“Priest?” he asked.
“A minor religious functionary during the Profusion. It seems to be a medium-level government official on that world.”
“Always fear the bureaucrats.”
“He seems to be kept alive, coincidentally, mostly by the nightwind. Half his body’s made of the stuff.” I hesitated. Here was where the information from the message ended and detail from a very vivid deep-space dream began.
“He also seems to have located a relic near the galactic rim, a piece of technology far beyond the capacity of our species. Not even the Profusion could have made it. It allows him to utterly control the nightwind and to have a measure of control over even worse things. Nine worse things, to be exact.”
He shuddered. I saw the darkness in his eyes. He knew, then. They’d been to Thaeron, too.
“When you came to this city, you came from the south?” he asked. I nodded. “You passed then through the cliffs that mark the entrance to this valley. Did you see two great towers overhead, tall and thin, atop the mountains on either side?”
I nodded. “You called them the Needles, I believe. They are actually weapons for sub-orbital defense. Earth has them around the cities, but you have them all over each continent. They destroyed my fleet. But they fight specifically against invasion. They forced the Augers to be indirect, conquering your world. But they will not save you from this fleet. Those ships will never come in range. They don’t need to.”
He sighed. For a moment, I believe his head hung. Then he laughed. “If we succeed, then towers will not matter. If we fail, then nothing we could possess would have saved us anyway.”
“Considering our respective weaponry? I’d bet on the latter at this point.”