A shorter teaser-length episode this week; I’m still giving away the farm each post!!
Winter 3.13 HC, 2210 (Day 73 of the Year of Winter)
I woke up with an itchy feeling in my wrist. I’d always considered getting a tattoo there, but the space always felt reserved for something significant, something specific that was as yet undefined. It had become the space I would use to put my mother’s name, or maybe something symbolic of her, when the time came. But now wasn’t that time, and this morning, it itched.
I thumbed through my photograph collection, at the unsatisfactory angles that left her identity obscured. I had none of her except on films and paper. There was no digital trace of my mother. She must have wiped her implant, too, or else she had been otherwise erased from history like so many other rebels. The truth pushed underground and out of sight.
Now, standing outside the Outpost gambling den, I felt like a loitering teenager, hoping someone would buy me a bottle of vodka. I checked in with Uly, whose face I could just make out on the other side of a streaming crowd. Half of them were entering, equal parts hopeful and fearful of what they might walk away with. The other half were leaving, a showcase of what was on offer, tricks and treats and all.
On my cue, Uly and I slipped into the ‘in’ stream. My bag was checked, his too, but more out of ceremony than necessity. The checks were cursory, as if anyone was made to feel better about the security in places like this when we all knew what happened within.
That was the easy part. The second part was breaking his security. Stephen had made good his promise. He managed to get us on the guards’ appointment list. There we were, down as undercover reporters. Uly and I walked confidently to the elevator, where another guard was waiting with an implant scanner, and another stood ready to open my bag a second time. This one would not be so cursory, but again, Stephen had thought of that. Our cover included that we reported into the Evening Times, one of the most pro-Aquatian papers. It was almost religious in its dedication and fervour. Every recent front cover boasted the countdown in days and hours to the first big Lift Off, accompanied by a different select quote from the Book.
Our cover meant we could be in here with guns for our own security. But of course, these weren’t to be taken upstairs. We had to hand them over at this gate, to be returned to us on our way out – if they felt like it.
The Daimyo’s court was on the upper level, rising high above the chaos of the gambling floor. Looking up from the lower floor, his domain looked like a floating castle, suspended above glass. I wouldn’t have to wait long to solve the riddle.