The Gods of Lunar City, Prologue: A Chance Encounter

A Chance Encounter

Lunar City is a cutting-edge futuristic city currently standing on what used to be New York City. The year is 3000 A.D. A bit surprising the Earth hasn’t died out yet, huh? Thanks to human ingenuity, and technology advancement, we managed to survive. Just barely. Lunar City isn’t a ‘real’ city. It’s all artificial. A glass dome covers the city with an artificial sun shining above head. Outside the dome, the Earth resembles a giant junkyard. The air and oceans have been polluted with toxins, and most of the plants have withered out, leaving little habitable areas. Perhaps I should feel lucky I live in Lunar City, but I have my own problems to deal with too. My name’s Astro Star and I am 12 years old. I myself didn’t care about what would happen to the Earth, but I experienced something that made me realize otherwise. It all started out as a normal day…

Krriinngg…! The school bell rang as the students exited their study pods. A leather recliner chair equipped with a video helmet projecting educational videos and a computer-generated tutor. A metal slot beneath the armrest produced a mini-CD, my weekend homework. Whoopee. I took the CD and stuffed it into my bag, steeping onto the school’s moving walkway. It led me out the classroom and past the hallways until I reached the school’s front gate. I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with the city’s filtered air. It was better than the filthy air outside the city, but I couldn’t help but wonder what natural clean air tasted like.

I walked through the gate and started making my way home. Tall skyscrapers soared overhead and hover cars zoomed on the sky lanes. I soon reached Satellite Lane, and stepped on the front porch of my apartment. A retina scanner next to the doorbell scanned my left eye and the door slid open to let me in. I then rode the elevator to my apartment room, where my sister, Crystal Star, was busy cleaning the kitchen.

‘Hey, sis,’ I greeted, searching the fridge for some food. I then slumped on the couch and put on my TV goggles. A 3-D version of Jurassic Park played on the screen.

‘I just wiped that table!’ My sister scolded, pushing my feet off of it. ‘Why don’t you make yourself useful and head to the store for me?’ She shoved a list and a jacket into my arms and pushed me into the elevator before I could even protest, so I had no choice than to do what I was told.

Fifteen minutes later, I was standing in front of the grocery store with a bag of items in my hand. A computer café was standing next to the store. I didn’t really feel like heading home and decided to play on the net for a few hours. It was after that when things started to go wrong. I pulled out my cash card from my pocket and was about to swipe the card on the cash register when… crash!

‘Ouch…’ I looked up to see a red-haired boy looking back at me. ‘Can’t you watch where you’re going?’

‘S-sorry,’ the boy stammered, standing up hurriedly. He didn’t help me up and ran out the café.

‘Honestly,’ I muttered to myself, brushing myself off. ‘You’d think people would have some manners…’ My voice trailed off as I realized something. My green pendant was gone. The pendant I always wore around my neck, a gift from my parent’s during my 2nd birthday.

‘That kid…’ I swore silently and ran out the café without a second thought.

The red-headed boy took my pendant, I was certain of that. He was standing at the corner of the street, talking into his mobile phone. He hung up as soon as she saw me and ducked into an alleyway. I chased him all the way to the Backstreets, the gang territory at the southern part of the city. I zipped my jacket all the way up my neck and pulled the hood over my eyes. The Backstreets was definitely not a place where you’d want to attract any attention. The red-headed boy slowed down his pace, unaware I was still following him and entered a nearby warehouse. I crept up behind him and put him in a headlock.

‘Hey, let me go!’ he protested, kicking the air in front of him. He was about a year younger than me and didn’t put up much of a fight.

‘I’ll let you go as soon as you give back my pendant,’ I demanded in a stern voice.

‘I didn’t take it,’ he lied unconvincingly.

‘What did you do this time, Carrot-head?’ a voice said behind me. I turned around to see 4 boys emerging behind several crates.

‘He took my pendant,’ I explained. ‘Now he won’t give it back.’

The boy in the middle, who looked the oldest with jet black hair, took a step forward. ‘Give me the pendant, Craig. Let me handle this.’

Craig finally managed to free himself from my headlock and reluctantly handed over my pendant to the black-haired boy. I reached out my hand for the pendant, but he didn’t return it. ‘You want this back?’ he asked. I nodded, unsure of where this question was heading. ‘How about you do us a favor first?’

I sighed, but I was also curious. ‘What kind of favor?’

‘Simple. We’re practicing for a school play, a kind of magic ritual scene. We need someone to play the sacrifice for awhile, as the real actor is sick today. How about it? You don’t even have any lines to say, just stand there and follow my lead.’

‘That’s it?’ I said almost relieved. I agreed to his condition. I would do anything to get that pendant back. That was the last gift my parents gave me before they died in a hover car accident.

‘Excellent,’ the black-haired boy said smiling. ‘My name’s Chris by the way. That’s Michael, Greg, and Trey. The carrot-head pickpocket is Craig. He’s supposed to be on probation right now, but hey, old habits die hard.’ He gave Craig a playful punch on the shoulder.

He led me into the warehouse, his friends following close behind. On the warehouse floor, drawn with white paint was a circle with a pentagon in it, another star drawn inside. ‘Ritual circle,’ explained Chris. ‘But this is all fake, of course.’

It was then I felt a tingle on my arm. Something didn’t feel right. But it was too late to turn back now, as Chris pushed me into the middle of the circle.

The five boys put on black cloaks and stood at corner of the pentagon. In Chris’s hand was an old book. It was the old kind of book, made of paper and ink, instead of the 3-D hologram ones we have now.

‘Within this circle of magic we stand,’ he recited from the book. ‘We call upon the spirit of venom, the Goddess of Toxins, Toxica, with a sacrifice of blood as a sign of our belief.’ He walked towards me and forcibly pulled out my hand. He cut my hand with a knife before I could resist, and the blood dripped down onto the ritual ring. The room fell silent as a black haze rose from my blood. The haze turned more solid, forming a pile of black sludge. A figure emerged from the toxic slime, its ink black hair flowing down, and its eyes a glowing blood-red.

‘Toxica,’ Chris breathed almost in delight. ‘Welcome. My name is Chris, and I would like to ask for your help–’ Chris was cut off before he could finish. A whip of toxic sludge hit him in the face.

‘Insolent human,’ Toxica hissed. ‘You think you can command, Toxica? Not even a single offering of polluted water. I am leaving.’ She turned to the door and slid away like a snake, leaving behind a trail of black sludge.

Chris was left dumbfounded on the floor as he wiped the sludge off his face. It took a firm grip on his shirt’s collar to knock some sense back into him. ‘What was that?’ I demanded, angry and confused at the same. ‘Explain everything, now. And I’d like my pendant back, please.’

‘That was Toxica,’ he replied calmly as what he was saying made perfect sense. He also put his hand in his pocket and pulled out my emerald pendant. I snatched it back, afraid he might take it back. ‘An ancient god, we just summoned. It’s in the book,’ he pointed to the one lying open on the floor.

I bandaged my cut hand with my handkerchief, and picked it up. ‘The Ancient Gods of Lunar City’ was the title written on the cover. I leafed through the pages until I found Toxica. ‘The goddess of toxins, the personification of the environmental damage brought on by humans. Pollution in human form,’ I read. I fixed my most contemptuous gaze on Chris. ‘All that, and you still wanted to summon her?’

‘Hey, I thought if should control it, she could get rid of it too. But, I’m not stupid, Astro Star.’ I was about to ask how he knew my name, but then remembered that it was written on my school uniform.

He took the book from my hands and showed me another page. ‘Techna, the Goddess of Technology’ was the title of the page. ‘I tried summoning her, but it didn’t work. I thought I could get Toxica to help stop pollution, but I guess I should have thought ahead.’

‘Pollution… And why do you care so much?’ I asked.

‘Have you ever seen the world outside the city, Astro?’ I considered the question for several moments digging into my distant memories. I remembered a time when I was little, just a little after my parents passed away. I was sad like any normal four-year-old would be, and stumbled off on my own into the city. The police station was near the city’s Eastern Gate and I accidentally passed through. Outside, I saw a barren stretch of grey land, as far the eye could see. Plants and grass withered out and the sky was filled with a thick toxic mist. One gulp of the poisonous air was enough to make me suffocate, if the authorities hadn’t saved me in time.

‘Unfortunately, I have,’ I answered, thinking seriously about the subject for the first time.

‘The Earth wasn’t always like that. It used to be green and full of life, like the one you see in the movies or old educational videos. And it’s us humans that have killed that, and turned it into the dump that is now. I wanted to change that, Astro. Surely you can’t blame me for wanting that.’

I felt a tug on my shirt and turned around. Craig was standing in front of me pointing to a mini-TV screen. ‘You should take a look at this,’ he said. And so we did. A channel of the local news was broadcasted showing the city’s water plant. The water plant collected water from water bodies, such as lakes and ponds, polluted from outside the city and filtered into drinkable, clean water, which was then pumped into houses all over the city. Trails of black slime were all over the building’s front yard.

‘But, I can blame you for this. Now toxic water is being pumped to the whole city!’ I accused to a guilty-faced Chris.

‘I can fix this,’ he whispered, trying to regain his composure. When he finally did, he spoke more confidently. ‘Or more specifically, you can fix this, Astro.’

‘Me?’ I shouted astonished. ‘Why me?’ I protested. ‘This is your mess. You fix it.’

‘Ah, but that’s where your wrong. It is my mess, and I would love more than anything to fix it, but unfortunately, I can’t.’ He leafed through the book once more until he found the page he wanted. ‘It’s all in the book. We used your blood to summon her, and only with your blood can we send her back. Just sprinkle one drop, and recite this spell. Then poof! Problem gone.’

‘You make that sound so easy… Fine I’ll do it,’ I reluctantly agreed. What other choice did I have? I did care; I really did, all about the pollution and stuff. I didn’t realize that until now.

Do you really care, Astro? a sudden voice in my head whispered. What? Who are you? I asked back. Tell me you care about this Earth, Astro. Let me hear you say it.

‘I care,’ I said barely more than a whisper. ‘I care about our Earth. I want to help if I can.’

Good answer. The voice said, not just to me this time, but to everyone in the warehouse. An electrical haze appeared in mid-air slowly taking form a human girl. Her hair was a blue, transparent color, and was formed by electric sparks. Her skin was as white as snow and she wore a turquoise blazer, the sleeves were laced with frills, and she wore a matching turquoise skirt. ‘Hello,’ she greeted in a gentle voice. She looked like a regular 12-year-old girl. Everyone in the room was standing open-mouthed. Chris was the first one to recover his skill of speech.

‘I can’t believe you summoned her!’ he said almost with envy. ‘Do you know how many times I’ve tried?’

‘Oh, yes, I remember you,’ Techna said. ‘You did care, I’ll give you that, but you lacked determination and resolve. Proof of this is just when you shoved the responsibility of taking care of Toxica to Astro here.’ Chris stared down at his feet guiltily. ‘Now, Astro,’ she continued, turning back to me. ‘I’ll help you defeat Toxica.’

‘Good,’ I breathed sitting down on a crate. This was a bit too much for me to take in all at once. ‘I hope you have a plan ‘cuz my brain is too strained to come up with one.’

‘It’s all quite simple, actually. She’s in the water plant, isn’t she? Recite the vanquishing spell, add one drop of blood, and reactivate the filter. Clean water will be back into the city,’ Techna suggested.

‘Good plan,’ I agreed. ‘Just how do you plan to reactivate the filter?’

Techna gave me a small smile. ‘Have you forgotten? I am the goddess of technology. Hacking into the system will be a piece of cake.’

Before I could talk myself out of it, me and Techna were standing in front of the Lunar City Water Plant ready to execute our plan. We slid into the building without a sound, and Techna placed a hand on the water plant’s generator. ‘Here,’ she magically produced an earpiece in her hand. ‘Use it to keep in touch.’ I secured the earpiece on my ear and gave her the thumbs up. She dissolved into a million particles and disappeared into the generator following the cable to the water plant’s computer. I could see the progress bar on the computer screen. 50%... 75%... 97%... 100%. Now I just had to wait for the filter to start. I waited and waited. Nothing happened. Toxica was still lounging in the water vat.

‘Astro?’ Techna’s voice sounded into my earpiece. ‘We have a slight problem.’

I sighed. There was always a problem. ‘What is it?’

‘There’s no electric port for me to get out off. I can’t materialize. The filter’s starting button is on the panel. You’ll have to press it yourself.’ At that idea, I gulped. Walk past an evil toxic goddess, and just press a button. Sounded easy enough. I reluctantly stepped out from behind the wall and started tiptoeing my way to the computer. A metallic tile beneath my left foot was broken and made a loud clanging noise. Toxica’s head swirled around to meet my eyes.

‘A meddlesome human,’ she hissed in her snake-like voice. ‘You are either very brave or just plain stupid!’ A slimy black hand emerged from the water vat heading straight for me. I ran to the computer, which suddenly seemed so far away. I reached the computer, and Toxica’s hand closed itself around my neck. I reached around blindly with my free hand. I found the round ‘ON’ button and pushed it, the last of the air leaving my lungs.

I gasped for air as Toxica’s grip slackened. I turned around to see her face twisted in pain. The black water in the vat was slowly being sucked through the filter, taking Toxica along with it. I edged closer to the vat and held out a knife in my good hand. I made a small cut on my forefinger, and let a drop of blood drip into the vat. ‘Toxica, return,’ I whispered softly, the exhaustion of the recent events finally catching up with me. Toxica’s face melted into the vat of black sludge and was cleansed by the filter. She was finally gone. I took a deep breath and stepped away from the vat. Techna was standing in front of the generator, smiling proudly at me.

‘Good job, Astro,’ she praised. ‘There’s hope for mankind after all.’ She placed a hand on my forehead, and my mind fell into unconsciousness…

* * *

I regained consciousness a day later and found myself in a hospital bed, my sister staring worriedly at me. ‘Thank God you’re awake,’ she said, giving me a hug. I gently pulled her away and asked, ‘What happened? Why am I in a hospital?’

She gently placed a hand on my forehead. I felt a slight bump and a dull throb start to attack my head. ‘You ran into a lamp post,’ Crystal explained.

I blinked back at her in disbelief. ‘A lamp post?’

She nodded. ‘You’ve been asleep for about a day.’ Hearing this triggered a question in my mind. Then all of that… The warehouse, Toxica, Techna… Was it all a dream? ‘Astro?’ my sister asked anxiously, taking me out of my reverie. ‘At the internet café… did you try to leave without paying?’

I nearly jumped out the hospital bed. ‘Of course, I didn’t!’ I exclaimed. ‘I took out my cash card and swiped it on the… cash register…’ My voice trailed off as the incident flashbacked in my mind. Before the card made contact with the machine. A red-headed boy crashed into me…

‘Craig!’ I blurted out before I could stop myself. My sister stared at me with even more concern. ‘Never mind,’ I said hurriedly. ‘I really did pay, sis.’ Or at least I meant too, I added in my head. ‘You got to believe me, honest!’

‘The evidence says otherwise, kid,’ a man said emerging through the hospital room door. I recognized him as the computer café’s owner. He pulled out a laptop and placed it in front of me. A sketch of the café’s blueprint emerged on screen. Every booth was numbered, and a red and green light flickered beside each one. I guessed green meant ‘already paid’, and red meant ‘left unpaid’. I scanned the layout for my booth, C-16, and gulped as I saw the red light. The owner saw my reaction. ‘Have anything else to say, son?’

I searched my brain, trying to come up with a good reply. I didn’t find one. It was then a miracle happened. The red light suddenly flashed to green and I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. ‘Yeah, I think you may have experienced a glitch.’ I turned the laptop screen to his face. He studied the screen for a few moments and then scratched his chin. ‘Guess I did have a glitch. Sorry, about the mistake kid.’

A happy grin stretched across my face. ‘No problem,’ I replied. On the corner of the screen, the word Techna emerged in small letters. It wasn’t a dream.


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