As the sun rose over the horizon, a faint glow of dark gray light began to emerge across the sky. No matter how hard one looked, an endless blanket of foggy clouds covered the sky and not an ounce of blue hue could be found. Fog also extended endlessly across the ground as well, making it difficult to see anything past a couple dozen meters.
Occasionally the fog would accumulate and almost blot out the sun, painting the world in dimming hues of darker and darker shades of gray and milky white. More often than not, this dimming would not last and the fog would be blown away as wind currents pushed fog away somewhere else. It was like this every day as the intensity of light changed depending on how strong the winds were that day.
The fog slowly churned and twisted up above as Isaac sat on Fogmist Orphanage's front steps absentmindedly. He looked lost in his own thoughts as he stared at the foggy sky.
Today was Isaac Fogmist's eighteenth birthday which marked his shift into adulthood. By Moonfog Empire's imperial decree, any person who reached eighteen years of age were considered adult citizens of the empire.
It was a complicated day for him since it was his both his birthday and also the last day at the orphanage he grew up in. The orphanage had strict rules that only offered shelter to minors and all children who made it to adulthood were no longer allowed to stay. Harboring young adults within the orphanage was a punishable crime that could cause the orphanage to lose its license, so the orphanage had no choice but to release Isaac out in the wide world.
Although Isaac had to leave, he wouldn't be thrown out into the streets mercilessly because he would be leaving due to a mandatory summoning he had to obey. All people who reached adulthood had to report to their Regional Research Academy for higher education as ordained by the empire. Failure to report would lead to the child's guardians or parents facing heavy fines for violating the law. Should Isaac not report to the academy, Fogmist Orphanage would face penalties that could shut them down.
As such, Isaac was forced to report to the academy, otherwise, his home would have imperial inspectors visiting them.
Isaac quietly sighed and slowly walked into the orphanage to pick up his "luggage", a small traveling bag that barely had anything inside it other than plain clothes and a credit chip with a little money. He didn't let the pathetic contents of his bag get him down and was instead thought that it was good that his bag was so light; at the very least he wouldn't have to lug around a heavy bag and exhaust himself.
Only the head nun was there to see Isaac off when he walked out of the orphanage, due to the fact that Isaac was actually the orphanage's last child. Every orphan had already grown up and left by the time Isaac had become an adulthood. It was a sad sight in a certain sense, but Isaac was somewhat glad that his send-off was a quiet one.
Mother Lucy teared up as she told Isaac to sleep properly and to keep himself from getting into trouble at the academy. She continued to badger Isaac with advice as she held him in a tight embrace, smothering him both physically and mentally.
After what seemed like an eternity to Issac, Mother Lucy finished her final motherly sermon and gave him her blessings. Isaac could only nod and smile as Lucy spoke, lest he make her even more worried once he left. Even though her nagging and worrying annoyed Isaac, he took Lucy's blessings and advice to heart; after all, she had raised him since he was the size of a loaf of bread, something Isaac was eternally grateful for.
Isaac hesitated a bit before he started walking, but quickly brushed off his fear and began walking away from the orphanage. He continued to walk further and further, step by step and soon enough, the orphanage he once grew up in was swallowed up by the sea of fog. Once he lost sight of the orphanage, Issac chose not to look back anymore and continued to walk down the dirt road he started on. Isaac was headed towards the closest town to Fogmist Orphanage called Delva Town, where he would take a fog train to Grandmist City.
Grandmist City was one of Moonfog Empire's largest cities and it was where one of the Empire's Research Academies was located. It was a walled city of chrome steel, neon-fog lights, and ostentatious wealth that made other cities look like primitive rock villages in comparison. But what made it stand out from 99% of all other cities was that it had a research academy within its walls, something only a few cities in the empire had.
Research Academies were incredibly mysterious places that only a few people within the empire knew extensively about. Every young adult was required to visit an academy, but not everyone was admitted to it specifically. The academy supposedly had its own admission test and those who failed never remembered what occurred during the examination. Some said that if you failed the admission test, you'd be sent to fight in the foglands outside the empire, and others whispered that the academies were brainwashing centers but no one believed such outlandish claims. In any case, the academies held a bad reputation for the fact that they never revealed what went on behind their closed doors.
After an hour of walking, Issac tiredly made to the seemingly empty Devla Town. Such a scene was normal for an isolated city like this that existed in the border of the empire. Very few people would choose to live in such a remote city, far away from the convenience and energy of an inner city. Nothing really happened out here in the boonies, which was why many elderly couples preferred towns like these compared to the chaotic inner cities that were rampant with holo-advertisements, sex, violence, and corruption. Isaac understood the benefits of living in peaceful cities like these, but had long since felt constrained living in the outer reaches; he longed to dive in and learn about the world he had never seen before in the inner cities.
As soon as Isaac entered Devla Town's train station, Isaac felt as if he had entered the devil's crypt. It was unnaturally cold in the station, to point that a light sheen of frost could be seen on the metal railings around him. Isaac had a pretty good hunch as to why it was colder than usual in here, he guessed that the fog generator that powered the station must have had a leak somewhere in its system.
"Fog generators" were power sources that used fog as fuel and could supply much more power than conventional generators used during the Pre-Shrouded era. During the Pre-Shrouded era, people used nuclear power, solar power, and even coal for energy, funnily enough.
But the arrival of the fog and dust changed everything about how humanity's tech development. Condensed fog and dust had the power to freeze and melt many things when charged, which later became used greater in the 22nd century. Using condensed fog to keep nuclear reactors from melting down became the norm and an age of free power for the common man arrived.
Of course, the arrival of fog and dust wasn't all peaches and roses as experienced during the period when both of them first appeared. Many areas around the world became frozen lands shrouded in fog and others became scorching hot deserts due to incredible amounts of fog and dust being sparked off by natural storms. A massive portion of the earth suddenly became inhospitable due to the extreme temperatures that had come into effect.
Isaac guessed that the old rust bucket of a reactor down in the train station's basement must have had a broken pipe because only condensed fog had the ability to create such a dramatic effect on the environment. He quietly cursed the old rust bucket as he took a seat and waited for the fog train to arrive.
An hour later, a bellowing horn could be heard in the distance and a jet black train slowly stopped into the station. It was more an armored behemoth than a train in Isaac's eyes, but he understood why it was built so monstrously.
Entering areas heavy in fog or dust was extremely dangerous, or so the empire warned the populace. The train was completely jet black and no windows installed as a safety precaution. Windows were considered a weakness and were removed from all trains, as cracks or faulty windows could result in condensed fog or dust entering the cabins. Reinforced inch thick steel covered every part of the train, which made it look like a metal cocoon more than anything else. Stopping in the middle of the foglands was considered suicide by the empire, so the fog train's nuclear reactor kept the train from ever needing to stop.
As the fog train's doors opened up, only a few people had walked out. Isaac expected as much; Delva Town was only a little blip on map and nothing of importance to the empire strategically, so it received very few visitors. After everyone had left, Isaac entered the train and found himself a comfortable seat. As soon as he sat down, a crackling noise resounded throughout the train's intercoms, which startled him. Eventually, the noise toned down and a frigid voice emerged from it that said, "Five minutes till departure, please secure your belongings."
Isaac shut his eyes and thought about how well he'd fare in the upcoming admissions exam for the Research Academy. He wondered what was in store for him now that he was an adult. He eventually dozed off and fell asleep in his chair, without a worry in the world.
While he gently slept, the train began to gear up and took off with increasing speed. It directly entered the foglands heading towards Grandmist City, carrying Isaac still in his sleep. Several hours later, the silhouette of a massive, imposing steel wall would have been seen miles away if the train had windows. The train paid no heed to the wall and continued to move toward it, tearing a path straight through the fog without care. . .