Mara made one more attempt, and only one, to call her scattered people home. She had hoped the assault would convince them they had a responsibility to the Reef, to come home and repair the damage they had caused. It went poorly, however, for though her tech witches were able to amplify her bond to her people through the augments Kelda had developed, she was only one voice in a maelstrom. Her Awoken had sensitive antennae, in the metaphysical sense, and could not hear her plea through the clamor. Also, the communications engineer kept forgetting to call Mara "Majesty" or "Queen."
Mara calls a caucus of elected representatives in the Sacred Fire, one of the largest hulks in the reef of derelicts. The Fire was built to support habitat construction on 4 Vesta, where Mara hopes to one day anchor the entire flotilla and set down roots—but the hopeful, fearful faces before her make Mara afraid that it'll never happen. What if everyone runs off at the first hint of home? Having come so far, across worlds and eons, to see Earth again—how can she ask them to hold back now?
Mara thinks of the banyan trees that sprawl across the shallow silty lakes of a world she will never see again. The waveguides in her helmet detect the image and obey the encrypted command scheme she's rooted into every system in her fleet. She speaks into the flight directorate channel. "Flight. Sound off for final hold."
"You're the devil," Alis Li whispers. "I remember… in one of the old tongues, Mara means death."
In later days, the power of the Queen waned, and the Distributary was ruled by scholars who sent their knights on mad quests to test the consistence of reality. These were the Gensym Scribes, who traced their origin to Kelda Wadj, the Allteacher, but who were in fact descendants of a band of roving storytellers who traveled across the immense salt glades in a hollering convoy of airboats. Here was their praise of the world:
A woman lives alone on the forest hills above the Feather Barrens. North of her, in a chaos of ravines and clear but fiercely radioactive streams, the hills surrender to high imperial mountains engaged in brutal seismic warfare, for the Distributary is a young world and has not settled its grudges. To the south are the dry lands where the birds of the forest, especially the parrots, go to die. She lives here because one day she will no longer be immortal, and she wants to observe the dignity of death.
In those days, there was a great birth of adventure among the Awoken. Hunters and pioneers sought the shape of the world, sailors charted the skein of rivers and the perimeter of seas, and astronomers plotted the motion of the crowded heavens. Over this age ruled Queen Alis Li, whose work was the creation of agriculture and the preservation of the eutechnology that she deciphered from the Shipspire.
"Exodus Green to unknown maneuvering object. Please squawk your transponder and ident. Over."
to occur the unhappened world; to grip glass-hooped eternity in bloodslick hands and snap it from its circle. Know her as the Flaw, the Isotropy, the spike that pierced eternal recurrence and made the wound of time. Tautologies end on her fingertips, in the crease between skin and nail. Name her AILILIA, Broth Captain. Begin with her this subcreation.