Impatiently, I sit at the Table of Metal with my comrades, my mind consumed with worry and a host of scrambled thoughts.

The summoning is finally over—thank fucking goodness—and, except for Oskar, Heike, Febe, and I, all who were in attendance have left the Alchemoni already. As I’d predicted, the meeting lasted all night.

I’m mentally strained, beyond measure, brainstorming a million strategies for a million potential outcomes that this Shift could bring. Most of it is just high-probability speculation at this point, but even though I really have no clue where to begin, I’ve grown far too restless to sit around any longer. I can’t stand spending another second in this room.

I rise from my seat, forcing myself to garner the determination and confidence I need but don’t really have for this mission and get things rolling anyway.

“Febe,” I say, turning my attention to her. “You and Heike head to the Academy and tell Zarek we need to set up a mission team. Pronto. We need all necessary equipment put aside and ready to go by zero three hundred hours GMT.

“Contact Sadur and tell him I need his IT team to prep and check all our gear. I need a list of all the soldiers available on and in the closest vicinity to Earth within the hour. And tell Zarek he’s going to be joining us as well. My orders. Non-negotiable. Oskar and I will head back to the Arkadi and draw up a definitive plan as soon as we get there. We’ll meet up with you at the Academi once we’re done.”

Febe nods. “Understood, Commander. Let’s go, Heike,” she says gesturing to her partner, and they both phase off to the Academi.

As soon as they’re gone, I release the deepest sigh I’ve held in eons.

This has to be the most ridiculous day in all of history.

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