Fans of Romeo and Juliet, The Hunger Games, 1984, Animal Farm, Brave New World, and Dune, will Love this Novel...
Chapter One: Prelude
An eternity ago, the human race spiraled out of control into wars between the nations of planet Earth. Genetically engineered super-soldiers were created to fight these wars. Eventually missiles were fired by many nations at each other, and a nuclear apocalypse brought about the collapse of human civilization into a wasteland of barbarians.
Now, centuries later, the world is comprised of independent city-states ruled by kings, and science is a forgotten memory. In the city-state of Aimsburg, the heirs of the genetically enhanced soldiers, now named the Elite, rule over the human population, called the Base.
Kevin, the Prince of the Elite, has been sent by his father the King on a dangerous mission. But Prince Kevin does not know that, instead of finding the secret society known only as the Rev, which he has been sent on a mission to destroy, he will discover the love of his life, and his empty, hollow existence will be given meaning and value, and a light of fire will be ignited within him that will make him see the world in a bold new way. He also does not know that, in his newfound love, lives the only hope for Aimsburg to escape from a war that is coming. For, just as war rocked the world ages ago, a new war, just as deadly, is brewing, and this war could destroy Prince Kevin and the love he will find....
Chapter Two: Recruited By The Rev
Kevin Lord was tall and fit. As a child he had been given an abundance of food to eat, leading to good physical development; in contrast, the Base of Aimsburg were shorter and more hungry. He was kept strong by constant games and contests played among the Elite youth; his muscles rippled against his tight-fitting clothes. The heir of long-forgotten genetic engineering Old Science, Kevin had strength equal to that of ten Base men hidden in his wiry, well-defined muscles.
His bright blue eyes shined with the innocence of those who have never felt pain; they had the vivid blue of aquamarine, and his red-pink lips could fall easily into a friendly smile or a depressed frown. He had shoulder-length blond hair, which flashed shades of gold, honey and amber in bright light, and his flesh could not be wounded by any human’s punch or kick; it would take a sharpened metal knife to cut his skin. His one regret was the pale, snow-white color of his skin, which he tried to fix by pinching his cheeks each morning when he looked in the mirror. Normally he wore clothes made of black silk and cloth-of-gold beneath a white leather coat, and a scarlet cape with the royal crest of the House of Lord, an image of a shining sun, embroidered on the back. He usually kept a rapier sword, with a gold handle, tucked into a sheath in his black leather belt.
But not today. On this warm afternoon, with the hot sun high overhead, Kevin wore the same clothing as every Base in the city, a brown shirt, brown pants, and brown boots. He had never dressed in colorless garments, and he felt naked. He was playing with the fabric of one sleeve as he walked out the gates of the Palace of the Elite into the city of Aimsburg. In the nineteen years of his life he had never once traversed the city on foot, having always ridden in horse-drawn carriages.
There were a few Elite and some Servants on the streets around the Palace, but nobody looked at Kevin. The Servants always kept their eyes on the ground; the Elite soldiers showed deference to the Prince by looking away. Kevin walked forward slowly, dreading what was planned for later that day. General Bradley’s plan was simple, frighteningly so: Kevin would arrive in the Base slums and courageously defend a prominent suspected Rev member from an Urban Patrol attack. The Rev would welcome him into their ranks, and he would then spy on them and murder their leader.
The whole thing reeked of foolishness and futility to Kevin, but he did not dare to disobey his father the King. The youth of the Elite court, the children of the nobles, had no responsibility, unlike their parents, and they lived lives full of reckless fun and constant partying; Kevin liked that carefree lifestyle, it made him feel alive. The King had made Kevin the head of Elite Intelligence to try to instill a sense of duty in his son. Kevin did not feel a sense of duty, and his job was something he feared and hated, as if a lead weight were tied around his ankles. He just hoped that this stupid assassination mission did not trip him up somehow.
As Kevin advanced into the heart of the city, he noticed things that he had never seen before. He had been kept within the confines of the Palaces of the Elite, which were clean, happy structures. In the slums things were dirty and sour. Aimsburg had been built in the ruins of one of the cities of the Ancients; modern buildings of wood and stone stood side by side with cracked and crumbling towers of glass and concrete. Kevin passed Production Plants, Distribution Centers, and the occasional Residential Confinement Center, but these were buildings for the Base and so he paid no attention to them. Kevin began to walk a bit faster; he knew where the event was supposed to take place, and he had to get there on time.
Kevin was now in the midtown section of Central Aimsburg. There were many brown-clothed Base on the streets, walking around and carrying out various tasks. Kevin had only ever spoken to Servants, the Base who attended to the Elite, but these Base were Workers, the factory workmen, a caste alien to Kevin. The Prince meticulously avoided coming too close to any of the Workers. He picked up his pace to a light jog; he could not afford to be late.
Suddenly he noticed something happening off to his right. A pretty girl about Kevin’s age, nineteen years old, with a heart-shaped face was walking away from a Distribution Center carrying a basket full of bread and fruit, when a group of three Base cornered her and started yelling at her. Kevin could see one of the men grab the basket and then punch the girl in the face. The girl was evidently being mugged: the Base were so uncivilized! Kevin looked into the girl’s beautiful, radiant brown eyes. He was captivated. Putting all other thoughts aside, Kevin rushed over to the girl.
“Give that food back to her,” Kevin said to the three thugs.
The bandits looked him over.
“Yeah? Are you gonna make me?” one of them said.
Base were powerless against an Elite fighter. Kevin punched the man in the head, knocking him out. Then he grabbed another and threw him violently through a nearby window. The window shattered and sent shards of glass flying everywhere. The third crook dropped the basket and ran, while the other two lay bleeding on the ground. Kevin picked up the basket of food and handed it back to the girl.
“Wow,” the girl said. “Gosh, I never expected that someone might actually help me. It’s like I have a target on my head, I’ve been mugged three times this month. Thank you for saving me! Oh, thank you, kind sir, thank you!” She give him a big smile.
The girl had a sexy, ample, youthful body beneath her tight-fitting brown clothes. Kevin was glad that he had helped her.
“So, are you from this area?” the girl asked. “I’ve never seen you before. And you don’t look like you’re from around here. What’s your name?”
“Kevin,” Prince Kevin blurted out.
“Named after the Prince, are you? You must have had very brave parents. I’m Monica. Since I wouldn’t have this food if not for you, and I spent my last allotment of Credits on it, would you like to share it? My Residential is nearby and I would love to have dinner with you, my brave hero, my guardian angel.”
Kevin grinned. He liked being complimented by the Base girl. This girl was hot, and she would make a fine conquest; Kevin had slept with many girls, but he had never been in bed with a Base before. Kevin liked to experiment; he had even been with a Mutate once. The thought of having sex with a Base was savage, exotic, and enticing. And this girl had that special vitality that Kevin was fond of, he could see it in her: a grace to her movements, a cuteness of her face and a glow in her smile that made his heart race.
“Yes, my name is Kevin,” the Prince said, saying the lines that he had rehearsed. “I’m new to the area. I used to work in a Farm in West Aimsburg, but I was recently relocated. I don’t know anyone around here. Could I go with you?”
“Certainly!” Monica said, smiling. “Come on. I’d like to get home before any Urban Patrol raids happen today.”
“You’re a really nice person,” Kevin said. “Yes, I can tell that you’re a good person. Let me carry that basket for you. I’m really looking forward to seeing your apartment.”
Kevin and Monica walked down the street together, with Monica smiling, and the young Prince thinking about what good luck he had to have found such a beautiful girl.
Monica’s Residential Confinement Center was a tall gray building made of bricks and stone. The Residential was half prison and half apartment building. After climbing a long stairwell that smelled of garbage and urine, Kevin and Monica arrived at her apartment. The apartment was one single room, smaller than Kevin’s closet, which contained an ice box for food, a wooden chair, and a frayed, half-broken bed. The room was gray and small, and it seemed to press inwards upon the people within it. One of the walls was half-painted white, as if someone had started decorating and had given up. The walls and ceiling were cracked, there was a small window looking down on the street outside in which some of the glass had shattered, and the whole place had a mysterious, unpleasant odor. Kevin flinched when he saw some kind of large insect race across the floor and scurry into a crack in the wall. Kevin had never left the Palaces of the Elite, which were spacious and luxurious, and this place seemed to him to be what the Nine Hells would look like.
“It’s nice, isn’t it?” Monica said cheerfully. “It’s way better than the room I grew up in. My whole family lived in a room smaller than this one, and I have this place all to myself. Can you believe it?”
“Yes, it’s amazing,” Kevin said.
“Please sit on the bed,” Monica offered. “It’s softer than the chair. Only the best for my hero!”
“Please don’t call me that,” Kevin said. “I just did what any responsible, um, Base would have done. A woman as beautiful as yourself does not deserve to be robbed.”
Monica sighed, but then she smiled. “Oh, come on! You don’t have to talk about me like that. I’m a very humble person, in my own way. I’m just glad to have met a good person like you. Good people are hard to find in Aimsburg.”
“Yes, I agree.”
“You know what? I have to tell my friends about you! You’ll love them when you meet them. I have two close friends in this Residential, Trent and Katrina. They’re both nineteen, like me; my how we are getting old! We usually hang out and talk at night, after curfew, when our shifts at the Production Plants are over. You’ll love them, and since you don’t know anybody, you should try to get to know them. They’re very friendly.” Base Workers worked from five o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock at night, every day of the week; after ten o’clock, there was a strict curfew, the violation of which was punishable by whip or hangman’s noose.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Kevin said, flashing Monica a friendly smile.
Monica left the apartment, and soon returned with two people behind her. One was a young man with a long nose and big ears, dressed in brown. The other was a beautiful woman also dressed in brown. The man was tall and skinny, had skin as pale as milk, and seemed awkward and goofy. The girl was slender, confident and graceful; she had black hair and brown skin, which, when combined with her sharp features, made it look at though she had been carefully sculpted out of a large block of chocolate.
“Hi!” the man said. “My name’s Trent, and this is my friend Katrina. What Residential do you live in?”
“I’m Kevin,” Kevin said. “I live over in Residential Confinement Center Number Sixteen.”
“That’s pretty close by!” Trent commented. “Hey, want to see something cool?”
“Sure. What is it?” Kevin asked.
“Oh Trent, stop showing off!” Katrina urged him.
“Let up, Kat. I’m really proud of this. Ta da!” Trent pulled a small, black object from his shirt pocket. He pressed a button on it and it began to buzz. Kevin, fearing a weapon, jumped back against the far wall.
“See? Now you’ve scared him,” Katrina said.
“Relax, Kevin,” Monica said. “Trent is a Tinker. He’s always coming up with these kinds of things.”
“A Tinker?” Kevin asked, shocked.
“Yup,” Trent said proudly. “This is an Old Science device used by the Ancients. I can’t be sure, of course, but I believe that they used it to cut hair. I shaved my face with it this morning, in fact.”
“Amazing,” Kevin said.
“I know that Tinkering is outlawed now,” Trent said. “I could get into lots of trouble. But I don’t care. My father and my uncle Simon were both Tinkers, and it was my father’s dying wish for me to continue the family tradition. I inherited a whole chest full of Old Science bits and pieces that I put together in my spare time. I’d be hanged if I was caught, but you’ve got to have something worthwhile to live for, don’t you think so?”
“Yes, I agree,” Kevin said. “It’s a shame that Old Science has been banned.” Kevin was thinking about the things that he lived for: games, parties, dating and sex. He was starting to feel the pressure of a situation that he had never experienced before. He had a chance with the girl Monica, and he desperately wanted to sleep with her. But these Base were outlandish creatures. Still, they spoke the same language and seemed to be slightly clever, and just the same as with a well-trained dog, he should have no trouble in dealing with them.
“Is it true that you saved Monica from a robbery?” Katrina asked.
“Well, yes it is,” Kevin said. “I don’t want to brag, of course, but when something needs to be done I find a way to do it.”
“Oh, don’t be shy!” Monica said. “This boy is my hero! He saved my life. If I had lost that food, with no Credits left, I would have gone hungry for a week. Speaking of which, let me cut you a slice of bread and some apple, Kevin. You deserve it.”
“Please, don’t go to the trouble,” Kevin said. He was used to feasts of pork and beef carefully prepared by Servant chefs; he suspected that Base food would taste like garbage.
“So, you’re a fighter, are you?” Katrina asked.
“I’m not a violent man by nature,” Kevin said. “But I can hold my own in a fight.”
“We could use a man like you,” Katrina said.
“Oh, not this nonsense again!” Trent moaned.
“You should care about this more than anyone, Trent,” Katrina said. “Didn’t you say that your uncle Simon was friends with Group Leader Charles when they were soldiers together in the Uprising?”
“Yes, but the Uprising is history,” Trent said. “It seems as far back as the Ancients themselves. What you and your friends are doing will never work. The Elite can’t be stopped.”
“It will work!” Katrina said.
“Please, Kat, not now,” Monica said, with a worried look on her face.
“If not now, then when?” Katrina asked. “I’ve recently been recruited by the Rev. Do you know about the Rev, Kevin?”
Kevin’s interest picked up immediately.
“Yes, I’ve heard of them,” he replied.
“The Rev are going to kill all the Elite and give freedom to the Base,” Katrina said. “You want to talk about heroes? They’re the real heroes. And we could use a soldier like you. I’ve been invited to a Rev Rally next week. The Group Leader of the Rev, Charles Cassius, will give a speech there, and then they’ll sign up new members. I would love it if you would come, Kevin.”
“You don’t have to if you don’t want to, Kevin,” Monica said. “It’s a noble thing that they do, but it’s dangerous. Don’t feel obligated to risk your life. I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
Kevin smiled. He had been very much afraid that his deviation from General Bradley’s plan would earn him a screaming tirade from the King, but now things looked like they would all work out. Things always worked out for Kevin, of course. He was the Prince, and things always went well for the Prince.
“I’ll be there,” Kevin said.
Chapter Three: Mutates
Kevin walked back from the slums into the Elite district. He kept looking over his shoulder to make sure that no one was following him; nobody was paying any attention to him. He arrived at the Palace of Central Aimsburg and went in through the front gate; the two Elite soldiers guarding the entrance saluted him as he passed. His attendant, Gulliver the Servant, was waiting for him in the main hall.
“The King advises that Your Highness change into your regular clothes,” Gulliver said. “Then Your Highness is expected presently at a meeting of the Privy Counsel. The King will expect a report regarding the progress that Your Highness has made in infiltrating the Rev.”
The thought of facing the King made the Prince feel a mixture of emotions that he always felt when thinking about his father: anxiety, fear, and shame. Kevin had never been able to please his father. He had tried, countless times, to win his father’s respect, but everything that he did was never quite good enough to please the King; Shane was always able to find fault in something that his son did, and to scream at him about how disappointed he was in the Prince’s behavior and what a disgrace the Prince was to the family name of Lord. Kevin feared that when the King looked at his son, he saw something horrible, something to be submerged and destroyed, not something to be loved and cared for. Kevin loved his father deeply, and craved his respect, but he did not especially like seeing his father, and the dread that he felt was like a slimy tentacle wrapped around his heart. Still, he would not disappoint the King again; this time would be different.
Kevin walked up a grand marble staircase and reached his living quarters, a lush, wide area of concrete walls, lined by red silk drapes, and filled with white marble statues, golden ornaments and well-crafted wooden furniture. Two huge windows filled the space with sunlight, and vases of fragrant flowers gave off a satisfying, sugary smell. Kevin felt a rush of pride when he passed the life-sized statue of himself thrusting a spear into a wild boar; it had been the triumph of last year’s hunts and the talk of the court for months. Gulliver took Kevin’s fake brown Base clothes off and helped him get dressed in his black, white and gold Elite garb. Kevin left his room and headed for the throne room, climbing up several long staircases to reach the upper levels of the Palace; he skipped on the way there, he was so happy about meeting Monica and finding a Rev member.
“You idiot!” King Shane screamed as soon as his son entered the throne room; the other members of the King’s Privy Counsel, which included Princess Lisa, General Bradley, Prime Minister Sylvester, and the four Dukes of Aimsburg, were arranged in a circle around the throne. “Why didn’t you show up on schedule and rescue that Rev maggot from the Urban Patrol? You moron! You incompetent, disgusting little insect!”
“It’s not my place to question the Royal Family,” Prime Minister Sylvester said, in his soft, hissing voice. “But this shows a grave lack of responsibility. This is very disappointing.” Kevin despised Prime Minister Sylvester. Sylvester was the head of the civil government of Aimsburg, and was outranked only by the King and General Bradley, the commanding officer of the army. Sylvester was a Mutate, one of the Elite in whom genetically engineered animal genes had expressed some dominance over the original human genes, as a result of genetic mutation. Mutates were inferior to the Purebloods; Purebloods looked like humans, but Mutates looked like animal-human hybrids. Sylvester looked like a lizard-man, with green scaly skin and a long forked tongue, and he acted like a lizard too. Sylvester was obsessed with political power; this, in Kevin’s opinion, showed a lack of breeding and refinement.
“I agree,” General Bradley said angrily. Kevin was surprised to see the usually cheerful Bradley this upset. Bradley was a big, loud, boisterous, hairy man with a scarred face, the kind of person Kevin enjoyed having a drink with. Kevin had never seen him angry before, and worse, he detected something faint and hidden… was it fear? “When you failed to show,” Bradley continued, “the Urban Patrol unit killed that Rev member. Now all the Rev bosses are nervous and they’ve all gone into hiding. This could have severe ramifications for our ability to gather intelligence on the Rev’s activities.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Duke Adams said, in his high-pitched, slow, deliberate voice. “I’m not the least bit surprised. Your Majesty should know by now that there is an inherent danger of failure that arises if we entrust these kinds of tasks to His Highness the Prince.” Kevin shivered; Duke Adams was a very scary man whom the Prince hated.
“Don’t worry,” Kevin said, grinning. “It’s all been taken care of. I have an appointment to see the Rev Leader next week.”
“What?” the King asked. “How is that possible?”
“Instead of executing your plan, I followed up on a lead that I was developing by myself,” Kevin said, greatly enjoying having shocked the Privy Counsel. “I made contact with a member of the Rev, and I’ve been invited to attend what the Base call a Rev Rally, a meeting where Charles will make an appearance. Once there, I will join the Rev and work my way into Charles’s inner circle.”
“Where is this Rally going to take place?” Duke Cordova asked. Cordova was a short old man, known for being cynical and pragmatic, and some Elite considered him to be the shrewdest, cleverest man in the aristocracy. “What are the logistics involved? Can we stage an ambush there, perhaps?”
“Well, I don’t actually know where it will be, of course!” Kevin said. “It’s a heavily guarded secret. I just have to show up at the right place and time, and my, well, my acquaintance in the Rev will take me to it. She herself won’t know where it is until that time comes around.”
“You seem to have atoned for your failure somewhat,” King Shane said. “That is a bit of a shock. Maybe you’re not a total idiot after all.”
“I’m very proud of you, Kevin,” his sister Lisa said. Kevin smiled at her; the Princess was wearing a long white dress and had pink flowers braided in her hair. Supposedly Lisa looked a good deal like Kevin’s deceased mother, the late Queen, but the Prince wasn’t sure; he had no memories of his mother. Kevin also bore some resemblance to the Queen; his face was a lot like his sister’s.
“You see?” Duke Palmer said. Kevin hated it when Palmer spoke; the Duke was fond of Kevin, but he was obviously an utter imbecile. “His Highness the Prince took care of it. It’s being taken care of. Now, let us not dwell upon this so-called Rev, which is, after all, not really important. Let us think of more pleasant things! I will be staging a hunt in West Aimsburg next week, complete with a fox, hounds, and my personal stable of horses. And afterwards there will be a grand party at my Palace, with delicious food, a dance, and plenty of festivities! I do hope that you can come, my fellow Dukes, Your Majesty, Your Highness the Prince, Your Highness the Princess.”
“Oh, that sounds simply marvelous! I’ll be there!” Duke Kramer said.
“I can’t wait,” Kevin said; he could almost smell the excitement of the hunt.
“Perhaps we shall grace you with our royal presence, Duke Palmer,” the King said. “This meeting is now over. Leave my chambers.”
Kevin raced out of the throne room and down the stairs, eager to see his friends and brag about how he had gotten into a Rev Rally. His two closest friends, Knight and Fiona, were waiting for him in the lounge that they frequented in a tower of the Palace where young Elite hung out. Knight patted him on the back, and Fiona gave him a warm hug.
Knight and Fiona were both nineteen years old, like the Prince. They were Mutates; some Purebloods would have shunned them, but Kevin was a generous, open-minded young Elite. Both Fiona and Knight, like Kevin, had lost parents during the Uprising, and that had given the three of them a bond that made them friends at a very young age. Knight and Fiona, like all Mutates, had genetic mutations that were unique. Fiona had blue, scaly skin, round yellow eyes, and gills like a fish; she could breath underwater. She wore a white silk blouse and a green skirt, and she wore a necklace and bracelets made of pearls and sea shells. She also proudly displayed large ruby earrings, and wore a white leather belt studded with diamonds. Fiona was the Mutate that Kevin had fooled around with; after sleeping with her, their relationship had grown from romance into a deep, comfortable friendship.
Knight had earned his name because he always wore a helmet over his head; these days he also wore a full suit of armor, as a soldier in training. His mutated head was deformed and hideously ugly; he had one eye, and something disgusting and lined with fangs where his nose and mouth should have been. Once, when they were children, Kevin had talked Knight into showing his face to him; when he saw it Kevin had almost thrown up, but he had recovered and told his friend that really his face wasn’t so bad, although keeping the helmet on was a good idea. Knight’s one giant eye was special: he could shoot a ray of fire out of it.
Knight’s eye beam was a genetic mutation of an ability born in all Purebloods, dating back to the creation of the Elite as genetically engineered super-soldiers: the ability to shoot a spray of fire from glands hidden in the palms of the hands. In addition to this, Purebloods had tough skin, strong muscles, psychic powers, and long life: a typical Elite lived eighty to ninety years, whereas the typical Base died at around the age of thirty or forty. Mutates had a wide range of strange powers, some physical, some telepathic; their talents were as diverse as their animal-like appearances.
“I’m glad to see that you’re still in one piece, Kevin,” Knight said.
“Yes,” Fiona added. “I couldn’t believe it when I heard that you were going to be sent out among the Base. The Base! I’m so sorry that you had to be contaminated by going near those filthy peasants. I’m glad that we’re going to get to join the Urban Patrol soon. I’d like to teach those Base something!”
“I’m amazed that you survived going out among the Base,” Knight said. “The Base are like pigs, but worse, or so I’ve heard; you must have endured horrors out in the slums. You really are a tough, capable young man, as I’ve always said.”
“It wasn’t so bad,” Kevin said, proud that his friends thought so highly of him. “My father thought that I would mess everything up, but I didn’t. I managed to arrange things so that I’m going to become a member of the Rev. Can you imagine that? Me, the Prince, as a Base revolutionary?”
The three friends shared a laugh at that thought.
“I’m bored,” Kevin said. “I need some cheering up. Let’s go visit James.” James Jack was the court jester, a beloved favorite of Kevin and his friends.
“Sorry, Kevin, I can’t,” Fiona told him. “My mother insists that I go visit our furniture Plant and whip the Workers into shape. The Production Plant isn’t doing too well. It’s those stupid, lazy Base; they’re ruining everything for me and my family!”
“I’m sad to hear that,” Kevin said; the undertone of bitterness in Fiona’s voice disturbed him. Every Elite family owned one of the Farms, Production Plants, or Distribution Centers in the city; and they were judged based on the productiveness and profit of their holdings. Status in the court was derived from this, and the adult Elite took it very seriously, although young Elite were not expected to be burdened with such responsibility. Kevin’s friends were reaching the age where they would begin to work as Plant overseers; Kevin, being the Prince, did not have any such chores or burdens. His sole task was to act as head of Elite Intelligence, a job that he thought of as a joke and which he did everything possible to avoid.
“We’ll see you later, Fiona,” Knight said. Fiona left them.
“Before the clown, I’d like you to come back to my living quarters with me,” Knight said. “I have something to show you.”
“It’s not more Old Science gadgetry, is it, Knight? You’ll get into trouble one day, you know. I won’t be able to save you. It would be best if you put that stuff to sleep.”
“But it’s so exciting, Kevin! Think of the history, and of how the Ancients relied on Old Science. You don’t have any idea of the power in some of those things. If I could somehow harness it….”
“Then, if you were caught, you’d bring shame down upon yourself and your family,” Kevin said. “Tinkering is over. My father decreed that it has ended, and that is the top and bottom of it. My father’s word is the absolute law in Aimsburg, and you should not defy him.”
“I don’t care,” Knight said. “I like it. Who gets hurt by what I do?”
“Well, you know what I think. But let’s see what you’ve been working on.”
Kevin had a duty as the Prince to pass moral judgment on his peers, but he was secretly curious about Knight’s strange possessions, so he didn’t argue too passionately.
Kevin went with Knight to Knight’s living quarters, a spacious series of rooms in a remote tower that housed Mutates. Knight motioned for Kevin to be quiet; then he took out a key and opened a locked iron chest. Knight picked something up out of the chest, and turned around. Suddenly there was a burst of flame; the young Prince jumped back in panic and cowered against a wall.
“Don’t be afraid, Kevin!” Knight said, laughing. Kevin calmed down and regained his composure. Knight was holding a small, cylindrical metal tube that was burning with blue flames from an opening on its end. “This is the Old Science object that I wanted to show you,” Knight said. “Isn’t it nifty? The Ancients used it to light fires; they didn’t have hand fire like you do. It’s pretty cool, or at least I think it is.”
“Yeah, it’s interesting,” Kevin said. “It’s witchcraft and sorcery, but it is amazing. I can’t imagine what life must have been like for the Ancients, with all of their legendary machines.”
“It’s a shame that your father forbids the study of history,” Knight said. “I would be curious to know whether there are secrets of the Ancients buried somewhere in Aimsburg, Old Science artifacts and the like.”
“You live a dangerous double life,” Kevin said. “Elite soldier-in-training, or Tinker of the forbidden Old Science? Which are you, Knight? You can be one or the other, but not both.” Kevin was annoyed by something; he didn’t quite know what, but there was a thought nagging at the edge of his consciousness.
“We shall see,” Knight said ambiguously. He returned the lighter to his locked chest.
“Come on, Knight,” Kevin said. “Let’s go visit the clown. Enough with your serious thoughts; I need something funny and meaningless.”
Kevin and Knight walked up stairs, heading for the lounge where James Jack performed. They reached the door to the lounge, upon which hung a bronze statue of a smiling face. They heard laughter coming through the open door and entered James Jack’s lounge. The room was a long stone hall lined with sofas. There was a crowd of Elite in the center of the room standing in a circle around a man. This man was unique among the Base; he was the only Servant who could speak freely to Elite without being killed.
James was slender and gangly; he was six feet tall, which was very tall for a Base, but he hunched over so that he seemed much shorter than he was. He had a protruding angular chin, a wide mouth, bright green eyes, thin blonde hair, which looked as though someone had dumped a pile of straw on his head, and a long pointy nose that curved like a banana. He dressed in brown Base clothes, over which he wore a cloak made of stitched patches of bright red, purple, blue, pink and yellow. His face was painted white, with red paint on his lips and around his mouth forming a red smile. When James played the guitar or violin his eyes closed and his posture was graceful and tranquil; when he was juggling or doing his clown routine he flopped and flailed all over the place. He had a beautiful voice, which was deep and rich when he sang, and sarcastic and scratchy when he told jokes. His laugh began with a chuckle, rose to shrill short bursts, and then exploded into big, booming waves of laughter that made all tension and stress fade away. Kevin saw James and smiled; merely the sight of the clown could cheer the Prince up.
James was on the floor, being kicked in the stomach repeatedly by three Elite teenaged boys, two of whom were blonde and one of whom was red-haired. The court jester screamed and moaned with each kick, and the Elite’s laughter grew louder with each satisfying thud. James was the whipping boy of the court of the Elite; Elite would vent their aggression by beating up the Base clown. The beatings were satisfying for everyone; the Elite had fun hurting James, and James was happy to do his job as a Servant.
“Please,” James begged, to the smiles of the children, “please, you’re killing me. Please let me go, please stop….” One of the Elite boys kicked him in the nose, and a trickle of red blood leaked down his white-painted face. James took a small horn from his pocket and squeezed it; the boys laughed at the honking sound.
Kevin frowned. The leader of this group of Elite youth was the red-headed boy, a young thug named Brent. He was a Pureblood Elite about Kevin’s age, who happened to be the son of General Bradley. Kevin despised Brent. Brent was a bully, a stupid, crass Elite with no sense of civility or sophistication; many of the younger Elite looked up to Brent and shared his dislike for Prince Kevin.
“Let him up,” Kevin commanded. Brent and his friends stepped away from James, and the clown, injured but still smiling, rose to his feet.
“You know, Your Highness, Brent said that he would teach me a lesson this time,” James said. “But the only lesson he taught me is that he kicks like a girl!” Kevin and Knight laughed hysterically.
“Stupid court jester,” Brent grumbled.
“Get out of here,” Kevin said. Brent and his friends left the lounge.
“Your Highness, the chefs just brought up a wonderful selection of cream pies,” James said, gesturing to some confectionary on a table. “Might a lowly Base such as myself be permitted to try one?”
Kevin smiled. He picked up a cream pie and threw it into James’s face. James stood there, cream dripping off his face, and he licked the bits of pie around his mouth. Kevin and Knight doubled over in fits of laughter.
“Too much, James! I’ll die laughing!” Knight stammered.
Kevin and Knight sat on a sofa and watched as James did facetious impersonations of Brent and his friends, and then made jokes about other Elite that the Prince disliked. Kevin was amused, but he still felt something strange, and it puzzled him. All of a sudden the image of the Base girl Monica entered his head. In his vision she was even more beautiful and seductive than she had seemed before; it was almost as if the Prince had to have her right at that moment. Kevin had dated many Elite, but he had never felt so strongly about a girl. This was a weird new sensation, and he did not understand it. Obviously Monica was enchanting. Kevin wondered how Monica was, and he hoped that she was doing okay, living out her life in her cramped little cell. He would be seeing her again soon. The Rev Rally, Kevin’s chance to assassinate Charles, was early next week.
Chapter Four: Slaves and Masters
Kevin lived for flirting and romantic conquests, and for parties, and for hunts and games, and for having fun with his friends. Even though it appeared that Kevin was a happy, healthy person who had everything and lacked nothing, the Prince sometimes felt a hole deep within him, an inexplicable emptiness, and he wondered if he was just a puppet going through the motions of living life, a puppet pulled around by strings coming from everyone and no one. Perhaps fulfilling his duties as head of Elite Intelligence would plug the leak within him. The experience of going out among the Base, and of being given the mission to assassinate Charles, gave Kevin a heightened sense of purpose: he had never done anything important before in his life.
Kevin knocked on the door of Monica’s apartment at midnight. She opened the door, and Kevin felt a strange flush of heat in his face when he saw her. Trent was also in the apartment, as well as a squat, ugly Base man that Kevin had not met before. The man had a hideous scar across the side of his face.
“That’s Bruno,” Monica whispered to Kevin. “He’s a real creep, but he’s a friend of Katrina’s. Just ignore him.”
“I’ll try,” Kevin promised. Bruno noticed the Prince and walked over to him.
“Who’re you?” Bruno asked.
“I’m Kevin. How do you do?”
“That’s an Elite name. That’s an ugly name. You should have it changed. And I don’t see any whip scars on your face, or any bruises on your hands. What are you, some kind of pretty boy?” Bruno’s low opinion of Kevin was evident. Kevin had an impulse to strike Bruno, but he held his anger in check.
“Thanks,” Kevin said. “I’ll think about changing my name.”
Katrina arrived, with a glitter of triumph in her eyes.
“I’m bringing four people to the Rally! I consider that to be a job well done,” she said. “Come on, follow me. I’ve just been told where the meeting is going to be held.”
Katrina, Kevin, Monica, Trent, and Bruno snuck out of the Residential and walked through the deserted streets of Aimsburg under the darkness of the night sky. In the sky, next to the crescent moon, remnants of the Ancients’ space stations and satellites, long since fallen into disuse but still stuck in orbit, could be seen by moonlight.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Monica said. “The Elite are so powerful! It’s scary to challenge them!”
“Yes, that is certainly true,” Kevin concurred.
“What if an Elite spy follows us?” Trent asked. Kevin frowned.
“Don’t worry,” Katrina said. “The location of the Rally is a total secret. Also, these streets are being watched by the Red Shirts, the top soldiers of the Rev. The Red Shirts are as quiet as shadows and as deadly as swords. If anyone is following us, they’ll be spotted and captured by Red Shirts.”
Katrina led the others into a decrepit, abandoned Residential on the banks of the Aimsburg River, which separated Central Aimsburg and West Aimsburg. The Rally was in the basement of the building, in a large, dry, dusty room, with a raised platform at one end and Rev banners hanging from the walls. A podium had been erected on the platform. The Rev banners sported the Rev emblem: red waves on a black background. The emblem was intended to show that the streets of Aimsburg would run red with an ocean of Elite blood when the Revolution took place.
The room was filled with Base; there was barely enough space for Kevin and his friends to stand in, and the Prince felt almost claustrophobic from the crush of people. The Base were dirty and had a vaguely bad smell. Fortunately, Kevin was right next to Monica and the crowd pushed her up against him; he was enticed by the feel of her body against his, and by the flowery smell of her hair. There were whispered conversations around the room, but nothing loud; the atmosphere was thick with curiosity and a somber attention. This was laughable, Kevin thought: the Base could not hope to ever overthrow the Elite, and this Rev Rally was merely a farce.
A row of red-shirted Revs walked up onto the platform, and then, from behind them, a figure walked out onto the platform. When Charles appeared, the room fell silent and everyone stared intently at the Rev Leader. Charles had a round, plain face with gentle, unremarkable features, but the pale white of his skin and the coal black of his hair met in sharp contrast on his forehead, and his brown eyes burned with an anger that inspired bursts of hope or trembles of fear. Charles’s movements were swift and precise; he jogged up to the podium and waved his hand at the crowd in a gesture that said: “Yes, I’m here, but so are you all, and thank you for coming.” The Red Shirts cheered, and some of the Base in the audience joined them. The Base were forbidden to express political opinions or to talk about the Elite, and the act of political participation was a brand new experience for them; they did not know what to expect. But they had heard rumors that something wonderful was about to happen.
Kevin stared at Charles, who was wearing both a red shirt and a red pair of pants; that color of clothing was the ultimate in a statement of insult towards the Elite rulers. There was a vast crowd of Base between Kevin and Charles. The Prince would have to get past the crowd to get at the Rev Leader, assuming that he could neutralize the Red Shirt bodyguards. Kevin knew that he could manage it, that he could take them all on at once in a fight: Kevin was an Elite and they were Base. But he did not attack; he was curious too, although he didn’t dare admit it to himself.
Charles ran a hand through his slick black hair, smiled, and leaned forward. He pulled an Old Science device from his pocket, pushed a button on it, and held it up to his mouth. He began to speak, and his loudspeaker caused his voice to echo loudly across the room. His voice was warm, soft and moist, but with an underlying hardness as of stone; it soothed his listeners and made them angry at the same time. Charles spoke with the authority of a leader, but his words bore a hue of deep emotion, the emotion of someone who had seen suffering and hardship firsthand, and the warmth of someone ready to lend a kind, helping hand to a struggling soul in need.
“My fellow Base,” Charles began, “my comrades, my friend-brothers and friend-sisters, please pay attention and listen carefully to my words. This will be a kindness to me, and also an act of compassion for you. It is not for my sake that I have started the Rev, no indeed. It is for your sake, and for the sake of all the Base. The Rev is my gift to you. There are things that are so obvious to us, and so central to our way of life, that it would be pointless for me to say what you already know. But I will say it. The Elite monarchy that rules us is stupid, bloodthirsty, cruel and unjust. They treat us like pigs and dogs, or worse. We do not deserve to be their slaves; we do not deserve to be whipped, or stabbed, or burned alive. Instead, they deserve to be treated that way. They should be the slaves, and we should be their masters! We should rule! The time has come for the Base to unite and overthrow the Elite! Together, we can change the course of history. Base of Aimsburg, unite! Together, my friend-brothers, together we can destroy the Elite! Friend-brothers and friend-sisters of Aimsburg, unite! Together we can make the Elite our slaves!”
Kevin yawned. This speech was trite and generic; it was precisely as he expected it to be. Charles’s preaching would not budge the power of the Elite by one inch, and the Rev was futile. The room was silent: the Base had not yet been overwhelmed by the experience of the Rally.
Charles’s associates among the Rev called him “Mr. Honey Tongue.” Honey was the one sweet food that the Base were allowed to buy, and it was precious; many Base had been murdered by other Base simply to steal a pot of honey. Charles’s sugary words had the power to convince and persuade; he could shake even the toughest convictions, lace the most serious doubts or inspire the most blind and devoted of loyalties. He always started his speeches off slowly. That way, when he picked up speed, his speaking would come on as a rush of the unexpected. The Rev would not grow, Charles knew, unless the Rev became an exciting, intoxicating inspiration for the Base, and the Elite would not fall unless the vast majority of the Base could be mobilized.
“Now let’s get to heart of the argument,” Charles said. “You and I both know what the purpose of the Rev is. Our mission is to kill all the Elite and give Aimsburg back to the Base. You want to join the Rev, but you afraid. But I say to you: do not be afraid, friend-brothers. You believe that the Elite are too strong for the Base to defeat them. This is not true. The Elite can be harmed by swords made of steel, and we are making thousands of steel swords. The Elite’s skin can be cut, and with enough cuts they can be made to feel pain, and to bleed. And if we cut them deeply they will die.
“On Rev Night, the night of the Revolution, we will hand our swords to you, my friend-brothers and friend-sisters, and with these swords you will make the Elite bleed! Furthermore, I have a cache of Old Science weapons, guns and bombs the likes of which the Elite do not know and cannot protect themselves against. Do not believe that you are too weak to fight: you are weak when you are alone, but if we stand united, together as the Base of Aimsburg, we can win this battle!” Kevin smiled at this; the Rev Leader was grossly underestimating the might of the Elite army.
“Have courage! Cast the chains off, and step forward! Take responsibility for your life and for the Base. Together we can enact change, and make the Base the ruling power in Aimsburg. Join the Rev! Say it, my friends! Rev, Rev, Rev!”
“Rev! Rev! Rev!” the Base shouted, and they stomped their feet and waved their hands to the sound of the chanting. Kevin kept silent, unmoved by the Leader’s speech. Monica was also quiet, as was Trent, but Bruno and Katrina added their shouts to the screaming of the crowd.
“We will sweep the Elite away and build a city designed for Base! All of our problems will be gone when the cause of our agony has been exterminated! Soon Aimsburg will be cleansed of the taint of the Elite. Soon this city will be home only to the race that is truly superior. Soon Aimsburg will belong to the Base!”
“Base! Base! Base! Charles! Charles! Charles!” the crowd chanted.
“My Group Captains are here, waiting for you to give them your names. Sign up and become a Rev soldier! You can give your life for the cause of Base liberty. Do not be afraid. And please, if you do end up joining the Rev, have some dignity. The pigs of Elite Intelligence will offer to bribe you, to give you Credits in exchange for information leading to my capture. Will you sell your pride just for a few measly Credits? I have faith that you will not. And be warned, anyone who is suspected of aligning themselves with Elite Intelligence will become a wound that my Red Shirts will waste no time in cleansing. Elite Intelligence will not be able to protect race traitors from the wrath of the Rev. The age of Elite power is at its dusk; now dawns the era of the power of the Rev!”
A loud chant of “Join the Rev! Join the Rev! Join the Rev! Charles! Charles! Charles!” echoed throughout the room, and there was a booming sound of people clapping their hands and stomping their feet. A wave of excitement and vigorous optimism flooded the room, and people lined up in long lines to give their names to the Rev Group Captains and become members of the Rev.
Kevin stood at the back of the room, with Monica and Trent. Katrina had gone to speak to some of her Rev friends, while Bruno had surged forward and was speaking to a Group Captain about joining the Rev.
Kevin had been well-trained in the art of combat by General Bradley and the Elite army officers. He had no doubt that with his enhanced strength and his hand fire he could plow through this crowd of Base, reach Charles, and then incinerate the Rev Leader. But he just stood there, motionless; he knew that he would not attempt to kill Charles tonight. There were two things that held Kevin back. The first reason, the one that he admitted to himself, was that if he revealed himself now, he would never get to date Monica, and he was rapidly falling in love with the young Base girl. The way she spoke, the carefree joy in her words, and the way she walked, the quiet, sexual grace of her movements, made Monica something that the Prince just had to possess.
The second reason was something deep within his mind, buried in his thoughts; he knew that if he saw this thing, it could destroy him. This second thing was a question in his mind, which he had never asked before. Why did the Elite rule Aimsburg? Why were the Base the slaves of the Elite? He had never asked these questions before; he had simply taken it for granted that things were how they were supposed to be. But what if something was wrong? Kevin had no answers, and a dark, disturbed wondering was left in his mind. He was too distracted by his inner thoughts to act as a spy and become a Rev member, and he did not move to sign up to join the Rev. These thoughts sparked by Charles’s speech were new to Kevin’s mind: it was like a black ink had stained a piece of paper that had previously been pure white.
As minutes passed by the crowd thinned out, and Kevin left the abandoned building, with Monica and Trent at his side. The moonlight shone down on the three of them, the two Base and the Elite Prince. Was it fair for King Shane to rule Aimsburg? Was it right for the Base to be slaves? Was the Prince’s way of life wrong, or worse… was it evil?
Kevin shook his head, trying to clear the thoughts away. Monica and Trent headed back towards their Residential; Kevin followed them. Kevin walked up beside Monica.
“So, that was interesting, wasn’t it?” Kevin asked.
“Yes, very interesting,” Monica replied. “And also very scary. The horrors we’ll all be subjected to if a war starts… it makes me cold just to think of it.”
“Don’t be afraid,” Kevin said. Monica gave him a look, a subtle, grateful gaze, that made Kevin’s heart flutter in his chest.
“Monica…” Kevin began. Monica sensed something urgent in Kevin’s words, and she stopped.
“Trent, could you give us a minute?” Kevin asked
“Yeah, sure,” Trent said.
“Monica, I think that I’m… what I mean is, I think that you’re really special. I like you. Would you like to see me, maybe later this week… and, well, do something? Something fun?” Kevin gave her his widest, most cheerful grin, although he wasn’t sure that she could see it in the darkness.
“Are you asking me out on a date?” Monica asked, a sly smile on her face.
“Yes. I think that I could show you a good time,” Kevin said confidently.
“That would be interesting,” Monica responded. “Yes, very interesting indeed. You’ve got me, Kevin. I’ll look forward to seeing you.”
Monica saw a hint of a look of rapture flash across Kevin’s face; she was excited to be going on a date with a nice boy who seemed to really like her, and she needed something to distract her from her life. Kevin was also happy; there was something a little bit weird about dating a Base, but he wasn’t going to let that interfere with his love life. Kevin and Monica walked back through the night-dark streets together, the light of the moon like a friend guiding their way.
The next morning Kevin left his living quarters in the Palace, intent on finding his father and making up a story to the effect that Kevin had succeeded in becoming a Rev spy. King Shane was holding court in his throne room. The King sat on his throne, and the highest-ranking Pureblood Lords and Ladies stood in a circle around the throne. The rest of the room was filled with lower-ranking Pureblood Elite, who kept to the front end of the room, and with Mutates, who remained at the back end of the throne room. The court was serviced by a crew of subservient Servants, whose friendly smiles and rigid obedience went unnoticed by their Elite masters. Elite nobles stood in clusters, gossiping or plotting against their rivals, and at the far corner of the room a group of Elite stood listening to the court jester James Jack, who was playing a guitar and softly singing about the glory of the Elite. Some of the Mutates had snake tails, or claws, or four arms, or shark’s heads, or were covered in hair; one, a soldier, was as big as a giant and covered with slimy green skin: the Mutates were always fun to look at. Kevin walked to the far end of the room to stand at the base of the throne, level with the King’s feet. Princess Lisa and Prime Minister Sylvester were nearby on Kevin’s right.
“Ah, my son,” the King said. “How goes it? I expect that you have come to me to report your progress?”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Kevin said. “I participated in a Rev Rally last night. I have established contact with the Rev, and I am in the process of continuing to cultivate that relationship. In a matter of one or two months, I will gain the trust of the Rev. I will choose the right opportunity to attack, and then the rebel Charles Cassius will lose his life.” Kevin had no such plans, but he needed an excuse to go see Monica again.
“That is good news,” the King said. “I had expected you to mess this up somehow, but perhaps you are not completely incompetent. Report to me immediately once Charles has been taken care of.”
“As you wish, Father,” Kevin assented.
Suddenly there was a sharp, painful buzzing in Kevin’s mind. The Elite, especially the Purebloods, had telepathic and telekinetic powers: using only the electro-magnetic activity of their brains, they could feel spectrums of energy invisible to Base, and they could move things with the power of their thoughts, and hear the thoughts and feelings of others. Something that felt like a huge, muddy wave of psychic energy was nearby; it had come upon Kevin swiftly, and it was moving closer. The Elite in the court with extrasensory perception all looked up sharply, and the throne room became dead silent.
A Servant ran into the court, breathing heavily. All of the Elite turned and stared at him.
“Your Majesty, Lords and Ladies!” the Servant shouted; he was a herald. “An Elite has entered Aimsburg through the gate in the Northern Aimsburg Palace. This Elite has come to us from beyond the Wasteland! It is the Spectrum Electron warrior Lord Zachary. He seeks an audience with the King of Aimsburg!”
“A Spectrum Electron knight?” the King asked, narrowing his eyes shrewdly. Kevin did not know what he was talking about; he had never heard of the Spectrum Electron knights before. “I know of Lord Zachary,” the King said. “I heard rumors about him many years ago, when I was a mere child. Invite this Spectrum Electron in to see me. Elite, make room for the arrival of Lord Zachary.”
A white-haired, bearded old man in a black suit of armor strode into the throne room, his head held up proudly and his pale blue eyes glowing with a strange, smoldering intensity. A flashy gold medallion emblazoned with the letter “Z” dangled on his chest. The man seemed thin and gaunt, so that his armor should have looked too big for his body, but somehow this was not the case: the man filled up his armor and looked like a true warrior. Kevin instantly knew that this man was the great source of energy that he was sensing. Lord Zachary walked through the crowd and went up to King Shane. Kevin felt a pang of fear; he almost expected Zachary to attack the King immediately and try to take over the city. Shane and Zachary gazed into each other’s eyes, there was a flicker of electrical energy, and then Zachary kneeled at the King’s feet, having reached some kind of understanding telepathically.
“I am honored to be in your presence, Your Majesty King Shane,” Lord Zachary said in a rusty, dry voice. “I have traveled many leagues, through acid swamps and poisoned plains, across the Wasteland ruled by the Base barbarians, in order to reach your city. I hope that it is not too much for me to ask you for your hospitality. It is well known throughout this continent that the rulers of Aimsburg are a noble, powerful group of Elite, capable of feats of strength, yet kind and humble in your own special way.”
“You may stay in this Palace as my guest,” the King said. “But you must answer me one question. What is your purpose here?”
“It is nothing that you need concern yourself with,” Lord Zachary said. “As a member of the Holy Order of Mystical Light, it is my duty to perform various services for my people. There is a story that has been told among the Spectrum Electron, that an old relic, a scepter once owned by Lord Spectrum himself, is buried in the ruins of the Ancients somewhere in this area. I am merely passing through Aimsburg on my way towards the south. I will spend a little time here, searching for the holy item, and once my search is over, I shall leave your wonderful city. Please do not go to any trouble on my account, and I, for my part, will seek to leave all of your affairs undisturbed.”
Kevin looked cautiously at Lord Zachary. Kevin had never met anyone from outside the city walls; Kevin had been three years old the last time a messenger had come from beyond the Wasteland. The Spectrum warrior’s words sounded plausible, but Kevin heard something small, something almost intangible, that made Lord Zachary’s story seem somehow false and contrived.
“I do not know of anything in my city that relates to your Order,” the King said, “and I have never heard of a scepter of Spectrum before, but I will take your word for it. Stay here as a member of my court, and avail yourself of our feasts and games. Tell me when you plan to leave, and I will send a squad of guards with you to guide you past the barbarians of the Wasteland. Show Lord Zachary to the guest quarters.” A Servant led the old Elite warrior out of the throne room.
“Summon the Privy Counsel to meet at once,” Shane said to Prime Minister Sylvester. Sylvester dispatched messengers to find General Bradley and the Dukes. Kevin and Lisa left the throne room with the King, and entered the King’s private study. Soon Sylvester, General Bradley and the four Dukes walked into the room, completing the group.
“So, a Spectrum Electron right in our midst!” Duke Adams commented. “This could prove interesting.”
“He may be an advance scout,” Duke Cordova said. “It was just him who came, riding by himself upon a black horse. But there’s no telling what lies in the future where the Spectrum Electron are concerned.”
“What is a Spectrum Electron?” Kevin asked.
“They are scary people,” Duke Palmer said, his face pale.
“The Spectrum are a secretive order of Elite magicians and knights,” the King explained. “They have a fortress in a mountain far to the east, in a continent separated from our own by a vast ocean. They consist entirely of Purebloods, whose mental powers are made extremely potent by their secret training methods. They call themselves the Holy Order of Mystical Light. The legends claim that they have a secret purpose, to transcend the flesh and achieve purity of spirit, but no one outside the Spectrum really understands what that means. I have no ideas about it myself.”
“And what of Lord Zachary?” Lisa asked. “What do we know about him?”
“When I was a boy and my father ruled Aimsburg,” the King said, “he used to send out messengers to the nearby Elite cities. This was before the barbarians of the Horde occupied the Wasteland, and we still had contact with the outside world. I would hear the stories told by the travelers, and I once heard them mention this Lord Zachary. There was a horrible rumor associated with him, something so grotesque that I do not care to repeat it here.”
“Please, Your Majesty, won’t you tell us what that rumor is?” Duke Adams asked, licking his lips. Kevin winced; Duke Adams was known to have a fascination for the perverse.
“If you don’t want to tell us, you don’t have to!” Duke Palmer informed the King.
“That is obvious, Palmer,” King Shane said.
“Some things are better left unknown,” said Duke Kramer, who was normally reserved and silent, and whom Kevin viewed as incredibly boring. “But other things are better off being out in the open. I think I may know what you are talking about, Your Majesty, and I doubt that the little bit of gossip that I heard could possibly be true.”
“Oh, but I think that it is true, Kramer,” King Shane said. “And now I suppose that I will say it. The rumor is that many years ago Lord Zachary was the ruler of a city to the south, with Base Workers and an Elite aristocracy, much as we have here in Aimsburg. However, Lord Zachary was so bloodthirsty and savage that he murdered all his Base, leaving not one of them alive. Then, when they had no one to tend the Farms, he arranged things so that the Mutates became Workers and the Purebloods ruled over them. They treated some Elite as though they were Base; it is almost impossible for me to imagine it. For one Elite to enslave another Elite, even a Mutate, is a ghastly, unnatural thing; it makes me shiver just talking about it.”
Duke Adams smiled, and Duke Palmer gasped in horror. Kevin was mortified by the very idea of enslaving Mutates. Who could be so cruel and sick?
“In addition to that,” the King continued, “they say that Lord Zachary once dueled the Grand Archduke of the Southern Empire, whom some believe to be the strongest Elite in the world, and survived, although that is probably a mere flight of fancy. What I know for sure is that he is a powerful warrior, trained in telepathic arts alien to the people of our city. If he could be manipulated and turned to our service, he could be a powerful weapon against the Rev. To that end, we will let him stay here, and we will seek to befriend him.”
Kevin was surprised; his father was a mighty warrior, and he had never heard his father speak with caution about someone, but Shane seemed to believe that Lord Zachary was indeed a delicate situation.
“That may not be wise, Your Majesty,” Bradley said. “He could turn against us.”
“He could be a useful ally, or a dangerous enemy,” Duke Kramer said. “On the one hand, we might trust him. On the other hand, he might be untrustworthy. We could learn more about the Spectrum from him, or alternatively, we might not. We may have nothing to fear, but then again, you might be taking a bad risk by letting Lord Zachary remain in Aimsburg.”
“It is true that he may betray us, but we will have to wait and see,” the King said, in a tone that allowed no dissent. “I do have one word of care for you. Guard your thoughts carefully while in his presence. He may be able to read your thoughts, no matter how strongly you guard them, and to see any secrets that you may have hidden in the backs of your minds.”
The Privy Counsel ended, and Kevin returned to the court. He was filled with curiosity: he wanted to know more about the Spectrum Electron, and he wanted to know something of the reason behind the relationship between the Elite and the Base, which Charles had brought into question. The thought of enslaved Mutates furthered his bewilderment: what was the nature of slaves and masters?