Orphic Phantasia

4: Just Like Old Times

Page 2/8

The corridor ended at a chamber about twenty feet square, its outer walls curved inward, lighting strips disappearing behind piles of rubble and debris, transport crates and broken stools. Ahead, the room opened out into a second, larger chamber, half buried beneath a slurry of dirt and rock that had seeped in through cracks and tears in the ceiling. A number of computer stations stood around a central plinth in various states of disrepair.

“Not seen one of these in a while, ‘ey Lee?” said Leira.

“You recognise it?” asked Kaori.

Leira looked to Emily; she’d always been the best at explaining these things. “It’s a surveillance station,” she said. “Well, what’s left of one.”

Emily stepped over to one of the few consoles still standing upright and noticed the jabs and gestures of frustrated fingers in the dust. No power, they told her, not now and not ever. The thoughts were so fresh she could almost hear—

“This was some kind of volumetric display, wasn’t it?” Kaori’s question pulled her back to the real world. “The Theatre command centre has something similar.”

She was studying the plinth. Though she wasn’t the most technologically astute of people, she was the daughter of Chief Payne’s second-in-command, and that carried its share of advantages. “Think we can get it working?” she asked.

“There’s no power,” said Emily. And thank the Fates for that.

“Shame.” Kaori picked herself up and brushed the dust from her skirt. “So, what’s the story behind you two recognising this place? Is it something that happened before I joined?”

“Yeah,” said Emily. She didn’t want to elaborate.

Leira, however, was happy to. “A bunch of slavers had holed up in one over on the west side,” she explained as she kicked debris about in her search for clues. “They used it to track potential victims. We convinced them to rethink their methods. Ye know, same old. Here, Lee, ye wanna be taking a look at this for me? It ain’t right.”

Glad for the distraction, Emily joined her housemate, who was staring at a blank wall in one of the adjoining rooms. “Would ye get pissed again if I asked ye about the vibes this thing’s giving off?”

Emily shook her head; she didn’t need this.

“C’mon, ye wanna know what happened to this place same as I do, right? Ain’t none of this damage natural and ye bloody well know it. Shit happened down here six years ago and”—she lowered her voice, so Kaori couldn’t hear—“there’s no way yer not wanting answers about all that.”

She really didn’t need this, but she closed her eyes and pictured the wall in front of her regardless. It wasn’t difficult: the image was fresh, the thoughts of a dozen initiates giving it a shape and form forgotten ruins rarely kept—a form that belied expectations.

“There’s a door here,” she said, seeing what her eyes could not. “No, an elevator. I think—”

Emily pressed her fingers against a spot on the wall that stood out like fingerprints on a dust-laden console and, with a soft hiss, it opened.

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Dante thinks of things in metric terms, because that’s what the City uses. Emily thinks in feet and inches.