Coming in early 2020
A New Series of Four Books
Capitolium: #2 The Keepers of Tyranny
Second in a Series
What if the rich do get richer? What if the poor do get poorer? Where will it all end 700 years from now? It ends in a land called Capitolium … or does it?
WHAT DREAMS ARE MADE
I feel as though I’m flying in a strange, yet familiar world. I opened my eyes and the wind rushed past my face. My hair blew out behind me, blonde instead of auburn the way it used to be before the Asterians changed it. I glanced down. I’m wearing a stained and tattered dress … one I haven’t worn of late. How did I get here, and where am I?
I concentrated on the back of the helmeted man dressed in a silver, tight-fitting uniform standing in front of me. He gripped a golden crossbar connected to the round platform beneath us, a platform that could hold four more like me. I noticed that my hands grasped a gray crossbar.
The platform is moving … flying … and I’ve never flown before … or have I?
I peered over the edge and spied a beach thirty feet below speeding by. A dirt cliff, about a hundred yards to our right, rose nearly a hundred feet.
The platform dipped toward the ground, swung to our left over the water, then, after a sharp right, it climbed toward the top of the cliff.
It’s going to crash! As we drew closer and the platform still hadn’t pulled up enough, I shut my eyes and waited for the impact.
This is it! My life ends here!
The platform lurched upward, and I opened my eyes in time to see us zoom over the rim. Treetops shot past beneath us. We gained more height, and a village popped into sight in the distance. As we approached it, a multitude of rundown shanties encircled a group of finer buildings in the village square, the center-most one a six-sided, six-story mansion.
Climbing higher, woods appeared beyond the village. To the right, a huge factory stretched three hundred yards. A perimeter fence extended from either end of it encircling the village. Beyond it, more woods.
Is this my home? My memory is failing … a disease of the aged … yet … I’m almost eighteen.
Slowing down, the platform lowered toward the mansion and landed in a courtyard. Two militiamen dressed in yellow, skin-tight suits with gray helmets and armed with wands, rushed toward us.
“Got another one, sir?” One militiaman said, glaring at me.
“Yes,” the pilot replied. “Just another Vercundi wandering beyond the perimeter fence.”
Another militiaman smacked his wand into his other hand. “Why don’t they just fix that east fence?”
The pilot laughed. “Then we’d be out of a job.”
The militiamen laughed, boarded the platform, and escorted me off. With one on either side, we started toward the mansion.
There is something bad … something evil inside. I’m not sure what it is, but I know that I do not want to go in there.
I yanked my arms free, spun, and ran.
This is crazy. Where can I go? They will catch me … but I have to try. I have to resist!
Something jammed into my back. A wand. A flash of light, a jolt, and my body lost all feeling. I fell, unconscious before I hit the ground.
HOME TO ROOST
What’s that noise? Is that me screaming?
I opened my eyes to someone slapping my face. When I could focus, I saw a militiaman. Another stood behind me pinning my arms together.
“You must be conscious so you can face the Supreme Mayor,” the militiaman in front of me said.
The one behind me let go. “You’ve done a very bad thing.”
“And I see that it’s not the first time.” The militiaman in front grinned, reached out, and lifted a dark-green crystal strung around my neck. “I see you’ve already been awarded the Crystal of Shame.”
I stared at it. I remember … somehow I got that for … going outside the perimeter fence. At least that’s what I was told when I woke up one morning and found it around my neck. I must have done it again … but I don’t remember. Is this a nightmare? When am I going to wake up?
The tiny room we occupied jerked, and only then did I realize that it had been in motion. An opening appeared when part of the wall in front of me slid into itself to the left. The militiamen escorted me out, and I heard the opening close behind me.
They guided me into a room about forty feet square. I noticed a bright light buried within a cluster of crystals hanging from the center of the room. White poles, supporting frosted, glowing globes, dotted the floor around the room.
A well-dressed man in a yellow suit sat behind his semicircular desk holding a turkey leg. Before him stretched pans and bowls, each brimming with succulent foods.
I suddenly feel very hungry. I didn’t feel that way on my way here … but now … I’m starved.
The flavor-filled odors forced my mouth to water. Focusing on one huge mound of meat glistening in a brownish gel, I caught my tongue sneaking out of my mouth and drew it back.
The man finished chewing and swallowed. He sat back and wiped his mouth and hands with his crimson, cloth napkin. “Another perimeter violator?”
“Yes, Supreme Mayor,” one of the militiamen said.
The mayor stared at me. “I know you. Electra. And I see by the Crystal of Shame that you’ve done this before.”
I darted my eyes aside, tears flowing down my cheeks.
The mayor glanced at the militiamen. “Stand by.” I looked back to find him glaring at me. “Hungry, Electra?”
“I bet you are.” He set the napkin on the table. “You Vercundi complain about your poverty. A poverty, by the way, we Asterians know you deserve. Your history proves that.”
He eased his elbows on the gold armrests with his fingers spread, each touching their corresponding finger on the opposite hand. “Your punishment will be more severe than last time when I decreed that you, your husband Zosma, and your little sister and brother would go without food for three days.”
I stretched forward, my eyes on the food. “We were hungry. I thought perhaps there may be living things in the Big Sea.”
The mayor shook his head. “There’s nothing there. The sea is dead … and there are no sizable animals outside the perimeter to speak of.” He dropped his hands and leaned forward. “We provide the food for your work in the textile factory. You work, draw Nurturing numbers, and if the quotas are met, everyone who draws a number is worthy of one day’s supply of food for their whole family. It’s quite simple … and it’s totally under your control. We Asterians simply administer it.”
Tears ran down my face. I wiped them and sniffed. “I promise you that I’ll never go outside the perimeter fence again.”
He folded his arms. “I think you’re sincere. You have to think … what would happen to that wonderful ten-year-old brother of yours … Deneb. And his twelve-year-old sister, Meri Diana.”
“I know, Supreme Mayor. I’m all they have since we lost our parents.”
“They wandered off, I believe. Perhaps beyond the perimeter. Who knows what happened to them?”
I clenched my fists. “My mother died a few years ago in the factory. She got caught up in a giant loom and was torn to pieces. They removed her body and replaced her with my older sister Chara the next day. Cold … cruel … calculating.”
“Be careful, Electra. You’re taking liberties.”
I felt my legs shaking and looked at the floor. “I don’t know about my father for sure, but I saw Chara disappear before my eyes in our house one night.”
He laughed and unfolded his arms. “Fanciful, to say the least. I’m afraid that a starved mind produces generous hallucinations. No one simply disappears into thin air.”
I slapped my hands on his desk and leaned forward. “Yes, but I know what I ….” I stared at him gazing at my hands. Yanking them off the desk, I stood up straight again.
Now is not the time to challenge him … but I must! I remember now. It’s all come back to me. He shouldn’t be here, because everything has changed.
“Mayor, you should be in Adelphy, the Capitolium capital, showing the Superior Asterian and his Asterian High Council what I, my husband, Meri Diana, and Deneb found in the Ruins of Truth.”
He shot forward, his brow exploding toward his hairline. “What?”
I gritted my teeth. “The Ruins of Truth! The Lincoln Memorial in the ancient ruins of Washington?”
“What has gotten into you, girl? You spout nothing but fantasy.”
I slapped my thigh. “The real history of the Vercundi people. Don’t you remember the globe with the images in it? The man in the images said I was the chosen one … and you took it to Adelphy to show the Superior Asterian and the Asterian High Council … and you appointed me the acting mayor.”
“The acting mayor?” He shot back in his chair and slammed his hands on his armrests. “Have you lost your senses, Vercundi girl?”
I plunged my hands on the desk and leaned as close to him as I could get. “Have you gone there and come back, or have you changed your mind and failed to go at all?” I thrust out a hand. “Give me the globe, then. I’ll go and straighten out the history before the After Wars.”
The Supreme Mayor shot to his feet. “You … the chosen one?” He whipped his head back. “What an amazing tirade!”
“My people are not at fault … and neither are your people. Greedy men took over the world economy and blamed us so they could rise to supreme power. This once great land was tricked by one man. A man with blond hair who lied at every turn.”
The mayor eased a hand to his forehead. “You’re crazy.”
I jammed a finger on my chest. “My people were killed in the Great War, and the survivors made to live in villages simply to provide the Asterians with all their needs. We lived in poverty while the Asterians lived in luxury.” I stamped my foot. “I know. I was taken away, brought there, and forced to serve … nothing but a slave!”
He dropped his hand and glowered at me while shaking his head.
“You were supposed to correct that by showing those in Adelphy the images in the globe.”
He darted around the desk, grabbed my throat, and threw the other hand over my forehead. “Why, you’re burning up with fever. No wonder you’re so delirious.”
He pushed me toward the desk, and my torso fell onto it. I rose slowly as he walked back around his desk shrugging back into the fit of his suit. He turned and glared at me. “We’re sending you home first. Then we will bring you back tomorrow at first light to administer a proper and severe punishment.” He turned to the militiamen. “See to it that this one is returned home to roost.”
“To roost, Supreme Mayor?” one of them said.
“To roost,” the Supreme Mayor repeated. He sat down, leaned back and laughed. It grew into a guffaw by the time the militiamen had taken me back into the little room.
“Home to roost!” The Supreme Mayor laughed as the little room closed behind me.
It jiggled as though it moved downward. Stopping, part of the wall slid into itself leaving an opening in the opposite wall. They marched me down the hall and stopped by a knob protruding from the white wall.
I jerked my head to either side. “Wait. This isn’t the ground floor. I know what this room is. I know what you are about to do.”
One militiaman pushed the knob and a door formed and opened to the left. They pushed me inside and the door closed behind me. I ran to it. A window appeared and I watched as they laughed.
“Let me out of here!” I pounded the door. “I know about this room. Now, let me out. The Supreme Mayor said I was to go home to my husband … my Zosma.”
I shut my eyes and cried. “Someone help me! Please!”
A bright, orange light filled the room instead.
“Here it comes. I am finished!” I shielded my eyes with my hands and waited. The expected warmth consumed my body forcing me to pant as my mouth dried up. The temperature rose to an intolerable level. I looked at my tattered dress. It turned brown, then black. I felt my body was about to explode into flame. I screamed.
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