Orphic Phantasia

4: Just Like Old Times

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“It seems this place isn’t what it used to be,” he said, flashing Emily a smile as if his knowledge might somehow impress her. “It should cover a three kilometre radius, but it appears its nerves have been cut short.”

Emily stepped up to the console and frowned. The setup wasn’t unfamiliar. She experimented with the controls until she could manipulate the simulacrum in front of her, then pinched the image to bring its focus in on the surrounding area. It rendered the rooms above them in startling detail, right down to the damage on individual consoles—and the various initiates studying them. She could pick out her own avatar acting in real-time, a transparent gold puppet, as soulless as it was uncanny. She swiped the view away and towards the catacombs.

“Aethex,” she growled.

“Not quite,” said Chris. “This is First Terrace tech. The sensors are built into the walls themselves.”

“Whatever it is, it’s feckin’ messed up,” said Leira.

The implications were lost on Kaori, however, who bound over to Emily with a giddy look of anticipation in her cheeks. “Can you find Joel?” she asked. “Has he gotten lost in the tunnels yet? We should find him!”

The only thing that would convince Emily to touch the controls a second time was a permanent shut-down option. Chris Shaw, however, had no such scruples. As Emily hesitated, he leaned over to pull the map in on Joel’s location. It had to be Joel because no one else would carry their guitar like it were a sword. The system rendered Byron’s hat and Dante’s cloak in similar detail. Emily traced their path, but it ended a short distance away at a ledge of frayed light.

“See what I mean?” said Chris as she focused on the damage. “Someone cut the nerve.” Taking command of the map, he drew their attention to other areas where damage to the catacombs had cut their surveillance short, including a cave-in the girls had squeezed through earlier.

“You know who did it?” asked Leira, sharing a knowing look with Emily.

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The walls have eyes.