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“We’ll go now from the foot to the peak.  But alas,” Woollibee said with a playful tone, “no peeking.  You are here as guests of Arctyri’s.  What we do here, as well as the Arch’s purpose for existence, is outside of your business.  Luckily for you, or it might be another year before you once more took to the air.”

“Whatever you do, it must be fascinating,” said the General.

The builder nodded sharply.  “At times.”  It was then that the door opened, and they beheld someone with an unmistakable resemblance to their host.  “Bux!”  The two kin raised their arms at each other.  “This is he,” said Arjun as he gestured them out of the room, “my brother and partner in science, Buckminster Woollibee.  He is the leading mind behind the tensile force technology you just witnessed, as well as many of the other systems that keep us comfortable and secure.” The researcher was dressed in a buttoned floor length off-white overcoat with a closed-neck collar.  The General and the Councillor approached him and made handshake introductions.

“Bux Woollibee, at yours and Arctyri’s service.  When I was informed that a seeker would be arriving, I knew it would be worth whatever inconvenience.  I sought Arctyri myself long ago, and I know doubtless that without that significant experience, I and my teams couldn’t have accomplished the feats within which we now stand.”

General Claymore began to wonder what the seeking process would impart to him, rather than to them.  Other proposed options had seemed poor and ineffective to his preliminary glances; but he hadn’t fully considered himself an actual part of the Viridian Phasing protocol.  That it might somehow empower him hadn’t been a goal, but now he perceived it may be a key matter.

“Let us travel,” said the mechanical scientist.

25 \ 113

The current began to swell, bearing them higher into the air.  “Now, the tensile force technology unclasps from its connected water layers.”  Instead of a barely perceptible yawing, the building moved in a steady direction: down.  It accelerated smoothly in the current’s tow.  Claymore guessed that they were moving faster than it felt inside the room.

“Are you normally in charge of this descent?” the General asked the engineer.

“My brother and I transfer the duty between ourselves.”  Just before the surface disappeared, it shifted towards the corner of the room.  “The structure changes shape in response to the first diagonal shear current.  We are now in this conformation.” He placed the heels of his flat hands together in a consummate V.

Woollibee dimmed the lights so they could see something of the ocean through which they were passing.  He pointed out a mesopelagic vegetative raft, with signs of cavorting from its resident life forms.  “Without shining any lights it’s mostly a series of shadows, but we don’t do that without a reason.”  Councillor Arkuda sat erself down on the ground.

“If you appreciate blackness, we can watch the last light disappear.”  Draig and Arkuda both nodded.  Arjun extinguished the light in their chamber, with the timing of a sliver of moonset.  Their eyes sought it, and barely caught the remaining trace as it left like an imagined shimmer.

Arjun Woollibee gently revived the room light.  He continued to narrate, doing a sort of interpretive dance while describing the progressive shapes of the structure, as he liked to call it.  “We move through the water as the leading edge of an object that becomes denser and more massive.  The invisible object has a shape that can withstand the pressures through which we descend.

“After the V, the linear form bows out into the shape of a lucky bowl: smooth, open, drifting down through a full sink.  Farther down, the shape becomes flatter, and weighted – like a bag with objects placed inside, or a tea mug.  The flatten widens, bulging: a market basket or longboat’s bottom.  Then the curve really stretches out, really really big – this is the meteor.”  He called each stage through the climes of darkness, keeping time and mental track.  They took his word for it that the subtle motions they felt meant what he indicated.

“Inverting.  Are you ready?  We’re going to see light again.  But this time, it comes from below.”  Woollibee turned out the room light in time for them to catch another breath of darkness.  Glimmer appeared again like a distant moon rising from the edge of the floor.  It was more concise than surface light, something to squint at.  It rose and grew, centering directly in their field of vision.  “These windows respond to light intensity with filtering that keeps us from going blind.  It’s worth it to be able to see.”

The light rushed toward them with increasing acceleration.  It was a square landing coupling, bright, and bigger than the end of the structure.  With immediate gentleness, that was it.  Woollibee looked at the other two.  “The quicker, the better.”

The glow of the landing socket surrounded them on all planes but the floor and the entrance wall.  The light color cycled slowly and seamlessly through the spectrum.  “I like to take a self-portrait when we land,” said Woollibee.  He punched in sequences on a ten-key pad by the door, and pointed to the wall.

“Here it is – here we are.  Welcome to the Arch.”  In the snapshot on the wall, it was hard to tell how big it was with nothing nearby for comparison.  The straight black bar they entered from the air was now judiciously curved into one of the oldest shapes in human construction: the keystone arch, each of its tall feet planted in a glowing patch of light.  Draig traced the outer shape of it in the air with his finger, sighed, and nodded.  Arjun smiled at him from one side.

Though er countenance showed little difference, Arkuda was beaming.  “It’s a distinct pleasure to be here with you, where sunlight has never reached.  Under the mystery.”