Glyphs of Power by Callie Bourde
Book Two in the AIR Series by Callie Bourde
Commander Balum Kiz has a BIG problem to solve involving Jump Point technology. He’s not an engineer or a physicist, he’s an archaeologist. Now it looks like Artist DaaSee Noor holds the key.
Abstract Meditative Art Shop, Sunlight Blooms Commerce Court, Jump Station Rho, Rho Sector, Galaxia Alia
Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap. Hearing the quiet raps on the shop door, Daa grinned at her assistant. Pitching her voice so the person knocking would hear her, she said, “Kall’Ia! I hear a knock! Who could it be? Can’t they see the CLOSED sign?”
Kall’Ia played along. “Perhaps not… I understand there are D’Ur’Uma onstation and everyone knows they have poor reading comprehension.”
“I heard that! I brought food since I knew you two were working late, but I guess I’ll take it home…”
Kall’Ia swung the door open and without missing a beat, Gaala continued… “And don’t even say a word about reading comprehension. What species fabricated paper? The D’Ur’Uma! What species introduced the most widely used universal alphabet? The D’Ur’Uma! What species concocted laa’te?” On her last sentence, she vigorously waved the take-out bag she held.
Gaala had the classic golden D’Ur’Uma coloring — skin, hair, and eyes. Her long hair was loosely twisted into a knot on the top of her head. Today she had three kn’itting needles of varying sizes sprouting haphazardly out of the twist. Daa and Kall’Ia had been keeping a running total. Neither of them had seen Gaala without kn’itting needles, and so far, the top number had been seven. To be fair, that had been on a day when Gaala was teaching a large class from a visiting cruise ship.
Daa often thought about what a wonderful opportunity the Artists in Residence program offered for the different species in the Galaxia Alia to work together.
Gaala was D’Ur’Uma and she, Daa, was LuWin with blue hair, eyes, and skin.
Her assistant, Kall’Ia was Hreid. Kall’Ia had the expected large frame with small scales running the typical female blend from orange to red. Daa thought she looked like a living flame. Her dark hair was styled in tribal dreadlocks and she wore a single woman’s clan bar across her pierced brow ridge.
The Hreid were the dominant species in the L’Empori Imperium, the prime enemies of the Galaxia Alia. Not surprisingly, there were few of them in the Galaxia Alia, so Kall’Ia got many sideways glances. Because of that, Kall’Ia was worried about the cruise passengers. They’d discussed it and Kall’Ia had planned a strategy to use if it was an issue.
The reality was, Hreid were few and far between, many Galaxia Alia citizens feared them, and if she wanted to become an AMA sanctioned artist, it was a problem she’d be dealing with often. Daa knew that Kall’Ia’s family had been citizens of the Galaxia Alia for several generations before the last conflict with the Imperium, but that wouldn’t stop ignorant people from making ill-informed assumptions.
Now, Kall’Ia snatched the bag before the laa’te spilled. The newcomer swung to face Daa, hands on hips. “All I can say is, with a name like yours… DAA’See… you should be more respectful.” Without waiting for a reply, she turned back to Kall’Ia and asked kindly, “Are you ready? Isn’t this the first cruise passenger class you’ve taught?”
“I’m ready and I’m terrified.”
Abstract Meditative Art was a non-religious way to enter into a quiet state. It involved creating beautiful images from repetitive patterns, most often drawn onto small cards. The action, not the finished product, was the primary focus, with the ceremonial aspects helping the practitioner reach the meditative state. Offering classes was just one of the functions of Daa’s shop. They also sold supplies and finished work.
Gaala patted Kall’Ia on the shoulder. “Do you have a sweater to wear? My staff will be wearing their AMA nametags.”
Gaala owned the kn’itting shop next door. As members of the Galaxia Alia Artist in Residence program, Daa and Galla promoted each other’s work as a matter of course.
With a grin, Kall’Ia said, “I haven’t finished my sweater yet, so Daa is lending me one of hers.”
“Good, good. So how are you setting things up this time? Where are you putting the second class? It runs for two days, right?”
The small AMA shop was roughly square. On the left side was a gallery space with finished work displayed and for sale. There was a pay-mech on a narrow counter beside the door. The other side of the shop was dominated with a long table currently set up for twenty, ten along each side. At each chair was a pretty tray holding supplies — three different ink writers, a graphite writer, blank drawing cartouches, and a printed handout. Down the center ran a series of towers, each displaying a number of finished, illustrated cartouches.
Centered on the back wall was a glass door between large windows. The adjustable opacity of blastglas meant all could be transparent, opaque or anywhere in between. Daa said, “We’ve rearranged my apartment and set things up in there. There are only five students, so it’s doable, if a bit tight. I’ll make the blastglas transparent so I can keep an eye on things out here.” Daa grinned. “Thanks for lending us someone to handle the shop while we’re teaching. I never expected to have to run two classes at the same time.”
“So the cruise ship passengers are taking the Eight Actions Ceremony class? What about the Nine Actions Ceremony class? Are they from the cruise ship, too?”
“No. The five of them hired a private yacht. They’re friends in an AMA group on the comm-net. There aren’t many AMA practitioners in Rho Sector and no one but me is sanctioned to teach the Nine Actions Ceremony. They ran the figures and discovered they could afford to rent a yacht and take the class on their chosen schedule.”
“I’m surprised,” Gaala said. “I’d have thought hiring a yacht would have been much more.”
“Only if you leave the Sector,” Kall’Ia said. “I got curious and checked online. Split five ways, and staying in Rho Sector comes to about the same, maybe even a little bit less, than taking a cruise.”
“Hmmmm… Maybe we should think about doing something like that.”
There was a glint in Gaala’s eye that Daa didn’t trust. “Hold on there! I don’t know about you but I need to get this business running and successful before I do anything like that! Besides, we already live at a tourist destination.”
“A jump station! I was thinking about going somewhere on-planet. You know, see clouds in a sky? Breathe real air?”
Kall’Ia jumped in. “I’ll go, Gaala! But it will take me time to save up. I need to get sanctioned for the Nine Actions Ceremony first.”
Eager to change the subject, Daa reminded them, “I thought we were going to eat? I want to get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a long day for all of us.”
“Since everything is already set up here, why don’t we go back to my place. And Daa, with your apartment re-arranged for the class, do you want to stay over with me?”
“Thanks for the offer, but I’ll be fine. I’ll lower the bed to right above the table and use a chair to climb up to it.” She grinned. “It’ll be fun.”