30: The House of the Soulless
“I know, right?” said Joel, wiping a limp arm across his glistening forehead. “It’s this fookin’ heat. Brings out all the bloody bugs it does. A bloke like me ain’t built for it. I need shade, y’know? A proper underground.” His beady eyes scanned the maze of pathways and promenades. “’ere, what about over there? Looks proper tunnel-y to me!”
The raven gestured to an entrance nestled beneath a walkway. According to Dante’s visor, it led to a Seelie ‘Entertainment Arcade’.
“It’s gotta be better than all this Malkuthian bollocks,” said Joel.
Dante wasn’t sure what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t what they found. Without the threat of Sophist sanctions to stymie their ambitions, Seelie had converted an underground passage into a multi-storeyed corridor of bright lights and clashing jingles. Overhead, beneath arched skylights filtering threads of sunlight across the tunnel, floating screens played out scenes of explosive battles, physics-defying dances across frozen wastelands and frantic escapes from rains of fire and walls of water. One showed a duel between a monster the size of a house and what looked like Azhara’d al-Hakim, before a logo crashed onto the screen in a blaze of lightning and shadow: ‘Seelie Fighter VX Ultimate’. Another screen cut to the similarly overwrought ‘Sinthetic Hunter Seventh’, a third, ‘War of the Apostles’.
The lights of the spectacle danced across Joel’s gormless grin. “Now this,” he said, “is my kind of scene.”
Unlike the rest of Avalon, Seelie did not reduce its facilities to automaton. As Joel dragged Dante over to the reception desk, a Junior Lieutenant greeted them with a knowing smile. “You after an escape?” he asked.
“Mate, am I ever!” said Joel. Leaning on the desk and lowering his voice to a whisper, he added, “Don’t suppose you’ve got any ciggies ‘round ‘ere?”
“I’m afraid not, Mister, ah,” the officer glanced at a volumetric display, “Gibson? However, if you’re looking to take your mind off things, you’ve come to the right place. Let me see…” He swiped through the display, sending panels scattering into stardust as new ones formed to take their place. Suddenly, his eyes widened with surprise. “Well, you cadets aren’t short of kiwis now, are you?”
Joel glanced at Dante in confusion. They weren’t cadets, for a start, and sanctions barred the Theatre from providing them with a bursary. Dante shrugged. Maybe Rembrandt Payne had pulled some strings behind the Aristocracy’s back.
Joel turned back to the receptionist. “I guess we’re not!”
“It’s okay,” said the receptionist, lowering his voice, “Chief Payne’s secret is safe with me. I’m just disappointed he’s not here in person. It must be quite an honour to serve under the man who ended the Apostle Wars.”
“Eh, yeah. He’s quite the character, ol’ Payne is!”
The receptionist smiled. “Aren’t we all? Anyway, with the kiwis you have, there shouldn’t be anything you can’t afford. Here,” he tapped a screen and send a ball of light floating their way. “A.J here will guide you around the facilities. Enjoy your stay!”
Classic Seelie culture here.