This is the second half of a special two part bonus story! You can find the first part HERE: http://www.jameswylder.com/home/10000-dawns-bonus-story-10-part-1
Make sure to come back next week for the Grand Finale of Graelyn and Arch's adventure!
If you missed it, check out our big announcement about the Finale of the serial 10,000 Dawns story!
If you're new to 10kd, you can read all of it for free below:
You can read this story in PDF or Epub formats below:
The Mask of Apollo, Part 2
Ten Days Earlier
Kinan fiddled with the mask, and made a soft sound of annoyance.
“It doesn't fit... Do I really have to wear this the whole time?”
“Kinan, can I remind you whose plan this was? This plan you made up?” Kinan looked at her through the mask, and shrugged.
“Get me some padding foam and some glue.”
John and Miranda looked at Lametrius who was crossing her arms.
“I'll fix it later, can we go ahead and get this done?” Kinan nodded, and casually threw a handfull of crystal dust into the air, steping into the swirling portal she created as though it was a living room door. The portal led right into a massive hall, the main hall of a temple from the looks of it, where a throng of worshipers was standing in line to make libations to a statue of Apollo. Everyone stared at her. In a few moments, a proud looking Lametrius entered, wearing a very nice Hermes costume that looked a bit more like a superhero outfit than a period costume, Jenny who had barely changed to make herself look like Artemis (she had a bow, and had put a crescent moon on her hairband), and John and Miranda who were both on their phones. A man pouring a libation stood holding the cup, his mouth agape.
“Hi.” Kinan began. “I'm the god Apollo. The God of your city. Glorius as the morningtide.” She held her arms out wide. “Behold me mortals, and be afraid. Behold me and be glad.”
“You're not Apollo!” A priest shouted from next to the libation area, pointing wildly with his finger. Kinan sighed, and pointed at a vase, which exploded. Then she pointed at the ceiling and a swirling disk of fire appeared in it. Then she pressed a button on her belt and the Disco Remix “A Fifth of Beethoven” began playing from a speaker in her bag. Then she blew up another vase, just in case. The priest lowered his finger.
“Okay then... All hail Apollo! Welcome to our city! All hail his sister Artemis! All hail Hermes! All hail...” He looked at John and Miranda. “Their helpers!” John gave a thumbs up.
* * * *
Kinan entered back in through the walls, the sounds of the Greek army falling into confusion following loudly behind her. Jenny, or rather Artemis, hopped down from the wall and caught up with her.
“Was it really necessary to be that dramatic?” Kinan didn't answer, just handed her the stool. Jenny chucked it to the side of the street where one of the adoring throng grabbed it, and held it above her head in triumph yelling about having the stool of a god.
“Where's Hermes?” She finally said.
“Consulting with King Priam.”
Kinan just nodded, and they made their way to the royal palace. Troy was a magnificent city, but it was a much smaller one than most people would think. The world was much smaller then, its whole population dwarfed easily by colonies on other worlds considered tiny by the standards of Earth, which had tens of billions of people. Mars only had around 1 billion, and it still outdid the whole of this past. And yet, for its time it was grand. A time when single warriors could distinguish themselves so much in battle that armies trembled at the thought of them. Not because they were such incredible warriors compared to the present, but because every death was such a larger percent of humanity. Outside the walls, the Greek camp seemed to writhe in the wind, a mess of tarps and cloth fitted into the dirt and sand.
King Priam was an old man, but a fit one. He had the kind of muscles that were built into his frame over too many years to really ever get rid of all of them. His son, Hector, had the kind of muscles you saw in a body building magazine. Lametrius sat talking to both of them as Jenny and Kinan entered into the chamber.
“Ah, Apollo, Artemis. I was just telling the King about how we plan to relieve the food woes of his people.” Apollo nodded.
“Have you informed him of why we're here?” Lametrius looked at Kinan like she was going off script during a stage play.
Apollo looked at Priam.
“I'm going to fight Poseidon and Zeus. They should arrive to aid the Greeks soon.” Priam rose.
“My Lord Apollo... I can't imagine a battle of the gods will leave much left for us Mortals.” Apollo stared at him.
“Yes my Lord?”
“Let me know if you detect the arrival of other gods.” Lametrus frowned.
“Yes my lord.” Kinan began to exist, and Lametrius followed her till they were out of earshot.
“Kinan, what are you doing?”
“Luring Zeus and Poseidon here, exactly what I said.” Lametrius grabbed her by the arm.
“Don't give me that crap. What are you doing. This city is counting on us!” Apollo leaned down to stare into her eyes.
“This city is as good as dead, and always has been.” They didn't look away from each other.
“You might think its fine and dandy to walk into other people's lives and treat them like numbers on a spreadsheet, but people's lives are worth more than that Kinan. These people's to.” Kinan straightened her back.
“They're a means to an end. Do you see the worn walls of this city? They'll crumble. The Greeks will massacre this city in ten thousand realitites, commit crimes unspeakable, and yet so easily spoken. Would you have me save them all?” Lametrius scoweled, and walked over to a window, where she pointed out at the rows of buildings. Some children were kicking around an inflated sheep's bladder.
“I don't expect you to achieve miracles. I expect you to finish what you've started when you start it. These people expect us to save them. We can't just let them die.”
Kinan cocked her head to the side, the weighty mask glimmering off the light from the window. “You don't expect me to fight for them?”
“I expect you to be willing to sacrifice the city to meet your goals.”
“Don't badger me with this Lametrius. This is a trolly problem. If a city dies to save a universe, would you be so averse?” She was about to respond, but Kinan cut her off. “Regardless, that isn't my plan anyways. I'm drawing out gods.”
“And by gods you don't mean like, actual gods?”
* * * *
Agamemnon had drunk a lot of wine tonight. His finest warrior had fled with his boyfriend, and many troops had followed them. The war was not going well, not at all. He downed another goblet of the stuff, and snapped for his wine boy to bring him more. He snapped again. Nothing. Turning around, and the first sound of a yell beginning to seep out of his lips Agamemnon saw a pair of figures in black robes, each with a colored stripe running up one side of their garment. He set the cup down, and fumbled for his blade.
“Name yourselves. Where is my wine boy and how did you...”
He didn't finish. They pulled down their hoods, and he dropped to his knees.
“My gods.” He said. Poseidon and Zeus looked at each other. One rubbed their beard, having not shapeshifted from a clean shorn female form for the last few years, this thick beard was a stark change.
“Agamemnon,” Zeus said, “Poseidon and I have instruction for you, which you must follow to the letter.” Agamemnon nodded.
“Whatever you ask. Any sacrifice will be supplied.” Zeus waved a hand dismissively.
“That won't be necessary.” When he described what would be, Agamemnon was certainly confused.
* * * *
Kinan had slept in Apollo's throne, and woke up to a temple priestess bringing her a breakfast of cheese and grapes. It wasn't bad eating at all, though Kinan doubted the hygiene of the kitchen staff. She was lounging in the throne, kicking her legs back and forth, when Hector came running into the temple completely out of breath. She stopped kicking her legs and got immediately erect and godlike.
“What is it?” She asked. Hector bowed, and then fell to his knees.
“My lord Apollo, the Greeks have given us a gift, a giant wooden horse, the symbol of their god Poseidon.” Kinan rose to her feet. They weren't supposed to be doing that yet, it was way too early in the war for that! Then again she had messed up history... But then her mind snapped into place.
Of course. She'd gotten what she wanted. They'd noticed her.
“Take me to it.” She ordered. Hector rose, bowed again, and led her to the horse, which Jenny and Lametrius were already inspecting. Helen was walking around the horse, imitating the voices of Greek soldier's wives to draw them out if they were inside it.
“Why did you bring it inside the city walls?” Kinan asked Hector.
“The King ordered it my lord, the Greeks have packed up their camp and--” She walked past him. She'd read the book. The horse was big, and looked just like you've seen in the movies. She approached it, and ran her hand along the wood. Jenny and Lametrius approached her.
“There's no one inside it.” Jenny said.
“Are you sure?” Kinan said.
“Nearly positive.” Lametrius replied. “I'd have to crack it open to be sure.” Kinan nodded.
“I'll take a look inside it myself. Is there an entry point?” Lametrius pointed to a spot on the horse's belly. Kinan walked below it, and testing her legs for a moment, jumped straight up to grab onto the spaces between the planks of the wood. Lifting her legs up, she kicked out the hatch, as the crowd around the horse gasped, then swung inside it with an acrobatic leap. Kinan stared around in the darkness, and pulled out a flashlight, which she shone around the empty center. There was only one thing in the darkness: a single metal capsule. Approaching it, Kinan examined the markings on it, bringing the flashlight close to read the words.... Then stepped back, dropped the flashlight, and scampered backwards nearly falling out of the hole. Composing herself, she elegantly dropped down out of the hole, and tried to look as calm as she could as she walked towards her comrades.
“So what's in there?” Jenny said, throwing a rubber ball she'd somehow acquired up in the air over and over again.
“We have a situation.” Kinan said softly.
“What kind of situation?”
“They put a nuclear bomb inside of the Trojan horse.”
“What!?!” Jenny and Lametrius said in unison.
“Not so loud.” Kinan whispered, “The crowd is still here.”
“And why hasn't it gone off?” Lametrius asked.
“Because they wanted to wait till we were right next to it in case we-- Oh.” Kinan reached into her bag, and began running, she started pouring crystal dust in a circle, and Jenny and Lametrius followed. John and Miranda, who had been lazily sipping wine over by a haberdashery, leapt into action as well. The five of them made a circle of crystal dust around the horse, which Kinan struck with her sword, and a white swirling portal appeared inside of. The horse fell through, as Kinan crossed her fingers it wouldn't go off. Not yet, at least. As the ears of the horse sunk through the ground, she let out a sigh of relief.
“Hector, tell your father not to trust Greeks bearing gifts.” Apollo yelled as the swirling hole in reality closed.
Zeus and Poseidon were enjoying the attention from the Greeks, but they also very much just wanted to get on with trying to fix the mess in chronology that Kinan had caused.
“May we offer you more wine?” Menelaus asked.
“No, we're fine.” Poseidon said.
“Look, uh, my Lord. This whole war was stared because my property, you know, my wife Helen ran off with this guy named Paris because he 'treated me like a person' or something silly. Anyways, she's really really hot, and I know you're going to wreak vengeance on the city, but is there any chance you could get her back and make her into me again?” Poseidon and Zeus looked at each other, and each of them sighed internally.
“Look....” Zeus began.
“No.” Poseidon finished.
“Okay, yeah, that's cool I mean...” Poseidon shoved him away and walked to the portcullus of the ship. There was something falling from the sky.
“Arbiter.” She said, giving up on the beard, “We have a problem.” Zeus shoved her aside, and looked up at the falling nuclear horse.
“Well that's not good.”
* * * *
The mushroom cloud could be seen for miles. It had taken all of their efforts to shield the city from radiation, mainly with a portable shield generator they'd rigged up, but the truth was that they were low on crystal dust as it was, and very short on time. The city would likely die of radiation poisoning, and their crops and the fish in the sea were all either dead or poisonous. They'd have to evacuate all of Troy somewhere else. The blinding white flash had stunned the city, and they watched the Greek fleet vaporized from afar, not entirely aware what they had even just witnessed. The streets of the city bowed before them, and Lametrius and John looked fairly uncomfortable with it.
“Jesus Christ Kinan. You dropped the nuke on them. Jesus.”
“Maybe I finally have their attention. I was hoping the harp would be enough.”
Several minutes passed in silence, and then two black robed figures stepped out of a suddenly appearing swirling portal. Kinan looked into the crowd and saw a woman clutching a wooden stool to her chest. She gestured for her to come forward, and she did so. Kinan took the stool from her, sat down, and puled her harp out of her bag to begin playing it. The figured approached her, the city surrounded them.
“You moron. You killed every Greek who went into this war. You've ruined the history here. The Nuclear fallout alone...”
“You did that, actually.”
The other figure cut in, “We wanted you to run away! End your pointless game. We had safeguards in place so it didn't extend outside the city... But you ruined that!” Kinan kept strumming the harp.
“You seem to be at a complete loss as to what I want.” The two figures looked at each other, then crossed their arms in tandem.
“Okay, then, what do you want?” The male figure said.
“This.” Kinan replied.
“What do you mean, 'this', an ecological and chronological disaster?”
“No, for you to actually show up and listen to me. Do you even realize how hard it is to talk to you?”
“Dawn is a criminal and illegal army not recognized by the Last Firmament.” The female figure said.
“Yes, and thus, its very hard for me to get to speak to you.” The strumming continued. It sounded like 'Smoke on the Water.' “I called you, I sent ambassadors to you, I made friends with groups who you kicked out like the Knights of Sky. I tried over and over, yet you're willing to talk to a Council that burns whole worlds rather than me. So I did the only thing you couldn't resist: I burned history to the ground, and I did it dramatically. I played god, and got ontop of the high horse you reserved for yourself. Isn't it fun?” The Arbiter was becoming angrier.
“No, its not fun. The damage to this reality is nearly irreparable!” A humored sigh escaped the mask of Apollo.
“Now now gods, we all know that isn't true. Dawn is more than willing to help. As long as the resulting fix doesn't involve the casualties or war crimes that it would if it had run its course naturally.” The Arbiter gritted his teeth, then got himself new teeth and gritted those instead for a more satisfying sound.
“Fine. We'll fake the Greek army's memories. But for you to change history, you yourself will now have to go back in time before you went back in time and stop your own actions.”
“I'm not a newbie, I know how it works.”
“Only you can-”
“Yes. But for me to do that, you have to listen.” The Arbiter threw up his hands.
“Fine, what exactly do you want to talk about?” Kinan set down the harp and stood up. Her blue eyes shone through the gaps in the mask.
“You have a treaty with the Council. A Council who will burn whole worlds worse than the Greeks would burn this city. What if I told you I could make that treaty null and void, would you be willing to sign a new pact, one against their Empire? After all, they've basically made you into their tribute state. You're poor gods as it is.” The Arbiter crossed his arms.
“Good.” Kinan said, her face was the sun, and it reflected all things. The Firmament changed before her. “Then lets talk. An end to our war, if I bring you an end to your own subjugation.”
“Fine, but could you take that mask off already?” Apollo cocked his head.
“I'm not sure I understand, this is my face? Or perhaps you should go first. After all, I've always been the sun.”
Our hiatus continues with yet another bonus story! This one has been broken up into two parts, look for the second half soon!
If you missed it, check out our big announcement about the Finale of the serial 10,000 Dawns story!
If you're new to 10kd, you can read all of it for free below:
You can read this story in PDF or Epub formats below:
The Mask of Apollo (Part 1) by James Wylder
Lametrius carefully brushed the dirt off of the golden mask. Behind her, J-14 continually scanned her excavation, while Kinan and Jenny played cards on a mostly-flat rock. John and Miranda Vice were watching something on a tablet, while a few other Dawn members bustled around the dig site.
“Is it all dug out yet?” Jenny said sullenly.
“Hush.” Kinan said, playing a card that brought a scowl to Jenny's face.
Lametrius had finally worked away the excess dirt, and pulled out her flashlight, sticking it inbetween her teeth. It was daytime, but she wanted to see it shine, and oh did it shine. Gently, she lifted the mask out of the soil, and ran her thumb across it.
“Its in such good shape... I can't believe its so intact.” Jenny slapped a card down and swept a pile of cards up off the rock.
“Its so intact cause we traveled back in time to get it.”
“I thought it would be more, you know, melted.” Kinan folded, and walked over to the dig site. She hopped down into the hole, and looked at the shining mask.
“Huh.” She said. Lametrius frowned.
“You see one of the most beautiful pieces of goldworking in history, and you say 'huh'?” Kinan shrugged. “This is the mask of a God!”
“This is the mask of a man who dressed up as a god. Not that there is much of a difference.”
“Oh not this again.” Jenny cut in. Lametrius carried the mask out of the hole, and held it up to the sun. It was an important mask after all, and this was its counterpart. It was only right the mask of Apollo see the sun. It's features were perfect: some Trojan craftsman had put all their knowledge into this mask, and even a strong oponent of religon could see how someone could be taken in by its majesty. Without any pomp or grandeur, Kinan lightly took the mask out of her hands, and placed it upon her face. Turning to the group, she held her arms out as though telling the sun to continue its journey through the sky.
“Well, how do I look?”
She'd hate the truth, because she looked utterly like some sort of demi-god. With her binder on under her shirt, and the boyish features of the Apollo mask, Kinan took on an androgynous beauty out of myth.
“I think,” Miranda said, “that you're going to play the part in your plan perfectly.”
* * * *
The halls of the Firmament's government were older than time. Not that that was a sentence that particularly made sense, but it was true, sort of, maybe. At the very least people liked to say it was. Today though, the Courier of Stagnation was wishing that perhaps someone could have updated the internal transportation system. Maybe they could at least key her soul to the elevator so she wouldn't have to run up the steps? She was here to see the Arbiter of Chronology, and that was never the most fun. At least the Arbiter of Causality or the Arbiter of Infinity had a sense of humor. The Arbiter of Chronology on the other hand may as well have written a book on not getting people's jokes. Actually, he might have actually done that. She wasn't particularly sure anymore. She got to his thick Oak doors, and knocked. Then she knocked again. Eventually a hooded figure cracked the door.
“You know damn well why I'm here Lesser of Evils, and don't even try to pretend you're Greater of Good it still hasn't been funny since you started that last milenia.” The hooded figure awkwardly got out of her way as she barged into the Arbiter's office.
“Hey, Arbiter.” She said boldly. The Arbiter looked up, annoyed. “You do realize Dawn number 624 is having a massive, massive temporal disturbance right now?”
“I'm aware.” He droned. The room was coated in bookshelves-- and that wasn't an exaggeration. Bookshelves lined every wall, they were on the ceiling, somehow held in place from falling on their heads, and they sat below their feet. The Arbiter's desk was made of wood, but it too was stacked with books.
“I'm very busy writing history you know. There is quite a lot of it, and the annoying thing about it is it keeps happening. I really have a lot to catch up on.” Stagnation rolled her eyes, and moved to sit down. Books flew up from the floor to make a chair for her. She straightened her black robes, and tried to make the single off-center yellow stripe on them straight.
“If we don't fix this, we're going to have a serious problem on our hands. There are massive chronological repercussions to this, it seems very likely most people we were planning on having be born in that universe's future, indeed counting on, will not be.” He looked up from his book, and placed his quill in a holder.
“Its Dawn. They're changing things.”
“Dawn is always changing things. That's essentially their entire reason for existing. But usually they only manipulate later history, which is fairly innocuous.” She slammed her fist on a book on his desk dramatically, and he gave her a sour look. She pulled her hand back apologetically.
“Look, Arbiter, this is early history.”
“They wouldn’t dare. They know what happened why they tried to change the result at old Nojpeten…” She leaned in.
“They dare. You want to know what they did?” He sighed.
* * * *
Achilles walked in front of the Greek line, yelling his speech. He was talking them up, but also talking himself up. He hoped Patroclus was listening, after all, he was basically the cutest thing alive. He banged on his breastplate dramatically. Agamemnon and Menelaus were watching from the back. They were dressed in the best armor money could buy, but they knew who should go first. Looking up at the walls, Achilles had a momentary sense of doubt. Could they break these walls? Take Troy? He knew hypothetically they could… But in practice? He shook his head and beat his chest. He was a gorilla, or a lion, or… He tried to tell himself he was a man and cast out the doubts of his young age.
“Tonight, my Myrmidons, we will strike the heart of Troy, and they shall fear us for eternity!” The troops cheered, pounding the pommels of their spears into the dirt and yelling and chanting. Achilles soaked it all in, he was glorious, he was a--
“Fool.” A booming voice said from the walls of Troy. “Are you not aware this is my city?”
The gates opened, and the Myrmidons formed a shield wall, as a single figure walked out of the gates. The figure wore a long brown coat, and their face shone like the sun, molded of gold. In one hand they held a simple stool carved from a log, and in the other they held a harp. The figure faced the army, threw its stool down, sat on it, and began to strum out a refined melody on the harp. Everyone expected something to change but it just... Kept playing.
The soldiers looked at each other confused. Achilles was right there with them, but kept his calm. Looking back to Agamemnon, he hoped for an order. Agamemnon gestured to an archer, who notched his bow and carefully aimed an arrow at the harpist. With a downward chopping motion, he gave the signal, and the arrow let fly!
The harpist's hand moved like a whiplash, and grabbed the arrow out of the air, lightly dropped it on the sandy soil, and returned to strumming their harp. That certainly hadn't been what Achilles or Agamemnon expected. Achilles ran back through the lines to consult with the Kings. Most of them looked shocked, Odysseus was laughing his head off, however.
“That was downright impossible.” Agamemnon sputtered.
“We'll just wait them out, he'll have to get tired sometime.” Menelaus muttered. Odysseus laughed again, rolling his eyes.
“Meneleus, do you really think a creature from heaven or earth with the skill to grab an arrow on the air doesn't know exactly what they are doing in standing in front of us?” He chided.
“He's goading us!” Agamemnon yelled.
“How are we so sure its a man?” Achilles asked. All turned to him. Agamemnon raised his arms in greeting.
“Ah, our finest soldier. What insights do you have?” Achilles thought for a moment, Odysseus watched him. They met eyes, and Odysseus nodded, as if very curious what the boy had to say.
“They're trying to confuse us. It doesn't matter what action we take here, regardless of how we respond our men now know that the enemy can drop us to a standstill.” Odysseus smiled, and nodded to him. Agamemnon was a bit less calm, in that he began to throw a temper tantrum, yelling and kicking, and landing several blows on his cup bearer who crumpled over clutching his head, the wine he was carrying sinking into the ground.
“There's no need for that...” Odysseus said, with exasperation. They waited it out.
“Achilles!” He finally yelled, “Go kill that harpist.” Achilles nodded, and without another word began to walk through the lines to the harpist.
He reached the golden masked figure, and drew his sword. The music stopped, and the figure slowly raised its golden face to him. Beneath the mask, he could see pale blue eyes. Neither of them moved for a moment, Achilles' chest rose and fell, and he pointed his sword at the harpist.
“Arm yourself.” The harpist slowly tilted their head.
“Arm myself? What if I'm an army.” Achilles spat on the dirt.
“You're just a man with a boring sense of humor.”
“Am I?” It said back. “Someone really should have told me that before, I had no idea.” It began to play the harp again, and he thrust the sword under the man's mask.
“Fight me or die.”
“You can't kill a god, mortal. Didn't you hear what I said? This is my city.” Achilles felt his sword wobbling in his hands, and then it was pulled free! It flew spinning through the air, up to the top of the city walls. “Its time for you Greeks to go home.” Achilles was stunned, the troops were stunned, the kings were stunned. The figure resumed playing its harp.
“You can call me Apollo. I will go back in the city walls at sundown.” Achilles nodded, totally unsure of what he was suppose to say in reply to that. “Go, shoo. Tell your kings to go home.”
“They brought us here. Paris kidnapped Helen, Menelaus' wife and--” The god laughed.
“You really believe that? That the woman who taunts you every day from the city walls is here not of her own choice? You're being played for a fool Achilles. These men hold no love towards you aside from your skill with a sword. Do you really think they care for your life, or the life of your lover Patroclus?” Achilles blushed.
“We uh... Aren't lovers...”
“Achilles, don't lie to a god please its just embarrassing.”
“...Okay fine we're lovers.” Apollo threw his hands out.
“See? That wasn't so hard. Anyways everyone knows it. Well, aside from a few Historians who desperately want to ignore textual evidence who will say you're 'friends' but, they're the minority. You have a nice boyfriend. Don't die here with him.” Achilles took a step backwards, still facing Apollo, and then another, and then another.
He made his way all they way back to the lines of his men, bumping into one of their breastplates.
“Achilles, what did they say?” Agamemnon yelled, but Achilles didn't wait any longer. He pushed threw the soldiers, and made his way back to the camp. Finding his way to their tent, he pulled it open, and stepped inside, Patroclus sat up from the cot.
“Achilles, what...” But Achilles didn't say anything, he simply ran to his lover and kissed him.
“We're leaving.” He said, “This war is for fools.”
* * * *
“So do you see why we need to intervene?” Courier of Stagnation exclaimed. “They're ruining everything! That reality is going to be massively changed.” The Arbiter nodded, slowly.
“Well then, I suppose its time to take drastic action.” Courier smiled, good. “Its time for Dawn to face the night.”
Tune in soon for the dramatic conclusion! And make sure you visit jameswylder.com on March 3rd for the final chapters of the Serial 10,000 Dawns Adventure!
You've waited patiently...
...And now we can finally tell you when you can read the dramatic resolution to the 10,000 Dawns Adventure!
Dawn Rises March 3rd: The 10,000 Dawns Finale
For immediate release.
On March 3rd, 2016 the weekly journey readers have been taking for over half a year with the serial fictions story “10,000 Dawns” on jameswylder.com will come to an end, and a whole new set of futures will rise to follow it!
Written by James Wylder, and illustrated by Annie Zhu, 10,000 Dawns tells the story of a girl named Graelyn who is thrown into an alternate reality by a failed experiment, and finds herself having to confront paths in her life she never thought she could take. Filled with adventure, drama, and soft character moments, 10,000 Dawns is a unique Sci-Fi story about travelling through universes, finding yourself, and cats. With a steady readership eager for the conclusion, Mr. Wylder and Ms. Zhu have chosen to release the last three chapters of the story together on March 3rd, so the ending can be enjoyed to the fullest.
But that’s not all, long with three full chapters of the story, the finale will also include bonus features such as: Interviews with the creative team behind 10,000 Dawns, essays, A deleted scene from the Serial tale (that’s still canon!), and most importantly of all…
A preview of the exciting follow up, coming this summer: “10,000 Dawns: Anthology” which will expand and explore the universes of 10,000 dawns with all new adventures by writers such as: Josephine Smiley, Taylor Elliott, Jordan Stout, Elizabeth Tock, Luther Siler, Evan Forman, Genevieve Clovis, Brianna Stanford, James Wylder and more!
If you haven’t read 10,000 Dawns, now is the perfect time to catch up on the story (for free!) at jameswylder.com. There is also an audio podcast version of every chapter available (still for free!) from the Southgate Media Group.
10,000 Dawns Story Archive: http://www.jameswylder.com/read-every-chapter
Southgate Media Group Page: http://www.southgatemediagroup.com/10000dawns
Welcome to this week's 10,000 Dawns Bonus story! We'll have them each week until the finale to help keep your 10kd needs sated for the endgame. Also, if you missed it we got the results in for the Great 10,000 Dawns Bonus Story and Art Contest! So check them out if you haven't already: http://www.jameswylder.com/home/the-great-10000-dawns-bonus-story-contest-round-2-the-victor
Story by James Wylder, art by Raen Ngu
10kd is also available as a podcast from the Southgate Media Group!
You can subscribe to the podcast version on iTunes and your RSS feed easily from libsyn:
If you're new to 10kd, you can read the story from the start for free below:
You can download the latest chapter below in PDF or epub formats:
Bonus Story 9: Bad Friends, Better Weaponry
“This is your sword.” Kinan said.
“Kinan, every time we start training you don't need to give me the 'this is your sword' speech. I get it. Its my sword. I cut things with it. Its really important. If I lose it in a fight someone will take the opportunity to stab me really hard.” Kinan rolled her eyes at Jenny, and tossed her sword, still in its scabbard, at her chest.
“Fine.” Kinan said, “but your sword isn't just your sword it's-”
“-an extension of my body? It should feel like part of my arm? We've been over this.” Kinan frowned.
“You're in an odd mood.” Jenny shrugged, and drew her sword, swinging it around in a few practice motions.
“I'd just like to do something? You know?”
“There's not much we can do right now. Everything depends on what Graelyn and Archimedes are doing.” Jenny nodded, but looked even less happy. “Stop pouting and confess your feelings already.”
“Confess? No need to be so dramatic.” Kinan, without being able to change her facial expression, somehow conveyed the entire concept of, “Me? Dramatic? Seriously? I'm the dramatic one?” by just staring at Jenny. “Okay fine. But look, this isn't easy for me. I'm the one who does stuff in the Prime Universe. Its my home turf.”
“But its very difficult to time travel within your own universe. Not unless you're piggy backing off someone else. You'd get in their way. Or even stop them from being able to go forward at all if the Labyrinth blocks you.”
“I'd know what to do!” Kinan rubbed her forehead.
“Jenny, I trust you more than anyone else. You're the head of the Dawn Artemis Corp, for goodness sakes. But be honest with me, would you be good at a subtle infiltration into a group without showboating and starting seven fights?” Backgammon Jenny opened her mouth to respond, but closed it. She was right. Kinan didn't have to be so sassy about it, but she was right. “You're the best fighter in Dawn.”
“After you.” Kinan shrugged. “Oh, don't be modest.”
“Fine. And you've also got a real passion where I'm practical. You're good to have on the team. Along with Lametrius leading the Hermes Corp, and the Silent leading the Apollo Corp-”
“Couldn't they get a different name? 'The Silent', really?”
“-we have a near perfect organization. We all have different skills. We just have to hope Graelyn and Arch succeed.” Jenny dropped her sword on the grass, took off her sunglasses, and sat down on the hill, looking up at the floating blobs of water in the sky. She adjusted her poodle skirt, and pulled at the collar of her turtleneck.
“They might fail.”
“Then we'll be dead.”
“Yes.” Kinan sat down next to her, pulling the tails of her brown coat under her to protect her white pants from the grass, and looked up at the people swimming in the glob of water.
“Well, I guess if I die, I'm glad its here. Though I'd like to take you to see the Spinneret where I work there someday, if we can ever travel there.”
“I've seen the Spinneret.”
“But not my Spinneret. You haven't met my boss Kalingkata, my version of my boss Kalingkata, or...” She trailed off, and picked her sunglasses up off the grass, sliding them onto her face. “Never mind, it was a silly thought.” She rose, and looked behind her for her sword, which wasn't there.
“Kinan, where'd you put my sword?” Kinan raised an eyebrow.
“Oh come on, you don't have to do silly tricks to teach me some lesson about it. We've been over this.”
“I didn't touch your sword.”
“Then where is it?” The answer nearly took her head off. The sword was floating in the air, untethered to any visible person, and Jenny barely managed to duck out of the way in time.
“What the hell?” She yelled as the sword came down towards her again. She would have moved to dodge it, but Kinan flying kicked the air next to the sword, and there was a thud as she impacted the empty space, then another thud as she pushed the invisible figure to the ground. She hovered there, inches above the grass, perched on the figure's check like an incubus.
“You can come out now. I know you're here.” She whispered. One by one, empty spots in the air swirled into black cloaked figures, each with a bejeweled gauntlet on one arm, and their hoods up. A light blue stripe marked each of their robes, and none of their faces were visible as their hoods were up.
Kinan grabbed Jenny's sword, and threw it to her, which she caught perfectly, using the natural motion of the sword's thow as momentum to help move her body into a fighting stance. It was the kind of simple yet seamless gesture it took years if not decades to master, the kind an amateur wouldn’t be impressed with, but a master would recognize instantly. Jenny's black hair wafted in the breeze as she waited for someone to speak, or move. Kinan was the first to with the simple act of rising off of her invisible opponent, who took the same black robed form as the rest of them.
“The Knights of Sky. Funny you're trying to cut my apprentice's head off, since we're allies.” She hadn't drawn her sword yet. Jenny wondered exactly what she was waiting for. One of the figures stepped forward, and lowered their hood. It was Greggor, or so he'd been called before, the current leader of the Knights of Sky.
“Our alliance was based on the idea that we could have any semblance of control over ourselves. That time has clearly ended. The Prime Reality we're tied to has fallen. The war is over Kinan, and all that's left to figure out is who is going to be on the Council's good side, and who won't be.”
“I won't be.”
“I'm well aware. But we have the luxury of choosing our fate. Your head on a platter would certainly make the Emperors' days. They seem to like getting heads, specifically, so we're going to make an effort for that.” Kinan didn't nod, just stared.
“You're giving up. Just like that. Slaves without a fight?” Greggor scowled.
“We did fight. We left our home world, and let me tell you the Firmament is damn lot better than your Spiral, so we could take a stand against the Council when they wouldn't intervene. We've given everything for this cause.”
“Clearly not.” Kinan said.
“I won't condemn my people to die if I have another choice.”
“Its not like death is a big deal for your people anyways. They'll get over it.”
“You'll have to kill us.”
“Like I said, you'll get better.” Jenny looked between them.
“What do you mean they'll get better?” She interjected. They ignored her.
“You won't.” Greggor said.
“And we won't if you kill all of us. We won't be able to start the process.”
“Which we will if you try this.” The robed figures lifted up their gauntlets. Jenny had a lot of questions: how did these guys get onto Spiral unnoticed, how long would it take the frankly copious reinforcements they had around here to arrive? What if Graelyn and Arch failed and this was all for not?
“Let me just ask you one last thing: we know you're mounting some operation to try to stop the council in the past, but from what we've gathered your mission is just a band aid. It gives the Prime Reality more time with no guarantee it will even survive the conflict. Don't you realize how hopeless this war is? Do you really want to keep fighting a group so powerful that even a time traveling army can't stop them completely?”
“Why? Give me one good reason Kinan!” He was yelling now, the spittle flying from his mouth.
“To be free.” She replied. He lowered his arm, stared at her in thought for a moment, and in a motion that Jenny wasn't sure was covering his face or rubbing his eyes, removed his face from view as he said: “Let's get this over with. Kill them.”
This was by no means the first time Kinan and Greggor had fought. He was prone to challenging people to needless duels, and Kinan was prone to accepting them. She always won. But Greggor had never brought this many people to help jump her, after all duels need to at least pretend to be civil. Now the kid gloves were off, and Jenny wasn't sure what would happen. Kinan took a step back, and then another, and Jenny turned around and walked backwards as well, listening for the sound of Kinan's sword being unsheathed. Their backs touched. The sound she was waiting for happened. The figures encircled them.
“Any chance the cavalry will swoop in here?” Jenny asked.
“We've got this.” Kinan said, over-confidently.
There was stillness, and then violence. Bolts of lighting surged from the gauntlets of the Knights of Sky, and Kinan and Jenny burst into action. Both ran towards opposite members of the Knights, dodging the bolts, and Kinan unceremoniously slashed her sword across one of their chests. A thin blue light emanated from the hole, then blood in shifting colors spilled out, and then organs. The circle looked shocked. They'd fought together before, and they'd come to kill her, but the reality of death was not something they'd expected for themselves. Kinan and Jenny wasted no time taking advantage of that fact, even as Jenny was trying to overcome her own shock. They both beheaded one of the Knights in the silent moment of horror that had followed the first death. Rainbow blood sprayed from each falling body.
Then the fighting began in earnest. Kinan and Jenny were like one body in two places, working their enemies into vulnerable positions so the other could finish them off in, dodging and weaving to help minimize the number of blows and bolts of lightning coming towards the other, and giving up blows they could have made to give the other a better, cleaner, strike. Kinan would sweep the legs out of foes, while Jenny would leap across them, slicing their chests open before landing and drawing her sword against the body of the next one. Jenny would move quickly, feinting on one side before slinking around to the other while Kinan flanked them, leaving the enemy open to a blade through the chest from one side. Their blades were part of their bodies, extensions of their arms, and elegant tools of violence.
But it wasn't a contest. It was a massacre. Jenny wasn't even sure when during the fight Greggor died, but it didn't take long for the circle of the Knights of Sky to be rainbow bloodied corpses and detached parts. Backgammon Jenny's name implied a bit of risk in her life, her name came from a betting board game after all, but this wasn't fair odds. She hadn't realized their training had progressed to this point. Jenny panted, leaning on her sword. Kinan stood impassive.
“Jesus, Kinan. Did we have to kill them all?” Kinan turned to her.
“They'll be fine.”
“They're dead!” Kinan cocked her head to the side. “We killed them. You don't get back up after that.”
“They're part of the Firmament. Death is an inconvenience for them.”
“They said they couldn't get up if we killed them all. Kinan are you listening to me?”
Kinan walked over to a corpse, and pulled the gauntlet off. She gestured for Jenny to do the same, and soon they had a big pile of the gauntlets. Kinan reached into her bag without another word, and threw a handful of dust to make a portal, grabbing a stack of the gauntlets before walking through. Jenny grabbed the rest, and followed Kinan into the white swirl, where the pair walked through the Labyrinth in silence. Eventually, they reached the white door they were looking for, and kinan opened it up. They exited into a room filled with machinery, strange machinery that looked both industrial and dirty, and old, but also futuristic and beyond anything Jenny had seen.
“Where are we?” She asked, running her hands along a panel which had glowing letting floating above it.
“The headquarters of the Knights of Sky.” Kinan kept walking, and Jenny hurried to follow.
“Not a lot of sky here...”
“No.” There were rows of tanks as they kept going, filled with featureless, sexless, bodies that looked bluish.
“What the hell are these Kinan? They look like the Faceless.” Jenny had seen the Faceless many times in her job, naturally. The strange blue floating beings from an alternate reality that communicated via small electrical bursts rather than speech Graelyn and Arch had seen for the first time during their tour of a fallen world. But they also didn't look exactly like them either, they clearly weren't the same thing, but she wondered if there was a connection.
“These are templates for the Firmament to upload their consciousness into when they die. This way they preserve their memories.” Jenny pulled her hand away from the glass of the tube she was touching. The
“You mean.... They're going to be waking up?” Kinan nodded.
“They need a bit of help though. Take the largest jewel from each gauntlet, the one on the back of the hand, and put them in the slots by each tank. Jenny ran over to the gauntlets, and carefully slid out the first jewel. It felt strange in her hand, like holding a baby...
“Kinan, they tried to kill us.”
“So why don't we just leave them dead? They're traitors.”
“Because they didn't kill us. They made a rash decision to protect their friends.”
“So?” Jenny said, gesturing with the rock.
“So, we're reminding them they have other friends. After all, they're not the only person in this room who got a second chance after trying to kill someone, are they?” Kinan made eye contact with Jenny through the dark sunglasses she was wearing in a dark room. Jenny wanted to fold into the darkness. She didn't want to think about that... What she'd nearly done all those years ago... She pushed it out of her mind. Kinan was right. She didn't want her to be right, but she was right.
“Okay. Let's resurrect these jerks.”
The pair went to work. Jenny plugged the rocks into the sockets, while Kinan operated some sort of complex holographic switchbard. Eventually, the machines in the room began to whirr and hum.
“Just a matter of time then.” Kinan said, wiping her hands off.
“So, who exactly are the Knights of Sky anyways? I mean, this is weird stuff.”
“The Knights of Sky broke away from the Firmament, but managed to get a hold of one of their old rebirth facilities and relocate it here. Without it they'd be-”
“-Just as mortal as everyone else.” Greggor said, pulling a robe on as he rose from where he'd slid out of his tube.
“Greggor. I'm glad to see you're alive. I brought your gauntlets back.” He looked down at them.
“...I tried to kill you.”
“You did. And if you do it again, I know where you live and I'll break your rebirth pods and you'll be just as dead as everyone else who dies. But we're allies, and I'm a woman of my word. You made a mistake. Don't make it again.” She started walking away, just like that. Jenny really wondered why she couldn't have conversations like a normal person. Greggor stared silently at her as she walked away, and then nodded to himself as his comrades slid out of their own pods. Jenny looked around at them, flashed a peace sign, and scampered after Kinan. They walked in silence for a time, through a portal, and through the Labrynth, till they arrived back on Spiral. The dinosaurs had already started eating the corpses of the Knights of Sky's old bodies.
“Kinan, did you know they were going to jump us like that?”
“Ah. I thought it was some kind of lesson for a bit there, still. You know, don't leave your sword lying around, its important, that sort of thing.”
“I won't lie, it was pretty timely. Don't leave your sword lying around. Its important.” She sighed, Kinan was right, again, of course.
“So what are we going to do now?”
“Get back to training. We have a war to fight, even if we lose it.” Jenny smirked.
“Always the soldier.” Kinan threw up a peace sign.
“My eyes are always on the prize, Jenny..”
Lets start off with this: wow, there was a lot of voting! Our first Bonus Story Contest had quite a bit of people chiming in on their story pick, but this put it to shame. Literally 2.5 times the number of votes were cast this time around as were in the first contest! That's amazing. I had no idea the turnout would be so big for this, and I'm really honored that you guys were so interested (and competitive!) for which story ideas and artists got picked.
So to review, the nominations were...
Part 1: Best Story idea:
-Attack of the Glass Spiders From Mars
-A David Bowie Tribute
-A Star Wars Pastiche
-An Alexander Hamilton AU
-Weird and Wonderful Adventures on Spiral!
Part 2: Best Artist for the Job:
So, the winners of the second Great 10kd Bonus Story contest are....
Part 1: Best Story Idea
Part 2: The Best Artist for the Job!
"But wait, there's more!"
Voting was extremely close this time around. Even with the immense number of votes, most categories were separated by a single one. After some discussion with Olivia, we decided it would be best to include a second and third place option, to help bring the other most voted on stories to light at a later date. Therefore, congraulations to our second and third place winners:
2. Chase Jones
3. Rachel Johnson
Chase will be illustrating a future 10kd Star Wars Pastiche, and Rachel will be illustrating an Alexander Hamilton AU! These stories will show up sometime in the future! Your passion for these story ideas was infectious, and we're happy to oblige you in making them a reality ^_^!
A New 10,000 Dawns Theme Song!
If you missed the announcement yesterday, the amazing musician Alex Rose has contributed a brand-new song to 10,000 Dawns as our new theme song! It's called "Space Adventure" and you can download it for free today!
You can find Alex Rose on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/Alexroseandthemagicalacoustic
And her Bandcamp (with another free download!) here: http://alexroseandthemagicalacoustic.bandcamp.com
Thank you so much to everyone who voted, who submitted ideas, and to all of the artists who put their foot out there to be a part of this. Your support in making 10kd has been phenomenal, and I'm happy to keep making it for your enjoyment. The whole 10kd team does to.
Love and dinosaurs, -Jim
Some important news before we start! If you're listening to our audio version (which is still a bit behind) this week you're going to notice we have a new theme song! The amazing Indianapolis musician Alex Rose has contributed our new theme song, "Space Adventure"! Its a wonderful song that really hits both the joy and sadness of 10,000 Dawns, and we really hope you enjoy it. Its going to be on her new album "Written All Over You" later this year, so keep a lookout for it! As a special treat you can download an MP3 of the song right here:
You can find Alex Rose on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/Alexroseandthemagicalacoustic
And her Bandcamp (with another free download!) here: http://alexroseandthemagicalacoustic.bandcamp.com
Second, check back here tomorrow for the results of our 10,000 Dawns Bonus Story and Art Contest. Voting was intense, and went right up to the wire, so you won't want to miss the results!
Third off, yes, this is the last 10kd Chapter for a few weeks (but not story!). We'll be dropping the last few chapter all in one bundle in a few weeks, and we can promise you it will be worth the wait! Till then we will have bonus chapters filling in the gap, so you won't be going a week without 10kd in your life! Its been a joy bringing this story to you, and I can't wait to see it to the end... -Jim
Art by Annie Zhu, Story by James Wylder
All chapters are now available as a podcast from the Southgate Media Group!
You can subscribe to the podcast version on iTunes and your RSS feed easily from libsyn:
If you're new to 10kd, you can read the story from the start for free below:
You can download the latest chapter below in PDF or epub formats:
Chapter 25: Half-Millenia Monsters
Dave Barker wiped the sweat off his face. The bomber was diving too fast, and the controls weren't responding. After all the flack they had taken, he wasn't surprised, but he still tried` jerking the controls, flipping the switches. He knew he was dead, but he still tried. He looked at the picture of Katherine he had pinned up on the console. He sighed.
“Our lives are just, corporeal tangents you know.” He said, stirring the coffee a year and a half ago.
She laughed, “What on earth does that even mean?”
“It means that our souls are eternal, we live on in our spirits and the lives we touch. Bits of us live on in humanity, we keep around bits of our history just by the act of existing. Each of us is just a corporeal manifestation of a part of the larger story of humanity, a tangent that is going to end someday in a grave. But though the tangent stops, the writer always gets back on course, and takes us somewhere new, carrying on parts of the past, not the best or the most good parts, more important than that, the parts that mattered enough for us to make as corporeal in our own flesh.”
“You are a pretentious snot Dave.” He smiled, “I am, but I honestly believe that.”
She raised her cup of coffee in a sort of salute, “Then maybe sincerity is part of your tangent.”
“Maybe I can be part of yours.”
“Is that your pick up line? A giant rambling pseudo-philosophical rant? Seriously.”
He shrugged, “I can't do anything better than a rambling rant, especially the pseudo-philosophical kind.” She smirked. “Then maybe sincerity is something I can get behind. At the very least, it will make an interesting tangent.” He'd made her that pin, and now she'd never see him--
He looked behind him, there was a woman there in a slightly baggy grey-white jumpsuit with a strange metal collar, she had a helmet in one of her hands, and glasses on her face.
“No time.” The woman pulled out something like a blow torch, and burned out a chunk of the floor in a split second. Jerry had come up from the back and was staring as well. She reached in, and placed a weird thing like a disk with metal spider legs in the hole, which began gyrating and whipping its limbs around. He felt the controls responding to his touch, and he jerked the plane back into the air.
“Special agent Graelyn Scythes. Don't ask how I got on the plane, its classified or something. Oh and look, I have a pin that looks just like yours, remember that.”
“Dave what's going on?”
“Shut up Jerry. Now Dave, lets get this plane back home.”
* * * * *
They landed to some surprise, and there was a big bustle as people ran up to the airplane. “How did you make it out alive?” the usual banal banter you get when people survive an ambush.
Graelyn rolled her eyes at the soldiers and officers who questioned why she was here, and flashed her forged identification, and then saw the base commander whom she showed her forged letter from FDR to. Knowing where she was going had its advantages. She didn't pay too much attention through all of it, She heard a big mix of “its an honor to have you here” and sexist 1940's garbage. She took the boat back to the country called the “United States” with all the enthusiasm of someone forced to go on a vacation they didn't want to. She tried to enjoy herself, to see the sights and taste the treats, but it all felt hollow. The boat rocked on the ocean as she sunned herself on the deck reading a book. The captain had protested, but she had a letter from FDR. She read a paperback copy of “the Great Gatsby”, a book about a man who tried to bring the past back by building his own private empire. But the past didn't come back and somebody shot him dead. “You can't bring back the past.”
“Oh but you can, old sport. You can.”
She rubbed her eyes from under her large sunglasses. Everyone wanted to go to the past it seemed but Graelyn, and she was the only one doing it. Life was often ironic and unfair. She thought about Arch, longing for his lost family. She could see him turning into Gatsby, rebuilding his home and trying to replicate his strange dead society... But it wouldn't work. She looked out at the ocean and it felt as far away to her as her own passions. She closed the paperback, finished, and turned over to sun her back. This tangent had no meaning to her, but at least she could get a tan.
* * * *
She was greeted at the docks by many men in military uniforms. She wished there had been some women in the gang sent to find her, and was sorely disappointed by the past.
“Graelyn Scythes?” A man in a very starched uniform said.
“Thats-a-me.” She replied.
“By the order of the United States Government, you're under arrest for forging executive documents.”
“Am I?” She replied.
“You treasonous dog.”
“I'm not a US Citizen you know, I'm actually Russian.” He scowled.
“I literally celebrate Alexander Hamilton's birthday as a holiday, lets not get carried away here.” The man's scowl deepened.
“I have orders to take your disrespectful self to meet with the President himself. Now I don't know why he wants to meet with you...”
“Because I'm a hero, now get me in the car already.” She sighed, leaning on the rail of the gangplank. He narrowed his eyes.
The White House was a museum, in Graelyn's time, and she'd visited there when her Father in Annapolis had gotten some visitation time with her. He'd shown her through the building, telling her facts about the different rooms. She'd even gotten to sit in the President's chair. The museum didn't get that many visitors, but it got enough to keep itself funded. She had spun around in the chair a few times while the tour guide texted his boyfriend on his cellphone, and imagined ruling a nation from that spot.
“I could get used to this.” She had thought to herself.
“Come on Graelie, I'll show you the picture of your favorite.” Holding his hand, they walked to the painting of Alexander Hamilton. She stared. Slowly, they made their way through paintings of other important figures.
“Who is that one dad?”
“That,” her father said, “is Franklin Dellano Roosevelt. He, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin helped win World War II together. He also interred people from Japan in camps during the war.”
“You mean Japanese spies?”
“No, just everyday people.” She nodded, and they moved on. She wished, as she was led through the White House while it was actually used, that she had paid more attention then. She was wearing her dress clothes again, rather than the spacesuit, so at least she looked nice, even if she was still looking massively anachronistic. A man led her to the President's office, and opened the door. Stepping in, she saw the silhouette of a man at a desk, a think line of smoke rising from a cigarette in a holder in his mouth.
“So,” FDR began, “you're our mysterious visitor.”
“And you're the leader of the Former Uni- of the United States of America.” An eyebrow raised on the man's face, and he gestured for her to come closer. He didn't look as ominous up close. He looked tired, ill, old. “My name is Graelyn Scythes.”
“So I've been told. You saved one of our airplanes, popping in out of nowhere on it, and then saved the pilot and the crew from certain death. Then you used a forged letter I never wrote in order to get through several layers of security.” Graelyn nodded, taking a seat in front of the desk.
“Yep, that about sums it up actually.”
“So then, I think you owe me an explanation.” Graelyn shrugged, reached into her pocket, pulled out her tablet, and switched it to hologram projection mode. She then pulled up a hologram of a man walking on the moon, not Neil Armstrong obviously, just a guy taking a casual stroll, with the Earth in the background. The cigarette fell out of FDR's mouth, smattering ash on the desk.
“I'm from the future.” She said. He nodded dumbly. “I've been sent here by the... United Nations Time Policing force. I'm here to retrieve another member of our personel that...” She was lying now, and winging it, and hoping she sounded believable. “...felll into enemy hands. It could upset the United States winning the war.”
“Good God, another one of you.”
“I mean, another time traveler. You get briefed on this when you become president, but I assumed three was going to be my limit. And none of them showed off their...” He waved at the hologram. “Usually they just shoot something in the office dramatically so it vaporizes, or show me a picture of my funeral or something.
“Ah.” Graelyn said.
“So, one of your agents has fallen into Nazi hands?” Graelyn nodded. FDR rubbed his forehead.
“Do you know where?” She shook her head. “What's he look like? What's his name?”
“Well, he's entirely coated in armor that acts like TV screens-” a knowing look came into FDR's eyes, and she stopped. He picked up is phone.
“Bring the file on the Machine-Man in here imediately.”
“Ah.” She said again, maybe this would be easier than she thought.
“We were already planning on sending a mission there, an airdrop.”
“Could I request Dave Barker be a pilot on the mission.” FDR picked up the cigarette, and puffed it. The smoke was noxious, and clearly filled with carcinogins. Graelyn scrunched her nose up.
“I suppose so. We'll simply add you to the mission roster. Let you take care of your buisiness.” She nodded.
“I do have one more question, sir.” He gestured with the cigarette for her to continue. She noted he was mainly using that arm. “Why did you inter the Americans of Japanese heritage during this war?” He puffed, and his face lowered so his glasses were white ovals of light.
“You have to do these things in times of war.”
“I mean, do you?” Graelyn pondered.
“If the people aren't secure, you can't have a people.” That had seemed true to her for so long. Her mother had weaned her on that. If she could be stronger than other people, she was free. If she could have something to ruin them, some security like Arch's offswitch code, no one could hurt her.
Said the people who hurt her. She felt a bit dizzy, but she asked the next question.
“But if you treat your own people like they are your enemy, if you hurt your friends to show your other friends you are strong and that people who like hurting the innocent won't hurt them while you're hurting the innocent, isn't that kind of messed up?” She decided that might be too coloquial, and added, “Doesn't that sink you from the moral high ground?”
He looked up at her, “I take it that decision is not remembered well.”
“Only by those who look for excuses to hurt the innocent while looking like saints.”
He nodded, and they sat in silence. After a few minutes, he gestured for her to leave, and she did so. The next day, she was on a plane to Europe.
Graelyn sat in the cockpit with Dave Barker. She was wearing her spacesuit, which kept her totally warm, everyone else was wearing thick jackets and breath masks. They'd be dropping by parachute just outside the compound, and working their way in. The Nazis were being pushed back towards Berlin, so she had no idea how many people would still be guarding this base, but hopefully not many. They flew through the clouds, and started to descend to the altitude they would drop from. Dave gestured to her, and she saluted, and made her way back, leaving a folder on her seat. She hadn't given him much info, but damn it, he deserved to know something.
“Agent Scythes,” The ground commander Captain Noble said, “are you ready to jump?” Graelyn nodded, her parachute was already on her back. They waited till they were in position, and then a door in the side of the plane slid open. One by one they jumped into the darkness.
“I'm coming Arch.” She thought. “I'm not leaving you behind.”
* * * *
“Ah, you're finally awake.” Said the man in the black uniform with the scarred face. “My name is Doctor Heisman, do you know who I am?” The machine man nodded.
“You asked me that yesterday.” Archimedes said. “And the day before.
“Just seeing how you are managing to cope without food and water.” He didn't tell them he had internal stores of both, and that he was operating in low-power mode anyways. They still worked at least, not like some of his systems.
“And what, pray tell, is that?” Heisman said, gesturing to the deactivate orb. When they'd landed in that field in Germany, it had switched off. The impact maybe? Maybe it had lost its connection with its masters? Maybe he'd just pulled on the right thing in its insides.
“Its a modern art piece I made, its fractures represent your fragile masculinity and constant need for affirmation.” The doctor's eye twitched, and picked up the crowbar. Angrily, he smacked Arch in the head with it. Once, twice, three times, ten times, twenty times... The cracks on his helmet where they had been focusing their blows grew.
“Where do you come from?”
“Who sent you here?”
“Your mother to tell you how disappointed in you she is.” Smack.
“Someday I will just kill you, and figure out how you work.”
“I'll just explode if you do that, so that will be fun for both of us.” He wasn't even lying. Arch had been trying to keep doctor Heisman busy. When he tried to get information out of Arch, who was shackled up against the wall with exceedingly thick chains and manacles, he forgot to experiment on the twins, and that was something Arch would take as much pain as possible to prevent. Luckily for Arch, he could turn his pain receptors off. He was fairly certain he had a skull fracture right now, but he didn't feel it. Occasionally, the doctor and his aides would try to look through the gashes in his sides the Orb had made. They didn't know what they were looking at, luckily. They also tried to look inside the Orb, and Arch secretly wished they'd accidentally activate the thing again. The twins were huddled together, or their equivalent of that when the Nazis were in the room, which was to sit together with their arms touching. Their heads were shaved, and they looked ill. From what the guards had said, these weren’t the first set of twins they'd had in the builing. From when he'd spoken to them when they were alone, he'd learned they were named Lala and Mirela, and were from a group of people called the Romani. He tried to give them a reasurring look, but wasn't sure he could in his curent state. His carapace flared with broken images. The doctor stepped back, in sudden awe. Then one of the side doors burst open.
“Sir,” a Nazi guard said, running into the room, “We've been found.”
“What do you mean we've been found? This base is buried inside a mountain.” The guard was sweating.
“Sir, I mean there is a girl and a group of Allied soldiers. She has some device that is opening all of our doors.” The doctor gestured with his crowbar.
* * * *
Corporal Halsey took out the last of the guards in the room as Graelyn ran to the next door, tablet in hand.
“I still can't believe what you're doing.” Captain Noble said. Graelyn shrugged.
“Its just an app. I downloaded it for fun a few years ago.” Old mechanical locks like this were nothing when you could just move all the parts around the electro magnet in her tablet. She didn't even have to do anything, she just put her tablet up to the lock and pressed the button.
“What's that on your.... Screen?” Noble asked.
“Oh! That's a yogurt ad. Its a free app, so, you know, it gets supported by ads.” He nodded, clearly not entirely understanding.
“Ope, all done.”
* * * *
Doctor Heisman was nervous. This wasn't supposed to happen. He had security, damn it, and they were supposed to stop things like this from happening. The allies couldn't possibly be able to manipulate locks, dead bolt seals... They couldn't! But they were, so now was no time to question it. He looked at his experiments. The twins, the machine-man, the orb. He gritted his teeth.
“We need to get rid of the evidence. Especially the other twins.” The remaining guards had entered the room.
“We need to prepare for a stand sir!” Said the captain of the guard.
“No, we need to-” They were cut off, as main doors to the chamber flew open, and a group of Allied troops including of all things a Russian teenager ran into the room. She held a black rectangle, they held rifles. The guards who raised their guns were picked off, swift shots to the head by trained marksmen. After this, the smart ones dropped their weapons. The teenager ran over to the machine man, and stroked his face.
“Oh God Arch, look what they did to you...” There were holes in his sides, and electric shock devices had been stuck in there. She carefully began to unclip them and pull them off. Doctor Heisman tried to flee, but was tackled by an Allied soldier, who gave him a rifle butt to the face.
“Jesus,” one of the soldiers said, kneeling by the twins, “sir, these are just kids over here.” The surviving Nazis were disarmed, and cordoned off in a corner of the room with armed guards, while the rest of the squad began to look through it. A medic began attending to the two children.
“I'm alright, Grae.” Arch said, his voice was modulated and distorted. His carapace flickered as he spoke.
“No, you really aren't.” She moved her hands along his injuries, “How bad do your damage sensors say it is?”
“...Well a lot of those are broken.” Graelyn shook her head, doing her best to patch him together how little she could.
“Why did you save me Arch? I should have been the one in chains. I tripped, I...”
“You're my friend.” She wanted to argue, she really did, but she just nodded. The Captain tapped her on the shoulder.
“Agent Scythes, when you have the time we found a locked door we can't open.” She nodded, and examining Arch's chains, pulled the blowtorch out of her bag.
“Ma'am, I think those chains are too thick for a blowtorch.” She wanted to say, “Not one from the future.” But she just gave him a sly grin, and did them in.
“Will you be okay Arch?” He tried to stand up, but couldn't.
“I'll just rest for a bit.” She reached out to put her hand on his shoulder, but pulled it back.
“I'll be right back.” The Captain led her to the door he'd spoken of, and she passed the twins who were slowly trying to eat some soup while a group of soldiers tended to them.
“Are those kids okay?” Graelyn whispered to the Captain. He shook his head.
“From what we've gathered their parents are dead, and the Nazis have been doing experiments on them.” Graelyn's eyes widened.
“You can't be serious.”
“I'm afraid I am, ma'am.” She looked at the kids. One of the soldiers was singing them a silly song. She looked at the marks on their bodies that weren’t even hidden. She thought of her mother, and how this made that look like a cakewalk. She felt fire rise inside her. She looked back at the Nazis in the corner.
It had been 500 years since the Nazis when she was born. They were boogeymen, evil phantoms of the past. Now they were all too real to her. It was like the version of them in her mind was one of a cartoon, and here in front of her was the real effects of it: starving, beaten, tortured children. She was all too aware this was real now, and her skin quaked. She shook her head, and lowered her tablet to the door. She activated the app. The little loading icon appeared, and then a big red X appeared “Lock damaged internally! Can't unlock!” That's wasn't normal. She felt the door around the edges: it had been melted shut into its frame. What was so important they would bother doing that, hastily and shoddily even, instead of leaving? Graelyn pulled out her blowtorch, and began to work around the edges. When she finished, she waited for the door to cool down, and then tested it to see if it moved on its hinges. It did. She smiled at the captain.
“You don't mind if I do the honors, Captain Noble?” He shook his head.
“All yours, Agent Scythes.” She tugged the heavy door open a crack, and slipped through.
There was a moment where no one could see Graelyn and the room was silent aside from the soldiers trying to cheer up the children. Then she walked back into the room, her tablet hanging loosely from her hand, then clattering to the floor. She shook gently, her eyes wide and full of lines of red. She nearly stumbled over and put her arm against the wall.
“Agent Scythes what-” Agent Noble began, but she interrupted him. She thew up, keeling over to her knees, still shaking. Arch looked worried, and tried to get up, but couldn't. Noble hurried over and put a hand on her. “What's wrong?” She looked up, her eyes boiling over, tears running down her face, and her hand reaching for the Captain's sidearm.
“Give me that.”
“Ma'am, you said you didn't want a gun when-”
“I know what I said. Give it to me.” She whispered. Hesitantly. He handed her the gun. She staggered over to the Nazi prisoners, the Allied guards eyed her warily as she approached.
“What did you see in there, Scythes?” Noble called, but she just kept walking.
“You. You did that.” She looked at the scientists, doctor Heisman in particular.
“I.. How could you I...” She began gagging again, and threw up a second time. She staggered up and pointed the gun at them. Noble ran after her, holding his hands up and getting up along side her.
“Hold up Graelyn, don't do anything hasty.”
“No this isn't hasty. This—Captain, you don't want to see what's in there I promise you.”
“There's nothing that could provoke you killing these people.” She looked at him like she had seen hell. “Okay then, tell me what you saw. Lets be reasonable about this.”
“There is nothing reasonable in that room, reason is the opposite of what is in that room...” Her eyes welled up again with tears, “there are bodies in there sir. Children's bodies. Twins. Dozens of them...” She backed up, losing her breath, supporting herself on the wall again for a moment before raising the gun again and gesturing towards the prisoners. “And they weren't just dead they were... Desecrated. You can't even imagine. You don't want to see it. I want to unsee it. How could you do that? To other human beings? What kind of person would you have to be?”
She saw the room where her other self had cut into Johnathan.
“What kind of monster?”
“We were just following Heisman's orders!” One of them yelled, pointing at the doctor, “Please!”
“Just following orders?” Graelyn's voice was loud enough to echo through the building.
“JUST FOLLOWING ORDERS? There is no order that could justify that.” Graelyn walked towards the doctor, and placed the gun against the doctor's head. “I should shoot you right now. You deserve it.” She waited for him to reply.
“They aren't real people.” He finally said. Her finger tightened a little on the trigger. She imagined she pulled the trigger. His brains blowing out the back of his head. She needed to kill him. He deserved it.
What kind of person doesn't fall?
She thought of Arch, and how he didn't kill Manuel, even when he could have. She thought of herself, in Songbird's world, and her crimes against humanity. That wasn't the real her. She knew that, deep inside. She wasn't a monster. She had to not be a monster. She wouldn't descend to their level. She wouldn't meet this injustice with terrified bloodshed. She took a deep breath, and lowered the gun, stepping back.
“Captain, please relieve me of this firearm.” He nodded, and took it from her palm. Graelyn slumped to her knees she looked doctor Heisman in the eyes.
“After this war there will be a trial, and you will be hung.” He scoffed. “I'm not showing you mercy. I'm showing you justice, and the world will see what you did here. Its not my job to punish you. Your victims will get to speak out against you, and you will crumble under their voice.” She got up, feeling weak, and went back over to Arch, she slumped down on the wall next to him.
“You did the right thing.” She rubbed her eyes.
“I'm not sure I did.”
“You're not a monster, Graelyn.” She nodded. They sat in silence. She reached over, and held his hand.
“We can't dally here, we need to get you to a place you can be repaired, and get the orb to a place someone can use it to prepare.” Arch nodded, as much as he could.
“What if that was the same place?” Graelyn raised an eyebrow.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, that Heirum J. Whitehead guy owned a tech company right? Maybe he can do what we need.” Graelyn mulled it over. It wasn’t a bad plan, really.
“So there would be a big tech company working on a way to fight the Council for a few hundred years. That sounds like exactly what we're looking for.”
“If that's so, how do we get there?” Graelyn looked over at the broken orb.
“I'll just have to fiddle.”
As Graelyn went over to the Orb, the twins came over to Arch.
“Hey, how are you guys feeling?” He said, fuzzily.
“How are you feeling?” Mirela replied.
“I asked first.”
“Terrible, but better.” Lala answered.
“Same here. But you kids, you've got to stick together. You're family, that means something.”
“Its just us though....” Mirela said softly. Arch nodded, and then gestured to the Captain.
“What is it? You feeling alright?” Noble said squatting down.
“I'm fine. But we're going to have to leave here and I need to know these kids will be taken care of after the war, whatever that means.” Noble nodded, and smiled at the girls.
“I'll keep track of them. We'll make sure they're provided for.” Arch felt something shift inside him, and was glad he'd turned his pain of... But it was still terrifying even so, and if the system broke that turned off the pain...
“I'm glad to hear that captain.”
Graelyn fiddled. Cursing she reached in, pulled out two cords that resembled the tendrils on the Pantheon alien she'd met before, and with a disgruntled sigh pushed them onto her temples, closing her eyes and waiting for the inevitable mental battle. She scrunched her eyes up, and steeled herself.
“Please input a command!” A voice in her head thought.
“Oh thank God for once this is easy.”
The orb roared to life, its carapace lighting up in crystalline cracks and swirls. Graelyn thought about the date she needed to go to, and the Orb lit up.
“Warning: systems damaged.”
“Can you manage one more trip?”
“Systems will focus on procuring one more time-space jaunt. Further uses may result in complete atomic breakdown of the nearby area.” She sighed, one more hop it is.
“Arch, are you ready to go?” He nodded, and with the help of the soldiers, moved him over to the orb. Captain Noble took off his hat, and rubbed his scalp.
“So, what exactly are you going to be doing with... Whatever that is?”
“Tear a hole in reality in order to hop over to the future to prevent a future invasion from an alternate dimension.” He opened his mouth, but kept his teeth closed. “You'll be fine, its over half a milenia in the future. Anyways we're trying to stop it.” She looked over at Arch. He really didn't look in good shape. “You holding together?”
“My pain inhibitors are breaking down.
“Ah.” She said, and picked up the neural link cords.
“You might want to step back guys, we're about to do wonders.” They did. “Good knowing you guys, Captain, troops, twins.” She saluted. They all did to, well, the twins waved. Arch weakly waved back. Graelyn plugged herself into the orb, and its spiky limbs sprung to life, weaving a portal of blue light, and tearing a hole in the world that they dove through, leaving behind yet another past.
* * * *
Doctor Heisman was led to the gallows after his conviction. Captain Noble, and his unit, as well as a pair of Romani twins he was apparently looking after had given unflinching testimony. The conviction was unquestionable. He tried to keep his head up as they put the noose around his neck.
Someday, he thought, white people will rule this world with the lesser races in their place, and I will be remembered as a hero. He dropped. It wasn't quick.
His feet turned gently in the breeze. After some time, his left shoe fell off.
* * * *
“It’s not working right!” Graelyn screamed, banging on the side of the orb. Arch could only weakly nod. They shifted and jinked, falling this way and that, and then a white hole opened up below them, and they crashed and rolled onto the ground. Graelyn tumbled, her suit absorbing her impact, mostly, as she came to a stop next to a chunk of concrete. Arch fell like a rag doll, and stopped, unmoving. This was absolutely not what was supposed to happen. Graelyn rose to her feet, and looked at the sky: it was filled with strange vessels, some of them raining what looked like molten gold down on the city below. The city burned. She looked back at Arch, and seeing him unmoving ran to his side.
“Come on Arch, don’t give up now, come on…” She shook him gently, and me moaned. “Oh thank God…” She inspected his form, but wasn’t sure what she needed to do. His anatomy was so different!
“I’ll be right back Arch, I’m going to find some help.” Graelyn scampered up, her head was still dizzy from the landing, but she couldn’t wait. She ran across the scorched earth, and came up to the crest of the hill. A sign in Cyrillic said the date:
“Come ring in the new year with Centro News! 2496 is right at your finger tips!”
“Oh no.” Graelyn whispered, as she watched a skyscraper tumble onto the streets below. “This is Moscow. We’re too late. We’re too late.”
Next week, we'll be back with a bonus story, as well as the week after.
Then, in three weeks time be ready for the final dramatic chapters of 10,000 Dawns: Serial! Dropping all at once, with bonus features! Get ready, its going to be good...
Poet, Playwright, Game Designer, Writer, Freelancer for hire.