See the unedited version of this story at JLA Universe.


Nesamun crept into the ship. Late afternoon light filled the city; at full dark he would attempt to make his escape past the locked gates. The ship was a better hiding place than most, as no one would suspect him to go to ground here.

He was filled with weeping, with rage.

The alarum had sounded in the late morning: Murder! Treason!

King Katar and Queen Chayara were dead, and the General as well, and Hath-Set the priest sat on the throne. Nesamun had come to the palace with Teti-en, heartbroken, had witnessed as Hath-Set accused the Queen's body servant of poisoning the gods. The girl swore she had not, swore it must have been Hath-Set himself while she knelt praying, and Nesamun had watched Hath-Set's own guards execute her before she could say more.

And then the guards had turned to the others in the room who'd heard her speak. Nesamun had been behind the rest, had run, had lived. Teti-en had been closest to the guards, and didn't survive to reach the doorway, though he'd taken two of Hath-Set's guards with him to the afterlife.

The city gates were barred, and Hath-Set's men were going from house to house in search of anyone loyal to Bashari or the Queen. Nesamun had family in Waset. If he could make it to the river, he might live to tell what he'd seen and heard, but he had to stay ahead of the guards. For now, he would rest here and wait for nightfall.

In the center of the small vessel, the Absorbacron sat, lonely and watchful. He had promised the Queen he would try to fix the device, but it seemed he would fail her in this last task as well.

Yet he had time now, and his spirit ached, and he'd left his tools here last night when he'd come, unable to sleep.

He opened the Absorbacron with prongs, careful not to touch hand or glove to it himself, and he picked at the tiny wires inside, pushing them back together where they had fallen away from each other.

Outside, he heard a noise, and he placed the cover back on carefully. Then he picked up his sword and crouched low as the ship's door opened. His one hope lay with the thought that Hath-Set might have conscripted some of Bashari's own soldiers for the task of routing the rest, and Nesamun was now their commander.

Four guards entered roughly. He did not know their faces. Nesamun leapt at the first, bringing his sword around and hoping for a swift, clean death. The guard moved faster than Nesamun thought possible and punched him hard in the gut. Nesamun fell, the wind gone from him, and another guard stomped on his wrist, cracking it. The sword fell from fingers that could no longer hold it.

"Tell the priest," said the largest guard, while Nesamun lay on the metal floor of the vessel staring at three swordpoints not an inch from his eyes.

A few minutes passed, and finally Hath-Set entered the ship of the gods. He stared down at Nesamun. Then he spat on him.

"Traitor," Hath-Set said, and Nesamun burned.

"You poisoned the wine, like the girl said."

"You defile the sacred vessel with blasphemy." His eyes narrowed on Nesamun's tools.

"I am trying to repair the device of the gods," Nesamun argued uselessly. "The Queen gave the order and no one countermanded it."

"The Queen was a whore and you are a liar."

Nesamun longed to wrap vengeful fingers around the priest's throat. He slowly moved to a sitting position, drawing his legs beneath him, uncaring as one sword sliced his cheek. They were going to kill him regardless, and he would not die like a dog on the floor.

"Queen Chayara was a goddess, and King Katar a god, and General Bashari was their most loyal man, and you murdered them."

Hath-Set turned away from him with a wave. "Kill him."

Nesamun was ready. He punched his legs out and forward, hitting the smallest guard with his full weight. The holy vessel was small, and too crowded for four armed men to fight effectively. Nesamun's broken wrist hung at his side, but he could kick and head-butt using every bit of the training Bashari had instilled in all his men.

A sword slashed across his arm, and he fell, kicking out desperately to strike one last blow before he died. His foot connected with Hath-Set's knee, and the traitorous priest staggered, reaching out for support.

Nesamun saw Hath-Set's hand grasp for and connect with the Absorbacron, and he ducked his face away just before the room filled with brilliant lights. As the guards were distracted by the holy sight, he pushed his way out to freedom and he ran.

He found refuge in a small stable and hid, emerging hours later to a new rumor: Hath-Set had gone to the sacred vessel of the gods, and was carried out by his own men, drooling and gibbering and broken. The guards claimed the holy Absorbacron had radiated light when he'd touched it, but did not understand why or what had happened. They called it a miracle, a sign.

Nesamun understood what had happened, and he knew enough about the gifts of Thanagar to recognize a discharge from a broken device. He also knew that if he went before the masses telling them it was the Goddess punishing Hath-Set for his crimes, he would be believed. He would be allowed to live, as would the rest of his men. If he was wise, he might even be able to stop the kingdom from falling into a squabbling mess as it was sure to do now that the King and Queen were dead without issue.

If you are true to me, to us, I promise you in return that I will protect you with all my power. He cursed her in his heart a little. This should be Bashari's task, or Teti-en's, for Bashari had loved her and Teti-en had always believed in her. Nesamun was not cut out to be a prophet. He was a soldier and a tinkerer. But someone had to fix this mess, and the Queen had trusted him.

He looked to the gates and the desert beyond. Then with a sigh, he turned back towards the palace.