The Heart of the Accord
Before the fall of the Arclight and the Earth was thrown into chaos, Trans-Hub Central Command went by a different name: Kearney Transit Station. One of the largest civilian transportation hubs in South America, Kearney saw untold thousands each day traveling to and from the area for work, to visit family, or to just see the world. When the Melding came, Kearney Transit Station was quickly commandeered by the Accord, with then-Admiral Nostromo declaring it the central command center for the entire war effort.
Today, Kearney Transit Station is barely recognizable. Most of the shops inside the station are closed down, their insides gutted to make way for whatever the military needs. The shop owners that remain have constructed a makeshift marketplace just outside of Trans-Hub, offering their wares to both Accord soldiers and passing travelers.
As my night goes on, I see the warm yellow glow of Trans-Hub growing larger. I sprint forward, making sure that I’m within earshot of the guards posted outside before I slow to a stumble…
“Hey,” a guard calls out at me. “Identify yourself!”
Hunched over, I struggle for a moment to catch my breath. I had smoked for years before the Arclight crashed, but this was the first time that I ever actually regretted that fact.
“Your name, citizen! Now!”
I throw my hands up, waving them from side to side as I start to approach the guards. Why? I’ve no honest idea. But I want them to see that I wasn’t an outlaw, or a Chosen. Judging by the plasma cannons pointing at me from about sixty meters, I don’t think they care.
“Almas,” I shout at the guards, my hands now stationary above my head. “Emmanuel Almas! I’m a journalist.”
After a moment, the guards relax. As one lowers his plasma rifle, the other steadies his before the relaxed guard, an older man with greying hair, placed a hand on top of the rifle and forced it to the young guard’s side.
“Relax,” I overhear the guard say. “He’s legit. I’ve been reading up on his travel diaries.”
“He keeps a diary?”
“Well,” the old guard tries to explain. “It’s more of a… hey!” The old guard looks over at me. “How would you describe your stuff?”
I sigh to myself as I lower my hands. “Uh… it’s a travel log. Of my trek across New Eden. I meet people, like you two fine gentlemen, and I explore a landscape that has forever been changed by the Melding. Although as of late…” I trail off, taking a moment to catch my thoughts. Apparently they notice.
“You feelin’ alright, citizen?”
“Huh,” I ask the old guard, confused. “Yeah, I’m… I’m fine. Listen, there was a squad of Accord soldiers near the old reservoir cliffedge, near Sunken Harbor.”
“Yeah, the 429th. What about them?”
“They’re walking into some kind of trap. I was with a Corporal Johnson, or Jackson, or… something or other, I can’t remember – he didn’t talk much (His name was Anderson – ED). He was driving me here when we were blocked by… hell, I don’t even know what they’re called. But they look like Chosen that weren’t finished cooking. He tried to fight ‘em off and was chased into the forest and…” I let out another sigh, bringing a hand to my head. As it turns out, I’ve had a hell of a day.
“The 429th is in danger,” the old guard asks, for clarification. “Come with me, reporter. Mendoza, keep watch.”
The young guard, Mendoza, steps aside as I pass by and begin to follow the older guard. Passing through the holographic caution tape, it takes me a few moments to catch up with him. Before long we’re walking side by side through a sea of Accord officers, and Accord soldiers in specialized battleframes.
“I’m not one for tours,” he tells me. “But welcome to Trans-Hub Central Command, the heart of the Accord for all of New Eden. I’m Gunnery Sergeant Bento Jessup.”
“I’m sorry we’re meeting under these circumstances, Sergeant.”
“War happens, citizen.”
“Where are we going?”
“I’m taking you to Colonel Hernandez. She’s in charge of the 429th and one of the most capable women that I’ve ever served under. You can relay your intel to her, and she’ll be able to give you a clearer picture of the situation.”
“Ah. Understood.” We walk for a few moments in a shared silence. I hadn’t been back here since before the Arclight crash, when this was an actual hub for civilian transportation. It was called “Kearney Transit Station” at the time, and as we pass by a drab building now marked as “Trans-Hub Repair Substation 2,” I think back to when that was a rather popular sports bar. I guess war changes things.
We walk up a nearby set of stairs which lead to a makeshift command center. The central command computer flickers on and off as engineers tinker with the wiring. At the far end of the platform, looking at a large monitor showing several maps of areas around Trans-Hub – some I recognize, others I don’t – is a woman with silver hair and a dark complexion. Sergeant Jessup leads me around the central computer to stand about three meters behind her.
“Ma’am,” Jessup calls. “I have news abo--”
“Not now, Sergeant.” Hernandez’s voice is cold, and her attention is clearly focused on the monitors. “I’m a little busy at the moment.”
“It’s about the 429th, ma’am.”
Hernandez turned around, her hands planted behind her back. It was obvious to me that she was a career officer – one with a lot of experience.
I spend the next few minutes bringing the Colonel up to speed on what I saw, telling her all about Sergeant Aldridge and the Chosen at the old depot. I tell her about the unfortunate demise of Corporal Anderson to the horde of tortured souls. Colonel Hernandez listens to my story with great intent, never so much as clearing her throat. Once I finished, a silence swept over the three of us. The Colonel seemed lost in thought, while Sergeant Jessup stood stoic. I assume that I looked like a doofus. Eventually the Colonel spoke up.
“Thank you, Mr. Almas. We’ll dispatch a unit at sunrise to comb the area for the four-two-nine. In the meantime, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to stay here. If the area is as hot as you’ve described, we can’t risk having a civilian roaming around out there.”
“I really didn’t have plans of sticking around here too late,” I say. The Colonel stares me down with cold, narrow eyes. It didn’t take long for me to backtrack. “Okay, where am I staying?”
“Sergeant Jessup will show you to your bunk for the night. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot to take care of before sunrise.”
As Colonel Hernandez turns around, Sergeant Jessup leads me back down the stairs and across the way. We pass by the SIN tower – a massive structure which pulses with energy, and I notice that this one seems larger than the others. I think to ask Jessup about the design, but he gives me the standard “it’s classified” response.
After a few minutes we reach the “guest bunk,” as Jessup calls it. It’s a single bunk in a small, spartanly-adorned room roughly the size of a walk-in closet. After telling me in no uncertain terms that I’m not to leave this room without Accord escort, he walks away and closes the door behind him. With only four matte gray walls to keep my attention, I lay down on the paper-thin mattress of the bunk and drift to sleep.
I wake up a number of hours later to hear commotion outside. Scrambling to dress myself, I bolt out the door and make my way down the series of long, empty hallways until I return to the main courtyard. Here I see Colonel Hernandez and Sergeant Jessup, along with at least six other Accord soldiers, unloading several wounded and dead soldiers from a troop transport near the south gate.
“Sergeant!” I call out to Jessup, who doesn’t hear me through the chaos. I push forward, slipping past two other soldiers who stand in awe of what’s transpiring before them. As the soldiers unload the wounded, they’re quickly whisked away by medical personnel to the infirmary at the northern end of the command center. Many of the soldiers lie unconscious, while a few have the misfortune of being only too aware of their surroundings.
“Sergeant Jessup,” I call out again – to no avail. Sensing that I’ll get no answers from him, I follow one of the surviving soldiers – a woman with short blonde hair and eyes which speak to experience well beyond her years – as she’s being carried to the infirmary. Compared to some of the soldiers’ injuries, hers are superficial. A few cuts, what looks like a broken nose, and a nasty welt on her left arm. While many of the awake soldiers muttered incoherently, or cried out in pain, this one muttered obscenities that I dare not repeat here.
I stand back while the doctors work on her. They seal her deeper wounds with a compound gel, while using some kind of brace to reset her nose. As for the arm welt? A good ol’ fashioned ice pack. After all, sometimes the old remedies are the best remedies. Once the doctors clear out, I approach the woman.
“Hi,” I introduce myself. “I’m not sure if you remember me from yesterday, but I--”
“You’re that reporter,” she says, bluntly.
“What do you want?”
“I wanted to ask you what happened?”
“What happened,” she repeats. “What happened was that we walked into an ambush.”
“That’s what I said. We were going in to clear out the greys, and when we got there the place was quiet. Damn quiet. We cleared each room and didn’t find anything – except this… orb.”
“Orb,” I ask. I show her my data tablet to signify that this is all on-the-record. I don’t think she cared one way or another.
“Orb. It was… glowing. Pulsing. I think it was being fueled by the same stuff that the cloud is. After a few minutes, the pulsing started to go more quickly, faster and faster, until it eventually just…” The soldier trailed off, lost in thought of what happened. I kneel down in front of her, looking up to try and catch her gaze.
“Hey,” a voice calls out from behind me. I turn around to see two guards standing near the entrance to the medical bay.
“Good morning, gentlemen,” I say as I stand. “I’m just trying to--”
“Of course. But first I’d like to--”
Well, it seems that my welcome has been well-worn. I give them a nod, looking back at the soldier on the bed for a moment before taking my leave. I walk past the two guards and out the northern entrance to Trans-Hub. After all, it seems these people have their hands full this morning. As I walk out, I turn and look back at the organized chaos of the Accord – the perfect symbol for the entire war effort to date. So far we’ve been able to hold back the Chosen but I’ll be damned if I know how, sometimes.