It seemed to take forever for the wind to blow by. Dax shut his eyes and turned away from it, wishing the terrible noise would stop, wishing that he couldn’t hear the ricochet of debris very close to his head. At the same time he was very conscious of Kaire, curled up against his legs. 

Finally the constant rattle faded, punctuated only by a falling piece of debris, clattering on the ground.

Kaire uncurled and peered out into the plaza. “It’s over,” she said, sounding relieved, and crawled out from under the pillars.

Dax followed her out of the hole. The whole plaza was a mess, scattered with pieces of metal junk. Overhead, the clouds were blowing away, revealing the stars once more. “What in god’s name was that?”

Kaire was scruffing at her hair to get the dust out. “Paradigm squall. Like I said before, this whole area is saturated with Gating energy. Sometimes when it reaches a critical level, it reacts violently like that – and then things change, things come through…”

“Like me.” He nodded over to the building he had been looking at – the brickwork was now back to terracotta red, but with dark blue bands. The signpost he had been looking at had nine signs on it now, instead of seven. “And stuff changes, like that?”

She nodded.

Dax remembered walking away from the memorial; how, in his tiredness and confusion, he had thought the silhouettes of the buildings in the distance were changing. Now he wasn’t so sure it had been his imagination. “What’s this Gating energy you keep talking about?”

“It’s a form of energy that allows passage between worlds,” Kaire said. “It was - released when the Guardians died.”

The Guardians…

“ ‘They found the gateways to other worlds…And watched them jealously, lest the others use them…’ “

She stared at him as he finished repeating the words.

“You know about the Guardians? How?”

“I dreamed about them too,” he said. “I got given a long lecture by a disappearing monster.”

He was prepared to elaborate, but to his disappointment she didn’t seem interested in the story, rather in what he had just said. “So how much do you know about them?”

Dax shrugged. “I don’t know…they used to be things called Ancestors, but then they evolved - they were big, they guarded some sort of portals, then they died. That’s it, really. I wasn’t exactly taking notes.”

She seemed mollified by this. “Nones has had problems with paradigm flux ever since it was founded because one of the Guardians died around here,” she told him. “After all these years, it might not have been such a problem, but the Evinthei use Gating energy for power. Their computer network runs off it…”

Nodding, but not really interested, Dax looked around at the devastation the squall had caused. To his surprise, he saw that not all of what had been carried along on the wind was junk. He reached down.

“What’s that?” asked Kaire as he straightened up with his prize.

“It’s a cell phone,” said Dax, bemused. “Looks brand new.”

He flipped it open and the light came on, along with the symbol of a brand he had never seen before. Most of the keys looked familiar, but there were several that he didn’t recognise. “It works, too. Expensive model, it looks like.”

He held it up for her to see, but Kaire shook her head. “The numbers don’t make any sense to me,” she said dismissively. Turning away, she pointed down one of the streets leading out of the plaza. “I think we need to go this way – that looks like the compound control tower. I can only hope the squall slowed them down too.” She started off at a jog, not waiting for him.

Dax looked down at the cell phone. It seemed a shame to waste such a nice piece of hardware; he slid it into his pocket, then followed at a run.



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