No one could have predicted just how volatile the situation was below the surface. Except one. And he did predict it. The only problem was that ideology was everything to him. He meant well, but everyone who disagreed with him was either ignorant or wrong. In his defense he was trained from the age of 5 to feel the weight of the entire Dawning Alliance on his shoulders. He was taught to think ahead, to weigh every detail, to factor in every potential risk. It was a heavy weight to carry, but he was confident. Too confident. A small few saw realized was unfolding in and around him with just enough clarity to step in, and just in time, or events might have unfolded very differently for this world. They caught on much faster. But his coming around–while slower–was far more significant. Why? Because he was Dawkins Hart, and he was next in line as Lord Sovereign Ruler of the entire Dawning Alliance.
Mid December of the year 2199.
He was trapped but he didn’t care; he’d find a way out, just like he always did. He crouched down and turned his back to a large tree trunk trying to stay hidden. He could hear them more clearly now–two groups. One group approached from the north through the dense forest. The other was coming up the nearby pathway.
Dawkins Hart was tall and strong for a 16-year-old. He could have easily passed for 19 or 20. He had his mother’s thick dark hair and copper-brown skin, and his father’s deep-set eyes and stubborn drive to succeed. He was everything a nation would look for in a typical leader, and then some. He was a skilled fighter, but this was going to be a difficult battle to survive. His intense military training had pushed him to levels of maturity and skill not normal for 16-year-olds in previous eras. But this was the age of the Dawning. Young leaders his age were expected to be ready to take up the torch of responsibility and press on, especially if they were an heir.
Sweat was running down his forehead, partly from the jungle heat, and partly from his tense predicament. He was cornered. He snuck a quick, risky peak between two large tree roots, then sank back down into his hiding spot, closed his eyes and listened to the approaching footsteps. They were converging on his location. The footsteps slowed until they stopped and everything went still. Dawkins held his breath. His hand slid silently down the barrel of his energy rifle to the gun’s control panel, setting it to kill. He pressed another button, this time on his suit’s control panel. Out of tiny pockets along his collar, a helmet materialized. The thousands of tiny pieces assembled themselves, moving in unison, and connected by a thin sheet of blue energy until the full helmet had taken shape. He pressed another button. The suit responded by changing from its bold white, gold, and red pattern–the Dawning’s colors– to a sensor-based cloaking pattern. From every angle the suit would show the colors of what was beyond him so that, when still, Dawkins was almost invisible.
He thought through his options quickly trying to keep his breathing low. He weighed the pros and cons of each idea. The next few seconds would shape his life. He had put in a lot of work to get here, and now it was all on the line. He was ready. He took one last deep breath, then burst out of hiding and into action with a yell. Firing three quick shots–all of which hit their marks– he dove, somersaulting into the cover of some brush. He counted twelve enemy soldiers. “Make that nine,” he thought to himself with a grin as he reassessed his next move. Now bright blasts of enemy fire were flying past him filling the air with smoke. Dawkins was pinned in place. He had to find a way out. Looking around frantically through the tiny holes in his cover, with adrenaline pumping, he saw his answer. His way out was straight through the enemy’s position down the main forest pathway. Thirty yards beyond them he could see the edge of a drop off. He knew it was a sheer drop. Dawkins took a deep breath and with a sparkle in his eye and a smirk on his face, recited to himself softly, “outsmart, outmaneuver, overpower.” Turning, he fired back causing the enemies to duck for cover. As soon as they dropped he burst into a run straight towards them. One of the enemies popped up more quickly than he expected and fired back. Two blasts grazed his armor suit, knocking out the new cloaking technology and returning him to his bold, bright colors. He was now a very visible, moving target, but it was too late. He was committed to his crazy plan. It was now or never. He sprinted at full speed straight between the enemy soldiers. They quickly ceased firing in confusion so as not to hit each other. It gave Dawkins just enough time. Still in a full sprint with heart pounding, he reached over his shoulder, pulled his back-mount case into his hands, then jumped as far out as he could over the edge. Looking down he realized that the cliff’s face disappeared below him into a thick jungle mist. It was like jumping off the end of the world. He had no idea how far down the drop off went. He just knew his time was short.
He threw his back-mount case out in front of him as he fell. It burst into tens of thousands of tiny pieces all linked by a small field of blue energy. In an instant, the pieces aligned and assembled themselves and formed a small hov-cycle. The Dawning hov-cycs rode like a motorcycle while flying like a drone. They were foot-operated, floating on six small, yet powerful propellers that made a unique, humming sound. Dawkins struggled to grab onto the falling cyc.