The Atlantis Project by Jake Parrick | Atlantis Rising Chapter One

These are the first ten pages of Chapter One of Atlantis Rising, I hope you enjoy it. Lisa Forrester did the editing and Steve Guglich was kind enough to iron out a few wrinkles, my thanks go to both of them.

 

Aiden Locklear—The Emperor of Atlantis—wearing Lightplate, the powered assault armor worn by the Imperial Order of Atlantean Knights. Aiden Locklear is an Imperial Knight. Lightplate is a powered assault armor that makes the wearer faster and stronger and is powered through the wearers connection to Teren. The hilt his Lightblade is attached to his hip. Written by Jake Parrick.

 

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Chapter 1

 

 

Aiden found himself standing in mud; the ground was soggy and bare and the dark soil clung to his boots making them heavy. As he turned to survey his surroundings, he was awestruck by the devastated landscape. Debris was littered everywhere, the trunks of trees sunk halfway into the squelching mud, smaller branches formed tangled nests—a graveyard for the world that had been before.

Aiden dropped to his knees, his armor clanking; his heart in his throat. He felt sick. Sick after being snatched from his place and his time, dropped into this dead world thousands of years removed from all he knew. Sick after watching his old world burn to ashes. Sick knowing that all those left behind were now dead. His eyes smarted and grew wet. He wasn’t sure if it was grief, though there was plenty of that, or if it was shock. Shock at stepping through the glowing portal and finding himself in a world devoid of life.

Aiden’s stomach churned and he breathed through his nose, trying not to throw up. It was a bad idea. The stench of rotting vegetation filled his nostrils and he heard vomiting from somewhere else in the group. His back was to them and he did not turn to see who it was.

Aiden clinched his teeth, willing his stomach to calm and, after a moment, it did. It registered after another glance around that there were no bodies. But… of course there would be no bodies. Those would have rotted long ago under the thrashing waves.

His eyes moved over the barren country side, flicking from one buried, rotting tree to the next. He wondered what it had looked like before. The day was hot, humidity already making sweat bead on his face and he was thankful for the temperature regulating, moisture wicking body glove he wore under his armor.

The humidity made him wonder… had this valley once been a rain forest, choked with tall trees and a leafy canopy? His eyes moved back to one of the sunken logs, a pine tree of some sort. Not the kind of tree he would associate with a rain forest. Then again, he admitted to himself, he could know nothing for sure. Nothing stayed still in a flood.

What had this place been? What great cities once stood here? What people once lived here? Tales of love and hate. Stories of births and deaths, of lives lived, fortunes made and lost. All gone, washed away—by the flood, by the breaking of this world. And what would the future hold? Were they where Atlantis would be? If not there then why had the Messenger insisted that they name it Atlantis?

Cold water from the mud seeped through the scale armor suit and into his body glove. It focused his mind and he stood, turning to face the rest of the group, mud covering the plates of his legs.

The first thing he noticed was that the angel Iaoel had gone. This was no surprise, the Messenger had a way of coming and going with no thought to Aiden’s wants or needs. Second, and more alarming, he saw that Dave and Kristen Potter were not present. Grief stabbed at his heart.

He faced his fellow project members. A few stood and gazed back, others slumped, hands on their knees, eyes down. A few were on their knees, like Aiden had been—all of them looked pale, some had tears in their eyes while others sobbed. The transition from the modern world to the ancient had been jarring and they all dealt with it in their own ways. More, the shock of leaving one world burned to ash, to arrive in a new world drowned under crashing waves, took its toll on all of them.

He calmed his breathing but his heart still sounded like a bass drum in his ears. He forced his face to a neutral expression as he studied the faces around him. It would not do to show the fear and helplessness that threatened to smother him. He must stay strong for the others and grieve in private. Grief showed plain on their faces. Grief, pain, the same helplessness that he was sure he hid. Grief for the old world.

It was all gone now. America, her allies, her enemies… all destroyed in a flash of light. The war, begun in 2032, had been raging for three years. Two days ago, it had taken a different, and ugly turn.

The US Navy had managed to pin the Russians in the Baltic, holding them there—forcing them to their knees and, with the previous year’s loss of access to the Black Sea, it completely removed their access to warm water operations. This American naval supremacy, coupled with the Japanese capture of Vladivostok, finally isolated the Russian Empire from their allies—making them desperate.

Aiden’s knowledge of the events was muddy, but from reports he had read he knew that a Russian ICBM had destroyed the Armstrong Carrier Strike Group in the Baltic. This was followed by a North Korean nuclear attack on Washington DC and seventeen other strategic points all over the Continental United States. The madness spread and America responded… the escalation that followed had culminated in the events of the night before; the destruction of everything that Aiden had ever known.

The members of the Atlantis Project had been up on the roof of the Tight Net headquarters building, located at Clarion, a vast urban warfare training complex in the Mojave Desert. It was a facility that Aiden had used to train his contractors and, occasionally, he opened it for use by the US Military. In the end, it had been a safe haven for them as the surrounding countryside fell to La Raza.

On that night, the last night, they had watched in awe and horror as the mushroom clouds rose over Los Angeles and life as they had known it had changed. That though actually made him chuckle. A grim chuckle and he felt a fool for letting it out. It has all been pointless. The bloody war they’d fought throughout the southern United States. It has all been an exercise of futility. He thought of the kids, he thought of them that way, his men who’d fought that war. All pros, talent went where the money was, and his boys had truly been the best. All of them with a minimum of ten years served in a tier-one spec-ops group. All gone.

Iaoel had come. He had ripped them out of space and time and they now found themselves in this barren landscape in a new and uncharted world. Although they had been planning for this moment for over a decade, the shock of it was fresh. The faces of his friends were an indication of the grief that they were all feeling, for the millions who were now dead; the ones who had been left behind. Some of these people Aiden had known his entire life and others for only a few years, but they were all men and women that he counted as friends; companions who he could trust with both his own life and the life of his wife.

When the Atlantis Project first started, he hadn’t known where the other members of the group would come from. In time, however, they had come. From all walks of life, until the final group had been formed.

Aiden had been given ten years to come to grips with his mission…with his anointing. He was, what he considered, a normal man. And at first he had struggled with the idea that he had been chosen to build a new world. But now, on the cusp of that new world, choice was no longer an option. It was do or die, to prosper or perish, and that really only left one option. Aiden wasn’t the type to lay down and die, and neither were the men and women who had come with him.

Twenty-nine families. Aiden sighed; the grief raw in his heart. The group was incomplete

and he thought of Dave and Kristen again, two members who had not made the rendezvous. He wanted to rage against their loss but knew that he could not. Millions were dead but it was the loss of those two that hurt the most. They could have been saved. They should have been saved. He had argued with Iaoel and then he had pleaded and then he had begged. To no avail. His mind told him that it was not his fault; he had done all that was necessary, but his heart told him otherwise.

He felt dazed still, his legs wobbly, and the dark thoughts brought the nausea back. To his side, someone lay sprawled in the mud, on hands and knees. Jaina, his wife. All other thoughts fled his mind and he knelt beside her as she retched again.

He reached out and put a hand on her back. She sobbed, her cries cutting his own heart. At his touch, she lifted up, wiped her mouth on the cold plates of her armor, and leaned into him.

“They’re not here,” she whispered. Aiden nodded. He did not know what to say, the loss of Dave cut him to his core. This was not the time though, and Dave himself would have smacked him around if he saw Aiden paralyzed by grief. Not the time. Not the time to allow himself or any of them to fall in their grief. Aiden’s father, dead now for many years, would have told him that grief is like fear. It will eat you if you slow, so better to move. And so he did, pulling Jaina to her feet and facing the group. His mind jumbled, he knew he needed to say something, anything would do at this point.

“Welcome to the Imperial Center of Atlantis,” Aiden called out, forcing a smile onto his tired face. Jaina now stood beside him, his arm around her waist, and the others were slowly picking themselves up and brushing the mud from their legs. He’d said the words as a joke and it received a few chuckles in response. The laughter had a nervous feel, the kind you hear after narrowly being missed by a semi-truck. In his experience though, any laughter, especially after the shock of all they had seen, was positive. He took a moment to meet the gazes of some of the men around him.

If the situation wasn’t so serious it would almost be comical. Everyone looked tired and muddy, carrying huge backpacks and covered head to toe in their modern versions of ancient armor. He’d seen some of these men, the ones who had served in Tight Net with him, kitted out in black gear, vests full of spare magazines, wearing helmets with mirrored HUD visors down. To see them like this, short swords instead of pistols, rifles replaced by bows. It brought a smile to his face.

They met his stare though, unflinching and resolved. Good, he thought, they haven’t lost their steel.

“We have left all that we know behind us and we now have the opportunity to create a new world for our children,” Aiden said, noting a few nods from the crowd around him. Despite the chaos of the past few days these people were ready to move forward, all hardened by the world they had left. They watched as the country they loved had been racked, first by riots, and then as the dollar collapsed, full scale looting and burning.

A communist Latino group called La Raza had taken power in Arizona and the chaos quickly spread from there. For the first time since Aiden had created Tight Net his contractors were paid to fight within the borders of their own country. The internal in-fighting had strangled the country, as they waged a multi-front war against Russia, China, North Korea, and the United Islamic Republic.

Aiden decided not to mention their missing companions. He knew that to mention them would be to make it real and he did not want to add to their sorrow. He let out a breath and composed himself.

“We should take some time today to explore our surroundings,” he offered. He did a quick circle. They were in a wide valley, and a river flowed a little to the north, from east to west, and it looked wide and powerful. Hopefully they would be able to find a way to cross it.

To the east there appeared to be some kind of large rock structure and through an opening he thought he could see water. He considered this and then nodded to no one in particular.

“Mark, take your squad,” he said as he glanced down at the compass in his hand, “North and try to find a place to cross the river”. Aiden looked up and continued. The group had been divided into six squads and, by prearrangement, they would be camping in three groups.

“Tim, take your squad North across the river and then follow it East until you come to that rock wall, when you get there follow it North. Ty, take your squad west and follow the river. Carl, head south towards those foothills. Don’t get separated and if any of you spot something important your first priority is to get back here and report it”. They nodded and Aiden looked over at Kit and smiled.

“Roll it out”. Kit snorted in disgust at having camp duty but nodded anyways, Aiden shrugged, someone had to set up camp and his squad was mostly made up of the tradesmen.

“Hopefully we won’t have to worry about any dangerous predators, but I want everyone ready just in case,” Aiden continued. “That said, each squad should have one member locked, cocked, and ready to rock with their bow.” He looked to the east and thought, again, that he could see a coast line through the opening in the rock wall. He pointed towards it.

“If that’s the ocean out there my squad will try to bring in some fish for dinner.” He knew the best thing for everyone was to keep them as busy as possible. “Is there anything I forgot?” Aiden asked. Neil Sterinson raised a hand, like of most of the other men in the group he was in his mid-forties and in good shape.

“Thanks” he said as he nodded to Aiden, “If anyone finds some good pieces of lumber take note of it; there looks to be a good amount of debris around us but hopefully we can find a clump of trees that drifted in together.” Aiden waited a moment to make sure the carpenter was done. When Neil didn’t add anything Aiden readdressed the need for weapons. He didn’t want anyone getting a false sense of security, there were already too few of them and he didn’t want to see anyone dead from a careless mistake.

“Let’s ground our packs and armor but keep your weapons close. There’s no guarantee that we’re alone here.” The group nodded and began to move. No one spoke; Aiden figured that they were all still in shock. It seemed like only five minutes had passed since they had seen the mushroom cloud rising in the distance. He found a dry patch of earth and set his pack onto it stripping out of his armor. Iaoel had made it clear that only the items on their person would be transitioned into the new world.

He took off his helm and then started to unbuckle the plates attached to his arms and legs; the other members of the group were doing likewise. He unbuckled the straps holding the Lorica Segmentata in place and then pulled it over his head. While the armor appeared cumbersome, the security of having it was immeasurable. He set it onto the ground and then unzipped the scale armor body suite and stepped out of it.

The armor had been designed in-house by Eric McKinley and Marcus Finnely, two of the team members. Eric was a skilled weapon and armorsmith and Marcus an expert in Metallurgy. Marcus had been a geologist who specialized in rare earth mineral mining but after retirement he had gone back to school to learn metallurgy; these two men were invaluable to the group.

Aiden stood in his rip stop BDU’s and underneath them were the moisture wicking, temperature regulating, body glove that had been designed by Kelli Swanson, Kit’s wife.  Kit was a carpenter and the Squad leader of 6th squad; a squad made up mostly of tradesmen. Married to Kelli, Aiden had known Kit for many years before the project even started.

Aiden looked down at the armor and smiled. The body suit was made from thin weaved vented Kevlar with sixteenth inch thick Super Bainite plates sewn into the fibers. Marcus had forged the plates by quenching high temperature steel at 450 degrees and then holding them at that temperature for twelve hours. The body suit also had a knee length kilt attached at the waist. The Lorica Segmentata, banded plate armor fashioned after the armor worn by the Roman Legions, was forged from the same material and all together it made for an armor system that was unlike anything else in the world.

The group was positive that they could reproduce these materials here in the new world. Every piece used had been created by one of the team members and the prototype set had been assembled at Aiden’s compound. Once they had an accurate design they outsourced the manufacturing to save time. The end result was the armor system they had donned when the Iaoel had come and instructed Aiden to gather the group together. They carried their weapons and would have brought their shields as well but, in the end, Aiden knew that he could not have carried one more ounce of weight.

Aiden strapped on his gladius and he grunted at the familiar weight of the short sword. Once his sword was securely strapped in place, he picked up his long bow. Jubal, his brother, finished taking off his own armor and walked over to him.

Aiden was grateful that Jubal was here. Jubal was his second in command, a capable leader, and an excellent warrior. He had enlisted in the Navy after high school, earned a SEAL contract, and then been assigned to Team 3. Aiden and Jubal had left the navy at the same time and he had helped him and Dave Potter start Tight Net.

Jubal had run the Special Activities Division, a division of Tight Net that did hostage rescue of missionaries and waged Guerilla wars against governments committing genocide. He was different, personality-wise, from Aiden. A bit of a jokester but, as a warrior, there was no one Aiden trusted more.

In truth, the events of the past twenty-four hours had sapped Aiden’s spirit and he was struggling to be positive. So many people were dead, by nuclear warheads back home and from the flood here. He reminded himself that they had left one devastated world and stepped into a new world that had been equally devastated. Doubt niggled at the back of his mind. It had all sounded fine when Iaoel had explained it to him in the comfort of his house. But to be here, in this wasteland…to be confronted with unimaginable destruction. How could this be God’s plan? And of course, the Messenger had failed to mention nuclear war. In fact, the Messenger failed to mention a great many things. Where were they? When were they? Why Atlantis? Aiden had asked all those question, more than once, and the response had always been the same. Silence. Or if not silence, then a redirection of the question. Never an answer though.

They had argued the questions among themselves until they were all blue in the face. They had argued to the point that now no one wanted to be the one to bring it up. Aiden knew that he certainly wouldn’t. It didn’t really even matter. Where they were would be answered soon enough, when he had the spare time to plot their position. As to when they were… Well, that question could wait and had the least practical value. It was obvious, by the great destruction that surrounded them, that the Messenger had told it true and they were at the time directly after the flood. As to when that was? Aiden figured that really didn’t matter. There were others in the group that would want to know of course, but knowing where they were was the important question in Aiden’s mind. No, the most important question of them all. Why Atlantis? It was a question he had asked himself almost every day since the Messenger had first appeared and told him to prepare a group. He had asked the question every day until finally he had stopped asking. He resolved to put it out of his mind. He would know soon enough if this was the lost city. He would plot their position in latitude and longitude and then find where they were on a map. There were quite a few places where people suspected the lost city to be, if they were in one of those places… It was a problem for another day.

Aiden planted his feet, careful not to slip in the mud, then clipped the stave of his bow to his back so it rested next to the quiver. He then watched his brother carefully pick his way over to him. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Alex meticulously arranging his gear, his wife Lori close to his side. Aiden felt that he needed to keep an eye on these two. He didn’t like the way Alex had been acting this past month. While they had never exactly been best friends, Aiden had counted him among those he would consider a friend. He wasn’t sure how he would classify the man now.

Alex’s eyes shot up and for an instant their eyes met. Cold eyes. Was he angry? Aiden wasn’t sure. He had never quite gotten along with Alex’s wife, and that was ok. Aiden couldn’t possibly get along with everyone. But…something had definitely changed and Aiden couldn’t quite put his finger on it.

Jubal finally reached him and Aiden broke eye contact with Alex so he could look at his brother. Dark bags lined the undersides of his eyes and Aiden knew that he looked no better. Jubal was tall, a good four inches taller than Aiden’s own six feet. Slender but with broad shoulders and lean muscle. A dangerous man depending on his mood. Jubal could keep them all laughing for hours at a time or, at the flip of some invisible switch, become quiet and edgy—like a great spring full of potential energy, just waiting for someone to nudge him.

Aiden knew Jubal’s moods though, and if truth be told, he sometimes enjoyed bringing him to that edge and then walking away and finding somewhere in the shadows to watch whichever poor victim would stumble too close and release all that stored energy.

Aiden forced a smile and clasped his brother’s shoulder. Jubal returned the smile, though there was no humor there, only a grim determination to see this day through. They were both tired. Yesterday had been long and none of them had slept. Aiden wanted nothing more than to set his own tent up and take a nap, though he knew that was impossible. There was too much to do, and he knew that if he closed his eyes right now, all he would see would be the mushroom clouds.

“What do you think?” Aiden asked quietly. Jubal’s eyes continued to scan, looking for threats, whatever that might look like, and shrugged in answer. Aiden’s own eyes wanted to scan, old habits, reassuring habits, but he forced himself to hold still. Things were tense enough without projecting his own nervousness to the group.

“It’s been one hell of day,” Jubal said, sounding almost nonchalant. Aiden’s forced smile turned genuine and a dark chuckle escaped his lips.

“So we’re going fishing?” Jubal asked, some humor finally creeping into his face. Aiden’s tired neck moved his head up and down and then almost as an afterthought he tilted his head to the side and it popped. He was getting to old for this. Too many jumps, too many accidents, to many holes in his body. If a person was so inclined, they could trace his life by the marks on his skin. A nose, broken a few times too many; though thankfully the last time it had been broken, someone with skilled fingers and the right knowledge had made it look almost normal.  A long scar traced above his right eye, a close call that had resulted in a fractured skull.

He was tired. Physically, mentally, and spiritually. Fishing would probably do both of them some good, at least until he remembered that they would have to do it sober…

“I hope you can fish better in the new world than you could in the old one,” Aiden said, voice sarcastic, but in good humor. Jubal scoffed and slapped him on the shoulder.

“I suggest you worry more about your own fishing skills. I’m going to catch one of those long necked dinosaurs and make you carry it back to camp.” Aiden laughed and rolled his eyes. Leave it to Jubal to make a boast like that.

“You better hope one of them doesn’t catch you first…” Aiden said, pushing his brother’s hand off his shoulder. Jaina, and Cali, Jubal’s wife, walked over and the two women favored both of them with a look that said they thought they were ridiculous.

“You guys done bragging?” Jaina asked with a smile. “You both know that anything you catch will pale in comparison to what Cali and I will bring in”. Aiden laughed at his wife and drew her into a hug and, as she folded into his arms, he felt a calm that had eluded him until now.

He took a deep breath, the clean air filling his lungs; he took the time to enjoy the moment. It was, admittedly, a beautiful, clear day. That thought made him wonder what the weather would be like in the coming days. They had so much to learn about their new home.

Aiden released his wife and turned west, away from the rock wall, and in the distance, he could see a long mountain range. They appeared to be blue and he guessed that they were about a hundred miles away. Aiden waived over the rest of the squad, no time to stand around.

“Let’s get going,” he suggested. “The other squads are already heading out.”

Jubal and Cali walked beside Aiden and Jaina; the rest of the squad trailed behind. He carried his bow unstrung and had a quiver on his back.

Over the course of the ten years they had been preparing they had all spent a considerable amount of time training with the bow and gladius. They had been restricted on what they could bring into the new world and firearms had been on the restricted list. Part of their training leading up to the crunch had been archery and most of the members could use a recurve bow with considerable skill. A few of them however, had elected to dedicate themselves to the mastery of the English Long Bow; Jubal and Aiden being two of them. He had a one hundred and twenty-pound longbow and could use it to good effect. One thing was for sure. Everyone in the group could, in one way or another, defend themselves and that was some small consolation.

***

That was the first ten pages of Atlantis Rising by Jake Parrick. Don’t forget to check out the artwork!

 

 

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