124 \ 316

“There’s something I have to do next,” spoke the Princess to her space sled. “I mean, there are a lot of things that could demand my attention right now, but I feel like there’s something hidden close at hand, an important call. Do you know of anything in particular? Is anything obvious to you, Moonshadow?”

Moonshadow proudly delved through its multivarious net connections and system linkups. It displayed to her a familiar name:
UIXTR!

“Something from Uixtr? He must be busy. I wonder what it is.” Moonshadow flashed some excited colors, so it must be good. For a moment, Soleil looked around her at the trees of this otherwise inaccessible mountain plateau overlooking Alisandre Capital. Across the way was the stone atop Mt. Kairas, and in the other direction was her landing meadow with its backpacker’s trail. It was just starting to turn dusky in the sky, with only the first star shining. She looked back down at the display, which showed a list of activity nodes, triple-highlighted in the way that meant this information was actively circulating in the aetherscape, and had been noted by some. The top node was dynamic, receiving current contribution. The metadata, Uixtr’s and others’, expressed fondness and trust. Important people were congregating – in the way that Vedani express importance in depth of relevance rather than through hierarchy. They could be anybody, but Vedani knew them and deemed them notable, including the opinion of one who in tense times had shown her respect from under threat.

This was crucial enough for her time right now. They would be humans; here, in this city; and she wouldn’t know who they are. There was a coordinate, with a closed-network invitation. Moonshadow explained that this was a new sidenet, created for – she might have only just seen the news, this happened while they were both in the Arch – it was created for a huge action that actually went off, with Vedani and kids and Aquarii and people from all over who did something to a secret lab and neutralized the Imperium’s bioweapons, which it had used on itself. Moonshadow said all this rather glibly; it could comprehend events, but without the engagement that would create shock unless the moment were present. It still preferred mostly to use text on its display, though it could use sound and the languages it had learned to speak aloud with Rosy Glow for occasional emphasis.

She should go in some form of soft disguise, so as not to freak them out, but prepared to reveal her identity. It was coming down to the wire now – things were coming to a head for important decision-making, and she would lay her ace if it was called for. What would she need to say, and what would she need to learn? It seemed right to acknowledge a dynamic element, which told her to be ready for anything; which, she should be anyway – now more than ever.

119.1 \ 311

This is something that this ancient Dragon had never done before, one eye on the Fray and one eye in the Tabula Rasa, lending an ear to both, scribbling glyphs with a tailtip. Even a life as long as this continues to be interesting. In this moment, Arkuda shared an actual physical place with Saga on a planet, while they both hosted the same corner of the Tabula Rasa where they related with other unaffiliated Dragons. Arkuda split er perception between the Kao-Sidhe lawyer-pundits and the exiled Red Nexus Dragons inhabiting a separate part of the plaine, brazenly willing to talk with the newly unaffiliated ex-Councillor.

Arkuda had done it this time – signed off from the Viridian Phasing and gone out into the unaffiliated universe, leaving the Pan-Galactic Imperium. This held the best possible likelihood of brokering some form of resolution, so ‘e went to see if ‘e could find it where ‘e hadn’t yet dared go. It all came together, in that moment, when crossing into that zone. Found those of good connection, those who would open the way, who had been thinking similar thoughts. They were here and as ready as Arkuda for whatever would happen next.

These worlds were different; these worlds also deserved presence. The unaffiliated Dragons had been variously welcoming in areas of the Tabula Rasa. When Saga offered assistance with structured communication, it was a crowning benediction that gave Arkuda full motivation of pursuit. Depending on the outcome, this could be the last thing the Dragon sunlight ever does for the Pan-Galactic Imperium; a love letter, a farewell note, one last try for people Arkuda had been aiding for an age or two. This Dragon had often grown fond of people that love working with er, again thinking back to the folk that named er a dog-horse.

118.3 \ 310

Pliskin nodded carefully as he accepted the chip from Princess Soleil. “Mm-hm. Okay.” He was giving her plenty of credit. He wasn’t there to make argument or take control; he didn’t need to in order to get something, because she was here to give something. If they exited this situation in one piece, that would be good. “A few of the properties I’m dealing in may have immediate market impacts that reach you, wherever you might be. I am very pleased to meet you, Princess Ascendant Soleil, Magus. You can call me Ravl, or Pliskin, or The Ravl Pliskin. Would you like to let me know if there is any weight of interest related to your endeavors?”

Soleil took a pause to assess the invitation, and decided that divulging a fragment might give her an ace in the hole, somewhere along the way. “Vibrational sciences,” she said.

Just then, an unexpected sight greeted them at the windows. A small riderless vehicle unlike any in human manufacture bobbed in the air outside the top floor of the building, where it could get their attention. Though it looked as if it were trying to blend in, it also flashed its name repeatedly in its outward display.

MOONSHADOW
MOONSHADOW
MOONSHADOW

“Moonshadow!” exclaimed Soleil. “Oh, wow – can we get this… buddy, somewhere safe…?”

“This is your buddy?” asked Pliskin, curiosity strongly piqued.

“This is my mount,” answered the Princess. Karma nodded to Ravl.

“And you,” he addressed to Karma, “also know her buddy?” Karma nodded again. “And I… could meet this friend of yours.” His thoughts worked quickly. “There’s a balcony on the other wall, with slide-open panels. It could scooch right in.”

“Onto the tile?” Soleil shrugged off her own consideration; Moonshadow floats, and didn’t look dirty. “It is intelligent,” she said with a tone of caution, “and well behaved.”

“Good, good. Yes,” was the reply. With a flutter of breezes, Moonshadow made a polite entrance, turning on its rainbow lights when it came inside.

“You can talk to it if you like. It is an it, according to it.” Soleil let Ravl have a mini freakout, exchanging pleased introductions with the vehicle. With a play of fondness over her face, the Princess unzipped her suit’s glove compartments, shook out the vacuumed control gloves and slipped them on. She walked up and laid glove to handlebar, and Moonshadow pulsed warmly. “You can explain later,” she said to the sled. To Pliskin, she said, “You have the information I’ve given you.” He nodded, and petted the machine where she gestured that he may pat. To Karma, she said, “I’ll go my own way from here. Thank you for being in touch.” She engaged the connections and awakened additional systems. Soleil rolled out the hood in the suit, got it form fitted over her head, extended the hardening visor and pulled it down. She turned on the Vedani suit’s chameleon camouflage. Against the sky, she looked slightly transparent and reflective, a fully covered and essentially invisible rider. “Let’s go, Moonshadow my friend.” Out through the opened section doors, they flew together.

103.2 \ 295

A ground car rolled up to the smoothie bar, a comfortable luxury model. The Hoopoe had this feeling like he knew who it was, though he hadn’t been expecting anyone. He’d just handed back the phone.

Someone stepped out of the back of the car on this side, an athletic man with long brown hair tied back at the nape of his neck. Dressed casually but well, he placed a pair of shades on his face and walked towards the board-built establishment. He waved at the Hoopoe as though they were friends. The Hoopoe guessed that they might be.

Strolling up to the young man, the new arrival stuck out his hand. “The Hoopoe?” he asked to verify.

“Why do you ask?” he replied, shaking the offered hand.

“I’m your boss. Ravl Pliskin. This is your performance review.” The young musician paused in confusion. Was there more on the table after this? The Hoopoe sort of hoped not, and it showed on his face. Pliskin cracked up a little. “Really though, I just thought that you deserved a face-to-face progress wrap-up. So I made the time.” He looked around and waved at Lola at the counter.

98.2 \ 290

Marine biologist Marian Waters stood gazing through a porthole onto the oceanic planetrise from their spot in orbit, one hand resting over her heart. The boy teenager came around to her, after she’d listened to the explanation nearby. She wrote three places onto the list, feeling the matte surface of the clipboard. “And we’ll get our destinations after the ship’s crew go over this?”

“We’ll get going en route, then take the time to inform. Possibly at each step.”

“Thank you very much.”

After a moment, communications expert Zarae joined Marian in front of the view. Sometimes they would wear their dresses on the same day, while they’d been below. “So, I wonder how long this vacation will last, and what state the worlds will be in when it’s over.”

“I hope to relearn how not to count time. If only for a moment.”

“Thrilling. For myself, I have a sitting ensemble picked out. I have shades, and I’m going to find a hat.”

“Hats!” Marian hadn’t thought about hats in a long time, and thought a new style might be fun, while also a wise choice.

Zarae craned her head around a tiny bit to see if she could spot specific large islands. “Do you know the current section of the Synchrony?”

“I haven’t calculated yet today. I think we might have just passed the cusp.”

“Oh – I’m sorry, you already started not counting time. I don’t blame you, I obviously haven’t, either. A nap is the prize of the moment. We’re allowing, naps, now.” A welcoming hand showed Marian back towards islands of rumpled comforters from Captain Wendel’s deeper ship closets.

“Oh, that’s excellent news. I will get right up to the minute with that.”