Sirzert regarded Glya with many, many unblinking eyes. “Well, Ms. VanPoen, your stated wish seems reasonable on the whole. However, we cannot grant it.”

“Why not?” said Glya, regarding the alien intelligence with pleading eyes. “I’ve seen you do incredible things. That ship you vaporized, uplifting the Qiq…surely returning an old woman left stumbling around, out of time, to where she belongs is meaningless before such power.”

Half Sirzert’s eyes blinked slowly in a sequence Glya felt like she half-remembered from a dream. “I am the fusion of hundreds of years of planning, the immaculate–according to my creators, anyway–product of a thousand years of planning. But asking to be returned to the past…while it is possible, the ripples are unpredictable. You are asking a great deal.”

“Am I?” Glya said. “I just want to live.”

“As do I, Ms. VanPoen. As do I. But ask yourself this: would returning you from whence you came upset the balance of history in such a way that my people never created me? Would you be the flutter of a lepidopteran wing that leads to my destruction? You are asking me to risk an existence beyond comprehending, as well as the life’s work of generations of my peoples’ finest minds, for what is an affectation.”

“Home is not an affectation,” Glya said softly. “It’s real.”

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