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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Sci-fi · #1979026
People don't die when they cross the unaligned mirrors. They go to Central Star Island.

If the mirrors weren’t lined up properly between the floating islands, a traveler using the mirror was never heard from again. It was believed they died. As long Mika ensured that the Longblade clan won this next encounter, what did it matter? It was part of the Longblade oath, a risk she took every time she accepted an assignment from Darian. So she could either risk death now by not waiting for the mirrors to align, or she could wait and risk capture by the Warsaw Island Guard and eventual death.

Her wrist chronometer said she had fifteen minutes left until the mirrors aligned. There was not enough of a crowd to blend in with on the main streets, and she couldn’t stay in this Outfitter’s dressing room much longer without arousing suspicion. Mika studied her reflection, removed the hairpins, then fingered her hair back to where it should be, long and wavy. She wasn’t the master of disguise Ronni was, but this would do until she could return home.

Five minutes later Mika was on the street in a new outfit. The men she passed turned around to get a second look. She let them, even blew a kiss. She tried to remain relaxed when she spotted two Guards, one man, one woman, sitting in their open-roofed hovercraft. She was ten seconds beyond them when the Guards threw open their doors, weapons charging. Mika looked behind her just as the female Guard fired. The shot missed its intended target and struck her in the arm, numbing it immediately. She ran. She could not risk capture. Darian would not be certain of her success until she returned.
She tried to keep a map of the city in her mind. If she was right, the mirror was less than a quarter of a mile away. But she was on foot. How long before –

The whine of a hovercraft behind her answered the question before she could finish it. Mika raced down a side street, pulled a countermeasure from her belt and threw it to the ground behind her. It had been programmed with her thermal signature before she had left the clan base and would block her from her pursuers for a time. She heard someone scream. The presence of other people hadn’t registered as she ran. She couldn’t help it now.

There! The cyber café that hid the entrance to the mirror. She had to get to the side door.
Izzy looked up from the café circuit board as she threw the door open. He protested when she locked the door behind her. “You know the rule. Never lock the door.”

“There’s always an exception.” She stood in front of the elliptical mirror. Her own reflection was clear, but the background swirled in kaleidoscopic colors. “Are the mirrors aligned?”

“Five minutes.”

Mika grunted. “I don’t have five minutes. The Guard is right behind me.”

“Five minutes, or you’re dead.”

“If I’m caught, I’m dead.”

The door exploded, the echoing whine of Guard weapons behind it. Without a look back, Mika stepped through the mirror. Colors swirled around her for several seconds, then solidified as she stepped through the other mirror onto –

Grass? Grass that grew up between stones. She was on the top of a flat hill surrounded by an assortment of homes ranging from simple huts to an elegant three-story manor. A quick check of her pulse confirmed that Mika was not dead, dispelling the stories of misaligned mirrors. But nor was she home. This was nowhere near the Longblade clan nor the island she just departed. A great wind from behind whipped her hair into her face.

This village must be only a few miles from the Edge.

The rush of that sudden knowledge was strangely exhilarating. Why would people colonize so close to the edge of a floating island? Why place the mirror there? Where was the Keeper for this mirror? To not be there when a traveler arrived was a serious breach.

Mika turned at a call from behind.

“You look a little lost,” the man said as he climbed toward her.

“Why would I be lost?”

“No one came to meet you. You didn’t come down right away.”

“And those are your only evidences?” she asked as he reached the top.

The man smirked. “Well, if you’re not lost, what brings you to Central Star Island?”

The central island was real? She’d only heard about it in stories from her father, who had learned them from his grandmother. “Trying to get back home.”

“I’d say you missed.”

“I would agree. There’s a tendency to do that when you’re being chased after – through a mirror at the wrong time.”

“I hate it when that happens,” he replied. “That’s how I got the job as Deputy Governor here instead of living as a teacher on Hart Island.”

“Sounds like you have a big job.”

“Peacekeeping between villagers and governor. But you don’t need to know that. Where’s home?”

“Atlas Island.”

His eyebrows rose. “You are a long way from home. That’s one of the outermost islands, isn’t it?”

“Yes. And now I need to figure out how to get back.”

He nodded. “Best we hurry and check the charts. You may have to hurry back up here or you may be waiting till night.”

“Then why are we still here?”

He chuckled. “This way.”

The charts were three-dimensional holographic images of all seven islands, six rotating around Central Star Island. Each chart kept track of the location, alignment and status of each island’s mirrors. It was up to the Keeper to calculate the best time of travel.

The Chart Keeper – since she didn’t actually care for the mirror, she argued – was already studying a chart for a villager, so Mika and the deputy Governor had to wait. But soon she was ready for them.

“Solana, this is – “


“-- and she needs to get back to Atlas Island.”

“She doesn’t dress like she’s from Atlas Island,” Solana replied as she studied Mika’s outfit. “But the hair’s right, especially the color.”

“I like to dress like the locals when I travel.”

“You must travel a lot, then.” Solana began sorting through the charts. She finally found the one for Atlas Island and began calculations. “You can either attempt travel at three o’clock tomorrow morning or you can wait until midday three days from now.”

Mika groaned. It wasn’t safe to travel anywhere on Atlas Island at three o’clock in the morning, and three days was too late for the Longblade clan. “Can I get a message home?”

Solana pointed to the Communicator in the corner. Mika entered Jazz’s coordinates and typed a brief message: Successful. Took Mirror too early. Proceed as planned. M. Jazz would understand and take the message directly to Darian. She began to relax as her message made its way through cyberspace. She had done her part as best she could. She would know the outcome when she returned.

A villager ran up to them as they left the Chart Keeper, yelling that the Governor had once again overstepped his rank.

“I told you,” he whispered to Mika. To the villager, he asked, “What did he do this time, Morgan?”

Morgan was very red-faced for a naturally pale man. “He has ordered a military draft, effective immediately, to aid the Drake clan of Warsaw Island against the Longblade clan of Atlas Island.”

Mika jolted. Had her message been intercepted, her mission discovered too soon?

“I won’t do it, Jax,” Morgan continued. “I have friends and business on both islands. You’ve got to talk to him.”

“I’ll do it,” the deputy governor promised in surprise. “Mika here is from Atlas Island.”

Morgan pumped her hand so hard in greeting it hurt. “Then you can help him convince the Governor not to do it.”

“Why would he even choose to aid one of the clans?” Mika asked. “The conflict only involves our two islands, not Central Star.”

“We’ll see what the governor has to say.”

He didn’t have much to say beyond ordering the training to begin as soon as the eligible men and women over the age of seventeen signed up, and for Mika to either leave immediately or be arrested and turned over to the Drakes. There was no choice. Her clan had to know this as soon as possible. She found the nearest Communicator and sent off another message warning them of the Governor’s assistance to the enemy and to expect her return at three o’clock the following morning. Jax hid her with his wife Nova and their twin daughters while he kept trying to resist the Governor’s order in the guise of following it. While they waited for his return, and for three o’clock, Mika and Nova talked and discovered much in common. Not only were they from the same clan, but they shared a great-uncle. Mika learned that most of the villagers had come to Central Star Island the same way she and Jax and Nova had, choosing not to leave when the mirrors finally realigned to take them home.

“In fact,” Nova revealed, “when mirror travel was first created, the mirrors were designed to take a traveler here if they stepped through the mirror too soon.”

Jax returned for dinner. There was nothing more he could do tonight. He had helped the villagers’ resistance along as best he could. The twins were put to bed an hour after sunset. Once they were asleep, Mika finally revealed that her mission had been to ensure that the Drakes’ latest arms delivery didn’t reach its destination. It may have been that action that prompted the Governor’s order, but there was no way to know. She only hoped Darian had gotten her messages and had someone waiting at the Longblade mirror for her return.

Three o’clock in the morning finally arrived. If she didn’t have children so young, Nova would have joined the fight, too. The best she could do was to give Mika the two energy pistols and blade she had brought with her eight years ago.

Jax led her through the village and back to the hill. As he had hoped, the hill was empty except for the mirror. But they were still cautious and stayed low to the ground until they reached the crest.

“I won’t say I hope you win,” Jax said thirty seconds before the mirrors aligned. “I hate war. Just get back safely and try to stay alive.”

“I will. You make sure your girls reach adulthood with both parents alive.”

Fifteen seconds left. Jax backed away and Mika faced the mirror. The kaleidoscopic colors took on red and chrome hues, the colors of her home. Ten seconds. A shout behind them. Mika looked back to see a bright light coming from the Governor’s manor home. A figure was in the doorway. She heard two shots, saw the bolts, but they hit ground halfway up the hill.

Five seconds. The figure started running, fired again. The shot was closer, but still poor. It was the Governor. Foolish man. How did he hope to assist the Drakes? Jax took one of Nova’s pistols and fired back.

The mirrors were aligned. Mika stepped through. Someone was waiting for her on the other side, an energy rifle aimed at her chest. She raised her hands and spoke the code. The guard responded with his part of the code, lowered his rifle and escorted her to Darian, who was being outfitted for the earlier-than-expected offensive. Both Mika and Darian knew that there was no time for the standard loyalty test. For the first time in his life, Darian had to give a member of the clan his complete trust.

Nearly five weeks later, newly-elected Governor Jax read a message sent to Central Star Island. It contained only one word, not even a signature.

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