‘“The two young Hadronians were sitting in the viewing space, enjoying one another’s company. Out on the balcony, a dozer lulled in the foliage, hanging from the drooping purple petal of a lyzomberry, and swooned a moment on the thick air before drifting into the ether. The heavy blooms of the hylena lifted slightly on the merest hydrogen-infused breeze and – “

The sighing, rising chimes of Gyande’s entry phone cut across his recitation.

“Ignore them, child, they will recede.”

He smiled at Arcadis, his glossed lips displaying a dazzling upper row of teeth, and a single garnet jewel enfixed to the case of his lower left four. The jewel was glowing and Arcadis, who had never seen such a thing, couldn’t help staring at it.

Gyande waited a moment, his nose upturned as though scenting whether the visitors were still there. The chimes faded, silence, but for the humming of the outerway, returned.

He smiled again and lifted up the book.

“The two friends were deeply in love and impossibly beautiful, and it was on such a day as this, when the fragrances of the world that men had wrought were overcoming their resistance, when the air itself seemed to kiss their foreheads with joy, it was on such a day – “

The chimes sounded again and Gyande closed his eyes, sighing deeply.

“Remain here, child, while I attend to this.”

He leapt to his feet and strode past Arcadis, who had hunched his bare legs up onto the seat because the cold air was making him feel vulnerable. Gyande turned to sigh at him.

“Such a perfect picture.” He placed a hand on his velveteen carnation green tunic as though to still his fluttering heart, and then swept down the hall, where he was enveloped in lilac air suffusion. At the entryway, he was about to hit the upswitch, as he simultaneously flicked on the viewer. His finger halted a micropulse from the burgundy casing. There on the omni screen were three Investigators. He watched the shadows shift. Four.

“Drak!” he muttered.

He snatched up his hover keys and ran quickly into the bedroom.

“Drak!” he said again, louder, and began emptying recesses. Eventually he found what he was looking for, a slim silver container, the size of a slender girl’s hand. From the drape recess he pulled his red velvet omni box.

“What is it?” said Arcadis, standing in the hallway, rubbing his eyes.

Drak it, thought Gyande to himself. The hypn0-powder was working.

“Alas, my child, I must leave. And quickly.”

There was the sound of shouting outside and he heard a bull saw charging up.

He put his hand on Arcadis’ shoulder, and bathed in the innocent smile.

“Ah, how I would sink into the long grasses of your caress, and trace the hillocks of your paradise, there to…”

“Hillocks?”

“Yes, I believe, that was the word in the poetry.”

“I’ve never heard that word before.”

“I believe it has human origins, in the far before, a long – “

A clatter at the door indicated that the electroplate was crumpling. Gyande leant down and kissed Arcadis on the forehead.

“What bliss, what bliss,” he sighed, and then hurried back into the viewing room.

“Where are you going and that?”

“Away, sweet child, I am going away. You may help yourself to the…”

But Arcadis didn’t hear the final words. He sauntered into the viewing room. The balcony slot was open, but Gyande wasn’t anywhere to be seen. At that moment, there was a squealing of metal as the electroplate caved in. Amid a cacophony of shouting and erratic bleeping, the Interrogators burst in, pushed past Arcadis, who flattened himself against the wall.  Having failed to find what they were looking for in the viewing aread or the bedroom, there was a frenzy of cross talk as they shouted at one another and into their comms.

“J7 to base, confirm the target is missing. J7 can you confirm reception?”

“Did you check the wall sealings?”

“No, I was just –“

“Then do it!”

“J7 to base, say again? I can’t hear?”

One of the interrogators stopped in the throughway next to Arcadis, and flipped his visor. The helmet pinched her nose and concealed the bottom half of her head. It had trapped a hunk of white hair that hung down across an off-white face.

“Are you okay, boy?”

“Boy? I’m no boy,” said Arcadis.

“Sure, whatever. Have you taken anything? Did he give you anything?”

“No,” said Arcadis, although he wasn’t sure. The Interrogator was looking a bit blurry. “Look, I’m not a boy. I have a cert-check file. Somewhere.” He reached down behind him. “Where are my trousers? Where? What gives? I don’t remember…”

The Interrogator closed her eyes.

“Can someone find this kid’s trousers?”

“I’m not a kid. I just look young for my age, is all, and that. He said, I could help myself to the thing, and that.”

The Interrogator shook her head.

“It’s okay boy, you’re safe now.”

“Drak off!” said Arcadis, just before he fainted.

 

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