Everything about this development set Kip’s nerves on edge. While it all seemed legit enough on the outside, he remembered how Zemus always made the most nefarious things sound beneficial in the beginning.
He played the ‘kids’ card. I should know better when he goes straight for my throat like that. He knows about ShiKon and NaTu… he knows how to get what he wants from me.
The humming on the tracking device grew louder as Kip walked, leading him in the right direction.
Still… what do I do? Let him drag me around, right into whatever he’s got planned.
His feet stumbled over the rocky ground, scrambling to keep balance.
I could always stop right here. Refuse to do this.
But the image of the floating tower consumed his thoughts… the way building his old ship once did. It had been so long since he took on a project of this magnitude. In fact, he’d never attempted anything this ambitious before.
That’s exactly why he was so caught up in the idea of the challenge. Well, that, and for the welfare of his people.
If any of that is actually true. With Zemus, you can never be sure what’s real and what’s just everything you want to hear rolled up in a warm, toasted bun.
Finally the humming reached an almost painful crescendo, alerting Kip to the fact he’d arrived at his destination. Turning off the device to ensure he didn’t go deaf in the near future, he paced the length of the rocky terrain. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
If KluYa planted that tracker there, that means he’s probably hidden whatever it is somewhere that could easily be overlooked.
With a frown, Kip began to scuff away at the dirt under his feet. Before long, he found what he was looking for, the sound of sand scratching across metal.
Here we go. Something more than just rock under here.
It took him a while to brush away enough dirt and rock to find the outline of the metal door planted in the ground. Next to the door’s frame, he cleared away a small square indentation, undoubtedly meant for a key.
Kip glanced at the square shape of the tracking device, visually traced the outline of the indentation, then reached down and fit the two together. With a huge groan, the door began to rumble, sending pebbles dancing down the hillside as the metal folded back.
The mind mage moved away, watching with cautious curiosity. When nothing lethal leapt from the depths, he crept forward and peered inside. He recognized what he saw there instantly.
A cold sleep pod.
All caution aside, Kip hooked his legs over the edge and dropped down inside. As the jolt of the drop left prickles in his calves, he glanced up to see the much more accessible ladder along the other side.
Good to know… in case I need to make an escape.
He wiped his hand over the pod’s aged glass, squinting for a look at what was inside. There was nothing but shadow, given no help from the moons, which were now hanging low in the night sky.
I guess I’m just going to have to take that chance.
Kip reached over, turning the decompression key on the side of the pod. A familiar hiss filled the tiny chamber with cold misty air as it rushed out of the device, beginning the waking process. He crouched low next to the pod, watching the ever-widening crack between the lid and the base.
Finally, after what seemed forever, came a stirring from within the pod. A dark-skinned hand clutched the side of the pod with a grip that left a crack in the material. Then a growling hiss became a groan, and a dark shape sat up inside the pod.
Kip took a stumbling step back as his eyes flickered over the creature before him. Sickly gray skin, dark green inverted eyes with burning white pupils, wild dark hair with a shock of white splashed over one eye. He knew this thing. He’d seen it before a long, long time ago.
“You… you were… in the… Man…or…” Kip struggled to voice his surprise.
But as the dark eyes focused on him, he felt all his thoughts evaporating from his mind. Like something catching hold of the memories and devouring them, leaving nothing but a muddled blur in their place.
He fought against it, but even with his mind mage abilities, he couldn’t stop what was happening to him. Then suddenly, a calm fell over him. The blur was gone, as if it had never happened.
Kip didn’t remember that he had forgotten.
Instead, his eyes fell on the creature, seeing it again for the first time, feeling the aura of fear that surrounded it. His breath began to rasp as he fought against the desire to run. His heart nearly pounded out of his chest as the unnatural terror fell over him.
The creature’s inverted eyes regarded him silently, almost bored. It had seen this all before. Hundreds of times. Maybe thousands.
The creature dismissed him, speaking with a curled lip, “Relax, kid. I’m not going to do anything to you.”
Kip wheezed out a sound, trying to make sense of it.
This fear… it’s not normal. It’s not me… It’s something from it… him.
“You were the one he sent to wake me, huh?” He asked, almost conversationally. He then hefted himself out of the pod, struggling to find his footing.
“Can’t stand… yet!” Kip warned, instinctual concern overcoming fear in a spurt of courage. He reached out towards the other person… creature… thing… catching his arm as he stumbled off balance.
“Cursed cold sleep!” He spat, showing gleaming fangs in his displeasure.
The mind mage felt faint at the sight.
Then the strange eyes flickered over to Kip, studying him a moment. There was recognition in his gaze. The face of someone who knew someone else, even if Kip didn’t.
Then the person… creature… thing… looked down at the mind mage’s offer of help. The supporting hand on his arm. His brow grew stern as he righted himself with a disgusted look, pulling away from Kip. “I’m fine. I don’t need your help.”
“You’d think a mind sucker would have more control over fake fear than this,” he grumbled.
“Fake… fear…” Kip repeated. Then he blinked slowly. “Did you just call me a mind sucker?”
“Yeah. Whatcha gonna do about it?” the dark eyes narrowed at him.
“No…thing. I just never heard…”
“He’s recruited you to build crap, hasn’t he?” Complete derailment.
“Yes. How’d you know?”
“That’s what you’re good for, isn’t it?”
“I uh… yeah.” Kip gave a frazzled look. Stuck at what else to say at the moment, he grasped for an introduction. “I’m Kip.”
The creature gave an unfriendly look. Then he snorted. “TsuMeTai.”