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The End of the Line


But coming back is another matter entirely. I'm here because I was sent for you. I need
you. We all need you. The world needs you."
"The world can go to hell for all I care," Ember snorted. "What's it to me? They stole
my life. They stuck me in here. I was just a child and they locked me up and threw
away the key. How long has it been? Do you even know that?"
"I do," Soma calmly replied. "I do know that, but it doesn't matter. It makes no
difference. Let's just say it's been a long, long time."
"Don't I know it!" Ember snarled. "And now they need us, huh? Guess my answer!"
"You might change your mind," Soma said, holding up her hand and glancing at Edeline
to assure her there was no need to get excited, no need to argue about anything.
“When you hear what I have to say."
"I doubt it." Ember was suspicious. Soma was an outsider now, probably one of
“them”, no longer one of “us” in her mind. She inspected Soma even more closely now,
scanning the grown one's face for any indications of treachery or deceit. Ember was
very good at reading people. In the ancient forest world game of Mind Ball, she had
been a Savior, and the best one at that. Her job was to prevent Strikers from scoring
goals. A Striker could “shoot” at anytime, anywhere in the forest, using any object
designated as a “ball” by the Ball Gatherers and aimed at any other object designated
as a “goal” by the Goal Hunters. A Savior had to be alert at all times to prevent a “ball”
from reaching a “goal”. No one ever knew how Ember managed to do what seemed
impossible, but more often than not she'd appear at just the right time and place in the
forest to prevent the point from being scored. Her secret, she believed, was what she
called Extra-Sensory Attention. Others assumed she was a mind reader and Ember was
content to let them think that. Weren't they all mutants in one way or another? This
was the myth they lived by in the forest world. What else could explain their
permanent confinement?
In reality, Ember could not read minds, and now she could read no deception in Soma's
face either. All she could see was the same old trees, the usual duff on the ground and
bits of sky peeking through the canopy high above. Soma had found the pair at their
home base. It was still early in the morning, and they'd been munching on some
berries when the enormous stranger appeared.
“Then let's hear it,” Ember said, plopping herself down on the ground and gesturing
that the others should do the same. Edeline and Soma joined her in a circle on the
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