36.2 \ 218

With a thrill, Draig realized that these were Dragon voices, a greater number than he’d ever heard in one place. It could be that he was hearing them in more complete translation, as their speech possessed additional textures of expression. He could understand various meanings, without knowing exactly which words originated them. Abnormalities of lattice observation; visibility reports; strategy, structure, formation, and response from different corners of the Pan-Galactic Imperium. The General recognized these matters, could place a voice or two, and understood what was going on. He’d connected to the Viridian Phasing, by some actualization of his part in the draconid defense network that he helped form. Possibly, it had been catalyzed by the trauma in the dream of his great-grandfather. He was connected now as a dragon might be while in activation, through some human process instead, probably only by way of the deep connection forged by his involvement in its inception.

Draig took a breath to speak with his mouth, but that gave him a foolish feeling. Instead, he tried thinking to the others in clear speaking sentences, phrased in the sound of his own voice. “Hello, this is General Draig Claymore of Alisandre. Can you hear me?”

Attention turned toward him, with surprised exclamations of nonhuman personality. “Well, I wasn’t expecting this – though it isn’t entirely unexpected. You met enough of us in the seeking, and your unique role in the teamwork would afford you possibility of this access. There must be some dire need, because human minds are not inclined toward these folds of perception.”

“A need felt, perhaps, though not logically known or grasped… yet.” Claymore opened one eye hesitantly, and then the next. He could see his darkened bedroom, while also still observing the cosmic flow of their dimensional lattice. He also noticed disruption phenomena swirling in the air around his head. He did not know that Arkuda had also seen this same thing on the person of Raev Sturlusson while he’d been in capture. The General closed his eyes again to keep this simple.

36.1 \ 218

This is a dream, but everything in it feels real. He sees it from outside himself, but it’s happening to him. He is his great-grandfather, and he knows he’s heard this story, but right now it’s real. He’s hurrying somewhere carrying a child and a wooden box in his arms. The child is not his own, but the box is. The box contains a gun when he looks inside, but in real life the box was empty. He knows that what’s happening was going to happen. He could have stopped it, but he didn’t. Now he’s running, really feeling like he should have done something.

Draig wakes up in the high alarm of adrenaline rush. He hovered in liminality as he lay in his bed. He fell into and out of time-stretched scenes of panic, flames, and infuriation. Instead of subsiding, they increased in volume. There was a sudden feeling of something ripping open between his eyes, like a knife through canvas. With his eyes squeezed shut, he felt the tear open audibly further until he thought his eyes were open again, but he was looking at something he’d never seen before. He could hear people. They weren’t near and they weren’t far, they were either, along an interwoven organic lattice of dark-against-dark lines, so dark they were almost bright.

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.

34.3 \ 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.

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.