Signals from the Front: Visible Elements Chapter Nine

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Chapter Nine

They hold the unveiling in the chambers of the old Open Council, an amphitheatre of stone that pleasantly absorbs and transmits the sun’s warmlight wavelengths. It appears as a series of concentric rings to Vysha’s eyes.

And Vysha is in the center of it.

The Open Council chambers have accommodations for all Teluk’s citizens: Vysha basks gratefully in a pool of seawater pumped in for their comfort. Around them gather Vysha’s entire cohort, their stalks radiating warm encouragement and soothing Vysha’s nerves. 

They very much need the reassurance, because on the level directly above them lounge two bored councilors, both Baskar, munching marine delicacies and chatting in soundspeech. Vysha’s unveiling is clearly an amusement to them, a pleasant distraction before their return to important matters.

But Vysha is patient, as the Veert have learned to be. They wait for a lull in the sounds of chewing and conversation, then give a simulated cough. “May I begin?”

“In a moment,” one of the Baskar says. “We’re awaiting our–” A pause. “Our colleague.”

Vysha understands the pause when an aide opens a door on the second level and admits a palanquin. “Councilor Basalt has arrived,” the aide announces.

The palanquin assumes a place beside the Baskar councilors, and its central pane goes transparent. To land-dweller eyes, the Veert inside must look like any other, but to Vysha, their warmlight signature is unmistakable. 

Hello, Little Pebble, Basalt transmits in the pulses Vysha and their cohort can understand, but not the non-Veert in the room. Vysha senses good humor in Basalt’s use of their nickname, and underneath it, satisfaction. 

Councilor. Vysha coils their tendrils in a respectful gesture, unable to hide the surprise in the word. 

Since a few days ago, Basalt answers Vysha’s untransmitted question. I met with the Council to bring forward Traat’s concerns about the treaty violation. Their frequency turned sly. I may have suggested how embarrassing it would be for this Council were that violation to become public knowledge. Fortunately, the Council suggested an amicable solution by offering me this seat among them, and you the chance to present your commission.

Basalt switches to their translator, addressing the other councilors. “Shall we see what Traat’s first artist has produced?” 

 “You may present your artwork,” says one of the Baskar councilors a bit stiffly. “Though I would like to reiterate that the Council is under no obligation to accept a non-commissioned piece. Particularly a piece whose, ah, style may not be congruent with the rest of the commissions.”

A polite way of saying how little they expect from a Veerten artist. Again Vysha feels that quick flash of anger—but something stronger has crept in underneath it. A desire to prove them wrong.

Go on, Basalt transmits, warmlight words meant only for Vysha and their cohort. We want to see it.

Vysha nods their sensory bulb toward Sky Harvester, standing next to the veiled piece. The Rul whips away the tarp.

With the Baskar councilors’ first surprised intake of breath, Vysha knows they’ve won. For a breath-cycle, Vysha indulges themself—imagines what it would be like to see the piece with eyes for the first time. The sculpture is a massive pillar of hardened spitstone, lacquered to a dull sheen and pitted with the holes of windows. That alone would make for an impressive sculpture. But the thing that makes its image unmistakable, the thing that will make it the seastack of Traat in the eyes of Veerten and land-dwellers alike, is the final element Vysha added last night-cycle.

Tiny Veert cluster around the mouth of every window and cling to every ledge of the miniature seastack, sensory bulbs tilted toward the sky as they watch the battle raging above them. Seeing out the peril that faced all of Teluk’s citizens. And being seen by them.

After a moment of very satisfying silence, the righthand Baskar councilor asks, “What do you call this piece?”

 “I call it The Children of Traat Look Upward with Regret.” But that doesn’t sound quite right. A last element is still missing. “And With Hope.

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