It looked like food.
Claire picked at her plate with her chopsticks and resisted uttering a long suffering sigh as she stared blindly at the platter of algae composite in front of her. It smelled like Chinese food, it looked like Chinese food.
It didn't taste like Chinese food.
It had been a good couple hundred years since she'd had actual peppers anyways, so the brightly coloured red and yellow hunks of algae food on the plate in front of her wouldn't fool her.
Even if you tried to cover the algae taste with (algae) salt, it still tasted flat and cardboard like. In theory, she decided it looked like food, but wasn't. She wasn't even really sure what the semi-translucent sludge coating everything was.
Agitated, she tossed aside the eating implements and fixed the scarf around her head before settling down with her arms crossed and staring out the window that spread itself across 48 feet of wall.
This part of the city was one large dome, and she sat in the food court of the mall with the urge to knock her tray of 'food' all over the floor. Instead, she settled with dropping her jaw into her hand and glaring out at the underwater world around her.
She couldn't see much out in the winter grey waters except vehicles moving around in the water. They hummed by, a stream of hard water churned by their propellers burning behind them.
Claire rubbed her eyes and took a steadying breath. She had nothing to do today, and she was avoiding sitting in her darkened apartment dwelling on things that she had no reason to dwell on. Like six feet something of tall, dark hair and quicksilver muscles that pulsed and arched under her touch.
She set her jaw in frustration at herself and lolled her head to look at something else.
In the center of the court was a large glass tube a good twelve feet in diameter, with yellow and orange flames shooting from the hole in the floor up the cylinder and disappearing.
A particularly bright flame hissed loudly up the tube and some people 'oooh'ed and clapped; children screamed their delight and danced maniacally around the tables where their mothers sat and talked languidly over cups of algal coffee. People could still get fat on algae, Claire noted as she watched an obese man wiggle by using the assistance of a machine that was the equivalent of a human tugboat.
A low noise hummed out of the speakers and as one, the human population got up with stretches and eye rolls. Claire left her food, pointedly ignoring the 'Help out! Throw your kelp out!' sign on the wall.
She had to get to the M.A.L pads anyways and go to the surface. Today was the day where the Northern Eye would be over Surri, and the clouds would swirl clear so she could see the sun and feel its warm caress. It happened once every twelve years, and she had never missed it, even if she had to steal an aqua tank and hitch a ride to the surface on a methane release vessel. Everyone was going back to their quarters or to work, or returning to their previous tasks before their register numbers changed again.
Her pocket buzzed and she grudgingly pulled out her register screen, staring at the numbers as they ticked back and forth. She absently followed the rest of the herd out of the dome, funnelling out into falsely lit hallways full of flashing lights and signs directing you every which way.
'2269349 - Final Meal Time: 18:25'
Great, she thought bitterly as she stuffed it away again before she could be displeased over whatever else it had to say. She was going to miss dinner going to the surface, because after the descent back to the city she had to be cleaned and cleared from radiation or top water biohazards before being released back into the kennel that was a city.
She was already skipping work, calling in sick to teaching her art class to kindergarten age children. What did they call them now? 'Preages'. She broke away from the people funnel that routed you to the main terminals back to quarter buildings and took a left, following a sweeping wall along a darker corridor and reaching a tall tower of rickety metal stairs.
Checking her heels to make sure they weren't going to fall through the grooves, she mounted the stairs with gusto and thought of the cash in her wallet. She had the money to go see the sun, a mysterious lump sum deposited to her every six years in halves. There was never a note or anything, but she knew it was him. The only contact he had with her was paying for her favourite thing in the world and the one (well, maybe not the ONLY) event she lived faithfully for.
She also suspected it was his way of making sure she hadn't done something stupid like get herself caught, for if she had the money it would be returned, no doubt with a team of government officials tracking it like slobbering hounds.
Huffing and puffing underneath her scarf and veil, she swiped numbly at some sweat that beaded on her forehead and grunted as she climbed her fifth staircase. Her legs burned, not the fun burn of exercise, but the painful reminder of the lack thereof. She bitterly cursed the government and its scheduled exercise regimen, scaled to the general health of the population.
She got two hours in a gym a week, and no more. That was the health scale this year, and she was sick of not being able to vent through her workouts. Not to mention, she didn't have the royalties cards, so she had to take the ghetto way up to the main vein for surface departures. Spying the slim white door with a huge red symbol on it and the translation underneath; 'ONLY CLASS FOUR TRAVEL PAPERS MAY PASS THROUGH THIS DOOR'.
Lucky she had the travel papers she reasoned before slamming against the wheel to open the door. It didn't budge. Frowning, she grabbed the slim metal prongs and twisted.
A loud ding echoed through the stairwell she was in, a smooth woman's voice following the rude noise.
'Northern Eye departures final boarding in three minutes, fifty four seconds. Fifty three, fifty two...'
Claire cursed out loud, tugging desperately on the door crank. It wasn't giving and she brought her leg up, slamming it down on a prong and causing it to squeak forwards a half inch.
Her adrenaline built quickly. She couldn't miss that damn boat! With clammy hands, she pulled her gloves free and fastened her hands around them, pushing and kicking her leg down.
"Come on! Come on!" She begged it, forgetting the new language and yelling at the door in ancient English. She threw her weight against it and with an ear-splitting metal groan; it swung inwards and deposited Claire on the glossy white marble floor of the royalties departures tunnel. With a gasp, she sat up and immediately adjusted her veil to cover her face before realizing her bare hands and scuttling across the floor to her gloves, which she jammed on with practised panic.
Gasping, she rolled over and braced against the wall.
The tunnel was a wide, low white specimen of wealth. Backlit frosted tile lined it from the floor across the slope of the ceiling, and the floor was spit-shined so well she could see her own face.
It was quiet, and the clean cold air of a better filter system than the one she lived with fluttered across what little skin of her face she had exposed.
The tunnel was full of people in elaborate garb, moving swiftly with little to no sound aside from the soft scrape of butter leather shoes on marble and the swish of silk and sequins.
Claire blinked as a woman moved into her line of vision and as she looked up into the woman's face, her breath left her body. Ileka, the pale virgin of the ocean, looked back down on her.
The woman was a celebrity merely because of her pale colouring, and Claire's face burned as she caught herself staring. The woman's face was a soft down of white porcelain skin, with painted red lips and sky blue eyes that were decorated with eye dust and jewels on her brow line. Her long fire red hair was twisted up and strung over an elaborate hair do, strings of diamonds trailing from one majestic coif to the other and a kiss of emeralds from her crown lying gently across her forehead.
She was in gossamer white, studded with more emeralds throughout the clothing that gave her a shimmering appearance and made her seem to glimmer in the light. Her pale hands were folded gently across her pelvic region. Her head twisted and she looked down on Claire with beautiful blue eyes full of faceless emotion.
She seemed to silently condemn Claire without a muscle in her face twitching, and she seemed to drift by as if an absent breeze was carrying her.
Her head turned delicately back to watch what was in front of her and she kept walking, surprisingly accompanied by no one.
Claire's breath whooshed back into her lungs as she took a shuddering breath and stood up on rubbery legs.
Shutting the crappy hatch she'd just fell through, she dusted herself off and looked sheepishly around her. No one seemed to notice or care, aside from the accusing and suspicious eyes of some robust men and a few elderly ladies as they traipsed down the hallway in thick robes and pursed lips.
Claire hastened to the end of the tunnel, gently letting her panicking heart slow down as she followed the flaming head of Ileka as she drifted impersonally ahead. She wasn't searched at all, the guards bowing away from her and doing their best not to gape at her.
Claire was showed into a line behind a man who looked at her disdainfully and harrumphed. Claire glared at his back wryly, amused by his pompous attitude. If she were to take off this veil, he would be forced to bow to her just as he'd bowed to the red head who hadn't noticed him when she walked by.
Claire entertained this thought briefly while she waited for the line to progress, each person searched and having their salt content tested. She was imagining herself in sheeted gold robes of silk with golden handwoven into them.
Triple king sized beds full of Egyptian sheets and freshly cold air and open rooms. Her blond hair brushed out lovingly and adorned with giant amethysts, and the wide eyed wonder of people gaping at her in her splendour.
A man roughly snatched her papers from her, giving her a suspicious look before looking down at the information. He then grunted and thrust them back at her, and beckoned for her veil.
She frowned and shook her head.
He snapped his fingers and uttered a guttural threat about throwing her down the garbage chute until she was on her own quarter level. Bristling, Claire snapped back and told him it was a religious veil and he was to not remove it by the law protecting her from showing her face.
With ungentle hands, he patted her down and felt for any weapons she may be storing in her nearly skin tight white jumpsuit. It briefly made Claire wonder just where they thought she was going to store a bomb, but she grimaced and aborted that line of thought.
She was practically shoved through and she let out a sharp reproach on being manhandled before adjusting her headscarves again and crossing her arms as she stalked across the platform. The platform was magnificent, the highest form of splendour and awe. Glass showed the outside world from a giant fisheye perspective from inside a thick glass dome, with plush blue carpets that were studded with gold plates heated and shaped into art installed in the floor. Claire approached the railing and looked down into the docks. Five giant metal pods complete with bulged windows and bright lights sat in the water, ready to submerge. Bubbles travelled up the underside and caused the water to steam and roil. She checked her slip and glanced around for the Nesta, her ship. The sign was small, and depicted a tiny version of the Nesta beside the name, and pointed down a narrow line of carpeted stairs onto the flat metal docks.
She took the stairs numbly, peering up out of the dome and into the waters they had to travel through. It was only a fifteen minute ride up, and a half an hour down. She could see the weak grey light from the surface seeming to try and drag it fingers through the murk.
"Slip." A man grunted at her, holding out his hand expectantly. Irritably, Claire handed it to him and it disappeared within his coat before he moved to the next person. As Claire waited to board, she looked at the plaque on the ship underneath its elaborately ornate name plate.
'M.A.L - MECHANICAL AQUATIC LIFEBOAT, ensuring your aquatic safety through all weather!'
"Miss? Boarding please?" a stout woman with overly pouty lips told her and Claire started before climbing over the narrow rope and crossing to the hatch.
Inside was a muffled sound of engines and the smell of rich perfumes.
She found her seat beside a rear facing window and settled into it, enjoying the comfortable seat under her and the muted quiet. Claire liked travelling, either to other cities or to the surface, or even to New York. The shuttles comforted her, reminding her of sky trains and buses and vehicles of a distant past.
Not to mention, if she focused on the M.A.L, she could put a damper on the near hysterical excitement of seeing the sun again.
She nearly fell asleep, her mind drifting to her memories of the sun and playing at the park and watching sunsets and sunrises. She wished she'd taken more time to enjoy the sunrises she'd had as a younger...young person.
The boat started with a roar and faded to a distant hub-bub of noise, and there was seemingly an intake of breath from the passengers as it delinked from the docks and began to submerge. Claire watched the water swallow the ship as it sank, and watched the bottom of the dock tank while the ship slowed. They paused, waiting for the gates to open before continuing out the bottom and the forwards thrusts going into full gear, propelling them forwards with a well-oiled whine.
Surri city rose in front of the window, tall domes and rounded buildings and towers full of dull orange lights, bubbles and boiling water jets ejecting from the tops. It almost looked beautiful, like a jewel nestled in the rock of the underworld.
Home to six million humans and their various pets.
Only 170 of which got to rise and see the Northern Eye.
The thrill passed through her muscles again and as the ship tilted towards the surface and revved for the water torque, she watched the tips of the city disappear underneath her and she settled back against the seat comfortably. She was ready to sleep until they broke the surface, which was always a very loud event.
The engines clunked and the ship lurched forwards, and Claire's eyes closed.
okay. hello all!
let me first start off by saying this; I am not fond of this story. Seriously. If I do continue this, it will be a multi-chapter fic set heavily in the future and very very AU. And it will end in a way that not everyone is fond of. I am tempted to just scrap this whole thing and write something short and sweet and skip all the Claire/Sylar drama and just tack that on to the end of Grey Walking as a final chapter.
But honestly, I felt Grey Walking wasn't finished, it needed an end. And then, sitting in a food court discussing it with one of my favourite people in the world, it became bigger and stronger and longer than I ever would have given this story credit for. I know a lot of things from Grey Walking don't EXACTLY line up with this story, but you'll fogive me because my creative got a little over enthusiastic. And there will be lots of Sylaire drama, I assure you.
So, all in all, this is a teaser and a taste. I want to know what you guys think of it before I continue, because as always, I value your opinions. Do not be afraid to tell me this sucks and you'd prefer it if I just let the horse be dead already and write something else, preferably with more smutty content. Or, if you love this and wish to see this continued, PLEASE PLEASE let me know. I love hearing from you all and I haven't had the time to update or write anything concrete yet. But the year is getting on!