of the Old World
© 2017 Brett P. S.
book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents
either are products of the author’s imagination or are used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead,
events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Table of Contents
Into the Chasm
Dianne coughed up a
puff of sand as streams fell across her jacket from the hole above.
Rays of evening sunlight leaked through the split open sinkhole,
casting a soft glow that barely reached her. Dianne lay on her back,
curled from the heaving smack of her body hitting hard sandstone.
She cradled her arm, lurching to sit up with increasing success.
“Remind me to
watch my step next time,” she said. “Oh right. I’m talking to
She pushed herself
up to a sitting position, wincing from the abrupt jerking movement.
She inspected her arms, running her fingers up and down the lengths
of her forearm. She pressed down at certain points to check for any
sore spots. So far, no lingering injuries, nothing a medibot
couldn’t fix. She’d need to either climb back up or hail a
transport crew, and the former didn’t look like a solid option.
Dianne fished out her comm stick from her jacket pocket and held it
up to the light.
said. “Broke as hell.”
Her fall had cracked
the case and nearly cleaved the device in two. Moreover, the power
light wasn’t lighting up as it should have been doing. The
rectangular stick was now about as useful as a brick, though its
condition mattered little in light of her predicament. Transports
would come eventually, and they would find her. Heaven forbid the
Order lose track of Dianna Dubois or heads would roll.
against her overriding better judgment, she rose to her feet. The
fall had cracked her shoes, and one arm had taken more of a beating
than the other had. She clutched her left arm, the one that
sustained most of the impact, with her right hand. It seemed fine
enough laying down her side, though she should fasten something for
She released her
cradling gesture and dusted off her jacket before she unhooked the
strap on her survival gear, a fine pouch clipped to her belt. She
rifled through the contents, taking care not to slice open her finger
on something sharp. Dianne grabbed a pocket flashlight with her two
fingers and switched it on. She aimed the light into the depths of
the chasm she’d fallen into and watched as the rays bounced off
marble and sandstone.
now?” she said.
Dianne hobbled over
to one such marble structure. She’d heard of marble quarries
before, but this wasn’t nearly identical in scope or nature. Chasm
would have been a terrible term to apply to this particular
predicament as well, especially on two points.
First, and most
notably, her current confinements were quite small, even maze-like,
with structures of stone leading off into pathways deeper into the
underground. Second, and more importantly, as she pressed her hand
against the softly carved white and black marble walls …
Dianne huffed as she
walked down a set of corridors, walls lined in old plaster and stone.
She brushed back a set of curtain rods, the cloth eaten clean to the
bone from the decay of centuries past. The Order had claimed
something very different from what she was seeing now, her flashlight
revealing lost pieces of the old world.
She’d begun to
recognize the architecture of the building. Some of the sculptures
and pieces stood mostly preserved. It was a museum of some kind.
She glanced across to her right as she entered another sizable
chamber. Statues reminiscent of old Greco-Roman artists stood with
chips and missing limbs, but they stood nonetheless.
She hummed a tune to
herself to keep the pain in her arm at bay. Her better judgment had
told her to stay put and wait for the transport to locate her, but
the explorer inside begged to differ. What had started as a romp
through the old desert wastelands outside city limits had turned into
something of quaint curiosity, for better or worse, something more.
“I wonder how old
you are,” she said, eying one such statue.
She turned and paced
over to the carved sculpture. Dianne had always shown an interest in
the lost eras. The old world had been something grand, or so she’d
been told. That past laid buried in centuries of time and rubble at
the dawning of a new world. People used to be so barbaric in those
days, making war with grotesque tools. She ran her fingers across
the grooves, feeling a metaphorical gap.
“It’s all so
distant,” she said, kneeling down for a rest. “You don’t mind
if I sit down for a minute, do you?” She paused, smiling. “Of
course, you don’t. I’ll bet you’ll find any company pleasant.”
Good lord, she was
conversing with a statue. Dianna checked her pulse and the
temperature of her forehead. A little elevated, probably the
adrenaline from the fall. It had occurred minutes ago, so it made
sense that she’d be feeling the effects for a while longer.
Especially still, as long as the pain and general discomfort refused
to subside, she’d continue feeling it for hours to come.
supposed to exist, friend,” she said. “I have it on good
authority that nothing survived the war.” She paused, looking up
at the athletic man’s action-oriented pose. He seemed frozen in
time, a relic of a forgotten age. “Of course, this would mean that
the Order neglected to account for all relics, either in earnest or
Dianne pressed her
thumb to her mouth and bit on the nail. It was a troubling
possibility, to say the least. While the latter would present itself
as benign, the former evoked a much darker picture. She’d need to
think on this some more, explore further into the ruins. See more of
whatever lied outside the museum. Dianne rose to her feet with
discomfort and dusted off her jacket.
“Well, good day,
sir,” she said. “I hope we meet again soon. I should like to
see you in a better kept museum.”
Dianne aimed her
flashlight down the room toward set of old oak doors rotten to pieces
from centuries in isolation. She trudged over and curled her
flashlight tightly inside her fingers. With one good smack, she
punched a crater of a hold through the wood. To her, it felt as if
she’d pushed her hand through a cloud. The rest of the door came
crashing down in a pile of fibers that spread through the room. The
splash of dust blew across her face. She shut her eyes and mouth in
time to avoid the sudden rush until the dust settled.
Dianne let out a
cough and cautiously opened her eyes to look upon the sight, a deep
darkness. A void as deadening as she’d ever seen, one her
flashlight couldn’t touch. Outside the museum and by her feet, a
set of steps retreated into the dark of the chasm. It was a city,
and she stood on a hilltop museum.
“Now, this is more
to my liking,” she said.
Line of Inquiry
Dianna crept through
empty streets, cold ruins of a city time forgot. The road by her
feet lay cracked and overgrown with vines and moss slick to the
touch. She wouldn’t be able to run well, though a steady stride
did the job. She could walk much more easily now, more so once she’d
climbed down from the hilltop.
Her arm still ached,
a little numb, though it didn’t seem broken. She probably smacked
a nerve too hard. Dianna wasn’t a doctor, but she knew enough
about her body to assume she wasn’t in any immediate danger. Once
the Order arrived on the scene, they’d take care of her. The Order
treated its citizens well, however …
“I should exercise
caution perhaps,” she said to herself.
Dianna paused at the
sound of a flicker coming from her right. She turned and aimed her
flashlight toward a pile of rubble that once was a tavern. She could
tell from the burnt out neon sign, the gasses faded from a cracked
opening. She walked across the street to the wreckage and examined
the pieces in greater depth, her eyes perusing the wreckage.
Frayed wires sparked
deep between blocks of concrete. She followed the arching path of
the chords until they disappeared into the building itself. Dianna
glanced across to her left and spotted a decrepit open doorway, the
metal slider blown off the hinges. She folded her arms and smirked.
“Mustn’t be a
rude guest,” she said. “I should pay my respects.”
through the narrow opening and into what appeared to be a tavern.
She raised her flashlight to highlight the depths inside, but she
barely managed the movement halfway before the electricity hummed
through the establishment in full coursing power. She froze in place
as lights flashed on and music from dead artists played. A disco
ball spun around the center ceiling, causing flares of glowing colors
to span around the tavern.
Dianna shrunk back
as the chunk of ceiling the ball had been mounted to fell to the
floor, though the motorized mechanism continued to spin the piece
across the carpet. She huffed and stepped further inside, if not
without some due caution. This waterhole was 2oo years old. Who
knew what might fall next.
she said. “I recognize a fine establishment when I see one.
What’s the phrase now?” She paused. “Bartender?”
Dianna spoke the
words, having read them from a script in the Order’s archives. She
hadn’t recalled much of what she read, content in not knowing much
from the Old World, but her recent brush with death had piqued her
curiosity. It was time to pry for something more. She waited as a
mechanized figure rolled up from a storage hatch at the far end of
the counter in front of her.
She took a seat at
one of the stools, the one covered with the least rust, though they
had all undergone serious deterioration. She took it as a precaution
not to put all her weight on the stool. The drone, seemingly
humanoid in appearance, rolled up to her and stopped with decent
precision. It spoke to her in a mechanical tone.
Beecher’s Pub, ma’am,” it said. “How might I serve you?”
Dianna paused and
sized up the creature. It spoke with surprising accuracy, despite
the ache in its gears. The voice box didn’t compare to those in
the Order’s patrol drones, but for two centuries late to the party,
it wasn’t too bad. Mechanically, it stood tall with a solid silver
torso and two posable arms for service functions. Judging by his
lack of mobility, she assumed his ‘services’ boiled down to
pouring drinks, preparing dishes and accepting funds.
“I don’t believe
you’ll have anything on your menu that I want to sample today,”
she said. “But I would like to ask some questions, if you please.”
“Of course ma’am,”
he said. “I will answer to the best of my knowledge base.”
Dianna smiled. “A
fine drone.” She paused. “What can you tell me of your last day
The drone whizzed,
as if contemplating the question. “Specify, please. What factual
information would you like me to recall, ma’am?”
Dianna rested face
against her palm.
“Oh, you have to
be difficult, don’t you?”
She Turned and Ran
Dianna perched on
her seat, pushing the brunt of her weight on the stool by now. She’d
grown more accustomed to her surroundings, despite the shoddy state
of the architecture. She examined the drone, silver face with some
rust around the edges. The Order presented a very different picture
of the Old World. They’d left some things uncovered, as it were,
evidence to the contrary, considering the tale they’d spun.
“What was the date
of your last day in operation?” she asked.
The drone responded
quickly. “December 22, 2086.”
Dianna smiled. Good
to hear. The date he mentioned was about one year into the global
conflict. The city must have shut down abruptly once the bombs fell.
According to her geographical knowledge, this city would have been
in the Old World’s Central America. The underground locale
presented more questions than answers, however.
“Is this city
“Excuse me ma’am?”
the robot asked. “Please clarify your question to those within my
she said. “Was this city underground during your last day of
He hummed and
whizzed. “No. I have no recollection of such an act.”
They buried it.
Dianna bit her lip. This was a troubling scenario for her, as she’d
stumbled onto something much deeper than she’d expected. It would
have been easy enough for the warring factions at the time to find a
city in the middle of the States, easier still for the Order to bomb
these ruins into the dust.
“Let me ask you
something, robot,” she said. “How many people are currently
registered as living in this city?”
The drone processed
her question with considerable difficulty before it spoke. “As of
December 22, no individuals currently resided in Chicago. Evacuation
began on December 19.”
“Evacuated a whole
city in three days, eh?” she said. “Why clean house? Why stave
off the inevitable?”
“I am sorry,
ma’am,” he said. “My knowledge base does not allow for much in
terms of extrapolation. Can I offer you a cold beverage?”
Dianna said, sidestepping the comment. “What was the official news
headline the day of the evacuation?”
she said. “The most read one, I suppose.”
He retrieved the
information with more difficulty this time. The circuits blazed and
gears grinded inside his metal body. The drone stood on his last leg
since her arrival, but these inquiries of hers only served to
accelerate the process.
“Beware the Blood
Order,” he said. “City-wide evacuation in process. The Blood
Order claims Europe.” He paused. “The aforementioned were front
Dianna stood up from
her seat. She watched the stool crumble beneath the wake of her
movements. She took a few steps back as the robot whizzed, and the
last breath of life sparked free of it in a pile of smoke. That was
all she was going to gather from it, but the statement left her with
a cold chill in her inflamed arm. She clutched it to feel the warmth
from her hand, a futile effort.
“The Blood Order,”
she said. “Now, that’s a name I’ve never heard before.”
Just how much did
the Order cover up? Moreover, how much of what they claimed was
actually true? She thought on the matter for a moment or two, but
the silence of her thoughts and the hum of the tavern broke abruptly
with the sound of sirens. Drones from the Order. They’d come to
rescue her, or at least she would have considered it moments ago.
Dianna paced over to
the open, rotten doorway to the tavern and peeked out into the dark
void to spot tiny red and blue lights in the dark of the chasm,
accursed beads in the belly of a forgotten world. Dianna stepped out
into the street. She turned away from the drones, and she ran.