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with it? He had only a minute before they reached the edge of the system and jumped back into hyperspace. From his sensor readings, Galen guessed that it communicated, not through some sophisticated Shadow system, but through a standard Earth comm system. The scientists would have built it that way, so they could communicate with it. He searched for any signal it might be sending.

The ship was silent. Yet Galen heard a faint, pulsing signal. It was a distress beacon, its energy nearly exhausted, located about fifty thousand miles to starboard. According to his readings, nothing was out there. In his mind's eye, he scanned through options, narrowed his field of search to the area of the beacon, increased the sensitivity of the scan. Then he heard the voice, desperate, breathless.

"-is Ensign Matthew Gideon, of the Earth Alliance Destroyer Cerberus, to unidentified ships. I need your help. My ship has been destroyed."

Galen found him: one person, floating in the vast emptiness of space. The hybrid must have destroyed the Cerberus. He saw no debris, but assumed it had dispersed. Somehow, in the face of the hybrid's ferocity, one still lived. It was a miracle.

"I don't know if you can hear me, I don't know if you can understand me. But-in thirty minutes, I'll be dead and- there will be no one left to speak for the people who died here. You have to help me, you have-"

At least some of the mages must have detected the beacon, must be hearing the message. Yet they were not slowing. Galen didn't know why he would be surprised. They were abandoning the galaxy; what was one person more or less?

He checked the position of the hybrid ship. It remained focused on the planet, continuing to attack it.

"Don't go. Don't- Don't go..."

He'd wanted to help the hybrid,
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