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Chapter IV Dawning

The journey from the tiny complex outside Madalva to the Great Hall took hours. I'd never been this far from home before or seen such great achievements in architecture. The structure was colossal. The glass dome ceiling seemed to stretch on for miles with numerous shuttles docking and departing the station. Our shuttle docked, the guards exited the vessel, then extracted me. One of the men removed my chains and replaced them with metallic cuff links, then escorted me out of the chamber and on to the main hall.

A giant automated door opened before me and revealed the inside of the gargantuan framework. I was paired with several other individuals wearing the same bracelets as mine. Most of them didn't speak or even look up for fear of brutality. We were led in single-file lines through the station and to the transport areas. Among us where men women and even children, some apparently orphaned as they didn't seem to identify with any of the adults present. Most of the children and women wept as we were now corralled into groups of twelve to accommodate transport size. The vessels were midsize, just a little larger than the one I'd arrived on, and they seemed to use a rail system for travel. Two armed officers accompanied each group as we prepared to board. Some yelled obscenities at passing prisoners.

The main hall was massive. Multiple platforms could be seen housing monorails which led to a vast number of locations, including Gala Meza reformatory where I was headed. This place must have served as a medium for all travel as it seemed interconnected with the entire realm, even Solitaire, the capital of our nation and home to the Nobles where Liana was currently being held.

We were led toward the tram and instructed to board, the guards being the last to enter. I was lucky enough to be seated by the window as I could see what was happening outside. A voice chimed in over the intercom system, stating our transit number and destination. We were now departing the Great Hall. I could see families walking together outside on the walkways, some holding hands.

One family in particular caught my eye . . . a -man, woman, and child. A little girl, she reminded me of Liana. I worried I'd never see her again but couldn't let myself be overcome with grief. I had to find her and make sure she was safe and bring her home. I was one of what little family she had left, Elis and I.

Liana lost her mother six years ago due to an illness, and I never knew what became of her father.

She was orphaned to the Parish, same as I when I was young. My parents died fighting the Council in the days when the class system was first established, some nine years ago. I was an only child. A lot of people lost their lives defending their way of life, their culture and heritage, even personal religious beliefs. War Class militia raided homes, stole children from their beds in the night. Anyone who resisted was met with violence all for the "greater good" of humanity, so they said.

The tram was well on its way now, traveling at a fairly high velocity. The large tunnels of the Great Hall gave way to open valleys. Vast grasslands extended on for miles, ending with great mountainous regions with snow-covered tips and a clear blue sky above. Most of the people among me were Common Class, merchants, farmers, the like. Whether any of them had actually committed crimes to warrant imprisonment was anyone's guess. Discrimination was typical among those less fortunate.

At this point in time, I was pretty much along for the ride. Escape seemed impossible and nothing short of suicide. The guards were armed with pulse rifles, a long way from the weapons of yesteryears. I read about such weapons in books Elis owned. He'd even written a few. The weapons were powered by matra energy. Matra was the lifeblood to our society, used as fuel to power transports, homes, and could even be converted into weapons. The rifles discharged concentrated matra energy that is corrosive to almost any substance. Weapons like these were only a small part of the new industrialization of our society. The War Class were the gatekeepers to weapons technology, although the mining of the matra itself and the scientific studies that made possible such technological breakthroughs were conducted by the Nobles.

The impact zone is the harbinger of matra energy. Some seventy years ago, a team of physicists and engineers ventured into the impact zone. They discovered the moon rocks were of a radioactive nature and stored raw energy, and it was later discovered the stones could be manipulated to serve various purposes. That's when a lot of the trouble began. Many quickly became wealthy and moved toward a new technological revolution for our society. And as power on one end grew, it crushed the other, creating the class system. Some sought to use the material for good, leading us to technological advances some previously thought not possible, while others acquired the substance for their own selfish designs, exploiting its usage.

The matra also affected the biology of those in close contact with it. Some became ill . . . most died, while others are said to have become something "more." Experiments were conducted in the early years on live specimens, changing their physiology. It was even said that some obtained biotic powers, as they themselves had become radioactive, a perfect merger between the person and the substance.

But the experiments were later abandoned as the substance killed far more people than it altered, and the few who had survived the experiments fled or went into hiding for fear of being hunted down or even killed by War Class militia. Most were found and executed they say, but no real evidence was ever found regarding these experiments and their occurrence was now considered modern folklore.

The tram was closer to its destination. We'd risen in elevation and were now at the base of the Pilma Mountains south of Madalva. The open plains were gone, replaced by canyons and steep cliffs that now surrounded us. We were not shackled, at least not in any fashion I'd even witnessed. Strange glowing orbs rested on the back of each row of seats that seem to magnetize the metallic cufflinks placed on us earlier. You couldn't move your arms a foot away from the device. Technology of this sort was not prevalent in Madalva. We were a small community of merchants, farmers, and laborers controlled by the Council. A people of a very modest culture with some knowing little of the outside world except what we were forced to comprehend by the Council.

The tram slowed down but retained a fair speed as we traveled through the hillside. The railway was a lot more winding than before, hence the slowdown to adjust to the steep terrain. Outside the window on the snow-covered hillside, wild game scurried about, some big and others small; one of the species unknown to me was almost alien in nature. Creatures of great stature walked across the slopes with massive tree-like extremities mounted on the sides of their heads each producing a low-pitched moan as they grazed and looked at the passing tram. Sitting next to me was a young girl, sixteen or seventeen at best. She seemed to be murmuring what sounded like some type of prayer her head tilted down with her short blond hair falling to her cheeks and two large silver-hooped earrings accompanying her dressings.

"What are you doing?" I asked. "Shhh . . . they'll hear you."

She opened her eyes and looked at me. They were bright, a beautiful icy blue, frozen like a glacier. "I don't care," she said sharply.

"Well, for everyone else's sake you should; the less attention we bring to ourselves the better."

She continued to stare at me with a flustered expression on her face.

"I must keep my faith. Without it, all is lost," she said.

"You plan to escape with prayer?" I asked. There was that look again. "Sorry. . . I'm Elliot of Madalva."

". . . Sarah of Kootal."

"Pleased to meet you, I'd shake but . . ." I said jokingly, looking down at the bracelets.

"That's quite all right." She said smiling.

"How'd you end up here, Sarah?"

Her smile receded. "My father is the minister of the Delma faith. We are outspoken about our beliefs, and until the Council stepped in, we were free to worship as we pleased."

"Kootal is not governed by the Council?"

"No, we live outside the laws of man. We are one of the few sanctums left, but with recent interference, conflicts have arisen. My family was arrested during demonstration. My father conducted the sermon when War Class scouts arrived, we were ordered to disperse, and when we refused, we were arrested."

"Wow. I'm sorry to hear that," I said, still looking into her eyes.

"Thank you," she responded, turning away shyly, then mustering up the nerve she gazed back.

"I-I like your eyes," she said. "Very beautiful and brown . . . everyone in my family's eyes are blue," she continued then paused again. "What about you Elliot? Why are you here?"

I looked toward the ground. "I was trying to help a friend . . . when others wouldn't."

"I see," she said. "What happened to your friend?"

"They took her, I couldn't stop them."

"I'm sorry, Elliot."

"So am I."

"You two keep your mouths shut!" one of the guards snapped.

"See?" I whispered sneering. The guard turned around and joined the other. The two men continued to chatter momentarily until the guard sitting at the communications broad raised his finger, silencing the other.

"Wait a minute . . . we're picking up some interference," he said.

"There seems to be another vessel within range."

"Traveling along the rail side?" asked the standing man.

"There shouldn't be any vessels out this far. Not without clearance."

The sitting man paused. "Understood, but something is out there, and it's headed our way."

"Inform dispatch," said the standing guard. "Tell them we are en route with potential hostiles trailing."

"Yes, sir."

Just then, a midsized transport appeared over the ridge. Its large wheels kicked up gravel as it rolled down the hillside. A large pulse cannon was mounted on top, its frame similar to a roll cage.

The standing man raced over to the window.

"Insubords! he shouted. "They are attacking! Radio our position and summon reinforcements!"

"What going on?" I whispered to myself, staring at the trailing vessel as it raced side by side with the tram. The pulse cannon was manned by a young male with goggles perched atop his head. He aimed the weapon at the tram, and the cannon began to glow, charging.

The two guards became frantic. "Pulse cannon right side high!" one shouted. A sudden flash of blue occurred as the vessel was struck by the blast, rocking it violently, knocking the guards off balance as glass shattered and sparks flew. The lights dimmed, and the passenger panicked, screaming in fear. I looked at Sarah.

"Hold on!" I shouted. The lights went completely dark. A power failure had ensued, and now, the tram was being propelled forward by its momentum alone.

The blackout had caused the orbs to fail. I used the opportunity to my advantage, ambushing one of the men, knocking him to the ground, and taking his blade. I turned around to the other just to find myself face to face with a pulse rifle.

"Drop the blade!" the man demanded. I wouldn't oblige. We were at a standoff. The man cocked the weapon. Sarah jumped out her seat hands nervously covering her mouth, holding back a scream.

We both paused. Then the guard spoke.

"You think I have a problem killing you?" he said, then squeezed the trigger.

"No!" Sarah cried, lunging at the man, swatting the weapon as it fired, the blast just missing my head off to the left. Other passengers stood back in horror as the young girl now wrestled with the man for control of the weapon. She screamed and was easily overpowered, thrown to the floor. The guard pointed the weapon at her as I simultaneously lifted the blade to deal a death blow.

Another flash of blue interrupted the fray as a thunderous second blast rocked the vessel, dropping all parties to the floor, filling the cabin with smoke and fire. I scrambled over to the guard, thrusting my sword into his chest, killing the man before he could reclaim his weapon.

I dislodged the sword from his cavity and looked over to Sarah who sat huddled up against the wall in awe of the conspiring events. Reaching through the thick smoke, I attempted to grab her hand as yet another explosion occurred this time from within the vessel itself.

The additional attack proved too much for the mid-sized vessel. The delayed explosion shook the tram once more, unhinging it from its track. It grinded across the landscape ultimately flipping, while all passengers inside held on for dear life.

I clung on to Sarah as we were slammed into the panels of the cabin. One final blow would knock me unconscious as the vessel finally came to a halt, resting ablaze on the hillside with no signs of life and enemies known and undiscovered closing in.

The End: Shall we Continue?

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