The arm was the wrong size. No matter how much Prompto messed with it, no matter how he tried to shorten it, it was just the wrong size. It was still too long, and far too bulky for an eight year old girl. He’s already taken off the unessential parts and even moved some around in order to make it shorter, but he couldn’t get it to work out. He’ll have to scrape this one and start over. He sighed leaning back in his chair.
“Trouble over there?” Aranea asked. She had stopped by to visit and was currently squatting down in front of the fire place.
Prompto tossed the arm into a nearby wooden box with other parts. “Gotta restart this one. Kids are the hardest ones to make limbs for. I need more MT parts so I can just build her one from scratch.”
“You don’t have enough?” Aranea said pointing. Prompto followed her finger to the wall beside him covered in MT parts, including arms and legs, then at the bottom of the chests full of more parts ranging from cores to eyes.
Prompto spun around. “Do you have any idea how long it’s going to take me to dig through all of that? Besides it may not seem like it, but most of those already have homes. I’ve already labeled the ones on the wall with the names of the clients.” Prompto then points to the half empty scrape box. “That’s the box I need full of random parts to pick from, none of which I can use right now.”
Aranea straightened up only to walk over and kick the box. “Listen, you’re doing your best. That little girl may have to wait a bit longer to get her arm. You can only do so much, Prompto.”
“It’s not fair you know.” He said slumping onto his desk. “She’s only eight and she’s lost her father in the war. He mother was arrested for stealing food. And now, on top of all of that she lost her arm to another sabertusk attack.”
“You know…” Aranea hummed, “the war might be over soon.”
“Why do you say that?” Prompto asked, sitting back up.
“A report came in a couple of days ago. Niflheim captured the Lucian prince and is bringing him here. The emperor can do one of two things. He could ransom the prince’s life for Lucis’s surrender, or he’ll kill the prince, ending the Caelum bloodline. Both will bring victory to Niflheim one way or another.”
Prompto felt a chill go up his spine. “If Niflheim wins…”
“We’re all fucked.” Aranea sighed. “I’m working on a plan now, but things aren’t looking good, for anybody.”
“I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.” Prompto said standing up. “I’m heading out to scrape.”
“Then I’ll take my leave. No point in staying if my host takes off.” She said with a smirk.
“Thanks for stopping by, Aranea.” Prompto said with a smile. “It’s great to see you more often now.”
“No problem, kid.” She said then gripped his shoulder. “Take care of yourself.”
Once Prompto was properly dressed to face the snow and wind, they stepped out to the side of his workshop and into the large metal overhang. He smiled watching his pet snoring softly under its large blanket. Aranea patted his back before walking out to her snowmobile.
“Kaiser.” Prompto sung walking around to the white behemoth’s head. He patted Kaiser’s snout earning a growling gruff. Prompto chuckled before laying his whole body on Kaiser’s snout. “Kaiser, time to wake up buddy.”
One of Kaiser’s eyes opened before closing as he let out a loud yawn, lifting Prompto higher in the air as he did. He groaned tilting his head to let Prompto gently slide off before standing up to stretch his wings out letting the blanket fall to the ground. The tips of his wings scratched the metal roof above them knocking some snow off in the process. Kaiser walked out of the overhang to better stretch out, raising his wings as high as they would go while arching his back like a cat would. Finally, Kaiser shook his whole body out before turning around and crouching low to the ground. Prompto took his cue and ran up to climb on the behemoths back.
“We’ll have to get the sled too.”
Kaiser groaned, but proceeded to walk around the workshop where the large covered wooden sled was sitting and backed up to sit in between the wooden links. Prompto walked down his back to attach the sled to leather straps on Kaiser’s body, then proceeded to hop on top to knock off the snow that had layered on the covering. A sharp pain shot through his chest and dropped to his knee just as he started coughing. He could taste more than feel the nasty fluid coming out.
The coughing fit didn’t last more than a few seconds before he was able to catch his breath and look at the splatter of black on the white snow and on his hand. He used the snow to clean his hand off before sweeping the rest of it off. He staggered to his feet and walked back to Kaiser’s neck just past his hair and sat on the saddle.
“Alright buddy, let’s get going.” Prompto said bringing his goggles down and scarf up. Kaiser let out a loud yawn before walking in the direction of the MT graveyard.
That was the only good thing about living in the Gralean slums. It was close to the MT dumping ground for the defective or old units. It was still about ten miles out, but riding on Kaiser made it a short trip. He had no problem running that distance and back. And actually he enjoyed it because Prompto let him explore whenever they went out on these trips. So they explored the vast snow covered land finding food and random trinkets or sometimes bodies left frozen in the waste land. Prompto sometimes wondered if one day his body would be discovered frozen in place like he’s seen some people.
Once Kaiser was awake and running, Prompto had to duck under his large head in order to block out some of the wind. At least he remembered to bring heating packs with him this time. Last time was not a fun experience. It took them about an hour to get to the graveyard, what with Kaiser deciding to chase down a voretooth pack for a snack. Once they were there, Kaiser traveled past a few mounds made of MTs before coming to a stop. He crouched down with a yawn and Prompto slid down his side and landed in a pile of snow up to his knees before falling forward on his face. He groaned before lifting himself back up and knocking the snow off before lifting his goggles up. Kaiser let out a small chortle noise before laying his head down on his paws. Prompto rolled his eyes and got to work.
About three mounds in and two hours later, Prompto was getting excited about some new metal fingers he found. They were small and obviously thrown out as defective. He could definitely use them for his current client. He placed them in his bag and picked up another arm to get the wires out when he heard a loud explosion in the distance. He looked up as Kaiser raised to his feet to look over the mounds. In the distance, Prompto could make out an imperial ship with smoke coming out the side. There was another explosion just before it dipped down and crashed into the earth. A large plume of smoke rose in the air within seconds. Prompto smiled at Kaiser.
“Let’s go, boy.”
The imperial ship had landed on an old frozen lake, but it wasn’t enough force to break through the ice completely. Still, Prompto had Kaiser slow down and walk slowly to the crash. The ice had cracked, but was so thick that it was still holding. Prompto couldn’t hear or see water, nor was there movement, so he climbed down and proceeded to the crash. The other side was burning, but this side was still untouched for the moment. Prompto quickly grabbed a normal sized sled hooked on the side of the large one and headed inside. He started piling on the first MTs he could find, as well as panels and other electronics and wires from the ship’s walls. He found a first aid kit, repair kit, and even collected some weapons.
As he was turning to leave, he spotted a very human tattooed arm under a large piece of metal. Sure there were always at least two or three humans on the ships, but tattoos are forbidden in Niflheim. Prompto walked over to the arm and quickly looked under the metal plating, but couldn’t see very well. He tested the weight of the metal before pulling some rope from his sled and tying it off around the tip of the metal plating and pulled it. Prompto put his full strength in lifting it up and off the small pile scrap metal. Then he quickly started removing the rest of the debris until he uncovered a brown headed man. Definitely not from Niflheim.
As Prompto continued to uncover the man’s body, he spotted another young man below him. Prompto carefully moved some rebar and noted a piece going through the tattooed man’s side so he started moving the debris from around them when he spotted a third man.
“Man, I hope there isn’t any more of you guys.” Prompto mumbled and looked back at his sled then back at the three unconscious men. “Okay you three hang on, I’ll be right back.”
Prompto grabbed his sled and ran out of the ship, being careful not to trip and fall. Getting impaled was not on his to do list today. He made it back outside where Kaiser was sitting, licking his front paw, not even paying Prompto any mind. Of course Prompto always ran back and forth during these rare occurrences for fresh parts so Kaiser wasn’t fazed much.
As quickly as possible, Prompto unloaded the sled, grabbed some more rope and went back into the ship where the three men were at. He dug around them some more before checking to see if they were even alive. Prompto never felt more relief feeling a person’s pulse. He started with lankier man since he was the easiest to get to and dragged him to the sled and tied him down on it. There was blood covering his white shirt and his face, but Prompto really couldn’t tell where it was coming from. He’d have to deal with it later. He dragged the first man out and loaded him as comfortably in the larger sled as possible and went back in.
He had to maneuver the smaller man, this one was about Prompto’s own size and age, from under the tattooed man’s body which took some serious wiggling, but he managed to free the raven haired man and got him on the sled next to pull out. Once the second guy was secured Prompto wiped the sweat off his brow and headed back in for the last man. In the couple of minute he was gone, the fire had spread to this side of the ship, so Prompto had to move quickly. He tried to be gentle, but there wasn’t time for that when the wall popped with a small explosion. Prompto grabbed the man’s arm and dragged him out of the pile and had to roll him onto the sled to get him on his side.There was a deep grunt from the man, but he otherwise stayed unconscious. Prompto tied him down as fast he could before pulling him with the last of his effort out of the aircraft. Once he got out, he hunched over trying to catch his breath.
Another explosion behind him made him jump. “Okay let’s get out of here.” He dragged the last man to the large sled and, with some added effort, got him inside before packing up his small sled. He stuck his head out of the covering. “Kaiser, we gotta get home fast, alright buddy.”
Kaiser let out a groan, but turned and sprinted towards their home. In the meantime, Prompto checked each of the men for injuries. The taller man in the white shirt had a gash across his stomach and another on the top of his head so Prompto wrapped them up quickly with the bandages from the first aid kit. He also took the cracked glasses off his face and placed them in his bag for now, just in case. The guy his age had a bump on his head and few cuts here and there that could be dealt with later. In the meantime, he covered them all up with his extra tarps and he kept watch over the tattooed man. That’s all he could do for now.
Kaiser managed to get them home in record time which was good since a flurry of snow was starting up. Prompto unlatched the sled from Kaiser then started getting the three men out and into his workshop. It seemed to take more effort to get them inside and situated in his room around the fire than it did getting them out of the aircraft. Once they were all inside, Prompto cleared his worktable and placed a blanket down before hauling the bigger man onto it. It took some maneuvering, but Prompto managed to get him up and lying on his side. He dug out his emergency bag and sat it on the table’s bench, opening it up. He took a deep breath while donning on some gloves.
“Listen big guy, I’m pretty queasy when it comes to this stuff so you better be thankful I’m doing this for you.” He said softly. “Okay let’s get started.”
It was well into the night and Prompto was stitching up the white shirt when he heard a small groan. He froze from his spot by the fire and looked around. It wasn’t from the big guy laying on the table. It sounded like it came from either the one on Prompto’s makeshift pallet of a bed or the one next to him. The one on the pallet shifted and Prompto quickly got up to pour a cup of water. As he moved closer, the man shifted again before slowly blinking his eyes open.
“Hey there,” Prompto said. The man opened his mouth to speak, but let out a cough. “Here drink some water first.” Prompto helped lift the man’s head and tipped some water into his mouth. He drunk the water greedily until it was gone then cleared his throat.
“My thanks.” His voice was raspy as he started to sit up.
“Wait, you’re hurt.” Prompto said softly, but the man sat up anyways, placing his hand over the fresh bandages wrapped around his stomach and looked around. He eyes landed on the raven haired man on the floor.
“How bad…” Ignis cleared his throat. “How bad is he?”
“Oh, your friend is okay…I think. He only had a few scrapes and a bump on his head, but he hasn’t woken up yet. But he’s been turning his sleep every so often.” The man let out a deep breath then looked past Prompto to his other companion. Prompto looked between them for a moment. “He’s going to be okay. I think. I did the best I could anyways since he had a piece of metal through his side, but it didn’t hit anything major.”
“Are you a doctor?”
Prompto scratched the back of his head. “I wouldn’t say that. The slums don’t really have doctors, we kind of just learn through trial and error to be honest, but don’t worry! I was taught how to deal with impalement and about artery bleeds so…yeah…he’s doing fine so far.”
“It seems you’re quite educated.” The man said. “You have my thanks for treating us. Would you care to tell me what happened? How you found us?”
“Sure.” Prompto nodded, and told him everything from the beginning.
“I mean, that’s all I know.” Prompto said. “I couldn’t tell how or why the ship crashed.”
“Ah, that was us. We were escaping and things got out of hand.” The man said.
Prompto nodded. “Yeah I figured that much. You guys don’t seem to be from Niflheim.”
The man tensed up. “Where exactly are we now?”
“You’re in one of the Gralean slums.” Prompto said. “Just outside of the main city.”
“I see.” He said. “Forgive me for my poor manners. My name is Ignis.”
“Oh, I’m Prompto.” He said with a smile. “So…are you guys Lucian?”
“And if we are?”
“I’d say you probably want to leave as soon as you can.” Prompto said standing up. “The people here don’t really care about the war, we’re just trying to survive. But the soldiers and MT units that come through do raids every once in a while. You don’t want to be caught during that.”
“No, I suppose we don’t.” Ignis said eyeing Prompto. “And what is the reward for turning in Lucians?”
“No reward.” Prompto said placing a pot over the fire. “And even if I did, I’d be sentenced to death for treating your wounds. So don’t worry about me turning you in. I kind of like living even if it’s in this shit hole.”
“And how often do they raid the slums?”
“Not very often. For the most part they leave us alone. They may do some because of the crash, but I doubt it since it was quite a ways from here. It was definitely closer to the city so that’s where they’ll be searching first.” Prompto stirred the pot. “I got some stew warming up if you want some.”
“That would be lovely, thank you.” Ignis said.
Prompto got Ignis his now sewn up shirt and handed over his cracked glasses that he had stashed away. He also gave Ignis another blanket to wrap up in before he started moving around first to check on the man he called Noctis stating he was merely sleeping. Then he went over to the one called Gladio to inspect his injuries. He complimented Prompto on his stitching which made him blush, but also feel a tinge green. Once the soup was heated up, Prompto scooped out a bowl as Ignis sat back on the pallet.
“It’s not the best, but it should help keep you warm.” He said with a yawn.
“Thank you.” Ignis said taking the bowl. “You should sleep. It seems you have had quite the day.”
“Yeah, that’s for sure.” Prompto said sitting near the fire before laying back with his hands under his head.
“You are sleeping there?” Ignis asked and Prompto pointed at him.
“Bed’s occupied,” Then he pointed at Gladio. “My other bed is also taken so I’ll settle here.”
“I shall move—”
“Nah its fine.” Prompto waved and turned to curl into a ball. “I don’t mind it.”
“You are truly kind.” Ignis said, but was replied with a soft snore.
When Prompto woke up, he heard hushed whispering nearby. He sat up rubbing his eye and let out a yawn. He stretched out spotting Ignis and the other one, Noctis, standing beside Gladio.
“Ah, sorry if we woke you.”
Prompto waved. “Nah, it’s probably time for me to wake up.” He stood up looking at the clock and he heard a low grunt.
“Please do not get up, Gladio.” Ignis said, but was clearly ignored.
“He’s awake.” Prompto said with a smile.
“And reckless. You can pull your stitches moving around too much.” Ignis said.
“You’re one to talk specs.” Noctis mumbled.
“I’m not the one who had a pipe sticking through me hours ago. Lay down, Gladio, now. Until we can get some potions, you are on bedrest.” Ignis stated.
“Good luck with that.” Prompto said. “Potions are only available in Zegnautus Keep or in the strongholds guarding the boarders. But I have herbal medicines.” Prompto said going to the cabinet next to the fireplace. He opened up and pulled out a small jar. “I’ve already put some on all of you, and I’ll give you some more when I change your bandages.”
“And who are you?” Gladio growled.
“This is Prompto who has been kind enough to save our lives and provide us with shelter.” Ignis said. “Do not be rude.”
Gladio scoffed with a glare. “Yeah and what’s up with all the MT limbs around here.”
They all looked at the wall where mechanical arms and legs were hanging from, the boxes piled with more parts and scrap pieces. Prompto scratched the back of his neck before walking to sit at the bench in front of the table.
“Because of the war…a lot of people have lost their limbs so I…well I use them as prosthetics. So you know, people can walk again… move again. Feel almost normal.”
Ignis grabbed one from the wall and examined it for a moment. “These all have wires sprouting from the end.”
“Yeah, to connect to the nerve plating.” Prompto said reaching behind him in a box to pull out an inch thick circular metal plate with wires on one side and flexible prongs on the other. “This one is a work in progress, but I attach this to the amputated limb’s nerves and bones. Each plating has a magitek core inside to help transfer the nerve endings to the wires in order to control movement.”
“So these aren’t just prosthetics, they’re robotic limbs.” Ignis said and Prompto nodded. “Fascinating. And you came up with this by yourself?”
“I came up with the idea, but my mentor was the one who helped me make it a reality.” Prompto said.
Noctis took them and stared for a moment. “These really work, like people have the attached to their bodies right now?”
Prompto nodded before removing his glove and raising his jacket sleeve. He fidgeted in place as their eyes all focused on his right mechanical arm that’s attached to his shoulder joint. He lifted it up and waved with his fingers.
“Holy shit that’s cool!” Noctis yelped.
“Noctis, language.” Ignis snapped.
“You have a robot arm.” Noctis said and Prompto shrugged his shoulder.
“My leg too.” Prompto said lifting his left pant leg to show the dull metal. “This one goes up to my thigh. One of my lungs is mechanical too a-and my ribs on that side had to be replaced as well.”
“You’re shitting me? You have parts inside you too?” Gladio asked, stunned and Prompto nodded.
“Like I said, the war has caused some of us to lose parts of our bodies.”
“How did you lose your arm and leg?”
“Noctis!” Ignis snapped.
“No it’s okay.” Prompto said.
“When I was about seven, there was a battle here between Niflheim and Lucis, one of the few times the war was brought here. I don’t know who did it or how it even happened, but the orphanage got hit with some sort of explosion and collapsed. I was inside of it along with a bunch of other kids. My leg had gotten trapped and I couldn’t get free by myself. It was two days before I was found and the only way to get me out was to cut my leg off, so that’s what they did.
“The orphans stayed together for the most part. Once we were bandaged up, we were forgotten again. The older kids took care of us until we were healed enough to help out as well. There were seven of us that had lost a limb, but only three of us lived. The other four died from infections.
“It was tough trying to survive with only one leg, but I managed to get around by hopping and using a pipe to lean on. One day I found this book that was full of pictures. It was a story about this guy who had a metal arm and leg with a brother in an armor suit. All I could think about was how I wished I could have a metal leg.” Prompto chuckled. “Over time I actually became obsessed with it to the point the other kids thought I was going crazy and maybe I was. Then one day, I was trying find something to eat when my mentor found me.
“He gave me food and water and we talked. I told him about my idea of having a metal leg and he brought me here, to his workshop. At the time he repaired heating units, clocks, and other little things. He had me sit down and wait. He pulled out a full body MT and kicked its leg. He told me ‘let’s see if we can bring your idea to life’. It took us three years to successfully complete the first prototype. A year after that I was walking again.”
“That’s incredible.” Noctis said. “Where’s your mentor now?”
“Died about five years ago, right after he replaced my lung.” Prompto said taping his side. “He was sick, had been sick.”
“Your… lung…” Gladio mumbled.
“Yeah, we had been building organ parts for a while, but hadn’t actually tried them until I needed it. I got stampeded by some dualhorns while on a hunt. Crushed my side. Thought I was going to die until I woke up and found myself bandaged and in pain. My mentor managed to do it. I was almost fully healed when he passed away.”
“You have dualhorns out here?” Noctis asked.
Prompto nodded. “I’ve been told lot of the beasts here have adapted to the weather so they’re a little different from Lucian ones, but yeah we do. They’re scarcer though.”
“Okay, what about your arm?” Noctis asked.
“I think that’s quite enough.” Ignis said.
“It got bitten off by Kaiser’s mom.”
“Who…is Kaiser?” Noctis asked.
“Your pet, correct?” Ignis added.
“Yep, my pet behemoth.” Prompto said with a smile.
“You have a pet behemoth?” Noctis asked with a raised eyebrow. “Now I know you’re messing with us.”
“I concur.” Ignis said. “I thought he was a type of spiracorn.”
“Nope, my behemoth, you wanna meet him?” Prompto asked.
“Oh I gotta see this.” Gladio said and moved to get off, but grunted and froze.
“Maybe not big guy.” Prompto said. “How about I introduce you after you’re all better?”
“Yeah…sounds like a plan.” Gladio grounded out slowly laying back down.
“Well I can still meet him.” Noctis said standing up.
“Perhaps another time.” Ignis said moving his hand to adjust his glasses a little high.
Noctis elbowed Ignis on the side. “Come on, Specs, I know you’re curious too.”
Ignis sighed. “Very well. Prompto, may we meet your pet?”
“Course, follow me.”
They walked out the front door into the flurry of snow causing both Ignis and Noctis to quickly rub their arms together. They trudged through the deep snow to an overhang next to the small shop. Underneath was a mound covered with a large brown blanket. They watched in awe as the mound slowly moved up and down.
“Kaiser.” Prompto sung walking up to the mound. “Wake up buddy. I got some guests that want to meet you. There was bestial groan and a loud ‘thunk’ as the mound shift and a large white tail swung around to slip under the blanket. “Come on, buddy, just a peek and I’ll let you go back to sleep.”
There was a second groan and a loud huff as the front of the blanket flew up. It wasn’t enough show Kaiser, but Noctis and Ignis managed to get a glance at its snout. Prompto pouted as he turned around.
“Sorry guys he’s not in the mood right now.” Prompto said.
Both Ignis and Noctis stood wide eyed behind him until Ignis cleared his throat. “Quite alright, we should head inside before we catch a cold.”
“Yeah, maybe he’ll actually wake up tomorrow for you guys!” Prompto shouted back at the mound only to get another huff. “Let’s go back in.”
Over the next few days Prompto worked to the side as Gladio rested on his work bench. Even though Prompto reassured Ignis that he didn’t have to do anything to help out, he still did. Ignis found it rude if he didn’t at least assisted with meals and cleaning. Noctis would often be pulled into helping out with some of the chores as well. Prompto would thank them over and over only to be waved off saying it was the least they could do for him.
Gladio was sitting up now and Prompto was removing his bandages while checking for any bleeding. After quickly and gently washing the stitched up wound, Prompto applied some healing ointment to both sides. His fingers grazed the hard muscles of Gladio’s stomach and he found himself mesmerized by just how fit this man was. Prompto glanced up finding Gladio staring down at him with a raised brow. Feeling his cheeks heating up, Prompto quickly dropped his head.
“When can we go outside? I’m so bored.” Noctis sighed sitting by the fire wrapped in a blanket. He’d long finished any sweeping he’d been ordered to do.
“It’s not safe yet.” Ignis said walking to him. “And Gladio is no condition to be fighting.”
“I’m not helpless you know.” Noctis mumbled.
“We know that.” Ignis said softly kneeling down to squeeze Noctis’s shoulder. “But we can’t risk anything right now.”
Before Noctis could respond, there was knocking at the door and all three men tensed up. Prompto stood up straight as he heard the door open and all three men shifted. Little patters got louder as the little girl came running in.
“Prompy!” She shouted running straight to him to give him a one armed hug around his leg.
“Maria.” Prompto said kneeling down. “How are you doing?”
“Sorry Prom!” A woman with dark blonde hair walked in wearing a long grey coat. “You know how she gets excited to…come here.” The lady looked around at the three Lucians.
Prompto picked up the small blond girl and sat her next to Gladio, revealing her missing left arm to them. “Hey, stay here for a moment okay.”
Prompto then grabbed the woman’s wrist and led her back outside into the snow. She pulled her hand away. “Who are those men?”
“Lelia, I need you to stay quiet about this okay.” Prompto rubbed his face. “Let’s just say they’re not from around here.”
“No shit, who are they?”
“Nobody.” Prompto snapped. “They’re nobody because you never saw them here.”
“They were hurt okay, and they needed help.” Prompto said. “You cannot tell anyone that you saw them here. Please, for me.”
Lelia rolled her eyes and sighed. “Yeah okay.”
“I promise.” She said. “Who are they Prompto?”
“I can’t tell you.” He said. “But they’re important and they can’t be caught.”
She nodded, “Okay, okay. I will not say a word, I promise.”
“Great, now we gotta talk to Maria.” Prompto said.
They walked back in spotting Ignis by the door with a glare, but he walked back with them into the room. Maria was talking to Gladio about how she was getting a new arm and how excited she was. When she saw Prompto she bounced up and down in her spot.
He smiled brightly as Ignis walked to be next to Gladio. Noctis had covered his head completely with the blanket and was facing away from them. Prompto grabbed the arm he had been working on and showed it to the young girl who wiggle in her spot.
“I’m going to take your measurements to make sure it’s the right length okay.” Prompto said pulled out a rolled up tape from his pocket. He measured her arm then the prosthetic. He then lifted her armless sleeve to show the stub that was left as took the measurements there too before writing everything down.
“Prompto, there is a problem I need to talk to you about.” Lelia whispered.
“Hey, Maria, entertain Gladio here for a minute will you?” Prompto said and stepped to the side with Lelia.
They were close enough to hear Maria chatting away with the big man, and him giving her short but kind answers. Lelia dropped her head and whispered. “You won’t be able to get the morphine.”
“Why, what happened?”
“The warehouse was raided sometime last night and the stock was taken. When I went out to trade, I saw Simi and his guys being taken into custody.”
Prompto dropped his head for a moment before looking at Maria who was tracing Gladio’s tattoo with her finger. He nodded then looked her straight in the eye. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”
“I know someone else who will have it. Bring her back in two days for her operation.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.” Prompto said with a smile and walked over to Maria. “Hey, watcha’ doin’”
Maria smiled brightly. “Looking at the bird.”
Prompto chuckled before kneeling to place his hands on her knees. “Maria, I need you to listen very carefully okay. These guys, they’re my friends, but they’re not supposed to be here.”
“Why not? Are they in trouble?”
“A little bit, but they’re good people and they need my help. I can’t let anybody find out that they’re here okay, so that means I need you to keep it a secret. Do you understand?” Prompto asked.
Maria nodded. “Secret, got it.”
Prompto raised his hand up with his pinky outstretched. “Pinky promise me you won’t tell anybody that you saw them here.”
She reached out with her pinky and curled it around his. “I promise.”
“You know not to break promises right? If you break this one both Lelia and I will get in big trouble and we’ll be taken away.”
Maria’s eyes widen and her smile dropped. “Okay.”
Prompto smiled and stood up to hug her. “Good girl.
He pulled away and Lelia picked Maria up. “Two days?”
Prompto nodded. “I’ll have it.”
She looked at Ignis and Gladio, then back to Prompto. “Be careful. Don’t do anything stupid.”
“Never!” Prompto laughed patting Maria’s head making her chuckle.
“I’m being serious,” Lelia snapped. “There’s nobody here to fix you if you get hurt.”
“I’ll be fine.” Prompto said. “Go on, before the snow gets heavy again.”
“Bye Prompy.” Maria said waving and he waved back with a smile.
Once they were out the door, Noctis lost his blanket and stood up to glare at Prompto. “Dude!”
“What if they tell somebody?” Gladio snapped.
“We should leave.” Ignis said moving to gather their clothes.
“Stop!” Prompto snapped with a glare. They all stared at him for a moment as he took a deep breath. “Lelia won’t say anything and Maria is a reclusive child. She rarely talks to people she doesn’t know.”
“She talked to me just fine.” Gladio said crossing his arms narrowing his eyes. “Happily in fact.”
Prompto scratched the back of his neck. “Yeah well you may have reminded her of her father. Same build and all. The point is they won’t say anything. It’s also not a good idea for you guys to leave right now.”
“And why is that?” Ignis asked. “What exactly where you two whispering about?”
“In order to attach the nerve plating I need morphine. I get my supply from the black market and early this morning my supplier’s place got raided by MTs. That’s what we were talking about. If MTs are already raiding then this place will be hit in the next day or two.” Prompto said dropping onto his work bench.
“Even more reason for us to leave.” Noctis said. “Gladio can you handle it?”
“Don’t you know who you’re talking to?” Gladio snorted.
“We’ll need to gather provisions. Blankets, clothes, food.” Ignis said rubbing his chin. “And a map if possible.”
Prompto stood back up. “I have to get some morphine. I’ll gather as much supplies as I can for you guys while I’m out.”
“I’ll come with you.” Ignis said. “You’ll need help carrying everything.”
“And eye to keep watch on me.” Prompto asked with a smile. Ignis frowned, but Prompto shrugged as walked to his closet he pulled a couple of jackets, handing one over to Ignis along with a scarf. Ignis slipped the jacket on and wrapped the scarf over his neck as Prompto placed a hat over his head and a black mask over his face. Prompto grabbed a holster with a gun inside and buckled it around his thigh before grabbing a belt with two knives attached and buckling it around his waist. He grabbed another knife from inside the closet and reached it out to Ignis.
“No need, I have my own.” Ignis said. Prompto shrugged, tossing the knife back into the closet and shutting it.
He walked up to Ignis and took his glasses off making him flinch.
“Sorry, but nobody here can afford glasses. We have to get you to blend in some more” Prompto said then proceeded to reach up and mess up Ignis’s hair. He flattened it down before tying the scarf around his neck. He pulled the hood over Ignis’s head and stepped back. “Yeah you barely pull it off. Lucky your hair is light.”
“We’ll start getting ready to leave.” Gladio said standing up, but grunted as he gripped his side.
“Do be careful.” Ignis said.
“Hey if you hear someone trying to break in, go out the back door and into Kaiser’s hanger. Hide under his blanket. The MTs and soldiers are too scared of him to get close.” Prompto said.
“That’s reassuring.” Gladio mumbled.
“He won’t do anything to you guys.” Prompto snorted. “He’s too lazy to care.”
Prompto and Ignis trudged through the snow, kicking at it as they walked towards the inner slums. Ignis kept an eye out at the people sitting huddled up around fire and on Prompto as well. Prompto pretended not to notice, not like he was too surprised at Ignis’s suspicions. He’d be suspicious too. The familiar sound of MTs made both of them freeze for a moment before Prompto gabbed Ignis and pulled him up against one of the decrepit buildings. Ignis grunted from the impact and watched as Prompto dropped to his knees, pulling his mask down.
“What are you doing?” Ignis snapped and Prompto tugged at his pants.
“Relax.” Prompto said while unbuckling Ignis’s pants.
“You cannot be—the hell!” Ignis yelped when Prompto buried his head in Ignis’s crotch. The stomping of feet made Ignis turned his head to the MTs walking pass. A few human soldier were with them. Prompto grabbed Ignis’s hand and guided it to his head to grab his hair. Ignis swallowed hard glancing over to see a couple of the human soldiers looking over at them. Ignis jolted his hips forward when Prompto licked him through the boxers. Prompto was moving his head up and down while grabbing Ignis’s hips to hold him still. Prompto pulled away to look up at him with flushed cheeks and wet lips. He slowly stood up staring into his eyes before placing a rough kiss on his lips. Ignis tensed up, but grabbed Prompto’s hips while watching in the corner of his eye at the soldiers starting to walk away.
Prompto kissing for a good minute before pulling back and looking around while wiping his lips.
“Sorry.” Prompto said softly with pink tinted cheeks.
“That was uncalled for.” Ignis snapped fixing his pants.
“It got them to ignore us.” Prompto said walking away. Ignis quickly buckled his pants and chased after him only to grab his arm and force him to turn around.
“Never do that again.” Ignis grounded out. Prompto merely gave a short nod before he turned around. Ignis didn’t miss his face paling or the bead of sweat going down the side of his face. Prompto cleared his throat as they started walking.
The familiar heaviness in his chest was coming back and Prompto swallowed trying to get rid of the itch in his throat, but it was in vain as he let out a hard cough into his hands. He coughed once more and quickly balled his hand into a fist to hide the black blood. He wiped his chin as he kept walking hoping Ignis didn’t see it.
Prompto picked up his pace as they came close to an alley and slipped into it. They both kept an eye on the dirty men and women sitting through there up until the end where someone was leaning against the wall, picking at their nails with a knife. The guy was bundled up so only his eyes were showing, but they cut to Prompto and Ignis as they approached. The man slipped his glove back on and straightened up, adjusting the knife in his hand.
Prompto stopped. “We’re here to trade with Phoebe.”
The guy shook his head and lowered the scarf around his face revealing his scarred mouth and nose. “You got some real balls coming around here after the stunt you pulled.”
Prompto merely shrugged placing his hand on his gun. “Did what I had to. You going to let us pass?”
The guy snorted and stepped back. “Don’t blame me when she kills you.”
“Never.” Prompto said walking forward and Ignis followed suit watching the man as they passed.
They walked into the small courtyard and then up the stairs to what looked like a church, or at least it use to be one. Ignis figured with one good kick, the whole building would fall over. They entered the front doors where people were sitting in groups working on building weapons or separating pills and other drugs into bags.
“You have some nerve walking in here.” A tall, bald woman smoking a cigarette said from a pew at the front. She stood up and Ignis noticed the shine of metal on her hand as she walked towards them with a few men holding guns right behind her.
“Phoebe, I came to collect.” Prompto said.
“Collect? After the shit show you caused the last time you paid me a visit? The only collection going on here is me collecting your balls for the problems you caused me.”
“We had a deal!” Prompto snapped.
“That was before you started a gunfight that got one of my men killed.”
“You know I was defending myself.” Prompto said. “He attacked me first.”
Phoebe shook her head. “He threw a fist and you drew your gun like a pussy.”
“I’m not going to stand here and continue to argue about what happened with you. I gave you a new hand and you still haven’t paid me.”
“I paid you with my man’s life.” Phoebe snarled, her eyes glaring daggers into Prompto’s own. “Now I’m giving you ten seconds to get out be I start shooting you and your little friend here.”
“We need to leave.” Ignis said stepping back.
Prompto took a deep breath and shouted. “Maria needs morphine for her surgery!”
“Then she can get it elsewhere.” Phoebe said.
“There is nowhere else!” Prompto cried out. “Phoebe she has lost everything just like we did. I can at least give her an arm again. Don’t you remember struggling on the streets just trying to get food? How hard it was for us? We were abandoned twice and we lost parts of our bodies. Maria doesn’t have to go through the same struggle we did.”
“You’re right. She has Lelia looking after her and all the other orphans.” Phoebe said. “None of them will go through what we did. Or maybe they will. This is a cruel place in a cruel world. Struggle is what made us stronger. A little struggle will make her stronger, too.”
“Isn’t losing both her parents and her arm enough?” Prompto said quietly, letting out a soft cough.
“She’ll either learn to live with cruelty or she’ll rot like everyone else here.” Phoebe said with a nod.
The heaviness in Prompto’s chest was worsening until he let out another cough. He covered his mouth with a shaky hand, but he didn’t lose eye contact with Phoebe. He grunted as he tried to take in a deep breath but started coughing hard. “You’re wrong…she’ll be better than us.”
“Prompto?” Ignis spoke up.
Phoebe sighed shaking her head looking away. “She’ll rot like you.”
Prompto gasped out a sharp pain went through his chest and he dropped to his knees coughing out black blood onto the floor. Ignis dropped to his knees next to him, holding his sides.
More black blood splattered across the wooden floor. Phoebe gave him a sad look and turned to one of her men, telling him to grab a bag off the shelves. Ignis rubbed Prompto’s back as his coughing fit started to settle down. When the man returned with the bag, Phoebe took it and tossed it next to the puddle of blood.
“There’s enough morphine for ten operations, or a good overdose. Use it how you like. My debt has been paid, so I don’t ever want to see your face on this side of the slums again.” Phoebe snapped and turned to walk away.
Ignis grabbed the bag and lifted Prompto up to his feet, but had to practically drag him out of the building. Prompto continued to gasp for air as they made it away from the church and out into the open area. Ignis dragged Prompto to a nearby building to have him sit down and rest for a moment. Prompto continued to wheeze, holding onto his side as Ignis kept an eye out.
“Sorry.” Prompto wheezed. “Thought I could get more from her…so that you could…get some supplies.”
“You’re sick.” Ignis said looking down at him.
“In a sense.”
“No, you’re definitely sick.”
Prompto waved his hand. “It’ll pass in a minute. Bad thing is…it takes so much out of me.”
Ignis stared at Prompto’s hand holding his side. “Does this have to do with your mechanical lung?”
Prompto smirked. “Aren’t you perceptive?” Prompto took a deep breath and finally wiped the blood from his chin. “Help me get home?”
Ignis pulled Prompto back to his feet and helped him slowly walk through the snow. Prompto swallowed hard. “Sorry, I can’t help you get your supplies tonight. If you take some of the morphine into the trading area you could probably get some supplies, but you shouldn’t do it without me there. People will con you for sure.”
“We’ll worry about that later.” Ignis said. “Let’s get you home first.”
“Sorry about earlier, too. For kissing you and shoving my face in your crotch,” Prompto laughed. “Prostitution is common here so the soldiers tend to just walk pass when they see it. The last thing they want to deal with is seeing some guys cock hanging out.”
“Yes well as uncomfortable as it was, it worked out, so I forgive you.”
“Thanks.” Prompto cough out.
When they made it back, Prompto was barely conscious and couldn’t walk. Entering the workshop, Ignis called for Noctis who came quickly but was shocked by their appearance. Ignis snapped at him to help and together that got Prompto on the pallet and covered him up. Prompto mumbled out a soft thank you before finally passing out.
When Prompto came to, it was from loud banging at the door. He rolled onto his side as the sound of the door opening caught his attention along with a curse from one of the guys. Prompto rubbed his eyes spotting Gladio moving before Lelia’s voice called out to him. He groaned forcing himself to sit up as footsteps came closer to him.
“Prompto” Lelia whimpered out kneeling next to him.
“Lelia what are you doing here?”
“Soldiers are on their way. These guys have to get out of here.”
“How soon will they be here?” Ignis asked.
“They’re right behind me, you have to leave now!” Lelia shouted only for them to hear Kaiser growling out.
“Shit, hide!” Prompto snapped getting up on unsteady feet. “Quickly!”
Ignis grabbed Noctis and went into the closet as Gladio and Lelia ran behind one of the walls to the hallway just as the front door swung open. The room was suddenly flooded with MTs, three human soldiers and a captain. Prompto swallowed hard as two of the MTs grabbed him then slammed him down onto the floor.
“Prompto Argentum you are under arrest for the illegal possession and distribution of Magitek parts.” The captain stated. Prompto grunted as his hands were cuffed behind his back. He yelped as he was forced up onto his knees. “This is your one and only chance to tell me if there is anything else in here we should be aware of before we start searching.”
“I have nothing else.” Prompto grounded out.
“Nothing? No illegal drugs? No illegal people? No…Lucian Prince?” The captain asked gripping Prompto’s face.
“There’s no one else here.” Prompto spat.
“We’ll see about that. Search the place and kill anyone you find.” The captain ordered.
Prompto’s eyes widen and he pulled at his restraints as one of the MTs walked to the closet door and reached for it.
“Captain, what do you think you are doing?” A woman shouted.
Prompto looked up seeing Aranea walk in with two of her men. All the men and MTs stopped as the captain turned around. “Commander Highwind, we were just carrying out our search as ordered.”
“Prompto Argentum is working as my informant in the slums. Anything he’s come across he has informed me of already. There are no signs of the Prince and his entourage here.” Aranea said sternly.
“We need to check every nook and cranny, as the Emperor has ordered.” The captain said glaring at her.
“This place has already been investigated by my men. I will not allow you further disregard me or my orders. Now stand down and return to the ships. I don’t need you messing things up here any further. My men and I will finish the investigation.”
“I will not repeat myself.” Aranea snapped.
“Yes, commander.” The Captain said and waved his hand for his men and units to follow.
“Biggs, Wedge, keep watch outside for me.” Aranea ordered once everyone was gone. Both men stood at attention and left the workshop closing the door behind them.
Aranea removed the cuffs binding Prompto’s hands and helped him over to the workbench so he could sit down. She walked over to the door and checked outside before walking back with her arms crossed.
“Okay, boys come on out.” She ordered, but nobody moved. “Prince Noctis I know that you’re here.”
Prompto’s head shot up just as the closet door opened with Noctis stepped out and Ignis moving in front of him. Gladio was quick to come out of hiding as well to stand between her and his friends. Lelia stepped out nervously looking between everyone.
Aranea looked right at her. “Go on home, and don’t tell anybody what happened here.”
Lelia nodded before darting out of the workshop. Aranea walked over to sit across from Prompto. “How long were you hiding them for?”
“A few days.” Prompto’s voice was rough. “How did you know?”
“Lelia told me earlier that you had some strangers here. I sent her ahead to warn you that we were coming.” Aranea said before looking at the Lucians. “Oh relax, I’m not going to take you in.”
“What do we do now?” Prompto asked.
“Now, we find a way to get you guys out of here.” Aranea said standing up. “You were lucky I came out tonight. You may not be tomorrow or the next day. The Emperor has all units looking for the prince and he has ordered for any building to be wiped clean and any person with illegal possessions to be arrested. He won’t stop until Prince Noctis is found.”
“Shit.” Noctis snapped.
“We can take Kaiser.” Prompto said. “I’ll take them to the border and sneak them across.”
Aranea nodded. “That’s probably the best way right now.”
“Uh hello, we’re right here.” Noctis snapped.
“Sorry your highness.” Aranea rolled her eyes. “You want to get back home do you not?”
“Of course I do.”
“Then you’ll do as we say. I’ll have Biggs bring you some supplies, then you can all leave.” Aranea said. “Prompto will get you to the border, but from there you’ll be on your own. I’ll get you a map to help you at least get to Tenebrae. There will be people there who can help you get home.”
“Specs?” Noctis asked.
Ignis hummed for a moment. “It may be our only shot.”
“So let’s do it.” Gladio said. “The sooner we’re out of this hell hole the better. No offense, Prompto.”
“None taken.” Prompto said standing up, but stumbled and covered his mouth to cough.
He slowly looked up at Aranea, who held an almost sad glare. “It’s gotten worse.”
Prompto gave a short nod. “Yeah.”
“What’s gotten worse?” Noctis asked.
“You didn’t tell them?” Prompto asked Ignis who shook his head. Prompto sighed. “My mechanical lung has been failing for half a year now. It’s really only a matter of time before it stops working completely.”
“Then you’ll come back with us to Insomnia.” Noctis said.
“Your highness…” Ignis said.
“No, he’s helping us.” Noctis snapped, then looked at Prompto. “We can find a way to help you out, too. Maybe even get a real lung transplanted.”
“That’s kind of you, but…”
“You should go.” Aranea said. “It’ll give you a chance at a better life.”
“But Maria, and the other people who need prosthetics—”
“Will have to learn to live without them.” Aranea said. “This maybe the only chance you have to leave this place. Take it. Nobody will blame you for it.”
Ignis reached out and took Prompto’s hand. “Come with us. You can bring your ideas to Insomnia and you can make better prototypes. Once the war is over you can come back here and finish your work.”
“I…I have to think about it.” Prompto said.
“You’ll need to decide by the time you reach the border.” Aranea said walking to the door. “Be ready to leave in an hour. Biggs will be back with everything you need. Oh, and you’ll need these,” She said turning back only to throw a green bottle to the shield, “you’ll need that.”
Gladio broke the potion grunting at his wound healing up. Aranea took her leave and Prompto sat back down.
“How long does it take to get to the border from here?” Ignis asked.
“With Kaiser, about three days.” Prompto said. “The sled will slow us down, so we’ll have to all ride on his back.”
“You should pack your things, just in case you decide to join us.” Ignis said.
Prompto nodded, but didn’t move right away. He looked around his workshop with a sigh. This may be the last time he saw this place so he wanted remember every little detail while he could.
Prompto only packed one bag of some clothes, tools, and a few pictures of his friends and mentor. Once Biggs dropped off some food, potions, and extra blankets, Prompto got Kaiser awake and moving. Ignis and Noctis both used a potion while Gladio was busy staring wide eyed for a good minute at the behemoth walking around stretching his wings out and yawning. Kaiser groaned when they all piled onto his back, but Prompto told him to stop being such a baby which earned him another groan.
“This is so cool!” Noctis shouted as Kaiser started running.
“Definitely a new experience.” Ignis grunted out and Gladio just laughed. Prompto looked at his companions and smiled bringing his mask up to cover his face.
Reaching the border was uneventful. They crossed a frozen wasteland with little acknowledgment from passing airships. They were worried at first, but realized from the height it merely looked like a behemoth running around. Something the units would avoid. When they rested, they huddled up against Kaiser’s body to avoid starting a fire. Prompto found himself sleeping peacefully leaning against the Lucian men and joining in on their banters. Prompto enjoyed the short time he’d spent with them. So when they got close to the border his decision was made.
Prompto patted Kaiser’s neck hard and he slowed to a stop as the wind blew across the flat land, but in front of them was a small mountainous ridge. Kaiser lowered so they could climb off.
“Are we there?” Noctis said with a yawn and rubbing his sore butt.
“Almost.” Prompto said scratching Kaiser’s neck. “We’ll have to continue on foot from here.”
“Joy. How far is it?”
“Just past the ridge, but we’ll have to be careful. There’s an outpost nearby.” Prompto said pulling at the straps on the saddle. Kaiser let out a groan when he felt the saddle loosen and slide off. Prompto stepped back as Kaiser swung his head around with a soft whine. Prompto patted his snout. “Listen, I have to leave with these guy and I can’t take you with me. I won’t be back for a long time, so I need you to take good care of yourself.”
Kaiser let out another whine as he lifted Prompto up on his snout making him laugh. “I’m going to miss you too, buddy. Go run free for once. Be happy, okay.”
Kaiser sat Prompto down gently and stuck a bit of his tongue out to lick Prompto’s shoulder and face. “Ugh, really?”
Kaiser let out a snort before standing up and turning to run off. Prompto watched with a smile before turning around and wiping his face with his sleeve.
“That’s some friend you go there.” Gladio said.
“Yeah, he’s the best.” Prompto said walking forward. “Let’s get moving.”
“So your decision is made? You’re coming back with us?” Noctis asked with a smile.
“I wouldn’t have sent Kaiser away if I wasn’t.” Prompto snorted. “Let’s get moving, I’m freezing my ass off.”
“Agreed.” Noctis laughed.
Prompto led them around the rocks, pointing at the outpost once they were close enough. They were quiet as they moved slowly from rock to rock until they reached the ridge. There was a narrow opening that allowed one person through at a time which meant it was a tight fight for Gladio. They tried not to laugh at his struggle to get through. Prompto lead the way and waited for them all to come out the other side where the path through the ridge opened up. From this angle they were hidden from the outpost for the moment.
“The path will lead us out of the mountain range, from there we’ll need the map.” Prompto said and pointed up the hill “You see the peak there, once we’re passed it the soldiers from the outpost won’t be able to see us.”
“But they can on the way up.” Gladio said.
“Yeah. If we move slowly from rock to rock like we did earlier then we can get there with little chance of them seeing us.” Prompto said. “But we have to be careful. They have snipers.”
“I’ll go first. Then Noct, Iggy, and Prompto.” Gladio said.
“Wait…” Prompto said, but Gladio held up his hand.
“We’ve trained for this kind of situation. Let me lead us out of here.” Gladio said and Prompto nodded.
“Our job is to get Noctis home safely.” Ignis said. “Please keep that in mind. It’s in no way a reflection of how we see you. Our duty comes before our friends.”
“I understand.” Prompto said. “Lead the way, big guy.”
“Traded one behemoth for another.” Noctis joked earning a small laugh from Prompto.
They were hushed by Ignis and glared by Gladio at the same time so they quieted down. Gladio took the lead running to the first rock then looking over at the outpost for any MTs. He waved his hand for Noctis to run, then Ignis, and finally Prompto. They continued this with each rock, Gladio watching the MT movements and openings for them to run, until they were out of shelter. They were behind the final rock, catching their breaths.
“This time is going to be tricky. We have to time it just right.” Gladio said peeking over the rock. “Noctis, wait for my signal then warp up there.”
“Yeah, okay.” Noctis said.
Gladio took a deep breath then suddenly sprinted up to the peak and slide behind one of the rocks. They waited patiently for a minute before Gladio peeked his head out and watched the outpost. He lifted his hand up and Noctis got ready, summoning a sword out of thin air catching Prompto off guard. Gladio dropped his hand and Noctis threw his sword, warping to it at the top where Gladio grabbed him and pulled him to the side. Ignis moved his body getting ready to sprint. Gladio waited a moment before giving the signal and Ignis took off. Just as he made it to the top a gun shot went off hitting Ignis in the arm. He grunted, but quickly ducked behind the rock.
Prompto looked over his shelter at the MT units all running together on the lookout. Prompto took a deep breath and started running as bullets started flying past him. He could hear Noctis yelling for him to hurry and Gladio shouting at him to run faster. He could hear the beating of his heart in head with every step he took. He was mere feet away. Almost there. He barely registered the bullet going through his chest until he suddenly dropped to his knees and his face slammed into the ground. He coughed out red blood and slowly lifted his head. Noctis was trying to get to him, but Gladio had grabbed him and was carrying him out of sight. Ignis stood there for what seemed like a century. Prompto barely caught him mouthing the words: I’m sorry.
Prompto nodded as his vision began to blur and he dropped his head. It was getting so much harder to breathe until he couldn’t get his lungs to work at all. His vision was darkening as blood slowly pooled into his line of sight. He could hear thumping in his ears, but he wasn’t sure if it was the gunshots or his own heart. He closed his eyes for a moment and opened them slowly. There was more blood, more darkness on the edge of his vision and metal boots stepping beside him. He couldn’t feel or hear anything all of a sudden. His sight dimmed into darkness.
For a moment he saw something. Green water and bubbles. There was a familiar blonde with glasses silently speaking to him as a behemoth of a man and a young black haired guy were slamming their hands on a counter with buttons and lights. He must be imagining things.
‘What a strange last dream to have’, he thought before he finally greeted the darkness once more.