Chapter 1:

Getting There

2173: Second Akro-Mars Conflict

   As we continue to drive at over 150km/h, surrounded by the infinite and imposing image of Akro's wall beside the hot and dry land recently desertified surrounding the city, I come to appreciate the depressing scenario I've been seeing every day for the last uncountable years. It might be the last time I can see it, after all. Also...

 - I am surprised nobody showed up yet.
 - You seem nervous, Myke.
 - ...
 - Wait, actually? Aren't you an old, experienced soldier?
 - Is 49 that much? But well, it can't be helped. It is that feeling of getting early to said compromise and asking yourself if anyone shows up at all. If you've been fooled all along.
 - Hmm...really?

  It's been one week since the announcement, and I haven't seen or heard any of my old mates. I did expect some of them to be immediately hostile, but will Bruce and Lindsey not get involved at all? Even in their 70's, my hopes of help were on them, honestly. Even as some old dinosaurs I'm sure they'd help my case.

  But I'm glad I found two professionals fearless enough to be willing to infiltrate with me. I guess I should warn them that this first phase of the operation will, most definitely, be the really challenging one.

 - Hey Myke, don't go quiet on me...

  The one who likes to talk probably needs to hear it the most. The one on the backseat is different. I know why she's here.

 - Mykee?
 - Franklin.
 - Yes sir?
 - I'm not sure if you know this, but the reason I accepted you guy's help was for the infiltration. And it is going to be extremely dangerous. After that...
 - It'll be a piece of cake, right? Tracking a girl you haven't seen for the last 30 years, in this gigantic hellhole.

  Must have been a funny sight, my pissed-off face, looking at Claire's eyes, with Franklin and his little laugh by my side. She's not right, but can I say why?

 - Five days is enough for me to understand. You're still keeping a secret.
 - But do we need to squeeze it out of him, Claire? I don't really care, honestly...
 - Yes! I mean... we-
 - Okay, fine. It's nothing special, truthfully. - am I just bad at lying?

  It's not ideal but doesn't hurt to tell them.

 - She got put into a coma when we brought her. I'm actually surprised she lived until now, but it must be true if he's looking for her...
 - Or maybe... all we'll find is a sad reveal... - Frankin could have a point. But I'm not acknowledging it.
 - Don't worry. I trust the medicine of this place, despite everything.
 - Akro's technology is not to be underestimated. If she woke up recently, that might explain why the king couldn't find her - says Claire, with a point I am willing to consider
 - Well, that might be true, but the thing is... he never saw her. It's complicated. And even if he knew her name, we told the hospital she was called "Eve" - I'm revealing more, but it's too late to stop here. They already know a good portion of my past, anyway
 - They were supposed to reunite after the mission. But things happened, and as it looks like, nobody bothered to tell him.


 - It's messed up, but if she didn't wake up, our life's easier as long as we get there first. But I guess her disappearance could be of help if we fall behind in a potential race.

  Though I was assuming her recovery to keep me away from a depressive mood...
  Okay, Claire was not that wrong.


  That seems to be the monologue they needed to hear as both just went silent. Good. We're approaching the smuggler's place, our only lead for entering Akro. We'll either find enemies or new allies there, and we prepared for both. Overprepared, I hope. We can't have issues remaining.

  As we approach the place, I think of all scenarios where things go wrong. That's the soldier in me kicking in... I truly wasn't made for selling high-tech scraps. As half an hour passes, I think of what if a group has already departed and we'll become the persecutors. Then, I'd wish that "Eve" is not at the same exact place where I left her. As a full hour passes, I think of what if the smugglers were all killed. I would need some help from old allies if this is the case. As two hours pass by, Bruce and Claire put on a more convinced, sure look, and I'm glad they're confident. We finally approach the hidden building on the mountain foot, just northeast of the abandoned wall-constructing machinery dumpster, and make visual contact with it, only to see the bad news immediately pop up. The Federative Unity's Military Department flag appears to be proudly hanging on the walls. They're not even trying to hide. Thoughts race through my mind, and I ask myself who might be with them. If they know about this entryway and got here so fast... an informant, who must be someone we know, is with them. An agent among the smugglers, maybe? And does it even matter?

 - Franklin, Claire.
 - Yes?
 - We're rushing it.
 - ...
 - Understood.

  At least we planned for this, more or less.