69.2 \ 251

Vaulting over a tree was only as high as a balance beam to this robot suit. She could do that, easy. Aquarii didn’t have to vault over trees, did they? It was a matter of this particular being’s particular form of entry at this time, unguided. It was this body, this moment, this path. The Vedani-Human development team explained in the pilot training sessions that it would be different for all of them, so they didn’t learn the path – they learned how to take the path that would show itself.

There was a distinct point when the mekani passed through an invisible spatial plane which Chrysanthe could feel, like parting a gauzy curtain. From where she landed on the other side, the whole night looked different. It was hard to say exactly how, but it looked like a nicer night, on a better day, in a newer time.

There was one mourner present at the edge of the Grove. The teal-shelled Aquari stood from where she was kneeling, stunned to see the giant mech appear, bubble on top with a human child inside. The pilots had been told not to mind or harm any mourners; they would be few, and they wouldn’t fight if not attacked. With the recent loss of the Symbias, Aquarii didn’t have much fight, and Groves are sacred places. Doing the work quickly should be no trouble. Night gardening. Stab the vajra dagger like a trowel into the center of the Grove, where there would be plenty of clear space now after the burning. Sink the entire hollow-pointed blade up to the handle, the strength of the suit would make it easy.

Santhie roared like a destroying angel over a toy landscape, and with both hands, reared the implement over her head and sank it into the earth. Smooth, like butter.

Quiet, plus a few sparks. Then she stepped back as a lightning figure shot up from the handle, describing a magnificent Symbias tree: wise, beautiful, great, knowing, loving, and alive. The mourner fell back down to her joints. The image lingered, fading slowly. Before the imprint disappeared entirely, some steam escaped from the top of the squared vajra handle, splitting the elemental generation chamber open on all sides. A bright green start caught the moonlight on its leaves, small but strong, and singing. The suit could hear it singing because it was able to register that music. The mourner could hear it sing because she knew that familiar song.

Chrysanthe gathered her senses and did the flip that blinked her out of the Grove and to the retrieval throughport.

69.1 \ 251

She was the youngest of the bunch, at almost eight, but perhaps the most tireless. It had been difficult for the adults to agree to allow her on this stunt, but the combination of her top practice marks under cool self-control and the low-to-zero conflict of this particular action gave her backing when she put her foot down – the foot that could control a gigantic teleporting armor weapon.

As soon as she hit the ground of the Aquari planet Sussuros, the music began. Chrysanthe followed the music. Created collaboratively with the etheric Symbias, it was the means of communication with the environment required to locate a Grove. Subtle reverberatory qualities altered the mech’s sensory inputs so that it could find the path to the nearby Grove, the way Aquarii could when they sang their way to it. The daggerlike device sheathed at her hip also resonated, which strengthened the communication with the charge of intent to live.

Santhie received augmented visual direction of path indicators through the savannah. It was just like a floor routine; she didn’t move around as much in her elevated chamber, but the mechanized form that her body controlled moved further in a leap than she ever could. There was even a little more leeway in execution than a competition routine, since not every step needed to be just right, except for some parts which would ask for a special move. She wore her performance smile, which always helped her be her best! Her dad had done her bun nice and tight.

68.2 \ 250

Uncle Bo was wearing a knee wrap made with some adaptive Vedani material. He prodded Vanessa’s suit at the shoulder. “I tried to beat you at this, you know. If I could, it would be me going.”

“It’s okay. None of the adults beat the kids at this. It was our idea. We worked with it and got good at it. We had more time to be ready, but also mentally. We started this because we want something fixed. Maybe we care the most. We’re not mixed up about what’s important in life. This is important. We know it’s dangerous.”

There was a moment of fond and rueful gaze before Uncle Bo threw his arm around Vanessa, and she wrapped one arm around his shoulders to wrestle back and forth a little like they do. They both mussed each other’s hair slightly.

“Besides,” said Vanessa, shrugging her body into the mekani interface suit, “this isn’t even the hard part. It’s just some night gardening.”

68.1 \ 250

Vanessa was in early varsity track, while school sports was in session. She’d been working at it, and she was good. Stretching and conditioning was important. She did that now, for this event similar in many ways to a track meet. She felt in top fourteen-year-old shape. She was already wearing the interface suit, thick with readable connectivity elements while still light and nimble. It covered her toe to fingertip, and over her head except her face. Like the usual Vedani piloting suits, it was also light impact armor. She finished her round of stretches and shook herself out.

It was her uncle that she’d convinced to come with her into purposeful danger, to reassure and look after her while she pursued her convictions. Vanessa Udar was brave, but not invincible, young though she was. These children of capable ages faced their call to action in seriousness, with the help of each other and their guardians.