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Rust-dirt expanse races beneath Ana's jumpship as it soars across the Martian desert. They drop in before the setting sun.
The Ghosts—Jinju, Bo, Naylor, and No Name—stay with the ship, keeping it level as Ana, Cogburn, Earp, and Moss-2 check weapons and leap to the observation deck of the Watcher's Spire.
Grit rasps against their helmets as engine-burn takes the jumpship to a holding pattern.
Rasp settles into eerie stillness, punctuated by exhalation.
The sights of Ana's Polaris Lance find no targets. Earp holsters a polished Vulpecula cannon, looks to Ana, and squints.
She squints back. "What are you thinking?"
"Easy. Odd," Earp grumbles, chewing the words like an acrid root.
Moss-2 peers out over the sand-sunken Complex, eyes independently scanning the ruin. "Nothing moving out there," the Warlock drones, shouldering a beaten Exitus LMG. "Good."
Ana walks past them. "I trust Earp's nose. Let's not count our blessings yet."
Cogburn cracks his Rime-plated knuckles and begins walking forward. "If there IS something to fight up here, I might as well find it now."
"If you start something, just keep it outside, Cogburn." Ana swipes her badge across a wall panel. It juts forward, spews compressed air that kicks up a tuft of orange dust, and slides into the floor revealing an unlit elevator shaft. The wall opposite of her is stamped with white lettering:
PILLORY CORE ANCHOR – SPIRE LIFT
EXECUTIVE PARAGON HARDSITE
"Seen that before?" Earp asks, reaching out and tugging on the frayed lift cabling.
"Yeah. We're in the right spot," Ana confirms.
"Follow you down…"