14.1 \ 196

All were waiting in the hold. Drift X was parked. Captain Wendel had just explained that this was no longer Drift 9, and the ship had graduated a number – but it would use the Auld Numeral, and would also be pronounced like the letter x, because that was the cool way: Drift X. She added that if a star road had ten or more drifts along it, someone might find her in the tenth drift from any given direction.

They were parked on a planet where none of these humans had ever been, though Dragon Food and Rosy Glow, the Kao-Sidhe, and Uixtr, the Vedani, stated some level of familiarity with the people of this place, who they said hadn’t left their planet. The space scooter named Moonshadow was excited to be here for the first time. Captain Wendel Harper, Toller, Derringer, and Ascendant Princess Soleil were preparing themselves for the unexpected with a likely possibility of hostility.

Getting here, Uixtr had communicated with Moonshadow, while Rosy Glow communicated with Moonshadow & Drift X, who communicated with Wendel. After the recent modifications, Drift X was now a little more like the person Wendel had always treated it. They’d flown into a rocky hole. Inside there was a plateau, near which there were more holes going further down into another stratum.

The Kao-Sidhe held a pep talk now that everyone was gathered. “These are the friends we mentioned, Soleil,” said Dragon Food, looking adventurous today.

“Humans can’t hear most of their speech. They talk on a different wavelength.”

“Another frequency.”

“I can help with translation,” stated Rosy Glow in a soothing tone.

“I hope you are prepared to be unready for the experience of meeting them.” That was approximately accurate. “They are more ready than you know.”

With a nod, Wendel punched a big button with her fist to open the hold door. Lowering, it revealed giant smooth charcoal trees with gnarled roots like claws. Or, gnarled claws like roots. These massive front limbs extended up past the lintel of the doorway. Natural light was present, but dim. A large wet bundle fell to the ground in front of the lowered hatch.

Uixtr walked out and picked up the bundle, bringing it back to them and opening it on the floor. He pulled out two wet cloth bandanas for every humanoid. “Tie both of these around your breathing orifices. It’s just water. This will protect you from an atmospheric corrosion to which we are susceptible, myself included. We won’t need to wear them for very long.” He folded his pair diagonally and tied the corners behind his head, above the silver plait at the nape of his neck. The rest did likewise, eyeing the trunklike limbs as they parted in giant steps to leave a small clearing outside the hatch.

“I’m going to go somewhere else now. Bye.” Dragon Food bowed splendorously with a finishing flourish to his love. Rosy Glow blew him a kiss as his form disappeared in place into some unglimpsed dimensional distance. With a bloom of color, she then gestured the others toward the outside of the ship. They went.

13 \195

This was sooner than Draig had expected to encounter home turf conflict, though of course, it could happen during any General’s tenure. This was in fact happening under every General in current office, because there was not one federet without multiple occurrences of signal takeover shutdowns.

There weren’t yet any physical injuries, save for mild societal self-inflictions. Economies were certainly suffering. Immediate response was naturally to protect citizens as in a hostile situation, even if the scales hadn’t tipped.

They were going to have to do something very soon. Test attacks. They had to. This couldn’t be an indefinitely inactive situation – this was the incontrovertible opinion of King Proxem Vario, and General Claymore as his lead advisor was unable to naysay it. Draig wondered if anyone called him Grant anymore, now that his partner Charlotte the Queen Ascendant had died in battle without him. Though his children were Magus, his family was honored by way of his title name. That was what everyone called him. Those who disagreed with his ruling decisions did away with his title and just called him Vario. Like Sturlusson. Not so malicious, but grumblers spoke of heavy-handedness, and he fell under a growing shadow of suspicion. King Proxem Vario showed no sign of letting it bother him.

From his desk, Draig gazed at his mother’s photography of famous Capital buildings while he ran down his mental list of action preparedness demands. A lot had been assembled on the shortest of notice. They had triangulators; reflectors; shields; disruptors; amplifiers; sonics; projectiles; fire of many kinds; and steel. They also had steel.

WorldCon Dublin program

The following are my program items at WorldCon 77 Dublin:

Autographs: Friday 11:00a
Kaffeeklatsch: Eva L. Elasigue
Trailblazer: Anne McCaffrey’s legacy and legend
Blowin’ in the wind: SFF and counterculture
Music and instruments: then, now and otherwhen

Look me up if you’ll be there. I’m so pleased we’ve SOUL’D OUT attendance for this event! Fine times we live in.

12 \ 194

Almost overnight, the city of Alisandre Capital had been plunged into martial law. Some said it was no surprise, with her father King Proxem Vario’s military background. Ideas had since arrived to Mireille regarding how she might respond as an authority in this situation – but firstly, situations are unique and do not replicate under changed factors. Secondly, she was not at this juncture supposing that she had a more capable or knowledgable mind to lead than her father. Thirdly, while her older sister Soleil may still be missing, Mireille was not really yet harboring any claimant feeling toward her position. That would mean giving her sister up for lost. She was, however, beginning to think that she should prepare her mind, so her mind went there more often.

These new restrictions meant that the royal family was living a little less connected than they were accustomed. Though influx and outreach wasn’t necessarily the predominating theme in the children’s lives, the shift into a state of fear brought with it an instant sense of claustrophobia. Mireille’s younger brothers were more restive, and she spent more time with them. She added in some interim education. She herself was currently studying a cross-sectional history focused on initiatory contacts, which she paraphrased for them. The degree of mystery in this current conflict reflected an element of these occurrences. Something distinguished it from Sturlusson’s – Hirylienites really, though emphatically not all Hirylienites – Phronium Triangle doings, even though that was a leading popular opinion. People leaped to patriotic defense upon the rumor of an accustomed foe, even if many doubted he would even be mentally viable after the stillfreeze. As the story began to change, people retained most of their defensive motivation.

News was now being mainly delivered via furtive disclosures of gathered intelligence inside small rooms, and not really for the children. Mireille had recently seen one of her mentors, Councillor Lysander whose partner was a retired Vanguard officer. His time was spent mostly elsewhere now, but when he did speak with Mireille, he would sigh and often seem to hesitate as though he couldn’t figure out how to tell her something. Oddly selected factoids from different periods in the lives of her mother, grandmother, and father began drifting into the topic focus without any particular segue or reason. Mireille wasn’t exactly sure what she was picking up from that.

Countercultures of surmise expressed argumentative divides regarding the portal transmissions. Over the antiquated and clandestine communication platforms still available, debate bounced around. Some were called dumb while others were called loony. Followers of either camp did research to confirm their pet theories, continually refining or contradicting. Mireille didn’t identify with dumb or loony, but she felt sufficiently alarmed and intrigued. She was aware that her viewpoints were necessarily constrained by her status.

The Princessa climbed out of her sleepless bed and stepped toward the window of her bedchamber, gazing into the nearest flickering window portal in the air. Some said that they were revealing state secrets. Some believed they’d been here all along. The image before her now resembled an old photograph in some way, a texture. She saw the recurring people shapes that were dubbed the Strangers, but also some people with more familiar human proportions. What were they doing? Images in the portals were gaining in clarity and correlation, but Mireille could discern little else to this right now. She was able to imagine the guesses already, unsure yet which were her own. It certainly held the fascination, under the current state of media starvation.

Princessa Mireille decided it would be worthwhile to start a unit for her brothers comparing portal theories to histories. She could already think of something they might want to ask their father. It was too bad they couldn’t also ask Grandmaria Celeste.