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She passed over the smoking ruins of the town like a shadow, and found the moss-covered rocky plain that overlooked the sea. She landed there, in the mist, and opened an orifice for her passengers. She would be glad to have them out of her, even for just a time. She carried three: the techno-mages Elizar and Razeel, and the telepath Bunny. Though she had carried them a number of times now, she still did not feel comfortable with them inside her, particularly the hated Bunny, whose very presence seemed a threat to Anna.

They left her, heading into the mist, and she turned her mind to more important things. It was time for her systems check. The machine was so beautiful, so elegant. Perfect grace, perfect control, form and function integrated into the circuitry of the unbroken loop, the closed universe. All systems of the machine passed through her. She was its heart; she was its brain; she was the machine. She kept the neurons firing in harmony. She synchronized the cleansing and circulation in sublime synergy. She beat out a flawless march with the complex, multileveled systems. The skin of the machine was her skin; its bones and blood, her bones and blood. She and the machine were one: a great engine of chaos and destruction.

The Eye informed her they had won a great victory here today. She and her sisters had found their targets. They had generated vast destruction. The liberators were pleased.

A thrill ran through Anna.

Chaos through warfare, the Eye said. Evolution through bloodshed. Perfection through victory.

Now they were one step closer to that great, ecstatic triumph. For the planet Soom lay in ruins.



* * *



Galen walked the narrow gray corridors of the hiding place. Harsh light shone off the plain, artificial surfaces. The curved
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