Lee watched as we flew over a piece of what probably had been a planet. Maybe it had only been a moon, but it was round on the outside, jagged on the inside and big.
“They tried to hide there at the end of it,” he said. “They didn’t know it was the end yet, but I’d gotten my forces out of the area. Once they were safe, I used a new weapon we’d devised to fight them. It destroyed their shields, broke apart magical bindings and protections, and shattered the system’s planets. It damaged the star.”
I looked out toward where the computer said the white dwarf had to be. I’d wondered about that.
“But we won, and we’d taken out the Live faction’s most powerful fighters.” Lee stared out into the darkness. “They’d destroyed galaxies between them.”
Jaclyn turned away from the window and looked down at Lee in his chair. “What was the weapon? Do you still have it?”
Lee chuckled. “Not a bad question. You don’t have a word for the kind of weapon it is. Your species isn’t making them yet even if their precursors exist. Here’s something that you will understand though—it’s powered by the cores of several different galaxies.”
Oh. I wondered if it had any connection to his swords. If it did, I’d held more power than in my hands than I should have.
Jaclyn nodded. “Why fight in the first place? I get that your Live faction wanted you to leave the younger races alone and let them live. I understand that Destroy faction wanted to destroy them. What I’m wondering is why bother?”
“Same reason as violence ever happens—fear,” he said. “But, there’s a reason for the fear. We don’t experience time like you do. It’s not completely linear, so we live parts of our future out of sync with our timeline. A long time ago, some among our people saw their deaths at the hands of races yet unborn. They were ganging up to destroy us. Others were seeing their deaths at the hands of their own kind, but the younger races were on their side. You can guess the way things went from there.”
Jaclyn frowned. “When you see things, are they inevitable?”
His mouth twisted as he looked at her. “That’s complicated. Among all the parallel universes, there’s only one of us, but we exist in any universe we choose to. Normally death is no big deal. We manifest another avatar and go on, but we were seeing true deaths—our sources destroyed. That’s the kind of death you can’t ignore. It may only have been a possibility once, but with the Live faction dead or lost and Destroy’s policies working? We’re already halfway there.”
Before Jaclyn could say anything, Marcus asked, “What do you mean with, ‘Destroy’s policies are working’?”
“The Issakass,” Lee said. “They’re reptilian—kind of irritating to deal with, greedy, penny-pinching… But they’re not homicidal maniacs who stop killing their enemies only to kill each other. The problem is that that’s what they are now and I know why. It’s one of the archeological finds my people littered the galaxies with. The question is whether we’ll have to kill all of them or only most of them.”
He shrugged. “Destroy won’t be disappointed either way. It’ll be the end of trillions of beings. Since there’s no way to fix them once they’re infected, it’s a question of mass murder or genocide.”
Jaclyn shook her head. “I’ve got to admit I was a little disappointed you weren’t coming with us, but I’m glad we’re not going with you.”
Lee glanced out the window toward the darkness that surrounded us. “I don’t think you’re ready for that kind of mission yet. As for me, I’ve had to handle worse.”
For a time after that, all we did was look out the window. It wasn’t as exciting or even as depressing as you might imagine. Solar systems are huge and even after a gigantic, planet shattering battle, this one still didn’t resemble the ones in movies where you dodge endless asteroids.
More than anything else, it felt empty. We were close enough to the sun that we would have been within the orbits of the inner planets if there were inner planets, but there weren’t. The sun should have been a presence, but it wasn’t. I could find it with the computer’s aid, but it didn’t stand out much from the darkness around it.
If I wanted to, I could use the ship’s sensors to zoom in on ruined ships and worlds, but I didn’t. I kept my eyes on the sensors. I knew it had to be paranoia, but I felt like something might be watching us. The sensors didn’t detect life though—not even archeologists or salvage operations.
I didn’t know where it was, but if I had to guess, I would have said “up”—more or less where Lee said that he’d watch the system.
Before the feeling passed from “nothing to worry about” to “I probably ought to tell Lee,” Cassie said, “This is going to sound crazy, but I think we’re being watched, and I think it’s up there.”
She pointed in the same direction I’d been worrying about.
“I’ve had the same feeling,” I told them.
Jaclyn, (who had gone back to her seat by then) looked at each of us, and said, “You mean I wasn’t imagining things.” Then she eyed Lee. “That’s bad news, isn’t it?”
Lee took a deep breath and looked out the window, staring upward, frowning. “It’s bad news.”