116 \ 308

“I’m glad you’re so up to date on today’s issues.” The two women sat at a streetside brunch table, plates empty and polished, sipping hot herbal tea. They both wore sunglasses, as it was a bright, warm day. The one speaking looked and sounded nothing like Princess Ascendant Soleil. To any passerby, she was an independent consultant, the kind that populate this district and are seen chatting at different places with different people throughout the day. The woman she was speaking with, the notable Margeaux Rienne, was footing the bill. They were concluding a detailed discussion about reallocating resources according to new and sudden changes in relevant economies – wink, wink.

“I’ve been closely concerned with these matters for a while, but you supplied key insights that’ll get me going on these initiatives right away. If I can leverage useful partnerships, I will. We’ll have a better chance of creating a more favorable environment for our greater interests.” Margeaux was wearing a smooth ensemble from the latest collection in her fashion line, the one that featured an edgy stamped tin necklace brought to the relief benefit runway at the last minute.

“I’m also deeply appreciative of the bonus, Ms. Rienne.”

The fiery-haired young business owner smiled behind her warm cup. “I already told you that you may call me Margeaux – and it’s a pleasure to adequately reward expertise and first word.”

“I’m in agreement with you on that. It has been a delight to finally meet you.” The consultant checked the small phone com on the table stickered with the Look Out World logo. “I have a couple replies already.”

“If you feel like sending that back, we’ll do the usual full scrub – but if anything terrible happens to it, you don’t have to worry about reimbursing us.”

“Company phone is an exciting extra. I’ll try not to flash your logo in any of the wrong places.”

“I have no idea where those would be, but I trust you to know.”

115 \ 307


Futzing a translocation by itself for the first time, Moonshadow anchored to a signal. This signal had many layers of strong signatures! Decided this was possible, and used the good settings, plus adjusted fuel ratios.


Powered appropriately, then surged. Electrobio motion wave idea. Server first!


Between passenger transport legs, this pilot-driver was taking it easy sitting on her tailgate in one corner of the slowly shrinking conglomeration of activists. When it came up to her like it was happy to see her, Wendel recognized the Vedani sled Moonshadow, the one the Princess was riding. The rainbow light was running the strip around the base. Singsongy, it projected its Kao-Sidhe-accented machine language, speaking in human tones and words to a human; it also put words in the language on its display.


“I believe you can,” said Captain Wendel. This loyal transport had saved lives among them more than once, and it kept its skills honed. This was luck, and she decided not to question it. Might as well fuel it.

114 \ 306

Back when Saga had asked er if ‘e had spoken with any of the Red Nexus exiles, Arkuda had to defend er political allegiance at the time, as a Councillor of the Pan-Galactic Imperium. After the dreadful wounding by er own mature hatchling Ignivus, who since perished by a dragonslayer’s sword, Arkuda was unable to both heal and perform duties in an increasingly hostile climate. ‘E had abdicated quietly. As that was not long ago, in a time of turmoil for Dragons in the Imperium, a new Dragon Councillor had not yet been appointed. Jobs were not always the most attractive proposition for Dragons, whose existence includes an intrinsic functional role in the greater universe already.

There was an opportunity now, without an official allegiance, to speak with the exiles. That might mean leaving the Viridian Phasing, which continued to safeguard Imperial space aside from those few tragic breaches. The Viridian Phasing protocol continued to divide Dragons in many areas of physical space, though the unaffiliated had potential opportunities to communicate with both Imperially aligned and Red Nexus exiles on the plane of the Tabula Rasa. Dragons would not perform the energetically costly Viridian Phasing forever.

Though Arkuda was, as always, firstly a Dragon before an Imperial citizen, ‘e had shared many joys with the people of this intergalactic civilization. The thought of leaving them indefinitely came with real pangs, more than just resigning a position of administerial importance. However, leaving in order to discern issues of conflict resolution had a certain tinge of continuing to perform a duty ‘e had abandoned. Be that as it may.

The company of certain unaffiliated Dragons was desirable, maybe healing, and they would welcome Arkuda’s presence. There was also the strange matter of open invitation to the Fray with plusses, where the Kao-Sidhe’s most passionate debaters would definitively discuss any topic that dared to be introduced. There was this discussion, that discussion, and recent discussions, and in some way Arkuda could be or already was a part of all of them. Somehow, this might possibly come together at the same time as it would come undone.

113 \ 305

When she’d been deposited via interdimensional dragon torrent in the mountain meadow where she mourned her mother, Princess Ascendant Soleil gathered her senses as she gathered her atoms. Beginning with light footsteps down the trail, she made her way towards her home city on the horizon.

Plans had gone in advance with her friends, to set in motion for her. She’d be able to find out quickly which of them, if any, had opened up, and what she could do from there. Approaching her old neighborhoods, she disguised herself with her dragongift, to maintain her situational autonomy. If there was anything left for her to do from the shadows, she could only do it there. She looked like a hiker, just a hiker. Illusions that are partly true are easier to maintain.

Upon accessing the system, Soleil found that some of her calling cards had been received and acknowledged. This meant there were some people who’d agreed to expedite her into their books through a back door. These stones might only be good to land on once, but there they hovered in midair.

“Let’s start with brunch,” Soleil said, smiling over a com to a kindred spirit. “A lot needs to happen very quickly, and I want the whole day ahead of me.”

Margeaux Rienne’s voice patched through the earpiece at minimized volume. “This is feasible. It’ll be a pleasure working with you again.” She kept all her spoken terms generally ambiguous, keeping context as subtext like the elite partner in crime she’d always been.

“My only regret is that we couldn’t have begun this venture sooner.”