In the morning, Kris woke after the others feeling fully refreshed and revitalized. She exited her tent and found all of the other tents already packed up and the fire pit covered with leaves, tree branches and green grass.
"Morning," Tanya said cheerily, waving at Kris as she stood up and stretched.
"Good morning. Are we ready to move out?" Kris asked, feeling her spine crack pleasantly.
"Yep. As soon as your tent is packed up, we're moving," Rocky reported, handing a sack of food to Kris. Kris, who was starving, dug out some of the fruit, the smoked meat, a piece of cheese (not her favorite) and broke off a large chunk of bread. She closed the pack back up and slung it over her back.
"How are we doing on our provisions?" she asked.
"Pretty well considering how long we've been out here," Tommy replied. "We've still got more than half of what we started out with."
"We should probably have a big breakfast and a big meal at lunch or just before we hit The Evil's headquarters," Kris said. "We don't want to be drained just after we've gotten inside enemy lines."
"It's a good idea," Rocky said, coming up behind his sister. He called the others over, and together they managed to empty out one of the large sacks. Everything was distributed evenly and they all ate in a pensive silence, thinking about the battle that was sure to come.
After breakfast, the teens packed up the tents and the empty sack into more sacks, then started on their way once more. Everything was quiet, if you didn't count the animals and birds that rustled through the trees, just out of sight. Rocky and Kris, who were at the front of the group, both carried knives and ropes in case they met up with any minions from The Evil prematurely. Fortunately, they didn't.
Suddenly, Kris tensed up and stopped dead in her tracks. Tanya almost ran into her from behind. Kris crouched low and didn't move a muscle.
"Kris, what's wrong?" Tanya asked.
"Listen," Kris said in a whisper barely audible to those around her. They all did, but it seemed in vain.
"I don't hear anything," Kat said.
"I do," Rocky said, mimicking Kris's position. "Everybody get ready. They're up ahead." The others didn't have to ask to whom Rocky was referring; they knew. They tensed as well, although none of them heard what Kris and Rocky apparently did. They started forwards again, though at a much slower pace and now they were being careful not to step on any stray branches or twigs that might give away their position. Up ahead, there was a thick clump of bushes. Beyond those, there was a clearing that Kris and Rocky knew well, though they weren't quite sure why exactly that was. As they approached, the siblings dropped their packs on the ground silently and hid them under some leaves; the others did the same with their own packs and the tents.
By the time they were finished, Rocky and Kris had already crept up and were crouched behind the bushes, peering through into the clearing beyond. Tommy, Jason, Adam, Tanya and Kat knelt beside their friends and peered through the buses with them. They knew what they were looking at without having to ask, although they were quite different from what the teens had expected.
"They" were people, obvious natives to the planet. The people were all of the same race, that much was obvious. There were males and females; obviously The Evil had no problems sending anybody they needed into battle. The males all had hair cut close to their scalps and were dressed in black and dark green form-fitting suits that allowed them to blend in with their surroundings in the jungle. They were assorted hair colours; black, brown, blondes although fewer of those than any since blonde hair stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the greens and earth tones of the jungle. The females also had hair of the same colours, but theirs was allowed to be long, but it was braided or held back in some other manner. They wore the same form-fitting suits as their male counterparts. Both sexes looked equally threatening.
They were doing what looked like training exercises on each other using swords, ropes, knives and some were locked in hand-to-hand combat with one another. They were good; even the rangers knew that it would be a challenge defeating these enemies.
Rocky silently held up his hand and counted down from five without ever saying a word. When he had folded all of his fingers into a fist, Kris leapt up from his hiding place at the exact same instant as Rocky and the others, belatedly. Then the seven of them charged into the fray, taking as many of The Evil down initially as they could. Behind the bushes, Tommy had counted about twenty of the enemy in the clearing, and he didn't know if there was anybody else hiding the in surrounding jungle foliage. He didn't have time to find out as he and the others were attacked in short order.
These enemies weren't like the cogs was the first conclusion they all drew after several seconds in battle. These guys played for keeps. They used swords that sliced through the air with ease, ropes and their bare hands to try to destroy the seven teens with a ferocity none of them except Kris and Rocky were used to, and even their experience was extremely limited in their current state.
"I know how much you all despise it, and I do too, but don't be afraid to draw blood," Kris called over the sounds of fighting. With that, she drew her knife and she and her enemy circled one another, oblivious to what was happening around them. Her enemy, a female with long black hair and narrow black eyes, drew her own sword and lunged at Kris. Everything seemed to go in slow motion as the others stopped fighting to watch; their enemies doing the same to see what kind of force they would be up against.
Kris and her opponent stood face-to-face two meters apart, each brandishing a sharp knife. Come on, come and get me, Kris thought, not taking her eye off her opponent for a second. Eventually, her opponent got tired of waiting and lunged at Kris, slashing the air with her sword. Fortunately, that was all she ended up slashing since Kris rolled out of the way and came up behind her foe. Kris took the enemy's disorientation to full advantage, and swung the knife down as hard as she could. The expression on her opponent's face was one nobody would ever forget. Eyes and mouth wide open, the head fell to the ground and was joined shortly thereafter by the body. Her opponent never felt a thing.
"Kris, you didn't have to do that!" Tanya exclaimed, horrified as a pool of blood collected around the body and the severed neck.
"Yes I did, Tanya. Get used to it because this is the only way to get rid of these guys," Kris said firmly, her voice as hard as stone. But then, that was Kakana speaking. Inside, Kris's own self was screaming for the killing to stop.
"It can't be the only way," Adam said, shaking his head.
"The only other way would be to take their power stones," Rocky said, going to stand beside his sister. Kris was shaking like a leaf, unable to believe what her body, what she had just done to another living creature.
"Power stones?" Tommy asked, oblivious to Kris's anguish. Rocky moved over to the corpse, nudged it until it laid on its back with his toe and indicated a shiny stone that gleamed in the sunlight.
"That stone is the source of their life force. If you take it out of their bodies, you destroy them. It's just as painless, and just as quick," he explained.
"Then let's go. We don't have much time left," Jason said. The others nodded and went back into battle, this time with a sense of purpose. All of them except Kris, who was left alone to stand in the middle of the clearing.
"I can't do this," she whispered to herself. "I can't kill them. I can't...it's wrong...I can't..." She kept mumbling the same things over and over to herself, standing stock still, unaware that soon the hunter was about to become the prey.
One of The Evil's minions, a male this time, was silently sneaking up behind Kris, having realized that she was in shock. Kris never noticed a thing. She kept staring down at her feet, and she noticed that her black shoes had a drop of blood on them. This is insane! her mind screamed. The enemy was almost upon Kris. Brandishing a sword that glinted in the light from the planet's sun, he raised it above his head and grinned at the thought of delivering the final blow to this young warrior who had killed one of his kind.
Rocky, who had been busy dealing with two of The Evil's loyal subjects, hadn't really had the time to take in the situations of the others.
"These'll look good in my rock garden," Rocky said, ripping the stones from their places on the bodies of their hosts. The stones were embedded just below the collarbone on every single soldier from The Evil. The stones drew their power from the energy waves that flew through the air, emanating from The Evil's headquarters. Nothing was able to block the waves, so The Evil's soldiers lived on until their stone was pulled from them. When that happened, their hands flew up to the now-empty circle below their necks, their let out a small scream and collapsed to the ground, lifeless. That was exactly what the two Rocky had been fighting did now. The entire process of death took less than three seconds. Now, Rocky stood, still in a defensive pose, and looked around the clearing. He saw that Tommy, Jason and Tanya were holding their own while Adam and Kat were busy beating down four soldiers together. Where's Kris? Rocky asked himself, looking around. He saw her standing exactly where he had left her in the middle of the clearing, but she wasn't alone. Kris was standing, head bent down, staring at the grass and her lips were moving but no sound reached Rocky's ears. Standing behind her was a soldier, sword raised to lop Kris's head off her shoulders. It was apparent that Kris hadn't noticed the enemy behind her, for she did nothing as the sword was raised.
"Kris!" Rocky shouted even as he took off towards her as fast as his legs would carry him. Kris didn't react at all; she just stood there. The soldier was also unaware of Rocky's approach. "Kris, move it!" No response, not even a blink. Rocky was almost to Kris. If he could only reach her in time...
As the soldier brought the sword down, Rocky threw himself at Kris, effectively knocking her out of the way of the gleaming metal is it sliced downwards. The only resistance it met was the flesh of Rocky's upper arm. Rocky cried out in pain, bringing Tanya and Jason to his side immediately. Kris laid under her brother's body, now aware of her surroundings but afraid to move her brother; she didn't want to injure him further. Rocky clutched his right arm in pain, squeezing his eyes shut and trying not too moan loudly. Tanya quickly ripped off a strip from her yellow shirt and tied it around Rocky's wound, but it was quickly soaked with blood. Tanya wrapped her hands around the wound and squeezed hard, effectively stopping the bleeding but putting Rocky in even more pain.
"Is he going to be OK?" Jason asked, somewhat anxiously, kneeling helplessly beside his friend's side. Kris inched out from under Rocky's body and knelt beside his upper torso, laying his head in her lap.
"Rocky, can you hear me?" she asked, worry evident in her tone. Rocky opened his eyes and looked up into his sister's eyes.
"That'd be one heck of a pizza cutter," he joked weakly. Kris grinned in relief.
"Just take it easy. You'll be patched up in no time," she assured him.
"What about you? Are you OK?" Rocky asked, concern etching into his brow.
"Thanks to you, only a few bruises. You should have been on the football team," Kris told him, smiling. Rocky returned the smile, then grimaced as Tanya squeezed his arm harder. Tanya told Jason to go grab the empty pack. Jason got up and sprinted from the clearing, returning moments later with the pack. Tanya proceeded to rip it to shreds using Kris's knife and then tied in in layers around Rocky's wounded arm. The first few layers were saturated with blood in no time, but eventually the bleeding stopped coming through the thick cloth. Tanya let go of Rocky's arm and wiped her bloody hands on the grass while Jason and Kris helped Rocky sit up. By then, the others had finished off the enemies and were rushing over to where Rocky was sitting, looking rather haggard but otherwise alright.
"What happened?" Kat asked. Kris proceeded to explain as briefly as she could what had occurred.
"You OK, man?" Adam asked, crouching beside his friend.
"I'll be fine," Rocky assured him, and the others. "We should get moving. It'll be dark soon and we've still got a lot of ground to cover."
"We can't move you now. You've lost a lot of blood," Tanya argued, and the look that appeared on her face discouraged the others from saying anything more.
"We could camp out here tonight, but we'll have to be on the alert in case The Evil decides to send any more soldiers after us," Kris said slowly.
"But we might not have much time," Rocky protested.
"Forget it. I won't lose my brother to stubbornness," Kris said firmly. Her tone told everyone not to mess with her. "Now, we'll set up the tents just inside the trees. That way, if anyone comes through the clearing they won't see us right away." The others moved off to retrieve their packs and started setting up the tents and a small fire pit. Kris stayed with Rocky while the others worked, but nobody really minded; both siblings had been through a lot during the past couple of weeks, they both deserved a small break.
Once the "camp" had been set up, darkness was already beginning to fall. A small fire was built, and Kat concocted a soup made from the water from a canteen, some of the dried meat, the dried vegetables from one pack and some bread and cheese for the side.
"That smells really good," Tommy commented, coming to sit beside Kat, who was stirring the pot using a stick she had found and stripped of its bark. Kat smiled at him.
"Thanks," she replied. The others had also smelled the food and had converged on the small pot that contained the food. Seven portions were dished out, although Rocky's was larger than that of the others since he had to regain his strength. Kris helped him get into a leaning position against a tree, then sat back with him and the two ate, separated from the others who were sitting around the fire in silence.
"We're sure to hit the base tomorrow," Kris said, talking half to herself.
"I think we're all ready," Rocky commented.
"I sure hope so. Do you think the others will be OK? They haven't had the same experience as us," Kris said, frowning.
"They'll be OK. Remember, we all fought Rita, Zedd, Mondo, Master Vile and Ivan Ooze. I think they can handle The Evil," Rocky reminded her.
"I sure hope you're right," Kris murmured, staring down into her soup bowl.
That night, Rocky was allowed to sleep through the night because of his injury. Kris dragged one of the tents so that is was right next to the one Rocky was sleeping in, and when she wasn't asleep but on watch duty, she positioned herself almost directly in front of her brother's tent. She knew why she felt so protective; Kris felt that what had happened to her brother had been her fault. She had been blaming herself silently all night. If only I had been paying attention, was her most used guilt trip. Deep inside, she knew that it wasn't really her fault, but she couldn't help the way she felt. Kris also knew that it was pointless to stand guard against something that had already happened, but throughout the night she stood in front of Rocky's tent, alert and ready for anything.
By morning, that anything had never come, fortunately. Kris had been on second shift, so she had gotten some more sleep. When she awoke, the others had once again already packed everything up and were ready to go after eating.
"I should have left a wake-up call," Kris joked, going to sit beside Rocky at the clearing's edge. "How are you feeling?"
"Pretty good, considering I almost became an amputee," Rocky replied, dead-serious. Kris had to chuckle at his dead-pan expression.
"I'm glad you're OK," she said.
"We'd better get going soon. I'm not sure how long the...our bodies can last," Rocky said, correcting himself. He stood up and brushed himself off, Kris doing likewise. The others, since they had already packed everything up, finished eating quickly then the seven teens started off once more towards The Evil's headquarters.
A few hours into the journey, they stopped at a fresh stream to wash and refill their canteens. The stream was crystal-clear and only about half a meter deep. They took off their shoes and socks, rolled up their pants and waded into the stream, finding it not too cold, but not too warm either.
After washing off what they could using what was left of the empty sack, they dried off as best they could, put their shoes and socks back on and kept on walking, feeling refreshed.
"I'm glad we found that stream, I'd hate to think what would have happened if we'd run out of water," Kris remarked. She was walking once again at the head of the group with her brother by her side and the others behind them. They were walking hurriedly along a path, being cautious but not overly so. Rocky only nodded, not wanting to draw attraction to him and the others unnecessarily.
It was around two o'clock by the time that they neared the enemy base. They stood in a tight circle around a sandy patch of ground while Rocky and Kris talked quietly to one another, formulating a plan of attack.
"OK, here's what we have to do," Kris began, coming over to the sandy patch and kneeling down beside it. The others took their cue from her and tossed their packs on the ground silently. "The entire base is surrounded by a wall almost five meters high, and there are patrols that walk around every minute of the day. The only other way in is the four doors, one on each side of the fort. They're heavily guarded by armed troops, but they're our best bet of getting inside."
"We'll need a decoy, someone to bring the guards away from the door and close to the woods where they won't be seen," Rocky broke in. The seven teens looked at one another, none of them wanting to be a sitting duck.
"We'll draw straws. The person who gets the shortest straw gets to be our guinea pig," Kris said, breaking up a branch into six roughly equal pieces and one short piece. She put them behind her back in both hands, rolled her palms together to mix the twigs up, then brought them around and held them in front of her, arm extended. Six hands reached in and took six of the twigs simultaneously, leaving on for Kris. When all seven of them held out their twigs to determine who the unlucky one was, there was a slight groan from Tommy, who had tried (and failed) to conceal his reaction to his misfortune. Kat put a hand on his shoulder sympathetically.
"Well, I guess that settles that," Tommy said grimly, gripping his twig so tightly they all heard a snap of it breaking in his hand.
"Tommy, you'll run out of the woods, screaming, about having seen us approaching fast. The guards are sure to come and retain you for questioning. Before they manage to get a grip on you, run back to the woods. We'll be waiting, and we'll ambush the guards before they can cry for help," Kris instructed. Tommy nodded silently, mentally preparing himself for what he had to do. "The rest of you, hide amongst the trees; in them if you can get there. Be ready because we won't have any time to mess around. Once the guards realize what's happened, they'll want to send out an alarm. We have to stop them from doing that." Everybody nodded, realizing just then exactly what they had gotten themselves into.
"Let's go," Rocky said quietly. He and the others left their packs at that spot, memorizing the place for future reference. They took with them only what food and the canteens they could conceal safely. Everything else, including most of the rope, knives and other defense utensils, was left behind and hidden under bushes and grass. Kris and Tanya managed to get up into the lowest branches of two nearby trees after standing on Rocky's and Jason's shoulders for extra height. Then, Rocky, Jason, Kat and Adam all took up positions under bushes, behind thick trees and Rocky even managed to get himself wrapped around a tree branch, after a little jumping and grabbing took place. Tommy looked around to make sure that his friends were ready. Then, after saying a small prayer to whoever might be listening, he took a deep breath and burst out of the trees.
"Hey! Over here!" he shouted as loudly as he could. The guards standing at the door turned to look at him. The ones on the wall did the same. Too late to back out now, Tommy thought.
"Who are you?" one of the male guards at the door called.
"I...I saw them! They're heading this way!" Tommy shouted, neatly dodging the question.
"Who are you talking about?" the same guard demanded.
"I don't know who they are, but they're coming to destroy the base!" Tommy replied. Then he started running. The guards, three females and three males, followed him. He ran into the woods with the soldiers on his tail, hoping that his friends would be ready for him.
From where she was crouched on the tree branch, when a flash of red darted through the jungle Kris knew immediately that it was Tommy. The guards weren't far behind him.
"Where'd he go?" one of the females asked, looking around. She and the others came to a halt and looked around in wonderment. That was when the teens attacked. Kris jumped down onto a male guard, and they both went crashing to the ground. Tanya managed to down onto another male guard. The two soldiers were tied together after having their coats removed using the rope Tanya had brought for just such an emergency. Kat and Adam managed to get a female guard, Rocky dropped onto a female guard and Tommy brought down the last male. Kris, Tanya and Kat ganged up on the last female, bringing her to a halt before she could warn her comrades at the base.
"That was the easy part," Kris said as she buttoned up the navy coat over her white T-shirt. Her blue jeans stood out, but she didn't think that anyone would really notice.
"Kris is right. Now we have to get inside," Rocky agreed. "We'll have to take their masks as well." The soldiers all wore masks that covered the majority of their faces save their mouths, eyes and nose. The mask slid over the head and rested there. It held their hair in place and stayed immobile until it was taken off by the wearer, or an attacker.
"But there's six of them and seven of us," Kat pointed out. "How are we going to sneak the last person inside?" Everyone thought for a moment.
"We'll go in dressed as the guards and say that we captured Tommy. They'll probably take him to where the bodies of Myagi and Kakana are being held," Kris said thoughtfully. "Then, we'll find the dungeon and free everyone at once."
"It's a good idea. Are you up to it?" Rocky asked, looking at Tommy, who nodded.
After making sure that the masks and coats were in place, the seven teens started towards the fort with Tommy between them.
At the door, they were stopped by the guards along the wall.
"Who goes there?" one of them demanded.
"We captured the guy who was bothering us earlier," Kris called back, hoping her response would be believable. Apparently, it was since the door opened. They were greeted by four guards, who took Tommy from the teens and started hauling him towards the dungeon, at least in theory that's where they were taking them. Tommy had to restrain himself from looking backwards at his friends. His friend had to restrain themselves from following the guards and Tommy.
"Good luck," Kat murmured, too softly for anyone else to have heard.
Suddenly, they were confronted by six more guards of mixed genders. Uh-oh, Kris thought uneasily.
"You guys had better go get some rest. You've been pulling double duty all week," one of the females said, looking at Adam through her mask. Adam gulped and was glad that the mask hid his face, for he was turning redder by the second.
"You're right. See you later," Kris said smoothly, covering for the lack of communication that had settled over the group. As she and the others were leaving, one of the replacement guards caught her arm and drew her close to him. Kris resisted the urge to gasp out loud, and instead prayed that she was only being mistaken for someone else.
"I'll see you after my shift," he said in a low voice, his deep brown eyes boring into Kris's.
"Um, yeah. Uh, where are we meeting again?" she asked, finding her voice.
"Behind the weapons shack, like we always do," the guard replied, smiling. Kris smiled back, though her grin was prompted by nervousness.
"Right, how could I have forgotten?" she said. Before he could answer, "I'll see you then." Then she hurried after the others, who were almost to the main building inside the fortress walls.
"What was that all about?" Rocky asked Kris once she had caught up with them.
"Case of mistaken identity," Kris replied. "Know where the weapons shack is?"
"Yeah, why?" Rocky asked.
"I'm supposed to meet that guard there later, once the shift rotates," Kris answered.
"Are you sure that's safe?" Adam broke in.
"I'll be fine. Besides, it's right behind the weapons shack. I think I should have enough defenses to protect myself if I need help," Kris pointed out. It was enough to silence the group, but that was probably a good thing as they walked into the main building. It was lined with long, wooden tables and benches. There were guards eating at the tables, laughing and talking.
"All right! We picked the best building to start at," Rocky said softly, moving over to what was apparently the servery line. They all picked up trays at the entrance, then moved along slowly until they reached the place where their trays were filled with food.
Exiting the servery, they all found a table at the back of the room where they could talk in relative privacy.
"What is this stuff?" Adam asked, prodding a lump of white stuff with his fork cautiously.
"This planet's equivalent of mashed potatoes, if memory serves me right," Kris replied, digging in without hesitation. It was enough to convince the others that the food was edible, if not even tasty. Fortunately, none of the other guards had removed their masks when sitting down to eat, so the six teens didn't appear to be too conspicuous.
Once they were finished eating, they returned their trays to the stack that was ever-growing in the corner of the room along with several other guards, then left the dining hall without saying anything to anyone else or each other.
"I wonder where our...cabins are?" Tanya asked, looking around casually. Night was beginning to fall over the camp.
"I don't know, but we'd better figure it out before nightfall. I don't want to be wandering around here in the dark alone," Kris said. She wasn't afraid of the dark itself, just what it could hide. They wandered around until finally deciding to split up and reconvened at the dining hall in the morning at 9 o'clock. The girls followed the female guards while the guys followed the males to what they all hoped was sleeping accommodations. They were right. On opposite sides of the fort, there were long buildings that had the ability to house every single soldier on each sex inside. Inside, there were bunk beds that stood three bunks high and there were three rows, one in the middle and two on the sides with room to walk and move in between. There had to be at least ten sets of bunks in each row, and this was just in the one bunker. There were three more identical to the one in which Kat, Tanya and Kris stood at that moment. The three girls stood just inside the doorway, taking everything in. At the foot of each of the bunks, there was a wooden ladder that allowed the women to get to the uppermost bunks without having to jump, or climb over their comrades whenever they had to get up or down.
Suddenly, they were jostled from behind by a woman who had apparently just returned from the shower house.
"It might not be such a bad idea if we showered," Kris whispered. "I could use it." The others agreed, and went off in search of the shower house, hoping it wouldn't be too hard to find. Fortunately, it wasn't. There were several women coming back from the shower house, still damp and they had their hair up in towels that matched the ones wrapped around their slender bodies. The only peculiar thing about this whole scene, besides the fact that the women apparently didn't care that the male guards could come by at any moment, was the fact that they were all still wearing their masks.
"When in Rome," Tanya muttered as the three friends walked into the shower house, which consisted of about a hundred stalls with faucets at the top that sprayed hot and cold water down on the occupants. Soap and towels were thankfully supplied in many different places, so all Kris, Tanya and Kat had to do was find an empty stall, shower, then grab a towel and dry off. The entire process didn't take long since the girls didn't want to arouse suspicion by any means. They went in and left the shower house in less than 10 minutes, a record for all of them. Then they returned to the cabins to sleep.
The three girls managed to grab three bunks that were all on the second level together, hoping that no one would contest their claim. No one did. Apparently, there were no set sleeping arrangements. Kat was about to take off her mask when Kris stopped her after noticing that no one else had theirs off either. She told Kat as much in hushed tones, and Kat nodded. Then they all bade each other goodnight and fell into a much-needed, if light, slumber.
Over on the male side of the fort, the guys had gone through pretty much the same routine, showering and claiming their own bunks. Their cabins were set up identical to those of the female guards'. Adam and Jason fell into a deep sleep almost immediately, but Rocky lay awake for half an hour or so, thinking and worrying about his sister. Sisters, he reminded himself, cracking a smile in the darkness. I sure hope that Tommy's all right.
After his "capture", Tommy had been taken down to a subterranean level in a small building made of stone. He had been thrown into a cell and chained to the wall with his arms above his head, and his ankles locked as well. There was a small window with bars across it both vertically and horizontally to prevent anyone from escaping. There had been no light except for that of the moon, which was admittedly meager, so Tommy had no chance to survey his surroundings for a means of escape, or for danger.
Normally, Tommy would have had adrenaline coursing through his veins that would have kept him awake all night long, but now he was asleep, being dead tired after their long journey and the sleep deprivation it had brought on for all of them.
in the morning, he awoke to find his arms numb to the shoulder. He couldn't feel the shackles around his wrists, but he knew that they were there, along with those on his ankles, but those he could still feel. I wonder if the others are OK? he thought to himself, testing the chains that bound him to the brick wall. They were as solid now as they had been when Tommy had first tried that the night before. Now that there was light illuminating his temporary home, Tommy had the chance to look around and see what his surroundings consisted of. He was startled to find two bodies in the cell with him, one on his left and one on his right, both chained to the wall as he was.
"Myagi," he said loudly. "Kakana." Nothing. The bodies didn't so much as stir as Tommy's voice echoed throughout the chamber. They're probably just unconscious, he told himself as he looked at them wearily. Then, his mind switched tracks. I sure hope that the others get here soon. If these are the two that we're looking for, then we may have run out of time.
That same morning, Jason, Adam and Rocky got up out of their bunks feeling much more refreshed then they had expected after sleeping in an enemy base. They jumped and climbed down from the second and third-level bunks they had managed to sleep in without being contested, then went to the dining hall to meet the girls, who were already there. Kat, Tanya and Kris were leaning against the wall casually, but when they saw the guys then went over to them quickly.
"We're going to need to do some exploring today," Adam said quietly as they entered the dining hall and moved over to the servery line like they had done the night before.
"He's right. We have to find Tommy," Kat agreed softly, picking up a tray.
"How did your meeting go with that guard last night?" Rocky asked his sister, falling into line behind her. Kris winced, groaned and hit herself upside the head with her tray.
"I completely forgot about that!" she said. "I hope I don't see him again."
"How would you tell him apart from the others anyhow?" Tanya asked, smiling weakly.
"Good point," Kris admitted, "but he can tell me apart from the others." That silenced the others as they realized that she had a point with that one. The six teens got their food, then managed to snag the same table as they had eaten at last night.
"So how are we going to find Tommy? None of us knows the layout of the camp," Kat said quietly as they ate.
"We'll have to split up into teams of two each. We'll cover more ground that way," Kris said thoughtfully.
"Good idea. I'll go with Adam and check out the North side of the camp. Jason, you go with Kat and check out the South. Kris and Tanya, that leaves you two to search the West side, and we'll all converge on the East side when we're through," Rocky decided. They finished eating, returned their trays, then went outside and split up to look for their friend.
Tommy was, more than anything, bored. He could barely move, he couldn't feel his arms and so far, the people on either side of him hadn't moved a muscle; Tommy was beginning to doubt if they ever would again, but he didn't let himself dwell on such matters. Instead, he concentrated on thinking about positive things, like getting out of the cell for example. He had tried repeatedly to break the chains that bound his arms, and when the strength and feeling had left his arms he tried to break free from the chains on his ankles, but he was unsuccessful in both attempts. And all he had received for his efforts was cuts around his wrists and his ankles that bled enough to stain his clothing, but not enough to make him pass out from lack of blood, although that possibility was at the back of Tommy's mind.
So now, he was simply standing there, looking around and flexing what muscles he could in order to keep them from stiffening up on him entirely. I'm going to be feeling all of this when I get back home, he thought. The mere mental mention of his home back in Angel Grove was enough to sidetrack his mind. He thought of his parents and his brother, who were probably quite worried by now. They had all been gone for twelve days to date, and it would take them at least 8 days to get back to the village. Probably more since they would have two extra people with them. At least, they hoped they would have two extra people with them on the way back; Myagi and Kakana with their minds back in their own bodies.
Suddenly, the door to his cell opened and a female guard walked in carrying a large tray that had plates of food and bowls of water on it. She moved over to Tommy and offered him the water. Normally, Tommy would have flat out refused, but he was so thirsty that the temptation overcame him. He opened his mouth anxiously as the cool liquid was poured into his mouth. He swallowed gratefully, enjoying the feel of the water as it slid down his throat. The water was a bit warm, but it was still the best thing that he had ever tasted. Next. the guard offered him some food that was already cut into bite-sized pieces. They sure treat their prisoners well here, Tommy thought as he ate what was offered to him.
Once he was done and the guard had put everything back onto the tray, which she had set on the ground, Tommy called to her. She turned expectantly without saying anything.
"What about them? What's wrong with them?" he asked.
"They were brought in about a month ago. I think their names are Mahgi and Lakani, or something like that," the guard replied.
"Myagi and Kakana?" Tommy prompted. The guard looked at him.
"That's right. How did you know?" she demanded, staring at him with her intense blue eyes. Tommy swallowed apprehensively.
"Um, I'm from a neighbouring village, and I've heard of them," he explained quickly. The guard seemed to accept that for a moment, and turned to leave, but she stopped in mid-stride.
"Wait a minute. You're not from around here," she said, taking in his clothing and long hair. "Who are you? Where did you come from?"
It can't hurt to tell her who I am, Tommy decided. "My name's Tommy. What's yours?"
"I'm Leelah," the guard replied, smiling shyly. "How did you manage to get stuck here?"
"Just bad luck I guess," Tommy replied vaguely, sensing that Leelah was warming up to him. Maybe I can get some information from her, he thought to himself. "Have they regained consciousness since they were brought here?" Leelah shook her head, making her long brown hair dance across her back.
"I haven't seem them awake yet. To be honest, I'm kind of worried about them," she replied. It was at that point that Tommy realized that Leelah exhibited a kind of caring that none of the others guards around the camp had. She truly seemed to care about the welfare of Myagi, Kakana and probably Tommy himself, though Tommy wasn't quite positive about his assessment.
"I should probably go. If I'm in here too long, the other guards will get suspicious. I'll try to find out as much as I can about your friends," Leelah said, stepping towards the door once again. At first, Tommy thought that she meant his Earth friends, but then he remembered Myagi and Kakana on either side of him, and simply nodded instead. Then Leelah left, closing the cell door tightly behind her. Tommy was once again alone with a silent Myagi and Kakana for company.
"I don't think Tommy's here," Kris said, looking around the West side of the camp.
"But we saw him being brought in here," Tanya argued, squinting in the bright sunlight.
"I mean I don't think he's right here. He's probably being held at another area of the camp," Kris elaborated.
"Oh," Tanya replied. "I think you're right. We haven't found a trace of him, or a building that looks even remotely like a jail."
"I hope the others are having better luck," Kris said.
Over on the North side of the camp, Rocky and Adam were just about done searching and were ready to head over to the East side.
"We should look around one more time," Adam advised, glancing around as casually as he could manage. He wasn't quite sure exactly what he was looking for. He supposed he was looking for someplace that had bars on the windows, or heavy guards around the front entrance, something like that. So far, nothing of the sort had been found.
"Maybe you're right. I don't want to leave him behind because we were careless," Rocky agreed. The two friends moved along a pathway beside several other guards, who were moving along in both directions, talking with one another or just moving silently, lost in thought but apparently heading towards a destination.
Kat and Jason were walking along a path that had been made in the grass from the constant traffic of heavy boots and lots of people over a period of who-knows-how-long. They had been drawing blanks at all of the buildings they had wanted to look in. They had found an armory, a meeting hall and another shower bank, but no jail of dungeon of any size, shape or form.
"We should head over to the East side soon," Kat said as they walked.
"You're right. The others are probably already there," Jason agreed. They turned down the next path they came to and headed for the East side of the compound.
They all arrived at the same point on the East side of the compound and relatively the same time, moving at about the same speed.
"Did you find him?" Kat asked once they were all within talking distance of one another. The others waited as a female warrior clad entirely in a black form-fitting suit walked past them, carrying a tray of plates and canteens.
"No, not a trace," Kris replied. "Did any of you have any better luck?"
Rocky and Adam shook their heads in unison.
"Nothing. It's like he disappeared," Adam reported. Though it wasn't audible or intentional, there was a collective groan of disappointment from the entire group.
"We can't let ourselves get discouraged," Tanya said suddenly. "I mean, we haven't even checked out the entire camp yet."
"Tanya's right. Maybe we'll find Tommy here," Rocky agreed. The others simply nodded and then spread out along the East side of the compound to search for their leader and friend.
Tommy was looking out the window, idly wondering if his friends were anywhere nearby, or if they were even searching for him. Suddenly, he noticed several pairs of feet standing close to the window that was the sole source of light for his, Myagi and Kakana's cell. His heart skipped a beat as he realized to whom those feet belonged.
"Guys! Down here!" he called. The feet didn't move anywhere, but stayed in place. "Guys! I found them!" Nothing. Great, he thought.
The six were in the middle of standing around, talking about where to search when the heard somebody call faintly.
"Did you hear that?" Kris asked. The others looked at her, and the call resumed once more.
"That sounds like Tommy," Kat said quietly. They started looking around casually, hoping no one else had heard their friend call out to them.
"I think he's in the building behind you," Rocky whispered in Kris's ear. Kris bent down to tie her shoelace and looked over at the wall at ground level. There was a window with bars going across it just above the grassy ground. She stood upright and told the others.
"That has to be the jail," she said.
"But how are we going to get in there?" asked Adam. There was a silence as the problem was contemplated by all.
"We could pretend that we're going in there to question Tommy," Kris said slowly, the idea only just forming in her mind. "Then we'll spring him."
"But what about the guards? There are sure to be at least two guarding the door to the cell," Jason pointed out.
"That's where the rest of you come in. Rocky and I will go in to get Tommy. The rest of you will come in when we give the signal and take out the guards. Then we can masquerade as the guards and say that we're taking Tommy out for a walk, so to speak," Kris answered. Everybody nodded in agreement.
Kris and Rocky started to go inside the building while the others moved away in separate directions. They managed to get down to the level where the door to Tommy's cell was located. When the guards at the door saw them, however, the guards raised their knives.
"Who are you?" one of them demanded.
"We're here to interrogate the prisoner," Kris replied firmly.
"He was already questioned yesterday," the guard countered.
"Yeah, well he wasn't very cooperative then. We're here to knock some sense into him," Kris said.
"OK, go ahead," the guard said, moving reluctantly out of the way. The other guard opened the cell door and admitted Kris and Rocky, then shut the door behind them. It closed with a clang that echoed for a short time throughout the cell.
Tommy raised his head a she heard voices outside his cell. The next thing he knew, the door had opened and two familiar figures were walking into his cell. The door closed behind them, and they walked over to him. Not entirely sure that the two were who Tommy thought they were, he said nothing. However, when they stood in front of him, they removed their masks. Tommy instantly recognized Kris and Rocky as his saviors.
"What took you guys so long?" he joked.
"Oh, you're welcome," Kris replied. Though her tone was sarcastic, she was grinning from ear to ear as she released Tommy from the ties that bound him.
"How did you guys get past the guards?" Tommy asked.
"Let's just say that we're the ones asking the questions around here," Kris joked. After Tommy's arms had been released and had rested at his side for a second, a stinging sensation overtook them, making him rub his arms briskly.
"Are you OK?" Rocky asked.
"I'll be fine," Tommy replied confidently.
Just then, the door to the cell opened again and a female guard walked in. She stopped in surprise as she took in Kris, Rocky and the now-free Tommy.
"What's going on?" she asked nervously.
"Leelah, it's OK," Tommy assured her. "These are some of my friends."
"You know her?" Rocky asked. He and Kris had dropped down into defensive poses at Leelah's first appearance.
"Yeah. It's OK, she's nice," Tommy replied, making Rocky and Kris stand up straighter again and relax, although not entirely.
"Tommy, what's happening?" Leelah asked.
"Leelah, my friends and I are taking Myagi and Kakana back to their village," Tommy explained.
"But I can't let you! If I let you go and Naro, our king, finds out, I'll be executed," Leelah protested. The others were shocked at the violence that was committed for such a simple and forgivable act in this compound.
"Leelah, come with us," Kris said before she had thought it through. Too late to go back on it now, she thought wryly.
"Where?" Leelah asked.
"Back to the village. Leelah, we can take you someplace where you'll be able to live however you want to. Back home, we all fight against violence and evil," Tommy said. Kris refrained from pointing out that she didn't fight against violence and evil as the others did.
"That sounds wonderful," Leelah admitted. "But no. I can't go."
"Why not?" Tommy pressed.
"Because...because this is where I grew up. And if I get caught, I'll be killed," Leelah replied.
"We won't let you get caught," Rocky said firmly, stepping in. "Look, if this isn't what you want to be a part of, then maybe you should leave to find something you want to be a part of."
"There's no buts, Leelah," Tommy said gently, making up for Rocky's harshness. "If you want to come with us and fight for good instead of evil, then you're welcome to come. Otherwise, we'll have to take you with us involuntarily. We can't allow ourselves to be caught. The lives of Myagi and Kakana depend on it." Leelah was silent as she thought about it.
"OK, I'll come with you, but I'll need to gather up my things," she said finally. "It won't take long."
"Good. Now, where are our reinforcements?" Kris said, looking around. Suddenly, there was a pair of thuds that sounded like two bodies hitting the ground.
"Somebody call for a rescue?" came Tanya's cheerful voice as she unlocked the cell door and swung it wide open. She and the others started to walk in. When Tanya, who was in front, saw Leelah, she stopped dead in her tracks, causing the others to bump into her back and she stumbled forwards. Adam caught her arm and helped her steady herself. She smiled at him in thanks.
"Guys, it's OK," Tommy said before the others could say anything. "This is Leelah. Leelah, this is Jason, Adam, Tanya and Kat. They're the rest of my friends who'll help you out of here."
"She's coming with us?" Kat asked.
"She's not like the others," Kris insisted. "She doesn't want to fight for evil anymore." The others accepted this, although they were doubtful at first.
Rocky and Kris released the bodies of Myagi and Kakana from the wall. Jason and Rocky draped the bodies of Myagi and Kakana over their backs, respectively, then they all started for the door. Leelah insisted on going first with Jason and Rocky next, then Kris and Tommy, and finally Kat and Tanya.
Outside, they were given strange stares as they emerged with two limp bodies and a prisoner, but no one contested them. They walked to a small building that was lined with lockers. Each locker was about half a meter by half a meter, and a meter deep. On each locker, the name of a soldier was engraved into the wood. They were set up alphabetically. The ten people, all of them somewhere in their teens, wandered along the narrow passageways between each shelf of lockers until they reached one marked, "Leelah Tyro." Leelah opened it and reached inside, pulling out a sheath and a long sword, and whip and sketched of her family that she had drawn along with blank pieces of paper and pencils. On one of the blank pages, she quickly wrote a note to her family, saying that she had left The Evil empire for a better place, and not to come looking for her. She signed it, "Love, Lee", then stuck it in her locker, which had no lock on it. Apparently, there was some honour among the soldiers of The Evil when it came to personal possessions. Then she turned to the others.
"Let's get going. The shift change will be happening now, and we'll be able to get outside if we lie a little," she said. She closed the locker, picked up her things and put them into a pouch that she had retrieved from her locker, then slung the pouch over her neck, put an arm through it and led the way out of the large building.
Outside, there were many guards walking to and from their posts. They had almost made it to the door when Kris was grabbed by the arm and pulled aside. She gasped and kicked her attacker in the stomach.
"Hey, what was that for?" he demanded. It was then that Kris realized that it was the guard she had been supposed to meet. "What happened to you last night? I thought we had a date."
"We did, and I'm so sorry, but I got stuck in training exercises all night," Kris replied quickly, glancing back at her friends. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go catch up. We've got prisoners to interrogate."
"OK, but meet me tonight, same place," the guard said before walking away.
"Yeah right," Kris muttered, running to catch up with her friends.
At the doorway, they managed to get through without being questioned by anyone. They probably think that we're going to execute them, Kris thought, referring to Myagi, Kakana and Tommy. Tommy was the only one of them all who stood out like a sore thumb, though, because of his red shirt and blue jeans. The others had managed to commandeer some different pants to fin, but had been forced to keep their own shoes. Their pants were now wrapped around their waists, making them look bigger, but it wasn't anything anyone would notice unless they were looking for it; at least that was the idea.
Outside the compound, they all kept walking until they were safely hidden by the dense foliage of the jungle before breaking into a dead run. They heard shouts behind them as the guards on the wall saw them making a break for it. The next thing they knew, knives were being thrown at them, and since there were soldiers close enough, they were cracking their whips, trying to find purchase.
"We'll have to hide them somewhere and fight," Jason muttered to Rocky, who was running alongside him, indicating Myagi. Rocky, who had Kakana on his back, nodded. They dove behind some bushes, hid the bodies then crawled away from the cache and jumped up into the fray. Tommy, Adam, Kat, Kris, Tanya and Leelah had already begun to engage The Evil's minions. There were twice as many soldiers as there were consciousness teenagers, but they weren't worried. Leelah, Rocky and Kris all had experience fighting the soldiers, more so than the others. However, Rocky's arm was still wounded, Tommy still hadn't regained the full use of his arms and Kris was asthmatic, so it was hard for her to fight for an extended period of time without having to take a breather or two. That left Jason, Adam, Tanya and Kat as those who weren't on the "disabled list," so to speak.
The soldiers began to attack. Three of them went after Leelah, knowing that she had had the same training as them and would be the hardest to take out. Tommy got stuck with three also, as did Adam and Jason. That left two each for Rocky, Kris, Kat and Tanya.
Kris, Kat and Tanya were each able to dispose of their attackers since they had underestimated the three women.
Rocky thought that he would have no difficulty disposing of his attackers, but he underestimated them. One of them pulled out a whip and cracked it across Rocky's injured arm. The wound split open and started to bleed again, bringing great pain to Rocky, who grimaced and clutched his arm in agony. Suddenly, a knife flew through the air past the noses of his attackers and embedded itself in the tree, its handle wavering. Rocky followed its path back to his sister, who stood there with another knife ready to be launched. Rocky took the distraction to the soldiers as the opportunity to run, take their power stones from them and back away as they vanished into thin air, along with their stones. Rocky gripped his arm still, but said nothing to his sister. Then they both went to help their friends.
Tommy was having some difficulty with his three attackers because his arms were responding, although sluggishly. He had disposed of one of the attackers by grabbing his power stone, but the other two managed to grab each of his arms while a fourth, who had broken off its attack on Adam, started to punch Tommy in the stomach. Kat did a flying side kick and knocked the one that was punching Tommy off its feet and grabbed the black power stone before she could react, then went after the other two. Tommy took one out while Kat took care of the other one.
"Thanks," he said simply.
"Anytime. Now let's finish off the rest of these clowns," Kat replied. They two grinned at one another and went off to help their friends.
Jason had managed to down two of the three attackers that had come after him, and was circling with another attacker, this one female. Suddenly, Kris sneaked up behind the female soldier, reached around and grabbed the power stone. The guard never had time to react. She disappeared into a puff of dust, then the dust vanished as well. Kris watched as the power stone evaporated into thin air, then checked to make sure Jason was OK. He was, so they both nodded at one another, then broke off in separate directions.
Rocky went to help Adam, seeing that his friend had been surrounded. Rocky got a running start and charged through the soldiers, shoulder first, football-style.
"Nice entrance," Adam joked as the three fell to the ground. The two friends collected the power stones, then wiped their hands on their respective pants and the stoned themselves disappeared in much the same manner as the bodies did.
That left Leelah, who was having the most trouble because they had all been taught the same skills. Whenever she punched, they blocked and returned the punch, which she blocked. in other words, they were at a stalemate. From out of nowhere, a whip landed a blow on the arm of one of the guards, yanking her off her feet. The next blow from the same whip dislodged the power stone. Both were turned to atoms. Leelah and the last two guards turned to see Tommy, Jason, Rocky, Adam, Kat, Tanya and Kris standing there with whips knives and ropes in their hands, looking rather intimidating. Realizing that the rest of their mini-army was gone, the two guards made a quick retreat.
"We'd better get out of here before they send more guards," Tommy said. The others nodded. Jason and Rocky went to pick up Myagi and Kakana's bodies, then they all started running as fast as they could towards the clearing where they had left their packs hidden.
Once the teens agreed that they had a sufficient amount of distance between them and the compound, they stopped running and went at a more leisurely pace. A few minutes into their walk, they actually stopped to rest. Myagi and Kakana were laid down gently on the ground as the teens all rested for a few minutes in the blessedly peaceful jungle.
Kris was sitting beside her brother on a log.
"I'm glad we managed to get through that without having to kill too many people," she said. "By the way, nice going. I love the way you just barreled into those soldiers."
"Thanks," Rocky said. "It was nothing really."
"Oh come on," Kris kidded, nudging her brother with her shoulder. "You know, you should be on the football team." She was about to say more when she felt something wet seeping through her "borrowed" jacket. She touched it cautiously and her fingers turned red. Kris gasped and looked at her brother. "Rocky, your arm! You're hurt again."
"It's nothing, really," Rocky insisted as Kris tore the arm of his jacket away to reveal his wound, which was now much deeper and uglier than it had been initially. It was very red from the whip, as well.
"Why didn't you tell me about this?" Kris demanded as she tied the torn sleeve around the wound. It became saturated quickly, so she tore off her own sleeve and tied it over the first sleeve. "There, that should do it."
"Thanks, sis," Rocky said. "Ever think about becoming a nurse?" The question was rhetorical; Kris couldn't stand the sight of internal organs. Heck, she could barely stand watching somebody get their ears pierced. She had two holes in either ear, but she hadn't had to watch that get done.
"We should get going. We have to get back to our packs and tents before nightfall," Tommy broke in, standing up abruptly. The others followed suit. Jason picked up Myagi's body, and Adam took Kakana's since nobody would allow Rocky to tax his arm further. Rocky rolled his eyes at their over-protectiveness, but was secretly glad because his arm really hurt.
The walked for another hour before reaching the clearing. Leelah walked at the back, keeping an eye out for enemy forces. Fortunately, none came after them. They retrieved their packs in short order after locating the hiding place around the sandy patch. Then they found the clearing a few miles ahead and quickly set up the tents and a fire pit.
Leelah and Kris made up a soup from some of the dried vegetable and meat while the others set up the tents around the fire pit.
"Come and get it!" Kris called, grinning. There was a veritable stampede as everyone sat around the fire pit with their own small dishes and spoons while Leelah spooned out the soup to everyone. Then they sat down to eat. There was a big batch of soup, but it was all gone by the time that they were finished.
"Good meal, Leelah," Rocky said, setting down his dish after having his third helping of the soup. Leelah smiled.
"I'm glad you like it. I was one of the assistant chefs at the compound, so you had to be good. Otherwise, you were dinner," she replied That provoked a laugh from everyone.
"How are we going to do night watch tonight?" Tanya asked, sobering up first. It was decided that Rocky and Adam would take first watch, Kris and Jason would be second and Tommy and Kat would be third. Since there were only three tents and eight people (plus two bodies), there would have to be three people in one of the tents.
During first watch, Myagi and Kakana's bodies were placed in a tent along with Kris. in the second tent slept Tanya, Leelah and Kat. It was cramped, but not overly so. in the last tent slept Jason and Tommy.
During second watch, Myagi and Kakana's bodies stayed in the same tent but Rocky replaced Kris. in the second tent, things stayed the same and in the third time, Adam replaced Jason.
During third watch, the first tent stayed the same as second watch. in the second tent, Leelah, Kris and Tanya slept there and the third tent stayed the same as the second watch.
In the morning, Tommy and Kat reported that nothing interesting had happened, and no trace of any soldiers had been noticed.
"Good thing. I don't think I'm in any shape to fight," Rocky muttered as he packed up his tent, trying to use his right arm sparingly. Kris noticed this and came over to him, having heard his last comment.
"You're not in any shape to carry your pack, never mind fight," she told him firmly, swatting him away from the tent he was packing up and taking over his duties.
"Kris, you're over-reacting," he told her. "I can do this fine on my own."
"Oh you can, can you? I'd like to see you try," she said, standing back and crossing her arms across her chest. Determined to show her up, Rocky moved back over and started to fold up the tent again. He needed to use his right arm, though, since he was right-handed. When he tried to pick up one corner of the admittedly light fabric that the tent was made up off, white-hot pain shot up and down his right arm, making him let out a small cry and squeeze his eyes shut, gripping his arm. The makeshift bandages were soaked with dry, brown blood. Kris knelt beside her brother, who was on one knee, and ripped off her other sleeve, tying it around the first two.
"Rocky, I'm sorry," she murmured as she tied the bandage. "I shouldn't have let you try that."
"It's not your fault I'm stubborn," Rocky said through gritted teeth. Kris grinned weakly. By now, the others had surrounded them in concern. "I'm OK." Rocky got to his feet. Kris removed her jacket, revealing a black tank top underneath, and tied it around Rocky's neck and arm, forming a sling.
"That'll remind you not to use your arm," she said, flashing him a smile. Rocky returned it readily.
"It should," he agreed.
They all finished packing, then they finished off the food in one of the three remaining packs, then continued on their way towards Fujikara.
They stopped at around noon by the planet's time to eat something in order to keep their strength up. Then they continued on, not wanting to waste a second for the lives of Myagi and Kakana probably depended on their speed.
"I'm exhausted," Kris said quietly to her brother. The two of them were walking at the back of the group; Tommy and Jason were leading them all. "We're going too fast."
"I know, but we cannot afford to spare any time. Remember, our lives depend on it," Rocky reminded her. He sounded strangely like his alter ego then, and it triggered something in Kris's mind.
"I realize that, but this body does not have the same capabilities as mine does," she reminded him, referring to Kris's body but speaking as Kakana. "I'm afraid to push it any further than this."
"Then don't. We don't want to lose you, either of you. Not after everything that we've been through already to save ourselves," Rocky said. Kris looked at him, and through Kris's green eyes Rocky could almost see Kakana looking back out at him, or rather at Myagi. There was a sudden connection between then that neither had experienced before, and suddenly both knew that everything was going to turn out alright for both of their consciousness.
That night, the sleeping arrangements were different since different people had to take watch.
"It's only fair that those who didn't take watch last night should do so tonight," Kris had pointed out, stifling a yawn.
So, first watch belonged to Tanya and Leelah, who got to wake up Adam and Kris for second watch. They in turn had the pleasure of waking Rocky and Jason.
Nothing eventful happened during the night. But then, it's not like anybody was complaining about it, either. As a matter of fact, they were glad to have the rest since several of them were either recuperating of carrying two bodies the entire way. Rocky's arm would take a long time to heal.
"You know, you might need to get stitches when we get back to Earth," Kris said to her brother as they walked side-by-side the next morning. Rocky shook his head vehemently.
"Forget it. I'm not getting stitches," he said firmly. "I've never liked hospitals, and I'm not about to start going just to get some little cut stitched up."
"Why do you hate hospitals so much?" Kris asked quietly.
"I hate them because of what they represent. I know that they help a lot of people get better and everything, but I also know that a lot of people die there. And to me, after the fire and when nobody knew where you were, you died there," he added softly.
"I had no idea," Kris said. "I'm sorry. I won't bring it up again."
"It's not your fault," Rocky insisted. "How could you have known? I've never told anyone before."
"In that case, neither will I," Kris promised. Rocky smiled down at her gratefully.
"Thanks," he replied. Then they kept on walking in silence.
Nobody spoke until it was time to stop for lunch, and even then they were all silent. This is weird, Kris thought as she chewed on a piece of dried fruit. They're never this quiet. It has to be the presence of the bodies. She grinned to herself. Yeah, that would do it for just about any group.
After lunch, they all packed up their things and started back towards the village. Kris was still having trouble keeping up, and therefore she often lagged behind with the others having to wait to catch up to her. The last time it happened, Kris was thoroughly aggravated, and the others were as well, although they tried not to show it.
"Look, we're losing a lot of time this way. Why don't you all just keeping going, and I'll catch up to you when you guys find a campsite and settle in?" she suggested.
"We won't leave you behind, Kris," Rocky said firmly.
"I hate to say this, but Kris is right. We're losing a lot of ground," Tommy said gently. Rocky whirled on him angrily.
"Are you nuts? Maybe we should leave you here!" he exclaimed. Tommy took a step backwards and held up his hands in a non-threatening gesture while Kris moved to stand beside her brother and put a hand on his arm.
"Rocky, take it easy," she said. "I said it first anyhow."
"I'm sorry," Rocky said with a sigh. "I guess I've been just a little over-protective since you came back."
"You don't have to apologize," Tanya told him. "You have a good reason."
"Look, I'm not having trouble keeping up, but we should have someone to watch your backs. I'll stay behind with Kris," Leelah volunteered suddenly. Everybody turned to look at her.
"Thanks, Leelah," Kris said. Leelah simply smiled in reply.
"We'll see you guys up ahead, I guess," Tommy said, getting back on topic.
"OK. See you later," Kris said with a smile. Then Tommy, Jason with Myagi, Adam with Kakana, Tanya and Kat started off with Kris and Leelah in the back of the throng. For the first little while, Rocky kept glancing back over his shoulder in concern, but as they continued their trek Kris and Leelah were lost behind hills, foliage and trees.
"I don't remember the going being this rough when we were coming here," Adam said as he had to push his way past some bushes without letting go of Kakana's body.
"That's because we were all on an adrenaline rush," Kat replied, ducking a low-hanging branch.
"Do you think that Kris and Leelah are OK?" Rocky asked, glancing back over his shoulder. "Maybe I should go see if they're alright." He stopped and started to turn around, but Adam used his one free hand to grab his friend by his good shoulder and stop him.
"They'll be fine," Adam assured Rocky gently. "If anybody can take care of themselves, it's Kris and Leelah." Rocky had to concede that point to Adam since he did have a point, but he still couldn't completely overcome the feeling of anxiety that hung over him like a black storm cloud.
Down on Earth, the parents of Tommy Oliver, Jason Lee Scott, Adam Park, Rocky and Kris DeSantos, Tanya Sloan and Kat Hillard were gathered in Mr. Henry Kaplan's office regarding their sons and daughters, who hadn't been in school for ten days. Mr. Kaplan was becoming concerned; these were his best students. None of them had ever missed classes like this before.
But Mr. Kaplan wasn't the only worried person in the room. None of the parents had seen their teens for an entire two weeks. None of them had packed any of their things up, everything was just as they had left it the Friday before they all disappeared.
"When was the last time you all saw your children?" Mr. Kaplan asked.
"Friday morning. Kat went to school like she always did, but she never returned," Mrs. Hillard said, her voice trembling. She gripped her husband's hand for support. There were nods all around the room at the comment.
"That was when I saw Tommy last as well," Mr. Oliver agreed.
"We need to do something!" Mr. Park said.
"I agree," Mrs. DeSantos said. "We should call the police and tell them about this."
"Before we get the police involved, we should go look for them ourselves," argued Mrs. Sloan reasonably.
"But where should we look?" asked Mr. Scott.
"Tommy's uncle owns a cabin in a remote area of Angel Grove," Mrs. Oliver offered. "We'll go check there."
"I'll go check Rocky's apartment. He was sharing it with Kristine before they disappeared," Mrs. DeSantos said.
"I'll go with you," Mrs. Park said. Rocky and Adam had been best friends for so long that the boys were almost like brothers to one another.
"I'll ask around at the dojo where Tommy, Jason and Rocky work out," Mr. Scott said.
"And I'll go ask Adam's kung fu instructor if he's seen any sign of Adam," Mr. Park said.
"The rest of you should go home in case they come back," Mr. Kaplan advised. The adults stood up, shook hands and offered one another words of support, then left in search of their children.
The next day, although it was a Saturday, they had all agreed to meet back at Mr. Kaplan's office with the results of their search. And unfortunately, everyone had negative results.
"We can't put off calling the police any longer," Mr. Hillard said. This time, no one disagreed with him. Mr. Kaplan lifted the received, dialed and was connected with the Angel Grove Police Station. He explained everything, and was told that there was a pair off officers on their way to the school. Mr. Kaplan thanked the operator, then replaced the received and informed the worried parents that the police were coming to interview them.
When the police arrived, they immediately set to work asking questions to the parents about the last known whereabouts of their children and so on.
"Have any of your children ever had a problem with drugs or alcohol?" one officer asked, pen poised over her notebook.
"Never!" Mrs. Park said. There were nods to echo the sentiment.
"Have any of them ever tried to run away before?" the officer asked while her partner sat back and watched. There was more shaking of heads.
"Did any of you notice strange behavior in the week or so before they disappeared?" the other officer asked suddenly.
"No, I didn't," Mr. Scott said. Everybody else either shrugged, or said and did nothing.
"Has anything happened in their lives, or yours, that could have affected them? A divorce, for example? Or anything along those lines?" the male officer asked. The parents looked at one another with blank stares on their faces.
"I guess all we can do is set up a search," the woman said to her partner, closing her notebook and putting in her pocket. Turning to the parents, she said, "We're going to need a picture of your children. As recent as you can get."
All of the parents pulled out their wallets and handed a picture to the officer. The teens would have been embarrassed to know that their parents still carried their pictures in their wallets, and the parents would have been embarrassed to admit to it. They handed them to the officer, who accepted them and put them inside his notebook.
"Thank you. This will be extremely helpful," he said. There was nothing more to say, so the parents got up and left without another word. The police went next and left in their cruiser, headed back towards the station where they would create posters to hang around the city and distribute throughout Angel Grove. That left Mr. Kaplan alone in his office. What the devil happened to those kids? he wondered. Where could they have gone? It's not like them to do anything like this. He didn't let his mind even consider the answers to his own questions.
That night, Tommy and the others broke camp and then waited for Kris and Leelah. Rocky almost wore a rut in the ground because of his constant pacing. He wouldn't even eat, which Adam deemed serious. He had tried to coax Rocky into at least having some of the leftover soup from last night, but Rocky had flat-out refused. Adam sighed and gave up, choosing to sit by the fire and absorb its warmth.
Suddenly, a pair of black-clad figures emerged from the bushes silently, startling the group. They all stood up, placing themselves in front of the bodies of Myagi and Kakana. Rocky and Jason had unsheathed their knives and were pointing them with dead-eye aim at the figures, who were obviously startled and stood stock-still, raising their hands over their heads.
"Step over to the fire," Tommy ordered, brandishing a whip. He gestured with the butt of it towards the open flames that crackled and illuminated the dark opening between trees trunks. The two figures moved reluctantly over to stand beside the flame.
"Is this how you always treat your guests?" came a familiar voice from one of the figures as they both moved across the opening.
"And I thought that we were brought up to be paranoid," said the other figure. Immediately thereafter, the knives were sheathed and the whip was reattached to a belt as they recognized the owners of the voices.
"You guys scared us half to death!" Kat exclaimed, going over to stand with Kris and Leelah.
"We scared you guys? You weren't the ones who were greeted with knives and whips when coming into supposedly friendly territory!" Kris retorted, grinning though her tone was harsh.
"Sorry about that," Tommy said apologetically.
"Don't be sorry. I'm glad that you're alert enough to react the way you did," Kris replied. She and Leelah settled in, then were offered some of the food from one of the remaining packs.
"We're going to have to cut back on our meals," Tanya commented, doing an inventory of the remaining five packs. "We don't have a lot of anything left, except the bread and cheese."
"We can fill up our canteens at the stream. We're sure to hit it tomorrow," Kris tossed in.
"That'll help, but we need more food," Tanya told her.
"I think I can help there," Leelah said. "There are some berry bushes in this area. The fruit's good enough for us to eat. They're actually pretty good, too."
"I think I remember those bushes," Rocky said. "The berries are about the size of your thumbnail, round, they're so red they're almost purple and they're incredibly sweet, right?"
"Yep, those are them," Leelah agreed, smiling.
"Then let's go find them!" Kris said, standing up enthusiastically. Everybody grinned at her, then mimicked her movements. They all moved off into the bushes and started looking. They were in teams in two or three; Leelah, Tommy and Kat were one group, Kris and Jason were a second group, leaving Rocky, Tanya and Adam as a third.
Suddenly, there was a small yelp from somewhere amongst the bushes that brought panic into everyone's hearts.
"Kris!" Rocky shouted, going towards where the yelp, and coincidentally Kris was. The sound of laughter drifted towards everyone's ears. However, this did not alleviate Rocky's fears. He kept crashing trough the bushes until he found his sister, standing beside a berry bush, holding her right hand. Wedged in her index finger of her right hand was a dull object that didn't reflect the moonlight at all. Underneath the object, a thin trail of liquid glistened in the moonlight, reflecting the rays from the planet's satellite.
"Kris! What happened? Are you alright?" Rocky asked, rushing up to his sister's side. Kris looked up and over at him, confused.
"Of course I'm alright. Why?" she asked.
"I heard you scream, and I didn't know what to think," Rocky explained. Kris's left hand flew up to her mouth.
"Oh gosh! Rocky, I'm sorry! I had forgotten that these bushes had thorns, and I got one lodged in my finger," she told him, grimacing and holding up her hand as evidence. Rocky relaxed visibly, and turned away as Kris yanked at the thorn until it popped free of her hand. She threw it to the ground as more blood trickled from the wound.
"Oh that's just lovely," she muttered, staring at the cut in her finger. Rocky ripped a piece of the jacket from his makeshift sling and handed to it Kris, who wrapped it around the cut to guard against infection.
Rocky went back to his berry bush, while Kris did the same. Together, the entire group collected more berries than the eight of them could ever hope to eat before reaching the village, but that was a good thing since it would still take them at least seven days to reach the village.
"Well, at least we know we won't go hungry," Adam joked as they all sat around the fire that was still burning brightly thanks to the kindling Jason had thought to bring back from the search.
"I don't know about you guys, but I'm beat," Kris said around a yawn. Everybody turned to stare at her.
"Kris, it's only eight o'clock," Kat pointed out.
"You're telling me that this whole thing hasn't been physically and emotionally draining for all of you, too?" Kris retorted. There was a collective silence.
"Kris, one. Rangers and Leelah, zero," came Rocky's voice through the darkness. That provoked a chuckle from everyone.
"I'll take that as a yes," Kris said, grinning. Just then she yawned again, which made everyone except the two who were on watch, Rocky and Kris, turn in.
That night, nothing happened. In the morning, it was business as usual. Everybody ate a light breakfast, packed up and headed off towards the village. From then on, the days seemed to meld together since everything stayed bascially the same. The only thing that changed was the scenery. Jason kept carrying Myagi while Adam kept carrying Kakana, and Kris and Leelah lagged behind the rest of the group.
Finally, on the twentieth day of their long, hard rescue mission, Kris suddenly felt everything begin to become familiar once more. She ran up to her brother, who was leading them.
"Can you feel it?" she asked.
"It's not just me?" Rocky replied. There was an identical twinkle in their eyes. Rocky turned around without stopping to call to the others, "Come on everybody! We're almost back!" There was a collective cheer from everybody. The packs were light; almost empty in fact. However, the bodies of Myagi and Kakana weren't getting any lighter, and Rocky's arm still hadn't healed. Though she kept her thoughts to herself, Kris was beginning to become worried that Rocky might have picked up an infection in the jungle, and that was what was preventing Rocky's wound from sealing completely. I sureure hope that's not the case, she thought to herself with a small frown. We don't know anything about the medical care on this planet. For all we know, it's as crude as the Middle Ages. The thought made her shudder, even in the hot, humid jungle atmosphere.
"Are you OK?" Jason's voice from behind her startled her. Kris turned and saw Jason walking behind her, looking concerned.
"Yeah, I'll be fine. Just some things on my mind," Kris replied. "But that must be better than having a body on your back."
"It's not the greatest feeling," Jason admitted.
"Do you want me to take him? I'm sure I could," Kris offered.
"No, it's OK," Jason assured her, shifting Myagi's weight around to a more comfortable position. "We're almost to the village anyhow."
"If you say so," Kris answered with a shrug.
They walked for a little while longer without saying anything. It was mostly due to anticipation and relief at finally having neared the village once more.
"How much further?" Kris asked her brother, falling into step beside him. She was filled with a sense of excitement and felt as though she would break into a run sometime soon.
"It can't be that far," Rocky replied, keeping his eyes straight ahead. They said nothing more. The brother and sister felt drawn towards the village by some unseeable force that had wrapped them in its grip, and wouldn't let them go until they had arrived at their destination.
"What's with them?" Kat asked, hurrying to keep up with Rocky and Kris. She and Tommy were walking side by side, and all the others were having trouble keeping the siblings in sight, they were moving so quickly.
"I don't know," Tommy told her honestly.
Rocky and Kris had broken into a jog, though their conscious mind had not played any part in the action. Instead it seemed as though the only thing that existed was them, the village and the drive to get there. The jungle, the other teens, the packs on their backs, everything else seemed to disappear.
Suddenly, the forest thinned out, and then the tree line receded as Rocky and Kris burst out into the clearing where the village was located. The others weren't far behind them. There were shouts and exclamations as the inhabitants noticed that they had returned, then came running out of their huts to greet the exhausted teens. Mr. Lumo was the first to approach them.
"Father! We succeeded!" Kris said, loudly and gleefully.
"I can see," Mr. Lumo said, smiling. "Quickly now, bring them inside." He led the way to a hut on the far side of the clearing was. There, the bodies of Myagi and Kakana were laid down gently on a pair of beds made from grass and the local equivalent of canvas. Blankets were draped over them, and the blinds were drawn as four young women came from the shadows and began to tend to the bodies. The teens and Mr. Lumo left the hut, and closed the door gently behind them.
Suddenly, there were more shouts, although these were anything but friendly. They all whirled to find that several young men and women, obviously trained in Mokora, had surrounded Leelah and were apparently trying to attack and subdue her.
"Wait!" Rocky cried, running towards them with Kris and the others in tow. Mr. Lumo went with them, although he was skeptical of the actions of his daughter and son.
"Myagi, what are you doing?" he cried.
"Father, she's not evil," Rocky protested as his father grabbed his arm and held him still.
"Have you been brainwashed by The Evil?" Mr. Lumo demanded. "She is one of them."
"No father, she isn't," Kris argued softly. "She was born one of them, yes. But that doesn't mean that her heart was always in it. She is good." That made Mr. Lumo stop and stare at Leelah, who was still surrounded although the attackers were less sure of themselves after hearing Kris's explanation. Mr. Lumo released Rocky then.
"Mr. Lumo, it's true," Tommy said, stepping forwards. "We brought Leelah with us. She helped me escape from The Evil, and even destroyed some of her own people."
"They are my people by birthright only," Leelah tossed in, walking cautiously to stand with the teens. "I have never truly felt that I belonged with them. Their beliefs never took to me well."
"I am sorry that you were treated in this manner," Mr. Lumo said, dismissing the warriors with a wave of his hand. Apparently, the youth of this planet, or at least this village, knew when their elder's were right because they dispersed immediately, murmuring apologies to Leelah as they left.
"It's not your fault I look this way," Leelah said.
She and the others were taken to a large hut that resembled a cabin more than a hut. Inside, they found long tables with benches on either side of the wooden tables. It was apparently a dining hall for the entire village, and it could probably double as a meeting hall when the weather was bad. Mr. Lumo went off, but returned a few minutes later with several assistants. All were carrying trays filled with food, beverages, plates and utensils that were placed in front of the deprived teens, who dug in eagerly without having to be told.
During the meal, the only reasons for the conversation was things like, "Please pass the-" and the name of the food or required article was at the end. Then there was a "Thanks", and silence once more. The clanking of the metal cutlery against the dishes filled the dining hall, and made it seem fuller than it actually was.
Afterwards, there was only a hint of darkness against the blue sky. Mr. Lumo took the teens into his hut, where the historian was waiting for them, eager to hear and chronicle their experiences on their journey.
"Tell me everything," the historian said, holding a wooden pen and a tablet of the local paper. Rocky took a deep breath and proceeded to tell the historian everything that had happened in great detail, with corrections and additions from Kris and the others until the historian had filled an uncountable number of pages with information.
At the end of their tale, the teens sat back, unsure of what was going to happen next. The historian stood up, thanked the teens profusely for the information and for returning successfully, then left the hut. Rocky was watching him go when he noticed someone he had been thinking about since his arrival on the planet.
"I'm going to go out for a walk," he said vaguely, getting up and leaving. The others either figured that he wanted to be alone, or thought that he was going to his hut to sleep. Which it actually was Rocky didn't know. His concentration was focused solely on the person in front of him.
"Lashai!" he called softly, not wanting to disturb the still silence that had fallen over the village and twilight. Lashai turned at the call of her name, and waited for Rocky to catch up to her. "Hi," he said softly.
"Hi," she replied, equally as quiet.
"Lashai, what's wrong?" Rocky asked upon seeing Lashai's unsmiling face.
"It's nothing, really," Lashai tried to tell him, but Rocky wasn't buying it.
"Lashai, you know you can tell me anything," he told her as they stood in the centre of the clearing, oblivious to anything that was happening around them.
"I know," she said quietly, starting to move towards the edge of the clearing that seemed vaguely familiar to Rocky, though he didn't really know why at the moment.
"Are you going to tell me what's bothering you?" Rocky asked once they were clear of ears that were unworthy of hearing their private conversation. Lashai turned to face him, and Rocky was stunned to find tears in her brown eyes, though they hadn't yet spilled onto her face.
"I don't know who you are right know," she said to him. Though she tried to keep her voice firm, it was obvious that Lashai was on the verge of cracking. "I know that Myagi's consciousness is in your body, but you're not Myagi. It's hard, not knowing whether I'm talking to Rocky or...or to the one to whom I'm engaged."
Rocky lowered himself onto a log, then helped Lashai sit beside him. "Lashai, I know that this whole thing has been hard on you, but it will all be over soon, I promise." Rocky paused and took one of Lashai's hands in his own. "That's kind of what I came out here to talk to you about."
"What do you mean?" Lashai asked.
"Lashai, I need to know how you'd feel if...if we weren't able to rejoin Myagi's consciousness with his body. I need to know if you'd want me to stay here, or leave and go back to Earth," Rocky replied. Lashai was stunned.
"What are you saying? Is Myagi, the Myagi I knew, dead?" she asked, barely able to get the words out.
"No, not at all," Rocky assured her quickly. "I'm just asking you what you would want in case it happened. Would you want me to stay, even though I'm not Myagi but I have his mind in mine?"
"I don't care whose body your mind is in. You're still the one I fell in love with, and no matter what you look like I know that you're heart will always be beating with mine," Lashai told him, blushing in time with Rocky at her own words. They were both suddenly glad that darkness was beginning to fall. Rocky exhaled loudly.
"I'm glad to hear you say that," he confessed. "To be honest, I don't think I could have lived without you at my side."
"You'll never have to," Lashai assured him. Rocky smiled down at her and pulled her close to him.
"I know," he said.
Over in her father's hut, Kris was watching her brother and best friend as they sat and talked, uncaring as to who was watching them, with a smile on her face.
"Are you alright?" Kat asked, coming to stand beside Kris at the window. Kris was startled from her own thoughts, and leaned on the open window ledge.
"I have a feeling that, no matter what happens, everything will be fine for everyone," she replied. Kris watched the others in the middle of her father's hut, talking about their experience and recounting every detail of their fights. As she glanced over her shoulder, she saw Rocky and Lashai sharing a kiss that wasn't meant for anyone else's eyes, so she shut the curtains and went to join the others.