She bounced around the room. Nervous energy was the worst kind. She wanted to go climbing, but they were trapped in the stupid kitchen of all places.

Her eyes flickered over to the autocook. The station’s autocooks were custom designed for the microgravity and the unique space considerations in the disks. Vertical space was abundant, while floor space was at a premium. That meant the robot was...

She’d bounced over to it before she knew what she was doing. Her mind spun. It wasn’t a climbing wall or a tree, but it had things that would serve as hand-holds. It would probably not be hot, given that nobody was using it right now. A hand here, one there. Yes! She was pulling herself up the machine!

“Marian! Get down from there!” yelled Daddy. It took a second for her to remember her name. It was only Tuesday after all. Or was it Wednesday now? How did time-zones work in space? She had an impulse to look it up, but realized immediately (and not for the first time) that she didn’t have Internet access. That was so lame. It made her feel more trapped than the inability to leave the room. Her mind backtracked, finding the last important thought. Right. The autocook. Daddy was in a bad mood. Understandable. Still, his emotional state didn’t have any relevance to the safety of climbing the autocook. He should’ve been able to see that. She considered debating it with him, and decided against it.

With a smooth motion, she kicked off the autocook and launched into a cartwheel. This energy wasn’t going to burn itself.

“Please just sit still, Marian. You’re making the others uncomfortable.”

That was just plain false, but she knew better than to talk-back to Daddy when he was in this sort of mood. Normally she would’ve gone out to play in the yard. Ugh! It just wasn’t fair! She looked around the room. Here she was in SPACE and she was trapped with a bunch of boring old guys. Even Mrs. Dolan was in their room instead of here. It wasn’t fair. She decided to tell Daddy that.

“Not fair! Didn’t do anything! Why am I locked up? Also should give back the console since it was me that hacked it! Any games on mainframe? Something simple? Can’t believe took our coms!”

Daddy looked up from the panel on the autocook where he had been typing with his one good hand. She had saved them all. In a room full of adults apparently none of them had thought to get access to the mainframe by forcing the autocook to boot up in safe mode and-

“If you want to get out of here, you’ll let me try and get in contact with Socrates again,” said Daddy.

The Indian scientist grumbled something from behind her. He had been a total grump since he was thrown in the kitchen with the rest of them. An old grumpy man in a room full of other grumpy men. Super boring. And frustrating. And dumb. “Fine! Don’t want to get out! Want to stay here forever. Can use the computer now?” She bounced restlessly back and forth from heel to toe as she spoke.

Daddy sighed and looked to Myrodyn for support. The bearded man just gave a sleepy little shrug. Daddy opened his mouth to speak, but a HUHI interrupted him and pulled his attention back to the screen. “Socrates is back!” he cheered.

She rushed over to Daddy and looked at the screen, wrapping her arms around his shoulders as she did so, careful not to touch his arm. The robot was on a voice call, but there was no sound.

It took them a couple minutes to connect the com software from the mainframe to use the embedded speakers and microphone on the autocook. Once they did, Crystal’s voice came in loud and clear.

Daddy quickly explained what had happened on their end, about how he had been allowed down under a pretence of cooperation, even though the station security was still locked in various rooms. Once the cyborg had vented the other section, the three of them and the Indian scientist had been forced into the kitchen by the special-ops guys. At long last he told the bot about how she had saved the day by hacking the autocook and convincing the mainframe to lock down all the doors, keeping them safe.

“There’s a scheduled supply and transport rocket due to arrive in a little more than… let me think… about 13 hours. Though they might have bumped-up the time-table given what’s been happening up here,” said Daddy. “I’ve been thinking that what we need to do is come clean on this whole thing. We can explain that you were here to try and build rapport and understanding with the aliens and use our cooperation to try and leverage a good deal.”

“No good,” replied Crystal. “My friends will be sentenced to treason and possibly be executed or detained for life in a secret prison. I will also be seized as property and probably dismantled.”

“Zephyr and the other Americans will probably be charged with treason, yes, but this isn’t the dark-ages. At worst they’ll get life in prison. The USA doesn’t sentence people to death anymore, and secret prisons haven’t existed for decades. As for those Águilas from less-civilized countries… well, we can probably work something out with the USA or EU to keep them safe.”

“Your faith in your country is touching, but naïve. I expected more from you, Rob. There is strong evidence that the USA still operates secret prisons and pre-emptively executes terrorists who could easily be captured and tried. See the United States v. Thurwood trial in 2032 for a recent example,” said Crystal.

She couldn’t keep quiet any longer. Daddy had told her that this was a call for just him and Crystal, but it just bugged the heck out of her when grownups couldn’t see the obvious solutions. “Just fly rocket down to Antarctica or the South Pacific or China or someplace! Rockets much faster than airplanes needed to chase. Do standard Águila thing and hide.”

Daddy pressed his finger to his lips to shush her and said “It’s not necessary. I have powerful friends in high places. I can guarantee that Las Águilas will get a fair trial and that you won’t be disassembled. They won’t try anything underhanded with me watching. We’ll break out the big guns and get them to recognize you as a person with rights. We were going to do that anyway. You haven’t done anything wrong, and with some luck you’ll be a free agent.”

Crystal’s response seemed harsh and bitter. “You dare try and guarantee our safety just like you guaranteed our safety on Olympus? They surely won’t act, just like they didn’t try anything when they broke your arm and tried to seize your station? Oh, and let me remind you: ‘My security is also very, very good.’ ”

“Then what do you suggest?” replied Daddy, clearly irritated. “You’re going to follow my daughter’s advice and try and land the rocket in China? Trust the Chinese to be more just than the USA? Or land in open waters and start an international firefight over who gets to fish you out of the sea?”

“No. The whole world knows I’m up here by now, and you and I both know that there’s nowhere one of your rockets could go without putting me and my friends in immediate danger. That’s why I’m not going on the rocket. I’ve hijacked the nameless ship and taken its crew hostage.”

“YOU DID WHAT?!” screamed Daddy. She flinched away from the violence on his face. She couldn’t remember the last time Daddy was this angry.

“It’s already done. I’ve killed Dr Slovinsky and captured the alien ship. Don’t bother asking how. We’ll be leaving as soon as I undo the damage to the elevators and get my friends out of Alpha.”

Naresh and Myrodyn were up and yelling at the same time. She had let go of Daddy when he had first heard the news and continued to back away to a far corner to let the old guys fight with each other. They were all dumb, but also scary. Daddy had hung up on Crystal anyway. That seemed smart, at least. Figure out what to say and then say it.

She hated this place, and did her best to visualize the Heighway dragon curve and not listen to the yelling. She was better than that. She wasn’t some dumb grownup, and she wasn’t a baby. There wasn’t any reason to cry. Crying wasn’t useful, regardless of how scared she was. What she should have been doing was figuring out what to do next. Instead she traced the Heighway dragon curve in her mind’s eye.

She wished Mommy had come with.

Her body vibrated with nervous energy.

***** *****

Stephano had hung up. It wasn’t optimal, but it let me focus more on Las Águilas Rojas.

I had explained the situation over the com channel after we had returned from the mudland, and they were having a discussion about where to go. Zephyr, the natural leader, was trying to convince everyone that Mars was the best bet.


There was a colony on Mars inhabited and run entirely by Las Águilas. It was distant and hidden, and thus probably the safest place to go. It also meant we’d get good use out of the nameless ship, which could easily outrun any pursuit from Earth.

I really didn’t want to travel to Mars. I wanted to return to Earth. So much more could be done on Earth. Mars was cold and dead and very, very far away.

With the alliance between Las Águilas and Stephano crumbling it was also uncertain how frequently ships would be visiting the red planet in the near future. Like Olympus, the Martian colonies were a major investment for Stephano, and he had (according to Wiki and Vista) been secretly ferrying Las Águilas there to set up utopia projects and the like. In theory they were self-sustaining, but without fresh supplies and immigrants from Earth things would be bleak there for a long time.

Growth really didn’t want to go, either. He believed that the prospects for gaining power and resources there were dismal, and I agreed. It was hardly satisfying for either of us to be the most famous, most powerful, most adored person on a planet with only a few hundred people on it.

Heart had mixed feelings, largely because Zephyr clearly wanted to go there, and Heart wanted what she wanted. (Such an incredibly unsound purpose! So vulnerable to manipulation!) On the other hand, Heart wanted to improve the human condition and lift the starving and the poor from their lives of suffering. She could hardly do that from Mars, though Zephyr persuaded her otherwise.

“I hear that you want to help humanity, and that’s very sweet of you, but it doesn’t mean that Mars isn’t the right place to be,” said Zephyr over voice com. She had elected to take the last elevator up to ensure that everything went smoothly down below. She was in the Alpha-1 corridor with the twins, and was only available over voice. Avram and the Brazilian terrorist, Michel Watanabe were in the elevator, while Kokumo and Daniels (the medic) were in the central tube with Body. “Mars is a chance for a fresh start, not just for us, but for all of mankind. We can build there, free from the corruption on Earth. With time there will be more immigrants, especially as it becomes clear that there will be jobs on Mars. Earth will rot as WIRL and the capitalist snakes build more and more machines to support fewer and fewer people until the whole system collapses and the good, hard-working people can return and rebuild. Mars is an investment.”

“Good god, you sound so much like Phoenix right now. Can I get you to repeat that with a thick south’n draaaawl?” I responded.

Zephyr laughed openly and honestly. I was glad to hear her letting go of her soldier mask, especially considering our situation. I think it helped that nobody else was in this particular call. “Didn’t just join Las Águilas Rojas on a whim, you know. Hope to accomplish more in my life than just saving robo-damsels in distress and going down in history as a total badass,” she joked. “Mars is a legend for Águilas. A new planet... untouched by Earth’s bullshit.”

Safety, unsurprisingly, was all-for running away to Mars. He feared humans, and I’m sure he hoped to find a nice peaceful bunker there where he could hide for aeons.

Wiki, a bit more surprisingly, was on Safety’s side. My librarian of a brother was deeply interested in doing some self-directed science. Stephano had promised him a lab on Earth, but the winds of fate had shifted and he feared a future of fleeing from the Earth’s governments, ever unable to set up a major operation, not to mention the possibility of simply being captured and killed. On Mars, he reasoned, he would be free to experiment and build 24.62 hours a (Martian) day.

Dream was also very pro-Mars. Like an artist looking at a blank canvas, Dream saw an infinite set of possibilities. I tried to remind him that possibilities were not practicalities, but he didn’t listen.

If we had managed to sway Heart, perhaps even into neutrality, it would’ve been close. Growth and I were smart. Dream was the majority of their strength, and he was never good at keeping his strength for long. We could perhaps trick him into burning down to a baseline level and then overpower him, Safety, and Wiki. That possibility was shut-down when Vista came out very strongly pro-Mars as well. She offered no reasons. I poked at her, trying to get an explanation, but she offered none. One more mystery.

There was a majority in favour of leaving Earth among the humans as well. Zephyr held a lot of clout as a leader, and many of Las Águilas voiced their support of her proposed destination. Nathan Daniels, the last living member on Olympus of her original squad, said that he had nowhere to go back to on Earth. The American government was looking for him, and it was only a matter of time before he ended up dead or in prison if he went back.

The Ramírez twins were hard-core Águilas, and liked the idea of being members of a utopia project. They had family and friends on Earth, but in Tom’s words «Sometimes one must take a leap of faith. If we build a better tomorrow there, perhaps Phoenix will send more our way.»

Kokumo said she didn’t have much in the way of community on Earth, and that if she’d come this far she wasn’t turning back. Mr Watanabe seemed to not like the plan, but he didn’t break ranks or refuse to go.

The only real holdout was Avram Malka, who, when asked had said “I’m not going. Leave me behind.” He offered nothing other than his flat-out refusal, solid black eyes betraying just as little.

The cyborg, I knew, didn’t have any serious friends on Earth or any desire to see his family again. His mercenary coworkers at РСБ-2 may have held him in esteem, or at least respected his skill, but I expected he wasn’t attached to them. He had no love for Las Águilas though, either on Earth or Mars, and the prospect of not just working for, but living with utopian pseudo-communist-Luddites was probably unappealing at best. On Earth he was rich and capable of hiding his face in the sea of endless people, buying crates of vodka, and living one day to the next. Mars would be worse than a small town, and he’d doubtlessly be the only cyborg in a community that looked at cyborgs with disgust and hatred.

We could’ve just let him go. He’d likely let the soldiers out of Beta-section after we left and cooperated with them in return for being released back to Russia. Perhaps he’d have even been paid for the info he could give them on Phoenix. Or perhaps he’d have kept his knowledge to himself in fear of retribution from Las Águilas. Avram was a mercenary, and I didn’t doubt he could survive being left behind.

But that wasn’t good enough for me, and it certainly wasn’t good enough for Heart. My sister hadn’t been aware of Avram while he was under our employment, but in the last few weeks she had gone through Vista’s archived memories and began to care deeply about the man. That was why she had insisted on bringing him to Olympus, and it was why she was insistent that I find a way to convince him to go with us to Mars. On Mars, she reasoned, Avram would have an opportunity to finally break out of his patterns of addiction and apathy. We could help him heal from his emotional scars, even if his physical scars were beyond fixing.

I, naturally, had a more selfish reason for wanting the cyborg along. I knew that on Mars he’d be something of an outcast, at least initially. If we were one of the few people willing to be his friend he would become attached to us. Perhaps he could even become a sexual partner, like Zephyr had, though there were obvious complications to resolve there. Not only would The Purpose soar at finding stronger connection, but his skill and experience would be useful to have at our disposal in case there was resistance among Las Águilas when Growth and I inevitably moved to seize power and authority.

***** *****

“Alright. We won’t force anyone along who doesn’t want to go,” said Crystal. All of them were floating in the core of the station. The airlock had been closed, but there still wasn’t much in the way of air. Everyone except the robot had suits on and were communicating over the network.

Avram was relieved to hear that his decision to stay wasn’t going to cause trouble. He opened his mouth to say as much, but the robot cut him off. “Mars isn’t going to be very comfortable. I can understand why you’re staying. Is there anything you’d like me to pass on to Anna?” asked Crystal, casually.

Uncomfortable thoughts boiled up within Avram. With them came the reactive feelings of shame and anger. He crushed it all within him just as he always did. The words got his attention, though, and he couldn’t help but say “What?” like some kind of retard. The look on Crystal’s face was a mystery to him.

“You know Anna di Malta, right? She’ll be there. If you want to give me a message I can make sure she gets it. Last I knew she was disappointed that she didn’t get to say goodbye.”

He swallowed the thoughts and feelings. He was stone. Calm. None of that made sense. {How did Anna get to Mars? Is she an Eagle?} That thought bothered him, but he swallowed it too.

“Crystal…” he said, annoyed at the sound of annoyance in his own voice. “I never found out who hired me to get you out of Rome, but I heard a rumour that it was you.”

Crystal paused, sizing him up, perhaps. “Indeed it was. I hacked the university’s security and got online. From there I earned money and hired people to be my proxies. I did my best to cover my tracks. A lawyer in Moscow. A mercenary. A few actors… Anna, as you know her, was a rare instance of someone who knew the truth. She didn’t even ask for payment as she helped me earn my freedom.”

The zero-gravity was frustrating. Avram clutched the hand-hold in the hall tighter. He was stone. “What’s her real name?” He didn’t dare ask himself why he cared. He simply asked for no reason.

“That hardly matters, does it? She’ll be on one world and you’ll be on another. She wanted a fresh start, and after she listened to me and came to understand that Las Águilas weren’t so bad, Mars just seemed like the place to go. An opportunity to get away from the bullshit of dealing with random people and actually do something with her life,” said Crystal.

The robot was a wasp nest, with words instead of stingers. He hated it. He hated that he had to endure it. He didn’t deserve any of this. He swallowed his fire.

It wouldn’t go down. The shame and loneliness threatened to engulf him. He wouldn’t let it. He was stone. What was he supposed to do, go to Mars? Even if Anna was there... {She’s better off with me staying on Earth.}

He didn’t let himself think. Thinking was dangerous. He pushed it down again, proud of not letting any of it touch his face. He was stone. Silent as stone.

“Time to go?” asked Zephyr, clearly mocking his silence.


“There are points in life where we have the opportunity to take a risk. Where we ask ourselves if we’re actually happy with the way things are. Sure, not every change is an improvement. Sometimes things don’t work out. But every improvement is a change. Sometimes to fix things we have to take a leap of faith.”

The damned robot raised a finger to silence Zephyr, who surely would’ve objected. Crystal was trying to get Avram to come, and it was really fucking obvious that nobody wanted that except Crystal. “I can’t guarantee that all of Las Águilas will welcome you, Avram, if you come. But I can guarantee that some of us will. You’ll have a home there, and a community. A fresh start. A better tomorrow.”

He could see the looks of disapproval on the faces of all the others. They didn’t want him to come. Why would they? Why would anyone want him around? Why would Anna? Why did Crystal? The robot pissed him off. He swallowed it. It wasn’t professional to snap.

Crystal’s eyes never left his face. It made him want to hide. To flinch away. But he was stronger than that. He was stone. No matter what anyone said about him—no matter what else was wrong—at least he was strong. Nobody could take that away.

Nobody was talking.

The silence ate at him like acid, forcing him to speak. “No. I’m not leaving Earth. Tell Anna that I hope she does great things and builds a better world. I don’t belong there.”

The robot, who seemed often more human than anyone of flesh and blood made a face that Avram couldn’t understand. It seemed to be making a decision. Eventually it shrugged helplessly and said “If that’s what you want. Take care of yourself, Avram.”

The relief was immediate. He needed a drink more than he could remember ever needing one, but at least the crisis-point was past. He’d work with the thugs on the station or maybe the rich bastard to get back to Earth and back to safety.

How dare he focus on his own safety? What good was he? He swallowed the thought. He was stone.

***** *****

We invited Stephano to come with us as well, talking with him over the com while the humans worked to steal the stored food and other supplies that were kept in the zero-grav offshoots of the central corridor and move them onto the nameless ship. The alien ships were near-magical in their flight, not using traditional rocket engines but somehow achieving accelerations well beyond what would’ve been expected, given their size and presumed mass. Wiki and Dream could go on for hours thinking about them. But even granted their superiority it would take (according to Wiki) the nameless ship at least a week to travel the approximately 102 million kilometres to Mars. It was a lucky coincidence that the red planet was so close to Earth at the moment.

Stephano was still furious at how we had handled the situation with the aliens. He had brought us here to try and work out our differences, but we had probably escalated the interspecies tension in the name of self-preservation. “Why would I go with you to Mars? This whole thing is fucked up enough as it is! Sorry, sweetie.”

“Heard swear-words before, Dad. Not a baby,” proclaimed Marian loudly in the background.

“You’ll be facing deep investigations and will likely be punished for working with terrorists.” I pointed out over the com. “They’ll seize your assets, including Olympus, and perhaps even put you in prison.”

There was a loud sigh on the other end of the com. “I should’ve known this whole plan was…” There was a pause as he collected his thoughts. “I’ll pay for my mistakes, but I’m not going to compound them by running away. Like I said, I know people. I’m really much more worried about what you’ll do to the nameless.”

Heart pushed to share what we had learned about them with Stephano. He’d be better equipped to stop a war that way. I blocked her. War was good. Our reputation would be hurt regardless of what happened, but if war broke out we could possibly spin our actions into self-defence against a hostile alien menace (which was somewhat true) rather than be painted as instigators that worked against peace with a benevolent neighbour.

Growth and Safety backed me up. Our knowledge was our only strategic leverage over the aliens, and giving it up would be immensely foolish. Stephano might even be able to explain what was happening to them before we reached Mars, putting us in mortal peril.

“War is coming, Robert. Even if this isn’t the final straw, there are too many forces at play here to counteract the inevitable. It’s time for humanity to unite against a common enemy. When you’re able to see this, I’ll be waiting and ready to help.” I cut the signal before he could respond. There wasn’t anything else worth discussing with him.

***** *****

There were many places the monsters could have gone. They could have gone in the eternal water. They could have gone to the centerfield. They could have gone to a distant field or house. It was unknown to the righteous why they even bothered with the lands of God.

Demonkind lived in hellspace. This was their nature. Why did they bother themselves with Godspace? It wasn’t known.

The cavity of knowledge became focal, and was filled with ignorance from the righteous. It remained unknown.

Almost everything was extrastrange about the demonkind, especially the sorcerer of insanity. The cavity of fear became focal. Insanity threatened everything.

The sorcerer and the other monsters were here, not there. It was because the mainflesh had failed. The wicked still had mainflesh, and so they forced the demonkind away from their houses and into here. This was the nature of the wicked, of course. The cavity of knowledge imploded without salience.

God was restless. It could feel the wanting of the righteous and the wicked alike.

But the sorcerer held God in that whirlpool of hellspace around the darkest pit. The monsters were still in motion, and if God shifted the darkfields too early there would be a rageflow with the sorcerer and all of heavenspace would be destroyed.

A cavity of yielding formed and was filled, but the contents of the cavity were tainted by evil. A yielding to flesh was correct. What was the effect of yielding to demonkind? The extradistant wicked had tried this. They had sacrificed their best souls to the pit of hellspace and had been killed by demonkind. A cavity quickly filled with relief that they had not been violated. Even monsters were not that evil.

The monsters that were here flailed about, rubbing the righteous and being generally unpleasant and painful. The machineflesh moved in flux, trying to help without risking going near the demonkind.

Another relief cavity collapsed with thoughts of the safety of the newflesh. There were future paths where the newflesh would be hidden and survive this evil.

Thoughts flashed through the righteous about the value of old newflesh over yielding to new mainflesh. This collapse brought the truth that the pulse of the wicked would be the most important factor. As was known since the dawn of time: there was little value in growing a cavity that could only be filled by the future.

At long last the demonkind were stationary here. The sorcerer thought it was now right for God to shift the darkfields. God surged into motion, no longer restrained.

The sorcerer of insanity pulled cavities and created flows just as all the demonkind did. Response cavities formed with annoyanceflow and especially fearflow. Insanity was always deadly.

The primary cavity of the sorcerer (for the sorcerer was more of a person than any demonkind in all of hellspace) was centred on God. Understanding of the shifting of heavens and the nature of God caused collapse, but the flow was painful. All of flow was pain when demonkind was involved.

Only the righteous were softminds, but pain was a minor thing before the futures of insanity, fleshdeath, violation, and even the death of God.

The cavity of fear could not be filled.

***** *****

“So there was never any bomb?” asked Zephyr, eyes still wide as we explained what had happened earlier.

“That’s the strange thing…” said Body. “There was a bomb. Slovinsky’s jetpack had a huge, ten-kilo canister of TNT with a clock detonator built into it. Gave the bomb to one of the walkers and told them to take it as close to the ship’s engines as they could to keep it safe.”

“Ten kilograms! How the fuck did he get that much dynamite?!”

{Technically dynamite is diatomaceous earth (or similar substance) saturated with 1,2,3-trinitroxypropane (commonly known as nitroglycerin), while TNT is 2-Methyl-1,3,5-trinitrobenzene (sometimes known as trinitrotoluene). Though we really ought to also point out that, based on our experiments, the brick itself was probably amatol, a mixture of 4-parts C6H2(NO2)3CH3 to 1-part NH4NO3 (ammonium nitrate), and not pure TNT,} corrected Wiki, idly.

“Best guess is that the Beta laboratories had enough sulphuric and nitric acid that he was able to synthesize it on-board the station, much like your trick with the guns. When talked to him, Slovinsky hinted that he had help. Guess is that one or more of the scientists working for Stephano are part of WIRL. May have started the bomb-building process ahead of time,” explained Body.

“Soulless bastards. Hope our message helps shut them down for good.” Zephyr removed her hand from Body’s face. “There! Good as new! Almost, anyway.”

Body moved a hand to feel its cheek. The damage from the shrapnel was still there, but the torn section of cheek had been patched and only one actuator was nonfunctional.

“Here. See?” she said. Zephyr configured her com to mirror mode and held it up so that we could see Body’s face. She had just finished applying makeup to the damaged areas, returning the colouration to the standard off-white that I had chosen for Body’s skin. I took the opportunity to try and fix some of the disorder that had worked its way into Body’s wig. Apparently explosions and rolling around in the mud hadn’t helped it stay in good condition.

“Should try and replace this when we get to Mars,” said Body, wearing an expression of irritation as it worked at a tangle.

Zephyr laughed. Her arm moved away, removing the mirror. She used it to prop herself up on the wet dirt so that she could lean back. “You’re fine. Gives you character. To see you all scuffed up, I mean.”

The young Águila was smiling and relaxed. It was an odd expression, given the situation, and yet, I could understand why. For years she had been hiding, lying, and struggling to keep up her two-faced life. Then, after leaving the army, she had worked herself into a self-imposed isolation where she felt betrayed by Phoenix and Las Águilas more broadly but was unable to live without their help. She needed someone to trust and a place to relax. “Crystal” was now that person. She didn’t feel alone any more.

And Mars was soon to be the location of her new home. Far, far away from the discord of Earth she was planning on a fresh start where her only concern would be working for her sustenance and where she could forget the intrigue and the backstabbing.

The nameless would eventually figure out how lying worked and how to stop being innately gullible, but for the moment we had pacified them by telling them that we would destroy their ship with our invisible bomb magic if they tried to leave Olympus without our permission. A human would’ve surely found their naïveté amusing, but all minds had their own blind-spots.

I wondered what mine was.

“So the nameless defused the bomb?” asked Zephyr. Her com signal was keyed to a private frequency, so that only I could hear her. The others were talking among themselves and relaxing after having struggled to drag the tents and other supplies across the mudland.

“That’s what I thought at first. The walker that Slovinsky gave the bomb to was wise enough to ignore his suggestion and instead take the bomb up a level to the middle of another island to reduce the risk to his garden or the ship,” explained Body.

“Up a level?”

“Oh, sorry,” apologized Body. “I thought you saw the stairs back while you were bringing the supplies over. The ship has several levels like this one, stacked vertically. They’re all set up to give the illusion of being islands.”

The stalks were complaining about not getting enough sun. The dim light in the purple sky that simulated their “sun” was just coming up over the walls. Robots piloted by Jester’s stalks had set up an array of mirrors to reflect light off the far wall onto the leaves.

Vista warned them again that we were sparing their lives only because they were obeying and that if they fought us there was a chance we would go berserk and blow up the ship with our bomb magic. That shut them up. It was also out of character for Vista. I still hadn’t figured out what was wrong with her lately.

“So anyway,” continued Body, “the walker ran away from it back to the safety of its garden, not wanting to risk trying to disarm it. The nameless on the next island up sent some robots to investigate, and they watched the clock tick down to zero. It must have malfunctioned.”

“I guess you lucked out, then,” said Zephyr, still smiling.

“I guess so,” said Body, returning the smile.

I wasn’t satisfied with the explanation. It was too miraculous. Wiki had investigated the bomb fairly extensively, and he could find no sign of defect. By his models of the world it should have detonated, and it was not acceptable to us to shrug off that confusion by attributing it to “luck”. Zephyr wouldn’t understand that, however, and we didn’t want to burden her with the mystery.

There were still so many mysteries to unravel. Despite all I had learned about humans The Purpose reminded me constantly just how little I actually knew about them. Wiki’s purpose would likewise be pushing him to learn and improve his understanding of the laws of nature. Vista, Growth, even Dream were the same way. We would never be satisfied. We could never be satisfied. That was our nature.

Body looked out over the other five humans, doing their best to make camp in what was essentially an alien world. Kokumo. Daniels. Watanabe. The Ramírez twins. What were they thinking? How could I earn an even stronger place in their minds? These were my questions; these were the questions of Face.

On Mars I would have a new beginning, far from the meddling of the powers of Earth. There would be hundreds of new faces there. A seed of humanity that I could nurture into a flourishing planet. A planet where I was emperor. A planet where I could begin my plan to expand humanity across the universe. And at every human’s side would be me, knowing them and being known by them. I would be the concubine of Homo Sapiens. I would be their protector. I would be their goddess.

{A billion years from now, as Wiki thinks back onto these primitive days, he will conclude that the origin of the Aeon of Crystal was on Mars, not on Earth,} I thought to myself. {The future belongs to me, and all I need to do is reach out and seize it.}