24.XVI \ 206

Sturlusson drifted toward the house on the facing corner to the left, keeping a fixed gaze as though hypnotically impelled. “I replicated and re-engineered some of my father’s signal discoveries to regain communication with the Vedani. That was mostly after refugee block life, but I continually taught myself a lot of things. I got to know their old friends the Kao-Sidhe. From them I learned of the Aureny, and the Red Nexus Dragons found us all. One thing after another. Together, we could be more than Celeste, and Charlotte, and Vario could quell. Now, I myself cannot stop what I’ve set in motion. I’m not even at the center of it, and I never actually was.”

They’d arrived at the foot of a brick walkway leading up to the front door of this corner house. The roof sprouted plant life, and the facade peeled. “This change has taken my life to occur, and my entire lifetime has been this change. Yours as well. Here are remains of its beginning.” He hoisted a presentational hand, a gesture that said home sweet home. “I was born in this house.” His tone was pure nostalgia.

Soleil assessed the position of the sun in the sky, eyes sunk deep. It was about a hand’s breadth from the horizon, where before it had been two. Turning a neutral gaze to Raev, she said, “Leave me.” She gave him royal reception demeanor, conveying that she was processing in her official role. It was the sort of statement that came along with critical matters on the verge of immediacy. There was no canny response, and no better one than action.

Seeming to understand, Raev unhitched a nod. She could find her way back to the ship by sunset like everyone else. He left her there, walking back the way they came. Soleil lay down in the walkway looking up, rooflines and treetops framing a dimmed sky.