Orphic Phantasia

4: Just Like Old Times

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But then most people didn’t know the City like Emily did. Nor did they share her distrust of it — and, unlike Hermia and Horatio, there were a lot to distrust about Chris Shaw. His apparent knowledge of the surveillance station for one thing.

“It looks like this hasn’t seen much use of late,” he said with a flippant grin, as if he truly believed his knowledge somehow made him attractive in the eyes of the opposite sex. “By all means it should cover at least three kilometres, but it looks as if somebody made a deliberate attempt to sever its nerves.”

Emily stepped up to the console and frowned. The setup wasn’t unfamiliar. She experimented with the controls until she could manipulate the simulacrum in front of her, then pinched the image to bring its focus in on the surrounding area. It rendered the rooms above them in startling detail, right down to the damage on individual consoles — and the various initiates studying them. She could pick out her own avatar acting in real-time, a transparent gold puppet, as soulless as it was uncanny. She swiped the view away and towards the catacombs.

“Aethex,” she growled.

“Not quite,” said Chris. “The technology here must be around three centuries old by now. It’s pre-Saptamatrikas. The sensors are built into the structures themselves.”

“Whatever the reason for it, it’s feckin’ messed up,” said Leira.

The implications were lost on Kaori, however, who bound over to Emily with a giddy look of anticipation in her cheeks. “Can you find Joel?” she asked. “Has he gotten lost in the tunnels yet? We should find him!”

Emily didn’t want to touch the controls again, unless it meant disabling them permanently. Chris Shaw, however, had no such scruples. As Emily hesitated, he leaned over to pull the map in on Joel’s location. It had to be Joel because no one else would carry their guitar like it were a sword — and nor would anybody wear a hat like Byron’s underground. The system rendered Dante’s cloak in similar detail. Emily traced their path, but it ended a short distance away with a ledge of frayed light.

“See what I mean?” said Chris as she focused on the damage. “Someone cut the nerve.”

“Good,” replied Emily, but not good enough. Chris drew their attention to other examples, where damage to the catacombs had cut their surveillance short — including a cave-in the girls had squeezed through earlier.

“Any idea who did it?” asked Leira.

The walls have eyes.