After the Doomsday - A Dark Ages Map TL continuation

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Midgard, Apr 12, 2005.

  1. Midgard Oderint dum metuant

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    Warning - this will not be regularly updated for the next two weeks, as I will be in and out of town, and not always with Internet access. So, here is a short story that should serve as a transition to the next stage of the "ATL Dark Ages Map" timeline... Any comments and suggestions are very much welcome! :)



    November 24th, 1173 AD
    High Earth Orbit

    The stars formed patterns all above, below, and around the bridge of a giant starship, the command unit of a great fleet assembled here in high orbit. As far as she could see, there were others, transports, military vessels, just about any space-worthy piece of machinery lifted off ground on the war-torn Earth.

    Anna Cantacuzina, the Celestial Admiral of the First Rank in the Imperial Roman Starfleet stood at the bridge of the Augustus watching over the largest assembly of spaceships ever gathered in one spot. Even the early battles of the Final War never saw this many, from this many nations and peoples, all in one place at the same time.

    “All ready?” she asked of the ensign waiting on her word.

    “Yes, m’lady,” the young Italian ensign replied. This was not his first spaceflight, but he had way too few hours of training under his belt, and his look definitely showed it. But then again, she thought, when the Final War begun, rank mattered much less, and some people got amazingly quick promotions, their only merit being survival.

    There, in space above the home world dying in embers of nuclear fire, the great flotilla included ships from Rome, Giovannia, Axum, Khazaria, China, Russia, and even a few vessels from Maya Vandalor, amongst smaller, but more numerous Confederate vessels. She already knew it would not be an easy journey. The Russians and the Chinese were at each other’s throats; the Khazars and the Vinnlanders hated the ground the other walked on; the Chola, the Arabs, and the Khazars had disputes going back centuries. The Romans had more than a few issues with most of the nations representing the remainder of humanity; the opposite was also true. There was no love lost between most of these unlikely companions, united by terror and despair, knowing well that the only sky they will ever see for the rest of their lives will be that of Ares, the cold, barren fourth planet from the sun.

    Yet, she had a mission. Aboard the Augustus, seventy thousand colonists lay in cold sleep – only a few out of more than a million Romans lifted off ground to be safely delivered to Ares Nova, millions of miles away. She knew that many more colonists packed the tight confines of the other nations’ ships – probably as many as three million total. Many would still be in the state of deep freeze for years, until sufficient living facilities were built on the surface of Ares to accommodate them. Now, only about fifty thousand people lived on the surface of the red planet, barely self-sufficient; yet it was their only chance.

    She knew salvation was only temporary, and this second lease on life for her species was nothing but a brief extension – for if they could not find sustenance for the entire expedition, any future for them would be only extremely brief, and filled with strife, starvation, and misery. Yet, they still had the entire Imperial Starfleet, and, judging by the numbers of ships besides them, most of the surviving civilian and even military units from the others.

    “Ensign, send the order to depart,” she said, knowing that her order will be obeyed. Not many wanted to admit the pain they felt upon looking at the planet of their birth – yet she knew it deep inside, she knew they felt it too. For a moment, she wished to see the ancient beauty of Nicaea, the city of her birth, older than time itself, its high-rise buildings scraping the sky while the ancient double walls seemed to have grown out of the earth below. But Nicaea, Rome, Ravenna, Veneto, even Constantinople itself were now gone, uninhabitable for longer than a human memory could comprehend, their multi-million populations disintegrated by the nuclear weapons that should never have been unleashed.

    This was the end. But also, this was a new beginning. In three weeks time, they will be at Ares, ready to unload their precious human cargo that held the future of the species. They will be safe from the radiation sickness, genetic mutations, famine and disease that would ravage those still on the ground. Only few areas, she knew, were left untouched by the nuclear fire, either those deemed too remote, too sparsely populated, or too unimportant to be of any significance. For a second, she wondered if anything could survive on the ground, to greet the colonists’ children and grandchildren when they attempt to reclaim the world of their ancestors’ birth. Before the starship’s huge engines started emitting familiar rhythm that signaled their departure, she thought with pity of those still on the surface.


    November 25th, 1173
    2 miles under the surface at the undisclosed location in the Himalayas

    Batu Zhong Khan was afraid, for the first time in his life. As a member of the Imperial family and the high Speaker of the Dini assembly, he has always assumed both his office and his person were inviolate, subject only to the Emperor himself, his grand-uncle. Yet, when the bombs went off, and the dreaded Russian attack finally came, the air of invulnerability, the aura of invincibility, the illusion of might – they were all gone.

    Sure, serfs and workers could die. This is all they had done for thousands of years, giving their lives away for the greater glory of the Middle Kingdom, for the greater light of al-Din and its great prophets; as long as the Divine Emperor himself was safe, the Empire could go on. But now, the Emperor himself, an old man of eighty two years of age, was dying; the people on the surface were most likely dead. Even the elite guards in this most sacred bunker, hidden miles below the surface, even they seemed to share the common pessimism.

    A young girl servant interrupted him. “My Lord Khan, your uncle wishes to see you.” Great, he thought, the old bastard has some more crap bothering him. Then, he shirked away the thought, that in better times would have not only been considered treacherous, but would have earned him a place at the gallows – that is, if he had been lucky. There were many tales of fates much worse than the gallows, the fates that many enemies of the crown had suffered.

    Batu Zhong Khan attempted to not betray any notion of the thoughts in his head. Instead, he nodded in silent approval, then walked into a long curving corridor, where speechless loyal guards stood like stone sentinels guarding the palace of a living god. He attempted to get his thoughts in order. He needed that to pass by the thought probe; no one could get into the presence of the Emperor without being constantly monitored by the probe.

    Along the way, four burly giants, Mongols from the Northern Territories by the looks of them, joined him, their hands gripping their weapons, charged with explosive rounds that could kill or cripple with but one shot. The Mongol guards made their presence known, but walked silently, as if not sure whether to slay him or to protect him. For some reason Batu Zhong Khan thought they were just as confused as he was, not knowing what happened to the world they all knew and the order that was suddenly gone.

    Finally they stopped in front of a large metal door, where an honor escort of ten guards saluted them – all the while keeping their fingers on the triggers of their guns. Blank, empty slate, he remembered the exercise he and select few others were taught years ago. Let nothing but the flow of time enter and exit your mind. Your mind is a fishnet, let no fish get caught in. Your mind is a flower, let no bees around. Your mind is a target, let no… The opening of the door caught him unawares, producing the effect its instructors desired; yet he let no awareness of surprise show.

    The giants led him to a small chamber, seemingly built to surround an ornate bed, populated only by its one sole inhabitant. “Leave us,” the desiccated ancient figure resting on the bed spoke. The guards saluted and retired out of the room, leaving the dying Emperor alone with his grand-nephew, and, could Batu Khan hope, his successor?


    November 25th, 1173
    Nikopolis, Southern Cape of Africa

    The city was silent, patrolled by the remaining airships and few of the fighter aircraft enforcing the curfew from the sky, but by now, there were not many citizens who would dare to venture outside for the fear of fallout. From behind the reinforced windows, the latest fashion in the days before the Final War, four men watched the dark sky, even darker now in the night than it should have been.

    One of the men was wearing what looked like a tattered military uniform; he was just approaching late middle age, but liberal consumption of food, drink, and tobacco made him look just a bit older. The second one was at least in his sixties, with bent back and a cane, and with hands that could have only earned the greases and scars from heavy industrial work. The third was, by the looks of him, a wealthier merchant before the War, and seemed very uncomfortable in the company of the others. The fourth was but a boy, maybe fifteen, sixteen years of age at the most, bearing more than a striking resemblance to the old man in his facial features.

    Behind them was a bar stuffed with every kind of alcohol from every nation on the planet – or at least it was, until the hordes of refugees descended at Nikopolis and few remaining Roman outposts that were not the targets of orbital bombardment or the stray missiles. Now, the barkeeps could ask ridiculous prices for even the cheap Bantu beer, the kind that even most of the poorer laborers preferred to avoid; the supply was running low, and so were the money. And yet their mutual sorrows, and the rumor that alcohol protects from the effects of radiation poisoning was enough to keep the poor, the rich, the soldiers, and the civilians coming.

    “So what brought you here, Demetrios?” the man in the military uniform asked of the merchant.

    Demetrios thought for a second and decided that it was not sarcasm speaking from the commoner’s lips. “Well, I was in Liguria when I heard of the bombardment. Luckily for me and my son, we were just about to lift off on our own plane for Iberia; it did not take much persuasion to direct the pilot here.”

    “So, son,” spoke the old man, “why did you seek out the family you have always seemed to be ashamed of?”

    “Father,” Demetrios tried to speak, then stopped, as if pleading.

    “Never mind,” the old man shrugged, “the Bible says that one should turn the other cheek, be a good Samaritan.”

    “But,” the man in the military uniform interrupted with a tone of bitterness in his voice, “does the Bible not also say to honor thy mother and thy father? Our mother was dying, Demetrios, and all she was calling for was you – for you were her favorite, the youngest, the smartest. The beautiful Demetrios, Kaloiannis, that is what she called you, and where were you when cancer was killing her two years ago?”

    Demetrios looked away. He knew that his roots were humble, something he has always tried to hide amongst his business associates and the partners. Even his wife, his late wife whose radioactive ashes may as well be the ones dropping on the city, even she did not know until much later, until after he has made his career as the leader of the business conglomerate that sought to do business with the Russians, the Chinese, even the Vandals to boost profits buying and selling technologies, weapons, vehicles, just about anything.

    “You know brother,” the man continued, “it is the people like you that care more about the money than anything else that brought forth the doom of us all.”

    “Alexander, we are not to blame!” Demetrios exclaimed, raising his hands up in the air. “We all thought that even those crazy Anarch Russians would have enough sense not to begin this. Besides, everything we did went through the Senate’s approval. I, and any of my employees or associates have never intended for this to happen.”

    The old man stood in between them, looking at his two sons, then at his young grandson. “Children,” he said. “You may not have been the kind and remembering son that me and your mother wished for, Demetrios, but for your son’s, and my grandson’s sake, my house is your house.”

    The teenager, with a trembling voice, mumbled something like “thank you, grandfather.”

    All four then turned to face a giant visual screen occupying portion of the ceiling. On the screen, there was a face of the man, middle aged, with short military haircut and military uniform. The man was talking, and even here, among the bar’s busy life, his voice seemed to cut above that of the crowd.

    “…Thus, in the absence of contact with the capital, and any surviving members of the Imperial Family, I, Leo Sphrantzes, declare myself Emperor of the Romans, and the Archbishop of Nikopolis shall from now on bear the title of the Patriarch. Therefore, my first action as Leo the Sixth is going to be the restoration of all we held dear about the Eternal Roman Empire…”

    The old man spit at the floor. “There will be dozens of men like this one declaring themselves… all full of crap.”

    Little did he know that on the island of Terra Australis, and in the Southern continent of Vandalia, two others made the same claim as Leo.


    November 26th, 1173
    Somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico

    The water was everywhere around their submarine, filled with ashes, debris, dead sea creatures, and all sorts of things they could and could not imagine being in the waters near Ottonia and Yucatan. There were twelve of them, all looking exactly alike, and thinking in unison of a collective mind. They were linked through microchips in their heads to the Central Command’s database, being its eyes and ears for the events that happened above the Command’s safe hideout on the ocean floor, protected from the worst effects of the nuclear fallout by tons of water separating them from the deadly surface.

    They were clones, speechless, and individually thoughtless – perfect troops for suicide missions, genetically altered to withstand higher degrees of radiation, poison, and harmful environments than any ordinary human would. Of course, they still would die; the clones were plentiful, and cheap to make – but their deaths would not be in vain, as scientific data gathered by Maya Vandal scientists below would help them to create a new, more durable breed of clones, and eventually a new race that will be able not only to survive, but to thrive in the world all other human and animal life would forsake.

    Below the water, the scientists rushed about their business, following the plan written decades ago, attempting to keep Maya Vandal civilization alive no matter what cataclysm, short of destruction of the Earth itself, came about. So many had been turned away from the underwater shelters, their genetic material deemed too polluted by the fallout; so many had been left to die on the surface of the dying world. Yet the select few were brought in, the best of the best, the superior specimens, who, in addition to thousands of the Sleepers, would form a core that would return Maya Vandalor to the heights of its dominance. And then, beyond.


    November 26th, 1173
    The Grampians, island of Albion

    The man was tired and bleeding from dozens of minor wounds, but he would not quit running. Behind were the hounds of the newly declared Earl of the Midlands, Erik Kenttson, who in the life before the Final War was probably an individual of rather mundane occupation, transformed into the lord of the wastelands by the event that destroyed all central government, as all the rich and the powerful escaped on their space transports – leaving the poor, the downtrodden, the miserable behind.

    The man felt rage inside of him; how did it happen, he asked himself. Why did he, the Chief Banker of the Angleland Bank at Londinium, have to run for his life with scraps of bread, while his former employers were in cold sleep on board of a starship, ready to be awakened when their quarters were ready on Ares? He cursed under his breath, trying not to waste too much energy.

    He did not dare to look back over his shoulder, knowing that the hounds, genetically modified toys made by the Vandals (curse them bastards, he thought) were in their element, and would find his scent quickly, unless he can somehow outsmart these remorseless predators. There were only a few trees left around here, and not an abandoned vehicle to take shelter in, and possibly outrace the creatures chasing him.

    He could not hear the hounds or their masters, the gang of ruffians in service of this so-called “Earl of the Midlands”, but he knew they were coming. Food was preciously rare these days, money worth not more than the paper they were printed on – and the paper was not even very good to keep one warm on a cold night. Whatever automated services still functioned, food, water, electricity, anything, were worth more than their weight in gold, making whoever controlled the facilities ruler over lives of the people requiring them to survive.

    Yes, in the first days there was still hope that a relief ship would descend from the sky, picking up any survivors it could find to carry them into safety beyond the orbit of Earth. But as time went on, the hope faded; the few other survivors he has met were ready to kill him for whatever little canned food he was able to steal from the storehouses that by now were completely gutted of all valuables. He was smarter, faster, stronger; he survived. They did not. This was all he needed to know, and all he cared to know about.

    For a moment, he thought he saw a glimpse of something in the clouds. Could it be, the hope rose in his chest? Could it be the rescue mission? Then, the sound made his heart sink. It was an old airship, a relic of the times long gone, with the lions of Angleland on its side badly painted over. The insignia on it was the one he knew, the insignia of a man whose warehouse he stole the few scraps of food he carried from. It was the dragon of Erik Kenntson, the emblem the man adopted to supposedly signify his noble heritage (which, as far as he knew, was most likely a complete sham).

    Before the hounds and the hunters reached him, the man had time to fall to his knees and curse them all, wishing unspeakable horrors upon his pursuers and their descendants. Little did he know that much of that would come true.


    November 27th, 1173
    Secret military facility under the Ural Mountains

    This should have been his day of triumph, but now he felt hollow. Aksenii Vlasov was not an emotional man, and not a very flexible one. This was the exact reason that allowed him to be in charge of the Anarch party in this part of Rus, and also, the exact reason he was not allowed to advance any further. Good subordinate, his superiors said. Good leader, they praised him; but not a man of vision, not the one to lead the Rus into the hostile world.

    Deep inside the mountain, he directed the efforts of the space bombers and intercontinental missile launchers, hidden by an elaborate network that could not point his exact location to the enemy satellites. The day the world bled and cried out in terror, it was his doing, his orders that set out the assault on Chinese Starfleet, crippling his nation’s arch-enemy’s will to fight and ability to respond forever.

    Hero of the Respublica, they called him, the great military leader, the greatest commander since Svyatoslav himself. Then, the weapons were unleashed, rendering his victory, the triumph that should have been his by right, useless, destroying all that he has once cared about.

    Yet, this facility still functioned, even if cut off from the radioactive wasteland the ancient lands of the Rus had now become. Below the mountain, thousands of cold sleep coffins held the remnant of the Russian people, the only chosen people in the world of chaos, the world that stood poised to crush them. With a grim satisfaction he thought that the Greeks, the Khazars, the Chinese, all those who had oppressed his nation throughout the ages were now also gone.

    Time has come for the Rus to reclaim its rightful place as the leader of the world, as the one true nation of God, and as His chosen people. Unbent, unbowed, and unbroken, just how it should be.

    Aksenii Vlasov swore that the fight was not over – it was only beginning.
     
  2. G.Bone lurks

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    Hon., HI
    Interesting story midgardmetal. I look forward to more. (Is this ala Turtledove?)
     
  3. Hermanubis Murderfing threads sense 2004!

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    Feb 21, 2004
    Interesting…
     
  4. Midgard Oderint dum metuant

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    Heh... the interesting thing is, I've never read anything by Turtledove despite my interest in AH... I guess I am just not too interested in ACW or WWII as periods of history, less so than the PODs being much further back. I am definitely shooting for a "semi-epic" kind of a feel, possibly a lot more character-based. Any feedback is definitely welcome!
     
  5. MerryPrankster Donor

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    Jan 10, 2004
    I agree with the others. Very, VERY cool story.
     
  6. Forum Lurker Member

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    Apr 4, 2005
    Midgardmetal: A lot of Turtledove's non-series stories are set with medieval or earlier departures. Agent of Byzantium, for example, has a departure in the seventh century, with Mohammed becoming a Christian monk (and later saint) instead of founding a religion, and Down in the Bottomlands departs by not letting the Med form.
     
  7. Faeelin Lord of Ten Thousand Years

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    Jan 4, 2004
    This is actually quite good; but why would they relocate to Mars?
     
  8. Diamond Banned

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    Jan 2, 2004
    Extremely cool so far. I was like 'NOOOOOOOOOOO' when it ended... :D
     
  9. Midgard Oderint dum metuant

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    Pretty much there is already a settlement there, no need to worry about the "survivors" who were left behind, and no need to deal with the consequences of radioactive fallout. One thing to keep in mind about the "evacuation" is that most of those evacuated in most nations are the "higher-ups", while those left behind are generally people of lower rank and station, or just those with not enough luck to get on the transports; terraforming Mars would be seen as somewhat of an easier task than trying to decontaminate Earth while dealing with the "left behind" masses trying to break in and such.

    At least IMO these would be some of the reasons, especially considering the only inhabitable areas would be already crammed with every refugee that could get there - there would be little time or inclination to build extra accommodations there, while on Mars, there would be both time, and the perception that the people evacuated are "the cream of the crop", and thus would be needed at Mars, completely untouched by the war.
     
  10. Midgard Oderint dum metuant

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    I've been meaning to check out "Agent Of Byzantium" for a while now, just hadn't seen it in book stores, and been bit too lazy to order it online... it is, however, on my list of things to buy.

    One thing I was wondering is how are his Videssos series? All indicators point to them pretty much being Byzantine history in disguise, but how is the writing/premises/characters etc (well, besides the fact that the premise is very much in ASB territory)? Worth checking out? If so, which books are the good ones to start with? What about "Thessalonica"? I've seen it on the store shelves, but read very conflicting reviews on its quality.
     
  11. Forum Lurker Member

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    The Videssos series is quite good, it is thinly veiled Byzantium, and it's very ASB-ish, including magic as an ongoing factor in the setting. Thessalonica I don't recall well.
     
  12. Midgard Oderint dum metuant

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    OK, just a heads up here. The next update is already written, but is on my other computer which is not currently connected to the Internet... it may not be posted for another few days (possibly either late Friday or Saturday). The next one is going to take more of a "story" approach, and will be more character-based, so consider yourselves warned :D

    In a meanwhile, thank you all for reading and commenting!
     
  13. Midgard Oderint dum metuant

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    "Abomination" - Chapter One

    Next update... probably the last one in a week. I will resume posting as soon as I get back to Colorado. Keep in mind that there is a large "gap" between this and previous updates with respect to when it takes place... I was thinking of continuing the TL "regular way" in between, but figured out it would probably result in better "readability" and entertainment value... not to mention I have a very good idea of what happened in between, but it is IMO better revealed through succeeding chapters... :D

    BTW, I think by now this TL/story would probably get a different name; while the TL that inspired it grew out of Hermanubis' "ATL Dark Ages Map" thread, this thread's story and set of events are going to be much more character based as opposed to the regular way of writing TLs (although there are going to be bits and snippets of "TL-style" writing here and there). Thus, the name in the title - Abomination, which makes more sense in the context of the following chapters and the plot I have in mind.

    Also, I would like to extend some special thanks to the people without whom this TL would not have gotten so far, and would not have even got started. Thus, Huge Enormous Thanks (tm) go to Hermanubis and G. Bone, for respectively starting the original thread and creating maps for it, and to everyone who contributed in some way, shape, or form!

    Without further adieu, here it is!

    As always, any comments and suggestions are welcome! :D


    Awake

    April 30th, 1397
    Under the sands of Sahara Desert

    Are there dreams in cold sleep? Are there visions in the state when consciousness itself slips away, leaving the body to lay in a freezing eternity, beyond the realms of the living and the realms of the dead, dabbling in both but really belonging to neither? He could swear that there were voices, visions, faces, strange landscapes, places he could not have imagined and nightmarish revelations of obscure nature lurking between the realms of Morpheus and that of Thanatos, the unknown calling him by names that he could not remember and yet could identify as belonging to him.

    Then, out of the amalgam of pictures and chaotic sounds, what seemed like a voice came out clear and loud. “Awaken,” it said, not belonging to either man, woman, or a child, but still recognizably human, a mixture of all voices of human race from the time immemorial and into the ultimate future beyond all imagination. The man in a glass coffin-like structure stirred, having a hard time moving. “Awaken,” the voice spoke to him again, as he was not sure whether it was real or a product of his own delusional mind.

    It was cold, and dark, his hands still covered by the frost left behind from the cold sleep. He opened his eyes, and, gathering all his strength, pushed against the cover of his chamber, pushing it open with surprisingly little effort. He groaned, trying to regain his balance and stand up, looking around with blurry vision to determine where he was.

    Some long-retained shards of memory came back, haunting his mind as he tried to rationalize his situation. Something did not seem right. By now, after two years in cold sleep, the place should have been bustling with activity, technicians checking and rechecking the sleep chambers, others waking up, some of the higher-ups checking on the status of Project Aeneas. There was nothing there, not a sound, the only lighting being dim greenish glow of the floor lamps. Not a sound from the other “coffins” either, not a sign of life.

    He quickly glanced over to his sides, then turned back. The life indicators by the two “coffins” next to him were silent; the look into the chambers revealed nothing but decomposed remains of the men and women that should have been his companions should the worst have happened. How long did I spend here, he wondered. And…

    The thought was almost too horrifying to rationalize with. He rose up from the chamber, still naked, and stood up by it, holding on to his surroundings and to reality. Then, his training, perfected by hours spent in the simulations, took over. Before his mind could fully understand what was going on, his legs carried him over out of the chamber, and into a large hall, where a touch from his hand to the access pad opened a small locker.

    There was a uniform, with the two-headed Roman Eagle symbolizing the eternal union of the East and the West emblazoned on the sleeves. On the chest, just above where his heart would be, there was a name. At first, the name did not mean much to him. Then, through vague recollections and pieces of memory, he realized what it meant. It was his name.

    Nikolaos Mauros, it said, centurion of the first rank, judging by the insignia. As he put the uniform on, he looked at a dusty mirror, trying to see his reflection among the dust and few spider webs. He could tell that he was still rather young, not having aged much in cold sleep, still looking like he was in his late twenties; medium height, with muscular built that could only have been obtained in special operations training, dark haired, with olive skin, and somewhat sharp facial features, that, a sudden recollection flashed in his head, earned him nickname “The Wolf” back in active duty. Yes, he now remembered. Niko the Wolf, that’s what his subordinates and friends called him back in the day, sometimes jokingly, sometimes with affection – and, for those who had been on the other side of the battlefield, with fear. Yet the features, familiar as they might be, seemed strangely detached, as if the face and the body was not his own but borrowed.

    Then, his first impulse was to go to the controls room, see if there was anyone there; if his worst fears were to be confirmed. He almost ran through the narrow catwalks, the only sound being the echo of his footsteps ringing through the artificial cave below the ground, masked from satellite surveys by the latest in twelfth century technology.

    Finally, there it was, the room that held the answers to the past, the present, and, could he hope, the future. He quickly typed in the code that he and all of the others who were supposed to accompany him into the wild ride into the unknown future in case of a worldwide cataclysm knew; the metal door slid open, revealing a large cylindrical chamber filled with dusty equipment, computer screens, control panels of every sort, and – not a living being. As he approached, the room came to life, screens lighting up and going through prerequisite checkups. Every system was backed up several times, trying to ensure that no matter what happens, the functionality remained; that whether or not its human users survived the cataclysm, the machines still went on with their shadow life under the surface of Sahara desert, blind, deaf, and impervious to the flow of time.

    He cracked his knuckles, the only living being in the room – possibly, the only living being in the compound among the artificial life of machinery. Niko sat himself down in front of a command monitor, waiting for it to be ready for his inquiries.

    Finally, the system was on. He entered command to establish satellite uplink, but was not surprised to see the failure of the connection, time after time. Even in the best of times, due to the need to keep the Project Aeneas installation hidden from the eyes and ears of potential enemies, the satellites had to be in specific position in order to catch the narrow band signal. He ordered the computer to keep on trying just as he attempted to establish connection to the central terminals in Carthage.

    On another screen, he has displayed the status of ten thousand men and women in the cold sleep chambers. Just as he had suspected. He cursed under his breath. Ten thousand cold sleep coffins, and nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine of them contained nothing but the dead bodies of people who should have been his companions. Then, he saw the date on the monitor, and cold sweat appeared on his forehead.

    Two hundred twenty five years had passed since ten thousand military volunteers were put in a two year sleep, to be replaced by the next ten thousand upon completion of their term. All to ensure that should the war that was on everyone’s mind erupt, some would still survive, some would still carry on the eternal legacy of Roman Empire, and reestablish the world they had once known. But then again, it had been unheard of for anyone to survive in cold sleep for over fifty years; the computers were programmed to wake up the chambers’ inhabitants thirty years after the beginning of the sleep, unless the facility’s staff woke them up earlier, at the completion of the two year term. What happened to the staff of the compound, he wondered?

    Despite the discouraging news, he had determined that non-human parts of the facility had survived much better than the people in the chambers. It seemed that the combat mech vehicles were still in top shape despite more than two centuries of storage, and that the base’s own life support systems and power supply were still functioning without fault. Why then, he wondered, the system failed to wake up its sleeping passengers on time?

    He tried to scan the surface of the desert for any signs of human habitation or vehicles, but came up negative. The radiation levels seemed to be bit higher than normal, but not dangerous, not indicating any nuclear weapon activity near the base. He extended the range of his search, but could not locate anything, partially, he suspected, due to the system’s inability to connect to the satellite network.

    He had ordered the terminal to dispatch some food, a tasteless, dry bar filled with various nutrients and vitamins required to keep his body in top shape, and designed to last for years in its cold, dry storage. The dispatcher unit, located at the back of the room, was quick to comply, and with some satisfaction he noticed that the food and the water dispatched to him seemed to have been preserved perfectly.

    As he ate, he tried to rethink the situation, and to determine his next move. If some sort of hostilities were still ongoing on the surface, anything that gave out his exact location would practically spell his doom; yet, with the amount of time that passed, he thought that the chances of that happening would be rather slim.

    It was a risk, but the risk worth taking, he thought to himself. The base had several small satellites equipped upon the rocket delivery systems, designed to provide eyes and ears to the base’s inhabitants should the unthinkable happen and the satellite network of the Roman Empire and its allies be destroyed or deactivated. Normally, the decision on launching them would rest with the base commander, a general of a consular rank, but now it mattered little that under other circumstances, Niko would not be authorized to perform the procedures. He knew, just like any soldier on the base of his rank or above, that should none of his superiors survive, the chain of command passed to the next one in line.

    The thought of what he must do next filled him with disgust, but he knew well he had little choice. The chips that would be used to provide authorization for satellite launch were implanted in the bodies of all senior officers; save for the master chip in base commander’s arm, it would require at least three chips from the other officers to set off the launch clearance, or to unlock the base, allowing the personnel inside to leave.

    He walked back to the cold sleep chamber, past the lockers and machinery that was supposed to keep him and his compatriots alive, and that failed – except for one case. Navigating the narrow passages between the coffins, he was starting to despair when he finally saw it.

    There it was, the chamber of general Matthew Comnenus, the one that was supposed to lead this group should they be awakened in a post-apocalyptic world after the final war to end all wars was fought. He remembered the general only briefly, knowing him mostly from his exploits as commander of special forces in a variety of conflicts throughout the world. Niko himself was a mech pilot, specialist in every form of mechanized vehicle and rather skilled in hand-to-hand combat, although not quite a match for the special force commandos. The mech pilots and commandos did not mesh well together – in fact, the two groups had a long-standing rivalry throughout the years, both considering themselves to be the best of the best, the elite troops of the Empire. Niko thought it was ironic that now the key to his salvation lay in the body of a decorated commando general.

    Pulling a knife out of his uniform, he has opened the coffin and dragged the general’s lifeless body out of it. With some distaste, he noticed that the general’s body was badly decomposed; apparently the freeze that kept Niko himself alive throughout the centuries went off at some point in the years past.

    Niko cut into the dead man’s hand, past tissue and muscles, searching for a piece of metal size of a small coin. He knew that should he find the chip in general Comnenus’ hand, he would not have to repeat the procedure three times, digging through the dead flesh of three junior commanders, and thought that it could have been at least somewhat worse.

    Finally, his fingers grasped something among the slime. Quickly, he pulled it out, hoping that this was indeed the missing microchip.

    In his hand lay the means of his salvation, still dripping with bodily fluids of a dead man, kept wet by the malfunctioning cold sleep chamber. It was a small item, shaped as the Roman two-headed eagle, fitting easily in the palm of Niko’s hand. Almost not believing his luck, he ran back to the control room, eager to both wash his hands off the slime, and to find out what has happened to the world in the two hundred years he was frozen.

    As the systems came online, he could do nothing but wait for the rocket to launch from the facility slightly closer to the surface of the desert. The satellite the rocket carried would sail the currents of space in a geosynchronous position just above the base’s location, just bit to the north so that any hostile craft would think it is attempting to communicate with whatever stood at the place of Carthage. More important, it should be able to survey the territory of the Empire in Europe and Africa, locating any remnants of Imperial authority and attempting to establish contact.

    In the hours left until the satellite properly deployed and completed the scan, Niko sat in the chair, consumed by the thoughts of the world he had hoped to see again, but knew he never would. Images flashed before his eyes, images of friends, family, loved ones, the places he had seen and the places he had hoped to see. He remembered the lush greens of Italy, and mountains of his native Thessaly, the great steppes of the Rus where he had been once on a joint training mission, and the vastness, coldness of space beyond the planet of his birth. He wondered what became of those he knew; did they survive the cataclysm, he asked himself? Did they escape to the Ares colony, like the rumors at the time believed it was planned? And who launched the first attack that started the apocalypse? Were there still enemies lurking in the far corners of the Earth, still bearing witness to the hatred and animosity so prevalent in the last years of the old order? And if so, were they watching still.

    It was hours before the computers informed Niko that the uplink has been established, and the system started downloading the data. He looked at the screens with dismay. Even though deep down he knew that there was no chance of it happening, the glimmer of hope still rested in his chest that some semblance of normalcy still prevailed, that there was at least some part of the world he knew that still survived.

    The screen was quick to disprove his secret hopes. Even now, it seemed that most of Europe was still one radioactive wasteland, with much of Italy and Greece rendered uninhabitable for centuries to come. The lands of the Rus, for the most part, seemed to be desolate, with radioactive ruins where Moskva, Kiev, Novgorod, and Suzdal stood; there seemed to be some activity in the Ural mountains, although the pictures satellite sent were sketchy at best, hinting at some sort of industrial-level society existing on the surface. There seemed to be some sort of a thriving settlement in Iberia, located in the mountains by the center of the peninsula, surrounded by what seemed to be series of smaller villages; the British Isles appeared to be partially populated, although with nothing even remotely resembling large-scale organized society.

    The Axumite lands in Eastern Africa appeared to be in the state of chaos, with several walled cities on the coast protected with what seemed like Great War-era weaponry; outside of the cities, there was no telling what was happening. Niko was somewhat concerned to see that in various parts of the world the satellite has surveyed, there seemed to be a number of metal constructs barely visible from space, the constructs that looked suspiciously like combat mechs.

    Central and Southern Africa seemed to be in a more orderly state, with a number of moderately sized cities, and less damage from the nuclear weapons than the rest of the continent. There were some radio transmissions the satellite was able to pick up – surprisingly to Niko, those were mostly in Russian, Bantu, and Greek! He did not speak Bantu, and his knowledge of Russian was rather limited, enough to carry on a conversation, but not much more; however, even with the Greek transmissions, he could not make much sense out of this. All he could understand was that the transmissions were apparently very much business as usual; there seemed to be constant references to the Third Rome of the South, and to Novaya Rus; from his limited understanding of Russian, he could gather that this was “New” Rus, apparently occupying the space that was once the nation of Great Zimbabwe, and then Russian-ruled Yuzhnaya Rus.

    What gave him some hope was this Southern Rome. He remembered that the south of Africa had been previously occupied by a Roman Dominion of Nikopolis, a rather large colony that possessed little in the way of industry or military significance – little enough, he hoped, that it would remain relatively untouched by the ravages of nuclear fire. He decided that it was worth investigating further, and directed the satellite to change its orbit in order to better observe it.

    He could not quite make out of what was happening in the twin continents of Vandalia and Giovannia, and much of Asia was beyond the reach of the satellite, short of complete change of orbit, but now he had at least some idea of what to do next. It would be hours before the satellite reported its findings; in a meanwhile, he decided to use it to attempt to communicate with the Belisarius Space Station, and Lunar colony of Demetropolis.

    He got no response from Belisarius, which surprised him; as far as the satellite’s instruments could tell, the station was still in orbit, although it could not discern whether or not there were any life signs on board. Demetropolis seemed to be silent as well; the only transmission the satellite could pick up were obviously a recording of some sort, and not very helpful at that. All the recording stated was that the station was property of “Roma Nova”, and that any hostilities against it would be answered in kind by the Roman Starfleet. He could not tell whether this message was recent, or dating from centuries ago.

    One thing he could not understand was the lack of functioning satellites or spaceships in orbit; surely, he reasoned, at least a few would survive the hostilities, and whichever colonists survived beyond Earth would at least keep a monitoring station or two to alert them of happenings on their old home world. He started wondering if the cataclysm spilled out to the outlying colonies as well. No matter now, he thought. These people at “Southern Rome” were the closest thing to his nation still in existence. Maybe there he could find some answers to what happened here in the last two centuries.
     
  14. G.Bone lurks

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2004
    Location:
    Hon., HI
    OOOOOO

    An apocolyptic story! YAY!

    (Which ironically is what the history of my world is based on)

    As a story- here is my commentary-

    It's descriptive but the words go on the progression of a line- it's almost telling but not so. I applaud the description of the character but it's servinga purpose. While I agree with that principle, I like my words descriptive and more "deeper" into character. That's just my suggestion and - yeah-

    More please!

    Oh- would you like another writer to come on board?
     
  15. Midgard Oderint dum metuant

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2004
    Location:
    www.counter-factual.net
    Thank you! I guess this is more of my personal writing style, I think I am not the best in going in depth with characters and dialogue, but generally am pretty good in story lines, and "large-scale" ideas. Well, that, and the fact that English is not my first language also somewhat factor in :eek:

    If you would like to jump on board with this story, you're definitely welcome to, we'll just have to coordinate where it goes between us via PMs and whatnot. I have a pretty decent idea of what happens next, why Niko was wakened up (although I am still deciding on who and how, but there are already few ideas on that), and what happened with the rest of the world - and what kind of major events are about to happen, but we can definitely discuss that.

    I am going to Florida on Sunday, and will be there until 24th of April, but I am still going to have internet access tonight and tomorrow, so feel free to send me a personal message, and I can tell you where I am heading with the story next, and we can definitely discuss the ideas and talk about it more.

    Thank you for your comments!


     
  16. Hermanubis Murderfing threads sense 2004!

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2004
    Nice...


    Thanks for the Special Thanks :D ! Very Interesting update, by the way…
     
  17. Midgard Oderint dum metuant

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2004
    Location:
    www.counter-factual.net
    Thank you! There is more to come, although I probably would not be able to write anything in a next week or so, not until I get back in town. There may be an update or two coming in a meanwhile though... let's just say that there is now also a co-writer for this one :D
     
  18. G.Bone lurks

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2004
    Location:
    Hon., HI
    April 30th, 1397
    Somewhere in the Sahara Desert

    The old man paused. There was nothing but sand before him and around him. There were a few stone skeletons but that was all.

    The old man shook his head. It was just the wind. The wind was a very strange thing. The old man was glad that it was just the wind and not a storm.

    The old man turned away from the sandy plains. His house stood before him, a patchwork creation of stones, sticks, and some metal bits he had found in the area. He wasn't too sure about the large metal poles that had things stuck on them, so he made them into wind-sticks.

    It was going to be a hot day. The old man was looking forward to finding more bits that he could use for his house. It already had plating for his room and it could help with the other walls.

    He could also work on the axe that the Adras wanted. They were always so interested in his axes. The foodstuff was a godsend. The old man could never really wrap his head around the wrapping that came with the foodstuff. They were different from the markings on the metals he had found. Perhaps they were of Rusyian or Confederan. They served well as water catchers. The markings were copied on his wall.

    The old man smiled. It was good to see them on the wall. He remembered the time where he first slept in his room- cold and drafty from the tunnels below. Then he blocked it with some dirt and metal- all was good. Then his room became a room with all the knicknacks and things he found.

    It was good that his room was decorated. Of the rooms that he had been in, they all seemed bare, as the desert, decorated only with those strange letters carved onto the metal. The tunnels were ghastly- barren- filled with that eerie hum of the dragons that lived below. Then there was that light- glowing and never dying- with the tunnels becoming caverns- and so on until it became a dragon in it's grandeur.

    His room had color. It had metal. It had a fireplace for the cold nights. It even had a metal stack for the heat. Adras loved the stack and slept near it. His room was big- not as big as the dragon's cave- but big enough for him to live in.

    There was certainly no glowing eyes, never blinking, and always staring. His light went out. It was good having the darkness come and find out that he was still alive.

    The old man smiled. He remembered the early time, when his mother got sick from the ruins. Then there was the bullies and their cruel laughter. Then there was the sand, the death ground, and the blasted trees from the Dark Days. Then there was that Long Journey, and to here, where it was peace.

    The old man smiled because this was peace. The old man lifted his arms and said his prayer. All was good for the Sun to bless him with this peace. The sun was a good companion and welcome sight for the coldness that was below. The sun even sent him food, on legs, that kept him alive all these days.
     
  19. Midgard Oderint dum metuant

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2004
    Location:
    www.counter-factual.net
    Great update! I am about to go out of state for a week tomorrow morning, so feel free to add more in a meanwhile!

     
  20. G.Bone lurks

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2004
    Location:
    Hon., HI
    May 1st 1397
    A day away from Olman's Hem


    Adras wiped the sweat from his brow. He really didn't get why the Olman chose to live in such misbegotten and God forsaken land. There was no water in sight. There were no trees in sight. All was blasted and all was broken. Sand was everywhere. Wind was everywhere. Nothing stood still.

    But there was some hope in what the Oman had. He would always bring water, strained, and never metallic as Wesmake had. Then there was the metal, that foreign metal, stronger than anything that the smithies at Wesmake could forge.

    There was profit in the metal. That's how he got his cart. It was a sturdy cart, fused with that metal that Olman got and forged by the smithies so that the sand wouldn't get between the cracks of his dearly beloved wagon.

    There was much to be traded. He managed to receive long blades and flintlocks from a traveling merchant from the Ruslane. The Ruslane were always so strong at the flintlocks and muskets. Of course they were on the fringe, that dearly beloved fringe, never more into the Ruslane, where the soldiers pushed the traders aside, and never more giving an open hand to them.

    Everything was for metal and those worthless pieces of paper. Paper was scarce. Stone was everywhere. That's how they- the fringes- operated on. It was promise and good faith, materialized in physical goods.

    Of course the Ruslane footmen never gave a good look at what the traders did for their cast off folks. They never gave an open hand and it was to the desert that the freemen fled. It was not clean as their cities but it was good. The law was just. It was simple. It was good.

    The towns always faded as they hit the Sandy Sea. It faded as no waters were there and the dragons lurked under their dark and mysterious caverns. Adras had seen those caverns, on a whim, and it was as desolate as the Inland Holds. The only thing missing was the footmen that walked the streets with their harsh batons and cruel eyes.

    Adras never went south. He loved the stories about it though. They were the Eagle-men. They were the offspring of those Eagle-men that ruled the skies and green lands to the east. They were wise, they were just, but they were in the shadow of that Dark Day, where all the Goodness in the world fled. Even though it had been dark before, it had never been that Dark, that wrong, and that blackness that enveloped the world.

    It was too hot. Adras picked up a canteen of water and swallowed a small sip of it. It was half gone and he wanted to spare the rest for the long travel. It was going to be hot that morning and he wanted to get to the Olman's Hem as fast as possible. Of course his camels never asked and never really had the torture of being hot. They walked on by and the wheels of his cart turned.

    Adras had seen the pictures of what the old camels looked like. They were strange- two humps, large, and skinny. They were not the camels he knew. These camels had one hump, long, and a neck as proud as a Ruslane Lord. They could outdrink a drunkard in the space of five breaths and more.

    It was too hot. He yelled at his camels, who didn't bat an eye, and simply plodded on. The wagon rolled up as another dune was left behind. It's markings were quickly filled up by the vicious hot stinging wind. There was simply nothing to trust in this God-forsaken land. The only thing that was hopefull was the stone skeletons, jabbing into the sky, and screaming of the sins that they committed long ago.