The room was silent, except for the light drip-drop sound of bright amber liquid filtering through the orange flowers in the extractor, which filled the room with the sweet aroma of mulin. Deradon leaned against the kitchen counter, inhaled deeply, and filled his senses with the scent, allowing it to slowly ease his tired mind into the beginnings of alertness. It had been a while since he’d woken up so early, and he was finding the mulin- usually a staple, but not entirely necessary part of his morning routine – to be absolutely essential today. He rolled his shoulders, waiting for the drink to be fully extracted.
Outside the window, snow fell like cotton balls. The sky was a deep gray blanket of clouds, promising more snow and cold to come. A breeze blew the snow against the window, rattling the tree nestles and branches like maracas. Deradon smiled as he watched a bird perched on a branch outside his window use its wings to brush off snow from its chicks. They made a perfect picture, the soft, warm glow from his home lightly reflected on their feathers, the snow, the chicks, the tenderness and quiet of the moments where in the spaces usually filled with the sound and energy of people and machines, the purity of nature shined through.
“Capanon till. Blue variety,” he whispered as if trying to prevent his presence from spoiling the moment. He picked his auto-comm off the kitchen counter and captured several shots in quick succession.
He flipped through the pictures and wrinkled his nose. The 2.5D images of auto-comms never felt complete enough. They lacked dimension and resolution, especially to his Ordenan eyes, which could pick out the subtlest color variations and even some ultraviolet patterns that the auto-comm cameras crunched or couldn’t even capture. He glanced up at the birds again, then over to the table in his living room where his Tinan 5600 holo-cam was laid out in preparation for his field photography. He considered grabbing it — for a moment too long. Just as he took a step forward, the birds spread their wings in a spray of glittering snow dust and took flight. Deradon stared at the empty branch for a dejected moment, then sighed and leaned back against the counter.
He sullenly picked the auto-comm up and looked through the images again. He tilted his head in one direction and then the other. Well, the images weren’t that bad after all. The Capanon till was a common bird, but it certainly wasn’t lacking in beauty compared to the much rarer pink variety, and something about capturing the moment, even on his limited equipment, or maybe even because of it, suddenly seemed charming. He could probably do a whole series about capturing usually overlooked ‘common’ animals, and in fact, perhaps the otherwise lacking quality of auto-comm images could serve to highlight the idea of finding beauty in the things usually taken for granted.
“Hmm, yeh, that could work…” he mumbled, looking through the images and thinking about other subjects he could photograph. It wasn’t the most original idea, but it could be a good series for the magazine. The pattering sound of the mulin dripping through the spherical glass chambers of the extractor broke him out of his musings.
He rolled his shoulders, his carapaces rattling as they slid between each other, and watched the final drops slip through the filters. Deradon waved a hand, and a cupboard opened. He looked through the various packs of serin cups he had. Three were light green, made from processed parts of Lunin-Serin, a variety of the serin flower typically found on the continent of Huild. It had a nutty taste mixed with something slightly floral. His finger hovered over the cup, then moved to the two pink ones next to it, Yildan-serin, a local serin very prominent in his area. It was much more floral tasting and perhaps didn’t really fit the snowy morning, but something about the freshness of it was particularly enticing.
He picked up the cup, unwrapped the transparent packaging, and shivered as his fingers brushed the powdery surface. He placed the cup on a plate, then licked his fingers before opening the extractor spout and pouring the liquid into the cup. Immediately, the scent of the mulin mixed with the Yildan-serin, and he felt the fog of sleep clearing from his mind. He placed his nose over the steaming cup and inhaled deeply. As the serin cup heated up, it began to show spotted ultraviolet patterns that both calmed and focused his mind.
He tossed the brewed flowers from the extractor and the packaging of the serin cup into the composter and then walked into the living room, where he placed his breakfast next to his camera. He paused, then thinking better of it, moved his camera gear to the cushion next to him. The last thing he needed was to have an accident that spilled his breakfast on his new probes.
“What a disaster that would be.” He shuddered. He’d been planning this outing for weeks now, and he’d be damned if an avoidable accident prevented him from capturing the procession of the riculin court at a quality worthy of them.
He leaned into his couch, the gel-like filling adjusting to envelop his body as he sipped the mulin. The warmth spread from his throat to his limbs, and his eyes fluttered shut. He drank in silence, savoring each mouth full of the deep, sour flavor. He tipped the cup over to get the last drops of it, then broke the now softened serin cup into two halves and ate them. Flavor bloomed in his mouth like flowers bloom in spring. The combined taste of the serin and mulin made him feel like he was sitting in a field of flowers on a warm spring day.
“Hmmm, yeh, that’s good.”
He pushed the plate away, then replaced his camera gear on the table. Meticulously, he set down each part. First was the main body. The Tinan holo-cam was larger and heavier than others of similar classes because it had 5 Rainald processors, which allowed it to process incredibly high-resolution captures, calculating millions of images per second. It also had the ability to process infrared and ultraviolet data for all species that could see in those spectrums. Still, three-dimensional quality was only as good as the probes, and Deradon had the best. He gulped as he held the sleek case of probes in his fingers.
“Yunalin-signo Full spectrum.” He said with the reverence one may have towards a god, and as far as eyes were considered, Yunalians were the deities of sight. The case of a hundred probes had cost him three months’ pay, but they were worth every credit, and he’d been waiting for this moment to use them. He placed the case on the table and then opened it. Inside, nestled in dark blue Tumin vel-cashmere, which was quite possibly the softest material in the galaxy, were the probes, glistening like stars in the night sky, each less the size of his smallest fingernail.
Deradon’s shoulders shivered in excitement. He brushed his finger on the edge of the velvet. “Ohhhh.” Even the slightest touch made him feel like he was running his finger through fibers made not of physical properties but of the very essence of softness and luxury. He ran his finger back and forth over the fabric and lost himself in wondering how many months’ pay it would cost to buy a shirt made out of Tumin vel-cashmere. The fabric seemed to glisten more with each stroke of his finger. Lost in the sensation, he almost forgot about the actual probes. He gave one more longing stroke before turning his attention to the real prize.
A quick glance over confirmed that there were indeed exactly one hundred of them. Of course, he hadn’t expected less, but with such pricey toys, he had to make sure. He brought his face as close as he could and held his breath as he studied the probes. Each of the tiny spheres contained within them the ability to capture nearly the full visual spectrum of yunalians. Everything from infrared to ultraviolet, and even a hint of mana sight, was capturable in perfect 3D. Of course, yunalians could see even beyond that to radio waves and Gama rays. He leaned back and exhaled, making sure his breath was directed in the opposite direction of the probes. Not that his breath would damage them; they were guaranteed to work even in the extreme heat and cold of Darge and Fralor, but regardless, it felt sacrilegious to breathe on them. Deradon giggled and shook his head at his own ridiculousness before pulling his camera in front of him.
“Ok, let’s calibrate this thing.” He glanced at his auto-comm, and the time projected upwards: 01:12 “And quick.” He still had to get to Rowil Forest, which was three hours away. Then, that would give him one more hour to find a good spot to witness the procession, which typically took place just before sunrise.
“Ok…” he mumbled as he worked.
His hand moved by rote as he pulled up the spacial projection of the holo-cam. It was a dark sphere now, void of any data as he’d disconnected his previous probes.
“Ok… Discover… connect…” Deradon flicked a glyph from the camera to the probes, and the probes, recognizing a camera signal, lit up in light yellow spots of light.
“Beautiful..” He mumbled and confirmed that all hundred of them were functional. To the right of the camera projection, an icon indicating the recognized probes came on. He confirmed and linked them. He smiled as the controls and settings for the probes popped up next to the regular camera settings.
“Ok, check, check, check… looks good.” The controls were pretty much the same for all probes, and navigating them was second nature to him. He flicked his finger over a few options, setting up a test capture. An eye glance put the probes in an active state, and another directed glance caused them to lift out of the case and float about an inch in the air above it.
The dark sphere projecting from the camera viewer became a jumbled patchwork of images. He saw parts of his plate attached to his head and the widow in his kitchen on the living room floor.
“Amazing, look at this detail!” he enlarged the garbled image on the kitchen window, and through it, he could see all the details of the branch outside of it that the birds had been sitting on.
“Amazing!” he dialed in some settings, and the probes started to spread through the room. The garbled mess soon became an exact three-dimensional capture of his living room and some of his kitchen.
“This is perfect!” He took some more test shots then deactivated the probes. They flew together like a swarm of insects and settled back into their place in the box. He packed the probes and camera into his bag, then dumped his plate into the sink.
“Alright, let’s do this.” He changed his clothes, slipped on his heating jacket, hat, thermal shoes, and gloves, then stepped out. The snow was thick on the ground, and if he were heavy enough to sink into it, it would have gone halfway up his lower leg. His breath misted in the air. He could hardly feel the cold through his clothes, but he knew from experience how such low temperatures caused the skin to contract and fragment. He could feel some of that happening on his face already. The sky was dark, and dawn was still far off, but a white haze seemed to be cast over the world, giving everything a subtle glow that made them seem otherworldly. A shiver of excitement raced through him as he stepped into his car.
# # #
Rowil forest was dense with thick brown trunked trees whose branches seemed hunched over from the weight of snow. A hard breeze blew the falling snow into a thick mist, so although the trail was well-worn, Deradon had to squint to see ahead of him. He had to admit that the overall effect of the rushing wind, snow, and darkness had a sort of spooky effect, but he was confident in the knowledge that there were no dangerous animals in the Rowil Forest and Trails, plus he’d already passed a few other people on early morning walks, so he felt safe. If his confidence ended up being misplaced, well, he could at least yell for help.
He looked at his auto-comm for directions, and the light blue holo-projection only added to the eerieness in the air. He pulled his jacket tighter around himself, then stepped off the trail. He double-checked the directions again, then plowed through the forest, illuminating the way with a thin beam of light from his auto-comm. The guide he was following was a local handbook for insect lovers and nature photographers. It gave a list of the most likely spots to find a variety of insects and birds. The riculins he was looking for were usually spotted in one of the western clearings.
He glanced down at the map again. “Ack!” he tripped on a root and just barely held on to a tree trunk to prevent himself from falling. The thin point of his legs sunk awkwardly in the piled snow.
“Cursed feet!.. Not made for walking!” he grumbled and pulled his feet out. As much as he loved insects, he couldn’t stand the forest. Ordenans were made for open spaces, for leaping and graceful prancing movements, not stumbling around the tangled roots of forests during a snowstorm. He brightened the light a bit more, though not too much, as he was worried the artificial light would frighten the insects. Carefully, he picked his way between the foliage. He looked back and forth between the map, the guidebook, and his surroundings before finally concluding that he’d arrived at the right spot. And just in time, as the sky was finally starting to brighten. The snow had fortunately begun to let up as well.
The ‘clearing’ was more like a small patch of empty space, maybe two to four feet in diameter, and covered in snow. Small as it was, the trees around the area were smaller and thinner than the rest, so Deradon knew it would get incredible lighting from the rising sun. He took off his backpack and set it down, then began to set up his workspace. His hand moved with practiced precision. In a matter of minutes, he’d unfolded a small stool, unpacked his camera, and set it on a tripod, then opened and activated his probes. He wanted to have them placed in the best position to capture the entire clearing before the riculin made their appearance.
He pressed on a glyph on the sleeve of his jacket, and the thermal function turned off. The cold attacked him immediately, but he gritted his teeth and continued working. Riculin were sensitive creatures, and seeing an unnaturally hot surface in the snow could possibly disturb the procession. Next, he set up a small tent to cover the light the holo-cam projection gave off.
“Ok, all set.” He rolled the projected orb around, changing the probes’ placements, making sure the image was as complete as possible. After checking and checking again, Deradon was finally satisfied.
“And now we wait.”
He watched the image for the slightest sign of movement on the snow. He opened another viewing window and zoomed this one in so it was right on the snow. He held his breath and tried not to ignore his skin contractions from the cold. Soon, his patience paid off. In the zoomed-in frame, he saw the snow start to move. He froze and watched the procession begin.
The first riculin to pop out from under the show were the soldiers.
They sprung out of the snow with the force of corks popping out of bottles. Each one did a little flip in the air before taking positions around the hole. The ricluin were just a shade lighter than the snow, and so if not for the intricate ultraviolet patterns lighting up their shelled backs, they would have been difficult to make out. Fortunately, Deradon’s eyes and the probes were well-equipped to distinguish them. With the resolution of the lenses, he would be able to capture the subtle differences in shades, and with some editing, he’d make it so even the most limited of visual spectrums would be able to enjoy the images. Deradon made slight adjustments to the probe positioning as more riculin filled the clearing.
The soldier riculin had spread out in a wide circle, and the workers filled the space. In contrast to the larger soldiers with massive shelled backs, the workers were taller, had long, thin limbs, and had a hard membrane backing that could hardly be called a shell. He leaned closer and closer with each new riculin taking their place. If he had to guess, there were probably about 1oo soldiers and 3oo workers, as riculin courts were typically made up of 300-500 members, which meant that the queens and kings would be coming up soon.
His eyes widened as he saw a large, slightly darker blue carapaced head stick out of the hole. He clamped his mouth shut to keep from exclaiming. A king. He gulped. The king was slightly larger than the soldiers, and immediately it popped out, the true shape of the procession started to take form. Deradon made more fine-tuned adjustments to the probes. He needed to ensure that he could perfectly capture the view from the top.
The soldiers split up into two groups. The first group made a tighter ring around the hole as the second king emerged. The workers began moving in unison to place themselves behind the line of soldiers. Finally, the second group of soldiers split up and took up positions at the rear behind the workers. Dreadon’s eyes were glued on the viewing projection. From the top-down angle, in perfect coordination, the riculin were arranging themselves into a large mosaic image of a queen riculin. The ultraviolet patterns on the backs were firing and morphing in hypnotic synchronicity.
At last, the two queens revealed themselves. They were the largest riculin, with heads that were a rich pale blue color and bodies that blended almost perfectly with the snow. They took positions at the head of the processions, and just like that, the top-down image was complete. All parts had come together to make a whole and formed the image of a queen riculin, lit up in ultraviolet light. Dreadon couldn’t take his eyes off the projection.
The procession finally began. In this arrangement, all the riculin, except for the larva, the soldiers and workers left in the nest to protect them, as well as the third royal pair, would parade around their territory, leaving their mark and advertising the strength of the court to any would dare try to invade their nest.
As their parade began, the first rays of sunlight burst into the clearing. Light shimmered upon the backs of the riculin as if they were cast in glitter. The snow was almost glowing in the warm light. Deradon took his eyes off the view projection and peeked through a slit in the tent to take in the sight firsthand. Of course, he couldn’t see all the details the zoomed-in view had afforded him, but taking in the moment with his own eyes like this had a magic of its own.
The riculin made nine circuits around the small area of their territory and then returned to the entrance of their nest. There, the soldiers lifted their legs and began performing for the queens with leaps and spins, lighting up the signals on their shells in patterns they hoped would attract a queen to pick one of them as the next king. Deradon couldn’t contain his joy as he zoomed in on the demonstrations. One of the queens…
“Shivak!” He cursed as he dug through his bag to find his auto-comm. His hand grasped the smooth disk shape, pulled it out, and quickly silenced it.
He felt his head heat up in rage at himself. He glanced at the riculin and groaned as he saw the procession break into defensive formations and surround the queens and kings.
“Shivak,” he whispered again.
He glared at his auto-comm, then pulled up the power menu. He distinctly remembered silencing it, but it didn’t matter anymore. He would turn the damn thing off. Just as he was about to touch the power-off glyph, a notification came in. His eyes glazed over the little red symbol, and it triggered some thought in the back of his mind, but from the corner of his eye, he saw the queen Riculin move, and whatever thought it was vanished. He turned off the auto-comm and shoved it in his bag.
The riculin soldiers did a sweep around the area, and confirming there were no threats, the procession re-grouped and completed three more circuits before digging back into their nest in reverse order from how they came up.
Dredon sighed as he stared at the empty clearing. It was almost perfect. He groaned and buried his face in his hands. Almost perfect. Already, he was considering when he would be able to schedule another trip down to try capturing the procession again. Next time, he’d leave the auto-comm in the car, even if it meant getting lost… Well, maybe not that. He sighed again as he signaled the probes to return. They landed in their little spots in the case, and he packed up his camera and folded the tent back into his bag. Absently, he flicked the glyph on his jacket to resume the thermal modulating functions, but even the warmth couldn’t melt his disappointment.
“Such a shame,” he said. With his shoulders hunched, he began making his way back. His eyes were glazed in disappointment, and each step was accompanied by a sigh.
“Damn, what a sh…. Is that an oldin?!” His eyes widened. He flinched backward as tens of green and black striped insects, each three inches long, flew past his face.
“Oldin, in winter?” he didn’t even think as he followed behind the swarm. The oldin landed on a snow-covered branch, and the vibrancy of the deep green luminous wings contrasted heavily with the snow. It was a sight he’d never seen before. Not only were oldin rarely found on the continent of Yilt, but it was absolutely unheard of to see them in winter. They were native to the continent of Huild, and if any of them made the flight all the way to Yilt
it was usually at the height of summer.
“I have to get this,” he muttered, pulling out his camera. His hands moved quickly, and in a matter of minutes, the probes were in the air and capturing the images of the rare sight. All his earlier disappointment was forgotten as he excitedly thought about the reactions he’d get when he showed the images of the oldin to his coworkers. The oldin flew into the air again, and he followed them with his probes, capturing the stunning beauty of the fully extended wings in flight.
“Amazing. Amazing!!” He giggled before packing up his gear after following their flight as far as the probe’s connection allowed.
# # #
By the time Dreadon arrived at his office four hours later, his mood was still up. He ran through the door, almost running into it before it could fully slide open.
“Guys!” he yelled. Three pairs of eyes turned him. “You won’t believe this.”
“I’ve been calling you…” Ivaron tried to say as she stood from her desk, but Dradon’s excitement prevented him from hearing.
“I saw oldin… oldin, in winter!” he ran to his desk, pulled out his camera, then started uploading the images to his workstation. He finally looked at Ivaron, who had an incredulous look on her face.
“What’s wrong with your auto-comm?” Turadin asked from the white beanbag he laid on in the corner. He hardly looked up from whatever he was doing as he spoke.
“My auto-comm?… ah..” He grabbed his bag and pulled the auto-comm out. “I turned it off. It interrupted my shot. Anyway, didn’t you hear me?” he asked, his excitement dimming slightly as he wasn’t getting the immediate reaction he expected. “Oldin… Winter?”
“We did, but that’s cause of what’s going on on Huild?” Fenanor mumbled from the desk opposite him.
his auto-comm came on and began buzzing. Notifications and messages flooded in. “What?”
Ivaron laughed and came to stand beside him. “You really lose focus of everything when you’re on a shot. The whole world could end, and you’d still be there, snapping away.”
“What the heck is happening on Huild?” He asked, placing his auto-comm on the table, not even bothering to check all the notifications.
She gave him a pointed look, although he couldn’t see it as he was fiddling with his camera. “There is a binding breach on Huild. The world, quite literally, might be ending. How could you not know that?”
“I… when did this happen?… Ah!” The red symbol. It was for emergency planet-wide news. He’d never actually seen one before, so it didn’t come to mind immediately. That was why his comm rang out even though he’d silenced it. The emergency signal was set to bypass all silencing.
“Yeh… It happened a few hours ago. It’s not big enough for anything to come through… yet, but it was unexpected. None of the monitoring auto-servers picked up the disturbances.”
“Ahhh, yes… Yes… I did get that. I just didn’t realize…” his voice faded out.
“Yehhh.. Ahhhh..” She mocked. And Turadin Giggled from the corner where they were hunched over their work. “Anyway, looks like the oldin sensed the energy disruptions a few weeks in advance. Most flew towards the Timan islands, but a few fled this way.”
“Ok? But don’t we need to evacuate or something?” Deradon asked, suddenly feeling queasy.
Ivaron shook her head and went back to her work. “We haven’t been instructed to yet, so no? Anyway, Winfora has sent some people to assist. The and the winforan ambassador arrived an hour ago with additional aid. It is a very small breach, though. I think we’ll be fine, but They’ll need to watch the area until the Binding heals itself, in case some shemesians try to push through.”
Deradon sighed and shakily sat at his desk. A purple glyph was blinking to signify that the data transfer was complete, but he suddenly didn’t feel like working.
“It’s more surprising that the monitoring stations did not pick up the energy fluctuations… maybe even suspicious,” Fenanor added, glancing up.
“Suspicious?” Deradon asked, then immediately regretted it.
Fenanor, not missing his chance, quickly stood up.
“Nice Deradon…” Turadin mumbled, and Ivaron glared at him, then made a command gesture to turn up the volume of whatever she was listening to in her in-ear.
“Come on, guys, hear me out.” Fenanor pleaded. “You mean to say that oldin, mere insects, sensed the breach coming weeks in advance, but our monitoring systems did not? Systems which I remind you are provided by Winfora.”
“I don’t see where this is going,” Deradon said, half listening as he started sorting his files.
“Heh, of course, you don’t, but look, now we have the winforan ambassador and their troops on our planet. Supposedly here for ‘aid’? Isn’t that weird to you? It’s all a ploy. They deliberately made it so the monitoring systems could not send out the warning until it was too late… so that they could use it as a chance to start invading…”
“Enough, Fenanor, just get back to work. I’m not in the mood for all these conspiracies this morning.” Ivaron sighed.
“Yeh, I bet you’ll be in the mood to listen after they take control of our planet.”
“Fenanor, that’s a bit… extreme. They are our parent planet. They are supposed to help.” Deradon wrinkled his forehead.
“Parent planet? More like overlords!” he yelled.
“You need to calm down,” Turadin said tersely, his red eyes leaving his work for the first time and snapping to Fenanor.
“Alright,” Fenanor said, his shoulder carapaces turning down in frustration as he sat down. “Look, I’m just saying the signs are all over the galaxy. Parent planets cannot be trusted. We need to pursue our independence.” He sighed, then turned back to his workstation.
There was silence in the office, and Deradon tried to get back to his images, but Fenanor’s words kept playing in his ear. After all, it really didn’t make sense that the monitoring stations did not pick up the energy disturbances. It could be some crafty planning by the shemesians to breach The Binding and spill into Nol, but if that was the case, shouldn’t they be evacuating?
Unable to focus, he shrunk the editing window and pulled up the nexus to look at the articles about the situation. All the initial headlines and content summaries were aligned in praising Winfora for their quick action in sending aid to the planet. As Deradon kept looking through articles, his uneasiness began to die down. Yes, everything was normal, no grand conspiracies, no nefarious deeds. From what he was reading, it seemed that it was entirely possible for the monitors to miss such a small breach, and there would be steps to prevent such an oversight from happening again.
“Nice, nice…” he mumbled. He flicked to another page and saw some comments about The Lupaine and them becoming potentially involved, but that only made him more confident that everything would be okay. With his mind finally at ease, he casually flipped to another page, and his heart dropped.
“Evidence of Parent Planet manipulation.”
“Signs of tampering in monitoring stations”
“Recording reveals the rip might have been deliberately created by someone from….”
He felt his carapaces rattling in his ear, and his stomach contracted. He glanced around. Ivaron was reading through documents, Turadin was slouched on the beanbag, maybe sleeping, and Fenanor… Deradon jumped back, knocking his auto-comm off the table. Fenanor’s bright blue gaze held his as if passing on some secret knowledge. Deradon shivered and quickly bent to pick up his auto-comm. He stayed there, hand on the auto-comm, eyes on the ground, calming his breathing, and then he looked back up. Fenanor’s eyes were firmly on his own workstation, and Deradon exhaled a shaky breath and turned back to the articles.
Looking at the news sites that the articles were from, it was easy to dismiss them as noise. If he thought about it. There was absolutely no reason for him to feel so shaken by the articles. Even if they were true, the proper measures would be taken. He gripped his auto-comm tighter and silently cursed Fenanor for filling his mind with nonsense.
He waved a hand, closing the nexus, and pulled his images back up. All the drama had almost made him forget the incredible shots from the morning, which now felt like ages ago. He opened up the images of the riculin and began working on them. Somewhere between editing the videos and making adjustments to the composition by artfully arranging some of the foliage in the holograms, he allowed himself to forget about the breach and who may or may not have caused it.
The thoughts he’d buried came back later that night. He sat in his chair, staring at some show that was playing out on his holo-tube, seeing the actors play their parts, and recognizing some plot, but nothing resonated with his scattered mind. Deradon sighed and leaned back, staring at the ceiling. The day hadn’t gone as he had hoped. He’d captured the riculin, but there had been an interruption, then he’d been excited by the oldin, only to find out their sighting was because of a binding breach. Then he had to listen to Fenanor and his damn conspiracy theories.
He groaned and rubbed his head, his hand sliding smoothly over the hard bone. He picked up his auto-comm and pulled up some of the images he’d taken. First, he looked at the images of the bird and its chicks. Then he pulled up some of the shots of the riculin and oldin. Despite his mood, he couldn’t stop the smile spreading on his face as he once again appreciated how beautiful the images were. They projected from the auto-comm in a high-resolution holograph that looked so real that he felt he could reach out and touch it.
The image was one of the soldiers demonstrating for the queen. The soldier was caught mid-flip, light-catching perfectly on its shell, and the queen’s back was lit up in dazzling ultraviolet patterns. He flicked a finger, and another image came up. It was the bright green and black wings of an oldin, stark against the pale blue snow, looking like a gem sitting on white velvet. He then looked once again at the less defined images of the Capanon till, and somehow, it did not feel any less beautiful.
After looking at some more images, his mind finally settled. The world seemed to always be moving from one tumultuous moment to another. If it wasn’t fears of a breach, it was political tensions, but through all that, beauty was still found everywhere. After all, if not for the breach, how would he ever have gotten such unique shots of oldin in winter? It was why he loved nature photography so much. Fleeting moments could be captured and stored forever. He stared into the distance, and a thought came to mind, a naïve sentiment he probably shouldn’t have at his age, but still, it came, and he thought that even if the world was ending, he hoped it would end beautifully so someone could capture it for future generations to look at.
He saw the familiar red triangle, and his heart dropped. He quickly read the message and exhaled in relief. The breach had been closed, and the world wasn’t ending. There was no word of why the threat of the breach hadn’t been discovered beforehand. He laughed, knowing that not all his worries were assuaged, but still, the next day would come, and there would be more time to capture another more perfect riculin procession.