Book One: Darkness And Light
By – Josh Hilden
Copyright © 2015 Author
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“When we see the shadow of our images, are we seeing the time eleven minutes ago on Mars or are we seeing the time on Mars as observed from Earth now? It’s like time travel problems in science fiction. When is now; when was then?”
– Bill Nye
The wind blew hard causing the garage door to rattle loudly. The snow was coming down so hard and fast that a person wouldn’t be able to see their hands in front of their faces. This winter had been a harsh one, and the people of the Northern United States were looking forward to the spring and trying not to think of the inferno looming in the inevitable summer.
Such was life on warming Earth.
“Mom,” Meg called from the garage, “can you bring me a bottle of water?” She was half under the jacked up mess of her ancient Jeep Cherokee. The exhaust pipe had cracked on her way home from school. It’d been her last class before winter break and she wanted it fixed before dinner.
I need to break down and buy one of the new Tesla models and be done with gasoline forever, she thought grumpily. Dad said he’d help me buy a new car when I graduated high school, but no, I had to be practical and ask for a new computer.
She smiled thinking of her dad. No matter how much she hated being stuck here in the snow and ice, it was better than baking and sweating to death in the subtropical hellhole of Southern Florida. Nathan Carson was a troubleshooter for a Detroit-based engineering firm. He’d been dispatched to Miami three months ago to deal with problems occurring with the new flood control system. He was due back home on Christmas Eve, and Meg very was excited to see him again.
“Is everything all right under there sweetie? Are you almost finished?” Denise Carson asked her only daughter when she entered the garage from the kitchen. “Also, I’m not saying it was you, but somebody was out here cursing like an autoworker not long ago.”
Meg broke out in giggles from beneath the Jeep. “It will be fine in a few minutes,” she replied sliding out from under the SUV, her body prone on the creeper. The devices wheels rolled soundlessly on the smooth concrete. “And let’s be honest Mother, I didn’t get my salty mouth from dear old Dad.”
“All right, fine. I have a fucking potty mouth.” Denise laughed helping her daughter to her feet. “It’s because your grandmother let me watch South Park when I was a kid.”
“Ugh,” Meg said rolling her eyes and taking the water from her mother. “That show is so old and stupid. Besides, it’s not even funny!”
“Kids have no taste these days,” Denise shot back laughing. “And besides your brother likes it.”
“Ricky is twenty-seven and thinks it’s high-class cuisine to put ketchup on pizza,” Meg joked, giggling at the disgusted look on her mother’s face.
“What’s that?” Denise asked pointing to the leather necklace around Meg’s neck.
“Tammy gave it to me,” Meg answered reaching into her shirt and pulling the necklace with the charm out for her mother to see. “It’s my Christmas present. She bought it at a market in Peru before coming home for the holidays.”
“Are you two alright?” Denise asked.
Heat rushed from the pit of Meg’s stomach to the tips of her ears at the question. “Yeah were great,” she answered pretending she didn’t see the concern on her mothers face.
Meg’s best friend, Tammy Walker, was an archeology grad student studying abroad in Lima. She’d surprised Meg at lunch with the present and a case of Inka Cola. It was her favorite cola and not easily available outside of South America. What might seem like the normal actions of best friends to anyone else were something of a minor miracle considering the hurt feelings and sharp words they’d ended high school with four years earlier.
“What is it?” Denise asked changing the subject and leaning in to study it.
At the end of the necklace was a copper ring slightly larger than an old fashioned silver dollar. The surface of the ring was etched with a complex series of symbols and lines, and at an even spacing of about two centimeters around the ring were tiny bands of gold and silver.
“Tammy said it was a replica of a pre-Incan artifact. She said the language on the ring has yet to be deciphered by linguists in the area,” Meg answered slipping the deceptively heavy piece of jewelry back inside her shirt.
“Are you sure it’s a replica?” Denise asked. “It looks really old.”
“Tammy said she bought it from this little grandmother that sells trinkets on a blanket,” Meg said twisting the top off the bottle and taking a drink. “I doubt she was selling real artifacts, not that Tammy could afford them if she were.”
“Well, it’s very pretty,” Denise said. “I wanted to know if you’re almost done because I need a favor.”
“Sure thing,” Meg said chucking the empty water bottle into the recycling bin. “I just need to clean up. What do you need?”
“Would you mind running over to Meijer’s to get some milk and bread?” her mother asked hopefully.
“Sure thing,” Meg laughed.
Outside a bolt of lightning cut through the blinding snow.
Thank the Gods for the radar app, Meg thought. I have no idea what Mom and Dad did when they were my age and the weather was this fucked up. Probably stayed home and played grab ass when Grandma and Grandpa weren’t around.
Meg grinned at the thought.
The windshield of the Jeep was overlaid with a crystal clear and photorealistic holographic image of the road ahead. If she’d been forced to rely on her senses to navigate her way to the supermarket Meg would have just stayed home. Road-gripping tires or not, there was no way she’d be out in this mess if the view weren’t damn near one hundred percent clear.
Lightning split the sky and the Jeep’s scanner system adjusted the hologram instantly. Meg was able to see the bright blue bridge spanning the narrow point on Belleville Lake.
That’s strange. Since when is there lightning in a snowstorm? Meg thought, then dismissed it as just more of the weird weather they’d been dealing with in the last few years. This was just life in the ever changing climate of global warming.
Run into the store, get the milk and bread, and then back home in time to help Mom finish dinner, Meg thought not paying attention to the two lightning bolts that immediately followed the first.
That was when the copper ring pressing against the flesh between her breasts began to grow warm. At first, it was barely noticeable, but it quickly escalated to heat so intense it hurt.
“What the fuck?” Meg yelled reaching frantically for the leather necklace.
Panic was filling her, but not as fast as the pain that was increasing. She began to scream at the white-hot intensity. Smoke and the smell of burning flesh and fabric filled the confined space of the Jeep’s interior.
The fourth lightning bolt hit her Jeep when she was half way across the bridge.
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
– John F. Kennedy
Meg didn’t know when she passed out, but the impact of the Jeep into the river followed by water seeping into the compartment brought her back to consciousness. Her head rang with pain and a sharp piercing whine. Her body felt like she’d gone a dozen rounds with a heavyweight champion and the spot on her chest where the Incan ring rested was a throbbing source of agony.
The seepage of water into the SUV was slow but steady.
Oh God, oh God, oh God! What the fuck is happening? Did I drive off the bridge?!
The front of the Jeep began to dip into the fast moving water. Through the holographic window, she could see not the water of Belleville Lake but a moderately sized and swiftly flowing river. Large chunks of ice kept pace with the Jeep as the current dragged them down the river.
Where’s the fucking lake? Why the hell did I pass out? If I ran into the side of the bridge why isn’t the Jeep smashed?
These thoughts raced through Meg’s mind while she fought to unbuckle the safety harness. Her fingers felt thick and stupid as she fought with the easy release catch on the device. The water was quickly rising and had already crested the tops of her boots, filling them and soaking her feet with ice cold water.
“Son of a bitch!” Meg screamed shocked by the intensity of the cold water.
That was when the ring on her chest began to burn again. If the pain before had felt like being burned with a red-hot poker, this pain could only compare to thrusting her body into a nuclear furnace. Every nerve in Meg’s body was electrified and she was sure the interior of the car would catch fire any second.
She was consumed with fear and desperation.
Please, oh please, I don’t want to die! Please! Mommy, help me!
It lasted a heartbeat and then it was over.
There was no more pain from her chest. There was no more feeling of the intense freezing pain from her feet. The full body ache and ringing in her ears disappeared. In fact, if asked, Meg would have said she’d never felt so good in her entire life. She still felt the cold water, but it was now an almost pleasant sensation.
Meg reached one more time for the harness release as the water passed her waist. She gripped the circular device, squeezed, and crushed it into a hundred pieces. While that was not Meg’s desired intent, it did the job of releasing her from the harness. Meg hit the button to lower the windows, but nothing happened. Then, grabbing the door handle, she braced to push hard. There was a lot of water on the other side and she was unsure she’d be able to open it until the cabin filled with water.
If I have to wait until the pressure is equalized the current might kill me before I can make the surface. But I doubt anyone outside of a comic book could open this door now.
Much like her father, Meg had the engineering bug. She was one semester away from her master’s degree from the University of Michigan and already had a job with her father’s company lined up for the summer. She understood the physics of the situation but pushed on the door with all her might.
The door opened like the water on the other side wasn’t even there.
Meg was so shocked when the door opened and the current grabbed it that she was wrenched from the interior of the Jeep and dragged out into the river. Once more intense panic filled her and threatened to overwhelm her.
Then she was calm.
In a flash, she realized a series of impossible things. The icy water had no effect on her. Despite the darkness of the night and murkiness of the water, her vision was crystal clear and bright. She had no problem fighting the current. It was as easy a paddling around the pool in her back yard on a bright summer day. And finally, she wasn’t breathing. Not as in there was no air so she couldn’t breathe, but as in there was no need to breathe. She had no need to take in a fresh lungful of air.
This is insane!
Meg easily tread water several feet below the surface of the river. The slow but steady movements of her arms and legs were more than sufficient to keep her stationary despite the current. She scanned the underwater scene around her in fascination.
It was what you would expect the bottom of a river to look like. Rocks, mud, weed, fish, and the other things that made the sub-aquatic freshwater world unique were present. She giggled when several small fish swirled past her feet. Then looking straight up, she headed for the surface and hopefully some answers.
“Marshall, Will, and Holly
On a routine expedition
Met the greatest earthquake ever known.
High on the rapids
It struck their tiny raft.
And plunged them down a thousand feet below.
To the Land of the Lost.
To the Land of the Lost.
To the Land of the Lost.”
-Land of the Lost Theme Song
“You know when I signed up for this I was promised Faygo,” Rudy muttered from the driver’s seat of the APC. “I was told there would be Rock & Rye and there damn well better be Rock & Rye.”
“Don’t you have anything better to do besides bitch?” Adam asked from the back of the vehicle. The giant was reclined on an oversized couch with his legs hanging off the end. At seven and a half feet tall the heavily muscled warrior was always searching for a comfortable place to relax.
“Hey!” Rudy snapped setting the auto drive and turning to glare at his friend. “I worked with the team bringing the old bottling plant back on-line for a year. The least I should be able to expect is Faygo whenever I fucking want it!”
“You know the communications circuit is open, right?” YJ asked from his perch on the roof of the vehicle. The sniper preferred to rely on his mental abilities as opposed to the APC’s sensor systems.
“I know, and I don’t care,” Rudy grumped.
“That stuff is too sweet,” Adam added.
Rudy shot him a look that could melt lead.
Adam and YJ both laughed.
“Enough chatter,” the voice of Doctor Randal Cooper said, cutting into the communications circuit. “You people were hired to provide security, not to fill the airwaves with your asinine banter.”
There was no need for the members of the Iron Bear Mercenary Corp, or the IBMC for short, to say anything. As a unit they switched over to their private encrypted channel.
“That guy is a complete douche nozzle,” Miranda Silver Water said. The young elf was flying on her Sky Board high above the convoy. Her mystic powers made her the perfect person to perform aerial recon. “Colonel, you want to tell me again why we took this job?”
“The money, Randa,” Colonel James McCoy responded. The Corps leader was riding with the doctor in question in one of the armored ATV’s in front of the group. “The University pays well and their missions usually keep us as far from the Imperium as possible.”
“Yeah,” Miranda grumped, “but the trade-off is putting up with asshats like Cooper.”
“Look, I don’t care about Cooper,” Karl Harper said. The powered armor jockey was in the rear of the convoy watching their backs in his hulking Juggernaut battle suit. “What I care about is that these missions are always so Gods damned boring.”
“Karl, every time you say something like that the shit hits the fan,” Adam cut in. “I’m calling it—this is gonna be New Cairo all over again.”
The collective groans of every man and woman in the Corp filled the channel. The memories of the IBMC’s last adventure in the old Illinois territory still left some of them shivering.
“I’ve told you a thousand times,” Karl yelled, “how the hell was I supposed to know she was Imperial Intelligence? I thought she was a hooker!”
More laughter from the tight-knit group filled the circuit. The men and woman of the IBMC were in some ways more of a family than a freelance military unit. Although the few adversaries who’d mistaken their semi-flippant attitude as an indication of their combat readiness quickly learned how mistaken they were.
“I got your back Karl.” Miranda laughed. “Hooker or spook is irrelevant because she was hot.”
Spread out along half a mile of the trail the University of New Tesla expedition moved only as fast as the slowest vehicle. Said conveyance was the converted Fawcett Class Explorer command vehicle. The Fawcett Explorers were remnants of the Lost Age of Mankind preserved and reproduced by the Technocrats in Northern Michigan. In essence, they were armored two story doublewide trailers mounted on a pair of powerful robotic legs. Originally designed to work in the most extreme of environments on and off the Earth, they were now the backbone of many groups that worked extensively in the wilderness.
“Heads up kids, we’re approaching the river,” Miranda said from her vantage point. “I’m going to give it a quick scout before you guys reach the ford.”
“That’s clear, Randa,” Colonel McCoy said. “Just a quick sweep and back to the convoy. I think the Doctor is going to want to camp for the night and cross the river in the morning.”
“Roger that, boss,” the elf said before giving her Sky Board a kick and taking off like a bullet.
Swinging down to tree level Miranda surveyed the land in front of the convoy. Even though this was the same route nearly all the groups moving between New Tesla, the ruins of Detroit and parts further east traveled, caution was always the traveler’s watchword. Utilizing her mystical attributes and the sensor cluster mounted on the edge of her crescent shaped board Miranda skimmed in low and fast.
She was grinning like a kid at the spring fair the whole time.
The stories told by Sky Board Riders on the origins of their preferred transportation were many and ever changing. But when you filtered through the chaff there were a few kernels all of the tales shared. The first was that the original creator of the Wing Board was a Lost Age professional hoverboard rider and celebrity of the day name Missy Falcon, who survived the Shattering and became one of the world’s first Mech Mages or people who blended magic and technology. The second was that the first boards were designed to fly only over the Dragon Roads—bands of energy that crisscrossed the surface of the Earth.
“Boss, we’re looking free and clear out here,” Miranda said into the throat mic. “It looks like someone’s been clearing the area around the old town ruins, but I don’t see any signs of current visitors.”
“That’s clear, Randa,” Colonel McCoy said. “Head back. I was right, the Doctor wants to camp on this side of the river.”
“That’s…” Miranda started then stopped mid thought.
A flash of light further up river caught her attention and for a second she forgot where she was. The flash accompanied an electrical charge flowing through her body indicating the presence of high amounts of mystical energy. The feeling was intensely pleasurable, and it took all her skill to maintain her balance on the Wing Board.
“Randa, are you still there?” Colonel McCoy asked, his voice cutting through the haze in her mind and bringing her back to reality.
“Yeah, boss,” she said huskily. “Just had a massive wash of power flow through me. I need to check it out.”
“Right, be careful,” McCoy said calm, cool, and professional. It was in the unexpected situations that Colonel James McCoy showed the training and experience he’d received in Marquette so many years ago.
Miranda swept closer to the ground until she was coasting over the surface of the river. Bits and pieces of ancient wreckage were poking up out of the soft dark earth on the valley floor. Every few seconds the glint of something shiny was visible.
This would be a good area to establish a town, Miranda thought for the millionth time. Over the last three years, she’d crossed this area dozens of times and always wondered why nobody lived here permanently.
She almost missed the object in the water.
It was rapidly sinking as the river dragged it along with the current. It was clearly a vehicle of some sort, but it didn’t look like anything appropriate for travel in the wild lands. It looked more like something out of a history book, or one of the ubiquitous half-buried rusted hulks dotting the landscape. It made zero sense that it was in the middle of the river.
There was another, less intense, wave of mystical energy.
The magic energy is centered on that vehicle, Miranda thought shaking her head and boosting her speed to overtake it before it was submerged. None of this of making sense and when things don’t make sense I get jumpy. Just as she reached the roof of the vehicle, it slipped under the water.
“Damn it!” Miranda yelled raising the Wing Board up and circling the area where the strange vehicle disappeared.
It’s gonna cost me a lot of magic energy to drag that wreck out of the river, and I have no idea if anyone is even in there, she thought methodically circling the spot. And let’s say I do it and tomorrow we get jumped by a monster or some bandits, what am I going to do? Throw rocks at them?
“Um, hello?” a female voice said from below.
Miranda was so shocked she nearly fell off the Wing Board. Looking down, she saw a blonde headed girl sticking out of the river. The girl was rooted in the middle of the current lazily treading water.
“Yeah, you,” the girl continued. “Can you tell me where the fuck I am?”
“I am my own sanctuary, and I can be reborn as many times as I choose throughout my life.”
– Lady Gaga
Meg felt tingly all over. It was a strange but far from an unpleasant sensation. Her now amazingly sharp vision could see the stars twinkling in the sky above the surface of the river. Never in her entire life had she felt so aware and alive.
This is totally impossible, she thought, calmly kicking for the surface. I died, that has to be it. I went over the bridge in the snow and ended up in the lake. Then I died, and now I’m like one of the characters on that island in that old show Dad loves so damn much.
Yet she felt no fear or apprehension.
Meg’s head broke the surface of the water and cold air licked her face. She knew the wind was cold, but other than appreciating it, the actual temperature had no effect on her. She knew from the chunks of ice in the water and the blanket of thick wet snow covering the landscape she should have been freezing to death.
She had to fight the urge to strip naked and play in the river.
This is what it felt like when Tammy found her mom’s stash and we stayed up all night smoking and watching bad movies. Except times a hundred and maybe a little less sweaty, she thought giggling softly. What the hell is wrong with me?
Her thoughts were interrupted by a low humming sound. It reminded her of the compressor in the old freezer in the basement. Meg turned her head and searched the surface of the river, the shores, and the air above. She saw it on the horizon upriver and it was moving fast toward her.
“Holy shit balls!” Meg yelped in shock when her vision zoomed in like a telescope. “This is so fucking cool!”
There was a person up there. She was unable to determine their sex due to the robes and full body armor they were wearing while riding what looking like a giant boomerang. Even though the flying crescent was several hundred yards away, Meg was able to make out the intricate details of the board. It was as if she was flying right next to the odd contraption.
Okay, this is messed up. Where the hell am I? If I’m dead is this Heaven? Is it Hell? Or is it some middle place? If I’m not dead then where is the lake? Where is the bridge and the city?
As the flying person drew closer, the last bit of the Jeep disappeared below the water line far down the river. A small piece of Meg’s heart broke when the last of the ancient vehicle disappeared beneath the icy current of the river. It’d been passed down through all of the kids in the family, having been the first new vehicle her parent bought after getting married. She was sure there wasn’t a part she hadn’t either repaired or replaced in the years it’d been hers.
There wasn’t much time for Meg to decide her course of action. The speed of the flying crescent was impressive and Meg forced herself to quit staring and consider the situation at hand.
Okay, do I try to signal them or let them fly by?
That was when she really saw the night sky above her. Meg was a smart young woman, not a genius of Einstein or Tesla levels, but she’d tested in the top one percent of student in the nation and had been the valedictorian of her high school graduating class. She knew what the sky above her should look like.
This was wrong.
Not totally wrong, it wasn’t like she was in the wrong hemisphere or on a different plant, but still wrong. The stars were extremely bright and clear for once. Centuries of pollution had lead to the globe being enveloped in a light obscuring haze and even though pollution levels were finally dropping across the world, the nights were still fuzzy. This sky looked to be free of pollution.
Then there was the moon.
When she’d been six, Meg’s grandfather bought her a telescope for her birthday. She’d loved the instrument and had spent hours gazing at the sky. The surface of the moon facing Earth was something she was intimately acquainted with. Without consciously doing it Meg zoomed her vision in on the rocky surface of Luna.
“Oh my God,” she gasped.
The flying crescent zipped past her and Meg turned her vision from the impossible scene on the moon and focused it on the person above her. The crescent slowed to a hover and circled the place where the Jeep disappeared below the water. That was when her ears pulled the same amplifying trick her eyes had.
“Damn it!” the person circling above her growled.
The sound of the voice was distinctly feminine. The woman was speaking English, which relieved Meg, but her accent was strange. Like nothing Meg had ever heard before outside of a bad Hong Kong movie. Still, it was English and that meant she was still on Earth.
“Um, hello?” Meg said from her place, neck deep in the freezing, rushing water. She felt dumb saying it but nearly choked with laughter when the startled woman above her nearly fell from her circling perch. “Yeah, you,” Meg continued. “Can you tell me where the fuck I am?”
In the years before the Great Shattering, the City of Detroit, Michigan experienced a renaissance of culture and prosperity. After the collapse and near destruction at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the city rebounded and was revitalized as a center of trade, transportation, and manufacturing. At the dawn of the twenty-second century, Detroit was poised to regain its place as one of the great North American cities. But like every other city the Great Shattering ended that.
– University of New Tesla Database (Updated 300 ATC)
“My Lord,” the fan man said prostrating himself in front of the winged figure on the large dark throne. “I have news of the academics and farmers to the west.”
“I hear derision and contempt in your voice, Walter,” Marku, First Lord of the Black Lion Clan, said. His voice matched his appearance—dark and filled with a refined menace.
“M-my Lord,” the man named Walter stammered, “t-they are weak.”
“No, Walter,” Marku replied silkily, “they are educated. They care for their old, their sick, and their helpless, and that serves to make them vulnerable, Water. But never mistake that for weakness.”
Rising to his full height of seven feet, Marku continued sounding more like a school teacher than a conquering warlord. “Ask the various war leaders and bandit clans who thought the little city would be an easy target. Oh wait, you can’t. Because you see, along with scholars, scientists, and farmers, they are also a bastion of sorcerers, psychics, and warriors!” Marku pronounced in a thundering roar.
“Yes, Lord Marku,” Walter said pressing himself even closer to the floor presenting the back of his neck to the Clan Lord in the traditional pose of supplication.
Marku Nightstorm nodded and continued, “Now, rise and tell me what you and your men have learned in these last few weeks.”
“Yes, my Lord,” Walter, captain of the clan’s intelligence service, replied rising to his feet. The man was a native of one of the villages grown within the ruins of the fallen city over the ages. When Lord Marku had arrived and claimed the tower on the river as his citadel, a young Walter had been one of the very first to pilgrimage and offer his fealty. He’d served the Non-Human warrior faithfully since that day fifty years earlier and had risen to become one of the highest in the clan. “I bring news both good and bad my Lord.”
“Speak freely old friend,” Marku said dropping the formal tone of command and speaking to Walter as the trusted comrade he was. “You know the law, no messenger will ever be punished for delivering news that is not welcomed. Unpleasant truth is preferable to a placating lie.”
“Yes, Lord Marku,” Walter replied.
Marku snapped his clawed fingers and a servant dressed in the standard armor of a clan warrior brought a pitcher or fermented apple cider and two mugs. Then he left the chamber leaving the Lord and the Captain in privacy. Marku and Walter took seats at a table set in a small nook, and the Lord of the Black Lion poured for both of them.
“Their defenses are tight. Much tighter than we feared,” Walter said after taking a long hard drink of the cool tart drink. “The only way to subdue them would be to smash them into the ground and I’m not sure we’d be able to do it. Even if we did, we’d be left crippled in the process.”
Marku nodded, before darkly draining his mug. “We’re caught between two powerful forces, my friend. The Spiders have driven us from the tower and the riverfront. Every ambassador we’ve sent to New Tesla has been rebuffed.” Marku sighed and rubbed his dark, scaly brow. “We have two choices—either we turn and attack the Spiders in an attempt to retake our home.”
“They’ll slaughter us, Marku,” Walter said sadly.
Marku nodded and continued, “Then our other option is the people of New Tesla. We’ve begged for sanctuary and they’ve denied it, which leaves us with force.”
“There is a third option,” Walter said hesitantly.
“That is not an option,” Marku growled. “I would rather allow my people to fall under a benign societies control as opposed to being slaughtered and made into slaves. We will never sell our souls for safety. I’d rather we die fighting for our freedom.”
“My great-great grandfather was still alive when I was young, and he used to talk about what the world was like when he was young, in the years before the fall.” Walter sipped his drink and stared at the dark amber liquid in contemplation. “He said Detroit was a great city. It was a wonder to behold. I’ve seen the images and videos, and I agree it was an amazing place, it was a better place.”
“What is your point, old friend?” Marku asked pouring them both more cider.
“I want a better world for my grandchildren,” Walter said. “I want a better world for all of the children of the clan. We were building something we could all be proud of before the Spiders came and destroyed it all.”
Marku nodded but said nothing. He wanted to hear his right-hand man’s thoughts without interrupting him. The reason he’d accepted Walter into his inner circle so many decades earlier had been the sharp intelligence and keen observation skills he possessed. Those attributes had been honed and turned into deadly weapons over the years.
“If our only option is to force an understanding with New Tesla then I say we take it. Even if they demand the deaths or imprisonment of our leadership to take in everyone else, it will be worth it to secure the future of our people.”
The room filled with a deep silence as both of the men, one human and one not, considered the impact of their words. The frustration they felt in the refusal of the cities leadership to see they’d be stronger together was eclipsed only by their collective fear of the monsters who’d taken their homes.
“You realize if I authorize this that there is a very good chance neither of us will survive this,” Marku finally said.
“I would rather die trying than lay down and give up,” Walter answered.
Trans-Dimensional Sentient Non-Humans (Non-Humans):
The common term applied to sentient creatures, not of the Human Species. This term is applied to all beings whether they were born on Earth or on a different world or dimension. Some of the more extreme elements of human society use the term also to refer to any human with a genetic mutation or natural mystic/psychic abilities.
– University of New Tesla Database (Updated 300 ATC)
Meg watched the figure circling above her with a perplexed smile. She was sure by the way the person was standing on her flying board that it was a woman and not a man despite the heavy coat and armor. When she spoke, and the woman nearly fell from the board, Meg had to fight not to laugh out loud.
“Umm,” the woman above her said through some voice amplifier, “what did you say?”
Meg needed to think about what she was hearing. The words sounded like she should understand them, but they were off like she was hearing an unknown dialect or watching a period movie set in the Middle Ages when the English language was so different. After a second the meaning clicked together in her mind.
“I asked,” speaking slowly as she realized the flying woman was probably having as much of a problem understanding what Meg was saying as Meg was having understanding her. “Can you tell me where I am? I appear to be lost.”
The flying board descended until it was nearly touching the surface of the river. The rider knelt down and slipped the black and copper mask from her face and pushed back the dark hood to reveal beautifully delicate features, sparkling green eyes, long blonde hair, and pointed ears.
She looks like a fucking elf! Like in those stupid movies Ricky always makes me watch, Meg thought not feeling nearly as shocked as she would have been if she hadn’t gotten a look at the moon.
“You are currently treading water in the middle of the Huron River,” the woman said. Then she added with a raised eyebrow, “And if you don’t mind me saying, it’s rather impressive that you are not freezing to death or being moved by the current.”
“Well, I think it’s rather impressive that you’re floating up there with no obvious means of propulsion or power generation,” Meg snapped back her engineer’s mind kicking in. “In fact, I have to say there is no way that giant boomerang should be in the air.”
“You’ve never heard of a Sky Board?” the woman asked.
“Nope,” Meg answered. “Would you like to maybe move this conversation to the shore? I mean if you’re fine doing this here so am I, but I feel like we may be a wee bit exposed, and I have a few questions I’d like to have answered.”
A strange expression had filled the woman’s face before she broke out into a full-throated laugh. “Sure let’s move this party to the shore. Do you need a hand to get over there?”
“No,” Meg replied looking toward the shore, “I’m good.” And with that, she swam to the shore without being moved an inch further downstream.
“Yeah, Colonel, there’s one survivor. A young woman,” Miranda said into her throat mic as her Sky Board came to rest on the snowy riverbank. She watched the woman pull herself up onto the ice covered rock bank, stand, and bend to pop her back.
“That felt good,” the young woman said with a grin.
“We’re setting camp at the fallen bridge,” Colonel McCoy said in her ear. “Determine if she’s a threat or if she needs help. I trust your judgment, Randa.”
“That’s clear, boss,” Miranda answered.
“So, who’s this Colonel person you were talking to Randa?” the damp, young woman asked.
“There’s no way you heard that conversation,” Miranda responded in shock. “I’m using a sub-audible throat mic and an earpiece.”
“Don’t know what to tell you, blondie,” the woman responded. “Ever since my poor Jeep went into the drink I’ve been able to do all kinds of fucked up shit.”
“What’s your name?” Miranda asked, then added taking a hard look at her, “and what happened to your chest?”
“Name’s Meg, I don’t-” she replied looking down and stopping in mid-sentence. When she’d left the house, it’d been cold and snowing heavily, so she’d worn a thick blue U of M sweatshirt under her coat. Where there should have been a thick layer of fabric covering her chest, there was a ragged and charred hole.
“What the fuck?” Meg whispered poking a finger into the hole. She expected to touch burned and broken flesh but instead she touched the smooth flesh between her breasts.
“Looks like you took a plasma blast to the chest,” Miranda observed. “Have you been in battle recently?”
“Battle?” Meg answered in a daze. “No, I was just driving to the store to get some milk before dinner.”
Miranda stepped off her board and approached Meg. “Are you sure about that? There aren’t any towns or villages around here for dozens of miles.”
“I was driving into town. I was going to run into Meijer and pick up a few things for Mom,” Meg said not paying any attention to Miranda as she approached. “I was crossing the bridge across the lake, there was a flash of lighting, and then the lake was gone, and I was in the river.”
Miranda stared at Meg and the pieces assembled themselves in her mind—the antique vehicle, the girl’s odd use of words and accent, the lightning, the bridge, and the vanishing lake. She’d heard stories at the University about situations like this but had never expected to be involved in one herself.
“Meg,” Miranda said reaching out and taking the girl’s hand in her own. She was slipping further into a fugue-like state and didn’t resist. “I think you should sit down, there are some things I need to tell you.”
Temporal anomalies, while less common than the standard rips in space, are far from uncommon in the Post-Shattering world. There are no known means to travel backward in the stream of time by either mystical or scientific means. Theories in both disciplines seem to indicate that travel to the past is possible, but as of current levels of development, it only remains a theory. Traveling forward in time is a skill simply accomplished through both mystical (see Temporal Magic) and Scientific (see Chronal Displacement) means.
There are several famous cases of random Temporal Translocation since the Shattering. The most famous of these being the case of United Suborbital Flight 1076 traveling from London to Los Angeles on the eve of the Shattering. Luckily for those souls, when they appeared back in real time fifteen years ago it was near the City of Tesla, and thus, they were spared anything worse than having their entire universe turned upside down.
– University of New Tesla Database (Updated 300 ATC)
It’s been three hundred and fifty years; Meg thought staring numbly into the campfire. Mom, Dad, my entire family have been dead for centuries… and Tammy, oh Gods Tammy’s dead. The pain was almost unbearable.
Since being brought to the IBMC camp by Miranda, Meg had been in a state of semi-shock. Meg made the odd woman repeat her words several times before she believed she was hearing them, and she still couldn’t bring herself to accept the veracity of those words.
None of this is possible. I’m in the hospital in Wayne, and I’m in a coma. This is all a dream. The words all made sense to her—the only problem was she didn’t believe word one of them. This is real.
“She’s in shock,” Miranda said from the other side of the camp.
Meg wondered what the other woman would think if she knew her softest whisper was as audible to Meg as if she were talking right next to her.
She would probably find it uninteresting in this fucked up world. She’s not even human—I doubt anything I could tell her would surprise her more than me finding out she’s an honest to Christ elf!
“Okay, she’s in shock,” Colonel McCoy said running his hand through his thinning hair. “What would you like to do with her, Randa?”
“She has no idea what the world is like,” Miranda said taking a sip from her mug. “For her, a few hours ago it was before the Lost Age.”
Meg could smell the bitterness of the coffee they were drinking. I could use some of that caffeine, and I wouldn’t say no to something to eat, she thought absently still not moving from her seat at her little fire.
“I can appreciate that Randa, but we have a job to do. And I have no desire to drag some puppy lost in time and space around with us,” Colonel McCoy said. “The first time we get into a combat situation we’re going to have more important things to do than protecting her. Besides, as soon as Professor Cooper finds out about her he’s going to blow a gasket. This job is top secret.”
Anger started to bubble in Meg. Even on the best of days, she hated being thought of as a burden, and being spoken of as cargo to be dropped in the road was fanning a growing flame. The old Meg from before this craziness started began to reassert herself.
“We can’t leave her out here, James,” Miranda said crossing her arms under her firm breasts and glaring daggers at him. “Even if we were in a more civilized area I wouldn’t leave her until she has a feel for the situation. Besides there’s something weird about her when she-”
“We don’t have time for her!” McCoy seethed cutting Miranda off mid-sentence.
“So what do you suggest James, should I fetch a rug and we can drop her back in the river?” Miranda shot back.
“Of course not,” Colonel McCoy answered, shock clearly written on his lined and weathered face. He softened and continued, “You know we’re barely paying the bills, Randa. If it wasn’t for that I would never have accepted this bullshit mission into the D. I mean who the hell WANTS to go here?”
“I’m curious if I get a say in any of this?” Meg called from her fire not turning to look at the arguing man and elf. “I mean since I’m the burden you’re considering putting back where you found her, after all.”
Both McCoy and Miranda snapped their heads to look at Meg with equally shocked looks on both of their faces.
“Yeah, I can hear you,” Meg said then added under her breath, “If Denver is still there they can probably hear you too.”
“How can you hear us?” Colonel McCoy asked crossing the distance between them and joining Meg at her own fire. “Do you have a bio-implant?”
“What’s a bio-implant?” Meg asked turning her head to look at the older man. There was a quality to his face that reminded her of her father. “Do you mean like cochlear implants?”
“I don’t know what that is,” McCoy said confused.
“That’s your problem Colonel, no appreciation for the past,” Rudy said as he entered the radius of the campfire’s warm glow. “The cochlears were the first practical commercial cybernetic implants.” He plopping down next to the fire and turned his attention to Meg.
“Hiya!” he said thrusting a gloved hand toward Meg. “Rudolph Atticus Tessmer, IBMC Chief Scottie and all around awesome dude, my friends call me Rudy. But the ladies call me Sexual Chocolate.”
“We do not!” Miranda snapped trying and failing to hold back a giggle.
“Really?” Meg said taking his hand and shaking it. Then she added with a grin, “You don’t look like Eddie Murphy.”
Rudy looked at her stunned.
Miranda and McCoy broke out in gales of laughter.
“What?” Meg asked honestly perplexed by their reactions.
“You just cut the legs out of his one and only move,” Miranda snorted. “You were supposed to ask why they call him that and then he’d make you watch that stupid ancient movie.”
“It’s not stupid,” Rudy muttered.
“I love Coming to America, it was one of my grandfather’s all time favorites,” Meg laughed. Thinking of her family killed the laughter before it could fully take hold.
“Okay,” McCoy said sobering. “I’d still like to know how you were able to hear us from that far away?”
“Honestly,” Meg said shaking her head in an attempt to clear the shock, “I don’t know. Ever since I hit the river things have been strange.”
“Strange how?” Miranda asked.
“The Jeep hit the water and the compartment started filling up,” Meg said her eyes unfocusing as she remembered the experience. “I couldn’t open the door, and it was so cold and dark I didn’t know what to do. The water was rising, I was trapped in the Jeep, and I was sure I was going to die. Then…” she trailed off.
“Then what?” Miranda prodded.
“There was a burning on my chest. For a second I thought I was going to burst into flames.” Meg touched the spot where the pain had been on her chest. “Then I was fine. I wasn’t cold anymore, I didn’t need to breathe, and I could see and hear perfectly under the water. I ripped the door off the Jeep and swam out into the river. The current was nothing to me.”
She tapped her chest unconsciously as she spoke.
“Maybe she was changed by the rip in space-time,” Rudy said poking the fire with a stick. “It wouldn’t the first time something like that has happened.”
Meg continued to tap her chest lost in thought. The answer was on the cusp of her thoughts.
“Maybe,” Miranda said not sounding convinced, “but if that were the case, she would have emerged changed. This sounds like it happened several minutes after she translocated.”
The taps increased in intensity. She almost had it.
“Either way, rip induced or something else, it sounds like she’s fundamentally altered,” Rudy responded.
The tapping stopped.
“It has to be the ring,” Meg whispered.
“What ring?” Miranda asked.
Instead of speaking Meg unbuttoned the heated jacket Miranda had given her despite her protests that she wasn’t cold. Beneath it, her charred shirt had been replaced by a clean blue t-shirt with the IBMC logo emblazoned on it.
Meg pulled down her shirt from the collar to reveal the upper section of her bare chest.
Rudy and McCoy turned away blushing. The older man made an uncomfortable coughing noise while Rudy went a bright crimson.
Miranda rolled her eyes and examined the sight before her. Sitting like a halo just above Meg’s small firm breasts was a bright copper ring roughly two inches in diameter. It glowed with an internal light and was clearly fused to Meg’s body. To Miranda’s eyes it looked like it’d grown from within the girl.
It radiated magic.
“Well?” Meg asked. “What is it?”
“I have no idea,” Miranda answered half-hypnotized by the light radiating from the ring. “But we’ll figure it out.”
The Lost Age
Used when referring to the twenty-five to fifty years before the Great Shattering. Records from the area are far less abundant than from the twentieth century. It’s believed by scholars and historians that most of the information from the Lost Age were stored in digital format and lost in the Shattering. Most of what we have learned about the Lost Age comes from some surviving databases, salvaged printed materials, and the lore and personal recollections from the survivors.
During the Lost Age, humanity reached levels of scientific and technological achievement so advanced we’ve barely begun to regain the most basic rudiments of it. Artificial intelligence AI, genetic engineering, nontechnology, advanced weapons systems, and quantum computing are all benchmarks in which the pre-Shattering world excelled.
– University of New Tesla Database (Updated 300 ATC)
“We are ready Captain,” the short, furry warrior named Gren said coming to attention in front of Walter. The tough little male said his race was called Vulpesan, and they came from a world with many races just like Earth. Walter thought he looked like a humanoid fox. “The clan’s men and women are ready.”
“Good,” Water said nodding.
The decision to move out, once made, was immediately put into action. The threat of the Spiders had kept the Black Lion Clan in a perpetual state of readiness to move. They’d lost many warriors holding the Spiders back so the clan’s civilian men and woman could escape along the riverfront. It was a price they’d willingly paid, but it’d been high.
“Lord Marku wants us on the old road to New Tesla before sundown,” Captain Walter said checking details on his battered tablet computer. “We can’t leave anything behind for the Spider—save empty storehouses and ashes.”
“Yes, Captain,” Gren said saluting before hurrying off to see to some detail or another.
To the east, the Spiders were massed and preparing to smash the clan. To the west lay New Tesla and potential salvation for the Black Lions. Between those points were the Clan and the unknown.
“Lord Thor,” Walter said grasping the Mjolnir hammer pendant around his neck, “protect us all and guide us to safety.”
A single bolt of distant lightening split the clear sky.
Everything Meg saw through the Explorer’s observation ports fascinated and terrified her. The forest spread out in every direction in a spray of bright beautiful green. But every few minutes a relic of the lost world poked an accusing finger out of the foliage and heartache filled her.
“There used to be so many people,” Meg whispered.
“What did you say?” a sonorous male voice asked.
Meg turned to see the hulking form of Sir Adam Raven. The man was a giant, and when Meg first saw him, she’d nearly screamed in surprise. She had yet to ask him if he were human, although he was over seven feet tall, his features were those of a very attractive Native American man. After a brief conversation she’d decided she liked the gentle warrior.
“The people,” she said smiling sadly and pointing out the window. “There were so many people here.”
“Yes,” Adam said nodding. “My home is far to the west near the great mountains. The signs of the lost world are everywhere out there.”
“Near the Rockies?” Meg asked.
“Yes,” Adam said his face lighting up. “You know of the great mountains?”
“My father had a project near Denver when I was twelve. I spent an entire summer out there,” Meg answered wistfully. The mountains were one of the most beautiful places she’d ever visited.
Adam closed his eyes and performed a strange genuflection.
“Why did you do that?” Meg asked.
“For the lost souls of the great city,” Adam answered. “When the Shattering happened and the world collapsed, Holy Denver held out for months. In that time much was saved and sent out with refugees to settle on safer lands. Because of the ancients of Denver, my land, the Platte River League exists. One day we will reclaim the sacred city from the darkness.”
Meg had nothing to say to that response. She’d not expected such a sober response to her answer. Instead, she decided to change the subject. The IBMC had packed up their camp and set out at dawn, but she was unclear as to what her new friends were doing.
“Can I ask you a question, Adam?”
“You just did,” he replied deadpan.
“Are all of you Iron Bear people smartasses?” Meg asked, laughing despite herself.
“Maybe.” Adam chuckled. “Personally, I just think Rudy is a bad influence on all of us.”
“He’s an odd guy.” Meg laughed.
“There’s no one better to have at your back in a fight, though. I trust Rudy with my life,” Adam said grinning. “But you have a question, go ahead and ask.”
“What are you people doing?”
Adam stared at Meg confused. “I don’t understand what you mean,” he responded.
“Well, you’re a mercenary company,” she said holding up a finger.
“Currently, you are escorting these people from…”
“The University of New Tesla,” Adam supplied.
“Yeah,” she said smiling. “Which used to be Ann Arbor.”
Adam nodded again not saying anything and allowing her to continue.
“So what’s your mission and why does an academic team need such a large military force to travel through southeast Michigan?”
“Do you understand how dangerous things are now?” Adam asked. “This is not the same world you left. You have no idea how lucky you are Miranda found you and not something that wanted to eat you if you were lucky.”
“No, I get that it’s dangerous out there, but what are you people doing?” she asked pressing the point while trying not to show how much his words freaked her out.
“We’re heading into Detroit,” Adam said, his face going pale. “There aren’t many more dangerous places around here than the ruins of the D.”
“Why?” Meg asked warming to the subject.
“Well I’m not a historian that’s Books’ job,” he answered.
“Books is our resident big brain.” Adam laughed. “He handles the research and keeps all of the records.”
“He’s not here, so how about you take a shot at answering my question,” Meg prodded.
“Well,” Adam said hesitantly. “I think it’s because it’s the easiest place to cross the water. The city sits right on the route to Tesla.”
“New Tesla?” Meg asked confused.
“No.” Adam laughed. “New Tesla’s only been around for about seventy-five years. Tesla is the mother city. It sits on the lake, and it survived the Shattering more or less.”
“What was it called before?” Meg whispered.
“I don’t know,” Adam admitted. “Books will know.”
“So what you’re saying is I should talk to Books,” she said sighing and slumping further into her seat.
“Sorry,” Adam said sitting on the floor next to her. “For what it’s worth, the ruins are pretty awesome.”
“I used to go to Detroit all of the time,” she whispered. “I loved the city. I’m not sure I want to see its corpse.”
Neither of them noticed the lightning bolt in the clear sky.
At the end of the twenty-first century the world was shattered. The date is uncertain, but December 21^st^, 2090 CE, is the date accepted by scholars in the civilized world. The people of the New Europa Republik (NER) say it’s the exact date. And as the only known civilization to have maintained a semblance of integrity during the Second Dark Age, most centers have accepted it.
Like the exact date of the Shattering, the cause is also unknown. There are stories of mounting tensions between the great nations in the final days of the Lost Age that broke out into a limited nuclear exchange. The detonations of small and comparatively clean weapons resulted in the direct deaths of less than half a million people. There are fragmentary surviving reports from the time indicating the warring powers were willing to stop the conflict and end the killing, but the universe had a different plan.
Mystic researchers and theorists in Tesla and Rowling have determined that if the exchange and resulting deaths happened a few days sooner or a few days later, the Shattering would have never happened. The deaths of so many people and subsequent release of life energy in the supernatural buffer zone started a chain reaction, which brought humanity to its knees.
– University of New Tesla Database (Updated 300 ATC)
John Anders raced through the main concourse and practically flew up the grand staircase of the Academy. At fifteen years old, his gangly, not quite done forming body, threatened to spill him to the ground at every step. He was tempted to use a hover spell and propel himself up through the wall bypassing the stairs, but the prohibition on magic use in the hallways was an ancient one. Some of the students said the rule predated the Great Shattering—they claimed there were records in the Kingdom of Rowling to back up the claims.
“Where are you rushing off to Mr. Anders?” a gravelly voice called from the top of the staircase. “I would hate to have you collide with another student and end up once more in the infirmary.”
John looked up into the weathered face of Professor Grell, Head of the Department of Elemental Arts. The tall Lupenine was ancient, his once golden fur having gone iron grey years ago. It was rumored he’d been at the academy for more than fifty years.
“I’m sorry, Professor,” John said coming to a stop and breathing hard.
“What is so important that you were forced to race around the main concourse like an epileptic Anaboler?” Grell asked, a gleam of humor in his large lupine eyes.
“Sir,” John said suddenly sounding abashed. “I was performing a farseeing ritual, and I saw something disturbing.” He braced himself and waited to be chastised for attempting the complicated ritual without oversight.
It didn’t happen.
“What did you see?” Professor Grell asked, all of his previous humor gone.
“There’s a storm coming professor,” John whispered. “I saw death and destruction. I saw an army of demons and monsters laying waste to the countryside. I saw a human, a young woman of unimaginable potential ripped from her time and thrust into ours…” he trailed off.
“What else did you see, John?” Professor Grell asked, descending the staircase to join the short, thin boy.
“I saw my home city of New Tesla,” he continued a terrified tenor in his voice. “I saw the walls broken, the people slaughtered, and the city burning.”
“If the big trail follows the course of Interstate 94 then why did we leave it and head south?” Meg asked poking the fire with a branch. “This is going to add days to the trip.”
“Not all of the land between New Tesla and Old Detroit is safe to travel through,” YJ replied mopping up the delicious stew from his bowl with a chunk of chewy black bread. “We need to swing wide around them. I, for one, would rather not end up in a firefight with one of the groups. Some of them are pretty heavily armed or have some serious magic muscle on their side. I’d hate to get on the bad side of the Black Lions.”
Meg smiled at the tall charcoal skinned man. She liked YJ, the warrior with the mental powers. At first, Meg had been unnerved by his powers, but he was loud and friendly, and eventually won her over.
“Plus,” he continued switching to a bottle of red-colored liquid, “there are always new and interesting things to see out here. There’s this house just south of here, with a single ancient robot still tending the gardens and keeping the structure in good repair. All the locals have decided to help him in his task as much as they can. They say it just feels right helping him.” A wistful look crossed YJ’s face. “If you ask him why he is still maintaining the house and land, he’ll tell you he’s waiting for his family to return from some place called Cedar Point.”
A shocked and pained look crossed Meg’s face.
“What did I say?” YJ asked suddenly wishing he’d kept his mouth shut.
“Nothing,” Meg said shaking her head and forcing a smile on her pale face. “You just made me think of things that happened a long time ago.” Trips to Cedar Point, the amusement park outside Sandusky, Ohio was a rite of passage for the teenagers in South East Michigan. Or it had been when there’d been a Michigan and a Cedar Point. She and Tammy had made the trip more times than she could count.
“The robot’s not the strangest thing out there,” a new voice said.
Meg looked up to see a tall man with pale skin, a light spattering of freckles, and dark red hair. He was dressed like that archeologist played by that old actor her grandmother thought was so handsome. Except this man was clearly not an actor.
“Hey, Books!” YJ said happily. “Pull up some ground and join us.”
“Thanks,” Books said dropping down next to YJ and cracking his neck loudly. “I was supposed to be off duty a few hours ago, but there was this somewhat intact building hidden back in the trees.”
“So you had to head over there and take a look?” YJ said grinning at his friend. He looked at Meg and continued, “Have you met our new tagalong, Books?”
“Nope,” Books answered reaching around the fire and offering Meg his hand. “Name’s Peter O’Reilly, but everyone calls me Books.”
Meg took his hand and shook it. “Nice to meet you, my name is Meg.”
“Books is the Iron Bear’s resident egghead,” YJ said laughing at the irritating look on Books’ face. “He went to a proper University and has all these fancy degrees.”
“So is it true?” Books asked changing the subject and reaching for the pot of stew.
YJ handed him a bowl, some bread, and another bottle of liquid—this one purple.
“Is what true?” Meg asked warily. She was pretty sure she knew what the young man was going to ask. The people in their expedition had been badgering her about the ring burned into her chest, and the levels of magic Miranda assured her she was radiating.
That was not what he asked.
“Are you really from before the Lost Age?” Books asked shoveling a spoonful of stew into his mouth and smiling contently.
“That’s what they say,” Meg muttered. “One second I was on my way to the store, and it was 2031, now it’s… whenever it is.”
“If you believe the European’s, and I do, it’s 2391 or 301 ATC, that’s After the Shattering, by the modern calendar,” Books responded cracking open his bottle. The hiss of carbonation was brief and followed by the strong smell of grapes. He took a long drink.
“Why is there a new calendar if you know when this Shattering occurred?” Meg asked.
“Well,” Books said burping loudly. “Between the Shattering and the establishment of the ATC Calendar, there was the second Dark Age. So when a real stabilized society emerged they started counting from the end of the old world.”
“What happened? What killed my world?” Meg asked, her voice now hard and cold.
YJ and Books looked at each other.
“You’re the bookworm educated in the big city,” YJ said gesturing toward Meg dramatically. “I’m just the guy who shoots things.”
“You know,” Books said, a wry grin on his face, “there’s a reason I left the University and hooked up with you guys. I’m not exactly the best instructor in the world.”
“Please,” Meg said, her voice softening. “I need to know what happened to everything I knew and loved.”
“All right,” Books said. They could both tell he was excited to talk. “But I think we need something more substantial than fizzy water before I begin.”
“The pieces are moving into place,” a male voice said while the speaker gazed into the large crystal sphere. “We’ve waited a long time, but finally, the key player has returned from the folds of time and reentered the playing field.”
“Yes, Master,” Hasani replied not looking at her lord and master.
“The others think I’ve been defeated, Hasani. Even my brother and father believe me broken and clinging to the remnants of my former glory,” he continued, his voice thick with anger and sadness.
“They are foolish, my Master,” Hasani answered rigidly. Clad in black and silver armor, the dark-haired young woman was a vision of beauty. All who’d mistaken her beauty for weakness had died quickly and confused.
“The ring has returned and we will have it on our side,” he hissed stepping away from the sphere and gesturing toward his throne. The marble seat rose from the ground and flew to him. A dark smile crossed his face as he lowered himself into the seat.
“Go Hasani, gather my warriors and prepare them for battle. When we are finished we will either stand astride our enemies or lie beneath their boots.” Loki said darkly, his voice echoing in the cavernous space.
Hasani left without a word, her master’s brooding aura following her retreat.
Shatter is the colloquial term used for the tears in time and space scattered across the planet. Erupting at the intersections of two or more Dragon Tracks (see separate entry), Shatters allow for passage between different places on the Earth, in the universe, and in other dimensions. The Shatters are the primary byproduct of the Great Shattering. Though seen by many as strictly a mystical construct, there are indications that human science during the Lost Age was experimenting with a technological version of a Shatter called the Einstein-Rosen Bridge or a Wormhole.
– University of New Tesla Database (Updated 300 ATC)
“The time before the Shattering was a Lost Age,” Books said.
When word got out that Professor Books was going to do some teaching, many members of the IBMC gravitated towards the fire. Rudy brought out a chest filled with bottles of bright fizzy liquid and Meg tried one for the first time since meeting the group.
“Oh my God!” she exclaimed after the first drink of the cold beverage. “This is Faygo… this is Rock & Rye!”
“Yep,” Rudy said plopping down next to her. “I was part of a team that brought an old Faygo bottling plant back online outside of New Tesla,” he said proudly.
“Breaking out your private stocks?” Adam asked, sitting down on Meg’s other side. “I thought you just wanted to get in her pants not convince her to marry you, Rudy,” the giant said laughing as crimson exploded on the operator’s face.
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SHATTERED EARTH is the tale of Meg Carson, a woman jerked from her place in time and space and thrust into a horrific future. Once there Meg becomes ensnared in events set into motion long before the age of human civilization. By beings once thought to merely exist in the realms of fable and mythology. Megâ€™s tale is one of love, loss, action, adventure, horror, and hope. Thrust 300 hundred years forward she finds herself in a nightmare world of mystery, magic, super science, and creatures of myth and nightmares. As she makes new friends and comes to terms with her new environment Meg comes to realize she has been fundamentally changed by her transition to the dark future.