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Saren closed his eyes and willed the tension out of his shoulders. He took a deep breath, held it, let it out. Thinking out the rhythm of breathing was acceptable. Not ideal, but acceptable. It kept the words away. Or did it? They would creep back on him as soon as he relaxed.

“You’re doing it again,” said Olte, and he nodded. “No need to move,” she censured.

He tried to clear his mind again. Nobody but him had difficulty with this exercise. Inferior as they were in both intellect and ambition, the other students had all moved on to advanced techniques. And Saren didn’t like lagging.

“May I imagine music?”

“Better not. It’s too involved.”

He nodded again, but this time he didn’t move a muscle, and he could sense her contentment. It was important to make Olte content. She was the master of the art. She had learned from an asari matriarch. She never told him the name, but he didn’t doubt it. Olte was exceptional.

“Saren.”

“I know.”

“Fine, then. Try with music.”

Saren flexed his shoulders slightly. He had learned to isolate and relax every muscle of his body, but as soon as he stopped actively working on it, the tension would sneak back into the neck and shoulders, hand in hand with the words. Olte said it wasn’t “tension.” She said the implants would only stop acting up when he stopped “hating them.” That didn’t make sense. Why would he hate the implants? He didn’t hate the implants. Did he?

Ah, but now he’d taken it too far and the strands of her field tightened around the flow of his, causing pain. It was a warning. She didn’t have to speak. He didn’t either. Instead, he started humming the main theme from Allegiance behind the firmly shut eyelids, wondering if she could hear it. It required a great amount of concentration to imagine the theme as it cascaded through the Voices.

“I told you it’s too involved,” Olte said. Her words were barely audible, but they rippled across all his senses, carried through the field. “It takes you away for sure, but the point isn’t to just go with the flow. The point is to channel the flow.”

“I don’t understand what that means,” he said, opening his eyes. He was tired of vague instructions. They were enveloped in the bluish emissions, the reality of the empty classroom and the evening sky outside, mere afterthoughts. “Give me more direction.”

“Listen, then,” she whispered, and he shut his eyes again, falling back into the warmth of blindness.

He had never allowed her to go in so deep. He could feel her processes almost as if they were his own. And certainly, there was silence within. He envied her deeply. She could end her internal monologue with a one-word command. She could also strip the coating from each individual neuron in his body, the way they were connected now.

And so could he, from hers.

“Stop that,” she said. But he was too deeply immersed in the silence. The bliss of it was such that he forgot he had a body, it evaporated from him like so many droplets of sea water from his skin in midday sunshine.

“Saren, stop it.”

The voice, his voice, was gone, and there was only feeling. And he felt strong. He felt her groping for control, felt her trying to retreat, he felt her fear and it fed right back into the silence. His silence! It was exhilarating. There were no words, the only words were her words as she scrambled away from him in horror.

“…that! Do you hear me? Never again!”

He opened his eyes and gave her a slow, thoughtful stare. “I heard,” he said. “I heard the sound of silence.”

The blue mist subsided then, in the darkness of the empty classroom.