Threader

Threader by Rebekah Turner Page B

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Authors: Rebekah Turner
or maybe drowning in ice water.’
    â€˜I heard the slipstream once described like a fast flowing river,’ Darsh says.
    â€˜Kind of,’ Cora replies. ‘The slipstream is the layer before the shadow biosphere itself. Sliders only skim across the surface of that fast flowing river. Of course, there are these currents you can ride safely and they’re always marked and mapped by beacons. It’s their light that form the tunnels we use inside the slipstream.’
    Listening to Cora describe the frightening dimension I’d slipped into with Blake, I can’t help but steal another glance at him. He’s still alone at the table, and I find myself wondering if he has any friends at the academy, or even a girlfriend.
    â€˜We call these tunnels lightpaths, and usually enter them through safe entryways, accessed through slider dark-rooms,’ Cora continues her explanation. ‘But if you get tossed off a path, you land deeper in the slipstream and then you can get in serious trouble. It’s difficult to get back on track unless you’re wearing a nanosuit and have some serious thruster juice loaded in. Not to mention you’d need plenty of oxygen packs, or you’d suffocate from the thin atmosphere.’
    â€˜Has anyone travelled inside the shadow biosphere itself?’ I ask.
    Cora shakes her head. ‘If the slipstream is a river, then the shadow biosphere is a bottomless ocean. Anyone who goes there doesn’t come back. Sometimes, you can see dark fissures beyond the lightpath. Apparently they lead directly to the heart of the biosphere itself.’
    â€˜Ever see any sharks?’ Darsh jokes.
    Cora gives a small laugh that sounds forced. ‘Not yet.’
    I put my fork down and push my plate away. ‘Do you know of anyone who’s gotten lost in the slipstream?’
    Cora’s forehead wrinkles and Darsh gives her shoulder a sympathetic squeeze. I throw him a questioning look.
    â€˜The sliders had a good tutorial teacher until recently,’ Darsh explains. ‘After he left, Blake Galloway took over the class.’
    Grief surfaces in Cora’s eyes. ‘He didn’t leave. He was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. So he chose the deep.’
    â€˜What does that mean?’ I glance at Darsh, but he’s watching Cora with a pained expression.
    She gives me a weak smile. ‘Choosing the deep is suicide. It’s to enter one of those fissures. Like I said, no one comes back from that.’
    Next to her tray, Cora’s slate beeps. She stares down at it, then grimaces. ‘I forgot to tell you. I’m supposed to take you to Director Eckhart’s office. Your last appointment for the day, I promise.’
    â€˜Who’s Director Eckhart?’ I ask, the name sounding familiar.
    â€˜The big banana around here.’ Darsh waggles his eyebrows at me. ‘The grand director of the executive committee of Helios. He was army intelligence before he came to the academy. He’s so scary he made a cadet wet his pants once.’
    I look at Cora. ‘Serious?’
    â€˜Darsh is joking,’ she assures me.
    â€˜I run in the opposite direction if I see him coming,’ Darsh deadpans. ‘Once I hid in a bush to avoid him, and I swear he knew I was there.’
    â€˜Does he meet with all new cadets?’ I ask faintly.
    â€˜Not usually,’ Cora admits.
    â€˜Cheer up.’ Darsh sees my worried look. ‘I’m sure it’s nothing serious.’
    â€˜Have you ever met him?’ I ask.
    â€˜No way.’ Darsh pulls a horrified face. ‘And I hope I never have to.’

CHAPTER 11
    Director Eckhart’s office is on the top floor of Central and a stern-faced woman guards the closed double doors to his office. After a ten minute wait, she motions for us to enter. The office interior is a wash of khaki and gold framed photos. Packing boxes sit in front of an empty bookcase and a pile of

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