Kayla was lost in the light of the sun tunnel. In theory, she only had to move in a straight line. But the exotic matter that comprised the tunnel walls appeared to branch out into twisting fractals. At a certain point, the concept of a straight line simply ceased to have any meaning. Dust devils of radiant light swirled around her like vultures, growing bolder as her situation became ever more dire.
She closed her eyes—biological, but enhanced many times over—and focused on her circular breathing. In through the nose and out through the mouth, continuously and simultaneously. A bright prominence snapped against the sun tunnel and the walls flexed and buckled and protested with a great sucking sound. This was no place for a human, Kayla thought.
She reached behind her and grasped her tether. It provided a superficial comfort, making her feel grounded. Superficial comfort is still comfort after all. She gave the tether a tug; the inertial change would mark her path forward. This was a place where one had to let their gut lead their eyes. But she didn’t move at all. The tether came back slack in her hands. She was tethered to nothing.
Untethered in the sun tunnel. Perfect.
Begrudgingly she reopened her eyes. While the shifting light all around her was wild, it did have some consistent properties. For example, the light was unequal, with the more luminous sources casting quasi-shadows of her body on the walls of light in opposition to them. Kayla didn’t know if the brightness indicated ascent or descent, but it must indicate one, and that meant a reliable straight line. Her own shadow would be her guiding star, and she would follow it to wherever it led.
Meanwhile, a shadow not her own pursued her. Something ancient had entered the sun tunnel, and it too wanted to find a way out.