Story:Fresh off the Boat

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The following story is not part of the established continuity of any of the settings and remains on this website for archival purposes.

Fresh off the Boat is a second-person perspective story meant for new Galactic Crucibles readers or writers to acquaint themselves with the Milky Way Galaxy's races and organizations. Immersion is key, and several ambient pieces have been selected to increase your immersion. Links to them are included in parentheses at the beginning of the accompanying scene, and a note at the end of the specific scene will let you know when to close the tab or window you have opened the ambient audio in. Listening to these ambient pieces at the right points is highly suggested to improve your experience.

Chapter 1

(Ambient 1 )

You can feel your heart trying to force its way into your throat as it beats slowly in your chest, seemingly in sync with each deliberate step you take through the tight, utilitarian metal corridors of the ship. A metal door some ten feet ahead of you bursts open, revealing the vanguard of a blazing inferno licking at the hallway.

There is no time. You simply cannot stop now, when you're so close. You hug the wall and stumble past, wincing at the incredible heat that nipped at the right side of your body for only a brief few moments. A loud boom precipitates a violent rumbling that sends you stumbling into a bulkhead. The pain is sharp and intense, but you have little choice but to press on. You wobble for the next few steps, but your resolve keeps you on your path.

The door to the bridge comes into view, but it is mangled and warped, leaving only a crawlspace half as tall as you are. You crouch and half-fall through it, before carefully returning to your feet. You turn to face the individual you are seeking out, but another shockwave throws you against a hard metal wall. A black curtain is drawn over your consciousness in seconds.


Your mind returns to your body. Perception and mental capacity limp back to you, slow and incomplete. "Warning. Pressure lost on decks B through F. Containment systems offline. Please equip emergency survival equipment and make your way to the escape pods. Warning. Pressure lost..." That electronic voice echoed over and over as you lay stiff and cold on the even colder metal floor, staring up at  the fractured silver ceiling. Maybe you could breathe more easily, but you had no gas mask. Your vision begins to flicker in and out of blackness as you weakly gasp for air.

Trying to recall your circumstances, your memory becomes hazy. It's becoming increasingly difficult to think with the lack of oxygen. You think harder and harder as your mind pounds harder and harder. What was your name? <insert name here>, was it? Yes, that's what it was.

As your head rolls weakly to the right, you can barely make out a dead figure slumped over a sparking control panel. Your head soon lolls to the left, and a streak of blood leads to another body slumped against the wall, half-squished by a collapsed section of the ceiling.

As your eyes become simply too heavy to keep open, you can hear a garbled message from the control systems translated and amplified by the faintly glowing translator on your belt.

"This is freighter Zydrunyas-107. Can you hear us? What is your status? Is anyone there?"

It is the last thing you can perceive before what you can only describe as a warm silence washes over the length of your body, and the strain of keeping awake simply becomes too much. You feel physically relieved as you let your eyelids fall and your mind drift away.

(Close Ambient 1)

Chapter 2

(Ambient 2 )

Your eyelids flutter back and forth as your eyesight goes from a colorful haze to its normal state over the course of some twenty seconds. The dull hum of starship engines quietly seeps into your ears, but it soon becomes imperceptible, and part of the background. Recalling vague memories of your recent circumstances, you start to count your limbs and digits.

Arms, check. Fingers, check. Legs, check. Toes...

You lift your unclothed feet and wiggle their little stubs, neatly arranged in size. Never have you noticed that they seem almost cheerful to be there, not separated by any gruesome means.

Toes. Check.

The next thing you notice is the plain, form-fitting jumpsuit covering your body from your neck to your ankles, leaving your feet, hands, and head the only things open to the cool air around you. You soon notice you're lying on your back on a rigid, uncomfortable cot. Your surroundings seem fittingly utilitarian and rough. The walls are blank, and bear the unaltered color of machined steel. No attempt is made to hide the ungraceful single-minded design principle behind the room, and the ship as a whole.

Your eyes drift to the left, and you are startled by the sight of another individual. But not just any individual. It's not a human by any means, and it's not even the right color. Its flesh is yellow, hairless, and completely unblemished.

Out of its striking features, its flesh stands out as well as the odd notches along its neck. Now that you consider its irregularities, the yellow creature is also rather small. It must be at least a foot shorter than you are. You're rather lucky that its back is to you, with its attention drawn to a small computer on the wall, or it might find your slightly repulsed expression offensive.

Of course, only if it can perceive your expressions. Your eyes array to the right for a moment, and three cots away from you is another one of these creatures. It's nearly identical to the one by the wall terminal, and clothed in the same apparel you are. It is lying on its side, back to you, preventing you from catching a glimpse at its face.

Without a thought, you clear your throat with enough volume to alert the creature standing at the wall terminal. Immediately, you prepare yourself for any sort of Lovecraftian horror the face and front body this alien may present...

...But contrary to your expectations, the creature's face does not seem too different from your own. For an alien, that is. Its features are flatter, and overall less defined, but they are similar enough to those on your face and that of other people you've seen that you might describe them as vaguely primate. On its yellow face are a thin mouth, two eyes, a small bump signifying the presence of a nose, and very thin eyebrows resting above its gunmetal grey optical organs. A tight, short cut of brownish hair covers its head.

To you, it seems to be a definite "he". There's a good chance you may just be imposing your own preconceptions about life forms on this individual, but in your eyes, the overall body structure appears to be masculine.

"He" begins to speak in some odd, alien tongue. This rambling goes on for a few seconds until he seems to realize that you simply cannot understand him. His head articulates down for a fraction of a second, in a way that looks like... A nod. He turns back to the wall console, and produces an item from a belt inside his tight, grey robe. He flashes it in front of the console, and turns back to face you.

His lips part to speak once more, but this time, his words emerge in your own tongue.

"Hello. I'm Medical Chief Scheudans. You were the only survivor from your ship, I'm sorry to say. What's your name?" He asks this with a casual air in a crisp baritone. As if he doesn't realize that you've just woken up in a room with two aliens and no idea where you are.

"I'm... I'm <insert name here>. What... Who are you?" The words roll quickly, nervously, and inelegantly off your tongue. Your nerves seem to be getting to you already. You can feel a trickle of sweat on your forehead.

He seems perplexed by the question. "I'm the ship's doctor. Don't worry, you're likely suffering delayed shock. Or something along those lines. I'm not actually a fully trained doctor, but you look alright to me. If you were part of the crew, the captain would have you back to work at this point."

"The captain? Wh-what? Where... Am I?"

The creature pauses. "Of course. You were unconscious when we recovered you from that wreck. Welcome aboard Zydrunyas-107. This is a KMM freighter."

You look around, worry creeping into your mind. There is nothing familiar, nothing relatable here. There is nothing for you to grasp to for comfort.

"You are stressed. I understand that. I'm sorry to say all of your fellow crew were killed, and we couldn't recover anything important from the wreckage. From what we can tell, pirates attacked you. You shouldn't have been out in this part of the galaxy without escort. But all that aside, we'll be dropping you off at Domum Regimen. KMM policy won't allow us to keep non-crew aboard. I'm sure you understand."

All this new information is running in one ear and out the other. While you attempt to wrap your head around what's going on, you offer another inquiry. "What? What's... Domum Regimen? Why are you dropping me off there?"

"Like I said, it's just the shock. Pirate saboteurs like to pretend to be casualties of ship decompressions, then get aboard one of our ships and sabotage the engines, so as a security precaution, we drop shipwrecks off at nearby stations. Domum Regimen just happens to be closest. Your clothes are in the box by your cot. I'll come get you when we get to Domum Regimen."

With that, the medical officer vacated the room through a sliding door, which parted and then returned to its closed position with a swish.

(Close Ambient 2)

Chapter 3

(Ambient 3)

The trip wasn't terribly long. At least you thought it wasn't. Ever since getting taken aboard by the KMM, your perception of time has been a bit hazy. How long did it take? Hours? Days? You weren't keeping track. It's not like you could anyhow.

As your ship got closer, a holographic screen on the wall shined like a projector revealing an articulate, masterful piece of engineering. It looked so archaic, yet so advanced. Domum Regimen. In silence, hundreds upon hundreds of ships circled it. Some were arriving, some were leaving, but all were in close proximity to the behemoth construct.

"We'll be dropping you off at bay 31312." Staring into the screen, you follow the ship's movements past a clear forcefield, entering a short airlock tunnel. Large metallic claws plant themselves firmly on the ship, momentarily shaking it. The strange, yellow creatures promptly escort you outside, leading you to an even more bizarre world. The yellow creatures aren't the only aliens around. You see dozens of them, coming in all shapes and sizes.

Still starstruck with awe, you are escorted by the yellow creature to a nearby passageway leading away from the docking bay.

"Where am I going now?" you ask.

"The information center should sort things out for you. I've got to get back to my ship."

"Wait..." you say. "Thanks."

The creature turns to you an nods a sign of approval, then promptly heads back down the hallway. You stand there idly for a few moments, letting the alien environment sink in. Around you is a sea of alien life going about their business. Like a hanging island, at the center of the multicolored ocean, there is what seems to be an information kiosk anchored to ceiling. The island leaves four feet of space between its tip and the floor. At different heights on the structure are dozens of holographic screens, now and then interacted with by passing aliens. At the ceiling is a bright holographic sign that appears to cycle its text from language to language. For a few brief moments, it displays two words in your own native tongue. It reads "Information Center".

You assume that the monitors are the disseminators of the information you so dearly seek. You quickly brush your way past the maelstrom of different species, each more fantastic in shape and size than the last. When you approach one of the screens, the holographic projection seems to pop out and double in size. Parcels of text in a variety of languages flash onto the screen, and you eventually find the word "English" written in familiar Latin script.

After a few moments of curiosity surveying the different scripts on the screen, you imitate the aliens around you and use your finger to select your language. A quick ding is followed by a replacement of the past text with a new list of options, all in familiar English. This affords you some moderate comfort, if not a modicum of curiosity as to the availability of your tongue as a language option in some alien space station.

The list of options is quite expansive. There are options for station maps, travel advisories, lists of different species, and all other manner of things. However, one option in particular captures your eye. The option for a "New Visitor Introduction" seems in your mind to be your best chance at successfully navigating this treasure trove of offered information, or better yet, this Domum Regimen as a whole. You decide to tap your finger on the projected button on the screen.

To your surprise, nothing on the screen changes. You wait a moment, and soon realize that selecting that option offered you something off-screen. A small receptacle under the miniature holographic projector on the ceiling-anchored structure produces a pocket-sized box, a compact eyepiece, and some sort of earphone. Assuming these are for you, you grab both from the receptacle and fumble for a few moments with the earpiece before setting it comfortably in your right ear.

A warm glow starts to exude from the sturdy-looking box in your palm. Suddenly, a bubbly-sounding female voice with something of a faint robotic echo fills your ear, speaking in flawless English.

"Hello, human! Welcome to Domum Regimen, the seat of the Galactic Senate. Take a few steps away from the information kiosk so that others may use it, and we can begin!"

Unwilling to challenge these instructions, you oblige.

"Thank you. Would you like a short history of Domum Regimen, or would you like a guided tour or access to general information?" You suppose that knowing more about where you are wouldn't hurt. For a few moments, you ponder how to respond. You start with speaking to it. Perhaps this alien technology would accept verbal input.

"Y-yes, a short history, please." You stutter.

This feminine voice doesn't miss a beat. "Domum Regimen was constructed over 7,500 years ago as the home of the first iteration of the Senate. The founders went to war several millenia after its formation, and the station was abandoned. Various pirate, salvager, and vagrant groups moved into the station. 91 years ago, one of the founders of the Galactic Senate, [[Eteno Imperial Triumvirate, discovered the station and made contact with other interstellar factions. Other states soon joined, and now the Galactic Senate is a powerful force of order in our galaxy and an enabler of trade and peaceful relations."

You simply stood there for a few moments in pure wonder. The deck you stood on was likely millenia old, still decades old if it was a new addition. It was nothing short of a piece of history, but even more wonderful to you was the idea that there was a binding government in the galaxy. The entire idea of it seemed somehow too spectacular to be true.

"You are currently in a neutral docking bay. Close to you should be a transparent wall, with a secure passageway into the Senate Plaza. If you would step through this passageway, we shall begin your short guided tour!"

You turn your head and your eyes dart across the room. At the far end of the bay is an opaque glass wall, with what looks like a large, bright, and open room on the other side. You briskly walk to that end of the docking bay, slipping between the seemingly endless globs of exotic creatures who afford you little more than a grunt or sigh as you pass in return for your permanent look of amazement. As you near the wall, the ocean of bodies before you seems to part just enough so that you can observe a pair of some kind of door-sized forcefields of equal opacity as the glass wall around it. Aliens are routinely passing in and out of the forcefields, which seem to adopt the shape of the individual passing through them to allow them passage.

You waste no time stepping through. You feel an odd sense of wonderment as the forcefield passes over you, projecting a soft warmth onto your skin through your simple clothing. Once on the other side, a dazzling display of lights and colors assaults your eyes. Contrasting sharply with the muted color scheme of the docking bay, the walls, signs, and floors all around you sport every color on the spectrum you can imagine. Water flows in transparent pipes above your head and creates complex shapes in the air, as if some sort of flying fountain. Aliens fill the walkways that stretch as far as the eye can see, and each one has a comfortable amount of space around them. There is no being squished in this endless plaza. The sights around you almost overwhelm you with their abundance and complexity.

"This is Senate Plaza! The Plaza is a neutral zone where citizens from any nation can meet or do business without any sort of prior screening or approval, barring automatic weapon scans at major passageways. The Senate Plaza is, in a sense, a city of its own. Here, one can eat, sleep, work, and enjoy a wide variety of recreational activities. If you need directions, you can bring up a map on your eyepiece by pressing down on the glowing red corner of your receiver box, or you can ask me directly. I am programmed to interpret and answer a wide variety of questions, so don't hesitate if you are wondering about something!"

You pull the box you received from the information terminal out of your pocket. Whereas before each corner carried the color of the rest of the box, a dull black, now each corner glowed one of four colors: dark red, bright red, green, and purple.

You make the decision not to overwhelm yourself with information this early. You reason that you'll ask the right questions naturally as you make your way through the station. It is at that moment that you start to realize that you have no real goal at the time. You feel as if you've been entirely railroaded into your situation, only now finally free to make your own choices, but with no information to base one on.

Noticing a ring of benches around an elaborate moving holographic sculpture you decide that sitting down is preferable to standing awkwardly in the middle of the endless chamber. You take a seat and finally comprehend the immensity of the station. Above you is an open glass dome hundreds of feet above you revealing the endless stretch of stars and nebulae. You find yourself staring for a few moments, before giving yourself a mental slap to get back on track.

Chapter 4

After some minutes of thinking, you come to the conclusion that finding out more information about your circumstances is priority one. You ponder for a moment the prospect of asking your new personal assistant, but it crosses your mind that a visitor's tool likely won't know about shipwrecks or where you came from, despite its futuristic features and appearance.

But perhaps it knows where you could find out about your predicament. Before you have the chance to ask, you instinctively bolt from your seat at the sight of a fellow human walking past only a few feet away. Seeing one of your own kind bestows a newfound comfort within you, and the hope that they'll be able and willing to assist you.

"Excuse me, sir, sir! You're a human. Like me. Can you help me?" You rattle out without a second thought, not paying any mind to the idea that humans already speak a wide range of languages. If this human has lived in an alien environment for a long time, their possible range of languages could be even larger.

It replies in a language that your ear has never felt. None of the words seem congruous with the languages you've heard before, but it's not difficult to determine that this human is confused. Your translator effortlessly converts it into understandable English. "What did you say? Can I help you?"

"We're both human. Can you help me?"

He continues to show a confused expression. "Help you with what?"

"I... I was in a shipwreck and then taken here. I don't remember anything before that."

"A shipwreck? Go talk to someone at the IPF offices, they handle that kind of stuff here. I can't do anything to help." With that, the human simply walks off to conduct their own business, and it seems that you were nothing more than an anomaly in their routine. Why are none of them concerned? Who are these people who seem to be at home among these exotic walks of life?

You've only gained one small bit of information, and that is that something called the IPF can help you, and that they have an office. You reasonably suspect it to be nearby or large enough to be some sort of landmark. For this, you consult your new personal assistant, the only thing that seems to be invested in helping you at this point.

"Where is the... IPF office?" There is no reply at first, so you inquire a second time. "Where is the IPF office?"

The second attempt earns you a response. "There are three Imperial Police Force offices on Domum Regimen. Would you like me to direct you to the closest one?"

"Y-yes." While you may know nothing of your circumstances, at the very least, following leads shouldn't be much of a problem, at least while you're here.

On your eyepiece, a blue path is imposed over your view of the ground. It starts between your feet and stretches down one of the many corridors leading further into the station. You waste no time following the path laid out for you, and soon find yourself standing at the doors of a standalone structure in another plaza. It seems somewhat smaller than the one you were last in, but it is magnificently large nonetheless and boasts different kinds of alien aesthetics and decorations, all with overarching tones of deep red and violet. It bathes you in a warm glow, and you feel a warm sensation creeping across your skin. You like it.

As you step towards the doors, they automatically part for you. You find yourself standing in a room full of tables and chairs, with many short yellow aliens standing in lines or working at simple terminals with seemingly holographic computers. A handful of aliens of other races are also at work or in lines.

Your eyepiece procedurally translates signs and screens of alien script as your eyes scan for anything that indicates to someone able to help you with your number one concern. One holographic sign stands out from the rest, which reads "WRECKS AND SPACE HAZARDS". Even if the aliens under this sign couldn't help you, they would know who could.

You step into a line of two aliens at a desk blocking access to a field of yellow aliens working at terminals under the "WRECKS AND SPACE HAZARDS" sign. The two individuals in front of you conclude their business in under a minute each, and in the time that you wait, you stare out the windows at the flow of the red and violet bathed crowds streaming around the central IPF office.

"You there, human. What do you have to report?" The yellow alien manning the desk before you asks with an annoyed tone, his words converted by your device.

You gulp and feel a bit nervous for reasons you cannot pin down. "Y-yes. I was... Rescued from a wreck and I can't remember what happened. I-I need to know what-"

"Where is the wreck?" The alien pulls up a holographic screen and swipes through it with his rubbery-looking fingers.


"The wreck. Where is the wreck?"

"I don't know... I was picked up by some kind of shipping vessel, and I don't remember anything before that."

The alien releases a protracted sigh. "Do you know who picked you up?"

"I think... Some people calling themselves KMM."

"Krunoslav Mining and Minerals... Let me see here..." He begins to scan through an extensive list on his screen. "I have four spacewrecks reported by KMM today. One freighter reported taking aboard a survivor and depositing it here. Are you that survivor?"

"Yes, I think s-"

Again, you are cut off. "I'm going to need your name, nationality, age, and employer. I know your race."

"My name is <insert name here>, I'm a human, and I... I don't remember my age, and I don't remember my employer, or if I had one or not..."

He shakes his head and the gill-like slits on his neck seem to flare for a few moments. "Well, I'm not the one that had to grow up with that name... So you don't remember anything. Amnesia?"

"Yes, I believe so. I can't remember anything... But all the doctor on the ship that picked me up said was that I had delayed shock."

"That's KMM's top of the line crew medical service for you." He starts to type something with a holographic keyboard of some sort. Something makes you think he wasn't being serious. "So you have amnesia. The KMM freighter reported to the IPF a few hours ago that there was a spacewreck and they rescued you from it. Your brain activity was minimal but you recovered with little to no side effects. The captain was unable to determine the cause of the wreck, and by the time a probe was dispatched to investigate, the wreck had either completely broken apart or been removed by scrappers." He pauses to input something into his holographic screen which causes it to fizzle away. "There's nothing more I can do for you. You might want to stop into one of the free Senate medical clinics about your head, but if it's amnesia and you have no contacts or kin to help you, I don't think you'd get much out of that. Next."

The yellow alien waves you off without a second thought.

He seems rather intent on assisting the next alien in line, and shoots you a frustrated glare when you don't immediately step away. You walk outside, back into the warm glow of the lights. The IPF office was a dead end. You learned nothing of value and now you had no leads at all, save an offhanded suggestion to visit a medical center about your amnesia. But that officer was probably right. They wouldn't be able to bring back your memories, your sole current objective.

However, a new objective rudely asserts itself. Your stomach rumbles and makes its dissatisfaction acutely known. You instinctively reach into your pocket for money to get something to eat, but you grasp nothing aside from air, regardless of the fact that any currency you would have would likely be completely worthless here. With a quick sigh, you start brainstorming methods to get money from total strangers who aren't even the same species as yourself. With nothing at your disposal currently to either fill your stomach or find out what happened to you, you recall that you can at least make one shot in the dark. You press one of the glowing buttons on the box tucked away in your pocket.

"Where can I get money?"

"There are many loaning services and banking institutions with locations on Domum Regimen! Would you like to be directed to a small immediate loan service, or a loan from a banking institution?"

"A small loan."

Just like when you were directed to the IPF office, a trail appears in your vision leading to a small shopfront only a hundred feet or so away. You walk over at a brisk pace, your mind filling with thoughts of food. Food that you recognize, and like. You pay no heed to the fact that you might not find any of it here.

When you step into the shop, the first thing you notice is a giant holographic sign across the ceiling listing every different possible rate and loan amount. When you finally make heads or tails of the lists, you discover that any amount of unknown alien currency to be loaned requires some kind of proof of potential repayment, such as ownership of land, or a ship, or anything of significant value.

You groan. It seems nothing can go well for you today.

You dejectedly walk out before even approaching one of the colorful aliens at a row of futuristic desks, mulling over any possible options in slowly rising desperation. You're quickly torn from your borderline wallowing by a hand on your shoulder. You turn around to see a blue biped seeking your attention.

He's much taller and thinner than the other blue aliens similar to him that you've seen on the station so far. His overall appearance gives him an air of shiftiness, between his careful gaze and some kind of mismatched pilot uniform. Your personal assistant device recognized his language before he even began speaking.

"You, you're a human. Empty pockets? Empty accounts? You need money?" He sounds as if he's dealt with people in your situation many times before. Everything about him seems off-putting, but if he can get you money, you might just have to deal with him.

"Yes, I'm a human. And I do need money... I don't have anything. I've got amnesia, and-"

He smiles. "Let me stop you right there. You know your kind naturally produce a little chemical called adrenaline, right? Right. My kind, the Vaikan, use this chemical for... A wide variety of purposes. If you'll allow my associates and me to extract some adrenaline from you, you'll be well compensated."

You reply with only a single question. "Why do you need me for this?"

"Oh, humans are quite scarce nowadays. You've all dispersed. That's why I'm glad that we've crossed paths. We can talk more at my offices. So, are you interested?"

You nod. He's starting to seem less and less crooked to you. It would make a good deal of sense that he would be enthusiastic about finding a human to meet demand. He gestures for you to follow him.

Chapter 5

You struggle to keep up with his quick pace as he slips through the crowds and buildings to a separate room of the station full of cargo elevators. It seems that there's a new elevator going up or down every couple of seconds, making sure everyone around is aware by sounding a powerful horn when the doors of an elevator close or open.

The Vaikan turns to face you and gives you an affirming nod. "We're taking an elevator down."

Before you can reply, your little personal assistant chimes in your ear, "You are about to descend into the lower levels of Domum Regimen. Travelers are advised that little law enforcement is present and risk of theft or assault is higher than in the policed levels."

You ask the first thing that comes to your mind to the Vaikan. "Are you sure that we'll be safe down there?"

He immediately laughs off your concern. "Just stick with me and you won't encounter any trouble at all. Alright?"

You nod. It's not entirely comforting, but the Vaikan's confidence starts to rub off a bit on you. If the lower levels were really so unsafe, why would so many people be here?

You follow your potential employer as he pushes through the crowds and into a wide elevator just finished with offloading its passengers. You stay close to the Vaikan as much as you can, which turns into a challenge when more and more aliens start to flood into the elevator, packing everyone in it together like sardines.

The doors close with a loud hiss, and there is a period of total darkness before a row of lights on the ceiling offer dim illumination. You're just barely able to make out individual faces. The minute descent into the lower levels feels like hours, and when the doors finally open, you do not hesitate to walk out with your new associate.

These lower levels seem like an entirely different world compared to where you had just come from. Everything seems to be covered in a dim orange glow by rows upon rows of weak industrial lights embedded in the ceiling. Something tells you that these lights have never once been turned off.

Instead of the modern and upbeat architecture and aesthetics of the rest of Domum Regimen, the halls and corridors and rooms of this new lower level are totally utilitarian. Pipes run along the walls, and rust spreads uncontained as far as the walls themselves stretch. There is an even greater diversity of aliens here than above, and at least a third of them are slouched or sitting against a wall or pacing around in shambles.

You stick close to the Vaikan, now for safety as much as money. He effortlessly flows through the corridors and passageways, through pipe rooms and broken walls to small shops and maintenance rooms. Finally, he stops at a steel door and knocks three times in slow succession. Some movement is heard behind the door before it is pulled open with an aged creak by another Vaikan. However, this one is different from the one that you came with. He is hunched over, and has ruby red eyes.

At least thirty individuals of all walks of life are in a single large room filled with rows of tables surrounded by medical equipment.

"Lay down on any of these. We'll start extracting the adrenaline in a few moments. It doesn't hurt, I promise you." Your escort waves you off and starts to talk to the person that had opened the door. You lay down on the closest table to you, unsettled by your new surroundings.

After a few minutes, the tall Vaikan walks over to your table with a mask over his mouth and nose. "Good, good. Let's not waste any time getting started." The hunched Vaikan wheels over a mechanical syringe on a cart, and takes a few steps back. "Don't worry. You take a small pill to get you making adrenaline, then we give you anesthesia, and start extracting the adrenaline. We'll have a second syringe cycling the blood back in, so you can just-"

The tall Vaikan is cut off by an impossibly loud boom. You throw your hands on your ears and look over at the source of the noise. The door has been blown in, and some short, yellow Eteno are scrambling in. Each one is wearing layers upon layers of armor and a face-covering gas mask, as well as wielding some kind of rifle or shotgun. When the ringing in your ears starts to go away, you start to hear loud yelling and gunshots. Half of you wants to roll onto the floor and simply stay low, while the other half wants to remain completely still to avoid being a target. It seems the latter wins out, as fear and shock have rendered you paralyzed.

All the action sounds like it is behind you, and you tilt your head so you can make sense of what is going on, still making sure to cover your ears. You see other humans on tables bleeding or running around in panic, armored Eteno shooting and bashing in faces with their weapons, and a handful of Vaikan on the floor in pools of blood. As you look around, you notice faint movement below you and to your left. The tall and thin Vaikan that had brought you here appears to have played dead and is now coming to a stand. He reaches for a weapon on his belt, but a pair of Eteno sprint over before he is able.

One of them bashes the Vaikan off his feet with the butt of his shotgun. He then turns his weapon and fires at near point-blank at his head before he even hits the ground. The floor and wall are instantaneously coated in brain matter and blood.

Fight or flight takes control deep within your mind, mustering the leverage to throw your legs off the table and sprint towards the door. You weave past the few rows of extraction beds between you and the door, and your spirits soar when it seems that you'll manage to escape in the confusion. There is no time for the to drop again when the butt of a rifle is slammed into your face.

Chapter 6