Arz: Helium Sonata — Part 1

5 min readDec 1, 2023

This is the first part of an ongoing science fiction series

“Lochart to Actual, passing delta now.”

Light dripped through the cracked ceiling, virtual drops cascading as she walked across the shattered floor far below. Purpose sped up her stride, more light spilling out from under a baroque door at the far end. Each step echoed off the empty space, dust catching the light on the way down. Alone with the echoes only her thoughts kept her company, and the knowledge of what might await.

Pausing three steps from the door she took in the intricate carvings inlaid within the tarnished gold. Motifs of the Unifier and his marcher hosts cast in neat squares, martial and resolute. Around each panel fine filigree writing in archaic common made her smile as she read the homilies and rubrics; of courage, of sacrifice, and most of all perseverance in the longest nights. Here was all the Unified Code writ large for literate and illiterate alike, though in the dusty time since the Unifer’s ascension such things as illiteracy were long past.

Thoughts of childhood sermons and admonishments fluttered like the dusts of mote around her, intrusive and not entirely unwelcome. For all the rigours of duty and completing the mission, there was still time to appreciate the small things.

“Actual to Lochart, do you have sight of the code?”

Blinking, she refocused. “Lochart to Actual, affirmative, setting Della on it now.”

With a slight nod she set her personal AI scrutinising the door; over ten seconds it virtually peeled back the gold, then the steel, revealing the underlying structure of interconnected data threads.

“Sjel, there are many extra-reality threads here, likely leading back to Syriana. Would you like me to continue?” Della’s voice purred in her mind as the AI’s avatar virtually appeared off to her right.

It took her a moment to take in all the data, analysing the composition of the threads, knowing each one likely led to a similar door elsewhere in the United Earth Territories. However, the connections through the UET’s vast extra-reality intelligence Syrianna complicated things.

“Can you pull those leads without the Arz Palatine noticing?”