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.”
“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.”
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.