Sunlight Sonata: Part Three
Part III – Allegro: Falling Dusk
“Please follow me,” the robot said, gesturing with his taser. “We will not use force if you comply with directions.”
Az stared at it in mute defiance. The robot was shaped like a Kyrii, more or less, but its glare held none of the compassion that a living being’s would hold. He wanted to leap at the robot, pull at its casing until it fell apart, and then rip all the wiring inside to shreds. He could feel heat growing in his chest, in that place where his fire waited.
One syllable of warning. That was all it took to cool the fire. Coru had always been good at that. Az closed his eyes for a moment before stepping forward with Coru, pulling Invi with him. “I don’t like this,” he muttered. “I don’t like this at all.” But he followed Coru as the robot turned, leading them down the dark, pristine streets. Their footprints left dust behind, something that yet another robot would clean up, he thought cynically. Like the dirt that coated the walls could ever go away. It seemed ingrained into the metal itself.
As they passed, Az watched heads turn, and then, just as quickly, turn back. When Az tried to catch someone’s eye, they would look away even more quickly. He sighed. Everything was covered in dust, gray and heavy. Nothing like the bright and shining stories told about Neopia Central. The air seemed heavy, and the sky was dark, fogged, and vaguely orange. Az shivered. This wasn’t a good place at all.
From the way Invi was walking, his tail dragging on the ground, head drooping so that his beak touched the fur on his chest, Az suspected the Eyrie felt the same. His grip tightened on Invi’s mane, his black hand blending into black fur. In this, at least, they were brothers. Coru, he noted sourly, didn’t seem to be affected at all by this place. He was his normal self, brown and bland and utterly unconcerned by the fact that they’d been captured by a robot. And not just any robot. A robot that was obviously from Virtupets.
Coru probably wouldn’t notice. Invi couldn’t notice. And Az couldn’t point it out to them with that robot marching right in front of them. Another two had fallen in behind them, slightly to each side. Both of them, he noted, were Hissi-based. The sound they made as they slithered across the ground was uncannily similar to what normal Hissis made, much unlike the Kyrii they were following. It sounded like what it was: a robot.
A well-made robot, at that. Az watched its movement intently, fascinated by its precision. He’d seen many of Virtupets’ greatest inventions in his time, but in this time, they seemed to have a whole lot more to marvel at, if you were looking for it.
There were robots that looked like Korbats flying through the sky in what was probably some sort of surveillance system. Smaller flying things, probably robotic Horus or something of the sort, darted in paths that wound around each other, barely avoiding collisions that seemed inevitable, with objects dangling below or behind them. Messengers, probably. Az smiled. Even in this robotic future, nothing had replaced their best system of object transportation.
“Please speed up,” one of the Hissis, well, hissed. “We must get you to the Registry as quickly as possible.” Az glared at the robot, purposefully moving slower. He let go of Invi’s mane, freeing his hands, both of which were now clenched.
“Warning: If you do not comply with directions, force will be used.”
The robot’s droning tone made Az shake his head. The Hissis weren’t even holding weapons. What could they do to him?
“Make me, snake-bots,” he said, turning to face them and halting in their paths. He was smiling now, the predatory grin of someone who wanted to fight, and kill, and most of all, live.
“Az! Shut up before you get us all killed!”
“No-go, princess.” Az could feel the fire building up in his chest, and he spread his arms, hands relaxed. The Hissis seemed confused. They weren’t moving anything more than their heads, and those were merely rocking back and forth.
“Warning: Force will be used in three...”
Az turned to face the Kyrii robot, still smiling. “Yes,” he said. “It will.”
He closed his eyes, focusing on his center, as Gindara had taught him. On the source of his fire. It built up, raging through his body in a wave of pure heat.
His eyes snapped open and he leapt, spreading his wings and mouth wide open.
Az’s fire hit the Kyrii’s taser first, the wave of blue-white flames surging over the entire robot, Az following behind. Az spun as he landed, his weight perfectly balanced and his eyes white instead of their usual blue. He ignored the Kyrii’s sputtering chassis, freezing for a moment to glance around.
The Hissis were both coiled up in the strike position. Coru seemed to have resigned himself to the inevitable, for he had dragged Invi away from where Az was. Az was just glad he’d decided not to help or try to distract him. Az leapt, and he roared. Ice-fire, Gindara had called it, the blue-white flames that he could breathe when he chose. Not a weapon most of his kind could use. It slowed, froze. It touched the Hissis at the same time as Az reached them.
He bit one, spinning to swing his tail into the other. The one he bit buzzed, sparked. The other one was still moving. Az turned, bouncing off the now-destroyed Hissi. He hit the Hissi’s head as it was coming towards him, spitting true, golden fire at the Hissi. They both fell to the ground. Az lay there, breathing hard. The Hissi in front of him was sparking, the flames sputtering out.
“Az? You alright?” Coru was pulling the Hissi off him, peering down with concerned golden eyes. “That looks bad.”
“Yeah. More or less.” Az winced, pulling himself to his feet. “Lets get out of here before the rest of them come after us too.”
“Come wi’ us.”
Az leapt, turning towards the voice, ready to attack. The red Kyrii now in front of him was crouched down, her glance flickering all around.
“We know a safe place.” She glanced around. “It’ll take ‘em a couple beats t’ figure out wha’ happ’ned, but once they ha’, boom! There we a’ go.”
“We’ll come,” Az said. He paused. “Why did I say that?”
Coru looked at him as if he was crazy. “Because you’re crazy?”
The Kyrii laughed. “Ev’ryone’s crazy, kid. Coming?”
Az nodded. He trusted this Kyrii, even if it was unreasonable. Coru didn’t know technology. Coru didn’t know why everyone who wasn’t a mutant looked so downtrodden. Az did. And this Kyrii shone against everyone else he’d seen in this Fyora-forsaken world.
The Kyrii returned his nod and started running.
“Where are you going?” Coru shouted, racing after them. “Az! You should know better than this!”
Az ignored him, concentrating on keeping pace with the Kyrii’s quick pace and constant turns through alleyways.
“We got your friend, by the by.” She spoke as if she weren’t moving at all. “Oh, and I’m called Sayang. Nice to meet’cha.”
“Az. And he’s Coru.” Az waved towards the brown Kougra, keeping pace with Sayang. “Invi’s blind, so how d’you know that he’ll come with your friend? Whoever that is.”
“He will,” Sayang said. But she said nothing more. Az wanted to question her, but right then, he’d rather wait until they stopped moving. But they just kept running, darting through passageways that Az could have sworn weren’t there until they were already inside. Nobody noticed them, not even the robots, who Az was sure would have gotten his description by then. He didn’t look like anyone in this world, after all.
Or maybe he did. Passing more people, getting a better look at them, Az saw goggles, much like his own, resting on foreheads. Scorch-marked clothing was common, as were time-keepers like Az wore. All of it was Virtupets technology. But if he fit in, then that meant that Coru didn’t. And that Invi definitely didn’t.
“Here.” Sayang stopped at a nondescript door, one that looked like any one of the others on the row. Opening it, she waved Coru in, but grabbed Az’s arm before he could follow. “Wha’ you did back there. Tha’ wa’ dangerous. If you hadn’t gotten ‘em, we’d all be dead.” Sayang’s dark eyes glittered with fire. “Get backup next time. You’ll need it.”
Sayang shoved him through the door before Az could figure out what she was saying. The room he found himself in was dark, but for the light that filtered through the door. And in an instant, even that was gone, as the door closed behind him. “Everyone here?” someone said. Az couldn’t tell who.
“I got two of ‘em. You got th’ other?”
A light came on, and Az blinked, trying to readjust after the darkness. Invi and Coru were in front of him, and at the far side of the room, a white Zafara stood. He was the one with the lantern. Az blinked again, trying to figure out if the silver symbols he thought he saw on the Zafara’s dark blue robe were there or not. “Follow me,” the Zafara said, and his voice flooded through Az. It was soft, but like water, it was everywhere. It pulled at him, making him want to follow.
The Zafara turned, and as he started walking, Invi moved up next to him. Coru followed, without even a whisper of protest. Az stared at the Zafara, unsure what to think of him. He seemed to be a mage of some sort or another, if he could compel people like that. But why hadn’t it worked on him, then?
Az found himself standing next to Sayang, who held a lantern of her own.
“His voice don’t work on you, do it?” she said. Her face was serious, and her dark eyes glittered with the lantern’s fire. “Keben’s got a gift. Much like th’ one tha’ Eyrie’s got.” Sayang leaned in closer, whispering into his ear. “He’s a dreamer, you see."
To be continued...