Orphic Phantasia

13: A Scientific Investigation

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The mysterious light only posed more questions. It came from an obelisk about two metres tall, built from fluorescent transmatter. Judging by the list of names on its surface, Chris assumed it some kind of memorial. Recognising a few of the names, he recorded a copy for later study.

Lance, meanwhile, was more interested in the surrounding houses. “Christoph,” he called, “you’ve gotta come see this, dude!”

The gangly young man had his faced pressed against a window, and when Chris joined him, he understood why. “It’s like they only left yesterday,” he said, as he swung his pen’s attention from sofa to table to desk to screen.

“If my folks knew about this, they’d drive a tractor in here!” said Lance.

“You don’t have a tractor,” said Chris. Lance and his family lived in one of the underground apartment blocks on the other side of the Old West River. His fashionable coat — a long, black design with a high collar and neon blue trim — was a birthday present from Chris’s sister. It was the most valuable thing he had ever owned.

“Well, maybe a wheelbarrow,” he replied, as he moved to a neighbouring window. “Woah, dude! Look at this! They’ve got a wallscreen! Like, the whole wall! I can’t believe no one has nicked this shiz already. What’s this place supposed to be, like, fifteen years old or something? No way has this been here fifteen years.”

“Fourteen,” said Chris. He did not doubt the Lady’s conclusions.

“Same thing,” said Lance. “You think maybe we should have a looksie? There’s gotta be people living around here, right? I mean, why else would they have left all their stuff behind?”

The more Chris searched for answers, the more questions he found. Breaking into one of the buildings would provide some valuable insight. On the other hand, it would also go against Foundation archaeological protocol. It was time to make a decision: for society, or for science? An impossible choice. A hero’s choice.

“I don’t know,” he said to Lance. “Do we have the right?”

A young, accented voice replied, “Sure, it’s not like they’re coming back anytime soon.”

Standing with his face pressed against the glass, ogling the treasures inside, was Lysander Goodfellow. Of all the people — and yet, of course, who else could it possibly be?

“You haven’t?”

He had the grin of a demon. “And what if I have?”

I told you they’d be back!