Chapter 10 "What The Hell Happened?"

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The Rifts

 

Rift is the colloquial term used for the tears in time and space scattered across the planet. Erupting at the intersections of two or more Ley Lines (see separate entry), Rifts allow for passage between different places on the Earth, in the universe, and in other dimensions. The Rifts are the primary byproduct of the Great Cataclysm. Though seen by many as strictly a mystical construct there are indications that human science during the Golden Age was experimenting with a technological version of a Rift called the Einstein Rosen Bridge or a Wormhole.

 

            - University of New Lazlo Database (Updated 100 PA)

 

University of New Lazlo Encampment

            “The time before the Cataclysm was a Golden Age,” Books said.

            When word got out that Professor Books was going to do some teaching many members of the GBMC gravitated towards the fire. Rudy brought out a chest filled with bottles of bright fizzy liquid and Meg tried one for the first time since meeting the group.

            “Oh my God!” she exclaimed after the first drink of the cold beverage. “This is Faygo, this is Rock & Rye!”

            “Yep,” Rudy said plopping down next to her, “I was part of a team that brought an old Faygo bottling plant back online outside of New Lazlo,” he said proudly.

            “Breaking out your private stocks?” Adam asked sitting on Meg’s other side. “I thought you just wanted to get in her pants not convince her to marry you Rudy,” the giant said laughing as crimson exploded on the operator’s face.

            “You’re a jerk,” Rudy muttered looking away.

            Meg giggled. “Play nice guys because none of you are getting in my pants,” she said downing the rest of the sticky sweet soda.

            “Well,” Books continued not even noticing the interplay around the fire. “We call it a Golden Age, but the truth is we have only the sketchiest of records from the era. At that time most information was stored in an entirely digital format and the databases holding much of that information were lost during the second Dark Age.”

            Meg thrust her hand into the night air.

            “Yes, Meg,” Books said surprised by the interruption.

            “We were already close to being more or less an all digital society in my time,” she said. “Paper record storage was reserved for backups and less developed areas.”

            “True and there were still physical records when the Rifts came,” Books said nodding. “But two hundred years of anarchy before something approaching civilization was reestablished caused a lot of it to be lost.”

            Meg’s hand was in the air once more.

            Grinning, Books nodded for her to go ahead with her question.

            “What is a Rift?” Meg asked.

            Almost as one, the entire group of Grey Bear Mercenaries laughed. It took Meg a second to realize they weren’t laughing at her, they were laughing at themselves. Of course she didn’t know what a Rift was, from her point of view this was all brand new and she was still in a latent shock. Before Books could answer, Miranda gave her a quick and conscience rundown on what a rift was.

            “As I said before, the deaths caused by the nuclear exchange injected a jolt of energy into the planet’s ley line network.” Before Meg could get her hand up he hurried on with an explanation. “In the mid twentieth century, fringe scientists and mystics realized may significant places from antiquity lined up in odd geometric combinations. Places such as Stone Henge, the Great Pyramids, and Easter Island were nexus points for hundreds, maybe thousands of these alignments. We don’t know who it was but one of those people coined the term ‘Ley Line’ for these invisible lines.”

            “Not so invisible now,” Karl said. The battle scared, power-armor jockey had joined the group without saying a word. He turned to look at Meg and smiled sheepishly. “The big ones are wide rivers of pulsating energy flowing across the Earth, and they’re actually kinda pretty.”

            “Stories from the Dark Age describe them as rivers of chaos throwing off bolts of energy and smashing anything they touched,” Books said taking back the conversation. “That can still happen at certain times of the year but it’s pretty rare.”

            “So how did that end my civilization?” Meg asked not bothering to raise her hand.

            “If it’d just been the eruption of the Ley Lines and opening of the Rifts, your society might have survived,” Books said sounding a little sad. “The Cataclysm caused the Earth to shudder in its orbit. We have a transmission from the stations in orbit on the day showing the globe shake.”

            Meg hissed in shocked wonder.

            “The results were… well they were catastrophic,” Books continued.  “Nearly every volcano and fault line let go. Tidal waves inundated the coasts and killed the majority of all humans within hours. Ash blotted out the sun and the temperatures plunged. Oh yeah, and hundreds of alien life forms were ripped from their home worlds and deposited on the shattered Earth. More than ten billion people died in a single day and we came within a hairs breadth of going out forever.”

            “Everything’s gone?” Meg whispered.

            “Not everything,” Colonel McCoy said. “There were isolated areas that managed to keep the lights on. From those places we rebuilt our lost technology, rediscovered magic lost for thousands of years, and didn’t forget where we came from.”

            “No more America, no more University of Michigan, no more Belleville, no more Mom, Dad and Ricky?!” Meg was building up a head of steam. All the joking and shock melted away only to be replaced by fear and rage.

            “Meg, you need to calm down,” Miranda said placing a hand on her arm. She quickly drew her hand back wincing in pain from the heat radiating from the young woman’s body. To Miranda it felt like touching a furnace blasting at full intensity.

            “I want to go home,” Meg said getting to her feet. “I want to go home right now!”

            “Meg,” Miranda said scrambling to her feet and backing away. “Meg, your magic energy is building exponentially—you have to calm down.”

            “She can’t hear you,” YJ said holding his temples. “She’s blasting fear so strong I can’t block it out.”

            The members of the Grey Bear Company backed away from the young woman. They were all veterans of a thousand crazy and unbelievable situations, and in its own way this one was no weirder than any of the others.

            All of them, except one.

            Miranda stopped retreating and instead approached her. “Meg, honey, you need to relax and concentrate,” she said keeping her palms out and speaking as calmly as she could. “I know this is all new and scary, but there are a lot of people here you could hurt without meaning to,” she continued.

            “I want to go home,” Meg sobbed collapsing to the ground. “I want my mom!”

            Miranda dropped to one knee, hesitated, and then touched the girl. The heat was gone as if it’d never been there. Scooping Meg into her arms and rocking her. “I know sweetie,” she cooed stroking her soft blonde hair. “I’m sorry to tell you this is where you are now, but you’re with friends.”

To Be Continued…

            

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