People about us scuttled into the railcar like packs of wild animals, taking their seats, and their eyes falling on the floor where they remained for the entire ride.

Alice, Ryan, and I had left the earth about a day ago. I had feared the Guardians would try to stop us, but we hadn't heard from them at all. We had spent most of it jumping from gate to gate. Our people traversed space through hyperspace tunnels; the gates opened the wormholes by generating massive streams of gravitons that formed primordial black holes. The gates then injected the black hole with a surge of exotic matter, which created the wormhole. Each gate functioned as a way station, positioned in key systems in our territory.

When we reached the homeworld, we had to spend a few hours docked at a space station for decontamination before going to the surface. We remained in human form, as our own bodies lied in stasis in the Guild's Body Repository on the surface. After acutely focusing our powers, we had the ability to transcend our bodies, and for a very short time, exist as noncorporeal beings. When an Observer inhabited another body, they spent hours focusing their power. In the meantime, the body they would inhabit would be abducted and taken to the homeworld where the Observer would take the body's form. The Observer's body is placed in cryogenic stasis in the Body Repository. When the Observer's mission was over, the body would be transported to the Observer. Since our mission wasn't over, we couldn't yet take back our forms.

Landing at the civilian port in the Capital, we boarded the railway to get to Command Headquarters, where the Council members worked.

Ryan took a seat behind me as I slumped down next to a window, Alice falling into a seat on my left. The seats sat individually, about a foot apart from each other, as my people had distaste for close contact. Tall, dark building outside began to move as the engines came online and the train jerked forward. The colorful array of lights beyond my window began to blur. Holographic texts, commercials and advertisements, slowly lurched by in the pale green sky. A soft vibration in the floor reverberated in my body.

I removed my glasses and rubbed at my eyes. The humidity caused me some discomfort, as did the slightly heavier gravity; it felt as though I'd gained about twenty pounds. Glancing toward Alice, I saw her fidgeting with a chain on her pants. I imagined we looked rather strange to everyone at first. Though I blocked them from reading mine, everyone who saw us read from Alice's and Ryan's minds to understand what a bunch of humans were doing running around the homeworld.

I remember the train feeling very cold as I looked out the window at the streets below. It never seemed cold before.

We traveled for about ten minutes in silence before getting off. Crossing a narrow, metal bridge to a platform that sat in the sky, we stepped out of the belly of the faceless snake. All over, it was eerily quiet. No one ever spoke. There was no reason to, as everything was done telepathically. It somewhat disturbed me. Walking amongst a crowd of people and none of them making a sound. I'd never noticed it before, but I'd never walked among my people as a human before. Everyone towered over us by at least a foot. We walked in their shadows.

Punching in our identification numbers on the keypads along the railing toward the exits, we left the rail station, and stepped into a long corridor. We walked straight down it, to the end, and into an elevator that took us down. There, in the well of the city, we found Guild Headquarters.

To the surprise of Alice and Ryan, I threw my hand up at every security agent along the way and knocked them unconscious.

"What are you doing?" Alice exclaimed.

"I'm not wasting time dealing with security," I told her.

The first council member's office I reached, I entered. His office wasn't that unlike one you would see on earth, rectangular, white walls, and windows behind the desk at which the council member sat, typing away on a computer. His eyes shot up at me as we entered. I blocked him from reading me, but he read Alice and Ryan.

We couldn't speak English in our true forms anymore than a human could speak our language. Since I blocked him from my mind, he would have to speak in our language while I spoke in English. If I opened up enough for him to communicate telepathically with me, he would surely dig his way further.

He stood from his chair in surprise. About eight feet in height, he had a dull white complexion. Purple tones along corners of his face told of the old age of his body. His green eyes had streaks of blue, and they bulged from his head like buttons. The green hair along his arms shuttered as his well-defined, muscular arms swayed through the air in outrage.

"I want the cure for the virus," I said, leaning against his desk and glaring at him. "Now."

He stared down at me. In our language, something like screeches and chirps, he said, "I alone do not have the authority to give you the cure for the virus."

"Then call a council meeting," I said tersely.

Hesitantly, he said, "That will take a while."

"We'll wait," I said.

Reluctantly, the council member moved around his desk and strolled toward the exit.

We followed him outside into the corridor where three security agents I had knocked unconscious and two others came running toward us. The council member stopped them. Glancing at Alice, Ryan, and I, the security agents left.

The four of us went to the front office of the building where the council member communicated something to the attendant. Facing us, the council member said, "Go to the Council Building. The meeting will be held as soon as the other council members arrive."

I answered him with a nod.

"And do not let anyone read what you know from your minds," he added.

I frowned as he left. The three of us glanced at each other and left the building. Alice and Ryan had only let the people who saw us read enough from their minds to know they were Observers. We had agreed to block the conspiracy from them until we consulted with the Council.

No one said anything until after we got on another railcar.

"I feel really weird, Jake" Alice said, rubbing at the back of her neck.

I couldn't blame her; I felt a little weird being on the homeworld in human form, too. "It's okay," I said, reaching over and holding her hand.

Sadly, she said, "What are we gonna do after this, Jake? How could we come back after what we've done and what we know?"

I opened my mouth to answer her, but found myself without one. Our presence would pass from civilian to civilian, and soon all would know we were there in human forms. No one would ever see us the same again. We walked among our people in alien forms. I'm not sure I ever felt more alien to them in my life. For Alice, it likely disturbed her greatly. From Ryan, I could sense nothing. His silence made me wonder, but I did not think too long on it. I imagined he was somewhat angry with himself for telling us everything.

When we arrived at the Council Building, we took a seat in the Assembly Hall where those who confronted the Council waited. We were all tired, as we had not slept due to restless anticipation along the ride to the homeworld. Alice and I fell asleep on a couch together. Ryan had been pacing as I fell asleep. When we woke up, about an hour or so later, he was standing by a security agent next to the entrance to the Council Chambers.

Ryan came over to us and said, "The Council members are just about ready to see us."

The security agent opened the doors a few minutes later, and the three of us strolled into the Council Chambers. Our footsteps echoed through the room. Everything was black, save the silver inscription of that ancient scripture the Guardian had queried me about, which was embedded in large letters on the wall behind the Council. They all sat on stages behind large podiums. The room was dark and cold, illuminated only by thin strips of light along the walls. The ceiling rose to a point, as though it were the inside of a pyramid.

I'd never actually gone inside the Council Chambers before.

The collective consciousness of the eleven Council members culminated inside the Council Head, who sat at the center and spoke for them. They consulted each other telepathically only for seconds at a time. "We have conferred with each other and decided that it is best the virus be let alone," he spoke.

I expected as much. Gritting my teeth, my jaw tightened. Crossing my arms, I stood firm. "I'm not leaving without the cure," I said, "and I wanna know why you did this."

Seconds passed as their thoughts went from one to the other.

"You must let down your mind block," he said. "We will not communicate in a verbal manner in these Chambers."

I sighed. If I let down my wall, they would discover that I had told Joan everything. Feeling as though I had them in a corner as well, I figured I would comply. It felt as though I didn't have much choice. Reluctantly, I let down the wall, and felt their minds entering mine. When they finished, they consulted each other.

Then they answered me.

It somewhat intrigued me at first. What surprised me was that they had acknowledged the fact that humans handled emotions better than we did. The war with the enemy had scarcely gone anywhere. Both sides were hitting walls. Not much had changed in the last decade. As they examined humanity, they realized the opportunity they had. Our powers hadn't developed until after the exile of our emotions. Humans could control their emotions, hold them back when necessary, and, when they had the power, they could feed it with their emotions. With emotions, the power could intensify, it could evolveā€¦and it could kill. They wanted to turn humans into a psychic fighting force, an army of thought that could defeat the enemy in a single brawl. Just as I had overpowered the Guardian when I was angry with him, a human could overpower any one of us, and they could overpower the enemy. A human with our power could break through the mind blocks of the detained enemy agents and discover everything we needed to know about them.

But the enemy had discovered the Guild's little plan for humanity. When the Guild discovered the enemy's virus tactic, they realized anything they did to the humans could be countered, and they would let them destroy the evidence by allowing the virus to kill the mutated humans.

I guessed I should have thought as much. As I hated the enemy as much as they did, part of me did not feel the experiment a bad idea. Had I not ever been human, I'd have likely agreed with the experiment. But I had been human, and I understood the morals and ethics of the situation, something it appeared my people had none of.

I sighed in thought. Another part of me hated them, hated them for what they had done, for what they were willing to let happen, and because they were going to let it happen to Joan. As much as I hated the enemy, at that moment, I hated my own people even more. I made sure they sensed my anger.

"I want that cure," I said. "Otherwise, you can expect me to go to the enemy, and let them know everything about us that you want to know about them."


"We would stop you," he said.

A smile creased my face. "I have emotions," I said, shaking my head at him. "I'm stronger than you."

Several seconds passed in silence. When they finished conferring, he answered me. "We will give you the cure," he said hesitantly, "under one condition..."