Day Three — Who are you?

“Have you seen my notes?” Humon asked, shuffling the pads on Lily’s desk. Lily lifted her eyes from the mound of packages, reminders and party decorations that had been slowly accumulating around her ever since they got the blessed news the Bonding Ceremony was going to be celebrated on Terra Two.

Her maternal desire to be of assistance to her eldest daughter was fighting an older, more personality specific urge to dump everything at once and take a trip to a region of space she hadn’t visited before. She realized, while thinking this, that there were no regions she’d never seen, and strained her overwhelmed mind to figure out if and where she saw Humon’s work. She jerked, aggravated.

“Why would your work be in my office? Does this look like a room where one brings more stuff?” she gestured broadly, to draw attention to the epic mess that surrounded her. The couch, chairs, tables, desk, floor and book shelves were completely covered with a variety of items that would have challenged even sister Roberta’s imagination, everything from fabric samples for the drapery to a hundred or more VR exhibits that Sys decided to produce in a moment of free time, all awaiting Lily’s review and decision making. Most of the items fit in the “just a thought” category, and their timing was way off, considering that the flowers, decorations, activities, audio-visual effects and food choices had already been submitted to the Third and Second Circle for approval, and as such, were set in stone.

“Yes, actually! It looks like everybody is bringing all of their stuff here,” Humon attempted humor, not very well received under the circumstances. “Have you?”

“No!” Lily snapped. “Are you done with your tasks? Why are you doing anything else? We only have twenty one days left until the Ceremony!” she raised her voice slightly, only to reveal that her irritation was veiling a terrible case of stage fright. She paused, while Humon kept searching for his notes, as if he didn’t hear her.

“I don’t want this ceremony to be a reenacting of Lelia’s birth, that was mortifying enough for one person!” she prodded, annoyed at his lack of urgency.

“It’s not going to be, please relax, it’s all going to be fine! Everything is already chosen and approved, I don’t even know what you’re fussing about! What is all this stuff?” he deigned to answer, not lifting his eyes from the pile he was scanning. “Aha! Here you are!” he picked the offending notepad and raised it above his head, triumphantly.

“You are not serious! You can’t be serious! Who brought that here!” Lily lost her famous diplomatic composure and jumped from her desk, overturning a couple of boxes and bows that were hanging precariously over the edge. “Do you want to know what all of this stuff is? Sister Roberta wants me to try out her AV improvements every two hours, even though I told her that nothing will be changing going forward. Sarah needs me to untangle her ribbons! She wants me to untangle ribbons!” Lily exploded, appalled by the absurdity of the task. She continued. “Seth made a non-negotiable last minute change to the kitchen staff, sister Mary-Francis objects to the lavender gauze, because lavender is not her favorite color, and she decided to provide me with alternatives, so that I can be persuaded that she is right. Did I mention that the Second Circle specifically required lavender, because it helps the ultra violet spectrum reverberate in ways essential to the success of the fusion cloud? And yes, I did tell her that, every time she showed up with a new color sample! Sister Joseph wants the dragons to be part of the ceremony, I don’t think I need to explain why this is a guaranteed disaster. Sister Benedict wishes me to be more involved in editing the speeches the sisters have prepared, none of which are ever good enough. Hours and hours of editing and refining, every day more red lines! One wonders why she doesn’t do it herself, since she obviously has the critical eye and the higher standards, but apparently it would be unforgivable if I was left out! Should I go on?” she said, exasperated.

“Please do! It’s just getting entertaining,” Humon encouraged her, seriously.

“Can you drop the Zen facade for a minute and act like a human being?!” Lily retorted.

“But I’m not a human being, my dear. Why should I?” he said, amused.

“I’m done!” Lily bolted for the door, determined to find that portion of space she hadn’t visited before and move there. Humon caught her half way to the door and burst into laughter.

“Sit down, please,” he cajoled. “Really, sit. Breathe,” he encouraged, waiting for the wild fire in Lily’s eyes to subside before he continued his argument.

“I’ve been in the cloud for two thousand years, do you think I would have stayed sane if I didn’t learn how to circumvent administrative bulk? Why do you think I left? They can drive a saint mad with the never ending hierarchy of approvals!” he tried to explain.

“They don’t even listen! They never listen! It’s as if I’m on a one way phone line! Can you talk to some of them, at least?” she asked hopefully.

“No, ma’am! I wouldn’t dream of it! What makes you think they’d be willing to listen to me? I’m doing my best to keep out of sight until the ceremony, I don’t want to give them an opportunity to throw busywork at me. You know how I revile doing things of no consequence,” he turned to Lily.

“I hate busywork too! Why am I stuck with it?” she yelled.

“Two reasons: one — you are the consular liaison and the master of ceremony and two — you haven’t learned how to dodge them yet,” he laughed, with a relaxed attitude that drove Lily nuts.

“You know what? Everything is already decided, so I don’t see what stops me from taking a little trip to Vlor to do some cliff jumping,” she said in a tone that was too calm to bode anything good.

“I wouldn’t go there right now,” Humon responded calmly. “My principal progenitors, the Tagas Cloud, have been asking me for days if you could join them for a ten day summit with the Second Circle bonding committee to review procedure and selections for the already approved cloud assembly. I used all my persuasive ability to direct their attention away from you,” he smiled.

“Join them for a what!?” Lily’s temper bubbled over again.

“Calm down, the Second Circle must summon a special session to discuss the necessity of your presence, and only after the issue is agreed upon they will present it to the Sim­plex for approval. If I were to bet, I’d say this should take more than twenty one days,” he continued.

“How can you be so calm?” Lily asked him with a stare devoid of emotion.

“There’s nothing new under the sun, I believe you say? This too shall pass,” he answered.

“But I don’t want this to just pass, this is our daughter’s most important moment, I want it to be a joyful one, for all of us!” she objected.

“And it will be, trust me. The Bonding Ceremony is something so extraordinary in a cloud’s existence that nothing in the universe can spoil it. It is…” he hesitated, not finding his words, and for a poet that was something very special indeed. Throughout their marriage Lily had never found Humon at a loss for words.

“Transcendent.”

As if on queue, the moment passed, and all the noises and the shuffle that drove Lily out of her mind resumed, in a chaotic maelstrom of cat hisses, thuds and yells. Sisters Felix and Novis burst through the door simultaneously, speaking over each other and carrying boxes with yet to be revealed improvements for the festivities. Behind them walked Sarah, dragging her feet and still feeling guilty about the outburst she had had the other day. In lieu of an apology she let Lily know that Amber needed a bath because Ael had spilled milk on her, then offered assistance with whatever still needed done and left before Lily had an opportunity to answer.

Vlor Consular Mission of Airydew, Terra Two, July 5th, 3245

My lovely Lelia,

You often made me tell you the story of your birth and I am always happy to remember it, there were times when I didn’t think your existence was even possible. Isn’t it miraculous how life always finds a way to defy its boundaries, even when every physical parameter counts against it?

When I found out I was pregnant with you I didn’t know what to expect, I just assumed that in nine months Humon and I would have a bouncy baby girl and planned accordingly. At the end of the eighth month everything was ready, due to Sys’s tireless efforts and the sisters’ endless doting, so I mentally prepared, I took long walks, I sat and waited, and nothing happened. When the forty first week ended we went to the obstetrician, who assessed that we are both in splendid health, congratulated me again and refrained from making any predictions regarding a due date.

We went home and waited some more. Months passed, during which we reorganized the nursery several times, finished the research and created the curriculum for a new class at the Institute, took several exploration trips to various planets (just the ones Purple and the sisters considered safe) and set up the administrative team for a couple of Vlor consulates across the galaxy.

After a while I started to worry that you were never going to be born, and I’ll just keep carrying you forever, and in a strange way after so many months have passed, I’d gotten used to the idea.

The mission on Terra Two was well established and when your father was called to Vlor for an organizational issue I decided to “accompany” him there (I say that because he didn’t really have to transport there, only I did), to revisit some of my favorite sites, a little disappointed that the option of cliff jumping was not available under the circumstances.

I barely touched foot on the planet and labor started. I was completely unprepared to watch your solid form get born separately from your cloud and reassemble after birth, in puffs of wisp still tentative and drawing strength and substance from the multitude of Vlor beings which gathered spontaneously for your cloud assembly.

Your Vlor grandparents are still distraught that they didn’t have a chance to plan or announce your Assembly to their covalent clouds, as tradition requires, nor did they have the time to research and put together a well chosen selection of progenitors, and had to leave your composition to chance and God’s mercy. Not only that, but your make-up contains a significant percentage of the Humon cloud, which is simply not done in Vlorian culture, where principal progenitors pride themselves in not taking up valuable capacity, to ensure that the shares of the esteemed clouds selected to enhance their progeny are not restricted in any way.

I didn’t know that clouds could not be born anywhere other than on Vlor, and could have had my prediction about carrying you until the end of time validated if it weren’t for that chance trip I took with your father. Fortunately this little piece of information served both me and your sister Ael well, because everything for her birth was planned and scheduled to the last detail, to every cloud’s relief, your father’s included.

Your grandparents went through a painstaking process after the fact to establish your lineage and attempt to figure out where you would fit into the Cloud Simplex, and believe me when I say that creative assemblies like yours are a little challenging to accommodate in any of the Circles.

What was missing in protocol during the Assembly was more than made up in the following joyous celebration that brought together all of Humon’s and your covalent connections, basically half the population of Vlor. In all the commotion, sister Joseph and sister Sarah ran back and forth to Terra Two to bring the little necessities that newly assembled clouds don’t normally need — clothing, diapers, a crib, bathing facilities, until they finally got tired and brought Sys to make stuff up on the spot as needed.

After the ceremony I was terrified that taking you away from Vlor would damage you in some way, a completely irrational thought, I know, considering your father and all the clouds in the diplomatic mission had lived on Terra Two for centuries, none the worse for wear. It took Humon all his powers of persuasion and the sisters’ absolute ‘cross my heart and hope to die’ assurances to convince me to bring you back home.

I had very little information about how Vlorian education works, with knowledge being imparted by means of gene sharing, so when at the age of three you corrected the official translation on one of the embassy’s live communiques, I almost choked on my own tongue. Your translation was however correct, and saved us a potentially uncomfortable blunder, but convinced me that it would be a good thing after all if you started school early, and the age of three seemed to be the perfect age.

Your sister was born four years later, to your great delight and curiosity, and that required a trip to Vlor for the entire family, including you, of course, during which you took me and your little baby sister to every place your progenitor clouds ever loved, to show me their beauty and familiarize me with their history. I got into a full blown panic when you changed states and joined the Simplex Cloud for an impromptu session, and took your baby sister with you, because no matter how hard I try and no matter how many times I experienced you doing it, this puff of smoke thing of yours is always disquieting.

Well, I think I have to wrap this up, baby, I’m so behind with the preparations, your pro­to-progenitor clouds have sent an extensive list of requirements regarding protocol and we’re not in compliance with any of them, so now I have to almost start from scratch, thank God for Sys, she’ll pick up the bulk of the work and any surprises that may come in the later hours, but I don’t want to concern you with these mundane details, my sweet, just concentrate on the selections for your Bonding, it is one of the most important moments of your life.

I’ll have to go now, your sister spilled milk on the cat, and she is not pleased, the cat, not the sister, love you, bye.

Mom

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When you have given your love and attention to your family and friends, it will still be overflowing, so pay attention to the ideals you care about, to the people whose needs call out to you, to the human race, to the universe itself.

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