36.3 \ 218

He sensed as far as he could along the Viridian network. Blended strains of music were the subtle matter trod by his awareness, a solidity of spun fiber. Distance was only a matter of perspective, and range was a factor of will. This is an aspect of space to Dragons, though of course this wasn’t physical space. Humans are not usually able to experience the dragonroads as travelers. Their usual interaction is from within formulas of physics.

Draig Claymore found the frontier, an obvious roiling edge. There was nothing between things – there was this, and then beyond it there was that. That was something very like this, but different in mood and substance. That, over there, was billowing and hotly active against flowing tension. He sent his eye to face it directly, and it spoke directly to him.

you thought we
need never be
seen again

These were Dragon voices too, creaking with unfamiliarity yet sizzling with renewed vigor. Ulphos, Magneu… who else could he hear? General Claymore had taken the trouble to learn their names. They traded off and spoke the same words. They’d been alone together for a long time.

we had no
no seekers for
too long
the old hunger
calling for
its rightful due
we will
find it
we will
take it
where you
keep it
in your home
we want
what is ours

The General reached out to set senses upon the threads of matter in this opposing force, and they parted to allow a clear glimpse – like curtains revealing a battle table, composed of real images as seen through real eyes. This force that seemed so distant, at bay along the far edge, had created its own vantages. They were staring directly at strategic payload.

36.2 \ 218

With a thrill, Draig realized that these were Dragon voices, a greater number than he’d ever heard in one place. It could be that he was hearing them in more complete translation, as their speech possessed additional textures of expression. He could understand various meanings, without knowing exactly which words originated them. Abnormalities of lattice observation; visibility reports; strategy, structure, formation, and response from different corners of the Pan-Galactic Imperium. The General recognized these matters, could place a voice or two, and understood what was going on. He’d connected to the Viridian Phasing, by some actualization of his part in the draconid defense network that he helped form. Possibly, it had been catalyzed by the trauma in the dream of his great-grandfather. He was connected now as a dragon might be while in activation, through some human process instead, probably only by way of the deep connection forged by his involvement in its inception.

Draig took a breath to speak with his mouth, but that gave him a foolish feeling. Instead, he tried thinking to the others in clear speaking sentences, phrased in the sound of his own voice. “Hello, this is General Draig Claymore of Alisandre. Can you hear me?”

Attention turned toward him, with surprised exclamations of nonhuman personality. “Well, I wasn’t expecting this – though it isn’t entirely unexpected. You met enough of us in the seeking, and your unique role in the teamwork would afford you possibility of this access. There must be some dire need, because human minds are not inclined toward these folds of perception.”

“A need felt, perhaps, though not logically known or grasped… yet.” Claymore opened one eye hesitantly, and then the next. He could see his darkened bedroom, while also still observing the cosmic flow of their dimensional lattice. He also noticed disruption phenomena swirling in the air around his head. He did not know that Arkuda had also seen this same thing on the person of Raev Sturlusson while he’d been in capture. The General closed his eyes again to keep this simple.

36.1 \ 218

This is a dream, but everything in it feels real. He sees it from outside himself, but it’s happening to him. He is his great-grandfather, and he knows he’s heard this story, but right now it’s real. He’s hurrying somewhere carrying a child and a wooden box in his arms. The child is not his own, but the box is. The box contains a gun when he looks inside, but in real life the box was empty. He knows that what’s happening was going to happen. He could have stopped it, but he didn’t. Now he’s running, really feeling like he should have done something.

Draig wakes up in the high alarm of adrenaline rush. He hovered in liminality as he lay in his bed. He fell into and out of time-stretched scenes of panic, flames, and infuriation. Instead of subsiding, they increased in volume. There was a sudden feeling of something ripping open between his eyes, like a knife through canvas. With his eyes squeezed shut, he felt the tear open audibly further until he thought his eyes were open again, but he was looking at something he’d never seen before. He could hear people. They weren’t near and they weren’t far, they were either, along an interwoven organic lattice of dark-against-dark lines, so dark they were almost bright.

35 \ 217

I know that I’m not going to rise to the mountaintop to rule with a scepter. The mantle will not become mine. People won’t be looking to me for safety and hope, that’s fine. I’m marred and scarred, wounded and maimed beyond the body. I’m a figure of defiance and retribution. Not even those of my planet, who have looked to me to bring their justice to bear, would really see me as the organizing principle for the time of peace and prosperity. That was my father, back then, and I know the differences that life has made between us. It’ll have to be someone else, after this.

Nothing will be the same. All will grow far beyond me, yes, even the number one public enemy. So much for that, and I bid good riddance to all that I have fought. I can find somewhere to put myself besides stillfrozen stasis; not that that was anything like I expected, but I’m like no one they’ve ever known, guaranteed. I access a different dimension set than the kind of human I was when I was born, with my physiotechnological and neuromental adjustments – not something people should recommend to the ambitious, always a matter of facility in necessity. The benefits of existing as a freak occurrence were impressed on me by the random fortune of young catastrophic survival. I ran with it, and I can continue to do so when there is no use for me. I’m working toward that.

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.