140 \ 332

Soleil was going through extra motion analysis rounds with Moonshadow, building their physical vocabulary. She needed to keep limber, things were really underway. In her youth this was when, with a predatory sense of timing, her teacher would emerge from the shadows. Her teacher found her, and she recognized and accepted her teacher. They were from an order, whose name kept itself usually forgotten. “Don’t trust me, fight me, and fight me by fighting your own distrust, and that of your body; if you trust it, you can control it.” She grew to defeat her teacher many times before these lessons faded to a close.

The other thing Soleil knew by understanding the stories, and learning to know – the weapon would be available. There was a famous blade in the news. It was having its provenance transcribed, and this was a part of the new collection for the historical establishment that was the last act of her grandmother Celeste. Soleil eyeballed it, imagined its balance and weight ratio, looked at accounts of what it had done, remembering the baton she chose for her pong training.

She traced the sword through its publicity. It was the one that had killed Ignivus, and by legend and full likeness, Hamurlae. In the file from the new historical institution, Soleil found the name of the experts currently handling the provenance: CJ&c., Ultd. Upon her request, Moonshadow went looking through the channels to make an affirmative contact.

Casper Jacobs was wearing casual snazzy, wondering about this unusual side chat he’d been plying. They’d been earnest, entertaining, hypnotically insightful and well timed. While Casper had other things to do, he made room for this little appointment, just to give his brain enough things to keep it running fully engaged. He knew he was about to get his mind blown, which is one of his favorite things in life. He had the feeling this could really be worth it.

When Soleil strode off Moonshadow’s platform toward Jacobs, appearing decisively as herself to this person, he was taken aback. He recognized her immediately, and with a microgesture flashed up an ident which corroborated his guess. This was part of something that was happening right now. “Are you,” he asked with a gesture of assessment, “133740R53?”

Soleil looked back at Moonshadow, who blushed. “That would be my friend there,” she replied pointing. She didn’t stop walking toward his door.

“Would you like to come in and talk?” asked Jacobs.

“Yes, thank you.” They went in, and Moonshadow hid.

Then, he did it. They talked, and Casper decided to give her the sword, Dusk-Arrow. His whole fate on the line for something totally unprecedented, but he already lives this kind of life.

139 \ 331

Resting atop a crag overlooking a view were a man and a Dragon, sitting in humanoid with outstretched flight wings. They had sat in simple silence for a while. Out of some void in peripheral vision, a curly, fluffy pigeon swirled straight toward them. It landed next to Acamar on the crag. It did a special dance, offered its scroll, and made a special noise. The meaning was clear to Acamar, who accepted the scroll from its leg. The pigeon then flew up and perched on Acamar’s horns – first one, then another, then another. It was a proper meeting.

“I’ve never received a pigeon, though I did hear of it. This one is finding Dragons for its message, perhaps certain dragons. It rode on spaceships to find me. This pigeon has already met more Dragons than most people.”

“This planet has an established Imperial population.” The meaning of that sank in for Raev. “You’re in the Imperium, we are, and you’re unaffiliated. What happened? The Viridian Phasing…”

“Growing patchy, it seems. This is the physical place of our requirement. It is in the Pan-Galactic Imperium, and so now are we. Hmm, yes. Where a pigeon looking for me, or such as me, could find me.”

“This must be extremely important. Can I look?”

Uninterested in subterfuge, Acamar said, “Yes.” Dragonseye sight decodes these holokeys into their abstracted multifold dymaxion projections.

The Dragon was processing this on er own terms, and Raev engaged with the information as it unfolded and illuminated. He became fully absorbed in digesting this. Some things sounded fine; others good; some sounded like human-minded approximations; there were some typical workable compromises, or so they seemed to him anyway. This was put together in a knowledgeable fashion, leveraging an understanding of the status quo. This was all tailored with Imperial language that encouraged expediency and signaled clarity of transmission. On top of that, it was also historically contextualized. This took a lot of work to make. With a sentimental flourish, the pigeon flew onward and away.

Raev smiled softly in response to what he read, from more of a detached sense of aesthetic admiration than anything else. He was already internally withdrawing from the struggle. He knows the fight never ends, and is expecting to be of very little use after this. But for now, this crag with its four-petaled stoneflower, in an unmapped corner of a low-population planet. Here they were, two people; one Human, one Dragon, widely hated yet role critical.

Breaking the thoughtful silence while inspecting the projection visualization, Acamar spoke quietly. “Upon hatching, we emerge as a truth that is already universal. Not like a small being that needs to grow, but like a person walking into a room. The circumstances of my entry to the world are mine alone – unique, fraught, and lethal. I’m reflecting on what it means to be the person I am.”

Bemused by his insights, Raev empathized. “I understand some level of what you’re saying.”

138 \ 330

There’s a new full iteration of the formula that we’re going to implement.
This is going to change the “shape” of the spheroid dynamic, the shape of its internal motion.
So what’s that going to give us?
Different waves, with more lifelike complexity.
Like what kind of life?
Its own, perhaps.
This is something really big, double entendre.
It’s like a dynamo.
Like one, but of a scale, concept, and character not heretofore imagined.
Is this technically a planetoid?
Is a planetoid in the aetherscape a planetoid, and what is the nature of the dimensions of its reality? This is mystery discussion material, and I’ll just let them run with that.
It does have a lot of names.
What are we plugging this into, or into this, right now?
Music, mainly.
Music can be very powerful.
By our measurements, always.
And with this…
What will we do?
What can it do?
Should we be prepared, should there be safety measures?
Safety Third.
That’s a good spot in the order of priority.
But, we want results.
We have results.
We’ll get results!
Possibly all at once.
What will it affect?
We’ll see. We’ll have to let people know.
I’m for it.
Oh, there’s no denying it.
We all want this.
We must thank the Human Hydraia.

137 \ 329

Raev had asked to be left behind on Hirylien, and for all Verne knew, he might not even be there anymore. The others had gone on their way, minus their coins, via that other shuttle. Verne Trosper had been given leave to be a free agent for now, available to Raev’s call or other pressing need.

Trosper floated leisurely along a tertiary byway some distance from the dark planet, a known but low-usage dead-end route. Out of curious habit, he was doing some long-range scanning. Trosper’s own ship was attuned to a few specific ID alerts with multiple decryptions, enemies of the enemies of the state. One of these showed up in his outer vicinity. This guy. Oh, this guy. Showing up on the trail like usual.

Verne rolled his eyes, and checked his weapons systems. He could actually do this right now, equipped and in a mood to tangle. He wasn’t a popular person; there weren’t many people or things he cared about, anymore. On the special occasions when he did care about something, he did so from a deep, hidden place that could determine everything, and which he didn’t question. Right now, he cared enough to halt this foe. This was it – he’d had enough.

This General had proclaimed loud and long that all who fought for the vindication of Hirylien were vermin, and his minklike malice in pursuit of revenge for his sister and his pride had earned him no tolerance. Whether Hirylien was actually empty now or not, this close brush with a lone pursuant ship carrying General Iparia might be the best opportunity anyone could get for a simple shootout. Verne could use all his Vedani party tricks out here.

He commandeered a comm line in signature style, while still invisible to human readout. “Boy, do I have a bone to pick with you,” he said, reflecting and reversing the expected dynamic between them.

Trosper’s voice was also recognizable to Iparia, and the military man didn’t hesitate to respond. “Perhaps you can do it with the rats while you die like one.”

Verne shook his head. “Nothing’s changed, I see.”

“Nothing that could change my opinion of you.”

“You will not be able to complete your objective along this route, Iparia.”

“Yes, I will.”

“No, you won’t.” Systems ready; target in view.

136 \ 328

The officer-in-waiting who stepped inside wore a red ribbon around the wrist, rare signifier of family communications. It was the first time in a little while that anyone had been inside the remote space bunker besides the family, so this intrusion already carried an air of importance. They recognized the meaning of the red ribbon, and there was only one family member unaccounted for. The young ones felt a inexplicable thrill as a missive was handed over to their father. The ceremonial air lent the moment additional gravitas, though it was an almost welcome break in the tension. Between a brooding parent and suspended fortunes at the edge of world collapse, something at least was happening.

There had been some forewarning, of this precipitating, though the communique was its own occasion. King Proxem Grant Vario had remained observant of current events from his vantage point – reading up, staying apprised, and strategizing in a chamber to himself. As a family, they did their best to uphold something like civility and normalcy for the sake of close-quarters survival. They occupied themselves individually with a method of coping: Mireille read, Cristobal wrote and drew, while Carlo completed puzzle game after puzzle game.

Word going around had been noted by observant people as something sensational was stirring. This had been noted by the King Proxem as well, half-blinded by denial though he was. So when he read the scroll, by himself in privacy, it made a kind of sense. Consistency of his previous standpoints would call for opposition, but what if that were ultimately the problem?

The message of the scroll came with a personal challenge from his daughter, behind a fully encoded seal. Such challenges were rare, and couldn’t ultimately be avoided. It was one of the family’s dark secrets, one way the lineage had kept power in forms of service. There was a method by which they would oppose and oust each other. It didn’t happen once in a generation, maybe not once in five. The family maintained an almost never-explained tradition of blade training under different masters, and the oath to face each other under necessary conditions. There were times, it was said, when one tried to flee a reckoning, but it never worked. This one came from Princess Ascendant Soleil, Magus to King Proxem Grant Vario.

He would accept. Composing himself, he brought the virtualized copy of the scroll out to the family. “This is going to take a little time, but I want you to understand the contents of this document.” Hearing his tone, they put away what they were doing, and listened with the seriousness of lives at stake. They went over the different items; they went over the language; they went over the peoples involved, discussed within the context of public history contrasted with revealed information. There was some people’s insight that Vario refrained from relating because he hadn’t yet acknowledged these societal changes, though some inklings of it may have reached Mireille and Cristobal. Then the King said, “I’m going to meet with your sister in the court at the Capital.”

Mireille knew what this meant, and wondered who would survive the result. Cristobal suspected. Carlo intuited. Together, they established a new order of responsibility in the ship during their father’s absence.