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The Imperator looks at me like a demon, and then he looks at Aeson.

But I continue, in a very calm, outwardly dead voice that is yet somehow charged with power. "I know everything. I know you're responsible for keeping my mother and the rest of my family from being rescued, denying her the medical treatment, all these days when she could have been up on the ark-ship. I know you wanted to use her death against me. That's not going to happen now."

I pause, as the power inside me is rising, rising. . . . Vertigo and mind dissociation slams me, so that for a fraction of an instant I actually black out, and there's a buildup of impossible pressure from the inside. At last it feels like there's no more room, so it just sits there, right below the surface . . . balancing on the knife-edge of my lips. So much power. . . .

It's prickling me, a sequence just at the tip of my tongue. All I need to unleash it is to speak another word.

It occurs to me, I could kill him with one breath. . . .

One Logos breath of power.

No . . . is that even possible? But regardless, for Mom's sake, no, just no. . . .

And so instead I carefully exhale and inhale, keeping the balance of force churning inside me. I visualize it moving in strange repeating figure eights, the shape of the symbol of infinity.

And then I speak again, using all that impossible intensity to focus the meaning of my words. I imbue my words with such sharp semantic clarity that it seems the imagery of what I say hangs in the air before us, fills the expanse of my mind and spreads outward. This is not a compelling voice, this is something else. . . . A voice of revelation, of awareness imbued with insight . . . a voice of genuine, eye-opening conviction . . . a voice of reawakened sentience.

A voice of reason.

"Your mission of destruction ends now. You will stop the asteroid. Or you will change its trajectory and guide it on a different path, away from Earth. Divert it anywhere, elsewhere, safely out of reach. Just a few degrees off—it is simple. Do it and I will cooperate with you."

I grow silent, and my resonant power-words hang in the air. . . . My hands are trembling, and the fine hairs on my skin stand up with goose bumps.

The Imperator's expression goes from furious to thoughtful, to almost slack. It's as if he's forgotten all mention of my mother, all his threats, and is distracted by some urgent, incontrovertible set of facts and logic that must be addressed now, this instant. . . .

Aeson stares at me and glances at his father.

And then Romhutat Kassiopei tells me, still thoughtful and genuine, "No, unfortunately it cannot be done. Earth must suffer the asteroid impact."

And then he adds, tiredly, almost sadly, and with resignation, "Yes, I designed the Earth mission, every detail and component, carefully guided all the pieces and all the players for these past several years. And not even your earnest attempt at persuasion can change the cruel reality of what must happen. An interesting use of Voice, by the way—I don't believe I've heard this variety, not compelling, but persuasive nevertheless—"

"But—why? Why can't you stop all this?" I say, ignoring his aside.

"Because the asteroid needs to strike . . . at certain coordinates in your Atlantic Ocean, in the location of the original Atlantis continent, where it will detonate a very specific high-level quantum energy charge."

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