All right, before I begin with the story, let me explain what happened on Tuesday. I’m sure some of you were wondering where the story was. Well, the truth is I moved into a new apartment after work and I was completely wiped out. I know that doesn’t make up for it, but it’s what happened. Sorry about not posting. If there’s something I can do for you all to make up for it, post a comment letting me know. Perhaps you’d like to see photos of my sister’s dog, who the Baron is based on in the story. (You can read something into that if you want, but it may end up being inaccurate.) I’ll see if I can accommodate you. Now, on with today’s main feature.
“Hey, Farah,” Allison leaned over towards her on the shuttle. “Hows about you and me trade partners during this little mission?”
“Oh,” Lucy interjected, turning her head in Allison’s direction. Her eyes, as usual, closed. “Do you not want to partner with me, Allie?”
“It’s not that,” Allison said. “I just really want to work with Yuri.”
“I’m sure that you do,” Lucy said. “But not for this mission, okay?”
“She doesn’t trust you to do your job while working with your girlfriend,” Leon stated.
“There’s no call to put it so bluntly, now is there?” Lucy said, smiling.
Leon shrugged. “Don’t really know how to put it nicer.”
“I suppose that’s also why Farah and Kat aren’t together,” Allison said.
“But Kat isn’t my girlfriend,” Farah said.
“Of course not, Dear heart,” Lucy said. “You and Yuri are together because I wanted to see how you work as a team. There’s nothing else to it.”
“Sure,” Allison said. “I’ll still bet you didn’t want Kat distracted.”
“I’m landing,” Kat said.
“Paul, do you have a good lock on their vital signs?” Ophelia asked.
“They’re all coming in strongly,” Paul answered. “They’re splitting up into their groups now.”
“Keep an eye on them, just in case. Grace, anything to report on their surroundings?” Ophelia asked.
“Nothing substantial,” Grace reported. “It looks like the Guyoins are still well in control.”
Ophelia nodded. “I’ll keep track of their transmissions. If you see anything suspicious, let me know immediately.”
“Consider it done,” Grace said.
Kat and Leon moved East from their landing site. The two headed into a dilapidated building.
“I’m picking up some life readings,” Kat said. “One of them may be our boy or they could be a bunch of vagrants.”
“I wonder if we should do something to help them,” Leon wondered.
“That sounds like something Paul would say,” Kat stated. “Except he’d have an actual plan.”
“He always does,” Leon said. “Honestly, it can be a bit tiring.”
“I know,” Kat said. “I’ve been around you two for a long time. Remember when he planned out every detail for Grace’s welcome party right down to which topics we should talk about while mingling?”
“Yeah,” Leon said. “Or when he planned Ophelia’s surprise party and told us all where we needed to stand for the most eye-catching spread.” The two chuckled for a moment.
“I love that man so much,” Leon said. “Even that over-thinking part of him.”
“No one doubts it,” Kat said.
The two went about their search, rushing toward the nearest life sign.
Allison and Lucy went to the north of their landing site. The ground was scorched around them.
“Why can’t these people fight somewhere away from the cities?” Allison muttered. “It’d be so much easier to sort things out when everything’s through.”
“Because Yujin is heavily industrialised,” Lucy answered. “There’s very little that isn’t urban.”
“Of course, with the way they’ve been going, nature may start reclaiming everything before too long,” Allison said. “It’s such a stupid waste of life. Why can’t they just play nicely?”
“I could explain the social, political and historical factors,” Lucy said, bending down to examine some remains “but I know you aren’t interested in them. Just try to ignore the stench and focus on finishing things up.”
“No one could ignore that stench,” Allison said. “I’m surprised they don’t just declare the planet a biohazard zone.”
Farah and Yuri went to the west. They moved past some piles of debris.
“Has your feline acclimated to his new living conditions?” Yuri inquired.
“He’s been doing pretty well the past few days,” Farah answered. “I think Hyper’s going to enjoy living with us.”
“That is a condition that we will share,” Yuri stated. “Still, I must confess to some discomfort in these circumstances. I have not yet grown accustomed to walking through a corpse-covered landscape.”
“I understand,” Farah said. “But you shouldn’t worry about it. Most people never get use to things like this.”
“I will make a note of that,” Yuri stated. She turned sharply to the south. “Miss Jilani, I am detecting an anomaly in that direction.”
“What kind of anomaly?” Farah asked.
“Unknown,” Yuri answered. “My built-in sensors are unable to obtain definitive readings. I believe that we should examine it.”
“Thol could be in there,” Farah agreed. “Let’s check it out.”
Lucy picked up her communicator. “This is search team Alpha,” she said. “We haven’t located the target yet. Beta and Gamma, please report.”
“This is Beta,” Kat’s voice said. “No luck here yet either.”
“Gamma reporting,” Farah said. “We haven’t…” her voice trailed off. “I… I don’t believe it.”
“Gamma, what is it?” Lucy asked.
“It looks like some kind of garden,” Farah answered. “I’ve never seen so many different kinds of flowers. We…” Her voice abruptly cut off.
“Gamma?” Lucy asked. “Farah, Yuri? Respond!”
“I’ve lost Gamma on the sensors!” Paul cried.
“Grace?” Ophelia asked.
“There’s no sign of any explosions or hostile forces in that area,” Grace said. “I can’t explain what happened.”
“Alpha, Beta,” Ophelia said. “Converge on Gamma’s last known position. We may still be able to save them.”
“Farah,” Grace whispered. “Please be okay.”