The old town was barren, seemingly abandoned long before whatever had happened to everything. I didn’t stay long, instead simply passing on and toward Moscow, which, although I wasn’t sure of its status in the 21st century, was the capital at my time.
As I approached the city, however, my hopes at starting my search there sank. It was even worse than what I had seen of Johannesburg. Near everything was destroyed by explosions and fires, and it was barely recognizable. Needing some sort of shelter as the night approached, however, I made my way towards one of the ruined residential areas to try and find something.
While shelter was easy enough to find, even among the ruins, I couldn’t find anything safely assessable as food, which resorted to me having to turn to the Objects from the set we prepared. In particular a ring made of onyx, allowing me to go without food, made the experience bearable, although we knew little of its long term use effects. Nonetheless, I was able to pass that first night as well as could be expected for a dead world.
My first priority after that was to repair the Pocketwatch, and so once the next morning began, I opened the watch and started by reversing the outer arm’s gear. Luckily, that did enough, and the watch quickly spun its gears to automatically adjust myself to the current time, and the outer arm made a full counter-clockwise sweep of the face to come back to rest at midnight.
I decided to test out to make sure it still functioned, and so held it the same manner that she had activated it beforehand. Almost immediately, the world around me faded, and I found myself actually back at the mansion. She was still there, appearing to have fallen asleep in the room the ritual took place, as if she was waiting for my return, although I’m sure she must have known I could not go backwards without first finding a similar source of energy to pour back into the watch.
That matter settled, I began to search the houses for some clues. It was not an easy task: the Russian language was first of all not my first language, and second of all had changed a good amount since 1500s. From worn newspaper pieces and books in little better shape, I was able to piece together bits and fragments, but the information I did get was of little help at all, sensationalist reports interspersed with propaganda from various government forms in the years of their publications.
The more I searched, the more confused I got, and realized I was going to need more sides to the story, both from reports and more monitoring of the past with the Pocketwatch. I gathered up what information I thought might be useful and stored it in the briefcase, and headed out of Moscow towards the west.
For several weeks I traveled through Europe, gathering information I could find in Russian and German as I passed, but nearly lost as I traveled through the countries using Romantic languages, since they simply were not my strongest points. I realized that I would have to work more with what I knew to get information, although it wouldn’t necessarily be all sides of the story, and decided to set my mark to Britannia, and from there find out what had happened to the Dutch colonies of the New World. As such, I headed to the English Channel.
** * * * * * * ** * * * * * * ** * * * * * * *
If you were reading my original manuscript, and not one of the copies I have made here, you would see that at this point I tore out a number of pages in my journal. As I thought about it later, I realized that there was a lot of unnecessary details I wrote about what I found in the year 2080, when in reality it was all the same. It was all just death and destruction everywhere, with the worst of the damage in several key locations that were the national capitals or had other significance. So I don’t think I will bore you with the full narrative of everything I did and found, but instead simply summarize them.
It took travel all around Europe, then to the Americas, then back to Europe and down into India and Africa before I found all the details I needed, and was able to unravel everything down to a single point in time. And not only that, it took me having to learn the concepts of ‘modern science’ before I could piece everything together. Even then, I can’t explain how my masters magic, or these Objects or anything work in the terms of what you would know as modern science, so my interpretations of everything might be somewhat off. But from what I could tell, the entire thing started over so-called ‘nuclear weapons’, harvesting the power of the atom.
I have read about the things of the Twentieth Century, of the war which ended with a destructive blast from this sort of weapon, and from the ‘Cold War’ that followed it over an arms race surrounding these weapons. I find it kind of interesting that they assume that the first time this was ever done was there in that war, yet much older descriptions of great destruction in the past seem to describe a similar sort of destructive force, but that’s entirely behind the point. The point was this was what took place here as well. My master’s ‘single event’ was a particular detonation of such a weapon, and then a new arms race after that leading to full, worldwide war.
Your nuclear weapons are a very efficient killer, indeed. Far after the initial blast, the true effects of the weapon are still lingering. The radiation stays, continues killing, and killing slowly and painfully. With so many of these things detonated during this conflict, the entire world was covered with radiations, and in time everybody died from it. And, perhaps the most disturbing thing about this thing is, the initial blast isn’t even needed. A ‘dirty bomb’, as your scientists call it, can just spread radiation without a nuclear detonation, and be much more covert. Sadly, this is exactly what started this war. A detonation of such a bomb.
The year was 2007. The season was early summer. The location was in Japan. The only thing I did not have was the who. From everything I could find, nuclear energy was a highly regulated and policed industry, and the sort of waste needed to make this bomb even more so. But no matter what I could do, no matter where I went, that last piece of information was the one thing I could not solve. That trail was cold, and without that answer there wasn’t a way to make sure after I solved it at the one point in time, whoever was at the center of this all wouldn’t just cause it to happen again.
That is when I decided to get some assistance. And I chose to get it from who appeared to me from records to be the most organized and capable of doing it: a government agent of the American country the United States, known as the Central Intelligence Agency. But it wasn’t just because of their organization’s appearance on paper, it was because they were the ones managing the largest by far warehouse of dangerous Objects being held by governments all over the world, and that was going to be key to my gaining their trust.
What I needed to do first, however, was to find the book. The book was not back in the house, not in the bunker, and not listed in any particular Object collection from any agency or private collector I could find. Somehow the book had interacted with my master’s powers at that point, and I could not explain why. Because I couldn’t, it became a possibility that I needed to get back. It wasn’t until I began broadening my search that I finally found it, in an archive of cryptographically interesting works, of all places. It was known by a name now, for the person who found it. It had come to be known as the Voynich Manuscript.