Ciem: Ash Cloud is part of the Cataclysmic Gerosha timeline of The Gerosha Chronicles. It is Issue #6 in the volume Legacy. It is preceded in Ciem novel trilogy direct continuity by Ciem: Inferno (Issue #3.) It happens in-universe after this event, after the events of Anarteq: Guardian of the Soo (Issue #4,) and after the events of Sniperbadger: Fall of the Critter Resistance (Issue #5.) It also takes place after the events of the Legends volume's 6th issue, dubbed The Gray Champion: Shaken Dust. The immediate follow-up to this issue is Issue #7: Ciem: Caldera. The approximate time of events for this story is June of 2016.
"What will you be? What will you do? When death rains down; what are you?"
Still reeling from her miscarriage, her breakup with Danny Loffin, the draconian Kirby Act and Beliah Amendments, and from the consequences of accepting a plea deal rather than betray Imaki Izuki; Candi begins adapting to her new dual-purpose as Ciem and as a "student" at the Madison Juvenile Correctional Center / Promise High School. However, Rappaccini and Duke Arfaas are not done wreaking havoc on southern Indiana and its immediate surrounding regions. The volcano-generating, sadistic Eric Korsicht is sent to shake up Candi's world - while engulfing it in a choking cloud of ash thick enough to block out the sun!
To add injury to insult, Korsicht attacks the Madison center along with several Screwworm terrorists armed with jetpacks and other weapons. They make off with superintendent Bruce Almin - requiring Candi to secure a furlough in a state of emergency in order to head to Cincinnati and attempt a rescue. However, she soon discovers herself in the middle of a war zone that could alter the course of history. Can she avoid the distractions tossed at her and fulfill her mission before time runs out for everyone?
Candi has been in Madison Juvenile for about six full months by this point. She has had a miscarriage, and is also at risk of losing her entire remaining family due to Erin's continued health problems and Miriam's incarceration for working with the Purge-Flare.
The Brummel family intercepts a sinister Triumvirate plan to initiate Project: Kaiakahinali. The Screwworms and an "Anito" arrive to intercept and take back the stolen plans, but Candi is deployed as Ciem with the new Forfica Mk. I armor to prevent the Screwworms' plans. She is able to save the Brummels, but not without heavy casualties during the fight and with Lacey Brummel injured.
Back at the correctional center, Candi and her new band of followers (dubbed the "Last Legs," and consisting mostly of former members of Amirah's Sparks of Vengeance gang) continue to take classes as part of their reformatory program. Candi is distraught to hear that Darius has reneged on his promise to not interfere with her family beyond what he has; and she learns she will have to find a new foster family if she is to ever leave Madison Juvenile after completing her program.
Frustrated by Ciem, Anarteq, Flintirah, Emeraldon, Mapacha, and the Gray Champion's constant interference, Rappaccini hires Eric Korsicht to wreak havoc all across the states of Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. He hands a Marlquaanite ruby necklace to Korsicht via his secretary to give him the power to do this task - as well as a jetpack. Korsicht goes on several tangents about volcanic eruption energy equivalents to nuclear bombs, and philosophies on childhood concepts of loyalty versus pragmatism, then accepts the task at hand.
Meanwhile, the Purge-Flare is given a reprieve from the bounty placed on him on the condition that he deliver Clyde Spendelworth alive to SCALLOP to face trial for Gleeful-N'-Young's recruitment of Antonio Frenze and Frank Morvel in the attack on Gerosha. He instead brutally executes Clyde, in revenge for Clyde torturing Ashley back in 2009. Extirpon arrives too late to stop Chris, and instead covers for him. A very upset Gray Champion blows the two of them off as "psychopaths," and heads back to base without them. Eric helps Chris hide his Purge-Flare costume, showing him a place where he can apply for a job as a rancher to lay low and start his life over. Eric then leaves Chris behind on the ranch to fend for himself.
While everyone is distracted, Project: Kaiakahinali is executed by Korsicht. Louisville is destroyed in a 48-megaton explosion. An exhausted Korsicht bemoans that he will have to wait for himself - and his rubies - to recharge before he can do it again to another city. Resting up for an hour, he later motivates his troops of Screwworms to wreak havoc across the state of Indiana. He makes a personal point of hitting up schools and juvenile detention centers - killing all the inmates under 17 so their parents will mourn.
The destruction of Louisville produces a massive ash cloud - which engulfs a 200-mile radius in perpetual darkness of night. Storms moving into the area around Madison make things even darker, and Korsicht attacks during a thunderstorm. Candi prevents him from slaughtering every single inmate inside; but is unable to protect all of them. Korsicht, seeing Candi's dedication to the Madison staff as an anomaly of personality, captures Bruce and dares Candi to rescue him in Cincinnati, fleeing with his jetpack and igniting a game of cat-and-mouse.
Corrections officer Jordan Grentzwell gets the clear with SCALLOP agent Randy Lapborn and director Darius Philippine to furlough Candi on a S'Poler, and she travels with her supervisors to Cincinnati to rescue Bruce Almin. However, the crew arrive to find it even worse a war zone than what the Screwworms turned Madison into. Anitos are everywhere, destroying everything they can. Supervillains and Screwworms add to the murder and mayhem. Nearly every hero SCALLOP forces could muster arrives to the city-wide battle, as Hell appears to have arrived on Earth.
Candi is able to rescue several civilians from near-certain death multiple times, but she and her team run into trouble when rescuing Cynthia and Karen Trenson. Skellig Soorfelt gets the jump on her, but loses his advantage to Grentzwell. Grentzwell himself is injured during the conflict after Candi is knocked unconscious. Mapacha and Flintirah assist while they can, but are called back into action in the battle elsewhere. Mapacha informs Emeraldon of Korsicht, and the two of them battle in the skies. However, Emeraldon gets distracted by a different disaster. Korsicht sets his sights on finding a way to capture the Gray Champion instead.
The Trensons take their wounded and unconscious rescuers back to Cynthia's apartment to treat them, with Candi waking up in Karen's bed. After brief discussions and introductions, Candi vows to do her part - and pray for the other heroes to do theirs. She observes Korsicht capture the Gray Champion amidst the chaos, then follows him to the old Stearns and Foster factory. She sneaks a critically wounded Bruce out of the building, then battles Korsicht until she can trick him into damaging his own MPF chamber device - thus freeing the Gray Champion from his suspended animation. While Gray finishes off an enraged Korsicht, Candi retrieves the "Heart of Pele" and then rescues Bruce from a swarm of crazed Anitos. Gray catches up and helps her finish them off.
Running out of time on her S'Poler, Candi begs the Gray Champion to take her and Bruce to the King's Daughter's Hospital in Madison. He agrees - but warns her that he must return to battle afterward and that she's on her own from there. Reluctantly, Candi agrees with Bruce to leave Grentzwell behind with the Trensons. Gray sends them to the hospital, and promptly leaves. Candi informs the staff of the nature of Bruce's injuries, then Zeran teleports out of the building to head back to the juvenile center before time runs out.
She makes it inside - barely - avoiding a bounty being placed on her as a fugitive and thus damaging her future adult record. She informs the staff and her friends inside of what she knows, and gives a speech about the rough road they all have ahead based on what she saw in Cincinnati - and the reasons to not lose faith in spite of it.
It's revealed a month later that Cynthia Trenson, interested in moving to Gerosha to start over given the destruction of her Cincinnati apartment, has been visiting Candi and calling her as often as the facility allows. Cynthia begins talks about becoming Candi's new foster mother; as a way to defeat Darius' evil plan to trap Candi into serving dead time. Candi finally sees hope in her tragic life, missing her old family but optimistic she'll at least have a new one to be a part of.
- "Last Legs" Gang
- Jordan Grentzwell (first appearance)
- Madison Corrections Officer Paul Driveway / Goatgruff (only appearance, killed by Screwworms)
- Order of the Oraphim
- Chris Kennal / Purge-Flare (cameo, goes into hiding)
- Madison Superintendent Bruce Almin
- Madison Counselor Stacey Walleye
- Audrey Motin
- Madison Juvenile prison staff
- Promise High School faculty
- Civilians of Cincinnati
- Gerosha residents
Non-Last Legs Madison inmates
- Breanda Georgia (second appearance)
- Amanda Sockarund (final appearance)
- Marie Tipsberg (only appearance, killed by Anitos)
- Minnie Ature (only appearance, killed by Korsicht)
- Riddhi Hital (first appearance)
- Tina Starwoscan (only appearance, killed by Anitos)
- Simone Somewhyne (final appearance, killed by Korsicht)
- Ruth Teenal (final appearance, killed by Screwworms)
- Tracy Offhope (final appearance, killed by Korsicht)
- Moira Noplate (final appearance, killed by Anitos)
- Michelle Shock (final appearance, killed by Anitos)
- Ura Reewaner (second appearance)
- Danielle Anshaught (only appearance)
- Robin Zubwae (only appearance)
- Phoebe Gadsbury (final appearance, killed by Korsicht)
- Missy Tabuz (final appearance, killed by Korsicht)
- Donna Looquduhm (final appearance, killed by Anitos)
- Sheila Rozu (final appearance, killed by Anitos)
- Kareem Omarshoo (final appearance, killed by Anitos)
- Anita Zarplaty (second appearance)
- Hannah Stoutquin (first appearance)
- Ida Gahtit (first appearance)
- Patty Trean (first appearance)
- Polly Polisbro (final appearance)
- Hella Votine (final appearance, killed by Korsicht)
- Ashley Ansmohki (final appearance, killed by Korsicht)
- Neva Oskthat (final appearance, killed by Anitos)
- Tab Sonyu (final appearance, killed by Korsicht)
- Ebony Katoolidge (final appearance, killed by Korsicht)
- Diamond Ozin (final appearance, killed by Korsicht)
- Raven Anrantin (final appearance, killed by Korsicht)
- Amani Zinmairuhm (final appearance, killed by Korsicht)
- Jaqueline Lyon (final appearance)
- Claire Awfy
- Upma Skoor (final appearance)
- Machi Kuloor
- Aubrey Reetbak (final appearance, killed by Korsicht)
- Linda Hand (final appearance, killed by Korsicht)
- Callie Yahlater (only appearance, killed by Korsicht)
- Dashiell Tazno (only appearance)
- Mandy Fonze (first appearance)
- Melissa Ojala (first appearance)
- Emma Nobati (final appearance, killed by Korsicht)
(This section is incomplete or pending.)
Characters and designs
- Hannah Stoutquin is modeled after Heidi Lankin, a real-life former Madison inmate that featured on the Netflix TV series Girls, Incarcerated. Most information about the layout of the facility comes from watching that show.
- Many of the details for Ash Cloud were inceived in June of 2016, when the story was set.
- This is the second-to-last Gerosha Chronicles story of feature Madison Juvenile. The final one is Ciem: Caldera. Candi leaves to live with the Trensons just a few months shy of Halal Affadidah destroying the facility in-universe in May of 2018. In real life, the center was closed in May of 2018 due to Indiana state funding issues for its Department of Corrections. The few girls remaining were transferred to the much-smaller Camp Summit in LaPorte, just a few miles away from Michigan City. What used to be the juvenile center was adapted into expansion of the Madison adult female prison system.
- Of Emeralds and Sapphires (Origins volume)
- Blood Over Water (Legacy volume)
- Ciem: Inferno (Legacy volume)
- The Gray Champion: Shaken Dust (Legends volume)
- Sniperbadger: Fall of the Critter Resistance (Legacy volume)