These brats are more versatile and adaptable than we anticipated. It’s time we changed the plan.”

“To what?”

“They’ve had it too easy playing in their village that we set up for them with no real trials. I have something in mind that’ll test the best from their Warrior House.” He paused, then added, “Mathias should be out of the equation by now, right?”


“Then what I have in mind will be quite entertaining and even more of a challenge. Call a meeting of the Sphere engineers for tonight. I want changes made. Now.”

“Is it worth another meeting with the board to approve the expense?”

SEOH hadn’t reached this point to lose. He could not allow anyone to come and go into that Sphere who could put everything at risk. “I’d pay out of my pocket to see the face of the one called Callan confront what I have in mind. His Warrior House is a bigger worry than those blasted Governing MystiKs. They’re enough of a pain in my side, but Callan has some paying up to do.”

Rustaad moved to leave.

SEOH’s voice stopped him. “Plus I want those Sphere interlopers caught and brought to me. I can’t imagine a MystiK figuring out how to get inside the Sphere, but let me find out the intruders are TecKnati...and blood will run.”

“Very well. I’ll arrange the meeting in the battle room.” Rustaad indicated the soundproof room where SEOH brought his most loyal and brightest minds to discuss things the board would never know about.

When Rustaad turned to leave again, SEOH added, “Wait. I have good news.”

“Oh?” Rustaad paused, completely still. At times it appeared the man didn’t breathe.

“Another sign that the Byzantine Institute in the past is on track.”

“Do we know if they found the Genera-Y computer?”

“Unfortunately not yet. If only we could communicate directly with them.” SEOH shook his head at the frustration of having operatives who were assigned a mission but could not make contact with anyone in the future. “But no matter, we did receive verification that the genetic monitoring program is performing just the way we intended. They’ve clearly begun to identify MystiK ancestors and have the female Bio-Genetics Research Center up and running at the Institute.”

He smiled at Rustaad’s raised brows, adding, “It’s true. I received a report today that several entire families of MystiKs in three cities disappeared. These must be descendants of females going through the Bio-Genetic program in the past.”

“No TecKnati children missing?”

“Not a one.”

Rustaad actually grinned. “My admiration SEOH, the egg removal program works.”

“Absolutely. I wish there was a way to communicate with the agents we sent back to the year 2009 to let them know the eggs they’ve removed from MystiK ancestors have wiped out entire lines.”

“The agents we sent are exceptional scientists and well-trained TecKnati who’ll continue to perform their jobs regardless, even if they never learn of the results. This is outstanding. And neutralizing MystiKs this way defies their power, because the treaty’s specific words were ‘no TecKnati shall kill a MystiK born since A.C.E. 2127.’ Fools weren’t bright enough to consider that the treaty did not prevent sending someone into the past to prevent a MystiK birth.” His grin deepened.

Caught up in Rustaad’s unusual show of emotion, SEOH even chuckled, more than pleased with the results of his plan. “Our agents in the Byzantine Institute have clearly reproduced ANASKO technology for engineering the removal of eggs from a female without leaving a mark on her body.”

“MystiK female ancestors will not suspect they’ve been sterilized. Excellent.”



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