He liked to sit on the fire escape outside his apartment and stare out at the city. He especially liked be out there at night when it was cooler, and the darkness shielded him from inquisitive eyes.

            You should be resting.

            “I can’t sleep.”

            Even out here, the sword could talk to him. Their connection was not limited by distance.

            Sorrow, there is nothing you can do.

            There was a long minute of silence before Sorrow spoke again.

            “I can’t sleep.”

            Sorrow, you can’t have her.

            He continued to watch the city. The lights. The people. The unceasing bustle of life filled with purpose and promise. The city boasted it never slept. It didn’t lie.

            “They have no idea what’s going to happen to them,” he softly murmured.

            And we can’t tell them because they will never believe us. Even if they did, their reactions could put them in greater danger.

            “Seven days.”

            Six, the sword corrected him. It was after midnight. The clocks had ushered in a new day.

            “Regardless, I have six more days to be with her.”

            He waited for the sword to protest, to remind him that there would never be a future with the woman. Only if he was very, very lucky would the woman, and the rest of this planet’s civilization, have any hope for a future after next week.

            What do you hope to accomplish in six days?

            “I don’t know,” Sorrow truthfully answered. He pressed his clenched fists into his abdomen, knowing that the sword was reading him with perfect clarity. “She’s affected me in ways I never thought possible. How is that possible, Rall? Tell me! I’m a Surge Knight. I am the front and foremost line of defense for this world! So tell me how I am able to think these thoughts. To feel this…” He dug his knuckles into his lower belly. The thick, rigid pole of flesh rising stiffly from his groin continued to plague him, and had ever since Rachel kissed him. It hurt, filling him with as much emotional pain as physical.

            Was it his imagination, or did the sword sigh?

            You are still a man. Before you were a Surge Knight, you were male. Once your metamorphosis is complete, you will still be a man. Yes, she has touched you in a way that confuses you, but it cannot change what will be. What must be.

            The sword paused, then cautiously asked, Do you wish for me to find another abode?

            “No. There’s no sense in it. In six days the U’Nar will be here. Moving now may raise suspicion.”

            A car honked as it drove by. Someone walking along the sidewalk waved to it before he disappeared around the corner. Further down the block, two people, a man and a woman, exited a restaurant. They were laughing and holding onto each other tightly. Sorrow watched them kiss while they paused at the street corner and waited for the light to change. Involuntarily, he raised a hand to his own lips as he recalled the sweet pressure of Rachel’s mouth on his.

            “Rall, once I emerge and we defeat the U’Nar, and I return to Aparandia, I will be allowed to take a consort, correct?”

            The sword remained silent, as Sorrow knew it often did if the answer was positive. But the weapon must have known what his next question would be.

            Once we defeat the U'Nar, you will leave this world, and there is no returning, Sorrow. This planet will need to recover on its own, without any further help from us. Our duty here will be done.

            Sorrow bowed his head. At this point, he couldn’t tell if the pressure inside his chest was part of the chrystasis, or caused by something else. Or someone else.

            Someone named Rachel.

            He took a deep breath. By all the stars in the heavens, he felt as one with this world. With the city and its inhabitants. Even in his present state, he was comfortable here. More comfortable and content than he ever had on his home world. And that, Rall told him, was a rarity in itself.

            We are being hailed by Panitor.


            A soft, swishing sound filled the small apartment while Rall and the other sword locked transmissions.


            “Hello, Pan. What’s wrong? Is everything all right with you?” There would be no reason for the other knight to contact him unless there was an emergency.

            “Plenty,” the other Surge Knight confessed in a worried voice. “Kleet tells me there’s been a sighting.”

            Sorrow was instantly on his feet and climbing through the window, back into the apartment. “Where?”

            “Majorca, Spain.”

            “Who do we have in that vicinity?” Sorrow queried, more to his weapon than to his fellow knight.


            “Clodon,” Panitor answered almost simultaneously. “But we can’t raise him or his sword.”

            “Is Kleet certain it was the U’Nar?” Sorrow asked.

            “That’s what he said before he signed off.”

            If Clodon met with the U’Nar before he left chrystasis, he had no chance of defeating them, or of survival, Rall informed them both.

            “Is there a chance he could have given away his identity to the U’Nar if he did try to accost them?”

            Not if he was still in chrystasis, a different voice answered. It was Panitor’s soul sword.

            “Where is Kleet now?”

            “In Great Britain,” Panitor said. “Clodon gave the warning before we lost all communication with him.”

            Sorrow glared at his weapon. “You told me we had six more days.”

            We do have six more days, Rall restated. If Clodon did try to accost the U’Nar, he must have met an advance scout.

            “And there’s no chance the creatures could have learned we were planetside?” Panitor asked.

            There is no way they can find out. That is part of the metamorphosis. As long as you are in chrystasis, their sensors cannot detect you, Panitor’s weapon reassured them.

            “What if he had his sword with him?” Panitor insisted. “Wouldn’t the sword’s power alert them?”

            The full power of any sword is not activated until its knight emerges from chrystasis, Rall said. Until then, he would appear no different from any other human from this world trying to defend himself.

            “Do we have any confirmation other than Clodon’s belief the U’Nar may already be trying to infiltrate this world? Other than the fact that we’ve also lost all connection with Clodon and his sword?” asked Sorrow.

            “None,” Panitor replied.

            Sorrow shook his head. “If Clodon believed it so, then we have no choice but to act on that belief. No Surge Knight would dare to put out a warning unless it was inescapable.”

            “But we won’t be ready,” Panitor said in near-panic. “We don’t have time to emerge.”

            Sooner and sooner the Un’Nar are attacking the outer worlds, Rall said. With each assault, they gain greater knowledge of us. The Elders knew that eventually the enemy would land on a world before the Surge Knights had gone through full metamorphosis.

            “What was their response?” Sorrow asked his weapon. “Did the Elders have a plan of action for such an event?”

            It was Panitor’s weapon that replied. To stay in hiding until full metamorphosis was complete.

            Sorrow stared in wide-eyed horror at the faintly glowing sheath containing his sword. “Do the Elders have any idea how much death and destruction the U’Nar could wreak until then? We have six days until they arrive! And we won’t complete our transformation for another eleven! Everyone on this world could be extinct in the five more days it'll take for us to emerge!”

            The vision of Rachel lying blistered and dead in the wake of a U’Nar attack came to him like a hard blow to the stomach. Gasping, Sorrow dropped to the floor as his legs gave way. Thankfully, Rall didn’t react to his actions, although the sword replied to his questions.

            If the U’Nar begin their attack in six days, and we have no reason to believe it will not happen at that time, then you have no choice but to lie in wait until gestation is complete. Otherwise, you will perish. And any chance this world had to survive total annihilation will be gone.