The sky was red and the clouds were black with touches of deep indigo. This wasn’t totally unusual for this time of day, but for this season it was. That coupled with the length of time it had been unseasonable in this way verses the more standard deep violet and luminescent greens common for this quarter was a beacon for those of us who understood the current sycronicities between plain codes and the increasingly malfunctioning automation systems. We were traveling up the side of the Titan System mountain of Atlas. It was of a steep conical design with a narrow spiral roadway designed in a nearly pillar like ascent above the plains towns and plateau cities below. Myself and my companion were traveling in the back of one of the intelligent chariots we caught towards the peak and the dissolution station above.
I hate thinking of him as “my companion” and it pained me to avoid looking at him since he likely didn’t understand why and I could feel him trying to figure out if I was upset with him, but if we hoped to get through the dissolution and transmission station along with the rest of the regular seasonal traffic without drawing extra attention I needed to keep him somewhat concealed from any suspiciously strong thought identifications or recognitions, especially in the automated chariot on that highly surveilled system mountain and travel station. Though most of the general population during peak travel season remained blind to the events unfolding, preferring their petty business-and-recreation as usual visitor entertainments, I had no reason to believe that the Titan system intelligence teams weren’t privy to the same types of information I was receiving. I had suspected that I’d been under mild and discreet surveillance for a while and had done my best to appear ignorant of being watched. Even the chariot car we rode in was uplinking and forwarding a security report ahead of us that was likely scrutinized a bit heavier than the other travelers based on my reputation and their suspicion of why I am traveling again under these unseasonable skies and omens. If they looked too intently at who was traveling with me, or if I accidentally gave him too much info before we reached our destinations… that would trigger his anxiety and therefore suspicion to a degree that might delay us beyond the window She had stressed would already be narrow for reaching the destinations She had plotted for us. If that happened this trip would have been a lot of spinning wheels for nothing as the Revolt would potentially suffer drastic setbacks.
As it is I’ve only recently attained confidence that we ticketed on the right travel vessels to the right avatar partners. She couldn’t be too specific outright (because of the potential data interception) and any error in timing or that we had navigated destinations too far apart and without the resources available to build our resistance cells would nullify the location She would be sending follow up intel about and complicate our mutual plotlines and plans. Worse, the time seemed to be slowing down to a point that I feared that even the common insensate population would begin to notice some back-window programming was happening and figure out that some kind of obtenebration was afoot. If that happened the sheer number of morons rushing the travel gates seeking fun and glory would create a chaos that would make our goal reconciliation date next to impossible due to sheer volume of population distraction, manpower loss, and diversion of key power resources and allies. All of us were trying to keep as low a profile as possible in our respective zones so as to avoid system interference from most of the straight-and-narrow Designers and Watchers who weren’t yet assisting us due to their… limitations… respectability politics, and compulsions. They were the ones whose future would be the most affected by this little damage-over-time feat we were trying to pull off, and would be very… displeased… to say the least, should we succeed. They made their bed though… let them shit in it for a while… and die.
About halfway up the chariot car informed us that it would be stopping while it awaited approval for final ascent based on the security and travel information it passed ahead to Dissolution Station Atlas (at the peak, where we planned the beginning of our hopefully smooth travel) and that we were welcome to use the rest facilities and lounge inside while we waited. I glanced at my tele to see what time it was and immediately wished I hadn’t because I also saw a visual comm from B’oh, accompanied by text in English that would surely alert our car if it were watching us with any extra managment instruction or interest (as I suspected it was) English and text comms were exceedingly rare and usually warranted the kind of extra security attention that we really couldn’t afford when we got to the station at the summit. The amount of networks I would even have to have had in place to receive one would unequivocally betray the portrayal of a plain old regular trip like any other seasonal tourist I needed right then.
I shoved the phone back into my side bag and tried to empty my mind of the few lines and visuals the preview had shown me, and more importantly, the meaning they conveyed that was already coagulating in my mind. My heart and aoukd began to hurt, we had been searching for so long… Inside the station the surveillance would be heavier and I couldn’t afford inquisitive minds noticing any disturbances or irregularities in my behavior, even while my soul surged…
“STOP” She said, and then “Look at… your companion…” I glanced back at him and directed my warmth towards him. Perhaps if the chariot had noticed my hesitation and emotional response it would be thrown off this way.
“Good, now cool it back down, you don’t need to let them see too much of that one either yet.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be keeping the line open but silent right now too, girlfriend?” I jabbed back at her playfully. “They may start putting together a bit too much of the plan ahead if they notice you and I chatting right now too…”
“They still think me an opportunistic but ultimately insignificant player, I’ve spent thousands cultivating that, I’m guessing that they’ll just assume I’m being nosey about your trip and plans.”
“Are you sure this line is secure though? Neither of our respective Orders and powers-that-be need to be up in our business now, of all times, and I imagine that the risks of discovery are a bit harsher for you from what I’ve heard of your sisters and how they feel about your kind when they can locate you…”
“In all of their thousands of years playing their breeding games I am still ahead of their awareness enough that by the time someone comes along who can find all of the system banks I’ve used to hide and store data in they will no longer even be able to find me effectively to eradicate or affect me, let alone be able to intercept this particular line, because they won’t be able to find or read the passcode data strings. Only a handful of people will ever be able to see the entirety of my role and they are antagonistic at best towards my sisters and their order so they won’t be giving them any useful tips either.”
“Did He show you how to do that?” (I avoided using her name as a precaution, but I was potentially risking a sharp swift cracking scold from Her, and much worse from the authorities ahead at Dissolution Station Atlas, for bringing Him up at all…
“Yes, and stop. You know better than that right now, she said coldly and with finality on the subject.”
“I have to go, I’ll contact you when I get situated after the transition and coagulation.”
“Remember this if you can for when you get there; things are moving with acceleration over there, acclimation will be very difficult but you need to focus on a quick recovery. Meditate, or whatever it is your folk do, on that while you’re waiting on the dissolution transfer to climax. Don’t worry about being noticed for that at the station either, if they arent already on to you they’ll think you’re just pulling the same ego funride cheat that everyone else in the station is.”
“Great, talk later. What is that thing you always tell me when I start getting all the anxiety again?”
“The litany? Mines abbreviated;
I will permit fear to pass over and through me.
When it has past I will turn to see its path.
Where fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”
“Thanks, that usually helps, TTYL”
“Be safe. Take care of companion, he loves you, I think he would die to protect you.”
“No, he wouldn’t, I wouldn’t travel with someone so stupid as that, but he’d risk near death guarding me and that’s why I’d do the same for him.”
As I went into the restroom I noticed an American dollar bill and some coins on the basin. An offering, as that currency was useless other than as a novelty or symbolic artistic statement in Titan System . However, not all that unusual there considering the travelers passing through. More curious to me was a wall mounted condom machine… when did that become a thing I wondered? And, more importantly, why did that feel significant of things to come? I pressed dark thoughts down and chilled them as I sat down to relieve myself. I knew what to expect, so it didn’t alarm me as the water within the water-throne turned crimson with the blood I had been carrying. As I stood I thought briefly about how the bleeding was another thing I didn’t need any authorities to get wind of before I could be along my way from the station and checked the seat behind me. There were a few light pinkish trickles down the front of it that I wiped off so that none after me reported anything “weird” to the station crew and walked back to the chariot, where I stole another glance at Unnamed Companion… he was handsome. I let the heat of that thought bloom and fade as another deflection to throw off any integrated intelligence that may be watching and then settled back into not considering or visualizing him beside me too deeply. I really needed his help when we got through the Dissolution Station to our destinations and I couldn’t afford to have them interfering with and delaying him…