As daughter of the royal architect, Ikki set out to discover a new world the day she flew her homemade bi-plane up beyond Crete's artificial sun. Instead, she crashed her plane, found herself on trial for a crime she's convinced she didn't commit, and is exiled to the Labyrinth—the city's ever-shifting mechanical core. If Ikki can return in seven days, she will be declared innocent by the gods of Crete, but lost among the moving walls and pursued by a diabolical engine large enough to shake the floors, she soon realizes there is a reason no one has ever returned. Determined to clear her name, her only hope for escape lies in the very thing that's hunting her: a fearsome beast known only as the Minotaur.
"All in all, this was a fun read with compelling characters, and a fascinating re-imaging of the Gods and locations of classical Greek myth. Highly recommended!"– Amazon Review
"In contrast to the people, the greco-punk world itself is a stunning piece of moody eye candy that shows the author's fondness for greek mythos with names and purposes woven into the fabric of the tech and locations alike."– Amazon Review
"Being a fan of Muun's irreverent and deceptively plucky takes on timeless myths for so long (Sfeer Theory, Small Town Witch, and more on Little Foolery (littlefoolery.com)), expectations were quite high when sitting down with MINOTAUR and its fantastical greco-punk world and the headstrong Ikki."– Amazon Review
Ikki couldn't have asked for a better day.
Helios must have favored the expedition, because the god-program set its lights onto the highest setting. The god-program Boreas blew air firmly from the northern vents. The flags flapped proudly over the roof and spires of Grand Minos, the highest floor of the Tower of Crete. Ikki peered up into the clear, chrome sky. From her spot perched on the dome of the West Oracle Building, she could see the whole city, and down the stairs that led to the lower floors of Poseidos and Hestian. Ikki didn't care for the world below. Her sights were set on the rafters of the great dome above her: the very roof of the Tower of Crete. The god-program which controlled the tower's atmospheric functions kept the clouds clear that day. Ikki could see the great arches where Helios hung the great lantern.
She held up a hand against Helios's glare. "All right," she said into the small audio Herm she'd clipped firmly to the lapel of her coat. "Almost there. How are things on your end, Tierce?"
The warm, metallic voice in the Herm replied: "The feed is working. I'm getting a visual from the instrument. It looks … very far. Are you absolutely sure of this, Ikki?"
Ikki laughed. It was just like Tierce to ask. He'd watched her build and test the machine for months. "I've done a final check this morning. The engine output's clean and the wings are turning smoothly. Or do you want to do another set of tests?"
He'd requested five tests after the last crash. These had, in Ikki's opinion, been completely unnecessary. It hadn't been a major accident. Still, that was too much for Tierce, who had always worried for her since her mother died.
So it was a relief when Tierce laughed ruefully and said through the Herm: "I don't think I could hold you back if I tried. Please be careful, Ikki. The House would really hate to lose you."
"You'd hate to lose me, you mean," teased Ikki. Tierce had installed one of her water-whirlers in his rooms just last week. "Who'd keep you from dying from boredom?"
"The court fool," said Tierce, dryly. "Mind the weather, Ikki. It's nice now, but they say it's dry. Zeus could throw a storm our way and then where would we be?"
"In the sky," said Ikki, with some pride. She tucked the Herm down the front of her coat and returned to the flying machine. It sat behind her, resting in a cradle she'd spent the better part of a night setting up.
The cradle was a brilliant piece of old weaponry. A catapult in perfect miniature, set on the rooftop of the West Oracle Building. The machine that rested in the catapult's gloved hand, however, was Ikki's real source of pride.
It was beautiful, just like in the ancient diagrams. Its narrow body was a deep coppery red, like the walls encasing the middle levels of Crete. The wings didn't look exactly like the drawings from her mother's study, but she'd done a very good job getting them as close to specs as she could. In fact, Ikki thought they were better. A tug on a set of levers inside of the copper body moved them as needed. This addition would make the next landing smoother than the last. Ikki looked forward to trying it. Across the nose she'd hung a Herm. It wasn't like the voice Herm she kept in her coat. This Herm had one glass eye, and an instrument inside that attached to that eye. This gave Tierce an eye on the whole project.
If Ikki were a better citizen—one of the pious ones who visited the oracles every day—she would have gone to the temple to thank Helios for the clear day. Ikki's interest lay beyond the rafters, with the darker gold paneling the high dome. Instead of consulting an oracle machine, she had parked her flying machine right on top of the West Oracle Building. It was the second largest structure in the city. She hadn't told the priests.
"You could get in terrible trouble for this," warned Tierce, through the folds of her coat.
Ikki fitted the helmet over her head and tightened the straps. "You could order me to stop," she pointed out, pressing her goggles so that they sat tight over her eyes.
"Just don't break the dome," said Tierce. Ikki smiled and lowered herself into the body of her machine. She fitted her legs into the straps that would help control the weight distribution. She pulled out the knife she kept in a holster strapped to her leg. She edged around in the machine, making sure its nose was angled upwards, and checked the dials to be sure everything was at just the right setting.
Then, when she was sure they were, she cut the rope. The catapult squealed and did its ancient work. The West Oracle Building fell away, and the wind hit Ikki's face like a slap.
It felt like ice. It felt amazing. Ikki wondered where her stomach was, and was thrilled to realize she'd left it hundreds of feet below her as the flying machine went hurtling over the rich rooftops of the city. Ikki shouted with the thrill of it. The Temple was just ahead. She plunged toward its main steeple.
A statue Hestia stared out into the city with mild exasperation. Ikki wondered what she would think if she flew in right at her nose. Ikki liked to think she'd be awful impressed by the sheer gall of it.
The Herm vibrated against her collarbone. "Ikki," called Tierce, in warning.
Didn't he just know her! "I got it, I got it!" Ikki called over the roar of air around her. As the flying machine reached the highest point in its trajectory, Ikki hit the dial. The propellers fitted to the wings came alive with a sputtering purr, halting what should have been a foreordained descent. She adjusted the wing flaps so that the body was angled upwards. She adjusted the tail so that they coasted right. The steeple fell away.
"See?" she said.
"Too well," groaned Tierce, but that was Tierce for you. He pretended to be put upon, but she could nearly hear his chair creak as he leaned forward to stare into the picture the Herm fed him.
And what a picture it must have been! Ikki climbed higher than the Temple now, level with the first strip of Helios lights along the lower bands of the dome. This was about where she'd made it on her last flight, before the dials had given out. Ikki tugged the controls and leaned her weight into one foot.
The flying machine turned smoothly under her. This turned Ikki along the curve of the great dome, and there Grand Minos spread out below her.
All the cities in Crete were shaped like bowls. They were stacked one over the other, with a great dip in the middle to account for the stairs down to the next level. As a result, the city was at a permanent slant, funneling down into each lower level. The Temple was located at the highest point on the disc, the very rim of the disc, which was surrounded by a railing to keep citizens from falling over the edge.
"Are you getting this?" she asked Tierce, not without some smugness. She swept over the West Oracle Building again and reached the next ring of Helios lights. Tierce had expected the machine to fail again.
"It looks like a model," said Tierce. The winds were having their strain on the Herm's capabilities. His voice dimmed out, it almost sounded like he'd whispered it. "You could fold it into your palm."
"I could build it for you, if you like it so much," said Ikki. "You can have a Grand Minos of your own."
"Isn't one enough?" laughed Tierce. "Are those the Nyx lights? Mind them, Ikki."
"Relax," said Ikki as she swept past the narrow dents in the dome, the ones that at night turned into small points that shot out little energy bolts should a monitoring balloon float too near to them. "They're dead during the day. 'Helios seems to be inviting your madness.' Isn't that what you said?"
"Yes, and I regret it. You weren't supposed to be flattered," said Tierce, sourly.
"Do you want me to turn back?" asked Ikki, who readied herself for another turn upwards anyway.
"Fly closer to the next band, I want to try to get a still of the structure," said Tierce.
Ikki laughed and obeyed, flying so close on the next pass that she could feel the heat humming off of those great mechanical eyes. They moved to follow her, but just slightly. Helios, like all the other mechanical gods of Crete, had some monitoring qualities. The Central Helios light hung at the center of the dome, brightest by far.
This, Ikki took care to give a wide berth as she brought the machine into a steady climb. She had discovered, through various tests, that the machine couldn't shoot up too steeply. Instead, Ikki circled her way up to the great rafters upon which the central Helios light hung.
"Watch out," warned Tierce. "I can't see anything. Your device is made of metal. It'll get hot if you're too close."
"I know," said Ikki, and adjusted her goggles against the glare. She forced the propellers to go faster and carry her past that great light.
She was so distracted by the glare she almost didn't see the rafter coming up on her until it was almost too late to turn. Ikki leaned quickly to the side, causing the flying machine to creak beneath her as it veered. She pushed the flaps and forced it to dip under the huge expanse of the dome's main arch.
"That was close," said Tierce. "Ikki, what is happening up there?"
Ikki didn't answer. She was too wrapped up in the hugeness around her. It was much easier to steer through the rafters than she'd thought, but it took time.
The walls around her went from chrome to silver. She was immediately met by a great wave of coolness: this she'd expected, studying the make-up of the city from ancient art told her that this was where the wind gods performed their functions.
"To keep Helios from melting us with his exuberance" said the oracle consoles, but Ikki knew they were a part of the larger climate control system. The vents that let out the winds were located to the North, South, East, and West of the columns of the narrowing dome. Each yawned like a mouth, wide enough to fit the Temple, the Oracle Console, and Tierce's home for good measure. The names of the individual winds corresponded with their cardinal direction, and were written beneath the vents in huge text that Ikki had only seen previously through telescopes.
Ikki could make out the round hatches that must have held the cannons, lined up above the vents. The sight of them made Ikki shiver as the sweat cooled behind her neck. The Zeus cannons. Those were fitted all through the dome. Ikki had never seen them in action.
"Boreas is active," warned Tierce, through the muted Herm. Ikki jumped. She was amazed the communicator worked this far up. "Stay alert."
It was a gentle breeze, but this close to the vent it still could have been enough to shove Ikki out of the sky. The south wind, Notus, would be doing intake. Ikki was curious about how air circulation worked this high up, but not that curious.
"I'm almost there," she said, climbing higher.
"Stay alert," repeated Tierce.
"Do you see this, Tierce? It's the pinnacle. It's all gold," said Ikki. "Just like the notes say. It can't be real gold though. That's too soft. It would've been worn away centuries ago if it were made of …"
"Ikki," said Tierce.
"I know, I know," said Ikki, snapping out of it.
The flying machine began to drift toward the south vent without her meaning to. It didn't like the winds up here. Its wings creaked. Above the vents she turned the propellers back up, fighting the powerful gusts of winds that battered her face. She was thankful for her goggles. They kept her eyes clear as she focused her attention to the eastern paneling of the dome. She was in the uppermost section of the tower, and the shadow of the flying machine tracked strangely along the walls from the Helios light below her.
Ikki flew over the light of her world. She didn't watch her shadow. She kept her eyes focused on the dome's panels. She could see the places where they had been soldered together, centuries ago.
She'd numbered the columns in her diagrams. She'd guessed, through images and careful math, just how long the space between each would be at this level. Once she knew that, she could make an estimate of the material used and figure out how many panels had been needed to close up the space. This was important. The whole reason for her flight lay between the columns she had labeled as twelve and thirteen. An aberration. A mystery.
It was small by the standards of Crete. She'd needed her telescope to see it, and she'd only spotted it at night, when the main Helios light had been switched off. It had been a tiny stain along the gold paneling of the highest point of Minos, a piece of odd discoloration that had not been there the day before.
An abnormality, Ikki's mother would have called it. The gods who kept the systems of Crete working did not let things change without a reason.
"Are you worrying or are you watching, Tierce?"
"Keep steady," said Tierce. "Are you sure you saw it?"
The third, fourth, and fifth columns swept past. "You think I would have done all this for a possibility?"
"I think you'd do anything on just a possibility," said Tierce, dryly. "What do you think it is?"
"I don't know," said Ikki. She coasted past the eighth and the ninth columns. The wind made the flying machine groan. "I told you. I'm going to see."
Then a gust hit the flying machine. A sudden, sharp one that came from above and not below; it hit the right wing and tipped the flying machine over on its side. The straps that kept Ikki in the cockpit bit into her shoulders as she let it roll and forced her tail into the wind. The dome fell away and the disc below swung past her eyes as Ikki pulled the machine into a loop to get back on the level. Over the Herm, she heard Tierce's surprised shout.
"Ikki," he called. "Ikki, what is it?"
"Alive," said Ikki, as her stomach settled back where it should be and she fixed her feet in the straps. "Little dizzy, but alive. Is that better?"
"Crooked," said Tierce. "What happened?"
"Wind," said Ikki, checking the instruments she'd piled across the foot of her little cockpit. "Strong wind. Stronger than what was scheduled today. That's weird. I'm trying that again."
"And why are we trying that again?"
"To see what happens," said Ikki. Tierce could be so boring sometimes, but he didn't say no. She knew he wanted to know, and that was what she liked about him. He wanted to know things as much as she did, and if that meant sparing some of his allowance to help her buy copper and wires to build an ancient instrument from her mother's old study, he'd do it.
Ikki was ready for the next gust, which pressed hard on the wings. She angled herself, weaving back and forth in tight little tacks to press upwards against the strength of it. It wasn't like the winds from the vents, which had hit her face cold and clean. These winds brought with them something that made her gulp and cough. She coughed into her wrist, and saw to her surprise, tiny gritty particles. She tasted them in the back of her throat.
"Dirt?" she said. Climate control couldn't have carried the contents of the royal gardens this high, could they? Ikki didn't have much time to wonder any more about that, because the winds had died and her flying machine shot forward. She followed the strange whistling sound, and within a moment, she found this unnamed wind's source.
For the second time, Ikki nearly forgot to steer away from the wall.
"Tierce," she gasped.
"I see something," said Tierce, slowly. "But I am not sure what it is."
It was the stain. Ikki was sure of it. It was right where she'd seen it in her telescope, between columns twelve and thirteen, but it wasn't a piece of discolored metal, like she thought it was.
It was a gap.
She could see the joints where the panels had been attached to one another and lain over the support beams of the tower, but halfway down one of the joined pieces had fallen away, leaving an empty spot in the dome approximately three times the length of the flying machine. Ikki could see right through it. It took all her power to turn to keep from crashing into it.
The pipes, the structural beams—they were all there, but something was different. They crossed, and straggled, but behind wasn't the typical blackness or the chrome walls. Ikki turned to take a second look.
"Tierce," She could barely hear her voice over the howl. "Tierce, it's a breach. It's—"
The next gust of wind caught her off guard. It came with another mouthful of dirt and pieces of the broken wires within. One of those pieces of metal hit the tip of her left wing. The wing, already straining under the pressures from the winds around her, tore. Ikki saw the breach and the world fall away from her in an instant. The disc of Grand Minos rushed up to meet her with open arms.