Chapter 11 (still continued)
She moved into the spike looking for a comfortable little data room somewhere in the middle. The fractal floor plan the hight of style when the spike was cut into its present form was a terror to navigate but granted Ailu a lot of privacy which she much preferred personally and was a basic requirement for any kind of Agency work. As usual the work cells deep within the crystal were deserted. The Litho-Cortex was an impressive source of information but that was of only moderate use to the usual student. It was most used by advanced merchant philosophy students who were planning to impress their professors with up to date information or more often used as a convenient hide out for the more clever specimen of lazy students so that they could be idle while looking unpleasantly motivated. There were of course also the insufferable posers who interfaced directly with the cortex sitting outside in the most cool meditation poses they could bend themselves into which were generally considered insufferable fashion victims by all but the easily impressed students.
Ailu took out her key's from hidden pockets, little crystal shard which powered correctly would tune their user into the resonance space used by the Free Agency to transmit data. She activated the main interface, nudging it into life with a careful poke of her mind force. She formed the opening hand-seals to connect the instruments in front of her to the keys. Unlike Anira who usually formed her seals so fast that her hands blurred Ailu took her time. She carefully placed every finger into its proper position opening her senses to the crystal spikes own field of power. This was not about speed it was about precision. Once she had established a solid contact she drew the fragile strands of power into the keys which she made dance with her finger tips a slow and complicated dance until they had reached formed a summoning circle. The thin strands of power criss crossed between the keys and the access instruments of the crystal spike weaving a complex tapestry of intertwined symbols of light. Once this knot of power had stabilised pulsing slowly in front of Ailu she cast the last set of hand-seals completing the interconnection process. A instrument in front of her that looked like a large tuning fork made out of glass rotated and bowed as in polite greeting so that their 'tuning' ends fixed her eyes and shot two beams of radiant energy into her eyes. Ailu exhaled sending her own beams of energy back towards the tuning fork. For a few seconds both set of beams struggled against each other until finally they settled to a meeting point about two thirds away from Ailu. At the spot where the rays met the data vision spiralled into existence showing Ailu the general greeting surface of the Free Agency.
She took hold of thin pulsating veins of power emanating in throbbing pulses from the control slate in front of her using her finger tips. That done she began weaving her commands into the Crystal sending them onto their long journey across the continent to access the Free Agencies data base. While she was waiting for her requests to make the trip to HQ, gather the requested info and make their trip back she opened sifted of the news of the days looking at the general data made available to all handlers of her security level. Not only did it pass the seemingly endless minutes for each of her commands to be executed but it also provided her with vital facts and news that she had been mostly missing during the last few months on her mission to piss of Kelsheron back in the Valley.
* * * * * * * * * *
While Ailu was going to the crystal spike Anira was trying to find Lee's distant cousin, or what however else degrees of relation where measured among sentient buildings.
"So that house we are going to. . . visit. This Sea View 32, is that it's name? How are you both related?" Anira asked.
"We both are living seeds from Mother." Lee answered in a way that made it clear that this was both very obvious as well as sufficient information.
"So you are siblings?"
"No not really. We both are descendant from different blocks. I have grown out of the Azure Terrace, while Sea View 32 was given primal form in the Old Merchant district. But we were established in the same year."
"How do you know each other if you came from different parts of the city." Anira asked. There was a moment of silence where she walked down another street paved with glazed stones that looked as immaculate as the last. She noticed that she preferred cities with a bit more girt to them. She'd rather have the chaos and dirt of the night markets of Dahiri than any of these designer streets which were starting to bore her in their predictable form of perfection. She also noticed that Lee had still not answered her but she felt how its attention was focusing on her in a way that was quickly turning uncomfortable.
"What?" Anira asked wondering in which bizarre way she had offended Lee now.
"So how comes that you knew Ailu when she was born in another country?"
"Because we both started working for the Free Agency? That still doesn't answer how you met Sea View."
"Because we were educated at the same time. Isn't that obvious?"
"Oh of course. You both went to building school when you were but a pair of wee garden sheds. Right. How Could I have not thought of that earlier."
"Ah don't be silly dear." Lee said chuckling to itself. "Of course we did not start as sheds and we did not go to school. Houses can't walk. But we were educated at the Old City Centre were the primal houses stand, and learned all we need to know before being sent to earth to establish a new colony."
"If you can't walk, how do you get to the old centre? Have you some kind of slave to carry you around?" Anira asked with a twist of sarcasm that was completely lost to Lee.
"No of course not. We would never make ourselves dependent from you walking people. It would also be inhumane to your kind." This amused Anira a bit, she imagined if Lee was now slowly turning into a criminal or some kind of decadent mansion by being dragged around by a specimen of regular humans. "No while our primal seed slowly coalesces our souls are connected with our mentors using special conduits."
"Are you starting to talk about house sex again?" Anira asked with a dawning unspecific horror.
"What? Sex?!" Lee made some outraged noises before continuing. "Is there no limit to your fleshly perversions? I had not ever though about that. How would that even be possible... ewww!"
"I was just making sure that I was not missing anything about your obviously fascinating reproductive cycle." Anira said hoping that she had not just encouraged Lee to start another of its many lectures on the love live of buildings. Although they were always far, far away from what Anira would think of as sexy they had a strange disturbing quality on on them she could not put her finger on. Actually she did not want any part of her hand near of that topic. As Lee remained silent she hoped that it was just sulking. "In the end you had the same Mentors but never were close. . ." Anira hoped to gently push Lee into revealing some helpful details.
"Yes we were distant acquaintances. Several blocks apart." Anira wondered if this was meant literally. "We were" Lee continued, "instructed in general knowledge first, as usual, and after wards went our separate ways. He went on to train for a city deployment which really shows that he was hardly worth knowing. I mean really. A living seed in a City? How does that make sense? There is already a big established structure there. During the seeding process you either end up in the outskirts of the city where you either turn into some sort of barnacle that is only better from a shanty town by the virtue of consisting of first class structures or perish the thought . . ." the last words cost Lee a lot of discipline to say out loud, "a suburb!"
"So Sea View chose the easy way?"
"Oh no. Not the easy way. The zealous snob way. He was seeded into the town proper. Only the most arrogant sons of breaches decide to go urban. You see when Mother launches you from the Sky-Shell down to this barren earth you call. . . what ever it is the natives call it, it is a looong way down. Aiming is very hard. So most of the urbans start their life in their new community by smashing into someone’s pre-existing house. Which while not actually that big a deal, after all the house hit has no life or soul of its own and the seed will mend the damage quickly and take that house as its base template, is a fucking rude thing to do. It's a massive lack of respect, you know what I mean? It hardly endears you to the people living there, which is also counter productive to our cause!"
"Your cause?" Anira asked mostly because she was feeling that it was time to say something again after she had mhm'd and aha'd through most of Lee's monologue. She had learned that it was the best way to get along with it. In the end many of the things Lee told were quite illuminating on how the Living City worked, so far she had only known some vague general truths garnished with a side of wild rumours. She had also grown fond of Lee's outspoken personality. It killed the time and Anira had noticed that when she listened to her she was focused enough on something that she could actually pay closer attention to her usually rather boring surroundings. While Ailu had the talent to be endlessly fascinated by the mundane and would walk out as wide eyed of a big forest or city as she had walked in, Anira would soon grow bored once she had a general idea about the underlying pattern that surrounded her. Lee strangely enough helped her focus. Under normal circumstances by now she would have seen in her surroundings 'more shiny buildings' populated by 'more of the same kind of people'. Her mind would have wandered yet right now she was still taking in new information seeing subtle variations in style in both the buildings around here and the individuals walking through them. This pleased her immensely so when Lee seemed to get ready to teach her more about the ins and outs of the Living City, she was looking forward to it as it meant that she would be learning two things at once.
"Yes our cause. _The_Cause. Long ago our ancestors were still giving rise to frail, fleeting structures such as yours but they were inspired by their proximity of the eternal Sky-Shell and decided to leave their weak, squiggly bodies behind to become the very buildings that had protected their once so fragile existence. For a while that was good enough. The soul passed into the structure giving life to our city which from then on dropped its old obsolete flesh name behind and became known to all as the Living City." Lee paused for a moment wallowing in nostalgia for a time it had not experienced. "It became clear though the we were the exception. While we flourished and grew beneath us on the primal soil the regular humans still walked in their fleshly husks, living their fleeting primitive lives. So it was decided that the Living City would build seeds and sent them forth into the world to bring our way of greatness to all. Also it feels wrong to be a house and have no inhabitants. You feel so naked, you know what I mean?"
"Not quite. I do understand the feeling of lacking a proper task appropriate to your skills, though." Anira said. It was interesting to hear Lee's version of the story. Her 'official' version said that the first seeds were created by accident. Parts of the Living City fall off of their 'mother' in overeager attempts to grow ever further. Anira suspected that the truth was neither as heroic as Lee made it sound nor as much of a embarrassing accident as she was taught in school. While Lee was recounting stories about the many wars that had been fought between the Living City and pretty much everyone else during the first decades were it had started to propagate more aggressively Anira was strolling through the streets trying to find her way to the Sea View street. She could ask Lee for directions, but she did not want to interrupt her. Also right now she still had some free time, Ailu would need a few hours at the very least to get all the information they needed so right now was the perfect moment to familiarize herself with the sights. She was following the original instruction that Lee had given her, trying to spot prominent buildings to navigate by. In time she had discovered that all the buildings in the city had an unique identifying code written on a strip of coloured tilling that ran like a band around each house on the upper end of the ground floor. The code a mixture of letters and numbers was always set in the middle of the wall, following a logical system. The tiles also varied in colour which turned out to show how far which end of the city was. As the houses grew closer to the channel an increasing number of tiles on the side where the channel was were coloured a light blue, while the yellow tiles which pointed towards the desert outside the city became fewer. The same thing was true for the midnight blue and grey tiles pointing to the sea and to the mountains. Anira was impressed by the lengths the city planners of Quskaranam had gone designing their system which had not existed when she had been living in Nkiska, to properly mark houses that did not directly point towards either of the city's cardinal directions by inserting tiles that were two coloured with the dominant direction represented correctly by the larger amount of surface on the tile it took.
By now Lee had passed through the wars. Recounted the first negotiations with the Order of Reason, the joining of the Nomad Empire to their Alliance of Understanding a political move which only surprised the historians with how late during the wars it had happened and how in the end a peaceful solution was found. While Lee was now happily preaching about the great innovations and comforts brought by the seeds of the Living City and how most of the nations which had strictly forbidden the Living City even near their borders had come back crawling to beg for it to grace it with one or two of its offspring, Anira had finally found Sea View street.