I could see that Killian was beginning to change already. He spoke less and less as the day went on. It was as if our relationship was going backwards in slow motion. Though I had promised myself, and promised to him, that I would be ready for anything, it was a little difficult for me to watch. To see him slip away so fast was almost unbearable, in fact. We slept together that night, but on the second night, he didn’t sleep. I could tell we were almost there, and I had to admit, I was scared of the unknown. I had no idea what to expect from this war or from him—or even from me, for that matter. For all I knew, this could be the last day of my semi-normal life. Who knows what kind of Jianna I’ll be within the next few days?
When we arrived on the planet Nadalion, I was lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling. As a product of Killian’s own silence, I had become silent as well, letting my thoughts do all the talking. Some of them were about him, but most of them were made-up images of what I thought Nadalion would look like. When Killian came to retrieve me from my solitary confinement, I knew it was time. He picked out suitable clothing for me—tight, black-leather pants, with a matching vest and a long, hooded cape. He dressed similarly, and when we were finished getting ready, we walked side by side to the main deck.
As the ramp of the ship eased its way to the ground, I said, “This will be the first time I step onto an alien planet.”
He didn’t answer, but I never really expected him to. I scanned the outside world, disappointed to find that it resembled Grim, only this was somehow much worse. A harsh wind kicked up the grime from the blackened terrain and it whirled around in the air so fast it looked as if it could cut through flesh.
Killian put his hood up before making his way down the ramp. I followed his lead, making sure my own hood was secured tightly around my head. We crossed the hellish battlefield to a structure that looked like the ruins of long-forgotten structure. As we got closer, I heard a chirping over all the noise in my ears. Killian didn’t seem to hear it, which was strange. The closer we got, the louder it became.
“Am I the only one hearing this?” I called after him.
He ignored me and headed straight for something that looked like a heap of metal.
“What is that?”
“A tracking device,” he said. “It was used on the ship I stole from Exogène’s hangar.”
“How long has it been going off?”
“A couple months, at least.”
“Since you first arrived on Acadia,” I murmured.
“It’s the tracking meter,” he said, bending down to flip a switch, which ended the chirping. “I left it on so that they would think I escaped here.”
He began trekking across the plains once again, and we finally made it inside the ruins. There was no wind once we slid down the slope inside, and I soon found that, underneath the ugly layer of chaos above, the planet held a lost wonder of a city that was now dead. I could tell that it used to be filled with people once. While there was a strange beauty that lingered through the strange architecture, it still somehow felt unsafe, as if there was someone watching us from the shadows. Nevertheless, we made our way deeper into it.
“What are we doing down here?” I asked.
“Exogène is on their way here as we speak. Before I came to you, I received a message from one of their ships shortly after we landed suggesting that we surrender.”
“And are we going to?”
He paused, then said, “I never told you why or how I was asleep for all those years, have I?”
I thought about it for a moment, trying to recall our conversation from almost two months ago. “No, I don’t think you did.”
“Before I made my escape, Admiral Hoss had revived me from a cryogenic state. That means that I, along with several other people, was frozen for nearly three centuries in the hopes that I would someday be revived. Hoss wanted a war, and in order to have this war, he needed a weapon. Knowing that I was among those who had been genetically modified to be superior in intellect, among other things, I was chosen to make these weapons. When I discovered his intent to wipe out an entire species, I attempted to smuggle the weapons out of Exogène’s facility, but they found out my intent before I could follow through with it. If I had been successful, I probably would have been able to release my fellow test subjects from their icy prisons.”
Everything was starting to make a lot more sense now. The first time he had told me the story, I had only just met him. I had been so unaware of Exogène and what they were capable of doing, and now it was my reality. I had learned so much from him, and I knew I would learn so much more in the future.
I jumped as a loud noise behind us interrupted the stillness in the air and whipped around to se two flying objects in the air. Killian grabbed me and pulled me to the side. As the objects came closer, I saw that they were two ships, and one was shooting at the other.
“Come on,” he said urgently, grabbing my hand. “Stick to the shadows and run.”
I did as he told me to do and ran close behind him. We followed them as close as we could, but they were too fast. Eventually, we lost sight of them and couldn’t even hear the rev of their engines anymore. Nevertheless, we continued, finally stumbling upon a group of ships, which were now resting on the ground. Killian pulled me towards a cluster of large boulders, which I soon realized were parts of the ceiling that had fallen as a result of the test of time. He slung his gun from his shoulders and turned it on. It made a strange, high-frequency noise as it charged up, setting me on edge.
“What are you going to do, run in there and shoot everyone up?” I said, eying the thing.
He set the gun down and pulled out a smaller one, charging that one up, too. I figured I might as well load mine. Without warning, Killian moved to jump out from behind the rock. I grabbed his arm and pulled him back.
“Wait for me” I growled.
“No, you’re staying out of this one.”
“Killian, don’t,” I said sternly, grabbing his arm again when he tried to pull away.
“I have to,” he said without looking at me. “They have my people. I need the captain of Exogène’s ship alive.”
It was too late. He was already running out into the open, blasting what I could only assume were Nadali left and right. Before I could even think of running out to help him, I realized he didn’t need any help at all, considering most of them were already wiped out after a few seconds. Helping him would probably be good for only one thing: getting myself killed. With this in mind, I sat and watched him—twisting and turning as he completely massacred the enemy with ease. I was reminded once again how powerful he really was. When he finally managed to thin the masses, I dared to step out in the open in hopes of finding this captain Killian was talking about. A human man with light hair and a pronounced chin stumbled into my view, struggling to fight off a massive Nadali that looked nearly twice his size. Suddenly, the creature was blown to pieces by Killian’s monstrous firearm. The man glanced up at Killian, looking slightly relieved with a hint of confusion in his eyes. After a moment, three of his people joined him, dragging him out of the battlefield.
Killian jumped, soaring through the air, and landed gracefully on two feet. Then he crossed the distance between the captain and his crew, slashing the remaining Nadali down with the knife he had tucked away in his coat. I set into motion as he approached them with a smaller gun pointed at them.
“Stand down!” I heard the dark-haired man next to the captain say as I came closer.
“I surrender!” Killian said as he threw down his weapons and put his hands above his head.
“Killian!” I cried.
“Tell her to stop!”
“Put your hands where I can see them.”
I copied Killian’s position.
Without hesitation, they seized one of his weapons and pointed it at him as if he would attack at any moment. I took my cue to move forward.
“Don’t come any closer.”
I stopped dead in my tracks as the captain stared in bewilderment. Without a moment of hesitation, the black-haired man aimed his gun at me as he approached. I backed away from him, feeling adrenaline pump through my veins as I steeled myself to fight. As he entered my swinging range, I threw a punch at him but he deflected it with ease, grabbing my wrist and twisting my arm behind my back. I cried out in pain, and before I knew it, I was being forced to my knees.
Some fight that was…
“Who are you?” the captain said to me.
My eyes, wide with panic, flickered to Killian, who gave me a confirming look.
I looked back at the captain and said, “Jianna.”
“Sir, I believe she is a Skelt, the second strain of the human race from the Earth-like planet of Acadia,” the dark-haired man said, looking down at me skeptically.
“Doesn’t matter, Seril,” the captain said. “She’s with him, so she comes with us.”
Seril, whipped out a pair of handcuffs and slapped them on my wrists. They loaded us up in their small ship, and while I should have felt ashamed of myself, I couldn’t help but feel a little excited. Before, when the unknown had seemed so scary to me, all I could think was how intriguing it all was. Suddenly, “what if” sounded less threatening and more promising. Before I knew it, Killian and I were whisked away to the next chapter of our lives.