When the dust cleared and he regained his sense of direction, Tycho found he was looking at the sky. The clouds lay thick, low, almost motionless. Next to him, Eli was opening the vehicle’s hatch. With a whoosh, cold air rushed into the cockpit. Tycho inhaled a deep draught of the bitter air and coughed.
“Ever been to another world?” Eli asked, jumping out. “You’ll get used to the air in a bit. Come on.”“How did we escape?”
Eli held up a small device. “Pocket-sized portal generator. Hard to get a vehicle through, but you can do it.”
Tycho shook his head in disbelief. Yesterday, he wouldn’t have believed such a thing existed. “Where are we? What world?” Thick, gray dust covered the landscape and the wreckage of buildings. The wind swept it into small tornadoes and moaned as it slithered between steel beams and empty window panes. The ground rose and fell tortuously, pocked with craters.
“What do you know of the Web of Worlds?” Eli asked.
“What everyone knows, that the Creators—” Tycho trailed off. Eli claimed the Creators weren’t gods at all, merely humans. “They claim to have summoned worlds out of the void for us to live in.”
“In a way, that’s true,” Eli said, directing Tycho into the shelter of a building. The first room had been furnished and sealed off from the outside. “Scientists brought the many worlds of mankind into existence, if you want to talk about it that way. There are infinite worlds, new ones created at every decision. That’s the theory, though no one’s ever discovered a closely related world. Portals connect us to those that veered off substantially somewhere in the past—where mankind never lived, where the rules of physics work differently, where gold is like dust or forests cover the entire globe. Your world, you couldn’t even live on the surface, so you lived in your floating cities. Go on, take a seat.”
Tycho took a seat on a camp chair. It was hard to take everything in. “So, where are we? What happened here? Is this your world?”
“My world? No—I grew up on Nexus.” Eli saw Tycho’s expression. “There’s a reason I know so much about the Creators. As for here, there was a war a few hundred years ago. I think I’m the only one living here now. But trust me, I think you’ll grow to like this world. It used to be called Earth. It’s where mankind began. Are you hungry? I’ll warm something up.”