28 - The Administrators

It was, by now, an ungodly hour. Meaning, of course, so early in the morning that you were liable to receive a good smiting, if you were praying too loudly. No exceptions. Archie and Au had reached the top platform without much mishap, announced by happy beeps from their elevator pal, entirely muted in the transcendently spectacular near-void they’d traversed to arrive at the top of the Alovian atrium. The platform was almost featureless, obstructed only by the twin streams that flowed from the gap between the two halves of the clear dome above. The kilometer-deep vista was bespoiled not by even a suggestion of protective railing. The platform was girded by ancient columns and remnants of the expansive ruined temple complex languishing above. These archaics even sprouted behind and through the seemingly supportless platform in some places, the engineers of this impressive space apparently content to build around the ancient protrusions. Some particularly stubborn columns and blocks could be seen clinging to the sheer face of the deep cavity, the grey walls parting to let them through. The effect was that of snow-covered trees desperately Finding a Way on a windswept cliff, bless them.

Archie could hear a familiar sound now. A far-off roaring and tumbling implicit in the experience of any Jard. A drastic change from the modest water-feature they had encountered, whose stream uniform tumbled into the Alovian void from the gap in the dome above and disappeared under the bottom cargo entrance. He had opened another half-hexagon door facing into the wall opposite the edge of the top platform. Down a hallway lit with subtle light-strips recessed into the wall, the cable-car lay in wait, with a line travelling through the falls and all the misty way down to Old Jardinian. There was little in the way of signage. There was another bowl, the same as from which Archie found the hexagonal ear-piece. He felt a slight desire to put his earpiece in the bowl, like a calling out from the assembled earpiece brethren inside. He decided to keep it as a souvenir, and in a remarkable display of forethought for him, figured it might be useful later on. He had a feeling they might come upon more strange, interface-less Alovian tech in their pursuit of truth and clarity, the trimming of the Old Jardinian veil. The only other feature on the cable-car station looking out into the falls was a set of what were indisputably benches, presumably for waiting. Right now, in the wee hours of the morning, they looked as good as beds. Archie, without word, took this as an invitation, and collapsed on one. Au took the other, asleep instantly.

They awoke to a countdown from the old car, an ancient and scratchy recording of a bored voice, “Ten seconds, nine, eight, seven…”

The cable-car, slightly dingy and dilapidated, was completely at odds with the rest of the Alovian station. It looked leftover from the bygone days of when the temple complex was apparently just a tourist draw, and so suggested the faded livery on the side.

“The Evening Tour - See the temple ruins, howl at the moon like a real pagan”

Slumber rudely interrupted, they both drowsily hopped on with haste. Archie had quite the bedhead going on. Au had somehow retained her seemingly perpetual air of class and professionalism.

The car slipped through the falls, managing somehow to avoid getting wet entirely. The pair descended amidst the rays of the morning sun. Old Jardinian lay gleaming below in all its pre-noon splendour, the C-rail and other icons of modern convenience barely visible amidst the bastions of Old Jardinian golden age architecture. Au was reminded of dusty lectures in architectural tradition; domes and spires had been all the rage back in the golden days, and had yet to be superseded as the pinnacle of seven cities architectural achievement.

The car jerked into the station, the little island was isolated and hidden from the rest of the lakeside quay that was now beginning to throng with tourists and families out for a morning stroll.

They disembarked, the cable-car sliding open with only a slight protest from the bearings. Coming into the station, the platform had appeared pristine from a distance; no garbage or rude graffiti. Upon closer inspection, a thick layer of dust could be seen, betraying an extensive lack of use. A thick layer of dust, with a set of footprints heading back up the ramp and apparently into the cable-car. Another two sets headed down the ramp on the other side, one in a full duck-walking sprint, and another, smaller set, that appeared to telegraph their owner’s intent to hide behind a tree. Archie was no jungle tracking expert, at least not anymore, but they seemed recent. Au shrugged. They hadn’t seen anyone in Alovian Station. Another layer added to the conundrum cake, she supposed, of which they were hoping to take a big ol’ bite.

Pushing through the overgrown trees, Moses worked carefully to avoid wrecking his stylish outfit. The scent of the lush fronds brought fond memories of his days in the jungle-fording troupe. This reminisce was short lived however, clearing the overgrown garden treated him to a new view of the city and an immediate renewal of purpose.

Moses reached the fallen stairs that faced the edge of the quay some distance away. ‘An act of Gods’ pronounced Moses as he saw the line strung across to the quay, now certain that there were divine eyes following their journey.

‘Hmm’ answered Au, not so sure, who was at this moment, thinking about the footprints that had led through the dust on the cablecar platform.

Moses hauled up the line, made a loop and tossed it across. It landed on a pole supporting the ornamental barrier, ostensibly created to stop overzealous tourists from taking a long walk off a short quay. He tugged it taut and looked out over the small channel towards the main quay, now spanned by a single line. As a former scout he was no stranger to a rope crawl. And for her part - Au had been on enough high-level corporate team-building activities, to know the ropes.

Selling knick-knacks was banned from the picturesque locale of the lakeside quay; you had to go deeper into Old Jardinian if you really wanted a novelty shirt. Else, Au might have been greeted with distorted copies of her face and her reluctant catch-phrase upon hauling herself over the quay barrier.

From the quay, it wasn’t far to the academy where presumably the Dean would be found. Still, Archie was in no mood to walk, new shoes or not. Several short haul lev-cars were waiting. They picked the first one.

“The academy eh?” Said the driver, himself not one to worry about driver-customer confidentiality, “I picked up a famous guy there the other day - you ever seen New Money in Old Jardinian?”

He looked in the mirror at Au, who was looking back warily. “Wait a second,” said the driver. He pointed at Au.”‘We can’t expense that’, right?”

Au sighed, and rolled her eyes. What a legacy. She got Straight To The Point. “You had Alden Carnibus in the cab yesterday? Where was he going?”

“Same place as I picked you up! Popped a handful of happies, and ran off down the quay. What a cool guy, a real firecracker. Say, do ya think you could get me an autograph? Maybe a collectable?”

Well, that made sense, Au thought. Alden had obviously known about the Alovian situation before he’d so poignantly exited the stage. That explained the dusty footprints too.

“I could see some logistical issues with that…” Au ventured gently.

“He’s dead, man, kicked the bucket” Archie clarified, receiving an elbow and a sharp look from Au in response.

The driver’s eyes went wide. Oh boy, a superfan, Au thought with a mental eye roll. In reality, the driver was trying to imagine how much he might get for an interview with a digital tabloid, if he were one of the last people to see Alden alive.

Neither party could remove themselves from the company of the other fast enough. As they pulled up to the gates of the academy, Archie and Au tumbled out. The driver tore away, sliding around the corner and knocking over a produce stall. Au chastised Archie over the sound of squishing fruits. “We can’t have a panic. The city will riot. They can’t know that the industrialists are worried. It’s never a good look to have your heroes shaken. It is a stirring reminder of one’s place in the universe.”

She pulled him beyond the great arched gates of the academy, flicking squashed orange bits out of her hair as the fruit salesman cursed.

Archie had never been drawn in by the rituals of academia, and yet, as they both strode purposely through the ornate gates, even he shed a tear as the weight of grand tradition impressed upon him. The time-worn walls of Academy Spuria produced an incredible mass of veneration.

The grand buildings rose in a crescendo around expansive grounds and gardens, culminating with the grand atrium and convocorium. These pillars of academia were held up by real pillars of obscene thickness. The height was nothing to sneeze at either, the grand facades were balanced hundred of meters up, with statues and imagery celebrating the classics of Old Jardinain mythos. Much of it, these days, was intertwined with industrialist heroes of the centuries and decades past, perhaps falling out of favour on the grand kilo, but enshrined forever (within reason) on the exterior veneer of the institution that made them.

Though most of the grand buildings dated back to the formation of the university, indeed many of the ornate facades were newer, highlighting contemporary Old Jardinian progress in a similar fashion as the Statues on the Grand Kilo. In fact, the only stories presented in stone that Au didn’t know, inhabited one particular section that was known to be original, of times mostly lost to collective memory.

She contemplated the large rectangular space now, above one be-columned entrance to an academy building that was seemingly cut from a single block into a grand scene. It was a scene notorious for closing-time pub theorizing among the more imaginative of the students. The scene featured a child with wings, being lifted, amidst stars at different depths in the block by two muscular people. The child had a heroic expression, and carried an archaic shield in front. The design on the shield looked as if it had been left in a state of unfinish, or hurriedly removed -

Au had herself scoffed at many fuzzy explanations by dishevelled second-years with an excess of pint and imaginative confidence. But now, she started at the vision, the corner of the design on the shield, was it a bottom quarter of the hourglass shape from the freight entrance to Alovian? It was certainly thinner, but again, in a state of infinish, or perhaps censure.

The particular section in question was above the ancient building home now to the aeronautics and navigation school, a faculty so obscure that students were hard pressed to find a contemporary who could even name one of the members. Though, not that many wanted to apply; flight was not what could be called a booming industry.

As the only notable academic institution in the city, and the university’s status as the premier exporter to the Industrialist Caste, donations were staggering. Au knew that most industrialists felt a great sense of debt to the Academy Spuria, bordering on a simmering guilt. Hence the ostentatious masonry, continuing to be added in stages far beyond the ancient golden age of Old Jardinian architecture, though taking care to attempt to replicate when possible. Obviously, it never came quite to the same level of quality, but it was the best approximation money could buy.

As Au knew by reputation, the Dean’s offices were towards the end of the main grounds. She lay in tenure above the grand staircase and pillars one would pass to enter the atrium and grand convocorium. Her office featured several tall windows above the grand entrance to the main administrative and event buildings. It was rumoured that the Dean kept a close watch on the garden grounds, possibly with some sort of enhanced vision. Whether that vigil was for lazy maintenance workers dawdling on snack-breaks, or canoodling students of whose partnership she did not approve; she did nothing to dissuade the rumours. Above her office, and above the rest of the building was a dome of notable scale, open partially at the top. In the past, before the Acropolis Brand Suggestive Weather Control, this openness was awfully inconvenient for graduation ceremonies.

Archie and Au tramped through the carefully manicured grasses and exotic trees, artfully curated, liberated and tamed from within the chaotic Sodden jungles. A long, smooth pool lay down the middle of the gardens, with grids of paths alongside intersecting the various displays of well-trimmed shrubbery. Unlike the Old, Old quarter, the grounds of Academy Spuria had been tended to with intense horticultural passion, and likely an autocratic eye from above. There was a pretty good fountain, at least to Archie's judging eye, at the end of the pool. Old Jardinian loved a good fountain, so of course, the hallowed institution of Academy Spuria could not be outdone. Walking down one of the paths, they passed a maintenance worker. He had a cart of what looked like broken wooden office furniture. He raised his cap by way of greeting.

Said fountain was a sizable replication of the school’s mascot enthusiastically squirting water up from it’s lower lip, or beak, for anatomical accuracy. This bronze creation of cartoonish proportion was a half-man, half owl. Or, more precisely, 85% Owl and 15% man. It was the Owlman. It was said the Owlman watched over the university heretofore and evermore, and would come to defend it in times of trouble. Though, most students would admit, If he was truly observing, he would probably be offended by the unflattering proportions imposed on the statue. The head and eyes were huge, all owl, and the feathery tummy jutted out quite a bit. The main personified bits were the forearms and hands clenched into fists. The fists were holding rolled up diplomas, quite ready to defend the university against the forces of the idiocracy with the weapons of reason. Archie decided he liked this one quite a bit. He might even vote for it in the annual vote-as-much-as-you-like fountains of Greater Jard power-rankings extravaganza.

They crossed the plaza of paving stones in front of the fountain to the steps of the grand atrium. To the left and a bit around the massive building was the school stadium, and to the right was the Archeology and Ancient studies building.

They tramped up the front steps. The front hall of the grand atrium was empty today. Silent, and shadowy too; the only light came from the door and the windows. These windows, each about double the height of Archie, who was indeed constantly comparing his height to things he saw, spanned the entirety of the courtyard-facing wall. Then up the perpendicular stairs to the second level, taking in ornamented banister caps in the shape of stylized open palms drawing the eye within the otherwise empty entrance hall. There was a buzz of activity on the second floor.

Au knew this to be where much of the administration was conducted, under the watchful eye of the Dean.

Temp Oct 2022 II (Less cult, more absolute fear)

~ 144 (Finish this) Absolute fear of her? // Try this out after - hiding under desks and stuff, tiptoeing closer to the door to ask timid questions... // But how to insert two years in here // Maybe not the employee disappears

@ 101060

Au had applied for a coveted administrative role when she was at the school - the pay was excellent. They’d asked, and she thought she had, loyalty, discretion and efficiency in monotonous tasks. Her confidence in these areas would go on to serve her well as Alden’s financial fixer. She’d perhaps though, showed a little too much general aptitude in the interview tests however, and she had been told in her rejection that she had a little too much initiative for the position.

She knew some students who had gotten the job, the type who rarely questioned assignments, avoided any stirring of the pot, and lived with a fastidious passion for being the teacher’s pet. With this, Au had a mental picture of the office culture they were now about to walk into, an onslaught of impervious bureaucracy, complicit with procedure to the point of anti-purpose. Requests would be deflected with lightning agility, and a lesser soul would leave empty handed having apologized for wasting the office’s time.

Au stepped onto the landing that opened into the administrative room. She steeled herself for battle against the red-tape monster. What they found, was something else entirely.

She had imagined all the dean’s seemingly enforced bureaucracy had provided a soft barrier to overly-inquisitive minds, but judging by the scene front of her eyes it had degenerated to the tableau of a group of underlings floundering without anything other than the vague memories of purpose.

It appeared impervious bureaucracy had, shall she say, rotted since she was last here. Back then, at least, there was some semblance of purpose. A student could hold faith that eventually data was filed and retrieved, eventually administrative requests would be fufilled. Now, she and Archie walked into a den where enigmatic process reigned supreme, at the expense of all potential usefulness.

The office was a long room leading to a grand door at one end. Now here is where the scene becomes odd. These grand doors were ajar, and slightly splintered. Wafting from the office between leading to the door was a scent of ancient fear that raised Archie’s’ memories of mammalian hackles.

Softly lit, and immaculate, the office had notes of clinical business nestled within a larger setting of elder grandiosity, common in the academy. Modern office wares and technology sat a precise distance away from the ancient walls, all lit with an underglow from recesses in the bottom of the slightly slanted walls. Au noticed a number of of administrators, in immaculate business attire, though several years out of date (Au noticed these things) were sitting, staring at the splintered doors. Most were attempting to hide under desks, in wall nooks, under various

plants, essentially trying very hard to be smaller, without looking like they were doing so. A humming keened from behind the doors. After a quick rendition of not-me in the form of nose touches, and some frantic gestures between the last two to touch nose, a frightened employee crept towards the splintered door frame and associated debris.

It was at this moment that Archie chose to announce his presence, not wanting to play this waiting game any longer. “Ahem, we’re looking to see the Dean, is she in?” Archie was looking at at the scene skeptically. The scene pretty much confirmed his mental of those around the academies as common sense-less, naval-gazers without much actual work to do.

Nearly all the employees turned and shushed him, panic in their eyes.

The dean’s personal assistant stood up shyly, and tiptoed toward them, as his compatriot cringed across the room near the splintered door. He introduced himself as such in a nervous whisper.

He seemed to acknowledge the absurdity of the situation. A guilty expression grew on his face, as he took in his cowering coworkers, and came down from the moment. “We’re awaiting Her guidance on the accepted applicants for next year” he gestured, by way of explanation at the unfortunate employee whimpering beside the door. He looked at Au and Archie accusingly.

“It was supposed to be staff only today”.

If only - one should always prepare to be interrupted. Especially when Archie Sandalwood and Austera Ditt were on the hunt.

“But yes, I suppose the Dean’s in there.” He amended his statement after a pause “...,technically”.

The Dean’s guidance had become more and more esoteric after the last couple years, and this had shaken this assistant’s unquestioning loyalty somewhat, having his world of rules and meticulous order upset.

The assistant rubbed his eyes, and motioned them closer. “Between me and you, I must recommend you reconsider the visit - she’s been feeling off for some time. She’s just broken the barricades. He lowered his voice to a whisper, looking left and right - but he was Fed Up, so was willing to be a little looser with the lips. “It’s been years of this.”

Archie and Au looked at each other. “Oh Boy,” they thought consecutively, Au’s assessment of the situation reaching completion a little before Archie's. The repairman, Au thought knowingly.

“We just sort of toss the food in” said the assistant, as they took in some smashed dishes by the door “Wish you luck”

They were motioned to the entrance, though Au noted that none of the administration was willing to physically show them to the imposing doors at the end of the admin office, ajar and slightly splintered. They were Keeping a Safe Distance from their queen.

They approached the splintered door as cautiously as one would a room containing cobras or cold-calling, life insurance with-implied-threat hawking salespeople. Au slowly eased it open. The administrative employee who had been crouched there dove out of the way, anticipating more thrown dishwear. Au seen the Dean before, walking around the school, features furrowed in a discerning frown, and presiding over matters of graduation and ceremony.

The vision of the Dean that greeted them now was far removed from the visage of esoteric power she normally wore. Her apparent state was one of phenominal decay. She had some sort of paste in lines circles around her eyes. On the floor, she had arranged the innards of some electronics around in a poor approximation of an arcane symbol. She was slumping now against the wall in a posture of ultimate defeat. There were hundreds of marks on the grey panelled walls, next to what looked like a sloppily painted triangle and some stars. Half-empty bottles of outrageously expensive liquors kept company with the half-eaten dishes and discarded, soiled designer clothing that littered the expansive office suite. Suspect splatters marked the walls, dripping down into puddles on the floor. Paintings lay propped against the wall or on the floor, some with holes where the heads should be. At one time, this might have been the most impressive office in the city. But now, filled with months of trash, arcane vandalism all over the floor-to-ceiling windows, couches tipped over to make small forts, it told a story of a dark degeneration, of someone who had lost all control.

The low-lights flickered twice as Archie stepped on a cable. This appeared to wake the dean. It took visible effort for her to raise her eyes to meet them. Archie strode ahead valiantly, attempting to get the upper hand in conversation.

“We’ve just been to Alovian Station. We know that it’s empty.”

Au took over, “Alden Carnibus is dead.”

With that, a grand tolling of bells rang out in the city, cutting off all conversation. This was a daily hazard to mid-morning meetings. Au tapped her foot impatiently. The Dean watched the hummingbirds float by, buzzing around her temples.

“We know about your arrangement with the Alovians. We found the solar panels Carina Molecular designed. Did you steal them from Alden?“

The Dean swivelled her neck to look dully at the pair as Au continued. “And why is an alarm going off in Alovian station, a siren upon deaf ears?” - The absurdity of the situation had put her in the role of heroine in a surrealist drama, and she was relishing the chance to be a little more imaginative with her phrasing.

“It appears to come from a student’s boxhome on the edge of the great expanse. There is also to be a cloud, or a storm of some sort. Is this related at all to the student you sent there, who rejected the so-called “Mark of Excellence?”

The dean seemed to experience a moment of lucidity. She looked thoughtful.

“So he was right after all. He knew, he knew the whole time.” The Dean shrugged, eying them with a mixture of contempt and pity, a gaze familiar to any who had been a student here. “It makes no difference now, we are lost without them.”

She lapsed into humming. It was an antiquated marketing jingle for Acropolis Brand Passion Fruit Chews, itself a misleading misnomer because there was no real fruit involved; and neither did these chews inspire any kind of passion at all. It was one of the few product failures by the agricultural and food conglomerate to date.

Archie and Au looked at each other. The Dean’s roll-screen had escaped her apparent wrath, the extent of her futile technological tantrum. Au scooted over to take a look. While one storage terminal had been destroyed, another was still attached and running. The dean had apparently not bothered with the standard voice security. Au supposed nobody got into her office without an appointment scheduled months in advance, usually. There was a message opened many times, taking up the entire screen. It was the message they’d read a preview of at the M&G Cong. The date was two years previous.

**Message: The Ascendancy Approaches**

_From the Desk of Gaan Gaax, Rotating Research Chair_

_To: Dean, Director of M&G Cong._

_Hello, Esteemed liaisons for cross-schism dialogue,_

_We exude gratitude from our collective pores for your support over the years. The goods and services from you both, along with your predecessors at M&G. Cong., and of course at the Acropolis during our darkest time, have been greatly appreciated in the pursuit of our great endeavor._

_We write to you now, to let you know that the great endeavor has been completed_ _, our debt to Old Jardinia paid._

_We see the flourishing of your industry, and we hope you feel that we have compensated you in kind for your aid over the breadth of our partnership._

_We have left you the final gift, the repayment of our great debt. It is to repair the rift between our peoples, a thousand years past but still fresh in our cultural conscience. We see that you are putting it to good use, and after two years of monitoring the expanse for related trouble, feel that it is our time now to leave._

_We, freed of our obligation, will now be realizing our destiny among the stars. This will be our last contact for now. We look forward to meeting you, representative of the Old Jardinian, when you and your descendants join the galactic community, perhaps spurred on by the potential from our arrangement._

_Best of Luck with your future endeavors,_

_Gaan Gaax._

Au considered the note. So, the Dean, and her predecessors had an arrangement with these exiled researchers, who’d been living at the top of the falls since an apparent schism. They’d learned about as much at the M&G Cong. Though, she’d certainly never heard anything before that about a schism. And the nature of the arrangement, this give and take, that was news. The great endeavour, goods and services, compensation along the way…

Had the University and M&G Cong. been profiting from some sort of secret information trade-route with the holed-up Alovians in years previous; and maybe even a physical trade route, the lonely underground C-rail? And then there was the parting gift. Not to mention this destiny realized; had they literally gone to the stars, or was this some strange colloquialism? Which debt had been repaid? She now had more questions than answers.

And, the flourishing of industry, indeed. She’d seen that first-hand. Here was a hint, perhaps Alden was in the league with the Alovians, through the Dean? Not a victim of corporate espionage, but the beneficiary of a secret partnership, the one she’d long suspected the boisterous executive and founder to have. Did this partnership extend to more of the industrialists? Perhaps these compensations from Alovian related to the Mark of Excellence? Maybe this was a better explanation for the astonishing success rate of Mark recipients than the standard narrative; the ineffable potential of “exceptional minds” that Au had found quite tenuous at times.

If so, there was tremendous incentive for those in the know to hide the nature of the mark. And likely ample unrest upon the immediate dissolution of said partnership upon ascension to the stars.

Ah. Here was the other message. In the sent folder, she had discovered the full message from the Dean about the exile of the graduate that they had found at the M&G Cong.

**Memo: Resource Transfer**

_From the Desk of the Dean_

_To: Director of Meteorological and Geological Conglomerate_

_Regarding academy graduate Tyton Barnes._

_This is an informal message to follow a formal request to transfer Tyton to the employment of M&G Cong. It is my opinion that it is best that a posting be found in an isolated area away from sensitive ears, due to the fragile nature of our arrangement with the Alovians. Treat this with an urgency that I feel that I should not need to impress upon you, yourself a recipient of the Mark of Excellence._

_Unfortunate and unprecedented events have transpired. Recent academy graduate Tyton has some dangerous misconceptions about the so-called great endeavor, and the nature of our working relationships with the Alovian preAscendancy._

_We hear you have an opening for an Observer at the edge of the expanse. Far away and uneventful apparently. I am leaving this in your very capable hands._


Several more attempts to question the Dean were, akin to the alchemy of the banana, unfruitful. Apparently, former student Tyton Barnes was alone in the Great Expanse, with sole insight into the Dean’s profitable relationship with the Alovians, and their so-called great endeavor, staring down the barrel of a menacing, marauding as-of-yet-undescribed phenomena. This was amidst the simmering, but quite likely soon burgeoning, social upheaval in Greater Jard. It was certain the deaths or fresh irrelevance of such prominent industrialists would cause general cultural strife. Au knew the only remaining avenue of investigation into the twin mysteries, the Mark of Excellence connection, and her siren upon deaf ears, was a journey to the expanse, and an attempt to contact her exiled former classmate. It chilled her to imagine what Tyton had been right about, if anything the Dean had said could in fact be taken at face value.

Au could imagine the riotous misbehavior that the angry, bored and newly desperate masses might inflict. Perhaps it would be catalyzed by an inset of grief for their fallen heros, depending how the story broke. At any rate, such a populace in the swing of grief/revolution would be ill equipped to deal with any severe natural phenomena or anomalous event that the alarm in Alovian Station had seemed to be indicating. The Dean had seemed to legitimize her concern with her cryptic notion that Tyton “had been right”, and evidently exiled for his trouble.

Au had slightly more faith in the common people of Old Jardinian than the Industrialist elite; she’d spent more time than she cared to remember with Alden and his ilk and certainly wouldn’t trust them in a crisis. She could believe, or hope somewhat optimistically, that regular Old Jardinians might come together in a time of need - should they not be in mid swing of a revolution, and should they know what exactly, the impending disaster was, that needed an object display of stick-to-it-ive-ness.

Well, someone then needed to find out what they were facing. They’d have to figure it out first, raising the alarm now without any further research any would only serve to stoke unrest. She said as much to Archie.

Archie thought she was being paranoid, but he wanted to eventually be able to work again, and for that, they needed to find out more from the Observer about the nature of these Marks of Excellence; indeed would the great industrialists rise again in Old Jardinian without the partnership of these Ascendant Alovians? They both agreed it was probably ideal to get out of town for a bit, and he was keen to come back with some solutions. Perhaps he’d even become a hero of the people. And as such, he was more than willing to travel to the Great Expanse, but told her that he'd be wanting to see the scenic route; he’d like to make the most of his impromptu vacation.

Au pictured herself getting frustrated and impaired by Archie on the way. But, with his remarkable lack of tact, and combined with what he had witnessed, not to mention his apparent leadership abilities, she could imagine coming back to a revolution in full swing. She pictured Archie astride a burning box-home or perhaps toppling statues on the grand kilo. No, it was too much. The city was not ready for a full exposure to Archie Sandalwood. For Old Jardinian’s own good, the little jumpsuit wearing powderkeg would have to be along for the ride. They resolved to pack and begin the journey right away. They left the Dean’s office, it’s owner still blubbering, with an apprehensive goodbye to the administrative staff, themselves becoming more unhinged as they were left to their own devices.

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