Darwin, I was told, would be off duty for maybe a week, but the doctors were even faster at healing him than anyone expected (partially due to some relatively potent sho magic by an Astentian doctor who selected a sho spell that was far beyond his sho capacity, and maxed out for an opportunity at quickly healing the owl, succeeding on the first try). He was back at my side in four days, perhaps flying a little slowly, but back to his normal self and expected to fully recover. Fuzzball took a little less time to heal, because he suffered only a broken tail and some scratches, and not a leg or wing.
Chance, in the meantime, accustomed himself to his draconic form with my help. He was a little disoriented, but he was a very fast learner. Using the sho scanner on my handheld, we found that when we were in contact with each other, we had 50 sho at our disposal due to the Marnolian bond. That was enough to use almost any command that I could think of. We also found, though, that Chance had an extremely low tolerance of lead, and would react when within hundreds of feet of even a few grams. I, on the other hand, am usually only directly affected when the lead is a few feet away. Even then, my magic fails at a range of 15 feet, and I only suffer physical weakness within three inches.
Analysis of the information I had sent from the Southwind base showed that the group was much more dangerous than we had originally thought, and that they really knew the coordinates of all of the hidden bases of Plasma, Pulse, and the Delta Force, all of which they had plans to systemically eliminate. Almost immediately, the Delta Force ran several missions, and they were able to secure and set up a backup location, where most of the agents were transferred. A new main base was being constructed to the southwest, but we weren’t optimistic about how soon it would be complete.
The vital flaw in Southwind’s assumptions was that they wrongly believed that the West Cliffs base was the main base, and they would attack it at full-strength.
I received a mission with Chance. The mission was an escort, to take Emperor Vao to the new backup location. The mission was a success, and without incident, the Emperor was delivered safely to the other Delta agents.
Unfortunately, though, a series of encrypted communications came in, all of them reinforcing the fact that I was a primary target of Southwind.
“Inactive? You want me to go inactive?”
“Chance, you know how much this means to me, right?”
“Yes, and that’s why I encourage you to take leave. You’re too far into this; you are in serious danger, and I don’t know if you see it.”
“I have to be too far into this! Don’t you see? I’m the Revenant! I have to fight for Lylan! I can’t sit and watch Southwind tear it apart!”
“But Madison… You’re my sister, too, and I can’t just abandon that!” He took my ungloved hand and stared me in the face. His Marnolian light markings lit up his face. “I… I don’t think we understand. I don’t think I understand.”
Something about those markings reminded me of what I was now, what I had learned, in just the last few days, of what I had always been. But those ideals clashed with what I stood for, creating a silent enemy that I could not name. I couldn’t just give up on my country, my only home, but I couldn’t risk losing everything, losing Chance.
I clenched my metal hand; I couldn’t look into his eyes any longer. “I’m sorry… Chance… but… I can’t…” I swore under my breath in Astentian. I couldn’t finish my sentence.
He put his hand on my shoulder. “I know you can’t leave. I know you can’t stop. But… I don’t know that I can keep going. I’m not as powerful or resilient as you.”
I heard it in his voice; he was disappointed in himself. He couldn’t keep up with me.
“Chance…” I did my best to comfort him. “You’re alright, you know that? But I think that whatever we decide to do… we have to choose to do it together.”
He nodded and shivered. “Yeah… definitely… I can’t lose you. Not again.” He embraced me tightly, and I hugged back, realizing the great weight of what I had to live for. We had to defeat the silent enemy together.