Rumika has joined the Circle, and the ripples of change are spreading fast. Kris is still celebrating their victory, but not everyone is as happy about it as Ojo. The clouds are gathering…

After the epic Gauntlet, Trade Deal is a lull – a dangerous lull, threatening storms just around the corner. Kris is enjoying their new position as Warder, and has quickly struck a deal with Ojo to sell aerstone to Quloo. But my fears about their abilities as a politician are well-founded: Kris is a dappy labrador, quick to make friends and heedless of common sense. As the representative of Rumika, they need to know when to guard their tongue – and Kris is about as discreet as a tabloid.

Whereas Ojo agonises over whether he has revealed too much of Quloo’s desperation for aerstone – even Adechike isn’t aware of quite how acute their situation is – Kris’s tongue flaps in the wind after a couple of drinks. But what can possibly go wrong from talking loudly in public about highly secret industrial processes that could change the balance of power in the world?

KRIS NO.

We can all see what’s coming here – it’s been signposted in previous episodes, and this week it’s painted liberally across the walls in case anyone missed it or forgot about it during the excitement of the Gauntlet. There’s a storm coming for Rumika, and I suspect their newfound position in the world – and their sinking allies – will be sorely tested.

Across town, Michiko continues to wrestle with her conscience and her ancestors. I love the ritual of summoning the dead, although I have mixed feelings about the idea of keeping our dead with you throughout your life. After all, you don’t get to pick your family – and for Michiko at least, their advice is tempered by undying expectations she can never escape. However, in some respects the fact that the dead have violently opposed opinions seems like a good thing – it’s forcing Michiko to think long and hard about her situation and her options – and to make her own decisions. It’s seems increasingly clear that she’s not really done this before. She’s accepted what she’s been taught and been a dutiful daughter, excelling at what she has turned her hand to. Now she must question who she really is and how she wishes to live her life – knowing full well that her decision will have difficult consequences she will have to live with. Does she fear Lavinia more than she hates the Mertikans’ naked aggression and scorn? Time will tell, but I hope so.

The Mertikans continue to do an excellent job of being the world’s colonial bullies, superior in their privilege and hateful in every way. I’ll be honest, I’d like a little more nuance here – I keep wondering if we’ll get it from Bellona, but while we get the occasional flash of humanity from her (it turns out she likes to go dancing), it’s swamped each time by arrogance and spite.

Thank heavens for Takeshi, the bashful Ikaran with the many and varied interests. There’s a definite spark between him and Kris, and a possibility of alliance for Michiko – if she can get past her fears – but most interesting is the discovery that Takeshi has no birthright. The birthrights have been fascinating me from the start, but this is our first hint that they are not a given in this odd floating world. Takeshi’s desire to study and understand them strikes me as being as difficult and dangerous (should he succeed) as Rumika’s aerstone refining process.

So: lots of pieces being put in place this week for what I suspect will be a tumultuous mid-season episode in Spiralling

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