23rd day of December in the year 2140
The next four days were jarring.
Monday was dedicated to securing more land. Benji suggested that the mission would have a higher likelihood of success if we relocated our teams to another city; it was a move meant to aid in our future reconnaissance. Per his analysis, the council agreed to send scouts to Atlanta. Thanks to Tawni having tinkered with their phones, they were able to report back that the city was abandoned and prime for the taking. Chris and his father took a bunch of volunteers to prepare as many of the buildings as they could. Hank suggested that the council keep scouts and refugees there, since it was much larger than Savannah and could better house those who were displaced from the recent bandit raids. Monty liked the idea and said he’d take it to the council, and I really hope they agree. If all goes well there, Atlanta could be a major colony in the southeast.
With Atlanta secured, the focus of Tuesday was to expand out to Columbia, South Carolina and Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Charlotte team was cleared to move in on Columbia, but the scouts were met with resistance the closer they got to Nashville. Monty and the rest of his team had to swoop in and provide assistance; they were finally able to take out the bandits camped there, but that day ended with two scouts killed and seven injured. The injured were transported back to Atlanta where Kris was stationed to heal them; he agreed to help us out on the condition that he still be allowed to give aid to other spirit groups around the world. I wasn’t even aware that there were other groups besides the Jovians and Phebeans, but I suppose it makes sense. According to Matteo, every celestial body, or planet, sent a group of soldiers to Earth in search of two lost spirits. The whole idea that Monty’s here for a reason besides protecting the Savannah colony feels foreign to me. If the spirits complete their real mission, will they all go home?
From our camp in Columbia, Gabby was able to reach out to Charlotte and determine that there were about two hundred and ten minds there at any given time, with only thirty of them responsible for running the market. Nearly a quarter of the minds were the designated muscle, and the rest were colonists stolen from their homes. She estimated that a hundred of the kidnapped were between the ages of four and twelve; another twenty were adult females, and the remaining eight were too young to form discernible thoughts. I insisted that she take a break after that. Koji had to comfort her after he and Remi swept the market, so much so that I considered asking her to go back to Atlanta, but she insisted on seeing the mission through to the end. She said that this was her contribution, and she wasn’t going to back down. Sometimes, I forget that colonists are raised differently and that she, Benji, and Koji are still kids.
Alexa and Monty were able to derive similar results: Nashville had around three hundred minds at any given time with fifty running the operation, eighty enforcers, and the rest a mixed bag of adult women and children of any gender. After comparing notes, we came to the realization that, while anywhere from sixty to two hundred bandits pass through either market in a day, there was a small squad that delivered messages first from Charlotte to Nashville, then Nashville to St. Louis, one of the strongholds reported from Maggie’s intel. This reinforced the knowledge that the various bandit encampments are not random locations acting independently from one another, but rather a network of carefully positioned pawns all reporting to a larger operation. We’re spread too far as it is, so we can’t investigate St. Louis yet, but I did propose that Monty send people to Kansas City to corroborate on the matter. He wasn’t exactly opposed to the idea, but I did sense hesitation. Is there something going on with the K.C. Colony?
By Wednesday, we had learned that the Charlotte bandits were using Fayetteville as a camp, much like how Nashville had control over Chattanooga. We also discovered that the messenger squad would always stop at Knoxville for half an hour before moving onto Nashville, implying that there could be another camp there. Benji thinks we should use this information on the day we attack: that we should wait two hours after the squad leaves Charlotte before having Cienna and Remiel start evacuating the colonists to the outskirts of the markets. Then the teleporters can take groups of them back to our base in Atlanta, where they’ll receive emergency medical treatment and whatever else they’ll need. Benji estimates that it’ll take us at least an hour to evacuate everyone that way since the squad leaves at midnight shortly after the markets close. Charlotte’s evacuation might go quicker than Nashville’s, so the idea of Chris and Remiel teleporting over to help while Vince demolishes the place was tossed around. Benji was receptive to the idea, but Monty wasn’t so sure. He doesn’t like the idea of leaving my team without an emergency escape option, but we’ll have driven from Columbia to the outskirts of Charlotte anyway, so I reminded him that we can just go back.
By our master tactician’s calculations, the messenger squad should arrive in Nashville by five in the morning, and they’ll find the market to be destroyed. Both of our teams should be there to deal with them then, but our reports show that there are only about ten of them, so that part will be a breeze.
As of this morning–Thursday morning–we had our plans down and the scouts mobilized. Since the refugees from Washington and Fayetteville heard about our upcoming mission, they’ve all been eager to help in any way they can. Most of them have moved to Atlanta with forty or so volunteers, and they’ve really turned the place around. They’re ready to receive and care for the kidnapped colonists, to give back to the community that is trying so desperately to return them to their homes. Their resolve fuels us, and I find my friends looking more determined by the day.
I think we can actually do this. We can pull off this mission. We can save these people.
I know we have more important things to worry about, but I was concerned that, with everything going on, I wouldn’t be able to make time for Monty. Seems my siblings and friends already thought of that; Mona coordinated with everyone so that Monty and I could meet in Atlanta for a few hours. We saw the sights, had dinner, and managed to squeeze in some alone time before nightfall. It wasn’t much, but it was the best we could do with our mission within reach. He invited me and our family to the court’s Christmas party this weekend, and I’m so anxious for this mission to be over so we can have some semblance of normal back in our lives.
Oh, right: so Christmas is a holiday that colonists celebrate in the dead of winter. They eat a bunch of food, decorate a tree in their backyards, and give each other presents. Benji says it’s popular among colonists that follow Christianity, but Alexa says it’s a super old tradition that used to have Pagan roots, whatever that means. I never knew there were colonists that were taught to believe in any religion… I guess we have that in common with them, huh?
We’re all going to try and squeeze in a few hours of sleep while backup scouts from Savannah man our posts. We’ll be driving out at midnight, stopping just outside the market, and waiting for the messenger squad to leave for Knoxville. By six tomorrow morning, we should have Charlotte and Nashville in the ground.
Wherever you are, Clint, I hope that you’re safe and living a peaceful life.
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