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Poem: "Toward Concordance" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Toward Concordance"
This poem fills the "soul bonding / soulmates" square in my 1-2-14 card for the [community profile] trope_bingo fest. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the project The Blueshift Troupers.

"Toward Concordance"

When the ships came in,
Lane looked forward to meeting them.
As much as he loved the Academy,
he longed to get out into the galaxy
and put his training to use.

Hiveships consisted of different segments,
each with its own personality,
joined together like organs in a body.
They had the ability to bond
with a human crew as well,
and this brought them to the Academy.

These were young ships,
never bonded before,
seeking not a replacement
for a retiring member
but a complete crew.

Some students approached as singles,
hoping to find compatible crewmates
as they searched for a ship.
Others, like Lane, had already found
friends with whom they wished to work.

Lane never had trouble making friends.
He was the youngest of his team,
and they teased him a little
for his eagerness and exuberance,
while the others spread out in age,
but that was all right.

It gave them room to grow with a ship,
so that they wouldn't all retire at once,
but could bring in new people as needed.

Lane went up to meet the ships,
still a bit nervous in his new form,
all springy chocolate curls
and tilted almond eyes,
tawny skin sleek and smooth.
His teammates patted him on the shoulder
and assured him everything would be fine.

When they reached the ships, though,
it wasn't that easy. None of them
seemed like an obvious match.

Anemoi was flighty,
with poor internal cohesion,
but had the highest speed
and agility of the six.

Garvan was rough
and had a stubborn streak,
big and strong and sure to be
durable under stress.

Calder was tempestuous,
swirling from one idea to another,
an innovative thinker with
a lively fleet of coracles.

Ishira was wild,
with a hot temper and
excellent rating on combat skills,
who wanted to work with the gendarmes.

Dikeledi was mournful,
having lost a pinnace in an accident,
but a good listener and companion
with an astute sensor array.

Omphalos was shy,
quiet and unassuming,
with the best memory
and a thoughtful nature.

At first they talked over the comms,
students vying for an invitation
to come aboard this ship or that.
Once on board, they could
feel for affinity with each other.

Ishira quickly picked a trio of women,
and then more slowly, several men.
Calder sparked well with one captain
only to find the rest of the crew incompatible,
which was wrenching for everyone when they left.

Garvan invited Lane's team aboard,
and they went. Despite their hopes,
the match proved merely adequate
and no one could really make up their minds.
They decided to stay for a while
and see if more time would help.

Lane talked with all the hiveships
because he just plain liked people,
and gradually he got to know them.

The near end of the dock bustled
with candidates seeking Anemoi or Garvan.
Once an impromptu party broke out
before Ishira's nascent crew emerged
to shoo them all away.
They were clearly bonding,
and the other students gave way.

It was quiet at the far end of the dock.
Lane noticed, over time,
that a few other students began
to drift down this way,
not whole teams but ones and twos.

Talking with them, he discovered
some who had their own losses,
and he hinted them toward Dikeledi
who needed those who understood sorrow.

Omphalos attracted the ones like Lane,
who enjoyed listening as much as talking
and worked with an eye on relationships.
They shared an interest in board games,
sometimes striking up matches
less boisterous than the ill-fated party.
Core was shy, but Helm was bolder.

Anemoi kept attracting artists
and musicians and other freewheeling types,
until the instructors finally had to step in
and insist on introducing more pragmatic candidates
to balance the ship's whimsical nature.
It worked, and a crew of six settled in.
Lane was happy for them.

It happened so slowly that
Lane almost missed it -- did miss it
for a while, until he realized
that he was spending more and more time
with Omphalos and less with everyone else.

Then one shift Lane fell asleep
in the round room and woke with a sense
of Omphalos shimmering delicately
around the edges of his awareness.

The bond hung between them,
new and fragile, tenuous as gossamer.
Lane touched it with mental fingertips
just to see it ripple and dance.
Omphalos reached back,
coiling around him with ghostly support.

When Lane left to find his teammates,
the awareness faded almost at once,
too fresh to carry very far --
but he felt the lack of it, yes,
a little hollow opening under his heart
where his ship wanted to live.

His teammates hesitated to hope again,
but Lane coaxed and cajoled,
and Omphalos sent an invitation
which they did not want to be rude in rejecting,
so they all went back for another visit.

They played hexagram chess,
talked about military history
and current events around the galaxy.
Heart turned out to be a wonderful cook,
and a ship didn't offer to feed you
if they weren't pretty serious.

The whole team spent the night,
camping out on the floor of the round room
because choosing bedrooms sounded
too intimate for anyone's taste this early.

Heart woke everyone with breakfast anyway --
fresh bread with butter and honey,
savory bougatsa pastries, sliced fruit,
and a choice of hot milk or iced coffee --
which was so good that nobody cared
it was more than a bit forward.

The scent of the ship became familiar,
began to seep into them a little
as they spent more time together,
touching and letting go,
gently testing each other's affinity.

They were spiraling toward concordance,
all of them together now, with Lane
at the center because he had been
the first and the farthest along.

Then one day the captain clicked with Helm,
and suddenly it was real, was happening,
they were not just a team but a crew.

Lane chose his bedroom
and pressed his palm to the door plate
so the hiveship could recognize him.
The bond gave a pleasant shiver,
settling a little deeper inside him,
and if his hand trembled a bit in response,
well, the Omphalos never mentioned it.

* * *


This is Lane's current body.

Human bonding is a psychological and biochemical process, related to the affinity bonding that appears in this setting. There are ways to build a team and cement those bonds. Self-forming teams perform better, and are encouraged in some workplaces through clubs and other special-interest groups. Here you can see early hints of common ground in games and entertainment.

It helps to know how to meet new people and make friends.

Hexagram Chess is somewhat inspired by rule variations in Chinese checkers. Each color has four types of marble with different abilities. Plain ones (4) can only move one step, or hop over one adjacent marble (but can make multiple hops). Black-banded ones (3) can hop over a distant piece to a symmetrical position. Silver-banded ones (2) can hop over any symmetrical arrangement. Gold-banded ones (1) follow the rules for plain, except they capture any enemy piece that they hop over. The winner is the one who gets the most pieces into the opposite point of the hexagram.

Bougatsa pastries come from Greek breakfast cuisine, with assorted flavors including sweet cream or savory meat.

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2 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 14th, 2017 06:44 am (UTC) (Link)
I really enjoyed this. You have a flair for showing characters and relationships and shifts in them in a short amount of text. --alatefeline
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 14th, 2017 09:46 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you enjoyed those aspects.
2 comments or Leave a comment