Orphic Phantasia

35: A Bold Venture

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“Well, as far as we’re aware,” replied Chris, after installing the program to Dante’s cell. “I mean, I wouldn’t rely on it to crack open their top secret vaults or anything.”

Dante held his cell to his neck. The process didn’t even tickle.

“Top secret vaults, huh?” Emily sat back and crossed her arms. “Care to enlighten me as to what the hell is going on down here and where Katrina is?”

She shared a brief look with Dante, a reassurance that she hadn’t forgotten what had driven them down here in the first place.

“Katrina? She’s with the others, out causing more trouble than they can handle, same as usual,” Chris replied. Leaning forward and lowering his voice, he continued, “They have John Smith working for the Sultan, Theseus is down in the coliseum trying to be a hero, and the rest of them? Well…” He sat back, resting the back of his head on his hands. “Last I saw, Andromeda, Amanda and Katrina were headed for the Sultan’s casino to make eyes at the clientele.”

Dante prised the curtains aside and looked outside. Part of him didn’t want to hear what Katrina was up to. Sometimes ignorance was the better option.

But not for Emily. “Making eyes at the clientele?” she asked, a growl of disapproval in her voice.

“Don’t blame me!” said Chris. “This is all part of their master plan to,” again, he lowered his voice, “bring down the Sultan. Andromeda thinks she’s a bit of a card shark, so they’ve decided to gamble their way into his parlour, so to speak. I tried to suggest otherwise, of course — this is the real world, after all, not a spy novel — but since when did they listen to good advice?” With a sad, if slightly forced sigh, he added, “The place has probably cleared them out by now.”

Making eyes at the clientele?” Emily repeated, this time with an obvious edge.

“You know what it’s like,” said Chris. “They’re young women in their prime. Plenty of businessmen out there who’d pay a nice price for their, eh,” he caught sight of the fierce look on Emily’s face and let the rest of his words dwindle into silence.

Emily looked to the heavens with an exasperated sigh. “Figures. There anything else I should know about this place? Child slavery, perhaps?”

This wasn’t the Emily they knew and it showed in the sombre looks on their faces. Even Lance, who would so often find some excuse or another to start flirting, couldn’t find the strength for a smile.

“Well, I don’t know whether it would interest you or not,” said Chris, “but it seems this island has a reputation for synthetic smuggling.”

In the earliest drafts, the Veritas infiltration played out like the Wall Market section of Final Fantasy 7