Tag Archives: Air Ships Dirigibles

Cheése Stands Alone VII

by Phyllis Huldarsdottir

Chapter XV

Lydia stiffened. The men in the black hats had her worried. Then she saw the woman in the long black coat, blonde, taller than most men. Karla Kola. She felt a jolt of genuine fear. Serpina had noticed her alarm. She glanced to the rear of the old trolly and the back exit, the way out. She stood and inclined her head toward the gathering of black hatted agents and their blonde superintendent out the window. Serpina recognized the chief inspector and followed Lydia exiting the tram.

In their hooded work parkas they mingled with the merchants setting up their market stalls, keeping away from the officials yet uncertain in which direction to head. Lydia felt a presence behind her but before she could turn to look, a voice said, “Turn at the second arch by the vegetable stall.” It was Pyare.

He caught up with them in the shadows beyond the arch. “Quick, follow me,” and led them away from Place D’Arc toward the riverfront and the granite edifice of an old church. Once inside, they hurried toward the vestibule. Pyare led them behind the tall ornate altar with its oversized crucified figure. Pulling aside a large sideboard in an anteroom revealed an opening in the wall and plank steps leading down. Pyare handed Lydia his bacso torch as he dragged the big piece of furniture back over the hole in the wall. Once at the bottom of the stairs, Lydia could hear water dripping and the musty earthiness of what appeared to be the beginning of a tunnel assaulted her nostrils with caustic ferocity. Serpina sneezed, and Pyare led the way. After not a considerable distance, slogging and splashing through rivulets of dank water and ducking under creeping roots and vines dripping with moss, they were met with a clear bright light to assail their dim unaccustomed eyes. Steps had been carved into the earth on the incline up and at the top a screen of river willows gave out to a slight rise overlooking the wide mudflats of the Loire.

“Quite a few temporal hiccups happened in this period globally which why it is referred to by some researchers as the Doppelganger Era.”

Pyare addressed their perplexity. “The local superintendent of the police arrested Leon at AOTA’s request shortly after we had all met with him and agreed to the plan. He will tell them everything he knows in the guise of knowing all along that you were a fugitive and that he was planning to turn you in himself. He is the mayor after all.”

“Thank you. I think.” Lydia offered, still a little skeptical. “What of the original plan? Obviously that is no longer an option.”

Pyare grinned. “There is no plan except to get you out of the old city. And with AOTA this close you will have to find a refuge where you won’t be looked for. I have friends who will take you and Serpina up into the hills, and from there you will need a guide to cross the Massif Central and to the outskirts of Autre Lyons. But in doing so we must be aware of the Clans.”

“The Clans, what are the Clans?” She didn’t hide her agitation with Pyare’s nonchalance.

“You know, the people in the white robes, the Fourierists, the phalanges.”

“The only Fourier is know is the man whose heat theories from pre-Victorian times are instrumental to the development of the bug drive. We had a whole quarter on Joseph Fourier’s laws of energy conduction at the Academy.”

Pyare laughed. “No, this Fourier is the social philosopher. The clans are descendant from the phalanges of long ago, back, as you say, in pre-Victorian times but around here known as the Old Empire. Much of that history has been censored by decree of the Lord High Admiral and the Privy Council. Charles Fourier’s teachings have been suppressed and his followers arrested, You can imagine how they feel about strangers and interlopers into their redoubts in the mountains.”

“I have never heard of him. It is his relative who has world renown in the field of bioenergy.”

A strange look came over Pyare’s face and he shook his head as if to clear it. “It doesn’t matter, really, they are the same entity. A temporal slippage occurred in the mid-18th century when, as the result of a Little Bang event that had taken billions of years to reach this region of the universe, the Kandinsky bubble, named after the famed physicist who postulated the event, caused a temporal retardation that lasted almost a decade but meaningless in cosmic terms, and certain anomalies were essentially repeated. Charles and Joseph Fourier are the same person. The same essence merely entered the time stream further down the bank so to speak and kept the same surname but was realized as distinct entities in historical time, each with their own particular genius. Quite a few temporal hiccups happened in this period globally which why it is referred to by some researchers as the Doppelganger Era.”

Lydia blinked. “That’s the most outlandish story I’ve ever heard! Do you expect me to believe that. Here we are in this dire situation and you are spouting folk tales.”

Pyare blinked back and twisted his neck as if trying to straighten out a crick. “Yeah, I dunno. I guess I just knew it. Except I didn’t know that I knew it.”

Serpina sniggered and caught their attention. Pyare nodded his head in affirmation. “Of course! She’s a vessel!”

Chapter XVI

A Vessel? Lydia knew about vessels or had viewed a plasmavid documentary on one of her flights from Rio to Greater London. PVs were reserved for luxury class, all other passengers were afforded the standard public docubox broadcasts. What she could remember of the rather fantastic claims of the feature was that vessels were people with a quantum sensitivity

“You can read my thoughts?”

Serpina glared at her.

Pyare shook his head. “I don’t think she can read them. She can only send them to another. Also she can probably pick up frequencies of people she has synced with. She entangles with them. She feels what they feel at the same moment as they feel it.”

“How do you know this?”

Pyare shrugged. “I don’t know, I just do. She’s a vessel. They can do that kind of thing.”

“How do I know she’s not transmitting those thoughts to you?” Lydia looked at Serpina, her hands folded in her lap, eyes lowered.

“They can’t be her own thoughts. She’s a vessel. Besides we haven’t been in proximity long enough to be entangled.” He glanced at Serpina. “Have we?”

Serpina blushed, but Lydia wanted to know, “Then whose thoughts are they?”

“What does it matter. The Clans aren’t the only thing we have to deal with. There’s also the Boo.” Pyare pointed to the gray brown expanse of the mud flats dotted with clumps of dense vegetation. “They are treacherous to navigate. Full of sink holes and sand pits. There is no distinct path across. We will have to wait for the booters.”

“Booters? What are booters?”

“They are the people who live along the East Bank of the river in shanties in the shadow of the workers quarters of Old Orleans . They are scavengers and smugglers. Their nights are spent picking through the tourist trash in Oldest Orleans, especially after festivals and carnivals like the Victorianaisance. Some are musicians and perform in all night cabarets. What they do is not sanctioned and they can be arrested for not passing through the official checkpoints and showing the proper papers.” He pointed at the dark figures in the distance. “There are two of them now.”

“Let’s follow them!” Lydia leapt to her feet.

Pyare pulled her back. “If they see us they’ll hide, or worse, lead astray us into the deeper mud and we’d never get out. In the meantime we wait for the solitaries, the ones who travel alone. It will cost us, but there is no other choice.”

“Can we trust them? What if they betray us to the police?”

“They dislike the police more than you can imagine. They think of themselves as a free people, outside the laws of the regime. Among themselves, they are known as freebooters.”

Lydia stared out through the scrim of trees at the opposite shore and Old Orleans. She was somewhat familiar with  the area from the tourist pamphlets that proliferated in kiosks at the airship ports, and had overheard airship staff chatting about their vacations in the region. The biowines were exceptional and the accommodations were extravagant yet very affordable. Oldest Orleans, the old city was the main attraction, and there was Old Orleans for the more adventuresome, all contained within the prefecture of Orleans which was the hub of international biologic industry hosting such large pharmacorps as Freud Werke and Jung Industries. And not to be confused with the Orleans of North America, Old New Orleans and the city state of Newest Orleans, an independent entity in the heart of the USSR and on the border of the backward swamp republic of Floruisabama.

Her gaze returned to Pyare and Serpina. They were not the companions she would have chosen for this misadventure, or any sort of adventure for that matter. She hadn’t in her wildest dreams imagined that she would find herself on the run from IOTA in the company of a double jointed mind reading teenage girl and an unsophisticated country boy with airship pilot ambitions. She as Doña Lydia de Belize Gutman-Cheése should have been attending galas, soirees, and salons at the Brazilian Court with her husband, Seignior Professario Cornado de Belize Gutman, on one of his infrequent visits to the Pan Rio enclaves from his research station at the headwaters of the Orinoco. But the infrequency of their time together could also be blamed on her very busy, until late, flight schedules as an airship commander.

Aerosud was one of the most fashionable and popular transport companies and consequently much in demand. She held her high status not only to her connections to the Emperor’s inner circle through her sister-in-law, but also as a competent no nonsense captain in Aerosud’s fleet of luxury liners. She’d become accustomed to the privileges that accrued in such positions despite her rather stormy pedigree. The Cheéses were renowned in the field of microbiology and medicine as well as for their outspokenness.

“To deal with this uncertainty principle I need to be predisposed. I am not particularly predisposed to you.”

She disliked tilling the soil of her past. It seemed to hold too many surprises. She had turned away in her thoughts and now considering the two of them, Pyare on his haunches peering out over the mudflats, and Serpina watching him with equal parts of fascination and infatuation.

“Serpina, I have a question.”

The young girl looked up hesitantly at Lydia who had taken her commander stance of fists on  hips and imperious authoritative demeanor. “If you have to get to know someone before you can transmit to and from their. . . ,” she wanted to say “minds” but that didn’t seem precise enough, “their mental processes, why have you not used your skills on me?”

Serpina tried to hide her mischievous smirk. “The Doctor asked me not to,” and then with a frown, “And you have a challenging spin.”

“A spin?”

“Yes, some people have an up spin which is easy to tune in to. They operate on pleasant frequencies. Others have a down spin and are not always open to reception or transmission which makes their frequencies difficult to untangle. And others have strange erratic spins that are very unpredictable. You are a down spin with a bit of strange.”

“I assure you I can be very charming under the right circumstances. I belong to the Court of Brazil!”

Serpina laughed aloud. “You don’t want to be a charm spin. They are very unstable and subject to self-destruction.”

“But you could still transmit mental states to and from me?”

Serpina shrugged. “Yes, it can be done but it would be tiresome. It is not like tuning in to a music box broadcast of popular compositions by Gell-Mann. To navigate the various frequency fields takes skill, like a pilot, but unlike a pilot, it is a skill that cannot learned. It is intuitive. These frequencies reside in the subtle body. And there are other spins that interact with the ones I’ve already explained. There is the top spin which is a dominant mode but would not exist if it were not for the bottom spin. The bottom spin maintains a drone for the various spins to harmonize with while the top spin, because of its speed, is prone to wobble and must constantly readjust its orientation to maintain a balanced harmony. These anomalies are what is transmitted and received as cogent mental matter. The top and bottom spins can also reverse themselves which makes synchronization difficult and entanglement haphazard. To deal with this uncertainty principle I need to be predisposed. I am not particularly predisposed to you. Beside the fact that Serre-Pain, who overlooks most of my antics, said not to, and I do as he asks.”

Lydia was near speechless. First Pyare, and now Serpina, expounding from depths their surfaces couldn’t possibly mask. And for once she was intrigued. There was something reassuring about the words spoken by the two however unlikely their own, and she was gaining an insight into a self that she didn’t know existed. She had to know more.

“You are loyal to Serre-Pain, I understand. Is he a relative of yours? A guardian?”

Serpina raised her chin proudly. “Obviously the Doctor is not a relative. He is African. But he is my guardian. I was very young when he found me. I was lost. I had been with a group of refugees. They were sick and dying. They did not do so quietly and their agony was felt across all frequencies. I can’t recall my mother, only a unique tone I associate with her. When I hear that tone again, we will be reunited. The refugees I was with were all grouped together in a single house in what were called special lots. We had to flee because the house was set on fire and burned to the ground. Doctor Serre-Pain found me in a barrel in the rubble on the streets of Dusseldorf where I had gone to get out of the cold. He was passing by with Madame Ophelia and his Ophidiarium wagons. Vladimir was with them, too. Vlady is a transomatic. He sensed my presence and signed the Doctor to look for me. Vlady knew right away that I was a vessel.”

Lydia had been holding her breath. Vlady again. She softened her curious gaze at Serpina. “I too was a young girl when Vlady protected me and my mother from the clowns and the carnies. Although his name was not Vladimir then, and he still had a tongue to speak.”

Serpina’s face grew red, eyes narrowed. “Vlady is mine! You can’t come back and take him away. Look at what you’ve done. Now we’re forced to hide and run without them. And Vlady is not here to protect us!”

Pyare glance over his shoulder at the commotion. “Hey, quiet down, you two. Get ready to leave. I think I see a prospect.”

Next Time: Lydia’s Change Of Heart

Cheése Stands Alone VI

by Phyllis Huldarsdottir

Chapter XIII

Lydia set the near empty flagon on the roughhewn table between them and gave Peyare the benefit of her frown. Was he just stupid or willfully ignorant? His knowledge of current affairs was largely rumor, Icer propaganda, and conspiracy theories. She’d heard it before, that the Admiralty controlled the box broadcasts and the plasmovid media so they were unreliable as sources of the truth. It was not so much the outright lies but the half-truths. Truth had a relative value. When something could be ascertained as true, or at least partially so, it gave weight to the lies that accompanied it and downgraded the veracity of anything claimed to be true. The world is out of balance, he claimed, a popular catch phrase broadcast daily from the antiroyalist underground.

She gave his expectant expression a slight shake of her head. He was pitiful, and pitifully unaware of it. Naïve, and he did not care about anything that had not occurred during his life time, and hardly anything remarkable prior to adolescence. He’d received just enough education to make him arrogant, adopting the swagger of an air ship pilot, or what he believed was litherian swagger as depicted in lurid biopulp story boards. He was full of himself and youthful ambition. He was not uncomely, she had to admit, with a rugged virility that might serve him well if he could constrain his impulsiveness.

Yet he dismissed the entire extinction event of 77 PV, a bacterial explosion that ravaged large parts of the Northern Hemisphere and, to a lesser extent, the Southern, leaving behind bare mineral dead zones, barren frozen wastelands. As for the Queen’s Jubilee Proclamation that bound the industrial nations to a concerted effort in battling the plague that threatened humanity and ushered in an era of peace and prosperity under Victorian guidance, he rejected that as ancient history and suspect, especially after the forced Reconciliation and Alignment Act of 101 PV which he claimed, as preaxial shift adherents, so-called preaxers, did, that history had been revised and adjusted to suit the overall fiction of Pax Victoriana. And the idea that the Queen in her eightieth year of reign had become alarmed by the increased pace of life and declared that the brakes must be applied because, along with peace, she wanted quiet was a fairy tale told to children and which Lydia had to agree was a much simplified version of the actual Imperial motivation.

“Listen, this may be news to you, but I was at the siege of the Bushwhackers at the conclusion of the PanAm War!”

The Queen’s peace had been in jeopardy due to her belligerent nephew Willy’s threatening to go to war with Nicky, their Muscovite relations to the east, and with the regicide republic to the south. And her quiet, the story went, was threatened by the racket created by the development of the internal combustion engine to say nothing of its abhorrent stink. The greed and pretentiousness of the social climbing industrialist, biochem barons, and bankers whose titular aspirations were beneath dignity also was a factor. And those were the reasons given for why the Queen had formed a royal commission to look into these matters, known thenceforth as The Queen’s Royal Commission To Ensure The Queen’s Wishes, known to most as The Queen’s Wishes which he found both humorous and absurd.

Lydia wanted to slap that smug expression off his face. For someone who was so uninformed, he certainly rose on the heat of his own hot air. It was almost like he was chuckling to himself, amused by his own self-satisfaction. “What do you find so amusing? Do you find it funny that I am stuck with you in this fetid wine cave? Held prisoner by your underground group at the behest of a carnival snake doctor? I have been kidnapped and made to perform with snakes! And you are an accomplice to my captivity!”

Peyare didn’t restrain his guffaw. “I was just thinking of the expression you made when Leon told the gendarmes that you were a famous porn box courtesan. Shock would be an understatement.” He slapped the table for emphasis.

“How could you have possibly witnessed my reaction?”

“I was hiding in the shadows. I was the one who alerted Leon. I followed you to the café. I knew who you were when you bought those fancy boots. A good choice for where you’re going, I might add. I know the bootmaker. They’ll last a good long time.”

Maybe it was the wine, but she felt the lines of her otherwise staid Victorian demeanor blurring. She raised her voice. “You know where we’re going?”

Peyare was surprised by her question. “You don’t know where you’re going?” He shrugged matter of factly. “All I know is that Leon will arrange transport to Autre Lyons and pass you along to those who have the lighter-than-air.”

“A dirigible.”

“I don’t think it’s a balloon. An airship, but of an older generation.”

A derelict, no doubt, Lydia thought to herself. Anytime anyone referred to an airship as ‘older generation’ it inevitably meant something from the Zeppelin era.

“I would be honored to accompany you but my role is to keep you safe until you can leave Oldest Orleans without attracting attention. IOTA has their spies everywhere. Leon will provide you with new papers. You don’t need to be frightened.” He said it condescendingly.

“Do I look frightened to you?” She stood up in the low ceilinged wine cellar to make her point, a tall redheaded woman, blue scarf over the shoulder of her snakeskin jacket, pleated, pocketed trousers bloused over her new boots. “Listen, this may be news to you, but I was at the siege of the Bushwhackers at the conclusion of the PanAm War!”

Lydia could still picture the flaming wreckage falling onto the crowded tenements of the Outer Houllas slums and catching the tinder dry dwellings on fire.

That did the trick. Peyare, suddenly dead serious, sat up interested. Be it fighting and killing but deemed heroic and valiant, boys, men, have a precise affinity for legendary exploits. “PanAm One or Two?”

“Do I look old enough to have been in One?”

The young man grinned sheepishly, “No, I guess not. And besides the Siege of the Bushwhackers happened at the end of PAW II. You weren’t with the Royal Marines who rescued the hostages and broke the siege in the Greater Houllas Megalopolis, were you?” His eyes widened with disbelief on the verge of fawning respect.

Lydia managed a smile. “No, nothing so heroic. I was a young ensign assigned to the dirigible fleet at the Crown’s Embassy in the Slave State Republics confederation capital. I helped extract some of the hostages once a ceasefire was negotiated with the Counterforce Bushwhackers aligned with the rebellious slave republics.”

“You flew the rescue operation? That was heroic. I heard you lost some HV Airships.”

Lydia could still picture the flaming wreckage falling onto the crowded tenements of the Outer Houllas slums and catching the tinder dry dwellings on fire. The greatest loss of life was on the ground not the few hostages and embassy personnel killed by the rebels. The fire had practically razed the entirety of the makeshift sub-metropolis, the pall of smoke wreathing the tall buildings of the ruling elite in Greater Central Houllas for weeks. And she had known the pilots of the two HV Lighters that had been shot down, or had at least seen them in the Embassy cafeteria. She had flown high velocity lighters when she had trained at the Academy and realized that she was too sane to be a lighter pilot. Lighter pilots were a breed of their own.

“Yes, the negotiated truce was to allow for safe passage of the hostages as well as the obviously outnumbered Bushwhackers back to their home territories. But some in their ranks preferred death with honor over retreat and disgrace and began firing on the rescue airships as soon as we lifted off. The highvel escorts took fire to protect the dirigibles. But as soon as the shooting started, the Royal Marine Bionic Brigade aboard my airship deployed their glide platforms and neutralized the threat with only a few further casualties.”

“Bionics? You worked with Bionics? The indestructible air marines?”

Lydia could tell by his expression that she had made an impressionable fan. “Well, yes, as much as you can work with a bionic.”

“Really, what are they like?”

She thought that the name alone should have made it obvious. “They’re machines.”

A noise at the door drew her attention. Someone had lifted the bar and the heavy door creaked slowly open. There were two of them, revealed in the orange glow of their bacsodium torches. Behind them was pitch black. Then another figure moved in the shadow of the reflected light.

Leon strode in, raising a questioning eyebrow to Peyare, followed by Serre-Pain, grim jowled to a slow simmer, dark eyes flashing darkly. Then Serpina appeared at his side, her eyes shooting daggers.

Impulsively Lydia blurted. “Where’s Vlady?”

“Vlad had to prepare the wagons for transport.” The snake doctor’s tone was flat, impersonal. “I had hope to have more time to make preparations. But because of your foolishness we must now separate. Vlad and I will take the wagons on the main road to the northeast to throw IOTA off the scent. Leon has arranged for you and Serpina to leave from the south gate and travel with a group of agricultural workers. We must depart immediately. You will not see Vlady or I until we rendezvous at our destination.”

“But I know him, I know Vlady from my childhood. He knew my mother. We traveled with a circus!”

Serre-Pain threw her a concerned look and then glanced at the flagon at her elbow. “How much wine have you had to drink?”

Chapter XIV

At the break of dawn when they arrived at the transport, an ancient repurposed streetcar easily a century old. A cold gray brume had settled over the open air market and on the crowds of laborers in their brown canvas overcoats, hoods or scarves hiding all but a sliver of visage, a beard, made-up eyes, and jostling against each other to achieve their conveyances at the start of the work day.

Lydia and Serpina were attired similarly and mingled with the crowd of women before boarding the transit car to the work destination. According to Leon’s instruction, they were to travel to the fields several leagues south of the ancient city. Peyare would make sure they boarded the right transport but from then on they would have to be on their guard. Once passed the exit inspection to verify identities and head count, they would be met at the work site by someone who would take them up into the hills to a lumber mill where the operator of the mill would secret them in a special compartment of the lumber wagon and take them the rest of the way to Autre Lyons to meet with another agent of the League who would then take them to the rendezvous with the airship.

In return she would be led to the illusive Commodore Jack Cheése, her father.

Leon had provided her with a set of false papers. Lydia was now Odette O’Day, a Class III worker, one class above Class IV transient, but still at the bottom. Serpina had an assortment of identity papers and chose the one that would attract the least attention. He had warned her to keep her face covered and make sure no one looked at her too closely. He delicate features could easily be identified as a Victorian. And he had rounded up the rough working togs including a pair of gloves. “Wear these. If anyone sees your hands they might become suspicious. They’ve obviously never done any labor.”

To make matters worse, Serpina’s hostility toward her was undisguised and intense. Once aboard the ancient tram hitched to an equally ancient steam mule belching puffs of acrid smoke from its fore stack, the young woman had chosen to sit apart from her. Instead Lydia found herself next to a short round woman who smelled of cooking oil and who could not help staring at her all the while babbling in some argot that was barely comprehensible. She realized also that if she tried to engage in conversation, she would be quickly identified as a Victorian. Her Standard was just too proper and uninflected.

She caught Serpina giving her a smug smirk at her predicament over her shoulder. Fortunately she had the window seat and feigned that she was going to take a nap by placing her palms together and leaning her cheek against them. Then she rested her head on the discolored real glass of the window and watched the bustle of the marketplace through half closed eyes.

She understood that the further away from any large population centers she traveled, especially outside of the influence of the Clockwork Commonwealth, her obvious non-Class III mannerisms would give her away, that she was a World Citizen, t’zen as they were commonly called, and not just a Class I, but legacy ranked. Yet she found herself a prisoner of the Doctor’s manipulations and as much she chaffed at her constraints, she accepted that she had to play along until the circumstances turned in her favor. Serre-Pain had once again emphasized the importance of their mission and her role in bringing about its success. But even his persuasion had seemed muted when he had remonstrated with her in the wine cave, his dark skin ashen, a weariness around his eyes. She did not doubt that the intention of his mission was reasonable and dire. She wasn’t being given a choice in the matter.

In return she would be led to the illusive Commodore Jack Cheése, her father. She did want that, not having seen him in over a decade. He had mysteriously disappeared soon after she had entered the Air Academy. And the chance to reason with him, convince him, as only a daughter can, to reconsider his opposition to the hologram succession, the legitimacy of the Commonwealth, the Admiralty Court and the Lord High Inquisitor. She thought his hostility to the Crown foolish. After all had he not once been a loyal subject, rising through the ranks of the Admiralty Medical Corps, to become a Commodore in the Advanced Research Division? What had turned him. She’d heard it said that after her mother’s passing that he had gone rogue, publishing secret documents that pointed to the Commonwealth’s complicity in covering up the cause of the vast defoliation that ensued after the battle against the BMI, and aligning himself with Icers and anti-royalist factions. She believed in the benevolence of the State toward its t’zens, which was perhaps a little naïve considering her life of privilege growing up in the exclusive enclave in the Empire of Brazil’s vast Sao Rio mega province, attending the best schools in Lisbon, and obtaining a legacy appointment to the Admiralty Air Academy. She could conceive of no reason not to support the Crown and Pax Victoriana. She considered herself to be a Victorian and proud of it. The Queen had set the example long ago. As long as nations kept talking when they could go to war, a modicum of peace could be insured. It was the model of consensus. Although opponents to the Pax Commonwealth called it coercion. Her father being one of them. But she was following the Queen’s example. She just wanted a chance to talk to him. In person.

She sighed and let her eyes wander across the plaza beyond the pocked glass of the tram wagon. A considerable confusion of conveyances, some steam, some spring driven mechanicals, and even a few with live drayage teams sought purchase through the maze of merchants setting up their stalls.. The street carriage lurched forward with a sudden jolt and she realized that they were underway, pulled by the large wheeled steam tractor. They made their way through the packed market place and she got a better view of the streams of transports arriving, some of more recent vintages powered by the latest bacteria drives, known to all as bacteries, obvious from the pale breath of water vapors emitted by their exhaust stacks.

At the gate to the old city, their transport idled in line with others while teams of gendarmes worked their way through the vehicles checking identifications. A pair clambered onto her carriage and marched up and down the aisle looking bored and acting agressive.

Lydia averted her eyes and pretended to be sleeping. She felt the presence of one of the policemen hovering near her. He was demanding to see her papers, or so she assumed. The woman seated next to her was saying something to the official, imploring and repeating what sounded like the word “dorm.”  Finally the gendarmes disembarked and Lydia cocked a cautious eye and saw her companion give a reassuring nod and smile. She was about to express her gratitude when out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of the square black chassis of an armored carrier and watched as the men in the black hats, agents of IOTA, took up positions at the periphery of the waiting traffic.

Next Time: Flight From IOTA