Awaken Chapters 1 – 3

Chapter 1

Winter. Day 1, morning. Daxx

Daxx began his journey to become the most powerful man in the universe with the sound of a voice at a crowded commuter station.

‘You’re in danger,’ the voice whispered. It was close. Daxx could feel breath on the side of his face. ‘I’m here to help.’

Daxx turned to look at the source of the sound. He stared at a rough, stern looking man with intense eyes. He frightened Daxx. He looked like he was used to danger.

Another voice sounded. It was loud, angry, and authoritative. ‘You,’ the voice barked. ‘Stay there.’

Daxx turned in the direction of the new voice. Two men in all-black clothing strode towards him. They pushed commuters out of their way. One man had his hand extended, pointed at Daxx.

‘Damn,’ the man next to Daxx said. He glanced at Daxx. He sighed and turned to face the approaching officers. ‘Stand behind me. I’ll take care of this.’

The man produced a gun and fired two quick shots. The officers slumped to the ground. Daxx stared in horror. His heart thumped. More officers appeared behind the fallen ones. Daxx turned and ran, frantically weaving his way through the crowd of commuters. He pushed off some and sidestepped others. He glanced back but couldn’t see the man who had killed the officers. But he could see a group of officers rushing towards him. Daxx ran into a large man, who extended his arms and blocked his way.

‘Hey,’ the man protested. His face was compressed, like he was eager for a fight.

Daxx turned sharply to his left. A weapon fired; it sounded close. Daxx jerked his head at the sound and saw the surprise on the large man’s face. He also saw the hole in the man’s forehead. He watched the large man fall. The chasing group were close. A gun was aimed towards him. Daxx turned and ran.

People screamed. They ran for the exits or for shelter or ran in a panic. Many commuters ran in the same direction as Daxx. He pushed slower people out of the way, dodging and weaving. Daxx was tall and gangly, like he’d been loosely put together. He covered a lot of ground as he ran.

Further away from the initial attack, people stood still. They didn’t know what was happening. They peered past the streaming, panicked people while some joined the exodus. Most stared, wondering what to do. Finally, Daxx stopped running and risked a look behind him. A wave of people moved as they were pushed out of the path of something that moved towards him. Someone grabbed at him, holding his arm in a tight grip.

‘What’s going on?’ the grabber asked, perhaps thinking Daxx was a fugitive and the cause of the discord.

Daxx pushed the man away. The wave of displaced, discarded people moved towards Daxx. He could make out a tightly packed group of people dressed in black. They looked well-rehearsed. He turned and ran, but after a short distance, he slowed his pace. It had to be a mistake. He had panicked. He had believed he was in danger because of a warning from a stranger. It made no sense. It was surreal. He didn’t know of anyone who would want to hurt him. He couldn’t be wanted by the authorities. He was a Tier-One. The officers must have been pointing at someone else, probably the man who had spoken the warning.

He was far enough away from the initial attack point to be safe by now, he thought. Seconds had passed, and his mind had reconstructed what had happened into something reasonable, something plausible, something non-threatening. He stopped running. They couldn’t possibly be chasing him. Or, it could be mistaken identity. It might be, but that made little sense. Perhaps the officers wanted to ask about the man standing next to Daxx? If so, he would reason with them. They would have to react favourably to his high status.

He turned around and clearly saw the tightly packed group, clothed in black, running towards him. People moved quickly out of their way. The chasers looked fierce, determined, and dangerous. They were not interested in anyone they roughly shoved out of their way. They were definitely heading straight for him. Daxx glanced behind him. Perhaps there was someone there. But there were only a few gawking bystanders. They looked as terrified and confused as Daxx felt.

One of the chasers veered away from the group. He stopped, dropped to one knee, and raised a gun. Daxx ducked; it was instinctive. A bullet whistled past his head. Daxx felt like screaming at them. He panicked again. There had to be a mistake, but he would have no chance to explain. He would be killed if he didn’t escape. Flight was the only option. He turned and ran. He kept low and zig-zagged around pedestrians, attempting to not make himself an easy target, as he had seen in movies but never thought he would use. He looked ridiculous. A man dressed in black, the same uniform as Daxx’s pursuers, stood in the middle of the roadway ahead of him. He was oblivious to the vehicles that had to swerve to miss him. He stared at Daxx malevolently, as he raised a gun.

The shock was too much. Daxx stopped running. He stared at the man in the roadway. Daxx lost the ability to make self-preserving decisions. A bullet passed where his head would have been if he’d kept running. It shattered the side of the building next to him. Shards of splintered cladding fell to the ground and hit him on his body and face. He swatted like he was fending off biting insects.

There was a door next to him. He pushed it open. It was a side entrance to an office building. He slammed the door shut. He felt the shudders as bullets slammed into the other side. He jumped backwards a half step, surprised at the assault. It was like a war zone, he thought. He shook his head, then turned and ran down a passageway, taking branching corridors at random. He didn’t know where he was going. But he couldn’t keep running. He decided to hide. He pushed at an office door. It was locked. He tried another. It was locked. He strode down corridors, trying to open doors, without success. One door did open. He looked along the corridor but saw no one. He pushed the door fully open. He entered the office, then gently closed the door behind him. His breaths were sharp and deep. They were noisy, too, so he tried to slow his breathing.

It was an office for three people. It had three reclining chairs, a low table, one closed window and an odd-looking, old-fashioned cupboard in a corner. The cupboard was big enough to hang many coats. Daxx climbed inside and gently closed the door behind him. It couldn’t be secured from the inside. He tried to hold the door shut, but it shuddered in time with Daxx’s shaking hands. Fear had taken over his body. He pulled the door harder and held it with high tension, and the cupboard door’s noisy banging stopped.

He heard people running along the corridor. The sounds were muffled through the two closed doors. A distant door opened and then closed. He heard the rattle as locked doors were attempted to be opened. The door to the office opened. Someone walked to the window and tried to open it. Daxx pulled harder on the cupboard door. Daxx heard the office door shut. He wondered how he could ever leave. How could he ever be sure that dangerous people weren’t waiting for him? Perhaps right outside the office. His arms ached from pulling tightly on the cupboard door, but he didn’t let up.

An hour passed. The office door opened again. The intruder went to the window. This time he heard it slide open but was then shut. Someone muttered something. It sounded like, ‘Too cold.’

Daxx felt the pressure on the cupboard door as someone tried to open it. Daxx resisted as hard as he could, but his arms and hands were cramping. His strength was almost gone. The pressure on the cupboard door increased, then the door moved as his muscle strength gave out. The door opened roughly as the intruder pulled hard, and Daxx’s grip was dislodged.

A man dressed for a day of office work, but still covered by a warm coat, stared at Daxx, looking surprised and frightened. Daxx knew that feeling. The man took a step away from the cupboard. He shook his head. He frowned as anger took over from his surprise and fear. ‘Who are you? Why are you in my office?’ he demanded.

The man wasn’t dressed all in black. Daxx sighed with relief. Daxx stumbled out of the cupboard, glad to extend his body and arms after being cramped for so long. The man’s anger disappeared, and he looked frightened again. He ran to the low table and picked up something to defend himself. It was a small framed photograph. He held it tightly. He crouched and pointed his weapon at Daxx.

Daxx realised the man would be a Tier-Three worker at best and perhaps even a Tier-Four. ‘Are there people outside?’ Daxx asked. ‘With weapons?’

The man scrunched his face, like Daxx’s question was nonsensical. ‘What?’ He stopped crouching but still held his weapon towards Daxx.

Daxx glanced at the framed photograph. It wasn’t dangerous. ‘Are there?’ Daxx ordered.

‘No.’ The man sounded annoyed. His hand holding the photograph dropped. ‘Why would there be?’

Daxx opened the office door and looked out into the corridor.

‘Hey,’ the man said. ‘Wait on. Why were you in my office? Who are you?’

Daxx ignored the man. He walked out the door and shut it behind him. It was immediately re-opened by the man. ‘Wait. You can’t just leave,’ the man said.

Daxx ran down the corridor. The man continued to yell at him, but Daxx wasn’t followed. Daxx’s hands shook as he opened the outside door. The damage was still evident. The door’s panelling was broken and splintered. Building shards littered the walkway outside. He stared at the damage to the outside of the door. The chase had been real. Impossible and dangerous things are easily reconstructed and dismissed, after the fact, as figments of imagination. This wasn’t one.

His whole body shook with shock and muscle fatigue. He tried breathing deeply to steady himself, but it made no difference. He placed his hand on the trunk of one of the hardy trees growing along the sidewalk adjacent to the street. He peered up and down the walkway. Pedestrians bustled, their attention consumed by their Device displays, the encrypted 3D projection floated before each person like a personal cloud. Vehicles glided along the street. The low morning sun streamed between the tall towers and across the streetscape like search beams. The cold wind was trapped and funnelled between the towers, forced to swirl and accelerate to fill pressure voids. It was a normal, winter’s workday morning. Except that it wasn’t.

Daxx viewed this new world, alive for an hour, as a dangerous, capricious enemy. He couldn’t possibly go to work now. He couldn’t go home either. He was terrified outside the apparent safety of the cupboard, and yet the memory of hiding with the fear of discovery filled him with dread.

Nowhere was safe, he thought. He pulled his clothes tightly around him as if that could make him impervious to attack and discovery. He headed off down the sidewalk, taking a detour around the commuter station—he would not go near that place again. He walked on. There was only one place for him. There was only one person.

‘Janna,’ he thought.

Chapter 2


Soo and her staff worked on the top floor of the tallest building in the city. Windows were the rule, not the exception. Solid, view-blocking supports were a structural necessity but kept to the bare minimum. The early morning winter sun illuminated but didn’t warm the office. The clear sky and brilliant sun looked cold. The nearby hills were covered in remnant bushland and parkland; those areas were kept relatively undeveloped. Above those hills, there was a hint of air turbulence and activity as clouds formed. There would be showers later that day.

Soo’s office had windows on two sides to catch both the morning and afternoon sun. They met at right angles, making the shape of her workplace an irregular five-sided plan. She sat behind a large desk. That was unusual. Desks were unnecessary. All work and social activities were recorded using the grain of sand-sized connectivity Device implanted in people’s forearms. All information was centralised. Worldwide network data was displayed and manipulated using a projected 3D display.

Soo’s expansive desk was newly installed. It had been placed there when she had attained her position. Its use confounded her staff. On the desk were a pen and a few sheets of paper. They were rare commodities. She loved the physical nature of writing. It had begun as an affectation and had turned into a private pleasure. It didn’t bother her that others thought it was an odd, anachronistic activity. Why would a person in her position care what others thought?

The pen and paper were not being used. Her Device display was activated. She was reading.

…the controversial interview with the eminent scientist.

Daxx: The Faith are misguided.

Interviewer: But Devrell’s design…

Daxx: Are you going to get into trouble for calling him by his name?

Interviewer: Perhaps. But it was the Messiah’s name.

Daxx: Devrell’s design was appropriate three hundred years ago. It is no longer. We’re not in a time of chaos. We can have these conversations. Blasphemy is a rule famous for how often it’s broken. All the work I do is, potentially, blasphemous. I have to question everything. All scientists do; it’s part of the job description. Actually, it’s all of the job description.

Interviewer: No one questions that a Tier-One can make observations, even potentially blasphemous ones. But it’s the specificity of your recent remarks that are causing outrage.

Daxx: Outrage? Really? Because I said something? People never cease to surprise me.

Interviewer: Nonetheless, it’s how the network works. Opinion is aired.

Daxx: Opinion is not fact. It’s the inclination before the journey to being hypothesis. That’s the true starting point.

Interviewer: Not everyone has your understanding…

Daxx: And yet they have an opinion?

Interviewer: Necessarily.

Daxx: They shouldn’t, not until they have actual data.

Interviewer: [Laughs] I think you’ve been among Tier-Ones for too long.

Daxx: [Laughs] You mean my whole life?

Interviewer: Precisely.

Daxx: The Faith are misguided and they are wrong. There is recent data to prove that. It was a useful message to keep people focussed during Devrell’s time, but when there is new, definitive data, well… things have to change.

Interviewer: Even one of our basic tenets?

Daxx: Of course. Everything is up for revision, all the time. We are the only technologically advanced lifeforms in this galaxy. Perhaps even in the wider universe. Nowhere else, in this galaxy at least, have conditions existed long enough for advanced life to evolve. The latest data show a near impossible set of circumstances allowed for a metal-rich cluster of stars to form in our region, only a few billion years ago. That didn’t happen elsewhere until much later. We may not be the only lifeforms, and I expect we’re not. But given our understanding of the rate of evolution, and this I admit is conjecture, then we are the most advanced. That is the plausible conclusion from the recent data gathering. We are truly alone. Our responsibility is enormous.

Interviewer: But, of course, the Faith, Devrell that is, argued that we evolved from a universe-wide commonality. We are part of an extensive community, and that is our responsibility. In fact, Devrell said that he had received technologically advanced information from elsewhere.

Daxx: Responsibilities change. They have now. Devrell didn’t meet aliens. He was lying, for reasons to do with the turmoil from those times, I would guess.

Interviewer: Opinion?

Daxx: [Laughs] Yes.

Interviewer: So, now you’re saying the Messiah was lying?

Daxx: Yes.

Soo was interrupted. A notification sounded. Someone wished to enter her office. She swiped angrily through the display and it dissolved. ‘Come in,’ she said, which unlocked access to her office. Before her assistant had fully entered, she demanded, ‘Yes?’

Mill Nupp, Soo’s assistant, halted his entrance just inside the door. He looked like he wanted to stay close for a quick exit.

‘We failed to detain Daxx.’ Mill Nupp stared at Soo, as if news of failure was a regular and expected occurrence.

‘Why?’ Soo was surprised at the young man’s calm response. She thought it was odd. Mill Nupp was a powerful man in his own right, but he reported to her. He was responsible for executing her orders. Successfully, she had supposed. She had much to learn in her new position. But how her staff enforced her commands and how they feared, or didn’t, failure would have to change.

‘Nervousness, reticence, and over-zealous execution of unique orders,’ he said. ‘Targeting a Tier-One has never been done before, as far as I know.’

‘Why were they told he was a Tier-One?’

‘Because he is.’ Mill Nupp looked surprised at the question.

‘Yes, I know he’s a Tier-One, but why were they given that information and not just given a description and his location information?’

‘Ah…’ he said. ‘I never thought to not give full disclosure.’

‘Even when you would expect, say, nervousness and reticence?’ She spoke to him like he was a slow student.

‘I see.’ He nodded his head. ‘It won’t happen again.’

Soo left a long silence. ‘What happened? I would have thought it would have been easy, given his preference for travelling on public transport, as if to prove he’s no different from lower Tiers.’

‘They missed the opportunity. A bystander panicked; he had a weapon and killed two officers. That confused them. Daxx escaped through an office building. They searched the building, but it began to get ridiculous when office workers turned up to begin their day. I called off the search.’

‘You did all that this morning without informing me?’


Soo sighed. Her staff acted as if her predecessor was still occupying her office. They seemed lackadaisical. But they had to be efficient, since few people suspected that the tasks required to trim and tidy society were a carefully managed process. And the decisions came from her office. But she had different methods to her predecessor, to all her predecessors. She had different aims. Those aims were new and dangerous. It would take time, and she was not patient.

She was Principal Officer of the only power corporation on the planet, and responsible for all government revenue. That made her the most powerful person on the planet. Soo’s official job of overseeing government revenue was critical—there was no taxation. All government revenue was from power usage. Every basic, necessary government service was freely available to individuals and corporations. However, her most important function was eliminating discord before it was noticed, following the plan laid down by the Messiah over three hundred years ago. That job had been quietly prosecuted by her predecessors. But she, and her supporters, had different ideas.

Mill Nupp stared at her with a slight smile. He looked unconcerned. He should have been. Did she have to do everything herself, she wondered? Maybe she did.

‘There’s the Tier-Two partner as well,’ she said. ‘Get her. Get them both. I don’t want reports of failure.’

Soo dismissed Mill Nupp. She stared at the distant hills for a moment, then picked up the pen resting on the sheets of paper on her desk. She separated one of the sheets. She put her pen to the paper. Her body shivered a little, with pleasure, as she touched her pen to the surface.

Chapter 3


‘I don’t believe it,’ Janna said, but she did. She knew Daxx wasn’t lying. However, she was not convinced Daxx was in real danger. She, like Daxx, believed in the ultimate reasonableness of people. It was a naive belief. She suggested informing those who should be informed and letting events take their inevitable course.

Daxx paced across her living area. His head was down. He stopped, glanced at her, nodded, then resumed pacing.

Janna was slightly embarrassed at the general untidiness of her apartment. She felt uncomfortable when Daxx came to stay. She would sometimes make a half-hearted effort to group similar items before he arrived, but she always gave up before any noticeable progress was made. She knew her untidiness was a problem for Daxx, but he was too polite to say anything. On mornings when he had risen earlier than her, she appreciated the orderliness of her kitchen and lounge areas. Her appreciation of Daxx’s tidying efforts never extended to modifying her own behaviour.

Daxx stopped pacing. His body shook as he stood before her. He lowered his head into his hands, momentarily overwhelmed. She took his head in her hands and gently raised it so she could look into his eyes.

‘I said, I don’t believe it, but I do believe you. I can’t believe the situation.’ She thought he had been disappointed with her response.

Daxx let out a breathy grunt and tried to smile. ‘I know.’

Janna smiled back. ‘Let me get you a hot drink.’ She let him go. She moved towards her tiny kitchen. ‘You must be freezing. Or would you rather have a hot shower first? To warm up?’

Janna heard a sound, like a rustling whisper, behind her. She turned and saw a man standing in the space between her and Daxx. She felt the gentle waft of displaced air. The empty space was now human.

He was unwashed and unkempt. He smelled of action and activity. The man had eyes only for Janna. They speared at her but they were caring. She could see the deep world-weariness of the intruder. She saw rage and determination, like he’d survived the worst that the universe could throw at him. He seemed lost in reverie. He stared at her, yet replayed some memory over and over in his head.

‘Daxx?’ Janna asked quietly.

Daxx took his eyes off the man’s back and looked at her over the man’s shoulder. She was still staring at the stranger. The man shook his head, as if forcing himself to remain focussed.

‘You’re in danger. The door will be broken open in a few moments.’ He nodded at the entryway to Janna’s apartment. He pointed towards the window that led to a fire escape. ‘Go,’ the stranger ordered. ‘Right now. Out the window, and run.’

Muffled voices sounded outside Janna’s door. Janna hesitated. She wasn’t willing to follow orders without explanation.

‘Go, Janna,’ the man said in a whisper. His sadness swamped her. She stared at him for a moment longer. She nodded at him. She strode past the man and shoved Daxx towards the open window.

Daxx resisted. ‘Just do it, Daxx,’ she said. ‘We have to go.’

She stepped outside her apartment window, after Daxx, and began down the outside fire escape. She glanced back and inside her apartment. The man stood in the same place he had appeared. He stared at the door. Janna halted her descent. Daxx came back up the fire escape. He stood next to her and peered into the room.

The door exploded. Shards from the shattered door bounced off the waiting man. He didn’t flinch. He was untouched. His body was covered in a light blue sheen. It seemed to protect him. Men dressed in black burst into the apartment. They had guns. Daxx took a sharp intake of breath. ‘That’s them,’ he whispered. ‘The ones who chased me.’

Weapons fired at the man. The bullets disintegrated before they touched him. He slowly raised his arm. The air crackled and ionised between him and the attackers. There was a flash from some powerful weapon. Janna blinked—the flash had been blinding. The attackers were gone. There was no sign of them. They had been vaporised. Janna was horrified.

The man didn’t turn around, but seemed to know she was looking at him. ‘Go, Janna.’ His voice was tender but urgent. ‘Run.’

As if killing armed men at a distance was not impossible enough, Janna watched the man disappear. There was a low-toned clap in the air as it rushed to fill a vacuum. The room was empty.

Janna turned. Daxx stared at the shattered door. He didn’t move. She gently turned him. ‘He said, run.’

Daxx and Janna jumped down the outside stairs, then ran along the laneway at the rear of the apartment. A few seconds later, they heard yelling. They stopped and looked back. An explosion and fireball consumed her apartment. Janna took a sharp breath. She had become part of something dangerous. It was impossible. The man who had saved them was impossible. But she would do what he had instructed. She turned and ran. She called to Daxx to keep up with her.

They ran through alleyways and along side streets until they rushed out into a well-populated area. It was busy with pedestrians. They slowed to walking pace, matching others. They were breathing hard, which made it difficult to blend in. Janna took Daxx’s hand, for reassurance and as a disguise. She expected more men would come to kill them once it was discovered they had not died in the apartment. Their Devices broadcast their location. That would prove their mobility.

‘So you believe me now, right?’ Daxx asked.

‘Yes.’ Her breath still came in gasps.

‘Did we really see what we saw?’ Daxx asked.

Janna stopped. She pulled Daxx to a halt. She moved them to the side of the walkway, to the edge of the stream of pedestrians. She pulled Daxx close. She stared at Daxx, incredulous.

‘It was you. That man was you.’