The moon rose over Nones, a diffuse, slender crescent shedding down bone-white light in the clear air. It shone through the ruins of the buildings like a searchlight, picking out the Earthborn as they crawled from their lairs to feed, to roam, to fight. It brightened the avenues and the wrecked machinery, and lit sudden clouds of dust as the Gating energy in the atmosphere sent random changes through the buildings.

And it shone on one tower in particular that stretched towards the stars, high above the other ruins, to the north. Nothing moved near it.

The moonlight picked out ripples in the great river that ran through the city, where the wrecks of the seven bridges that had once spanned it ran down into the water, twisted and broken, or deliberately destroyed. Only one bridge was still up, the one the Evinthei used. Along the northern banks of the river, the huge guns that had once guarded the land still stood at intervals, now dark, silent and cold, their ordnance salvaged long ago.

Beyond, in the Middle District of Nones where most of the population lived, only a few lights were on, though the streets were lit. The buildings here were intact, unlike the Ruins – the Middle District had been cleared and rebuilt, and was carefully maintained, shielded against paradigm flux. Despite the lateness of the hour, automated construction continued at one site in an industrial area towards the north: important work was being done there.

The tallest buildings north of the river, the towers of Lyon’s Boulevard, stood proudly out on the skyline past that. This was the Evinthei’s base and home territory, and among these buildings, none stood higher than the elegant architecture of the Central Complex, the headquarters of the Evinthei, It was almost a hundred storeys of steel, concrete and glass, part corporate building, part research lab, part military base, and part living complex for the families of the Evinthei who ranked highly enough to live there.

On the top floor, Tobias Aeslin, leader of the Evinthei clan and its general, stood in his office looking down over the city.

The window was plate glass that stretched down to the floor: he might have been standing on the roof, suspended in space. Normally, he enjoyed this view. It showed him just how much the Evinthei had done to rebuild Nones. And how much is left to do… he added. Truthfulness was a habit he found hard to break.

But at the moment he was too distracted to enjoy it. He had so much on his mind.

As usual, Tobias was wearing his simple blue and grey uniform; the same that all the Evinthei wore when on duty, but cinched tight with a belt because he had lost weight again. He had a strong profile with a senator’s nose, set off by cropped white hair. Despite the fact he was no longer as muscular as he had been, Tobias cut an imposing figure.

He wasn’t all show, either. Under his uniform, his body was marked with the scars of a lifetime as a warrior. For the Evinthei, training started in childhood, and no one became leader without proving they could fight on their own behalf, despite Tobias’ personal preference to talk first and challenge later.

And of course, that was what concerned him just now. Their medical staff were well trained, but -

There was a chirp from the intercom on his desk. “General Aeslin?”

Tobias turned at once to reply. “Yes?”

“Your daughter’s waiting.”



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