Written by James Wylder, Illustrated by Annie Zhu
This chapter is also available as an audio podcast from the Southgate Media Group.
You can also subscribe to the podcast version on iTunes and your RSS feed easily from libsyn:
I'll be participating in a Charity fundraiser podcast marathon this Saturday, August 1st for Ben, a young boy who is fighting cancer. During the Marathon I'll be reading an exclusive 10,000 Dawns Spin Off Story about Mister Sprinkles the Cat (as chosen by readers!). The story will also be posted here with a link to donate to Ben's fight. You can find out more about the marathon at the link below! Please tune in and help!
Chapter 4: There's More to the World Than you Realized
Graelyn was utterly shocked when she returned to the cafeteria.
“Arch.” She said breathlessly, “You have a hat.” He did indeed have a hat, a top hat, and on the front of his mask slightly above where the mouth would have been was the image of a cartoon mustache. Next to Arch was Jerry, who had a concerned look on his face. Across from them on the other side of the table was Dan, as well as Layla and Yossara.
“Dan gave it to me.” Arch said, waggling the mustache on his face. Graelyn blinked, and reminded herself that Arch had enough weaponry to kill them all a few times over.
“Okay.” Graelyn said.
“We're playing 'Robespierre' Jerry said pointing at a board game box. Graelyn nodded.
“Ah. Game night. Or whatever time it is.” She really had forgotten.
“Want to join in? Arch is just about to kill off the Girodins, which means he'll win and we can start a new round.” Graelyn hated game night. She avoided it at all costs whenever possible, and usually hid in her room saying she had work to do when it came up.
“Are top hats and mustaches period appropriate to the French Revolution?” She asked blandly.
“No, we were playing 'Steam Trains of Callisto' before this, and we thought it'd be funny.” Layla said, holding up the game box, which had a man with a top hat and an exact replica of Arch's mustache on his face. Graelyn nodded again. “I'll watch.” She said plainly, and sat down, back straight, hands on her lap.
The game was fairly interesting to watch, if a bit predictable. Every player was a different faction in the French Revolution and had to try to get the other factions executed either one at a time, or all at once. Once a player died they got to play as the 'mob' and tried to screw everyone over. Graelyn didn't know much about the French Revolution, and she couldn't tell if the game was actually educational or not. She was pretty certain that it was at least more educational than 'Steam Trains of Callisto'.
Arch was pretty good at the game, though he ended up losing to Yossara after she framed him for trying to smuggle an aristocrat to England. The whole table thought this was hilarious, for some reason, and Arch seemed pretty adept at making it funnier for the group by projecting weird things on his body, culminating in his own execution by guillotine displayed on his chest, where after his head was separated from his body and raised to the crowd, his mustache waggled, causing Jerry to fall out of his seat. Graelyn sat calmly, observing the whole affair. Wiping a tear of joy, Yossara stuttered a bit through the last bits of her laughter before asking,
“So, when did you get down here? I wasn't informed we were having-”
“He's a special project.” Graelyn cut in. “Mr. Aril wants to see how he works in the undersea environment.” Yossara frowned slightly, “And he left you to manage him?”
“He's not much trouble, getting the coffee doesn't take that much of my time. You guys have important work to do.”
“Of course.” She replied back.
“Speaking of which,” Dan said, “I'm actually ten minutes late for my shift. Not like Daria will care, but still.” He grabbed the top hat off of Arch and waved goodbye as he headed off. The others began packing up the games.
“Well, I hope your special project sticks around. He's ended up being a lot of fun.” Graelyn gave a faint smile.
“Well, the life of a special project is a weird one.” Arch said glumly, handing Jerry some cards. The game club headed out, and Arch looked over at Graelyn. He waggled the mustache. No reaction.
“So... What do you do for fun around here?”
“Not that, clearly. We have some time before things are ready.” She stood up, and gestured to him. “Come and see.”
Arch looked at the mini-sub warily. “Are you sure it can take my weight?” Graelyn had already ran off to the lockers to get into a wet suit, and was re-tying her hair back as she walked out.
“Yeah, I'm sure. I managed to pull you up with one of those you know.”
“Still, I might fall through the bottom.” Graelyn shook her head.
“I checked the internal weight limits. You could fit the crew of a ship in there. Well, not by mass, but you get the picture.”
“Gotcha.” Arch climbed the ladder up onto the sub, which did unbalance it a bit, but didn't flip it, and slipped into one of the passenger seats. Graelyn dropped into it, and closed the hatch.
“So whats the name of this sub?
“What do you call it?”
“I'm not good at coming up with names.” She said, flipping several switches, and Arch felt the sub roar to life beneath him before dampeners activated and the sub was silent as a 1910 film.
“This is where I go to escape.” The sub began to dive, and exited the city, its search lights cutting through the darkness. Graelyn fiddled with something on the touchscreen on the dashboard.
“Do you like music?” She asked. Arch shrugged, “Yeah, sure.”
She tapped a few things into it, and after a few moments of silence, Arch heard the sound of violins. The music started soft, then slowly rose like it was reaching towards the surface of the water, before diving quietly back down. As it played they surged through schools of fish more brilliant than rainbows, and through a rock trench that was filled with weird tube like creatures. As they did, a new movement started, this one more somber. Arch wasn't sure what wind instroments were playing, but they wove in and out of the strings as though participating in some slow dance. The ocean seemed the perfect place for this song. Something large and dark slipped by in the distance. And then, the strings rose! He could tell Graylin pushed harder on the acceleration. It wasn't even fast, but after that feeling of darkness, it felt so much brighter. The piece closed, and Graelyn looked over at him expectantly.
“I liked it. What was it?”
“Mozart's 5th Symphony.”
“Oh. I don't think I've ever heard it before.” She looked pleasantly surprised.
“Good. Most people say 'I thought the 5th was the one that goes 'dun dun dun DUN!'?' but that's Beethoven. I've always loved Mozart's 5th, even though no one knows it. Its frustrating at times, but I suppose it makes it mine in a way. Still, I actually wish more people were familiar with it. You almost never hear it.”
Arch thought a moment, “I'm not really familiar with what music people like.”
“You don't seem like the kind of guy who would.”
“I wonder though, it didn't have... A melody that sticks in your brain easily?”
“No, it doesn't. Its not catchy in the traditional sense, it doesn't have a hook. But it seeps into you. Or, at least it seeped into me.” Graelyn stopped the sub, and held it steady over the trench they'd passed over before (they'd apparently made a loop) letting the fish swim by again.
“Do you have a favorite song, Arch?” Arch thought hard.
“I haven't really put thought into that before.”
“No one has asked?”
“No one has asked.” Graelyn pulled her legs up onto her chair and tucked them into her chest.
“Well then, special project, I'm all ears.”
“I'd like it if you wouldn't call me that.” Graelyn didn't look so much sorry as though she had updated an internal spreadsheet. “Understood, Archimedes.”
“I guess... I like ride of the Valkyries by Wagner?”
“Richard Wagner. Interesting choice.” Graelyn reached over and tapped the screen a few times, pulling up the song, and playing it.
“Is it a bad choice?”
“A lot of people don't like Wagner. He had a lot of views that haven't aged well at all, to put it nicely, and well, the Nazis were super fond of him.”
“Nazis?” Arch said. Graelyn raised an eye brow.
“You're kidding right?” Arch shook his head.
“Should I... Know who the Nazis are?”
“Arch, do you know what that board game was based on?”
“I'm guessing it was based on a story about some sort of revolt in a fantasy land called 'France'. The manual had a lot of background info. Was it based on a book series?” Graelyn's eyes got incredibly wide.
“Arch, you said you were born on a spacestation. What did they tell you there about the outside world?”
Arch looked away from Graelyn, out the window into the faintly lit sea of shadows, “They told us there wasn't one.”
On the way back, Arch asked to hear Mozart's 5th again, and they were silent as the sub came back into port. Both of them waited for the last minute of the song to finish before disembarking. Graelyn went to the lockers to get changed again, and Arch stood out on the dock area, the only living thing in the room, silent as a manikin.
Graelyn emerged, dry and ready to go.
“Graelyn, one question.” She nodded for him to go ahead and ask.
“Did you go into my systems while I was asleep?”
“Yes. I didn't realize you were a person at first. I only discovered it when I realized your files were memories...” She felt a pang of guilt in her throat. She turned away from him, covering her face with her hands.
“I'm sorry.” He shook his head, “Its okay. I doubt you've seen anyone like me before. You were just examining a piece of junk you found.” He gently put a hand on her shoulder. She slowly lowered her hands.
“I don't feel like its that simple.”
“It is. I don't blame you, its okay, stop worrying about it. If I'm going to be down here, I'll need a mechanic anyways. Just consider that your first observation as my mechanic.” Graelyn exhaled, and nodded in relief. She felt like she had almost crossed a line drawn in the ocean's waves. She never wanted to hurt another person, even unintentionally. Taking a deep breath she put a smile on and turned back to Arch.
“So then Archimedes, are you ready to see why we built a city under the ocean?”
Near the center stood a man in an argyle sweater vest over a dress shirt, a tie loosely hanging around his neck. Despite the sign noting otherwise, he was smoking an electronic cigarette, the vapor rising up from it at regular intervals with a small blue glow.
“Who’s the hunk of iron?” he asked, as though he had turned away from looking at the gyroscope.
“I think its something for a special ops project. I’m showing him around.” The man nodded, and glanced at the nape of Arch's neck as though that explained everything. A woman in a lab coat who Arch guessed was Polynesian in origin looked up from connecting a big tube to look incredulously at the man, “Really Mr. Aril? You're not going to inquire further than that.”
“I know what I'm doing. Get back to work.”
“So, what is this place?” Arch asked. The question caused Graelyn to grin wildly.
“This my new friend, is a portal between dimensions.”
“You can make those? I thought that was something out of science fiction?” said the towering cyborg who had survived the crushing depths of the ocean.
“You can.” Said the man at the center of the room. “Or rather, we can, and we will.”
“But really, you shouldn’t.” said the man who had suddenly appeared in the room along with an equally towering figure that was identical to Archimedes but black and with no coat. The man finally looked away from the gyroscope, his e-cig going limp in his lips. “How on Earth did you get in here?”
Graelyn could hear Dr. Kalama mutter something about not asking that a minute ago, even as she backed up. “And where did you get one of those?” He continued, pointing at the black colored version of Arch.
“One of those?” Arch asked, getting no reply.
The man began looking around the room as though he was looking at a child’s science fair project.
“Decent, fairly decent. You haven’t stabilized the holding pattern though. No wonder you're using such touchy methods of finishing the project. Not that it matters. I’m here to shut your operation down.”
Grae’s boss chuckled at that, “really? On whose authority?”
“I work for a people who regulate things like this. You’re about to mess with the barrier between universes, and that is something I’m afraid I simply cannot abide.
“I'm on the board of Directors of Centro systems. I can do what I want. That's the reason we have a corpratocracy. I would have heard of an organization like yours. Surprise: I haven’t heard of such an organization.”
“A small species like yours wouldn’t have.”
Graelyn raised an eyebrow to that, as did Hiriwa, but Aril stayed stoic as though that was a normal thing to say in conversation.
“Even with one of those on your side, you're outnumbered, and there are security systems that were never listed on the plans if you've been snooping on them. There’s no way you can take us all down.”
“Oh really? Did you forget where you are?” As if on cue, the doors began to open. All of them, all over the base. Graelyn scampered from Arch to a switch board which she began to operate at intense speeds. Arch could hear the water coming into the base, rushing through the halls, as the gyroscope started spinning. The man who had appeared began yelling at Graelyn’s boss, who yelled back, and the black carapaced Arch began to move towards Archimedes. Arch shifted his shoulders, and pushed out swords that were apparently loaded in his arms as his opposite marched towards him, casually batting a man in a lab coat from his path as he did so. The opposite’s blades extended, and he began to raise his arms in a fighting stance, till Arch felt someone tugging on his arm. He began following the tug by rote, only to turn and see Graelyn leading him towards the spinning gyroscope which was now…. Glowing. “I turned it on!” she yelled over the din, “You'd better hope I was right about Tubol Cain!”
The water surged in, smashing men and women off their feet, or forcing them to clutch for their lives to tubes and consoles. The yelling intensified, and Graelyn and Arch stood right in front of the spinning machine. It was hard to tell where Aril was, maybe he'd left. Graelyn saw Dr. Kalama knocked off her feet, and the hand of security guard reach out for her before a rush of water blotted them out. The water was rising rapidly.
“Jump in it.” It did not look exactly safe.
“Are you crazy?”
“We’ll drown!” He felt like saying, “No, you’ll drown.” But then again, yes, she would drown. And whatever this was, it was dangerous. She looked at him, waiting, the water rising around her feet, the dark Arch sloshing towards them. He felt her grab his arm as a wash smashed into her side. Arch looked at her one more time, she bit her lip, and he stepped into the spinning glow.
Where will Graelyn and Arch end up? What's on the other side of the Portal? Did the experiment work? Is the cat okay? Find out next week, same cat time, same cat place for the next thrilling chapter of 10,000 Dawns!
And don't forget to check here Saturday for the charity bonus story!
Written by James Wylder, Illustrated by Annie Zhu
This chapter is also available as an audio podcast from the Southgate Media Group.
You can also subscribe to the podcast version on iTunes and your RSS feed easily from libsyn:
I'll be participating in a Charity fundraiser podcast marathon for a child with cancer, more details at the link below. I'll be reading a special 10,000 Dawns side story on the air, and you can help chose what the story will be about! Post your ideas in the comments below! What you want to hear could be a new short story, and help a good cause.
Chapter 3: The Metal Man
Graelyn was still wringing the seawater from her hair as she looked at her catch. It hadn’t been easy to bring him inside, he weighed an incredible amount, and the little sub had strained and strained to pull him up into the station. She hadn’t been able to lift him herself, so she’d used the sub’s arms to load him onto a cart on the side of the docking station. She’d tried to move him herself out of curiosity, but mainly just ended up getting herself very wet.
“What secrets do you bring?” She said to herself, only to mentally chastise herself for sounding like a crazy scientist in a film.
Its face was an oval with one eye, on it's right side, and the rest of its face was a flat blank. Its fingers were segmented, as was most of its body, but it was in the shape of a human male. On the nape of the neck it said its name was “Archimedes” along with a serial number. Weirdly, it was wearing a trench coat. Graelyn ran her fingers along the material-- it was clearly some durable polymer, but the outer layer was transparent, and she couldn't think of who made anything like it. Was it a pose-able mannequin? A robot? She felt around, and noticed a few hidden bolts. Taking their covers off, she carefully unscrewed a few, and looked inside. There was an intense network of electronics and motors inside him, and from the way it was laid out she was guessing the outer layer of the carapace acted as one big screen. Maybe it was an automaton meant to display ads on its carapace? Closing the limb up, she explored further and found a latch on the back of the head with a standard data port in it. She plugged into it without a second thought, and as the drive she connected to loaded up, she suddenly felt invasive. She pushed the thought away, it was just the automaton's hard drive. The files were arranged by date, but one folder stuck out to her: 'hidden files'. She looked at the blank one eyed face, and clicked it. There were a ton of videos in it, so she just scrolled a bit and clicked one at random. She saw a first person perspective of this unit watching a Hispanic man in a blue jumpsuit with a wrench adjust something on its arm. The date in the corner was from seven years ago. She could see rows of similar units to the metal man all still and silent, and another man in a black blazer with red and white stenciling on the lapels and breasts smoking an old style cigar, not even an e-cig. “Raise your arm.” The arm raised in front of the camera. “So much can happen when you're asleep can't it?” The man turned to the camera and said in a Central American accent, “I think its about time you wake up today, no?” These were memories, these files were this person's memories. This was a person. She felt a rush of terror and power flow through her, and scrambled to exit the system. This was labeled hidden files. Why would that be in a person's brain? It can't access this.
Graelyn dropped the tablet, and pulled the cord out of the metal man's neck, slapping the latch closed. She put her hands over her face, and then lowered them trembling. There was silence, her heavy breathing filling it, and then a gentle humming began.
“You're awake.” He heard, it wasn't a question. It was a statement as clear as the existence of matter. Yes, he was. Exactly why he was awake was a different question. He tried to move his limbs.
“Shh, its alright. Stay calm. I've been examining you. It says your name is Archimedes Von Ahnerabe on your carapace, if you don't mind me using the term?” He found he could still nod, so he did.
“You've got built in weapon systems in your limbs, and even
if you didn't your arms are strong enough to literally pull me in half, so I figured it would be best to take some caution till I knew who you were.”
“Who are you?” he said, his voice sounding tinny and water logged.
“Graelyn Scythes, I'm an intern here at project Atlantis.”
“Never heard of it.”
“I also rescued you. You had quite the fall, and you're very heavy.”
“Thank you... Does anyone else know I'm here?” Graelyn
shook her head.
“No, but don’t get any ideas. Most of us keep to ourselves here. We're all working on
the same project, but I can't say any of us are particularly... Social. My boss wants this project done, so I'm doing it. Even though I don’t get to actually do much. Pays pretty well. Well, for
“Could I sit up?” Graelyn had almost forgotten.
“Oh, sure. Its not like you could get out of here alive if you tried to hurt me anyways.” She wandered around his body, and made a few adjustments. “Should work now.”
Archimedes sat up, keenly aware that her hands had been inside his limbs. It wasn't very different than a doctor messing with your insides he supposed, but it still felt funny. He tested his fingers, and got down from the table with a “thud” that rattled the room. Graelyn took a step back.
“No need to worry, I'm not going to hurt you.” She nodded,
though it wasn't the most reassuring thing in the world. It was one thing to know logically someone had no reason to hurt you, and another to stand in a room next to a
walking tank coated in enough airtight alloyed metal to not be crushed by the ocean, who knew you'd been messing with his servos. “Er, follow me,” she said. Graelyn lead him into a hallway filled with
portraits and sculptures of various sea gods and myths. Whoever picked them out wasn't too picky, and a lot of them just had to do with water. Arch stopped to look at them.
“You alright?” He nodded, “My family raised me on Greek Mythology. They're all gone now, but I still love it myself. This one is Odysseus trying to get home, over there is Artemis bathing and punishing the hunter who watched her, Poseidon's wrath...” He trailed off, and Graelyn wondered if patting him on the shoulder would be the appropriate response. “Never mind,” he finished, “its in the past.”
“I've always found the oceans fascinating, its one of the reasons I came here. Though the project itself isn't about that.”
“What is it about?”
“I'll show you later for now lets just get lunch.”
Arch looked around the vacant cafeteria, built large enough to house a feast for a small town, with its few dozen occupants munching away on this or that.
“This is... Weird.” He intoned.
“Yeah. Mr. Aril built the whole place as a front for this project. Its pretty large. He wanted people to think he was trying to build cities on the bottom of the sea floor and iron out all the problems people had had with that so that it was, you know, workable.” She walked over to the empty lunchline, and then to a touchscreen machine. Arch watched as she tapped a few buttons on the screen and a soft buzzing followed it, immediately joined by a meal dropping down onto a tray below the screen.
“Its a printer.” She explained, “It makes all the food down here from component parts. Its pretty good. Not up to real cooking, but you know, that's what happens when you sign up to live in a fake underwater city for a mysterious rarely seen benefactor.” Arch nodded. Sure, that's exactly what that's like. A common experience. He tapped the touch screen a few times, and chose a dinner of nutrient paste. Graelyn scrunched her face up at that, but he didn't care. This was home cooking.
The pair of them sat down at a table together, and Graelyn began cutting into an artificial chicken breast that had previously been a bag of deconstructed protein. Archimedes pulled a tube from underneath his mask and stuck it in the hot bowl of smooth nutrient soup.
“So, I have to be honest, I haven't ever seen a person like you before Arch. Are you from the rim? I hear the Rimwards out there are super keen on body enhancement, but it looks like you took it to another level.”
“I'm not from the Rim.” Arch clarified. Or didn't. Graelyn nodded and put some seasoned carrots on her fork. “So you're military then?”
“No. Not military.”
“Neither Earth nor Mars.” Graelyn furrowed her brow.
“You're a bit more complicated than I was anticipated, unless you're lying. Which honestly seems the most likely thing...” She chewed the carrots, swallowed them, and repeated the motion. They tasted a bit like honey and chilli peppers.
“But lets assume you're telling the truth.”
“If you are, this means that your answers probably are showing you come from a technicality. For instance, you weren't born on Earth, but Luna. Or perhaps you were born on a space station that is in the inner system rather than past Mars.”
“One of those is right.”
“Well this is a fun game. I'm from Russia, if that matters. You know, Mr. Von Ahnerabe, your last name is the weirdest part for me. I mean, there are a lot of weird things about you. You fell down the depths of the ocean, and didn't die for one, but also you fell in the middle of the ocean. You had to have gone quite a bit aways from shore to have dropped that far. At first I thought you were a spy, but you haven't acted like a spy.”
“Maybe I'm just a bad spy.”
“Hardly. You have enough firepower built into your carapace you could have killed every single person in this base twice over and maybe just had to take a water break.”
“My suit keeps me constantly hydrated.”
“Great! So no water break when you kill me.”
Archimedes suddenly looked awkward, “Okay, I'm not going to kill you. I mean, no. That's not a thing that, no, not that.” Graelyn smirked, “Well that's pleasing to be aware of. So why are you here.”
“I fell out of an air vehicle.”
“Fell? You really should work on securing yourself on your overseas journeys.”
“I was pushed.” She stirred her orange juice, “So this was an entirely unchosen journey. You had no idea we were here imitating John Galt.” Arch searched his memory banks, and returned no results about John Galt.
“I'm afraid I'm not familiar with the name.”
Graelyn made a subtle dismissive gesture. “Its from an old book my Mom made me read, this man named John Galt makes a city in the mountains where all the richest, smartest, most powerful people can seclude themselves from the rest of the world and leave it to die.”
“Does the world end in the book?” Graeyn shrugged, “Its been a long time since I read it, I only ever did once. I think we're supposed to assume it did.” Graelyn looked up at the ceiling, which was a glass passage for sea animals to swim through between the stories of the main compound. There were brilliant yellow fish, and some so clear you could see their veins and organs.
“No, I mean, the world clearly didn't end. That's the thing, there isn't ever really an apocalypse is there? Something always lives on. There's never really a cleansing.”
Archimedes was silent. Graelyn wen't back to her food. She'd probably said too much again.
“Are you familiar with Tubol Cain?” Graelyn shook her head as she ate some potato wedges.
“Its a myth from the apocrypha of this book series called, 'the Bible'.”
Graelyn laughed, “You talk about it like I might not have heard of it.”
“You're a fan to?”
“I wouldn't call myself a fan, but I'm familiar with the basic plotline.” She enjoyed carefully wording that response.
“Well, the book is connected by this being called Yahweh, who is a God.” How fresh off the boat was this guy? Graelyn jabbed another wedge into her mouth to obscure any tells she had, and the thought occurred to her, wherever this guy's boat came from, it had to have been rather secluded.”
“Yahweh goes in between all these characters, and sort of like... Influences them and sends them on missions. Its similar to how my gods do things, but Yahweh doesn't have to deal with any of the intra-Pantheon squabbling so it goes a lot easier for the God.” Graelyn nodded, this was more entertaining than Archimedes knew, but not for the same reasons he thought it was.
“So anyways, Yahweh had made some humans, Adam and Eve, and made this pact with them they could live in this awesome place away from everyone else, but they broke the contract so Yahweh kicked them out. They had some kids named Cain and Abel, and Cain killed Abel cause Yahweh liked Abel better, or something, and Cain got cursed. A bazillion years later, Yahweh decided to end the world in flood cause- oh sorry I left out an important bit. Yahweh has these servants called “Angels” they're pretty neat. Like, its probably why the God doesn't have to put up with a Pantheon. Anyways, some of these Angels decided to mate with humans, and had monster children called Nephilim. Yahweh thought this was messed up, and also realized the Nephilim were convincing the humans to be jerks to each other, so Yahweh was like, “screw it, I'm going to flood the whole Earth and start over!” Which can't have gone well with the other deities, but they don't deal with that part so I just have to imagine how those conversations went down. Yahweh decides a few people are going to be spared, just this guy named Noah and his family and their families. But this guy named Tubol Cain, at least according to the spin off books, he snuck on their boat and hid out. When the flood stopped Tubol Cain went off by himself, as this... Sort of lone survivor of this other way of living. Maybe it didn't deserve to survive, but it did in the form of him.”
Graelyn sipped the rest of her orange juice. “Its a pretty interesting story.”
“I always thought so. It reminds me of your John Galt story. I mean, isn't it just sort of naive to think that other people won't find a way to survive if you leave them to die?”
“That's what I didn't like about the book John Galt is in. Even if you buy the overall premise, the end doesn't work. They'll hide themselves away, but they won't spring up to claim the world when the rest of the world has died, there are too many Tubol Cains, and someone will find a way in the end. By hiding, they just ruin any chance they had of becoming the great people they wanted to be.”
Archimedes rolled the tube up from the empty bowl, and tucked it under his mask.
“So why are you hiding under the ocean then?” Graelyn was silent, and looked back up at the fishes.
“That's a complicated question. I'm not sure I can answer it.” Something large and dark swam above her head. “Maybe I'm searching for something.” Whatever it was, its tail swished in the shadows.
“Do you have any idea why we're down here?”
“None at all. Aside from it apparently not actually being a city.”
Graelyn looked back at Archimedes. She was still perplexed he was here at all, sitting here in front of her, his nearly featureless mask staring back at her. She wasn't entirely sure what the point was, but he'd certainly arrived.
“Yes. Yes that is the case. You know... Maybe that's been the problem.”
“That it's not a city?” She shook her head, “No, I mean, that we're trying to start something new, be explorers forging our way on our own... But that's just a story isn't it? Explorers find things because they follow in other people's footsteps, or get lucky or...” Graelyn's eyes went wide. Arch had no idea what she was thinking.
“Or hitch a ride on someone else's boat! Of course! We're not Noah, we need to be Tubol Cain!”
Arch wanted to nod, but that would almost feel dishonest under the circumstances.
“Sure. I guess.”
“I've got!” She stood up, her face beaming.
“It only took me a year but I did it!” She bolted out of the room, running into a chair on her way, and continuing down the hall way. Arch looked around the cafeteria; no one seemed to be really paying attention to him. He wasn't sure what to do with himself, so he kept seated. So many things were out of his control today.
Graelyn ran as fast as she could, hindered only by her skirt being a bit less functional than it could have been. She rounded the corner to the main facility, and ran in. Aril and Dr. Kalama were pouring over some data, both looking somewhat bored. “I figured it out! Dr. Kalama! Mr. Aril! I figured it out!”
“You got the Cappuccino maker working again?” Hiriwa asked seriously.
“No, I solved the problem. I figured out why the machine isn't working.” Hiriwa rolled her eyes.
“Miss Scythes, we brought you here on this internship so you could learn, not interf-” Mr. Aril waved a hand to cut off Dr. Kalama.
“Miss Scythes, you believe you have a solution?” He asked. Hiriwa grunted.
“Right now the machine is attempting to sort of... Carve into another dimension to put it roughly?”
“Yes, very roughly.” Hiriwa answered with a bit of spit.
“Well if the premises of the experiment are correct, there are an infinite number of alternate realities, including one where this experiment to cut through into another reality has not just already been successful, but is being successful at a concurrent moment.”
“Go on.” Aril crossed his arms.
“What we need to be trying to do is piggy back onto that attempt. Calibrate the machine not towards the fabric of another universe, but so our portal is linked with their own portal.” Graelyn looked up from her tirade of information hopefully, her eyes glinting with excitement.
“That's the same baloney as sitting there saying “maybe this will be the reality where another reality will cut into from their end' its not worth our time.” Hiriwa said.
“But its not-- we're familiar with our own device, it should be a lot easier to link it with itself rather than attempting to make a stable link with an unknown universe.”
“You're just--” Aril gave Hiriwa a look, subtle but clear. She became quiet.
“Recalibrate the machine. We'll try intern Scythe's idea. Its not like anything else has worked so far.” Aril walked away, and Hiriwa glared at Graelyn before walking off to begin her work. Graelyn felt her heart pounding, her skin flush. This would work, she knew it. All of this waiting would lead to the greatest scientific discovery of her lifetime. Things had been so stagnant here, nothing moved, but finally it would. Finally.
She watched them begin to modify the machine, and then she remembered she had just let an unauthorized cyborg with built in weapon systems on the station and left him alone. Her eyes widening for a different reason, she scampered out of the room.
Come back next week, July 30th, to find out what will happen when Graelyn finds Arch... And whether or not they can travel to other dimensions! Things are heating up in Atlantis so don't miss Chapter 4.
Written by James Wylder, Illustrated by Annie Zhu
This chapter is also available as an audio podcast from the Southgate Media Group.
You can also subscribe to the podcast version on iTunes and your RSS feed easily from libsyn:
This Chapter features a song, you can find it here:
Chapter 2: The Lost Kingdom of Capitalism
Out in the ocean, there was a city. Not a city in any way that was really recognizable as one-- there were no skyscrapers, or parking-lots, or massive glowing signs. Instead, there were mushrooms: great bulbs of steel on stilts settled down deep on the ocean floor, nestled in the darkness. Graelyn could see them through the thick spotlights being poured on them for her convenience: the massive pieces of architecture that could house far more people than were actually living in them, not that she knew that yet. The bulbs were linked together by tunnels of some transparent thick material that held back the sea, and she was surprised how many windows there were.
“That's Hydrosight.” She could almost hear the words “Trademark” slip out after it, “Its John Aril's invention, a pressure resistant transparent material. Its what they're using on spaceships now-- its really expensive to make, but its as strong as what they make star dreadnaughts out of. Of course the military demands a huge discount, capitalism be damned.” Of course the military did, that was their job as the last real vestige of the United Nations (or any government for that matter) that still existed anymore. Centro Corp tolerated their existence, only in the way one might tolerate any sort of necessary evil. If they could rule the solar system through profit alone, they would. If they could rule the solar system at all they would. Sinking beneath the Atlantic, Graelyn closed her eyes for a moment and felt the rules slipping away. There was no Centro down here, no military, just John Aril's vision.
“Will I get to meet Mr. Aril?”
Dan shook his head, “No, Director Aril is a very busy man.” He emphasized the word Director, and Graelyn knew instantly what kind of man he was.
Director was a very special title, the kind of title everyone on Earth wanted to have, and few would ever get. In a land of equal opportunity, Directors were more equal than anyone else. Once you got the title of Director, you were part of the corporate Oligarchy for life. Some chose to take a direct part of the day to day running of Centro Systems, but most chose to take the title and run with it, using the lack of regulation it provided to essentially do whatever the hell they wanted. And by chance if you were a person who made their underlings correct new underlings about calling you a Director instead of Mister, you were probably an asshole.
“I see.” Said Graelyn. She respected John Aril immensely, he was the kind of person she wanted to be: a free and powerful scientist, no holds barred, doing what they wanted. A fish swam by the viewport, it was blue. She closed her eyes again. Maybe being the kind of person who forced people to call you Director was what she needed to do-- no one would walk on her, no one would push her down... She took a breath, and opened her eyes. The blue fish had swum back, a bit farther away now. “Its amazing you're building a city down here-- do you fish the fishes?” Dan laughed, “You really don't know do you?”
“You don't fish the fishes?”
“This isn't a city. Its a laboratory.” Graelyn blinked, and looked back at the huge steel mushrooms. She'd been anticipating helping to build a sustainable underwater community away from the surface, away from people, away from everything, but she didn't feel betrayed or lied to. Her eyes grew wide. Curiosity grew in her. The cat meowed in its cage on the surface. She turned to Dan, fully invested, not even caring that she really didn't like him at all, “So what are we here for?” He grinned, “I'll show you.”
* * * * *
The bathysphere connected with the station, and Graelyn made her way with Dan through the hallways that alternated between industrial steel with uncovered rivets, to what was nearly aesthetic excess with long corridors of thick transparent material that had works of art molded into its very form so that it was like walking through some sort of witch's ice palace. She supposed the duality fit a man like Aril, she knew very little about him personally, but she knew that he'd modeled his spaceship to have its front shaped the ancient Egyptian God Anubis' head, but was also a keen pragmatist who tolerated little that didn't advance his goal. “A man of art and means.” She muttered, hoping Dan wouldn't comment on it. “Precisely, you see, Aril...” He didn't say anything useful as he droned on for the next few minutes, so I'll spare you. Graelyn didn't have that luxury, and tried to remain polite to the person she'd be in close proximity to for the next... How long would she be down here anyways? Dan put a pass code into a door, placed his hand on a panel that took and tested a sample of his DNA, and stepped aside as the door opened to let Graelyn see exactly what was going on inside.
The door opened to industry: men, women, and people outside the gender binary were hard at work on what looked like a boring steel box the size of a building. Cords were being attached to large ports on the side, and people rushed in and out of a set of doors in the front of it. The area around it was largely paved, with holes for various tubes and cables dotting the artificial landscape. The room was huge and open, which seemed like a big waste of space for the amount of money it would have taken to make underwater, the ceiling had huge transparent sections, so it looked like there was a dark bluish green sky overhead, filled with the occasional wriggling scaly bird. Graelyn stepped into the room, and looked back at Dan, “Okay, I'm interested.”
“This must be the new intern.” She turned again to see a woman wearing the most stereotypical lab coat imaginable, as well as ornate but functional shoes with a moving pattern of an animated sea beast circling her feet, and unusually, also glasses. “Graelyn Scythes?” Graelyn extended a hand, “The very same. Doctor Kalama?” She nodded, “Hiriwa Kalama. You'll be down here for a while unless we have a sudden breakthrough, so we may as well get on a first name basis.” Graelyn nodded, “Of course. I'm a bit sketchy on what exactly we'll be having a breakthrough on however?” Hiriwa grinned, “Well, be prepared to have your socks knocked off.” Graelyn wasn't wearing socks, but whatever. Hiriwa gestured for her to follow her, and began walking towards the building at the center of the room, and was quickly followed.
The building opened up into a scene right out of a science fiction movie: a series of disks like a gyroscope were located at the room's center, spinning slowly. Pipes and cords lead into it from all over the room, some of which glowed a distinctive light blue. “This is the great experiment, the real reason we're all down here. Can you guess what its for?” Graelyn looked at the slowly rotating device, and furrowed her brow. The design was strange-- there had to be a reason for the twisting gyroscopic motion of the disks, but the gyroscope wasn't stabilizing anything, she could see, and didn't seem to be outputting any data.
“Don't force her to figure this out Hiriwa, I wouldn't be able to guess in her position.” All heads turned, and several people suddenly began to look much more productive. “Mr. Aril, I'm surprised to see you here.” Hiriwa said without a hint of inflection. He waved his hands dismissively.
“So you're the new intern then? I've got to warn you, you'll mostly be carrying coffee.”
“Comes with the job, sir,” She replied curtly.
“Eh, you can cut with that. We all know why we're here. But you seem curious, and that's a trait I want in my employees. So then, I am curious what you were about to guess?”
“I figure that the gyroscopic disks are meant to stabilize something they are also generating. I don't know what though.” He gave the thinnest smirk, which on his face gave the impression of a full faced grin. “Clever girl. Yes, that is what it does. But why I'm trying to do this would baffle most. Now, do you know why we're underwater?” Graelyn could see Hiriwa rolling her eyes as Aril did exactly what he'd said not to do. “No sir, not a clue.”
“The crushing pressure of the ocean is actually used to power the station, along with nuclear reactors naturally, but there is another reason. The underwater location gives us an advantage in the type of research we're doing, as we're trying to tap into some of the fields that underlay the universe itself, to cut through them to the other side.” Graelyn naturally raised an eyebrow.
“You're... You're trying to... Mess with the fabric of space somehow?”
“Not just mess with it. Since I was a little boy I've always known I wasn't alone. I've had this feeling that there was another version of me, trying to find me, trying to reach his hand out far enough to raise me up.” Graelyn looked over at Hiriwa, whose face was stoic.
“I can feel the tug through the space beneath me, I just need to cut through somehow, and there I'll be. Another reality.” Graelyn tried very hard to figure out what facial expression she should be making.
“Oh.” She said. Aril chuckled, “It sounds ludicrous, but its a certainty that other realities besides ours exist. We're trying to touch them.” She walked toward the device, and ran her narrow fingers down the metal. “How did you get Centro's approval for this? They would never-”
“Of course I didn't get Centro's approval. I don't need them to like me. I'm an innovator, and this will be something that will last beyond all of us.” He walked next to Graelyn, and put his hand on top of hers. “We're going to do this. Hiriwa, why don't we show her our progress.” Hiriwa gestured to a man in a labcoat with dreadlocks who began flipping switches. “You might want to step back.” The disks began spinning faster, and the cords glowed blue. In the center of the gyroscope, a single pinprick of light appeared, and then as they grew faster, expanded. They spun faster and faster and then they stopped moving, and the ball of light began to flatten out into something like a pane of light, shimmering like a lake. For a moment, Graelyn thought she saw figures through the disk, but then the light collapsed, and the machine shut down after trying to stabilize it.
“We're so close.”
“I saw something on the other side.” Graelyn said, her eyes like full moons.
“Of course you did. So then, are you in?”
“I'm in.” She said, and she believed, “We're going to get this done. We'll solve this problem. Its just out of our grasp and we'll figure this out!”
“That's a good girl.” Aril crooned, “But first, we need some lattes.” Graelyn had no idea where the coffee maker was, but she walked off to find it with her head held high. With her here, they'd no doubt get to the bottom of this problem in no time!
One year later.
Graelyn spun around in her desk chair, over and over again, she tried to keep her head twisting like a ballerina in order to avoid being dizzy, but she very much failed at that task and found herself getting very woozy. Kicking off one of the desks to send the chair into another rotation, missed the blip on the radar. She kept spinning, and then pushed off the console with her legs, and spun the chair faster around the center of the room. Ten minutes passed like this, then Graelyn got up, and put the coffee grounds in the machine. She was very careful about the process, if halfhearted, and made sure the measurements were precise. Then she spun around the room some more, and let out a droning “ugh.” Finally, the coffee was ready, and she poured several tall cups, fixed them to the drinker's specifications by memory, and grabbed her wireless earbuds. Popping them in, she pulled out her tablet and selected a song, “Miracle Goodnight” by David Bowie, the usual choice. She let the first few beats sink into her system, and balancing a tray of cups on each hand, slipped out of the monitoring room. Alone in the slick glass and steel hallways, Graelyn began to bob, her feet getting into the rhythm of the music.
“Heart tell me, turn it around. Head tell me, make it alright, nobody dancing--
She broke out into a dance, passing the statue of Artemis, and then instantly stopped as she entered Dan's office. She set his coffee on his desk silently as he examined a chart of something, and slipped back out, breaking back into her groove as soon as she was out of sight. She repeated this process, looping the song again since she was into it, as she dropped off the other cups of coffee. Yossara's, Jerry's, Layla's, Hiriwa's, Director Aril's... She caught glimpses of documents on desks; space/time fabric theories, something about a '2227 incident', none of it lingered on as she floated. Through the glass hallways, she danced to the melody, free of the coffee she slid around corners, and began to do some more complex moves, jamming all the way back to her office. The fishes got quite a show for certain. It was like a reverse aquarium.
“Ragged limbed and hungry mama, miracle no more.”
She sat back down, and began to spin in the chair again. Day in day out. She almost missed the radar again, but as she turned she caught the movement out of the corner of her eye. Still spinning. she stopped herself, and tried to focus on what was on the radar screen as the world shifted slowly back into focus. Lots of things showed up on the radar, but nothing like that. For one thing, it was descending way too rapidly, and wasn't waggling around like a big fish. Something must have fallen from the sky and plopped right down through the depths of the ocean to say hello in an uncontrolled and deadly plummet. She first pressed the wrong button on the console, and cursed, but then hit the comm button, “Hey Jerry, anything scheduled to be dropped from the surface for some reason around here?” Jerry was silent for a moment, and she heard the sound of crunching popcorn. “Uh, no. I don't think we've ever had something like that scheduled ever?”
“That's what I thought, thanks.” She flipped the switch off. Alright then, not a normal occurrence. She'd been down here a year with nothing to show for it. She was seventeen now, and her time separated from the rest of the world was beginning to show on her. She thought a lot about her cat, and how Mr. Sprinkles was doing, she thought about hypothetical people she could have been friends with, inventing them whole cloth. There was Tannis, a dark skinned pre-med student who she could talk about biology with, but also classical Opera, something she'd had a bit of trouble with, and he could sweep her off and show her how to appreciate it, or Angela, a light skinned woman her own age with too many freckles in a band over her nose who loved to exercise and scale mountains. She imagined these friends, and their adventures together, but in reality she was mostly in this room watching the monitoring equipment, spinning in her chair, occasionally leaving to make coffee.
“Jerry, I'm going to take one of the mini-subs.”
“Uh, don't you need clearance for-”
“Oh come on, seriously? When was the last time anyone cared about clearance.”
“Aren't you underage to drive it?”
“I've driven them plenty of times when you weren't giving me grief, and I'm going to now once you shut up. I was just letting you know.” She turned the comm off, and started walking to the sub bay while Jerry ran his fingers through his hair in worried confusion. It was easy enough to do anything on the base if you just acted like you were allowed to do it. She stripped her clothes off and put on a wetsuit, then hopped into one of the docked minisubs. It was a strange looking little thing, with a big viewport, floodlights, maneuvering jets, and two mechanical arms she could control from the inside. She could tell that it was bought from an old scrapyard, or maybe a navy sale, but it worked. She closed the hatch, checked the pressure, and shot off into the murky beyond. The darkness enveloped her, and as she realized what the plummeting object was, she couldn't have been more surprised. The floodlights took it fully into view, and she made out arms and legs.
Check back here next Thursday, July 23rd, to find out what Graelyn found at the bottom of the ocean! (And don't be afraid to talk about this chapter in the comments!)
Introduction From the Author
Welcome to the world of 10,000 Dawns! Over the next few months you'll have the pleasure of reading a new chapter of this story every Thursday, written by me, James Wylder, and featuring beautiful art by Annie Zhu. This story wouldn't have been possible without David Koon, Josephine Smiley, Taylor Elliott, Jordan Stout, Miguel Ramirez, Elizabeth Tock, all the "Hanover Muppets" and everyone else who helped contribute to this story becoming what it is today. Thank you all so much.
This chapter is also available as an audio podcast from the Southgate Media Group.
You can also subscribe to the podcast version on iTunes and your RSS feed easily from libsyn:
It was not a golden age. Sure, everybody said so: the great architects of interstellar travel hammered away as Hephaestus on great hulls to travail the void of space, the financiers rising higher and higher above the flesh of Earth and Mars till they were barely mortal and called their penthouses Olympus. The people of grit and gumption strapped themselves into strange devices that contorted space and tore at gravity, and all of them said, “This is the time of mankind, this is the time of great deeds we will be remembered for, never to live in History's shadow and to bend and bow but to conquer it!” and they were all completely wrong.
The last great colonization of the Solar System had already taken its final step and, with a vain attempt to live on Venus tripped bloodily, leaving a sort of skinned-face spacestation hooked to the ground by an elevator in a synchronous orbit with the planet. It was hailed as a marvel as the sweaty men and women who made it smiled shakily knowing the true cataclysm of their failure on the planet's surface. No, this was not a Golden Age. This was an age of Fools Gold: a pyrite age. The suckers bought the tagline of course, and the solar system kept spinning. The great companies of earth took in massive profits, the exact same amount as the year before nearly to the decimal, and again and again. There was a repetition to it all, and then for a moment Mars got uppity, tired of corporate greed and tyranny, they threw off their shackles in a full scale revolution: students yelled from rooftops about freedom, heroes were martyred for a list of ideals, and the red planet ran red in a war so brief it would be forgotten if there were any other wars around it, and if the scale of its brevity were not still massive.
And for a moment, it looked like it could be a Golden Age: Earth came down from the clouds to innovate and show that their ideals were more than a Cloudcuckoland, Mars began an attempt at real communism, letting a massive computer run the equal distribution of wealth, giving the celestial body a brain-- things seemed almost glorious, flowing towards a climax, and then it stopped. Mars went from bold fierceness to stunned normality as quickly as it licked its wounds. Earth forgot about its dreams of capitalist innovation, and settled back into its chair, churning in smaller but still substantial profits, and the poor suckers scattered on the rim scavenged their way to another meal. The last gasp of progress exhaled, the Pyrite Age entered full swing, and the great men looked on last years dreams they had yet to realize and said, “this is the time to be alive.” Little did they know, it soon would be.
Down below the Atlantic Ocean, a man turned away from the Stars and hid his eyes from their broken promises of light. A man with few redeeming qualities, and fewer qualms, but certainly not stagnant. That's the thing about being interesting: it has nothing to do with goodness or wisdom, it has to do with action.
John Aril, CEO of Anubis Corp., put his foot in the Stagnant ocean, and churned up a hurricane. He sat in the room his invention was being built in, a room of bolts and steel plates fighting tirelessly to avoid being crushed by the water around it. Fish swam by, in ignorance of what was being done. The woman in the lab coat tightened a bolt and the metal and mirrors spun around each other, a pulsing sound began to drift from it like a stillborn heartbeat, “Its not quite ready sir.” He nodded, “We're not moving forward. We're stalling.” He looked up at the woman, “We need fresh blood. Pick out some new scientists to bring down here. Ones we've been overlooking, maybe because they're odd or don't work well with teams. Someone has to be able to solve the last hurdle.” The woman nodded, her name was Hiriwa, not that John cared, he'd be the one in the history books, and she knew it well. “Sir, could I also request we bring in an intern? I understand you're desire for a barebones staff, but it would help the team immensely to have someone to take care of mundane tasks like the Coffee. John put his two index fingers against his lips and nodded. “Done.” He pulled out his tablet, and scrolled through the top candidates-- they'd all been accepted elsewhere at this point, he'd delayed too long for the sake of saving a dollar, he coldly enforced a new rule in his brain to not do that again. Patience was a virtue, but only for the right reasons. He scrolled down into the second tier of candidates. All were the exact sort of people you'd expect to not quite make it into true excellence, the kind just one cent short of a dollar. He picked one at random. Sixteen year old girl, good at math and science, blah blah blah. She'd be getting the coffee anyways, the choice didn't really matter.
It was strange, that choice. Because as John Aril clicked the “accept” button next to Graelyn Scythe's smiling face, nothing noticeable happened, no men shouted on rooftops, or proclaimed that things were now not as they would ever be again, but the river in the ocean broke through its dam-- and flecks of gold began to spill into that sea of pyrite.
Chapter 1: The Cat that Missed Atlantis
Graelyn looked into the backseat, where Mr. Sprinkles the cat was pacing inside his cat-box, an awkward sort of pacing for such a small space that might be better described as ‘walking in a circle.’ She didn’t say anything, didn’t sigh or shake her head, just stared at the cat. The car was driving itself to the dock, she didn’t have to do anything as it went the regulation speeds throughout its trip, but she almost wished it had some manual controls so she could drive it today. Just sitting here felt wrong, and there was one stop before the docks. The car came to a halt in front of the facility, the large friendly sign at the front showing many animals each in a solid color looking happier than most animals ever did. Mr. Sprinkles meowed, and Graelyn popped open the car doors, and grabbed his carrying case out of the back seat. No one was there to greet her, this was solitary work, the kind of work one can only do yourself because if you don't you'll grind your teeth down with regret. She’d had the cat for a very long time, since it was a little kitten, and now it was time to say goodbye. She heard its claws scratch at the cage door to the box, and another meow. She almost began to shush him, but in the end couldn’t get up the heart.
She went inside, the cool green-blue colored glass doors moving apart like a biblical sea, and leading her into an equally chill colored room. “Hello, how can I help you today?” Graelyn walked up and matter of factly set the cat down on the long front desk. “This is Mr. Sprinkles. He is my cat. I am here to give him up for adoption.” The woman nodded, “Did you fill out the requisite paperw—“ The paperwork appeared in front of her, though of course on a tablet, not as actual paper, we’re not savages. “Ah, alright then. Everything seems to be in order… Ah you left blank 41B empty.” Graelyn peered over at it, “It says its optional.”
“It says its optional, but its not.” Graelyn sighed, bureaucracy at its finest.
41B: Why did you choose this shelter ?
Graelyn paused for a moment, and then entered her answer into the form: “This is a no kill shelter.”
“Good enough.” The lady smiled at her, “We’ll take good care of Mr. Sprinkles! Is there anything else we should know about his care.” There was a pause. Graelyn felt like every moment here was a waste of her time, this was only a cat after all, it wasn’t like she was giving up anything important… She went to bite her lip, but held back with perfect self control. She made a decision.
“He likes Mozart. Specifically the operas, mainly the Magic Flute. Don’t play him any junk by Handel. He hates Handel. Other Baroque is okay.” The lady opened her mouth, and closed it, “Er, of course. Thank you for that information.”
Graelyn left, knowing full well the woman didn’t give a damn about what music her cat liked to listen to. Still, the effort felt somehow worthwhile. She got back into the car, and told it to start for the docks. It began moving, its electric motor silently chugging away towards the ocean. She adjusted her skirt. She checked her pony-tail in the mirror, and shoved her glasses back towards her nose. There was something in her chest, and she couldn’t quite place what it was or what it was doing. She looked back at the friendly animal sign, and squirmed in her seat. Goodbye, Mr. Sprinkles, she thought, this is all for the greater good you know. She started thinking about who would miss her when she left, and came to the quick realization the only one who had a chance to was the cat.
Graelyn had received Mr. Sprinkles as a concession. The court ordered therapist had sat with her and her parents, and told them that what had happened was a serious matter the courts couldn’t simply overlook, and that something had to be done to show that Graelyn’s parents were doing their best to help their daughter. “But what she did was selfish, shortsighted, and unpragmatic.” Her mother monotoned. The therapist’s face seemed be a perfectly controlled mask, “That may be, but we still need to do something for Graelyn to show we’re helping to meet her needs. “Great she gets a trophy for it to.” Her mother snarled. “So Graelyn, what would you like?” Graelyn thought for a moment, swinging her legs under the chair. Her mother slapped her knee, and she stopped swinging her legs.
“I want a cat.” She said.
“Out of the question.”
“No, now wait a minute, cats largely take care of themselves aside from litter and food, and the courts love animals and think of service animals as a really good step towards recovery, probably because they are, but regardless, I think this is a very good move for all of you.”
Her mother nodded, “Okay. I think we can make this work then.”
Later they went to the petstore (“No second hand pets for my daughter, if we’re doing this she’s not getting a hand me down.”), the biggest one in the corporate sprawl of Moscow. There were hundreds of tiny cats running around in glass cages, meowing and mewing, taking naps or playing. Plenty of people came to watch the kittens, and today was no exception. Squeezing through the crowd, pushing her black hair out of the way of her glasses, she looked at them: there were brown kittens, black kittens, gray kittens with black spots and orange kittens with black stripes. There were Kittens like Dalmatians, and kittens with blots of different colors everywhere. There were energetic kittens practicing pouncing, and lazy ones taking naps. There were cuddly kittens curled up with each other, and loners away from the bunch. She gravitated toward the loners. One kitten was by itself, simply staring out the glass, as though it could make out some meaning beyond its prison walls by observing hard enough. Little Graelyn ran around the case to the other side, and lined her eyes up with the kitten’s, it tilted its head.
“I want that one she said.” Her mother got the attendant. “I’m naming him Mr. Sprinkles.” Her mother screwed her face up, “You’re not naming him-“
“I’m naming him that or I’m complaining to the therapist.” Her mother snarled… But she looked proud. Like her tiger cub had learned to bite.
The car started again, and Graelyn requested the car begin playing Mozart’s 5th Symphony. It asked her, as it always did, if she meant Beethoven’s. No, she responded, Mozart’s. She didn’t know why she liked Mozart’s 5th so much, but she did. Ever since she was a little girl she would curl up and listen to it with Mr. Sprinkles. He would purr, feeling like a groundquakes as the grass of his hair rolled over the plains under her hand. Combined with the notes, she felt at peace, like the earth itself was singing her a lullaby, the music softening the sounds from downstairs. The grass outside the window waving in the wind made her think of Mr. Sprinkles. It was good she’d left him, she told herself, that wasn’t a name fit for a woman going to work at a state of the art research facility.
Woman? You’re sixteen!
There were a lot of voices today. Maybe all of them were idiots. The car pulled in at the dock, and she stepped out into the shoreside sun. It was still a cresting dawn on the horizon, bathing the waters in a white flood of light.
She turned to face the envoy, who was wearing a suit jacket over a light-fiber t-shirt that was currently playing somewhat distorted images from Japanese horror movies on his chest. She could tell this job was going to be tasteful. “I’m Dan Kahn, I’m gunna be escorting you down to Atlantis. I take if you have the paperwork?” Always paperwork. She handed him the tablet, which again had no paper. He skimmed through it. “I don’t see a parent signature.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said frowning in that responsible adult way, “I’m sorry there was trouble at home.”
“There wasn’t. Not anymore. They were holding me back.” Naturally, he didn’t know what to say to that, so she walked past him and adjusted her shoulder bag. She was wearing the sort of outfit she’d wear if she was a cartoon character, a skirt cut just above the knees with matching blazer over a blouse and a tie. Usually the tie was black, and the blazer and skit were a deep blue. Today though, they were gray with a green tie. She wore a pin shaped like a smiling fish on her lapel, not because she felt particularly festive, but because she’d learned it put people at ease with her if she forced the effort. Her glasses had rectangular black rims, and were simple but stylish in all the best ways. Glasses weren’t the most common thing to see these days, and as they walked over to the diving pod, she hoped Dan wouldn’t ask about them.
“So you’re wearing glasses?”
“Heads up display? Don’t like retinal implants?”
She stepped onto the damp metal framework that led to the pod, reminding herself what a good idea it had been to wear flats today (she hated heels anyways), and didn’t look at him as he responded.
“My eyes are fine the way they are.”
“So they’re fake glasses?”
“You could get corrective surgery you know, the company would cover the cost…” Graelyn turned to look at him, her eyes narrowing beneath her glasses. She didn’t raise her volume, or change her expression, but somehow what she said felt like it cut a rib from his chest. “My. Eyes. Are. Fine. The. Way. They. Are.” She held his gaze for a moment, and walked up to the hatch of the pod, standing by it impatiently as if there was a late train.
“Sorry, geez.” He muttered as he opened the door. “Welcome aboard ice queen.” Graelyn gave him another look, almost piteously, and stepped inside. It was slightly rusty, which wasn’t a good sign, and a bit cozy. She set her handbag down next to her as he took the seat opposite her, putting her hands in the pockets of her blazer.
“Only us?” He nodded, and as he shut the hatch felt a tingle move down his spine. What if she is some sort of weirdo and kills me? He nervously looked back at her, she hadn’t changed her expression. Graelyn looked out the video screen connected to a camera on the exterior that acted as a window on the pod. Slowly, Dan pressed the button to begin lowering the pod. She kept her gaze on the ocean, and watched as the sky turned to sea, the green-blue waters enveloping her vision—and then there were fish! Swimming about in schools. Beautiful fish colored like rainbows, and shiny gray fish like darts. She let the half of her face Dan couldn’t see smile, and took her trembling hands out of her pockets to rub them. You can’t let them keep getting to you, you’re better than this, she thought. But no matter how she tried to hide it, she was scared. People would walk over you if you let them move a boot close to you. She suddenly thought about her cat. Not her cat anymore, she’d burned that bridge. Was he meowing for her? Did he even miss her. She knew that cats were more affectionate than some claimed, but she knew that he would forget about her and take to a new owner who fed him. The thought for some reason made her feel cold. She didn’t want to think about the cat anymore, but she began to imagine him swimming through the water outside the window, chasing the fish. Good ol’ Mister Sprinkles. Good ol…. She was freezing. She put her hands back into their pockets.
“So Dan, tell me about Atlantis.”
Check back here next Thursday, July 16th, to find out what is under the sea in Chapter 2...
10,000 Dawns begins officially tomorrow. To make things easier for anyone reading this chronologically in the future, I'm posting the preview chapter up as its own blog post.
You can listen to this Chapter as a podcast
via the Southgate Media Group:
The Universe began in chaos. Matter exploded outward, clumped together, tumbled off, and over a timescale nearly unfathomable formed the space we all live in. Through all of that, order formed, and order was the thing that kept the universe from falling into the anarchy of creation. In the grand scheme of things, there was no form of order more stern and heroic in its unwavering necessity for precision than the human invention of the Internship Application.
This particular internship Application was being filled out on an old maglev monorail that was old when other trains people called old were still sucking on their pacifiers on the assembly lines. The form was in the hands of a girl with black hair tied back in a pony tail in a blue skirt and suitjacket who gave off the distinct impression she'd worn a different copy of the same outfit yesterday. She shoved her glasses towards her nose, and tried to follow along with the instructions:
Welcome to your application to Project Atlantis, a subsidiary of Anubis Corp. Simply complete this short questionnaire of 270 questions, as well as your personal information, four recommendations, and a cover letter, and you'll be all set to-
She sighed. 270 Questions? She wasn't above putting in a little elbow grease, but the number seemed a bit excessive. She tapped in by rote her personal info, as well as the contact info for her recommendations, and began the long questionnaire. Whatever they needed to feel safe and secure, she supposed.
1. What would your reaction be if you found yourself unexpectedly drowning and being crushed by unsurvivable pressure?
Graelyn wasn't sure what she was expecting on the application, but it wasn't that. She held the tablet up to her mouth, and bit it lightly, as though the infantile gesture would help her think. It did, apparently, as she quickly tapped in the answer, “Die.” May as well be practical about this.
“Everyone on the ground now!” the man said, standing up, while he and several other men and women pulled out railgun-rifles. Graelyn looked up at them, as the rest of the compartment got to the ground. She looked at the time in the corner of the screen: 3:45. The application was due at 8 and she had to answer 269 questions. She groaned, and slumped down out of her seat onto the floor, trying to get back to her application as the people with weapons did whatever it was they were doing.
2. Consider the hypothetical situation where you meet yourself from another reality-- what would your first reaction be?
This was a tougher question, certainly not a one word one, but also not one that she'd need to spend a lot of time on. The revolutionaries casually went through the train, occasionally rifling through people's bag's, until they stopped at her.
“You, where's your bag?” Graelyn pointed to her purse, which was still up on the bench, and went back to her application. Graelyn supposed she wouldn't do anything rash, if she met herself. She'd probably just compare notes. She filled the blank in and moved onto the next question. “No devices.” The man said, leveling his gun at her. “Sorry, this is really important.”
“I don't want you reporting us.”
“You've already been reported by the automated camera system, calm down.” She said trying to focus. It wasn't like this was the first time she'd been in a hostage situation, she did live in the city after all. The man grimaced, and spitefully dumped her purse out on the seat, for which a woman who seemed to be in charge yelled at him, and made him apologize. Graelyn accepted the apology and tried to get on with the application. She breezed through a few questions, as the man rifled through the pile of her lip gloss, hair ties, sanitary pads, and tissues. “Nothing here ma'am,” he yelled and moved onto the next occupant, finally. She kept going, finally she was really in the zone on this!
24. A farmer has a chicken, a fox, and a bag of seed he needs to get across a river-
Easy. She'd memorized that puzzle.
25. If you were-
“You seem awfully calm.” The leading woman said. She'd walked up to her, rifle held patiently, a bandolier of ammo and grenades striking the light like she'd rehearsed this spot before.
“You guys have held up my train before. I have a lot of work to do.”
“You should care more about what's going on around you.”+
“You should get on with finding whatever you're here for.” She gave a curt laugh, like the kind gruff men make to bad jokes in movies.
“You'd make a good soldier.”
Graelyn ignored that, the woman was just distracting her now. She kept looking at her, and turned away as though disappointed. “Ma'am, we found it!” The man who had bothered her was now holding a balding man in a sportcoat by the elbow, and holding up a datacard in the other hand. “Good work, lets move out.”
“You'll never get away with this!” The balding man cried, “Centro has eyes everywhere. We'll find you!”
“You haven't yet!” Said the woman with a gleam in her eye, and punched the emergency release button for the door. The revolutionaries jumped out in perfect order, their feet and backs lighting up as they began a controlled flight downwards onto a rooftop. An older woman got up, and shut the door. For some reason there was applause, and Graelyn briefly took the time to put her things back in her purse. She looked down at the tablet, and was struck by how close she had nearly been to something totally different. She could have tried to foil the plotters somehow, she was clever, they might have just shot her, but it would have been memorable. The woman in charge, with a little talk in a different direction, might have offered to let her go with them. She could be in some dank basement learning how to assemble a railgun blindfolded, or glide through the air with an energy pack. There were so many possibilities, and she had chosen to finish filling out this internship application. It seemed heavy, like it was made of the plaques on buildings, or was secretly some monument.
She turned to the next question.
* * * * *
Graelyn Scythes got back to her one-room apartment, took off her blazer, skirt, and tie, picked up her cat Mr. Sprinkles who was desperately wanting some cuddling, reheated some old stir fry, and sat down on the couch. Only a hundred questions to go. She stroked Mr. Sprinkles, who purred deeply into her lap, grounding her, his soft fur felt nice on her bare legs.
171. Are you, or have you ever been, a member of the communist party?
Graelyn laughed, and checked no, but her face grew still. She didn't give a damn about the communists, but she suddenly wondered if she'd be able to believe in anything like that. She rubbed the cat behind the ears.
“I'd make a bad soldier Mr. Sprinkles.”
The revolutionaries had gotten something important she'd never know about. She never saw them again. Maybe they were shot dead. Maybe they made some secret victory. Rain started hitting the window pane, and she at least knew they would likely be wet. Mr. Sprinkles adjusted himself, making it very hard to move between the questions and picking at the stir fry. She resigned herself to the situation, as she had done through most of the day, and focused on the internship application.
“I'd make a bad soldier.”
Poet, Playwright, Game Designer, Writer, Freelancer for hire.