南へ

fhlprofile.jpgフェリシア・ハジュラ=リー(Felicia Hajra-Lee)
2015/01/23 19:13
デヴラは、スミスが近くにいることに気づいていた。彼女はスミスの存在を感じ取ることができた、彼のエネルギーを感じ取っているのだ。その邪悪なる存在を。デヴラは、彼のコンゴにおけるダーク・エキゾチックマターにまつわる経歴から気づいていた。ダーク・エキゾチックマターがスミスの相棒を死に至らしめた。スミスも死んだのだろうか、あるいはより強靱なものになったのだろうか。彼が病に冒されているのだとすれば、とてもそのようには見えない。上海でデヴラに接触したときにも、その数時間後にデヴラを箱へと隔離したときにも、扉の隙間からデヴラを見詰めていたときでさえ。笑っていた、デヴラを嘲笑していたのだ。

箱の中でデヴラの瞑想は続けられていた。常であれば、瞑想は明晰へとつながる。だが、今回はそうではない。明晰さはデヴラを死に至らしめるものだ、文字通りの意味で。デヴラは全身全霊で抗っていた。徐々に収まっていき、デヴラは深く息をついた。再び世界は曖昧なものとなっていき、人へと回帰していく。デヴラはそれを好ましく感じた。デヴラはメデューサの心情を理解したし、それは好ましいものではなかったが、その伝説を解釈するに大きな役割を担った。ハンクがそばに居れば、デヴラとハンクは互いの意見を交わしたに違いない。ハンクに何があったのだろうか、インドで彼は良きパートナーを得たのだろうか。そのことに関しては良い感情を持てずにいた。デヴラは瞳を閉じ、つきまとう疑念を分析していった。ヤーハンと呼ばれる女性にはなにかしら覚えがあったが、デヴラはそれが何であるのか指し示すことができずにいた。

デヴラは、もはや箱の中に隔離されているわけではなかったが、状況は似たようなものであった。手首を縛るプラスチック製のジップタイをそっと引っ張ったが緩まることはなく、外すことは不可能だとわかった。拘束を少しでも楽にしようとしたのだが、それすら困難であることがわかった。

デヴラは拘束されることに怒りを覚えてはいたが、同時に歪んだ自尊心も持ち合わせていた。自らがそうせざるを得ぬほどには危険視されているということであり、苦笑がデヴラの唇を歪ませた。

デヴラはトラックの運転手を見た。視線の先には赤みを帯びた未舗装の道が続いていた。運転手は混血、おそらくはアボリジニの血が混じっているのだろう。彼女の見立てでは四十歳に満たないと思われたが、その目元や頬には深い皺が刻まれていた。自らの存在に運転手の男が影響を受けているように見えないことをデヴラは不思議に思った。ヒューロン・トランスグローバル社で起きたあのときを境に、彼女の存在下で無事であった者などいなかったのだ。おそらく男は敏感でないのだろう。そのことを羨むべきであろうか。

トラックは三階建ての高さがある車両で、乗り心地は非常に快適であった。彼らは大型採掘車輌であるリープヘルT282のオペレーターキャビンにいたのである。そのタイヤはビッグリグを矮小に思わせるほどであり、埃舞う風景がゆっくりと過ぎ去っていった。デヴラは無限に広がる荒野を吹き抜ける熱を感じ取った、夏だ。フロントガラスの向こうを眺め、デヴラは自らがボーイング747のコクピットに座る光景を想像した。

デヴラは右手を見た。キャビンの外に乗り込むヒューロン・トランスグローバル社の武装工作員三名はここまで通路に配置されており、大抵の車輌であればとうにサスペンションがいかれていたであろう荒れた路面のなか、かろうじてしがみついていた。

自分を殺すために随分と大金を注ぎ込んだようだ、とデヴラは考えた。

デヴラは自分がオーストラリアにいることを把握していた。彼らはそれを隠そうとはしなかった。しかしその後、およそ二十分ほど前のことだが、彼らはデヴラを助手席に縛り付け、目隠しをした。ヒューロン・トランスグローバル社の手がける採掘事業のひとつであろうと考えたが、ほかに何かあるのだろうか。中央アフリカで行われていることは知っていたし、今ではオーストラリア内陸部でもレアアース事業を手がけていたはずだ。

地球上でこれ以上に希少なものはなかった。大地はまさに血の如き赤だった。

キャビンの外にいるヒューロン・トランスグローバル社の一人が運転手に向かって手を振ると、トラックは丘の頂上へとあがった。運転手はゴリアテへ車輌を進めると、緩やかに停車させた。

「どうしたのかしら?」
デヴラは訊ねた。

「俺は運転しているだけさ」
男は返した。

「奴らは私を殺す気よ」
デヴラは断言した。
「知ってるさ、あんたがどう思うかも大方わかってる」
男はそういって笑った。

「それはあなたにとって笑えることなのかしら?」
デヴラは吐き捨てるように言った。

「そんなことか、スミスは俺にも見せてくれるって言ったな」

デヴラが男を睨みつけると、男は顔の皺をより大きくより深くして笑みを浮かべた。彼女は再び意識をキャビン外にいる男たちへと向けた。彼らは車輌前面に設置されている階段を下りているところだった。デヴラは男たちを目で追おうとしたが、トラックの死角に入り視界からいなくなってしまった。

間近に迫ることを、デヴラは密かに考えた。
少なくとも、自分の墓は浅くはないだろうと。


ユェン・ニィの姿が物語っていた。彼女は忙しなく行動していた。彼女は擦り切れていた。彼女の心は折れていた。最も重要なはずの意思決定に時間を割くこともできず、いくつかの判断には時間を費やすこともできなかった。

彼女は自らを中央に置いた。それは儀式、彼女は世界を静止させねばならなかった。水が沸き、碗の準備は整っている。過去千回に渡り繰り返してきたと同じように茶葉を選び取る。彼女は僅かに手を揺らしただけだった。

彼女はスミスがデヴラを殺さずにいるとは信じていなかった。ファーロウは何をするか読めぬ者だった。彼女はスミスの死を望んでいるわけではなかったが、もはや彼女の手中にはない。戦うべくして戦うこととなるのだろう。

彼女は茶が湯を緑色へと変えてゆく様を眺め、日陰を待った。

Felicia Hajra-Lee
Southbound
Friday, January 23, 2015

Devra knew Smith was nearby, she could sense him. Sense his energy. A darkness. She knew from his history in the Congo that he had a history with Dark XM. It had killed his partner. Was it was killing him, or making him stronger? If he was ill, he sure hadn't looked like it. Not when he confronted Devra in Shanghai after she'd injected herself. Not when he dragged her into the quarantine box some hours later. Not when he stared at her through the gap of the closing door. Smiling. Taunting her.

Her meditations in the box had worked. Usually meditation lead to clarity. Not this time. The clarity was killing her - literally. She had fought it back with all her might. When it began to recede, she breathed deeply. The world became fuzzier again. More human. She liked that. She knew how Medusa felt and it wasn't a good feeling, but it went a long way to explaining the legend. That was the kind of thing she and Hank could have talked about if he was around. What was going on with Hank? Had he found his soul mate in India? Devra had a bad feeling about it. She had closed her eyes and analyzed the nagging suspicion. There was something familiar about the woman known as Jahan. Devra just couldn't put her finger on what it was.xetlthhfxetbbihgtapbtbpotaauptyblaptlaau

She was no longer in the box, but she was just as stuck. She gently pulled at the plastic zip ties around her wrists. Not to get free. She realized that was impossible. But she was hoping to make the restraint a little less uncomfortable. That was proving difficult as well.

And while she was angry at being bound, there was also a perverse sense of pride within her: she was dangerous enough in their eyes that they felt it necessary. A bitter smile graced her lips.

Devra looked at the driver of the truck. His eyes were on the reddish dirt road ahead of them. He appeared to be of mixed race, possibly part aboriginal. Although she estimated that he was no older than forty, he had deep lines originating from around his eyes and lips. She wondered why her presence was having no impact on him. After what had happened at Hulong, she wasn't sure anyone in her presence would ever be safe again. Maybe he wasn't a sensitive. She wondered if she envied him for that.

The ride of the truck was remarkably smooth for a vehicle standing three stories high.

They were inside the operator's cabin of a Liebherr T282, a massive mining hauler. The tires of the vehicle, each large enough to dwarf a big rig truck, slowly churned through the dusty landscape. She felt the heat blowing off the endless dusty plain. Summer. Looking through the front glass, Devra imagined that this is what the world would look like if she were sitting in the cockpit of a 747.

She looked to her right. The three armed Hulong operatives riding outside the cabin, stationed on the walkway leading up to it, were barely holding on even through the ground below was rough enough to tear up the suspension of most vehicles.

They sure are spending a fortune killing me, Devra thought.

Devra knew she was in Australia. They hadn't made a secret of that. But since then, until about twenty minutes ago when they had strapped her into the passenger seat inside the T282, she had been blindfolded. Devra figured this was one of Hulong's mining operations. What else could it be? She knew they had them in Central Africa and that they were also now in the rare earth business in the Australian Outback.

And the earth didn't get any rarer than this. The soil was practically blood red. oeocccrrroccrrocrcoerrocrcoccceroccrcoccerocccerocrcoccoeocccerroerocccer

The truck crested the top of a hill as one of the Hulong men outside the cabin waved toward the driver. The driver brought the wheeled goliath to a gentle stop.

"What's happening?", Devra asked.

"I just drive", the man responded.

"They're going to kill me", Devra said flatly.

"I know. But not how you think", he smiled.

"And that makes you smile?", Devra spat out the words.

"That. And Smith told me I could watch."

Devra stared daggers at the man. His smile just got bigger, deepening the lines on his face. She turned her attention back to the men outside the cabin. They were walking down the stairway at the front of the vehicle. She tried to keep an eye on them, but they disappeared from view, obscured by the mass of the truck.

So this is what it has come to, Devra thought to herself.

At least her grave wouldn't be shallow.4htf211080104178g5w2w

Felicia Hajra-Lee
Yuen Ni had set things in motion. She had acted hastily. She was rusty. She was shaken. Not the best time to make decisions. But some decisions don't pick convenient times.

She had to center herself. A ritual. She had to stop the world. The water was boiling. The cup was ready. She selected the tea leaves like she did a thousand times before. Her hands only shook a little.

She didn't trust Smith not to kill Devra. Farlowe was a wild card. She didn't want Smith dead. It was out of her hands now. It would play out as it would play out.

She watched the tea turn the water green. She waited for the right shade.

Devra knew Smith was nearby, she could sense him. Sense his energy. A darkness. She knew from his history in the Congo that he had a history with Dark XM. It had killed his partner. Was it was killing him, or making him stronger? If he was ill, he sure hadn't looked like it. Not when he confronted Devra in Shanghai after she'd injected herself. Not when he dragged her into the quarantine box some hours later. Not when he stared at her through the gap of the closing door. Smiling. Taunting her.

Her meditations in the box had worked. Usually meditation lead to clarity. Not this time. The clarity was killing her - literally. She had fought it back with all her might. When it began to recede, she breathed deeply. The world became fuzzier again. More human. She liked that. She knew how Medusa felt and it wasn't a good feeling, but it went a long way to explaining the legend. That was the kind of thing she and Hank could have talked about if he was around. What was going on with Hank? Had he found his soul mate in India? Devra had a bad feeling about it. She had closed her eyes and analyzed the nagging suspicion. There was something familiar about the woman known as Jahan. Devra just couldn't put her finger on what it was.
<span style="background-color: #888888;">9vcihnexmei4nfdveiriurt4hr</span> She was no longer in the box, but she was just as stuck. She gently pulled at the plastic zip ties around her wrists. Not to get free. She realized that was impossible. But she was hoping to make the restraint a little less uncomfortable. That was proving difficult as well.

And while she was angry at being bound, there was also a perverse sense of pride within her: she was dangerous enough in their eyes that they felt it necessary. A bitter smile graced her lips.

Devra looked at the driver of the truck. His eyes were on the reddish dirt road ahead of them. He appeared to be of mixed race, possibly part aboriginal. Although she estimated that he was no older than forty, he had deep lines originating from around his eyes and lips. She wondered why her presence was having no impact on him. After what had happened at Hulong, she wasn't sure anyone in her presence would ever be safe again. Maybe he wasn't a sensitive. She wondered if she envied him for that.

The ride of the truck was remarkably smooth for a vehicle standing three stories high.
They were inside the operator's cabin of a Liebherr T282, a massive mining hauler. The tires of the vehicle, each large enough to dwarf a big rig truck, slowly churned through the dusty landscape. She felt the heat blowing off the endless dusty plain. Summer. Looking through the front glass, Devra imagined that this is what the world would look like if she were sitting in the cockpit of a 747.

She looked to her right. The three armed Hulong operatives riding outside the cabin, stationed on the walkway leading up to it, were barely holding on even through the ground below was rough enough to tear up the suspension of most vehicles.

They sure are spending a fortune killing me, Devra thought.

Devra knew she was in Australia. They hadn't made a secret of that. But since then, until about twenty minutes ago when they had strapped her into the passenger seat inside the T282, she had been blindfolded. Devra figured this was one of Hulong's mining operations. What else could it be? She knew they had them in Central Africa and that they were also now in the rare earth business in the Australian Outback.

And the earth didn't get any rarer than this. The soil was practically blood red. 2ysj01374494400l7h1j

The truck crested the top of a hill as one of the Hulong men outside the cabin waved toward the driver. The driver brought the wheeled goliath to a gentle stop.

"What's happening?", Devra asked.

"I just drive", the man responded.

"They're going to kill me", Devra said flatly. 5n171t105e1v1q1f9i171k1f1c175o1q5q10
"I know. But not how you think", he smiled.

"And that makes you smile?", Devra spat out the words.

"That. And Smith told me I could watch."

Devra stared daggers at the man. His smile just got bigger, deepening the lines on his face. She turned her attention back to the men outside the cabin. They were walking down the stairway at the front of the vehicle. She tried to keep an eye on them, but they disappeared from view, obscured by the mass of the truck.

So this is what it has come to, Devra thought to herself.

At least her grave wouldn't be shallow.