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

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

Tatter: Chapter 37 (Finis)

Previous chapter

Ryard woke, to a curious, faint humming coming from somewhere below. He blinked, blinded by the intense albescence which bathed the room and shook his pulsing head, groaning quietly. A pungent, antiseptic scent clotted the air and as his vision came back into focus, he realized he lay upon a cot within a great dome, partially composed of something that looked vaguely like glass, beyond which swam schools of small and colorful fish, thereafter departing to make way for an old shark, some twenty feet in length, whose back and gills were canopied with parasites and the remnants of abyssal battles. Ryard slowly rose into a sitting position. Pain throbbed faintly in his side and when he raised his hand to his wound he found it meticulously bandaged. He looked around in a daze. The ceiling of the dome was solid white and girded at each apex by small black dots; cameras on short, automated stalks. As his senses returned to normalcy, Ryard realized the cot was stationed within a sealed, semi-transparent chamber upon a platform which sat a great abyss, the bottom of which darkness rendered opaque.

Momentarily, the far humming grew in intensity as the twin portals to the chamber slowly opened.

Overtaken by curiosity, Vancing exited the chamber and strode out upon the platform.

The sound of footsteps reverberated throughout the chasm. A form moved in the depths. A man. The figure rose up from the lightless sink, pale and trim, with eyes like burnished heliodor, upon a floating bridge of argent, anthropodal machines, each offering itself in dutiful turn as a new step on a thriving aerial stair. The man stepped free from the flying extension and appraised the CAV-keep keenly as a whale bellowed beyond the transparent casing of the massive underwater dome.

“I hope your sleep was filled with pleasant dreams. I am Eidos Kryos. You are safe here. How are you feeling?”

Vancing was so surprised by the sudden visitation that, for a brief moment, he lost the power of speech and stood starring with bewilderment at the pallid, obsidian-garbed man before him as the aerial drones rose up out of the reach and drifted peaceably overhead.

“Much better. I barely feel any pain at all.” The CAV-keep turned and looked out the window at the aphotic expanse, lit only by the steady exterior lights of the gargantuan seacraft, “Where am I?”

“In the heart of The Progenitor, three kilometers under the ocean, fifty miles off the coast of Aecer. You’ve been asleep for three days.”

“No wonder I feel so disoriented. Not that I’m ungrateful for you patching me up, but… why am I here?”

“I wanted to meet you. I owe you. So very much. Your errant intervention saved not only my daughter and the city, but a bridge to the future.”

“I’m not really sure what you mean. I told her I’d help her get home. That was all.”

“A man of his word.”

“I try to be. What happened to the group that wanted her?”

“After you cut off the head of their snake, they scattered. I ensured the city would be sealed, and when they attempted to flee beyond it, found their way blocked and were promptly apprehended. Save for one, who my people will find, sooner or later. Aestival is no more. In no small part, thanks to you.”

“She told me you’d recompense me for my trouble.”

“And so I shall. What do you want, Mr. Vancing? Name it. If it is in my power to bestow, it shall be yours.”

“I just want to do my job. I’m never happier than when I’m ferrying fertilizer and fixing frayed wires. If you could make sure I keep my position after all of this blows over, I’d be immensely appreciative.”

“It shall be done.”

“And you – what do you want?”

Kryos looked off toward the abyss beyond, where phosphorescent jellyfish glowed in liminal drift.

“The firmament, gilded and baroque.”

Tatter: Chapter 35

Previous chapter

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?”

“Well done.”

“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.

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter 30

Previous chapter

Ryard glanced to his wrist-bound affin module, the screen displayed a intricately detailed map of the city; the signal for his tracker, bequeathed to Tatter, glowed bright blue against the crisp white outline of the tertiary diagram. His brows knitted with concern as the vehicle sped across the expressway, the pedestrian lanes, shimmering busy and loud below. He synched the vehicle to his module, selected the destination, leaned back and let the automated system take over.

The drive was a short one, taking him from the northern edge of the central sector to the southeast. He parked in the Aecer Memorial Cemetery shiftyard, exited Holleran’s lev-han and moved through the gate of the necropolis with astute alacrity. The burial site stretched 624 acres, distinguished from the surrounding water treatment and storage facilities by a lack of verticality and the abundance of caretaker drones, who quietly and tirelessly scurried across the lawn, watering the grass and clearing the wind-worn graves of detritus: dead leaves, food wrappers and bird droppings.

As Ryard surveyed the scene, a man came striding from behind a large monument, fit, tall and suspicious of eye, dressed in Vekt Corp uniform. The man’s hair was short and he was missing part of his left lower ear.

“Excuse me, sir.”

“Yeah?”

“I’m gonna have to ask you to leave this area.”

Ryard stiffened and tilted his head inquisitively.

“Why? This is public property.”

The man shrugged dismissively, throwing his arms briefly wide with entreaty.

“Orders, I’m afraid. From the top. You know how it is.”

Ryard looked to his module map once more. Tatter’s tracker-sigil displayed atop his present coordinates.

“Sir, I’m sorry, but, I’m gonna have to ask you to leave.”

Ryard eyed the man opaquely, gripping the multiratchet from his utility belt surreptitiously as he noticed another figure in the distance, a woman, observing the scene with obvious interest.

“I’d like to talk to your superior about this.”

“They’re presently preoccupied.”

“Who is?”

“Sir?”

“Who is your superior? Their name? You work for Vekt Corp, right? Nothing personal, but I’m gonna file a complaint.”

The man frowned, his expression darkening.

“Sara.”

“Just Sara?”

“Sara… Atbee.”

Without another word, Ryard brought up his module and began typing in the name ‘Sara Atbee.’ After two seconds of Ryard’s manipulation’s, the Vekt-garbed man drew a stun-gun from underneath his shirt and lunged. Ryard back-stepped the assault and brought his ratchet down upon the assailant’s skull with full force, prompting a sickening thud. The sentry slackened and crumbled to the ground; as he did, the woman in the distance bolted towards Ryard. The CAV-keep snatched the stun-gun from the ground and ran behind a massive obelisk as the second sentry fired into the well-worn marble facade. A near miss. He looked to the weapon in his hands; munition consisted of four charged adhesive packets, each capable of incapacitating a grown man.

“Come out now and I won’t hurt you.”

Ryard could hear her footsteps encroaching and something else, clattering dully at his periphery. He cast his gaze swiftly over his shoulder and beheld a caretaker drone, moving toward him, likely to clean the monument behind which he hid. He grinned slyly and kicked the drone from the shadow of the obelisk, causing the machine to land upon its back, its four metal-plastic legs writhing spastically into the air as the female sentry unloaded a stun-packet into it. The moment Ryard heard the weapon discharge he ducked out of cover, took aim at the woman’s midsection and squeezed the trigger. The woman flailed wildly and collapsed upon the ground, unconscious.

Ryard exhaled, lowered his weapon and looked to the drone, which now sputtered static, its legs moving erratically, sensor stalk writhing uncontrollably. He moved past the downed machine, stripped the weapon from the immobile woman and cautiously looked about the graveyard.

No one.

Only two guards… they’re small in number. Otherwise there would be more sentries. She’s directly below me. They didn’t bury her. Obviously. A false grave? Seems improbable… There’s an underground chamber, or system of chambers… Catacombs…

He looked to the closest building. Caretaker storage.

The basement.

He rushed to the storage building and scented fresh-churned earth. He paused, turning to the source of the aroma and beheld over fifty graves, freshly dug. Burrows for those who had died during the grid attack, CAV-way passengers and reactor workers. The man read several of the shiny memorial plaques and moved to the door of the storage house. There was no handle. He plucked a caretaker drone up off the ground, removed its back-console panel and returned to the door and used the drone-bound passcode to open it, then set the drone down beside the door and passed into the storage facility. Inside the small building were several inert security drones lit by low, flickering yellow lights. Spare parts rested in bins in the next room and a stair that led down to the basement.

Ryard withdrew the woman’s stun-gun, loaded a packet from the other weapon into it and cautiously peered over the railing of the stair. The concrete well was empty and descended into utter darkness. He paused and surveyed the inert maintenance automatons, each of which bore a sleek Vilar Corp logo, his fingers gently brushing against the standardized power cores arrayed about his belt.

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter 29

Previous chapter

The room in which Tatter awoke was brightly lit and devoid of sound save for the gentle tapping of busy fingers on the keys of a computer pad and the gentle hum of a portable generator. The walls were barren, composed of aged, yet finely burnished metal. Numerous pieces of medical equipment lined a desk to the left and to the right, several crates of varying sizes were stacked one upon the other. Two figures were half-visible from the open-faced diagnostic pod upon which she lay, a man, at the desk, typing, and a woman, staring observantly at the occupant of the medical calyx. Tatter tried to move but found her body secured at the throat, chest, arms, legs and ankles by tight flexile straps. Significant motion was impossible.

“What do you want with me?” Tatter asked the moment her voice returned.

The woman, cruel-faced with a long, gray streak in her short-clipped hair, bent over the pod.

“I thought you gave it a sedative?”

“I did. A potent one.” The man replied with surprise. “It must be due the… peculiarity of her neuronal system. Soriya told me she was unique, but she failed to impress upon me the extent of that uniqueness. No matter. Its all the same for the procedure.”

“I trust you’re not becoming distracted.”

The man sighed with exasperation.

“I’m prepping the sample now. It will be ready for injection soon.”

“What are you doing to me?” Tatter queried emphatically.

The source of the male voice, a balding, clean shaven man wearing a light suit, stepped into view. He had a broad shrunken face and walked with a marked limp and leaned a little towards her, his mouth formed a gentle smile but his eyes were cold.

“Running some tests. You’ll be able to go home very soon.”

The man looked up toward the anxious, gray-haired woman with severity.

“Isn’t that right, Moreno?”

The woman forced a brittle smile.

“That’s right.”

Tatter stared at the woman a long moment and attempted to withdraw as the gray-streaked creature leaned down toward her.

Before the woman could respond another voice intruded upon the scene. One low, gruff, male and unfamiliar to Tatter.

“Route is secure.” the man declared matter-of-factly, strolling into the room, hands swaying loosely at his sides, hard, dark eyes roving over the medical equipment hastily arrayed about the spacious, antiseptic chamber. The newcomer was short, stocky and clean-shaven with a bandaged arm. Tatter recognized him as one of Vangr’s men.

“Good.” Grazen declared. “And the Director?”

“Holding on to her. Least until we’re clear of the city. Bartering chip, n’case we get boxed in.”

Grazen nodded approvingly and gingerly hefted a small tube of liquid from a thawing chamber and swirled it in the light. The bandaged man waited for the Grazen to respond and, finally exasperated, took a step forward and spoke emphatically.

“Grazen.”

“Hm?”

“He’s expecting you to keep your end of the bargain.”

“Of course.”

Moreno turned to the bandaged man challengingly.

“His daughter will be released. As promised. Though, we should let her rot given your utter incompe-.”

The bandaged man did not even turn toward the woman as he spoke, “Wasn’t talking to you.”

Rage starkly colored the woman’s face, her jaw clenching, brow quivering, fingers flexing. For a brief moment Tatter thought the woman would rush the man and tear at him with her bare hands.

“Tell him I will make the call shortly.” Grazen declared flatly, his attention fixed upon the large console before him.

The bandaged man nodded briskly.

“Do you not understand the gravity of what we are doing here? Moreno inquired, whirling to the bandaged man with sudden agitation, “Take a moment to consider the coming change. One you helped to foster.”

“That’s none of my concern.”

The bandaged man turned slowly and left off. Moreno watched the man depart and spoke softly.

“Ignorant, greedy fool.”

Grazen ignored the woman and deftly manipulated the pod’s control-panel and shortly a mechanical arm descended upon its occupant, producing a long syringe and sinking it deep into the prisoner’s exposed arm.

“Comfortable?”

“No.”

“That’s good. We are never more aware of what is important to us than when we are in pain.”

Tatter: Chapter 28

Previous chapter

Bioluminescent plankton basked the cloistered bar in dim azure glow from wall-bound tubes which ribboned the length of the square, low-ceilinged chamber. Blue-lit patrons sat around the semi-circular retractable table as drinks were ferried by server drones, payments automatically deducted from affin modules upon reception. Aecer Digest played across the numerous, wide wall-screens, information relayed to the onlookers by a prim woman in a suit.

Holleran Meris listened to the feed despondently, his eyes fixed upon his glass.

“Breaking news: Members of Aestival, the terror group responsible for the destruction of Starglaive One, have been detected within city limits. The Consortium, after considerable deliberation, has voted on a complete shut down until the criminals have been apprehended. If you see any suspicious activity, we encourage you to report to your local Consortium authorities as soon as possible.”

A young man with short, unkempt hair, and a complexion incongruent, sipped his half-empty glass and shook his head.

“Wish Aestival had blown up the Reiks Hall instead of the reactor, not that I mind them taking out that ugly hunk of junk.”

Men surrounding the speaker laughed derisively. Meris leaned towards the younger man with severity.

“That ‘hunk of junk’ powered the entire sector.”

“Seems we’re getting on just fine without it.” The man gestured flippantly to the chamber lights.

“Same people that built the reactor built this place.”

The man shrugged.

“You shrug.”

“Yeah.”

“The reactor isn’t running. There will be outages. Outages mean death for those on life support.”

“What’s your problem?”

“My problem? You’re sitting there celebrating terrorism and you ask me what my problem is.”

“Terrorism is a matter of perspective. If anyone’s the terrorists, its the Consortium. Detaining people without a trial. You know they locked up kids?”

“They detained the monsters that destroyed the reactor and everyone suspected of supporting them.”

“So? I say fuck um all. Consortium, and the damned reactor.”

“Many of my friends died in that explosion.” The old man stated with rising emotion, his visage pocked with wrath and despair, knuckles white about his jittering glass.

“And how many people have died because of the Consortium? Because of Kryos?”

“You tell me. How many?” The young man fell silent, brows knitting. “You’ve no idea, do you?”

“Whatever.”

“How about every mother and father, daughter and son slaughtered in the blast? You think they deserved to die? Or does it not matter to you either way?”

“Take it easy.”

“Easy…” The old man slammed his cup upon the table. “I should take it easy while a Souther celebrates the murder of my friends?”

“You got a problem with Southers?”

“No. Just Southers like you. Consortium gives you all the handouts you demand and what do you people do? Spit in their face. In our face.”

“You’re starting to piss me off.”

“You people are parasites.”

The young man rose from his seat and grabbed the old man by the collar and threw him from his seat as the other patrons watched warily, the closest jumping from their perches and backing cautiously away from the scuffle. As the young man drew his arm back to strike the old man, a hand caught his forearm.

“That’s your elder, not your sirloin.”

Meris looked up from the ground to behold a middle aged man, battered and bruised, with a sling about his right arm and messy hair that spun up from his head in short, slick whorls. The face was familiar.

“This is none of your concern, CAV-keep,” the souther snarled, observing the monochrome Vilar Corp jacket and pulling his arm free of the interloper’s grasp.

Ryard Vancing surveyed the man calmly, stolidly.

“That man is my friend. I’ve business with him.”

“You didn’t hear what he said.”

“You can return to bashing each other’s brains in after I’m done talking to him,” Ryard plucked a glass of alcohol off a oblivious, nearby server drone and handed it to the man with a smile as the payment was deducted from his module. “In the meantime, drinks are on me.”

Reluctantly, the souther took the glass and, with a final glare at the old man, turned and strode back to his seat as his companions eyed the scene furtively, muttering amongst themselves. After the attacker departed, the CAV-keep pulled his friend from the ground.

“You trying to get yourself killed, Holleran? He’d have taken your head off if I hadn’t come in when I did.”

“Probably. And… I appreciate it. Just… had a lot on my mind lately,” the old man sighed and ran a hand through his unkempt hair, matting it back from his prominent brow, “Thinking about Hal and Carol and… well, that souther son-of-a-bitch was praising them.”

“Who?”

“The terrorists.”

Ryard’s eyes narrowed and a dark expression passed across his face and was gone just as swiftly.

“What happened to you anyways?”

“I don’t have time to explain. Do you still have your priority lane pass?”

“Everything’s been hectic after the attack. Don’t know what deal the company is gonna work out with the staff, higher ups probably don’t know yet either. Whatever they’re doing or decide, I still have full CAV-way privileges – but so do you, why do you-.”

“I don’t have my lev-han.”

“Let me guess – you wanna borrow mine?”

“Yes. Its urgent.”

“What is?”

“There’s no time.”

“If whatever you’ve gotten yourself into is that bad,  you had better go to the Security Commission.”

“They’ll pull me in for questioning and…” he lowered his uneven voice to evade the prying ears of the bar patrons, “Lives are at stake.”

The old man surveyed Vancing for a long moment, his critical eyes roaming over the battered, yet wholly determined face.

“Alright. I trust you. And Vancing.”

“Yeah?”

“Would be nice if my han returned in better condition than you arrived.”

Ryard smiled.

“Will do, sir.”

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter 27

Previous chapter

Ermin Gild stared at the numerous screens set up in his spacious office, news feeds playing on every one. His hands tightly clasped together, chin upon his knuckles. Dark bags under eyes that darted to every blur of motion.

Mounting migrant asylum demands. Rising concerns over terrorist violence and potential lockdowns. Discussions of KSRU raids. Disturbances at the northern agricenter. A missing CAV-keep.

After a few minutes of attentive screen-gazing, a woman wearing a long skirt, frilly top, and thin, pale violet scarf entered the room. She knocked gently on the doorjam and waited.

“What is it, Theresa?”

“The Board has come to a conclusion.” Gild straightened in his chair and looked towards the woman intently. “They’ve decided against Kryos’ recommendation. The Chancellor ordered a city-wide lockdown, effective immediately.”

Gild closed his eyes, sighing with mild frustration.

“Of course they did. Old fools. He played them like cards.”

“What do you mean?”

Gild rose and began pacing slowly about his office, hands in his pockets.

“As you know, trade with the Eastern Federation has proven highly profitable and has allowed our company to circumvent reliance on Kryos’ Industries for manufacturing.”

“Yes.”

“Given this, and the partisan’s recent interferences, he’s been rather hawkish on border issues. Wants it shut. Tightly.”

“I see.”

“The Board fears the public has begun to view Kryos as an autocrat, and them, ineffectual beaurocrats. They needed to muster a display of power against Kryos, or at least convince the public that they had done as much. And I, as you also know, have, for several months, been urging them to do just that. Aided by Ponos’ fanaticism and Raka’s reaction of Kryos’ rather… extreme handling of the insurgents. Kryos was aware of this, of course, which is why his vote was seemingly uncharacteristic. He was counting on being contested.”

“He voted to keep the city open to ensure it would be closed.”

Gild nodded, amused and annoyed. After several moments he withdrew his left hand from his pocket and glanced at the clock on his affin module and languidly turned to the woman with a look of concern.

“Has anyone found Professor Grazen yet?”

She shook her head. He nodded dourly.

“I’m heading out for an early lunch. I plan on drowning my troubles in copious quantities of alcohol. Care to join me?”

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter 26

Previous chapter

Tatter supported Ryard beyond the southern exit of Northwing Detention Facility. Half-dragging him, his good arm round her shoulder. He was barely able to stand and grunted in pain with every jolt of movement that torqued his mangled limb, which dangled awkwardly at his side. Tatter paused and leaned the man against the sun-warmed concrete wall of the facility’s smooth, ornateless exterior as a gentle breeze caught her tessellated locks, stygian and agate coiling about a supple alabaster rind. A dance of fire and shadow over a field of shimmering snow. He wiped his bleeding face with the coat-sleeve of his good arm and closed his eyes.

“Fractured?”

He shook his head minimally, not wishing to cause further movement to his searing limb.

“Dislocated.”

“Shall I relocate it?”

“You know how?”

“Yes.”

“You’re sure about that?”

“Father taught me much about anatomy. You trust me, don’t you?”

Ryard thought at first it was a rhetorical question, but quickly realized, from her open, honest posture and the eagerness in her bicolored eyes, the earnestness of the query. The man opened his eyes and moved away from the wall, took a deep breath and nodded.

“Do it.”

She gingerly rolled up his sleeve. Ryard ground his teeth and shivered, initially from the pain, then from the shocking frigidity of her touch. Icy as a corpse. She briskly took his arm at a 90 degree angle away from his body and pulled firmly. The CAV-keep gave a muted howl as a dull snick issued from his joint. Humerus returned to socket. Tatter removed the thick scarf she had obtained from the warehouse, tied it together, tested the knot, draped the interim sling about Ryard’s neck and gently rolled his injured arm into it as he groaned.

“Better?”

He nodded.

“You fixed me, its only fair I do the same.” She smiled broadly and the man, despite his woe, could not but smile in kind.

At length, he adjusted the makeshift sling with his good arm and broke away from Tatter, eyes fearfully scanning the surrounding lot.

“Come on. We need to keep moving.”

The pair passed through a high, fenced passage that lead from the exit of the penitentiary to an adjacent multi-leveled shiftyard, characterised by large square mechanized lifts, which moved with muted metalline thrums, ferrying automated detention shuttles and supply CAVs to appropriate levels, some vanishing beneath street level, others rising to upper transport lanes. All moved in a regular, orderly hum.

As the duo arrived at the bottom of the ramp, Ryard stopped his companion, gesturing to the proliferation of detention shuttles patrolling the perimeter and withdrew a small obsidian chip from his coat pocket.

“They’re shuttles everywhere. They’ll be under the control of whoever Vangr brought in to hack the complex.” The man’s face grew somber “Unlikely we’ll make it out of here together. Take this. Its the tracker from my vehicle. Swallow it. If they take you, wherever they take you, I’ll be able to find you with this.”

“You want to split up?”

He nodded resolutely.

“I’ll distract them, get them chasing me. Create an opening. Run to the south. Don’t stop until you’re outside of the HEZ. If I can shake them, I’ll meet up with you in central sector.”

Tatter looked to the man with grave concern, brow creasing.

“Hey. You trust me, right?”

In reply, Tatter suddenly and wordlessly tossed the chip into her mouth, swallowed it and stared at her companion intently. Ryard offered a lopsided grin and then bolted down the ramp and out across the lot as the sensor stalks of the detention shuttles writhed to life, bending confrontationally in the runner’s direction. The silvery vehicles sped after the hasty figure and vanished amid the architecture’s cloying convolutions.

Tatter steeled herself and then began to jog briskly down the ramp, turning to the left exit whereupon she spied the bodies of several KSRU officers laying upon the ground. As Tatter gasped, something hard collided with the back of her head and the world blurred to black.

Tatter: Chapter 25

Previous chapter

The men and women of Aestival moved as a pack, eight in number, through the labyrinthian alleyways of the city as rain pelted all from the roiling red-gray welkin. Their muscles taunt; eyes sharp; hearts pounding; weapons primed.

Upon entering the HEZ, they paused to recover and take in their surroundings, checking the meticulously detailed map displayed on their wrist-bound receivers, then surveying the sidewalkless expanse of high-stacked thoroughfares and magnetic rail lines. A screaming mineral lattice to encase the sky.

“Are you sure we can trust Vangr’s information?” Gerard inquired suddenly, pausing as they approached the Northwing Detention Facility, shoes kicking dust that lay heavy upon the ground, composed of years of accumulated rail-shavings and cargo-spills.

“All of the information he’s provided us so far has been sound. Why would he start lying now? It gains him nothing.” Carduus replied as she peeked around the corner of a large industrial warehouse, out of which moved numerous cargo drones, bearing resined crates on insectal arms.

“For profit. Credits. Status. Same as most anyone else.”

“Vangr isn’t interested in credits or status.”

“He isn’t interested in our cause either.”

“Not the time. Nor the place. You losing your nerve?”

“No.”

“Then shut your mouth.”

Gerard resentfully resigned himself to silence as the party waited for the automated cargo-carriers to pass down the street, whereupon they crept from their hiding place and swarmed across the dusty, ground-level thoroughfare, ragged cloaks flapping in the wind. Everywhere the scent of steel and chalk and drying cement.

As they reached the detention facility block they spied a cluster of aerial surveillers flitting through the misted heights. Carduus dropped to her stomach, throwing her pale gray hood up and spreading her cloak about her body.

“Get down.”

The rest of the pack quickly emulated the woman’s motions, positioning themselves flat and still upon the cool and faint-dusted concrete. There they lay until all trace of the surveillers had passed, then they rose and jogged steadily to the back entrance of the wardenless prison. At the portal into the complex’s shiftyard, Carduus halted and turned to her inferiors, feeling the harsh concrete wall before her with one hand.

“This is a grab job. In and out. No deviation. The target is our only priority.” Carduus turned to Aune, who nervously scanned the sky for the silvery sheen of more surveillance drones, “Anyone gets in our way gets taken out; anyone who falls behind gets left behind.”

All nodded save Aune.

Carduus struck the wall lightly and withdrew her weapon.

“Form up. Lets catch ourselves a monster.”

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter 24

Previous chapter

Weber closed the door to his apartment in the central sector with a sigh and stretched.

“I’m home. Stopped by the store. Picked up some of that chocolate fudge mix you like.”

He walked to the kitchen and placed a parcel of instacake on the counter, furrowing his brows as silence returned his greeting.

The subtle sound of sobs mutedly reverberated from the adjacent chamber. Low and muted and female.

“Honey?”

He turned, peering into the living room where his wife sat upon the couch, shoulders slumped and dejected.

“Cynthia?”

Weber dashed into the room and froze as he spied a figure sitting silently on a chair in the left corner, obscured by shadow. The man was of average height and build, distinguished by stark white plate, inlaid with glistening vermeil and wore a full-helm tactical mask that completely hid his face, characteristic of Kryos’ special reconissance operators.

Weber drew his cutter and aimed the weapon at the intruder’s head and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. The trigger wouldn’t budge. He tried pulling the trigger once more. The back-panel flashed the words ‘Invalid target.’ The masked man looked towards the weapon and then to Weber’s face and spoke, his voice hissing and crackling with distortion, as from a distant loudspeaker.

“Civilization is an act of trust. Where the latter is sufficiently absent, so to shall be the former. Your wife realized this. I wonder, Mr. Weber, do you?”

Weber lowered his weapon and looked to the woman, whose eyes were streaked with tears.

“Is it true?”

Weber looked over his shoulder and discovered a man in white armor standing at the threshold of the kitchen. He turned to the stair directly across the room that let up to the half-finished nursery and beheld a third man, silent and still as statuary, upon the landing.

The officer sat slowly down upon the couch beside his wife and set the cutter upon the table and looked up at the masked man before him.

“What do you want?”

“Its useless to question when you already know the answer.”

Weber was silent a long moment, his face wracked with indecision until he beheld his wife’s pleading expression.

“Grazen. Professor Eric Grazen.”

“He worked with Soriya Haldeck. I induce this is how he came to be aware of the DS project?”

“Yes. She told him everything. He’s the one who offered up the hide-out for Haldeck and Vangr. When they botched the job he put the word out to me and a few others.”

He looked to his wife’s tear-stained face. She only shook her head and looked away.

“I require the names of these ‘others.'”

The masked man fixed Weber in the onyx sheen of his lenses, as he did, the officer sagged his head and began to weep.

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter 23

Previous chapter

One chair remained empty in the flickering Reiks Consortium boardroom. Ermin Gild stood attentively behind Chancellor Richter, silently observing the chamber occupants. Environmental Commissioner, Ponos Akantha. Economic Commissioner, Garlan Hayl. Security Commissioner, Galton Raka. Vilar Corp CEO, Julian Salis. Stellarin CEO, Telfyr Vays. Numerous secretaries, carrying capsule drinks and printed biscuits, moved in and out from the table, keeping their voices low and doing their best not to intervene in the council’s burgeoning discussions. Tensions simmered and discontent was clear-writ upon every creased and somber face.

Kryos was late.

Momentarily, the doors to the dim-lit chamber were pushed open by a young woman who held in her hands a firm yet pliable obsidian globule. Upon her belt she wore a small, silver scanner. She placed the globule upon the lone empty seat and removed the device from her belt. She pressed the machine to the amorphous mass upon the chair and held it there until a low and peculiar beep sounded from the scanner, whereupon the woman straightened, respectfully inclined her head to the council and retreated from whence she had come, hands behind her back. As the chamber doors hinged closed, the thing upon the chair twisted and quivered and rose, assuming the form of a man with a slender frame. Steadily, the obsidian coloration of the entity gave way to the pale palette of the human.

The spectre opened its eyes.

Terminated heliodor, lambent in the denim murk.

The chancellor raised her hand slightly, a call for silence, and turned to the porcelain spectre.

“Thank you for joining us, Mr. Kryos. I do appreciate how valuable your times is, given your commitments to the colonies. I take it your emissary briefed you on the nature of this meeting?”

Kryos’ avatar placed its hands upon the arms of the chair, palms down, and stared at the gleaming finish of the table.

“Few are the hours to act. No time remains for trivial, internecine dissent.”

“Errant disregard for law and order is hardly ‘trivial.'” Raka contended dourly, his hands flexing with agitation.

“Nor is your company’s rapacious extraction. The people demand more environmental oversight,” Akantha enjoined, leaning over the table with considerable animation.

“There are no resources that are not created. Order foremost among them. So it is order I prioritize. Inter arma enim silent leges.” Kryos responded evenly, without glancing to either of his detractors, his hands moving slowly over the tabletop, as if memorizing the subtle curvature of its dark and polished surface. He paused and looked at the domed ceiling. “What you decry shall be your salvation. Should you choose to listen.”

A murmur went up around the table. Raka shook his head as Vays arched a brow curiously.

“Salvation? What hubris…” Akantha proclaimed with a disdainful tilt of her graying head.

“Enough.” The chancellor shouted suddenly, straightening in her seat. “Let him speak.”

“Indeed.” Salis enjoined calmly. “We can’t criticize what we’ve yet to hear.”

“If we cannot govern ourselves, how can the public expect us to govern a city?” Vays interjected sardonically.

“I said enough. All of you. Now – Mr. Kryos – explain yourself.”

The spectre of Kryos looked from the tabletop to the surrounding faces, taking the measure of each with dispassionate perspicacity.

“The partisan grid attack was a diversion. Disruption of energy flows was not their aim – rather, the procurement of a synthetic virus. This event coincided with the theft of an object from one of my research bases. When combined with the aforementioned virus, the object would produce a bioweapon of considerable potency. One capable of eradicating all human life upon the continent.”

“W-what?”

“Why did you not come to us with this sooner?” The chancellor inquired, her stoicism giving way to grave concern and something else, twisting in her visage. Something that looked to Ermin very much like fear.

Kryos looked toward the woman without emotion. “I needed time to verify.”

“Time to verify what?”

“That the virus was manufactured by Vekt Corporation.”

Kryos held the chancellor’s gaze as the other members of the council looked to each other and then to Ermin Gild, who stood in the corner, hands in his pockets. His face bore faint traces of annoyance, but was elsewise impassive.

“Don’t look at me. I’ve no idea what he’s talking about.”

“Is it true?” The chancellor demanded.

Gild shrugged. “I don’t run the institute, I just fund it. Professor Grazen is the lead researcher there. I’ll speak with him immediately.”

“How can you not know?”

“I’m not a scientist, chancellor. I try to keep out of my researcher’s hair. Obviously, a investigation will need to be carried out. You shall have my full compliance, of course.”

“Good.”

The chancellor returned her attentions to the machinic phantom.

“You said this virus had the potential to wipe out all humans on the continent if it was combined with a piece of your technology. Explain.”

“That which was taken from me was a synthetic organism, purposed for prolonged deep space exploration. The nanites developed by Vekt specifically target living human cells. The cells of my creation are incompatible for replication of the nanites. The organism would thus prove a reliable long-duration carrier. Though it is not needed to transmit the nanites, which suggests the partisan’s goals are not continental, but global.”

“I don’t follow your reasoning.”

“If Aestival merely wished to infect the city, they would not have bothered stealing my creation.”

“Why is it you believe they stole it?”

“After Aestival’s first attack, they starkly laid out their desires. An end to civilization. All civilization. The single most extensive transport system is the intercontinental hydrorail, which finds its nexus in the deep colonies. Given these facts, I concluded their plan was to utilize my creation as a international carrier; infecting it with the virus, then releasing it into the city, given its sentience, under its own power, it would be swiftly discovered by my operatives and transported back to base; from there, infection would rapidly spread to all of the colonies, and once that happened-”

“It would be a global pandemic.”

“Yes.” The spectre paused, raising a hand to its left ear. Mask-like face creasing momentarily with intense focus. “Fortunately, my director has just located the aforementioned organism. I will have her forward all of you a brief of the situation.”

The chancellor nodded. “That would be helpful. Tell us, what course of action do you recommend, Mr. Kryos?”

“Keep the city open and the matter quiet.”

The chancellor opened her mouth to speak but was waylaid by Akantha, whose face bore traces of rising vexation.

“I’m surprised you’d pass up an opportunity to advance marshal law. I thought you liked playing God.”

“Human action is chiefly framed by ancestral duolithics. Natural, or Unnatural. Authentic, or Artificial. God, or Devil. Yet. Seldom are those revelatory spaces between known and unknown so mythopoetically enshrined.”

“I’m not talking about the history of human action, I’m talking about yours. Your hubris, your blithe effrontery to Nature.”

“Eyes preoccupied by looking do not see, Commissioner.”

The woman’s visage clouded with perplexity as the lights flickered once more and failed completely. Darkness fell across the room. Vays cursed under his breath as Akantha shouted to her attendant to see to the generator.

The spectre calmly observed the ire-contorted woman and gestured through the gloom, spreading his hands, visible only through the illumination of his wide, heliodoric eyes.

“This sightless pall, a paltry imitation of cosmic predilection. Shorn of the demense of Man. No eyes to spy the firmament. Nor hands to scrap it. No tongue to taste the ichor. Nor will to shape it.”

Moments later, power returned, bathing the room in azure luminescence.

Kryos was gone.