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alone.

Alone, the shell whispered. Alone, alone, alone.

He crushed the shell in his hand, letting the fragments drift down to the beach. Then he turned and started walking back to camp.

Whie's mother sat in the big study chair in the broken shell of Chateau Malreaux, looking at the sunset. The window Dooku had smashed with her body had not been repaired; ragged spikes of glass showed around the edge of the casement like teeth in a howling mouth. The glass had slashed her pink ball gown to ribbons and spattered it with blood. She didn't care.

The Baby was gone.

When she first read her future in the broken glass, she wept. Then the time for tears was past. There was nothing left, now. Nothing to do but sit at the window.

The sun sank. With the coming of night, the wind turned to a rare land breeze, and the ever-present clouds rolled back. The sun touched water: floundered: drowned. Darkness crept over the sky, clear for once. The stars overhead like chips of ice.

Her boy out there, somewhere. Never coming back. Full dark fell, but she did not move to put a light in the window. Dark now, and colder still. The little Vjun fox whined and nosed around her stiffening legs. By morning, it, too, was gone.

Light. Gray at first, touching the spires of the Jedi Temple, the tall peaks of the Chancellor's residence. A soft light the same color as the sleepy trantor pigeons just sidling from their roosts in the great ferrocrete skyrises of Coruscant. The low, continuous hum of traffic began to swell as the first commuters hurried to their early-morning jobs at bakeries and factories and holocomm stations. Then the rim of the sun peeked up over the horizon. The light turned pale watery gold, splashing across windows. Dew sparkled on parked fliers; their sleek metallic
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