Day 98. 108 pages, 46,146 words.
The doorway led into a corridor that would have been absolutely dark if not for Predericon’s pocket lamp. After walking for almost an hour in a long, gently-downwards-sloping arc, she estimated that she was in fact inside an access passage that ran around the inside of the Destarion’s outer hull, and may in fact spiral down into the lowermost tip of the platform’s structure. It was difficult to say, of course, because she had no real idea where she was inside the vessel. But it seemed right.
There was no sign of Gyden, or Lelhmak. Predericon wasn’t sure how far either of them could possibly have gotten in the condition in which she’d last seen them. They had been at the absolute ends of their endurance – Lelhmak had been, certainly – and had no food or water. She’d honestly been expecting to find them crumpled on the floor beneath the chute, at least once she’d found out there was a floor. Or she would find them a short distance away, where they had run out of strength.
It was a mystery, then, as she continued down the gentle curve with darkness ahead and – as soon as the pallid light from the archives chute chamber winked out – behind. There were no further markings on the walls from Gyden, but their bodies unaccountably failed to turn up either.
Predericon considered calling for them, but it didn’t feel like a good idea to make too much noise. This was not superstition, or instinct, but more like … common sense with a temporarily forgotten justification. She did, however, pull out her communicator and send out a murmured signal. There was no response, and she remembered that she hadn’t even checked the packs the other two had left behind. Had they even had their communicators on them when they’d descended? Lelhmak, at least, had his comms system integrated into his filters so he would have to-
The sound of running feet alerted her, but they were distant, echoing from the darkness around the long, smooth bend, giving her time to prepare herself. They grew steadily closer as she cautiously proceeded. On another inexplicable urging of common sense, she deactivated her light as the sounds grew louder.
The approaching figure, sprinting into view along the sweep of passage a few seconds later, was instantly recognisable even in the pitch dark. Gyden’s ear-rib implants, phosphorescent spines of soft blue-green, seemed to shine blindingly in the darkness, and the speed at which she was running made them flap and jump like a large glowing bat was sweeping along the corridor at head-height. Predericon stepped back against the wall and raised her lamp, then activated it when Gyden got within ten metres.
The younger Molran faltered with a little hiss of indrawn breath, but she didn’t stop running. As she charged up to Predericon, her gaunt appearance and drawn, terrified face became visible. She looked a thousand years older than she had been when she’d dropped through the archives – and that was barely hyperbole. Gyden looked as though she was somewhere on either side of Second Prime, but nowhere near any of the phase’s revitalising effects.
“Run,” Gyden puffed as she flashed past. Again, this was quite literal – her ears were flat against the sides of her head now, and glowing brilliantly enough to make Predericon blink.
Before Predericon could do more than open her mouth, Gyden had passed her … and, somehow managing to accelerate, charged a little way up the wall of the corridor so she was leaning inwards against the gentle curve.
Between one leaping stride and the next, Predericon’s friend bent her legs and launched herself sideways, flinging her body almost perpendicular to the corridor. A doorway opened in the shadowy opposite wall, and she vanished into it upper arms first as though diving into a pond.
Predericon closed her mouth, raised the lamp, and followed before the door could close again.
– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while sitting in the carpark.