4 \ 186

They all stood in the hallway corner, talking excitedly: representatives of every research discipline currently involved at the Arch, a place with the subaquatic capacity of half an Alpha orbit station and the curiosity of an interstellar species or two. Researchers threaded through the social knot they formed, turning back and forth between each other, talking. Some were leaning back on the wall with deep sighs and wide eyes, or clutching their heads and laughing. There were serious hushes, hands in front of mouths. The Hoopoe was there, Buckminster and Arjun Woollibee were there, Arys Steinman was there, Maryan Waters was there – anyone who wasn’t there didn’t hold a leading research position, but they most certainly did hear the building-wide broadcast of the classic tune, ‘Major Breakthrough’ by Silken Tongue.

In the past forty-eight hours (during which some had not slept), they’d been able to interpret the data they were receiving, then they’d translated it to human-range audio and listened to it, then they confirmed its origins, and now everyone here needed to know.

Leading up to this, they’d translated layers of patterns from their readings, which had been gaining in depth and texture of reception through their advancements. Their compartmentalized projects seemed to have co-evolved into sudden cooperation. ME & TH discerned and sorted timing signatures. EG & MW discovered and quantified tonalities. AL monitored and analyzed conditional factors. PM measured recurrence and reverberative derivatives. PR recorded particle arrangements as wave shapes. MC made amplitude comparisons. RH worked on recognizing nesting while RS & AS interpreted shapes. PA identified conjoining characters. RS calculated radiance and decay. KU wrote data-interlocking equations. RL sussed out source coordination. BW & AM kept up and kept ahead with instrument reception tuning. JM spearheaded creation of gap algorithms. Out of every 1-6 person team, some of them were here. Someone produced a camera and got them all to look at it, incredulous faces filling a hallway, five and more people deep.

They were all discussing the audio track they’d been listening to, which was not the song called ‘Major Breakthrough’. The implications of its evidence broke the rules of this world open to reveal another, real yet other. They’d suspected enough to get that far, but this told them so much more in a stunning fashion. What did they believe should be done about it?

Pointing to the papers in his hand, Arys Steinman turned to The Hoopoe asking, “Can we make a composition like this?”

“I’m going to say yes,” replied the lad, “but it will only be like it in certain ways, with our specific dimensional fingerprint, the way it contains its dimensional fingerprint. But I think I can make it fit like two halves of a locket, and please don’t ask for more explanation at this point. I’m pretty sure what I need is a specialty 6/15 Live Selector MatrixCube.”

Steinman received multiple key points from this reply one after the other for the first time. “Guessing from your context, that sounds like an item for music production.”

“Yeah. I’d want to order it custom, which I wouldn’t consider cheap, and will take a little more time than instant acquisition. Like the Charged Filter. And I need the premium software, and I’m going to mod it, which will void support and might mean legal fees. You can tell I’ve already thought about this.”

“If it’s mass market, then it costs no more than our toilet paper, even at custom rates. I second your request. We’ll have it sooner than anyone else can get it, and you can order the gold trim. We might even get them to work for us.”

“I think all we need to do is order one. We have to wait for a surfacing until we can send for it, right?”

“We’ll be coming up really soon. Priority.”

3 \ 185

Chrysanthe Renaud, 7

Alisandre Capital

– How have you felt since returning home?
It’s weird. Sometimes I think about the people on the H planet that didn’t get better, and how lucky I am that I did. Everything’s a little brighter, or maybe I’m just thankful.

– How are your friends and family treating you?
A little like a hero, or someone famous. Like I survived because I was strong. We were in the news, on tv. Everybody cares, but some kids are more interested in what it was like meeting the royal children. I’m glad my daddy survived too, and we’re even closer now.

– Would you say that readjusting has been easy, or difficult?
Easy. They forgave my homework, but I’ll still have to pass the tests.

– Do your affected senses feel better, worse, or the same as before?
Maybe I just pay better attention, so it’s like I hear and see more now.

– Have you changed activities since your illness? If so, what has changed?
I watch more news now, because it feels like something I’ve been a part of. I had to get slowly more active after all the time in bed, but I get to go back to gymnastics soon.

– When you think of Pyrean Midsummer, how do you feel?
My dad said it was lucky to be born so near Pyrean Midsummer. This is the first one I remember seeing. It was beautiful, but now I wonder if luck can go either way.

– What do you think of the care provided by the Imperium?
I’m still alive because of them.

2 \ 184

The room server found Celeste when she returned for the tea tray – Magus the 24th, slumped over her desk as though arrow-struck from behind. The server contacted emergency, who contacted the family. Before anyone moved her, the King Ascendant arrived, then Mireille with Cristobal and Carlo. So, they were able to witness the death scene.

The dead Queen’s family sat in the room with her, and talked immediately about the succession. From the small plate of madeleines, Mireille took a cookie, Carlo took a cookie, Cristobal took a cookie, and Mireille put one extra into a pocket. Vario did not take a cookie. Soleil, the Princess Ascendant, was still missing – yet even if she were there, she wasn’t the rulership age of thirty. There was no Queen Ascendant now. The children looked at their father. “Does this mean you’ll be King?” asked the next-oldest daughter.

“Yes,” replied Grant Vario, “but only for a little while, until the Scion is ready of age.” He looked into the eyes of Mireille, eldest child present, next-oldest daughter.

They emerged from the room after their personal grieving. Grant Vario signed the succession document held in front of him, and the arrangements began.

The Teachings took place over a full week. In the Teachings, traditional to the Magus, the works of the previous monarch were biographically presented so that all who survived her could assess what to carry forward in her memory. At the end of these, King Proxem Vario delivered an address.

“Though tragedy and confusion have brought me to this position, with your help I will make better of it. We are more than equal to the demands of these times. We need look no further than our own resolution to move beyond our troubles. I mourn as you do, perhaps more grievously, but I hold firmly to hope that things will be set to rights. The Pan-Galactic Imperium can stay steady, secure, and strong – as it has remained with Magus rule.

Many generations throughout the span of the Imperium have seen greater strife than what we now endure. To all who have lost homes and loved ones in the disasters on Genesee; to the Aquarii still suffering from the destruction of the Symbias trees, and people separated from loved ones due to travel restrictions; to those who struggled to survive the biological warfare of a criminal who has escaped justice yet again; to those who lost relations in the Photuris Attack, which freed the Imperium’s deadliest enemies and took the Queen Ascendant, my wife Charlotte; to those who await the return of our beloved Scion Princess, Soleil; I say that you can place your trust in me, Grant Vario, as King Proxem.

I will of course steward the best of futures to pass to my Ascendant child, and so will every one of you receive it. The Pan-Galactic Imperium is my heart and soul and family. To me, it is all. That our peoples should flourish, that we should rise to greater expanses and grasp the glories we seek, to this my life is already dedicated.”

1 \ 183

Queen Celeste had donned the Old Armor. Two score nights ago, after her successor daughter was dead and her scion granddaughter missing, she’d begun adding the armor, one piece at a time, over the plain grey shift. She now wore all the heritage pieces, each made with some of the original metal worn by the entire Magus line – rulers of the Pan-Galactic Imperium.

The smoothly clacking kilt of plates shone from her lap beneath the desk before her. The granular deckle edge of document paper slid beneath her fingerpads as she waved them across the horizontal announcement of a founding charter. A new library in the capital, with an archaeological catalog including items previously unreleased or unorganized. It would be a public-entry portion of the Imperial Grounds. The perimeter would change in that spot, but the style transition would be graceful.

Against the rounded upper curve of her office wall, two timelines and three pictures were displayed. Swiping her hand in the air, she’d cycle and rearrange items while assessing proposals. The sun would be setting soon.

At the first hint of the sky turning, Celeste began to put away her work. She collapsed page images into the 3D model. She contacted the responsible executives and the construction company. She signed it in.

The age of stone. There was a philosopher who discussed generational ages long ago, in terms of the longevity of their works of intention, as analogized with building materials afforded to each. The age of paper spanned decades. The age of wood spanned centuries. The age of stone spanned millennia. Daughter, mother, grandmother. Fathers and grandfathers. Celeste was in her age of stone. She thought through the consequences of her actions beyond a thousand years, what the future looks like when there are generations to follow. Stone agers laid those careful and heavy foundations.

Who amidst the ages was thinking to this year? Around a thousand years ago, the Magus line was just beginning on Alisandre with Marialain, dragon speaker. Now the worlds were full of dragon speakers, but she was the first to speak so well to them that they decided to collaborate with humanity in creating interstellar civilization: that which Celeste’s own hands now steered.

Celeste, Magus the 24th of the Pan-Galactic Imperium, called in tea and a plate of madeleine cookies. It arrived while she was putting her work away, tidy, as though anyone might come in and use her desk. Thinking of the stones she has laid. Would they crumble, like the stone in her dream? Would light shine out of them?

She spilled her glass of cold herb infusion onto the cleared desk. That elixir tasted so good, she hated to waste it. Perhaps it was her age or her illness that made it taste so fine. In the next moment, her head had fallen to lay next to it, and she watched the liquid approach her lips, all by itself. Celeste hadn’t been told it would feel like this, but she might be dying. So much yet unknown.

The sound of her last breaths grew longer, and vision turned dim. She became the growing shadow, but against it was a light. This opposition was the greatest of hopes, and in a final glimpse it overtook everything.

Out There

Lately I’ve been from bookshop to auditorium, Olympia to Lisbon, bringing my words to new audiences, and a little bit sick! Last Word Books! Creative Commons Global Summit! & more.

Also got to see this nice fellow again, Charlie Cox that is of Stardust, Daredevil, & more. He warmly remembered our previous meeting at ACE Comic Con in Glendale, AZ, and signed my copy of Abyss Surrounding (one of which he has).


Next up is the Nebula Convention in Los Angeles!