Since “Behind the Curtain” is on intermittent hiatus for the next two months, I figured I’d share a piece about Melodi. This little piece takes place during the party’s first night in the Fallen City, some time before the end of the action talked about in the second installment of the campaign.

Melodi lounged against the grimy wall outside the building where the group had set up camp. She looked up and down the dark street, alert for any sign of movement. Her eyesight and hearing were augmented by the technology in her combat helmet, but there was nothing to see or hear. Nothing moved in Persepolis. The flying capital of Argusap had crashed to the ground 90 years ago in the Virus Burn. The radiation levels were still high enough that even in suits, the group was constantly checking the counts per second. No small, night-time insects chirped, no electric lights hummed, no cars disturbed the century deep layer of dust. The only sounds came from the civs sleeping inside the building.

Melodi shivered. No matter how many Virus Burned planets she set foot on, she was never really ready to face the consequences of Virus. Which was worse, skeleton planets were humanity was wiped out completely, and only the bones of their industry remained in factories and houses overgrown? Or planets on which people survived Virus only to be controlled by their fears – codifying a deep distrust of technology that in its blind hate led to Melodi and dozens of other marines being held captive for over two years? Or planets like Argusap, on which humanity looked up at the stars every night and knew what it had lost?

A light blinked in the corner of Melodi’s helmet screen. It was 2 am, and that meant that her watch was over. She took one last walk around the outside of the building, then stepped inside to check on the civilians. She trod as quietly as she could in the heavy combat armor, but they were all deep in sleep and didn’t stir. Lieutenant Helseth, on the other hand, woke instantly at her touch.

Melodi steadied Helseth as he reached for his energy pistol, and tapped the side of her helmet, indicating that Helseth should activate his com. “Relax, it’s just your watch.” She said quietly. Helseth nodded and stood up to follow Melodi’s footsteps around the outside of the building.

Melodi looked around at the ground floor,then headed for the stairs. She climbed to the roof of the building, wincing at every creak and groan. Once she had closed the door of the roof behind her, Melodi turned to survey the city. The building wasn’t particularly tall, but the angle at which the city had crashed allowed her to look back across the area the group had traversed that day. Melodi contemplated the number of lives that must have been lost in the Virus Burn, and turned away, uncharacteristically overwhelmed by the sickening feeling.

Instead, Melodi settled down on the roof and looked up at the sky, trying to get as comfortable as possible in the rubble. The combat armor wasn’t exactly  comfortable, but the alternative – dying of radiation poison – was less appealing. It’s not like she hadn’t done this before, on dozens of worlds. In many ways, she was glad to be off the damn ship. The Maelstrom was a lovely ship, but a marine will never feel truly at home on a starship.

And yet, as Melodi looked up at the  unfamiliar stars in the sky over Argusap, she thought back over the years, and the myriad stars she’d seen, from dozens of planets. She felt small, and very far from home – which she was, being a six month journey from the Regency. The stars were unfamiliar. She wondered if she’d seen any of the glittering lights in the sky before.  At least in the Wilds she could look up at the sky and pick out a few familiar stars, albeit with the help of a star map. But here, everything was different. She drifted off to sleep to the uneasy feeling of being an alien on a planet that might not want her.