So, for everyone who is reading this, this is the completely unedited, very raw, just-as-I-wrote-it version of the book, because I am writing it under the same format as NaNoWriMo and no editing is allowed!
You will see discrepancies in the story line, as well as in the character backgrounds--all things I plan to fix in my editing of this book sometime within the next two years. But until then, here it is; filled with maximum cheesiness, riddled with plot holes... incredibly raw and untouched.
This is The Race Against Destiny.
The council members had gathered at their meeting place high in the sky to discuss the state of things. They used to meet once every few months but now that things were dire, the people wanted them to meet as often as they could--weekly, sometimes daily--and discuss the things they already knew. The world was falling apart. So up there in that tall stone building with the long spire-like legs that held up it's spherical shape way up there in the clouds, they sat in their chairs and held their meeting.
Outside, it was quiet. People walked the streets of their pristine towns and took care of their errands and their chores. It would be a cheerful sight to see, with no traffic or pollution and kindness on everyone's face, except there was an air of gloom around everyone and everything, because everyone knew that below the pristine surface, their little ecosystem was dying. In the schools, the children were taught about the time this happened before, way before all of them had been conceived and way before humans had left Earth, the dead planet, the place they destroyed. There were still some humans around now; some had even been mixed into their society. The planet was a mecca of mixed up races and creatures, and they liked it like that. But human kind was still bouncing back from their near-extinction hundreds of years ago. When they had used up most of their resources and practically destroyed the planet they'd inhabited, they began to fight over what was left. Some left the Gray Planet in search for other resources, other places to live, but few survived out in the vastness of space. The ones who remained on Earth ended up destroying themselves and what was left of the planet in a final, desperate act to get what they felt they deserved.
And now it was happening here, on Zeus.
Only this time it was different, people weren't destroying each other over the lack of resources. Instead, they were working hard to facilitate those brave enough to leave in search of something that could sustain the lives that were there. But the recent searches had come up empty--and most of those who had gone out ended up vanishing without a trace. Many returned wounded, dying, or dead. Not too long ago, one dying crew had tried to fly their ship back to the planet but expired sometime mid-reentry. Their ship crashed like a meteor into one of the unsuspecting towns in the middle of the night and killed most of the inhabitants in that block of homes. Those who came back talked about the devastatingly vacant lands they had visited, and after returning they would often refuse to continue the search. It took a toll on their bodies, especially since they were only allowed small rations of the substance that kept their race alive, called embergem.
These people who were dying en masse were not humans or human-hybrids, or even aliens from another planet. They had evolved from the first AIs who founded Zeus; the crew who used the ORION to explore unknown lands hundreds of years after the near-extinction of humanity. They found the first human to survive the implosion of the species and are credited with bringing humans back into being by breeding him with a human descendant and other humans who they eventually found along the way floating in hyper pods in dead space.
And after countless failed attempts with other substances on their own and neighboring planets, the AIs began to search for some type of resource that could power their bodies for as long as they'd need it. At first, the restrictions on how much embergem you could have per day were not that hard on the people. But it got worse very quickly. The people, who needed four doses of embergem a day, had to deal with it cut down to three, then two, and finally one dose per day. Some needed more than others, and were unable to live off such a low dose and expired. Others hoarded and halved their doses to give to the ones who needed it more. The saddest part was that no one could help them but them, and the other species around them--the Rafensel and the human hybrids--had to helplessly watch their extinction as it happened before them, in their neighborhoods and schools.
But everyone did their best to help each other, and they mandated that in the meantime, the big thinkers--the lawmakers and the scientists and the ambassadors--go up to their tower and look for new solutions. So they met up there as often as they were told by the people, their bosses, and talked about the problems and thought long and hard for a solution.
The council members were five men of high standing, who had proven their worthiness to serve the people in this position through their great works of humility and kindness, as well as their intelligence on all matters the people deemed important. Their names were Florian the Kind, Balthasar the Generous, Dismas the Wise, Gaspar the Steadfast, and Barlaam the Servant. They were given these names (generous, wise, and so on) based off their most redeeming qualities, the reasons the people elected them. Also joining them in the great meeting tower were the ambassadors for the human people and the Rafensel people respectively. The human ambassador was Ambassador Lucius, and the Rafenseli Ambassador was Trajan. They represented their people who lived on this planet, as well as their people who lived on their home planets of __________ and _________. The humans are, as stated previously, a hybrid between the fully evolved human type from the Gray Planet, and the devolved human type from the planet Moran. They have a similar appearance to the fully evolved human type of Earth, but are typically more stocky and broad. The Rafensel people, known as Rafenseli, are beings best described as civilized lizard people; their physique is tall and elegant, with a human-like stature but covered in glittery scales and slits for their nose. Their eyes are black to shield their sensitive retinas from the harsh light of the sun reflected by the golden and white sands on their planet, and, yes, they have tails. They are typically nomadic, existing peacefully in their desert landscapes on their planet.
The first person to speak after everyone arrived for today's meeting was Florian the Kind. "I don't know how else to help our cause... you've all joined me here for this, the sixtieth meeting of our council this year, and all I can say is what I've said the past fifty meetings: I don't know what more to do."
"We are all at a loss for ideas and hope," Dismas the Wise said, attempting to console his friend. "Let us talk about the issues at hand--the small ones--and hope that we can find a bigger solution to things through finding solutions to these small things."
"And maybe the solutions to the small things will give our people some sort of respite from the despair that plagues their hearts," Balthasar the Generous added. "What new issues have come up in your towns?" He asked the room.
Everyone was quiet for a moment, hesitating to further their own descent into despair by discussing the problems that have cropped up in their towns since their last meeting. Finally, Barlaam the Servant spoke up, "The people in the far-west quadrant of my district have somehow run out of embergem completely..." The sadness that weighed on his heart was conveyed by his tone. His words dripped with sorrow.
The room was silent. How could this issue be addressed? How could they take care of the people in this starving district without endangering the already fragile lives of the people in their own districts? "Bar... everyone is running out. I'm not sure any of us are in a position to help your people..." Gaspar the Steadfast said, speaking the words that were on everyone's minds.
"I know." Barlaam said. "But I have no idea what to do. The people are looking to me to save them and their children but... there is nothing I can do. I was on the same rations as the rest of them, as we all are, but they managed their supplies poorly and now..."
"They probably did it out of the kindness of their hearts without looking at the big picture. They will have to find a way to help themselves or die, there's nothing we can do to help them." Dismas said, putting his hand on Barlaam's shoulder in consolation.
Gaspar stood, "I don't think talking about these small issues will provide us with any more motivation or information that will cure our problem. Let's get to the big question I think is on all our minds. Has the next deployment of search teams completed training? The weather is fair, and now is the perfect time to send them out."
"The teams are having their final meeting tonight." Dismas said, "They'll be flying out in the morning."
"How many are there this time?" Florian asked.
"Six," replied Dismas, "The other ten dropped out during the training process. It's a scary task, and especially with what happened with that craft that crashed into the town in Gaspar's district, we've been losing volunteers at a rate we've never seen before."
"I can't help but wonder if sending people out is really even worth it." Balthasar interjected. "Why not just use the embergem we give them for their travels for something else, like feeding the civilians?"
"If we do that, they'll think we gave up and then they themselves will give up hope!" Dismas argued.
"Besides, going out into the universe is all we can do, it's our only hope. We can't manufacture embergem, and there's no more of it left here--and nothing else can help us, at least not from this planet." Gaspar added.
Balthasar sighed. "You're right... I just wish that this was over and fixed already."
"We all do," said Dismas. "That's why we have to keep looking."
Chapter One: The Race Begins
Boaz awoke to Ada's quiet footsteps in their dorm. The sun was not even peeking its rays over the horizon and already she was up, preparing for the day. He ducked his head under his pillow. He didn't want to be up this early.
Her swift gait took her to and fro across the small room. It was accompanied by the sound of zippers and the ruffling of her canvas bag as she packed her stuff into it. He looked at her from underneath his pillow, sighing, and knowing that he wasn't going to be able to get back to a charging state. It was too bad, too; he'd been having the most wonderful dream. "Up already, huh?" He said, taking a deep breath and stretching beneath the covers before sitting up.
"You should be, too. We need to be ready to go by tonight." Ada replied, continuing her quick movements and pausing to check another item off her packing list.
"Tonight is hours away," Boaz said, setting his feet on the cold cement floor and turning to look out the window. The sun was starting to rise and the sky took on the beautiful gray color that he loved so much. "Besides, aren't we going to meet everyone for the final evening supper? Don't you want to wear something special?"
"Boaz, you know I'm not that kind of girl. I'll go in what I'm wearing." She had yet to turn and look at him. He sighed and stood up as the sun's rays finally sparked up from the horizon like a bright golden crown, with its dazzling brightness changing the color of everything around it. He looked at her. What she was wearing was what she wore every day, a gray sweatshirt and some torn up jeans. She probably had a white tank top underneath the sweatshirt, and her tennis shoes were waiting by the door with her stark-white socks.
AIs had started wearing ancient human fashion when their bodies became more similar to the humans' bodies. Nowadays, AIs and humans are barely distinguishable from the outside, save for a few defining features the AI race maintained. For one, their eyes have red pupils. A second defining feature is the skin. Although it visually had the same texture as human skin, upon closer inspection it is thicker and harder. The default color is stark white, and it covers the whole body but can be interchanged and removed to repair damages or fix inside parts--and it isn't vital to their survival. The next difference is their hair. An AI's hair is a collection of data manifesting itself in a visual and physical form. It is not necessarily subject to gravity, and the typical AI hair colors are the primary colors. However, an AI can change the hair's color on their own with proper training. The final difference is that AI don't have genitalia, breasts, or nipples; but those can all be added onto an AI who chooses it.
All of the volunteers who went through this training that he and Ada had just completed were stripped down to their default settings, so he and Ada and the others were stark white, and their hair was the default color that came with their essence. For him, it was electric blue. For her it was fiery red. As they moved through the training course, they were allowed to add back certain features, but few opted to. It was because of this that Ada had the true female form with breasts and all.
She noticed him staring at her and glared. "What." Finally, she was looking at him.
"Nothing," he smiled, "Just thinking about the past few months of training. I didn't think you'd make it, honestly."
"Yes, I remember." Her tone was flat. "When we were paired together I distinctly remember hearing you complain to the other guys that you got stuck with the weakest of the group." She turned and zipped her pack shut. Plopping it on the floor, she set to making her bed.
"Well, you're right. I was wrong. Very wrong--if I remember correctly, you helped me out of quite a few tight spots during training."
"And your friends all dropped out within the first month."
"I would have too, if it wasn't for you." He said, making his bed, too. She didn't respond. Her excuse was that 'mushy-gushy' stuff made her uncomfortable. He smiled to himself.
"I'm going for a run," she said, tucking the last corner of her bed sheet and blanket in tightly.
"Have fun!" He said, and she closed the door behind her. Without her in the room, he was suddenly aware of how big it was in there. The empty silence rang in his ears and he waited for a moment, taking it in, before pulling on his tennis shoes and leaving, too. He met up with his friends who made it through training and they walked down the street to the local shop. The morning air was cool and crisp and the trio took their time walking down the pristine, cement gray street. They enjoyed the breeze and enjoyed each other's company. The world where they lived was very new and very advanced for how new it was. And it was practically spotless. The path they walked was not cracked, the road was seamlessly paved, and everything had the same basic, modern design. The air was clear of pollutants because they did not use vehicles other than the space craft that took them between planets. They had taken the time to slowly move in, person by person, The creatures that lived in the woods around them had accepted them as a part of the ecosystem.
His friends were Danis and Aran. They were basic models, like him, with the pale white skin and the stark, primary colored hair. Danis' hair was a neon yellow, and Aran's was bright green. Since they'd all graduated the training for volunteers who choose to enter into space for the good of the people, they were all going to get their mark-of-dedicated-service together this afternoon at the local parlor. It was a bright red design to be permanently marked on their backs--the design the class voted on toward the end of their training. It would encompass their whole upper back panel from the shoulders to the small of the back. This cycle's design was a simple one, tracing back to the ancient human roots. It was a runic symbol of four lines intersecting at one point to form eight spires. At the end of each spire was a design using lines and angles or semi-circles. But that would come later; for now, they were at the shop, looking for something to take back as a momento of their time here.
As he looked through the different souvenirs at the place, Boaz reflected on his time in training. It had been difficult, and there had been many times when he thought he wasn't going to make it to the end. When he finally did, though, it was such a reward. He and the other two who were there with him picked through the things and decided to get something matching. They all decided on a sweatshirt with the name of the training base on it, "Lodbrok.”
He picked an extra item, a picture frame for the photograph of their graduating class. They checked out of the shop and started making their way toward the parlour, where the girls would meet them to get their traditional class "tattoo." On the walk there, he and his buddies talked about what their plans were once they were done with the mission.
"I'm going to find a good woman and settle down," Danis said, picking up a wayward pebble from the gray road.
"I don't think I'll ever settle down!" Aran replied, running ahead of them to the pristine blue lake that was the halfway point between the shop and the parlour. The road was vacant of people, save for the few traveling south to peddle their goods in the otherwise empty marketplace. People didn't go out much anymore. They did not have the energy to.
"I don't know what I'll do after we finish our mission." Boaz said, looking up at the sky. The other two were already at the river bank, throwing pebbles like boys, trying to skip them along the placid lake. "I've always just been a scientist." I've never had dreams of marrying a woman or settling down, he thought to himself.
"You'll probably go live on some other planet," Danis said, throwing a heavy stone into the lake. The water splashed up and around and the ripples reached all of the banks.
"That actually doesn't sound half bad," Boaz replied. "Especially if there was a new people or species for me to study there..."
Aran laughed, "Well either way, I know what Ada is doing." He was Ada's brother.
It piqued Boaz's interest, as Ada was his partner--but beyond that he was rather fond of her in other ways as well. He knew he didn't stand a chance with her, but he was still curious. She didn't seem like the marrying type, but maybe she would surprise him. So he asked. "Oh? She actually has a plan?"
"Yep. She says she's going to move into the wilderness and work on surviving on her own." Aran answered. "She doesn't want anything to do with modern society."
"I never learned why she wanted to be a part of the volunteer corps." Boaz said, as they made their way from the river toward the last leg of their walk. The sun was high in the sky now, it was toward the middle of the day.
"I always thought she was just following my lead," Aran said," seeing as I'm older and all... but I guess there was something in her that would have urged her to do it whether or not I was even in the picture."
"Well either way, she's colder than the ninth circle of hell, that one." Danis inserted, throwing another rock up the road. The sound echoed from the mountains around them. The whole base was several hundred miles across, with deep pockets of wild and unexplored territory--which is what made it such a great place to train. There were tall, jagged mountains on all sides and the green forest that covered the low ground was full of mystery. The creatures there were all native to the land and had accepted the activities of the people there as normal. It was a whole country unto itself, and it expanded from one coast of the continent toward the center of it, taking up half the living space there. The planet Zeus was huge, and had six major continents--all of which were hundreds of thousands of miles across. The atmosphere of the place was like a giant Earth before civilization had evolved. It was pristine and beautiful.
Their homes were all made of the same gray cement substance, their buildings, too. The lamps along the streets were candle light--only fire here was usually a bright white color. The air was always cool and crisp. Sometimes it rained and sometimes the sun shone bright in the cloudless sky. The seasons were long--what would have only taken a few months on Earth took a whole Earth-year to cycle through. Right now, they were in the "spring" cycle, and it was beautiful.
Or, it would have been, if everyone could have been out enjoying it. But instead, all of the AI people were probably at home, doing their beset not to expend any more energy than they needed to. The state of affairs looked bleak for all of them if this class of volunteers couldn't find something to save their souls. Boaz had spent weeks without sleep trying to find a solution. He thought he had one, but wasn't certain It would call for a particular substance that just hadn't been found yet, and he would need to test it on someone.
They arrived at the tattoo parlour, and the girls were inside waiting for them. There were six in the graduating class in total; three females, and three males. The design they chose to wear was big and basic at its core but still somewhat complex. It was an ancient protection stave, called Vegvisir. They chose to get it tattooed on them in red. Tattoos for AI are different than tattoos for Humans or Rafenseli. Instead of inserting a needle into the skin of the person wanting the tattoo, a program is inserted into the AI's system that allows them to project the tatt on the desired location without having to think about it. The tattoo they chose was fairly large so the upload could take up to an hour, which was why they all went this early in the day.
The process was simple. The desired design would be drawn up on the parlour's computer, and then it would be encrypted onto a super-small micro SD. The SD was then inserted into the AI's dock in the back of his or her head and the upload would begin. It was sometimes a painful process for the AI because it would sometimes require some reconfiguring to the detailed inner-workings of their hyper-intelligent brains. The AI whose brains were resistant to the reconfiguring would instinctually try to reject the micro SD and its program, resulting in a headache. Usually, however, the process was fairly painless--especially for AI from the volunteer corps.
By the end, they were all pretty exhausted, but they still had their dinner to attend. It was a final meeting for all in the graduating class, where they were allowed to indulge themselves in the finest things before being sent out to the harsh, cold, vast reality of space. They all walked together now, in silence. Every one of them was feeling the intensity of the glaring nearness of their shipment into outer space to search for planets and resources for the cause. It was harrowing; and they knew that statistics showed that only one of them out of the graduating six would make it out alive.
Boaz knew that it probably wouldn't be him. He was not the strongest out of all of them and he knew that his partner would not hesitate to sacrifice his life for her own safety so that she might still pursue the ever evasive goal of finding a resource that would save their own kind. He was alright with that. He didn't mind the idea of being sacrificed for the good of the people. But he still wondered what his death would be like--what would cause it?
They finally reached their barracks an hour before meeting time. While Ada was scribbling away in her diary, Boaz packed his things up neatly into his canvas travel bag. He decided to change shirts to something more appropriate, and clean. Ada glanced up as he removed his shirt and admired the tattoo on his back. The idea behind the tat being on their back panel was to symbolize the dedication each person in the graduating class had to the others. A materialization of the saying "I've got your back." Ada thought about what it meant. Is it true? In theory, yes. She really did want to have the backs of these people but they were all cowards anyway, despite their tough outer shells. Would she really defend them to the death? She thought about their training. Keep everything in perspective; don't act on emotion; put the mission first. There was no way they could keep all that in check without having to evaluate the importance of each other's lives. And in the grand scheme of things, unless they found that resource, they weren't all that important at all.
She sighed as she wrote in her journal about her nerves regarding the beginning of their trip tomorrow. It was a tactic she'd used her whole life, she would write about her emotions in the little brown book and leave them there. That way she wouldn't have to worry about them leaking out during exercises or other trainings. But even before she joined, she made an effort to be cold. When they were young, she and Aran had lost their parents to a virus that nearly wiped out the whole AI civilization. She and Aran had been the only ones of their family to survive. And ever since then she'd been terrified of letting people get too close. When they died, Aran was a wreck. He lost control of his emotions and let them take over his life. He was older than her but she still had to be stronger than him for the both of them. She raised him and together they made it, on their own. They had to, no one else made it and society had already suffered such a huge loss of people that there was no one able to give people like her and Aran a home. It was difficult for them both, but they survived because of her. And now, that same steadfast, unwavering emotional strength was going to be exactly what her team would need to survive. Especially since she had Boaz as a partner. He had made a crack at their pairing at the beginning of training, but in reality he was the weak link.
She had no doubt that he grew up like all the others of her time, worrying about basic viruses that modern technology eradicated, skeptical of upgrades and equipment boosters until they were actually applied. Somewhere along the line, however, she knew that Boaz had deviated from his peers' traditional standing and delved into the world of science and exploration. He must have been teased as a kid. She wondered what he was like as a youngling.
"All done!" He chimed, zipping up the canvas pack and turning to face her with a smile. "It's a quarter hour til... shall we?"
She felt herself glaring at him. It wasn't on purpose. His cheeriness just made her irritated. She felt she had to counter it with some less-than-cheery remark. Before she could stop the words from coming out of her mouth, they surged forth like sharpened throwing knives at him. "Why do you feel the need to announce yourself so annoyingly like that? Seriously." AUGH she wanted to beat herself up. Why did she have to be so mean to him? He was probably bullied as a kid for being different. Why couldn't she just be nice for a change?
"Oh. You're right, I'm pretty sure you could already see that I was done packing... well, no matter. Are we heading out separately then? Or are you done writing in your little book of secrets?" He tried not to show his hurt through his words. His defense mechanism was kindness. It helped him combat the cruelty of the world around him.
She groaned inwardly and looked up at him, closing her book. "Yeah, together is fine." She tucked the book and pen into a pocket of her bag and shrugged the bag onto her shoulders.
"You don't need to bring that," he pointed out.
"Oh." There was a moment of awkward silence and she slid the pack off her shoulders, plopping it quietly onto her bed.
As they made their way out of the dorm hall, he commented, "It's okay, I'm nervous, too."
Nervous? She thought. I'm not nervous?! Or... at least...
"I bet you forgot all about the dinner, huh? Your brain was already ready for it to be tomorrow." She didn't answer him. "Well, anyway, despite what I said at the beginning, I'm really happy that you're my partner. And not just because you saved my ass so many times! I really mean it. You and I, we work well together. And the best part is that your brother is heading out with us!"
"I don't think that part is so great." She said, flatly.
"He's weak. Without me there to--" She stopped herself. "My point is he will probably be one of the ones who dies. But don't tell him I said that."
"Wow... well that's kind of harsh, isn't it?"
"What's realistic?" Aran, her brother, echoed from up the hall. She hoped he hadn't heard them.
"We were just talking about who's gonna probably not make it," Boaz answered. When they met, they clasped hands and grinned at each other.
"Who is she saying will die this time?" Aran asked, jokingly.
"Oh, you know, everyone but her it seems!" Boaz answered, making a slight jab under the guise of witty banter.
"Oh, you know we're all going to make it." It was the typical answer. They all had to make themselves--and each other--believe it. If not, then what were they fighting for? Why were they there? Aran sighed, letting go of Boaz's hand. "Lera and I were just heading out to the banquet hall. Want to walk together?"
"Why not!" Boaz chimed. He and Aran walked together, ahead of the girls Lera and Ada.
"Your sister is something else," he said, sighing. "I don't know how she'll live with me on a space craft for more than a month! She'll probably dismantel me in my sleep!"
"Look, she's just getting used to you. This whole training you survived in the same dorm together, so there's no reason to think she'll hate you too much. Besides, if she was going to dismantle you, she would have already done it." He laughed, playfully punching Boaz's shoulder and beaming his wide jokester-grin.
They exited the dorm hall and entered the outside. The sun was nearly set, and the air carried the same cool crispness as it had in the morning--only now it had the essence of lazy happiness intertwined in its scents and wafting breezes. The group quieted out of respect for the nature around them, feeling smaller than they ever had since they were little. The stars were becoming visible in the far east quadrant of the sky. Their base was big. This planet, Zeus, was huge. Space was even huger. How could they face it, just the six of them? Even in pairs, they were basically alone, to be flung out to the far reaches of the universe until they died or until they found something worth bringing back.
At the lunch hall, all six of them were seated at one long table. There was a fireplace at the far end of the hall, and it was tall and wide, and the dying fire inside of it glowed with yellow-white heat.
At the table, they all sat across from their partners and the trainings director sat at the head of the table. It was Dismas the Wise, who had traveled hurriedly from the council meeting in the sky to meet them there and bless their journey across the cosmos. He lifted a glass of the bright blue "liquid" data the AI used in toasts. The rest of the six did the same. "To all of you, who have far surpassed your peers in all aspects of training and personality; to you who are the most courageous of us all; to you who have laid down your lives so that your fellow AI can have a chance at survival, I thank you." He took a drink and all followed suit, setting their cups down as he did, as if on cue. "I must say, When you all came here I doubted your ability to make it through the rigorous training the Lodbrok Base has to offer. We are the toughest of the tough when it comes to training camps, and all of you did well--excelled even--and here you are, graduated from the best of the best. You are the best of the best. From the beginning, you had to have it in you. The gutspa it takes to conquer something of this difficulty is not something we could instill in you. That being said, three months is simply not enough to prepare you for all that is out there. Had we more time, we would have sent you all through the normal training cycle of one and a half years, but as you know the AI societal structure is dangling by a thread as it is." He let the graveness of his words sink in for a moment, and then delved deeper. "Look around this room. Do you see the countless empty tables? There are four thousand seats in this dining hall, and yet here you are, you six, sitting at the center of it all. This is what it will be like, in space. Out there on your own--even with your partner--you are but a speck of cosmic dust floating about the universe, looking for a place to land. You will recognize no one, and no one will know who you are or what that symbol on your back means. You must do your best to prevail against all challenges, for your fate, for the fate of AI. Honor yourselves. Honor me, your mentor. Honor our society. And do the people who came before you proud; because that's who really fills this room. That's who really sits in these seemingly empty seats; the data, the ghosts of those who came before you and expired trying as hard as they could to succeed. There are no cowards seated in this great hall, and if you wish to have a place among them, you will fight for the cause--to your death if it comes to that--and bring our people their saving grace."
"Here here," Danis said bleakly after a pause. His voice echoed through the great hall and the echo was echoed by the people seated at this table beside him, his comrades, in a toast.
By the end of the night, everyone was exhausted. They were ready to recharge. Some, like Boaz, were ready for the day to come so they could start out on this new adventure; this new quest to save the lives of hundreds of thousands. Others, like Ada, dreaded it. She contemplated running away in the last few fleeting moments of consciousness before she drifted off to sleep and dreamed of the vastness of the future; and of the possibilities that could arise from her potential victory over the famine that had decimated their kind.