chapter sixteen: Wild

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"Absolutely not," I said, shooting to my feet. I had been sitting on Daily's couch, holding Sparrow's hands in mine. Now I was pacing, a ball of anxiety and rage. 

"We have to go to him," Sparrow pleaded, standing to face me, "It's the only way to make sure you can survive here more permanently."

"At what cost!" I snapped, "He destroyed our world!" 

"Not that anyone asked me, but while I definitely want Wild to permanently be an earthbound prisoner just like me, there has to be something else we can do. I've got a bad feeling about confronting a man who single handedly planned the destruction of an entire planet," Daily said.

"Exactly!" I gestured to Daily. Then I said, slightly under my breath, "Don't call me Wild." 

"Psh, not happening. That name is sticking forever, fam." He winked. 

"I just found you. I cannot lose you again," Sparrow said, gripping my arms and staring into my eyes, "My home, my world, exists nowhere in the vast expanse of space. It's only in the universe behind your eyes," he whispered, "Without you, I can't ever be home." 

I bit my lip and glanced away. 

"How can he help anyway," Daily asked, "How are you not dead if you're both from Veritas?" 

Sparrow let go of my arms and looked down at his hands. He held one in the other and slumped his shoulders a little. He looked defeated, sorry. "The noblest families were bread to survive here. It's a plan that was put in motion long before I was born."

My brow drew together, "What?" 

He sighed and sat down on the couch once more. He let his head fall back and stared at the ceiling for a moment. "That's why I look like I do. That's why my family, and the other noble families, don't look like true Veritans. We were genetically engineered to be here."

I couldn't believe it. In the few memories I had retrieved so far, I remembered Veritas as the most beautiful place imaginable, full of vibrant colors and vibrant Veritans, full of star-filled nights and pink morning light, clean air, space, untampered wilderness. I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to come to such a crowded, polluted planet as earth. As beautiful as it was here, it was terrible too, chaotic and full, and the wilderness was ever shrinking, the resources ever diminishing. 

"Why?" I whispered, my voice cracking with emotion, "Why couldn't he just leave Veritas behind. Why did he have to destroy it?" 

"Vita," he said, running a hand through his hair. 

"What?" I asked.

"Vita," he said again, "Do you remember it? It's the gift we have. You've used it. It's the life force we all shared on Veritas. But the nobles wished to harness it and adapt it, and..." he paused, his face a mask of frustration and anger. He clenched his fists at his sides and took a deep breath before he went on, "the more of us--the more Veritans--there are, the less vita we're allowed to access. It's shared. My father wanted to access more of it, and he promised his followers that they would be able to as well if they went along with his plans."

"No," I whispered, my lip trembling. 

"There was more, though. He could have just wiped out the Veritans, mass genocide, but... our first space voyagers found earth, and when they returned they reported strange things happening with their vita. They reported that it was stronger on earth, but also that they could not stay there for long because the atmosphere was much dryer than ours and more oxygen rich," he explained, his brow tense, "to go back, they began genetic experimentation on those first voyagers, one of which was a very distant grandfather of mine. Thus began the Noble race and the Rite family's place in the heirarchy." 

"Have I ever heard any of this before?" I asked, "Who knew this?"

"You knew as soon as I found out. When I came of age and my father finally told me of his plans. Not long before the escape ships were prepared to leave," he said.

"Shit," Daily hissed under his breath. 

"Why don't I remember any of this," I groaned, exasperated. 

"There were already settlers of ours here on earth. This plan has been in place for as long as the Nobles have existed. There's nothing in our history books. No one knew. You and I, we tried to warn them. We tried to warn the people. But my father released the Influence and no one listened. Then the fires began," he said. 

My heart began to beat rapidly. I saw flashes in my mind. I saw us running through smog filled streets. I saw people screaming, children crying, as fire sprouted from the ground and climbed toward the sky, until they choked on mist and fog and calm settled over their faces even as some of them burned to death. 

"My family." I stopped running and screamed, "My mother and father!" 

Sparrow pushed me forward yelling, "Don't stop! Get out of the fog. Get to the ship. I'll find them." 


"Wild! Don't look back. Wait for me there. I'll come for you." He shouted, pushing me on. "Go!"

Tears streamed down my face as I ran forward, holding my breath against the fog. I felt the tug of calm pulling at me from what I'd inhaled already, but I knew what was happening and I fought it. I had to make it to the ship. When I made it past the city, the fog lessened. I could see the escape ships lined up on the platform far ahead, near the Rite Exploration Center. They weren't even hiding them. There were dozens of ships ready to launch. I knew the one I was looking for: 862, and I knew the entrance code. I just had to make it to the ship without being caught. 

My heart raced, my lungs hurt, my legs felt like jello. But I pushed on. I thought of Sparrow, of all of our hopes and dreams, of all that we had to do to save Earth from the Nobles, to save the future of our people. This was our last hope. We couldn't stop what was in motion, but we could prevent more destruction. 

Somehow I made it to the ship. Somehow I made it on. It was all a huge blur. But I did it. I raced to the ship's window, and I waited. I clung to the sill for dear life, and I waited. And I waited. 

Then the ship's engine roared to life. The jets spewed fire. The whole vessel shook. 

"No!" I screamed, rushing around the ship. Looking for the control panels. But it was preprogrammed. There was no pilot. There were no controls that I could find. 

I ran back to the window and pressed my palms on the glass. I searched the ground below. Sparrow was running toward the ship through the flames and fog. I banged on the glass and screamed to him. I cried out his name. But he couldn't hear me. He tried. He tried so hard, but he couldn't make it. He was too far back, and as the jets propelled the ship into the sky, the force of it pushed him to the ground. 

I cried as I watched him grow smaller and smaller as I ascended alone. I watched as he disappeared and my world exploded into flame. 

I gasped. 

"Are you okay?" Sparrow asked, eyes full of concern. 

I realized tears were streaming down my face now. I wrapped my arms around him and buried my face into his chest. I thought I had watched him die, but somehow he had made it to me again. I realized I couldn't let him go without a fight. Just as he could find no home without me, I could find no home without him. I had never imagined I'd be so sentimental. But maybe there was power in vulnerability. Maybe I could be soft and hard at the same time. Maybe there was more power in both. 

Or maybe it would be my destruction. 

We would find out soon enough. 

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