Orphic Phantasia

34: Beneath the Surface

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Memories of Emily’s voice came back to him, recollections of her guidance as she tried teasing his soul from his body. Picture the world around you, she said, see it as you would in memory. Collecting his thoughts, Dante tried to imagine the platform, empty save for him and his adversary, and cast in a cold blue light. It was almost like painting, he thought, like reconstructing an image with dabs and washes of colour. With each stroke came new details, new insights. He could pick out the individual coins and gemstones left scattered across the platform, the scuff of footprints, the abandoned sandbag Trev and Dave had used to hold up the transports, one of which about to emerge from the tunnel and hurtle past the platform. That Dante even knew it was even there—perhaps from some subconscious instinct, a minute recognition of a shift in the air—seemed almost impossible…


The moment he thought that, his knees buckled under him and the image he painted crumbled, time slipping through the cracks to resume its inevitable march. Limbs limp from their momentary slumber, Dante collapsed and the beast, a slave to its own momentum, passed over his head and straight into the path of the speeding shuttle.

Dante lay sprawled across the platform, the last of his energy spent, his breaths ragged and painful. At a time like this, Byron would have improvised a witty retort, a clever putdown to cement his victory, but all Dante could do was scream. Blood was pouring from his cheek and into his mouth. With a trembling hand, he traced his cloak’s deactivation glyph over his chest.

“Dante!” Emily’s panic filled the station, her footsteps echoing through the empty tunnels as she raced to his side. Her shirt was torn, exposing the leather armour beneath. She ripped off part of her sleeve and pressed it against his wound. “Are you okay?” she asked.


“We need to get you inside. They have medical supplies.”

She offered her hand, but Dante waved it away and pulled himself up. “It’s only a scratch,” he said, doing his best not to stagger as they made for the storeroom.

“A scratch that would have ripped your cheek open if it were much deeper,” Emily replied, her criticism stinging more than any wound.

As they entered the storeroom, Sohrabarak al-Hakim looked up from the vendor display in his hand and smiled. “Ah, there you are. It seems I missed out on all the excitement.” His brow furrowed as he caught sight of Dante’s wound. “We’d best sort that out before it gets infected,” he said.

Slipping his hand into his jacket, he pulled out a silver vial. Elixium. As alchemium could reshape itself to emulate any matter, ambrosia to replicate the taste and texture of food, and aethex to produce illusions of light and sound, the molecular machines of elixium could heal any wound or illness. At least, any within reason. Dante grit his teeth as Mr al-Hakim smeared a glob over his cheek. It stung as any disinfectant would, but the machines soon neutered the pain and started repairing the damage.

“It should be all healed up within the hour,” said Mr al-Hakim, using his cellular to fine-tune the machines’ performance. “And what about you, Ms Fomalhaut?”

Emily shrugged aside his offer of help. “I’m fine,” she said as she pulled off the tattered remains of her shirt. Dante noticed the remains of the other synthetic crumpled against one of the crates, eyes dead and jaw slack. “A couple of bruises maybe, but nothing that won’t be gone in ten minutes.” If anything, she looked more concerned with the state of her dyed skin.

Mr al-Hakim slipped the vial of elixium back into his jacket. “Then let us hope it stays that way.”


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Ah! The miracles of modern medicine!