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The oceanic location was secure, quiet but for the tossing waves surrounding the surface of the austere extended black building, floating level and still within the current using its tensile grip. They had their greater fields up to protect the upwards cargo bay opening. The mood was expectant.

Just outside of its direct airspace and elevated at the distance of safe approach, Drift X appeared in place. These jump transits made the ship appear looking somehow cleaner than before. It arrived looking shinier than it had in years for its top secret entrance debut. The expanded bay opening was large enough to welcome their ship. There was the subtle frisson as they slipped into fielded space, then a few breaths before being inside the hidden marvel that was The Arch. Drift X was swallowed, and settled. It first released the lozenge-shaped autonav supply drop capsule. The capsule opened its wide mouth and stuck out a conveyor belt tongue.

Everyone came forward from inside Drift X. The eight of them were a rare assortment: Captain Wendel Harper, Leiv Gruun, Gretz Manoukian, Toller, Derringer, Karma Ilacqua, General Alisandre Draig Claymore, and Princess Ascendant Soleil, Magus the 25th. Soleil figured that if everyone in this place was in special danger on her behalf, they may as well know who she is.

Toller was floored by Arkuda’s presence, unused to the gleam. Draig and Soleil both stepped forward to the Dragon. Arkuda nodded to them both, signaling the mudras for Much To Be Done and Here We Are. ‘E stood in trine with them.

57.2 \ 239

“Does it have to do with the giant obelisk that’s remained within a ten-block radius of our route for the past hour?”

“I’m looking for a way to stay disguised and gain the presence of the highest-ranked military officer under the monarch. For reasons befitting his station, I assure you. I know it may not serve you to enter into the realm of authority.”

Derringer dropped his voice a few decibels. “You’re speaking of General Alisandre.” He lifted Chip’s fingertips as though he were the courtly lady he actually was. “If you will allow me.” With this gentle guidance, he proceeded them past their talking spot, and they walked quietly until the next block. “I would be most pleased to assist you in gaining that audience.” Partial suspicions confirmed, Chip Soleil made a small smile of acquiescence.

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Many a Vedani home address exists aboard what is called their spaceship, in the plasticity between three-dimensional anchor points. That sort of mapping cannot easily be done on the flat sheets of substrate that humans like. Uixtr carried a walking vessel of hot green refreshment down a shrinking hallway, one which travels shorter than it is long.

After turning some more corners, Uixtr arrived at a room pocked by low, floor-seating alcoves with calming curvatures. He zoned in on his signal to the voice of authority that he sought, smiling out through her typical irises of shifting rainbow-on-black, short silver hair in a downy updraft. The notorious Yykth, now officially handling the affairs her young cadre had begun in secret.

34.3 \ 216

Lockdown area transportation managers reported their budgets for hiring vehicles that were unaffected by the signal outages; the Federet Generals compared their crisis areas to see how they could optimize their own. They discussed the in-progress development of a voluntary escort monitor bracelet system, which would allow oriented civilian guides to move packs of people around in coordination with their protection force. This seemed dicey to Claymore in more than one way, yet it was in demand and would free more skilled personnel. They shared their city planner reports of potential routes for roving packs. An Aquari artist and an EduNet representative had given them a proposal for possible transmission upgrades.

These were all heavy-oversight initiatives. Surveillance elements continued to increase, and hadn’t yet plateaued. General Draig Claymore’s feeling on the matter was that the more closely one watches, the easier it is to get distracted. Obsession beyond necessity is an energy drain. The trend was not actually reassuring to him, even at full efficacy.

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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.