Chapter 4

Just Like Old Times

Emily pressed her fingers against the wall.

“So, what’dya say?” asked Leira. “Getting any vibes?”

“I gave up on the vibes, remember?”

Leira snorted her disbelief. “I remember, same I remember when d’Arcadie told us he’d quit the weed. We ain’t aboveground, Lee, ye ain’t gotta be hiding shit down here. We’re sisters, remember? Just like old times.”

She didn’t need the reminder. “It feels like a wall,” she said.

“Ah, feck yer if ye gonna be like that,” said Leira, and stomped through the illusion.

Kaori was a little more cautious. She lifted her cellular to scan the wall. “It’s not magic,” she said. “Magic would show you what you expect to see, but this”—she waved a screen filled with material analysis at Emily—“makes no bloody sense to me.”

Emily smiled. Kaori had never been one for science, preferring instead to study fashion and music, creative arts she thought would serve the world far better than “more of that techno-crap”. “It’s just a load of machines,” she explained. “There is a wall here, but I think it’s only solid when”—again, she pressed against it—“it detects hesitation.”

Kaori hummed. This was probably beyond her. “So, it only exists if you believe it exists?”

“Kind of.” She wondered what Dante’s reaction would be. Her own visor, like Kaori’s cellular, was telling her it was a simple transmatter wall. Would he be able to dismiss such ‘hard facts’? “Come on,” she said, “we’d best not keep Leira waiting.”

Instinct was the key, suspension of disbelief, blind faith. No, she thought, Dante would never pass. Throwing aside all common sense, she stepped forward and felt the tingling sensation of a million machines wash over her — and then she was through. Kaori followed a moment later.

“How disgusting,” she said, brushing herself as if to get rid of some particularly irritating insect. “Is this normal in the City?”

“The City is worse,” replied Emily. The City had Aethex.

Not that the real world was much better.

Leira waited for them by an archway that led deeper into the catacombs, where the green light gave way to a cool blue. “Let’s be making this quick,” she said. “I don’t trust a place that goes hiding itself behind some feckin’ Malkuthian mirage.”

“I was expecting a temple from a thousand years ago,” said a disappointed Kaori as they continued down the narrow corridor, “not more rubbish from the City. Do these really count as ruins?”

“Well,” said Leira, “does it count if they’re in ruins?”

Leira likes to think she’s pretty funny.