"The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion."
- Albert Camus
Milky Way, Sector 14
12th Epoch Proper
When you're an anarch, dying is the easy part. Completing your mission objective before nulling out? Not always so easy.
"A scan of your credentials does not return a valid result. Present Accepted credentials or be pacified."
The weaponized arm pointed at my chest by the Vigil unit suggested the pacification would not be of the gentle sort. It rarely was.
I brought my hands up from behind my back and stretched them into the air, fingers curled in but giving every indication they were opening in surrender. As the nail of my left index finger reached the center of my palm, I flicked it outward.
The gossamer dampener net unfurled as it sailed through the air to envelop the Vigil unit.
The floating orb began jerking to and fro in the narrow hallway in an attempt to unsnarl itself. I leapt forward and collected the edges of the net in one hand, then wrangled it under some semblance of control until I was able to wrap my arms around the wide, circular frame and brace it against the wall.
It squirmed savagely, but after two tries I found the input port and shoved a spike into it.
"Not this time, Vigil. You don't get me yet."
The unit dropped from my grip to the floor and rolled into the opposite wall.
I'd bought myself twenty minutes.
I stripped off my infiltration suit, shrank it and stuffed it in my kit. The fete-worthy attire which remained looked ridiculous to my mind, but nevertheless appropriate to the venue I'd be visiting. I unbound my hair and began scaling the service duct.
The galactic core hung in the sky like an ornament placed just so to best complement the pavilion. The prodigious light it provided, even here on the verge, filtered through an invisible prism field to cast soft, color-varying rays upon the conveniently reflective flooring.
See how small you are, it whispered.
See how powerful we are, it hummed.
In this case the core acted as a stand-in for the Anaden Directorate, obviously.
The guests enjoying the Phoenix Arx amenities acted oblivious to the implied message, though in truth it was because most of them had internalized it decades if not centuries ago and would never question it again.
Yet as a backup if the message didn't come through clearly enough-the Directorate didn't practice subtlety-every rotation of the Arx brought them a stunning view of the Phoenix Gateway in the distance. The colossal triple rings gleamed in the unfiltered glow of the galaxy, beautiful and menacing. This close to the ancient structure, the Gateway appeared more massive than the core itself. It was an optical illusion, but an effective one.
Today the Phoenix Gateway numbered only one of hundreds of its kind; in comparison to many of them it was aging, if not decrepit. But there was a reason for that: it was the first. The first wormhole portal to span the interstellar void and link to another galaxy. A dwarf galaxy, true, and one long since fallen out of fashion.
YOU ARE READING
In a future too distant to measure, a hyper-evolved breed of humans calling themselves Anadens rule multiple galaxies and alien species with an iron fist. But a small group of dissidents are willing to pursue any and all measures, no matter how extr...