Planetside: Foreigner

NaMein was not lacking for colors.  

While Ciel and most other places on Tso’got had been a general hue of beige, grey, or black, NaMein was littered with brightly colored paint, vivid murals, or vibrant designs on buildings.  It was also oppressively muggy. I could already feel perspiration beginning to collect on my neck and we’d only been here for a few minutes; back on Tso’got it was almost always painfully dry and void of any moisture so this was a monumental change for all of us.  

What NaMein seemed to lack entirely was Ciel’s activity.  

Ciel had been packed with concrete buildings that towered above you and air polluted with the fleets of cars constantly clogging the roadways.  There was always foot traffic or Zari loitering around to cat call or try and provoke someone into taking a fight with them for one reason or another.  But Vuuldar, as bright and lively as it’s art was, it felt oddly lifeless and hollow. We had been zapped down on what seemed to be a decently large thoroughfare but there was only another two people we could see and they quickly scuttled away from us, taking refuge indoors, away from the strangers.  

“Where the hell is everyone?” Lightshow asked, echoing my thoughts. 

Dragoon grabbed a sphere of metal that hummed to life, putting an illusion over her power armor to make her look like her regular self.  “Considering the sun is beating down on us, I would reckon that most people are at work or…doing something,” she muttered, not sounding sure of herself.

“There were five million people who lived through the initial year,” Murphy muttered, “And we figure that probably most of them are still hanging around near the Estuaries, there should be like half a million people in the city, right?  Shouldn’t we see someone?” 

Mutant ran a hand through his mop of brown hair, looking agitated.  “It doesn’t feel right.” 

“Crippling amounts of illness might make people reclusive,” Dragoon muttered, taking the lead, “And we did just appear from thin air.  I’m not expecting anyone to roll us out a welcome mat. Either way, we won’t find our quarry if we just stand here like a bunch of jackasses.  Let’s go.” 

“Maybe we could stop by a diner or something,” I suggested, “We’re all yearning for food that wasn’t conjured by an Adapted and someone might be able to help us find these Lost Children if we ask around.”  

Even Menagerie smiled a little at the prospect, “Something with a differing consistency would be most appreciated.”

“We don’t have money,” Dragoon pointed out.  “And if we were with Serpentine, we might feel decent robbing a place, but we aren’t.  We’re still Reckoners as far as I’m concerned.”

I debated pointing out that distinction was kind of shot since the Trillodan had gotten involved, but it was likely to fall on deaf ears.  When Alexis was suited up and took on the mantle of Dragoon, she was nothing if not headstrong.  

“Come on,” Parasite whined, “We’re teenagers with the exception of Mutant and Menagerie; surely a little dine and ditch isn’t the worst thing.  We’re decidedly overdue for a little mayhem.” 

“We’re in costume!  It isn’t like there is any kind of crowd for us to blend into anyways!” 

“Speaking of,” Lightshow insisted, “I’m as big an exhibitionist as the next gal, but I do think we should probably start walking and talking since we are just standing on the curb dressed like freaks who left a convention center.  The longer we loiter, the more identifiable we are going to be.”  

She had a point; Parasite and Lightshow were both suited up which made them rather distinguished.  Neither had opted to wear their masks, but the red and grey patterned spider silk outfit for Parasite as well as Lightshow’s white and black checkerboard bodysuit stood out something fierce. 

We might have all been able to wear a cloaking hologram like Dragoon had, but much of her old tech had gotten left behind in the mad dash hurry to evacuate, and her crippling anxiety had prevented her from getting any work done beyond creating her new suit. 

Even though she had insisted we weren’t going to steal from people, if I shredded my clothing turning into a four-tonne Neklim monster, I was damn well going to commandeer some pants instead of running around with my junk flopping around all willy-nilly.  There were certain places where her moral conviction would be dismissed for my own practical demand.  

Still, that was an if.  

With any luck, there was no need for me to change and even indulge that monster lurking beneath my skin.  Right on cue, I felt it stir and became dimly aware of someone over my shoulder. I told myself I was just being paranoid, but still it felt uncanny knowing that something was looking through your eyes.  I was still mulling over Mutant’s suggestion, wondering if he wasn’t maybe a better judge of this sort of thing than I was. We all knew about his animal instinct and his snap judgement was generally spot on.  

Even if he was on the money, now was not the time to have a long-winded internal monologue with whatever alien force was driving me insane.  

The odd vacancy of the street felt oppressive as we venture deeper into the city, heading north, supposedly in the direction of the Lost Children.  We had sparingly little to go off of, and the longer we walked, the more Lightshow and Parasite fervently debated with Dragoon about stopping somewhere to eat and try to talk to someone from around here.  Our Projector’s argument that flying blind was inefficient and instead trying to use information from people who had lived here instead made a lot of sense.

However, I couldn’t say I wasn’t biased; the prospect of a fresh meal was enough to make me drool.    

I found myself walking besides Mutant for a while as my friends bickered playfully, keeping the atmosphere light.  In contrast though, our primal companion was oddly perturbed. I caught him glancing over his shoulder, responding to every little bit of sound and scuff of feet from the few people we passed.  

“You okay?” I finally asked, keeping my voice low.  

He shook his head, letting out a whine that reminded me of a dog, “This place feels wrong.  There should be more people, more noise, more everything.”  

I frowned, “Maybe Forest and Titan were given a bad read of the city.  Maybe there is a lot more animosity between Ellayans and humans than we thought.” 

“Even if there was, we’re walking away from the water.  It’s around midday; there should be more people around. There should be yelling, laughter, crying, something.  For it to be quiet is… wrong,” he said decisively.  

“Maybe it just doesn’t have the same din of industrial background noise that Ciel had?” I suggested.  I understood his paranoia and reaching for things that weren’t there, but it seemed a bit presumptuous to assume that everything was wrong when we’d only been here maybe 20 minutes.   

“I don’t know what it is, but something isn’t right.  It’s too tense.”  

“We are on a different planet,” another soft voice chimed in as Menagerie kept pace beside us, “Perhaps your animal instincts are on edge due to the natural difference in climate and environment?” 

He paused, giving that genuine consideration, “It’s possible.  I was on edge in space for a while. I had to adjust.” 

“We have been surrounded by powered people and now we’re suddenly alone,” I pointed out, “A lot of animals have issue with abrupt change.  Maybe you’re just getting a dose of that unfamiliarity and are on edge because of it. Not that I’m calling you an animal,” I added quickly. 

Mutant didn’t seem entirely convinced but he shrugged, “Maybe.  It isn’t the strangest thing I’ll hear today, I’m sure.”  

As we walked forward, I noticed that signs were in a handful of different languages.  Unlike Tso’got, where everything had been in Universal Common, there were signs here in English, Korean, and even something that almost resembled a Cyrillic alphabet; I had seen old Russian in print and this was different, my guess was that it was the native language of the Ellayan people.  

For as hospitable as they had been touted, they seemed markedly absent as well.  If they had helped humans out with infrastructure and initial construction, how come we weren’t seeing any of them around?  If they were able to help the displaced ones with building houses and small apartment buildings they had to be able to walk around on land for at least a little while.   

Dragoon slowed ahead of us and pointed to a little building that had the word ‘Deli’ in flashing letters overhead.  “Since Parasite refuses to shut the hell up about food, we’re getting a sandwich.”  

There was a small cheer from him and Lightshow as our leader’s hologram rolled her eyes.    

Upon entry, there were a few things that stood out to me almost immediately: it was nearly vacant, with only a pair of patrons present and the man behind the counter, everyone went silent the moment we stepped in, and the temperature seemed to drop several degrees from the glare the owner gave us.  

“Tough crowd,” Parasite muttered.  

It was lucky for us that the menu was posted in Common and not a different language, but it still didn’t make it more comfortable to approach as the owner continued to glare at us.  

Before Dragoon could say anything, the man behind the counter snapped at her.  “No trouble in here, you understand?” 

She was a bit taken aback but recovered quickly.  “Of course. We just want a hot meal and we’ll be on our way.”  

He seemed skeptical but obliged.  

Dragoon ordered a ham a cheese, Mutant ordered a deluxe grilled cheese, Parasite a hot pastrami, Menagerie a club, Lightshow an ‘old school Italian’-whatever that was- and I opted for a BLT; the problem was that he immediately demanded we pay.  

While our leader tried to formulate a debate around equity and barter, the owner put his foot down.  “If you freaks can’t pay in cash, get the hell out of my store.”  

One of the two patrons present got up and quietly approached the counter; as he got closer I noticed he wasn’t human.  There was a slight blue tint to his skin and gills on the side of his neck with webbing between the close joints of his fingers.  Most peculiar to me was his face drew to more of a point than ours did. Strangely enough though, much of his facial expression was one I recognized: a soft, sympathetic smile. “Sir, perhaps you are being harsh to your fellow displaced.  Even when they are without coin, the wayward stranger needs a good meal.” 

His hostility turned to the Ellayan, “And are you gonna cover their tab?” 

“If that is what is required for this animosity to end and the strangers to partake, then yes.  I will pay their debt to you in full.”  

The owner rolled his eyes and stepped back to put the requested sandwiches together.

“Thank you,” Dragoon said with a sigh of relief, “We wouldn’t have had this problem is someone wasn’t so adamant about food,” she hissed, glaring at Parasite.  

My friend shrugged, “You can’t honestly tell me you weren’t jonesing for a sandwich, Drag.”  He turned to our patron, “So, who are you?”

  The Ellayan waved us back towards a table; we pulled over a second to make room to sit down before he answered.  “I was given the name, Lamesh.”

“Lamesh,” Mutant asked, “Why did you pay for us?” 

He seemed a bit surprised at the question having a dubious intonation.  “You were hungry and I saw an opportunity to bless more of the displaced; it would be poor practice to avoid feeding the hungry when I am able to help my land dwelling fellow.  That is not the way of Elanj.”  

“Elanj?” Lightshow asked, raising an eyebrow.

Lamesh blinked twice, perplexed by our ignorance.  “Elanj is the patron of all dwellers on Vuuldar. He is our silent guardian and divine ancestor who blessed us with our gift to breathe in the seas.  He was responsible for granting us some access to the surface as well.” He took a second as if debating what to say before adding, “He is likely what you displaced would call ‘God’ or ‘Allah’,” he decided.

Religion had been a thing that was trampled on Tso’got.  While there has been the occasional bastion of prayer and worship preserved, the vast majority of believers were either accused of propagating harmful views and radical beliefs; those who weren’t silenced were paid a visit by the police.  While none of us had ever been particular spiritual, it was still a bit affronting that Tso’got had been so wildly opposed to religion; it was nice to know that Vuuldar was at least a bit more tolerant it seemed.  

“Is there any reason you speak so fancy?” Parasite asked, ignoring the glare from Dragoon.  

“This is simply the manner that my kind speak, I am deeply sorry if it troubles you though.  Ellayans are taught from a young age to be polite and decent in all things so it also becomes part of our speech.  For you, this may seem as extravagant and unnecessarily formal; for me, this is simply how I speak, how I have always spoken, and how I will continue to speak.”  He took a look at Lightshow and Parasite in particular before glancing at the rest of our group, “I do not mean to intrude or offend any of your sensibilities, but would it be wrong of me to assume that you displaced are not originating from Vuuldar?” 

We looked to Dragoon, unsure how what answer we were to give.

“You’d be correct,” she replied, “We’re from Tso’got.”

The Ellayan blinked a few times, at a loss for words initially.  “The home of the Zari is a great and vast distance away from Vuuldar; how is it that you all came to be here?” 

“Probably better you don’t know,” Dragoon said polite but firm.

Lamesh nodded and dropped his head, seemingly ashamed, “I seek your apologies, off-worlder, I meant no offense or to pry where I did not belong.  I am cursed with a sense of curiosity that earned ire many times now.”  

“You’re fine,” Parasite said with a laugh, “You aren’t going to earn our ire for asking a simple question.”  

Mutant shifted in his chair, “Lamesh, have you heard of the Lost Children?”

Dragoon turned to him, annoyed at his directness, but he chose to remain oblivious.  I had seen that face on him before, only moments ago: something was off and he was determined to figure out what.  I hoped his animal senses were wrong, but he had a phenomenal track record of being right.  

Was it too much to ask things could just go according to plan for once?  

Our Ellayan patron nodded slowly, “I know of whom you seek; they are a troubled sort and known for carelessness around rules and regulations.  I would do you disservice not trying to insist you search out others. There are many more pleasant people of NaMein who make for much better company.”  

“They are why we’re here,” Menagerie said softly, “We need to find them.”   

“We’re not your average tourists, in case you couldn’t tell by our garb,” Lightshow added with a smile.  When Lamesh cocked his head to the side, Lightshow conjured a little ball of light in her hand and snuffed it out with a snap of her fingers.   

“You are Selected?” he whispered softly, almost in awe.  

Parasite raised an eyebrow, “It was obvious already?  You’re saying other people wear clothing like this normally here?  Seriously?” 

“Bright colors and a variety of hues is common place.  While your companion’s rather… de-saturated vestment is not necessarily what would be considered standard fare, it isn’t necessarily unhead of either.  Your garb,” he said, gesturing to Parasite, “hardly seems rebellious or out of sorts to me in the slightest.”  

The owner walking over in jeans and a plain white t-shirt seemed a contradiction to Lamesh’s statement.  However, the Ellayan was sporting a tunic with swirls of vibrant green set against muted purple. If people had been here for years, it wasn’t absurd to think that many people would wear stuff that Ellayan people would wear; cultural bleed over was an inevitability after all.  

“How come there are no people around?” Mutant pressed, still wearing that dubious expression, “When we walked here, it seemed like a ghost town.” 

Lamesh frowned, “I’m afraid I don’t understand this ‘ghost town’ you speak of.” 

“When we arrived in NaMein, there was no one around and outside,” Dragoon clarified.  “Normally, we’d expect to see people walking around or hear some kind of activity during the day, but people almost seemed like they were hiding.”  

Lamesh’s face fell and he bowed to us, “Unfortunately our home is the cause of the public being so cloistered.  Humans are still… susceptible to Vuuldar’s pathogens and a wave of Milignum has fallen on NaMein within the last moon.  I fear you have selected a very poor Estuary to visit at the time present. All who still reside in the city remember the last wave of Milignum that swept through and are waiting for it to subside and complete its cycle.”  

This was someone who made clear to select the correct words, almost painfully so.  Something seemed odd to me. “Wave? What do you mean?” 

“Ellayan’s can only remain on the surface for a short time due to our inability to breathe for long, but also because avoiding the plagues of the surface has been more effective that attempt to institute cures.  On Vuuldar, insects carry haunting illness with them and migrate regularly. They are drawn to gatherings of wildlife, and in their eyes, cities are simply immense groups of wildlife. Humans seem unable to develop immunity to the disease, no matter what kind of medicine we are able to administer.”  

“Great,” Lightshow chuckled sarcastically, “We dropped into a plagued city.”  

“There were no swarms of bugs,” Mutant recalled, leaning forward, “Are you sure that’s why we saw no one?” 

While we grew tense and worried whether Mutant might shapeshift and attack, Lamesh seemed to miss his aggressive cue altogether.  “The plaguebringers are cyclical. They tend to occupy one area for a time and move, usually returning to blight the area three times before moving on.  Thus far, NaMein has only been blighted once. It is due two more waves.”  

It was damn good Titan had sent us with a cureall then.  

“Then it sounds like the quicker we can find the Lost Children the better,” I muttered, “The longer we sit around here, the longer we risk encountering whatever the fuck Milignum is.”  

“No signs, no warnings, no quarantine procedures,” Mutant muttered, his brow furrowed in suspicion, “Shouldn’t someone post something for the public.  Shouldn’t the government do something about this?”

“Government?” Lamesh asked.  “I am not familiar with what you mean.”  

“Someone that organizes the people,” Dragoon supplied, “Or groups of people who help make things run.”  

“A ruling collective,” Lamesh said, nodding to himself, “As far as I know, there has been no such entity or collective among the displaced.”  

Menagerie’s eyes widened as if she’d had some kind of epiphany, “Lamesh, how many humans have managed to survive on the surface of Vuuldar?” 

He smiled sadly, “I can’t say with perfect knowledge, but much fewer than should be.  The hand of fate has been excessively cruel to your kind who were unfortunate enough to venture here.”  

“How many?” Dragoon asked, concerned.  

“It was rumored that nearly fifty-million displaced landed on the surface, but as I understand it there is only a sliver of that number remaining.  Among the Estuaries there are only two million survivors in total, and half that number has moved away from our shores to cultivate land mass.” 

“It’s been twenty years since someone landed here,” Lightshow whispered, horrified, “There should be more offspring, more little one’s running around.  Right?” 

Lamesh wrung his hands, “Many who survived the plagues were hampered in child rearing.  Progeny have not come easily to those fortunate enough to persist. And those who do are often challenged by the delivery of another life into the world.”  

“And we thought Tso’got had it rough,” Parasite whispered, solemn.  

“Why is there no government,” I asked, “Why haven’t people come together to try and deal with this?” 

Our patron shook his head, “Not enough commonality between the survivors from what I can glean.  Disparate positions and opinions led to dissent and animosity; the displaced instead formed something akin to tribes.  While some of the practices of your old world have survived the travel to this world – such as the concept of money – the idea of a fully cohesive society perished.  Too many died and too many are damaged into believing that re-establishing such institution is a possibility.”

“Why don’t the Ellayan’s step in and help organize?” Dragoon asked.  

“My kin can only remain on the surface for a few hours before we must find a restoration pool or return to the sea.  One can only contribute so much in such a short span of time,” he lamented, “We have done our best to contribute with construction and helping to ensure the displaced had lodging and food, but we can only help our fellow so much beyond then.  Our physiology confines us to be separate I fear.”   

Mutant was quiet, still holding that hostile glare, but he had run out of holes to try and poke in Lamesh.  As much as I trust his animal senses, I was hoping he didn’t do anything rash. Lamesh was helping provide context for much of the planet where Titan hadn’t been able to inform us.  

Besides, he’d bought us lunch.  That made him a hero in my book.  

There was a glimmer of as the hologram surrounding Alexis distorted, her helmet being set down on the table.  Lamesh recoiled but then found himself leaning forward, inspecting the abrupt appearance. “How-?” 

“I can’t eat if I’m wearing my helmet.  I’m in a suit of armor, but I don’t want to look too out of place.”

“But you are a mere child,” he said, still surprised as he leaned closer to inspect the craftsmanship, “How did you create something so ornate and elegant?” 

“Never mind that she’s an Adapted, er, Selected as you call them here,” Parasite said, looking at his sandwich with a puzzled expression, “Why does this taste different than what I’m used to?” 

It wasn’t Lamesh that answered, but Menagerie who deduced the reason.  “Fauna is different here, so the food is different. People from the old generation wanted to keep a hold on something more familiar and kept the name of what it was similar to.”  

“Your soft-spoken companion is entirely correct.”  

“Still beats meat paste,” Parasite said after a half-second of silent deliberation.  

“Best not to ask,” Lightshow added quickly as Lamesh cocked his head to the side, very confused with the lack of context.  “Suffice it to say, weird tasting meat aside, this is the best meal we’ve had in weeks,” she insisted with her mouth full.  

Lamesh smiled, “I’m grateful to Elanj that I was able to supply you all with a delicious feast then.  I must confess, I am drawn to human cuisine in the many forms it takes. Ellayan society isn’t exactly able to fry and grill food quite the same way the displaced can.”

No one replied for a while, hastily devouring the food he’d been kind enough to buy for us.  My mother used to say that you could tell when the food was good if everyone shut up; that was definitely the case here.  Even Mutant’s apprehensions seemed to abate for a moment as we inhaled the food. 

Dragoon’s hologram reached over and picked up her helmet, sliding it back on and distorting the image projected just for a moment.  “Lamesh, can you take us to the Lost Children,” she requested. 

His eyes widened, “The Milignum could return at any moment and you want to travel?  I do not mean to doubt your aptitude as Selected, but I fear you don’t understand the significant effect that Milignum will have on you, especially as foreigners on our harsh planet.  I beseech that you wait out the duration of the blighting and then travel freely, unimpeded by a life-threatening plague.”  

“We have to find them,” Dragoon insisted, “It is why we are here.  If you can’t lead us, can you point the way? You have done enough for us already.” 

Lamesh seemed to mull it over for a few moments before hanging his head, “Elanj would not forgive me for abandoning a group of youth to the hostilities of the surface when I can do otherwise.  I cannot promise that the Lost Children are entirely known to me, but there is a location they have been known to occupy. I can lead you there. We would need to make haste however,” he added, “I do not have unlimited time to remain on the surface and will soon need to return to the waves.”

“What are we waiting for then?  Let’s go.” Dragoon insisted. At her words, we all rose and filed out the door, letting Lamesh lead the way.  To our collective surprise, he started running and beckoned for us to follow him. Running had never been something I enjoyed doing, and Menagerie clearly wasn’t too thrilled about it either, especially since our guide set a baffling pace for someone who didn’t have lungs built to last on land.  

One thing stood out to me as we ran past colorful blocks of houses and small complexes: the city was arranged into specific groupings distinguished by color.  With Lamesh providing context, I could see how things had broken down into more tribal collectives. The vivid colors weren’t only for beauty, they were to distinguish what group it belongs to as well.  There were more drab buildings, but those seemed to be neutral institutions.  

The only real commonality that I could tell from the drab colored buildings were that they all seemed to be public service institutions like clinics.  While there might not be a government to help things run smoothly, it was reassuring that enough people care for their fellow man to still erect and maintain a place of care.  

More on the concerning side was that you could see curtains move as we passed.  More than once I glimpsed an eye staring back at us from the edge of a window before drawing away.  

“He’s lying about something,” Mutant hissed as he ran beside me.  

“Huh?” I wheezed as I fought to keep pace.  

“Lamesh,” Mutant replied, making the run look far too easy, “He’s lying about something.  I don’t know what, but I don’t trust him.” 

I wanted to tell Mutant that he was being paranoid, but I couldn’t quite make the words come out; I was too focused on trying to breathe.  

It was probably half an hour of torture before we reached our destination and the Ellayan slowed to a halt outside of a building that was painted a vivid red with swirls of blue mixed in to create a design that looked something like a war between a raging flame the ocean tide.  

“This is as far as I can bear to take you all,” Lamesh said softly, “Forgive me, but I dare not meddle in the affairs of the Selected.  I am not so bold as to dare infringe and make myself a nuisance for people with divine abilities.”

I thought about telling him that the abilities of the Adapted or Selected were hardly divine, but that would have likely earned a long-winded response from him that I didn’t care to listen to.  The faster we could find the Lost Children and recall home, the better. Presuming he wasn’t lying about this Milignum blight, we were on a clock that might time out at any given moment.  

The building itself was a two story metal structure that looked like it had seen use holding industrial equipment, or at least that was the sort of thing a massive shed like this would have been used for back on Tso’got.  Interesting to see some of the commonalities between the building structures even worlds apart.  

Then again, the old guard was all from the same place to start.

As we stepped forward, Lamesh turned around but Dragoon stopped him, “Apologies, but it is customary for humans to shake the hands of those who have  been so helpful.”

Our guide smiled and took the outstretched arm she extended.  To add emphasis, she clasped his forearm and whispered another note of thanks before he turned and hastily departed.  Just how bad were the Lost Children that he was so desperate to get the hell away from here?

“I’m taking point,” Dragoon said firmly as she walked with purpose towards the door.  she opened and tugged, ushering us all in after a quick scan.  

It was almost completely empty save for a few pallets loaded with boxes bound up in cargo netting.  There was a small ledge above the first floor with a ladder giving access, but we couldn’t see anything up there as we stalked in.  A pair of bay doors were on the left, but they were closed and looked like they hadn’t seen any use in a long while.  

“There’s fucking nothing here,” I panted, “We fucking ran for nothing.”  

Mutant growled, “This is useless.  Lamesh has just wasted our time.”  

“We don’t-” Dragoon started.

“There’s almost no signs anyone has been here or lived in here lately,” Mutant pointed out, “The only reason you’d keep this place is to hide supplies, but there’s fuck all here except those boxes and look at how much dust is on the cargo netting!  No one has been here in weeks. I fucking knew we shouldn’t have trusted him!” 

“He didn’t promise us the Children,” Menagerie reminded him, try to diffuse his rage, “He only said that they tend to consort here.” 

“They don’t have the same infrastructure either,” Dragoon pointed out, “it isn’t like he has reliable internet to keep track of them.  It isn’t like back on Tso’got where there was absurd public interest surrounding the Adapted.”  

“I still say something’s off,” he snarled.  “I’m telling you, Drag, something is very-” 

He was interrupted by a ding of metal bouncing off the floor as something flew through the doorway.  

There was a burst of light and a shockwave that launched Menagerie, Mutant, and me back.  My ears were ringing and eyes burning as I scrambled, trying to get up only to topple again as my vision swam and head spun.

Heavy footsteps echoed around the near-empty space as a few figures strutted through the door, each of them clad in a sophisticated suit of metal.  

“Commander Zellig was right, the children are easy to lead,” one cackled with a voice that was more akin to a serpent’s hiss.

“Mind your manners, we wouldn’t want to be a bad influence.  They are children after all,” his companion replied with a deep, commanding voice that seemed to fill the whole room.   

We had seen regular foot soldiers back on Tso’got, and we’d had great success dealing with them all things considered.  These two however were a different breed entirely. I didn’t need Mutant’s animal senses or Parasite’s aptitude for reading body language to know that these two were incredibly dangerous.  A secondary impulse from within affirmed my suspicion. 

These two, they are exterminators.  They are no strangers to slaughter.

By defying the Trillodan and escaping, we had kicked the hornet’s nest.  Titan had set a precedent by using Forest and Infinite; we had shown exactly what we were capable of and now the Trillodan were going to send someone more adequate to deal with the threat.   

Zellig had held his own against half of Surface Dwellers and Clemency.  He had physically overpowered me and literally ripped me out of the Neklim mass without other assistance.  I’d seen him nearly broken in half and then sit back up.  

And these two held that same confidence their superior officer had emanated.   

Dragoon turned to me, shouting a single command. 


I reached back and felt the rush of my Adaptation wash over me, the presence in me surging with power as I tapped into my storage and felt it burn.  Consequences be damned, now was not the time to exercise restraint. Both the Neklim and I had a common goal, just like we had when confronted by Zellig.  It would likely fight me when I attempted to gain control again, but for now surviving this encounter was the top priority.  

“Kill them,” I instructed the beast within.    

With pleasure.    

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