By Ann Aguirre

ISBN-10: 1101543582

ISBN-13: 9781101543580

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TO-EDUN_LEVITER. ENCRYPT-DESTRUCT-ENABLED. Mary herself must have been instrumental in your timely reply. Between the Ithtorians who arrived at Venice Minor just before the twofold catastrophe and the gray men hunting the Morgut in other systems, this war may be won, and at a lesser cost than I feared, all told. Yet the lives were lost in such a way that it doesn’t feel like a regular battle, and there will be inquiries. Indeed, my comm is already alight with demands for information. I hardly know what I will say.

Oh, not from our ship. All around us, the jungle burns, black smoke swirling toward the sky. Stone rubble constitutes all that’s left of the villa, just a bombed-out shell with broken walls rising no more than two meters anywhere. Cracks web the foundation, charred black, and I can smell death in the air. It’s not a scent you forget. “They weren’t shooting at us,” I realize aloud. Hit shakes her head. “I should have realized. Those weren’t ship-to-ship weapons . . ” As we rocketed toward the ground, the bombardment began.

It seemed incomprehensible to us that they would fight us for no reason, so we changed them. I imagine the Morgut finding a way to render humanity docile, uncomplaining meat, and a shudder runs through me, chased by shame. Sometimes I don’t like what it means, being human. We are an ambitious, driven people, but sometimes the dark side spills out, and we’re like selfish children, unable to see beyond our own desires. Heartsick, I realize I’ve been quiet too long, check our position, then reply, “We’re not far.

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