26 - The Message

Eustace had been watching Alden as he explored, hiding underneath the impressive table in the meeting hall. After gathering her things, she moved quickly to follow him down, out of sight. She had been about to follow him back up, when she put her hand over the table to steady herself. Urgent vibrations met her hand, above what felt like an invisible model of a landscape. Forgetting Alden for a moment, she tried to quickly grasp this new type of interface, hoping it would give some idea of the state of things in the loose empire, assuming that’s what it represented. The pulsing drew her to a spot on the haptic map - what felt like a long cliff. Of course - the little earpiece that allowed her to traverse the cars as an outsider to this place, who apparently knew it’s own. She had taken it out, sneaking around behind Alden. She could hear now - a disembodied sing-song voice reading a message from, apparently, the great expanse. Concern, about some anomalous smudge? Who would be trying to contact these absentees - it could be one of their own, maybe someone forgotten. Or, it could be a Jard. Eustace’s eyes narrowed. Could she reach a fellow jard, outside her hiding place? Was this an opportunity to splinter the dean’s hold, to start to undo the conditions of her exile? She saw an automatic reply had already been sent, presumably by the absent habitants of this great structure. She vocalized, formatting a reply that would tell it like it is, and come what may (to the dean). She spoke of the Alovians ascension she had witnessed - there would be no more technology gifts. She began to dream of going home again. But then - the message returned, defeated - not received. She was too late. The node pulsating on the haptic interface above the table was now confirmed offline, or otherwise incapable of receiving any communication. Her hopes fell. She looked back to Alden’s journey, he was heading back to the top this time. She would follow and try to gauge the state of things that way.

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