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The following is a stream of consciousness piece of prose, reflecting on the thoughts passing through Arro’s head at the end of Episode 10: Powder Keg. It contains quotes from various other characters, including a quote from Colonel Ressa Armandag from Episode 1: Mission to Arkova, Tesla Soldat from Episode 2: The Valley of the Chirotrani, and from Major Jack Jennison from a time prior to the campaign but witnessed during the telepathic sequence between Kolibri Daeva and Arro during Episode 10.

Trains for Monsters

He could still see her standing across from him in the training facility that day.

“There’s no need to be so formal, is there, Arro? I mean, after all, we…” Ressa had said, turning away just slightly, her contralto voice betraying just a hint of affection. Whenever she used that tone, Arro would become highly uncomfortable, and he was never sure why.

“No, of course not, ma’am. We can speak informally if that is what you would like…” he had replied, matter-of-factly. God, what an oblivious response that had been. He found it funny that he had hardly thought much of her at all until after they had parted ways- and now, once again, she was in his head, after all that had happened.

Where are you, right now? Were you the one that ordered Jack to attack down there? Someone had to have helped to compromise the fleet’s security in order to pull off that coup up there… so who was it? Could Jack have done it himself? Or… Arro shook his head to try and clear the thoughts, but his mind was obnoxiously insistent. Although he could delay the train of thought in its station, he was powerless to stop it. Within a few minutes, his willpower was bested, and his mind began to wander once more.

No, it doesn’t do any good to consider that now, he had insisted. God, Jack… how could you become… that?

Thinking of his old friend, he rolled over flat on his back and let out a weary sigh. The unmistakable twinge of guilt came over him. Wait, how can I be making any sort of judgment? Look a yourself, Ceid. You’ve gotten into bed with the Race, working against everything you’ve ever believed in. How are you any less of a monster?

Arro gave up on trying to get comfortable, and sat upright in his bed. But still… The whine of the train’s wheels continued as it plowed along the tracks in his head.

“We… we can’t be friends any longer, Arro. We can work together, but it’s just not possible to be anything outside of that.” He always remembered that moment very clearly. Jack, standing there, in just a shirt and shorts, his duffel bag slung awkwardly over his small shoulders.

“But, Jack, I don’t understand…” His own voice practically echoed in his ears.

“You don’t understand? Oh Arro… you can be so unintentionally cruel…” Unintentionally cruel? What had I done that had been so cruel?

What happened that day? What changed? Ugh, I hate being like this. I can’t even begin to comprehend how everything got so wrecked… am I maybe being punished? Is this the price of my own ambitions? It’s gotten to the point that can’t lose anything else… and now… good God…

Arro simply stared for a minute or two. His door stood perfectly still. He had half-expected Kolibri to come by in person, or at least expected Tuona to poke her head in and check on him, like she tended to do. But they were probably both in the infirmary, Kolibri with her wounds, and Tuona looking after…

“Of course, I’m scared. I’m stranded here, so far away from home. Everything went so drastically wrong, and it is entirely likely we’ll all die here. I never expected this, and it has me terrified. But… I know I need to do this, you know? It’s part of growing up.” She had looked so young and so naive back then… and yet she had been fairly insightful for someone of her age and background.

Growing up… have you ever done that, Arro Ceid? Have you ever really stopped entertaining the childish notions that used to motivate you so strongly? To never be held back, to never be confined to some autonomous destiny that can’t be altered… what absolute foolishness. Thanks to those idiotic ideals, that girl will never even reach adulthood. Is that what sort of monster I’ve become? A beast that pays the wages of his own sins with the innocence of others?

Arro sighed again, this time with his exhalation breaking slightly in the middle as his emotions started to hit a peak. He dropped back onto the bed again, and rolled over against the wall. It was going to be a long night. He could hear the train as it came into the station… but it wasn’t over for him. No, the train was not stopping to unload, but rather just to pick up more passengers as it continued along its path throughout the night.

When did we stop being on the right side?, he thought to himself, not really wanting an answer. Or, are there even any sides anymore?

As he lay still, he heard a rapping on his door. “Arro? Arro, are you in there?” Kolibri’s voice resounded like a church bell in Arro’s chamber, a bright, harsh sound against the solemn silence. “Come on, Arro… I think we need to talk…” He didn’t move. Not now, Kolibri… just… just, not now…

Within a few minutes, the knocking had stopped, and the silence returned… but despite the stifling quiet, the train moved down its tracks with an uncanny diligence, the sounds of its tacitness drowning out everything else.

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