“You’re leaving?” I asked. “Before the war is even over?”
She blinked once, startled. “It’s not my world.”
“But you saved it!”
She smiled again, softly. “I need to go. I won’t abandon Earth. But before I do, I’ve remembered. Jerem Cozak left instructions! There is something you need to do.”
From a pocket of her robe she took out a knife. I was startled to see that it was my own. She held it out to me, its handle first.
“The other group are the ones you call the Neverborn. He said to tell you it was time they found their center.”
“I don’t understand.”
She smiled gently. “He said that that was the most predictable of all. You are omnifex. The ship needs crew. Share your blood. Make them omnifex, too. The Swarm will help you. You’re their priority, now.”
“But I’m only a spearman! All their experience, so many lives, I don’t have that.”
She reached out to take my hands, which had come up to grasp the sides of my head. “Shhhh. Did I say that you were to share your blood only? The one who comes bears a metal cup. All bear lifetimes, as you know. Jerem Cozak said that he had once asked you if you were an orphan, or the culmination of much prophecy.”
I had turned and could only stare at the man of the Neverborn who did approach. She went on.
“But the universe itself asks you to answer now: because you had a childhood, does that mean that you were born? Or have you always been something else? Why did you have more affinity with the Blood of History than anyone else? The Swarm will help you. It is no longer preoccupied. It’s time to decide.”
The man did indeed carry a small metal cup. He hesitated, and I stepped toward him. “But if I take the cup,” I asked, “and all their memories, what will happen to me? And if they take my blood, what will they become?”
I turned to asked Cassan another question, but she spoke first.
“There is another world,” she said. “Kalnar, out on the galactic rim. Where the nightwind began. Jerem Cozak knows. He’ll lead you there. This needs ending.”
She turned and started walking away.
“And you?” I asked her, just as she reached the foot of the ramp, spray kicking around her feet. “You’ll meet us there?”
She did not reply. The Neverborn coughed to signal his approach. I turned and watched him near, but just as he arrived remembered a final question to ask her. And turned again to see the ramp already vanishing, Ship’s door closing quickly behind her, a flash of bare feet disappearing. I rolled my eyes and swore at the sky. I took a deep breath, and held it.
After a while I let it out, all at once. And turned back to him.
“Well,” I said. “Let the ritual begin.”