The Observer was out there. Close by. Close enough that if she finally got him, she could end this—
A second later, somebody initiated a holographic link with remote psychic generators.
The so-called simulation quickly ended. From this point on, these solid-state holograms would be real, and they would inflict equally real damage.
Joseph knew this. She felt anxiety blast through him.
A moment later, he attempted to call Admiral Forest with his neural comms. It didn’t work.
“Sally, come here,” he said. He grabbed her shoulder and pulled her back. She let him.
She could get rid of the psychic generator. With nothing more than a click of her fingers. But do that, and it would prove the Queen was somewhere near. Worse, it would likely prove she was one of the cadets in this simulation.
If she acted too quickly… if she acted too quickly, she’d never defeat the King, and her life and every mind within her would end.
Joseph kept her close, his sweaty fingers digging into her shoulder.
He craned his neck. “You’ve got to get out of here.”
She knew that she had to pretend she didn’t know what was happening, but the Observer was—
A new drone shot up from the stairs.
Joseph yanked her to the side, the movement strong. His muscles tensed with the kind of poised power only a spacer could wield.
Anyone would question how a seemingly middling cadet was capable of it – anyone but her. She knew exactly where his strength came from. She could feel his subspace particle fields fluctuating in his form, sending shots of energy to different parts of his body so quickly, standard medical tech wouldn’t be able to track them.
He shot the drone right out of the air. It exploded into sparks. They didn’t disappear like they had last time. They scattered down the walls, burning them as they went. Then they danced close to Sally’s shoes.
Joseph yanked her back again. “Dammit. You’ve got to get out of here. I—”
“We should split up,” she said as she pulled back from him. She knew the only way the students had of getting out of here – unless she intervened and risked everything – was if Joseph saved them.
“No way, Sally. I just need to….” He unconsciously opened his hand to the side. His fingers twitched.
She could feel the need in his body.
He wanted to reveal his subspace sword. Do that, and this would end.
But she couldn’t let him reveal himself. Not for her.
She jolted back from him. “We need to split up, Joseph. You’re a better shot than me. Head back toward the cadets. I’ll try to figure out a way out of here. If I can reach the primary holographic panel and shut it off—”
“Sally, I’m not going to let you—”
Sally felt a wave of psychic force just behind him. Sprites were about to blast up out of the wall.
She could stop them. But she needed them to distract him.
She jolted further away from him as they manifested. Just as they secured their hands on his shoulders, Joseph’s eyes sprang wide in recognition.
Sally took the opportunity to run down the stairs. “We’ll be okay on our own. Go save the other cadets,” she called.
“Sally?” he screamed after her.
She was already down the stairs.
She felt psychic sprites initiate in the walls beside her. She simply rounded one hand into a fist.
This would be monitored. The Observer would be aware of everything. Which meant that Sally had to fight remotely. Nothing too obvious.
She could call on her Hendari crystals, and she would in some fashion. If it was needed. Her best chance was to get out of this maze, find the location of the holographic console, and destroy it.
The psychic sprites pushed in closer.
Sally concentrated, slowing them down. The Observer wouldn’t be aware it was occurring, but it gave Sally the time she needed to blast forward.
She already knew how to get out of this maze. She would do it before it was too late. For everyone.