9 \ 191

Within the aetherscape behind Uixtr Xkcd’s closed eyes, during a moment of stillness he was able to secure while traversing this unfamiliar distance, he accessed a personal message node which possessed certain formal criteria. It was the Vedani habit closest to encryption. Unique filtering of the aetherscape was a personal trait similar to physical appearance. The message needed to be formulated specifically to Uixtr, not multi- or widecast; it needed to be single-author, not anonymous or conglomerate, and of a minimum familiarity of association in public quanta; of linear fashion, not fragment-pieced, and of information density significant to Uixtr’s set threshold. Someone needed to know to send this specific kind of message in order for it to land in Uixtr’s node, which would reject any other form.

This time, there was one. Uixtr dissociated from his environment as he examined communication that linked him to his people while he was alone from them. It was from Oibhn Clnr. The message emerged from an interrelation of referential indicators, a meta-layer of information that described the context of the missive, while indicating how the foreground communication arises with a connector diagram fed by live related data. With Vedani communication, ‘linear’ did not refer to spatial arrangement of symbols, but that one item preceded another in following or prioritized logic. From its contextual constellation, this linear message stretched, waved, and morphed from one item to the next.

OIBHN: We’re done using up the rolls of grey foam. Only one tuning polygon remains in Imperium space. At first the scavengers were the usual private-interest suspects, then a new one to note, appearing solo. Then came various investigators, then investigators accompanied by military escorts, who remained posted. They may or may not have noted the distribution throughout every federet and nearly ever galaxy. Probably not all of the placement data belongs to the same sources. They seem unaware that we’ve achieved full coverage, or if they know, then they still haven’t figured out the office machines. To their credit, they might. We now have wide pluralities of transanchor coordinates, having developed additional capacity and new capabilities. Our system administrators have sharpened their skills and are ready with the upper hand. They’re not going to know what’s hitting them, but we’ll spell it out. Our signal will be impossible to ignore.

8 \ 190

The First Abyssal Inverse Dwelling Designer (First AIDD) had another innovation to add to the hidden private research station informally known as the Arch; not the first time this had been the case since it was active and inhabited. This generally reassured residents, as though the place couldn’t be falling apart if First AIDD Arjun Woollibee had time and resources to be coming up with something new.

He’d gone through various corridors hanging a type of minimal conduit, sticking it up like a holiday decoration. Arjun traded interestingly awkward smiles upon eye contact, being sure to alert the people in charge of each area that this was his intentional element in process. He was mostly able to proceed without additional questioning – he didn’t prefer to explain things before he’d gotten them working, and many understood this about him.

Back at his control base, he broadcasted a drill signal before he threw his lever. Along the conduits, the wavelength spectrum of genuine, not simulated, sunlight filled the halls. Benevolent ghosts of lost Anzi! After doing a personal victory jig right then and there, Arjun emerged for an applause stroll.

He was not disappointed, as everyone was delighted. In a larger chamber where the sunstrips glowed, someone in the congratulatory group asked how he’d gotten sunstrips to work through the profound abyssal layers of Foshan’s deepest oceans. “It’s a transmission. A particular pulse parts the water in an atomic scale stream, allowing in photons of natural daylight above. The pulse remains continuously connected with a current that keeps the conduit steady around the photon packeting, traveling between synchronized waveform coding inherent to the vibrative and receptive surfaces. We’ll receive the same daylight that shines above, with the same spectra, levels of natural intensity and times of rising and setting, as sunstrips normally work. And while we have the sunlight, we also have communications open to priority.” A moment of quiet while that sank in, then the room erupted in cheers.

Arjun walked back into his office eyes closed, both relishing the moment and feeling a drop in achievement adrenaline that heralded a sweet rest to follow. As he heard the door seal, he opened his eyes, and was as surprised by the sight in his office as people were about the sunlight in the halls.

7 \ 189

Bassel Ayo

Ionos Capital

– How have you felt since returning home?

– How are your friends and family treating you?

– Would you say that readjusting has been easy or difficult?

– Do your affected senses seem better, worse, or the same as before?

– Have you changed activities since your illness? If so, what has changed?

– When you think of Pyrean Midsummer, how do you feel?
Pyrean Midbummer

– What do you think of the care provided by the Imperium?

6 \ 188

Raev lounged against the couching curve of the alcove, where he was viewing a covert signal extraction of imperial news programming in purple tint. He’d had a full day of instructing novice plumber-technicians in the new wing. This included a couple messes, because in all honesty, it had been a while since he’d been top teen helper for the plumbing at the Hirylien refugee situation. He had gotten really good at it though, even working with scraps. This time they had the good material in quantity, and they just had a smashing success with the simultaneous flush. Despite all their similarities to Humans, Vedani do not excrete solid waste, so this had been an exciting sociological foray.

In the little warping broadcast, the new King Proxem was making declarations about danger and safety. He urged people to take care of home, reminding them that they are, of course, the best that ever was.

All of this just kills Raev a little more, groaning as he collapses further. He then propped himself back up with an offensive gesture from his home planet.

Looking at each one of the attending royal children, he considered what was known about Mireille, Cristobal, and Carlo. He had a dad when he was Cristobal’s age, too. They’d look different if they knew what he’d done. It bothered him a little that he didn’t have a plan for them, though that was probably for the better.

Raev’s eyes drooped balefully at this guy in the image with his important persona, trying to look competent and real. Sturlusson could read the policy transitions between lines of speech, shifts after the passing of Celeste. Oh, Raev had hated her so much. Still, he might hate Vario more, knowing whose counsel and implementation were most critical in the massacre of his home world by biological warfare.

These wounds were starting to feel older, now. Surprising… maybe something had changed. Just then, a message reached him. Oh – it’s this one. Sturlusson hadn’t heard from er for a while, but remembered the conditions for next contact from the Red Nexus dragons. He considered the possibilities and reformed his sinews, exhaling exhaustion before giving this his attention.

5 \ 187

Vanessa Udar, 13

Ionos Capital

– How have you felt since returning home?
I feel like I’m better, but I’m not sure. I test myself, maybe push a little harder to prove I’m doing as well as before. That might make things feel harder, like I’m harder on myself. I get tired sometimes. Didn’t I always get tired sometimes?

– How are your friends and family treating you?
I caught it, and so did my brother and my mom. My dad didn’t, and he’s been giving us special treatment since. Sometimes I don’t like it, and I wish things were just the way they were, whether or not my nostalgia is real. I try pretending it didn’t happen, but that doesn’t last long. Our friends brought food to the house, and welcome home gifts.

– Would you say that readjusting has been easy, or difficult?
Even though everyone’s so nice, I get down in the dumps sometimes. It’s not always easy. I start thinking about questions I can’t answer. Sometimes I stab the wall with knives and that helps me feel better! It’s an easy fix, and no one has a problem with it.

– Do your affected senses feel better, worse, or the same as before?
I don’t know. Better, maybe? Or I’m just growing up.

– Have you changed activities since your illness?
Knife stabbing of walls is the only slightly disturbing thing. I also now take a rowboat into the pond at the park, after school twice a week for an hour. At first I just floated around, but now I row more.

– When you think of Pyrean Midsummer, how do you feel?
I might skip the next one.

– What do you think of the care provided by the Imperium?
It’s the best anybody could have hoped for. Including this follow-up, which is a very caring thing.