In the wide black holding cell, only a single ray of light; a woman there illuminated. A shackle upon her throat which meant pain should the shadows be tread. She sat upon a soft, dark cube, hands folded upon her lap. No sound save a faint mechanical groaning; rhythmic sheering of metal on metal. The hiss of the chamber’s handless door opening. Footsteps reverberated upon the pitch and polished floor as the thin slats which ran-parallel about the room faintly illuminated, casting wide a sombre bluish glow.
A slender female figure stood the space before the woman on the cube and carried a large case the width of her own back-lit body, which she set at her feet and opened, revealing a soft, dull-black oblong artifact. The shadowed woman removed a small, handheld device from the left inner pocket of her long elegant coat and pressed it to the object, prompting it to shift and grow. The case-borne object hummed and slowly assumed the form of a trim, elegant man, wan of complexion, whose eyes gleamed like young twin suns, filtered through the lattice-work of burnished heliodor. After a long silence, the man-form spoke, his voice low and measured, pooling in sonorous strands throughout the ambit of the penitentiary murk.
“Greater in inequity is the well-intentioned deceiver than one ill-intentioned. The former has conviction in the rectitude of their wickness. The latter labors under no such illusion.”
Soriya Haldeck looked to the floor, her lips writhing, face creasing with anxiety, unable to meet the man’s luminous and unwavering gaze.
“Would you say this is so, Doctor Haldeck?”
“What does it matter now?”
“It will always matter so long as we can exercise moral judgment.”
“Only God can judge me. He’ll judge us all. Eventually. Even you.”
“Convenient that the judgement of all should be raised in a discussion of your crimes.”
“Freeing a slave is a crime?”
“Your mouth moves, but it is the dead who speak.”
Kryos leaned slowly toward the woman, her eyes yet averted, hands working together as if covered in nettles. The avatar assumed a rigid posture and gestured to the attendent behind him, who withdrew a telepad and held it nine paces before Haldeck’s anxious face. On the screen a shaky video feed of the central sector played. A pile of smoldering rubble. Screams of men and metal. Weeping. Officials rushing, frantic, to and fro, some cursing under their breath, others subsumed in focus. Civilians rooted to their shades, dumbfounded by terror. A elderly woman on her knees, covered in dust and blood, a old man before her, silent and still as statuary. A child, no more than seven years of age, broken and battered beneath a mound of rubble, one arm missing, replaced by a phantasmal sanguine trail. Haldeck’s eyes grew wide as she took in the carnage. Her lower lip quivered like a water-soused worm. Abruptly, she looked away, vainly attempting to quell the rising sense of terror that writhed within.
“That footage was taken directly after the destruction of the central reactor.”
“I’ve seen it before.”
“A teacher and her class from the local school were on a field trip. That’s her body there. In the red. The dress, a gift from her husband. They’d been married three days.”
Soriya began to weep.
“Why are you showing this to me? I didn’t do it. I didn’t set the bombs.”
“If your mind was guiltless, you’d not offer defense.”
“I was only doing what I thought was right.”
“This I have addressed. Your actions aided the group responsible for the destruction of my reactor. Central sector’s reactor.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I selected you to oversee the DS program due to your intelligence. Deduce.”
“You mean Vangr? Vangr was working with Aestival?”
“I… I didn’t know.”
“That is obvious. Had you the full picture, you’d have blown the whistle on the entire enterprise and would likely now be dead. In this way your treasonous folly was fortuitous. For you.”
“Where is she? Did you find her?”
“She’s safe. Due some unexpected intervention. And my director’s perseverance.”
He turned emotionlessly from the woman, speaking into the hazy azure reach.
“The partisans planned to turn her into a weapon. One which Grazen planned to sell to the Eastern Federation. Were the scheme successful, millions would have died. Instead, only hundreds.”
Kryos then melded into the penumbral expanse as the woman’s sorrow echoed throughout.
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