by Simon sNowlock

     2001 AD -- The year it began. When the world devoured itself with the nuclear weapons of World War III. America split into three warring factions as the rest of Earth began a hideous death toil in a bid for world domination; the Hitler Clone paving the road. The world was destroyed in the first twenty-four hours.
     June 18 of the same year the Neo-Nazis launched the first of their almost limitless supply of Xenon Bombs upon New York and London.
July 4 was the day the snow started; death and radiation sickness dominating the world.
     On November 26 the remaining countries gave up hope of the snow and carnage ever stopping.

     2028 AD -- Present day ASA. The land had become a tundra of snow and death. Hypothermia and frostbite replaced Heart Attacks as the leading killer, and both were more frequent than the common cold. But, with World War III over, the scattered governments met mutual agreements of survival. Instead of the Land of the Free, it became the Land of the Freezing.....


     Xander bit his lip to get the blood moving again. He could feel the frost on his eyes gather a little closer to his body for the warm, rich heat, tugging them down in their effort. His thick coat glimmered with the light of the sun, with the dark brown fur and wool fused together from the cold of so many years.
     His eyes wandered from the small, brittle houses made from the remnants of tall buildings, pouring out the smoke of the rustic fuel called gasoline. All of the precious resource was used for one purpose. Heat; to warm the blood of the ever wary being that longed for it.
     He could imagine the exquisite feeling of this great lover. Caressing his entire body as he soaked it all up, making sure nothing could escape him. Heat... only once in Xander's life had he really felt it.
     That was from the last body warmth of his mother. The night she had held him as close as she could and slipped away.
     "Hey, dipshit, where the hell you going?" A rough gloved hand grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him back. "I'm still waiting for my shit, boy."
     "I got it right here, Vac.... just lemme have the stuff."
     "I'll give it to you, all right. Let's see it." Xander stared at the brown beard running across the scruffy face of Vac Nomaro. With the top of his head covered by his usual hunting hat, and the rest by his parka, Xander could only make out Vac's face - an eggshaped thing that clutched the beady eyes to the sharp creases spread horizontally.
Xander reached down and pulled out the small lithium rod in its protective shielding. The green light of its core was like a small sun, pulsing and sending the waves of heat out that couldn't escape. Only last Tuesday had he stolen it from the Monti Clair Corporation. At the current economy of the Allied States of America, the little rod in his hand was worth more than a quarter of California, yet with the amount of crooked fences floating around, all Xander could get out of it was a month's worth of cash and a bag of snuff. "Here, Vac," he said holding his shaky hand out and pulling back when Vac reached for it. "Now, where's mine?"
     Vac shoved the young thief into the wall of the house they stood in front of. "You'll get it when I've seen the lithium, you stupid punk."
A close inspection of the green crystal brought a smile to Vac's face. The dark beard that hung close to his face wrinkled up and the creases around his eyes doubled. "Oh, yes, this will do...." He turned back to Xander.
     "Here. I have your next job." Vac tossed a wad of cash and a bag of white powder attached to a folded yellow paper at Xander's feet and walked away.

     Xander stared at the note while he bit into the sandwich. Or at least, that's what they called it in Maine - in the rest of America they called it a Shitwich. Just two slices of moldy bread with anything edible found in the remote area.
     He sat in a small bar. Brown, red and plastered white splotches covering the radiation holes greased the walls. Waiters in recycled clothing wiped the tables with yellow rags, spitting instead of using water during a wipe-down. And across a longer wall was a huge poster with the words: "Stop the Greenhouse Effect!", put up after the end of WWIII as an irony for present day America. Most of the tables around him were occupied with scraggly people barely getting by on whatever they could.
     "Vlacner Mansion?" the young thief questioned quietly. "How the hell am I supposed to get into Vlacner Mansion?" He shook his head.
The huge palace the people of Maine called Vlacner Mansion was the largest place in all of the state. Probably every humanoid in the surrounding areas knew about Vlacner - or at least knew of how goddamn rich the place was.
     He had seen the creepy old mansion a few times, the vision of the black house was practically burned into his memory. Of how it was barely visible through the snow as it sits there, every window boarded up and every wall and door protected with metallic frames. It looked more like a metal mountain than a house.
     And the most prominent feature - the energy shield. Projected almost twenty-five meters away from the actual house, the translucent blue bubble surrounds it from every which way. Not a single soul has been known to go in or out.
     The yellow paper of the note was crumpled to almost a fine crease, but Xander read it again. The blueprints of the house was right in his hands. He had to get in, get out, and take a portable psi-generator. A portable psi-generator!
     He shook his head. A psi-generator was worth an entire state because of its rarity. Only a year before the war had broken out had the model been made. Very few were in existence at that time, and once the war had started, the generator had been put into decommission - but because the generator could turn anything possessing even a remote amount of metallic structure, even bodily waste, into pure energy capable of powering a revo-factory for years, people were in desperate demand for it.
     He thumped money onto the table and walked out chewing on the last pieces of his Shitwich.

     The sixteen year old thief sat on a dune of snow, basking in the white light of the sun. No one knew why the sun actually had that color. Some say the radiation from the Xenon Bombs had affected the ozone, turning the yellow beams of heat from the great ball of fire the moment it hit the atmosphere to the icy waves of chills that ever so frequently passed through the people of the renamed: New Earth. Still, the color fit the white planet. Every country inside and out of ASA was covered with snow. Tropical countries were blasted with storms of snow and hail, and once snowy areas bombarded twice as much. Xander looked past the tiny snowflakes floating gently down to the ground as he stared at the bare outline of Maine City's sky scrapers. Like tall standing light houses, the buildings reflected the white light of sun into a glare that was almost unbearable. They stood in the white frigid ground, surrounded by the smoking infant buildings, crammed full of tenants who were overcharged and poor. Xander sighed when he thought of how sad the white town of Maine looked to the naked eye. He thought of how sad the people of Maine looked, and how nothing would ever change during his lifetime. He looked down and flexed his fingers, feeling a bit of pity for the insignificant people dying from the ideals of prejudice assholes, oppressing and killing everything because of belief. He shook it off and turned back to the Mansion.
     Out of the entire operation for the portable psi-generator, this was the hardest. If Xander was even a split-second too late, he wouldn't make it past the energy shield, and most likely be left with one half of his body on one side of the shield, and the other half on other side. Not the greatest of feelings he could imagine.
     Although the portable psi-generator was sending enough energy to produce the shield, the generators for the shield itself were actually about three hundred meters under the ground, hidden so that anyone foolish enough to try to assault the Vlacner Mansion above ground would not be able to destroy the outside shielding.
     Xander craned his head to see the far distant landscape. His chronometer told him time was short until his chance, so he stood up and tensed his muscles. Then he saw it: an icy blue wave of friction and energy closing across the Maine snow lands.
     Once a month, energy from Maine's revo-factory had to be released because of capacity problems. When that happened, the energy from their conduit store box let out a blue ribbon of pure electro-magnicity shoot out across the countryside until its energy protons had been dispersed across the land. The electro-magnicity contained in the energy ribbon was unbelievably powerful. When the ribbon hit an electrically powered object, it would temporarily short circuit, and, with any luck for him, Xander could leap past the shields just as they automatically shut off for the ribbons passing. Of course, Xander would also be helped by the large heave from the air buffer accumulated across the front of the ribbon, trapped there because it had no time to escape and the speed of the wave didn't let it.
     The small thief shot a glance backwards at the wave of blue sparkling energy gliding across Maine. Sparks and bright light shimmered around the ribbon, the wind sending objects not tied down catapulting into the sky as it passed. The nylon rope wrapped around his hand burned when he tightened it. The trick was, since the ribbon was coming towards his back, to hold onto the rope until the shield went down, then let the wave carry him past the shield and towards the house - with luck not too far.
     He could feel the strong push of the air buffer sliding him forwards. His legs started to slip underneath him, leaving only the rope tied to a buried tree stump to keep him anchored. The energy ribbon was only fifty meters behind him and closing when the shield started to flash with colors. As the ion particles preceding the energy ribbon touched the barrier, the shield started to spider web into cracks like a pane of glass, fluttering in and out of reality.
     Xander let go and hoped the wind didn't carry him to far as the shield shut down. The heat from the energy wave warmed his back as he shot into the air, arms and legs flailing in a vein effort to stop his fall.
     His body hit the ground in a burst of powdered snow, face first with the white substance covering his entire body. For the first time in his life, the young thief was actually happy that it was there. The energy ribbon passed overhead, whipping the snow across his body and burying him underneath it. He rolled over and, while groaning, wiped it off. "What I do for a lousy hundred grand......"

     The small flash lamp tied across Xander's inside palm sent an array of light to the exact location he chose. The palm lamp was actually one of the thief's best tools, as you directly control where you want light, and can close your hand to shut off the light instead of fumbling with switches. Only when carrying an object does it become a bother, and at that point use of the chest lamp strapped to him would be needed.
     "Basement... basement.... where's the goddamn basement?"
The thief looked around with a creepy feeling tugging inside him. The walls decorating the room he was inside reminded him of hunting trophies; with tall heads of rare animals covered in strange writing, and long painted spears. Each of the pious objects were bathed with shadows. A picture of a furry blur moving across the snow grabbed Xander's attention and brought him closer. The blur had startling red eyes that seemed to quiver in the motionless picture. He shivered and moved onto the next room.

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