The Laser Fiction - The Stratified Fissure









In Memory
Sean Pettibone



The Stratified Fissure

They moved resoundingly across the vessel's boards with an impervious detachment from their surroundings. Unconcerned by the limitations imposed by the boat's narrow frame, driven with an untapped reserve of long-dormant energy, they encountered little encumbrance. They embraced each other's determined efforts, standing outside each other's path, stepping in only when the other ceded the front for an undetermined period. Standing at the back of the boat, I watched intently while they spurned expectations, set their own parameters. Allowing them to move around freely, they worked with seeming abandon while never losing sight of each other. It would have been easy to become transfixed by their mesmerizing reactions and inspiration. I managed to allow myself room to think, a silent yet insistent motivation giving me enough space to forge a path. I worked alongside the unyielding song's misaligned tempo for inspiration, marking the surprisingly resilient page that didn't fray with an increasing looseness that gradually started flowing effortlessly through my pen. After my initial awkward attempts that resulted in creating incoherent squibbles, I felt the music pierce through my inner barriers. My rigid fingers loosened as they began dancing across the beat following its unsteady beat with determined synchronization. It wasn't easy to keep track of my position with its constantly shifting foundation, but things became easier when I changed perspective, following the song's structure intuitively instead of attempting to compose a strictly literal translation.

Deciding to let their emphatic, uncompromising choice in seemingly inaccessible music command an immediately pronounced influence, I allowed its intricate rhythms to construct an invisible path that I'd loosely follow, without falling behind helplessly. There was no point in trying to mirror each individual note on the small canvas. Their choice in music was off-the-beaten path, creating a round that suggested possibilities without controlling the composition. It took multiple songs until i was able to internalize the realization. Using an open-minded approach instilled a level of unarticulated motivation I didn't fully anticipate. My hands moved much faster once freed of the declarative restraints I'd previously relied on. Before realizing precisely what was occurring, I felt my hands moving over the page with unexpectedly gracious momentum; following its intrinsic rhythms. I began to feel an unarticulated alignment to the unfamiliar songs, and slowly began to anticipate their elaborate movements and consequential structure in advance. This allowed me to plan ahead to some degree. My fingers gradually filled in the composition's seemingly minor details at an increasingly confident, steady pace.

The page responded with generous firmness, seeming to open its defenses while maintaining a foundation. It didn't tear or rip despite the pen's insistent pressure, allowing me to mark its surface in erratic inky bursts, fearlessly blotting onto the paper in broad strokes without hesitation. Working carefully, I made preliminary sketches, disallowed hesitation to block my process. I maintained focus that allowed me to dislodge a sequence of distinct shapes despite the immediate distraction of their intuitively elaborate. deliberately instinctive movements across the ship's temporal flooring. Making determined strokes of varying strength, attempting to partially capture a portion of their spirits' combined formation without getting in the way. It started slowly but the strokes became more insistent. Taking a step back and paused. Determined not to belabor the composition, I decided to restrain my efforts. Knowing not to get overly excited and kept my pen at a guarded remove. Allowing certain details to flourish, while simultaneously hiding others required a careful balance that was challenging to maintain. I decided not to dwell on the specific representations that could hinder their residing energetic force. Intuition led me to the conclusion that the portrait would be better if I followed their lead. Deciding not to attempt recreating unseen aspects that weren't material, untethered my pen and it began flowing ebulliently in response.

It wasn't relying solely on emotion; my composition would hopefully relieve itself from the unimaginative; restrained approach. Working carefully, I simultaneously used a measure of countering approach. My eyes couldn't adequately capture veering, I focused carefully in order to preserve adequate mystery, respecting their privacy while keeping an unspoken continuity. The force between them was undeniable and continued as the records changed styles, tempo and moods, offering a resolute determination that managed to form a larger consistency through an uneven paths. They matched the sudden changes with resplendent motions of their own, falling across each other's line of sight, ducking in and out of their respective way with flawless, unspoken coordination. It took pronounced effort for me to arrive at a respectful balance. It was difficult to navigate unfamiliar territory. I managed to focus my attention without become entranced by them and quickly sidelined, drawn to but not consumed by their immediate, longstanding connection.

My eyes were drawn back to the page as unexpected flourishes appeared invisibly, then made their way subconsciously onto the surface. The resulting image began to resemble the pair. Truncated beneath my limited skills, I managed to forge a partially effective composition. I wasn't entirely sure whether I'd be able to mark the correct signs along they. I worried that my efforts weren't bearing the weight that I'd placed on them. Standing back a step an surveying the canvas in front of me, I was somewhat disappointed by the result. Appearing blurry, without the level of detail I was striving for, I couldn't make out much of distinction from beneath the washed-out lines and indistinct figures. It looked confused, vague elements juxtaposed on top of each other. Seemingly placed at random with various heights and inconsistent quality, my limitations were obviously inadequate.

They moved effortlessly over the boat gave me further inspiration. I decided not to give up on my work and decided to build on my efforts. I tilted position until the page was at an arm's length. This allowed me to keep track of the broader canvas. Looking carefully, I determined the lack of detail was most apparent in their undefined faces, I thought about it for an extended period and finally managed to effect an interesting solution. I did some quick scribbling directly over the figures until it appeared they were facing away from the line of sight. This effectively massaged my lack of skill. More importantly, this approach had the serendipitous effect of protecting them from unwelcome intrusions. This newfound space allowed my pen to draw further elaboration into their feet. After making a series of detailed yet intuitive marks, their diverging paths clarified on the page.

Looking toward the center of the vessel while the invisible lines they forged vanished quickly, without foreshadowing, only to reappear in new forms instantaneously. None of this seemed to intimidate them, and they responded to the constantly shifting sounds fearlessly. Adding several layers to the figures on the paper appeared to add depth but lacked the required energy. My rendering still seemed lifeless, it was missing something I couldn't adequately forge. I looked them over carefully, searching for the missing force that linked their steps together. It wasn't immediately clear what they possessed that I was overlooking. I spent an inordinate time searching for any hidden elements that might remain out of view, but remained stymied; their fortress was too strong. The invisible barrier they constructed around each other wasn't giving an inch despite my determined efforts to breach it.

Eventually deciding that continually switching focus between the tentative canvas and turning back-and-forth quickly without firm direction was counter-productive, I allowed myself to focus on the pair without switching angles for an extended period. Searching carefully for a visible engagement remained distressing, nothing seemed to appear despite my newfound concentration. They swayed and swirled around each other without care while I uncounted increasing anxiety that intensified. When looking on the page, it failed compared to match the level of its inspiration. I'd almost reached a decent level of quality, but the composition wasn't ready. The figures still lacked detail despite their additional layers of detail. Its appearance lacked intrinsic motivation and its emotional foundation was shaky. I decided to take a closer look and began looking closely at them from head to toe.

Initially, this strange technique didn't yield the results expected, only reinforcing the doubt resulting from a reluctant determination that my efforts hadn't matched theirs. Doubt continued to grow as my inquiry grew more pronounced yet remained unanswered. Working systematically and carefully yielded nothing further. Nearly giving up, I persisted in my examination, more from obligation than intuition. After I reached the bottom, I was relieved that the burden placed on my shoulders. I felt the pressure quickly diminishing and lifting.

I hadn't found anything of significance but had at least made an honest effort. I was ready to shift attention elsewhere when I noticed they hadn't changed their shoes despite the added complexity required from of the current mission. Their lack of preparation didn't seem to cause a significant effect on the amount of energy they continued to engage the resplendent songs. They appeared entirely focused on each other and didn't appear held back by the ground. Moving with an inherent grace and agility, they swirled and swaying inconsistently, erratically at some points which kept me off-guard. The pair weren't overly concerned with creating uncertainty in any case, they weren't engaged in a performance, they were working solely for their own enjoyment. This made my task more difficult, but I felt I could meet their challenge.

Smoothly alternating between bursts of energy and restrained tapping or motionlessly watching each other for signals, twisting their heels in circles, then turning in opposing directions, bending lines only to reforge their straight paths depending on the accompaniment they processed. The duo seemed intent on challenging each other more than perfecting outward appearances, though they couldn't help achieving an elegance that was unspoken yet undeniable. They worked tirelessly beneath the resplendent moons, their unpracticed steps mirrored their unaligned paths, only sporadically unfolding in a predictable manner. Infusing resolute freedom that dispersed, then reconnected in unlikely ways. Lacking predetermination gave their movements an irresistible force that the small vessel's limited constructs couldn't contain. Looking back into the canvas, it seemed to be filling up, and I decided to proceed carefully. I decided to add small elements, but not excess detail. I didn't want the page to become cluttered needlessly.

Surfaces appeared to blend together despite my efforts, but I remained convinced that I was heading in the right direction. I watched them carefully, sliding across the planks continuously, their appendages unfurling inside and out, extending then retracting with dispersed energy before resuming the concentrated form. I made a determination that wouldn't seem appropriate in other circumstances; capturing emotion instead of attempting a flawless visual reconstruction. I waited carefully until they slid into an ideal position, proceeding occasionally almost by accident into the proper angle that I'd find useful. This didn't occur that often but I was able to memorize there fragmented approach to the point where it only required sporadic reinforcement.

I felt the illustration grow more coherent as I completed portions at a surprisingly fast pace, convinced that something magical was impending. I felt a resulting surge in my hands that felt oddly comforting, in a manner I couldn't verbalize. Leaning forward, I sensed myself inexorably drawn into the picture's inky surface, allowing it to slowly take prominence away from the putative subjects I was attempting to resurrect. Following the criss-cross of figures, circles and shapes and stray lines was endlessly fascinating. After a robust spurt of energy, I unexpectedly became increasingly contemplative which slowed the pace of further additions. Retracing earlier lines and forms carefully, my eyes began judging each element using an emergent detached approach. Not entirely satisfied I managed to make a series of changes emphasizing how the space between them appeared to as shrinking until they held each other in their grasp.

Before I realized what was happening, I found myself submerged into the creation, suddenly obsessed with achieving an even a rough approximation of that moment, not entirely accurate but remaining grounded to some degree. They managed to cycle through a number of songs but hadn't exhausted each other. Glancing in their direction briefly, it appeared they'd discovered a new energy source when they resumed their partnership. Neither seemed ready to easily slip other's grasp after waiting patiently for resumption. They rebounded quickly when they encountered transient depletions; the occasional loose shoelace or sore heel wouldn't deter them. Taking a deeper look into the painting revealed further elements I needed to contextualize with additional detail; bringing occasional dashes of life to the surface. My eyes didn't move away from the surface for quite some time. Without warning, the picture had completely taken over my attention.

I was determined to create a coherent picture and felt I was making significant headway, moving consistently in a promising direction. It had been a longer, more draining pursuit than anticipated but it had been worth it to that point. I took a step back to survey the complete picture and it appeared to be coming together with a surprisingly natural feel. Soaking in the array, I felt its intrinsic energies come into view without undue efforts. I'd completed about three-quarters of the painting was finally nearing completion. The moons slid off their apex but remained bright enough for me to compose without thrusting my pen aimlessly in the dark. There was still a significant length of their bright illumination to proceed beneath them and this made me nervous. It still needed ample work, but I'd made more than expected effort, completing the task. My hand had grown a bit rigid from the expended efforts, but I was able to counter this entropy with inspiration. I only needed another quick glance in their direction to recharge my energy. I resumed watch over them as they continued unabated, switching leadership effortlessly.

As they regained their transformative connection and its accompanying momentum, their formerly cautious tactics evolved; taking more challenging forms. I couldn't help noticing a reduced level of hesitation, barriers dissolved when carefully observing. They began moving closer to each other, peering over the clandestine, silent walls dividing them with increasing frequency. Their untethered feet sliding just past their invisible partitions before retreating, never placing a step over the line for long. An elaborate dance began unfolding. the increasingly strident songs charged them with increasingly intricate patterns that were difficult to follow.
Turning my attention back towards the paper, it appeared to submerge in place before my eyes, imprinting itself on the stand. I contemplated how I'd be able to capture their changing directions and unspoken commands without disrupting what had come before. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure it out, with little success. I made a few minor scribbles at the margins but couldn't quite find a manner to express this. It was a distressing moment, that left me with few paths to resolve. I wanted to maintain the earlier energy but add some signal of the new force emerging as they resumed their partnership. My concentration and focus intensified as I tried to untangle the puzzle the change presented. Making little progress, I shook off the trance-like state that had quickly overtaken my consciousness and looked into the boat's mid-section for additional, intangible guidance. I was immediately surprised that during the interim when I'd focused nearly the entirety of my energies into the illustration, he'd left her side. She was dancing alone on the ship's narrow deck.

I couldn't see where he'd gone, seemingly vanished into the night. She maintained her pace, undeterred by his absence. Continuing to follow her own path, her steps followed and fought against the rhythms without interruption. She maintained her strong demeanor, given the added space she wasn't excessively using its opening, keeping a steady pace at first. Her initial reserve was somewhat unexpected, but the restraint remained admirable until she found an acceptable footing she could maintain on her own. She stepped into the center for a solo accompanied only by the songs. She gradually peeled back the layers of accumulated caution and I noticed her movements becoming increasingly pronounced. Her position wasn't nearly as restrained as in our earlier encounters, her legs moving with unexpected momentum that surpassed the energy I'd previously observed. She quickly began exceeding even the magisterial force I'd encountered directly at her side, nervously swinging around at a much closer range. Standing at a remove, looking from afar from the boat's trailing section, I arrived at a reflexive conclusion. This lead to a transformed perception that occurred, emerging in an unexpected burst of inspiration. The revelation appearing suddenly when I took a few steps eastward and observed her from a contrary angle.

She unfurled an unspoken energy that she'd effortlessly released from its tightly-wound encumbrances. The narrow paths she'd been following faithfully splintered and swooned beneath her feet, bending until they silently surrendered to her impositions. It appeared she'd been holding back during her earlier engagements, purposefully avoiding going overboard, attempting to avoid overwhelming the tentative steps of her clumsy companion. It wasn't entirely obvious what her moves conveyed, her steps seemed to be taking contradictory positions. I had to look carefully before I realized that she was taking both positions of the dance on her own, seamlessly acting through both sets of moves simultaneously.

Managing the complicated transitions without missing a move, she displayed a surprising elegance that she'd kept hidden from view until bursting beneath the mesmerizing night skies resplendently. I couldn't help feeling completely mesmerized by her splendid efforts. My attention fully-engaged by the undeniable force within her, I found myself breathlessly anticipating her subsequent moves without distraction. She reiterated alongside the untrakible music with physical embellishment, unwilling to constrain her flowing movement and unhindered expenditures any longer. After several rotations on her own, she built a unique foundation which quickly transcended any remaining hesitation. Her motion carved a distinctive path into the surrounding air, unyielding to any external force.

Working tirelessly, she never wavered in commitment to her intricate, unyielding approach. Forging ahead without fear on her own, she crossed over the boards, sliding back and forth over the boat's surface intently. She managed to convert her intuitive motions into more deliberate paths that maintained spontaneous prevalence, without assistance. She would occasionally counter assumptions, disrupting her inner tempo suddenly by pausing, turning in contrasting directions before implementing a completely different set of moves without explanation. She didn't need to spend excess time dancing around in the same style; instead rejuvenating her motions if they became repetitive or predicable. Divergence appeared to be an unwavering form of expression. Using that approach gave her increased freedom to explore and experiment, she seemed to enjoy the process of challenging herself without predetermination.

Carefully watching, I sensed a boundless energy spill beyond the narrow railings of the vessel's inner portion, spilling into the surrounding currents with abandon. Using her uniquely stratified approach unleashed a force within her that couldn't be contained. I surveyed her untraceable actions carefully but it became increasingly obvious that my limited skills with the options provided wasn't going adequately capture the moment. I fitfully decided that I wouldn't elaborate on my picture any longer. She had gone far beyond my skill level, there was no point in further work on an intractable task. Glancing back towards the rear of the boat, my response diminished in importance, shrinking in comparison until it began shaking.

It wavered beneath a sudden gust, almost blowing off the canvas. In my excitement to get started, I'd overlooked the process of securing its position. Nothing attached it firmly to the surface and I ran towards it, to prevent losing my work. Initially startled, I was interrupted unexpectedly as an unseen force interceded. Not understanding what was happening, I took a few steps closer. There was a long hand visible. It quickly reached over from the darkness, then a figure emerged standing directly in my path. I was relieved to see the outline of his familiar suit come into view quickly; clenching the paper firmly in his grasp.

He held it up against the moon and examined the composition extensively. He appeared to look it over from top to bottom. I waited for his reaction expectantly but his eyes didn't reveal his thoughts. Appearing to contemplate my work to a deeper extent than I anticipated, he remained terrifyingly quiet for far longer than I expected. Worried that he wouldn't understand what I was trying to represent, I explained that he might want to try focusing on the duo at the center of the page. The surrounding energy they produced exuded from within, I elaborated. He stood still and took another extensive foray into my tangential work, silently taking its measure without making a definitive pronouncement.

If he formed an opinion, he kept it to himself while he thought about what it might actually represent. He held it across from view, staring at it directly, seemingly engrossed with its detail. I felt my heart sink to the ground, increasingly worried that my efforts hadn't made much of an impact. His continued silence was disorienting, which undermined my hopeful expectations. At long last, he decided to speak up and asked me a question. He wondered how long I'd been drawing, the piece showed promise. He praised my picture for its promising level of detail along with an interesting approach to conveying the unseen force surrounding the reunited pair.

I was taken off-guard by his inquiry and couldn't answer at first, I wondered whether he was being earnest or polite, though his tone felt more honest than skeptical. I decided to engage and honestly answered that I'd only begun to learn, but had an outstanding teacher to thank, nodding in her direction. He expressed surprise, pleased by the skill displayed. He said he could discern a unique style beginning to emerge that he found unexpectedly familiar. He further noted immediate parallels, but didn't elaborate further. I was pleased by his comments, even if it seemed like he was hiding some important aspects to some degree. It didn't bother me what motivated him, I felt relief that I hadn't completely failed.

While he was talking, I hadn't noticed that another figure had taken her place behind me and was also looking at the painting. Her voice was completely silent as she took in the painting with curious intent. She listened and waited while he expressed his initial reaction to its elements, in somewhat coded form, cautiously avoiding any harsh criticism that might defer me in the future. He took a final look at the painting and nodded his head approvingly, but didn't want or need to make further inquiries. He paused and inhaled somewhat satisfied, before stepping aside. She stood back cautiously with a strange detachment, her eyes dwelling within the painting, largely unmoved. I noticed she'd returned to a less emotional state that rebuilt an unseen shield that surrounded her. She took several careful steps towards the painting once he moved out of her way.

Making a short excursion into the details that emerged from its surface, she carefully removed it from its place on the canvas, placing it in a better light against the moonlight. Looking it over quickly, she seemed reluctant to say that much about it. She decided to take a few minutes, and thought about things silently. She stood apart from the picture before articulating a measured response. I'd been composing with determination and showed ample agility. She appreciated the effort I'd put into it and seemed surprised by its familiarity. Complimenting the subjects' distinct forms. She emphasized that what impressed her was the numerous small flourishes that added a sense of life without over-whelming the page. She expressed surprise that the figures were facing away so their faces couldn't be seen. I wasn't that proficient when it came to creating profiles. She seemed happy and pleased with the my work. She held her breath for minute before nervously declaring that she knew there was something that she recognized immediately when she first set eyes on me. I didn't quite understand what she meant by this strange admission. The resulting silence only added to the mystery. She walked in my direction nervously and without elaborating further.

I was baffled by what she meant, I'd been following her around for an extended period, and never really considered that she might have been watching me at the same time. This left me more confused than expected, I couldn't comprehend what her motives might have been. It was a strange situation. I decided not to pry into further detail, It wasn't the right time and I really didn't want to know. I was just happy she liked my work and appreciated my effort . She silently handed the paper back to me without saying anything more, She nodded approvingly, I quickly placed it back on the canvas to protect it from the elements. Taking a nearby pin, I attached it to the surface firmly, pushing its tack into its upper section above the main composition. It held itself without flapping in the intensifying wind gusts. Relieved, I examined it carefully before deciding that I'd put enough time into its composition.

Looking to my side, I noticed she was no longer standing beside me, slipping back under the darkness without further elucidation. I was initially confused and somewhat perplexed. I wondered why she'd left me hanging there alone. I was left to contemplate her disorienting perspective alone, without leaving tangible answers. Looking up into skies, the atmosphere's mute resolve maintained a recalcitrant disposition, firmly ensconced far above my field of vision. I looked towards the other figure but he was preoccupied with managing the ship's controls, leaving no time for additional inquiries. I studied the waves slowly rolling beside the ship, but their dispassionate remove offered little insight. I had little to hang onto and a seemingly desolate period began to settle over this ship.

Several silent minutes passed and I couldn't help wondering exactly what she implied. Many possibilities raced through my mind but I couldn't reach a satisfying conclusion. The creeping malaise that gripped me disappeared when i looked eastward. I saw her familiar form descending beneath the vessel's gallery. My attention shifted almost instantaneously, in her direction. She was on a materially different path. I was apparently focused on the wrong aspects of her response. She wasn't worried by the seeming contradiction, sprinting over the steps with manifestly focused and determined energy. I wasn't sure exactly what she was doing beneath the galley. I heard occasional creaky boards pierce the silence. This interrupted my undue consternation. My curiosity grew with each moaning creek. These small breaks were replaced with a series of loud, restless crashes.

During the interim, he'd been to distracted from managing ship's main controls. He paced the vessel nervously, turning off and shutting down the record player along the way. It slid back inside its metal compartment without much resistance. He stood and looked in our direction intently, awaiting some type of signal from her, but was curious that he could hear but not see her, before realizing she otherwise distracted beneath our position. Awaiting further impetus from her direction, he let out a gasp of dejected resignation, signaling had no choice but wait even longer. I heard another series of loud bangs occur, which echoed through the vessel as she foraged through the darkness without visible results.

Apparently, she was searching for something. I wasn't precisely sure what she was looking for and stood looking in her direction, awaiting further disruptions patiently. I knew better than to interfere, since I'd probably just get in her way. After several minutes, the periodic crashes subsided. She re-emerged from the boat's cloaked recesses holding a small silver case in her possession. Her grip was on it was surprisingly strong, she held it close to her side. It had taken pronounced effort to find down below; there was no way she'd allow anything to pry it from her. She swiftly moved in my direction, taking an unwavering straight line. I wasn't sure what the shiny case contained but I was curious. Arriving at my position without undue ceremony, her next move caught me off-guard. Without hesitation, she extended the her arm and held case horizontally, pointing its front in my direction.

I was reluctant to examine it, given the strong hold she had on it. I waited carefully for any further instruction, but she didn't say anything. Her eyes were insistent but I couldn't figure out what she was doing. She motioned me to take a step closer. Reluctantly, I managed to examine it briefly. The case appeared to be a solid construct and it didn't yield any clues beneath its exterior. There weren't any visible locks or switched on its surface, and I had no idea what its purpose might be. I looked at her and shrugged my shoulders in resignation. Its small size and diminutive diameter didn't look like they reveal anything I could use for a further inspection. I didn't know what to do, and was surprised when she took it back into her direction and opened it easily. She held one side and twisted the other around, causing its halves to slide apart, revealing it housed a metallic object. Looking closer, it quickly became apparent that the silver case held one of her hand-made light-convergence machines.

Taking a closer look to examine its surface, I was surprised how strongly resembled her earlier work. This appeared to be quite similar to the light-convergence machine she already had in her possession and had let me borrow briefly. It had the same composure of steel and metal and its shape and form were immediately familiar to my eyes. There were some noticeable differences on the other hand. This machine was smaller and leaner than the machine she normally used, but it was much newer, lacking the minor scratches and worn, subdued shine. I examined it closely unsure what would happen next. She pushed it closer in my direction and I found its shiny silver surface glowed strongly, yet enigmatically. I kept my hands nervously at their side, not presuming to make physical contact with it.

I looked it over carefully and wasn't precisely sure why she wanted me to further inspect the device. She pulled the lid upward before explaining that she'd constructed this particular machine with a specific purpose in mind. She paused for a minute and took the smaller object from its case. She took out her own and compared them briefly. She rolled both of them around a few times and looked them over carefully. She seemed satisfied that the machine she'd recently built maintained a sufficient quality. It was more than capable of managing the task ahead. She looked at them both carefully before pulling her original back under her cloak.

She began making small circular motions with the newer object in the air and pointing it in various directions. She tracked it carefully and after a minute or so, finally pronounced that it was my turn to take command. She pointed it in my direction. extending it toward my direction. There was no further time to spare, she emphasized. Taking a nervous step forward, I took hold of it reluctantly. It felt a strangely comfortable in my hand. I was surprised that it wasn't as heavy as I expected. I spun it around a couple of times and experimented pointing it around the vessel quickly. The machine was nimble and easy to use, and quickly navigated the surroundings. After growing comfortable with its mass and weight, the main challenge began. I cautiously slipped its small switches upward and waited for its response.

It gradually came to life as its gears began turning with rapidly increasing velocity. It began to spinning, whirling around aimlessly without focus or direction. It was deceptively powerful despite its diminutive appearance. I'd underestimated it's strength by a significant margin. My fingers began shaking, and this quickly spread my arm. It created a surprising force that I needed to contain. Its force intensified, I felt myself becoming a little uneasy with its unexpected burst of energy. I almost slipped out of my hand a couple times but I had to grip intently with strong energy until I retook control and its energy subsided. Noticing my initial struggles, she advised me not to allow fear to manifest. Her steady voice calmed my nerves when she explained my initial reaction was expected. The machine's pronounced pushback was anticipated, the result of adapting to my command. It was accustomed to someone much stronger. It was testing my abilities and limitations while simultaneously implementing a carefully calibrated response to my less-pronounced, intrinsically distinct style. She complimented my initial efforts and was pleased that I'd made it through the initial sequence of transference and acclimation at a faster pace than initially anticipated.

Her voice quickened as she somewhat hastily explained that she had carefully examined my composition in order removed any remaining doubt about my capabilities. She didn't want to overwhelm me with something I couldn't handle. This helped me find some balance that gave me an immediate confidence. This seemed to calm the machine's frenzied approach. It began to feel like an increasingly natural extension as it settled beneath my control, normalcy returned to my hands. I gradually became somewhat more confident navigating its cloaked, somewhat reluctant, yet undeniable functionality. I made some headway quickly, but on balance, I was only nominally taking advantage of the reluctant machine's capabilities. Its defensive posture briefly swooned when it expressed a measure of confidence by emitting a sequence of approving bleeps. I looked up from the machine a saw a resulting admiration illuminate her eyes. She appeared to admire my intuitive approach accommodation to its demanding requirements.

I noticed an unexpected sense of relief in her that seemed strangely at ease, as if somehow, she'd managed to discover something previously unseen. I wasn't precisely clear what I'd managed to do. She'd taught me the basic parameters previously with the other machines. This was smaller but remained familiar almost immediately. I wondered what I might have uncovered that would have impressed her. I wasn't trying to show off, and felt fortunate to have made it respond without her assistance. Walking back, I quietly asked her what was actually happened. I wondered why she seemed so surprised. She took a deep breath, took a step back and tried to reconnect expediently. She explained that been looking patiently for quite awhile, and was confident that we'd crossed paths for reasons beyond mere serendipitously. She felt there was a tangible purpose, but couldn't adequately articulate exactly what It might entail. I wasn't expecting her somewhat obtuse explanation, unsure precisely what she meant by this. It wasn't clear what her expectations of me were, and she seemed to draw my attention away from the furtive machine. Her focused appeared to be concentrated elsewhere. I turned my attention back towards the machine, shaking my head pensively.

An extended silence created an interval of contemplation where I could think things through. It was become increasingly obvious that many aspects would remain obtuse. However, when I looked up in her direction, she was further away. The distance was baffling at first, but I quickly realized that she was letting me contemplate on my own schedule. She appeared understood my confusion and decided not to overwhelm me. Her silence was reassuring. This respire allowed me to form my own path. She stood back in order to avoid interrupting the process and let me follow my instincts. I wasn't sure what led her to convey this remove, allowing me to proceed without heavy-handed advice but I didn't want to overstep the unspoken boundaries, knowing she'd previously surveyed the surroundings, it represented a rare chance to forge my own path, even for a short time and limited extent.

I took the machine firmly in tow and aimed it towards the endless swirling star fields above me, scanning the constellations for anything unexpected. I scanned deliberately and carefully, forming rows and lines, working almost systematically across the galaxies above. I reached the western surface edge of the visible universe, when I felt the machine begin to shake slightly. At first I thought it might be my own nerves, but the shaking only intensified with growing force as I moved its narrow beam further westwards and slightly southward. This was definitely promising and I moved it even faster it that direction. The shaking grew increasingly strong until it represented an almost undeniable force. In an instant. I felt a strong surge of energy in my fingers. It was incredibly strong and the machine almost blew out of my fingers.

Instinctively tightening my grip only redirected its energy into a narrower, yet more powerful path. Its inherent force quickly overflew my palms, then spread upward until it permeated both of my hands. It nearly subsumed my command but I contained its power with subtle force of my own. Further tightening my tenuous grip, I held firm, and pointed it vertically adjacent to the vessel's surface. I held it aloft, extending my arms upwards as far as I could. I slowly turned it pointing directly towards the sky above.

I gradually focused my concentration on the task of achieving and maintaining an effective angle. Expending a lot of effort, I carefully adjusted its surprisingly fragile configuration multiple times. I patiently looked things over until the machine appeared to stabilize, resembling a kite, floating silently above the ship's bow. My fingers held steady, despite the pushback and my grip was reinforced by my increasing determination not to let it go, despite its unrelenting pressure to slip from my hand. I extended it outward over the waves, allowing its excess energy to dissipate harmlessly beneath the surrounding currents. Its strength began to waver after a several minutes until it gradually dissipated. I channeled its rapidly diminishing, diffuse energy into a solitary field that gradually formed a steady line the converged to form a narrow beam of light.

The resulting insight it revealed was clear, its band of narrow illumination delivering a singular message I deciphered immediately. Almost instantaneously, I knew what its clandestine purpose entailed. Without thinking about potential repercussions, I pointed its narrowly-focused beam directly in the space between the twin moons. This position wasn't perfectly aligned but its strong response unleashed a secondary burst of energy. It commenced lighting an unmistakable beacon. Piercing the night skies, it began glowing intensely with a distinctive green glow that illuminated a vivid path we'd navigate beneath the resplendent constellation. However, its bright light produced no feedback, I felt no shaking and the light quickly vanished. leaving the darkened skies untouched with little visible resulting, its trails slowly vanished as the burst faded. Frustrated, I looked to the others and they came closer.

She stood directly in front of me and gazed upward, seeming perplexed yet somewhat surprised by its diminutive impact. I joined her side and looked back to see the navigator's eyes scanned toward the horizon. After several minutes peering into the night, she turned to me and quietly advised me to look closely but not directly into the constellations. He maintained his focus but nodded quickly in assent. We waited patiently as silence and opacity of the skies silently descended into the vessel's surface, covering us in endless layers of breathless, entirely mute stars containing innumerable mysteries. We'd attempted to permeate and discover some insight from within the unfolding distant galaxies.

They didn't concede anything to our pronounced incursions; determined to maintain a steadfast remove. Easily deflecting my focused energy they kept a firm position without flinching. I felt myself growing impatient without any tangible result from my efforts. I looked carefully across the skies but met with determined recalcitrance from the impenetrable constellations. Looking back in her direction, I plaintively shrugged my shoulders; it was worth the effort, but the results weren't immediate. She nodded her head in agreement, contradicting my conclusion. She took her hand and stretched it outwards, emphatically pointing towards the eastern portion, marking the opposing mirror image from the area where our search had focused.

Clandestinely located purposefully out of view, almost purposely hiding beneath the imposing slate at the edges of the unfathomable atmosphere. I attempted to make sense of the array but examining the area intently resulted in little insight. Stymied in my attempts to uncover the reasons underlying its stubborn recalcitrance, I managed to make minimal progress but was stopped in place by its layers of complexity. I stood silently, watching its layers slip farther into the night sky. The other navigator suddenly appeared at my side and tried to ascertain reasonable insight but came up empty as well. Placed firmly at a remove, his frustration and displeasure at his inability to instill some meaning behind its non-committal demeanor, even after extended examination was evident. He looked from side to side for assistance but found nobody within range. Its formative transformation wasn't immediately visible to either one of us. We waited in place, examining the quickly diminishing breach carefully but found nothing that provided insight or direction.

I wondered if she had anything to add, but it appeared that she was nowhere to be found. I tried to locate her to see if she could find a reasonable explanation for interpretation. It took awhile before she emerged from the shadows, her form quickly concealed beneath her dark cloaks and fluctuating points, remaining in near silhouette covered in small dots mirroring the skies above, she resumed a shadow form, lurking almost silently at the vessel's edge. Standing at a significant remove, observing safely behind our position, she held silently on the vessel's side. This allowed her to maintain a contemplative, yet determined perspective. Her serendipitous position and pronounced remove from the immediate surroundings allowed her to offer observations we'd overlooked. Her approach resolutely arrived at conclusions we hadn't contemplated. She was able to manage its near-invisible contours and dimensions effortlessly without assistance.

It didn't take long before she intuitively unraveled the unyielding constellation's impervious structures and massed formations. The overwhelming horizon vividly containing seemingly endless commingled formations and possibilities. She paused before arriving at unlikely determinations. These ideas were manifestly apparent, accurate and impeccably presented. Articulating the outlines of its unspoken code, she methodically explained that the solution was simple once located, relatively simple to resolve. The ensuing ramifications became obvious, the ensuing combinations impossible for us to overlook. Without noticing the resulting mechanisms, the solution she uncovered would've been nearly impossible to discern from our constrained vantage point and limited capabilities. From her standpoint, the resulting problem was complex but its solution thankfully obvious: the diminutive convergent-light machine lacked intrinsic capabilities. It's focused energies grew defensive, diffused and scattered unexpectedly as she explored their parameters with increasing resolve and consistency. The constellation's involuntary elusiveness created a delayed reaction with innumerable ramifications both visible and unseen.

- Michael Palisano