Orphic Phantasia

8: Emily and Truth

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The simsuit started as a thin shroud of material, almost like an oversized poncho, then Emily gave the command and the tapestry of molecular machines exploded to life, slithering over her skin like a million miniscule bugs. The process took all of three seconds, but Emily kept her eyes clenched shut throughout — she didn’t want to see what they made of her, how they clung to her, exaggerated her.

It turned out that Seelie, unlike the City, understood the concept of modesty. Sure, the suit clung her curves, but at least it had to decency to obscure the more embarrassing details. It still left too little to the imagination for her liking, though, but then she was Emily Fomalhaut, and Emily Fomalhaut preferred baggy shirts and loose slacks for a reason.

Worried about whom she might run into in the meantime, she pulled on her shirt, then unfastened the skirt from her slacks and wrapped it around her waist. It wasn’t perfect, and it certainly didn’t look fashionable, but it was better than the alternative.

It turned out that she wasn’t the only one who hated the simsuit. When she entered the waiting area, she found Phoenix Rogan fully dressed, while Katrina had wrapped herself in her leather coat. Andromeda Blumstein, on the other hand, looked too tired to care what people might think of her.

“Ah, Ms Fomalhaut,” said Phoenix with a forced smile. “I’m surprised by your modesty. I thought Malkuthians had none.”

“Guess I was too young to notice,” she replied.

“So it would seem.”

Emily sat as far away from the three girls as the cramped room would allow, but she couldn’t escape Phoenix’s intense suspicion. The journalist had eyes that could rival a seer’s. Emily hugged herself, thankful, for once, that the Sophists’ sanctions prevented Chief Payne and his team from running lessons in aethereal observation. Of course, it was those same sanctions that also barred the use of virtual simulations for education purposes, so it was questionable just how much influence the Sophists really had. If anyone knew, it was Phoenix Rogan.

“Do you think the Sophists will have a problem with all this?” Emily asked, more to the room in general than Phoenix in particular, though she knew Kat and Andromeda would never have chance to answer.

Phoenix took the bait. “Absolutely,” she replied. “I spoke with Director Guirlande this morn, and he was certainly concerned about the nature of the day’s assignment. I feel that, were he to learn the extent of our activities, it would severely damage Seelie-Sophist relations and lead to further sanctions, if not the initiate program’s complete cancellation. Therefore, I can only conclude that Chief Payne has something of the utmost importance to teach us, and I hope that we have chance to learn it before the Director makes his move.”

Emily wanted to believe that Seelie, as talented as it was and with the resources it had, could keep the Sophists in the dark, but Director Guirlande was not easily fooled. He had managed, after all, to insert his own daughter into their training program.

No, Guirlande would know about this, sooner or later, which meant that Phoenix was right: Mr Payne had something important to teach them about that night, six years ago. Something so important, he was willing to gamble his entire career — his entire troupe — on it.

And Emily was certain it had something to do with the Sidhe.

Something to do with her.

Annie is secretly happy at the thought of girls in skintight suits.