Silver Strife (Immortal Quicksilver Book #1) by J.A. Kenney
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R E B I R T H
I was alive, in a new mortal shell, a different place, and time. If I had believed in some benevolent supernatural creature that controlled every aspect of reality, I would have thanked it. Instead, I just felt a sort of ambivalent relief.
Time was a true fourth dimension. Ages and epochs made long sweeping circles across the void, and immortals traveled between those rings like icebreakers smashing through a frozen sea. So we died just like everyone else, a truth that I thought a glaring irony. However, we came back, born again into new flesh, and in this new vessel, I could forge ahead in the eons long war against the Purists—a war that raged across the whole of space and time.
For years, I caught only brief glimpses of this life: a stern woman’s face looking down at me as I lay in a clear plastic bassinet, the pain of a broken wrist, and the unpleasant jab of tanbark against my spine. Born into this body, my spirit slept in a small corner of its mind. United and yet separate until the physical form was ready, for a child’s mind simply could not process eternity.
My thoughts snapped into place, and I inherited, in excruciating detail, the memories of a lifetime lived. No immortal knew what happened when our minds achieved synergy, but it felt like my soul suddenly clicked into alignment with this body’s neurons. The process was abrupt and shocking even after untold permutations, like a memory dump from a massive supercomputer. Twenty years of daily events, knowledge, and struggles were mine in a split second. I knew who I was, where I was, and what I was. A place, time, and identity that could not have been less to my liking.
My vision cleared. I stood in a well-lit hall lined with thick metal plates and reinforced doors. A calm yet commanding voice played in the background—a subtle reminder to cultivate unity and serve the greater purpose. “Preserve strength. Embody perfection. Maintain obedience.”
My eyes discreetly explored the lines and curves of my body. It was petite and feminine, with sufficient curves to avoid being boyish but a distinct lack of height. The skin on my delicate long-fingered hands was a dark caramel, the nails neatly manicured, and I ran one of them through straight waist-length black hair to feel its smooth silky thickness.
Surrounding me were a plethora of other young people, all of them disturbingly alike. They all had dark hair, dark eyes, and honey-toned skin, complemented by bodies that were young, attractive, and fit. These were the Union Elite. All dressed in uniforms of white button-down shirts, black slacks or skirts, and shiny polished black shoes. They looked like bronzes cast from the same mold, and the effect was eerie, like being surrounded by dozens of identical twins all filing in an unnatural orderly fashion to their next classes. This compound was built to house and educate society’s so-called best and brightest, but the hall and building surrounding it were armored for a reason.
I knew, from this and previous lives, that there was danger here, and not just to the students’ minds from blatant indoctrination. Their Civil War was a constant threat, often bleeding over into these remaining pockets of civilization. The year was three hundred and fifty-six in the Plebeian calendar, and this was the planet Earth.
The Elites’ university was situated on the semi-arid high plains that I remembered as the United States of America. Now this area of windblown and sun-scorched earth was called the North Western Sector. When the new era was founded centuries ago, the people of the world had experienced a brief period of renewed hope. The world had been united, all people were equal, and they would work together to build a better future for humankind. The newly christened Elites would be benevolent and altruistic leaders.
The naïveté of those people and their dream of endless peace had not lasted a decade. Instead, the world had been plunged into a centuries-long Civil War, and was ruled over by a cruel and selfish caste of super humans who viewed the rest of humanity as base, dangerous, animals. All at the whim and design of a single Purist, another immortal, who had twisted those noble dreams to his purpose. Yet, those events were now distant history, and I had to live in the here and now.
A bell chimed, and the students disappeared into their bunker-like classrooms. I stood frozen in place as they passed me by, still caught in the shock of a new and different existence. A number of confused glances were thrown my way.
“Lini. Is something wrong?” A soft touch to my arm preceded the serious expression that drifted into view. The voice and face were familiar. One of the many Elites who was genetically this body’s first cousin. She motioned me toward one of the open doors.
“No, nothing is wrong, Saran. I apologize for my inattention.” I forced myself into motion and trailed after the line of students filing into their next lecture.
The room was stark, white cinderblock walls with a half-dozen small wooden desks facing a larger desk and chalkboard. The lack of windows managed to give it an even more depressing penal feel. I plopped into an open seat, dropped my light backpack on the floor, and turned to face the instructor.
“Today, we will be discussing the foundation of the Union,” said Charles, the history professor. He leaned against his large wooden desk in a casual pose that portrayed both confidence and arrogance in spades. Dark hair and eyes, sharp cheekbones, and a toned body, a model specimen of the Union’s breeding program. In a vain attempt to delay a long afternoon of monotony and conveniently edited events, I sighed, and put my hand up.
Charles ignored me.
“Before the founding of the Union, the world was littered with separate countries. These small powers drove a nearly constant state of warfare, resulting in widespread poverty, and humanitarian abuses. Today, I want us to discuss how these governmental, cultural, social, and economic entities were motivated by greed, racism, and false prophets to enforce their individual wills on all peoples. Saran, if you could read the excerpt on page 325, the third paragraph concerning Manifest Destiny.”
History, or the self-serving fiction of a victorious reactionary authoritarian regime. The Union had started out as a tempting illusion dangled before the people of Earth by a Purist, but it quickly turned into the malignant nightmare he intended. Millions died in the ethnic cleansing Petrov instituted, and even more in the unsuccessful wars to overthrow him. Hundreds of years later, a small group ruled from on high by virtue of the “superiority” of their birth and technological advancement had ground to a screeching halt. Meanwhile, the rest of humanity was withering under the weight of its own impotence.
The distinct crack of submachine gun fire yanked me back into the present. My senses instantly alert to the slightest movement. Another shot rang out, and men’s shouts laced with pain came from the direction of the building’s entrance. The unexpected sounds faded into a misleading tranquility.
“Raid,” I whispered to shatter the pregnant silence.
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