4: Just Like Old Times
“See?” said Leira as she stepped inside the waiting elevator. “Yer still got the touch. Now, how do you go working this feckin’ thing?”
By the time Emily had worked it out, Kaori had joined them. “Secret buttons don’t strike me as very Malkuthian,” she said.
“Which makes it the most Malkuthian trick of all,” Emily replied with a brief grimace of recollection. “That’s how they get you. You’re so busy looking for the clever trick that they’ve fooled you with a sleight of hand. I mean, look at this.” She gestured to the control panel. “Two buttons, so two floors, right?”
She pressed both buttons. The doors closed, and the elevator started its descent.
“Getting them vibes again, are we?” asked Leira, unable to contain a grin of pride. She had always said this day would come.
“This one I can put down to experience,” said Emily, and left it at that.
The elevator opened to a room identical to the one they’d left, except this one was alive with the warm hum of active technology. In the main chamber ahead of them, a golden projection hung over the central plinth, depicting a tight network of tunnels and antechambers. Standing in front of it were a pair of familiar figures, their silhouettes marked with the neon lines of Malkuthian fashion.
Lance Algar, the taller of the two, noticed his fellow initiates’ arrival. “Yo, Christof,” he said, “we’ve got company.” With a big grin he added, “Hey, ladies.”
Lance was one of the more attractive members of the Second Class, with a trim physique and rich olive skin that lacked the synthetic shimmer Malkuthians were so fond of. Sadly, he didn’t back his looks up with maturity. “S’up?” he asked, as much to their chests as anything.
Before Leira could shoot him down with one of her dagger-sharp snarks, Emily stepped forward. Emily was a nice girl. “Hello, Lance, Chris,” she nodded to the boys in turn, flashed a smile their way. “Looks like we came to the right place!”
“You bet’cha,” said Lance. “Christof here’s working his mojo on the old computer. It’s all gobbledygook to me.” He turned to his shorter friend, “How’s it coming, Christof?”
Chris Shaw turned his attention from the console and dissolved his visor with a touch. He was an odd man, shorter than most but with a Malkuthian’s knowing wisdom in his young eyes. Whether that wisdom came from a long life that belied his youthful looks, or a youth spent locked inside a dozen simulated lives, no one could tell. Most people assumed him an ordinary seventeen-year-old, but then most people didn’t know the City as Emily did.
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