They call it Cage because in the end it entraps them, the rare few who vanish for several seconds at the moment of their birth before reappearing again, without explanation.
For any witness who remembers the ancient tales, this is a warning of what is to come. And yet, after this event, nothing unusual happens while the child grows, though those who take the warning seriously will isolate them at birth.
For upon reaching physical maturity, there comes a day when the youth begins to flicker out of existence once again. They are snatched against their will to distant locations around their world, then back home again only to repeat the cycle again, and again, and again.
For those unwary enough to love and be loved these leaps come with the added danger of involving those they care about. Almost nothing can prevent the process from pulling friends and family along only to abandon them, often without preparation or resources to find their way home. Many of the youth and those in their communities are injured or killed by this process, yet even so it continues uninterrupted for days or even weeks until the youth finally vanishes one last time.
None have ever returned.
Not one has ever been found.
Family and friends make their way home, if they can. Records are written in an attempt to understand. Stories are told. Religions and science offer what explanation they can before each rare event fades into myth and legend to be shared around night fires or used as a threat to manipulate small children into obedience.
Only those who vanish in this way know the truth of their destination, and even upon arrival they find no explanations or reasons for the experience.
- Early Warning – All Keys vanish for several seconds at the moment of their birth before reappearing again. During that moment Cage sets its anchor seeds within the genetic structure of the child. In cultures that maintain some kind of history or mythology this is a warning of what is to come. After this event, nothing unusual happens while the child grows. They seem entirely normal in every way.
- Final Call – At physical maturity the Portal begins the process of pulling a Key into Cage. This timing is measured differently on every planet, of course, though it is always precisely the same level of physical development for every Key. On those planets where accurate records are maintained, it is possible to calculate the precise time of departure based on their time of birth.
- Stitches – A series of spatial jumps between the starting point and distant locations on-planet, which every Key must survive on the way through the Portal. There is no guarantee whether any given stitch will end up in safe or dangerous locations. There are many theories about why these jumps occur before the final jump through the Portal, but there isn’t enough information to reach a firm conclusion.
- Attachments – Any strong,mutual emotional ties between a Key and the humans surrounding them become attachments, whether hatred or love. One attached individual will be pulled along with the Key during each outgoing stitch, then left behind when they stitch back to their original location. This causes suffering and even death among the family and friends of Keys. Cultures which know about the early warning tend to isolate Keys as a result of this danger.
- Death Bond – Anyone emotionally invested, whether through fear, anger, or love when a Key dies before the Call will die with them. This bond effect fades during the Call and is always completely gone by the time a Key arrives through the Portal. As a result Keys are often isolated during their growing years, but are rarely actively harmed.
- Latch On – The moment when Cage activates its link with a Key to begin calling them in.
- Temporal Scanner – A Cage system that allows Keys to trace the Portal’s focus through time and space so they can unite the Score teams and activate the Anchor Strand in time to assist in the process.
- Anchor Strands – An extra temporal and spatial link between Cage, Portal, and Key, often perceived as similar to a fishing line or rescue rope. Anchor strands allow up to twenty linked Keys to assist in pulling new arrivals through the Stitches more rapidly. Only one Key has ever been found with the capacity to access the Anchor system and pass the strands to a Score. Before the process and linked systems were discovered five out of every six Keys arrived either dead or severely injured.
- Score – Each Score is a team of twenty individuals with the capacity to link to the Portal itself. A full count of twenty is necessary to reduce the amount of stitches, though even one assistant will help speed up the process to some extent. Each team works in shifts to help pull in new Keys safely. The link is exhausting due to the mental and psychological strain. After new Keys arrive, they are tested to see if they can link. Those with the ability may join a Score. Every time there are enough trained Keys to create a new team it reduces the strain on the rest and increases the possibility of survival for future Keys.
Drops, Vials, & Vases – These are time measurements. Because there is no sun and the light level throughout the Cage can be adjusted at will, a water-based clock was invented. Each drop is the equivalent of a slow heartbeat; a vial is 100 drops; and a vase is 100 vials (or around two hours of earth time). There are 15 vases in a day. Cycle – A cycle is a span of thirty days and the length of time between Calls. The Cycle is the clearest inbuilt pattern within the Cage system, and as such became the ultimate measure of time to which the water system was customized. Implant – A symbiosis mark somewhere on the body, usually raised, textured, or colored. Each implant is set by Cage to raise affinity between a Key and the systems to which they are able (and willing) to connect. Translator – Every Key’s first implant is for translation and embedded at the base of the skull by Portal upon arrival. It translates projected thoughts, though usually only those that are spoken aloud. Anyone who wishes to understand a spoken idea will receive synchronous translation in their mind. Slang and other culturally influenced ideas are not explained, so conversations aren’t always simple even with the help of the translator. The implant is usually hidden since it spreads up and around the skull without affecting hair growth. Some Keys are able to use the implant to send or receive emotions and thoughts.
It amazed him how bonds so beautiful and pure could become such a burden when it came to the Chosen. Why would the gods allow something so essential as love to destroy everyone deeply connected to those marked by their call? As a test, it seemed cruel.read more
After living through hundreds of years of dreamers discovering little of use, Legra no longer hoped to understand the reason behind Cage. He had witnessed far too many deaths …read more
The first jump caught Sky in the middle of breakfast. There was just enough time to notice Rat’s eyes widening with fear before her familiar rooms vanished and she found herself holding an empty fork in the middle of a wide plain.read more
As Child reached the rooftop, she stopped in shock. There was clearly a person, a young boy, climbing off the tumbled remains of her lettuce trays. How had he managed to climb so high? Did he know he risked the curse?read more
Child awoke, alone as usual, the morning before her doom. She had never been permitted to set one foot outside her rooms and the high windows were too deep and narrow to view anything more than small patches of sky.read more