Orphic Phantasia

34: Beneath the Surface

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“I think we’re nearing the port,” said Emily. Glancing at the map in Dante’s hand, she added, “Probably runs around the island. Wonder if we can hitch a lift.”

She was right, at least as far as the port’s location was concerned, but catching a lift on the transports was out of the question: as soon as the one they followed dipped into the waterless channel, it shot off like a bullet down the barrel of a gun. Moments later, another thundered past at equal speed, the force enough to leave Dante reeling. More followed, some in convoys with barely an arm’s length between them, others alone, leaving a long silence in their wake. All of them moved with a speed that could pulp a person in an instant.

So, when Emily stepped up to the edge of the platform and jumped down into the channel, Dante couldn’t help but cry out.

The trains, however, had stopped.

Emily peered over the edge of the platform, an eyebrow cocked in curiosity at the look of horror on his face. “What, did you think they’d let me down here if it was dangerous? If there’s one advantage to having all these eyes watching you,” she waved a hand across the tunnel wall, “it’s that they can sometimes save your life. Assuming you don’t jump off at the last second, that is.”

Dante crept towards the platform’s edge and, heart pounding, peered down the tunnel. Just beyond the end of the platform, one of the transports had slowed to a crawl. A red light blinked across its nose.

Emily held out her hand. “They won’t speed up again until we’re out of their way,” she said. “You did want to find Katrina, right?”

Dante did not like the idea, but he had little choice in the matter. Taking Emily’s hand, he slipped down into the channel, one eye fixed on the nearby shuttle, waiting for the moment where the machine lost its patience and shot forward to smear them across the walls.

It was a moment that, thankfully, never came. Only when they climbed into a maintenance alcove did the transport—and those behind it—pick up speed. Once they had passed, Emily jumped back down into the tunnel and they continued on until they reached another alcove, sometimes even another station, each one as empty as the last. It was, thought Dante, a rather convoluted journey.

“What, did you think they’d make it easy for unwashed commoners to climb their way to paradise?” replied Emily when he raised the subject. “All that technology of theirs wouldn’t do them much good if a swarm of rats surged up from the surface now, would it?”

The journey didn’t deter everyone, however. After their fifth break, they noticed the transports they had just let pass by had slowed to a halt ahead of them. Emily ushered Dante to follow as she crept up behind them.

“I think … there’s a station ahead of us, and people. I can’t tell much else from here. Come on. It could be Kat!” Judging from the apprehension in her face, however, she didn’t put much hope in it. Taking Dante’s hand, she pulled him into the narrow gap between the stationary transports and the tunnel wall.

It would have been easier for Dante to pull up his cloak and scout ahead—and easier still if he could only project his consciousness, as Emily believed was his natural talent—but there wasn’t much point in saying that now she had made up her mind. He at least set his visor to record, just in case somebody tried to trick his memory again.

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I’m sure there are easier ways to get where they’re going!