It was a story passed down for centuries, told around the holofire and given with the morality lesson to never do bad. That, at least, was what Evester took out of the stories of The Catastrophe. When his sister, Europa, cried herself to sleep those night and their brother Endwin tried to comfort her, Evester saw it as nothing more than a lesson for bad children. One day the end would come and none would be able to stop it. The earth would shake their towers and demons would rise from the deep the destroy them all.
It was supposed to be a story, so why was he wiping sweat from his forehead colored yellow in the blood of the Aralax he had killed? Why was there another standing before him ready to attack? Why was he atop the LowerLands, searching for anyone that could help him or a way into the UnderCities to make sure he found a specific girl? Why was he, a Circle, there on the commoners ground? Why had his home, his life, been destroyed? How was he facing a monster out of his sister’s worst nightmares: burly and alien, red, scaled, with six arms and yellow blood with a screeching voice like a screaming violin and burning red eyes?
The creature snarled at him, moving away from the pain that Evester had inflicted upon it. Clearly the creature was distraught at the loss of its partner.
The story had resulted in protests. The story had been enough to separate him from his mother, Europa, and Endwin. The story had led to his father’s the obsession with the Catastrophe. The obsession had turned to the craze. The craze had led Evester’s father into madness creating a lock on classified information that only he and Evester had access to. Evester had those files, had read those files, knew what to do with the information and was the one who knew how to stop The Uncertain End. It was supposed to have been a story. It was supposed to have ended in the revelation that all stories were fake madness and with the destruction of the Yasloughve Project.
“The Yasloughve Project is our end.” His father had told him many times, but Evester had thought that meant the destruction of their status as high ranked Circles and having to crawl back to his mother in shame. Evester had thought it meant the end of the outdated prediction system that was of little importance with the Magicians and Scientists that could stop and ease the natural disasters. The end of a project from centuries ago that had little effect on them these days. It was supposed to have meant anything but to be true.
Instead Evester stood slicing his holoblade in the air using the only faux magic he had at his disposal and the sole protection he was given. He had to kill the Aralax before it ripped him in two and he knew exactly how to do it; he’d done it before, thanks to his father’s predictions and notes had depicted it. They depicted many things: the Aralax, how to kill them, how to outsmart them, how to complete the Space Program, the coordinates of Humanity’s new home, and the deadline.
The deadline was what everyone knew as The Uncertain End and Evester knew the date.
The monster screeched again, ready to attack.
“I don’t have time for you.” Evester moved first, a cardinal rule with a species that was faster than he was. Keep control of the situation and strike the vital weak spots predicted. Make the predictions actualities. Prove that the Yasloughve Project was not a bit of out outdated technology. It had warned them about this, given them the tools they needed to survive, and Evester was going to make sure he did. “My father has set me on this goddamn path, and I must oblige.”
That was the worst part, that in all this madness Evester could escape by himself. He could let humanity burn, say to the hell with it, and leave. He could forgo all the plans and survive on his own. He could die on his own but he would not die on his own — it was scary enough to go into space on his own, let alone die out there. Perhaps it was this that his father had seen in him that made his father fight so damn hard for custody over Evester. Evester knew better. He’d known better since the day he saw his names with two others in the files his father left him. Three people could save humanity and he was one of them.
It was a responsibility no one wanted. Evester was not a hero. He was a Scientist’s son and noble of the highest class. He did what he wanted when he wanted. Yet, here he was searching for answers in the notes his father left him hoping there was a mistake, and wondering if he could, in fact, save the world.
Maybe he could complete the discarded Space Program and save humanity, but for now he had to survive this fight.
The creature and he fought. Luckily this one had yet to adapt to their magic, and he was able to kill the Aralax. On the horizon the sun rose revealing that Evester was covered in more yellow blood than sweat. He did not care.
His holoblade sizzled out as he began to walk towards the UnderCity that his files dictated. Heiphilia, no last name, she was the first one he had to find. Heiphilia, X, no last name, age twenty-two, seven siblings, and a member of the LakeLost UnderCity.
“Two Hundred Seventy Five.” He repeated the number over and over to himself in a sort of hysteria, knowing that one day he’d have to burn and discard of all the notes. He had to make sure he knew them all forwards and backwards. He had to have them memorized and this date? It was the most important date in all of human history.
Two Hundred and Seventy Five days remained Until The Uncertain End.
When the Catastrophe started Heia had been sleeping. Her people had to evacuate from LakeLost and rise to the surface in an attempt to survive. Most were unable to make it. When the world had been destroyed she had picked up every small child she could find, and brought them to the surface. When the world had been destroyed the Circles and Stars hadn’t cared about them, not that it had been a surprise.
Heia still remembered the wars that had raged in the aftermath between those with power and those with none. Those with power won, like they always did, and deep into the holes of the earth or Towers her people returned. She heard the stories of The Night of Oblivion through the rumor mill. She had thought them rumors then, but when the first creature — Aralax was what the Circles and Stars called them — attacked her world, she had seen it shatter. The wars began again, but they were not the same.
“Heia.” Her thoughts were broken like the twig she was holding, sharp, clean, quick.
“Andre.” Heia looked up to see her older brother. He was the only one of her family she knew for certain was alive. Her parents had gone missing in the Catastrophe. Her other siblings had been missing for weeks off on their own missions and she knew better to believe they were alive with the creatures roaming. Until she saw the whites in their eyes she’d mourn them. Part of her hoped that by doing so, she’d erase any real mourning she’d have when, one day, they never returned. It would make her life easier, harden her heart or something along those lines.
“The kids need you.” Andre turned from her ready to lead her towards their makeshift orphanage for all the children who were without families of the children she had saved. She knew taking care of them was going to be the death of her own family, but she could not leave children, her people, to suffer and die. She would get them food. She would save them. She would find a way to mitigate this Catastrophe, for humans survived. It was what they were built for, and they’d survive this.
“I don’t understand why the damn Stars haven’t wiped out all the Aralax already and helped with the feeding issue.” Heia followed after Andre.
“I heard whispers that the Stars can’t because the planet is killing itself,” More of the rumors that Heia didn’t know whether to trust or not.
“Someone ought to be doing something.”
“I heard…” He stopped. Andre knew very well that Heia hated rumors. “The Stars are trying to restart the Space Program.”
Heia searched her memory and found discarded off hand comments on how the Space Program was destroyed by AntiLove under the pretense that it was a discriminatory failsafe for the Stars. The Stars had accepted for no one expected the Catastrophe to come. Then MAY, Magicians Against Yasloughve, had shut down the Yasloughve Project itself.
“They will kill us all.”
“No.” Andre stopped walking, standing in the doorway where the children played, “They will kill us and they will survive.”
And that was the distinction. The Stars didn’t think of X’s of the common people, like her, as humans. They were extras: Xs. Distinguished by their dirty clothes, rundown homes, poverty, and distinct X’s tattooed on their hands.
“You’d think that the space program would have accounted for a way to save all of humanity, that the Yasloughve Project would have determined a way to do it.” She had always wondered if it was a possibility.
“Maybe it did and people got greedy. We’ll never know. The Yasloughve Project is done now.”
The Yasloughve Project had been turned off when the Stars, and in turn MAY, had decided that it was too old to matter, and the Catastrophe had erased all remains of it. No one knew how to recreate it, she figured. No one probably even cared. Heia, herself, hated the program. It was because of the program that the ranks even existed and why her people were discarded.
“For now food.” Heia changed the conversation and focused on the children. She could not care what the Stars and Circles would do to save them from the monsters for nothing she’d do would change that. All she could focus on was survival in the moment.
“Do you have it?” Zeydar whispered into the darkness, gripping his arms to the point of blood masked by the clothes that were not befitting a Star, Magician, such as himself. He had to be secretive about this. If it got back to the Superiors… well it wasn’t like they could strip him of his class as a Class 1 Magician, that was something he was born with. This anxiety was not.
“Yeah. Yeah I have it.” The dealer eyed him once over but said nothing as they exchanged drugs for food tickets. Stars had access to the best supplies and food. They always had, had the access but with the food shortages now, it was even more of a privilege and as a Class 1 Magician, Zeydar had access to the most. He could do, virtually, no wrong.
Zeydar turned the moment he could, for he wanted to get home and not have a conversation with anyone. He was far too fancy for this environment and needed the drug in his system. It cleared his head, always had, and was necessary in these days. Whiteshade was what it was called, but it was better known as Sweet Dreams. Zeydar had heard that many Stars of the lower classes had turned to Sweet Dreams, when their loved ones had died in the collapse of some of the CloudCities.
Zeydar had always used it to clear his mind. Ever since he was a kid, his Superiors had told him he needed it to control his powers — or rather they forced it on him, but the technicalities were besides him at the particular moment. It sported a high addiction rating making it detrimental to a person, but it gave greater control over magic and as a Class 1 Magician Zeydar needed that control. Granted he had been taking more than his prescribed dosage, but he needed it. The Superiors still slipped the drug into his food and drink when he wasn’t “looking.” They still prescribed him their dosage for his “dreams.” And he still needed more. What did they know about living in the towers for months? What did they know about what he had gone through? The looks? The beatings? The way his body had almost been destroyed and how he had single handedly destroyed a tower on his own.
The Superiors knew that he had done it. It was how they had located him when the CloudCity had lost him. He had killed so many people, and he? He couldn’t live with that on his conscious. So, it was easier to give into the Whiteshade, to the Sweet Dreams, and forget it all. Mellow out, forget it all, and let his superior genetics take care of the rest.
In his twenty plus years of using the drug he’d never seen any sort of backlash his body had towards it other than the anxiety attacks he had when he had no more. Some people had hallucinations, loss of memory, loss of control. Zeydar found that everything seemed to pop with color, sound, sensation when he was off of it. Everything became too much, and he needed Whiteshade. So now that his prescribed dosages weren’t doing a thing to quiet the storm, he had turned to other means to get more.
Selling food and supplies tickets, to get himself his mind back seemed like a win win. It wasn’t like he needed all the excess food and supplies. Plus being on Whiteshade made him less of a danger to humanity.
“Zeydar.” He heard his name the moment he crossed into the threshold of his new home in Valaria. It was not the CloudCity he grew up in, but all CloudCities looked the same: uniformity. All CloudCities feared him in not so secret whispers. Zeydar turned to the voice to examine her. Star on her hand told him her rank amongst the humans: a Star like him. A Magician like him? That was to be determined. “Where is your staff?”
His staff? He had left it in his room, opting instead for the non-magic route to go to his dealer. His dealer didn’t like Magicians, granted with what Zeydar could do, it made sense. Besides, not that he would ever tell anyone, sometimes he felt that he didn’t need his staff. Not when he was like this, and the noises were booming and colors were crashing and his head was spinning. Right now? He felt that he could cast a rank two spell let alone a rank ten spell.
Not that he was sure, rank two spells were Class 1 Magician territory and to say that he could cast his typical magic without a staff was a bit cocky. They were some of the most complex and tricky spells in the world, and he would never dare to say he could complete a rank 1, that was only possible with multiple Class 1 Magicians. Regardless, he didn’t need his staff.
“My room.” Not that the answer was good enough. Here he stood in street clothes he kept from his days in the Tower of the CloudCity Arcadia, looking every bit an X as he could muster. It did not change the fact that he was a Class 1 Magician, and one of the few left in existence. Before the Catastrophe he knew that there was less than five hundred of them, but more than ten. Now he was not so sure. Their numbers were always kept a secret to outsiders, and he had not graduated to becoming a Superior yet. He was supposed to become one on his birthday — would he however? How many times had his birthday come and passed with them telling him no? — and with all the destruction he figured there was less than their few numbers had started off with.
“Your room?” The woman, he could not place her name for the life of him, asked. “And pray tell why that is?”
“Traveling with it makes me a target.” Pull the trauma card. It always worked. He saw the flicker of realization in her eyes.
“You are in Valaria. Arcadia is destroyed.” Thanks to him. “You mustn’t be afraid of the Extras.”
Extras. The X’s. Magician’s loved to call them that. He remembered being pulled from his room in Arcadia during the Night of Oblivion and dragged into the Tower that held the CloudCity afloat. He remembered every excruciating detail of the riots. All the memories were there for him if he just…
“Jailah let the boy be.” A new voice interrupted his thoughts. Majorie, a Superior, Class 1 Magician and the case Magician watching over him. Jailah moved to the side, her staff moving as she did, creating an echo of white within the black metal of the staff. A Class Three Magician.
staffs came in all shapes and sizes. Often a Magician had many for different situations — though Stars four and five typically had one — carrying them for looks and their preferences. It was the way that a staff echoed that was always the same. The moment of movement was where a spring of color would rise on and in the staff, only to then fade away. A staff would also glow when the Star holding it used their magic. For Fives it was a solid color, dark and deep. Four was a neon color or pastel. Threes were white. Twos were gold. One was iridescent, shifting in colors as the staff moved or magic was used. It was the way the staff interacted with Magic always circulating it, letting its presence be known, and only Stars knew of this secret. A color defined class, and a cast echo of a staff could be a death sentence for a four or five class Star.
“Majorie.” Zeydar held himself closer to make sure she didn’t see what he had. “I was just on a walk and — “
“The dreams are getting to you?” Majorie asked him and him alone.
“I… Yes.” He knew she meant the memories of the Tower, and those days where he — it didn’t matter even if that was why he needed the drugs.
“Are you taking your medicine?” The extra prescribed dosage on top of what they gave him normally.
“Yes.” But it was not enough, even if she didn’t believe that he was with the way that he was acting. Might as well lie, he figured. “Well… I was going to.”
“Go take it.” She had the fury that he expected from him saying he skipped. Anyone in their right mind would be. He had destroyed a CloudCity and Tower last time.
“And remember to always bring a staff with you.” She reprimanded him, but that was the end of the reprimand. He gave a curt nod and then sped away hoping to get to his room, to the Sweet Dreams, and to dull all the sensation. He was tired of living, but there was no way a Class 1 Magician could ever kill themselves, not even if they wanted to. Thus he was stuck, hoping for the Uncertain End that everyone prayed would never come.
If you see spelling errors or anything, tell me. I can only go over something so many times with my eyes and expect not to miss something. Also for more information on this, you can go to it’s page here. — MM