If you asked me what was the one thing that I hated all of my life, I would answer, dirt. Yeah, that’s right, dirt. And trust me, I’ve had a lot of run-ins with dirt in my life, most of it in my previous job. I mean, it’s not like I was a neat freak or anything. Okay, maybe a little. But what’s wrong with cleanliness. Anyway, maybe I should have picked another gym. This one wasn’t the cleanest. But it was close by, and it definitely fit my budget. Plus, who was I to complain. After all, when I joined, I won a free one-cycle membership and a trip to Paulux Four, the most prestigious vacation planet in the Chesarn Nebula.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, wow, she’s really lucky. Funny thing about luck. Sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it just seems good at the time. The truth is, you just won’t know until it all plays out. So, with that in mind, let’s just say I won a vacation and decide later if we can consider it lucky. Anyway, that was about the time they had reported those minor tremors on Paulux Four. You may have heard about it on the holonet. And now you’re probably thinking, how unlucky. But really, it was nothing major, and I certainly wasn’t giving up a free trip because of some minor tremors. However, thinking back on it, that could be the reason they were giving away free trips. I guess one being’s bad luck is another being’s good luck. But like I said, let’s just say I won a vacation and decide later about all of this luck stuff.
A few weeks later, I was there. Me, living it up on Paulux Four. Everything they say about how amazing that place is, is absolutely true. Perfect temperature, perfect beach, perfect sand, perfect people, perfect—well, you get the point. Anyway, it was my first day there. The morning was filled with good food, good conversation with a Bruaquatti couple, and an exciting water show by the hotel pool. I gotta say, I was loving it. So, when the afternoon arrived, I decided to get a little shopping done. Did I mention that I like to shop?
The shops on Paulux Four are designed to understand your wants and your needs. Everywhere you go, there’s something you will want. Crazy, right? Well, it didn’t really matter. I never actually made it to the shops. You see, on my way there, I started feeling a little odd. Like someone was trying to speak to me, but nobody was near enough to be speaking to me. “You are called,” the voice said. I actually heard it twice. “You are called,” it said again. I turned around, but nothing, no one. I started to think I was losing my mind. But before I could think it, it happened. Tremor. Big tremor. The ground was shaking. I didn’t know what to do. Should I run? Should I dive to the ground? And before I could make up my mind, the planet chose for me.
The ground in front of me just disappeared, as if something had just commanded it to suddenly be somewhere else. I tried to step back, but it was too late. I must have fallen forever. At least it seemed like it. They tell me I fell over fifty feet. I can’t really say how far or how long because the only thing I remember is lying face down and seeing something, blurred, glowing beside me, or maybe attached to me. I know that sounds crazy, but truthfully, that’s all I’ve got. And if you think that’s crazy, well, what I remember next is even crazier than that.
I was standing surrounded by fire and by ice. Yep, I said it. Fire and ice. Imagine a full circle and me standing in the middle. The left side of the circle, fire. The right side of the circle, ice. And standing within arms distance of me, a female warrior in a spectacular suit of armor. I don’t know how I knew the warrior’s name, but her name was Yakhan. It was like she was speaking to me, but the words weren’t entering my ears. Her words were somehow penetrating my—my soul. Like she was having a conversation with my soul, and I was just standing there observing.
“You are called,” she said. Yakhan’s words echoed as her eyes connected with mine. Then there was so much light, and as the darkness faded, overtaken by the infinite amount of light, I looked at my arms and my hands. I was wearing armbands, and my hands—my hands were engulfed. The left, covered with orange-red flames. The right, covered with blue flames. One hot, one cold. Then the light overtook me. A few seconds later, I sat up. I must have yanked some wires off of me because alarms started sounding.
“Medical emergency room 7. Medical emergency room 7,” the robotic voice kept repeating. A few seconds later, a team of medical staff rushed in, some mechanical, some not. Last to enter, also the calmest of them all, was a tall Bruaquatti male. While everyone else just stared at me, the Bruaquatti walked past the rest, smiled, and said, “So, you have finally decided to join us.”
Turns out, I had been in the medical facility for ten full rotations, seven days if you translate to GTP time. “What happened?” I asked. “How did I get here? And who are you?”
The Bruaquatti doctor asked the bot next to him to turn off the alarm, and then he motioned to everyone to leave. As they did, he started explaining to me what had happened. How I had fallen and nearly died. The funny thing, as he put it, was that I didn’t have a scar on me. No external damage, no internal damage. Just wouldn’t regain consciousness, he explained as he removed the rest of the wires from my head, chest, and arms. That was when I noticed the armband on each of my arms. I asked him if he was going to remove them also, and he just smiled. Then he started to slowly shake his head as he said, “We tried very hard to remove those armbands when you arrived. And when I say very hard, I mean we tried everything. Those armbands don’t want to come off.”
I know, right. You’re probably thinking what I was thinking at the time. Interesting way to phrase that statement. “Don’t want to come off.” As if they had a choice. But I would come to realize later that the armbands kind of have a mind of their own. But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. Let’s just say for now that I couldn’t remove the armbands. And yes, it took me a minute to realize that the armbands were from the dream.
You also might be thinking, wow, no injuries. You are really lucky. Well, I hate to keep repeating myself, but don’t forget, sometimes it is luck, and sometimes it just seems like it at the time. You see, what I didn’t know at the time was that one of the staff had filed a simple report. The report contained my name, my status, and details surrounding the event, including all of the oddities surrounding my condition, including the part about no injuries and two armbands that would not allow themselves to be removed. Although it took a few days, that report caught the attention of the Confederation. But it also caught the attention of Queen Deceptra’s Legion. But as I said, I didn’t know that at the time.
So, the next day, I boarded a transport to home. The transport was extensive. Big enough for about a hundred or so. But, other than the crew, I was the only one aboard. At first, I thought it was odd, but they explained that I was leaving mid-week, and typically, guests did not leave mid-week. This transport was headed to multiple planets to pick up more guests. Just my luck, I guess. Sorry, I thought that would be funny.
I don’t know how far we made it from Paulux Four, but I think that we had been traveling about five or six hours or so. I wish I could be more exact, but I was a bit distracted, and oddly enough, I was tired. I couldn’t stop thinking about or looking at my arms. Also, about the dream. About Yakhan, about being called. What did that mean anyway?
Right about then was when everything got weird. The ship rocked, and alarms started going off. I couldn’t tell whether we had hit something, been caught in some kind of restraint beam, or had been attacked. Not until I heard the secondary explosions and what sounded like another ship’s engines. Whatever it was, it had to be much larger than us based on the vibrations. Before I knew it, I was on my way to the bridge. It was three levels away, and I wasn’t exactly sure of the fastest way to get there. Not to mention that I had no idea why I wanted to go there. It was like someone had just placed the thought in my head. I think I knew that it was the armbands that had suggested it, but I don’t think I was ready to accept that it was the armbands that were—talking to me. Not with words or anything. Just—well—communicating, somehow.
Regardless, I finally found a comm panel and activated it. I accessed the ship’s layout and found the quickest way to the bridge. Actually, the plans were already open. As I turned to leave, a thought occurred. Why would any of the crew need to access a map of the ship? So, I asked the computer how many beings were on board, other than the crew. I didn’t like the answer. Apparently, we had been boarded. Next, I asked the computer to show me any ships in the area. Again, I didn’t like the answer. One Kartaan Class Dreadnaught, which had already launched two troop carriers, which had already docked with our ship. Queen Deceptra’s Legion was aboard and heading for the bridge. But I knew, somehow, that they were here looking for me, or at least the armbands. And the armbands had no intention of being turned over to Queen Deceptra. Oh, and in case I didn’t mention it, I’m pretty good with computers. Another side effect of my previous job.
One level away from the bridge, I literally ran into a squad of Legion guards as I rounded a corner. Took the lead guard right off his feet. Smoke started coming off of his chest plate. Malfunction, I guessed. As for me, I slammed into the corridor wall but stayed on my feet. For a few ticks, it was like time switched into slow motion. Then, they all raised their weapons. I didn’t even consider other options. It was like I was in motion before I’d even made up my mind to fight. But fight, we did. I could tell the one in front of me was about to fire her weapon. I grabbed the barrel, spun around, and gave her an elbow to the helmet. Must have disconnected a coolant hose or something. There was liquid ice coming out of the connector between her helmet and suit. I spun her around and tossed her into the remaining two. That caused one of them to fire at the ceiling. Unfortunately, they must have hit a waste pipe, which decided to discharge its contents onto all of us. Did I mention that I didn’t like dirt? Oh, and I probably forgot to say that I’m a pretty good fighter. It’s my job. Or at least it was my job. Former military. Short career. Anyway, after taking care of the squad and now reeking from whatever we had just been doused with, I decided I’d better take a weapon or two. No guns. If I got caught, it might cause them to fire on me. And I didn’t want that. Besides, I don’t like guns. I guess I had enough of guns in my former career. So, I picked up two knives. Easy to conceal and suitable for close combat.
Strange thing about that squad, lying there, unconscious in the corridor. Maybe the adrenaline kept me from fully taking it in at the time, but some of them had burns on their uniforms, and some of them had ice. Regardless, when I made it to the bridge, things got ugly.
Sadly, most of the crew had already been wounded, were lying unconscious, or worse. The last of which was kneeling on the ground, pulse rifle pointed at her head. I recognized her as the ship’s captain. In the second that it took for the blade I was holding in my right hand to fly across the room and land in the forearm of the Legion guard who was pointing the pulse rifle at the captain’s head, I took note of the following. There were four Legion guards in the room. Two seemed to be checking consoles around the room, one had fire coming out of his lower abdomen, where I had struck him with the blade in my left hand, and as the blade that had been in my right hand struck the remaining guard, his arm seemed to be engulfed in—ice? I didn’t have time to process it as the others turned to attack me.
My momentum had carried me to the center of the room, centered between the two, still standing, guards. They charged. I jumped, turned, kicked one, then the other, before landing on my feet. Now, I only mention this because it was a really cool move. I also mention it because, even on my best day, I had never been able to perform that kick before. I had fallen on my face quite a few times trying, but having ever nailed it, no. Never. Not even close. As I landed, I saw each of my foes flying across the room, each slamming into a console and then falling to the ground.
“Woah,” the captain said. “And thanks. They would have killed me for sure. We’ve had run-ins with the Legion before, but nothing ever like this. What’s a Dreadnaught want with my ship?”
“Believe it or not,” I said, “I think they are here for me. But let’s say we don’t wait for them to send more soldiers to confirm.”
I took a look at the navigation and ships diagnostics consoles. It looked like we were being held in a class four restraint beam. I found the communications console and entered in a few commands. Then sent a tight beam on the upper-band frequencies. A trick I learned back when I was a—oh, did I mention that I used to be a pilot? Grew up transporting—well, that’s not important right now. Let’s just say I exploited a vulnerability in the class four restraint beam, and they lost their grip on us.
Believe it or not, the captain turned to me and said, “Wow, that was lucky.” I didn’t bother to say anything back. In fact, I didn’t have time. The next thing we heard and felt was laser fire slamming into our hull. That was followed by a different type of alarm. The main viewer started flashing and overlayed a schematic of the ship. We were venting atmosphere, and we were taking more damage by the second. Then all of a sudden, the laser fire stopped. Well, not exactly. It had only stopped hitting us. They were still firing but at something else. And that something else was firing at them. I switched the main viewer and caught a glimpse of the other vessel before we turned and started diving toward the planet below. It was a Confederation ship. Not just any Confederation ship. It was the Confederation flagship. The Tana’s Reprisal. But we didn’t have time to celebrate. We were about to enter the planet’s atmosphere.
“We need to get everyone to the escape pods,” the captain yelled.
“I don’t think there’s enough time. And besides, there are still two troop carriers off our port side, and they have guns. We’d be sitting ducks,” I said as I moved to the navigation console. “We can make the planet. I can land us, but I’ll need some help.”
“This is my ship. If it’s going to crash-land, I’ll be the one in command.” She just looked at me for a moment as if preparing to preempt whatever I was going to say. So, I just nodded and waited for instructions.
I have to say, I’m really glad I did it her way because a short time later, we were on the ground, in one piece, in the middle of a dense forest, or what seemed to be wetlands. I guess I shouldn’t sugarcoat it. It was a straight-up swamp. Yep, I said swamp, and I don’t have to remind you that I hate dirt.
The good news was that we were alive. More good news, I didn’t think those troop carriers could handle our steep descent into the atmosphere. Even more good news, I’m sure I saw a town close to where we crashed. Less good news? All systems on the ship were down. Even lesser good news, it really needed to be me that left the ship and made the trek to the town. Everyone else was in bad shape, and the captain needed to take care of her crew and her dead. The least I could do was go to get help. After all, I believed it was all because of me.
I thought about all of this as I started my journey. I’m not going to say I liked it because I didn’t. Just as a side note, you really don’t realize how large a craft is until you have to walk away from it. I’d been walking for a while, following our path in, and it seemed as if the ship was just as big as it was when I was standing next to it. Engines still burning hot, barely visible through the fog. That was when I saw it. Another craft was coming overhead. I figured someone from the town saw us and sent a small craft to investigate. It was dark, so it was hard to determine what kind of craft it was. A few seconds later, I knew. I knew exactly what it was. I can’t explain how I knew, but I’ll try. Imagine stepping a few minutes forward in time, taking a look around, then returning back to your body. Okay, now imagine that it wasn’t you that took the look around, but someone did it on your behalf. Then that someone just transferred the knowledge directly to your brain. I believe that someone was the warrior from my dream, Yakhan.
Regardless, I knew that the craft overhead was a Legion troop transport. They had tracked us after all. And then had seen me, activated the ship’s floodlights, and announced their presence. The light lit up the surrounding area, but the fog did everything it could to suppress the light. Then I heard them. One in front of me, one in back. So, there I stood, covered in waste and swamp water, knives in each hand, ready to fight my final battle. I think that moment was when it all came together for me. “You are called,” Yakhan had said. “Called,” I thought. I knew what that meant. I was called to serve. Called, not by Yakhan, but by the Most High God. The God of all. And if I was called, maybe my journey was just beginning, and maybe He had supplied me with everything I had needed to get through this journey. And in that moment, which seemed to go on forever, I retraced the events that had taken place. The fall, the armbands, the announcement, the fights, the soldiers, the ice, the fire. And as the Legion guard behind me pulled the trigger, I realized I did not need a knife. I didn’t need a weapon at all. I realized that I was called, not just for this fight but for the battle to come. The battle between light and dark.
At that moment, I released my knives and shot a bolt of blue at the Legion guard behind me. Even though I didn’t look, I knew that the bolt had consumed the guard’s laser blast and frozen the guard in a block of ice from the shoulders down. Seeing what I had done, the guard in front of me hesitated. I guess you could say she froze. So, I thought I’d help her out with a bolt of fire. It hit her so hard that it threw her about thirty yards, where she slammed into a tree. And you know the rest.
“Would you mind? For the record, that is,” Mira asked.
Oh, sure, I keep forgetting that this is for the log. Well, the ship overhead decided to open fire. At the same time, I heard an odd hum, but I was more concerned with the attacking ship than I was about a portal of light opening near me. Besides, it was like the armbands were letting me know that the portal wasn’t a bad thing, but the ship was. Anyway, I put my hands close together, pointed in the direction of the ship, and unleashed fire and ice. The ship, wisely, turned and fled. I thanked God, and then I cried. That was when I noticed you, I mean Agent Mira and someone that I thought was a fictional character, Commander Shyah.
It was odd, but it was like I was glad to see her. Like I missed her, someone I had never met before. As if we were bonded somehow. Now I realize that the connection is Yakhan and her armor. I am an armor bearer. I am fire and ice.
Seeing both of them step out of the portal suddenly made me realize that I was still covered in layers of yuck. I’m sure they saw me smile as I clenched my hands together and covered myself with a thin layer of ice and then with a mild layer of fire. It was so refreshing, and I was finally clean again. Physically and emotionally. And after a long time of not knowing exactly who I was, and being lost, so to speak, now I was connected again, found if you will. It was overwhelming. I stared at them, Mira and Shyah, and I cried tears of joy.
So, was it luck after all? Was everything that happened to me just random chance? No. I don’t think so. I was lost after serving in the war. But now I am called. I was broken, but now I am healed. And now, I live to restore, to support, and to strengthen those around me. I am Lume Xeo. I am fire. I am ice.
[END OF MISSION BRIEFING]
[Agents of ACTS Classified Document]