She was doing it. One by one, she gathered future boxes.
It’d taken Caxus so long to even find one. She did it with ease. Her mind was still connected to this ship, and she navigated it through phase space as easily as somebody trailing their fingers through water.
The boxes were throughout the universe. Right now, Sally was visiting worlds that an ordinary cadet would never have been able to imagine, let alone see. But she couldn’t pause and wonder at the sights or collect data on who they were and how they lived. She landed, took the future boxes, and left.
All the while, she experienced echoes in phase space.
There were so many souls trapped in this realm. Not just phase monsters, but…. She imagined they were shadows that had lost their guiding light source. Some of them had to be the remains of the Xentai race. There was nothing substantial left of them. They had mostly degraded. They were almost like impressions – like whispers one would get right on the edge of sleep. A warning of what could happen if you let someone else take hold of your dream.
They followed her. She didn’t know if they intended to attack, or if they were simply attracted by her power.
Perhaps they were trying to clutch hold of one last way out of here. But they could no longer descend to the real world again.
Phase space was amazing. The imagination given wings, there was nothing she couldn’t do here. Or seemingly so. But it was also a terrifying’s place. Just as dreams could become real, so too could nightmares.
Wherever she traveled through pure phase space, she heard echoes of millions of screams. She didn’t know if it was lost souls who’d become trapped here or the remnants of dying civilizations who’d never left a sufficiently strong imprint to create their own crystal.
She doubted she would ever know. Some things are always mysterious.
But even if you cannot know all the answers, if you clutch at a guiding principle, it will not matter. You will have a method to light up your darkest day, and a path to follow even in the deepest night. She followed that path right now to Faxon A. And as she did, she could see the future opening out in front of her. Once upon a time, the Queen had only been able to imagine death. She’d intended to give her life as a final sacrifice. But it had been an easy way out. Because if your imagination ends with your death, you are not saddled with the task of deciding what will happen next.
When they got out of this, what then? What would the Coalition do with phase space? What would they do with their very own crystal? Where would they go next? And what about Joseph and Sally?
They’d been doing nothing but fighting – the both of them – most of their lives. Could they really imagine another way?
As those somber thoughts beset her, Sally found herself leaning even further forward. Her ship was heading back to Faxon A now. It would only take a few short seconds. All she had to do was concentrate and slip into a phase gate – an act that was so simple to her now, it was akin to a human body breathing.
When they got there… everything would change. She could try to imagine the future beyond the ultimate battle now. She knew that in several minutes when the real fight began, her imagination would close off. The fight with the King would narrow everything down, down and down and down.
To someone like Caxus, the only thing that had truly mattered to him was surviving – gathering power and living another day.
He hadn’t possessed grand dreams – though he’d convinced himself he had. He wanted to destroy the Hendari and bring his people back, even though the latter was impossible. But Sally was confident he wouldn’t be able to answer the questions she now grappled with. What then? He could unleash the greatest power in the universe. He could get rid of her people once and for all. But what then? When you imagine a future, you change with it. Caxus could never change, and that was his main problem.
She had her answer. It was all around her, the very means she was using to travel to Faxon A. When you reached the end and you burst through to a new beginning, you let your imagination chart each step forward to the next horizon line.
The ship beeped. She jolted at the sight that met her on her hovering viewscreen. She’d arrived around Faxon A, but make no mistake, she was not in real space. The warring Coalition and imperial fleets couldn’t detect her. She gasped in horrified amazement at what she saw. There were Coalition ships torn to tatters. The remnants of imperial cruisers roamed between them, transporting away technology and survivors. They would turn those very same survivors into slaves.
And yet the Coalition fleet hadn’t lost. They were facing the battle of their lives and everyone else’s, but they managed to hold on.
“So just hold on a little longer,” she whispered to herself, her voice firm even though the grip on her armrests slid as sweat collected between her fingers. She shunted to her feet. She forced herself to close her eyes as she concentrated on the cavern inside Faxon A. She would fly the ship right to it.
This was easy. Sometimes it was hard to concentrate on various locations throughout the universe. But this… this was her anchor.
This was the very place where everything had started.
“Now,” she screamed. And the ship moved.
It punched right through various vessels then right into the heart of that mountain. Then without even a ripple or a shockwave, it arrived.
Sally didn’t arrive in phase space. She appeared in the real world.
She jolted up and took several thrusting steps forward, and she watched as Coalition soldiers behind defensive barriers turned and began firing on her ship.
She didn’t need to run down the hatch at the back of this vessel. She simply walked right through the front of the ship. She phased through it and stopped in front of the Coalition soldiers just as the one at the head saw her uniform and stopped firing. He lifted a shaking hand, his fist shimmering with sweat and blood. “What—”
“I’m Cadet Sally Winters. I hold the Queen. And I’m here to fight the King,” she stated. “The last battle for everything is here.”