27: Nothing But Blue Skies
Emily glanced at Malkuth and hid a scowl behind her glass of water. At least, she thought, the ship had some natural supplies. Opposite her, Doyle sipped at his second pint of the day.
“It’s a good thing they don’t replicate the actual alcohol,” she said with a half smirk.
Doyle spluttered into the ale’s frothy head. “You what? But I can proper taste it!”
She smiled. “Good imitation, huh?”
Doyle wasn’t the only one fooled. Vincent Masters and Blake Osbourne had just ordered half a dozen shots of vodka from the nearby bar, while Oscar York was sitting down to a greasy breakfast of sizzling sausages caked in eggs and bacon. Emily shared a knowing look with Hermia Adelheid, sitting across the other side of the ship’s compact, but cosy cafeteria. She had earned some chortled mockery from Vincent and Blake for ordering a simple glass of water, the same as Emily.
Doyle studied his own glass with a furrowed brow. “Why would anyone serve alcohol without the actual alcohol? Next you’ll be telling me that hamburger was tofu.”
“Maaan.” Doyle slouched back in his chair and rubbed his stomach. “Bloody synthetic crap. I could proper murder a bacon bush right about now. How’d you stick living in that place?”
“I don’t remember much,” Emily lied. “My parents said it was hell, though.”
“I bet! Do they even have alcohol? Man, no wonder hawks are so straight.”
Emily sipped her water. Her own sister was one of them, one of those slaves to the City’s control. They believed that, if they denied their vices, if they refused to drown their blood in drugs and kept their bodies locked behind a titanium wall of chastity, they could earn the right — the karma — to enter Malkuth. Had Dante not spent his life shut away in his room, had he the confidence to go out and meet other people, he might have been one of them. In a strange, ironic way, it might have been better if he were. At least that way he would have avoided the World’s End.
“Still,” Doyle lifted his pint as if in toast, “a drink’s a drink, right? At least we ain’t shut off in some bloody computer simulation. Man, I don’t see the point in that crap.”
Emily watched the sky’s reflection dancing in her glass. Across the other side of the ship, her sister had sealed herself in a simulation pod. Verraden Sepulturero’s insidious influence ran deep — and now it was rubbing off on Shelley, too. To think that, if Joel Gibson — Joel Gibson! — could have controlled his hormones enough to not sleep with Shelley’s best friend, she would have been sitting there with Emily now. Instead, Shelley had shut herself away inside some fabricated reality with Alonie, and Kaori was off disciplining that wayward, wanton whore she called a boyfriend in the naive belief she would be the one to settle him down.
And Prince Freyr wanted Emily to wade into this drama, this complex web of lust and rivalry, of bridges burning and bonds breaking, regardless of the consequences. The world that followed, the lies and the deceptions, the suggestions planted and hearts manipulated, all of it would be as fake as the worlds Alonie and Shelley now prowled, as fake as the blue-haired, bronze-skinned young woman she saw in the mirror. There would be nothing left of Emily’s friends but an illusion, and none of them, not even Emily herself, would know about it.
Can’t escape the Drama!