It was not dank and dingy like in the stories; the walls did not drip with slime and no small rodents or insects scurried around, but despite this the room was quite clearly a prison cell. Arkyna lay on the barely tolerable bed and stared at the ceiling, waiting.
Trying very hard not to think about what had brought her here.
Iyshe's instructions to her as the Tireless was boarded had seemed understandable at the time - cooperate, don't do anything unusual, don't show any Psychic talent, don't try to escape - but as the hours dragged past, it was increasingly difficult to retain the calm state of mind required to allow others to do all the work. Arkyna assumed from Iyshe's comments that the Psidar Council might take steps to get them out of captivity and she wished that, if they were going to, they would do it quickly.
Time moved indeterminately for Arkyna. She'd been roughly searched after they had landed on Alledora, then given a badly-fitting jumpsuit and ordered to change into it. The jumpsuit was a slightly blueish shade of dark green which Arkyna found rather hideous and it had bright orange stripes running up the side of each leg. After donning it, Arkyna had been escorted to this cell and pushed inside. Since the door slid closed, she'd heard nothing from outside the room at all.
There was a chiming sound, which filled the air in the cell and made Arkyna jump after so long in total silence. A moment later, the lights brightened and the door slid smoothly open. Standing on the other side of it were four armed guards. Arkyna stood.
'Come out,' said one of the guards. Arkyna did so. They marched her past ten or twelve closed cell doors and into a lift, which had transparent sides and rose smoothly for several floors. At the top they walked again, this time along a corridor with ordinary doors at regular intervals. One of the doors was open, and Arkyna was led inside it. A chair stood in a circle of light.
'Sit,' Arkyna was instructed. The voice came from the shadows deeper in the room.
'What about -'
'Silence! Be seated.'
Arkyna bit off what she had been going to say and sat, arranging herself as comfortably as she could on the hard seat. She stared at where the voice had come from.
'You are Arkyna Dekarantos, daughter of Ashlar Tiu Vor and Zaya Dekarantos, sister of Riik Tiu Vor,' the voice said. It paused. 'Is this correct?'
'Why did you come to Alledora?'
'We were forced to abandon Dira Tulag; there was nowhere else we could reach.'
'Why were you forced to abandon an ideal colony world?'
'We encountered intelligent alien beings who made it clear that our presence was not welcome.'
'Dira Tulag was surveyed as an uninhabited planet.'
'The surveys missed them; they are not present in any great numbers.'
'If they were not present in any great numbers, how could they force you to leave the planet?'
Arkyna wondered if she should mention the Psi-caused storms and that pillar of bluewhite fire streaming into orbit. She closed her eyes reflexively and saw that image again. Forcing it out of her mind was an effort.
'They appeared to have the ability to control the weather,' she said. That was a nice truth which didn't go near the disturbing details. 'They also demonstrated sophisticated weaponry for which we had no countermeasures.' More of a semi-truth, but close enough. There was no way they would have been able to counter that kind of use of Psi without considerably greater numbers of talented, trained and willing Psidar.
'Tell me how you prevented the second storm from destroying the primary settlement.'
Arkyna blinked. How much did this man know? Clearly he'd been talking to other colonists, some freer with their tongues than others. Could she lie? Would they detect a lie if she told one? She licked her lips.
'I do not know,' she said. That was more or less true; she'd been operating primarily on instinct and Iyshe's knowledge had been where most of the skill in that working had come from.
'You employed Psi.'
'I was under the impression that Psi didn't exist,' Arkyna said.
'You know perfectly well that it does.'
'Is that now the official position of the Alledari Council?'
'The existence of Psi was proven to the satisfaction of the Council three years ago. Its use or study has been made an offence against the Alledari race, punishable by execution.'
Arkyna's heart felt like it missed a beat, but she forced herself to reply. 'In that case, I would be foolish to admit to using it.'
'You do not need to. We have sufficient testimony from other colonists.'
'Then why are you talking to me at all?'
'How many other Psidar are there among the colonists?'
'If you think I'm going to betray -'
Sparks flew in the air and an electric shock jerked every muscle in Arkyna's body. She saw stars before her eyes and slumped in the chair, breathing hard as her head span.
'You will tell me what I need to know.'
'No,' Arkyna said. 'I will not. If I'm going to be executed anyway, I think I'll take my chances in the outside world. You know I stopped that storm. Do you have any idea what I'm capable of?'
The electric shock came again. Arkyna was ready for it. Sparks flashed all around her as the current met a field of Psi. She stood, Psi filling her, her eyes a vivid, glowing blue.
'I'd advise not attempting to follow me,' she said and turned to the door. It was locked, but that was easily taken care of and she opened it, carefully avoiding the molten metal which dripped from where the locking bolt had been. Outside she met fifty armed guards, all with weapons at the ready.
'Excellent idea,' Arkyna replied and spun Psi through the air. A cold wind blew down the corridor and ice formed on the guards' weapons as Arkyna drew the heat out of them. One by one the guards dropped them to the floor where they shattered. 'Now would you care to move out of my way?'
With a determined look on his face, the leader of the guards pulled out a baton and advanced. Arkyna flipped a hand and sent him flying back into several of his men, who went down in a tangle of arms and legs. That started a sudden rush of guards running towards her and tripping on invisible lines, flying into the wall or smashing head-first into the ceiling. Within seconds, all but one were on the floor, either unconscious or stunned.
'Impressive,' the remaining guard said.
'Aren't you going to try as well?'
'Why would I want to do that?' he asked. He started toward her. Arkyna cracked Psi across his ankles, intending to form a tripline to bring him to the floor, but he countered it and a bluewhite flash marked where their threads of Psi met and dissipated. Arkyna stared at them. 'Now would you like to get out of here?' The Psidar guard asked. Arkyna nodded. 'Then you'd better follow me', the guard said and started down the corridor.
Arkyna hurried to catch up with him. 'What's your name?' she asked.
'Gry Arkos,' the guard replied. 'Psidar Gry Arkos. I must admit that I don't usually look like this, I'm masquerading as a real guard.'
'What happened to the real guard?'
'He went sailing and his boat capsized.'
'You killed him?'
'Of course not. We'll send him home when I'm done pretending to be him. Which, admittedly, will probably be soon.'
'Won't he get in trouble for what you've done while pretending to be him?'
'Probably. It's his choice if he wants to go back, though. You'll understand later, I promise.'
'So how do we get out of here? And what about the others?'
They reached the lift, and Gry pressed the button for the top floor.
'Another Psidar agent made contact with Psidar Iyshe first. He told us who he knows to be Psychic and now we're bringing each of you out.'
'And the others? My parents? My brother?'
'Your brother is being rescued. Iyshe suspects he has a talent which the Council might consider to be Psychic in nature, although Iyshe believes that it is not.'
'I was not told the details. You will have to talk to Iyshe. Your parents will have to remain here for the time being; we cannot rescue everyone. The Council will conclude what we have done soon enough and should not punish the other colonists for it. We have broken Psidar out of prison often enough these past few years.' Gry shook his head. 'Never this many though and your stunt with the guards back there isn't going to go down well.'
'They were torturing me.'
'I was about to intervene.'
'How was I supposed to know that?'
'Fair point. I'm sorry I wasn't there sooner. So far we've managed to avoid angering the Council enough for them to try and hunt us down, but I fear if we continue like this we're going to pay the price eventually. The last thing we want is a war between Psidar and the rest of the population.'
'Some would side with us.'
'Some would, yes, but many wouldn't. It would not be well for the Alledar if such a thing were to happen.' The lift slowed as it approached the top floor. Gry produced a pair of handcuffs. 'I'm sorry about these,' he said, 'but to get you out of here without any more scuffles...'
Handcuffed and guarded, Arkyna was able to walk right out of the building into a large open area surrounded by tall fences. Gry looked up when they reached the middle of it and Arkyna felt him send a thread of Psi high into the vivid purple Alledari sky; a sky which had her so transfixed with its intensity of colour that she didn't notice the small aircraft above them until her feet left the ground.
'It's just Psi,' Gry told her, holding tightly to her arm. 'Don't worry.'
They rose rapidly through the air with Psi swirling around them, through a hole in the bottom of the aircraft, then were suspended above it for a few moments while a cover slid into place over it.
'Arkyna!' A familiar voice cried.
'Riik!' Her brother sprang to his feet from where he'd been sitting and enfolded Arkyna in an enormous hug. Gry freed Arkyna's hands and she returned Riik's hug with interest.
'Now we're all aboard,' the aircraft's pilot said, 'we'd best be out of here before anybody notices what we just did. Take your seats please ladies and gentlemen!'
There were two other women who, Arkyna had to assume, had been the Psidar who lifted Gry and herself from the ground. Arkyna smiled at them and nodded her thanks, then sat next to Riik and strapped herself in as the aircraft accelerated rapidly, pulling several hard turns before levelling out at a smooth but noisy pace.
'Where are we going?' Arkyna shouted.
'Somewhere safe,' one of the women replied. 'We have a hideout in the mountains.' Arkyna sat back and waited. Somewhere safe sounded like the most she could wish for now.