For all of man's hopes for a bountiful future, fueled by spectacular, almost-unimaginable leaps in technology, the world still reeled under the heavy threat of the killing ash. Centuries earlier a world-wide thermonuclear war wreaked havoc on an already divided society segmented into two cooperative but separate nations, the East and West United States. With the conflagration came a rapidly-multiplying mysterious new life form, the deadly ash, that forced the surviving population beneath the earth's surface in a desperate attempt to stave off its lethal touch. Turning to technology, man began a long, slow, fight for survival. Washington D.C., now "The District", was the focal point of this effort, where the discovery of Beta Light had inspired the people with a new hope for a better life. Scientists discovered that after leaving the sun Alpha Light-the spectrum ranging from infrared to ultraviolet-split off and continued on into space while a new, hitherto unknown companion particle, Beta Light, was trapped in a sediment-like swirl by the earth's magnetic field. Because of its unique properties, Beta Light acted like a recording film capturing the images of the past exactly as they happened-sights, sounds, everything just as it was. Man could view the past, but not interact with it. Still, it was enough to replay the 3-D holographic images they retrieved, allowing the people of the present to share in a life that once was, and might never again be. Massive resources from the public and private sectors were poured into exploiting Beta Light's properties for the benefit of all mankind. But viewing Beta light images was more than a source of amusement and entertainment. The new technology was also a tool in mankind's liberation. With the wonders of this discovery came a glimmer of hope that they might uncover the true origin of the deadly and enigmatic ash and, ultimately, find a way to eliminate it. Time viewing was unbelievably expensive, each year commanding a greater share of society's limited resources, but it gave people hope on many different levels. And hope was what the last of mankind needed. Man would fight to survive, and his weapon would be the past.



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