Syreen has found allies for her cause, but she still has to defeat her enemy’s forces. She finds allies in places she’d never expected, learns about her true origin, and about a millennia-old enemy.
In addition to all the mess she yet has to clean up, she now has to worry about a force so terrible even her ancestors had fled from. But it will be her destiny to pick up the fight.
Welcome, our daughter. Welcome, Syreen Starborn.
This single line of a song sung by stars distant and close echoed in Syreen’s mind.
Does that mean what I think it means?
—Your heart knows the truth.—
Assiduous’s usually reassuring mental presence didn’t help her now.
It’s unthinkable. How could it be? Look at me—I’m a person of flesh and blood, not a tiny piece of burning gas.
—Your body is just that, flesh and blood. Your mind is not. Your achievements cannot be explained by mere mortal existence. No Navigator of our People ever mended the fabric of space. No Navigator of our People ever performed hyperflight. By the way, we cannot stay on the hyperplane forever.—
She sighed. You’re right. I’ve got more immediate problems to tend to. Not the least of which is our passenger.
—Should I assimilate him to unburden you?—
No. We have to assimilate his knowledge first.
—A wise decision. I did not think of that.—
Syreen smiled. Let’s have a rest and make plans now.
She chose a solitary star without planets in the near vicinity, only a few dozen light years away, and let her living ship drop from hyperspace there. While Assiduous recharged, she could deal with their passenger—or better, their prisoner, the former master of Associated Planets and its heart, Nysa.
When she resurfaced from deep integration with her ship, she first checked the feel in her limbs. Her broken bones—result of the master’s not-so-tender treatment—were set and healed, along with the bruises and other minor inconveniences.
She felt his mental assault starting before she even raised one leg to climb out of her pilot chair, still located in the middle of Assiduous’s huge hangar.
She walked over to the chair Assiduous had grown out of the hangar floor for him. Only her previous mental command held him there. Does it? I ordered him to stop that before.
You will not use your mental powers again, unless I tell you so. You will stay in that chair for now.
“I’ve had enough of your abuse.” She stepped before him and focused on his eyes. “Aboard my ship, you will behave as is becoming for a guest.”
He cocked his head and smirked. “Dream your dream, insolent girl. You can’t keep your guard up forever, and in due time, you’ll beg for mercy. I will crush your mind and body, and when I’m done with you, I’ll make sure no one will ever dare to cross me again.”
His chair’s armrests wrapped around his wrists. Shackles grew from the floor and around his ankles. A spear-like shape shot from the same floor and stopped only a hair-width before his throat.
Assiduous’s voice boomed all over the hangar. “You will not hurt my pilot, nor threaten to do so. I can keep my guard up forever, and you can’t hide from me.”
—Not even mentally.—
The master flinched. The spearpoint yielded just enough to prevent injury.
Syreen couldn’t entirely hide her own surprise.
You can communicate with him mentally?
—I can. However, I cannot command him.—
The master laughed. “You can’t win. There’s no place you can go. My fleet will crush your pathetic opposition. There will be no world welcoming you.”
She felt her anger rising.