Planetside: Landfall

(12/3/80 – Eldritch)

Give in already, we both know you will.  Just give up, let me grow. Let me feed!  

I could feel the icy grip creeping along my skin, squeezing down, crushing me, pulling me under as tendrils sprouted from my fingertips.  I willed them to dissipate, but they persisted and rebelled against my will. The Neklim growing rapidly, engulfing me, subsuming my consciousness heedless to my struggle.  

See, it is pointless to fight. 

I sat up, gasping for air and coated in a layer of cold sweat.  It took a moment for me to remember where I was, and to accept that my hands weren’t sprouting unregulated Neklim mass.  

“Just a nightmare,” I whispered, making sure my voice was my own.  “Just the eighth night in a row of the same fucking nightmare.”

Unlike most nights, there wasn’t any quick call of concern from the bunk above me; thanks to the fight between him and Alexis yesterday, Murphy was actually sleeping soundly to properly heal and recover his strength.  He was a notoriously light sleeper and every time I had sat up in a cold sweat, he’d immediately perked up to check on me.

I was a little glad that both of them stayed out cold, beaten silly from the brawl; I wasn’t thrilled they had tried to take one another’s head off but we were finally a team again.    

Alexis had told us about Infinite’s misguided attempt to alleviate her anxiety and replace it with unrepentant drive; while it had worked technically worked, it had come with unfortunate side effects.  It didn’t forgive her weird moment with me, but she and I had a productive conversation about boundaries between us. On top of that, I had to own up for my misplaced and undue hostility; even if her advances were distasteful, Alexis didn’t deserve to take the brunt of my rage at having to leave Xana behind on Tso’got.  

I wasn’t sure what time it was, but it was early enough that the only people in the common room were Repository, Command, and a few members of Serpentine I didn’t recognize.  It was a little unusual to see Command by himself since he was generally glued to either Clairvoyant or Infinite, but I could understand wanting some time to myself if I were him.  When better to get it than at some ungodly hour?  

I noted his mild annoyance as I stepped closer.  “Can I help you, Eldritch?” 

Command was one of the older Adapted present.  The oldest Adapted onboard was Titan, and he was only twenty-six.  The Projector-Druid in front of me was twenty-four; given our experience as Adapted however, it felt like I was intruding upon an elder.  “I was wondering if you could help me.”  

His expression softened a bit as he saw the concern on my face.  “What’s wrong?” 

“Nightmares,” I stated plainly.  

He gestured at the chair beside him, “Maybe give me a little more to go off of?” 

I took a seat and let out a slow, steadying exhale.  “Ever since Feast Day, I feel like I…splintered,” I tried to explain.  “It’s like the Neklim stuff got a voice, and it wants to be free.”

Command raised an eyebrow suspiciously, “At the risk of being offensive, but that sounds like a reason we should throw you into space.  The last thing any of us want is a repeat of that performance.”

His words stung, but they weren’t unfounded.  The fact I hadn’t killed any Adapted during my rampage was a very fortunate statistical fluke.  If I had eaten someone’s friend, there would have been a lot more objection to me stepping foot onboard.  Every now and then I caught Forest and Titan eyeing me, both wary of what I could turn into if I was off the leash.  The only person who didn’t seem to give me the occasional glance of enmity was Infinite; she could probably erase me from existence though if she really wanted to.  What reason did she have to be wary of me?  

“I don’t want to have a repeat, and that’s why I’m hoping you can help me.  I want you to help shut up whatever the voice is in my head.”  

Command eyed me curiously, “You’re assuming this voice has something to do with your Adaptation, and you want me to shut it up?  Playing with Adaptations and mental impulses can get hazardous pretty quick.”  

He didn’t need to tell me twice with what Alexis had gone through.  “I’m living through a nightmare and I just want it to be quiet. I haven’t been able to sleep well since Feast Day and I’m growing more and more paranoid by the day.  I figured if anyone on the ship could help adjust how I’m thinking,” I trailed off with a wave.  

“Prolonged control isn’t necessarily my wheelhouse,” he confessed as he took another sip of coffee, “With Infinite, it is short bursts where I contain her and basically keep her mind from wandering.  With Clairvoyant, I adjust her thinking so it tricks her body into believing she is in that state of twilight where her power activates.” He turned to me, “For you, it sounds like something shifted in your Adaptation.  Not quite an Alteration, but something gave way. I don’t think that having me brute force it into submission would be helpful.”  

I gripped the edge of the table, frustrated, “You won’t even try?” 

His eyes flitted to my death grip on the table and then back up to me, “Listen, Eldritch, I appreciate how dire this feels for you, but hear me out.  Even supposing that I can get my gift to work for a prolonged period of time and silence the voice, think about the ramifications it could have.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“Well, for starters,” he elaborated, “If that voice is truly a kind of manifestation of your Adaptation, would it still be able to work when you needed it to or would I have effectively made you a normal human again?  If it has truly gained some kind of sentience, would putting it to sleep make it more unstable if and when it came to? Worse yet, what if it was more woven into you than you give it credit for? If I managed to put it to sleep, who’s to say that it wouldn’t have profound physiological effects upon you.” 

I didn’t like being told ‘no’ but Command had a solid argument, and it wasn’t one I could see myself dismantling.  With all the unknowns surrounding Adaptations, it was impossible to predict the outcome and what sorts of consequences would accompany.  Infinite hadn’t thought about other interactions in Alexis’ brain and look where that got her. “Any suggestions?” 

Command looked ahead, donning a markedly contemplative expression, “I’m not the best with answers, especially on something like this.  Your best bet would be to see what information you could get from Big Picture. If anyone would know what is driving the voice in your head…or even what it is, it’s him.  But, he’s a bit of a night owl so you may have to wait a bit.”  

“My favorite,” I muttered, disapproving, “Hurry up and wait.”  

“No one enjoys it, but we all have to do it,” he replied.  “Now, all due respect, but I want a few minutes alone in my own head before I start playing around in someone else’s.”  

I took his suggestion and got up, muttering a word of thanks for his time before stalking over to the little breakfast table, taking a small bowl of meat-esque substance and a spoon.  I couldn’t fault Repository though I was growing more and more infuriated with the cuisine onboard. The poor guy was busy conjuring meals for literally dozens of people and organic material had never been his specialty.  Fortunately, he had honed his ability to generate spices so the meals had been tasting progressively better over the course of our voyage to Vuuldar.  

However, while some salt, pepper, a little bit of cumin went a long way, I still yearned for something with a different texture.  If I was offered a steak and a salad in exchange for killing someone, it would be a hard decision to make.

After a second I had resolved that I was sprinting to some kind of restaurant and eating literally anything else the moment we touched down on Vuuldar.  Every single person onboard had said that they planned to take literally every scrap of food onboard with them that they could hoard; Collector had told people she planned to look into grabbing a number of fridges to help store and preserve whatever we could pilfer.  

As I was mindlessly eating, a chair slid out beside me and a familiar figure sat down next to me.  “You really should consider sleeping more,” Menagerie whispered.  

“So should you,” I replied.  There was a tense stillness between us, neither really wanting to engage in case we stepped too far.  

I caved.  “New notebook?”

She put a palm atop a green sketch pad and nodded, “Filled the last one.  This one is half done now.”  

“You aren’t going to Overexpose trying to get him back, are you?”  I silently cursed myself, but the words had tumbled out before I could stop myself. 

I was expecting there to be some kind of reaction, but there was nothing.  A pure cessation of activity from Menagerie. After a small eternity, she finally took another bite of her breakfast and replied,  “I want him back, Eldritch. More than you know.”  

“I can relate.”

She smiled sadly, “I’m sorry we had to leave Xana behind.  She was a good person.” 

“Yeah, she was.”  

I wasn’t sure whether to leave things there and sit in silence together, mourning our losses in quiet, or if I should try to say something to change the direction our dialogue was taking.  

Fortunately I didn’t have to choose, two rambunctious figures joined us and sat on the opposite side of the table.  

“What are you sad sacks doing up this early?” Lightshow grumbled, her blonde hair a massive mess.    

“It looks like they are partaking from the wild abundance of options that our good man Repository has provided us!” Murphy replied with an impish grin.  Across the room, I noticed Repository shoot my friend a glare before shaking his head.  

“You’re going to earn the ire of someone powerful, Parasite,” Menagerie cautioned between bites, “I wouldn’t envy your position then.” 

Lightshow sniggered, “You did just get your ass beaten by a girl.  You’re stock is dropping rapidly.” 

He scowled, “Kick rocks.  She was wearing power armor that half the ship helped her put together.  All I had was a fucking metal stick and I still gave her a nasty concussion and a couple fractured ribs!”  

“You seem oddly proud to have maimed our childhood friend,” I said, pointing a fork at him in accusation.  

“Pfft, she broke my ankle, my knee, my ribs, and fractured my skull.  I’m the victim here!” 

It was subtle, but I noticed Menagerie roll her eyes, “You’re also the one with a healing factor.  Even without Organelle spotting you a little power, you would have been fine by now.”  

Murphy opened his mouth but Lightshow slapped her palm over it, “Parasite, you’re the villain here, deal with it.”  Despite his mouth being covered, he continued talking, undoubtedly protesting us all ganging up on him.  

“Am I missing something?” a new groggy voice inquired as our resident redhead sat down next to me.  “It’s too early for Murphy to have done something substantially stupid, isn’t it?” 

“He’s too peppy for this ungodly hour,” Lightshow replied with a roll of her eyes, “Someone had to shut him up.”

Our last member took a seat beside Murphy and took Lightshow’s hand off his mouth, “It’s barely six, has he really made an ass of himself already?”  

“Mutant, you must know better by now,” Alexis replied, “He’s a right pain in the ass at any hour and that’s never gonna change.”  

Murphy gave her a smug grin and shrugged, “Gotta be me, don’t I?”

“Unfortunately for all of us,” Lightshow mumbled with her mouth full. 

Menagerie glared up at Lightshow, “If you didn’t have your partner in crime, you’d be miserable.” 

Lightshow returned a sinister smile, “Only one way to find out, right?” 

Alexis rolled her eyes at the rest of the table and took a look at me, “You alright?” 

I shrugged, “Nightmare again.  Same damned one.” 

“I noticed you talking to Command,” Menagerie said in a hushed tone, “Could he do anything for you?”

“He didn’t want to tinker with it, said that bad things were more likely than good ones if it is indeed tied to my Adaptation.  Plus, after what our captain went through this last week, I’d rather not try and alter my brain through the use of super powers.”  

Mutant scrutinized me, leaning forward far enough I was curious if he would slam his face down into the bowl of protein paste.  “Have you tried conferring with the voice in your head?” 

“And humor its existence?” I shot back, affronted.  

“It doesn’t seem to be going away,” he pointed out, “And something has to give.  We’ll need you to fight again at some point. Probably sooner than later, honestly.”  

For all his qualities, Mutant was incredibly tactless, and that could arguably be noted as a plus under most circumstances.  Right now, his blunt appraisal of my position felt like some kind of death sentence he was placing on me. Using my gift meant letting it out of the cage again, and while it was awful handy that its first directive was to keep me alive, it cared little for everyone else around.  

Even just the idle thought about tapping into my Adaptation disturbed something in the back of my mind.  

“I think he might be onto something,” Lightshow confessed, getting surprised looks from all present.  “Especially without Geyser, we’re going to be reliant on you if we get into a scrap. Geyser and I could do disruption well, but we needed people help close out the deal.  Without him relieving pressure, we’re going to need you to take more of the brunt of whatever abuse comes our way.”

Murphy seemed to notice how quickly this was making me wildly uncomfortable, “Hey, we’ll figure it out.  One step at a time. But,” he added slowly, “They’re right mate. When we get in a scrap, we’re likely to get put in a spot where we need you.”

I felt all their eyes on my, like some kind of invisible hand pushing me away from the table.  “I-I don’t know if I can-“

“You can,” Mutant corrected, leaning forward, his eyes boring a hole in me.  “I trust my instincts. When you need to act, you will.”  

He drew back and continued eating, but my stare lingered on him for a few extra seconds, mystified by his bizarre surety.  He wasn’t hopeful, or even banking on me doing the right thing, he simply knew that I would nut up when it was time.  

It was both assuring and daunting; I wondered if this was how it felt to be given a ‘prophecy’ from Clairvoyant. 

Other people began filling the common area, people grabbing bowls of our protein paste and taking a seat, the din of conversation filling the room.  Looking around, it was odd to think that everyone in the room was gifted in one way or another. When some of these people fought, buildings fell as collateral damage.  Hell, if some of these people were to get into a serious fight, there would be cities that ended up being collateral damage.  

And yet, somehow, there was a strange comradery around the room.  Even though there was so much bad blood and history between so many of the people here, we were getting along.  A few meters away, I could see Hive and Mizu sitting together, chatting amicably. Three weeks ago that would have been a laughable thought.  

“If I might have everyone’s attention,” Titan called over the clamor as he stood on top of a table.  

As if quieted by a spell, we all shut up and paid attention.  I was still debating if Titan had some additional gift to command attention or if he was naturally talented as a leader.  

“Today, we’re touching down on Vuuldar.”

A cheer went up from the crowd, the promise of getting the hell off this ship a relief for everyone.  As much as we were all managing to get along, in large part thanks to Dragoon’s project, everyone could agree that the cabin fever was reaching dangerous levels.  

Titan raised a hand and the room stilled again, “Now, we know that the Trillodan are going to be hot on our ass.  They have the ability to travel around the cosmos in the blink of an eye and scout I’m sure they will have an eye on other human settlements to see where we show up.”  There were a few quiet murmurs around the room, but it wasn’t the same level of horror that we’d expressed when we heard the Trillodan were going to be arriving on Tso’got ahead of schedule.  

This time we were operating under the assumption that things were going to be going south from minute one.  We knew it was going to be a chaotic expedition, but at least it wasn’t a surprise.  

“Before we left Tso’got, I was in contact with some of the Adapted over on Vuuldar.  Server managed to allow for some conversation.” 

Server, the mysterious entity who facilitated the message boards that would only allow Adapted access to them.  No one was quite sure how they were made or how they worked, but to date nobody on Tso’got had ever cracked into them, and hopefully the Trillodan hadn’t either.  Still, Server and his ability to connect Adapted to one another had been a lifesaver on Tso’got for a great many. Hell, it was how we managed to meet up with Lightshow, Geyser, and Menagerie.    

Titan continued, “There are nine cities that have known Adapted there, and most of them are sea-side cities commonly called ‘estuaries’.  The natives of the planet are aquatic oriented humanoids known as Ellayans, and from what we hear they are pretty friendly towards humans for the most part.   However, of the fifty-million people or so who took seed ships to Vuuldar, only a tenth of them survived the initial year, and it’s given many of the humans there a very rough edge.”  

A hush came over the room as we tried to wrap our heads around that.  That was 45 million dead from a very much reduced human population.  

“What killed them?” Chemtrail asked, raising a hand as if we were in class.  

“Foreign disease,” Titan replied to the acne-pocked teenager, “Vuuldar has some nasty viruses and bacteria that humans had no antibodies for.”

“And you plan to send us down there?” an authoritarian voice called back.  I recognized that grizzled face from pictures and videos I had seen back on Vuuldar.  That was Calamity, the head of Black Mass. “You think we’re going to fight the Trillodan when we’re fucking dying from disease?”

Titan reached into his pocket and fished out a little orange vial, “Organelle has been kind enough to created nearly three hundred of her tinctures.  Those should be able to buy you at least a temporary cure until you can get back onboard where she can heal you should you contract a nasty bug. There is enough for everyone to take two: one in case a fight breaks out and you’re injured, and one to help alleviate any symptoms from a fast acting virus.”  

So that was why he’d been forcing Organelle to work overtime making those.  

“You said nine cities,” Alexis called out from beside me, “How are you planning to get us around?  This ship won’t hold up on the surface of a planet, it’s too heavy to be flying around. It would drain all the fuel that Chemtrail could make and then demand more. The only reason we got it off the surface of Tso’got was because of Infinite.”  

Infinite stood up on the table next to her boyfriend, “I’ll be ferrying people down to the planet and putting teams in place to go scout for those Adapted in question.”

Alexis wasn’t satisfied, “So, when we undoubtedly need to make a quick escape from the planets surface?” 

“Relay is going to stay onboard and act as a ferry back to the shuttle,” Titan replied, clearly having thought this out.  “Powerhouse will supply him with extra gifts to enable him to reach all the way down to the planet, and for each team to hold a tracking beacon.  Instead of a specific location being what he draws from, it’ll be a specific item. As long as you keep a hold of your beacon, you can all request to come home and he’ll pull you out.” 

Something about this felt off.  Titan had a solid course of action with good escape contingencies, but there was something he wasn’t accounting for.  

  “What if they find the ship?” I whispered, afraid to call attention to myself.  

“The Trillodan traverse space in an instant,” Mutant stated, “What if they search around and find our ship out here?  I’m going to assume an aquatic dwelling group don’t particularly spring for space travel. Our ship hovering around the atmosphere will be obvious to them, won’t it?” 

He glanced over at me, nodding.  I mouthed a thank you and looked back at Titan for his answer.  

Despite the ripple of concern from the crowd, Titan seemed confident.  “Infinite and Guardian will stay aboard the ship, protecting our getaway vehicle as it were.  Infinite will keep it shrouded and invisible for all intents and purposes, Guardian will be a contingency plan in case they try shelling it.  He should be able to make a field strong enough to hold their assault at bay until Infinite could relocate the ship to somewhere safe.” 

I frowned, not thrilled that our nearly deific trump card was being held in atmosphere merely holding down the fort.  If there was someone I wished was on the surface with us, it would be her.  

Without her, no one can control us.

I bit down on my tongue to keep from crying out in frustration at the voice.  

“Most of you will be going out in groups that you were aligned with back on Tso’got,” Titan informed us, “While I am pleased that you have all been playing nice up here, I don’t know how you’ll do without supervision.”

A nervous ripple of laughter spread across the room.  

“Each group will have a section of a city to look into.  While I was able to glean some information talking with various Adapted parties on Vuuldar, I wasn’t able to get much concrete information on where they would hideout, what the landscape was like, etc.  I was hoping to have another week on Tso’got with internet access to help smooth things out but…”

I could feel a few glares directed my way.  There was no way I couldn’t take the blame for that.  

“All the same, we’ve stood up to the Trillodan before and we’ll do it again.  In an hour, Infinite will make a few more jumps and we’ll get this all underway.  Forest will tell you where you’re going and what you can expect. Be ready to hit the ground running.”  

As he got off the table, the energy building in the room was palpable.  Alexis had told us that the reason she was told to make a new suit was to provide a common cause for everyone to align with.  Adapted needed a cause, needed a campaign to champion or a banner to rally behind. It was why we sought out conflict or made ourselves goals to strive towards.  

Even though Titan might as well have said, “We’re going to go fight the Trillodan guys!” and still everyone was thrilled at the prospect.  There was a challenge, a cause, a conflict. It was something we could all rally behind, regardless of wherever our moral compass pointed.  

Every single person onboard could agree that the Trillodan were heavyweight cunts who deserved to be taken down.  

As promised, Forest conjured a representation into existence near our table.  “Rogue Sentries,” she said with a completely flat affect, “You are all going to NaMein, a nice southern sea port.  It should be very pleasant this time of year.

“Shame we won’t be able to enjoy it for long,” Murphy whined.  

Forest cast him a sideways glance but nothing else; given that we could see at least nine representations of her around the room, trying to manipulate facial expressions and creating an appropriate voice must have been an immense challenge for her.  “Since NaMein is one of the larger Estuaries on the planet, you are going to be splitting the place with Serpentine. They will be taking the southern half of the city, you’ll be up North.”

Murphy clearly had something witty to say, but Alexis cut him off with a glare, “What are we looking for?” 

“There are reports of a rather villainous trio operating up north that call themselves the Lost Children.  They have a penchant for firing first and asking questions later.”

It also explained why she was sending us north instead of Serpentine.  We were bound to be way less trigger happy than those Scoundrels.  

“Any idea on what they do?  What their powers are?” Mutant asked.  

Forest shook her head slightly, her attempt at the subtle motion reinforcing that she was wooden.  “Titan wasn’t able to get enough information. He only managed to get details about a few of the Adapted on the planet since only a few sources that were willing to talk to us.  There isn’t the same level of infrastructure on Vuuldar as there was on Tso’got, so limited internet and communication to draw from.”  

“Fish people aren’t a fan of bad internet memes?” Lightshow asked with a smirk.  

“Are the Ellayans going to be friendly if we show up in costume?” Alexis snapped, giving Lightshow a nasty look. 

Forest blinked twice as if surprised, “Titan said they were friendly towards humans.” 

“Most humans don’t appear out of thin air in power armor,” she replied.  “Most humans don’t have super powers at their fingertips. Adapted are often viewed differently than your garden variety human.” 

Titan’s right hand mulled it over for a moment, “They should be accepting if you aren’t causing problems.  Ellayans seem decently accepting of differences and view all humankind as the displaced ones, Adapted or otherwise.  If you refrain from violence with the Ellayans we should be fine.”  

When there weren’t any more immediate questions fielded her way, Forest gave us a parting nod and dissipated, joining back into the bulk of her proper form.  

I wondered how the hell someone so massive could contain it all.  I had to grow and basically throw fuel onto that fire, but Forest simply existed as that gargantuan entity.  Sure I broke the laws of physics regularly, but her existence was an affront to the fundamental laws of reality. 

Just one more question about Adaptations that I wasn’t sure how to answer. 

“You heard the lady,” Alexis said with a crack of her neck, “Let’s get ourselves suited up and ready to go.  We’re in for a bumpy ride.” The other nodded, finishing their breakfast before walking away to put on more appropriate garb.  Before I could get up, Alexis grabbed my sleeve.  

“What?” 

“You have to be ready too,” she insisted.  “Get with Repository, have him make something you can consume.  I want you able to be four-tonnes on demand.” 

It felt like she had dropped a stone in the bottom of my stomach, “Alexis-“

“No, Nick,” she snapped, “I’m sorry, okay, but it’s time to man up on this one.  If these guys are prone to shoot first and ask questions later, we need our massive meat shield to soak some damage.”  

I looked down at the floor, ashamed about what I had to ask.  “And if I lose control?” 

“Four tonnes will to manageable for Murphy and me to put down.  You can’t eat Menageries monsters so she could contribute plenty of extra hands to help isolate you and tear you out if it comes to it,” she replied, displaying some clear forethought.  “I know you’re afraid of losing control, Nick, but you have to have some faith that we can hold you back if it comes to it. Four tonnes is far from an unstoppable amount, but it is enough you can do some serious damage.” 

“And if I eat one of the new people we’re meeting?” 

She let out a slow sigh, “Then I use the railgun and put a hole in your guts.  The Neklim will fix you at the cost of basically paralyzing the rest of you. While you’re standing still healing, we cut you out.”  She lifted my chin and stared me dead in the eyes, “Part of the reason I made a gun like this is because I remembered what you said about Goliath crushing your liver.  You healed through it, but it forced you to hold still for a moment.”  

I scoffed, “You made a gun that would help you neutralize me.”  

Alexis nodded, “You leveled several city blocks even before you fought Titan and Forest.  I’m not going to let that happen again.”  

As much as the voice at the back of my mind felt maligned, I felt strangely relaxed by her contingency plan.  “Thank you,” I whispered.  

My friend gave me a smile, “Now, eat up.” 

As promised, it was one set of disorienting lurches forward until we arrived on Vuuldar.  This time, we all watched with fascination as a pinpoint of light rapidly expanded with each jump until we suddenly found ourselves looking down at a blue sphere.  

While Tso’got had been similar to Earth in a number of ways, it overall looked like an inhospitable wasteland compared to Vuuldar.  Where Tso’got had been subject to desertification on a magnificent scale, Vuuldar was nearly entirely covered in water. Massive blue oceans looked back up at us from under a layer of swirling cloud cover.  If I had to guess, I would have wagered that easily three quarters of the planet was just water.  

I wondered if Mizu was going to try and pull something nefarious since he’d have an almost endless supply of material to manipulate.  

As Infinite relaxed and exited her trance, Interface pressed a few buttons on the console, turning on the thrusters that would help keep us in orbit instead of crash landing on the surface.  

“How long do you need?” Titan asked as Infinite took a moment to steady herself. 

“Five minutes, then the first group can go.”  

It was a strange phenomenon looking down at a planet.  It was so…massive and so calming in a way. I knew that those oceans were massive, that landmass was large enough for numerous providences to coexist, and that there were surely mountain ranges and canyons down there I couldn’t even see from this distance.  

Hell, I knew that there should be cities along the coast line and I couldn’t see them.  

And yet, there were millions down there living, surviving, maybe even thriving.  They all took part in the repeat cycle that was struggling to wake up another day and make a name for oneself.  We had all been doing just that on Tso’got, but none of us had ever been able to appreciate the scope and how small we all were in the grand scheme of things.  

It was humbling to see just how big it all was, and invigorating to know that we would soon be able to participate, to help contribute to the story of the planet we had come all this way to see.  

But a thought crossed my mind that horrified me: the Trillodan were able to reduce something like this to ash in a matter of hours.  Hundreds of millions of years of time shaped this planet and its inhabitants and those tyrants could snap their fingers and turn it into an inhospitable wasteland.  We all had heard horror stories about Protocol 37. How our parents had felt the air start to burn around them as people took to space elevators in droves. How people frantically begged for place on a shuttle while the world turned to ash around them.

On Earth, there had been eight billion people when Protocal 37 was engaged; only three hundred million had managed to get off world in the 72 hours while the planet was still inhabitable.  The only reason that many managed to survive was thanks to the ships in orbit and space elevators to ferry people to them. If Vuuldar was subject to Protocol 37, the oceans would boil and the Ellayans wouldn’t stand a chance.    

The greatest perspective I had ever been granted was when I was the monster of Ciel during Feast Day, when I rampaged through its streets.  Tens of thousands had fled from me, and hundreds had been too slow to avoid my hunger. But this, seeing an entire planet and all its splendor, that was a scale that my ravenous hunger couldn’t pretend to shine a candle to.  

In this moment, I understood exactly why Titan was so passionate about stopping the Trillodan.  Something this monumental, something this pure and pristine, it deserved to be preserved come what may.  The Trillodan had become deities of sorts, able to end legacies with the push of a button; no one deserved such overwhelming power.

A flash of light brought me back to the present as Infinite sent the first team down to the surface.  I watched as she and Relay approached another group of Adapted, passing a sphere of metal to them before whispering a few words and sending them away in a flash of light.  I could feel the tension growing as more and more people were whisked away in the blink of an eye. I caught Ragdoll’s eye before the Flagbearers vanished and he gave me a wink.  A mix of emotions flooded me as Beleth and the Surface Dwellers were ferried away.  

After Serpentine, Rogue Sentries were next on the list to go.  

Relay handed over a ball of metal to Dragoon, “Don’t lose that, otherwise I can’t locate you.  Last I checked, there is no cell reception out here, so be mindful.”  

Dragoon gave him a nod and slid it into a storage compartment in her power armor.  “I’ll make sure to keep a good hold of it.” 

Infinite stepped forward to us, her eyes changed into blue orbs that seemed to look well beyond us somehow.  “Good luck, Sentries.”  

The air around us seemed to come alive as the ships interior faded away.  

Whether we were ready or not, our crusade continued.

Next stop, NaMein.    

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