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.


12. De Caelo

The two figures spoke softly in the dialect of the Southern tropics, the woman's voice thick with the exotic accent. Her companion spoke in the same lilted language, though cruder, as though he were unfamiliar with its complexities. "Raeilya, lumandriel niśsar ei samial. Lara echanno alochida nei."

She smiled reassuringly and pressed a three-fingered hand against his chest. " Amacha daedraltumandriel alochita, stelaya."

"Laladi alochida ludamir lana dualae," he replied bitterly.

"Cadé… min daya. Ana in albique alaydae shadaya marabae naela."

"Lara laysae naya. Eindama lara lamira tadaniel apani taedra sade amadea tiena anatae maeahin." He was angry, and slightly frightened.

She sighed and said fluidly, "Lara unasan sen, amara yemae hayia."

"Raeilya..." He spoke her name softly, as if he sought reassurance to a problem hat would not be fixed.

"Haliel, Cadé," she said, turning her figure to the ship once more.


  "They're coming," Carina said nervously. "Oh, kyrie elision."

"We've known this for decades," Athena sighed.

"Yeah, you Astronomica girls did," Kalyn said. "Us Technologias didn't."

"You talk about it like you haven't spent the last few years underground selling information to people Lyra-style."

"Come on, aliens are invading and you're still mad at her for that?" Kalyn asked.

"Maybe they're not invading," Carina added. "Maybe they're nice aliens."

"You talk like you're from a children's holoprogram," Athena snickered. "I sent a message to Dalia about it. I'm not crazy, right? Like, you guys see this too?"

"Affirmative," Kalyn replied.

"What do we do? What if they abduct people?" Carina looked anxious and frightened.

"I don't know," Kalyn sighed.


"Ayeqluin, phi abaguquleli behlabathi?" Raeilya asked.

"Apha, ukuphakama kwakho, ukucaca kwakho," Ayeqluin replied, handing her the universal translators.

"My upmost gratitude," she crooned as she slipped it into her ear. "Cadé, my starlight."

"Raeilya, love. Many thanks."

"It is no hinderance. It is my hope that this civilization will see the intellectual path rather than that of senseless violence."

"It is the hope of us all," Cadé sighed. He ran a hand down her violet hair. "Do not participate in any... illogical actions."

"Death is not my wish."

"This species has passed the majority of the filter." She referred to the ubiquitous Great Filter, a scientific moniker for the prerequisites a planet's life must have to be allowed to continue to exist. The filter was a natural force of the universe, not one created by sentient beings; the standards erased non-intelligent species from the galaxy quickly enough to prevent them from becoming problematic. An illogical being capable of destruction was deadly.

"That makes them evermore dangerous, starlight," Cadé added.

"Love, they're worth investigation regardless," Raeilya said.

"I have my doubts about humanity. They've been fighting us for years, senselessly. They only live to be two or three centuries old, some of the males less. That's more than some soldiers' lives."

"Now they aren't, Cadé."

"Because the planet is in chaos. This is like all those millenia ago when that planet near Polaris fell- they would never listen to reason. Naturally, the Xan'noth destroyed themselves."

"It is all part of the filter. Our beautiful solar system was in the same position eons ago."

"This is the most dangerous test," Cadé sighed. "They may not even pass."

"I am Mirama's chosen overseer. This is my duty." She swallowed. The first Southern overseer... a slip-up could mean disaster for her people, and a victory for those who tried to bar them from government. She knew she was taking liberties, but maybe sometimes it was necessary...

"Be cautious."


"Dalia, wait," Artemis said. "It's dangerous up there. I can't let you."

"With all due respect," Dalia replied, "I don't care."

"You can't go up to ground. They're landing. We have no idea what they're like. We have no idea what they'll do to you. What if they kill you? What if its an accident and they don't know their own strength?"

"I think a species that's discovered faster-than-light travel knows their own strength, Artemis."

"This is stupid."

"I have to try to negotiate with them."

"What if you fail?"

"What if I fail? What would it matter?"

"Dalia. You could die."

"And if I don't try to negotiate, they win without a struggle. My life is not worth those of thousands of others."

"You're a leader."

"You and Atlas are leaders. I'm a combination of intelligence and a figurehead. You'll find another figurehead." She strapped a laser gun to her thigh. "I might even survive if you're lucky."

Artemis threw her hands up in exasperation. "Do you have a death wish?"

"I have logic behind me."

"Fine," Artemis said, "go. Don't come crying to me when you're dead."

"Ancient religions believed the dead would come back to haunt the living if their souls were not laid to rest properly. You're a prime haunting target."

She rolled her eyes. "Have fun in the afterlife."

"Thank you for the approval." As aggravating as Artemis could be, Dalia was happy to have some uninterrupted banter; ninety percent of what she'd said in the past few days was offering wisdom to nervous girls. Skittish Carina, reckless Athena, moody Leski- having someone her own age to bicker with was something she hadn't had since Tee.

At least she'd get to see him again.

Maybe Aleskynn would be happier this way. No one's shadow to live under. She could stop being an outcast and fill Dalia's shoes. 

She strapped an extra laser cartridge to her belt and gathered her white cloak. If she was going to die, she may as well look professional in the afterlife, assuming such a place existed. 

Athena had tracked the ship to its landing spot in a cleared area where the spire that used to occupy it had been demolished. She'd take the route through he buildings. It was less dangerous than ground-level, though not by much.

"Hey!" a voice called behind her. "Where are you going without me?"

"Andromeda?!" Dalia knew she should have been telling her to stay and not risk her neck, but she was glad her friend had chosen to tag along. "Well, arm yourself- let's get a move on."

"Already done it," she laughed. "Guns, bolts and cartridges- the biggest danger I'm in is from downloading a virus."

"You're not invincible."

"I know. But I'm sort of powered-up. Atlas is coming too."

Dalia sighed. "Andromeda, he's pushing eighty." For an accelerated-growth soldier to make it to a hundred was stretching it; eighty years of age was when things started to deteriorate. Women lived into their three-hundreds, but soldiers died sooner.

"He can hold his own. Hey, I'm the one hanging around him every day."

Sure enough, as if on cue, Atlas appeared behind her, wheezing but looking determined. "You girls can't leave me behind. I'm not missing the official first contact."    

"Let's go, then." Andromeda handed Dalia a backpack. "Extra weapons and armor. Hurry up." She pulled her friend into the lift and helped Atlas in. "Artemis, push the button."

Artemis sighed. "Good luck. You'll need it."

"Thank you," Dalia replied. Artemis pushed the button and the trio flew upwards into the air. 

Dalia closed her eyes. The feeling made her nauseous when it was this fast. The sounds of battle and screaming grew closer as they rose. It felt like they were flying to Hell instead of the pearly gates.

Well, if Artemis was right, which she likely was, they'd be there soon enough.

Suddenly, the grays and whites of the Revolution's highest hangar and transport station gave way to black. Atlas and Dalia blinked. Andromeda looked upwards.

"Look, there's my old factory," she pointed out. "That's where my face got ripped off."

A girl's corpse lay in the street. She wore a black unitard with a sheer skirt and pumps, with lavender hair and gaudy costume jewelry; there was no question, she was a Cantator like Lyra. A trail of blood led to her body. Dalia averted her eyes. She couldn't have been more than twelve.

"This way," Andromeda said. "In there." She pulled Atlas and Dalia into a doorway as a laser blast soared past them. The place looked like a dancing girl's apartment, with leather and tights strewn everywhere. They darted past the upturned furniture and into the building's core.

"Where's the lift?" Atlas asked. "Acidalia?"    
She looked bemused. "I've never been here before."

"Nearly all the ground level buildings are like this," Andromeda said. "The lift is usually in the core. Let's move."

Suddenly, a shot rang through the air and hit Andromeda's bionic arm- she shrieked in surprise but didn't look injured. Dalia shot at the would-be assassin. A clean laser bolt hit her in the abdomen and she collapsed.

I just killed someone.
I just committed murder.
She jostled herself into the center lift. Andromeda played with buttons and tried to flex her robotic arm while she and Atlas looked at each other. Dalia panted, feeling clammy and anxious. There was so much fire.

"Never been this far up before," Andromeda remarked, poking at the hole in her arm. "Never had a reason to be."

Something under them collapsed. Dalia screamed and Atlas flew into the wall of the lift, which shook but continued to rise with a feeling that it was hanging on by a thread. 

"That's it," Andromeda said, "we have to switch. This is going to break."

Dalia looked around. The dark black of ground level had been replaced with Ciencia's utilitarian gray, meaning this part was labs and sleeping quarters for the middle classes- she was much more in her element.

A girl cowered behind a fallen island table in the center of a dilapidated laboratory. Small, young- she was six or seven. She rocked back and forth, pretty brown eyes unseeing, catatonic.

"Keep moving," Atlas said.

"There's a bridge somewhere," Dalia said. "There always are."

Andromeda kicked a piece of glass to the side. "I wouldn't know." 

"This way," Dalia urged. "Come on."

They sprinted together out a set of steel gray doors. Gray, gray, gray- everything was gray save for an astonishingly-bright set of surgeons' scrubs draped carelessly over a chair. The place was deserted.

"Where are all the people?" Andromeda asked as the building rocked under them. Rubble fell from the ceiling.

"All the rioting is on the lower levels," Atlas said. "No one's sticking around up here. Bad strategical move when it could all collapse under you."

"Of course, we're the people still stuck up here," she sighed. "I guess if I was still a Labora I could be dead either way."

"There should something here!" Dalia wiped a piece of black-fading-to-turquoise hair away from her face. "You have to look for the colors, they get brighter as you go up. I know there should be something here, but I can't see it-"

"We could jump," Andromeda said.

Dalia looked at Atlas, who wheezed.

"Jumping is not an option right now!"

"Have a suggestion?!"

The building trembled like it was caught in an earthquake. Screaming grew louder. Dalia looked around wildly. "That way."

"Acidalia," Atlas asked, "do you have any idea what you're doing?"

"No. Follow me."

The three raced away from the door and back to the building's core. A freezer fell open and its contents spilled on the floor- a yellowish substance that reminded Dalia of human pus.

"I would advise against going that way," Atlas said.

"Here!" Dalia motioned to a broken, transparent bridge. 

"Uh," Andromeda said, "it's broken."

Atlas looked back at the quaking laboratory. "I'll make it. Let's move."

"On it." Andromeda glanced at her comrades before running for the bridge at a full sprint. Easily, she grabbed the arm rail and pulled herself up. Underneath the translucent, broken floor was ground level, only visible as an inky black pit.

"It won't keep supporting your weight!" Dalia yelled.

"You'll need me to get up here!" Andromeda shouted back. As much as the other two didn't want to admit it, they both knew she was right; a Labora girl was built for labor as her name said- strong, fast. Ciphers were not built with physical activity in mind, and Atlas was much too old to make it across on his own.

"Coming," Atlas said.

Dalia shouted "Wait!"

He landed near Andromeda and pulled himself up. The combined weight of them both shattered their side of the bridge and they darted into the building.

"Kreth," Dalia swore. The floor looked like it would break beneath her and send her to the depths of the underworld in any second. She had no choice. At full sprint, she launched herself to the other side- and missed completely, landing on a lower balcony hard.

"Get to the core!" Andromeda shouted. "Go up! We gotta get to the aliens, come on!"

"Elysia!" Dalia screamed back, standing up. "Elysia!"

"How are we going to get to Elysia?!"

"Get to the top! There's stuff there!"


The building she'd just came from toppled in a cloud of glass and ash. The sound was deafening. Dalia threw herself into a corner of the room- another laboratory- and cowered underneath a table, shielding her eyes until the explosion passed. When she stood, everything in her chest screamed in agony- she'd hurt something there, though she wasn't sure what.

She sprinted to the core. Glancing behind her, she noticed a biology microscope overturned on the floor, holographic projector flickering on and off. Praying she didn't just walk into something potentially deadly, she rushed to the core again, hoping Andromeda and Atlas had heard her. Elysia was only a few sectors away; a monorail should get them there easily, but that depended entirely on whether they were still running- the trains themselves were hardy, but caste Raeda, their operators, were probably absent. Could a Cipher run a monorail? Dalia doubted it.

Another corpse in a hallway. She wore a plastic face mask. Dalia stepped over her, ignoring the blood and gore trailing down the floor. Jogging as best she could to the elevator, she punched in the numbers for the very highest floor, praying the others had done the same thing. Feeling the unfamiliar lurch of traveling upwards at that speed, she suppressed the urge to vomit. Her chest ached badly. 

The top was a penthouse like her own, but smaller. It likely belonged to a caste Dictatoria. Dalia glanced around quickly but didn't see any chances of people- most of the upper classes had left the shaking, unstable buildings hours ago, not wanting to risk death. Her head throbbed with each beat of her heart and her chest ached with every breath. 

In, out. In, out. Breathe, she told herself. Breathe. But it hurt.

"Andromeda?" she called. "Atlas? Andromeda?"

No answer.



If they were dead, there was no use waiting around. Dalia had to get to a monorail before something else collapsed. Quickly, she ran around to a south exit, feeling a sense of odd familiarity. By the doorway there had been a circlet of platinum with engrained rose quartz; it had been shattered, and pink gems lay all over the floor. Broken symbols of a broken society.

She ran outside. A train sat, undisturbed, on its glass rail, doors open to a pristine porcelain and marble car. Other than the suspicious lack of people, there was no sign of the rioting down below, just the few glimmers of sunlight visible through the nuclear clouds reflecting off the balcony. Not a Raeda in sight- Dalia would have to figure this out by herself. 

"Andromeda? Atlas?"

Not a sign of them. They were probably dead.

Dalia ran through the car and into another. A dead Servus girl lay on the ground, disheveled-looking. Bruises covered her face. She hadn't been shot- she'd been struck by someone, fatally. 

Dalia felt sick, but she stepped around the body and moved on, chest still burning. She'd hit her ribs hard when she crashed onto that balcony from the edge of the broken bridge, but there was no time for first aid. She had to get to Elysia. Darting through train cars, she looked for some sort of control panel, not that it would even help- she had no knowledge of the train routes. She didn't even know which end was the front.

Still, moving was better than nothing. Slowly, painstakingly, she moved to one of the ends, hoping she'd find something there. A tremor shook the monorail and she held onto a table to steady herself against the quakes before moving again. In the distance, she heard the telltale crackle of smoke. She walked faster, wishing she could run, but hating how each deep breath made her ribs cry out, searching for something, until she reached the last car. A glowing computer sat in the corner, one that had obviously been recently activated, but by who?

"Dalia!" came a harsh whisper from the ceiling. "Dal-"

"Who's there?" She drew her laser gun.

"Don't freak out, it's me."

"Who's me?"

"Andromeda and I," came a deeper male voice.

"Oh, thank the stars." Dalia dropped the gun just as a ceiling panel came undone and her comrade fell from the top of the train, followed by a wheezing Atlas. Then there was another one- a body in the throes of rigor mortis, stiff and cold and gray. Dalia recognized the face instantly- a Dictatoria, Rhea. 

"She shot me," Andromeda said. "Look." She held out her bionic arm, which had previously been injured by another laser blast. It had two clean holes with charred edges. Her hand twitched as cyan arcs of electricity moved up and down between the broken places, and an ozone-like smell filled the air. 

"Are you hurt?" Dalia asked. "That looks painful."

"It's not painful, but I have no fine motor control. Look." A finger moved slightly, a thumb twitched. More electricity flashed between the two holes. "Don't shock yourself."

"You have to get this taken care of," Dalia said.

"I'll be fine. You ready for this?" Andromeda asked.

"Ready for what?"

"The imminent alien invasion?" 

Dalia rolled her eyes. "I believe that if they wanted to invade, they would have done so already. To be entirely honest, the planet is in shambles. An already unstable system has collapsed."

"I was in the army, though for a short time," Atlas said, "and I have to agree. I've never seen one before, but I have seen their ships, their technology. They were never really battling with us. They toyed with us. I think if they genuinely meant us harm, they could have done it already. They have tech that far outweighs ours."

"You've never seen one?" Andromeda asked. "How?"

Atlas sighed. "Remote-piloted craft, some sort of tractor beam- many more Eleutherian died in battle than Miramans. Every time someone even got close to the home planet they'd vanish or be forced back."

"How are we going to get there?" Dalia asked. "Elysia?"

"I may have been a Labora," Andromeda said, "but I know these rails. I'd hitch rides during reassignments. No one can walk that far. I can get us there."

"How fast can we go?" Atlas asked.

"Ho fast do you want? I can do twenty minutes."

Dalia swallowed a gulp. Twenty minutes until first contact. Twenty ministers and god only knew where she'd be- dead, experimented on? Trapped? 

"Here's to diplomacy," Atlas said.

"Here's to kicking some alien ass," Andromeda added.

"Here's to intergalactic alliances," Dalia sighed. 

And with that, they were off. Under a nuclear sky, over a rioting society, in the midst of a revolt, three people on their way to change everything.

Author's Note

The language in the beginning is made up entirely by me! It's a combination of Arabic, Bengali, and Tolkien's Elvish, plus a dose of Spanish when it comes to pronunciation. They also don't use the letter T.

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