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encasing him. After a moment, it grew transparent, vanished. Anna couldn't tell if the darkness had moved inside of him or simply dispersed.

Kell moaned, and his knees buckled. Elizar and Tilar caught him. Tilar took his staff, and they dragged him into the small chamber that had been previously prepared. They thrust him into Anna's chair.

Kell's weight pressed against her, the heat of his body spreading into her. Anna extended long black fingers around him, embracing him tightly so he could not escape. From those fingers she extended wire-thin tendrils, pierced his clothing to make direct contact with his skin. She sent the tendrils over his body to the areas where she'd been told nerve endings gathered close to the surface: the inside of the ears, the nape of the neck, the spine, nipples, abdomen, genitals, the inside of the legs, the soles of the feet. His heart pounded against her.

Razeel remained in the doorway.

"You know you can't be in here," Elizar said to her. "Do you want your voice to go silent?"

Razeel gave a single nod and left, and Anna sealed the opening. Elizar leaned his staff against the wall, sat cross-legged on the floor, and rested his head in his hands. "Activate the device, Anna."

As Anna did, she also opened herself again to the vacuum of space, as they had planned. Kell's ship could not be within her when he was killed, for it might be programmed to destroy itself. Eagerly, Anna expelled the inferior ship from her body. It fell toward the planet. She waited until it was a safe distance, then wheeled and shrieked out her war cry. Red ecstasy flooded her. Her beam impaled the hated ship, utterly destroying it.

She closed herself, feeling better. She and the machine were tireless, invulnerable. They could do anything. She would
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