Storms of ash cloud the sky on a burning world that looks and feels like hell, and they remain unphased. This is just another day in their lives, working to feed their families and keep their community strong, when strange, openly hostile beings emerge from over the horizon. The battle can hardly be called such - it is more of a massacre. Innocents collapse to the ground, bleeding and screaming as strange beings push through, murder on their mind. For the Ash Walkers, this is just another part of life... But why is that? I am Koik Lakszizo, a Unathi who works on the NSS Cyberiad, and writes for our news when I am not working in the Supply department handling cargo. There have been reports in the past concerning a colony of Unathi-like beings known as Ash Walkers in Lavaland. "It is a very hostile place, Lavaland. Everything wants to kill you, unless they speak your language," Quartermaster Sakikisya says, "Weather wants to kill you, beasts want to kill, floating skulls want to kill you, too much danger, really. Living... would be like hell. Not recommended." Lavaland is, indeed, a brutal experience, but not one completely inhospitable. "Sure you can plant stuff, and you can hunt fauna for food, but I do not recommend it." The Quartermaster confirmed that while possible, it would be highly unlikely for anything born there to reach adulthood - or older. Despite this, we have curious views on the natives; "Personally, Voxxy does not like them, they are hungry for blood. Voxxy work in mining before, meet few times," the Quartermaster told me. However, the same individual said, on questioning, "Not animals, no... Would lean more towards people. I would consider peacefully coexisting with the Ash Walkers if they proved themselves trustworthy. Would be better like that, rather than worrying about them constantly."
I was curious on hearing this, and dug deeper -- I have set foot in the Lavaland base, and reached out to the miners there. "I say they are people. They make weapons, armor, communicate with each other and seem to be defensive about their planet. All the signs of a society like ours, just a little behind on times," miner Azuneinlllhelkuk Woist told me, "I would love if we could somehow work together with them. They live here, I am sure their knowledge on the fauna would help prevent needless death." Another miner, Yakahakitika, told me some more interesting details about the kindness these natives have shown us employees of NanoTrasen in the past. "They bring gifts to our bases," She told me, "Yaya, they come to bring gold and stuff. Not all of them... Some of them really bring them." For perspective, I checked with personnel outside of Mining, curious about their legal standing and their differences from the Unathi as a species. I spoke with a surgeon from Medical named Khifi, who provided some fascinating insight to Ash Walkers from the perspective of a scientist and doctor. "They is like Unathi, basically. Just faster," Khifi told me, "They have got strong legs." When asked about the size of their brains, and whether or not they may be smaller than that of a Unathi's, Khifi responded, "Not that Voxxy knows. Theys pretty smart, actually." The doctor suggested their lack of ability to communicate with us, due to their fluency in the Unathi language, may be merely a result of cultural differences.
When asked about Ash Walkers, our Internal Affairs Agent Ket Tahaunch told me, "I hope one day they can become crew members, if possible." He proceeded to say, "I'd like for them to become crew, as they're sentient and potentially profitable." Even a NanoTrasen Representative seemed welcoming of these people, NT rep. Hafnium telling me, "NanoTrasen is a pretty welcoming company, and I fully welcome this idea." But we are not the only side to this story, and that is important to recognize. I journeyed to the Lava mines, and met some of these Ash Walkers myself. My travels were extremely difficult, and I had spent many days searching fruitlessly the hellish wastes that consist of our mines. To think, this is what our miners have to put up with day in and day out -- I may just have to write another piece demanding they get a pay raise! After a while, I eventually found the Ash Walkers I needed. This was my experience with them. They vary heavily between tribes, each one with its own entirely different approach to outsiders -- I was blessed to find one that had mostly ignored us, though some of their members were in poor condition. As one collapsed before my escort Woist and I, he had only one thing to say. "I am at your mercies." Unathi culture is one that highly values honor. Even if I wanted to hurt him, it would be wrong to strike down somebody as they surrender - fortunately, I have no ill will in my heart towards the natives. I just felt pain, seeing somebody else in such horrible shape without anything available to them to provide salvation. In that moment, it honestly felt like my duty to help these people - and so, I did.
I lended my hand in treating their wounds, and one was able to speak with me while I tried to get him medical care. Usoha Olssesla was a good man, and I pray his descendants go on to bring his name the glory it deserves. "At birth, we thought ourselves mighty hunters. Dominators of the planet," he told me, upon seeing the mining base, "There are gods among us." While it was strange to hear somebody refer to us as gods, it was far from surprising - the tools we at NanoTrasen have at our disposal are beyond the imagination of those who have never seen it with their own eyes. I rushed to give him medical attention, every second pushing him closer to death as I banged on the shut airlock of the Cyberiad. The power had failed at the worst time. I knew that he was going to die, but I refused to give up hope. On the ground, weak from battle against the native monsters, Usoha spoke: "There has been a question I have wanted to ask, but found myself unable. You are the first to speak our language." It is true, not many Unathi seem to set foot on the surface of the planet, "What can we provide for you? You have saved us. We owe you, but we don't have anything worth enough to make up your kindnesses." These are honorable, noble words that I would absolutely never hear in more "civilized" life! I had no idea what to say. All I requested was their friendship, and that was something they were happy to provide. Sadly, we were powerless to save him, and his tribe solemnly took his body back to the tendril. Usoha, if we ever meet in the afterlife, I want to apologize for not being able to help you -- and, maybe, share a beer with you over some stories.