5x Rerun: Abyss Surrounding (2) 19-23

– 19 –

This is no more trying than anything my forebears have committed. Missing the Ascendant; missing the Scion. We have a succession, like we’ve always known to have. The Imperium is still the Imperium. I’ve made it as it is now – this is what we’ve all said.

I have made it as it is now, so it will continue. As it will, so shall I. All we have, our lives from beginning to end. All this I must.

I am the twenty-fourth ruler of this era. We have forged a memory, all our lives, from beginning to end. The way it could be, and the way it is – we all step upon this stone. It really is not so simple, and never has been. We are thus, and at times the grand total outweighs even a lifetime.

Unwearied, at full measure, equal to my greatest moment. I am always.

(from The Annals of Celeste, Magus the 24th)

– 20 –

I deduce their fall, as I sense her flight. The rest goes accordingly. More will come, quickly enough; I’ll know when it comes for me. I have no worry, and my own fear has died over and over. I’ve never gone with it.

What about them? This, one of the largest and most fraught questions of my life. What about them? The things it has meant, with what I have seen and been.

It’s almost comforting to be caught in self absorption. I think practically nothing of myself, except what may be mine to accomplish. I have nothing but myself here in these walls, which to me are nearly illusory. I am entertaining this illusion now, though it may not entertain me for much longer.

I could send my being out in some way, in some direction, for the cost of the time it took. This has taken me all the time till now to be able to do. I’ve made myself and been remade, to become able. I accept my abilities like fate, but the decision has always been mine – in the surprisingly rare points where one exists.

Here and now, I have no decisions to make. I do little but recall who I am, and try not to think about the parts missing.

– 21 –

The dragon Arkuda is remembering the names of the unbanished dragons alive for the War, and which of them still live. ‘E is one of them. Thinking of the others not by the shorthand pronounceable by other species, but the name of a dragon called by another dragon, the bugle that can be heard over other planes. A human, an eagle, or an ant might hear it as a roar. They might all hear it.

Some that hear a name might have a response, and by that response guess whose name was spoken, calling them closer by remembering. Unseen dragons often lurk in the unremembered. Unremembered by whom?

The Dragon Councillor sought places of revealing, though nowhere near a revelation. A revelation fills the sky. Calling dragons was a matter of timing, not time.

Arkuda liked the Imperium. Thought it was a genius idea for its time. ‘E’d already spent human generations explaining it to other dragons, so they would understand how they were included. Conceiving of oneself as a part of the universal fabric is different from interlocking with a species nation.

Arkuda didn’t mind explaining all that could be explained. This is why Arkuda was selected as Councillor.

– 22 –

The Dragon Councillor had familiarized the General with the kind of bird they use in covert messaging. He hadn’t before needed the service of these creatures, or rather the dragons hadn’t employed them to his function.  Claymore could see the recognition and wayfinding abilities in their eyes.  Their plumed posture belied a sense of humor.  They were said by dragons to have a ‘confusing warble’ which causes them to be strangely forgettable to dragons despite their charming appearance.  Excellent birds, said Arkuda, who seemed to have a fondness for them.  Claymore, too, liked the bird well on its visits, and noted its plumage.

That’s how he knew this was a different bird arriving to his office, not the one with whom he was already friendly.  The bird looked primally satisfied as the man removed its written burden, and left without ceremony.

“3 Pyrean,” spelled the message in shorthand.  Claymore understood why this course of action should follow.  They had discussed seeking, hunting, baiting, drafting, hiring, and auditioning, all relating to different dragons.  They would seek three of this year’s Pyrean Midsummer dragons; Saga, the fourth, was known to have a long-standing conflict with this conflict.

Three Pyrean.  That meant he needed to tie up loose ends today, or at least tuck them in.  Now that the Sturlusson matter was delivered entirely to the Keepers, he could address his new primary duties.  The General opened an occasional line to his planning officer.  They spoke of his likely travel course.

He could continue to be the operatives’ anchor as a briefly active agent.  The royal family didn’t strictly need him at this time, even if they liked having him around.  Keeping himself chained wouldn’t bring the missing Princess any closer.  General Alisandre also needed to pay a visit to Freshwater, for more than one reason – he’d been invited to a rabbit dinner.

“While you’re off-planet, do you want us to shunt communications to the next organizational layer?”

“That will not be necessary – for I, Draig Claymore, am in charge.”

“Thank you, sir.”

After finishing his call, he retrieved his box of previous bird-carried messages.  He translated one of his more recent missives to Councillor Arkuda.  “Cultural liaisons and military historians recommend Viridian Phasing protocols.”

That sentence meant pages of debate that the dragon Councillor would infer because ‘e would be the first to point it out.  Convincing the participation of enough dragons was a battle-scale endeavor.  This war maneuver (for that was what it was), researched and proven in a nearly mythical time, was a matter of rare curiosity.  General Claymore thought to himself that if he could vanquish impending struggle by ringing the first and last note of a twenty-part chorale, he would award himself another imaginary secret medal.  His favorite kind.

This was to be a seeking.  Claymore knew there were steps to a seeking, and Arkuda would make them easy.  But one still had to embark upon it.  From his armoire, General Alisandre selected a midweight streamlined woolen outer.

– 23 –

The autopod containing General Alisandre and the Dragon Councillor descended smoothly through the layers of Foshan’s atmosphere, reaching the formational storm clouds beneath.  Attendant pressurizing meant they had time to continue discussion.  In their case, that meant Councillor Arkuda carried on a considered monologue while the General concentrated and displayed his reactions and degree of comprehension.

“The difference between seeing a dragon, and meeting a dragon… with the latter, you may have some exchange.  For instance, I don’t actually talk to that many people.”  The General thought that Arkuda talked to a great many, then thought perhaps the dragon drew a distinction between public speaking and conversation.  “Having met once, it’s easier to meet again.  I’m an easier dragon to meet than most.  I am well understood.”  The dragon blinked with satisfaction.  “I have been well understood by many over quite some time, which makes seeking me simple to an unnoticeable degree.”

“Other dragons are more reclusive, even alien to those who haven’t considered eir existence, or thought as to what ‘e might be like, besides simply a dragon.  We have very little in common at times between individuals.”  The dragon briefly clasped er scale-plated hands before bowed head.  “This is our problem currently.”

A noise alerted them that the autopod receiver had made contact and was now guiding their vessel.  Below them loomed a massive black bar sitting very still in the storm-tossed waves.  It was as long as some of the tallest buildings in Alisandre Capital, and radiated shadow from its light-absorbent surface.  A landing port slid open beneath a pop-up fielding, which deflected an errant wave like a stone.  The autopod entered the giant bar with Arkuda and Claymore inside.

5x Rerun: Abyss Surrounding (2) 15-18, 11th Sequence

– 15 –

Starting with the conviction that they did in fact exist, Soleil began to gain a sense of what they were. They had a signature effect in her virtual environment, speaking at her from all angles. The Princess asked if they’d encountered people of the Pan-Galactic Imperium.

Silence fell that was larger than the space they were in and longer than the time it took. When it was broken, the speakers sounded far away and down below. “Again and again, those that would see us, did.”

“Even hear us, visit us.”

“But we were never important enough. If they understood us more, we were often destroyed, or driven out. Yet we exist. We want that to be clear.”

“Especially to those who deny it.”

This time the silence came from Soleil. “Is this why you found me?”

Their voices began to move position again. “No, it was you -“

“It was you.”

“- who saw us.” Another pause marked that this was unexpected. “So we are treating you as though you exist.”

“As though you have importance.”

“And we attend you now as one who does.” It was then she recalled her memory from that dream-sending, of people (not creatures) who didn’t appear as any one thing in particular, but perhaps a number of related things, or the relation between things themselves, and as changeable as that. These weren’t glitches in the system, or Vedani kids playing a prank. This wasn’t exactly a courtly introduction, but Princess Soleil recognized the emissarial encounter. Maybe this was their policy of introductory etiquette. Maybe it was a unique situation. Maybe both.

“You may speak with us.”

“We will treat with you, and show you the nature of our characters as though -“

“- as though!”

“- we were not at war.” The Princess knew they were on opposing sides of a conflict, though there was nothing yet between any of them. She accepted this precarious position.

“You may visit or call us; it’s a same difference. May – not so as to give permission, but as acknowledgment of possibility. To be with us is to be with us – it’s a matter of creating a way from us to you, or you to us.”

“We have our homes next door to yours.” Soleil could only think this was an error of translation, because she could sense that homes, next, and door, all meant something else. She felt sure.

“There may be a way to make a way – you must recognize when it may be there.”

“Only then would it be.”

“This way leads to us three, and that may never be true again.”

“There has to be a key, to a door, to a path. These are human things you can remember, right?”

Soleil blinked and thought. “Anytime.”

“Anytime, she says! Well, I say anytime too.”

“Anytime.”

“Anytime.”

“Now that we’ve agreed to meet at anytime, let’s have a round of names. Beginning with the human.”

“Soleil.”

“Rosy Glow.”

“Garlic.”

“Dragon Food.”

– 16 –

“We can bring you things you don’t know, that you’ve never seen,” they had said in more words than that. “But – you have to ask.” So the Princess thought of something to ask them before they released her streamview from the program loop – a genuine curiosity, simple and inconsequential. Soleil told them about the book she never found in the Great Library at home, from her memory’s sparse detail, with the word ‘movements’ in the title. The three individuals had accepted her request as reasonable.

Now, Soleil was again at a streamviewer, the common equipment that also allowed for human connectivity to the Vedani network interface. Not just a few, but many things made for Vedani suited Alisandrian human capabilities as well.

With her new skills and the ingrained technological acumen imparted by her mother in their lessons together, Soleil could create harmless program structures to her suiting. She’d created an inviting shell for housing unusual occurrences without disturbing other virtual furniture. She noticed residual environmental effects from her previous encounter with the Kao-Sidhe, as they suggested she call them.

Neither of them were waiting for the other. They intended to collide, at which moment the Gazebo would open. A place to meet with a nice view, designed a little like a trap to spring up around them on mutual recognition of their next encounter. It was amenable to them both, with a stability that would allow Soleil to keep her grounding, and enough flexibilities to allow the Kao-Sidhe a comfortable presence. Their embodiment had been characterized by phenomena to Soleil; this time they made an effort to visually appear.

They presented relatable expressions that wouldn’t stress-load the system. A jumble of humanoid and other puzzling features represented each, to the degree of a quick knife-and-woodblock carving. Each was nevertheless iconically distinguishable, and the encounter felt a little more real.

“We’ve brought you a page,” they began without introduction. The Gazebo was an attractive visual setting, with conglomerate views of favorite gardens around the Pan-Galaxy.

“A book-style page!”

“We believe it’s exactly what you are looking for.” Soleil faced from one icon-being to another. One resembled a bright vegetable and was mostly silent. The second had a lot of detail embellishment and flourished with excesses of color. The other stood forth with presentation and drew a lot of interest. Garlic, Rosy Glow, and Dragon Food didn’t bother naming themselves again, but Princess Soleil could assign their distinct attributes.

They displayed a painstakingly crafted page. A graininess indicated that it was an artistic virtual replica of something physical. It looked to be from the right age of her life, and the title included the word ‘movements’. But the page was covered in dance diagrams. Soleil really didn’t think that was the book she’d chosen as a youngster, but it was interesting – at least, difficult-looking and similar to a familiar martial art.

She accepted the page graciously from Dragon Food. The stream transfer took unusually long, and for some reason their virtual sprites were winking the entire time.

– 17 –

This Vedani transport was familiar enough in form that Soleil could stand on it correctly by guessing. There was room to swing her arms around on the handle-grip platform encased by its interactive field. The gloves they gave her to control this machine were wearable without modification. They explained that she would lack certain degrees of interface, but that she had enough inherent skin conductivity to enable control. They showed her how to make settings for human accommodations.

It moved, and then she was adrift with others in space. Soleil thought she knew all about space, before. Now she was standing in it, fielded, with the rest standing nearby. The stars rotated around them as they changed their individual footings with a sense of coordination and comedy. It felt like something she’d wanted for a long time, but that she didn’t know existed.

– 18 –

Stretching, then a big step to launch into the movement. Heading partly upside down, involving limbs with the floor, from one movement to another – rotating in a controlled tumble, she enjoyed the rhythm her body defined.

A bright beam burst into the room from a small plane of light. The woman noticed it as she danced. Guessing a correct reaction, she passed her hands through the beam as she continued. Three sparks emerged, expanding to glowing wire frames which floated to their own positions. She let her momentum spin to a stop.

One spoke. “Is it exactly what you were looking for?”

“I’m unsure as to its importance,” the Princess replied, “but I am enjoying what you brought me. In that sense, perhaps yes.” The wireframes nodded. “I do wonder where you found it.” The wireframes shook their heads. “For some reason, I haven’t asked anyone to learn this with me. Do the Vedani dance?”

The Kao-Sidhe paused in motion. “Not exactly. Not like you’re thinking. It’s not for the sake of a good time.”

“Unless they’re having a good time doing it.”

“But it looks like dancing.”

“It’s scary,” Rosy Glow said, giggling.

“If you see it, something terrible may be occurring.”

“Terrible!”

“The answer is no…” Dragon Food smothered his chuckles. “…but yes? They’re very good at it.”

“If they teach you, you should try it.”

“Try it!”

– 11TH SEQUENCE –

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5x Rerun: Abyss Surrounding (2) 10-14

– 10 –

The feathery grasses swirled over the child’s feet, ribbonweed creating breaks in the soft shrubbery to show the life underneath.  The older boy’s legs were folded underneath him, balanced on their partially submerged log.

On this occasion when the Imperial family left the capital for an idyll with other families, Draig’s was one of them.  He and the young Princess sat in a familiar place, talking about their growing lives.

“I met with several Councillors,” said Soleil, “and the Dragon Councillor Arkuda says he’ll teach me.”  She looked from one horizon to another.  “But he gave me a course of study first.”  She shrugged towards her friend.  “I’ll have to drop a couple interests, but that is my interest.  Call it a focus shift.”

“Really?” Draig asked, leaning away from her.  “Dragons are scary… awesome.  Scary awesome.”

She turned on him, dragon-claws in the air.  “Maybe I’ll learn how to be scary, like Rianoire.  She was dragon-taught.”

“Not like Rianoire, I think.  Maybe like Arianne.  At least, we hope.”

“So do I.”  Soleil vigorously shook her head and nodded an affirmative.  “Besides, Councillor Arkuda is sunny.  That’s what he is, isn’t he?  A sunny dragon.”

“That makes him seem friendlier to you?”

“Well, to me, yeah.”  The girl took a breath and then paused, wanting him to talk instead.

Draig launched into more of his news.  “I’m about to start a full course in achievement training.  There’s a physical core with a lot of coursework build-ins.  I expect it to be brawny and competitive.”

“I’ll make you a page of encouraging slogans to tape onto your things.”

“Wow Princess Soleil.  I can’t wait to see them.”

“They’ll be group-safe.”  Soleil’s feet surfaced, causing a fleet of ripples.  “None of the swears you taught me.”

– 11 –

Node utilities were accessible and available amongst the Vedani streams, and Soleil stumbled onto one before she knew what it was.  This one didn’t activate for her, instead calling its owner, who showed her how it worked though he couldn’t speak her language.

After that, the Princess crafted a node for herself.  It mapped things into a country.  Learning Country was her secret name for it.  She made a number of structures beyond the informative suggestions.  Like the giant golden tuba that plugged into a weather system.  It listened for things like an ear horn, fed them into real-time weather patterns that adjusted flows, and would play things back according to nature, loudly to all of Learning Country.  That was her most ambitious and interestingly functional feature.

Perhaps she shouldn’t have been, but Soleil was surprised at how many people knew who she was and understood her relevance.  When someone started bundling, people learned of them.  Anyone changing the networks and altering flows opened themselves to the understanding of others, a milestone young Vedani look forward to encountering.  Soleil felt some pride in being able to do a five-year-old’s math.

– 12 –

“They’ve recruited you for further succession aboard an Alpha?” Soleil tossed the volley baton end over end in one hand, shield spaces around her flickering on and off. Draig rested his on his shoulder as the two descended to the workout basement.

“Yeah,” the lad replied, “I’m leaving in two weeks for the base off-planet from Foshan.”

“That’s remote.” They emerged from the stairs into a warehouse basement with extremely worn wooden floors. Nothing else lay out in the room, four exact pillars upholding the expanse.

“It’ll be like any other orbit station.”

“So, this may be the last time you spar against this upstart scrub?”

“Don’t call yourself that just because you haven’t won yet. And you’re not an upstart.” Draig effected a front-to-back shield rainbow while they loosened up.

“I’m still technically too young to be allowed to play. I have to notice when my status is the reason I’m given dispensation.”

Draig held his baton end up in a ready position from his zone. “There are ways to earn it. Stubbornly forging a shortcut could be considered one. Where did you learn to write a syllabus like that?”

“Don’t ask. Thanks for daring to duel me all this time.”

“You’re welcome. For what comes next!” They faced off, the younger girl already in a learned stance. They began with chivalry, a dialogue that allowed each other to display their finesse. With their batons, they batted the bright hitpoint between them while producing shielded areas with different rebound modifiers. Some of her moves had evolved past training, and he saw how she used a heavier baton for counterbalance.

As they ramped up their movement, Soleil’s patterns went bonkers, as if she were using three effects instead of two. The hitpoint interacted oddly with his shield placings, bouncing and brushing them at tangents. He saw that she was attracting specific feints, of which he gave some but not all.

There came a moment when Draig realized that something had been achieved. His shields were different. When activated, the planes were ragged with rippling holes. Her ability to achieve damage inside his shielding went from nowhere near his, to completely unfair – but he was smiling. He thought he might have just learned something about this exercise.

Afterward he asked what she did, and she replied, “I used instrument harmonics. Tone and tempo that match the technology. And programmatical geometry. And persistent point-slinging. I was not allowed to get distracted if I wanted to test my theory, because of how annoying you can be.”

“It’s my edge. I think you’ve found yours.”

Soleil’s face showed confusion. “What’s that?”

“The sudden and complete dismantling through study.” He saluted her with his weapon. “It’s been an honor.”

– 13 –

Now that she was tall and strong enough to open the barricades herself, Soleil ran the wall track for special occasions. It happened often enough that each time was memorable, though not strange.

First she’d go around opening the doors. One barely known edge of the Imperial Court, the track was worn, and never repaired in full. It wasn’t a secret – it was a hundred secrets that amounted to one well-known fact. Soleil liked to see whose attention she could catch with a wave as she skirted the upper and unusual views.

The record of the run was lodged in her muscles, in the limb angles and variances. Every part of the path was made to be walked on, but she didn’t think any other feet bothered to traverse the entirety.

Sheer edges in some places, breathtaking and life-giving. She powered up, letting her breath breathe her, bringing her body to move.

– 14 –

It was like a wink, and she noticed it as one might, after the fact.  Soleil stopped in her meanderings through visualized information.  She remarked on it.

Later, she was muddling around in the same areas of research.  It had crossed her mind to poke into the parameters of her environment, but that would do her no good as she wasn’t there to escape.  Soleil still felt a flavor of restlessness, searching for something that wasn’t there.  And then it was, again.  Right there.  And there.  Then not anymore.

That unusual glimmer appeared in her streams more frequently, like an approaching animal.  She couldn’t find anything to learn about it, so she played at coaxing it.  This felt like a little game, and she wondered if there was something wrong with her streamviewer.

Soon, Soleil found herself caught in a looped knot of connectivity.  Information pathways operated with circular logic, like a maze of doors that led back to the same room.  Then, something turned the lights on, and her programs went berserk – in a nice way.

There were a few consistent tracks in the disturbance that kept a kind of form.  Soleil could follow them by observing where there was something particularly unusual.  These unusual things showed patterns different from each other, like individuals.  The Princess wondered at it, while being aware that programmatically speaking, she was stuck in a back alley.

A noise began that was just like a word:  Hhhhhhheeeeeyyyyyy.  It flickered from one point to another.

Soleil put her hands on her hips and tried to take this in.  “What have you-“  She interrupted herself, “actually, who are you?”  The protracted ‘hey’ that ensued sounded also like laughter.

Then a flurrious introduction in very well-formed language.  “Who what is that?”

“Who/what is right.”

“Who-what is us, and she’s right.”

“About what, who?”

“Us.  She was completely right about us.”

“What about us?”

“That we’re here!”

“So you found us, and you saw us.  How do you think you did that?”

“Yes – tell us how!”

The Princess tilted the view, keeping all the glitches in her field of vision.  Somehow they were more present than the program.  “It seemed as though it were you who found and saw me.”

One replied.  “Not entirely, no.  At a point, yes.”

Soleil asked as to whether they were Vedani.  “No, but we know them.”

“They know us.  When they can find us!”

“We show them.”

“We sure do.”

“So they know us.  We are named.”

Soleil regretted it as she said it.  “But what are you?”  This was followed by a silence.

“We’re not always entirely sure.”

“You tell us.”

“And, tell us how you found us!”

5x Rerun: Abyss Surrounding (2) 5-9

– 5 –

Soleil could now bundle cords, the process of tying separate streams together along their lengths to create a new trunk.  A bound set of cords proceeded differently.  The conversations illuminated each other.  Once she could tell them apart, she learned how to put them together.  To do this, she used a viewport or a streamviewer.  Though it meant she was parked in one spot more often, this was her greatest degree of self- agency aboard their ship.

Soleil understood this to be a living network, which continually amazed her.  People felt this as they breathed and walked, like a part of their biology.  The streams were always responding.  The ways they were created, combined, and recombined blew her mind.

They were so much like humans.  How long have they been Vedani?  Where did they come from?

– 6 –

The Royal Court of Alisandre was as old as it gets, and as new as they could make it, byzantine to its own youth.  According to Draig’s memory, the Princess had never been lost, though he often kept her company by encouragement, a sense of duty, and sheer curiosity.  No one ever stopped them, and he understood without being told that no one was to stop her.  Besides, why would he?  The kind of trouble she got into was no bigger than him.

This time, they’d found a seam, where well-kept ancient building met gleaming expansion.  Soleil peered through a waist-high portico on the old side.  “There are stairs!”  She boosted herself to hang through it.  “Small, not grand.”  The Princess wiggled over the lip and stood again to face him from the other side, now taller.  “They go up,” she said, pointing, and disappeared as she beckoned him up behind her.

They climbed together around a bend in the stair, losing the new wall behind them.  Above and ahead was a similarly sized opening, blocked with a piece of fitted and barred wood.  Fists at her waist, she inspected it.  “You can reach that, can’t you?”

Draig raised his arms to grip the wooden bar.  “I can get a good hold.”

Looking from him to the barricade, her smile grew.  “Will you help me open it?”  Catching the smile, he nodded.  It was blocked, neither sealed nor locked; he didn’t think there’d be a skeleton or a beast behind it.  She held up the barricade while he removed the bar, and together they cajoled the piece of wood from its dusty seat.

They squinted their eyes against the sudden breeze that blew across their faces.  The Princess peeked out.  “It’s a walkway.”  She boosted herself over and through like last time.  Draig felt his heart pound.  Soleil’s head poked above the sill – she was sitting.  “It’s high down this side,” she said tersely.  Her dark hair picked up in the wind.  He went to follow her out, but she said, “You’d better not.”  All he could see from his view was part of her and a section of stone beyond.

“I’m just going to…”  With a hand inside the opening, she stood.  The breeze couldn’t be that strong, could it?  She was standing differently, eyes blinking, face serious.  Then, she just climbed back in.  They left things the way they found them.

– 7 –

She could bundle; she could trunk; but, could she connect? Somehow Soleil could tell she was communicating with youth.

Soleil was carefully given, by request as if she were stupid, instructions on how to complete a hand-to-hand connection. The Vedani started as simple as it gets. “Make your hand into a fist, back facing up, knuckles pointing forward. When I say go, move it forward slowly and evenly. As though it’s going to hit something. Don’t be too surprised.” But she was utterly surprised when it did. She instantly looked down at her hand. “Did you feel me? You did it, look.”

The trunk she’d been working on was now made of double the cords, as though they had all formed together. Hers were yellow, theirs were blue, things were starting to look green. “Yeah, I felt that.” Afterward, Soleil practiced with them in earnest.

“Angle your chop hand at minus thirty-five and slash it backward like you’re cleaning your sword.”

“Make your fist explode when it connects, keeping your fingers straight forward as you draw your hand back toward you.”

“Bunch the fingertips of one hand together into a little point. See the bird head? Okay, peck. But pointier, and harder.”

“Knock on the door three times with your rapping knuckles.”

“Point your index finger in front of you, and slowly poke.”

Soleil learned names for the motions, getting faster via shorthand. The first time she correctly hit a series of eleven in a row, she felt great about the results. “Did someone order more fries?”

“Yes we did, and you delivered.”

“Piping hot.”

“Krinkle Kut.”

– 8 –

Her first time to the Great Library, she went with her grandmother. Soleil was old enough to navigate the directories at will. Celeste watched with a benign smile. The Princess created a tableful of stacks according to her whim – pretty, neat sounding, nice seeming, interesting, linked. She discovered at least five books which were listed, but not available.

There was one she could recall, of which she had still not seen the inside. She wondered about it. The title included the word, ‘movements.’ She’d been sure it was beyond her reading level at the time, but that was how she challenged herself. She picked up subjects that lay beyond her realm of understanding. It meant she might gain something, that she would grow up a little. With certainty, that was something she wanted to do.

The Vedani didn’t have books. They had cords, trunks, and netbranches bearing a never-ceasing flow of words, voices, concepts, and ideas that one could arrange with focus. Soleil missed the feel of a tome, but maybe that meant no book was ever closed, or missing.

– 9 –

Stubborn determination taught her how to throw.  Throwing wasn’t a skill she’d especially cared to acquire.  A swing, however…

Soleil wanted a swing.  She was told by her father that she must learn how to hang it herself.  She knew where she wanted it.  Probably the most difficult tree in the whole court, for its picturesque qualities.  The branch called to her, saying, swing from me.

She actually looked at physics diagrams, and laid out five means before her, all frustrating.  Frustrating because she kept missing.  Close enough was not the correct spot if it was going to stay in place.  She watched people throw, eyes narrowed.  They made it look easy.  She continued to hurl her means at the beckoning branch, wondering if this was taking too long.

Then it was like an eye opened, a suddenly bright point in space.  When she saw it, her muscles spasmed, and the line sailed straight through.  She stood there shocked, watching the line laying in the right spot.  She would do it a second time.

 

5x Rerun: Abyss Surrounding (2) 10th Sequence, 1-4

– 10TH SEQUENCE –

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– 1 –

When the scion Princess experienced entity contact by induced dreaming sleep, they had clamored, hissed, accused. She understood that they were different from the peoples she knew, which was less prominent in the exchange than the fact that they were people. A layer of mystery protected them from presupposition. They delivered key knowledge. It wasn’t a declaration (we’re going to do these things), or an ultimatum (we’ll do these things unless), but like a tsunami warning. These things are now to occur. It’s war, unlike any the Pan-Galactic Imperium has seen.

She knew nothing else would come to her directly in this conflict. Her likely appointed role would have been understanding, relating, and managing the moods of the Pan-Galactic peoples. Like any citizen, she would hear about it, and respond with thinking or feeling. It was a figurehead position that could be done by someone considerate, and gracefully dressed. Margeaux was good enough at it, and Mireille was better. Princess Soleil wasn’t a military tech pilot like her mother had been by a year past her age. She wouldn’t be leading any rash or symbolic salvos with her loyal team of ships. Soleil had pursued diplomacy. The people she met on her official travels sometimes said she made a better connection with them than any royal visitors in folk memory. So, she was good at meeting strangers.

No one else could step into the opportunity offered by the contact, like a ticket to a different future. She accepted their gambit; it was the last, best chance to learn and know them before being caught in the divide. Soleil calculated quickly that it was worth her life to do, that this was no scripted role of imparted procedure.

She’d figured it out – first, she had to do that. Using her knowledge mechanic, she uncovered theirs with the signs she’d been given. Now I see you, now you see me. You have a vehicle. I have your address. Would they have brought her through if she hadn’t shown them that she could understand? If she could put that much together, maybe she could accomplish more. Or maybe she’d be another fallen scion.

Ready, always ready. She held herself ready, to act, to perceive, to realize. Years of learning readiness meant that she didn’t overlook or turn away from the obvious door when it opened. Her path went straight through it, and she knew how to proceed along her path.

– 2 –

In this new place, these folk extended a cordial welcome, as Soleil had noted in her particular introduction to them in dream state. It was possible to doubt something no one else had seen, until she found herself undeniably surrounded. Despite this besieged captivity, it was a sudden relief to be out from under a different weight of watchfulness. These people were strangers or enemies, which was easier to understand than the mixed motives of those she trusted.

They who called themselves Vedani taught her some rudimentary basics. How to read a map and transport herself around this dwelling vessel, the shape of it, and where to get food. They had food she could eat, similar enough to be from home, and called by similar names. They ate it too, though not very much, almost recreationally. She wondered how many humans they had dined with already besides the one she was sure that they knew, who was now missing an arm, awaiting the verdict they would deliver to a long-hated enemy of state. It seemed no one was interested in taking care of her, nor were they trying to hurt her, though everyone knew who she was.

A few knew her language. She imparted hers and gained some of theirs, unusual though it was to speak. She could learn no more if she didn’t start with this much. By the way they smirked she knew she was missing some common critical element, but they responded to her efforts with comprehension, even adjusting her human approximations. The skill came more easily under urgency. Soleil was pleased to be allowed a child’s grasp of their means.

– 3 –

First, she had to learn how to listen. Humans could do it, they insisted, and Soleil didn’t hide the fact that she found the notion daunting enough to show serious doubt. The Vedani communication networks were complex, built to be instinctual, and seemed to require long division. They brought her to a viewport, an empty frame with oddly attached peripherals. When she grasped the cords they offered, the cacophony she heard approached static saturation. The image she could now see was a terrible mess. Her first reaction was a helpless, blank look – not one she was used to wearing.

It was solid hours of listening before she learned how to color their voices, then how to judge their distance and the ring of relevance with only perhaps a symbolic coordinate. Soleil wondered how much space was really represented by this interface.

They showed her a terrain uniquely theirs. Soleil had figured after first meeting them that she must meet them fully, and now was glad she’d committed to the notion.

– 4 –

Sometimes, she called the race. Other times, he did. She knew the Imperial hallways better, from the four years since she learned how to walk in them. When the Princess called an unexpected snap, Draig knew it would be a good one.

Straightaways were fair, and fun, since their races weren’t necessarily clean. Almost as a rule, they included shoving, windmilling, and weird stepping. Maximum impediment without sending each other to the floor. Sometimes, his six-year advantage was no advantage at all, her light feet seeming not to touch the ground, gaining over his awkwardly growing stride. A straight hallway meant they could see when there was no traffic ahead. They were like puppies crossing a kitchen floor, puppies that got faster and faster.