Ellie awoke gasping for air. Her blue-shaded ink-black hair was as drenched as her clothes and sheets. Racing through her mind were the images she had discovered in The Archive—Earth’s final scavenges of all data before planetary power was lost. This nightmare she had awoken from wasn’t the footage she found—it was her memories from that night. Memories her subconscious had protected her child's mind from. The brutal reminder that her mother was killed in front of her very eyes. It was clear to her that even with all of his money and power, her father would’ve been left behind to allow his wife and daughter aboard the Absolution—the final voyage to leave Earth. However, he would not accept his fate as some of the other project leaders had. He desired to live at all costs.
Ellie paced her breathing as she sat up, placing her palm above her left brow. “Dammit!” she yelled. Never believing her self-worth could diminish more. Her tears were only held back by the subtle guise of strength she put into her anger. A wave of anger that now filled her very soul.
Her tarp flew open as a husky boy a few years younger than Ellie flew in.
“Ellie! Are you alright‽” exclaimed Daishi. I heard—
“Yeah,” she sighed cutting his banter short. “It was just a bad dream, alright?”
“And… what else? Somethings been bothering you for a few days now.”
“Psh.” She scoffed as she looked away from him. She paused for a moment before returning her eyes to his. “Has it been that noticeable?”
“Of course it has,” says Daimon—a tall and slender chap—as he enters forcing Daichi into the corner. “We’re basically siblings, you know.”
“Yeah… I know,” says Ellie.
“So, tell us already. What’s been bothering you?” says Daichi.
“Just tell us!” interrupts Daichi.
“Will you shut up and give her a chance to talk?” retorts Daimon.
“Sorry,” replies Daichi.
Ellie sighs. “I was digging up old video footage from The Archive, from around the Tokyo Shinjuku ward. The area my parents fled to during The Fourth Great Migration.”
Ellie raises her legs against her chest. She wraps her arms around them and bites her lip. She remains silent for a minute as the others realize the pain of what she found must be causing her. They know that interjecting would only push the subject away, and so they wait for her to muster the courage to say it herself. The room remains silent for nearly a minute. After another moments time and a few attempts later, her strength pushes the words out of her mouth in a stuttered remark.
“I saw…my mother die.”
The others gasp as Ellie’s eyes begin to well up. Her strength now dissipating as those who gave it to her, whom strength she borrowed, now stand before her.
Her sorrow turned to anger as she continued.
“She was murdered by my father. The audio was fragged, but it was obvious he did it *sniffles* to use her ticket and mine to get abroad The Absolution.”
Daichi asks, “But didn’t he help facilitate all of New Eden? If he was one of the chairs, why wouldn’t he be given a ticket regardless?”
“It just doesn’t seem right,” added Daimon. “It’s too bad we can’t just ask him.”
Ellie took a deep breath. “Paradise is far, but it isn’t impossible to get to. There are a few things I’d like to ask him myself.”
Daichi retorts, “Like they’d even let anyone from the outer wards even close to Paradise. It’s hard enough to get a day pass to the medical inter-ward.”
“It’s… not that difficult. I’ve kinda been looking into the security protocols and subsystems. They’re pretty primitive,” says Ellie.
“Wait—you’d hacked your way into Paradise’s mainframe?” asks Daichi.
“Well, not that far. The system security gets significantly more robust closer to Paradise. For now, I’ve only gotten as far as into the third ward.”
Everyone stares at Ellie as if they just saw a ghost. Ward Three is nicknamed The Oxygen Ward because it cycles the majority of all carbon dioxide from all wards and replenishes them with fresh air. The wards closer to Ward Three benefit the most as this process repeats more readily. The outer wards get the end-of-the-line results. While not enough to cause issues for most, the air is thinner than in other wards due to the outer wards' larger size. Due to the severity and importance of Ward Three, it’s touted to have one of the highest security systems in all of New Eden. It is obvious to all, without this ward there is no survival for the remnants of the human race.
“You really are a freak when it comes to hacking,” said Daichi finally.
“Wait, so what your saying is—“
Ellie interrupts, “It’ll be a breeze.” Ellie’s posture eases up. “I already verified I can produce false ward passes, edit banking information, security systems, and change certain environmental holograms,” Ellie laughs. “Well, the last one in theory since I’ve only visually seen those results here, but I’m sure the same systems operate in all of the wards.”
Daichi and Daimon look at each other and then her, “You can do—what‽”
“Well, yeah. What do you think I’ve been doing diving into the VAR Net and The Archive for hours on end every night?”
Daichi and Daimon blush and reply in unison, “Nothing!”
Ellie just stares back at them with a blank expression.
Kuua, a slender girl with an inconsiderate love for eyeliner, who had been quietly standing outside due to an overly apparent lack of tent space breaks the silence, “So, you’re going to finally try talking to your dad.” They all briefly look her way in short-lived confusion. “Even if you can make it to Paradise, you’re going to do all this just to ask him a few questions?”
Ellie gave an awkward laugh and replied, “No, how he answers will determine how slow he dies.”
They all stare at her in silence again.
“You wouldn’t … actually … would you?” asked Daichi.
Ellie laughs, “Relax Daichi, we may share DNA, but I’m not my father. Besides, if he really did kill mom, death would be way too painless of a punishment for him.”
Daimon looks at Daishi in resounding fear and retorts, “Yeah… remind me never to get on her bad side.”
“Never get on her bad side,” replies Daishi in a monotone stupor.
“It was figurative, moron!”
“Meh.” he smiles back trying not to burst out laughing.
Daimon could only stare back in an annoyed gaze that proved Daichi’s corpulence encapsulated his intellect as well.
As they continued their feud, Ellie looked down at her hands. “Are you sure you guys really want to go with me? If we’re caught… we’d be lucky to only get jail time. I … I don’t want to lose any of you.”
Kuua laughed, “Haven’t we always been here for each other? I get your sympathy, but you have to remember how we feel too. Besides, life in the outer-most ward isn’t exactly the best.”
“Of course, we’re joining you, sis,” replied Daichi.
Daimon smiles and nods. “Get some sleep. We’ll set up a mission plan tomorrow. And also, try leaving your room for once.”
“Right. Thanks guys,” replies Ellie.
As Daimon and Daichi start leaving her tent, Kuua pokes her head in. “Remember what family means. We stand by each other no matter what. Night, loser.”
Ellie smiles. “Thanks.”
As the stars twinkle overhead, Ellie finds herself at peace. The excitement of an adventure in her dark and lingering existence excites her, yet she is ever afraid of what could happen if they are discovered outside their ward. Travel passes for outer-ward residents are only ever good for 24hrs. While it’s possible to change the code in the systems to renew or overwrite this, each ward gate has its own biometric backup in a closed system. She wonders what will happen if she finds her father. Will he admit to the truth or will he have some clever cover story? Her thoughts begin to race as she fades into slumber.
Ellie dreams of a time during her childhood when her parents and she were playing in their backyard. The sky was blue and the grass was green. They were laughing and her mom was singing a soft melody in the background. Times were peaceful and happy. Although, this was far from the truth. During her childhood, the Sky had already turned a muted green and grass was nearly a memory for the residents of Earth. The air was as thin as trees were scarce. The visuals of all these began to change as her alarm clock jolted her awake.
The sound of her custom-made alarm clock wakes Ellie.
“HUuhhh,” Ellie moans as she stretches to turn off her alarm.
“She’s finally awake!” yells Daichi.
“Ouch, my ears,” exclaims Ellie.
“Sorry. So, when are we starting our mission?”
“Right now? Hey guys! We’re—“
“No!” yells Ellie. “Daichi, not just yet.”
“Aw, why not?”
“We have to gather some information and supplies first. Otherwise, we won’t even make it through the fifth ward.”
Daishi signs, “I guess you’re right, but what do we even need?”
“I’ve got a few things the past few days. Other things I need a few days to make.”
“Always making something aren’t you? Kind of a letdown we’re not leaving today, I was ready to kick your dad’s ass with you. But I guess it can’t be helped,” says Kuua.
“While we’re getting prepped, we probably shouldn’t say anything to any of the other residents either. They’ll notice we’re gone, but it’s better that than rumors spreading before we even start walking.”
“She’s right. Besides, we haven’t even made our plan yet,” adds Daimon. “This mission is going to be reckless enough. It’ll be a miracle if we can even get through the next ward without being detected.”
“Isn’t Kuua always right?” adds Daichi.
“I told you to call me Kai! You impudent little pill bug!” scoffs Kuua as she punches the tarp flap into Daimon.
“Ow!” yells Daichi. He then punches Daichi.
“Ouch! What was that for?” says Daichi.
“Mail delivery, be glad I had to be the deliverer.”
Daichi rubs his arm, “Probably right but—ow!—that’ll probably still bruise.”
“Enough!” says Kuua as she squeezes by Daimon and sits next to Ellie on her bed.
“I’m not sure we even know what we’re really getting into. None of us have ever been farther than the inner-ward between here and the seventh.” Kuua spreads out a map of New Eden. “Even if we make it to the third ward, that’s still over 500 miles away.”
“Luckily, we should be able to get onto most if not all of the trollies on the way. I was able to dive into the system's network to see what payments and access codes they accept and—“
Daichi interrupts Ellie, “You —dove— into internal systems? How is that even possible? Aren’t the only things we can dive into the VAR Net and The Archive?”
“Well, kinda. All the networks in New Eden are connected at some point or another. That’s how communication is possible. I just sorta tweaked some of the firewalls to merge the dive ability with internal systems. It was… easy” she says as she starts to blush.
Everyone once again found themselves fixating their gaze and mouths drawn at Ellie as she explained a concept that could easily be described as nuclear physics or something that could change humanity forever.
“I don’t know why we’re even surprised anymore. Is there anything you CAN’T do?” questions Daichi.
“Well, lots. I’m just afraid we’ll find out how much during this mission.”
“Psh. I’m not surprised—not in the slightest. Did you all forget that the von Eisenhower name is famous as the founder of Integral Systems? They implemented most of the technology from Earth and developed new tech while here,” added Kuua.
“I guess that is true,” says Daimon.
“Wait, what? I didn’t know that at all!” exclaims Daichi.
“You really are hopeless,” laughs Kuua.
“Well, we should start gathering some rations and water pouches for the trip. Ellie, just let us know when you’re ready.”
“Sure thing,” she replied.
“Hey Daimon, wanna go play Moon Ball?” exuberantly asked Daichi.
“Sure, it might be the last time we get to play after all.”
“Dude, don’t make it so sad. We’ll help Ellie and be back playing Moon Ball before you know it. It wouldn’t be the same without you guys.”
“I guess you’re right,” laughs Daimon. “Let’s go.”
“Oh, and Ellie, we should probably leave the mission plan to you since you know so much about all the systems and such. If we left it to Daichi, we’d probably get caught before even leaving this ward,” says Daimon.
“Hey! That’s not true!” exclaims Daichi.
Daimon stares at Daichi. “Okay, fine, it’s probably better for Ellie to make the plan anyway, but I could definitely make a good one,” says Daichi.
“Bye Ellie,” says Daimon.
“See you later, Ellie!” yells Daichi.
As Daimon and Daichi leave Ellie’s tent, Kuua says to Ellie, “Don’t worry. I know you’re a von Eisenhower, but you’re nothing like your father. You’re our family now.” —she points a finger toward Ellie— “Don’t you dare forget that.”
Ellie smiles, “Don’t worry, I won’t. Thanks Kai. You’re the best older sister anyone could ask for.”
“You’re damn right, loser.” Kuua smiles. “Later.”
“Later,” smiles Ellie.