And stood. That white mist had been thick when I entered the cache. It was absurdly heavy now. I barely saw the hand before my face. Around me total silence fell. Something clicked, and I understood. Some of the so-called fog came out of my own nostrils. All through the poet’s journal there’d been prophecies about some new machine, something white and cloudy. Now I’d found it in this White Swarm.
Or it had found me. White dust had covered the poet and politician in their coffin. In the Well where the provisions were, I had thought it odd to see my breath in a room that was not cold. But it was just the first time in this city that I hadn’t had an energetic barrier. I had been breathing those machines. For a moment, standing there in the center of Ariel, I wondered what they did.
Then it hit me: no nightwind. There was no nightwind anywhere I saw. I reflected on what Jerem Cozak had said. Damned neat, these new machines.
The Temple of the History of the Profusion was just across the square. Spires and towers, a ruined mess. There’d been a fire during the riots or perhaps the city’s fall. No one had rebuilt. I thought that odd. On my world, the nightwind built the Augers whole cities of barracks and warehouses. Maybe on Thaeron they were tired of all the striving. This wasn’t a warring world, not anymore. I walked over.
There was someone already there. A young dark-haired man, large and slumped over on the front steps, his skin more than a little off-key. I recalled that nanotechnical invasion is rarely kind to the physiologies of anyone.
He blinked when he looked up. “There’s no one to take care of me,” he said.
‘I know,” I said. I sat down beside him. “Me neither.”
I reflected. On Earth I’d gotten out just ahead of this problem. How are you managing it, Elmy? How do you enclose ten million souls who once were Augers, but were supposedly no more? It changes your brain. That’s the purpose of the nightwind. But when you take the machines out, does the mind remain the same?