“Why is it called the Librais Tower?” Dax asked, still peering up at it. “Is that a word for ‘library’ around here? Or is it named after somebody?”

“Nope,” said Athellus. “It was an old communications relay tower, years and years ago.”

“Ahhh.” Dax nodded.

So, there must be some old computer in there that Kaire can use to hack the Evinthei systems.

But - wait, no, she can’t. I said as much, back at the Chapel, didn’t I?

“I thought Kaire couldn’t use machines.”

“She can’t.” Athellus was beginning to unlace his boots, flexing his ankles and making the joints crack. “Not human machinery, anyway. It’s like a trade-off – if you’ve got strength, stamina and reflexes like hers, you shouldn’t need mechanics.”

“So why is she the only one going in there?”

“Look, it’s going to be a long wait. Why don’t you just grab a seat?”

Dax turned on him, beginning to feel uneasy. “Just answer the question. Why is she going in alone?”

Athellus sighed. Then he said: “Because Kaire can work Ancestor technology that isn’t safe for humans to use.”

Pieces started slotting together. Some old computer that the Evinthei couldn’t touch. Something old. Something powerful. Something dangerous, that Kaire had to prepare herself to use. Built by these Ancestors Athellus had been talking about.

Athellus was studying his face. “Yes. I didn’t want to get into explanations beforehand, but…”

Dax pointed a shaking hand towards the Tower. “Are you telling me that there’s another of those Zodiac things around here? That it’s in there?”

He thought of his draw to the Tower, how even in his dream he had felt some kind of power, but all that felt secondary beside what he had just heard. “Jesus, are you kidding? One of those killer machines is still around? It’s in there and you’re just letting her walk towards it? What – what is wrong with you?”

Kaire was already mounting the steps towards the archway – Dax turned away from Athellus and started running towards her.

“Dax, don’t!”

He heard Athellus run after him but he didn’t care. The idea that he was standing so close to one of those death machines was bad enough, but seeing Kaire walk calmly towards it was horrific. Maybe it was this compulsion Athellus had talked about – that this machine was making them accept all this very placidly, and he was the only one who could see it…

Dax sprinted up the stairs two at a time and skidded through the archway, into the ground floor of the Tower. Underfoot were slick tiles, glassy as those in a high-class hotel, running along a long foyer. Along the walls, more organic-looking machinery had pulled through the walls, the light within it as soft and dim as something cast by an undersea creature. The ceiling was a mass of cables, not the thick stuff growing through the walls, but ordinary machinery, the kind Dax would expect to see in the bowels of a television station. Kaire was ahead of him by now, walking towards an archway at the end. Dax ran towards her, his feet sliding.

Kaire!

“Stop –“

Athellus finally caught up to him and grabbed his arm. “Come on! You can’t be in here! The Librais will -”

“It’s going to kill her! Like you told me –“

Athellus grabbed Dax by the shirt and shook him roughly. “No, it won’t! But if we –“

There was a grinding noise from around them, as if the stones of the Tower itself were beginning to move. The soft pulses of light through the organic machinery grew brighter and began to speed up. Athellus looked around, white with shock. Dax felt a prickle of horror down his spine. Just as on Lailenus Street, a thought seemed to come from nowhere:

It wakes –

 

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