There are ants in my Lucky Green Boots Circulation: 125,893,067 Issue: 254 | 25th day of Hiding, Y8
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Encountering Resistance: Part Seven


by moosuem

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"Akzanti?" gasped Astral.

      The other five members of the Resistance jerked upright, startled at the name-

      -And all stared, speechless, at the Techo sitting in the cell before them.

      "Well, that's something else!" chortled Akzanti. "I never expected to see you here! I'd get up, but..." he shrugged apologetically, indicating the thick casts around one arm and one leg. He had several bandages wrapped around other parts of his body, but it didn't look as if he had any other broken bones.

      "But - How did - You were-" sputtered Roshen.

      "In the building when the bomb went off?" Akzanti finished for the stammering Aisha. "Yep, sure was. That explosion was something else! I should know, since I was in it. I wish I knew how the Empire makes those things..." A dreamy look came into the Techo's eyes, but he shook his head and continued. "Fortunately, Techos are sturdier than most Neopets." He tapped part of his shoulder that was not covered in bandages. As Roshen and the rest looked more closely, they could see that the metallic scales there, though blackened and warped slightly, were still mostly intact. "A bomb going off can't really hurt us that seriously. If the building hadn't collapsed, I wouldn't even have these lovely casts." He chuckled. "The blast did knock me out for a while, but the building was in small enough pieces afterwards that I just burrowed my way to the surface." He frowned then for the first time. "Problem was, there were all these big ugly Grundo brutes poking around in the rubble. I came up right in the middle of them and they all jumped on me, which is why I'm in prison now. It looks like maybe I've had a better time here than you've had on the way, though, hmm?"

      At this, the rest of them could restrain themselves no longer. Casts or no casts, they all leapt at Akzanti, still astonished but ecstatic to see him again after thinking him dead for so long. Astral gripped his unbandaged claw tightly, while Caralen simply threw her bony arms around him in a hug. Commander Pagger, chortling with joy, gave him a firm pat on the back with one wing, causing the Techo to wince slightly. With a happy rumble, Trevor picked the four of them up all at once, giving them a suffocating hug before setting them down.

      Roshen and Samrindela sat slightly apart from the laughing, joyful group. Roshen was still relatively new to the Resistance, having lived on his own for several years, and was still a little bit shy of group things like this, while Samrindela was not given to displays of any emotion of any kind. However, when the other five had calmed down a little, Samrindela did walk solemnly over to Akzanti and wordlessly open the box she carried with her everywhere. At the bottom of the box, still nestled in the last of Samrindela's paper scraps, sat Akzanti's detransmogrification ray.

      "Well, that's something else!" chuckled Akzanti, beaming at the little Kacheek. "I thought you'd keep it safe, but this is even better than I expected. It looks like it's had a more comfortable journey than any of us have!" He laughed and added, "How did you get here, by the way?"

      At this, the various members of the reunited Resistance sat down around the cramped room and listened as Astral described their route to the Space Station (with frequent interruptions from Commander Pagger). When the Lutari mentioned getting the spaceship from Akzanti's friend Mirkelloyd, Akzanti chuckled again. "So that's why I bothered to look up his communication number!" he said, beaming. "I knew there was some reason. It's good to hear he's still alive and a thorn in the Empire's side. That Korbat really is something else."

      Eventually, Astral finished with their arrival on the Space Station and the fact that all seven of them, including Akzanti, were going to be fed to the Emperor's Giant Space Fungus the next morning. This brought everyone sharply back to the present.

      "Is there any way to break out of this cell?" asked Astral. If anyone could figure out a way out of the cell, Akzanti could.

      Unfortunately, the Techo shook his head grimly. "Not one. These cells are something else. I tried to burn through one of the walls with my pocket welding iron, but all I had time to do was blow a hole through to that water pipe before a guard came in and took it away." He pointed to a spot on one wall where a trickle of oily water seeped from a blackened hole in the wall. Trevor immediately wedged a claw into the crack and pulled, but that had no more effect than blowing on it would have. The big Grarrl sank back down, discouraged, onto the bench.

      Eventually, when all seven of them were starting to get hungry and the guards showed no sign of feeding them, Commander Pagger took a few small packets of food out of various pockets and handed them around.

      "I wouldn't drink that if I were you," Akzanti called across the room to Caralen, who was trying to collect water from the leaking pipe.

      "It's all right," she replied, holding up the metal tube on a chain around her neck. "I've still got that purifier you made me."

      Akzanti shook his head. "No good here," he said apologetically. "The Faerie Dust in that thing only works if the transmogrification potion's in small concentrations. Fortunately, that's the way it is on the planet's surface; there's enough there to mutate anyone who drank the water straight, but there's little enough that that little gadget can get rid of it. It's different here on the Space Station, though - this is where the Emperor makes transmogrification potions, after all. The water here's laced with the stuff."

      Caralen gasped and shrank away from the leaky pipe. "What am I supposed to drink, then?" she asked, creeping to the other side of the room.

      "I've got some water from the surface right here," said Commander Pagger quickly. He held out his wing for the emaciated Kyrii to lean on until she had reached the other side of the small room, then pulled a bottle out of one of his pouches. "It's all yours. The rest of us Mutants can drink from that pipe."

      "Thank you," gasped Caralen. The thin yellow Kyrii sat on the bench next to Akzanti for a moment, catching her breath after her walk across the room, then opened the bottle and started filtering it through the small tube. She stared fixedly at the leaking pipe the entire time she ate, saying nothing. Her eyes were unreadable.

      After they had all eaten, the conversation turned again to escape plans. They thought of several and rejected them just as quickly. Finally, thoroughly discouraged, the Resistance sat down and stared at each other, out of ideas. It looked as if they would all be eaten by the space fungus in the morning, no matter what they did.

      At this point, Caralen nodded grimly and looked away from the leaky pipe as if she had made a decision.

      And she had.

      "A Mutant Kyrii could get us out of here," whispered Caralen. "Steel doors? No problem..." Her eyes were haunted as she slowly turned her head back towards the leaking pipe in the wall.

      "The water here is laced with the stuff..."

      Astral realized what Caralen was thinking just a split second too late. "Caralen, no!" she cried, leaping at the Kyrii.

      She was too late. Before anyone could stop her, Caralen had darted across the room, cupped a few drops of the viscous leaking water in her slender paws, and gulped them down.

      "Caralen..." whispered Astral, stopping short. She stared at the panting Kyrii for a moment, then stepped forward and hugged her. "Oh, Caralen."

      Caralen hugged her back tightly, then grimaced and pulled away. "It's starting," she said quietly. "Don't touch me. I don't want you to get hurt." With a weak smile, she turned to the rest of the stricken Resistance. "You probably don't want to watch this," she gasped. "Mutant Kyrii aren't exactly the prettiest sight..."

      The others understood what she didn't say. They didn't want to watch - and, more importantly, Caralen didn't want them to watch the moment she had spent her entire life trying to avoid. They all looked away.

      The change seemed to happen silently. Caralen made a few short gasping sounds at the beginning, but the room was silent after that. In a minute or two, the others heard the barely audible sound of Caralen crossing the room to the door. There was a moment of silence. Then, with no warning, there was a hissing, sizzling screech that left their ears ringing.

      Then there was silence again. Finally, Astral and Roshen looked up at the door. A gaping hole had opened in it, blackened and smoking around the edges. The rest of the Resistance followed them through it. When they had all climbed through into the dim, grimy corridor beyond, Astral looked down the corridor to see an indistinct silhouette at the end.

      Caralen.

      The Kyrii motioned for them to follow her, then darted around a corner before they could get close enough to see her clearly.

      Astral gritted her teeth and started down the corridor towards where her oldest friend had disappeared. The tears in her eyes seemed frozen in place.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Encountering Resistance: Part One
» Encountering Resistance: Part Two
» Encountering Resistance: Part Three
» Encountering Resistance: Part Four
» Encountering Resistance: Part Five
» Encountering Resistance: Part Six
» Encountering Resistance: Part Eight



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