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The wind was blowing hard. I could not see two feet in front of me as I battled against the sand storm that had come upon us so abruptly. “I cant go on like this.” I yelled to Vanity.
“There is no where to stop. We press forward.” she commands. The buildings through this place were all leveled. People laid about the ground, most with expressions of sudden fear, a few animals as well. It was a graveyard, a nuclear blast had wrecked everything for miles. In the streets are war machines, they too were nothing more then dead things to remind someone of a violent battle ended with a single blast.
“I can’t open my eye.” The sand barrated my face. It was painful and there was nothing I could do to lessen their blows. Opening her, wings Vanity created a shield that block most of the sand from striking me. “Thank you.”
We traveled on like this for another hour and the sand storm showed no sign of giving in. “Prina, up ahead, I think there is some sort of shelter. I getting a reading of several biological life forms and they appear to be human.”
“Is it safe?” I asked hoping for a positive answer.
“Not sure, but if we dont get out of this storm its going to rip us apart. We got to take the risk. Its the only hope to find shelter.” she was right. As much as I hated to place myself in danger again if I didn’t we both might die out here.
“Ok, its worth a try but the idea of running into another nightmare again does not sit well with me.”
Velora keep marching forward through the violent dust. “Dont worry I will protect you.”
The windstorm showed no signs of ending. The sand went from somewhat abrassive to flat out being painful. It whirled an whipped against me. “Up ahead.” Velora yelled. I tried my best but all I could make out were some shadowed objects. As we approached however it reveled it self, large a massive, like an aircraft carrier but not. It was stationing but its mighty wheels look as though it could move. Tank treads around them. Silver stripes lined its deep blue paint, where was at least.
“Wo.” is all I could stammer out. The thing absolutely dwarfed us. “What is?”
“An almighter, maskers drive them.”
“Maskers, they wear masks.” It was then I noticed a few people. They were completely covered in cloth from head to toe, aside from the hood covering there masks. They were holding something that looked like spears. As we approached them the raise up the weapons in the air.
I cuddled up next to Velora’s thigh. “Velora they look violent.”
“They are not. There nomads. They wear the masks to hide there deformaties from each other. The hoods and cloaks as well.”
When we were about ten yards away one of them yells “Go on your way. We don’t want any trouble.”
“We are not here for any trouble.” Velora said.
Two of the masked men started talking among themselves. It was far to quiet to hear but after they were finished one of the maskes approaches us dressed in brown rags. “Then what are you here for?”
Velora pushes on my back “Shelter.” I said.
“Ah’ replica human, that is a strange thing to have. We won’t fall for your trickery devil. Go, before you make me angry.”
“I am not a replica.” The masked men then laugh. “I am not!”
“I don’t know what you trying to pull.”
Velora stamps her foot on the ground. “We have food and water. The dust storm however we cant prevent. She will die in it.”
“Alright, lets say you are a human. What are you doing traveling with it? A devil from below does not travel with a human.” One of the other maskers walks up and takes him aside.
“Velora, there are a not going to let us in are they.” I said to here.
“We were walk in there wake until the storm ends.”
The two men talk for a while. “Alright, wait here.” One of them finally says. As a men leaves he enters through a large hole in the wall of the almighter. He returns holding a strange device. “This is old tech but we will see if you are telling the truth.” I points the thing at me. “My lord, you are not lying! Come our master will want to meet you.”
I was taken inside the building, Velora she followed behind me and three guards escorted me through the narrow hall. Velora must have had a difficult time making it through. Her legs are pressed together and her wings firled tightly behind her back. Ducking down behind me but she made it through. The walls were a patchwork of metal sheets. It opens to a much large room. Several maskers in the room working on switches and levers. There is a massive glass window which allows the pilots to see out.
“Captain,” one of the maskers called. A man in a thick ripped and torn coat turns toward him. His face too was covered by a mask.
“My lord,” startled the man looks directly at Velora. “What are thinking allowing that horrible thing in here.”
“She is the girl guardian.” one of the guards explained.
“Eh,” he grunted. He takes several steps steps towards me getting a good look at me. “How in the world did you survive out there?”
“I am from a colony of scientists. They have a strict no contact policy.” I lied.
The captain stroked the chin my his mask. “What are you doing outside of your colony?”
I froze, worry entered my mind as I took a deep breath to speak. Velora quickly cuts in “The systems are failing. We are gathering supplies.” Thank God she cut in when she did. “We are in need of rations and water as well.”
“We have plunty, heh we only need water for cleaning anyways. We will trade for it.” the captain says. “I am intriged however.”
“In what way.” Velora stats.
The captain walked over to me, he put his hand on my shoulder. “She needs to eat.”
I look up at him. I cant see past that mask that hides his every detail from me. “Everyone in the colony is 100% biologically pure without any nanomachine systems.”
“Its true. We have a disease, it is caustic to nanomachines.”
With this new information the maskers all turned towards me. The surprise on there faces well hidden but the lack of stillness in everyone suggested it. “How? How can this be?”
“We keep them well.” Velora says.
“But, but, how are they alive?” another masker blurts out.
“There is reproduction inside the colony. They live and they die.”
The captain looked over at the others and looks back towards Prina. “We must know where is this colony. I must see these people!”
Velora smiles “I am afraid we cannot tell you. We have to keep such things secret. That is why they hired me as a guard.”
“Fair enough,” the captain says. “Such treasures must be kept secret. We must talk at great length about your home. I am absolutely amazed by you. I never thought anyone survived. I am happy to know that somewhere in the world is being restored.”
I wanted to tell him so much more. I wanted to let him know about my true mission to destroy Asergile. But Velora gave me a look that told me it would be best not to. “You must be tired. Rest assured you are safe within these walls. And food we have plenty, you can have it.”
I stood on the balcony of the incomprehensible machine looking out over a ruined landscape. Destroyed building to the horizon. It was dark, and decayed. Large parts of the landscape was that fleshy glaze. From a distance you could watch it pump.
Velora was talking with a few of the maskers about weapons. She seemed to be at home in a place like this. Made me wounder where did she come from. Who was she exactly? I turn and meet the mask of an woman. I jump back from here. “I am sorry deary, I did not mean to frighten you.” She walks over towards me. “I had to see you for myself. I do apologize.”
“It’s no problem.” The strange woman made me feel odd but then again in a way I must admit I felt special. “With everyone making such a fuss over me, I have to ask, is there really no one else like me?”
“It has been so long since have a seen a someone with so few blemishes, I almost forgot what someone looked like.” She said as she drew closer. “Can I, can I toch your skin with my own hand.” It was an odd request, though one I was happy to allow. I nodded my head to her. She took off a patchwork leather glove from her hand as she reached. Three claws like things with steel cables traveling up the arm, masked by her rags. Her hand was withered and felt like sandpaper across my skin. “Your skin is so smooth. I had forgotten.” She promptly placed her glove back on.
“May I see you without you mask?”
She turns the expression less mask towards me. “I could not bare it. This mask is my face now. The horror that I have become. I was once human like you belive it or not, at least thats what the say. Memory is a funny thing, it comes and goes as it pleases. Now I can hardly consider myself human at all.” It was there with her canvased between the ruins and the red sky, that I saw it. There was no hope in her. “I know you lied darling.” It shocked me, I curled my hand inward hiding my palms. “I know your not part of any colony that has others like you. You would not ask if there was any other like you if it was true.”
With a heavy throat I said “I didn’t lie.”
“That is a dream too perfect to be true.” the masker replied.
“Then what do you think I am?”
“A haunted memory from a past long ago. A past where there were city, and flowers, and all of the things you remember.” She turned to look off the balcony. “But now, your a ghost. My eyes have lied to me, yet you stand.”
“I hate to be a bother but I am getting tired.”
She turns to regard me. “Yes, that’s right. I forgotten what it is like to slumber. As I said, a dream too perfect.” A long sign exits the woman’s nostrils. “Tomorrow, before you leave, come to my room below. I have a gift for you.”
“Of course.” I nod and she leaves.
I rose from my rusty bed and pushed the whole slathered rag off me. Sitting up I noticed Velora standing in the room watching me. “Have you been watching me all night?”
“I don’t sleep. You know that.” she said. I released a long sign in this humid heat. Turning me legs over the bed I stood up.
Traveling through the network of iron tunnels; narrow arteries, channels in which the machine breathed, was difficult. The maze became more complex as I proceeded through. I arrived at the balcony soon after. There she was waited hunched over the rusty railing. She reminded me of a wounded bird hunched over like that. She turned to me and that expressionless mask looked back at me. “Oh good you came. I was starting to worry you would not show up.” I continued my trudge over to her along the withered plating. She reached under her cloak and pulled out a mask. “Here take this with you, it will protect you from the elements.”
“That is mighty kind of you.” I managed before she hold my speech with the wave of her hand. The lady then moves over to a box. She leans in and grabs a hard piece of metal, pulling it from the box it reveals itself to be a full set of armor. It is sturdy and the metal pieces are held together by cloth. The ornate structure had my eyes looking all over the thing. “I.. I can’t!”
“Don’t be silly my dear, of course you can, and you will!” the masker sternly says. “You are not traveling to get food for your colony now are you.” She was right but what was I going not going to out myself. “Don’t worry my dear. I won’t out you. I don’t know what your true mission is but you are going to need some help. That demon you have out there bruting around for you can’t always keep you safe.”
I hesitantly reach towards the garment. “Are you sure?” the woman softly nods.
The suit automatically adjusts to my size binding itself against my skin tightly. The large cloak would be plunty enough to stop the desert sand. The mask fit well too. I was more like a gas mask. It shielded my eyes nicely and stopped at my forehead. “There, my don’t you look the part of a wanderer now.”
“I cannot thank you enough for this.” I said to her.
“There is one last thing I want to give you.” She turns around and rumages through the box. “Ah, here.” with her outstretched hand she presents a small cylider to me.
I reach out and take it. Looking at the thing I can not figure out what it is. “I dont understand.”
“Hmmm, strange. It’s a beam sword.” the masker takes it from me and pressings a small switch on the side. Immediately out of the end of it a flash went out. A faint light shined from it and the area around it was displaced.
“Wo.” is all I could muster. She retracted the laser blade and then handed back to me. A slithering sound from the hall directs my attention. I swiftly turn to see a bunch of slithering cables and body parts coming from the hall. “What is that?” the mask woman steps in front of me, as if to guard me.
However, as the body parts and cables entered the room I can make out Velora’s face, the mess of tangled parts reform her body as she is coming together she looks at me. “Prina. What are you doing?”
“What the hell Velora?” I say shocked and a little frightens if I am to be honest.
“You are a devil are you not.” the masker says to Velora.
She regards her for a moment, stern faced and almost, almost haunting. “Maybe.”
“Take care of her.”
“I wouldn’t harm her.” Velora growls quiet clearly offended by the maskers bias. “Did she give you that armor?” I nodded my head sheepishly. “Thank you, it is very kind of you.”
“I dont know why. She reminds me of my daughter. It was the least I could do.”
“You daughter?” I ask.
For a moment the masker paused to look at me and then turned away. “You take care of that girl. You don’t want the blood child on your vile hands.” She continues into the hall without even looking back.
“Come Prina.” Velora says as she makes her way down the staircase to the desert below.
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