It was time to go, though neither Magister Reeg nor Lord Kendrick had found what they sought in the city. The students packed the lizards and wagons carefully in preparation for departure. Lord Kendrick and his men eyed each item, without offering to help pack. Alpha One, still possessed by the rogue Aya spirit, was strapped to the back of a wagon, looking up at the blue sky.
At the edge of the salt lake, mounted figures approached. They were bandits; they reigned in their anators and fired their crossbows with no more than a perfunctory “Stand and Deliver!” Osso feigned surprise, but his expression turned to horror as a crossbow bolt hit Felix Tarse and knocked him off the wagon. Kitra and the others returned fire, Agra leading the charge. Alpha One was helplessly strapped down, but Kendrick and his men rained plasma bolts on the bandits, burning holes in their chests. Two turned to flee but did not make it far. Kitra picked up a Phanosian laser rifle from the leader. Groo slid from the back of the wagon where he’d been hiding to give first aid to his master.
Return to Sweetwater
Sweetwater seemed busy after the weeks of silence in the City. Most of the expedition headed straight for the Golden Goblet Inn.
Tendrils of Empire
Felix Tarse and Groo dragged Alpha One (still tied up, and occasionally babbling in an alien language) to the aeroport. Felix wanted see if he could use his techno-heresy to fix the cyberdroid. At the spaceport, Tarse saw an individual wearing the robes of the Octavium, the Vrildarian Empire’s technology regulator. He and Groo made a quick turnaround.
A meeting with Muric
In the Golden Goblet, the bouncer suggested that Kitra had better hide the laser rifle. He gave her some sacks and she wandered out the back. There she met Muric, the Demetrian sympathiser. Kitra told him that the artifact was safe from Kendrick, and that she would be back for it. She gave Muric the laser rifle for safe-keeping.
Kitra found Osso in the bar, drinking whiskey with trembling hands. She took him outside. He admitted that he had organised the bandit attack with the local wineseller, who was some kind of fixer. Kitra said his secret was safe with her.
The next day, the expedition members returned to the Tears of Chador, and Groo set a course for Norukar. Felix Tarse worked with Alpha One to purge the Aya spirit from his systems as the aeroship drifted back across Markania.