She wasted no more time getting into the ship. It was an experience, though.
The design was completely different from any other ship she’d ever traveled on – and that included the Hendari vessel. Everything looked just as smooth and impersonal as the building she’d just exited from.
As she trailed her fingers over the wall and ran quickly toward the bridge, she remembered.
Flashes of her time with Caxus came back to her.
He’d been the Queen’s host. For 300 years. And what a poisoned chalice he’d been.
Sally finally reached the bridge. There was a single command seat. Right now it was floating in the middle of the room. Straining, she soon remembered the correct set of commands, and it floated down to her loyally. She threw herself into it. It had nothing to do with the fact she was injured from the fight with Jerry. She’d forgotten her wounds scattered across her throat. And it seemed, by forgetting them, she got out of the way of her body healing them as quickly as it could. She no longer thought of herself as exclusively human. She knew that underneath, her mind was all that counted. That assisted immensely in the healing process, and by the time she made it back to Faxon A, she knew she would be fighting fit once more.
Make no mistake, she had to return there. The bridge formed by her younger self now called to her louder.
It took a few seconds to find the input panel for the bridge. She was actually sitting on it. She didn’t need to turn around, thrust to her knees, and start typing over it. Instead, she had to connect to it psychically. The seat simply enabled her to come in closer contact with the psychic connectors that were installed throughout the ship.
Jerry’s last words still echoed in her mind. She let them fuel her, and they were far more effective than any food or rest.
In a few seconds, she learned how to interact with the bridge, and soon a floating view screen appeared right in front of her. She warily opened one eye. The other remained closed, for it played over the details of Layra’s time with Caxus.
She had sought him out in an act of utter desperation. She’d known of the Xentai. She had clutched at the siren song of their power. Her quest to destroy the King no matter what had brought her into the arms of an equally destructive force.
It had cost her dearly.
Caxus, the brute he was, hadn’t been capable of passing up an opportunity to twist the Queen’s mind back in on itself. All the holes in Layra’s memory were down to him.
Though perhaps that was rich. Not every single gap in the Queen’s personality and understanding had been carved by him.
Layra might have believed she was a strong mind. In many ways she was. She was also a blind one. For years, she had based her entire existence on the belief that she had to ultimately sacrifice herself to win. It had driven her every action – and most importantly, every moment of inaction, too. Every time she had failed to help an ailing civilization, it had been in the twisted hopes their sacrifice would count when she rose to the final battle.
Sally Winters would find a new way.
As she concentrated on the ship, now connecting to it more completely than she imagined Caxus had ever been capable of, she did as Jerry had commanded.
She needed to gather up more future boxes.
She’d barely interacted with two of them. Her telekinetic fights utilizing their power simply hadn’t lasted long. But now as she made her shoulders rigid against the back of the seat behind her and she spread her hands out wide, she drew up the memory of the future boxes and she held it in her mind. Her grip was complete. Someone could try to flush the Atlantic Ocean through her fingers, but she wouldn’t lose a drop.
She was still connected to the computer. As she gathered up the feel of the future boxes, its scanners started to part space and search for them.
If Caxus had possessed this faculty, he would’ve been able to find the other future boxes sooner and he would’ve done what he’d pleased. Yet it had taken Sally to come along as Layra’s final host to make this possible.
As the ship took off, blasting out of the hangar bay without bothering to open any doors, and simply by slipping into phase space, Sally kept her eyes closed. She focused her senses on phase space, and that’s when a gasp ripped right through her lips and constricted her throat. She honestly felt like real knives had punctured the skin.
Locking a trembling hand on her chest, she rocked forward. A single tear raced down her cheek. It reached her chin, trembled for a few seconds as it glimmered under the powerful downlights from above, and splashed onto the completely clean floor.
The King was out. He was right now heading into phase space.
She could feel his enormous energy entering it. It was almost like someone taking all of the sand from some beach and trying to shove it into a small bottle. It wouldn’t work. The glass would have no option but to shatter.
If she let it.
Sally shoved the ship fully into phase space. She had to concentrate and align the entire thing, not just the seat beneath her, but the walls and the floor plating and the hull and the glowing blue nacelles.
It meant she momentarily had to become one with the ship just as she had with her own Hendari vessel. But this time, she didn’t lose her sense of bodily proportions. She didn’t become convinced she was flying through space herself. Her mind just expanded. It felt like a spring. It could be stretched out and pushed back in on itself. But unlike a real spring, she knew from experience that there was no point beyond which she could not be opened out to – no distance that would make her snap. Not while she was in control.
She soon straightened. She gripped a hand into a fist and struck it on the armrest beside her. The dull sound rang out through the eerily quiet ship. “Joseph,” she said, attempting to speak on every single psychic frequency she could and practically infecting phase space with her words and unbridled emotion, “wherever you are, hold on. I’ll gather together the future boxes. I’ll meet you back on Faxon A. Just hold on. I’m coming.”