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The mass of glassy rock tapped beneath their feet, as the humans who’d volunteered for the buffer zone practiced the run they would use to move in groups during entry and exit. Center point leaders would guide group direction toward intended placements. Everyone ran bent over, arms splayed behind them, to increase their aerial visibility. The position reduced the likelihood of becoming an unintended target by a friendly force. “From above, you’d look like a bee doing a bee dance, instead of just a body under a head,” is how Mirya Ayo put it to her group of buffer zone protesters. It was an unusual way to run, as if under low branches while holding weapons, but people figured it out.

They did this training inside of incredible scenery – a pocket floating island within an uncrossable branch of rapids in the off-season Oriya aerial river. Uncrossable, except by the schools of silvers, their leathery disclike bodies making twirling extended leaps. The island they stood on was made of the kind of stone with a unique planetary magnetogravitational relationship. Floating veins of this stone created the conditions for the aerial river. The configuration of other giant gems nearby caused the rapids to whoosh around them like a pocket with an opening, keeping them unseen.

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