Jeanette rushed over to Grandmère holding the still white-gloved figure. The orangutan was splashed with blood. The figures face was the face of a young man, long-nosed, wide-mouthed with irregular teeth, and black disordered hair. His eyes were shut and his skin was dead white.


A second later, he fell to the floor in a dead faint.

Grandmère Hutan climbed down to feel Jack Shift’s pulse, as Jeanette put her hand at her throat. “Well, that was disappointing, but at least we have a useful data point.” The orangutan picked up the shiny blade he had threatened Jeanette with and snapped it in two. “I’m sorry about that, my dear, but that blade wouldn’t have penetrated your skin. We planted all these scalpels.”


Everyone was gaping at the 3D model floating over the mess table of the Paradox Swan. It was left to Jeanette to say “Look at the SIZE of it!”

The ghostly collection of spheres connected by cobwebs was easily ten times the size of the representation of the Swan next to it. “The fuzziness is because this is a composite of the weak force sensor data going back to when we interfered in the starship battle in the Orion Nebula,” said Ngozi Makeni Odile. “It’s been following us for at least that long, but is so hard to detect that this is all we could get.”


It was almost fun, torturing Jack Shift with a banana split. Actually it was fun, just with a dose of guilt because his blood sugar was being depressed to keep him from teleporting. But he was also being enough of an asshole that Jeanette kept doing it.

“You know you are going to have to trust me that I won’t just vanish on you--and this isn’t helping,” Jack said feebly.

“Just promise that you’ll take me to see your friend. Oh, and bring me back. Promise.”

“Oh all right, I promise.”


Aventine looked at the place where Jack had been standing. “I see it now.”

Through her own distress, Jeanette looked back at her thanks to the note in her voice.

“He brought you here--to keep me company--so he wouldn’t have to.” It was like a massive wave of sorrow rising up. Ready to crash.


“Your Majesty!”

Jeanette felt like she had just hit “Send to All” by mistake.

“I-I didn’t think--I mean, I didn’t mean--”

The tall woman with the flowing hair and the elaborately embroidered dress said, “I don’t drop everything if you brush your fingers, in the wrong place, but I read both the excitement and the trouble in your heart, so I came.”

“B-but it’s so far--!”


The moment the boarding alert was sounded, Captain Ngozi Makeni Odile waved her hand. “Blast doors are down.”

The voice of one of her daughters said “Right and left forward blast doors on cargo hold level have been blocked.”

The passengers of the Paradox Swan had mobilized, and Lord Silvertyger Elphinstone was  halfway down the stairs already. Parise D’Avignon said to him, “My lord, if you could bring me one invader alive, I’d appreciate it.”

“It shall be done, your majesty,” The tiger growled. “Thyrsis! Antithyrsis! To me!” And he was gone.


The Captain’s distress was so severe that Parise had difficulty looking at her. She had crawled backward on the deck of her cabin, and all her clothes were disordered.

“I’m sorry. I had no idea that would be your reaction,” Parise said.

The Captain got up with a furious energy and got herself back into order with a few economic pulls and touches.


The first thing Grandmère Hutan tried to do was pull the glowing sword out of Terence Ransom’s chest. The first time failed, because it was flickering in and out of existence. The second time failed  because her hands went right through the blade. By that point, most of the ship’s contingent were on deck and around her.

Senhor Capoeira Capybara had Dr. Ransom’s hand in his paws, saying, “He’s alive--but his pulse is intermittent. I’d advise CPR to counteract that thing’s effect on his heart.” The orangutan put her hands on his chest and started rhythmic pressure.


When Ngozi Makena Odile had finished listening to the glowing AI ball in the canister, she swept one of the circles at its base. The canister went opaque. She picked it up by its handle, left her cabin, descended the stairs to the hold level of the Paradox Swan, and went into a small room.