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of nuzzling into warm shavings, lost as much to herself as to others, as trapped as Morden's wife and daughter had been.

In love with the machine. Serving the machine. Serving them. The creature's eyes cut into her, distant stars of icy fire, reminding her of the emptiness she was to face. Would it be so bad to serve them willingly? To serve their hunger, their need, their fire and destruction? Was she willing to put a border between her and John, a border that could never be crossed? Was she willing to desert him? She had to. If she served them willingly, she would lose herself as surely as if she melded with the machine. She had failed the team. She didn't want to fail herself. No excavations. No friendships. No life with John. No life as she knew it. This border would have to be abided. She reached a bloody hand into the darkness, seized a chitin-hard limb. It flowed like liquid shadow through her fingers, and in that instant, in that unguarded moment of contact, she finally understood them perfectly.

They were older than the oldest artifact she had ever found; they knew the ancient secrets of galaxies, and of the races who populated them, whom they used and manipulated with ravenous malice. They walked in the spaces between stars, in the spaces between molecules. They moved behind the scenes, in shadow, their presence everywhere, their influence in everything. They reveled in chaos, in conflict, in hate, in pain, in suffering. It called to them like music, and they orchestrated it like music. And they would not rest until the universe played them a symphony in fire. They were the past the universe could not escape. They were the answer to Where did we come from? and Where are we going? And she was one of the first to be swept up in the currents of this past and
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