Tags: violet

new life

Chapter Eight, IV.

We walked the rest of the way in silence. Soon we caught up to Cornelius and Katie. They were standing in front of Violet’s hillock, a bump in the snow not five feet high. Still, it was the single distinguishing feature on the snow plain. There was still no sight of Violet.

“It’s an entrance,” Cornelius said. He waved vaguely to the other side of the mound. Erin and I went around to see that some of the snow had been cleared away to reveal a hole in the side of the hill. I stepped closer and turned on one of the camera lights. The hole was a tunnel, carved of solid, unmarked rock, and there were stairs leading down, down beyond the radius of my lights. Erin pulled out a scanner, and crouched down to examine the rock. I looked up at Cornelius.

“Katie’s comm readings say Violet is down there,” Cornelius said.

“Or her comm is,” I said.

Cornelius said nothing.

Erin stood up, squinting at her ministation through the snow. “The rock is indigenous, but the tunnel isn’t a natural cave. Someone carved it out using sophisticated tools. But it’s been here for a long, long while. Whoever built it left centuries ago, at least.”

“There are steps, Erin,” I said, half caustic, half pleading. She shrugged, aware of how inadequate her report was to answering any of our questions. I sighed and reached out to rub her arm gently in apology.

“Call it in,” I said to Katie.

“Wait,” Cornelius said. “Nothing out of the ordinary has happened yet. The rock could be blocking the comms. There’s no reason to get New Rome up in a panic over stairs. We are on a mission. We knew there was something out of the ordinary going on out here. We’re fully qualified to deal with it.”

I gaped at him.

“So far,” he amended.

“You think we are qualified to deal with the fact that this uninhabited planet has just showed its first signs of previous habitation? A fact that the initial surveys all missed? Who’s to say the previous owners have left? What exactly is the logical reason for not contacting New Rome? Violet is gone. Vanished. And you want to keep that raging pilot’s ego of yours in tact by not asking for directions.”

Cornelius smiled at me, a lazy predator’s grin, full of teeth and warning. “It’s a good thing for the mission, Ovid, that you have no decision-making capability. They leave that to the trained professionals, who don’t base their actions on a bad mood.” He came around the hillock to grip my shoulder. “You’re going first. We need full documentation, and you have 360-degree lighting on this rig.” He leaned in close, then, right to my ear. I tried to pull away from him, but his grip was crushing.

“Speaking of egos. You’re just determined to be right, aren’t you?” He shoved me toward the hole. My only thought was how dearly I’d love to smash his smug face in, a thought very unbecoming to an Ovid but intensely satisfying, when the momentum of Cornelius’s shove brought my boot down on the first stone step.

Mirrored from Oasis Stories.

new life

Chapter Eight, III.

Veran Argosis, Private Log (con’t)

“Check in,” Cornelius’s voice crackled over the comm. I checked my gear. It had been running for thirty minutes.

“Nothing,” Katie said.

“Nothing here,” Erin said.

“Empty,” I reported.

“Me too,” said Cornelius.

“I might have something,” Violet said. “I’m not sure. There is some sort of hillock a couple of yards ahead. I’m going to check it out.”

“We’ll meet you,” Cornelius said. I turned around, and began the trudge back to the shuttle.

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Mirrored from Oasis Stories.

new life

Chapter Eight, II.

Veran Argosis, Private Log (con’t)

It was silent outside. The girls were standing with their backs to the shuttle, motionless, looking out at the endless snow plain. The city was beyond the horizon, lost in the falling snow. Even the snow was silent, as the atmosphere did not have enough moisture to support large, wet, hissing flakes. Each flake was a tiny, perfect, lacy design, and to my eyes, every one was exactly like the other. I heard the loud, indecorous thumping of Cornelius’s boots on the ramp. He stopped by me and handed me my gear bag. I took it without looking directly at him, and set to work strapping the recording gear about my body as quietly as I could. The silence was oppressive, and I didn’t want to break it.

“Are you sure this is the right place?” Violet finally asked in a stage whisper.

“The coordinates were locked in,” Cornelius said, also whispering. “The scanners still read the energy fluctuation.”

We five stood motionless for a few minutes more. There was nothing here.

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Mirrored from Oasis Stories.

new life

Chapter Eight, I.

Veran Argosis, Private Log.

I dreamt of the mission. It felt like I was still there, that it was all happening all over again, only it was a dream so I knew how it would end up, but I couldn’t make any sort of warning.

In my dream, the snow drifted by the window of the shuttle in eddies, stirred up by our flight path. The snowfield below was so featureless that I could discern no forward progress at all. Only the dancing snowflakes marked our passing, and looking on them brought out the same feelings of dark hopelessness that I felt in the hangar. I looked away from the window to find Erin staring at me from her seat across the aisle.

She raised an eyebrow and tilted her head, asking after me without alerting the others in the seats in front of us. I smiled to reassure her and shook my head. No one felt the oppression but me. Erin had compassion in her eyes, but I turned away from it like I turned away from the window and stared at the patterned plastic of the seat before me and turned the collar up on my all-weather coat.

It was a short flight, not even half an hour. “This is it,” Cornelius said. He brought the shuttle down expertly, and I heard the creaking of the snow as we settled on it. Then he was powering down its engines and running through the shutdown checklist.

“Showtime,” Katie said, and bounced to the back to open the large cargo door, catching the last whine of the engines dying. Violet followed her out, then Erin, who leaned over to put a hand on my shoulder before disembarking. I sat motionless. The alien dread and terror had nailed me to my seat the second we had landed, like a cold spike through my gut. I no longer could tell whether the apprehension was forced on me from the outside or completely harbored in my own mind.

“Have you worked yourself into an ulcer yet?” Cornelius had come to stand in the aisle, leaning back against the opposite seat.

“Funny,” I said, pushing myself out of the seat. “You funny, funny man.” I lurched out to the aisle, breast to breast with my friend, and I grabbed him by his coat and dragged him even closer, until we were centimeters apart. His eyes were wide in the moment of surprise before effrontery. “There’s something out there. You’d better be ready.” I let him go before he could refute me and turned away to walk down the cargo ramp.

Mirrored from Oasis Stories.

new life

Chapter Five, V.

“Their negative influences will be wiped clean of the god, and only light will be left,” Violet said, smiling again. “Penniford was good, but he was still–” She looked over at Veran, but he was lost in his own thoughts, and barely listening to her. She bounced in place and waited for him to catch up.

“Do you mean–?” He asked, afraid to ask, needed to know. Now Violet did come to take his hands, but gently and slowly, so he would not mistake her meaning.

“I don’t honestly know, Veran,” Violet said. “But I think: yes.”

His hands clenched tightly to hers. He lowered his head and did not speak for long moments.

“What do you need me to do?” He asked.

Violet smiled again.

“I need you to help me, Veran,” she said. “I need you to not look for the Priest.”

He looked up in surprise. Violet kept her blazing smile and nodded encouragingly.

“It will be expected of you. The Council and Cornelius will assume you will go for the Priest. It’s the only chance you have, to help bring the whole thing down, as far as they know.”

Veran smiled now too, but it was weary and ironic. “You are not right, yet you are right. Cornelius thought I would fight against the god to my last dying breath, no matter the cost. But I told him of my plans, so now he thinks I will be searching.”

“We’ll find her,” Violet said. “I’m sending out the girls. You have to keep the other Avatars out of their way, and keep them from the Priest.”

Veran nodded, slowly. “I could do that. But you must not question me. Or doubt me, or contact me again.” He took his hands from hers.

Violet touched the god. That this was a vessel for her glory, the remnants of a whole man. But there was no other course to chart now.

“I trust you,” Violet said. Violet hoped.

Veran gave her a small bow. “Then I shall do your bidding, my Grace.”

Violet took the benediction with the power vested in her by the god, and bade her Avatar good journeying. Veran left quietly, in mute apology for his entrance. Violet sighed. It was past time for more tea.

Three cups were out and steeping when the door chimed. Violet answered it and her fellow Graces entered, Erin weary and still smudged from crawling through the tunnels below Dawning, those collapsed from the new building and unknown to anyone but the three of them.

“Long day?” Violet asked, handing Erin her mug. Erin smiled a thankful smile.

“Extremely,” Erin said. “But I think I’ve found one that links to the main system and comes out fairly close to the cavern of the altar.” She blew on her tea, leaning against the kitchen counter.

“Wonderful!” Violet said, clapping to Erin in appreciation. “That will be perfect. I hate to ask, but how soon can you tunnel right to the cavern’s edge?”

Erin eyed her over the edge of the mug. “Katie said the timeline has come together. I can do it tomorrow.”

Katie was in the refrigeration unit, poking about for food and cream. “Speaking of timelines, Violet, have you seen the media stream?”

“No,” Violet said, “but Veran was here. Penniford?”

“Dead,” Katie said.”

“Murdered,” Violet corrected. “By Littleton.”

“It’s beginning,” Erin said. “I didn’t think it would be so literal.”

“It’s begun,” Violet corrected her. “I’ve worked out the signs. We’ve only a few days before the conjunction. The god has already passed on the Revelation to the congregation.”

“How are we going to deal with Littleton?” Katie asked. She had pulled a delicate, chalk-white roll of herbed chevre out of the refrig and was dressing it with crackers.

“All you do is eat,” Violet remarked, amused.

“You have all the good stuff,” Katie said with a winning smile, and set the plate between the girls. They paused to take a few mouthfuls, Erin and Katie moaning in enjoyment.

“Where do you get this, Violet?” Erin asked.

“Now that the network feeds are open again, it’s easy,” Violet said. “The orders can go right through, without re-routing. No one notices. Now, Littleton. I said Veran was here; I called him. I’ve asked him to confound the Council for us, and Cornelius. I’ve made him promise to help us and not get in our way looking for the Priest.”

“Veran?” Katie demanded, with a whining sneer to her words. “I thought I smelled a whiff of something foul when we came in.”

“Katie,” Erin said.

“I hate him,” Katie said, rather unnecessarily.

“You should be kinder to him,” Violet said. “He deserves pity.”

“So he says,” Katie muttered.

“Finish your tea,” Violet admonished. “You’ve got an awful lot to do.”

Mirrored from Oasis Stories.

new life

Chapter Five, IV.

When the first knock came upon the door, Violet skipped across the room to open it, traipsing gaily. She keyed it open to find the hunched, pale form of Veran haunting her doorway like a ghoul.

“You called,” he rasped.

Violet, unmindful of the warning painted all over Veran, pulled him into her quarters and hugged him tightly. He did not move to accommodate or enjoy her embrace.

Violet let him go and put her fingertips under his chin to raise his face enough to see it clearly. He looked away and jerked back from her touch.

“Don’t ever do that again,” he said. He pressed his mouth tightly closed and stood silently in the middle of her living room, glaring at the floor, like a resentful servant awaiting fresh orders.

Violet despaired of the god’s plans, with parishioners like these. She touched the clear light of the god for reassurance, took a deep breath, and stepped a respectful distance out of Veran’s personal space. The simple action seemed to recall him to himself, and slowly life seeped back into Veran’s pale features.

“I won’t ever,” Violet promised, trying to keep the joy contained, as she must to relate to the Avatar. But she smiled; it was too much to hold in. Veran glanced at her and relaxed further.

“You are the consummate scientist, Violet,” he said. “A war between the colonies threatens and you have obviously worked out your impossible equation. Congratulations.”

“Don’t thank me, Veran,” Violet said. “It wasn’t me. The god gave me this grace.” She basked in the warmth of the love and pride radiating from the god.

“Why did you want to see me?” He asked. Violet left the Presence reluctantly and focused on him once again.

“You’ve heard the prophecy,” she said. “What were you planning on doing about it?”

“Planning on doing about it?” He echoed, sounding thoughtful. “Violet, do you know they killed Penniford?”

She held herself still, and said a small prayer in her mind for the dead to the god:

“May Thy forgiving Glance heal his heart.
Lift him from the denseness of the earth.
Surround him with the Light of Thine own Spirit.”

The god responded with a shower of love tinged with sorrow. Violet knew better than to say such things before Veran. He gave her her moment without accusation or comment.

“We have lost a truly great man,” she said, “whose time was not yet done.”

“Violet!” Veran looked aggrieved. “The Council killed him. Littleton himself plunged a knife into the man’s neck! Are you so far gone into your theories and devotions that you cannot see what is happening under your nose?”

Violet reached out a hand but did not touch him, warning him to calm.

“I’ll not let you take my joy from me,” she said. “But the god has told me so much more than what was Revealed to you. You have to understand. I am taking the long view, and I am not guessing.”

Veran waited.

“The Council will be struck down, Veran. That is what she says.”

“The god will abandon the Council? Cornelius? Never. Without Penniford as a restraining influence, the Council will rout Dawning by any means it can.”

“Apparently, the god abandoned Penniford.”

Veran was left with his mouth open, chasing implications.

Mirrored from Oasis Stories.