There was nothing more terrifying than knowing you’re being sent to your death. The worst feeling in the world were the thoughts ‘we are all about to die'. One by one, they were escorted by guards from their cells to a pod. This was the largest pod. Capable of containing up to one hundred passengers. It was designed just for this purpose. It had to have been. The council must have known about the Ark’s malformities for so long and had their scientists and engineers work nonstop to have this working at this time.
Bright blonde hair in a disheveled state suddenly halted and took a step backwards directly before they’d made it to the doors of the pod. So many others were already inside and were being strapped in their seats by a safety belt. Some of them were too petrified to put up a fight and the ones that were, were giving a light sedative.
“You going to be a problem, blondie?!” One of the guards grabbed him by the back of his shirt and another began to reveal a syringe.
Blue eyes widened and a gasp was emitted. “N-no sir! S-sorry..” Clenching his jaw, he maneuvered around the man with the needle with the help of his own guard. Then he was shoved down into a seat and removed of his temporary handcuffs. The man began securing him to the chair he was sitting in.
“If you move, it’ll be lights out for you.” The guard snapped at him and finished clicking his belt.
Armin was trembling and as he took in a deep breath, he realized his straps were too tight. This was going to be mighty uncomfortable. Then again, he was probably going to die so why did it matter. All he could do right now is think about what he did. The things that got him into this mess – this situation. This certainly wasn’t the way he wanted to see the world. Not under these circumstances. Not alone. Not without his friends. Thinking of them helped his anxiety and then he began to hear their voices.
He opened his eyes, not realizing he’d closed them to try and suppress what was going on around him. His friends, was he seeing things? Why were they here too? He desperately wanted to call out to them but couldn’t out of fear of drawing the guards over to him. So, he watched with a confused and panicked expression as his best friend, Eren, was throwing a fit and screaming that he was going to kill them all.
The girl of the two suddenly began to panic when she realized she wasn’t going to be next to the other as the row was filled. “No, please sir! I have to be with him!” She shouted and Armin began to feel sick as he watched her struggle. They began yelling at her, trying not to use any sedatives because truthfully, they didn’t want to waste any supplies on what might be a worthless journey anyway. What if they didn’t even make it there? That’s what Armin was worried about.
Forcing Mikasa into a seat they explained, “Look, you’re all going to the same place anyway. Give it a rest, miss thing.” She looked over her shoulder to see what they were doing with him, but she lost sight. It was a good thing too that she didn’t see them sedate Eren just in case it triggered her. She might have got one as well.
“If any of you take off your restraints think about how hard you’ll hit once you land!” The seemingly commander of the operation stated through the microphone. The guards began leaving and there was a lot of noise like something was powering up. The man continued, “You have all been given a second chance. Think of yourself as humanity’s last hope. I wish you the best of luck.” There was some static and his voice was gone.
Suddenly, there was a darkness like no other. Was he never going to see the ocean with his own eyes? Sure, this was the absolute best chance he was going to get but he couldn’t escape his negative thoughts. Feeling overwhelmed, he pinched his eyes closed and a tear ran down his cheek. His chest hurt from worry and he felt like vomiting. But in his last moments, could he please only have memories of his friends. His best friends. The pod began to shake and what was one tear was now several. Their descent proved to be rougher and the violent shaking had Armin blacking out as their ride entered Earth’s atmosphere for the first time in 100 years.
One hundred years. Yes, that’s right. It’s been a hundred years since a nuclear apocalypse corrupted Earth, leaving the planet simmering in radiation. There had been preparations before the bombs went off. The Ark, a massive spaceship that was made up of twelve separate space station districts, held the survivors. The last of mankind. The reason for this operation? The Ark was dying. It no longer had the materials to sustain life. They would run out of oxygen in less than a year. That’s why this task was crucial. If Earth was inhabitable again, humanity had a chance at surviving.
However, it was unlikely they would survive. That was the last thing Armin remembered before he suddenly heard a ringing in his ears. He parted his eyes ever so slightly at the voices of his fellow passengers. Commotion is more of what it was. Shouts of confusion and screams of terror became louder as he came to. He must have passed out at some point if he was waking up. Oh, he was waking up. Reality hit him hard as he realized that he was alive. It seemed like most of them were. A few of the passengers had already untangled themselves from their straps and were helping others get free. Others would frantically shake their friends that weren’t moving. Those that had irresponsibly taken their safety harness off from not caring or out of panic. Probably a dozen had passed.
As his eyes saw the blood he shuddered and began to get out of his seat, trembling. Although his knees gave, and he fell on his hands. He sat back for a moment and held his head, taking deep breaths. It wasn’t exactly a smooth landing and headaches were probably expected from the lot. His eyes had been pinched for a moment as he recuperated and as he reopened them, he noticed a very peculiar thing. Eye floaters. His gaze lifted to one of the circular windows and he gathered the minimum amount of strength needed to stand.
The light was so bright. He stepped towards it, bumping into a few people that were in the midst of all the talking and crying that was taking place. As he peered outside, he saw scenery he never thought he’d see. Scenery that he didn’t think existed anymore. “I… I don’t understand.” He muttered under his breath. The world was green. It was more like he’d expected a burning world. Darkness and fire. He was absolutely mesmerized, that is, until he remembered his friends. He turned towards where he remembered them being and saw Mikasa. She was awake but there was something wrong.
“Eren! Can you hear me? Wake up!” She yelled at him from down the row. Her safety belt was jammed, preventing her from reaching Eren. Her gaze was fixated on her binds as she tried desperately to release herself. Eventually, tears started to form out of frustration. When another pair of hands reached down to assist her, she looked up to meet her blonde friend’s eyes. “Armin. Oh my god. Are you alright? I’m so sorry we couldn’t communicate with you during…” Her voice trailed off.
He smiled a bit as he helped her get untangled. “Don’t worry about that. I’m okay. Let’s check on Eren first.” He meant basically before they discuss anything else, like how and why they were also aboard the pod. They pushed their way through the frantic crowd. Armin reached to feel for a pulse while Mikasa was preoccupied with Eren’s chair. “Eren, hey, can you open your eyes?” Mikasa cradled Eren’s hand with both of hers while she let Armin do the talking. “And no, you’re not dead. We made it. We actually made it.” It would be normal if the other were drowsy coming out of a tranquilizer. Armin hoped he was listening, and he lowered his voice, getting a little closer to him and Mikasa. “But we aren’t safe yet. No one has tried to open the doors. I know we can’t stay in here forever but what if the air is toxic?” That’s what he was worried about, but he also had a ray of hope because of how beautiful things appeared on the other side of the glass. If plants were growing, then perhaps things were okay.
Eren slowly opened his eyes, blinking several times and trying to get an understanding of what Armin was saying. “Armin? Mikasa? What happened? Where’s…” He paused as he recalled what had happened prior to being forced onto the pod with the others. That’s right, they were forced. The small mistakes that had been made upon the Ark is what landed them here. Well, the three of them had petty mistakes made. He couldn’t speak for the others. Now they were here, and they must deal with the situation. “We’re on Earth?” He looked in Armin’s direction and received a single nod from him. “Then lets get out of here.” He said with an exhale.
Mikasa was relieved when Eren started to come to and became more aware of their situation. “Easy.” She said as the other hadn’t acquired his balance yet when he began to stand, her hands lending him support. Words couldn’t describe how much she worried about him. Even more so now that they were on new territory – a planet. If they made it out of this pod alive, who knew what kinds of horrors were lurking in the wilderness or what remained of this world.
People were starting to become antsy the longer they were inside the pod. It spread to some of the other passengers. Armin knew they were in trouble. If order wasn’t kept, chaos would erupt, and it could put them all at risk. He gasped and leapt up from where he was knelt, but it was like a flood of people that crowded around the exit where the blinding sunlight poured in. Someone opened the door to the pod. Some of them were more cautious than others. Would it burn their skin? They exchanged glances and whispers while others watched the young woman who gambled their lives on being able to breathe, run around outside. She hadn’t started suffocating and didn’t seem to have any blistering form on her skin from what everyone could tell. She’d be screaming in pain most likely if that were happening.
Armin froze in fear. Now they were here and what were they supposed to do? He hadn’t even realized he’d been holding his breath until his lungs forced him to causing him to shudder and pant for a few seconds. He held out his arms and lowered his gaze as if he were waiting for his skin to start melting right off his bones. His heartbeat pounded against his chest and he had spaced out until he heard someone scream. He jerked his head up to look that direction, but it ended up being nothing. Some of the other passengers were roughhousing in front of the pod, dirt and dead leaves that the pod had burnt was being kicked up and flung everywhere. It was as if they were celebrating. That thought had Armin feeling relieved because maybe they were going to be okay and live. Only, what was their objective now?
A subtle smile curved at the blonde’s lips as he calmed down. Then he turned to Eren and gave him a single nod. “Although, there’s something I want to look at before leaving.” He looked over his shoulder at a panel and a wide, cracked screen that was by the open door. “We hit really hard, but I want to see for myself that we have no way to communicate with the Ark. Just to confirm that it’s unfixable.” Because he was already assuming by the looks of things. “The thing is, I heard a lot of things while I was sitting in my cell. One of which that when we landed – if we landed, we were supposed to have communication access to the Ark. They were…” He swallowed nervously. “Going to be giving us instructions on where to go. What I heard was, there was a government facility that was built to withstand bombs and explosions. We were supposed to be airdropped within so many miles of it. Who knows where we really ended up though or if any of the buildings like that still exist?” Taking a deep breath, he walked over to the panel and began lifting the cover up. “Why don’t you both take a look around outside and I’ll be there shortly. This shouldn’t take long. It will either work or it won’t.” Sparks sprinkled out of the machine as Armin pulled the cover off and dropped it to the side.
Mikasa’s face wore a bit of a surprised expression. She was trying to take in what Armin had just explained but it was more than a little confusing and terrifying. Because now, what were they to do if they had no plan and nowhere to go? Would they die here anyway? She clenched her jaw in thought and continued to support Eren until he moved out of her reach like he would usually do at some point. They were not dying here today or tomorrow. She was determined to keep both Eren and Armin safe. Her whole life dedicated specifically to Eren. He was special beyond anything else to her.
Eren’s eyes were wide with worry. If what Armin was saying is true, that means that the Ark really did expect them to survive and even had a thought-out plan for them. He didn’t shake Mikasa off just yet and accepted her support since he wasn’t feeling too well right then. “No.” He said to Armin, now stepping forward with Mikasa and walking towards the blonde. “We’re going to experience it together. The first look upon Earth.” He smiled calmly to his best friend, resulting in the other returning a friendly smile.
“Alright then, give me a second.” Armin tried multiple ways to boot up the system, but it seemed to be a negative. Even he only had limited knowledge of this kind of technology. He looked back at the other two and shrugged. “No good. Looks like we really are on our own. At least for now. I guess it’s possible they could find another way to communicate with us but that would probably require us to stay here and I’m not sure how long we can wait without any food or water.”
Eren made a little growling sound. “Who cares?”
“Eren?” Armin questioned.
He held out his wrist to remind both Armin and Mikasa. “We still are not free. It’s bullshit. After everything they’ve done…” He was getting angry quickly and Mikasa was showing her usual concern.
“Calm down. Don’t waste your energy thinking about them.” She tried to get to him.
“I can’t.” Eren replied, clenching his fists. “You didn’t see it, Mikasa.” His eyes filled with tears. “They… they floated her… right in front of me.”
Mikasa’s eyes began to water a bit and she exhaled a shaky breath. Armin’s mouth was parted but this was the first time he’d heard since his own arrest and it started to make since why Eren and Mikasa were here too. His assumption would be that Eren's mother, Carla Yeager, was floated and it set Eren and Mikasa off. Security had no other choice but to arrest them in order to get them under control. What had Mrs. Yeager done to deserve be murdered like that? And why didn’t Eren’s father stop it? He could have, right? He was a council member of the Ark.
“I’m so sorry.” Armin said and put a comforting hand on either one of their shoulders.
Eren sniffled miserably and rubbed at his eyes. “I saw my dad before I was taken away.” He reached into his shirt to reveal a key on a chain that hung around his neck. “He slipped this into my hands quickly.” They had been bound at the time so all he could do was clutch the item in his fists. “It’s the last thing I have from him but…” He turned the key at an angle.
Armin smiled when he saw it. “It’s beautiful.” There was Carla Yeager’s name engraved on it.
“Still,” Eren put the key back in his shirt. “He didn’t seem like a man that just lost his wife and was about to lose his son.” His brows furrowed. “Something is off about this whole thing. And I will find out what it is.” He then grabbed Mikasa’s hand and Armin’s hand with each of his own. “We’ll figure it out together.” Turning, he didn’t give them much of a say, not that they would reject the idea of investigating into this matter further. For now, it was time to see what Earth looked like. Their very first time. Humanity’s very first time, in one hundred years.
The others that had survived the landing were exploring the nearby territory, congregating in groups, and the rest were mourning their fallen comrades. As far as they could tell, everyone was fine as far as not being affected by the radiation went. The trio held hands tightly as they stepped to the edge of the platform that had extended out like a ramp when the door had opened. Everything was so bright at first, they had to close their eyes and then squint until they adjusted to the light. Eren was in disbelief. Mikasa and Armin stood there speechless as they gazed at the scenery. How was this possible? Armin extended his hand outward and touched the sunlight. It was the most soothing warmth he’d ever felt. Mikasa and Eren followed his lead by also reaching for the sun. The trees swayed in the distance and the breeze caught their clothes and hair. They were smiling as it felt nice. “Incredible.” The blonde whispered. “I never thought I would see it or feel it.”
“Well, what are you waiting for?” Eren smirked at them before pushing Mikasa a little bit and then jumped down onto the Earth’s soil sprinting away from them, begging to be chased. It was an irresistible opportunity as Armin and Mikasa exchanged amused glances before jumping down as well and chasing their friend across the meadow. Each breath they took had never been so clear and with each step, the stretch of their legs, this is what freedom should feel like. No, this was their freedom. The world was theirs now, as they knew it. Unfortunately, the Ark passengers had yet to realize that while the Earth was beautiful, it also carried a curse give by the nuclear apocalypse. Things were not at all as they seemed.