43 \ 225

It would be worth it. Soleil said what she could use, and the krewe said what they could do. It was lock and key, demand meets skill. It helped that they were at the ebullient age where they had new talent and enjoyed flexing it to prove themselves. Drift X handled the contact like it was a regular Vedani aetherscape interface terminal, utilizing one of the text monitors with flattened-output letter-based imagery translation. They planned on bouncing the program module back and forth a couple more times, mostly building in Soleil’s access flap and broadening hardware versatility. She had time now to scope an entry.

The Captain let her borrow her infosheet again. This time, Wendel showed Soleil how to open the programming reroute to use more computer capabilities than the infosheet firmware. One of her recent contracts, a green-haired scientist, had ramified the transport driver’s infosheet upon interest, for the favor of using it. The lightcloth design was so handy, no wonder it was a popular device. Soleil took it with her for more solo time in the gunnery.

Princess Soleil hadn’t used her masque in a long time, and it would be nice to know how well it still worked. She had tied together this anonymous communications access route way back when she was a teenager exploring outside the confines of privilege. The average bedroom window escape in the form of a virtual peephole that only used modified Trailknife freeware, her setup still floating in a forgotten corner of academic history.

An innocent prank of yore was was putting herself onto invite lists. No lists of record, since that could come back to her. Not necessarily because she could go, but maybe she’d want to. Not as many events think to invite the Princess as one might guess, but certainly they’d be glad if she’d like to go.

Soleil opened a series of individual windows and fell into the step-by-step rhythm of gaining anonymity, and creating a new identity that fit the system she was entering. Boot/log/open/encrypt/access/select/search/encrypt/route/access/closewindows/erasetrail. Masque. After that, Yrenn Tiches was now a listed volunteer for the Women’s Leadership Symposium, in case she needed to officialize, and she would appear as the alias, Yrenn. Princess Soleil tasted the irony of hardly using her dragon’s boon of perceptual disguise until she was back home. She felt done. That was it. She folded the infosheet and waved it in the air as she went forward to talk to the others.

Derringer, Wendel, and Toller were chatting up front, facing the eerie view of a darkened orbit cluster. Captain Wendel accepted her infosheet from the Princess. Soleil leaned up casually as if just to join their conversation, though they’d gone quiet in expectation. To the private investigator, she said, “You’ll be happy. We’re going back to Alisandre.”

“Mm.” Derringer took this in with the slightest of nods. “Okay.” He didn’t expect to be dunking the puck straight in the bucket, but he could keep the prizewinner in good condition with his eye out for deal closure. If he tried to control her, he’d lose her. There’s no strongarming this one, not if he wants to keep his good name when she reaches power.

“Alright,” said Wendel as she readied. Toller secured himself in the copilot’s chair. “Let’s fire up this woodstove.” They knew she was referring to the potbellied unit installed by the Vedani, which glowed a little when Drift X was engaging in jump. “Nice and toasty.”

42.3 \ 224

Current date of the Pan-Galactic Synchrony, that’s what she needed next. She set Wendel’s infosheet out on the equipment where she could read and navigate, taking good care of the loaned device. Glimpsing at the Synchrony date, Soleil reckoned it into a few different planetary timeframes to see if any familiar events were coming up.

Yes – right about now, the Women in Leadership Symposium should be underway just outside of Alisandre Capital. Margeaux would undoubtedly be helping to run that in some capacity, as long as it’s happening. This would be her cousin’s seventh running year of involvement, back since they started taking advanced courses. Innovative problem solvers with armloads of trade secrets? Princess Soleil would take that, along with the sight of one of her most familiar faces.

She went looking for news of the event. It was on in just a few days. But the WLS had been co-opted as a Relief Assistance annex group, so it was now both a drive and an organizational meeting. The fundraising was being redirected, and though some of the original program items remained, including the fashion show, there were lots of action items related to the populace in lockdown-affected urban areas. Things like supply distribution and information dispersal.

The Princess made a quick detour through mainpage headlines. There was a lot about the recent Red Nexus Dragon attack on the fleets. Tabloids were surging with confessionals which, now that she’d met them herself, read as obviously Kao-Sidhe related. Many connected to the battle, or to a rediscovered long-lost heirloom. Essay magazines were discussing new theory completions about the meaning of the Vedani window picture shows. Soleil could spot a lot in those that she could corroborate from her own educational voyage and liminal download, though the shift in perspective was sometimes dizzying.

There could be something that Margeaux Rienne could do for her, other than a welcome moment of recognition unlikely to be betrayed. So long as Soleil could make it work in time, it could really help. She’d have to see if she could contact some of the handsignal crew. Drift X could probably manage that connection. It would have to be worth getting her bestie involved in dangerous schemes.

42.2 \ 224

Soleil was feeling up to speed on the elements of her current trajectory coming from this side of the Imperium-wide conflagration that she knew was taking place. The boil of activity was observable in the sequence of events – the way they followed each other, and grew off the previous into the next. The accrual of experiences was producing a wholeness of perspective that wasn’t coming into being upon her whims for her personal edification. Now, after all that, the initiative was hers and she was in home territory, with means, assistance, and protection.

The most effective thing she could do was amplify her gains to the benefit of her peoples. The connections she had forged, the crucial information – she had conceptual cabinets of items that could stem the flow of disaster. They needed to land in the right places, at the right times – which she could ascertain upon learning the greater series of current events beyond her purview, now that she was no longer immersed in a separate struggle for understanding.

Considering everything she’d learned, all of this was unlikely to effect the better course if she simply brought it to authority. That was especially so considering the role of the current Imperial authority – her father – in the creation of the problems in conflict. That could amount to very little.

She sent out thought feelers for the touchpoints in her network that might be trustworthy without prompting or assurance, direct unaided contacts that could serve as platforms or jumping-off points; appropriate beginning stations. Visualizing the flattened-enfolded Greater Dymaxion star map, the Princess illuminated it with her hotspots and directionalities.

42.1 \ 224

A tumble of rocks galloped across the field of vision within the Skyfather’s sighting mechanism. Soleil focused through the depths, adjusting the view to brighten a few stars. She identified their type, and though she couldn’t name them, it was a familiar arrangement from her days of star map study. Hirylien was included as Pan-Galactic Imperial space, though dead space, where Drift X yet hid among derelict orbiting structures. Surrounded by familiar elements once more, they had become stranger than strange through her newly granted perspectives.

The Princess sat up in the mounting chair, alone in the gunnery as she’d requested for a cogitative session. She let her mind wander through some interaction processing. Uixtr and Moonshadow had gone on their own way when Drift X left Ombd. That was also when she’d had her last discussion with Rosy Glow, which actually felt fond; they’d done some things, shared some times, even had fun. Rosy Glow pulled through for her in a number of ways. They had achieved things together, which were challenges when met, but achievements once accomplished. She’d never personally known a pretty wisp of color before. Yesterday, Soleil sat on this platform with Toller, dangling their legs over the edge, discussing random bits of youth. He reminded her what it was like just to be a person alive somewhere in the Imperium, making life work as people do; those pieces of rare, unextraordinary beauty that make a day. Later, Wendel had told her all about her latest learning discoveries with the souped up Drift X – the fun of these powerful frills, wondering what she would do with them on a regular workaday level, if she’d ever be finding that again.