Book series trailer by Medrano Productions
Book series trailer by Medrano Productions
– 56 –
The ones I don’t really get to see anymore, I miss them… some more than others. There are ways that I haven’t been like in a long time, ways we only are when we’re together. These counterpart-nerships are special to me and I feel lessened by their remoteness, that combination of their distance and existence. I feel an invisible dance from afar, knowledge of a time approaching.
There are dragons that have never appeared to the life forms of the Pan-Galactic Imperium, and are unlikely to ever do so. They are rooted elsewhere, and so unlike in form that Imperium sentients may not even be able to seek or meet them. All dragons can meet all dragons, not that they will or should. They can’t all live together, but they can all be together on the Tabula Rasa. The tiniest glyph, the smallest inkling of desire to communicate can be the anchor holding the space, and there is always at least that. The beautiful Tabula Rasa, Level Plaine – ever haunting to return, a place only of perpetual passing, a between-all.
Now the gulf widens, like a rearing back before the clash of horns, as dragons determine how they feel about all this – the release, the attack, the phasing. There are already great differences, and opposition. There shall be woe.
Arkuda remembers the previous, and only other, Pan-Galactic Imperium-centered dragon conflict. Now is the time to feel and gain strength, before the falling out robs what precious is left as things spiral outward and people become lost in the forces.
Love blooms and dies on the Tabula Rasa. Life changes, and so does the universe. Arkuda goes to observe the changes. ‘E feels scales tugging apart, as though losing someone identity-bound. This discomfort was anticipated going into the Viridian Phasing. Also, a spot of deadened scales is coming back to life, sometimes with a burning sensation. Arkuda remembers the Chainers, too.
A number of dragons were born after the War, as the wounded balance was corrected. New, old, exiled, abstaining, participating – Arkuda imagines cutesy figures of them jumping or flying into a shared zone and dancing together. The thought is so nice, ‘e imagines it twice. That’s how Tabula Rasa is supposed to feel, with the joy in anticipation. Despite the impending turmoil of an epoch, the dragon feels it now, like the newborn young. Every time, as if the feeling itself were a key to entry.
– 57 –
A dragon goes from being one thing to another, crossing various states of existence. These phases, ideas, and pieces of matter share a commonality – the dragon erself, sentient. Dragons exist in flux; not confusion, but flow and change. To create a ring of awareness through all their aspects as an individual, they go to Tabula Rasa, Level Plaine. Doing that means they are there, they can only do that there, and they must do that to be there: a wholeness of dragon that is a different and particular state of being.
Arkuda is the brightness of a sun, in simplicity and complexity; understanding er being as something received. Shining through and being shone through. Pure speed and crackle of raw photons traveling together, the particle-wave and refracted spectrum. Every datum of light cast from star-source to a living destination. It is impossible to contain the singing of er being, and that is the world. Naked and of the world in a place to be known beyond knowing, and to know beyond the known. Yes, ‘e lives in all of these things. ‘E is here.
The dragon creates a glyph beneath erself and opens er eyes. The glyph serves as a primary point of dimension; this one is an unremarkable point of blue flame. Arkuda is located above it, in all forms and all sizes with all aspects showing, such as can only be fully beheld by another dragon. Though there are plenty of possible solo occupations in this place, the nearby glyphscape is lively and populated.
The Tabula Rasa is undefined. Dragons in it use perceptually anchoring structures, known as glyphs. Glyphs appear as desired, can be seen or sensed, and they leave residual traces. They create and mark space, and like the dragons themselves while there, glyphs are all and any size.
Near and far, glyphs display themselves to Arkuda’s focus with perfect clarity. Regardless of their placement in relation, all are readable and correctly facing. More elaborate glyphs tell stories, give information, or signify more than a space marker. Present nearby in this part of glyphscape perception are two other dragons: Myricotl and Ottokad, self-occupied. Arkuda is painfully excited to see these two, who in abstaining from the Viridian Phasing have chosen soft exile. There are also a number of occupied glyphs, and one leaps to notice immediately: Saga Within, Welcoming One Other, Purple Lotus Waterfall.
Rather than accost those in reverie, Arkuda goes to see the one who, also dearly missed, waits in er meeting room. The Councillor reaches the glyph, fits erself into it, then is inside. The glyph changes to read: Saga-Arkuda Within, Sufficient, Purple Lotus Waterfall.
– 58 –
He’s not exactly supposed to be gambling while on errand, but he’s reserved a maverick moment for one such a non-occasion. The best time to break a rule is when nothing seems to be working. So, General Draig Claymore got into a poker game with strangers, after going to see nothing where nothing was supposed to be. He wasn’t protected, nor was he wearing anything officially identifying. He worked unrelated thoughts and feelings into his gameplay, just to see what that did, win or lose.
Draig’s stack of coins was slightly bigger than when he first began. He received gazes of mild confusion from his fellow players, as happens when playing Riverboat like an oracle. Not acting or thinking like he’s in it to win makes it a mystery when he does. In this fashion, the cards in his hand are known characters or elements within control, and the cards on the table are the circumstances. The cards in his hand react to the cards on the table. Draig wins this way approximately as often as when he plays to his prowess.
On the ship that had spotted the Princess, records were intact and frustratingly uninformative. Biometric positive for Soleil, Magus. Unidentified vehicle type. Totally unexplainable behavior. Subject vanished.
Hand after hand, Claymore middled around. This was a nice old place; a heritage hole, as he referred to them. There was no sign outside, but it was all documented and above board. It reminded him of a pub in the Capital called the Show Horse, with the thousand-year-old bar that predates spacefaring. The establishment he was in now had a little less memorabilia on the walls, though still a seemingly popular accommodation. The General’s contacts used this place often when in Dalmeera; the communications must be good here. From inside the kitchen he heard the sound of dishes being stacked one by one, rapid-fire. It was somehow more orderly than the usual clatter, and he liked the sound.
Joe the bartender brought Claymore another Hot Silver, calling him Gerald. Draig was drinking, too: double maverick. If he had too much for the evening, there was inn lodging underground, from when there was once a clandestine dormitory adjacent to the Scurry, Dalmeera’s historical tunnel network.
His thoughts were in outer space, somewhere around the Viridian Phasing point intersection. She – possibly the Princess – had been there, and then she wasn’t. There and gone, there… and gone. And, gone. What was that about? He’d been under the casual assumption that she was working to meet him halfway. Did she run? From him? Or from Derringer? Or from home? Did she mean to give them the slip, was she under a different danger, or was it terrible luck? Draig’s stack was still growing. He thought he would have lost by now.
– 59 –
Saga’s serpentine form was positioned throughout the waterfall, rainbow scales flashing over and beneath the water. Er head rested up top in the foam of the churning rapid cascading over the edge. Raising er gaze to meet Arkuda’s, Saga blinked softly and rose from place, glittering drops sheeting off er scales. Saga’s draconid humanoid also appeared on a ledge from behind the waterfall.
Arkuda stood at the edge of the purple lotus shore in humanoid; above, er serpentine mirrored Saga’s newly arisen position in midair, brightening like a cloud revealing the sun. Between them they released a tunnel of sound, replaying voices heard and things said between the times they’d seen each other.
The Councillor’s Imperial status was of no concern except as a topic of conversation. “Why do you bother taking anybody’s part?” asked Saga. “How is it worth it? Can’t you just go somewhere else and let them do unto themselves as they will. Shake their grip on your scales, you owe nothing.”
“They are written on your scales too, Saga. You love them more than most of us.”
“I can’t oppose kin this time.” Their serpentine shapes twined through the air without touching.
“Are you missing very much of yourself?” asked Arkuda.
“I feel distant in some ways, yes. I’m practically living on Level Plaine, which of course we can’t. But at least I get to see others in a remote, sort of empty way.” The space between their flying shapes narrowed as they circled and opposed each other in various dimensions. The setting pulsed vibrantly as lines of white radiance drew themselves in the air.
“How long must we be apart?” Arkuda understood that Saga was referring to the standing divides between all dragons, including the two of them.
“Until time’s tide changes its flow. The sea is rushing up to engulf the land. I must hold with these people, even against my kind, and not for the first time. They are a part of me, and you too; standing beneath a rockfall, and backed against a cliff.”
“Where they placed themselves.” The two flattened the coils of their flight against the glyphwork cliffs to either side of the waterfall, turning their heads to speak across the energetic rush. “I’ve been with them since beyond their known histories, but I don’t belong to them. Love as I may, I would hinder as hinder not. I have the rest of me to consider.” Saga lengthened, dipping er tailtip into the purple lotus pool. “Have you met with a returned exile?”
“No!” replied Arkuda defensively. Saga leveled a look at er, as though ‘e were clearly missing something. “Have you?” Arkuda returned the question.
Saga evaded the retort. “My presence wanes now in some of the places we know.”
“It’s not the same without you.”
“Of course it isn’t,” Saga said with an exasperated guffaw. “I’m just not taking a side this time, which is lonelier. But I am not alone. You saw the other Unphased outside?” Arkuda hummed affirmative. “I think we are all wanting to talk with you, if only to match scales again.”
“I am glad.” Gazing at Saga across the waterfall, Arkuda had little breath left to say more.
“Will you welcome the others with me by the Golden Apple River? So we may all have time and so that I might stay by you.” Arkuda nodded. Saga took hold of er finely crafted glyphscape, and the scene flowed away from Purple Lotus Waterfall, over and down to the banks of Golden Apple River: a shining orchard on a leisurely picnic slope where the current flowed past in natural rhythm. A river wide enough to get into, a cleansing wash.
The glyph’s exterior reading changed, and the two in reverie outside both noticed: Saga-Arkuda Within, Welcoming the Unphased, Golden Apple River. Ottokad and Myricotl entered in succession.
– 60 –
Video receipts from recent days of exploits began queueing in the display of Karma Ilacqua’s sunglasses, for send-to and replay.
More honking big knife switches for big power loads, from a custom fabricator she had gone over to babysit. During that rollicking week in a Pioneer Federet backwood, they also accomplished some playtesting on other custom parts in the shop. The way he put it, “You’ve got good skills, you like new things, and you’re risky.” He finished the order on time, and Ilacqua sent the cargo examination and handoff video to the department that talks to departments. They had actually sent the guy who uses the knife switches to receive them. He explained that he has this job because he’s a natural-born lever puller, and he knows how to put out the fires.
Then there was the cool tubing. This tubing was really cool; incredibly complex, awesome, cool tubing. The inventor explanation (full of her and Karma saying the word ‘tubing’ back and forth) was sent to two project overminds, to the general group of people who carry things, and to her separate archive of information that people might request from her again.
One roll of ‘charged filter’ was the most delicate shipment. Ilacqua received it as a closed container. The handling request was to keep it both electrically grounded and in suspension. It sounded like a car part for a computer inhabited by sentient dust. That was her best, wildest guess, and as far as she went with that. A series of process shots and setup transition videos were sent to the project’s quicklog.
Karma accounted for her ride with Derringer in straightforward fashion. She didn’t want to be targeted as a secret accomplice on a secret mission with secret expenses. She maintained her innocence, didn’t ask him any awkward questions, and he didn’t require any promises from her. How unusual; he’s practically zero headache. Like with the elevator escape. She’s never had to eject him.
– 51 –
There’s an edge. Every time I gear up, I hit a slowdown, so I know that an edge lays beyond. A sword slowing as it nears its mark. Seems it’s working on me more than I’m working on it. Like I imagine watching my own sun go nova: details sharpening in the final moment’s arrival, beautiful, beautiful always. Amazing steps of amazing effort in this hyperbolic downward frontline towards nothing-not-nothing. Seconds protract, the transmission of time condensed into a line, fiber into thread. The stun of conclusion when the line’s end appears.
Listening for a change, she hears nothing. Soleil is running without stopping, but there’s nothing. Then something arrives, and she can see nothing but the writhing scales, seamlessly enfolded within their grasp.
Stoically standing, she knows there is nowhere to hide. Eyes emerge in a draconid face, fresh and delicate, fascinating and fascinated. Then, the rumble of a strangely familiar-sounding voice beginning to communicate.
I noticed you, moving around.
I caught wind of you…
I ate your mother,
when I was born.
I ate a lot of people,
It was emerge or die.
They were waiting for me.
They would have killed me.
I chose to live.
Yours is not the only mother I ate,
doubtfully the last,
with so many mothered beings in existence.
Now we meet.
I am Acamar.
Without thinking of the significance of her words, Soleil asked, “Did you seek me?”
The dragon admitted, “Yes.” This revealed to them a new understanding of their positions in the nature of their meeting. The dragon wanted to give her something.
– 52 –
Soleil recalled her lessons in the voice of her dragon teacher, Arkuda:
There is a common trait in new dragons – they are curious. They grant more boons in order to learn about the world. As hungry for knowledge as they are for food, they effect their part in this natural exchange by enabling capabilities. It makes them vulnerable, but they must learn humility in order to gain their maturity. New dragons have to learn their reality and become known in it. This means meeting life forms halfway. Older dragons grant fewer boons than the newly hatched, because they understand the consequences. New dragons make more mistakes with greater extravagance, and they have to make up for it. They have the ignorance of those newly born into power, which they must endeavor to grow beyond. Granting a boon is like giving away a scale, leaving a vulnerable patch. One doesn’t see scales missing, but the vulnerabilities remain, and add up. Some humans say we have that in common with regards to getting older. If we appear to you somewhat like lizards, to lizards we appear somewhat like you. We are sufficiently alien, to everyone including ourselves. We are sovereign, and clearly so. Even to each other.
Soleil realizes this is only the second dragon she’s truly met. She’s not entirely believing what ‘e said about her mother. Is ‘e trying to twist her mind? She’s been out of touch with other humans. Just trying to get to her, maybe? There is something so familiar in er voice, but dragons are both strange and familiar.
The dragon asked:
What do you want to do?
We are inside one of your confusing doorways.
I won’t keep you here.
Is there something you’re going to teach me?
Looking into the dragon’s eyes was like looking into all the eyes that those had ever met. By choice or consequence, er gaze was thusly open to the Princess, completely surrounded by the movement of scales. With a wave of her hand, the fielded sled approached Acamar’s face.
The face grew defensively enormous as she appeared. The sled’s field flickered away, and Soleil, surprised, stood her ground for a full two breaths. Moving to perch on the edge of her platform, Soleil faced a black tooth her size. Forgiveness, she decided. Before you destroy any more of us, I want you to know we’re capable of forgiveness.
She leaned forward and kissed the tooth. It seared her lips like an acid caress, soaking through the heat of her skin. In the gigantic tooth’s black polish, she saw Acamar in a humanoid form, holding scale-clad hands to er face as though ‘e had lost a tooth. Stepping back, Soleil reached up to touch her lips. Under her fingers, they felt as smooth as the dragon’s tooth.
I’m giving you something that will protect you,
and you can fly free.
What you’re feeling, where you…
is a barrier of still nothingness.
It’s the kind of blank the mind reflexively fills
with something that makes sense,
to your degree of suggestion.
You can move among the planets as anything or anyone you’d rather,
Or you can show yourself.
See the barrier,
or not see it;
or not feel it.
You won’t ever need to be rid of it.
You can never use it,
and always have it.
Just as I now keep what you gave to me,
our gifts to each other now given.
I will put you back on your way.
Can you remember your stars?
Though tired, she replied that of course she could…
Like she knows her mother’s face.
Remember your stars then,
and hold onto that.
There are people there to meet you.
Don’t be afraid.
The scales parted, receding and shrinking, to reveal the most familiar of skies. Alisandre was before her, small enough yet near enough to cup inside her two hands. It was moonrise over the edge.
– 15TH SEQUENCE –
– 53 –
In his office, Draig Claymore received a call over a particular dedicated line. He picked up and listened without saying anything. The caller spoke: “I saw something. And then it was gone.” It was the private investigator Derringer on the other end. Claymore appreciated the succinct summary delivered in nugget order of importance. As though this fellow had experience receiving important yet patchy calls.
Claymore responded, “It is also reported gone by my alerting sources.”
Though uncomfortable on many levels, Derringer told it straight. “It looked very much like the Princess in some kind of planet atmosphere cruiser.”
The General masked his reaction with nonchalance. “That’s weird.” His desk was very clean, so there was nothing nearby to grab. Instead he just stroked the surface of his totally clean desktop.
“The target slipped me either on purpose or by accident, after I declared myself. I got one scan and a series of images.”
“Okay,” replied the General. “I need you to send those to me before leaving the ship in its home, with logs intact. Then, go back to doing what you do. Continue as you were.”
“Thanks. I will.” Draig found Derringer’s dry candor refreshing. He ended the call. Swiping his hand over the clear surface again, he got out from behind the desk, heading toward his armoire. He donned a lightweight cover, and went to go have a look.
– 54 –
Arkuda begins passage via the Gateway Stair to the Level Plaine, Tabula Rasa. The way is framed in thought and realized in transformation.
Now, the sky is still dark. The many suns in the sky are distant, but if Arkuda can see them, they’re within arm’s reach. Sunlight penetrates the deepest vacuum of space, if not the lowest ocean. In darkness, the dragon Arkuda sees light, and is the light seen. This light endures as long as day, as long as life.
Arkuda knows all these places within reach of er being, though not the way that memory recalls a place already visited. They’re as near as the next step, part of the elemental world of this dragon’s existence. Worlds of worlds: draconid reality.
The dragon has chosen a place in er Seat: where ‘e is known in many ways, by many, and knows many. The seat is strongest around the root existence, but is also much wider; its nearness to root is defined by myriad relations.
In this place of Seat, ‘e can see er place of work: a certain conception of function which humans chiefly ascribe to, and which is an interactive process of the peoples of the Pan-Galactic Imperium, the currently flourishing connective. The time phase during which Arkuda has been deeply involved in Pan-Galactic endeavors has been as happy for er as the one in which er current name was given.
The dragon breathes deeply into er channels; a hundred pollens or so, the blending of breezes in tiny streams, a tinkling sense to each thing. Outlines of pre-dawn hue begin to dim yonder city lights beneath the rugged slopes, scars of a planet.
This particular place holds a meeting of factors which allows for a certain fluidity of being, a transformational autonomy. Dragons seek this the way people seek privacy. To everyone, dragons are so unlike, and yet so like; as familiar and unknown as one’s own molecules. They live under the tension of alien kinship, as a consciousness of something that is a part of other things (or do other things arise from dragon-being?). A dragon is a distinct person of memories, feelings, and parts, but also something elemental in all its aspects everywhere.
They are mysterious also to each other but share many understandings, the greatest of which can be achieved on Tabula Rasa, or Level Plaine. Arkuda feels an eagerness both warm and cool, like an elysian breeze. A drawing together is much needed, energetically speaking, for this dragon. ‘E wonders who else is of the same mind. Divides have grown.
The King Ascendant is unlike the recent scion line in draconid relational attitude. The Dragon Councillor is adapting through a difficulty of difference. Grant Vario was not inculcated with association until as an adult he joined the scion line as Soleil’s father, and he has never engaged in a Studious Tradition. At times he makes strange requests, believing that a dragon can know or do things ‘e cannot, or demanding unusual endeavors of discovery. Whether Arkuda can gain something on the Tabula Rasa to give to these inquiries is ancillary. ‘E’s going to see the others in the place where only they can go.
– 46 –
She could read the gauges on this Vedani sled: its levels were drooping past midpoint. As for herself, the Princess didn’t know anymore. Her level of activity had sunk into the background. It was helpful to imagine that her lungs, always moving, were her entire body. Limbs moved as a matter of course, the way her lungs breathe. Of course they must move.
It was necessary to focus awareness beyond her physical motions. Every star diagram she could recall rotated through her memory like a second geochronmechane in her functions. If she were to recognize a constellation backwards, could this little motorsled get her to the other side? Was there a proper flare on this thing? What about the possibility of making a short, directed hop? There weren’t any granola bars stashed in here, she’d have found them; but there was water, from a sippy hose in the dashboard.
The stream of songs in her thoughts pulsed louder, and she turned it up, letting her frustration at being lost imbue her movements with relentlessness. Like lungs taking draughts of sweet fresh air, so was each wind of energy to her limbs: brisk, ready to work until they couldn’t.
– 47 –
Everything can continue while thoughts still,
and there is no doing even in the doing.
ACAMAR ends a day in the moment when thoughts still,
the un-doing of things when doing is done,
when all things have been put away,
the course finished.
Swirling water in a a stirred cup flowed,
Thoughts settled like the dust of leaves to the bottom,
creating space of dreamless sleep.
From the still expanse in the clear space,
where there is still breath:
At the river’s end it became something else –
the tumbling motion undid itself,
transformed under greater force:
to new form,
The streetside stream falling to another level below.
a bottomless vessel that remains full,
where through falls the stream to settle,
a still flame’s column of air.
ACAMAR followed the end of the day,
the last thing said,
the final word.
No more conversation;
the babble of the brook succumbed to the faucet.
The liquid stopped moving in suspension,
the living flame stood still.
To exist in a hurricane torrent,
a flame surrounded itself with stillness.
Among least still of all things,
its motion outmatched,
persisted only through greater stillness.
Conceiving of their release and revival,
eightfold of flame and like brought me,
Surest of my existence,
they bore the knowledge.
I am their result.
I am their change,
I am brought of their resolution.
Their suppression became stillness,
and they found their return,
– 48 –
There were pockets of restful pause in the beat of the Princess’ ongoing search for home space. Though fleeting, she pretended that they weren’t, and they would last until they were over. Along the way, she’d successfully maintained contact with the invisible window-cluster anomalies, and for that, she was very glad.
It was possible that she was getting tired. Someone might panic at this point, which reminded her that she mustn’t. Transforming the panic resulted in thoughts both morbid and comforting. So what if she did get lost and die this way? Utilizing the consideration of an historian. The possibility was nearing; if disappointing, it was also simple. Her learning with the Vedani would come to no benefit. Hanging onto the levity of academic curiosity, she theorized about unknown true history, thanking her teacher Arkuda for the fortitude in this reactionary decision. She was still moving, still achieving one always-surprising jump after another.
Soleil thought on the old advice about staying in one place in order to be found. After the first jump, she knew she’d done something her Vedani team had not, and maybe could not. There was no waiting for rescue.
– 49 –
The private investigator was only five games into the poker table at Joe’s pub when he was handed a call from ‘Mr. G’. That was the first time he’d seen the dishes kid, who brought the phone out to Joe. Joe interrupted the deal at the table. “It’s a Mr. G, for you,” he said with a look that didn’t really want to know.
He stroked the grey felt on the card table as he listened. Derringer guessed that one of the other players was an eye for Mr. G, who this time turned out to be General Draig Claymore through a subtle scrambler. Derringer could recognize his thoughtful pause pattern through the bent vowels and inflections. Mr. G had an assignment for Derringer that he could do by himself, and was within his usual range of errands. He was essentially being asked to take an official vehicle out for a joyride to nearby hinterspace.
“I’d like to you to go to this coordinate; there shouldn’t be anything there, and nothing in particular should show on your shipboard. But according to reports, there might be something. If you register something, or anything, I’d like to you tell me. Go now.”
How did they know him so well? Besides being the government. Many’s the time he resisted taking one of their ships for a spin. This was like his reward for being a good boy, in that respect. The point he sought wasn’t that far away – Dalmeera-on-Florin was in nearest vicinity – yet it was sufficiently remote, in a strange direction. Derringer cranked it up and let it out, impressed by the standard specs on a government vehicle.
This zone was nice and clear, and Derringer took a soaring route, to widen his coverage, yes. Sometimes what you’re looking for is on the way to where you think you’ll find it – worth the fuel.
He neared the coordinate after about an hour, and switched from soaring to stalking: creeping paths alternating with observant pauses.
Weird… what is that? Something tiny, dancing in place right where there’s supposed to be nothing. Like a confused fly.
– 50 –
Still lost. Soleil was sensing the infinite-approach feeling of something impossible that someone was doing anyway. She had hope – she knew what the word was, and she still knew how to spell it. It did feel as though she might be seeing less and less. Finding a forward-move pattern combination was becoming a longer process, at least perceptually.
The doors, windows, walks, and passages of the Princess’ perimeter running route through the Imperial Court were flashing through her mind, as she swooped into her determined angles. Some of these windowpane clump-zones felt strangely familiar – as though they were places she’d visited before, though she knew that was untrue. Smells as well as songs floated through her thoughts, and while that might have been disconcerting, any sense of life she could hold onto was a sign she wasn’t dead yet. There was a whiff of Jennian magnolia.
She was watching for star patterns on the vehicle’s scanning scope when the gauge-size graphics display held onto something. She reverberated with a sudden shock of recognition on seeing the unmistakable keel fin of an official Pan-Galactic Imperial ship, close enough that it was here.
Soleil remembered throwing herself around her grandmother’s legs as a child, experiencing a similar impulse. But where there would have been a return of warmth, she felt a wave of sadness – like hitting a wall instead, with her grandmother on the other side. She didn’t feel comfort. She didn’t feel rescued, and she was one who knew well how to take her own counsel.
The Imperial ship turned on its patrol lights, and the greater part of her screamed alarm. Instantly she saw that her current freedom to act held keys to possibilities that would disappear once the ship recognized her. Perhaps it already had. Extrapolations quickly unfolded on bringing home her knowledge at present, and they all resulted in nothing but a higher death toll. Not like this, not like this.
The Princess’ eyes were crossing with confusion and admitted exhaustion. Instead of buckling, she screamed, throwing herself into finding the key maneuver that would take her someplace else. She actually wanted to get away from someone who would bring her home. Her will overpowered the sheer longing for comfort. Not like this, no!
Yes: everything in the tangled knot aligned once more, making sense for a brief flash. In that flash of time, she was gone.
– 42 –
“Scuse me,” said Leanders as he distanced himself from the others, into the corridor to receive a shipboard transmission via watch. Once he was done getting specifics, he rejoined them and smoothly interrupted. “One of our rocks erupted in a controlled blast. No visual ID and no further pattern.”
“What an intrusion,” said a bemused Raev. “Why not adjourn? I will go with you, Trosper.” The fellow who’d been giving the contractor’s debriefing (sparing Leanders the appearance of actual authority) stepped forward and nodded to Sturlusson. “We’ll unlink. Bye,” Sturlusson said, striding past him, and Trosper followed his passenger out.
From where she stood, Arcta lifted her hand in farewell, and so did the two new hires. “Bye,” they said. Leanders watched them disappear toward the back beyond the tech platform. “I’ll go with you,” the researcher said to him. Arriba nudged Vadr with her shoulder.
– 14TH SEQUENCE –
– 43 –
If the Princess had felt anchorless next to her base ship with a team in an unfamiliar area, now she was without any fellows, coordinates, or return point. Deep space wilderness threatened to overtake her thoughts – what have I done? where am I? what did I just do? – but she didn’t allow it more than half a moment. She still had this sled; she still had blips. Yes, she still had blips. Her day was just starting.
Soleil retained her vehicle settings, trying to feel and see what she was getting at when she achieved this… jump. Effectively transgate relocation, by some totally alternate (and she hoped, replicable) means. She was in one whole piece!
There was no structure other than her vehicle, and no evident power-up besides her own motions, and whatever this was. She had been describing a shape. The shape had a kind of pulse that she was able to match. She was pursuing a connection between her control movements, the maneuvers of her vehicle, and the planar directionalities of the shape as detected by her readings. Did she eat any breakfast? Yes, she’d had a starchy roll. Vedani apparently enjoy creating their versions of human food recipes.
As expected, this cluster was different. Were these things alive? There was a living sense about them that made her feel a little cheerful – like the presence of a bird. Soleil only gave that half a moment too, as she could only really allow comfort with a rest point in sight. She imagined to herself that this would happen, that there was a good reason behind the sense of calm leaking through to her.
Play and exploration had been her catalysts for discovery, so she kept these forces forefront, pretending the sense of safety that had encouraged her. So far it was working, and she moved at a pace that she could sustain for some time.
The Princess noticed a new factor to the total. While she was wary of being misled by stresses under extraordinary conditions, she let it into her formula. There was something vaguely musical about all this – yet so vague in essence that she needed to give it clearer form. Soleil began recalling known songs to fit the musical inkling, anything she could hear clearly in her thoughts. As they bubbled up, those songs became her anchors. It felt more or less right and suitable, relations between things seeming clearer. Focusing through three layered songlines amid gyration looping maneuvers, she vaulted through again.
– 44 –
The Princess hadn’t given herself time to think for a while, but at least she was still conscious, if barely. She’d been hoping a horizon would arrive before she knew it. Since that wasn’t the case, forebrain awareness resurfaced in the way one would think to check the time. She wasn’t yet a third tired, and when she reached tiring, she could bring herself up again. There weren’t any hours in this process, and if there were they might even function differently, like space and motion. So she measured herself against herself.
Soleil became better at this sojourning. If she wasn’t where she wanted to be, she could look for a way onward, finding it somewhere between the elements that were now becoming familiar. Remembered songs arose more frequently in her concentration, chaining themselves one after another like a musical channel. She would clear her thoughts when they became too loud, quieting the mind until she desired new guidance. It was both refreshing and grounding to picture it like bringing her boat to the riverside as she traveled on down. She began to imagine a sunrise – then shook herself back into the reality of blackness and stars.
The songs coming to mind were like guidances in that they weren’t strictly self-selected; they were connected to the phenomena she was observing. Their hearkenings and correlations went unexpectedly from one to the other, from moment to moment in her life that gave her the next idea where to go. It was anything you could hold onto out here.
Sometimes, she let herself and the music stop. Silence of motion. When it came time to move, she moved.
Her imagined music grew in detail and volume; she began to trust it. The Princess even smiled, perhaps for no good reason. She dialed down her pace and turned a third spent to a quarter, having seen no signpost.
– 45 –
Things that work,
at a time when the motion ends.
I am that.
As the sound trails away,
as the stream turns to a drip,
it is I.
What is the end of a day?
There came a time when you had to stop moving.
There will have been a finish line –
perhaps beginning again,
Swirls of powdered tea in a mug continued,
until they showed no motion:
one color in a uniform cup.
I am in the cup when the swirls are no more,
The motion that signals the end is my arrival.
You’ve seen me,
but did you know I was here?