Outline Summary: In a country known as the Union, history is trapped beneath layers of steel and earth, open only to those certain people who have dedicated their lives to its study. The career of Cyrus Nicholson, one of these so-called historians, begins limited to the top few floors and only the most recent eras passed. But little does he know that his work is being watched, and that his dedication will unlock doors and opportunities he had never thought possible: the future, as well as the history, of the entire world at his fingertips. After meeting a mysterious man named Vincent St. Clair, he is granted the opportunity to become part of a secret organization known as the Reconnection Council. The council is formed from a group of powerful people who are willing to risk their careers to maintain communications with other countries, a treasonous crime that holds deadly consequences. As he becomes more embedded in the council, Cyrus grows unhappy with the lack of progress, and despite warnings from his mentor, St. Clair, he splits off and forms his own alliance with the goal of one day reuniting the countries of the world again.
Main Characters: Cyrus Nicholson – The story’s protagonist, a man so dedicated to his work and so obsessed with constantly gaining information and influence that throughout the years he allows his desires to overcome his morals. He exists in the gray void between good and evil but always holds true to the belief that knowledge is the highest possible form of power. Vincent St. Clair – Cyrus’s mentor and head of the Reconnection Council. Very little is known about him or his past, except for the fact that he sees his youth very clearly when he looks at Cyrus. Although he is willing to do illegal things, he holds firm to the ideas of slow, controlled innovation and finds Cyrus’s eagerness for rapidly moving ahead to be discomforting. “Lesson” – Head Historian of the Department of History and Artifacts and Cyrus’s boss. He is the first one to offer Cyrus up as a possible new addition to the Reconnection Council, but he soon finds himself being demoted as Cyrus rises through the ranks and becomes more of a threat to the status quo. Margot Acker – A German woman, part of Germany’s illicit foreign relations division. She is Cyrus’s first foreign companion and is sympathetic towards his desires for once again creating an interconnected world. Ani Nicholson — Cyrus’s girlfriend and later wife, she is very understanding of her husband’s love towards his work but wishing that he could achieve some sort of balance between his devotion for his job and his devotion to their relationship.
Welcome to the Union National Archives. Visitors, please head to the front desk for a security check and remain within the designated public areas. Government employees, have identification cards out and ready to be scanned upon entry.
Level One: The Union The first time Cyrus steps into the dim, cavernous lower floors of the National Archives, he is overwhelmed. Past the top two levels, where visitors are free to roam around and peruse through files of laminated documents and peer at artifacts that lay within glass cases, the building extends like a parasitic growth into the earth. Above, everything is well lit and warm. The air smells of the citrus cleaning product used to spray down the cabinets after hours. People from all walks of life wander through with intrigue or boredom. They have no idea of the depth of the monster they walk over. He was like them, once. After all he has been through since it is hard to comprehend now how he had lived that way. On that day Cyrus shows his identification to the man who stands before the first restricted door. The skin of the man’s face hangs from his bones like his oversized uniform does from his thin form. When he smiles to the guard, the sallow man only gives him a strange look. Cyrus wonders how long he’s been standing here, how lonely it must be. The door shuts fast behind him, nicking the heel of his shoe. He has to blink to adjust to the dull florescent lighting after walking through the well-lit lobby. The landing he stands upon lead to stairs made for one. He cannot hear the chattering of the people now. He descends with his hands held out to the sides, fingertips brushing against the cold metal walls, the silence filled by the beating of his heart. He had only been given vague hints about what to expect from the restricted archives. His mind had been buzzing about its untold discoveries since day one. The fingers of one hand fumble to stuff his ID back into his pocket as he remembers it. ~ “Eager to be a historian?” asked the elderly woman who had been instructed to show Cyrus to his office. “Hmmm? Oh, yes, certainly.” He had been entirely too preoccupied by his surroundings to give the woman’s words much attention. Placed in almost the perfect center of the capitol building, the hallway was bedecked with rich red carpeting and a smattering of paintings so vivid he could see each brushstroke that formed them. No one painted like that anymore. He may not have been an art enthusiast, but still something stirred in his chest at the sight of them. “What made you want to do this?” The woman continued as they turned down a hallway that contained rows of identical black doors with silver nameplates fixed beside them. Her hair, dyed dark brown and curled into stiff ringlets, bounced around her face as she walked. “I’ve heard about how rigorous the preparation is. Nothing easier for a young man like yourself?” Cyrus chuckled in his throat and paused when she did, watching her fuss through the keys in her pocket. “Easier, certainly. Intriguing, I don’t think so.” He grinned at the shiny new nameplate that bore the title ‘C. Nicholson’. “I get to see things very few other people are permitted to gaze upon. It’s like being a secret operative, but much less dangerous.” The elderly woman met Cyrus’s smile as she pushed open the black door and stood back to let Cyrus peer into his new room. “Less dangerous of course, but you don’t get the same rep that agents do. A word of advice,” the woman added as she dropped a key into Cyrus’s hand. “Keep away from the suppressors. They don’t like you history buffs much.” Cyrus heard the echoes of the woman’s whistles as he stepped into his office and pulled the door shut behind him. On the desk were three things: A dormant hologram monitor, a thin keyboard, and an envelope resting upon the keys, his name written on the front of it in blue ink and a loopy font. It invited him to explore the National Archives at his first chance. An identification card fell from the envelope when he held it upside down. ~ He reaches the bottom of the staircase and pulls out his card again, swiping it through the flashing scanner fixed where a doorknob would normally be. The metal slab slides open at his slightest touch, and unlike the one upstairs, it closes behind Cyrus with a slow, haunting creak, like a beast swallowing him whole. What is revealed to him when he opens his eyes is a cavern of treasures: row after row of file cabinets and bookshelves on one wall, display cases on the other. Through the middle section is artwork and technology, busts and paintings covered in paper, broken pieces of equipment that hold no purpose any longer, and towering statues hidden from the eye by massive tarps. The view takes his breath away. Cyrus feels the letter folded up in his pants pocket as he steps over to the first file cabinet. Another swipe of his ID unlocks it. He pulls out the first folder and leans back against the wall to read.
Level Two: Neo-America He comes to the Archives practically every day after work, now, except when they call upon him to fly across the country to identify a new artifact recently found somewhere. The Department of History is always busy. Sometimes the halls are dead silent, people being called away for dozens of reasons. It isn’t rare for artifacts to be found on a daily basis. Families love to hide bits of history and old heirlooms that they know rightfully belong to the government. People report it, historians get sent out to see if it’s anything of worth. At one point, Cyrus had debated tearing the phone from his wall in order to finally get rid of the constant ringing. The Archives are his quiet spot. It takes almost a full month to go through the first cabinet. There was nothing especially intense within it, only personal letters and checkbooks, small town newspapers and fliers. His eyes scan each paper and retract dates and names and places. It is almost impossible to imagine an America without war, but that is what he finds here. Sometimes he is interrupted in his reading by some government worker pulling out specific papers for assignments or research. They look at him, often seated against the wall with papers resting on his bent legs, and give him strange looks. People who know him vaguely wave their hand in greeting before returning to their search. Some others glare at him, demand he show his identification and explain what he is doing there. These people he assumes are suppressors, a nickname so long used for their position that no one ever referred to them as anything else. Cyrus could never imagine how miserable he would have to be to have a career like that. Never once had he seen a suppressor smile or crack a joke, even between one another. They spoke in sullen voices and glared at everything as though the world was burden. In the halls, Cyrus clutched his fingers a little tighter and walked past them, trying to avoid eye contact. Part of him wishes he had continued to avoid the suppressors all his life. Things would have been infinitely different if he had. He remembers it vividly as a rainy Tuesday, the day he met the man named Vincent St. Clair. He had been working as a historian for almost six months, and he had breezed through the rest of the file cabinets across the third floor. Now he hummed to himself as he walked within familiar corridors and mentally greeted each and every one of the people now left memorialized within those documents, their bodies and graves long since forgotten. The end of the hall contained a small room that had always been locked from day one. His identification had never been able to open it, so he had accounted it to something he either was not allowed to know or something not important enough for him to pay attention to. But on that Tuesday he had found the door left wide open, a man standing within with his back towards Cyrus, his shockingly white hair slicked back and shining in the pale light. His fingers turned the pages of the small book in his hand, so immersed within its words that he did not hear Cyrus’s approach. The temptation had been too much to fight against. “Hello?” Cyrus had rested his fingers against the outside of the doorframe. The man within stiffened, head slowly rolling back on his shoulder to peer at him out of the corners of his dark eyes. “Can I help you?” he asked, with a voice as cold as his expression. “I’m sorry if I interrupted you,” Cyrus murmured, his eyes everywhere but the cold man’s face. He took in the light dangling from the ceiling, the massive humming computer console in the corner, a bookshelf packed to the brim across from it and a writing desk between them. It was an extremely strange assortment. Was this the man’s office? “I’ve just never seen this room opened before.” The man turned around completely, shutting the book in his hand—which Cyrus now saw as a journal—with a snap. “There is a reason for that, you know.” Their gazes met and Cyrus found himself unable to pull his eyes away. “Are you going to kick me out?” “That depends. What are you doing down here?” “I’m a historian. It’s my job to understand the past.” It’s what he had taught himself to say instead of ‘I have nothing better to do than to immerse myself in former lives’. The man’s lip curled. “A historian. Of course.” A suppressor? Cyrus thought, but said nothing. He motioned around the room with one hand. “What is this place? Do you work in here?” The man cocked one eyebrow, but with his continued harsh expression it made him look like he thought Cyrus to be an idiot. “Everything in this room belonged to André Neves.” Cyrus’s breath catches in his throat. “You’re lying.” But he couldn’t be. He wouldn’t. It would almost make sense, all of the man’s typical belongings stored in the floor designated to life just before the war. “Albany was destroyed,” he says flatly. The cold man nods stiffly. “And so was most of his house, but not everything. This room contains all that they have salvaged and connected back to him. Are you interested in taking a look?” God, yes, he thinks. To the man, he only nods. “Then come in and close the door,” the man responds, and points to the handle.
Level Three: The Cybernetic Civil War and World War Three He sits in the chair and St. Clair leans back beside the bookshelf, each with a book in hand. They had introduced themselves to one another at his own prompting, to which the man had coldly responded with his last name and so Cyrus had replied with the same. The letters bound within the little black book Cyrus clutched could have belonged to anyone, but they were all signed with the same name. Sgt. André Neves. Some were letters to friends, to family, or relating to the accounting business that everyone knew from history books to be a cover for him after retiring from the third world war and becoming a hit man, at least until he was recruited again. How could a man who had done so much be so normal? A printed page of instant messages sent to his wife: I’ll be home late tonight. Put my dinner in the fridge, please. I should see you after nine. Did you want me to get liquid detergent or the packaged kind? Your mother called for you, I told her you weren’t home and would call her back. “Surreal, yes?” St. Clair asked. Cyrus lifted his head slowly, realizing the man had been watching him the whole time. “Yes, it’s fascinating. Thank you for letting me in.” His thumb ran across the top of the pages. “Are you just in here to read, too?” “Unfortunately, no. I don’t have that kind of free time.” Cyrus’s face flushes despite himself as he watches that man place the journal back upon the shelf. “The national education board is looking to rewrite the war era curriculum for about the twentieth time. I’ve been assigned to pull some information from Neves’s early life and decide what and what not is important enough to tell.” He crosses his arms and hums with a sort of contempt. “They’re debating cutting out the details of the world war and his connection to it. The less children learn about the outside, the better, they believe.” Only now does Cyrus recall that this man is a suppressor. His heart hardens and he pulls his shoulders back. “It’s cruel, what you people do.” St. Clair raises his thin eyebrows in surprise. “You think? You’d rather we fill people with an empty sense of hope for something they’ll never see? Not talking about it at all is better than painting the rest of the world with a cruel, bloody light like we’ve been doing until now, isn’t it?” “I’d rather we tell the truth,” he says between gritted teeth, a whole monologue of hatred and complaints building behind them, but he knows he cannot allow it to spew forth. More powerful men than he have fallen by talking bad about the New Age Treaty and its repercussions. St. Clair smiles, a cruel sneer that stretched the taut skin of his face and made him look like a skeleton. “You think we’re brainwashing.” “I think we’re too scared of creating a force willing to rebel against our current system that we’re feeding them lies instead.” “The world is dangerous, Mr. Nicholson,” the man says, his voice reminisce of a snake’s hiss. “The Union has plenty of problems to deal with on its own time, there is no need to add the struggles of everyone else. We are free of the conflict of others. No one is dying of warfare, we feel no imminent threat from the outside. Is that not worth the exchange of anything else? Tourism and travel pales in comparison to the benefits.” The man sounds just like the textbooks he helps write. Cyrus knows the arguments. Self-sustainability, saved resources, faster innovation, stronger economy, less conflict. “How would you know about the world?” is all he can think to spit back. “We were raised on the programs we now have power over. We know nothing but what we were told.” St. Clair continues to smile his skeletal grin. “That is only true for those who do not take it upon themselves to search for their own truth.” He unlocks the door and pushes it open, letting the gloom of the main room seep inside the cozy little office that smells of wood and paper. “Take as long as you need and close the door when you’re done.” He steps out of the room and turns away, waving his hand back towards Cyrus in farewell. “Enjoy your papers and books, Mr. Nicholson.”
Level Four: The Second Millennium All he can do after that fateful encounter is replay the scene that took place in the room of Neves’s belongings in his mind and try to understand what St. Clair was trying to tell him. He had sat in that office space for a very long time after the man’s departure, taking in the atmosphere and trying to imagine the war hero himself sitting at his desk, reading books and doing work like an average man. He supposed every man started out as average at one point, before evolving into something more when the situation calls for it. His fingers caressed the coffee stains on book pages and scuffs on the desk surface and ink smudges across papers. It made a man so idolized it was like he had come from another world vividly real. Cyrus was ashamed to admit that he had risked the glares of the other suppressors to take his time down the hallway on the way to his office the next few days, searching for St. Clair, or at least the door bearing his nameplate. He found neither. Now when he steps through the Archives, every soft sound or flash of motion makes him turn around to see if St. Clair has come again to study, but that is never the case. So he goes back to his readings, dropping from the third floor to the fourth, learning about a world entirely unknown to him up to this point. He reads about a computer virus fated to crash the internet at the turn of the millennium, the panic surrounding it, and then the anticlimactic result of minor technological problems spread throughout the world. He reads about the terrorist attack that changed America permanently just the very next year. He reads about social media and its effect on news, but most of all he indulges himself in the snippets of histories of other countries. They have names that sound like fantasy worlds, El Salvador and Switzerland and Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia and Belarus. He shifts through pages of nonsensical languages and letters, runs his fingers over the fabrics of strange clothing, stares at colorful photos of people and wonders what life could possibly have been like for them. All their joys and fears and problems seem so insignificant now. Some days he sits at one of the tables positioned in the back and spreads an armful of documents before himself, a glass of water the only thing to sustain him for his long stay. No other food or drink was allowed down below the top floor. He often studied until closing and ate late dinners in his apartment. “You’re certainly a hard worker, aren’t you?” an amused voice asks. A screeching sound fills the air as the chair across from him is pulled back and the man with slick white hair sits himself at the table. “The guard upstairs tells me you’re here from four to nine every day.” Cyrus’s eyes dart up towards the man only briefly before he turns back to the paper before him. “I’ve been looking for you,” he says, stifling a yawn against his fist. “I hadn’t wanted to be found.” Cyrus reads the same line again and again, not processing it. Finally, he sighs and pushes it away, sitting backwards to give St. Clair his full attention. “But you’ve decided now would be a good time? What,” he briefly glances at his watch for the date, “four weeks later?” St. Clair’s fingers dance around the pages splayed out across the black table. “I had to make sure you were truly the kind of person I’ve been looking for. Your supervisor, Leeson, recommended you. But still, I had to check. Forgive my delay.” “I…I’m afraid I don’t understand.” “You want knowledge, correct?” One hand pushes a photo closer to Cyrus, a family standing in front of a huge intricate monument. The printed label at the bottom says ‘St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia, 2005’. “Are you content like this? Learning through outdated facts and images? Recordings of phone calls and news broadcasts? Wouldn’t you rather learn about the present?” Cyrus’s nose wrinkles as he continues to stare at the still faces in the photograph. “That’s impossible.” He raises his head, tongue running over dry lips. “Have you come to arrest me? Am I performing some kind of treason?” He had heard about people being caught for speaking out against the Treaty. It would only make sense that they would have a spy in the midst of the History Administration. He was stupid for not having considered it earlier. “I’m being serious, Mr. Nicholson.” St. Clair lifts the photo up and scrutinizes it. “This Cathedral was destroyed thirty years ago. Russia’s not doing very well, I’m afraid.” He clicks his tongue in mock disappointment. “Reds and Whites all over again.” He’s mad, Cyrus thinks, dumbfounded. Now he regrets not keeping a weapon on him like many of his coworkers did. “You’re saying that you know what’s going on in Russia. Right now.” “Certainly. Russia, England, France, we have a whole stream of connections and they’re growing larger each day.” Cyrus’s throat is stiff and dry when he tries to swallow through his nerves. “How?” is all he can force out of his mouth. Again St. Clair turns into that grinning skeleton, like his face is unsure how to rearrange itself when he smiles. “I can show you. But I must tell you that we’re entering dangerous territory as we speak. You step much further and there’s no going back. Your life will become infinitely more complicated, Mr. Nicholson.” “My name’s Cyrus,” he murmurs, his thumb and pointer finger gripping at his bottom lip. They’re certainly moving beyond formalities now. He raises his eyes. “What do I have to do?” “Come with me, Cyrus.” He holds out one long-fingered hand for Cyrus to shake. “And please, call me Vincent.”
Level Five: Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War St. Clair hadn’t been lying. Things had changed very quickly after that. From the Archives he was taken onto a train which opened up at the Capitol Building. Cyrus had still not grown used to the sheer vastness of the towering building, even after months of working there. St. Clair’s hand was a vice upon his shoulder, steering him towards an elevator. The man slipped his key into the panel and pressed five separate floors. The elevator took them up past all of them. “Who am I going to see?” Cyrus asked as the translucent floor beneath them suddenly went dark and he could see the lobby no longer. The elevator had stopped counting after 25 floors. “Not here,” St. Clair told him, leaning his head back against the wall and staring up at the bright lights fixed into the ceiling. “Wait.” When the elevator finally opens Cyrus gets the briefest glance of a group of dark-clad people sitting at a long wooden table. Their heads turn towards him almost simultaneously but St. Clair walks out in front of him, blocking his view. “He has agreed,” the man announces with a flat tone. Cyrus tentatively exits before the elevator closes, feeling the seated group’s stares shift towards him. There were at least two dozen of them. “Has he?” asks a woman, cold eyes unblinking. The question was directed to Cyrus, and he swallows before responding. He weighs each word in his mouth, knowing that every one was imperative. The cold air in the room feels like a string prone to breaking. “That depends on exactly what it is I’m agreeing to. It wasn’t entirely explained to me.” He watches through heavy-lidded eyes as St. Clair slides gracefully into an empty chair at the head of the table. With a start he realizes that his boss, Leeson, is seated cross-legged only two spots away. His gaze is the only one that falters when Cyrus matches it. “You want to comprehend the world. It’s understandable, we all do. You’re dedicated. We need that.” “But you aren’t telling me who you are.” He steps up to the side of the table far opposite St. Clair, devoid of high-backed chair, so he continues standing. His hands grip the edge of the smooth wood tightly. “Is there any way you can skip over the mysterious shit and give me a real explanation?” A man with rusty red hair and a beard to match scoffs and rolls his eyes. “You have no idea of the gravity of the situation you just stepped into, boy. This isn’t anything to be taken lightly. I thought you said he was clever, Leeson.” He turns to Cyrus’s boss, whose face flushes in the dim lighting. “He is,” Leeson murmurs into his hand, not meeting the red-haired man’s stare. “And I can concur,” St. Clair says from the head of the table. “I trust that his decision will be favorable for us all. We owe him that.” “Start by telling me what this is,” Cyrus mutters, feeling his heart fluttering in his chest. He cannot tell if is from excitement or fear. “The Reconnection Council,” St. Clair says. “The only people in the Union with any kind of link to other countries.” “That’s legal?” is all he can think to ask, and the silence of the room shatters into restrained laughter. Instead of breaking the tension, as he had feared it would, the string seems to go slacker. He relaxes slightly. “A Union boy though and though,” St. Clair says with an amused look, tracing his thumb across his lower lip. His face grows stern again soon after. “It’s legal to a fault. Does it bend the New Age Treaty to its breaking point? Perhaps. But it is an international effort.” “Why?” Cyrus asks, voice hushed. The idea seems so fantastical, he expects that at any moment a guard will handcuff him to a table, all these people only agents working to shift out rats within the government. “Basic understanding. Don’t imagine it to be more than it is, Cyrus. We only communicate, nothing further. No trade, no reestablishing alliances. We share no more than but news with one another at this point.” At this point. So there’s expansion in mind. He does not voice these thoughts. “What would I bring to the, ah, metaphorical table? I haven’t been a historian for more than six months. Surely you all are more experienced.” “We are,” St. Clair agrees. “But we want to teach you. You’ve made it clear to me from our first meeting that you’re unhappy with the Treaty. It was not an accident that we encountered each other in the room of Neves’s relics. We’ve been observing you for quite a long time.” “We have plans in mind,” the woman who had spoken to him when he had first approached interrupts. “Plans that you, a younger man with a lifetime ahead of him, can help us with. Your political career will evolve more than you will have ever imagined. Your restrictions will loosen. If it’s knowledge you want, that’s precisely what you’ll receive. More than anyone you have met or will ever meet.” She gauges Cyrus’s expression before continuing. “What do you think?” Cyrus attempted to look unimpressed. He was failing. His heart was racing and he could feel his fingertips quivering against the table. Finally, finally, he might find what he’s been looking for. An entire lifetime leading up to his moment. What kind of man would he be to say no? “Prove that you can do what you say you can do,” he says, moving his gaze from the woman to St. Clair, “and I’m all yours.”
Level Six: World War One and World War Two Through a screen he speaks to a woman seated in a dark room just like the one he is moved into. She has blonde hair and green eyes and strange flowers in her lapel, and talks in a language that Cyrus doesn’t understand. Fortunately, he is helped by subtitles that appear on the bottom on the screen he watches her from. In the five minutes he is allowed, he learns about a country called Germany. They speak very briefly about themselves, and instead share about their jobs, their way of life. He tells her that they live on floating cities and she laughs. “Floating? Is that not inconvenient?” Her voice is soft but the language she speaks is harsh and guttural. “No! Well, I’ve never really thought about it before. How do you live?” “On land, a little. We have many water homes. Our rivers flooded years ago.” The idea of cities and towns floating upon water was impossible to imagine. He wishes he could have seen it for himself, or that he could ask more questions, but too soon afterwards St. Clair has returned to the room. The screen has gone dark and he is being pulled away. “So?” someone asks him when he returns to the long table. All he can do is nod. He cannot imagine why he had once hesitated. ~ Not soon after that he is promoted. The order does not come from Leeson, surprisingly, but someone even higher up on the chain. His office moves onto another, higher floor. His window expands upon a view of the city below him. It is a beautiful thing to see each morning. He travels the country and collects relics, he learns of other worlds resting upon this very Earth. Portugal. Argentina. Scotland. Japan. During the day he looks upon his existence and is satisfied, but at night he lies in bed and longs for more. The secret of his new life is not what hurts him. What hurts is the fact that the evolution of his power is not coming fast enough for his liking. He cannot remember being this kind of hungry before, but it must have always been this way, has it not? He has always craved knowledge, and now those cravings have simply expanded. ~ St. Clair meets with him often. They go out for lunch or travel to the National Archives together. His access now moves beyond the fifth floor, all the way to the seventh level. He eases his temptation to rush through the databanks quickly by immersing himself in history the same way he now immerses himself in the present. He finds St. Clair to be a diligent, sorrowful man. There is not much he can learn about the man’s past other than he had been working like this for a very long time. “Are you enjoying yourself?” They sit at a café, St. Clair drinking dark tea and Cyrus picking at a cranberry muffin. Neither one looks at the other for more than a few seconds. How long has it been since that rainy Tuesday? Since he agreed to be part of the Council? Five months since the latter, maybe. Five long months. “Certainly,” Cyrus replies. He stares at the man, but his mind is stuck in pictures and snippets of words unknown to him. “It’s wonderful.” They rarely put him in charge of the serious work. He is too new to be trusted with it, so instead his communications with the outside world run mainly along the path of entertainment. “I’m glad,” the man says, unsmiling. He stirs milk into his mug lazily. Cyrus has always wondered how out old St. Clair is. It is hard to tell. He had white hair, yes, but it is thick instead of sparse, and his features are those of a younger man. Forty or fifty, maybe. He is too scared to ask. There is an intelligence that extends beyond the man’s appearance. “We’re very happy with your work, Cyrus. Your papers connecting the past of countries with their present states are impressive. It’s promising for your future assignments.” “So there’s going to be more than this? Good. I was starting to get worried.” He smiles as he takes a sip of his coffee. When he lowers it, he is surprised to see St. Clair staring out the window with a continued grim look. “What?” he asks, placing his cup back onto the counter. “I just want you to remember how we warned you. This won’t always be so easy. It isn’t easy. It’s a very draining job to be a part of. Sometimes it feels like it takes the life out of you…” He sighs heavily and rests his stirring spoon on a napkin. Cyrus’s brow furrows and he leans forward. “Vincent? Are you all right?” The man nods wearily. “Just tired. That’s all.”
Level Seven: The Civil War He turns thirty almost three years after being inducted into the Reconnection Council. Two months after that he falls in love. She’s a beautiful young woman who reached out for him one day when he was walking down the stairs of the Archives. She pointed at his government ID and asked him for help looking for a specific document. It’s strange how things like that happen. “Do they always stare?” he asks her as they walk through the city together one day. Her cane clicks against the pavement and she laughs. He has his arm around her waist and she leans against him to steady herself. “Always. But I don’t mind it.” She knows her condition will worsen as she ages. For now she enjoys walking, no matter how much of a struggle it is. One day he introduces her to St. Clair. “She’s a cripple,” the man says afterwards. Cyrus laughs incredulously, not showing his offence in his expression. “She’s a woman. And my girlfriend. Her name is Ani.” “A burden,” the man says, giving Cyrus a hard glare. “For people to use against you.” St. Clair had been nothing but angry as of late. Something dark shifts in the man’s eyes and his fingers are curled into fists. Cyrus doesn’t mention it. ~ A man from Taiwan speaks to him about the technology they use to overcome their current drought. A woman from England gives him a recipe for biscuits. An old woman from Iceland tells him about their hot springs and volcanoes. Cyrus takes it all in and writes it down for later use. In return he shares stories about the people who skydive from platform to platform for cheap thrills, a recipe his father had given him for lamb, the desolate wasteland that used to be the earth below them. He has enough information to fill dozens of books and still it isn’t enough. “Why can we not learn from them yet?” Cyrus asks at the next Council meeting. He sits in his own chair directly across from St. Clair. The man glares at him while he speaks. “We should begin to form alliances. With everyone. Like the United Nations of old, yes? But ours will be better. Stronger. Built before conflict can begin. When the world reconnects, everyone will share each other’s power.” Arguments explode around them. Cyrus and St. Clair stare at each other from across the room, neither saying a word. “That’s beyond treason, Mr. Nicholson,” a man with his long hair pulled back in a tight ponytail says. “To do anything with the information we collect is specifically breaking the New Age Treaty. We would be found out.” “Not if we recruit people that could protect us. Powerful people. If we got them our side—” “You’re suggesting political corruption.” “No!” He hesitates. “Not unless it has to be.” His hands are out flat against the table. “Imagine in twenty or thirty years, a government run by people like us. People not scared of the truth. We can retract the Treaty for good. We’ve been living with it for more than two hundred years. No one alive remembers a world without it. Enough is enough.” “The repercussions of that could be deadly,” St. Clair says. His voice is a stern whisper. “Not if we’re careful.” He had waited his whole life to be here. He has patience enough to wait for the next step. “Didn’t you all say that you all had bigger plans? What could be bigger, or more important, than this?” Again arguments, again St. Clair’s furious stare. This time he matches the man’s look with his own. By the end of the meeting, no solution has been found. They leave the room in angry waves.
Level Eight: Expansion and Completion of the United States Cyrus sits in that black room, once cold, now extremely familiar. He is happiest here. Again he talks to the woman with blonde hair from Germany. They have spoken many times over these past few years. Her name is Margot Acker and he considers her to be one of his very few friends. Subtitles still appear on the screen when they speak, but they have no need for them now. They switch between German and English as though they had both been born knowing each language. “You want us to come together?” she asks, eyes widening when he gives her his proposition. “Cyrus, that’s not my job to decide. Neither of us are powerful. We cannot change this.” “We can try,” he tells her. “Let me talk to your boss. I can convince him.” He has never spoken to whomever is in charge of Germany’s undercover foreign relations division, but he is willing to attempt it for this. Margot only scoffs and shakes her head. “No. You can’t. She won’t listen to you. She may talk to outsiders, but she doesn’t trust them.” “Then you can talk to her. Use the arguments I just gave you. Take it slowly. We need to start somewhere.” Margot is silent for a very long time. She touches her mouth with her fingers and stares off to a point out of Cyrus’s field of view. “I will try,” she says finally. “I do wish to see the rest of the world one day.” Cyrus’s face breaks out into a smile, his first in days. “So do I. And we will. I swear it.” ~ It is a Tuesday when he is called into St. Clair’s office for the first time. It seems to be that St. Clair’s existence is made up of Tuesdays. “Leeson is retiring,” a voice says the moment Cyrus steps into the room. It is a vast, round space, very cold in the stone color of its walls and carpeting. St. Clair’s expression when he lifts his face from his monitor only adds to the sensation. “You’re taking his job.” Cyrus stares at the man for a moment. “Head historian,” he says, a numb feeling in his mouth. “Why me?” St. Clair has been nothing if not furious with him for a very long time now. “Because I don’t trust you,” the man tells him. “So I want to keep you close.” “Friends close, enemies closer,” Cyrus replies, standing in the same position he had been in since entering the office. “Precisely.” St. Clair’s cold eyes are framed by small wrinkles that Cyrus has never seen before. They make him look older, frailer. “I don’t like what you’re trying to do, Cyrus.” “But why?” Cyrus asks, finally breaking his stiffness by stepping forward. “Please, Vincent. If you think I’m trying to take your power, you’re wrong. I want you to be a part of this more than anyone. Your help will make this infinitely easier.” St. Clair shakes his head. “It’s not that. I’ve lived my life a careful man. I know what it’s like when power takes hold of those around me. Power is going to do dangerous, terrible things to you, Cyrus.” He sighs through his nostrils. “It will hurt you in the end.” Cyrus knows he should argue. Tell the man that he’s wrong, that he’s too pure-hearted for that to ever happen. Instead he just stays silent. He knows he cannot promise anything. ~ He says goodbye to Leeson while the man packs up the last bits of personal belongings from his office, just a few doors over from St. Clair’s. “Why are you going?” he asks. The man lifts his head from the framed photo he is staring at. It appears to be that of a family. Leeson’s normally ruddy face is sickly pale. “My talents aren’t needed here anymore,” the man says, stuttering over his words. “I’m going to work in a smaller branch of the history department somewhere else.” He shakes his head multiple times. Cyrus watches him fold down the flaps of the box resting in his chair. “Thank you,” Cyrus mutters as Leeson hitches the box onto his leg to get a firm grip. “It’s only because of you that I’m here in the first place. I’m sorry for any trouble I’ve caused you.” The man’s shoulders visibly relax. He walks over to Cyrus and awkwardly holds out his hand from beneath his box, which Cyrus shakes firmly. Neither of them say goodbye. “Be careful,” Leeson mutters, before he leaves the room.
Level Nine: America’s Independence Time seems to move by in sudden intervals of sluggishness and rapidity. He and Ani get married. It was a very small wedding, very personal. He still finds her just as wonderful and beautiful as the day they had met. That seems like a good sign. As Head Historian, he suddenly finds himself given access to the entirety of the National Archives. There are a total of ten floors, and he is well acquainted with each one of them. Many lazy weeks are spent down its in vast depths. Almost always now, he finds himself alone down there. Very few people have access to anything below the first five floors. On July fourth, he wishes happy birthday to the country long dead beneath his feet. He sits at the dinner table beside Ani and tells her that they have a lot to be thankful for, the two of them. She smiles at him and agrees. Their fingers touch across the tabletop. ~ They sit at a table of ten with Cyrus at the head, a large flat screen mounted onto the wall behind him, humming with power, but its surface is only grey. “Does St. Clair know about this?” a woman asks. He knows her as Oona Clemons, a member of the National Human Services Department. The rest of them have come from all across the board, some with more power than others, all interested in the same thing: international unity. “No,” Cyrus replies. “He has no idea.” His eyes find those of every person at the table. “But St. Clair is irrelevant now. He has proven that he has no interest in evolving as time allows it. So we leave him behind and move forward.” A small block of color appears behind him on the screen, that of a man sitting in front of a tan background. “Mr. Nicholson?” the man asks in a thick accent, and Cyrus swivels his chair to stare at the screen. He smiles, hands folded in his lap. Someone behind him gasps with surprise. “Mr. Saito, thank you for joining us.” He bows his head in greeting. “Are we beginning?” the man asks. His English is terse. “Be patient, the others are coming.” Within a few minutes, the rest of the screen has blinked into life. Twelve separate boxes housing representatives from all over the world. Cyrus feels his heart burn at the sight of them, so many different faces with features alien and clothing exotic. “I believe,” he says after the last empty space of the screen becomes filled by a woman from Brazil, turning his head over his shoulder briefly to see the incredulous expressions of those seated behind him, “that we are ready to begin.” His cheeks hurt with how fiercely he is grinning as he looks back towards the screen. “Thank you, all of you, for risking your safety to meet here today. Welcome to the New Age Alliance. Together, we are going to change the course of the entire world.” ~ Ani makes note of how happy he’s been lately as they sit on their balcony porch one night, together on the swinging bench they have mounted to the roof’s overhang. Cyrus has his arm around her shoulder and one foot lazily sets the bench into a rocking motion every time it begins to slow. “Things have just been going well for me.” He kisses the top of Ani’s head and smiles into her hair. “Life is wonderful.” “It is,” she agrees. One of her hands rests on his chest, above the paisley tie she had bought him for his birthday some time ago. She tilts up her face so they can kiss. Her smile is much smaller when she pulls away. “Would it not be more wonderful with three of us?” Cyrus feels his heart sink slightly. “Not now,” he mutters, turning is face away from her. “Not yet.” He knows how much it means to her, but still his mind says ‘not ever.’
Level Ten: The Thirteen Colonies The very last time he sees Vincent St. Clair the man is standing in his office and staring out of his window at the same view Cyrus had come to know so well. He has seen very little of St. Clair for the past few months. It seems the man was making himself hard to find yet again. “Sit,” the man demands when Cyrus steps through the doorway. He points to the chair behind his desk. Cyrus complies immediately. He waits for the man to speak, but St. Clair stays silent, hands clasped behind his back as he grimaces at the view of the city at sunset. “Why am I here, Vincent?” Cyrus asks after almost five minutes have passed without words. “I know what you’re doing,” St. Clair says in a waspish tone. “Did you think I would be stupid enough not to find out?” He turns on Cyrus, short front locks of his white hair astray, wrinkles around his eyes and mouth. Where once he might have been intimidating, now he only looks sad. “Actually, I’m surprised you didn’t figure it out sooner,” Cyrus replies, smiling. The power had shifted in their relationship years ago. He is a much stronger man than he used to be. St. Clair’s sharp cheeks turn a faint shade of pink. “You think this is funny then, do you? Damn you, Nicholson,” he spits suddenly. “I should report you and your alliance.” “But you won’t,” Cyrus says coolly, “because then they would connect me back to you. None of this would have existed without your help, after all.” St. Clair glares at him in silence. Cyrus knows the man will not fight him when they both know that he is in the right. “So here we are,” St. Clair whispers. “At a standstill.” “It doesn’t have to be this way, Vincent. I want nothing more than for you to be part of the alliance. Your addition would benefit it immensely.” “I don’t want to be part of your alliance. I don’t want to be part of anything of yours, Nicholson. You’re growing too powerful for your own good.” “You’re scared of me,” Cyrus says quietly. St. Clair gives him a hard look. “I know that I can’t stop you,” the man says to him. “And I know you’ve taken from me precisely the things I wished to accomplish on my own terms. The Council has no purpose anymore. I have no purpose anymore. What few joys I had left in life you have squandered, Cyrus.” Cyrus frowns. “You know I didn’t mean to do anything of the sort. It was not my intention to hurt you.” St. Clair’s dark eyes are cold. “You will hurt many people without intending to, and many more that you will because you desire to.” “You don’t know that.” “Don’t I?” St. Clair’s fingertips touch the window beside him. “You have no idea what I’ve seen. I’ve lived a life just like yours, Cyrus. The Reconnection Council was formed from the same principles you chose to form your alliance from.” “But you’re not corrupt.” Cyrus sucks in a breath when he St. Clair begins to step closer to him. He wonders how long it would take to pull his pistol from the waistband of his pants if the man were to attack him. “Not anymore, no. But I’ve hurt a great number of people to get where I am now. I never realized that until I met you. You’re so much like I was that it makes me sick.” “So you’re trying to tell me to stop until I become a man like you?” St. Clair’s face is only a few inches away from his own. “No,” the man spits. “I’m telling you that one day you’re going to look out from whatever kingdom you’ve built for yourself and regret every damn thing you’ve ever done. You’re going to be an old man who feels as though he has the world until a younger person comes and outdoes you, and then you’re going to realize that you gave up everything for nothing. I want you to feel my pain, Cyrus. I want this to be the first.” There’s no time to stop him, no time to reach out and grab the man’s coat before the world suddenly turns into a series of images forever frozen in time: St. Clair running back to the window; the sound of shattering glass; the man’s body suspending gracefully in the air for a brief, wonderful moment before plummeting out of view. Cyrus’s fingers grip the chair in horror as screams begin drifting in through the broken glass from thirty-eight stories below. ~ Hands touch his shoulder in mourning. It’s been five hours since the trial and he’s been proven innocent of St. Clair’s suicide. It was inevitable, and he had told Ani so numerous times, considering the security footage of him sitting frozen in the man’s chair as St. Clair threw himself out of the window. They had shown it at the hearing, and Cyrus had turned and stared at the wall as it played. He didn’t want to see it another time. It already replayed enough in his mind at night. “Do we need to be here right now?” someone asks him as they sit at in a private room of some fancy restaurant. Cyrus is staring at his hands, barely able to focus on what is going on, even though it had been him to call them together in an emergency meeting. “This is poor timing, it’s obvious the mourning is too fresh.” “No,” Cyrus snarls as the others begin to voice sounds of consent. He raises his head and stares at them with cold eyes. “Vincent was a genius, troubled man. We will all miss him. But we can’t let us be delayed any more than we already have been.” That’s what he would have wanted to happen. He waits until they all have stared at each other and nodded tentatively before they turn their faces back to him. “We collect ourselves and move forward,” he says. He grabs the glass of wine in front of him and holds it up before his face. His reflection is twisted in its round surface. “For Vincent St. Clair. And for the future.” The rest raise their own glasses and toast with a collective murmur of “for the future.” They down their drinks in silence.