5.09 Ancient Divides

Akailea stood up from talking to the cuttlecrabs and said, “OK, I’m ready to visit that city, now.” Sie walked past me toward the metropolis growing from the hills near the sea and, when sie came abreast of Biwin, sie turned hir head to kihn and said, “You do realize that what you’ve created here is a world full of Studentless Tutors.” Sie held up a finger to stall kihn from expressing kihns confusion. 

Biwin did furrow kihns brow, but refrained from talking.

Akailea explained, “Not that they were meant to teach and raise Children, but that they are every bit as alive and people as the Tutors are. And if you’ve set the Network algorithms to age them and subject them to pain and erase them when they experience things that would be fatal to the Children in the Garden, then you are killing people.” Sie then walked past kihn as if sie intended to walk all the way to the city, and finished hir statement, “I want you to think about that as you give us your tour.”

There was something about the culture and architecture here that reminded me of my childhood, and that was not really a good thing.

I don’t normally remember much about my childhood, to be clear. But besides a few full sensory snapshots of working on homework and my dad teaching me something, I found myself tense and hypervigilant in case I might inadvertently break The Rules. And I could pinpoint just what the problem was, too.

These people worked for other people, for survival.

There was an obvious system of servitude here, and even the buildings reflected that.

But, it was their free time and we were seated around a fire, in a park, in the middle of the city. One of the night discs that orbited halfway between the inner surface of the sphere and the sun was slowly moving into place to create an eclipse, plunging us into a comfortable twilight.

Behind me there were three very tall buildings, but around the park, which was small and sparsely populated with thin trees, most of the structures were low and dedicated to commerce. Everything from the sale of food to household goods. With money.

Contrary to the precepts and mission of the Sunspot, there was gender here. That also put me on edge.

But the patriarch of the biggest local family was very happy to see us, and was directing his children and grandchildren to join our gathering and listen to what we had to say. His elder daughters were managing the food, cooking things over the fire with grills and spits, and ordering their daughters to run and alert the other families that alien visitors were in the neighborhood.

Physiologically, everyone resembled Biwin. Which made some sense. Biwin had said keh was trying to blend in whenever keh was amongst them. This really made Akailea, Suwiil, and I stand out. But, I might have looked something like how these people might describe one of their gods, if they had any. A supernatural being related to them, at the very least. They did seem to understand I was a person of sorts, though. 

I’d set my copy of the translator up as a go between, rather than incorporate it into my being. It might delay communication by a few microseconds, but I wasn’t sure I’d use it again and didn’t like altering my psyche with code.

It made communication smooth, but translated even their names.

“You honor us deeply with your visit,” the patriarch, Son of Water, repeated for the third time. I guessed that that would be the final iteration of the greeting ritual. He continued, “We are proud of our life here. It is harsh at times, but our bonds of family and neighborhood are strong and we find beauty and reward because of it. Please be part of our greater family for a time!”

“Thank you,” I said for the third time, not really knowing what else I was expected to do. As strangers, we would probably all be given leeway.

A flash of concern or confusion crossed Son of Water’s face, but he dismissed it easily and grinned, and he managed to exude such an air of relaxed and inviting ease that it was hard not to feel welcomed and free to be ourselves in his presence. Everyone around us seemed to reflect that as well, regardless of how busy they might be.

“Belied Wistfulness,” Son of Water called to one of his daughters. “Please tell us what you are making!”

“Grilled cetacean,” she said simply. “And for those who can’t stomach that, we have smoked cuttlecrab.” Hailing Scales, I was dismayed at that, but she continued before any of us could speak. “For vegetables we have grilled rounds of fruitgrain and a sweetened salad. And Frollick’s family are bringing something substantial, but I don’t know what it is yet! Please, though, everyone whet your appetites with these savory buns. We have so many.”

Mirroring Akailea, I took a bun and broke it apart, sniffing it and examining it with my eyes before tasting it. It appeared to have herbs worked into the dough, and it was very good. At least, it sounded like there might be enough vegetable dishes that I could eat without having to stomach the meat.

Assuming that being that discerning about the food wouldn’t be too rude. We’d have to be careful.

Or, at least, that’s what my Terra Supreme manners were telling me. I reminded myself that autonomy was my right, and consent had been the right of the beings that were being cooked.

I think I was dissociating a little. I felt like I was having one of my Netspace controlled waking dreams again. I’d stopped those ages ago, however, so I knew I wasn’t.

I looked at the meat on the grill above the fire, and then stared at Biwin.

The Children of the Sunspot were herbivorous in large part due to how we taught the meaning of our rights, but also because the life of the Garden existed in a precious balance that we did not want disturbed. We could have structured the ecosystem to support some predation by people, but it had been decided that reinforcing our principals of respect for one another in any little way had been more important than that level of variety of diet.

And over the ages, I’d grown accustomed to it and taken the philosophy to my own heart.

It was hard to see my own friend, who had been part of those discussions originally, had not continued that tradition with his own people.

Was it part of some experiment? To compare different cultures to study?

If keh hadn’t seen these people as people, but soulless Network programs, I could see how keh had fallen into allowing this.

Biwin had obviously wanted to meet my glance with a hopeful smile of encouragement, but when my look turned into a stern glare keh looked down at the ground.

I turned to Son of Water, also looking momentarily at Belied Wistfulness to include her, and said, “I hope you will not be offended. Our bodies are not the same as yours and not built for eating meat. These buns are delectable and we look forward to your other dishes, however! Be assured, we will gain enough sustenance from them.”

Son of Water nodded assent, and made a rolling gesture with his right hand.

Belied Wistfulness nodded quickly to herself in turn and returned to her work.

“Why are you so big, Great One?” one of the children asked me.

My name translated to Great One in their language, apparently. I wasn’t comfortable with that, but I let it slide. I did find it easy to smile down at the little one, though. I love children and pretty much all of their questions. Despite my very spotty memories, I find it easy to imagine myself in their position and feel the wonder of the world and adults all over again. And maybe it’s because I need that to fill in what I can’t remember.

I smirked playfully and said, “Because I choose to be. It is fun and makes me feel more comfortable.”

They gaped and said, “How?”

I cast another foreboding glance at Biwin, who was still looking down and away from me, and then back to the child and said, “Magic. I know many commands that can shape this world and myself within it.”

“But magic isn’t real!” they declared. “Mother says it never was!”

Oh, that told me a lot. This time I looked at Son of Water to ask, “May I demonstrate? I will not hurt anyone.”

He made that rolling gesture again, after a moment of thought, and I assumed that meant “go ahead” based on the previous context.

I decided to make myself smaller at first, and spoke Fenekere commands out loud to do it (though I didn’t actually need to do that). I wanted to “inadvertently” give the people around me something to experiment with, if they had the permissions to do so. They probably didn’t, but eventually, once the Council was alerted to this situation, they would. And this would be one way they could test that.

As I spoke the commands four times and reduced myself in stages down to the size of a cuttlecrab, it did occur to me that if only some of the people of this world knew the commands at first, it would give them a scary tool to terrorize their neighbors. But then, I’d already started this exercise. 

I made a Network note to myself to instruct the Council to inform the people here equally of their new access once it was granted.

And, I was now standing in a great field surrounded by enormous giants.

I bounded up to the child who had asked me about my size, and they and their peers crowded around to peer down at me. I could not see the rest of the gathering as their faces nearly blocked out the sky itself above me.

This demonstration did not go without exclamations of surprise, alarm, and wonder from everyone present, and I suspected dinner preparations had even paused to witness what I’d done.

“Give the Great One room!” one of the women there admonished the children.

“It is OK!” I said very audibly, keeping my formal tones. “I am in no danger.”

One of the children reached out with their hand as if to stroke my back, but hesitated and half said, “Can I – ?”

I considered the situation and suggested, “Let us just touch palms, like equals. Each of you, in turn.”

Most of them giggled at that, but then politely negotiated who got to do it first with me.

Letting them touch me was an important part of impressing upon them that what they had seen and were now experiencing was real. But allowing them to touch me like a servile animal would feel very uncomfortable to me, too intimate for children who were not mine, and would cultivate the wrong impression of our relationships to each other.

Also, touching palms was inherently hilarious to the children with our current size differences.

Before, their hands would have been dwarfed by mine. But now, mine were absolutely tiny compared to theirs! And they love it.

I complimented and thanked each one in turn.

To be truthful, being that small and surrounded by relatively gigantic children made me deeply dysphoric and uncomfortable. But the novelty of it balanced those awful feelings with a little exhilaration that was echoed by the delight of the children.

The second one to touch palms with me decided to tell me their name, and the others followed suit. But they didn’t tell me their pronouns, and I couldn’t possibly guess them. I’d have to pay attention to how the adults addressed them through the evening.

Politeness, Vigilant Stone, Happy Circumstance, Herb of Wisdom, and Ethereal Tree all made my acquaintance. The first child, who hadn’t introduced themself, asked to go again and told me their name was Wave of Moss.

Then I asked them to give me space again and reversed the process to retake my accustomed size.

“I want to give another demonstration, if that is OK,” I said. “This one will create an insubstantial vision in the air that should interest everyone. As before, it will be safe.”

I noticed that Biwin was staring at me with growing concern now. But keh didn’t say anything.

Akailea was watching me with relaxed curiosity. 

And Suwiil was preoccupied with showing the fabric of their robes to an odd individual who seemed completely uninterested in what I was doing. At least these people were neurodiverse. And occasionally let their divergent individuals do their own thing. A good sign.

“What do you have to show us?” Son of Water asked.

“My own home,” I said. 

And then I commanded the Network to display a holographic projection of the Sunspot hovering above the gathering, scaled to five meters long for the physical body of the vessel, and allowing the glowing trail of the great fusion torch to shoot off across the park, across a street, and disappear into the wall of a building there. The habitat cylinder rotated in time with that of the real physical one, though no one here could see the comparison.

Again, everyone stopped to gape in awe at it.

“Please,” Biwin uttered in untranslated Inmararräo.

“This is called the Sunspot,” I began to say. “And, within it is contained –”

“Please!” Biwin shouted again the language alien to these people’s ears. “Eh! Please! Stop!” 

Keh had stood up, and now everyone was looking at kihn.

“What is wrong?” Son of Water asked with confident concern. “What are you saying?”

Biwin continued in our own tongue, “I helped you to achieve your dream and start your project, Eh. Please, please allow me to keep mine. We have so much to learn from it. But you are about to ruin that work irrevocably!”

“You forget yourself, Biwin,” I said to kihn, and let the translator translate my words. “You cannot allow yourself to continue your project. It is contradictory to the purpose of the Sunspot itself, and hypocritical to your own ethics!”

Biwin looked both horrified and furious, and drew kihnself up to try to match my stature, shouting, “You sound exactly like Father `e, Himself! Holy shit, Eh, hear yourself! Have you turned fascist?

Son of Water had heard my accusations and felt the volume of Biwin’s indignation and rage, and was obviously confused about it and getting angry. But, after my displays of power and Biwin’s sudden change of character, he was also probably too afraid to do much of anything. He seemed to be shaking as he tried to decide whether to stand up or not.

Everyone else, besides Akailea and Suwiil, were in shock.

The other two Founding Crew were observing Biwin with slightly differing expressions of stony cool patience.

I, myself, met Biwin’s accusation of fascism and comparison to the Holy Dictator of the Terra Supreme with frozen stillness. I even stopped breathing, since it wasn’t necessary, to make my presence as palpably unnatural as possible. I didn’t bother to do anything else to increase my stature or look more imposing. Instead, I let my sudden immobility become an implicit promise of imminent and sudden action.

This looked like the body language of a predator, and triggered the survival instincts of nearly everyone in front of me, including those of Biwin.

Children scrambled away, silently. Son of Water fell back in his chair and froze, eyes wide.

Biwin took a step back.

But Biwin muttered the word again, “Fascist.”

I answered even that with more silence. It didn’t deserve a response.

“I’m surprised at you,” Biwin mousily tried to fill the quiet, this time in the local language. Kihns voice squeaked and croaked a little. “I never would have expected you to take this turn.”

My lure twitched. “You created these people, Biwin. You created this world and their ancestors and let them live and die here and walked amongst them. They can thank you for their existence, and you deserve that praise. But they can also thank you for their suffering, because you had and still have the power to stop it, to prevent any more of it, and you won’t.” I said this as clearly as I could for the translator, to betray who Biwin was to all the people around us.

“How?” Keh nearly screeched. “It’s too complicated now! There are too many variables, too much chaos! How can we possibly liberate them now? And it would ruin the data! And besides –“ Keh broke off the statement, thinking better of making it, apparently.

“Besides what, Biwin,” I commanded.

Biwin’s eyes flicked to Akailea’s, and then keh fell to kihn’s haunches, tail slapping the ground, wings drooping, and buried kihns face in kihns palms.

I turned to Son of Water, and then specifically to Herb of Wisdom, who was cowering behind Belied Wistfulness, and said, “Biwin, Akailea, Suwiil, and I are like gods to you all, and that is not right. It is not good for you, and it is not good for us, and it is not good for the world. We will fix this.” I told Son of Water, “We are taking our leave now. We will be back. There is no need to tell anyone anything of this. It may be wise to keep it to yourself for now, but you will not be punished by us if you don’t. Please, protect yourself and your families, and be well.”

“What does this mean?” he asked.

“You are Children of the Sunspot,” I said to him. “Everyone in this enormous world is. And it is time to recognize you and welcome you. But I must prepare the others to meet you first, and we must decide what must be done with Biwin’s mistakes.”

He looked afraid.

“We’ll watch over you and keep you safe until you do not need us to do so,” I promised, and meant to keep it. We had the technology to do so, after all, and the responsibility.

For the safety of kihns own Children, and kihnself, I had to call the Council and arrange a Sanction over Biwin immediately, and then to inform kihn that kihns attendance at the next reigning Council session would be a wise thing to facilitate.

Biwin listlessly acquiesced.

I regretted the use of a Sanction at a time when new Sanctions were otherwise suspended for review. But I couldn’t think of any other action to take, and when I explained the situation to the current Council, they almost immediately agreed with my request.

And then we all transported ourselves to the Bridge to give our testimonies and review the Ship’s records.

With the length of the records under review rivaling the lifetime of the Sunspot itself, it was a lengthy process, to say the least. But there were a myriad of ways of saving time and compressing our experiences of it as well, so it was not an insurmountable task. Just one I do not wish to innumerate in full in any document. It’s all public record, in any case.

Suffice it to say, when Biwin had started kihns world, despite kihns first careless mistake regarding life within it, kihns motives and actions appeared well-intentioned. Keh had kept a journal, to maintain scientific rigor and also record kihns thoughts in case a review like this might become necessary.

Keh had been worried it might be a possibility and had recorded that keh wanted to be accountable to any mistakes keh might be making. But keh thought keh was doing right.

And, initially, Biwin had been true to kihns word, and taken a hands off approach. Which meant that kihns sins were every bit as severe as Akailea had warned kihn about back on the beach. Keh had set up living beings to be condemned to suffer and die without the autonomy to avoid it via the use of Fenekere commands.

But then, over the millennia, it got worse.

Biwin had started walking amongst the people, disguised as one of them. Originally just to interview them. But this led kihn to joining the ranks of various governments in order to interview officials, or to experience first hand the social pressures of those positions.

And, over time, keh was participating in the more contentious and violent governments. And this was around the time that kihns journals became more sporadic and inconsistent.

Sometimes keh would speak of the intent to mitigate the violence. But, at other times, keh would speculate about the processes of social evolution and question what was truly desirable for a given people.

And then, suddenly, it was as if someone else entirely was recording the journals in Biwin’s voice.

In fact, during each era of that world’s history, Biwin would use a series of different names for kihnself. Sometimes keh would use different sets of localized pronouns. Sometimes masculine, sometimes feminine, and sometimes other gendered or ungendered pronouns if they were available for that culture. And this was not unusual for any of us. We all understood that need for any number of personal reasons. But, of course, Biwin was doing it to literally present as different people throughout history, to hide kihns true identity “so as not to taint the experiment.” And it served to emphasize kihns changes in character.

Biwin did not appear to be plural. Multiple people inhabiting one body or one avatar. 

Typically, on the Network, plural Children ascended to take separate avatars. But the Network is fully capable of recreating the experience of sharing a body for those who need or desire it. Even those who were not born plural can do so with others.

But, neurological readings usually tend to give it away to anyone who has access to them. And Biwin’s thoughts did not have a plural quality to them over the drift of the Bridge.

And, also, many of the Pembers were there as part of the Council, to interview Biwin about that specific thing.

Biwin had simply changed with time, and allowed natural forgetfulness, the natural limits of the ktletaccete neurology, inhibit kihns judgment by not reviewing kihns own journals.

The time scales involved, combined with kihns isolation from the rest of the Crew, and immersion in the cultures of kihns enormous world, all made it essentially inevitable.

And, by the mores of justice on the Sunspot, we had failed Biwin ourselves by allowing this to happen. Especially for so long.

But, by the time we had checked in on kihn, Biwin had participated in and committed atrocities that provoked gagging and convulsions in many of the Council members, including myself at one point.

Several of the governmental regimes of that stellar sphere had been or currently were eugenicist and perpetrators of massive acts of genocide. And Biwin had counseled the heads of state of more than one of them and, worse, took part in some of their actions.

We don’t use the Experience Recorders here on the Sunspot. Ship records are more limited than the full sensory and thought suite of the Experience Recorders, and we have more protective laws about how and when they can be accessed or even considered in a judgment.

Biwin had consented to the review of kihns journals. And then, upon reviewing them kihnself, keh began to comprehend something of the entirety of who keh had been and what keh had done. Probably torn between horror at what it looked like and what keh did remember and desperate hope that it wasn’t as bad as it looked, keh had insisted we review the ship records.

At one point, on the floor of the Council, between fluctuations of apparent heartfelt remorse and raving justifications, Biwin appealed to my mercy, addressing me as “Yenfiri.”

For a heavy moment the entire Council was silent. The drift itself carried no thoughts.

The reminder of who I’d been didn’t hurt me. And it’s not that my station as Eh is all that important, it’s merely a name now. My name. It’s just that using old names is not done on the Sunspot. Not without permission or request, at least.

But, also, the slip indicated just how much turmoil Biwin’s psyche was obviously experiencing.

After the initial review portion of the trial was over, and the Council had decided to recess as part of deliberations, three small identical people made their way from the back of the Bridge to seek me out.

I recognized them right away, of course.

Ni’a are possibly the youngest people I currently could call friends. They are, I believe, forty-six years old now, which is about how old I was when I took the name Yenfiri.

To review, they are the children of Phage, and they are currently not equals with anyone aboard the Sunspot. No one can match their power over reality itself. Yet. And neither they nor Phage are considered Crew. Neither have taken the Vow, and in Ni’a’s case they still have a living body.

At this point, all three Ni’a’s looked like they could have been identical twins with my twin, Jenefere. Their body’s physiological development had diverged subtly from Jen’s ideal, however, due to their own euphoric needs. And their avatars reflected that. But when they were younger, I could have sworn they were Jen as a child. This similarity was the result of a chaotic synergy between an unsanctioned experiment with the Tunnel Apparatus, the presence of Phage aboard the ship, and something deeply unethical that Jen had attempted. There was no logical explanation, nothing described by physics, for it. But it had happened.

Phage had once told me, “I am the Law of Physics that you are looking for regarding that coincidence.”

I had asked it if it had done it on purpose, and it had said, “No.”

Ni’a was allowed to participate in the Council of the Crew, as was Phage, because the Sunspot ran better when they did.

Ni’a comes in three hues, Purple, Green, and Pink. Each of their avatars is cast slightly in each color, so that you can tell them apart, but usually there is no need. Their system communication is tight and highly cooperative. But, it’s nice to have names for each one.

Green was leading, and said as they approached, “Your being is boiling, Eh. Come speak with us.”

“Come to our favorite place,” Pink said.

Purple simply nodded.

I looked around and saw that Akailea and Suwiil were both talking to Jenekede and Fenmere, so they were imparting their perspectives to valued allies and friends. I could relax somewhat in that regard.

One of the Pembers, Myra, caught my eye and inclined xyr head.

“Can Myra Pember join us?” I asked Ni’a.

“Yes,” said Purple.

Soon we were strolling through the Network space of a wooded section of wilderness near a shoreline park, where the trees that grew here were a much shorter variety than most of the forests of the Garden. Most were merely triple my own usual height, rather than over a hundred meters tall. And the foliage was more dense as a result of the thinner canopy, but we were following a fauna trail, so we didn’t have to compensate for poor footing.

Pink chose to hover anyway.

“We had some important conversations with Abacus here,” Purple said. “We like to return to them. Thank you for joining us.”

“Your house in Agaricales is our second favorite place,” Green said. “But we have to ask you before visiting it.”

Pink smiled for the three of them.

“That’s where you discovered there were three of you, and you met each other, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Yes,” Purple said, softly.

I glanced at Myra, who was trailing behind us, and wondered exactly why members of two of the youngest plural systems I knew had sought me out. 

Ni’a, I could guess, as they had the ability to literally see the patterns of change within a person’s being, in a way that no one else, not even Phage, could quite do. And they simply cared about people, especially those they were close to. They wanted to check on me.

Myra might have a different motivation, and I didn’t want to leave xem out or ignore xem too far into the conversation.

But Myra waved me forward and kept trudging after us.

“And you can’t read minds,” I said to Purple.

“No,” Green replied. “Not even like how the drift of the Bridge facilitates it. We can just see the turmoil for the chaos that it is. But, we were just on the Bridge.”

Oh, yes, we had been. I glanced back at Myra again, and this time xe smiled.

“Well, OK,” I relented. “I guess it crossed my mind then that I might not be a singlet. I was watching what Biwin was going through and seeing how many different kinds of people keh had been, and just how different keh was from the person I met in our cell on the Terra Supreme, and I got curious. And, well, my mind wanders a lot. Was I that loud?”

“Yes,” Myra said.

“Hm,” I considered that. There had been moments when I’d thought I might have spoken out loud with my thoughts. But that happens a lot, so I tend to ignore it. I wondered if that might have been part of why people preferred me as Captain. But the drift was a relatively new thing, so I thought probably not. That was neither here nor there, though. So, I decided to tell them something about my own experiences I hadn’t really shared with anyone else. “I’ve checked my own neurology several times throughout my life,” I said. “I seem to be a singlet, but I also have been so many different people.”

“That’s possible,” said Purple.

“I know,” I agreed. “But, I’ve also occasionally had this one very vivid vision. It’s been a while since the last time. But, it works like this. I’ll be ruminating on who and what I am, troubled over the path of my life and sense of self, as happens, and I’ll start trying to see my own consciousness. I could never stop worrying my inner eye since I was really young, I’m sure of it. And then, sometimes, when I’m all alone and particularly calm I’ll get a flash of a vision.” I took a moment to look through the tree trunks aftward to see glimpses of the nearby waters of the Ten Mouths Sound as we walked. “It’ll be like I’m looking downward into myself, and I’ll see a myriad of tiny little mes, like nearly microscopic lights, all scurrying about doing the things that make me me. And then I’ll zoom in on one of them, only to discover that ihn is made up of even tinier versions of myself. And I think it goes on. As if it is Ehs all the way down.”

“Ah,” Myra said.

“Eh,” Pink declared. “That’s how it all works. That’s the universe! That’s the nature of consciousness itself. You’re very close.”

I no longer get excited by statements like that. Not even when they come from beings that see things that I cannot and can alter the function of reality in ways I cannot understand. And I thought I knew what they were saying, but I let my conversational reflexes guide the discussion.

“Very close to what?” I asked.

“Figuring out how to do what we can do,” Green said. “Without having Phage unlock your access to it.”


“How close?”

“We don’t know,” Green said. “But closer than anybody else we’ve talked to, yet.”

“Sometime between now and the heat death of the universe,” Pink whispered conspiratorially.

“I’ve seen that vision myself,” Myra interjected from behind. “When I fused with Phage and Morde, I caught a glimpse. I think it was part of my psyche adapting to meet Phage’s perspective and senses.”

“Are you like Ni’a and Phage now, too?” I asked Myra.

“No,” xe said. “And, frankly, that’s OK.”

“How are you going to vote in regards to Phage’s proposal?”

“Oh, easy. I vote, ‘yes’.”

“So,” I stopped walking and turned to look at all four of them. “What about people like Biwin? And what about people like Biwin’s Children?”

“Vote ‘yes’ even for their sakes,” Myra replied.

The Ni’as all nodded in agreement, but Pink looked worried.

The Council recess lasted several days, to give everyone time to speak to other parties and inform as much of the Crew as possible about this serious trial concerning a Founding Member. It was important to give at least every faction of the Crew a chance to review the case and weigh in.

“As much of the Crew as possible,” in this case, was a much smaller number than those Akailea and I had contacted in an effort to inform the three great votes we were stumping for. We’d spent years on that project, and we weren’t even close to 1 percent of the Crew. The cases I’ve shared in this book are the highlights relevant to this particular development.

Anyway, despite the time given, it took until the last minute for Veqehene to reach out to me and ask for a personal meeting.

“I want to talk about the attacks on myself and my friends,” Veqehene told me in kihns message. “I think they might be relevant to what you’ve uncovered with Biwin.”

We only had a few minutes, so I invited kihn to my own Netspace, which now corresponded to my physical house.

My house is within eyesight of Memorial park, where a monument marks ground zero for the Sunspot’s first explosion, the result of a murderous suicide and a turning point in the Nanite Innovation. Few people wanted to live there, and I adopted and remodeled the house to accommodate meetings with Children and Monsters, who usually still have their physical bodies. But I had grown to enjoy spending my time there on my own, as well.

I was lying on my biggest couch stone when Veqehene messaged me, and I remained there until keh arrived, which was moments after I’d assented to the visit.

I gestured to the arrangement of cushions and seating, and Veqehene took the one that looked most comfortable to kihn.

Keh clasped kihns hands and looked up at me, “We weren’t in the same Resistance cell, so we don’t know each other all that well. I’ve noticed that those ancient divides tend to last, for some reason.”

Keh wasn’t wrong, so I nodded, but didn’t say anything. This was just part of kihns overture.

“I want to start out by reporting that the attacks on myself have been unprovoked, led by other Founding Crew whom I have not wronged in any way. In fact, I don’t think I have wronged anyone enough to warrant such violence,” Veqehene explained. “But I haven’t taken it to the Council yet, nor issued personal Sanctions against my aggressors, because I don’t wish to give them the satisfaction of seeing me that upset. I’ve just made fending them off a part of my life, and that is OK by me.”

“If what you’re saying is true,” I pointed out, “they are violating your rights, against the philosophy of the Sunspot, and should be, at the very least, spoken to about it. Especially since, as I witnessed, they are pulling out all the stops and threatening your very existence with their attacks. That kind of conflict between Founding Crew can endanger the vessel itself. But, what does this have to do with Biwin?”

“Well,” Veqehene seemed to swallow. “This is the embarrassing part, I suppose. You see, around the time that Phage first arrived on the Sunspot, I reached across the ancient cell divide and befriended Biwin, and we’ve been rather close, since. And I think that’s the objection these people have. If they somehow knew what Biwin was doing, perhaps.”

“Interesting,” I said, refraining from mentioning what that immediately brought to mind. Nor did I question what kihn was obviously leaving out. Instead, I took the bait and asked, “If they knew what Biwin was doing, then why didn’t they report that to the Council like I just did?”

“That’s what I want to know,” Veqehene. “Perhaps you can help me bring it up with the Council during this next session.”

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