Twin Moons Chapter One (Move your mouse to reveal the content) Twin Moons Chapter One (open) Twin Moons Chapter One (close) First of all, I am sorry about any grammatical and phrasing errors you may encounter during this read. I have done my best to run through this piece of fiction and get rid of any errors it may possess, but I likely have missed some. If you do find anything that is incorrect in any way, please do say it, for I would like to improve whenever I can. Secondly, please try to enjoy this piece of literature that I have created. It will likely be a rather long story, for I have only covered a miniature part of the plot in this chapter. Updates will come as I write them. But enough of all that. Without further ado, I present to you: Twin Moons Chapter one: An ordinary day It is said that only a ridiculously thin line separates genius from madness, a line that makes it almost impossible to distinguish one from another. Under the course of history, this saying has been proven many times and in many different ages, but Dawn Faulkner just realised how true it was as she looked at the structure the centre of which she was standing in. It was obviously intended to be a work of art with its strange curves, distorted corridors, bizarrely decorated interior and large, open spaces that gave a beautiful overview of the building, but it failed miserably as a shopping centre. The layout of the corridors was, simply put, ridiculously complicated, which was further helped along by the confusing system of escalators and the curved walls that made seeing shops and other landmarks difficult. Sure, Dawn had been given a map when she had entered the shopping centre, but navigation was difficult even with its help. However, Dawn was too stubborn to give up her search for the newest electronics store in the city, so she took a deep breath, then she looked at the map in her hands for the umpteenth time. On the map was a comprehensive depiction of the shopping centre, which included everything from exits to corridors, except the shops themselves, which would have made finding Dawn’s target much easier. So, in conclusion, the map was useless save for the fact that the teenager could use it to mark the sections that she had already investigated. Given the fact that it has been twenty minutes since she entered the building and she had yet to find the electronics store that she was looking for, that did not really help much either. Sighing, the teenager with the long, red hair switched on her pen and crossed out yet another section of the shopping centre’s ground floor, then, after tightening her loose ponytail, she continued on her journey towards a section that she has not yet investigated, refusing to give up on her goal. Surely, she could have just left the shopping centre and gone to her usual place, but she could not bear to be defeated by such a failure of architectural design, let alone not buy the laptop she chose for herself as the replacement for her old one. She could not make it through university without it. Plus, she felt like giving up now would be the equivalent of wrestling a bear to the ground, then dying because of a mosquito bite; a completely humiliating defeat. Not that this helped with her frustration, but she could not bear losing after such a tough fight. Luckily for Dawn and her sanity, she almost literally bumped into the electronics store in a matter of minutes, which, as expected from this chaos of a shopping centre, was located in a place where it was absolutely impossible to see it from the nearby hallways. To add insult to injury, the store did not have as large of a selection as it claimed to have on its website, but Dawn cared only for the feeling of victory that slowly spread across her body, which culminated in a smile that dominated her full, rounded cheeks. At the same time, a spark of joy was ignited in her sea blue eyes and immense relief spread all over her body along with a feeling of satisfaction. She felt like she had earned this victory by going through navigation hell and back, that now she had a right to buy the computer that she wanted, so without a second thought, she entered the shop. After a disappointingly short amount of time, Dawn now had in her possession the laptop she came looking for, so the smile on her face became even wider than it was before. Her foul mood from before was gone along with her frustration, for victory was all that mattered, however, even though she was victorious in the end, she decided to make a vow to never come to this shopping centre again. Sure, all the shops that she had seen had some great offers, but it was not worth navigating for thirty minutes through a literal labyrinth to get what she wanted, so with her free hand, Dawn took out her mobile phone and put a note in about this shopping centre while she headed for the nearest exit. Naturally, because she was not paying attention to where she was going, she ended up literally bumping into someone, which made her drop both the laptop case and her mobile phone. Dawn herself ended up landing on her left hand, almost dislocating her shoulder in the process of balancing herself, but the person she bumped into was not better off. The person Dawn collided with managed to actually land on her bottom, but unlike Dawn, she was not carrying any items, so she should have been paying attention to the now annoyed teenager. At first, Dawn was about to make an angry remark at her, but something caught her eye so she decided to take a look at her. She was a teenager herself, someone whom Dawn instantly recognised because of her characteristic, long, raven black hair, not to mention the deep brown eyes that shone with intelligence, the rounded face, the small nose and the freckles spread across the cheeks. Her clothes were also characteristic as they were bright, almost white pieces of clothing that blended in with the floor of the shopping centre if it was not for the unique, black decoration in the centre of the t-shirt that depicted a dragon. “Neli!” Gasped Dawn at the sight of her old friend. “I have not seen you for ages.” “And in my opinion, you should be actually seeing the area around you instead of just looking,” commented Neli jokingly as she stood up while sweeping the dust off her clothes. “You should have seen me,” said Dawn as he rolled her eyes, then she started collecting her stuff from the ground. “Pass my mobile here, I cannot reach that thing from over here,” said Dawn, to which Neli complied for some reason. “So, aside from bumping into me with extreme prejudice, how have you been, Dawn?” “Oh, you know, it is just the usual,” said Dawn dismissingly as she took her phone. “Trying to get a good laptop for university, because I do not think I could survive it otherwise.” “I see you have successfully completed the mission,” said Neli, pointing to the laptop case. “Yeah,” said Dawn as she stood up with the laptop case. “I bought it a few minutes ago. I hope that this little bump with you did not damage it.” “That box is much more padded than to allow the laptop to be damaged by something trivial like this,” pointed out Neli as she straightened her white hairband, brushing a few strands of her out of her face. “Anyways, do you have some time to talk? I am ludicrously excited to see you, Dawn!” said Neli, leaping into a hug that she had been preparing for several seconds now. Dawn returned the hug gladly, which lasted just long enough to convey a sense of strong friendship. “And I am extremely curious as to what has happened to you in all the years we have not seen each other. Would you like to share stories?” asked Neli after she separated herself from Dawn. For a second, Dawn looked as if she was in deep thought, but then, yet another smile spread across her face, which was accompanied by a nod. “Yes to both questions. Just let me bring my laptop home,” said Dawn, pointing at the box, which she had secured under her arm. “I will escort you home if that is the case,” said Neli. “That is great,” said Dawn as she nodded once more. “So where should we go after that? I know a great place,” said Dawn as she started walking towards the nearest exit, with Neli not far behind her. “Actually, I would be glad if we went to a place that I discovered recently,” said Neli. “Why, what is wrong with the place I suggested?” asked Dawn, putting an unneeded emphasis on the I. “I do not know what place you are trying to suggest, but I really would like you to see this restaurant,” said Neli with a hint of excitement in her voice. “It is ridiculously fantastic. The service is simply unimaginably good and the food could only be described as being beyond delicious. You really should give it a try.” “Well, I obviously know my place better than you do yours,” said Dawn as the pace of her steps picked up. “There is no need to get angry, Dawn,” said Neli as she matched Dawn’s pace. “I am merely making a suggestion; you need not to go along with it. But I really would like to go to that place. Are you sure there is no place for a compromise?” “Sorry, but no. I do not want to go to unknown places,” said Dawn, effectively killing the conversation for several seconds, during which Neli fidgeted uncomfortably, trying to find a topic. “I guess we will be heading to the place you suggested then,” said Neli as she blew the air out of her lungs, careful as to not to make a sigh. “So, anyways Dawn, how has it been?” “Terrible,” said Dawn as she slowed down. “I have been looking for this laptop all over the place, yet I could only find it in this shopping centre. And then, I nearly got lost because of these idiots, who refuse to make a proper map of this… thing I could not call a building. It was absolutely horrible,” complained Dawn with increasing fury. “I was looking for the electronics store for about half an hour! Can you believe that? It is simply ridiculous. What do they think of me, that I am a living GPS?” asked Dawn furiously. “I have to agree with you on that point,” said Neli. “This new shopping centre is a complete nightmare to navigate. I was trying to buy myself a new set of gloves for the coming winter, but I simply could not find the store that sold them. However, I did manage to run into you, which has made my day all the better.” “Well, lucky you. That does not really help my frustration,” said Dawn irritably, then she changed topics all of a sudden. “So, have you heard anything about Aurora?” At the mention of that name, Neli literally froze in place, as if her own blood had reached the temperature of absolute zero. Her feet grinded to a halt, her arms seemed as if they were suddenly set in concrete, her skin went pale as her blood vessels contracted and her heart almost skipped a beat. She just stood there, in one place, only for a fraction of a second, but that was enough for Dawn to notice the change in her, however, before Dawn could say anything, Neli spoke up. “Dawn,” said Neli simply, the colour returning to her limbs. “Yes, Neli?” “You do know that it been six years now, right?” asked Neli slowly. “Of course I do,” snapped Dawn. “And,” said Neli, but she still refused to move, which made Dawn stop as well, “you do remember our agreement on the topic of Aurora, right?” “Yes, I do.” “Then why do you bring this topic up again and again, Dawn?” asked Neli, a hint of sadness and anger seeping into her voice as she let her emotions overflow. “I understand that she was very close to you, because I also held her very close to my heart. I know that you want to remember her, but please, if you do not let me forget her, I will never be able to sleep again, for I will be forced to relive those memories again and again.” “She is still out there, Neli. I know it,” said Dawn, putting her hands in front of her body. “No, she is not, Dawn!” This time, it was Neli’s turn to snap at her friend. “It has been six years since Aurora was kidnapped! What do you think, that she is protected by a force field of magical origin that protects her against harm? There exists no such thing, Dawn, but even if it did, it would have protected her against whatever took her six years ago. I am sorry, but…” started Neli, but Dawn interrupted her. “But she is still alive, and I know it. She is my twin sister, and as such, she has to be alive.” “Unfortunately, the universe does not work that way… I wish it did, though,” said Neli as she took a deep breath to calm herself down, then she took some seconds to organise her own thoughts. “Look, Dawn, I am sorry for snapping at you like that, but you simply have to move on, and let me move on as well. Every time we have met, you have asked me this question, which always brings the good old times back, the good old times I am so desperately trying to forget, because simply remembering Aurora’s face is painful to me,” said Neli slowly. She was clearly fighting with her own emotions, her sorrow and anger, but Dawn simply looked through her as if she was not even there. “That is you, Neli. You give up hope too easily,” stated Dawn coldly, which made Neli flinch. “I am merely giving up hope when it is reasonable to do so,” replied Neli, her own words stabbing at her heart as if they were assassin knives coated with cyanide. “Aurora disappeared six years ago and there is simply no chance that she will come back to us once again,” repeated Neli to try and drive the point home while her body literally shook from the emotions contained within. “She was kidnapped,” said Dawn matter-of-factly, as if she did not even notice the state her friend was in. “According to what evidence? The hope which you cling to so dearly only comes from a nightmarish vision that is clearly a distorted version of the past, which neither of us remembers clearly,” said Neli as she shook her head. “Besides, even if she was alive, she surely would look different by now. Her kidnapper would not want her to be recognised, so he surely must have…” Neli’s voice trailed off at that last sentence. She did not even dare to think what would a kidnapper do with a young girl like Aurora; she knew that whatever fate had Dawn’s twin sister suffered, it was not a pretty one, nor one that should ever happen to anybody in the whole world. She shuddered at the thought, as she knew that it was not something she should be thinking about. “She is my twin sister, Neli. I will recognise her even if she looks nothing like me,” said Dawn matter-of-factly. “Unfortunately, that only happens in fairy tales, not in the reality that we inhabit, Dawn,” said Neli as she sighed, letting go of the tension in her body. “Listen, can we talk about something else now? I would really like to forget about Aurora…” “I will not let you forget her,” said Dawn coldly. “She is my twin sister and your dear friend. How could you ever forget someone like that?” “I am not disputing the fact that she was one of my best friends, but I have to move on with my life, Dawn, and so do you, despite what you seem to think. It is simply foolish to live in the past, because it is the future that we can mould. The past will never change once it has been set in stone,” said Dawn, then she started walking again, forcing her legs to move through sheer willpower. She was still unhealthily pale though, but she had to do something, for she already felt thousands of small needles stabbing themselves into her body, indicating that she could not stand this for much longer. “Bah, you and your so-called wisdom,” said Dawn as she followed Neli, then she took the lead again. “I tell you that Aurora is still alive, and I will find her regardless of what you say.” “And I tell you that we should drop this conversation before I do something that even I may regret,” said Neli with a mild amount of contempt in her voice. “I will respect your views if you respect mine. Let’s just never talk about this topic again.” “No. You just give up too fast,” said Dawn, to which Neli offered absolutely no reply. The teenager in white clothes merely shut her lips tightly. A long silence fell upon the two friends, an uncomfortably long pause in conversation wrapped them up its wrinkles as if it was a carpet, gripping them tightly until they arrived at the house of Dawn. “We are here,” said Dawn. “Would you like to come in, Neli?” “Oh no, I would like not to bother your family, Dawn,” said Neli a bit coldly. “I will be waiting for you on the outside, though.” “You do not have to be so shy.” “I know, but this time, I would rather stay outside. Hearing your stories of the past few years will be more than worth the wait,” said Neli as a small, lifeless smile spread across her face. “I insist that you come in,” said Dawn, but Neli merely shook her head. Dawn asked her once again, but Neli still refused to come in, so Dawn simply shrugged, then she went into her house. “I am home,” said Dawn to nobody in particular, then, she ascended the staircase to her room, but found herself stopping in front of the room of Aurora. The conversation with Neli stirred up the memories in her once again, it awakened the blurry, nightmarish memories of that day, which have literally burned themselves into her mind and the mind of Neli. It was an event that could never be forgotten, but at the same time, it was one that could not be discussed anyone because of its nature, for not even the police believed the two young girls, even though their parents stood behind them fiercely. Instead, they merely took it as another disappearance case, which, of course, resulted in them losing track of Aurora along with the kidnapper that took her. The signs of the intrusion remained in the room even today, six years after Dawn’s twin sister disappeared, for she thought that it would be disrespectful to do anything to the room and her family respected this decision. Only the window was fixed, but the glass shards were still lying on the floor, the walls of the room were still charred, the writing table in the corner was still split in two and the cupboards were still in splinters all over the place, reminding Dawn of her inability to protect what was important to her. However, as always, she managed to resist the impulse to look into the room again, continuing to her own door instead of giving in to her instincts despite their nearly irresistible suggestions. She just put the laptop case down in her room, then she descended the stairs, locked the doors and finally arrived back outside, where Neli was waiting for patiently. “That was unusually long,” commented Neli, who now seemed to be much better off. The colour of her skin has returned, not to mention that she seemed much more calm than before, although it was a sickening kind of calamity, one that seemed simply artificial. There was also the fact that she was hiding something behind herself, too. “You calmed down,” said Dawn, suspiciously eyeing her friend. “Yes, I have, but I think we should get going. There is so much I would like to share with you,” said Neli with a hint of happiness in her voice, but somehow, she lacked the enthusiasm she had when she met Dawn. It was as if she was subdued by something. “Sure. This way,” said Dawn, taking the lead. Neli followed her closely, but even though the two friends have intended to share the events that happened with them over the time they have not met, not a single word was exchanged during the journey. Eventually, though, Dawn got tired of the silence, so she decided to speak up, which was when she noticed a group of conspicuous-looking people in thick, black clothes. “Hey, Neli… Who do you think those people are?” asked Dawn, inclining her head towards the group that she saw. “I have absolutely no idea,” said Neli after a few seconds of silence. “However, they are definitely not from around here. Those weapons in their hands look like they use technology that does not belong here, and they do not look like any weapons I have seen,” said the teenager in white clothes, gesturing towards the machine guns in the hands of the group, which made it clear that they were soldier. Their uniform, though, was totally different from the one used by the local military, not to mention that their weapons looked nothing like the ones Dawn had seen in books or in real life. They had a sleek, comfortable-looking grip that transitioned into a barrel-shaped loading chamber, which then ended in a square-shaped barrel. Neli was right; they clearly did not belong here. “Maybe they are from another Territory,” said Dawn. “They are definitely from another Territory,” said Neli. “I have no idea what principles those weapons work on, but they are obviously not bullet-based. Also, if you look at the men closely, they are wearing some kind of armour, which would be impractical in combat from what I know,” pondered Neli. “I think we should stay away from them. They look rather dangerous, but also, I really want to speak with you,” said Neli as she crossed her arms in front of her body, desperation seeping into her voice. “Nonsense. Just look at the woman in the centre of the group,” pointed Dawn at the woman in the centre of the soldiers ignoring the second half of the sentence. The woman was wearing nothing but dark blue coloured clothes, yet she was still discussing something with them without showing any signs of fear. She was also about half the size of the soldiers, not to mention that she had no weapon on herself, so she had no chance of defending herself from them. “She is clearly a part of their group, Dawn. I do not think that it is a good idea to approach them.” “And I think you are too much of a worry-wart. We will do no harm if we go a bit closer to listen to them.” “You are right, but we will also not understand anything that they are talking about, as they are likely to use a language neither of us knows,” said Neli, then she sighed. “But I guess there is no harm in going closer, and as much as I hate to admit it, I am a bit curious about why these soldiers are here,” said Neli, not even trying to convince Dawn anymore. “Good. Come on,” said Dawn, to which Neli simply shook her head and followed behind her. The teenager in white clothes no resigned to her fate, which was quite clear to her: as the only one who knew the language of the Trader City, she would be forced to become Dawn’s interpreter and her idea to catch up on the old times would be disregarded entirely. At least she could practice the language though, as she has not spoken in the tongue of the Trader City for quite a while now. “Was denn, das Verschwinden? Meiner Meinung nach, es lohnt sich, das auszuforschen... Warten Sie mal, jemand kommt. Halten Sie das Plaudern und warten Sie auf meinen Befehl.” said the woman at the centre of the group, then she approached the two teenagers, who could not help but stare at her. She was a teenager herself, no older than them, yet her nut brown hair was tied up into a tight bun on her head, her deep brown eyes had a strange spark in them, but most importantly, it now became clear that she wore protective clothing. Solid, textile-textured armour plates with a dark blue colour protected the forearms, upper arms, chest, thighs and shins of the stranger, with a strange, unknown mesh in between them that seemed just as tough as the armour. However, on a closer inspection, the armour was simply ridiculously thin as it was only a few millimetres thicker than normal clothes, which was why it appeared to be plain clothing from a distance. “Good day to you two,” said the stranger to Dawn and Neli in the language of the Trader City. Much to the surprise of Neli, she had absolutely no accent whatsoever, and the words flowed out of her mouth as if they were wanted to form a serene, clear mountain river. “I am sorry if I and my soldiers have disturbed you, but currently, we are discussing matters of outmost importance. Would you please consider not reporting us to the authorities while I make a decision concerning the topic?” asked the stranger, which made Neli pause for several uncomfortably long seconds before she could answer. She had never heard someone you the tongue of the Trader City with so much grace and eloquence. “No, you are not disturbing us,” said Neli in her own, accented version of the language. “We were just wondering about you and your soldiers, so we have decided to take a look.” “Oh, I see. I was afraid that I have caused a public disturbance and you were about to report me for that, but if that is the case, I am extremely relieved. It would have made a horrible impression if I was to break the law on my first day in this Territory,” said the stranger with a hint of relief in her voice. “Please do excuse me for being rude to you and not introducing myself, but you must understand that the assessment of the situation comes first, and being polite is only in the second place when operating in unknown Territories with unknown laws. Now, though, please do let me introduce myself: My name is Klara Hellewege and I would be the leader of these soldiers. May I have the pleasure of knowing your names?” “I am Neli Ayers and she is Dawn Faulkner,” said Neli as she gestured towards Dawn. “And we are sorry to disturb your conversation. Have we interrupted anything important?” “Hey, Neli, what is she saying?” asked Dawn with a puzzled look on her face. “She introduced herself, Dawn,” said Neli as she switched back to her native tongue. “She is Klara Hellewege, and she is glad to meet us,” explained Neli, which earned both of them a stern glare from Klara. “Is your friend incapable of understanding the language of the Trader City?” asked Klara. “Yes, she is, unfortunately. In our Territory, learning the language of the Trader City is an extremely rare choice, because we rarely see their agents or their convoys,” said Neli with a slight irritation in her voice. “I understand,” nodded Klara. “In that case, what are the languages that she speaks? I wish to include her in the conversation as well, for it is rude to converse about a person without their knowledge, as it is comparable to conversing behind their backs.” “Are you familiar with the travoclef language? That is a tongue that we both speak fluently.” “A bit,” said Klara in a heavily accented version of said language. “But I cannot say what I want.” “Oh, that is great!” said Dawn excitedly, switching languages. “How many languages do you know?” “I know six. Three of them… like water?” said Klara questioningly after a long pause. “No. That is not the right word.” “You mean fluidly?” asked Neli, which made Klara think for a few long seconds, then she nodded. “Yes. In this language, I cannot say what I want. It is strong… no, difficult,” said Klara while shaking her head. “But it is not okay to talk in another language that not everyone can understand. So, any trouble here?” “What do you mean?” asked Dawn curiously. “I want to… I need to…? No, not the right word,” wondered Klara as a dark cloud passed through her eyes, then, she promptly switched to the language of the Trader City. “I would like to ask you two if you know about any potential conflicts that I may investigate as a part of my mission here,” said Klara, earning a stare from Dawn. “What did she say, Neli?” asked Dawn in her native tongue with a hint of irritation in her voice. “She asked if there was anything she could investigate,” explained Neli, but before she could say anything, Dawn interrupted her. “The case of my twin sister,” proclaimed Dawn in travoclef, which earned her a death glare from Neli, and a confused look from Klara. “Your twin sister?” asked Klara switching back to travoclef, to which Dawn simply nodded. “What happened?” “She disappeared six years ago in…” “Dawn!” said Neli angrily, her fists shaking and her face pale. “Please do not talk about this,” said Neli in their native tongue, which left a confused look on the face of Klara, who had no idea what was going on. “I talk about whatever I please,” said Dawn. “Then please leave me out of the conversation. As I said earlier, I thought we had agreed that we would not talk about this anymore, but you still managed to bring it up,” said Neli as one of her hands crept up into her pocket.. “If you want to continue, please do it when I am out of earshot.” “What is your problem with Aurora, anyway?” asked Dawn, but before Neli could reply, Klara literally stepped in between the two, interrupting the conversation. “Do stop. Dawn, you bully Neli,” said Klara with her heavy accent. “And I meant bigger trouble, trouble between large enemies.” “I am not bullying Neli!” protested Dawn. “Yes you are,” said Neli as she took deep breaths to calm herself down, then she let go of whatever was in her pockets, and an uncomfortable, tense silence dominated the next few seconds. “Nothing then,” said Klara dismissively, which was when a bullet ricocheted off her armour, then tore into Neli’s flesh. Twin Moons Chapter Two (Move your mouse to reveal the content) Twin Moons Chapter Two (open) Twin Moons Chapter Two (close) I do not know if this chapter turned out the way I wanted it to go. At least I hope I learned something from my experiments, if nothing else. Comments and criticism is welcome, and as always, I await your grammatical corrections. Chapter two: The overwhelming red Far away from the ensuing fire-fight, kilometres away from the city and mental light-years away from the human mind, the walls had eyes. Unblinking, blood red gems littered every available surface, joined by frighteningly metallic, snow-white vines that sought to consume the rooms they were in. At the same time, these same vines were supporting the walls, preventing them from collapsing under the weight of the decaying roof. Out of these strange vines grew even more bizarre appendages. Some of them looked like limbs with more joints than they should have, while others appeared to be mechanical replicas of jaws, teeth, or muscles. Still others appeared as inconceivable things humans have no words for: spider webs made out of nothing but straight lines that somehow looped into themselves, two-point stars which had eighteen diagonals, or personified fears that seemed alive and dead at the same time. The deeper one ventured into this strange structure, the more bizarre each of its aspects got. The vines slowly started to become smooth, yet their surfaces still remained rough. More and more eyes started appearing on the walls, but at the same time, they became fewer and fewer, blending into the background. The strange appendages started to form into even stranger shapes, some of them reminiscent of man-made machines, but they still had something completely alien to them. Even the air started to feel corrupt and compromised if one made it far enough, not to mention that everything seemed to swim in increasingly thick red fog. But the most insane room in this once abandoned building was the one located in the centre. Surrounded by walls that were, lacking words that could describe them perfectly, simply blood white, it was a place where the laws of physics simply gave up. Smells started to become colours while colours became sounds and sounds became gut-wrenching smells that painted a landscape of death before anyone who dared to enter. As if that was not enough to make any sane man flee, the room was filled with strange equipment that seemed as if it was stolen from a horror movie: chairs with restraining bolts, an operating table with metallic ribs that could trap a subject perfectly, syringes scattered all over the ground, a table with a large variety of medical tools on it, all of them covered with blood stains. But most importantly, at the back of the room was some kind of strange, utterly alien device that cannot be described in human terms. Thus, it should come as no surprise that all abandoned this room. Not even the one who moved all the equipment in there visited it anymore, for he knew there was nothing he could do against the disease that spread along the walls. With great regret, he abandoned it four years ago and even if it contained the work of his life, he did not dare to go back there. It was not because of the walls, not even because of the red air that seemed to taint everything. It was because he feared the creature that lurked inside there, he feared the illusions that came from there, he was afraid of the mirage that visited him from time to time. Today was one of those times. In the white darkness that came from the shadow-consuming floodlights, a rift opened that twisted the Laws of the world around its finger. From the rift, emerged a red, half-transparent silhouette of a book, followed by the blood white shadow of a young woman, her figure shrouded in the mystery of the Laws. Her only feature that could be seen through this cloak was her remarkably long hair that reached all the way down to her ankles while slowly, gradually spreading out like a fan as it approached her feet. With the grace of a princess, the shadow took the silhouette of the book, then she closed the portal behind her with a gesture that had a thousand and one interpretations. Trusting her senses, the shadow started to wander through the maze of the hallways to find the master of the place. She found him in the place she always did: hunched over his desk, focusing on his work so that he could shut her out of his mind. It was an ultimately pointless measure, but if it allowed him to have some piece of mind, she was willing to overlook it. After all, he was no longer human anymore. He would soon give in to her influence, and she had all the patience, not to mention all the time in the world. Even though he still considered himself human, even though he was still a man of average height with short black hair, impossibly dark, brown eyes and a bony, worn face that spoke of many sleepless nights, the truth of his left arm remained. Wider than his torso, with four, clearly visible spherical joints, fingers that ended in spikes instead of fingertips, the left arm of Ian Rovstahl looked as if it was made from white, rope-like, mechanical muscles that had no moving parts. Even worse, there was a cancerous, red growth on the inside of his left forearm, indicating that he did not have much time left. For some strange reason, the shadow embraced Ian in what could be only described as a mother’s hug filled with the absolute cruelty of a vulture. Ian did not react to the shadow at all, seemingly absorbed in his work. However, as the embrace lasted longer and longer, Ian grew more and more uncomfortable. Eventually, he could not help but speak up, his voice shaking with a mixture of anger and fear. “So here you are again, figment of my imagination,” he said, slowly turning around. The shadow withdrew her embrace. “I know you want to take my sanity away. But I will not let you. Not until I undo what I have done.” As always, no answer came out of the shadow’s mouth. She merely opened the silhouette of the book at a random page, then started reading it out loud without moving her lips. Inaudible words escaped from an unmoving mouth, but Ian remained absolutely stoic in the face of such a strange sight. He merely stared into the non-existent eyes of the shadow with a scorn on his face, as if he was trying to intimidate her. But the shadow just ignored him and she continued to read on, turning page after page. Eventually, Ian had enough of the staring contest, so he resumed his work. Or he would have resumed his work if his limbs obeyed him. His feet did refused to move as if they were frozen to the floor. His calves felt deathly cold as if all blood fled from them. His thighs were simply empty. His torso was cast in iron, then embedded in concrete, yet some unknown force kept him breathing. His right arm was an icicle when compared to his left, which was burning up with iron-melting heat. It was a miracle that Ian’s clothes have not caught fire, but right now, that was the least of the worries he had on his mind. No matter how desperately he tried to move, his own body responded with nothing but a mad, cackling laughter that froze every single nerve in his brain. No matter how much he wanted to break the prison that was his own body, the more willpower he exerted, the more his own muscles resisted him. And if that was not enough, out of nowhere, a voice came out of his throat, a voice that said no words yet it said everything it needed to say. It was a voice that could shatter the Laws, a voice that caused causality to break down, a voice that simply did not exist in its existence. “I hear your words, Book, and I hear your will, Princess,” said the voice as something made Ian bow before the shadow. “But it is not my time yet,” continued the voice, which made the shadow frown with disgust. However, she merely shrugged, then closed her book. After that, she made a deep, unusually respectful bow that did not suit her title and retreated to where she came from. The next thing Ian knew is that he was in his bed, staring at the ceiling. His body still did not feel like his own, but at least he knew that everything that he has seen was just an illusion of the senses. During his stay, he has grown used to these visions, these nightmares that plagued every one of his days and if someone intended to torture him with them, he was failing at it badly. Even though the visions grew more real each time they have repeated themselves, Ian was already used to seeing them. He already knew that they were just a trick of his senses, as he had long collapsed the way towards his old laboratory. Nothing could make it out from there, and even someone busted through the wall, they would get lost in the maze of the corridors. However, even if Ian knew that what he saw was a mere dream, he could not help but look at his arm to see if everything was in its usual place. He looked at all of his joints and he inspected every one of his muscles, but nothing was out of the ordinary as his right arm felt the skin it always felt. Even if his sight made Ian believe that his left arm was not normal, he knew that it was only an illusion. His instruments detected nothing. His own body felt ordinary. His assistant has made no comment. Therefore, it was just an illusion, exactly like the red fog that filled his room, the blood white walls with the red eyes on them and the strange growths that always changed between his visits. If instruments could not detect it and if no other human could see it, then it was just the trick of his own senses, even if psychological tests or machines could not confirm that he was hallucinating. It was only an illusion even if his mind dared to believe his eyes. It was a mere mirage even if he was absolutely certain that he perceived reality, because only he observed these strange occurrences. Only from his perspective did the world look so twisted, so that was the only logical conclusion. After all, one could not trust a single observer to determine the fate of the universe, could they? He chuckled at his foolish illusions and lifted the blanket from his body with his left arm, then he put on a new lab coat. He noted that he must have had the hallucination while he worked as he still had his work clothes on. Luna must have been the kind soul who dragged him into bed, but because she was so shy, she did not dare to take the lab coat off. Ian smiled at the thought of his shy assistant as he put on his shoes and made his way across the long corridors towards the lab. No doubt that Luna has been waiting for him since the start of the day, even though she knew that he would not wake up until the afternoon. That girl has always been simply too enthusiastic. “Sir Ian!” said an excited voice behind Ian, which he immediately recognised as one belonging to Luna. “I was just about to wake you up. It is good to see that you are so well-rested, sir.” “You should not let me slack off so easily, Luna,” said Ian as he turned around with a smile on his face. The only joy in his life besides joy was seeing his young assistant. At merely eighteen, young Luna was already as beautiful as a goddess: With her hair tied into a long, French braid and her azure blue eyes, she could probably get any man that she wanted. Even if her hair was dyed blood red, that did not detract from the divine beauty of her round face. She was also a prodigy as even though she joined Ian mere months ago, she already understood most of the professor’s theories and his need for secrecy. “So what do we have to do today?” “It is the time for the Ritual again, sir,” said Luna, blushing. “I hope you will take good care of me, sir.” “I always do. Do I have anything else scheduled for today? I know there is something important that I am forgetting.” “Well sir, one of the corridors has collapsed. I do not know if it can be fixed this time, though… And I am really worried that the police will eventually find us, sir. Should we not move to another site, sir?” “No. This is the perfect place for my research. I know that it is dangerous, but if we unlock the mystery of the George particle, it will be all worth it,” said Ian, to which Luna frowned. “But sir, my family is missing me. Could I write a letter to them, sir? I promise I would not give away our position, sir!” “You, of all people, know the best just how dangerous this is. If we fail, the results can be catastrophic. It is better for them not to know.” “I know that, sir, but… I am very concerned about my mother, my father, and my sister. Please, sir, just let me write a letter to them so that they know I am all right,” pleaded Luna with Ian, but he shook his head. “What if people recognise you on the street? They are bound to be looking for you and if they take you away, my research will come to a halt. You know that you are important to me,” said Ian with a hint of sorrow in his voice. He really wanted to let this young woman communicate his family, but that could be simply catastrophic for him. He could not let any information leak outside the confines of this building that concerned his research, for if the government got wind of what was happening here, he would surely be executed. “So, are you ready for the Ritual, Luna?” asked Ian in an attempt to change topics. Luna just nodded with a bitter expression on her face to the question, then she followed Ian to the room where the Ritual always happened. To the casual onlooker, it was a normal room like any other: the walls were absolutely ordinary in their blood white appearance and the ever-alert, red eyes that were spread across them were also of the norm. Similarly, the air was filled to the brim with a red fog, as it should be. The only part of the room that was out of the ordinary was its roof, or more precisely, its lack of a roof, which was crucial to the Ritual. But of course, the room only appeared ordinary to eyes that were not attentive. If one looked closely at the walls, they were made out of straight lines that curved around themselves, yet somehow still managed to prevent the structure from collapsing. Furthermore, if one touched the pieces of the roof on the ground, they would find that they did not exist. The debris were only there as a part of an illusion that covered the entire room, an illusion that wove a symbol across the walls, the floor and even the non-existent ceiling. What is more, this symbol seemed to be alive, with colourless, air-like blood in its veins, with a dead heart that was still pumping life through its incorporeal body. Any ordinary mind would have been shattered into a million pieces by such a sight, but Luna and Ian were far from ordinary. They have had staring contests with this room’s invisible eyes a thousand times, so as such, they just moved into their usual positions. Luna moved into the centre of the room, while Ian touched the symbol that was not there with his left hand, and literally ripped a knife out of the nothing behind the void. With that knife, Ian started drawing symbols into the nothingness that was everything at once, tracing curves that spiralled and twisted around each other even though they were straighter than any line ever drawn by man. These lines were reflected in the non-existent ceiling and as they were being drawn by themselves even though they were erasing themselves from existence. Paradoxes, contradictions, half-truths, half-lies, incomprehensible theories, irrefutable proofs and Laws merged into blood that gave life to the non-existent symbol that dominated the room with the illusion of its existence. Reality itself was torn apart by illusions, but at the same time, the cold sword of truth demolished the fragile fabric of deception. Ian and Luna could not help but stare at the results of their actions, as even if the Ritual always gave birth to something that could only be described insanity personified, but the effects were never so severe. It was always something small, such as a bug that they could easily destroy. Now, though, whatever they have created could shatter Laws… if only it existed for more than a mere moment. The second Luna and Ian have stopped the Ritual, the thing that they accidentally created turned into a tiny star that could fit in one’s palm, then it promptly disappeared, leaving nothing behind as evidence. For a fraction of a second, every secret of reality unravelled itself, making its Laws known to the observers that were in the room, but sooner than the information could be processed, it was retracted. But perhaps that was for the better, as even what little Luna managed to see made her scream and faint on the spot. Ian was luckier as he was further away from the centre of the Ritual, but even he had a horrible headache run through his brain that threatened to burst his skull. The scream of Luna, though, erased all pain from his mind as he rushed franticly to the young woman’s side with all his strength, not caring about how he might damage the grounds of the Ritual. He jumped over the illusions on the floor and avoided the invisible veins that kept the room together, but he did not pay attention to anything else. He ruined months’ worth of work under the course of just a few seconds, yet all that was on his mind is that he needed to tend to the well-being of Luna. Luna was his light. Luna was his hope. Luna was his shining star that he… How did he meet her in the first place again? The question made his mind pause, and halted his body, but then he realised that it was not the time to be philosophical. It did not matter how the two of them met, because if he did not take care of her now, then she was as good as dead. With that thought in mind, Ian made it to the side of Luna, checked her body for injuries, then he grabbed her in a princess carry. He then sped through the once-abandoned warehouse’s confusing corridors, having already memorised the route back to his lab over the course of the months they have spent here. With great haste, Ian put Luna down on his operating table and started examining her thoroughly. He was relieved to find that she did not suffer any injuries, but at the same time, he was worried about her mind. What if the event they saw during the ritual caused lasting mental damage to Luna? He could not forgive himself if that ever happened, because if it was one thing that he valued more than the companionship of Luna, it was her mind. Without her, he could not have made all those advances with the George Particles. He could not have prepared the Ritual that was the catalyst of his discoveries. He may even have lost his sanity if it were not for her and her ideas. If she were to lose all of those ideas, would he be ever capable of unlocking the secret of these strange particles? As he asked himself that question, he heard the laugh of a young woman, a laugh that was very familiar from his dreams. It echoed across the endlessly complicated hallways of the once-abandoned structure, never losing its strength despite the uneven surfaces of the walls, or the huge distances it covered. It was a true laughter from the lips of one who enjoyed what they were seeing. But at the same time, it was also a chill-inducing laughter that froze the blood in Ian’s veins as it carried with it the end of life and the start of insanity. It was a laughter that belonged to a princess who grew into a cruel queen, a young woman who only ruled herself. At first, Ian could ignore it, but the laughter grew louder and louder the more he tried to occupy himself. Eventually, he had to put his hands to his ears to lock the disturbing sound out, but that did not help at all. It was as if the voice came from inside his head, trying to drive him insane, so he started shaking his head in an attempt to clear his thoughts. That only made the laughter intensify to such strength that it drove him to smash his head against the wall in a vain attempt to get rid of the sound, but still, the laughter continued on, culminating in a whisper that seemed to shatter all reality. “I am what you may not hope to comprehend,” said an all-too-familiar voice, and Ian’s world sunk into darkness. Twin Moons Chapter Three (Move your mouse to reveal the content) Twin Moons Chapter Three (open) Twin Moons Chapter Three (close) I am sorry for the rather long break between updates, but life has been pretty busy for me lately. As always, comments and criticism are much appreciated and if anyone notices any grammatical errors, please do contact me about it! Chapter three: Blue ice “Neli!” shouted Dawn, but her voice did not reach her friend, who was forced to the ground by a soldier. Astonished at the sight, Dawn was about to explode on Klara, but suddenly, strong hands pushed her down and a knee was speared into her back, driving the air out of her lungs. The next second, bullets ricocheted off the soldier’s armour, one projectile embedding itself into the ground in front of Dawn. Only now did she realise the gravity of the situation: She was now in the middle of a battlefield, a slaughterhouse where people died because others willed so. A chill ran down her spine as fear gripped her heart. She literally felt her voice die as her blood froze in her veins from the terror. “Quiet!” said Klara, her tone that of a commander who did not tolerate disobedience. Dawn was far too petrified to hear her voice, but she was also too frightened to be able to move or talk. Neli, on the other hand was hyperventilating and trying to escape from the hold of the soldier who was restraining her. Pain and panic was written all over her face as she tried her best to flee the scene. He was far too strong for her though, while Klara was too busy talking to her soldiers to notice either of the teenagers’ distress. “Woher kommt der Schuss? Und warum haben Sie mir night gewarnt?” asked Klara from her soldiers as she clicked her helmet’s straps into place. Her harsh words full of strange consonants and hard sounds fell upon the petrified Dawn as if they were arrows. She was sure that she was going to die here. “Ich habe nichts gesehen, Frau Hägel!” answered one of the soldiers. “Ich habe Ihnen gesagt, halten sie die Auge offen!” said Klara in a clearly angry tone. “Jetzt helfen Sie mir, diese Fäulein in sicherheit zu bringen!” she said. In response, the soldier who pushed Dawn to the ground suddenly lifted her in a princess carry. The soldier who was restraining Neli followed suit, which only furthered Dawn’s panic. What were these soldiers going to do with them? “Jawohl!” said the soldier as his subordinates formed a wall between them and the attackers to protect the two teenagers. Bullets continued ricocheting off the armour of the infantrymen, but they did not return fire. After a glance from their commander, they just spread out and started running, confusing their attackers completely. Unfortunately for them, their attackers soon realised what their enemies were doing so they split into groups, each group chasing after a soldier. Soon, they caught up with the soldier who was carrying Dawn, their arrival marked by a rain of bullets, the noise made by the guns striking pure terror into the heart of the teenager. She tried closing her eyes in an attempt to lock out her surroundings, but that only made her fear worse. The sound of the gunshots was even louder when she did not see the world, not to mention that with her eyes closed, she feared that they would be running headfirst into a wall at any second. She could not bear the feeling for more than a few seconds, so she opened her eyes and tried to face reality, but with every passing moment, she felt fear taking over her body. Where was Neli when she needed… “Take me to Neli now!” shouted Dawn as she finally realised that she got separated from her best friend, but the soldier just looked at her with blank, confused eyes. “Ich versethe nicht, Fräulein,” he answered, and Dawn felt her heart sink to unknown depths, however, she did not give up. Maybe if she tried a different language, he would understand and take her to Neli so she could re-unite with her friend or die together with her. She was not going to die here, alone and forgotten, so she repeated her order in travoclef. Of course, it was no use as the infantryman seemed to speak only his native tongue. Panic overtook Dawn at that moment and she started struggling in the grip of the soldier, but it was a futile fight. He was simply too strong for her to escape, yet regardless of that, she completely lost herself in the attempt. She did not even notice when the soldier stopped. She only came to her senses when she was thrown into some alleyway, bruising her back and nearly fracturing her arm. Naturally, she looked up, only to see bullets ricocheting off the infantryman’s armour. Even from deep inside the alleyway, she could hear the shouts of the attackers, who simply could not believe their eyes. “What the hell is that guy?” asked a voice, which seemed to carry enough authority with it to be the leader of the group. “I have no idea, boss, but our weapons are useless.” “Hey, I got an idea,” at that voice, a metallic-sounding clang echoed across the alleyway, frightening Dawn. Were they planning to beat the soldier up, then kill her with whatever that thing was? “Do not be an idiot!” shouted the first voice, but it was too late. A grey-suited man rushed at the soldier with a huge pipe in his hands, but the soldier just stepped aside and punched him in the abdomen. The man in the grey suit was sent flying, blood escaping from his mouth as the fist crushed his insides. A big lump welled up in the throat of Dawn at the sight of blood as she realised that she just witnessed the ending of a human life. The ever-sharp, deadly blade was at her neck again, threatening to end her life right now, but she found that she could not stop watching the unfolding scene. Without a word, the soldier removed his weapon from its holster, which, although it was supposed to be a pistol, looked more like a hand-wielded cannon with a barrel that was longer than its body. That is, if one could call four, long rectangles lined with small, barely visible spikes a barrel, but that fact took a backseat to the sheer terror that the pistol inspired. Clearly, it was a weapon that could tear through most types of protection, designed to pierce the kind of body armour Klara’s men wore. It was overkill to use it on even a light combat vehicle and against mere men, it would simply rip them apart. “Oh shit. Ru-“ The sentence was left unfinished as the pistol was fired into the air, drowning out every single voice with a roar similar to that of a miniature thunder. A bright, blue lance was launched into the skies, illuminating the nearby streets with its cruel, blinding light. Dawn had to shut her eyes and cover her ears to give herself at some peace in the face of the impending slaughter, but nothing happened for several seconds. She was still very afraid, though so she dared to open her eyes only when the ringing of her ears stopped and she felt that she was ready to witness the aftermath.. However, instead of blood, guts and gore, only the soldier was standing in front of her, extending his left arm towards the teenagers as if he was trying to beckon her to the dance floor, or more likely, help her up. “Kommen Sie mit mir, Fräulein. Sie sind in sicherheit mit mir,” said the infantryman in a quiet tone that was somewhat reassuring to Dawn, even though she could not understand the words. Realising that he was talking to her, she reluctantly took his hand, to which he lifted her in a princess carry once more and retreated along the street where they came from. From there on, everything became a blur for Dawn. She could vaguely remember the sound of pistols being shot and more thunders that made her clutch her ears but her memories were a complete mess until she found herself lying on the ground as she was being examined by Klara. Her body hurt all over and her mind was still absolutely confused about the sequence of events that she went through, but at least now she could vaguely understand her situation. She must have been hurt along the way. “It is okay,” said Klara. “You are good. It will be painful for a while, but you are good,” said the young woman as she disappeared from the sight of Dawn, who then sat up in a vain attempt to clear her head. She sat there for a few seconds as she tried to recall what happened in the past half an hour without much success, but there was one thing that she remembered for certain and that made her blood boil unlike anything she has ever experienced. The fury that welled up in her all of a sudden seemed to wash everything, even the haze away, leaving nothing but blind rage behind. “You got Neli hurt!” shouted Dawn in travoclef as she stood up. “Who do you think you are? Take her to the hospital now!” “I am sorry. I got you into trouble. Please let me handle her,” said Klara, but Dawn just shook her head. This woman was clearly out of her mind! Not only did she involve them in a fire-fight, but now she wanted to take Neli with herself? That simply did not make any sense whatsoever! “No. She is going to the hospital,” said Dawn with a tone that surprised even her. She had no idea she could get that angry. “No,” said Klara firmly. “My centre is better,” she said with unmistakeable authority, but Dawn would not back down from just that. “She is safer in the hospital than with you.” “No,” said Klara again, surprising Dawn with her stubbornness. “It was my trouble. It is my payment. My soldiers are good. My hospital is good,” she explained to Dawn, only making more furious. Neli belonged into a hospital, and after that, to a bed in her home, not in the place of a stranger who barely knew them. Dawn would not settle for that, even if that stranger was only trying to fix their mistake. “You are not taking her anywhere, or I am calling the police,” said Dawn, playing her trump card, which made Klara pause, which was the reaction that Dawn expected. After all, Klara was trying to stay out of trouble with the local authorities, so if someone reported her for kidnapping, that would interfere with her goals. She could not let that happen, but still, it was her fault that the girl called Neli was injured. It was her fault that these two friends were pulled into an assassination attempt, which, as clumsy as it was, was directed towards her. But she just could not go around jeopardising her mission. Yet it was still her fault. She knew that she had to fix her mistakes. How Klara would do that, however, was clearly beyond her. Dawn was determined to take Neli to the hospital of her choice or she would alert the authorities, while she wanted to fix the mistake that nearly cost two lives. Her principles would not allow otherwise, for what would be left of her if she failed her principles? Nothing but a young woman who could not keep her promises. Nothing but a failure who could not live up to the expectations of her people, because instead of protecting and serving them, she would only end up hurting and exploiting them. Then again, it was clearly the better option to let go of her principles for just this one time. No. Principles existed to be kept, or else those who fight the monsters will become monsters themselves. Clearly, there was absolutely no way out of this situation, or at least Klara thought so. However, there were more dreadful problems that needed seeing to, as the very next second, Dawn started shouting at her in her own language, but even through her unknown words, her panic came across clearly. She was constantly pointing to Neli with a shaking hand, as if something happened to her friend. “Please repeat that,” said Klara in her broken travoclef after Dawn stopped. “I said Neli is colder than a piece of ice!” repeated Dawn in the same language, which made the colour drain from Klara’s face. She knew all too well what that meant, but that was clearly impossible. There was no way that this primitive Territory could use weapons based on BFPMUE. From what she has seen, their pistols did not even remotely look like they could handle BFPMUE, but then again, it was possible that they merely integrated BFPMUE into their bullets. The realisation hit her like a truck, so without hesitation, she took her armoured gloves off and grabbed Neli by her neck. The teenager was indeed colder than she should have been, but at least there were no major complications yet. Klara has seen far worse cases, and even her limited hospital would be able to handle Neli’s condition. Worst-case scenario, she could just go back to her home even if it meant breaking the rules. However, as she liked to be sure about her business, she decided to ask Dawn about this Territory’s weapons. “Dawn, do you know of BFPMUE?” “What is BFPMUE? Speak my language!” said Dawn in a tone that walked the fine line between confusion and anger. “Blue… atom?” asked Klara, unsure of what she should say. She did not know the term for BFPMUE in the travoclef language and explaining it in proper terms was simply beyond her vocabulary. “You mean Divina hutulch?” asked Dawn and now it was Klara’s turn to be confused, but before she could ask what hutulch was, Dawn explained the term. “It is a blue hutulch that comes from water.” While Klara was ashamed of displaying her confusion in front of a stranger, at least the information matched up with what she knew. Neli was clearly hit with primitive BFPMUE bullets, but if they were at such an early stage, then this Territory would likely not know enough of them to heal Neli. Therefore, Neli had to be taken to her headquarters, but how would she convince Dawn that this Territory could not heal her friend? There was definitely not enough time for long arguments as time was of the essence when dealing with BFPMUE contaminations. She had to come up with a way to convince Dawn quickly, upon which thought her eyes fell upon her pistol. Without a second thought, Klara pulled the pistol out of its holster, toggled a switch on the side, aimed it towards Dawn, then she pulled the trigger, sending a pair of electrodes with flying towards the teenager. The next moment, thousands of volts crossed the thin, barely visible cable between the barrel of her gun and the electrodes, rendering Dawn unconscious. The teenager slumped to the ground without making a sound. As a result, Klara earned a disapproving glare from Heine, who immediately let his displeasure be known. “A peaceful solution is always better, lady hail,” said Heine as he watched as Klara’s pistol reel the electrodes in. “I know, but there was no other way,” said Klara. “Take both of them to HQ’s emergency ward,” she gestured towards her soldiers. “Heine, you are staying with me. I want to know who those people are,” she added, putting her gloves on again. Her Territory’s relationship with this Territory was completely neutral as not one of her people has visited this land before. Therefore, there should have been no reason for the forces of this Territory to attack her, yet they still did and she had to know why so she could eliminate the source of these attacks. “The attackers have fled.” “That does not mean I can let them be,” said Klara. “I need to find out what caused this mess.” “Or rather, who caused this mess,” commented Heine, to which Klara gave him an angry look. “I just stated the obvious, lady hail.” “I wish you followed orders instead of questioning them,” said Klara as she toggled a switch on her pistol and the rows of teeth on the inside lit up with a faint, sapphire blue light, while Heine took his rifle off from his back, but then he put it back into its place right away as he realised that he needed to set Klara’s priorities right once again. “We should make sure the girls are okay first,” said Heine, earning himself yet another angry look from Klara, not that he cared about it. “You will not find the reason now. It will take days.” “That is why I have to start looking for those people right now, Heine. If I lose any time, then the life of my associates and I will be in danger. I must eliminate the cause of this incident as soon as possible,” said Klara as she waved for Heine to follow her, but the soldier refused to even budge. He has seen far too many battles to accept these kinds of orders, he had too much experience to see Klara’s decision as the right one and he was far too important for her to order him around like that. “Enough was done today, lady hail,” said Heine, which made Klara stop dead in her tracks. “You cannot catch those men.” “What are you talking about, Heine? Are you telling me to abandon my principles for the sake of two teenage girls? That is simply insanity,” said Klara as she turned back towards her disobedient subordinate. She really did not like where this was going as she felt that she had to catch the attackers right now. The two teenagers could survive while she was away. “No. You should give up on the hopeless. The men fled long ago. There is no trail to find,” explained Heine to Klara. At that answer, Klara stared at Heine for a few, overly long seconds as she tried to find a reason to chase after her attackers, but she found none. “You are right as always, Heine. I really should have used my brain first,” said Klara in a sour tone as she toggled the switch on her pistol and put it back into its holster. “Not to mention that I will need much better weapons if I am to lead a searching operation. Let us go back to the headquarters, Heine.” “Understood, lady hail,” said Heine with a huge grin. “I am glad you see it that way.” “I still have a lot to learn, Heine,” said Klara as an afterthought, then she followed Heine back to headquarters. The huge truck that served as Klara’s headquarters was parked quite far away from where the chase had ended, but for the young woman and her chief soldier, it took less than an hour to arrive there. As always, there was a crowd of people staring at the simply gigantic vehicle. Indeed, a truck with five segments, four of which was longer than twenty metres and were interconnected by flexible passageways, was a rare sight, not to mention that the vehicle was almost five metres wide and ten metres tall. It was certainly an imposing sight with its sharp yet gentle angles that somehow shaped the machine into an aerodynamic construct. The most interesting fact for the crowd who looked at it, though, must have been its lack of physical suspension as a truck of this weight class could literally crack concrete if its weight was not spread well. As a result, the designers of the vehicle integrated low-maintenance BFPMUE hoverplates into the bottom of the truck to save themselves and the mechanics some time. Klara and Heine were used to the sight, though, so after making their way through the small crowd of people that gathered around the vehicle, Heine climbed up into the driver’s seat while Klara went straight to the medical section of the truck to check on the teenagers. It turned out that the situation was worse than she anticipated as while the surgeons could remove the bullet from Neli without incident, it seemed like the BFPMUE rather liked her presence and she was losing body heat constantly. At this rate, Klara was told, the teenager would die in just a few hours unless she managed to find a way to exorcise the BFPMUE from her system. On the more fortunate side of the coin, though, Dawn was all right, although she was understandably angry at being shot with a Taser. Unfortunately, Klara needed her assistance so she could help Neli. There was no way she could avoid that confrontation, so she braced herself and went to the room Dawn was being held in. “Good day,” said Klara as she entered the room Dawn was being kept in. She was met by a glare that could splice a diamond into atoms, melt even the strongest ceramics and simply end a human being without leaving as much as a pool of blood behind. “There you are,” said Dawn furiously. “What were you thinking?” “I am sorry. I did not know what to do,” admitted Klara as she tried to find the right words. “You know Divina atom, right?” “Divina has nothing to do with this!” snapped Dawn. “I just want to know why you brought me and my friend here. She has to go to a hospital instead of being treated in a place like this,” she said, her eyes trying to drill their way into Klara’s soul. Unfortunately for her, though, the young woman was far too used to stares like that so she was not even a bit distracted by it. “She dies if she goes to a hospital,” said Klara. Dawn simply glared at her at that, but then she realised that she was getting too angry to argue with Klara comprehensively, so she took a few breaths to calm herself down. “What do you mean she dies?” asked Dawn, who was much calmer now, but she was still clearly angry. Klara could really not fault her for that, nor could she do anything to calm her down. Explaining the properties of BFPMUE were beyond her limited travoclef vocabulary, not to mention that it would take too much time, which she did not have. She needed to find out if there was a sea nearby quickly, as every minute she spent here was a minute that she could use to save Neli. Still, she knew that Dawn would not give her assistance unless she was calmed down. “I cannot use the good words,” said Klara. “It is too difficult to tell.” “Well then I might just have to call the police and tell them what a good host you are.” “No. I can try, but you will not understand.” “You never know. But that explanation better be perfect unless you want me to end your little trip into this Territory!” “Yes,” said Klara as she gathered her thoughts, trying to recall how her father explained the BFPMUE to her when she was still young and did not understand the technical terms she used so frequently now, only to realise that she did not know word like “energy” or “absorb” in travoclef. That meant that she had to put together an even simpler explanation, one that used only basic words. Finally, after what seemed to an eternity to her, she finally managed to come up with something that shed light to the most important properties of the particles. “Okay. I think I have it,” said Klara as she went over everything once more. “Divina drain without end. They drain hot, cool, electronic, everything and put it away. They are not trouble usually, but when put into metal, they become trouble. They stay away from humans, but not in metal. From metal, Divina get into blood and drain.” “What? I did not understand any of that,” said Dawn as she stared at Klara in confusion. “Why would they change when they come in contact with metal?” “Divina do not change. Divina just get into blood and drain hot,” said Klara, which was when the realisation hit Dawn like a truck. Klara was saying that when the particles were infused into metal, they got into the bloodstream and drained body heat! “No way,” said Dawn with a look of utter disbelief on her face. “So you are saying that Neli will freeze because Divina hutulch got into her blood? Why do we not know about this?” “They do not know the way to get better,” said Klara, referring to the government of Dawn’s Territory. “I know how to get better. I can help Neli,” she continued, stepping closer to the bed of Dawn, who still could not believe what she was hearing. “Are you sure?” “Yes. I can help Neli,” repeated Klara as she grabbed a nearby chair and sat down. “But I need your help.” “Why would you need my help?” asked Dawn, who was even more confused now. “Better yet, you can barely understand me, so how could I help you?” “Understanding is easier than saying,” said Klara. “I must find salt water close.” “There are no seas nearby if that is what you mean,” said Dawn and Klara felt her heart sink to unknowable depths. How was she supposed to exorcise the BFPMUE from Neli’s system if she did not have access to seawater? The teenager would survive only for a day at best, and at worst, she had only hours. It did not matter if Klara had brought with her the greatest doctors from home, without seawater, not even they could do anything against the BFPMUE. “How far is close salt water?” asked Klara, clinging to a last shred of hope. Maybe if the sea was close enough, she could just move her headquarters there instead of bringing seawater back to her headquarters. “It is four hours by Shinkansen,” sighed Dawn. “But I guess that is too far away,” she said, resigning herself to her fate. It would take at least a day to cross such a distance with an ordinary vehicle. “What is Shinkansen?” “It is a very fast train that goes at three hundred kilometres an hour,” explained Dawn, to which Klara’s face lit up inexplicably. “Good. We will be there in two hours,” she said as she tapped at something on her wrist. “What is the name?” Twin Moons Chapter Four (Move your mouse to reveal the content) Twin Moons Chapter Four (open) Twin Moons Chapter Four (close) I apologise for taking this long with this chapter, but university life and the fact that this chapter was not exactly planned got in the way. Halfway through, I stumbled into a severe block that I could not get over for a long time. I feel like I also had trouble with representing a certain character's mindset in this chapter and I am not satisfied with the ending paragraphs at all, which really could use a stronger impact and some re-writing. But alas, I have dragged this on for long enough, so without further ado, I present to you the fourth chapter of Twin Moons. Chapter four: Of nightmares and mercenaries The plains outside the city have been home to many strange events, yet not one of them were quite as strange as the battle which was taking place right now. While in the past, whole armies have marched across this land, bringing with them incomprehensible destruction, this battle was only between two monsters. One of them was supposedly human, yet its body was coated in thick, sapphire blue steel that flowed like water. The other was not even trying to be human, instead, it seemed to be content with being an existence which conflicted with most logical concepts. Both of them were frightening in their own right, but because of different reasons. The beast which seemed human was frightening because its thick yet graceful armour was clearly made with technologies beyond human comprehension. It was terrifying because the line which divided its metal shell into two halves did not even attempt to smooth the transition between the two radically different shores of the river-like metal. On the left shore was a masterful, golden forgery that depicted the birth of a creature, the life cycle of a being which journeyed through four stages of life in seven steps. In contrast to that, the right shore was dominated by a shallow engraving that told a twisted fairy tale, in which the heroic princess ended up becoming just as much of a monster as the villain. Between these two shores flowed the form of the beast itself, with the unusually long face and the dark blonde hair of a human, but with the sapphire blue stare of a fanatic. The beast which was determined not be human was frightening because it could not be likened to anything, yet it was clearly recognisable as an animal. Which animal it was, though, was open to interpretation as despite the creature having four legs, they were too thick to belong any known species. What is more, the body of the strange creature was composed of nothing but a blob of blood white flesh that grew as it pleased without rhyme or reason. It had no arms, nor fingers, nor any other appendages besides its legs, but it did not need one, for the world around it bent to its whim. As if that was not enough for this strange creature, its body was made out of rope-like muscles that held in them the power to end any being that it might come across. Whichever of these abominations would win this battle, humanity would surely lose. In fact, it could be said that regardless of the outcome, all sapient life would be worse off, because there was nothing to be won when two of the Incomprehensible met. After all, everything that was Incomprehensible was doomed to remain so forever, even if it met another one of its kind, even if it absorbed another one of its kind. One could only hope that such a thing would not happen in this abandoned place, because it would surely spell doom for the nearby city along with its inhabitants. Then the creature which resulted from the unholy union of two Incomprehensible beings would grow until it consumed the entire Territory, turning it into an indescribable nightmare. But perhaps such a thing would take pity on the primitive humans, so it would change them to make them become like itself. However, appearances meant nothing on the plains of this world as the armoured beast just proved, for it uttered human words that the Incomprehensible would not be able to understand, let alone pronounce. “The Known shall end the Unknown!” The mantra of an ancient, almost dead religion echoed across the empty plains, making the inhuman beast tremble. “I am a soldier of the Comprehensible, a life dedicated to serve the three in thirteen!” continued the man covered in armour as he charged at the creature in front of him, slamming into it with a force that could have toppled skyscrapers. At the moment of the impact, a massive wave of heat and electricity swept over the nearby terrain. The air was ionised rapidly, creating artificial lightning which arced from the armoured man to the Incomprehensible beast, frying the muscles of the monster. As if that was not enough, the heat of a newly born star surged through the body of the being, evaporating most of its flesh, but sparing its nerve centres so it could cause as much pain as possible. The beast screamed, or more accurately, let out a madness-inducing sound that was the equivalent of a human scream in the creature’s tongue. Normally, this scream would have made the humans around it faint or run away in terror, but the fanatic in front of the thing was different as he had endured this wail over a thousand times. He had faced such abominations before and had stared down ones that were superior to it in every way. He had survived witnessing the birth of something that nobody was ever meant to see. He has retained his sanity through every encounter he had with the Incomprehensible despite the madness which always threatened his mind. To put it simply, he had defied every single law the beast facing him operated on, and upon this realisation, terror, or at least an emotion which was its equivalent to terror, overtook the form of the creature. Naturally, its first conclusion was to flee from such an illogical human, but the warrior grabbed its body with surprising strength, crushing its non-existent bones. Once again, the monster screamed and tried to escape the grip of the one who filled its heart with an emotion that it never felt, but whoever its opponent was, his grip was just too strong. Upon realising that, the beast attempted to engulf its enemy by making its body flow around him, but the moment one of its amorphous tendrils crawled up the arm of the man, the creature was sent flying to the right, an angle that was impossible considering that its opponent had charged it from the front. Furthermore, the monster knew that its mass was too great to be even slightly affected by something like a human colliding with it. Therefore, the beast reacted with absolute confusion, or at least the emotion that roughly mirrored the one humans called confusion, to which the fanatic responded with a cold, piercing glare that could shatter even this strange creation’s soul if it had one. “I am a soldier of the Realities, a soul honed to perceive everything as it is meant to be seen!” shouted the man, continuing his mantra as he slammed his fists together, creating a sonic boom which toppled the beast. Such a loud sound should have ruptured his eardrums or the sudden change in pressure should have cracked his skull like a nut, but the warrior seemed to be unaffected by the wave of air. In fact, before the monster even had a chance to regain its footing, the man had already jumped onto it, smashing his leg into the body of the creature with such a great force that the beast literally split open. Realising that its opponent was more than it could handle, the monster tried to flee, but something which felt like gravity shackled its limbs, keeping it connected to the fanatic, whose mere words seem to shatter the world this creature built around itself. “I am a soldier of the Known, one who swore an oath to remain as they are so that all may understand them!” shouted the man again, adding yet another strange sentence to his proclamation. By now, he was completely overcome by religious ecstasy. His face seemed to be blank and devoid of emotion, yet the strength of his armour-piercing gaze remained. His limbs looked limp, however, they now contained within them energy that could split the Earth in half. Meanwhile, his body assumed a well-practiced stance that was absolutely illogical from a combat standpoint: three of the fanatic’s fingers were pressed to the body of his enemy in a way that all of his weight rested on his hand, pinning the creature to the ground. Had his opponent been a skilled fighter, they could have easily knocked him off-balance regardless of his weight, but alas, the monster in his hands did not know of things like martial arts. It only knew of the end which approached it in the form of infinite heat, slowly boiling it from the inside out as a new sun was born in the palm of the religious fanatic. It only knew of the pain that came with evaporating muscles and of the silent scream that was not even a whimper, because the slowly disappearing sun sublimated its non-existent vocal chords, the death of a life-giving star paralleling the cessation of an Incomprehensible being. “This unit acknowledges the value of religious beliefs and rituals,” said a synthetized, emotionless voice as the last bits of the creature disappeared into thin air. “However. This unit expresses the need to eliminate the next target. Failure to comply with the elimination of the targets is highly likely to result in complete contamination. This unit reminds its possessor that the elimination of the being known as Lurking Iron Ground is necessary to the continued survival of this Territory,” explained the voice which came from the armour, shattering the religious ecstasy of the man into tiny pieces. For a second, uncontained fury flashed through the face of the man, but he managed to contain his anger right away, preparing to scold his weapon of war for the umpteenth time since they have been together. “I know, Seadivider,” said the man as he stood up, his voice cold and harsh despite the fact his companion was not able to understand his tone. “If that statement is true. Then this unit repeats the fact that the elimination of the Lurking Iron Ground-“ started the voice, but suddenly, the man smashed his armoured suit against the ground, causing the voice to stop. “Never mention the name of the Unknown more than once,” said the man as he looked at the machine with a scorn that could split a diamond in half. Of course, the machine could not interpret how the eyes of the fanatic moved, and as such, it replied with the response it thought was the most fitting for the situation. “This unit is capable of expressing itself only in terms which have been programmed into the dictionary it possesses. Therefore. This unit should not be on the receiving end of actions. Which could cause damage to the unit,” said Seadivider calmly, as if it was not even smashed to the ground. After all, the machine was designed for combat, so its creators did not give it emotions which only impeded performance in battle. “I know, Seadivider,” said the man coldly as he stood up again, scanning his surroundings for potential enemies. When his eternal companion, the relic known as Seadivider did not respond to his statement and he did not see any signs of trouble on the horizon, he decided to ask a question of it. “Is there any Unknown nearby?” “Negative. This unit is not able to detect any abnormalities in the electromagnetic spectrum. This unit is not able to detect the location of the Lurking Iron Ground,” responded the machine, which made the fanatic stare at the thick combat armour. He was sure that the Unknown was nearby as he felt the ruthless, paradoxical hand of those whose names he did not dare to pronounce because his faith told him not to, yet this machine could not find it. Once again, he was disappointed in his companion as his beliefs would not allow to let the Unknown reign free, especially not because he had been granted the title of Crosstearer, one who was in charge of exterminating the Unknown. “Analyse the area for signs of the Known and Unknown,” said the warrior with a cold fury in his voice as he took in the nearby city. He would find a trail to follow even if it cost him his life, because not destroying the Unknown which lurked in this Territory would be the same as betraying his faith. “This unit is unable to confirm the presence of Sarkon particles. However. The density of Sirkin particles is significantly higher than the accepted standard for this Territory. This unit requests to be linked up to the nearest TCT in order to acquire more information,” responded Seadivider after a second of pause, to which Crosstearer gritted his teeth. That meant he was late, for the overwhelming red has already started claiming this Territory and had eliminated the faithful servants of the Known. “What is the concentration of the blood petals?” he asked with religious hatred in his voice, a scowl forming on his face. “The density of Sirkin Particles in this area is 4729 particles per cubic akar,” said Seadivider, which almost made the fanatic lose his mind, and even through the thick armour of the machine, he could be seen trembling as he tried to contain his anger. He clenched his hands so hard that the plates of Seadivider actually started bending even as he tried to fight the tidal waves of rage which washed though him, setting his nerve endings on fire. From his birth, these four abominable numbers were etched into his soul as the embodiments of the highest Unknown, the greatest enemy of humanity. Every day, he was taught to reject these numbers with all his might, for they meant the seven-in four and the seven-point star made out of four straight lines, a step beyond what was considered perfection by the Unknown. Their only remedying fact was that they were three, but that was only a deception so that the sapient mind would fall into the trap of an existence which can never be Known. If the numbers had been just four and seven, Crosstearer would have been fine, however, the twenty-nine which was added after them could not be forgiven. After all, twenty-nine meant that the despot, the tyrant, the dictator who masqueraded as an innocent princess was not far away from here, as it was her number. Combined with the other two monstrous numbers, it meant that she had been here for a long time, long enough that she had already started to paint this Territory blood white, slowly corrupting it with the overwhelming red. The fact that there were no Sarkon particles in this area, which were the servants of the Known, also supported this. After all, any faithful servant of the Known fought until the bitter end. It had to be that way, or else everything would have fallen to the Unknown a long time ago and the world would have succumbed to chaos under the rule of such strange concepts. “Are there any people who support the Known here?” asked the owner of Seadivider, as he fought with the torrent of his emotions using firestorms of logic. So far, emotions seemed to be winning the battle, extinguishing the fires, but he did not give up. “This unit does not have access to the databases of this city. As such it is unable to answer the question. Should this unit access then publicly available databases?” “Yes,” said Crosstearer coolly as he started taking deep breaths in a way attempt to control his emotions. It seemed to work to a limited extent, because he finally managed to open his palms, but his mind was still filled with righteous rage against the numbers he had heard earlier. “Acknowledged,” responded Seadivider after a slight pause. “This unit reports that in an area known as Tesla Square to the locals. A machine was sighted which matches the description of Glacier. The machine departed approximately three hours ago. No other possible sympathisers have been detected,” at that, the eyes of the fanatic narrowed, forgetting the fury that nearly overcame him just a few seconds ago. Why would icerain leave this city if they knew that it was in danger? The last time Crosstearer’s religion came across icerain, they had made an agreement that they would support each other in the presence of blood petals, but icerain seemed to have fled the scene on the first sign of trouble. That is, the man realised, if they knew that the blood petals had started polluting the area. It was entirely possible that they had no means of detecting the overwhelming red, because even Seadivider failed at this task occasionally despite the fact it was designed for this purpose. “Is there a mercenary centre in the city?” asked the man after a long pause. He had trouble deciding what to do, because he knew that if this Territory was corrupted by the warped girl, he had no chance of victory alone. He would need at least several dozen people if he was to take on her, but the harsh truth of the matter was that against her, not even a whole army would be enough. Even if he managed to acquire the support of icerain, he was sure that the only thing they would manage to do is to chase her away, only for her to return a few years later. She was never one to give up on her plans, after all. “Yes. Should this unit provide directions to the mercenary centre?” asked Seadivider. “Yes,” said the warrior, who had already started making his way into the city when the armour answered his question, because against the Unknown, every moment mattered. If it was left unchecked for just a bit longer than it should have been, it could transform from a minor presence into a beast which warped reality, or an abomination which obeyed nothing but its own twisted logic. If such a thing happened, then all hope would be lost, for the monster who masqueraded as a princess would not be far behind the self-serving creatures. And if she arrived first, just like now, then the situation was dire indeed, because she saw potential in this area. Crosstearer knew very well what that meant, as he had faced her before countless times, even if he had not confronted her directly so far. For humans, her attention was nothing short of a death sentence, or if one was especially unlucky, madness which forced them to serve the Unknown. For humans, the only hope against her was to remain Known, but even then, she sometimes set her eyes on people based on some inane criteria. So when she had already taken interest to something, the only solution was to exorcise her taint, eliminate those whom she was fixated on, then burn everything to the ground. It was a merciless job, but the fanatic knew it had to be done, or else the Unknown would spread further. Therefore, his course of action was clear. If icerain returned to the city, he would team up with them and their soldiers, then perform his task regardless of the odds stacked against him. Until then, he would post a job advertisement for mercenaries, obscuring his true purpose from them and purge the Unknown from this land with their help. The only issue with the latter plan was that he had nowhere near enough money to hire a whole army of mercenaries, but for a servant of the Known to give up without trying was a disgrace like no other. To them, to not fight back against the Unknown was the same as surrendering themselves to it, even if their minds remained unaffected by its soul-warping presence. To them, a missed opportunity was the greatest failure they could ever experience, because they had to make use of every opening. To them, giving up before they even started was the same as betraying their oath, because their hated enemy would take advantage of their momentary weakness. With these thoughts, Crosstearer made his way into the city, not even stopping at the commotion he seemed to cause. Every single person he passed by had their eyes fixed on him as if he was an exotic animal, and if they got too close to him, they simply fled from his path rather than risking confrontation with him. It was most likely because the huge combat armour he wore marked him as one who was best avoided as it spoke volumes about with his combat skill, not to mention that it made him seem much larger than he was. His piercing gaze did not really help his case either, as anybody who dared to meet his eyes felt as if they were stripped from limb to limb, then dismissed as people who were unable to threaten a warrior of his calibre. Even his posture was unnerving to people as it carried supreme confidence which came from his own religious beliefs as they demanded an absolute sense of purpose so that its members would not be lured by the Unknown’s promises. But regardless of everything, the man just went on as if he saw nothing, because he was already used to these fearful stares which seemed to accompany him everywhere he went. He also disregarded the creaking of the pavement which almost cracked under the weight of his suit of armour, because he knew that no matter which city he was in, they would not risk confrontation with a mercenary like him. He was considered far too dangerous to be engaged with a conventional military because Seadivider could bend the world around itself like the Unknown did, with the only difference being that the relic was under his control. It was not roaming around, turning people into mindless abominations or purging entire Territories because they did not obey the Unknown. These facts made Seadivider into a Known entity, something which could be used to fight against the arch enemy of his religion, something which could be controlled. But the city did not need to know that. The city only needed to know that when a mercenary entered the local mercenary centre, they were to be attended to immediately or else the more ill-tempered ones would turn the settlement into dust. As such, when Crosstearer entered the small, almost empty building, a young man rushed to his side immediately, then opened his eyes wide with realisation as he recognised him from. “Crosstearer!” he said in the language of the Trader City as he stared at the huge armour the fanatic wore. “I never thought that I would meet you again.” “Me neither, Relós,” said Crosstearer in the same language as he looked at his old friend, Relós. A young man in his early twenties, the remarkably short, bald man gave the impression that he could be snapped in half at any moment. He seemed frail, fragile and useless so most people just dismissed him, but if one were to look into his piercingly silver eyes, they would realise that Relós was a fighter. Even though he looked like a corpse at times, the man with the extraordinarily bony face was not one to be dismissed, but he was also not one who could do too much physically. As a result, even if he had fire in his eyes and devotion in his soul, Crosstearer did not introduce him to the traditions of the Known, because he knew that Relós could only die against the Unknown. “What brings you into this Territory?” asked Relós as he extended his hand towards Crosstearer, who squeezed it as gently as he could, but even then, the fanatic could see the frail man wince at the pressure. “I have business,” said Crosstearer. “I want to set up an advertisement for mercenaries. I want to know where icerain is, too.” “I can help you with both,” smiled the young man. “Though I admit, there is not too much information about Klara Hellewege. She only registered a permanent spot for Glacier at Tesla Square and requested the government to provide her with a copy of the local laws,” he said as he lead Crosstearer to a nearby terminal. “Do you know where she took off to?” asked Crosstearer, which took Relós by surprise. “You want to contact icerain, do you not?” asked the young man. Crosstearer only nodded at that. “That is going to be very difficult, if not impossible. She went off the sensor grid almost as soon as she blasted off with Glacier, so I can only tell you her general direction,” he said and he looked at Crosstearer as he was asking for the fanatic’s permission. “What about other cities?” “Glacier was supposedly seen near Edisontown, at the Sapphire Sea, but their sensor grid cannot be trusted. The last time it slighted Glacier, it turned out to be a self-aware relic named Lifemillstone,” shuddered Relós as he remembered the incident. “The city attempted to contact it but it was hostile. Only I and a few others got out alive.” “This unit believes that travelling to the Sapphire Sea is a logical choice when the preceding events are taken into account,” spoke Seadivider, ruthlessly stamping on the pain of Relós as he was not allowed to truly reflect on what had happened. “Should this unit elaborate upon the opinion of this unit?” “Yes,” said Relós, hoping to get an explanation of Klara Hellewege’s actions. “No,” said Crosstearer at the same time, shooting down the frail man’s hopes immediately. “After I set up the advertisement, give me directions to the Sapphire Sea.” “Travelling to the Sapphire Sea takes several hours,” pointed out Relós as he set the terminal up. “Icerain only stayed here for a little more than two hours. She could have moved on by the time you arrive in Edisontown… Now, what will the advertisement be about?” he asked, pretending that the previous moment never happened. He knew Crosstearer too well to get stuck on small things like the fanatic denying him information. Besides, he had his own hypothesis about why Klara Hellewege would go there, but there was no need for his friend to know that. “I am looking for mercenaries,” said Crosstearer and Relós’ fingers stopped on the keyboard as he contemplated the implications of that. “A mercenary seeking mercenaries…” he said silently. “What kind of trouble have you got yourself into again, Crosstearer? I swear that if I have to pull data-manipulating magic and risk my job over you again like last time, I will do something that even I will regret.” “It does not concern you. Tell the mercenaries that details will be revealed if they talk to me. I will remain in the city. The information was useful,” said Crosstearer as he opened a small, barely visible compartment on Seadivider and took out of it one coin, which he passed to Relós. Relós took the coin into his hands and when he saw what was inscribed on it, his eyes widened and it took all of his willpower not to faint on the spot. “Ten Standard Valutes… That is almost half a year’s salary over here...” said the young man as he looked at the coin with awe, turning it around in his hand to make sure that it was not fake. It was not. “Thank you so much, Crosstearer. You have no idea…” he started, but when he looked up, he could not see Crosstearer anymore. The man was already gone and he did not even say goodbye. But then again, that was how all of their encounters went, with him trying to be as friendly and open with the mercenary as possible, yet the warrior never opened up to Relós. Whenever the young man tried to bond with the fanatic, he left unceremoniously, always finding some sort of a task which could occupy him. This time, Crosstearer decided that he needed to investigate the city to see if he could spot the Unknown. “Seadivider, what is the local time?” asked the warrior of his relic as he looked at the descending sun. “The local time is seventeen hours thirty-two minutes. This unit recommends that its possessor seek a place to rest for the night. As twilight is going to happen in approximately two hours,” responded Seadivider in its usual tone. “I will not waste time. Seadivider, scan the area permanently for Sirkin particles and alert me to any changes in their density,” said Crosstearer with a hint of contempt in his voice, one of his fists clenching before he suppressed his anger. “Acknowledged. This unit is now monitoring the density of Sirkin particles,” said the relic, upon which Crosstearer started walking in a random direction. After all, when one was dealing with the Unknown, they could not trust the tools of the Known such as logic or reason, because they would always lead to false results, or madness in the worst case scenario. Such was the nature of the enemy Crosstearer fought: an unpredictable entity which always brought something new to the table, warping reality with its mere presence. Therefore, Crosstearer was not very surprised when neither he, nor Seadivider could find any traces of the Unknown even though night had already come hours ago. If anything, the lack of results just made him that much eager to discover where the Unknown hid in this city, so the more time he spent searching for the arch enemy of his religion, the more alert he became. Each hour he spent searching for the Unknown just made his senses sharper, his mind slowly attuning itself to finding that which was out of place. Therefore, when the mercenary finally found something beyond human comprehension, his senses screamed at him, flooding his soul with unbearable pain. What seemed like a tidal wave of Unknown assaulted his mind, crawling down in his spine and making him shiver, but to the fanatic, this feeling was associated with religious ecstasy. And that gave him strength that many could not even imagine. Within the fraction of a section, Crosstearer launched himself at his target, literally cracking open the concrete at his feet as he moved through the streets with unnatural speed. His target was close, very close to him, and from the presence he felt, he knew that whatever it was, the Unknown had not recognised him yet. That was good, because it meant that it was still young and inexperienced, one that was not accustomed to not being Known yet, one that could not force its logic on the world. They were the easiest and the most satisfying to defeat as they always lamented their own death, showing proper emotions that the servants of the Known could recognise. “The Known shall end the Unknown!” shouted Crosstearer, his voice cutting into the air of the night as he delivered his first punch, but his yell was interrupted by a blood white flash followed by a clang of metal against metal. He felt his fists connect with something hard, which surprised him greatly, as the Unknown never used materials which belonged to the Known in his experience. At the same time, confusion slowly spread over his body as he started wondering if he had attacked a human being by mistake, knowing that he could have killed anyone instantly with his strike, thus breaking his oath. The only thing that kept him from panicking and breaking out in cold sweat was the brief flash of the overwhelming red he just saw. Naturally, his enemy exploited his surprise, punching him in the jawbone with such skill and force that Crosstearer started to question if he really was fighting the Unknown. Fortunately for him, though, the sharp pain knocked some sense back into the warrior, so he raised his fist to strike… But when he saw his opponent, he jumped away at the last moment, relying on the strength of Seadivider to carry himself as far as possible from the fight. That flash of red, that movement, that precision was not something he expected of an opponent who was Unknown, but he could cope with that. He could also cope with the fact that the Unknown was using the Known for purposes which no human could understand, because it always has been that way. No, what he could not cope with was the shape of his opponent, the form the arch enemy of his religion took during this engagement. It was a form that his subconscious simply refused to accept even though he had seen horrors beyond comprehension. It was a shape that both represented the most vicious enemy of the Known yet it was impossible for the Unknown to wield it. It was a shape that petrified him to the bone, for he did not know how he should act against this strange phenomenon. He did not stop because he had not recognised the form, because he knew this form all too well. He did not stop because he knew that he could not defeat the enemy in front of him, because his religion gave him confidence that he could eliminate any Unknown if he wished to do so. No, he stopped because in front of him stood something that should not have been there, as the figure in front of him did not belong to any battlefield. It especially did not belong to the battlefield of Known and Unknown, even though its legs were braced in a combat stance of a martial art that Crosstearer did not recognise. Even though in its left hand, it held a thick, reddish grey steel rod and even though it wore practical, dark clothes which covered its body, even though it had black gloves which were reinforced at the knuckles for greater striking power, the mind of Crosstearer simply refused to recognise it as his opponent. After all, the Known was doomed if eighteen-year-old girls with striking, sea blue eyes and long, red hair had started serving the Unknown while he was not looking.