approaches the main entrance of the HQ building and he places a palm on the
wall made of the suit's material. The wall evaporates from the point of contact
with Angelus' palm outward. Soon the cylindrical glass doors are free to move
unimpeded. Angelus sweeps his arm across like an ancient butler would when
presenting a noble into a room. Hector and his friends move along inside the
building's main entrance atrium while Angelus reseals the wall behind him.
Hector, Nani, Wei, Lennon, and Paige converse happily.
"I can't believe you're cool about all of this Nani," Hector comments.
"This is all so exciting, how can I be mad? That man, Angelus. His suit is amazing." Nani explains.
"It is, isn't it!?" Hector shouts excitedly.
"Hey boss!" Damius shouts from atop the staircase. "Are you collecting these kids or something? I understand the situation with poor girl on the infirmary level, but I don't get why this talkative kid—and now his talkative friends—are here too."
Angelus gently grins, "Damius, why was your guard down when these kids walked in?"
"Sir?" Damius says questionably.
"You heard me," Angelus reinforces his question.
"Because only you could have opened up that wall." Damius finally replies.
"Hmm… That's as far as we know. From now on your orders are not to assume anything." Angelus says calmly.
"Understood, sir!" Damius shouts with resolve.
Angelus turns his attention at Hector and his friends who are still conversing with each other, "Kids!" Angelus shouts, "let's make our way upstairs and find a place for you to stay for the remainder of your Survival Camp."
Nani is at Étaín's side with Étaín's four group mates. Paige is at Nani's side and they bond over brainstorming ideas on how Étaín can survive the removal of her PIC.
"We are relying on Angelus' information of the initial test subjects for the PIC implanted into newborns. That information is second hand from the Captain. The Captain doesn't even know what happened to his friends when they lost or destroyed their PICs. All the Captain has said, according to Angelus, is that the Captain never saw his friends again. If the Captain never saw his friends' bodies, then we should assume that Étaín could survive as she is now." Nani tells Paige.
"You're right. If we assume that the Captain's friends did not die then the only conclusion I can come up with is that something had—"
"—taken his friends away." Nani finishes Paige's sentence.
They shudder almost in unison at the thought. When they hear Wei screaming from the hallway outside.
"When were you going to tell me Étaín was severely injured?" Wei furiously asks Hector.
Hector holds up his arms in surrender but Wei grabs his shirt while pushing him against the wall.
"Wei, calm down. I was going to—"
"Calm down!? Calm down!? She is like family. Did you know that Hector?" Wei says, his nostrils flare unnaturally wide and Hector can see a glint in the angry boy's eyes. "You know what happened to my brother during his Survival Camp two weeks ago! You were at his funeral! If Étaín… My father will…" Wei releases his grip on Hector's shirt and turns away to hide the tears streaming down his face. He wipes it off with the back of his forearms and shuffles away gloomfully.
Hector tilts his head upward to rest it on the wall behind him and he slams the wall with a fist in frustration. He sighs deeply before shuffling away himself to the sparring rings.
The fifth day of the Survival Camp drones on as Hector spars the other cadets. Wei finds the sparring rings and challenges opponents on the opposite side of the room. Meanwhile, Lennon is at the mess hall trying desperately to gain the attention of the FCTC girls and women to no avail—completely unawares of the drama between his two friends.
Sol retreats for the day and concedes empyreal dominance to Luna. Rays of moonlight seek a path through the glass and metal jungle of Pater to lighten Étaín's gloomy room before the adolescents fall asleep. Hector opens his eyes to find himself inside a noisy vehicle. The landscape outside morphs from flat fields into rows of overbearing trees of an ancient forest. This happens quickly as he closes his eyes once more—an overwhelming feeling of safety incites him to fall back asleep from hearing the sound of the purring rustic vehicle.
Hector awakes once more to find the paralyzed Étaín sleeping peacefully in front of him. He straightens himself out of the chair and finds the four boys are asleep on the ground like the night before. However, Nani is on a chair to his left—he smiles before getting up to go to the rooftop. He finds Wei sitting on the edge—his legs hang over the ledge. He takes a deep breath and walks toward the boy.
"Hey Wei. You still mad?"
"Can I join you then?"
Wei pats the ground beside him and Hector takes a seat on the spot.
"I need to get this off my chest. Wei, I'm sorry I forgot to tell you about Étaín sooner. But things just escalated quickly yesterday." Hector grimaces as he remembers the image of the leader of his friends' pursuers.
"Hector, I already told you, I'm not mad…" Wei barely manages to conceal his gratulation. He is ecstatic that Hector isn't mad about his outburst and on top of that is actually apologizing for not telling him about Étaín. "Angelus' suit is really cool, isn't it? You happy you got to see it again?"
The second final day of Survival Camp quickly passes by. Lennon aggravates the women in the HQ. Nani and Paige continue to bond over spending time with Étaín. Hector and Wei continue to spar with the FCTC cadets. There are no explosions or attacks and a day-night cycle passes with a blink of an eye.
At dawn Angelus prepares Étaín in a sack like the one Hector was cradled in the day the attack on Hector's friends occurred—however the sack is designed with a latch on it in order for Étaín to be removed from it without Angelus being present. Angelus secures her inside the sack and places her on her large group mate's back by using hardened straps that hug the large boy's body across the chest and across the groin for maximum support, much like a heavy duty hiking pack.
"Angelus. Why can't you just zip her over there? You can do it in less than ten jumps…" Damius asks his boss.
"Because I want to teach these kids to rely on their own strength." Angelus says.
"You're a cruel man. You're going to make them struggle to bring her home, only to have that friend die when they finally make it back."
"Don't question me, Damius. Besides, I'm going to be monitoring them from afar, in case other men working for the Lord don't hurt them."
"Ah. My mistake, boss."
Hector and the nine other Academy students leave the HQ through the main entrance when Angelus shuts the wall behind them.
After hours of walking, the group of students make it to the road that leads to Eco-City #9 on the far end of the razed little town without incident. They take rest stops constantly, due to the large boy having to carry the paralyzed girl. This drones on uneventful for the remainder of the day, and they finally make it back to the Academy walls within the penetralia of the forest by dusk. The ten students gormandize the sweet bread and water throughout the day but their stomachs grumble after the long hike back. The other students in their graduating class are already gathered, but the mob is a lot thinner than what it was when they descended from the lift six days ago. Hector and company don't bother noticing this detail, however—they quietly gather in an empty spot on the lift to await the Survival Camp's official end. The large boy places Étaín on the lift and collapses beside her.
Soon after the
last bits of sunlight extinguishes from moving pass the horizon, the lift's
platform glows a warm orange glow, and suddenly the material from Angelus'
suit—that Étaín is still wrapped inside—suddenly disintegrates, and the
paralyzed girl shrieks from the unexpected drop. Meanwhile the shriek attracts
the attention of an unnatural group of gulos.
"Impossible," Nani says, "gulos are solitary creatures. Why are they hunting in a pack?"
"It doesn't matter," Hector says as he swiftly gets to his feet, "we need to scare them off before the lift long enough for the lift to rise."
Wei, Nani, Lennon, Paige, and Étaín's four group mates get up and stand side by side beside Hector. "Shout as loud as you can. Go crazy everyone. It will surely dissuade these ravenous creatures!" Nani shouts.
At once the nine students wildly shout and scream while the railings start to form from the platform below. The gulos growl in hesitation but decide to pounce in unison, but fate is on the students' side as the platform rises and the gulos hit the lift face first—hey cry in pain before they scatter into the forest. The nine students drop to the ground and sigh in relief.