5x Rerun: Abyss Surrounding (2) 78, 19th Sequence, 79-81

– 78 –

They discovered themselves in a mountain meadow that the Princess had visited once before, on a solo backpacking trip after some time learning from a wilderness instructor. The skypilot flowers she remembered here were underground now; it was cold, and snow would be arriving here any day. The Vedani gearsuit she wore matched its panel tones to the surroundings and maintained her body temperature. Stepping down to the ground from her platform, she turned to face her vehicle, and spoke to those who accompanied her. “You said I have to address it properly. How do I do that?”

Here, the Kao-Sidhe looked particularly like themselves, with no end of fine detail; while they were also even smaller, the size of a figurine rather than a doll statue. Garlic was there with them now. Rosy Glow went once more to lie upon the handlebar podium, putting her ear to its surface. She then propped herself up on an elbow. “After listening to some of the Vedani protocols, I think the best approximation would be: try talking to it like a person.”

“Okay.” The Princess positioned herself to directly address the vehicle’s central processing, and gestured with her gloved hands to engage the system. “Hello, locomotive. Will …you… be okay here? Are you adaptable to this atmosphere?” She spoke steadily and clearly, wondering how well it would understand.

The display switched mannerisms, addressing her in the alphabet of her language.

YES: OKAY

Princess Soleil asked, “Do I refer to you as it, or he or she?”

IT

“Do you have a name?”

YOU MAY NAME ME

Soleil blinked and examined the interface a little closer. “What are you?”

I AM YOUR MOUNT

The trail beckoned to Soleil. “Alright. Wait here, please.” To the Kao-Sidhe, she expressed the need for a private moment, which they granted with simple acknowledgment. She went to find the almost fully-masked trail to the viewing precipice. She wasn’t the first to seek it, but she was one of very few, as the footpath barely existed. It took a couple corners to the mountain’s shoulder.

The sheer rock ridge was so acute she could bend her fingers over it at a point where the edge rested at chin height. There, she was a tiny creature peering over into a great expanse. She showed her face in view of the city where she was born and had always lived – though she no longer completely understood it, as she had once believed.

To one side of the city in the center, across the dial of the valley, the Mt. Kairas viewing plateau could be seen. The visibility of the naked divot made her feel equally exposed. Upon the cue of a glancing glint in her field of vision, Soleil instinctively ducked. She sat with her back to the ridge, facing the mountain forest. She took two loamy breaths and then returned to the others along the trail.

Just before she reached them, something snapped within, like a tether from the edge she had just visited. With her first step into the clearing, Soleil could see her vehicle (which she hadn’t named yet) and the three Kao-Sidhe. “Leave my sight,” she said, feeling like this had been said by many of her own before her, though she’d never said it yet herself. “I am going to grieve. Leave my sight.” It felt like the urge to vomit, immediately present and violently unavoidable.

Realizing that this was a moment of dangerous vulnerability for any human, the aliens shot up into the sky, clearly going far, far away. The Princess wondered slightly how she could then call them back, but she also didn’t care at that moment.

Looking down, Soleil pulled off her gloves one at a time, and stuffed them into a suit compartment. She stared at her hands, sinking down to her knees. Clutching earth between her fingers, she closed her fists. She touched some of the dirt on her hands to her tongue, and began to shudder at a taste from a time past, feeling the part of her that was now missing. Her throat let loose a yell of rage – that this was so much bigger than her, that the lies of her life felt bigger than the truths, and even those matters were not in her hands.

From the edge of the clearing where she crouched on the ground, she turned, half-consciously reaching until she found the root of a tree beneath her hands. She clung to it solidly, noises of anger and sadness subsiding… until she held the root silently for a time, patting it as though it were special and dear. Then she let go.

Standing quietly once more to view the clearing, Soleil noticed a wild garlic plant. Had that always been there? Going into her recollections, the answer was yes. She had even eaten some here, that time long ago. Bemused, she was making her guess about calling the ambassadors, as she privately referred to the three. She also thought for a time about what she might be ready to do. Her fingertips went to her temples and she felt warmth between them, with recollections in her mind’s eye. She focused to remember what she’d learned, and why, in that dream.

Soleil crouched towards the garlic’s tender leaves, soon to wither. She tugged a garlic leaf as though arranging a shirt lapel, and said quietly but clearly, “You may return to me now. I request the counsel of the Kao-Sidhe.”

With a quick motion of arrival, the Kao-Sidhe were again present. Their gazes were intent and expectant, appearance sharp and bright. Dragon Food’s skin shimmered purple, and he wore a changing-hide garment that trailed to a wisp beneath his floating form. Garlic was a hardnecked varietal, roots waving, white papery skin purple-toned. Rosy Glow’s sweet face was framed by her dresslike patch of brilliant sunset.

Surprised by the ease of connection, Soleil felt humbled. “You are very courteous to me, for a people so angry with my people.” She could recall the presence of the Kao-Sidhe as expressed through flame, in her vision.

“And you are very courteous to us, for a people who have so injured our people.” Rosy Glow’s voice was ethereal and warm.

“I know not of the injury others have done.”

“And we know little of the anger that others feel. So we, out of all our peoples, are in positions to aid each other. And so we have, or done our best.”

“You have. I could walk home from here, and you’ve made no effort to prevent me.” Soleil studied them, and the surrounding trees. “How might I aid you in turn?” The three Kao-Sidhe appeared to savor this question.

After they regarded each other for a moment, Dragon Food spoke. “We would like you to meet our friends.”

“Are they like yourselves?”

“No, they’re entirely different. They know of the Imperium, and in a way, you have seen them. We know that they would like to meet you, Princess Soleil. But we would have to go to them first.”

Soleil reflected again on the destinies of the scions in her line, those lost and those ascended. She would be one or the other. “I will go,” she said. “If they would like to meet me, then I would like to meet them as well.”

The Kao-Sidhe aligned their flight in an equilateral triangle and bowed together, then all moved toward the quiescent vehicle. “Then let’s determine our method of travel, with you and your trusty mount…”

“Moonshadow,” said the Princess, donning a glove and touching a handlebar to awaken the system. “I name you Moonshadow.”

– 19TH SEQUENCE –

– 79 –

A Vedani woman relaxed, cradled in a conductive therapy hammock. The faintly luminescent walls radiated pearly moonlight. The occupational therapist walked in through the angled doorless archway.

OUSRK FNSD: Hello Eivnr, it’s good to see you. What do you need today?

EIVNR KFNT: I’m glad to see you as well, Ousrk. Open me up and reconnect everything, please.

The therapist activated the sling hammock’s transduction, causing all of Eivnr’s medium-length silver hair to lift into the air.

OUSRK: How and why do things feel disconnected?

Her hair bobbing with the differentiating current cycles, Eivnr sighed.

EIVNR: Imagine what it feels like to have five hundred different fingers that disappear abruptly. The connection pathways are strongest and easiest through the hand’s dense neural maps, so that’s also where the wear and tear accumulate. Including phantom effects, feeling things that aren’t there.

OUSRK: Then I’ll start by isolating and singularizing your manual sensations.

Ousrk’s longer silver hair was plaited down her back, but the ends waved a little when she made contact with the part of the hammock sling supporting Eivnr’s arms. She gently pressed each limb into its sling with holds that enhanced the field’s effects on her patient. She also folded the sling around the limb using various modes of wrapping, including strips around each long finger.

OUSRK: What’s your emotional valence?

EIVNR: Oh, that’s another thing. My primus, the most significant individual in my connective, has really strong emotions – there’s been a lot of anger and confusion, which can turn into determination mixed with helplessness. Though it is also driven by love, that serves to make things more intense.

The therapist chose a cycling pattern to run down the sling supporting Eivnr’s torso. The patient closed her eyes and breathed more deeply.

OUSRK: I have a funny question for you.

Her patient made a receptive facial expression.

OUSRK: Why are the messages from the connectives formulated in awkward archaic semi-prose?

EIVNR: Aside from the nebulous nature of collective transmissions focused with a primus, we discovered a type of human communicative medium that they themselves largely ignore: amateur poetry. If the humans in our connectives are to share a message amongst themselves with unrestricted initiative, it is still likely to go unnoticed and disregarded even by the attentive. It’s very easy to translate these effects from their interlingua to our speech and vice-versa. It’s become an entire craze among the youngsters!

OUSRK: I have not yet encountered that.

EIVNR: Dear hearts, they’re digging up all the least-read human poetry and forming a new culture around it – which is so incredibly Vedani. As we know, nothing exists to remain unlooked-upon. So much curiously beautiful work, and the transitive iterations get even better. Without any need for organization or instruction, they’re serving our purposes in a number of ways. One, that the messages reach as many as possible; another is that should the humans somehow learn to tap our signals, the messages will be surrounded with clouds of similar-but-different noise, being transmitted in the manner of idle entertainment. Furthermore the young are also using it to earn their autodidactic education levels. Thus, our people’s knowledge of humans will continue to outpace their general knowledge of us.

OUSRK: It sounds fun. I’ve been examining totally different areas lately, but now I’m piqued. Maybe I’ll participate.

EIVNR: I’m a default main participant through my role. I have another request… my neck, please? It’s the balancing hourglass multimolecular coilhat I’m using – piles on the neck stress while ensuring that I remain in optimal connective posture. The vocal chords are also similar to the fingers with significant active multiplicative connections there, that suddenly disappear. The sadness pockets could also use your attention…

Ousrk squeezed her patient at the junctures between neck and shoulder, in addition to the neck and vocal muscle groups and structures.

EIVNR: I absorb a lot of that from my particular connective. Even though my role in the beloved-aspect is the friendliest out of all of them, it’s also the most numerously populated at the moment. They all just personally experienced a hidden means of mass slaughter, that they now recognize as such. Along with their motivational fury, which nearly matches that of the surviving Hirylienites, they carry a lot of grief and guilt. That’s where I feel it, even though it isn’t mine, though I understand.

OUSRK: Are you having any numbness due to your own experience of the Affliction?

EIVNR: A little, a nearly imaginary amount – maybe having more to do with recovering straight into the connective as conductor. Could you trace me back out to finish the session? Wires feeling frayed, you know?

The therapist gently ran her fingertips along key nervous pathways toward out-points on her patient’s body, where she grasped the invisible-but-perceivable energetic bundle there, and drew it out into the air and aetherscape. Vedani must maintain their aetherscape connections, or languish. She did this around Eivnr’s entire body, including her floating tresses. After a full addressing, Ousrk switched the hammock cycles to move towards the heart.

OUSRK: I’ll shift the light to full spectrum now. I recommend that you photosynthesize here for at least three thousand beats without a coverlet.

EIVNR: I will, yes thank you.

The therapist walked out of the room and altered the wall settings to a blinding shine. Not exactly natural sunshine with all the combined elements, but still delectable. Eivnr closed her eyes and relaxed in order to gain a deeper shade of blue.

– 80 –

“This is disheartening,” said Soleil finally, with none but Garlic to listen. Dragon Food and Rosy Glow had departed on their own matters, possibly helpful to the situation. From where she sat on Moonshadow’s platform, she looked around the designated sidespace where she’d ceased arguing with a machine being that didn’t seem to entirely understand. It hadn’t been so hard in the midst of their trial of deep space survival. Now they sat parked in a place where they could officially or unofficially be found. At this level of frustration the novice pilot barely cared, though their potential visibility made it urgent that she learn how to use the new trick up her sleeve. Returning to that realization, she addressed Garlic again where it floated next to her at the level of her head.

“I need to ask you how I look,” said Soleil. “I’m trying something, though I don’t want to explain completely. Will you just watch me?” Garlic turned another side toward her, which she took to mean that she had its attention.

She looked down at her reflection in the mirror-shiny floor of the platform. “Okay, now I’m doing something.” She felt an aural rush flow outward through her. “And, now I’m not.” The rush dissipated. Throughout this, her reflection as she saw it in the floor mirror hadn’t changed. She knew what it was she was doing; she was changing how she looked, how she was perceived. She knew her chosen parameters, but she couldn’t see the results, so she kept it simple. Maybe Garlic would be able to tell her.

“I can understand it like it’s always been a part of me, but I still need to figure out how it works.” Soleil touched her lips as she concentrated on this puzzle, remembering the way the dragon’s gift had sunk into her skin. She accustomed herself to turning the glammer (‘glamr’) on and off by engaging it with her intentions of appearance. To herself, she looked the same. But what did someone else see? How deeply could she trust it, how extreme would the illusion go, with what nature would it manifest?

This matter of concentration safeguarded her from the disappointment that their next travel effort had gone awry almost instantly. She and Moonshadow just couldn’t seem to understand each other right now, or Moonshadow couldn’t figure out how to get there with the information it was being given. Soleil had ridden equinax when she was younger, and the psychology of this mount (as it had referred to itself) felt somewhat similar; but this being was also verbal, could understand code, mathematics, signals and power, and she didn’t know how many other differences there might be to this type of mind.

“If you would please hold up with me and observe – tell me, if you can, how I’m doing or what you see. On… off. …on… off.” She was looking between her reflection and Garlic, which was doing something strange. There was now another garlic next to Garlic. At this moment, when not engaging the glammer (‘glamr’), the garlic next to Garlic looked exactly the same.

With thought, Soleil consciously shifted some traits to those of a different person; and the garlic next to Garlic looked like a different kind of garlic! The second garlic was about as different from Garlic as the intended personage was different from Soleil. She examined different extremes of alteration, and Garlic demonstrated the effectiveness back to her. All the while, the reflection in the floor remained the same to her.

When she inquired, Garlic demonstrated to her that her apparent reflection also matched the given illusion, with a head of garlic under the different garlic that matched the different garlic, not today’s original Garlic.

A new thought occurred to her while she held an unusual glammer, one of an easily welcomed ally that should soon go on their own business. “Garlic, if you touch me, do you feel that you touch the form that you see, or my usual form?”

The two different garlics hovered before her. Gently, they both approached to touch either of her cheeks. One drifted back, while remaining was the garlic of altered appearance. So then, Garlic felt that it was touching what it could see. The altered garlic then moved back, and floated in again to gently bop her on the nose, then rested once more against the tip of her nose. So, the illusion was thorough.

Soleil wondered if the camouflaging panels of her Vedani gearsuit were superfluous, then figured it didn’t hurt to have extra layers of reliance, in case holding a glammer was tiring. Her dragon gift whispered about itself in a specifically coded inner language; any question about it, she could check and be informed. But she had to ask correctly or at all, except for those times it would volunteer itself to a specific demand. It was like using a new, yet innate sense.

There is an abyss, infinitesimal or gulflike, between any two understandings in the communication of an impression. What one is, and what the other perceives. Now, she could intentionally influence this space. Now she could decide how she was perceived. Though in a sense duplicitous, there was an honesty to it; she could honestly effect what she honestly decided. She must hone her intention in order to use it well.

“Tell me how this goes. Can I appear as something other than a different person?” With a little difficulty, as she wasn’t entirely sure how to project the right set of traits, she attempted something like a pard cat. The second garlic flickered rapidly between looking like Garlic and looking like some kind of large pod. So it may be successful but she wasn’t good at it yet, or garlic wasn’t good at imitating anything other than garlic, or it was only semi-successful. Okay.

They needed a catalyst. She decided to activate the sidespace flag for assistance signaling, and filled out the list of possibly helpful things. Soleil continued to focus on practicing her new ability while bothering Garlic as little as possible. She could keep on doing this for the rest of the time in her active day.

There was a passerby ship, the first in this out-of-the-way location. Soleil watched it reappear as it doubled back around, lucky day. The maneuvering looked inexpert but careful. It was returning her flag with a wave.

Looking at Garlic, she remembered she was hungry. On a slim hope, she asked, “Hey can you make food, something I can eat?”

A clove of garlic fell to the floor, and upon hitting it turned into a garlic chicken wing. “I guess it’s a good thing I like garlic,” she said as she picked it up. Garlic rolled around in midair. Soleil scarfed the food before she had to face the incomer, placing the bones in an ejection vesicle. She watched the vesicle pop its contents out of the field, releasing them to the vacuum. She turned her concentration inward to identify what she needed to be in this situation, and she answered the ship’s reply.

– 81 –

“I’m lining up our next paid gigs,” said the short-haired blond woman in the co-pilot’s chair. She was scanning messages displayed on the infosheet statically attached to the wall next to her.

“Cool,” said Toller as he concentrated on being a successful student driver. Pilot. Driver-pilot. Wendel called it driving as often as she called it flying, something about being in the profession.

She laid it down bluntly. “Having you along means a different kind of picking and choosing – but it narrows things toward my preference, anyway. I still consider you an asset onboard.”

“I believe that I can be,” the boy said with equal bluntness. “If I’m not, you just boot me right away.”

“I would, and I hope you wouldn’t take it personally.” She smiled fondly. “But you’ve already turned things around for me once. After that it’s just about anything you need, friend – I’ll stick up for you. Your limits are my limits, which are honestly good for me.”

She propped up her feet on the corner of the controls and continued musing aloud. “No official contracts that don’t include personal appointment or come from close enough to allow clauses. We’ll only accept under-the-table work for a while. I’m fine with those clients and that shift in the balance now, after my stint as a big-scene chauffeur.” Wendel covered her face with both hands, something she would do in reference to that time. For a quiet moment of driving they both stared straight ahead.

The captain turned and flattened a wrinkle in the kerchief-weight infosheet against the wall. She tapped through and wrote some replies. The lad held his silence while she expounded. “Everything can take as long as it needs to. Partly because I want to keep teaching you, but also because I don’t want some of the patchwork on here fraying untimely.” Her eyes pointed around the ship. “No hurry jobs.”

As he kept even progress, Toller noticed her assess him sidelong. “So… there’s under-the-table, which you know about, and there’s hidden, which you shouldn’t. Hidden jobs often aren’t planned for. They’re bonus. I may not let you know they’re happening, though you may suspect. I may not even actually know, myself. One of the cautionaries of being an independent contractor. Hidden should stay hidden, more or less, if you know what I mean. We’re not in the business of judging.”

“I know I’m not.”

Wendel snapped a finger in front of her face to break her focus from the infosheet, and she relaxed back into the co-pilot’s chair. “We’ve got one probable, which is enough forward thinking for now.” She nodded to the boy. “We’re already on course. You’re doing very well! Oh hey, wait…” Toller kept his cool and kept his course, letting her explain. “There’s an assistance flag for this occupied sidespace. We’re about to pass it, but don’t alter too quickly. Just start removing top speed factors, and we’ll see if we can get a good look.”

As they passed, Wendel captured a direct view. “Weird, it looks like a life raft. We can come back around. I’ll let you do this – take a side lane, keep slowing down, and listen as I talk you through.” The student pilot did so.

“Add three planes and take an outer tangent. Then a reverse reverse-acceleration parabolic, RRAP, which spells Wrap, which is not done in reverse -“

“- I remember -“

“- And then we have to overshoot to use the correct traffic entry for the sidespace – remember, in space there are no roads, only rules – then minus a plane, take a minor tangent, then Wrap, and we’ll descend in. We call that a cloverleaf.”

Toller nodded as he assembled these directions in his mental picture. “I can technically do each of those things.”

“Now do them one after the other. I believe in you,” said the captain, shooting her protege an adventurously reassuring smile. She supplied reasoning for the detour: “I’ve got most of the tools, and I’ve practically stitched two halves of a ship together, so I stop for people in the drifts when I can.”

“Drift 9?” he asked, referring to the ship’s name.

“Drift 9. Do you remember how I showed you to turn this on?” Toller looked over to where she was moving the spherical toggles of the photon-particle co-disruptor, the PPCD, the C-D bands.

“Uh huh,” he murmured, eyeing her actions. Wendel used a fold-out keyboard to send a symbol flag, which she dictated for his benefit: “Offer of Assistance.”

“Did you really total your ship nine times like you said to your friend?”

“Not exactly, but in manners of speaking.” She viewed another capture as they passed close visibility again in the opposite direction. “That is a weird thing to see in vacuum space. Someone’s just standing on it, looking comfy. Seems like they could use some help, though.”

A reply returned to them. “Assistance Offer Accepted. Wanted: Fuels, Charges.” Toller started executing his second Wrap. On the co-pilot monitor, Wendel scrutinized what she could see of the strange little ship. “I’m not sure what types of fuels that uses, but I’ve got some kinds. My charge modulator is a good one, anyhow.

“Stop in that zone ahead.” She pointed toward the indicator on his display. “I’ll take over from the descent. I’m not going to quiz you, but I want you to pay attention. I’ll tell you things as I do them.”

In the captain’s chair, she settled into her straps and rapidly readjusted her settings. She also received standard ship spec dimension readings and fed them to her specs. “Would you use that keyboard control to select spaces A5, E7, and B1 on that grid?” He deftly manipulated the PPCD. Stating the message, she recited, “Hold space adequate. Encapsulate? Confirm.” Drift 9 lowered gently into the wide field by the other vessel.

The simple reply bounced back: “Confirmed: Encapsulate,” Wendel read aloud.

Soleil watched the ship’s large door approach and open, like the maw of a fish to a floating tidbit. The craft was in good repair, with emphasis on repair. She could have been more nervous about the encounter, but she wasn’t. The boon felt effective as she used it, as surely as her hand could move. She engaged it with certain details: appearing as self, well-kept; wearing Zero-Clearance no-questions flash-display credentials, the signs of official covert business; with personal cam-jam. It would work because she could tell it was working.

As Moonshadow was about to be swallowed, she looked around to no sign of Garlic. “Garlic?” she called aloud. No Garlic. With that, they were inside the vessel. The door closed, and they settled into gravity.

5x Rerun: Abyss Surrounding (2) 73-77

– 73 –

The thirteen-year-old boy had thought that sitting in the pilot’s seat of Drift 9 would feel less dramatic, but with the captain on his right, feeling the pedal sliders under his own feet gave him a case of the wide-eyes. For her part sitting co-pilot, Wendel Harper understood completely. “Go ahead,” she said.

He did. Drift 9 sailed toward and through the flotsam terrain ahead, which had enough space between for a fulfilling sense of dimension and speed. They promptly brushed a slowing factor.

“Okay,” said Wendel with a collected manner as she gestured toward his main navigational screen, “read your routes. Under our own impetus, even small gravitational fields engage atmospheric immersion controls, which I am not yet teaching you.”

Toller leaned in to focus on the navigation screen, which reminded him again of a multi-rotational sports diagram. “So, don’t bump the edges like that.”

“Correct. Move between the shapes.” Settling back in, Wendel raised her hand to offer him the road. He took a very conservative elongated sinusoid path through a wide, soft corridor into another vast ‘meadow’ (pilot lingo for a clear space). Once in the open, Toller whirled the ship around before stopping it, as he’d seen Wendel do a few times already.

Her laughs echoed beyond the stillpoint. He was good! He would not be baggage. “That was really well done. Since you’ve been reviewing your orientation calls, angles, degrees, and rates, I’d like to hear how you’d announce that maneuver to your crew and teammates.”

“You didn’t announce it…” Toller tried to pinpoint a specific instance.

“We can’t always, but do it now.”

“180-to-fullstop, tilt negative-60, minus rate 7.”

Wendel approved the boy’s announcement with a nod. “Everyone has different protocols. Learn how to be understood in as many or through as few protocols as possible. Sometimes Leiv and I will just use poetry to announce to each other.”

“How do you do that?” A little winded from his own boldness, Toller leaned back to relax in his chair with the ship at peace.

The captain-copilot also took a moment to relax. “Mostly, we understand each other’s language; we like each other’s taste; and we use embedded pointers from our years of horsing around together.”

Leiv appeared in the hatch. “I hear the call of poetry,” he smoldered to his lady love.

“You heard right,” she replied in an exaggerated purr.

He began. “D’Orann: Ask me where I dance, and I’ll say up.”

“Orak’x: Reaching a conclusion offers no conclusion.” Her reply was ready as soon as he completed his initiatory line.

“Srevz: Long winds carry scent of a treetop reaching toward me.”

Rotating from the co-chair and reaching over to Toller’s side to shift control command, Wendel remarked, “These are all Jennian poets.”

Striding across the cockpit with added flair, Leiv reached in to romantically cradle Wendel’s head. “Then let us tango in Jennian style.” She succumbed to a complementing swoon, then winked at Toller as she came out of it. “Straps,” was all she said next. Toller clipped himself in, Leiv scrambled into the fold-down, and Wendel proceeded to demonstrate their style of tango with her ship.

She mused to her companions while guiding them through a graceful corkscrew-vertical-bust-vertical. “Understandable to each other, unpredictable to others – inspired movement can be lifesaving. It somehow slices through chaos fractals; nature likes poetry too, it’s less likely to hit you with rocks. This kind of concerted unpredictability is our friend if for some reason something is out to get us.”

– 74 –

She cupped the sight of the planet in her two hands and kissed it. Though she didn’t know what difficulties might be hers to overcome in the moments after this, she simply blew a double handful of heart-shaped wishes towards Alisandre. As they fluttered fondly towards the atmosphere, her vehicle platform adjusted slightly as though someone else had stepped onto it.

Soleil hadn’t felt that since before being enfolded in deep space; since before she learned she was without a mother, making her the missing Princess Ascendant; since before she’d been changed forever by her split-second choice to forgive the killer. The platform motion was subtle, but she still noticed it. This trusty vehicle had read her motions clearly, and seemingly without parallax, the whole time – no misreadings had jarred or interrupted her hyper-tuned mindstate. When the jumps occurred, they were distinctly a result of her actions, whatever they’d been. So it was with some suspicion that Soleil reached out her gloved arms to comb the field of motion for an errant response.

A somewhat familiar image flickered and disappeared as her hand passed through it. Moving again through that space, it reappeared. The image took on a greater degree of realism: a smallish and incredibly strange person hovering at the height of her shoulder. He smiled and said, “Do you recognize me?”

The previous woodcut version of Dragon Food hadn’t quite communicated his posture of dashing bravado and mischievous derring-do. “That certainly sounds like Dragon Food,” she replied. His physicality was more colorful and detailed, including a dragonish set of horns. “And you look even more like yourself now, in some ways. Tell me, please, what was on that piece of paper you gave me?”

“It was something with the word ‘movements’ in the title, like you asked. That was the thing we could find that seemed most like what you needed.”

“Was there a program or code in it?”

Dragon Food subtly bobbed and jigged around in midair as he addressed the Princess. “Was there a program in the way you drove this ship? You must mean the special ingredient! We Kao-Sidhe don’t generally know what that actually is. Kao-Sidhe interact with a lot of different people, and at times we are helpful. If we bring something to someone, people find it in there, so they think we put it there. But, no. We have a sense of when something is relevant without specifically knowing why, something about our relationship with the nature of ‘time’, as you refer to it, and ‘matter’. It’s just more special, especially special. So, you found it then? The key, the special ingredient.”

“Time and again. There were these clusters of invisible vibrating windowpanes, as I was able to record on instruments while examining them with the Vedani. The new movements I learned seemed to fit some spatial arcs in the clusters, so I used them. Combined with this sled, it must have triggered a spatial loophole programming combination that sent me jumping farther through the cluster system, whatever was generating that. Each jump was like an instant gateway transfer. I don’t think any Vedani can even do that, though it’s their vehicle – none of them learned the moves with me, and you said they don’t dance.”

“What a unique set of circumstances! I suppose that explains how you got here, along with the dragon who you somehow ran into on the way. Probability leveraging via the dragon, working with the inertia of your jump procedure, abetting your favorable chances according to its own mechanics, signature matching and vector averaging to your most reachable and situationally capable ally – me, who is also a Kao-Sidhe, possessing particular likelihood modifiers. Yes, if ‘e brought you to me, then ‘e was helping you.” This last part Dragon Food murmured partly to himself.

Suddenly feeling her legs, Soleil sat down gracefully on the sled platform. Dragon Food hovered down to likewise sit, in a companionable space, midair at shoulder level. He continued his rambling assessment. “Do you know, I just happened to be taking in the view when a roiling spiral of mystically dark scales deposited you here? I thought ‘e was there for me, actually. I am so desirable that at times, dragons pop out of nowhere to ingest me. What can I say? It’s like they can smell me two dimensions over… Rosy Glow claims that’s occasionally true.

“You may ask what I was doing floating out here in the vacuum all by myself. Exactly what a hungry dragon would say. I always make them hungry. Good for you ‘e didn’t take full notice of me, or I’d be off and away.

“This place is not exactly random. We sit at the point between one thing, another thing, and yet a third thing, which you see in front of you.” With both tiny hands, he indicated the lovely planet. “And while I don’t know everything about where you just came from or how, I know that a dragon dropped you off. Which dragon was that?”

Soleil neither hid nor lied about a dragon. “Acamar,” she stated, trying out the sound of er name.

“Well, I don’t know that one. And I know more than many can claim, in what you could call an intimate fashion. Acamar, you say.” Dragon Food paused with a dreamy, wondering look. Soleil let her attention drift soberly to the planet facing her, and the distance between. “I have an idea!” declared Dragon Food. “Would you like to step foot on the planet you see before you?”

Mastering a surge of desire, the Princess faced her company with a silent look that demanded to know more. Dragon Food continued. “I believe there is a way we can talk with this standride. With help from Garlic on the ground, you can direct our location to somewhere familiar, yet sufficiently secluded. Our help means you will pick the right place, if you understand our inherent influential tendencies.”

“Garlic is already there?”

“Yes, somewhere. Garlic is emphatically positive about its presence on that planet. Myself and Rosy Glow have already been there as well.” This partially answered Soleil’s question as to whether she would be allowing them strategic entry. This was as the case may be. It would be a trusting, a trade. Did she want to set foot on the planet before her?

“What leads you to believe it’s possible for me to get there?” Soleil moved to the podium to tap through her main readings. “There’s no cluster here, which is how I was moving around. The distance may be too great for direct locomotion.”

Dragon Food sat his small figure atop the handlebar podium and considered the machine beneath him, patting it. “It may have learned the jump by now, and written it into capability.”

She looked at the vehicle for the first time as though looking into it, asking, “It may have learned?”

“Yes! Let’s ask it and see.” Dragon Food licked his finger and stuck it into an outlet. His image stuttered into static a couple times before he unplugged himself. “Well uh… Rosy Glow is better at this than I am. We should call her.”

“How?”

“Could you perhaps… exert yourself until you’re flushed?”

Assessing him carefully, Soleil asked, “Would push-ups be okay?” In response to his blank look, she explained, “Exercising.”

“Perfectly fine, I think. Have a good workout while I meditate, and thusly together we can summon her.”

“You don’t have to do anything?”

“I just have to think about her. I’m more practiced at that than anybody. I’m also going to watch for the witnessable phenomenon you create – indeed, I’m watching for Rosy Glow. Go ahead, whenever you’re ready.”

Game to try, the young woman shook her frame and dropped down to do push-ups. She didn’t bother counting, since number probably wouldn’t matter. Maybe she’d have to break her personal best, or just break a sweat. Push-ups till the lady shows up, or a new epiphany was achieved. The thought that Rosy Glow might show up just to view this amusement crossed her mind.

“Okay, she’s here.”

“I’m here, to what?” Rosy Glow shimmered warmly inside the bubble of the standride’s field.

“We want to talk to this,” Dragon Food said gesturing to the vehicle, “to try to help her reach terra firma.”

“You want to communicate? Well, I can certainly help. These, I know. They respond to me.” Rosy Glow lay fondly upon the controls, appearing ready to take a nap though she mumbled coherently through closed eyes. Her sunny complexion and rosy cheeks were framed with curly waves of copper hair, which along with streaming wings and dress of sunsets and nebulae, leaked its colors into the machine’s outlets. When she opened her eyes, they were as if made of flower petals. “What a good model, so new and strong. How, where… ah! Access to Vedani human language learning modules. Okay! So, it should understand you better the more you talk to it.”

“I’ve never needed to talk to it before.”

“Now, you can. And this one already likes you!”

The implications of this effort to communicate were dawning on the Princess. “They said I lacked certain degrees of interface… is this one of them?”

“Yes,” replied Rosy Glow from her laying-spot. “Though unlike a Vedani, you’ll actually need to speak to each other out loud, or visually. It should be addressed with proper syntax, as I understand.”

“How do I use the proper syntax?” asked Soleil, smoothing her hair and calming her heart rate.

“It sounds like you should… speak to it like a person. You’ll be working through translation. It’s done some rapid acquisition, and is ready to speak to you now. I helped a little.” Rosy Glow’s voice was trancelike with just a touch of focus. “I gave it our variables…” And then she appeared to doze off.

“Hello?” said a brand new human-approximated voice. It was not Rosy Glow, but had a little bit of her accent.

“Hello?” replied Soleil quickly, as though surprised that would be the first thing it would say.

“Hello Hello Hell0 Hell0 Hello.” It examined a range of tones with each iteration of the word.

Rosy Glow sat up, saying, “It’s very pleased to speak with you! Seems it’s never had so much fun in its life.” Dragon Food sat down next to her and held her hand.

Greetings out of the way, the vehicle went directly to core matters, displaying words in Soleil’s language on the readout screen. [To achieve desired relocation, please perform the following.] At the bottom an additional line blinked: [Do you understand? Y/N]

Soleil tapped the Y to mean yes, and the display switched to a new motion diagram. It looked less like the usual Vedani control displays, and more like the movements that Soleil had been using while jumping between places in far space. Dragon Food followed her intent gaze to read the display, then shrugged and nodded to her.

Weighing her doubts and taking deep breaths, the Princess slowly read and practiced the patterns of motion on the screen. This was different from the reverse, where data was extrapolated from her errant (or intuitive) tries. After a little smoothing out, she gave it a spin.

The display image blinked twice and the vehicle said, “Almost. Adjusting.” The tone of its voice sounded character neutral and a tinge mechanical. Then the screen displayed the diagram again.

Crouching into her focus, Soleil slowed her breath, feeling the correct positioning of all her parts as she swung them through the field. She registered, launched, spun…

Winking out, they were gone.

– 75 –

Wendel and Leiv were laying together on the inflated-sponge bed from underneath the Skyfather cannon. The custom-fit mattress took up half the gunnery, big enough for them to spoon. “You’re letting Toller sit in the captain’s chair alone?” His hands traveled over her front, with hers on top of them.

“Yes. He’s staying there till I get back, except for trips to the toilet. He’s learning how to wait sitting. He can also study the controls, which he can name all of while I’m watching, and just after I pointed them out. We’ll see how many he remembers when I get back.” Wendel spoke in a dreamy, amused tone. “He knows how to call us for emergencies.”

“I think you’re a good teacher with a good student, and this is a great idea.”

“Just like it’s a great idea to spoon first,” Wendel said as she turned over to kiss him.

“You never know what might happen,” they said together.

– 76 –

UIXTR XKCD: What do you think of the rolls of grey foam?

AELRN LKCD: They’re a great combination of budget and performance. We can utilize this effectively.

UIXTR: Do you have enough of it?

AELRN: Enough of it for a while; a little goes a long way when we’re using it in strips. By the time it’s all been incorporated, we’d better have progressed our stratagem.

UIXTR: Sounds groovy and feasible in every way.

AELRN: Yes, doesn’t it? Speaking of groovy and feasible, what did the two humans think of the Palace?

UIXTR: From my perspective, the omni-point projection was seamlessly crisp. They found it hypnotizingly beautiful, if I listened to their tone expressions correctly – struck dumb, but not senseless.

AELRN: That sounds just right. I’ll relay your feedback to the technical crew.

UIXTR: What are you doing next right now?

AELRN: I’m going into my Garden.

UIXTR: How is your Garden doing?

AELRN: It’s becoming incredible, but I don’t want others to come in yet.

UIXTR: Sounds exciting.

AELRN: It is unbelievably so.

– 77 –

Toller awoke to the sound of footfalls in the hold. He’d used cargo straps to secure his blanket-wrapped self into a niche for a nap. Leiv, source of the noise, switched on the lights. The boy loosed the strap hitches and stretched. “Where are we?” he asked.

The tall man came over to sit next to the boy’s sleeping spot. “We’re back in Expansion 6 by Genoe, where I can pick up my ship. Do you feel like going back to Joe’s in Dalmeera? You’re welcome back at your old job, and I can bring you there. Wendel also said she can keep you on if you want, but it’s more dangerous and harder living.”

“Like, flying out of a volcanic eruption dangerous, or escaping from a violent kidnapping kind of dangerous? Hard living like… fighting other street kids for bets until you have to leave a city when the betting kids start to turn on you?”

Leiv nodded and shook his head at the same time, making a garbled sigh. “If you’ve had enough of that, then you’re welcome to take your leave of it. Any which way is fine to us. Do you know what you want to do?” His smile was frank and kind.

Toller undid his blanket burrito and stood up, folding his blanket for stowage. “I’ll stay on board with Wendel and continue the piloting lessons.”

“Okay, go join her in the co-chair when you’re ready. I’m going to manage the linkup.”

5x Rerun: Abyss Surrounding (2) 69-71, 18th Sequence, 72

– 69 –

I behold thee no longer. Perhaps surprisingly, you are missed. You were nice; you were not afraid. It’s good to meet people of your kind like you, which we sometimes do, if rarely. We learned to be more careful; we learned who not to trust. Learning who to trust is harder; some did earn that over time. But thee, no longer do I behold; may the eyes of others now behold thee.

– 70 –

Betide thee thine errors, your mystified inquisition, your missteps. Betide thee thine forbidden glimpses. The circles of the target have not yet aligned to provide the clear shot. Till then, I spin the dials of the mekani, taking the shifting tunnel to my destination at your doorway. The winds of change betide thee, the plasticity of space, and the shooting star at dawn’s arrival.

– 71 –

Beware thee that known element loosed to unknown ends. That once bound to a purpose, now free to its own. Beware the turncoat turned, the greater danger when wounded. Beware thee pursuit, furthest reaches within reach, the unexpected recovery. Beware the unstoppable force, reflected toward what direction? Glancing from golden shields to blind the vision, beware thee.

– 18TH SEQUENCE –

– 72 –

The old pin-and-tumbler lock snapped open when they used the key they’d been given. Together, the two of them elevated the roll door with an upwards shove. One end of a roller conveyor met them at the front, and at the other end in the back stood stacks of wrapped spools. The soft, flat material beneath shone matte silver.

“How exciting,” said R. Arriba to T. Vadr.

“Just what we’ve always wanted,” he replied. He walked in and began loading the conveyor, spools dancing toward the entrance. Without damaging them, his partner chucked them through the entry lock, into the currently vacant tech room of their ship. They whistled while they worked. Soon, the room was crammed with silver rolls except for a squeezethrough passage.

A fraction of the spool stock remained. They closed the door and left the key in the lock as requested, and with no one else still in sight, they took off. “So Vadr, what’s next on the list for the Homeboy Shopping Network?”

Looking over from the pilot’s seat where he was taking his turn, he didn’t need to check a list. “First, we’re going to another planet. And, maybe we could start calling each other by first names now that we’re not in the military.”

“The words ‘not in the military’ give me a cringe from my military parents, who still might not kill me on sight. You know – I’d be dead, and they might prefer it.” Out of the copilot’s chair, she patted one of the soft spools as she paced around. She spoke towards the front, her amplified voice feeding to the pilot through the ship’s auditories. “Since you’re used to calling me something different anyway, forget about what the R used to stand for. Call me Random.”

“You’re Random, that you are. You can call me Toledo, same as it ever was.”

“Understood. So Toledo, what planet are we supposed to go to?”

“Doesn’t matter. Just any other planet.”

“Let’s go to Florin. We were never sent or allowed there. What follows?”

“More suprises.”

“I’m starting to like surprises.” Their masked priority codes meant they endured no delay going inter-federet. At Florin, they did a swoop-through for new coordinates. Both of them stepped out to plant feet on dirt. This was their resistance to a creeping feeling they discovered as newly dark agents: an inclination to stay aboard the ship, in safe haven, and only aboard the ship. Despite overcoming a barrier, it made them glad to step upon a planet. The time of day was morning. There were birds in this parking lot, and Toledo Vadr imitated their whistle very well.

Spools still aboard, they received a relay notice to some truly unremarkable, unforgiving corner. Random Arriba and Toledo Vadr went along their way with efficiency. As they neared range, they got flight control instructions through a strange signal with a scrambler codekey. They aligned to a specific plane with precise orientation, and moved forward through time at a certain rate. At a particular distance, a piece of space folded inward and widened panel by panel, revealing a landing room. They glibly negotiated the entrance with raised eyebrows.

The technology inside was impossible to read. The military technician duo had never flown into a room within a patch of empty space. Nor had they seen a ship interior, if a ship this was, that contained this many glowing and moving elements. Everything in sight emanated with vibration, including the beings approaching to greet them.

The pair kept their cool, though Random’s face looked as though she were fully encountering the afterlife. They were met by some humans, accompanying another kind of people they had never before seen! This much could be discerned in the moving light. The other kind were amazingly similar and amazingly different, assumably the architects of this space. The two ex-military personnel felt an unexplainable guilty nervousness upon encountering these non-humans – as if they may have known all along, or ought to have.

Random and Toledo were very open to whatever they were allowed to safely learn from this experience. They caught each other barely suppressing giggles of astonishment. This was all made easier by the presence of humans in the receiving group. All together, they transferred the shipment into a moving cube, which also appeared to move in many other dimensions. It was just a cube, yet so much more. Visual information seemed to come from sources that were everywhere.

Random dared to speak to her friend. “Toledo, have you ever been to an Aquari spectropera?”

“Yes, actually,” he dared to reply. Their voices carried with surprising clarity despite an amount of background noise. They were not interrupted, but they felt observed.

“Is this like a spectropera?”

“Not at all.” They watched some crew secure and send the load in tow, gesturing with many layers of indicative moving light.

“So that’s not what I’m looking at right here?”

“Pretty sure no.” The secured cube floated serenely away.

“There is a lot of stuff going on here,” Random stated calmly. One of the elongated humanoids turned and nodded at her. The group led Random and Toledo back to their ship, which was now positioned to leave.

A human spoke. “What you have seen is real. You have no reason to be afraid. See you next time.” Random Arriba was handed an info chip, and they were clearly expected to get onboard and leave.

Once comfortably seated, Toledo Vadr turned to his friend now at her turn in the pilot’s seat, already interpreting the chip readout. “What are the orders?”

“Aww, man,” she moaned, “we’re going to toiletsville.”

“What place is that?” he asked, trying not to feel alarmed.

“Well, the official name is not toiletsville, but it’s where they make toilets. We’re going to pick up some toilets!” She made a noise of faint enthusiasm.

5x Rerun: Abyss Surrounding (2) 65-66, 17th Sequence, 67-68

– 65 –

EXTANT/PRESENT

sibling scions:
Mireille – ambitious, structured
Cristobal – reserved, considerate
Carlo – tempestuous, decisive

ascendant, son-in-line:
Grant Vario – distinguished, worthy

regent:
myself, Celeste – steadfast, unrelenting

DECEASED/MISSING

ascendant:
Charlotte – ferocious, efficient

scion, absent:
Soleil – piercing, valorous

[from the Annals of Celeste, Magus the 24th]

– 66 –

A human skull with fine chain threaded through the eyeholes, around the jaw and through the nose. It’s my skull, hanging from an invisible ceiling. Light comes from inside it. The air around it is filled with mist and incense smoke, upon which the light forms symbols, letters perhaps. The skull rotates to face me directly, and the light goes out. That’s not the end of my dream. I reach forward in the dark to find it – since after all, it is my skull – but instead I find a stone, whose weight falls into my hands. It feels at first like one of the large round cobbles from the old wall of the royal court. I hold it against my chest as though it’s protecting me, and the shape in my hands changes to feel more like the lodestone: smaller, smooth and crystalline variegated, yet still heavy. Then the stone breaks in my hands! I fall apart in that moment, as well. As it crumbles, so do I, and through the cracks shows a new, green light. I can see through my hands. I try to pick up the broken pieces, but my body has become spectral and I can’t touch anything. The new light grows, pieces of the stone crumbling away into nothing, and a strange dawn reveals a world I cannot see.

I woke up yearning, both missing and wishing, gently cradled in detachment like under a blanket of soft frost.

[From the Annals of Celeste, Magus the 24th]

– 17TH SEQUENCE –

– 67 –

Beloved, thou hast survived thine own experience; now you understand that which unjustly murdered many. Now you can see, and if you should find a grain of truth, then beloved, thou may join it to the others to form a picture they can know. They will not doubt thee, their dearest who remains. They may feel the indignation as to what brought this trial to you, that this may never again be so long as they breathe. Beloved, thou art the doorstep on which falls the words that they will hear. The key to opening their hearts will fall from your lips, to move their blood to their hands, that they may join and bar the way of destruction.

– 68 –

I believe thee thine intentions: that you wish to progress and further. I believe everyone in this group to be important, that each holds a part of the key. That which displays itself before our eyes, and instruments, shapes my belief in its undeniable elegance. I believe thee thine results, far-reaching and widely implicated, applicable everywhere and replicable in all corners. I believe we’ve figured out what we’re looking at! I believe of thee a true beginning, and that it will link you to your earnest allies by the extent of your effect. I believe thee deserving of a path both clear and guarded from attack. I believe you needn’t be worried by details other than that which can bring us to the threshold. Though I wasn’t sure until now what this is, I believe we may be the ones who will do this. I believe of thee the moment of impact.

5x Rerun: Abyss Surrounding (2) 61-63, 16th Sequence, 64

– 61 –

All four dragons were couched resplendent in simultaneous multiplicities of form; each doing all and more at once according to their type, they sat beneath, floated above, roosted in, and activated around their trees as their forms examined each others’ forms. They spent a while doing only that, noting details about each other. Then they began to talk about things that were different now.

Being of new growth and unfolding, Myricotl expressed sorrow at inevitable effects of the Viridian Phasing on the dimensional senses in this generative of newly occurring life developing in those areas. All would bear marks of it. ‘E couldn’t rectify it or tell what would happen, only that things would be coming out surprising where that wasn’t already the case. This kind of massive life-conditional shift was upsetting to Myricotl, regardless of whether it was a timely manifestation of a statistically natural stochasticity. Given an opinion, ‘e doesn’t wish to engage in it. Expected booms may not occur.

Ottokad’s conceptual parameters of interaction with the Pan-Galactic Imperium were going to change to inaccuracy while all this was happening. ‘E stopped working almost completely in the Imperium, and the one or two things to which ‘e could lend erself took a great deal of energy. One task might take half a day. Ottokad was certainly missed, but ‘e couldn’t take professional responsibility for work during the phasing if ‘e was participating. Organizing principles of integral structures would be in the usual hands while the dragon applied er efficacy elsewhere. Fixatives and cements wouldn’t be working as well, especially the ones based on eyvea. People would have to compensate for that.

Saga was quiet, mulling over contemplations without saying anything. The dragon looked faraway, listless and detached, holding er peace. This did not seem good to anyone. Where was the story? Where was it going? Saga watched them pointedly in silence, face serious but kind.

Though these weren’t all the dragons excluded by the phasing, they gave Arkuda better insight to ramifications and difficulties for those who were essentially locked out and deterred from their places, as a result of their not participating in the phasing tunes which altered the dragonroads.

It was so nice to see these three again. It hadn’t been such a while since previous meetings, but certainly longer and farther between. They matched scales with each other, turning their forms into various alignments. Scalepoints gleamed together like stars in the same sky. Their scales reflected the knowledge, realities, and life connections etched into that part of the dragon; they reflected these things to each other, matching pieces for new learning. They weaved around each other, together then apart.

A flower bloomed in Arkuda’s thoughts, denoting time’s arrival. ‘E quietly, unfussily left Golden Apple River.

– 62 –

The Hoopoe watched the freshly uploaded videos of the ‘Charged Filter’ transport. He and the three others who’d requested the sponge portion had determined the least alarming, yet fully accurate, name to call it. It was a filter, one that was sort of alive. As for the charge… well, barely anyone here knew exactly what they were doing. They just had to try things. If things didn’t go horribly wrong, none of it needed explaining to anyone until they’d accomplished something. The Hoopoe’s adolescent face showed excruciation watching every little action regarding the charged filter.

Silica sponges the size of palaces! There was always something he didn’t know yet about the great worlds, wise though his sixteen years had made him. They’d been discussing the possibilities for a lattice of specific and unusual parameters. Dr. Maryan Waters, the biologist residing at the Arch, asked them if they knew about this creature, as though they should.

So they would now use the charged filter, or figure out how to use it, or learn that they couldn’t use it. Wheehoo! The Hoopoe was motivated by a good income, even if he was essentially imprisoned; Lurinese miss their trees. He told them that he wouldn’t be as good with ideas if he stopped making music, so they let him bring his entire incredible sound system. They set up the shelving for it to take up his entire sleeping quarters, aside from sleeping surface. He accomplished more when he could have some fun, and he made quite a racket. Sometimes First AIDD would find the music and bust a groove in the doorway. That avuncular guy could really move.

The Hoopoe had a lot of official and unofficial uncles, aunties, cousins, sisters, and brothers who inhabited his house at different times. The Hoopoe’s own house, paid for with his own gains, built by family people and loved by the party. Where someone was cooking in the kitchen – Who? – Dunno. Where there was going to be music tonight – Which room? – Clara, top level. It was a proper Lurinese house, with connected levels on named trees. For a moment he envisioned a treetop rustling against a dark sky, stars peeking between underlit branches.

He kicked back onto his bunk facing his primary terminal. He didn’t have to keep up with every little thing at every little moment, really. This was only the highest pay, highest risk game he’d ever played with his and others’ futures on the line. A few paper shields held by powerful companies kept him in his own bunk, on a payroll, underwater, in ownership – instead of sharing a bunk, underground, on a juvenile roster, in liquidation. He looked above him at the equipment shelves. Having the music made a big difference.

– 63 –

Returning to the larger glyphscape of the Tabula Rasa, the Dragon Councillor looked around. There was another dragon present who would also be joining the next phasing shift, Rhizoa. Arkuda went to er and sang about the unfolding of a certain flower, and ‘e sang back about the unfurling of a specific leaf. Flower and leaf, together blooming and unfolding at this moment. The two dragons would each go to places far distant, one to the flower, one to the leaf; never were flower and leaf side by side, yet here on Tabula Rasa their songs were intertwined. These two places, along with the others, were the next activation corners of the Viridian Phasing spanning the Imperium.

Distancing once more, the Dragon Councillor picked an aesthetic perspective to look upon the heart’s-fire breath of delight, the luminous art that was glyphwork. Ephemeral thought naturally expressed to precise understanding; clear to the mind’s eye, a soothing balm of effortless communication at play, any dragon to all dragons. Only here. Hanging in the central space overhead, creature portraits from various parts of the universe sat or stood next to each other in a multiform lineup: evidence of a discussion on beings. Below was an amalgamated cluster of town and garden notions, from splendorous to spare, and glyphs noting other plainespaces. Nothing stayed still, for nothing was real; yet here, it was all that was real.

With that last heavy gaze, Arkuda descended directly back through er Gateway Stair. The dimension set which housed the Pan-Galactic Imperium became near, then evident, then manifest. The capital city of the planet Alisandre was nearby, and the sun was rising. The dragon eyed the flower which had bloomed, sentimentally noting its beauty. The flower’s sweet breath indicated news of all its neighbors: evergreens, head-wavers, long grasses, low crawling greens, climbing fiber, standing stem, branching reachers, and high-point markers. The dragon listened to their denizens, small and large, groundwalking and airborne. ‘E listened all the way toward the capital, the largest group of denizens in this forest. After absorbing for a moment into that cacophony, ‘e was ready to begin.

One breath after another, Arkuda as winged serpentine rose over the treetops. Similar to Arctyri’s rise over the Pyrean Midsummer vision, the dragon coiled upward and leveled to a circular toroidal path, with variances, and not exactly biting er tail as in classic art.

Between a caterpillar’s rustle, a murmuring airwave, and a quivering insect, Arkuda found a song: a diva ballad. From that, ‘e picked a sound frequency, and in the breeze through the leaves were two other songs with a similar frequency. Arkuda picked parts from the structure of these songs to focus on and play through. Music is a part of the universe that dragons know well, and linking songs with sounds was a matter of hearing and speaking. There is also plenty of broadcasted music over airwave spectra that are easily audible to dragons, who often communicate musically. Some dragons enjoy populated airwaves, and others don’t. Though fondness of music wasn’t necessary to project a phasing, Arkuda loved it.

‘E projected over the dragonroads which, in one understanding, are a combination of frequencies with spatial ties. Dragonroads are phenomena which naturally arise from life in the universe as it exists, like rivers. Dragons have different roads available to them according to what they embody.

The participatory inclusion of surrounding vegetation was necessary for power of broadcast, directional scatter, and stochasticity/randomness. Some dragons are better with plants than others, but their communicative properties can be harnessed with basic skill. The delicate angle of a leaf toward its favorite night star, the million tiny breathing mouths on the skin of the greenery, meristematic push from the inner upward flow of water, vibrato tremble under a breeze, the chlorophyll flush of light transformation; properties of plants throughout the galaxies were what transformed simple projection, akin to a phone call, into the Viridian Phasing.

Arkuda continued modulating projections until ‘e heard the echoes of like bouncing off of like. That meant current projections were now intersecting. Taking in the new sounds, ‘e worked via those as well. Arkuda kept ahold of the thread of progress, while losing track of the causal route, which was part of the effective process. Songs, sounds, and cues blended over each other until one couldn’t distinguish a garden from Genoe or Iparia, nor the origins of resonantly familiar songs. The Imperium’s dragonroad routes were thoroughly shuffled and sentried. The phasing also acted as a network of tripwires and response connections in event of hostility. All participants supported the phasing daily at agreed-upon randomized times. Some analogized it to compulsory karaoke.

At times, a dragon in phasing can see through into distances, a visual superimposition. Therefore, the blackgate that appeared in front of Arkuda in the dawning sky wasn’t overly suprising. It garnered an interested eye. Then, there was a slow scraping sound which tripped over something that struck, and a tiny spark of flame kindled beyond the blackgate. A whoosh of recognition blew over Arkuda’s form; this wasn’t a farseeing, but a nearing presence. ‘E continued to sing the phasing while shifting to a battle-ready hover.

This was the first dragon attack since the birth of Acamar, and Arkuda was more than happy to take the charge. The dragon’s approach possessed umistakable elements. Why would Ignivf act the fool and battle Arkuda in dawn? ‘E must have really missed er.

There was time for Arkuda to pulse a detailed alarm to the others before tornadoing mobius arcs of combustion drove er as far back as ‘e would go until whirling to one open side. IGNIVF, Ignivus, was here.

The brightness of Ignivus’ living spark outshone, while Arkuda’s encompassing radiance made Ignivus smaller. They feinted towards each other in torrential sparring, fractal edges of their power meshing and separating. The tender tops of trees beneath them singed, though nothing more kindled.

Then Ignivus found a strong grip on Arkuda, and wrenched free a long stripe of scales which hurtled to the ground as gold. Silvery-white ichor fell from the wound as Arkuda hissed in pain, coagulating into a dark red resinous mess as it dropped. Arkuda threw er head back once more to bugle distress across the phasing channels. A response was already underway.

The edges of the blackgate warped with color as their phasing found and took hold of it. Two of the phasing dragons were on the other side, while three remained in their places, upholding the greater Viridian Phase.

Ignivus was alone, so they didn’t call other dragons to bear. Some of the plants lending themselves to the Viridian Phasing were sacrificed, instantly dry-withering to create a frequency-manipulated energy lattice. This cast a portal-net across the blackgate, held by the two dragons on the other side. Arkuda felt er large wound burning as ‘e grew with the dawn light, keeping Ignivus at bay.

Sightlines to Alisandre Capital were clear, and humans were beginning to send air support. These were the Shield/Amp units that had been prepared. Arkuda’s aim, besides avoiding further injury, was to keep the pieces of conflict in alignment so it could be brought to a smooth close. ‘E acted as both target and prod, a distraction that Ignivus could not avoid.

The Shield/Amp units arrived and positioned themselves around Arkuda. Directionally transforming one kind of power to another, they absorbed blows of Ignivus’ power and sent it in translated waves to Arkuda. The units emitted confusing pitches that made them very hard for Ignivus to target. Arkuda used the added energy to keep erself and er foe separate and in position.

“They protect you now, do they?” Ignivus’ voice was achingly familiar. Arkuda was one of those that nurtured this one’s egg, contemplating er existence before ‘e ever spoke. “Remember… if they claim to protect you, they can just as well chain you.” As Ignivus spoke, the portal netting reached from the blackgate behind to entrap er. “Better prey than friends!”

“We’ve all learned so much together, Ignivf.” The blackgate shrank around the net, closing on a final burst of flame. “Maybe you’ll see.” Arkuda sank slowly into a pool of er own dried blood, listening to er beating heart.

– 16TH SEQUENCE –

IMG_7183

– 64 –

Another of my house falls away, or near enough to count; out of many Councillors, the closest of all of them to my granddaughter, also the only dragon among them. Having survived a near-fatal attack, Arkuda immediately resigned er post.

This changes everything, while everything is changing. Another Dragon Councillor must be found. With regards to our friend, a dragon has necessary prerogatives. The Magus dynasty survives with determination.

I think now on the painting, “A Window to the Past” by Earne Andem. The frame of the window stands somehow, despite the surrounding building being blasted or crumbled away. The skies all around are grey, but through the window shows clear blue. At times I resort to this window to secure a moment of peace.

Sturlusson (the younger) disappeared from his Cage of Eternity. I’m ready for him. I remember shaking his father’s hand, pup of a boy at his side. Now he wants to bring ruin, well… there can be ruin. Already, pillars are falling. My mood is shifting away from careful.

Descendant Successor for whom these records exist: in such times, you must be willing to unleash your power.

[from the Annals of Celeste, Magus the 24th]