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Like all good hunters, Bilan had lured his prey exactly where he wanted them. The best way to deal with a dangerous prey, especially one like Garian, was to make them believe they were the ones in control of the situation. If they didn't know you were there at all, they would be looking for you. So make sure you killed them before they even knew you existed, so they couldn't think to look for you, or make them think they'd already found and dealt with you.

Pretending to be captured was a particularly fortuitous move on Bilan's part. Garian now believed his capture field was stronger than Bilan's (as if Garian's hadn't been a poor quality copy of the original that he didn't even understand further than how to push the button that activated it!). He believed he had found something that could defeat Bilan, so, true to form, he would probably never study Bilan's history or behaviour again or even give Bilan's identity a second thought. He believed that Bilan's fate was something under his control and that Garian was choosing the direction in which Bilan was heading, when in fact, the truth was the exact opposite in so many ways. Perhaps most importantly, Garian had opened up his capture field in the presence of another with a capture field, the worst thing you could possibly do if you wanted to survive, but there was no way this Garian, this human-Bilano, this hunter-hunted, this impostor into Bilan's fate, could have known that. Now Bilan knew every detail of Garian's capture field, the history of everything that had been detained inside it, how much power had been fed into it, the information that would contribute to the ultimate evolution, how much the tapestry of fate had been warped around it by that power, how close Garian was to the Final Metamorphosis and, most importantly, how much energy it would take Bilan to capture and completely absorb Garian, and whether it would still be enough to take Bilan himself into the Final Metamorphosis.

The answer was, quite simply, no. By capturing another Bilano, even a flawed Bilano, he would be able to create an unending cycle of twisted fate, mirroring itself and feeding back on itself until it reached a climax that would outshine the originals by far, but the power needed for a Final Metamorphosis, to become a thing powerful enough to break a hole out of fate entirely, was greater yet.

But that was why Bilan had brought him here. To the island with the emerald glow, the same glow as the comet. Of course, Garian had been going there anyway. They were drawn to the same mountain, the same comet, into the same sky. He had a Bilano's instincts. A Bilano was something that you were in your destiny, not in your body or your mind or your blood. Because of how a Bilano worked, it was the only way they could be.

Bilan could sense the power throbbing in the very air, the heavy, oppressive ozone tang that was to do with more than just the storms that raged around the island. He could feel the barrier against his gelatinous skin and chitinous exoskeleton. He knew why it had let him in so easily that he had barely noticed the transition at all. He understood that it would make it only the more difficult to get out the other side again. That wasn't something he would want to do: it would only mean failure, another four hundred year wait and a resort to the last plan he had, to capture and absorb every single living thing on the planet and hope that it would be enough to get him into Transcendence under his own power next time. Or maybe eat one of those birds, if he could catch one. He wouldn't fail.

Soon, there would be no need to keep luring Garian further along. He would reach the point of no return, as surely as Bilan would. It would be good to no longer have to keep up the pretense of being trapped inside this cage. His whole body, his every particle, longed for the infinite true freedom of the one choice that would exist after the overwhelming culmination of fate that was the Transcendence.

Regina Snakebird:

The first part of the plan had been a success. Regina had found out all the information she needed by simply posing as a trader on the black market and listening to the rumours around her. He fed it back to Kaiser through his Data Memory banks and soon every bird in the Agency knew that there were extensive Bilanium veins under the Island and the Warden had begun experiments on them, as he had been prompted to do ever since he had secretly been assisted by the Agency in his sudden and unexpected appointment to the position in the first place. She had also taken the opportunity to sell a few things to the appropriate people in order to get things moving faster: advanced scientific apparatus to the Warden, as well as Bilanium storage and refinement tanks for his rapidly expanding mining operation, weapons for the organised resistance gangs to stir up rebellion faster and get the prisoners to become aware of what was happening, so they could invent their own countermeasures. Insane though he might be, the Warden wasn't doing anything particularly imaginative with it and he refused to share his notes, so a little healthy competition with some corporate espionage thrown in would do him good.

The whole point in entrusting him with the task was his complete lack of the morality that held scientists back on the Mainland, the secrecy possible on an almost completely isolated prison island and the fact that his particular brand of insanity meant that he would go along with anything unquestioningly if he thought it would get him some more power. Originally, the same criteria applied to the Agency, but now the experiment was simply too large and potentially dangerous to be taken to the next stage anywhere except the middle of the ocean, on an Island that was practically an infinite fuel source and whose inhabitants nobody cared about (and that included the Warden). Discovering such a huge vein of Bilanium had been a blessing. Kaiser had been worried they wouldn't have enough fuel to power the next stage at all. And now Regina could verify that the first part of the large scale experiment had been a success: there was a giant Capture field around the Island.

Garian had been the first successful small scale reproduction of the Capture Field. It still wasn't as powerful as Bilan's and Garian couldn't yet absorb someone's powers completely or use it to disguise himself for long periods of time but it didn't destroy the life form being captured – far more appropriate for a Bounty Hunter to use. It hadn't been easy to make a version that was compatible with a human at all, and it wouldn't have worked on anyone but Garian. His involvement with Bilan meant he was already exposed to Bilan's capture field but, unlike his former comrade Lance, he hadn't actually been captured by Bilan – it would have raised interesting problems to put a box inside a box of the same size, and besides, nobody survived being captured by Bilan. The discovery that Bilan's most dangerous ability could be reproduced in a laboratory and adapted for use by a human led to a new brand of weapons for the Agency.

Then the scientists had discovered the effect that Bilanium technology had on the space-time continuum. The first unfortunate team to discover this hadn't been working within Jack's quantum protective field: one of them now couldn't leave the room without reappearing in it seconds later, the other had aged fifty years overnight and swore that the same day had been repeating forever. Carefully monitored experiments with Garian – who was now accompanied by Jack at all times, just to make sure – confirmed that the people captured within what was actually a miniature local quantum field were also trapped within an infinite time loop. That was when Kaiser came up with the idea of surrounding a larger area, say, a prison building, with a giant capture field. They could create the ultimate prison, or maybe suspend people in the time loop who were terminally ill until they developed a cure.

A Bilanium quantum field the size of the entire Island had been achieved, or at least, it could be detected, but it was completely dormant. Something was needed to set it off. Evidently there was no such thing as a passive capture field; there had to be a captor. That was when the Agency decided to transport Bilan to the Island and arrange matters so that Garian (whose psychology was well known in the Agency) felt compelled to escort him. Bilan would be the power source and Garian would be the active agent, the trigger for the quantum field. Once they had seen it working, Jack could disable the field around Garian so they could pull him out.

At least, that was the official story. Regina was a smart bird and she knew there was no way that could work. Mostly it was the part about Bilan being unable to manipulate the field just because he was in a cage. From what she had seen of Bilan's capabilities, it was a miracle they had been able to put him in a cage in the first place and it was only a matter of time before he got out. Even Jailer's Island wasn't a secure enough prison to hold him and Kurtliegen would almost certainly do something like let him out to see what happened – presuming that wasn't what the Agency actually wanted him to do. Added to which, Bilan would easily be able to absorb Bilanium and grow stronger, and the ship didn't look like it could stay afloat, never mind hold a prisoner like Bilan.

Regina knew that something else was happening on Jailer's Island, something much more ambitious and probably much more unethical than experiments with time loops and capture fields. Unethical meant profitable. There was no way an entrepreneurial bird like her was going to sit at home while something like that was going down.


When it became known that the Diary of Wouda was on Jailer's Island, it was the perfect excuse for Tracy to go there on official business that wouldn't get questioned – an opportunity she had been awaiting for a long time. She volunteered for the mission the second it was posted up and headed there the second she received the confirmation.

The sudden surfacing of a national treasure thought lost for decades on a prison island was suspicious in and of itself. However, the original purpose of the Diary of Wouda as a manual to control a Bilanium weapon, combined with the original theory that Rajeen had stolen the diary and the rumours that Rajeen had a source of Bilanium, had led to a panic within the secret service that was quickly covered up, then resulted in the urgent and top secret priority of the mission to retrieve the diary.

Tracy was concerned about the possibility of immanent genetically engineered apocalyptic war machines but more concerned about her own reasons for getting to the Island right away. Like a small percentage of Lavian women, she had manifested the psychic power of prescience as a child. She knew that there was something very, very wrong with the Island. Not only with the things that were about to happen there but with the way the underlying structure of the future felt. It was as if time itself was flowing wrong on the Island. When she tried to meditate and enter a deeper trance, to fully concentrate on perceiving what was about to happen there, she met up with a solid, invisible wall and couldn't even see the Island at all, as though it had a stealth field around it, except that it was invisible in time, not just in space. It gave her a migraine to try and look at it for too long. It was definitely there: she could see the shape of it via its absence, and it wouldn't make sense for an Island to disappear from space and time. Regular ninjas, even the most elite, would not be able to find anything out on that Island. She was the only psychic currently known to the Government. She wasn't sure what would even happen to a prescient who stepped into a place where time worked differently but she knew that she was the only one who had any chance of even noticing that it had happened to them.

Most importantly – the main reason she wanted to go to the Island - her sister was going to end up there some time in the immediate future. Whatever happened on that Island in the next two days was critical to her sister's destiny. She could die, find true love, find out her true identity (Tracy knew well her sister was adopted, even though their mental bond together was stronger than any ties of blood) or instigate something very, very dark in the fabric of time, or something equally wondrous.

And Tracy was well aware that something of that nature existed on the Island. Even through the fog of time that seemed so impenetrable, she could see its light and its all-consuming darkness piercing through. She couldn't look at it for too long either – she could feel the darkness staring back at her, its wild eyes boring into her soul. She knew it was already following her, and her alone. Once she set foot on the Island, if she continued to passively follow her allotted fate, she would bring about that darkness with her own hands.

The time to predict fate had already passed; it was time to start ensuring that they actually had a future at all.