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Toledo and Random ambled unhurriedly down a long interspace hallway, observing archway markings. They wore a pair of loose robes that were a contrast to their fitted work gear. From the presented options, they’d selected these for some time-off clothes, without inquiring or wondering much to their usual purpose – they looked comfortable. The two agreed with each other on recognizing the marking, and navigated through the doorless curving entryway.

Inside a clear room with sunglow polyhedral walls and a soft mat floor, Arcta Hydraia knelt with three spheroid physical models. She played with them like puzzles, adjusting a piece here, a piece there. Though they were separate models, she also superimposed them with one in each hand, momentarily interchanging some of the interlocking dynamic indicators. Toledo and Random let her do this while they stood there, without interrupting. Having registered a pleasing triangulation, a smile arrived on Arcta’s face. She put her objects down and looked up at the pair.

“Welcome. I’m pleased to have you in my playroom. Now is a great time for some human companionship.” Arcta patted the comfortable surface and stood to acknowledge them. “Random Arriba and Toledo Vadr… you don’t hate me too much, it seems. Maybe I can do something for you. Exactly what, I’m not sure; sometimes, my expertise affords me privilege, though I’m continually amazed by the different world we now live in. The behavioral flexibility here, I still find it refreshing.” Her imprint of a smile grew a little. “So, you’re interested in possible new directions.”

“Right. The party host, Oven. He reminded us to try you. And yeah no, I don’t hate you too much,” said Random with an amiable shrug. Then, turning to their partner, “Do you?”

Toledo shrugged and shook his head no.

“I really appreciate that,” said Arcta. “Well, as far as what I’ve got going on, if I had people like you to enable my schemes, I’d start tracking down my own ripple effect.” Toledo motioned to take a seat, and they all took it easy on the mat. “I’ve had enough impact on various forefronts to know that advances, even in theory, create ripples. Some are less stable, while others are golden. It’s actually not a bad idea to engage in further generations of my own science. Learn what’s new from those who took my work a step forward, and give them my refreshed originator’s insight, when welcome. Sometimes, I feel like it’s even a little bit of a duty. On occasion, I can fix that wheel and set things rolling in the right direction. To what extent I can do that amongst the Vedani, or even in the Imperium somehow, will be a matter of discovery. It all results in what I call a career, which has been an interesting thought to navigate from here.” Arcta trailed off, gazing into a corner. “So, maybe you could come with me on some kind of road trip. It is not my predilection to render my shipmates unconscious; that was context-specific. I hope you wouldn’t expect that regularly.”

“I like sleeping,” Random put forth, “mainly when that’s what I intend to do. My main expectation is to work for reward.”

“Noted. I don’t think I would drive you too hard, but it’s worth mention that the field can be volatile.”

“Hmm,” Toledo uttered, looking around him.

“We’re out of the military now,” Random said, scritching their back, “but we still signed up. This wouldn’t be our first such reckless decision.”

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