Burning in the Void – Chapter 5

blue arrows _Sera

Sera climbed the ladder, following the path of glowing blue arrows etched into her vision. Her bare feet, long accustomed to carrying her across the hard decking of the wards and corridors, gripped the ladder rungs beneath her as she moved quickly up to the top of the ladder, where the blue arrows turned mid-air, guiding her to step off into a narrow passage.

The passage extended into the distance as far as Sera could see on either side, curving gently upward until the floor appeared to disappear into the ceiling. The walls of the passage were covered in a grid of narrow metal rods, which held back a bewildering assortment of tubes and cables in different colors. The only light emanated from a narrow stripe set into the ceiling of the passage, less than half a meter above Sera’s head, which glowed a soft yellowish white. The light was just bright enough to cast shadows among the nests of equipment on either side of the narrow walkway. The blue arrows overlaid on her vision seemed to hover in the air about three centimeters above the floor, guiding her to turn right and follow the passage into the unknown, but not actually illuminating the floor beneath them.

Sera breathed deeply, tasting the air. She couldn’t taste, or smell, anything of the sickly sweet scent of sweat, melted plastics, and decay that permeated the wards. Here, in this bare space between the walls, the air tasted only faintly of plastics and smelled of, well, nothing. It was disturbing to Sera. She wondered briefly if she would have preferred the heavy odor of the marketplace and Spine, even with the reek of a recently executed heretic thick in the air, to this barren sterility.

She shook off such thoughts. She was now gone from the Kingdom, or on her way to being so.

Sera took another deep breath of the frighteningly sterile air and moved forward, following the arrows. She moved slowly at first, stepping hesitantly as if her feet didn’t believe that the floor would remain solid beneath her, then striding along between the racks of equipment with growing confidence. She passed several shafts like the one she had taken to reach this passage, pausing at the first to look down and discover that it also lead to a ladder that descended into a small cubby illuminated only by the faint white glow of symbols etched into the wall. When she turned from the path the arrows shifted beneath her feet, pointing back the way she had come, and a faintly pulsing red octagon appeared in the center of her vision. She turned back and continued to follow the trail laid out before her. As Sera moved along the passage, the illumination strip on the ceiling ahead of her appeared to flicker to life just after it appeared around the curve ahead. Looking back, Sera realized that the strips behind her were winking out just as they disappeared into the curve of the passage.