40.1 \ 222

Everyone who appeared somewhere in the Pan-Galaxies after the Maelstrom Rescue was asked, when they reported back in to their duties, to fill out a short questionnaire as to their whereabouts upon arrival. It was unclear whether these locations were all now known to the people who had sent them there, or how useful that knowledge would be to them. A small team had been assigned to the sole task of digesting these reports and spotting patterns or consequences.

The size of the personnel group from the five largest fleet bases of the Pan-Galactic Imperium meant that there were thousands and thousands of accounts, which would continue to trickle in. They had saved most. General Alisandre, Draig Claymore was himself still reeling with survivor’s euphoria, multiplied by the number of people who’d made it out. That feeling still eclipsed trepidations as to what history might say about this massive blow to Imperium forces despite the costly and difficult safeguarding. He probably would still not have time to worry about that as they continued to wage defensive war.

Lieutenant Daguerre-Asahi stood before Claymore’s office desk, delivering a handpicked assortment of reappearance questionnaires with widely varied locations. “So far, the strongest pattern we’ve found is that the places in question are of great personal significance, with markers that belong only to the person relocated. Another thing – everyone reflects on themselves in their accounts a little more than we normally expect in military reports, while that is consistent with mindstates of near-death survival.”

39.6 \ 221

Model visualizations sprang out of the info strand as the other two looked through. A hollow polygonal dagger with a chamber hilt. A specific list of aetherscape-reactive alloys, for information-to-matter transfer; Kao-Sidhe-modified circuit runics; a recipe of elements; an integrator unit.

AELRN: That’s stuff I want you to see and know about, and we can discuss it specifically later. Because of this, and from this, and for this, the Symbias have been giving me really interesting techneurolocative patternings. I have working experience in maps and interfacing, and believe that our teams should, or must work together, Yykth.

YYKTH: Thanks, I’ll start including you in the discussions as they occur in the areas of your relevance. Yours might both overlap. There’s another thing, if you can tell me where to look in the world of adults. Considering the debates between elders and young about the nature of our actions and who might be taking them and what other actions we may also need to take, can you think of someone willing to associate with Humans who is good at… getting people to relax? Or to have them remain calm and feel healthy? One of the Human kids suggested this might be a good idea.

UIXTR: Give me a moment to check on someone.

He extended an optic tunnel across the aetherscape. His reference was occupied with others, though Oibhn was running a calling-screen of the room they were in, saturated with colors and patterns sliding over every surface, including the curved furniture. This played over mellow strains of siren song and gentle rhythm. Oibhn was testing the castle again, one of the more soothing room projections. Uixtr watched for a beat longer before returning to his in-person conversation.

UIXTR: I’m signing a pathway to CLNR:OIBHN, the ultimate host of a central block. He loves taking care of people and having them leave in a good mood, feeling nourished. This is for any of us to use. He has also had Humans in his lounge and fed them, and they ate a lot of his Human-style food, and some of the Vedani food.

YYKTH: That sounds like it would be a nice visit. For me at least, first.

39.5 \ 221

They saw Aelrn as she stepped into the middle of the room. She turned to meet their eyes and walked over, stooping to join them in the low space. The three exchanged exuberant niceties before Yykth turned the topic to mapping coaches for the mecha team, both machines and operators. Acknowledging the mood of business, they settled into aetherscape interaction behind closed eyes.

AELRN: There are some things I’ve been working on, Yykth, which made me decide that my experiences and advances might be an important piece of your endeavors, which I’ve heard circulating along with your requests. You might even provide a key element to mine. I’ll show you both what’s new with me.

A freshly formed branch came loose from Aelrn’s info structure and duplicated itself to both Uixtr and Yykth. Concepts in visual display projected the glowing forms of Symbias trees, with some power data of new rare gems given from the Aureny. Yykth hadn’t been introduced to most of this, but she let Aelrn explain, framing this with context clues and fitting in the floating errata. She connected the branch to her tree, which fed it meaningful detail that amounted to a reasonable level of comprehension.

AELRN: Uixtr, you remember how the aetherscape forms of Symbias are connected analogues of physically rooted forms? We think we’ve found a way to trigger new physical forms of Symbias that are now found only in the scape. There’s a way we could try it, but we would need to be intrepid. It’s worth it not just because they’re interesting, but because the Aquarii are important.

39.4 \ 221

He settled into the alcove booth across from the girl. Uixtr and Yykth made square face-to-face eye contact before sinking into semi-relaxed seated stasis and closing their eyes. The vocal channel they were maintaining unfolded into innervisual branching aetherspace, where they could exchange entire idea and information veins.

YYKTH SLDR: Thanks for meeting with me to consult. Though my mixed peoples groups have formed bonds of ingenuity and capability, it can be stressful trying to get interactions right with humans.

UIXTR XKCD: You might already be better at it than I. Your groups are larger and more even, and they’re less accustomed to conflicted situations than the individuals with whom I have worked.

YYKTH: They’re adapting quickly, including the guardians.

One branch freed itself from Yykth’s knowledge trees and floated over to Uixtr’s point, where he examined it. Therein was a set of context observations of human crisis parenting, including evolutions of strategy sessions. The eagerness of the young to fight for a better future, and the passions of the elders to protect the young had caused leaps and bounds in the realms of possibility. There were certain points of requested expertise.

YYKTH: You might know who can help us really dial in vehicle interfaces for the excelling operators. These aren’t a matter of averaging for wide usage, but optimizing for particular performance.

UIXTR: You may be aware of successes in my recent history of human pilot to Vedani vehicle technology apprehension. The records are accessible, so you might have looked, or you may.

A branch of this information synthesized from Uixtr’s flow and floated over to Yykth’s bunches, where she highlighted it for priority processing.

YYKTH: This is more extensive than I had hoped, I’m very grateful. I flagged LKCD:AELRN for the other topic of this meeting, so she might be joining us.

Aelrn’s voice drew into aetheric proximity.

AELRN LKCD: I’ll be there in a matter of moments, glad you asked me.

UIXTR: Oh! Splendid.

Uixtr opened his eyes to continue sipping his green drink, still warm. Yykth opened her eyes as well and stretched into a relaxed lounge against the wall curve for the time being, poking the springy floor pad.

39.3 \ 221

Many a Vedani home address exists aboard what is called their spaceship, in the plasticity between three-dimensional anchor points. That sort of mapping cannot easily be done on the flat sheets of substrate that humans like. Uixtr carried a walking vessel of hot green refreshment down a shrinking hallway, one which travels shorter than it is long.

After turning some more corners, Uixtr arrived at a room pocked by low, floor-seating alcoves with calming curvatures. He zoned in on his signal to the voice of authority that he sought, smiling out through her typical irises of shifting rainbow-on-black, short silver hair in a downy updraft. The notorious Yykth, now officially handling the affairs her young cadre had begun in secret.