Orphic Phantasia

4: Just Like Old Times

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The wall opened, revealing a small elevator.

“See?” said Leira, as she stepped inside. “Yer still got the touch. Now, how do you go working this feckin’ thing?”

By the time Emily had worked it out, Kaori had joined them. “Secret buttons don’t strike me as very Malkuthian,” she said.

“Which makes it the most Malkuthian trick of all,” Emily replied with a brief grimace of recollection. “That’s how they get you. You’re so busy looking for the clever trick that they’ve fooled you with a sleight of hand. I mean, look at this.” She gestured to the control panel. “Two buttons, so two floors, right?”

She pressed both buttons. The doors closed and the elevator began to move.

“Getting them vibes again, are we?” asked Leira, unable to contain a grin of pride. She had always said this day would come.

“Experience, actually,” said Emily, and left it at that.

The elevator opened to a room identical to the one they’d left, save for the lack of battle scars and an abundance of warm light. Emily stole a glance into the main chamber. The plinth was alive with a golden projection depicting a tight network of tunnels and antechambers — and standing at the console that controlled it was a pair of young men in long coats trimmed with neon colour.

Lance Algar, the taller of the two boys, caught her eye. “Yo, Christof,” he said, “we’ve got company.” With a big grin he added, “Hey, ladies.”

Emily had to admit that Lance was one of the more attractive members of the Second Class, with a trim physique and rich olive skin that lacked the synthetic shimmer Malkuthians were so fond of. Sadly, he didn’t back his looks up with maturity. “S’up?” he asked, as much to their chests as anything.

Before Leira could shoot him down with one of her dagger-sharp snarks, Emily stepped forward. Emily was a nice girl. “Hello, Lance, Chris,” she nodded to the boys in turn, flashed a smile their way. “Looks like we came to the right place!”

“You bet’cha,” said Lance. “Christof here’s working his mojo on the old computer. It’s all gobbledygook to me.” He turned to his shorter friend, “How’s it coming, Christof?”

Chris Shaw turned his attention from the computer console and dissolved his upswept visor with a touch. He was an odd man, shorter than most but with a knowing wisdom in young eyes. Unlike his friend Lance, who only dressed like a Malkuthian, Chris actually was one, and that made his true age difficult to determine. Was he an old man in a young man’s body? Or was he a young man who had lived a dozen simulated lives through the datasphere, where time had no meaning? Or was he both, or even neither? Chris himself never let on. Most people simply assumed he was as old as he looked.