Dimension 7183 had been a particularly un-noteworthy place of exploration before an expedition of scientists, guarded by a company of Meta Marines, actually went there. From what Portal Corp. could tell from sending a probe through a smaller portal six months earlier; that world was among the many that had fallen foul of a Rikti invasion force. They had found evidence of a Paragon City nearly identical to their own, but with the remains of technological advancements that implied a civilisation that had not evolved to include Meta-genetics. Without the beyond genius intellects of their world, dimension 7183 had ticked along since World War II, improving in line with similar worlds that were absent of Meta humans. “Remains” was certainly the word to describe what was found in dimension 7183. Paragon City was nothing but the bones of destroyed skyscrapers still trying to stretch to the sky and the rubble of their failure to get there. The world was dust, with radiation levels that would ensure any remaining populace would be dead within twenty years and an air quality, thick with pollution, that would likely kill many of them sooner. Portal Corp. were going to write off that world as not worth their time as there was little to offer in terms of research, until the probe found the body of a human. That human had been augmented. This was beyond their expectations of the people of dimension 7183. The augmentations were cybernetic, something no other reality had managed without meta-genetics. But more than that, the augmentations were Rikti. It was as if the humans who had survived the destruction of their cities were doing so by using the very technology that had tried to kill them. Where their bodies were failing, they were replacing parts. They were letting the Rikti technology, renowned for its ability to change human physiology to become almost Rikti, heal them. But it was with devastating results. This human was part man, part machine, part Rikti. He was a Frankenstein’s monster of two races and technology that should never be combined with either of them. The result wasn’t pretty, but it had seemed to work. So why then was this human dead? On closer inspection, the probe found bullet wounds. The Rikti augmented human had died in a fight, and was still holding his gun. The conclusion excited the scientists of Portal Corp. and warranted further investigation and eventually a manned mission.
The next probe studied dimension 7183 in more depth. From the levels of destruction, it had been several years since the Rikti had left and the Rikti didn’t use bullets. This meant the human found by the first probe had died fighting another human. Portal Corp. research had shown in worlds destroyed by invasion or war on such a scale, that the survivors rarely fought each other without good reason. And if they were fighting, there were enough survivors to mean they should step in and offer aid.
It had been agreed when Portal Corp. first started reaching out to other dimensions that despite wanting to help humans who had been affected by the Rikti as much, if not worse, as them that this would prove complicated. They didn’t have unlimited resources and man power. They also didn’t want to risk opening portals to worlds that could later prove to be a threat. In their early missions, they had found survivors and offered them amnesty in their dimension, which they referred to somewhat arrogantly as dimension 1. They soon came to realise that the people they were bringing through were often doppelgangers of existing citizens of dimension 1. Naturally, this caused much debate and in the end it was decided that unless situations were extreme, Portal Corp. was to send aid, not offer amnesty. In the case of dimension 7183, Portal Corp. needed to survey the remaining population to understand what, if any aid, they could provide or if this world warranted an offer of amnesty.
Due to the conditions and clear hostility of the locals, Portal Corp. sent through a company of Meta Marines to safeguard their scientists. These men and women were trained to cope with situations dimension hopping could bring up. They were often ex-Heroes, recruited into the roles and they were aware that sometimes it was a one way trip. Nearly 8 years ago, Jain Acheson and his company of Meta marines travelled to dimension 7183 and within 2 weeks they were declared lost in action. Just another one way trip.
Dimension 7183 was at war with itself, as suspected. It was divided between Rikti augmented humans who lived in the rubble of Paragon City and a surviving population of non-augmented humans who had taken up residence in the sewer system below Talos Island. Jain Acheson and his company lived in dimension 7183 for nearly a year before they finally managed to contact dimension 1. They brought a peace, of sorts, to that world and left ensuring both populations would receive the help they so desperately needed from Portal Corp.
Now, it was time for some payback. Sayia DeLaurent stepped into the dust of Talos Island 7183 and listened to the sound of the interdimensional portal closing behind him as he surveyed his surroundings. Little had changed in nearly a decade. The city was still rubble, but at least it wasn’t the irradiated rubble it had been. He knew that the sewers below the streets had become a home to the entire population while clear up efforts happened on the surface. Portal Corp. had supported building them sufficient water and power supplies, as well as medical facilities to help both augmented and non-augmented humans. He knew tensions here were still high. But he also knew of a good way he could relieve them. Saia set down a signal beacon into the concrete dirt and sent a greeting message, letting them know of his arrival. The last thing he wanted to do was stroll in with demands.
“Long time no see.” The man who came up from the sewers to meet him smiled. That smile was identical to his own, though it had aged since he last saw it. Laurent, his doppelganger in dimension 7183 had been sent as a welcome party. Sayia often wondered if Laurent really was his doppelganger. He was so much more like Sayia’s twin brother than himself. So much brasher, malcontented and vicious. But he knew the eyes. No matter how much the face had aged, his eyes were the same ones that stared back at him in the mirror. “Jesus, you haven’t changed a bit.” Laurent quipped.
“Regen.” Sayia smiled just a little, trying not to appear smug about it.
“Damn. I used to be prettier.” Laurent laughed. “Though I bet I still get more girls.”
“Maybe you haven’t changed a bit either.” Sayia tried to be amused; tried to make a joke out of Laurent’s womanising ways. But the truth was he couldn’t stand the man. Laurent had taken advantage of the people of dimension 7183 as a mercenary, when he could have been a help. He’d pushed drugs, women and weaponry. He’d taken money and supplies from people who had nothing and enjoyed every bit of profit he’d made doing it. Honestly, Sayia couldn’t understand how he could be capable of it; how any version of himself could be capable of that. But then this was a different world, with a different history, despite its familiar face.
“What do you want?” Laurent looked at him, arms folded.
“It’s nice to see you too.”
“Don’t bullshit me. You and your “Outlaw Stars” disappeared as soon as you rescued your buddy, Jain. So what do you want?”
Sayia sighed. He’d hoped they’d have sent somebody, anybody, else to greet him. “Is she here?”
Laurent almost laughed. “Of course she’s here. Your Portal Corp. wasn’t fond of granting amnesty to anyone non-augmented, remember? Plus, they deemed her “too important to displace”.”
“That wasn’t my decision.” Sayia knew Laurent was shooting the messenger. He was man enough to take it.
There was an awkward silence. “Come on.” Laurent turned and headed back the way he came, kicking up grey dirt with his toecaps.
Sayia followed, making small talk about how the population was getting on. They seemed to be doing well. At the very least they were healthier, better fed and less regularly shooting each other, so that was something. The Sewers were significantly different to how he remembered them. The entrance had been fitted with steel doors and the huge sewer tunnels had been cleaned, fitted with flooring and bright lighting. Most of all, you no longer had to sit through a decontamination shower before being allowed in.
There was another welcome party the other side of the steel door, all familiar faces in more than one sense of the phrase. Jain Acheson; bearded and greying at the sides, Taylor di la Conti; a stark contrast to his dimension 1 counterpart, with a shaved head and no tattoos, and Tara Sinclair. This Tara always caught him off guard. Without her Meta-genetics she looked wildly different; tanned skin, long dark hair and deep brown eyes. This Tara was a long way off the white/blue hair, pale skin and sky blue eyes of the woman he’d once thought he’d marry. It made him feel a little guilty that he couldn’t decide which one was more beautiful.
“So.” Tara looked at him, a serious expression on her face. She was dressed for combat. In fact they all were; sniper veils around their heads and throats, bullet proof vests, gun belts, weapons mounted on their backs and hips. He noted, with a turn of his stomach, they were Rikti weapons. Tara waited, as if she knew that he was taking it all in before she spoke again. “It’s finally time, right?”
Sayia’s eyes moved to hers and offered her a small smile as he fulfilled a promise he’d made to her a long time ago. “It’s time.”
To be continued in Chapter 10.