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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5. Mortiferum

 

Lyra stared at the bright red horizon and wept.

It seemed to good to be true. The feeling of freedom was such like she'd never imagined- the ability to be whatever she wanted, to do whatever she'd always dreamt of. The rusty iron color of the planet and the dusty rose of the sky was like something out of a painting. She'd never seen anything so colorful yet so real. It was the exact opposite of the man-made, artificial black metal and plastic of Terra. Natural, colorful, free.

She spun around on the plain, giggling. The sleek glittery dress she'd been wearing was covered in red dirt, but Lyra didn't mind.

Ace and Tee talked quietly to David near the farmhouse. Cressida stood in the doorway, watching Lyra. To her, she was interesting, an experiment. The Eleutherians had a distinct look to them that was different than the other humans- a more angular face, bigger eyes. It had an unsettling, uncanny-valley effect on anyone who wasn't used to it, which Cressida definitely was not.

She wondered why Lyra had chosen to leave. The sparkling, beautiful city spanning the planet that had once been Earth seemed like a distant fairyland from the stories her father had told her as a kid. Why anyone would want to leave there was a mystery. It looked utopian.

When the Albatross's shuttle, the Pythagorean, had first set down on the surface of the planet, Cressida had ran for the basement. After those hunks of metal falling from the atmosphere and the constant flash-bangs that lit up the sky every five minutes, it had seemed like the apocalypse. But there was her dad, standing there like this was normal and talking to two Eleutherian soldiers like he did that every day, and Lyra, who Cressida wasn't all that sure of.

The two men said goodbye and retreated back to the shuttle. Cressida expected the girl to follow, but she hugged one of the soldiers and then didn't follow any longer. Smiling, she threw some of the Martian dirt in the air and let it land in her bright pink hair.

Bemused, Cressida went to stand by her father. 

"Who is she?" she asked.

He grunted. "Runaway, I guess. There's some political stuff happening there right now. She's gotten mixed up in it, and well, it looks like she'll be here for a while."

Cressida's face lit up. "A while? You mean, like, a few days?"

"I have no idea," her father sighed, looking at Lyra, who still ran around jumping and throwing dirt into the air.

Cressida laughed. Having more than one or two kids on Mars was difficult- feeding one mouth was hard and two even more. And without a mother, of course, Cressida had no hope whatsoever. She didn't even think anyone of her own age lived in a five-mile radius- there were the Henderly twins down the street, but they were only four, and the Attidale girls, but they were twenty-something and worked in Schiaparelli City half the time. A real, living Eleutherian girl, her own age, as a house guest!

Lyra suddenly stopped dancing around and blushed once she realized Cressida and her father were staring. She wrung the dust out of her hair and grinned sheepishly.

"Don't bother," Cressida said, leading her indoors. "The dust will always come back anyway. It's everywhere out here- dust storms all the time. We call 'em dirt twisters, 'cause that's pretty much what they are."

"Dirt twisters," Lyra laughed. "In Eleutheria, we didn't get any weather at all, except some rain, and that was always an emergency."

"Ugh, we'd kill for any rain," Cressida said. "Why was it an emergency?"

"Because it meant one of the weather regulators stopped working," Lyra replied. "And when that happened, it usually meant one of the bigger control systems wasn't working either, which meant the computers were all screwy and sometimes the night/day sequence would get off- we have to use computers to regulate the nights because without CG lights it's all nuclear winter and dark all the time. And besides, you know how the androids are- a few gallons of water will make them all short out, and there go the factories. And sometimes the water would get really high and start carrying people and stuff away."

"Wow," Cressida said. "Thought you guys all lived up in those fancy apartments, though?"

"No," Lyra laughed. "The rich people live up there. Y'know, the Ciphers, Generalis, Ciencia, Incentor, all those castes that get paid tons of money. I was Cantator, so I lived near the bottom."

"What's that?"

"Singer, dancer. I was alright at it, but after a while of working in those shady nightclubs and whatever, it isn't all that fun. And there were gangs down there, and drugs- people would get high off stim, the stuff the soldiers take before battles to get their adrenaline going."

"Somehow I never thought of that," Cressida said. "That why you left?"

"Yeah, I guess," Lyra said. "Saw a chance and I took it. I wanted to leave for years- ever had any family, didn't have time for friends and the gangs hated me. Sanguis was the name of one of them, and I think they put a death warrant on me once."

"Why?" Cressida asked. "What did you do?"

"Nothing," Lyra said. "They put that stuff out all the time. I lived in the Terra district and- well, it's complicated. Do you guys have any of that stuff here?"

"Nope," Cressida said. "Nothing that exciting. We have the city nearby, but even that's pretty much safe. We're framers, and there's no one around here for miles and miles. Best part of the year is when Dad goes to the market in the city and gets whatever we can't make or grow. Glass and stuff."

"I think I like this," Lyra said. "I mean, it's nice. In Eleutheria, there are so many people. It's so noisy and busy all the time. And those buildings are so tall you can't even see the sky from the ground."

"I've always thought your planet must be so cool," Cressida said. "But that just sounds sad. You can't even see the stars, huh?"

"No one can, except the super-high-ups. And even that's fake. We're in nuclear winter, which sucks because the ash blocks out all the sun and they have to make everything fake. That's what the Ciphers do, I think."

"Everyone talks about the Ciphers like they're some sort of god class," Cressida said. "Some lady had a baby here two decades ago and everyone still talks about it 'cause they named her after here."

"Sounds about right," Lyra sighed. "Acidalia Planitia e Alestra, according to Tee- she's his sister but they both aren't supposed to know. Men and women aren't allowed to talk to each other, and it doesn't matter what class the women are because all men are soldiers."

"So how are babies born?" Cressida asked candidly.

"Well, everyone's got to have two," Lyra said, blushing slightly. "I dunno how they do it. Ciphers again, probably, they control everything. But all the women have a daughter and a son, and the son goes into the army and we don't see them again after that, and the daughter takes on their mother's trade. That way the population is constant and unchanging."

"What if they have more?"

"That's another question. Tee's got another, younger sister but that's not allowed. Don't know what's gonna happen to her. They'll kill her, I guess."

"What do you mean, kill her?" Cressida asked. "They can just do that?"

"I mean, yeah," Lyra shrugged. "They can do whatever they want."

"Suddenly this place doesn't sound like much of a utopia," Cressida sighed.

***

Cassiopeia followed Alestra into a dining hall, equally as ornate as the bedroom she'd just left. Despite this place's terrible, polluted, location, on the inside, it was as lavish as the Ciphers' quarters way on top. Strings of pearls dripped from the ceiling, the chandeliers were covered in diamonds, and designs carved of lapis lazuli etched around the rim of the table. The chairs were like thrones, decorated with malachite spirals and seashells- real seashells that were impossible to find because the ocean was so polluted. They had to be worth hundreds of thousands of credits, and here they were, sitting on them like it was nothing.

A girl in a black dress brought drinks in sparkling crystalline glasses. Cass took a sip. Clear and cold. She danged the stem of the glass between her fingers.

"Tell me about this... proposition."

"You know I have another daughter," Alestra began.

"I do."

"And you know what must become of younger daughters?"

"Absolutely," Cass said, unsure as to where the conversation was going.

"Well," Alestra replied, as if she were searching for the right words, "it would be... unfortunate, if Aleskynn was to be exterminated."

"You could take her someplace," Cass suggested. "Mars. Pluto."

"My daughter," Alestra scoffed, "a farmer?"

"Better a farmer than dead." Cass didn't like the direction the conversation was heading. She had hoped for an exciting idea, not another upper-class mother begging her to save her daughter. She wasn't a mercenary for hire.

"No," Alestra sighed. "That wouldn't do. It would be better for her to reach... her full potential."

"What do you mean?" Something glimmered in Cass's eyes.

"Aleskynn is smart, but not too smart. She is intelligent but obedient. She isn't antisocial. She's already mastered the art of politics at 14. She could master the art of programming, too."

"There isn't any room for an extra Cipher," Cass said, but she knew where it was going.

"We'll make room," Alestra said. She smiled an acid smile. "Dalia was never quite the daughter I'd hoped for. Too curious. Too nosy. Gets herself in places she isn't wanted. You know her best, Cassiopeia, and I believe it's safe to say you'd agree?"

Cass laughed. "You want me to kill Acidalia so her younger sister can take her place?"

Alestra nodded. She swooned in a perfect imitation of a mourning mother. "Oh no, my beautiful daughter, dead in a tragic accident-"

Cass smirked. "Just tell me when."

***

Dalia stared at the screen. After careful consideration, she picked out an adenine and replaced it with a cytosine, then copy-pasted a string of letters into the textbox. She clicked Export. A small cup filled with liquid near the console filled up. She drank.

Finally, those demonic pink eyes would be gone. Two days and they'd be back to honey brown. 

"Can you change my hair?" Aleskynn asked. 

"You know I can't, Leski." A few weeks ago, Aleskynn had been playing with her sister's computers and tried to change her own genome to black hair with red tips. It had failed spectacularly and left her with bright red locks that glowed in the dark half the time.

"Why not?"

"It's illegal, and I could get in big trouble."

"Ugh, this is so stupid." She sank dramatically to the floor. "Like it'll matter anyway."

"What do you mean, like it'll matter?" Dalia asked.

"I won't even be alive long enough to enjoy it. Guess you can't grant me the final wish of looking good in my coffin."

"You aren't going to die, Leski," Dalia sighed. "I told you, I'd take care of that. We just make it look like you died."

Aleskynn rolled her eyes. "Whatever."

"Leski!" her mother called from outside the doorway.

"What does she want?" Dalia asked pleasantly.

"Alestra?" she asked. "I dunno. Some nonsense about teaching me this stuff."

Dalia cocked an eyebrow. "Our mother wants to teach you how to genetically modify anything from a distance?"

"Yeah. It's so boring."

"That's new." Dalia looked back at her screen. Alestra called her youngest daughter from outside again.

"Coming," Leski sighed. Dalia pondered it for a minute. Why the hell would Alestra ever want to teach Leski about Cipher genetic programming? As far as their mother knew, she'd be dead in less than a year. Alestra was not lenient and she did not play favorites. Besides, having an extra Cipher around where only one was needed would be messy, annoying, not to mention illegal and would cause uproar. No, there could be only one. She wouldn't let her younger daughter live unless...

Wait.

Author's Note

The naming system is based off a real thing in Ancient Rome! It's not exact, but it's similar. It works as [First name] [middle name] e [mother's name] [caste.] Some women don't have middle names, and women like Lyra who don't know their mother's first name don't use it. E means "of," so it detonates the daughter of the name it precedes, like how Acidalia Planitia e Alestra means Dalia is Alestra's daughter. 

Also, Lyra's name is from the lyre, a musical instrument, and she sings, dances and performs. Ain't that cool? **SYMBOLISM**

If you want my (shamelessly geeky) full rundown of Eleutheria, check out Eureka in Excessus on Wattpad.

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