"What do you mean it bugged out?!" she asked a dec incredulously.

A sweaty guy adjusted his glasses and gave her a sheepish shrug. The system behind the Detection Core was arcane, complicated, and no one really knew how it worked on a wide scope. It had delays and "bugs" frequently, and Elle was fairly sure more than a half of it was operator's error, unintentional or otherwise.

Elle was just getting ready to go home and get her daily 5-hour sleep before going back to the endless treadmill of incidents Sreda was, when her boss, chief Aspen came in fuming with fury, dragging a deckie along with him.

The monsters between the city and the shore were nowhere near dangerous enough to warrant a captain, but Elle was perfectly aware of what investigation implied. Saying goodbye to her dreams of having a sleep tonight, dreamless or otherwise, she set out towards the shore.

She did take clothes assigned for a new phaser with her in a faint hope he was still somehow to be found before it's too late, but still, seeing him in a somewhat feral state beating a poor kosh to death and beyond with a stone was a surprise. Learning that he was briefly kidnapped by an infamous slave trafficker they were trying to apprehend for almost two years, managed to escape while incapacitating him and could show the place was a pleasant surprise.

"Why did he need to do the whole show?" a phaser asked.

"Gimmicks can be extremely dangerous, ones of phasers, that is. He wanted you to have him on a good side, or, better, not have himself anywhere near you at all."

"Is slavery a common occurrence here? You said you were trying to put an end to it."

"Most places condemn it. The Vakhanalia Domain and Azure Dome are the only two large places openly supporting it, and in some others it's a grey area. The insignia you saw on a girl is the one of Azure Dome."

The phaser, Vell as she found out, led her to the clearing. By the time they reached it, it was full of monsters attracted by the smell of death.

"Don't approach them now, they will disappear anyway when I do the thing," Vell said.

"What thing?"

"This," he snapped his fingers, and in the same second he vanished, a pretty much dead bonfire in the clearing lit up again, the smeller stench filled the air and all the fauna was gone.

Instead, Vell was there laying on the ground with his hands bound by a rope, a man with the scars he'd described was guarding the perimeter, and the accursed illusionist towered over the fire with a frown on his face.

Elle tried to sneak up on him, but the armor wasn't the best equipment to attempt something like that with, and she was heard. The rest of it went as usual, with the fake persona dying and illusionist getting away by some unknown method that didn't leave even a slightest trace.

She sighed, cutting the rope and getting clothes out of the sack at her back.

"I don't suppose you'll tell me how you did that?" she asked Vell.

"Nope," he grinned, "one thing I will say though is that you'll never catch him by being reactive, and with his abilities it'd be easier to just kill him on sight, the way I see it."


They walked in silence for a while. Out of the forest, they took the road towards the Sreda city-state two hours away from the Weeping Shore, one of many shores people from another worlds phase into existence on.

"Say, what will happen to me now?" Vell asked.

"I'm not a part of Phase Core, but as far as I know, you'll be screened, tested for various known otherworldly diseases, given a set of mixtures to build basic immunities to diseases of Yav, and then given a basic education that'll more or less bring you up to speed on this world."

"Will I have to repay for any of it?"

"Oh, don't worry, no one will ask money from you."

Vell let out a heavy sigh, no doubt noticing Elle avoided the question.

Prologue: A Naked Man


A note from Aftefyn

The next chapter will be out on Wednesday, 10AM.

About the author


Bio: I write things. I also read things.

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