On the Edge of Eureka

To be a utopia, one must eliminate the wrong.

To eliminate the wrong makes a dystopia.

Eleutheria is a paradox.

Dalia is at the pinnacle of human evolution. In a world where entire populations can be subdued with the touch of a button, she holds the key to destroying the planet- or saving it. Leading a double life, she's the picture of a perfect leader- and a perfect rebel. But when her childhood best friend joins a dangerous movement that goes against everything Dalia stands for, it all goes south.

Warring political parties demand change for all the wrong reasons. A planetwide revolt ends in tragedy. And life from beyond the solar system slowly inches closer, but their intentions are unknown and they themselves are dangerous.

Dalia finds herself running with people she'd never thought she'd meet, shooting down people she'd never thought she'd hate, and fighting against a city she thought she'd always love- and in the end, it might not even matter.

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17. Amissa Sorore

The more TB looked down at the city, the more he accepted the fact that everyone else was an idiot. 

Defenseless sheep in search of a leader was what they were. Dirty, uneducated masses of people, too stupid to be trusted and too dumb to realize what they needed. 

Order. He could give them order, peace, and a better goal to work towards. Better people to work for. 

And Aleskynn e Alestra, Outcaste, would help him accomplish that. 

Thirteen was a nice age, because she was old enough to realize shades of right and wrong, but still young enough to be taught different ideals, to be manipulated. That was the nice thing about children. Neuroplasticity. 

It had been easy enough to find the girl, though he had to admit that was more due to Acidalia's faults than his own successes; she'd made it all too simple. The nice thing about these machines Ciphers had was the amount of control they allowed for, and that included tracking DNA. 

Of course, it wasn't universal. It was only for people that had been dumb enough to use the terminal and never erase what they'd done.

And nearly everyone in any position of authority had used that terminal.

Aleskynn was no exception. He'd tracked her all the way down to the lowest levels near Elysia; her genetic code was indistinct, impossible to follow- there was some sort of technology around her that had prevented him from finding her exact location. No doubt another Revolutionary trick. However, it didn't take long for the girl to venture outside her cage, and the shielding had vanished; she'd been loitering in the very lowest levels of Elysia, waiting to die- that hadn't been her intention, but it would have happened.

She barely struggled when she'd been captured, something that made TB suspicious, because they always struggled. And then it turned out she was even easier to convert than they thought. She'd been hell-bent on joining them anyway.

Of course, there was always the chance of it being a trick by some of the Revolution's higher ups- and Acidalia couldn't be excluded either. She was smarter than her sister was; she'd put more advanced cloaking tech on her own communicator. It was impossible to hack into. She'd erased any chance of her own DNA from every terminal in the penthouse. She hadn't left a trace of herself anywhere. TB had no idea whether she was living or dead, and Aleskynn was equally useless in that regard.

She'd said something vague about her sister being off to fight the Miramans like the knights in the fairytales of old slaying dragons- a fantasy. Like Acidalia could do anything about them. An entire army could do nothing but try to keep them back, and they slaughtered men like animals, indiscriminate. One woman would be killed before she could even say anything. They were deceptive; humanoid and defenseless-looking, or at least, from at a distance, where the soldiers had had a view of them. But they had technology that far surpassed mankind's, at least when it came to war. TB doubted it was even true that they'd landed- he hadn't been checking with the scientists on the Loyalists' side, so it may not have been entirely false, but their threat level was low right now. 

He tried to organize his thoughts. 

Aleskynn, the outcaste-turned-wannabe-Cipher they'd captured and recruited. She held the secrets to the Revolution, and stopping the Revolution was the priority right now. He had no idea how to go about that with the information he had right now. But regardless, the Miramans were of no use. All they would do was stir the pot, which wasn't the best right now, but the problems they were causing were minimal. The major source of the conflict was very much human.

He doubted anyone would have noticed them landing anyway. Their spacecraft were not much different from those of humanity's, especially externally; most would have dismissed it as just another docking ship. He would have to check with the scientists on how many had come, but he was sure it would be fine. 

For the first time, he slightly regretted killing Alestra; it was rash. Impetuous. He could have kept her alive for a few more days at least- Ciphers controlled everything; they knew much more about the planet and what landed where than he did. If Acidalia was still alive, the sheer mass of knowledge the Revolution would gain simply from having a Cipher in their ranks far outstripped Loyalism with the loss of Alestra. At the same time, though, her death gave TB much more control to do what was needed without that woman breathing down his neck and challenging his authority, and the knowledge they had lost may be waiting for him in Aleskynn. She was like a blank-slate version of her mother, with the same critical information, and some extra, but young and dumb enough not to question him.

And unassuming. She'd make a perfect assassin.

He knew the Movement had tried that before, mostly with Cantator and Labora girls unimportant enough for no one to notice or care if they died or went missing. But that had never amounted to anything. He wondered if it was just a thing in females where they couldn't be trained like the male child soldiers were, or if they just weren't using proper tactics, but he had a feeling that with the right amount of attention devoted to it, the girl could become the perfect elite soldier in a few years. 

It wasn't brainwashing, he told himself. It was reprogramming. Fixing a glitch. 

She sat awaiting judgment in her old bedroom, staring at her bookshelves and nightstand and the holograms of her and Dalia and Alestra. Her home. Everything was fine, everything was normal, except it wasn't. 

Dalia had ruined everything. 

When she was little there used to be a show, just one of those stupid holosoaps that no one took too seriously, but she and Alestra had both loved it. Dalia would sit in the background and work on whatever it was she always did- programming, controlling, fixing political messes- and remark occasionally on whatever happened on the show. They'd drag out the plot lines for so long and keep so many secrets. Aleskynn was thirteen and they still hadn't told the audience who the main character's father was, and she remembered how she'd almost given up on it all together because she's be dead long before they'd reveal it, and what was the point of watching a show where you'd never live to see the ending? 

She'd told Alestra this when she asked why they never watched it together anymore, and her mother had personally called the Negotium in charge of the network and threatened her with something she didn't tell Leski about. And the next week they'd revealed who the girl's father was. 

Dalia said the whole thing was stupid. She'd been upset, and she'd told Alestra that it was wrong. Leski had been upset at her, then, too. Dalia was always like that, putting the greater good over family. And there was always some sort of greater good.

From a certain perspective, Aleskynn could see why her sister would consider it wrong; it was petty, to threaten someone with death or worse over at TV show. But at the same time, it was cruel to sprint her to a 400-klicks away planet of nothing but dust and then to an underground base far from everything she'd ever known, where she had no authority and had to listen to low-class streetwalker Cantators like that Lyra harlot- like she had any authority over a girl so much higher than her that it was embarrassing for them to be in the same room. Acidalia had placed the lives of low-class dregs of society and Martian rednecks over the wants of her own sister, the woman that shared her DNA itself.

It wasn't fair.

And Carina was equally as awful. The fact alone that these plebeians were questioning anything Leski said was beyond belief in itself, and the fact that they genuinely thought she'd have to listen to them was pure idiocy. She was a Cipher. She was at the top now that Dalia was dead or kidnapped or wherever she was, and Alestra was a corpse on the floor. Acidalia had killed her, too. She'd killed everything Leski ever loved and acted like it was a good thing. 

Terabyte and Cassiopeia understood, though. Dalia had jerked them around just as much as Leski, playing them like puppets for her own stupid rebellion that only existed because she wanted to be contrary and was pissed off because she knew she wasn't good enough to be a Loyalist leader. 

And Aleskynn was. 

Organizing her thoughts was difficult; a mixture of angry and sad and betrayed and excited flooded her body. Alestra was dead, and she still hadn't processed it; someone had told her, one of the soldiers that had brought her here, and she still couldn't wrap her head around it- dead? She was infallible, was supposed to live to be centuries old, not die young at forty-something because of Acidalia Planitia. And Acidalia herself had gone off the deep end- after all, they did always say to beware the quiet ones. And then they'd gone to Mars, and came back, and joined a base, and the cold war had come to violence instead of people just ignoring each other, and everything was crazy, and insane, and flipped upside down, and nothing would ever be the same as it was, and- 

She was going to drive herself mad. 

Thinking, thinking, endless thinking in circles round and round. Nothing in her head made sense. 

She took in her surroundings, her old bedroom that looked suspiciously similar to how it was before- she assumed people would have ransacked it, would have stolen things and broken things and taken more of whatever Leski had left. But they hadn't. She assumed it was probably because it was so heavily guarded. Terabyte and Cass were among the only ones close enough to Alestra to get the go-ahead to be allowed here; any common soldier would be pulverized by lasers or something first. She didn't really understand it. Regardless, everything was untouched inside this little sanctuary; outside the doors were shattered chandeliers and broken glass and shards of sparkling amethyst- Leski suspected that was Terabyte's doing- and inside was just like everything was supposed to be. 

Smoke rose from the ground and incoherent screaming, sounds of riots, drifted up from the lower levels. Perfume bottles lined her dresser, every scent possible, untouched. The eerily humanoid eye of a beheaded gynoid servant blinked up at her from a balcony visible from the window. Acidalia's old programming books lay on the floor, not a page mussed. Rain poured on the barely-visible district of Katharos in the distance, a strange sight that indicated weather-control systems being out of service. A holoprogram was on pause just as Leski had left it.

It felt like something out of a dream- normal but not quite right. 

She clicked unpause on the program. It was one of those reality shows Dalia hated- it wasn't Leski's favorite, but she watched it anyway, almost just to spite her. 

This week, Neena and Serena had teamed up to vote off Andra, but Andra had gotten immortality from Celeste and was trying to get rid of Galena. Leski found herself not really caring. She let her mind wander aimlessly again. 

She wondered what the Miramans were like, or if they were even called that. The high-ranking generals she'd met always said they were demonic, demented, savages, like every negative trait of humanity bundled into some fairytale monster, but Leski wasn't sure about that. Ace had described them as remarkably like people, but in different colors. She wasn't sure about that, either. There were a lot of things she wasn't sure about, and this whole thing was one of them. 

And these beings were who Dalia had gone to meet.

She wasn't sure if her sister was dead. Did she want her to be dead? She tried to tell herself she did, but she couldn't exactly convince herself of that, either. Sure, she was angry- angry at Alestra's murder, angry at being uprooted, angry at this whole thing in general- but she'd been raised with Dalia. It was hard to believe she was true, undeniable evil, and even Leski didn't want her gone completely. Made to answer for what she did, maybe. But not dead. 

Everything used to be easier. All these holoprograms had the same basic characters and painted them in the same way, whether reality or sci-fi or historical- good and evil were clear lines, black and white, night and day. Neena and Serena were the bad guys and Andra was the likable underdog. It made it easier for people to sympathize with Andra and took the responsibility of choosing a team away from viewers, made it simple to watch and avoided forcing people to think about it. There was no pondering which side was good and which was wrong. There was no need. 

But reality wasn't like that. 

Dalia seemed to think what she was doing was right. She acted like it was some sort of noble cause, La Resistance, and genuinely believed it. She didn't take any of Leski's feelings into account, and thought all of her own thoughts were right. 

But then again, perhaps Leski was doing the same thing. 

She shook her head. Dalia had murdered someone. There was no comparison. 

But, a nagging voice insisted, maybe she didn't. She wouldn't.
    
And maybe the voice was right. Leski'd known Acidalia for her entire life, been with her as long as she could remember, and knew Terabyte for only a day. Even Cass was just an acquaintance, and never a very friendly one. There was no reason for them to trust each other more than two sisters trusted each other. But both were just so charming, so confident. 

Was any of this right? Was it wrong? Aleskynn couldn't decide. What was right anymore, in this world flipped upside down? 

She didn't know anymore.

Author's Note

The linguistics in this book are rather weird, aren't they? Most of the names of places and characters are vaguely Roman or Latin-based, but Greek is used a lot too, and the rest of the names are just things I thought sounded sufficiently space-y. I'm going with the fact that languages evolve over time to explain these little discrepancies; after all, English didn't even exist three thousand years ago, and we have trouble reading Shakespeare and that's relatively close to our own time in comparison. No Latin speaker from Eleutheria would be able to understand a Latin speaker from a thousand years prior- they're like totally different languages at that point. A good comparison is Old English to modern English. Look up an untranslated Beowulf and you'll see what I mean- technically its old English but I guarantee you won't understand a word. 

Eleutherian Latin is also based on the Church Latin pronunciation: that is, they pronounce it more like it's Italian than how ancient Romans said it, which is what the Catholic church does. Mostly because Roman Latin sounds weirder. Again, it evolves over time, so whatever interpretation of how its said you want to go with is fine. I've always pictured Eleutheria as being said el-lay-you-THER-ia, but the correct pronunciation is el-ooh-THe-ree-uh, and I'm fine with either. 

Acidalia Planitia is said acid-al-ee-uh plan-eesh-uh though. Not ack-ih-dal-ee-uh plan-ee-tee-uh.

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