Rebuilding was what the government had pitched it as. Rebuilding and the control of the path from the CloudCity to the Tower. After the Catastrophe had knocked out a good portion of human civilization, mostly LowerLands and UnderCities, the government was taking his father’s life work so much more seriously.
Evester sat at his computer looking at the footage of the events of that day when his father knocked on his door.
“Your mother call you?” His father asked as he opened the door.
“Yeah.” Evester sent Uly a message that the footage could be sent to their editor. “She wanted to make sure we were okay again. She wants us to get home.”
Home. Valaria. Away from this.
“I told her we would be home soon.”
“You talked to her? Weren’t you ignoring her?” Evester’s attention was drew from his computer.
“Your mother gets her way sooner or later.”
“When are we getting home?”
“Soon.” What a useless time measurement.
“For now, come. We have somewhere to be.”
“What do you mean?”
“Come.” His father left the door open and Evester debated on following. Chasing after his father, Evester moved through the dark house. Evester’s father stood at his lab door with a bag in his hand.
“Where are we going?” Evester looked to the bag, finding it filled with survival supplies Evester was more than familiar with.
“Out.” He answered with a smiled.
“Dad.” Evester was not going to let the evasive questions fly.
“To the Tower.” His father answered as he opened the door to his house. Evester’s skin prickled at the words. The Tower? Quickly Evester followed after his father without another word. Driving them to the Tower entrance, his father paid the guards for their entrance out and they were moved into The Limit.
“Why are we here?” Evester asked.
“I’m giving you a job.”
His father handed him a bag. “Get down to the bottom layer of the Tower without anyone finding you. You have three days.”
“What?” Evester did not understand. Nor was he sure it was possible to get down the Tower in three days.
“After the stunt you pulled.” Adam spoke from behind them. “The government has asked to keep you under control, and so we are doing this as a sort of way to keep your adrenaline moving, but to keep you from causing a panic.”
“Who is going to chase me? You?” Evester laughed at Adam as more police appeared and Evester recognized them. His laughter died in his throat.
“Ready? You get a hour lead. If you make it to floor one, then you win.” His father’s smirk was spreading to the whole of the force after Evester. Evester glared at his father and took the bag anyway. Evester could not stand the fact that all those around him looked down at him.
He took off running to try to break free.
He was caught three hours later.
Evester steadied his breathing, hood up, and face down. Gloves on, foot steps light. His friends had been asking him if he wanted to do anything lately. It had all seemed tedious, but this? This was too much fun. This was far more excitement than anything he could get inside Ovaria. The ever present danger of being found, and having to sneak all the way to the bottom later, made his blood pump and his mind soar. He had never experienced the Tower in this way before. At first he had been caught easily. Back then he hadn’t been taking it seriously.
Now he did, and he was almost there. Almost out.
Breath steady, and bag close Evester moved from his hiding space watching as the crowd moved. They could be anywhere and everywhere watching him. He hadn’t expected to be forced into a situation where he’d have to steal vehicles, climb buildings, run, jump, and use all the skills he’d acquired over the years in such a way. The skills he’s acquired for fun were being tested for practicality.
The bag was empty outside of the heavy binders filled with blank paper. It was designed to slow him down, and the objective other than to escape was to keep the papers safe.
“Got you.” Adam caught him as Evester moved around a corner. “Close this time.”
“Can I add in the rest of EverDanger?” Evester asked instead of protesting. He’d failed, made a mistake somewhere and Adam had caught him. All Evester could do was get better.
“To these excursions?”
“They are bored and it would amp the danger value for you to try to find all of us. One of us found, all of us are.” Evester hoped that the idea sounded as appealing out loud as it did in his head.
“We can pitch it to your father.” Adam directed him to the car where the others waited and they began their drive up the Tower. Evester’d been in the Tower for a full week trying to escape this time, and he had every opportunity to win, but hadn’t. Something about the conversation he had with his father and Adam — the day that the time constraint of three days was lifted — had told him never to aim to win, always to aim for a new path. This wasn’t about winning it was about exploring, but Evester wasn’t sure why. He figured he’d learn in enough time.
Evester’s next chase was less than two hours after they got back up to the top of the Tower. It was just enough time for Evester to restock on supplies and prepare himself mentally. There was no time to talk to his father. When Evester got to the bottom and found Adamn three days later, Adam gave Evester’s father his report and Evester’s father had nodded.
“Next time you won’t be caught.” Evester’s father smiled at Evester, filled with praise and support.
“When is the next time?” Evester asked. “Can the others join?”
“Up to you to decide.” His father shrugged. “You’ll know what to do.”
The party was thumping.
“Where have you been?” Phil wrapped his arm around Evester’s shoulder. “Everyone has been asking.”
“Exploring.” Evester answered knowing not to give too many details out at a party like this. “Lots of exploring.”
“Exploring.” Kim smiled at him. “That sounds exciting. We’ve been partying and preparing for the stunt again. The Catastrophe video got some views, but this stunt would get more.”
“Oh.” Evester blinked. “I…”
“We worked for this. Don’t tell me you forgot.” Crass asked annoyed.
Evester had forgotten and in order to remedy the fear of being rejected, he decided to spill at the party anyway. He dropped his voice so only they’d hear him. “No. I just have a better idea. I’ve been sneaking around the Tower for the last few months.”
“Hot shit, really?” Phil dropped his arm. “Are you kidding?”
“Government orders to keep me from causing a panic or something. They said I could add you if I wanted to. The name of the game is to escape without being caught.” Evester explained, his eyes darting around the room searching for anything to get him a high. He saw the shadows of the party and smelt the sweat.
“That’s easy.” Rhoda laughed.
“You’d think, but they have eyes and ears everywhere. It’s taken me all this time to get to the last floor.” Evester shrugged, eyes back on his friends. “I figure it could be fun?”
“Could be.” Kim smiled. “It’s been keeping you sedated for the last five months.”
“It—“ There was a scream that broke off any further thought.
“God someone did something stupid again.” Lynx looked back when they heard another scream. Pushing away, Kim raced to see what was wrong and Evester chased after her. The smell of blood hit Evester first, along with the bodies that were fleeing in panic. What they found were two monsters ripping people apart in the yard and the sound of emergency sirens. Big black bodies, like insects, and screeching sounds that were being echoed over the city. Magicians who had been at the party jumped in, spinning spells towards the monsters, trying to kill the beasts. Evester grabbed Kim’s hand and ran.
“What was that?” Kim screamed at him as he directed his other friends to follow.
“Aralax.” Evester knew the word. He knew what this was. The Yasloughve Project, was his father’s life work, and it was the creature of nightmares. The Catastrophe was ever present and this was the next phase.
It would be called The Night of Oblivion. That was the name that his father would submit months, weeks, days, hours before it happened when the government doubted that it would and fined him for keeping the project on each time. Ovaria was not hurt as badly as some other major cities. Those cities simply hadn’t bothered to prepare at all. At least Ovaria had the sense to listen to their raving mad scientist and have some sort of protocol in place.
The Night of Destruction would then follow.
Evester did not fight an Aralax that night. Instead he had run and locked him and his friends up in the safe house his mother directed him to over the phone. It was early on the morning of the day after The Night of Oblivion. His friends were asleep and he turned on the news. There was footage of the monsters and the face of a man. His father’s face, listed as missing along with his own. Names of the dead: Adam, the maids…
“Evester?” Kim asked as she woke up and Evester shut the TV off. Like he had something to hide, like he needed to truly disappear. You’ll know what to do.
“I’ll be back.” Evester answered her before he left the room. She seemed to nod and fall back to sleep. Looking over the faces of his friends, he knew this was the last time he’d see them.
“Will you?” Uly asked proving that he was not asleep.
Evester had a choice. Take them with him, or keep them where it was safe. He’d bring them with him, he swore it to himself. “I’ll be back later today. I need to see my house.”
Uly did not say another word as Evester left the safe house. Sneaking through the city was easier than sneaking through the Tower. Evester had an idea of where to find the cameras, and where to hide as he traveled to his barricaded home. There were no officers when Evester arrived, as if they had already checked the entire premises. There was the massive stench of blood, locations of where bodies had fallen. Evester made his way to his father’s lab to see it splashed in blood, the Yasloughve Project destroyed.
The Yasloughve Project is our end: was written onto the walls in the blood. Words he’d thought meant one thing meant something entirely different in this context. The Cities had not listened to the Project and now they would all die. Evester’s legs began to give out underneath him. How could this… He’d seen his father only hours before.
And that was when he remembered his father was missing not counted as dead.
The monsters must have taken him, but why? Thoughts spun through Evester’s head as he tried to rationalize where his father was, that Adam was not truly dead. Or he must have…
A single bag was discarded on the floor, black and its contents of empty pages were spilling out.
Adam and his father had raced him through the Tower to help him learn to escape without being seen. His father had made him use the retinal scanner for the safe in the room. His father had told him that the next time, he’d flee and wouldn’t be caught. That he’d know what to do.
Evester’s eyes went to the safe, and he rushed over to open it with his eyes and hands, pulling out the bag within it that was filled with plans, details, and information that Evester had never known. Information he recognized by the logo at the top: the Yasloughve Project files. Inside was a letter.
They will try to stop you. Your mother will try to stop you. They don’t believe in the Project. They believe this can all be stopped and if it can’t be then they will do what they can to save themselves only. The species can be saved. The Space Program needs to be restarted. Inside you will find all you need.
If they stop you, everyone dies, or most everyone dies. If you leave, we can save them. I don’t expect you to do this for the sake of saving the world. Instead think of it as the largest gamble you’ve ever made in your life. Nothing with touch this high Evester. Could you live with yourself if you never tasted it?
Read the files. Memorize it all. Play the game. This is who you must find:
Hepihillia, X, LakeLost, 22
Zeydar Arcadius, Star, Arcadia, 24
The Yasloughve Project is our end. The Uncertain End is coming.
There was no signature of name, only the familiar scrawl to tell Evester this was his father. A boy his age and a girl two years younger. He needed to find them both to stop the end of the world? He was expected to believe that? But what if it was and he could stop it? What if they got the files and did just try to destroy it all? What if the world could be saved in full and the Cities only did it in part.
He’d seen how they had handled The Catastrophe and The Night of Oblivion.
What was the point in not trying? If he was caught he’d be taken to his mother and nothing would happen to him. He was untouchable after all, and he was already counted as missing. The question was on if he should bring his friends or not.
Not, he decided when he looked over the files, remembered what had to be done, and thought of the practice they had. They did not have the practice to disappear that he did, and they weren’t already missing. However he could prepare them, if they just listened. For he’d have to go back to a Tower, to find Zeydar, and hopefully that would be enough time to prepare.
There were clothes in the safe, clothes he’d come to know and love, along with a holoblades, a shield, and a phaser.
Evester left fifteen minutes later, to escape into the Tower sending one final message to his friends before he turned off all communication for good: It’s Tax Season.