25 \ 207

Nine-year-old Bassel Ayo looked around his home apartment. Everything using electric current was turned off, including the lights. The only person he lived with, his mother, came out of her bedroom. She tidied the recently-made empty floor space just a little more. They locked eyes and smiled, sitting down together on the open floor.

Mother and child linked hands and looked up. Just above their heads where they sat, a disk of light appeared. Both carefully raised their free hand up to touch it.

The sensation of transport felt like being pulled upward, though it was difficult to focus on any part of the body. One seemed there and not there, inside the light. Then like a mist, the brightness dissipated, and they were standing deposited inside a comfortably-sized curved chamber.

Once they felt collected, they exited through a walkway that bent to one side, so the next room was obscured. Beyond was a space where they found the other human arrivals. All seemed more or less like they were already familiar with each other.

“We were all calm, and we were also ready. Because we knew. We knew that it was time for all of this to happen now,” read a page of the journal that he later began.

24.XVI \ 206

Sturlusson drifted toward the house on the facing corner to the left, keeping a fixed gaze as though hypnotically impelled. “I replicated and re-engineered some of my father’s signal discoveries to regain communication with the Vedani. That was mostly after refugee block life, but I continually taught myself a lot of things. I got to know their old friends the Kao-Sidhe. From them I learned of the Aureny, and the Red Nexus Dragons found us all. One thing after another. Together, we could be more than Celeste, and Charlotte, and Vario could quell. Now, I myself cannot stop what I’ve set in motion. I’m not even at the center of it, and I never actually was.”

They’d arrived at the foot of a brick walkway leading up to the front door of this corner house. The roof sprouted plant life, and the facade peeled. “This change has taken my life to occur, and my entire lifetime has been this change. Yours as well. Here are remains of its beginning.” He hoisted a presentational hand, a gesture that said home sweet home. “I was born in this house.” His tone was pure nostalgia.

Soleil assessed the position of the sun in the sky, eyes sunk deep. It was about a hand’s breadth from the horizon, where before it had been two. Turning a neutral gaze to Raev, she said, “Leave me.” She gave him throne room demeanor, conveying that was the way she was processing this. It was the sort of statement that came along with critical matters on the verge of immediacy. There was no canny response, and no better one than action.

Seeming to understand, Raev unhitched a nod. She could find her way back to the ship by sunset like everyone else. He left her there, walking back the way they came. Soleil lay down in the walkway looking up, rooflines and treetops framing a dimmed sky.