Written by: Terra Ray
Somewhere on the Coast of Spain, 2030
The sound of water on rock filled Hilde’s ears as she took a deep breath of salty air, she wanted to take her time to savor the moment. Her whole body felt like it was swimming through the air in the sticky Mediterranean humidity. And although the climate was uncomfortable, feeling so foreign to her, she couldn’t bear to wipe the grin off her face. The young woman opened her eyes and stared into the light blue sky positively beaming.
“We really did make it…” A soft voice called from beside her, echoing the thoughts inside of her head.
Hilde felt a tear roll off the end of her nose, from the sun of course, and quickly wiped it off. “As if there was ever any doubt!” Her voice boomed as her gaze fell upon Anette beside her. The woman looked up at Hilde with a smile on her cheeks dusted lightly with freckles, and yet Hilde couldn’t help but feel a stab of sorrow at seeing her friend. Every time she had to look down to meet Anette’s eyes it was a somber reminder of what she had done… the construction of metal and wheels used to give her friend some quality of life a constant lesson. Even now, some two years later she still felt her thoughts hitch upon that moment every time. But it was becoming easier to shrug it off, and not let it show on her face.
“Once we knew it was here, there was no stopping us.” Hilde added, careful to keep any hint of regret or sorrow from her expression. The pair made their way at the head of a long column of bedraggled and beleaguered people all taking the remnants of a narrow coastal road to the south. Behind Hilde and Anette were friends, family, and a few others they had picked up along the way besides; each and every one of them displaced from somewhere across Europe by the coming of the Kaiju Comet almost seven years ago. The weight of their journey still bowed shoulders and heads visibly, but the atmosphere of excitement and hope was unmistakable.
“Exactly… to think there is still somewhere that we could be truly safe all this time.” Anette said, her voice full of reverence as they beheld the small port town in the distance. The silhouette of a large ship broke the reflection of the falling sun upon the water, that very ship promising safe passage to an island just off the coast… an island free from Kaiju and Kaijin. At least for the moment, which was more peace than they had had for the past seven years.
“You’re the one who helped us get here Hilde.”
“It was a team effort.” Hilde corrected, “And there is still work yet to be done, kilometers yet to go before we can really rest.”
A soft chuckle came from Anette beside her. “As if you would actually take the break if offered. I give you maybe- a week tops before you are gathering folks up for some kind of expedition or heroics of some kind or another.”
The truth of her friend’s assertion brought a rush of blood to Hilde’s cheeks, causing her to turn her head away from her friend to avoid notice. The woman opened her mouth to respond but found herself at a loss for words, particularly any that would refute Anette’s. Before Hilde could respond, something in the sky caught her eye rising from the village that lay before them with their ship to safe harbor. A massive dual rotor helicopter had risen from just outside the village and was making its way towards the group.
“Or perhaps it will find you before you’ve even been given the opportunity to look for it on your own.” Came Anette’s voice from behind her, but Hilde was already focused on the helicopter as it flew overhead surveying the column of travelers. Fortunately, it didn’t seem to cause any panic or distress, in fact, some children now ran alongside the group waving and shouting up at the helicopter. Hilde herself found the sight comforting in a way, none of them had seen that level of technology still in repair and working in many years, and importantly she could see no armaments on the craft. It performed a few lazy circles of the group that traveled all the while, before making a spiraling descent towards the head of the group where the pair of women traveled.
The aircraft set down a few hundred meters from the road to the group’s right, a large panel at the side of the vehicle sliding open to allow a man in a pristine black suit to exit. As the stranger approached, the distance gave Hilde more than enough time to give him a few glances over. He was clearly dressed after the fashion of the American secret service with the sunglasses and suit, and yet the only detail Hilde could focus on was that he was completely free of dirt or grime that she could see. And fortunately, like his craft, she could see no weapons on him… however,
“We’ve come too far to take that risk now…” She said under her breath before striding off of the road to meet the man coming towards her, a palm resting on the woodsman’s axe at her belt.
Two strangers met in a field of short grass in patches of yellow and green, stopping a few meters from each other. As Hilde opened her mouth, she found herself preempted by the man.
“Don’t worry- we come as friends.”
Hilde couldn’t help but feel her eyebrow raise. Although it was rarer to find than books may have suggested, there were those people who would hurt others in order to get ahead on surviving. And yet- what could a man so well dressed with such an enormous helicopter want with a group of dusty and road-weary refugees.
“What do you want?” She asked, trying and failing to keep her skepticism from her voice.
“We- well… my employer has come to offer aid to your group.” He replied in his deep thrum of a voice.
“Aid? Just like that?” Hilde questioned.
“In exchange for a conversation, and an opportunity. I’m looking for a Ms. Hilde Tordatter…” Hearing her name come out of a perfect stranger’s mouth caused Hilde to actually jump slightly, and before she could recover to ask he continued.
“I assume by the expression on your face, and that axe at your side you are she?”
Begrudgingly, Hilde gave a nod in response, feeling her hand around her axe tighten in anxiety.
“Good… my boss asks that you join us for a quick fly around, after which you will be returned to your people.” The man explained, “And after which we will provide aid to all the refugees with you in order to cross to the island of Ibiza safely.”
“Just like that…?” Hilde questioned, “Only a conversation?”
“A conversation, and an offer.” He stated, still standing easy with his arms clasped behind his back. “But that is all my boss has permitted me to say at the moment.” A tense moment of silence passed between them.
“Will you accept my boss’ invitation Ms. Tordatter?”
“I’d be crazy to refuse, but I’m not promising anything.” She stated, crossing her arms.
“Nor would we ask you to… follow me please.” The man said, finally unclasping his arms and motioning behind him for Hilde to follow him towards the helicopter. She followed at a short distance behind him, her thoughts slowly becoming drowned out by the sounds of the rotating blades above the vehicle as they drew closer. However, without much hesitation, she was ushered inside the large sliding door, which her escort shut behind her and finally gave Hilde the silence to take in her surroundings and think.
The interior was almost entirely a cream color, richly appointed with leather seats that still had that distinct new car smell. It even had a carpet of the same color, in which Hilde’s bootprints were now painfully visible. She didn’t care much for making the mess, but Hilde did feel a small stab of regret at ruining such a pristine space only moments before. Even her clothes left small scuff marks on the leather beneath her, so she made an effort not to squirm. But of course, she was not alone in here, and so her gaze turned instead to the other occupants of the cabin. Most of the cabin’s other occupants were dressed very similarly to the original man; men, and women in well-fitted suits with sunglasses on despite being indoors. However there was one woman across from her that was distinctly apart- one who she could easily identify as the ‘boss’ of which the man spoke.
A sharp shadow of a woman with eccentric fashion tastes sat across from her. Her piercing gaze from behind a purple iris framed in a light umber complexion seemed to take her all in despite not leaving Hilde’s own. One side of her head was closely shaven, while poofing dreadlocks of white cascaded down the other side of her face, shadowing most of it down to her eye which was covered in a monocle of sorts. She showed multiple piercings along her ears, each adorned with a rather large gold hoop or decoration, and a beauty mark just below the left side of her blood-red lips. All this was simply in her face, peering out from behind a massive white fur collar atop a coat of swirling turquoise and purple as if currents in the breeze or ocean dancing together.
“Hilde…” Came the woman’s voice, calm and smooth, but with the deeper undertone of commands not often ignored. “I presume…?”
Hilde almost jumped, realizing she was staring but did her best to give a nod and not scowl too much. “Yes… and I’m to understand you will help my friends and family just after a conversation Ms…?”
The figure across from her chuckled softly, “Fade… just Fade if you would.”
An odd name, but given the pattern of her coat and her thick golden jewelry adorning fingers, wrists, and ears, it made sense. “Then Fade… why am I here?” Hilde asked, the helicopter rising just off the ground as she did so and beginning to make its ascent.
“Direct… good, that will make this easier.” Fade replied, crossing one leg over the other. “I am here because tales of a group of refugees traveling across Europe are fairly common these days. But a young woman who fights Kaijin with nothing but a simple axe to protect kith and kin? That’s something that stands out.”
Hilde scoffed slightly, crossing her arms and leaning back slightly. But as her back contacted the seat she remembered just how nice everything looked as she leaned forward slightly to avoid marking it. “Surely others have discovered that more than just guns can keep a Kaijin at bay. I’d say that martial weapons are even-”
“More effective at breaking through their armored bodies in some cases, yes I am well aware.” She added, a small grin rising to her lips at completing Hilde’s thought. A small moment of silence passed between them until Hilde continued.
“That still doesn’t explain why I’m here, or what you want.”
“What I want…?” Fade asked, leaning back in her seat slightly. “I want nothing more than to see you continue doing what you’ve been doing.” As the woman spoke, the bodyguard in the seat beside her reached under his seat and pulled out a very large steel case like Hilde remembered seeing in movies.
“Consider me an- interested party in this whole affair. One of the few still around and willing to put my money where my mouth is.”
The case opened to reveal two axes nestled within a foam housing, crossed midway down the hafts, and an angled steel plate that looked like… “Armor…? Weapons?” Hilde asked, her hands reaching out to trace the cold metal of the armaments. Her eyes fell on a stripe of color on the larger axe’s blade that pulsed with soft blue light, as did many other pieces of the axe and breastplate did.
“Yes… all yours, no questions asked no debts to be repaid.” Fade replied, causing Hilde’s head to snap up and give a narrow-eyed expression to the woman.
“What’s the catch?” She questioned.
“There is no catch.” Fade replied matter of factly.
“There is always a catch.” Hilde replied just as a matter of factly, sparking an audible chuckle from Fade.
“If there is any ‘catch’…” Fade began, “It would be an… encouragement to not take too long to rest. The world has been in disarray since 2023, far far too long, and it’s bad for business. We’re just now beginning to show some signs of real resistance coming.” Her lilac gaze lifted, from the items to lock with Hilde’s golden one.
“Losing someone with your level of ability, uniqueness, and experience is not something I think the world can really afford right now.”
Hilde’s brow furrowed as she contemplated what Fade was saying. “Are you- offering me a job?”
“Hardly, nor am I saying you’re a superhero or something akin to that nature… our world isn’t that kind to us, at least not yet. But these items are yours c’est cadeau, as well as my ship to take you and yours across to the isle of Ibiza safely.” Fade said, “All I ask in return, is that you broaden your horizons. Look beyond your friends and family to the fate of humanity in this war, and be their shield… for a better tomorrow.”
As she spoke, Hilde noted a slight twitch in Fade’s leg as she spoke, the one hidden beneath the crossed one. Rather than be covered in the same black leather that her pants seemed to be, it was of gleaming pearlescent metal in stylish shape and function. With a jolt, Hilde realized that it was an artificial leg and one that was adorned in such a way as to draw attention to it rather than minimize. Her suspicion was confirmed when her eyes glanced across a black cane very near to the woman, twisted near the top with an intricate golden pattern. Her thoughts immediately drifted back to Anette, the accident, and everything that had happened since.
“Be humanity’s shield…” Hilde repeated to herself, eyes finally tearing themselves away from Fade’s leg and to the armaments offered to her. “For a better tomorrow…”
The sound of rotors flared once again as the helicopter took off, soaring into the sky and disappearing in the direction of the tail end of Hilde’s refugee column to the North. She could now hear the sound of wheels bouncing and rolling over the grass as Anette came over to Hilde.
“What was that about…?” She asked, shielding her eyes against the sun to watch the helicopter as it flew on.
“I secured us passage to Ibiza and met someone… very interesting.” Hilde replied. “I’m honestly still not sure what their true intentions are.”
“But they’re going to help us…?” Anette asked, her voice nervous and hesitant.
Hilde turned, giving her friend what she hoped was a comforting smile. “Yes, and didn’t ask for anything in return.” She paused, “Although she did mention to call her if we ever found any interesting parts of Kaiju or eggs or anything.”
“Really? That’s- just weird.” Anette said skeptically, but the corners of her mouth were already breaking out into a smile.
“I’m still not sure if they were serious about that part or not… but come, we have a ship to catch.” Hilde said as the pair set off back towards the little port town to rejoin friends and family, the steel case a heavy weight in Hilde’s hands.