A long, shallow pool sat the center of the vast, austere cavity; the still silhouette of a man beyond it. He reclined upon a thin, ashen chair, seldom more, to the lone female observer, than living shadow. His heliodoric eyes, lambent against the atramental pall; his voice, strident in opaque tranquility, echoed throughout the cavernous expanse of the underwater facility.
“The chalk is to hand, but the board has been moved.”
Vera Straker strode to the edge of the pool opposite the man and straightened, fastidiously adjusting her stiff monochrome coat and folding her hands at her waist before responding.
“Should the decline continue, our summit will be barred. For a time.”
The man in the ashen chair momentarily surveyed a young woman with dichromatic eyes who swam in the pool, surrounded by dark, anguilliform shapes, before answering.
“We do not seek summits. Only wings to surpass them.”
“So we find the feathers.”
“I want you to go to the mainland. Speak with Ryard Vancing.”
“Why him, Sir? He’s just a CAV-keep.”
“A single feather can be the difference between flight and freefall. The people regard him a hero. They like him, and he, you. And so…”
“I understand. But, with respect Sir, should our response not be more substantial?”
The man was silent a moment. He regarded the woman across the glistening expanse, rose and moved to the edge of the reservoir. His pallid skin and obsidian vestments illuminated by the water’s reflection. His visage mask-like, indecipherable save a recondite hardness; a implacable determination, evident in the stolid set of his jaw and the unblinking fixity of his keen, xanthous eyes.
“All barbarous quarters sink to the depths of their degradations. And the drowning are ill-inclined to argue the provision of a raft. Here. Now. The raft is the flood. And so, we shall offer our own.”