The group leaves winter behind when they make their way onto the desert. A scalding wind roars across the dunes as they hide from a posse of Invid shock troopers. The Regess does not take defeat well. She suspects the simulagent of having provided the information that caused the destruction of the cortex center. Scott and crew decide to lie low for a while – at least until the search lets up. The extreme temperatures make it difficult to travel anyway. Not only that, Marlene has become ill. Nothing they do seems to help.
They cannot know that the simulagent was psychically tied up to the great hive that has just gone up in flames. She has experienced the death of her alien brothers and sisters, although she suffers without actually knowing the cause herself.
Rand feels sorry for Marlene. He hopes water will help her condition and goes in search of fluid-bearing cactus that will provide it. After he leaves the cave, he is caught by a sudden sandstorm and falls into a pit. The impact leaves him unconscious. While he lies there, he inhales hallucinogenic spores from the Invid Flower of Life – the same kind of spores that once infected Dana Sterling. They work on his subconscious mind in the form of incredible dreams.
The Regess appears in the vision, intoning an awful prophecy: "All things change...all things die. So it is that we have come from the farthest reaches of the cosmos to regenerate ourselves, to take the Earth from the dying hands of humanity. From the ashes of your people, we shall arise – reborn!"
After the sandstorm, Rook goes in search of his missing friend. When she finds him, she brings the still-delirious Rand back to the cave. As he come to, Rand tries to explain what he learned in his dreams: "The Invid – they're trying to survive by plugging themselves into the Earth's evolutionary process....You can hardly blame them. It's the same sort of thing any of us would try to do if we faced certain extinction."
"So we're supposed to surrender, is that what you're proposing!" Scott demands. "This may come as a surprise to you, but I couldn't care less whether the Invid survive or go the way of the Zentraedi. I'm not just going to roll over and play dead!"
Heat, stress, and illness have left everyone short-tempered. Rand wisely keeps his peace as he sits beside Marlene and watches her wake up. The girl seems to be better, although still quite weak. He continues to sit beside her as he contemplates the message in his dreams.
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