“Zot Control, this is General Kip. I’m preparing for a landing,” the Lunar announced.
Not that there was any need for anyone on the Tower to do something to facilitate his landing. He just didn’t feel like getting shot down out of the sky for not announcing his approach. The Tower did have its defenses, mostly geared towards invaders of the mechanical types.
Humans were learning to use airships, after all. It wasn’t a risk they could afford to take.
Kip’s little pod ship was nothing like the gangly wooden airships the humans made. Maybe it was lack of human imagination, but they literally re-designed sailing ships, the kinds made for the water, and repurposed them into ships that sailed on air.
If it works, it works.
Kip’s ship was much different. It was small, sleek and made of metals that were not all found on the Blue Planet. Humans were only beginning to grasp the basics of machinery, so their interest in metal had mostly been in forging weapons. They had no idea the treasures their planets held in resources and materials alone.
Inside, the ship hummed with sleek screens, many colored buttons and a neat folding glass dome for the cockpit. Kip was especially proud of this innovation, and loved to listen to the soft sound of metal whispering over metal as the top folded back over his head.
The landing within the Tower was uneventful. Kip pulled off his goggles, dropped out of the cockpit and stretched his arms over his head as the pale light of Zot met his eyes.
After a moment, he turned to head back to his quarters. He needed time to think about all he discovered – the run-in with the mercs had side-tracked him from his original goal. He was no closer to solving the mystery of what happened to Ben’s family than before.
I don’t know what I’m going to tell him. I can’t keep putting this off, though. The boy is only going to think worse of me if I break his trust on this promise.
Kip didn’t have much time to ponder the situation before a sharp voice shouted his name. Turning, the mind mage saw the furious form of TsuMe glaring death and destruction in his direction.
At first, Kip wondered if he was busted for his unauthorized trip to the Blue Planet. On a second look, he saw that Alert had fixed itself to TsuMe’s shoulder, clutching with an expression that could be mistaken for adoration… if the bot wasn’t a machine.
“KIP!” TsuMe demanded. His whole rigid pose spoke of barely contained violence. “Get this thing off me before I blow it to bits!”
The Alert didn’t seem to notice. It continued to cling to the General’s shoulder, peeping happily.
It was so ridiculous that Kip couldn’t help but break into laughter. The laughter, however, was cut short when TsuMe snarled sharply.
“I MEAN IT!”
“Alright, alright.” The mind mage turned to the bot with a gentle tone. “Alert, shouldn’t you be on patrol right now?”
Alert just drooped with a heartbroken expression. It emitted something that sounded close to a human whimper.
“Come on, get back out there.”
The Alert turned to do as it was told, but not without tossing a last, longing look at the ruffled TsuMe. The warrior just acted as if nothing at all had happened.
Kip had never seen anything quite like it. He knew that the Alert was acting strangely since the last reboot, but signs of affection – very human-like affection – boggled his mind.
The machine was only designed to patrol and report. It shouldn’t have emotional capacities.
“Only you would make such a defective machine,” TsuMe grumbled at him.
“It’s not a defect, it’s a feature!” Kip responded cheerfully. “Besides, it was working perfectly until you zapped it.”
“Don’t blame me!” The warrior crossed his arms with a grouchy look. “You were supposed to fix it.”
“I did fix it! But you can’t send a jolt like that through the AI and expect it not to have a few bugs after the fact.”
Then came the accusation. “I bet you fixed it like that on purpose.”
“What? Me? Would I do something like that?” The mind mage just grinned innocently.
This earned Kip the famous TsuMe “whatever” face.
He gave a wave in return, spinning away on one heel. “Well, let me get back to the co-op room and–”
“Hold on,” TsuMe stated in a no-nonsense tone. “Where have you been?”
Kip paused, trying not to let expression show on his face. It’s not as if what he did was wrong. He just didn’t want Zemus to know about his trip down to the Blue Planet, and especially the topic of his investigation. The mind mage didn’t know how much he could trust the other Lunar.
“You went down to the Blue Planet, didn’t you?” TsuMe said simply.
“Just a quick scouting mission.”
“Without the capture troops?”
“I was in town. I’m not going to bring those beasty things there.”
TsuMe fell silent. He was now giving the “not convinced” look. Kip could feel the sweat beading on his brows as he tried not to squirm under the dark, frightening gaze.
“What did you learn that made a solo trip to the Blue Planet worthwhile?” the warrior prodded, taking a different approach.
Kip took a different approach, too, trying to knock the conversation off the tracks. “Besides the fact that humans are overbearingly stupid sometimes?”
“That’s nothing new,” TsuMe agreed, taking the bait. “Why? What happened?”
“Oh, a group of them thought they could waylay me for whatever reason,” Kip answered, trying to keep it offhand.
Down the hall, he could hear the peeping of the scouting Alert as it returned to them. The mind mage’s attention remained focused on his exchange with TsuMe, trying to talk his way out of his situation.
“You’re kidding me. They tried to jump you? I hope you gave them a thrashing,” the warrior grumbled.
“Nah. I don’t thrash unless I have to. Unlike you.” Kip frowned.
He could hear the Alert’s peeps sounding louder.
“Your loss,” TsuMe shrugged. “It’s doing them a favor. Someone needs to teach the humans where their place in the solar system is.”
Kip felt the Alert tugging at his elbow in attempt to get his attention. Pushing that aside, he responded, “Something tells me you’re not too fond of humans.”
“They’re nothing but a bunch of ignorant knaves,” the warrior grimaced. “Their bodies have grown too big for their tiny little brains.”
Alert’s peeping was almost too loud to continue to ignore. When it didn’t earn Kip’s attention, the machine drifted to TsuMe, and tugged sharply on his coat sleeve.
The General turned with a looming leer that could melt even the most stout machine. He snarled, “Get off me before I turn you into scrap metal!”
The poor Alert recoiled in a stare of horror and fear. If it could cry, it might have burst into tears right there.
“Alert, didn’t I tell you to be on patrol?” Kip prompted with a sigh.
The single eye suddenly lit up with a warning red glow, the alarm sounding through the hallway.
:WHEET! WHEET! WHEET!:
TsuMe clapped his hands over his ears, snarling in pain, “Great! It’s broken again! Kip! Do something about this machine!”
But the mind mage was seeing something different. “What the… We’ve got some sort of incoming.”
Alert’s eye began to project images on the wall. Three flying shapes, moving towards the Tower. As he watched the approach, Kip could make it out – flying chocobos. Three of them. And three riders.
“I don’t believe it,” he muttered. “It’s those humans again.”
“I thought you said you took care of them? How did they find the tower?” TsuMe glared.
“I don’t know!” Kip stammered. Suddenly, the one little trip to the Blue Planet had turned into something much more dangerous.
“We’ve been undetected up until now. You and your little expeditions to the planet!” The General eyed him sharply. “All it takes is one human to go back and spill it to the rest of them.”
“I know. I know.”
“Master Zemus is going to be furious.”
“You’re going to enjoy that, aren’t you?” Kip sighed.
TsuMe paused for a moment, peering at him. Something in his eyes was different. They seemed lighter and gentler for just that moment. Then, his brows lowered.
“Actually, I’m going to enjoy thrashing some nosey humans,” the warrior said, balling his fist with a smirk. “What Zemus doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”
Kip blinked in disbelief. The way that TsuMe always referred to Zemus as “Master” just left him to believe that the warrior reported to the dark mage.
This… is an unexpected turn. TsuMe is going to cover for me?
“As long as we capture the intruders, I don’t see why this has to be a big deal.”
“TsuMe…” Kip made a motion to offer his thanks. But it was cut short by the warrior’s usually gruff demeanor.
“Shaddap and get yourself in gear.” TsuMe was already going to his quarters, most likely to grab his weapon.