I Promise

Author's Note

Chronologically Subsequent: 7 Kilometers Out

Hi all, it has been a while since I posted anything, and this is a short story I’ve had sitting around half completed for a while. Given some recent events involving Emilia in game, I thought it might be a good time to finish it up and post here. As always, any feedback is welcome. Thanks for reading!

I Promise

In the residential district of an urban, bustling city are several tall and wide buildings. Beautiful swaths of graffiti art line the flat walls, their multicolored depictions filling the spaces between the rows and rows of windows that peek into cramped apartment housing. A bullet train speeds past on magnetic rails overhead, held high in the air by concrete pillars, above and below which are several lanes of traffic. Sleek, hovering vehicles carve clean, organized lines through the air as AI assisted shuttles and cargo haulers move people and goods along quickly. In contrast, down below are roads for cheaper transportation which drive on wheels instead of hover thrusters. Along this dirty lattice of pavement sit countless vehicles in lines of heavy traffic that weave between tall, looming buildings. Each driver slowly rolls forwards in their effort to reach the stacked highways that will carry them to their destination, their engines joining the ever present buzz of noise that flood Kohiri City day and night.

Along the face of one of these large residential buildings are numerous cut outs, each alcove functioning as a recessed balcony. A simple, straight bar runs horizontally at waist height between the walls on either side. This, along with several thinner horizontal strips that reach down to the floor, function as a railing to shield children and pets from the precarious edge. Of the many identical balconies along the side of this particular apartment block, movement is seen at one which sits only a dozen or so stories above ground level. The sliding glass door to the interior of this apartment is abruptly yanked open, after which a young brunette with the ends of her hair dyed red storms out.

“Emilia, stop. Would you just talk to me about this?”

“Talk to you?” Emilia scoffs. She halts abruptly and turns to face the young blonde man as he emerges from the apartment behind her. “What exactly do you think I’ve been trying to do? It’s literally the reason I brought it up in the first place, but it seems like you would rather chastise me than listen!”

“I am not chastising you, I am trying to talk some sense into you,” he quickly retorts, sliding the door shut behind him with force.

Emilia raises her hands in exasperation. “I don’t need you to talk sense into me! I’ve already made up my mind.”

“Wha-?! You just told me you’ve been trying to talk about this, and now you are telling me you don’t need to talk because you’ve made up your mind? It seems to me like you haven’t.”

Emilia puts her hands on her hips. “Wow, real clever Donnie. Can we please have a serious conversation? You know what I mean.” She cocks her head to the side and shoots a glare at him.

“Okay, sure,” Donnie throws up his hands, “Serious conversation.” He walks over to pull a chair out from a small metal table near the door, sitting on the table top and planting his feet on the seat of the chair. He leans forward, placing his forearms on his knees. “Let me just restate what I said before. You seriously should not do this.”

Emilia removes her hands from her hips so she can cross her arms instead. She leans forwards slightly to make a point and speaks firmly, “It’s happening Donnie. I already signed the contract.”

Donnie straightens his back and inflates his chest, about to continue arguing, but after a moment his angry demeanor fades into distress and he places his head in his hands. “Just… why?”

Emilia’s eyes soften slightly as she sees him cave. She swallows, shifting slightly on her feet. “You know why…”

Donnie looks up, confused and concerned. “But why didn’t you bring this up sooner? We could have talked about it… come up with options.”

“Options? What options?” she asks, growing frustrated again, “Remind me, how much do you make at the warehouse? It must be a lot more than I make part-time at university if you think you can cover the cost of a capsuleer program.”

“But Emilia, that’s the thing,” Donnie stands up from the table, “You are so dead set on the idea that you have to become a capsuleer that you aren’t considering possibilities outside of that.”

She looks at him with an incredulous expression. “Again, what possibilities Donnie? Do you want me to go out there searching as a baseliner?! I would think you’d understand the dangers of space after what happened to Dad.”

His jaw tightens and his expression steels. “What happened to Dad was a tragic accident. What is going to happen to you, is not!” He jabs a finger in the air towards her, growing louder. “Your death is guaranteed Emilia! Do you fail to see that?! There is no question about it! The mind transfer kills you, and it is literally written in as a f*cking graduation requirement!” He yells, pausing to draw in an unsteady breath. His eyes begin to grow red with emotion. “Emilia, this is suicide.”

“It’s not suicide,” she responds, her throat tightening. She stares at the corner of the doorway with wide eyes.

“You are choosing to die. What else would you call it?”

“I know the requirements for becoming a capsuleer,” she responds quietly, her eyes misting.

“Then why is this even a consideration?!”

Because I have to Donnie!” She explodes, throwing out her arms out to animate her anguish. “Once I am a capsuleer, nothing can stop me from searching for her. Not the Angels, not even death! That is important if I am going to find her! Besides, I can’t just sit here, and wait, and hope that the authorities magically stumble across something that leads to a rescue!”

“There is nothing magical about it, Emilia! It is their job and they are running an investigation–”

“An investigation which has led where, exactly?!” she cuts him off, “It has been three months and they are still on square one. The only lead is the Angel Cartel operations in Molden Heath, and they’ve known that since the very beginning!”

Donnie is the one to cross his arms this time. “So you think you can do better?” he asks dismissively, “Despite all of the Federation’s resources, despite the fact that they have been trained to do this for a living and have been given the equipment and resources to do it, you can do better, all alone. Is that it?”

“F*ck off Donnie.”

He holds his glare. “No, really. What is your plan? What are you thinking?!”

Emilia swings her arm around to point at the city behind her. “The Federation isn’t devoting all of their resources into searching for her! It doesn’t matter how many resources they have if they aren’t using them. In fact, as far as I can tell, they’re barely devoting any!” She lays a finger on her palm, “Harmony is just another name on the ever growing list of missing Gallente and if I don’t do something she will stay missing!

“This isn’t that easy Emilia–”

“No, it’s not,” she interrupts again, her face red and her voice strained, “It takes effort, and there are too many missing persons cases for the Federation to devote that effort to each and every one of them! When things dry up, they move on. They are more concerned about fresh cases with lucrative leads and finding those people they deem important. We are not important Donnie. That means, Harmony. Gets left. Behind.

Her brother opens his mouth to say something, but he hesitates.

“Nobody is looking for her! Nobody. Because nobody cares about her like we do. If I don’t do this, she is never coming home, and that’s a fact.” She yells. Emilia stops for a moment, breathing heavily, and the first tear finally overflows down her cheek. “She is counting on me to find her.”

Donnie looks at her, still frustrated, but visibly distraught as well. He speaks at a regular volume, “This is not your responsibility alone Em.”

“Who else is going to take on that responsibility if I don’t?”

“You want to put the entire weight of this on your shoulders? Fine, but you tell me this. How is Harmony supposed to count on someone who succumbs to mental psychosis and has to spend the rest of her life in an asylum?” He speaks firmly, his eyes growing damp, “How can you possibly find her Emilia, if you are a vegetable on a medical bed, mindlocked into your body, never again able to move or speak? How?!

“That won’t happen.”

It could! You need to acknowledge that.”

“I’ve done tests! I’m genetically compatible!”

Genetics has nothing to do with the mental stresses of interfacing!” he raises his voice.

“Donnie, I can do this–”

“You say that,” he interrupts, stepping forwards, “You say it, and you know what? I want to believe you. I want to believe it will be okay and that you’ll make it through the capsuleer transition without issue. I want to believe that I will see Harmony again, and that our fractured family will begin to heal. But I am being realistic here, Emilia. Consider the risk you are taking! Think about what it would do to Jouphan and Theol. Think about what it would do to Mom. She has been a wreck ever since Harmony was taken, and now you want to gamble your life for the chance at getting slim odds of finding her?!”

Emilia is no longer looking at him, instead staring off towards the corner of the balcony, her wet eyes shifting back and forth. She seems mildly panicked, but after a moment her expression hardens and she tightens her jaw. “Do you even want her back?” she tests him, still staring at the corner.

Donnie stiffens, his concerned expression solidifying into a glare. “Don’t. You. Dare.”

“Because it sounds to me like you’ve given up on her,” she persists, meeting his gaze.

Donnie’s resolute expression crumbles, and he meets Emilia’s defiant look with an look of worried fear. “Our family has already lost two,” he pleads, “Please. Please don’t make it three.”

Emilia’s shoulders fall when he says that. She opens her mouth, then closes it. She looks at the wall behind him, speaking much more softly again. “I told you, it’s already done… I signed with Aliastra. They are going to send a shuttle in three weeks. I leave at 26:00.”

Donnie’s eyes lose focus, and his sadness deepens. He steps past her, over to the balcony railing, looking out at the light of the sunset as it filters through small cracks between buildings. He is quiet for a long moment. “…And if you don’t board the shuttle?”

Emilia swallows. She turns her head, looking towards Donnie’s back. “My sponsor doesn’t pay the debts… You know we can’t afford them.”

Donnie just nods, still facing away. He reaches up and wipes his cheeks with his sleeve, planting his hands on the railing again afterwards. He doesn’t say anything. Emilia turns the rest of the way and moves over beside him, placing her hands on the railing as well. She gazes out at the skyline as it makes a slow transition into dusk.

“You haven’t told Mom yet, have you?” Donnie asks meekly.

Emilia shakes her head lightly. “I was… hoping you could help me break the news. Both to her and the twins.”

“Right…” he croaks.

There is a long pause of silence, neither of them sure what to say, each still comprehending what might be to come.

“We couldn’t tell Harmony no either, could we?” Donnie breaks the silence, his voice tight. “Neither of you can stand the thought of sitting around when there is someone out there to be saved.”

“She’s family Donnie.”

“Yeah, she is,” he nods, “But so are you Em.”

Donnie looks over, his eyes bloodshot and teary, and when he does Emilia’s resolve breaks. Her lip trembles and her tears begin to flow freely, blurring her vision of the neon cityscape as they tumble down her cheeks. Donnie faces her, opening his arms to give her a hug, and Emilia immediately turns and embraces him. They hold each other tightly, and Emilia cries.

“I’m scared,” she admits. “I don’t know what will happen… if I will even be in there afterwards or–” she chokes on a sob.

“…I’m scared too” he says, “But you know what? I do believe in you, and I think you’ll be in there after Em. What I said earlier about suicide was harsh. You’re right, it’s not the same. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” she whispers. There is another pause of silence.

“…Besides, if anyone can make it through the capsuleer program, it’s you. You are the most determined person I know, and I can honestly say out of everyone I’ve met, you also have the hardest head, guaranteed.”

Emilia lets out a soft, wet laugh through the tears.

“Theol might just call you a superhero too,” he continues to comfort her, “He might just think you are cooler than I am afterwards.”

“I’m your big sister, I’ve always been cooler than you Donnie,” she smiles, “You just never realized because you have a hard head too.”

Donnie gives a light chuckle, then a sigh. “Just promise me something will you?” he asks.

Emilia nods her head against his shoulder.

“Do everything you can to make it through to the other side of that program. Don’t just do it for Harmony. Do it for me, do it for Mom, do it for the twins… And do it for Dad too. I want you to promise that you’ll make it through.”

Emilia sniffles. “I promise,” she whispers, “I promise.”

The two of them continue to hug for a long while, silent, neither letting go until their cheeks turn dry. The sun finally dips below the horizon of the urban jungle, replaced by the glow of neon as Kohiri City takes its turn to shine like the stars overhead.


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