10.2 \ 192

“In order to surface anywhere else, we need to take extra readings and change a number of vectors. Even then, I’m not sure our location will differ enough to avoid notice.” Arjun hesitated a moment. “Can you ask Arctyri to help us?”

Coiled Arkuda lifted er head then dangled it askance. “Your brother also knows Arctyri. He’d be a better person to initiate the request, and I can assist.”

“Are you doing this on behalf of the Imperium?”

“I’m currently acting independently.” Arkuda locked eyes with Arjun. “I was willing to come here because you’re someone I know who doesn’t let the government behind certain doors. I left in the good grace of one authority who is now gone. Demands could possibly be made of me, and I may not be able to comply. Also, congratulations on your new invention; it’s beautiful, and I knew it would work the moment I became aware of what you were doing.”

Arjun called his brother to the office. Buckminster Woollibee arrived quickly, and once fully apprised began brainstorming aloud. “We can try cycling a cold current through the air system – an actual cold current, not just cooling the place. We’ll need an appropriate oscillation… maybe an entire vat of liquid nitrogen. Arjun, can we find an intern who will ladle it into twenty transport receptacles?” This was a running joke regarding their research isolation, where there was no comfort of interns for expediency.

“Actually, let’s ask some research leads to help. Some of the ones we need to talk to about this next, anyhow.” They got Arys Steinman, The Hoopoe, and Danila Bautiste, all linked to priority operations. In addition to being the stodgy quantum physicist, Bautiste was a volunteer bartender at the parties, so they had the elite pouring skills. They distributed one large round in small ladlefuls, then went about setting them open at specific points that the brothers had worked out. Arjun left to set certain cycles into the system, but first he indicated a location beneath a venting point to Bux. The researchers agreed to remain for the sake of possible assistance.

Bux invited Arkuda to place emself there next to him. Still glowing softly, Arkuda crawled and slid er head into place, leaving the rest of er coils where they lay against the wall. Bux Woollibee readied himself to sit comfortably and explained what they’d be trying. “I’m going to hum a set of tones that I discovered and repeated throughout some meditations after I first met Arctyri, which brought clarity to some insights. I’ll try cycling them for a while. I’d like for you to harmonize with me using dragon frequencies. Your signature will be clear but secondary to mine, as befits the matter.”

“I’ll do my best to remain subtle.”

Flipping through a binder at her desk, Maryan didn’t at first notice the unusual frequency modulation tickling her eardums, but it registered when the cold whisper of a breeze brushed her leg. Finding it strange, she looked around for a moment but chalked it up to one of the many environmental oddities to living in the Arch. Someone may have opened a door somewhere causing systemic air movement; average motors can create persistent overtones that travel farther than their basic noises.

Architectural engineer Arjun Woollibee returned to the small party in his office to find that it had grown. “Oh! Aha!” Against the wall opposite to Arkuda, and in matching coiled form, another dragon radiated a coolness that swirled through the room. The presence of two courteously-sized dragons made the human office feel cramped. Diplomatic forms would be even more helpful, though still wouldn’t entirely erase the effect. They seemed more elemental when long. Arjun made an awkward gesture of respect.

“Will you allow me to explain the situation here to Arctyri in our own language?” Assent passed around the room. Arkuda’s daylight pulsed more vividly while an incredibly condensed audial impression tinkled and rumbled like a fleeting hallucination. “I’ve concluded. Give er a moment.”

Pondering, Arctyri gazed up, then down; closed er eyes, and retreated even further. The air went almost still before another swift shivery blast as ‘e opened er eyes. “I can help you. Carry you to safety at the surface, and then back to your base. But I’m not sure how long I can keep doing it.” Arjun stepped forward and bowed, as the primary person who would collaborate on details.

Arys, the ever-humble knot theoretician, rang a finger against the nearly empty liquid nitrogen tank, partially reminding everyone that it needed to go back to the cooler. “I believe I know who can help distract the threat – someone who is within our confidentiality and is partially-but-not-too familiar with situational details. It would possibly be of great benefit, if I may be allowed to use emergency priority outcall.”

“Yes,” replied Arjun with barely a hesitation, “use this authorization at the communications center.” From a top desk drawer, he handed Steinman a chip key on a lanyard. “Report to us only if it will make a difference.”

“We’re not going to lose our readings, will we?” asked the Hoopoe, glancing between all present while hiding a sudden minor panic. “I’d really prefer to keep up live monitoring.”

“Though your surface coordinates will be changing, I expect to return you to your usual base, where your operating conditions should remain consistent.” The Hoopoe mastered a little swoon over his first time being directly addressed by a dragon, and nodded his thanks. Steinman fled wordlessly to make his call.

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