Seven miles beneath London, 2027
Iris Valentine stopped in front of her pod. The lid was open and fog rolled out from its cold, blue chamber. The lid had one small window where her face would be when she lay down.
She turned and faced the five others in the large, dimly lit cavern. Her pod was raised above the other two thousand or so others in the metal cave.
"Get in the pod, Iris." Richard said from the front of the five.
Iris raised her chin."Oh, I will, traitor, but let me make this clear first - when I get out, and I will get out, I will come for you descendants. No matter how long I sleep, I will find them but not kill them, that would be too kind, no, I will make them bow and knell before me and make them kiss the ground I walk on and then, and only then, I might kill them." she said, turning the speech into a vow.
"Shut up, Iris, just get in the pod." Colette said, pointing at the Sleeper Pod.
Iris sighed and climbed in. When inside, she placed her left hand over her right hand on her stomach as an undertaker might lay a body in a coffin. Richard glared at her in the pod, his eyes showing hate but the rest of his face stony.
"Sweet dreams." he muttered and closed the lid as Iris closed her eyes.
Chapter 1 - New London...
New London, 3252
The alarm blared at Arcaneon woke up, bleary eyes.
"Good evening, Arcaneon. The shuttle pod will be here in thirty minutes." DIVA said in her electronic female voice.
"Uuuhhhhh, hey DIVA." he grumbled as he rolled out of bed.
"I have taken the liberty of supplying your energy supplement." DIVA said as Arcaneon got up and crossed to his dresser and pulled on his night guard's uniform.
"Thanks DIVA." he said and crossed to the door of his flat. It was small but it was home. He picked up his scan card, the energy shake and closed the door. He hopped down the stairs and came out onto the street beyond. The hoverway's soundproofing must be dying, he thought as he headed towards the museum as he could hear the wub wub wubba wub of the pods' engines as they passed over head. He walked underneath the hoverway on the public footpath. People were all heading to their homes as it was seven o'clock in the evening. Arcaneon was the night guard of the New London History Museum. He waited outside the shining steel chute by the edge of the hoverway. The lift dinged down and he got in as a family of four got out. The chute closed and the metal pad moved upwards, he passed three levels of the hoverway and got out on the top level as the bus pod floated up. He got on and paid. £1.30, this was really taking the mickey now. He sat in one of the curved, chrome seats near the back and leaned his head against the window. They flashed down the hoverway at around two hundred miles an hour and in less than three minutes the pod came to a halt outside a large building made of glass and steel. Arcaneon got off and walked up the glass stairs that crossed the stream. He went inside and flashed his card over the scanner on the desk allowing him entrance to the security guard's room.
"Hiya Arc, how are ya?" Domal said, flashing his toothy smile. Domal was the old day time guard who had trained Arcaneon.
"Fine Dom, how're you doing? Any plans for tonight?" Arcaneon asked, getting his pulse gun from his locker, just in case.
"Yeah, just going out to the pod races and show. Not much, just me and the lads from Helten." Dom said, picking up his bag and going to the door.
"Have fun, remember to bet on Jakreen." Arc said with a wink.
"Anyone who doesn't bet on her is nuts." Dom said with a wheezing laugh and left.
Arc smiled and placed the dark blue hat on his head, the symbol of New London shining silver on the front.
He closed his locker and went into the main lobby to start his rounds. He looked at the main display. This was just in from New York. It was something called an iPad and was about the size of an A4 piece of paper. It was bright pink and contained something called apps. Arcaneon shook his head. Ancient technology, he thought. He moved up the pulse stairs, each step was circular with its own gravity control pulses that flowed in blue rings from the bottom. He got to the second floor and carried on down the hallway. He passed exhibits of all shapes and sizes, from dinosaurs to cars and others.
He criss-crossed over the fifty-two floors of the building, checking all the nooks and crannies he had been shown and behind each exhibit. When he was on the top floor he looked out of the window and the skyscrapers rising high above him and the smaller towers of only thirty floors, just visible through the skyscrapers and offices. A rogue pod zoomed past the window with a sleek, black police vehicle chasing it
it, its lights flashing blue and white.
Arcaneon crossed back to the lift, it was now four thirty, it was sunrise at six so all he could do was wait round the lobby. He got into the curved lift and waited until it dinged onto the bottom floor. He came out of the lift in a side corridor to the lobby and turned the corner to see a thin, balding man in a blue lab coat come out from one of the doors that was for the manager only. He looked around the room and Arcaneon dipped behind the corner just in time. He heard the man leave and looked back to see a faint white light coming from behind the door.
It hadn't closed properly.
Arcaneon scanned the lobby, the corridors he could see and the main staircase with the x-ray scanner on the sleeve of his uniform. When nothing showed up, he crossed to the door. He took a few deep breaths and opened the door.
The corridor beyond was shining steel and long. Both sides were lined by doors and at the far end was a set of double doors. He had been shown the plans when he had got the job but never had this corridor shown up. He walked past one door, cupped his hands and peered in. Inside was a bunch of artefacts. The room was dark and in the centre was a throne-like chair. It was made of bronze with curved sides and a pointed top and it had what looked like a black orb in a cradle on top. The actual seat and backrest were made from a dark purple silk. Around the chair were other things, chests and bookcases holding books and other shining substances in glass cases.
He un-cupped his hands and walked on. "What the Hell is this place?" he muttered to himself.
He passed more doors but stopped when something shining caught his eye. He peered into another room to see a staff propped against a picture. Like the chair, the staff was made of bronze and had a matching black orb at the top which was encased in a brass cage. The picture it was leaning against was clearly hand-painted, something you didn't get very often in Arcaneon's time, it was of a woman with long blonde hair which was slightly looped and wavy and was streaked with brass-y colours, her eyes were a piercing light blue that bordered on turquoise and she had a very regal face with high cheek bones, a slightly pointed chin and an almost mocking smile. He could only see a little into each of these rooms as they didn't seem to have their own light sources so he could only see by the lights of the bare bulbs in the corridor.
He continued on and reached the double doors at the end. These had no windows so he couldn't tell what was beyond them. He scanned his personal card and, much to his surprise, the door opened with a hisss. When he entered the cavern beyond, strip lights in the middle of the ceiling flickered on and he felt his jaw drop.
Rows upon rows of old Sleeper Pods were in the cavern, stretching into the darkness away from the lights that were in the middle of the cavern. The lights seemed to be directly over one pod that was in the centre of the large chamber. This pod was raised up with steps leading up to it. Arcaneon took a tentative step forward, his boot echoing loudly around the metal walls of the underground cave. He continued towards the podium. Every now and then he would stop and look into one of the rusting pods. Each pod had one of the old hand scanners to open it. Inside each pod was a person and all of the ones he saw were alive. They were men, women and some children of all shapes and sizes. He zigzagged his way through the old pods until he reached the fist of the steps. They were steep and made of a slippery metal. Whoever had built this place was trying to stop anyone getting here.
He climbed the steps, having to use his hands for extra support, and looked down into the window of the pod. Lying with her eyes closed was the woman from the picture. She looked as if that picture could have been painted the day she had been put in the Sleeper Pod as she looked no different. He leaned by accident on the hand scanner and a red light flashed on the dash followed by a message.
'Authorisation Level: Guard. Status: Secure' it read and a slight tsss told him the pod was opening. He jumped back a few steps and fog rolled from the opening lid. He stood back over the pod as the lid lifted. He thought for a minute that the pod must have malfunctioned and she was going to stay asleep when her eyes opened and she sucked in a breath.
Chapter 2 - Iris Unleashed...
The woman sat up and looked around, wide eyed like a scared child. Then her eyes landed on Arcaneon who had drawn his pulse gun.
"Who are you?" he asked, levelling the gun with her eyes.
"I will tell you in a moment, but first, please, what year is it?" she asked in a voice like tinkling bells.
Arcaneon was confused but she was polite and he couldn't help but want to help her. "It's thirty two, fifty two." he said, wanting to drop the gun from her pure, innocent face but didn't.
"Really? Then I have been asleep for over a millennia but that is a story for another time. Will you help me out?" she said, raising a slender hand to him.
He placed the gun back in its holster and helped the woman from the pod. He noticed she was wearing no shoes but her light blue gown covered them most of the time. She stood next to him and he realised she was a half a head shorter than him. She gazed around sadly at the cavern.
"You see what my people have become? Locked underground for so long while the rest of the world advances. Tell me, what mentions are there of an Iris Valentine in your history?" she said, sitting on the steps.
Arcaneon thought that was odd, 'her people'? But he shook his head and sat beside her. "Iris Valentine? None, no mentions. If there was, I would know. I've been patrolling the museum for five years." he said pointing upwards. "Why?" he asked.
"Oh, I was just wondering. Just a silly question." she replied with a laugh like a bubbling stream. Every time she spoke Arcaneon got more lost in her shining voice. "Where are my manners?" she suddenly exclaimed "I am Iris Valentine. I asked to see if any mention of my... Disappearance was ever recorded, that's all." she said, extending her had to shake and turning her endless blue eyes on him.
Arcaneon didn't notice the hesitation and shook her hand. "Arcaneon, call me Arc." he said.
"What a name, hmm. What does it mean?" she asked, letting go of his hand.
"It was the third most popular boys name in thirty two, twenty four. It means challenger." he explained.
"It's a very nice name, I must say. Do tell me, Arc, what is the world like now?" Iris asked.
"The world? Same as it has been for the last few hundred years. You're underneath New London at the moment." he said.
Iris's brow creased slightly. "New London? What happened to the original?" she asked.
"Fell into an underground cavern in twenty six, sixty nine. Nobody knew about the place, the estimated that around eight million died, there was never a complete count up. Scientists go down to the wrecks in pods, this cavern probably isn't that far away, actually." Arc explained.
Iris looked away and muttered "I'm sure Richard knew, he tried to bury me in there, but his calculations were off."
Arc cocked his head. "Who's Richard?" he asked. "Weird name, old fashioned."
Iris looked back, her frown gone and a slight smile taking it's place. "Richard? It doesn't matter, it's another story for another time." she said.
Arc opened his mouth to reply when his com-sleeve beeped. "Thirty minutes until sunrise." the computer said. Arc jumped up. "I have to go, are you coming with me?" he asked, sincerely hoping she would say yes.
Iris dashed his hopes. "I'm afraid I can't, the world is not ready for me yet and I am not ready to venture out. Not yet." she walked back to her pod. "I go back into this pod with my faith in you, Arc, will you come and wake me again tomorrow night?" she said, not looking at him and running her finger around the rim of the chamber. "If you do not wake me, the pod could fail and I might die but you have a choice - you can walk away now after putting me back in the pod and never return, leave me for someone else to find in another thousand years or you can wake me again and help me purify the world." she said, turning to face him again now.
Arc was now completely under the spell of her eyes and shimmering voice. "Of course I'll wake you, why wouldn't I?" he said.
She smiled. "Then I go into this pod in peace. See you soon, Arcaneon." she said and climbed back into her pod.
Arc stood over her and pulled the lid down as she closed her eyes with no idea what he had unleashed...
^^Listen to that while reading the bit where Arcaneon is in the corridor and cavern before Iris is awake. ^^
Oh and I can't choose which cover to use for this...
Help me, please?
Tell me which you prefer, please!!