Light and darkness spun around her. Althea stumbled into space. She slipped out of control, falling forward – reacted automatically – legs and arms extended, palms flat; fingers outstretched.
She felt sudden solidity. The vertigo and free fall spinning slowed, stopped.
Althea collapsed on a hard, cold surface, shuddering. Her body curled up in defensive instinct. Lights flashed around her, the portal roared its chimes – and against that – saturating Mirror Maze visions warred.
…“Your Consortia crutches!” …“Who will save you?!” …opponent is playing …taunting …earth shakes …taller than buildings …puppets …corpore …beyond arrogance! …thoughtless amusement …so fast …blow after blow …again and again …taste of blood …swing and kick …fist against flesh …measure and lunge…
The air, sharp and cold, brought her back to reality. She willfully calmed her racing heart and mind.
Althea pulled herself to her knees, fought the dizziness, turned to look at the silvery light beaming from the active portal looming over her.
“Oneness,” she breathed. “That was…”
Memory returned. There was no time to waste. Vital, essential actions came to mind. She thought of Dorian – and the Macro risk – took in a deep breath.
“Transmissions?” Her voice didn’t sound right, it sounded choked, haggard.
Standard portal responses, Dorian told her, his words comfortably inside her head.
She felt relief – he was still with her. Althea checked herself. Everything seemed in its proper place. Kneeling, she brought her cold hands up from the freezing floor, waited a moment for her NANs to send warming blood to them. Around her, the lights flashed a kaleidoscope in monochrome from the still active portal. She rubbed her face, tried to focus.
The transit had been almost unbearably long. Filled with experiential fragments so intense she struggled to shake them out of her mind. But– that might mean she had reached her destination. Elysium was a long way from home.
“Good… good,” she forced out. “Check for Macro fragments in the control system’s foundation code.”
The last thing they needed was an active, alert Macro responding to their arrival when she was in such a vulnerable, dizzied state.
“Does– does it know we’ve arrived?”
…click click …clank clank …robots …hissing …cutting burning …surface warming shaking …vibrations stronger and stronger …what programming? …eyes into eyes …sorrow …predatory hunger …not kind …he believes …empathy …must not be abandoned …nodding agreement …shifting mirrors …portal winks …pounding behind her …pounding through her …heart pounding …legs pumping … metal screams …thrashing metal …last steps …push off …shattering glass…
“What did you say?” She’d heard his reply, but couldn’t make it out. The hallucinations had been that intense.
There are traces of code, Dorian repeated, but I am not detecting any queries. It is surface embedded and inactive.
She smiled, again relieved. That didn’t mean that they were safe, but it did mean that they had time. She needed time.
Are you all right? he asked.
“It was such a long…” She couldn’t finish, couldn’t express what she’d experienced. “Did you–?”
Only the transition. You?
“Too much… too much,” she told him. Dorian didn’t experience nightmares or physical pain either. There were some advantages to being constructed from trinary code.
Brushing hair from her eyes, Althea tried to will the sensations away. She had to resist them. The real world demanded her attention.
“Begin shutdown,” she commanded.
Her vision was clearing as the portal lights began to slow their dancing, sharp chimes turning to low, treacle bubbling. The hall darkened, the afterglow from its massive columns now dominating the growing gloom. The air was still harsh and cold. She was beginning to feel the chill all over; alarms in her mind rang about circulation, heat loss, hypothermia. Her adaptive clothing wasn’t compensating. That wasn’t right at all. Her travel tunic and her memsuit underneath were capable of responding to categorically extreme temperatures. It was too cold!
She tried to stand, but vertigo and flashes of images, sounds, sensations, stopped her again.
…the mirror leans …pressing …staring down …deep …in the depths …woman …older …her …not her …behind another …and another …find us …all of us …who you are …you must …“How?” …“How do I get through?” …fists beating cold glass …harder and harder …will not break …each blow hurting …fists throbbing …figures fading … disappearing …crying out …hot tears streaming …falling …sliding down …clutching fist …pain…
Althea was back again on her knees, looking down at her outstretched hands pressed hard against freezing solidity. How could she think that was not her? Straight black hair, smooth adult features with dark brown eyes and near the same shade of skin – that was who she was. She gritted her teeth.
Follow the plan!
Other serials by A A Roi updated with new Chapters every Saturday on thenewscifi.com
Black Cloak White Art (High Fantasy)
Veteran wizard Greylsan Amberglass, ostensibly on a mission to gather chronicles from The Fourth Council’s entowered wizards, follows the trail of a doomed borderland margrave in search of his corrupted and dying land’s missing Arcory Stones. The search leads him through the Alliance of the Thirteen Greater and Lesser Kingdoms to some uncomfortable truths about how the magic is being conducted in the kingdoms and disturbing answers to own his personal quest which may be his last.
Up In Space (Scifi Comedy)
Iain Compton never planned to be abducted by an alien spaceship. It just… happened. And now he’s been awakened 22,000 years in the future and half a galaxy away by a pair of oddly human seeming beak nosed aliens and a space ship A.I. that seems to have more than a few screws loose. Oh, and then there’s this gorgeous alien woman who he probably shouldn’t trust at all. His plan is to find a way home to Earth, even if its unlikely to be remotely the same; to find a better class of companions among an often strange and inexplicable galactic community, at least one who won’t use him or sell him out at the first opportunity; and to do something about the parasites in his brain who are supposed to connect him to a library the size of the galaxy, but seem to only be telling him that almost everyone and everything he comes across wants to kill him.
But at least he can still send tweets.
Call it a Mission (Contemporary Supernatural Mystery)
Palantine and Co. is an unusual company that does its work in an unusual field. But it’s attractive enough to out of work Gary Bellamy, and offers decent pay and a good benefits package. But there are a few things a little strange about the local office. The CEO is perpetually out of town, apparently in search of ‘Enlightenment’. His co-workers are involved in research and investigations involve the likes of Bigfoot, ghosts, walk-ins and other supernatural phenomena, for who its not quite clear. It all seems a bit dodgy to Gary but again, good benefits package.
Ephram Palantine is having problems of his own. His search for Enlightenment hasn’t been going all that well, has lead down some rather bizarre rabbit holes. It’s about to get a lot worse.
The employees of Palantine and Co. are themselves hoping their new hire is exactly what they need. Otherworldly phenomena is on the rise. A seven year old girl has gone missing in northern Michigan, and they are sure it involves something that happened to Gary when he was a boy, thirty years ago, not to mention that there have been sightings of same identical dead man on a Lake Erie beach now for several decades. Some might call what Gary and his co-workers are about to get involved in to protect humanity from a world whose borders with other realities are fraying at the edges, incredible and perhaps even insane. Some might call it a mission.
23 Pangbourne Place (Alternative world Urban Fantasy)
It has been almost thirteen years since a terrible inferno took the lives of Johnny Smith(formerly Hutchison)’s friends and fellows trying to enact a dangerous spell to raise The Devil to grant them special powers. Things didn’t turn out so well, as Johnny was the only survivor.
Since then he has made a special effort to keep himself out of the limelight, ultimately ending up as a the building manager for the apartment building at 23 Pangbourne Place. But nothing has been forgotten, and Johnny is about find out that forces from Hell still have him in mind for their machinations. The question’s are, can he wriggle out from their grasp? Can he keep occupancy at 23 Pangbourne Place at 100%? can he keep his vampire lawyer’s lover’s hands off of him? Are the gargoyles who serve as building security out to get him? And can he face up to what he did in the past, thwart his dark destiny and help his Catholic girlfriend prevent her grandfather from turning into a zombie? Yes, he is going to be a very busy guy this November…
Defending Mars(YA Science Fiction)
14 year old Tory Ciarelli did not want to get stuck on the planet Mars, but here she is, dragged 50 million miles from her home Earth, by her parents to the new frontier. She has a plan to escape Mars, but might not be able to accomplish her goal on her own.
21 year old Gurminder Kalsi is a third generation bornehere Martian, a rig driver working for the planetary clans who were abandoned by Earth but managed to survive and prosper but are now at the mercy of the massive new colonization effort. He too is trapped on the red plane, but not by circumstance, but by biology. Born on Mars he can not leave to go to the world his grandparents came from.
But together Tory and Gurminder might be able to find a way out of their traps. If they can work together. If they don’t manage to make things even worse…