No set subject this week so I return once again to the space opera Death Codex. This is a scene from earlier in the novel. Let me lead you gently into events with a quick flashback to Chapter 2:
At the jetty one of the two-seater surface skimmers blasted by, its bow barely missing the exposed rocks that littered the shoreline, onlookers anxiously following the boom of its wake. Anjers moved closer to the comfort of stonework, watching the angle of his shadow dapple against deeper shadows. Sunlight filtered hrough canopies of frosted glass, seashore patterns dancing across the wall as the object in the bottom of his holdall seemed to shift its weight, almost change its shape as if trying to hide.
And now, for Chapter 2.5, ICE ….
Anjers felt disorientated. It seemed only moments ago that he had taken part in the failed raid on the BCorp depository. These were rare sensations for him, but this time he felt the cold emotional detachment of knowing that all their plans had failed. For weeks he had studied the location of the off-shore depository, gaining intel on its day to day routines, spying on its personnel, searching for weaknesses. Now, in what seemed only seconds ago, he had known the dread of imminent capture.
Anjers shook his head, trying to clear the groggy sensation that filled his senses. He sat in the back of one of the fastest fliers he had ever seen. He scanned the external surface of the rectangular hull for markings. There was no sign of clan or planetary allegiances. No sign of deep space skirmishes or off-world engagements. It seemed pristine in its wrapped skin of yellow and black. Ahead of him the pilot cursed in a meticulous string of profanities as the wafer-thin craft slid along one of the walls of the huge ravine, its razor edges breaking off small rocks. Below them Anjers could barely discern the landscape as the craft suddenly reversed and then continued at high speed along the upper reaches of the gorge. He tried to remember recent events, but they had become like the blur of the rocky scenery around him, fogged and hard to capture. He remembered a dark room, a guide showing him bright, golden hanging sculptures. They were like dangling mobiles in a dragon’s lair, revolving slowly, as if to lull it to sleep. He thought they depicted a stylised comet, or some pattern of planetary configuration, but he couldn’t be certain.
It was hard in the darkness to determine much more of the scene. The guide, an older man, had started to explain something about the golden sculptures. His wife had made them. Yes, that was it. She had made them as part of their efforts to save the crumbling academy around them. Slowly it seemed to come back to Anjers. It was the very academy he had attended in his youth on Axis Templum. Through the darkness he could see the shells of some of the old buildings. As he looked around he was close to tears, there was so much dereliction here. The once mighty study hall was gone, replaced with this blackness. He remembered the people he had shared his time with, the girls he had secretly held in his heart. All that was gone now, just the darkness, the golden sculpture and the old man telling his tales of years spent fund-raising, begging the authorities, even the Magister himself to save the campus buildings.
“You know Anjers, what would really help the restoration effort is some ICE.” Anjers, now anxious, returned to the present as a rock face rapidly approached him. The flier veered violently to one side and plunged in a steep slide towards the valley floor. To his left the white shoulder of a huge statue of the Ever-Buddha passed him by. He turned to look out the rear of the flier’s canopy and saw the massive statue dominating the valley, sunlight dancing across its platinum features. Ahead of them a pair of heavily-fortified walls fell sinuously down the valley edge which flattened out to the sea. The flier lurched once more and the pilot turned to Anjers.
“We are running low on ICE, the engines will be empty soon”. Anjers, now worried, looked at the fuel gauge and saw the warning lights. The flier’s altitude was still dangerously high and he had no idea if it was equipped with grav-suppressing ejection packs. There was that word ICE once more. He cast around his mind, like searching for a well-known word that refuses to reach the tongue.
“Come with me Anjers, we do not have time to spare”. The flier had abruptly landed and the pilot was releasing the catches on the canopy as the flier hovered in park mode. Anjers scrambled out, following the pilot as he walked towards the large building. Once inside it seemed to be some kind of library. All around him were tall shelves. The holo-books were divided into sections, each section illuminated along its edge to give greater reading visibility. As he looked around he saw many volumes, papers and items from his own childhood. He could see a holo-book with the cover of Amazing Fantasy 15, the first ever appearance of Spider-Man and in a corner niche, the 2230 holo-edition of The Equinox periodicals.
“What is this place?” he asked.
“This is the in-dream environmental stasis chamber”
“You mean I’m dreaming?” Anjers exclaimed.
“Yes and no. I am not at liberty to discuss your present state of consciousness”. The pilot walked across the room towards one of the reading tables and poured a burgundy liquid into two glasses. “Would you like some ICE with your drink?”
Anjers became increasingly troubled, yanked by the stirring memories in his mind that the word ICE produced. He took the offered glass and drank of the warm liquid. Within moments he could sense its affecting his body. His mood changed immediately. He wanted to ask the pilot many questions, discuss matters raised by some of the holo-books around him. As he fought with the urge to endlessly talk Anjers realised there was something about the pilot’s manner that he hadn’t noticed before. There was awkwardness to his movements that suddenly made Anjers very wary.
“What is your prime directive?” asked Anjers.
“Retrieve information concerning the location of stolen ICE. Assist subject Anjers in regaining memories relating to ICE. Prevent subject leaving this facility”. Although Anjers was even more startled by the pilot’s response, the drink had added another layer of fog to his mind, numbness to his body, preventing him from reacting. The pilot moved towards him. In one fluid motion it removed its head and placed it on the table, where it methodically continued to watch him. Anjers wanted to scream. He knew immediately where he was. As the bookcases around him began to dissolve he could make out the floor of the BCorp detention cell. His head hurt as he forced his eyes to focus. Everything was blurred as he realised he was hanging upside down, bound. The headless pilot walked towards him.
“Good. You are conscious. Now tell me about the ICE”.