5x Rerun: Abyss Surrounding (2) 73-77

– 73 –

The thirteen-year-old boy had thought that sitting in the pilot’s seat of Drift 9 would feel less dramatic, but with the captain on his right, feeling the pedal sliders under his own feet gave him a case of the wide-eyes. For her part sitting co-pilot, Wendel Harper understood completely. “Go ahead,” she said.

He did. Drift 9 sailed toward and through the flotsam terrain ahead, which had enough space between for a fulfilling sense of dimension and speed. They promptly brushed a slowing factor.

“Okay,” said Wendel with a collected manner as she gestured toward his main navigational screen, “read your routes. Under our own impetus, even small gravitational fields engage atmospheric immersion controls, which I am not yet teaching you.”

Toller leaned in to focus on the navigation screen, which reminded him again of a multi-rotational sports diagram. “So, don’t bump the edges like that.”

“Correct. Move between the shapes.” Settling back in, Wendel raised her hand to offer him the road. He took a very conservative elongated sinusoid path through a wide, soft corridor into another vast ‘meadow’ (pilot lingo for a clear space). Once in the open, Toller whirled the ship around before stopping it, as he’d seen Wendel do a few times already.

Her laughs echoed beyond the stillpoint. He was good! He would not be baggage. “That was really well done. Since you’ve been reviewing your orientation calls, angles, degrees, and rates, I’d like to hear how you’d announce that maneuver to your crew and teammates.”

“You didn’t announce it…” Toller tried to pinpoint a specific instance.

“We can’t always, but do it now.”

“180-to-fullstop, tilt negative-60, minus rate 7.”

Wendel approved the boy’s announcement with a nod. “Everyone has different protocols. Learn how to be understood in as many or through as few protocols as possible. Sometimes Leiv and I will just use poetry to announce to each other.”

“How do you do that?” A little winded from his own boldness, Toller leaned back to relax in his chair with the ship at peace.

The captain-copilot also took a moment to relax. “Mostly, we understand each other’s language; we like each other’s taste; and we use embedded pointers from our years of horsing around together.”

Leiv appeared in the hatch. “I hear the call of poetry,” he smoldered to his lady love.

“You heard right,” she replied in an exaggerated purr.

He began. “D’Orann: Ask me where I dance, and I’ll say up.”

“Orak’x: Reaching a conclusion offers no conclusion.” Her reply was ready as soon as he completed his initiatory line.

“Srevz: Long winds carry scent of a treetop reaching toward me.”

Rotating from the co-chair and reaching over to Toller’s side to shift control command, Wendel remarked, “These are all Jennian poets.”

Striding across the cockpit with added flair, Leiv reached in to romantically cradle Wendel’s head. “Then let us tango in Jennian style.” She succumbed to a complementing swoon, then winked at Toller as she came out of it. “Straps,” was all she said next. Toller clipped himself in, Leiv scrambled into the fold-down, and Wendel proceeded to demonstrate their style of tango with her ship.

She mused to her companions while guiding them through a graceful corkscrew-vertical-bust-vertical. “Understandable to each other, unpredictable to others – inspired movement can be lifesaving. It somehow slices through chaos fractals; nature likes poetry too, it’s less likely to hit you with rocks. This kind of concerted unpredictability is our friend if for some reason something is out to get us.”

– 74 –

She cupped the sight of the planet in her two hands and kissed it. Though she didn’t know what difficulties might be hers to overcome in the moments after this, she simply blew a double handful of heart-shaped wishes towards Alisandre. As they fluttered fondly towards the atmosphere, her vehicle platform adjusted slightly as though someone else had stepped onto it.

Soleil hadn’t felt that since before being enfolded in deep space; since before she learned she was without a mother, making her the missing Princess Ascendant; since before she’d been changed forever by her split-second choice to forgive the killer. The platform motion was subtle, but she still noticed it. This trusty vehicle had read her motions clearly, and seemingly without parallax, the whole time – no misreadings had jarred or interrupted her hyper-tuned mindstate. When the jumps occurred, they were distinctly a result of her actions, whatever they’d been. So it was with some suspicion that Soleil reached out her gloved arms to comb the field of motion for an errant response.

A somewhat familiar image flickered and disappeared as her hand passed through it. Moving again through that space, it reappeared. The image took on a greater degree of realism: a smallish and incredibly strange person hovering at the height of her shoulder. He smiled and said, “Do you recognize me?”

The previous woodcut version of Dragon Food hadn’t quite communicated his posture of dashing bravado and mischievous derring-do. “That certainly sounds like Dragon Food,” she replied. His physicality was more colorful and detailed, including a dragonish set of horns. “And you look even more like yourself now, in some ways. Tell me, please, what was on that piece of paper you gave me?”

“It was something with the word ‘movements’ in the title, like you asked. That was the thing we could find that seemed most like what you needed.”

“Was there a program or code in it?”

Dragon Food subtly bobbed and jigged around in midair as he addressed the Princess. “Was there a program in the way you drove this ship? You must mean the special ingredient! We Kao-Sidhe don’t generally know what that actually is. Kao-Sidhe interact with a lot of different people, and at times we are helpful. If we bring something to someone, people find it in there, so they think we put it there. But, no. We have a sense of when something is relevant without specifically knowing why, something about our relationship with the nature of ‘time’, as you refer to it, and ‘matter’. It’s just more special, especially special. So, you found it then? The key, the special ingredient.”

“Time and again. There were these clusters of invisible vibrating windowpanes, as I was able to record on instruments while examining them with the Vedani. The new movements I learned seemed to fit some spatial arcs in the clusters, so I used them. Combined with this sled, it must have triggered a spatial loophole programming combination that sent me jumping farther through the cluster system, whatever was generating that. Each jump was like an instant gateway transfer. I don’t think any Vedani can even do that, though it’s their vehicle – none of them learned the moves with me, and you said they don’t dance.”

“What a unique set of circumstances! I suppose that explains how you got here, along with the dragon who you somehow ran into on the way. Probability leveraging via the dragon, working with the inertia of your jump procedure, abetting your favorable chances according to its own mechanics, signature matching and vector averaging to your most reachable and situationally capable ally – me, who is also a Kao-Sidhe, possessing particular likelihood modifiers. Yes, if ‘e brought you to me, then ‘e was helping you.” This last part Dragon Food murmured partly to himself.

Suddenly feeling her legs, Soleil sat down gracefully on the sled platform. Dragon Food hovered down to likewise sit, in a companionable space, midair at shoulder level. He continued his rambling assessment. “Do you know, I just happened to be taking in the view when a roiling spiral of mystically dark scales deposited you here? I thought ‘e was there for me, actually. I am so desirable that at times, dragons pop out of nowhere to ingest me. What can I say? It’s like they can smell me two dimensions over… Rosy Glow claims that’s occasionally true.

“You may ask what I was doing floating out here in the vacuum all by myself. Exactly what a hungry dragon would say. I always make them hungry. Good for you ‘e didn’t take full notice of me, or I’d be off and away.

“This place is not exactly random. We sit at the point between one thing, another thing, and yet a third thing, which you see in front of you.” With both tiny hands, he indicated the lovely planet. “And while I don’t know everything about where you just came from or how, I know that a dragon dropped you off. Which dragon was that?”

Soleil neither hid nor lied about a dragon. “Acamar,” she stated, trying out the sound of er name.

“Well, I don’t know that one. And I know more than many can claim, in what you could call an intimate fashion. Acamar, you say.” Dragon Food paused with a dreamy, wondering look. Soleil let her attention drift soberly to the planet facing her, and the distance between. “I have an idea!” declared Dragon Food. “Would you like to step foot on the planet you see before you?”

Mastering a surge of desire, the Princess faced her company with a silent look that demanded to know more. Dragon Food continued. “I believe there is a way we can talk with this standride. With help from Garlic on the ground, you can direct our location to somewhere familiar, yet sufficiently secluded. Our help means you will pick the right place, if you understand our inherent influential tendencies.”

“Garlic is already there?”

“Yes, somewhere. Garlic is emphatically positive about its presence on that planet. Myself and Rosy Glow have already been there as well.” This partially answered Soleil’s question as to whether she would be allowing them strategic entry. This was as the case may be. It would be a trusting, a trade. Did she want to set foot on the planet before her?

“What leads you to believe it’s possible for me to get there?” Soleil moved to the podium to tap through her main readings. “There’s no cluster here, which is how I was moving around. The distance may be too great for direct locomotion.”

Dragon Food sat his small figure atop the handlebar podium and considered the machine beneath him, patting it. “It may have learned the jump by now, and written it into capability.”

She looked at the vehicle for the first time as though looking into it, asking, “It may have learned?”

“Yes! Let’s ask it and see.” Dragon Food licked his finger and stuck it into an outlet. His image stuttered into static a couple times before he unplugged himself. “Well uh… Rosy Glow is better at this than I am. We should call her.”

“How?”

“Could you perhaps… exert yourself until you’re flushed?”

Assessing him carefully, Soleil asked, “Would push-ups be okay?” In response to his blank look, she explained, “Exercising.”

“Perfectly fine, I think. Have a good workout while I meditate, and thusly together we can summon her.”

“You don’t have to do anything?”

“I just have to think about her. I’m more practiced at that than anybody. I’m also going to watch for the witnessable phenomenon you create – indeed, I’m watching for Rosy Glow. Go ahead, whenever you’re ready.”

Game to try, the young woman shook her frame and dropped down to do push-ups. She didn’t bother counting, since number probably wouldn’t matter. Maybe she’d have to break her personal best, or just break a sweat. Push-ups till the lady shows up, or a new epiphany was achieved. The thought that Rosy Glow might show up just to view this amusement crossed her mind.

“Okay, she’s here.”

“I’m here, to what?” Rosy Glow shimmered warmly inside the bubble of the standride’s field.

“We want to talk to this,” Dragon Food said gesturing to the vehicle, “to try to help her reach terra firma.”

“You want to communicate? Well, I can certainly help. These, I know. They respond to me.” Rosy Glow lay fondly upon the controls, appearing ready to take a nap though she mumbled coherently through closed eyes. Her sunny complexion and rosy cheeks were framed with curly waves of copper hair, which along with streaming wings and dress of sunsets and nebulae, leaked its colors into the machine’s outlets. When she opened her eyes, they were as if made of flower petals. “What a good model, so new and strong. How, where… ah! Access to Vedani human language learning modules. Okay! So, it should understand you better the more you talk to it.”

“I’ve never needed to talk to it before.”

“Now, you can. And this one already likes you!”

The implications of this effort to communicate were dawning on the Princess. “They said I lacked certain degrees of interface… is this one of them?”

“Yes,” replied Rosy Glow from her laying-spot. “Though unlike a Vedani, you’ll actually need to speak to each other out loud, or visually. It should be addressed with proper syntax, as I understand.”

“How do I use the proper syntax?” asked Soleil, smoothing her hair and calming her heart rate.

“It sounds like you should… speak to it like a person. You’ll be working through translation. It’s done some rapid acquisition, and is ready to speak to you now. I helped a little.” Rosy Glow’s voice was trancelike with just a touch of focus. “I gave it our variables…” And then she appeared to doze off.

“Hello?” said a brand new human-approximated voice. It was not Rosy Glow, but had a little bit of her accent.

“Hello?” replied Soleil quickly, as though surprised that would be the first thing it would say.

“Hello Hello Hell0 Hell0 Hello.” It examined a range of tones with each iteration of the word.

Rosy Glow sat up, saying, “It’s very pleased to speak with you! Seems it’s never had so much fun in its life.” Dragon Food sat down next to her and held her hand.

Greetings out of the way, the vehicle went directly to core matters, displaying words in Soleil’s language on the readout screen. [To achieve desired relocation, please perform the following.] At the bottom an additional line blinked: [Do you understand? Y/N]

Soleil tapped the Y to mean yes, and the display switched to a new motion diagram. It looked less like the usual Vedani control displays, and more like the movements that Soleil had been using while jumping between places in far space. Dragon Food followed her intent gaze to read the display, then shrugged and nodded to her.

Weighing her doubts and taking deep breaths, the Princess slowly read and practiced the patterns of motion on the screen. This was different from the reverse, where data was extrapolated from her errant (or intuitive) tries. After a little smoothing out, she gave it a spin.

The display image blinked twice and the vehicle said, “Almost. Adjusting.” The tone of its voice sounded character neutral and a tinge mechanical. Then the screen displayed the diagram again.

Crouching into her focus, Soleil slowed her breath, feeling the correct positioning of all her parts as she swung them through the field. She registered, launched, spun…

Winking out, they were gone.

– 75 –

Wendel and Leiv were laying together on the inflated-sponge bed from underneath the Skyfather cannon. The custom-fit mattress took up half the gunnery, big enough for them to spoon. “You’re letting Toller sit in the captain’s chair alone?” His hands traveled over her front, with hers on top of them.

“Yes. He’s staying there till I get back, except for trips to the toilet. He’s learning how to wait sitting. He can also study the controls, which he can name all of while I’m watching, and just after I pointed them out. We’ll see how many he remembers when I get back.” Wendel spoke in a dreamy, amused tone. “He knows how to call us for emergencies.”

“I think you’re a good teacher with a good student, and this is a great idea.”

“Just like it’s a great idea to spoon first,” Wendel said as she turned over to kiss him.

“You never know what might happen,” they said together.

– 76 –

UIXTR XKCD: What do you think of the rolls of grey foam?

AELRN LKCD: They’re a great combination of budget and performance. We can utilize this effectively.

UIXTR: Do you have enough of it?

AELRN: Enough of it for a while; a little goes a long way when we’re using it in strips. By the time it’s all been incorporated, we’d better have progressed our stratagem.

UIXTR: Sounds groovy and feasible in every way.

AELRN: Yes, doesn’t it? Speaking of groovy and feasible, what did the two humans think of the Palace?

UIXTR: From my perspective, the omni-point projection was seamlessly crisp. They found it hypnotizingly beautiful, if I listened to their tone expressions correctly – struck dumb, but not senseless.

AELRN: That sounds just right. I’ll relay your feedback to the technical crew.

UIXTR: What are you doing next right now?

AELRN: I’m going into my Garden.

UIXTR: How is your Garden doing?

AELRN: It’s becoming incredible, but I don’t want others to come in yet.

UIXTR: Sounds exciting.

AELRN: It is unbelievably so.

– 77 –

Toller awoke to the sound of footfalls in the hold. He’d used cargo straps to secure his blanket-wrapped self into a niche for a nap. Leiv, source of the noise, switched on the lights. The boy loosed the strap hitches and stretched. “Where are we?” he asked.

The tall man came over to sit next to the boy’s sleeping spot. “We’re back in Expansion 6 by Genoe, where I can pick up my ship. Do you feel like going back to Joe’s in Dalmeera? You’re welcome back at your old job, and I can bring you there. Wendel also said she can keep you on if you want, but it’s more dangerous and harder living.”

“Like, flying out of a volcanic eruption dangerous, or escaping from a violent kidnapping kind of dangerous? Hard living like… fighting other street kids for bets until you have to leave a city when the betting kids start to turn on you?”

Leiv nodded and shook his head at the same time, making a garbled sigh. “If you’ve had enough of that, then you’re welcome to take your leave of it. Any which way is fine to us. Do you know what you want to do?” His smile was frank and kind.

Toller undid his blanket burrito and stood up, folding his blanket for stowage. “I’ll stay on board with Wendel and continue the piloting lessons.”

“Okay, go join her in the co-chair when you’re ready. I’m going to manage the linkup.”

5x Rerun: Abyss Surrounding (2) 69-71, 18th Sequence, 72

– 69 –

I behold thee no longer. Perhaps surprisingly, you are missed. You were nice; you were not afraid. It’s good to meet people of your kind like you, which we sometimes do, if rarely. We learned to be more careful; we learned who not to trust. Learning who to trust is harder; some did earn that over time. But thee, no longer do I behold; may the eyes of others now behold thee.

– 70 –

Betide thee thine errors, your mystified inquisition, your missteps. Betide thee thine forbidden glimpses. The circles of the target have not yet aligned to provide the clear shot. Till then, I spin the dials of the mekani, taking the shifting tunnel to my destination at your doorway. The winds of change betide thee, the plasticity of space, and the shooting star at dawn’s arrival.

– 71 –

Beware thee that known element loosed to unknown ends. That once bound to a purpose, now free to its own. Beware the turncoat turned, the greater danger when wounded. Beware thee pursuit, furthest reaches within reach, the unexpected recovery. Beware the unstoppable force, reflected toward what direction? Glancing from golden shields to blind the vision, beware thee.

– 18TH SEQUENCE –

– 72 –

The old pin-and-tumbler lock snapped open when they used the key they’d been given. Together, the two of them elevated the roll door with an upwards shove. One end of a roller conveyor met them at the front, and at the other end in the back stood stacks of wrapped spools. The soft, flat material beneath shone matte silver.

“How exciting,” said R. Arriba to T. Vadr.

“Just what we’ve always wanted,” he replied. He walked in and began loading the conveyor, spools dancing toward the entrance. Without damaging them, his partner chucked them through the entry lock, into the currently vacant tech room of their ship. They whistled while they worked. Soon, the room was crammed with silver rolls except for a squeezethrough passage.

A fraction of the spool stock remained. They closed the door and left the key in the lock as requested, and with no one else still in sight, they took off. “So Vadr, what’s next on the list for the Homeboy Shopping Network?”

Looking over from the pilot’s seat where he was taking his turn, he didn’t need to check a list. “First, we’re going to another planet. And, maybe we could start calling each other by first names now that we’re not in the military.”

“The words ‘not in the military’ give me a cringe from my military parents, who still might not kill me on sight. You know – I’d be dead, and they might prefer it.” Out of the copilot’s chair, she patted one of the soft spools as she paced around. She spoke towards the front, her amplified voice feeding to the pilot through the ship’s auditories. “Since you’re used to calling me something different anyway, forget about what the R used to stand for. Call me Random.”

“You’re Random, that you are. You can call me Toledo, same as it ever was.”

“Understood. So Toledo, what planet are we supposed to go to?”

“Doesn’t matter. Just any other planet.”

“Let’s go to Florin. We were never sent or allowed there. What follows?”

“More suprises.”

“I’m starting to like surprises.” Their masked priority codes meant they endured no delay going inter-federet. At Florin, they did a swoop-through for new coordinates. Both of them stepped out to plant feet on dirt. This was their resistance to a creeping feeling they discovered as newly dark agents: an inclination to stay aboard the ship, in safe haven, and only aboard the ship. Despite overcoming a barrier, it made them glad to step upon a planet. The time of day was morning. There were birds in this parking lot, and Toledo Vadr imitated their whistle very well.

Spools still aboard, they received a relay notice to some truly unremarkable, unforgiving corner. Random Arriba and Toledo Vadr went along their way with efficiency. As they neared range, they got flight control instructions through a strange signal with a scrambler codekey. They aligned to a specific plane with precise orientation, and moved forward through time at a certain rate. At a particular distance, a piece of space folded inward and widened panel by panel, revealing a landing room. They glibly negotiated the entrance with raised eyebrows.

The technology inside was impossible to read. The military technician duo had never flown into a room within a patch of empty space. Nor had they seen a ship interior, if a ship this was, that contained this many glowing and moving elements. Everything in sight emanated with vibration, including the beings approaching to greet them.

The pair kept their cool, though Random’s face looked as though she were fully encountering the afterlife. They were met by some humans, accompanying another kind of people they had never before seen! This much could be discerned in the moving light. The other kind were amazingly similar and amazingly different, assumably the architects of this space. The two ex-military personnel felt an unexplainable guilty nervousness upon encountering these non-humans – as if they may have known all along, or ought to have.

Random and Toledo were very open to whatever they were allowed to safely learn from this experience. They caught each other barely suppressing giggles of astonishment. This was all made easier by the presence of humans in the receiving group. All together, they transferred the shipment into a moving cube, which also appeared to move in many other dimensions. It was just a cube, yet so much more. Visual information seemed to come from sources that were everywhere.

Random dared to speak to her friend. “Toledo, have you ever been to an Aquari spectropera?”

“Yes, actually,” he dared to reply. Their voices carried with surprising clarity despite an amount of background noise. They were not interrupted, but they felt observed.

“Is this like a spectropera?”

“Not at all.” They watched some crew secure and send the load in tow, gesturing with many layers of indicative moving light.

“So that’s not what I’m looking at right here?”

“Pretty sure no.” The secured cube floated serenely away.

“There is a lot of stuff going on here,” Random stated calmly. One of the elongated humanoids turned and nodded at her. The group led Random and Toledo back to their ship, which was now positioned to leave.

A human spoke. “What you have seen is real. You have no reason to be afraid. See you next time.” Random Arriba was handed an info chip, and they were clearly expected to get onboard and leave.

Once comfortably seated, Toledo Vadr turned to his friend now at her turn in the pilot’s seat, already interpreting the chip readout. “What are the orders?”

“Aww, man,” she moaned, “we’re going to toiletsville.”

“What place is that?” he asked, trying not to feel alarmed.

“Well, the official name is not toiletsville, but it’s where they make toilets. We’re going to pick up some toilets!” She made a noise of faint enthusiasm.

5x Rerun: Abyss Surrounding (2) 65-66, 17th Sequence, 67-68

– 65 –

EXTANT/PRESENT

sibling scions:
Mireille – ambitious, structured
Cristobal – reserved, considerate
Carlo – tempestuous, decisive

ascendant, son-in-line:
Grant Vario – distinguished, worthy

regent:
myself, Celeste – steadfast, unrelenting

DECEASED/MISSING

ascendant:
Charlotte – ferocious, efficient

scion, absent:
Soleil – piercing, valorous

[from the Annals of Celeste, Magus the 24th]

– 66 –

A human skull with fine chain threaded through the eyeholes, around the jaw and through the nose. It’s my skull, hanging from an invisible ceiling. Light comes from inside it. The air around it is filled with mist and incense smoke, upon which the light forms symbols, letters perhaps. The skull rotates to face me directly, and the light goes out. That’s not the end of my dream. I reach forward in the dark to find it – since after all, it is my skull – but instead I find a stone, whose weight falls into my hands. It feels at first like one of the large round cobbles from the old wall of the royal court. I hold it against my chest as though it’s protecting me, and the shape in my hands changes to feel more like the lodestone: smaller, smooth and crystalline variegated, yet still heavy. Then the stone breaks in my hands! I fall apart in that moment, as well. As it crumbles, so do I, and through the cracks shows a new, green light. I can see through my hands. I try to pick up the broken pieces, but my body has become spectral and I can’t touch anything. The new light grows, pieces of the stone crumbling away into nothing, and a strange dawn reveals a world I cannot see.

I woke up yearning, both missing and wishing, gently cradled in detachment like under a blanket of soft frost.

[From the Annals of Celeste, Magus the 24th]

– 17TH SEQUENCE –

– 67 –

Beloved, thou hast survived thine own experience; now you understand that which unjustly murdered many. Now you can see, and if you should find a grain of truth, then beloved, thou may join it to the others to form a picture they can know. They will not doubt thee, their dearest who remains. They may feel the indignation as to what brought this trial to you, that this may never again be so long as they breathe. Beloved, thou art the doorstep on which falls the words that they will hear. The key to opening their hearts will fall from your lips, to move their blood to their hands, that they may join and bar the way of destruction.

– 68 –

I believe thee thine intentions: that you wish to progress and further. I believe everyone in this group to be important, that each holds a part of the key. That which displays itself before our eyes, and instruments, shapes my belief in its undeniable elegance. I believe thee thine results, far-reaching and widely implicated, applicable everywhere and replicable in all corners. I believe we’ve figured out what we’re looking at! I believe of thee a true beginning, and that it will link you to your earnest allies by the extent of your effect. I believe thee deserving of a path both clear and guarded from attack. I believe you needn’t be worried by details other than that which can bring us to the threshold. Though I wasn’t sure until now what this is, I believe we may be the ones who will do this. I believe of thee the moment of impact.

5x Rerun: Abyss Surrounding (2) 61-63, 16th Sequence, 64

– 61 –

All four dragons were couched resplendent in simultaneous multiplicities of form; each doing all and more at once according to their type, they sat beneath, floated above, roosted in, and activated around their trees as their forms examined each others’ forms. They spent a while doing only that, noting details about each other. Then they began to talk about things that were different now.

Being of new growth and unfolding, Myricotl expressed sorrow at inevitable effects of the Viridian Phasing on the dimensional senses in this generative of newly occurring life developing in those areas. All would bear marks of it. ‘E couldn’t rectify it or tell what would happen, only that things would be coming out surprising where that wasn’t already the case. This kind of massive life-conditional shift was upsetting to Myricotl, regardless of whether it was a timely manifestation of a statistically natural stochasticity. Given an opinion, ‘e doesn’t wish to engage in it. Expected booms may not occur.

Ottokad’s conceptual parameters of interaction with the Pan-Galactic Imperium were going to change to inaccuracy while all this was happening. ‘E stopped working almost completely in the Imperium, and the one or two things to which ‘e could lend erself took a great deal of energy. One task might take half a day. Ottokad was certainly missed, but ‘e couldn’t take professional responsibility for work during the phasing if ‘e was participating. Organizing principles of integral structures would be in the usual hands while the dragon applied er efficacy elsewhere. Fixatives and cements wouldn’t be working as well, especially the ones based on eyvea. People would have to compensate for that.

Saga was quiet, mulling over contemplations without saying anything. The dragon looked faraway, listless and detached, holding er peace. This did not seem good to anyone. Where was the story? Where was it going? Saga watched them pointedly in silence, face serious but kind.

Though these weren’t all the dragons excluded by the phasing, they gave Arkuda better insight to ramifications and difficulties for those who were essentially locked out and deterred from their places, as a result of their not participating in the phasing tunes which altered the dragonroads.

It was so nice to see these three again. It hadn’t been such a while since previous meetings, but certainly longer and farther between. They matched scales with each other, turning their forms into various alignments. Scalepoints gleamed together like stars in the same sky. Their scales reflected the knowledge, realities, and life connections etched into that part of the dragon; they reflected these things to each other, matching pieces for new learning. They weaved around each other, together then apart.

A flower bloomed in Arkuda’s thoughts, denoting time’s arrival. ‘E quietly, unfussily left Golden Apple River.

– 62 –

The Hoopoe watched the freshly uploaded videos of the ‘Charged Filter’ transport. He and the three others who’d requested the sponge portion had determined the least alarming, yet fully accurate, name to call it. It was a filter, one that was sort of alive. As for the charge… well, barely anyone here knew exactly what they were doing. They just had to try things. If things didn’t go horribly wrong, none of it needed explaining to anyone until they’d accomplished something. The Hoopoe’s adolescent face showed excruciation watching every little action regarding the charged filter.

Silica sponges the size of palaces! There was always something he didn’t know yet about the great worlds, wise though his sixteen years had made him. They’d been discussing the possibilities for a lattice of specific and unusual parameters. Dr. Maryan Waters, the biologist residing at the Arch, asked them if they knew about this creature, as though they should.

So they would now use the charged filter, or figure out how to use it, or learn that they couldn’t use it. Wheehoo! The Hoopoe was motivated by a good income, even if he was essentially imprisoned; Lurinese miss their trees. He told them that he wouldn’t be as good with ideas if he stopped making music, so they let him bring his entire incredible sound system. They set up the shelving for it to take up his entire sleeping quarters, aside from sleeping surface. He accomplished more when he could have some fun, and he made quite a racket. Sometimes First AIDD would find the music and bust a groove in the doorway. That avuncular guy could really move.

The Hoopoe had a lot of official and unofficial uncles, aunties, cousins, sisters, and brothers who inhabited his house at different times. The Hoopoe’s own house, paid for with his own gains, built by family people and loved by the party. Where someone was cooking in the kitchen – Who? – Dunno. Where there was going to be music tonight – Which room? – Clara, top level. It was a proper Lurinese house, with connected levels on named trees. For a moment he envisioned a treetop rustling against a dark sky, stars peeking between underlit branches.

He kicked back onto his bunk facing his primary terminal. He didn’t have to keep up with every little thing at every little moment, really. This was only the highest pay, highest risk game he’d ever played with his and others’ futures on the line. A few paper shields held by powerful companies kept him in his own bunk, on a payroll, underwater, in ownership – instead of sharing a bunk, underground, on a juvenile roster, in liquidation. He looked above him at the equipment shelves. Having the music made a big difference.

– 63 –

Returning to the larger glyphscape of the Tabula Rasa, the Dragon Councillor looked around. There was another dragon present who would also be joining the next phasing shift, Rhizoa. Arkuda went to er and sang about the unfolding of a certain flower, and ‘e sang back about the unfurling of a specific leaf. Flower and leaf, together blooming and unfolding at this moment. The two dragons would each go to places far distant, one to the flower, one to the leaf; never were flower and leaf side by side, yet here on Tabula Rasa their songs were intertwined. These two places, along with the others, were the next activation corners of the Viridian Phasing spanning the Imperium.

Distancing once more, the Dragon Councillor picked an aesthetic perspective to look upon the heart’s-fire breath of delight, the luminous art that was glyphwork. Ephemeral thought naturally expressed to precise understanding; clear to the mind’s eye, a soothing balm of effortless communication at play, any dragon to all dragons. Only here. Hanging in the central space overhead, creature portraits from various parts of the universe sat or stood next to each other in a multiform lineup: evidence of a discussion on beings. Below was an amalgamated cluster of town and garden notions, from splendorous to spare, and glyphs noting other plainespaces. Nothing stayed still, for nothing was real; yet here, it was all that was real.

With that last heavy gaze, Arkuda descended directly back through er Gateway Stair. The dimension set which housed the Pan-Galactic Imperium became near, then evident, then manifest. The capital city of the planet Alisandre was nearby, and the sun was rising. The dragon eyed the flower which had bloomed, sentimentally noting its beauty. The flower’s sweet breath indicated news of all its neighbors: evergreens, head-wavers, long grasses, low crawling greens, climbing fiber, standing stem, branching reachers, and high-point markers. The dragon listened to their denizens, small and large, groundwalking and airborne. ‘E listened all the way toward the capital, the largest group of denizens in this forest. After absorbing for a moment into that cacophony, ‘e was ready to begin.

One breath after another, Arkuda as winged serpentine rose over the treetops. Similar to Arctyri’s rise over the Pyrean Midsummer vision, the dragon coiled upward and leveled to a circular toroidal path, with variances, and not exactly biting er tail as in classic art.

Between a caterpillar’s rustle, a murmuring airwave, and a quivering insect, Arkuda found a song: a diva ballad. From that, ‘e picked a sound frequency, and in the breeze through the leaves were two other songs with a similar frequency. Arkuda picked parts from the structure of these songs to focus on and play through. Music is a part of the universe that dragons know well, and linking songs with sounds was a matter of hearing and speaking. There is also plenty of broadcasted music over airwave spectra that are easily audible to dragons, who often communicate musically. Some dragons enjoy populated airwaves, and others don’t. Though fondness of music wasn’t necessary to project a phasing, Arkuda loved it.

‘E projected over the dragonroads which, in one understanding, are a combination of frequencies with spatial ties. Dragonroads are phenomena which naturally arise from life in the universe as it exists, like rivers. Dragons have different roads available to them according to what they embody.

The participatory inclusion of surrounding vegetation was necessary for power of broadcast, directional scatter, and stochasticity/randomness. Some dragons are better with plants than others, but their communicative properties can be harnessed with basic skill. The delicate angle of a leaf toward its favorite night star, the million tiny breathing mouths on the skin of the greenery, meristematic push from the inner upward flow of water, vibrato tremble under a breeze, the chlorophyll flush of light transformation; properties of plants throughout the galaxies were what transformed simple projection, akin to a phone call, into the Viridian Phasing.

Arkuda continued modulating projections until ‘e heard the echoes of like bouncing off of like. That meant current projections were now intersecting. Taking in the new sounds, ‘e worked via those as well. Arkuda kept ahold of the thread of progress, while losing track of the causal route, which was part of the effective process. Songs, sounds, and cues blended over each other until one couldn’t distinguish a garden from Genoe or Iparia, nor the origins of resonantly familiar songs. The Imperium’s dragonroad routes were thoroughly shuffled and sentried. The phasing also acted as a network of tripwires and response connections in event of hostility. All participants supported the phasing daily at agreed-upon randomized times. Some analogized it to compulsory karaoke.

At times, a dragon in phasing can see through into distances, a visual superimposition. Therefore, the blackgate that appeared in front of Arkuda in the dawning sky wasn’t overly suprising. It garnered an interested eye. Then, there was a slow scraping sound which tripped over something that struck, and a tiny spark of flame kindled beyond the blackgate. A whoosh of recognition blew over Arkuda’s form; this wasn’t a farseeing, but a nearing presence. ‘E continued to sing the phasing while shifting to a battle-ready hover.

This was the first dragon attack since the birth of Acamar, and Arkuda was more than happy to take the charge. The dragon’s approach possessed umistakable elements. Why would Ignivf act the fool and battle Arkuda in dawn? ‘E must have really missed er.

There was time for Arkuda to pulse a detailed alarm to the others before tornadoing mobius arcs of combustion drove er as far back as ‘e would go until whirling to one open side. IGNIVF, Ignivus, was here.

The brightness of Ignivus’ living spark outshone, while Arkuda’s encompassing radiance made Ignivus smaller. They feinted towards each other in torrential sparring, fractal edges of their power meshing and separating. The tender tops of trees beneath them singed, though nothing more kindled.

Then Ignivus found a strong grip on Arkuda, and wrenched free a long stripe of scales which hurtled to the ground as gold. Silvery-white ichor fell from the wound as Arkuda hissed in pain, coagulating into a dark red resinous mess as it dropped. Arkuda threw er head back once more to bugle distress across the phasing channels. A response was already underway.

The edges of the blackgate warped with color as their phasing found and took hold of it. Two of the phasing dragons were on the other side, while three remained in their places, upholding the greater Viridian Phase.

Ignivus was alone, so they didn’t call other dragons to bear. Some of the plants lending themselves to the Viridian Phasing were sacrificed, instantly dry-withering to create a frequency-manipulated energy lattice. This cast a portal-net across the blackgate, held by the two dragons on the other side. Arkuda felt er large wound burning as ‘e grew with the dawn light, keeping Ignivus at bay.

Sightlines to Alisandre Capital were clear, and humans were beginning to send air support. These were the Shield/Amp units that had been prepared. Arkuda’s aim, besides avoiding further injury, was to keep the pieces of conflict in alignment so it could be brought to a smooth close. ‘E acted as both target and prod, a distraction that Ignivus could not avoid.

The Shield/Amp units arrived and positioned themselves around Arkuda. Directionally transforming one kind of power to another, they absorbed blows of Ignivus’ power and sent it in translated waves to Arkuda. The units emitted confusing pitches that made them very hard for Ignivus to target. Arkuda used the added energy to keep erself and er foe separate and in position.

“They protect you now, do they?” Ignivus’ voice was achingly familiar. Arkuda was one of those that nurtured this one’s egg, contemplating er existence before ‘e ever spoke. “Remember… if they claim to protect you, they can just as well chain you.” As Ignivus spoke, the portal netting reached from the blackgate behind to entrap er. “Better prey than friends!”

“We’ve all learned so much together, Ignivf.” The blackgate shrank around the net, closing on a final burst of flame. “Maybe you’ll see.” Arkuda sank slowly into a pool of er own dried blood, listening to er beating heart.

– 16TH SEQUENCE –

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– 64 –

Another of my house falls away, or near enough to count; out of many Councillors, the closest of all of them to my granddaughter, also the only dragon among them. Having survived a near-fatal attack, Arkuda immediately resigned er post.

This changes everything, while everything is changing. Another Dragon Councillor must be found. With regards to our friend, a dragon has necessary prerogatives. The Magus dynasty survives with determination.

I think now on the painting, “A Window to the Past” by Earne Andem. The frame of the window stands somehow, despite the surrounding building being blasted or crumbled away. The skies all around are grey, but through the window shows clear blue. At times I resort to this window to secure a moment of peace.

Sturlusson (the younger) disappeared from his Cage of Eternity. I’m ready for him. I remember shaking his father’s hand, pup of a boy at his side. Now he wants to bring ruin, well… there can be ruin. Already, pillars are falling. My mood is shifting away from careful.

Descendant Successor for whom these records exist: in such times, you must be willing to unleash your power.

[from the Annals of Celeste, Magus the 24th]

 

5x Rerun: Abyss Surrounding (2) 56-60

– 56 –

The ones I don’t really get to see anymore, I miss them… some more than others. There are ways that I haven’t been like in a long time, ways we only are when we’re together. These counterpart-nerships are special to me and I feel lessened by their remoteness, that combination of their distance and existence. I feel an invisible dance from afar, knowledge of a time approaching.

There are dragons that have never appeared to the life forms of the Pan-Galactic Imperium, and are unlikely to ever do so. They are rooted elsewhere, and so unlike in form that Imperium sentients may not even be able to seek or meet them. All dragons can meet all dragons, not that they will or should. They can’t all live together, but they can all be together on the Tabula Rasa. The tiniest glyph, the smallest inkling of desire to communicate can be the anchor holding the space, and there is always at least that. The beautiful Tabula Rasa, Level Plaine – ever haunting to return, a place only of perpetual passing, a between-all.

Now the gulf widens, like a rearing back before the clash of horns, as dragons determine how they feel about all this – the release, the attack, the phasing. There are already great differences, and opposition. There shall be woe.

Arkuda remembers the previous, and only other, Pan-Galactic Imperium-centered dragon conflict. Now is the time to feel and gain strength, before the falling out robs what precious is left as things spiral outward and people become lost in the forces.

Love blooms and dies on the Tabula Rasa. Life changes, and so does the universe. Arkuda goes to observe the changes. ‘E feels scales tugging apart, as though losing someone identity-bound. This discomfort was anticipated going into the Viridian Phasing. Also, a spot of deadened scales is coming back to life, sometimes with a burning sensation. Arkuda remembers the Chainers, too.

A number of dragons were born after the War, as the wounded balance was corrected. New, old, exiled, abstaining, participating – Arkuda imagines cutesy figures of them jumping or flying into a shared zone and dancing together. The thought is so nice, ‘e imagines it twice. That’s how Tabula Rasa is supposed to feel, with the joy in anticipation. Despite the impending turmoil of an epoch, the dragon feels it now, like the newborn young. Every time, as if the feeling itself were a key to entry.

– 57 –

A dragon goes from being one thing to another, crossing various states of existence. These phases, ideas, and pieces of matter share a commonality – the dragon erself, sentient. Dragons exist in flux; not confusion, but flow and change. To create a ring of awareness through all their aspects as an individual, they go to Tabula Rasa, Level Plaine. Doing that means they are there, they can only do that there, and they must do that to be there: a wholeness of dragon that is a different and particular state of being.

Arkuda is the brightness of a sun, in simplicity and complexity; understanding er being as something received. Shining through and being shone through. Pure speed and crackle of raw photons traveling together, the particle-wave and refracted spectrum. Every datum of light cast from star-source to a living destination. It is impossible to contain the singing of er being, and that is the world. Naked and of the world in a place to be known beyond knowing, and to know beyond the known. Yes, ‘e lives in all of these things. ‘E is here.

The dragon creates a glyph beneath erself and opens er eyes. The glyph serves as a primary point of dimension; this one is an unremarkable point of blue flame. Arkuda is located above it, in all forms and all sizes with all aspects showing, such as can only be fully beheld by another dragon. Though there are plenty of possible solo occupations in this place, the nearby glyphscape is lively and populated.

The Tabula Rasa is undefined. Dragons in it use perceptually anchoring structures, known as glyphs. Glyphs appear as desired, can be seen or sensed, and they leave residual traces. They create and mark space, and like the dragons themselves while there, glyphs are all and any size.

Near and far, glyphs display themselves to Arkuda’s focus with perfect clarity. Regardless of their placement in relation, all are readable and correctly facing. More elaborate glyphs tell stories, give information, or signify more than a space marker. Present nearby in this part of glyphscape perception are two other dragons: Myricotl and Ottokad, self-occupied. Arkuda is painfully excited to see these two, who in abstaining from the Viridian Phasing have chosen soft exile. There are also a number of occupied glyphs, and one leaps to notice immediately: Saga Within, Welcoming One Other, Purple Lotus Waterfall.

Rather than accost those in reverie, Arkuda goes to see the one who, also dearly missed, waits in er meeting room. The Councillor reaches the glyph, fits erself into it, then is inside. The glyph changes to read: Saga-Arkuda Within, Sufficient, Purple Lotus Waterfall.

– 58 –

He’s not exactly supposed to be gambling while on errand, but he’s reserved a maverick moment for one such a non-occasion. The best time to break a rule is when nothing seems to be working. So, General Draig Claymore got into a poker game with strangers, after going to see nothing where nothing was supposed to be. He wasn’t protected, nor was he wearing anything officially identifying. He worked unrelated thoughts and feelings into his gameplay, just to see what that did, win or lose.

Draig’s stack of coins was slightly bigger than when he first began. He received gazes of mild confusion from his fellow players, as happens when playing Riverboat like an oracle. Not acting or thinking like he’s in it to win makes it a mystery when he does. In this fashion, the cards in his hand are known characters or elements within control, and the cards on the table are the circumstances. The cards in his hand react to the cards on the table. Draig wins this way approximately as often as when he plays to his prowess.

On the ship that had spotted the Princess, records were intact and frustratingly uninformative. Biometric positive for Soleil, Magus. Unidentified vehicle type. Totally unexplainable behavior. Subject vanished.

Hand after hand, Claymore middled around. This was a nice old place; a heritage hole, as he referred to them. There was no sign outside, but it was all documented and above board. It reminded him of a pub in the Capital called the Show Horse, with the thousand-year-old bar that predates spacefaring. The establishment he was in now had a little less memorabilia on the walls, though still a seemingly popular accommodation. The General’s contacts used this place often when in Dalmeera; the communications must be good here. From inside the kitchen he heard the sound of dishes being stacked one by one, rapid-fire. It was somehow more orderly than the usual clatter, and he liked the sound.

Joe the bartender brought Claymore another Hot Silver, calling him Gerald. Draig was drinking, too: double maverick. If he had too much for the evening, there was inn lodging underground, from when there was once a clandestine dormitory adjacent to the Scurry, Dalmeera’s historical tunnel network.

His thoughts were in outer space, somewhere around the Viridian Phasing point intersection. She – possibly the Princess – had been there, and then she wasn’t. There and gone, there… and gone. And, gone. What was that about? He’d been under the casual assumption that she was working to meet him halfway. Did she run? From him? Or from Derringer? Or from home? Did she mean to give them the slip, was she under a different danger, or was it terrible luck? Draig’s stack was still growing. He thought he would have lost by now.

– 59 –

Saga’s serpentine form was positioned throughout the waterfall, rainbow scales flashing over and beneath the water. Er head rested up top in the foam of the churning rapid cascading over the edge. Raising er gaze to meet Arkuda’s, Saga blinked softly and rose from place, glittering drops sheeting off er scales. Saga’s draconid humanoid also appeared on a ledge from behind the waterfall.

Arkuda stood at the edge of the purple lotus shore in humanoid; above, er serpentine mirrored Saga’s newly arisen position in midair, brightening like a cloud revealing the sun. Between them they released a tunnel of sound, replaying voices heard and things said between the times they’d seen each other.

The Councillor’s Imperial status was of no concern except as a topic of conversation. “Why do you bother taking anybody’s part?” asked Saga. “How is it worth it? Can’t you just go somewhere else and let them do unto themselves as they will. Shake their grip on your scales, you owe nothing.”

“They are written on your scales too, Saga. You love them more than most of us.”

“I can’t oppose kin this time.” Their serpentine shapes twined through the air without touching.

“Are you missing very much of yourself?” asked Arkuda.

“I feel distant in some ways, yes. I’m practically living on Level Plaine, which of course we can’t. But at least I get to see others in a remote, sort of empty way.” The space between their flying shapes narrowed as they circled and opposed each other in various dimensions. The setting pulsed vibrantly as lines of white radiance drew themselves in the air.

“How long must we be apart?” Arkuda understood that Saga was referring to the standing divides between all dragons, including the two of them.

“Until time’s tide changes its flow. The sea is rushing up to engulf the land. I must hold with these people, even against my kind, and not for the first time. They are a part of me, and you too; standing beneath a rockfall, and backed against a cliff.”

“Where they placed themselves.” The two flattened the coils of their flight against the glyphwork cliffs to either side of the waterfall, turning their heads to speak across the energetic rush. “I’ve been with them since beyond their known histories, but I don’t belong to them. Love as I may, I would hinder as hinder not. I have the rest of me to consider.” Saga lengthened, dipping er tailtip into the purple lotus pool. “Have you met with a returned exile?”

“No!” replied Arkuda defensively. Saga leveled a look at er, as though ‘e were clearly missing something. “Have you?” Arkuda returned the question.

Saga evaded the retort. “My presence wanes now in some of the places we know.”

“It’s not the same without you.”

“Of course it isn’t,” Saga said with an exasperated guffaw. “I’m just not taking a side this time, which is lonelier. But I am not alone. You saw the other Unphased outside?” Arkuda hummed affirmative. “I think we are all wanting to talk with you, if only to match scales again.”

“I am glad.” Gazing at Saga across the waterfall, Arkuda had little breath left to say more.

“Will you welcome the others with me by the Golden Apple River? So we may all have time and so that I might stay by you.” Arkuda nodded. Saga took hold of er finely crafted glyphscape, and the scene flowed away from Purple Lotus Waterfall, over and down to the banks of Golden Apple River: a shining orchard on a leisurely picnic slope where the current flowed past in natural rhythm. A river wide enough to get into, a cleansing wash.

The glyph’s exterior reading changed, and the two in reverie outside both noticed: Saga-Arkuda Within, Welcoming the Unphased, Golden Apple River. Ottokad and Myricotl entered in succession.

– 60 –

Video receipts from recent days of exploits began queueing in the display of Karma Ilacqua’s sunglasses, for send-to and replay.

More honking big knife switches for big power loads, from a custom fabricator she had gone over to babysit. During that rollicking week in a Pioneer Federet backwood, they also accomplished some playtesting on other custom parts in the shop. The way he put it, “You’ve got good skills, you like new things, and you’re risky.” He finished the order on time, and Ilacqua sent the cargo examination and handoff video to the department that talks to departments. They had actually sent the guy who uses the knife switches to receive them. He explained that he has this job because he’s a natural-born lever puller, and he knows how to put out the fires.

Then there was the cool tubing. This tubing was really cool; incredibly complex, awesome, cool tubing. The inventor explanation (full of her and Karma saying the word ‘tubing’ back and forth) was sent to two project overminds, to the general group of people who carry things, and to her separate archive of information that people might request from her again.

One roll of ‘charged filter’ was the most delicate shipment. Ilacqua received it as a closed container. The handling request was to keep it both electrically grounded and in suspension. It sounded like a car part for a computer inhabited by sentient dust. That was her best, wildest guess, and as far as she went with that. A series of process shots and setup transition videos were sent to the project’s quicklog.

Karma accounted for her ride with Derringer in straightforward fashion. She didn’t want to be targeted as a secret accomplice on a secret mission with secret expenses. She maintained her innocence, didn’t ask him any awkward questions, and he didn’t require any promises from her. How unusual; he’s practically zero headache. Like with the elevator escape. She’s never had to eject him.