Chapter 27

Nothing But Blue Skies

While the other initiates indulged themselves in the ship’s vacuous facilities, Dante retreated to a private room. It wasn’t much bigger than his apartment’s kitchen, with a pull-down bed on one wall and a desk and chair opposite. Its single, oval window looked out towards Malkuth. Noticing a small vendor in the corner, Dante decided to order himself a coffee. Katrina would shake her head in disapproval, but she was too busy with her friends to care.

Once the vendor produced his order — a steaming mug of Ketherian Black — he moved over to the window. Outside, the ship’s portside wing formed a glistening canopy of colours as legions of sufficiently advanced machines worked to counteract the forces of gravity and keep the giant vessel aloft. If this was the technology of today, he thought, then the technology of the future would have no problem circumventing Theia’s fall. So long as the Cities stood tall, there was nothing to worry about. The world was in safe hands.

He took a sip of his coffee. It had a thick, bitter taste, stronger than what he was used to. As he waited for the caffeine to kick in, he traced the path of Malkuth’s expansion, laid out below him in a map of greens and browns, rivers, roads and walls. The Fifth Circle he called home, with its schizophrenic collection of forests, towns and ruins; the Fourth, untamed and untouched, where life could bloom free of human interference; beyond that, the Third, a tapestry of farmland producing enough food to feed a continent; and, finally, a distant blur on the horizon, the Second Circle, the Malkuthian suburbs, the city beyond the City, where hundreds of thousands jostled for a place inside the great mountain fortress.

Halfway through his coffee, Dante realised that the caffeine rush wasn’t coming. Returning to the vendor, he recalled his order and studied the list of ingredients. Ambrosia was just a base substance, after all, a could-be liquid, could-be solid canvas that drew its colour from a wide gamut of consumable chemicals. Caffeine should have been one of them.

It wasn’t. Dante delved deeper into the vendor menus for confirmation, right down into the index of basic building blocks, but there was no sign of the drug he needed to keep his mind focused and awake. Nor were there any signs of the sedatives he used to suppress dreams or ill trains of thought. Anything mind-altering, anything that could be deemed ‘unhealthy’ was nowhere to be found.

He paced back over to the window. They had only given him the illusion of choice. With a disgruntled scowl, he drank the last of his coffee and ordered some cereal bars.

It was only a Seelie ship, he told himself. Avalon would be different.

He reached into his cloak pocket and pulled out the Tablet. Somewhere in that endless tome of knowledge, there would be something to reassure him, something to confirm Seelie was just abusing the technologies gifted them, limiting their use to control others, spinning lies to make sure their children behaved…

He looked up at the City, unchanging as the world fled by beneath his feet. Even as high as they were, the City’s uppermost levels were still above them, still far beyond his reach. Even if he commandeered the ship for himself, he would never reach them. He didn’t have the karma. He didn’t have any karma at all.

The stainless white Tablet looked up at him, waiting.

~*~

I cut a little bit from the end of this scene for pacing/clarity reasons, but I’ll post it in the comments at the end of the chapter because it mentions Lysander and Angelo, and I know people enjoy them…