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Author: Marie Lu

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To those charting their own paths and those who make it possible for others



Let us never forget the pain that our ancestors have suffered and are still suffering all around the world. Let us never forget the struggle between global tyranny and democracy that led us to found this free nation of Antarctica, where every person has the chance to work their way up from nothing, and where technology, not human ego and error, governs how successful you can become. Our Level system may seem like a game, but it is far more than that. It is a tool used to help us each live the life we deserve. And it will become the reason why Antarctica is the greatest nation on earth.



2050 AD






2142 AD





If you asked me to tell you about myself, I’d say first that I like to understand things.

I always have. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a tinkerer—prying apart old gadgets and laying out the innards of a broken radio or clock or toaster, delighting in the puzzle of making something new out of something old. It doesn’t have to be a human-made machine, either. I love watching ants march in a line to a bit of food, take it apart, and carry it single file back to their hill. I love the way flowers bloom and then wilt, how you can preserve them forever just by pressing them between the pages of a book.

I like figuring things out, the how and the why.

My mother once called me her little alchemist, told me she believed I could turn rust into gold, and that I would ramble on about every little detail that makes up something until I ran out of breath. I skipped the last few semesters at my high school to become one of the best students at Ross University of the Sciences, the top-ranked college in the world, and I’m about to graduate with an advanced degree after seven years, which should have taken ten. I’ve already got an internship lined up back in the Republic, and in a couple of months, I’ll be headed there for an orientation session.

But most people don’t know me like this. Instead, they’ll say:

This is Eden Bataar Wing, Daniel’s younger brother.

That’s who I am to others.

I understand why, of course. I may be a star student, good at figuring things out … but my brother is Daniel Altan Wing.

Ten years ago, he was known as Day, the boy from the streets who led a revolution that saved the Republic of America. His name was spray-painted on buildings, his profile drawn on both rebel pamphlets and wanted posters. He went from being a notorious criminal to a national hero in the span of a year. There are documentaries about what he did during the war between the Republic and the Colonies, about all he had sacrificed. For his country, for me, he had nearly died.

Yeah. It’s kind of hard to top that.

After the war ended, we moved here to Ross City, Antarctica, and during that time, I finished school and Daniel became an agent in the Antarctican Intelligence Service. Daniel, at least, is eager to leave our past behind. But that doesn’t mean anyone has forgotten his name or his face. There are still times when we’ll get stopped in the streets, or when I’ll overhear people murmuring as we pass by.

That’s Day, Daniel Altan Wing, a legend. And that’s his little brother, Eden.

Over the years, I’ve let this become the version of myself that everyone knows. Eden, the little brother. Not Eden the tinkerer, the inventor. They don’t know how I’m drawn to understand things, or how I’ve had nightmares almost every night since the Republic’s war ended. No, my identity is permanently tied to my brother’s, regardless of what I do or think.

I don’t tell most people who I am. I don’t talk about the questions that run through my mind or the nightmares that keep me awake at night. People instinctually know to avoid someone who carries a weight on his chest as heavy as mine. So most who know me just see the quick smile and the earnest face and hear the breathless, rapid-fire chatter about the inner workings of a machine. They don’t see the boy who startles awake at the sound of fireworks popping outside, convinced that it’s the thunder of gunfire as soldiers break into our home. They don’t see the boy who forces himself to stay up one more hour just so it means one less hour of calling for his mother in his dreams. So it means not feeling embarrassed for still not being over her death.

I like to show my bright side because it puts people at ease. Eden, who’s going to be just like his brother when he grows up. Not even Daniel seems to get who I really am. When I pretend I’m okay, it makes my brother happy. And when he’s happy, I can believe that I am too.

But at night, my dreams are filled with scenes of the Republic. They seep into every corner of my vision, all the good memories and the horrific ones, blending together so thoroughly that sometimes I can no longer tell one apart from the other.

Does Daniel have nightmares? If he does, he’s never mentioned them to me.

The Republic, my past … these are things I haven’t been able to figure out. To understand. Maybe that’s why I ended up applying for an internship back in Los Angeles. Because I miss it, because I want to make it better by turning the Trial stadiums into hospitals, universities, and museums.

But also because it haunts my dreams, those old streets and faded memories. Because I can’t stop thinking about it in the quiet and the dark. The brother that Daniel and I lost. The mother we will never see again. The father I never knew. Their ghosts walk my sleeping world, calling me back home.

I think about the Republic all the time. I wonder what it was like when I was small. I mull over and over the few broken memories I have. I read every article about the Republic that I can find. It’s the hole in my past, the part that makes no sense to me, and I’m obsessed with understanding it. I need to comprehend what happened in my childhood. How I managed to survive one of the darkest moments in our history.

But maybe that’s stupid, you know? Because, sometimes, it’s impossible to understand something. Sometimes things don’t happen for a reason.

The family we lost. The war that engulfed our lives. There is nothing to figure out, there is no how or why.

Sometimes things just happen.


* * *


To understand Ross City, my home, you need to tour it in two separate halves. Let’s start with the Sky Floors, where Daniel and I live.

Ross City is the capital of Antarctica, one of the most advanced nations in the world. Compared with the Republic of America, it’s an absolute utopia. Its towering skyscrapers are stacked to the heavens, sealed securely inside a biodome that keeps temperatures comfortable and simulates a regular day-night cycle during the long summer and winter months. Don’t ask me how it works. I’ve searched online for years and worn my brother down with questions about it, but it’s still a fascinating and somewhat frustrating mystery to me.

Daniel and I live in one of the wealthiest sectors—the Sky Floors, the top half of the skyscrapers where there are sunlight and stars and fresh air, where the buildings are interconnected like a web by long walkways covered in green ivy. Up here, each floor is made up of luxury homes, shops, fancy restaurants, schools … not a single crack in the pavement, not a flower or shrub out of place. A kaleidoscope of massive virtual commercials and murals lights up each side of every skyscraper, all the images in a constant state of rotation. Looking out across the city from up here is like staring out into a rainbow sea. In the winter, the skies light up with the aurora australis—the southern lights—and paint the nights with brilliant bands of turquoise and gold. In the summers, the biodome simulates the night for us, and we get the same effect with virtual displays.

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