(Rough Release 14)

[[ From Bones of Starlight: The Enfolding Abyss – Prologue ]]

After gaining a sense of what they were and believing that they did, in fact, exist – couldn’t deny it with them speaking at her from all angles amid the singular effect they created in her virtual environment – the Princess asked if they’d ever encountered people of the Pan-Galactic Imperium.

A silence fell that was larger than the space they were in and longer than the time it took.  When it was broken, the speakers remained at low positions in front of Soleil.  “Again and again, those that would see us, did.”

“Even hear us.”

“Visit us.”

“But we were never… important enough.”

“When they were to understand us more, it was generally to destroy us, or drive us out.”

“Yet we exist.”

“We want that to be clear.”

“Especially to those who deny it.”

This time the silence came from Soleil.  “Is that why you found me?”

The points of emanation released their low positions.  “No, it was you-”

“It was you.”

“-who saw us.”  Another silence marked that this had been unexpected.  “So we are treating you as though you exist.”

“As though you have importance.”

“And we attend you now as one who does.”  It was then she recalled a memory from that dream-sending, of people (not creatures, really) who didn’t appear as any one thing in particular, but perhaps a number of related things, or the relation between things themselves.  These weren’t glitches in the system, or Vedani kids playing a prank.  This wasn’t exactly a courtly introduction, but Princess Soleil could recognize an emissarial encounter.  Maybe this was indeed their policy of introductory etiquette.  Maybe it was a unique situation.  Maybe both.

“You may speak with us.”

“We will treat with you.”

“We will show you the nature of our characters as though-”

“-as though!”

“-we were not at war.”  The Princess knew they were on opposing sides of a conflict, and that it was yet nothing between any of them.  She accepted this precarious position.

“You may visit or call us, it’s a same difference.  This is ‘may’ not as in permission, but as acknowledgment of possibility.  To be with us is to be with us, it’s a matter of creating a way from you to us, or us to you.”

“We have our own homes next door to yours.”  Soleil could only think this was an error of translation, because she could sense that homes, and next, and door, all meant something else.  She felt sure.

“There may be a way to make a way.”

“You must recognize when it may be there.”

“Only then would it be.”

“This way leads to us three, and that may never be true again.”

“There has to be a key, to a door, to a path.  These are human things that you can remember, right?”

Soleil blinked and thought.  “Anytime.”

“Anytime, she says!  Well, I say anytime too.”

“Anytime.”

“Anytime.”

“Let’s have a round of names.  Beginning with the human.”

“Soleil.”

“Rosy Glow.”

“Garlic.”

“Dragon Food.”

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(Rough Release 13)

[[ From Bones of Starlight: The Enfolding Abyss – Prologue ]]

It was like a wink, and she noticed it as one might, after the fact.  Soleil stopped in her meanderings through visualized information to look, unsure.  She remarked on it.

Later, playing around in the same areas of research, she felt some restless flavor of boredom, looking for something that wasn’t there.  And then it was, again.  Right there.  And there.  Then not anymore.

The unusual glimmer appeared in her streams more frequently, as though it were reacting to her like an approaching animal.  She couldn’t find anything about it to learn, so she played at coaxing it.  It felt like a game, she was practically sure.

It was soon until Soleil suddenly found herself in a looped knot of a connectivity.  Information pathways operated with circular logics like a maze of doors.  Something turned the lights on, and her programs went berserk, but in a nice way.

There were a few voices that technically had form in the disturbance they made.  Soleil could follow their source by seeing where there was something particularly unusual.  These unusual things showed patterns different from each other, like individuals.  The Princess was awed, but also aware that they had shut her in a back alley with them, programmatically speaking.

The noise that she heard sounded like a word, just like a word:  “Heeeeeeeeyyyyyyyy.”  It flickered from one point to another.

Soleil put her hands on her hips and sort of took this in.  “Is this a case of – who… are you?”  The protracted “hey” that ensued sounded also like laughter.

There was a sort of introduction in a flurry in language that was very well formed.  “Who what is that?”

“Who-what is right.”

“Who-what is us, and she’s right.”

“About what, who?”

“Us.  She was right about us.”

“What about us?”

“That we’re here!”

“So you found us and you saw us.  How do you think you did that?”

“Yes, tell us how!”

The Princess tilted her view, keeping all of them in her field of vision, though they seemed more present than the program.  “It seemed as though it were you… who found and saw me.”

One replied.  “Not entirely no, but at a point.”

She asked a question as to whether they were Vedani.

“No but we know them.”

“They know us.”

“When they can find us!”

“We show them.”

“We sure do.”

“So they know us.

“We have a name.”

Soleil regretted it as she said it.  “But what are you?”  This was followed by a silence.

“We’re not entirely sure.”

“You tell us.”

“And tell us how you found us!”

 

(Rough Release 12)

[[ From Bones of Starlight: The Enfolding Abyss – Prologue ]]

“They’ve recruited you for training onboard an Alpha?”  Soleil tossed the volley baton end over end in one hand, the shield spaces around her flickering on and off.  Draig’s was resting on his shoulder as the two descended into the workout basement.

“Yeah,” the lad replied, “I’m leaving in two weeks for the base off-planet from Foshan.”

“That’s very remote.”  They emerged into a warehouse-style basement with extremely worn wooden floors.  Nothing else was laying out in the room, four exact pillars upholding the expanse.

“It’ll be like any other orbit station.”

“So this might be the last time you spar against this upstart scrub?”  Soleil moved the baton to light the traditional octagon block pattern.

“Don’t call yourself that, just because you haven’t won yet.  You’re not an upstart.”  Draig effected a front-to-back shield rainbow while they loosened up.

“I’m still supposed to be too young for this.  I’m aware when my status affords me dispensation.”

Draig held the baton end up in ready position from his zone.  “There are ways to earn it.”

She was used to being smaller than he, and just now she felt more so.  “Thanks for daring to duel me all this time.”

“You’re welcome.  For what comes next!”  They faced off, the younger girl already in a learned stance.  Things started off chivalrous, an urbane dialogue allowing each others’ finesse to stand out.  With their batons they manipulated the brightly contained hitpoint between the two of them and produced shielded areas with different rebound formulae.  Some of her moves had evolved from training, and he saw how she used a heavier baton for counterbalance.

They ramped up movement, and her pattern went bonkers, as if she were using three effects instead of two.  The hitpoint did weird things with his shield placings, like brushing them at tangents.  He noticed she was attracting specific feints, which he gave some but not all.

There was a moment when Draig realized something had been achieved, that his shield now acted differently.  Under activation, it was ragged with rippling holes, and her ability to achieve damage inside his shielding went from nowhere near his, to completely unfair.  Only, he was smiling.  He thought he might have just learned something.

Afterward, he asked what she did, and she replied.  “I used instrument harmonics.  Tone and tempo to match the technology.  And programmatical geometry.  And persistent point-slinging.  I was not allowed to get distracted if I wanted to test my theory, because of how annoying you are.”

“It’s my edge.  I think you just found yours.”

Soleil’s face was confused.  “What’s that?”

“The sudden and complete dismantling through study.”  He weapon saluted her.  “It’s been an honor.”

 

 

(Rough Release 11)

[[ From The Enfolding Abyss: Prologue ]]

Node utilities were accessed by all Vedani, and Soleil stumbled on a node before she knew what it was.  This one didn’t activate for her, but it did call its owner, who didn’t speak her language, but showed her how it worked.

The Princess had created a node that would map things into a country.  Learning Country was her private name for it.  She’d made a number of personal structures that hadn’t been suggested by the information.  There was a giant golden instrument, a cyclone-shaped horn followed by a loop twisted into bends and curves that plugged into a weather system.  That was her most ambitious and interestingly functional feature.

She shouldn’t have been, but Soleil was surprised at how many people knew exactly who she was.  It was explained to her that once someone started bundling, people learned of them – it altered and marked connected flows.  Anyone touching the networks opened themselves to the moving understanding of others, a milestone young Vedani look forward to encountering.  The Princess felt humbled that she’d been allowed to achieve it.

(Rough Release 10)

[[ From The Enfolding Abyss: Prologue ]]

The grasses swirled their feathery tops over the child’s legs and feet, the ribbonweed creating breaks to see through the soft shrubbery to the life underneath.  The older boy kept his legs out of the water, crossed underneath him, balanced on their partly-submerged log.

On this occasion when the Imperial family left the capitol for an idyll with other families, his was one of them.  Now the young Princess and that older boy she knew sat in a familiar place, speaking of additions to their growing lives.

“I met with several Councillors,” said Soleil, “and the Dragon Councillor, Arkuda, says he’ll teach me.”  She looked up at the sky and from one horizon to the other.  “But not yet.  First he gave me a course of study.”  She shrugged at her friend.  “I’ll have to drop a couple interests for it – but that is my interest.”

“Really?”  Draig asked, leaning away from her.  “Is that scary?  Dragons are scary… scary awesome.”

She turned on him, claw-hands in the air.  “Maybe I’ll learn how to be scary.  Like Rianoire, she was dragon-taught.”

“Not like Rianoire, I think.  Maybe like Arianne.  At least, we hope so.”

“Include me in that group.”  She vigorously shook her head and nodded an affirmative.  “Besides, Councillor Arkuda is sunny.  That’s what he is, isn’t he?  He’s a sunny Dragon.”

“That makes him seem friendlier to you?”

“Well to me, yeah.”  The girl took a breath and paused pointedly at him.

Draig launched into more of his news.  “I’m about to start a full course in achievement training.  There’s a physical core with a lot of coursework build-ins.  I expect it to be brawny and competitive.”

“I’ll write you a whole page of encouraging slogans to tape onto your things.”

“Wow.  Wow, Princess Soleil.  I can’t wait to see them.”

“They’ll be group-safe.”  Soleil’s feet surfaced momentarily to cause a fleet of ripples.  “With none of the words you taught me.”