The Circuit Breaker depot sat in the industrial district near the train tracks. The walls of the dark office were hit by softly sparking light, showing three computer terminals and desks, dirty ashtrays, and a motivational poster with a green frog.
Sparks flared from the squared server strapped to the back of a man with many roles. He was an Urban Archivist; a Street Scribe.
His black gloves flew over the custom electronic tablet with the sturdy metal frame he’d placed on one of the desks. The underside of his backpack had a spray can Velcro’d at the center and an elastic data cable on the right. The jumper was stretched out, its connector tapped into the first of the three terminals that stored the warehouse’s reports.
He had black athletic pants that fastened around the ankle and black high-tops. He had a black soccer jersey with a white stripe across his shoulders, and black knee and elbow pads. Slim wrist guards protected his forearms.
As far as anyone could possibly know him, he was a hooligan.
The Hooligan’s gloves continued over the tablet, a progress bar filling until a large ‘SUBMIT’ button popped on the screen and lasted only until his thumb gave it a tender smack.
The square backpack started to whir and was soon shooting sparks out the vents on the side. When it generated enough power, the terminal he was tethered to popped smoke. The Hooligan unplugged the jumper from the port and let it zip back into place under his pack.
Now that the data retrieval was underway, the Hooligan went about collecting photographic documentation of the site, and though the small office was excruciatingly ordinary, he diligently documented the general layout. Aiming his camera shots, he snapped three pics and moved on. No sooner had he stepped away from the window than a hooded young woman darted over the gate in its view and booked it to the wall below.
The hypnotic rhythm of the song the music app on Alex’s phone had selected for her gave the Royal Cemetery a hallowed air that seemed to fit the situation perfectly. Alex had come there to sit under the warm sun and read, but the comfort of her father’s headstone and the melody had overcome her, carrying her away to sleep.
Like most other apps that were being released daily, the music program had linked with her other social media accounts, constantly trading data, slowly learning her preferences until it could automatically find a song that fit her mood. It was so accurate, there were times when she wasn’t completely sure if the music suited her feelings or caused them, but she shook it off as silly paranoia.
Two books sat on a bench beside her. Their titles read: ‘The Secret Story of The Electron Gods’ and ‘A Plug N Play Nation: How ZetaPort Operating Systems Connected Society’. A third book lay across her lap called ‘The Unknown History Of The North American Motherboard,’ open to the two page spread of the continent. A series of icons littered the pages, indicating nodes evenly distributed over the land with outlines around them designating borders. ‘Diamond Kingdom’ was just west of center and ‘Animos City’ was a few centimeters to the south east.
With massive terminals called ZetaPorts built directly into the planet’s crust, the North American Motherboard networks across the continent. By utilizing a port’s natively running Zeta Operating System, leaders can provide their people with uniquely crafted civilizations, and endless opportunities. Over the years, hundreds of societies have risen, from the barbaric Hammer Valley to the beautiful Blackletter Coast, but not all have proven sustainable and collapsed. A bulky shadow moved over the map inside the book.
Alerted by the presence, Alex’s eyes snapped open. She pulled her headphones off.
“I know,” she said guardedly. “It’s time to get back to work.”
The Diamond Kingdom was a land of many faces, from the young and beautiful to the old and ugly, and home to a multitude of different cultures. The resource-rich territory spread out across fertile agricultural lands and lumber mills. And in the center of the considerable labyrinth of developed residential and commercial property was the neon purple beam shooting from the top of Diamond Castle.
The flashing police siren painted the empty streets blue and red as it raced down the asphalt. Alex sat in the back seat of the Knight’s cruiser, fighting the nagging feeling that the masked driver was glancing at her in the rearview mirror. It was a fight she would win. If she couldn’t handle this small modicum of stress, she had little hope of overcoming any real pressure, and then she would be no good to those who counted on her the most. Since he took command of the military, new faces had entered Drake’s increasingly tight army, and with them an increased sense of rigidness she didn’t recognize. She was glad that her escorts hadn’t confiscated the .357 or its canister- it meant they either didn’t respect her, or were secretly allies that knew what she could do with it. She knew that not all the Diamond Knights had betrayed her but that you couldn’t simply determine a person’s allegiance by looking at them. She occupied her mind by focusing on the Chatter.
As if a stream of consciousness from many minds, she heard “they have her” and “‘Bout time the cops did something right” and “Spoiled Princess, what’chu gonna do now?” all relayed to her in sequence. A single calm voice broke through the chaff. “She’s not like that. She saved my boyfriend and me. If she hadn’t shown up when she did, I don’t know what would have happened to us.” But that was almost immediately drowned out. “Hahahaha” and “Yeah right, shut up” and “kill yerself”. Alex turned tiredly to the window and the passing streets.
With every second they drove, the purple beam became larger, splashing the sides of the buildings with the warmth of royal light for more than a mile around.
The cruiser pulled up to the castle’s grand entrance. Alex stepped out and looked up at the place that had long been her home, following the majestic beam until it penetrated the cloud cover blanketing the night sky.
A video played on a handheld screen. Even if the camera’s view hid the identity of the man it was attached to, the height and heavy footsteps down the ornate hallway betrayed an imposing stature. At the pair of large oak doors, a sleek black gauntlet reached from below the lens, grabbed the thick handle, and threw it open. Intense purple light inundated the screen.
The throne room was busy with activity. Three guards stood on duty, one a Diamond Knight clad in black fencing gear and steel-meshed face mask, flanked by two of the King’s Royal Guards, wearing white gear and red capes over their right shoulders. In his thick red robe, dark blue jeans, and work boots, King Diamond leaned over a table covered with documents, talking to a lanky man with a dark brown blazer over a grey shirt, charcoal slacks, and red-leather loafers. The man looked up at the new arrival standing in the threshold, the lenses on his horn-rimmed glasses slightly enlarging his grey eyes under a well-groomed cut of amber hair.
“The Dragon is here, Your Majesty,” said the city’s celebrated educator, Professor Magnus Zwei.
Quentin Diamond turned, obviously exhausted from several days of military action. His disheveled cut of platinum white hair was held down by a modest gold crown. “Drake, what do you have to report?” he asked video’s cameraman.
“The rebels have overrun the guards,” said a firm voice so close that it reverberated through the small screen’s speakers. “Your enemies roam the castle’s halls.”
The king grew quiet in thought. “Post more of your knights at my daughter’s side,” he said. Then: “It’s time for you to evacuate, Magnus.” At his words, one of the attending Royal Guards stepped forward, the silver and bronze lapel pin on his chest in the sharp diamond edge of a baseball field.
The Professor accepted the command without hesitation. “Godspeed,” he said before
stepping away, his escort in tow. Drake stepped aside so they could pass.
When they had, Drake reached out and slid the bulky, reinforced lock across the door behind them, turning to the king’s back as he read his reports.