I had lived a happy childhood, for the most part. I had two hard-working Imperial Major Autofficer parents, who, even though they worked hard, always made just enough time for me at the end of the day. Their salaries were large, and received considerable benefits due to the fact that my father, Lucian, was Emperor Lucky’s brother.
When my parents left to go to work in the morning, I was left with my nanny, a widow named Mrs. Hudson, who would entertain me by playing board games, telling me stories, or just watching me when I played with the kids who went to school. Unlike them, I was tutored at home by Mrs. Hudson, or my mother, Lusciana, who would teach me not from textbooks, but from visual experiences.
I might learn about the laws of motion by my mother pushing me on the swings, then suddenly stopping me and catching me as I fell. “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.” She would say, and from then on, whenever I would need to remember the specifics of that lesson, I would remember her pushing me on the swings.
Lessons such as that took place often, and I enjoyed them with all my being. When my father came home, we would play a game of football, with me screaming in delight when my father would run at me and gently wrestle me to the ground, with my mother and Mrs. Hudson watching from afar, laughing at my antics to try and outrun my faster and stronger father.
But none of those times compared to Wednesdays, when my uncle Lucky would show up at my home in Evercity’s front door, pick me up, throw me into the air, and take me on some great adventure. It would start out with us walking to an ice-cream shop, him buying me my favorite flavor, vanilla-caramel, then running off to the park, where we would throw breadcrumbs to the robotic ducks, then taking a walk through town, with my choosing any activity that caught my eye. We might player laser-tag indoors one Wednesday, then the following week, go rock climbing. My uncle Lucky made sure that we never did the same thing twice, and I loved him for it.
One day, my uncle Lucky showed up at my front door on a Wednesday, took my hand, and said we were going somewhere very special that day. We skipped ice cream, much to my frustration, but all of my hard feelings disappeared when the Imperial Taxi we were in took us straight to Lucky’s castle, where we spent the rest of the day touring and exploring the secret passages that led from room to room. We might enter through the kitchen, then emerge in the throne room.
But my favorite memory was when Lucky took me to the subterranean workshop beneath the castle, showing off all of his top-secret inventions. All sorts of machines modeled after every type of creature imaginable were there, either finished, half-built, or having only the blueprints finished. “This, Nautilus, is the Automanticore.” Lucky once said, showing me blueprints for a machine that resembled a mashup of a lion, dragon, and scorpion. “Once finished, it will be the crown of the Imperial forces, and no-one will be able to stop us.” Lucky continued, a twinkle in his eyes and a smile on his lips as I took interest in the blueprints. “Unfortunately, the technology required is unfathomable in today’s time, and it will take at least ten years for the technology to catch up with this idea.” Lucky finished. “Wow… does it breathe fire?” I asked. “No, it doesn’t-” Lucky started to reply before he suddenly stopped. “That’s a good idea.” Lucky said, grinning as he took me into his arms and put me on his shoulders. “The Manticore needs to breathe fire!” Lucky announced to the room, causing everyone to listen and shout affirmations. “And shoot missiles from it’s tail!” I said, feeling great at having everyone in the room obey my orders. “Hear that, engineers? Make it shoot missiles from it’s tail!” Lucky said as all of the engineers got to work, resketching blueprints and rewelding machine parts. “Yippee!” I shouted, having the time of my life.
Lucky took me to the far end of the workshop, then set me down on the ground. “I need to talk to some of my head scientists, you stay here. I’ll only be gone for a few minutes.” Lucky said before striding off and turning a corner. I glanced around, looking for anything to entertain me. The only things around were machine parts, and a half-finished Automaton cockroach lying on the floor. I gingerly picked it up from the floor and transported it to a table, where I added a few cogs and such until the machine was finished. I turned the crank on it’s back, and lo and behold, it started jumping around. “Uncle Lucky! Uncle Lucky!” I yelled, squealing in delight at what I had made. “What is it?” Lucky asked, suddenly appearing next to me. “I fixed this! I made it!” I replied, turning the crank on the cockroach’s back once more until it jumped around again. “My word, Nautilus. You’re quite the technokinetic.” Lucky said. Little did I know, he had been spying on me from one of the secret passages in the workshop, hoping I would get bored and try fixing the Automaton cockroach, to test my technokinetic and engineering skills.
“Tell you what, how about from now on, every Wednesday we’ll come here, and I’ll have a new machine for you to fix. Sound good?” Lucky asked. “Yes!” I replied, doing a little dance of joy. Lucky laughed at my dancing, and I laughed along with him. At the time, I didn’t notice that everyone in the workshop cringed at our laughing resonating through the room and bouncing off the metal walls.
Week after week, Lucky would come on Wednesdays to pick me up, drive me over to his castle, and then watch me closely as I fixed whatever he put in my hands on a little workbench he set up next to his throne. I would fix a small Technomite’s main engine, or I would build a fog boiler from parts that Lucky set in front of me. Eventually, I got better and better, and Lucky would give me bigger and harder tasks, like disassembling then re-assembling a pocket watch in under a minute. I got it done in half that time. I was slowly beginning to fall in love with machinery, and soon began asking Lucky for parts so I could build my own creations. I made a miniature robotic mouse, a small lizard, and a mechanical bird over the course of a few months, much to Lucky’s delight. “Nautilus, you really do have a future in the mechanics industry.” He once said to me.
One week, instead of taking me to his workshop, Lucky took me to the highest tower of his castle and showed me the view. “Nautilus, all of this is Aethesia.” Lucky said, casting his arms out and pointing out the large landmarks across the country. “Wow… it’s so big.” I replied in awe. “Indeed, it is, and I’m the ruler of all of it.” Lucky said. “I used fog to get to my throne. Fog empowers the powerless, and strengthens the weak.” Lucky continued. “Unfortunately, some people would prefer to have all of the power to themselves, and I’m constantly fighting rebellion and resistance every day.” Lucky finished. “I’ll help you fight the bad guys!” I replied, raising my fists and pretending to fight someone. “They won’t stand a chance against both of us and our Automatons! Fog is mighty!” I continued before getting tired from all of my shadowboxing. “Fog is mighty.” Lucky said, patting my on the back before crouching down and looking me in the eyes. “But I’m not mighty or strong enough to live forever.” Lucky said seriously. “I’ve only got about twenty years left before I bite the dust.” Lucky continued. “And when that happens… I want you to rule.” Lucky finished. “Me? But I’m just a kid.” I replied. “Now, yes, but in twenty years, you will be a man, and wise enough to rule this entire kingdom with the commanding power of fog.” Lucky said. “Wow… I can’t wait!” I replied, gazing out at the sunset.
The thought of ruling an entire country haunted my thoughts constantly, and I always imagined me on Lucky’s golden throne, commanding the kingdom with the power of fog!
But then, the very next day, everything changed.
“Don’t even try, Lucian.” My mother said from downstairs. It was Thursday night, and I was listening to my parents argue in the kitchen from the steps that led upstairs and to my bedroom. “But, Lusciana, this is important! They’re not just some-” My father started to reply. “Ragtag group of rebels who cause nothing but trouble?” My mother interjected. “No, they’re not! They’re an organized Resistance, and their ideals make sense! All I’m asking is for you to come to the meeting with me.” My father pleaded. “Well, I won’t come! And I certainly won’t allow you to take Nautilus to one of that band of ruffians’ meetings!” My mother replied before stomping out of the kitchen and out of my earshot. “But, Lusciana…” I heard my father try to say as he followed my mother out.
I had a hard time falling asleep that night. “Why was my father sympathizing with the bad guys?” I wondered. “The Resistance is evil… right?” That was my last thought before I fell asleep. That night, I dreamt of a giant, foggy silhouette terrorizing a city, with it eating all of the buildings, engulfing them in fog. Suddenly, a red blob appeared on one of the streets of the city, then ran straight at the foggy beast. The foggy silhouette laughed, picked up the red blob, then dropped it into it’s mouth in delight. The beast was licking it’s chops when suddenly, it’s eyes bulged, it tried to hold it’s mouth closed, and it burst into sparkly particles, with the city suddenly repairing itself. The dream faded away, all was black. Suddenly, the red blob reappeared and came in from a distance. It walked forward until it became a man in a red cloak. “Who are you?” I asked the man. “I am the way, the truth, and the light.” The man said. “Follow me.” The man finished before turning on his heels and walking away.
I woke up the next morning, confused as to what my dream was. I walked downstairs, and fixed myself a bowl of cereal. I was reading the newspaper when I nearly choked on my spoon. Lo and behold, the man from my dream was on the front page of the newspaper. I quickly scanned the title. “The Scarlet Man, Leader of the Resistance, and wanted vagabond!” It read. I quickly scanned the article. It detailed the Resistance, the main troublemaking organization and enemy of the Empire, and their alleged leader, a man who called himself The Scarlet Man. The article called him “highly dangerous”, “unpredictable”, and “blasphemous”, and were offering an Imperial-backed reward of ten thousand cogs to anyone who could give information as to him or his current whereabouts. I was baffled as to why I would dream of a wanted criminal, and as such, I consulted the wisest and oldest person I knew. I told Mrs. Hudson about the situation, and her immediate response was: “Don’t tell anyone about this.” I was surprised, and asked her why. “Because your Uncle would have you imprisoned or worse if he found out you had dreamt about The Scarlet Man.” Mrs. Hudson replied. “But why?” I asked. Mrs. Hudson smiled a sweet smile, then told me stories of what Aethesia was like before Lucky came to the throne, and about the greatest technokinetic, The Great Engineer, who ruled this land before Lucky usurped his rule. “Uncle Lucky did that?!” I exclaimed. Mrs. Hudson smiled a sad smile, nodding slowly. “I’m afraid he did. It’s common knowledge for most people, but some prefer to ignore the facts.” Mrs. Hudson replied. She then continued, giving me a complete history of Aethesia, including the facts that had previously been censored, up until now. “Wow…” I said, thinking over everything I had just heard. Aethesia had seemed so perfect before, but it was then I realized that it was just the opposite.
“Indeed. Now, let’s get on with breakfast. Eggs and toast?” Mrs. Hudson asked before we went about our day. After that talk, I was much more aware of my surroundings. I noticed that instead of the pristine, clean streets with the presence of fog for atmosphere I had thought the streets of Evercity once were, in reality, they were fog-dense, with dulling copper and bronze everywhere, not to mention the Automaton patrols. The picture of Aethesia Lucky had once fooled me into believing was fading, being replaced with actual reality. I was mortified by the lies Lucky had told me and everyone else, and was ashamed to be called a Lightblast. I was even more ashamed on Wednesdays, when Lucky would come over and take me to his castle, where I would tinker with machines. I would have to pretend to be excited, and pretend to agree when he talked about the power of fog, which I once believed was all-mighty. Now, I found it to be a twisted substance, a terrible experiment resulting in everyone’s misfortune. When I would build, I would be disgusted that I had to use fog to power my machines, and would often try alternative solutions, such as cranks and electricity. I saw that Lucky noticed this, but kept quiet about it. I was beginning to suspect that he knew of my knowledge of the truth of Aethesia, and nightmares tormented my dreams for the next month. Lucky would break down my front door with an army of Automatons, letting fog seep into the house, which choked my lungs, then point an accusing finger at me and shout “Traitor! Traitor!”
During the day, I also began to notice the absence of other children around me. When I would try to go to the schoolyard and play with the students during recess, they would all make excuses, either having to go to the bathroom, or that they promised someone else to play the day before, or that they had to catch up with homework. I had never before suspected that they might be purposefully avoiding me, but I now knew that was the case. I was the relative of the Usurper, and as such, I was indirectly responsible for their misfortune, seemed to be their thinking. I was now looking at the world through different eyes, and knew that things were much, much worse than I had first thought. Not only outside of home, but at home as well.
A tension had grown between my parents, and my father now slept on the living room couch. Mrs. Hudson told me that my parents had had an argument, and she left it at that. But I wasn’t satisfied. Using skills I didn’t know I had, I engaged my parents in nonchalant conversations about the Resistance, fog, Imperials, and such, until I had enough to piece together the entire story. Apparently, my father had picked up a newspaper called the Beacon that he had never heard before accidentally on his way home from work, and had discovered that it was authored by Resistance members. Instead of turning the paper in, though, he had taken it home and read it, only to discover the truth about Aethesia and his brother Lucky. My father was mortified as well, but upon reading further, read about the hope that The Scarlet Man had brought. The newspaper announced a meeting at No Man’s Landing, and that anyone was welcome to attend. My father wanted to go, but my mother didn’t want him and his “treasonous blasphemy” anywhere near her or me. My father went anyway, and the very next day, he told my mother all about how life-changing it was. She ignored him still, and that was how the tension started.
But then, it grew.
That Wednesday, while I was with Uncle Lucky, a Major Imperial Autofficer showed up at our front door and asked to see my father. The Autofficer told my father that Imperial forces had spotted him at a Resistance rendezvous point, and that his brother Lucky was worried, and just wanted to be reassured that my father wasn’t sympathizing with the Resistance. My father reassured the Autofficer that he was not, then the Autofficer left. My mother wasn’t home at the time, but the next day, when she heard about that incident from one of her co-workers, she was fuming mad. When my father arrived at home from work, my mother harshly reprimanded him for sympathizing with the Resistance members, and putting me in danger, even though I was with Lucky. My father tried keeping calm, but he finally broke after a while. He started shouted. “Open your eyes, Lusciana! This country is in ruin, but we’re being fooled by a tyrannical dictator, who has managed to make even his own brother believe his lies! I don’t know what it will take to convince you, but I’m not going to stand by as Aethesia gets destroyed.” My father shouted, then stormed out of the house. My mother was shocked, then started crying.
After I got home from being with Lucky, I noticed the great sadness coming from my mother, then decided to investigate. Once again using nonchalant conversation and small snippets of clues from eavesdropping, I pieced together the story. I was glad my father was taking a stand against Lucky, but sad that my mother was blind to what was happening in Aethesia. I didn’t know what to do.
My mother received a phone call that night, and her face was serious. She told me that she had to take care of some urgent work, gave me a kiss on my forehead, then said she would be back in the morning. She told me she loved me, then she left.
I played games with Mrs. Hudson for a while (I was particularly fond of strategy games, such as chess, checkers, and Scrabble.), then went to bed. I couldn’t fall to sleep that night, and I couldn’t help shake the feeling that something was about to go terribly wrong.
And go wrong, something did.
That morning, as I was eating breakfast, my father burst in through the front door, his clothes tattered, his hair disheveled, and with a dumbstricken look on his face. He locked the door behind him, sat down at the table in the chair across from me, then stared into space for a few minutes. Mrs. Hudson was as shocked as I was from this event, but kept on with breakfast, casting worried glances back at my father. I examined his face, looking for what was wrong, until I could take it no longer. “Father, what’s wrong?” I asked. My father’s eyes darted from the wall to me with deep sadness. He opened his mouth, then closed it. After a few seconds of silence, he then burst into tears and put his head on the table, his arms folded around his head. I was baffled, and couldn’t shake the feeling that this had to do with my bad feeling from last night. I wondered what had happened that had caused my father to feel such grief as he did, and got my answer when Mrs. Hudson turned on the television in the living room. “We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for this urgent news bulletin.” The reporter said as he turned to what appeared to be a large, broken suspension bridge in the distance, with the center completely blown apart, and a large, wrecked train that was broken up in the rushing river below the bridge.
“Late last night, an automated train containing thousands of Imperial Automaton parts and supplies was sabotaged by the Resistance. The rebels attached a detonator to the bridge, and when the train was approaching the bridge, the Resistors blew the center up, causing the train to fall into the raging river below and become a wreck.” The reporter continued before turning back to the camera. “The train was automated, and as such, was supposed to have no people inside. Unfortunately, Imperial forces decided that they needed an Autofficer to keep an eye on the train and it’s cargo.” The reporter said as the screen flipped to photo of the Imperial Major Autofficer in charge of the train. Mrs. Hudson gasped in shock at the photo. “Lusciana Wrenfeather Lightblast was a loyal Autofficer, and served her country to her grave. You can see from this live footage that she tried to stop the train, but sadly, didn’t use the brake early enough. The entire country, with Emperor Lucky included, mourn the loss of such a great servant of fog.” The reporter continued. I was shocked. My mother was dead? This couldn’t be. She was my mother! She couldn’t be dead! I needed her! “The two Resistors who blew up the train are now wanted fugitives, second to only The Scarlet Man himself. For any information on their identities, please contact the number below.” I got up from the couch and left through the front door.
The last thing I heard from inside was “And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.”
I wandered around Evercity, using snippets of conversations and such to piece together the whole story. Apparently, my father joined the Resistance late last night, and was sent on his first mission with another new Resistor, to blow up the Imperial train, knowing that since it was automatic, there would be no casualties. Unfortunately, just as my father’s mission partner hit the detonation switch, my father caught a glimpse of his wife through one of the train’s windows. My father tackled his partner to the ground, but it was too late. The bridge blew, the train fell, my mother died. My father was dazed, and wandered throughout Evercity, mumbling intelligible words until he arrived at his house, where I was eating breakfast.
The rest of the day passed in a blur. Funeral preparations were organized, and I barely remembered the funeral. There was no body to be recovered, and as such, the funeral didn’t feel real. Lucky sent us a letter with his condolences, but my father ripped it to shreds then burnt it in the fireplace. “He thinks he can pull us back into his web of lies at our most vulnerable moment. Well, he’s wrong.” My father growled as the letter burnt to ashes.
The next Wednesday, I was not looking forward to my meeting with Lucky. Fortunately, and unfortunately, I never met with him again. The doorbell rang, and I opened it to greet Lucky. I was surprised to see three Lashers tower above me. “Greetings. Where is your father?” The Lasher grated, trying to appear pleasant even though it towered three times my height above me. “What’s going on?” My father asked as he came into the room. The Lasher’s tone immediately changed from something resembling warm and friendly to cold and calculating. “Lucian Lightblast, you are under arrest for treason, sabotage, and blasphemy.” The Lasher metallically rasped. “Hold for detainment.” The Lasher said as it tried to enter the doorway, only to discover that it was too wide. “Oh yeah?” My father growled before taking his rifle off the mantle. “Why don’t you hold for detriment?!” My father exclaimed as he cocked the gun and fired. The Lasher’s head flew off it’s shoulders, and it’s body fell forward into our house. “Resistance is futile.” A second Lasher grated as it used it’s arms to try and slingshot itself into our home, only to be hit by an exploding bullet in it’s chest. “Resistance is futile. But, rebellion is priceless!” My father shouted as he exploded a third Lasher. “Son, get out of here! Mrs. Hudson!” My father continued as more Lashers kept coming. I could see that he was running out of bullets. Mrs. Hudson came and tried to usher me towards the dining room. “No! I want to stay with you!” I cried, screaming for my father. My father momentarily faced me, and smiled a sad smile. “You’ll see me again, someday.” He said as he grabbed a grenade out of his pocket and threw it out the doorway, exploding a group of Lashers as more kept coming. “No!” I screamed, crying as Mrs. Hudson dragged me towards a bookshelf in the dining room, pulled a certain book, and a secret passage opened up. We ran through it and emerged in the nearby graveyard. We could just make out my house in the distance. We ran way when we heard a terrible scream, then a large explosion. “Father!” I screamed, crying for my father. “Come, child, we need to go.” Mrs. Hudson said as she led me away from the only home I had ever known.
Mrs. Hudson led me to a house she owned in No Man’s Landing, and for the next few years, she tried to raise me all on her own. I was deeply troubled by the loss of both my parents, and from then on, I never played. I didn’t have fun. I would just lie on my bed, staring up at the ceiling, playing back the memories of my late mother and father. Eventually, Mrs. Hudson got sick. The doctor said there was no hope, no-one survives from fog-rot, especially the elderly. She died. I got put in an orphanage. I escaped. From there on, I lived in Urchin’s Grotto, stealing garbage so I could eat, while the rest of Aethesia got worse and worse. I found a welder’s mask in an engineer’s trash, fixed it up, then put it on. I couldn’t bear to see my face. It brought back too many painful memories. Plus, it was a constant reminder of my loneliness, and my mask blocked those feelings from interfering with my everyday doings. Three, long years after living in the Grotto, a new kid arrived. I could’ve sworn I knew this kid, but I couldn’t place him. He sat down by a barrel, put his knees to his head, and cried. I recognized this cry, since I had once uttered it. It was the cry of a young child who has lost both his parents. I walked up to the kid, and suddenly, I knew. I put my hand on his shoulder and crouched down. The kid looked up and saw me. “Welcome to the Grotto, cuz.” I said. “Nautilus? Is it really you?” My cousin Roguecog asked. “Indeed, it is.” I replied. Roguecog was my cousin, and I hadn’t seen him ever since my parents’ had started arguing, and they had died. To think that I would meet him here, of all places, was unthinkable.
For a few years after that, we were inseparable. We would steal food together, and amuse ourselves with technology. We both had a knack with technology, though I would prefer making robots and such, while Roguecog would prefer making gadgets and weapons. One day, a wealthy inventor noticed my talent with technology, and offered me a job as his apprentice in Evercity. I agreed, and left the Grotto with the words “Things are looking up.” Sadly, it didn’t stay that way for long. I worked in the inventor’s shop for a month, until the day came where customers began asking for me exclusively to fix their machines and such. My employer became jealous, and began to look for a way to get rid of me. He found out that my father, now deceased, was once a Resistance member. After spreading that news around town, he fired me. Because of the rumors of my connection with enemies of the Empire, I couldn’t get a job in the whole of Evercity. Crushed, I began to pack up my few possessions and leave town. I was on my way out when I was intercepted by a bounty hunter, hired by Lucky, to try and find me. She had succeeded. Fortunately, Lucky’s plans to get rid of her once I was turned over to him backfired, and she helped me escape Evercity. It was from there I got the idea for the Rebellion. “Why let the Resistance do all the work? They’ve failed enough, haven’t they?” Seemed to be my thinking. I told the bounty hunter to stay in Evercity and set up shop for me. I would mail her gadgets that I had made in my new home in No Man’s Landing, and she would sell them on the black market for high prices, with no mention of my name whatsoever.
My money grew until it became a small fortune. From there, I invested in various small businesses under false names until my fortune doubled, then tripled. I was obsessed with the stock market for a few years, and my obsession paid off when I earned so much money that I received a letter from the First Imperial Bank of Aethesia, stating that my bank account had been temporarily blocked due to the frequent flow of money. My account was nearly bursting at the seams, and the flow of money was so fast moving, that I must be involved in some sort of criminal activity, the letter stated. I read the letter, then chuckled. The second my account was unblocked, I withdrew my money from the bank. Clearly, they couldn’t handle my shrewd business. Upon withdrawing my balance from the bank, I discovered that my parents had left me one final gift, to be opened five years after their death, by my hands only. I opened it, and it contained blueprints for a revolutionary device: M.U.L.T.I., a Swiss army knife of weapons, which I set to work on building right away. I stored my money in various small-time banks under false accounts, and the banks grew due to my money being stored in their vaults, both digital and physical. It eventually reached the point where I would have to spend some money, otherwise I would overload the banks with my money. I decided to build a manor in Evergreen Meadows, and after hiring some carpenters and architects anonymously, I sent them the blueprints for the manor and let them do their work. I was still left with a substantial amount of money, and pondered what to do with it. I wanted to use it not to benefit myself, but others. I went for a walk, and came across Urchin’s Grotto. I wanted to help all of the urchins who lived inside, but not just by giving them bags of cogs, which I did once I withdrew some funds from the bank. I wanted to build them a better future.
And so, the University Unitious was born, exactly for this purpose.
I continued to further my investments, building various buildings across Aethesia, and keeping a wary eye on the stock market. I bought any Ancient or Old Aethesian artifacts I could find, no matter the price, and learned from them and their craftmanship. I eventually discovered Aether, and powered most of my gadgets with it. I built some robotic companions, and then, after another year, it was finally the right time to make my move.
Rebellion was here.