Chapter 8:

The Emperor VIII - "East Sachem Temple"

Destiny Marine

By mid-morning, Isaac and Kassandra arrived at East Sachem Temple. Despite being on constant surveillance for enemies - not to mention he had now been awake for over twenty-four hours - Isaac found himself in a talkative move during their journey. Kassandra responded equally - perhaps, after everything that had happened and everything they lost, they just needed to air it all out.

But their arrival at the temple silenced them. Isaac had been here in years - in his previous visits, he had been too young to appreciate it's ruined majesty. The temple was a small structure from the Golden Age of Man, before the Unleashing sundered the earth; in the five centuries since then, new hills had rose and consumed over half the temple. The remainder of the building jutted out from the hill, including the entrance, which consisting of ivy-covered marble columns and cracked marble stairs. The temple must've looked magnificent during its day.

According to the legends, the people from before the Unleashing built wonders - planes that could fly across whole oceans, cures for any and all disease, buildings so tall that they nearly reached the Skyfather's Halls up above. The Skyfather usually sent his son to visit man below, but when man threatened to reach his kingdom, he sent down the bolt of lightning that caused the Unleashing.

But science tends to get into the way of myth. The Skyfather's bolt turned out be something called a solar flare. And while modern humanity couldn't do quite everything it could during the Golden Age, they now had planes that could cross continents, cures for some disease, and skyscrapers once again rose high above cities. Progress and modernity, for better or worse, had returned to the land. In Isaac's eyes, the image of the once-magnificent temple returned to its current ruined state.

A statue, half-buried in the dirt, stood outside the entrance to the temple. Patuxet got its name from the plaque across its foundation - it was one of the few remaining visible words on it.


Presumably, the statue consisted of two men shaking hands to symbolize that peace, but both their bodies were long gone. Only their legs, and only up to their ankles at that, remained atop the foundation of the statue.

And as for peace - further down the road, visible from the temple, was the corpse of an old, rusted tank, now half-buried in the dirt. It's barrel reminded Isaac of an animal's snout; it pointed out towards its long-gone enemies. Judging by the colossal size, this tank also came to its final resting place from before the Unleashing.

Kassandra led the way inside the temple. Glass and debris littered the floor, while clouds of dust floated by in the streams of light pouring through cracks in the roof. Anything valuable inside had either been looted or turned to dust by now. Graffiti from modern-day kids blasphemed against the deity of this temple by coving its walls with multi-colored spray paint. But, come to think of it, nothing inside really indicated that this was a temple in the first place. No pews, no podium, just a lobby.

Most of the building had caved-in, but a few rooms adjacent to the lobby had survived. The duo explored them, but nothing of valuable could be found. Frustration mounted in both of them; Isaac took deep breaths while angry red sparks spilled out of Kassandra with increasing regularity. But then, Isaac looked through the last room. The roof had caved in entirely, with dirt and soil covering most of the room. Isaac tried to move past the debris to explore the rest of the room, but a rusted metal filing cabinet blocked his path.

Scrapes across the floor led to the cabinet. Somebody moved this recently.

Isaac jostled the cabinet out of the way; Kassandra dragged it off while Isaac slipped in through the now-opened space. Only this back corner of the room survived the cave-in; a lone metal door stopped their path. Isaac scratched his head; the door possessed no handle and no hinges. Black marks indicated gunshots, but the door had refused to budge even for that. Another filing cabinet stood next to the door; Isaac moved it out of the way and found a ripped electrical panel. Wires criss-crossed to and fro; judging from the way duct tape kept several wires crossed together, the panel was still meant to be used.

"Look at that," Kassandra said after inspecting it. The silver duct tape displayed black marks on them - one had the letter I, another had two letter Is, yet another one had a V.

"Those are numbers," Kassandra realized.

"...those are letters," Isaac pointed out, wondering if he should've been a teacher instead of her.

"They used to use letters for numbers," Kassandra explained with unexpected patience. "Long ago."

Once again, Isaac found his psychic powers to be the least strange thing about the world he lived in. But then-

"Numbers?" Isaac reached into his jacket and produced the slip of paper from home. "2-6-4-7. Can you touch the wires with those number-letters on it? I think it's the key to get into this door."

Kassandra raised an eyebrow. "I'm not touching any wires." But then she rubbed her chin. "Unless..."

Red energy poured into her hand. In succession, she touched the wires labelled II, VI, IV, and VII, the red electric sparks transferring from her finger into the corresponding wire. After touching VII, the duo heard a satisfying click. The metal door suddenly hissed at them, and hidden wheels and gears began turning and groaning. After a moment, the door slid (slid!) open under its own power. Maybe the people from before the Unleashing really could make wonders.

Darkness blanketed this room, so Kassandra kept her hand raised, the red glow guiding them inside. This must've been the bunker Greg mentioned, Isaac realized. It was a just small room - or, rather, all that remained was a small room. The bunker presumably led deeper into the earth, but cave-ins sealed off everything besides this first small room.

"How'd Greg get in here without Rddhi?" Isaac asked as he inspected the area.

"He's clever," Kassandra reminded him. "Could've just brought a generator and his own wires."

As if to confirm, Isaac found a table covered with spare wires and electrical parts. In contrast to the rest of the temple, the bunker hadn't been touched by looters at all. A proud title had been painted across the cement wall:


Isaac didn't understand what any of that meant, but something new immediately gained his attention - pipes, gauges, and wiring covered an entire wall, and in front of that wall was a desk. Isaac opened the drawers, finding nothing, but reached around since he knew his brother's tricks. He found a false bottom in one of the drawers and pulled it away, revealing a book inside. In movies, ancient temples had dusty tomes, not touched in centuries, but this one looked freshly-used and even had a small mustard stain on the cover.

As Kassandra joined him, Isaac placed the journal on the desk. The room fell silent; Isaac flipped over the page.


The familiar scrawl meant Greg definitely wrote this. But Isaac now understood why Greg couldn't just tell him about this conspiracy while half-dead and on the run. God...Isaac knew what gods were, but not a singular deity with a capital G. Does he mean the Skyfather? And five hundred years ago, that would be the same time as the Unleashing.

But then something stopped Isaac right in his mental tracks. Even this far into the temple, he heard the unmistakable sound of a car door slamming from outside. Kassandra had heard it too; both she and Isaac shared concerned glances.

"Did anyone see what direction we left town?" Isaac whispered to her.

"It's possible," Kassandra admitted. "And...cultivators leave traces behind in the reality they walk through. Someone trained to notice the little differences could've picked up our scent."

Isaac decided that, when this was all said and done, and he really needed a crash course on cultivation. And he also needed to get people to stop talking so mystically all the time. He took one last look at the journal, hoping to glean any more information while he still had the chance, but the rest of the journal consisted of literal nonsense. Greg just threw random letters together and - no, even Isaac understood that his older brother had used a cipher to hide his research. After escaping, Isaac would need to decrypt the rest of the journal. He tucked it away inside his jacket.

He and Kassandra departed the bunker. They could've hold up in there, but with no food, they wouldn't survive that long if the newcomers besieged them. Isaac briefly hoped that friends had somehow arrived, but the car belonging to either Zhanghai or the State Police seemed far too likely. Considering how he had bested all the Zhanghai samurai so far, Isaac felt considered he could fight his way out, even if the sleep deprivation threaten to catch up to him.

They arrived back in the adjacent room. Kassandra poked her head into the lobby, then immediately backed into the room. "Staties outside," she whispered.

Everybody in Arcadia knew what the State Police looked like. Black suits, black fedoras, Tommy Guns. Adrenaline raced through Isaac - would the State Police be tougher than the samurai?

"I only see two of them," Kassandra continued. "They're waiting outside the temple entrance. If we try to go through the lobby, we'll be sitting ducks."

As Isaac pondered his options, dust floated in a column of sunlight through the broken roof. As he followed the column, his eyes settled in on all the debris that had caved into the room. Trying to move as quietly as possible, Isaac found handholds and footholds and slowly snaked his way up the pile of debris. Fortunately, outside of sending down a stream or two of dirt, he was able to make it up to the broken section of the roof. He vaulted over the edge and found himself atop the temple.

He hoisted Kassandra over the top. Since the Staties were right outside the entrance, they couldn't see the duo on this part of the roof. Their car parked far enough down the road for Isaac to see it; he also spotted the rusted tank half-buried in the ground. After scanning the landscape, both close by and far away, he found no further State Police. Neither did Kassandra.

The two crouch-walked to the edge of the roof. Isaac briefly gazed directly down over the edge; the two Staties, submachine guns in hand, continued to mull about in front of the temple, their focus directed entirely towards the lobby. Isaac and Kassandra shared one last look. The plan didn't need to be shared since it was obvious enough - just jump down right on top of them.

Right as they slid over the edge, the tremendous cracking sound of a gunshot went off. Red sprayed Isaac's face; the bullet took Kassandra's entire left arm off at the shoulder. As the limb flew away, the force spun Kassandra around and into Isaac. A second gunshot went off, ripping through Kassandra's side, narrowly missing Isaac. He saw the brief glint of light off the scope of a gun from behind the rusted tank. There had been a third officer all along.

Rather than jump right onto the State Police officers, Isaac and Kassandra landed in a heap right next to them. Though her chest still lightly rose and fell, blood leaked out of her wounds and her eyes looked glazed over. She needed medical attention right away, but once more, Isaac found himself in a fight for his life.