‘No,’ gasped the overseer, trying to squirm away from the woman in front of him. The two men holding him in place tightened their grips on his arms, so he worried that his survival suit could be punctured.
‘It’s all right,’ she said, putting a hand on either side of his helmet. ‘I understand: you’ve spent your whole life sealed away, either underground of in one of these suits. You have feared the open air, and you have had good reason to fear. But, now, in this green place, you are safe.’
‘Safe,’ spat the overseer, and he laughed nervously. ‘It was you apostate rebel fools who burned Paradise in the first place! And you – scavengers – the Patrons defeated these beasts even at their full power, and they showed no mercy to traitors. Do you have families? Parents? Children—’
The woman twisted, and off his helmet came. He screamed – he was going to die, he was going to be turned against the proper order of things.
And then he breathed in, and the night air was cooler and smoother than anything he’d ever tasted.
‘Well, that’s not so bad, is it, overseer?’
‘Beast,’ he said, and he collapsed on the floor; the two scavengers let him go. ‘You devils cannot win. The Patrons are gods. You are dooming us all.’
‘There are no gods,’ said the woman, and she put a hand on the overseer’s back, ‘but those that we make for ourselves.’
He looked up. She was smiling.
‘We have already taken your habitation – we only need to open the front door to meet up with our people.’
‘Yes. You see, overseer, this is what happens when you treat people like shit.’
‘You can’t win.’
The woman tilted her head back and breathed in deeply through her nose. She turned and pointed to the Mountain.
‘A Craft bearing one of the Patrons emerged from metaspace into orbit around Paradise less than an hour ago. Watch this.’
There was nothing, for very nearly a whole minute; and then the sky cracked in half, as if it was a painting that had been torn, and out of the tear poured all the light of a sun, and the overseer screamed and screamed and screamed.