Images & Words: Void the Light

Images & Words: Void the Light – Part 6


Image
The Office (Deus Ex: Human Revolution concept art) by Unknown

Words
Neal Ulen

When : Where
269 DE (2579 CE) : Terra / The Tangle


Void the Light info:

This is part of a first draft novella entitled “Void the Light” that takes place in my Infinispace Universe.

The novella is set about 15 years before the events of “Infinispace: Deception” and is approximately 30,000 words in length. It will be posted in serialized format.

If you’d like to start at the beginning, click this link.

Preceded by Void the Light – Part 5.

Taria’s day had been frantic and tedious at the Third Circle Ward. This far out in The Tangle she had seen it all over the five years assigned there, everything from the daily cases of dehydration and malnutrition, the disturbing fruits of a serial killer’s labor, to the inhumane treatment of Integrators hunting their prey.

She spent the final hour of her shift reviewing records of the services provided to Citizens. Her eyes scanned the screens in front of her, their pale blue glow illuminating her cluttered corner of the cramped triage room. Nothing out of the ordinary stood out to her. Heat exhaustion. Various viral infections. Broken limbs. Several stabbings. She continued to scan and swipe through the records. Just a typical day in The Tangle. She usually didn’t put this amount of focus on reviewing daily operations, but she was doing so to take her mind off the fact that she had not heard from Martos since early that morning. It was unlike him. He always connected or sent a message during down times, even if it was a quick, guarded intimation of “I love you.”

Today, nothing. Now that the daily frenzy had diminished in the Ward, she couldn’t help but feel her old friend apprehension creeping into the back of her mind. She quickly tamped it down. She excelled at it.

Taking a deep breath she swept away the displays hovering before her and leaned back in the chair, closing her aching eyes and rubbing them gently. In fact, her whole being ached as of late. All the more reason to keep unjustified apprehension in check. It dulled the mind and frazzled the nerves. The dangerous game she and Martos were playing was beginning to physically manifest itself. There was no time for that.

The background din from the avenue outside seeped through the walls of the Ward. The white noise lulled her and tension slowly melted away as she sat, face pointed up at the antiseptic gray ceiling. Just as a blanket of drowsiness was about to fall upon her she heard the telltale chime of an incoming call.

She sat up quickly, the fatigue instantly washed away. One of the floating displays automatically hovered back into her view. Discretely looking over her shoulder she knowingly smiled and thumbed the glowing ACCEPT button. But that brief smile haltingly vanished when Martos’ battered face appeared on the display half out of frame. Her eyes grew wide in horror and her hands shot instinctively to cover her mouth lest a scream escape of its own accord.

“Martos! What’s happened?! Where’ve you been?!” The words leapt from her mouth in an whispered scream. She shot a quick glance over her shoulder a second time to ensure no other Ward workers had heard her outburst.

Martos only looked back at her from the floating display, his head twitching left and right as if searching for something. Taria could see citizens milling about behind him. He was obviously calling from a public terminal.

She slowly lowered her hands away from her face. “Martos, say something. Tell me what’s happening. You’re scaring the shit out of me.”

He looked down as if he were leaning tiredly against the terminal, then looked up at her. His one good eye was wet with tears.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked quietly, arms stretched forward as if now grasping the terminal booth for both moral and physical support. “Why did I have to find out this way?!”

“Tell you what?” A chilling fear began to infuse her.

“Stop … just, stop.” he sighed. “No more games, no more lies, no more deceptions. We can’t afford it anymore.”

“I don’t understand.” She could feel her own tears of fear and confusion beginning to well up in her eyes.

“You’re pregnant?” Martos hissed at the screen.

The color rushed from Taria’s face. “I am?”

On the screen Martos’ hands went to his head that was shaking from side to side in disbelief. What was going on? He was losing control of their carefully constructed ruse. What was the point of carrying on? It was over. He turned to walk away from the terminal hoping to find a bottomless pit to swallow him up.

The background din from the avenue outside seeped through the walls of the Ward. The white noise lulled her and tension slowly melted away as she sat, face pointed up at the antiseptic gray ceiling. Just as a blanket of drowsiness was about to fall upon her she heard the telltale chime of an incoming call.

“Martos, wait!” Taria reached out in a panic to try and stop him, but her hand only went through the image, grasping at nothing but air.

Martos stopped and returned to the terminal, his face sliding back into the frame.

“How did you find out? I mean, I wasn’t sure myself so I tested myself this morning but haven’t looked at the results. What the hell’s happened to you?!”

“You tested yourself? At the Ward?” He asked.

“Yes.”

“The Ward that is overseen by the Spire?”

“Yes.”

“The Spire that controls all aspects of our lives?”

Eyes cast down, Taria didn’t reply.

“What were you thinking?”

“Martos, no one saw me. I have complete control of this Ward and everything I need is here! Where else am I supposed to go?”

He smiled ironically back at her. “The only thing in control here is the Spire.”

“You still haven’t answered my question. How did you find out?”

“Look at me Taria. How do you think I found out?”

Martos spent the next several minutes recounting all that had happened to him that day … Benize, the Integrators, the encounter with the Spire. He also speculated all that was about to happen to them. He culminated the conversation by holding the back of his hand up discretely to the terminal.

“Do you see this?” he whispered. “You know what it is. It’s the Mark of the Triocracy … the mark of a criminal! The mark of the end, our end! I’m an Uncitizen, branded a criminal for trying to be … human! FUCK!!”

Taria watched as Martos slammed his fist repeatedly into the terminal off screen. His image shook violently on her display with each strike. Citizens walking by in the background began to take notice of his sudden outburst.

“Martos! Shhhhh … stop. Citizens are watching you.”

Taking a deep breath he composed himself and re-wrapped his marked, and now bruised, hand in the impromptu strip of cloth Benize had handed him earlier.

“What are we going to do Taria?” He was asking out of a sense of confirmation and validation, because he’d already worked out the first steps of a highly sketchy and dangerous plan. But what choice did they have?

“We run,” she said, confidently, wiping a lone tear from her cheek.

“Run where?” The tone of his voice expressed he didn’t share Taria’s faux confidence. “You know what that means, right?”

She nodded at his words.

“We’re alone now,” Martos continued. “There will be no one there to pick us up when we fall, or to feed us, or to shelter us. We will be fugitives and outcasts, not just from the Spire, but from our friends. No one will help us. Our chance of survival is next to nil.”

Taria smiled back at his worry worn visage and said, “We’ll pick each other up when we fall.”

His face softened. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Yes, what choice do we have?”

He mustered a chuckle at her rhetorical question, but answered anyway. “None, as ever.”

“There’s a first time for everything,” she said.

“Okay, here’s what we’re going to do … short term at least. We’re going to have to figure out the rest as we go. You’re going to leave the clinic as soon as we break connection. Go to our cube and gather clothing, food, medicine, your shard … anything you can stuff into two packs, one for each of us. Do it as fast as possible, okay?”

Taria nodded silently but vigorously.

“Then make your way to the Inner Hub transfer station. From there we will take the mag-rail.”

“To where?” she asked.

“I don’t know yet, but by the time I get there I’m hoping I will.”

The Tangle is an enormous place, surely there are people that can help us Martos.”

“Maybe, but I don’t know of any offhand. Oh, and when you make your way to the transfer station don’t take a Spoke. Take side streets and back alleys. I’ll do the same.”

“I understand.”

Martos glanced at the time piece on his wrist. Taria always thought it ridiculous that he wore such a battered antique. But there was something in the sentimentality of it that she understood.

“We only have about thirty six hours to somehow disappear inside this enclosed prison we live in. After that time we’re no longer citizens of the Spire. Everything we know or rely on comes to an end.”

Taria could feel the dread welling up in her again. Her right hand instinctively went to her belly, out of sight of Martos’ vision. She had just learned about their child herself, and was months away from showing, but her maternal connection was growing stronger with every beat of her heart.

“I’m ready,” she said.

“I’m glad one of us is. Okay, see you in a few hours.”

Martos turned as if to leave, then looked back into the terminal.

“Taria.”

“I’m still here,” she said.

“I love you. And I’m happy that we’re going to have a child.”

“I love you too!” The words caught in her emotionally constricted throat. But it was too late, she was responding to a blank frame. Martos had already broken the connection and was gone.

Taria burst into tears. By the time she’d gathered her things and stepped out onto the soiled streets of The Tangle they were already gone and replaced with burning hatred for the Spire.

Continued in Void the Light – Part 6.


Words © 2021, Neal Ulen. All rights reserved.
Images/videos cited © to their respective owner(s).


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