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This is a sequel to "Finish Line in the Horizon." You can read that first HERE although you my still understand the story if you don't.

As Salia walked through the busy plaza, she could tell why the planet boasted itself as one of Nol’s prime shopping spots. Around her, various tourists, like herself, were looking around at the gorgeous stone buildings, decorated with pastel colored flowers, and adored with metallic ornamentation along the window sills. Instead of a simple paved road, the ground was a large mosaic of a light floral design. Salia wondered how the design remained perfectly intact, and without damage despite the vast number of people walking the streets daily. After being on Duhan for two weeks, she had already visited some of its other cities, but she concluded that she liked this one best. The city reminded her of the one time she had traveled off Cajara: when her team spent one day on Brinner after visiting for a match. Although Duhan was much less flamboyant, there was a similar feeling of excitement in the air. Something was happening everywhere she looked. Performances, floating kinetic sculptures, and she laughed as she saw that even recruiters from academies had small stands set up to attract prospective students. As she walked past them, she accepted one of the flyers they offered her.


Ever since she left home, she’d been wondering what her next step would be, and one of the things she had considered, was going to an academy. She’d never had the chance to get more of an education, since she chose to completely focus on ril after basic schooling. Now, though, she was questioning the decision. She was walking past a jewelry store, still reading the flyer, when a neckless in the show window caught her attention. When she entered the store, she was immediately engulfed in the crisp smell of cleanliness, and a light flowery perfume. She couldn’t help but compare Duhan to Gralt, the first planet she’d arrived at after leaving her home. The planet had an extremely hot climate that may have been bearable, if not for the fact that it rained constantly. The rain made it so humid that Salia felt like she should have been swimming instead of walking. To top it off, all the buildings on Gralt were made from the planet’s unique lipo cactus bricks. The bricks released a sickly-sweet smell, which she was told warded off the planet’s carnivorous insets. The natives tried to convince her that she’d get used to the smell within a week, but Salia withstood it for two days before she booked a ticket off the planet. She laughed lightly at the memory, then walked closer to see the necklace that had caught her attention, taking another deep breath as she did.


The necklace was a delicately crafted metal chain, with a silver circular pendant that had an intricate arabesque relief sculpted onto it. Salia felt her chest tighten. It was just the kind of thing her mother would love. Even a month after leaving home, Salia still felt intense guilt whenever she thought about her mother. Although, no matter how strong those feelings were, she knew she wouldn’t return yet. So as she had sat in each shuttle taking her further and further away from her parents, she had decided that at every planet she visited, until she saw them again, she would pick up something for them; some sort of souvenir. She hoped that they would aid in her apology whenever she returned home. Even as she was leaving Gralt, she purchased some small insect-shell holo-com cases that were being sold in the ITS. Salia sighed and picked up the necklace. Then she reluctantly began browsing, for a ring for her dad, when she noticed a purple glow was suddenly cast over her. She looked around and found the source immediately. A young dreakarian couple had moved near her, their stunning purple and blue wings immediately drew her eyes. But what was even more fascinating was the glow coming from the woman’s stomach. Salia had learned of the dreakarian pre-birth glow as a child in basic education, but she never expected she would see it in real life, especially one so strong. The entire shop was cast in the purple glow. She watched as the woman gently rubbed her stomach and the man placed his hand over hers. Salia turned away blushing, not wanting to be caught staring, but she peeked at them again, and hid a small smile.


She looked around the store a bit more before purchasing the necklace and a pair of cufflinks, then she left after stealing one more glance of the couple. Seeing the couple filled her with so much excitement, that she skipped down the street. Back home, she had lived in the countryside, and although Cajara attracted many tourists, most stayed in the city, so she had never seen many off-worlders. Then, when she was able to move to the city thanks to ril, her coach and family hardly let her leave the training facility and dorms. The only time she was able to see anything foreign was from a distance during matches. But now, in a just a couple weeks, she had seen, Winforans, Iclaxians, Lyfolians, and now, even the pre-birth glow of a Dreakarian. She jumped up, and spun, grinning from ear to ear.


She looked around trying to figure out where to go next. Then across the street, she spotted an auto-server store, and deciding that she wanted to check out some of the new models, she began walking towards it. Halfway across the street, she started to feel heavier. With each step, she found it harder to move and breath. She clenched her fists and struggled to lift her foot up. It felt like the entire area was suddenly becoming pressurized, or that the gravity of the planet had somehow doubled. She looked around to see if others were feeling the same and noticed that all the bustily had come to a standstill. The discomfort continued to grow steadily. Sweat began dripping down her face, and she felt hot bile rise up in her throat. People around her were mummering, and she heard a few retching sounds, yet it all felt distant. Everything was being filtered through ear muffs and grey tinted glasses. She felt dizzy and found it difficult to keep herself standing as she stumbled side to side in her attempt to move forward. Beside her, a man tipped forward, and tried to catch himself, but instead, he fainted from the effort. As he fell, the single second seemed to extend for minutes, and Salia caught every moment in detail. She saw his expression morph from confusion, to shock, then a blank stare as his body went limp. The man hit the ground, and bounced once, then world exploded in front of Salia.


She was thrown back, but she managed to create a weak force field around herself, so she didn’t lose consciousness when she hit the ground. She lay dazed for a few moments, before getting up shakily. Once she stood up straight, she immediately doubled over and threw up. Despite her force field, her body ached, and the plaza was filling up with smoke from whatever had exploded, so she could only see a few feet in front of her; a disturbing hissing sound filled the air further disorienting her. Salia shook her head to clear her thoughts and began staggering forward. Above the steady sound of hissing, a loud crack, like the splitting of rock, resounded throughout the plaza, and the hissing grew more urgent. As Salia became more aware, she realized that what she initially thought was smoke filling the air, was actually steam. The hot white vapors continued to pour out of the source of the explosion, becoming denser as she moved closer. The loud cracking sounds continued, but they were becoming smaller and more frequent. It was like the sound of a hundred of drops of water falling into hot oil.  


Almost at the source of the explosion, pushing through the commotion of people running and stumbling about, Salia slowly inched closer filled with trepidation and curiosity. The hissing and cracking had stopped now, and the steam was slowly dissipating. Finally, Salia was able to get a clear view of what had caused the disturbance. What she had expected to see was a burning hover-car, or some individual who had lost control of his powers, but instead, the pit of horror that filled her sight, shocked her into stillness. At the place where the auto-sever shop had stood, was a crater the size of a car, and inside it, were putrid yellow egg sacks of various sizes. The cracking sounds had come from the eggs hatching and pouring forth vile horrors. Salia could still see smaller eggs trembling and hatching, releasing small clouds of steam as they did.


The little masses that came out from the eggs, popped and grew, sprouting wings, legs, and tentacles spontaneously. She hoped she was dreaming, but it was a scene so strange and horrible that she knew that even her worst nightmares could never conjure it up. She thought to move backwards, but her legs shook violently, and didn’t budge. Around her, people were exhibiting various degrees of horror. Some were stunned into stillness and silence like herself, while other began running immediately, shoving anyone in their way; a few people were recording the scene. Those who could fly took off, and some with powers, were frantically firing whatever they could into the hole: fire, plasma, water, all had no effect as their powers simply bounced of or rolled over the powerful forcefield protecting the crater. From the corner of her eyes, she noticed the dreakarian couple. The two, more composed that the rest, acted quickly.


Despite the situation, Salia registered the fact that in her lifetime, she was able to witness a dreakarian shift forms. Their bodies grew and morphed into that of a creature with a large barreled chest, longneck, and a tail. Their wings grew over ten times their original size, and hair sprouted all over their bodies, matching the color of their wings. The man shielded his pregnant wife, whose belly now shone like a miniature sun, as she flew off quickly. He followed close behind, but before leaving, he picked up as many people as he could fit his animal hands and flew them to safety, letting out a loud roar as he took off.


Up until that moment, Salia had watched everything in a shocked daze, but the roar shook her and a few others out of their shock and back to reality. The sounds coming out from the crater had become horrendous. Bones could be heard snapping, popping, dislocating, and reattaching; the sound was overlaid with various fluids flowing and dripping, and accompanied by crunching and wet chewing. Salia closed her eyes and didn’t dare look inside again from fear that she would pass out from disgust or die from shock. She quickly turned around and began pushing through the crowd to get away.


“Everyone, move!” She screamed at those nearest to her, shaking people that were frozen in fear. “Move quickly, there are graule in the hole.”


Others were doing the same thing, and she was relieved to see that the Planetary Defense Division (PDD) had already arrived on the scene and were moving people to safe zones. The PDD were making their way to the hole using high altitude hover-vehicles. When the lead vehicle arrived above the hole, its headlights were turned to full power, and the defense team were descending slowly into the hole. Then without warning, a large yellow tentacle shot up and wrapped around the vehicle, shaking it back and forth, sending members of the defense team flying. The meaty appendage had sharp spinal bones growing out of it that the smaller creatures held onto. The tentacle snapped the hover-vehicle in half, and shook violently, sending the smaller creatures sailing trough windows and landing on people. Other graule where now crawling, jumping, or flying out of the hole, attacking anyone nearby.


The remaining defense vehicles began firing laser blasts into the whole, which although broke through the force field, were no match for the graules’ rapid regeneration. Other defense officers were still trying to move people away from the scene. Salia lifted herself into the air above the masses of people, and began quickly flying away, while sending bolts of energy at the smaller graule chasing her and other people. She was almost at one of the PDD vehicles, when she felt a force slam into her body. She was pushed down by an invisible wall, and when she felt static energy crawling all over her skin, she knew she had been caught in the psychic field of a powerful creature. It took all her energy to prevent herself from being crushed to the ground. She could see beneath her, people laid out on their backs and struggling. Others had passed out with their moving chests the only indication that they were still alive, and, a few, she saw were still, un-moving bodies in puddles of liquid.


Salia kept trying to rise against the force, to no avail. Sweat gushed out of her body soaking her clothes, and her chest rose and fell with exertion. She knew that if she could fly out of the creature’s area of influence, she would be fine, but as her body was pushed lower to the ground, her hopes sank. Whatever was growing at the bottom of that crater was only getting stronger. Salia began to doubt if there would even be a safe place to run to. She’d read of graule that could single handedly crush entire cities, and now there were multiple of the frightful creatures swarming all over the place. Even as she was being crushed, she saw the large tentacle still waving around, threatening anything that dared approach the hole, and the smaller graule were still picking at immobile people. Salia gasped, as she felt her chest contracting. Suddenly, she heard a sharp cry that ran through her body and dug from the depths of her soul, an instinctual terror that she didn’t know existed within her. She went limp and was slammed to the ground on top the people already fallen there. The roar rang out again and shook her bones. At some point she had begun to cry and didn’t even know it. Form the position she’d landed in, she could see the hole clearly, or more precisely the creatures rising out from it.


Two dark forms rose out of the hole in hellish brilliance. Explosions were ringing out from random locations, and the sky filled with black rapidly moving clouds. One of the creatures, Salia knew was a leviathan. It was this creature that swung its spinal tentacles, destroying vehicles and taking chunks out of buildings with each hit. Its red eyes seemed to call forth promises of pain and death. The other creature spread its dark blue velvety wings each the length of two cars, adored by the occasional crimson feather. If it wasn’t a harbinger of destruction, Salia may have thought it was beautiful. Its long muscular tail thinned to a tip covered in golden feathers, and its head shone from the concentration of its psychic power. Salia recognized the creature as a sufin and lost the will to even attempt to scream. From the basic graule studies she’d had in school, she knew that to face a Leviathan meant death was near, but to see a sufin was to see the face of death.


Salia stared into its golden eyes and felt nothing. Her heart that had been racing the entire time had settled, and her body had gone limp. She could no longer feel any fear. All her physical, mental, and emotional faculties had gone numb. The only thing she was aware of were the eyes of the sufin, and the calm that had overtaken her. She could see that others had stopped struggling as well, faced against a sufin, there could be no other option but to willing submit themselves its hunger. Salia was almost willing, and she thought off-handedly that if she could move, she may have even run and offered herself up. A serene smile came over her face, and she felt herself relax completely. Then like the snapping of a string, all her sensations flooded back into her, with the thundering sound of what looked like a large spear slamming through one of the sufin’s wings. The spear then dissolved into thin black threads that wrapped around the sufin’s body, pulling it up towards the figure hovering in the sky.  


The numbness in her mind began to subside, but the energy in the air grew more tumults and volatile.  She cried tears of joy and had never been so thankful to feel terror before. She stood up, and dusted herself off, then jumped down form the pile of debris and bodies she was on. She kept shaking her head, as though she could physically dislodge any lingering influence the sufin had over her. Salia had never considered herself as weak minded, but now she doubted herself, seeing how easily she had fallen into the sufin’s siren trance. She shuddered, when she thought that just a few seconds ago she had considered offering herself to the creature. The hair on her body stood up, and she looked to the sky as another wave of psychic power washed over the area, accompanied by another figure. By the luminous purple glow surrounding him, she knew he must have been a zentalian. The zentalian changed at the Leviathan that was now emerging out of the hole to assist the sufin that had been caught by the other figure.  Sending small beams of anti-matter, the zentalian destroyed the leviathan’s tentacles one by one. The other figure was still battling the sufin. As the sufin sent radiant burst of energy, the figure wrapped the black marks into a wall that blocked the blast. The zentalian, used his psychic force to pull the leviathan into the air, destroying it bit by bit, as its regenerative abilities struggled to keep up with the damage being done to it. Soon the sky was filled with battle, and the regrouped PDD teams stared firing on the smaller creatures.


Salia was aware that people were beginning to run away again, now that they were free from the sufin, but Salia remained transfixed on the raging battle. The PDD teams were quickly ushering people away from the area, and a man wearing a white psych-block helmet pulled her up and began pulling her away.


“Are you okay?” He asked, holding on to her arm. She nodded absentmindedly, still straining to watch the battle.


The zentalian and marakian moved in perfect coordination, slowly and steadily beating back the attacks of the sufin and leviathan. Salia froze, despite the officer’s urging, completely entranced by the ease and grace with which the two figures combated the monsters. No movements were wasted. She was suddenly reminded her childhood, when she used to watch the top ril players on the sports channel. It was those easy maneuvers that they had made as they closed in on a goal that made her decide to become a ril player. She felt a tugging in her heart towards the direction of the fight. The defense officer was attempting to forcefully pull her, but she remained rooted in the spot, and she clenched her fist over her chest. She could tell that the battle was coming to a close, she could feel it in every fiber of her being. Three more seconds. Two. One.


The marakian suddenly spurted wings and moved forward with a thundering force that ripped through the air and shattered any windows that weren’t already broken. The marks on her body leaped and swirled the air, then followed her finger and surged in the direction of the two beasts. The marks poured off her body like water from a broken dam, willful and wild. They wrapped around the weakened creatures, locking them in place, then in a show of utmost trust, the marakian remained locked with the creatures, as the zentalian, fired hundreds of beams of anti-matter in quick succession. Not one missed its mark, and the creatures were completely disintegrated without harming a single part of the marakian. The two made quick work of some of the remaining graule that were giving the PDD trouble, then disappeared as suddenly as they had arrived, through a bright wall of light that Salia guessed was some kind of teleportation power.


It took a few moments, and some more efforts from the PDD, but soon, the tension and static in the air finally settled. Sirens still blared, and people were screaming and crying, but a solemnness had descended on the area, making it seem quiet. Calmness slowly returned, but Salia’s heart beat faster than she could manage to deal with standing, so she sat on the floor. By this time, the officer that was with her was calling for medical support, but she ignored him. She couldn’t be bothered to tell him that the blood she could feel rushing through her veins and beating behind her skull and chest were not from any injury or ailment, but from excitement and anticipation. She looked up to where the two figures had disappeared, and although She didn’t know how, she told herself that she would get to the place behind that wall of light.

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