81

The Array Synthesis room was clean and empty for her when she arrived, all consoles running as she requested. Soleil knew where she wanted to look, a set of coordinates based on her impression of its whereabouts.

She stepped into the suspension chair and engaged the full harness. It lifted, giving her the 47-million-degree view. She opened out the banks of physical adjustors and eyepiece optics, calling them within reach. The picture in mind was like a child’s drawing – the fewer obfuscating details, the better.

The pre-Ricardian scopes featured many degrees of diffraction, and she took a moment to enjoy the antique view that was a revelation to the seekers. She twiddled it, and looked into the scatter dimension. She shook her head at the moment she felt like an ancestor, as though she were looking through someone else’s eyes back down the line. There was something nebulous that the micrometers wouldn’t pick up, something parallax that current technology ruled out.

Hints at details were aligning, and she moved on to fine tuning. There was a seam stretched far and wide, and she was finding the stitches. She had seen it all next to each other as though it were one thing that faced out in many directions. The directions that she recognized weren’t near each other at all, but she didn’t worry about it – just kept finding them when things looked right, as she’d seen them there one after the other. The picture wasn’t complete, but it should be enough.

She collected all the views, superimposing and shuffling till she saw it there. Not a hole. Maybe a bump. She stretched and collapsed them together like a deck of cards. Yeah, it was there. She paused at this.

The contact through her coma wasn’t just an introduction. There was a deep history arriving to be accounted for, and Soleil understood why it was she who’d been called to task. When she went to see the hated criminal by her own devices, he’d given her a glimpse of things happening now, all at once, many and strong, everywhere and incomprehensible. So she worked with every impression.

In her notebook were drawings from the symbols, images, views, and her deductions. She translated these into coordinates, locations, directions, distances. She looked at the notebook nearby, being read in midair. The room was orbit station quiet as she hovered two feet over the ground.

The Princess readdressed the set of astronomical pinpoints, and drew a connecting line. She reordered them by proximity, tiling them by their signal sightlines in a triangular mesh. She set mirrors, and sent a signal loop from the corner that would touch every point in turn before repeating, and waited.

The remaining presence in her thoughts, that was confirmed when she saw Sturlusson and made possible her glimpse into imminence, was still there. She’d gained some understanding of it, the cup on a string hanging in the corner. She picked it up and listened, hoping the dots were connected.

The mirrors began to miss. They didn’t hit their spot or return correctly. The signal returned stronger, and she realized she was the mirror.

A rectangular dark patch opened in the space before her, bright motes flashing across it. A murmur of speech infiltrated her hearing.

“We see you again. Now you’re awake.”

“I don’t fully understand what I’ve found here, but I want to know more. I have questions about the things I’ve seen. You seem very much like us, though your allies are stranger.”

“We recognize your desire for understanding. There is much to be explained, and we are willing to share education. But these are matters both heavy and delicate, and it would not be a short amount of time.”

“I will take all the time it requires. This is my priority.”

The dark patch deepened, the motes flashing brighter. “We can bring you through, if you are so prepared. We desire your presence.”

Soleil gestured for the program to set her notebook down on a panel. “I seek resolution from all this information. Where would you bring me?”

“Out of the world you know, that’s for certain.” The motes gathered themselves into a glowing ball, which floated towards her. “When you are ready, you can take the sphere.”

81

The Princess disengaged herself from the floating harness and loosened her joints. She took a soft look back at the view of Alisandre before lifting her hand to the glowing light. A bright net encased her, the dark patch enfolded her, and the Array Synthesis room was empty but for her few belongings.

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