- Note: The story herein is from the official site and should not be altered.
Water and Sand Edit
“So!” said Yaco. “It will be ninety days, when the sun sets today. End of our double quarantine. Is everybody still alive?”
“Rogue´s alive,” said Farah.
“Oui,” said Zedkay.
“I think so,” Gavin said. “Therefore I am. Right?”
Hyun-woo stared at the small clear stream in front of them: the early afternoon sun glittered bright over the ripples, painting wavy sunrays on the walls of the river canyon. Water and sunlight seemed to flow exactly the same way in Rhyldan as he remembered they did back on Terra.
He took a handful of warm sand in his right hand.
“Wizard…” called Zedkay. “Are you still alive?”
Hyun-woo looked at her, lying on her side with one elbow lifting her head above the sandy beach. Lieutenant Decroux had a great body, no doubt, all the easier to admire when, like now, she was sunbathing in her dark swimsuit and not clad in her Sec uniform: the physique of the quick, agile fighter, wiry and tough.
Farah playfully tossed some sand at Hyun-woo´s chest.
“Plexshot!” she cried.
“Wizard down,” Zedaky said.
Yaco´s huge hand squeezed Hyun-woo´s shoulder. “Sorry, buddy,” he said, “guess the meatshield forgot yet again to stand between the enemy and the magic wielder.”
Farah threw a handful of sand at Yaco; his huge frame was impossible to miss.
“Two boys down… one to go!” she cried.
Lightning-quick, with just thumb and forefinger, Zedkay shot a tiny pebble that hit Gavin in the forehead.
“Ouch!” he said
“Girl team wins!” Farah said. Laughing, she and Zedkay high-fived.
“I think we need to re-think our strategy,” Gavin said to Yaco. “Close quarter combat doesn´t seem to be working.”
“Told ya´, kid,” said Yaco, pointing at Zedkay. “Always watch out for snipers. Furtive buggers; you just cannot charge head-on against them.”
Gavin smiled timidly at her. “We should go for a rematch, sometime.”
“Careful,” she said, “with what you wish for.” She stood up, like a cat lazily waking up from her nap; she stretched her arms above her head, her torso expanding while she yawned…
… then she yelled “Hand to hand!” and leaped like a feline over Gavin.
The Mnemosyne was evidently expecting such a sneak attack: he accepted Zedkay´s weight without offering resistance, rolled over his back, and using both his legs to increase Zedkay´s momentum, he tossed her a few meters away.
Zedkay twisted in the air as if Rhyldan´s gravity showed her special deference; she landed over the sand on her feet and without sound. Gavin was already up and charging; he lunged for a double-leg, just a fraction of a second too slow: like a spring made of bone and muscle, Zedkay sprawled backwards and the Mnemosyne´s face was sandpapered against the ground. That didn´t make any of them to break stride: a moment later Gavin was again on his back, this time pulling guard as Zedkay failed by a hair´s breadth to get him into side control.
“Valkyrie shouldn´t go for the floor,” Yaco said to Hyun-woo. “Her technique is light-years ahead, but the Golem´s much stronger and heavier.”
Hyun-woo nodded, half there half not. Farah snapped two fingers in front of his face; startled, he stared at her with a look of surprise.
“Where on Rhyldan are you, Wizard?” she said, smiling warmly.
He managed a smirk.
She said: “Don´t worry, Wizzy. Everything is gonna be okay.”
She said: “You´ve found nothing. Naomi has found nothing. Me?” she raised her hands, open, palms flat and upwards. “I´ve got nothing. So that´s what we have down here, the Holy No Trinity: no toxs, no germs, no sons.”
“And we are all still alive,” said Yaco. “That´s the only thing that really matters to the Star.”
Hyun-woo looked upwards to the sky. “Yeah. But, you know, it´s like… I mean, until I actually see the Odgerel´s siblings coming down…”
Yaco and Farah nodded silently.
Zedkay´s kiai echoed across the river canyon; she had switched to stand-up striking, and Gavin was taking the worst part by far: his strength and reach had nothing on her speed. Her low kicks were lightning fast and surgically precise, each one of them making her shin land over Gavin´s thigh with solid *thuck*. As obvious as it was that she was just sparring lightly, it was very clear that the Mnemosyne felt every blow. Gavin receded towards the river under Zedkay´s relentless flurry, shin-blocking whenever he could, mostly grimacing and grunting when he couldn´t.
“Ah, now that´s smart,” Yaco said, approvingly.
“Sorry, what?” asked Farah. “My Valkyrie is kicking your Golem´s butt!”
“He is big, my boy Gavin, but he only looks dumb,” Yaco said. “Just watch.”
Always pulling back from Zedkay´s assault, Gavin had lured her knee-deep into the stream; over the smooth, uneven carpet of running water and rolling stones, Zedkay´s speed and mobility decreased.
“Hum,” said Farah. “Your Golem is smart. The Valkyrie´s flaming sword seems to be the wrong tool for the job now…”
She glanced at Hyun-woo. His mind obviously elsewhere, he was again playing hourglass: he had a handful of sand in his right fist and held it slightly above his left palm; the fine grains slowly trickled downwards, some of them blown away in the gentle breeze.
Zedkay half squealed half laughed. Thigh-deep in the stream now, Gavin had managed to arm-drag her, had caught her back, was encircling his long arms around her waist…
“This is gonna hurt…” Yaco chuckled.
Gavin lifted Zedkay above his right shoulder while she wiggled and wailed and, arching himself backwards, smashed her into the water with a brutal suplé and a huge splash.
“Ooohhh!!” said Farah. “That´s got to hurt!”
Soaking wet, laughing delightedly, Zedkay stood to her feet. Pointing at Gavin, she yelled back at them: “As I was telling you, Rogue… Never, ever let meatshields lure you into CQC!”
Yaco and Farah laughed; even Hyun-woo couldn´t help but chuckle.
Zedkay and Gavin returned to the group, both of them dripping wet.
“You sure like it rough, eh Gavin?” said Farah.
He shrugged. “Pops just built me this way, I guess.”
Farah grinned: “Where is your Papa Werewolf, anyway?”
“Don´t ask, don´t tell,” smiled Gavin.
“Helping Naomi with her pollen samples, I would guess,” said Yaco.
“Wait… you guess?” she grinned. “Shouldn´t you and Zed know? You guys are Sec!”
Yaco shrugged. “It´s our day off,” he said. “I think we´ve damn well earned it. Don´t tell Taak, though; I don´t wanna risk being Rhyldan´s first AWOL case.”
Zedkay dried her dark wet hair with a white towel.
“You almost had him, Valky,” Farah said to her.
“Almost?” Zedkay said.
“That was one vicious crash landing…”
“Water crash, actually,” corrected Gavin.
Zedkay turned around and poked him in the chest. “I could have kicked your Mnemosyne´s ass all the way back to Danio´s clone vats. But now,” she winked at Farah, “the Valkyrie has been vanquished, and…” her fingertips caressed Gavin´s stomach, “to the victor go the spoils. Right?”
“Right indeed,” said Farah, gravely. “Ancient rules of war, I´m afraid.”
“Vanquisher gets the full loot, always,” smiled Hyun-woo, his eyes still fixed in his hourglass. “Has been that way since the dawn of time.”
Gavin glanced at Yaco, as if pleading for instructions.
“You are on your own, my man,” Yaco said. “I can´t always be your shadow, telling you what to do.” He smiled widely. “Don´t worry, kid; you´ll be fine. You´ve got close enough to the sniper; now it´s just CQC, all the way, all the time.”
Up There Edit
Captain Kjell was known to be proud of his Norwegian ancestry, tracing all the way back to Vikings. Yet when entering his office, the first adjective that came to a visitor´s mind was “Spartan”: an almost empty desk; a couple of chairs; three naked walls, the fourth covered by the usual large screen that in this case could very well have been a window: Rhyldan´s smooth curve against the starry sky, dressed in blue and white lace; the Terminator line gently tugging a blanket of night over the surface below.
Melani Kabura sat on one of the visitors´ chairs, Amanda Byrnes on the other. They watched Kjell as he scanned the rows and rows of numbers in the report they had just handed him.
“Bottom line,” Amanda said, “all´s well Down there.”
“Agreed,” said Melani. “Neither Doctor Choi nor Doctor Yamada have found anything harmful, save that pollen incident seven weeks ago.”
“Which was not repeated,” said Kjell.
“Which was not,” said Amanda. “Those affected recovered fully, and preemptive Pentadron treatment allowed those in Sterile to entirely avoid the issue when they unsuited. As far as Med is concerned, Rhyldan is mostly harmless.”
“The Mnemosyne clone…?”
“… never showed any symptoms.”
“Good,” he said. He scanned the numbers once more, then looked at Melani.
“Research concurs,” she said. “Rhyldan is green.”
“And our biochemistry being potentially compatible with Rhyldan´s flora…?” he asked.
“Both Choi and Yamada have tested simple digestions with Terran enzymes…” said Amanda.
“… and, although I´d be most careful not to label those results as anything more than Preliminary,” Melani said, “the shocking bottom line is: they work.”
“Sounds almost too good to be true…” he said.
“Preliminary,” said Amanda, “but so far true.”
“And it is good,” Melani said.
“Captain,” said Amanda, “we can begin.”
He went through the numbers yet again, just in case third time was the charm.
He said: “Doctor Byrnes… Doctor Kabura… thank you for your detailed report. Please extend my congratulations to your teams.”
To most, his voice would have sounded as calm and detached as ever; only Melani could detect the turbulent emotions building up below the surface, yearning to make themselves known to all.
He said: “Now, if you´ll excuse me… I believe I have a global announcement to make.”
The two women rose from their chairs.
“Of course, Captain,” said Melani. “Of course.”
Out There Edit
The sun falls over Rhyldan´s wide horizon, withdrawing its rays from the clouds above.
Some paces away from the Odgerel, lying face up over two blankets, Ralf and Naomi watch as the darkening sky reveals its twinkling gems one by one.
“May it be an evening star…” she says, “shines bright upon you.”
He points upwards.
“There,” he whispers.
The stars glimmer.
They hold hands.