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OLD AND

TIRED BONES

As they walked through the narrow corridor, every sound they made echoed and filled the subterranean room with ghostly life. Along the path, the way was lit by small yellow hovering balls of light, that added much needed warmth to the cold, grey tunnel. The heavy taste of metal lingered longer in Rick’s mouth with each successive breath.

“Have you been on Deltan before, maybe many years ago?” The chancellor asked with his tall frame slightly hunched over, looking back at Rick and Min. He’d never seen an ancient before, and he was surprised by how normal, even average, Rick Lupaine looked. Sure, he was uncommonly handsome, but he didn’t think that had anything to do with the fact that he was an ancient.

Rick smile slightly. “Surprisingly no, you’d think I’d have visited every planet at my age, but as soon as I think I’ve seen everything, I’m surprised by another new society popping up out of nowhere.”

“I’m sure the short life span of civilizations and races must only be a heartbeat to you.”

“Well I wouldn’t say a heartbeat, maybe two?” Rick said then laughed a very loud and obviously fake laugh. The sound echoed back at them sounding even more mechanical and artificial when amplified by the tunnel, and the chancellor beside him, joined in with his own quieter but equally fake laugh.

“I guess two heartbeats would be more realistic,” he said wistfully.

“Of course, my heart beats incredibly slowly… that’s why I’ve lived for so long in the first place.”

The man paused with a stunned expression on his face, and it seemed like he actually believed what Rick said, which made him laugh again, this time, genuinely.

“Chancellor… That was a joke, if anything I think by heart beats faster that normal… I may be having symptoms of high blood pressure… that’s why my little girl’s been telling me to take it easy these days…”

“you have a daughter?”

“No, she refused the offer,” he said ambiguously.

The chancellor shook his head growing more confused as their conversation went on, and Min just sighed at his boss’s antics. He’d been working with Rick for almost 400 years, and he knew that one had to carefully weed through the nonsense the man spouted for fun to get to the important things. Thankfully, the fruitless conversation concluded as they reached the end of the tunnel which was a large circular door with a keycode lock. The chancellor glanced at Min and Rick, the moved to uses his tall frame to block the keypad as he entered the code. Min scoffed internally at the chancellors attempt at secrecy, as despite his efforts, the chancellor’s mind, which should have been heavily guarded, was left open to even their most basic mind probe. Min and Rick made eye contact and rolled their eyes. Rick smiled amused, while Min scoffed again in irritation.

The door opened out into a long walkway that stretched across the city below. The city was built in a large artificially dug spherical space underground. From what Rick had heard, there were many cities similar to this one hidden beneath Deltan’s frozen surface, but this was the oldest and largest one, so it served as a point of connection between the Galactic Union and the rest of the planet. At least that’s what the chancellor had told him when he first sent the request for the House of Lupaine’s help.

Rick and Min walked cautiously across the thin walkway, not out of nervousness, but because the rusting patchwork frame looked like it could shatter at any moment. Each step was accentuated by a painful whine or creak. Rick felt like he was walking on the exposed skeleton of some old and tired creature. Rick glanced down, and saw that the scenery below, too, looked old and tired. The expanse of the city was lit by four large orange artificial suns, that suspended the city in permeant sunset. A patchwork of rock and metal, tall, narrow buildings made up the city center, then further out, were what appeared to be small rock and mortar huts. From the height of the bridge, their heads almost scraped across the ceiling of the city, the overly tall chancellor had to practically fold himself in half to get across.

Once they reached the other side, the chancellor entered a series of numbers into a primitive access system. The screen beeped a few times, then they heard the locking mechanisms whirring. Bolts scrapped out of their locks, then jammed, but after a persuasive kick from the chancellor, the door reluctantly rotated open. A bright chime sounded, and a robotic voice blared from speakers as they walked through the hatch.

“Welcome to Ug, planet Deltan’s Prime city. Enjoy your stay.”

The chancellor immediately hurried them to his private office, brushing off their requests to have a tour of the place. It was evident from his strange urgency that he didn’t want them looking around, but the glimpses they saw as the navigated the hallways, revealed a rust covered, dust filled, rundown set of administrative offices. On their way, they passed through the city’s welcome center, although it was merely a couple desks placed next to each other. It was being attended to by an elderly woman who gave them her biggest smile as they passed, revealing a few missing teeth. Rick silently consider the state of the city of Ug, if their government building was in such a state of disrepair.

# # #

The chancellor’s office was small. One crooked desk stood in front of a window overlooking the city, and the rest of the space was filled with a couple chairs and stacks of files. Rick gasped when he saw the stacks of papers and folders lining the walls, and Min eyed the place in obvious shock. The chancellor took his seat behind the desk, and Rick sat across from him, while Min choose to remain standing instead of taking the dusty seat next Rick.

Rick took a wide-eyed look around the room again. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen so much paper in one place. Do you not have access to a digital filing system?” Rick asked, noticing more stack of files under the Chancellor's desk.

“Well, we’ve always managed our files this way for so long, and we have no reason to change it since everything still works fine.”

From the corner of his eyes, Rick noticed Min eye the place with disgust. “Well whatever works for you; I’m not here to tell you how to run your planet,” Rick said, “but with Lyfol being one of your close neighbors, I would have expected to see more hover and holo-technology… besides the artificial suns, and light orbs.”

The chancellor sighed with obvious annoyance, and Rick guess he’d probably been asked that question too many times. “We can’t afford to waste money on purchasing unnecessary things,” The chancellor said quietly, but there was a chill in his tone, and Judging from the look of the place, Rick suspected they couldn’t afford to purchase the necessary things either.

“hmm… well like I said, I’m not here to discuss the way you run your planet, instead, tell me more about these disturbances you’ve noticed.” Rick raised his hand to take the holo-com Min handed to him. The small device cast a slight blue glow across the room, as it projected the information into the air in front of Rick. Rick quickly glanced over the data, confirming his original analysis of the report. “I sensed the urgency in your request, but from the report you sent, I didn’t see anything that was so pressing it warranted the attention of the House of Lupaine.”

“Surely, you’re not serious,” the chancellor said aghast. “People have been going missing, buildings have been attacked,” the chancellor said, then lowering his voice, he continued, “there have even been mauled dead bodies… I sent you the pictures.”

“You’re talking about these,” Rick said pulling up three images showing severely damaged bodies. When Rick had first seen the pictures, the first thing he wonder was why the images were two dimensional. It had become a common practice across the galaxy that all crime scenes be three dimensionally photographed. But now that he’d arrived on Deltan, he knew that such a technologically backwards planet would could not have access to three dimensional cameras.

“Yes, these are obviously the work of some wild beast. I…” the chancellor said.

Rick interrupted the man “These are obviously the work of a person attempting to mimic a wild beast…”

“But if you look…”

“And even if it were the work of a wild beast, these incidents while serious, are not something the we handle… Dark ones, graule, attacks that put your planet at risk. That is what you may call the on us to deal with. If you’re having internal conflicts, you must sort them out yourselves, using the government you’ve set up. Or, you could request help from your parent planet; I believe yours is Iclax?”

With each word Rick spoke, the Chancellor sank deeper into his seat. By the time Rick was done speaking, the man looked like a piece of furniture himself, with how stiff and lifeless his demeanor was. He blinked slowly, then seemed to come back to life by channeling anger through his veins.

“Well, I don’t see any reason why these attacks are not the work of graule, those monsters are unpredictable. If you weren’t interested in helping us, you should have denied the request in the first place… I was mistaken to think an ancient like you could ever understand the suffering of mortals,” the chancellor said gripping the edge of the desk tightly. His eyes were wild and unfocused, and the blue light of Rick’s holo-com reflected in them looked like a vision of the man’s soul: small, shrunken, and cold.

Rick studied the man’s enraged expression and responded with a sad smile. He could see the long hard years written in the man’s face and felt sorry for him. The chancellor couldn’t have been over forty, yet the lines carved into his features aged him far beyond his years. Rick felt his chest tighten, and his throat clog up as he imagined the life the man must have lived. A person looking from the outside, would find it impossible to tell which one of them outstripped the other in age by millions of years.

“Relax Chancellor,” Rick sad quietly, still keeping a smile on his face. “I apologize if it sounded like I was making light of your city’s problems. I came here to offer whatever assistance I can provide, but you must know that it is a failing in the infrastructure of your government if you’re not able to handle such issues.”

The chancellor relaxed visibly, but the desperate look in his eyes had not faded completely. “I don’t understand why anyone on Deltan would do things like this, we may not be the richest people in the galaxy, but we get by fine...” As he was speaking, a commotion was rising up outside the door, growing louder each minute. After a series of crashes and agitated muffled voices, the figure of a small boy burst through the door. He was quickly grabbed on both arms by the chancellor’s secretary, and another man dressed in a uniform that Rick assumed was for security.

“What is the meaning of this?” The chancellor said, obviously taken aback by the unfolding scene. His face morphed through a series of emotions from rage to embarrassment as he looked from the scene to Rick.

“Let go off me… I have something to say to Lord Lupaine,” the boy said, struggling against two grown men with all the power his small body could release. “Let go!” he said, lurching forward.

The frustrated security officer, reached to his belt, and pulled out his baton, ready to use it to strike the boy, but Rick raised his hand, and they all froze mid-action. He got up and unclasped the hands that were holding onto the boy and saw that there were bruises already forming from the force of their grip. Then Rick released his telekinetic hold on the officer and secretary, and they slowly backed away, with fearful looks. “Now, now, don’t look like that, the situation was escalating so quickly I couldn’t keep up,” He said laughing softly, before he turning to the boy.

“So, what’s you name child?” Rick asked.

“My name is Upit, and I’m not a child, I’m already sixteen,” the boy said, glaring defiantly into Rick’s eyes.

“Oh, don’t worry, it’s nothing personal,” Rick said feigning seriousness, “most people are children to me. Now why did you risk getting hurt to come see me.”

The boy stepped closer to Rick and in his eyes, there was a battle between childlike curiosity, and a severe urgency. Ultimately the urgency won, and he glanced over at the chancellor, then took Rick’s hands.

“Lord Lupaine,” the boy said shakily. His eyes kept shifting between the aghast Chancellor at his desk, and the two men still lingering by the door.

“Call me Rick,” Rick said and led the boy to the chair he had been sitting in. Upit sat, but kept a tight grip on Rick’s hand, even as the man Knelt on one knee in front of him.

“Rick,” Upit said shyly, “I came here to warn you. You can’t trust these people, I’ve been warning them about what’s been going on, but they wouldn’t listen even though it’s so obvious. That means that they must be in on it. If it’s so obvious and they won’t do anything about it then they’re in on it too,” Upit said, getting progressively louder and frantic.

“what nonsense are you spouting?” the chancellor yelled from behind his desk.

“He’s obviously high on gip, look at the way he’s shaking… all the kids are messed up with off-world drugs these days,” the security officer said, and Rick shook his head. There was such easy access to off-world drugs, yet they couldn’t even get basic tech from their neighbors.

“Shut up, you old lunatic, I don’t take gip,” Upit said.

Rick scratched the back of his head and sighed. “Please, all of you be silent.” He spoke softly, but his voice echoed forcefully in their minds.

“Now Upit, you’re going to have to be clearer on what your trying to say, what exactly are they in on.”

“The Deltan Alliance Group,” he said conspiratorially, and the chancellor looked like he was about to interrupt, but a look from Rick silenced him. “They’re the ones blowing stuff up and hurting people. They’ve been petitioning the Chancellor for years to allow us to live on the surface and get more off-world technology, but they’ve been ignored, so they started to get more extreme.”

Rick looked to the chancellor. “What do you have to say about that chancellor?”

The chancellor shook his head. “That’s all silly rumors. I’ve had the head of security, Gem, investigate the issue many times,” he said, pointing to the man in uniform at the door, “there’s no evidence that the group exists. It wouldn’t even make sense. The people know we cannot live on the surface, and they are satisfied with our lives underground.”

“That’s not true, the off-worlders that sometimes visit say there’s a lot of technology that could allow us to live on the surface, like heating domes, or stronger artificial suns. And also, I know the Deltan Alliance Group is real cause they tried to recruit me.”

“My goodness… Do you really expect us to believe that?” the chancellor asked incredulously.

“It’s true. I used to work as an assistant in the air circulation control center. It’s the system that circulates air from the surface down here, and if it gets shut down, we wouldn’t be able to survive underground. They wanted me to sabotage the system. I told them I wouldn’t do it, then I went to report what happened to the city police. The next day, by boss told me I was fired.”

“When did this happen?” Rick asked standing up.

“Two weeks ago,” Upit said. The look in his eyes was grave.

The whole room was silent, besides the sound of the constant rushing of air from the aforementioned air circulation system. Rick glanced at Min and could see the lines of tension in his body, and his eyes were monitoring everyone in the room, and all points of entrance. There was clearly something suspicious going on, and he did not want to be caught off guard. Rick was about to say something, when a chilling stillness descended on the room, and the sound of rushing air stopped for a few seconds, then picked back up.

“Did it just stop?” Min said, asking no one in particular, but his blue eyes had turned hard.

The chancellor answered, cautiously. “Well, that’s perfectly normal, it does that sometimes. As you can see, its back on again. We’re all just tense from the boys rambling. I…” another sudden silence cut off his words. They all held their breaths, as the silence dragged on for a full minute before the sound of rushing air began again.

“Their making a move,” Upit said moving closer to Rick, and glancing at the shadows around the room.

“Do not be an alarmist,” the chancellor said picking up a hand phone on his desk. “Let me make a call.” The next sound they heard, was a loud grinding that echoed from within all the vents on the planet, and then a final silence. The chancellor held the phone to his ear, but his call went unanswered.

“This should not be happening. The vent’s systems have never failed before,” the chancellor said putting down the phone.

“The system didn’t fail, the group destroyed it,” Upit said, wide eyed.

“Please stop with your childish talk this is hardly the time, we could all suffocate to death at any moment,” the secretary said. His face eyes were panicked, and the blood had drained from his face.

Slowly, like a sound coming out from deep in the ground, an audible moan and panic was rising from the city below as the people began to realize the meaning of the silence. Outside the office door, people could be heard shouting and running around, and causing a great commotion. The secretary, displaying more professionalism than Rick imagined he possessed, quickly composed himself, and left the office closing the door. From behind the closed door, they heard his clear-cut voice, absent of the panic he displayed earlier, rise above the noise, ordering people to go back to their desks, as the situation was already under control. Rick smiled as the noise settled to murmuring.

“How long will it take to restart the system? and if it can’t be restarted, how long till the air runs out?” Rick asked facing the chancellor.

“It depends on what has happened, I’m sure the technicians are busy working on it as we speak, that must be why they aren’t answering my calls,” the chancellor said, although the words were laced with more doubt than he intended.

“I think it’s about time you woke up from whatever delusions are clouding your mind. It quite obvious that everything leading up to this point from the attacks leading to you calling us here, to this situation now, has been clearly orchestrated,” Min said, the irritation evident in his voice and eyes glowing with constrained fury. “Now, how long before the air runs out?”

“We have up to ten hours,” the chancellor said sullenly. His shoulders hunched, and his tall frame bent low. He looked like a marionette, breaking apart under the forces of the hands pulling at him. Then his figure was suddenly turned in to a black silhouette, by the explosion of bright lights outside the window, and a tremor that shook the room, sending the stacks of files to the ground, filling the air with a thick layer of dust.

Upit clung to Rick, and the chancellor fell over his desk, as more resounding booms echoed throughout the city. Outside the window, Rick could see large fires forming in multiple locations, and already smoke was filling the enclosed city. Ten hours, Rick thought skeptically, in an underground city, with a cut of air supply, and now with fire and smoke filling the space and consuming what little breathable air was left.

“What is happening?” the chancellor screamed over the noise. Outside the office all order had broken down, and at some point, during the commotion, the security officer had disappeared. Rick knew the people in the city would be going into mass hysteria by now.

“Min, if you were the mastermind behind all this, what would you do next?” Rick asked, as he gently patted Upit’s back to calm the boy who was now weeping silently.

Min smiled grimly. “I’d either extinguish or drop the suns,” he said.

Rick nodded. “It’s time we took control of the situation. If this is the work of the Alliance group, and at this point, I’m sure it is, then we know their aim… and they’ve made certain we have no choice but to concede,” Rick said, as the bright yellow bloom of another explosion illuminated the room.

“Take Upit up with you and prepare the surface. Your capable of creating a large enough heat shield, right?” Rick said teasingly.

Min glared at him, and didn’t bother answering, as he lifted the crying Upit in his arms, and walked out the door. “let me know when you’re ready,” Rick called after him.

The chancellor watched their exchange, with a distanced look. He couldn’t understand how things could have gone so wrong. He blinked back small tears. Since he’d been elected as chancellor, he believed he had acted in the best interests of the people, so when things started to go wrong, he didn’t even consider that him or the people were somehow responsible. It had to be dark ones, or graule, or anything else, and his advisors agreed with him. It was some of his advisors that had even brought up the idea of contacting the House of Lupaine, they’d reassured him that the people were completely satisfied with their lives. Now that he thought about it, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d actually left the government quarters to visit the city and see how the people were living. He closed his eyes and bit his lip so hard that it bled. His heart clench at how foolish he had been.

“Chancellor,” Ricks sharp voice pulled the man out of his thoughts. The chancellor blinked and tried to focus on Rick’s face. “Chancellor now is not the time to reflect, what’s done is done. Now we have to act before the situation becomes irreparable. Do you understand?” Rick asked.

The chancellor nodded slowly, then Rick continued. “We have to evacuate the city and move to the surface.”

“But the surface is too cold, we won’t survive.”

“Don’t worry, Min is taking care of that now.”

The chancellor didn’t understand what Rick meant, but he nodded again, and walked around the table, and started digging through the files that littered the floor. After a few minutes, he pulled out a large sheet of paper and laid it on the table.

“This is the map of the evacuation routes” he said, then looked out the window at the still burning city. “From what I can see, it seems we are fortunate that none of the fires are near the routes.”

“Not fortunate, premeditated. This is what they were hoping for. My guess is that their members are already ushering people to those exists. I just need you to make an official evacuation announcement to help speed up the process.”

The chancellor moved to a part of the wall, where a square panel was cut. He pushed on it, and the section slid out revealing a microphone and a few dials. Turning the dials, the chancellor began his announcement. While the man spoke, Rick felt a pull at the edge of his thoughts that let him know that Min was ready.

“I repeat, please make your way to the emergency exits immediately. Leave everything behind, this is not a drill,” the chancellor finished saying, then turned off the mic.

“Okay, now you and the rest of the people in this building should evacuate as well, I’ll make sure everyone is out, then I’ll come up,” Rick said, “you guys need to try to keep everyone as organized as possible.”

“I understand,” the chancellor said. He opened his mouth like he wanted to say more, but decided against it, and quickly left.

Rick, now alone in the office, walked around, and sat in the chancellor’s chair. He leaned back and closed his eyes, then let his mind loose across the city. He could feel the peoples’ panicked minds as they ran towards exits. As he anticipated, among the panic people, there were some who were calm and undisturbed, not form natural temperament, but from awareness. These individuals were calmly directing people and helping them along. Because of their efforts, Rick didn’t have to do much for the evacuation to be completed quickly, occasionally, he would assist with a blockage in a path, or a collapsed building. Carefully sending his Kyr marks to move things of clear away debris. After a couple hours, Rick probed the city again, and finding no living minds, he joined the rest on the surface.

# # #

On the surface, a heavy blizzard raged. The pale sun of the Friz system shone through the clouds with a faint halo, giving little light, and almost no heat. The landscape was blanketed in thick sheets of snow and ice that hadn’t been trod on by people for thousands of years, and the few trees they could see were bent low by powerful winds. The citizens of Ug could feel none of it though, as they were protected by Min’s shield which blocked the wind, and radiated enough heat, that some people even took off their shirts and fanned themselves.

Rick approached Min, who stood completely still with his arm folded and eyes closed, as he concentrated on maintaining the shield. The sweat that dripped down his face was not from the heat, but form effort. Rick had teased Min earlier, but he knew that it was no easy task to create a shield large enough to protect over ninety thousand people from cold that could freeze them to death in minutes. Rick placed a hand on the man’s shoulder sending some energy through him.

“How are you holding up?” Rick asked.

“I’ll be fine, it’s not that difficult, but I need to keep focused. I’ve already sent a message to Ria. She should be teleporting use proper assistance soon,” Min said quietly.

Rick nodded, the patted Upit who was sitting on the floor beside Min, with concern written over his face. Rick looked around the crowd of people, all staring at them in confusion. They were all dressed in what amounted to rags and their malnourished bodies were covered and soot and grime. A shockingly large majority of them, who Rick assumed were the gip users, were shaking and spouting nonsense, while harassing other people. Families huddled together, and people kept their little belongings close. It was shocking to see how impoverished the people were. To some extent, Rick could understand the desperation of whoever had planned these events. The chancellor and his secretary were running around directing people and trying to get some structure in place.

Rick watched them, helping whenever it was necessary, by creating tents, blanket or whatever was needed with his Kyr marks. The people looked stunned each time he displayed his powers. Similarly, they were fascinated by Min’s heat shield, and would explore it boundaries, but after the first individual almost lost an arm to instant frostbite by extending it outside the shield, the rest kept away from the edge. After some hours, a central base had been established, and the rest of the space had been divided it to rough blocks, where people found their neighbors and communities. They also made an area to separate some of the gip users who were becoming violent.

The chancellor came to stand beside Rick but remained silent for a while, fiddling with his fingers. Then after careful consideration, he spoke. “I’m not sure what to do now,” he said.

“There’s not much you can do besides carrying on,” Rick said. “The environment has changed, but your still in charge for now. Make the best of it.”

“Lord Lupaine,” A voice called from among a crowd of people approaching them. An elderly man stepped out ahead of them, and knelt before Rick, head touching the ground.

“Grandpa what are you doing?” Upit said from behind Rick in confusion.

The man didn’t answer Upit, but instead raised his head, and addressed Rick. “Lord Lupaine, my name is Filgin I am the leader of the Deltan Alliance Group. First, I want to say that my grandson didn’t know anything about all this. Although I did encourage him to meet you today,” he said, then paused briefly before continuing. “I was also the one who convinced the chancellor’s advisors to persuade him to call you here… and the moment you arrived, we executed our plan. I am now here to answer for the crimes I’ve committed leading up to this point. We are all ready to face whatever punishment you give us.” He finished, then the rest of the people with him dropped to their knees as well.

Before Rick could say anything, the chancellor stepped forward releasing and enraged sound. “Do you know the damage you’ve caused?” The chancellor said furiously and grabbed the man’s collar. “You have destroyed public property, harmed people, and even committed murder. What punishment do you think will make up for that? Look where we are,” the Chancellor said waving a hand around. “how are we going to survive on this barren surface, just what were you thinking?”

Upit was about to go to his grandfather’s defense, but Rick held him back. The old man remained silent for a while, then roughly pulled himself out of the chancellor’s grip.

“You don’t understand a thing,” he said. “I’m originally from the city of Ypil, the rest are also from other cities: Oulin, Ug-fil, Tral. Why do you think we’re all here, along with the other refugees that make up a majority of the population of Ug? All our cities feel to ruin, because like you, our chancellors refused to get off-world help. Our parent planet is Iclax for crying out loud, yet our air-circulation systems failed, our artificial suns burnt out, and crops did not grow. Then when our cities finally collapsed, only a few of us survived the journey here.”

“Do you think that makes your actions justified?” The Chancellor said.

“How many times do you think we sent you petitions and letters?” A woman from the group yelled out bitterly. A few other spoke up as well, “you simply ignored our pleas.”

“That’s enough,” Upit’s grandfather said holding a hand up. “We knew we were committing crimes, and we did so ready to face the consequences. That is why we are here now. To put all this to an end and let Ug move forward. Like I said earlier, Lord Lupaine, we are ready for any punishment you see fit.” He dropped to his knees again.

Everyone waited for Rick to speak, but he said nothing. Instead, He looked up as a bright light filled the sky, and when it faded, it was replaced by a large carrier shuttle, and a smaller space cruiser. The two ships landed, sending gusts of air that competed with the already raging blizzard. Min’s shield made it so that all of it harmlessly passed over the people.

“That large ship there, is a package from the Galactic Union and Iclax,” Rick said, pointing. “The people on it will help you set up proper heat shields, that will moderate the temperature and protect you from the surfaces harsh conditions. There will be food rations, cloths, and building supplies as well. You will get as much assistance as you need to get Deltan back on its feet.” Rick said, so that all the people heard him.

“That smaller ship, is Min and I’s ride out of here,” he said smiling, then he looked at Upit’s Grandfather still kneeling on the floor. “Once the heat shields are set up, and Min can drop his shield, we will be leaving. It’s up to your government, and the people,” he said motioning to the civilians that had been watch the scene unfold, “to figure out whether you deserve punishment or praise.”

Rick then turned away and waved over the personnel from the ship to begin working. The shields were set up in under an hour, and the people were fascinated by even the simplest devices that the workers used. Upit was especially energetic, as he asked the technicians a variety of questions about how various things worked or were made, all the while keeping an eye on his grandfather who was apprehended by the Chancellor makeshift security team. True to his word, as soon as the shield was setup and tested, Rick and Min said their goodbyes to everyone without a second glance to anyone except Upit, who promised he would see them again once he became an engineer.