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.”

94.1 \ 286

Everything go in the abyssal experiment zone, where the experts had been living for span upon span. With the new elements swimming in place, maybe only for this one time, they didn’t know how they could possibly give anything more to the culmination of their group effort.

When it began again, the whole Arch could hear it: The Hoopoe’s ultimate track (with regards to this experiment, he would murmur). They’d gotten the best musical talent for this party, it was agreed.

This time, the track sounded different; the difference was the new Dragon. Acamar was there, out in the abyss just past where anyone could see. The sound transformed the way sound does when it bounces off an object, but this object didn’t make sense three-dimensionally. The listening crew experienced something like echolocation, though instead of returning a distorted soundwave, the sound was completed into something greater than the sound they were producing. It was similar to a musical sense of completion, the home note in a composition where every note hit home. The elements of completion were otherworldly, yet because of the way their portion of the sound was grounded in their own reality, the in-between quality still belonged. It was like their own entire dimension was balanced on one side of a seesaw, and this sound was the plank displaying the balance – but likely, they were realizing further, not the only balance touching this existence.

Somewhere in there was the voice of Acamar, but it was between everything that they could hear, while being distinctly there. Acamar was doing something with this wave, or this wave was doing something to Acamar – as though ‘e knew what it meant, what it was, and what to do. Dragons do recognize their element in all novel occurrences.

Time as a dimension seemed to suspend. It was strangely comfortable, the way people are comfortable in the moment before everything that might happen next. They cherished and savored the world they knew, before eagerly facing one they didn’t yet – the world to come in the following moments, approaching as every future approaches.

92 \ 284

The third mekani leaped away, and the dust swirled. Behind each of the several Aquarii enveloped in radiance, regular-sized blue orbs sparked into electricity. The nearby people who saw them first started up the exit chant: “Hey hey, ho ho, we won’t put up with it anymore!”

At this signal, they scrambled up from the ground and formed small clumps around group guides holding a tall object up high. Then they linked hands again, and hustled, group by group, toward the nearest glowing orb shielded by an Aquari. Small group organization was easier to manage chaotically. For each set of hands linked, just one person had to touch the orb, and they’d be netted out.

Bright Wave, Soft Sand, Sharp Talon, and the others gave the greatest last ounce of their defensive intensity to these moments of egress. The pilots facing them had to ride out the storm in the procedural stasis of instrument and sense confusion.

The sounds of human passage died down until Bright Wave felt the arrival of an empty breeze. Turning her head to look, she saw that it was just them left across the area between the fence and the distant hovers. The glint of a glowing zerite chip embedded in a boltball caught the corner of her eye. Its presence had been boosting her amplitude, and she said goodbye to it. Still holding her pendant high, she backed toward her orb, seeing the others do the same. Once Bright Wave was close enough to touch the orb, she cast a piercing white light in front her and disappeared behind it, as did the others.

91.1 \ 283

In the aerial view that was coming from the throughport location, the Human-Vedani remote command core were able to witness the last of the biolab facility staff drive their flyers out of the compound. That was when the top three kids on the meksuit team, suited and ready, each began to engage the systems of their mekani.

The core team on the chamber bridge, a combination of human guardian adults and Vedani engineering and strategy, continued watching the ground view to determine the timing for the signal. Crowd control units appeared flying in to face the protest, while the mass of buffer volunteers subsided and made way for the Aquariid guard. In the center of the enormous meka chamber, an enlarged throughport node was being actively maintained, a sparking sphere shell of blue light.

85.4 \ 277

“Is there a possibility that this Dragon could be acting as a double agent?” The question came from within the knot of researchers.

Arkuda, former Councillor, answered this. “Though the Pan-Galactic Imperium is currently in conflict with some Dragons, we Dragons don’t and can’t fully operate along lines of human politics. In this age, I’m the one who’s practiced the most political involvement, for our continued mutually beneficial cooperation. Dragons on the whole are concerned with their own matters, of which the Imperium may be a part, and our individual responsibilities rest above our answerability to each other. We have demands according to our elements. It’s the way of our existence, or our nonexistence.

“Acamar’s interest with us will serve Acamar, and what you ask is more a question of whether Acamar’s interest in this case also serves anyone else. Whether or not these nuances of motivation will be accounted for by authority as it will stand for us, possibly without my voice – for that I can’t speak. As critical as matters are, I had to tend to myself after this injury – my worst in twenty human generations – and I couldn’t do that while promising to act in an increasingly fraught political role. The healing scar you see is my own evidence of fondness toward humanity.

“I do grieve for some that died in Acamar’s emergence; I worked with the Queen Ascendant for some time. I also haven’t met this one, and the curiosity of first meetings between Dragons can be powerful. I’m interested in collaborating despite complications, and we may not need to worry overmuch about direct factional motives – if perhaps consequences of interrelation.”

“If they decide to view us as traitors, couldn’t they jail us, rob us for our work, and get it all for free?”

“The companies protecting us wouldn’t like that. They might not be able to get what they want through other hands, and not the way they want it. There’s some reality-bending stuff that happens when this much interest leans hard in its favor.” This was the moment when Bux Woollibee actually said something.

“Plus,” Wendel Harper pointed out, “don’t we have the Princess, a Councillor, and General Alisandre, top official of the armed forces aboard – when it comes to clout in favor of the leniency of understanding?”

“Ehhhm, dubious current status of these titles if I understand correctly,” trailed in Rosy Glow.

“Not the Scion Princess,” quipped Draig Claymore.

“Even me, ultimately.” This was followed by a small silence.

“We do have the most powerful parent company possible, which created this place and put us in it,” Arjun mused with a finger to his temple. “Just building the Arch may have been more difficult, let me tell you, than protecting it, its participants, and its products. Maybe. Hopefully.”

“It sounds like our greatest voices of reason are ready to throw caution to the wind.” The conversation popcorned around a tense room, tones wavering from wary to excited.

“Such case being that on the wind lays the greatest measure of caution.” Draig with the classic strategic perspective, from deep in the books.

It seemed that opinions had been weighed. “For my part,” began Soleil, “I carry a weighty grievance in this matter – the loss of my mother – over all the wide-scale events pertinent to this. And, I have already faced Acamar, the details of which belong to no one else. I taught er something about humanity, and ‘e taught me something about emself. You see me here before you now. If I faced er, maybe you can, in order to do what needs to be done. Does ‘e know I’m here?” To this last question, Rosy Glow didn’t answer.

“It sounds like we know what we want to do,” said Arjun, “but we’ll give this an additional moment of grace. I’m going to the Peak. Finish your thinking or have any discussion necessary, and bring it to me if need be.”

“I’ll go with him,” said Rosy Glow, “and remain ready to bring your word to Acamar. Do be aware that er presence is nigh because you’re the ones broaching the Dragon’s own element. It’s not like I can make er do anything ‘e doesn’t want to do.”