129 \ 321

The demilitarized tech craft sped away from the dark planet in dark space. It looked different than when it had been an Alpha signal relay ship assigned to untangle the anomaly; its identifiers had been removed, and it looked more like a pricey civilian status adventure vehicle with an unusual modification or two, and a new coat. One of the benefits of going mercenary for alien vehicle enthusiasts. Random wondered, were they aliens if they weren’t part of the Imperium, and sentients if they were? Figured they were sentients either way, had to be to manage nice work like this.

There weren’t any Vedani onboard this time, just a gaggle of Phronium Triangle subterfuge veterans leaving the wreck of their old home once again. They were subdued and, in some way, content. They looked different than when they’d stepped off.

One of them, a lithe woman with her black hair done in a tight bun, gave them their next co-ords. Another unassuming point of hinterspace, surely to a Vedani loading bay. “We may not be seeing you again for a while, or at all.” There had been an errand here, an unexplained errand there throughout the tumult of these recent events, and they’d gotten almost familiar with these former enemies (of the state) turned saviors from ordered suicide… in a conflict they’d initiated, because of trouble caused by the Imperium. There weren’t many other humans to know in their dead-world, though it wasn’t as if things weren’t interesting.

Arriba & Vadr might not have much else to do, if it weren’t errands from them. “So, how about us – are we getting severance? Some kind of new job, Vedani superfood barista?”

“Oibhn might be able to find someone to teach you if you really are interested. You’ll be alright regardless, they don’t operate under human capitalism. I’m not sure what kind of social climate you’d have to find in order resurface anywhere in the Imperium. Surely, you’re not the first pair of soldiers listed dead yet looking for work – you’re just the ones we lucked into.”

Random exchanged a look with Toledo in the copilot’s chair next to them. He made a silent half-shrug, half-nod. “I suppose we could, uh, go down our list of numbers,” Random mused. “Our very short list.”

128 \ 320

Back and forth, the musical conversation continued between peoples recently strange to each other, mediated by symbiotic tree awareness. Aquarii and Vedani were drastically differing life forms in many ways, but their collaboration was driven by mutual protection and encouraged by galvanizing intuition.

In song circles like the ones Bright Wave held, musical phrases traveled in rounds from their origin points, spiraling outward. They were reiterated and reinterpreted for the greatest flexible degree of understanding as the Aquarii taught and retaught, learned and relearned in varying frequencies blended with the voices of the Symbias:

understanding, branching
roots in the air, wind to the soil
reaching along the braid of life in time
through knowledge, language and connection
together, now we are greater
this is our intention

Vedani who listened and interacted were circulating logs and notes of interest, both authored and anonymous, throughout the aetherscape. Uixtr Xkcd was absolutely riding this wave. This created supporting relevances shifting through Voices of Authority, resonating to distantly-connected corners and curvilinearities of mindspace:

[the harmonies weave into our own trees in the aetherscape
these Symbias understand our energetic branchings of thought
the beat of breath in their song drives our dynamos]

They responded to each other with the kind of absorption of having almost nothing more important, now. Vedani had changed phase in their interaction; defensive infiltration, awareness and mutual aid having been accomplished, this bridge building took precedence in their developments with the Pan-Galactic Imperium.

overcoming animosity for the lives of our dearest kin
and the continuation of our generations
they insist that this is not just necessary, but right
that this is a glorious joy

[we enacted upon them grievous harm
then learned that we might need them, that they could save us
they are embracing us because this is more than making amends –
this is the forward evolution that forestalls extiction, discovery and growth
now we are called to learn in order to defend ourselves from careless malice,
as must they, and in this way we are now bound]

Vedani hadn’t exactly been aware to what extent the destruction, rediscovery, and redevelopment of the Symbias would make them intricately bound to the life of a uniquely powerful and beautiful people. They had found and tried to reach what they were certain were distant genetic kin, the Humans, who then threatened the continued safety of Vedani people with habitual violence; then the gifted allies of these humans, after suffering strategic sacrifice, say that their arboreal counterparts now consider the Vedani integral members of the harmonious present-future they lovingly tend.

[now they call us kin, in all those complexities,
and their mysteries echo into our own
with amplified resonance in ways we had never guessed ourselves,
discovering another kind of mind within our connected mind]

[we plant our feet on soils strange to each other,
and we are their communication
we transform the distance of space into nearness
we hear and speak, and now are heard and spoken of
by those who forgive us enough to grant us
strength and protection if we will learn and grow together –
and that’s really all we wanted in the first place, here]

not everyone finds it easy to sing
with those who nearly destroyed us,
but our nearest and dearest tells us
that this is the way it must be,
in the sweetest strains of the balm of existence

from the soundings into the darkness,
the replies from distant selves have multiplied;
could there have been another way
to broaden our universe?
they always root us into what is,
not what otherwise would be,
what can be, not what could have been,
what we are, not what we aren’t,
and only in this way did our voices first reach each other,
and still do

This generation of Aquarii had a new generation of songs, that sounded like they were made for a new time that they were learning to embrace for their own survival. They overcame their own resistance by learning more, and understanding each other over and over again. Dark Zephyr delved into difficulty to forge resounding tones.

our memories deepening again
while we become ourselves anew with relation;
more ourselves, our extended selves more themselves
this music is different and great
as true and truer than ever, true to now

[time feels different – like we’ve discovered another type of time
there’s a stream that flows differently into a space
with other measurements of dimension
this is something we can talk about for a long time,
over beverages at many parties, this is such fine material
to weave into our warp and weft at full speed]

Singers created clarity in their finesse of expression in the way of their most forward developments, creating strong ripples through their people with this growing power. The eight homeworlds were acting in unison on this, with a degree of symphony unseen in living generations. Translation became expression, and the reverse. Aelrn Lkcd stuck with this calling longer than she had first expected while Oibhn Clnr, in his corner of interspace, was a merry host to the social aspect of the new wave. Even Yykth, free from her team responsibility during the laboratory action, decided to take up this hobby.

[these trees, the Symbias, are growing as quickly as ideas now
are they even trees? like aetheric lightning.
maybe it’s us, of course it’s them too,
and this growth feels like it’s happening in ourselves
maybe the Symbias always grow with their friends]

the Symbias love this, we love our tree friends,
the trees love them, we are all loved
the love grows as it has always grown us
died in fire, the old day – born in fire, the new grace

[we have feelings, yes, what we call emotions along with our ideas,
but there are new senses to understand
by learning something strange with this new kinship
we blossom with other colors, blush with new warmth,
in finding balance in another relation of significance,
creating another language of development, whee!]

the foliage feels a barrier somewhere, a kind of net that wavers
it grips and tests, examining the music of the flowers within it,
their communication, their calls broadcast
fractured and reiterated to confusion and complication
this cannot hold

127 \ 319

There in the backyard with the sitting rock, some of the old flowers remained, growing rampant over the walls. Thirteen people were gathered within, Raev Sturlusson among them. It was an odd mood that prevailed here – nostalgic, jolly, rueful, accomplished, all these together with more complexity between. They’d been through a lot, and done a lot, with just that touch of victory and finality over all the tragedy and sacrifice. All of them wore a piece of Old Hirylien, the culture that once was, on the quiet planet where they now stood. Some of them remembered each other as children, though now they were hardened and scarred. Each held the memory of this place, which they’d taught to others as they pursued vengeance through justice. There were fewer coin holders than when they began.

“Yeah we had a time, that time.”

“It may have been a good time, even if we weren’t exactly good people.”

“Then, surely not – not entirely, despite our noblest aims.”

“What are we now?”

“Just people.”

“More than half a person? More than just a shadow?”

“I think so. Really, I do.”

As they bantered casually, they softly, almost unnoticeably deposited their phronium coins atop the boulder, each of them inscribed with the trisected triangle. Eventually all thirteen lay there together, and the talk dwindled until they were all gazing down at them and at each other silently. Ghostly smiles floated across faces.

Raev stepped into the center and gathered all thirteen into his one remaining hand. They had that translucence, shimmering in varying tones of the spectrum. He shuffled them around, looking out at his compatriots and intensely into this handful, figuring something out. Some of his tattoos, showing across his uncovered torso, were glowing in resonance with the coins. The air around him crackled, and he nodded. His eyes began to glow. “Step back, friends. All the way back,” he said indicating the garden walls. “I’m going to try something, and I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing.” A chuckle murmured through them at his all-too-familiar utterance of this phrase.

Raev’s hand, holding the coins, began to spark. The current he was inducing with his fingertips ran through the different materials, from one to the other and back to him. He reached through his augmentations, experimenting and modulating. He sought cycles and vibrations that enhanced the flow, uniting and magnetizing the coins to each other. He dug into energies from the aetherscape, to which he’d long been connected, his own biology, and dragon-given boons from the Red Nexus. The coins began to radiate a combined glow as the cohesion tightened. Bracing himself, he gave the bundle a surge. It lifted into the air above his hand, hovering in its own pocket of energy. Lightning beams connected this to Raev, who was now encased in a similar brightness racing around him, his eyes fully alight, tattoos blazing. He lifted off the ground, floating back as the knot of energy around the coins expanded with power.

The Hirylienites posted around the backyard bore somber witness to this phenomenon – not the first time they’d risked themselves along with their Signalman attempting an unpredictability. This may be as necessary as all the rest. They shielded their eyes as currents whirled around the blinding ball of light. Floating before it, Raev stretched out his arms and threw his head back. The electric tornado condensed into a beam that stretched from the planet into the atmosphere, and everyone but Raev had to cover their eyes completely.

They all felt and heard a dissipation, like a breeze under the passing of a storm. They heard something fall. They heard Raev land. They opened their eyes. Steaming there on the ground was an orblike ingot with a never-before-seen glow. Raev was braced on one knee looking at it, long black hair hanging lank with sweat, skin shimmering as the tattoos dimmed in pulses. The nearest few of his cadre rushed in and supported him to his feet. They stared at the rounded phronium ingot, hints of uncomprehending accomplishment flitting at the corners of their mouths.

126 \ 318

He’d been assessing the routes according to the indications given him by the Davyjones crab’s luminescent map of the currents. From Draig Claymore’s study of the onboard nautical maps of Foshan, he’d ascertained various destinations. He estimated the logistics of the Foundationals who had been targeting the Arch – where they were likely to go for fuel or supply, and their pursuit pattern possibilities for the area. Most of Foshan was one island here, an island there; imagining the potentialities was, in this case, more like a chaseboard game than usual.

As they sped through the abyss, Draig was working through the question as to what he would do to attract the attention of their ideologically-rooted menace. He felt sure that from his position, this would be his best contribution to a clear path for all other necessary movements. He thought about all the people who had just left this building of a vessel: Princess Ascendant Soleil, the scientists, the staff, the directions they were headed, and any possible targeting motivations aimed at them specifically – or towards the place in motion he currently controlled, with the help of Woollibee & Woollibee and the cleaner Saer, who knew where all the supplies were stashed.

They operated quietly, terse except for functional exchange under the razor’s edge of tension. It was exciting as well as serious; there was admittedly something giddy about having nearly sole possession and full command of this gargantuan monolithic achievement, while understanding that it ultimately could be abstracted into another piece on the chaseboard.

Claymore thought about when they would surface, where they would be. While he hadn’t been under for anywhere near as long as the staff and crew, he dreamed about sunlight and wondered about the weather, looking forward to seeing any sky. Relaxing for a moment into skyward thoughts, he projected further, beyond the sky, the directions of space here, the stars – then he remembered that he currently held a key to something out there, too.

That gave him chills, and a shudder. Was it time for that? Would that serve; would people be ready, was the balance of events right… it was a game-changing wild card. He was already out of a job, technically. He couldn’t be more fired, though perhaps further prosecuted, depending on the outcome. Draig barely looked at the thought, just acknowledging it was there. Would they listen to him? Moreso, he believed, if it served them. If he journeyed into that space outside of space, so dreamlike to him when he’d found himself pulled into it, what might he find there now? Who would he speak with, what might they demand, what might open, what might crumble, and where. He knew people who could be crushed by the weight of this ponderance, but his mind was thoroughly accustomed to it. He navigated these pathways as he breathed, with the calm of gazing upon nature. This was a kind of nature, the nature of events.

Meanwhile, they moved as if part of the water thanks to the strong, sure swiftness of providence.

125.2 \ 317

Without saying anything, Soleil took a seat next to Pepita, who offered her head for pats. One of the girls, who hadn’t offered a name, addressed her. “So, you know about what went down right, since you’re using the back-end chat.” Soleil nodded. “It was so wild. Everything’s different now, and we’re glad. We know what’s really going on, and people should know. When we get together for this, it’s one of the ways we don’t forget, how we figure out the words – if we get in the flow, they just come out, and it sounds as real and true as it feels. It’s about the reality we’re living in, and if we say it right people seem to figure things out on their own.” Soleil nodded again while the dog bonded with her. The group resumed and started laying down rhymes.

…as I was thinking about it,
I started to realize
that I needed to believe
what was in front of my own eyes
that the things I didn’t know
were what was weighing me down
that I needed to grow
if I wanted to stick around

They passed the beat around so each person could have a say. One of the teens set up a little camera, and Soleil allowed her transmitted image to be recorded. They got solid clips of everyone.

…people can’t always face it
when they did something wrong
facing mistakes to fix them
means you have to be strong
surrendering to the truth
doesn’t mean playing along

Soleil actually did join in a little here and there, saying what she knew and what she felt. Something about this medium called for self-honesty, and she was ready for that in this moment. It was just what she needed. She dove into this rare environment, speaking with the a frank transparency and adaptable vulnerability that resulted in rhyme. They nodded back, and it fueled their continuing conversation.

…sometimes people are people
even when we think they’re not
gotta get over ourselves,
in case we forgot
it’s up to us,
we could have a little or a lot
we can give the respect we deserve,
and deserve the respect we got

Words that approached the heart of the matter were still mysteriously cryptic in the way that some things can only be known by those who know them.

…I did what I did
for a world I can live in
loving this life
means that I can’t just give in
we don’t need these poisons
we gotta make better choices

The Princess Ascendant in disguise reached inside to find a word for the wise, for those in the know, something worth mentioning to impart while she could. They welcomed her say, trading beats, rhymes, looks, and laughs for a while.

…and what if this is all I could do
with more than anyone else,
could I do enough for you?
do I live up to my name,
did I change this game
for the people who needed it changed
will tomorrow still come
now that it’s been rearranged
will I know, if I get old,
that I chose the right way?
either way,
it’s me that’s here today