30 \ 212

“They’ll be meeting us at the third predetermined alternative placement, if you happen to remember which one that is.” Alisandrian latitude instruments were not good over the waters of Foshan; this planet of endless seas had its own beaconing triangulation system. The tides of Foshan were like the planet changing shape. Some offworlders experience a stronger disconnect between their memory of a place, where they think it should be, and where it is. Woollibee was very good at uncalculated estimation and recognition; it wasn’t the clouds or the waves, but it was something else which included both.

“Whether I recall where that is, I hope they can find it.” The Hoopoe was in to see Arjun Woollibee about timetable expectations, since the First AIDD was the staff liaison in closest communication with the two dragons who were keeping them in safe seclusion. “It’s already ready? The lead time was two weeks for a custom deluxe order.”

“The developers were compensated appropriately for their prototype off the desk, and there’s a custom deluxe model on the way.”

This sank in for a moment – the prototype in hand. “Did they get the notes?”

Woollibee smiled. “They got a copy of the notes.”

“Oh, I can hardly wait.”

“Barely any of us can. We want you making your best music as soon as possible.”

“Best is relative. It’s going to be experimental, let’s say, and not like anything anyone has heard on a channel. And my music has been on many channels.”

“Right. We want exactly what you know you need to make. It doesn’t even have to resemble anything anyone remotely calls music. We just want it to work. Then, then it will be beautiful.”

29 \ 211

“More of us have arrived,” reported the Medical Charity (& Other) Sites Research Coordinator, “and everyone’s surly.” Karma Ilacqua spoke from the passenger seat of a helicopter pointed toward the noses of a dozen others. The call was coming from her old friend, Arch contact Arys Steinman. “Your annoyers are stalemated against the strong presence of six competing companies who want to protect and acquire your information. None of us can overpower the rest of us, and none of us are willing to let anyone hurt you, either. But luckily for you, you’re not even where the Enemies of Progress think you’re supposed to be.”

“No. We’re somewhere else beautiful and quiet, just as we hoped. Thank you for taking the risk.”

“That’s my specialty. I may not be here personally the entire time. Most likely, others are on relief rotation, as we’ve planned. Tension could get ugly at any moment, but those of us who want you alive and well have a lot more ‘collective bargaining’ here than those who want to damage you. The long term risk is yours, allowing all these major players to negotiate over your IPs. Opening up is a big deal for any project, especially the top private mystery research unit housed inside of high-currency proprietary advancements. When it comes to risks, you also might want to wonder how the Foundationals got your triangulation in the first place.”

“That thought has occurred to many. Others refuse to worry about it. Active suspicion is just as likely a waste of time, and such is not the inclination of those who’ve been brought to work here. We’re not the department of spying. We are on the edge now, Karma. The absolute edge of the world, and peering off into something else.” Arys sounded haggard, and inspired.

“Please, do not tell me any more. But I’m proud of you. I hope you make it. Have your liaison inform us of any surprise positioning strategy. We’ll all play off each other in order to maintain the lowest possible threat. The Foundationals here won’t be going anywhere without an escort.” The helicopter pilot opened the console hot box and pulled out a mini burrito, scarfing it while projecting a steely stinkeye. “I hope you don’t run out of safe spots.”

“This goes a long way to ensuring that we won’t. We might have to be doing this for days and days while we… wait for something.”

Karma smiled softly. “Augh, what a week this is going to be. It’s okay. I’m here for you.”

28 \ 210

“Thanks for being okay with coming here to do this, Mom,” said Bassel, sitting with Mirya on the bed in their room. This was functionally similar to the apartment life to which they were accustomed, but outside this door the future had arrived.

“I lived through the affliction too, lil’ bub. I feel as strongly about it as you, but probably more because you didn’t have to pray for your sick child like I did. It seems like you may have done something here that could make a difference. I’m willing to see that, for the cost.”

Bassel lay his head above his mother’s elbow. “You have the connection too, right?”

“Yes, but I hadn’t really used it for anything since the introductory explanation at the turning point, when the affliction reached the stopcode in the pre-lethal phase. It might have been a good thing I was incapacitated when I got the information. I was enraged, at everything! Except that I also knew we were going to live. But you’ve been using it, right? How did you get that to happen, now that we have a calmer moment to talk about it?” Mirya looked down at her son’s face.

“If you decided to check if it was still there, you felt it, right? I think it tickles, but the way a thought tickles, not a person. And only when I try to find it. Well, a while after we got better, I felt a knocking like on a door, but on a thought. So I found the tickle, and when I had a hold of it I just knew that if I sort of pulled it, it would be like a zipper. Then I could just get what was in there. It was an invitation, like the one in the introduction, but a double-triangle instead of a single-triangle. It was a kid who wanted to talk, Kate actually! Her and her friends wanted to find us and figured out how to ask if we wanted to talk. Then a bunch of us kids started talking about all the stuff we’re going to show you, and then their adults decided it was really important. I guess some of the human kids snuck over to their house with light circles and figured out how this was going to work.”

“They call it a neuroelectrical quantum frequency channel.”

“That’s probably about right.”

“Does it ever bother you that it’s there?”

“No, it’s fun. And it’s not really even there unless I want it to be.”

“I hope it stays fun.”

“Yeah… but this is also really serious, Mom.”

“Yeah.” A knock sounded on their actual room door.

Mirya answered it to find a girl just a little younger than Bassel. “Bassel, we’re making a blanket fort. Ma’am, can he bring a blanket?”

“Mom, this is ‘Santhe.”

“Hello, ‘Santhe.” She peered around the door into the common area, where said blanket fort was in progress. “Sure, go ahead Bassel. Can I watch?”

“Sure!” Chrysanthe called out as the two children ran on, blanket corner fluttering above the floor.

27 \ 209

Items were going missing. Old things were showing up, and then disappearing again. Wherever something showed up, people would remember stories about that thing, which they had forgotten until just then. World-altering remembrances were being retold in a storm of strange occurrences.

Amid all the chaos of the mysterious windows – whose displayed images were starting to stir apprehensive confessions from retired professionals – a lot of people were deciding to seek these lost things that were very precious to them. Objects of cultural and ancestral significance, each rediscovery was itself worth finding a way around house arrest, by the reasoning of those who fully understood the value.

Given the motivation, a stranglehold can be broken. They found ways through their own guards, uncovering the weaknesses of martial authority. By and by, people did find their lost things, which can have a way of calling for reunion. Inevitably, they were with everyone else’s lost things, in piles so tall that they formed towers. People found what they were looking for, but they couldn’t retrieve it, because nothing would come unstuck. The towers couldn’t be damaged, because people would not harm these objects. They couldn’t bear to do that. The towers grew, and confounded seekers continued to be drawn to this mystery.

26 \ 208

“This is my friend Kate,” said Bassel, indicating a Vedani who looked somewhat more mature, though not quite adult. A small group of young Vedani had joined the chamber of people after they’d oriented themselves with each other. There came the usual pleased surprise at the high degree of morphological similarity – familiar enough in the great void of possibilities.

“Bassel is a delightful representative of humanity,” Yykth said to his mother. “And, he’s great at puzzles. As you now know, us kids have been working on something that we’re ready to show you. Being here gives you some idea of the importance of the matter. This in particular is more part of your battle than ours, but we agree on bringing this to an end. We’ll be able to help each other.”

“I believe I understand, or that I will. I’m here to support my son, and assess this solution.” She wrapped an arm around Bassel and looked over at the other human children, with one guardian each.

“Allow us to bring you to some comfortable accommodations, first.” The word circulated through the group. They all went together into a nearby portion of this wing, windowless but graced with enriching wavelengths of light. A set of individual suites was arranged around a common area. The guests were released to make themselves at home. Mirya went in ahead of Bassel and checked the toilet. It was the same brand they had in their apartment. It worked great.