Day 74. 50 pages, 19,508 words.
The directionless white light of the platform interior returned before Predericon could do more than draw in a quick breath. The returning illumination was accompanied by a momentary increase in gravity, just enough to make the Molren’s knees bend before it, too, was restored to Centre-normal.
“There,” the Destarion said, “I have successfully emitted a quasi-transperse pulse.”
Or you just turned the lights out and bumped the gravity for a half-second, Predericon’s treacherous brain responded.
“Alright then,” Lelhmak stepped towards the shifting circle on the wall, which slowed to a halt and – after a millisecond completely flush and invisible against the rest of the gleaming white surface – gaped open into an ordinary platform doorway.
“The chambers may still exhibit some slow-down and mini-paradox phenomena,” the Destarion warned, “but they are not dangerous, simply disorienting. The system was dialled up very high to cope with the Demon, and is unlikely to run completely still in the immediate future.”
“Good,” Lelhmak said lightly, “sounds fun.”
They stepped through into a second small chamber, the door closed behind them … and then reopened to reveal what looked like the antechamber they’d just left, except there was another door in the opposite wall of this chamber, and through that…
Predericon stared for a moment, then looked up.
“Oh,” she said, and staggered a little from the sudden vertigo.
“Steady,” Old Man Lelhmak said, gripping her left arms with his sterile-sheathed right hands. “I’m guessing that is what we would call a harmless, disorienting mini-paradox phenomenon.”
“Lovely,” Gyden muttered.
Through the door on the far side of the adjoining chamber, the Molren could see themselves – from above, as if they were standing horizontally on the opposite wall or there was a door in the ceiling looking down on them. And the ceiling of the room they were currently in, when they looked up, was like a wavering hall of mirrors curving upwards forever, a tunnel filled with rank after rank of distorted images of the three of them in endless variation. Some of them, Predericon could have sworn even on a brief glance, had not been standing in the same positions as the three of them currently were.
In some of the reflections, there had only been two Molren.
Fascinating as it was, she resolved not to look any more closely at the phenomenon. It had, according to the Destarion’s own description, no function other than to disorient and incapacitate.
“I guess we go through here,” Lelhmak said, fixing his glowing lenses stoically on the opposite door and striding towards it with his shoulders set.
They traversed another couple of rooms, or the same room several times, sometimes turning through a door in an adjacent wall and sometimes doubling back altogether. Gyden pulled an emergency phosphorescent tag-pen from her pocket and marked the floor on one of the rooms before either Lelhmak or Predericon could stop her. The mark thereafter showed up every third or fourth room or so – sometimes on the floor, sometimes on a wall or on the ceiling. Sometimes it was on several of the surfaces. Sometimes instead of the Xidh symbol Laz – the first symbol of Gyden’s family name, Lazeen, that she had drawn on the first floor – it was an Ehl, or a Ya.
“Alright,” Gyden admitted when they stepped through into an elongated chamber that looked like two of the normal chambers melded end-to-end, and which had an emergency tag scrawled on each of the normal-sized walls and two on each of the longer room dimensions, “that was a dumb idea.”
“Good idea,” Lelhmak disagreed clinically, “dumb choice of implementation contexts.”
“The Destarion said Odium would be knocked out for forty minutes or more,” Predericon said as they crossed to the next room. Fortunately, there only ever seemed to be one way onwards through the chambers – or at least that was what they’d all optimistically decided was going on. “But that we’d only need five to get the job done. How long have we…?” she pulled out her interface and checked the timepiece. It flashed a malfunction code at her. “I might have guessed.”
“According to my old Wazzworth,” Lelhmak said, lifting his antiquated atomic time-keeper, “we’ve been in here for about nineteen seconds.”
“That seems on the low side of likely,” Gyden remarked.
“Do either of you remember how many rooms we’ve been through?” Lelhmak asked.
“Thirty-six,” Predericon said promptly.
“Eighteen,” Gyden said at the same time.
“See, I would have said twenty-one,” Lelhmak told them, “but I’m pretty sure we’re all wrong.”
They crossed what Predericon counted as three more rooms, and then stepped into a chamber that was different from the others. Its walls, floor, and even its ceiling was dented and cracked, great divots smashed from the surfaces and scattered around the room in glossy white chunks. The quality of illumination was a little poorer, like stepping into light shade compared to the white glow of the platform’s general lighting. One of the walls, Predericon noted distractedly, had a glowing phosphorescent Laz scrawled on it, but the symbol was scored by deep white scratches.
Odium, the Demon, was sitting in the middle of the floor, smiling up at them.