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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7. Mutatio

 

A rough hand seized Dalia's shoulder.

She turned around, expecting Leski, but the person grabbing her was much too big, much too bulky. 

"Tee?"

The figure laughed and threw her out of the bed onto the cold floor. She scrambled to her feet blearily, and whirled around the room.

They had actually done it. They'd surrounded her. They were going to kill her.

Good thing she'd started sleeping with a gun.

***

"We're too late." Carina stared up the staircase to the penthouse as men's angry yelling and a woman's shrieks filled the air. Athena glared like the marble steps had personally offended her, but Carina shut her eyes tight. Any second now, and they'd drag her down those stairs and find the scientists and maybe shoot them too- but somehow, neither could bring herself to run.

Suddenly, they heard a different, younger voice in the mix.

"Dalia! DaliaDALIA!"

"It's Leski," Carina whispered.

"DALIA! Someone, help!"

Athena bolted up the stairs, followed closely by her friend. Suddenly Leski's voice became muffled. Carina tripped and fell onto her hands- onto the body of a man.

In the center of the room stood Acidalia, holding a laser gun out before her, ready to shoot. But there were so many of the soldiers...

One of them held Leski close, covering her eyes with his hands. She screamed. 

"Dalia! Dalia!"

Someone grabbed Athena from behind and pressed her to the wall. She struggled against his hands. 

"Rina," she yelled, "my blade!"

She always kept a knife hidden in her back pocket, but Carina didn't know that. She turned to face Leski's captor, who dropped her momentarily and went for Carina. Aleskynn jolted away from his hands and ran to her sister, screaming.

Suddenly, a blow to the back knocked Carina to the floor. She staggered up again, expecting another hit, but none came. She looked up and-

Oh, stars.

One of the men had his arms around Dalia, pressing her up against the wall. She shut her eyes as he crept closer. The laser blaster lay on the floor, blinking red light advertising that it was out of charge. The men surrounded the two, jeering. Leksi was on the floor, Carina kneeling near her.

"Are you okay?" Athena asked over Dalia's sudden screams.

Leski stood up shakily just as another group of soldiers burst through the door.

"Drop her!" one yelled, outraged.

"Shut the hell up and help me, Tee!" Dalia shrieked. "Gimme a laser blaster!" She struggled to tear herself away from the soldier, wincing. A flash of scarlet dripped onto the floor.

"What's happening?" Carina mouthed.

"No idea," Leski shouted. 

Athena gripped her hand. "Let's move!"

While the battle raged around them, the three girls moved out of the doorway and down the stairs. Another body fell to the floor. People were running up the steps, shouting.

"Shipyard!" Leski yelled. Behind them, Dalia shrieked again, a pained, wounded sound, and another soldier fell. Aleskynn whirled around. 

"Keep moving!" Athena pulled her forward. Leski fought at first, but ultimately kept running through buildings and over bridges, murmuring about her sister.

"I don't know where the shipyards up here are," Carina panted. "Leski-"

"This way." She jogged around the back of a marble pillar and under an arch etched with silver. "We'll take Dalia's ship, the Revelation. It's the only one whose password I know."

"How will she- never mind," Athena said. "Let's go."

Leski hoisted herself up into the cockpit. Dalia normally flew with a full crew, but with the advanced robotics system it was possible, though tedious, to fly alone. She booted up the system and set a course.

"Where do we go?" she asked.

Athena shrugged. Carina started to panic. Where do we go? Are we fugitives? I think we're fugitives.

Footsteps sounded from outside the ship while Leski frantically tried to find a place to go. Athena glanced out the window. A lone figure in red sprinted down the runway, chased by soldiers.

"Wait!" she called. "Leski! Aleskynn! Wait!"

"Stop, stop!" Athena said. "Hold on!"

"What?!" Leski looked panicked, cherry-red hair sticking out at five hundred different angles, torn white pajamas, and bruises all over her back.

"I think- Dalia! Look!"

"Dalia?" She stuck her head into the window. "She's wearing- wait."

With a start, Athena realized Leski was right. Dalia had been wearing a white nightgown. Now it was soaked through with blood.

She ran all the way to the ship amidst blaster shots. Quickly, Aleskynn lowered the ramp just enough for her sister to climb through. Dalia shot up the ramp, crawled into the Revelation, and collapsed. Leski screamed again and hugged her sister.

"I'm-fine," she panted. "I'm-fine. Leski-start-go-"

"Where, where?" her sister asked, half-hysterical. 

"David-Seren. Search-David-Seren."Her breathing was uneven, jagged. 

"Liftoff, now!" Carina shrieked. "Go!"

A shot hit the hull as the Revelation rose into the air with a quiet gracefulness. A soft voice said "Minor damage on the outer shell." They roared towards the stars, leaving the soldiers alone on the runway. And then all was silent save for Dalia's shallow breathing.

"Whose blood is that?" Leski asked. "Whose?"

"Mine. Theirs. I don't know." Dalia looked pale. "Someone. First-aid kit."

Carina and Leski stood still, overcome with panic. Athena ran around trying to find a medical kit.

"To the left."

She yanked the white case off the wall and ran it to Dalia. 

"I'm fine," she told Leski, though she looked like she would pass out any minute. "I'm fine."

Leski burst into tears and hugged her again. Her hands came away coated with blood. 

"Someone help me-" Dalia commanded, peeling off the white nightgown. Athena lifted it off her head. A long gash ran down the side of her chest and her legs were covered in scarlet liquid. The skin on one of her shins had burnt off, leaving a raw red patch and fine, charred hair.

"Go away, Leski," Dalia said. "I'm okay."

Carina led her friend away before she could see her sister's wound, then returned, white-faced.

"Doesn't look too deep," Athena observed, staring at the gash.

"I know," Dalia replied, breathing evenly. "Just... bloody. Your nose is bloody, too." Sitting up, she handed Athena something fluffy and white. White, white, white. Everything in this ship was white, so clean. Her head was spinning.

"You'd think you haven't ever seen blood before," Dalia said, laying down again and wincing as Athena lifted the thing to her nose.

"We haven't!" Carina half-yelled.

Dalia took a deep breath. "Give me the glue."

Glue? Athena wondered. She fished around the kit, holding her face with one hand. A small flesh-colored bottle sat at the bottom. She handed it to Dalia, who strained to undo the simple cap. Carina did it for her.

"Where's this go?" she asked.

"Give it to me."

Dalia spread the glue on her cut side. The ends of the tear sealed themselves together with the skin-colored goop. At first it looked too light, but it darkened to match her skin tone. She applied it again to the burn on her leg. Within seconds, it had stopped being red and raw and turned tan.

"How much blood do you think I've lost?" It still seeped out from her legs and her back.

"A lot?" Carina guessed.

"I thought you were a scientist," Dalia said. 

"Astronomica," Athena said. "We deal in big stars, not blood."

"Ah," Dalia said. "I thought you may have just been terrible medics." Athena tried to look offended, but Dalia smiled fondly. "You're a lot like Leski. Thank you."

"For what?" Carina asked.

"For getting her out of here." Dalia sat up and shivered. She pulled a towel from the first-aid kit around her shoulders. "I didn't want her to be here. To see this."

"But you're content to let two Ciencias girls four castes below you help?" Athena asked.

Dalia rolled her eyes. "I couldn't care less where you were from. It doesn't matter."

"Are you really a revolutionary?" Carina whispered. 

"And Alestra was really part of the Movement," Dalia replied. She gave a wheezy laugh. "Don't look so shocked. It's fine."

"Leski never-"

"Leski never knew," she confirmed. "We tried to keep her safe. The less she knows, the less they can do to her. But of course, I'll have to tell her now." She sighed wistfully. "Where are we going?"

Athena shrugged. "I don't know."

"Set a course for Mars." Dalia wiped her eyes. "Search up David Seren. He's in the ship's log. Go to those coordinates."

"Who's he?"

"A friend of my brother's," Dalia said.

"Brother!?"

"Yes, I know," she sighed. "My brother, Tee. We're in this together. He was- well, it was his squad that burst down the door when that man was- oh, gods, I hope he's still alive."

Her voice trailed off and she looked down, drawing the towel tighter around herself. It was strange. Athena had seen her face so many times- billboards, signs, holoprograms, even met her in person once or twice, though from afar. But she had always looked untouchable, statue-like. Maybe because she was hiding so many secrets. 

Now, as she sat on the floor, bloody and bruised, Acidalia Planitia e Alestra, Cipher was just Dalia. Not her title or her lineage. It was an odd sight, too, because it was like a mixture of rich and messy- even her modest underthings were the sort of clothes middle-class girls wore out, encrusted with lace and ribbons, and her slip could have been a party dress. But they were blood-soaked and torn around the legs. Her hair was the emblem of expensive- pretty, foamy, galaxy colors- turquoise and purple and shimmery- but it stuck out and was singed at the ends. She had a determined, cold, pretty face, but it was stony. 

Suddenly, Dalia stood up. She brushed her hair out of her face and sighed. "I'm going to go take a bath."

"Won't the chemicals sting?" Athena asked.

"Chemicals?"

In the lower classes, the highest-quality water could be used only for drinking; bathwater was filled with irritants. Not too bad, but itchy, and most wouldn't routinely sit in it for fun and relaxation. 

Dalia gave her a strange look and stalked off. Her footprints left bloody marks on the white carpet. Almost as soon as Athena and Carina stood to reset the course for Mars, little robots shot out of the walls; within minutes, the hall was back to pristine shining white.


***

Both of them! Gone! Cassiopeia screamed in annoyance. They probably took that damn ship, and who knew where they'd be? Alestra was similarly angry, ranting and raving at the few remaining soldiers. Bodies littered the floor. Most had been wiped out by the other squad- a group of Revolutionaries.

At least they had probable cause for suspecting Dalia now. And they had gotten a few of the men.

The soldiers had been mostly gone before they got there, save for a few. One had been holding a dead friend, but he'd left minutes before Alestra arrived. She looked at the man's corpse. It was oddly familiar. Eyes like her own, hair like Leski's. 

She kicked him to the side. His ribs crunched under her foot. He was nothing but dead weight. 

She stalked to the window where Cass was pacing. With Leski and Dalia both gone, she'd have to find another girl. Not Cass. She was too impulsive, reckless, emotional. 

Damn Acidalia, she thought. She was a revolutionary after all. Alestra tried to tell herself she's suspected that all along, but even she knew it was a lie. She'd assumed her daughter stood for the current Eleutherian caste system- why shouldn't she, it benefitted her?- and held ideals dangerous to Loyalism and the Movement, but it went so far beyond that. 

A Revolutionary to a Loyalist was as water to potassium. Explosive, dangerous, and fiery when they interacted. And Alestra had just let her slip through her fingers-!

"What should we do?" TB asked, kicking another body to the side.

"We cannot publicize this," Alestra said, gesturing at the gory mess in the room.

"People will wonder what happened," Cass sighed. "We can't just pretend it never-"

"Why not?" Alestra asked. "Nothing occurred here."

"Blood is literally soaking the walls, though," Cass said.

Alestra shrugged. "No it isn't."

"Everyone within a mile radius heard the battle," TB pointed out.

"They heard nothing and nothing ever happened."

"No one will believe it."

"Remember what the Movement stands for?" Alestra asked. "Aristocracy. Rule by the best. That's why you two have been selected. You are the best. Who will question you? You could say two and two is five, and would it make a difference?"

"You have a good point," Cass said, feeling an adrenaline rush. She felt powerful. Important. Who, indeed, would question her?

She imagined the life she'd have after the Movement's revolt. No longer would she be Generalis, confined to a caste. She'd be all powerful, held under Alestra's wing and possibly in the arms of TB. He flashed her a cocky smile, and she felt her heart melt.

When this was all over, there wouldn't be any bloodshed except of those who were inferior. She wouldn't spill any more perfect blood. She'd sit on the throne and watch the slaughter of those below her.

Author's Note

I know. I'm evil. 

:)

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