“It looks like this really is the end,” Maphira said, holding Vai’s hand tight as Dr McBane began to power up his machine.

“Looks like it,” Vai said. “Any regrets?”

“I really wanted to go to Paris one day.” Maphira thought about all the opportunities she’d had to do so, never taking them. “What about you?”

“I wish I’d learned more about solar PPAs when I had the chance. Solar power purchase agreements are going to be pivotal for society, and it was always something that interested me. I really only scratched the surface with my research.”

As the machine began to crack with electricity, being powered by a 500KW system, Dr McBane paced over to the lab’s entrance and pushed a button to open the door. “Come, my child!” he said.

Into the white laboratory stepped all four hundred pounds of the robot menace, Bender. The Conclave’s secret project made its way to the corner of the room, followed by Con Dew Ratroti.

“What’s this?” Dr McBane said, waiting for another person to come through the door. “Two others to join the show?”

“Let them in,” said Ratroti. “Our friend Cole has returned to us with a gift.”

Cole? Shouldn’t he have been serving the Conclave of Mechanists, sorting out their solar LGCs or something like that? After all, large-scale generation certificates didn’t sort themselves out, especially not in an operation this big. Maphira didn’t like this one bit.

Cole pushed a wheelchair into the room, and on it sat Rylee, her hands cuffed. Maphira felt sick seeing her sister here, despite the temporary relief that she’d gotten out of the conveyancing museum safely.

Dr McBane tossed a key over to Cole, who caught it easily. He pushed Rylee toward their cage, then began to unlock it, presumably to put Rylee inside.

The cage door opened with a loud click.

“Cole, now!” Rylee said.

The robot who looked like Cole sprung to action, charging toward the other side of the room. He threw a fist at Ratroti, but Bender stepped forward and blocked it.

“Come on!” Rylee whispered to Maphira and Vai. “Let’s go, now!”