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.


1. Egressus


He slipped through the shrouded alleys, darting around the brightness of the street lamps, under the fluorescence of the signs that lit the city in the dark. Above were a thousand twinkling beacons so high they may as well have been stars, and below was a different sort of red-light glow. Eleutheria surrounded him, enveloped him, like a home.

Each time TB-2615M ventured outside the Albatross and into the city, he felt a rush, a surge of adrenaline, like that feeling when you used a stimshot and felt the blood coursing through your body. One wrong move, and he could ruin everything. One slip, and his sister could die. If he got caught, the Cold War could heat, and the planet could be up in flames in a millisecond.

It was unbelievably thrilling.

It took the better part of an hour to reach the tallest building in the capitol district of Appalachia, even on a ship, and another twenty minutes to get up to the top floor without being seen. He patted his pocket anxiously, feeling for the data chip that sent him on this escapade in the first place. 

Finally, he saw her, standing on the edge of the balcony, right where they always met.

Acidalia Planitia, e Alestra, Cipher. His sister, and comrade.

She lifted an eyebrow. "You're late, Tee."

He grimaced. "It gets difficult to get away. The battle's on all fronts now."

"Thought you didn't care."

"I don't. But my supervisors do. You know, I'm starting to feel like we're just antagonizing them instead of being productive. It's like a child attacking a massive soldier. We just keep making them angrier and angrier, but we aren't winning- we can't."

"Where are they now?" Dalia asked.

"Pushing past Pluto. I really aren't supposed to tell you. Women aren't supposed to know."

"I'm not supposed to be talking to my brother on the balcony during my initiation gala," she said, "but who's to say what works?"

He laughed, but sobered quickly. "We can't hide this from the citizens for long. I mean, Pluto is a backwater world of nothing but hippies and farmers, but there are civilians there. Word is going to get out."

Dalia sighed. "This is the worst time to start. We're going to have to wait. Artemis, Andromeda, they all agree."


"If we start it now, everything will topple."

"I thought that was the point."

"Of course, but currently it would cause chaos. You and I both know that. You may be out killing each other, but there's a different sort of war here. One slip and everything goes to hell- and we can't afford to let that happen when the Miramans are so close."

Tee sighed deeply. "This is the world Leski's growing up in. A world where her brother and sister run uprisings and aliens rule everything outside the solar system."

Dalia stared at the wall of the building in front of her, lost in thought. The Miramans were an extraterrestrial race the Eleutherians had been fighting for centuries, though no one but the men were supposed to know about it. Women didn't fight. It had been divided like that for centuries now: males win the wars, females read the books, and society marches on. This was partially why Dalia had joined the Revolution in the first place. She'd give anything for her and Tee and Leski to just have a normal life as siblings, family, just people.

But everyone knew that was impossible, especially in the case of the latter. Born completely by accident in circumstances Dalia never quite understood, Aleskynn was a miracle, and a tragedy. Everyone knew that only one girl was allowed. Alestra had Dalia.

And now that Dalia had just turned twenty standard and had her initiation ceremony as a Cipher, Leski had to go.

Dalia knew what was supposed to happen to younger daughters. If their elder sister died or was otherwise deposed, they would be allowed to take on their caste and rank, sometimes even name. If that didn't happen by the time the youngest was fourteen, it didn't take a genius to figure out what would happen to her.

Aleskynn e Alestra, Outcaste, little Leski, was thirteen and a half.

She would never be allowed to become a Cipher like her older sister- even her name lacked the title at the end. Doomed to be killed at her fourteenth birthday, or else exiled to some rural, empty place- Mars, or Pluto.

"You know," Tee said, after an awkward silence, "she could go with a friend of mine. Leski, I mean."

Dalia raised an eyebrow again. "You know anyone who'd be willing to take in a moody, edgy, outcaste Eleutherian daughter of a Cipher?"

"Maybe it would be better if she weren't so high-profile," Tee agreed. That was the problem; Dalia and her mother Alestra were in one of the most high-ranking places in Eleutheria. The Ciphers controlled the computers, and if one controlled the computers, they controlled the planet itself. There were few Ciphers, and everyone knew of Leski's birth. There was no way to smuggle her out safely without being noticed. 

"We could stage an accident," Dalia suggested. "An explosion. An assasination. Anything. Get her 'dead' and then bring her to your Martian friend."

"We'd have to do it soon," Tee said. "Time's running out. How old is she now?"

"Nearly fourteen."

"Wow. I haven't seen her in seven years, since you were her age."

Dalia laughed. "When I first got involved in this political mess. Meanwhile, Aleskynn... I never quite know what's going on in her head. She's much more of a social butterfly than I was."

"I think that's just how sisters work," Tee said. "At least, that's how I hear it happens on Mars, where sisters exist. But I  really should get going. Commander's gonna miss me. I recruited someone- AX-C61EM, we call him Ace- but he can't cover for me all that long. Besides, there are loyalists in our ranks. I can't afford to let them find me out or we'll be doomed."

Dalia hugged him. "Please don't die."

"I assure you, I will make every effort not to." Tee hoisted himself up over the railing and slid down the sleek black wall to someone's deck and back onto his little ship, making sure to discretely pass her the data chip to pass on to her Revolutionary comrades.

Dalia rejoined her party, wearing a fake smile. A picture in white, she was the image of a perfect Eleutherian Cipher both outside, and to an extent, inside. Genomes weren't hard to control once you got the hang of it, and Dalia'd been practicing since she was ten. An A there, a T there, copy that, change that C to another A, add a few genes, and you could reprogram an entire human being. People and computers were one and the same, they just ran on a different operating system. 

Though, of course, genetic mods weren't completely ubiquitous, nor were they universally accepted. Movements had been shut down as quickly as they'd sprung up advocating for the ban of "reprogramming," but they kept arising one after another regardless. People were angry at the Ciphers and those like them, who pushed themselves up and pushed the lower castes down with mods only upper-crusts could afford. To an extent, Dalia understood. 

And on the opposite end of the spectrum was Loyalism. Those who sought to be a superhuman race, biologically above everyone else as well as politically. 

It seemed like everyone was divided into one of the two groups, with little to no support for anything in between- yet nothing had happened between the opposing factions for thousands of years.

Cassiopeia e Nayla, Generalis, sat firmly on the opposite side as Dalia. But she didn't have to know that. Two women of two different castes and wildly different political opinions- yet here they were, Cast celebrating Dalia's birthday and pretending like she didn't want to cut her pretty throat.

Cassiopeia was not a Cipher. She was just underneath them, just far down enough for them to look down on her, but high enough to be invited to parties like this one- loud, raucous, exhilarating parties for the simplest things. The only reason they were having one today was because Dalia had undergone her "initiation ceremony-" something everyone did when they were twenty, inheriting their mother's job and status. It had been all but abolished at this point, as most girls entered the workforce at ten or eleven anyway, but naturally, the Ciphers had to celebrate it regardless. Dalia hadn't even done anything but gotten older and said a pledge, and here they were, dancing like it was the end of the Great War.

It was a blessing and a curse to be in class Generalis, Cass thought. If she were lower down, she wouldn't even have known there was a party tonight. She would never even have met a Cipher, let alone befriended one, and she would never have known what she was missing. But this, seeing people so close to her yet so far, just like her but she had to bow to them, was cruel. Acidalia- her life, her money, her power, lay just out of reach, untouchable, but close enough Cass could almost brush her hand against it.

Dalia and Cass had been close enough when they were young, when neither saw castes as important, and when it was socially acceptable to be near each other. But then they had gotten older, and things all changed- Cass was forbidden, suddenly, from playing with Dalia in her own house. Ciphers did not stay in other people's homes, no, they were too proud. Cass couldn't attend lessons with her anymore. Dalia studied easy, simple, harmless, incredibly important bits of code, and class Generalis studied military strategy. Dalia was destined to live a comfortable life with computers and plush pillows in a penthouse. Cass was destined to direct troops. Dalia was given glory. Cass was supposed to earn it.

Dalia had kept inviting her over. Cass kept declining, politely, with excuses. But finally, she had met her limit. Declining a Cipher once was impolite. Eleven was beyond unacceptable.

It should be an honor, Cass thought. I should be excited to be here, but I'm not. It wasn't like a playdate or a party, it was a display. Everything, everyone in the room seemed unattainable. Gold, silver, diamonds gleamed from every surface. Pearls dripped from dresses. Dalia wore a gown of platinum strands coated in opals and lapis. It was a pretty, sparkly way to show Cass she was below them.

Even Aleskynn, that little brat, the contradiction of a rule Alestra herself had helped enforce, ran around freely. If anyone but a Cipher had a younger daughter- well, it wouldn't be pretty. But here, darling, sweet, little Leski could run around free, like she had every right.

Younger sibling, outcaste. That miserable girl should be on the very lowest levels, ground level, even, of Eleutheria, with the failed experiments and the mutants and the other embarrassments of the world. Better yet, shipped off someplace- Pluto, Charon, even dead. Anywhere, just not here, prancing around in a little white dress looking all high and mighty acting like a Cipher herself. Meanwhile, Cass, descendant of the rich and powerful, sat firmly in Generalis. Less luxury than an outcaste!

The girl nearly spilled her drink on Cass as she rushed past, with trailed by a nervous, hesitant looking friend.

"Sorry," the stranger squeaked at Cassiopeia. "I-"

"You a younger one, too?" Cass sneered.

"No- no, I'm a-"

"Who're you?"

"Carina. My name is Carina." She stopped abruptly and looked at her feet. One was never supposed to look a member of the upper classes in the eye, unless you were one of them.

"Carina e who? Say your full name, you-"

"Carina Nebula, e Julia Maxima, Ciencia."

"Ciencia?" Cass asked. Carina nodded. Cass snorted. "Ciencia." A bunch of expendable morons doing worthless experiments with things liable to get themselves killed before they reach twenty. This girl didn't look like an exception.

Cassiopeia glared at her, sipping on her drink and fuming. The girl tiptoed away, adjusting her utilarian grey coat, which stood out boldly against the others' white ballgowns covered in gemstone. Ciencia. That girl was lucky she was even here. Probably took pride in running around with a Cipher's outcaste daughter, not realizing she was associating herself with someone so far below her it was embarrassing.

Situations like these were why Cass joined the Loyalists. Their philosophy was to build up government stronger, create a new ruling class of those who remained loyal to the old values of the aristocracy- the best rule. Not the daughters of the best, the best, period. Let the losers- the people like Dalia and her little sister, weaklings- rot. Even better, have them serve the nobility. Surely someone like Cass needed more servants than she had. A few handmaidens- oh, please. When the Movement won- and they would, any day now- Cass would have a whole palace. 

And Acidalia Planitia would fall.

It was for this that Cass worked for the Loyalist Movement. To rule Eleutheria as an Empress. There hadn't been an Empress in thousands of years. 

It had been TB that first introduced her to Loyalism. He was a strong, talented soldier in the Eleutheria army, being put to waste. Right from the start, Cass had seen he was better than the rest. Fast, stealthy, smart, TB-2616M put the rest to shame. He stood out from the crowd. They weren't supposed to even meet, but something had sparked in his deep brown eyes, and Cass knew they had to meet.

He won her over completely, with those big doe eyes, and his policies made so much sense to her- the current system was so flawed, so wrong, to put Cass as anything less than a Cipher in the first place. She was special, she was smart. She was the bravest girl he'd ever known, and they'd only known each other for less than a day. It must have been something in them that just connected, something different. It hadn't taken much convincing to get in. And Cass had been covertly doing missions ever since.

The mission was the only thing she'd been looking forward to today.

It was simple enough- deliver a vial to a woman in black waiting at the window of the floor below. The vial itself was small, looked almost exactly like a jar of nail polish, though whatever was inside was probably much more potent and dangerous. The part where ordinarily a brush would be was replaced with a syringe. Cass held it tightly in her fist, careful not to break the bottle, feeling a thrill course through her body. Espionage was an excellent feeling. 

Quietly, trying not to seem excited, she slipped out of her chair and walked towards the lift. Before she could leave, though, she saw something with the corner of her eye. A figure in white, neon lights reflecting off sapphires and opals- Acidalia. The very object of her loathing.

Before Cass could move, her silhouette made its way to the doorway, leaned against the frame.

"Hello," Dalia said pleasantly, with an air of false happiness. Her turquoise and purple hair flounced about her shoulders and sparkled

Cass was silent.

"Lovely evening," she said, "isn't it? Look at all those stars."

"Yeah, it's great," Cass snapped, clutching the vial in her hand. 

"It really is. Sometimes I wonder what's up there."

"Stars and planets. It doesn't matter." Deliver the vial. Deliver the vial. Deliver the-

"Well, obviously. I mean life. Environments. Other species."

"You're ridiculous," Cass said, taking pleasure in the fact that she could dismiss Dalia for once, though what she said was true. It felt good to know more than her. "There isn't anything out there but dust and hunks of rock."

"Sometimes I still wonder," Dalia sighed, laughing internally and thinking of Tee.

"I have to go," Cass said suddenly, sharply. Dalia got up to walk her out, but Cass jolted away. Something glimmered in her hand.

"Wait," Dalia said. "What's that?"

"What's... what?" Cass asked.

"That vial," Dalia said. "Give it to me."

"It's nail polish!" Cass protested. "It's just nail polish!"

Dalia sighed. "I'm not an idiot. That isn't nail polish. Give it to me." She knew a weapon when she saw one.

"No," Cass said, suddenly inflamed. "I won't."

"I said hand it over before I call the Magistratum." The two guards in grey at the door perked up suddenly hearing their title.

"I refuse. This is mine." Out of all people, Acidalia Planitia herself had to be the one waiting at the door for me? 

"By order of Amendment 2102 of the Eleutherian Constitution-"

"I don't care! You can't have it!" Cass yelled. 

Dalia lunged. Cass rolled to the side, but the other girl was too strong for her. She fought to open Cass's hand as she screamed.


Dalia kicked her in the shin, hard. Cass shrieked, and her hand flew to her injured leg. The bottle rolled away from her. She dove for it again, but Dalia was too quick and the Magistratum guards too fast. Cassiopeia saw nothing but flashes of grey police uniforms, and when she looked up. Dalia had the bottle.

Don't open it, Cass thought. Please don't open it.

Dalia twisted off the cap, revealing a long syringe. She examined the contents of the vial closely, then recognized the substance and held it away from herself.

"Ketacyanide?" she asked softly. "There are better compounds out there for this, you know." 

Cass struggled to her feet, murmuring excuses. The crowd gasped like it was all some terrible overdramatic holoshow.

"You have committed treason against the People's Republic of Eleutheria," Dalia said, loud, sharp and clear against the silent noise. A guard pointed her laser pistol at Cassiopeia's head. "This is-"

Suddenly, a loud sound boomed in her ears. A burst of light- a laser- whipped past her head. Dalia didn't have time to think before another shot rang out. Someone screamed, and then thirty other people followed, her guards among them. Those still at the party, still dancing and celebrating, scattered. In the confusion, several people dropped to the floor. Laser blasts seemed to be coming from everywhere- from the Magistrate, from the guests, from whoever had nearly shot Dalia in the head ten seconds previously. 

Dalia sprinted towards the exit and across the sky bridge. She reached for her hair where the shot had nearly hit her. It was singed.

The screaming drew closer. She bolted again.



Author's Note

Hello, guys! My name is Karen Eliza, and this is the first in a series of novels. If you like this, you can check out its (very loose) prequel Tigris. Both of these stories can be found on Wattpad as well as several stories of "extras," and they have much fancier formatting and more Easter eggs because Wattpad allows for easier image posting. 


If you ever need to reach me or want to just talk, my tumblr is karenelizaanne.tumblr.com and my Wattpad is strange-quark. 

I'm always open to questions, criticism and advice!

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