The Cloud Forest. North of the CCF headquarters, it is a well-preserved biome bordering the mountain range that signals the end of the northern half of the Plateau. Cloud coverage is constant, moreso even than most of Cambria. A dense fog spills out from between the trees like the breath of an imprisoned beast behind the bars of its cell, cloying and thick.
A woman with her hair tied back stops the engine of the ATV, treading on the damp ground with purpose. A single cigarette is her sole comfort for the mission ahead. For now, they're on the outskirts, but once they're inside, it'll be far too damp to light anything. Even here, the humidity was choking, and the heat only made it worse. The woman's ponytail was matted to the back of her tank top as though it had been sealed there by glue.
But it wasn't too late for this place. For this forest. What was alive here could remain so, if only one with power could intervene.
"If you would call me a 'villain', then there is only one thing I ask of you in return."
"Show me what a 'hero' would do, with the very same power that I wield."
"I would very much like to see that."
The cigarette snapped in her fingers the moment she thought of him
. Simultaneously her benefactor and her greatest nemesis. Did he enjoy placing himself in such ridiculous positions relative to others?"Atticus Vüqar..."
Muttering his name here did nothing. The ex-mercenary nearly threw her cigarette on the ground, as she would have on any of the core planets, but she had to remind herself that this was Cambria. A planet in a delicate state of slow collapse. Even the slightest interruption of the natural order held the capacity to upset the ecosystem even further. Every change had to be calculated and deliberate. Unintended intervention had to be reduced and mitigated to the greatest possible extent.
That meant her extinguished cigarette went into one of her pockets, at least until the job here was done. 'Leave it like you found it', just like everyone gets taught when they're a kid...
Turning back to the ATV, Jane Hyder removed her fogged-over sunglasses as she discerned who had taken the ride to the forest with her. If anyone else had decided to ride in from the base, there were other transports available whenever they were ready — only the initial team would be here.
Of course, the back of the ATV held more than just people — it also contained their 'goal' for this expedition. No one would come to a planet like this just for sightseeing, anyway. But if she had the choice, she'd rather not have to explain things twice.