Chapter 8

Ætherglow #144

“...After my implant, so I can easily slip in and out of the æther as needed. There’s no hurry,” you say.

“Sensible. Wouldn’t want to be trip sitting you in the middle of that place,” Synth says. “I’ll be in touch next week, then. Have a good break, Aydan.”

“See you then,” you say, and you part ways.

You get to your platform just as the roar of the approaching train and the rush of cold air with it arrives. You scan the key in your hand, verifying your family’s metro subscription, and step aboard. The crowded Korolev metro is an unwelcome familiar sight. Getting a seat is hopeless, but you somehow at least manage to be wedged against a cold windowpane instead of completely surrounded by bodies. With your interface collar on, the crowd has another layer to it. You feel the touch of all of their various little devices. Naturally a lot of them of them have at least a few implants, and almost everyone carries a terminal with them.

Your common sense starts to come back to you outside of the safe environment of TLA, and you pull your coat sleeve over the student terminal strapped to your forearm. It’s worth a lot of money and you are contractually liable for its loss. You close your coat’s hood tighter around your face to conceal the collar too. It’s best you don’t look too much like a technopath student in situations like this.

Mag-rails carry you away from the station and into the tunnels beneath the city. The train accelerates fast and stop just as abruptly, so holding onto the handle on the wall is essential as it goes through its route. Eventually you emerge above ground to the scene of the central dome, downtown Korolev. It’s a snowy night--the humidity control system is working as poorly as ever.

“Now arriving at West Central Station. Thank you for choosing Starliner Metro. Please egress the vehicle safely,” the speakers tell you. You brace yourself for the cold as the doors slide open and the flood of people pushes you out with them.

Skyscrapers printed from grey stone reach up to the top of the tall glass dome, rippling with the flow of the water barrier inside its walls. A snowflake lands on your face as you look up, a sensation you haven’t felt in months. It’s all so familiar. Yet it all seems so distant to you, so ordinary as to feel unreal. It might as well be an æther simulation of another life. But the pull of Luna’s gravity grounds your thoughts to the surface.

The trains are fast, but it will take you another half hour to get home anyway because you will have to cross from the west central station to the east. In true Lunar fashion, the two competing metro networks are entirely disconnected, and the streets in between are packed as usual. You can almost hear your mom Yelena’s complaints about how people like her are expected to deal with this, as if there should be a whole third rail system just for her.

Back underground, you step onto your next train. “Welcome to Rail-X, where your destination is our dream,” it tells you. The eastern trains are always less crowded, and a smoother ride. Fewer people live on this side of town.

You arrive at the station, just a corridor away from home. But the last stretch is always the coldest. The further you get from the central thermal bank, the more heat the water loses along the way. The larger corridors here don’t help either, more air to dissipate the warmth.

Finally you arrive to the large red flag of Redshift Security hanging over the gate. Beyond, through the glass, you see the large metal structure of connected modules that is your family’s home, big enough to be under a little dome of its own.

You approach the gate, and a familiar face greets you. Natali is the tallest woman you know, always standing resolute with her rifle in front of her, one of the largest old coilgun models that she likes just because it looks more intimidating. In her black uniform with red accents around the collar and the sleeves, she matches the flag hanging over her station. Her short silver hair matches the mirrored sunglasses she always wears. You don’t even know her eye color. Natali has been the personal bodyguard of your parents as long as you can remember. It seems today she’s stationed herself at the front gate for your arrival home.

How will you approach?

1) I approach her with a friendly greeting. We’ve always gotten along and she’s the only one around here who’s really supportive of my transition.: 5 (71.42%)
2) I approach with caution, she always was a little hostile with me and even more so since I came out.: 2 (28.57%)
Expired 1 years ago (2023-03-28 18:33:58)