Away From Home

by John Grey

In a seaside town, the ocean’s calm but the air is frisky.

After a day of pleasure, the night is not one for melancholy.

Time changes, shifts on the blue and orange horizon.

But the mood remains, is heightened in fact.

Sure it’s a regular occurrence here, like the feel

of sand underfoot, the waves integrating with bare toes.

But to the two us, every difference from our regular lives

is magnified, romanticized and, finally, infused with passion.

We get a sense that this dark is not like other darkness.

It goes too well with stripping off bathing suits,

hanging them on the balcony railing.

It has a taste for wine and cheese and crackers,

for huddling together on the couch, facing a television

that’s not been switched on since we got here.

And sex is never far from its thoughts,

the slow, comfortable kind, that knows

the people it’s dealing with, who tickle toes,

rubs knees, run hands over thighs, whose lips

kiss the newness of where they’ve been before.

Naked bodies, unchecked desire, honest appetite

–away from home, the dark is more revealing,

much more like light in fact.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and the Round Table. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon.

The Fate Of Words

by John Grey

Within this pen,

some words are confused,

don’t know what they’re doing there.

They just don’t belong together

but are being squeezed into sentences

one after the other,

without sense, without rhythm,

without any kind of rhyme.

Then they’re on the page,

with nowhere to hide,

and being bandied about before anyone who cares enough to read them.

They can’t erase themselves.

They can’t squeeze back through the ballpoint, drown their sorry beings in ink.

From this point on, they’re open to all eyes, all interpretations.

They’re a long way from the dictionary.

They’ve left their true meanings behind.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and the Round Table. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon.

Kryos: Chapter 25

Previous chapter

Ermin Gild cursed as he bumped into the thick paneled doorframe, gently massaging his mending re-gelled shoulder as he strode to the spacious, dim-lit confines of the Reiks Consortium Boardroom where a sluggish tranquil tune wafted from the omni-directional wall-laced audio system. Lyrics vanished from mind moments after their inarticulate utterance. The Chancellor sat the head of the dark table in the wide, circular, ornately furnished chamber, the rest of the board, Telfyr Vays, Galton Raka, Ponos Akantha, Julian Salis and Garlan Hayl, in their usual positions, their visages suggestive of boredom, fear and frustration. The chair opposite The Chancellor, conspicuously empty.

Eidos Kryos was absent.

Footfalls from the recently departed secretaries reverberated upon the polished floor beyond the high, sheer double doors which adorned both sides of the silver and charcoal council chamber. Hayl shifted uncomfortably in his stiff, high-backed chair as Vays incessantly tapped his nails upon the table until a withering look from Raka cajoled an uneasy, sullen interlude, populated by anxious glaces and failing stoicism.

At length, the Chancellor sighed, massaged her temple and turned to Gild with a pleading expression. “Can you turn off that soporific dirge, please?” Gild nodded and began manipulating his left-wrist-bound affin module with his right hand with practiced ease, in short order silencing the speakers. The Chancellor stopped rubbing her brow and addressed the gathering. “We don’t have time to waste. Let’s begin.”

Salis cleared his throat, prompting a raise of brows from The Chancellor and a exasperated sigh from Ponos Akantha.

“Something on your mind, Mr. Salis?” The Chancellor inquired perfunctorily.

“This is a serious decision, perhaps the most serious one we’ve made since the incursion. We ought to wait until he-“

The great cavity’s lights flickered hastily and went out, plunging the council members into darkness. The occupants fell silent, stiffening, party to an inexplicably stifling sensation. Seconds later, power returned to the circular borealis, revealing the dark-garbed form of a lithe man, standing astutely before the table. Immaculate and pale as statuary. Wordlessly, the entrant moved to the table and sat opposite The Chancellor, heliodoric eyes unblinking, void of perturbation.

“Mr. Gild. I am pleased to see you in fair health. How’s the shoulder?”

“Well. Thank you, Sir.”

The Chancellor raised herself up in her high-backed seat, meeting the fastidious industrialist’s xanthous gaze. “Mr. Kryos. You’re late.”

Eidos Kryos adjusted his dark soigné attire and methodically surveyed the occupants, pallid skin and back-swept pitched hair ethereally glossed by the faint azure ring-lights above.

“I trust you will find the magnanimity to forgive me. I was preoccupied by the sudden detention of my colonel.”

The Chancellor leaned slightly over the table, suppressing a scowl, annoyed by the subtle chastisement. “You were afforded ample opportunity to cooperate. You declined.”

Kryos sat motionlessly, looking at the silver-haired woman before him as a biologist might a well known specimen.

“I declined only to defame my officer, who is guiltless of the crimes of which he has been convicted in the court of public opinion. A conviction which may be replicated in the court of law. A conviction you have done nothing to contend and much to bolster.”

The Chancellor’s mouth pressed to a firm line.

“You’ve seen what its like out there,” Raka employed mournfully. “The city is turning into a warzone.”

“An insane asylum would be a more accurate comaprison.” Vays scoffed.

“Maybe so,” the Security Commissioner continued. “Something must be done.”

“Detaining my men will not quell the violence, Mr. Raka. No more than a garden hose would expunge a forest fire. You capitulated to the pack. Their demands will escalate and multiply.”

“Enough of this prevarication. Chancellor, the proposal.” Ponos snapped with an exasperated tilt of her garishly painted head.

“Yes, best out with it,” Hayl declared with an arch of ashen brows.

“Very well,” The Chancellor replied gravely, “You’ve heard of the East Federation envoy’s incarceration in connection with your recent tribulation.” Kryos inclined his head in affirmation. “The Bureau is furious. They’re threatening sanctions if we don’t release him. I don’t have to tell you the damage that would cause, to our supply chains, to our reputation.”

“There could even be war.” Hayl warned with considerable animation.

“I don’t think there is much chance of that,” Salis cut in. “The federation is not mad. They’d not go to war over a minor functionary.”

“We must not disregard the possibility, however unlikely.” Vays declared firmly. “Don’t forget, the envoy’s connected to federation nobility. An old and well connected family with deep pockets and an inordinate amount of pride.”

“Quite so. Consequently, we have come to a decision that accommodation must be made with The Bureau. A peace offering.”

Kryos raised his head minutely. “The envoy’s freedom. And?”

“Your aerospace complex.”

Kryos remained silent a long moment after The Chancellor finished speaking, his eyes closed, head tilted to the side, as if in suppression of a swallowing pain. At length, he slowly opened his eyes and spoke with steely taciturnity.

“Every erg of that facility belongs to me.”

“You seem able only to think of yourself. This suffering afflicts us all.”

“Man cannot reforge himself without suffering, for he is both anvil and ingot. And steel cannot be folded with cotton wool.”

The council members listened in perplexity, whereupon Kryos paused, his brow creasingly slightly. “Ah. I understand. That’s clever.”

The Chancellor twined and untwined her fingers nervously. “What?”

“The reason I chose Central for the complex was due to the Mayoral Council’s urging. They wanted to share in the rewards they knew it would bring to their deteriorating economy. Your deteriorating economy. The facility’s success allowed me the leverage necessary to establish the KSRU in the region. To stabilize it. If I am no longer the proprietor of the Central Complex, the Council is unlikely to tolerate the KSRU’s presence, and would swiftly demand their removal, if not enforce it outright. And so, in giving my facility to The Federation, you simultaneously assuage The Bureau and rid yourself of further public relations tangles arising from my men. This is uncharacteristically underhanded of you. I induce collaboration.”

Vays broke in forthrightly, “It was Astrid Sodabrucke. My agents tell me it came by way of her advisor, Illander Rehdon.” The Chancellor shot the speaker a brief scowl and then returned her attention to the dark garbed industrialist.

“You will be duly compensated.”

“I already recieve due compensation.”

“Eidos… It would be preferable if you don’t fight me on this.”

“For who?”

“I don’t like it,” Salis cut in dourly, “I don’t like it at all. We shouldn’t be rewarding The Bureau for their outrage. What signal does that send? And, what’s to say it won’t be our property next? Vays’ refineries or my relays and fueling stations? No. I can’t support it.”

“We shall put the matter to a vote. All in favor?”

All raised voices in “aye” save for Vays, Salis and Kryos.

Kryos leaned back, surveying the grim faces of his fellow council members, his eyes narrowing.

“This facility is the only of its kind in the history of the world. The ship which it houses is the product of over thirty years of research. Men have died to see this work completed. I shall not betray their blood as they shall not betray my dream.”

When none spoke he inclined his head, as if in contemplation. The lights flickered once more. His telesoma distorting.

“Where are you going?”

“I resign. Effective immediately.”

The Chancellor’s face fell.

“You can’t just resign.”

“As if there wasn’t bad press enough,” growled Raka, tossing up his hands, “You saddle us with more!”

“Your petty way of condemning us?” Akantha queried snidely.

“Such a gesture would be superfluous.”

The chamber fell to darkness as Kryos turned toward the garish woman, who shrunk anxiously away.

“You have already condemned yourselves.”

When the power resumed, Kryos was gone.

Kryos: Chapter 24

Previous chapter

The woman who called herself Sia Kandor tested the strength of the slender, metallic restraints about her delicate hands and glared at the large masked man strapped to the opposite side of the windowless cargo hold of the automated Security Commission mag-ray. The way before the vehicle was smooth, and the interior was silent, save a subtle jangling and the whir of the wheels until the woman spoke.

“If you’d not deceived me, neither of us would be in chains.”

“A woman working under a false name complains of deception.”

She tilted her head up with haughty ire. “Says a man wearing a mask.”

“A mask is not a lie.”

“Its an obfuscation.”

“So is a medical dressing. A wrap obscures a wound, yet signals a wound’s existence.”

“What are you on about?”

The man reached toward his helm, methodically unlatched the face plate and slowly removed it. The woman’s mouth parted at the sight of his face. She looked on in fascination and horror.

“Gods below. What happened to you?”

“Seven years ago I was tasked with securing an Aestival stronghold in the city. My team made easy entry. Seemed abandoned. Foolishly, I let my guard down, wandered from my team and removed my helmet to get a better look at some schematics laying on a table. Designs for a bomb, more potent than anything the terrorists had previously deployed. The next instant, a man flew from the darkness and showered me with acid. He escaped with the plans and I was left,” he gestured at his visage, “Like this.”

He raised the face plate back to the helmet and latched it in place with a muted click.

“Why do you care about any of this?”

“Any of what?”

“About Hastings and her benefactor.”

“So, as I suspected, someone put her up to it. Who?”

“You gave over seven years of your life and your face to this city, what has it provided in return? Nothing but the hatred of the masses. Did you hear what they were saying about you last night on Vis?”

“Tell me about Hastings’ benefactor.”

“It must be galling, to see how much of a media darling Kleiner has become. How they shower him in praise and you in execration.”

“Tell me about Hastings’ benefactor,” the man repeated without perturbation.

The woman somnolently shook her head.

“Your situation is grim enough.”

“You’ll talk eventually. If not to me, than to the Consortium.”

“You’re thoroughly mistaken, Colonel.”

The road became bumpy, a cacophony of voices beyond the hold and somewhere further away a Security Commission siren rang.

“Why?”

The woman leaned against the cold metal wall and spoke as one before the gallows.

“Because, very soon, the Consortium will cease to be.”

Next chapter

Kryos: Chapter 23

Previous chapter

Ryard and Sirin led two captives before them as the third prisoner was dragged by the fishmonger’s drone upon a collapsable gurney across the pavement of the residential thoroughfare. Red light crested the horizon as the wind picked up, howling like a mad god between the tight, twisting spires of the southern block’s industrial district, that opened before the weary party to a massive clearing enclosed by a high wall, patrolled by armored guards visible through magnesium aluminate encased embrasures, behind which rose the enormous, angular facade of KSRU Headquarters. A large motley crowd stood before the outer wall, waving placards and homemade signs, shouting and chanting against the institution with chaotic fervor. Someone had erected a polymer effigy of Acelin Syzr, hands stained with ersatz blood, to the left of the portal-bound path. A few members of the agitated mass slammed their fists vainly against the broad, flat gate of the barbican. A newly assembled cacograph on the gate read ‘murdrers.’

Ryard scryed the crowd and hesitated before the wide, low-walled monochrome lane which let up to the outer gate of the crowded defensive perimeter, face heavy with exhaustion and apprehension. Sirin halted beside her companion and pressed a small button upon the side of her helm.

“Captain Raimer, do you copy?”

“Copy, Corporal. At the gate?”

“Just got back. Crowd appears volatile. Need space cleared for entry.”

“Understood. Standby.”

“Afraid of your own people, fawner?” The red tattooed man sneered to the CAV-keep over his shoulder with a clatter of metallic restraints.

“As you are aware, electricity will flood your body if you stray over twenty feet from me,” Sirin interjected flatly, “What you may be unaware of is that this corrective measure can be initiated manually.” She nodded to Ryard. “He inveigned against it. Continue in your petulance and he might change his mind.” The prisoner scowled at the woman before looking to Ryard uncertainly, then to the seething mass before the imposing alabaster wall.

Ryard and Sirin led their captives up the wide paved incline as a squad of plated KSRU officers wielding burnished alumina shields emerged from the barbican and swiftly cordoned off the entrance. Eyes and veins bulging, the mob screamed, cursed and spat at the armored agents, some throwing objects to hand, pieces of detritus recovered from the nearby processing plants. A few attempted to break the cordon, but were, with little effort pushed back by the white clad auxiliary officers.

When the wrathful multitude had been suppressed, the party passed through the division in the sea of bodies to the interior of the partition as the shielded guards closed the gate behind them. In the courtyard, the wayfarers were met by the dark-haired Captain, Jean Raimer, whose tan, perpetually displeased visage Ryard recalled from his previous visit. Sirin bolted upright and saluted, holding the pose until the gesture was returned. The Captain removed his helmet and held it in the crook of his arm as he surveyed the bound trio and their sleepless captors.

“Pleased to see you made it through safely. Crowds been at the gate for hours. Corporal, take our new guests to processing. Raffin will need your statement on the,” he gestured to the reavers, “Incident.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Come with me, Mr. Vancing.”

“You look worried. Is something wrong?”

“Just come with me.”

Ryard left Sirin and the barbican retinue in perplexity and accompanied Raimer to the citadel, passing beyond the lobby and great hall to a spacious, dimly lit study on the second floor where Tyser Lanning and Vera Straker waited. Lanning paced nervously beside a bookshelf while Straker sat a desk in the back of the smokey room, a small sediment filled tray before her, thick with discarded cigarette stubs.

“You wanted to see me?” Ryard queried after a lengthy silence.

The woman gestured hastily to two chairs before her paper piled desk. “Take a seat. You too, Captain.”

Raimer and Ryard settled into the two chairs before the desk, the latter folding his hands in his lap, leaning forward expectantly.

“Where’s The Colonel?” Ryard asked, curiosity and impatience overwhelming his tact.

Straker adjusted her austere white garb and took a long drag on her cigarette, her expression grim and exhaled before addressing the gathering.

“What I am about to say does not leave this room.”

Raimer nodded. Ryard looked around, confused. “What happened?”

“Yesterday, at Consortium Hall, a one Rachael Ryan Hastings made an attempt on Eidos Kryos’ life.”

Ryard bolted upright.

“She, unsurprisingly, failed, and was dispatched by Ermin Gild’s security detail. Mr. Kryos does not attend meetings in person, but communicates through a telesomatic interface, which is, to the naked eye, indistinguishable from a real person. A precautionary measure. Clearly, the would-be assassin did not know this or the attempt would not have taken place. We presently have only one lead concerning the case. You asked about The Colonel, Mr. Vancing. He went to follow up this lead directly. Danzig Kleiner, the man who attacked Casja Fawnell had a peculiar weapon on him during his encounter with Colonel Syzr. A sychitin blade. So did the assassin. The Colonel believes the supplier for Kleiner and Hastings are one and the same. If so, its possible the merchant or merchants responsible for dispensing the blades knows who commissioned the assassination, if they themselves were not responsible.”

“I see.”

“There’s more. Last night, Casja Fawnell was struck by a vehicle along the Kiflin Line CAV-way.” Straker met Ryard’s gaze, her own melancholic. “She was killed instantly.”

Ryard’s mouth parted. He leaned back in the chair, staring at nothing. For half a minute, no one spoke.

“I… I just spoke with her. She was going public…” Ryard tensed and jolted forward, anger shining in his eyes. “Was it Kleiner?”

Lanning shook his head. “Just a freak accident.”

“We don’t know that for certain,” Straker cautioned.

“What else could it be?” Raimer interjected flippantly.

Lanning moved to stand before the tinted window of the study as dawn broke above the spires beyond, rain smattering pane and sill. “She went to eat with a friend at a restaurant in the mid-tier called ‘Harborage,’ adjacent to the line. When she left, she must have taken her time on the crosswalk, maybe got distracted, and was hit by an inbound lev-han headed for the market district.”

“Who was the friend?”

“Dunno. Haven’t been able to ID the person from the available footage.”

“There’s a recording?”

“Yeah.”

“How do you have access to recordings from private premises?”

“All private feeds connected to Affinity Network are accessible by the Security Commission district substations. However, approval of access can’t legally be granted by the Commission. Normally, citizens are only allowed to view feeds with the assent of both the associated surveillance company and the individual or individuals that hired them. Unrestricted district-wide access was part of our arrangement with the mayoral convention.”

“May I see it?”

Lanning looked to Straker who nodded slowly.

Next chapter

Kryos: Chapter 22

Previous chapter

The man sat in shadow before a plain table illuminated by a slanted ray of mute, dawn-borne light from a thick pane to the right of the sprawling, vacated warehouse. Hands upon his knees. Head bowed as one in prayer. Rain rhythmically resounded upon the polymer roof. He listened. Waited. Footsteps reverberated. Polymer on pavement. A feminine gait. A middle aged woman approached, cautiously and confidently making way between the high cargo containers, hands in jacket pockets, visage blanched with boredom. She stopped some twenty feet from the man, voice echoing through the mote splayed monument to industry.

“You were asking about me.”

“You are Sia Kandor.”

The woman tilted her head. “Why are you sitting in the dark?”

“You are also Vanessa Clare West.”

“And you would be?”

The man removed a thick blade from his dark overcoat and set it upon the table in the rain muted beam of light. The woman observed the weapon coolly before speaking.

“A prospective buyer. You sold this to a man. Later, a woman.”

“An expensive item. Too expensive for a man wearing a threadbare coat.”

The man slowly removed a package from his jacket and set it upon the table beside the weapon. The woman moved to stand directly before the table and observed the packet.

“Five more.”

“Four.”

The woman nodded. “Your offer is… acceptable. But before we proceed, you should know I didn’t come here alone.”

“Neither did I.”

A Consortium klaxon roared in the near distance. The woman flinched as an amplified voice blared from beyond the rusted warehouse walls.

“Acelin Syzr, this is L-S Division Officer Brakes. I have a warrant for your arrest. You are surrounded. Your lookout has been detained. Running is useless. Come out, slowly, with your hands above your head. You have five minutes to comply. After this time, my men and I will be forced to extract you from the premises. Please do not make this more difficult for either of us.”

The woman’s eyes narrowed upon the man in shadow.

“A ‘prospective buyer.'”

The man returned the token packets on the table to his jacket. “Yes. But not of a weapon. Rather, information concerning it, more specifically, information concerning the two individuals you sold this model to. Your lookout was taken into custody, meaning the Sec Com officers outside don’t know who you are; tell me what I wish to know, and it will stay that way. Clock is ticking.”

The woman regarded the palled man severely for a moment, then tilted her head up disdainfully.

“Your offer is… unacceptable.”

The man didn’t respond as the sound of heavy boots echoed beyond the warehouse walls.

Next chapter

Kryos: Chapter 21

Previous chapter

Iyad Zhu spotted Astrid Sodabrucke across the tightly-packed, bergschund-shaped stadium. Her ferruginous hair and polychromatic gown unmistakable. He thought she looked like a giant peacock. Beautiful and ridiculous. Sodabrucke walked daintily from the skene pavilion to the well-polished podium beneath the percolations of energetic pop music which blared from the omnidirectional speaker-system, her sychitin headset elegantly hidden in long, shimmering locks, secured with amethyst bands. Behind her, a massive screen projected her svelte figure, overlaid at the periphery, the slogan’s for which she had recieved such popular acclaim. As she reached the center of the dais, the din of the crowd, and the music contesting it, gave way, by degrees, to anticipatory murmuration and the hum of the speaker-system. At that moment, Zhu noticed a man with steely gray hair and a slow, shuffling gait ascending the stair between the filled out seating blocks to the narrow diazoma where he stood. Undersecretary Radigan. Zhu gazed at his confederate in perplexity. He was told that Radigan would not be attending, that he was preoccupied in council. Something was amiss. He gripped the walkway railing, perturbed, considering an array of possibilities. The voices of a couple in the gradin before him wafting up against the muted breeze. Male and female, twined in excitement.

“Do you think she’ll mention it?” The man inquired.

“I hope so. She’s been one of the few politicians consistently critical of the KSRU. Sabrina called me before her shift and told me she’d seen one of them accosting some kids in the market. In that dreadful white armor. Its like we’re living under a military dictatorship.”

The man grimaced and shook his head. “Bad news.”

“Butchers. The lot of them.” A fat man nearby grunted over his shoulder.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” the thin man said hesitantly. “Crime has gone down since they started patrolling the streets.”

“Shhh. She’s going to speak.” The woman chided, flapping her hands at the vocal interlopers.

Zhu refocused his attention below, to the orchestra in the center of the arena. Sodabrucke, poise open and conciliatory, took in the variegated faces of her supporters arrayed across the vaulting incline of the theatron, most silent and primed with anticipation. The orator clasped her hands before her heart, and tilted her head up as she spoke, as if bearing her soul in prayer.

“Fair denizens of Aecer, I thank you for being with me today, from the bottom of my heart. I wish this lovely stadium could fit all of you. I’m overwhelmed by the energetic reception you have shown me. Both on and off Affinity. That openness of spirit will be needed in the days to come. For it is sorely lacking in our leadership. And, being wanting in our leadership, is discouraged in the people. Our recent troubles have demonstrated as much. Have demonstrated how untenable the Consortium’s program is, though it pains me to say it. They simply do not listen. Their divisive rhetoric and selfish policies have led to great unhappiness. And that unhappiness has given rise to a resurgent chauvinism, to Kreizer Sonderon and his Intra Bloc party, who maintain, in their platform, a policy of complete cleavage with The Federation, of expulsion of vast swathes of the non-acerite population and a valorization of militarism.”

“Militarism? What about Kryos?” The fat man below Zhu shouted at the top of his lungs, his voice thick with outrage. “Yes. What about the KSRU?” Another onlooker yelled. A brief flux of aggravation rippled across Sodabrucke’s face, subsiding the next instant for an expression of moderated sorrow and understanding.

“Then there is the KSRU. Let us call them what they are. Mercenaries. Soldiers for hire. Oh, they may have the backing of the Mayoral Convention, but no one elected Acelin Syzr Chief of the Security Commission. Let us not forget that he is a man who, recently, in a detestable act of vigilantism, murdered two young southers. A crime which has, as yet, gone unanswered. It breaks my heart. As I know it must break the hearts of the souther community. Each victim had a mother and father, had friends who loved them. And our Chief of Security, Galton Raka, indeed the entire Security Commission, have said nothing more than that they’re, ‘Looking into it.’ Does the matter lie in such murky waters? Amidst the screams of our most vulnerable citizens, amidst the cries of Syzr’s victims, their silence is deafening. Like the roaring of a sea-shell. I promise you, my dear friends, that should you have faith enough to elect me, I will not allow anyone to take justice into their own hands, I will not allow the Consortium to continue to ignore your cries. I promise, I will do what our leaders should have done long ago: I will listen. I will listen, everyday, with a brimming heart and an open mind, that Aecer may be renewed.”

Vitalik Radigan sided up to Zhu as the crowd cheered and cleared his throat, speaking low, tone serious.

“Enjoying the speech?”

“She’s a talented speaker, but its rather saccharin. Crowd seems to like it though, that’s all that matters. I wonder who wrote it.”

“You don’t think she did?”

“‘Does the matter lie in such murky waters?’ That doesn’t sound like something she would say.”

Below, the woman spread her arms, as if lifting the weight of the world, “I ask you: Are we to make a sport of petty antagonism?”

“I see what you mean.” The old man looked left then right and leaned closer to Zhu. “We need to talk.”

“That’s what we are doing.”

“In private.”

“It is important I am seen here.”

“It is more important that we talk.”

Zhu’s face writhed with vexation, his hands moving nervously over the slender alabaster railing which separated the diazoma from the descending kerkis.

“Very well.”

The two men descended the leftern walkway as Sodabrucke’s words continued to fill the air. “Instead of greed, we must choose generosity. Not merely of commodities, but of spirit.” As the men passed through the stadium exit Zhu noticed a hooded man leaning against the wall to the left of the passage, hands in his pockets. Radigan led Zhu past the hooded onlooker, beyond the arena to the western entrance walkway and paused, expression grim.

“Well?”

“I just got a call from Beringer. Someone tried to assassinate Eidos Kryos at Consortium Hall.”

Zhu was silent a moment. His expression frozen in shock. After he recovered, he gestured in demand, as if to tear an explanation from the man’s soma by force alone. “What happened?”

“Kryos was in a meeting with Oversecretary Gild when a woman entered the chamber and fired four rounds from a modified cutter. Traceless. The perpetrator’s identity is unknown. Wasn’t a member of the staff. Kryos was unharmed. Gild was injured.”

“And the assassin? Captured or-?”

“Dead.”

“How does the matter stand internally?”

“Its being hushed up, for now, only Gild’s department, The Board and the Security Commission and, presumably, Kryos inner circle, are in the know. Beringer says Gild’s men are conducting an internal investigation.”

“Why did Beringer leak this information?”

“He trusts me.”

“Well that’s foolish. If this woman was able to enter, it meant she had a keycard and biometric data from a undersecretary. Do you know whose card she had?”

“No.”

Feared contorted Zhu’s visage.

“It couldn’t have been mine.” Radigan removed his keycard from his inner jacket pocket, held it up before his confederate a moment and returned it to its previous resting place.

“Well, its good Gild’s covering it up. Do you know if they plan on going public?”

Radigan shook his gray mane slowly.

“They won’t say anything until they have suspects and make a few arrests.”

“This is most peculiar.”

“Hands in the air.” A stern voice echoed from behind the conversants.

Slowly, Zhu put his hands up as Sodabrucke’s oratory continued to reverberate faintly throughout the passage. “We must choose unity over division. Which means we must choose carefully what unifies us. Not strength. Not hate. But love.”

Radigan’s expression waxed swiftly to terror when he beheld the speaker standing behind them. Zhu swiveled his head over his shoulder, eyes flying wide, mouth parting.

A tall, broad shouldered man stood the wide stadium exit, flagged on either side by well-armed officers garbed in the vestments of the Reiks Consortium Security Commission, a cutter in every hand. The man that had previously spoken lowered his weapon, holstered it and strode forth.

“Vitalik Radigan, Iyad Zhu, you’re under arrest for conspiracy to commit murder.”

“On whose authority?” Zhu demanded hotly.

The officer kicked Zhu’s legs out, dropping the federant envoy face-first to the ground and bound his hands behind his back.

Next chapter

Kryos: Chapter 20

Previous chapter

Tyser Lanning stirred his coffee restlessly beneath the lights of the central command chamber within KSRU’s Southern Block Headquarters, his throat sore, eyes bleary, muscles tired. The sound of tapping, clicking, shuffling and low conversation emanated from subordinate officials throughout the length and breadth of the high, vaulted room. He looked, for a time beyond counting, to a picture of a young girl and a middle aged woman set upon his desk, then to the screen before him, pouring over the information there scribed.

“Name: Rachael Ryan Hastings. Status: Deceased. Known affiliations: A elder sister, Mia Hastings, currently living in Central, Southern Block, with whom she had not spoken in years. Carried: A modified cutter, shorn of identification and a sychitin shiv (according to Syzr, of identical make to Danzig Kleiner’s weapon; possible connection; same seller?), a identification card and lifted prints belonging to Undersecretary Vitalik Radigan. The only personnel privy to Kryos and Gild’s meeting were The Board members, the chief of the Security Commission, Gild’s closest staff and federal attache, Iyad Zhu, who was previously set to meet with The Board concerning trade negotiations with the Eastern Federation.”

Lanning read the words over several times, adding speculative notes with every successive completion and pulled up an affin search panel, bent to the keys and began typing furiously. Shortly, footsteps reverberated behind him, followed by a cold, demanding female voice.

“Find anything, Mr. Lanning?”

Tyser jumped in his seat at the sound. He swiveled his chair to behold Vera Straker gazing down at him, her expression characteristically frigid, but tinged with ill-suppressed anxiousness.

“Ah, Director. A little. She has family. A sister. Mia Hastings. I’ve queried her. She was happy to talk, turns out she’s a supporter of the KSRU, but she didn’t know anything. Hadn’t spoken with her sister in over five years.”

“That’s a long time to go without speaking to a blood relative. Did you tell her why you were asking?”

“I told her I was not at liberty to say at this time. She didn’t press me on it. I didn’t get the sense she was concerned for her sister.”

“Do you have a theory as to the motivation behind the assault?”

“Rachael Hastings was in debt and unemployed. Used to work at Fabrdyn Manufacturing’s Central Warehouse before Kryos bought it from the company last year. Lost her job because of that. Could have been a grudge.”

Straker nodded, “Reasonable. Her connection to Radigan?”

“None, other than using his keycard and prints.”

“Maybe she and whoever she was working with had a grudge against him as well. Tried to frame him?”

“I don’t think so. Radigan had no business connections to Fabrdyn. Nor to Kryos Industries.”

“Have you narrowed down potential accomplices?”

“Yes. The person most likely to be her accomplice is Iyad Zhu.”

“The Eastern Federation envoy?”

Lanning nodded with a raise of brows. “He knew both where and when the meeting would be taking place, the security protocols necessary to bypass the outer hall and was sighted with Radigan at The Red Moon nightclub prior to the event.”

Straker cupped her chin and lowered her head, her brow crinkling.

“Where he could have obtained Radigan’s biometric data and keycard.”

“Right. I pulled the Consortium Hall visitation records, Radigan hasn’t entered The Hall since the incident. It all fits.”

“Good work, Major. Where is Mr. Vancing?”

“Called earlier. Said he ran into some trouble, would be delayed.”

“Trouble?”

“He didn’t elaborate. But he said the meeting went well.”

“Fawnell is going public?”

He nodded.

Straker’s eyes brightened. “Excellent.”

The next instant, a officer stumbled into the room, his face drawn in horror.

“Director.”

“What?”

“Casja Fawnell is dead.”

Next chapter

Kryos: Chapter 19

Previous chapter

Ryard Vancing paused beneath the harborage of the Kiflin Line and looked to his dimly glowing affin module. A new message alert blinked on the wrist-wrapped screen. Sender: Casja Fawnell. He clicked the message open on the device. “Need to talk.” He typed, “Free right now,” and joined Sirin who had advanced several feet down the narrow pass, courier drone close behind. He waited a few moments before glancing to his device once more. No response.

“HQ?” The woman asked brusquely.

He shook his head. “Fawnell.”

“What does she want?”

“Didn’t say. Probably just someone to talk to. Poor woman has been through a lot recently.” He slouched despondently, sighing quietly, face falling with exhaustion and derision, “And I’m putting her through even more.”

“Permission to advise, Sir?”

“Granted.”

“You should practice more emotional restraint. Else your sentimentalism will obstruct our objective.”

“Good to know I’ve someone I can really open up to.”

“This is what I was making reference to, Sir.”

Ryard screwed his face up in annoyance. “Permission rescinded.”

The woman straightened and quieted. After several minutes of awkward silence broken only by the rhythmic hum of the dutiful machine trailing the duo, Ryard gestured to the woman’s helm.

“How can you see in the dark with that thing on?”

“Quite easily, Sir. Without it, I’d not be able to observe the man following us.”

Ryard glanced quickly and warily over his left shoulder, only a tar-pitched abyss yawned. The alley was piled with thin, mineral loading planks, fitted with four foot by four foot cubes of compacted garbage, unfit for residential reprocessing.

“How long?”

“Unsure. Just noticed him.” She placed her left hand upon the cutter holstered at her side and stopped Ryard with her plated right arm, throwing it out before his chest with alarm. “There are two men waiting for us at the end of the alley.”

“I can’t see anything.”

“They’re hiding in the shadows. Around the corners up ahead. Its the men from before.”

“The reavers from the market?”

She nodded. “They’re waiting until we attempt to pass before jumping us.”

“They armed?”

“One in front has a windlass. One behind has a pipe. Third is unequipped. Orders, Sir?”

“One behind, two in front. We’re boxed in. Can’t evade them. Need another way out.”

Ryard tensed and looked to the upper reaches of the ill-kept buildings surrounding, first right, then left. To the left, a metal folding ladder hung ten feet from the ground, a multi-tiered fire-escape.

“Only way is up.”

“Can’t make it in my armor. Can you?”

“Easily. But I’m not leaving you.”

“I’m replaceable, you’re not. They’re moving in. Hurry.”

Ryard flinched, hesitating momentarily, turned abruptly and ran up the wall, kicked off it, throwing his body up to the bottom rung, grabbed it with both hands and, using his heels to garner stability, pulled himself to a standing position on the retracted metallic step. The next instant a high-pitched thrumming filled the passage. A great whirring sounded, preceding a jet of pressurized air, which blanketed Sirin, who staggered to the pressure. She drew her cutter, aiming out into the dark. Before she could fire, a bald man ran from the aphotic pall and struck her fiercely across the upper back with a thin metal rod. She grunted and whirled as he attempted another blow, catching the pipe with one hand. Before Sirin could retaliate another man, large and musclebound, lurched forth and caught her about her left arm, as the rod wielder seized her right limb. The two men pinned the woman to the wall as a third man emerged from the darkness, face adorned with thin, jagged, red tattooes. The red marked intruder pointed a long, quietly humming device at the woman’s head and sneered.

“Told you I’d be back.”

“Pity your manners are not as immaculate as your word-keeping.”

The man glowered. Sirin’s masked gaze centered on the trio leader’s device.

“Windlasses are forbidden to unaccredited civilians.”

The tattooed man laughed and lowered his makeshift weapon. “Guess you’d better arrest me then.”

“I intend to.”

The moment the woman finished speaking, the fishmonger’s transport drone dashed forth and crashed into the left reaver’s legs with such force he howled and fell clear of his would-be prey, who turned upon her rightward restrainer, pulling him in front of her body as the tattooed reaver reactively raised and fired his windlass, striking the musclebound assailant in the back, peeling a moan of agony from his contorted maw. The air blast forced the large reaver and Sirin into the wall and kicked a cloud of detritus from the ill-kept ground. Before the dust cleared, Sirin shoved the big reaver aside, who slumped limply to the ground and kicked the windlass from the tattooed mugger’s hands. The two combats faced off a moment, the man shocked, the woman silent, as the remaining, hairless reaver huffed and strained on the ground under the eel-laden weight of the courier drone. The tattooed reaver drew a strange blade from his belt, brandishing it threateningly, taking a step forward, trembling with rage.

“You’re dead.”

“You’re oblivious.”

The man grimaced and prepared to lunge, snarling with surprise as Ryard Vancing dropped from the adjacent fire escape and brought the reaver to the ground. The curious blade tumbled to the earth. Vancing fastened his arms about the waylayer’s throat and hooked his legs around the mugger’s own, securing the hold. Sirin retrieved her cutter from the middle of the alley and leveled it at the grunting, immobilized reaver as Ryard applied incremental pressure to the branded crook’s throat until the detainee pawed at the mechanic’s coat and meekly gasped defeat. Ryard swiftly released the man, who rolled to his side, gasping for air, eyes warily regarding the KSRU cutter trained upon his left patella.

“If you enjoy the continued use of your legs, I suggest you remain still.”

The reaver sat up and looked to his downed companions, his face falling to tragedy. Sirin looked over her shoulder at Vancing and tossed him a interlinked pair of scandium restraints.

“You were supposed to escape, Sir.”

Ryard grinned as he secured the restraints around the inked man’s hands.

“No one’s replaceable. Not me, you.” He turned to the bound man, who glared up at his captor. “Not even him.”

Next chapter

Kryos: Chapter 18

Previous chapter

Casja Fawnell watched the automatons spin upon the stage and laughed. Her mirth mixing with the peculiar, age-distorted waltz music seeping from the vast auditorium’s ceiling-shrouded speakers. Rehdon looked down from the stage to the woman in the front row with mellow curiosity.

“What’s so funny, Songbird?”

“You. I don’t know how you come up with this stuff. Its very whimsical.”

He smiled genially and turned a diminutive dial on his dated silver wristwatch, whereafter the mechanical puppets ceased their outlandish gesticulations.

“I’m glad you think so. Took me ages to synchronize their movements. This is the first you’ve smiled since that man left.”

“Vancing.”

“What do you make of him?”

“I liked him. He seemed kind.” The woman was silent a moment and lowered her head. “It’s just a lot to process.”

“Are you sure you want to go through with it? If you talk to the press, you’ll be under a lot of attention. It’ll be quite stressful. The activist groups that have taken up Kleiner as a martyr will come after you. The souther partisans will declare you an ally of the KSRU, and thus, an enemy of their race; a expression of aecerite chauvinism. Every indelicacy of your past will be dredged and used against you.”

“I know. But Vancing is right. The man that attacked me is still out there. I can’t just sit idly by. I don’t want him to hurt anyone else. I have to do something. Right now, this is all I can do. Besides, I’m a boring person, its difficult to lie about boring people.”

“You don’t bore me. Does that mean I’m boring too?”

“No, it means you’re strange.”

“You’ve really made up your mind?”

“I thought you were trying to cheer me up?”

“So sorry. I didn’t mean to pry. Its none of my business.”

“Of course it is. I’m glad I have someone to talk to about it. My friends wouldn’t understand. Just like with my singing.”

Rehdon tilted his head, his smile fading, buoyant expression waxing contemplative.

“They didn’t understand the impetus of your art because they’re not artists. Though they try to be. But no matter how they posture, the clothes do not fit. They don’t have the same clarity of purpose. They do what they do because they can, and because they can do it together. Company makes life bearable to those who haven’t grasped a dream. Because of that vain grasping, they don’t know what they want to achieve with their music. Individually, or collectively. They have no vision. Because they have no aspirations beyond weathering the moment.” He rose from the ornate armchair positioned at the center of the stage and strode past the articulated manikins, frozen mid-dance, his bandaged hand gingerly caressing them as he went. “They’re merely coping. Hiding in their melodies. But you don’t hide. You aren’t afraid to articulate any aspect of yourself in your music. Honestly and completely. That is why you are a true artist.” He paused and looked down at the woman. She was smiling with pride, a tinge of red in her cheeks.

“I appreciate you saying so.”

He leapt from the stage and stood before the woman. She looked up nervously.

“Say, what’s the time?”

The man glanced at the antiquated timepiece on his left wrist.

“6:30 PM.”

“Its getting late.”

“I hope I’m not keeping you from anything.”

“Oh no. Not at all. Its just that Sodabrucke is holding a rally tonight.”

“At Fabrdyn Stadium. At 7:00.”

“Ah, you remembered. Yes. I didn’t want to miss it.”

“Me neither. The market district should be pretty quite.”

“Yeah. Probably.”

“Care to take a turn on the town with me?”

The woman’s eyes went momentarily wide.

“I’d be delighted.”

“Wonderful. I know of a splendid automat. Do you like seafood?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know much about seafood.”

“I remember you telling me as much. Even if you don’t, its worth going for the view alone. If we hurry we can watch the sun set.”

He began striding for the exit, picking up a hooded coat and two thin gloves from the hanger in the lobby. In a daze of excitement, the woman followed. Outside, Rehdon hailed a cabriolet and together the two returned to the market district from which they had earlier departed. When they arrived, a string of CAVs sped toward the west, where, beyond a series of jumbled tenements and abandoned communication towers, lay Fabrdyn Stadium, its distinctive bluish light peaking up from a sea of vertical constructs like brands of crystal flame.

“I’ve a feeling its going to rain.”

Rehdon pulled the hood up over his head, gloves crinkling against the plush synthetic mesh of the cowl, and gestured to a blanched, dimly lit building on the second layer of the town, set beside the thrumming CAV-way on-ramp that arched over the residential zone like the vertebrae of a great metal beast.

“That’s it, up there.”

Fawnell followed his gaze high above the surrounding buildings with wonder.

“I didn’t know there were any restaurants in the mid-tier.”

“It used to be a charging station, back before Kryos’ starglaive reactors rendered them superfluous. So someone turned it into a food court for those taking the line to and from the district.”

“That’s marvelous.”

The pair trekked across the lightly trafficked street and took a mechanized lift to the CAV-way pedestrian entrance and waited until the blue light that indicated no forthcoming traffic glowed. They passed across the wide, raised highway and entered the restaurant. Inside, the smell of processed food and industrial solvents hung thick in the air, alongside orange paper lanterns that dangled from the ceiling like strange airborne jellyfish. The muted hissing of an old recording emanated from the walls, a woman singing in a foreign tongue, her tones dulcet and melancholic.

“May we take the balcony?” Rehdon inquired to a box on the wall.

The box hummed and replied. “All tables, presently vacant. Seat yourselves wherever you like.”

Rehdon turned to the large industrial food crafter set behind a large, white counter to the left.

“What shall it be? My treat.”

“Oh, you don’t have to.”

“Its fine. Really. What would you like?”

“I don’t know, you said you knew this place well.”

“Yes.”

“Surprise me. Anything that doesn’t taste like cardboard will do.”

Rehdon smiled and gestured to the balcony, which afforded a dizzying view of both the recumbent, luminous city below and the teeming CAV-way lanes adjacent. She took a seat on the balcony and watched the sun set below the gleaming spires and drifting aerostats until she heard footsteps and a clatter of plates. She looked down to behold a large, covered platter before her.

“What is it?”

“Your surprise.”

She slowly removed the lid from the tray and raised her brows as a peculiar aroma wafted to her nostrils. A large fish lay before her, turquoise and possessed of high, thin spinal fins.

“What a peculiar-looking fish.”

Rehdon took a seat opposite the woman, the sun at his back, masking his face.

“Its a spindlefish.”

“Never heard of it.” She removed the flexile knife and fork from the package affixed to the top of the platter and cut a small slice of craniate and brought it gingerly to her mouth, chewed, swallowed and brightened. “Oh. Delicious.” She cut off another piece of fish and looked up at her companion contemplatively. “Its ironic. When I was little, I wanted to be a marine biologist. More than anything.”

“Why?”

“I was fascinated by what might be down there. In the ocean. So many creatures have gone unnoticed for most of human history. Like the giant squid. I was enchanted to learn we had been ignorant of something so big, lurking below us, for so long. What else might be down there we don’t know about?”

“They kill whales. Do you know this?”

“I remember reading something about it.”

He removed the platter from his plate and unsheathed his plastiware. “When I was young, I wanted to be a journalist. Trotting around the globe. Rooting out corruption. Bringing the truth to light. I found it all very romantic. So, by degrees, I dedicated myself to honesty in all circumstances. I can’t recall what started it. You know what I discovered?”

“What?”

“No one appreciated it. Not a soul. When I told one of my teachers a classmate was cheating on his math quiz, I was beaten on the playground. My math teacher said, ‘What did you expect?’ Wasn’t telling the truth what I was supposed to do? Shouldn’t one want to know the true contours of the world? I was told yes, but also, ‘There is a time and a place for all things, and this is neither the time, nor the place,’ and, ‘You need to learn some tact, young man,’ and, ‘Sometimes its ok to keep things to yourself,’ and ‘You shouldn’t have said that, young man.’ The more often I told the truth, the harder my life became. I overheard my mother telling my father there was something wrong with me. He said she was probably right. I lay awake at night for weeks thinking the same question after that. Was there something wrong with me? It couldn’t be that there was something wrong with everyone else, surely not. Years later, I made a friend in highschool, a beautiful, vivacious young artist. It wasn’t long before I fell in love, but it took two years for me to muster the courage to do anything about it. We moved in together and shortly thereafter I began to notice it. Her lies. Her inability to confront the unvarnished and inconvenient realities. As was predictable to me, even then, she, well, the details don’t matter now. Its enough to say she deceived me. When I broached the subject, she was furious with me for relating the character of her deception, as if it were somehow my fault. As if the real betrayal lay in the mere summary of the event.”

Fawnell leaned over the table, eyes wide with curiosity, lips curled by pity. “Then what did you do?”

He stuck his knife in the eye of the fish on the plate before him and twisted the orb free. “I arranged matters so her insides matched her outsides.” He held the knife over the fish until the eye slide off the end, falling, inverted, back into its socket.

Fawnell straightened, her mouth parting slightly. “What?”

“After that, I thought, why should I be honest with inherently dishonest people? If its lies they want, I should give them just that. And other things besides.”

“Her… outsides… What are you saying?”

He looked to his watch before answering deliberately. “It doesn’t make any difference now.”

“What did you do?”

“You have the same look she did, all those years ago. Oh, would you look at the time.” He turned his wrist toward the woman, the clock on it displaying 6:50. “Its nearly seven. Sodabrucke’s rally is going to start soon.”

“I have to go.”

“Of course you do.”

Rehdon smiled broadly as Fawnell rose from the table and stood awkwardly and began heading toward the exit. Her movements increasingly clumsy. The man watched her leave, his visage tinged with subtle anticipation, once more scanning his démodé and superannuated timepiece. Suddenly there came the blare of a CAV-way emergency klaxon. Rehdon drew up his hood and left off into the screaming pitch of night.

Next chapter