Kryos: Chapter 13

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White garbed clerks moved in busy cliques beneath the high, vaulted ceiling of the control room of KSRU Central wherein Acelin Syzr loomed over his sparsely furnished alabaster desk, watching the wall-screen with attentive concern from beneath the cover of his sleek, monochrome mask. The flickering mesh of the central screen, which hung before a branching stairwell, displayed, in a locked-down wideshot, a spacious, judiciously decorated news set, in which a large middle-aged man with a scarred face sat facing an aging make-up caked anchor-woman. Tyser Lanning chuckled and swiveled on his padded chair toward his taunt and well-armored superior who stood the center of the floor.

“Broad looks like she fell headfirst into a crayon blender. We can put networks in the sky, cities under the sea, ports in orbit, but convincing cosmetics eludes us.”

“Quiet.”

Lanning screwed up his face and fell silent, adjusted his long orange overcoat and returned to his affinity tablet array; scuffed fingers busily tapping ergonomic keys; cushioned, close-fitting headset humming; eyes taking in the detailed feeds of various Consortium-approved, Kryos-manufactured aerial drones, judiciously scanning the sprawling cityscape for social perturbation.

“This is Tiffany Bardis for New Vision, here with Central Sector’s Danzig Kleiner, the lone survivor of a vicious, seemingly random attack which occurred two days ago on the streets of the entertainment district, where the leader of the KSRU, a one Acelin Syzr, confronted Mr. Kleiner and two of his friends, Darius Culp and Victor Mehan, both southers and first generation district residents; the event, unfortunately, culminated in the deaths of both Mr. Mehan and Mr. Culp. Mr. Syzr, for reasons which remain unclear, was not detained by the Security Commission and remains at large, prompting protests from local residents outraged at the cruel injustice of the act and what they view as the burgeoning tyranny of Kryos Industries, whose KSRU mercenaries now operate, in some capacity, in every sector of the city. The KSRU has since released a curt statement, in which they declared that the event was prompted by self-defense and suggests a extensive investigation by the Security Commission. Curiously, the Security Commission has not released a statement. We reached out to both Kryos Industries and the Security Commission; unfortunately, neither have responded to our queries.” The woman turned to the greasy, hastily done-up man sitting roughly five feet from her with a mirthless smile, “Mr. Kleiner, thank you so much for being with us today, I know how stressful this must be for you, given all you’ve been through recently.”

The man rocked slightly and nervously rubbed his knees, as if scrapping mud, “Thanks for having me, Tiffany.”

“How are you holding up?”

Syzr’s hands went tight about the corner of his sparsely furnished alabaster desk.

“Its been rough. But I’m doing alright.”

“Given the dearth of footage from the incident, can you start from the beginning and tell us exactly what happened?”

“Sure. Well, I and my friends were just minding our business, took an alleyway shortcut to a club we liked to hang out at, when… this guy just springs out of nowhere and starts attacking us. Like he had it out for us.”

“The short video clip which was leaked shows your friends assaulting Mr. Syzr; can you explain what happened prior to the beginning of the available recording of the event?”

“Yeah. Yeah. Well, that’s deceptive, they were fighting back. See, he came in swinging and they pushed him back and I was just stunned, stunned, didn’t know what to do, then they tried to tackle him and that’s when the recording begins. At the time, I didn’t know he was paramilitary, thought he was just some guy.”

“I see.”

Syzr loosed the table and straightened. “This cretin can barely string a sentence together. Its doubtful he came up with this narrative on his own.”

“Think someone has been feeding him lines?” Lanning inquired, removing his headset and rubbing his chin contemplatively, popping a printed biscuit from a culinary crafter on his work-desk.

Syzr nodded near imperceptibly, “Someone coached him.”

“… Mr. Danzig, some have floated the idea that he targeted your friends because of their origins. That he had some pathological grievance against southers. What do you think of that?”

“Could be, Tiffany, could be. There’s a lot of crazy people out there…”

Syzr turned to Lanning, “The bastard’s smiling. Has Fawnell agreed to speak to the press?”

Lanning shook his head and leaned back in his chair, “She refuses to talk to anyone, even the Security Commission. Probably afraid of blow back from the mob, now that Mehan and Culp have been turned into martyrs. I’ve not tried to contact her personally, but Vogel did, told me she shut him down immediately. I put out a missive to see if any of our staffers might know her. All replies negative, so far.”

“I’m surprised Vogel’s still willing to share information with us.”

“So was I. I don’t think the Commissioner is aware of his indiscretion.”

“Still no news on the rest of the drone recording?”

“Nothing.”

Syzr uttered a curse under his breath, the utterance rendered opaque by the mechanical distortion of his full-helm’s respirator. From the far end of the hall, the sound of two pairs of footsteps reverberated. Syzr turned and beheld Jean Raimer, a dark-haired man of middling height and powerful frame, armed and armored in gleaming sy-chitin, his helm tucked under his left arm, his right, curling to a salute which was swiftly returned. Behind him stood a middle aged man with well-combed hair and a high-collared monochrome coat, a Vilar Corp logo upon the right shoulder.

“What is it, Captain?”

“Apologies for the interruption, Colonel. Ryard Vancing is here to see you.”

Vancing stepped forward, his visage uncharacteristically grim and reserved, his eyes fixed upon the colonel.

“Come concerning our request?”

“Yes. Hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

“I can multitask.”

The enormous screen cut suddenly away from Kleiner’s interview to a scene of roiling violence backlit by ravenous flames licking up the berth of a tumble-down tenement. A young reporter faced a Vis Corp coverage drone which hovered some six feet above the woman, the machine’s multi-camera array focusing in on the most active zones of conflict. “Chancellor Richter just now called for calm after yet another outbreak of violence in Central.” The woman turned to a middle aged souther whose swarthy face was twisted into a permanent snarl. “Sir, excuse me, can you tell us why you’re out here? What are you hoping to accomplish?” The souther paused and drew up to the woman, seemingly annoyed, followed by a group of compatriots. “They’re out here killing us.” “Who, sir?” “KSRU. Security Commission. Big business. Whole damned government. We’re out here to show them we won’t take it any more. If they’re gonna keep killing us, we’re gonna start killing them.” “They kill us, we kill them,” the crowd began to chant with increasing fervor. The reporter’s face contorted with apprehension. “She’s from the government, she’s from the government!” Someone off-camera shouted. The next instant someone struck the woman in the back of the head; her body ragdolled, prompting her crew to leap vainly to her defense. The crowd swiftly turned upon the journalists with cries of fury, whereafter fists and blood were thrown in a sudden flux of savagery. Screams of deep animal pain blanketed the scene, drowning out the crackling raze and homemade explosives sounding in the distance. As the grotesque cacophony reached its invariable apogee, the feed cut, transitioning back to the Vis Corp interview set where Tiffany Bardis shook her golden head, mouth twitching like a skewered grub. “Gods below…” for a long moment the woman simply starred uncomprehendingly, as if in a trance, “T-that’s the latest from our on-the-ground coverage of the protests currently sweeping Central Sector…”

Syzr muted the monitor and turned to the entrant.

“What have you decided?”

Ryard’s expression waxed solemn.

“This madness must not become our normality.”

“‘This,’ or ‘their.'”

“Who’re you referring to?”

Syzr gestured to a close-up of Danzig Kleiner on the monitor, “Whoever proffered him to the media and coached him. Whoever was behind the seizure of the assurance drone which recorded my encounter with Kleiner’s gang. I suspect the same shadow moves behind both curtains.”

“Interesting. Why do you think he was coached?”

“I heard him speak before we fought. He’s affecting a new speech pattern, new mannerisms. And despite his obvious incompetence, he’s yet to stumble in responding to a question.”

“That’s reasonable,” Ryard asserted with sudden animation. “But right now we should worry about forming a counter-narrative. We don’t have the drone recording of what really happened but as I overheard, the woman who you rescued hasn’t spoken up.”

Syzr nodded.

“Fawnell won’t talk to us,” Lanning replied with exasperation, “She might, just maybe, talk to the colonel, if he came in person; however, if the mob spots him on the street, they’ll be blood.”

Ryard returned his attention to the colonel and smiled confidently, “Send me.”

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Kryos: Chapter 12

Previous chapter

Dark clouds massed on the horizon as Ryard Vancing strode the eatery district’s vacated streets, soma sotted by the ruination spawned since his last sojourn. The faint, familiar hum of the main CAV-way’s cargo, crisply audible in the absence of the jostling murmuration of variegated tongues, made the scene disquietingly surreal. The wide, pedestrian thoroughfare was trash strewn; the windows of all surrounding shops, cracked and shattered; the walls, marred by vulgar graffiti; the gentle breeze, bearing the scent of char and sick. A few cheap-garbed itinerants milled about the lane, seemingly perplexed by their selfsame presence; aecerites and southers, federates and those whose origins escaped Vancing’s ken. Several minutes on, a young woman ran up on the sidewalk, several yards before Ryard, and removed a small spray can from her coat and began dousing the wall; visage crooking with prideful cruelty.

“Hey,” Ryard called out, increasing his pace and advancing toward the vandal.

The woman’s face kinked with fright, whereafter she dashed down the street, vanishing into a blighted alley between two dilapidated shops. Ryard halted and observed the vandal’s scrawl: “KSRU Kills.”

“What were you trying to do to her?”

The brisk male voice prompted Ryard to turn with confusion to behold three middle-aged men progressing toward him from behind a slow-moving detachment of cargo drones that crawled insouciantly across the center of the spacious pedestrian lane.

Ryard gestured to the defacement. “She was marking up the wall.”

“You got a problem with that?”

“Don’t you?”

The men stopped five feet from Vancing, eyes wary, jaws tense.

“Maybe I don’t.”

“Alright.”

Ryard turned his back to the men and removed a cloth from his pocket and began to scrub the wall. As Ryard cleared off the ‘C’ from the cacograph, the speaker, a pudgy man with a high hairline and a round, crinkled face, took in the Vilar Corp logo on Ryard’s jacket with choler and stepped forward.

“Think you’d better leave, company man.”

“Will, soon as I’m done.”

“I said clear off.”

Ryard paused and stared at the man over his coat collar.

“This is public property.”

“Yeah. And I’m the public.”

“Wager you’d be singing a different tune if this was your house.”

The man spat at Ryard’s feet. The CAV-Keep casually observed the effluvia and returned to his work.

“Come on, Emmett,” a short, reedy member of the trio appealed softly, “Its not worth it. Let’s go.”

Emmett grimaced and turned abruptly, muttering “whatever” before leaving off, followed closely by his confederates. Ryard watched them tread to the south and continued scouring the wall until every trace of lettering was erased, then folded his cloth, pocketed it and continued along the pedestrian lane as clement rain descended from darkling haze.

When he arrived at the Wyntwurth Automat he sighed and readjusted his collar against the chill downpour. The establishment lay ransacked and boarded, ringed by guard drones of curious, nonstandard extraction.

“Vacate the premises,” the closest of the brassy machines trilled, posturing aggressively toward the entrant. “You have one minute to comply.”

Ryard retreated to the side of the curb, brows knitting with apprehension, ire and dissapointment.

“Appears we’ll have to find a new place to lunch,” a familiar husky voice intoned from behind the wayward CAV-keep. Ryard spun and beheld a old man, elegantly garbed and hairless, save his thin twiggish brows, who sat upon the back of an automated cabriolet at the side of the ill-populated thoroughfare which bordered the cloistered restaurant.

“Salutations, Mr. Salis.”

The old man smiled warmly.

“Hop in, Mr. Vancing. I know a good place.”

Ryard did as he was bid and sat opposite the elderly executive, whereafter the machine’s opaque, oblong canopy secured around them like the mesogleaic bell of a massive sea jelly. After the canopy was secured the craft lumbered forward.

“Isn’t it unwise, Sir? Traveling around by yourself,” Ryard gestured through the diaphanous interior, “Especially in the middle of all of this.”

“I never travel alone.”

Ryard looked over Salis’ shoulder and spied another cabriolet following them. Inside, a lone passenger, barely visible due the distortion of the semi-spherical pane, a dark hat upon his distant head.

“Personal security?”

Salis nodded, “Saif Baumann. Came out of the same class as Acelin Syzr at the academy. Damned shame I even feel I need him. When I entered the district, I saw a frail, old woman, must have been near seventy years old, maybe a little older, walking across the street. Minding her own business. This young fellow, a souther, came up, pushed her over, hard as he could. Didn’t say a word. Doubt he knew her, given the disparity of their dress. Just pushed her over and ran away, laughing.”

“Was she alright?”

Julian Salis nodded grimly, “Bruised. A little shaken. Had Baumann stop and help her to a med-pod. She’ll be fine. I just can’t fathom why someone would do that.”

“You know those new updates Kryos Industries was debuting for free for recently outdated affin mods?”

“I read about it. But I’ve got the latest model, so I didn’t have to bother with it. I was never very tech savvy.”

“Well, about a week ago, I was in my tenement, trying to make a call on my affin mod. But the release for the patch was set back. Everything was running slow. Kept trying it. Still nothing. All of a sudden, I pulled my module off my wrist, overwhelmed with the desire to throw it across the room.”

The old man nodded and slowly smiled, “But you didn’t,” Salis motioned casually to the outdated module that adorned Ryard’s left wrist, “I’d wager that’s why Kryos had Straker attempt to recruit you.”

“Maybe. I haven’t given them an answer yet.”

“I didn’t figure you had. Which is why I wanted to meet with you,” Ryard straightened, listening attentively, “Whatever you decide, know that you have my full support, as does the KSRU.”

“I appreciate that, Sir. But the substation-“

Salis lifted a hand for silence, “I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to worry about being fired or having your benefits cut, and, more importantly, because the changes we’re seeing,” he nodded out the enclosure to the ravaged exterior of a charging station, “All of this, is bigger than the substation, bigger than the whole line, bigger than Vilar Corp. This vicious revolutionary mood didn’t suddenly just sweep the city, Mr. Vancing, its been building for a long, long time. This is merely its most recent and intense expression. I’ve lived through one revolution. I’ve no desire to see another.”

Ryard pocketed his hands to resist the urge to wring them together in nervous agitation.

“You’re one of the few who understands what its like.”

“What what is like, Sir?”

“To meet those desirous of your eradication.”

Ryard looked out the window.

“Forgive me, I know you don’t like talking about it.”

“Its fine,” Ryard observed the bedraggled pedestrians upon the garbage spackled thoroughfare, who glared at the cab with feral and forthright disdain, “I’m not as sensitive as many think.”

“I don’t believe that for a moment. That’s why Baumann or Syzr or I or even Straker couldn’t hope to do what Kryos expects of you.”

“And you? What do you expect of me, Sir?”

“I expect you’ll do what you know to be right.”

Ryard returned his attention to the window where a mother and daughter walked, hand in hand, beneath the high canopy of a hodgepodge market stall, hastily constructed to accomadate a merchant whose store had been razed.

He wondered at the absence of the father.

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Kryos: Chapter 11

Previous chapter

Club beats and the shifting footfalls of a lookout caressed the stifling air within the backroom of The Red Moon, where three individuals anchored a bare, mahogany table; a lock upon the door, a shadow in every eye. Vitalik Radigan, a elderly aecerite undersecretary, pepper-haired and well-tailored, took a drink of water from a small glass and clasped his hands together before addressing the slim, verdant-coated man, who sat the opposite side of the desk.

“We’ve been impressed with your work, Mr. Rehdon. Your talents are singular-“

“‘However.'”

“… However, the Bureau has become concerned of late about unnecessary volatility.”

Illander Rehdon raised a brow as Iyad Zhu, spokesman for Bright Horizons, Eastern Federation’s Aecer outreach program, tapped upon his tablet.

“Unnecessary?”

“Incursions against Kryos properties have become increasingly destructive,” Radigan declared, flexing his entwined fingers over the sleeve-worn tabletop, “Social instability is what we wanted, a dissolution of institutional trust is necessary, but these riots are becoming too chaotic. Dissidence must not be allowed to become too extreme.”

Illander smiled slightly. “You can’t extract honey without agitating the bees.”

“We don’t want a repeat of the Aestival Incident.”

“They never tied anything back to me. Commission closed the case.”

Radigan held up a hand in supplication, “As before, no one is casting blame at your feet, but recall the damage that was done. It was a diplomatic disaster. And the financial costs incurred-“

“You needn’t remind me. With what you require of me, there will always be errors. I can spark a fire, but I can’t control the direction of the wind.”

“We understand that,” Zhu replied coolly, “But you’re fanning these flames in a very particular direction. That drone footage of Acelin Syzr didn’t find its way to the media on its own.”

Rehdon’s brow crinkled with dazzled perplexity.

“How did you know that was my handiwork?”

Finally, Zhu looked up from his tablet, “I didn’t, until now.”

Rehdon grinned bitterly, eyes mordacious, and tapped out the ash of his half-charred cigarette into a small tray upon the elbow-scuffed tabletop.

After a moment of repressive silence, Zhu leaned forward, “Look. They don’t want lucrative properties damaged. As I’m sure you’re aware, the Kryos Aerospace Complex is exceedingly lucrative; not easily replaced.”

Rehdon leaned back in his chair, visage quizzical, and took a drag off his cigarette.

“They want to take it over?”

Zhu nodded and beamed with muted pride, glancing briefly to Radigan before continuing, “Yes.” Radigan scowled at the indiscretion as his confederate continued, heedless, “And they want me to be the one to do it. So from now on, focus your attentions on swaying the activists against the Consortium more generally, rather than Kryos specifically. What we need to attack is not brick and mortar, or flesh and blood, but the idea of Aecer itself. When confidence in the aecerite’s collective bonds are broken, we will intervene to provide fresh ones; a new social contract.”

Rehdon nodded and stubbed out the burning cylinder, “As you wish. My heart beats only for The Bureau.”

Zhu straightened, his face waxing solemn as he crossed his fist about his chest, “And may it thrum forever.”

Radigan reluctantly raised his fist to his chest and swiftly let it fall to his side once more and rose.

“I think that concludes our business here. Shall we?”

Zhu nodded and rose with his compatriot.

“Oh, and Illander.”

“Yes?”

“Give my regards to Ms. Cece.”

“Give them to her yourself. She’ll be waiting outside.”

Zhu inclined his head, moved to the door and knocked, whereafter it was opened by a man from the security detail.

The men exited the room, whereupon they were greeted by Zarya Cece advancing down the hall, who smiled warmly, saw them out, returned to the room and shut the door. She regarded Illander a moment, walked slowly to his side and snatched up one of the man’s cigarettes.

“What did they want?”

“To tighten the leash.”

“How so?”

“They don’t want to see further damage to Kryos properties.”

“The whole point of going after the company was to force an admission?”

Rehdon grinned broadly, “I had to figure out a way to discern whether or not they wanted to take over his company without violating The Bureau’s orders.”

“How are they going to do it?”

“They didn’t tell me. Probably by nationalizing the company after they have sufficient presence within the Consortium. That’s what I’d do if I cared as much about gadgets as our gracious masters.”

“Would cause quite a stir. Do you think they can pull that off?”

He shrugged disdainfully. “Even if the Bureau gets their way, all that shall be accomplished is the replacement of one stifling, sordid bureaucracy by another.”

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Losing your nerve?”

The woman removed a keycard from her pocket with a defiant flourish and placed it upon the table.

“No. Its treason, Illander. I thought even you would take that seriously.”

Illander laughed.

“You took it from him without compunction. Yet how fearful you grow of mere thoughts.”

“Such thoughts will not die stillborn.”

Illander looked at the card, then to Radigan’s glass, his eyes narrowing, filled with strange intensity. “Such thoughts will not die.”

Next chapter

Kryos: Chapter 10

Previous chapter

Legate Hild stood the floor of the high, vaulted heart of The Progenitor, as the vast machine forded the coruscated abyss. Through the colossal, semi-transparent windows, she watched a school of silvery fish bank fearfully from the strident craft, like daggers in the dark, and turned to Eidos Kryos, who sat a plain, ashen chair at the back of the room; a book in his pitch-gloved hands. His pallid face mantled by penumbral ambience. His posture, relaxed and diffident. His garb, sleek and tenebrous. Eyes, icteric in the gloom.

The woman cleared her throat and spoke, nervousness speckling her high, clear tones, “The launch has been barred, Sir. Due the unrest, the Consortium declared the timing ‘inappropriate.'”

The swift snap of a book being closed echoed throughout the voluminous expanse, causing the woman to flinch, whereafter the man’s measured voice resounded above the dim-lit waters.

“A regime which cannot inspire trust, nor fear, is as a eagle bereft of keratin; flight, its only defense.”

The woman was silent a moment and straightened, “With a new artificial island, we wouldn’t need to rely on the Consortium for launch space, nor contend with persistent vandalizations of our topside facilities.”

Eidos Kryos rose from his chair, setting the book upon the left armrest, and moved slowly toward the pool as argent drones emerged from the darkness and arrayed themselves over the surface of the still waters, forming a floating bridge. Kryos strode across the aerial passage as great electric-eyed eels writhed languidly beneath.

“Peach trees attract wasps in the summer. Buzzing fills our orchard. Would you first have me plant new trees, or rid the old of the infestation?”

She hesitated, unsure how best to respond as Kryos passed to the opposite side of the reservoir and stepped off the hovering overpass. He passed Hild and moved before the leftward semi-permeable window, where enormous power-cables were visible, half-buried along the bony sea-bed, stretching out into the vast, inky blackness like the tendrils of a monumental, metallic squid.

“How does one deter wasps from a copse?”

“By culling damaged fruit.”

“Understood. Sir.”

Hild disconnected from the module, her avatar dissolving into a dark puddle which swiftly coalesced into a dense, obsidian sphere upon the floor of the Progenitor. Shortly, a silver drone descended from the ceiling and secured the globe in its insectal, carbon fibre limbs and ferried it to Kryos’ pitch-gloved palm.

Next chapter

Kryos: Chapter 9

Previous chapter

“What are you going to do?”

Ryard Vancing stared out the window of the tenement flat and turned to the querious woman with whom he shared it, his face a fretting blank.

“I’ve no idea.”

He looked back to the reflective pane and noticed the unruly whorls of his hair, matted his tresses and put his hands in his pockets, surveying the deteriorating vista. Consortium drones swarmed the air to the north, vainly attempting to dissuade the rioters who there stormed the streets. Ryard noticed a thin column of smoke building beyond the broil in the hazy distance of the eatery district. “Mechanical failure?” He wondered with rising agitation, “Or arson?”

“Indecision is uncharacteristic for you,” Lind Howell declared with concern, filling two cups with hot coffee from a insulated metal container, which sat the table in the middle of their small, plainly furnished living room; the device was battered, ornateless and strange against the black-matte tabletop, a relic from a bygone age, inherited from Howell’s late uncle, who had himself inherited the item from his father. Lind raised a cup to Ryard, who ambled to the couch and took it, setting himself heavily down with a sigh. He pressed the cool glass to his forehead and took a sip before speaking.

“I suppose it is. I just don’t want to make the situation worse.”

“I’m sure you wouldn’t.”

“No you’re not.”

“I’m trying to be supportive.”

“I know.” He forced a smile and swirled his glass, watching the bean juice slush like oxidized blood. He frowned briefly, set the glass down and slowly rotated it with his work-worn fingertips. “How was work?”

She sighed, “Terrible. More so than usual. Had to spend almost the entire morning cloud-side.”

“Because of the riots?”

She nodded, “Watched it spread. Like a bushfire in a high wind. Had to go up and retether one of the aerostats just beyond Southern. Someone, or ones, had cut it free. Haven’t got an ID yet. They must have thought it would just float away.”

Ryard raised his glass suddenly. “A toast, to our invaluable sky-techs.”

The woman half-heartedly raised her glass and downed the rest of its contents.

“I just don’t know what’s gotten into people lately.”

“I suspect the Eastern Federation has had a heavy hand in it. This recent chaos.”

“I heard some people talking about it on the news. The Federation envoys say that allegations of their involvement in the protests and the riots are just propaganda. I don’t know what to think. Everything that the media comes out with is propaganda about propaganda. You said it was Lanning that contacted you?”

“Yeah. Still had that ridiculous coat. I suppose he thinks its stylish. Said his wife and daughter have been getting on better, after the move.”

“Lanning’s wife had the right idea. Moving to the colonies.”

Ryard shook his head and rose, “I’ve heard a lot of talk like that recently. Of departing the city because of the southers coming in, or because of the way the Consortium has changed, or because of the Federation’s subversion; I can’t agree with it. I’m glad Lanning’s family are happy now, but consider what would happen if most people here thought that way; if most people decided to pack up and leave the moment things take a bad turn. When conflict becomes unavoidable. When fear flares. Its uncivilized.”

“Uncivilized?”

“Civility is more than manners.”

Next chapter

Kryos: Chapter 8

Previous chapter

Ryard Vancing silenced his affin module upon the callithumpian sidewalk and craned his neck up at the immense facade of KSRU headquarters, which rose above the surrounding buildings of Southern Block like a prodigious, concrete anvil, condensed at the eyrie. Lanning tapped his foot with impatience. After a matter of seconds, a drone descended from a slot in the edifice’s sleek veneer and hovered before the entrants. Lanning proffered his affin module to the drone’s scanner, whereupon the aerial machine issued a series of clicks and flew away as the large, twin doors to the high compound opened with a hydraulic hiss. The duo traversed a long, narrow, glassy-floored lobby and emerged therefrom to a great vaulted hall, the entrance to which was guarded by two men with white-plated armor, undergirded by dark, coriaceous bodysuits; Kryos Industries insignias visible on their left pauldrons. Lanning greeted the guards and gestured cordially to his companion.

“This is Ryard Vancing. He’s expected.”

The guards swiftly parted, stiffened and, to Ryard’s surprise, saluted him solemnly. When the pair were beyond ear-shot of the sentinels, Ryard arched a brow and turned to his orange-clad escort.

“What was that?”

“Some people have forgotten about what you did for the city, but they haven’t. They respect you for it. Ah, there he is. Allow me to introduce you to Colonel Syzr. Though I should warn you, he’s not keen on small-talk.”

Lanning gestured to a large armatured man, who stood gazing intently at a enormous monitor which hung from the ceiling at the end of the hall, behind which a double stair with cupreous railing led to an upper landing. Syzr spoke without breaking from his enterprise; his voice radiating mechanistically through a polished vermeil helm.

“Greetings, Mr. Vancing.”

“Its an honor to meet you, Colonel.”

The Colonel turned sharply and fixed Ryard in what the guest could only assume to be his gaze, for his face was fully palled, his eyes, veiled by the lenses of his tactical mask.

“The honor is mine,” the Colonel replied demurely, extending a plated hand to his guest, who shook firmly, wincing as he did so.

“Lanning tells me Vera… er, Ms. Straker wanted a word. Is she here?”

“She will be down momentarily.”

Syzr turned to Lanning and gestured toward the door. Lanning bowed cordially, turned heel and departed. Shortly thereafter, a woman entered the hall from the rightward stair; decisive, pale and of middling height, garbed in a tight, high-collared white coat with black inner lining, visible in the vestment’s tails. Her long, raven hair, secured by a slender argent band. Her cold, primly restrained visage warmed slightly as she took the guest’s measure.

“Mr. Vancing. I see you’re still in the habit of combing with a windstorm.”

Ryard self-consciously raised a hand to his head.

“Uh, its good to see you too, Ms. Straker.”

“I’m glad you saw fit to heed my summons. I would have approached you myself, but you have doubtless seen what it is like out there.”

“Your face would be more readily recognized than Lanning’s,” he replied, matting his birdnest tresses, “A target for any radical with a grievance, real or imagined. And certainly, you could not have sent Mr. Syzr – given how omnipresent he is in the news cycle. I quite understand.”

“Its precisely that kind of keen perception we need. And I appreciate time’s scarcity. So I shall be brief. Mr. Kryos has tasked me with the reformation of the KSRU. He desires a transition from anti-terror operations to general policing – a move the Colonel has long advocated and the Constorium have long opposed. Mr. Syzr aims to integrate the KSRU into the block’s defensive infrastructure, and has the green-light from the mayor to do so. I want you to help him with the transition.”

“Help how? I don’t know much about security systems.”

“I keep Lanning on retainer for that. I want you to help us facilitate our message to the people. To gain their trust.”

“You want me to be your propaganda minister?”

“If that’s what you want to call it. The city is disintegrating before our eyes, the consequence of decades of madcap policy and a burgeoning population.”

She gestured to Syzr who switched on a series of feeds, each showing a different genre of barbarity. In the upper right hand corner of the screen was a intricate chart displaying incidence of institutionally recognized crimes. One panel displayed a newsfeed from Aecer Digest, the largest news corporation in the city, wherein aerial footage ran of three men standing before a woman in an alley, facing down a large figure, barely in frame, with the headline, “Riots continue after Kryos-connected vigilante killing.”

Syzr shook his head and crossed his arms about his vermeil-plated chest as Straker took a seat and lit up a cigarette; she offered one of the neat, psychoactive cylinders to Ryard, but he politely declined.

“Affin tampering, patch distribution, muggings, rapes, and murders are all on the rise. Revolutionary parties and gangs are emerging at breakneck speed. Worse, the Consortium refuses to do anything substantial about it. I shouldn’t have to elaborate – you saw the riots. The people are losing confidence in the system’s ability to protect them. It remains with us to restore that confidence.”

“I’ve obligations. To the station.”

“We are willing to pay you double your current weekly credit allotment.”

Ryard nodded, rubbed his chin and looked to his module. The screen of the slender device displayed two missed calls from Lind. No messages left. Lind never left messages.

“I have to go. I’ll think about it.”

“Emergency?”

“Dunno.”

“Very well. Let me know when you come to a decision.”

“I will.”

“Syzr will see you out. And Ryard.”

The man turned expectantly to the exquisite woman.

“Hm?”

“A comb, next time.”

Ryard smiled wryly and left off, following Syzr out of the central hall, to the lobby which roiled with commotion. A group of local workers were arguing with KSRU clerks at the reception desk.

“A good a time as any to introduce you to the members of the Aecer Center for Social Progress,” Syzr declared, nodding towards the men and women waiting in the lobby, “They’ve been working with us to build a relationship between the labor unions and my men. That’s their leader, there.”

Ryard followed Syzr’s gesture to a slender man with a chartreuse coat and short pale blond hair, who stood slightly apart from the men arguing with the clerks behind the counter, hands in his pockets, eyes taking in the contours of the walls and ceiling. After hearing the sound of encroaching footsteps, the man with the pale green coat slowly turned to the duo and moved toward them with easy, languid strides.

“G’day Colonel. Dreadful what they’ve been saying about you. Truly dreadful. But you’ve a new friend. One whose face I recognize. You must be Ryard Vancing.”

The man extended his right hand to the CAV-keep, his left, curiously bandaged with thin medical wraps. Ryard took the man’s hand and shook amiably.

“That’s me. And you are?”

The man with the chartreuse coat flashed a charming smile.

“Illander Rehdon.”

Next chapter

The Silence & The Howl, and, Tatter, now available from Gumroad

The novellas THE SILENCE & THE HOWL (2020) and, TATTER (2020) by Kaiter Enless are now available from Gumroad in EPUB formats.

Previously, Logos Literature ebooks were available exclusively to our Patreon patrons, but, understandably, not everyone will want to support on a continual basis; and so, for those who wish to purchase our ebooks directly, Gumroad will now be the place to do so.

Kryos: Chapter 7

Previous chapter

Ryard Vancing adjusted his coat collar and surveyed the crowds marching through the streets below the main CAV-way warily. Individually, the discordant multitude was unremarkable, composed of both men and women, young and old; the general heterogeneousness of their dress suggesting spontaneity of organization. There were mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, CAV-keeps and sky-techs, street-sweepers, artists and vagabonds, some with signs, most without. All particularities of the wild conglomeration evanesced in the novel meta-organism that roiled across the pedestrian lane with stark ferocity, howling to self and sky, breaking windows and signs as assurance drones of the Consortium moved to meet it. Chastising the malcontents with workshopped slogans.

Vancing idly wondered why the Consortium had their drones fly so low, where any volatile fool with a blunt object to-hand could strike them down.

As he watched the fray, he listened to the newsfeed on his wrist-bound module; an Aecer Digest roundtable discussion between a female anchor and two middling-profile pundits.

“Would you agree with Ms. Choufey, Mr. Sabin?”

“Not at all. He killed two people. He’s a maniac. The KSRU are not law enforcers, they’re mercenaries for Kryos Industries. Hired guns. The guy should be arrested.”

“Arrested? He should be given an award.”

“I’m beginning to think you’re as crazy as he is.”

“What kind of society is it, where you’re called ‘crazy’ for saving a woman from god-knows-what?'”

His module lit up, breaking the passenger from his oneirism. Call incoming. He looked swiftly to the name displayed on his bracer’s screen: Lind Howell. Vancing accepted the transmission request, listening as he continued to anxiously observe the mob pump their fists into the air and smash up the storefronts below.

“Ryard, are you alright?”

“I’m fine.”

“Oh, thank goodness. I was worried sick about you.”

“Its not as if they’d clamber onto the CAV-way.”

“No. I guess not. I don’t know. Things have gotten so… I just had a bad feeling.”

“You and me both. I’m coming up on the way-station. I’ve gotta go. I’ll be home soon.”

“Alright. Stay safe, Ryard.”

“You too.”

He closed out the line and leaned back in his seat with a sigh as his lev-han shot beyond the pedestrian overpass and pulled into the eatery district substation shift-yard, just beyond Southern Block. His vehicle parked and opened the leftern passenger door, whereupon Ryard exited and, with practiced ease, strode to the back of the machine and removed two large cases, which he carried, one in each hand, as he walked into the station.

Inside a pert woman at the counter held up her hands in entreaty as a small, olive-skinned man gesticulated frustratedly.

“Its just cause I’m an outsider, isn’t it?”

“No. Sir, please calm yourself, I’m doing all I can.”

“That so?”

“We don’t have any more vehicles at present. We’re working at full capacity, and-“

“Lying bitch! I know how you people operate!”

Ryard set the rough-worn cases down gently and raised his calm, clear voice above the commotion.

“What’s the problem?”

“Who’re you?” The man snarled, whirling upon the entrant.

“Ryard Vancing. I’m the station manager. Now, what’s the problem?”

“I know that name.”

“How can I help you?”

“Ah. Well, its just-,” the man looked to the woman behind the counter and then to his shoes, unable to meet Ryard’s gaze, “Its my wife… she needs medicine regularly and we don’t have the credits for a home crafter and… and I needed to get to Southern Block for her medication – but there’s no damn vacancies in the line. She’s… not doing well… and…”

The man began to cry and turned away in shame.

“I don’t want to lose her.”

Ryard reached out and put a firm hand upon the distraught man’s shoulder.

“I understand your frustration. But you shouldn’t lash out at Victoria, she was telling the truth. Lot of my workers have gone out to protest. Line and vehicle maintenance has been suboptimal.”

The man nodded and, with considerable effort, looked up toward the woman behind the counter.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. I shouldn’t have-“

“Its quite alright.”

Ryard took the man some distance from the counter, mouthing “sorry I was late” at Victoria over his shoulder, to which the woman, with relief and exasperation, mutely lipped a “thank you.”

“What’s your name, sir?”

“Wasil.”

“Well, Mr. Wasil, you said you needed to get to Southern Block.”

“Yes,” the man replied despairingly.

“A vacancy just opened up. I live in Southern Block and was just headed home. I’ll give you a lift.”

The small man’s eyes widened and he took Ryard’s left hand in his own and pressed it firmly.

“Bless you, sir.”

With a faint smile Ryard patted the man on the back and walked him outside and down the substation stair to the shift-yard where he discovered a tall man with a long orange coat standing before his lev-han.

“Been a while, Mr. Vancing.”

Ryard regarded the man a long moment before he spoke.

“Hello Lanning.”

Next chapter

Kryos: Chapter 6

Previous chapter

Holleran Meris moved slowly through the main pedestrian thoroughfare of Aecer, relaxing as the warm rays licked his aged and crinkling skin. He wanted a cup of coffee and quiet, without solitude, and trode toward his favorite automat to sate the fickle desire. The street was filled with musicians and migrants, service drones and spruce businessmen, above whom the vast, albescent spires of Central Sector cut up the sky like incandescent brands, girded by the argent lifting envelopes of affinity dispatch dirigibles, whose prodigious shades variegated the bases of the high, glistening towers, and lent, to those magisterial constructs, an appearance of orphic flotation, as if the city’s lofty edifice rose not from the ground, but levitated inertly across the roiling, red horizon.

Meris paused and absorbed the palatial scenery as two children romped by, riant and nescient of the erstwhile striving that had brought forth the vertiginous bailiwick on which they twirled. He watched his people’s apogee turn, rosy cheeked and waving, and raised a hand in avuncular greeting, whereafter they waved back and passed west over the road and melded with the cosmopolitan itinerants, who scurried thickly along the bustling sprawl. Meris turned, left off to the north, and primed the credits in his wrist-borne affin module for the delights of the Wyntwurth automat. As he wound about the corner of the avenue which led up to the restaurant, he froze, perplexed and shocked.

The automat was awash in violence, visible through its diaphanous, polymeric exterior. Everywhere within the building, men collided, one lay upon the floor, bleeding from a deep gash upon his head. The server drones lay overturned, food spilling from their dispensers. A crowd began to form outside the restaurant, some recording the conflagration with their affin modules, others simply observing the row. None possessed of the courage or interest to intervene in the broil. Meris scanned the street; no Consortium security officers were in sight.

As Meris returned his attention to the motorized cafeteria he noticed, amidst the noisy crowd, a vivacious blonde, habilimented in sleek running shoes, skin-tight shorts and a crop-top, and a merry, lissom man, clad in a pale green coat and off-white sweater with pale blond hair parted to the right that fell down just below the eye. The pair conversed with adjacent observers, the man gesturing animatedly with a left bandaged hand. Meris approached the couple and raised his voice above the din.

“What happened?”

The man with the green coat paused and gazed over his shoulder at the old man with a sorrowful expression.

“Mouse utopia.”

Meris’ brows knit in confusion as he watched the pair depart, then in concern as several members of the crowd dashed into the restaurant to restrain the combatants.

Next chapter

Kryos: Chapter 5

Previous chapter

The man with the chartreuse coat leaned back in his chair, keenly observing the patch-riddled occupants of the crowded, bioluminescent automat. The whole of the space was lit by large plankton-filled tubes that ran the length of the ceiling in loosely spaced rows; the patrons under which were divided, as if by an invisible line; aecerite to the left, fair and simply, but sharply, dressed; souther to the right, swarthy and cheaply, yet garishly, garbed. Each camp stayed together and furtively eyed the other. Tension writhed in every gesture, louder even than the news-feeds blaring and fading from screen-walls; stories of new building projects and migratory patterns and East Federation’s quarrels with The Consortium. Shortly, there arrived a detachment of low-level government officials, who sat a separate table at the back; an arrival heralded by discontented mumbling, needling eyes and shaking heads.

“Boring. Boring. Boring,” the man with the chartreuse coat lamented with a theatrical scowl, tossing his head back over the rest of his seat, stretching his arms out across the table, palms up, fingers flexing rapidly. The blonde who sat the opposite side of the table shrugged and primly lifted a small glass of aromatic liquid from the back of a passing automat server.

“Is it boredom that prompted you to send the drone-recording to the media?”

“I thought it would have a livening effect. Though the spin doctors are taking their time playing it. We’ve been here for thirty minutes and nothing.”

“Have you considered that the locals might like their doldrums?”

“No,” the man laughed, “People want adventure, Zarya.” He flicked his wrist and produced a flower, seemingly from the very air, “Romance. In the old sense of the word.” The man smiled widely and looked towards his companion, “And what is adventure but another word for trouble? Its trouble people want.”

“It’d be more useful to speak of specific people than ‘people,’ as if that were some definate polity.”

The man arched a brow and rolled the flower listlessly between thumb and index, “Your penchant for pedantry nauseates me.”

The woman screwed up her face and stuck out her tongue.

He ignored her petulance and surveyed the distracted and patched-up patrons, “Look around. Bloodthirst in every eye.” He crushed the flower and dropped the remains upon the table, without sparing it a glance.

“Obviously. But they don’t act on it.”

“They just need an excuse.”

The woman smirked, “Perhaps you should give them one.”

“Perhaps I should.”

The man rose and moved to the southers and ordered them a round of drinks; server drones went scurrying. The woman watched with interest, and began folding a napkin with detached and practiced ease. A stout souther of considerable height raised his fresh glass to the man with the chartreuse coat.

“Much obliged, stranger.”

“Think nothing of it. I merely seek to remedy this,” he gestured broadly, “Dearth of festivity.”

“The what of what?”

“I mean you seemed glum, friend.”

“Mm. Been having a rough week of it,” the taciturn souther replied quietly as a breaking news alert flashed across the wall-screen that enclosed the large, hollow, featureless square which rose up from the core of the thin, square island counter which sat the center of the establishment.

“Self-defense or cold-blooded vigilantism?” A trim, blanched woman queried rhetorically as a New Vis Corp logo zipped across the bottom of the display, “This is doubtless the question many viewers will be asking after they see new and exclusive aerial footage of a recent confrontation in the North Central tenements; we would like to take a moment, however, to warn the more sensitive members of our audience that what you are about to see features explicit violence and intense language.”

The man with the chartreuse coat smiled as the recording he had stolen ran, displaying an armored man confronting two southers, one short, one fat. The crowd went silent until the recording progressed to the mugger’s deaths, at which point the establishment erupted with murmurs.

“As if we weren’t up against it enough. Now there’s a psycho out there hunting us…”

“I dimly understand how you feel,” the man with the chartreuse coat replied, “Given what those folks over there have been saying. Puts a bad mood into the air. Moods can be infectious.”

The massive souther followed the chartreuse-garbed man’s gesticulation – a quick tilt of the head – and lighted upon the aecerite locals, who sat in the left corner of the bar; they conversed quietly amongst themselves, seemingly wary of being overheard, despite the pervasive rumble of the newsfeed.

“And what have they been saying?” The man inquired slowly, feigned disinterest naked in uneven tones.

The man with the chartreuse coat leaned toward the souther and whispered in his ear. The listener tensed and shook with rage.

“They said that, did they?”

The man with the chartreuse coat nodded with simulated sadness. The souther worked his jaw, rose from his chair and strode furiously toward the aecerites.

The fighting began almost immediately.

Next chapter