Conflict is always brewing just beneath the surface in the political hub of Kore. In this city full of silver-tongued liars, Bryn Havier thrives in her work as an Advisor, a legal and political research expert at the service of a Councilmember.
When the Council of Russ makes a rare unanimous vote on what should have been a controversial issue, however, she suspects corruption. Bryn and two of her friends, Kris Tillen, a sought-after medic, and Dak Hallman, the severely alcoholic daughter of a late renowned architect, soon act in ways that place them at odds with the powerful Russi state – an often lethal scenario.
This story is urban, grim, and introspective.
TW: self-harm, blood
After a quick glance back the way she came, Bryn lined herself up against the wall, right next to the glass, and crouched. She brought the collar of her jacket up to block her face. For all she knew, she was already on camera, with SC on standby to come and take her away. Eich had said this was dangerous, and suddenly she was flooded with the worst of scenarios; losing her job, getting tried for treason… Yet before she could talk herself out of it, Bryn peeked quickly around the corner of the stone wall and through the glass.
It was a large white room with a woman sitting against the right hand wall, wearing a medical gown of sorts. Everything seemed mundane enough. Until Bryn noticed the chains.
Thin, silver chains connecting the shackles wrapped around her wrists and ankles to a panel in the wall next to her. Bryn backed away quickly; there was no way to know whether it was one- or two-way glass, and the last thing she needed was to have to explain her presence down here. Maybe Preston was keeping dangerous prisoners down here; terrorists, perpetrators of treason, and the like — but then why the medical gown?
There was a noise on the other side of the glass. Bryn hesitated, then took a quick glance, long enough to see that a man in a lab coat had entered holding a clipboard. Maybe this was a clinical trial, then, for a new drug? But then how did it have anything to do with the weapon?
Bryn dared another look, peeking only her eyes around the corner. The man was speaking to the woman in chains. He then handed her one of two bottles filled with a milky white liquid. Terror filled the woman’s eyes, and she tried to curl in on herself further, chains shifting. Nonetheless, when the man left the bottle on the ground before her, she crawled over to it and unscrewed the cap. He took a step away from her as she drank.
There was a long moment where neither of them moved.
Bryn took it as an opportunity to hide behind the wall once more, checking the two sides of the hallway. She needed to think of some kind of excuse if someone found her. The thought crossed her mind to take pictures or a video on her phone, because what she was witnessing certainly didn’t seem like anything right or legal, before she suddenly remembered that she’d left her handbag in Eich’s study. Either way, it was her work cell phone, which got checked regularly by SC, who weren’t exactly her favourites right now.
Sighing, Bryn looked into the room again, and her breath caught in her throat. The man had now produced a knife, which he was casually holding in the same hand as the clipboard. He seemed to be checking the time on his electronic watch. Then, he tossed the knife towards the shackled woman, whose eyes had gone blank and… pale. They were now the same milky white as the substance, like cataracts in her eyes.
Bryn blinked, straining her eyes and desperately trying to remember the woman’s initial eye colour. Surely it hadn’t been this white, because no one with Russi background had such light eyes. Maybe she was Rattenese? Even then, was the light blue common in the Upperland really this pale?
The man then set down his clipboard and unscrewed his own bottle, drinking from it too. It was hard to tell from where she was because she only saw his profile, but Bryn could have sworn his gaze went white too.
Then, something equally strange and horrifying occurred.
As the man and the woman maintained eye contact, the woman picked up the knife, and began slitting her own arms open. Slowly, methodically.
Bryn couldn’t tear her eyes away as blood poured all over the chains and white floor, and while the woman’s face seemed pulled taut with pain, she continued, slicing through various parts of her body. There was something especially terrifying about watching all of this unfold in silence, save for the sound of Bryn’s jerky breathing. At the rate the woman was now losing blood, there was no way she’d survive much longer without a Medic.
Unable to make sense of the scene before her and unwilling to watch it unfold any longer to attempt to, Bryn pulled away from the glass and stood, speeding over to the torch she had left on the ground. Nearly setting her coat on fire and tripping over her feet, she sped back the way she’d come.
She felt sick, this morning’s oatmeal shifting malignantly within her stomach. What could Preston possibly be doing with this? Her sight had to have betrayed her. The way their eyes had changed colour like that, that wasn’t possible. She’d never heard of anything like that.
When she finally reached the top, her legs stiff with effort, she pulled the keys out of her pocket with trembling hands. She killed the torch and placed it back on the small shelf with the others. She was glad she’d worn gloves today to keep her trace off of it.
Bryn unlocked the door and stepped out into the hallway, which was mercifully empty. Locking it once more, she rounded the corner and quickly walked back towards the Archives, breathing heavily.