It wasn’t all that long before the clinking of rainfall finally fell silent.
Sylus groaned as he sat up.
“You okay?” I muttered as I did the same.
“Ugh.” He ran a hand down his face.
I patted him on the back as I began crawling out of the cave.
“Hot and moist.” I called back to him. “Just how you like it.”
“That word.” He groaned as he appeared beside me. “I hate it.”
He glared at me.
“I’m gonna go collect some water. See if you can find any crystals still on the surface. I’d like to charge our phone a bit.”
With a nod, we split up.
I wandered around until I found a particularly damp portion of dirt. Crouching down, I took out my filtration system and jammed it into the soil. I sat and waited patiently for the water level to rise within the reservoir. It wasn’t the fastest nor most efficient method of gathering soil-locked water, but it's what I had.
I managed to fill three reservoirs before the area had dried up. I probably could have gone further, but three was plenty for me and Sylus still had the jug we were lugging around. Hopefully we’d have enough to reach Stratica without any more stops.
Returning to the cave entrance, I found Sylus waiting for me with his hands in his pockets.
He shook his head.
“Ground must’ve been parched. Alright. Let’s get back on the road.”
We trudged across the ash-covered ground. The stuff was everywhere and impossible to avoid unless you managed to get into a Sanctuary. Remains of the native wildlife, that’s what it was. So much was wiped away in the blast that came from the Rift. Animals, plants, humans. It didn’t matter. In the blink of an eye most of the life on earth was purged and replaced with warped Void-afflicted versions of themselves. If you managed to survive the initial blast, you would quickly find yourself mutating in some way to survive in this new version of earth.
Sanctuaries, as the name suggested, were the only places safe from the ash and constant radiation. They were pockets of the world that remained untarnished by the Void. For the most part, anyway.
We walked on for a few more uneventful days until the peak of our destination came into view. A massive crystalline dome reached up to pierce the cloud cover. It glowed dimly in the dark of the night. It was a welcome sight even though we were still a few days out.
I turned to Sylus. His tendrils were already desiccating again. His jug had long ran out and we were running on minimal hydration. We had to reach Stratica soon.
No one knew where the Sanctuaries came from. What was known was that they were definitely not of human design. They grew up out of the earth shortly after the initial blast of the Void. Bloody conflicts raged on to determine who could enter these beacons of safety until humanity ended up divided in two. Those who managed to secure their places under the protective domes, and those who were destined to wander the wastes for the rest of their lives. Those people tended to band together in camps and settle in the wilds.
We’d worked with Wildermen before. They were incredibly hardy and self-sufficient people. They’d embraced their mutations and come to believe the Sanctuaries were some kind of trap meant to snare humanity and turn them into complacent minions of the Void. I could neither confirm nor deny this theory, but if it's what made them feel comfortable with their lots in life, who was I to tell them otherwise?
Sylus and I had no home. We were neither Wildermen nor Sanctuary citizens. We were just us and that was how we liked it. We liked being able to stay mobile and travel the world. That’s how we came to be known as spawn management mercs. We traveled around looking for problems and dealing with them. Granted, if we got involved, the problem had to have gotten outside of the locals’ ability to handle it.