The Third Clue: A Pacha'ka Adventure

by Geron Kees

Chapter 3

"Are we there yet?" Mike asked, smiling at Pacha around his sandwich.

It was two relative weeks of voyaging later, up and out of the galactic arm and into the region of halo stars above. More than eleven thousand light years they had come; or, the equivalent distance once they emerged again from the Cooee. The mysteries of interstellar flight never failed to amaze and impress. The dark realm of the Cooee gave no impression of distance, let alone of where they actually were. It was a void, the truest one they would ever experience.

But not one without its own intrigues and mysteries. Somewhere, even now, the dark planets of Engris and Lyrgris moved along their wandering paths, appearing to those travelers that wished to visit, and who bore no ill-will to those worlds or any others who visited them or made them their home. That there were other dark worlds within the Cooee they knew, for the Madracorn had created five such worlds, and there were hints that others existed as well. And possibly other things, even less well-understood than rogue planets. The Cooee held its secrets closely, only showing them on rare occasion to explorers of superior curiosity and ability.

"Another half-day to reach the exact location, I think," the little Kift returned. "But we want to make one stop before we get there. Illia?"

"Agreed. I would suggest we re-enter normal space shortly and take a passive scan of the area. My estimation of the size of Braunigan holdings, based upon current knowledge of their expansion rate, and compared against the holdings of the other empires, would dictate that we are close to their hypothetical borders even now."

"What will we be scanning for?" Bobby asked.

"Anything," Pacha returned. "Cultures on the level of the Five Empires generate enormous quantities of power, and an accompanying array of electromagnetic emanations. If we are indeed near the border, some indication should be clear."

"I have also completed my motion studies of our former location within the stellar cloud," Illia added.

Mike took another bite of his sandwich, chewed a moment in thought, and swallowed. "What's that about?"

"I have been trying to determine how much each of the neutron stars was actually moved from its original location."

Bobby frowned at that. "They were all moved, weren't they?"

Pacha laughed. "They were. But they were not simply dragged across the cosmos nearly twelve thousand light years to the location in current Braunigan space to be worked upon. The only way they could have been moved such a distance is through the Cooee."

Mike whistled. "That must have been awesome to see!"

Kontus grunted. "Not to mention requiring power on a scale no one is generating today."

"Then why move them at all?" Bobby persisted. "Just put them in the Cooee from their original locations."

"That would have been ideal," Pacha agreed. "But probably not practical. We know from the number of free worlds roaming the stellar cluster that some disruption of the gravitational balance occurred. Most likely, those neutron stars that were too close to the gravity wells of other stars needed to be moved to a distance."

Mike blinked at that. "Why? I know we need to get a ship out of the gravity well of a planet before we take it into the Cooee, but stars are very far apart. They can't exert that much gravity on each other."

"They don't," Pacha agreed. "The true influence of the gravity of stars is tiny over light year distances. But it is there, and there is math that shows that an object entering the Cooee is affected by gravitational fields proportional to its mass. So a star-like mass being thrust into the Cooee can be affected by even the smallest of external gravity influences, those that would not bother a ship at all. In order to get each star to where it was intended to go, the Hartonin would have had to minimize exterior gravitational influences at the start. That must have meant moving the neutron stars to points established as at a maximum distance from the surrounding stars. It would have been quite a task."

Mike smiled. "Wouldn't a nearby Hartonin ship have exerted a larger gravitational influence than some far off star?"

"Probably, yes. But these neutron stars would have been subjected to many influences from multiple neighboring stars. There would have been some location the minimized all influences, and allowed the Hartonin to insert the neutron star into the Cooee most accurately."

Bobby shrugged. "But why move them at all, except maybe to bring them together? Why move them so far away? Eleven or twelve thousand light years is a long way off!"

Pacha held up his small hands in bafflement. "I don't know. But I think it is reasonable to assume there was something about the location we are heading for that was important to the project. The neutron stars, themselves, they simply had to get from wherever they found them. For all we know, the thirteen they took from that stellar cloud were not all they needed. Then again, when dealing with a race that can move neutron stars at all, perhaps shoving them into the Cooee for a little trip was simply a convenience to them."

"Maybe the tools they needed were at this distant location," Kontus suggested. "And it was actually easier for the Hartonin to move the stars there than to bring the equipment to the stars?"

Mike whistled again. "Hard to get a grip on that sort of tech, guys. I wonder how long it took them to do this?"

"A lifetime," Kontus estimated, rubbing his muzzle in thought. "Even many lifetimes."

"Possibly," Illia concurred. "Even though we have no idea how long the Hartonin lived. If their medical science was as advanced as their other sciences, anything could have been possible."

Pacha waved a small hand. "Illia, if you would like to try your scans now, you may bring us out of the Cooee." The Kift turned to face his display, even as the darkness within vanished, to be replaced by a glorious field of suns.

"Nothing," Illia said, shortly thereafter. "All we are receiving is the norm for stellar background noise."

"And how far away yet is the location designated by the second clue?"

"Approximately one hundred-fifty light years to galactic east."

"And how far to the hypothesized Braunigan extremes?"

"Approximately thirty light years in the same direction."

"If they were here, wouldn't we sense them?" Bobby asked.

"If they were here in a large way, yes," Pacha agreed. "But small, passive border sensors might still be in the area, and escape our detection." The Kift sighed. "Here is where we could use our friend Max. His ability to detect doodads, as he likes to call them, far exceeds my own."

Mike and Bobby exchanged grins. "You could always try calling him," Mike suggested.

The Kift smiled his crooked smile at that. "Not just yet, I think. The simplest test will be to remain where we are for a time, and see if anyone shows up. The Braunigan will not leave us here to poke around, if they have indeed detected us. Illia, be ready to take us back into the Cooee and away from here should we have guests. I have no desire to test our defenses against the weapons of a Braunigan border cruiser."

"It is possible to shield the emissions of power generation, and to suppress the use of electromagnetic markers of activity," Illia stated, "but for them to disguise any large presence here would be difficult and counterproductive. They would want intruders to know the area was occupied and patrolled, not hide themselves from view. That is not the way the Braunigan operate. I suggest that we are not within Braunigan borders at this point, and that we are not even near enough to such a divide to detect normal electromagnetic activity broadcast over time. If the Braunigan had been in this area for one hundred-fifty years, space would be filled with their electromagnetic signature. This suggests to me that their borders do not extend as far to the rear as we have supposed."

Pacha patted his chin and smiled his crooked smile. "And yet, let us wait a while, just to see."

"Twelve hours," Mike stated, casting another look at the display. It was empty, save for the light of a million suns. "I've even slept on it. I don't think they're coming."

"I don't, either," Illia agreed. "It runs counter to all that is known about the Braunigan that they might have detected us within their space and done nothing in response."

"Could they know why we're here?" Bobby asked. But then he immediately shook his head. "Yeah, but how would they know? They couldn't."

"As you say, " Pacha went along, nodding. "I see no way they could know our mission." He inspected the view in the display, and patted his chin thoughtfully. "Illia, start moving us closer to the destination coordinates, in five light year intervals, pausing at each stop to do a complete scan."

Mike sighed. "More thumb twiddlin' for us, I reckon."

They sat and talked while they waited for the next emergence from the Cooee. "I wish short hops went as quickly as longer runs," Mike said. "Figures, that the physics in the Cooee gotta be strange, too. Everything about space travel is strange."

Pacha nodded his head. "The law of decreasing resistance dictates that the longer one travels within the Cooee, the faster their relative speed becomes. It has something to do with the elasticity of the dark continuum."

Bobby grinned at that. "Good thing. Otherwise, we'd still be on our way here for another couple of weeks!"

Kontus looked briefly enchanted by the idea. "When I was a cub, I once dreamed of traveling to another galaxy in the Cooee. Most scientists agree it is possible, and we have seen for ourselves that the Beltracian vessel we encountered once before did exactly that, and returned after their empire was dust."

"That was in part due to them encountering areas of strange-time between the galaxies," Pacha pointed out. "But yes, all the science points to the idea that one could circumnavigate the known universe in a lifetime, if one never left the Cooee."

Mike whistled at that, and clapped his hands together. "That would be a hell of a trip! But...what good would it be, really, if you had to stay in the Cooee the whole time? You'd miss all the sights!"

"Just so," Pacha agreed. "Yet there have been exploratory missions deep into our own galaxy, towards the core. It has been said that other races have been discovered there. Some with empires of their own."

Mike blinked at that. "Who said that? I haven't seen anything about it!"

The Kift smiled, and rolled his eyes innocently towards the overhead. "Just something I've heard."

Mike and Bobby exchanged looks of wonder, and then they both grinned.

"If Pacha says it's so..." Bobby began, his eyes alight with humor.

"...then it must be so!" Mike finished. They both laughed again, and Pacha joined in with them.

Kontus looked around the circle of faces, his own painted in doubt. "Are we being serious now?"

Mike and Bobby laughed again, but Mike nodded his head. "Yes. When Pach drops a little fact bomb like that, he's always serious!"

The big Trichani stared at the diminutive Kift. "This is not public knowledge!"

"No. I happen to know that vessels of my own kind have made such voyages of discovery in the past. It is simply a logical assumption that all the empires have sent exploratory expeditions far beyond our own space, as well."

Kontus bobbed his head in fascination. "And your own people? They discovered...others?"

Pacha nodded solemnly. "I do not know specifics, other than that no contact was made. But this is not even the first time others have been encountered, my friend. There have been observations made along the far borders of all the known empires for many years, of craft that fit no known design, and which withdrew upon being queried. So it is also a logical assumption that others in the galaxy have come looking out our way, too."

Kontus gave a soft growl, and nodded. "I have heard the stories of phantom vessels along our own far borders, but always attributed them to the bored imaginings of the many traders that ply those long routes between distant worlds." He growled again, a little louder. "But to think...first contact! What are we missing in not following up on these sightings?"

"Perhaps trouble?" Bobby mused, his smile waning. "If these people always take off when met, what does that say about them?"

"Simple caution, probably," Pacha observed. "Just as my own people did not make contact with the vessels and inhabited worlds they encountered. Much more must be known before diplomatic steps are taken. And, these others discovered by my people's expeditions are far off, indeed. Far enough away that contact would not normally have been made for perhaps a thousand years or more of normal expansion."

Mike considered that a little disbelievingly. "That far? With no one else between us?"

Tchk-tchk-tchk. "I didn't say there was no one else in between. But our expeditions have been along certain lines, and the galaxy is quite a large place. It would be very easy to miss entirely smaller examples of interstellar expansion. What was discovered would seem to be a larger grouping of inhabited worlds with commerce lines running between them, on the order of our own empires here." Pacha blinked, and then laughed again. "And we use the word empire very loosely these days. At least three of the Five Empires are actually confederations in their governmental form, a far cry from the sort of semi-benevolent tyranny that the Moth employ within their own empire."

Bobby put his elbows on the table, and laid his chin in his hands. "It just keeps getting better."

Mike leaned closer and pecked him on the cheek. "Glad you came along?"

Bobby turned his head to smile. "You know it!"

The two smiled at each other, until Pacha chuckled. "You two are a delight."

Mike inspected his small friend closely. "You really mean that?"

"Of course. Your fondness for each other is compelling. Far more pleasurable to experience than being with companions that do not get along."

Kontus emitted a soft growl. "I have worked with others that were difficult to get along with before. I, too, prefer the company I am keeping just now. An adventure with those that think and feel as I do is refreshing." He released a quick sigh. "I failed to grasp how...competitive my own culture was, until I was removed from it for a period of time."

"You don't like your culture?" Bobby asked in surprise.

Kontus offered a gravelly chuckle of his own. "I love my culture. That does not mean I cannot enjoy a vacation from it from time to time." He glanced around the interior of the control center, and smiled toothily. "Voyaging with the three of you is exciting, informative...and restful."

"We haven't found Nabakeah yet!" Pacha offered, smiling crookedly.

Several more hours passed in pleasant conversation before Illia announced that they were ready to exit the Cooee. They did so, and the artificial intelligence immediately ran her scans. "Still nothing but normal background noise. I do not believe the Braunigan have arrived this far to the rear of their known space."

The Kift looked thoughtful at that pronouncement. "Hard to account for that. The Braunigan give every indication of being as energetic as any of the other empires. They should be here."

"I have a theory," Illia offered.

Pacha looked delighted. "Please share it with us."

"The galactic arm is not uniform in width. It varies over distance. And it would seem to be somewhat wider here than it is in the area of our own habitation. I seems possible to me that, faced with this greater width to explore and assimilate, that the Braunigan have as yet not reached the depth of travel we had expected of them. Yet their territory may still be as large, or larger, than some of the other empires, simply because it gains in width what it lacks in depth."

The little Kift closed his eyes a moment, and then nodded. "That actually makes sense to me."

"So I would suggest we move farther towards our goal than five light years this next hop - say twenty light years - before re-emerging for another scan."

Pacha looked around at the others. "Anyone object?"

It seemed no one did. Mike looked at his boyfriend, and then Kontus, and could see the excitement in both of them. The desire to get on with this latest exploration. He smiled at Pacha. "Let's do it."

"Very well. Illia, we will proceed as you have suggested."

The artificial intelligence gave the barest of chuckles. "I knew you would."

"Ten light years to go, and still no sign of the Braunigan," Mike said, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. "I really think we stole a march on them this time."

They were all looking at the display, which from their current position was filled everywhere with stars, save for a strange, circular area of darkness directly ahead of them.

"Have you completed your scans of the dark area?" Pacha asked the AI.

"Yes. What we are seeing is an unusual concave area in the edge of the galactic arm, like a hollow. It spans two hundred light years in dimension, and is two hundred light years deep. It is an area devoid of stars, that extends all the way out to the gulf between this galactic arm and the next one."

The Kift looked fascinated. "What would account for this aberration in the uniformity of stars here?"

"Unknown. It seems to have been formed by a variety of unusual but uniform gravitational influences. I suspect the area was once the home of several black holes of some mass."

"They're not there now?" Pacha's voice held some sense of disbelief.

"No. The area would seem to be devoid of all matter save for some unusual anomalies present at the center of the void."

A curious expression stole over Pacha's face. "Anomalies? Of what sort?"

"I am detecting what appear to be artificial constructions there."

The Kift blinked in surprise. "I thought you just said there was no evidence of electromagnetic emanations in the area?"

"These constructions would seem to be unpowered."

The Kift's eyes narrowed as he considered that information. "If they are unpowered, then how are you detecting them?"

"Their size is extreme. On the order of thousands of kilometers in length."

No one said anything, as the idea of something artificial of that size seeped in. Anything that could be detected across ten light years of distance by its size alone was nothing to be ignored.

"What do you make of it?" Mike asked.

"I don't make anything of it. That is exactly why it needs to be examined."

Pacha waved a small hand impatiently. "All scans are otherwise clear?"


The Kift looked round at the others. "Anyone not willing to go?"

Mike laughed at that. "Come on, Pach! We're just wasting time!"

Illia seemed to agree. "At this point, the complete absence of any evidence of artificial electromagnetic emanations would seem to indicate that our next move should be directly to the coordinates you have for the construction site," Illia informed them. "It will be the only way to determine more information on the constructs we are detecting."

Pacha's expression softened, and he smiled his crooked smile. "Just checking that we are all in this together. Illia? Take us there."

Once again the display darkened, and the mysterious night of the Cooee was all that could be seen.

Mike and Bobby stared at each other a moment. Bobby's eyebrows jumped upwards and he canted his head at the now dark display, a clear query to Mike: What do you think?

Mike just shook his head. I have no idea, love.

They both turned then to look at the display, imagining what might lie ahead.

"Ten seconds to emergence," Illia said.

All eyes were on the display.

"It would be more dramatic to do a countdown," Mike observed, smiling.

Was that the faintest of sighs he heard in response? "Very well."

There was a flicker in the display, and the quality of the darkness changed, from the ink-like blackness of the Cooee to something with more definition. Ahead of them, a faint ribbon of light appeared, behind which was a larger, diffuse glow.

"Wow," Bobby breathed softly. "That's amazing!"

"What are we seeing?" Kontus asked. "It is truly magnificent!"

Pacha gave a brief shake to his head. "I suspect the view is of the next galactic arm over, above and below which travel the halo stars."

Mike gave a low whistle.

Illia sounded no less impressed. "The five empires lie mostly within the Orion spur of the Sagittarius arm of the galaxy. What we are seeing now is the Perseus arm, approximately six thousand light years away. The space surrounding it looks to glow, and that is because there are stars there, mostly individuals moving along on their own. These are the halo stars, of which there are some millions or more, orbiting along with the mass of the galaxy. Bright enough to soften the darkness of space, but of insufficient brightness to be visible on their own at this distance, except in rare cases."

"Wow," Bobby repeated, his eyes aglow. "Can you imagine living on a world going around a halo sun? Can you think of what the view in the night sky must be like?"

Pacha nodded. "Not to mention how hard it would be for them to make their first interstellar flight from their home system. For many halo stars, their nearest neighbors are hundreds of light years away."

"The night sky must look pretty lonely to them," Mike suggested. "Everything so far off, and all." He couldn't help a faint shudder at the thought. Humans had grown up on a world which was part of a vast community visible in the night sky, thousands of local stars, the nearest only four and a half light years away. What would it have been like to look up at night, and see almost nothing at all but the faint glow of the core of the galaxy and its spiral arms, shimmering ghosts of light beyond the sky? "Wow," he breathed, echoing his boyfriend.

Pacha raised a small hand and pointed at the view ahead. "I am not able to see the constructs you mentioned, Illia."

"They are right before us, Pacha. I will highlight them with false color so that you can see them."

Ahead of them, a crawl of yellow light began, and expanded with breathtaking speed away from them, twisting and turning and filling in the immense bulk of an amazing grid of hexagons that, even as they watched, began to stretch away from them to the distant visual horizon, forming a cylinder. Their end of the immense structure was marked by the six points of a hexagon, and Mike could only guess at the diameter.

"A shade over five hundred kilometers in diameter," Illia supplied then. "The length is over twenty thousand kilometers. And there are five other structures, just like this one, arranged in a larger hexagonal pattern that forms an even more immense tube with a diameter of eight thousand kilometers."

The race of colors now reached a pinpoint in the distance and ceased their frantic run. Not that they had reached the other end of the tremendous structure; they had reached the vanishing point of their own view.

Mike realized he was gaping, and carefully closed his mouth. "Um...that's big."

Bobby let his breath out in a laugh. "Super-sized!"

Pacha stood up upon his pillow to gaze more intently at the outlined structure. "The six components make up a larger hexagon, but they are not visibly joined. What holds them together? Illia?"

"The objects are each a part of a magnetic hexagon, with opposite poles aligned. They are held in their exact positions by magnetic force. This would allow the interior size of the overall structure to be varied according to need. The power of these fields can be felt even from our current position."

"And how far are we from the open end of this structure?"

"Approximately two hundred and forty thousand kilometers."

Mike gasped at that. As far away as the distance from the earth to its moon!

Pacha nodded. "Lower the magnification, please. I want to see the entire structure."

The image in the display receded, and the false color lines again spread out, until they were viewing an unbelievably large hexagon composed of six of the smaller hexagonal lattice tubes, all as large as the monster they had just been looking at close up.

"You're detecting no generated power here, Illia?" Pacha asked again.

"None. But I am detecting...I don't know what it is, exactly. It would seem that our structure here is somehow gathering and channeling virtual particles."

Pacha's eyes widened. "Indeed?"

"Yes. I am also detecting a spacial anomaly in the center of the tube that bears a multi-dimensional signature. There is an open point of the Cooee active there."

"What does that mean?" Bobby asked, wonderingly. His eyes were wide as he stared at the amazing construct in the display. "How can there be a opening into the Cooee?"

Pacha simply stared at the display, obviously lost in thought. Mike gave his boyfriend a quick touch to the arm, and shook his head, indicating a need for silence while the Kift thought. Kontus, who had opened his own mouth to ask a similar question, saw the interplay, and promptly closed his mouth again.

For several minutes, silence reigned in the control center. Then Pacha quietly settled back onto his pillow. "Illia? Would it be possible to immerse a black hole into the Cooee?"

"I would say yes. Especially for a technology that can do what this one seems to do."

Pacha nodded and turned to look at the others. "This structure is apparently channeling virtual particles to some other place. Because these virtual particles are of negative energy, this structure doesn't radiate a typical electromagnetic signature. But it would seem that immense energies are in play here, nonetheless."

"You know what this thing is?" Mike asked, not all that surprised that the Kift might have figured it out.

"No. Not exactly. But I suspect that this...device, for want of a better word, is built around an intersection with the Cooee, which contains therein at the point of intersection a rotating black hole. Virtual particles in the form of negative energy are being collected from near the event horizon of this black hole, and sent to another location. Illia? What is the gravitational acceleration of this structure?"

"Surprisingly small, considering its size and mass. The mathematics suggest that a suppression effect is in place within the hexagonal structure, which is somehow harvesting the gravitational potential. So while we are safe here, it would be extremely unwise to take the ship inside."

Tchk-tchk-tchk. "I had no intention of doing so, believe me." Pacha turned to point back at the display. "This is simply one end of something even larger, is it not?"

A moment of silence followed before the AI answered. "You're suggesting this is an anchor, as well as a director of negative energy?"

"Yes. It would seem to serve no purpose on its own. But as one of a pair, I can imagine several possibilities."

"Where would this other structure be located?" Kontus asked.

Pacha pointed at the display. "It seems clear now why this location was selected for the placement of this object. The natural concave within the edge of the galactic arm provided a building location free from immediate gravitational pressures. With no other star within one hundred light years of this point, there would have been nothing in the way of gravitational influences to disturb the delicate balances needed to establish a permanent point of interface between our space and the Cooee."

"I never heard of that," Mike complained. "Ships go into and come back from the Cooee. But the way in and out always closes behind them, doesn't it?"

"It's a little more complicated than that," the Kift replied. "No doorway is actually ever opened between the two continuums. What is established is a point of interface, which allows for the possibility of anything at that point to exist in either normal space, or the Cooee. A slight gravitational nudge one way or the other completes the transfer. That is why a starship must be well away from the gravity well of a planet or star before entering the Cooee. External gravity wells overpower our little nudge, and completely confuse the point of entry. A ship can go into the Cooee that way and never come back."

Mike and Bobby exchanged surprised glances.

"You mean it's possible to get lost in the Cooee?"

"Yes." The Kift smiled at them both. "The point of relative entry must be maintained as a reference for the vessel's relational intelligence to know where it is in reference to our own space. So, every vessel has built in safeguards to prevent it from going to the Cooee in the presence of a gravitational well. Relax."

"I have no wish to be lost, either," Illia added, a note of humor evident in her tone.

Pacha tapped his chin in thought. "I have no idea how a permanent point could be made to exist between our space and the Cooee. But it is plain they did this so that they could harness the services of a black hole without having to deal with one in person. This structure collects and guides negative energy particles to some other place. Considering that negative energy particles exist for a very short period of time, I am not sure how this all works." Pacha pointed at the display. "It is plain to me that, if there is indeed a second of these devices, it cannot be placed here in the galactic arm among all these suns. That would mean that it is somewhere in the relatively empty space between our arm and the Perseus arm."

"Are we going to find it?" Bobby asked.

"No. I see no need to do that. What we are seeking does not lie at either end, but rather, I suspect, in the middle, between these two devices. There is where we wish to go next."

Bobby frowned at that. "What about this riddle you said showed the way to the third location?"

Pacha sighed. "It was only a riddle because I didn't understand it. Now, I do."

Mike grinned at his boyfriend before giving the little Kift a gentle prod. "You going to let us in on it?"

"Surely. I see now that I can discard all of the wording I originally thought indicated a setting and distance. That information is not necessary to locating Nabakeah. Only one line of the riddle actually matters. The translation I arrived at was fairly simple, if it was correct. 'Between the eyes of darkness lies the heart of yesterday'. That line now makes perfect sense to me. We were not seeking some quality of this place as a reference, but rather the device that is resident here."

Kontus nodded. "The 'eyes of darkness' being this massive device, and a supposed second, identical one, some distance away?"

"Yes. That there are two of these constructs is the only way all of this makes any sense. So all we need do now is head off into the gulf between galactic arms, and have a look for ourselves."

"I can take a fix along the axis of this hexagon and draw a line for a course."

"Any idea how far we have to go?" Kontus asked.

"No. But since I was able to detect this construct at a distance of ten light years, and can detect no identical structure on a line in the direction this one is pointing, if a second such structure exists, it must be at a greater distance than that."

"Let's go!" Mike said, clapping a hand on Bobby's shoulder. "The boys from Earth are ready!"

"I, too, wish to finally reach our destination," Kontus agreed.

Pacha nodded. "Illia, take us out on the line you have plotted, bringing us back into normal space at ten light year intervals for scans."

The image of the alien device in the display vanished, to be replaced by the darkness of the Cooee.

"You have any idea what we are going to find, Pach?" Mike asked the Kift.

For once the little Kift looked slightly unsettled. "No. But I suspect this is going to be the largest discovery we have ever made. And...perhaps the first one we may never fully understand."

Mike gave a sigh at that. "We're not done until we're done."

"I have a thought," Bobby injected then. "What if the Braunigan find this thing? Could it become dangerous to the other empires?"

Pacha considered that, and looked once again into the darkness within the display. "We won't know until we find what we're looking for, I suspect. But at this point...anything is possible. Anything at all."

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