119.1 \ 311

This is something that this ancient Dragon had never done before, one eye on the Fray and one eye in the Tabula Rasa, lending an ear to both, scribbling glyphs with a tailtip. Even a life as long as this continues to be interesting. In this moment, Arkuda shared an actual physical place with Saga on a planet, while they both hosted the same corner of the Tabula Rasa where they related with other unaffiliated Dragons. Arkuda split er perception between the Kao-Sidhe lawyer-pundits and the exiled Red Nexus Dragons inhabiting a separate part of the plaine, brazenly willing to talk with the newly unaffiliated ex-Councillor.

Arkuda had done it this time – signed off from the Viridian Phasing and gone out into the unaffiliated universe, leaving the Pan-Galactic Imperium. This held the best possible likelihood of brokering some form of resolution, so ‘e went to see if ‘e could find it where ‘e hadn’t yet dared go. It all came together, in that moment, when crossing into that zone. Found those of good connection, those who would open the way, who had been thinking similar thoughts. They were here and as ready as Arkuda for whatever would happen next.

These worlds were different; these worlds also deserved presence. The unaffiliated Dragons had been variously welcoming in areas of the Tabula Rasa. When Saga offered assistance with structured communication, it was a crowning benediction that gave Arkuda full motivation of pursuit. Depending on the outcome, this could be the last thing the Dragon sunlight ever does for the Pan-Galactic Imperium; a love letter, a farewell note, one last try for people Arkuda had been aiding for an age or two. This Dragon had often grown fond of people that love working with er, again thinking back to the folk that named er a dog-horse.

118.3 \ 310

Pliskin nodded carefully as he accepted the chip from Princess Soleil. “Mm-hm. Okay.” He was giving her plenty of credit. He wasn’t there to make argument or take control; he didn’t need to in order to get something, because she was here to give something. If they exited this situation in one piece, that would be good. “A few of the properties I’m dealing in may have immediate market impacts that reach you, wherever you might be. I am very pleased to meet you, Princess Ascendant Soleil, Magus. You can call me Ravl, or Pliskin, or The Ravl Pliskin. Would you like to let me know if there is any weight of interest related to your endeavors?”

Soleil took a pause to assess the invitation, and decided that divulging a fragment might give her an ace in the hole, somewhere along the way. “Vibrational sciences,” she said.

Just then, an unexpected sight greeted them at the windows. A small riderless vehicle unlike any in human manufacture bobbed in the air outside the top floor of the building, where it could get their attention. Though it looked as if it were trying to blend in, it also flashed its name repeatedly in its outward display.

MOONSHADOW
MOONSHADOW
MOONSHADOW

“Moonshadow!” exclaimed Soleil. “Oh, wow – can we get this… buddy, somewhere safe…?”

“This is your buddy?” asked Pliskin, curiosity strongly piqued.

“This is my mount,” answered the Princess. Karma nodded to Ravl.

“And you,” he addressed to Karma, “also know her buddy?” Karma nodded again. “And I… could meet this friend of yours.” His thoughts worked quickly. “There’s a balcony on the other wall, with slide-open panels. It could scooch right in.”

“Onto the tile?” Soleil shrugged off her own consideration; Moonshadow floats, and didn’t look dirty. “It is intelligent,” she said with a tone of caution, “and well behaved.”

“Good, good. Yes,” was the reply. With a flutter of breezes, Moonshadow made a polite entrance, turning on its rainbow lights when it came inside.

“You can talk to it if you like. It is an it, according to it.” Soleil let Ravl have a mini freakout, exchanging pleased introductions with the vehicle. With a play of fondness over her face, the Princess unzipped her suit’s glove compartments, shook out the vacuumed control gloves and slipped them on. She walked up and laid glove to handlebar, and Moonshadow pulsed warmly. “You can explain later,” she said to the sled. To Pliskin, she said, “You have the information I’ve given you.” He nodded, and petted the machine where she gestured that he may pat. To Karma, she said, “I’ll go my own way from here. Thank you for being in touch.” She engaged the connections and awakened additional systems. Soleil rolled out the hood in the suit, got it form fitted over her head, extended the hardening visor and pulled it down. She turned on the Vedani suit’s chameleon camouflage. Against the sky, she looked slightly transparent and reflective, a fully covered and essentially invisible rider. “Let’s go, Moonshadow my friend.” Out through the opened section doors, they flew together.

118.2 \ 310

The two exited the flyer and crossed the rooftop toward an entrance to the top level. “I actually am pleased to see you again so soon,” said the other. When they got inside the hallway, Karma kindly averted her eyes so that Soleil could adjust her projection to show herself as herself. In this provided, private space, she had decided to meet Ravl Pliskin face to face, to see if she could initiate some helpful arrangements. She wore her Vedani piloting suit plainly. Next to her, Karma Ilacqua was in fresh togs and well-heeled boots. “You really know how to make things happen.”

“Thank you, it is my chosen profession. This also precipitates a rare opportunity to meet with my boss. I haven’t seen him for a while, but in my experience he’s been easy to talk to, a good communicator. Go ahead and deliver it straight, whatever you’re coming to say or ask. He can handle it.” Wasting no time, Karma prompted their progress down the hallway. They went smoothly and without too much hurry.

They reached a windowed atrium, where Ravl Pliskin stood sipping from a glass of water. He turned and took a few steps to meet them. Looking Princess Ascendant Soleil in the eyes, Pliskin said nothing, standing ready to listen. He asked no questions, and made no remarks or unnecessary implications. Ilacqua saw that he didn’t trouble with niceties, and also left the air clear for the Princess. Soleil smiled with relief before taking a breath to speak.

“You have a very large deal or set of deals underway. I myself witnessed the final results, for what I could understand of them. You also have powerful holdings that may be affected by dramatic shifts in associated markets. Much is changing as we speak. Your subsidies can aid or slow the systems dependent upon them. I know that you know all these things, but I am reiterating, for you, my knowledge of them; so you may understand from whence this thought process originates.” Ravl nodded with clear understanding. Soleil produced an encased chip and presented it before her. “I made you some charts and graphs. These may communicate to you the market factors I can perceive from the information I have learned. These are for you, specifically. I can say this to you right now: buy at a bargain, sell at a premium.”

118.1 \ 310

“I got the data at the Women in Business Relief Assistance afterparty. It was heavy and hush-hush, but each one teach one. My state-of-the-art Iljen prototype minicom figured it out without a problem, so I’ve had this really reliable side channel for a little while now. I know that some of us began to inquire into its origins, and it spoke back – or, the admins spoke through it. Maybe a little bit of both; it was a nominal and mysterious introduction. I felt that I might be seeing something interesting come from this little gadget. Then a verifiable communication from an agent of an agent bearing one of your seals, requesting to activate receptivity through a secret line built in. I decided this would be worth participation.” Karma Ilacqua broke into a smirk. “So that came from you in the first place, did it. Didn’t we just see each other?”

117 \ 309

The finest remaining ships held a tight formation in stasis around the royal family’s secure bunker ship in deep space. When they’d exited the Imperial court starting on their way here, they’d put on a show of going on a short vacation. They waved goodbye to people, and made shallow promises of prompt return. The ships that escorted them into space were a heavier force than the usual detail. Not just a guard, but a final guard.

King Proxem Grant Vario was pilot of the family’s vessel, with the younger of his daughters and two sons inside. He had decided on a textbook strategic withdrawal in accordance with the defensive strength still present after the devastation of the Photuris Vortex, the city shutdown zone attacks, and the fleet wipe. They could muster an adequately impenetrable defense for the lineage, and Vario decided to do so before anything compromised that. This kind of extreme threat to the royal family had happened only very few times in the history of the Pan-Galactic Imperium. Grant Vario was sullen.

Little Carlo looked at his father thinking of asking him to play, then thought better of it. Instead, he took on his father’s mood and turned it on him. “Why is everything so weird,” he said with little expectation of response.

His older sister Mireille intercepted the communication for everyone’s sake. “Carlo, we’re in grave danger.”

“Well, where is it?”

“Everywhere,” said their brother Cristobal, “The danger is everywhere, but here.” He was poring over some files he brought that otherwise held his attention. He would occasionally lift a glance to his father, his sister, and his brother. He was also doodling in his notebook.

Mireille refrained from asking her father what he was doing about it. He did not look entirely well. Instead she asked, “King my father, can you show me the next flight system?” They’d already been over the first two emergency getaway protocols, making sure that Mireille also knew how to control this vessel.

They started going through the functions of a row of knobs. Vario looked at his daughter, and considered her maturity regarding the possibility of being next in the line. Her sister may not return, and he himself might not make it through this. Nineteen wasn’t the youngest age in their dynasty for the unexpected burden. Vario’s reckoning was at hand, and the math wasn’t working out well for him, no matter which way he turned the equation. Something would be coming for him. It might get the kids, or it might not. He knows he got some things wrong, really wrong, but he’d been holding onto his justification. He told himself he was serving the Imperium; he told himself he was serving his family; looking at them now, quietly enduring this floating bunker, he wonders if he might only be serving himself at this point. He hates it, enough to want to lie to himself some more. The feeling that he couldn’t keep doing that any longer told him that the world he knew was coming to an end.

She’d flown before, but in this circumstance, everything was happening for the first time. Princessa Mireille focused and learned the controls.