Sharla and Juju were hiding in a metal bunker in Colony 6’s Ether Mines, waiting for further orders. The roof was shaking, and dust trickled from above.
They heard footsteps, and a blonde-haired man with a serious face came into sight. “Gadolt!” Sharla hurried over to him. Gadolt passed his rifle to Sharla. “It’s only been a year since the Battle of Sword Valley,” he commented. Sharla began to examine the weapon. “How? How did their numbers grow so quickly?” Sharla, finished with her inspection, hugged the rifle to her chest.
“Are their numbers too great even for you, Gadolt?” A brown-skinned man with a white beard strolled into the bunker, clutching his own rifle. “Otharon.” Sharla watched the old man as he stood still, lost in thought.
Otharon looked to Sharla. “Medic Sharla, here are your new orders.” Sharla straightened up, paying close attention to the man’s next words. “You and Juju are to ready the evac ships. You will be in charge of the evacuation.”
Sharla and Juju looked at each other, stunned. “But…” Sharla began, but Otharon raised a hand, cutting her off.
“You must realise, the ships can only carry so many.” Otharon lowered his arm. “We must stay behind and fight to protect those who remain in Colony 6.”
Sharla looked wordlessly at Gadolt. She had so many things she wanted to say, but found the words stuck in her throat. He broke the silence.
“I’ll be fine.” Gadolt smiled softly at his partner. “I’ll be able to keep my mind on the battle knowing you’re safe.” Sharla’s grip on the rifle tightened. Gadolt reached out a hand to touch her when she suddenly turned to face him. “Promise me,” she said fiercely.
Gadolt’s hand was still outstretched. “Sharla…” he lowered his arm.
“Promise me that you’ll meet us outside the colony,” Sharla continued. She hugged the rifle closer to her chest, “I…” She held the weapon out to Gadolt. “Just make sure you get out of here alive!” She stared at him fiercely, and Gadolt held her gaze.
Finally, he dropped his eyes to his rifle. “Yeah.” He took the gun from Sharla’s hand. “I promise.” He turned and began to leave the bunker, his rifle leaning on his shoulder. “Don’t worry.” Before Sharla knew it, Gadolt was around the corner and out of sight. A few hours later, Sharla and Juju were at the pod depot south of colony 6, loading the evacuation ships with supplies and soon-to-be-refugees. Sharla looked wistfully to the colony. Gadolt. A promise is a promise. And until I see you again, I will protect everyone. In her mind’s eye, Sharla saw Gadolt walking out of that bunker and into a wall of flame, hand raised in farewell. A terribly familiar voice interrupted her thoughts. No, let me protect everyone!
Sharla saw the faced Mechon she had encountered at Sword Valley, Juju struggling in its grip. “Sharla!” he shouted.
“Juju!” came Sharla’s answering wail.
Her eyes opened and Sharla sat up sharply, arm outstretched. She was lying in her normal bed within the cave the refugees used for a camp. Just… a dream… Sharla began to sob. “Where are you…” she wrapped her arms around herself and began to cry.
After she had recovered from the initial shock of her dream, Sharla donned her battle gear, slung her rifle about her shoulders and made for the cave’s exit. I’ll go and find Juju and Gadolt and free Colony 6, if it’s the last thing I do. As she was leaving the camp, she was surprised to find Reyn and Shulk talking in low voices. They turned to her as she approached.
Sharla got the impression she was being mocked and was about to snap back, but refrained and turned away from the boys. None of this is their fault. Taking a deep breath, she instead faced them again and asked, “How long have I been out?”
Finding it difficult to keep a measured tone, Sharla rephrased. “How long have I been unconscious?!”
“Four hours, I’d say,” replied Shulk.
That’s too long. “I’ve gotta get out of here!” Sharla started to walk off, but the boys cut her off.
“Hold up!” Reyn exclaimed.
“You’re going to bust into their base, right?” said Reyn. “We want a piece of them too.”
“Really…?” They really… want to help me…?
“Truth be told, we were gonna leave without you,” Reyn said to Sharla. “But the thing is… I get roughed up a lot and we don’t know anyone else who can use ether.” Sharla looked to Shulk, who nodded.
Sharla turned away from the two of them. So they only waited because they felt they had no choice? “I… thank you both.” The three of them struck north, out of the refugee camp. Sharla felt more ashamed with every step she took, until she was compelled to stop at the edge of the camp. I shouldn’t be so suspicious of them. They just want to help the colony, and Juju, and… me. “It’s been a while…” she began. “And it’s just… I never imagined I would go back to Colony 6 like this.” Shulk and Reyn looked away, unsure how to respond. She glanced back at them. “I’m sorry. Lost myself for a minute.” She strengthened her voice and continued. “We can get to Colony 6 from the valley where Juju was taken.” Sharla turned to lead the boys out of the camp. “It’s this way.” She, Shulk and Reyn started to retrace their steps, heading east, back the way they had gone when they set out to find Juju. The Mechon which had been stationed across the Bionis’ Leg had were missing. They must have returned with the Faced Mechon that took Juju.
The trio were grateful that they wouldn’t need to avoid the machines again. On the upper level of the Bionis’ Leg, Shulk and Reyn made to turn left and head north to Spiral Valley, but Sharla stopped them.
“We need to keep heading this way,” Sharla told the boys, pointing towards the Kasharpa Falls to the east.
Reyn frowned. “I thought you said we can get to Colony 6 from Spiral Valley.”
“C’mon Reyn,” said Shulk, “I’m sure Sharla knows where she’s going.” He looked at her. “Right Sharla?”
Sharla nodded. “We’ll walk towards the falls and then start to head south-east. That’ll lead us through Bask Cave, and once we make it through there, we’ll be in Colony 6.”
“Well,” muttered Reyn, “if you say so.” Sharla looked between the boys. “Should we keep going then?” When the two nodded, she turned and led the way towards Bask Cave.
Bask Cave ran almost straight, with a slight slant that eventually caused it to run south. Sharla informed the boys that it was this way because it had been tunnelled by curious explorers when Homs had first arrived in Colony 6. This had led to the discovery of the Bionis’ Leg, and, eventually, the formation of Colony 9.
“How would they even have known where to go?” Shulk wondered. Sharla shrugged. “I have no idea. I imagine they wanted to see how far down the Bionis goes, but outside of that…”
The trio soon found their way outside of the cave. To their left was a cliff face; contrasting that on their right was a sheer drop. Straight ahead were the high walls of Colony 6.
“This is Colony 6?” Shulk asked.
“It’s like a fortress,” Reyn commented. “Did people really live here?” It’s not meant to be like that. “So much has changed… It’s only been a month.” Sharla stared at the huge walls surrounding her home that were definitely not there when she left.
“We’ll find Juju and then smash some metal!” exclaimed Reyn.
“Wait!” Shulk quickly turned around. “We can’t just rush in.”
“There’s a massive ether deposit under the colony,” said Sharla. “The first settlers here built right on top of the mine. That’s how we got our colony. The mine is like a network of tunnels. It’s much more complicated than the colony streets. They can’t have figured it all out in the space of a month.”
“So…” Reyn was trying to figure out what Sharla was getting at.
“She means it’s the best route if we want to remain unseen,” said Shulk.
“You’re catching on,” smiled Sharla.
“Great!” Reyn exclaimed. “So how do we get in?”
“Through the Drainage Outlet,” Sharla replied. “It’s just up ahead.” With that, she turned and led the boys off to the right. Images taken using Scalz311‘s YouTube channel.