In view of a quite overwhelming response to the first Nexus story I really felt that I had no choice but to write a sequel explaining what happened after Jake and his friends found their new home in Elsass. And while I always welcome new readers, I have to warn you that so much of what will happen in this story refers back to what happened in the first one that it will be hard to follow this one if you haven't already read the first one. So this is where I invite you to go and read The Nexus, and if you still want more after you've done that, you can then come back in the knowledge that the second story will now make a lot more sense. At least, I hope it will.
However, if you want the short version – or if you read the first story some time ago and need a quick reminder of what happened – here's Jake's own highly condensed description of what happened in the first story.
I left my home in Oxfordshire at the end of June 2009 on what should have been a straightforward school trip to our twin town of Colmar in Eastern France. However, on the very first day we were there I wandered off from a visit to the castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg, got lost and spent the night in a hut I stumbled upon in the mist. And next morning I explored the tunnel beneath the hut, which led me to what I later discovered was a Nexus Room – a place where it was possible to travel between different versions of reality.
I didn’t realise straight away that I had moved into another world. It was only after I met Stefan, who like me had become lost in the mist, that I discovered that his world and mine were completely different. In his world Germany had won the war, and in fact he was a cadet at an SS school. And I’m Jewish, and so not exactly flavour of the month with the Nazis…
But in fact in Stefan’s world so much time had passed since the disappearance of the Jews from Germany that he had no strong feelings about it, instead finding me something of a curiosity. And we became friends and, later, a lot more than friends.
Together we started exploring the other doors in the Nexus Room. The first two doors we went through led to dead worlds, one where there was nothing at all except bare rock – we didn’t hang around there – and another where there seemed to have been some sort of catastrophic accident involving biological weapons, since all the inhabitants seemed to be dead. But our third attempt found an inhabited world, a sort of feudal society that was like something from the Middle Ages.
This world had an unfortunate custom of sacrificing a child to their gods at the summer Quarter Day. At first we were earmarked to fill that role, and when I talked us out of it the powers that be decided instead to sacrifice Olivier, the boy who had warned me about it. I thought that was hardly fair, and so, together with Olivier and another local boy called Alain, we headed back for the mountains and returned to our temporary base in the second dead world.
After that we discovered the Hub, the control room for the Nexus Room. It had been abandoned, but a computer there gave us some of the history of what the Nexus Room was and who had built it. We learned that there was a second Hub, too – this turned out to be on the slopes of the Feldberg, the highest point of the Black Forest, across the Rhine in Germany – at least, in my own world it was in Germany, though Stefan and I had already discovered that national boundaries changed considerably from one world to another.
The Hub had been abandoned because the people who had built it, who were from a country called Kerpia, had inadvertently opened a portal – a Nexus doorway – into a world where the dominant intelligent species had evolved from reptiles rather than mammals. These intelligent reptiles, whom the Kerpians called Greys, had invaded Kerpia through the portal, and as far as we could gather the entire operation had been abandoned so as to prevent the Greys from finding and using the portals in the Vosges Nexus Room – their own world had been accessed from the Feldberg Hub.
Exploring the Vosges Hub further we found ourselves making a wholly unintended journey to the Feldberg Hub using the Capsule, a sort of automatic underground train linking the two. At the Feldberg Hub we found the power off: there was nobody there, and the Capsule was clearly going to take a long time to recharge, and so we found our way to the surface and set off to find someone who might be able to help us.
What we didn’t know was that the Greys were now in control of this part of Kerpia, and before we had a chance to speak to anyone local we were captured and, after undergoing a long procedure that implanted the local language directly into our brains, we were questioned. The Kerpian who had overseen the implantation process, whose name was Mr Narj, had advised us not to mention the Hubs or the Nexus Rooms at all when questioned and instead suggested an alternative story, which was apparently accepted by the local Grey commander. However, he refused to release us, and instead we were sent to work in the furnace room of a local uranium mine. And here we met a number of other slave workers, boys from the local orphanage or who had previously been in juvenile detention for criminal behaviour.
We might have stayed there until we died, but I got lucky: a pair of juvenile Greys chose me to take part in a study they were running to chart the differences between Greys and humans, and I was taken out of the furnace room, implanted with the Grey language and sent to work with them. I discovered they intended to finish their experiment by dissecting me, and that gave me a major incentive to find a way to escape. And I did devise a plan, but it involved killing the two Greys, and I found that I was unable to do that.
They were surprised that I had not killed them when I had the chance – in Grey thinking, self-preservation is the most important thing, whatever the cost – but it changed the way they saw me and they decided not to kill me after all. They took me through the portal to their own world and I helped them with their tests, and while I was there I thought up a way for us to escape – not just me, but all the boys at the mine, including my three friends Stefan, Olivier and Alain. One of the boys at the Grey school, Ssyrl, was unpopular with the other students because he was viewed as a sexual deviant: he only liked taking the passive role in sex. So I suggested that he should be sent to the furnace room, where the work might toughen him up and make him more masculine – though actually I thought he would be more sympathetically accepted by the other boys there than he was among his own kind, because in Kerpia sexual relations between boys in their early teens are considered normal.
The two young Greys who were running the tests thought this was an excellent idea, and so they returned to the mine with me, taking Ssyrl with them in order to set him to work in the furnace room. While we were there I suggested that a younger boy, a ten-year-old called Tommi, should come back with us to help with the testing, to see if the results obtained were the same at an earlier age, and I further advised that he should be implanted with their language to make communication easier. And while Tommi was being implanted, Mr Narj found me a bomb that I was later able to plant by the portal into the Grey world, hoping to seal it off completely.
In due course Tommi and I finished our tests and were sent back to the mine, and there I was able to persuade Ssyrl to help us evade the Guardians (a sort of giant scorpion) that ran free about the area to prevent humans from moving about unescorted – they were programmed not to attack Greys or anyone with them.
With Ssyrl’s help we got back to the entrance to the Hub, but at the last moment he betrayed us by running off to warn the local Grey guard-post where we were, leaving us at the mercy of a number of Guardians. We avoided them and fled back to the Vosges Hub, using the Capsule for part of the journey – it had partially recharged while we were in the furnace room – and then on foot, pursued by the Grey soldiers Ssyrl had told about us. After a terrifying gun-fight – there were eleven kids on our side, only two of whom knew one end of a gun from the other, and professional soldiers on theirs – it seemed we were all going to die (and I still find it hard to believe that we came out of it with no more than a couple of flesh wounds), but at the last moment we found the emergency exit from the Hub control room, and this led us back to the Nexus Room – we’d thought all the tunnels between the two had been destroyed by the Kerpians’ fail-safe devices.
Olivier chose one of the remaining doors at random, and we ended up here in Elsass, in a world where the whole of Europe, including Britain and Russia, was united by Napoleon and had remained peaceful ever since. And thirty years ago this world had been visited by an alien race called the Tammids, who had shown the human race the secret of faster than light travel, which had transformed everything. I haven’t been here very long yet, but I’m pretty sure that, of all the worlds we saw, this is going to be by far the best to live in.
I’m going to add another document to my account. One of the Kerpian boys who escaped here with us apparently knows how to pick locks, because a couple of days ago he broke into Mr Jaecklin’s office (he’s the director of our Home). He found a copy of a memo there and he thought I’d find it interesting. Actually it’s quite positive, considering that when we arrived here at the end of August we were a bunch of tired, thin, blood-stained refugees, and so I’m going to post it without changing anything, because it serves as a very useful guide to me and my friends.
From: JAECKLIN J-Pierre, Director, Résidence Alfred Werner, Milhüsa
To: ACKERMANN Philippe, Controller, Social Care, Elsass South
Subject: Details of new arrivals, August 2009
You will recall from my earlier mail that this establishment recently accepted a party of eleven boys who had arrived in our country by way of a parallel interchange in the Vosges mountains, not far from Schlettstadt. They were referred to us indirectly by Dr Feldela of the Central Hospital in Schlettstadt, who treated one of them for injuries received during a gun battle. As their circumstances are highly unusual I feel it would be worthwhile to keep a brief record of their details, especially since the scientific community has already expressed an interest in them.
Jake Stone appears to be the leader of the group, though from his own account this was not a position he sought. He is a little over thirteen years of age, is of above average intelligence and is Jewish, which of course is unusual in itself, given the almost universal lack of religious conviction in our world. He also wears spectacles – apparently in his world universal surgical correction for eyesight defects does not exist. He has an aptitude for languages, speaking English and French with almost equal fluency, as well as the two languages that were apparently implanted into his brain in his previous world. He is now learning Elsassisch and making good progress. He comes from a world in which Napoleon was defeated in 1815; two hugely destructive world wars were fought last century, and the dominant power is now America, with China emerging.
Stefan Kohler is Stone's closest friend and, I suspect, sexual partner, though that is of course their business. He is three months older than Stone and physically very fit, though he lacks Stone's high level of intelligence, which may be why he is content not to lead. He has fair hair and blue eyes, which are apparently highly sought-after traits in his world, and which contrast with Stone's dark brown hair and hazel eyes. Kohler was actually born in Milhüsa, though in his world our country is part of the German Third Reich. In that world the dominant powers are Germany and Japan.
Alain de Columbarier claims to be almost sixteen, though physically he appears no older than Stone, and indeed is still pre-pubertal, while both Stone and Kohler are already well into puberty. However, he comes from a feudal world in which lifestyle and diet are significantly different from ours, and the lack of chemicals in his diet may account for later development. He is unable to read French or English, though he has French as his mother tongue. He is apt to be lazy but can be stirred to action when so prompted by his younger brother. He was born in a quasi-medieval version of France.
Olivier de Columbarier is twelve but looks at least two years younger, no doubt for the same reason. In fact there appears to be no genetic evidence to support their claim to be brothers, though as both are orphans the possibility of being adoptive brothers cannot be ruled out. Olivier is energetic, enthusiastic and optimistic, and will happily try something new whenever the opportunity presents itself. Like Alain he cannot read French or English but speaks French fluently.
Hermann Markus Schneider is fourteen and so is one of the older boys of the group. He has admitted a criminal past in his own country, with a record for various juvenile offences, mostly involving motor vehicles, though he says he has put that past behind him. So far I have no reason to disbelieve him, though he will of course be monitored. Schneider, like the remainder of the party, comes from another world politically very different from ours, in which a large country called Kerpia, centred on modern-day Hungary, stretches from the Black Sea to beyond the Vosges mountains. Schneider and the others are natives of this country, which is the dominant European power.
Johannes 'Hansi' Braun is thirteen and was the one injured in the battle mentioned above. He appears to have made a complete recovery physically, though we will monitor his psychological situation until we are sure that there is no ongoing trauma – though hitherto he seems fully recovered mentally as well as physically. Like Schneider, Braun is a native of Kerpia; both come from the city that we would call Freiburg.
Tibor Hedj is Braun's friend and sexual partner – both are completely open about this, since apparently such relationships are as common and as accepted in Kerpia as they are here. He is thirteen and, like Schneider, apparently has a history of minor deliquency, though, again like Schneider, he has shown no signs of wanting to return to such behaviour. Again he will be monitored. He was born in the city we call Budapest.
Radu Constantinu is twelve and comes from the eastern end of Kerpia, in what we would call Romania. He was born near the Black Sea, though his family were travellers until he was ten and so the exact location is uncertain. He is quiet and withdrawn and appears to have no particular friend: the other Kerpian boys pair off easily. He has black hair and brown eyes and has slightly darker skin than his compatriots.
Frank Eichen is thirteen, with similar colouring to Kohler, though Eichen's hair is a darker blond. He comes from near Donaueschingen. He is another quiet boy who has no particular trait to distinguish him from our other residents.
Shander Takash is twelve, was born in Györ, and is Eichen's best friend. We are not aware if theirs is a sexual relationship or not: unlike Braun and Hedj, they have made no declaration about it. Takash is rather more outgoing than his friend, though neither is immediately noticeable.
Thomas 'Tommi' Ulmer is ten and so the youngest member of the group. He has bright red hair and blue eyes and is energetic and cheerful, though there is a history of physical abuse: he was severely beaten by a stepfather, and his buttocks are scarred as a result. We are monitoring him for any ongoing effects, but he seems to be quite resilient.
All are orphans except for Stone and Kohler, who have parents in their original worlds but obviously are unable to return to them. (Constantinu has parents, but he left home of his own accord, and we suspect there may have been family neglect or possible abuse).
As a group they are settling in well, though as you can see several of them have chequered histories and all went through significant hardship as slave labourers in Kerpia. I am nonetheless confident that they will adapt to our world and make a positive contribution to our residence.
If you need any further information, please let me know.