Dark Force was defeated. The evil city of Lashute had been destroyed. The terrible monsters that had plagued the Alisa III had vanished and peace was restored to the gigantic worldship. Contact had been made with a similar ship, the Neo Palm, and the twin vessels continued their journey through the endless expanse of outer space.
Life was returning to normal, but some struggled in their search for what normalcy truly was. While most of the heroes who had vanquished the ultimate enemy were able to celebrate their victory and move forward, it wasn't the case for the entire team. In her more introspective moments, Kara would admit to being jealous of Prince Sean of Azura and the ease with which he seemed to settle into a routine following their final battle. Sean had lost his home and Kara had hated hers and upon meeting him, she had allowed herself the smallest bit of hope that she had found someone like her. Someone else with nowhere to go, someone else who had suffered from an indescribable emptiness, another lost soul trying to find a path through the artificial environment that was their home.
Though Sean had never been anything but kind to her, the embittered princess of Dahlia had soon learned that she had been wrong about him. For unlike her, Sean had been raised with love and compassion and a feeling of self worth. The feeling that he mattered. Despite the great losses in his short life, he had emerged a strong leader and he was able to realize that the end of one stage in his life merely meant the beginning of another.
She saw his capacity to love in the way he looked at Laya. The pretty blonde was probably a better companion for him anyway, Kara thought, as the younger sister of the legendary archer possessed her sibling's natural grace and charm and would similarly go on to greatness. As Sean's kingdom had been destroyed, she had invited him, along with his faithful android servants, to rule alongside her in Mystoke, and he had accepted. The invitation to live in Mystoke had been extended to Kara as well, but she knew that it was not the place for her.
"Home" was a foreign concept to the young warrior. The only things left on Dahlia were a father who had never loved her and an aunt who had been trapped alongside him for a millennium, and Kara had no desire to see the purple satellite or its inhabitants ever again. A small part of her almost wished it had been Dahlia that had been blown out of the sky, not Azura, but she knew there was no point in dwelling on the past and what could have been. Why she and her family had been spared while Sean's had not, however, occasionally caused pangs of guilt to tug at whatever emotional core she had left.
And so, with few places that currently sounded appealing to her, Kara began to travel throughout the domes of the Alisa III in search of...whatever it was, she hoped she would know it when she found it. After bidding farewell to her former colleagues, she set out from Mystoke to cross the icy plains of Frigidia. Following the defeat of the evil forces that had nearly destroyed the ship, the passageways between the domes had been opened up and she had several options available to her for her next destination. The barren desert of Aridia didn't sound like it would hold anything for the wayward princess, so she chose to travel west towards Elysium.
The town of Aerone was too closely tied to Dahlia for her to feel comfortable spending much time there, so she continued on to Divisia. The split kingdom was haunted with the memories of her aunt's captivity and her father's destruction; though no one would dare say a word against the fierce heroine, she still felt all eyes upon her as she moved through the area. Like it or not, she was the daughter of Lune and nothing could ever change that. Not having the patience nor the motivation to convince the Divisians that she hated her father just as much as they did and bore no ill feelings towards them, she simply moved on.
Unfortunately, Lune's reign of terror had extended into the world of Landen as well, and Kara's discomfort didn't ease in the slightest. There was no mistaking her lineage, with her lime-green hair and harsh, angry features, and she still couldn't help but feel she was a constant reminder of the pain her father had caused. Even if she hadn't been the descendant of the violent general, the fact that she was a Layan was enough for some to look upon her with suspicion, or even outright disdain. Several months of relative peace wasn't enough to eradicate centuries of hate and again, Kara was in no position to change the situation all by herself. She learned that many of the citizens of the Orakian lands still harbored resentment towards the union of Sean's grandparents, and some even felt that his father should have righted past wrongs and returned to rule Landen. Not wanting to cause the prince any more undue pain, she vowed never to tell him of what she knew and mentally stored the information deep inside before leaving that world for good.
Aquatica bored her. While the residents didn't seem to care as much about who she was and what she (or members of her family) had done, she assumed that it was due to the fact that their lives appeared to revolve around fish. Nets, boats, charts of the seas...they were all focused on just one thing. The towns even constantly smelled like fish. She learned that north of the fishing villages were the remains of what had been the Layan kingdoms of that dome, but there was nothing left but piles of rubble and the reminders that they had come along too late to be able to save everyone.
Her clockwise trip around the worldship landed the lost princess in the land of Draconia. The mossy green hills and sparkling seas were pleasant enough, not that she'd ever cared too much to revel in the beauty of her surroundings, and though the inhabitants of the dome were primarily Orakian, Lune's influence hadn't been able to reach that far across the ship and Kara didn't feel the same sense of general unease that she'd felt in the other Orakian kingdoms. The fact that Draconia was as far away as one could possibly get from Dahlia also crossed her mind more than once.
The village of Endora was small and sparsely-populated and the townspeople were perfectly content to let the newcomer keep to herself, which was precisely what she wanted. After her adventures with Sean and the others, she'd had more meseta than she knew what to do with, but she simply rented a small room above one of the local stores. While the defeat of Dark Force and its minions had allowed the Endorans, along with everyone else, to return to their normal ways, Kara was struggling with finding activities to break up the monotony of her new life. With nothing left to fight, maim, or slaughter, she was running out of ideas to occupy her time and her mind.
Three meals a day, long walks through the woods, and the sharpening of her now-useless slicers that she sometimes threw at a tree or bush to test her accuracy, became her routine. She couldn't think of a time when she'd ever been truly happy, but she couldn't say she was currently unhappy, either. When she cared enough to think about it, she wouldn't label herself as lonely, or discontent, or any other sort of negative emotion she'd heard tossed about during her life; she was simply numb.
She didn't bother much with tracking the passage of time. It could have been days, weeks, or months since her arrival in Endora when she heard muffled excerpts of an excited conversation downstairs one morning; she really didn't know. With little else to do, she quietly descended the staircase to learn what all the noise was about.
The messenger was from Techna, another town in the world of Draconia, far to the southeast of Endora. Techna was home to the descendants of the technicians who had crafted the Alisa III and though that knowledge had been lost throughout the generations, the residents of the town tried to keep an eye on the engine hidden beneath their dome that kept them speeding through space, further and further away from the home they had left thousands of years ago. The man from Techna had not brought good news: the ship was failing.
Whether or not the malfunctioning systems had anything to do with the defeat of Dark Force, no one could tell. It did seem rather unfair that so soon after being saved from imminent destruction, the Alisians again were faced with such incredible hardship, but they had prevailed once and would do so again. The lines of communication with the Neo Palm had remained open and those on the sister ship were more than willing to take on the fleeing refugees. Over the next week, plans were hurriedly made for everyone on board to move towards Techna or Aerone, where shuttles could enter and leave in order for them to make their escape. It would take a considerable amount of time for all the citizens to make the trip, due to the limited resources on both worldships, and no one knew exactly how long they had before their home became uninhabitable, but the effort had to be made. After all they had suffered, if they were going to die anyway, they were at least going to put up one last fight.
Kara hadn't accumulated many personal belongings since leaving Dahlia and there was nothing in Endora she needed to take with her. She set out to make her way towards Techna, but as she reached the outskirts of the small town, she stopped to reconsider her options. The narrow peninsula that would take her to the new bridge that led towards the shuttles was to her left, but regardless of what her plans had been or how many other people she saw traveling that path, she couldn't force herself to move in that direction. Without really knowing what she was doing, she started walking due south.
She passed several people along the way, either from the kingdom of Lensol or the adjacent domes, but though she got a strange look or several, no one bothered to ask her why she was heading in the wrong direction. Not that she would have been able to come up with a good answer, anyway. Still lost in the mental fog that had seemed to follow her around since destroying Dark Force and Lashute, she absentmindedly wandered to the southern part of Draconia without any real sense of direction. Her destination was nearly hidden from view on the far side of some jagged rocks, but she was eventually able to find the cave that led to the final passageway.
Terminus. The home of all sources of evil where no one had dared set foot, even after Sean had set the flying city ablaze in a uncharacteristic fit of uncontrolled rage that had nearly taken their lives along with those of their enemies. The tunnel from Draconia had deposited her in the eastern part of the dome, opposite from where they had entered all that time ago. She was greeted by a vast, grassy plain that was nearly uninterrupted by any stray trees and she could see a range of tall mountains far to the south. An abandoned airstrip was visible in the distance and she briefly thought of her previous flights over the misleadingly peaceful landscape, but her memories didn't linger in the foreground for long. The world of Terminus was oddly quiet and devoid of life aside from her and though she still didn't feel the much sought-after sense of belonging, it at least felt...appropriate.
She lazily strolled through the flat grounds, the swishing of her heavy boots through the grass lulling her into a state of complacency. Realizing that she had been on her feet nearly all day, she soon stopped to rest in the middle of a warm, dry field, resting her head on the small pouch she had brought with her. Inside was enough food and water to last for several days, but she didn't even know if she had several days left. It didn't matter much to her, though.
One of the many things the princess of Dahlia had had to adjust to when leaving her home of the purple satellite was the artificially-induced day and night cycles of the main domes. Allegedly, the ship was programmed to mimic the environment of the home they had left so long ago, and Kara's dark eyes had had to accommodate the concept of bright daylight and cheery sunshine, despite their lack of an actual sun. Sprawled out in the bare isolation of Terminus, she shielded her eyes with the back of her hand and was just about to drift off to sleep when a sharp crackling sound snapped her back to full consciousness.
The hissing sparks were replaced by a dull whine as the world around her grew dark. Though she didn't know exactly what time it was, she sensed that it was far too early for nightfall, and that the sky had never clouded over so rapidly before. She wondered if the other domes were experiencing something similar and then thought of the people she had passed in Draconia. As far as she knew, shuttles had been flying between the two ships for several days now; did they get to Techna in time?
After the sky had dimmed entirely, she noticed that something else was wrong: there was no sign of Dahlia above her. She couldn't remember if the purple moon had previously been visible in the far dome of Terminus or if it was just another sign of the Alisa III's inability to sustain life. As the realization of the empty sky sunk in, she thought of her father and aunt and if they had been able to escape the satellite, but then she remembered that as they hadn't cared about each other for a long time, it would be futile to start now.
She did allow two more familiar faces to float into her mind, however. Even though they still felt more like strangers than friends to her, she genuinely wished the best for Sean and Laya and hoped that they had reached the Neo Palm with time to spare. They were good people who would still go on to do good things; their location didn't matter, as they had clearly been able to adapt to change several times throughout their lives, and Kara knew that wherever they were, they would flourish. Even though she was unwavering in her decision, several selfish questions slipped out from her subconscious: Would they search for her on board the Neo Palm? Would they assume that she had arrived on the ship without incident and had disappeared like she had once before? Would they ever notice that she wasn't there?
The dome of Terminus was now so pitch black inside that Kara couldn't even see her hand in front of her face. As she remained lying on her back in the cold grass, she could hear the whistles and clangs of the machinery beneath her as it desperately struggled to keep the massive spaceship propelling towards its unknown goal it would never reach, the home they sought that had never appeared. She had never been a particularly spiritual person, but she found herself hoping for the salvation of all the people she had already helped to save once.
Defeating Dark Force had been the one significant thing she'd done with her life. Even though it made her a hero in the eyes of most, she hadn't joined Sean out of some deep sense of obligation, or moral fortitude, or even to help those weaker than herself; she'd needed to get away from Dahlia and volunteering to fight alongside the young prince had offered her the desired escape route. It hadn't been a selfless act at all, though she couldn't argue with the outcome of their final battle. But now Sean was gone, Dahlia was gone, and Terminus was about to vanish alongside them, soon becoming nothing but a distant memory that likely wouldn't last until the next generation.
Almost as if on cue, she was suddenly thrust into an eerie world of silence as the strained noises from underground abruptly stopped completely. She lay perfectly still, waiting to see what would happen next, but there was no fanfare, no big event, no other sign that the end was near. All that was left was the empty shadows and the sound of her breath through her mouth as she inhaled and exhaled.
She hadn't been able to see anything since the dome's lighting systems had shut down, but she felt a faint haze settle in around her. It didn't take her long to realize that the functions of the other systems had also ceased as she fought to force the diminishing oxygen into her lungs. As she gasped for air, she didn't feel the anxious feeling of dread that she had anticipated, but a contented acceptance of her chosen fate. She had served her purpose. She had fought the darkness once and won and she wasn't going to let it follow her around any more, prolonging her miserable existence and a life that no longer had meaning.
The empty shell of the Alisa III aimlessly floated through space, no longer powered by engines that had lasted for centuries or the hope of a people in search of a place of peace. Seven domes had gone dark, though as their inhabitants had escaped to the nearby worldship, the absence of light could not extinguish their spirits as they journeyed on. One woman had stayed behind, enveloped in the shadows, choosing not to be a symbol of all the suffering they had faced. Life would go on, new heroes would be made to replace the old, and secure in her knowledge of these simple facts, Kara closed her eyes and let herself slip away with the only home she had ever known.