Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Mutable: Chapter Twenty-Three, Part One

Notes: We're up and running with new story at last! Enjoy Cas getting a teeeeeny bit overconfident. Just a bit.

Title: Mutable: Chapter Twenty-Three, Part One


Chapter Twenty-Three, Part One

Technology made people into idiots. Beautiful, glorious idiots.
Cas knew his ability was impressive, and he expected it to get him to Christala, aka Danie Yorque’s, apartment and back again. But he didn’t expect it to be so damn easy.
For one thing, despite the way his skin mimicked his surroundings, he couldn’t do anything about his mass. He might have the same coppery shine as the back of a transport bus, but still—he was a coppery person clinging to the back of a transport bus. From the back his disguise would be almost perfect, nothing to alarm a driver following them, but from the side…well, it wasn’t anywhere near perfect. He should have had to evade, switch transports over and over again, run from gaping people into the shadows and wait for his next attempt as he evaded their incredulous eyes.
Instead, they just…never looked up. Now that the grid was back up and running, everyone on the street was completely absorbed in their personal tech devices, whether it was an eyelet that slid down to obscure half of their view, a hologram that sprung from their wrist or the back of their hand, or for the old-school among them, a tablet. Cas felt both relieved and mildly put out. He’d worked at this, damn it, he’d expended a lot of time and effort to learn how to be as covert as an Old Earth chameleon, and here he could have probably accomplished the same trip in neon while wearing a sign on his back that said HIT ME.
You’re doing it for the sake of the monitoring equipment, then. It was worth it to confound the eyes in the sky that were watching him, that was for sure. He got to Danie Yorque’s building in a little over twenty minutes, faster than he’d expected, and jumped down from the back of the transport with a smooth roll across the manufactured ground. No issues at all.
Getting into the building was as simple as activating the AI at the door while wearing Shivani’s face and claiming that her ID was malfunctioning.
“Secondary identification measures activated. Voice identification: check. Facial recognition: check. Passcode?”
Mycena chlorophos,” Cas said with as much confidence as he could muster. After her rant about mushrooms and how they were her favorite things, and which in particular she adored, Cas was pretty sure he had this one right. Pretty sure wasn’t absolutely ecertain, though, so if it didn’t work he would need to—
“Accepted. Welcome home.” The locked door opened and Cas let himself inside, keeping Shivani’s face for the moment. It might grant him a moment or two of leniency if he ran into someone.
Getting into Danie’s apartment should be easier than getting into the building—it was a lower-income area, and all they relied on were very basic biometrics. Cas didn’t know how to be a perfect Danie, but he didn’t have to. Christala had been a good student when it came to the big stuff, but pretty poor when it came to the little details. She’d rarely bothered to practice changing her fingerprints, for example. It hadn’t mattered on Leelinge. Imperia was a different story, of course, and she’d have to have gotten better at it to be blending into an entirely new persona now, but with Danie, with someone who’d barely been here long enough to get settled before Christala ripped her life away, Cas figured it was just simpler for Christala to keep her own fingerprints and retool the lock to recognize them. One less thing for the phage to keep straight—besides, who remembered someone else’s fingerprints?
Cas did. He dredged the muscle memory of the shift up as he climbed the stairs, shaking his hand a few times as the phage clung and stung and generally objected, but finally took on the appearance of Christala’s right hand.
Her apartment was on the fourth floor, one of eight, and in one of the end-units. Cas stopped in front of it, said a silent prayer to no one, and pressed his hand to the reader.
It silhouetted his limb once…twice…was it going to work? Was he still within an acceptable level of uncertainty? Imperian scanners were so much more exact...
Click. He was in. Cas turned the knob, opened the door, and cautiously stepped into the front room. He activated his night vision and took in the scene.
Oh, Danie. Everything that had probably been important to her, heirlooms, the little pieces of home she’d been permitted to bring into her new life, were piled in a heap on a table in the corner. A worker’s tunic from home, a crystal flower, a fossil—the last two should have been in places of honor, curiosities from her former world that she could show her new friends. Only, her life had been cut too short to make any new friends. Everything else in the apartment was—
Cas peered at the walls. They seemed…odd. Not so much color-wise, although all the colors were muted in the dim apartment, which only had a few light strips running along the floor, but—the texture seemed wrong in places. On a hunch, he adjusted the optics of his vision to be more like the eaters back on Leelinge, and—ah, there. The textures were reflective now, too. And they were everywhere.
It was a map, he realized, some sort of map—but of what? The nodes weren’t places, and they were scattered all over the wall, clustered here and there and spread out elsewhere. Some of the nodes were bigger than others, and a few were huge, like suns surrounded by tiny orbiting planets, or a king in the midst of his court—
Oh. Oh, she’d made an influence map. A meticulous spreadsheet that only she could read, something resistant to oversight by Imperian technology. The largest dot, that was most likely the king, and in the cluster surrounding him was a small but brilliant node that could only be—
Her. She’d infiltrated the king’s inner circle somehow, or was going to very soon. She had positioned herself to act as a spy or assassin of the highest order, to potentially change the way this entire planet was run.
Suddenly, Cas felt very small.
This was about so much more than himself, even more than Beren, as much as he hated to admit it. This had suddenly become about the security of Imperia, about the security of Cas’s husband and children. Barely yours, he reminded himself, but that little bit was enough. He had to tell someone about this. He had to tell Rone. But how could he?
Distracted, Cas stepped forward to get a better look at the map. When he felt the floor depress more fully beneath his foot than it should have, he immediately threw himself deeper into the room as the wall behind him suddenly burst into flame. He heard an alarm go off, but no water flooded the apartment the way he knew the security system was supposed to.
Christala had set a trap, and he’d walked right into it.

No comments:

Post a Comment