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Jeth exhaled, trying to process this. He pictured the porous, colorful material that made up the power source for metatech. There was something fundamentally organic about it. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t realized it before. “Okay, so metatech is a living thing and not tech at all.”

“No, only the power source is a living thing,” said Sierra. “The tech is just tech, man-made.”

“Got it. So where do these Pyreans come from? And how has the ITA kept it secret all this time?”

Sierra took a step backward, resting against the edge of the gaming table. “I don’t know everything. Only that the Pyreans were discovered about five hundred years ago by First-Earth biotechnicians, right around the time that Mars was being colonized. The Pyreans just appeared on Earth, right out of thin air. Out of metaspace, as the scientists would later discover. Back then, First-Earth wasn’t governed by a single body, but rather several nations, who ruled the various parts of the planet. One nation in particular, America, I think it was called, was the first to discover the Pyreans, and they immediately took actions to keep it secret, for fear of the other nations claiming a piece of their power.”

This, at least, was a concept Jeth understood perfectly. “So all the Pyreans originate on First-Earth?”

Sierra shook her head. “The Pyreans weren’t unique to First-Earth. They likely didn’t originate there. But they are connected to other colonies of Pyreans through metaspace. Once the scientists discovered the existence of metaspace, this connection led them to new planets with more Pyreans for them to harvest.”

“And keep secret, no doubt,” said Jeth.

Sierra pursed her lips in agreement. “There was soon an abundance of Pyreans for them to access. And for centuries what they harvested would grow back quick and healthy, like pruning branches from a tree. Only now the branches have stopped growing back, and the tree appears to be dying. The ITA has since been trying to locate the Pyreans’ true origin, the root of the tree, if you will, in the hope of fixing whatever is making them sick.”

Jeth tried to wrap his mind around such a concept, couldn’t, and so moved on. “What does this have to do with my mother and Cora?” Jeth turned to Milton, who was sitting on the sofa across from him. “Is she really my sister? Fully my sister?”

“Yes,” said Milton.

“But what about the DNA test you showed me?”

Milton shifted in his seat. “Well, it’s like Renford said. During that last trip your parents took into the Belgrave, they were exposed to something that altered them on a genetic level. It caused the mutation I found on the results.”

Mutation. The word felt nasty in Jeth’s mind, like something diseased. “But what is the mutation?”

“The cure for the Pyrean sickness,” Sierra said. “Or, an alternative solution, to be more precise. At least, as far as the ITA is concerned.”

Milton frowned at her. “Let’s not jump ahead. This will be hard enough for him to take in as it is. We should start at the beginning.”

Sierra shrugged. “Whatever you say.”

Jeth shifted his gaze between the two of them, wondering what had happened in the last few days. Then he glanced at the port where Sierra had inserted the data cell and figured he was about to find out.

Milton cleared his throat. “Your parents found the planet Empyria.”

Jeth couldn’t help his astonished smirk. “You’re kidding, right?” His eyes flashed to the painting on the wall. “Empyria is a myth.”

“It’s not a myth, at least not anymore,” Sierra said. “The Pyreans are where the legends about the planet come from. The scientists hypothesized that the Pyreans originated from an actual planet, one that, like them, exists both within the dimensions of our universe as well as the dimension of metaspace.” Sierra paused, a frown curving her lips. “You do understand what metaspace is, right?”

“Uh, yeah. I’m not stupid.”

Her frown deepened. “Okay, explain it to me then.”

Jeth glared at the challenge in her voice. “I don’t know all the technical crap about it, but I know what it is.”

“Let me explain,” Milton said, rubbing his eyes. “For the sake of argument, let’s describe metaspace as the fifth dimension, never mind if that’s not scientifically accurate. Humans can only perceive four dimensions.” He raised his hand and began to tick off fingers. “Length, width, depth, and time, although the latter we can only perceive as a half dimension because we only experience it in one direction. That is, we can only move forward in time. Do you understand?”

Jeth nodded. He’d taken enough math and science classes to have a basic understanding of such concepts.

“Metaspace is a dimension that we cannot perceive or measure in any way,” Milton continued. “We’re not born with the correct biological equipment. We only know about it because of the Pyreans. But we can deduce that it is a dimension that exists around and through the other four. That is how we can travel so far across the universe in so short a time, because metaspace exists outside of the dimensions of time and space. Understand?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

Milton gestured to Sierra. “Going back to what she was saying about Empyria, this lack of the correct biological equipment is why we have never been able to find the planet before.”

“That’s right,” Sierra said. “Most of Empyria exists within metaspace and therefore beyond our perception. But on their last expedition into the Belgrave Quadrant, your parents discovered that part of the planet does exist in our dimension. Or it might have emerged into it, perhaps.”

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