Idriel Ramirez has never known the feeling of gravity. His once-proud people are now slaves to a conquering power. He has returned home, broken and ashamed. An old friend needs him, but she has vanished into the labyrinthine bowels of the false planet. Ramirez will have to confront his demons if he means to save her.
Phase 5 Review
Phase 5 Review
Idriel Ramirez hails from an artificial world without gravity, where the people are so adapted to weightlessness that they will suffocate if exposed to earthlike conditions. He has returned home after seven long years of slavery as a pilot aboard a privateer vessel. An old flame, Ausiel Montoya, finds him and begs for transport offworld, but when they are supposed to meet, she has vanished. Ramirez searches for her, telling himself that it’s the money she promised and not the memory of his old feelings that spurs him. He has to work with people that he can’t trust and slowly discovers that Ausiel’s disappearance is connected to a vast mystery that links the planet’s secret police, an underground cult and a voyage to an uncharted star. Ramirez will have to solve the entire puzzle if he wants to save his friend.
Ausiel Montoya had not remembered the corridors of Santiago being so long. She yanked herself forward, grabbing the rungs placed for just that purpose, her breath coming in sharp gasps that sliced her lungs and squeezed her veins. The corridor was a small one and would have been called an alley in a dirtwalker city. Hatches all around, like the spokes of a wheel, led to the back exits of quarters. This part of Santiago, they were probably empty, stinking like fried skin. Montoya ignored them. Worthless. She had to get somewhere public and fast, or she was a corpse.
She chanced a look over her shoulder as she glided only half a foot from the wall of the corridor. In the dim light of the alley, she could make out the spidery shapes of the other zeroes. They were moving fast, but she was faster. She hoped they would get tired. She knew they wouldn’t.
A sharp hiss ripped the air in two. One of the shapes had stopped, a glint, mercury bright in his hand. Montoya grimaced and sped up. Useless. She couldn’t outrun a wasp. No one could.
Up ahead, two corridors split from the first, each across from the other. One was at a ninety-degree angle pointing coreward, the other was forty-five degrees and partially doubled back on the skinward.
With a push, Montoya flew to the skin wall of the corridor. She planted her feet against a steel rung, curled into a ball and pushed off with all of her strength. She soared coreward, hoping to confuse her pursuers by doubling back. They would not expect it. They could not. Pray that was more than just vain hope.
She skimmed along another wall – in the absence of gravity, every barrier was a wall; just as she began to lose her momentum, she grabbed a rung, her hand squealing along the surface, and pushed off again. The light was little better in this alley and it was obvious that swabs had not been by in awhile. Like so many places in Santiago.
The entry to another tunnel was just above her, a toothless mouth breathing frigid air. The lights would be long broken; no money to fix them. Montoya pushed off again, not daring to glance behind her. Her body was on fire. She skidded against the side of the corridor and her knee slammed into the side with a hollow clang. For a moment, there was no feeling; then the pain crept in, a dull ache accompanied by the sick warmth of blood. Montoya winced, but she would not look: it might be worse than she thought.
The corridor was almost completely black. Montoya pulled herself up through it, grasping a hatch, and with a final heave, she was past it. Montoya planted her feet on the wheel and looked down, the dim light of the last corridor, only twenty feet below her feet. She could not run anymore. Her best bet was to hide. Maybe they would lose her. And maybe they would follow, their wasps in hand, and drop her, her body heavy like she had never felt, falling off into darkness. Then, when she awoke, a life, short and painful.
She was gasping, her breath in thick plumes of frozen fog. It was deafening, and she prayed to Ausiel for deliverance, but the angels were far away, and lately Ausiel had developed a hearing problem. Montoya held her breath, exhaling in a low hiss. The sweat on her face formed tiny streams of ice. She knew she was a dead woman.
The voices of her pursuers boiled below. There were four of them, all Hinds and all armed. It had been sheer luck that she evaded them this long. She would not have even seen them were she not already paranoid from the events of the past few days. It seemed her luck would be running out in a stinking dark tunnel in the bowels of Santiago. More than one person had made that prediction.
The voices grew louder, the echoes melting into words.
“Where is she?” hissed the first voice, a reedy whine.
Another voice, deeper: “She has to be ahead.”
They were almost underneath her now, the wet slaps of hands on steel now audible. She held her breath as she saw a hand grasp a rung in the corridor below. A long and lithe shape pulled itself into view. Mercury glinted in the holster at the small of his back: a wasp. The shape moved past the mouth of the corridor. Two more silhouettes followed: pack hunters. They were moving fast, rattling off razor sentences. Then a fourth. Montoya knew that they would look up at any moment, and she would be dead. A fifth.
“Should have taken her at the float.” She remembered the blue darts tinking off the wall, needles broken at first impact, tranquilizers hungry. They wanted her alive. That was worse than a clean kill.
The second man disappeared, then the third, the fourth and finally the fifth. Montoya stood on the wheel, a statue, hardly daring to breathe.
“Twist it,” shuddered another voice, quavering like an old man, but strong like a hammer.
The voices silenced, replaced bky quick gasps of the men redoubling the pursuit. Montoya waited until she could hear nothing. Finally, she pushed off, sailing along the corridor.