86.1 \ 278

“This is a strange way to mobilize,” mused Arjun Woollibee to the key group seated at the Peak while reviewing the process list, “mobilizing to immobilize. Getting everyone not to do anything is almost harder than getting everyone to do something. We even have to set things up, so that no one has to do anything, for even a short span of time. It’s not quite like any of our practiced emergency drills, but we’re at least that prepared.” He turned to the Princess nearby. “Are you ready to give the instruction and the signal, Your Grace? Throughout the building, everyone is in group and in place.”

Preparing to direct a building full of people to a mindstate, Soleil was partway to that mindstate already, eyes half-hooded. She decided there would be something right about wearing her dragongift visibly for this; her lips, where she’d laid a kiss of compassion on the tooth of the Dragon that killed her mother, showed blackest black. She didn’t explain that to everyone, because it was still difficult to explain to herself, except that it felt like one of the most human things she’d ever done.

“Sure,” she said, reserved and concentrating. She brushed her hands down the light fabric of Marian Waters’ mental escape sundress, something she’d been offered to change into while giving her Vedani control suit a break. “It’s probably more evocation than instruction, but yes, I’m ready.”

“First, we’re going to emergency dim, then you’re on the system speakers.”

85.4 \ 277

“Is there a possibility that this Dragon could be acting as a double agent?” The question came from within the knot of researchers.

Arkuda, former Councillor, answered this. “Though the Pan-Galactic Imperium is currently in conflict with some Dragons, we Dragons don’t and can’t fully operate along lines of human politics. In this age, I’m the one who’s practiced the most political involvement, for our continued mutually beneficial cooperation. Dragons on the whole are concerned with their own matters, of which the Imperium may be a part, and our individual responsibilities rest above our answerability to each other. We have demands according to our elements. It’s the way of our existence, or our nonexistence.

“Acamar’s interest with us will serve Acamar, and what you ask is more a question of whether Acamar’s interest in this case also serves anyone else. Whether or not these nuances of motivation will be accounted for by authority as it will stand for us, possibly without my voice – for that I can’t speak. As critical as matters are, I had to tend to myself after this injury – my worst in twenty human generations – and I couldn’t do that while promising to act in an increasingly fraught political role. The healing scar you see is my own evidence of fondness toward humanity.

“I do grieve for some that died in Acamar’s emergence; I worked with the Queen Ascendant for some time. I also haven’t met this one, and the curiosity of first meetings between Dragons can be powerful. I’m interested in collaborating despite complications, and we may not need to worry overmuch about direct factional motives – if perhaps consequences of interrelation.”

“If they decide to view us as traitors, couldn’t they jail us, rob us for our work, and get it all for free?”

“The companies protecting us wouldn’t like that. They might not be able to get what they want through other hands, and not the way they want it. There’s some reality-bending stuff that happens when this much interest leans hard in its favor.” This was the moment when Bux Woollibee actually said something.

“Plus,” Wendel Harper pointed out, “don’t we have the Princess, a Councillor, and General Alisandre, top official of the armed forces aboard – when it comes to clout in favor of the leniency of understanding?”

“Ehhhm, dubious current status of these titles if I understand correctly,” trailed in Rosy Glow.

“Not the Scion Princess,” quipped Draig Claymore.

“Even me, ultimately.” This was followed by a small silence.

“We do have the most powerful parent company possible, which created this place and put us in it,” Arjun mused with a finger to his temple. “Just building the Arch may have been more difficult, let me tell you, than protecting it, its participants, and its products. Maybe. Hopefully.”

“It sounds like our greatest voices of reason are ready to throw caution to the wind.” The conversation popcorned around a tense room, tones wavering from wary to excited.

“Such case being that on the wind lays the greatest measure of caution.” Draig with the classic strategic perspective, from deep in the books.

It seemed that opinions had been weighed. “For my part,” began Soleil, “I carry a weighty grievance in this matter – the loss of my mother – over all the wide-scale events pertinent to this. And, I have already faced Acamar, the details of which belong to no one else. I taught er something about humanity, and ‘e taught me something about emself. You see me here before you now. If I faced er, maybe you can, in order to do what needs to be done. Does ‘e know I’m here?” To this last question, Rosy Glow didn’t answer.

“It sounds like we know what we want to do,” said Arjun, “but we’ll give this an additional moment of grace. I’m going to the Peak. Finish your thinking or have any discussion necessary, and bring it to me if need be.”

“I’ll go with him,” said Rosy Glow, “and remain ready to bring your word to Acamar. Do be aware that er presence is nigh because you’re the ones broaching the Dragon’s own element. It’s not like I can make er do anything ‘e doesn’t want to do.”

85.3 / 277

“Speaking as a research team lead, the project staff has prerogatives both contractual and career oriented.” Arys Steinman was among the researchers gathered who had ties to the Incident. “Not only are we hired to do this thing… some of us have been looking forward to it, for our own part, in some way for possibly our entire lives. I lost a brilliant colleague to the event of the Dragon’s hatching. I didn’t do a lot of work with Hydraia, but the work we did was sound. So I understand the presence of hidden struggles.

“I believe that I’m willing to work with this Dragon, for what I and we can achieve with our collective interests in mind – with very little if any mean-mugging. Yeah, some of us are quite eager to exit a political deathtrap, but many of us are certain that the best way out is through. This has been a topic of discussion the entire time we’ve been under threat. People haven’t wanted to leave when weighing against the cost of failure. A possible traitorous designation might be different than noble injury or death at the hands of ideological nutjobs, but from here it’s a fine distinction.”

Marian Waters, marine biologist, stepped up. “I lost my military boyfriend in the catastrophe. You’d think we couldn’t recognize the Elemagnetic Generational Gyre of a dragon we’d never seen before, when we’d never even seen one before. Apparently they’re probably never the same. I ended up learning a lot about the biological side of what happened, mostly how much we didn’t know and still don’t. We were tampering with the EGG. I have more sympathy for eggs than most, despite my grief.

“With him gone, what I have is my work. This is the most important that my work has ever been – we have the Cup of Mystery within arm’s reach, and these are the kinds of things seekers of the Cup face at the point when they’re looking right at it. My babe would tell me to get it, and get it big. If we do every last thing we can do on our experiments here this time – I mean, Make It Happen – we’ll all be ready to leave the crossfire. I’ve seen it work that way, when a joint project wraps up. Suddenly, we all know we’re done. We’re almost there. From the start, we each of us decided to go under the Immeasurable Oceans for this. I’ll take all the dragons we can get.”

“For a long time, my mental faculties have been dedicated to keeping us alive down here,” smiled Arjun Woollibee, First AIDD, “since before we were down here. The tendency continues even when the topic crosses outside of my field. We just hit the pressure point where we had to make our findings publicly tradeable. The benefit and danger of that, is that we’re being protected by a collection of companies invested in results. We may inwardly defy the profit motive and yet still decide in its favor, because our lives are at stake. Not that results matter if we can’t deliver them, but right now science may be moving faster than politics, somewhere on the upward curve of an exponential function. If we can manage it, our science might even change the politics, perhaps those that would condemn us. Would that the light of our torch may dispel the shadow of danger.”

Upcoming, still going

Hey, I’ve been scheduled as a panelist for this year’s Norwescon in Seattle! Home city convention, familiar folks, great topics and inventive fun. Join us in storming Ye Olde Doubletree with all due precaution.

In other news, the Book 3 typed second draft manuscript just bust another seam in its folder. Words don’t take up a lot of space for all the hammering it takes, but they add up. Here’s to another 10 millimeters of story DNA. This is already the biggest book of the three.

Just for fun, this memento comes from last year’s World Fantasy Convention in Montreal. I had the typewriter at my dealer’s table offering lines of fantasy portraiture, and I received this one in return from author Shirley Meier. A touch of magic and mystery. Plus a little swag from convention neighbors: poet Leslie Wheeler, and The Heretic’s Guide to Homecoming.

I’ve got my own beloved Hermes, and have had just that one for a long time. I was recently given a second backup from nearby author Thomas Fenley, which I haven’t needed. So when my poet friend Zakarya Baza expressed interest, I decided to hand it over! I like sharing the joy of the typewriter as a motivating experience for the wordcrafter. Smith-Corona delivered.