Project Super Nex, Chapter Six: Journeyers

“Here’s the Journeyer-class spaceship fleet for today’s invasion!” announced Xavier, waving his arm with a merry flourish. “Beauties, if I do say so myself. Thirty beautiful ships.”
Wyatt and Dr. Fulbright’s faces were open with wonder as they took in the massive ships. Mobular-sized domes encircled the middle of the cylindrical vehicles, protruding curved fins toward the front and rear ends. Technicians had finished charging the diamantium cannons in some of the domes, while extra artillery and pods were being loaded into other domes. The triple-layered shielding on the front end swooped up from the bottom in a triangular chin, protruded a long antenna of a nose, shone its cockpit windows as a pair of gleaming silver eyes, and sported a crew cut over the grooved metal on top.
Wyatt commented, “The spaceships here are quite large. Won’t M67 detect them?”
“Not when the Journeyers have activated their cloak settings,” said Xavier, reaching into the pocket of his big shirt, printed with bees buzzing between cardinal orchids. “Wyatt, let me give you this first. Web finished it last night.” He pulled out a slender band of something between plastic and steel. It had a small touchscreen and an even smaller barcode.
“What is it?” Wyatt asked, letting Xavier clasp it around his left wrist.
“It will track your health stats and send the data for your physical and mental condition directly to our network. If you need to soothe yourself, the monitor has a built-in anxiolytic that we designed to calm some of our operatives, the ones who get easily overwrought.” Xavier tapped the touchscreen to make it emit a bright white glow, which dimmed in two seconds.
“What do those symbols mean?” Wyatt asked, pointing to the screen.
“Yes, there’s the triangle, which injects the anxiolytic with a pin that pricks your skin right here.” He gestured to the upper side of his own wrist. “The oval will send an alert message to SPACE Union so we can trace its signal and send help. The square will display a numbered stat to indicate how healthy you are.” Xavier reached over and tapped the oval, which made him suck in his stomach.
The touchscreen’s bright red hue preceded a rapid beeping and a sign that read Set off emergency mode? Xavier’s hands arched inwardly and he mumbled something to himself. He poised his finger over the No button, tapped it, and leaned back to sheepishly smile at Wyatt and Dr. Fulbright. “Make sure you press it only during an emergency, Wyatt.”
“Will do.” Standing still when Xavier tapped the square and made 91 flash on the screen, Wyatt let out a little pondering groan. “Could this be better?”
Dr. Fulbright pointed out, “It’s only nine points away from one hundred.”
“Your health is in amazing shape!” Xavier exclaimed, whirling his arms in the air.
After Marsden’s voice instructed everyone over the loudspeakers to await a ticket to be sent to their phone, acquire equipment, and board their assigned Journeyer within thirty minutes, Dr. Fulbright said, “Listen, Wyatt, I haven’t had a chance to tell you how . . . how happy I am to see you do this. Rising against Grimhet, fulfilling your duties, being adaptive.”
Wyatt opened his mouth to say something, but he closed it and bit his lip. Looking down at his hands, making the palms glow, he finally said, “I, I’m doing my best. That’s all.”
Dr. Fulbright smiled lightly, adding a few more wide wrinkles to his forehead. He took off his glasses and hugged Wyatt, sounding both humorous and earnest as he said, “Now, you’re obligated to come back. Rad-Bio still needs its most hardworking stalwart.”
“‘Clever brain sees germs/White shirt and coat/Virus is toward stars/Cannot fathom terrible retrogression/Never pert, forward progression.'”
After Wyatt and Dr. Fulbright complimented Xavier for the Raellem poem, Wyatt said goodbye and circled around to the spaceships, his phone receiving a ticket for Journeyer number twenty. He suited up in a navy blue uniform with white trimming, the universal emblem on the right breast, and a holographic barcode on his upper arm. He obtained two W19s, backup aergen clips, and two pokers. He marched into his assigned Journeyer with three lines of other soldiers.
In the center of the hulking ship people were typing away on computers in a sphere of luminous glass, suspended ten feet above the floor, connected to other workstations by vibrating strings of light. Small hovercrafts, weaponry racks, and spacesuit stations lined the walls. A man in a coat with a trio of eight-pointed stars on each shoulder led Wyatt to a closet of spacesuits and helped him slip it on over his uniform. He called over an assistant to help connect the slender piping between a breathing filter and the silvery-tinted helmet. The weapons clicked into holsters on the hips and arms. A touchscreen in the wrist flashed Bay 3.
The intercom squeaked, making people cover their ears. Then Marsden’s voice boomed, “Passengers, take your positions. Journey: Infest will launch in ten minutes.”
Everyone scurried around even faster as Wyatt made his way to Bay Three. Clipping the seatbelt over his bunchy spacesuit, itching through the hard elbow pads, the talk with his parents last night came to mind. He had told them about the Journey, making them scream, “WHAT?!”
Ida said, talking fast, “What if you die out there, or you contract miasim and you have to live inside a purity chamber, or you get corroded with ooze, or you have to get an amputation?”
Merlin said, his voice spiking up to the high notes, “You’re not built for war!”
“It’s not war, it’s an ambush on a Grimhet-infected planet.”
“That is the exact same thing,” Merlin stated, regaining his deep tone.
Ida said, “Don’t throw yourself into the goop storm solely to appease SPACE Union.”
“I’m not,” Wyatt quickly responded.
He had ended the call soon after reassuring them that he would survive the Journey, not mentioning Gargant’s pop-in. Now, he muttered, “I want to appease myself.” He closed his eyes and said more loudly, “Things will go well today. Things will go well today.”
“It’s better if you say, ‘Things are going well today’. Think of things as if they already exist, like I told you, and you’ll bring it into reality.”
Wyatt turned his head and smiled at the newcomer. “Sidney, good to see you.”
She sat next to him, eyes crinkling as she beamed. “Same here! Are you anxious?”
“Somewhat. Is it that easy to tell?”
“Eh, a little. You’re twisting your ring through the glove like there’s no tomorrow.” When Wyatt suddenly folded his hands together, she chuckled, “Don’t stop fidgeting. It’s healthy to release your stress. Remember that.”
“I’m trying to distract myself by focusing on how uncomfortable and bulky this suit is.”
“I know! We have all this advanced technology at our hands, yet we can’t get more comfortable spacesuits. The piping, the gloves, the clanking boots, the rhythmic grunts and hums of the breathing filter on your back like some impi’s clutching onto you for a ride.”
“I thought all that, except the impi part. But watch. We’re focusing on how constraining our spacesuits are, yet we’re about to travel to an ooze-infected planet.”
They both laughed before Penelope chimed in, “I’m experienced with these spacesuits.” She sat next to Sidney. “They’re not worth whining over.”
“I am protesting that presupposition.” Gene sat on a wall-backed bench opposite the trio. “This suit is tauten on my body, which does not bode well for my claustrophobia.”
“Likewise.” Corbin sat next to his brother. “Although I am less fearful of small spaces.”
“Ha ha, ah’d say these suits are pretty damn boss!” Cooper swaggered over and plopped down on Gene’s other side. “And look, we’re all here again. Isn’t that a coinky-dink!”
“A coinky-dink indeed,” Wyatt and Sidney said in unison.
Penelope rolled her eyes at everyone, then jerked her chin at the brothers. “How are you qualified for this Journey? There won’t be much use for tablet-tapping when fighting a Grimhet.”
Gene shook his head, jerking his curly hair from side to side. “Ms. Flame, it would be proper for you to refrain from disparaging Cerebral’s combat coaching. Professor Archimar has trained Corbin and me for four — ”
“Archimar got suspended last week for drinking at the University.”
Corbin defended, “For which he has apologized!”
The six of them chatted until Marsden began a countdown of sixty seconds over the intercom to launch all the Journeyers. “We’ll be launching,” Wyatt said before the countdown went down to three. “Everyone’s ready?”
“Ready,” the other five responded at the same time.
“Liftoff!” Marsden said to end the countdown.
All thirty Journeyers emitted a collective whir, immediately lifting themselves off the floor into a slow hover toward a door that was sliding open. They sped through a tunnel that sloped up into an airlock entry, waiting for the door behind them to close and the door ahead to open. They exited the cylindrical satellite station orbiting Bicap, spacetime curving around them more slowly than it would for crossbuses or mobulars. The antigravity shielding protected them as the channel lengthened through the graviton asteroid belt surrounding M67’s world circuit.
“We will enter M67’s atmosphere in ten minutes,” Marsden announced over the intercom, after the Journeyers emerged from the tunnel. “Soldiers, prepare to exit your bays.”
The soldiers twisted around to look out the windows at the planet, a bit blobbier-looking than the hologram Olympus showed Wyatt yesterday. In fact, everything looked worse, even the brown clouds funneling off the underside into a scruffy goatee.
“Ram spit,” Cooper moaned, pushing his forehead into his helmet to pad the sweat.
“How petrifying,” Gene squeaked, peeking over Wyatt’s shoulder. “The celestial body looks like our repellant great-uncle Lannigar.”
Corbin said, “If only there were a structure to represent his beaked nose.”
“No, it’s fashioned after Gargant,” asserted Penelope. “Ugliest planet I’ve ever seen.”
While the soldiers in each bay waited to be deployed, Sidney deeply breathed in and out, clasping her hands in front of herself. Penelope wordlessly wrapped an arm around her, talking to her in a low voice. Wyatt’s brow furrowed at this, but loosened up when Penelope’s eyes darted at him. Then he turned to Cooper, Corbin, and Gene and said, “Come on, let me take you over here. It’s a better view.” He looked at Penelope and Sidney. “You wanna — ”
“We’ll be here,” Penelope replied, unsmiling but nodding to him in approval. Sidney was staring out the window, a light sideways smile on her face.
Wyatt guided Cooper, Corbin, and Gene to a farther window as the Journeyers neared M67. Cooper asked, “Whaddaya think, we’ll get this invasion pinned up t’day?”
Wyatt replied, “The best we can do is we’ll see what we can do, my dad always says.”
Gene said, “Perhaps. The refractive camouflage shrouds for these gargantuan spacecrafts are a byproduct of Web’s designs, giving us the superiority of surprise.”
“Camo shrouds, ‘kay. Only wonderin’ ’cause I played a round of Catastrophic Gladiators: Break of Light on my Toggle 3V last night, and a top-shelf player beat me with an ambush. So, ya know, I got ambushes stuck in my thinker.”
Corbin said, “That video game series is far too gory to entertain Gene and me. As for the premises of an ambush on M67, I’m fairly skeptical.”
Then the intercom buzzed with Marsden’s voice. “Bay Three passengers, move to the central lobby. Bay Three passengers, the central lobby.” After they did so, she said, “Two minutes until touchdown on M67. All soldiers, move to your assigned detachment-ship.”
“This is it,” Sidney said as she and Penelope rejoined the others.
Wyatt saluted to the agents. “Good luck, everyone. Let’s show Grimhet what we can do.”
“Just remember, the Journey ended with our victory,” said Sidney, her body language more open than before. “We took one more step toward eradicating Grimhet.”
“Sid, Sid, Sid, do ya have to nag’im with your visualization advice?”
“Since I’m being helpful and he needs it, yes, Cooper!”
It was easy to overhear Corbin and Gene whisper foreign words to each other. Penelope blew out a breath and grabbed Sidney by the arm, saying, “Time for us to go, pronto. See you on the field.” She dragged Sidney away. “Let’s go to Detachment #23.”
“But I’m going to Detachment #20!”
Penelope double-checked the ticket on the sleeve of Sidney’s spacesuit, then turned her around. “Aren’t you wise, Apples. #20 it is.”
After the two of them split up, Gene said, “Oh, she adores superintending all activities.”
Cooper said, “Yep, she’s a control freak.”
After Corbin and Gene paced away, Wyatt said, “You’re right, she does like to get her hands on everything, especially at Rad-Bio.” He shrugged and waved goodbye. “See you soon.”
“Spill the crimson!” Cooper did the Drossel slash over his throat and swaggered away.
Wyatt went all the way to the end of the line at Detachment #80, finding a seat before Marsden’s next announcement. “Passengers, most of the detachments will hover in the vicinity of the location where the most Grimhet signatures have been concentrated on M67. The last five will deploy soldiers for investigation, after which we will send in the rest of the army. Look under your seat, where you will find a levitator pack. Attach it to the front of your suit.”
Everyone reached underneath their seats to pull out a rectangular slab of metal that was no bigger than a paperback book. Each copy zipped out of their hands and automatically attached to their spacesuits. The announcement continued, “They will boost you to the nearest path where we are detecting the signatures. If you decide that the place is an entry to the Grimhet base, permit the rest of the units to arrive.”
Everyone in this detachment stood from their seats and marched to the exit ports. The barriers slid open, allowing the thin air of the atmosphere to whoosh inside, which didn’t affect their positive-pressure spacesuits. Ahead of them was a grayish-black mountain that looked like the serrated tooth of a creature the size of a giant sun. The five closest detachments beeped loudly, signaling the soldiers to fly out of the doorways with their levitator packs.
They landed on the mountainside and made crunching noises with every step across the rock-littered sand, all the way to the cavern sending out the signatures, according to their wrist computers. They withdrew either a W19 or pokers and creeped into the cavern, their glowing visors looking like half-bubbles around their heads. Oozy water trickled from the arched ceiling and plinked on the ridged ground. After entering a circular room, they stopped and examined eight passages spoking away from it. Some soldiers began to discuss which one they should take.
“Am I the only one detecting palpable gloominess?” Gene whispered to Wyatt, assigned to the group without his brother. “We forecasted this, of course, but this feels . . . singular.”
Wyatt opened his hand and trailed small wisps from his fingers. “I don’t understand,” he mumbled, watching the wisps stretch into each of the eight passages.
“Must I clarify? Grimhet is present, I am confident, but they are being insidious. They might — ” Gene stopped when an energy wisp in one passage dissolved, forcing Wyatt to jerk his hands away and break the rest of the wisps.
Murmurs rose from the rest of the soldiers, some of them directly asking Wyatt what he was doing. When a disgruntled sigh exhaled from the passages and then changed into clinks and growls around the soldiers, they moved back and lifted their heads at the rumbling from above. Then their comms channels buzzed with the voices of Journeyer pilots, although most of them
were too staticky to understand.
The clearest one was, “Grimhets attack — sttzzkk-stzzkk! — return to — sttizzik-stizkz!”
For a moment everyone stood still, and then Wyatt called out, “Let’s go, now!”
The moment they burst out of the cave, they reared back from a white dragon slamming onto the mountainside, puffing dust into Wyatt’s forcefield. Grimacing faces wailed from the smooth membranes of its twenty-foot-wide wings. The dragon’s own face had a plastered grin due to its strangely-tight jaw, barely moving when a kru-rawwwkkk!! shot out of its long, bony crest. It rose on two legs, the knees facing backwards. Then its jaw suddenly flapped open, and a plume of pure white fire seared the domed forcefield. Wyatt retaliated by barraging the dragon with energy orbs, toppling it off the mountain, its cobalt-burnt body spiraling into a black valley.
“Are all your levitator packs still working?” Wyatt asked, and the soldiers tested them out by hovering off the ground. He changed the forcefield from a dome into a sphere, sustaining it as everyone flew together to the five waiting detachments. Meanwhile, more of the dragons were soaring out of the valleys, up to the Journeyers, some with Haggas, Fisses, Rampas, and the apish Gorulies mounted on their backs.
“Dra-Drakoline, those tortured reptiles are, they are supposed to be eh-extinct!” Gene stuttered after he boarded the same detachment as Wyatt.
“Apparently, Grimhet doesn’t care about that,” intoned Wyatt, flexing his hands.
When the detachments returned to the Journeyers, the engines had already started up and everyone on board was bustling with urgency. A swarm of Drakoline flew by, slashing their talons into the armored exterior. The cuts were thin at first, but then one Drakolin dug all four paws into one of the domed compartments, twisting it off, thrusting a paw into the now-open tube that led to one of the engines. With one jab from a talon, yellowish-orange flames consumed the engine and forced the Drakolin backward.
Meanwhile, Grimhets were disembarking the Drakoline, sprinting across their stiff wings, and bashing their appendages into the windows. All grim was unleashed once they broke into the Journeyer, crushing computers, piercing metal, leaving oozed Starsapiens in their trail. When a few Drakoline rammed into the Journeyer’s side, rocking it with unsteady groans, everyone was thrown to the floor. Wyatt and Gene were some of the people who got back up almost at once, just in time for Gene to don his Gelescent gloves and launch gel at an incoming Hagga.
“Where’s Corbin? I’ll bring you to him!” Wyatt asked, drawing one of his W19s.
“Do not burden yourself, Mr. Durrell. I will reunite with him by myself.”
Gene scampered off, his gel ropes lashing a Rampa out a shattered window along the way. Wyatt was left to face off against a Goruly, the gorilla-like creature standing on two bowled legs, leaning forward and planting its calloused hands on the floor, ooze dripping from the moldy growths around all four of its askew eyes and its protruding mouth. It dodged Wyatt’s air bullets much more nimbly than other Grimhets would. Then it thrust an open hand into his forcefield with a crackle, knocking the W19 out of his hands. It overlapped its other hand on top, pressing further into the dome, the webbing between its fingers leaking ooze into the Super Nex energy.
From out of nowhere a boomerang zipped around the Goruly’s neck and yanked it back. Its moldy growths spurted more ooze with every yowl and every lurch. Sidney held onto the boomerang and stuck her feet into its back, not giving a care about the jagged locks of greasy hair latching onto her legs and arms. Wyatt helped by energy-lassoing the ankles, tripping the Goruly into a face-plant. The boomerang pushed halfway up into its throat. Its hair let go of Sidney, and she rolled off its back and retrieved her ooze-covered boomerang.
“Hey, Durrell!” she said, waving her weapon at him.
He used a wisp to gesture to the chaos around them. “A victory for us, you said?”
“We can turn this around,” she stated, before a scraping noise resounded from above and the Journeyer suddenly sunk a few feet in the sky.
“I’m gonna check that out,” Wyatt said, regarding Sidney with another firm look.
“All right, then.” She sprinted away to hurl her boomerang at a Fiss.
Wyatt picked up his W19 from the floor, but the earlier collision had inflicted two long cracks along the barrel, letting the aergen leak out. He made a small grunt and tossed the gun aside, then flew out of a window in his spacesuit, zooming up to find a Drakolin tearing away at the Journeyer’s roof. Reaching for one of his pokers, he shook his head and instead bombarded the dragon with orbs. It curled its wings in front as a shield, screeching into a zigzag flight, its open maw streaming fire. Wyatt jumped forward, missing the flames as they left white burns on the roof. He twisted around just as the Drakolin dive-bombed him, pushing into his forcefield, pounding the Journeyer downward.
Wyatt’s forcefield cracked off some sparks that scorched the Drakolin’s white skin with energy blotches. It flapped its wings to fly backward, the grin thinning across its face as its crest screamed a kru-kru-raawwwkkk!! Then its head twisted around on its neck when Penelope peppered it with air bullets, swooping down to gash its knee with her switchgun rapiers. The leg automatically jumped up and tottered the Drakolin the other way, giving Wyatt a chance to blast its head with three large orbs.
“You got burned, sludgy, the lab tech burned you!” Penelope barked at the limp Grimhet, stabbing her switchguns into its neck.
“Penelope, should I be concerned about this fury you unleash against dead monsters?”
She countered his dismay with a glare. “Zip the lips. Sidney’s the same way.”
“No, she isn’t.”
“Yes, she is. Wait till she pounces on a grimer and digs a boomerang into its throat.”
“I’ll see about that.” Wyatt glimpsed upward at a Journeyer where Marsden and three others, wearing crimson spacesuits, shoved the carcasses of a Drakolin and Fisses off the roof. His eyes zipped left and right across the dozens of Drakoline and their Grimhet riders. If any were shot down by pods or diamantium cannons from the Journeyers’ domed compartments, two or three more would rise from the darkness below. “We’re supposed to win this,” he said.
“Did that preachy boomslasher’s advice fall out your skull?” Penelope asked, swiping her switchguns at a Hagga in midair, after it sprung off a Drakolin.
Wyatt looked at her oddly, then spun around at the familiar bellows from a brawl atop another Journeyer’s roof. Cooper was banging Grimhets back and forth with his hammer heads, while Corbin was somehow smacking monsters together with the hoops he cast at them.
“Hmm, looks like the geek and the clomper are having fun, as much they’d have during root canals,” Penelope said, vinegar dribbling off her tone. “While suffering from migraines.”
“I’ll go and help them,” Wyatt said, flying off to join Cooper and Corbin.
As it turned out, each hoop was made out of dozens of wires affixed together without any interlacing, gleaming multiple shades of bronze, a small bulb blinking from the inner rim. They started out as tiny hoops on Corbin’s belt, and he unclipped one, gave it a pinch to enlarge it, and threw it at a Drakolin. It warped the space around itself, passing through the neck. It unwarped and returned to its solid state, hanging off the Drakolin like a necklace. Then Corbin drew a second hoop and snagged it on a Goruly’s shoulder in the same manner. He reached for a signaler clipped with the hoops on his belt, something like a pager with two stubby antennas protruding out of one end. He tapped it to command the hoops to zoom toward each other in a powerfully magnetic fashion, jerking the creatures into a collision. The hoops attached together with a flash of light and then — Corbin tapped his signaler again — detached with a second flash.
As for Cooper, he flicked his rods to slam their hammer heads into Grimhets, curving one around Wyatt to avoid hitting him. “Whoops, sorry, jet-boot man!”
“No worries.” Wyatt shot orbs at a Fiss and ran an energy pike through a Rampa. It didn’t take long for him to fall into a pattern of efficiently blending his attacks with Corbin and Cooper. For example, Corbin affixed a hoop to the interior of Wyatt’s forcefield, attracting another hoop already on a Fiss’s stomach, crashing the three-legged Grimhet into the forcefield. Cooper smacked that spot with a hammer head, propelling the Fiss into a Goruly, and they both tumbled off the Journeyer and plummeted onto the serrated-tooth mountain. The hoop was not lost; it detached from the Fiss and zipped up to rejoin its mate in the forcefield.
“What marvelous combat proficiencies!” Gene’s high-pitched voice rang out from the distance, before he zoomed over the Journeyer on a Drakolin’s back, pressing his Gelescent gloves onto its oozing scales, which peeled away to reveal a raw layer of off-white tissue. He removed his hands and flew off the dragon with a bit of clumsy spiral onto the Journeyer. The dragon went on to sway through space with the goop that Gene had splashed on its back.
Cooper went slack-jawed. “Whoa, when’d you become a drago-wrangler’?”
“My direful circumstances impelled me to temporarily drive myself with survival as the primary goal. The viscidity of my Gelescent gloves is imperative — ”
“Whoo, Littler T, can I get a one-way ticket for Naptopia? Don’t even wanna schwack the snooze button!” Cooper pretended to snore.
Gene wrinkled up his nose and held up his Gelescent gloves but couldn’t speak up before the Drakolin did a U-turn back to the Journeyer. Wyatt projected a forcefield upward to repel the convulsing creature more than fifty feet away. After the four young men worked together to kill the rest of the Grimhets on top of the Journeyer, Gene explained, “I have experimented with an expansive lineup of chemical constituents for my gloves. This type subjects a Grimhet’s nerve transmissions to a bout of fatal . . . disruptions, I shall call them.”
Cooper made a weird, raspberry-like noise. “Bit too, er, vicious, don’t ya think?”
Wyatt said, “Not at all. We have no reason to be merciful toward these abominations.”
“Exactly what was passing through my mind,” agreed Corbin.
“Abominations,” Gene said, pronouncing every syllable slowly, looking Wyatt’s way.
Wyatt’s forcefield stopped them from falling off the Journeyer when it tilted forward, huge flames enveloping the front. Grimhets had torn apart the thrusters in that section. Other Journeyers were sharing the dreadful fate, slowly sinking in the sky, launching escape pods. Some of them didn’t make it through the clouds above before Drakoline whipped them into the valleys with their tails or breathed fire and reduced them to charred masses of metal.
Gene blanched. “Perhaps it would be astute for us to retreat as well.”
“No,” stated Wyatt. “This isn’t over, and they haven’t given us permission to — ”
“How can they permit us to retreat when the comms channel is defective?”
“Now, now,” Corbin said, patting the air between his brother and Wyatt. “This is a terror, but we’re here to oppose Grimhet.” He started to whisper to his brother, but a sharp squeak that could have cut open everyone’s heads emitted from their spacesuits.
“‘Abandon your Journeyer. Escape pods are ready for launch,'” Wyatt said, reading the message on his wrist computer, after which the Journeyer groaned from all its wounded thrusters and began to tilt sideways.
“Damn, let’s skedaddle!” Cooper yelled, striking three Grimhets with one hammer head.
They had to pass by all the chaos as they flew through the Journeyer to reach the pods, just like everyone else. They had to pass by all the goop-corroded bodies, the crunched computer stations, the flickering strings of light around the shattered central terminal. When Wyatt left in his escape pod, he had a clear view of the humungous masses of fire that were once proud Journeyers, of the Drakoline shoving them downward, of the fragments of whitened shielding cracking off the spaceships and dropping into the valleys.
Even worse, Drakoline wandered the sky with their Grimhet riders to pick off whoever they could catch fleeing M67. Wyatt had to project a forcefield around himself and nearby pods to block a soaring Drakolin. Then he looked back, massaging the dull ache in his left wrist as the clusters of fireballs gradually dissipated into winding clouds of gloomy ash.

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