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Aboard the Ouroboros Jack Benedict must face an untenable destiny replacing his future self, who travelled back in time to fight and die at the beginning of the war. As he struggles with his burden Benedict will discover that the universe still has a great many surprises left in store for him...



Interlude

The Return of the Queen



As they began evacuating from the Ship to Midian, Allison stood on a hill near the settlement and watched the ships descend from orbit. The Ship was visible in the nighttime sky; a yellowish monochrome silhouette projected against the far brighter surface of Heruba, the Lord of the heavens above. Her eyes were so different by then she’d been able to pick out details of the Ship’s broken hull from high orbit. She watched the smaller vehicles turn into fire balls in the upper atmosphere as the sun rose slowly in the North behind them. She watched the ships vector in on the Landing Zone as they came free of the re-entry burn. She watched from that hill as the first shelters were erected and the first of the castaways were processed into the camp. She only realized as the sun made its way back North at the end of the day that she’d been rooted to the spot the whole time.


Her body offered no complaint; She didn’t even feel tired. Before returning to the camp, Allison looked back up at the Ship, watching its crippled bulk holding shadowy station overhead in the night as two lines of support ships made the journey to and from the ancient behemoth. Before she knew it Allison watched the sun rise in the North again, so rapt had She been on the convoy shimmering in the sky. She could reach out with Her mind to any of the Bugs – as their pilots referred to them – and the occupants within. Similarly Allison could find anyone, anywhere in the Settlement. She no longer saw Her Mind as a ballooning sphere of consciousness, but as the heart of a vast web of Minds, each connected and interconnected back to Hers. She could call on one or all of them whenever She wished. Still watching the evacuation convoy Allison quickly understood that fewer Bugs were returning to the Ship than were leaving; the mission was nearly complete. She’d been standing on the spot for more than fifty hours. She waited until the only presences She could sense aboard the Ship were Colonel Bloom and the dull semiconscious animal that was all that was left of the once-mighty Ship Control Entity.

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