103.1 \ 295

“Someone on the phone for you by the name of Pleiades Nutts. Do you want to answer?” The bartender looked inquiringly at the patron on the end gazing out through the window. Her name was on her tab, and he’d seen her a few times.

“Oh, sure.” Marian Waters accepted the cordless and turned away from the bar to talk. “Hey you, rascal.” Back during the research, she and the boy had a lunchtime talk about their respective deep histories. He’d given her permission to call him rascal. Marian was one among the crew who had made him their little brother.

“Do you ever feel like things are too quiet?”

“Of course, sometimes.”

“…I like it, actually. I fight back with beautiful noise that I call music.”

“I do wonder about what’s going on out there. Like what they’re doing with that place, and maybe where she is and what she’s doing.” They spoke without defining context, as though the other person were supplying the details. The place was mostly empty at this early afternoon hour, so Marian didn’t rush the conversation.

“Haha, yeah, it’s all a big mystery now.” The Hoopoe had his glib tone on the level.

“We live lives of mystery,” replied the older woman in a dramatically wise voice – actually her nature documentary voice.

“That’s what I needed from you when I called. A mountaintop perspective.”

“You actually bring them out. I’m glad you’re forgiving of the occasional pontification.”

“I’m known for that myself, in other circles. So…” the Hoopoe trailed off, aimlessly content, “… I guess that’s all for now.” Marian Waters smiled as she hung up the phone and handed it back to Joe the bartender. She hadn’t expected to be in Dalmeera, but when they decided on her location she was glad she could visit some of her favorite weird fish again.

The Hoopoe steadily sucked on a smoothie. The nice lady at the counter let him use the phone as much as he liked. Next, the young man called Steinman, who also accepted the call from Pleiades Nutts. “So, living the dream?”

“It’s a dream, alright.” Arys was all gin and wry and other things in the right amounts.

“How long do you think we’re going to get by like this?”

“Have you been watching the normal news?”

“I don’t know, a little?”

“Well, we might Be Able To relax for a while. There’s a lot of moving and shifting going on, everywhere. For now, it’s not us. We got a really good package. We’re lucky people.” The mathematical programmer felt a detached sympathy for the boy’s masked restlessness. “You got a new song?”

“Actually yeah, I think I just finished one today.”

MisCon Mischief

Gosh, a lot happened. There were some good exchanges over the spotlight table, and we had a wild time in Let’s Build A World.

I also went fine dining with Guests of Honor Isaac C. Singleton, Jr., Dragon Dronet, et. al.:

I also got to wear some Renegade Effects props from Dr. Strange & the Multiverse of Madness (the slingy was on set):

My gender-bent Spyyke Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop) ran into another classic Spike, and uh, Magneto (Tristan & John). Crossover: Spike Strange?

I’m booked next for AwesomeCon comic con in Washington, D.C.! Artist Alley table J04.

102 \ 294

The Dragons Arkuda and Acamar split off from Soleil’s carried being like petals falling off a flower, depositing her in a place – one where she had landed from elsewhere before, that was vivid in her memory, that they both could find and reach with that information. With her where she needed to be, the two Dragons went their separate ways instantly via their own dragonroads.

Arkuda in sun, in fire, in warmth, absorption, reflection, power, time, space, kindling. It was there, where Arkuda’s element transformed into something related but distinct, that a communication ripple bloomed, catching er fascination. There was a matter that needed to be discussed. As the ripple evolved, it became clear that this was more than a transitory exchange, with more than a circumstantial collision of elements. There was a concrescent occurrence underway, and Arkuda acknowledged purpose in this. There was some talking that needed to be done at the heart of this matter, Dragons to Dragons, and then other important parties would need to participate in the results.

101 \ 293

Piloting the Arch was more like a spaceship than a boat. It was designed primarily for the journey from surface to base, but was capable of handling sustained currents. The volunteer crew was down to Claymore, Woollibee & Woollibee, Onk the electrical engineer, and a gung-ho member of lab cleaning staff who knew the building and supplies. Everyone else had boarded some form of transport – Drift X with the top targets, company shuttles for the rest. At the helm, they creatively utilized the attractive and frictionless force fields for turbo action. The mass force form physics had a weird but elegant set of controls that Leryn Onk understood well, having been in charge of levers and switches. Draig had infected them with the idea, and had enough means to a plan to act like there was one. These people were ready for this leg of adventure. It was their fuck-you after having to cower through their moment of triumph; a sanctioned joyride.

Draig enacted the parameter protocol for the nearest out of range and defensible situation. He’d always been able to ace this type of maneuver. It was a natural protector ability. As soon as they could split after the deboarding, they took their head start across the Foshani ocean, leaving no window for Foundational search opportunities.

With the approval of his compatriots, Draig was pretty sure that he wanted to lure any hostile patrols with a pointed surfacing. They were both the most valuable and the least valuable piece on the board now, and he was certain that it was important to give the others a shot at a clean getaway.

The other four joined him regularly at the peak bridge. They stared avidly into the rushing abyss.

100.2 \ 292

The ladies had taken their first few bites of Leyga’s hearty improvised dish, when an unfamiliar yet familiar knock landed on Navann’s door. Exchanging a concerned look with her guest, the retired nurse went to answer. Isten pushed in gently through the crack, looking and smelling like he’d been camping. There was a hint of rose perfume. Spoon in hand, Leyga screamed silently. Isten, smiling calmly, was ready to embrace his mother. Navann shut the front door.

“You’d just left our apartment when I got back, and this is the first other place I checked. I’m okay! I’ve just been through a lot, but it’s going to be okay. It was important, and I’m fine. I love you. I’m back.” Once emotions settled beneath his reassuring litany, Leyga figured out that her son had grown up. Her wonder overtook her alarm, and she let him talk.

The older women took a seat, and Isten stood hovering at the edge of the table while he aired his state of being. “Some of us went and met the Strangers, and we joined thousands of people to neutralize a bioweapon held in development by the government. The Strangers are called Vedani. They wanted to do that with us, and for us – I guess some kids came up with it, both kinds of kids, and there were Aquarii that joined us.

“They’re a lot like us, more like us than the Aquarii, and really different. There were also some Aquarii there. Anyway, I’m not trying to convince you, and you don’t have to convince anyone. Everybody’s going to know.” The two listening at the table were taken aback, and coming to terms. “It was a really good trip, actually. We did it. Being younger, me and my bros were chosen for an early group to get sent homeward. I took that offer because I didn’t want to make you wait.”

Leyga’s hands were fixed around her bowl. This sank in for half a beat, and she lifted the bowl toward her son. “Do you want to eat?” The food was still warm enough.

They both laughed, and all three laughed. “Yes. Thank you.” Isten began stuffing his face.