(Editor’s note: like everything, this is all subject to change. But here’s some story because I talk about boring mechanics enough)
Marcus slouched in his chair -- it had been a week since he had seen Dalla, and with each hour the worry on his face grew. She would disappear from time to time, but never for more than a few hours, and certainly not a full day. He worried she escaped and was killed, or even worse discovered. His mind drifted. Since the North Confederation had gotten rumors of the Blight engulfing lower Cypris, there were dreadful stories spreading about exactly what was happening. When he slept, he dreamt nightmares of the stories he heard. Tendrils crawling across the ground like a tidal wave of darkness. People’s screams as they were engulfed into nothingness. The sheer overwhelming nature of a force they neither controlled nor understood. All they knew was that what went into the black never came out. These images stayed with him after he woke, replaying in his head all day like a broken record of a horror show. But the lifeless look that painted his face wasn’t about his own fate, but for what might happen to Dalla if she was stuck outside the walls. Or even worse, if someone else had discovered her roaming the streets and was now deciding what course of action to take. He wasn’t ready for that to happen. His skin crawled at the very thought and he dismissed it immediately and continued to read the paper about today’s misfortunes.
When Marcus had first arrived in what was then northern Russia, the area was cold and demanding. He had come looking for work, like many before him, but his leads dried up and his reserves dwindled down much quicker than he expected. Two years ago, with an unsteady hand and a ballpoint pen, Marcus enlisted in the reserves for patrol in some of Russia’s harshest conditions. The runs were miserable: scouting critical control points, supply runs to the outposts that littered the more habitable sections of the frozen landscape. He learned to adapt though. Trekking these harsh conditions provide quite more difficult than his previous experience in recon work, but in a strange way rewarding. The runs taught him the landscape and all of its intricacies and perils. And it was on a particular run to the lowlands that he met Dalla. He spotted her in the distance against the white backdrop. It was a short animal, of a peculiar light orange hew fur, resembling something like a rabbit. But it was quite different at the same time. It had two large eyes that contained two pupils each, and a different number of toes on each foot. Its eyes seemed to bulge a bit out of its sockets, and the hair was much thicker than any animal he had seen before. It didn’t quite hop, but moved more like an insect as it scurried across the snow; its legs moved quick while its body seemed to just propel forward rather than a typical bobbing motion an animal would display. Marcus captured it, planning on selling it to some fur trapper or researcher who, he imagined, would pay a large sum of essence for such a peculiar animal. He had assumed the animal had digested some Verve that fell off the back of a shipment, resulting in its odd form. An oddity, but nothing of real importance. Tests on animals like this were conducted all the time in the labs at Central. But, he grew to love the animal and befriended it, making sure to keep it out of official eyes to prevent an official reclamation, as Verve animals were strictly off-limits to civilians.
As he looked around the Haven, a supposed a safe refuge from the incoming terror, he worried Dalla had slipped through one of the many patchworks around the perimeter. The walls were rushed, cemented together and painted with some new paint containing Verve. The walls on the faces of the stones were a bold blue color, but as the paint met the plaster it turns a yellowish hue. They claimed that this mix would stop the Blight, but the streets whispered of failed experiments. The sight amused Marcus, entertained by the thought of such a colorful wall being humanity’s protection. Makeshift houses littered any open fields that were available, sometimes in odd shapes to fit the available space. The only open field that remained was the rather large crop area at the center of the Haven, their only source of agriculture to feed the city. He noticed workers painting hastily a greenish coating on the walls, which he immediately recognized as some paintable version of Verve. He got mixed reports if the walls were even tall enough: no one seemed sure how much was ‘enough’. The roads showed signs of severe aging, probably build generations ago. People littered the streets, wandering around almost aimlessly, probably trying to clear their minds of what to come. This wasn’t a Haven, but a trap for their death. And yet, it seemed to be the only option. All you could do was hope the blight never made it up north to test the walls they put all their faith in.
While the Haven hurried around him to get ready for the Saturday counting, Marcus studied the area. He recalled Dalla liked to search for scraps at night in the darkness along the eastern wall, where a semblance of a market started to form since the Haven’s inception. The Soltari, the local government body for the Haven, provided rations and materials to survive; anything traded in the market was extras people brought when they arrived at the Haven. With all the scuffling, someone was sure to drop some of their rations. With the condition the roads were in, they often decided it wasn’t worth even picking up. He walked along a broken path towards the east and studied the wall, taking note of any holes or imperfections that might be big enough for Dalla to sneak through. Towards the end of the trek, he spotted some tracks heading through what looked like a punched out portion of the wall, not much bigger than Dalla. He immediately recognized the odd toe pattern, and once the night came he made his way back to scale the wall, hoping what was on the other side was Dalla and not something far worse.