Chapter 1 - History Lesson
A Thoughtful World
White ceilings, walls, and floors decorated the multipurpose room of Emblem’s Privileged School. Tall window panes shine unnatural sunlight into the classroom. Crisp cool air vented in; perfect for the sterile environment needed to concentrate. This classroom held only four students; the heirs to Emblem’s greatest minds. Their parents, and their grandparents, their whole lineage raised and groomed the future generation to sustain the world that’s been man-made for the surviving masses of humanity. Today was a ceremony celebrating the forced retirement of the old generation and introducing the new heirs into their roles as senior supervisors. Currently, this begins with the presentation for the successor to display their knowledge of the past history and what they’ll do for the future before they’re officially sworn in.
“Emblem was founded in 2018 by our government to house the future generations of its citizens. With the preparations made by our ancestors, Emblem has prospered in the neuron technology needed to produce the needed resources that the Earth could no longer supply.” Amelia Bateman, daughter of Emily Bateman; head supervisor of food agriculture.
“Because humanity has exhausted the world’s natural resources, the founding fathers came to the conclusion that if humanity were to survive on Earth we would need to create our own artificial resources. So with the proper knowledge in the area, the right equipment, we’ve succeeded in just that. Food, clean water, architecture, all created by the human mind to further the existence of humanity.” Krieger, son of Draco Maverick; head supervisor of EDS (Emblem’s Department of Security).
“It was in 2032 that we’ve discovered a way to create and mold matter into the resources Earth once grew. Using the Sceptre-173 and the Yeager enhancement pill, humanity unlocked full 100% capacity of our brains’ function. Fusing certain atoms and matters together just as Earth naturally has, we’ve catalogued each ingredient for, let’s say, an apple and fused them resulting in the artificial fruit.” Terry Quint, son of Ellie Quint; head supervisor of Scientific Catalog stated, squinted his AUGs- AUGs are glasses that have been surgically implanted into a patient’s eyes- against the bright stage light shining down on the group of students. The word ‘glasses’ is being used for regarding currency.
“Thank you, Terry-“ Ms. Audra, senior operator of the Education sub branch, tried to cut in before Terry went onto another one of his rants.
“But why just create artificial apples alone? Why not replace unnecessary factors of any foodstuff and replace them with helpful ingredients instead. So that’s what my ancestors did! Every food, drink, and consumable was altered with helpful things like protein, calcium, and items to promote heart health. But why stop there?! So my ancestors didn’t! We ripped the identification of all the foods and simply created a clear transparent scientifically-enhanced tofu! Tearing away the natural color, texture, and smell of consumables and packed them into compact cubes. Who needs flavor when you get the nutrients that your body requires more than simple pleasures of flavor, smell, and texture!-“
“Terry, thank you for your enthusiastic part. But we need to move along with your fellow heirs.” Ms. Audra cut in before the mad scientist’ heir took over the whole presentation. Glancing at the table which held the students’ predecessor, Ms. Audra noted Terry’s mother matching her son’s enthusiastic behavior by waving and smiling at him. The senior supervisors of EDS, the Forge Division, and the Court of Agriculture all looked exhausted from Terry’s jumbled up speech. And finally, the representative from the House of Order wore a stoic mask.
The final successor comes from the family that oversees the Forge Division, Ace Loreson son of David Loreson; head supervisor of the Forge Division, strolled up to the podium with his hands in his pocket and shoulders slouched. His posture was relaxed, the exact opposite as Krieger’s. HIs family handled the forging of metals, architecture, and the alchemist of the crafting of discharges used to power the electronic devices all over Emblem. Their sub branches consisted of transportation, defensive protection, and military gear. If it was metal, was powered by gas, and/or involved the EDS, the Loreson family was in charge of it.
Ace’s mannerisms were too casual, as if Ace didn’t recognize the significance of the ceremony or just didn’t care. But that was how Ace and his family were. The people of the Forge Division are hardworking individuals who loyal to the end and able to find the light and fun in all situations. They had to be if they wanted to keep their humanity. Every ‘family’ had a theme to them that’s been shared from generation to generation. A tradition amongst them all that defines their mannerisms and general way of life.
“Ace, please finish the historical presentation with your assigned speech.” Ms. Audra gave the boy a smile.
“You got it, ma’am.” Ace gave his teacher a charismatic grin before taking his hands out of his pockets, a stack of cards from his pocket fell to the ground. The study cards had key points written on them that Amelia shoved into Ace’s hands before warning him, “Don’t mess this up for us, Ace. Not only are our parents here, but the senior supervisor of the Political Court is here as well. Just read the cards and smile, got that?” Yeah, Ace got it. Barely glancing at the cards, Ace flicked them away to have them fall to the floor, scattered.
Whispers came from the table in front of the stage the students were all on. Ace could practically feel Amelia’s heated glare boring into the back of his head and Ms. Audra’s heart beating faster and faster in anticipation. Her job counted on their performance and behavior. Ace thought that he’d better get to talking his part before either woman come after him onstage. “Us people of Emblem have been given the uber-important job of doing what the Earth could no longer do for us.” Ace felt that maybe he shouldn’t have tossed those cards. They would really be handy right now. “We gotta be the ones to, uh, produce the milk, but don’t look at me, I ain’t pumping out nothing!” Ace held his hands up and shook his head.
The table below shared a few chuckles between them but were hushed in respect to their authoritative superior, the representative sent from the Political Court, seated with them. Ace could hear his father laughing amongst them and saying, “What? These kids need to have some humanity if they want to run our businesses when we’re gone.” David Loreson said. Ace knew that saying well. Have some humanity. Ace chuckled himself when he heard Amelia slap her forehead in frustration.
“Well, I suppose the historical presentation is over. We will now move on to our newest generation swearing in. All of you, if you’d please…” Ms. Audra announced nervously when Ace didn’t seem to resume on the rest of his assignment.
“Go ahead, Ace. Tell your mother about the milk bit.” David sat at the head of the table. Having dinner with his children of six daughters and sons including Ace and his wife, Megan. Usually, families in Emblem only had one child, twins if the mother bore them, and that child would be groomed to take over the family business. But after the Cyrus Act, families were no longer limited, but there could only be one heir per family. The successor would be chosen by getting tested on their individual intellect level while the other children would become workers of the family. This caused tension in all families amongst the children, but thankfully Ace reassured his father that his siblings didn’t hold any grudges with him. But there were fights and arguments like any other family, though.
Dinner in Emblem consisted of various cubes with clear liquid packed into them. Glasses filled with clean water. These two can be flavored only by two things; 1) before serving them onto the table, one needed to use the Sceptre-173 and a cataloged recipe to produce the powder that would then be instilled into the cube or drink. 2) Produce the fruit, milk, and sugar and mix them in. Most people opted to use the second step because it felt more natural and the powder had more nutrients than most actually wanted. The food preparation in the Forge Division was widely prepared using the second step; disregarding the healthy counterparts such as the powder mixture.
Biting a mouthful into his ‘cheeseburger’ cube, Ace took a sip from his ‘strawberry milkshake’ to wash it down. “So I’m up on stage, right? Representing the Loreson family!-“
Cheers came from the whole table, Ace’s siblings cracking jokes and smirking at their eldest until David waved to hush them.
“Now I might’ve said a funny joke along the lines of; ‘Us people of Emblem are tasked with the job of doing what Earth cannot.’ You know, producing milk and all. And I’m like, ‘Don’t look at me, I ain’t pumping no milk out for youse guys!’”
Laughter erupted all around the table, the loudest coming from Ace’s father and his brothers. His sisters were rolling their eyes at the obnoxious joke while Megan gave Ace a playfully stern look, shaking her head. Ace gave his mother an apologetic look with shrugged shoulders.
“If Mr. High and Mighty weren’t there, I would’ve laughed my sides off.” David massaged his forehead as he calmed down his laughter.
“Rhys was there, David?!” Megan sobered her chuckling suddenly at the mention of a House of Politics guest at the ceremony. For a moment, David calmed down as well but he gave his wife a reassuring nod that there was nothing to be upset about. “David, what if Rhys-“
“He won’t, Megan. If anything, the rest of the ceremony went without a hitch. The man shook the kids and Ace’s hand after the swear-in, thanked us supervisors, and went about his merry way. Trust me, Megs, if Malcolm were upset he’s the type of person who voices it. Loudly.” David pitched in that last part with a chuckle to make light of her worries. Megan nodded and gave Ace and her children a soft smile. “I suppose.”
The rest of the family, was watching the exchange between their parents, resumed eating in silence. Ace seemed to be internally kicking himself for making his mother worry. After a few moments, Megan noticed this and sighed. She didn’t mean to hamper the good mood at the table. So she turned to Franky, her eldest son, and asked about his day.
“It was good, Ma.” The twenty year old gave a short answer. Noticing his mother’s gaze still on him and reading the situation at the table, Franky raised his head and started up again. “Construction of EDS’ new surveillance project is going well. Caught a few knuckleheads trying to install ‘em in the women’s bathrooms, and like the honorable man that I am, I might’ve turned a blind eye-“
“Franky!” Megan gave her sons and David a warning glance as they all patted Franky on the back and laughed with him.
“I’m joking, Ma!” A wide grin from Franky told Megan otherwise.
“Can we go one dinner without some obnoxious joke?” Erica, the eldest of the Loreson daughters, threw her hands up in the air and shook her head.
“Don’t be such a stiff, Erica! Have some humanity.” Ace laughed along with his siblings.
“I wouldn’t be such a stiff if you morons had some funny material! I swear, it’s all crude butt jokes with you guys!”
“Those are the best ones!”
David watched his family argue amongst themselves, joking with each other and laughing. Catching his wife’s eye, David mouthed; “We did good.” Megan smiled. But the family bonding was cut short when David’s wrist device went off. Immediately, the table silenced as they all watched their father go through a change. Many have told the joyful David that he doesn’t age at all as he got older, but when that signal went off, years and years started growing on the man’s face. It was time to clock back in for the night shift.
The night shift, strictly for those his father appoints and no one knows about what goes on at the Forge Division after hours. Not even relatives of the supervisors and leaders. Only Ace knew little of the night shift. He wasn’t proud of it, but he’s been spying on his old man since the day he was announced as the family heir. At first, Ace just wanted to be exactly like his father and he wanted to know everything that his father did for the Forge Division. After the official shadowing apprentice tours were over, Ace kept tabs on his dad. For some reason, his father didn’t want him to know about the night shift. David never enforced the rule upon Ace, as Ace respected his decision, but he never told his son anything other than; “You’ll find out when you’re old enough to take my job.”
“Well, family, I’ll be taking my leave for tonight. Erica, you and your sisters help clean up. Franky, you and the boys lock up and guard the fort tonight. Listen to your mother; I’ll be back at the usual time.” Pecking kisses on the top of his daughters heads, ruffling the hair of his sons, kissing his wife goodbye, and he was off to the master bedroom to get his gear before heading out to the Forge Division for the Night Shift.
Ace excused himself for the bathroom and followed after his father. Catching him in the halls, Ace called out to him. “Hey, Dad, what do you say about me taking your shift tonight?” Ace was never one to twiddle his fingers in anticipation, but he was nervous of what his father was going to say next.
“You’re already gunning to be senior supervisor, now you want to take the last task this old man can still do?” David chuckled to himself as he waved his son to follow him into the master bedroom. Once inside, David donned his personal Sceptre-173 atop his head and the room came alive. The panels from the ceiling opened and several arm mechanisms got to work taking bags out of the closet, and organizing the gear my father supposedly needed for the night shift. It was a solid minute of the mechanical arms moving bags, consumable cubes and powder mixtures, and gear around before David approached Ace with three duffel bags and a grin. “Here you go!” David dumped the gathered materials into his son’s arms.
“Wait? You’re actually gonna let me go to the Forge Division at night.” Ace questioned the man that forbade him to in the first place.
“No, don’t be an idiot. Franky’s going to be tagging along with you so you don’t mess anything up.” David chuckled at Ace’s annoyed stare. “Well, what did you expect? You haven’t stepped foot in the Forge Division since you began the grooming process at that stuffy school. Franky’s going to be there to show you the ropes.”
“Wait a second…Franky already knows what the Night Shift is?!” The gear fell to the floor as Ace stared incredulous at his father.
“Course he does, the whole family does. Hell, even Abigail knows what the Night Shift is!” David’s chortling turned to outright laughter at his son’s stunned expression when he said the youngest child knew the ‘big’ secret.
Ace shook his surprise and narrowed his eyes at David. “Well, when were you people gonna tell me?!” Ace waved his arms about in frustration. He only grew more irritated when his father only grinned at him. You’ll find out when you’re old enough to take my job. Those words rang through Ace’s head. “Oh.”
“Now get on out of here, kid. You’re gonna be late!” David picked the gear up off the floor, shoved it into Ace’s arms, and slammed the door onto his heels. David got a free pass to sleep early that night thanks to his son.
Ace was so stunned; he didn’t notice his older brother standing right in front of him until he felt a rough clap against his back. “Huh?”
“Come on, Ace. We’re going to be late.” Franky was already set up to leave. A couple of duffel bags were slung over his shoulder and he had his jacket on.
“Y-yeah, let’s go.” Ace nodded before going to his room to put on his shoes. When he was about to come out of his room, Franky suddenly clamped a hand over Ace’s mouth and carried him to the window of his room located on the 18th floor. Their family lived in the company tower since forever. Swinging the window open, Franky didn’t even warn Ace before they both found themselves falling to the ground below. Ace’s eyes widened as he opened his mouth to scream. But before they splattered onto the ground, Franky clasped a Sceptre-173 onto his head and constructed a light-hover disc and their descent slowed to a stop in the air.
As soon as it became clear that his brother summoned an aircraft, Ace wrenched his eyes open and breathed a sigh of relief before punching Franky. “How about a little warning next time!” Ace didn’t know Franky was granted Crafting permission for his Sceptre-173 so Ace was taken by surprise when they jumped from the window. Usually, only top executives strictly had the ability granted to construct flying transportation. So how did Franky get a pass? Ace wondered in his mind. But with the way his night was going, he felt that even Abigail had one of these.
“Where’s the fun in that?” Franky laughed before taking off for the Forge Division. Using the light construct, the duo got to their destination with time to spare according to Franky who knew the schedule of the night shift. Arriving at the entrance of the wide building, Franky greeted the guard, noting that Ace was with him when the guard stopped the younger Loreson, and opened the door to enter Forge Division.
Ace had to admit, it has been a while since he stepped foot into his family’s business. He could quite a few changes in the structural support and overall upgrades to the security. For a moment, Ace wondered why the EDS were installing so many surveillance all over Emblem, but he digressed. Those of EDS were born paranoid; it was in their DNA or something.
The Forge Division was built to house the main division and its sub branches such as transportation assembly, metal wielding, and the design wing for upcoming architecture projects. Once, Ace asked his father just how big the Forge Division had to be to hold all the technology and works, and his father told him it was about the size of five football fields. Ace was upset because he didn’t know what a football field was or could figure out the size. Or at the very least what football was. His father only laughed and ruffled his son’s head saying: “It was before your time”.
“Yo, head’s up, Ace. You can’t afford to daydream here. Ya might lose a limb.” Franky snatched Ace away from mere inches of walking into the way of a moving industrial-craft.
“Oh yeah, sorry.” Ace scratched the back of his head sheepishly. His father’s words resonating clearly in his head. If Franky was there to look after him, who knows if would’ve even made as far as past the entrance. Ace steeled himself and got ready for the Night Shift. He had yet to see what the fuss was surrounding the elusive after hours shift.
Ace missed the Forge Division dearly. Working with his fellow Division workers, he got to use a Sceptre-173 again. He hadn’t used one since before the heir business. He was buggy with the controls at first, but once he got into the groove of things, he caught up in pace with Franky and the others. As it turned out, the Night Shift was just heading over to the assigned wing of the Forge Division and working one’s mind overtime to make up for any slackers that didn’t meet the crafted material and tools quota on the day shift. Naturally, the night shift gang was a group of disgruntled workers cursing and swearing and cracking vulgar jokes about the lazy, good-for-nothing day shift group all night. Their foul language was probably the main reason his father didn’t tell him about the Night Shift in the first place. Which, Ace turned out to enjoy more than he thought. But like all good things, it had to come to an end as the shift bell rang out throughout the Division. The Night Shift has ended at 5:30AM. Franky made his rounds and eventually found Ace.
“How was it, kid? Not as bad as you thought, huh?” Franky waved his good nights/mornings to his co-workers. “Night Shift is a killer with the hours, but at least the pay is good.” Franky massaged his brows and held out his pay of a handful of Glass.
“You and dad made it sound like there was some top-secret EDS project or something…” Ace yawned despite himself as he unhooked the Sceptre-173 from his head. The two brothers walked over to the clock-out station but were stopped by one of their dad’s assistant supervisors. The supervisor, Rick-something, told the two to make one last security round before clocking out. Not in a real rush to leave the nostalgic building, Ace didn’t argue as he dragged his weary brother away from the clock-out station.
This would be his last shift working with the sub branches. Come tomorrow, he’d be stuck in some overseer office supervisor the productivity of the Forge Division. Ace’s dad told him that the position of senior supervisor wasn’t all that bad, though. But Ace knew better. His dad was just telling him what he wanted to hear because at the end of the day, Ace didn’t have much choice in whether or not he wanted his old man’s job. Ace would much rather be working with his family in friends down below the office, using his hands.
The Forge Division was unique in Emblem. In the Division, the use of the Sceptre-173 was minimal compared to the other stations of Emblem. The Division only used the device to look up the instructions to create the tools and materials for a job. The rest was up to the workers to assemble and stabilize on their own. You got two perfectly able hands and a creative mind, go build something! Ace thought as he remembered the early years growing up. In the history of the Loreson family, his dad was the most creative in drawing up designs and constructing the various structures in Emblem. Such as ESS’ defense systems and the House of Politics’ tower. To be able to think of something and have it recorded into Emblem’s Scientific Catalog Hall was an immense honor.
Ace wanted that all his life but he knew he couldn’t. On his 12th birthday, he took the test and scored the highest intellect in his family; declaring him the heir of the family. It was then that he was enrolled into the school that began ‘grooming’ him for the next six years. Grooming consisted of Ace showing up for school, sitting him down in front of a screen and being hooked up into a specialized Sceptre-173 for the complete history and techniques of the Forge Division. Then at 4 o’clock every afternoon, Ace and his fellow heirs were released and told to come back the next day for more grooming. It was like that for a few years until they moved on to shadowing their respective senior supervisors, their parents.
“Hello, Ace, are you in there?” Franky gave his brother a shove.
Ace caught himself and stared at his brother. “What?”
“Geesh, you’ve been spacing out more and more lately. What’s up with you?”
“I haven’t been here and a while and I’m feeling nostalgic, is all.” Ace responded defensively. Ace always wondered why Franky was so grouchy in the morning and now he knew why. Working a day and night shift would put a strain on anyone. Especially if they worked at the general labor Forge Division for as long as Franky and their father.
“Whatever, Franky yawned, “let’s just finish this last round so I can get to bed…” Franky let out another dragged out yawn. “You take the architecture wing and I’ll comb the design wing.”
The architecture wing was pretty clear save for some leftover pillars that weren’t left in their designated zones. If they weren’t put into their designated zones, they’d keep flickering until they deconstructed and disappeared from the Division log system. Donning a Sceptre-173, Ace started levitating them to their correct positions. With his focus, somewhat exhausted, on safely moving the pillars, Ace didn’t notice that someone was riding on top. But once he did, his concentration broke and the pillar fell to the ground, shattering.
“What are you doing here? This area is closed off to non-Division workers at night.” Ace tightened the hammer he had tucked in his workman belt. He wasn’t trained nor had the experience in Sceptre-173 fighting like an EDS personnel but that didn’t mean he couldn’t fling a hammer at the intruder if things got messy.
The person stepped out from the cloud of dust the pillar threw up. Upon closer examination, Ace could make out a male, average height, with a cloak on covering the stranger’s face.
“That’s not important, right now. You need to come with me…” The strange teenager reached out towards Ace.
Ace took a step back and brought out his hammer, wielding it like he would strike if the stranger got any closer or reached for him again. “Back up, buddy. You better give me some answers before I call up the full force of the EDS. Me and the next heir of the EDS are buddies.”
The cloaked young man tilted his head, skeptical of Ace’s bluff.
Ace wasn’t surprised the stranger called him out on that lie. Krieger and Ace weren’t even considered acquaintances in their six years of attending the same school. “What’s it gonna be, pal?”
“This,” the robed teenager suddenly wielded a strange-looking gun or sorts and pointed it at Ace. “Put down the hammer, pal.”
Ace couldn’t quite place the weapon the cloaked person had. The Division built guns in the armory for EDS’ task force so Ace knew what a firearm looked like. And whatever the stranger was holding was not a gun. Ace started smirking at the stranger, about to call him out on a bluff. “Look, kid, I don’t know who you’re trying to threaten with that toy of yours, but you’ve got until the count of 3 to lower it and get on the ground.”
To respond to Ace’s order, the stranger swung the firearm, pulled out a matchstick and lit it, and the weapon fired. Ace jumped and jumped as the shot missed by a narrow few inches to his side. Glancing behind him, Ace saw that the electronic console was broken and sparking. Ok, it was a gun. Ace held up his hands in surrender. But before he knew it, the stranger winced before hitting the ground with a thud. A Taser tag caught on the cloak.
Like a flash, the room was surrounded with an EDS task force led by a short, familiar, officer. As it turned out, it was Krieger Maverick, Ace’s classmate.
Ace turned to his side just as Krieger strolled up behind him. Krieger spoke first before Ace could ask what just happened. “Do you know who this individual is?” The heir to the EDS throne was a brunette of short-stature; Ace had a whole foot of height over him easy, with dark circles under his eyes. Probably from constantly watching the surveillance screens 24/7.
“No, I was just making my rounds-“
“Do you know why this cloaked individual was here at the Forge Division?”
“Your guess is as good as mine, K-Man-“
Krieger narrowed his eyes at the nickname and sniffed as he continued his interrogation. “Are there any other intruders or witnesses?”
Ace quickly learned that Krieger only wanted a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to his questions. “No.” Ace received a nod from Krieger, accepting his answer. “So now what?”
For a moment, Krieger scanned the room with his hawk eyes before responding to Ace’s fair question. “Now I take this intruder into booking and you speak of this little incident to no one.”
“It wouldn’t do to have such an event happen when our classmates haven’t officially settled into their offices yet.” Krieger responded to Ace’s surprise. This was the most the Maverick son has ever spoken with him.
“What do you mean by that?”
“Emblem hasn’t officially transitioned the role of successors into their new offices yet; its systems have yet to acknowledge the change in leadership.” Krieger watched as Ace’s still wasn’t managing to connect the dots laid out in front of him. “This means that the arrest I just made is breaching protocol and your involvement might bring unwanted attention from the House of Politics.” Krieger began tapping his foot when Ace sheepishly started scratching the back of his head. “You still don’t get it, do you?”
“Could you put whatever it is you’re trying to tell me in Layman terms?”
Krieger pinched the bridge of his nose. “Since I’m not authorized to make an on the scene arrest, this intruder could go free and that would be disastrous if EDS doesn’t know this intruder’s true intent. And you aren’t even allowed to be taking your father’s place in for the Night Shift here. These two factors will bring attention from the House of Politics because we may have released a potential security threat and unauthorized shift change among leadership.”
“Oh. I get it now.”
“Good for you.”
Ace let that slide. He didn’t think he would stand a chance against the heir to the military-trained EDS. “So tell no one and go about our business?”
“I cannot acknowledge your statement, but yes.”
“Alright then, that’s that. Good work, K-Man!” Ace raised his hand for a high-five. Maybe it wasn’t too late to gain friends with the silent killer.
Krieger completely ignored Ace and his high-five, to which the stranger laughed at Ace's expense as he was carried away in handcuffs.