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Book 6, Chapter 7 – A Past Civilization

 Anyone who managed to get their hands on some ancient texts knew that biological evolution was an enormously long process. Hundreds if not thousands of generations were needed before marked changes were noticed. That was a million years or more!

Why had the earth changed so much in the thousand years following the Great War? The rate of change had increased a million times. The only plausible explanation was that something was speeding the process up. Just like scientists in a lab who want quicker results, such change required a catalyst to get the changes needed.

But so far this was all speculation, albeit the most logical answer.

The early stages of this process likely saw brutal periods of mass extinction. Ninety-nine percent of the world's life likely couldn't survive. Those that did were forced to live in harsh and inhospitable environments. Generation after generation, things would gradually stabilize.

Back during the battle for Sanctuary, when Judas addressed everyone, he claimed it was the gods were the chief culprit of Earth's destruction. Their actions caused the changes that would destroy the planet, and all the many tragedies that followed. Afterwards, the gods gathered those who tended to react well to these changes and cage them in Elysian lands. This was why there were no mutants in any of those godly realms.

But what was the end goal?

Cloudhawk learned from these proto-humans that the world outside of this city was similarly blasted. The surface was scoured by radiation and other toxins that would ruin their fragile bodies. Although the situation here wasn't as bad as it was on Earth, it was still lethal. Likely something similarly disastrous had happened on this planet, too.

Would the world Cloudhawk came from end up like this?

After thousands of years, New Earth was well established and stable. Although their new civilization was much different from the one Cloudhawk had seen in his books, it was clear they were descendants from that stock.

The proto-humans had spent exhaustive amounts of energy and resources to protect their original species and culture. Their clothes, food, language and buildings were all a combination of that long-lost world. There were strangely familiar things he recognized from pictures, like towering spires or enormous statues of torch-bearing women. They were famous pieces of the ancient civilization that had disappeared from earth so long ago.

Cloudhawk stood at the end of a road within New Earth city. He watched the vehicles soaring by along congested streets. He suddenly felt like he'd somehow slipped through time to a whole different era.

Everything about this place had a strange sort of magic, it made Cloudhawk feel a sort of kinship down in the very deepest parts of his soul. At the same time, he felt trapped in a complex web of emotion he'd never experienced before.

Back when he was just a scav, he was always elated when he managed to pick out an old photo or book. It was the only respite he had when he was a weak creature, living on a cold burrow like some sort of animal, drinking blood from the corpses of rats to stave off starvation.

Whenever he was tired or in pain, he would open one of those treasures and lose himself in that old world. Tales from those ancient days were forever stamped on his heart.

Weak and perpetually near death, Cloudhawk was nonetheless enraptured by those stories. Between them and his stubborn will he kept fighting, believing there had to be somewhere left on earth where that paradise still existed. It's what inspired him to leave on that doomed and bumpy road out of the wastelands.

Now the true ancient society was discovered, at least what was left of it. No wonder Cloudhawk dreamed so much of it.

New Earth's leadership was quickly alerted to the presence of this outsider. Cloudhawk was brought to the Memorial of Days Passed, the administrative center of the city, where he was met by a hearty man in his sixties or seventies. He was dressed in the traditional clothing of the ancient civilization, had short cut white hair, and looked at Cloudhawk from behind a pair of wire frame glasses. He took Cloudhawk's hand and gave it a friendly shake as he introduced himself.

"Hello. Am president of na Earth Federation, president Tang Zhonghua."

Cloudhawk had never heard of a 'president,' but he assumed this elderly man was the leader of these people. He answered by briefly introducing himself as well, for Cloudhawk's Green Alliance was in no way inferior to New Earth city or the Earth Federation Tang Zhonghua had alluded to. To be frank, his people were a far sight stronger than these proto-humans.

Tang Zhonghua knew nothing of the situation back on the old world. He knew nothing of Elysian lands, gods, demons or demonhunters. To him it all sounded like some fantastical story, yet he was surprisingly calm about Cloudhawk's sudden arrival here. It made him a little suspicious.

He kept his doubts to himself, instead asking, "What happened all those years ago?"

"Please, come you with me ba." Tang Zhonghua explained the history of Earth as recorded in their annals. "By knowing path of Earth in space we find end of na old civilization maybe twenty-fourth century. Scientists say, it has been one thousands, five hundred sixty three earth years since!"

"Those times humans were do well. Ten billion peoples living, la. Settlers on moon and Mars. All civilization mu advanced."

Tang Zhonghua brought Cloudhawk to a holographic picture composite, showing what the old civilization looked like back in its heyday. It was much more vivid than the scraps Cloudhawk had unearthed, and it showed him the beautiful, rich colors of how Earth used to be.

Tang Zhonghua sighed evocatively.

"Human solved mu problems, hard problems for thousands of years. No more disease, no more hunger, peace in all nations. Technology and science make great advances with new inventions always coming. Society was peace, no more war."

Cloudhawk watched as the hologram shifted through a series of photos.

He saw that people lived on their own land, living lives of worth and dignity. Diseases were conquered and most jobs had come to be automated, with new sources of energy providing enough for everyone to live comfortably. Systems of social welfare were highly developed, society worked to lift everyone up. The humanities, art, philosophy and music had all exploded as society bloomed in a new renaissance.

Truly a Utopian dream.

Tang Zhonghua looked over the pictures as well, solemn and grave. "All changed one summer night, two thousands four hundred seventeen. Today even no understand why, or what na ancestors saw. From mu few records we see strange force invade solar system. Earth quickly loose contact with bases on moon and Mars."

The holographic images continued to change in a steady stream.

"Earth peoples too slow to react, la, for at same time gravity and magnetic field change. Airplanes, spaceships, satellites all lose contact and crash. En, na was when disaster begins. Terrible earthquakes. Tsunamis. All cities gone in just days."

City after prosperous city fell to the enemy. That beautiful blue ocean that had covered the planet boiled away. The Earth withered as it was enveloped by disaster, and was irrevocably changed.

As the pictures faded Tang Zhonghua stopped his explanation. He turned to face the new human. "Na was our homeland. The story what happened. But no think peoples can survive, yet here you are."

Cloudhawk frowned, for there were a few key questions that remained unanswered. First, if the destruction of the planet was so immediate, how had Tang Zhonghua and his people survived? Second, by what he was told this group left early during the cataclysm. How, then, did they know what happened afterward?

Tang Zhonghua perhaps saw the skepticism on Cloudhawk's face.

"From data left behind our ancestors we see lived in space city. Huge international station, ba. Lucky not to be on Earth when disaster struck. When go back, land was in ruin. They met leader of foreign power who bring ancestors to this place."

"A foreign leader?" Cloudhawk asked, curiously. "Who?"

"Information from our ancestors mu limited. We don't know who, but na had mu advanced powers and technology. Leader tells our ancestors that Earth's suffering long from over, en. All was just the beginning. But says they can open a portal to here, saving last spark of humanity from dead world."

So that was what happened? The Earth Federation had lost much of the ancient knowledge when they had to flee. The space station they lived in had seeds and livestock, which they were successful in cultivating here.

"Information is few, and mu time has passed - one thousands year. We cannot know what happens on old Earth. All knows is this mysterious peoples exist who save us, and bring us here to survive. Old stories say he left prophesy, that sometimes far in na future a new generation will come from homeland. They will find us, looking for secrets of na past."

He must be speaking of the Demon King! Only the Demon King of old could have had the power to transport them to this place. Judas had claimed that it was demons who arrived at earth first. The Demon King likely tried to save a small fraction of the weak earthlings they discovered.

Yet the Demon King himself may not have imagined that the small group he'd saved a thousand years ago would grow into this massive civilization!

Tang Zhonghua went on. "Not long ago, father says unknown group appears far to the East. Na were seen building camps and from that times we think maybe you are new people from Earth. Seeing you, however, we were mu surprised. I could no believe new peoples look so much like us."

That's because you've never been to the wastelands. Nine people out of ten are mutated beyond recognition.

Cloudhawk would never have thought he would have an opportunity to really learn what had occurred a thousand years ago. He kept pressing for answers. "Who is this father you keep talking about?"

Tang Zhonghua obliged with an answer. "Father is the wisdom na protects us. An artificial intelligence that built this world. But, culture and knowledge na created father has long ago vanished, la. New Earth is passed down to us, a gift to protect our fragile human bodies from radiation and corruption. If no salvation from father, our ancestors would likely not have survived."

As they were speaking, a group of mechanical soldiers marched into the hall. One of them called to the president in an emotionless and digitized voice. "President Tang Zhonghua, hand over the new human intruder. Father must meet and speak with him personally."

Neither Cloudhawk nor the president had any reason to refuse. Father was a highly advanced intelligence and the proper leader of this settlement, Cloudhawk couldn't hide from him. What's more, Father was likely the maker of those mechanical beasts on the surface. If he wanted to stop the attacks, father was the one Cloudhawk needed to speak to.

1. A note on the speaking and names used here. Because this is a civilization of holdouts from old earth, I have made no effort to change their names into something more stylistic like you might find in the wastelands or Skycloud. These are normal earth folk with normal earth names. In particular the president's name I left as Chinese because it was clearly meant to be. is a very standard name, but also intentionally evocative. is both a normal surname as well as the name of China's renaissance dynasty, the Tang Dynasty, said to be the country's golden age. means, frankly, China. So the president of the Earth Federation is 'Golden Age of China' - pretty on the nose. As for the accent, this was a personal decision based on what Tipsy wrote in his explanation. He explained that they sounded different, used different grammar and some sounds and phrases he didn't understand. Since we've been using standard English up to this point, I wanted to differentiate it, however tipsy does no such thing in the originals. As for the style itself, because this place is a mixture of all facets of earth civilization I tried to write it as I imagined a community from a hundred different cultures might given thousands of years of evolution. There are bastardized phonemes from Chinese, Spanish, etc. For anyone who has seen The Expanse, imagine Belters.

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