B3 — 12. Invitation

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POV:  Rachel Park

Recap:  Rachel and the group had to suffer through some politics that bled Tom’s stress and frustration before he explained the Executive Branch’s discussion.  Fiona got a house!  Maria is now Sleeping Beauty (unbeknownst to her), and they’re getting ready to enter the crystal … oh, and if they fail, they’re nuking the place!


Rachel got to her feet, the others following her example.  “Alright,” she chuckled, smirking to her right at Maria. “Going to walk back to the crystal?”

“Straight real talk there,” Maria grunted.  Her left eyebrow raised as she scrutinized Rachel before her silver irises moved to Scarlet.  “What’s up with everyone having higher Elemental Resistance than me?”

Fiona hovered up to her eye level, giggling as she appraised Maria’s multiple layers of clothes.  “Well, you have very high Control Resistance; that’s pretty good!”

“Yeah, but all of you,” she huffed.  “Every single one of you has above-average Elemental Resistance.  I hate the cold,” she mumbled, shivering as she glanced toward the door.  “Now you’re saying I need to go through a blizzard?”

“Sorry,” Scarlet said with a forced smile.

“C’mon!”  Fiona shot over to her, nudging her shoulder.  “Don’t be a princess about it; I’ll make it warm for you.”

Rachel smiled innocently.  “Well,” everyone turned to listen, “we could always send for a prince to save you.”

Maria’s pointed ears and cheeks reddened as laughter filled the trailer.

“What the hell’s up with that?  Fiona said something like that when she came to get me; what’d I miss, eh?  I don’t need a crappy prince … freak…”

“Just a rumor about sleeping beauty,” Rachel said dismissively.  “Anyways, we’re still in the middle of a small scale war that could grow much bigger.  You all ready?”

“I am,” Scarlet turned back to Tom.  “Umm—is there anything you want us to do with it—it’s like a bulb or something, right?  I mean, if it’s too big to pluck or Maria can’t absorb the energy, then should Fiona and I try to break it?”

Fiona’s fist shot into the air as a bright ball of fire erupted above her; a hot gust of wind exploded around the area.  “I’ll melt it into a puddle!”

Tom sat back, causing his chair to squeak, eyeing Fiona’s fireball before it quickly vanished.  A sigh left his lips as he folded his hands across his stomach. “To be honest, I don’t know what might happen.  We ran through many scenarios, and some of them aren’t that appealing. There is, however, some additional information you’ll need.

“This bulb is like a power core with Solar Energy as its fuel; this isn’t the kind of solar to electric energy we’re accustomed to, either, from what our sources on these new forms of energy explained.  Similar to Rachel’s Lunar Energy, this is something new. Is that fair to say?”

Rachel nodded, and his implication suddenly sparked in her mind.  “If it is a massive battery, housing Solar Energy, then it could detonate.”

A lump dropped down Scarlet’s throat; her blue eyes shot between Rachel and Tom.  “You don’t mean…”

“Yes,” Tom stated gravely.

“You couldn’t have told us that sooner—before we were about to head out?”  Maria asked with a twist to her nose. “That’s pretty important!”

Tom’s lips became a line, and it took him a second to respond.  “Yes, that’s why I’m bringing it up before you leave.” He glanced to his left at Scarlet.  “I understand if you are a little scared about this plan, and to be frank—this isn’t my first option, but it’s what the Security Council decided as the first plan.”

Fiona’s brow creased with concern.  “Even though it could kill her?”

Rachel’s lips fell as she folded her arms, mind working on the reasons for this decision.  “There are members of the Security Council that fear Scarlet. Were you supposed to tell us about this in the first place?”

“Yes,” Tom stated, and Maria nodded, indicating he was telling the truth.  “However, you’re right in thinking there are members that just wanted to leave the dangers out of the discussion; there’s a push back from both political parties to try and control the Demi.  They’re not happy with my use of Demis in regards to public safety and border protection.”

“That’s horrible,” Fiona huffed.  “We’re alive, too! We’re not mindless beasts.”

Maria clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth.  “It’s the government; what do you expect? It’s all about giving people free things to make em slaves to the state.  Why not do the same to people that have power, huh? Typical.”

Rachel’s wide field of vision and large ears caught everyone’s reactions, but Scarlet’s was expected and concerning.  Her body curved in, head drooping as she took on a defensive posture; she knew how badly she frightened people, and their fear was like dopamine for her that she had to fight.

“If both political parties want to create the enemy they imagine, then they should keep making decisions like that.”  She stated coldly, red eyes moved to Tom as he responded.

“You’ll get no complaints from me; we often create our own enemies out of our prejudice.  Of course, it’s rarely a one-sided issue; there are plenty of examples for them to pull from to point to the dangers of Demis.

“Even though I’m on the side that Demis should be treated as individuals instead of lumped into group politics, it’s hard when statistics are telling people Demis are four times more likely to participate in criminal activity than all other ethnic groups combined.”

Before Rachel could respond, Tom added, “And yes, that is an early estimate of the data we have in comparison to Demi numbers, which aren’t solid yet, but we’ve found a correlation between population size and percentage of humans changed.  It seems to be evenly distributed change among the population, but the density of Types, Races, and Kind are totally different, and not always the same.”

“Wait,” Fiona mumbled.  “That means that you know how many humans changed world-wide.”

Tom stretched his fingers before clearing his throat.  “It’s surprisingly close to what we first predicted to our first census statistical report; by using smaller populations and comparing them to other small towns and counties, we’ve come to expect every one out of one-hundred and forty-four people world-wide has changed.”

“That’s—insane,” Scarlet muttered.  “That many people?”

Remembering back to the population numbers of the U.S. and other large countries, Rachel did the calculations quickly in her mind.  “That means roughly two-point-three million people changed in the U.S., and about nine-point-three million in India.”

“It’s insane in India right now … there are so many diverse and power-hungry Demis running wild over there that I doubt the country will ever be the same.  A Demi assassinated the Head of State … it’s also been confirmed that Kim Jong-un was also changed; he was made an Aberationkin of some type from the communications we’ve been able to intercept.”

Rachel bit her lower lip for a moment as her brow creased with concern.  “If Kim Jong-un turned into a Demi of some type … is South Korea in danger?  I still have family living in Gwangju and Incheon.”

“As I said before, we have a large force invested in the Asian province to help support some of our allies if it becomes necessary, but we’re treading carefully.  From the information we have, Kim is still exploring his possibilities with this new change in his country. 

“However, much of the world is on fire at the moment, and the largest issue is if our own civil disputes will be coupled with otherworldly creatures declaring war on Earth.  You’re not the only team we’ve sent into crystals, but the one that’s given us the most information.

“We’ve already confirmed that if we, in a way, conquer the other side, the crystal will release a sharp hum before vanishing within a particular amount of time in conjunction with the sound.  Most of our information is coming from what you’ve been able to gather; we can’t talk with the creatures of the other crystals.”

Maria, Fiona, and Scarlet didn’t seem to know where to branch off from there, but Rachel moved into the ensuing silence.

“You’re in a position of power,” she stated, eyeing Tom’s solemn expression.  “How do you see this playing out with your experience on the world stage?”

Tom hummed thoughtfully.  “Much of what I’ve told you since we’ve become acquainted is extremely confidential; the reason why you’ve been brought into the circle is that I knew your group could produce results.  I’m less familiar with the political side than the war, but if I were to take a guess, humans, and Demis will have a rough first start in the States.

“However, the number of people that want to make society work with both human and Demi is far more dominant than the other side.  I expect certain counties in different states to vote on secession, shifting the boundaries of states as people disagree with state policies, but with the crystals as a threat, we’ll unite stronger than ever.

“A few judges have already been taken off the seat for attempting to enforce laws against the Constitution; judges cannot make laws, only enforce.  There will be many Demis that take office, and as they enter the workforce, we’ll start seeing an uneven distribution of labor with the jobs they can take, but it is what it is.”

“And the world?”  Fiona asked with concern.  “What about Ireland?”

Tom chuckled.  “So far, from what I’ve heard, Ireland is actually reasonably peaceful compared to places like France or the U.K., and even the U.K. isn’t that bad.  I’m sorry we haven’t been able to confirm if your family is alright yet, it shouldn’t be too much longer, but at least Ireland isn’t a hotspot.

“There are pockets of heavy violence in the U.K., and without much protection in the country with much of their military focusing on densely populated areas and the massive tree’s appearance, they’re stretched thin.  Naturally, they’re concentrating on the places that could sustain the most casualties.

“The local authorities and charities are doing their best to keep things civil.  However, there are areas where the citizens are left at the mercy of rogue Demis; they are taking a lot of heat and putting a lot of resources into identifying the massive tree that showed up in London.

“The Police just aren’t equipped in many of these areas to handle the volume of violence with their decreased military, and distance between incidents.  Parts of their military are also having to keep an eye on their borders from potential outside threats.

“They’re doing what they can, though, and their government is working hard to get everything under control.  We’re helping where we can with what troops we have stationed around the world; we do provide military aid to over a hundred and fifty countries that request it, but in many countries, we’re limited on what we can do.

“However, I think we’re getting a bit off-topic,” he said, licking his lips.  “Is that really what you wanted to know?”

Rachel hummed thoughtfully as everyone turned to her.  “I just want to make sure this is all worth it.” She said, turning to smile at Scarlet.  “So, what do you think, Scarlet? Not everyone fears you, but just the chaos; they don’t know the cute Vampire girl that dreams about going to Disney World.”

Scarlet blushed.  “Well—I’m not a kid anymore,” she mumbled.

“Clearly,” Fiona winked.  “Spying on some high-quality meat with those dirty eyes.”

“I’ve got nothing to say,” Scarlet stated, clearing her throat.  “I know—thanks, Rachel, and can we please drop that, Fiona!”

“Hmm?”  Fiona looked up at the ceiling with amusement.  “Drop what—boundaries?”

“Geez,” Scarlet mumbled, turning away from Fiona to fold her arms, likely trying to hide her red cheeks.

“I missed a ton,” Maria whispered, tone piqued with interest.  “Give me the DL later, Fi.”

“No, there’s nothing to talk about!”  Scarlet demanded, rosy cheeks showing as she shot a glare in Fiona’s direction.

“Right, right,” Fiona giggled.

Both Fiona and Maria quickly shot back as a wicked smile lit Scarlet’s lips, and blood snaked out of her body to coil around her body.  “I can always teleport you into a freezing lake while you sleep!”

“Let’s not go straight to nuclear fallout!”  Maria stated. “Dang … got it, got it, chica, put the blood away!”

“Yeah,” Fiona forced a chuckle.  “Point taken! No need to throw us through blood portals to make a point.”

Scarlet huffed, but her glare faltered when she caught Tom and Rachel’s smile.  “Oh—umm, yeah—so, was there something else?”

Rachel’s smile fell a little as she glanced back down at Tom.  “There should be.”

Tom nodded, tone serious.  “The Azure Frost is powered by Solar Energy, which is harmful or at least negative to both you and Rachel.  There’s also the risk that the ice itself radiates Solar Energy; I don’t need to warn you of the consequences of that.”

“So … I could burst into flames by just going into the stuff?”  Scarlet asked with disbelief. “Who thought this was a good idea?  Why don’t they put a gun to my heart?”

Rachel folded her arms under her chest, keeping her glowing red irises on Tom.  “That will be a test; you teleport Maria and Fiona near it and then see if it is harmful to you.  If it is, then you can leave them to continue and retreat.”

Scarlet breathed a sigh of relief, blood returning to her body, causing both Maria and Fiona to relax a bit.  “I don’t need to continue if it hurts me, then.”

“Never,” Rachel said, her eyes turning compassionate as she looked up at the scared teenage Vampire.  “I keep telling you; you don’t have to do anything you don’t want. We’ll still stick with you, and we won’t think you’re a terrible person if you’re too scared to do something.”

“Thanks, Rachel…”

“Now, Tom,” Rachel continued, “there’s still more to the risks, isn’t there?”

“Right—let me get everything out so we can skip by some of the ping-pong.  Is everyone alright with that?” He asked, glancing around the table at the standing or floating girls.  When everyone nodded, he took a long breath before laying out the possible issues.

“First, the ice might not release Solar Energy, but it could also have periodic pulses of it that are sent out; so, you can’t be sure that you’ll be safe if you don’t immediately feel discomfort after going into the Azure Frost.

“Second, there’s the possibility that it has some kind of defensive activation to attack anyone getting close to its Core.

“Third, it could be immune to the magic Fiona has and could be insulated in a manner that Maria couldn’t get it out.

“Fourth, if it is insulated, then you’d need to crack the shell, which could release a mass of Solar Energy … we have no clue how powerful or large that blast could be.  It’s possible that a portion of the energy the main Core held on the other world was given to this side’s Core. Unlikely, unless sentient in some manner or designed in that manner, but not impossible to rule out.

“The fallout from a blast that size and with this unknown energy type could very well kill both Scarlet and Fiona, but I doubt Maria would be harmed … in fact, she’d likely become supercharged.

“Fifth, if we destroy the bulb or capture it, there’s no reason to believe that another one will not form the next day—actually, from what we’ve gathered from the birds, it’s credible that it will develop a new one before slowly starting to die on the edges.  In this case, you’d need to continue to pluck it until it could no longer regenerate it.

“Sixth, the bulb might start branching out and create a second wave of the Azure Frost; we don’t know how stable it is and if it can be contained.  It might need an activator, such as sunlight or moonlight, but we can’t be sure of anything. Even the birds didn’t have that detailed amount of information.

“Seventh, the orange aliens might attack us while you’re dealing with the Azure Frost.  If they do appear or any other possible threat, then we leave it to your discretion. The men on the other side will follow your lead.

“Eighth, in case everything you do fails … we’ve been authorized to use a Hydrogen Bomb; it will be here in less than an hour.  That’s our last case scenario, but Washington decided that if it comes down to it, we cannot let the Azure Frost into our world.”

All four girls swallowed with the drop of the dreaded phrase; a chill passed through Rachel’s spine, causing her to shiver.

“You said it’s estimated to overtake the crystal within seven hours … how much time do we have until we need to evacuate?”  Rachel asked.

“It will only take a few minutes to set up and launch with what we have on the way; we’re talking about a bomb that is over a thousand times more powerful than an Atom Bomb.  We don’t know what kind of backlash we’ll receive through the crystal. I’d give up if you cannot complete the task within five hours. I’ll have a Humvee prepped for your escape with the other men nearby if that’s the case.

“We know if we set it off, and we destroy the area, that it will close the crystal, but we’d rather not nuke every crystal.  We just don’t have the resources to sustain that over a long period of time. That being said, we’re about to initiate an evacuation; we’ll be using everything we have here to get everyone as far away as possible.  We don’t want to use it, but it’s our final end game if you fail. Understand?”

They all nodded, and Maria released a nervous chuckle.  “I never thought I’d hear a real U.S. general say that if I fail, they’ll drop a nuke … the pressure, right?”

“It just got real,” Fiona mumbled, rubbing her shoulders while hovering beside Maria.

“Okay,” Rachel walked around the table.  “I think we understand the stakes … Scarlet, can you take me to the crystal and quickly come back for Maria and Fiona.  Going through shadows will be quicker.”

Scarlet quickly transported them to the crystal, and before they entered, Scarlet sucked down every blood pack left in the cooler while Fiona ate enough sugar to reach the Well Fed buff.

Rachel’s ears twitched as they prepared to go through the crystal; she heard the sound of evacuation beginning to play around them as the military moved from house to house, initiating the procedure.

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“I can feel the fear increasing,” Scarlet whispered, looking in a specific direction.  “The soldiers … citizens … the anxiety … panic … suspicion.”

Rachel put a hand on her back, rubbing gently.  “I hear it, too; Demis are worried they’re being taken to segregation camps, humans think there’s some kind of Demi attack coming … everyone’s trying to come up with a reason for the evacuation.  We just need to do what we can.”

“You know,” Maria mumbled, scratching the back of her head before pulling her hair back.  “I’ve been thinking, and—this is like—one of those critical moments in history, isn’t it?”

“Snap,” Fiona whispered.  “You’re totally right … we’re like—making history.  I translated the first information we have on the crystals … that’s crazy.”

Rachel smiled at them before glancing around the enclosed space, hearing the tension in the soldiers’ muscles.  “I get it, but we’re also wasting time talking. Remember watching all those movies where you are just screaming at the characters to just get in there?”

“Dang … we are kind of wasting time, aren’t we?”  Fiona asked.

“If this is a story, it’s a horror story,” Scarlet mumbled, looking down at a string of blood that left her fingertips before returning.

“Well—our little horror story has just begun,” Rachel replied, stepping through the portal.

Her boots sunk into the mud as she exited, and she quickly studied the hostile environment they were reentering.  The soldiers were still keeping a watchful eye on the jungle, and it seemed like the previous Green Beret group had been replaced by a fresh team, likely to allow the former group to rest.

The insect was inside Fiona’s Wind Prison, still looking for a way to escape.  It made harsh crying sounds that could barely be heard past the raging air, pushing back all its attempts to break free.

Rachel’s ears stood on end as she slowly turned her head, getting a grasp of the situation miles around them.

Since the last time they’d been here, the camp had been reorganized and tidied up, and there was a new medical tent that had been constructed to the right side of the crystal.  She could hear a man talking inside, seemingly dissecting an animal.

She was a little shocked to hear dozens of creatures hiding around the site, staying just out of sight; however, none of them seemed hostile by the sounds of their bodies, the noises they made were more on the defensive.

Everything within a three-mile radius was silent, except for the immediate area, and the strange crystal noises she’d come to expect from the alien’s peculiar material.

The biggest thing that she noticed was she didn’t feel any spike in energy.  Looking up, she couldn’t see a sliver of moonlight.

A new moon, or something else … crap, this isn’t good.  I know I could keep up with the alien I fought without the moon with my current Lunar Pool, but this most likely takes my ability to damage the bulb out of the equation.  Fiona can do more damage than I can like this. I didn’t even consider the possibility of the moons not being here.

Walking forward, Rachel turned to greet Scarlet, Maria, and Fiona as they appeared behind her.

Maria breathed in a deep breath.  “I love the smell of the place, but … wait, I don’t feel sick.  Rachel … the moons,” she mumbled; Scarlet and Fiona both looked up into the sky.

“Where are they?”  Scarlet asked. “Is it a new moon?”

“Must be,” Fiona replied before darting high into the sky to look around; her hair, nails, and eyes glowed green as she activated her Wind Shield.  “Nope, sorry, Rachel, but I don’t see any moonlight.”

“Qué mala suerte,” Maria sighed.  “What do you think, Rachel?”

“I’ll manage,” she said, walking forward to greet the Captain over the current unit.  “You three should get to work; I’ll handle things here.”

“You sure?”  Scarlet asked, blue eyes transforming into their void black and red halo counterparts while she scanned the floor with a dark hum.  “There’s one of those crystal tube-tentacles coming up. Maybe we should stay for a bit; it should be here in like—five minutes, at its current pace.”

The Captain called out to them with a half-smile.  “Well, it’s good to see the princess everyone’s been whispering about.  I don’t quite know which of you it is, though.”

“Sweet,” Fiona giggled before nudging and whispering to Maria.  “He could be your prince!”

“Déjate de mamadas!”  Maria grunted. “What the hell’s up with y’all today?”

Rachel returned the smile and said, “The princess would be the Unicorn beside me, but I think we have other concerns.”

“I ain’t no princess.”  Maria glared at her while folding her arms, pushing up on her chest with an annoyed growl in her throat.

Fiona dove back down, stopping close to the Captain’s head; he was a little surprised, but quickly recovered as she whispered, “Watch out, she bites!”

He released a forced chuckle before asking, “Funny—what’s the issue?”

“There are some aliens coming up,” Scarlet sighed, pointing at the ground.  “It’s fairly straight, coming up from their base below us, and my eyes can’t penetrate it.”

Turning around, he yelled, “Look alert!  Tango below, prep for combat, ladies! We got some kind of tube; grenade launchers ready, rockets, weapons, and if any of you louts misses a shot, they’re fronting the tab next break!  Ya’hear? And Johannes, I see that cig!”

A mass of replies happened as the men shot into action, prepping different weapons.

“Where are they coming out from,” he asked, turning to Scarlet with a serious expression.  “I’m Captain Aaron Channing, by the way.”

“Eh—over there,” she stated, pointing several meters to the left of the insect.

“Any other threats in the area?”

Rachel cut in.  “There is some wildlife around the area, but I don’t think they’re a threat, and I can’t hear anything larger than a mouse within miles; I don’t even hear the dragonfly-like creatures in the sky.”

Raising his voice, Aaron shouted, “No enemies around us, but Tot, I want you watching the perimeter; we got critters watching.  Everyone else, that spot—I want you ready to light it up like Christmas day!”

“Hey,” Fiona mumbled, floating over to her.  “The animals…”

Rachel scanned the treeline, easily identifying where the creatures were.  “What about them?”

“They’re begging for safe passage … some are mourning the loss of three family members.”

Aaron clicked his tongue a few times.  “Well, that sucks to hear—a crappy situation, but we had to stop anything trying to make it through the crystal without authorization.  You can always petition the general.”

“Not really,” Rachel mumbled.  “We’re kind of on a clock.” Watching Fiona’s sad expression as she looked at one particular spot where there were soft moaning sounds, she asked, “Can you tell that scientist back there to tell General Dallas the animals’ situation.  Let him know that it’s possible they also have information on the crystal.”

He released a soft hum, rubbing the back of his neck.  “I’ve been told to assist you lot with whatever you need.  I feel like we should be more concerned with the attack, but if that’s what you want, then I suppose getting a civilian out of possible harm’s way is good.”

Drawing his attention back by moving a little to the left of the man, Rachel turned back to Scarlet.  “I’ll handle it here with these guys; put some trust in me. I need you guys to take care of that bulb.  If we can’t stop that thing’s ice wave, then we’ll be running for our lives in a few hours anyway.”

Aaron gave a short shrug before jogging over to the tent to inform the scientist.

“Mmh—I don’t know … they had some crazy tech when I broke into their base.  You sure?”

“Positive.”

“Okay,” she mumbled, moving a bit closer to Maria.

“Don’t go dying on me,” Maria stated with a grin before it fell into a scowl as she turned to Fiona.  “I’m gonna find out what all this princess biz is, too.”

“Sure you will,” Fiona chuckled with a knowing wink at Rachel.  “Stay safe! We can’t have our warrior princess hare leaving us behind.  Erica wants to thank you for rescuing us with a dinner when all this is over.”

“Have I let you down before?”  Rachel asked innocently.

“Beat and broken like a pinata,” Maria laughed, “but you always come limpin’ back.”

Smile turning forced, Rachel waved them off.  “C’mon, give me some credit! I was fighting basically Hercules.”

“Really, though—stay safe,” Scarlet whispered with worry.

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Rachel folded her arms, turning to Fiona as she solemnly floated to Scarlet’s side.  “Before you go, can you tell the animals that we might grant them safety. Let them know you’re the only one that can communicate with them, and you need to go.

“Show them a wave and tell them that that’s the sign that they can come through, an x shape is a no, and it will be best if they find shelter elsewhere.  Also, let them know that we’re sorry for their loss. We’ll do what we can for them.”

“I think they’re from the same world that the others are from.”  Fiona nodded gratefully, shooting off to deliver the message. “Thanks, Rachel!”

They waited in silence for a minute before she returned.  “They accepted … one of them’s pretty angry; I’m pretty sure his dad and mom were killed.”

Maria clicked her tongue.  “Dang…”

Scarlet took one last glance up at the moonless sky and her before vanishing into shadows with Maria and Fiona nearly hugging her.

C’mon, don’t give me that look … I’ll be fine.

Rachel breathed a long sigh as the sounds of the expanding crystal grew closer; she started stretching out her muscles as they began to itch.

“Seems like they really care for you,” Aaron returned with a grin.  “They seem like good girls.”

“Yeah, they are,” she replied, twisting around her ankles a bit to loosen them up.  “Don’t fire until it’s clear they’re hostile. We’re not quite sure what they plan, but there could be a whole battalion of soldiers ready to storm out of that.  Keep sharp.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice,” he huffed, moving a bit to their right to stand behind a sandbag barrier.  “Stay sharp, men! How soon until contact?”

“Any second,” Rachel replied, walking over to a different constructed barrier.

Lips were licked, shoulders rolled, and breath eased as the soldiers watched the event unfold.

A small orange crystal spike slowly eased out of the ground before slowly opening up, folding down into a hole the size of a man; orange smoke exploded from inside, dispersing to reveal a single orange alien, wearing their black bullet-resistant clothes.

Saliva dropped down everyone’s throats as they waited for something to happen.

After a few seconds, it walked out, hands hidden beneath its cloak; its head moved back and forth as it observed them, and after a moment, its eyes locked on her.  Revealing its arms, it pointed one of its four clawed fingers in her direction and using both hands, it gestured for her to come forward.

“What’s it doing?”  Aaron asked.

“I think it wants me to join it,” Rachel replied with a neutral tone.

“Is it crazy?  Who would blindly walk into enemy territory?  I suppose it doesn’t know what a white flag or any kind of negotiation indicator we use is, but still … that’s ballsy unless it’s got something up its sleeve.”

Rachel grimaced as she felt the pull of Lunar Pride.

Crap … now … of course, I’m not supposed to hide … I’m supposed to face down my enemies with my head held high.

Groaning a little, Rachel straightened and walked out from behind the barrier.

“What are you doing?”  Aaron whispered with frustration.  “You’ll block some of our line of fire!”

“I’ll deal with it,” Rachel sighed, scratching the back of her head as she walked forward.  “So, what do you want?”

Her lips became a line as the orange crystal expanded, providing room for both of them on the platform it stood on.  Walking back, it gestured for her to join it, spreading its arms wide before putting its hands around its throat.

Rachel released another low moan.  “I think it’s telling me that this atmosphere is toxic to it.  I think it was somewhat similar to the other one, and from Scarlet’s story about their base, it makes sense.  It wants me to join it, but I don’t know if I’m able to breathe its orange atmosphere…”

Almost as if it recognized her concern, the alien reached down into the frothing orange smoke at his feet and produced a silver metal necklace, offering it to her.

Feeling the dangerous excitement that Lunar Pride spurred, Rachel stretched out her arms.  “Well, Aaron. I’m going to see what this is all about.  If four and a half hours pass … leave me.”

“You’re joking?”

“I’m afraid I don’t have much of a choice,” she said with a backward grin.  “This is a bit interesting, and I’m pretty confident that I can fight my way out.  I’m not stupid, either.”

“This seems stupid,” he grunted, and she heard a few of the other soldiers make similar remarks.  “Didn’t you tell your friends to trust you? This seems pretty dumb…”

“I’ve got to do it,” she sighed, walking forward.

She towered over the alien as it held up the device, twisting a small invisible section on it; a translucent bubble appeared across the inside.

“Hold up,” one of the soldiers called.  “Let me test the thing!”

A pulse shot down Rachel’s spine to her tails.  Dang, you, Lunar Pride!  I’m even starting to feel like it’s right … this is such a terrible idea!

“I’m fine,” Rachel replied with an even tone, but she activated Emotional Detachment, feeling the urge fade.  However, she could tell that Lunar Pride was getting stronger since her time fighting Anthony.

Taking the item, she placed it over her head; the bubble didn’t seem to restrict her breathing at all, even though it was a skin-tight fit.  Flipping out her hair, she was a little surprised to see the bubble envelop its entire length as it fell, yet the rest of it didn’t extend past her collarbone to her body.

Interesting stuff.  I really need to learn more about Lunar Pride and how to counter it … I’m held hostage by this Racial more than anything else.

Standing next to the alien, she said, “Wave to the animals to let them know they can come in and make an x symbol if General Dallas replies that they can’t come through.  I’ll make it back; I stake my pride on it!”

She grinned as she felt her words burn in her chest.  There we go … I can fight back, too!

Her smile fell as the crystal began to close, and the platform they stood on began to descend.  Just what do you want with me?


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