Fiction Friday #30 – Book 1 of the Architects of the Illusion Series

Architects of the Illusion

Excerpt From Book 1

Seed of Treachery

by C.A. MacLean

Chapter 1 / Visions And Vessels

The group of radar sentries flitted in tandem through the loading dock’s upper reaches. Barely larger than a fingernail each, the ten chrome drones diligently scanned every girder and cranny, while the crimson-hued visual strip running around each one’s surface area constantly fed the outpost’s security monitors.

The drones clustered into a tight swarm, small and thin enough to look like a compact disc to the unassuming eye, when their sensors picked up on the sudden movement from near the open-air threshold to the stormy seas outside. The drone-swarm assumed an oblong position, their individual sensors reflecting light off one another to catch the interloper in the act-

The crimson-glimmering energy bolt screaming from the darkness shattered the drone-swarm into fragments, and so an automated series of lights flashed on: though the station remained dim, evidently to conserve what little power they had, the deep-red lights flooded sections of the ship as they swept its contours.

As the remnants of the drone swarm clattered to the floor like tiny marbles, the edge of a ruby headset poked from behind a raised stairway at the farthest end of the bay, near where waves from the ocean of the world outside crashed against the base’s lower gravity-repulsion generators, the pressurized reactions of which were all that kept this rickety base hanging ten feet above the oceanic swells. Despite the claustrophobic quarters being filled almost to the brim with those flat-based octagonal cargo receptacles, the distance to that crucial threshold at the farthest end seemed to stretch on for miles. The infiltrator twitched and ducked behind the stairwell when the warning lights took another pass.

“Drones are a bigger pain to deal with than automated lights…just had to bait them into flashing the spotlights,” The female on the other end of his trussed earbuds said in a reserved cadence, “Give me cover; I’m heading through.”

“Eva, hold on – something’s fishy here. We breached the base’s outer scanners and got these lights going full tilt, but I’m not picking up on a single life scan…you know that never means the place is actually empty, right?”

Lightly rolling his eyes, Daniel briefly considered the absurdity of his situation: here he was again, having dropped himself into a hostile environment where one stray blaster bolt was all that stood between him and the great white beyond; this despite the fact that he, a human, didn’t pack the raw strength and studded hide of a Kelathian, or the agility of a Terraxin beyond this system’s rim – hell, at least his partner had the natural advantages of her Arkerian lineage.

“Come, now…” Eva’s voice resonated both through his headset and from further ahead in the chamber, “You know these Jags by now – if they’re not up to something, then they’re behind bars or dead, and even then, I wouldn’t be totally sure unless it’s number two.”

Daniel was just about to tell her that she wasn’t following the right protocol, or that she had finally gone out of her mind – but his train of thought was derailed when the crimson-skinned form darted out from behind the bay’s farthest octagonal receptacle cluster. Daniel’s partner disappeared into the adjacent entrance from the outer docking bay into the base proper, causing him to groan and break into a dash for her. She had been evasive ever since waking from that odd, hazy dream on board their shared fighter, but in the heat of the moment, Daniel didn’t bother to connect the two.

The warning lights meshed pleasingly well with Daniel’s flight jacket, creating for him the comforting illusion of a clandestine approach. Still, the sweat ran in beads down his forehead, with every nuanced trickle ensuring Daniel that the threats within this pirated station were almost as unpredictable as his partner. As an Arkerian, her frame was humanoid (at least, in Daniel’s definition; he understood that a more species-neutral term would be ‘anthropoid’, but old habits…), but with facial elements that, if Daniel had to hazard a comparison, would have been most closely analogous to raptorials or avians, minus any hint of tailbones or wings, among other differences (such as ears flat against the skin and eyes set into the front of the head). The rest was in the little details, like the more minor bone-structure differences in their joints and shoulder blades. Her skin was a brilliant crimson hue, which – he was sure even she would admit – didn’t always lend itself to stealth, but it kept her distinct, like a flare in the night. Let her enemies know just who they were toeing the line against.

After pressing against the wall perhaps uncomfortably closely, Daniel strafed in a halfway crouch to the entry threshold – but he was mere seconds too late to quell the rapid energy-bolt fire that streaked across the breadth of this equipment processing chamber.

Frantic shouts – from the other side of the processing chamber, Eva could scarcely pin down the rogues’ locations before she was forced by her comrade into a crouch behind some ruby barrels locked together by some silver bolts.

“This is ridiculous – by all accounts, we shouldn’t even be here!” Daniel gasped under the indiscernible shouts from the ‘Jags’, “This is a job for the Arelan military, not a two-person merc outfit!”

“What would you prefer, a desk job?” Eva mumbled before the next ineffective bolt volley, rolling from behind the barrels, past the open gap between cover points and to the adjacent crevice, “Besides, we went over this on approach!” She paused to fire off two bolts back at the ‘Jags’ over the barrels, “Remember, the seas of Oanos are totally ungoverned – probably why they chose to put up a base here, and Admiral Andora made it crystal-clear that if any level of the Jagged Edge got the scent of her troops, we’d have some full-scale military action on our hands, so just get their files and get out! If she’s right, then…”

Eva paused when the assailants, spurred on by their sudden realization of a stalemate, broke away from the chamber and fled through the two half-circle thresholds on either side of the far wall.

“If the Admiral’s right, then what?!” Daniel asked while taking her visual cue to rush the thresholds. Eva continued while pressing up against the wall between the entrances, while Daniel narrowly dodged an emerald bolt as he took the opposite flank.

“I’m not about to make assumptions like that without the proof to back it up…good thing we’re here to get just that.” Eva said. The lights cast down dark-blue shades upon Eva’s crimson body, forcing her to stand out enough for another volley of energy-based bolts to come screaming her way.

C.A. MacLean~

C.A. MacLean was born in Toronto and continues to live in the greater Toronto area. He’s a Trent University graduate and has two books out so far in the Architects Of The Illusion series.

Connect with C.A. via his website or twitter


Seed of TreacheryThe Great Scourge~

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