A Platinum Sun
THE SUN hung almost directly overhead.
Its light penetrated the hazy air, striking the silvered outer skin of the city, and reflecting back azure shards that hurt Damon's eyes. He studied the metallic landscape a few moments longer, before dropping his darkened goggles over his eyes.
"What do you think?'
Damon did not answer straight away. His companion, a squat, dumpy figure dressed in almost identical heavy clothing and goggles, waited patiently.
After almost two minutes of silence, Damon spoke.
If he was surprised, the shorter man didn't show it. He simply turned; walking across the smooth metal. He stopped next to an open hatch, and paused, waiting. After a moment or so, Damon followed.
One after the other, they dropped through the hatch, into the dark city below.
RI'SHARD SNAPPED the book he was reading closed. The sharp crack sounded louder than it was, in the absolute silence of the apartment.
As if the sound was a signal, there was a soft rap of knuckles against the door. Ri'Shard rose effortlessly and crossed the room. The door slid silently into the wall as he approached, revealing the person standing beyond.
Ri'Shard's visitor was tall; thin almost to the point of emaciation. He was dressed in the old style; dark suit and pants of accron, the synthetic material shining wetly in the subdued light, and a light gray dress shirt and scarf of the same material. Highly polished shoes complemented the attire.
"May I enter?' Je'Makh's mouth barely moved, the lips pale against his sallow skin. There was no smiled greeting. It was said-whispered cautiously, that he was physically incapable of smiling. Of showing any form of emotion at all. Despite his apparent age, he moved gracefully, and his dark eyes glittered with an almost feral intelligence.
Ri'Shard stepped to one side, and motioned the taller man in. "I take it, that you were delayed.'
"Indeed;' Je'Makh glided across to an ornate wooden cabinet that was set into the far corner of Ri'Shard's apartment. Opening the cabinet, he reached inside, and retrieved a crystal goblet. His back still to Ri'shard, he spoke.
"You have no objection, I trust? It has been a long evening.' Je'Makh's tone matched his demeanor; stiff and stilted.
"There's some vintage on the lower shelf; help yourself.
"Vintage?' Je'Makh raised one jet-black eyebrow; an infinitesimal movement. "Yes, I think that I will.'
He bent stiffly and pulled out a dusty decanter. He inspected the cut crystal for a moment, before pulling the stopper. Lifting the decanter, Je'Makh delicately sniffed the contents, his long nose moving gently across the top of the glass. His eyes closed, as he savored the aroma. Finally, he lowered the decanter, and focused his dark gaze upon Ri'Shard.
"Very good; very good indeed.' He told Ri'Shard. "In fact, this may well be one of the best I have ever heard of. I can only hope that it tastes as mellow as it smells.' He poured a small amount of the decanter's crimson contents in his glass. He sniffed the liquid again for a moment, his eyes closed. Then, slowly, he sipped, taking a tiny amount onto his tongue.
"Mmm.' The small sound of pleasure was alien, coming as it did, from Je'Makh's lips. He took another larger sip, and almost visibly shivered with pleasure.
Ri'Shard watched, a small smile of amusement all but inconspicuous upon his lips. "It is good, isn't it?' he said.
"Where did you find this?' Je'Makh asked. He lifted the glass and inspected the liquid.
"I too, have contacts.'
"And better than mine, it would seem. You have my congratulations, Ri'Shard; this may indeed be the best Ichor I have tasted in a very long time.' Je'Makh tilted his glass in salute.
"I am glad that you like it. Please;' Ri'Shard smiled. "help yourself. Now,' He settled himself into his chair once again. "has anything been discussed, regarding the Sapien problem?'
"The Dracule was most eloquent, in downplaying the recent upswing in Sapien activity.' Je'Makh told him. "He is of the opinion that our hunters will have the problem under control within the cycle; two, at the outside.'
"Is he addled?' Ri'Shard asked incredulously. "Does he not comprehend the real danger these creatures represent?'
Je'Makh took another sip. He savored the sensation of the Ichor, allowing Ri'Shard to fume openly for a while, before placing his glass upon a nearby shelf.
"How can he?' He asked. "The Dracule leads an extremely sheltered existence, buffered against the facts of life, by rings of cohorts and sycophants, not to mention the Council of the Eight. What little he does know is fed to him most carefully, by those who wish to control our race. The cruel fact, my friend, is that Ma'Rin is but a puppet; his power an illusion.'
"What you say would be considered sedition, were it but to pass beyond these walls. And the more so, considering your own position' Ri'Shard tone was light, belying the seriousness of his words. He crossed to the cabinet and retrieved a second glass. Picking up the decanter, he replenished Je'Makh's glass, before filling his own.