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at least, had been able to fight the Shadows. Yet the Earth president, Clark, kept his forces out of the war, in secret alliance with the Shadows, who had helped him to secure his office. Meanwhile, Matthew struggled with his growing distrust of his own government, who insisted that the hybrid ship had never existed. How could they admit the rampaging ship had killed hundreds, when they still searched for enough Shadow tech to build another?

Galen found Matthew in the mess, eating with several others.

"Gale! Gale! Gale!"

The voice came from elsewhere, and as he recognized its source, the accompanying image flashed into his mind's eye, next to that of Matthew.

Fa.

She stared directly at him, at the probe in the ring he had given her. She was crying, her breath hitching, her face twisted in distress. Her skin, beneath the curly white wisps of hair, had flushed a deep pink.

He had programmed the ring to inform him if ever she said his name three times. He had told Fa that if ever she did, he would come to her. He had never imagined, then, that he would flee the galaxy.

Her head jerked up in response to some distant sound, and she swallowed her sobs.

After a moment, her gaze returned to the ring. "Gale, I'm afraid," she said in the language of the Soom. "Please come." She stood and took a few steps, and though the light was dim, he could see she'd been crouched in one corner of her bedroom. She was taller than when he'd last seen her, her nose flatter and wider. She had seen nearly ten cycles of the sun now. She still wore the jumper of a child, though this one was blue rather than her favored orange.

"A ship fell out of the sky. A bad ship. Everything-is gone. Look. Look." She turned the ring to face out the window. Where once the neighbor's house
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