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stumbled toward them, pain shooting up his leg. He could see, now, a body on the gurney. The woman wore a jumpsuit that looked as if it had once been orange but now was covered with a uniform greyish stain. It was much too big for her. Along her sides lay her hands, thin, almost skeletal. Her fingernails were several inches long, and they had begun to twist into spirals. Dark hair lay in an oily mat against her shoulders and head. Her eyes were closed, with half circles of dark skin below them. Fitted over her head was the delicate metal device he'd seen being produced in a factory. The sculpted formation ran from cheeks to temple to forehead and disappeared beneath her hair.

He regained his balance as he came alongside the gurney. Some sort of energy was emanating from her, or from the device fastened to her. He slowed, trying to analyze it. The frequency of its vibration was strange, like a heartbeat, or the echo of a heartbeat.

G'Leel laid a hand on his back, urging him ahead. Yet for some reason he couldn't look away from the woman.

Her skeletal hand shot out, seized his wrist. Her eyes snapped open, and she trembled with the intensity of her grip. She jerked his hand to the side of her face, to one of the sculpted strands of metal.

The connection formed instantly between them.


She hungered for the machine. Without it, she was a bodiless spirit, lacking purpose or direction. She needed to coordinate, to synchronize, to strike, to fulfill the needs of the machine, to follow the direction of the Eye. She longed for the dizzying delight of movement, the exhilarating leap to hyperspace, the joy of the war cry. Even separated from her ship, she could think only of serving, of incorporating herself into the great body of the machine. She needed to have
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