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This chapter is all about layering in additional challenges, on top of the main threat of Kraisa. Interweaving logistical difficulties such as the prisoners in the mesa prison adds a level of accountability to their decisions, so that it’s not a simple matter of Find The Bad Guy, Fight The Bad Guy. What Kirya, Tarn and Tranton choose to do here will directly affect thousands of prisoners.

All of that is compounded by the fact they are prisoners, and therefore not immediately sympathetic. This isn’t an orphanage or a dog sanctuary. That provides an opportunity to explore different character reactions, with Tarn immediately taking the side of the prisoners and assuming false imprisonment and Kirya having a more practical, realistic assessment.

This also comes a couple of chapters after ‘Justice for all’ when we checked in at the abandoned Verase estate; and here we get to find out what’s happened to Tristan. He’s a relatively minor character who we haven’t seen since Arc 2, but it’s a satisfying bit of resonance. Tristan is an example of a character who thought he was the lead protagonist in the story, and then discovered with absolute certainty that he is not.

The relationship between Kirya and Tarn I’m deliberately keeping light. A lot of it takes place in gestures and glances, rather than overt displays of passion. Neither of those characters are in a position to be indulging themselves. This chapter is a reminder that there is still a gulf between them, despite their recent shared experiences. They see the world differently, have lived differently, and will need to find a way to bridge that gap.


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