53.7 \ 235

“That’s…” King Vario paused and sighed, “…quite the development. We’ll take your report, plus any data you have Hayze, and that’s all we need from you for now. Other matters follow closely, and now I need to speak exclusively with General Claymore. Thank you for bringing your local and procedural expertise to this office.” Responding to the tense urgency in the proxem’s voice, the two officials got up and made bowed salutes, then hastened through the hatches to summon their awaiting transports.

The remaining two shuffled around a little to adjust their momentary comforts. Water cups were refilled, communications connected or closed. Recent days had them accustomed to each other’s presence, an evolution of longtime family friend status – managing wartime together. Not that they were calling it war, exactly. They again sat, angled toward each other at the bell of the curved desk.

King Proxem Vario opened without ceremony. “We need to start uncovering hidden information directly from sources. I’ve already looked into reserving rooms for questionings in strategic locations, and restaffing an unused complex.”

“How long unused?” It seemed like trivial errata, but Claymore knew enough history, including that of his family.

Thinking about security and scope of possible involvement, the King informed the General, “Since about a couple generations ago.” Then that was probably one of those, from that time. Draig held his peace and let the King continue. “You’re already in charge of a heavy campaign. I only require your assistance in staffing, and possible emergency supervision. It’s a scattered operation.”

Draig Claymore sank into his chair, continuing to sit strong. “I understand, sir.” This was something he said to register receipt when he might not necessarily agree, but it didn’t matter.

“I’ll get you into the communication. You may go.” Draig drifted through his exit, glancing at Vario’s seat back silhouetted against the view, just before the hatches shut – getting onto his transport – feeling himself in motion before releasing the last of some long-held breath.

53.6 \ 235

“What do these rumors tell of?” King Vario grabbed onto the next topic.

“They’re on the crest of a wave of communication flotsam that’s hard to track, because our usual channels are shut down the same way theirs are. There are moments of coherence that allow glimpses of corroboration.”

“We have newly designed layers of surveillance working now, out through the net prism. Are you working with this data?” asked King Vario.

“No, I’m intentionally looking elsewhere. The usual rays of the prism are heavily fractured, and I won’t get more from that than you can yourself.”

“Do you have records and files?”

“What I have is my report. Information of this kind is strange and different where I’m looking. It’s harder to capture.” The official refrained from trotting out all the gory details of mafunctioning screen photo, impenetrable and unmodifiable code, all recordings blackout. It would not be of interest, it was instantly boring information, and of dubious credulity even to the most knowledgable. Raving to the uninitiated. “In short summary, there is a concerted cadre of establishment attackers, explaining why this situation is, uh,” Roznmyk touched her face, “actually the fault of our government.” The newest packet dropped just yesterday, and it has usually taken a few days for people to readjust their theories. Roznmyk knew people were working on it without her. They were highly motivated – not just by boredom, but also by rewards of confirming information, seeded strategically or serendipitously. The packets were often signed in disappearing ink, or the code equivalent thereof, from names who had built credibility, despite possibly being from among the enemies throttling entire neighborhoods.

53.5 \ 235

“With the dragonslayer victory against Ignivus, are we seeing increased involvement and interest in the discipline?” King Vario’s hands were pinned to the desk as he asked.

“The old kind of anti-Dragon sentiment is running higher than usual, so I believe the answer to be yes, though that activity is likely to remain mostly clandestine. The degree to which our Dragon liaisons have weakened is actually depressing a lot of people and industries, so there are still solid emotional barriers against showing interest in dragonslaying, despite the widely known example of its continued relevance.” A tilt of the General’s head, as he paused in speaking, reflected the many headaches actually entailed in the aftermath of killing of a Dragon. “Fairly enough, Dragons become unwilling to work in hostile climates – partly in that they lack their best effectiveness, and partly that there are a lot of other things they can do instead. An elemental consciousness can always embody elsewhere.”

Roznmyk jumped into the ensuing space with something she deemed important to add. “There’s a rumor about a new shadownet.”