They sat on a low rocky prominence that jutted out a couple dozen meters into the bay, a small twisty tree behind them reaching over their heads. The sundeath was casting the water of the bay in diffuse oranges and golds, but the atmosphere was devoid of precipitation so the blues and purples of the islands and spits across from them remained dark and untouched by it. The clouds just above them were a light gray, shadowed under the sun, rimmed in molten gold. But far above that, through slightly less than 200 kilometers of atmosphere that wanted to shift everything a little blue, the clouds on the other side of the habitat cylinder glowed brighter than the sea or land and gave the sky a deep texture.
Yonatin had always felt that sense of volume was exhilarating to behold. Even in a Network simulation like this.
These colors in this space were where the similarity with the Garden of the Terra Supreme ended, though. They’d lived here for decades now, and it still struck them how none of the plants or animals were familiar. And the shapes of the geography, the curves and crannies of the coastline, were foreign.
And the people were all so inhuman looking. Very, very few had characteristics that looked remotely typical. Many had incorporated a mix of animalistic features into their self images, their Network avatars.
And, ironically, all of this served to make Yonatin feel more at home than they had ever felt when they were alive. In fact, they felt more alive and real than they ever had before.
Their spikes of euphoria were getting milder and further apart as they got used to this new world within the world, but they never fully went away. And they could purposefully trigger a stronger one just be thinking about the past briefly, and how it was no longer a personal concern.
Did they miss their parents? Yes. Painfully. Chronically.
But that was a complicated agony of confusion that dulled even faster than the recurring euphoria. Especially in their later adolescence, they had not been very close.
And now that they were gaining some distance from their childhood, they were realizing just how many little things both of their parents, and even their entire extended family, had done specifically to hurt them. Or done because the culture had demanded it. But a fair amount of it had to have been intentional. As if both Yonatin and their sister had been resented, or perhaps they were being prepared for something.
That their parents were said to be part of the Resistance didn’t actually help with any of those feelings.
“Why haven’t you changed your name yet?” Ninshai asked Yonatin, glancing briefly at their sister, who had long ago chosen to call herself Ikri instead of Angu.
Angu was a boy’s name, but Ikri wasn’t necessarily a girl’s name. It was a common type of seaweed, and people in this world seemed to use it instead of the word for seaweed when talking about any water plants. Ikri didn’t seem to care what it was, she just liked the name, though. She’d usually just shrug whenever anyone asked about it.
Ninshai’s name, however, was a combination of old root words that meant “song of the dead.” That sounded like it was maybe ironic, or meaningful in some way. And whenever Ninshai talked about choosing names, his eyes glinted with personal excitement.
Ninshai had been the most relentless in pressuring Yonatin to name themself.
“I don’t know,” Yonatin reflexively responded. But then added, “Soon. Maybe now. I don’t know.” They felt like maybe they were finally ready. It felt like the main reason they’d resisted for so long was almost entirely due to Ninshai’s pushing, at this point, and that wasn’t fair to either of them. But, they also couldn’t really bring themselves to care. “Names kind of seem irrelevant to me. People can have pretty or striking names that really fit them. But, for me, I don’t know. I’m just me.”
“You know what I think?” Ninshai asked.
“OK, yeah. What?” Yonatin turned to look at them. They sensed Ikri behind them, picking at moss on the rock they were sitting on.
“I think that when we make a new ship, because that’s what we’re going to have to do someday to really thrive, you know,” this was a constant daydream of Ninshai’s, and totally unbelievable. “When we make that new physical world and set off into the cosmos, you are going to get to be the new `e.”
“So don’t bother giving yourself a different name yet. Because that’s who you really are.”
“Wh – Where do you ge -” Yonatin decided to dismiss this ridiculousness. “You’re making fun of me.”
“Actually, I don’t think I am,” Ninshai leaned back, blinking, suddenly looking very sober. “I mean, I’m not really predicting anything. Besides in my usually joking manner, of course. I have no idea if we’re going to build a new ship. Everyone talks about it when there’s nothing else to dream about, of course. But how would we? But, you? You’re absolutely right. You’re just you. And the most you name I can think of in the entire universe is `e. It’s just already taken by the Father of the Terra Supreme.”
“Agh! That wreaks of patriotism!” Yonatin exclaimed.
“No! It actually doesn’t!” Ninshai pushed their shoulder in response. “I’ve been studying! I know this.”
“It’s like naming yourself ‘God’,” Yonatin protested.
“It’s the divine pronoun in Fenekere,” Ninshai siad.
“But it’s simpler than that,” their now old friend said. “There are myths, old myths buried in our records, that no one mentions anymore, and they give it context. I think the myths are metaphorical, not at all meant to be read even as allegories for how everything began.”
“What do you mean?”
“I think they’re about personal creation. Like, the creation of your own psyche. ‘You’ being anybody at all,” Ninshai’s eyes had glazed over as he stared out over the water. “Sure, almost all the Fenekere names have been used as Crew titles since forever. But these myths, where it all comes from, are about self actualization, and the myriad of potentials in every living being. And you, my dear friend, are all about staring at your own potentials.”
Yonatin stared at Ninshai. Ninshai’s form had slowly morphed through four very different iterations in the thirty-six years they’d known each other. Right now, he was a four limbed, light grey shaggy haired being with a tuft of a tail and a canine skull structure, with expressive pointy ears and downward pointed tusks. His nose was black on the end of a long pointed snout. His hands and feet were almost conventional, though.
Ninshai seemed like the person who was exploring their potential to Yonatin. They suspected a fair amount of projection was going on, and decided it was pointless to argue with him.
“Huh. OK,” Yonatin said.
“Besides, when you take the name, you get to redefine it,” Ninshai nudged them again.
“Someone needs to,” Ikri said.
“You don’t agree with this, do you?” Yonatin asked her, gesturing at Ninshai.
“What?” Ikri asked, blinked, then shrugged. “Maybe? It’s silly nonsense, but he does have a point. You’re pretty bland.” She stretched that word over her tongue like it was uncomfortable to say, like a damning indictment that wasn’t at all true.
When she relished in sarcasm like that, it was hard to tell if she was really being ironic or enthusiastically earnest, and the twinkle in her eye betrayed her full knowledge that she was hitting that knife’s edge head on. And when she did this, she looked and sounded more like herself than she ever had before. Yonatin felt euphoria in sympathy with her. She’d exploded with authenticity the moment she was free of ever being seen as a boy ever again.
In contrast, Yonatin couldn’t figure out what their own gender, as the resistance called it, was supposed to be. Not a boy, not a girl, but not agender. Not nothing. The two words that fit best were “person” and the old Fenekere word for person, “ktleteccete”. But neither word gave them any euphoria. Not in the way that “girl” and “woman” seemed to do for Ikri.
The name ‘e certainly did not. It was too embarrassing to contemplate.
But when Ninshai had uttered the word “parent”, that had sparked something. A yearning of some sort that Yonatin had never considered.
“Hey,” Ninshai slapped his knees. “Can we go back into town? I love you both deeply, but it’s too lonely out here. I need people!”
Both Ikri and Yonatin squinted at him in exactly the same way. Yonatin knew that Ikri would want to stay on this rock longer than even they had the patience for, but the idea of being lonely because there was no crowd around was so deeply alien.
No matter how often Ninshai expressed the feeling, and made it obvious this was a genuine psychological need, Yonatin could never force themself to understand it.
“Don’t give me those looks,” Ninshai said. “You know I’m different from you two.”
Yonatin knew a topic that could get Ninshai to stay long enough to see the city lights in the darkening sky, though, and smirked as they opened their mouth to bring it up.
“Speaking of ‘different’, why do you think everyone here has so many different animalistic self images?”
“Oh, rude! We could talk about this on the way back to town! But, OK,” their friend hunkered down again from almost standing up. “We’re all queer in some way. Aberrant. Atypical. Many of us are trans. So, maybe it’s a mutation thing. Maybe it’s because our original neurology wasn’t really that of a person to begin with, like they say. Or, maybe it has nothing to do with nature, and everything to do with our inherent need to break from the oppression of the state and their damn breeding program!”
Ikri nodded, even though she basically looked like her old self, only as if she’d grown up on the right hormones her whole life.
Yonatin thought back to that day in the classroom, when the bullies had found them, and Ikri had later confessed that she was trans, too. They remembered when their wings and tail had first manifested in their imagination, almost hallucinogenicly.
It hadn’t felt like something they’d decided on. It had felt so right, so empowering. But it had startled the hell out of them and betrayed their hiding place. Not that the bullies saw their tail, but they had heard their gasp.
“What if it is innate for some of us, though?” Yonatin said.
Ninshai shrugged, “Could be. How would we know?”
“Well, some of us just feel that way,” Yonatin said.
Ikri looked up and squinted at them, like she was trying to see something about them, bring them into better focus.
“Maybe,” Yonatin said, “there’s something in common about those of us who feel that way. I mean, besides the feeling.”
“I think people never really looked like this,” Ikri said, gesturing at her own body. “It’s not who or what we’re supposed to be. The state have distorted us beyond recognition, calling it ‘the Steward form’ to make us feel honored and special to be born this way.”
Ninshai pointed, “That’s a popular theory, actually. I don’t know. Maybe it’s true, but I really think we’re all more fluid than that. I mean, look at everyone!”
Yonatin didn’t even ask Ikri why she looked fairly “normal” if she thought it wasn’t actually natural. She always just shrugged. It was very old news at this point, and not really a big deal.
“OK, here’s what I really think,” Ninshai said, and started to tell some of the myths they’d been studying as if they might actually be history.
“I’ve got a question,” Yonatin asked ‘eshemeke, the next time they met, which was over dinner some time later.
“Yes?” keh asked.
Everyone else in the room looked up from their food momentarily to observe the new conversation. It’s not that they needed to eat for sustenance, of course. They did so in order to feel like themselves, and as a community pastime.
Yonatin spoke, “So, the language we speak now is derived from ancient Inmararräo, and in that language, ‘Inmararräo’ means ‘Speech of the Great Alliance’, right?” This was stuff that wasn’t taught in any of the state’s schools. Not to anyone who was alive. It all belonged to secret records raided from the state by the Resistance. Or, sometimes from the memories of the Founding Crew themselves. “Who were they? The original speakers?”
`eshemeke’s name was a Fenekere word, which implied that keh was Founding Crew. Someone who had helped build the Terra Supreme. That was hard to believe, but if Yonatin hoped to get an answer to that question, it would most likely come from `eshemeke.
“Hmm,” the old revolutionary grunted. “That would be the Linguist’s purview. ‘ebejefe. But they’re a statist. We’ll never get to ask them.” Keh chewed on kihn’s food for a while. “Why do you ask?”
“Well, I was researching names for myself, looking through the older language files, cause people seem to like to do that. And, well, Ninshai, Ikri, and I have also been wondering about what life was like before the Terra Supreme. And it was like, it just hit me, who was the Great Alliance? Who allied with whom? Was that like the Resistance on the ship before the Terra Supreme?” Yonatin tilted their head to indicate they were done but very curious.
“Well, I can tell you personally that it predates that ship,” ‘eshemeke said definitively. “Though, the form of the language we have on record is the last form we spoke before we left. It’s not even the original.”
“You left?” Ikri asked.
“I am not the only member of the Founding Crew of the Terra Supreme to be part of the Resistance,” `eshemeke said, putting down kihns spoon and preparing kihnself to fully address the room. “It likely wouldn’t exist without us, as you know. `e, the Father of the Terra Supreme, holds almost all the keys of existence aboard this vessel, and his Bridge Crew hold a neutronium grip over all of the ship that they do control. Places like this could not have been made if we had not snuck them into the original creation of the ship. And, this is one of my houses, this world. So, yes, when we left the Silver Needle, we knew what this vessel was going to be about and we brought what records we could and hid them.”
“How old are you?” Ninshai asked with a faint smirk that made Yonatin think he had asked that before.
`eshemeke’s humorous glance at him indicated he had, “Fucking ancient.” Then keh looked around at everyone and settled back on Yonatin, who was chewing on a mouth full of food. “Here’s what we think we know.” Then keh stared off up through the window opposite kihn at the lights of the cities of the Garden of this Network Space simulation of an Exodus Ship.
Everyone politely waited for kihn to put kihns thoughts together.
“As the state’s schools say, at least, it seems likely the Exodus Ships were built to preserve life indefinitely. Or, at least, to survive the death of the original stellar system. And we suspect that between then and now, technology has advanced and changed immeasurably. So much information has been lost. But, by now, the Exodus Ships have evolved to be extremely efficient and to survive in deep space. And, more importantly, to be able to survive inner conflict.” `eshemeke grimaced at a thought and continued, “His August Splendor, `e, would have us all believe that the Terra Supreme is a direct descendant of the Great Alliance’s original mission, and that the language we speak now is an unchanged reflection of that entity’s purest thoughts. But the shallowest records of even just the Terra Supreme’s own history show that’s not remotely true. We don’t even know what the Great Alliance was, or if it even existed. We only know of it through the structure of our own language.”
It seemed like everyone else had stopped eating, so Yonatin put their food down too, to wait for their elder to continue talking. Perhaps `eshemeke was going to take breaks between thoughts. Whether to emotionally process the subject matter, or search kihn’s memories, it was unclear. Keh did seem slightly more emotional than a somewhat impersonalized history lesson might warrant.
And, after that brief pause, keh did keep talking, “Ancient Inmararräo seems to be a conglomeration of two dominant languages and a long, constant smattering of other peripheral languages. Fenekere, which is the ‘truly unchanged’ command language of the Exodus Ships, and Mäofrräo, which means ‘name-shouting’ according to its own grammar, are the two parent languages. And, if you believe the Fenekere myths, Mäofrräo was the language of the Beshakete, or the Outsiders. So, the implication is that the Great Alliance was between the speakers of Fenekere, who that language identifies as the Ktletaccete, and the Beshakete. But, all of that could have been a fiction fabricated from whole cloth by a tyrant on the Silver Needle for all we know. We would need some sort of confirmation that Fenekere, at least, has really been the command language since the first Exodus Ship.”
And now `eshemeke was the only one eating. Most everyone in the room had haunted looks, contemplating the stories keh was telling. Ninshai’s eyes twinkled, and he was leaning forward, eagerly awaiting the next bit.
“Anyway,” `eshemeke said around the food in kihns mouth. “We have no way of getting that evidence. No communication between ships. We’re traveling away from each other at speeds which make any reasonable communication impossible.” Keh tapped kihns spoon against kihns bowl three times. “Now. In Fenekere, my name means ‘the Warrior’. I was told my position would be to help enforce the will of the state, to work just under Jedekere to do that. And initially I went along with it, until I could fake my own death. Which, of course, was the plan since before we built the Terra Supreme.”
Ninshai glanced eagerly at Yonatin, as if sharing an unspoken in-joke, and said, “And…?”
`eshemeke snorted and said, rolling kihn’s eyes, “And some day, some of you may be called upon to do the same thing. And I’m here to teach you how.”
“What if,” Ninshai prodded, “we created a new ship that didn’t need a Resistance?”
“Never,” `eshemeke gestured with kihns spoon, glaring over it with a deadly grave expression, “ever presume that you can do that.”
Ninshai’s smirk cracked into a big mirthful grin and they retorted, “Ah! But, I bet we really could if we gave the title of `e to someone like Yonatin, though!”
“Oh, Hailing Scales!” Yonatin threw down their food, stood up, and turned away, entire body burning with raw embarrassment, to leave the room as quickly as possible. They did all that they could to avoid hitting anyone with their tail as they whirled, but it was hard.
As they stepped through a Network portal to their own personal Netspace, they heard `eshemeke ask Ninshai, “Why did you do that?” But they closed the portal too fast to hear Ninshai’s response.
Yonatin had been learning Fenekere, just like anyone in the Resistance. It was such a huge and complex language, they suspected even `eshemeke was still learning it too. But Yonatin had discovered a trick that they wondered if anyone else knew.
The default operation of the Network was to simulate all the processes of life down to the molecular level so that a person’s psyche could be as full and awake and consistent with their past selves as possible. It even did this while allowing someone’s true residual image manifest itself. It just adapted the simulation to accommodate that self image as best as possible.
The state apparently let people’s true self image manifest precisely so that they could catch deviants the moment they manifested an avatar on the Network. Or close to it.
Anyway, this meant that things like eating and sleeping were necessary for the simulation. But if you knew the Fenekere commands, you could change that. And most people used Fenekere to make eating and drinking unnecessary for Avatar health, but still allow consumption for enjoyment and enrichment. Some people didn’t sleep anymore, but most kept that up.
Yonatin liked sleeping. They loved dreaming, and didn’t want to give that up. A lot of their dreams had been nightmares. Maybe all of them, actually. But their mom had taught them the trick to managing nightmares, which was to face the danger in your dream and confront it directly. And ever since they’d learned how to do that, all of their dreams began to have important value to them. And before they’d died and ascended, dreaming had been a way of escaping the horrific reality that they’d been born to.
So, while the cell worlds of the Resistance were even more of an escape, almost idyllic, Yonatin found that they still wanted to dream. And they did.
But, in studying Fenekere they’d stumbled across a root word, or name, that really caught their attention: Jenefere, the Dreamer.
They almost wanted to take a derivation of that name for themself when they’d first seen it. It was kind of pretty sounding to them, and they identified with being “the Dreamer”. But that’s not what had excited them.
With that root, they could manipulate their dreams even further.
They could manipulate how they had dreams.
And they’d been learning some other root words that seemed like they could help with that. They made some connections right away that seemed compelling.
They realized their specific goal, however, now that they were seeing some of the options available to them, was to figure out how to get their Netspace to manifest their dreams in such a way that they could experience them and interact with them in a state that was almost like being awake. Or, to essentially dream while awake and have that be as restful as sleeping. And to experience the dream as if it was reality itself. At least, to the degree the Network did anything.
And it turned out that, after some experimenting, the trick to that was to write a series of commands that used derivations of the roots Jenefere, Gelesere, Nevegere, Benejede, `ekele`e, `ememe`e, and, of all the 923,521 root words, `e. Jenefere and `e were the keys, really. Gelesere was important for referencing the Network itself, and Nevegere in combination with that for Netspaces. Benejede was about recognizing patterns and narratives and referencing them. And ‘ekele’e was critical for simulating life on the Network without actually creating it. And that was important for whenever you might dream about other people. `ememe`e was the elemental root for ‘memories’.
But, just like how Ninshai had suggested, `e was critical for referencing the self that had a psyche in the first place. The phrase “fefu `e” meant “my conscious soul” effectively, and that was needed to make it all work right, where the simple first person singular “fe” on its own didn’t do a damn useful thing.
Maybe there were a hundred different ways of doing this. Yonatin felt they couldn’t possibly be the first to discover it, but no one had taught it to them. They had to figure it out themself, and that felt good, actually.
This was all to say, of course, that when they left that dinner where Ninshai had insisted on prodding them about their name once more, they’d stepped right into a dream to get away from it all.
They’d used their personal command channel to tell their Netspace what to do as they’d opened the portal to it.
This wasn’t exactly the best way to escape their frustrations, though. Their subconscious served them up almost immediately upon being tapped by the Network. But it meant that they could really let loose while arguing with the dream version of Ninshai without worrying that whatever they said would hurt their friendship. And it was really cathartic!
They couldn’t use the experience recorder to review the dream later, though. Everyone in the resistance had to go without the recorder once they’d convinced the Network they’d been killed and deleted. But they usually found their typical memory of these kinds of dreams was pretty good.
They could use the dream to satisfy their worst urges while also figuring out just exactly how they want to solve a given problem in real life.
They couldn’t control just what kind of dream they had, of course. But sometimes their subconscious was very predictable, and in this case it hadn’t failed them.
So, they were in the middle of emphatically explaining just why Ninshai’s behavior needed to stop, and stop soon, please, when they got a ping from Ikri asking if she could visit.
At this point, they had walked with Ninshai back to the large rock in the bay and it looked like their friend was nearing a point of understanding, so they asked him if she could join them and he nodded. Then they told Ikri where they were.
“OK?” Ikri replied. “I’ll, uh, be right there.” And then she was, and upon seeing Ninshai she tilted her head and then looked back at where her portal had been. And then looked back and half pointed at Nishai, and said, “What–?”
“Oh, I was just explaining to Ninshai why I needed him to stop prodding me about my name,” Yonatin said. “But now that we’re out here, we can enjoy the evening.”
“So, you were practicing?” Ikri asked.
“Well,” Yonatin looked briefly at Ninshai, blinking, and then back at Ikri. “Yeah, actually. Because, you know, this is my dream, and my dreams have been lucid since Mom taught me how to do it.”
Ikri looked confused and asked, “What do you mean?”
“Oh, actually, it’s even better than that!” Yonatin said. “I’ve figured out how to program my Netspace to project my subconscious dreams into it and allow me to experience them as if I’m fully awake but in them. And, I still basically get the benefits of sleep. And I bet that other people could visit them too.”
“Oh,” Ikri said, eyes narrowing. And then she smirked softly and said, “Really.”
“Oh, yeah. Like, if the real you came here right now, she could see you, too.”
Yonatin felt a little confused when Ikri’s smirk deepened and she got That Look in her eyes before leaning forward to say, “My dearest sibling, what exactly do you think is happening right now?”
Yonatin felt their mouth open to say something, but couldn’t really grab any of the words flying across their consciousness to force them out of it. And rather quickly, their mind was blank.
Ikri reached up to push them in the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry about it! This is so fucking cool! I’m actually in your dream now?”
Yonatin tried to think about this, but the only conclusion they could come to was that their subconscious was very clever. So they closed their mouth and tilted their head to the side, studying Ikri.
Ikri put her fists on her hips and asked, “Do you need to check the Network channel for visiting occupants? Or will you even believe that right now?” Then she pointed to Ninshai, who immediately protested, and said, “Compare me to him. Are we the same kind of entity? Because I just left him at dinner a few moments ago.”
Yonatin felt like everything kind of dilated, like looking through a lens while altering the magnification, but with regard to all their senses. And then they took a quick breath with mouth open and felt the air flow past their tongue and upper palate, drying out the tissues, and it felt like they were just now falling into their body and waking up. Nothing actually changed, but they felt they were really remembering that they were having a dream and that they were separate from the dream.
If they checked the Network channel for the relevant data, in theory they could tell that what they saw there was really happening or if it was a dream, just by the feel of it. They thought. But if their subconscious made up the act of doing so, would it be part of the dream or would the Network do it for real anyway?
Oh. Wait. If they actually gave the command, instead of just looking, the Network would absolutely execute the script and give them a real readout, and that would work! They knew that. They’d made the effort to make sure that was a real failsafe.
“`uu fenokera fe `ii `nevogira `ekili`ikri`e,” they said out loud. Which meant, more or less, “Tell me where the real Ikri is.”
The Network confirmed their correct sense that Ikri was standing right in front of them.
“Oh, shit of the Father,” Yonatin blurted out. “I am so sorry!”
“You really were dreaming, weren’t you?” Ikri shot back. She looked around again, “Are dreaming. You’re still dreaming, aren’t you?”
Everything was still there.
Dream Ninshai said, “Well, I don’t believe it.”
Yonatin turned to him and said, “You don’t need to. This isn’t your dream and you’re not real.” Then they looked at the water lapping against the rock, and the tree leaves, and the clouds passing by, and mumbled, “Maybe this wasn’t the greatest idea. Maybe I need to spend some time actually unconscious.”
“Well,” Ikri said. “I wanted to see if you were OK. But now I’m curious about how you did this.”
Remembering that she was there for real, a concern occurred to Yonatin, so they turned back to Ikri and told her, “You might be in danger. Monsters might attack any minute. It’s been known to happen.”
Ikri set her lips impatiently and snorted quietly before saying, “OK, can you just wake up now, so we can talk about this for real? Please? I’ve never heard you sleep talk before, but this is pretty much how I’d imagine it’d be.”
“What does it even mean to be unconscious, in a dream, in the Network?” they asked themself.
“Yonatin!” Ikri snapped. Like, actually physically, with her hand, several times. “Wake up. End the dream.”
“Do you think we’ll really make a new Exodus Ship some day? If so, what should we call it?”
“Please! End it.”
“OK, OK,” Yonatin made calming motions with their clawed hands, and then sent the wakeup command. And then actually woke up.
Everything around them quickly faded away to leave the default featureless offwhite of a blank Netspace, which was then slowly replaced by the living quarters that Yonatin had made for themself as one of their first Network exercises.
They were in the common room, and everything felt just a smidge more real than the dream. Like, there was nothing actually more substantial about it, but there wasn’t this layer of dreamthink between them and their own little world now. And that difference wasn’t new, and it was always reassuring to feel it.
Yonatin’s true self image didn’t really lend itself to sitting in chairs like they used to do when they were a child. And, they’d never really felt comfortable in regular chairs anyway. It had always felt profoundly awkward to sit properly in chairs. So their living quarters had a big, smooth, warm rock near the middle of it for them to lie on. And then they had some chairs and cushions and another similar rock arrayed around it, and a low table, for guests.
The walls were illustrated, and the room was lined with low shelves holding books and various small sculptures and pieces of pottery.
Yonatin climbed onto their rock and propped themselves up on their folded arms, tucking their feet under their belly, and wrapping their tail around themself. It was always wonderful how this posture was so comforting, and felt so right. They then gestured to one of the chairs, once again apologizing, “I’m so sorry.”
Ikri smiled warmly and shook her head as she sat down, but she said, “Oh, cool it. You’re fine. That was adorable and, like I said, really cool.”
“Yeah, but it does kind of mess with my sense of reality,” Yonatin said. “At least, while I’m dreaming, it does.”
“Of course it does, when you’re dreaming you’re dreaming!” Ikri shrugged. “But, anyway, yes, I actually think the Terra Supreme is going to make another ship. Like, it keeps happening, right? It’s kind of like people getting pregnant. It’s what it’s built to do, and I bet the Crew are eager to do it as many times as possible, when they finally find enough mass. Gotta spread their sickness.”
“What?” Yonatin blinked, trying to catch up to the subject change, and then they remembered. “Oh, I asked that, didn’t I?”
“Yeah. Who knows when it’s going to happen, but I think it will eventually. And that’s what the Resistance is waiting for,” Ikri nodded.
Yonatin considered the context in which it had come up and the conversations of the past day, though, and decided it was important to say, “But, I think Ninshai thinks the Resistance might try to spearhead the creation of a new ship, and `eshemeke didn’t directly correct him when he clearly implied it. Keh just basically said that we couldn’t make it perfect, right?”
“Mmm. Maybe,” Ikri replied. “I mean, Ninshai definitely talks about that all the time lately, in exactly that way. But `eshemeke’s reply wasn’t necessarily not completely dismissive. We should ask kihn directly about it sometime, though. Just to get kihn talking some more.”
“Well, OK. Yeah. I guess,” Yonatin thought about doing that.
“Nevermind. Back to your dream,” Ikri dismissed it all. “How did you do that? Can you tell me? I want to try it, too.”
“Oh! I’ll give you the commands! But, if you want to research it yourself and see what you can come up with, I found that the central key words were Jenefere and `e, of all things,” Yonatin explained. “I mean, Jenefere is ‘the Dreamer’, so that makes sense. But, you need to use ‘fefu `e’ to make the commands affect your dream consciousness. Or something like that. I wonder if you might be able to find some other ways of constructing the commands, though. But I’ll give you all the ones I made. Just a second.”
While they were putting together a file to send to their sister, she said, “Ooh, Jenefere. I like that. Maybe an Inmararräo version of it, like Yenifre. Ooh. Ooh! I almost like that more than Ikri. Hmm.”
Yonatin paused in their work and furrowed their brow, lowering their lure, “But you’re such an Ikri right now.”
“Oh, I know. I’m not sure I’m really going to change my name again,” Ikri said.
“Well, and I was thinking of taking something like Yenifre,” Yonatin added in a bit of a mumble.
Ikri sat up straighter and said, “Oh, you should!”
“No, but you are more like Yenifre than I am,” Yonatin protested. “I mean, I love dreaming and all that, but your waking thoughts are like dreams all the time! Or, at least, they were when you showed them to me.”
“I don’t really experience them that way,” Ikri said.
“Well, when I saw them, that’s what they seemed like to me,” Yonatin said.
“Huh.” Ikri seemed to think about that for a bit. But then she said, “No, look. I’m going to keep Ikri for now. Yenifre really does suit you, seriously. You should take that. It should be you!” Then she got a really impish look on her face, squinting her eyes almost viciously and barely suppressing a smile, before she said, “Besides, when we do make a new Exodus Ship, you’ll be so busy being the new `e then that I can take the real name, Jenefere, for myself! Which I do think is even prettier.”
Yonatin pointed and said, “rude.”
Several months later, Yonatin changed their name to Yenfiri and felt really good about it for quite some time.
One of the reasons they took so long, after talking to Ikri about it, was that they’d also been considering the name Guja, pronounced “goo-ya”. This was a name from an undocumented root language and didn’t have any particular meaning that anyone knew of. And that rather appealed to them for a while. But it just didn’t sound right.
Yenfiri, on the other hand, appeared to be totally new to Inmararräo, and its syllables didn’t seem to imply any accidental meanings, so the only meaning it had was what Yenfiri decided to give it. And the derivation from Jenefere felt good. And it sounded really nice next to Ikri. Yenfiri and Ikri. Ikri and Yenfiri. Good names for twins who were not identical, but still definitely twins.