Chapter 1: Prelude to a Nightmare
"This is Flight Team EG-9 to Control. We have completed the flyby. There's nothing left; I repeat, Titan Station has been completely destroyed."
"And the Marker?"
"Negative. Nothing survived this, sir. Marker Site 12 is a total loss."
"Pity. Recall all flights and return to base. The other Sites will have to pick up the pieces."
She walked down the blood-lined hallway, stepping carefully over the corpses of the security guards. A wry smile crossed her lips when she saw it. Several holoscreens were positioned before a large chair; each video had been labeled "Marker Site". She crept slowly toward the chair, touched the arm, and casually slid into it. Her thin fingers hovered over the bright keys. She had been waiting for this moment for a very long time. Suddenly, she paused. She looked over her shoulder at one of the fallen guards, a man who looked no older than twenty. She rolled her eyes and stood up, strolling over to the body and, with little effort, dismantling his RIG. "This'll be one for the history logs…" she mused to herself as she activated the device's "Video Log" module. She skipped back to the chair and gazed intently at the flashing screens.
"Nothing to do but wait…"
The barren wasteland was bathed in an eerie crimson glow. The Red Marker stood tall before Isaac Clarke, transfixed by the site of the damned artifact that he thought he had destroyed. A small figure appeared before the artifact. The outline of the figure grew sharper, and he could see the body shape belonged to that of a woman. She stood solemnly, her face shrouded under a blackened veil.
He cringed, clutching his pounding head as the Marker began to glimmer and hum. The woman stepped forward, Isaac's eyes widened as he backed away. "Where are you going, Isaac?" Nicole tilted her head in confusion as she continued to advance towards him. Slowly her features darkened, and her face turned bloody as a wicked smile formed on her lips. "It's not over between us, Isaac…you can't run forever…"
He stopped at the edge of a cliff, searching frantically for a way to get past Nicole's bloodied visage. They were only a few inches away now. She smirked at him, her words dropping to a taunting whisper. "Make…us…whole…"
Bright lights erupted from her eyes and mouth, and the environment was engulfed in a blinding flash--
Isaac's eyes shot open and he sat bolt upright, making Ellie jump back in surprise. "Jesus…! Are you all right? I saw you twitching in your sleep again."
"Uh, y-yeah, I'm fine." He groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose, the splitting headache he had followed him out of his nightmare. Ellie sat cross-legged on her sleeping bag in front of him, biting her lip before she spoke. "It was Nicole again, wasn't it?"
Isaac nodded sternly. "Yeah, it was her." Ellie looked at him sympathetically, almost embarrassed that she had asked. "Well, if you're okay…"
She stood up and made her way back toward the cockpit of the gunship. Isaac watched her leave, then slumped onto his back with a heavy groan. Since their escape from the doomed Titan Station, Isaac's restless dreams had escalated; the visions of Nicole still haunted him. He had destroyed the Marker, along with his growing dementia, so why was he still having these nightmares? He threw his arm over his eyes, trying to block out the blinding glare of the ship's artificial lighting. He had shed his now dented and bloodied Advanced RIG, and changed into some spare clothes he and Ellie had found in the ship's lockers; Isaac now wore a plain white T-shirt and baggy gray sweat pants. He felt at ease wearing normal clothes, due to the fact that moving around wasn't as much of a hassle anymore.
Exhaustion began to creep over him once more, as his eyelids began to droop…
Isaac shot up immediately, smacking his forehead on the open supply cupboard in the process. "God! Dammit…!"
"Isaac, you need to get out here now! There's another ship!"
The pain seemed to disappear as he looked up at Ellie in surprise. He got to his feet and followed her to the cockpit. She was right: there was indeed another gunship. It was considerably larger than their own. It sat idly in the bluish-purple hue. Something's not right… Isaac realized immediately.
"You don't think it's going to fire at us, do you?"
Ellie shook her head. "I doubt it; I see some lights coming from it, but it hasn't moved at all."
"Have you tried making contact?"
"I thought it would be best to have you here when I did." she flipped on the communicator and spoke into it: "This is Ellie Langford, heavy equipment pilot for the CEC. If there's anyone on that ship, please respond now."
They waited a few minutes. No response. "This is Ellie Langford, CEC pilot. Does anybody read me?" Ellie persisted, but to no avail. "Damn it!"
She cut the transmission and strode to the lockers, pulling out her Astro Suit. "Ellie," she didn't seem to hear Isaac. "Ellie, I don't think this is a good idea."
"Said the man who claims to be full of bad ideas," Ellie smirked as she pulled on the weighty suit, and placed her helmet carefully over her head. "Ellie, I'm serious. We don't know who or what is in there!"
"Who said we were both going aboard?" Ellie went to the hatch and pressed the buttons on the keypad. "You better go to a different spot; we don't want you getting sucked into the void."
"Isaac, just trust me, okay?"
He scowled at her, then made his way back to the sleeping quarters, closing off the doorway connecting to the main deck.