Upon the instant you know that what you've just done, you possibly should not have. That you are overjoyed to share your mind does not mean everyone is, and for all that Quen has not been a friend to you, you cannot bring yourself to wish her ill.

But you are very new to the mind—sense, and in any case she cannot possibly have felt you reading her, because you did not even need to—you did not even touch her; what you saw in her she is screaming aloud to the world at the top of her very lungs, as though it were that or die—screaming aloud, and yet silent. You'd have had to abandon the mind-sense entirely just to avoid hearing it.

You did not want it. But now you have it. And though Quen has been no friend to you, your heart goes out to her, all the same. You know what it is to be alone—to be alone again after, for a little while, you were not, and not dare hope you will ever be not alone again. You found your monster again, to be sure—but what would it have done to you, if you hadn't? But kept seeing it, kept being near it, near and impossibly far? And then seen it begin to share with someone else the same things it had shared with you. One whom you could easily imagine to be a better version of yourself—what would it have done to you?

Not hard to know, you think. Not hard at all. You would not have chosen to know—but she was screaming so loudly you could not help but hear.

Was, and still is. The woman is suffering horribly, and though you had no idea now you cannot help but know. And—where in the mind of the deep thing you see yourself, in Quen's mind you find you see yourself as well, not as you are, but as you might so easily have been.

This must not go on. Neither you nor she can stand it.

You have an idea. No—you have a plan.

It will be difficult, no doubt. Perhaps even dangerous.

But you already know exactly how to do it.

In the mind-sense, thought and action are the same. As you begin to desire that the deep thing should lower you to the deck of the Bitch, it begins to do so, gently withdrawing itself from you as it does—you miss its pseudopod, and that of you which it inhabited now feels a wistful sort of emptiness, but it is nothing next to the hollow in Quen's heart that you can no longer help but feel.

The captain watches you all the way down. What is in her mind when she looks at you, you do not know; she is not broadcasting the way Quen is, and you will not insist upon yourself. But—the thread of her thought is so bright—all save Quen's are bright, but the captain's outshines them all. Outshines them all—and as they are all drawn one to another, joining in ways the people who emit them do not know they feel as they feel their bodies join, the captain's keeps twitching, bending this way and that, and snapping back erect, alone.

What is that?

Your monster sets you down standing, and you stagger once, slightly, as its tentacles gently withdraw, leaving you free to move—your body is still exhausted, but your mind is alight with intent, and you have the deep thing's strength to draw upon—though you know your muscles will in time exact a toll for such prolonged abuse, they do not deny you now.

You approach the captain, and still she stands just watching you. You cannot tell what's in her eyes. Her thought-thread twitches toward you, then away. She is transfixed by aught you do not know.



"Captain! Captain Hua. Listen to me."

They are not only words.


But still words, even here. You and your captain do not share one another's minds, the way you and the deep thing do. But words, here, are enough, you think. And perhaps you can do more—

We understand each other now, Captain. I hear it, and it hears me. We are... together now, if you like. I can't really—I can't make it make sense to you, I don't think. But that doesn't matter now.

Silence. Confusion. Watchfulness. Anticipation.

Captain, there's something you need to know about Quen—

As if the name were a key, turning in a lock long fast shut—