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The light of the system’s blue star was intense. Through his tendrils, Genn felt the Great Beast’s reluctance to go any further. Yet Genn drove it on all the same and ignored the high-pitched, panicked hum that spread throughout the cockpit. Only when Genn turned the Great Beast towards the planet below, did it calm down and return to its regular, deep song.

Genn was just as nervous as the Great Beast was; he didn’t like exchanges. A lot of things could go wrong--and had gone wrong in the past, set-ups, involvement of authorities, altercations, even a rip deal: anything could happen.

From high orbit, the planet’s atmosphere glowed blue as if the world below was made entirely of ice and water. Beyond those thick clouds lay a place that bathed in eternal twilight, shielded from its deadly sun by uncountable extremophiles that lived in its atmosphere and thrived on radiation and heat.

Genn took in the vast expanse of space. The Great Beast’s hum lulled him into that strange feeling--part anxiety, part acceptance of whatever would come--that he experienced just before an exchange. His muscles ached; he would need some rest first.

After the Great Beast had eased into the planet’s orbit, Genn retreated to the cold feeding room, where the light of the Great Beast’s bioluminescent veins was faint and his eyes could finally rest. There, his tendrils reached out into the layer of biomass the Great Beast produced; he fed and slipped into a light slumber.

The symbiotic union with a Great Beast could cause the most magnificent dreams. The gentle giants, genetically engineered by the Mass to accommodate Sentients and cargo, had powerful spirits that were capable of channeling the magical energy needed to open a portal to another world. Only a few Sentients were able of doing the same and then only after a lifetime of training.

If that mighty spirit liked its symbiont, it could share images previously undreamed of. Drifting in the mind-space of Great Beasts, Genn had witnessed the power of their collective and genetic memories; he had seen places that were visited by the precursors of the Great Beasts--long before they were made servants of the Mass--millions or billions of years ago. He had seen stars that by now had gone supernova, planets that had by now been torn apart by asteroids, clouds of matter which would now be new planets, and worlds that may have by now been eaten by the nameless things that dwell in the void.

It sometimes made Genn feel sorry for other Sentients; while they could ride the Great Beasts, the Great Beasts would never share what their kind had seen with them; only the Mold had that privilege, and they had discovered many a world to plunder thanks to the shoals of Great Beasts they rode through the known universe.


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