For this week’s blog post I wanted to share the first five pages of my science-fiction novel, Elseworld. I am still seeking publication for it and I am also working on a second novel in the meantime.
Bitham knew that a bloodstained planet was somewhere west of him: Thousands, maybe millions of miles away. Despite that distance, the planet was still a constant presence in his life. It motivated him to pursue a career in law enforcement, and now it was going to give him a promotion. The bloodstained planet had been uninhabited for centuries, but newer generations of its people now lived on Bitham’s planet. Confined to their plantations, they were now a key source of labour, still paying off their ancestor’s debt. Bitham knew some people who still thought that the slaves should be exterminated, the same way their people tried to exterminate his.
Escaped slaves protested their treatment the only way their race knew – with violence. The deadliest of these terrorists were somewhere in the city of Mari, the city that Bitham was now living in. Which brought Bitham back to the thought he didn’t want to confront: he owed something to the people who were terrorizing the planet. Did that thought occur to the nineteen other men sitting in the room with him?
Bitham didn’t sit too close to anyone else. Ahead of him, he had a clear view of the podium and forty rows of chairs. No one bothered to remove the extras to accommodate this meeting. With golden tiles at his feet and metal walls all around him, Bitham felt like the room represented the combination of royalty and military that he would become, once he beat his competitors. Some of the other men were conversing amongst themselves but Bitham stayed alone – conversing with an opponent might give away information that could help them defeat him. He also did not want to get emotionally attached to people he would probably never see again.
The walls echoed sound all across the room and although the men all spoke quietly Bitham could make out snippets of their conversations: Names, cities, and occupations. They were all policemen, but policemen drawn from all across the planet. Each police force would have its own strengths and weaknesses, and Bitham wanted any information that could prove useful for the tests ahead.
He heard one man say he was from Varos, the neighbouring city. He would probably be one of the best drivers here, trained to manoeuvre through Varos’s dense web of skyscrapers. Bitham knew driving skills would probably be irrelevant for the tests since the uniforms here would enable policemen to fly. Even the most skilled driver would be starting from scratch.
Bitham already determined that it would make more sense for the tests to focus on intelligence and fitness. If that was the case, he had no doubt he’d succeed. If he miscalculated, then the tests would be much more difficult than he hoped.
Instead of eavesdropping on the conversations ahead, Bitham looked to his right to admire the poster of the man he hoped to meet someday. The ruler of Mari and the entire planet of Gabun: Damiak. The poster covered most of the wall, save for a few inches on the four corners. Damiak stood at an outdoor podium, standing high above an audience of admiring Gabuns. His arms were spread to his sides as he gazed at the crowd below him, with the golden sun behind him adding an ethereal glow. With this opportunity, Bitham could meet Damiak one day.
A door opened ahead of him and Bitham’s attention returned to the front. All chatter died immediately, with unfinished sentences bouncing off the metal walls before they died. A man was now entering the room, using a door positioned behind the podium. He was around six feet tall, with a slim build. Bitham knew he was about fifty, but the man’s face belonged to someone ten years older. Everyone already knew he was Eccaus, the city’s minister.
As Eccaus stopped behind the podium, he launched into a speech most definitely handed down by Damiak. Everyone knew that with Damiak’s strict control of his planet, Eccaus and every other ministers answered to him and all of their political decisions could be overridden. Having someone else to speak for him was only a convenience meant to ensure that Damiak’s time was not overly consumed and that he remained protected. Despite that, Eccaus and his position were greatly respected. It was still the greatest milestone any citizen could hope for.
“Good afternoon. You are the twenty people in all of Gabun who the government views as law enforcers of exceptional integrity. None of you have a wife or children; you understand that if you are granted this position all of your time and loyalty will be devoted to your ruler. You will all have an equal chance of ascending to the position of Gabun’s newest police division, the Order of Malvag. The Order of Malvag will act both as detectives and enforcers that work with the police to eliminate any threat to Damiak and his people. The suits you will receive were created by our planet’s best engineers and scientists, and designed to make you far more adaptable and efficient than any other policemen.”
“Only two will make it through this program. There will be eighteen challenges, and at least one person will be eliminated after each. I will not give you briefing on what the challenges constitute. Being able to succeed in an unplanned situation is a valuable skill in police work. Starting tomorrow, you will meet in this room every morning at seven, in your police uniforms. If you are late you are automatically disqualified. That will be all; you have the rest of the day to do as you please.”
Eccaus left quickly and Bitham followed suit: He left the room before his competitors stood up. The golden tiles continued into the hallway outside the meeting room, and so did the steel walls. White light bathed the floor, emanating from a cylindrical bulb that was built into the roof and covered by bulletproof glass. Bitham passed other rooms, knowing that officers were hard at work, perhaps compiling evidence or doing paperwork in each one that he passed. Yet he couldn’t see or hear anything.
Bitham knew the architecture in this city was once decadent and impractical, but the threat of terrorism made it important for that to change. Every room in this building could serve as a bunker if the building was ever attacked. Fortunately the terrorists never attacked it. Aside from the sentries, authorities thought that they avoided attacking this building due to its position at the northern end of the city. Most of their attacks were concentrated near the center of Mari, supporting the theory that they were hiding somewhere in the southern end. Bitham was determined to be one of the people that solved the mystery.
Reaching the end of the hallway, Bitham ascended the staircase to the building’s lobby. There was one desk positioned to the left of the staircase, where a police officer stood, waiting for any criminals to be brought in for processing. There were small piles of paper arranged all over the desk, everything from travel permits to kits for fingerprinting. Bitham nodded as he passed, only receiving a stare in return. That didn’t matter; he’d be the man’s commanding officer in a few weeks.
As Bitham stepped foot outside and onto the station’s behemoth parking lot, the sun’s rays greeted him, replacing the white light from the bulbs. Hundreds of parking spaces were empty. It seemed like most of the vehicles – the levpods, were being used for patrols all across the city. The parking lot was bigger than it needed to be, but it provided a flat and unobscured area that extended for nearly one hundred yards. Bitham looked towards the roof, seeing that two police snipers were still stationed there, with a tarp shielding them from the sun’s heat.
Instead of heading for the residence building, Bitham flashed the visitor badge around his neck to the snipers before walking around the right side of the building. As he passed the building’s east side, he realized how accustomed he was to peaking in windows. Instead of seeing officers hard at work, Bitham was only greeted by blue stone: Another precaution against the terrorists. Homes all across the city were redesigned over the past three years, with stone and steel, to resemble this building.
A much smaller parking lot, maybe only fifty feet long, gave way to a grassy field in the backyard. Bitham heard footsteps and glanced up to the roof again, seeing two more officers patrolling the northern end. Instead of concrete, they could admire the view of the lake that bordered the police station’s northern end.
A wall was erected hundreds of years ago to create the peasant quarter, and in addition to segregating the poor, the wall also obstructed the natural flow of numerous rivers. The lake behind the police station was carved out to relieve the water pressure. Bitham didn’t care about the poor, but if they had been allowed to die he would be denied the view.
The water’s torrents rushed away to his right, bathed in sunlight and creating a white trail that led into a heavily wooded forest on the horizon. In addition to the view, the scent of freshwater was a welcome change from the bleached surfaces in the police station.
Bitham remembered all the sacrifices he had made to get here: The friends he lost, the childhood summers spent in government training camps… the list went on, but Bitham felt no regret. Everything had been worth it to this point; he knew he would make his leader proud.
There was no better time to prove his loyalty.