Eidos drifted within a teardrop shaped calyx, the pristine artifact suspended amid a vast calcimine complex flush with azure light from highbound tubes, body shrouded in black casing of chitinous, flexile composition, save the face, it fitted with an opaque respirator, muffling labored breath. Slowly, the patient opened his eyes, icteric stark in lazuline murk. Orbs nettled by viscous liquid. Astringent and cloying. He inhaled raggedly and shivered. No feeling afforded his body but a dull, heavy warmth. The only sounds, the regular sluicing of medicinal gel, the subtle whir of reticulated mechanical arms tending to the patient and an omnipresent ringing of the inner ears. He tried to move his limbs, but could not feel them. With considerable exertion he cast his gaze beyond translucent paneling. To the left of the rind, another pellucid canister of identical manufacture, and in it, the still form of Devik Amberleece, distinguished from distance and disfigurement by the ruddy stain of hair, little of which remained. The Fabrdyn magnate’s face was unevenly pitted with cracked black gashes. From coral mesh of right jowl, a peeking sliver of bone. Pyrotechnic residuum. A monitor beside the sanguine maned invalid showed faint permutations, vital signs. Right of the calyx, two figures stood in discussion. Man and woman. The former, stocky, unshaven, volcanic. Sonderon. The other, smaller, more reserved, yet further indistinct to Kryos’ recuperating perceptions.
“Your man Vancing has gone too far.”
“They were going to open the gates.”
“I don’t object to his interference on that point. Its the treatment after.”
“You expect their release that they might try the trick again?”
“They are my men.”
“They are deserters. Your name does not afford exemption from discipline.”
“I will discipline them.”
“I weary of your carping.”
The man drew up to the woman’s face. “Don’t think you can dress me down like some fledgling fusilier.”
The woman turned to her chastiser and gestured with her chin to the door. “See yourself to the exit. Or it shall be shown to you.”
Kryos’ eyes widened as he apprehended the female voice, clear, officious, tinged with the weight of uncertainty. Light of skin as dark of hair. Austere countenance marred by a quivering at the corners of her almond eyes and wide, ruby mouth.
“Vera.” Words astringed by a ravaged throat.
The rancor desisted. Straker turned and her eyes shined with amazement. Joy. Her lips quivered.
“Eidos.” She smiled, creases laced with tears and leaned over the desk toward the raised gossamer receptacle. “We thought we’d lost you, Sir.”
Eidos coughed, inhaled deeply, and spoke again with travail. His tone warped beyond human tenor as scraping of alloy on kindred matter. “How long have I been thus?”
“A baleful eel, Time. Dactyls slip upon the jaw. Obdurance unforged, to lay mandibles on the mantle.”
The woman nodded and waxed curious. “Do you remember what happened?”
“I was aboard the airship. I noticed Rehdon’s lack of discomfort after being struck. Intuited a trap. Ran. To the hall. Then thunder. Ringing. Darkness.” His piercing, luminous eyes slid to Devik’s capsule. “Did the other passengers survive?”
“No. It is not certain yet that Amberleece shall. His condition is stable but we don’t know when or if he’ll ever wake up. Besides you, he was furthest from the blast, nominally shielded by the control array. We talk too much. You should rest. You cannot feel much from the anesthetic, you do not perceive the extent of your injuries.”
“That isn’t necessary.”
“Show me.” His voice rang, stolid as folded steel and the weight of his expression were as falling stone. Straker wrung her hands together and nodded to the adjacent medic.
Nervously, the physician bent to the control panel and tapped the keypad, whereafter the black casing within the medical calyx slid from Kryos’ body. Sonderon cursed and turned away. Straker lowered her eyes to the table before her as Kryos’ breathing grew rapid. No arms or legs remained. Only pulpy char flecked stumps. Organs held from within a soft, complex mesh, round and through a lacerated abdomen.
After the patient recovered from the shock of his mangled soma, he focused upon Sonderon. Gaze narrow and severe.
“Wherefore your ardor? Does the fruit of revolution not sate you?”
“I did not want this.”
“Your past litanies suggest otherwise.”
“I spoke of a revolution of the people.”
“The anarchy of ghosts.”
“Are my people so phantasmal? Or these gluttonous foreign hordes? They’re real as those wounds.”
“The present, pregnant with nostalgia, the future, stillborn. Cerebral ejecta, layered as sediment. Age after age. A brittle mound mistaken for a stair. The desultor leaps to find his horse a tiger.”
“Mounds? This land is our birthright. This city was our garden, now its more like a tomb.”
“Every garden is a tomb. Every plant, a carnivore. In time, the bane of stone. What sanction divine parcels tender for their slithering disruption? The acres of blood to slake their thirst? The miles of marrow on which they sprawl?”
Sonderon wavered, as much due emotion as perplexity. Before the politico could respond, Kryos was overtaken with another coughing fit.
“He requires convalescence. You should go,” Straker urged in hushed tones.
The partisan met the woman’s reproachful gaze. His own, deformed by a complex amalgam of hesitation, ire and grief. At length he gave a curt nod, cast a backwards glance to the ruined man in the calyx and departed. Straker gestured to the medic and shortly he too left off and the air was solemn and still thereafter.
“Devotion is precious as a dream.” Kryos stated pensively, his eyes following the female as she moved from the desk to stand before him. She placed a hand upon the surface of the tank. “One ever fruitless without the other.”
As she stared at his charred flesh her stoicism fell to rage. “I promise you, I will bury him.”
“You disappoint me, director. A flint struck temper is beneath your grace. The dead do not suffer. The canopy closes upon our ascent. No time remains for indulgent pursuits.”
“Rehdon’s taken the aerospace complex. He has fortified it with the remnants of the security commission and fringe militants from Sodabrucke’s base.”
“What a vexing man.”
“We cannot elide a conflict.”
“Yes. But it is not his throat I’d have you grasp.”
“What then, Sir?”
“A body, worthy of the colony.”