040 - Rated
Another Eve and Tic story. This one developed the idea that Eve lives in a post-human world, a place where we, as the Antecedents, left some of our technology and our iconography, and that's about it. I really like this idea; I've read a couple of things set in this kind of post-human world and they're always fascinating. I love new, fantasy-inspired, looks at current technology. It's also handy to clear another of the 100 themes off the list. This project's hanging around like nothing else.
040 – Rated
Sprinting for the inner chamber, Eve gasped out “Tic, what’s ahead?” Her boots echoed off the stone walls, undoubtedly announcing her presence to von Due, but that didn’t matter now. There was some sort of vivid blue light emanating from the doorway at the end of the corridor: it could already be too late. A humming sound was getting louder the closer she got.
“I’m only picking up the energy ahead; it’s masking everything else,” Tic warbled. “It’s like staring into the sun- eek!” Suddenly he was frozen in mid-air, lightning crackling over him as he screeched in agony, and then he dropped to the floor, motionless.
As Eve turned to look at what had happened, she tripped over something hidden in the darkness and tumbled headlong into the chamber ahead. Slid to a stop at the foot of a short flight of steps.
As she opened her eyes and looked around, head throbbing, she took in the murals on the walls. There were pictures of lightning and the Antecedent hieroglyph for danger; a flash of white in amongst the blue at the top of the stairs drew her gaze and she staggered to her feet. The noise in here was loud, a hum as loud as that which the College’s own experiments with amber and lightning produced. In here, though, was none of the machinery and looping cables they used. All was stone and dust.
At the top of the stairs a large hole had been cut into the ceiling, a rope hanging down from it. Two torches, their light barely able to be noticed through the dazzle. A dark shadow stood in front of a small niche carved into the wall, in which a silvery object was suspended as if by sorcery. It was from here that the blue light was emanating. The shadow turned, all features lost in the brilliance of the light, and then it took a step towards her, details coming in to focus. The black coat. The suit. The gold pocketwatch, the black wooden cane, the carefully-trimmed white moustache and beard. The eyes that glittered like diamonds.
Katze von Due had beaten her.
“Nice of you to join me,” he called, taking another step closer. He was stood on the top step now, leaning on the gold pommel of his cane. “You are highly over-rated, you know,” he said with a smirk. “The College, they think they can send you out to retrieve every little trinket? No.” He took two short steps back and closed his hand around the medallion, then yanked it out of its compartment. Instantly, the hum died down and the blue field of energy that had been emanating from the alcove snapped off. Eve leapt into action.
Jumping to her feet, she lunged up the stairs, her fingers outstretched. If she could just reach von Due in time, before his eyes adjusted to the torchlight – but it was too late. His cane flashed into her path, catching her in the chest and sending her tumbling to the ground for a second time.
“This round is mine, girl,” he snarled, teeth shining whitely in the torchlight. He whirled around, his red-lined coat flapping, and grabbed hold of the rope hanging from the ceiling. Tugging it, he almost immediately began to rise up, and his mocking laughter echoed down the shaft. It seemed like Eve was hearing it through water; the torches were dimming off and on, and she closed her eyes for a moment to try and clear them.
“Eve? Eve, it’s Tic. Eve, you need to wake up.”
The voice was high, childlike. Worried. On the edge of panic.
“Eve, wake up!”
There was a name. Tic. That was Tic. She opened her eyes groggily and blinked a few times to clear her vision. Tic, hovering over her, came into focus.
“What… what happened? You…” she sat up, and winced as pain threatened to flatten her head. “I… von Due!”
“He got away, Eve,” Tic said sadly. He retreated a few feet and came to rest on the floor. The torches were still providing a little light, though they were almost burned out. “There was some sort of shield; it wasn’t enough to destroy me, but it knocked me out for a few minutes. It’s gone now, though. Deactivated.”
“von Due took the medallion. I expect it was powering this place.” Eve nodded gingerly up to the hole in the ceiling. “He got in through there. Ventilation, maybe, or an emergency exit.” She sighed. “Or entrance.”
Tic rocked on the floor. “I already checked it out. It’s about a hundred feet straight up; no intersecting tunnels. Whatever it was used for, it’s not going to help us.” Eve began to clamber to her feet and he zoomed up around her, providing a little lift under one arm.
“Well,” she said, looking around, “I guess we’re walking back. Have you recorded the murals?”
“Yes. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, apart from this one,” the little Cog said, whirring over to one corner of the room. “Just here. All the rest are standard Antecedent signs.”
Eve walked over and frowned. The sign was large and square, about the size of a handspan, and painted onto the wall like all the others. It was three intersecting circles, each one missing a section. The impression was insectile and unfriendly.
“Well, record it. We’ll work it out back at the College,” she said, and turned to leave. “The Administrator won’t be pleased about this.
As they plodded back through the temple, the untranslated sign burned in her mind.