Steve Chou held his breath. Do it! Do it! Step into the circle of judgement!
Six months of cautious surveillance had pinpointed the single most important individual in this horrifically dangerous coalition of worlds, of Empires. Not the only powerful individual—there were a dozen more that could be usefully killed. Or perhaps modeled, used. But this one was dangerous. Incredibly dangerous.
Gary Yong eased forward. “I’ve never seen anyone so deep. Even the Bushy Jaejong and the AnnaKarina.”
“And everyone says the rest of this ‘Disco’ is a hollow shell that he uses to deal with paperwork.” Steven narrowed his eyes. “He’s doing it! He’s in the circle.”
“Hush! I can’t hear . . .”
And faintly from across the crowd, “You destroyed a World.” The Judge raised his staff, angled it toward the tall World Killer, and brought it down hard.
Tame lightning leaped from staff to man, who convulsed and fell.
The judge touched the controls on his chair arm, and as the people below surged forward, the circle transported.
“Yes! He caught the full blast! He must be dead!”
“. . . heart beat is highly irregular . . .”
And it hurts! Healing spell . . .
“He’s waking! Quickly the Death!”
Xen twitched . . . tried to twitch . . . failed . . . A stinging pain on his upper back.
“If you want any information out of him, you’d better hurry.” The man’s voice again. “He’s not going to last long.”
“Not really, he was just a weapon to remove from their hands. Is there anyone else to Transport?”
“No. I’ll have the techs fire up the rings and he can die out of sight and away from the scrutiny of those tiresome . . .”
The voices faded, hopefully with distance.
Stay with it, don’t faint. This is a very dangerous place.
He tried to pull power . . . nothing. Dammit . . . he forced his eyes open as he was stripped, manhandled into something stiff, scratchy and orange that sent screaming pain up his leg and across his chest.
Then they left him alone. Thank god . . . no dammit, here came one of the tall ones.
The twist of a powered gate scrapped over his nerves. A boot to his ribs and he rolled . . . fell and hit immediately.
Long grass, lumpy ground. Soft, a bit damp. He rolled flat on his back and tried to look all around. Nothing but grass. Unmown, a foot high with seed pods reaching up higher.
Xen rubbed his temples. “Dammit. I can sort of remember . . . parts of it. Maybe tomorrow my head’ll stop hurting . . . And my chest . . . And whatever is trying to sneak up on me . . .”