Chapter no 70

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

Kira acted without hesitation. Time was short, and she had no intention of wasting it.

To the ships assembled around her, she said, “Stand clear.” A scramble of activity followed as the captains pulled their ships back.

Then she ignited thrusters along the ribs of the station and began to move it, slowly and ponderously, toward the planet the Wranaui had been mining. The UMC had called it R1, but Kira thought it deserved a proper name. She would leave it to the people living on Unity to name it, though. It was their right as the inhabitants of the system.

Both Lphet and Admiral Klein signaled her as the station started to shift its position. *Navárez, what are you doing?* Klein asked.

“Taking up high orbit around R1,” she said. “It will be a better location for Unity.”

*Roger that, Navárez. We’ll secure your flight path. Next time, some warning would be appreciated.*

[[Lphet here: Do you require any assistance, Idealis?]]

“None at the moment.”

Moving Unity took several days. Kira used that time to make the preparations she needed. And when she had settled the station into its final orbit, she summoned the crew of the Wallfish to her once again.

They came without delay. The old, ramshackle ship docked near her central hub, and Kira saw that most of the damage the Wallfish had sustained had been repaired (though several of its radiators were still little more than needle-tipped shards).

The crew chattered amongst themselves with nervous excitement as they walked her hallways, but they kept the external speakers to their skinsuits turned off, and the moving of their lips was the only obvious giveaway. But she was curious, and she bathed their visors with an invisible wash of collimated light, which allowed her to read the vibrations of their voices.

“—idea what she wants?” said Trig. He sounded excited. Falconi grunted. “You’ve asked that three times now.” “Sorry.” The kid sounded slightly abashed.

Then Nielsen said, “Klein was pretty clear about what we’re supposed to


“I don’t give two shits what the brass thinks,” said Sparrow. “This is Kira we’re talking about. Not a Jelly, not a nightmare, Kira.”

“Are you sure about that?” Falconi asked.

A moment of silence followed. Then Sparrow thumped her chest with her fist. “Yeah. She’s got our back. She healed Trig, after all.”

“And we’re still being quarantined as a result,” said Falconi. Hwa-jung smiled slightly. “Life is never perfect.”

At that, the captain laughed, as did Nielsen.

Kira returned her sight and hearing to her remade body as the crew entered her presence chamber. They stopped before her, and she smiled down upon them. A slow fall of petals drifted from above, pink and white and smelling of warm perfume. “Welcome,” she said.

Falconi inclined his head. A wry smile flickered about his mouth. “Don’t know why, but feels like I should be bowing to you.”

“Please don’t,” she said. “You shouldn’t have to bow to anyone or anything. You’re not servants, and you’re certainly not slaves.”

“Damn right,” said Sparrow, and gave Kira a small salute. Then Kira looked at Trig. “How are you feeling?”

The kid shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant. His cheeks had regained a healthy color. “Pretty good. I just can’t believe all the stuff I missed.”

“It’s not the worst thing. If I could have slept through the past six months, I would have too.”

“Yeah, I know. You’re probably right, but jeez. Jumping off the maglev on Orsted! That must have been pretty exciting.”

Sparrow snorted. “You could say that. Damn near suicidal would be the other way.”

The kid flashed a quick grin before growing more serious. “But yeah, thanks again for patching me up, Kira. Really.”

“I’m just happy I could help,” she said, and the chamber seemed to glow in response. Then she shifted her focus to Vishal. He was standing next to Nielsen, their shoulders nearly touching. “Was there anything with Trig that I overlooked? Any problems that I might have caused?”

“I feel fine!” the kid proclaimed, puffing out his chest.

The doctor shook his head. “Trig appears to be the very picture of health. His bloodwork and neural responses could not be improved even if I tried.”

Falconi nodded. “Seriously, we owe you, Kira. If there’s anything we can do for you—”

The leaves interrupted him with a stir of disapproval. “Seeing as how none of this would have happened if not for me,” she said, “consider us even.”

He chuckled. It was good to hear him laugh again. “Fair enough.”

Trig hopped from foot to foot. He looked as if he were going to burst with excitement. “Tell her,” he said, looking at Vishal and Nielsen. “Come on! Or I’ll tell her!”

“Tell me what?” Kira asked, curious. Nielsen made a face, seeming embarrassed.

“You’re not going to believe this,” Falconi said.

Then Vishal took Nielsen’s hand and stepped forward. “Ms. Kira, I have an announcement to make. Ms. Audrey and I have gotten engaged. And she asked me, Ms. Kira. Me!

Nielsen blushed and laughed softly. “It’s true,” she said, and she looked at the doctor with a warmth Kira had never seen from her before.

Few things could now surprise Kira. Not the turning of the stars, not the decay of atomic nuclei, not the seemingly random quantum fluctuations that underlay reality as it appeared. But this surprised her, although—in retrospect—she supposed it wasn’t entirely unexpected.

“Congratulations,” she said with all the heartfelt emotion she could summon. The happiness of two beings might be a small thing when compared with the immensity of the universe, but what, ultimately, was more important? Suffering was inescapable, but to care for another and to be cared for in turn—that was the closest any person might come to heaven.

Vishal bobbed his head. “Thank you, Ms. Kira. We won’t get married until we can have a proper wedding, with my mother and sisters and lots of guests and food with—”

“Well, we’ll see,” said Nielsen with a small smile.

The doctor returned the smile and put an arm around her shoulders. “Yes, we do not want to wait too long, do we? We’ve even talked about someday buying a cargo vessel and starting a shipping company of our own, Ms. Kira!”

“Whatever we do, we’ll do it together,” said Nielsen. And she kissed him on his shaved cheek, and he kissed her back.

Falconi went to scratch his chin, and his fingers bumped against his visor. “To hell with it,” he growled, and unlocked and pulled off the helmet.

“Captain!” said Hwa-jung, sounding scandalized.

He waved his hand. “It’s fine.” Then he scratched his chin, and the sound of his nails rasping against his stubble carried throughout the presence chamber. “As you can tell, we’re all in a bit of shock, but they, uh, seem pretty happy, so we’re happy.”

“Yeah,” said Trig, sounding glum. He glanced toward the first officer and released a small sigh.

Falconi sniffed the air. “Smells nice,” he said. Kira smiled, sweeter than before. “I try.”

“Okay,” said Sparrow, rolling her shoulders as if she were about to lift a heavy weight. “Why’d you call us here, Kira? Just to chitchat? Doesn’t seem like you, say sorry.”

“Yes, I’m rather curious about that myself,” said Falconi. He rubbed a finger against one of the trunk-like pillars and then held it up before his face to examine the residue.

Kira took a deep breath. She didn’t need to, but doing so helped center her thoughts. “I asked you to come for two reasons. First to tell you a truth about the Maw.”

“Go on,” said Falconi, wary.

So she did. She told them the secret of the seven evil seeds that she had discovered amid the Maw’s memories. As she spoke, she watched as their faces grew pale and their expressions stricken.

“Gods!” Nielsen exclaimed.

“You’re saying there are seven more of those things wandering around, Thule knows where?” said Sparrow. Even she seemed daunted by the prospect.

Kira closed her eyes for a moment. “Exactly. And the Seeker is still out there also, and I can guarantee it’s up to no good. Neither the League nor the Jellies can deal with these sorts of threats. They’re just not capable of it. I’m the only one—the Seed is the only one—who can stop them.”

“So what are you going to do about it?” Falconi said, deadly quiet. “What I have to, of course. I’m going to hunt them down.”

For a time, the only sound in the chamber was the soft fall of petals. “How?” said Sparrow. “They could be anywhere.”

“Not anywhere. And as for how … I’d rather not say yet.”

“Okay,” said Falconi, drawing out the word. “What was the other reason you asked us here then?”

“For the giving of gifts.” And Kira lowered herself from the wall and released herself from the mesh of rootlike fibers that had kept her wrapped in a tight embrace. Her feet touched the floor, and for the first time since the Battered Hierophant, Kira stood whole and unassisted. Her body was the same green-black material as the walls of the station, and her hair rippled as if in a breeze, but there was no breeze.

“Whoa,” said Trig.

Falconi stepped forward, his ice-blue eyes searching her. “Is this really you?”

“It’s as much me as anything else in Unity.”

“That works,” he said, and he caught her in a tight hug, and Kira felt his embrace even on the far struts of the station.

The rest of the crew crowded around, touching, hugging, slapping her (lightly) on the back. “So where’s your brain?” asked Trig, his eyes wide with wonder. “Is it in your head? Or is it up there?” He pointed at the wall she’d descended from.

“Trig!” said Hwa-jung. “Aish. Show more respect.”

“That’s okay,” said Kira. She touched her temple. “Some is here, but most of it is back there. It wouldn’t fit in a normal skull.”

“Not so different from a ship mind,” said Hwa-jung. Kira bowed her head. “Not so different.”

“Either way, it’s good to see you in one piece,” said Sparrow.

“Hear, hear,” said Nielsen.

“Even if you do look like boiled spinach,” Sparrow added with a laugh.

Then Kira took a step back to give herself space. “Listen,” she said, and they listened. “I won’t be able to help you much from now on, so I want to do what I can while I can.”

“You don’t have to,” said Falconi.

She smiled at him. “If I had to, they wouldn’t be gifts.… Trig, I know you have always been interested in aliens. This, then, is for you.”

And from the floor by her feet, a rod of green wood sprouted, and it grew in height until it formed a staff nearly as tall as Trig himself. Near the top, embedded within the braided branches, sat what appeared to be an emerald the size of a robin’s egg, and it glowed with an inner light.

Kira grasped the staff, and it came off the floor, into her hand. Small leaves grew from it in places, and the smell of fresh sap suffused the air.

“Here,” she said, and handed the length of wood to Trig. “This is not a Staff of Blue, but a Staff of Green. It isn’t a weapon, although you may fight with it if you must. There is a part of the Seed in it, and if you care for the staff and treat it well, you will find that you can grow most anything, no matter how barren the soil. You will be able to talk with the Jellies, and wherever you plant the staff, life will flourish. The staff can do other things also, and if you prove yourself a worthy caretaker, you may discover them as well. Do not allow the UMC to get their hands on it.”

Awe and wonder shone forth from Trig’s face. “Thank you,” he said. “Thank you, thank you, thank you. I don’t even know—Ah, jeez. Thank you!”

“One more thing,” Kira said. And she caressed the top of the staff. “Once a day the staff will put forth a fruit. A single, red fruit. It is not much, but it is enough to keep you from ever starving. You will never need worry about food again, Trig.”

At that, tears filled Trig’s eyes, and he clutched the staff close to himself. “I won’t forget this,” he mumbled.

Kira expected he wouldn’t.

She moved on. “Hwa-jung.” From within her side, Kira took two orbs, one white, one brown. Each was just large enough to rest comfortably in the curve of her palm. She gave the brown one to the machine boss. “This is a

piece of tech from the Old Ones. You can use it to repair most any machine.”

The machine boss sucked on her lower lip as she stared at the orb she now held. “Aish. Will it eat the whole of my ship?”

Kira laughed and shook her head. “No, it’s not like the Seed. It won’t spread uncontrollably. But be careful where you use it, as it may sometimes try to make … improvements.”

Hwa-jung disappeared the orb into one of the pouches around her waist, and she mumbled her thanks. Red spots appeared on her cheeks, and Kira could tell how much the gift meant to the machine boss.

Pleased, Kira then handed the white orb to the doctor. “Vishal, this is also a piece of tech from the Old Ones. You can use it to repair most any wound. But, be careful where you use it, as it—”

“As it may sometimes make improvements,” said Vishal with a gentle smile. “Yes, I understand.”

She returned his smile. “Good. It could have saved Trig back at Bughunt.

Hopefully you won’t ever need it, but if you do…”

“If I do, better to have it than not.” Vishal placed his hands together, cupping the orb between them, and bowed. “Thank you, Ms. Kira, most sincerely.”

Sparrow was next. Reaching down, Kira removed a short, all-black dagger from the side of her thigh and handed it to the shorter woman. The blade of the knife contained a faint, fibrous pattern, similar to the Seed. “This is a weapon.”

“No shit.”

“Metal detectors can’t see it: x-rays and microwaves won’t pick it up. But that’s not what makes this special. This knife can cut through anything.”

Sparrow gave her a skeptical look. “Really.”

“Really,” Kira insisted. “It may take time, but you can cut through even the toughest materials. And no, you don’t have to worry about losing control of it, the way I did with the Seed.”

Sparrow eyed the dagger with renewed interest. She flipped it around the back of her hand, caught the handle, and then tested the edge on the corner of one of her utility pouches. As promised, the blade sliced clean through the material, and when it did, a slight glimmer of blue ran the length of the

edge. “Handy. Thanks. Something like this would have gotten me out of a couple jams in the past.”

For Nielsen, Kira had no easy fixes. She said, “Audrey … I could solve your condition. The Seed has the ability to reshape any tissue, to recode any gene. But if I did—”

“You would have to change most of my brain,” said Nielsen. She smiled sadly. “I know.”

“It might not alter your personality or your memories, but I can’t promise it wouldn’t, even though the Seed has no desire to harm you. Quite the opposite.”

The first officer took a shuddery breath and then lifted her chin, shook her head. “No. I appreciate the offer, Kira, but no. It’s a risk I’d rather avoid. Figuring out who I am wasn’t easy, and I’m rather fond of who I’ve become. Losing that wouldn’t be worth it.”

“I’m sorry. I wish I could do more.”

“It’s okay,” said Nielsen. “Plenty of people have to deal with a lot worse.

I’ll be fine.”

Vishal hugged her. “Besides, Ms. Kira, I will do my best to help Ms. Audrey. Genetic modifications were always a specialty of mine in school, ah yes.” And Nielsen’s expression softened, and she hugged him back.

“I’m glad to hear that,” said Kira. “Even if I can’t heal you, there is something I can give you. Several somethings, actually, now that you’re engaged.”

Nielsen started to protest, but Kira paid her no mind. She knelt and traced two equal circles upon the floor, both no more than four or five centimeters across. Where she touched, gold lines formed, and they glowed brighter and brighter until they were painful to behold.

Then the light broke and faded. In its place lay two rings: gold, green, and laced with sparkles of sapphires. Kira took them and presented them to Nielsen. “For you and Vishal, an early wedding present. You’re under no obligation to use these, but if you do, you will find that they have certain advantages.”

“They’re beautiful,” said Nielsen, accepting the rings. “Thank you. But I’m afraid they’re both too large for me.”

Kira allowed herself a secret amusement. “Try and see.”

So Nielsen slipped on one of the two rings, and she let out a cry as the band tightened around her finger until it formed a snug but comfortable fit.

“That is so cool,” said Trig.

Kira beamed. “Isn’t it?” Then she went to the nearest pillar and, from an alcove in the side, removed a pair of objects. She held out the first one to Nielsen. It was a palm-sized disk of what looked like a rough white shell. Embedded within the surface of the shell was a cluster of blue beads, each no bigger than a pea. “This is what I originally intended to give you.”

“What is it?” Nielsen asked, accepting the disk.

“Relief. The next time your affliction strikes, take one of these”—she tapped a bead—“and eat it. Just one, no more. They cannot heal you, but they can help you function, make things easier, more bearable.”

“Thank you,” said Nielsen, sounding somewhat overwhelmed.

Kira inclined her head. “Given enough time, the beads will regrow, so you will never run out, no matter how long you live.”

Tears filled Nielsen’s eyes. “Seriously, Kira … thank you.

Behind her, Vishal said, “You are too kind, Ms. Kira. Too kind. But thank you from the deepest part of my heart.”

Then Kira held out the other object: an ordinary q-drive. “Also, there’s this.”

The first officer shook her head. “You’ve already done more than enough, Kira. I can’t accept anything else.”

“It’s not a gift,” said Kira gently. “It’s a request.… If you agree, I would like to name you as my legal representative. To that end, there is a document on this drive granting you power of attorney on my behalf.”


She took Nielsen by the shoulders, looked her in the eyes. “I worked for the Lapsang Corporation for over seven years, and the work paid well. Alan and I planned to use the money to start a new life on Adrasteia, but … it’s not doing me any good now. My request is this: see that the money gets to my family on Weyland, if they’re still alive. If they’re not, then the bits are yours.”

Nielsen opened her mouth, seemingly at a loss for words. Then she nodded, brisk, and said, “Of course, Kira. I’ll do my best.”

Heartened, Kira continued, “The company might give you some trouble, so I had Admiral Klein witness and notarize this. That should keep the

lawyers off your back.” She pressed the q-drive into Nielsen’s hand, and the first officer accepted.

Then Nielsen wrapped her in a fierce hug. “You have my word, Kira. I’ll do everything I can to get this to your family.”

“Thank you.”

Once Nielsen released her, Kira walked over to where Falconi stood alone. He cocked an eyebrow at her and then crossed his arms, as if suspicious. “And what are you going to give me, Kira? Tickets to a resort on Eidolon? Magic pixie dust I can sprinkle over the Wallfish?”

“Better,” she said. She raised a hand, and from an arched doorway in the side of the chamber, four of the station’s caretakers trundled forward, pushing a pallet upon which sat a sealed case painted military grey and stamped with UMC markings.

“What are those?” said Trig, pointing with the Staff of Green at the caretakers.

The creatures were small and bipedal, with double-jointed hind legs and short, T. rex arms at the front. Their fingers were delicate and pale to the point of translucence. A flexible tail extended behind them. Polished, tortoise-like plates armored their skin, but they had a feathered frill—red and purple—along the central ridge of their narrow heads. Four dragonfly wings lay flat against their backs.

“They tend to the station,” said Kira. “You might even say they were born from the station.”

“You mean, born from you,” said Falconi.

“In one sense, yes.” The caretakers left the pallet next to them and then retreated, chittering to themselves as they went. Kira opened the top of the case to reveal rows upon rows of antimatter canisters, each of them with the green light on the side that indicated they were full and powered.

Nielsen gasped, and Hwa-jung said, “Thule!”

To Falconi, Kira said, “For you and the Wallfish. Antimatter. Some of it I recovered from the vessels I disassembled. The rest I manufactured and transferred into the containment pods.”

With a stunned expression, Falconi looked over the case. “There must be enough in here to—”

“To power the Wallfish for years,” said Kira. “Yes. Or you can sell it and stash the bits for a rainy day. It’s your choice.”

“Thank y—”

“I’m not done yet,” said Kira. She raised her hand again, and the caretakers returned, pushing another pallet. On this one rested pots full of dark earth from which sprouted a strange and wild array of plants that bore no resemblance to those of Earth, Eidolon, or Weyland. Some glowed, some moved, and one of them—a red, stone-like plant—hummed.

“Since you had to strip your hydroponics bay, I thought you could use some replacements,” said Kira.

“I—” Falconi shook his head. “That’s very thoughtful of you, but how are we supposed to take them anywhere? We don’t have enough cryo pods, and—”

“The pots will protect them during FTL,” said Kira. “Trust me.” Then she handed him another q-drive. “Information on how to care for the plants, as well as details on each one. I think you’ll find them useful.”

For the first time, she saw tears glimmer in Falconi’s eyes. He reached out toward one of the plants—a mottled, pitcher-like organism with small tentacles waving about its open mouth—and then thought better of it and pulled his hand back. “I don’t know how to thank you.”

“Two more things,” she said. “One, this.” And she gave him a small metal rectangle, similar in size to a deck of playing cards. “For Veera and the Entropists to study.”

Falconi turned the rectangle over. It appeared featureless. “What is it?” “Something to point them in the right direction, if they can make sense

of it.” She smiled. “They will, eventually. And two, this.” And she placed her hands on either side of his face and kissed him on the lips, soft, delicate, and with feeling. “Thank you, Salvo,” she whispered.

“For what?”

“For believing in me. For trusting me. For treating me like a person and not a science experiment.” She kissed him once more and then stepped back and raised her arms to either side. Vines unfurled from the wall behind, wrapped themselves around her in a gentle embrace, and then lifted her back up to the waiting depression.

“My gifts are given,” she said as she again melded into the substance of the station. With it came a sense of safety. “Go now, and know this: no matter where time or fate may take us, I consider you my friends.”

“What are you going to do, Kira?” Falconi asked, craning his neck back to look at her.

“You’ll see!”

As the crew filed out through the entrance and back through the corridors toward the docking area, Kira reached out to Gregorovich, whom she knew would have been listening to the conversation via their comms. “I have something for you as well,” she said. “If you want it.”

*Oh really? And what might that be, O Ring Giver?*

“A body. A new body, as large or small as you want, metal or organic, in any shape or design that strikes your fancy. Just tell me, and the Seed can make it.” To Kira’s astonishment, the ship mind did not immediately answer. Rather, he was silent, and she could hear his silence as a physical thing: a pressure of contemplation and uncertainty on the other end of the signal. “Think of it; you could go anywhere you wanted to, Gregorovich. You wouldn’t need to be bound to the Wallfish anymore.”

At long last, the ship mind said, *No. But I think, perhaps, I want to be. Your offer is tempting, Kira, mighty tempting. And don’t think I’m ungrateful, but for the time being, I think my place is here, with Falconi and Nielsen and Trig and Hwa-jung and Sparrow. They need me, and … I won’t lie, it’s nice to have meatbags like them running around my decks. You might understand that now. A body would be nice, but I could always have a body. I couldn’t always have this crew or these friends.*

Kira did understand, and she appreciated his answer. “If you change your mind, the offer stands.”

*I’m glad to have known you, O Queen of Flowers. You are a prickly and problematic person, but life is more interesting with you around.… I could not have chosen as you have, to pursue these miscreants of the Maw all on your lonesome. For that, you have my admiration. Moreover, you showed me the path to freedom. You saved me from myself, and thus, you also have my eternal gratitude. If you find yourself in the far distant future, remember us as we remember you. And if the tides of time are kind, and I am still sound of thought, know this: you shall always be able to count upon my aid.*

To which she simply replied, “Thank you.”

With her visitors departed and her mind far more at rest, Kira started upon the next stage of her plan. In concept it was simple; in execution it was more complicated and dangerous than anything she had attempted since waking in the aftermath of the Maw’s destruction.

First, she moved herself near the skin of the station. There, she gathered material—organic and inorganic—until she had formed a second core, equal to the one at the center of Unity. Then, and this was the most difficult part, she separated her brain into two unequal parts.

Everything that was of Qwon and Carr, she isolated and placed in the heart of Unity. Everything that was of Kira, the Seed, and the Maw, she drew to herself. Some duplication was necessary—she could still remember Carr’s medical tests and Qwon’s time spent hunting in the waters of its homeworld—and some omissions and oversights were inevitable. But she did her best.

The process was frightening. With every move, Kira worried that she would sever some crucial part of her self. Or that she would cut off access to a memory she didn’t even know she needed. Or that she would kill herself.

But again, she did her best. As she had learned, sometimes you had to make a choice, any choice, even when it wasn’t clear which path was the right one. Life rarely provided such a luxury.

She labored for a night and a day, until everything that seemed to be her fit inside the skull she had chosen. The tiny, limited skull. She felt diminished, but at the same time, it was a relief to be free of all the sensory input pouring in from the station.

She checked on the Qwon/Carr consciousness one last time—a mother checking on a sleeping child—and then she separated herself from Mar Íneth and set forth toward the near asteroid belt, using her newly built fusion core to drive her through space.

As always, Klein and Lphet came clamoring for answers. So Kira told them of the Maw’s seven deadly seeds, and she explained her intentions. “I’m leaving to hunt them down,” she said.

Klein sputtered. “But what about the station?”

[[Lphet here: Yes, Idealis, I share the shoal leader’s concern. The station is too important for it to be unguarded.]]

Kira laughed. “It’s not. I left Carr-Qwon in charge.” “What?” said Klein.

[[Lphet here: What?]

“The part of me that was them now watches over Unity. They will care for it and, if it comes to that, protect it. I suggest you don’t anger them.”

[[Lphet here: Are you trying to create another Corrupted, Idealis?]]

“I hate to say it, but I agree with the Jelly,” said Klein. “Are you trying

to give us another Maw?”

Kira’s voice hardened. “The Maw is no more. I have removed all parts of the Seed from Carr-Qwon. What they are now is something different. Something unformed and unsure, but I can tell you this: none of the anger and pain that drove the Maw still exists. Or if it does, it’s inside me, not them. You have a new life-form to usher into existence, Admiral Klein, Lphet. Treat them accordingly, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Do not disappoint me.”

When she reached the asteroid belt, Kira slowed herself to a stop near one of the largest asteroids: a huge chunk of metallic rock kilometers across and pitted from countless collisions over the years.

There she parked herself, and there she again began to build. This time, Kira drew upon an existing blueprint: one she had found buried deep within the Seed’s memory banks. It was technology of the Old Ones, devised at the height of their civilization, and it suited her purpose perfectly.

Using the Seed, Kira devoured the asteroid—adapting it to her needs— and using the Old Ones’ schematic, she built a ship.

It was not square and spindly and lined with radiators, like the human ships. Nor was it round and white and iridescent like the Wranaui ships. It was not like any of those things. No. Kira’s ship was shaped like an arrow, long and sharp, with flowing lines reminiscent of a leaf. It had veins and ridges and, along its flared stern, fanned membranes. As with Unity, the ship was a living thing. The hull expanded and contracted in subtle motions,

and there was a sense of awareness about the vessel, as if it was watching everything around it.

In a way it was, for the ship was an extension of Kira’s body. It acted as her eyes, and through it, she could see far more than would otherwise have been possible.

When she was finished, Kira had a ship that was over half the size of a UMC battleship and far more heavily armed. Powering it was another torque engine, and with it, Kira felt confident she could exceed the highest speed of any of the Maw’s foul offspring.

Then, she took one last look at the system. At the Cordovan star, at the planet R1 and the verdant framework of Unity floating in orbit high above. At the fleets of human and Wranaui ships clustered thereabout, which were, if not entirely friendly, at least no longer shooting.

And Kira smiled, for it was good.

In her mind, she made her peace, said her last farewells; a silent lament for all that was lost and gone. And then she turned her ship away from the star—pointed it toward the Maw’s final memory—and with the smallest of thoughts, started on her way.

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