34.5 \ 216

They discussed job positioning and locale proximity. There were occasional breakout sessions to shift issue focus, during which a General might visit another’s ship for handshaking on matters that called for a personal touch. The Aquari General-In-Consult, Dancing Shimmer, had some info to relate on available intergalactic transport power, particularly the reservation allowance for at-will strategy. When General Claymore visited her ship as they settled details regarding burst focus, she looked in better health than recently, flush though distracted.

The King Proxem joined them at the last stage, to take in the summary and engage in wrap-up. After the ships had detached but were still in present space, King Vario came aboard the Alisandre vessel. It was then that he demanded higher levels of civic control than they had collectively strategized. This included detention without process, questioning, and increased punitive measures for a particular list of minor infractions. A chill passed over General Alisandre, who supported the plan as it already stood.

After a cursory listen to Claymore’s peer-supported reasoning, Vario insisted on his adjustments without explanation. The King Proxem also requested that they re-staff an extreme measures facility near the Capital, and to place him in direct command. That place hadn’t been used since the time of Claymore’s grandfather; this created a slew of alarming questions in the General’s mind. He would have to relay these as commands to the others, and he didn’t think he could grit his teeth any harder. This kind of confidential demand was the right of the monarch, and Vario’s insistence indicated reasons – but Claymore was unsure that there were any reasons he could accept for the implied possibilities of these actions.

The semi-randomized exit procedure gave Draig time to decompress. He’d been only mildly dissatisfied at the end of wrap-up, which in a job like his spelled appropriate restraint. However after the long session with King Vario, he was wondering in detail – for the first time – what life would be like without his position, and what his position would be like without him, particularly now. He could feel himself pulling back from his commanded duty like a horse that wouldn’t jump. He responded to occasional rollout broadcasts from his command post alone, while those incomprehensible, irresistible thoughts grew stronger.

34.4 \ 216

They continued to consider personnel budgets as they spoke with an area control relay, team leader management, and armed squad officers. Private-affiliation journalist representatives were on hold for authorized releases. They were paid by companies who paid their company; they were the safest, and most reliable.

The ship had a social area with seats, where good sustenance was being provided. Draig was able to make it there, where nobody was really talking to each other because they had so much in focus. At times, it was possible to share a similarly burdened pep smile.

Independent news had also undergone surprising blooms of activity. A wave of leaflets was storming the neighborhoods like trading cards among kids. There were successive generations of speculation on the images playing through the signal windows. Average bored citizens could transform into amazing information diggers. Some of the conclusions seemed to Claymore clearly misleading and reactionary while familiar in tone; as if one hidden source had actually been around a long time, possibly in an official capacity. That wasn’t General Alisandre’s department or current concern. He’d been going through this stuff for a while, though, when someone approached with a communication to ask if he’d slept outside his command center recently. The General made exaggerated shifty eyes, and addressed the communication without answering the question.

34.3 \ 216

Lockdown area transportation managers reported their budgets for hiring vehicles that were unaffected by the signal outages; the Federet Generals compared their crisis areas to see how they could optimize their own. They discussed the in-progress development of a voluntary escort monitor bracelet system, which would allow oriented civilian guides to move packs of people around in coordination with their protection force. This seemed dicey to Claymore in more than one way, yet it was in demand and would free more skilled personnel. They shared their city planner reports of potential routes for roving packs. An Aquari artist and an EduNet representative had given them a proposal for possible transmission upgrades.

These were all heavy-oversight initiatives. Surveillance elements continued to increase, and hadn’t yet plateaued. General Draig Claymore’s feeling on the matter was that the more closely one watches, the easier it is to get distracted. Obsession beyond necessity is an energy drain. The trend was not actually reassuring to him, even at full efficacy.

34.1 \ 216

This was the first nose-to-nose meeting called since the one after Draig’s induction. Utilization of this extreme-security linkage was a sign of the times. The guided-random location choice combined with time-sync en-route procedure was an expensive huddle, but one which may be necessary in utmost emergency. The current state of affairs had yet to approach that level, but now is the time to make sure the system is in place for this maneuver.

They’d been addressing individual action items for a while, with a few shifts in support focus. There was a rapid-fire efficacy to this form of high-pressure proximity. Discussions at a nose-to-nose resulted in immediate implementation, with personnel at attention and each General’s effective circles ready to mobilize.

Something about this instance was out of anyone’s control, and a little out of control. There was a current catching them all that General Claymore couldn’t fight, despite a mounting pile of internal objections.

Journal Diagram

During the making of this trilogy, one aspect of my process has been using diagrams to illustrate for myself patterns or motions of thought and action, to discern rhythm or structure of how certain story turns feel. It can be like a sieve through which details flow, or a puzzle mat that hints at how they should fit together; these separate steps that make the laying-down or connection of ideas easier, like tiling. The most concise and real explanation is the final product. Here’s another one.