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Book I: Escape

Nearly ten years after the third great war, the population of North America is close to two and a half million. The global population is just over two billion.

Every electrical device that was unprotected was rendered inoperable by the electromagnetic energy released from the nuclear weapons, and certain weapons designed specifically to emit EMP’s.

The Enemy (for we still don’t know exactly who attacked first—and near the end, there were many) had learned of a secret military base located in New Mexico and in an attempt to destroy it, had wiped out most of the Great Basin. The more populous parts of California were also targeted. The Western United States was almost entirely destroyed.

The Eastern United States fared no better: The enemy knew exactly where the important political figures would take refuge when the war started. After they had entirely destroyed Washington, D.C., they targeted several underground bunkers that the leaders of the Country had taken up shelter in. One of the first they destroyed contained the vice president. The president was in Air Force One when it was targeted by a very powerful electromagnetic pulse weapon. All the power systems in the plane failed and it went down in the Atlantic.

To a lesser degree, chemical weapons were used as well. Fearing for their own safety, no one dared use biological weapons.

The West is now very scarcely populated. As a result, people began to gather into groups. Mallik has formed such a clan, with the majority of its population living in Johnston. Mallik’s is one of only three major clans in the region with more than a hundred people. There are several smaller clans, most of which have become nomadic, searching for food and shelter. Occasionally clans join forces, sharing the benefits of food, numbers, and skills. Mallik’s clan has one major boon: Supplies brought in by government trains. One of Mallik’s friends from the Navy is now running the trains through the area and gives Mallik the benefit of ordering goods from him (unofficially, since the goods are actually destined for the government facilities and colonies on the west coast).

The East is successfully repopulating and recolonizing. They have set up several large cities in which genetic tests are being conducted, hoping to make humans more resistant to radiation, for repopulation of the more contaminated regions. Certain tests involved combining human genes with specific sequences of animal DNA. Some of the tests were successful, but others resulted in humans that couldn’t function in human society due to their appearance. One such creature had escaped and joined Mallik’s group.

Some genetically modified animals had also escaped during the war, including several species of large lizards. These had become known as dragons, and the different species tended to resemble the different types from myth. Some speculated that this is exactly what the scientists had intended. This case was strengthened by the existence of other creatures from myth, particularly unicorns and some types of chimera. A few even claim that these are in fact the actual creatures from myth, reawakened by the war. Dr. Toric knows better, though.


Mallik pushed against the underside of a massive steel door, swinging it open and climbing the ladder to exit. He looked around for the sound he’d heard.

“D-dad!” cried a trembling voice. The voice was coming from within a large, thorny bush nestled between two large rocks. He could barely make out the shape in the center of the bushes: it was his son, Nerrik. Then he heard the sound again. Without the thick shelter door as a dampener it was almost deafening.

Mallik stared at the dragon bearing down on Nerrik. Bo emerged from the hatch behind Mallik, followed closely by Kajok.

The dragon turned its attention from the bush and began circling Mallik and Bo as they advanced on it. While the dragon was distracted, Kajok walked slowly toward where Nerrik was hidden. When he reached him, Kajok began to help him from the bushes, trying to avoid the thorns. Bo and Mallik stood their ground, facing the dragon. It stayed focused on them as Kajok ushered Nerrik back to the safety of the underground shelter.

Without warning, the dragon took a swipe at them. Mallik ducked under the claws, and Bo rolled forward. Bo landed on his back underneath the dragon. He slammed his mechanical right arm into the dragon’s sternum. He heard it crack, and the dragon jumped back.

It reared up and opened its jaws wide, and thrust its snout down to where Bo was. Before it could close its jaws around him, Bo kicked hard with his right leg, hitting the dragon in the lower jaw. Again it jumped back.

Mallik had been sidling around the dragon, meaning to jump on its back and attack its eyes with his hunting knife. The dragon swiped at Bo, and Bo flew through the air toward Mallik. Both Mallik and Bo were knocked to the ground, and the hunting knife was thrown from Mallik’s hand.

The dragon moved toward them, then recoiled in apparent pain, as a rock bounced off its nose. Mallik and Bo looked behind them and saw Kajok standing there.

The small rock wasn’t enough to distract the beast for long, and it advanced on them again. Bo stood his ground in front of it, while Mallik ran toward where his knife had landed.

As Bo held the dragon’s attention, Mallik searched around in the sand and brush for his knife. Just as he glanced back to see how Bo was doing, he saw a glint of light from the serrated back edge of the knife.

Mallik picked up the knife and held it by the blade. He raised it over his shoulder and threw it as hard as he could at the dragon. The knife hit its target and sunk into the dragon’s eye. As the dragon recoiled, Bo reached up and grabbed its lower jaw, pulled its head toward the ground, and then wrenched the beast’s head clockwise. It was too focused on its eye to resist, and Bo snapped its neck. Small clouds of dust arose when the dragon slumped to the ground.

Mallik retrieved his knife and went with Kajok and Bo back into the shelter.

“You think we’ve got an infestation problem?” Bo asked.

“Where there’s one, there’s more,” Mallik replied.

Kajok added, “Don’t they lay something like fifty eggs every year? You think Joe will some poison or something.”

“Oh, that’s right,” Mallik said. “I forgot Joe was coming tomorrow.” Mallik understood the importance of getting rid of an infestation as quickly as possible: Dragons were known for depleting an area of wildlife, which would mean less food for Mallik’s clan. Not to mention their affinity for human meat as well.

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