| Part of the Angel Cycle
Mtubi dropped me off in front of my Block. I hopped out quickly, not really having any urge to explain to any onlookers I might know what I was doing getting out of a police car. With a wave, he cycled the door and pulled back out into traffic, lost to sight within seconds in the rush of vehicles.
Bursting into my room, I slammed the door and threw my bag on the bed, digging through it hastily. The Circles Mtubi had made were there; I pulled them out and laid them on the bed, watching in not-quite-color as they pulsed on the blanket. The Dreams weren't strong; these Circles hadn't been touched directly, but the energies of their making was still in them and flickered slowly.
The clock next to the bed told me it was 1900. There would still be time.
"About an hour." From her voice, she was in her office.
"Okay! I'm going to see Lain for a bit, okay?"
"Sure, dear, be back by then!"
"Okay!" Figuring that what parents didn't know wouldn't hurt them, I zipped out of the plex, up the four elevator stops and over two halls to buzz Lain's door. She answered.
"Carrie!" Her face lit up, hopefully. I nodded once, and she grinned wildly, but I shushed her.
"Can you come out for an hour?"
"Sure. My parents aren't home yet."
"Oh." I laughed, not bothering to keep my voice down. "Then hang on, let's start in your room."
Once there, Lain practically started hitting me. "Did he come back!?!?"
"Yes! Yes, ow, stop, Lain..."
"I knew it! I knew it! What did he SAY??!" She was bouncing, at this point, toes pointing as she hopped.
"Lain, sit down, okay?"
"Okay, okay." She sat on her bed, but was still erratically heaving herself up and down, probably without even noticing. "I'm down!"
"Okay." I sat in her office chair and cleared my hair back, unsure where to start. "Um..."
"Did he tell you what they were doing down there?"
"Not really. But he showed me something."
"What? Come on!"
I took a deep breath, raised my right hand and moved my hair back, turning my head slightly. The Silver on my jawline caught the light, and Lain drew a quick breath. "Carrie, what is that?"
"I don't know, really. But it's my icon, according to Mtubi." Her accusatory glance was unmistakeable and I hurried on. "I'm trying! Wait." I took my hand away from my throat and held it out to her, palm up. She looked at my hand, and then looked at me, confused. I ignored her for a moment and thought, hard-
thought of Dreams in daylight, magic in air, light in shadow, Silver in Blackness-
A silver smoke flowed upwards from my hand into a flowering shape, spun, and flared into impossible color, once, before expanding outward into vapor.
Lain was shocked into silence, which had to be a first. It took her about ten seconds to stop staring at my hand and look up at my face, then another ten to speak. "Carrie...what was that?"
"I don't know, yet." I laughed. "But I'm going to find out. And so are you."
I rolled back my sleeves and showed her the Circles on my wrists. "These are Circles. They're what you need to be a Rider. Riders ride the Angel. In the Web. You have to Ride to know what I'm talking about, Lain. You were almost first, you know? Climbing up there like that, and I was so scared - but you couldn't have, you didn't have Circles, it would've killed you."
"What are you saying? Ride the Angel? The...the capsules? Are you crazy?" Her face was shining, though, begging me to indeed be crazy. I nodded. "Did you...did you ride? With Mtubi? And you want me to ride too?"
"But, but how? I don't have..." she broke off as I pulled the Circles from under my shirt. "Carrie, those aren't..."
"Yeah. They're for you."
"YESSSSSSSSSSSS!" Lain screamed, leaping off her bed and bowling me right off the chair. We ended up on the floor with her thumping on my shoulders, astride me. "I KNEW IT AND YOU WOULDN'T LISTEN! I KNEW IT!"
"Okay, okay, Lain, ow, cut it out!" I wriggled out from underneath her, massaging my shoulders and wincing. She got a guilty look.
"Sorry, Carrie, I'm just..."
"So what do I do with these?"
I showed her how to put them on. "So come on."
"Where are we...?"
Lain jumped up and dug into her closet.
"Lain? What're you doing?"
"We need these." She came out with two jackets. Two leather jackets, so help me, one of them one I'd given her for her birthday not five months before, and the other the one she'd worn prior to that. It fit me fine, I knew from experience. She shoved it into my hands and started buckling herself into her own. I threw it on, and laughed.
We made it out the door before her parents came home.
* * *
The Transit platform wasn't empty, but it wasn't that crowded. Rush hour was over with. We walked down to the leading end of the platform, and I stopped to look around. No-one was paying us any attention, so we hopped the safety gate and went down the metal gridwork stairs to the floor of the tunnel. Lain slowed, causing me to turn to her. "What's wrong?"
"What's wrong? Get real. This is the Transit tunnel. It's not like it's, well, safe."
I laughed. "Sure, like you thought of that last time."
"I don't know!" Lain sounded defensive. "It wasn't like we walked away from a station."
I thought about Mtubi's instructions, and squeezed my eyes shut. Lain gasped, which meant that I had succeeded; when I opened my eyes, the tunnel was brighter, almost as if it lay in daylight. I knew it didn't, though; from the way Lain was unconsciously reaching for my face, I knew the Shades were back, and that they were doing something to the light. I caught her hand. "Wait."
"Carrie, where did those..."
"Wait a second." I put my hand over her eyes, and thought about her face. Imagining it without my hand over it, I put a Silver plane across her eyes and nose, pulling the Dreams down from inside me to trowel them out in flat reflective reality. I took my hand away, and it left behind the silver arc of Shades covering Lain's upper face.
"Hey! What did you...I can see!"
"I know. Look." I spun my left hand, remembering Mtubi, and sure enough, a flat plane of Silver appeared. It wasn't meant as a mirror, I realized; it was just unformed Dreamwork, waiting - but it would serve. I lifted it, and Lain (just as I had) instinctively touched her eyes.
"How come I can't feel them?"
"Because they let through your own hands, and anything travelling slowly enough. But they'll protect your face during."
"Come on!" I felt an urgency. I didn't know from where, but it was boiling up in me, now, and I grabbed her hand and yanked her down the tunnel. We ran perhaps two or three Blocks, far enough that the station was a smear of light behind us, and then I tugged her towards a Ring. We started climbing before I could convince myself that this was a bad idea, that I didn't know what I was doing.
Lain didn't seem to have any qualms. She swarmed up the ledges behind me, joining me on the top. I could feel a slight twanging in my body, which (I realized) was the Angel. "It's coming."
"Can you tell?"
"Yes. Okay, look, when it comes, I'm going to squeeze your hand when it's time. Just...just jump."
"Carrie, if you get us killed I'm really going to be disappointed." Lain said this severely, but I wasn't even tempted to laugh.
"Hey, I was kidding."
The light shifted. I could tell, without looking, that a Capsule had just swung past the station and was gathering speed towards us. The air in the tunnel took flight, softly and slowly, whispering past my clothes and tweaking my hair around my head. I shut my eyes, once, realizing how damn frightened I was, but knowing it was too late to do anything about it. The Angel was Passing. The time was here.
There was a blasting roar of dislocation and light, the Capsule passing beneath us as the Magfield of the Ring we were standing on fired, then there was a pull of the Vector mechanism as the Capsule passed the midpoint of the Ring. In the sudden cyclone of air and dust that followed, I looked down-
-grey steel went to white light-
-and I pulled Lain's hand. I felt her drop from the Ring without hesitation, following me as I stepped into the air, two tears of fear at the corners of my eyes safely hidden by Silver, then it was nothing, nothing, air and gravity and we were probably going to-
blare of colors running in my head, hand still warm and strangely frozen, turn to glance and see the myriad flows and patterns of the Dreams as they pass through Lain, her form pinioned at the center of the Vectorfield in midflight. Our arms yank forward into the Ride, and I see the look of sudden transcendent understanding/joy on her face before she turns to me and I see the recognition in her eyes which means, which means, which means that's what I look like too...
The sound overwhelmed me into silence, as my ears shut down in protest. I watched as the Dreams capered around us and the sounds were that of Lain's laughter, with mine dancing in its interstices, as the Angel tore through the coldness of the iron Earth, two Riders in its wake with the Dreams floating from the orbits of our eyes.
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