At first it was merely an escape from the nearby city. But as more bikers sought out the lush trails, the two thousand foot tall hill known as Galbraith found itself branded by the almighty dollar. As the bike lifts moved in, unique culture moved out, along with the projected revenues. The damage was irreparable, as Galbraith had already doubled in size. What had started as merely another injustice wrought by capitalism, quickly became something bigger. Environmentalists rallied around the remnants of nearby Bellingham, chasing after the biggest conglomerates of the resort industry. While the longest legal battle in recorded history ravaged three continents, a blindside that any grandmother could have seen coming shot the legs out from under the strongest free government since the first republic.

The planet had been thoughtlessly plundered for three millennia and soon raged its displeasure. The last hope lay in strict limitations on everyday life, limitations not morally acceptable to twelve of the thirteen billion inhabitants of the planet.

At first gliding under the radar, a twenty year old lawyer named John McAthie drafted two bills and submitted them to the most powerful government on the planet. The first bill solved a minor glitch in the court system while creating a small but complex loophole. After slipping through the system, it was made law in a final twenty minute court session. The second bill blasted through that very loophole, reshaping the government into one able to do what was necessary to save the planet.

Although John McAthie was instantly hated by billions, the government he had created did its job and did so efficiently. He watched as this new world order swept across the scarred face of the rock he called home, erasing all but one megacity and replacing them with sprawling forests, marshes, and jungles. Smaller cities and towns found themselves a true concrete jungle, as nomads and reptiles slunk into the now vacant structures. Similarly, small villages quickly replaced most of the resorts, taking advantage of the extensive trail networks.

After two failed marriages and one son, John McAthie committed suicide. His son, Lewis McAthie, made billions through careful investment of his inheritance and married an aspiring lawyer named Rachel Fæburn. Soon after, they built a two story house overlooking the village on Galbraith. After adopting Jonas Eldritch, the gifted son of a Lakota friend, Lewis and Rachel McAthie made billions more through Eldritch Bike Products, Inc.

Secret Shade of Danger


Almost a dozen adolescent students waited in the sagging schoolhouse, passing the time with conversation. When the schoolmaster finally arrived, he merely stuck his head in the the door and cancelled classes until he could fix his roof. Immediately, gloves, helmets, and the occasional neck brace were excitedly donned amidst an outburst of celebration.

"Alix! DC!" a haughty voice broke through the din of celebration.

"You're on!" Alix shouted back at Buzz, pulling a lightweight helmet and neck brace over his pale blond hair.

Rushing out the door while pulling on a pair of well used gloves and goggles, Alix lept on his bike and sprinted his way through the village. He was quickly joined by the stocky boy from earlier, cruising along on an angular e-bike. Smirking, Alix dropped down the wrong trail, pushing into every depression the ground had to offer. Threading his way through a root patch, he shifted the gearbox down to third and pounded his way up then around a corner. Alix groaned as he found himself back on the main trail and two feet behind Buzz.

"Not this time," Buzz growled, throttling what was two amps away from a motorcycle.

Alix cringed at the teens lack of finesse as he wove his way up the chewed up remains of the trail, shifting down to first to avoid getting caught by the dirt that was being thrown up. As they reached the third turn, Alix put this bike in second and blew past Buzz. After shifting up a gear, Alix quickly left the cuss machine farther behind at each switchback.

Buzz came out of the trail to find Alix doing a trackstand at the start of DC.

"Wanna head start?" the thin blonde taunted.

"Fuck you!" Buzz spat, thoroughly pissed at being beat going uphill. "No, what I want is to see you stay in front of me on that lopsided trail rig."

Alix looked back down at his bike, then up at him, now with a genuine grin on his face.

"You likey? It's an Eldritch take on an old Enduro rig. It was called either the Foes Mixer, or Liteville 601," Alix explained.

"I don't want to learn if I'm not in school. Now get going before I push you!" Buzz growled through his underbite.

Alix rocked forward, bouncing a couple of times on his larger front tire before pivoting. Bringing the rear tire back in contact with Mother Earth, Alix reared onto his back wheel, twisting back around to drop down the trailhead.

The air whistled past him as he careened down the trail, even continuing to whisper encouragement as he blasted his way up the short incline in front of him.

"Up and over!" he yelled over his shoulder, before gravity helped turn the world into a howling blur.

Pushing into the first jump of the trail and flying through the air, Alix swung his rear wheel out to the side partly for fun, partly to show off to the whining motors behind him. Submitting himself to gravity once more, the wiry blond crouched as the bike slid back onto the dusty trail. Shifting his weight slightly rearward, Alix let the suspension do its job and focused entirely on threading his way downhill, carving his way through the root and rock Braille that he had learned to read. Pedaling a couple times to keep momentum going up a gentle rise in the trail, Alix threw his entire weight into the greatly ramped turn at the crest. Zipping out the end of the berm at the edges of control, Alix weaved his chaotic way through the root peppered loam. Bouncing off the side of a boulder brought him six feet from one of the largest jumps on the mountain, his world becoming crisp and focused as adrenaline pounded in his ears.

Gently caressing the hydraulic brakes a couple times, he shifted his left foot a bit farther in on the pedal and pushed his weight farther back before slamming as much weight as he could through the bike and into the ramp. Shooting into the clean mountain air, he glanced up at the ground before momentum brought rubber side back down. Crouching at the impact, Alix had only a moment to enjoy his success. Keeping his eyes on the next corner, a Cheshire grin split his face. Blasting into the immense berm, he leaned over until the ground was flying past his right shoulder while caressing the rear brake lever.

The month old tires had held up extremely well under his abusive riding style, but Alix still had to reduce the pressure on the brake lever to a breathy feathering so as not to drift his way into a tree. Floating his way off the berm, he tilted the front wheel back towards the trail, kicking up small clumps of loam as the rear wheel slammed home at an angle. He recovered quickly and pounced off the large rock directly in front of him, sailing over the treacherous roots that snaked their way down the trail before drifting around a corner and out of earshot of the whining motors behind him.

Alix was exhausted, but grinning broadly as the bike crawled back up to the village. He was met by Jonas, who was holding a bottle of water and leaning against the glossy grey bike that crouched at his side. No sooner had he rolled to a stop and removed his helmet than Jonas threw a fresh pair of gloves at him, followed soon after by the water bottle.

"As usual, the tires need more wear resistance, and I want something to drown out his motors," Alix said as Buzz popped up out of the trail. "Oh, and putting a twenty nine inch hoop on the medium small frame is a bit overwhelming," he continued after draining the water.

"Noted," Jonas said, taking back the empty bottle.

"So are you gonna tell me why I'm your personal test subject for all your bikes?" Alix asked as he got off the bike. He thought he saw a smirk flash across the dark face, but he was quickly distracted by the aggressive bike Jonas brought forward.

It was long and slack, and his eyes were riveted to the burly suspension on proud display. A cheeky grin appeared on his face as it produced a confident clacking at the slightest movement forward. Stripping off his overused gloves, Alix shoved them onto the handlebars of the trail bike before switching out for the downhill beast Jonas had brought.

"The only thing I want to know about this bike is it's breaking point," he said as he pulled the bedraggled gloves off the handlebars and shoved them in his equally tattered peacoat. Leaning the bike against a nearby tree, Jonas reached behind it and grabbed a bulging hydra-pack, a glossy helmet, and a matching neck brace.

Alix stared at him as if he had grown six eyes and a tail, along with gills to boot.

"I expect a busted bike by the end of the week," Jonas said as Alix shucked off his old gear. Jonas smiled at the sadistic grin that replaced the boys look of shock.

Jonas watched the wiry teen wheely his way towards the darkening village, before turning towards the sad pile of well used equipment. Reaching around the bike, he pulled his grubby backpack from the deep evening shadow. After tossing the tired pieces of equipment in the tattered bag, he turned around with a sigh.


'I have three inches and at least fifty pounds on his injun ass,' Buzz reminded himself as he walked up behind Jonas. It did nothing to stop fear from raking its frigid claws along his spine, however, when he suddenly noticed that Jonas had turned around. Hesitating, he remembered Alix showing off on what had to become the last in a long a string of prototypes. Rolling his shoulders, Buzz let the roiling heat of anger propel him forward.

Jonas looked on as Buzz loomed over him, threatening him with this and that if he kept supplying Alix with bikes that cost more than his cabin. When he had listened to all the reasons his dad would approve, he locked gazes with the large boy.

"No," he said dismissively, sighing as the brutish and pimpled face in front of him contorted in fury. Jonas sidestepped the wild haymaker before leaving Buzz gasping from a solid blow to the stomach.

"And if you harm Alix in any way," he added as he gathered up the forlorn gear. "I'll leave a dick shaped bruise on your back,"

Buzz staggered to his feet as Jonas and the bike disappeared behind the tree. Stumbling after him in a blind rage, he quickly found himself in the center of a moonlit clearing. His eyes darted in all directions, trying to pierce the writhing darkness. Suddenly he noticed Jonas standing in the blackness under a tree, and stepped forward to confront him. Before his foot had touched the ground, a paralyzing sense of dread blossomed in the pit of his stomach. With terror's barbed tendrils ripping away his bravado, Buzz tentatively replaced his foot. The silence of the cold was painful, and he watched warily as Jonas prowled across the clearing with a deadly silent grace. Nodding mutely when Jonas motioned for him to stay quiet, Buzz tried to fold back into himself and disappear. When Jonas finally came to a stop it was two inches away from the scar that trailed down his jaw.

"Alix is untouchable, comprende?" Jonas breathed into his ear, the faint echo that slithered through the all encompassing shadows leaving him trembling.

Buzz nodded, and Jonas patted him on the shoulder as he walked past. A brief sound not unlike the crunching of snow came from behind him, replacing his trembling with a deathly stillness and warm pants. He stood like that for a while after silence had returned, gulping in ragged breaths of oxygen and trying to cope with the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness branded into his memory. Warily looking around in an attempt to find his way back revealed a crude map effortlessly gouged into the side of a nearby granite boulder. Breaking into a panicked sprint towards the village, Buzz sought refuge from the dark forest and the casually carved granite.


Alix watched from the porch of the decrepit cottage as his older brother appeared from the blackness of the surrounding forest.

"Drunk out of his mind," he said, jerking a thumb towards the knife tip poking through the rotting door.

The scruffy man merely nodded as he hopped up the steps. Striding towards the door, he gave it a firm shove and casually batted aside the growler that tumbled through the air.

Alix darted in after his brother and grabbed a quilt from the Spartan room, keeping an eye on the inebriated form huddled in a corner.

"You got two weeks to taste life," the figure mumbled, "then, one way or another, I'll never see you again!" His father's drunken chuckles followed him as he escaped with the quilt.

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