Chapter 1

Space is a vacant void with a limitless boundary. It is dark. It is cold. It is filled with planets of various sizes comprised of a wide variety of minerals. It did not matter how people wanted to describe that space beyond our planet; beyond our detection and understanding; mysteries would always enshroud the true nature of what we called the universe.

With countless of stars, planets, galaxies, nebulas, and spirals of sheer beauty surrounding themselves in a sea of unique, molten gases, the universe seemed to be on a level that was above human's perception of reality.

When humans thought they had uncovered and explained one element of space another would creep up in silence. Waiting there like a predator, the enigma lurked and pounced at the human curiosity when the timing was right. Tearing off the shells of the inquisitiveness only available through human nature the mysteries would devour the mind of logic little by little. Curiosity was what kept the humans going forward.

By the early twenty-first century, a massive capsule called "The Archive of Mankind" was launched into deep space. Humans back then had hoped that through the capsule, any intelligent life form or any alien civilization would be able to learn more about planet Earth and possibly travel to Earth for an encounter. Inside the capsule, DNA samples and bio-chemical materials, literatures and art, and various other items were placed inside.

As the capsule soared into the endless sky, people on land cheered and celebrated hoping that one day their grandsons or granddaughters would be able to see intelligent beings visiting them and bringing along with them the knowledge of a foreign world.

But was it worth it? No one knew for sure. They had never considered how devastating it could be by introducing one alien culture to another.

Curiosity fueled desire. It was a desire to understand something that was once strange and mysterious to all. And once understanding had been achieved greed came soon after. When information was given to a person it meant that the person would gain power. And it was this power that corrupted mankind's soul. Soon, materialistic wants appeared and no one cared about morality anymore.

There was no need for any belief in religious and spiritual philosophies because power was everything. Such idea continued on for ages until a major disaster had changed people's perception in morality.

Several political parties on Earth had decided that they wanted independence after they had literally controlled all the information online. The world that they were living in was governed by one large empire: The New-Age Party.

Leaders around the globe formed New-Age Party at the end of twenty-first century when civil chaos occurred due to the creation and the launch of the Titan Strike Missile Station in the year 2085. It was floating in space three hundred and four miles away from the Earth's atmosphere.

The Titan Strike Missile Station, TSMS for short, was used primary for instant defenses against massive debris from the Kuiper Belt extending from the orbit of Neptune to the outer range of the sun. Sadly, TSMS not only could protect Earth from possible asteroid crashes it could also easily attack any place on the planet with two hundred thousand nuclear warheads.

Riots and protests raged for several more years because of the TSMS' existence until powerful countries, such as the United States and China, had made an alliance to bring down the insurrection and to support the existence of the TSMS.

When people had thought everything was under control a few leaders of the New-Age Party had decided that they could not gain any special privilege during the decision-making process. In a way, power was distributed among ten world leaders and everyone was equal regarding the control of the world.

The head of New-Age Party was assassinated in 2090 and the party was disbanded soon after. Battles clashed between the two sides that were shaped when the empire was split in half. Soon, minor disputes had transformed into an all-out nuclear war.

In the morning of March 1st, year 2097, more than forty nuclear missiles slammed onto the crust of the Earth. Gigantic fireballs dazzling white at the core and horrifying red at the shell of the blasts had smothered buildings, civilians, transportation, and streets. Cities with population over billions were wiped out in an instant. The entire planet thundered and quaked as if it was going to explode under the immense destruction.

Nuclear fallout followed shortly after and radioactive winter descended upon the surviving humans whom were left strangled in the mingling darkness. Filled with ruins and dusts, an entire human civilization was gone.

Over twelve billion lives were perished.

For the upcoming centuries humans had struggled to survive. The relationship between each person was brought closer by the tragedy. Everyone had worked hard to rebuild their lives again and everyone was trying hard to overcome arduous obstacles. Morality was high in the air once again as people supported each other. After decades of hardship, Earth was slowly being restored to its original look. Nevertheless scars could be seen on surface of the planet forcing people to remember the foolish mistake that their ancestors had once made. After extracting new resources from the ground and refitting major factories that had subsisted the thermal nuclear detonations, new technologies were built and old ones were discarded.

In the year of 2275, humans were far more technological enhanced than the previous eras. Nearby stars were discovered and thoroughly studied by using the Deep Probes. The Probes were shaped like a sphere with antennas protruding from the laminated platinum bodies, which were then covered with tiny shield generators. Knowledge on space had gradually broadened. Textbooks were edited and star charts were redrawn.

However, resources were being drained at an alarming pace. Nearby planets had already been excavated for every drop of natural minerals. Reports from the outer planet space stations had confirmed that not enough natural resources were left to sustain the ever-increasing population back on Earth. Yet, there were no existing technologies good enough for a long-term space exploration for sentient civilizations and natural resources.

Due to such a dire situation, a team of extraordinary scientists had decided to invent something called a Quantum Drive. It would be a new set of engines that could propel humans deep into space and explore new sectors first hand. Regrettably, the laws of physic were still too strong in foundation for the team to bend or to manipulate completely. One failure after another they were getting discouraged.

It was as if the end of human history had come. Time was running out.

OOOOOO

[Net Message #300450002 on 25400123 0345am – Transmission Code: 34e3cc7764d01]

Urgent Message to Dav, Chairman of The World Alliance:

Military Division Six, Ten, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, and Thirty-one have been reported missing. Threat of possible insurgent uprising is imminent. Request Military Division One through Five, Forty through Fifty to be repositioned at all sectors in capital city.

Reports of civil unrest confirmed at Lonesdale Dome City, Arcadas Dome City, and Herocule Dome City. Civil Police efficiency is at forty percent in all three cities. Requesting drafts of manpower from capital city Metro and Waysburn Dome City.

End Message.

OOOOOO

[Year 2540 - June 28th – 7:43am]

"May I see your identification card, sir?"

The security at the gate demanded when he saw Payton Lane walking closer to the checkpoint. Payton gave a small smile as he fished out his unique ID and gave it to the officer. There were quite a few people lining up behind him. All of them wore the same silvery coat as he had on while they shuffled to board the underground shuttle.

"Busy day today, huh?" Payton started making small talk as he waited for the security to clear his ID.

Nodding, the officer slid the card through a scanner slot and entered a few commands in the touch screen monitor before him. "Yeah. The first day of the week is always busy. People just can't afford to be late for work, you know?"

"Especially when there's only so many shuttle gates that you can go through, I'd expect nothing less," the scientist sighed as he retrieved his ID and placed it back into his left chest pocket.

Looking straight at the young worker, the officer straightened his back and replied: "Well, the limitation is needed if you want to keep the opposition away from harming the citizens. We can't have too many security holes in the city. Besides, I think workers going to the central district where all the offices are located had caused this huge line up. You included."

Picking up his bag from the glossy floor that was in a grid pattern with a few spots cracking from the edges of the tiles, Payton Lane brushed his short black hair back with his free hand and chuckled. "Sure beats working in the contaminated areas outside the dome that's for sure."

The officer shrugged. "At least they have more freedom out there than in here. Freedom Party sure has fucked up everyone's life."

"Can't argue with that," Payton patted on the guard's shoulder and walked through the metal detector. Looking back, he said: "Have a good day, huh?"

"Same goes to you, sir."

The capital city Metro was the biggest metropolis among all the other forty cities. After salvaging what was left of New York back in 2110, the massive air dome was erected over the skyscrapers. The war of 2097 had literally fried all the vegetation and life on the planet with intense nuclear fallout. The remaining few cities that had the least amount of the deadly radiation combined all the resources left available and started a new era of human history.

Metro Dome City had completed its repair in 2275 and was declared the capital city under the leadership of the World Alliance. Over six hundred million people had populated the city. It was not long before all districts were filled with attractions and job opportunities. Advertisements in floaters were displayed left and right. The streets were filled with market stands. Stores were opening up on all levels of the skyscrapers. Highly advanced highways were constructed where over millions of vehicles were driving on every day.

Since the Metro Dome City was incredibly popular, the opposition of the World Alliance, the Freedom Party, had constantly tried to cause social unrest from time to time. Although the leader of FP had denied all the violence breaking out in the core areas of the metropolis, the general public knew he was the mastermind behind all the bombings and hackings that had occurred over the years.

As a result of the ever-increasing threats of attacks from the Freedom Party, the World Alliance had decided to place multiple security checkpoints around all high-value locations, such as the subway systems and federal buildings.

Payton Lane hummed a random melody under his breath as he walked through the reinforced subway corridor. His black hair was blown in a way that looked like piercing spikes towering into the sky. It was not long but it was not short either. It also matched his childish face even if he was thirty-two years old already.

Dozens of other workers also walked around him, as the passageway split into other directions after every few hundred meters. The place was well lit with bright fluorescent lights mounted on both sides of the white barren concrete walls. Ventilation systems were designed to accommodate large amount of bodies that crowded the hallways during rush hours. The tunnels remained cool and fresh, as bio filters blocked harmful particles that floated in the air.

As Payton stood in one of the many lines on the platform waiting for the train to arrive, he could see multiple security officers dressing in dark blue patrolling nearby. The large individuals looked intimidating. Arming themselves with large assault rifles that held clips with over two hundred bullets, the officers shifted their gazes left and right to spot any potential trouble.

The young scientist was used to the scene. With the Freedom Party becoming more and more restless, the World Alliance had to take action to protect their cities. Payton shook his head as he thought about the future prospect of humanity. It seemed that even after the great war of 2097, the human race continued to battle out against each other.

A beep sounded through the massive speakers semi-concealed in the pearl-colored ceiling. A few seconds later, the underground shuttle silently arrived from the right. Payton boarded the train and was about to start another day in the office safe from the chaos of the outside world.

OOOOOO

[Year 2540 - June 30th – 6:00am]

Two days later, Payton whistled as he poured some rich black coffee into a stainless cup on the counter. Sweet aroma rose into the cool air in a stream of feathery white. He scanned around the kitchen with his dark blue eyes searching for his personal laptop that was stashed somewhere among the many rows of steel cabinets. He walked around the circular room a few times and then decided to find his computer in the living room. It was six in the morning. At seven he would need to leave the house.

"Lights on. Setting to four," he said to the house's central computer.

The light bulbs in the ceiling gradually grew brighter and brighter, symbolizing a new day that was to come.

In the living room, flat-screen television with eight surround sound speakers dominated half of the space. Soft glowing lights up in the white ceiling had cast a fuzzy luminosity onto the furniture and the floor. The radiance was providing an atmosphere of dream-like state.

Payton scratched his head as he navigated around the black couches. Looking around for his laptop he was not sure if he had the time to find the computer that seemed to be playing games with him by hiding. At last he found the laptop at the bottom of the table in the center of the room. The low desk was made up of glistening crystal materials that twinkled under the light. Adjusting his nametag on his upper left chest and smoothing out his silver laboratory outfit, Payton grinned foolishly to himself in the mirror.

"Payton, your vehicle is now waiting for you outside," the house computer stated as its external sensors had detected heat signatures coming out of the car's engine. "You also have a call waiting for you. It's from Liam Ope, the chairman of Space Committee. Do you want me to accept the call?"

After the War in 2097, Earth had formed another political realm. Same as before, it was split into two halves. The major conflict had continued to be about the existence of TSMS. Some wanted to burn it into crispy pieces on the planet's atmosphere while others wanted it to continue its service to humankind. The World Alliance had sponsored the future upgrades for the TSMS, which would have the Deep Probes installed onto the station to seek out new threats. The opposition, Freedom Party, had tried every possible way to stop the World Alliance. They believed that TSMS still posed a great threat to humanity and to the divine being that they worshipped deeply.

"Send it through the living room channel," Payton sighed as he sat on the couch.

The room went dark and an image of a man in his forties with a bald head had materialized within hundreds of flashing lasers from the projector up in the ceiling. He was wearing a dark black suit with a light blue tie. His light-gray eyes gazed at Payton. Tall buildings could be seen through the massive window behind him, as he folded his hands together on the verdant colored crystal table and cleared his throat.

"Payton! How are you doing lately? Haven't seen you for a while." Liam smiled slightly as he greeted his old friend.

"Not too bad, Liam. I was just about heading out to work. Anything happening?"

Liam Ope's expression sobered considerably. "Listen, Payton. The funding to the Descent Project had been frozen. The Freedom Party has somehow convinced our investors that the Project is wrong. I've spoken to the head of the Union Company, where the largest sum of money comes from. Unfortunately the guy said FP was right and they could not afford to take any risks."

Payton felt his throat tightened up. Tilting his head a little he leaned forward. "What do you mean 'they cannot afford to take any risks'? I thought we've already explained to them that this new development will be successfully completed and it will open up a whole new way to travel into space? Hell, we've even shown everybody the sketches! And the plans for the ship that we are going to be building in a few months!"

"I know! I know! But right now the funding has stopped. Completely! I can't even get a good corporation to backup what we have right now. What happens now is that the Descent Project must be stopped. I'm sorry but there is no money for us to continue the project."

"That's bullshit!" Payton's face turned red. Standing up, he stared at his partner. "They can't do that! The FP can't do that! We've already gotten the approval from the High Court and billions of people are supporting this new project! How can they even convince our contractors to back out right now? Do these damn businessmen know how much profit they would lose if they chicken out on our deal right now?"

Payton was infuriated. They were so close to building the ship. Now they were brought to a stop by some lousy funding problem.

Liam rubbed his eyes as he shook his head. "Payton. There are over seventy percent of global scientists and astronomers that think what you are trying to achieve is impossible. You are talking about going through space sectors in a way that can cut down the amount of time needed to travel with convention means by two-third. Do you know what that means if you are correct? War. That's right, war between two equally powerful sides on this planet because people will bring religions upon us. That's what FP is about! Religion! They will say something like: 'God will forbid humans to do something that is not part of nature', or, 'God will punish all of us if this project continues on'. We cannot have a war right now. Earth is starting to die and if we have nukes flying all over above our heads once again the human race will cease to exist. We don't need a repeat of past history."

"You were in full support of this project when we first drafted the plans. Now you are worried about starting a war based on some religious beliefs?" Payton's look darkened.

Liam sighed as he rubbed his eyes. "I wasn't thinking properly at the time. Six years ago when you told me about the Descent Project I was so caught up in the excitement that I didn't consider the consequences."

"What consequences? The ones where people will start calling us blasphemy for creating a technology that can ensure the survival of our race? Liam. Our resources are running out. Our knowledge of our world and our solar system has hit its peak. If we don't do something about this problem, we won't even have a civilization to begin a war."

"You are missing the point, Payton. We are trying to prevent a war from starting."

"Our resources are very limited right now. We can't even venture outside the dome cities without protective gears. Do we really have that much freedom to worry about a war?"

Liam shook his head. "No one sees the importance of our project. They just think we are playing God by exploring space outside of our solar system. If history repeats itself then we would be in a serious trouble."

"I think the present is more important than the future," Payton countered.

"That may be. But this reasoning doesn't justify the growing threat of a global war. You and I both know that the Freedom Party is getting stronger. World Alliance will be swallowed up by them eventually. I wouldn't be surprised if tomorrow the WA was disbanded."

Sinking down onto the couch, Payton laid his head backward onto the soft leather cushion as he closed his eyes. The day was starting so well with sunlight filtering through the reinforced glass panels around the house and birds were singing outside on the wooden porch. All of these were gone the moment that such dreadful news appeared.

"Payton. Listen to me. I hate to do this but even WA can't do anything about this anymore. The shareholders have left. We don't have people supporting the Descent Project. I'll be frank to you, my friend. Even I have doubts when you came to me six years ago and told me that you could devise a way to allow humans to explore space faster and more efficient than before, without ever having the need to use the Deep Probes. You are talking about seeing the outer edges of galaxies with our own naked eyes. It is just a dream, Payton. A good dream but one way or another you will have to wake up and face the reality.

"This isn't just about space exploration or resource hunting. This isn't just about personal achievements or glory and fame. This is about preventing a global threat to ensure our survival. We can't fight the majority. We can't win by ourselves. With our society degrading rapidly people tend to hold onto their faith. They want to believe that someone will be able to guide them through today's hardship. They want some organization to tell them what to do to ensure that their lives can continue on. Freedom Party is doing just that. I hate to admit it but they are doing what's good for the people. World Alliance has become more of a corporate monopoly in recent times that ignores the wishes of the people. They support the TSMS because they knew at the time that the people would give out their vote to WA. That was before resources were running out. It was all for political reasons.

"Now is different. As you have said, we are at the peak in terms of discovery and knowledge absorption. We are at the peak of our resource usage. People are getting restless and troubled as they realize that soon the planet won't be able to support all twenty billion people. This is why we need to calm things down. We need to figure out a way to solve the problems without creating more. We can always find new resources. It is only a matter of time."

Payton scoffed as he laid an arm around the couch. "Time that we don't have. How much time has the environmental scientists predicted? Fifty years? You expect a peaceful solution to somehow, magically, emerge from out of nowhere while keeping everyone happy? Liam. I thought you were smarter than that. Wishful thinking isn't going to get us anywhere. Descent Project is our only salvation. The ship that can travel through wormhole and onto the other side of the galaxy. The ship can be considered as a haven from the possible extinction of humanity. Why do people want to put their lives on some religious hope that things will be better, that someone can make miracles?"

The scientist stood up and paced around the room. Several times, he crossed the path of the beams and distorted the communication hologram image.

Wheeling around, Payton said defiantly: "Damn it, Liam. We know that time travel is ultimately impracticable. It's high school knowledge. That's why we have to make a few changes. The theory of a wormhole is that 'any mass curves space-time'. To make it simpler, if we can utilize the wormhole that was detected ten years ago and somehow manipulate it in a way that can allow us to travel in the hyperspace from point A, then we can come out from point B into a different area of space that would have taken us centuries to get to with normal space flight! Even with laser powered Light Engines it'll take us years before we can get there.

"It's like a Twin Paradox, Liam. Time will slow down when we are close to light speed. In a sense, the wormhole can serve as the light speed engine. If this project is true then we can travel anywhere into space without aging as fast as the people on Earth and without ever having to spend so much time traveling to our destinations. The result would be a successful mission in either finding a sentient race or fresh resources for us to haul back to Earth."

"There's a critical point that you have ignored, Payton. Time slows down for your team but the rest of us here on Earth continue to age normally. By the time you get back we'd probably be gone already. If that's the case than what is the point of bringing back resources? In addition, are you willing to sacrifice your own life here on Earth for this ambitious dream of yours, Payton?" Liam eyed his friend sternly. "What about having a family? What about your parents? What about your friends? By the time you come back to Earth centuries would have passed. What would have happened to the planet, no one would know. You might even come back to see the world in dust or worst yet, you might come back not to find a planet but a red giant engulfing the Earth."

Payton heaved out a deep breath. "For science and exploration, for the sake of mankind, I am willing to make that sacrifice. I want to see the stars, real stars. The ones those are ancient to us, Liam! I want to experience what no man can experience! We will make it back in time to help out everyone on Earth. If we can find an alien race with high-tech equipment, it may be possible to return back to Earth even faster than using my wormhole method."

Liam Ope groaned. It seemed that there was no hope in talking some sense into Payton's head. At last, he opened his eyes and stared at the person glimmering in his office. "Regardless of your belief, Payton, I'm just informing you that the flow of cash is gone. Unless you can find another way to support your ambition or dream or whatever you want to call it, the Descent Project will be suspended until future notices. I'm sorry. You might want to talk to your team about this." Just before the chairman of the Space Committee logged off, he gave his friend a long and sad look. "It's amazing."

Payton looked up and asked: "What's amazing?"

"You said we shouldn't be putting our lives on hopes. And yet here you are hoping that you can find a way out there in deep space to save our planet. Don't you think it's ironic?" With that, Liam ended the call. The projector went offline and the room brightened once again.

Payton did not speak a word as he contemplated Liam Ope's words. The clock beeped several times signaling that it was seven o'clock.

"Enable the security for the house," he told the house A.I.

Payton got into the car and slammed the door shut. With the seatbelt on he pressed a few buttons and changed a few settings. Silently the car started to move. It was like a black snake, as it slithered onto freeways that were suspended at a high altitude within the dome. It weaved in and out of the traffic swiftly and elegantly.

Light-orange sunlight from outside the city shields was reflected off the shiny bodies of the cars through the hazy sky. Noises roared as rush hours began. People and cars merged as one. It was a great contrast in differences between life in the dome worlds and life outside in the dark-brown barren lands, an aftermath of the devastating nuclear war three centuries ago.

An unspeakable dread that was slowly sinking its fangs into the human race's existence gradually loomed closer and closer. No one, not even Payton, had expected that something awful was about to happen.

OOOOOO

Located four miles away from Payton's house within the defensive dome of Techtronis City, a large area filled with advanced edifices rose into view. It was the resting ground of A-51 Research Center or A-51 RC for short, where all the enhanced technologies gathered to devise new machineries.

A-51 RC supported all the top military personals and global scientists with compound houses and shops for long-period stay. Twenty thousand people were constantly moving around in the complex with work day and night. Squadrons of armed soldiers were responsible for securing the site just in case people from the opposition party had decided to sneak top-secret documents out into the net in order to ruin WA's reputation. After an urgent message was sent to the leader of World Alliance several months ago, the guards at A-51 RC had tripled in amount. Even outside in regular streets there were army vehicles patrolling.

Six levels below the main building that was called "TechyOne", a group of labs were created for the most intelligent people on Earth to produce state-of-the-art tools for space and military missions. It was also the place where the Light Engine was first created with boosting speed seventy-five times faster than the ordinary shuttle engine.

Individuals who had worked in the laboratories could not be allowed to walk outside the region of A-51 RC unless they had special permissions and rankings. Their jobs were so important and concealed that anyone who was caught violating the rules would be executed instantly and their records wiped completely clean without any traces.

Payton did not have to follow the rules since he was the leader of the Descent Project with the approval of the chairman Dav in World Alliance. His team was not so fortunate. They were like rats being locked up and could not even phone their own families or view the hazy, yellowish sky from the surface of the Earth. Their families were informed that their loved ones had been killed in an accident. It was certainly cruel but it was effective. No one would imagine that the dead was still alive and well in A-51 RC. The money made by the scientists was forwarded into their families' accounts under the title of "Death Insurance".

There were recreational centers, however, to provide some kind of entertainment to keep the employees happy and satisfied. Basketball courts, weight rooms, and even pubs were built so that all personages could have a night of fun every Saturday and Sunday evenings. Gardens were planted as well for females who wished to work on something more artistic and serene. Virtual rooms were also available for those who wanted to experience the feeling of walking on Mars or the moon. Over all, A-51 RC had everything. For the most part, no one was complaining.

Regular civilians who were not working in there had always viewed the facility from the outside as a place where satellite parts were assembled.

OOOOOO

"The World Alliance will degrade our society to a level where all we can do is beg like a bunch of dogs! WA is the source of evil. It is Freedom Party's duty to assure their beloved and treasured innocent people that the GMS will disappear forever!"

A middle-age man in luxurious navy suit faced the media and the audience. He was shouting into the microphone. He was nearly bold with a few lingering strands of white hair lying lazily on top of the shiny, oily head. His face was red from the excitement in his speech, as veins popped out of his wrinkly hands like several ugly-looking snakes.

"WA had never wanted to do good for our citizens. In fact, with the new secret project that they are now working on, the human race will perish with all these 'beneficial' technologies! WA will drain the last drop of resources on Earth! WA is our moral enemy! It is our responsibility to make sure that World Alliance is obliterated forever!"

Payton sighed as he swiped the digital card through the ID scanner. The CPU whirred a little and a beep sounded as the dark gray blast door slid open silently. Walking upon the semi-transparent floor with velvety light shining from the bottom, he went through the security checkpoint that was set up near an elevator. The light in the floor had cast a sparkling sensation into the massive hallway that was layered with unique geometric designs.

The guard with black protective vest and weapons nodded when he saw Payton cleared the x-ray scanner. It was still rather early and not too many people were in the enormous TechyOne institute. The employees were still sleeping in their quarters somewhere on the upper levels.

"How's it going?" The security asked with a smile as he looked over the scientist's ID card.

"You know, the same, as usual. Getting up early is such an arduous task for me. How's your wife and kids, Shawn?" Payton grinned. He secured his laptop beneath his left arm while he fished out the paperwork and handed to the guard.

"The same, as usual. John, that brat, keeps on playing with my stun gun and Steph loves to hack computers despite my warnings. Tracy is opening a new shop down at sector four; I heard it's a fashion shop of some kind. My family life is too busy and crazy. At times like this I wish that I could be you instead of me. Then again, I don't wanna get locked up in this place like the rest of your team members. Being a security guard has its benefits!"

Payton laughed as he shook his head. He was amused at how his friend had grumbled about his personal life. Payton got back the documents and waved a goodbye as he left for the elevator.

"It is FP's best interest to see our society, our civilization, to continue on without all the present day's problems. Freedom Party will be the only organization on Earth to ensure that everyone is equal, that everyone is safe from technological hazards! Though our lands have been tainted with radiations, garbage, and pollution, FP has a way to reverse all that! We have the power to change brownish rivers into crisp, fresh, and clean streams. We have the power, the strength, to make trees grow once more in clean, rich, and dark soils. I, as the leader of FP, guarantee that World Alliance cannot do what we do. They will not do what we will do!"

The man in the wide screen monitor, which was fixed on the wall of the meeting room down at level six, blared on and on about the positive prospects of his own faction. People before the stage, where the cameras were, all cheered on as they waved the flags of Freedom Party.

The old man pointed at his followers and shouted into the mike: "You all have made the right choices following in our footsteps, God's footsteps. It is the will of our God, it is the will of our free spirits, to see human race crossing that big fracture on the road and into the future. We make the promises and we will keep them! We will not fail our wonderful citizens' hopes and dreams. WA will become a painful memory of the past and soon, we will strive without any restrictions or propaganda from them!"

Payton grimaced as he stepped out of the lift. Crews who knew him said a greeting and left hurriedly with a load of reports in their hands.

Soft, white light brought brightness into the shadowy areas, as tables and counters with different equipment could be seen behind rows after rows of translucent glass panels.

One man with nicely tanned skin came up to him; disgust was shown clearly on his face. He was at the same height as Payton yet more bulky with trained muscles bulging outward from his body. He fixed his pallid lab coat as he straightened his back.

"Jake! Buddy! How are things going down here?" Payton slapped his hand on the man's back happily. "Taking the weekend off and staying at my own house is absolutely wonderful."

Tilting his head slightly toward the conference room, Jake Roman muttered: "It was good until that bastard started to bad mouth our organization in his oration. How did he become so wild and out of control? That old man appeared in front of the Reporter Hover Cams and started to bark like a bitch. Now they got this group of 'supporters' listening to his bullshit."

"Yeah, I heard his annoying voice before I got down to the fifth level," the leader of Descent Project sighed as he shook his head. "I think I already know why all of a sudden Nelson Fekonson dares to verbal assault WA and spread rumors and stuff around. How low can this guy get?"

Jake leaned against one of the windows and heaved a deep breath. "What's going on, Payton?"

"What do you mean?" Payton looked up reluctantly.

"Something's troubling you. I can see that. You just have this look of distraction."

Realizing that he could not keep a secret from his colleague, Payton said: "We are getting shut down. Probably within the week the entire team will have to be disassembled. FP has somehow convinced our clients that this project is wrong. Now everyone has fled like a bunch of chickens. We are crushed like a road kill. If I don't find a new company to fund this plan of ours, we're finished." He took a brief moment of silence. "Liam Ope is selling us out."

"Liam? The chairman of the Space Committee? Why?"

"Apparently he thinks Fekonson is right. He wants to avoid direct confrontation with Fekonson to prevent an all-out war. He wants us to stop and leave the matter be."

"That double-crossing son of a bitch," Jake grumbled unhappily as he glanced around the hallways. Although vile words came out of his mouth, Jake did not seem all too concerned. Payton side-glanced his friend quietly.

People dressed in white lab coats and silver suits appeared around the area. A cart was wheeled around the corner and gone out of the sight at the next turn. People were wearing protective gears within the chambers while they mixed some unknown chemicals into crystal tubes. A few engineers were arguing about the possible causes for the failure of their newest development.

The floor was kept spot clean; hazy green with uneven black dots embedded within the cement. It was shining with a coat of wax on top allowing squeaking noises to materialize in the air as people were running, walking, turning, and jogging toward their destinations. There was not a moment of peace.

"So you mean," Jake gestured around them, "all of this will be gone? Just like that?" He faced the scientist once more. "Payton, I'm just one of the workers here responsible for the maintenance of the ventilation systems at this level. I don't have the brain needed to get us out of here. You do. Can't you think of something to backfire FP's plans? Hell, if we are getting no money why not just go out with a bang? Steal all those morons' money and live a good life afterwards."

Payton raised one eyebrow as he glanced at his buddy with blue eyes. Gears were turning in his head, formulating a whole new scenario to counteract the current situation. Lifting one finger, he smiled slowly. "You know…you might be onto something here."

Baffled, Jake tilted his head in puzzlement. "What? What do you mean?"

Without replying, Payton slapped his friend's back twice as gratitude for the inspiration and started to run toward his office. The plan in his mind was daring, almost suicidal even. However, if it worked then even the Freedom Party could not do anything to stop him or his team from launching the Descent Project into action. If he got the right people in the right roles of the project and good enough equipment for everyone to use, the Descent Project would continue on without any limitations. Inside Payton's mind, the scheme had carried on with the expansion from the original idea, forming into a larger plan and flowing into the future, a future that had a light at the end of the tunnel.

After scanning the fingerprint the door to his office slid open with a chime. With virtual city as the background theme behind the shutters, spherical light bulbs in the ceiling gradually brightened. The floor was covered with silky carpet light green in shade. Several potted plants were placed around the corners. A glassy table with electronic touch pads embedded onto the surface stood near the center of the small room.

Payton placed his laptop on the side and took a seat on the glossy, black leather chair. He closed his eyes for a few minutes, putting together the final details to his grand plan to save their development.

"Here we go."

Payton opened up his personal computer and connected to the Global Server Database Headquarters. The screen went blue and a box appeared asking for personal PIN numbers. Payton entered the password, the image changed, and an entire row of International Banking Accounts materialized slowly. He searched the account that he wanted and went into it. After examine the owner's information and balance, he opened up a small program that linked into the bank server. The code scrolled up rapidly, seeking the right combinations of letter and numbers in order to create a small portal into the firewalls.

Payton made a cup of coffee from the machine fixed into the wall on his left as he waited. He grabbed the cup silently and slowly sipped at the rich liquid.

The coding series ended and a vacant page appeared with an ever-shifting door in multi-colors. They symbolized the main gateway of the super computer's hacking protection program.

To normal people, all they could see was the metallic image of a door before them with the background twisting and morphing like a never-ending loop of spatial vortex. But to Payton with the correct coding sequences and programs, he could make those smaller portals to turn up on his screen. These insignificant ports were the essential keys to his success. They were like back doors for hackers.

Within seconds, dozens of ports started to flash around the door in the center. The scientist grinned to himself as he typed away. Entering the first tiny gateway from the top left, Payton navigated through the maze-like corridors, which represented the linked routes to the clients' accounts in one of the many banks in the world. By furiously hacking away at all the counter-measures, Payton had successfully avoided hitting the flaring walls that surrounded him. These walls were the trigger alarms that could instantly lock up his computer and send a tracking bug to his own ISP to get his current location.

Payton would not make the same mistake twice. He was proud of his hacking skill. It was years ago when he had caused uproar in the government server due to the fact that he wanted to tell everyone he could do it. In the world of Internet, the only way to get famous was to get recognition and to do so was to hack. But it was not a normal hack. A pro would make several different ways to throw the Net Police off their trails. A pro would also set booby-traps just so that it would be precarious and difficult to actually try to track the mastermind that was behind all of the havoc and destruction in the virtual world.

By the age of sixteen with his intelligence and profound techniques, Payton was able to rename all the critical files in the world's most secure online server at the time. He had locked up at least two hundred thousand computers and wiped out sixty thousand hard drives. He was going to attack the main Super Computer but got disconnected before he had the chance, as he made one false move.

Payton was caught, tried, and thrown into jail for six years. After he was released, he learned a harsh lesson: People could still be famous even without doing harmful things to others.

Payton got into college when he was twenty and got a degree in Nuclear Physic area. Joining the military at the age of twenty-five, he was the only one who could actually think of ways to perfect the nuclear weapons. During that time, he just wanted to make those devastating things to protect humans, not to annihilate them. Yet in the end that was not the case. At the age of twenty-eight, he got into the A-51 RC hoping to use his brain and create something that no one had ever done before. A ship. A ship that could transport humans into the far reaches of the universe.

A beeping sound blasted out from the speakers on his computer when Payton noticed that the codes were completely different than what he had imagined before. They were adapting to the way that he hack almost like having a mind of their own. Panicking, he doubled his effort and wrote in additional mathematical formulae to block off the firewall programs' attacking bugs. His eyes widened when he noticed that the trail behind him was eaten up rapidly. There was no backing out now only a dash to the finish line. If the anti hacking units destroyed the route that he was connected to, he would get caught.

The route was disappearing rapidly. Slapping his hands on the table, Payton gritted his teeth. It was a Self-Termination Program installed behind the firewalls. Killing off all accessible roads first before the hacker could get through them would be the best option lest all the essential data get stolen afterward.

Payton's fingers flew above the keyboard. Clicking and tapping noises were filling the room as sweat broke out of Payton's forehead and dripped down the sides of his face. He could see the end of the port now. With a few seconds left he threw in all the codes needed and hit the enter key just as the screen went black.

Payton's heart raced as he held his breath. Had he done it? Did he win? Did he escape the firewall's final counter attack? It was utterly still as his computer fan whirred with a constant speed. After a minute, the machine clicked and a line of jade-colored words appeared: Welcome to Account 8834298-D23-100. Mr. Fekonson, please choose your options below.

Slapping his hands together Payton whooped and laughed hysterically. He got in. With the balance value rising before his own eyes hopes in his heart leaped like a bursting, raging fire. Six billion credits were there. Changing the rate to the old days it would be six trillion dollars, enough to build three advanced space stations. And they were flashing in front of him.

Payton sighed a relief and leaned back into his chair. With that much money, the Descent Project would not be and could not be halted no matter what. Besides, it was Fekonson's dirty money. Most of them came from illegal tax collections and stuff like that. It would not bother Payton at all if the old man declared bankruptcy after a month or two.

Payton chuckled as he started to transfer all the money into a hidden account that he had made with several layers of protection added to prevent infiltrators from getting in and tracking backward to capture him.

Justice was served. The taste of victory was sweet indeed.

End Chapter 1