Twenty-Three: Origins

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Report: Quinn
Just off the coast of Nova Scotia.
Canada.
Prototype mobile launch platform.
Designation: "The Firmament"

Upon returning from the Second Battle of Zolotoy, the Firmament's resident medical staff had subjected me to a battery of medical tests.

The Apollo's second explosion had deafened me in my right ear.

According to the lead doctor I was extremely lucky to have escaped the explosions with nothing but a perforated eardrum. I was diagnosed with unilateral deafness and told that my hearing would likely never return.

Fortunately, recent medical advances from the third world war gave the public implants used to supplement hearing loss. A small device, about the same size as a wireless earbud, now resided in my ear canal, allowing me to hear once more. It wasn't perfect, but it worked. As a bonus I could now receive signals from voice comms without having to wear a bulky, breakable headset.

I fiddled with my implant during the elevator ride to the bridge, listening to the sound cut in and out again like a tuned radio. Satisfied I had it about where I wanted it, I let my hand drop.

“I swear they make this elevator ride slower than the others,” Daewi quipped.

Martin, Daewi, Karen, Kedrick, Troy and I stood clustered together as the elevator rose. Most of us stood in silence as the lift hummed along the track, bringing us higher out of the bowels of the Firmament and closer to both the bridge and some much-needed answers.

The gold dollar was heavy in my hands. A comforting weight. I was lucky to not have lost it in Zolotoy.

“Maybe it's slow because getting to the bridge should feel like an important event,” Daewi continued, “no matter if it's good or bad.”

Nobody responded. Most of us were too nervous.

I'd recounted my meeting with the Exodus pilot to them on the way home from Zolotoy, which, I might add, now once again remained neutral thanks to us. We’d all seen the Exodus use a stealth ability like the Prowler's, so most of us had the same burning questions.

Who was the Exodus pilot, what relation did she have to Mallet, and where did she acquire the stealth ability? Why hadn't anyone told us?

Daewi's endless prattle interrupted my thoughts.

“Think about it,” he was rambling, “if you did something bad you're going to be sweating buckets the whole long ride up thinking about what you did. Do something right and you can't get up soon enough. Adds anticipation! I'm just saying if this elevator wasn't so slow we wouldn't be as-”

“Quiet.”

Commander Martin Telbus stood to the rear of the lift. He'd been mostly silent since Zolotoy, refusing to share a single detail of our mysterious ally until we were in Mallet's presence. His single spoken word was enough to calm Daewi’s chatter.

Daewi scuffed his heel against the elevator floor, making the metal plating bounce.

“Sorry. I talk when I'm nervous.”

Telbus simply nodded his thanks.

There were six of us in the elevator. There should’ve been seven. Warren had died not knowing the same answers we looked for now. His body hadn’t been recovered; he was now one of the many parts of the living war monument that was Zolotoy. His funeral was to be held at the end of the war, as was tradition for any fallen combatants in our alliance. Mourn later, everyone said. The war continued with or without you.

I hadn't even known Warren.

I didn't really know any member of my squad beyond Daewi. I made a mental note to get our squadron together again after the meeting, break the tension with some talk and some drinks.

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