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eternity lies behind

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One hundred days is barely enough to win a battle, let alone a war.

Deirdre's thoughts take their time to detach from Planet's last gasp, their very consciousnesses tangled together like roots underground. She opens her eyes to Corazon's hair spilling dark across her pillows, the plush synthetic fabric mimicking what they had on the Unity, it itself a distant replica to what they had on Earth. Corazon's awake, of course. She sleeps lighter than Deirdre ever does.

"You were dreaming," Corazon says. Her eyelashes draw shadows on her skin, her collarbone showing purpling bruises from Deirdre's mouth. "Important?"

"Not particularly," Deirdre says, and indulges the urge to kiss her. Corazon allows her for a moment, then presses her advantage: she slides her knee between Deirdre's legs and digs her fingers into the bruise she sucked on the inside of Deirdre's thigh. The pain grounds Deirdre, sending heat pooling between her legs as Corazon drags her lips over Deirdre's skin to the hollow of her throat. Deirdre draws her fingers up the ridge of Corazon's spine to twist her fingers in her hair, Corazon's mouth as hot as her growing wetness against Deirdre's thigh.

"We have a Council meeting," Deirdre says, half to see the way Corazon's dark eyes narrow, as the line of her mouth turns sharp. She sets her teeth to Deirdre's throat before she pulls back, a nip of pain that's more a warning than a threat.

"Ah," Corazon says, "I assume you wish to be presentable."

"Presentable enough," Deirdre murmurs, looking at Corazon through her eyelashes. Corazon huffs and kisses her, thorough and knowing and hard. Her fingers walk up Deirdre's thigh and her breasts brush against Deirdre's own and by the time Corazon pulls back, her mouth bitten red, Deirdre's rethinking just how presentable they both need to be for the Planetary Council. That, however, is a fool's game, and neither of them are fools.

When Corazon rises from the bed to dress she does so with full knowledge that Deirdre is watching her; it's obvious from the way she slows, almost but not quite putting on a show. Her dress is to pristine military standard, the sharp edges of a society they left back on Earth lifetimes ago, and Deirdre lets herself linger over the way Corazon's muscular back disappears under fabric, the way her biceps stretch against her shirt as the garment shifts to her form. She trusts Deirdre at her back in the vulnerability of sleep, so this is little more.

She does not trust Deirdre's Stepdaughters, of course. But Deirdre is a known quantity, a leader who abides by their rules of engagement, where this flirtation between them is not a tool to be leveraged in any arena but their own.

It's to Deirdre's good fortune. It's a pity it will soon be gone.

"A Captain will escort you," Corazon says, now fully dressed. She forgoes the honours pinned to her breast because she dislikes the way they look, but she still stands like the woman who earned them through blood and grit and order. "Don't make a scene this time."

"Oh," Deirdre says, "I thought the Planetlife was a beautiful touch."

She won't be insulted to her face, she doesn't say; Corazon already knows. The trainee who thought it a good idea probably would have been dealt with in the Spartan way, but Deirdre had a small mindworm boil she was raising herself and she didn't regret the show. Psi resistance has improved to quite decent in Corazon's regulated army, but Deirdre had been practicing.

She had been ever since her first shared dream, ever since Planet reached out to humanity and it was Deirdre who answered the call. Planet connects everything growing on this world, and one hundred days in the future, for fractions of a moment, Deirdre was connected, too.

In that moment, Deirdre knew all she needed to do what she needs to.

"Our discipline has improved since," Corazon says. "I'm sure you can manage to make your way without inviting discord."

"Not discord," Deirdre says mildly, "merely awareness. Perhaps a combined operation would help reduce rumours about my competence."

She says it as a feint, and it works. Corazon looks at her sharply. "Are you worried about Morgan?"

"He's been busy," Deirdre says. "Yang has been pushing his north border."

"He's been pushing back," Corazon says, folding her arms across her chest. "A war on three fronts might obliterate him."

Deirdre steps off the bed to gather her clothing, mostly to hide her expression. "If that would be a problem…"

"It would set us against Yang," Corazon says, slowly. "He won't give up while his target still exists."

"It was only a thought," Deirdre says.

Sparta Command is a base modelled from the Unity, much like every base that grew around their first colony pods. It means Deirdre doesn't have much difficulty navigating, though the soldier by her side no doubt has strict orders to not let her wander. Deirdre doesn't need to go far, though; she has probe teams stationed here the same way she assumes Corazon has some at Gaia's Landing, and they're practiced enough psi talents to accept a message through simple skin contact.

Deirdre packages her information, mentally encoding it with their usual cipher, and sends it on with a brush of hands as she passes one by. It will spread like a fungus, growth seeking food and water and sunlight, and she trusts her agents enough that it's all she will have to do.

First, however, she has a meeting with the Planetary Council. She already knows what will happen in both the general and the specific: Morgan's bluster hiding his worry, Yang's steady calm against Miriam's customary threats. They've whittled themselves down to base essentials, leaders of factions dedicated to an ultimate cause, none sharing information even under Lal's tentative overtures. There is no relying on anyone else. All Deirdre has are her people, and herself.

And Planet, at least for now. Soon, even her dreams will be her own.

She will sit through the meeting from a base not her own, in a room that could pass for anywhere; she will say the same rote responses and vote on the same insignificant causes. She will wait until a transport comes, and take the two days back east to Gaia's Landing, and she will muster her own forces, a veritable forest of locusts and mindworms.

She will not have time to evacuate the probe teams in Yang's territory before the bombs fall.

There is more than one way to stop a Secret Project, but not with less than a year to go. Yang's push for Transcendence, carefully hidden in a small, sparsely-populated base, will, when finished, speak doom for them all. But Sparta Command is the home to a dozen Planet Busters, capable of destroying the base and all nearby life, avoiding Planet's metamorphosis and triggering Planet's defenses, that near-critical mass of white blood cells primed to seek out humans and attack until they are entirely gone --

It is the only way with the time they have left. Planet, crying out on the brink of being subsumed, had agreed. It was Deirdre who could keep her sense of self through the swift, haphazard merge of Planet and earthbeing, who was placed in prime position to enact this last-ditch attempt at mutual survival.

It is Deirdre who will live with the consequences.