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.

34.1 \ 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.

33.3 \ 215

Vanessa cleared her throat and waved to gain everyone’s attention. When she had it, she carefully raised the entreaty. “We want to show you what this does, so you can understand what we aim to do. It’s why we’re all here.” Her voice dropped to another level of seriousness. “Are you ready?”

A moment of sighing and held breath, while a ripple of consensus moved through the group. The latent interconnection they possessed since surviving the lethal Hirylien Affliction, through the grace of Vedani-embedded codes, made understanding pass more easily between them. Mental signatures of revelation alerted them to wordlessly transmitted truth of emotion. Those with the perceptual acuity could discern a difference of emotional shape between Vedani and humans, even pinpoint the feelings of a more familiar individual. Such a time as this, was when they might reach for that internal connection and find it helpful. The logic could follow to explain the details, but the first thing anyone wanted to know was if they would be alright. The naked reply was of well-founded confidence. “Sure,” said Daniel Renaud, the first to break the anticipatory silence, “Show us.”

The nearby Vedani teenagers alerted their adults, which set the entire vault in motion. A detachment of human youth went with some of their Vedani peers to a platform which floated them into the thick of operations, under the gaze of their guardians above. Yykth, ‘Kate,’ stayed with the stationary group and relayed phases of the action.

The youngest and littlest of the detached group emerged from a cabana donning a fitted bodysuit with gloves. While delicate looking, Chrysanthe was also incredibly self-assured. Her father, who’d given first assent, watched from the front at the rail, wearing the beginnings of a small smile while Yykth continued recounting developments.

32 \ 214

People discovered that the only way to get a treasure back was to tell its true story. The many who loitered around the mysterious towers of missing items were the ones who would listen. These were the kind of stories people didn’t tell, in fear of being disbelieved – but when told truthfully, the item would come free. It was a spun-glass structure of the lost and found, each item a treasure greatly desired back in possession. The truth would typically be stranger than any fabrication trying to pass as truth.

Anyone who earned their item back was then able to see the beings atop the towers. They could be seen changing guard, or affixing a new item to the collection. Everyone would come around to it soon enough. Though having just been rewarded for truth-telling, people at first remained quietly observant of this revelation. It was a lot to sink in.

How did this all add up? People couldn’t deny their own possessions, not such as these; not the strange phenomena they went through to get their things back, or the stories they learned from each other. There were reverberations of radical honesty that stemmed from the retrieval clause in effect. Each tower was outside security zones, so everyone had already broken a rule to find it; they could break the guidelines of acceptable assumption. It was possible for a growing many to see those beautiful, strange, ethereal, dangerous ones on planets throughout the Imperium, including Alisandre.