Having narrowly survived the explosion of the strange ziggurat and the subsequent collapsing of the rift, Argyle, Puck, Mason, and the Coalition troops pick themselves up and dust themselves off. The nexus has calmed down to what could conceivably be called normal behavior.
Dolan asks Puck what the hell happened, and Puck explains what he learned from the helmet. Dolan calls for a 20 minute rest before loading up and continuing onward.
Argyle confers with Puck and Mason, and they agree that while teaming up with Dolan and his crew was productive, they shouldn’t let themselves be distracted from their reason for being out here: the bugs. He concedes that it’s been a long day, and the three of them are not equipped to take out another hive on their own, so he advises that they do some recon, get a fix on its location, and then report back to the castle. He resolves to inform Dolan that they’ll be parting ways.
However, it turns out that it’s not necessary, as the Coalition troops are traveling in the direction of the hive anyway. Argyle’s happy to let them tag along at least that far. Everyone heads back to the vehicles. Sanchez is happy to see that no one got themselves killed.
Wyoming’s Glitterboy armor is loaded into a cargo pod in the back of a VTOL plane, while she and Loyal are strapped into passenger seats. This is Wyoming’s first time flying, so she has an endless stream of questions. Loyal is more used to the process, but she’s still on edge, so she doesn’t say much of anything. The pilots gun the engine, and there’s a lurch as the plane takes off.
Wyoming speaks to Loyal about all the gear she’s carrying, and advises her to choose a primary weapon, and stow the rest. When Loyal asks where, Wyoming realizes that Loyal hasn’t seen the Glitterboy yet, and says they’ll talk about it once they’re on the ground.
The plane touches down a short distance away from Valiant, so as to not spook the locals. The pilot helps them out of the harnesses, opens the hatch, and asks if they’re going to be needing a pickup, or if they’re going to make their own way back. Wyoming reminds him that her crew is out there. When the pilot realizes that they’re with Sanchez, he’s confident that they’ll be fine.
When the plane lifts off, it reveals the Glitter boy armor standing behind it. Loyal reacts immediately, drawing her rifle and growling. It’s obvious to Wyoming that she’s terrified of it. Wyoming says it’s the reason she hasn’t got any family anymore. Loyal insists that it’s the enemy. Wyoming tells her about horses, and says that the armor isn’t good or evil, it’s all down to the pilot. They come to an understanding of sorts, and they move out, with Wyoming in the Glitterboy, and Loyal scouting ahead on foot.
The crew follows the ley line south until it intersects with a river, whereupon they turn east. Shortly, they can see the activity of the swarm, and as near as Sanchez can tell, the hive Dolan mentioned is due south of Valiant. Even from this distance they can recognize the signs of an ongoing battle. Mason and Puck say they want to get a closer look, and Sanchez confirms that Dolan has informed him over the radio that they’re moving in as well. While Argyle is happy to let them all do it, he wants to warn the townsfolk at Valiant, so Mason and Puck get out of the vehicle and continue south on foot, following the Coalition jeeps, while Sanchez makes a hard left to head north to the town.
Loyal reports that she’s nearing the gate. Wyoming can hear the clicks of a Coalition radio code, and tells Loyal not to acknowledge. They move in on the town. Wyoming can see the heavy laser cannon mounted above the wall. She gets on the PA and announces her presence (not that she could have hidden anyway) in as friendly a manner as she can manage . Before long, a woman emerges, says she’s welcome, and asks if anyone else is with her. Wyoming tells Loyal she can come out.
Loyal can immediately sense that something’s wrong with Dahlia; she doesn’t smell right. Wyoming parks the Glitterboy and approaches everyone. She shakes hands with Dahlia, and introduces Loyal. When Wyoming says she’s looking for her friends, Dahlia describes Argyle, Mason, and Puck. Wyoming is relieved to hear it, but presses Dahlia on the fact that something does seem to be off, and Loyal is picking up on it. Dahlia invites them inside the saloon, and she’ll explain.
Dahlia makes introductions, drinks are served, and she gives Wyoming the full tale, taking off her hat and eyepatch in the process. She adds that very recently, however, there’s been a change. There was a psychic buzz that’s gone now.
Sanchez pulls the ATV up to the wall, and when Argyle walks in the gate, he can see the Glitterboy parked on the side. There’s a sizable crowd clustered around the bar. Argyle asks someone what’s up, and they says there’s a Glitterboy in town.
He pushes his way inside, and sees Dahlia, Wyoming, and Loyal in the center of the room. Introductions are made, and Argyle does his best to explain the events back at the nexus. The townsfolk are happy to learn that Puck took their feelings into account when deciding to shut down the device, rather than reverse the process.
Argyle offers Loyal a seat in the ATV, and Sanchez does her one better: if she’s willing to ride up top, she can man the railgun. Wyoming takes the Glitterboy, and Argyle busts out his hoverbike once they clear the treeline.
When they approach a group of buildings near the river, the first thing they notice is a grain silo which has been covered over in Xiticix chitin. This strikes everyone as very strange, and not like the Xiticix at all. The Coalition troops are nowhere to be seen, but Mason is in the thick of it. Everyone can immediately see what’s going on: There are two competing swarms. The pure strain Xiticix are the remnants of the hive that was destroyed. The ones from the grain silo hive seem partly mutated; they can see here and there a human hand, or a patch of hair, etc. It’s apparent that Mason is specifically targeting the pure strain swarm, and in fact seems to be helping the mutated swarm, which is vastly outnumbered. Puck is doing his best to be of assistance via telekinesis.
Argyle gets on the radio to let Mason know they’re here. Mason tells him to concentrate fire on the pure strain. Wyoming prepares to fire the boom gun on the silo, but Puck gets on the radio and warns her off, telling her that they’re helping the hybrids.
With the new arrivals, the odds tip decidedly in favor of the hybrids. Between Mason’s sword, Puck’s telekinesis, Argyle’s bike-mounted cannon, Wyoming’s boom gun, and Loyal’s railgun, they make short work of the pure strain swarm.
After the pure strain swarm has been routed, everything quiets down. There are only a handful of hybrids left, and while they do not speak, Puck is obviously conversing with them. Argyle confers with him, and confirms the hybrids are not a threat, and in fact are asking for help. Puck says that they just want to be left alone.
Dolan and his crew appear. Upon seeing Loyal, Hector is immediately on edge, but Dolan is a bit amused, but he does call her a runaway. Wyoming comes to Loyal’s defense, telling Dolan that she made every attempt to contact the Coalition to arrange a pickup, but that she was unsuccessful. Dolan offers to take her back, seeing as they’re down a dogboy anyway.
Wyoming tells Loyal that she meant what she said: Where Loyal goes, she’ll follow. This is enough to inspire Loyal to stand her ground and tell Dolan that she’s found a new family. Wyoming backs her up, and tells Dolan he has his answer.
Dolan reasons that it’s not part of his mission to bring Loyal in, so he leaves it be. Hector and the dogboys are not happy about it, and there’s mutterings of “traitor”, and Dolan has to raise his voice and command them to move out. He tosses a datachip to Argyle, says he might be interested in what’s on it. Then they turn and go.
Argyle asks Puck if there’s anything else they can do to help the hybrids, and he says the queen is still inside the silo. They climb up and enter the structure. As they climb down the inside, they can see computer equipment. They also notice that the place had been wired with explosives, but they are not currently armed.
Underground, they enter the queen’s chamber. She’s not as impressive as the other one, and like the rest of the hybrids, she has patches of human flesh and hair. She rears up, and in a hissing approximation of a human voice, she speaks to the crew. She asks who they are, and Wyoming says they’re the Legion. The queen expresses sorrow at the loss of much of the hive’s population. She advises the queen to connect with the people at Valiant, and they could help each other.
As the crew works on investigating the equipment, they get the video feeds working, and get the beginning of the story. Professor Bradford set up the silo as a controlled hive to experiment on the Xiticix to develop better ways to kill them. He set up the explosives as a last resort to collapse the place if the experiment ever got out of control, but the hybrids figured out how to disable the remote detonator.
The crew brings the hybrids back to Valiant, and once again introductions are made. It’s obvious that at least some of the townspeople can communicate with the hybrids. Dahlia speaks to the queen and an understanding is reached.
The crew takes their leave, and immediately heads back to the hive, and search the outbuildings. They find Bradford’s lab, but when they fire up the computer, they find it completely erased. That’s when they realize that Dolan had already been there. Argyle plays the datachip Dolan gave him, and it contains a couple of video logs from Bradford, recounting how he found a like-minded individual who was willing to help him with his research, and then a later entry where he rants that the Federation bastard ran off with one of the queens (and now we know the rest of the story).
They load up and head back to the castle.