She needed to move, she needed to move, but Alice could barely breathe. The air was like syrup – she checked the filter indicator, and it was all black. Alice sobbed. It wasn’t fair – to die here alone, where her body would stay, even after other scavengers had stripped away her survival suit for parts.

There was a crunch from in front of her, then another, and another – footsteps, getting closer. Slowly, slowly, the top of her vision turning red, Alice looked up and saw a woman.

She had dark brown hair cascading down past her shoulders, and was wearing a white dress that billowed as she walked – and that was all. No survival suit,, not even a breather mask. Alice looked down (slowly) at the woman’s feet, and saw that they were bare – and that they stood not on ash and rubble, but rather fresh, green grass.

‘Do not be afraid,’ said the woman, and she reached down and removed Alice’s helmet, and cool air flowed past Alice’s lips.

‘I’m dead,’ said Alice. ‘I’m dead, and you’re—’ Alice gasped and fell onto her hands, pressing her head against the ground in front of the woman. ‘Oh – oh, please, forgive my crimes – I know, I’m nothing, I’m shit next to you, I’m nothing—’

‘Get up,’ said the woman. Trembling, not daring to breathe this new air, Alice got to her knees. ‘Stand up,’ said the woman; slowly, Alice did as she was told.

‘I have saved your life,’ said the woman, ‘so I believe that you should listen to me: do not bow. ~Do not kneel. Not to me, not to anyone – not ever. There are not gods other than those which we make ourselves. You are a thinking, feeling human being, and that makes you the equal of anything in the universe. Now, please, tell me your name.’

‘Ah… Alice. But. If you’re not one of the Patrons, then…’

The woman smiled.

‘My name is Amelie du Pont-Chen,’ she said. ‘I fight for the liberation of humanity. Would you care to join me?’


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