No mystery in the Universe

The cold fusion reactor that alimented the shield was one of the most advanced piece of technology the military possessed. Assembled in a joint effort by Crey Industries and the PCU advanced research lab, only two prototypes had been built. One was still in use at the university, the other one had been on load to the military, to provide enough energy to supply the force field generators of Firebase Zulu. A team of military engineers specially trained to maintain and upkeep the reactor, had been doing their very best to repair the main wiring board, which had shown signs of wear and tear recently. The trick was that the reactor couldn't be brought offline for the duration of the work, and one false move meant certain death.

"Damned thing, the flow inverters need to be replaced, we're going to have to reroute the main power coupling." Chief engineer Stoker muttered

"All right, I'll go get the wiring ready, do we need anything else?" Replied another engineer, while walking towards the door leading outside of the reactor room. The building which housed it was a rectangle, non-descript building located to the gateway leading inside the shard. The reactor itself, wasn't all that big, in fact, it was very compact for the energy output it provided.

"Yeah, bring some lunch, we're going to be here a while, and warn the staff sergeant that the shield might flicker a bit today." Answered Stoker to his friend.

"He's going to have a fit if I tell him that. Remember last time we had to inform him that we needed to bring the shield offline?" The other engineer had opened the door leading to the ante-chamber, where a security officer was stationed. He signed the manifest, and headed out into the base, to gather the supplies and tools needed.

"Willy, you can go ahead and clean it up now, but if they order you to leave, you grab your mop and bucket, and get out of there. I wouldn't want to have to fill the paperwork related to you frying like bacon because the floors had to be cleaned." Told the security officer to a private that had been waiting for authorisation to enter the reactor room, and clean the floors. Willy was slow; he had been since the war. He was one of the few survivors of the last battle, and as such, had been kept around more out of respect, than usefulness. Some said that he had been a good friend to General Hammond before his injuries, and that was why he had been permitted to remain on the base grounds. No matter, he was no trouble to anyone, most of the time, and did participate, in his own way, to the upkeep of the military base.

Willy nodded to the guard and pushed his rolling bucket inside the reactor room. Chief engineer Stoker saw him enter, and nodded to him in recognition. He was now lying on his side, uncovering the main power supply cable, located under the reactor. Both hands busy, beads of sweat of his forehands, Stoker didn't like the idea of so much energy exposed. But the wiring had to be changed, at least partly, and since no powering down was allowed, that meant going at it the long way. This was going to be a tedious day.

Chief engineer Stoker worked on in silence, the humming of the reactor covering the muttered mumbling of choice words, while Willy shuffled his mop about, making the floor sparkling clean. Time went by, with both of them busy at their task, absorbed in their duties. Monkey wrench grinding on one side, soggy motions of a wet mop on the other. Willy wasn't allowed to go near the reactor, but he knew exactly to until when on the floor he had to clean, knew the limit for safety. Every time he cleaned this room, he felt nervous that the humming machine would blow up and that he would hurt again.

Looking at his mop, he decided it was time for a rinsing. Heading towards his bucket to rinse it, he plunged it in the soapy water, carefully watching not to spill water on the floor. He took pride in the fact that he fulfilled his duties well.

The other engineer had made his way back to the reactor building after having placed the order for the parts they would need. People from supplies would bring them in a few minutes. He signed the manifest once more, while nodding to the security chief on duty, and headed for the door leading inside the reactor room.

He opened it on Willy, hitting him in the back, which unbalanced the veteran. Willy tried to maintain his balanced, which made look like a drunken man for a second. Unable to prevent it, his left foot landed square in the bucket, splashing water around him. Trying to pry his foot out, his right one slipped on the soapy water that fell on the ground. Willy flapped his arms, like any man attempting to remain up right on an ice skating rink. But nothing to it, he fell backwards on the floor, mop flying in the air, bucket spilling on the floor, water running in all directions.

"Damn Willy, sorry about that, didn't know you were there." Said the engineer who was reaching down to help Willy back up. It took a few tries to have him upright again.

"It's okie, sir, was my fault, my fault." Replied Willy who was looking at the mess the accident had made on the floor. He bent over to grab so he could grab his mop and soak up the water. He looked in the direction of the reactor, and noticed that the liquid was gently rolling towards the open hatch, where the Chief was bent into, busy with his work. The humming of the machine must've covered the sounds of the commotion, and Stoker hadn't seen or noticed the coming danger.

"Stoker, get out of there!" Screamed the engineer while pushing Willy out of his way and running towards the chief engineer. Open wires and water was not a good mix, in any dimensions.

"Oooooh shinny." Spoke Willy, right before the cold fusion reactor exploded and killed all the occupants in the building. From the outside, the structure blew up in all directions, sending broken bricks flying in all directions, breaking windows, vehicles and people without regard. From the control tower, they could see the blue white energy flame that had erupted high in the sky.

Then, the shield went offline...

The base came alive with sirens and screamed orders...

The Rulaaru watcher left the area, moved back into the shard...

Metal Core came here at times, especially when his thoughts were unclear and troubled, and since the arrival of Voyager in their midst, he felt restless and angry. In the last few days, and with the caring of Jade Rade, the old mutant had gotten back on his feet again and was free to walk around, albeit assisted by Lil Smoke or Jaden. The arch-villain and him had kept a good distance from each other and limited their conversation to single word sentences.

He was looking down on the ground, at the assemblage of rocks that composed Windsor's cairn, and wondered what she had seen in her vision back then, that had led her to believe that hope would be coming for them in the shape of a falling star. Voyager was, at one point, the most wanted man in Paragon City, even after he had been outcast here.

Shaking his head, Metal Core cursed at Windsorís name silently. She must have known, she must have seen it then, that it would be him. She must've known, and had decided to tell them that hope came in many shapes and forms, and that acceptance was the key to their freedom. But she had also warned of a great price to pay in exchange for that liberty, never saying what that price would be. And he was worried about that, worried that some of the outcasts would suffer greatly by helping a known and wanted criminal.

He bent down, and started to replace loose rocks on the cairn, up keeping it once more, like he did every time he came here. He missed her greatly, missed her laughter and impromptu comments. She had been the force that had held them together, and right now he could use some of it. He stood back up, looked ahead in the empty orange sky, deep into the void and sighed. No point in hoping in anything anymore, they were all going to die here, and no prophecy in the world would change that. He turned around and started to walk back towards the cave where they all resided. While behind him, in the orange sky, a lone Rulaaru watcher was flying back towards the Chantry with the one information that the host had been waiting for, for almost a year...
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