82.1 \ 274

The sonorous voices of the lost Symbias with them once more, the Aquarii were again growing in connection to themselves, their ancient past, to each other – and now, to the Vedani people. Vedani had their aetheric means of communication in what they experience as the scape, which the Symbias could find and understand, even exist within; and the Aquarii, again sitting with tree friends as familiar as their own thoughts, found the intermediary communication natural and easy. The Symbias hadn’t been nearly as close with any other people in the long memory of the Aquarii. They needed to know each other.

A small group of Aquarii had stepped forward to distinguish themselves as those readiest to defend the returned Symbias and the innate allyship they represented, on the suggestion that they would be needed soon. They did this quickly, before Human speculation could learn to consider their Symbias family a threat in the balance of conflict. Bright Wave was of course among them, she who had risked her magnificent voice, and her life, when she sang her way through the barrier around her burning Grove to find some way to save the family trees. She hadn’t been able to then, but she could now.

81 \ 273

People were passing notes inside of cash, writing words on their arms under their sleeves. In these notes were sets of codes which would activate upon being relayed a number of times. This, they designed themselves. Navann Ynam did some relaying herself, within her building. Between the information load and her own vivid experiences during recent hospital work, something in her had flipped without her being able to name every reason why; there were too many reasons, and she didn’t write them down. She just decided to start doing her part.

Word was going around, and the sense of imminence was a thick undercurrent. Within the keyed codes were data such as coordinates, times, and occasional neighborhood manifestos. The contents were for the people who had the keys. That’s how this information worked best, which someone knew if they gained it. People who had the keys already knew who they were working with, and why.

Word of mouth by voice. Each one teach one, plus one, plus two, plus three. Not everyone felt they had to do it. Plenty opted out along the way, and this they were allowed. Dropping back in the ranks still often equaled forms of support, and people should only do what they could do. It was important to some that they did. They were ready. The danger balance of battle versus siege had reached a tipping point. This would end something, and gain something. Time for the pressure to drop. They’d been wondering what would do it – they themselves would do it.

People were aware of possibilities. They prepared themselves, as hidden homemade warriors. Things were co-organized: family style, band style, tribe style. Getting through the systemic fence to run to the hills, where something was going to happen.

78 \ 260

On occasion, the Please Wait ellipsis in the voidtext window on Navann’s computer screen flashed more rapidly, like it was responding to something. Then it would return back to blinking dot-by-dot. Letting that window remain open, Navann layered more polygon-centric condensed tiles as she continued to go through the leftovers of the large pot of soup. She created two more that would scan, one with the hexagon and one with the square. When she scanned them, the ellipsis responded with its rapid-fire flash, which it still did by itself seemingly at random. Within a day or two it was doing this more often; then more and more often, until not a minute went by without a rapid-flash registering.

It was at this point of frequency that her computer started downloading, noisy after a seeming eternity of download absence. When it finished, it sang a happy little machine song, which surprised Navann while she sat reading in the other corner. She came over to watch what was happening.

The voidtext window turned into a basic chat client. It prompted her to choose a handle, and she went with something boring and easily decipherable, her first name plus her apartment number. If there was anything truly unfortunate about this, she wanted her identity to be clear. Someone could figure out where to find her body, haha. With her handle registered, she learned she wasn’t the only one. There were others in this chat who clearly had gone through the same process, and others who made apparent their actual names and addresses, not missing the chance to make a real-world connection for however long this might last. There were even others from her apartment building, and it appeared that the population of this chat was localized, at least to planet if not city and neighborhood. All were inside of signal lockdown territory.

Another thing they had in common: the chat had only people who had solved multiple tesselation scan tiles. People who had pondered deeply over the images in the signal windows outside, and had begun to understand what they depicted. This was a primary topic of discussion. Their guesses on the story were very similar at this point. They’d all been watching closely enough to create context for the stills and moving clips, grainy as they were.

It was a horror story about a series of failed first contacts, from the Strangers to Humans, and this signal attack must be a phase of defense strategy from further violence. The story was so seamlessly recomposed by the collective that some surmised how this would make a great film promotion – though the life-changing nature of events was too serious for this to be the ultimate point. Maybe that thought helped people treat it like a storyline, making it more approachable and less traumatic.

77.2 \ 259

Soon, in the spacious and flexibly-appointed room, a few of the kids with the majority of their guardians sat with small cups of frozen treat on the inside of a donut couch. It looked like a classroom model of hemoglobin. One kid sat on the floor against the responsively malleable bottom ledge. Conrah by name, mentioned, “We got fluffier blankets. Did you?”

“Yeah,” responded Vanessa, “we did. They’re nice. The Vedani are really trying. I even like this ice cream. It’s textured.”

“Do you feel like you’re being brainwashed?”

“No, not really. And I’ve known manipulative.” Vanessa took a giant spoon bite after this.

Conrah went to Oibhn at the mobile freezer unit to get another serving, and came back with a question. “Have you thought about what they’re getting out of this?” Sizing up a bargain was something Conrah could do.

“I’ve thought about it,” said Uncle Bo, sitting with an empty cup and spoon beside him in a couch depression he’d molded with a hand. “Maybe they’re making themselves known in a way that they want to be known – as people who respect life. Whatever else they might be responsible for, they’re offering to do something for humans here. It does also send a message on their behalf, since we’re destroying the weapon that was used against their earlier alliance with a group of humans. It shouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t happen. It won’t happen again, at least not this way. That’s what we want. That’s what we’re trying to do.” He leaned forward to squeeze his hamstring.

Conrah’s much-older sister chimed in to say, “It’s a complex but important message, that comes from us as well. We could scarcely get a better shot at this fight, ourselves.”

“The greater benefit being that we’re freed from a form of tyranny,” Uncle Bo said with a pointing hand.

“That is one meaning of tyranny, isn’t it,” Vanessa said, finishing her ice cream.

“Why is it kids that figured this out?” her uncle ruminated aloud with a slight shake of the head.

“Kids hate tyranny,” grinned Conrah.

77.1 \ 259

Vanessa and her Uncle Bo had a corner block bench to themselves after a practice run in the mek suits. The action was seamless now for the entire team, even though they were only planning to launch three. She was doing some post-stretching in her suit. Uncle Bo was still wearing his knee brace. “You’re amazing at this. Too bad it won’t go towards your sporting record in track.”

“No… but it might go on some other record that’ll count for me or against me,” Vanessa joked, grinning lopsidedly.

“Hey, it works for you in our books. The rest of the world will know someday.”

“Or they won’t know, but they’ll still be safer.”

“Damn, kid.” Uncle Bo laughed helplessly.

Bassel, the puzzle engineer kid, drifted over to the two. He’d been watching the practice from the bridges. “There’s going to be another ice cream social in Oven Cleaner’s living room.”

“Oh, I would love that,” said Uncle Bo.

“Yeah, let’s go,” Vanessa seconded. They joined the loose straggle of kids and guardians leaving the locker room chamber.