51.2 \ 233

“Can you also think about what you think he’d be doing right now?” Greezmo said this as they peered attentively at the ship inhaling the scent of the necklace.

“Sure I can, that’s natural to me.” If he had his ship (which he should), in this state of emergency he might be helping people that the system would overlook (since he’s a free agent). Country living is where he came from, so that’s where he might be. People who could use the help but only ask each other for it. He finds a way to become one of them if he isn’t already. He would listen to find out what they needed, and then do what was simplest for him at the best possible price. She choked up a little on these many reasons why she loves him. “I think it’s helping,” Greezmo said reassuringly. “Of course your guesses can’t be exact, but they’ll be as close as close can be, and we have some tendencies of probability to get that even closer, close enough but not so close that we land on him… so to speak.”

Rosy Glow drifted over to them, assumed human similitude evaporating from her traits, releasing her from gravity. “Maybe think of some of his favorite places. You don’t have to tell us. Thoughts are able to contain more information than words, saying thoughts only tells a part of them. Favorite places.” Wendel let her eyes fall closed, and took a breath the way Leiv would take a deep breath when they were somewhere beautiful, or when he talked about someplace he loved or that felt like home. There were lots of these recollections in her memory, some more clearly visualized than others. She just let them all filter through her mind without worrying whether she was right, just a little happier to feel so close to him, as close as anyone.

The Jiggler’s fluffy checkered harlequin rustled like the pages of a schedule as they too approached. “And how about also, now, think about why you want to find him.” A silent sob pulsed beneath the smile that grew on Wendel. Because a lot has happened. Because when we’ve lived to tell the tale, we tell each other soonest. Twice now she might not have come back to him, and that’s once more than she usually lets go by. She settled into this longing, which seemed to stretch into infinity, and they too seemed to stretch into infinity. The ship stretched, they all stretched, everything stretched. As they stretched, the Kao-Sidhe clasped each other, and Wendel, Drift X’s hose and the necklace between them in a mighty group hug that also stretched to encompass an enormous space of emotion. The stretching flattened everything, like a focusing laser field; everything was still there, but flat like a carpet. That flattening also felt fast – like as they stretched, they moved. So this was a magic carpet ride, but reality was the carpet. The flatness flickered in frames which slowed down gradually like the wheel on a slot machine. Wendel still felt her breath and her heart, slow and timeless, then – pop. The film strip cut. The sound of a huge exhale, and they were somewhere again.

51.1 \ 233

“Time is different to me than it is to you; I’d say it’s different to us than it is to you, but it’s different to me than it is to anyone. I am made of time. I have all day, I have all the time in the world, and time is never time at all. To me, it’s like a plasmic fluid, moments and phenomena suspended within it, with slow and fast currents that bring things away and around again. It is possible to move things around a little without them ever feeling out of place. Certain aspects of the human being, though, are not very chronoflexible. Believe me when I say I will be mindful of your limitations. I’ve learned from my mistakes, some of them legendary.” This ramble emanated from the Jiggler within a swimming liminal bandwidth that was now the way of reality.

Since the initial zoom into a place that was not quite a place, Wendel had left the cockpit, now that the ship was locomoting by different means. Greezmo said that kind of steering wouldn’t work, and Wendel chose to believe them since it’s no good trying to make an engine do what it can’t. Now the captain and the Kao-Sidhe passengers sat comfortably facing each other on the floor of the hold. The ship swayed rhythmically as though taking gentle steps on very long legs, legs that walked from one landscape to another. With one step the scene outside the viewports looked like mountaintops, the next a moon tundra, another a river channel. This all made sense, flowing like one step after the next. Greezmo occasionally got up to go around patting and whispering to Drift X. The ship purred.

“Where are we going now?” Wendel thought to ask amid the wonder of it.

“I was just considering that, and I have an idea,” replied Rosy Glow, tearing her gaze from the viewports. She got up and went to where Greezmo was actively snuggling into a corner, and they whispered and nodded back and forth. Rosy Glow came back to a spot by Wendel. “Do you have an item of his, or that reminds you strongly of him, or comes from him?”

After just a moment, Wendel blushed and smiled a little. “I can think of something. Want me to bring it here?”

Rosy Glow nodded, Greezmo nodded eagerly, and the Jiggler nodded along. “Show us!” was said with a curiosity that sensed something juicy. Continuing to blush enjoyably about this show-and-tell moment, Wendel went to the compartment where she stored the necklace Leiv gave her that she only wore when they were staying in together. The chainwork was beautiful, and stones sparkled in their filigree when she lifted it from the pouch that replaced the clamshell case the Princess utilized for her ruse. Wendel thought she could probably find another one of those. She secretly, tentatively smelled the necklace, deciding it was fine and enjoying a little reminiscence. It was as much his as it was hers, and she knows that he thinks of it now and again.

“Here it is,” she said upon returning, respectfully lifting it from the pouch for them to see. The Kao-Sidhe surrounded it with appreciation and assessment.

“Yeah, we can try this,” Greezmo said, lifting a suspenseful gloved finger as they drifted toward the warp woodstove. “Don’t worry,” they said reassuringly before promptly popping off a tube that Wendel would never disconnect while in transit. Stalling the captain’s alarm with, “I said don’t worry,” Greezmo beckoned her over. Drift X continued to lope through an endless scroll of locales.

Laying the necklace face up on the pouch, Wendel carried it over in her hands. Greezmo gestured toward the mouth of the hose, and Wendel brought it there. “Just don’t try this in your home dimension,” grumbled the gremlin through their respirator. Wendel could feel a gentle current of air intake over her hands, and the oddity struck her of having her ship do a sniff search from her sex necklace. Only here in nowhere land, surely, with these no-body people. Her mind could accept it if she didn’t try too hard to sort it all out, and she withdrew from the dithering of such an attempt.

50.2 \ 232

In passing discussion, people were saying they wanted things like news of in-city relatives, food resiliency backup systems, and fuel reserves. Leiv was back to doing a boyhood pocket money task: delivering firewood. His ship wasn’t the old straight-to-the-doorstep handcart – but it had one inside. He heard one area asking, and another area offering, and set himself up as the cost-efficient runner.

In this secluded valley on Primatris, they were sharing their solid store of fully-seasoned long-burning hardwood. They’ve got plenty because this is how they plan. Interfed business wasn’t exactly booming at this time, and top dollar wasn’t easy to find. Leiv was partially working for food, fuel, and repair since that was all some people could afford who deserved his service. Besides, he’d just been treated to a porchfront reel and tip-top brunch on a checkered tablecloth, so he was feeling at full strength for the schlep. There was a hearty relay team helping him transfer a quarter of the neighborhood woodshed into the hold of his ship, Clearpath 5. Leiv stayed busy.

50.1 \ 232

Out in the sticks, the Pan-Galactic situation was a little different. They weren’t subject to defensive house lockdown because these weren’t areas of signal attack, but being disconnected from service centers had its drawbacks. Everyone was further apart. Things felt more like they could dissolve at any time, including civilization and levels of living support. Most resource aid was directed to population centers under martial lockdown, where the mysterious broadcast portals overtook all other media. That made sense enough, while in the outer fringes, support was something people did for each other; this was where Leiv Gruun decided to go doing things here and there for a while.