The Future

Sonya ran with a speed that bordered on the perilous, flinging herself over or around anything which threatened to make itself an obstacle. Arms raised to shield her face from the hiss of steam, clinging to the shadows and seeking to lose herself in the metallic innards of the city's lowest level.

When their shouts echoed in search of her instead of direct pursuit, she paused to tear long shreds from the hem of her coat, bound over the gashes that their attacks had opened in the darkness of her skin. A shade rivalled only by the starless void which dwelt in her eyes, all the knowledge and memory of an ancient rider pulsing within a living heart.

If she remained in that city, there would be no question of them finding her. It was its own organism, a thousand nooks and corners between mechanisms, but it was also contained and firmly allied with her pursuers. They would root her out from the depths, and the next time they caught sight of her, there would be no mercy.

No choice. As impossible as the thought seemed in that moment, she would have to find a way out. Perhaps through the waste pipes – the risk of drowning would be high, but high was still better than certain. If she made her attempt at the right time, there would be a minimum of-

They must have found her. That sound, immense, resounding through the pipes and riveted metal at her back. Instinct flung her forward, but with centimetres of clearance on every side, dodging would be almost impossible. She...

That wasn't one of their craft, was it? That wasn't anything they would use, and even if it was, they would never have crashed it through the city's delicate interior in such a way.

Smooth yet marbled, lodged in that same wall not two metres to her left. Heart hammering in time with the city's wounded thrum, she pushed herself upright, braced for any threat that the new arrival might reveal.

Two bubble-like canopies to crown the top of it, no obvious evidence of weaponry. The foremost of those canopies was swinging upward as high as the corridor would allow, restricted with a metal-on-metal thunk by the workings overhead. Just clearance enough for the person who wriggled free, smaller than her in girth and height, rendered fragile in appearance by the looseness of the jumpsuit that she wore.

Stained here and there by oil or the unidentifiable. Hair like the spill of sunlight through glass, goggles pushed up from where they had shielded grey eyes. Only at the sight of those, those searching eyes, did Sonya find reason to pause.

It was a thrill she had known more than once as the host of Gwyn. To look on something or someone and realize, on a level deeper than memory, that she knew them. Calling back to experience and recollection that she hadn't gained in person, staring in silence for a moment longer before she found a name on her lips.

“Andrea,” she exclaimed to the 'stranger' before her. Known, so thoroughly known, though they had never stood before one another before. “Andrea Addison!”

Her recognition was enough to light the newcomer's eyes, to paint a vivid smile across those lips. The other woman was starting toward her in abandon, reaching out to clasp her hands with the joy of a child and a spill of words which echoed from every wall in their enthusiasm.

“I knew that I'd find you,” she crowed, shaking Sonya's hands together as though she couldn't bear for either of them to be still. “It's been years on the move, and I almost caught up with you more than once, but-” It was mesmerizing to watch the smaller woman in motion, shuddering in interruption of herself, too much energy to be expressed in that which she had to say. “This is amazing. Gwyn, I've missed you so much.”

And they had missed her. That could be felt as an equal shudder beneath Sonya's skin, closing her throat as she clasped the newcomer's hands in turn.

“I'm Sonya,” she introduced herself, pain and urgency all but forgotten for the time being. “Gwyn has only been with me for a few months, but I- they know you, and so do I.” The way she knew every journey that the rider had made, every host they'd drawn into their adventures. “I can't believe you made it all this way.”

As Sonya, and as Gwyn, her stomach dropped to see the other woman smile that way. Teasing, challenging, more of that fierce energy. Her presence was electric, and if only they'd been alone in a safer situation, Sonya might have-

“You should never have doubted,” Andrea chided her, one of those hands falling away while the other shifted to close around Sonya's wrist. “Come on, you have to see. It took me years to build it, I almost thought-”

But their situation was far from safe, and Sonya had little choice but to interrupt her. “Actually,” she rushed to inform the smaller woman, “I'm being chased right now.” She'd thought that the pursuit had brought all possible heat to her face, but apparently there was more to be had. “It's stupid, really. They think I stole something of importance from their baron, and I- well, I haven't, but I'm going to. Did. In the future, from the past, so they're angry with me now.”

She'd have expected anyone else to stare her down in a complete lack of comprehension, but the newcomer was already nodding in answer. “All the more reason for us to get out of here,” she pointed out, “Before they come to investigate the noise. Have you ever actually travelled between worlds before? It's incredible, just the feel of it. I promise you've never felt anything like it.”

Travel between worlds? Of course she knew it was possible, could hardly serve as a rider's host and be so ignorant. But that metal craft, its bulk, bubbles, and switches... “You mean this? This travels between worlds?”

Those grey eyes stole back to her in a moment of study, and Andrea's smile was renewed. “Of course it does,” she confirmed with that same chiding energy. “Not all of us can step between hosts and realities like a rider.”

Then she could go. Bodily, as herself, as Sonya. Out of that city- no, out of that world. Assuming that Andrea intended to invite her, which seemed to be the case in that moment.

Confirmed when the smaller woman turned back to face her, letting their hands fall apart in order to gesture at the craft with more energy. “I knew that I'd find you,” she reiterated with greater fervency. “That's why I built it large enough for two. Gwyn, Sonya – won't you come with me?” As additional incentive, that eager spark found its way back to her eyes. “After all, if you're going to steal something from the past, you'll need a ship which travels that way.”

Was her answer really in question? A chance to leave that metallic monster of a city behind, to see even a fraction of what she'd glimpsed in the rider's vastness of memory. Her lips were already lifting to match the newcomer's smile, and it was not the recent chase which made her heart race as she started forward.

“Of course,” she echoed the other woman in agreement. “I wouldn't miss it for the world.” Though she paused long enough to regard the hole that the craft had created, a jagged gouge in one of the countless walls of that metropolis. “You know,” she noted with new wryness in her grin, “They're never going to figure out what happened here.”

Andrea had already squirmed her way back into her seat, leaning forward to attend to whatever switches and dials allowed for the jump between worlds. “Good,” she acknowledged, beckoning for Sonya to take the second seat as the craft awakened with a building thrum. “A chance to question reality – it'll be good for them, for all of them.” That same edge of mischief overtook her smile as Sonya clambered up to secure the seat that would be hers. “You and you and I, we're going to turn the multiverse upside down around them.”

The End

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