126 \ 318

He’d been assessing the routes according to the indications given him by the Davyjones crab’s luminescent map of the currents. From Draig Claymore’s study of the onboard nautical maps of Foshan, he’d ascertained various destinations. He estimated the logistics of the Foundationals who had been targeting the Arch – where they were likely to go for fuel or supply, and their pursuit pattern possibilities for the area. Most of Foshan was one island here, an island there; imagining the potentialities was, in this case, more like a chaseboard game than usual.

As they sped through the abyss, Draig was working through the question as to what he would do to attract the attention of their ideologically-rooted menace. He felt sure that from his position, this would be his best contribution to a clear path for all other necessary movements. He thought about all the people who had just left this building of a vessel: Princess Ascendant Soleil, the scientists, the staff, the directions they were headed, and any possible targeting motivations aimed at them specifically – or towards the place in motion he currently controlled, with the help of Woollibee & Woollibee and the cleaner Saer, who knew where all the supplies were stashed.

They operated quietly, terse except for functional exchange under the razor’s edge of tension. It was exciting as well as serious; there was admittedly something giddy about having nearly sole possession and full command of this gargantuan monolithic achievement, while understanding that it ultimately could be abstracted into another piece on the chaseboard.

Claymore thought about when they would surface, where they would be. While he hadn’t been under for anywhere near as long as the staff and crew, he dreamed about sunlight and wondered about the weather, looking forward to seeing any sky. Relaxing for a moment into skyward thoughts, he projected further, beyond the sky, the directions of space here, the stars – then he remembered that he currently held a key to something out there, too.

That gave him chills, and a shudder. Was it time for that? Would that serve; would people be ready, was the balance of events right… it was a game-changing wild card. He was already out of a job, technically. He couldn’t be more fired, though perhaps further prosecuted, depending on the outcome. Draig barely looked at the thought, just acknowledging it was there. Would they listen to him? Moreso, he believed, if it served them. If he journeyed into that space outside of space, so dreamlike to him when he’d found himself pulled into it, what might he find there now? Who would he speak with, what might they demand, what might open, what might crumble, and where. He knew people who could be crushed by the weight of this ponderance, but his mind was thoroughly accustomed to it. He navigated these pathways as he breathed, with the calm of gazing upon nature. This was a kind of nature, the nature of events.

Meanwhile, they moved as if part of the water thanks to the strong, sure swiftness of providence.

125.2 \ 317

Without saying anything, Soleil took a seat next to Pepita, who offered her head for pats. One of the girls, who hadn’t offered a name, addressed her. “So, you know about what went down right, since you’re using the back-end chat.” Soleil nodded. “It was so wild. Everything’s different now, and we’re glad. We know what’s really going on, and people should know. When we get together for this, it’s one of the ways we don’t forget, how we figure out the words – if we get in the flow, they just come out, and it sounds as real and true as it feels. It’s about the reality we’re living in, and if we say it right people seem to figure things out on their own.” Soleil nodded again while the dog bonded with her. The group resumed and started laying down rhymes.

…as I was thinking about it,
I started to realize
that I needed to believe
what was in front of my own eyes
that the things I didn’t know
were what was weighing me down
that I needed to grow
if I wanted to stick around

They passed the beat around so each person could have a say. One of the teens set up a little camera, and Soleil allowed her transmitted image to be recorded. They got solid clips of everyone.

…people can’t always face it
when they did something wrong
facing mistakes to fix them
means you have to be strong
surrendering to the truth
doesn’t mean playing along

Soleil actually did join in a little here and there, saying what she knew and what she felt. Something about this medium called for self-honesty, and she was ready for that in this moment. It was just what she needed. She dove into this rare environment, speaking with the a frank transparency and adaptable vulnerability that resulted in rhyme. They nodded back, and it fueled their continuing conversation.

…sometimes people are people
even when we think they’re not
gotta get over ourselves,
in case we forgot
it’s up to us,
we could have a little or a lot
we can give the respect we deserve,
and deserve the respect we got

Words that approached the heart of the matter were still mysteriously cryptic in the way that some things can only be known by those who know them.

…I did what I did
for a world I can live in
loving this life
means that I can’t just give in
we don’t need these poisons
we gotta make better choices

The Princess Ascendant in disguise reached inside to find a word for the wise, for those in the know, something worth mentioning to impart while she could. They welcomed her say, trading beats, rhymes, looks, and laughs for a while.

…and what if this is all I could do
with more than anyone else,
could I do enough for you?
do I live up to my name,
did I change this game
for the people who needed it changed
will tomorrow still come
now that it’s been rearranged
will I know, if I get old,
that I chose the right way?
either way,
it’s me that’s here today

125.1 \ 317

The half-burnt shell of a house shielded a metal drum fire. It was the deep end of dusk. Sitting on some vehicle seats around the fire were four older teens dressed in darks, and a dog. They shared snacks and drinks and thoughts. They heard someone coming down the side stairs.

Isten had told his mother Leyga that he would be out for while. Acknowledging his new level of earned maturity, she rarely inquired anymore as to where. He was glad he didn’t have to lie; this wasn’t a good kid spot, but his friends weren’t the bad kind. They were the bravest, the tightest. They’d done something hard together, and stood the test. They felt right about what they’d done, but they still weren’t sure if authority would come after them, if it was dangerous for them to see each other – even though right now, they were the only ones who understood what they’d just been through. Whoever else might see the invite probably shared at least some of their experiences. The windows – the puzzles – the net – the hills – the portals – the training – laying down in front of armed forces under Aquarii at full blast – the Vedani – the meadow – and now what?

He threw his arms up when he saw them, and the dog came over to frolic around him a little. “Puppita!” He ruffled the dog’s noggin, and went to sit with a girl on a two-seater who leaned in and gave him a kiss. The group was beatboxing in turn, getting warmed up when another person started coming down the stairs.

They turned and saw a woman, of young teacher age but dressed like they were, with a bandana over her face beneath grey eyes. Pausing a moment, they hailed her, and she waved a black-gloved hand. There was something familiar about her. “Did we see you on the plateau?” asked Isten.

Anonymous Soleil shook her head. “No, I heard about this from the chatposting.”

“Well welcome, we were just about to get started. Pick a spot, Pepita over here is friendly, and feel free to jump in any time you want.”

118.3 \ 310

Pliskin nodded carefully as he accepted the chip from Princess Soleil. “Mm-hm. Okay.” He was giving her plenty of credit. He wasn’t there to make argument or take control; he didn’t need to in order to get something, because she was here to give something. If they exited this situation in one piece, that would be good. “A few of the properties I’m dealing in may have immediate market impacts that reach you, wherever you might be. I am very pleased to meet you, Princess Ascendant Soleil, Magus. You can call me Ravl, or Pliskin, or The Ravl Pliskin. Would you like to let me know if there is any weight of interest related to your endeavors?”

Soleil took a pause to assess the invitation, and decided that divulging a fragment might give her an ace in the hole, somewhere along the way. “Vibrational sciences,” she said.

Just then, an unexpected sight greeted them at the windows. A small riderless vehicle unlike any in human manufacture bobbed in the air outside the top floor of the building, where it could get their attention. Though it looked as if it were trying to blend in, it also flashed its name repeatedly in its outward display.

MOONSHADOW
MOONSHADOW
MOONSHADOW

“Moonshadow!” exclaimed Soleil. “Oh, wow – can we get this… buddy, somewhere safe…?”

“This is your buddy?” asked Pliskin, curiosity strongly piqued.

“This is my mount,” answered the Princess. Karma nodded to Ravl.

“And you,” he addressed to Karma, “also know her buddy?” Karma nodded again. “And I… could meet this friend of yours.” His thoughts worked quickly. “There’s a balcony on the other wall, with slide-open panels. It could scooch right in.”

“Onto the tile?” Soleil shrugged off her own consideration; Moonshadow floats, and didn’t look dirty. “It is intelligent,” she said with a tone of caution, “and well behaved.”

“Good, good. Yes,” was the reply. With a flutter of breezes, Moonshadow made a polite entrance, turning on its rainbow lights when it came inside.

“You can talk to it if you like. It is an it, according to it.” Soleil let Ravl have a mini freakout, exchanging pleased introductions with the vehicle. With a play of fondness over her face, the Princess unzipped her suit’s glove compartments, shook out the vacuumed control gloves and slipped them on. She walked up and laid glove to handlebar, and Moonshadow pulsed warmly. “You can explain later,” she said to the sled. To Pliskin, she said, “You have the information I’ve given you.” He nodded, and petted the machine where she gestured that he may pat. To Karma, she said, “I’ll go my own way from here. Thank you for being in touch.” She engaged the connections and awakened additional systems. Soleil rolled out the hood in the suit, got it form fitted over her head, extended the hardening visor and pulled it down. She turned on the Vedani suit’s chameleon camouflage. Against the sky, she looked slightly transparent and reflective, a fully covered and essentially invisible rider. “Let’s go, Moonshadow my friend.” Out through the opened section doors, they flew together.

114 \ 306

Back when Saga had asked er if ‘e had spoken with any of the Red Nexus exiles, Arkuda had to defend er political allegiance at the time, as a Councillor of the Pan-Galactic Imperium. After the dreadful wounding by er own mature hatchling Ignivus, who since perished by a dragonslayer’s sword, Arkuda was unable to both heal and perform duties in an increasingly hostile climate. ‘E had abdicated quietly. As that was not long ago, in a time of turmoil for Dragons in the Imperium, a new Dragon Councillor had not yet been appointed. Jobs were not always the most attractive proposition for Dragons, whose existence includes an intrinsic functional role in the greater universe already.

There was an opportunity now, without an official allegiance, to speak with the exiles. That might mean leaving the Viridian Phasing, which continued to safeguard Imperial space aside from those few tragic breaches. The Viridian Phasing protocol continued to divide Dragons in many areas of physical space, though the unaffiliated had potential opportunities to communicate with both Imperially aligned and Red Nexus exiles on the plane of the Tabula Rasa. Dragons would not perform the energetically costly Viridian Phasing forever.

Though Arkuda was, as always, firstly a Dragon before an Imperial citizen, ‘e had shared many joys with the people of this intergalactic civilization. The thought of leaving them indefinitely came with real pangs, more than just resigning a position of administerial importance. However, leaving in order to discern issues of conflict resolution had a certain tinge of continuing to perform a duty ‘e had abandoned. Be that as it may.

The company of certain unaffiliated Dragons was desirable, maybe healing, and they would welcome Arkuda’s presence. There was also the strange matter of open invitation to the Fray with plusses, where the Kao-Sidhe’s most passionate debaters would definitively discuss any topic that dared to be introduced. There was this discussion, that discussion, and recent discussions, and in some way Arkuda could be or already was a part of all of them. Somehow, this might possibly come together at the same time as it would come undone.