The following day at Whitesky sees Ryoden back on her way to the Edge, wide awake and curious.
As she enters the Edge, Rax is waiting and guides her to an office in the back. Within Ishmaela sits in a chair, behind a neat desk. She smiles at Ryoden and says "Good day, Ryoden. Pull up a chair."
Ryoden grabs a chair and sits, her fingers nervously tapping its arms. "So, does this have something to do with the war? Or the conference? Or the demeons? Kieran and all them kept talking..." She stops herself, takes a breath, and starts over.
"Hello. How are you today?"
Ishmaela, an amused glint in her dark eyes, replies "I'm very well thank you. And in answer to your earlier question, this has nothing to do with the war as you think of it, the conference or demons." She grins "Does that help any?"
Ryoden shakes her head. "No. You just took out the three things I know something about out here, and left me with the rest of the infinite possibilities."
Ishmaela nods "Well, how are you at making things to support an exploration and potentially combatitive team? What possibilities do you see?"
Ryoden steeples her fingers and looks at something in the distance. "You'll need gear-- climbing, scaling... Transportation. I've got something in the shop for that now. Recording devices, audio, visual-- Environmental gauges. Robotic scouts. Communication systems and a home base for coordination. Radar and tracking..." She sinks into a tinkerer's reverie.
Ishmaela smiles and takes out a Trump. She concentrates and soon makes contact. Smiling back at the man in the picture, she grins and transmits *I have our engineer, brother dear, and such a one at that. Everything is in preparation?*
She listens to the response and nods, pleased. Bidding farewell, she puts the Trump away and breaks into Ryoden's reverie. "It is likely that the explorers would be dealing with a variety of environments, some hostile. Consider the team to have mixed levels of shapeshifting. Thoughts?"
Ryoden's eyes grow hazy as she thinks. "They'll need life support then, and the scouts will need danger sense abilities as well as the ability to calculate atmostpheric conditions. The ones with less shifting need more equipment to cope with sudden changes... Also, some laser and projectile weaponry... Guns, cross bows, machetes. Light sources, but I'd rather rely on infred red vision-- some googles can be made easily if the lesser shifters can't do it on their own." Her brows knit together, and she takes out a pad from her pocket and starts sketching.
Ishmaela asks "What would the suits be powered with, if I may ask? Just roughly."
Ryoden pulls out one of her minis, a water bomb. "Compression. Rarely messed with in shadow rules. Compresssed and tightly controled with valves, levers... Anything else can be powered by body movement, with excess going to a reserve battery." She sketches more in her notepad. "The scouts, though..." She grows quiet again, and massages her temples.
Ishmaela nods and replies "Good call. Now, if I may suggest so, perhaps you should take a break? I don't want to give you a headache on your second visit here after all, Ryoden."
"I'm fine, I'm fine," mutters Ryoden, not looking up. "Maybe add some living compontents? Seek and return, using winding techs? Maybe sugars? Sugars work alot of places. Or solar? No. Who explores in open areas...."
Ishmaela replies "The team may be, so don't dismiss it. Now, answer me a question. What do you think of Amber?"
Ryoden's head pops up, and she is silent for a moment. She slowly shrugs.
"I don't know. I've never been there. I know some things about it, though. It's far away. You can't get to it without some tricks. It's pretty. It has Amberites." She puts her pad on the desk and folds her hands on her lap. "Why?"
Ishmaela replies carefully "Because the team you will hopefully be working with after the conference may have Amberites included."
Ryoden perks up. "Really? Oh! Who? This is interesting! Are you going to be sending me with the team? I thought I'd just be tech support."
Ishmaela smiles "That's up to the team. I'm just pushing to have you as part of it, that's all."
Ryoden looks down. "Oh. I don't want to be a bother." She wrings her hands. "What are they exploring? And what's this 'potentially hostile' thing?"
Ishmaela chuckles and says "You're not being a bother, Ryoden. If you were, I'd tell you. As to the what, that will be fully explained later. Just remember the questions I've asked. That will give you a head start."
Ryoden nods. "I don't fight, you know. I'm terrible at it. I duck, I run, all the other things. That's why I made these." She pats her pocket and nods to the minibomb she gave to Ishmaela.
She rocks in her chair a bit. "I don't get to know, then?" She sighs. "You and Count Anthony would get along."
Ishmaela shakes her head "For what it's worth, you probably know more about this than most of the prospective team members. And I would advise learning how to defend yourself at the very least. These bombs aren't going to work everywhere."
Ryoden nods. "More than most places. They don't work off of explosives, but compression. Well, most, anyway. And I know a little bit about defense. How dangerous is this?" She looks suspicious. "Does Kieran and them know?"
Ishmaela nods "Kieran and your House know it is dangerous, but not to what degree. Few have met the potential enemy."
Ryoden frowns. "Have you? What is it like? I don't like agreeing to something on faith, you know."
Ishmaela's face grows reflective then she answers "Yes, a long time ago. Now a quick lesson. So far, I have been fairly forthcoming. This isn't standard behaviour in the Courts and is almost never the case in Amber. This is something you should have learned by now. If you want answers, you need to have something to trade."
The hairs on the back of Ryoden's neck prickle. She gave her things! She's going to make stuff for her, right?
Ryoden glowers. "I have plenty to trade. If you want me to work for you, I'm going to need information. If I don't get the whole picture, it could endanger your team. You want them to be hurt becuase you feel like holding back, then fine. But I won't be joining them unless I'm sure we'll be as safe as I can arrange."
Ishmaela replies "Lesson Two. Listen to what is being said. I never said you were working for me. What I did say was that I was recommending you to be included in this team. If you are included in the team, you will be fully briefed then and only then. Information is a commodity remember."
Ryoden is quiet for many minutes. She twists her hands nervously, wishing to be back in her lab.
"Okay. Why do you want to teach me these things? You barely know me."
Ishmaela smiles "That part is easy. I owe your mother a favour and you have potential."
Ryoden studies her feet. "What kind of potential? And what kind of favor are you paying back? What are your plans with me?" She studies Ishmaela with hooded eyes.
Ishmaela nods "Better. Now, tell me why I should give you these answers. What do you have to give me? Think of this as practise."
Ryoden takes a deep breath. "I can keep your people safe. I can make equipment for recording information that may escape regular notice. I can make exploring a strange clime easier." She says each word carefully, weighing its value. Slowly, she takes her pad back from the desk and puts it on her lap.
Ishmaela nods "Good. Think of it this way. Politics and diplomacy is a science like any other. It has its own rules. The people you may be mixing with may have no interest in politics. Others will and those others are the ones to be especially wary of."
Ryoden sighs. "There's no way to tell one from the other, is it?" She touches some of the sketches on her pad idly. "How are you returning a favor to my mother? Telling me these things? Taking me out?"
Ishmaela smiles warmly "Making sure you know what you'll be going into. Giving you a little advance knowledge, that kind of thing.. And no, there's no way other than experience to tell which way a person will favour."
Ryoden nods, and closes her pad. "You know I'm obligated to the conference..." She pauses, and considers. "Do you know anything about it? I'm sure I could find something to give you."."
Ishmaela shakes her head "I'm sure you could, but this is not something I'm willing to trade. Some of us are neutral and want to stay that way."
Ryoden starts. "I wonder what side I'm joining then?" She looks at the floor darkly. This world outside is less than pleasant. Maybe Kieran had the right idea.
Ishmaela pauses then says "It is my hope that this team can be neutral. It remains to be seen however whether it will or not."
"But, but--" Ryoden looks frustrated. "Everyone's picking sides, and I don't even know what we're fighting over! And you're the second person to try to pull me to their side, even if it is neutral, and noone wants to say what's going on and I hate it!" Her lip trembles. "And they tell me later, when I get there, when they know more, and all other sorts of things, and I _never_ find out what's going on!"
Ishmaela shakes her head "Ryoden, nobody in creation knows all of what is going on. Some know less, some know more, but nobody knows everything. And it is common for people to be guarded with information. You need to develop your own information sources and not rely on other people to tell you. If you rely on this alone, you open yourself up to be manipulated."
"Too late," mutters Ryoden. She sighs. "Alright, alright, I get it, I need to get out more... I know. And I mean to, just..." She looks down lamely. "Why's anyone care, anyway? I'm just an engineer. I could make toys as easily as weapons."
Ishmaela shrugs "No offence, Ryoden, but this applies to everyone, be they engineer, politician." She grins "Or thief. It's not you specifically. I'm teaching you about this because of the reasons I've given. Not for what you do."
Ryoden opens her pad and starts sketching again. "The games... Always games. I've lived alone for all my life, one person in my repetoire, and the first thing I learn out here is everyone is not as nice as they seem, there's always another secret, and no one's really you friend. I might as well have stayed in my lab and talked to my bots. I'm just as alone here as there." She bites a lip, but keeps drawing.
Ishmaela shakes her head "Sometimes people are as nice as they seem, but you're right to be wary. And people can still be friends despite that, sometimes very good friends at that."
Ryoden seems to be near tears, and draws furiously. "I don't want to go through a host of people only to find the few-- I'm going to retire to shadow and make toys. I quit." She grimances. "I've been used all my life and just found out about it and I'm not all that pleased... Forgotten. Misplaced." The tip of her pencil breaks as she drives it in the paper, and she bursts out in tears.
Ishmaela moves round the desk and draws the sobbing girl to her, patting her back soothingly "I was lost too as a little girl and it took a very, very long time for my family to contact me even though they knew where I was for a long time. Life is exploration, Ryoden, the good and the bad, and the good parts make it all worthwhile. Trust me."
Ryoden sniffles and tries to calm herself. She straitens up and wipes her eyes. "I'm okay." Her hand shakes, but she stills it. "I had a tough day yesterday. I'm better now. Now, what do you want from me? I have to go in a few days, so we might want to have a few things set up." She pauses. "I'm talking about specifics."
Ishmaela smiles "The only thing I wanted from you was for you to be ready for what lies ahead. That's all. And I think you will be now."
"Ahead." Ryoden's voice becomes soft. "What is ahead? Are you talking about the conference?" She wrings her hands. "Am I in danger? Is Chaos?"
Ishmaela quietly says "I'm talking about your life outside of House Minobee, about any work you may need to do with others. As far as I know, neither you nor Chaos are currently in danger."
Ryoden wrings her hands. "Fine, then. I'll be leaving, as I said." She pauses. "I'll be careful." She puts her pad away. "When do you want the stuff for your team? I can't take my lab with me, but I might be able to set something up there." She laughs, a bit hoarsly. "I don't even know the name of where I'm going."
Ishmaela smiles "That I can tell you. Avalon initially and specifically, Tintagel, its capital city."
There is a knock on the door and Ishmaela bids the person to enter. Rax enters and says "Lady, there is a woman here to see you, brought by Lotus Arkani. The woman brings a message."
Ishmaela nods "Direct her to me please, Rax."
After Rax leaves, Ishmaela turns to Ryoden "Would you like to stay? This may be informative to you."
Ryoden nods, and rubs her face, trying to get rid of any hint of her outburst. "I'll stay. Do you know who it is?"
Ishmaela shakes her head "Not a clue. Should be interesting to see who it is and what they want. Sometimes a lot of information can be gained from what people don't want."
Next: Meetings Before Leaving