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It took us hours to make absolutely sure that we lost our pursuers by flying swift and low across the surface of the planet, zigzagging around cliffs and mountains. Every time we thought we lost them, a valicorr fighter would fly in overhead. For much of the flight, we were silent. Eventually, a turbulent storm rolled in, and our visibility was limited by thick rain and flashes of lightning in the daylight. Fog seemed to seep out from the forests below. Searching for a place to hide, Joëlle found a massive ravine nestled in a mountain made of deep blue and purple stones. The Firebrand’s headlights activated, and we slowly entered into a vertical fracture in the steep mountain range. The light glistened against damp stones and luminous crystal formations. Sky-blue vines covered in tiny circular leaves snaked up the interior walls of the mountain. The ceiling began to close in on us, and Joëlle lowered the ship carefully into the mountain.

We emerged in a massive cave shaft. The walls dripped with liquid, and the cavern was strangely lit with randomly placed glowing crystals. As we descended, the trickling water on the walls met up with hidden streams within the cave. Waterfalls, sparkling in the crystal light, poured down on each side. The five of us gazed in wonder at the beauty of it all. And as we watched, it became more apparent that this cave was teeming with life. Bugs buzzed, spiny creatures shimmied up the walls, and something bat-like flew around us, investigating our ship. At last we reached the bottom of the shaft, where the cavern opened up far into the distance where no crystals glowed and shadows overtook the path. The Firebrand’s landing gear touched down on damp rocks, a wide, flat platform almost like a landing pad, with deep water on all sides but one. There was a path in the rocks ahead of us, heading into the darkness of the cave. Cones of light from the Firebrand’s nose scraped at the shadow, to little effect.

We should be safe here, from the valicorr and the storm at least.” said Joëlle.

We all agreed that it would be best for us to take this time to rest, and sleep if possible. We were on a time crunch, as the Code-Alpha signal made so painfully clear. We shouldn’t be flying in a storm like the one which raged outside unless absolutely necessary, and with nothing else to do, sleeping in preparation for when we might not have a chance seemed like the best option. We figured that after eight hours, we could check to see if the storm had passed.

If not, we would just have to brave it. In eight hours time, we would only have approximately 4.7 days left to figure out how to destroy both Duhrnan’s mothership and the Shade Beam before the valicorr attacked, and destroyed Earth. Due to the unpredictability of slip space travel, Joëlle figured we should give ourselves 24 hours to fly from Malum to Earth. That meant once we woke from our rest, we would have closer to 3.7 days to destroy the mothership and figure out our plan to stop the Shade Beam. When I pointed this out, Joëlle and I agreed that maybe we would have to live with 6 hours of sleep each, enough to keep ourselves somewhat functional, but bumping our window of time to stop the mothership and plan for the Shade Beam to around 3.8 days. Thinking about it made sleeping all the more difficult. That, and the fact that by the time we were trying to sleep, K and I had only woken from our unconscious states close to 5 hours ago.

It didn’t help that K, who was on the bunk above me, had barely said a word to me since running off earlier, and we certainly hadn’t talked about the pills. The room was dark, and quiet save for the low hum of the ship and subtle creak of our beds each time one of us made a movement. I could hear her breathing. It didn’t sound like she was asleep. I was painfully aware of the silence between us. The longer it went on, the more difficult it became to ignore it. A heaviness pressed on my heart. I didn’t know what to do.

I rolled over onto my back, resting my hands on my stomach and staring up at the bottom of her bunk. Then I shut my eyes. Minutes passed, and I tried to focus on my breathing, but I could only focus on hers.

Out of the quiet, a soft melody began. K was humming to herself, that same tune I had noticed her humming twice before now, once on Kronos and once as she brought me breakfast on the ship. The melody was enchanting, and I was surprised to find tears welling in my eyes. I shut them, and wiped the tears away, trying to be quiet. She kept humming softly.

I waited for a minute. She kept humming. My chest was filled with a warm kind of anxiety.

What is that song?” I asked, quietly.

She paused. I heard her body shift onto her side above me. “Why do you care?”

Silence filled the room. Seconds passed. Everything was still.

I’m curious,” I said.

She took in a slow, deep breath. “I don’t know. It’s just a song. Guess I made it up,” she said, softly.

My eyes slowly circled the room.

I’m sorry,” I said at last.

We were silent.

Is that all?” she asked, a slight edge in her voice.

I sighed heavily. “I’m… I’m also glad you’re okay,” I said. “Really, really glad.” I almost choked.

She remained quiet. I screwed my eyes shut, heart beating in my head.

I fought back a sob. Then another. Pretty soon, I was crying softly. I placed my hands over my face. My arms were shaking, sore from the stunts I had pulled earlier, and weak.

Once I started, I couldn’t stop. What felt like an eternity passed.

Then K leaned her head over the edge of the bunk, and stared at me upside down, frowning. Our eyes met, even as I kept whimpering.

She exhaled shortly. Then she crawled over to the ladder and climbed down quietly. She went over to the counter, and fumbled in the dark. Then, she tossed a device onto my lap, and plopped down onto the bed beside my legs. Her holo-gauntlet flared to life, and she adjusted the brightness levels and turned the volume down. I sat up, and wiped my eyes. Then I faintly heard the opening music of “Defenders of Earth” from her holo-gauntlet, and I saw her grip a holographic gun and controller in each hand. The virtual screen hovered in front of her.

Come on,” she said. She didn’t look my way.

I put on my holo-gauntlet, and booted up the game. I sighed. “I guess we really are the defenders of Earth,” I said, shakily.

She kept her eyes trained on the screen, and replied, her voice gentle, barely more than a whisper. “Not right now,” she said. “Right now, we’re just friends.”

 

Groggily, I shuffled out of bed. K was already up, and there were sounds of chatting coming from the kitchen. I could smell spices, and some kind of sweet sauce. My fur was a mess. I picked up my holo-gauntlet and checked the Code-Alpha signal.

04:20:08:31.

My ears drooped.

I rubbed my eyes. My stomach growled, and I decided I had better see what was going on in the kitchen.

Considering our dangerous mission and current location on a hostile, relatively unknown world, I decided I should gear up before getting breakfast in case something unexpected happened. I left the cloak in my room, but donned my armour. After getting ready, bleary eyed, I walked into the kitchen. Apparently Omega was thinking the same thing, already suited up. That, or they hadn’t slept at all, but if that were the case they seemed very well rested despite the sleep deprivation.

Omega and K were crowded around Joëlle, who was eating a bowl of stir fry. It smelled delicious, and was nearly empty. She was picking at it with silver chopsticks, a look of intense concentration on her face. As I stepped into the room, out of no where her and K exclaimed in disappointment. Omega tilted their head to the side, looking at them curiously.

You almost got it,” said K. She rubbed the bony ridges on her forehead with both hands, clearly invested in whatever was happening.

Joëlle ran her fingers between her dreadlocks. Then she leaned forward, staring intently into the bowl, and continued fiddling with the chopsticks.

When she noticed me, she smiled. “Good to see you up, Osax. Looks like you’re ready to get going.”

Hey, Osax,” said K, softly.

I lifted my ears. “Good morning… or evening. I can’t remember what time it is here on Malum.” I rubbed my forehead. “What are you doing?”

Joëlle’s trying to see if she can pick up a grain of rice,” said K.

I nodded slowly. “That seems doable.”

Joëlle shot her a sidelong glance. “You forgot the important part, K. I’m trying to pick up a single grain of rice, lengthwise. With chopsticks, of course.”

I lifted an ear. “An… interesting challenge.” It was so strange to see her and K just killing time after the intensity of the last few days, especially considering Duhrnan’s timer. But, strange or not, it was a welcome thing. I suppressed a chuckle.

I walked over behind them and peered over their shoulders, standing much taller than any of them. All our eyes trained on the chopsticks and the grain of rice, singled out in the center of a mostly empty food dish. But no matter how hard she tried, Joëlle could not manage to grab it.

Damn!” she exclaimed, sitting back and giving it a rest. “Maybe if the rice were stickier...”

It’s that sauce you used,” said K. “Makes it lose its stick.”

May I attempt the mission, Commander?” Omega interjected. K and Joëlle stared at them. K’s expression was a lot less friendly than Joëlle’s.

Uh, sure, Omega. Why not?”

Omega took the chopsticks from Joëlle, and stared at them intently. They manipulated them between their fingers, testing out the weight. Then, once they were satisfied, they leaned their spotted face over the bowl with their chopsticks poised. In one slow, graceful motion, they grabbed the grain of rice lengthwise. It was bending generously, but somehow Omega had done it.

They lifted it up into the air, and held it at eye level. The rest of us were silently staring in awe. Joëlle’s mouth was hanging open, eyes wide. K had one eyebrow raised. After a few seconds, Omega awkwardly twitched their head to us. Then, unsure of what to do, they slowly moved to put the grain of rice in Joëlle’s mouth.

Reflexively, she pushed their hand aside, and began to clap, laughing. “Wow, Omega!”

Omega placed the chopsticks on the counter. “Was that satisfactory?”

Joëlle chuckled. “You made it look so easy!”

Yeah, they sure did,” K grumbled.

Omega’s lips curved into a slight smile. The light seemed to sparkle in their black eyes. “I did not know I could do such a thing… I was not created to pick up a single grain of rice lengthwise using chopsticks as implements.”

Well, Omega,” I said, “that’s one of the gifts of being alive and growing. You get to discover new things about yourself, and test your limits.”

I am more used to discovering new things about the Brotherhood,” Omega said. “That is one of my assignments.” Their voice held the faintest concern.

We know,” I said.

Hey, Omega,” K said, loudly. “I know you like showing off… how about we see who wins an arm wrestle, huh?”

Joëlle and I gave her a frown. Omega blinked at K, intrigued.

I have never arm wrestled before. How does one perform such a maneuver?” they said, innocently.

I’ll show you,” said K, pressing her elbow onto the counter, her forearm raised toward Omega, ready for the test of strength.

K,” I said. “Is this really necessary?”

She rolled her eyes at me. “No. Was lying to me necessary?” She stared at me. “Well you did it anyway. So sometimes people do things.”

I bowed my head. Of course she hadn’t completely forgiven me. Yet still when I was crying she had comforted me. It would probably take a lot of time… and honest communication for her to forgive me. I felt like an idiot for thinking that I could keep the truth from her.

Joëlle said, “Well, you know Osax was only doing it because he wanted to make you feel-”

I know why he did it!” K shot her a glance, her eyes on fire. “But I still hate it. It was a horrible thing to do. He was a bad friend.”

I guessed she didn’t know how to say it directly to my face… So instead she was saying it to Joëlle, with me obviously within earshot. It hurt, but if it would help repair the rift between us, I welcomed it.

I agree with you,” said Omega. “Osax made an unethical choice to keep the truth from you while claiming to be helping.”

I grit my mandibles.

But, Osax risked his life to save you!” said Joëlle.

You all risked your lives to save me,” said K. “Osax was just going along with it.”

You know that’s not true,” Joëlle said.

Why are you defending him?!” She spat. “Don’t forget that he betrayed you too! He didn’t follow your orders, and he got your team killed.”

Joëlle stood up from her seat, silently. She was shaken.

K. Stop.” she said quietly.

It’s... alright,” I said.

Not really,” said K. “Whatever! That’s not even the point!” She turned her attention back to Omega. “Omega! Let’s see who’s the strongest. It’s real simple, we just keep our elbows on the table like this, grab each other’s hands, and push. Whoever’s hand touches the table first loses. Got it?”

Omega nodded.

Joëlle took a step back. “Omega, you don’t have to prove anything.”

They looked up at Joëlle. “No,” they said. “But I can prove something.”

I furrowed my brows. “This isn’t a good idea,” I said.

Omega mirrored K’s position, and grabbed onto her hand. Their eyes met. My heart rate quickened.

We’ll start on the count of three,” said K. “One, two, three!”

Crack!

Joëlle and I flinched. Omega yelped. Omega’s forearm was slammed onto the table instantly. Their elbow twisted unnaturally, and their skin had torn. I looked away from them, and shut my eyes.

Oh my god...” K said, letting go of Omega’s hand. Her expression was deeply shocked.

What did you do?!” Joëlle cried, covering her mouth.

Omega’s eyes shifted between their mangled arm and the three of us, but they were silent. Their eyes narrowed, and their lips tightened, suppressing the pain.

K stood up, staring at what she had done. Then she looked down at her hands with wide eyes, and I felt a pang of sadness. Tears were forming in her eyes.

Osax,” said Joëlle, “hurry and get the medkit!”

I nodded, and turned to run for the medkit, but Omega interrupted me. “No need,” they said.

We all stopped, and turned to them. They forced a smile, their tail flicking behind them. Our eyes fell to their broken arm. Miraculously, the bone seemed to be resetting itself beneath their bloody, iridescent skin, which slowly stretched and reconnected. Within a matter of seconds, Omega lifted their arm, and was able to move it and flex their fingers. There was no sign of damage, though the colours of their skin seemed to shift and pulse for several seconds more before finally resting. The blood which had landed on the table remained, but Omega’s skin had absorbed all of the blood which was on their arm back into their bloodstream. They pulled their legs up into a cross-legged position and rested their hands on their clawed feet, staring at us with a smile.

We were all surprised and relieved, but K looked the most confused. “What- How did-” She struggled to speak.

Omega stretched out their just-broken arm toward K, and touched their finger to K’s sternum. “You win,” they said.

K snorted, astonished. Joëlle and I exhaled in relief, and she began to laugh.

You truly are incredible,” I said. “In all the creatures I’ve studied, I’ve never seen such an effective and instantaneous process of self regeneration. Truly astonishing.”

It must be unbelievably useful when you get into fights with the Brotherhood,” said Joëlle, grinning.

No,” said Omega. “Its usefulness is believable.”

I noticed K lower her head slightly. Their face and eyes fell into a frown. “Glad you’re okay,” she mumbled.

I am glad you are okay, also.” Omega said, their voice almost monotone. Then they grabbed the sides of their head, and closed their eyes. “Regeneration requires a lot of energy… I require… breakfast.”

Joëlle smirked. “Well, if breakfast means your arm’s okay, then it’s coming right up! After I clean the counter.” She turned to grab some towels and a sanitizer, and started scrubbing the blood off the table.

K stood up from her chair, rubbing her forehead. She was clearly in pain, suffering from another headache. She kept her gaze away from me. “I’m gonna… be in my room,” she said.

Alright,” said Joëlle. “Hey K,” she said, but K had already left the kitchen. She shook her head and sighed. Then she turned to face me. “Osax… will you keep an eye on her?”

I sighed. “Sure, but… I think she needs her space right now.”

Joëlle replied. “Alright. Fair enough. I just want to make sure our team is as happy and prepared as possible. I know we have had some… well, some tension to say the least. And she’s clearly hurt. But some space might be good. You know her better than I do.”

Sometimes I think not that much better.” I lowered my ears. “But trust me… I want to make up for what I did. I’m going to try.”

She offered me a soft smile. “You’re good at heart, Osax. I know we haven’t always seen eye to eye. But that’s not the point. Keep on trying, learn from your mistakes, and we should be good.”

I sighed. “When K mentioned your team from Round Table-”

She raised a hand. “Hey, Osax- You and I, we don’t have to live in the past right now. If we stop Duhrnan, then we can hash it out. Let’s not waste the time we have right now.”

I nodded slowly. “I only hope our team is good enough to do so,” I said. I activated my holo-gauntlet and glanced at the Code-Alpha signal.

04:19:57:44.

She paused, staring at the timer. Then she put a hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eye. “We had a rough start. But now, we’re five strong. And honestly I think we might be some of the best people for this job in the galaxy.” She smirked. “Since getting to know Jonathan more, and Omega joining the squad, I’m confident we can pull this team together. No one can predict the future. We might fail, but if we do our best… well, what more can we do?”

I lifted my ears slightly. “Thank you for the inspiring words, Joëlle.”

Of course,” she said. “Once Jonathan gets some better rest, and K cools her head a bit, I’m confident we’ll be right on track for stopping Duhrnan. As much as we can be.”

Joëlle and I operated the food synthesizers which beeped cheerfully. She showed Omega how to use them, and they promptly downed three meals of food and several glasses of water while I ate my breakfast and thought about our circumstances. I could hardly believe that Omega’s body could fit so much food in it at once… their slim figure bulged noticeably from the sudden ingestion of food, but they didn’t seem uncomfortable. Their skin began changing hues, and over the course of my breakfast I noticed waves of heat emanating from them. Their body returned to its normal shape, though they looked exhausted, and the colour of their skin became static, notably less saturated than before. I asked if they were okay, and they informed me that it would take some time for them to recover. Apparently, the process of near-instant regeneration was a little more complicated than it initially appeared.

After I finished my breakfast, I asked Joëlle about the current plan. She informed me that the ship’s scanners could still pick up the disturbance from the storm, bouncing distorted signals down from the sky outside through the crevice. The storm had almost passed, but she wanted to give us some extra time to wait.

I forgot to say, I received word from the TAU reinforcements,” she said.

Oh?” I replied.

They’ll be arriving on Malum within twenty minutes, maybe sooner. I already sent them our location… I figured this site was as good as any to use as a temporary base of operations, and the platform down here is wide enough to fit a TAU shuttle next to us.”

Excellent,” I said. “It will be good to have some extra help.”

Omega spoke up. “I am eager to meet them.”

So am I,” I said. “Hey, by the way, where is Jonathan?”

Jonathan?” said Joëlle. “He’s already had breakfast. Said he wanted to explore a little. I told him not to go too far. He should be just outside the ship.” Her expression became concerned. “He’s been there a while actually… Would you mind checking on him for me? Since we’re on Malum, after all.”

I sat up and pushed my chair in. “Of course. I want to check on him anyway.”

Thanks, Osax.”

 

The stones beneath my feet were cool and damp. Each footstep and breath echoed through the chasm with the sound of the waterfalls. I took in a deep breath, my nostrils filling with a scent akin to seaweed and salt water. The stone platform was surrounded by deep water on all sides, with creatures moving beneath the surface. A stone bridge extended out from the landing site, into the darkness of a cavern ahead. The walls and ceiling seemed to be converging together down that direction, but it was too dark to see anything beyond a certain point. I gazed up at the open tower, made of blue stones and glowing crystals. Purple and blue vines snaked up and around the cave. Water poured into the pool surrounding our ship from streams high up in the walls.

Jonathan was standing alone at the water’s edge. Though smaller creatures crawled about the walls and floor, he was given a wide birth. It seemed odd to me that the crystals of light grew in the shaft, but not down the tunnel which was shrouded in darkness. He stood at the precipice of light, on the left side of the bridge. The glare of the crystals and the Firebrand’s lights illuminated his long white and black coat. His left half faced me, his orange eye gazing into the water. The other half of his body was cloaked in shadow, save for the red glow of his robotic eye. He twisted his body and cast a stone into the water. It skipped twice, then sank.

He was humming softly to himself as he tossed the stones. In the ambience of the waterfalls he hadn’t yet noticed me. I could see his face was strained, concentrating. He knelt down, looking for rocks to skip across the pool, and then his soft melody acquired words, which he sang quietly.

...Show me a place where the people are free, the shackles of justice are nowhere to see...” The melody was enchanting, and flowed smoothly like a waltz. “...Break up the treaties and take up a stand, pave me the way to an anarchist’s land.” The melody seemed familiar to me somehow, but I couldn’t put a name to it.

I stepped toward him, and he glanced over to me, silencing his music. His lips twitched into a half-smile, and his eyes locked to me. He looked conflicted. He glanced back to the water, and tossed another stone. It hit the water hard, and sank with a splash.

As I approached, he wiped his gloved hands together, then squatted to the ground, his eyes scanning for stones. I squatted beside him.

Come to check up on me?” he asked. He picked up a stone.

I grabbed a stone of my own, and we both stood. He tossed it into the water, and it skipped once. I threw mine, and it splashed loudly.

Joëlle was getting a little concerned,” I said. “And I hadn’t seen you yet this morning. Or since waking, at least.”

He kept his attention on the stone skipping game, and I played along as we chatted.

Fair enough,” he said. He exhaled, and ran his fingers through his spiked hair. “How… how are you doing, Osax?”

I’ve had less stressful weeks,” I said. “But I’m alive. I’m anxious to get going. I can’t help but feel like we’re running in circles though.”

He frowned. “Yeah?”

I knelt down, and grabbed another stone. “Joëlle seems confident in the team, despite our conflicts. But the fact is, at this rate, we are never going to stop Duhrnan in time. We need a game-changer. Something big.” I tightened my grip on the rock.

Jonathan’s eyes fell to the floor. We tossed our stones silently. At last he replied, “I’ve been thinking the same thing.”

He turned to face me. “Osax, I- wanted to talk to you about something.” His lip formed a straight line.

I tilted my ears. “What about?”

He took a deep breath and sighed, before turning to face the pool. “It’s… hard to talk about,” he said.

I shrugged. “You can tell me, Jonathan. Whatever it is.”

He clenched his jaw.

I put a hand on his shoulder. “Look, Jonathan, I’ve been worried about you,” I said. “You’ve been… obviously distressed for a while now.”

He sighed. “I guess it is obvious, isn’t it...”

Well, yes, it is. I think everyone’s been thinking it.”

He shut his eyes.

I hesitated. “Is it… about Joëlle?”

He spun to face me. “What?”

I removed my hand from his shoulder. “You know, Joëlle. You two...” I began fidgeting with my hands. “It’s… kind of obvious.”

He took a step back. “What is- What’s obvious? What?” His cheeks were turning red.

I looked around the cave, then back to him. “You two sit next to each other, you share the same shifts while we’re out in space, you flirt with each other. I mean, it’s pretty clear that you both have feelings for each other.”

He stared at me in silence for a few seconds, before putting his face in his hands. I guessed he was embarrassed.

Are you… worried about how that will affect the mission?” I asked. “Have you two-”

He cut me off. “We have not. Whatever you were going to ask, no, we haven’t.” He looked at me, dumbfounded. “Osax, that is not at all what I was going to talk to you about.” He chuckled nervously. “I mean, sure, she’s very admirable and kind...”

I raised my hands in defense. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed...” I wasn’t sure I believed him.

Besides,” he said, “you and K do most of the same things as Joëlle and I. You even paired your holo-gauntlets! You must trust K a lot, sharing access to each other’s personal computers.”

I laughed. “Well, we don’t flirt with each other,” I said.

Are you sure?”

I nodded. “Positive. Well, maybe in a friendly sort of way...”

Maybe that’s how Joëlle and I… flirt,” he said, his cheeks turning red.

You make a fair point,” I said. “Sorry.”

No… no worries,” he said. He picked up another stone and tossed it into the water.

I followed his example and skipped a flat rock across the water. “On the topic of Joëlle, I’m not sure if she told you, but she got a call from those TAU reinforcements.”

Jonathan spun to face me, surprised. “Oh?”

They should be arriving soon. Probably within five or ten minutes.”

The blood drained from his face. “I... see,” he said, turning once more to the water.

I furrowed my brows. “Are you alright?” I asked.

He seemed distracted. “I’m fine. Just, quite fine.”

I stared at him. At last he turned to face me once more, and glanced up at me. He exhaled, and smiled. “You know Osax… I don’t think I’ve told you how much of an honour it’s been working with you, and getting to know you. You’ve been a real inspiration to me… the way you have taken the loss of your home in stride. It’s unbelievable, the strength you have. Truly. I’ve been lucky to know you.”

I lifted my ears, cautiously. “You too, Jonathan. I don’t think I got the chance to tell you just how brave you were, fighting atop the Firebrand.” I locked eyes with him. “That was heroic stuff.”

He frowned. “I don’t know about heroic,” he said. Then he reached into his long coat and retrieved my pistol. He handed it to me. “I forgot to return this to you earlier. I suppose you might need it.”

I holstered the pistol. “Thanks, Jonathan. I’m glad it fell into good hands.”

Well, I had to pry it from bad ones,” he said.

He turned away and squatted, looking for more stones. I eyed him carefully.

Do you believe in destiny?” he asked.

I paused. An interesting question. But given the dramatic scale of our mission, I could understand what prompted the thought. I took a long look out into the blackness of the cave, then back toward the light of the shaft.

I don’t know,” I said. “It’s hard to believe in destiny when so much bad happens. But at the same time, sometimes badness leads to good. Is everything predetermined? I don’t think so. But does that mean everything is just pure, indifferent chaos?” I paused. “I like to think of life as something a little random and a bit unpredictable, but in a magnificent kind of way. Just looking at all the strange creatures and planets out there. In the face of it all, I like to think that we are more than just actors following a script. I like to think that we choose our own destiny.”

He stood up. “I used to think that,” he said.

And now what do you think?”

He frowned. “I think that destiny is like a net of flowing rivers, each heading to a certain fate.” His robotic eye twisted. “They connect in certain places, and they separate, and the water eases up in areas and constricts into rapids in others. You are always given a choice of what direction to swim, with or against the flow. But if you miss a fork in the river… you may find yourself stuck being propelled downstream.” He looked up behind me. “And perhaps sometimes, the stream leads to a waterfall. And try as you might, unless you’re an angel, you have no wings to carry you from the abyss.”

I followed his gaze to the TAU shuttle which was descending into the cave. It was sleek, silver, and its landing gear was extended. Their engine whined to a halt as they touched down on the surface next to the Firebrand and sent tiny creatures fleeing into the water.

Looks like they’re here early,” I said, lifting my ears.

Indeed,” said Jonathan. “Get the others… tell Joëlle to prep the ship. I’m sure we’ll want to leave as soon as possible, now that they’re here.”

I nodded to him. “Sounds good. And thanks, Jonathan, for the kind words.”

He smiled.

Go on,” he replied. “I’ll greet them.”

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About the author

Seb Woodland

Bio: I'm a writer, game developer, artist, and musician. Just a creative guy working on art and trying to make his way in the world.

-There is always hope-

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