Dystera: The setting of the novel. It is divided into nine ceptors, or countries, including Zendreii and Trins'zet.
Aahl: Unit of Dysteran measurement; equal to one inch.
Zaen: Unit of Dysteran currency; equal to ten United States dollars.
A light rain, a remnant of the raging thunderstorm the night before, fell on the littered streets of the Viaran Republic of Zendreii. The morning sun was rising over the horizon, illuminating the landscape. Among the advertisements for getaways, plastic surgery, and other luxuries, the sun shone on a small, worn-down sign reading “Eliko’s Engineering,” right above a small structure which housed Eliko, a small-time mechanic.
Outside, a warrior bearing a laser gun stood. The laser gun was a common Dysteran weapon, used by militaries and everyday citizens alike. While they were not easily breakable, this warrior had found his was. He took out a sheet of paper, to confirm his address:
Building 622, Area 02010
Metaceptor 2-3, Dystera
The warrior stepped in to see the owner, Eliko Jade. The Zendran engineer’s stature was of average height, and thin. His skin was pale and faintly blue, except for black body ink painted onto his lower limbs. Short, black hair rested above his eyes, which were oddly heterochromian; one was blue, one was orange. Sharp teeth nestled themselves in his smile, highlighted by two fangs.
“Eliko Jade?” the warrior asked.
“The one and only!” Eliko replied. “Now how may I help you?”
“First off, I’m here because I’m broke. No other reason,” the warrior snapped. Eliko, while reputed as a skilled engineer, didn’t get out much. In Zendreii, those who kept to themselves were looked down upon.
“Okay, I get it, I get it. I don’t have a display case of pristine new Quantum Volt engines outside my window. I'm Class C9. My sign is made of cheap metal I painted on. I don’t get stoned and go to raves every night,” Eliko said resentfully. “But I’m probably the only guy in this metaceptor who isn’t trying to rip you off, and my skills with machinery are unmatched.”
"Class C9. The lowest of the low," the warrior said, holding forward his forearm, which had "Class A4" tattooed on it. Eliko shyly tried to cover his forearms, which each had "Class C9" printed on them, visible even through his black body paint.
Eliko almost wanted to kick the warrior out then and there. There was nothing he hated more than those Class A snobs. How could someone be so deluded to see themselves as better based solely on a phrase on their arms?
Then, Eliko reminded himself they were better. Legally, anyway. In the Empire, every citizen of age had their class printed on both their arms, based on their economic class, political affiliations, ethnicity, and other factors. There it was to stay for the rest of their life, along with a tracker implanted in each ankle. The lowest class, Class D, was reserved only for those declared enemies of thought, those whose very mentalities threatened the Viaran Empire. In practice, though, virtually no one from Class D was seen on the streets. Hence, the common saying you would hear from all citizens alike: "Class D for dead." And, as a member of Class C9, Eliko was only one subclass from it.
"You may be a poor man's engineer, but I'm in a rush," the warrior said.
The warrior handed the engineer his broken laser gun. Eliko glanced at it, and headed toward the other room. The warrior attempted to follow, but Eliko pointed to a waiting room chair, and did not continue walking until the warrior sat down with a provided magazine in his lap, even if it was older than them both. The waiting room was bland and free of decoration, sans a few vases, magazines, and a holographic calendar for the year, 2 AVC.
Once Eliko was in the room marked “Repair Shop,” the warrior could swear he heard the sounds of death and revival. The music of dusty repair and dedicated construction spread into the waiting room in the time it took him to blink. Eliko’s repairs, the warrior could tell, were no less than art, requiring precise accuracy, patience, and skill. Within a few minutes, Eliko returned with the laser gun as good as new.
“Ah, thank you,” the warrior said. He reached for the tool, but Eliko quickly swiped it out of the way.
“Payment. Eight zaen. Now,” Eliko ordered.
“Eight zaen? For a little blown fuse?” The warrior’s disgruntled expression showed well his thoughts.
“A little blown fuse? Was that all you brought this here for? The trigger was at least a half an aahl out of place, and the aimer was so rusty I could hardly get my tools in there. And your ammo loader was leaning a little to the left.”
The warrior cursed to himself and pulled ten zaen out of his satchel. He tossed five back in, smirked at Eliko, and handed him the remaining five. "I'm from Class A. You answer to me, not the other way around."
“Fine. But don’t expect any discounts next time,” Eliko grumbled. The warrior took a heroic position, flexing his muscles and gripping his gun, and then departed.
Eliko stared at the five zaen. Each zaen was a crumpled sheet of paper, bearing writing in Avio and a portrait of Emperor Kainan, former Dysteran monarch. Unfortunately, it was the most he’d gotten in one deal for the last two weeks.
One second, cash had been Eliko’s biggest problem… A second later, it was life and death. The sound of metallic propeller blades slashing the air, coupled with the faint sound of radio voices marred by static. It meant one thing.
“Capture Hawk,” Eliko whispered. He hastily flipped his sign to “Closed, Come Again Later,” locked all the doors and windows, and retreated into his office. He crouched beneath the desk as the sound got closer.
Empress Viarra paced anxiously through her chamber. The room was covered with her fallen rivals' armor nailed to the walls. Viarra stopped and looked out the window to see Black Square, a courtyard where proud citizens could marvel at the tower. Still, nobody made the mistake of doubting the security of the tower. Viarra also looked at the ubiquitous power cables hanging from her tower which kept her empire running. Sparks were constantly flying down them, keeping the place efficiently lit, despite the lack of florescent lights in the chamber. The cables then sent the electricity to the rest of the Empire. She remembered well the day she gained her position. She sat down in her throne, sifting through her memories.
Long ago, she worked and lived as any Dysteran would. She pulled out a small board with a map of Dystera printed on it. She then took out a handful of small metal figures, which she carefully placed in an order.
Our leader… He was the benevolent, the wise, the generous… the so, so weak Emperor of Dystera, she thought, stroking the tallest metal figure with her fingers. The figure wore a golden crown and was placed in the very center of the map. Viarra’s fingers, stroking almost seductively at first, instantaneously tightened and twisted, snapping the model in two.
Viarra remembered her coup. It was led by hear, but she had several allies, public and private, who aided in the endeavor. Viarra then moved a group of other models, smaller than the Emperor, to where the now-snapped Emperor had been. One model, bearing colors and stature similar to Viarra, stood among them.
The Empress considered the driving motives behind her coup. The sheer complexity and depth of her reasons behind all she had done, behind murdering the Dysteran peace, made her want to say them out loud. But no, she reminded herself, it was too dangerous to vocalize such things, even now.
Viarra lifted her arm and swung it over the board, knocking several of the small models off. The only model remaining was the one which resembled her. Betrayal had always been present in their alliance, albeit unspoken, as the nature of betrayal is. Viarra simply beat them to it.
Of course, the other orchestrators of the coup were remembered fondly. The public was told they had been assassinated, and Viarra used this lie to justify the excessive police control.
Viarra smiled, no longer needing the map to represent how her quest had gone. At that point, she was simply the leader of the Aviotran city of Ekros, where the tower she lived in now stood. From there, she gained complete control of Aviotrak, or Ceptor 5, as well as Ceptors 2 and 4. She also held minor presences in Ceptors 3, 6, and 7. There were negotiations for an alliance with Ceptor 8, but were not expected to pull through until 5 AVC. Only Ceptors 1 and 9 were not included in her Viaran Empire. Ceptor 1 was a volcanic wasteland she didn’t even want, and Ceptor 9 was too far away physically.
She established herself as a dictatress whose ways were not to be questioned. An important, but not all too corrupt, law under Viarra was the new dating system of BVC and AVC. Any date prior to the completion of her coup was BVC (Before the Viaran Coup). Any dates after were AVC (After the Viaran Coup). It only took one night to seize the Aviotran city of Ekros, and the rest followed. It took a week to pick off her dozen or so allies. And so, the glorious Viaran Empire was born. In two months, the Empire had reached its current size.
Her face, unlike her sapphire-hued, shadowy body, was covered in light gray makeup, almost comical given her dark regime. However, regardless of her face’s color, it remained beautiful and seductive, which she had more than once used to sway her political opponents.
It was a difficult task; gaining control of the other eight ceptors without causing war. The armor to fit onto her military troops, such as the Officers and Agents, was expensive. Her plans required arranging kidnappings and ransom holdings through the use of pawns, all the while her name never entering the reports. Her plotting and remembering, however, was interrupted by an Officer.
“Excuse me, Nikki - I mean Empress Viarra - I have come with my daily report. Unemployment is up ten percent, and crime has risen in the Zendreii area. More police control has been scheduled. Additionally, the protesters in the Viaran Republic of Trins'zet have been detained and sent to be reeducated.”
Viarra’s eye twitched, but not at the comment regarding her empire’s recent news, but at the Officer’s slip of tongue: calling her “Nikki.”
“My soldier, I have a law in place regarding my title.”
The Officer, visibly shaken, replied, “Of course, Empress, Empress Viarra.” He continued, “We have made advancement in the case regarding the murder.”
“What is this advancement?” Viarra asked, intrigued by this.
“We have a prime suspect. An only suspect, actually,” he reported. “An engineer. Eliko Jade. He matches descriptions by witnesses, and only lives a few metaceptors away.”
“Perfect. Send a Capture Hawk, and bring him to me,” she ordered.
“Already sent. He will be ours - I mean yours! - by nightfall,” the Officer assured.
Edited by Master Inika, Jun 03 2012 - 09:29 AM.