The dry barren wasteland.
The soft brutal sand, a flurry woven with the air. Dancing amidst the heavy breeze, its stage for all to suffer.
Many scraps laid buried beneath the ruthless sand, long forgotten since.
Briefly, with grim wonder, he pictured himself lying among the begotten parts, unsalvageable, unnoticeable. Entombed by nature, consumed by the sand's performance.
Fiction may soon become reality, he realized.
Ill-equipped would be understating his plight majorly.
His defective perception, mobility that of a snail's pace, and body ready to crumble... hauling it with all exertion, merely just to take another step.
Only a miracle he had lasted this long.
He walked still onwards, wheezing and panting, drifting dangerously between the borders of awareness.
A retreat was belated, turning back now, he believed that surely he would collapse within meters of the thought. No option but forward. Hoping against hope, that life would be in the ever shrinking, darkening horizon.
Even he, accompanied only by his thoughts, did not understand the motives he followed.
Walking to an almost guaranteed death.
He should have turned back when he discovered the desert's outpost was too abandoned. Rested at least, before he entered the broad wasteland of sand. Steps to ensure his safety, all chosen to be left disregarded.
But even still, as he hauled, as he heaved as if dragging the weight of the world on his shoulders, he felt not a sliver of regret.
Despite the risk, how he had now endangered his survival, he did not care. He was reckless, teeming with apathy... neglecting his life for no good reason at all.
He asked himself.
If... when he has fallen, will it matter at all? No one would know, no one would care. He wouldn't... why would he? He did not ask for a second life, another chance. He had no purpose anymore. So better to walk to the unknowing in the scorching heat, than to live on as a husk.
What was his goal? Why had he originally set off to the desert?
"Need to repair... need to hack... fix pod 153."
Fatigued whispers, mumbled objectives... he needed to do it. Yet he was tired... he felt no obligations to commit.
He felt it better to try and fail than spend longer alive and succeed.
What reason could he have to keep on living?
Nothing in sight in the smog of brown. Grains of sand flicking and whisking past his solemnized demeanor.
"This is stupid." He finally admits. And collapsed onto the gentle, ruthless sand, awareness fading, immobile once more.
Even as the light slowly dissipates, as the sounds of the breezing sand grew dimmer and shallow, his hand still clutched the pod as tight as possible.
At least this time, he will slumber eternally with a companion close as close could be.
He could, despite all, find solace in this brief thought.
The daylight bade a farewell, departing beyond the orange horizon, and sank lower, vanishing, allowing the sparkling dots of twilight to paint the black sky. Among them, the luminescent glow of the moon shone especially bright, illuminating the night.
"Fascinating cycle this world has..."
A lone bystander, through dusted binoculars, watched in awe.
"Can never get tired of it. Those fleshbags had it lucky."
The breeze of dusk blew softly, swaying gently along with it was her hooded cloak she wore.
"Especially that wind. No one can hate this." She muttered, welcoming the chilly gust.
She stood on a rickety platform, a panel of assembled metal, welded together, elevated meters off the sand, another plank of metal held by beams, sheltered her as a roof.
A poor man's watchtower if anything.
"The bay's done, madam!" A voice called from below.
She sighed, heavily disgruntled, immersion of the world lost, snapped abruptly back to reality, back to her newfound responsibilities.
Never much of a leader she was. Never much of a "Madam" as well.
"But our supplies are running very low," continued the voice "Should we ask for-"
"Hell no, we shouldn't. Secondly, drop the 'Madam' if you know what's good for you." She interrupted the bellowing, concerned voice.
"But how are supposed to stay here without reinforcing our defenses? That wind out there is gonna become a sandstorm anytime soon, and when that happens, it's goodbye for us."
"Sheesh, you afraid of a little breeze? I didn't know Anemone kept chickens in her ranks."
"That's not it!' The voice retorted, mildly irked. "You know this place belongs to the machines... we can't very well defend properly without our hideout now, can we?
Now, every step she took, every path she treads, all she had to consider with foresight and preempt. An undertaking she had not consented to. She heaved another sigh and submitted finally to her duty, and allowed the binoculars to hang loosely about her neck, turning rearwards to survey the progress made and done thus far.
An encampment erected from the shambles of the old. Scarcely fortified by thin, flimsy walls that sheathe them all around, contrived by wood, metal and an assortment of rusted bolts and nuts they've managed to extract from fallen machines. A refuge protected by the skins of their enemies.
Already, rumpled tents had settled in, each serving a purpose of a kind. Just as before, scavenged weapons, parts and maintenance, and a medical bay recently rectified.
Silence gave her time to ponder, contemplate atop the tower, of the inhabitants - survivors of the attack. All entrusted to be under her guidance, leadership, and protection... by a dying wish of a friend that could do all three, and beyond.
"Don't blame me if I screw up, Anemone... not really brimming with confidence here." She muttered in thought, wary of the air betwixt with serious gloom.
The air she inhaled was crisped, icing the worries that culminated when reflecting upon her predicament. She then answered back, nonchalant as ever.
"If we can't defend, then we'll just have to fight back. Simple, no?"
"We can't even fight back at all with barely any resources." came the retort, voiced exasperatedly. "Come on, we don't have a choice now, we gotta go and ask him for more-"
"If you so gladly want a part of you torn off, then you do you. I said we shouldn't. That's final. I might be unhinged but I ain't stupid." She added.
"But how will we-" The voice began again.
'Look, we'll manage, alright? Just be quiet already." She snapped.
Bleak doubtful optimism was all she could reassure everyone, including herself. Further worries of survival were needless, for she had agonized over the thought for days on end.
"Look, go see if the scouts are back, you'll get your resources you oh so dearly want from them." She said, turning once more to shadowed sky.
"If they even find something instead of wasting our time." Grumbled the dimming voice.
Finally, the silence was restored, and with it, the wind's howling was beckoned, heeding its meaningless whispers, as it caresses her agitation away.
She shared the same sentiments... days had passed, and nothing of significant value scrounged. Repairs, construction, fortification - high priority assignments yet to be accomplished. There were multiple components needed in high demand - and yet to be scavenged. All she had sent, had failed to find.
The screeching of opened gates amply sounded throughout the camp. They were back after all.
She braced for a sound, tighten an absent grip, her jaws locked in anticipation.
Their return was always, consistently ushered in by the silence of failure, and while she welcomed the quiet, this was a time she would place faith against the probability.
A loud resounding slam conveyed the slamming of gates... and nothing more. She waited, and waited... daring not a glance, clinging to a pallid hope. No noise, no call for her presence.
She felt as if embers had been diminished inside her... perhaps it really was time to face the truth. Nothing will be found out there, not anymore.
"Ma'am! You might wanna take a look at this."
Her head jerked upwards, away from woe, she turned fast, almost at once, every fiber of herself compelled to move. Her eyes searched to be enkindled and sighted the scouts' return. Her chest jolted upwards, her eyes widening in interest - they've returned, palms no longer empty, they had found something, rather bulky she could see, carried along on one's shoulders. Others a hold of items indiscernible from afar.
"They got something - What is that?" She asked, already on haste towards the entrance.
She neared just as they cast all that was salvaged to a rugged mat.
"Found 'em in the middle nowhere, practically buried in sand - nearly tripped on em." said a scouter, expelling breath of the lightened burden through his veil of cloth. "I know we can't afford it but... couldn't just leave 'im out there."
She nodded without heed, eager to know what was found and was victim to shock, disbelief inscribed deep within her widen eyes and stared - thunderstruck.
"Wait isn't this... what's the name - 9S? Isn't this - it's him, right? "
There laid a boy, sprawled lifelessly, his shining silver hair, tainted by endless specks of sand and dirt, which covered almost all inch of his porcelain-like face. His clothes told of a struggle against the world, torn, rumpled in all areas.
"Also found a few parts and this little robot thing in his hands. Think he was looking for help."
To her, it was a sentence that should amuse her, a laughable statement. A YoRHa unit, one she witness slay dozens amidst a flurry of blades within seconds, in need of help?
Always she had believed them to be untouchable, invincible, the ones infallible when in need, no matter the odds. Seeing this - it shattered the very thought... even they, despite enhancements and strength, aren't immortal.
"Show me what he had."
Still slightly incredulous, her sight drifted to a pair of hands that handed her the items in question.
A few tools, scraps and -
"This is a pod... it's his pod, right? I think I remember seeing it floating around him at one point." She muttered, deep in thought.
"It's inactive. Needs repairs as much as he does." said another.
Instantly her face darkens, casting downwards in sudden realization.
"Yes, if we repair him, we won't be able to fix the other one." said one who noticed the change in air.
"Anything else?" She asked, merely to distract from an eventual choice.
"I see. Well, good job I guess... I'll be - I'll be somewhere, we'll see what we can do about him after I think things through."
They nodded and scattered for rest at the dismissal. She watched each finding spots secluded and obscure - avoiding the piercing gazes of the many turned crestfallen, of the many that had relied on them.
While too disheartened, she still sympathized immensely on the perplexity of their duty. But now something else demanded her attention. A choice in due to being made, a choice that only she must decide.
"I suck at this..." She breathed to the mutters of the wind, her head shaking in indecision.
Hard, rough but meagerly silky.
The touch, the first stimuli that tended him.
Again he was blinded by light upon attempting to see. He hissed - discomfort expressed without difficulty, without pain. Something he did not expect. His hand too moved without hindrance to shield himself from glare.
Then, weaving with his new found perception, voices gradually faded to discernability. Mutters, shouts, casual chatter rang aloud. The sound of life.
He snapped into vigilance, eyes widening, body scrambling to a stand, he looked all around him.
"Where - what?"
The confusion continues its spree, as he took the sight of many things he thought lost forever. Camps and stalls sprinkled the area in a chaotic jumble, deeply rooted into the sand. Embers rose and light shone from a handful of metal barrels. Torches hung on wooden poles as if beacons for the night. The moonlight too gave view to what astound him next - people.
No one seemed to have noticed his arousal, nor cared in particular - many seemed dispirited or even frustrated. He risked a few steps, and realizing his body no longer heavy, began a slow exploration.
Many glances came his way, most with interest peaked, but none cared for a second look nor regard to his walking about. He discovered a sizeable distance between one end to the next, having reached a direction's end. He turned back, ready now with questions for the next person in sight.
One slight step forward he took, before an explosion of sound erupt. A voice bellowed loud and clear, resonating with an echo that froze him on the spot.
"Hey! Didn't I tell you all to report to me when he wakes up? So why is that damn mat empty and why did no one do anything about it?!"
He inched closer to the source of the ruckus, all while the yelling ensues.
"You didn't notice? Wha- It was your damn job to notice! What the heck were you doing?"
As he neared back to where he woke, he saw a figure in a tight grip of another person's collar, raised a few centimeters above the ground.
"Everyday is the same thing with you lot! I say one thing, you all do another. When will you register in your head that I am your leader now? Not Anemone, not no one - me!"
"Jackass?" He called to the enraged.
"Yeah, I hear you! I'm busy shouting my nonexisting lungs off right now, alright?! Bother someone else."
Fury had riddled her senses. Not even his own presence could snap her out of it. He looked to the martyr of her wrath, who seems to have forged steel impassiveness as his mask, almost as if accustomed to being berated. He did not speak, and his eyes did not betray his apathy.
"Always the same look, always the same face! I have half a mind to kick your ass outta here. You don't realize how lucky you guys are to even be here." She ranted on, swaying him like cloth in a breeze.
Many were witness to the sight. The many also were unified in the uncaring mentality. Not one was unfazed, not even amused. They all just didn't care.
Pellets of sand pattered his feet, the man was finally dropped, roughly at that. Laid against the bare sand, his hands leaning him upright - but his gaze did not stray, still focused, as was hers, brimming with anger.
"Your face. I don't want to see it for the rest of the goddamn night. Buzz off, and pray I don't see you again." She growled.
Slowly the man stood, dusting himself, stared once more, and walked off finally. A word unspoken, expression without even a flicker of resent.
The bustle at an end, he tried again to draw her attention, ambling towards her.
"Probably shouldn't have gotten up if it was gonna cause all that commotion." He said.
She turned to him, her seething face flickered instantaneously to surprise, staying for a moment longer before she snorted in contempt.
"Idiot had it coming to him anyway. Never following orders... ain't just him either, the whole camp's out to get me."
"Your camp?" He asked.
"Don't like it being referred that, but basically, yeah."
"Heh, you see her around anywhere?"
The question inclined a quick inspection of the land. And when his eyes found none, he followed up.
"An attack. Tore down everything at the old camp... Anemone went with it."
He understood without being told. His enmity needed no context, he knew... He spat out the word, revolted to merely utter it, and did so with high disdain.
"I wish it were..."
Ambiguous words, ones laced with fear and somberness.
"What? What do you mean?"
"Machines are the least of our problems now."
She contradicted him. Contradicted an enemy they've battled for centuries. Contradicted the threat they've always opposed. If not them... then, what was it?
"We'll talk in my tent, come... I'm guessing you desperately need some updates on more recent matters, right, Sleeping Beauty?"
Screams of frenzied chaos. The rumble and thunderclap as all things collapsed. And the fog, so thick, so dense, veiling the massacre and intensifying the anarchy. Friend or foe, both were indistinguishable, all that anyone could perceive was the last cry, shout, of many whose lives ended short.
The measly few luckily spared, were greeted only by death. Blood, rubble, papers, corpses. No one could deter or defend from the attack. Weapons laid inches away from lifeless fingers, reflecting back the utter shock and fear on their wielder's faces.
"It was a hell of a mess, I tell you," She went on, voice almost a whisper. "and I wasn't even there to see it. The survivors went straight to my outpost. Told me everything. And not a single one could tell me who were the attackers... they just know it wasn't a machine. Anemone was one of them then."
The boy rested atop a thin mat, looked up at her gaunt expression.
"Wait, isn't she...?"
"She's still dead, don't need any reminding. The ambush wasn't what killed her though, no... It'll take more than that to do her in. Anyway, they made a small camp and sat there looking more dead than dead. Come midday, and she suddenly said she had to go back. Wouldn't listen to reason, she just kept on insisting."
The furrowing of his brow was more than apparent to her.
"Yea I know, wondered why too, I'm getting to that," She said, the edge of her lips curving slightly up. "Her plan was a simple one - wait till nightfall and return to the camp. The others volunteered, she refused to let them. Swore to everyone she'd return, safe and unharmed.
"Then night came, she pulled me to one side... looking more serious than ever. She said, and I quote, 'My sorries won't be enough for what I'm about to say, but, can I trust that if I should die, you will continue leading them as I have done for so long?'"
"She brushed aside all my protest as if there were nothing. In the end, I agreed, and off she went. Minutes went by, hours went by, then night went by and morning came... and still she hadn't come."
A hand delved into her coat, rummaging around and withdrew something small. An almost ethereal glow surrounded it, black, in shape of a small square box.
"This was all that I found at the entrance when I went for her... everything else... gone. As if she never even existed."
There was silence, conveying disbelief. His gaze fixated on the black box resting on her palm and only tore away once she pocketed it back.
"The rest... well, started a new camp, gathered the other androids... and the rest is as you know it. Just surviving, as we always do. Only difference now is that we're doing a shit job at it than we were before."
His lips parted open once more, brows still furrowed.
"It doesn't make sense. Anemone wouldn't just abandon her people so easily, it isn't like her."
"You're right, it isn't like her. And that's exactly what got her killed in the first place."
"You mean she was..."
"Going back for someone, yeah."
It was all getting much stranger than he could comprehend. Who could have possibly been so vital, so precious... that not even the threat of death could deter her. Why had she chosen the need of one instead of the need of the many?
He found he needn't think much more.
She began light steps towards a slit in the tent, the dancing of dust visible by the crackles of fire beyond the gap. Her hands reached forward, parting it open, revealing an extension of her tent to another right beside.
"Her black box wasn't the only thing I found at the entrance." She said.
Rising upwards, he slowly followed her trail, pace quickening by the nudge forward of her head.
He entered a space much compact than what precedes it. A sole bed set center, with decaying wooden tables, joined at its sides. Tools and components laid in a jumbled mess, as if recently used.
The room was dim, shrouded from light, almost blinding him the sight, of the lone occupant lying prone on the bed.
"Supposed to be alive and moving by tonight. Was at the final stages of repair. And then you came along. Then It was either you or her... and judging by you moving around and all... it was obvious who I had picked."
He approached the dormant figure cautiously, vision adapting to the dark, and making distinct the many short strands of silver on her head.
He felt his breath cut short.
The thought of just observing, it was left disregarded. He dashed forward, motions without thought, almost as if guided by impulse. The next he knew, he was beside the bed, eyes wide and lips agape.
Then, whatever hasty movement, whatever careless action next - it had all stalled. He had frozen.
He found himself staring at closed eyelids, the glinting silver hair he had spotted, it was disheveled and uneven, frayed, slashed by a sharp edge. There were many glaring oddities with her appearance, everything was wrong. Her nose, her lips, her eyes, her face - everything. He was mistaken.
He now also felt fury.
Oddities that he'd grew to despise, and swore to destroy. It laid only mere inches away from his clenched fist.
"She went back for her y'know? Died bringing her out of there..." Muttered a voice behind him.
He derived only a single thing from it. That another death was all her fault. Another friend's demise by her hands.
Through gritted teeth, he managed to hissed her name... one he had come to revile above all else.
Author's note: Welp, finally back with a chapter after nearly a month as per usual with my pace. Seriously gotta work on that. So, here's chapter 2 in all it's glory. During the course of this chapter, I played through nier again to get a feel for the characters, especially Jackass, as she's more prominent in this chapter. Don't know how well I did, but I think you guess would let me know. Anyway leave me a review with what you thought, follow to be posted and stuff and I'll be back soon enough with chapter 3.