Recovery

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Lilac. Hard. Deaths: 0 Health Remaining: 0. Last Stage: Final Dreadnought 4. Confirm Y/N
-Y Warning: Difficulty set to hard. Proceed? Y/N
- -N. Loading difficulty settings. H/H/H/H
- - -H. Hard mode selected. Warning: damage received will be greater and enemies may use unpredictable attack patterns. Confirm. Y/N
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Story file corrupted. Please select your character. L/C/M
L. Lilac selected. Loading.
Story file corrupted. Please select your character. L/C/M
C. Carol selected. Loading…

Resuming story…


In the skies above Avalice a terrible, wonderful event was taking place.

Brevon had planned to steal the Kingdom Stone. If he had succeeded, he would have plunged the galaxy into an epoch of darkness. Worlds would have burned, entire races would have been exterminated, and the galaxy would have entered an age of oppression for decades to come. It had been a masterful plan, perfectly executed. And it had almost succeeded. But fate is fickle, and sometimes even the best plans fall to its capricious machinations. Brevon's plans for domination were now being eviscerated. Alongside his fleet and army.

Explosions tore through his capital ship from aft to stern. The two great solar wings collapsed as thousands of tonnes of metal sheared off. Their catastrophic departure left the orphaned tail section inadequately supported. Soon it too failed. The three pieces plunged into Avalice's atmosphere and erupted into flames. Their fiery fall from grace could be seen from across the three kingdoms. Only blackened shells remained to plunge into the icy wasteland below.

But the aft section's fate was most spectacular. Brevon's command section exploded into ten thousand glittering pieces. Though its owner escaped at the last minute, his dreams of conquest evaporated. They went up in a blast that was thousands of degrees hot.

The assembled armies of Avalice trembled as the three massive fragments broke the earth. The impact shook the very ground beneath them. Seasoned veterans threw themselves into each other's arms. Gigantic rifts scarred the valley floor. The burnt out wrecks of alien machinery lay scattered across the battlefield. Shuigang's hospitals would be busy all night with the injured. But there would be no further deaths that day.

The cheers could be heard from miles around.

A hundred warriors had died for Brevon's avarice. They would be mourned, especially by the kingdom that had suffered the most. Shuigang had been duped into supporting Brevon. Their soldiers now had to cope with the fact that they had been on the wrong side. Many families had already been informed. The capital was grieving.

But there had been thousands of soldiers involved in that battle. The three kingdoms had gotten out of it miraculously lightly. Countless warriors could have been dying slowly upon the glacier, crying out for help that would never arrive in time. The battle could even have been a bloody defeat, so superior was Brevon's technology.

Someone had drawn his attention. As the soldiers recovered they all asked the same question. What had created the miracle? Who had saved them?

Three children had saved the galaxy. Though technically one was a teenager. And there was this alien guy who helped too.

(He'd probably agree with that assessment.)

Very few members of the Avalician host knew of their existence. Dreadful anxiety gripped those few. The most important individuals in Avalice watched the skies. Their hearts were in their mouths. They needed to know what had befallen their heroes... and less romantically what had happened to the Kingdom Stone. Disaster might still have befallen Avalice. The leaders of the world were already implementing contingencies to mitigate the catastrophe the stone's loss would mean.

They needn't have worried for the former. The alien known as Commander Torque had led the operation. He'd made a plan that was water-tight, and he'd paid especially close attention to the escape. As Brevon fled the station in one direction, a small red ship left in the other.

All three girls were safely ensconced inside. Escape had been the easy part. One was gravely wounded, however. All were shaken. As Torque skilfully guided the ship away from Brevon's ill-fated vessel, two life-long friends were left to despondently recover in the transport bay.

It would be a sombre journey back to the planet's surface…


Carol winced in pain as she held the ice bag to her head.

I'm an idiot. I should have seen that robot exploding from a mile away.

The green wildcat's head felt like it could explode any second, but the guilt was worse. They'd taken down Brevon's last war machine together. But it had come at a cost. A large chunk of the cockpit had blown off and struck Carol in the head. She'd been knocked unconscious immediately. Lilac had been left to fight Brevon atop the deck of his dreadnought. The weight of the entire world had come to rest on the dragon's shoulders.

I left Lilac on her own again... I broke my promise.

Lilac still hadn't said anything about what next transpired. Yet the final struggle had clearly been an awful one. Lilac had been injured during the fight. She'd done her level best to hide the extent from Carol, but Carol had already noticed the way she wasn't moving her arms from her abdomen. And she could see the ugly pockmarks that scarred her friend's hair tendrils. He'd hurt her. Again. And again Carol had been able to do nothing to stop it.

But this time Lilac had won. Sort of. If a result like this could be called a victory.

Carol shivered as she thought about what awful weapon Brevon must have used to make those marks. She remembered the horrid knife he'd used to transform Milla. She'd watched in horror as the small child had mutated into an abomination. She'd become a horrific, mutated scorpion that tried to kill them. They'd been forced to fight back. Carol could still remember her claws tearing through Milla's face. They'd almost killed her. Carol remembered them leaving her for dead. They'd been convinced she already was. It was only on the way out that Lilac had discovered a weak pulse.

"I would never have known to check." she thought miserably. "If it had been me, she'd still be up there...

Milla had loyally stuck by their side through thick and thin. She was only ten years old. Even Carol, at twelve, belatedly realised that she should never have been involved in the first place. Lilac had tried to leave her out of harms way, even as she'd struggled to cope herself. But they'd needed her. Carol owed Milla her life twice over. And this was how she'd repaid... Carol felt sick with guilt.

That nausea only got worse when she looked at Milla now. She lay motionless on a workstation table. It was the best hospital bed they could offer her. The steady drip of red petal essence was probably the only thing keeping her alive. She didn't breathe. Or if she did, neither Carol nor Lilac could detect it.

Yet they could still feel a weak pulse. Milla clung to life by a thread.

"Has Brevon's toxin changed her?" Carol wondered. "Does she even need to breathe anymore?"

She shuddered. At least that toxin hadn't been on the knife when Brevon had drawn it on Lilac...

"What was it all for? she asked herself bleakly.

Their mission was only half successful. Lilac had saved the galaxy. At least that's how Carol saw it. But for Avalice had anything really changed at all? They'd lost the Kingdom Stone.

They'd lost the Kingdom Stone. Avalice's source of power and its spiritual heart. Carol couldn't even begin to comprehend the full implications of that. But it would be bad. Really, really bad. Were thousands of people going to die? And everyone's life be made harder?

Because they'd failed? Because she'd failed?

Maybe Torque would help. He was an alien after all. Maybe there was some technology he could use to replace the irreplaceable. Carol would have been more convinced of that if Torque hadn't treated the stone like he had. The same way everyone on Avalice did; like a one of a kind treasure. Just one that could not be allowed to fall into the wrong hands. If the stone had been that important to Brevon, Carol doubted there was a replacement just lying around. They weren't going to find one in cold storage somewhere.

If she was younger, she could have fooled herself into believing everything was going to be ok. That there could still be a happy ending. But Carol was too old to be that naïve. She'd met Avalice's rulers for herself. She doubted there'd be peace for more than a second after the power went out.

"Maybe we should just slip away." a little voice in Carol's head whispered. "Land somewhere in the wilderness and disappear." She doubted they'd receive a hero's welcome on landing.

"But where would we go?

Every ruler in Avalice knew of their existence. If they tried to slip away, they'd be hunted across all three kingdoms. They'd be found. If they were caught fleeing, Carol doubted the pursuers would be sympathetic.

Wasn't thinking about problems like that Lilac's department? When had she started to think ahead? Maybe around about the time she'd realised Lilac wasn't perfect. No one else was either. Lilac and Torque were both older than Carol, and she'd looked to them for guidance. Yet every plan they'd made had fallen apart.

Carol had another concern, one that was far more immediate. Torque had had red petals ready and waiting when they'd returned from the station. They hadn't been much and most of them had gone towards keeping Milla alive. But it had at least been enough to close over most of Carol's head wound. She still felt like she had a second face growing out of her skull. But it could have been so much worse.

Lilac's injuries hadn't reacted to the treatment at all. That wasn't normal and it wasn't good. Carol's gut twisted every time she looked over.

Lilac had been dangerously quiet since they'd boarded the escape ship. She'd said a handful of things to Torque about what had happened. Since then she'd said maybe three words to Carol. Carol had heard about the mission's results from Torque.

Lilac sullenly studied the floor, only looking up to cast an anxious glance towards Milla. Carol got the feeling that Lilac was pointedly ignoring her. She didn't know how to feel about that. But eventually she decided that something had to be done. With her ice-pack still attached to her head, she gingerly stood up. Anxious, she closed the distance. She took a seat beside Lilac.

Lilac didn't respond. Neither of them spoke. They had a library of things to say, but neither girl was ready to begin talking.

Then Carol noticed something that scared her half to death.

"Lilac, you're bleeding!"

Lilac winced. She'd clearly been trying to hide that. But as usual she'd set herself an impossible task. She couldn't disguise the red trail that ran down her left hair tendril. And she couldn't hide her pain. She didn't look up. Carol could see a lost, almost misty look in her eyes.

She didn't like that.

"Lilac!"

Lilac finally snapped to attention as Carol shouted at her. Reluctantly she focussed. Her eyes met Carol's properly. But only for a second. Lilac wavered and looked away almost immediately. She returned to staring at the floor. Carol's heart twisted as she saw the troubled look on Lilac's face.

She wasn't having it. Lilac needed to pay some attention to her injuries. Carol's face and voice hardened. She couldn't keep the anger and disgust out of her voice.

"Did Brevon do that to you?"

Lilac shivered. Carol immediately regretted mentioning Brevon. It was obvious Lilac didn't want to think about the monster. He'd nearly murdered her twice. Carol wilted slightly as she realised how stupid her question had been. Regardless, Lilac answered the question.

"Yes."

It was a very cold yes. Carol's heart sank as Lilac hunkered back down in her seat. Her best friend returned to ignoring her.

So Carol stood up and pushed Lilac's shoulders up against the spaceship wall. To her surprise Lilac put up no resistance whatsoever. Her expression shifted in surprise at least. Carol took some comfort from the fact that Lilac wasn't completely unresponsive.

"You're hurt!" Carol chided, worried. "Stop ignoring the problem!"

"It's just a few scratches!" Lilac insisted.

Lilac had raised her voice. But Carol could hear how tired she was. Lilac's heart wasn't really in the objection. That weakness worried Carol. It didn't sound like her friend. Lilac clearly wanted to be left alone. She was determined to ignore her injuries. Maybe she didn't want to worry Carol. Or maybe she just wanted peace. But Carol couldn't ignore the problem anymore. She couldn't ignore her best friend bleeding.

"Torque! Lilac's hurt!"

Lilac let out a groan of frustration as Torque responded. It rapidly became a gasp of pain.

"What?" Torque's voice twisted upwards in fear. "What's wrong with her?"

"I'm fine!" Lilac insisted.

But she wasn't. The moan she let out immediately after revealed her true state. Carol squeaked in alarm as Lilac began to double over. She let her crumple forwards, truly scared now. She stood there helplessly. She didn't know how to begin to help. Lilac's wounds hadn't seemed this serious after the fight. Carol was sure that they had somehow gotten larger during the flight home. The cuts were opening up!

The bleeding got worse. Carol began to panic. She could see red hints around the area Lilac's arms covered. Lilac had been hiding a cut across her abdomen.

"She's been cut with something really really bad! She needs help!"

Lilac grit her teeth in irritation as Torque verbally engaged the autopilot. The metal door to the cockpit flew open. He stepped inside. Carol quickly learned that he had dealt with things like this before. In three steps he had gently moved her to one side. He knelt down to examine Lilac's injuries.

"What did this to you?"

He looked her dead in the eyes. Carol had never seen Torque take charge like this. His voice brooked no dissent, and Lilac was in no position to argue. She relented.

"The… OWW!... it was a knife! Brevon's knife!"

Lilac almost screamed the last part. She clenched her eyes and teeth shut, clearly in a lot of pain.

"Let me see it." Torque insisted.

It wasn't his most gentle voice. Carol was used to hearing it directed against the menagerie of idiots and monsters they'd crossed paths with during their three day ordeal. But she could hear the worry behind the anger. Lilac must have heard it too. As gingerly as she could she let her hands slide away from the injury.

Carol shrieked.

The cut had grown. It had grown with terrifying speed. What had begun as little more than a flesh wound had widened into a dangerous looking slice. Carol could see the damage even through the tear in Lilac's top.

Lilac hadn't just fooled Carol into thinking the cut had been shallower than it was. The pale shock on Lilac's face told Carol that she'd managed to fool herself. Waves of fear and revulsion coursed through Carol.

"Are we too late? Is she going to die here?"

But Torque was calm.

The sight affected him. He visibly balked at the injury. But he recovered quickly. He had obviously dealt with things like this before. The way he took control of the situation comforted Carol. And it seemed to have a positive effect on Lilac too. She seemed to calm down slightly.

"Carol, I need you to prepare some red petal essence. There are petals in that cupboard over there."

Carol didn't need telling twice. She ran over to the cabinet doors and threw them open. She was relieved to find a jar with seven petals inside. She nearly dropped it as she lifted it out, her hands were shaking so badly. She fought to keep herself steady and began to squeeze the petals into a glass.

She overheard Torque speaking to Lilac.

"Lilac…"

There was a pause. Carol couldn't see what was going on. She guessed that Torque was waiting for Lilac to give him her full attention. She must have done so almost instantly because Torque quickly moved on.

"…I think there was some kind of acid on that weapon. It's slowly widening the cut. I need to get something from the ship's medical stores. In the meantime I need you to keep the pressure on that wound."

There was another pause as Lilac absorbed the instruction. Carol was relieved to hear that Torque's voice was considerably gentler when he next spoke.

"It's treatable. You're going to be ok, ok?"

There was a short pause as Lilac silently responded. Carol heard Torque stand up. She heard footsteps, and then a door slid open. Torque disappeared into a small side room.

The girls were on their own.

Carol's hands were shaking so badly she struggled to crush the petals. Tears escaped her eyes, but she was too frightened to care. She tried to get as much juice as possible out of each petal. But her thoroughness was slowing her down.

"Carol… that's enough. You can come back!"

Carol jolted round at Lilac's voice. She hadn't realised she was being watched. She froze like a deer in the headlights.

Then her face fell as she looked at the half-filled glass of red liquid in her hand.

"I… is this enough?" she asked. She'd only crushed four of the petals.

"I-It'll have to do!" Lilac ground out through the pain. Then, more gently, she added "You can always get more later."

Carol ran the medicine over as fast as she dared. As loyal and steadfast as ever she did her best to wait for Lilac to respond. Though her hands were shaking so badly she was spilling part of the potion on her gloves.

They had a problem. For obvious reasons Lilac couldn't move her arms.

"Mrrgh…" Lilac winced. It clearly took her a lot of effort just to look up. She managed to look Carol in the eyes. "Carol I need you to help me drink it. Can you do that?"

"Ok."

Carol's spoke so quietly she almost whispered. She couldn't stop staring at the wound. But she responded. She lifted the glass to Lilac's lips and helped her slowly gulp down the potion. At least she could help. She'd hated being a helpless bystander.

Lilac almost gagged several times as Carol struggled to control the pace of delivery. Carol's hands were shaking so badly she almost dropped the glass. But the essence was soon gone.

Most of it had gone into Lilac. But a fair amount had wound up dribbling down her chin. It demeaned Lilac and made Carol feel uncomfortable. Carol had never had to help someone do something as basic as drink a tonic. It shook her to see Lilac so weak. Lilac grimaced as Carol shakily withdrew the cup. There was a horrible pause as they waited for the potion to take its effect.

Then Lilac gave a gasp of relief. Carol felt a wave of relief break over her. She could see almost physically see the pain withdraw. The petals were taking effect.

But Lilac's hands began to shake. The dragon shivered despite the warmth of the transport bay. Carol gasped with fear. She realised that Lilac had been bleeding for a dangerous length of time. The blood loss had been slow, but she could see it was accelerating. The dark circle that surrounded the tear in Lilac's shirt had expanded, and red rivulets ran down her tendrils. Brevon's parting gift was doing its deadly work. The wounds weren't closing or clotting like they should.

"Lilac you're going to be ok, I promise."

Carol's voice was full of fear and distress. Lilac had to fight back tears of her own. The two girls were so focussed on each other and Lilac's steadily worsening condition that they didn't even notice Torque return. Until he spoke.

"Be careful making promises like that."

Torque's sad interruption so quietly and gently it disarmed both girls. The comment came across as poignant rather than ominous. He spoke so calmly and moved with such ease he instantly calmed the room. His demeanour told them instantly that everything was going to be ok.

Carol finally stopped shaking.

Torque gently motioned for her to move out the way. She did so quietly and calmly, as if Torque was an ocean of calm absorbing the panic. He knelt down to Lilac's level once more and opened a bottle of blue liquid. Both girls looked on curiously as he dipped an oversized cotton bud inside.

Blue goo curled viscously around the implement. It clung on fiercely as Torque lifted it out. The goo didn't drip at all. It stuck solidly to the cotton. Between its bizarre colour and unusual physical properties it wasn't like any medicine Carol had seen before. Lilac looked just as mystified. Despite their anxiety they couldn't help but be interested.

Carol noticed that Torque was very careful not to touch the neck of the bottle with either his hands or the cotton bud. He'd also changed his combat gloves out for plastic medical ones. Carol could see drops of liquid from where Torque had washed his hands. Though she didn't know how he'd done that. She'd seen no sink on board the spacecraft.

There had been strange bottles marked with formulae. Carol couldn't understand those, but she'd got the impression from the labels that they were poisonous. What were they for then?

Torque very carefully put the bottle down on the empty seat beside Lilac.

"Can I see the wound please?" he asked patiently.

Lilac realised what he meant. Wincing at the continuing pain she lifted her shirt enough to let Torque access the injury.

It was bad. Everyone could see that right away. A long, crescent shaped slice had been carved into Lilac's skin. It had then extended itself down further. Thankfully the red petals had stopped it reaching anything important. Temporarily.

Carol saw Torque wince slightly as he examined the ugly cut. However, he kept his voice as neutral and calm as possible. Most reassuringly, he didn't react with despair or panic. In fact, he didn't seem to react that strongly at all. Outwardly at least. Carol took her cue from him. She fought back her own fear and listened.

"It's a pretty deep cut, but it's not as serious as it would have been if we'd caught it later. Try to remain calm. This could feel a little weird."

It was clearly a lot worse than weird. Lilac had to bite back a scream as Torque smothered the area around the cut with the gel. Then she really did scream as Torque attended to the cut itself. Torque was as non-invasive as he could afford to be, and he moved as quickly as possible. But Lilac couldn't hold back moans of pain throughout the procedure.

Carol looked away so she didn't have to watch what Torque was doing. She still locked up every time she heard Lilac cry out. She knew Torque had to be thorough, but that didn't make her best friend's pain any less hideous. Mercifully Torque didn't take too long. Still, by the time he withdrew the cotton bud for the last time Lilac was on the verge of tears. Carol had to hold back welling tears of her own.

It's not fair. she thought miserably.

Yet the blue gel quickly did its job. It had already formed a sort of seal over the injury. Lilac's expression visibly relaxed. No more blood escaped. Torque straightened up and let Lilac flop down in her seat. She grimaced with the memory of the pain. He waited a few moments to let her recover.

"Is she going to be ok?" Carol asked quietly. Her voice broke. She'd only just got up the courage to turn around and look.

"It should neutralise the acid and stop the damage from spreading. The wound should start to heal quickly." Torque paused, considering for a moment. "So yes Carol, she'll be fine." Carol realised he was talking to Lilac as much as he was to her.

"Now hold on while I treat the rest."

Carol's heart broke as she watched Lilac resign herself to further invasive discomfort. But at least she wasn't going to die.

They were actually going home…