"Why can't I sense anything?" She asked, purple eyes squinting into the blue energy that was clearly visible before her in the darkness.
"Give yourself a moment to adjust," a brown robed figure said.
"What is it Rei?"
She glanced at him, "Juan, I asked you not to call me that!"
He sighed. Still has her temper, doesn't she?
"It's Falra now," she snapped. He nodded in silent agreement, not wishing to invoke her tones again by speaking. She calmed after a moment, her gaze ponderous, alert, searching. Her voice came to his ear hushed, as if she feared being overheard by someone, or something; "I do sense something."
Still hesitant to speak, her companion merely looked at her questioningly, brown eyes still boldly expectant of an answer.
"I know we're not alone here." Her words turned harsh again, "Don't give me that look! I don't know what they are! It was stupid of you to take us to a nexus like this!" She grabbed him by the shoulder of his robe, pulled him over to her, and made sure he was within arms reach. "It's not safe, we shouldn't even be here." She guided him to edge the cliff, where a section rose like a protective shield. They sat down behind the relative safety of the stones.
"What in Lazlo's name makes you think anything is safe?" Juan replied sternly. "Hush now," he pulled her hand free of his robe. "I'm sure they don't even know we're here." He thought, we've still got a few hundred metres between us.
She tried to perceive the core of the nexus as an oval portal opened, showing them the source of her sensing. "What? How can I sense them and they not sense us?" She said, sounding irritated.
"Will you please try not to be so loud?" He found he had the nerve to retaliate, now that fear had kicked in. "We're not D-bees. Unless they can sense magic, we're safe."
"Hypocrite, you just said nothing was safe," she said with an irksome grin.
"Oh do hush Re-, er, Falra," he said tiredly. Juan just wished he could remember what was coming out of the portal.
They finally stopped talking long enough to take in the scene that seemed to be unfolding before them. A number of humanoid insects seemed to be arriving through a large oval portal-
Images flooded her mind. Where they had arrived after the portal had closed. The lion had gone. Why? She still failed to understand that. The strange floating ship, the blind women aboard it. Why did they not retaliate against the Splugorth? Again, another answer which was beyond her. She shook her head. Thoughts of Atlantis, and slavery, made her shiver.
"Are you alright, Falra?"
"Hmm?" Her reminiscence fled as his words registered. "Sorry, I was just thinking."
Juan looked serious. "Look," he said, pointing towards the portal. "I think the leader, the queen, or whatever, is coming through the portal."
"Are you sure, Juan? I don't see anything," she squinted into the light of the dimensional doorway. "Wait, no, you're right, I do see somethingŠ" Carefully she watched as a larger humanoid insect came out of the portal. It looked as though the creature had skin made up in plates, like armour, or was it an exoskeleton? She could not be sure. As she watched it fly through, she noticed that it's abdomen was much larger than the others of it's kind. It reminded her of a queen bee, from her homeworld. A pang of homesickness struck her. After a time of study, she realized abruptly that the queen-bee creature was looking back at her.
She cursed. "We've been seen! It knows we're here!"
"What? You're imagining things," he said, not wanting to believe that they were in grave danger.
"I don't know what it is, but it sees us!" She grabbed him, and turned, "Run!"
He uttered an oath, and hurried to catch up to Falra. Her long black hair flew out behind her as she ran. She threw a glance over her shoulder. "We're not going to make it!"
Juan could see the hovercycles in the distance, and judged that she was right. If they had left a few moments earlier, perhaps. At that point, they would be just short of reaching their means of escape before the creature caught them.
"We need a distraction!" She called out. "Any ideas?"
A myriad of spotlights lit the sky, announcing silently the presence of someone else. "Uh, nice," Juan quipped. His eyes widened in alarm. "Duck!" He cried.
"Nani?" Was her startled and stunned reply. As Juan fell face first into the dirt, he reached out with a hand in hopes of dragging her to the ground with him. Via a combination of tripping over an unseen stone, and being grabbed by Juan, Falra found herself painfully winded as the ground came up to greet her by smacking her soundly on the forehead.
Juan heard the low rumble of what he recognized to be jet engines as they flew over him, tossing, tangling his short hair, and rippling his robe as the violently expelled exhaust pushed at the two of them. He spat dirt, and crawled over to Falra's fallen form. He pushed at her shoulder gently.
She groaned and coughed. Her wildly dishevelled hair lie in the dirt, twisted and mangled. She put a hand to her head as she turned over, a dull throbbing washing through her skull. She did not speak, mainly due to her struggle for air. Once she found it, she croaked an effort at vocalization.
"Wha- What was that?"
"Sams," he said, sounding defeated by a battle she did not even know they had been fighting.
She lay there, not trying to move, and gave him a quizzical look.
"The Coalition," he said.
As if to make a point of their presence, a lone "Smiling Jack" SAMAS approached the two of them. The winged armour landed, and waved a gun in their direction. "Get up," a deep voice said behind a very prominent metallic grin, the namesake of the power armour.
"Come on," Juan whispered, "we'd best not argue, unless you want to end up dead."
Falra looked shocked. "Are you serious?"
"Get up!" The 'Jack snapped impatiently, and threatening.
"Damn right I am," he remarked, helping her up. Once on their feet, Falra winced when she set her weight on her right foot. "You alright Falra?"
She shook her head. "I think it's broken."
"What are you to doing here?" The 'Jack demanded.
Juan gazed at the armour with his best false cock sure mask. "We heard a loud buzzing, thought it might be a good idea to check it out. You know, D-bees. Though maybe the good Coalition might want to know about it."
With a pair of mechanical whur-thwumps, the darkly smiling armour stepped towards them. "Your ID. Let's see your ID."
So it's not just the grin that's stupid, Falra thought sardonically.
The bravado quickly fled Juan Nathan Iridan. "Would you believe we left them at home?"
There was a dull click.
"Didn't think so," Juan muttered something under his breath, then dropped a magic net on the grinning idiot armour. "Falra, let's go!"
Falra hung frantically on to Juan with one arm as they fled, trying to reach the-
"They're gone!" She gasped.
"Halt magic users!" Another commanding, deep voice demanded. "Halt or die!" Two larger Super SAMAS armours stood at the site where the hovercycles had been. Juan was sure he was going to die anyway, but stopped.
"I'm sorry Rei," he apolagized uselessly in hushed tones, "If we get out of this alive, I'll make it up to you. IŠ" His voice fell silent, lacking words in the seriousness of the situation. Falra merely nodded, her head at his shoulder.
"You called me Rei again," she noted just as cautiously. He started to speak, but she did not give him the chance. "No, it's alright. You're my friend. My friends know me for who I really am."
"Well well," one of the grunts in the armours said with a hint of false pleasure. "What 'ave we here?" The other Sam turned to the first.
"It looks like th' D-bee girl we been searchin' for," the second stated with a laugh in his words. Juan gazed at Falra, puzzled.
"What's he saying?" He murmured. "You're not aŠ"
Falra did not respond, her head bowed as she leaned against him heavily.
"I don't s'pose they'd mind if we played wit' her fer a bit?" The first asked the second.
Juan snarled angrily under his breath. D-bee or not, he thought, they'd actuallyŠ By Lazlo's good name!
"Not't all." The first seemed to ponder something. "What 'f," the first dropped the supposition. The comparatively short mage seethed as he pondered his actions in Falra's defense.
Juan restrained the rage he felt boiling within him, and marvelled at it all at once. Glancing at Falra, he noted her fury as well. He did not know if he'd ever seen her as angry as she looked just then.
"What 'f she's too inhuman for us?"
Juan could cage his anger no longer. He summoned another spell, dropping a bolt of lightning on the first of the two. "Shut up damn you!" He cried. The sliver of electrical energy caught the Sam on the arm. To Juan's surprise, and utter horror, the black sheen of the armour looked undamaged. The second Sam reached out and grabbed Juan by his neck, choking him.
"Juan!" Falra screamed desperately, dropping to one knee as her ankle let out in a flash of pain.
"Don' you be talkin' ta my buddy that way," the voice of the second armour sneered. "You ready ta apolagize?"
Faced with death, Juan considered the option. Gazing at Falra, he doted on it further. In that doting, he realized that they were going to kill him sooner or later. Given the immediate choice, he chose sooner.
"Never," he hissed, throwing a short forgive me glance to Falra.
"Your bad," the second sighed in mock sympathy. The sound of death and the visual realization of it sent Falra to tears.
"Shut up hussy," the first armour grunted, slapping her softly. She fell to the ground, a large red welt across the side of her face. "Well? 'ow about it?"
The second hesitated. "She's out! Are you really gonnaŠ"
"Geezuz, 'ave I gotta do everything first?" The first sighed. There was a hiss as the back of his armour opened. The noise was muted by the short deep air cutting sounds of helicopter blades. A small spotlight lit the collapsed figures, and reflected off the glossy darkness of the armours.
"What are you doing?" A loudspeaker voice rang.
"Emperor Prosek! Sir! Nottin' sir! We captured a D-bee sir!" The second replied frantically, his fear keeping him from error in words.
"Ah, so I see. And the other?"
"Tried to kill me sir!" The first armour snapped off as his armour hissed closed.
"I see you dealt with the creature appropriately. Good. Take the corrupted one and report back to Headquarters."
"Aye sir!" They agreed in unison.
The first sighed as the spotlight and the sound of the helicopters' presence faded. "Damn."
"You mean we're not gonnaŠ"
"No," the first Sam said, sounding angrily disappointed. He turned to the body of Juan, and fired off a quick round. The body dispersed into the air, vaporizing in a burst of smoke. "Do ya really wanna disobey the Emperor?"
"Well no, butŠ"
"So shut up and grab the D-bee hussy," he snapped.
When Rei awoke, the first thing she felt were broken bones. Or rather, the bonds that held them. They hadn't set her broken leg, there was no support for it, they had merely tied her to a chair, unsympathetic.
Why should they care? She thought. Her hands were bound behind her back. Useless. She also felt something around her neck. It was cold, metallic. A collar was her first thought. Then; why? Movement was limited to her head and shoulders. She felt a wetness on her cheek. Tears?
She remembered suddenly the grinning armour and it's thick, black body as it held Juan in the air with one hand.
'You ready ta apolagize?'
She recalled his face, the dead set look of sorrow as he glanced at her, then the hatred as he hissed his final word: "Never."
Why'd you do itŠ? WhyŠ?
The weapon had fired. Juan's head had been vaporized by the blast.
"D-Bee," said a voice. There was a click, and suddenly lights were upon her, blinding her. She wished she could shed her robe; the lights were so warm.
"Hey bitch," demanded another voice. A hand appeared from the darkness, collided with her face, then disappeared again. "Answer the man." He stressed the word; man.
"You got a name there D-Bee?"
Silence. A stocky man stepped out into the silence, and the light, then hit her again, palm open.
"Every time I don't get an answer, you get another one of those," the voice from behind the lights said. "Okay, let's start from the topŠ"
Rei was only just dimly realizing what they were talking about.
Answers? They want questionsŠ? WhaŠ? Her head swam.
"What are you called?"
Silence broken. A whimper.
"Not smart," the voice stated coldly. "What do they call you?"
Silence once again.
"Not even a name?" Followed by a gesture, and the taste of blood.
"You're a tough bitch. Real quiet, too," the one in front of her said as she felt a closed fist make her head snap to the side.
"That's enough," the voice said, "let her fry for a while."
They were all too soon gone. The lights did not relent their warming stare. She was sweating, close to tears, all hope fled. After a time of silence, she heard a barely audible hiss. The lights went out. Falra tensed when she felt a cool cloth dabbing at her face.
"Hey there," a cool voice said. This one was different, it had a calm, trusting tone. "How are you doing, Rei?"
"How do you know my name?" She whispered, mollified.
"I'm a friend."
She was silent.
"I know you can't really trust me, but you're not really in a position to refuse any help I offer. You can believe me, I have as much an interest in your life as I do that of your friends." He wiped the blood from her lip, and pressed a finger to it.
"Yes, I know about them. We've found Minako, but we're still looking for the rest of them."
"Are you going to free me?" She asked.
"I can't, not just yet. I need some time. In a couple of days I'll be able to, once I've got the people I need." She felt something, a vial, pressed against her lips. "Drink this."
"It'll dull the pain. I'd give you something stronger, but they might suspect interference if you don't react. I'm sorry."
She was thankful for any help, at that point. She tipped her head back slightly as he held the vial. Slowly a warmth fogged her mind as the man stood.
"Wait," she said, "what do IŠ"
"Dragon Fella," he replied, still cool as ice. "I'll see you in a couple of days."
Only moments later did the two men return, with their words and violence.
"Okay, let's start from the beginningŠ"