RIPPLES OF DYING LIGHT washed over the sea, weaving a shimmering copper net that melted and reformed with the waves.
“Perfect.” Leeza, up on the flying bridge, held her camera on the red-gold sunset, a mellow buzz finally easing her overwired nerves. The soundtrack, Kiri Menoth’s “Ectoplasmic Wavelengths” through the ear buds, and she was soaking in the scene, electric sparks racing through her nerves and down the leads, gold stored in her chip. Magic—like she could dissolve into it, become pure energy. Humming, she rode the waves of light and sound, reflections fading into deep sapphire blue.
She lowered the camera to the bench, twisting the Demodakis ring on her finger to frown into the gem’s facets. The color was changeable, like Ariadne’s eyes—untouchable cool, but catch her off-guard and they’d go Cherenkov’s, sizzling heart-of-a-star blue.
She shuddered, but couldn’t resist Linking in to scan the recording once more: The Hot Zone.
***Desolation. Pulverized rock crags dusted with white ash, deadly glowing waters lapping, the only sound. Like some weird lifeless planet. No, post-life. Anti-life.
Leeza flashes on a memory byte: surrealistic painting, clock faces dripping impossibly fluid over sharp stone edges. Here in the nuked bay, pieces of once-rigid ships, melted into impossible contortions, massive metal flung and twisted ribbonlike and fused into the stone cliffs. And that sparkly radiant glow of the nuked sea. Hypnotic. Luring her closer deeper so totally drop-dead gorgeous. . . .
“Ugh!” She jerks back from the rail, swallows, then carefully leans forward to follow the startling movement in the shallows. Fins wriggle awkwardly, dragging the fish along. It turns, flashes a glimpse of misshapen tail fin and grotesque pinkish blobs of mutated flesh where streamlined gill slits should have been. The shimmering hot blue closes over it ***
Leeza shivered and resisted the sick urge to scan once more her data on ionizing radiation, RADs, REMs, somatic effects, cancer deaths per million organ-REMs, chromosomal damage. . . .
CUT. That track was definitely a no-win. Time to get back to the homework, run some file compilations, now she had a buzz going. Couldn’t let this trip turn into a writeoff.
Leeza found the right library chip, keyed Cult references, and found the Gaea Speaks subfile. She danced through the branching directory, sampling snippets: the bedsheet-robed rockheads holding up their crystals to be blessed at a shrine with a garlanded portrait from that old boarding-school photo of Ariadne. Jump. News copy of an Israeli nuclear fuel facility exploding in flames, soldiers grappling a furiously-spitting Corybant warrior as one of them backhands her face and her staring-eyed headband drops to the dust. Jump. Subfile, Greek history refs. Cruising “alpha index,” she found “Healers.”
There was some stuff she’d scanned before:
Old Asclepius and the caduceus staff with the serpents wound around it, symbol of healing. Maybe related to that Kundalini sexual/enlightenment Yoga biz, energy rising up through your spine. Leeza had always wondered, thought someday she’d try it, new rush maybe she could work it in the Link. Amplify, supercharge. But snakes gave her the creeps. And the caduceus image was morphing into the double-helix DNA diagram, taking her right back to RADs and REMs and mutations—
More history snippets, miracle shrines to saints and Virgins, healing springs, but something buzzing at the back of her head kept her pushing into branching subfiles—
***Artemis. And she’s staring at Ariadne’s distant eyes and etched profile in stone. Fierce goddess, guardian of wilderness. The statue rotates, empty gaze fixing on and through Leeza, face beautiful and powerful and forever untouchable***
Leeza swears and jumps to:
***Funky Victorian line drawing of a tamer plump goddess in draped tunic with bow and arrow and friendly animals, crescent moon behind her. Brit voice clipping syllables: “. . . twin sister to Apollo the sun god, the two representing the intertwining balance of male and female, of heaven’s opposing forces. The healing power he later claimed was first attributed to sister moon-goddess Artemis and her wand—”***
Leeza jacked straight out of the Link, blinking and disoriented. Stupid stunt. But looking into the ageless eyes of that statue, she’d suddenly felt through the Link those cold marble hands raise to touch her hot skin, soaking up the fever and the tightness, magic touch draining her pain and filling her with cool moonlight. . . .
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