Prologue, Part 1

Year 127 of the Central Government’s Standard Calendar

The night that marked the beginning of a time of great upheaval began just as any other, fading unassumingly into existence from the gentle last embrace between the sun and the horizon. As it had done so many times before, the darkness of twilight settled comfortably into the corners and edges of the great capital city – Durvell. One by one, stars peeked out shyly through the curtain drawn over the heavens.

Those distant suns were a true testament to the unity of the Central Government and the ingenuity of its citizens. In a little over a century, they had cleared the sickness with which their ancestors had infected the sky with to the point where it twinkled happily once more on each cloudless night. Truly this was something to be proud with; an unprecedented accomplishment to be shared by all mankind.

Yet even as some late-sleeping citizens still wandering the remarkably clean streets of Durvell looked up to admire those tiny specks of brilliance, a few among them noticed something out of the ordinary. In a matter of moments, mellow contentment stirred into delight and curiosity as bright streaks began multiplying in the night sky. A great variety of electronic devices emerged from pockets like puppies from a pen. Citizens held them upward to make new digital memories, or in front of their faces to confirm that indeed, there was no meteor shower predicted that night.

The general atmosphere of excitement continued to build in intensity until it was palpable. It took many minutes before the emotions of confusion and fear began to sprout among the gathering throng. Slowly, insidiously, the feeling that something bad was about to happen crept its way into the hearts of those gazing at the unusual sky.

Even as the citizens turned stargazers began to stir and murmur among themselves, their devices began to buzz and beep in a conversation of their own. That ominous feeling faded, slapped into the background and denied of the chance to mature into something more terrifying by the assembly of computers packaged into all sorts of shapes and sizes.

The first meteorite had not landed in Durvell, but rather had struck the earth 300 kilometers south of the city in an unoccupied plain. The passion of the first meeting between the land and the journeying rock was so great that it left behind a large crater. At the center of the crater was the vanguard lump of coalesced dust from the void, together with a strange metal that glowed an unnatural color from the heat of its entry.

Though it had chosen a private enough spot to end its long travels, the meteorite had not gone undetected by the many eyes that the Central Government had mounted on machines placed on large towers or in orbit around their planet. Within moments of this first impact, news was released into the quick-flowing currents of the citizens’ social networks. All those awake had time to look down at a screen and make some smart remark, out loud or otherwise.

“How extraordinarily unexpected!”

“You see son, it’s called a meteor-ite if it hits the ground.”

In a way it was amazing how so many people could end up doing basically the same thing by trying to come up with some way to sound or be different. It was in this evanescent moment of synchronicity that a fireball streaked over the heads of those in the streets of Durvell, having snuck up upon them in the brief time that their attention was captured by their little computers instead of the sky. Surprise and panic rang out from what was now a veritable throng.

To the universal horror of all gathered, the meteorite crashed furiously into the public hospital. The earsplitting groans of bending metal quickly woke those in the city that had already gone to sleep. They quickly turned to their electronic displays and were soon caught up in the stream of what was happening.

Even as emergency government personnel and trained volunteers arrived with astonishing response time, citizens near the hospital suddenly collapsed, clutching their ears. Those slightly farther away stared at the spectacle in shock, brains trying fruitlessly to make sense of their fellows’ contorted expressions of anguish.

Further confusing those still on their feet was a sound the seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at once. The sirens of emergency vehicles did nothing to dampen its eery clarity. Earpieces parted with ears to make way for fingers scratching in a futile attempt to find the source of that sound.

The sound of a newborn crying.

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