Reciprocity: A Metro 2033 and MLP Crossover

by MrSing

Chapter 2: Chapter 2: Fear and Hunger

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Fear and Hunger

My home was in chaos. It felt like everyone in the station had gathered in the small cramped marketplace. The stalls that sold ammo and food had been set aside against the walls to make more room in the market. Still, people had to stand shoulder to shoulder and there was barely room to move.

The gaslights and electric light bulbs that hung from the ceiling and walls were barely giving of enough light to see the worry and confusion on the faces of the people I had known for my entire life. The sound of almost two hundred voices talking over each other bounced of the grimy cement walls, making any attempt to understand what was said futile.

I looked up at the platform where our leader was standing. The lamp next to him threw shadows on his face as he stood behind a simple wooden lectern, overlooking the arguing crowd with a tense expression.

An annoyed looking guard dressed in armor and with a shotgun in his hands was standing on the rusty ladder that lead to the platform. He was there more for symbolic purposes than anything else. No one would even think about attacking our leader, he was something of a hero to our station.

Alex had been a maintenance man in the metro before mankind was forced to live underground in the biggest fallout shelter in the world. His knowledge of the complex metro system had proven to be invaluable in those first months of panic and he was personally responsible for saving more than half of the inhabitants of the station. The people had respected his efforts and skill, the choice to make him our leader had seemed natural.

To this day he still wore his old maintenance uniform like a badge of honor, even though it wasn’t much more than a bunch of threads held together by duct tape and optimism.

Our leader finally had enough of the noise. I saw him raise an old worn down megaphone in front of him. I quickly covered my ears. My poor eardrums had already endured enough and I wasn’t planning on losing my hearing. The people around me were too busy arguing among themselves to see the danger that was coming.

“QUIET!” He bellowed. The people shrank back from the force of his electronically amplified shout.
I saw Alex putting the megaphone down, apparently satisfied by the people’s stunned silence.

“Now, I know that you all are shocked by what happened at the Northern station.” He said in a more reasonable volume. “So let me first assure you that the northern tunnel has been collapsed. We are in no danger of the rats.” He looked at where Sergei, Sasha, and I were standing. “My compliments to our guards by the way.”

A few cheers rose from the crowd and I could feel hands slapping my back in praise. I felt awkward and undeserving of their compliments. What had happened in the tunnels had terrified me. Besides, it had been Sasha and Sergei who had done all the real work while I had almost doomed us.

I hadn’t heeded Sergei’s advice about using short bursts and had just held down the trigger constantly. This had caused the flamethrower to overheat and malfunction. I had felt terrible when Sergei had explained this to me after I complained about the broken weapon.

The veteran didn’t blame me though. He said that I had been under a lot of stress and that it was an understandable beginner’s mistake. His forgiving words did little to take away my shame about my incompetence.

Unlike me, Sasha seemed to revel in the attention of the crowd. He was laughing and shaking hands. I think I even saw him pose for a moment. Sergei just stood stoically and gave a simple nod when someone praised him.

After a few seconds Alex raised his hands in a hushing gesture and the crowd calmed down. “Okay, okay, that’s enough celebrating,” he continued. “I am sure that you all are aware of the more pressing problem we have.” I could see several people nodding; the mood instantly became somber. “Our northern guests,” he said.

I felt a pang of sympathy for the Northerners. They were standing outside of our station while several of our guards were watching over them. There had been a charged moment when my station had asked them to surrender their weapons. After a few minutes of heated discussion among themselves they had grudgingly relented and handed over their guns. They knew that they had no other choice and now they had to sit and wait while we decided their fate. I didn’t envy them one bit.

A man in the crowed spoke up. “Our mushroom farms barely produce enough for us as it is! There’s no way we can keep them here, we’ll starve!” I recognized him as one of the farmers I had worked with before I was sent to the northern tunnel.

“Where are they going to sleep and live?” A woman, who I believed to be one of our weapon smiths, asked behind me. “We don’t have any room and I’m not going to give up my house and sleep in the tunnels!”

“So we’ll lose a little living space, who cares?” One of the shop owners shouted. “The Northerners have been nothing but good trade partners and now you’re willing to turn your back on them when they need our help? I’ll gladly suffer through some hunger cramps if we can save them!”

After these words the discussion quickly got out of control. People were screaming accusations at each other calling the people who were for helping the Northerners shortsighted fools and those against were called cold and uncaring.

I was thankful for the more compassionate people, but the words of the other made me feel torn. We were horribly underprepared to take care of so many people and showing kindness might mean the end of all of us. What help would we be if we all starved together? Still, didn’t we have a responsibility to help these people as best as we could?

My thoughts were interrupted as I saw Alex grabbing his megaphone again. I tried to cover my ears, but I was too slow. “SILENCE!” He shouted at full force, his voice echoed against the walls. I cringed and grabbed my head in my hands as my ears started to ring.

“Now, as I was trying to say,” Alex said in an irritated tone as he looked at the dazed crowed. “I have come to a decision. We are obligated to give these people refuge. We must not forget our humanity, especially in these unforgiving times we have to remember who we are.”

“Humanity!?” A tall and bearded man in the back scoffed. “Is that what I’m going to have to tell my children when they are asking why we won’t be eating tomorrow or why they can’t sleep in their beds?” The man pointed an accusing finger at Alex. “Forget your humanity!”

Alex looked calmly at the man. “Oh, is that so Dmitri? Should I just have forgotten my humanity when I led you and your family to this station? Not knowing if you would be able to pull your weight and help us survive? Should I just have taken the easy way out and sent you back to the tunnels to die?”

The man stared at the ground. I could barely hear him grumble his reply. “It’s not the same.”

“No it isn’t,” Alex admitted with a sigh. “It’s true that we can’t keep these people here forever, we just don’t have the resources. I do have a plan however.” Alex slowly ran his eyes over the crowd, seemingly looking at every face for a short moment

“We will send out a few of our own on a diplomatic mission.” He said with determination in his voice. “The Southern station has been trying to expand its boundaries and build larger farms. They approached me some time ago, asking if I could send them some people. I had to refuse at first, but now it seems that we have people to spare.”

“I’m not going to lie,” Alex continued his speech. “Until we can come to an agreement with the Southern station, times will be hard, but I urge you to remember that we are all these people have left.” He looked at Sasha, Sergei and me again. “Oh! Before I forget, can the guards of the Northern tunnel meet me at the depot as soon as possible? That is all.” Alex turned off the lamp that was standing next to him, indicating that the station meeting was over.

I could see the people at the edge of the crowd slowly walking out of the market place and into the hallways of our station. They had hushed conversations as they walked back to their jobs or homes. As we waited till there was enough room for the three of us to leave I asked the obvious question. “What do you guys think Alex wants from us?”

“Maybe he wants to give us a medal for our heroism.” Sasha said in a giddy voice. “Oh! Even better, maybe we’ll get a free lunch!”

“Did you even listen?” Sergei berated my friend. “Tough times are coming. You’ll be lucky if you see a meal twice a day from now on.”

“Come on guys, I think we can finally leave.” I quickly said as I pointed to the hallway that would lead us to the depot, trying to stop their argument before it could really start.

The two men agreed and we started to make our way through the tinned out crowd. I saw a few of the stall owners setting up their shops and I could see the routine of the station slowly starting up again.

As we walked in the cramped hallway we had to frequently duck to avoid random wooden beams and squeeze ourselves against the houses that were set up against the walls when we passed other people. The houses were made of sandbags, tires, rusted metal sheets, and wooden planks. Anything we could get our hands on was used.

I could see people laying down cardboard beds and pieces of cloth on the mud filled floor for the Northerners to sleep on. “Things are going to be claustrophobic for a while.” I thought to myself.

After a few minutes of making our way through the busy halls I could finally see the door that had a small wooden sign with “Depot” written on it by someone with terrible handwriting.

As I opened the door I expected to see Viktor, the small man with incredibly thick glasses that took care of the depot, and maybe a few of the guards that were here sometimes to maintain their weapons. Instead of this I saw that there was only one man standing in the room, Alex.

Our leader had his back turned to us as he was rummaging through the many wooden boxes that were said up against one of the walls. A few words written with a black marker indicated what was in each of them.

“Ah. You guys are here, please take a seat.” He gestured to the chairs and worktables that were set up near the small firing range.

I looked at my friends in confusion. Sergei answered my unspoken question with a small shrug. He took a seat and shoved away the many guns parts and bits of ammo that were cluttering the table in front of him. Sasha and I followed his example and sat down next to him

“Aha! I knew it was still here!” Alex exclaimed behind me as he picked up a small box that had several warnings and skull and crossbones symbols printed on it. He walked to our table and carefully set down the wooden box in front of us.

Our leader paced to the door and quickly closed it. “You are probably wondering what’s going on.” He walked to our table and put his hands on the rough surface. “I’m afraid that I haven’t been completely honest with everyone.”

“What do you mean, sir?” Sergei asked. Alex looked at him. His expression was tired, like all the worries of the world were pressing on his shoulders.

“I didn’t decide to help the Northerners just out of the goodness of my heart” He stared at one of the bullets that was lying on top of the table. “You might remember that the Northerners were one of our biggest trade partners, we depended on them to supply new air and water filters and food. Now that they are gone…” He sighed. ”Well, I think you can imagine what this means for our station.” He looked all of us in the eyes for a moment.

I felt my heart sink as he stared at me. I hadn’t even considered how important the Northerners had been for us.

“If the Southern station is able to expand they’ll maybe have enough to support us too.” Alex continued, looking back at the table. “We need to establish a better trading agreement with them and these fifty people that are sitting outside of our station are probably the only way that we’ll be able to do that.”

“Excuse me, sir, but why are you telling this to us?” Sasha said, uncharacteristically serious.

“Haven’t you figured it out yet?” Sergei spoke up. “Who do you think he’s going to send to the Southerners?”

I could feel a clump of ice forming in my stomach as I realized what the veteran had just implied. Alex nodded, confirming Sergei’s suspicions. “Yes. Now that the northern tunnel is gone you guys are free to undertake this mission. Also, you have all proven yourselves to be more than capable to handle emergencies.” I avoided Alex’s eyes as I thought about my blunder with the flamethrower.

“But why do just the three of us have to go?” Sasha asked. “Wouldn’t it be easier and safer to bring all the Northerners with us? No mutant would think about attacking a group that big.”

Alex looked up; a sad smile was on his face. “You don’t know the mutants very well, do you? Besides, don’t you remember the chaos when fifty people appeared unannounced at our station? You might not have noticed it, but if the Northerners hadn’t been wise enough to hand over their weapons we might have had a war on our hands.” He shook his head. “No, we have to take things slow and give the Southerners time to prepare. Besides, it’s not just going to be the three of you.”

“Indeed.” I almost jumped up in fright as I heard an unexpected voice right behind me. I turned around and saw Stepan watching us with his one good eye.

“H… How did you get in here?” I asked nervously. I had been sure that there hadn’t been anyone in the room besides us. I glanced at the door. It was still locked and seemed untouched.

“That’s not important, pup.” He replied. I felt a scowl forming on my face as a he used the unwanted nickname. “What is important is that I’m going to be your guide in the tunnels.”

Alex looked up, seemingly unsurprised at the man’s ability to appear out of thin air. “Yes, a man like Stepan should prove to be very useful on your journey.” He picked up the wooden box that had been sitting on the table. “Now before you gear up and go to the Southern tunnel I want you to see this.”

He opened the box very carefully. I peered inside and saw a grey cylinder lying on a red cushion. Alex opened the cylinder, revealing a thick layer of foam and a beautiful bottle. It had an intricate design that made it look like it was made out of crystals, somehow the soft light of the candles in the room was mirrored in the bottle and it seemed like the clear liquid inside contained a thousand small stars.

“Looks expensive.” Sasha said with awe in his voice. Even Sergei seemed a bit impressed.

“Oh, believe me, it is.” Alex put the bottle back in the cylinder and closed the grey container again. “This is actual pre-war vodka and good quality at that. Nothing like that mushroom juice we drink these days. Even before the war this particular bottle was worth more than a normal man earned in a year.” He held out the cylinder to me. “Take good care of it. The Southern station leader loves this kind of stuff. It will make the negotiations go over more smoothly.”

“Me?” I asked, disbelieve creeping in my voice.

“Yes Yuri, you.” Alex suddenly laughed as he saw my anxious expression. “Don’t be so nervous. I wouldn’t let you carry this if I thought that you couldn’t handle it. Besides, I’ve never seen someone so skilled at capturing a rampaging pig. If you can catch and hold a grown sow then I’m sure that you are more than capable of carrying a bottle.” I felt my face turn red at the embarrassing memory once again. It seemed like I would never be able to live that incident down.

“Well, I suggest that you take what you need. I expect you to be on your way in an hour. Good luck and be safe, we’re all counting on you guys.” Alex walked out of the depot and was about to close the door behind him when he suddenly stopped and turned around. “Before I forget, there’s also a present waiting for you at the Southern tunnel as a sort of ‘thank you’ for doing such an excellent job.”

Stepan started to follow Alex out of the door. “I already have what I need lying at the tunnel.” He called back to us. “Sergei, I trust that you’ll make sure that the pups get everything that’s necessary?”

I glanced angrily at his back as he walked away. I really started to dislike the strange man. Something about his behavior just sat wrong with me even though he hadn’t really done anything too deserve my irritation. Sasha and Sergei didn’t seem to mind him though, as they started gathering the needed supplies from the many boxes.

It took about half an hour till we were ready. “Okay, check one more time if you have everything we need,” Sergei said. I put my backpack on the ground before me and checked its contents.

Inside were a couple of bags that contained dried mushrooms that could sustain me for three days if it was necessary. To the right side was a large canteen that held two liters of water and to the left there was an old yellow Geiger counter. At the very bottom lay the grey cylinder that contained the bottle. I had wrapped it in an old towel to make extra sure that it wouldn’t be damaged.

I closed the backpack and started to check what I had on me. My gasmask hang on my left hip. It was old, but still functional. I hoped I wouldn’t have to use it, seeing how it was mostly there in case we had to go to the surface. The air up there was filled with poisonous gasses and radioactive dust particles that would ruin your lungs in less than a minute. I pushed the thoughts out of my mind. If everything went even remotely right we would never have to go up there.

Next to the gasmask hang a universal charger that I could use to power the batteries of my flashlight. It was a simple device with a hand crank and a dynamo, but I was sure that it would be vital in our travels through the complete darkness of the tunnels.

On my right hip hang a holster with a simple revolver in it. On my back I had a double barreled shot gun and a metro made assault rifle that was cobbled together from at least three different guns. Carrying all these weapons felt like overkill, but Sergei assured me that I would wish that I could have carried more if even half of the stories about what lurked in the metro were true.

My final weapon was a trench knife that was kept in a sheath on my left shoulder. I wasn’t really sure how to feel about it. I had no idea how to use it in a fight, except for the obvious stabbing and slashing parts, but I doubted that I would stand a chance against anything if I had to resort to using it.

I had ammo for my weapons in the various pouches that were on my armor and in one of them I had a cheap plastic lighter. Under my armor I had several layers of old clothes to protect me against the biting cold of the tunnels.

“I think that I have everything.” I said as I slipped my shoulders between the straps of my backpack.

“Urgh. This stuff weighs a ton.” Sasha complained as he struggled with his equipment.

“That’s good, maybe you’ll get some muscles to compensate for your brain.” Sergei said with a smirk on his face.

My friend gasped in mock shock. “I can’t believe my ears. Did you just make an actual joke?”

The veterans face quickly turned back to its usual serious expression as he muttered his reply. “… maybe.”

“Hah! Stick around with me and I’ll teach you a thing or two about humor.” Sasha said as he swung an arm around the man’s shoulders.

Sergei pushed my friend’s arm away. “Forgive me if I withhold my enthusiasm.” He said as he rolled his eyes.

Despite my nerves about our mission I couldn’t help but smile at their antics. “So, are we going to the tunnels or do we need anything else?” I asked them.

“I should probably first say goodbye to my parents,” Sasha replied. “My dear old mother would be heartbroken if she couldn’t give me an hour long speech about everything I need to watch out for. ‘Sashenka, watch out for mutants. Sashenka, don’t go up to the surface. Sashenka, wear clean underwear every day.’” Sasha said in an atrocious impression of his mother’s voice.

“Yeah, I need to ask granny Yana is she can take care of my little brother for a while.” Sergei said as he started to walk out of the door. “You can go ahead to the tunnel entrance if you like. We’ll see you in twenty minutes.”

“Ha! Tell that to my mother.” Sasha snorted as he followed Sergei out of the depot.

I didn’t have anyone in particular to say goodbye to, but that didn’t bother me. A lot of people in the metro had lost their entire family, so we banded together. When I was young everyone in the station had raised me, like so many other children. The farmers had taught me how to work, the guards had told me stories around the campfires and showed me how to fire guns, and the others had always given me a place to sleep or food to eat. The entire station felt like an extended family to me and I doubted that I could say goodbye to everyone in twenty minutes.

I sat down and started to build little forts out of the spare gun parts and ammo on the table to pass the time. After about fifteen minutes I finished my master piece, a fort that came up to my knees. Viktor had quite the surprise waiting for him when he would be back. I laughed softly as I walked out of the depot.

As I made my way through the halls of the station I heard the familiar noises of people working, repairing things, bartering at the shops or just chatting and laughing together. We had to be successful on this mission. I couldn’t bear the thought of anything happening to these people, they were my life and if I had to go through the tunnels to save them, I would. No matter how dangerous it would be.

I finally saw the entrance of the ominous tunnel as the cramped hallways opened up into the larger station room. I jumped from the station platform on the rail tracks and walked to the handcar we would be using to travel. I saw that the rest of my companions had already arrived.

The three of them were sitting on the track with cups of mushroom soup in their hands. I could see little clouds of steam rising up from the meals. As I sat down next to them Sasha handed one of the cups over to me. “Hey look Yuri, free lunch from Alex!” He could barely contain his laughter as Sergei scowled at him.

I gratefully accepted the cup and started to drink. The warmth of the soup spread through my body, driving out the cold of the tunnel we sat in. I looked at the handcar as I drank. It was a not much more than a wooden platform on wheels with some metal plates as armor on the sides. There was barely enough place for four people to sit. In the middle of the car were two steel arms in a sort of seesaw set up that could be used to propel the pump trolley along the tracks. It was nothing fancy, but I was relieved that we wouldn’t have to walk.

When we had finished our meal Stepan and Sergei went up to the barricades to remove the blockades with the other guards. Sasha and I sat on the handcar and would move it when the track was finally open.

“Can you believe it?” My friend asked me with excitement in his voice. “We’re finally going to get out of this boring station and see the tunnels!”

I didn’t share my friend’s enthusiasm. “I don’t know Sasha, the tunnels are incredibly dangerous. Who knows what lurks out there.” I replied to him with an unsure look on my face.

“That’s exactly my point!” Sasha pointed past the barricade. “Who knows what is out there! What new things we’ll see. We’re going to an entirely different station. Aren’t you at least a little bit curious about what’s out there?” My friend asked as he looked at me with an excited smile on his face.

I was about to answer him when I heard Sergei yelling at us. “They way is clear! Get that thing moving!” Sasha and I stood up and started to push and pull the metal arms to move the car. We slowly rolled past the sandbags and flamethrowers that were set up at the barricade.

Once we were past the blockade I pulled the handbrake to stop the car and let Stepan and Sergei get on. One of the guards walked up to us as his colleagues started to rebuild the blockade behind us. I recognized him as a man that was called Boris.

“Be careful out there guys. Don’t go off the track and if you see anything move that isn’t human, shoot it.” The man advised us. He suddenly looked at me. “Also, Yuri, I have to warn you about something.” I watched him with interest, wondering what he had to say to me specifically. “The piglets in the metro are ten times as viscous as the ones in our station.”

I could hear the guards at the blockade laughing as they heard what Boris said. For some mysterious reason I didn’t think that the joke was that funny.

“Thanks.” I grumbled, not meaning it one bit. “Let’s get out of here guys.” Sasha and I started to work the levers again and the handcar started to slowly pick up speed as we got further away from my home.

I could see the old rusty pipes and burned out electricity cables on the sides of the tunnel. They seemed to stretch out into infinity as they followed the walls into the gaping darkness ahead of us.

As the tunnel started to curve to the right I looked behind me. I could slowly see the station behind me being blocked more and more by the wall. And eventually I couldn’t see it anymore as we were swallowed up by the darkness.

Our journey had begun.

”Come on… you’re almost there…” I thought to myself as I saw the small rabbit moving closer to me.

”Just a bit more to the right… come on…” I had been waiting for hours under a blanket of snow, completely hidden except for my light blue eyes. I was freezing, but it would be worth it if I could finally get that stupid furball.

”Yes… just a little bit more.” The unsuspecting mammal was almost close enough. Soon I would finally be able to eat. Just the thought of food was almost enough to make me drool.

Then my stomach betrayed me. It started to rumble loudly and painfully. The rabbit’s ears shot up and it looked straight into my eyes.

I burst out from under my cold blanket, making snow fly everywhere. The rabbit was too shocked to move as I grabbed it as quickly as I could with my almost frozen limbs.

The rabbit let out a terrible scream, much louder than I had thought possible for such a small creature. I quickly plunged my fangs into its exposed neck and jerked my head back, breaking the rabbit’s neck and killing it instantly.

I was in a state of bliss as I started to frantically eat the warm meal. I was almost crying in relief, I had been so hungry that it had physically hurt. I was so absorbed in my meal that I almost forgot the world around me.

I froze when I heard a bush next to me rustle. Something was watching me. I grabbed the half eaten rabbit in my mouth and slowly walked backwards as I could see the bush starting to shake more violently.

Then a goat poked its head out from behind the shrub. I sighed in relief. What was a goat even doing in this forest? It was miles away from civilization, as I had discovered after many months of searching for any sign of sentient creatures.

I froze as I saw a lion head popping up next to the goat. I could feel fear filling my mind as I realized what was happening. A lion and a goat standing so close together without fighting could only mean one thing. As the creature walked out of the bush my fears were confirmed.

The chimera let out a mighty roar. The lion heads looked at me with hunger in its eyes as I could see its entire body and the part where the goat head sprouted from the chimera’s body. Ribs were visible under its fur. The snake head that was the “tail” of the body hissed at me in malevolent anticipation. Its forked tongue slipped out between its poisonous fangs.

I ran.

Biting hard on the rabbit’s fur I made sure that it wouldn’t fall out of my mouth as I dodged trees and rocks. I tried not to slip on the icy surface of the stones that lay sporadically on the ground.

Behind me I could hear the mighty paws of the chimera running on the snow. I heard the sound of its loud breaths coming closer and closer. The three headed beast was catching up to me!

I spread open my wings, flapping them in a desperate attempt to escape the monster. It was no use though. They were much too cold and stiff from lying under the snow for so long. Even if that hadn’t been the case I doubted that I would have been able to take off. I was just too weakened by days of not eating and I had long since run out of the power I needed to use my flight magic.

I made a few sharp turns through a part of the forests where the thick trees stood very close to each other and hid behind one of the ancient wooden giants. Trying to breathe as quietly as possible as my heart pounded in my chest.

I could hear the creature stop. It had apparently lost my trail. I felt a spark of hope. Maybe I would be able to get out of this mess after all.

I peeked out from the side of the tree and saw the creature standing a few meters away. Growling and sniffing at the trees and bushes. One of the bushes started to shake and the goat head instantly reared back and spat a ball of fire at the shrub. As the plant caught fire a bird flew away, whistling in panic as it escaped the flames unharmed.

The chimera roared and continued its search for me. The beast suddenly stopped as the snake head started to frantically taste the air with its tongue and hissed in my direction, trying to get the attention of the other heads.

I quickly hid behind the tree again. “How did it smell me?” I thought as I started to panic. I looked at the dead mammal in my mouth. Blood was staining its fur and I saw red droplets dripping on the snow in front of me.

As I stared at the creature the pieces connected in my head. The rabbit’s scream had attracted the chimera in the first place and now its blood was revealing where I was. The cursed animal seemed to mock me with its dead eyes.

”Fine, you win, but I’m not leaving empty hooved.” I thought in anger. I spat out the creature and picked it up with my right front leg. I was grinding my teeth in frustration as I threw my precious meal as far away from me as I could. It landed on the ground with a thud and the chimera immediately jumped on it and started to devour the small rabbit.

I ran to the bush that had been set on fire and quickly picked up one of the burning branches that had fallen on the ground. I took care to keep the burning end as far away from my face as possible and looked back at the terrible creature.

The snake head was hissing furiously as it tried to point out my escape to the rest of its body, but the lion head was too preoccupied with the small rabbit. The goat head just stared at the ground, perhaps searching for a few of the precious plucks of grass that could still be found.

I turned around and ran away. The rabbit would not keep the chimera busy forever and it would certainly not sate its appetite. I did not want to be around when it was done.

I ran for what felt like hours, my legs were burning and my breathing became ragged. I knew that it was probably my weakened state that made my crazed dash seem that long. The small branch in my mouth hadn’t burned up, so I couldn’t have been running for more than a dozen minutes.

I slowed down until I was walking and started to look for a place to sleep. I had to find shelter before the night fell. While my improvised torch gave of a welcome warmth and enough light to see by at night, I knew that it would just make me stand out to any nocturnal predators in the dark forest.

I wandered until I saw a small alcove in one of the large rocks that were spread across the forest. It would have to do for the night.

I stuck the burning branch with its unlit end in the snow, making it stand upright. I went in the forest and started to look for any dry twigs and branches that I could use to make a small campfire.

It took me a while to find something I could use. Most of the wood was to wet from lying in the snow, but I was lucky enough to find a toppled over dead tree whose branches were dry enough to be used as firewood.

As I went in the small alcove I used the still burning twig to start a small campfire. I lay down on the hard ground as light and heat began the chase away the cold and dark atmosphere of the alcove.

I felt tired and wanted to do nothing more than sleep, but I first had to make contact with my Sisters again to let them know that I was still alive and searching.

I shut my eyes and started to concentrate on making contact with the shared consciousness. It was getting more difficult every day to make contact as I started to become weaker and weaker. I hoped that the Hive was still alright, but I had to admit that I wasn’t looking forward to reporting another day of failure.

As I tried to make contact I slowly came to a horrible realization. I couldn’t feel any minds. No matter how hard I tried I didn’t feel the familiar and comforting feeling of thousands of voices filling my being.

I started to panic in my little hideout. My breathing became fast and my heart started to pound in my chest. ”What had happened? Is the Hive still alright? Are my Sisters and Queen even still alive?” I started to feel lightheaded until an idea pushed its way to the front of my mind.

I was completely out of magic. That was the only explanation that made sense. If the Hive had been attacked my Sisters would at least have send out a mental warning to the scouts to come back and defend the Queen. The process of making contact with my Sisters required very little magic, but it still needed it.

”Yes, that has to be it.” I thought to myself as I tried to calm my heart. ”They are still alright, you just need to find some love to power up again and everything will be fine.”

Then I realized the horrible truth. I was all alone. For the first time in my life I wasn’t able to get in contact with the rest of my Sisters. I was all alone in this cursed forest. Days away from my Hive and Queen.

Even though my stomach was half full and I had a bit of warmth for the first time in ages I couldn’t enjoy it. I sat in my hideout staring at the fire and I suddenly wasn’t able to sleep despite my tiredness.

I was up all night as I watched the fire slowly die in my alcove.


Next Chapter: Chapter 3: Dreams Estimated time remaining: 6 Hours, 36 Minutes
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