Chapter 52: The End of All Things
Date: November 26, 3007
The world was pleasantly quiet. Peace and tranquility floated across the clearing, carried by the lackadaisical wind. The sound of sweet birds chirped brightly in the air, hailing in the perfection of the world. It was the quintessence of the word, “perfect.” Nothing could seem to go wrong; everything just had to stay like this.
And then the real world came back to view, a black veil was lifted off of my eyes, and I could see again. There was Mikhail, charging forwards with his men just as Fenris vanished from sight, teleporting back to the front of his own army. The rumble their feet made as they sprinted across the stone bridge was deafening, shaking the entire city like a small earthquake.
But I knew they would not last, for the Dominion’s hordes were infinite and many. Up above, the sun beat down without mercy, making sweat drip from my forehead onto my curved nose. I looked around, at Felix, at Maldran, at Michael and Damiver; they had a certain emptiness in their eyes, as if soulless. I couldn’t find a way to see into their minds; it was as if they were all wearing Telepathy-Screens.
And that’s when I noticed someone calling me, whispering my name through the wind. Whipping around and bringing my rifle up as a result of years of training, I faced the empty street, rubble-laden street before me. Nothing. But yet, the voice trailed on, dying into the air.
I stepped towards the empty road, but someone pulled me back. I turned around and again, prepared to blow whoever was touching me’s head off.
“Whoa, whoa, don’t shoot, Nova!” Damiver exclaimed with sudden surprise at my agile reflexes. I lowered the S-36 and turned my head back to the direction of the mysterious voices. More joined in, beckoning to me.
“Nova, are you ok?” Damiver asked uncertainly. I ignored him and turned to face the group.
“We’re getting off of this city,” I stated bluntly in a low voice. I felt four pairs of eyes stare back at me in bewilderment.
“How do you propose we do that?” Felix shouted, a hint of sadness in his voice, “There’s still a war going on! We haven’t lost yet!”
“You haven’t lost?” I snapped irritably, “You’ve already lost! You’ve lost everything! Your platoon is dead, your friends are dead, there is nothing for you here!” Tears formed in Felix’s eyes and he lowered his gaze.
“You coming?” I turned around and sprinted down the empty street.
The wind blew at my bangs as I ran, whipping them across my face. Turning the corner, I quickly climbed over a pile of rubble that used to be a building. There was an enormous crater in the middle of the road; the epicenter of some horrific blast. Up ahead was the Dominion’s head quarters, the 101st floor still smoking from Felix’s crazed demolition plan. The gunfire was growing distant.
“Nova, where are we going?” Damiver asked as he panted along behind me.
Just follow me, I thought back to him. The line of buildings ended, and a long corridor reaching out into the clouds laid before me. We were here.
“When you reach the ship, get on and don’t look back,” I ordered as soon as Felix, Maldran, and Michael caught up. The two captains and the sergeant nodded once and sprinted towards the cloud docks, leaving me and Damiver behind.
“Damiver,” I said, turning my gaze towards him. It had been so long since I had the chance to stare into his eyes like I used to. Somewhere inside of me, I remembered the butterflies that would emerge in my stomach. The way he touched my skin made me feel beautiful. But that was the past, feelings that had long faded away, “Damiver you have to let me go now.”
“Nova… What do you mean?” he stammered. I felt his concern rise for me as his mind started to churn, trying to figure out what I was going to do.
“Damiver, just go, please,” I whispered, trying to surpress my emotions.
“Nova, what on earth are you up to?” his voice quivered.
“Go, now,” I muttered, looking away, tearing completely away that blissful feeling.
“GO!” I shouted in fury. Instantly, I regretted it as Damiver was sent hurling back by my telekinesis. Tears started to well up in my eyes as he struggled back up. I wanted to help him up, to apologize, to make sure he was safe, but it was too late. We had no time. I had no time.
“Please, Damiver…” I whispered, trying my best to fight back the tears, “Don’t make this harder than it already is…”
Damiver looked at me; his eyes were so striking. I felt him gaze deep into my corrupted skull, into my tainted body. I wanted him to take me away, to not let me go, but I knew if he did, it would be suicide.
A distant explosion rocked the Orbisian skyline. I turned my head back to the row of skyscrapers just in time to see one collapse and implode upon itself. Mikhail was putting up one hell of a fight. His valor and bravery was overwhelming. Smiling a little to myself, I turned back to Damiver, who had now straightened himself up.
“Nova,” he whispered and put his hand on my cheek. I closed my eyes, feeling his warm hand caress my face. I felt a single tear slide down from my emerald eyes. I wanted this moment to last forever. Everything I had ever felt for him came rushing back, and I felt as if we had just met. The day I killed my family, how he had taken me with him. We seemed to be perfect for each other. I remembered how he used to say the that he would ask me to marry him at the perfect chance. Oh how I longed for that day to come, but there were no more chances left. I sniffled; no more choices left nor roads to stroll down.
“Nova, will you marry me?”
My eyes flew open in surprise. Did he just say what I think he said? My mind went berserk; his sentence didn’t seem to comply with my thoughts. This could not be happening. But my heart roared with triumph as it finally got what it had wanted for so long. My tears streamed freely down my face. I smiled and whispered, “Yes…”
The moment I said the word, he rushed forwards and planted his mouth on mine in a fiery kiss. I felt his hands around my waist, his body against mine. I felt his spirit glide into me, entwining with my own. The butterflies in my stomach fluttered jubilantly as this old emotion overwhelmed me.
After what seemed like minutes, hours, days, years, we pulled apart. He dug into his combat vest pocket and took out a golden band with an emerald encrusted in it. Damiver took my hand and gently slid the ring onto my fourth finger. He gave me a sad smile, and then whispered, “I love you…”
I sniffled at those three simple words, for I knew they would be his last. He gave me a final smile and turned towards the docks. I watched him, knowing I would never see him again for as long as I lived. The ship’s foghorn echoed in the clear blue sky, a fanfare for his departure. In the cloudy distance, I could see the massive bow of the ship start to slice through the clouds, on its way back to Victoria Island. Somewhere aboard that ship, my life left me, leaving me only one thing to do.
Walking back into the city seemed like walking into a new planet. The once radiant and dazzling marble of the city buildings were now dull, without sheen. Most of the buildings were broken, blown apart by the urban warfare. As I sauntered forwards, I unshouldered my rifle.
The Dominion’s Headquarters loomed in front of me, covering me in its monstrous shadow. Giving a deep sigh, I entered the ravaged building and rode the elevator straight to the top balcony.
The expanse that laid before me was surreal. I felt that moment of perfection once more as I stared at the sparkling city in the sea of white clouds. It was noon now; the sun lingered lazily directly above my blonde ponytail. A breeze ruffled my hair, cooling my skin. In the distance, I could see Mikhail’s and Fenris’ men duking it out; their weapons came to me in delayed bursts and cracks.
Knowing I’ll never have another shot, I steadied my rifle and looked through my scope. The powerful zoom on my S-36 Seraph Long Ranged Assault Rifle still amazed me as I instantly found Fenris. I watched him for a moment as he mowed down a row of Mikhail’s men with his Dual S-32 Sai Automatic pistols. Then, I took in a deep gulp of air and switched on the laser sighting.
Instantly, a mechanical voice resounded in my ears, chilling me to the bone, “Nuclear Launch Detected”
In my mind, I knew the Academy was just unleashed a fifty kiloton tactical nuclear missile directly for my position. The impact would destroy everything and everyone, wiping Orbis clean off the map. Looking up, I could already see the falling star, entering the atmosphere at a blistering speed.
Suddenly, a rumbling overhead stole my attention away. Whipping around, the rumble turned into a roar, and I saw a massive airborne ship appear from within the clouds, heading straight for me. As I watched in amazement, it slowed and came to a hover right at the edge of the balcony. A hatch slid open, revealing Damiver’s blazing face.
“Nova, jump!” He shouted over the ship’s massive engines. I managed to let out a laugh of astonishment, at Damiver’s risky moves. He had always been chancy, but never had he stared down a nuclear missile before.
I ran, no, more like glided towards the ship, the open threshold, Damiver’s arms. Taking one last look at the arcing contrail of the missile as it bore down on the city, I jumped over the railing right into the ship, colliding into Damiver and sending the both of us crashing into the opposite wall. The door shut instantly with a hydraulic whir and then I felt it lurch forwards.
Felix’s voice popped on the intercom, “Hold on, this’ll be a bi*** to get past.”
The storage compartment silenced itself as the intercom crackled off. It was pitch black save the few portholes, and I could barely see anything. But I felt him, his body, his presence. Somehow, I felt everything was going to be alright.
The ship was suddenly flooded with a pure white light. Turning away from the windows, I braced myself. The concussion of the explosion seemed to rock the ship to pieces, but amazingly, we were still aloft, still mobile. Then, the blast reached my ears, tearing at my eardrums like a pack of Lycanthropes. The roar was insanely thunderous, as if God himself had incinerated Orbis.
I rushed to the window once the light had died down. Outside, the mushroom cloud twisted and turned into the sky, quickly reaching our altitude. It mocked me for a brief second before continuing on its way up into the stratosphere.
And then it was over. Everything we had been through, through wilderness through war, had led us to this very moment. Damiver lifted me up and led me up to the main deck. As the door opened, I felt a blast of refreshingly cold air hit my face.
Together, we walked to the edge of the railing and looked down into the smoldering city. Off to the east, the mushroom cloud still rose eagerly, but the initial shockwave had come to an end, destroying everything and everyone in the White City. The Dominion was no more, and the people were now free to live their lives once more. No more forced conscriptions into certain death. No more civil wars. But best of all, no more Shadows.
I remembered the old Shadow Creed that I had embedded into my brain. It seemed to irrelevant now. No one would be like me anymore, all of the torture and mental mutilation. I gave a deep sigh and took a deep breath of the cold fresh air, soaking up the sun.
“Nova,” Damiver whispered as he held me close, wrapping his arms around my waist as the both of us stared out into the open sky, “I’m glad you’re with me.”
“Me too, Damiver… me too…”
I looked out into the dusking sky. The sun had sank in the sky, now lazily giving off its last radiant rays. The sky was painted numerous hues of red and orange, a fiery finish to the longest day of my life. A cool breeze rushed through the deck; serenity crept over me. I felt free, like I had never felt before. We sailed into the sunset, bound for an unknown destination, but it did not matter anymore. Everything was perfect, and I would not have traded it for the world.
Soon, it would be night again, but no matter. It felt great to be lost in the shadows once more.