Chapter 0:

A Burning Dawn, A Bright Future

Dead Society

156 years after the world ended, humans, being the resilient species they are, found themselves at a dawn of a new age. Whereas the old world had ended in fire and chaos- this world had been born from it. From destruction had come life and prosperity.Bookmark here

This dawn came in a small corner of the world, far from all the chaos and death of the Great War. When the psyche-waves, RAID cannons, electro-gravitic stabilizers, artificial intelligence systems, and instant factories went down suddenly, taking with them the global infrastructure, this small civilization hardly noticed.Bookmark here

It was not because this country was separated from the rest of the world, no, far from it. In fact, it was this small corner of the world that, in part, inspired the cataclysm that was the Great War. The people here were, simply stated, slaves.Bookmark here

Why slaves? Well, an AI could only do so much. A single mission, performed to perfection, was about the peak of their capabilities. Slaves, on the other hand, could handle multiple tasks, and while not handling them as perfectly as their robotic counterparts, they were a much cheaper option for the middle classman.Bookmark here

But here’s the thing with slaves- nobody wants a smart slave. Smart slaves think, and they rebel— a smart slave is not wise. Because of this, this nation of slaves in this small corner of this broken world was, compared to the rest of the world, dumb. They were a people bred and raised to serve their masters. A people, that until the destruction of a world that subjected them to a status and lifestyle less than human, had known no freedom.Bookmark here

But a new world, a new dawn, meant new opportunity—an escape from a past of pain, a chance for happiness and prosperity.Bookmark here

So thus, 156 years after the end of the world, this small nation found itself transformed into a booming society. When the food carts ceased arriving, they learned to farm. When houses were no longer raised, they created architecture and learned the art of construction. When they lacked a voice for order, they established government.Bookmark here

In just 20 years, the small city of Gashea found itself secure and established as a nation. In 30 more, explorers and hunters returned with remnants of knowledge from the old world, causing leaps and bounds in scientific and technological development. They gained power, the people spread across the earth. 106 years after this, they founded for themselves a large city, over a million strong. A peaceful city- a place where life could flourish.Bookmark here

But as with all things, where there is life, there must also be a form of nourishment—where there is no nourishment, there can only be death. And so, it is here, at the dawn of the One hundred and fifty-seventh year since the Great Cataclysm, we find a society that is dead, waiting to be cut off.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

157 years agoBookmark here

Fire. Endless fire. That was how the world ended. The skies, fields, seas, mountains. All of it- burning; turning to ash.Bookmark here

The rail was slick under Fen’s three fingers— the fighting had consumed the others— all the others. There couldn’t have been many left. He only hoped the other facilities were still online. That they could connect.Bookmark here

He took a deep breath and looked at his watch. 60 seconds.Bookmark here

He pulled himself up to the next step, pushing aside the bodies that lay there. They didn’t matter anymore- nothing did. Except it. It was the only thing that mattered, Burning Dawn.Bookmark here

The door behind him groaned beneath an explosion. They were almost through. He pushed on.Bookmark here

He pulled himself to the last step, ignoring the steady stream of blood gushing from what was left of his left arm.Bookmark here

For humanity. For a future. Bookmark here

He clawed his way to the console and managed to pull himself to his feet. Pain filled his body immediately. His broken legs shook, threatening to give out beneath him. 8 seconds.Bookmark here

He clenched his teeth and inserted the key. The door behind him exploded.Bookmark here

Trembling and leaning on the console for support, he counted down the last moments and twisted the lock.Bookmark here

Behind him a thousand gunshots pierced the air, throwing him against the console. He crumbled against it, coating it in blood before sliding to the ground, releasing one final breath as death took him. There was nothing they could do now. The future was set.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

One hundred and fifty-seven years after the destruction of the world, Mirus Remus found himself inexplicitly awake. For some reason did not know, he was, it seemed, alive.Bookmark here

Wanting to make sure this wasn’t some strange afterlife— as he couldn’t remember anything after his death until now, waking in this unfamiliar field of tombstones— he stood up and threw himself down against the earth. He, of course, instantly regretted the choice and laid there for a moment, huddled in pain.Bookmark here

Once the pain passed, he sat up and took in his surroundings. As he had first noted, he was in a graveyard, one he couldn’t recall ever having visited in his life. Confused and a bit stressed, Mirus took a deep breath and examined his features. He recalled the moment of his death perfectly, of course. Bookmark here

He had been making a visit to his warehouses when suddenly, a large fire broke out. At that moment, he chose the life of his workers over his own and ended up sacrificing his life to protect them. Was that perhaps the cause of his resurrection? Some second chance from heaven? No, he thought, trying to reason with himself, trying to find sense in something he knew he wouldn’t. Heaven wouldn’t send him back, it violated the order of things. This was something new. Unnatural.Bookmark here

Unnatural, but nevertheless, a miracle, he thought. He took a deep breath and stood up. Once upon his feet, he had a flashing, bright thought— Yuri, his wife. Frey, his son.Bookmark here

He sprang into motion. The graveyard wasn’t particularly large, and a quick examination quickly revealed a hole in the hedges that surrounded it. He ran, ran quicker than he ever had before, to the warm light peeking through the shrubs that kept the graveyard silent and hidden.Bookmark here

He flew past them, flipping their delicate branches into disarray, scattering the leaves about the courtyard that had been hidden from him. Here, he paused. The city before him seemed brighter than before. Where he had always seen lights that seemed to drain the soul, tiring him, the lights before him now were warm and inviting with their honey-toned hues.Bookmark here

He took a few tentative steps towards the street before him, past the parked cars, past the street lights, towards the warm and inviting homes that sprawled across the Upper District. He gasped, feeling tears forming in his eyes. It was home, yet it wasn’t- it was heaven.Bookmark here

If this is heaven, he thought, then maybe being dead isn’t so bad… that is…Bookmark here

He wiped his eyes then started through the clear evening streets. He looked in as he passed windows, observing families in their homes; eating together, sitting together, talking, happily passing away the hours. I need to find my family, he thought.Bookmark here

Despite thinking this, he felt the urge to wander, to look, to see the world in this new light. Maybe it was his anxiety calling to him, telling him that his family wouldn’t be there, that he was left alone in this new world, but whatever it was, he let the feeling guide him for a space of an hour.Bookmark here

As he moved through the streets, he seemed to glide, like a leaf on the wind, or death on his horse. He moved from window to window, street corner to street corner. In a way, this world was similar to the one he had left, but in many ways, it was not. The once dead society he knew seemed to have found life, though from where he could not say.Bookmark here

On his way, he passed a young couple out for an evening stroll. As they waved, the spell that had kept him tied to the streets broke, snapped like a shoelace underfoot. He waved to the happy couple as they walked by, then quickened his pace as he thought of his own wife, his family.Bookmark here

What if they aren’t there, he thought. If this is heaven, they haven’t passed on yet… have they?Bookmark here

Anxious, he sped up, quicker and quicker, until he found himself running. Finding this pace still too slow, he sped up, settling into a sprint. He noted how strange his body felt to him. Pain vanished quickly, his stamina didn’t fail him, colors and hues were warmer, his vision clearer. The body was clearly his but yet, for these reasons, he knew it was also different. It felt… improved.Bookmark here

He twisted around corners, catching streetlamps as he sped by, using their stability to complete his turns. He rushed through a small park he knew as a shortcut home. He went as fast as he could, taking every twist and turn at top speed. In what seemed like mere moments, he arrived at his destination.Bookmark here

He slowed to a stop in front of the hedges outlining his property, similar to the ones lining his gravesite, and looked toward the house. Inside, he could see the lights still burning. He took a deep breath then stepped onto the cobbled path leading up to his door.Bookmark here

Each step forward felt like a firecracker under his feet, propelling him forward, yes, but also painful, dripping with a stinging feeling emanating from his heart. It made him go quicker but frightened him all the same. He wiped a few beads of sweat from his brow then knocked on the door— three times, just like he’d always done— then stepped back a few paces.Bookmark here

He watched through the windows as the familiar silhouette of his wife rose to its feet and moved from the parlor towards the front door. After a moment, the porch light sparked to life, illuminating his form on the lonesome path. After what felt like an eternity to Mirus, but must have only been a brief moment, the door squeaked open.Bookmark here

“Mirus?” the sweet voice of his wife called, gentle and kind, “is that… you?”Bookmark here

The door inched open ever more slightly to reveal Yuri’s form; a frail form, warped by stress and anxiety. Stree, Mirus knew, that stemmed from his untimely death. “Yes,” he choked, wiping his eyes, “It is.”Bookmark here

He stepped forward, allowing Yuri a better look at him. She emerged from the doorway slowly, as if tiptoeing across a blanket of snow, trying not to fall in. As she did, it became evident to Mirus just exactly how much time had passed since he had left her.Bookmark here

Where Yuri’s hair had once been blonde and well-kept, gray strands had begun to get hold. Wrinkles and stress marks covered her beautiful face and she limped slightly on the left side. Despite this, Mirus still loved her. What was appearance compared to a heart like hers?Bookmark here

He rushed forward, pulling his wife into a tight embrace. Together, for a long while, they stood there weeping. “I missed you so much,” Yuri whispered.Bookmark here

Mirus didn’t say anything. Instead, he pulled her closer.Bookmark here

As they stood there, locked in each other’s arms, Mirus heard something inside. He let go of Yuri and stepped past her.Bookmark here

Entering the doorway was a tall man, drawing looks from both Mirus and Yuri. Mirus laughed and rushed forward.Bookmark here

“Unbelievable,” the man whispered, running forward as well.Bookmark here

Mirus caught him in an embrace, his laugh fading away to more tears. “My son,” he whispered. “I’m so, so, sorry. I’ve been gone so long, I- I had no idea.”Bookmark here

Mirus stepped back from his embrace and looked into his son’s, Frey’s eyes. “How long?” he asked.Bookmark here

Frey shook his head. “Years. Twelve.”Bookmark here

“You were just a babe,” Mirus whispered. “I can’t believe I missed it. All your years of growing up. Everything you must have been through...”Bookmark here

Frey wiped his eyes and grabbed Mirus’s hand. With his other, he took Yuri’s. “Let’s get inside,” he said. “We have a lot to talk about.”Bookmark here

“I thought you were dead,” Yuri whispered. “I didn’t know what to do- Frey is finally just old enough to take over the estate. It was so hard…”Bookmark here

“I know,” Mirus whispered. “But I’m back. I don’t know how, but I’m back, and I won’t be leaving again.”Bookmark here

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