Standing nearly a head over everyone, Matron walks to the circle with a flaming torch in hand. Her brown robes are crisp, almost militaristic in their cut and hang, and the flames reflect off of her hair in a way that it almost seems molten. Following only a few steps behind her, Julie is carrying a small box. As they reach the circle some part to make room for them.
Holding the torch aloft, “Once again we come to this circle to honor that which is to be honored, remember that which is to be remembered, seek that which is to be sought, and to enjoy all that is good. If any desire not to do these things or wish to disrupt those who do, step aside now, as to break this circle is the same as breaking the soul.”
A few of the younger ones looked around (trying but failing to be surreptitious about it), but no one moved. “Very well.” With grace, Matron tossed the torch into the wood pile and it lit up instantly. A wave of heat rolls over everyone for a moment as the initial fuel burns off, but it quickly cools.
“For those who have come before, we bring our greetings. For those who have yet to come (Matron pauses and gives Meshan a quick glance), we send our hopes. For those who are here, we give our welcome. As a body is made of many parts working in unison, so shall we all.” Matron pulls a knife from under her cloak. “In common defense, we wield the weapons of war.” She passes the knife to the person on her left, who passes it on.
“In common support, we wield the tools of industry.” A hammer comes from under the cloak and is passed in the same way.
“In aeons past, our ancestors roamed the stars at the bidding of others. Now we are at the bidding of none, free to do what we wish, where we wish, when we wish. Free from those who used us solely as tools, we have learned to be our own selves, to learn what we wish to learn, act as we wish to act. At first we wandered aimlessly, unsure of our newfound freedom. Some regressed to the ways of old. Many sought to repay old debts among the stars. Others remained to discover a new way of life. With little more than strength of the limbs, power of the mind, and fire of the heart, they searched many realms. And the search was not in vain.”
“The universe always rewards those who seek, and though the answers may not be those that we wish to hear, they are there for any who wish to find them. One must simply know how to speak with the universe. Just as some use tools of light, silicon, and metal to interpret the words of others, the universe has given us a tool to interpret its messages.” With that, Julie stepped forward, turning to stand before Matron. She holds the wooden box out and opens the top. Matron reaches in and pulls something out, but her hand has it completely enclosed. "Take its tool, learn what the universe has to share with you. In silence, Julie steps from person to person, moving clockwise. Each person reaches into the box and retrieves something that is inside, but just like Matron, they keep in completely in their hand.
Julie moves on, and just like the rest of the circle, everyone reaches in and takes a petal, keeping it in a closed fist. When she reaches her old spot, Julie closes the box and steps back into place. “Be it from a visit of those who have come before, lessons shared from those with us, or hints of those to come, let the universe speak.” Matron says. The rest of the circle repeats the last phrase (“Let the universe speak”), and in unison, everyone (except for Julie and the party) put the Flower of Life petal in their mouths and chew.
(Tammie): pop the petal in, shove it as high up in the cheek as possible, and mimic chewing
Despite the attempt to avoid ingesting the petal, simply having it in her mouth is enough to trigger the petal’s effects. The fire seems to grow brighter, and the flames begin to blur together into an amorphous shape. The eyes of the others start to glow in the pupils, and details that were hidden in the darkness appear as if it were daylight again. Up in the sky, stars drift from their place, rearranging themselves into new patterns that are unrecognizable to anyone who had never left Earth. Whispers start to reach Tammie’s ears, some bring on shivers, others are like the caress of a lover.
After a minute, the flames twist themselves into a shape, irregular at first, but eventually settles on the form of a man. With laughter, a ghostly girl comes running out of the flames, heading straight to Tammie. Reaching her, the girl wraps Tammie in a hug, but she feels nothing. Looking up at her, the girl has Tammie’s eyes, and with a smile runs back to the flames. Burning brighter again, the fire suddenly reaches out and engulfs Tammie, but just like the girl she feels nothing, not even the heat.
When the flames retreat, instead of standing in the ritual circle, Tammie is now standing in an endless field. Plants of innumerable types stretch out towards every horizon. In time, ghostly forms fade into existence, hunched towards the ground with harvesting tools gathering specific ones. One woman with a wide-brimmed hat and well-worn clothes looks at Tammie, and gives her a smile, and again this woman has Tammie’s eyes.
Looking up, the sky starts to blur, eventually twisting itself into the whorls of a fold jump. Back in reality, Knox stands up in surprise as Tammie starts to sway.
With the sky full of fold effect, the ground under Tammie starts to receded and the effect completely envelops her. Floating through space, she is alone and at the mercy of wherever the visions take her. In an instant though, the effect stops, the stars snapping back into position, though once again not in the familiar constellations. Floating in complete isolation among the stars, there is nothing. Then, from nowhere, “All is not as foreseen…” and a huge blinding light explodes in front of Tammie.
Taking minutes to fade, as her vision returns Tammie can see a glowing disk swirl around a minuscule void in the stars. A close inspection reveals two small dots drifting on the outskirts of the disk. Another small flash on the other side produces a new dot, which quickly gets trapped in the same disc.
Then from above, something large starts to pass her. Long and dark, the object fills the woman with dread. The front end glows red, and a beams lances out from it, blinding her again.
It was a good thing that Meshan was holding Tammie’s hand, as the healer’s legs give out just then and she nearly drops.
All throughout, Athena hears the occasional moan, but for the most part she just catches the barest hints of muttered conversation nearly drowned out by the crackling of the fire.
Over the next quarter of an hour, the people in the circle do nothing but make subtle motions or noises in reaction to whatever they were seeing. Matron waits patiently, and when the last of the hallucinations end she speaks again. “Thanks be to the Flower for allowing us to hear the Universe. Thanks be to the Universe for providing us with the Flower. Thanks be to the Mother for sharing the Flower with the Creator, and to him for sharing it with us. Remember what the universe had to say this night, for its secrets are meant to be revealed.”
Matron again produces the hammer. “The messages heard, the time for mutual support through industry begins again.” This time she passes it to her right. When it’s several people down she produces the knife. “The messages heard, the common defense through war renews.” The knife follows the hammer to the right. When they return to Matron she nods to Julie who steps backwards out of the light. “The messages heard, the causes resumed, let us return to our daily lives.” Matron steps back out of the light, and the others do as well, though in no particular order.
The Interpretation Thereof:
The man is the eventual father of Tammie’s child, and the ghostly girl is their daughter. The field of plants was the entire horticultural database for Earth, and the field hands were picking the useful plants. The older woman that had Tammie’s eyes was Tammie’s daughter now all grown up and following in her mother’s footsteps. The portion in space was Tammie witnessing the test detonation of a Neutron-S missile by the Deukalion and overseen by the SDF-3. She also witnessed the arrival of the Icarus, as well as the initial blow of the Haydonite Betrayal.
Of course, Tammie has no way of identifying the players in the space scene, but if someone who knows the ships reads her descriptions they’d be able to identify the UEEF ships.