John stands before the mighty stone door, and looks up at its aged surface, at the ancient crest of the ancient land upon it.  His palms sweat as they grip his rifle, so heavily augmented it’s likely transcended all words that currently exist to define firearms.

“Who are you?” the boy speaks to the voice on the other end of his headset, a voice which has been his guide and friend for months that have felt like years.

The voice on the other end crackles to life, its timbre grim and weary.  “You don’t want to know who I am, John.”

John groans angrily.  It’s a response he’s heard a hundred times if he’s heard it once, and in this hour, in this moment, he refuses to put up with it for a hundred-and-first.

“Yes I do!  Gosh dang-darn-heck it all, yes I freakin’ do!  You start talkin’ to me out of nowhere, give me all these great hints, help me survive and stuff, and I don’t even know your name!  The least you can do before I go in there is tell me who you are, for the love of hokey!”

The radio goes quiet as John waits for an answer he assumes more and more won’t come as the seconds pass; precious seconds he can’t afford to be wasting for much longer.  His little stunt with the wyverns even now are only stalling out his would-be “allies” for as long as it takes them to get through the first gate and start attempting to transmogrify him into a “superior form” again.  The only way out is in, now, and his only consolation is a mysterious mentor who “doesn’t want him to fail like I failed.”

“I…” the mentor suddenly replies sorrowfully, causing John to stand upright again.  “I…  I was you.  Was you, long ago.  Too long ago…  It all went wrong, John.  I didn’t have someone to stop me like you did.  I gave in; I let them transform me.  If you could see me, John…  I’m only two years older that you are now, John, and you wouldn’t recognize a thing about me anymore.  You’ve heard them talk about it, John; they say it’s supposed to save us from losing the war.  But that’s why I had to find you, no matter what it took, no matter how many laws of time I had to break to get there.”

“We already lost the war, John,” this John from the future tells him forcefully.  “We lost our humanity; we stopped being ‘we’, John!  There was no ‘we’ left to fight the war.  Oh, the people ‘we’ became won all right, but what did it matter?  We’d sold everything we were fighting to protect in order to win.  There was no one left to remind us why we’d even fought the war in the first place.”

Outside, John can hear the screeches of the wyverns approaching; his grace period is up.  Dashing to the stone door, he places a hand on the hinge like the Future John had told him and pushes down on the stone pin, opening a small tunnel off to the side.  The tunnel is blacker than pitch, but by this point, he’s seen worse.

“So then…  What am I supposed to do?” John asks, taking one last look over his shoulder.

The answer never comes.

{I just started going from nowhere and seeing where it took me.}


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