Jackson speeds through the forest, ignoring the growls of the dropbears. All that mattered was telling Will what he saw. He moves as fast as he can, not letting a single thought cross his mind, being guided by the instinct sense of direction he had gathered from three years of patrolling this area.Then he heard a sound that startled him to the core; the sound of minutemen wearing light carbon fiber armor, clanking through the forest. It’s not the thought of death and incarceration that scared him most, it was the consequences to the world if Will doesn’t find out. As he runs, Jackson can barely make out a small path branching off the right of the path, and recognized it as a shortcut. He bolts towards the river at the end, and jumps in, surprised by how water is at this hour. Jackson considers swimming to the other side, but he instead he swims downstream and hides in the roots of a giant mangrove, knowing it’s not visible from the path. Soon, the minutemen arrive and swim across the river. A few minutes later, they swim back empty-handed. Jackson knows that minutemen are only used for catching blockheads who don’t work for any military, so they’re required to return to their post if they don’t catch any enemy soldiers.
Jackson thinks to himself: “Good thing I took off my patrol armor.”
Jackson knows he doesn’t have time; he swims to the other side and dashes down the path. Soon, he sees a large patrol with many soldiers wearing carbon fiber and riding on donkeys.
“Who goes there?” asks the commando leading the patrol.
Jackson responds: "A scout who bares urgent news ma’am.
The commando hands him a note to write down the news to deliver to a secretary later in the day. But when she reads what’s on the note, she was visibly overcome with urgency.
“Soldiers, we must deliver this immediately!” she ordered.
A soldier asked: “Commando, what could be so urgent that it requires disobeying one of Will’s orders?”
“Will might die if he doesn’t find out!” she demands arrogantly.
Jackson fills with fear as the patrol rides down the path. What if it’s too late?
Will lets out a sad sigh as he looks at the map. So much of it is covered with yellow, marking the enemy territory. Then he turns his head and looks around the amphitheater, ornately carved out of maple wood and marble, finally resting his eyes on the empty chair, which only adds to his sadness.
“How many cities have we lost to Lloyd this week?” Will asks somberly.
“Two,” Daniel responds, “Mark’s city and Garry’s city. 3,000 casualties. It’s only a matter of time before they move in on Vincent.”
Sam points: “Vincent’s city is incredibly close to a equator. It’s a valuable position, but he doesn’t even have electricity yet.”
Will turns towards his two colonels.
“Send an army to Vincent’s city,” Will ordered, “Arm their soldiers with carbon fiber and titanium.”
The colonels exit to carry out the order.
Sarah asks" If we’re going towards the equator, shouldn’t it be getting warmer?"
“I’ve asked that question a few times, answers another soldier,” but the lieutenant says he’s just following orders."
Sarah looks out the back of the locomotive-like military car, and her conscience fades into the gentle rolling hills lined with coffee trees. But her daydream is soon disrupted by the sound of an ember artillery. She turns her head and sees a flaming hail of embers, pelting the cars with dents and fire. In the distance, another spray of embers launches into the sky. Sarah knows from training that if they’re within the range of the ember artillery, then the vehicles have already been deployed, so there’s no point in retreating. When the car crests the hill, Sarah sees a long steel barricade shielding archers with titanium bows. The tips of the bows glow with burning fuel, much brighter than the embers. The cars of the front start succumbing to the damage, forcing the soldiers to run.
“The captain orders a retreat!” The lieutenant yells from the front seat.
Their car along with some of the others begin backing up, and soon the entire army joins. But their retreat’s cut off by a pincer maneuver of enemy cars.
“Will, sir, we have a distress signal from the east peninsula!” A scout warns.
“Soldiers were never dispatched to that area,” Will says in confusion, “There must’ve been a mistake.”
“It’s not a mistake sir.”
“How many soldiers are in danger?”
“That’s how many were dispatched to Vincent’s city!”
“Sir, perhaps it’s a mistake?”
“No, the colonels were in charge of giving the order, and the directions were written by me and approved by my secretaries. At least one of them is guilty.”
The commando runs into the palace and hands the letter to the secretary. When he reads the letter, fear spreads across his face. Without hesitation or proper paperwork, he gives her directions to where Will is.
“Sir, Lloyd is only 13 time crystals away from us!” the commando tells Will.
To her surprise, Will answers: “I know, Kate. Don’t tell anyone, he won’t hurt us.”
“Permission to speak freely sir?”
“It would be unwise to assume he won’t attack, because he destroyed Frank’s city, which rivals the size of yours. He’ll destroy the city. It’s only a matter of time before he finds us.”
Will seems visibly sad when she mentioned Frank.
“I’m sorry sir. I know not to mention… him.”
“No need to apologize. Frank was my friend, and losing friends is a part of life. But I’m afraid I can’t explain to you why I won’t launch an attack. I must order this a secret.”
“Yes sir, I will tell no soul about our discussion.”
Kate leaves the room, thinking: “Grief has driven the man insane, I must tell someone who’s more level-headed.”
The guards assign Sarah to a jail cell made of polished stone and large iron bars. The army had been killed, but some of them - like Sarah - were taken as POWs instead. Sarah looks down and sees her roommate sitting on the bed. He turned around, and Sarah sees that he’s wearing a steel mask over his head. Sarah’s shocked by how cruel the guards were to force this on him. Sarah tries to remove it, but it’s locked to him.
Sarah pitied: “I’m so sorry they did this.”
The lunch bell soon rang, and the prisoners get escorted in a line to the cafeteria, but four guards take the masked prisoner to another room.
Kate walks a few doors down the hallway and knocks on another door.
She says: “I had an appointment with Will, but he redirected me to you, sir.”
The apple wood door creaks opens, and the man inside asks: “Please show me the appointment paperwork.”
Kate hands his a piece of paper she had swiped off of Will’s desk. The man looks outraged when he reads it.
“Lloyd is 13 time crystals away, but no attack plan has been made?”
“Sir, I believe grief has clouded Will’s judgement.”
“It must’ve. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.”
Sarah feels a odd bump, and wakes up, slowly opens her eyes and letting out a yawn, but strangely, she feels movement. She quickly gets up, only to find out that she’s inside a car. At the wheel is a strange person wearing a hood, and next to her is the masked prisoner, still sleeping.
“What?” she asks.
“I’m fixing Will’s broken plan.” she answers.