As soon as Joseph left, she turned. She nodded at the engineer just behind her desk. It was one simple move, but the man understood. He pushed up, his knees creaking as he snapped a salute. He gestured at his other engineers wordlessly to leave the room, and they packed up swiftly. The door soon shut behind them.
Lara walked over to her desk, reached into the bottom drawer, and pulled out a datapad.
There was no backup of its information on the Coalition databases. There was no copy anywhere.
It was where she worked on her notes regarding the Queen.
The Queen was still here. Lara knew that. But that knowledge didn’t come from facts.
Lara had once been the custodian of the Coalition’s Hendari crystals. Over the years, as she’d shepherded them, she’d sworn they’d started speaking to her. Once the Coalition had secured a critical threshold of crystals, it was as if the inherent intelligence of each had combined.
The reason Lara could be so confident that the Queen was still here was that she was almost certain the Hendari crystals were still on Earth.
Crunching over her datapad, she slid her fingers over the smooth screen, activating the interface and thumbing through her notes.
Most of the data they had on the Queen had been secured in the Scarax Galaxy. But other facts were flooding in.
The Hendari had traveled to many galaxies. For the past few months, Lara had been scouring all of the old books of the truly ancient Milky Way races. She’d found a few snippets.
There was one she went back to now. Clearing her throat with a gruff, rattling cough, she hissed, “Queen of the downtrodden, ruler of the broken minds, the Queen is a virus like no other. Where others fall, she rises. Where other’s die, she survives. And where others end, she builds a wall to keep it back.”
It was that line specifically that Lara tapped her finger on.
It sounded like nothing more than a rather bland ballad, but she knew better.
This snippet had been taken from an ancient language. It was one with a particularly rich linguistic core. Every word came with almost thousands of definitions. The word wall could also mean gate under certain circumstances. It was unclear which one it connoted in this instance.
Why would the word gate matter?
Because cross-referencing through the rest of Lara’s notes, it was becoming clear that the Queen could interact with all of the Hendari crystals. Once you gathered together more than five, she could use them to create gates – ones capable of going anywhere in the universe.
To defeat the Scarax Galaxy – once and for all – the Coalition had to take on the Hendari. Though the civilization was mostly destroyed, it could rise at any moment. To truly end this, the Hendari had to be taken down, once and for all. To do that, they had to get there.
They would require a gate. There was no other way to travel so far. Even an Eye of the Gods – a being capable of creating light paths through galaxies allowing instantaneous transport – wouldn’t be able to go back to the Hendari. Because nobody knew where they were.
She stood. Her body was stiff. Tension marched across her shoulders, gripped her spine, and pooled in her feet as if she’d filled them with liquid lead. She shook it off, her datapad still gripped in a cast-iron grasp.
She walked over to the door. She dearly wished she had a window. Windows, however, could be dangerous.
So she thrust the pad higher in front of herself, and she read that line again.
The Queen had to be out there. As did the Coalition’s crystals. All Lara had to do was find the Queen.
Sorry. That would be the first step.
It was unclear if the Queen was a friend or foe. She might’ve protected the Academy, but she could have ulterior motives. Even if she didn’t, Lara knew one thing – the Queen had a mind like no other, an intelligence as vast as the universe.
It would take an act of even bigger will to draw her to the Coalition’s side.
Even then, it might not be enough.
That was the nature of war.