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This page contains a chapter by chapter summary of Starsight. We hope this summary will make it easier to find specific areas of the book, as well as providing a quick plot refresher for anyone who doesn't want to take the time to reread the entire book.
Spensa flies around outside the atmosphere of Detritus in M-Bot, fighting Krell. She contemplates M-Bot's lost advantage in not having to worry about being ripped apart in Detritus's atmosphere, as she and the Krell are now fighting in the vacuum of space, independent of drag and air resistance. M-Bot reminds Spensa that she's supposed to be leading the Krell back to her flightmates for an ambush, as the Krell will seek out flashy and experienced pilots to hurt the humans' air force. Spensa deviates from this plan, however, and flies back toward Detritus, where Rodge McCaffrey and the engineers have succeeded in recapturing some of the ancient defense systems and platforms of the planet. Spensa, able to hear and react to the Krell's faster-than-light (FTL) communication faster than themselves, easily uses her IMP to disable the Krell shields and swing around with her light lance to destroy them. Spensa is presented with a chance to return to the main battle, but she peels off to confront two Krell drones, and she begins to sink into her subconscious, into the nowhere. She feels the eyes begin to burn her, full of hatred, as she recalls activating her cytonics at the Battle of Alta Second after slipping into the nowhere. Spensa starts slipping deeper into her trance, when M-Bot jolts her out of it by informing her that he has detected a new ship. She sees a smaller, sleek black Krell ship, not a drone, but a Krell-manned ship, an ace.
Spensa performs maneuvers to evade the enemy ace, as her shields are down and theirs are not. Spensa blasts a drone out of the sky, but runs into its debris, as there is no gravity in space to bring it down to the ground. The drones help the ace corner Spensa, so she tells M-Bot to call Jorgen. While waiting, she flies closer to Detritus so that the planet's defense systems will begin targeting the Krell, thus negating their superiority in numbers. Spensa sinks into her subconscious and attempts to activate M-Bot's cytonic hyperdrive, but M-Bot informs her it is offline. Spensa performs a maneuver to get on the ace's tail, trails them for a bit, and eventually gets a shot off as the ace spins around and takes a shot at Spensa. The ace misses, but both of Spensa's shots connect, destroying the sleek black ship. M-Bot reminds Spensa of the presence of the drones, and she begins to turn her ship around, only for Kimmalyn and FM to swoop in and finish off the drones. Spensa swings back around to inspect the ace's debris, and M-Bot informs her that the fight really could have ended either way. Spensa wonders why the Superiority doesn't just send dozens if not hundreds of aces like the one she'd just fought to wipe humanity out in one fell swoop. She also recognizes that humanity will eventually win, as they are slowly recapturing more and more defense platforms and acclivity stone, and M-Bot's technology is helping the entire fleet. Jorgen contacts Spensa, fuming, and gives her, FM, Kimmalyn, and Spensa's new wingmate, Sadie, instructions to hang out for a bit until they have orders to return to their new command post on the defense platforms, Platform Prime. Sadie informs the others of a warning light on her proximity monitor, and the four look up to see the arrival of two Superiority battleships docking near the Krell monitoring station. M-Bot informs Spensa they are capable of bombarding the planet, to which she responds that the defense platforms will hold. The group finally receives orders to return to Platform Prime, and they begin their descent.
M-Bot calculates the flight's return to Platform Prime through the other abandoned platforms as Spensa contemplates how many people must have used to live on the platforms, with all the skyscrapers dotting them. Skyward Flight meets up with Xiwang Flight to dock at Platform Prime, a large, blue-glowing platform. M-Bot forces Spensa to take his mobile receptor with her to her meeting with Jorgen, and Spensa informs Dobsi, a ground crew member, of the damage M-Bot's fuselage sustained. Spensa returns to her bunk to see Doomslug and wash up, then meets up with the rest of her flight. She talks with Kimmalyn and Sadie, as well as T-Stall and Catnip, two new members of the flight. Jorgen arrives and dismisses the others, and lectures her on how her cytonic abilities are too important to risk fighting useless battles by herself against the Krell. She admits she's been taking needless risks to recreate the situation where she hyperjumped at the Battle of Alta Second. Kimmalyn returns to the room and informs them that the engineering team have uncovered a video recording in the ancient archives.
Spensa and Kimmalyn enter the data bank room, colloquially called the library, and are greeted by Rodge, who informs them that the engineering crews have discovered the final video logs of the platforms before they were shut down. Cobb, now the Admiral of the DDF, enters the room, and is greeted by Commander Ulan. Cobb tells Spensa to meet with him later, then gives the signal for the video to be played on a nearby computer screen. A technician turns on the volume, and a blonde engineer tells the monitor that the planet's defense platforms are insufficient and that the delver has tracked their communications and is fast approaching. He switches the screen to a camera on Platform Number 1132, as the sky begins to rapidly fill with stars, which Spensa quickly realizes are malevolent eyes, coming towards the planet. The shadow of the delver is cast over the platform, and Spensa sees a circular object at the center of the delver's dust cloud. The screen returns to the man in the library, where a woman reports the failure of the other platforms, and the imminent assault from the planet on the delver. The man continues typing, only to be consumed by the shadow of the delver, but not before the blackness gathers behind him, and forms a shape: Spensa.
Spensa sees herself displayed on the screen, and shouts for a tech to turn off the screen. Jorgen grabs Spensa and holds her back, asking what she saw. She tells him and asks him if he sees the same. He squints and says he can vaguely see stars and a dark shadowy shape. Cobb orders the screen turned off and tells Spensa to meet with him immediately. He also tells Rodge to continue working on his project. Cobb leads Spensa to the observatory and asks her what she saw. She tells him, and he tells her how dire the situation really is: the DDF knows nothing about the Superiority, but that they do know that somehow the Superiority travels the stars without attracting the attention of the delvers. Cobb also tells Spensa the planet's anti-bombardment systems won't hold out for long against the Superiority battleships and that she may not have to worry about the delvers. Spensa tells Cobb she was trying to push herself to access her cytonics in the heat of battle, and he tells her he might have another way to get the humans off Detritus.
Cobb leads Spensa back to the docking bay, where she sees Rodge working on M-Bot. Cobb asks how his project is going, so Rodge taps his datapad and M-Bot transforms into a Krell ace. Rodge reveals he has manipulated M-Bot's hologram programs to make M-Bot appear to be other types of ships. Rodge continues to explain that M-Bot's capabilities are in espionage, not on the front lines where the DDF has been using him. Spensa realizes Cobb and Rodge want her to infiltrate the Superiority space station and possibly steal hyperdrive technology. Cobb elaborates that he wants Spensa to bring a team with her, possibly start a spy school to train the DDF pilots in espionage. Cobb knows if the plan is to work, it has to happen quickly, as the DDF doesn't know how long they have with Superiority battleships lurking nearby. Spensa feels something odd, as if someone has arrived, when Cobb receives a call from Rikolfr informing him that a solitary ship has hyperjumped to the edge of Detritus' defense platforms. Spensa asks Cobb if she can go check it out, as Platform Prime is closer to the ship than the ground crews. Cobb consents, on the condition that Kimmalyn go with her.
Spensa gets in M-Bot, performs a preflight checklist, and exits the docking bay. Kimmalyn comes out of her bay, and the two head toward the alien ship. M-Bot informs Spensa the ship is not making wise choices in evading the defense platforms, which a Krell ship would not do. M-Bot calculates an interception course, and Spensa and Kimmalyn draw closer. Spensa receives permission to give chase, gets closer, and sees the ship is very damaged and spiraling towards a crash. As the ships reenter the atmosphere, g-forces begin to take their toll, and Spensa nearly blacks out. She then senses an overwhelming feeling of panic, seemingly broadcasted from the alien pilot. Cobb tells Spensa his analysts believe the ship to be manned, making it necessary to save the ship. Spensa light lances the ship, and slows its descent. Both ships lands safely, so Spensa jumps out of her ship and onto the alien ship. She climbs over the canopy and looks through the cockpit glass to see not a Krell, but a humanoid woman.
Kimmalyn climbs onto the canopy of the alien ship as well, and Spensa searches for the manual release to the cockpit, as the alien woman appears to be bleeding. Spensa releases the cockpit, and the woman starts speaking in an unintelligible language. The woman taps a pin on her flightsuit, and she begins talking in English. She tells Spensa her people and the humans were allies once and that Spensa is not to trust Starsight. She also implants the coordinates of Starsight in Spensa's mind. Three DDF troop transports and the rest of Skyward Flight touch down, and M-Bot tells Spensa he's hacked the alien ship's computer and discovered the alien's name is Alanik of the UrDail. He also tells Spensa he has access to all of the ship's databases on Alanik's people, her planet, her planet's history with humanity and the Superiority, and much more. Spensa meets up with Jorgen, and tells him that she has to go immediately to Starsight, as the coordinates are fading and the humans might not get another good chance to infiltrate the Superiority. M-Bot tells Spensa that she can use Alanik's pin to make her English input output any alien language. Jorgen gives his approval and tells Spensa he'll inform Cobb, and they kiss. Spensa gets back into M-Bot, yanks the coordinates back to the front of her mind, and activates M-Bot's cytonic hyperdrive.
Spensa finds herself floating in the nowhere, and sees the delvers' eyes begin to open as they stare at her, bursting with hatred and malevolence. M-Bot tells Spensa they're being contacted, and as she looks out M-Bot's cockpit, she sees a space station, a flat plane dotted with lights: Starsight. The people attempting to contact M-Bot seek identification, speaking in the language of the dione, so Spensa asks M-Bot to fudge Alanik's transponder signal. Spensa calms down and looks inward to see if she can pinpoint how to return to Detritus, but she has no cytonic coordinates for Detritus, only Starsight, so she asks M-Bot to calculate their location. In the meantime, M-Bot's fudging has failed and the Superiority is sending ships out to investigate. Two ships level off near Spensa, M-Bot patches through their comm line, and they begin to speak in an alien tongue. M-Bot hacks Alanik's translation pin, and the aliens begin speaking English. Spensa tells them she is Alanik of the UrDail from the planet ReDawn, and that she is responding to the Superiority's request for more pilots to form a larger space force. The two ships tell her she is welcome to dock at Berth 1182, then fly off, and Spensa can't believe she's succeeded, expecting the two ships to turn around and fire at her at any moment. They don't, and M-Bot informs Spensa they are some forty light years from Detritus, meaning without a stolen cytonic hyperdrive, there's no going back. Spensa flies closer to Starsight, and sees that the flat plane of the station was surrounded by a bubble that must keep air and heat in the space station. Spensa feels towards the general direction of Detritus, and feels what she believes to be Alanik's cytonics, then proceeds to enter the bubble.
The two alien ships guide Spensa closer to the station, and she observes aesthetically beautiful buildings and parks on each block. M-Bot tells her that there is no radio chatter; the Superiority is as scared of the delvers as the humans are. Spensa pulls into the docking bay, and M-Bot tells her that the platform has breathable air for her and the correct pressure. He also tells her that the aliens will understand her English output because their pins will understand one of the main languages of the people who thrice tried to conquer the galaxy. Spensa pops the cockpit and gets an access ticket to the docking bay from one of the aliens. Spensa remains in the ship, and is approached by an alien who refers to themself as Cuna. Spensa tells Doomslug to stay in the ship, then gets out to meet Cuna. Cuna guides Spensa through Starsight to where she will stay, passing by markets and parks galore. Cuna tells Spensa that by agreeing to be in the Superiority's defense force, Alanik might gain secondary Superiority citizenship for her people. Cuna further tells Spensa the Superiority prefers races that are not too aggressive but also have primary intelligence. The UrDail have thus far been barred from Superiority citizenship due to their alliance with the humans in the Third Human War. Cuna tells Spensa they are a member of the Department of Species Integration, and have personally been trying to integrate the UrDail into the Superiority. Cuna takes Spensa to her quarters, and tells her that as a cytonic, Spensa poses a threat to the Superiority, as it was people like her who first drew the delvers from their realm to attack the Superiority. This forced the Superiority to control the cytonics and limit radio communications, but they have since discovered cytonic hyperdrives that do not aggravate the delvers. Spensa realizes that the reason the Superiority never sent a massive attack to wipe out the humans was because they simply didn't have the numbers, and they instead control the galaxy by controlling access to cytonic hyperdrives. Cuna then tells Spensa the reason the Superiority has been gathering pilots like her is because they believe the delvers are watching the Superiority, and they have developed a superweapon to combat the delvers that they need large amounts of pilots to deploy. Cuna tells Spensa that the Department of Protective Services is overseeing the delver combat operation, but that they have significant say in it. Cuna tells Spensa she needs to pass their tryout the next day, and also warns her that her cytonic abilities will be muted by Starsight's cytoshield. Before they can leave, sirens go off around the building, a ship lands in front of the building, and a human woman steps out.
Following the human woman comes a varvax, who Cuna introduces as Winzik, the head of the Department of Protective Services. The group enters Spensa's quarters and Winzik has the human, Brade, test Spensa for cytonic abilities, after which he warns Spensa not to use her cytonic abilities on others. As Cuna and Winzik continue to talk, Spensa realizes she is being used as a pawn in their greater political power struggle. Spensa agrees to follow the Superiority's rules, and Winzik and Brade leave. Cuna tells Spensa she can have supplies brought to her quarters, and then leaves. M-Bot contacts Spensa and asks her to move him away from the public docking bay so he can be more comfortable and connect to the station's public datanet to look for information.
M-Bot tells Spensa that he has deactivated all of the Superiority surveillance devices in her quarters and that he's taking a general imprint of the datanet so the Superiority can't track exactly what they're searching for. He tells her all traces of cytonics and hyperdrive technology are missing, however. He also tells her that he is miles ahead of Superiority technology in terms of holograms. He then tells her the five main leading races of the Superiority government: the cambric, tenasi, heklo, varvax (like Winzik), and diones (like Cuna). He tells her that diones reproduce by merging together and becoming a temporary third individual. Spensa then has M-Bot arrange for supplies that both she and Alanik would consume to be brought to her quarters in bulk. M-Bot then covers some other necessities, like attempting to contact Detritus and sending word to the UrDail updating them on "Alanik's" progress with the Superiority. Spensa checks the information Cuna gave her on the flight test the next day and sees most of the participants are secondary Superiority citizens and that if she is to succeed, she will be issued a Superiority starfighter, which she hopes will be equipped with a cytonic hyperdrive.
Spensa gets in M-Bot and takes off the roof of the embassy, headed toward where the tryout will take place, half an hour of flying away. They receive a flight plan, and enter a stream of a couple dozen assorted ships headed to the same location. M-Bot tells Spensa he should send a message to Alanik's people, giving them basic information the Superiority will overlook, encrypted with a message that she is not Alanik, that Alanik is injured and Spensa is performing her mission. M-Bot asks Spensa if he's truly alive, and Spensa points out he changed his own code, and then asks if he could change his own code to fly himself, after which M-Bot makes clicking sounds and restarts. This happens once more before they realize M-Bot can't even think about flying himself without his computer restarting him. M-Bot reaches the location of the tryout, a mining station surrounded by another atmosphere-simulating bubble. They land and Spensa disembarks, and approaches a crowd of aliens listening to Winzik, standing on a raised dais, addressing them through a voice projection tool. Winzik informs them the Superiority must always be on high alert in looking for delvers, and someone in the crowd asks if it's true that a delver has entered the realm. Winzik confirms this, and quickly moves on to discussing the waivers they all need to sign. Spensa receives one, but doesn't know her travel identification number, so goes up to a varvax taking questions. A group of small fox like creatures are talking to the varvax, telling it how they are no longer a monarchy and should not have to prove their loyalty to the Superiority for the umpteenth time. Winzik approaches Spensa and tries to talk her out of trying out. Cuna approaches Spensa next, asking about Winzik's intentions. Cuna reveals that Alanik is the only pilot that accepted her offer, and that one of their reasons for asking species like Alanik's to try out for the force is to see their human-given light-lances, which generally require more confidence to use in combat, in action. Cuna leaves, and Spensa gets back in M-Bot and takes off towards the edge of the asteroid field.
Spensa falls in line with the other pilots, and a few ships down she sees a sleek black Krell ace. She senses a soft ringing sound coming from the ship, and instantly knows Brade is the pilot. Winzik comes on over the general instructions channel informing the pilots that they are allowed to use ship to ship radio transmissions and that if they feel aggressive or feel overwhelmed, they are to power down their ship and flash their emergency signal lights. The comm cuts off and instantly dozens of drone ships detach from the mining station and swarm the pilots. Spensa zips away from the battle at Mag-3, and inspects the field. She can tell most of the pilots have never been in a battlefield scenario, as they scramble around with no sense of direction. Spensa contacts Flight Command and asks what the objective of the exercise is, to which they respond that to pass, a pilot must survive for 30 standard minutes. Spensa asks what constitutes a death, and Flight Command tells her that she misunderstands their purpose, and she then sees a drone shoot down a nearby ship with live destructor fire. Spensa dogfights with a couple of drones, using her light-lance to destroy one but avoiding using her cytonics to intercept their FTL communications. This scares the drones off, as they know they don't need to test a pilot with obvious skill, but rather pick off weaklings. Spensa sees a large fighter with many destructors, a warship, under heavy attack from the drones, and accelerates to go help them out.
The warship's shields go down right as Spensa arrives, but their destructor turrets keep firing at the drones. Spensa flies through the trailing drones and hits her IMP, hoping to distract as many drones as possible. She gains a tail, but the warship is able to cut down each drone trailing her. Spensa falls in next to the warship, and M-Bot tells her they are receiving a call from an unfamiliar radio channel. M-Bot patches it through, and only cheering can be heard on the other end. A deep voice on the other side informs Spensa she has saved the kitsen flagship, Gaualako-An (Big Enough to Kill You) and with it, Hesho, former king of the kitsen. Spensa asks if they want to form a flight with her, and Hensho says yes, but only if Spensa can find another quick starfighter to balance their flight. Spensa sees Brade flying off in the distance, and patches a radio comm to her asking if she wants to join. Brade responds by light-lancing another ship into an asteroid and flying away at high speed. Spensa goes toward the ship Brade has just damaged to ask if they need assistance. She patches through a radio comm, and tells the pilot to turn off their ship and flash their emergency lights. The dione pilot tells Spensa they cannot, because the collision has crushed their emergency lights. Spensa tows the ship back toward Hesho via light-lance, and sends out a radio comm via the general channel and asks if any ships can assist them. A feminine voice responds after a second attempt and promises to help if Spensa promises not to shoot. Spensa agrees, and a drone comes out from hiding behind an asteroid and is almost shot by Spensa, until things are sorted out and Spensa tells the feminine pilot to distract the drones keeping her from assisting the dione. The pilot does so, and Spensa is able to dislodge a small rock from the dione's boosters, allowing the ship to have fully operational boosters. The dione informs Hesho and Spensa that their name is Morriumur, and the trio continue patrolling the battlefield until time expires and the drones return to their hiding places on the underside of the mining platform. The surviving 50 pilots return to the atmospheric bubble atop the mining station and exit their ships. Spensa is about to angrily demand why the Superiority used live destructor fire on civilian vessels, but is beaten to it by a hulking gorilla-like alien. The alien slams Winzik for not using dummy rounds and firing on an untrained populace, and proceeds to threaten Winzik. Winzik takes offense and releases the gorilla-alien, identified as Gul'zah of the burl, from duty. M-Bot restrains Spensa from getting further involved, and Morriumur steps in and asks Spensa if she wants to get food with them.
Morriumur and Spensa enter a cafeteria, and Morriumur tells Spensa a little more of how their species' reproduction works, and they argue about the hypocrisy of the Superiority. Morriumur tells Spensa they are joining the Superiority's pilots because they were born with a high level of aggression for a dione, and they thought this the best way to prove themselves to their family. The cafeteria has food and liquid for all kinds of species, so M-Bot tells Spensa what Alanik would be able to eat that Spensa can consume too. Morriumur tells Spensa of their theory of why so many species, flora, and fauna across the galaxy look and act so similarly: he believes humanoid cytonics crossed the galaxy before they had stone tools. Spensa and Morriumur continue discussing the ethics, including how dione families choose whether or not to birth a child based on its personality, when Hesho and his crew enter the cafeteria. Hesho proposes a formal alliance between his crew, Spensa, and Morriumur, and the trio hypothesize what their Superiority training will entail next. None of them know much about delvers, so none of them know exactly what to expect. Hesho calls out the Department of Protective Services for its lack of empathy, and the group settles into eating their meals. Spensa hears the song of the stars outside of Starsight's cytoshield, she also hears the humming of Brade's cytonics nearby. She excuses herself to use the restroom, and goes towards the humming. She turns a corner and sees Brade speaking with a group of dione officials and Winzik.
Spensa crouches by the door, listening to Winzik and the dione's conversation, when M-Bot tells her he can enhance her bracelet's auditory reception capabilities so she can better listen to the conversation. He does so, and Spensa hears another dione, named Tizmar, arguing with Winzik over the ethics of using live destructor fire on untrained pilots, telling him there were a dozen casualties. Spensa feels a mind pressing against her own, and hears another official ask why Brade is standing up, alert. Spensa realizes Brade can sense her too, so she scrambles back to the cafeteria and sits down back at her table just before Winzik comes in and stares straight at her. A dione official comes up to their table some time later and informs Spensa and Hesho they will be in a flight together, along with Brade and a cinnamon-smelling figment named Vapor. Morriumur is left in a flight of their own until Spensa argues with the official, who gives in and allows Morriumur to join their flight. The group splits up, and M-Bot tells Spensa he has partially succeeded in lying, he tripped his security alarms to stop a group of engineers from inspecting him. Spensa comes to the conclusion that if she can't steal a Superiority hyperdrive, maybe she can steal one of their cytonics, Brade, by telling her of Detritus and a group of humans who would appreciate her flying abilities.
Spensa returns to the embassy, and tells M-Bot she only got into the Superiority's military by the skin of her teeth, nearly losing her cool like Gul'zah. M-Bot asks her if she has skin on her teeth, to which Spensa responds no, then wonders where the metaphor comes from. M-Bot tells her it is from an English version of the Bible, an old version of the Book of Saints, read commonly on Old Earth. Spensa pets Doomslug, who recognizes Spensa through her Alanik hologram, which leads Spensa to wonder if Vapor recognizes her as a human. Spensa turns off the lights and takes off her bracelet so she can be herself, and gets in the cleaning pod to bathe. M-Bot tells her Alanik's people have sent back an encrypted message asking to speak with Alanik. Spensa tells M-Bot to send an encrypted message back saying that Alanik will contact them when she is healthy, and that for the time being, Spensa is carrying out her mission. Spensa asks M-Bot to tell her what the people down in the street are talking about, and he tells her they talk about normal things, like daycare, dinner, and their pets. Spensa tells M-Bot she's going to perform maintenance on him, so she begins working on him. She then asks him how he learned about the Bible and Old Earth, and he tells her that the Superiority has lots of information on Old Earth in their databases. Spensa asks him to tell her about Pine Leaf, one of the stories Gran-Gran had told her. M-Bot tells it in a very factual, matter of fact way, unlike Gran-Gran's storytelling style. M-Bot then begins wondering if he's alive again, telling Spensa that the dione philosopher, Zentu, proposed three conditions that indicated true life: growth, basic self-determinism, and the ability to reproduce. He so far has only met the first condition, and begins wondering if he can copy his code onto another ship, only to restart. M-Bot tells Spensa it would be too hard anyways, copying the code would be easy, but he would be too slow, because in his current state he uses FTL processors to calculate and make rapid decisions, but being in another ship would render him unable to do so. He tells Spensa that he has a cytoshield that blocks Starsight's cytoshield and allows his FTL processors to function on Starsight. While working on M-Bot's reflective underside, Spensa sees the eyes and a delver, so she scrambles away. Spensa then tells M-Bot the story of the man who lost his shadow: one day a writer lost his shadow, searched for it, lost interest, but eventually his shadow came back and having traveled the world, switched places with the man so he could travel the world, but refused to free the man and lived out his life, marrying a princess, becoming wealthy and famous. Spensa worries she already is the shadow. Spensa decides to sleep in M-Bot's cockpit, listening to the sounds of the people and traffic down below.
Jorgen enters the DDF infirmary to check on Alanik. He reflects on his breaking of the DDF chain-of-command protocol, and asks for any updates from the doctor in the room. The doctor tells him everything seems okay, but they just don't know what an UrDail's vital signs should be. On his way back to his ship to take ground crew duty, Jorgen hears the alarms going off, in a pattern that indicates incoming fire. Jorgen heads to the command room, and meets up with Ensign Nydora, a woman in the Radio Corps. She informs him that the Superiority battleships have taken up a position over a gap in the the platforms directly over Alta Base. The DDF can do nothing but hope the Engineering Corps have gotten the platforms there online. The battleships begin dropping bombs, only for a section of the platforms to open up and launch bright energy blasts at the bombs. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, except Cobb. Jorgen asks Cobb what the matter is, and Cobb tells him that the platform that fought back wasn't one of the ones the Engineering Corps had been working on. He also tells Jorgen that even though they managed to get a few platforms online, all of them are low on power and will take years to fabricate new solar collectors. Jorgen then tells Cobb that he's seen white lights in the corner of his eyes. Cobb then decides to take him to meet Spensa's Gran-Gran.
Spensa awakes to M-Bot warning of intruders downstairs, so she grabs her handheld destructor pistol and heads downstairs. M-Bot tells her the locations of the two intruders, and Spensa ambushes one of them, who drops a plate. The intruder claims to be a housekeeper sent by Cuna. The door chimes ring, and Spensa opens the door to see Cuna themself. Cuna confirms the story, and identifies the housekeepers as Mrs. Chamwit and her assistant. Cuna enters the embassy and they head to a meeting room. Cuna asks Spensa what she knows of the human wars and the delvers, which leads Spensa to the conclusion that the human had tried to weaponize the delvers, only for them to backfire and consume the human planets, just as she'd seen on the video on Platform Prime. Cuna tells her that although they and Winzik disagree on many things, one thing they do agree on is that they need to have a way to combat the delvers should they ever return. Cuna also tells Spensa the humans aren't a real threat, and that rumors of their impending escapes are just stories drummed up by the Department of Protective Services every time they need a new funding bill passed. Cuna tells Spensa they wants her to act as a spy and report on whatever the Department of Protective Services has them do in their training. They also tell Spensa the ship they will be traveling on has a cytonic hyperdrive, so Spensa should pay attention when they jump if she wants to increase her powers. Spensa gathers up her things and tells Cuna not to touch M-Bot, then heads to the docking platform to board her transport ship.
M-Bot tells Spensa her shuttle will take her to the trade vessel Weights and Measures, they also cover the species within Spensa's flight. M-Bot also tells Spensa about the kitsen shadow walkers who came to Old Earth thousands of years before, but mysteriously stopped coming due to being ostracized among their own people. The shuttle passes a group of people waving signs, led by a burl. M-Bot searches the local news outlets and finds that they are protesting the use of live destructor fire in the tryout and the Superiority's treatment of lesser races as a whole. Spensa's shuttle reaches the last ship on the docks, what she identifies as a troop transport, due to its multiple ports for launching starfighters and the knobs on the sides for gun emplacements. Spensa gets out of her shuttle and is told she will be picked up again at 9000. Spensa is joined by Hesho and his crew, who informs her that he was unanimously voted down in each measure he brought forth in his people's democratic assembly. A drone flies over to the group, now joined by Morriumur and Vapor, and informs them they will be Flight Fifteen, which Hesho immediately renames Flowers of Night's Last Kiss Flight. The flight is led down the corridors of the Weights and Measures, and Spensa feels she should peel off from the group and head a certain way. She does, and hears the stars, when a soldier guarding the intersection yells at her and she goes back to where her flight went. They enter a little chamber with half a dozen jumpseats, they strap in, and prepare for launch. Spensa relaxes and listens to the stars, hears the captain's command to prepare for hyperjump, then her mind floods with information, the location of where they're jumping to, a shrill scream, and then the ship enters the nowhere.
Spensa enters the nowhere, and sees the eyes, but they are staring at whatever is screaming and not her. She comes to back in her flight's room on board the Weights and Measures, and she and her flight leave and head to a dock where their boxy starfighters await. She looks out the window to see a polyhedral megastructure the size of a space station, which Winzik refers to as a human-built delver maze. The flight gets in their starfighters, stark white triangular wedges of steel designed for flying in the vacuum of space. Spensa, Morriumur, and Brade receive interceptors while Vapor pilots a sniper and the kitsen have a larger battleship with stations for the whole crew. Spensa suggests that Vapor should be flightleader and she leads the flight through a preflight checklist and a couple of basic maneuvers. After this, Winzik comes on over the general line and projects an animated video, accompanied by 200 year old footage of the Acumidian delver destroying the planet Farhaven, over the pilots' screens to show them what they can expect from a delver itself, as little is known about the delver maze. The video ends, and Vapor informs the flight they've been instructed to head to certain coordinates and await their turn in the maze.
Vapor leads Flowers of Night's Last Kiss Flight towards the delver maze at a slow pace, explaining that the drones have been repurposed to throw themselves at pilots to imitate the flying rocks present in a real delver maze. The flight heads into a room with a couple drones; Brade zooms ahead to try to deal with them herself, Morriumur shoots wildly at them, Hesho and his crew are relatively okay, Vapor is distracted giving orders to the crew instead of picking off stragglers, and Spensa is accidentally shot at by Morriumur. Spensa patches through to Vapor via a private comm line and tells her that the flight need to work on the fundamentals of flying as a unit, so Vapor appoints her as assistant flightleader and tells her to carry out the drills, as she has clear military experience. Spensa berates the flight for their mistakes and incohesiveness in a way that would have made Cobb proud and orders them to undergo fundamental flight formation exercises for the rest of the day. During a break, Vapor asks Spensa if she wants to join her on an expedition through the delver maze without the drones turned on, just the two of them, the more rational pilots in the flight.
Vapor and Spensa enter the delver maze, with deactivated drones, and they reach a large chamber with writing on the wall. Flight Command informs them it is a copy of the pictures pilots who have really been inside delver mazes have taken. Spensa realizes she recognizes the writing on the wall from the tunnels and caverns on Detritus. Flight Command asks Vapor and Spensa if they want to turn on some of the other functions of the delver maze, namely the hallucinations, which are projected on the canopies of their ships. Spena and Vapor consent, and they begin telling each other what they see so they can determine what is and isn't real. At one point deeper into the maze, Spensa sees a shadow in the corner of her vision and asks Vapor if she saw it. Vapor says yes, which means they aren't alone, so Spensa asks Flight Command what's going on. Flight Command tells them they are still learning about the facility themselves, as it was the humans who built it, so they don't know all the details of how the maze works. This spooks Spensa, so she convinces Vapor to head back to the rest of the flight with her. On their way back, Spensa sees herself, Spensa, not Alanik, reflected in the metallic wall of the maze and momentarily enters the nowhere.
After exiting the delver maze, Vapor has Spensa run the team through a couple of scatter formations, then the flight returns to the docking bay and they return to their jump room. Spensa relaxes and settles into the nowhere and hears Winzik's commands to the engine room. He asks for the cytonic hyperdrive to be prepared, but nothing happens. The engine room reports back that the cytonic hyperdrive experienced interference from the two cytonics on board. They replace it with another cytonic hyperdrive, and this time it works. Spensa takes a shuttle home with three reptilian aliens. M-Bot makes contact with Spensa and tells her that the Weights and Measures indeed had a shield that was blocking his communications. Spensa returns to the embassy, where Mrs. Chamwit has been dutifully waiting. Mrs. Chamwit tries to cook something for Spensa, but Spena refuses, and the housekeeper leaves. M-Bot tells Spensa she did nothing suspicious while Spensa was away, and Spensa tells M-Bot that the individual ship she was issued was not equipped with a cytonic hyperdrive, but rather the Weights and Measures had one. M-Bot tells her he could probably reproduce small espionage devices to gain more intelligence on the Superiority's cytonic hyperdrive technology. Spensa falls asleep briefly, and wakes up to a light flashing that indicated she'd received a delivery from Mrs. Chamwit, a delicious pastry.
Spensa and Brade practice flying together with the expertise only gained by wingmates of a couple decades, then the flight regroups and contemplates the weapon the Superiority has been developing to combat the delvers. Vapor condemns the rumor that her species is employed as assassins, then takes Brade on a run through the delver maze, leaving Spensa to meditate in her ship alone. She unstraps and sits floating in her cockpit when she relaxes and hears Gran-Gran trying to speak to her. Spensa panics and tries to speak back, but to no avail. Vapor returns and she and Spensa agree that it is time for the flight to go through the delver maze. Brade takes off on her own, and Spensa heads in with Hesho and his crew, while Morriumur and Vapor pair up. Hesho and Spensa go through multiple tunnels and rooms, one room containing an actual boulder in an odd place and another room allowing sound to travel even when Hesho's instruments team reports a vacuum outside the ship. Hesho has his crew take images of the writing on the wall for future reference, and Spensa tells him where she's seen it before, so he tells her she might have a nowhere portal on her home planet, a valuable source of acclivity stone the Superiority is desperate to monopolize. After about a half hour of flying, Hesho and Spensa a room that looks like the membrane to Spensa, though Hesho sees nothing. Spensa takes a deep breath to calm herself, then sees the entire universe. She sees it from the delvers' point of view, all the creatures inhabiting worlds she sees as annoying, loud insects and bugs that buzz around her and annoy her. She finally snaps out of it, and demands Flight Command tell her if they sent her that hallucination. They tell her they didn't, so Spensa and Hesho leave and regroup with the flight. Brade is angry and annoyed, having gotten stuck in the first few rooms, not being able to tell what was real and fake. The flight returns to the Weights and Measures to head back to Starsight.
The Weights and Measures enters the nowhere, and all of the eyes focus on the ship's cytonic hyperdrive, until one eye stares right at Spensa, just before the ship returns to Starsight's docks. While waiting to dock in the jump room, Spensa overhears Hesho talking to Senator Aria about even though each vote went unanimously against him, the Superiority still suspects him of exerting his influence as the former monarch over the Senate. He tells Aria that the Superiority must want the Senate to choose what they want, not what Hesho wants. Spensa discusses the Superiority's hegemony of the worlds of "lesser races" with Hesho but doesn't see Morriumur seated behind them, so he walks away, embarrassed. Brade tells Spensa she thinks the flight is making progress, which is a huge step in the right direction for her and Spensa's relationship, and on her way off the ship, Spensa tells the guard at the intersection near the engine room that she has to use the restroom. The guard calls for a drone, who leads her past the guard and to a restroom. Spensa times herself and overhears the drone operator speaking with a colleague over the drone's unmuted mic. The drone escorts her back to the intersection, where Hesho has been waiting. Spensa tells Hesho she is a cytonic, and he tells her of his grandmother's attempt to steal a cytonic hyperdrive a few decades back and his species' subsequent temporary loss of citizenship. On the shuttle back to the embassy, Spensa notices that Gul'zah and his protesters are no longer protesting, and M-Bot tells her they reached an agreement with the Superiority, compensation for the families of the deceased and a promise to institute stricter safety protocols in future tryouts.
Spensa wakes to find the cleaning drone parts have successfully been shipped to the embassy. She dismisses Mrs. Chamwit, and takes the boxes upstairs to begin working on the espionage drones. Spensa sets to work on removing the cleaning parts of the drones and leaving the arms while M-Bot tells her about humanity's first contact with aliens, organized by an old telecommunications company. Spensa asks him if there's any information on Doomslug, so M-Bot checks and finds that she is a species of molluscoid called a taynix. They are reportedly extremely venomous and should be reported to authorities immediately if spotted. M-Bot attempts to write code for a personality for the drone before his watchdog subroutine restarts him multiple times, so he decides to make a drone without a personality. Making the drone also requires taking some of M-Bot's hologram technology, so Spensa covers his exposed portions with a tarp. Spensa and M-Bot plan to release the drone when Spensa goes to the bathroom on the Weights and Measures again, and have it fly into the engine room and take pictures of the cytonic hyperdrive. M-Bot tells Spensa that Cuna wants an update on the training, and then tells her that someone is downstairs. Spensa expects Cuna, but M-Bot tells her it is in fact Morriumur.
Morriumur asks Spensa if they're really worth training, as the current draft of themself might be wiped soon, to which Spensa responds yes, that they are improving rapidly as a pilot. The two continue discussing Morriumur's parents, and Morriumur tells Spensa they wants to show her a park in the city. On their way, Morriumur tells Spensa they overheard her and Hesho's conversation earlier aboard the Weights and Measures and argues that although there are flaws to the Superiority, just as their are in every government, it has provided good lives for millions of beings through the monopolization of cytonic hyperdrives. They finally arrive at the park, where Spensa sees globs of water floating in the air with smaller globs floating around the park, with hundreds of children splashing around and throwing water at each other. Once a clock on a nearby wall reaches a certain point, all the water in the park rains down on the children, leaving them squealing with delight. It is at this point that Spensa lets her guard down for the first time since arriving, realizing the Superiority isn't some grand façade, that its citizens truly are happy, they're just average everyday beings, just like her and the people of Detritus. Spensa tells Morriumur of the stories her grandmother told her, saying they are from the cadamique, the UrDail holy book; stories of warriors who went off to war and succeeded, but came back different and unable to adapt to the society they had fought so hard to protect. Spensa tells Morriumur the Superiority needs different people like them and her. They head back to the embassy, and Morriumur sees Doomslug and immediately becomes aggressive, telling Spensa she needs to get rid of the taynix. Spensa tells them it is a very similar-looking species, and Morriumur tells her they won't report her. They leave, and M-Bot tells Spensa she needs to see the news. She turns on a monitor on the wall to a news station that shows an image of Detritus and exclaims that the humans are close to escaping.
The news station details how a worker at the Detritus preserve took secret videos of dogfights on and around Detritus and leaked them upon returning to the Superiority to show how the Department of Protective Services has bungled its job and that the humans are close to overwhelming their forced exile on Detritus and are therefore close to escaping. M-Bot tells Spensa the Superiority can exile the person who leaked the footage but can't do anything about the news stations playing it without actions in their senate. The news station then shows a varvax named Sssizme, who is intruduced as an expert on the human species. He claims the preserve system has failed and should never have been instituted in the first place after the Third Human War and suggests that the humans be exterminated instead. The dione interviewer calls them out for this, calling such an action barbaric and pointing out the law mandates the conservation of cultures and societies. Sssizme, however, denies that the humans are even an intelligent species worthy of moral consideration and argues that they are so aggressive and industrious, spread too quickly, and produce too many cytonics that they are too dangerous to leave alive. Spensa then grows angry at the Superiority, seeing them as small, insignificant pests, then grows sickened as she realizes this is how a delver would see them. M-Bot tells Spensa he is done coding the espionage drone, and Spensa tells him she wants to use it the next day.
Gran-Gran teaches Jorgen how to make bread by touch as he visits her single room apartment in Igneous Cavern. She doesn't let him open his eyes, kneading the bread by touch while also trying to relax and hear the stars. He tells her that he feels a buzz from her like the hum of far off machinery. She tells him the story of Stanislav, the hero of the almost-war, who had disobeyed his superiors by ignoring a warning of a dubious incoming missile launch and in doing so saved billions of lives and the world. Jorgen attacks him for disobeying orders, while Gran-Gran tries to explain that by disobeying orders, he is remembered as a hero, if he hadn't, no one would be around to remember him. She says he was a hero not simply for disobeying orders, but for knowing when to disobey orders, just like Gran-Gran's mother, who brought the Defiant to Detritus. Jorgen says they should worry about protecting Detritus, not escaping, then says that he doesn't hear anything above, but when he lies awake in the deep caverns, he hears something below.
Spensa boards the Weights and Measures and has her bag inspected, but her camouflaged drone evades detection. She again heads to the intersection near the engine room and tells the guard stationed there she needs to use the restroom. The guard calls for a drone, who escorts her to the restroom. Spensa silently takes off her backpack, unpacks the drone, and sets the plan into motion. While leaving the restroom, she realizes she forgot her destructor pistol on the drone, and at the same time Winzik comes on over the comm announcing that Superiority government officials are onboard the Weights and Measures to observe the progress of the delver training program. After arriving at the delver maze, Spensa and Brade take a run, and encounter embers moving at speeds above Mag-4, and Spensa and Brade have to perform extremely complex light lance maneuvers and destructor shots to survive. Spensa asks Flight Command what the fast embers were, and Winzik tells them some embers have been observed to move at extreme speeds and exhibit reckless behavior, so the Department of Protective Services equipped some of the drones with more powerful boosters. Spensa and Brade continue moving through the delver maze, and eventually reach a room that Spensa's sensors indicate has artificial gravity, and even an atmosphere of nitrogen and oxygen. Brade exits her starfighter and Spensa follows, and the pair explore the heart of the delver. Spensa postulates that the delver maze the Superiority claims to have been a leftover human project may actually be a dead delver, as she has experienced hallucinations Superiority technology could not produce, such as the eyes on the walls and images of Spensa. Brade rejects this, and Spensa sees a web of deep green by a pile of rocks and pushes it away. Its absence reveals a two meter hole that Brade enters. No pilots have ever returned from the inside of the membrane, so there is nothing else beyond the hole. Brade tells Spensa she is done training, as the rooms are repeating themselves and will make the pilots grow complacent and unprepared for when they have to really face a delver. Spensa disagrees, and Brade returns to her ship and tells Flight Command she is going to test the superweapon. She pushes a button on her starfighter's console, and a flash bursts from her ship and Spensa is hit with an invisible wave that leaves her knowing exactly where Detritus is.
Spensa realizes she can get home now, as the location of Detritus is burned into her mind, unfading. Brade informs Flight Command that the weapon was successful, and that she is confident that in the event of an actual delver attack, the weapon would divert the delver to the human refuge on Detritus. On their way back to the Weights and Measures, Spensa and Brade argue about the ethics of loosing a delver on Detritus and Spensa tries to work up the courage to tell Brade that she's really a human and invite her to return with her to Detritus. Brade also tells Spensa she can teach her things about her powers that she never imagined, but Spensa is still skeptical about dealing with the delvers. Winzik informs Spensa and Brade that they are to report to him when they return to the Weights and Measures. They return, and are escorted by a drone on a red carpet to a room containing a party. The room is filled with Superiority officials and higher ups in the Department of Protective Services all chatting and celebrating ridding the galaxy of the fear of delver attacks. Around the room are screens showing footage of the pilots dogfighting embers, and Winzik is making the rounds pitching the idea of the delver defense force to many government officials. Cuna and Winzik square off on opposite sides of Spensa, and Spensa asks Cuna if they knew about the plan to loose the delvers on human refuges. Cuna says they had suspected as much, then the party stops as Brade throws her drink against the wall in outrage, so Spensa follows her, consoling her. They return to the jump room where their flight congratulates them on reaching the heart, and Spensa settles in to listen to Winzik's commands to the engine room. They switch out the hyperdrive again, and, after they make the return to Starsight, Spensa's espionage drone informs her that it has tripped a sensor in the engine room and will likely be discovered. An alarm throughout the ship goes off, and Spensa tells the drone to detach the destructor pistol, turn off the safety, and start pulling the trigger.
Spensa hears the gunshots echoing in the halls and shouts for the crew to help her defend the ship, and runs out of the jump room. The kitsen join her, and she runs down the hall, where the guard normally stationed there is cowering behind a wall. Spensa asks for a gun, and the guard hands her a handheld destructor pistol and they march down the hall. Spensa tells the drone to fly down their hallway, fire a couple of shots into the ceiling, drop the gun, and then fly into Spensa's bag. The drone executes the plan, scaring the guard, and Spensa shoots the falling gun on her fourth shot, causing an impressive explosion. Spensa dives on top of the guard to shield her from the blast, then tells her that she shot down the drone. The guard tells Spensa to grab her bag and return to her jump room, which Spensa does gladly. Spensa returns to her jump room, and the drone informs her its holographic unit is offline. The Weights and Measures docks at Starsight, and the pilots all line up to have their bags inspected. Vapor orders Spensa to come with her, and Spensa follows. Vapor leads her to a sleek shuttle, with Cuna inside. Spensa looks back at her flight, preparing to be searched, and decides her only option is to get in the shuttle.
Cuna's shuttle reaches a safe distance away from the Weights and Measures when Cuna hands Spensa a paper detailing the UrDail's personal communication with them. The papers go from not wanting to send more pilots to the Superiority to cutting off communications until Alanik is returned. Cuna comes to the conclusion that Spensa is simply an UrDail spy sent to steal hyperdrive technology, and that she never truly intended to gain Superiority citizenship. Cuna inspects Spensa's espionage drone, and Vapor tells them it looks like old figment technology. Spensa tells the drone to play back the video it took two minutes before hyperjump. The video shows the engineering room, and the subsequent conversation between the engineers and Winzik, then it shows an engineer getting up to replace the hyperdrive. He walks over to a cage, opens it, and pulls out a yellow slug with blue spines.
Spensa watches the rest of the video, and finally understands why Commander Spears instructed M-Bot to search for fungi: he needed a new hyperdrive and taynix are found around fungi. Vapor then reveals that she followed Spensa the day she went on a walk with Morriumur and saw Doomslug in the embassy window. Cuna tells Spensa they are going to show her what the Superiority is, and leads her down the hall. Vapor tells Spensa she can trust Cuna, so Spensa asks if she can trust Vapor. Vapor tells Spensa she hasn't told anyone what Spensa really is, so Spensa decides she can trust Vapor. Spensa tells M-Bot that Doomslug is a hyperdrive, and tells him if she dies he is to fly back to Detritus and tell them. Cuna tells Spensa the Superiority has been on the brink of losing its stranglehold on cytonic hyperdrives for some time, so some bureaucrats, like Winzik, reached the conclusion that the delvers must be used to control the Superiority. This led him and Cuna to create the Delver Resistance Program, Winzik's motive being to scare people and Cuna's motive being to convince the Superiority that lesser species' aggression has value. A pair of doors open in the chamber and Gul'zah is led in, chained. Spensa tells Cuna she thought the protesters had reached an agreement, and Cuna tells her that the Department of Protective Services was brought in, and agreed to the protesters demands, in exchange for Gul'zah. Some people on Starsight fear the events onboard the Weights and Measures were arranged by revolutionaries led by Gul'zah, so the decision was made to exile him. The center of the room shimmers, and an orb of pure blackness emerges, an orb Spensa immediately recognizes as a portal to the nowhere. Gul'zah's face is pressed to it, and his body stretches, and then the rest of him is sucked into the orb. After everyone has left, realizing Cuna is sincere and that she has few choices left, Spensa takes a deep breath and deactivates her hologram.
Spensa sticks out her hand, telling Cuna this is the opportunity they asked for, and Cuna takes it. Spensa tells her about the advanced hologram technology she and her ship use, and Cuna is amazed. Cuna tells her they argued on behalf of the humans for hours in closed-door senate meetings to keep radicals like Winzik from exterminating the humans. Cuna also expresses their amazement over the fact that humans have recovered from practically being sent back to the stone age to having hyperdrives again. Spensa then tells Cuna that Winzik has plans to use cytonics to control the delvers and hold them over the Superiority's head to keep people in line. Spensa convinces Cuna to allow her to take the sensor unit back, as M-Bot needs it. Cuna escorts Spensa outside of the building and offers to fly her back to the embassy to return her to Detritus, but Vapor flies up in a military shuttle, informing Spensa their flight is being mobilized, thinking a delver has been spotted.
Spensa and Vapor fly towards the Weights and Measures, and Spensa tells her she isn't really a part of whatever is going on anymore, as she has revealed herself to Cuna. Vapor thinks that the UrDail are hiding a human population on ReDawn, and that Alanik is part-human, which is why the UrDail are hesitant to join the Superiority. Vapor also tells her she should be worried about both the galaxy-wide threat of the delvers and a feared Winzik-led coup that could overthrow the high minister of the Superiority. The pair reach the Weights and Measures where Winzik briefs them and the rest of the pilots in the program. He says that the attack on the trade vessel the previous day was by a human, that the humans probably have dozens of spy drones on Starsight, and that they need to go wipe out the human fleet on Detritus. Hesho and his crew are excited, while Morriumur expresses fear at facing veteran pilots in combat, as opposed to the minimal noncombat training they've received. Spensa meets up with Brade and tries to convince her to not attack her species on Detritus, and decides to disable her hologram and show Brade her true form. Brade immediately sounds the alarm, shouting that she's found the human spy.
Brade continues shouting, screaming that Alanik is secretly a human. Spensa brushes past her, jumps in a starfighter and quickly takes off. She fires at the invisible air shield to make sure she can pass through, then leaves the Weights and Measures, flying right along the side in case they fire on her. She flies close to Starsight, trying to contact M-Bot, who finally responds, telling her he's been trying to rewrite his programming. Spensa tells him she'll be back, then hyperjumps to Detritus. Kimmalyn contacts her, and Spensa tells her she has returned from her mission with partial success, but that she has company. As she says this, the Weights and Measures completes its hyperjump and enters the system.
Spensa lands her Superiority starfighter on Platform Prime and embraces Kimmalyn, just as the klaxons go off. A member of the flight crew named Duane gives her a thumbs up and she heads off to meet Cobb in the Flight Command room. Spensa tells him that she discovered the taynix are the Superiority's hyperdrives and about the competition between the Superiority's departments. She also reports on her conversation with Cuna and tells Cobb that if they defeat Winzik's force here, they might be able to make a deal for peace with Cuna. Cobb tells Spensa to take a rest in a chair, which she does, and she begins to consider what Winzik is doing, sending barely trained pilots up against quite possibly the best pilots in the galaxy. She hears FTL communication to news stations on Starsight, documenting the assault, and hears Brade screaming in the back of her mind. Spensa realizes Winzik knows he can't win a head on fight, so he has resorted to making Brade summon a delver that will attack Detritus.
Spensa runs back to the dock of Platform Prime, gets into her Superiority-issued starfighter, and takes off. She tries to look for Brade's starfighter in the battle, but is unsuccessful. She spots the Swims Against the Current in a Stream Reflecting the Sun and flies towards it, hoping Hesho will know where Brade is. Spensa tries opening a private comm line but receives no response. She pops the cockpit and floats out above her ship, telling Hesho he can take the first shot at a human. They go back and forth, arguing about Spensa lying versus Hesho only knowing one person during their time in training, and that person he knew was not a mindless killing machine in the way the Superiority describes humans. She tells him that Winzik plans to use Brade to summon a delver, and Kauri chimes in and asks Hesho to ask his crew. The comm goes silent, and the crew decides against shooting Spensa, overruling Hesho. Hesho informs Spensa that Morriumur decided to end their time as a pilot and that Vapor is somewhere in the fight. Kauri tells Spensa they were instructed to protect Brade at all costs, which further supports Spensa's assumptions. As a sign of good faith, Spensa tells Hesho that the taynix are the basis for the Superiority's hyperdrives. Hesho tells Spensa he has the Weights and Measures battle plan, and a kitsen onboard tells Spensa the coordinates Brade should be at. Another kitsen tells Hesho that the Weights and Measures has contacted them and asked them what they are doing, so Hesho tells them to stall. Vapor opens a private comm line to Spensa and tells her she's figured out that Spensa's really from Detritus. Spensa tells Vapor her theory about Brade, and Vapor agrees. The trio takes a defensive position and moves in on Brade. Spensa calls Cobb on the general DDF line and tells him to have all pilots cut off all communications, and even power down Platform Prime, as Brade is about to summon a delver. Cobb says he will, and the trio approach Brade and patch through a comm line to her. Brade tells Spensa she's always wanted to see who's the better of the two of them, then Spensa mutes the line and tells Vapor and Hesho they can't shoot to disable, they have to shoot to kill.
Spensa, Vapor, and Hesho give chase, but are outclassed by Brade, who gets a shot on Vapor that takes off her wing and part of her cockpit, while striking Hesho's ship, making it vent air. Spensa and Brade engage in one on one combat, chasing each other, not able to get a shot off. Spensa realizes she doesn't need to beat Brade on her own, so leads her back towards Vapor, who is able to take control of her starfighter and lock it down. Spensa takes a shot at Brade's cockpit, but not before Brade lets loose a shrill cytonic scream, and something emerges from the nowhere.
The emergence of the delver sends Spensa's shot wide and pushes her ship aside. Spensa fears she has failed, and feels the delver's emotions begin to wash over her, drawing out her anger over how everyone on Detritus will die while the people on Starsight are safe. In a desperate attempt to save her people, Spensa tries to mentally point out the dearth of radio communications around Detritus and instead nudge it along Winzik's video feed back to Starsight and all of the radio communications there. The delver vanishes, and reality ripples, leaving Spensa both relieved and confused as she realizes she has loosed the delver on Starsight.
Kauri tells Spensa that Hesho is dead, and Vapor tells her the Superiority might retreat after the failure of their weapon, but Spensa tells her it is headed towards Starsight. Vapor and Kauri panic, and Brade patches through a private comm, demanding to know what Spensa did. Spensa tells her she saved their people, and Brade slips into the nowhere. Spensa's grandmother reaches out to Spensa cytonically and urges her to help save the people of Starsight and prove that the Superiority is wrong about humans. Spensa then tells Vapor and Kauri to touch their wings to hers, and she brings all three ships through the nowhere back to Starsight.
Morriumur is with their family, ready to go into a pod to separate so their parents can repupate. Their family's eldest grand, Numiga, helps them into the pod and tries to soothe their fears. They begin to feel disoriented as their brains separate, when Starsight is shook by a massive force. While their family is distracted and begins to run away, they get out of the pod, force their brain and body to return to normal, and stand to face the delver.
Cuna stands sitting on a balcony with one of their figments, Zezin, watching the delver approach and fling its embers. They realize that Winzik has lost control of the delver and Cuna tells Zezin to go, since his ability to travel through the air might enable him to reach a ship in time to hyperjump away; Zezin promises to resist Winzik and clean up his mess. As Cuna contemplates how little they can do, they observes a trio of starfighters pop into existence just outside Starsight's shield.
Spensa, Vapor, and the kitsen streak towards the delver when Spensa notice the Swims Upstream is trailing smoke. Kauri tells Spensa that her ship's boosters are barely working and that she won't be able to enter the fight. Spensa and Vapor push on and confront Brade. Spensa patches through a private comm and Brade tells Spensa if she reaches the heart first, she's going to use the weapon to send the delver back to Detritus. Brade cuts off the line and Spensa and Vapor trail after her. After dodging a few embers, Spensa and Vapor lose each other, and Vapor's radio goes silent. Spensa is flailing around, confused by the visions the delver generates and overwhelmed by its emotions, when she sees a shape, which she thinks to be M-Bot, appear. Morriumur patches through a private comm line and tells Spensa that because they are two people, the delver is projecting different visions to the different halves of their brain, allowing them to see through the illusions. They light-lance Spensa's ship, pull her to the heart, open her canopy, and drop her into the membrane.
Spensa finds herself in a completely white room, with another version of herself standing across the room. The other Spensa, who the real Spensa realizes is what her mind comprehends the delver to be, is looking at an infinite amount of white pinpricks on the wall, the annoyances of Starsight, and is gleefully stamping them out. Spensa begs the delver to stop, then reaches out her hand and touches the delver. She immediately grows infinitely large, larger than a galaxy, eternal. She sees and notices the disturbances of Starsight from the delver's perspective and wants to crush them. She returns to normal size and is able to project her point of view to the delver. They shrink to the size of a child, and Spensa shows the delver what she observed at Starsight, inlcuding the children playing in the water park and Mrs. Chamwit doing chores. These revelations make the delver realize that the things it so desires to eliminate are alive, just like it is, horrifying it and prompting it to suddenly reverse in on itself and disappear, which leaves Spensa floating in space.
Jorgen, Nedd, and Arturo wander the deep caves of Detritus, searching for the sound Jorgen hears. They approach another pool of water, and Jorgen tells Arturo and Nedd the sound he hears is right where he is standing in the water. Jorgen feels a tunnel beneath him, so dives into it. He feels his way down as the tunnel angles upward, until he pops out into a large cavern. The cavern is filled with luminescent fungus and ancient piping, as well as hundreds of yellow and blue taynix, fluting away.
Spensa awakes in a Superiority hospital room, with Cuna watching over her. Cuna tells her that their department, instead of Winzik's, has been allowed to contact the humans on Detritus, and that Admiral Cobb made a very rational first contact. They also say that Winzik tried to twist what happened by claiming that the humans summoned the delver, and that Morriumur had saved the day. Spensa, however, feels like something is off, and checks outside the window. It's silent, with no one on the streets and civilians being ushered inside by people in brown-striped clothing. She immediately realizes what's going on and tells Cuna they need to get out of the hospital immediately.
Spensa and Cuna run into the bathroom, which, being connected to another bedroom, allowed access to the hallway. The door to the first room shakes, and Cuna heads towards it to open it, thinking it's the doctors, when a fully armored varvax soldier breaks down the door. Spensa throws Cuna over her shoulders and sprints towards the bathroom. They enter the hallway and sprint down the stairs at the end of the hall. Spensa gives Cuna her hologram bracelet and activates the red dione hologram, telling Cuna to wait in a janitorial closet to avoid detection. Spensa sprints down another flight of stairs and lands on a heavily armored varavx. They wrestle with his rifle, then Spensa jumps up and bares her teeth right in its face. Scared, it falls backwards and loses its grip on the rifle, and Spensa shoots its power suit in the stomach from point blank range then runs off. She exits the hospital and runs onto the street, only to see a military air support ship facing her down. She dives back behind a building as the ship unleashes a barrage of shots at her. From the other side of the street, Brade fires two shots from a rocket launcher at the ship and takes it down. She tries to get Spensa to stay and help her in Winzik' s coup, but Spensa casts her off and runs towards the Protective Services Special Project building, hoping to find M-Bot. She reaches the building and blows open the door and demands a guard tell her where M-Bot is. He tells her, and she runs off to where he is. She arrives to see M-Bot's hull torn open and his CPU removed and smashed to pieces. The espionage drone she and M-Bot made floats over and tells her that he reprogrammed himself onto the drone, copying a single line of code at a time between restarts. He is slower now, as he has no cytonic processors, but he is alive. Spensa finds Doomslug hidden in M-Bot's old ship, and M-Bot plays a news station for Spensa that shows Winzik presenting a twisted tale of the human dignitary going on a murder spree on Starsight and killing Cuna. Realizing that Protective Services forces will arrive shortly, Spensa grabs Doomslug and M-Bot and runs to the section of the building Cuna took her to. She blows open the door and presses a button on the wall to reveal the nowhere sphere. She puts M-Bot in one hand and Doomslug in the other and touches the sphere, and is immediately pulled into the nowhere.
Skyward · Starsight · Cytonic · Defiant
(Defending Elysium · Sunreach · ReDawn · Evershore)
|Characters||Spensa · M-Bot · Doomslug · Jorgen · Cobb · Kimmalyn · FM · Rig · Hurl · Nedd · Arturo · Ironsides · Morriumur · Vapor · Hesho · Brade · Cuna · Winzik · Jason Write · Alanik|
|Groups||Varvax · Figment · Kitsen · Dione · Taynix · Delvers · Skyward Flight · Defiant League · Defiant Defense Force · Superiority · KRELL|
|Places||Detritus · Igneous Cavern · Alta Base · Flight School · Starsight · Platform Prime · Nowhere · Earth · ReDawn · Evershore|
|Other||Cytonics · Lifebuster · Human Wars · Battle of Alta · Battle of Alta Second · Phone Company · Cytoverse|