– 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.