“This way first. We must have you geared up before officially entering the Spore Forest.” Serge ushered the four of us into a small enclosed glass gazebo near the plane’s landing area. The minute we entered, Serge and Nyra handed us each a Kevlar vest, upgrades, a foldable Fixed Gear bike, a small box of some odd-looking seeds, a pair of knee-high boots, a trench coat and an aviator’s hat. Nyra proceeded to hand us a shrinkable glider powered by a cylindrical seed about two inches long.
“Now you’ll have to put on the clothing provided, the vests outside. Boots are compulsory and just store your clothing in your PCs or devices in the case you might want to wear them in the base. After you get your clothing on, come back to this place for a briefing. Alright, dismissed!” Serge was talking more seriously in a military-like manner. We proceeded to a cubicle where Serge nudged me lightly.
“Hey Silver, can you guess why the need for so much gear?”
“The dangerous plants?” That was the most logical answer I could provide at the time. Serge nodded faintly before turning back to me as he was putting on his undershirt.
“Not just that. The vests serve as a primary protection against any infections so that you won’t be so easily impaled at your chest area.” Now Serge was slipping on his boots as well as his hat. I was tying the straps of the hat now, almost done with gearing up. Serge stretched warily after putting on all his clothing, his changed clothes in a pile.
“Let’s get going, Silver.” He ushered me out of the cubicle and back to the assigned meeting place.
“Very well, Nyra, Finnian and Silver. I shall explain to you all the stuff for the Spore Forest.” We nodded.
“The Spore Forest is a large piece of land inhabited widely by mutated plants, or Spores, as we call them. Some spores are of use to us, such as the Grain Spore and larger spores can be made into parachutes with simple turbines built inside. However, a majority of the plants that are found in this area are miasmatic, thus the need for means of gas masks and all that. Prehistoric insect mutants also inhabit this area, the most dangerous known as the Wood Giant. More will be explained later on. A few types of bugs here can be domesticated, being able to be kept in a container capsule that you find on your puppet arms and devices. One such example is the Buzzer, a large dragonfly varying in color that is common in the Spore Forest as well as the Petrified Forest. The Petrified Forest is an area located under the Spore Forest where water and other natural resources can be found, together with useful herbs and spores as well as domesticated insects. The source of water found in the Petrified Forest is from the Spore Forest, so we do not encourage any burning in the Spore Forest. Also, we will be meeting up with the other recruits, the surviving ones, I mean. The weapons beside your Seer weapons are the Moon Type seals, trappers, modifiable weapons as well as memory lighters. There is a memory lighter in your device that is capable of destroying all evidence of any slayed insects to prevent any rampages from happening. The main theory behind Wood Giant rampages is that once the Wood Giant is angry, its muscles swell by instinct and is unable to stop unless they come in contact with the Moon Type seals, a type of cooling self-healing gelatin that calms as well as heals one’s body and mind made from Moon Berries. When applied to the skin, it prevents the loss of moisture and the wound from being infected as well as heals the wound. There is one general rule: You are not allowed to kill any insect unless it is on rampage or endangers the life of you or your comrade. Failure to comply may lead to the deaths of your entire squad. Is that understood?” We all nodded.
“Here is a trapper, actually the original form of it. You can modify it later on, such as its performance when being launched. The Trap launcher is a miniature missile launcher and you can launch agar dishes with fast growing mutated creatures that will devour the insect whole before rapidly rotting into the ground, leaving no trace of the insect. The creatures will only mutate once exposed to sunlight, so no worries of it eating you. You can launch it directly at the insect’s body or in any formation around the insect. Depends on you, the user though. The insects are one use but the agar plates can be replenished. Your gliders can be refueled, so try not to dispose them unless utmost necessary. The bikes have a turbine-powered dynamo in them, so if you need any use for the electricity generated, feel free to use it.” Serge hopped onto his bike and started cycling almost immediately and we followed suit, going at full speed before coming to a full halt in the middle of nowhere. There was a petrified tree stump that had a large whole in the middle. Serge approached the tree, beckoning us closer as he reached into the tree and clicking on something. A viridian flame flickered up the empty hole of the tree trunk and the grassy patch beside them started to sink gracefully. We landed on soft sand, with giant petrified trees towering the entire area. At a certain tree, there was a small tap installed and a few feet away were a small modern looking facility. Serge entered the building and was almost immediately greeted by a boy about their age. The duo walked closer to us, the boy talking to Serge in an attentive way, his eyes sparkling as he explained in detail his conversation topic. Serge nodded.
“I see. So what exactly happened, Roger?” Said boy stopped talking for a moment and put his hand to his chin, deep on thought.
“They… t-they… actually a few of them, the older boys… they went on to burn a baby insect alive a few meters away from the e-entrance and about five minutes later… the Wood Giant attacked some of them and the rest stomped over… I was entering the Petrified Forest at the time s-so…” He broke into tears almost immediately.
“That was what happened? So that was the end of Squad 0107, huh. The four of us will be joining this squad. You’ll still need someone to fight the ones on rampage, huh? Is there another squad arriving?” Serge answered, patting the back of the boy.
“T-there is one. Squad 0309. I heard they’ll be here anytime soon…” He sniffed for a while.
“Why don’t we rest for the night? Matters can be settled the next day.” The boy nodded.
“This is Finnian, the blonde one. Silver is the one with red-colored hair and the beautiful lady here is Nyra.” Serge did have a sexist side. Roger stopped sniffling and led us inside. Inside was a meeting room, a pantry, a walk-in closet as well as a common bedroom with triple loft bunk beds. The walls of the facility were lined with glow-in dark stripes, casting a warm yet electric glow in the night. Roger showed us to where we would be sleeping as well as the contents of the walk-in closet which included modifiable weapons such as trappers and several others. Then Serge called us for dinner, donning a cute apron and balancing a pitcher of spore juice and a plate of food in hand.
“Grilled beef tenderloin I found in the freezer with some nice sauce I added. I found the juice in the freezer, its blackcurrant-spore juice. I heated some grain spores in the pantry so there you have it, rice! How’s that?” Serge laid the cutlery as well as the crockery on the table and we tucked it with the comfortable silence. The sauce reminded me so much of my own cooking… the last time I cooked for my homies on Thanksgiving last year. I would probably never forget how wonderful it tasted. The flavor would explode in my mouth… I could feel the tingling sensations on my taste buds and every bite told a story of its own. It was… beautiful. I checked the calendar on my device. A month to Thanksgiving. I wanted to be back home by then. If I could.
After dinner, we headed for a quick shower before heading to bed. I was the first to be tucked into the warm sheets, beneath the Spore Forest, listening to the occasional drops of water that was ambient. Possibly millions of miles away from human civilization. Any forms of it. I could see the triplet’s faces as they played game after game at the arcade, Granny Chive snaking on jelly cake a stone’s throw away. Especially Garfield. Kan and Garfield had mentioned something about trying out some dancing game. A feeling welled in my heart, staying there like a drop of dew, ready to drip down. Guilt, probably. I could almost see them play, hear their shouts. All in detail. But I wasn’t there. Guilt weighed down in my chest, making it harder for me to breathe. I could see the smiling faces of my whole family: Ma, Pa, Granny Chive, Kan, Temma and Garfield. All those that I loved. That I would hold dear. I could hear myself playing the piano… the piece was Kiss the Rain. I was crying as I played and the warm evening sun was shining through. That was the last piano piece I played after that day. The day that I lost my mother. She wasn’t gone forever. She was out there, out there somewhere. The words, her words that I believed as she kissed me goodbye as she left me. ‘Look at the stars, Silver. Ma and Pa will be there for you. Always there.’ A silent promise that was formed on that one day. I would never forget, nor would I stop believing. For she is out there, out there somewhere. Somewhere in the stars I would hear the laughter of the family that once was. I would see my father. He was out there, somewhere. Out there somewhere, like Finnian’s father. Like Zephyr, Nyra’s dad. Like Prof Herman. What if I had never met Finnian? Never met Serge? I would not be able to meet Prof Herman. Not be able to meet Finnian, Nyra, Seraphim, Zephyr or Roger. I would never come to know of this place. I looked out of the window. I could see twinkling stars. I could hear the twinkling laughter of my family. I could hear… the world. The fact that things would never be changed. At times I caught myself thinking: What… if I could turn back time? Change the way things now were? Those times my answer would be vague. But today I knew my answer: No. I loved the way this world is. No matter how cruel or corrupt it is or will be, I will still love it. And I would not want it to change. After that day, I abandoned playing my instruments and started to be the genius I now was. I had changed. But I was still my old self, deep inside. I would always be me, Silver. I would never change, because I would never want to change anything. I am perfect, just the way I am. Tears were running down my cheeks now. How… long has it been since I last cried? It has been long, too long. A small pulse went through my head. We understand, too. Acnolgia’s voice. Tag’s voice. Heren’s voice. Nyra’s voice. Zephyr’s and Prof Herman’s voices. Finnian’s voice. Roger’s voice. Serge’s voice. A voice that I did not recognize immediately. William. Seraphim’s voice, clearer than ever. I heard the voice of my parents. ‘Do your best, Silver. We will always be with you.’ I smiled.
Thank you, everyone.