Author: JadeWing PM
First part of the Transcending A Dynasty Trilogy. In the year 6018, when two misfits fall into what they thought was the foundations of the school, the last thing they thought they'd find was a sleeping girl who'd shake the foundations of their society.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Fantasy - Chapters: 10 - Words: 97,171 - Reviews: 163 - Favs: 144 - Follows: 8 - Updated: 04-22-04 - Published: 03-28-04 - id: 1563782
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Transcending a Dynasty
Chapter One: Glass Cage
"What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from."
—T. S. Eliot, "Four Quartets"
"Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved."
—William Jennings Bryan
MARCH 26, 3076, AD PS HEADQUARTERS, TOKYO
"They say Jaegar launched an attack on one of the bases in America." Rye ran a hand over a support column, face unreadable, green eyes trained on the stone. "Has your mother mentioned it?"
"No, but she's definitely worried about something." The other girl, Lethya—or more accurately, Alethyis Fanyathe—paused to watch a green shape streak across the sky, then continued walking, gray-blue eyes downcast, untidy pale blond bangs hiding as much of her face as they could. With Jaegar wreaking havoc on the EM Alliance and the Dynasty, times were unsure at best; it didn't help any having her older sister as well as her twin be chosen. Of the three sisters, only she remained unbonded. Rye alone was sympathetic, being in a similar situation—though on a smaller scale, to be sure. And Rye would obviously be chosen any day now, despite being well into adolescence.
Of course, Lethya wasn't one to talk, being sixteen and unbonded. Some said it meant she would follow her mother's footsteps, and some said that all the ability had gone to her twin and not her. She never was as good as her twin.
On the other hand, her twin was the one being sent out almost daily to fight alongside their elder sister in the war that was continuing with, as of late, renewed ferocity. Where on earth had the Muterans found their leader? No one knew what Jaegar would do next, or even what he looked like. It had been a long, long time since the Muterans had abandoned their dying home planet of Teran and been granted sanctuary on earth, and yet there was still too little known about the capabilities of the race.
If the Muterans had looked vaguely human, there might not have been problems between them and the host race of their new home. Unfortunately, there were hundreds of different clans of one root species, all adapted to living on different parts of Teran, which from their records had been an extremely hostile planet. Very few of the Muterans actually resembled one another, which in itself was a problem, but worst of all were the shapeshifters, which could assume any form they wanted, even that of a human. There were only four abilities that all Muterans shared: swift healing ability, flight, heightened senses, and the Muteran version of psymantic power, called Rintyran in their tongue. Their downfall was their significantly inferior intellect in most cases, but on Teran they hadn't needed it often, if at all. Any problems had been unforeseen—or ignored—when, after some debate and deliberation within both species, the Muterans had first been granted sanctuary on Earth.
They had been there for a few years before the problems had begun cropping between humans and alien race—war had been inevitable. At least peace had lasted long enough for the Geneticists to begin Project Union last century, though it had taken decades to complete, the initial test had been a failure, and the final results wouldn't even show for the five-year maturing period. Nonetheless, chances were that they would need the fruits of that project not long from now. At least some of the Muterans fought on their side, but there always could be more—her mother often railed on about the need for more of everything, knowing there never would be enough.
Rye had said something, but Lethya had missed it, deep in thought. Blinking, she turned to her friend—and froze.
Jaegar was coming.
The realization seared through her mind well before the Alarum sounded. How, or why, she had no idea, but she knew. The hall seemed wider and longer than ever as she tried to make the world start again and couldn't, ice running through her veins.
"Lethya—Lethya, what's wrong?" Rye sounded nervous—her friend had never had that cast to her eyes before. The sound woke Lethya from her strange, cold trance.
"He's coming," she replied, aghast. "Jaegar's coming."
Right on cue, the Alarum's siren started wailing. "We—we've got to get to the Preservexes," stammered Rye.
"Right." They ran down the open halls, past the gardens and the Library, and careened around a corner, only to find a horrific sight: twenty bodies or more, all looking like they were asleep, the thick residual slime ofvris on the walls nearby. It was a gas synthesized by the Muterans, though they were mostly immune to its devastating effects; it was as bad—if not worse—as the mustard gas from the wars of old.
"Come on!" They doubled back, not daring to cross the ground where the dead lay, and turned at another cross section. They were forced to change direction several times, finding patches of those dead or dying from the chokingvris.
A louder rumbling noise started to grow behind them. How had he gotten past the guards? Where were the Special Forces—the soldiers—the psymancers?
Her answer came as they were forced to cut across open ground: bodies littered the ground, some moaning softly as their lungs dissolved. All wore uniforms of some division of the army, killed to protect the people inside the building. He had to have gassed the majority of the psymancers in stealth while they were in the training grounds. Without them, the PS Headquarters and its defenses were heavily crippled—perhaps too much so.
The rumbling grew louder, and as she looked back, she saw black snake-like tendrils wrapping around the Grand Chambers and tightening until first cracks appeared and then the whole dome shattered. Those tentacles were the trademark of a nightmare beast—an enormous Muteran that appeared as nothing so much as a cancerous blemish on the surface of the earth, a mass of blackness with thousands of scaled tentacles, dubbed by the humans as a 'kraken' after the monster of legends. And now it was destroying her home.
If a kraken was here—hadn't she overheard a conversation about this? It meant that—
A hand reached out, grabbing her ankle, and she shrieked. It was a woman she vaguely recognized from around the Senatorium, blood starting to run from the corner of her mouth, and in her ruined hands she held a coarse sack. "Le—Leth—Take—keep it—safe—" She slumped over, dead, and Lethya took the satchel with trembling hands, slipping the strap over her shoulder and looking inside. It contained seven round balls the size of two fists, all a pearly gray, and she knew immediately what they were. They must have been on their way to the Bookkeeping office to be logged in the records…
"Let's go," she whispered. The necklace her mother had given her for her birthday was glowing slightly—she tucked it under her shirt for safekeeping.
They ran on, then reached the Preservex Room. Her sisters had already made it there, and they each climbed into a Preservex, the vapors rising up and the clear glastec panel sliding shut. The light over the panels were blinking yellow, indicating the capsule hadn't stabilized. Thousands upon thousands more Preservexes lay in wait in the room, metal cylinders with the clear panel as a doorway. They were structured to render the inhabitant unconscious and then run off the mental energy still being produced, making the machine itself indestructible once it had stabilized and allowing someone to stay locked in a moment for possibly thousands of years without aging a day.
The lights hadn't turned green yet when the kraken's black tendrils swarmed into the room. The crunch of glastec and metal ran, cacophonic, through the air, the discord renting their ears. They were being destroyed, all of the Preservexes—her people's last chance of escape—no, it couldn't be happening—
Tentacles wrapped around her sisters' Preservexes and wrenched them free just as a stone column toppled and debris rained from ceiling, burying both the limbs and her sisters.
"NO!" Tears ran down her face. Her sisters—her sisters, dead—
Something shoved her towards one Preservex left standing. "Go!" Rye yelled.
"Get in there!" Her friend seized her wrist, dragging her faster. "You've got to survive," she said fiercely.
"No! Rye, you can't—"
Rye gave her a last push, her strength unexpected, and Lethya stumbled within the cylinder. The thump of a hand hitting the sealing button was confirmed by the click of the panel sliding shut behind her. Now only someone on the outside could release her. "Rye!"
"He can't get you, I swore to your mother that I'd save you at any cost!"
Vapors started seeping up from the floor. "No!"
The yellow reflection above showed it hadn't stabilized yet. Gritting her teeth, her friend drew the short blade from her hip and swept it in an arc, doing her best to fend off the advancing tentacles. Those that met her edge jerked back, writhing and dripping an ugly, sludge-like liquid.
Then a fresh surge poured through the entryway as the kraken itself forced through, easily shoving past the arch, the din of stone cracking and metal twisting rising to a fever pitch. The light turned green; Lethya was fighting off the stasis that was inevitable.
A tentacle rammed through Rye, impaling her as she faced Lethya. She glanced down, surprised, and flecks of blood rained on the Preservex's clear panel. A choking cough wracked her body, and a thin line of scarlet trickled out of her mouth. Her eyes locking with Lethya's for the last time, she said desperately, "Live."
How? How could it be she'd lost so much in only these few, brief moments? Tears rolled down her face faster than ever as she watched Rye's eyes glaze over and her lifeless body fall before the Preservex.
And then she saw him.
The man seated on the kraken was tall and pale, with hair an ugly shade of red-brown and eyes of black, and a cold sort of attractiveness. As he approached, he viewed the carnage around him with little interest. Then he glanced at her, still fighting the encroaching sleep, and stood, frowning, then walked over. She backed up as far as she could, then realized with a sinking heart that if she truly were the last survivor, he would have to be the one to release her. How anyone in the area could have survived was beyond her, and no one would remember or think of the Preservexes. It could be years, decades, maybe centuries before she'd be let out.
Jaegar brought his face closer to the panel, two feet and a glastec panel the only thing between them, and she screamed from fear and revulsion. Her eyes turned lavender for the first time and widened in horror. Then the vapors won her over, but not before her mind gave one last, panicked surge, then subsided, a soft white light shining from beneath her shirt.
She never saw the brilliant flash of light that ripped Jaegar in half, then flatten the kraken. She never saw Jaegar writhe in agony and vanish into fleeting shadows; never saw the black tentacles dissolve into piles of ash; never saw the years pass and the cavernous room slowly collapsing upon itself, then being built over entirely.
But for over a thousand years, she stayed frozen there, eyes wide open, pale violet littered in darker blue like the eyes of a dragon.
10:46 AM, FRIDAY, APRIL 16, 6118 AD, VALIANDESSA EVE OBRIEUN ACADEMY OF THE MARTIAL AND PSYMANTIC ARTS, NEO TOKYO
"Freak." The blonde boy folded his arms and waited for Ander's reply.
"Screw off," the Levitator's companion suggested helpfully, gray-green eyes narrowed behind hair so dark a brown it almost seemed black, rounded chin jutting out slightly in irritation.
"And you're a freak too, Sparky." Sigof leaned forward, grinning maliciously. "Frrr-reak."
"Oh, I get it, Ander," Jerik said in the manner of one who has achieved enlightenment. "He's trying to speak to us in his native tongue. 'Freak' in the language of dumbasses must translate into 'sexy beast.' I'm sorry, Sigof, but my door doesn't swing that way."
Ander gave his friend a warning look, but the rather dimwitted Sigof started forward, opting for physical abuse since his oh-so-eloquent verbal abuse had failed miserably.
In an instant, Ander had him by the collar and pinned against a locker. "I'm going to tell you something right now," he growled, looking fairly threatening. He was tall for his age, and from a distance he didn't seem too unusual—but at close range, those uncanny eyes of his were rumored to have made grown men cry. "And you're going to listen, because I'm sure you don't want to bother us again. Now, if you're stupid, you're going to tick off Jerik. He'll twist everything you say and make you feel like crap by the time he's done with you." He put more pressure on the pale Sigof, who was starting to sweat. "But if you're really stupid, you're going to tick off me. And I don't need words to make you feel even worse." His eyes, once a golden orange like candle flame, had darkened to a reddish-orange in anger that nearly glowed. "Are we clear?" Sigof muttered something that sounded vaguely like 'yes' and Ander released him. "Get out of here."
After stumbling clumsily to his feet, the boy shouted, "You are freaks, both of you! And you're nothing special, you Levitator freak, just some jumped-up freak's brat who even killed his own—"
"Shut up! Shut up shut up shut up!" His cronies dragged him off, casting nervous looks over their shoulders as if the infamous duo were demigods who were waiting to let them think they got off and would then smite them.
"Oooh, I love breaking in the new ones," Jerik said smugly, absentmindedly tugging on his tool belt. His love of mechanics forbade him from leaving anything of use in his room, where most normal people left their tools. "All high and mighty till we pound them into the dirt."
"Quality entertainment," Ander commented dryly, "I'm sure. Of course, you're the one who gets to spout off cunning little witticisms while I get to do the dirty work and act like the Big Bad."
"You know you love it," shot back Jerik. " 'I am Levitator, hear me roar.'"
"Whatever. Are we going to stand around and talk, or are we going to get our schedules?" Without even waiting for his friend's reply, Ander moved off.
The two had been friends for over ten years now, and were infamous around the school. Ander's reception of wary respect stemmed partly from being the son of an unapproved union between one of the last Levitators and the daughter of Neo Tokyo's Psymantic Hime; Jerik's social leprosy originated from being an orphan and burdened with a genetic glitch. That glitch had been the downfall of his family since Jaegar had discovered it. It meant that he most likely would someday suffer a horrible, painful death. For only a sixteen—soon to seventeen for both of them—year-old, it would be something of a downer, but this was Jerik and it took more than the prospect of an early and grisly death to get him down.
They'd both been shunned, Jerik for his glitch, Ander for his strange eyes and unwelcome heritage…and that he had been the only one to witness his parents' death, emerging from their room drenched head-to-foot in their blood. It hadn't taken very long for rumors to start flying that the little five-year-old Levitator had murdered his parents. Even the confirmation a year later that it was most likely Jaegar hadn't stemmed the flow; it never helped that at sixteen he still refused to talk about it.
And then, the year before, it had happened all over again…
Now he was one of the last—if not the last—Levitator left alive. The first Levitators had been a race of humans that had been genetically constructed from square one, but with the four common abilities of the Muterans infused into them. The result had been a race that was stronger and sturdier than humans, had the Muteran Rintyran, exceptional senses, and could fly; virtually Muterans in human form, only they had a human intellect. The genes had been mostly dominant, so any offspring was a Levitator as well. All Ander had from his mother were her exceptional psymantic powers, but in appearance he was almost identical to his father—tall, with shoulders almost a little narrower than normal, an angular face, and light brown hair that constantly fell into his eyes, just brushing the tips of his ears. He would have kept it shorter, but it grew back too fast for it to be worth it. The only unusual thing about him—that was seen, of course—were his eyes, eyes that shifted from yellow to orange to deep red, betraying whatever emotion ruled him—if you knew what each color meant.
Naturally, the Levitators had been an enormous threat to Jaegar, so he'd targeted them, and over the centuries, they'd slowly died out. He didn't know how many other Levitators were alive, but if there were any left, they weren't making themselves blatantly open. Ander, though, had never had a choice.
"Say something offensive," Jerik said suddenly. "You're quiet and it's creeping me out."
Ander rolled his eyes and refused to dignify that with a response. They reached the Transportation Shafts and each stepped into one, saying clearly, "Scanner Level." A light flicked on, showing that the anti-momentum module was working, then blinked off, and they stepped out. Before them was a huge room of Basic Scanners, computers that were connected to the inter-school network and that contained possibly all information that could be gathered from everything in the school with the exception of the dust bunnies.
Setting a hand palm-down on the panel, Ander waited for the screen to load as Jerik did the same. "Genetic Scan complete: Anderian Tientas."
"Genetic Scan complete: Jerikton Schyler. Please select an option."
"I always feel so loved when I use these things," Jerik said regretfully. "They're the only things that are polite to me anymore."
"And one of these days someone's going to program it to insult you like anything with biological or artificial intelligence does nowadays." Ander pushed the School Data section waited impatiently. "Please select an option," the Scanners chimed again in unison.
Simultaneously they hit Schedule Printout, then tore off the procured sheets of paper.
"How's yours look?" Jerik asked, taking Ander's before he responded and holding them up for comparison. "Exactly the same. Surprise, surprise." Ever since they'd met when they were six, Jerik had guaranteed they'd be in the same classes by throwing a tantrum in every class until they eventually switched him to all of his best friend's classes, until finally the teachers caught on and put them in the same schedule every semester. Later they'd justify their actions to their peers in the Teacher's Lounge by claiming that both the boys had lost their families and were clearly psychologically damaged; the least they could do was let them stick together. Ander himself, with his sharp ears, had heard it through the thick door. Life at Valiandessa E. Obrieun Academy of the Martial and Psymantic Arts, more commonly known as V.E.O. Academy, was easy enough once you figured out precisely how to manipulate it.
"Y'know," Jerik said casually as they headed towards the other side of the room, "rumor is they built the school on the foundation of some old building they found here. If this is the bottom level"—he tapped his foot for emphasis—"then what do you think is underneath here?"
"Who cares?" Ander shrugged.
"I do! What if there's a super-advanced weapon hidden underneath there that was lost in the First Apocalypse? Or Psymantic secrets that could destroy Jaegar for good? Or the secret to who or whatever kept him back for so long before?"
"There's nothing down there," Ander snapped, irritated. Only Jerik could bring up the subject of Jaegar in front of him after his parents' murder without being tossed into a wall "Just a lot of concrete, probably."
"But what if it's something else? What if—"
"What if you're full of crap and there's nothing but a bunch of rock down there?" Ander stomped his foot against the floor in indication. "If there was something in the foundation they would have found it—" He would have commented further, but a resounding crack rang in the air, a shudder running beneath the soles of their boots.
That was, right before they discovered they were standing on air. Which, of course, did not last for very long before they dropped. Fast.
Ander saw the ground rushing closer and braced himself, managing to slow the fall with his flight ability and seizing Jerik's arm, knowing his friend didn't have that luck and would have broken something.The pair hit the ground with a solid thump, raising an enormous cloud of dust, and after a few sneezes and as many gagging coughs, Jerik muttered, "Fantastic job, Ander, you broke the school. So where are we?"
"Like I know." It was true enough: wherever they'd fallen, it was like nothing he'd ever seen before. Enormous stone columns either towered in the dark, cold vault or lay on their sides, riddled in cracks. Some were just piles of rubble. If there was a floor, it wasn't visible; it was just an endless sea of broken stone as far as the eye could see in the dim stream of light that came from the hole they'd made, some hundred feet up.
"Can you fly us out?"
Ander glanced over at Jerik, then frowned. After a second, he shook his head. "No. None of the air currents are strong enough for me to use."
"How long do you think it'll take before someone finds us?" Jerik asked after a moment's pause, sounding faintly ill.
"Yet again, like I know." Ander decided to do something rather than just stand around and pulled the Lumanite flashlight all the students had been issued since entry, sweeping it around in a broad arc. The chamber was huge, spacious enough to fit maybe a thousand people; more columns stretched on beyond the visible reach of the light.
Jerik prodded at a pile of dusty black granules in a strange cord-like formation, then bit back a yelp of surprise when it rang with the biting mental acidity Jaegar's kraken reeked of. An idea came, and he said slowly, "Hey, Ander, what if they didn't really build on the building's foundation, they built on what they thought was the foundation and there was really a lot more?"
"You think we just happened to fall into some ancient tomb or something, Jerik?" Ander snorted. "I've got news for you: the world doesn't work that way. People have probably been down here, decided it was a waste of cement to fill in, and built over it. End of story." Nevertheless, he started climbing the huge pile of rubble and twisted metal, headed for what looked like another column at the top.
It wasn't, though. A skeletal hand protruded from the heap, still clutching a blade about a foot and a half long that gleamed like it was newly-forged; he flinched and stepped to the side, wondering who had died fighting—and fighting what? Were they protecting something?
Taking another look, he made out wrought metal and the top of some kind of clear panel from what he'd thought was a column, but the inside was thick with some kind of fog and he couldn't see inside.
Moving quickly, he started pulling the pieces of broken stone away from it, trying his best to ignore the rest of the skeleton. The narrow hipbone and longer leg structure said it had been a girl—whatever this was, it had to be old: everyone knew girls didn't fight and weren't supposed to. Was the empire whose ruins they were in so desperate that they'd resorted to using women as fighters?
Once the rubble was gone, Ander realized that there was no way anyone could have come before them. "Jerik, get over here!"
Jerik had been studying what looked like a control panel of some kind—there'd been several other detached ones lying around—and busily punching and flicking anything he could find. His friend's voice told him that whatever it was, it was urgent though, so he scrambled to his feet and headed over. "What is it?"
Huffing, Jerik raised his head, only to find something that, though he didn't know it then, would send the world as he, Ander, and millions of others knew it into upheaval.
A girl stared at them, wide light-lavender eyes blank; she was a little short, with long, light blond hair falling to her waist and a strange, fearful look on her face. They couldn't see her very well due to the dim light and the misty gas surrounding her—the most they could make out was the color of her eyes. She didn't blink, didn't move, and yet somehow she was definitely alive.
The dark-haired boy rapped on the strange panel with his knuckles. "Um…hello? We come in peace!" There was no reply except for the steady blinking of a green light, but that had been going since Ander had found her.
"Now what?" Ander asked after a moment.
"How did you put it?" said Jerik thoughtfully. "Oh yes: Like I know."
Giving his friend a dirty look, he leaned forward and examined the control board. There were far too many buttons for him to even care to think about, but the large round one in the center was begging to be pushed. After a much-too-short moment of deliberation, Ander stabbed it with a finger, and it let out a stiff click.
"No!" Jerik yelled. "You idiot! You don't know what that—oh, crap!" The top snapped open, vapors billowing out, yet the girl didn't move and the clear door didn't budge. "You killed her! You killed the dead chick!"
Sounds were swimming up to her through the darkness, but she couldn't move, couldn't respond, her limbs frozen.
"Good going, genius!" Now instead of being in really deep crap for falling down here, we're in really really deep crap for killing the dead girl!" a panicked male voice cried.
"She's not dead, moron! The green-blinky-thingy's still going!" She would have laughed, but her voice and throat were numb… Her eyes hurt, strangely dry, the world starting to turn gray. With humongous effort, she dragged them closed.
"Oh my God! Her eyes moved!"
Who was she? Who were her parents, her family? Where was she…?
A name drifted across the empty void: Lethya…Alethyis Fanyathe. With it came dim images: a twin sister, an elder sister—and a mother. Her father—he was dead. But they…were they gone? It hurt when she tried to think of them, her throat burning and heart aching. Only her name came to mind, none of theirs: she remembered hours of training her mind and body, a necklace, a bag of pale orbs: she recalled moves, actions, psymantic spells, lessons embedded into her mind—but no names. Images, no names. Living in some sort of fortress…Her mother, seemingly invincible… Someone standing before her as her world plunged into darkness…
Her mother…her mother was strong, undefeatable…So why hadn't she saved her?
Exhaustion was dragging at her as the grate of the panel sounded, but she clung to that thought, stumbling forward. Why hadn't her mother saved her?
Mama didn't save me…
Something caught her—who—? "Mama…" she breathed, slipping gradually into the first true sleep she'd had in thousands of years.
"Aw, Ander, you're a Mommy," a boy said mockingly.
"Shut up, Jerik." The voice rumbled within the fabric of whoever was holding her: deep, a bit rough, nice enough. Ander…meant 'Choice' in Teranic, didn't it? Strange name.
But it wasn't her mother.
Total blackness swallowed her as the name resounded in her subconscious: Ander…