Inverting clearance is an operational maneuver similar to castling on the chaseboard. It’s often the best move and it happens all the time, an allowed exception. A recurring turning point, a strategic tradition carrying the weight of invisible sanction. Arcta sheltered her confidence within this behavioral blind spot. With a group in tow, Arcta walked as though none could stop her, knowing and not caring how easily the situation could turn, making their way to a dead man’s tomb.
Sturlusson’s verdict had been the worst that anybody anticipated. It was swift, quiet, and ugly. Stillfreezing procedures were costly and awful, reserved for those who would be on view of judgment for generations. What would they get when they broke Raev Sturlusson free? Arcta wouldn’t wait any longer.
The group with Arcta was more nervous, and knew even less. This place gave them the creeps, including Brave & Fearless herself. Don’t want to know any more, don’t want to know any more – the strange litany kept her focused as she followed her thread of information down the hall. They passed through the newest construction zone, and into the newest room.
In the center of a platform in the middle of the room, Raev Sturlusson’s body stood as though he were chained. Intersecting his body were twenty-four spectral plates operating from their opposing pillars. The chains and braces that held him for the freezing process were gone, no longer necessary. Head bowed, his hair hung down either side. Not alive, not dead… unreal and too real. Arcta took half a second to master her own revulsion.
“Break it open.” The edifice was intimidating, as though they too might freeze if they looked for too long. The forty-eight slim pillars stood around the edge, no greater than saplings yet menacingly horrible. The technician with them gibbered in distress.
Hydraia took a Multi-Tool from a companion’s hands, and with a reckless sneer dragged her suit mask over her face. Her voice cut through the mask amplifier. “This is Raev Sturlusson. Break it open.” They’ve never known what they were doing anyway, using this ghoulish thing.
The Multi-Tool’s armlength blade glowed to cutting heat, and Hydraia applied it indiscriminately to the nearest pillar. At this the others took action, pillar after pillar toppling in elegant atrocity. Arcta handed the Multi-Tool back and stepped away. She withdrew her firearm and shot the platform console computers, shot them to slag.
They all stared at the man in the center, dropping or setting down their tools in silence. He teetered, and hands sprang out in the distance around him. He took a step, and stayed standing. He lifted his one hand slowly, palm toward his face, and gathered the sides of his hair behind his head. Arcta Hydraia brought a hairband out of her pocket and stepped around him to tie it back. The surrounding hands lowered and relaxed, and Hydraia faced Sturlusson from one side.
His mouth worked as he accustomed his eyes. Then a word, barely audible. “Cozy… as a frog in the frozen ground.” He shored himself up, and barely wobbled. Members of the group shivered repeatedly. Raev turned to face all the unspoken questions. “Maybe I’ll write some poetry about it.”
Arcta pursed her lips and pointed her chin. “I’ll read it.”
Raev Sturlusson gathered them all in one look and dropped a loose nod. Together they exited.