“I love the way it dances in the sky,” thought Rak as he stood on the tallest building in Y23, watching his kite surf the waves of the air. The kite was modeled like a phoenix. Blue plumes rose from the crest on its head and violet feathers adorned its body. Two jewels for its eyes and a slightly ochre beak made it a spectacular sight in the heavens. In his hands rather than a twine or string, a fine laser ran between Rak and his kite. He liked to think of it as an umbilical cord, connecting them. The laser shot out from a controller which Rak held tightly, the slightest movements of his hands swaying the phoenix back and forth. He didn’t want to move it though. He just wanted to watch it go in its own unfathomable way. “I love the way it dances in the sky.”
A light flickered urgently on the right of the controller. Rak parted his blue- haired fringe to make sure. It was definitely another fighter kite, approaching from the North West. The intensity of the flashing told him the other kite’s distance…it was close. Pressing at the bottom of his controller, his phoenix turned to face the other kite. It was a different model, one Rak had seen far too many times. It was a hawk. Slick black feathers padded it and its red eyes glowed. The hawk screeched as it neared his phoenix. The rule of fighting kites is simple, if your string gets cut, game over. Rak turned his hands and his phoenix lowered its height to match that of the hawk’s. Both the grand birds glared at each other for a while, waiting to see who’d make the first move. Rak decided to chance it. The hawk’s string was invisible but judging by its height and angle, he could guess where the laser was. His phoenix shrieked, talons bared, as it swooped down. Its wings spread, their feathery sharp edges hitting the potential target point. No luck. Rak quickly halted his bird’s course, gliding it around and shooting it directly upwards at the hawk. Green eyes gleaming, the hawk released two shots of emerald fire. Rak thought of dodging but he was climbing too fast, so he just took the blasts. He watched as his phoenix’s health point levels went down.
“Nearly there, nearly there…” thought Rak as he came closer. The hawk had been hovering in the air, waiting. Rak’s phoenix let out a purple-blue blast from its beak. But, the hawk was no longer there. “Where the hell…?” before he knew it the hawk had dropped just below his phoenix’s tail. Razor sharp beak revealed, the hawk took a sweeping chomp at Rak’s laser cord. String severed, the phoenix gave out a cry as it plummeted to the ground, out of his sight. Rak’s controller went blank. He turned to spy the nearby buildings and caught a glimpse of a figure standing on top of one nearby. His purple hair covered beneath his trademark bowler, Rak could almost see him grin from the distance. Turning around, Rak returned to the glowing orange pad in the middle of the terrace, nearly smashing his controller as he walked. “I can’t believe he beat me again!” he thought as he stepped on the teleporter.
A flash of colors screened across Rak’s eyes. Y23 began to depixelize in front of him. It was unnerving to watch. Then, the scene of the lodge pixelized around him and he observed as other people teleported in and out of Y23 just like he had. Some of them were elated, while others looked and probably felt like he did. Placing his palm on the screen in front of him he looked at his stats.
“Aaawww…no! I’ve gone down a rank!” he thought angrily, “That idiot! Every time I get some decent ranking he brings me down!” Scanning the screen some more he noted that next time his phoenix would have a lower HP rating. Placing his left finger in a slot, his account came up and he quickly paid some credits to raise his kite’s HP back to normal levels. Now at least he’d stand a chance next time he came back. On his right he saw Oliver dematerialize from Y23. Bowler still on at the same crooked angle, he turned to stare at Rak, his dark hazel eyes were stones under his shiny purple hair.
A sneer broke over his face, “That was epic, Rak! I mean, you made a direct attack at my string and then came blundering straight at me! I was just waiting for you to get close so that I could drop and cut you off!” He walked past Rak slowly and put a condescending hand on his shoulder as he passed. “Fighting kites is about strategy man, think before you leap a bit more.” With that he got into the transit tube at the back of the lodge. “Ciao.”
Rak sighed and took out his link. It was a round, ebony disc that responded immediately to his touch. A translucent light blue screen appeared in front of him. With his right hand he flicked at the various menus that came up. A young woman’s face appeared. It was Yui. She looked straight at him with her face arched at an angle.
Her eyes flashed with menace. She pushed away the pink bangs that weren’t even hanging in her eyes and said, “Punctuality is important in any business wouldn’t you say, Rak?” Rak winced.
“Yes, but I’d also add that consideration and understanding of others circumstances…” Rak pleaded.
“…is not something I care much for. No, it isn’t that I don’t care for them, Rak. With you I absolutely have to…ignore them or else the mistakes that you’ve made will probably be even more severe.” Yui continued.
“So, I’m late for the meeting with Mr. Lin?”
“Late…would be the word I’d have used thirty minutes ago. Disastrously tardy is more along my lines of thinking now, along with hopeless, reckless…”
“I’ve got it already. I’m there.” Rak turned off the link, breathing out. Yui. Too straightforward, but impossible not to like for all the times she covered up for him. He got into a transit tube and said, “Commerce dome.” And he was gone.
In the blink of an eye he was inside the Commerce Dome. Really, travelling in the ‘tube’ didn’t feel like moving at all. It was more like folding a paper, you were just folded from one side to the other. He quickly stepped into the lodge. Each dome had a ‘lodge’ which was similar to a foyer. People would enter the dome’s lodge before going to any district in that particular dome. Touching the screen on the wall, Rak flipped through it rapidly till he found his destination – the World Wide News room. After selecting, the familiar sensation of being siphoned through a funnel ran through him and his surroundings dematerialized.
In a second, he rematerialized inside the room. Of course, it was bustling with the daily exchanges of news from all over their world – Elysium. Taking out his link he quickly flipped the holographic screen till Mr. Lin’s location appeared. Group C13.
“Okay, that’s close; I’ll just walk…” an image of Yui’s face came to his mind. “On second thought,” he found a nearby terminal and pressed G13. Once again he was teleported instantly to his location.
“Alright, alright…Mr. Lin, where are you?” Rak thought. They’d met before, but he didn’t understand why Mr. Lin wanted to meet in person this time. Approaching Mr. Lin’s table in the vast meeting hall, he noticed his familiar figure slouched back in one of the couches. Who was that with him? They both turned at his approach, Mr. Lin’s familiar red eyes shone as Rak approached. The other man with him was about Rak’s height, a bit bulkier, smiling pleasantly. Short, unkempt light green hair and a friendly face were the first traits that really struck Rak.
“Hi Rak! My name’s Trent! Hope we have fun working together!” Rak was a bit taken aback…working together?
He looked over at Mr. Lin, who shrugged his shoulders. “They decided you needed a partner Rak,” said Mr.Lin.
And that was that. Trent walked beside Rak down corridors crammed with people. Screens overhead flashed news from all over Elysium. Rak’s job was to report on crime that occurred in the various domes, so he had to keep an open eye on a multitude of places at one time. The most common area was in the recreation dome. It housed many recreation facilities, so there were often reports of cheating in games, sports, and gambling. The sexual fantasy rooms were especially busy and had reports daily. They didn’t actually have to go there, just watch the bulletin boards that pumped out information continually above them and take notes.
“Why do I need a partner for such an easy job?” thought Rak. Trent was pleasant enough though.
“Hey, what do you say we get down to the recreation dome ourselves later Rak?” Trent beamed. Rak looked him up and down. Everything in his mind wanted to make him doubt that he was seriously trying to be friendly but it was also impossible to deny that face of his.
“Alright,” said Rak. “Let’s finish up here and go take a look.”
“Thinking back on it that may have been a mistake,” thought Rak. He was soaring through the air in flight mecha. They’d come to Fantasy dome X91, which focused mainly on combat between all different sorts of mecha. He was flying in a different sky. It wasn’t like fighter kites. The sky had a slightly purple tinge that made it look like perpetual dusk. His heavily armored plane was decked out with weaponry and munitions he’d never seen before. Lights flashed, switches were flipped upwards, downwards, dials spun back and forth and in general he was amazed he was keeping this steel bird in the air.
“You’re doing great Rak,” Trent’s voice came through his communicator. “Oh yeah, you’re getting a little close to the surface, you might want to get some altitude.” Too late, the nose of Rak’s plane hit the ocean, two walls of water cutting off on either side.
“Aaaww hell!” yelled Rak, pulling his joystick backwards. Suddenly he was pitching into the heavens. There was a boiling, blasting, searing, roaring in his ears as he went further.
“Alright, you’ll need to level out now,” came Trent’s voice again. Pushing the joystick slightly forward, the plane leveled out. Rak felt proud of himself. He was actually flying! Somehow, he could feel currents of air, going past and against him, coming from behind, pushing him along, hands of air supporting him. He thought, “This is what it must be like for the phoenix…”
“Uuuhhh…sorry to bug you Rak, but look in front…” Trent’s voice echoed.
Rak turned his gaze from the panorama and saw two large planes approaching. “They’re still pretty far. Trent, maybe we can…” Four flares of light shot out from both the approaching planes, heading toward them. “Trent…what do I do?” shrieked Rak.
“Just move!” roared Trent, who’d already veered off to the west.
“Move,” thought Rak, “Just move!” he plunged his plane into a nose dive downwards. His plane protested, dials going off the scale and even more lights flashing, trembling from the immense turbulence. Looking at his rear view monitor, the missiles were still tailing him. The ocean was looming up before him. At this speed, he’d hit it like smacking into a rock. Grabbing the joystick again, and pulling it gently the plane began to level out, groaning and screeching all the way. Three of the missiles thudded into the water, which responded by sprouting huge plumes of surf. Rak shot across the surface of the ocean, one still behind him. “C’mon Trent, what now?!” he shouted into his mic.
“Anti-missile flares! Just hit the green button on your right!” Rak fisted it and sent off a spray of luminous fire behind him. The missile connected with the flares and blew itself apart.
“Yeah!” shouted Rak. “I did it Trent!” There was no response. “Trent, talk to me!”
“Rak you should look up.” Raising his head, Rak saw a black aircraft hanging in the air above him. Rak reached for his joystick to fire his main guns. Too late. The plane above him had already honed in on him and let out a barrage of bullets. His plane was hit and he immediately lost control, plunging toward that merciless blue wall…
“Aaaahhh!” Rak screamed. Then…he was back in the lodge of X91. He always forgot that they were just games when he was in the domes. He hit one of the walls, “Shit! How many credits have I just wasted?” he touched the lodge’s screen and his stats came up. Yui was going to be on at him for wasting credits again.
He could just hear her, “Well in your case we shouldn’t really call it wasting as they were your credits. In someone else’s case I might have said…”
“Yeah, that’d be just like her.” He mused as he wandered to the transit tube and teleported to the hanging gardens. It was one of his favorite places. He’d always come here to just…be. The gardens were high above the multitude of domes that made up Elysium. The domes stretched out for as far as the eye could see. The plants spoke different languages of tranquility to him here. Calming and soothing hues surrounded him, violet flowers, green stems and brown branches hung off the sides of the raised garden walls. The sun was setting, sending pink streaks up from the horizon and bathing the land one more time before going down. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but every time he came up here and looked at the sky…something wasn’t quite right.
Malfunction in Paradise
Rak opened his eyes. It was exactly seven o’clock on the dot. Rak sometimes wondered how he managed to wake up on time every day. Getting out of bed, he stepped into his wardrobe and selected casual attire set 69. He emerged from the room draped in a light blue hoodie, beige cargo pants and black sneakers. He went to his desk and grabbed his link. A light touch and its blue screen unfolded. Flicking through peripheral news, he got to his schedule. One thing caught his interest. He was to meet with a person called Xin Yu at 8 sharp in the commerce dome, room A10. He thought back and remembered meeting other clients in that room before and they were always reporting crimes.
“Hmmm, I wonder who it is,” he thought as he exited his room. The hallways of his domicile room were usually empty at this time. Most people in this part of the domicile all seemed to work at about 9. The Hostile Dome was huge, housing somewhere near a few hundred thousand people, or so he’d heard. Making his way to the nearest transit tube, he thought about the view from the hanging gardens yesterday. “Aaah, forget about it. It’s not like it’s anything I can really put my finger on.”
At the transit tube, Rak perused absentmindedly over the multitude of dome choices on his link. Research dome, Economics Dome, Cybernetics Dome, Pet Dome…hmm, he was thinking of getting a pet but he wasn’t sure what kind yet. Commerce Dome! Tapping the screen the transit tube teleported him to the dome and he quickly located room A10. The woman, Xin Yu, had said she’d be waiting in the Star Mantle Café. He still had some time, so he decided to walk over. On his way he recognized a head of pink hair. He tried to step faster but Yui turned and saw him.
“Rak!” Rak stopped dead in his tracks. He turned to look at Yui, her brown eyes flashing, her head slanted slightly backwards as if she were taller than him.
He scratched the back of his head, “Yui! Well…what are you doing here?”
“Unlike some people who have the luxury of wandering around, most of us have responsibilities to attend to.”
“Are you implying I have no responsibilities?”
“I am implying nothing. You have a lot of responsibilities, which is what makes me amazed, no I should say dumfounded that you still have the leisure of going to room X91.” Her eyes turned in the direction of the Star Mantle Café. Rak dropped his head.
“The newbie. If you want to know anything please interrogate the newbie. Not only did he drag me, protesting, to that place, but he also subjected me to a humiliating defeat that I’m still not completely over.”
“I see,” she said stepping closer. He gulped, close proximity to her always made him feel an aura of danger that he couldn’t explain. “Of course you know that I have your best interests at heart Rak, I could say it is all for the company, but I really truly, do…care about you.”
“I’ll take that as a warning.”
“Smart choice. You still have 3 minutes before meeting Miss Xin Yu in the Star Mantle Café.”
“Right!” shouted Rak and did an about face without saying goodbye.
“I’m dreaming,” was all Rak could think as he sat with the young woman called Xin Yu in the Star Mantle Café. The cafe prided itself on its very accurate holographic night sky that continuously moved its way across the ceiling. Xin Yu lifted the cup to her lips in a delicate manner, a small smile on them as she beamed at Rak. He thought she was beautiful. Her black hair rolled off her shoulders, and she had deep, wide blue eyes. Looking straight at him for a while, she then parted her gaze and then connected it again. Rak thought it was like the tide washing up to the seashore then sliding back endlessly. “I am dreaming,” continued to saunter through his thoughts before he realized she’d said a lot to him and he hadn’t heard a word of it. “Yes, um, sorry can you say that again?”
Not an ounce of frustration broke on her brow as she said, “You see Mr…uhhh,”
“Just call me Rak,”
“Rak, right. You see, I work at the Cybernetics Dome. I’m just like a secretary really but we’ve had quite a lot of data go missing recently from our archives.” She stopped, biting her nails as if rethinking her statement. “No, it hasn’t gone missing…it’s been copied, without permitted access.”
“You mean you’ve been hacked?”
“Basically, I think that’s the gist of it. I don’t even know what info was copied or how important it was, but your company has a good reputation for reporting this sort of news and you have access to most of the servers in Elysium. My superiors just want to let the culprit know that they’re onto him or her.” Rak sat back in the annoyingly comfortable couch; it was so comfortable that he wasn’t thinking as sharply as usual. Forcing himself to focus, he realized that no matter which way he looked at it something didn’t seem to fit.
“Hacking is the most common crime in Elysium,” said Rak, “But all inhabitants of Elysium have a bio signature that leaves traces in any system, dome, facility… actually everything we use here will definitely leave a trace, there’s no doubt. So are you trying to tell me that someone who has no bio signature did this?” Xin Yu looked downward and Rak felt his heart jump for some reason.
“I’m sorry but I really don’t know. They just asked me to come to you with this news. Can you put it out on your server connections for us?”
“Definitely,” said Rak, smiling at her reassuringly.
“I’m sure your Cybernetics department has already sorted out the fee…”
“Yes, that’s already been done,” said Xin Yu.
Rak let the idea drop, it was probably some malfunction in someone’s equipment, once they put the news up there’d be plenty of specialists lining up to look into it. “Okay, I‘ll get to work on it right away.” Xin Yu breathed a sigh of relief.
Her eyes met his, shimmering slightly, “I can’t thank you enough Mr. Rak.”
“Please, just Rak. By the way,” he said, tension climbing up into his mouth like an unwelcome stranger. “Are you doing anything tonight?” She smiled, and then noticing that she had, quickly lowered her head.
“No, I’m not. I…I mean yes, I’d love to…ahh what do you have planned?”
“Have you ever been to Y23 in the Recreation Dome before?”
“No,” she said, “I usually like to go to Fantasy Dome X91.” Rak nearly choked on his coffee.
“Oh, right yeah, I’ve been there before too.”
“I’d love to come with you, Mr…uuhh….Rak.”
“Well, how does tonight at 7 sound?”
“Great,” she beamed again.
Rak got up and waved at her as he left Star Mantle. “I must be dreaming,” he thought again.
Rak decided discretion was the better part of valor on his way out, and circumvented the area he knew Yui would be in at this time of day. Despite his efforts, he saw a pink head bobbing amongst a group of people right in front of the exit on his way out.
“Aww no!” he moaned. There was no avoiding it, he approached the crowd that had gathered around her, preparing to quickly head for the transit tube. It was then that he saw Yui’s head was lolling from side to side. As if she had a boneless doll’s head, it flopped back and forth as did her body, swaying around madly beneath a crazed puppeteer’s hands. “What the heck?” thought Rak as he quickly approached her. Grabbing her arm, he swung her about to face him. What he saw jolted his heart. It was Yui. Her usual perfect hair was tousled and sticking up. Her eyes rolled back and a stream of spittle dribbled out both sides of her mouth as she fell about. He grabbed hold of both her arms and shook her, “Yui! Yui! It’s me, Rak!” She didn’t see him. Her irises that usually flashed so brightly were replaced with white.
“Noises.” she said. “Noises, in the cubicles. Isolated dreams!” Rak wanted to cry, he felt a pain in his chest just seeing the strong Yui this way.
“Snap out of it Yui!” he shouted.
Again she rambled. “Static, static connections!! It’s been erased, formatted! The only thing left is…static.” Rak had no idea what she was talking about, he held her, as if by holding her he could somehow change her back. She carried on babbling as the gendarme arrived. The gendarmes were the police in Elysium. They took her from Rak’s arms.
“We’ll handle this situation now sir,” they said as they took Yui to the transit tube.
“Hey, wait…” Rak shouted as they disappeared. He wanted to know where she’d be so he could find her later. People began to walk away from the incident, their memories already forgetting it as some strange occurrence. Rak didn’t know why, but he had a feeling inside of him that wouldn’t go away. It was like Yui had just disappeared, even though her body was still there.