The final chapter of Mar’s story. As events unfold on the global political stage, Mar becomes involved with a project that could mark the dawn of a new era.
“Good afternoon, Elders. Our investigation has concluded that none of the magitech team were knowingly complicit in Jinmeng’s actions. We speculate that the objective of her request of Sterkvleuel could have been to distract Elder Kennissoeker, but Sterkvleuel indicated that he believed the request was genuine in some manner.
“Jinmeng, however, did not act alone. Our agents abroad confirm your suspicions that Gordieva has been stalling for time and have deported Jinmeng from their territory. There are movements in the political back-channels. Allegiances being sought, and others questioned. Imaadudin and Meihian seem to be particularly active in this regard.”
“Thank you, assistant director Lojant,” Ruk Nikus spoke.
“Assistant director, have the CDI decrypted the drive which Jinmeng was attempting to abscond with?”
“Yes, Elder Kennissoeker. It is as you expected – data regarding almost all the confidential projects which she has been involved in.”
“Including our resident and his friend?”
“Then I believe it is safe for me to hazard a guess at her goal.”
“You should have told us as soon as it occurred to you, Kennissoeker!”
“Calm yourself, Tronesk. Let him speak.”
“Thank you, Ruk. It has been only two days, Tronesk. This speculation would have drastic implications, and I wanted to have more evidence before sharing it. I believe she seeks to spark the creation of a multinational, or even worldwide, governing body stronger than Tumenzar’s coalition.”
“What leads you to this conclusion,” Ruk asked.
“Years ago, we spoke at length about how we expected the world to progress. What we thought the next era would look like, and how our governance would need to change with the times. We both agreed that us and the humans would need to stand united as we turn to the stars. To further erode the distinction and competition between nations. Such a government would need to be representative of all nations.”
“You would have us abdicate our position in the world?” Tronesk’s anger had become quite a common sight for Irikshan. “To be ruled by humans? To completely upturn how our society functions?”
“No, Tumenzar has always and will always be my priority. This is why Rentik decided that she must act. In a disagreement we had many months ago, she condemned how we only ever changed in times of crises, when it was too late to prevent disaster, not before.”
“Hence she thought she could create her own crisis, perhaps before a worse crisis can happen, yes?” Ruk interjected. “And the data she took would be a bargaining chip to buy political allies?”
“Meihian and Imaadudin are both members of the coalition,” Tronesk scoffed, “but they are now traitors to us. We must secure the loyalty of our remaining allies. We will not be bested.”
“I agree we must gather our strength,” Irikshan replied, to Tronesk’s surprise, “But we must not set ourselves on a path to war. Those moving against us will want to put us in a position where the most desirable option is for us to cooperate. Rentik will want that option to be something both sides can approach as equals, but I do not know what sorts of allies she will have found. If Meihian or Imaadudin are indeed at the centre of this, I maintain hope for a favourable end, but we must nevertheless be prepared.”
“This is acceptable,” Tronesk conceded, but Irikshan could tell he was not fully satisfied.
“I concur,” Ruk stated. “Lojant, will you inform the council?”
Mar gently glided down, alighting upon the red bricks of the wide-open courtyard before Raifal college. The waterfall thundered deeply in the background, muffled substantially by the building complex. All around him, other dragons of many shapes and sizes did the same. A stream of humans diverged and condensed to fit onto two narrower paths on the edges of the courtyard. They trickled one at a time through the smaller access gates at the sides, before intermingling with the dragons who had passed through their own gates in the centre.
Mar joined the procession of arrivals, a queue for one of the smaller gates nearer the sides. He hadn’t missed the morning rush during his holiday, but he had to be here early for his meeting. As he reached the gate he tapped his college identity card against the reader, and fast-walked through the gate as it slid open. He always feared that those things would close on his tail, despite faintly sensing the infrared beams upon his scales meant to prevent it.
He navigated from the entry hall through the college complex; entering a less crowded passageway.
“Mar! Hello!” came a deep call from behind. He turned to see the deep purple and mint-green armoured form of Adanna Kondwa approaching. About two centuries of age, she towered over him. Yet, despite her strong and bulky build, she always maintained a certain softness to her face.
“Hello, Adanna, good to see you again!” Mar replied, stopping for the larger dragon to catch up, before continuing to walk beside her, “What brings you all the way here?”
“Contract work. We landed a big deal. I think this is really going to push AMAS forward.”
Something clicked, and Mar realised exactly what she was doing here. The last time he’d seen his former colleagues from AMAS, during the tech convention he’d visited with Zola, Georgia had mentioned something about the military taking an interest in the company. This wasn’t much of a stretch. “You don’t happen to be the contractor meeting in lab G307, do you?”
“Yes, I am. Wait, you’re on this project too?”
Mar nodded. He knew that a large part of the reason why he’d been invited to the project was because they were going to study his knack in hopes of finding an insight that could help achieve their goal, but it also gladdened him to be working with groups who he was familiar with.
“That’s great! Makes sense. But let’s not discuss it in the passageways.”
“Of course. What do you think of the summit being organised by Meihian? Elder Kennissoeker has had to step back from tutoring me for a while so that he can deal with the extra work caused by… recent events.”
“It’s a good step forward for everyone to meet and talk it out. I’m glad things haven’t passed the point where this is an option. Reading between the lines in the news, it’s been pretty obvious that sides are being picked.”
“Mhm. I’m scared what will happen if they meet no agreement at the summit. The world could find itself in a downward spiral. I’m glad Irikshan will represent Tumenzar. I’ve got nothing against Elder Nikus, but Elder Givaris’ attitude seems the most… dated.”
“The world has changed so much since I was your age. I’m ashamed of who I was at a time, but I’ve learnt how important growth and change are.”
“Do you think… what we’re doing might be… used if things get worse?”
“I have no doubt that some of the higher-ups will try. But if we don’t make it, they’ll find someone else who can. The least we can do is… steer it in the right direction. Make sure it understands what it’s doing and does it in the right way.”
They eventually arrived at their destination: a lab in the Grandmaster’s wing. Mar scanned his identity card on a reader beside the frosted door and entered, followed by Adanna. A handful of faces greeted them — all of whom, but one, he was glad to see.
“Now, now, young Sterkvleuel,” spoke the green and yellow dragon who’d taken him into custody a few weeks ago. Mar quickly returned to a formal posture, realizing he’d visibly reacted to agent Steyn’s presence. “My job was to clear you from involvement in Jinmeng’s treason, which I did. Vivette and the others had to go through the same. Now my job is to ensure the security of this project. Pretend I’m not here.”
“Yes, dres,” Mar replied, bowing his head before turning to the others. “Dras Adrichem, dres Beulens. It is an honour to meet you both at last.”
“Please, call us Rika and Wiebe,” the one-and-a-half century old dragoness spoke first. A yellow tumen-ostra mix with red-spotted black stripes and an orange core, she’d been the subject of much admiration from Mar and his former colleagues at AMAS. She and her apprentice-turned-research-partner, a grassy green dragon with a lemon-yellow core about twice Mar’s age, had been trying to do with crystals what Adanna’s enterprise had sought to do with robotics and software.
The pair’s work had not been progressing as rapidly as their technological competitors, but Mar could scarce imagine the amount of work and expertise that went into each iteration of their crystal golems. The way they used layers upon layers of enchantments across many crystals to create something that could react and respond to more than just the simplest of stimuli was awe-inspiring.
Unfortunately, the technical overlap between their work and the work he had done at AMAS had always been small, and there had never been a reason for Adanna to make contact and collaborate. Until now.
“Hello, Vivette and Morne,” Mar greeted the last pair in the room, “it is good to see you again.”
“Hello Mar, hello Adanna. Now that everyone’s here, let us begin.”