A Planet Called Mercy

Fraeia and I walk for hours. It feels like days. My body aches, I'm tired and hungry, and I can't tell which is more unbearable, the distant sounds of war or the silence that fills the space between them.   The hills and grassy plains soon meet a dense forest as we near the mountains. We disappear into the trees, the ground beneath us shaking from the artillery.   I duck under a branch, then another. It's hard to keep my eyes forward and read the information on my tablet at the same time. "The man's name is Daniel Haddock, a human mercenary." I look up and watch as Fraeia pushes forward through the leaves and the brush.   We decided to go the long way around, keeping clear of the fighting. Dhitol would need a day or two to set up a foothold and send a team to the thought grave. It made sense to get a head start.   "Not in a talkative mood?" I ask.   Fraeia stops and turns on their heels. While their voice is calm, the words almost sting, "Are you nervous?"   "What? I-"   "I am not trying to be rude or make you uncomfortable." I see their smile through the visor as they whisper, "I just wonder what makes one want to talk when trekking through an active warzone."   My eyes dart from one side to the other and I suddenly realize how little I can see through the trees. "Active?" I ask. "why don't I hear anything nearby?"   They nod and widen their eyes. "They have to know we're aware of their intentions. They're too smart to think otherwise. To set up an ambush, you need silence." They turn away and continue walking, their steps silent and chosen with care.   My steps are clumsy, with twigs and dried leaves snapping and crunching underfoot. When I hear it, I freeze in place and lower my head. "Sorry," I mutter.   They stop and turn to me again. When they notice my body trembling, they shake their head and take a step toward me. "I'm only teasing. I apologize. That wasn't kind." I look up with a narrowed brow as they continue, "I'm usually surrounded by those who are as accustomed to war as I am."   "It's fine," I lie, trying my best to calm down.   Fraeia starts walking and says, "This man, do you know anything else about him?"   I'm reluctant to speak but manage to get the words out as I dodge another branch, "A freed slave captured during the siliue purge. He killed his captors and I guess the rest is history. Maybe he enjoyed it?"   "Maybe," they reply. "We should stop soon. It's been a few hours. The breach is setting and the Dhitol are nocturnal. They'll be patrolling the area." Fraeia points to the east. "There's a cave near the first waypoint we set up. We'll stop there."
The dreams come for me in my sleep. One moment I close my eyes and the next I'm standing in a hall of steel sarcophagi. The thought grave has yet to activate. I still have time.   I run as fast as I can, dodging fallen pillars and rubble. I come to the opening and I see a man standing before me. This isn't right. This isn't what I was shown before.   "Stop," I shout, my rifle raised.   The man turns around and stares at me with narrowed eyes. "You? Of all those they could send, they sent you?"   "I don't understand," I reply.   The man laughs and rubs his temples. "I'm sorry. You didn't have to follow me. You could have escaped."   Before I can react, the man raises a pistol and fires. I feel myself being pushed back. I feel pain... real pain. I see the blood burst out, painting the walls, the floors, and even my visor. I stumble. The pain fades as my heart races. I look down and a massive chunk of my stomach is gone. All color fades, my vision blurs, and soon after I find myself in a serene, black void.     I scream, shooting up from the ground in a cold sweat. My breathing is heavy and for whatever reason, I can't stop crying.   Fraeia stares back at me. They don't speak, but there's a look of horror in their eyes.   My bottom lip quivers. "That was different. Did something change?"   "Change?"   "In the future. I've had that dream before but it didn't pan out the same way."   They smile at me, the way one would smile at a dog doing a trick. "The future?"   "If I know the future, then I can alter it, right?"   "If you alter it, then what you saw was not the future in the first place, rather an event that helps shape what the future will be." They stand up and reach their hand out to help me to my feet, which I politely refuse. "Are you ready?" they ask. I nod, "As ready as I'll ever be."


The planet of Alphia was originally a barren rock. It never developed life before, nor would it in the eons to come. That's when the Lebha came, transforming this lifeless husk into a symbol of cooperation and compassion.   The planet was originally settled by pilgrims, who came to visit the holy site that is The Fever Breach. In specially designed habitats, they traded labor for food and board.   Some chose to remain for indefinite periods with loved ones. Others chose a monastic life in remote regions of the planet, their lives spent studying Somnihein and all its mysteries. This is where the transformation of the planet began.

Fruits of our labor

Pilgrims often brought produce from their homeworld to grow on Alphia. This produce is either grown naturally, grown in greenhouses, or modified to suit the climate of the planet in its current state.   In many ways, alphia is a proof of concept. It was terraformed, an amalgam of many worlds. Now, Alphia is a series of biological paradises perfectly blended into a single whole. It became a major source of food for the system and many systems surrounding it. The terraformation of the planet went off without a hitch.   So many different forms of flora and fauna would spell disaster for any other species who dared take up the task. The lebhan did more than make a world habitable. They designed the ecosystem from scratch, establishing it as neutral ground. The world was a sanctuary, a place of peace and honest living.

Doom and gloom

The world is now destined for destruction, a shining jewel doomed to become a lifeless rock. Due to the battle at the Fever breach, radiation exposure spread across the planet. Only small patches will remain, unable to sustain the world's ecosystem.   It will be gradual at first. Trees will die off, along with many of the planet's population if they don't evacuate. On a long enough timeline, the flora will die off due to the unstable climate. They won't be able to keep the planet alive on their own.   In the end, the bodies of all living things will litter the surface. The bodies will then crumble. They will break down into their basic elements with the inevitable passing of time; ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Only stone will remain.
We're close now. As we near the thought grave, the sounds of fighting get louder. The rumble underfoot grows, shaking violently.   "Wait here," Fraeia commands. "I hear wings."   I obey. I'm not about to walk into that. I grew up hearing about war. The chaos and horror of it makes me sick. Whether it's fought with sticks and stones, gunpowder, or rails, it's always the same.   I hear Fraeia's footsteps and stand up to meet them. I walk forward and realize my mistake far later than I should. Fraeia is well trained, her footsteps are nearly silent. I shouldn't be hearing footsteps at all.   I come face to face with wrinkled brown skin. Two, small black eyes stare down at me. Its nose is round, its teeth sharp as razors. It towers over me at around eight feet in height; A Dhitol scout.   As if to frighten me further, it opens its arms wide, the webbed wings attached unfurling to make it look even bigger. It gives a screech, so loud I cover my ears on instinct.   The sound cuts off moments later. Small holes pierce through its body in rapid succession, tungsten rounds bursting out in a fine red mist. The body falls, but it's still moving. It reaches out and pulls itself along the ground, crawling away in terror.   I can't speak. I can't even scream. I fight back tears as I stare at it. It's trying to flee, not even able to gain an inch of ground. I hear gurgling. It's trying to screech again. The rounds must have punctured its lungs.   Fraeia's approach is slow, casual. They seem calm, controlled, and confident. When they notice the body moving, they fire a single round that passes through the creature's head.   I look away as the body goes limp. The tears fade as I try to think about something else, anything else.   "Are you alright?" Fraeia asks.   "Well," I begin, the words catching in my throat. I feel sick, my stomach churning. "I don't like this."   "No one should," they reply. They reach out to me, their hands resting on my shoulder.   I jump on impulse; my mind racing to address a different kind of panic. I shout "Don't touch me. Don't-" I stop. The aerogel in the suit does its job, but sometimes I forget it's there. I let out a sigh of relief.   "Did it bother you that much? If I didn't kill it, It would have killed you."   "It's not that. Sorry." I reply.   "I don't understand. I for one would rather you live a day longer."   "No," I say, shaking my head. "I'm human."   Fraeia shakes their head and shrugs. They look almost as panicked as I was, a far cry from the confident soldier I saw before. "You rarely get to leave the ship when serving on an avatar. I know very little about humans. You're the first human I've ever met."   I let out a nervous laugh. "We're not big on being touched. It's a long story."   They nod, then turn away. "Later then. That scout couldn't have been alone."


Author's Notes

Sorry if this all seems a bit repetitive on the worldbuilding side. I'll be expanding on Alphia a little later but thought it would be fun to explore.

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Dec 31, 2021 22:11 by C. B. Ash

To me? Not repetitive at all. There is small bits of worldbuilding here and it's great! Also, the character dynamic is in full focus. I'm enjoying it.

Jan 1, 2022 15:30

I'd second that. This moves the plot along nicely and fills in some backstory and details that are important. Also, first contact with the Dhitol!

Jan 13, 2022 23:48 by TC

This is just fascinating, I am devouring every new bit of lore I get my hands on! And not repetitive at all. Also I am most perplexed by the dream changing, and I have decided that because I am bad at guessing things I will stop trying to guess things :')   Also I personally don't mind when things get repeated a bit- my memory sucks, and I'd rather have things laid out Extra Clear than be confused haha

Creator of Arda Almayed
Jan 24, 2022 06:32 by Stormbril

I love your worldbuilding just as much as I love your story telling, I'll take em both in equal parts! No need to apologize, there's no repetitiveness here <3   I particularly love these "smaller" bits where characters are able to interact and experience small events together, talk, and... world build xD This is really lovely, I'm thoroughly enjoying my evening reading through all these articles I missed :)

Jan 26, 2022 03:19 by Starfarer Theta

I really like how you use short stories in your articles. I think it adds something to the article that couldn't be achieved otherwise.

Feb 9, 2022 12:33

I postponed the reading of the Void Between until I have enough time to read all the articles in one go, and finally, I can catch up!   Dhitols looks very scary, at least to our eyes. And Fraeia not knowing about humans and misunderstanding it for a post-traumatic shock was nicely done!

Hoo~ Hoo
Apr 27, 2022 07:15 by Grace Gittel Lewis

Such a tragedy it'll be lost. Repeating things is no worry, you added a lot as you went here.

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