Ayres/Fleur - Season 1

The first part of the serial to accompany the collaborative EP 'Ayres/Fleur'. Find the music here: https://thequantumsweep.bandcamp.com/album/ayres-fleur
Revolution is afoot in a shocking alternative-timeline dystopian vision of the North American continent. Fleur, a priveleged student and engineer is dragged into the struggle between the crazed revolutionary 'Ayres' and his struggle against The Senate.
But, as Fleur uncovers secrets regarding the organised rebellion in her country, new information begins to come to light regarding The Senate and with whom the power really lies.

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1. A Visit to The Institution

The train travelled through the countryside, whistling between its concealing embankments at some ungodly multiple of the speed of sound. Despite this it made no sound itself, and the blissful fields it passed between were left for the most part uninterrupted.

Fleur White stared out at the tinted-down green-brown haze that passed her by.

There once was a time when such trains - no less than the pinnacle of the public transport network - would go at a speed such that one could recognise individual objects as they passed by, and not just the blur that they equated to when viewed from a train such as this one. But Fleur did not know or understand that time - she was a product of her own time, and, thanks to some careful parenting by her father sat in the seat beside her, she knew this all too well.

It was a time of ceaseless innovation, of peace and hard work, good food and intelligent conversation. It could be said that the Senate had failed to include “quite everyone” when they had brought this time about from the goodness of their hearts - indeed no less than seventy percent of the population lived in poverty compared to the life with which Fleur was accustomed, but considering examples of similar societies throughout history this was not in the least bit unusual, and besides, these issues were not bothering Fleur at present.

It bothered her most days - in that case she was an exception to the rule among her peers. Among her own household perhaps less so, but that too was unimportant at present.

Her father had finished the crossword and was looking around for his next conquest.

He leaned over to Fleur.

“We’re almost at the foot of the hill! I can feel the train slowing down already.”

Indeed, Fleur could recognise in the regular rocking of the carriage that the fusion chains that propelled the vehicle were cooling rapidly compared to their previous temperature.

In an instant, a low electrical hum started up. Within seconds Fleur could barely perceive it, as if it had already been there. The stored excess power from the rest of the duration of the journey was being redirected to the braking system to begin the first phase of deceleration.

 

Fleur was by training an engineer. A little above average height but not such that she was perceived as tall, she had long, straight blonde hair and eyes that although blue were not piercing or even particularly noticeable.

Her father was almost identical in these respects, with the addition of a slowly increasing number of greyed hairs. He carried himself proudly when he walked - but not such that he could be perceived as proud.

The current destination of this high-speed cross country express train was known simply as ‘Institution’ by most. A gigantic artificial mountain from the top of which one could see for almost three states in every direction.

As the train decelerated, the carriages detached from each other as the rail and wheels moved from beneath the carriages, up around their steep metal sides and onto the roofs as the train began its cabled ascent of the mountain.

Fleur’s father leaned over as he watched the rails move past the windows.

“I saw this take place twice every day for seven years and I still never got used to it. A marvel of engineering.”

Fleur nodded in assent. “A bit archaic though. According to a paper I read before coming they’re due to replace this whole portion of the network with a rail-less system.

Fleur’s father shook his head. “But then where will the fun be? It’s a novelty, to watch the wheels of the train go up past the window. I know I’d miss it.”

“And you wouldn’t miss the terawatts of power lost to the friction in the axles every second?”

“Not especially.”

Fleur shrugged. “Fair enough. It is pretty weird when you think about it.”

 

They passed the rest of the journey in silence.

Presently, the carriage arrived in the station at the top of the mountain.

To say it was an ornate piece of architecture would be an understatement, however it wasn’t especially complex either. Great tinted glass sheets arched over the platform with semi-floral, semi-technological frosted patterns inside it that appeared to be flickering with rainbow-coloured streams of light.

Either side of the doors leading into the Institution’s entrance hall were two treators, suspended in luminescent blue cages.

Fleur’s father averted his eyes.

One appeared no older than Fleur, her chest and thighs emblazoned with the logo of a fast-expanding manufacturing firm. As the girl slowly rotated around, the slogan of that same company was revealed stretching down her back.

“Innovating with your Senate.”

“Selling out a place of learning to a party interested only in its own gain.”

Fleur’s father was stony-faced. “A hideous display. Inhumane and inhuman. Amoral on so many levels, but what have we come to expect?”

“Work for the disadvantaged?”

“A death sentence for the undesirable.”

“I’m only playing the Devil’s advocate.”

Fleur’s father pursed his lips and remained silent for a moment.

“No, Fleur, you are playing an advocate of the Senate.”

Fleur elbowed him violently, in a manner she hoped was concealed from the people swarming around them.

“Not here, Dad. You know it’s not safe.”

 

The Institution was exactly what Fleur had imagined. A vast compound full of academics of every discipline and mixture of disciplines imaginable. As they toured the various departments, Fleur’s father would often brighten up. He would see a face, or a room that he recognised, or maybe it would be some new project being displayed to all the visitors that really caught his imagination, but reliably beside every set of doors into each new faculty was a pair of treators.

People, usually young, suspended in a magnetic tube, shaved bald and apparently malnourished, painted with an array of signs and advertisements. They would talk as if attempting to be understood through lip-reading - in between the sales pitches thrust at every passer-by one could sometimes catch a glimpse of the metal talk-bite - a robotic implement fitted into their mouths to force them to talk the advertisement’s words in a voice the advertisement desired.

Fleur’s father would stare straight ahead when passing by these unfortunate individuals. He had been vocal in his opposition to the bill that allowed this practice to take place in the streets and institutions of their continent, but the side of debate supposedly favouring economic growth had come up on top of his voice, drowning his own in the wails of the fortunate unfortunate who were immediately identified as ‘eligible’.

 

On the train on the way home, Fleur studied her father’s face. Now relaxed once again, talking into his smartphone he still failed to display the excitement with which he had originally advertised the visit to his daughter. “Change,” a high school lecturer had once said to Fleur, “in a place, a person, a custom or an object, is most unpleasant when it is unexpected -”

“Though if it is expected, is it truly change?”

“Hmm?”

“What’s that, Fleur? I’m rather busy right now.”

“Oh, sorry, I was just thinking of the beginning of that quote, and then you said it out loud.”

Fleur’s father seemed slightly taken aback.

“But that is the beginning-”

Fleur stared at him slightly blankly. “Oh okay, we must be on about a different quote-”

Fleur’s father looked away slowly, apparently uneasy. “Very well, Fleur. I’ll just get back to my call now, shall I?”

“Sure thing.”

Fleur’s gaze returned to the window.

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