“It is done?” asked one, and I nodded. “Then we return, so that our watch can be complete.”
They turned and ran and for the first time I kept pace with them, each of our feet hitting the ground at once. In all our weeks afield, I had never been able to accomplish this. Now it came so easily I was almost afraid it would simply stop happening, like a tune whose time has just run out. But we soon left Kiss, the southmost city of the Profuse Hand, far behind. When I saw the camp hidden in a tiny vale, my heart sang with exaltation. When I reached my tent I stopped, gathering my breath and watching the sunrise bloom over the ocean. I wept.
When the exhilaration of my survival finally faded, I knew a fatigue I never had before. I lay down inside my tent just as the rest of the Never-born were standing up outside of theirs. I laughed when I felt my mastodon lie down, too; it knew I had returned. Julius would later come with the noonday meal to tell me that it alone had stood sentry the whole time I was gone. But for now the deep voices of the Never-born drove me to sleep, and I did not dream. In the late afternoon I woke again, and stepped outside to see the Never-born about the task of donning heavy armor.
Jerem Cozak approached me. “I made them let you sleep as long as you were able,” he said.
I nodded. “I was more tired than I knew.”
He closed his eyes. “That is often the result of danger. But toward death you will go again. You ride behind me, second in the line. But wait for Marcus before you go down into the armories of the Wells of the Profusion. Do not go alone.”
I nodded again, then stopped. “You talk as though our entry to the city were assured. But nothing I did made any difference to the wall. What do you think the White Swarm will do?”
“Before, I told you that the power of the Swarm was to overwrite the minds of other machines. This you have seen them accomplish. Today you will also see their purpose, which normally I hold them from. But those machines I put upon your dagger I have released.”