I’ve learned much since my gift of live subjects. The soul is a malleable force when given enough magic and blood to flourish in. It’s through these tests I’ve gained great strides in creating stronger and far deadlier machines for you to wage war with, Mr. President. I’ve also stumbled upon knowledge that may allow me to create a familiar and link them to an esper or thaumaturge. With the familiar acting as such a powerful conduit to the world of magic, our magic users will grow far stronger than any of our adversaries! This, of course, has all come at a cost, beyond just the lives I’ve spent. Many, of course resist, their chance to take part in furthering our abilities in science and have tried to escape. This has forced me to spend more resources on better cages, additional guards, and other security measures… I digress. Instead I encourage you, Mr. President, to visit my lab soon so you may see the results in my research and consider increasing the funding to my research.
-Head Scientist Ozki, The Creation, Experimentation, and Purpose of Espers
The first moon was already high in the sky. Clouds drifting by blocked out many of its silvery rays of light. The encampment had a scattering of bonfires surrounded by a cluster of tents and temporary wooden structures with equipment and vehicles lining the outskirts. Splitting the camp, a slow-moving stream glinted in the moon light, its calming sound drowned out by the howl of wind and chatter of voices. Gradual hills surrounded much of the camp, protecting it against the worse of the winds blowing across the expansive plains beyond.
Moving through the encampment, Bryce sought his company’s banner. Brashmar’s banner, a wolf’s paw on a teal field, surrounded him. Between tents he could make out Gilford’s across the stream, a red banner with a blue stripe over a straight-edged sword. He finally caught eyes on his own, a stag’s intricate horn over a blue banner.
Heading for the familiar banner, Bryce side stepped between several tightly placed tents. Nearing the edge of his company’s encampment he spotted Darke and Riel in the shadows. Their pair of eyes studying him.
“We sense animosity against you,” Darke said.
“They sense the soul you harvested from the machine,” Riel added.
“Yes, they’re fully aware of that,” Bryce replied.
“Troubling for them to learn so quick,” Riel said.
Darke turned his eyes toward the banners of the other two leads. “Do you suspect Brashmar or Gilford shall attempt to acquire it?”
“Or even Randalk?” Riel added.
“I don’t know, but there is no point in taking risks. Keep the soul safe,” Bryce said.
“We shall do this, Lead Coduire,” Darke replied.
Riel revealed a light in the palm of his hands before hiding it once more. “We have no intention of giving it to a Lead other than our own.”
The twins turned and went without another word, vanishing around a corner of the row of tents.
Bryce continued to look in their direction waiting for something more to happen. It truly does feel like the more power we gain the harder it’ll become. He gave a heavy sigh and moved on past the dark space towards the waiting bonfire beyond. Though I’d prefer to gain such power at my own pace. A machine soul and husk gifted to me all to easily thanks to Quil’s nosiness. His fist tightened as he pushed away his growing frustration. It’s too late. I’ll have to deal with the costs for her actions.
Zel stood among the group at the bonfire with drink in hand, boasting of today’s events. He caught sight of Bryce coming closer and raised his glass. “Join us, Lead! We were just getting to the part where you stormed headstrong into a scavenger’s den!”
“Really?!” Roy asked, the boy leaning forward with wide eyes.
“Is that true, Vonna?” Herra asked with a raised brow to the young woman who was simply shaking her head.
Bryce opened his mouth to speak up but stopped himself. Best to let them have their fun while they can. He stepped closer to the fire, the heat coming off it a comfort from the chill that had blanketed the area. “Yes, it’s true, a den full of scavengers.”
Zel gave Bryce a smile and waved his hand to an empty chair. “Please take my seat, Lead! I won’t be needing it for a while with this epic tale.”
Taking the offer, Bryce settled into the folding chair. He glanced around the fire to see the familiar faces of the company he commanded. Vonna lying in a patch of grass half-listening to Zel, Dunkir sitting stiff with drink in hand brooding over his thoughts, Herra laughing at Zel’s expense whenever Vonna added in her own quip to Zel’s tale, all while Roy played to Zel’s tune eagerly. He scanned past the fire to the tents to see Hendrick quietly speaking with Chapman while they smoked.
I wonder where Liarie is. He rubbed at his eyes and sunk deeper into the chair. I suppose I’ll have to find her before this night is over. He felt the day’s events hit him hard as exhaustion weighted heavy on his muscles. What’s the plan now. A heavy warmachine, a soul, and three new recruits. He let forth a yawn and closed his eyes. Two of which seem to be getting along with the group so far.
“Damn, is my story that boring, Lead?”
He opened his eyes to see Zel looking hurt. “No, just tired, carry on.”
Zel chuckled and brushed off the pain in an instant as he resumed his acting. “You shoulda seen Murn when we had to deal with that Imperial sniper!”
“We barely dealt with that sniper, they got away!” Vonna called out from her spot.
“Come on, don’t ruin the story, Vonna!”
“I have to cause you are making up way too much nonsense.” She sat up with a scowl, “Seriously, you punched one of the scavengers that tried to attack, Lead? What a load of crap, there were none!”