Encountering Resistance: Part Seven
"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
"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
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.
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...