85.3 / 277

“Speaking as a research team lead, the project staff has prerogatives both contractual and career oriented.” Arys Steinman was among the researchers gathered who had ties to the Incident. “Not only are we hired to do this thing… some of us have been looking forward to it, for our own part, in some way for possibly our entire lives. I lost a brilliant colleague to the event of the Dragon’s hatching. I didn’t do a lot of work with Hydraia, but the work we did was sound. So I understand the presence of hidden struggles.

“I believe that I’m willing to work with this Dragon, for what I and we can achieve with our collective interests in mind – with very little if any mean-mugging. Yeah, some of us are quite eager to exit a political deathtrap, but many of us are certain that the best way out is through. This has been a topic of discussion the entire time we’ve been under threat. People haven’t wanted to leave when weighing against the cost of failure. A possible traitorous designation might be different than noble injury or death at the hands of ideological nutjobs, but from here it’s a fine distinction.”

Marian Waters, marine biologist, stepped up. “I lost my military boyfriend in the catastrophe. You’d think we couldn’t recognize the Elemagnetic Generational Gyre of a dragon we’d never seen before, when we’d never even seen one before. Apparently they’re probably never the same. I ended up learning a lot about the biological side of what happened, mostly how much we didn’t know and still don’t. We were tampering with the EGG. I have more sympathy for eggs than most, despite my grief.

“With him gone, what I have is my work. This is the most important that my work has ever been – we have the Cup of Mystery within arm’s reach, and these are the kinds of things seekers of the Cup face at the point when they’re looking right at it. My babe would tell me to get it, and get it big. If we do every last thing we can do on our experiments here this time – I mean, Make It Happen – we’ll all be ready to leave the crossfire. I’ve seen it work that way, when a joint project wraps up. Suddenly, we all know we’re done. We’re almost there. From the start, we each of us decided to go under the Immeasurable Oceans for this. I’ll take all the dragons we can get.”

“For a long time, my mental faculties have been dedicated to keeping us alive down here,” smiled Arjun Woollibee, First AIDD, “since before we were down here. The tendency continues even when the topic crosses outside of my field. We just hit the pressure point where we had to make our findings publicly tradeable. The benefit and danger of that, is that we’re being protected by a collection of companies invested in results. We may inwardly defy the profit motive and yet still decide in its favor, because our lives are at stake. Not that results matter if we can’t deliver them, but right now science may be moving faster than politics, somewhere on the upward curve of an exponential function. If we can manage it, our science might even change the politics, perhaps those that would condemn us. Would that the light of our torch may dispel the shadow of danger.”

85.1 \ 277

Acamar was somewhere in the atmosphere of this ocean planet, looking way down over scattered tiny islands, and the expanses of ocean between. Dragon Food hung onto some part of er where ‘e wavered, awaiting. At the time when they’d reached this point, a fact was remembered – relations here would be in some ways tense or complex. Rosy Glow, sort of a connector or diplomat at heart, took it upon herself to go in advance and determine an avenue of agreement.

Rosy Glow appeared in a mess hall, where some people were feeling hale and hearty, with hot beverages. She finagled the attendance of any concerned parties by specifying her general matters of import, in certain ways. Those who came to speak with her were selected by their peers for their position of relevance to such matters. The humans found the right words to use to find the people who should be found, and then they came. There were: Princess Ascendant Soleil (AWOL), General Alisandre Draig Claymore (AWOL, possibly removed), Dragon Councillor Arkuda (resigned & secluded), any people with a relation to the Ionian Vortex Anomaly/EGG Incident (such as Captain Wendel Harper), and people with ancillary military allegiance at the Arch.

There was going to have to be some talking and soul searching over the conflicted presence of someone she was sure they would need: the new Dragon. There was history here already, and she would try not to lead this being into a trap. These three new visitors were in somewhat closer relation to the ancient memories of the Red Nexus on how people of this civilization could betray with extreme prejudice. Arkuda, though, knew this era firsthand as well.

Once the group was absorbing the nature of the adjacent presence, and the permission or invitation being sought, the Princess Ascendant turned to the others present and opened the discussion through the caught-breath tension with, “Tell me how you feel.”

84.1 \ 276

The mass of glassy rock tapped beneath their feet, as the humans who’d volunteered for the buffer zone practiced the run they would use to move in groups during entry and exit. Center point leaders would guide group direction toward intended placements. Everyone ran bent over, arms splayed behind them, to increase their aerial visibility. The position reduced the likelihood of becoming an unintended target by a friendly force. “From above, you’d look like a bee doing a bee dance, instead of just a body under a head,” is how Mirya Ayo put it to her group of buffer zone protesters. It was an unusual way to run, as if under low branches while holding weapons, but people figured it out.

They did this training inside of incredible scenery – a pocket floating island within an uncrossable branch of rapids in the off-season Oriya aerial river. Uncrossable, except by the schools of silvers, their leathery disclike bodies making twirling extended leaps. The island they stood on was made of the kind of stone with a unique planetary magnetogravitational relationship. Floating veins of this stone created the conditions for the aerial river. The configuration of other giant gems nearby caused the rapids to whoosh around them like a pocket with an opening, keeping them unseen.

83.3 \ 275

Her speech translated in the natural way that a rosy glow translates to any language. It was a manner similar to the dragon’s, in the way that a new dragon’s speech is still generally dissimilar. They are yet unaccustomed to suiting themselves to interaction with different beings, and can only be met closer to their own terms.

it’s you, you’re the one
she met. i can tell because
your eyes were in her eyes.
i see these things. we see you
and recognize you as yourself,
hello. i believe that you have
a role, a part in something
that i know – far and deep,
but near enough, if you
come with us. it is my
guess that you know
what i mean, and it would
be my pleasure to show you
to your domain, for it would
also fulfill my part. you’re
the new dragon, hi.

The between-space swirled, changing what it was between; traveling, in a way, as their forward intentions shifted. Acamar could see them, now, recognizing them as individuals like erself while unlike anything else. Kao-Sidhe are only visible when recognized. The uniqueness factor was also common between the two peoples, Dragons and Kao-Sidhe – one is not like the others, and Acamar understood this upon seeing the two of them.

oh – your kind are so
interesting. what are you,
really? no – don’t tell me.
as for what you speak
of – it is there! i knew it,
i know what it is without
knowing what it is yet.
i had a feeling it was
there, and already
wish to understand
it more. let us away,
lead on.

Dragon Food was irresistibly interested in and attracted toward Dragons, but could, often as not, manage not to get eaten.

let us, yes!

83.2 \ 275

She was zipping through enfoldments of space-concept betwixt the existence of one rosy glow to the next – feeling other familiar phenomena in passing, something in her searching for something, and perhaps something else. Rosy Glow went from familiarity to increasing familiarity until she collided joyously with someone most familiar: Dragon Food! Wherever they were together, there was a happiness.

Then they traveled together, as they were often wont to do, with some purpose, and without. With certain purposes more circumspect, the indirect route is the most direct, and the one they were happiest to take. Time together was hardly time, with them. So the route changed to career through their coexistent universe, broad enough to wander, with one eye on the prize and one eye to the skies. What were they looking for? They’d know when they found it, and why.

It found them, naturally, though ‘e didn’t know them as themselves, only the combination of their sensations. Acamar may or may not have been hungry, but Dragons get hungry when they see Dragon Food. Dragon Food was aware of, and proud of, his appeal. When Acamar’s gaze fixed onto them, where were they? It was hard to tell – between one place and the next, or the next, now of fixed location. Just then Rosy Glow remembered something, and sensed something, and knew that she should speak.