In those days, the Earth was no more.

Most blamed it on global warming. It was the only way to explain the fact that the entire Earth had been submerged in water. Experts had cried for years about the effects of greenhouse gases, celebrities tagged their faces to the cause, raised millions in support, and yet, sea levels continued to rise. The inhabitants of the Earth got what was coming for them.

A smaller group believed Earth to be a myth. There was no evidence of the planet, and the only ones that claimed to know anything about it were old folks. This group of self-proclaimed rational thinkers insisted that past generations invented the Earth myth to keep everyone under their control. They disregarded all historical evidence and research, writing them off as falsified, biased works.

But Paige Romano had been there. And after what happened today, she was the only one alive who knew exactly why the Earth was destroyed. The Earth wasn’t a myth, although many were created about it. Global warming had nothing to do with it, although the inhabitants of the Earth were indeed being punished for their actions.

No. Paige knew exactly what had happened to the Earth three hundred years ago because she had been one of eight survivors who had been found worthy of salvation. Packed securely into a tight spacecraft, the Eight launched into the vast expanse of the universe, not daring to look back as the world they once knew wrapped itself in a blue blanket of water.

Paige had watched as one of the Eight worthy souls faded into the very pit of destruction they had been saved from. Evil, she realized, had not been eradicated. Despite all her best efforts, the dawn of a new era of civilization rose against the backdrop of murdered flesh.

And now, here she was, three hundred years later, an old woman, the last survivor of the Eight. Already she had seen the disintegration of society. Those who once knew the truth traded it for a tempting lie. Anger and hatred quelled their hunger for blood, but given a few more centuries, Paige knew the people of the Sagedell System would be no more. Like Earth, they would be subject to the wrath of –

“Excuse me.” A hand touched her elbow, anchoring her thoughts in the here and now. She turned around slowly. It was one of the young men from Adrian’s funeral.

Paige eyed him. He wore a simple white tunic layered over matching trousers. Around his neck he wore a round medallion with a dragon carved in the center. Her hand flew to her neck, which bore the same necklace.

The young man smiled, revealing straight white teeth.

“Yes, Paige Romano, I know who you are.” He extended a hand to her. “My name is Alasteir Moshiri. It is an honor to finally meet you.”

She shook his hand slowly, studying his face. Something about him was familiar to her, but she couldn’t quite place it.

“I was deeply saddened to hear of Adrian’s death,” the young man continued, looking away for a moment. “I am doing research into the planet Earth, and I had hoped for a chance to speak with him.”

Suddenly, Paige remembered.

“You are the young man from the Chestani Research Institute.” Paige shook her head. “I thought I told you I would not give any interviews.” The CRI was notorious for its unethical research methods. Under no circumstances would she tarnish her reputation by dealing with them.

“I have broken free from the CRI,” Moshiri said, crossing his arms. “They do not represent the Chestani well.” He paused and held her gaze. “That is why I am interested in the planet Earth. Our founder, Killy Hanrue, lived and taught there. He is our greatest prophet and spiritual leader.” He uncrossed his arms, then crossed them again. “I hoped you would be able to tell me more about him.”

Paige looked away from him. Moshiri had come to the right person. She knew everything there was to know about Killy Hanrue. She had taken charge of the translation of his works when the Eight first settled in the Sagedell System. They desperately needed structure, and his Chestani religion provided it. No one had ever asked her how she knew the man, and she never told them.

But here she had a devoted follower of his, wanting to know the truth. She had kept the truth hidden for so long, she had started to wonder if it really was true in the first place.

“I knew him, yes,” she replied. “What do you want to know?”

Moshiri’s face lit up like a child receiving a gift. He nodded fervently. “So many things, so many questions unanswered.” He paused and struggled for the right words. “I – I have chosen one,” he said, gesturing with his hand. “I would most like to know when the two of you met.”

Her heart caught in her throat. It was not the question she had anticipated. Paige looked at Moshiri again. He was young, obviously a committed Chestani. No one would leave a lucrative company like the CRI unless they truly believed in Hanrue’s teachings. But more than this, Paige could feel that there was something different about this young man. Something refreshing in his enthusiasm. She was more than three hundred years old. Deterioration of the human body was held in check by modern technology, but despite this, she felt weak, rundown, ready to pass on the baton to the next generation. Whatever his purpose in life, Paige knew that the information she possessed about Hanrue would be important to him. She breathed in deeply and closed her eyes.

“I came to know Hanrue on August 26 of the year 2091.”

Moshiri titled his head in confusion. “But that’s the day that he died.”

Paige opened her eyes.

“That’s the day that I killed him.”