Chapter 4

Just Like Old Times

Emily pressed her fingers against the wall.

“So, what d’ya say?” asked Leira. “Getting any vibes?”

“I gave up on the vibes, remember?”

Leira snorted her disbelief. “I remember, same I remember when d’Arcadie told us he’d quit the weed. We ain’t aboveground, Lee, ye ain’t gotta be hiding shit down here. We’re sisters, remember? Just like old times.”

She didn’t need the reminder. “It feels like a wall,” she said.

“Ah, feck yer if ye gonna be like that,” said Leira, and stomped through the illusion.

Kaori was a little more cautious. She lifted her cellular to scan the wall. “It’s not magic,” she said. “Magic would show you what you expect to see, but this”—she waved a screen filled with material analysis at Emily—“looks like a foreign language to me.”

Emily smiled. Kaori was a fashion designer and songwriter, not a scientist. “Basically, it’s just a swarm of machines,” she explained. “They make themselves look like a wall, but they only act like one when”—again, she pressed against it—“they detect hesitation.”

Kaori hummed. This wasn’t her area of expertise. “So, it only exists if you believe it exists?”

“Kind of.” She wondered what Dante’s reaction would be. Her own visor, like Kaori’s cellular, told her it was a simple transmatter wall. Would he be able to dismiss such ‘hard facts’? “Come on,” she said, “we’d best not keep Leira waiting.”

Instinct was the key, suspension of disbelief, blind faith. No, she thought, Dante would never pass. Throwing aside all common sense, she stepped forward and felt the tingling sensation of a million machines wash over her. Kaori followed a moment later.

“How disgusting,” she said, swatting at her exposed skin as if an army of bugs were crawling over her. “Is this normal in the City?”

“The Cities are worse,” And the world outside them little better.

Leira was waiting by an archway bathed in a cool blue light. “Let’s be making this quick,” she said. “I don’t trust a place that goes hiding itself behind some feckin’ Malkuthian mirage.”

“When Commander al-Hakim told us to seek out hidden ruins, I was hoping to find something dating back to the Old World,” said a disappointed Kaori as they continued down the narrow corridor, “but this looks decidedly modern.”

“Well,” said Leira, “at least he got the ruins part right.”

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Leira likes to think she’s pretty funny.