Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 110,063,541 Issue: 170 | 19th day of Celebrating, Y6
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Retribution: Part Three

by child_dragon


By how fast her tail was twitching and the shivers in her shoulders it was easy to judge Nina's agitation. The red Kyrii rubbed his forehead, his helmet dangling from his other hand in careless abandon. Nina's was on the floor by her feet, her hands balled into fists and a blaster slung across her back. Nearby was a green Buzz, arms folded and head bowed, eyes closed. He was probably thinking on the battle that had gone so wrong and the loss of two of their pilots.

"Nina, I can't approve this," he said wearily, "We were outnumbered and there's no way to tell if Sloth's fighters are still there. Wait for reconnaissance and then we'll let our commander launch a rescue mission."

"No! He's out there and we can't afford to wait!"

The captain sighed and looked away from her, finding himself completely unable to meet her fierce and desperate gaze.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, "I truly am. I know how close you and Danner were and I actually resisted having the two of you on the same team. But in the end I relented and now I'm thinking that was a mistake. You can't go after him Nina. You saw what happened back there - there were too many of them. And… I hate to say it, but he may not even be alive. They had a missile on him and if that thing hit he wouldn't have stood a chance. That's just how it is."

"He's a good pilot," she replied, her voice carrying a note of desperation. "He wouldn't have let it hit. They shot him down, that's all, and he's alive, I just know it. I've got to go after him."

"Nina, please, don't make this any more difficult than it already is."


He glanced up at her and saw fierce pride shining beneath her tears.

"I'm going. I shouldn't have asked you in the first place, that was my mistake. So now I'm just going to tell you."

She brushed past him and he watched in disbelief as she made her way back to the hanger where her ship was being refueled and repaired.


The Kyrii huffed in exasperation and turned to the Buzz.

"Terry, help me out here," he said.

"We lost Rya," Terry replied, lifting his chin off his chest. "We're not loosing Danner."


"Sorry captain, I ain't helping you here. I'm with Nina."

And the Buzz followed the Wocky into the hanger as the Kyrii watched in utter amazement.

"Ah heck," he finally muttered as the alarms sounded for evacuation of the bay as the ships readied for launch, "It'd be pointless to write them up for insubordination."

And he shrugged and turned his back as the two ships were spat out into open space on an impromptu rescue mission.

Danner woke slowly, his head swimming with disorientation and pain. His mouth was horribly dry, parched to the point where it burned. His whiskers felt strange and he realized that a good portion of them had been seared off by the heat, leaving only small stubs close to his muzzle. Ash clogged his nostrils and he stifled the urge to sneeze. Slowly, he cracked his eyes open, feeling each nerve in his body register some kind of complaint with his brain. He'd taken a battering, there was no doubt about that. With slow and careful movements he moved his head, flexing his arms and shoulders to ascertain that there was no serious damage. So far just the usual bumps and bruises from being thrown about so much. Then his gaze slid down to where something had landed on him. A groan escaped his lips and his head fell back to the dirt, breathing slowly as it sunk in that he was quite firmly trapped. Part of the ship itself, a hunk of metal sheeting, had crashed into him and was now resting on his legs. He tried to move them a bit and found himself lacking the strength to buy himself even that much leeway. The piece was simply too heavy. It was probably a miracle that it hadn't crushed him.

He twisted his body to get a look behind him. Just out of reach was his rifle blaster, up against the wall of the canyon, half-buried in debris. With a sigh the Kougra fiddled with the strap of his helmet, finally unlatching it and letting it drop to the ground. There was nothing he could do. Quite simply, he was helpless and alone in hostile territory.

"Oh Nina," he whispered, "I haven't left you yet."

There were voices, a dull conversation that drifted in his direction. He tensed, his heart quickening in anxiety. Two pets, neither voice recognizable. A look at the gun again asserted that it was still out of reach.

"Over there!" one cried and Danner let his head drop back to the ground, ceasing his struggles to get free.

"Well, whadya know."

Someone leaned on the piece of metal that pinned him and Danner's eyes flew open with a cry of pain, his hands pushing at the ground to get him away from the source of it. A spotted Gelert's eyes gazed down at him, his ears hanging out from under his helmet. Sloth's emblem was emblazoned on his suit.

"Hey, I think he's trapped," a red Lupe commented, looking from the piece of metal back to the Kougra who had his fist clenched in helpless rage.

"Yeah. Isn't that a shame."

And the Gelert put more weight on the debris of his ship and Danner bit off another cry of pain.

"Cut it out," the Lupe snapped, "Geez. Obey orders for once in your life."

"Fine, whatever. What's wrong with a bit of fun?"

The Gelert let off and Danner let out a pent up breath, his eyes watering from relief.

"Can you budge it?"

"No, too heavy. Help me."

The two pets put their shoulders to the piece and Danner dug his paws into the ground, pulling away as his captors pried it up from the ground. He could move his legs. With a last gasp of effort he pulled himself free and the two let it fall back to the ground. Danner didn't waste time, scrambling to his knees and lunging for the gun. A foot slammed into his back and pinned him to the ground, his fingers inches from the barrel of his rifle, and the cold metal of a blaster was planted on the back of his skull.

"Heh. Nice try fuzzy. Now why don't you stand up, nice and slow, okay?"

Seething, the Kougra obeyed, keeping his hands by his side and carefully away from the weapon.

"Good, now hands behind your head. Com'n now."

The pet moved away, staying just behind him and Danner slowly put his hands up, locking them together just behind his ears. A flash of movement caught the corner of his peripheral vision and he resisted the urge to turn towards it. The two were concentrating on him, surely they hadn't seen it. The flash came again and this time he was able to make out a distinct shape. Two ships, silver. Sloth's ships were mostly red.

"Right, back away now."

Danner took two steps back and the Gelert quickly stepped forwards to retrieve the blaster, dusting it off and inspecting the weapon over.

"Alright, let's move fuzzy. There's a ship waiting to transport you to Dr. Sloth or whoever's gonna handle interrogation."

The Lupe poked him in the back with his blaster and Danner restrained the urge to lash out in immediate response. There was a strange twisting at his stomach, a amalgam of hatred, fear, and helplessness seething in his soul.

"Actually," he whispered, "the likes of you can't bring me down. Not yet."

The two paused in confusion, wondering what kind of a threat this captive was making. Then the two ships screamed over their heads and both pets instinctively ducked at the roar. Danner dropped his hands and spun, sweeping his leg in an arc to catch the Lupe's ankles and send him to the ground. He snatched up the pet's blaster and charged the Gelert just as an explosion resounded through the canyon, further staggering the pet off balance. With a crack, metal met bone and the Gelert toppled, unconscious. Danner turned and gave a sharp kick to the Lupe as well, knocking him out and leaving him in a heap near his partner.

"Call me fuzzy, willya," he muttered in disgust and dropped the blaster in favor of reclaiming his own weapon.

Surely that was Nina and another of his wing-mates that had flown over. If there was a transport, it probably was unguarded, and surely that explosion was them blowing it up. Surely. Only one way to find out.

Danner stooped and reclaimed his helmet from the ground, slapping it back on his head and flicking on the comm. piece near his ear.

"Nina? Can you read me?"

"Copy that," she replied and Danner laughed outloud from sheer relief, "I can't get down to where you're at, the canyon is much too narrow. You alright?"

"A bit bruised but I'll live. My ship is in pieces though."

"As long as you're alive I'm happy. Head north along the canyon, we'll be waiting for you. Hurry, I don't know if they managed to get out a distress signal before we blew the ship up."


He switched off the comm. and glanced up at the stars. The Acara Archer was to his left which meant that north was before him, in the direction of his shattered ship. On the moon, the constellations changed wildly, but he knew them well enough to be able to judge time and location by their light. It was all those years of stargazing.

The Kougra broke into a jog, jumping over the occasional broken rock and hunk of metal from his ship. He slowed as he reached the actual crash site. There was a blackened crater, a couple twisted pieces of metal, and nothing more. Cold ice wormed its way into his stomach and he shuddered, feeling the fur on the ridge of his spine rise. He was very lucky to be alive indeed. Then, without another backwards glance, started off through the ravine for where Nina was waiting for him.

They had landed their ships, a Buzz he quickly recognized as Terry standing on the wing of one, a blue Wocky pacing before the other. He hailed her and she froze, then burst into a sprint and didn't slow her pace until they tumbled together, knocking them both the ground in a ferocious hug that was more like a choke-hold.

"I was so worried," she whispered.

"I know," he murmured in response, gently shoving her off and getting to his feet. "I know you were."

He lifted her to her feet and hand in hand, they walked back towards the ships.

"I asked you not to leave me," she said suddenly, as Terry slipped into the cockpit of his own. "Will you promise me that you won't?"

The Kougra sighed and bowed his head, trying to hide his face from her earnest and searching eyes.

"I told you that the choice may not be mine. But I promise you that I will try to the very best of my ability."

She nodded and leapt up into the cockpit of her own ship, only to slip over the edge of the seat into the miniscule storage space behind it. Only the tip of her furry tail was visible for a moment and Danner cautiously climbed up onto the hull, gazing in to see her bright eyes glittering.

"Surprised?" the Wocky asked. "I can indeed fit back here. Better me than you, since you simply look bad - I can't imagine how you feel."

"I hurt," he admitted, climbing into the pilot's seat and strapping himself in, flipping the switch to close and seal the canopy, "but I'll live."

"Hey Danner," Nina whispered and the Kougra resisted the urge to shudder as her ear flicked the back of his neck, "do you realize that this is the first time I've ever let you pilot something of mine?"

"Yeah. You're right - this is."

It was a strange thought for both of them. They didn't say anything more as the two ships blasted off into the sky and on their way home.

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Retribution: Part One
» Retribution: Part Two
» Retribution: Part Four
» Retribution: Part Five

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