It's weird being cleansed in the Coalition.

I know that everyone thinks I'm brain-dead. That I can't hear or care about anything that happens. That's why Marc left, anyway. Saw what her colleagues had done to me, decided it was a lobotomy, and found out that Brendan was next.


It doesn't feel so different to me. I'm still myself, still the Shuno that leads the Coalition, still Ami's best friend and Zak's…well, not that anymore. But I'm me. I just understand more.

I understand that the Coalition is corrupt, that the lerdethak of democracy has pulled it into the inescapable trap of bureaucracy. I understand that the unions with Jragrera, with Acha and Farghum, and especially Wars are flawed, empty alliances. I understand that Temna is our only hope for salvation, and that as long as the others aren't cleansed, they won't accept that. I understand that I haven't been brainwashed, but reached a higher plane of existence.

Ember and Ami confronted me some time ago, just after Kyra left. They told me that I wasn't myself anymore, that I'd disappointed them. They demanded to know where Zak was, if I knew why Ariel was acting weirdly, if I had a hand in my roommate Justin's attack on Kyra. They were sure that I was secretly working for Marc. I had just shaken my head. I could have laughed at them and told them that it was all preposterous, but that seemed a waste of energy better devoted to contemplation. But apparently, that wasn't enough for them. They'd left and never come back. I tried once to contact Ami, but she had refused to respond to calls. Her cousin Adhara had informed me that Ami was through playing games with me. It had been odd.

I hope Temna will cleanse Ami soon, so she can see things the way I do.

And Zak…

Zak had just left one day. That disturbed me a bit. He hadn't said goodbye to me or any of the others, and he wasn't with Kyra on Che. He was just…gone. Mac, the Council's intelligence specialist, had told me privately that he had information indicating that Zak and his father had left to a distant planet deep in Sotin. Perhaps he did. Shame. He, too, would benefit from a cleansing.

If only I could tell the others what had happened to me when Temna took me. Perhaps I could convince them to go willingly to Temna, to be joyfully cleansed. I was blessed to be the first subject.

I don't know what Marc thinks, saying that I've been lobotomized and brainwashed. I'm the same me.

I just understand more.