Nathan Christopher Dayspring was born in the twentieth century and delivered as an infant to this time-period in a selfless act of preservation. Dying of a Techno-Organic Virus that was introduced into his system by the mad Apocalypse, he was rescued by an almost mythical clan of women known as the Askani. With his adopted parents, who took the names of “Redd” and “Slym,” Nathan toppled the nearly omnipotent Apocalypse, casting an evil which had swallowed the land for centuries.
Time passed. Nathan grew up alone, Redd and Slym having long ago vanished. Like the planet itself, Nathan turned hard, arrogant, but somehow instilled with hope. Hope that the new shadow which eclipses this era does not suffocate its peoples – Canaanites by name – as Apocalypse once did.
Presently, Nathan Dayspring is in a milk bar, drinking from a watering trough. Tetherblood stares at him. Nathan, seemingly vexed, asks him what he’s looking at. He’s thirsty. “I’m sorry,” Tetherblood replies. Nathan rudely suggests he gets sorry someplace else.
In actuality, Nate and Tetherblood are buddies. As they pretend to cast each other angry glances, they discuss telepathically. Nate tells Tetherblood that his lead paid off. It turns out the Canaanites have been diverting food to eastern mines. Which means he and Tetherblood leave tonight to…
Troubled, Tetherblood interjects that he and Nate have to do one thing: talk out loud; no telepathy. Nate is baffled: talk? But he likes telepathy. Talking aloud, Tetherblood tells Nate to face it: the two of them alone can’t start a revolution. Insisting on carrying this conversation telepathically, Nate reminds him they’re not alone; they have Professor. Tetherblood argues that lads their age should be chasing women, not in some disgusting milk bar… Nate angrily wonders if Tetherblood’s turning against him also. Tetherblood clarifies it’s just sometimes Nathan acts as if she’s got vision and the rest of the world is blind.
A woman watches them keenly from a distance. The woman tells her peer, ‘Strator Porus, to turn slowly and try to have a look at the cloaked man. Is he not the dissident with the price on his head? Porus and the woman approach Nate. The woman pats his back. They wish to have a word with him. Nate is startled: who the…? Tetherblood psionically alerts him to go easy; these are Canaanite ‘Strators. He suggests they just say goodnight and… “Sorry… They started it,” Nathan smiles mischievously. “Here we go again…” Tetherblood groans, predicting what comes next.
Half a world away, in a land once known as Egypt
The timeless Sphinx, defiled by Apocalypse as an effrontery to his lordship, still stands, although in ruin. It is here that the air pirate ship Gender Splay has come to dock. Her captain, the ruthless mercenary Marmelzat concludes another mysterious transaction, unaware he has aboard a Canaanite working in secret.
The undercover Canaanite in question, ‘Strator Umbridge, ponders it’s been months of posing in loyal servitude to the genetrash Marmelzat. Searching for something that may not exist, and instead watching illegal transactions. Umbridge currently operates under orders from the top of the Canaanite command. She exists to find and destroy “the stuff of fairy tales”… the hidden stronghold of the Clan Askani.
But ambition can be blinding. Umbridge does not realize how close she is to uncovering something far more dangerous to the Canaanite government. Below, the man who is having the transaction with Marmelzat – Stryfe – can hear Umbridge’s thoughts as if she were shouting. His motives will be kept secret until Umridge and the rest of the Canaanite sheep lie dead. Until he, Stryfe, the rightful heir to Apocalypse is returned to his throne.
Oblivious to Stryfe’s agenda, Marmelzat tells him their dealing is done. “For now, Marmelzat…” Stryfe cryptically replies. Marmelzat has seen many things in his day, but there is something about this boy, despite the gold he pays, which chills him to the very marrow. Ending his transaction with Marmelzat, Stryfe travels to an underground complex. “The rightful heir to the throne of Apocalypse.” In a world that was tortured by madness and foul reason, only one man could wish for such a thing. Stryfe was raised by Apocalypse himself with the hidden intention of using the boy as a host vessel for his own essence. He is a psionic of vicious power and an unparalleled lust for destruction – and the genetically cloned twin of Dayspring.
Underground, Stryfe reunites with Ch’vayre and happily asks him how they fare. Slowly, Ch’vayre replies. Stryfe hopes this fusion engine he acquired will speed their work. The day grows too long. He wants the ancient army of Apocalypse reborn! He wants the flower of his empire to bloom once more! Ch’vayre retorts that he is more aware of what Stryfe wants. Stryfe suggests that the old man do it, then!
It has been thus for years. In accepting the role of Stryfe’s caretaker, Ch’vayre thought he could dissuade Stryfe from his corrupted path. But despite the wisdom that comes with age, Ch’vayre finds he no longer has the will to complete any task, other than what Stryfe wishes…
Aboard the Gender Splay, the word travels quickly throughout the crew that the mission is completed. There will be gold enough for all – and that alone is good reason for revelry and debauchery. Umbridge watches them, awash with contempt and aversion. Only her loyalty to Tribune Haight could keep her amongst this loathsome lot. But even that wears thin.
Seeing her all by herself, Marmelzat wonders why she doesn’t mix it up. Umbridge justifies herself: she… wants only for a new adventure. Marmelzat reveals she will have her wish. Their next trip is to Ebonshire. Rejoicing upon hearing this location, Umbridge tells him she will make the preparations. At last, you decrepit heap of bile, she ponders – for in all this cesspool that is Eurasia, her sources tell her that it is in fabled Ebonshire, that she will find the survivors of the hatred Clan Askani!
This is a legendary place where genetic handiwork on the local vegetation ran amok. The government claimed it to be uninhabitable and, as the years went by, it was all but forgotten. It would only be in an area such as this, that the last bastion of the once-strong Clan Askani remains, led by a woman who has taken the name Madame Sanctity. She is a direct disciple of the Mother Askani, a person equated by many as god herself. But with the Mother Askani long dead, her teachings are remembered by a scarce few, and thus interpreted as individuals will – individuals who can be corrupted, self-aggrandizing or even, as in Sanctity’s case, insane.
Sanctity is currently outside, majestic as she floats high above a group of awestruck people. She asks the nearby Askani novitiate known as Aliya whether she can feel how the local villagers give their psionic love to their holy shrine. Aliya nervously assures she can see that. But if she may, is it the way of the Askani to help those less fortunate and not profit from their… Nonsense, child, Madame Sanctity demurs. She and the Askani are merely conduits for the faith. If the local gentry wish to reward them, it is their decision to do so…
Novitiate Aliya is dejected. She turned her back on the world at large to learn the teachings of the Askani. As each night passes, she harbors a secret fear that she may have made the wrong decision…
In the milk bar, ‘Strator Porus again demands Nate state his business. And if he does not comply, they will be happy to continue this conversation at their local Temple of Administration. Nathan replies he’s seen their “Temple” firsthand. They are no better than the pens Apocalypse kept Nate’s people in.
So intent are the ‘Strator guardians in their work that they little realize they are speaking to a mere telepathic projection of Nate. The female ‘Strator asks Nate’s simulacrum to tell her more about his people, if he would. Nate’s psychic projection explains they are the ones who do most of the hard work and labor. Or maybe she doesn’t know.
Watching the scene, Tetherblood telepathically quips that Nate gives new meaning to the adage “you can’t be in two places at once.” The true Nate, standing further from there, asks Professor to give him a fix. The sentient techno-life-form that was literally plucked from Dayspring’s chest cavity, informs him that there are three more ‘Strators seated to Nate’s left. Nate mumbles it’s good to know. Professor deems the one called “Porus” to be non-telekinetic, i.e. Nate’s powers will have no effect on that one. It suggests Nate begins there. “Time to take out the recyclables,” Nate remarks with a devilish grin. Professor agrees.
Meanwhile, the female ‘Strator has begun arguing with the disobedient projection of Nate. She sternly alerts him that refusal to enter into a discussion with a duly-appointed official is not looked upon highly by Nate’s government. She thinks it best he accompanies…
Suddenly, much to her surprise, Nate begins to disappear. The true Nathan sneakily attacks Porus with his staff. That’s the problem with first-rate magic like his, Nathan banters – it’s wasted on children and idiots. Pandemonium quickly ensues inside the bar. Tetherblood warns Nate that he’s succeeded in alerting the seated ‘Strators. “So I see,” Nate replies. He dexterously climbs on Porus’s back. Quick! he tells Porus – he needs his weapon. He places his hand above Porus’s machine-guns and telekinetically provokes them to fire at the other attacking ‘Strators, seriously injuring all three of them. Nate sports a malevolent grin: poor Porus shot his own men! How is that going to look on his report…
Another ‘Strator sneaks up on him and clasps his face. He will accompany them to the local administrative office – now! Tetherblood interposes and asks the ‘Strator if he could have a word with him. The ‘Strator demands he stand aside. “I don’t think so!” Tetherblood snaps and brutally batters the ‘Strator to unconsciousness. Turning to Nate, he hopes he realizes this is another establishment they’re not going to be invited back to. Nathan admits that’s the price they pay. Tetherblood hopes Nathan now sees why they never meet any women. Annoyed, Nate wonders if that’s all that matters to him. A quick spin…
Someone in the bar claps in applause of their victory. It’s Blaquesmith. “Well, well, well. Look who fell in the well,” Tetherblood remarks. Nate is surprised to see him alive. Blaquesmith sarcastically wonders if mastering the obvious is the only thing Dayspring is capable of. Nathan insists they’ve done just fine without Blaquesmith and his Askani teachings. “Really?” Blaquesmith says and somehow manages to snatch Nathan’s staff from right under his hands, before he swiftly thwacks him with it. Blaquesmith has another aphorism for Nate: none are so deaf as those who would not listen.
The Professor, always offering Nate instructions and advice, informs him that Blaquesmith intends to up-end you. Dizzy and spread on the floor, Nate thanks the Professor! “You are entirely welcome, Nathan,” the A.I. glibly replies.
Blaquesmith brusquely helps Nathan back on his feet. Blaquesmith is cross: an entire world is waiting from Dayspring to emancipate them from an ancient evil, and Nate’s response is to engage in a brawl in a milk bar with the local specks. Tetherblood watches in awe. Few have ever spoken thus to Dayspring. In Tetherblood’s memory, he cannot even recall a single name. But clearly, he and Dayspring recognize a special quality to the mysterious Blaquesmith. For Tetherblood, anyone who can put Dayspring in his place has a free ride!
Pointing his finger at Nathan, Blaquesmith hopes he hasn’t risked all there is on the wrong individual; that somehow Dayspring does not realize the weight of the mantle he bears. Nathan insists that, if Blaquesmith wants him to do something, he’ll do it. There isn’t a fight he’s ever run from. Blaquesmith reminds him he left with instructions. Nathan was here to seek the Clan Askani. Nathan stubbornly retorts that Blaquesmith’s “instructions,” as he puts it, were so cryptic he couldn’t figure them out. Even Professor couldn’t decipher what Blaquesmith meant.
Blaquesmith glowers at him and motions at his heart. The meaning of the words of Askani are spoken here, in one’s heart. Not in that organ Nathan refers to as his brain. Still at loss, Dayspring asks him what he’s talking about – the Askani are all long dead! Blaquesmith clutches a pipe and greedily gulps some milk. Satisfied, he stops and burps: sour milk. Addressing Nate again, he points out that if all Dayspring does in life is to respond to the world with questions, then he can expect little except advice from fools. As his form begins to fade, Blaquesmith again points his finger at Nate and reveals that in Ebonshire is one he seeks. There, a Clan Mother awaits his arrival.
Before he can reveal anything more, Blaquesmith vanishes like a ghost. Tetherblood opines that maybe that little guy, Blaquesmith, has a point. Maybe both he and Nate need a little direction.
In the far, distant desert land of Egypt, within the ancient stonework of the Sphinx, Stryfe tears apart a bloody, horribly disfigured corpse – another failed clone of the High Lord Apocalypse. “Bored. Boring. Boredom,” Stryfe grouches. Intimidated, Ch’vayre asks his Lord if he has a complaint. Stryfe yammers that his life has lists of them. Foremost, however, is the apparent inability for either Ch’vayre or this Zero unit to complete the appointed task and reanimate anything in the way of a suitable army of soldiers! Ch’vayre promises he will attempt to move with greater haste. Lost in his reflections, he fears that with each passing hour, Stryfe’s descent into madness…
“Have a care, old man,” Stryfe intercedes in Ch’vayre’s thoughts. Ch’vayre’s ability to block his thoughts from him weakens as Stryfe’s strength grows. Psionically lashing at him, he confesses he is momentarily at a loss as to why he shouldn’t crush his larynx! He so tires of Ch’vayre’s growing concern for the “huddled masses” that populate this ball of mud. He is the chosen heir to the throne of Apocalypse! And Ch’vayre will address him with the tone of respect that he…
The synthetic unit known as Zero addresses Stryfe. The android reveals that Stryfe’s own innate power can be furthered by another – and thus, reduce Stryfe’s reliance on other carbon life forms. “Another? Who?” Stryfe queries. Zero reveals it’s a member of the fabled Clan Askani – Madame Sanctity. Stryfe is both surprised and pleased. One of the old witches still lives? Fascinating…
Aboard the Gender Splay, as it crosses over the Great Sea, Umbridge is pensive. “And even the heavens shall rage against us,” she recites. Is it blasphemy to think that they could place themselves before fallen gods? She should not even entertain such thoughts. She needs the counsel of her Tribune. On her knees, she establishes contact with her superior: “’Strator Umbridge on authorized access line Shadow Rock”. He asks Tribune Haight whether he can bridge.
Elsewhere, Tribune Haight bathes in another victory for the New Canaanites. Student dissidents, ninety in total, were “disciplined” for their… inaccurate view of the government. Standing loftily with his armor amidst a battlefield infested with corpses, Haight bridges Umbridge’s message. He can only assume that she has completed her task, and that the remains of the hated Clan Askani are ash. Umbridge assures him they near victory, but…
Haight berates her: “near” victory is nothing more than a promise of false hope. Surely, Umbridge learned that much at the Academy. He needn’t remind her of the importance of her deed. The Canaanite movement roars ahead. It would be… a shame if she were left behind. Umbridge assures him he needs not even entertain this notion. When next they speak, the Clan Askani will return to the stuff of dreams.
She severs the link and gets up. She wonders if Haight noticed her hesitation. She tries to calm herself. She tries to remember the ancient texts she read as a child. They always eased her mind then. “Blow winds blow…”
In the sewers below the milk bar, Tetherblood blabbers about the ‘Strators. Whatever price Nathan and Tetherblood had on their heads… it just doubled. Nate thinks they have to talk. Blaquesmith made it pretty clear to Nate where he has to go and… Tetherblood offers to make it easy for Nate. This is something he has to do alone. Nathan wonders if he’s asking him or telling him. Tetherblood suggests they both know the answer to that. Dejected, Nathan hopes Tetherblood is not going to forget him. “Have we met?” Tetherblood exclaims. He reminds Nathan they’re linked. Got it? The two friends embrace for farewell.
Tetherblood lets Nate know that he’ll contact the resistance. He asks Dayspring to take care of himself. Walking away as he puts his cloak on, a smiling Nate insists he’ll be fine. Didn’t he hear? He’s the savior of the whole spinning planet! Tetherblood wishes him “g’journey.” And may whatever gods are left protect him…