[56]

“You became aware of us when we discovered the mass relays,” Saren ventured. 

There was no response.

“When Aluxil Kasran harnessed the power of nuclear fusion?”

“When aircraft were invented?”

“Surely, it could not have been when … when ancient turians carved the Tablets of Measure?” He said in disbelief, choking on a nervous, stillborn laugh.

In the gloom, a reddish glow began to spread.

He saw the shores of a placid lake, shimmering with residual heat as the sun descended beyond the hills. The first birds were emerging from their hidden nests, iridescent wings dancing in the breeze, biolights rippling on their flanks, trailed by scores of offspring. Short, hardy grasses grew in dense tufts; dark-veined orbs lay half-open, enough to glimpse the yellow flowers cosseted within their protective shells. Some distance away, in the brilliant water, a greater steeplefish displayed its fins. He had only seen their distinctive shapes in museums.

A woman walked by, her toes tracing the edge of the waves. She was both old and young. She barely came up to his shoulder, yet her overlarge facial plates were pitted and scratched, and her mandibles were very short. A discoloured patch of diseased skin ran from her armpit to her waist, around which she wore a braided – he used the term loosely – leather cord as her only garment. Bits of chitin were still stuck to it. They were the same species, yes, but only just. He had seen her, or someone of her stature, with her gait, in a museum as well, though the colouration had been all wrong. That holo had been fitted with amber eyes, but the woman’s small eyes were black, and they were fixed on the darkening sky. She dragged the tip of her slate-tipped spear in the gravel as she pondered the night. Her eyes glinted like the stars.

It took your species untold eons to reach this stage of your existence, to acknowledge a cosmos greater than yourselves. Liken it to the time required to construct your vessel from raw materials, and the rest of your so-called “civilisation” becomes no more than the flick of a switch, engaging an engine.

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