Session 2, Chapter 7 – Fort McCord

Content Warning: Death, Violence, Fire, Cancer.

The four of us finally make our approach to Fort McCord after nearly forty minutes of walking. Chimera leads us, fully transcended. It would ordinarily be a waste of power, but this is one of those “Chimera things” that I’ve gotten used to just accepting. She says that her power doesn’t rely on recharging pools of energy like ours do. The spirit keeps her pretty fueled continuously, and she only needs to rest for short periods. However, her emotion is serenity and peace, if she gets too stressed, her powers have a tendency to go haywire. If her stress were to reach its peak and she truly overexerted, she would detranscend like the rest of us do when we run out of energy.

Dragon, Sarah, and I make our way behind her in cloaks and mask. Dragon has a messenger bag slung around her shoulder. Usually, what she keeps her tech in, the strap is adjustable and stretchy enough that it can take her transformation into Dragon without bursting as long as it doesn’t get caught on a wing. I can’t look at Dragon without feeling my nerves rise again. Tonight is going to be the night, and I still can’t calm down about it.

Sarah brought a backpack and is wearing it over her cloak with both shoulder straps on. I can’t imagine what she brought in there, especially since she’s not a tech person like Dragon, but I haven’t bothered asking.

We finally come to an old, rusty gate in the courtyard. A chain and padlock sit securely on the latch, but that problem is solved fairly quickly as it glows faintly blue. Chimera rips the lock off within seconds, and we make our way to the front door of Fort McCord. I start to look around in the dark for the keypad when I’m suddenly half-blinded by a beam of light from behind me.

“What the fuck!” I whisper, ready to transcend at the drop of a hat.

“Sorry!” Sarah says, holding a flashlight in her left hand. “It was dark out, and I figured they wouldn’t have lights in there, so I thought I would bring flashlights for all of us. I have more in my bag.”

I can see pretty well in the dark when I’m transcended, Chimera’s power can make faint light, and I’m reasonably sure Dragon brought a light source more efficient than a standard flashlight, but it’s a nice thought. Chimera immediately grabs a flashlight and gives a large, and probably fake, smile.

“Well aren’t you the thinker? That is such a good idea! I can’t believe none of us thought of that. We would be in trouble if you hadn’t brought those! Thank you so much.” Chimera says, grabbing lights for Dragon and I as well.

Sarah’s posture shifts and she seems to stand up straighter at Chimera’s words. I roll my eyes and look at Chimera with a cocked head. She shrugs and mouths “Play along.” At least that’s what I think she’s saying in the dark, my flashlight wasn’t on.

Chimeras’ codling of Sarah probably isn’t good for the team, but she has absolutely insisted on it so far. One day, Unicorn is going to have to learn what being a part of this team actually means. She’s going to have to learn to fight by herself, she’s going to have to learn how to survive, or she is going to die.

It doesn’t take long to find the keypad and punch in the combination from the rock Daryl gave me. The bottom of the keypad turns green, and I let out a sigh of relief when the old steel door clicks open. I was worried the regime may have found a way to change the code, that would have been all we needed.

The inside of the old base is dark, and the flashlights actually do make it easier to see. The place gives off the eerie foreboding vibe that only a place that’s abandoned for years can give off. The lights may not work, but something’s powering the turrets at least, as we turn the corner, every turret rotates to point at us, but they don’t fire. Chimera keeps her hands raised, her reaction time is good enough that I trust her to stop the turrets before the hit us, but we’re silent during our entire walk through the corridor.

“Any idea where we need to go?” Chimera asks, her flashlight on and floating at eye-level.

“Yes. There isn’t much of use to us on the top floor. The entrance to the basement should be straight ahead.” Dragon says, stepping up to stand even with Chimera.

“Okay, I’m ready,” Sarah says, reaching into her backpack and pulling a gun, the same one she took from the soldier at Heatstrokes base. What the actual fuck?

“Why do yo-” I start.

“Chimera has a whip, Kitsune has her fans, Dragon has claws, You have fire and know martial arts, but I don’t really have a weapon when I’m transcended. I thought I should have one just in case.”

“You can’t even hold onto it for long without burning your powers out.”

“No, but I know I can use it if I need to, at the very least it gives me a fighting chance against non-touched when I’m not transcended.”

“Okay, just be sure you know how to use that thing.”

“I just point and shoot right?”

I shake my head and sigh as I turn my head away from her. Chimera leads us to a large metal wall at the end of a small incline

“Unicorn you’re up,” Dragon says.

Unicorn obeys as soon as Dragon speaks, transcending quickly and dropping her bag and gun in the process. Within a matter of seconds, she’s in her wispy form, and I can practically see through her. She moves towards the wall and starts to sink into it. This has been easy so far, almost too easy.

Within a few moments, the massive wall slides away to reveal what looks like a natural cave in the basement of this old military base. Natural, except of course, for the large sphere in the middle of the chasm, made of jagged dark metal. There’s no path to the sphere, the path before us only goes a few feet before a drop into total darkness.

“What the fuck? A cave, in the basement of this place?” I question.

“It makes sense, if this information really is so vital, they’d want places to hide behind to defend it, like a dark cave that only they really know the schematics to, and they’d want to make sure only those with powers could get there.” Dragon explains.

“There’s a problem,” Sarah says, floating over to us. “It’s locked, there’s a keypad, and I can’t find a release on the inside like I could for this door.”

“Alright. Let’s get over there.”

I call on my powers and transcend. God, it would be so easy to get addicted to this. I’ve been able to do it since I was born, and I’ve been doing it regularly since I was ten, but the rush of power never gets old. If I were like Chimera, if I didn’t have to come down very often, I’d probably be Phoenix almost all the time. Dragon calls her sister over, and Chimera floats her over to the sphere. There could be sensitive data or electronic work that needs to be done, and that would be a lot more difficult for Dragon if she had claws.

I fly over to the sphere, it doesn’t have an obvious door, it has an old, dust-covered keypad, but it doesn’t even seem to be functioning anymore. I guess this place really hasn’t been used since the resistance abandoned it. I look at Dragon and she sort of shrugs.

“Unicorn? Can you phase through?” Dragon asks, cocking her head slightly.

“Yeah, on it.”

“If she can’t open it, can you melt your way in, Phoenix?”

“I can try, but this metal looks pretty thick,” I answer, running my hand along it.

“Okay, it’s not ideal either, I don’t want you to burn through anything important.”

“Okay, so, I can get in, but it’s too dark to see any sort of door or opening, what should I do?” Unicorn says, phasing back out of the sphere.

“Well, we could always use one of these flashlights you brought. Which, again, are so helpful by the way, thank you so much.” Chimera says.

“I can’t phase objects through with me. I’m sorry. I wish my power could be more useful.” Unicorn trails off.

As if on cue, Unicorn’s midsection begins to glow bright green. She reaches down and grabs a small orb of light from her stomach, as she lets it go it floats to the top of the chasm and cast faint light around the whole cave. What the fuck? Did she just wish for light and get it? Her power can’t be wishes, that’s something no spirit can do.

“I guess you just found something else your power can do.” Dragon starts. “Now go light up this thing and get us in there.”

“Aye aye, Captain!” Unicorn starts, her face twists slightly, and she grimaces “I’m sorry! I don’t know why I called you Captain, I don’t know why I said that at all. We’re not pirates, we’re superheroes. I mean, historically speaking maybe what we do is kind o-”

“Unicorn,” Dragon interrupts, silencing her immediately. “Go.”

“Okay…”

Unicorn phases her way through the sphere again, her light still hangs high in the chasm. Light hasn’t been a problem for us before, but it’s certainly useful. This is it, this is the basement of Fort McCord. Nobody in the resistance has ever been down here, and we did it just like that. It’s almost been too easy, whatever’s in here should be worth the risk we took coming here, but you think they’d have some sort of alarm if the door were opened. Maybe a silent one? Maybe I’m just being paranoid.

A small cylinder descends from the bottom of the sphere, dim green light filtering out of it. I can see a small ladder on the side of the cylinder and climb it, Dragon follows suit, while Chimera just floats up the now open chute. The inside of the sphere is lit by Sarah’s light, the most noticeable thing is a large computer terminal in the far end of the room. The screen and keyboard could still be easily operated by a human, but the hardware of the machine itself is massive and encased in heavy-duty armor. Shelves line the other walls, neat rows of crystals sit on each shelf. One wall has shelves full of crystals with alternating blue and black liquids inside them, while the rest are empty. The sphere is empty and cold, it looks like this room hasn’t had power for years. Dragon heads over to the computer and presses a few dusty keys, which doesn’t generate any response.

“Any idea on how to get that thing working?” I ask, it’s directed at Dragon, but I’d listen to anyone.

“Yeah, it’s powered by some sort of battery,” Dragon says, reaching into the machine itself.

“Well, I could have told you that.”

“No. Let me finish. Not a conventional battery.” Dragon pulls a clear crystal from inside a small compartment on the machine. “This. It’s powered by Crystals. This one is empty, but the residue on the inside would suggest it was the blue one.”

Dragon crosses the room and grabs a blue crystal from the shelf, examining it closely. What is she doing? Powering this thing up could have serious consequences. We could have guards on us within seconds, or the whole system could explode if she’s wrong.

“Are you sure that’s safe?” I ask.

“Mostly. There may be some sort of latent alarm, but I trust my response time to be quicker than theirs. We’ll be in and out, we’ve come way too far to just turn back.” Dragon answers, turning back to the machine. She tilts her head slightly as she sees Chimera turning some sort of metal staff over in her hand.

“Chi, you good?” Dragon asks.

“Yeah, deja vu or something. I feel like I’ve seen it before,” she answers.

“That machine? Trust that instinct Chimera, one of the previous Chimeras might be trying to show you something.”

“Okay, it’s broken for one. It doesn’t have a power source and the chamber where you would put one has been smashed.” Chimera turns it over in her hands and closes her eyes. The small machine, a black ball with a dim sapphire in the center set on some kind of thin black pole, begins to glow blue and float in the air. Chimera nods and starts to let out a stream of consciousness.

“Mund Gottes, Technician’s machine, resistance recovered it briefly, was stolen back by Stalker. It’s a machine built to analyze most data available to humans and answer any questions it’s asked with pinpoint accuracy.”

“So it’s a search engine?” I ask. An uncensored search engine, while a powerful tool, isn’t exactly exciting.

“More than that. Sure, you could ask it when the corner store opens, and it would tell you, but it could also tell us something like the easiest and stealthiest way into the Archduke’s castle, or any reported weaknesses. It was, for a time, the plan to win the war, until the resistance lost it again.” Chimera answers.

“We need to get it working again, this is my territory,” Dragon says, grabbing it out of the air and stowing it in her messenger back.

“Mund Gottes?” Sarah asks, tilting her head slightly.

“German.” Dragon begins. “Admittedly, I don’t really speak it, but if I had to guess it’s something like Mouth of God, or Word of God, something pretentious like that. Pretty standard for Technician.” Dragon doesn’t stop working to look at Sarah, she plugs the crystal into the machine and takes a step back.

The computer sputters for a second before it starts to emit a low hum. The room fills with white light as every panel of the walls, ceiling, and floor are illuminated. The monitor comes to life as we all crowd around it. Dragon wastes no time and plugs a large, modified, flash drive into the USB slot on the computer.

“What’s our first move?” Unicorn asks.

“I download information on Neogen. Can one of you please load a few of each of these crystals into my bag? Black ones, blue ones, and clear ones. Thank you.” Dragon says, not looking at us. I get a suspicion that “one of you” means “one of you with telekinesis” and glance at Chimera. She rolls her eyes and channels her power to pull the bag off Dragons shoulder.

“What are you finding?” I ask, Dragon doesn’t respond immediately, it doesn’t seem to register that I even spoke until a few seconds after.

“Fucking everything. Schematics, detailed accounts of what each lab is for, even passwords, old ones, but some of them may still work.” Dragon answers, entering a few commands when the computer prompts her.

“They weren’t encrypted?”

“Of course they were.”

“And that didn’t slow you down at all?”

“Please, breaking most encryption is pretty trivial; besides, that’s why I built Jericho in the first place.”

Ha, and she calls Technician’s names pretentious?

“Jericho?” I ask, trying to stifle a laugh. She briefly indicates to the modified flash drive plugged into the computer.

“Part storage device, part encryption key. Do I really have to go through this right now?”

“Sorry I asked.”

Chimera returns to us pretty quickly, setting the bag at Dragon’s feet. Chimera stands between Unicorn and me, the three of us just watching helplessly as Dragon does her thing.

“H-How’s your shoulder?” Unicorn mutters softly, looking down.

“Hm?” Chimera starts, before catching on that Unicorn asked her a question. “Oh, it’s good, I barely feel it right now honestly.”

“Good. I’m still sure it must be tough doing a mission after you got shot earlier.”

“Meh. You get used to it. It’s what a hero does.”

Oh my god. Dragon, come on, please find something interesting, so I don’t have to listen to goody-two-shoes and fresh meat talk about the virtues of truth and justice for another five minutes.

“What the fuck?” Dragon whispers.

“What?” I ask.

“When did the resistance take Fort McCord?”

“Oh! Oh! Um, May 12th, 2009.” Unicorn answers like an excited child on her first day of school.

“And they held it until early 2012?” Dragon confirms. “Then why the fuck are there files being uploaded on this computer all through that period and as recently as 2013?”

“Maybe they got in and we just never knew?” Unicorn says.

“No. My family would have known.” I say.

“They weren’t able to disconnect this computer from their network until 2013. They built it well enough that even they had trouble disconnecting it remotely. Which means luckily for us they couldn’t wipe it. A lot of this information is going to be outdated, but some of it will still be of relevance. I’m in the process of downloading all of it, are you girls cool with taking a look at the most recent files?” Dragon says, already clicking on the first one, titled “Project SC4R-T.”

“Sure.”

The file is a simple image of an aged piece of paper. The words are a jumbled mess that doesn’t make any semblance of sense.

Zl urneg npurf, naq n qebjfl ahzoarff cnvaf
Zl frafr, nf gubhtu bs urzybpx V unq qehax,
Be rzcgvrq fbzr qhyy bcvngr gb gur qenvaf
Bar zvahgr cnfg, naq Yrgur-jneqf unq fhax:

“Well isn’t that… special. So somebody in the regime had a stroke?” I ask, raising an eyebrow behind my mask.

“No. It’s a cypher, not the kind that Jericho is going to decrypt either.” Dragon says, pulling a notebook and pen from her messenger bag, jotting a few things down that don’t make much sense and then moving down to a new line.

“Uh, Dra-”

“Shh!”

Dragon doesn’t even look at me as she busily writes nonsense in her notebook, finally, she seems to hit something and starts writing coherent lines. I can’t see the smile behind her mask, but I can almost feel it as her posture shifts.

“Easy. It’s an extremely basic rotation cypher. They just shifted all of the letters thirteen places. Here, this should be how it translates.”

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk;

“So, it makes real words, but unless the Archduke’s weakness is creepy olde thyme poetry, I don’t see how this helps us,” I say, urging Dragon to move onto the next file.

“It’s a poem!” Unicorn chimes in.

“Yeah, I just sai-”

“No, a specific poem. I studied it in English class two years ago. Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats.”

“Okay, but what does it actually mean?”

“It’s the start of a conversation.” Dragon interjects. “A cypher like this is usually some form of communication. We can’t see any additional edits to this because this computer has been cut off from their system, but it’s a hint, even a small one. My first thought is the word ‘Nightingale,’ but I’m not entirely sure what it could mean.”

“I might know! … Maybe?” Unicorn starts. “I’m not sure if it helps, but the only ‘Nightingale’ I know of is a superheroine who disappeared in the 1940s.”

“I know the Archdukes’ old, but he’s not that old. So what do we do?” I ask.

“We keep it in mind, but move on.” Dragon clicks on the next file, and we spend the next twenty minutes skimming old documents. The most interesting of which document a scary, almost stalker-like fascination that regime agents have with Chimera. These documents were all written before our Chimera took the mantle, but they seemed obsessed with the last two before her. Dragon clicks on the next file, entitled “Medical results for Albin Valentin – 02/24/2013”.

“What the fuck?” Dragon takes a step back, breathing heavily. “Non-Hodgkin lymphoma? The fucking Archduke has cancer? He’s had it for five-plus years. Oh my god, if this is true, he’s on seriously borrowed time.”

“If this got out to the public,” I start. “If Kitsune knew this…”

“I’m thinking exactly the same thing. This is huge. This is probably the biggest news we, or anyone, has gotten on the regime, ever.”

“If he dies, Genesis is on the throne. I’m not saying it will be easy, but I like our chances a hell of a lot better against her.”

“You’re not kidding, we need to spread this.”

“No!” Chimera interjects, grabbing Dragon and myself by the shoulders.

“What?”

“No, if this leaks right now, then the regime is gonna force our hand more than they already are. They won’t hold back, they’ll know exactly who leaked it. Even if we win, we’re still the girls who killed the world leader with cancer, and superheroes reputations are probably shot forever. This is something we keep to ourselves, at least for now.”

“You’re probably right,” Dragon says. “But it might give the public some hope.”

“Hope resting on the death of someone else isn’t hope at all.” Chimera says.

“Hope resing on the death of someone else was the only hope I had for six years,” I say, glaring at Chimera. I admit I’m not the most hopeful person, but if she wants to speak in absolutes about hope, she shouldn’t exclude the only thing that kept me going since I was twelve.

“Right, I’m sorry Phoenix, but, you both know what I mean. There’s a time for it, but that time isn’t right now.”

With Chimera’s final word, we go back to scanning files for the next half hour or so. Chimera’s assertion is ridiculous, but this is a tool we can use to our advantage. If he’s sick, his time could run out. Maybe that’s why he’s pressing so hard right now. It’s weird, but it’s certainly possible. As terrifying as Exodus and Genesis are, I’d rather take on both of them than I would fight the Archduke one on one.

The passive scanning of videos, pictures, and documents gets really old after a while. I check the download meter and see that it still has over fifteen minutes to go, which is damn impressive, but still slower than I’d like. Dragon clicks on the next video file, “Crystal demonstration on ST – 001”.

The video shows the Archduke’s throne room. The Archduke is encased in metal, trapped in a prison, surrounded by three people and many charred corpses. To the right of him is my mother, transcended and glowing with flame. To his left is Monolith, and right in front of him is my father.

What the fuck? My father? I check the timestamp in the corner, and it reads “October 11th, 2012, 5:07 PM”. Holy shit, this is the day. This is the exact day my mother died, and my father betrayed my family. Nobody ever knew exactly what happened! This is the chance to learn what my father betrayed his family and country for. What he was willing to give up his life and his daughter for. I tense up and move closer to the screen as Dragon closes the video. I grab her shoulders and shake her a little harder than I mean to.

“Play it!” I beg.

“Maybe this isn’t the best thing to…”

“Play it!”

Dragon pauses for a second. She slumps her shoulders and lets out a soft breath before reopening the video. The video doesn’t have sound, but it looks like my father is taunting the Archduke. He was cocky, that was true as a hero and a villain, as a hero, I found it kind of endearing, but as a villain, it just made fighting him more miserable.

The Archduke makes a sudden motion, jamming a black crystal into my father’s neck. He stumbles back and starts grabbing for it, almost like he’s choking. The veins on the back of his arm and his neck begin to turn black as he shakes as if he’s coughing. My mother and Monolith both move to attack the Archduke, my mom gets a solid shot on his face and monolith starts to crush his body. Then, my father launches a bolt of fire at Monolith, standing tall and defending the Archduke.

He wasn’t coerced, or bribed, or tempted. He was poisoned. Maybe it was mind control, or maybe it distorted his reality somehow. It wasn’t his choice, he was a goddamn puppet! I glare at the screen as I watch my father turn my mom to ash, fuck, I can’t make myself watch any more of this video. He was forced to kill the woman he loved, he was forced to kill my goddamn mother, he didn’t have a say in it. That has to be it, that has to be mind control! My father wasn’t evil, he was being controlled! That’s at least a sliver of hope, or it would be if I hadn’t killed him.

I killed my own father. I never even considered that he could be controlled, why didn’t I? Was my anger really blinding me from that possibility? Do I just always assume that people are monsters? What the fuck is wrong with me? Of course, he was controlled. He was a good man, he wasn’t perfect, but he wasn’t evil. I didn’t even think about it for a second, not once in six years. I’m an idiot. I killed him. I could have saved him. I’m a failure of a hero, I’m a failure of a daughter.

I walk to the far end of the room and sit in a corner by the clear crystals, I focus on my breathing, desperately trying to get a handle on myself. Fool. Yeah, I am, I’m a fool. I should have known better. Murderer. I couldn’t have known. It wasn’t my fault! Monster! No, I- Supervillain!

“No!” I shout, standing up and launching a wave of flame from my hands on impulse. I don’t even notice Dragon standing a few feet from me until it’s too late. Dragon starts to glow blue as Chimera pulls her to the floor with her telekinetic powers. I don’t know if Chimera has enhanced awareness, she probably does, but regardless she could have just saved Dragon’s life. She’s still mundane, and my fire would have seriously injured her, it probably would have killed her. Yes. I can deny it all I want, but I am a fool, I am a murderer, I am a monster, and I am a supervillain.

“I’m sorry!” I cry, extending my hand for Dragon as the blue light around her fades.

“No, it’s fine. I know not to get near you when you’re like that. It’s fine. I’m fine.” She says. I don’t believe she’s fine, but I’m not pushing.

“Okay…”

“How are you dealing with all thi-”

“I killed him. He didn’t have to die, and I killed him. Of course, it was mind control, of course it was, how did I not realize.”

“It wasn’t mind control.”

“Don’t fucking lie to me.”

“I’m not. I can’t say what it is, but it’s not mind control.”

“You don’t even have a theory?”

“No.” It feels like Dragon wants to add something else, but she doesn’t.

“We all have a darkest self.” Chimera chimes in, looking down at her boots. “A worst possible version of us. The person we’d be if we instead sought to destroy everything we held dear. Sages used to call this alternate self an ‘eclipse.’ It’s rare that someone could ever see or become this version of themselves, but it happens, and the Archduke has found a way to poison the mind and force someone into their eclipse. That’s what the dark crystal does.”

“That’s plausible,” Dragon says, picking up a black crystal and turning it over in her hand.

“How do you know all this Chimera?” I ask.

“I don’t know! I keep getting fed little bits of information, slowly, usually weeks apart, but something about this fucking room is bringing an endless stream of information, and I can’t make it stop! It’s like every Chimera is trying to whisper their own interesting little fact in my ear. I’m not saying it’s not useful, but there’s not exactly a guide to this. Even with the help of the past Chimeras I’m still basically flying blind here. I know my powers work different, I know they’re weird, and I know they stump even Dragon. I’m honestly as lost and confused as you are. Don’t ask me how Phoenix, I don’t know. I don’t have half a fucking clue what’s going on with me most of the time!”

Where did that come from? I just asked a simple question. I honestly thought being Chimera would be pretty badass, but is this what’s going on in her head most of the time?

“I’m sorry Chi… I…” I start.

“No. I’m sorry. I need to meditate on this. I’ll be back within ten minutes.” Chimera says before anyone can really respond she’s clearly entered a trance.

“So, that’s what we’re saying? He was forced to be an alternate self by this black crystal?” I ask.

“Yeah. That would make sense, it’s a hypothesis, but it’s probably pretty close. That would explain a lot.” Dragons voice is shaky as she walks back to the computer. She won’t look at me, she hasn’t since I almost burned her. Goddammit, don’t tell me I just fucked up the closest relationship I’ve had in six years. Fuck me! I need to clear my head.

“This is a lot to take in.” I start. “I need to step outside.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” Dragon says, getting back to the computer.

I drop down the small hatch and back onto the platform below the sphere. I settle on the edge of it and let my feet hang down off the edge slightly. Did I really kill my father? Could he have been saved? What happened to him made him “eclipse,” but was it even him anymore. I can’t help but think that he could have been saved. There could have been an antidote, or that poison could have been removed. If we could have known beforehand, we could have at least tried, but there’s no point in dwelling on it. Not anymore. There was no way anybody could have known. Monolith knew what he saw, sure, but I don’t know if him telling me would help me. Dragon’s smart, but she isn’t psychic. I know I shouldn’t dwell on it, I know I couldn’t have known, but that doesn’t make me blame myself any less.

What a great fucking birthday.

The exterior of the sphere is glowing with blue and white lights. It’s kind of beautiful in a weird sort of way. The chasm is pretty still, and the lights almost put me in mind of a Christmas tree in an odd way. A gentle whirring and a red blinking light catch my eye. I see a drone to my right and slightly below me, a camera mounted to the front of it. Fuck, that can’t be good. It’s been spying on us who knows how long. Powering on that sphere probably activated it. Even if it didn’t come inside, it has to know someone’s here now. I stand up and fire a stream of flame from my right hand towards it. It jerks and tries to move out of the way, but I catch one of its blades. It crashes into the side of the chasm before dropping into the darkness. This is bad, really fucking bad.

Footsteps catch my ear on the floor above me. I knew it. That drone had been watching us since we powered the computer on. Chimera’s in a trance, and Dragon isn’t done downloading the data. I can hold off a few guards, but I get a sinking feeling that isn’t all they sent after us. If they sent another spirit-touched or a few paladins.

We are so fucked.

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