“And now, what, Nancy?”

She looked up from her book at the woman in Linker uniform who had come into the otherwise empty lounge, then out at the stars.

Nancy and the Linker

“Join us, and we can help you. You can be a telepath, and we can guide you, help clear all the partial compulsions from your mind when it's safe. Or you can join your family en route to Cimarron.”

Nancy looked the other woman in the eye. She was young, not unattractive, and the uniform was impressive. But then so was her Clan regalia. Both were also confining, and too many years lay ahead of her for her to chain herself now.

“There is a third way. I can travel — go to Earth perhaps. That's far enough away, so I shan't be able to hurt my Clan. I might stay there to take a degree, or maybe just keep on going. There are enough worlds And then one day, when everything is settled, I might come home again.”

“And the Guild?”

“Nor that either. I have my freedom now, and I don't have much else in the way of intangibles. I want to keep that. Many thanks for your offer, but not yet.”

“It'll always be there, for as long as you're possessed of some psychic talent.”

The woman stood, bowed in farewell, and was gone. Now you've done it, Nancy thought to herself, you have cut yourself off from your old life. Or maybe just made it formal. She touched the gem she wore at her throat. That had cut her off already, and would be her life for some time to come.

Tears came easily to her then. Too late, far too late, she had discovered what Tricia had meant to her. After, in a sense, it was over.

Her eyes were still red as she boarded the liner to Earth via Greybeacon, Harnwell, and Oscar Station, but her mourning was done. From now, all would have to be new.

© Steve Gilham 2000