Chapter 3

This page is blighted with mold and the imprint of a memory…

The words seep experience into your open mind…


Smaller ships flock like parasites around a centerpiece flagship. Qinziq points to it, a Cabal carrier-class warship. "Glykon Volatus." She touches her finger to the yard's perimeter barrier and says, "Over," as if directing an animal. Qinziq flattens her palm against the ground and displaces the radiolarian saturation with a bubble of Void energy. It bursts and launches her and Bahto over the barrier. I follow on steps of Light, my Tex Mechanica rifle dangling from a loose strap.

Bahto settles last on uneasy jet bursts. Qinziq steps in front of him and calibrates a device on his chest plate before Bahto turns to face me. "One of your transmat," he grumbles. "I will stop their signal receiver, so our ship is hidden until we remove its locational anchor."

We separate into the silent yard, to our tasks. Qinziq and I weave through a field of parked interceptors as Bahto does his best to stay inconspicuous on his way to a gargantuan signal dish at the adjacent edge of the yard.

The daunting bow of the Glykon Volatus looms, obstructing the sky like a bloodied wave rearing up to consume us. I duck behind the frontal landing gear while Qinziq opens a service chute to the command deck.

I peek through the open hatch. Down the hall, a lone Psion runs diagnostics on the bridge. I carefully crawl inside and slip the long rifle from my back.

"Shoot it."

"Guns are loud, Gil." He wasn't totally off-kilter. One thought from that Psions could alert the whole yard.

'Ignorance.' The word ripples through my brain in Qinziq's seething voice. 'She will not.'

I didn't invite you in here, I thought.

The ripple spreads: 'Yours is a mind unfocused and taxed. Chaos where reason should lie.'

"We need this ship," Gilly whispers. He swings into my peripheral view. "If you don't do something, that Psion is going to have every Cabal in the sector on us!"

Qinziq surfaces from the hatch and kneels beside us. "This is Yirix, Ghost. She will not reveal us."

"She's Red Legion. Calus would see her executed."

"Psions fly many colors, but within the Cabal, we exist in congress, moving toward our own future. She will recognize my contribution, as I hers," Qinziq says, stepping forward.

Gilly watches Qinziq approach the other Psion. "If this sours, don't give it the chance."

His words cinch around my lungs. Short breaths of wary anticipation escape. I sight my long gun and wait.

Yirix stiffens as she becomes aware of Qinziq. She turns. They bow their heads together. The two empathize and come to one understanding in silence.

Whatever ambitions they have go further than this ship, this moment, this Cabal. I hadn't thought that way since I last wore the veneer of a Guardian. Sold a dream of an immortal City shielded by Light, as if it could go on forever. Forever is just a hope folks don't live long enough to see crumble.

Yirix looks to Gilly and me, to my rifle, unthreatened. I feel her request for temperance and a tranquil reassurance of their cause. For a moment, I feel young. I stand.

We warm the launch engines as Yirix slips away to join the throng and let us be.

Bahto materializes onto the bridge out of transmat and out of breath. He manages a few prideful words, "Charges set. We will not be tracked."

The Glykon breaks atmosphere as a colossal explosion rocks the shipyard and shutters through our hull. Flames spit across the distant yard below, spreading into a bonfire of heirlooms. Bahto called it "the spark that burns the past to fuel the future."

Better than the other way around.

FRENETIC SCRAWL INKED IN THE MARGIN READS: Door's on the fritz. Been that way since we dove. Staying away from this one.