It wasn’t long until Admiral Forest appeared.
She came racing into the cavern. There was something different about her, though. She was covered in the Light of the Gods. She also had a pulsing blade in her hands. Her body was covered in gashes. She’d clearly emerged from a recent deadly fight. That didn’t slow her down – not one little bit.
“Sally, what’s going on?”
“Admiral?” Her voice shook in wonder as she faced Forest.
Forest looked down at herself. “I just managed to take down the empress and the new emperor.”
Sally stared at her in startled amazement. But there was no time to be surprised by the incredible feat Forest had achieved.
Sally took a stumbling but still strong step forward. “It’s time, Admiral. I gathered up every single future box I could. And Joseph is bringing the King here.” All Sally had to do was close her eyes and concentrate to align to that fact. “He will be here imminently.”
Forest didn’t back away, regardless of how monumental this news was.
“The King will remain in phase space. Make no mistake, it will have an effect on this cavern, though – and the entirety of Faxon A.”
“What do we do?”
“Just hold this point.” Sally turned from her. And for the first time, she truly faced her six-year-old self.
Maybe Forest said something. Maybe the chaos from outside momentarily slipped in. Any number of things could’ve happened, but not a single one of them could disrupt Sally now. She focused. And that focus dragged her forward.
She soon got down on one knee in front of herself. She knelt in her own blood. It felt so real as it stained her already torn and gunk-covered trouser leg.
She fondly patted the back of her head.
And make no mistake, it was her head.
Sally had felt disconnected from herself for so long. Now as her fingers slid down her curls, she recognized she had always been one with this form. That if she had only concentrated, she would’ve been able to realign with it.
So realign with it she did. The body of her childhood form didn’t lift up and become one with Sally. It would always exist here as a door, but it no longer stood for her death. The blood disappeared. So did the physical form of her death. In their place, Sally saw a blast of blinding, brilliant light – this pillar of illumination that could break through every single layer of the phase realm. It was like a torch beam that shone out for any lost soul.
With no more distractions, and as she aligned to that nonphysical form, Sally Winters opened up.
She didn’t know why she had forgotten who she was. It would have something to do with the form Layra had re-created. Over time the holes in the Queen’s mind Caxus had caused would have spread to Sally.
But perhaps there was something more important?
Phase creatures weren’t meant to have bodies. For creatures who had bodies ultimately forgot things. As those bodies degraded and could no longer reach the same range of movement, the memories of freedom disappeared with them.
But with a body comes power.
Sally still didn’t know what Caxus had done to Gan. But in tying him to Jerry’s body, Caxus had given Gan considerably more power. And maybe that is the true purpose of a body. It might bring with it forgetfulness. But only a body can focus one’s mind. It reminds one of impermanence and age, but of satisfaction and hope. It anchors somebody in the inevitable reality of loss, and it enables them to strive harder for their goals.
A body that can be damaged and changed is like a microcosm of the universe. Just as stars can be born and destroyed, through a body, one can personally recognize the nature of eternal change.
Sally lifted to her feet. Then she turned.
“Whatever happens next, Admiral Forest, know that I’m thankful for the opportunities the Coalition gave me. And I request permission to act on behalf of it.”
It was clear Forest had no clue what she was talking about. But then her brow descended with a twitch, and she stared at Sally again. “You mean the crystal inside Alice’s mind, don’t you?”
Sally nodded once.
“You need no permission to act on behalf of the Coalition, Cadet. Regardless of your history,” Admiral Forest repeated for the last time, “you are Coalition. You don’t need to be born here, don’t need to have Coalition parents. Your previous history is irrelevant. The fact you choose to work with us and for us is all that counts. The Coalition is not a distinct race. It is a way to understand the world. You know that. Now do what you can.” She saluted.
Sally had a chance to salute back. Then, in a shaking moment of utter terror as fear from beyond ripped through her body, she realized the King was here.
She didn’t have a chance to jerk her head up. She couldn’t even twist toward where she felt he was gathering. All she could do was lurch back and enter her pillar of light.
She connected to her anchor point. And she waited for the fight.