The following is an adaptation of an RP session which was played out on The Lawn, between Emilia and Mantel, set just before the hull timer that led to Smokey’s demise. While minor changes were made to the descriptive detail and dialogue, and the interactions were blended a bit to make the story flow better, this is largely just a recount of the roleplay. The actions and dialogue of each character were written by the player that controls them, and none of it was planned prior.
Emilia is sitting at a table in her apartment, looking at a holotablet and reading through a discussion she and other members of Electus Matari just had. She takes a deep breath.
“Guess that’s that…” she sighs quietly.
Electus Matari, and Lux as a whole, had decided not to defend Smokey, their Astrahus in Angymonne. She knew command’s decision was the right one. It wasn’t worth it. The citadel wasn’t worth the lives, nor the assets, that would be lost in the defense. They didn’t have a chance of matching Pandemic Horde’s numbers. In a swift and unexpected political play, after having dropped out of the favor of Goonswarm, Stribog Clade had gone from an easy to manage threat to one that brought an armada four times the size of Lux’s fleet. They had struck a deal with Horde to buy Smokey’s demise, and there was nothing that Lux could do about it. Today was Smokey’s last day.
Knowing the fight wasn’t worth it, or even possible, didn’t make the fact that they were giving up feel any different though. It still felt wrong to Emilia. After everything Smokey had been through, serving as Lux’s last staging point in Pochven, it felt like they should at least be doing something… What that something was though, Emilia hadn’t a clue. The situation was hopeless any way she looked at it.
Setting the holotablet down on the table, Emilia stands, pushing the chair back with her legs. If she couldn’t save Smokey, she could at least bid it a final farewell and walk the halls one last time.
Turning, Emilia walks away from the table. She heads towards a doorway and enters a smaller room, in the center of which is a clean but slightly worn gel-cushioned chair with a thin vertical opening at the upper middle of the back rest, where the spine would sit. Neural cables run from a mechanical system attached to the back of the chair, down across the floor to a large computer system sitting in the corner opposite the doorway. She approaches the center of the room.
Reaching down to her waist, Emilia grabs the hem of her shirt and lifts it over her head, removing it to allow access to all five of her spinal ports, which travel from the nape of her neck down to the bottom of her shoulder blades. She sets the shirt on a small table to her right, leaving her bra, jeans, and shoes on, before sitting down. As Emilia leans back, the chair reclines and a leg rest extends out from beneath her seat. When she places her arms on the arm rests, a holographic control panel materializes at her fingertips, and the two curved extrusions near her head come to life to reveal a holographic display at eye level. She flicks through a couple of menus, changing settings to calibrate the computer’s fluid router, before eventually pulling up a diagnostic tool. The program comes back green after a few seconds, and she establishes a connection to Smokey. A dialog box appears, asking her to confirm simulation submersion, which she accepts. A soft hum of motors are heard behind her as the chair aligns five jacks with the ports on her spine. She takes a deep breath, relaxing, and as she exhales the jacks plug into her ports, with nothing more than a gentle jolt and a mental spark. Her eyes roll back and her eyelids close as she is transported to The Lawn, an EM deployment base currently located under one of Smokey’s biodomes.
A holo-projection drone kicks to life and begins to hover over the The Lawn’s green grass. Emilia’s hologram flickers into existence a moment after. She is facing away from the beach house and out towards the now barren surroundings. The dozens of prefab barrack containers that were once stacked and anchored across the deployment base were now reduced to a handful, most having been already packed and airlifted to a transport ship. The once lively and active area was now deserted, sans the occasional sighting of emergency personnel and the skeleton crew of dock workers who continue to prepare last minute hauls for transportation out. From the moment Smokey’s armor was breached, to now, only a few hours before Horde and Stribog arrive, the entire citadel had been busy with personnel and equipment evacuations. It seemed the deployment base on which she stood was low on the priority list, as the underlying structure had yet to be fully cleared and packed aboard a vessel.
Emilia’s eyes turn upwards towards the dark abyssal sky beyond the now cracked biodome. The starless swaths of black and red made the abandoned and trash strewn scene around her look apocalyptic in nature. Once upright flamingos had now mostly tipped and fallen, with empty cups, bottles, and overturned chairs left abandoned on the grass. There was a section of the picket fence that was broken and smashed, with two tire trails of torn grass leading up to it, as if a lift driver had plowed straight through without care as to where he was going.
“Captain Dallocort. You look… glowing,” a male voice sounds from behind her. Emilia turns to spot the source.
“Commander Edwards,” Emilia smiles at his greeting. She glances down at her slightly iridescent hologram, which displays the simple black t-shirt and jeans she had been wearing in her apartment. She walks over towards the terrace bar at the beach house, which is empty save for a handful of lingering, abandoned bottles of booze. Emilia walks up beside him at the bar and takes a seat on one of the stools. “Having one last drink?” she asks.
“But of course,” he replies, smiling as she approaches. Edward swivels around to face the display of emptied bottles on the bar top, some still containing varying levels of liquid within. Emilia glances down at the pistol neatly slotted into his shoulder holster, which he wears over a casual outfit consisting of a green hoodie and jeans. He seemed to be here in the flesh, and prepared for the worst should it come.
“What brings you here? Come to raise a glass to Smokey’s inevitable demise at the barbarian Horde amassing eight jumps over?” He asks as he rummages around the stack of glasses laid out.
“Yeah, thought I would see it off,” she shrugs, “I considered coming in person, but apparently Stribog is monitoring the wormhole entrances and bubbling them…” She glances out towards the dark Triglavian sky before looking back at him. “Isn’t it dangerous for you to still be here, in person?”
“We’ve got a few more hours until this fine place is blasted…” He groans softly, apparently unable to find anything left. She watches as Edward pushes himself off the stool before taking a few steps backwards. After a moment he takes off; one step, two steps, and then a leap. Edward vaults himself across the top with one hand supporting his flight through the air, landing perfectly on both feet on the other side. Emilia grins as he soars past her, and shakes her head lightly.
“I was helping some members of the Consultancy with evacuating ships,” he continues, as if nothing strange happened, “I’ve got a ship on station ready to take us out with a filament. No need to leave Angymonne.”
Emilia stands from her seat and walks forwards, as Edward bends down low onto his knees, seeking out something in a bottom cabinet. Her hologram fades from the waist down as she walks through the bar to the other side, where it rematerializes. “We evacuated a lot of the assets and personnel immediately after the last attack,” she responds, “Luckily it went quickly and smoothly.” Emilia puts her hands on her hips as she looks up at the meager selection of booze left.
“I’m glad to hear it,” He says, his head now tucked past the cabinet door itself. “I fear there is still a fair bit of material left inside…” A few clinks sound as he rummages through.
“Are you looking for any drink in particular?”
“Something strong, something wholesome. Something… Smokey,” he reasons.
Emilia looks down at him, watching for a moment.
“Aha!” Edward exclaims. More clinking and jostling is heard from within as he retrieves a tall, opaque bottle from the depths of the cupboard. As he exits, bottle in hand, he looks up and to his right. “Gah!” he jumps, not expecting Emilia to be there. His head strikes the top of the cupboard with a smack.
Emilia’s face quickly changes from amused curiosity to an expression shock. “Oh! I’m sorry. Are you alright?” she asks with concern as Edward falls backwards, throwing his left arm out to catch himself as he lands on the floor. Emilia leans over him to see his features contorted in a painful grimace.
“Yeah… just caught me off guard that’s all.” He groans softly, exhaling his discomfort.
“I didn’t mean to startle you.” She apologizes, stepping past him to get a closer look at the back of his head. She instinctively puts her hand out to part his hair, looking for a gash, but she blinks when her hand passes through.
“No harm done!” he responds. Emilia looks further for any visual sign of bleeding as he gets up, but she doesn’t see any. He stands fully and turns to face her.
“So… What did you find?” she asks, slipping one hand into her jeans pocket.
“Oh, this?” He looks down at the bottle, tossing it up in his hands once, then twice. “Iunno. It looks drinkable.” Emilia raises her eyebrows, and Edward twists the cap off. He brings the open neck of the bottle to his nose for a sniff, before recoiling at the strength of the aroma assaulting his nostrils. “Smells… okayish?” he claims, wearing an unpleasant expression.
“Oh yeah?” Emilia asks with a smile, unconvinced. She leans forwards to take a whiff, immediately pulling back and coughing once, her face contorting from the pungent smell. “Definitely not my kind of drink,” She replies, “And I’m pretty sure it would smell stronger in person.”
Mantel plucks an empty glass from the counter, setting it in front of him before grabbing another for Emilia. He pours her a measure first, an orange-fire colored liquid flowing out of the neck and splashing into the base of each cup. Rolling patterns give life to the liquid as each glass fills, with Edward’s drink noticeably fuller. He picks up his glass, using it to shunt Emilia’s towards her, before leaning against the bar side on both elbows with his drink held loosely in his right hand’s grasp.
“Thanks,” she says, reaching over as if to pick up the drink. Her fingers wrap around the base and when she lifts upwards, a holographic copy emerges from the glass that still sits on the counter.
“What shall we toast to, my friend?” Edward asks, looking over. His eyebrows raise slightly as he sees her holding a copy of the drink. “Neat,” he comments.
Emilia hesitates, thinking for a moment. “…To comradery?” she asks, unsure.
Edward purses his lips, wobbling his head from side to side. “Could do. How about… to our absent friends.” He says, his tone taking on a more melancholy mood.
Emilia nods and repeats, “To absent friends.” She raises her glass towards him in a motion of a toast, and Edward mirrors her. They move each drink towards the other, both glasses and hands swishing through, interrupting Emilia’s hologram for a moment and causing it to refocus.
Bringing the glass back around in a circular motion, Edward moves it straight to his waiting lips. He knocks the liquid fire down his throat in one go, slamming his glass down onto the counter with a loud crash. His eyes water visibly, coupled with a short coughing episode as the liquor scalds a path down his gullet. Emilia does the same, downing the drink in one shot, though she doesn’t seem to react to the taste.
“Spirits that was rough.” He grins at Emilia, looking rather foolhardy. “However, it was indeed smokey!”
“Mine was a bit fruity,” She comments with a sly smile. Emilia sets the virtual glass down at an empty spot on the bar, looking away and out across Smokey’s battered, armor stripped hull as Edwards composes himself. The glass disappears when she lets go, and Emilia’s smile slowly fades as well. She leans against the bar top to his left. “Are you sad Smokey is going down?” she asks. Emilia looks back at Edward as he nods softly.
“Yeah, I am. Smokey was a good base whilst I was hunting out here. It’s bittersweet that we will let this go without a defense, but in the face of such odds, it’s sensible to withdraw rather than throw away good ships and crew.”
Emilia nods. “I haven’t been around as long as you. Smokey is the only base in Pochven I’ve ever set foot in, and it’s only been three months at that. But I am sad to see it fall. Not fighting for it feels wrong, like we’re just letting it die after everything…”
Edward ponders her words. “I appreciate your passion for wanting to fight, but some battles are best left unfought. The price would be too high and victory is not guaranteed.” he pushes his glass further away with his fingers. “We’ve inflicted a significant amount of damage on Stribog and their allies with Smokey operational. It has had an illustrious career. Sadly, it will have an ignominious end.” He shrugs. “That’s the price of war, unfortunately.”
Emilia nods solemnly. “Yeah. It’s not worth the lives against Horde. We wouldn’t win…” she says, confirming his words, “It makes me worried though, what happens after this.”
“What are you worried about?” He asks, an expression of genuine concerned showing on his face.
Emilia is silent for a moment, her eyes falling to the cluster of discarded glasses. “The Trigs,” she responds. “And what it means now that Horde has decided to align with Stribog.” She pauses before explaining further. “Smokey was a presence in Pochven for a long time. From what I understand, it began as a forward staging research station, and since the war it has doubled as a military base. Losing Smokey means it will be much more difficult to understand the changes made to this system and others, and how we might be able to revert them. It also means we loose some of our ability to conduct intelligence and surveillance operations. It’s the last EDENCOM structure in enemy territory. Once it’s gone…” she trails off. “I’m just worried about a second invasion,” she adds softly.
Edward listens quietly until she finishes, responding in a soft tone. “Pandemic Horde may have decided to side with Stribog to curry favour in their exploitation of Pochven today. That does not mean that they will necessarily side with them forever.” He pauses, his head tilting in thought.
“But they could,” Emilia injects with a morbid tone.
“They could,” he repeats with a slow nod. “The nullblocs are extremely fickle and perfidious though, I would not be surprised if they realigned their priorities when a better offer comes up that cuts out Stribog,” he reassures. “We will lose capability and force projection, yes. Our permanent presence here will be no more. That does not mean we wont have the ability to keep maintaining pressure on the Kybers and the Collective, or to study their technology. Maybe… maybe one day reverse what they did.”
Emilia looks down, and begins to pick at her thumbnail. “It’s just astounding, really, that the nullbloc coalitions would decide to help the Triglavians after all of the death and destruction they caused.” Her voice slowly grows harder, revealing her anger at their short-sightedness. “Like, they don’t realize or care that a Triglavian take over could mean the destruction of their systems, planets, and people as well.” She shakes her head.
Edward draws a deep breath. “A lot of them would rather fatten their wallets at the expense of others without concern for the consequences.”
“I’ve noticed that too,” she scowls.
“To them, the Federation, Republic… the State… they’re all what they left behind. They don’t consider themselves bound to them in any way, so they would not necessarily fight in their best interests. They’ll fight for their own nation, or simply for themselves.” Edward’s eyes narrow. “It is the height of frustration for me, that individuals can be so callous that they would condemn millions upon millions to a fate that no-one deserves, without batting an eyelid in response. Except when their wallet flashes with an entry.”
Emilia looks up, meeting his gaze with an emotionally intense, tight jawed expression. “I agree. One hundred percent. And it’s like there is nothing we can do about it. We fight, and people die, every day, and nothing changes.” Her eyes show a passionate anger that isn’t meant for Edward. “The null blocs still selfishly dictate, the pirates still murder and kill, the Amarrians still enslave billions,” she shakes her head again, giving a short laugh of unhappy disbelief “And now we have to deal with the Triglavian apocalypse.”
“Hey…” He says softly, pushing himself off the counter and returning to his full height once more. He turns and takes a step towards Emilia, reaching out to provide a comforting ‘hold’ on the hologram, however his hands pass through as he places them on her upper arms. Instead, Edward places his right hand on the bar top beside Emilia, leaning forwards slightly, and slipping the other hand into his pocket. His eyes regard Emilia’s angry firestones with a mixture of pity and support.
“There will always be those that seek to hurt others, to bring misery to other people and to take whatever they have to fatten their own hide. Whether it is in the name of a god, or in search of treasure, or power… or in the case of the Triglavians, conquest.” His tone is encouraging. “What we do to contest them, to halt them at every attempt they make to bring their brand of misery to our people? That matters. What you do, matters. Regardless of how many stand against us, or profess their allegiance to our enemies.”
She stares off off behind him, listening as she chews on the inside of her lower lip. She continues to wear an intensely angry, yet worried, expression.
Edward smiles down at her. “Keep the faith, Emilia. Your spirit is strong and will endure long after those others have burned away and faded from relevance.”
Emilia sighs, then nods. “I appreciate that,” she replies, glancing up at him. “I won’t stop fighting them. I can’t just walk away, no matter how discouraging.” She takes a deep breath and returns her gaze to the bar top. “I just wish it was easier. And that the path was clearer.”
Mantel titters softly. “You and me both, Captain. Life has been extraordinarily difficult for a lot of people, especially for Empyreans in trying to figure out their purpose for existence.” He pauses before giving Emilia a proud look. “To maintain one’s path, to keep to one’s convictions… that is true courage. And you exhibit that. Should you ever think that you are not living up to the expectations of yourself, take time to remind yourself that you are aspiring to be a greater person every day.”
She looks at him again, offering an appreciative smile. “Thank you,” she replies, but there is a lingering hint of doubt in her eyes, as if she isn’t sure she fully believes his words about her are true. “I’ll try my best.”
Edward gives her another warm smile, then takes a step back to giving her some space. “At the end of the day, when the sun sets, if you can look at yourself and say with honesty that you did all you could possibly do… It is all anyone could ask for. If anyone asks for more than that, well, they’re being too demanding or just unreasonable.” He winks.
Emilia turns, placing her back to the bar and looking out past the cracked biodome again. Her vision momentarily shifts to be unfocused, as her mind drifts to concerned and worried thoughts.
“Don’t beat yourself up over Smokey’s demise. There will be a time in which Smokey will be avenged, and you will be there when that time comes.”
She looks back at Edward and gives him a smile as if things were alright. “Vengeance isn’t something I’m all that interested in,” she replies, moving away from the edge of the bar and out towards the grass. “I don’t really like fighting, I only do it when necessary. Despite how it feels wrong to do nothing, I know fighting Horde today would be a waste. I’m not too torn up about losing Smokey, it’s more about what losing it means for the future.”
Edward shields his eyes from the light as he follows her, having grown a bit intolerant to it behind the bar. He wanders the lawn with her at a leisurely pace. “No good soldier or sailor truly enjoys fighting. It should always be the last resort if all else fails… which unfortunately it does. Or it is not given a chance in the first place.”
“This place…” He holds his arms outstretched, spinning around slowly. “…is a symbol. It can be torn down by the foe, but it will live on in our hearts and minds. The Triglavians cannot break our hope, or our spirit. Even if they have come close…” He looks away briefly, then back at Emilia.
Emilia stays silent for a short while, thinking on his words. She kicks at an empty bottle on the ground, sending a holographic projection of it bouncing along the grass.
“How long have you been fighting?” she speaks up, putting her hands in her jean pockets part way, thumbs sticking out.
Edward’s eyes widen a little, surprised she would ask. “I… I’ve been fighting since I was twenty years old. Preparing for it since I was a week off being thirteen.” He speaks in a candid tone. “For the State, and now for the Federation. The former for a lie, the latter for a just cause.”
Emilia’s eyebrows raise. “Since thirteen?” she asks, surprised. “What kind of preparations were you doing so young?”
Mantel shrugs nonchalantly. “I was chosen.”
“…To be a capsuleer?” she ventures.
“To follow in my father’s footsteps as an officer in the Caldari Navy. To carry on the traditions of my patrilineal line. They offer the opportunity to children to be built into warriors for the State from a young age. To make the leaders of the next generation.” He pauses for a moment, “It was… well, it left it’s mark. Although I am proud of what I achieved during my time at the S.W.A., I wouldn’t put any child through what I went through.”
Emilia is silent, still wearing an expression of disbelief. “Wow…” she says, looking down as they pass a flamingo lying on the ground. “I mean thirteen is…” she trails off. “That’s just such a foreign concept. I think I was still running around, playing in the back street and trying to get my nine year old brother in trouble at thirteen. I can’t imagine starting any sort of military training at that age.”
Edward places his hands by his hips, flattening them against his thighs. He looks up towards the ceiling, up at the stars. “It is. For us that were born in the State, we are obliged to perform compulsorily military service from adolescence. Here, in the Federation? It’s all consensual, contract soldiers and sailors. Those that fight are those that give their service willingly.”
“Did you have to leave your family for a boot camp?”
He hums, nodding his head. “Yeah, I did. S.W.A. was an Academy with lodgings. I got to see them regularly though, especially as my father and grandfather were still in the service.”
Emilia hesitates, contemplating her next question. “…Do they still serve?” she asks. “Your father and grandfather, or any family at all?”
He nods again. “My grandfather has retired, my father is a Customs Officer with the Ishukone Watch, stationed on my homeworld of Itamo Four.”
“That’s good to hear.”
“Ruomo was not hit during the invasions. But…” He looks away from Emilia, “…a lot of Academy systems were invaded. Several of which I spent time at during my training years.”
“Ichoriya?” she asks
“Not Ichoriya. Places like Sakenta. Systems in which they had fresh cadets and kids man the barricades due to the incompetence of the Caldari Navy to keep them from having to fight.” His tone turns bitter. “They got a lot of good people killed. And for what?”
Her brow furrows. “I didn’t realize. That’s terrible.”
Edward slows to a stop and turns to face Emilia, "Nothing short of a disgrace." She stops walking, turning to him as he holds an index finger out in her direction. “And don’t let any plastic, grey-flag draped, ignorant ‘patriot’ tell you otherwise.”
Her face shows concern, and she gives her head a light shake. “I don’t plan on it. That’s not something I can imagine any reasonable excuse for. It explains a lot, actually… I just never knew.”
Edward regards her with a look, giving the slightest nod in response, as if appreciating her understanding of the matter. He turns to look out beyond the cracked dome behind them, and Emilia does the same.
“How much longer do you think we have?” she asks softly.
“Not long,” he replies simply, “Just enough time to savour the moment.”
She takes a breath, and releases it, looking out with Mantel towards the bleak sky. There is a length of silence between them, as they do nothing but take in the scene of Smokey’s war torn hull. The Citadel already looked dead. Its low power state meant that nearly all of the lights that once adorned Smokey’s exterior had been snuffed out of existence. Many holes and small craters already existed along the Astrahus’s surface, created by projectiles had been unlucky enough to smash through the armor and expose interior compartments to the vacuum of space. The remains of Smokey’s thick armor plating was now largely floating as a debris cloud around the Citadel, like blood pluming around a submerged wound. Emilia didn’t focus on the debris. She was worried she might spot bodies if she tried. Instead she looks past it, focusing on the diffused light of the distant sun.
“You shouldn’t stay too long,” Emilia breaks the silence, “It’s best you get in pod before Horde comes. Without shields or armor, a stray shot to this biodome could decompress the entire area.”
Edward’s smile turns into a grin. “Exhilarating, isn’t it?” he asks.
She looks over, “What is?”
He returns her look. “That one stray salvo could expose us to the void at any moment. Not that I have any intention of embracing a new clone any time soon, but… knowing it could happen.”
She looks a little confused, perhaps even mildly wary of Mantel’s response. “I don’t know. The idea is more frightening to me… It’s part of the reason I didn’t come in person, if I’m honest. I do my best to avoid the clone bay.”
“As do I. I loathe the cloning process. As I do recovering my fallen bodies.”
Emilia shudders. “I’ve not seen my own body yet.”
“Iunno. Perhaps it’s the feeling of being in situations such as that which incite such a feeling…” he muses while looking past her. His eyes refocus on Emilia. “Ah, you’ve not been podded yet?”
“I have,” she responds quietly, looking down at a fallen flamingo. “I’ve just never seen my own corpse afterwards… Not sure I ever want to…”
“My culture demands that the fallen be cremated, so that the spirits within can be released to join their ancestors.”
She nods, silent. Neither of them speak for several seconds.
“Does it ever get easier?” she looks up towards him, “The dying… the rebirth… the killing?”
“No. It doesn’t. Not for me.” He answers in a short tone.
Emilia shakes her head lightly, as if expecting the response. “I don’t see how it could.” She goes quiet, looking out past the biodome once more.
“And it should not, either.” He turned his head towards her, then back towards space. “We have a gift to enable our return from the dead. It should not ever be pleasant, or desired, or easier. It’s disrespectful to those that cannot come back after death.”
She nods, taking another long look over Smokey’s bare, broken hull.
“I think I might take your advice and make ready for departure. As much as I am fond of this oasis, I am not prepared to perish here.”
“Okay,” she says, looking over to him. “Be careful on your way out. I’m going to stick around for a while longer. Maybe watch the show.”
“Likewise, try not to short circuit or anything,” Edward jokes as he begins to walk towards the hangars, leaving behind The Lawn for the last time.
“Not sure that’s possible,” she smiles, “unless you know something I don’t.”
He spins around, tapping his nose knowingly, before resuming his course. “Until next time, Captain.”
She raises her hand in a wave. “It was good talking to you again.”
“Never a chore!” he calls back, after which he disappears from view.
Emilia watches him round the corner, before turning and gazing out towards the murky, starless abyss once again. She just stands there for a long while, waiting, first staring at the sky and then looking around her. She watches a few dock workers jog past, their destination unknown, and then another member of Smokey’s skeleton crew as he walks swiftly towards the lawn, counting the remaining containers on the mobile base as he goes. He makes his way towards the terrace bar, acknowledging Emilia with a short salute before quickly getting on with his job. He drags over a container labeled ‘The Lawn’ and begins packing it with the remaining liquor bottles on the shelves. She watches as he quickly grabs the tall opaque bottle that Mantel had pulled from the cupboard, then a short red one, an Emerald green bottle, and then a fat clear one, all of which are quickly packed away. Turning around, Emilia leaves him to it and decides to walk.
Loud thuds of slow, heavy footsteps grow louder and echo along the empty walls. As Emilia leaves the mobile base’s platform, she looks over at an MTAC unit piloted by a dock worker walking towards a ramp, presumably to finish disassembly of The Lawn and its surroundings. She admires it for a few moments as she moves silently away, the quiet hum of her holo-projection drone the only audible clue of her presence.
Emilia leaves Sector 3-T, walking along lifeless corridors bathed in the red glow of emergency lights. She passes a small garden still filled with plant life; several offices with abandoned, half boxed items within; an empty coffee shop with pastries on display; and a large laboratory that looked like it had been ransacked. It felt surreal, like she was dreaming, but Emilia knew she wasn’t. Smokey’s time was at its end.
Emilia enters a large lobby sitting at a junction of four major corridors. She stops and looks upwards, through an overhead view of the dark sky above. As if on queue, moments after she gazes out of the window, hundreds of bright flashes begin to light up the dark red backdrop of the abyss. Horde’s fleet of Eagles had arrived, with members of Stribog Clade sprinkled among them. For a moment, nothing happens. There are no sirens, no barrage from the enemy fleet, nor reverb of return gunfire from the Astrahus’s turrets. Emilia lowers her gaze and moves calmly towards a restaurant with a wide view of the Citadel. She doesn’t sit, she just stands at the window, and within seconds her eyes are filled with the glow cast by an explosive rain of gunfire as it falls onto the station. Their ammunition smashes craters through the hull, melting metal and ejecting a heavy layer of debris into the void. Her eyes follow one of several Triglavian disintegrator beams as it carves a path through Smokey’s flesh, lighting the Astrahus on fire for the last time…
Moments later, the electrical grid short circuits, casting Smokey into darkness. Emilia’s hologram disappears as the fluid router connection drops.