Dystopia Chapter 1

From the Story Arc: Dystopia

Previous Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 9 by Krasnaya Zarya (Friday, June 30, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Dystopia - Sofia's Journal by Krasnaya Zarya (Tuesday, July 04, 2006)

(posted Sunday, July 02, 2006)

The sunsets were never the same. Dim memory unveiled a swath of blue, flowing into a gradient of purple to red. The clouds would glow in passing flame of the sun, refracting the ultraviolet rays towards the few people who could take the time out of their busy schedules to admire their personal light show.

But Paragon City lost the glamour of the setting sun years ago. Not because of pollution, which oft enhances the spectacle, but because of powerful visitors from another dimension. The War Walls constructed to separate and control the human populace remained long after the threat had ended, dividing neighborhoods and controlling traffic. The large forcefields, which rose high into the atmosphere, played havoc on the solar display, tinting everything green and blocking out the subtle twists of color.

Alexander Rabinovich could still remember the sunsets of Russia, though it had been over a decade since he had left, from the smog-engorged extravaganza that graced Moscow, to the silent majesty that hung, foreboding, over devastated Chernobyl. That was part of the reason he'd chosen that as his hero name – Krasniy Zakat, Red Sunset. The very event that gave him his powers was also a symbol of the fall of Communism. It also helped that his wife had chosen Krasnaya Zarya - Red Dawn.

In his more poetic moments, he liked to think of her as his personal sun, keeping him warm through the dark night that was his life since the accident. He wouldn't be alive without her, and he couldn't let her down.

Which is why he was down in this hidden lab under Founder's Falls, confiscated from the Crey during one of the CCCP's missions. The sunlight did not reach down into the metallic hallways, buried beneath meters of earth and stone. The dull glow of fluorescent lighting illuminated the large machines of various shapes and sizes. He stood at a large panel, tweaking various dials and switches. He would have preferred an entirely digital interface, but it seemed that the villains of Paragon City were more of the mad scientist variety than anything else.

It had taken him little time to reverse engineer the Crey technology, but finding his goal took much longer. He wished he could take credit for the stroke of genius that led him to the portal generator, but it actually came from, of all places, a science fiction novel. Not to say the Isaac Asimov was not a genius, for Sasha admired the man's sheer imaginative capabilities when it came to the sciences.

It had been a minor point, something small within The Gods Themselves, but rather brilliant when applied to the real world. It went like this: The number of alternate universes is either 1 or infinite. Since it has been proven that there are more than 1, than there must be an infinite number. If there is an infinite number, then probability starts to kick in, and all possible universes should exist. And that is the kicker, for portal technology. If one tries to find a world where the Japanese took over the world, it must exist, somewhere. If one tries to find a world where cold fusion works, it must exist, somewhere.

And if Sasha tries to find a world where an alternate self has already found a cure to his problems, it must exist, somewhere.

The problem is finding that world, one would think. But, no, that's solved by the same line of reasoning. There must be an alternate universe where the cure has been found and where the alternate Sasha has portal technology and is trying to help his alternate selves. Convoluted, yes, but perfect nonetheless.

The portal behind him hummed with esoteric energies as he carefully calibrated the parameters of his searching algorithm. It was all following some rote memorization within his head, carefully choreographed to pick where he had left off the day before. This search had been going on for weeks, interrupted by his forays into crime solving with his wife and the incident with the Council assault on the CCCP home-base. The biggest issue was probability. He had a greater chance of being struck by lightning than finding the purported dimension in one shot; unless he could narrow the search further.

He took a step back from the apparatus, watching the searching algorithm at work. Numbers ticked by slowly on the monitor, various statistics of each given world flashing by before being replaced with a “NOT A MATCH” message. Thousands of alternate worlds had passed before his eyes – how many different Alexander Rabinovich's had he been but a short portal hop away from meeting?

He would never know. He had decided from the start not to go meddling in other dimensions, unless it was “the one”. There were too many risks, as had been evidenced by the Rikti, the Praetorians, the Reichsman's world, and whatever other mad universes could exist. He might find a world where Earth is uninhabitable, and walking through that portal would mean certain death. He had many things for his scanners to evaluate before he even thought of passing through the shimmering gateway.

If only he could directly observe the world before entering it... He had been tempted to look for a world where the Chernobyl incident never happened, to see what his life would have been like without his powers. They probably still would live in America, radiation or no, for the fallen Soviet Union is a terrible place to live. But they would both be working – Alex doing nuclear research for some American university, Sofia teaching university students languages, or pure linguistics. Would they be able to have children?

Sasha was pulled away from that most wanton desire by a flash of light on the console. That light, a warning sign, had been dim from the very beginning. It meant that the search algorithm had stopped prematurely, for good or for ill. The message flashed across his face, bathing his pale skin in green light.

Search halted by remote process. Origin of command: Current target dimension.

“Interesting.”

He turned towards the large gateway, purple and blue light swirling in complex patterns inside the metallic rings. Slowly, with great care and caution, he reached out to one of the consoles, flipping a comically large lever. The swirling light collapsed on itself, shrinking until it was no longer visible to his unaided eye. The singularity pulsed – once, twice, thrice – then exploded to fill the contraption with a darkness thicker than night. A moment later the shadows fell away, leaving a gaping hole in the universe.

His hand, which had been hovering over the ominous, and equally silly, large red cancel button, dropped to his side, a broad smile crossing his formerly weary face. Through the undulating purple rings of the doorway, standing amidst a laboratory filled with elaborate structures made of large vacuum tubes and gigantic pipes, a younger looking and incredibly more fit Alexander Rabinovich stared back at him, eyebrow raised curiously.