The Laser Fiction - The Furtive Diameter









In Memory
Sean Pettibone



The Furtive Diameter

From that distance, there appeared to be no path upwards towards the peak while going directly through the rocky, harsh unforgiving face was resolutely blocked. We stood in place near the bottom and searched for paths carefully. We lolled and scanned it from different angles, searching for some kind of breach or gap but couldn't locate anything determinative. The array of rocks looked to run parallel in horizontal fashion, jutting upward at a sharp angle that offered no way to climb. There was nothing we could do, it presented a seemingly impassable barrier. We looked at its surface carefully, examining it for any route through or a hidden traversal method but despite our best efforts, there still looked to be no obvious path ahead.
She looked at the mountain carefully and decided that we were still too far away. She began walking ever closer towards the base, carefully navigating the surface which became unsteady as its surface became cluttered with large boulders and shards of rock that slowed her progress. When we came closer, I noticed what appeared to be small indents come into view. These small gaps were almost indistinct from that distance, and it appeared that they'd been carved into its stones purposefully to stymie an exploration. The assemblage was placed in a manner that would make them far too close to one another, at first glance. It appeared their lines were converging and twisting in erratic forms, imprecise and non-functional.

The tangled pathways weren't wide enough to traverse and the narrow, intertwined paths crossed and slipped together without reason. Further, it appeared that the twisted lines tore at one another. There was no way they'd support us, they were untethered and obviously weren't strong enough to support us. It seemed hopeless; their contradictory paths crossed upside-down and backwards meant that any thoughts of following them wasn't realistic. s constrained paths carved into its sides wouldn't support even the smallest figure, let alone a pair of unsteady travellers. Examining them closely didn't offer us guidance, instead acting as a deterrent to keep intruders out. Her eyes didn't give into the mountain's defenses.

She maintained an insistent gaze, unflinching in her resolution while she walked ever closer towards the mass of stone looming above. She finally moved close enough, and details began to emerge that couldn't be seen from afar. She commenced a more detailed visual exploration, until the impenetrable slabs of rock began to unfurl and gave way. Their residual defenses began to fray, revealing unexpected aspects. Her perceptive eyes gradually deciphered a significant portion the mysteries lurking within its previously impenetrable defensive configuration. What appeared to a transient solution came into view as located a strange constellation on the western side of the mountain.

Initially, the uneven, jagged edges appeared to construct another defensive layer atop the others, purposefully designed to thwart unwanted entry. She walked closer and I followed suit, and quickly saw their form emerge. The layered surface wasn't particularly steep and seemed to rise with a kind of threatening, unrelenting consistency. It seemed that they were designed to keep interlopers at bay, but closer examination revealed their true form and function, a purpose that wasn't immediately obvious from afar. Intrigued by their consistency, she walked even closer.

It quickly became apparent that these ascending plates along its side weren't the unwelcoming impediments they initially appeared. The steps weren't particularly wide and lacked guard rails. Their edges jutted out from each side and lacked rails or marking of any kind. It would present a challenge for us to maintain our steady pace in the confined allotment without getting lost or worse. However, it remained bright outside and they looked strong enough to support us. It would be a somewhat arduous climb, and take significant energy, but it didn't look especially difficult if we took our time and navigated carefully. It could have been an intimidating task, but we had some previous experience traversing mountains, this wouldn't present much of a problem.

She walked westward, tracing the base of the mountain just at its edge until she reached the start of the narrow steps. They looked a bit shaky, their uneven surfaces not as stable as they initially appeared. She wasn't nervous, however, and waited only a half breath before proceeding. She took the first step quickly and was firmly in place atop the first portion. It seemed steady and solid, not giving way. Motioning for me to follow, I quickly took suit and joined her, standing just behind her. We quickly worked our way upward, and the steps gradually fell behind us, allowing a quick momentum to build. I maintained a resolute focus on the rising platforms, resisting the urge to peer over their steep sides.

I knew focusing on the rapidly shrinking grounds beneath us would only lead to trouble. I watched her move upwards, forging ahead into the skies without hesitating much. I wasn't surprised that she wasn't afraid, though the consistent spacing and strength of the steps gave confidence. It was a gradual rise upward that took more effort than I was accustomed to expending but trusted her enough that I figured it would be worthwhile. I kept my eyes on her, her feet became lighter. She appeared unencumbered at that point, her feet seemed to lift, almost flying over the surface. Her motions were infused with increasing speed, gliding effortlessly over the incipient steps. Gaining further altitude, she appeared to gain energy and speed as her ascent continued without interruption. She seemed to know where we were headed, and continued moving ahead silently without need for explanation. Looking ahead, I noticed the steps begin to narrow slightly as we moved further upward.

The arranged steps began nestling closer together, appearing in packed formations until they reduced their sharp edges into a smoother form that resembled a ramp with narrow indentations. It was actually harder and trickier, for us to navigate and slowed our progress. I could see the mountain's edge appear just above our position. Her steps slowed and she managed to turn back to check on me and waved towards my location quickly, in order to keep track and make sure I was all right. She didn't need to worry, but I was relieved that she remembered. She turned back and moved upwards in one last burst, heading directly for the apex just ahead. Resolving to move quickly, I managed to keep apace with her through my own strategic pacing, sliding over the narrow ramp until we'd reached its almost imperceptible peak. This brought us onto a small, flat area at the mountain's apex where we could catch our breath and could take a brief respite.

I didn't immediately notice what was lurking beneath us on the other side of the mountain. There wasn't anything immediately out of the ordinary, though it shouldn't have been much of a surprise from that distance. I wasn't concentrating on the journey below, I was preoccupied attempting to make sense of the formation's appearance from out of nowhere to grasp the implications of our journey. Walking around the clearing, I carefully navigated the surface, not wanting to trip or fall over the large rocks scattered in the path. She didn't seem to notice the small barriers, and quickly moved towards the opposing edge.

She began peering downward into the inscrutable valley. I followed and stood beside her, not quite understanding what might have captured her attention. She surveyed the depths below carefully, searching for some indication that would tell us where to head on the journey downward. Looking closely, the first portion I noticed where the wider, cleaner paths leading back into the flat surface unfolding below. These steps appeared stable than the ones we'd just traversed but they split apart in multiple directions. It wasn't immediately clear which of the many construed paths we should follow.

We had to pause and survey them before moving onward. She examined them carefully and couldn't seem to make up her mind at first. Standing in place, she looked perplexed and stymied, the crossed-paths offering little indication or direction. This quiet contemplation allowed me to rest from following her relentless pace, which had begun to wear on my feet. Awaiting her next move also gave me an opportunity to look around for a few moments, allowing me to soak in the surroundings. The sun was still bright, but it wasn't as warm at the peak.
I noticed the clouds had further dissipated, becoming increasing distant, allowing the redolent skies to fill in a vibrant shade of purple, unimpeded. I watched her carefully and she remained silent in reproach until she appeared to locate what she sought. It wasn't immediately obvious exactly what it was. She waved my towards her observation point and told me to look on the eastern side of the valley. I didn't see anything at first and It took me a minute of careful focus. I searched the nearby areas and mostly dormant sections. I scanned carefully across the valley and it took a minute or two of searching before eventually locating our next objective.

Initially, the flowing body appeared to be little more than a large crack that had opened in the surface, but examining it closer revealed a small swath of water moving eastward at a languid pace. Cutting through the stony landscape, its motion was almost undetectable, but noticeable when you looked closely. the trickling water felt small and inconsequential, but I couldn't avert my eyes once I'd seen it. It seemed out of place. The surroundings were rather desolate, there was little sign of water an even a hint of moisture seemed to be a mirage. This discordant figure immediately began to affect an undeniable attraction in her eyes, as well. We both decided simultaneously, nodding our heads towards each other without need for articulation where to go.

There wasn't much hesitation, we commenced our journey without making a sound. Our feet moved with determination, maneuvering quickly past the clearing's edge, then worked through the descending steps efficiently. We navigated the steps, unexpected details began to emerge. What initially seemed to be a minor tributary flowing wanly through the stony space below quickly grew in size. It was hard to tell how quickly its currents were moving, but they seemed to coalesce to form a larger river, coming into focus as we walked further down towards the unlikely demarcation, gradually arriving at better viewpoint.

Our downward walk unfolded quickly, with a concrete determination adding an impetus to keep moving forward at a steady pace. As we descended the steps, they became shorter while increasing in depth, allowing us to nearly skip ahead. Moving quickly beneath us, the shorter steps provided less impediment, seeming to open a clear path ahead. Their smoother surface shorn clean, there weren't any loose rocks as we neared the bottom on the other side. I watched her and she appeared satisfied with our steady progress, confidently moving towards the lower rungs beneath. Following suit, I remained focused and cautious, maintaining a steady gaze on the ground, moving with deliberation to avoid getting tripped up. This kept me at a consistent pace behind her, but I never felt that I was slipping too far behind. I never lost sight of her. Finally, after taking patience, consideration, she managed to complete her extensive effort, reaching the bottom of the stairs, arriving silently without further elaboration.

Pausing quickly with unspoken satisfaction, she looked around into the surrounding area. I took several steps further and stopped, allowing her to survey the area while I waited safely a few feet above. She didn't appear to find anything threatening and motioned for me to join her. Taking the final gap easily, I almost jumped down on the surface and joined at her side. She seemed relieved to have made it that far but there was still a bit further left for us to travel. Pointing directly ahead, she motioned towards the river which looked ever larger, growing more robust as we drew near. Its currents flowed at a slow, yet consistent pace, streaming between the rocky-gaps without impediment, the source of its energy remained elusive, its source and origin undefined, converging then dispersing currents of water just outside our view.

Looking closely, I saw what appeared to be a strange stack of wood piled on the side of the water. It appeared to be a disorganized mess, scattered in different directions and angles. She walked towards it purposefully, without making further elaboration. I wasn't sure what had brought us down there, and wondered what she was planning. She offered no instruction but as she maneuvered towards the disorganized pilings, their function began to emerge. She quickly arrived at the edge of the thick wooden and began moving them around. Placing them in the water, apparently at random intervals, she began creating what appeared to be some kind of dock. I watched her move a couple of them around. Looking back, she waved me towards her and impatiently asked me for some help. Feeling a bit guilty for merely observing, I complied without further prompting. Not precisely sure what I was doing, I slid several long boards in the water as we attempted to make some kind of ramp or dock out of them. I was careful to keep them close together so they wouldn't drift apart.

She tethered the splintered boards together using stray measures of twine that had washed up and quickly arranged them until they'd solidified. It didn't take long for as we worked together to make them into solid, somewhat buoyant dock. I was surprised how quickly it had transformed from a random series of boards scattered around the shore into an improvised dock. I was somewhat proud that we'd been able to figure it out, but remained unsure what had brought us to that point, and why we'd put so much effort into building it. She looked over our handiwork and seemed pleased by its final form. She told me that the work was good enough and could take another rest. At this point, my hands were nearly as sore as my feet, and I welcomed the chance for a break.

She turned towards the mountain and looked it over. There was no sign of anything out of the ordinary, and I wondered what she was looking for. She took a few steps closer and looked over the steps carefully. It seemed that she might be searching for something untoward, but I couldn't be sure what it might be. It took me a few moments of observation before realizing that she was expecting something to happen, but wasn't telling me exactly what it was. I waited for some type of signal or indication as to what we should do next but she didn't seem to have an answer. I watched her as she walked around in circles, searching in vain for a signal. I waited patiently hoping that something would arrive, but the quiet offered little comfort. Finally she decided on another purpose, and she pulled on her cloak and turned back towards the nascent shoreline. She returned to our recently created dock and looked above for guidance. It felt that we should continue moving ahead, but her instincts seemed to tell her to stand in place at that point, at least for the time being.

Additional time passed and when I looked above, I noticed the sun had slid towards a slightly lower position, signaling the afternoon sun had begun its long descent. She didn't seem to notice, but I was growing worried; we couldn't wait around forever. I stood and watched the currents flowing ahead of us, allowing its reassuringly slow pace to calm my nerves, at least temporarily. My mind drifted and I felt the water flowing just beyond my position, I felt myself slip under its waves unintentionally. Her eyes remained vigilant and I was confident she'd let me know when she deciphered the conundrum. I listened to the flowing waters, hoping they might reveal our next destination, but they gave little indication.

I needed to stay alert and couldn't allow myself entirely, I kept myself from drifting too far into the water. Opening my eyes after a few moments, I noticed she'd moved up the shore, silently walking past the docks and was looking westward intently. It wasn't immediately obvious, until I forged ahead to stand beside her. I looked carefully until I was able to see with clarity. It wasn't long before it came into view. There was a sudden surge of energy in my feet when I recognized the distinct outline of a mysterious vessel inexorably, yet erratically moving towards our location. I knew exactly what she'd been waiting for almost immediately.

She watched as the boat slowly maneuvered towards our position. As it drew closer towards our position, unexplained details began to emerge. I noticed its sails were drawn inward, its motion carried almost exclusively by the waves. It seemed to drift without direction, swaying from side to side without much control. It seemed to head toward the opposite side of the river, and I worried that it would slide past our hastily-assembled dock without connection. I watched it slowly circumvent what could have been a simple path, swaying under the force without conviction. As it drew closer, I was surprised to see that it showed almost no signs of wear. Its surfaces unblemished, masts neatly folded, the accouterments in the galley displayed no dents or gashes. Its masts remained firmly intact without visible tears, rips or significant detriment.
Its lack of visible wear and tear was somewhat unexpected considering the numerous fraught encounters it had barely survived during our watch. She watched the boat carefully as it slid towards the dock without firm direction. Passively, she seemed unusually confident that the connection would be made somehow, despite having no sign of control over its movement or direction. Waiting patiently, she watched as the ship listed from side to side, until it almost tilted over, before regaining its balance without any prompting. I didn't comprehend how or what was happening with it, but as it drew closer, further visual exploration revealed that it had an inherent sense of direction and it began to shift with an unexplained directive. When it began to draw near our position, it seemed to stabilize and increase in velocity. Taking a firm command of its surroundings, the vessel appeared to steer itself without aid. I looked closely and couldn't see anyone on board, handling the steering wheel or running its sails. It appeared to have a mind of its own and, noticing our presence, forged a direct path directly towards us.

The boat drew closer until it reached a point just outside the docks. It slowed down and began to surf the waves carefully, skirting along the shoreline in parallel until it almost gently slid alongside the docks we'd assembled a short-time earlier. It gradually came to a stop until it was floating just outside the assembled pilings, and waited patiently for us to pull it into place. She walked up ramp without thinking much about it and grabbed one of the boards. Thrusting it outward, she waited for it to drift a few feet closer before she threw it off-shore, connecting its outer edge with its exposed side. I joined her and took one of them in my hand, waiting for it to further stabilize before adding it to the group. We did this several times before the accumulation achieved the desired effect, anchoring and stabilizing the vessel until it was fully connected to the docks.

After its deck gradually stabilized, she fasted the loose ends to the ship and stepped on the dock firmly to make sure it had stabilized. She motioned for me to go ahead and walk upwards onto the galley, but reminded me to be careful moving over the high, shifting rails at its edge. I was a little bit nervous, worried about where me might be headed, and needed to pause for a moment and think things over. She waved convincingly, reassuring me that everything was fine and moving according to expectations. Somewhat reluctantly, I walked up the ramp and jumped over the high ramps, and waited for her to follow me. She took one board from each side of the ramp and slid it onto the boat for safe-keeping before forging ahead moving effortlessly over the narrower path.
She jumped on board quickly. Looking around, the ship felt oddly untouched by our previous entanglements, and I wasn't entirely sure it was the same boat. It had no markings or indications present that would delineate our experiences. When I walked towards the back, I noticed a thick, metal box lying towards the lower section. I recalled what was inside and this reassured me. I took a walk around the front and the arrayed levers and switches were all in a familiar position. She'd managed to take command of the boat ahead of me and was standing directly in front of the steering wheel.
Her hands took command of the vessel stridently, and firmly began working furiously. I wasn't sure what I should do until she looked back in my direction. She firmly motioned to me to take the reigns. I knew what she meant, It was time for me to pull the remaining ramp onboard. Walking over, I managed to perform this task quickly, the pilings were lighter than expected; I wasn't lifting from that height, instead pulling them inward. She further asked me to take down the sails and I quickly unwound their fasteners, letting them drop into place.
Looking over them carefully for signs of damage, I was pleasantly surprised to discover none of the sails were torn or ripped, despite the intense storms and other conflagrations they'd endured. This appeared to give the ship a renewed energy. By the time I returned, she'd managed to steer us away from shore. It wafted around somewhat aimlessly for several minutes, but the ship eventually caught a breeze, and was steadily sailing under her hand without pushing back. The enigmatic transport seemed to know she was back in command and didn't seem to mind in the slightest.

It didn't take long for her to resume confident control over the vessel. Responding quickly and faithfully to her command, it swerved over the river without fail. Steering it over the tranquil waves gave it an unexpected stability, that allowed her to concentrate on the mission ahead of her. It still remained unclear where exactly we were heading, but she seemed to know what she was doing. Standing back, I concentrated on her maneuvers, watching each turn and change in direction carefully for anything that might hint as to where we'd be going. Concentrating on the vessel for the most part, we began moving almost directly straight ahead, cruising over the waters beneath quickly and efficiently. After a few minutes, I stood several paces back to allow her some freedom and she used the added dexterity to add the occasional flourish. We'd occasionally encounter a minor wave that she's lean into, giving us a quick dip followed by a jump, surfing over the waters in an almost celebratory manner.

I relaxed and began to enjoy the process, allowing her to take command freed me to soak in the atmosphere. It was warm and relatively calm, the sails fully breeched the temporal sea, allowing us to move at a steady pace. Averting my eyes from her direction and looked over the vessel's edge. I could see the waves falling at out sides, giving way effortlessly as we forged ahead. Passing innumerable beaches and valleys for what seemed to be an hour had a relaxing effect that allowed me to take gentle repose. I took comfort in her confident command and allowed myself a few minutes' break when I closed my eyes, allowing the waves underneath to flow, calmly letting their intricate force wash over me, letting my worries wash away. I felt a sense of relief that we'd made it that far. I almost fell into a daydream, falling half-asleep as the surges and ebbs unfolded at a predictable pace. My eyes began to subsume, and I sensed the sun beginning to permeate my skin, warming beneath its glow while not burning in place under the harsher summer glare I expected.

I felt my breath grow longer as the anticipated fear began subsiding. She remained calm near the front of the boat but didn't seem especially hurried in demeanor, instead taking on a passive approach, allowing the waves to flow without fighting their current. I watched her with strange sense of admiration, allowing her to take control freed me to a large extent, there wasn't undue pressure on her shoulders, and this relieved residual stress on mine. I knelt downward and felt a slight increase in the wind, but it wasn't anything to worry about. Taking in a few deep breaths allowed me to fall into a minor slumber without worrying about potentially dangerous consequences.

I wasn't exactly sure how long this lasted, but it gave me a welcome chance to clear my mind of the accumulated, claustrophobic dread that had chased my imagination for too long. Before I realized what was happening, I felt a tap on my shoulder and figured that perhaps, I'd grown too complacent. This wasn't the time or place for a nap. Looking behind me, I expected to see her angry form glaring at me. I was mistaken. I was caught off-guard without warning, and found an unexpected figure suddenly arrived, and stood on the vessel, arms crossed, gazing down on me with curiosity and trepidation.

I was confused and frightened, the figure was taller and thicker than the one I'd naturally come to expect. It wasn't immediately clear who it could be. I jumped back a bit for a minute. After a few seconds of confusion, my eyes refocused and I saw a surprisingly familiar figure. At first, I didn't recognize his face, but his dark suit gave away his identity immediately. He looked back at me and seemed to remember who I was quickly. Looking closely at his suit, it was surprising to see that it was sharp and crisp, making him look like he'd pulled it neatly pressed and folded, right from the shelf. Looking closely, I noticed he'd shaved and groomed and looked well-rested. Drawing back for a moment, he looked different from our previous encounters, but I couldn't precisely explain how. He walked in my direction calmly and quietly, waving his hand in my direction to reassure me that everything were fine.

I wanted to ask him how he'd re-appeared on the boat, but noticed a small door leading to a small room was ajar, having just been opened. It seemed has was onboard the entire time, our thumping and footsteps might have roused him from a slumber. The sudden jolt from drifting aimlessly towards moving quickly in a determined manner might have broken his serene entrancement. This felt odd and I apologized for awakening him. He whispered that he didn't mind and further added that he was expecting us to arrive sooner, he'd fallen asleep waiting for us. He put his finger over his mouth and made a shushing gesture, pointing in her direction, there was no need to for us to interfere and disrupt her preoccupation.

He decided we should stay out of her way, our presence would be distracting which would slow our journey needlessly. He began to walk towards the back of the vessel until he reached the back railing. He knelt over a quarter and stared downward, watching the currents flowing behind us. Walking towards his direction, I joined his silent guard without making noise, carefully lifting my feet to make sure I wouldn't knock anything over. We stood beside each other for several minutes. In many ways it was a relief to see him again, if only to have someone else there. Despite the long gaps between our paths crossing, it seemed that he knew exactly what was occurring. The steady flow of water underneath our feet created a quiet respite for us both; we didn't need to worry. After several minutes, he spoke again and asked me how she was doing.

He explained that he wasn't concerned, more precisely curious. I said that her disposition hadn't changed; she remained determined and sharply-focused, resolutely unyielding in approach and demeanor. He nodded his head with relief, and said he was happy we hadn't confronted anything dangerous along the way. This comment took me off-guard for a moment, that wasn't precisely true. I nodded my head negatively and began attempting to explain my strange encounter. I tried explain to him about the malicious figure in the painting we'd discovered, and how frightening and realistic it was. I quickly conveyed the most important aspect: its origins remained unknown, furthering my discomfort. He pondered the situation for few minutes then shook his head. He immediately grasped the painting's implications and likewise seemed just as mystified by its origins. He explained that while he couldn't offer me much reassurance at that point, he concurred that I was right to be concerned.

He looked at me carefully and told me not to worry, there was probably a rational explanation. Attempting the change the subject, he told me that he'd been busy travelling and sorry he'd missed us, but he'd discovered many intriguing things. He started to explain what they were when he was suddenly interrupted by a loud thump that shook the vessel. It wasn't immediately clear what happened, it sounded like something had crashed down onto the starboard side. We stood there nervously for a moment and turned around to see what happened. It was startling to see her standing in front of us, directly in our path. She sprung into action almost immediately, seemingly abandoning her steadfast command of the ship the moment she sensed potential danger. She seemed slightly upset and somewhat angry. Her eyes warily sized up the suited-figure, looking him over carefully and suspiciously. It took her a minute until she remembered who it was.

She appeared relieved to see a somewhat friendly face, but expressed annoyance that he didn't announce himself previously. Apparently, she'd overheard us talking to each other and was alarmed to hear two different voices. Despite our efforts to keep quiet, we weren't able to converse with arousing her suspicion. Looking him over carefully, she appeared perplexed to see him there standing alongside me on the boat. I wasn't sure how he'd explain his presence and motivation, but she didn't pry much further. I wondered what had changed in her demeanor. She explained that she'd managed to take control of the seemingly abandoned vessel, only to discover its actual owner was onboard.

She said that made her confused. He reassured her that she didn't need to worry - he was expecting us, to a degree. He just wasn't sure exactly when we'd arrive; it could have been hours or days. He further remarked that he'd spent a considerable time repairing and restoring it so the vessel would be ready for a resumption of its duties. She thanked him for his work and apologized for keeping him waiting, we'd encountered some unexpected obstacles along the way. It became obvious why she held back. I remembered our circumstances. We were guests standing on his boat. She expressed further gratitude to him for arriving at our location at nearly the right time, even if he didn't intend or prepare. He bowed his head towards her direction and then mine, commenting that the pleasure was all his. He commented that while it was his ship, he thought she was the superior commander, and he wanted her to control direction. This vote of confidence seemed to relieve any lingering doubts she might have. He still trusted her after all this time, and that was all she needed to know. Thanking him for the vote of confidence, she released a small grin, acting with reciprocation. She turned her attention back toward the command section.

Waving quickly, she maintained that its controls were fixed, it could steer itself without oversight. She'd managed to place it in automated mode quickly, and it could remain in place for an extended period. It wasn't to move by itself but could maintain a stable position without her constant monitoring. She didn't need to watch in case we met with unexpected impediments, it could figure out how to avoid most obstacles. Her defensive maneuver brought a sense of relief. I felt the tension release, this allowed them to concentrate on the overarching mission as they resumed their odd partnership without encountering trouble from the ship itself. They regained trust in each other and began working together once more, overlooking what ended up being a little more than a minor misunderstanding.

However, she had something that she wanted to show him before she resumed command of the ship. She told him that she'd spent an inordinate time examining it but couldn't quite decipher its meanings and the strange transformations it performed. He seemed perplexed by what she was describing, and wondered what should could possibly talking about at first. Her words were very fast and she needed to slow down a little. She decided that it was probably easier to show him what she was talking about than try to explain it. She reached underneath her cloak and pulled out the mysterious painting. It didn't look particularly interesting until she unhitched its fasteners and unrolled it outward. She stretched it out and placed it on the surface of the ship. He walked over towards it, looking it over cautiously with a mixture of curiosity and fear.

He seemed confused until I explained that we were talking about two different canvases. We left the dangerous one behind and held onto this one. This seemed to allay some of his consternation and he walked over towards it with added inquisition. She stood at his side and tried to explain its contents. As they stood over it, I watched and noticed that it appeared to stabilize, not changing colors and hues with nearly the same speed as before. He watched quietly as his eyes took in the painting. Attempting to gauge his reaction wasn't helpful as he concentrated on its permutations without flinching or speaking. She told him that her deductions reached some early conclusions, but it still remained mystifying for the most part.

He knelt down to observe it closely from a lower angle. This calmed the picture's inks to subside in their rush, their shifts came to a near complete halt. Its flowing colors froze in neutral shades of red and violet that appeared easier to decipher, though they still looked a tad unstable, sliding in and out occasionally. Standing beside her silently, he delivered no pronouncements, instead allowing himself to soak in the canvas. He looked over the assembled characters and figures carefully and followed along her careful reasoning, occasionally nodding his head in assent. It wasn't clear to me exactly what the purpose or meaning of the painting was, and she appeared almost stuck in place, furtively attempting to disentangle its permutations, intractably puzzled by its pronounced complexity and unrelenting density.

She ran out of explanations and the canvas' array of characters, symbols, words and letters, added to up a confusing arrangement of contrasting, rapidly shifting formations and structures. It had calmed down significantly after reaching the calmer currents, but presented an unstable, inconsistent presence that felt disappointingly inadequate at many points. Their complexity and impenetrability appeared purposefully designed in order to bring forth an endless array of complex puzzles, without any visible solutions. She explained that she deciphered most of what it was trying to explain but couldn't quite decipher its lingering fragments and complexities. He told her he would attempt to aid her, but could make no promises given the instability of the rendering. He took a few steps towards the painting and began to process it for hidden elements she might have overlooked. Carefully pondering what appeared, upon closer inspection, to be a less-precise realization, It definitely appeared rougher, not as polished when I drew nearer to its surface.

The rough edges of its figures and haphazard details began to show, its defects became apparent. It appeared almost frayed after we took an extended, more detailed examination. The unsteady painting's roughly approximated characters and hastily-drawn symbols, he worked thoroughly and quickly, attempting to extract information from what appeared, further illumination and additional details from the oversaturated canvas, I watched his eyes narrow and focus. He seemed to struggle with the painting, too. He expended some effort but didn't seem to have much to add.

He stood up and surveyed its dense, intractable forms silently. His eyes looked it over carefully before he began asking her where we'd found this redolent arrangement of intriguing fixtures. After she patiently explained its defiantly isolated, manifestly clandestine location, he further asked if she'd given it a thorough examination. She replied that she didn't think a technical reading would bring insight as to its purpose or origins. This triggered a odd response, where he conveyed that he might be on the verge of location a sudden revelation. This seemed to convince her to give it a shot.

Pulling out her convergent-light machine, she faced the painting again. He stood alongside her and they watched intently while its narrow beam scanned the surface thoroughly. The machine made a valiant attempt to read or decipher what the picture was attempting to convey, but the dialect remained incomprehensible. She scanned with the machine and moved the machine over the canvas repeatedly but couldn't quite make out what it's elaborate formations of figures and shapes meant. I looked over towards him and there wasn't much response from him, at first. It appeared that something in his mind clicked instantly. He grew unexpectedly excited. He asked her to stop in place while he examined a specific portion of the canvas, unimpeded. Rechecking the canvas his eyes confirmed his intuition was correct. Waiting for a what felt like an intractable moment of consideration until confidently pronouncing the resulting culmination. This had turned out to be a serendipitous examination. It was time for him to share an unexpected conclusion.

He declared, with surprising confidence, that once the painting's colors and figures eventually settled in place, he immediately recognized the artist's hand.

- Michael Palisano