Collision— Chapter Four: Nightlight
The mechanical walls begin to clunk, shutting behind them, the slates moving back into place. The exit sealed, the party of adventurers is on to their next stage, making their way to the rose-gold citadel on the mountain.
“Can you see in this darkness?” asks Belle, who is second in the line making its way through the forest. Moonlight is reflecting off Viridian’s armour as she leads them. The knight moves quickly, surefooted.
“Yes,” she responds.
“But how? Its almost pitch black and we’re all falling over ourselves!”
As if to make her point Belle slips on a patch of mud, catching herself before she hits the ground
Viridian stops, swivelling on her heels to face her trailing companions.
She reaches behind her armour and clips off a string of beads. Pulling two off at a time, she hands them to Belle.
“Put one into each eye. Tell the others.” Viridian states, turning back. She is careful in her movements, surveying ahead of them.
A pale light streams from behind Belle, who turns to see Jack close behind her, coming to a halt with Holtzmann just behind him. Chekov and Peggy arrive a moment later, the small, pale light from Peggy’s miniature pen-torch helping guide their steps.
“I’m not sure I can keep this up with my torch. The ground is covered in mud and roots which, I must say, have a rather bad habit of slowing me down.”
Peggy examines her heels which are now fairly caked in dirt. Her reluctance to remove them is entirely based around the questionable, alien environment around them, despite the impracticality.
“Here.” says Belle. She hands each of them a pair of beads. “Viridian says to…uh…put one into each eye.”
“I’m sorry, I must have misheard.” says Chekov. “Did you say, eyes?”
“I’ve put weirder things, stranger places” says Jack, pulling the beads apart before slamming them into his eyes.
“Wait!” Peggy says too late.
“Huh, well thats impressive. They have some phenomenal technology in this place.”
“What do you see Jack?” asks Belle, the others coming a little closer to look into Jack’s eyes.
“Its like…its the middle of the day. Everything just looks more visible.”
Viridian leans into the group.
“Hurry up! We should not stay still for long.”
Chekov is scanning the beads, seeing further strange readings flashing across his screen. He looks up to mention the biological elements he’s detecting as Peggy pushes them into her eyes. As she’s stood next to him with her torch also in her hand, he glimpses tiny tendrils seeping from the beads before they are absorbed into her pupils.
“Oh my.” Peggy exclaims. “This is extraordinary.”
Peggy switches off her pen-torch with a twist of the nib, sliding it into her interior coat pocket.
“Here goes nothing” says Holzmann, pushing them into her eyes. Belle follows suit. Both make oooh faces as they stare around at the now clear forest.
Chekov is last, nervously staring at the small beads. He rolls them between his fingers.
“Udachi” he murmers, placing each bead to his eye. They shoot, too fast for him to see, into his eyes and his vision disappears for a split second. When it returns, the shadowy outlines of the trees and the dim frames of his fellow travellers are now crystal clear. Looking up, he can see a bright sky, though its clear there is no sun making it so.
“Time to go, Chekov” says Jack, rousing him from his daze staring at the new world. With a broad grin on his face he adds, “like what ya see?”
“Da, this is exceptional. Every detail is very clear, but also strange. It is like an augmented layer to my own vision. Even the distance seems clearer, closer as I focus.”
“Not the time for flirting Jack, Viridian is on the move.” says Peggy, interrupting.
She waits for the last two, Holtzmann and Belle a short way ahead of them. With an effortless zoom, Chekov makes out his companions slipping in-between the trees.
“We are falling behind” he says to Jack, causing his smile to turn to a frown as he rushes past the taller man.
With their new vision in place, the team are able to negotiate the undergrowth much more easily. Viridian is silent and Ekta’s voice is gone, leaving them in an eerie quiet. Occasionally branches cracking underfoot and animal calls penetrate the bright night.
Belle and Holtzmann walk side by side, a few paces behind the knight who is leading them without a word.
“I’m not sure I’ll get used to this.” says Belle.
“What, travelling accidentally to an alien world and being chased by dragons?” asks Holtzmann.
“Uh, no.” she replies. “All this brightness at night. It looks wrong, unnatural.”
“I agree, it does perplex the mind.”
Holtzmann pulls her goggles down over her eyes, the school bus yellow lenses colouring her nightlight world.
“Well, that’s intriguing.” she remarks.
“My goggles are yellow.”
“Yes, I can see that.” Belle responds, confused.
“But these optical doohickies seem to be reacting to it, making my eyes see without the yellow filter.”
Holtzmann is circling her head as though she was doing neck stretching exercises, crossing her eyes as she does.
A singing eeeeek pierces the quiet, followed instantly by a white spear of light that strikes Holtzmann in the back. She’s slammed forward onto the ground. Viridian whirls to face them, sword extending in her hand from its hilt.
“Get down!” she yells.
Belle crouches down next to Holtzmann, her face in the mud.
Another shot is fired, hitting a tree next to Chekov as he drops to the ground. He begins to crawl towards Holtzmann, who is not moving, and Belle.
With a loud, crackling boom, Viridian lets of her own retaliation shots which rip through the branches and leaves. She is aiming in the direction of the first shot, behind and to the left of the team.
Jack and Peggy have stooped behind a tree each, pistols in hand.
“Can you see them?” Jack asks Peggy.
“Give me a moment” she responds.
A shot shoots past, towards where Viridian is firing a little ways ahead. With a quick glance, Peggy rolls across to a sheltering bush. She peaks her head over as the knight returns fire. She quints, feeling a strange tickle across her eyes. Her sight shifts, narrowing with brilliant clarity onto the attackers in the distance. 400m appears in the corner of her sight along with unfamiliar symbols overlayed onto the hiding places of the attackers. She rolls back to her first position just in time to avoid the shots fired into her hiding spot.
“Three attackers, 400 metres away.”
“Jillian’s been hit. We need to cover the others so they can help her.” Jack reports.
“Can you cover me?”
She darts out at one as Jack leans from behind his tree and looses shots at the attackers. His accuracy is improved by the sniper vision, allowing him to strike the nearest attacker. Unfortunately, though his two bullets hit the neck, armour hinders it from doing any visible damage.
“Damn” he says under is breath, spinning back into hiding.
He turns to look at his teammates. More white and green shots are exchanged. Scanning the forest, he’s able to make out Peggy who is staring directly at him; though in normal circumstances she wouldn’t be able to see him. She motions for him to join her.
As Viridian lets off another volley, Jack runs, bent over, to the team.
“How is she?” he asks when he reaches them.
“She’s just knocked out,” Belle tells him. “Looks like she’s wearing some kind of protection under that suit”
“I’ve done a scan, she does not appear to have broken any bones. We can move her.” says Chekov, holding out the tricorder which no-one can read.
Viridian moves nearer to them, sliding with impressive agility along the ground.
“We need to go.”
“Jack, give me a hand with her” says Belle. He moves to the other side of Holtzmann and the two begin to lift her, an arm over each of their shoulders.
“When I say go, you go.” Viridian says.
The shots stop. She leans her head out, rising slightly from her crouched position.
“They’re trying to flank us. GO!”
She points their direction, Peggy leading the charge, with Belle and Jack dragging the unconscious Holtzmann with them.
“What about you?” Chekov asks.
“I’m coming! Go!” she says, shoving him in the right direction.
Wielding her sword with one hand, she twirls it quickly. It sparks briefly. An emerald glow emanates from it and the gun-sword splits along the middle where the shots came from. A metallic ting follows and the single weapon becomes two swords. Viridian grips the handles, blades crossed in front of her. She looks over her shoulder, scanning for the retreating members of her party. Seeing them racing in the right direction, she leaps up into the trees.
“Are we sure we’re going the right way?” grunts Jack.
His neck is bent down as he carries Holtzmann, tiredness beginning to set in.
“I’ve reason to believe we are.” Peggy assures him.
“And we’re not being followed.” says Chekov.
He stares back, desperately looking for a sign of Viridian. They’ve been running for who-knows how many minutes. All blaster sounds have stopped. Even in the nightlight, the endless trees are non-distinct.
“We’re here” says Peggy.
Belle and Jack use what little strength they can muster to straighten themselves up. They see Peggy round a massive rock. Following her, they are met by a wall of, what looks to Jack, like fireflies.
A huddled group of hooded figures are stood, short capes billowing behind them from a force they can’t feel.
“Where is Viridian?” says a neon pick, flecked, armoured man. He flits his gaze between the newly arrived people.
“Behind us” says Belle, leaning to place Holtzmann carefully on the ground.
“She pointed us in your direction. Then, we don’t know what happened” adds Jack.
“Come this way,” he says.
Another knight, this one in a terracotta orange suit of armour, helps him lift Holtzmann, hurriedly walking towards an opening in the rock cove. Jack and Belle are panting, catching their breath, but make slow steps to follow. Peggy begins to follow them but turns around with a realisation.
She asks, “Where’s Chekov?”