50 \ 138

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.

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