This is one chapter I have really been looking forward to writing. Enjoy ^_^
--shook him to his senses.
“****.” Smoke wafted from the back hallway, and the amount of shouting from the people there had only increased. The gunfire... the smell of burning flesh... this place was getting too hot for him.
He leaned closer to Al, “We need to get out of here.”
“Deal,” said Al, staring towards the back hallway with wide eyes.
Salem stood... his feet... his body... everything tingled, and he had a strange sense that he was now remembering how to... be...
He drew his neural pistol from the hidden pocket in his jacket and quickly made his way out the front door in a low crouch. Al followed, imitating his stance with dramatic relish. At least Al’s standard black tuxedo seemed right for sneaking around, for some reason. In his expensive purple suit, Salem felt like an amateur doofus by comparison.
And his memories... the way time seemed to pass... there was something severely wrong about this place...
Outside, in the cool air, he stood up straight, still holding his weapon, and walked briskly towards his ship. He was getting off this rock.
In the red light of the setting sun, he caught sight of something... someone... making their way through the shipyard. He stopped, hesitated for a moment, then reached into his pocket and pulled out a copper-colored spyglass.
Peering through it, he could see that it was Parker, the heavily armored man, jogging away from the Bar’s back door. In his arms, he carried something... no, he realized with a start. He could see an arm hanging down. That was also a someone, and this someone was no longer conscious.
Or no longer alive.
Al nudged him in the side, and when Salem turned to look, Al pointed to another figure making its way through the shipyard, heading a different direction, carrying another heavy bundle... another person. Through the spyglass, Salem could make out the Hork-Bajir he’d seen inside. When the Hork-Bajir turned to walk up the ramp of its ship, Salem caught sight of the face of the person in its arms and his heart jumped into his throat.
Joanne! Or... Keshin. He still wasn’t really sure which name to call her by.
He could really use Keshin’s help, he thought as he watched the Hork Bajir step inside and close the hatch behind itself. A plan had begun to form in his head while he’d sat, watching life in the bar race by. For the plan to work, he’d need someone like her.
More than that, though, there was the fact that she’d spared his life, had let the Light go without turning him in. He had to find some way to repay that debt. It could be that the Hork-Bajir was a friend, but if not... There was no way he was just going to let some Yeerk stun her and take her away.
Assuming she was only stunned.
He had to know.
“Well... crap,” he said with a heavy sigh. “Al, get the ship.”
Al’s eyebrows shot up. “You serious?” he asked incredulously. It seemed he’d expected to just leave and never come back.
Which, Salem thought as he stuffed the spyglass back into his pocket, they really should do.
“I’m gonna go see what happened to Keshin... Joanne... whoever.” Salem said. “I could use your eyes behind me.”
A knowing smile crossed Al’s face. “Alright, fine, I’ll cover your ass. Go rescue your princess.” He jogged off towards their ship, leaving Salem sputtering.
He was still muttering to himself as he approached the Hork-Bajir’s ship, quietly, crouched low. The craft was of an arrowhead-shaped design he didn’t recognize, maybe twice the length of a Yeerk Bug Fighter.
He looked around, and, seeing no one, strode up to the ship. He dialed a setting into his neural pistol that he hoped would knock out a Hork-Bajir, if it came down to that, and knocked loudly on the hatch.
After a few moments, hatch slid open again. Salem found himself staring up into the intimidating face of a large Hork-Bajir male. Behind him, in the brightly-lit ship, Salem could see a flickering transparent dome. Lying within it was Joanne’s unmoving form. It looked like the Hork-Bajir had dumped her unceremoniously on the floor.
On the other hand, the force field could only be a good sign. Corpses didn’t need force fields.
“Hello?” asked the Hork-Bajir in its gruff voice.
“Hi there! My name’s Salem!” said Salem, adopting a friendly smile, trying to sound as harmless as possible. He kept his weapon at his side, but did not holster it. He wanted to be ready to use it.
“Temrash,” offered the Hork-Bajir. A Yeerk name. Its eyes flicked to Salem’s weapon, then back to his face. “Why have you followed me to my ship?”
“I’m a... friend of Keshin,” replied Salem. “What happened?”
Temrash’s eyes narrowed, and he hesitated before answering, “I’m quite certain that Keshin tried to kill Terenia. I plan to question Keshin about who hired her. I have no plans to kill her, but she is an enemy of my comrades, and I may need to hold her until further notice.” He didn’t move from the doorway.
So it had been a hit. Or at least an attempted hit. Temrash seemed to think that Salem would just go away and let her be held indefinitely.
“Okay,” said Salem, nodding and affecting an air of unconcern. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to speak to her when you’re done.” He stepped to the side and leaned casually against the hull of Temrash’s ship. “I’ll wait here.”
Temrash glared at him and seemed about to say something, but then seemed to reconsider. “I don’t see why not. I’ll be back.” He stepped inside, and then stepped back out carrying a case of some sort. Just before the hatch slid shut, Salem caught sight of movement from inside-- Joanne beginning to stir.
“****,” Salem muttered, watching as Temrash walked back towards the Bar. He stuffed his weapon back into his jacket pocket.
<<Hey, Al, you hear me?>> Salem asked, directing his private thought-speech directly at his companion; it would be heard by no one else.
It took Al a moment to reply, via the ship’s thought-speech amplifier, <<Yeah, barely. Thought you hated thought-speak.>>
<<I do,>> responded Salem. <<A Hork-Bajir just left this ship. Alert me when he starts coming back.>>
<<Aye aye, captain.>> replied Al. Salem rolled his eyes. He couldn’t see it, but he just knew Al had performed a mocking salute.
<<And see if you can tell me how to break into this thing,>> said Salem, pulling a device about the size of the palm of his hand from his pants pocket. He began pressing keys, intently eying the small display.
<<Based on the construction, technology, and materials, it’s probably Yeerk, or something close,>> said Al. That was surprising. It sure as heck didn’t look Yeerk. <<So, y’know, just pretend you know how to hack Yeerk ships.>>
“Right, cause I’ve always been so good at that,” muttered Salem. Still, he had to try.
His device began to interface with the computer aboard Temrash’s ship, looking for access... any access. Salem continually pressed keys, granting permissions, making decisions, changing settings, but for the most part the process was automated.
<<Movement from the bar... Human wandering towards you through the ships... Mmm... no threat. >> Al continued reporting on the surroundings as Salem worked. All too soon, that report was, <<Hork-Bajir approaching your position. Human with him also.>>
Salem cursed and stuffed his device back into his pocket. He’d gotten precisely nowhere. He reclaimed his position leaning on the hull and made a show of examining his fingernails, waiting impatiently.
A moment later, Temrash rounded the corner, talking with someone. Salem found himself staring at the man with the dark skin and the shining, intelligent eyes, who was walking beside the Hork-Bajir. Salem flashed a brief smile, but the man didn’t seem to see it, continuing his conversation with Temrash. Temrash nodded to Salem as they reached the ship. The hatch slid open, and Salem followed the pair inside.
Temrash sat in one of the ship’s chairs and swiveled to face Joanne, who was now sitting up within her tiny cell. The man knelt next to her force field and said something to her. Salem couldn’t hear it, but he could see the look of shock, then worry, on Joanne’s face. So this man was not her friend.
“Alright, Keshin,” said Temrash, speaking commandingly. “Explain yourself. Who hired you, and why?” It wasn’t said with any particular force, but Salem thought he could sense a definite threat behind those words.
Keshin shook her head, “I’m not telling you anything that doesn’t concern you. That’s between myself and my client.”
“Who else did they hire you to kill?”
Keshin simply shook her head.
Temrash nodded as though he’d expected that. He rose from his seat, “You will remain here while I check the prime suspects. Salem,” he snapped with the forcefulness of a drill instructor, “You may have some words with Keshin. Then we’re leaving.”
The other man rounded on Temrash, “Surely you won’t leave this creature alone here?” he asked angrily.
“I’m not going to sit here and watch him for days,” replied Temrash, sounding annoyed.
“I think you underestimate the power of this creature,” snapped the man, stepping closer to Temrash.
Temrash explained, loudly, how there was no better place to keep Keshin, and Salem realized that this argument could be just the distraction he needed. As the man shot back at Temrash-- something about how Keshin was a ‘walking timebomb’-- Salem began to look, carefully, around the ship’s interior.
Several chairs, large, probably built for Hork-Bajir. Control console. Mostly empty space and a clear line of sight between the shield-dome that held Keshin and the open hatchway.
Getting her out should be doable.
The argument seemed to be winding down already. The Human man wasn’t just holding his own, he actually seemed to be winning, and Temrash seemed about ready to relent. Standing up to a Hork-Bajir Yeerk like that-- Salem was impressed. Unfortunately, at this rate, they’d be done arguing within moments, and Keshin would be left to the man for questioning.
“Who did you say you were?” Salem asked, loudly.
Human and Hork-Bajir simultaneously turned to glare at him. He felt a tingling rush of adrenaline, and had to concentrate to keep from breaking out in a grin. Enjoying this kind of thing had to be a sickness of some kind, he knew.
The man eyed Salem up and down, seeming to see him for the first time. Finally, he spoke, angrily, “My name is Hadrin Eight-Seven-Five. I'm a soldier of the Yeerk civil resistance, and I just lost... an awful lot for the sake of the girl this thing tried to kill. Excuse me if I think it's important to the safety and security of my people to know who else the dapsen is after.”
A civil resistance? Now that was interesting. He’d have to talk to Hadrin about that one later. For now...
“Respectable,” said Salem, nodding his head in sage-like understanding. “Commendable, even. But it seems to me that this is Temrash’s show.” Glancing over, he could see Temrash scowling at that as he realized that Salem was right.
“This may be Temrash’s ship,” growled Hadrin, “but I am not going anywhere until I have answers.”
“Impudent soldier,” snarled Temrash. “We don’t need his information. Go talk to the person you believe hired him.”
Hadrin turned to face Temrash, marching towards him angrily, “Who are you to talk to me about impudence, grub?”
Salem smirked as the two began shouting at each other again. Like shooting fish in a barrel.
<<Keshin, if you can hear this, cough,>> he said to her as the other two continued discussing her fate at an ever-increasing volume. He rubbed his temples. Thought-speech always gave him such a headache.
Keshin’s eyes went wide for a moment as she looked around for the source of the thought-speak voice. Finally, her eyes locked on his, and she let out a small cough.
Salem smiled and crept closer to the mobile generators sitting on the floor that were projecting the force field over Keshin. Either Temrash and Hadrin didn’t notice, or they were too caught up in their fight to care. Salem knelt down and began examining the generators. He kept an ear on the argument behind him. Apparently Temrash actually was a former Visser. Interesting.
At one point, Temrash put in a communication to an ‘Ossanlin’ for help in settling their argument. In fact, calling this ‘Ossanlin’ seemed to be the one thing on which Hadrin and Temrash agreed.
<<I may be able to get you out of here, but with this many people around, it’s a pretty big risk,>> he said without looking at her.
“Why are you helping us, exactly?” whispered Keshin, looking at him suspiciously.
<<You didn’t turn me in to the Yeerks when you had the chance,>> replied Salem. <<Least I can do. Besides,>> he looked into her eyes <<there’s something I wanted to discuss with you.>>
They both glanced over to the argument at a yell from Hadrin, who was now cradling a bleeding arm. There was blood on Temrash’s wrist blade. Things over there were getting hot.
“By all means, make an attempt,” whispered Keshin, looking wary and confused. “I do have an idea of my own if it doesn’t work.”
Salem nodded and briefly explained his plan to her, then moved back towards the door. Just as he started explaining his plan again, to Al this time, Ossanlin arrived.
‘Ossanlin’ turned out to be the War Prince. The one with the muscled arms and the twin swords. Salem shrank back against the wall. This time, there was no chance of the Andalite failing to see him.
The War-Prince was followed by a man Salem had seen inside. The man was dressed in an absurd way that, for some reason, had caused Al to call him a ‘regular Napoleon.’ Something about this man, the aura he brought with him, sent a shiver down Salem’s spine.
<I heard weapon discharges a while back,> said the War-Prince. <I take it that’s what this is about?> He spoke commandingly, but not harshly. Salem could feel that this situation was now under this War-Prince’s control. Even with the former Visser Temrash and the intense, adamant Hadrin aboard, there seemed to be no question that this Andalite would have the final say.
Not that it would stop Temrash and Hadrin from arguing. They both seemed intent that the Andalite see the situation from their perspective.
Salem froze when Ossanlin’s stalk eye turned towards him, but the War-Prince didn’t seem to find anything to be concerned about. Salem relaxed a little and continued describing his idea to Al while Temrash filled Ossanlin in on the situation. Al, of course, felt it necessary to raise several objections.
As he argued with Al, he did his best to listen to the discussion between the other five aboard Temrash’s ship. They mentioned several names, referenced several events, most of which Salem could only guess at. He was, however, able to follow the gist of the conversation. Ossanlin, the War-Prince, seemed to be quite understanding, the most likely of the three to let her go, and Salem found himself warming to the Andalite.
Finally, Al relented, and Salem was able to turn his full attention back to the situation at hand. It looked as though Temrash and Hadrin had just about convinced Ossanlin that Keshin needed to be held and questioned. Even though both Hadrin and Ossanlin were adamant that there would be no torture or violence involved, Salem felt the hair on his neck standing on end.
He decided that this would be an excellent time to make a graceful exit and put his plan into motion.
“An Andalite War-Prince comes to a bar, throws together his own band of thugs, and expects to terrorize and control those who won't join him," Salem muttered darkly, just loudly enough to be heard by those around him. "Typical Andalite. Arrogant. Always willing to help others by getting them killed." He leaned against the bulkhead and examined his nails with an air of unconcern. Without looking up, he continued, "Remind me to throw a ****in' parade."
There was shocked silence for a moment, before Temrash growled, “I think you’ve overstayed your welcome on my ship, Salem.”
Salem glanced at the former Visser and the War-Prince beside him, acting as though he’d noticed them for the first time. “Couldn’t agree more,” he said coldly, and turned to walk out the hatch. He smirked. He could feel all their eyes on him.
Which meant that all their eyes were turned towards the open door.
<<Now! Now!>> he yelled as he walked through the door, directing one shout at Al and the other at Keshin. At the same time, he ducked off to the side, pressing himself against the hull of the ship. A split second later, a plasma projectile flew over his head from somewhere nearby and exploded just inside the hatchway.
The weapon was extremely low-yield, meant to disperse a thin haze of plasma more than explosive force. Even so, Salem found himself sprawling on the ground. He stumbled to his feet, dizzy, and tried not to pay attention to the burning sensation on his skin. It wasn’t harmful, he knew, but it wasn’t easy to ignore.
He bent into a low crouch and started moving as quickly as he could away from Temrash’s ship. He twisted back to look inside. The oddly-dressed man, Temrash, Hadrin and Ossanlin were all struggling to get up, blinking away the blinding light. Joanne was sprinting for the exit, and the force-field dome was sputtering back to life behind her. Something, he thought, was not normal about the way she ran...
As she cleared the threshold, he could tell for sure. She was moving fast. Inhumanly fast. Almost too fast to be seen. A single flash of white light in his peripheral vision drew his attention-- there was his ship, hovering just off the ground between two of the parked craft nearby, the open ramp facing Keshin. She saw it too, and changed direction to race towards it.
Salem skidded to a halt next to one of the parked hulks in the yard. This was out of his hands now. Joanne had already covered more than half the distance between the two ships when a silver blur shot out the door of Temrash’s craft, headed straight for her. Salem caught only the briefest glimpse of it as it rocketed by.
Temrash’s ship was moving now. The hatch was still open, but the ship had lifted off the ground and was gaining altitude, moving in the direction of Salem’s ship. Leaning out the door, Dracon Beam drawn, was Hadrin. He was taking his time, trying to get a bead on the impossibly-fast Joanne.
Salem reached into his pocket for his own weapon, but it caught on the fabric as he tried to pull it out. He struggled with it for a second, to no avail, and managed to choke out “H-Hadrin!” just as the Yeerk fired.
At the sound of his voice, Joanne ducked to her left and twisted, drawing her own Dracon and firing up at the rising ship without taking the time to aim. Hadrin’s beam sizzled the air where she’d been not a moment before, but Joanne’s connected. It was a one-in-a-million shot. Salem couldn’t have made that shot on his best day. Hell, Amiya couldn’t have made that shot.
Salem watched in horror as a hole appeared in Hadrin’s chest, just below his heart. He could clearly see light through the other side.
Hadrin slumped against the wall, a look of surprise on his face, before Temrash’s moving ship carried him out of view.
Joanne reached the bottom of the ramp to Salem’s ship just as Ossanlin did. They both skidded to a halt, and she turned to face him, looking positively exhausted, but defiant until the end. His tail blade flashed forward, slicing the Dracon Beam she held clean in two. Even from here, Salem could see that Ossanlin had drawn his twin swords , and held them, crossed, to her throat. His fur glowed an eerie silver.
A beam of red light lanced forth from Temrash’s ship. It impacted his own near the forward section, searing the hull and rocking Salem’s ship.
The ship rolled with momentum created by the impact, driving the ship’s ramp down into the dirt behind Joanne. It accelerated backward, briefly, using the ramp as a shovel, scooping the dirt from under her feet. It then rocked back the other way, lifting her into the air.
Nobody but Al could have pulled it off.
Ossanlin had scrambled to pull his blades back, to keep from cutting Joanne’s head off as she’d been pushed towards him, but that was all the time the War-Prince got. The ramp caught both of the Andalite’s front legs, and even from this distance, Salem could hear the snap! as they both bent backwards. As the ship rotated upwards, Ossanlin fell forwards, the support gone from under him, so that the ramp caught him under his chin, bending his neck and back at impossible angles as it rose.
The ship tilted back and the ramp began sliding shut. The last glimpse Salem had of Joanne before she lost her balance and tumbled into the ship was of her eyes fluttering closed, a line of red appearing across her neck where the Andalite’s blades had been.
The ramp flipped Ossanlin at an awkward angle, dumping him unceremoniously into the dirt. His twin swords clattered to his sides, and as his body hit the ground, his fur flickered back from silver to the normal Andalite blue. He didn’t move.
No! No! No! How had such a simple plan gone so terribly, terribly wrong!?
Salem sprinted towards the fallen body of the War-Prince. As he did, Temrash’s rising ship shot twice more at his own. The belly of his own craft slammed into the dirt not far from Ossanlin, and Salem could feel the impact through his legs, but in a moment it had bounced back up, and was accelerating away along the ground, into the shipyard. Temrash’s ship gave chase, firing downward repeatedly.
In the air near where Temrash’s ship had just been, there was a man. Floating. Flying, even, down towards the ground. The regular Napoleon! Salem nearly fell flat on his face. What the hell was this place, that women ran at super speed and men flew and War-Princes glowed silver?
No time for that now, though. He skidded to a stop and knelt next to the body of the War-Prince. Up close, the Andalite looked even worse-off. His front legs were both bent at unnatural angles. The white bone of one of them stuck out of the flesh, blue-green blood seeping out around it, coating the fur and the ground underneath it. Salem ran a hand gently down Ossanlin’s twisted neck and back, and cursed when he felt a few clearly broken vertebrae.
On the other hand, Ossanlin’s chest rose and fell, and Salem could see air rippling the blood seeping from his breathing slits. He was alive.
He was aware of a growing crowd. Apparently they’d drawn a lot of attention, and everyone who’d come to see what the noise had been about was now gathering around the fallen War-Prince. He could still hear the repeated, ever-more-distant sound of Dracon fire from Temrash’s ship. None of that seemed to matter as Salem knelt next to the fallen Andalite.
“He’s slipping,” said a voice nearby. Salem looked up to see Thordon. “His body is too tired to continue to function. I shall do what I can.”
Salem nodded. The Immortal would fix this.
Thordon’s hands began to glow, and he moved them back and forth over Ossanlin’s body, increasing in speed.
Salem reached into his pocket and pulled out an object resembling a little silver pill. He broke it in half, revealing a tiny needle in one end, which he plunged into Ossanlin’s shoulder, into one of his major arteries there.
“This’ll dull the pain,” he whispered. “From my War-Prince to me. From me to you.”
Suddenly, Ossanlin’s eyes shot open, and he coughed blood violently from his breathing slits. He kicked his legs, yelling in pain as his front two flailed. Salem stumbled back, but was caught by Ossanlin’s wildly-thrashing tail and thrown to the dirt. Ossanlin was ranting in thought-speak about something... giving orders to a TO... demanding that they return fire. Delirious. He settled down again as soon as the glow in Thordon’s hands died away.
Salem scrambled to his feet and looked at the faces of those around him. Any other time, it might have been funny. Every last one of them looked frightened and bewildered, Thordon included. Nobody looked like they had a clue what to do.
“You,” Salem snapped, pointing to the woman with the long, straight dark hair and the pretty blue eyes, “find something that I can use to splint his legs. Pipes or sticks, stiff and straight.” He pointed towards the young woman with the long blonde hair- one of the ‘twins,’ as he’d taken to thinking of them. “You, get me something flat and straight. I need to immobilize his neck, and a back board is the best way I know. Flying guy,” he said turning to the regular Napoleon, “go find that four-armed doctor. Or any doctor. Fast.”
Without waiting for an answer, he took off his jacket and again knelt down next to the War-Prince. “Let’s not wake him again,” he said to Thordon, tearing a long strip from the bottom of the jacket. As the fabric tore, it gave off sparks and tiny flashes of light. “That did more harm than good.”
“Only he can heal himself, by changing his body,” said Thordon as Salem tied the strip of fabric around Ossanlin’s leg above the compound fracture, lessening the flow of blood. “As Terenia restored her body through transformation, so too must Ossanlin.”
Salem frowned. What the hell was he rambling about?
“Morphing, I believe they call it,” clarified Thordon.
It took a moment before Salem caught the meaning. The morphing technology restored the user’s original body from their DNA. When Ossanlin morphed back to his own form, his DNA would remain uninjured, and he’d be fully healed, as though nothing had ever happened.
Now that was something that would have come in handy, had he thought of it sooner.
“Just help me keep him still for now,” he said tersely, finishing tying the tourniquet.
Thordon nodded, “I will attempt to drain the energy from his lower body, paralyzing him.” Before Salem could voice any concerns over that, a beam of light had formed between Thordon’s hands and the lower portion of Ossanlin’s humanoid back.
At that moment, Parker knelt down next to him. It seemed he’d just arrived. Parker wrapped his arms around Ossanlin’s body above his front legs. Salem didn’t know how well the armored man could actually hold a flailing, muscular Andalite, but the gesture was appreciated, and he smiled. “Good to see you, Parker.”
Ossanlin’s fur began flickering from blue to silver and back again, and he began to kick weakly, to flail his tail, to speak in delusional nonsense. A particularly violent swing of the tail nearly sent Salem sprawling again, but Parker let go of Ossanlin’s legs and blocked the tail with his arms, stumbling back. He got back up and again tried to hold the struggling Andalite down.
“Be gentle,” advised Salem. “He has blood in his airway. If he chokes, this won’t work. Dead Andalites don’t morph.”
“Salem, talk to him,” said Parker tensely. “Get him to come around.”
Salem almost laughed. “Talk to him? I think you and I went to different schools of first aid.” Then again... “Good idea,” he muttered.
<<Andalite. War-Prince. Now’s the time to morph.>> He began to tear more strips from his jacket. “From the water that gave birth to us...”
<<Come back to us, War-Prince.>> He looked around. None of the three he’d sent off for supplies had returned yet, but at least they’d all left in the first place. “From the grass that feeds us...”
<<Time to morph.>> And now he was using a Sparkle-Be-Good jacket for bandages. Ossanlin seemed to be calming down a bit, but he still spewed the occasional delusional thought-speech, and his breathing was rapid and shallow-- Salem wouldn’t have long before shock fully set in. This Andalite had better not die on him. Especially after that whole turning-silver-and-superpowered stunt he’d pulled. They really needed to have some words about that. “For the freedom that unites us...”
“How’s he doing?” asked the dark-haired woman, kneeling next to him and holding a large, flat wooden board that would serve as an adequate neck brace.
“He’s still breathing, anyway,” answered Salem quietly. “We rise to the stars...”
In the distance, he could hear a thunder of repeated explosions from whatever Temrash’s ship was firing at his own. At least that probably meant Al was still alive. For now. Some part of his brain noted the dark-haired woman leaving again. “Freedom is my only cause...”
<Here.> A number of long, straight sticks dropped to the ground next to him. <At least several should serve as sufficient splints.>
Salem looked up to see purple fur, a lithe figure, and a small tail blade. An Andalite female. He frowned. The War-Prince’s rambling had died down, and his eyes were now fluttering shut. “Duty to the People, my only guide...”
“You’re putting him to sleep,” complained Parker. “You need to jar him to reality.”
“This should jar him plenty,” said Salem, smiling softly. “Thordon, Parker? He’s going to want to move.” He placed his hands gently on either side of the fracture in Ossanlin’s broken, non-compound-fractured leg. “Obedience to my Prince, my only glory...”
He sucked a deep breath and gently, firmly, wrenched the leg back to the proper angle.
Ossanlin’s eyes shot open as he screamed in pain. He twitched wildly, desperately, but it seemed as though the two holding him were managing to keep him under control. The Andalite balled his fists and swing his arms wildly- not normally a danger with Andalites, but this one would probably pack a punch. Salem ducked to avoid one of those punches. Finally, Ossanlin’s eyes locked on Salem’s.
<Who are you?> asked the War-Prince, sounding frantic. <How do you know those words? What do you want with me?>
Salem forced himself to smile. He picked up two of the sticks and two strips of fabric, and began working to create a splint for the leg. He spoke to the War-Prince gently, alternating between verbal and thought-speech. “Just a friend, Andalite.” <<My name is Prince Tobias.>> “Call me Salem.” <<Time to morph.>>
For a second, it looked as though Ossanlin understood, but then his eyes narrowed, and he again became agitated, and began struggling against Thordon and Parker <I’ll be defenseless. Can’t morph. They’ll infest me...> rambled the War Prince. He began coughing, violently, blood spraying from his breathing slits onto Salem’s suit.
In a moment, the coughing fit had passed. Salem cursed. With his cracked vertebrae, the Andalite was going to end up paralyzed if he kept struggling like this. The Andalite seemed to be calming down a little bit, but his murmered thought-speak was becoming increasingly erratic and his breathing was still shallow. He was shivering violently now, in spite of the warm air and the heat provided by the setting sun. Shock was truly setting in.
“Ossanlin, morph something big,” suggested Parker. “Morph something that can’t be infested.” As Salem finished tying together his crude splint, he shot Parker a questioning look. Parker explained, “He’s identified you as a Yeerk. Speak to him like a Yeerk. Whatever he needs to hear to morph. We can sort it out later.” The nod from Thordon suggested he agreed.
Salem felt a flash of anger. Everybody seemed to think there was an easy way out of this. “Have any of you ever been this dazed?” he snapped, moving gently to Ossanlin’s head and again running a finger along his spine. “Morphing isn’t easy at the best of times.” He gritted his teeth as Ossanlin twitched again, still babbling. “I don’t know if he can start the process. Morphing would be so much easier than what I’m doing, but this Andalite does not get to die just because we couldn’t keep him alive long enough to morph. Hold him now.”
Salem picked up the flat wooden board and stared at it for a moment, contemplating what he was about to do. He hated spinal injuries...
He maneuvered the makeshift back board into place behind Ossanlin’s head and made sure he had some strips of fabric within easy reach. He gently, gingerly lifted the Andalite’s head in his arms, moving it slowly, so slowly, carefully into place. As he did, he spoke softly to the War-Prince, taking Parker’s advice, in spite of his skepticism about Ossanlin’s current ability to morph. “Time to morph, War-Prince. It’s the only way to escape.” <<Can’t let the Yeerks infest you. Have to morph. Have to get away.>>
Some part of his words did seem to have an affect on Ossanlin, at least, as he began thrashing again, more weakly than before, but still with enough energy to make it difficult for Parker to stay atop him. Salem gritted his teeth and put his entire body into holding Ossanlin’s head and neck steady, giving everything he had to not letting the Andalite twist from his grasp. With Ossanlin’s head in his arms, the risk of spinal injury from the thrashing motion was significantly higher.
<Human... thought speech... drugs? I’ll be defenseless... unhh... I’ll take your heads off!> rambled the War-Prince as he thrashed.
<Ossanlin!> cried another thought-speech voice, and within seconds, there was a second Andalite kneeling next to Salem. A female, he noted dully, but not the same one that had brought him the splints.
<Prince Ossanlin!> yelled a different voice, and in a moment a young Andalite Warrior was standing next to him as well. <You must morph something immediately! Everyone, please give him room!> It seemed all one had to do to make the Andalites all show themselves was run their War-Prince over with a ship.
“Either step back or find some way to keep him from killing himself,” Salem growled at the two Andalites. It came out harsher than he’d intended, and he could feel their curious, angry stares on him, but at the moment, he did not care.
As the War-Prince’s fight again died down, Salem gently, carefully laid the War-Prince’s head back on the ground, and sat back on his haunches, shaking. He noticed sweat dripping from his nose. There was no way this was going to work if the Andalite was going to continue to struggle. Both of the new Andalite arrivals had ignored him and now knelt next to the War-Prince as well, talking gently, trying to coax him into morphing. That was to be expected, he supposed.
“Here,” called a voice. “I brought a first aid kit.” Salem looked over to see the dark-haired woman jogging back towards them and carrying a red-and-white case. He smiled faintly. At least somebody here seemed to be thinking.
“Bring it here!” he called. “I need his leg cleaned, and if you’ve got any sedatives in there, give him one.”
“Roger,” she said, kneeling next to him and digging in the kit until she found a small syringe. She read the label, then said quietly, “This may not even calm him down a hair, but it’s the best I’ve got.”
“We need his mind active,” snapped Parker, sounding tense. “If he goes to sleep, he’ll die from internal bleeding.”
The dark-haired woman looked at him and shook her head, “It’s a mild anxiolytic. Shouldn’t make him tired. Just less stressed.” She looked to Salem, “Should I proceed with the injection?”
Salem was about to tell her yes, for Thaum’s sake, inject him, but at that moment, the War-Prince’s eyes seemed to focus on the female Andalite. <Aliciana?> he wondered, sounding dazed. <Alic... Where is this... Who are these people? Alic... I... I can’t breathe...>
<You cannot leave me,> pleaded the female Andalite, her voice wavering, <You must morph. Anything!>
Salem shook his head lightly at the dark-haired woman and mouthed the words, “Not yet.”
<I... I trust you... Alic...> came the War-Prince’s voice. A look of concentration crossed his face, then quickly melted into confusion. <I... I can’t... focus... I’m so tired... let me nap first... then I’ll morph...> His eyes slid shut, and his breathing slowed, a gurgling sound coming from his breathing slits. This earned him a round of shouting from the two Andalites.
“I am sorry,” said Thordon, and before Salem could ask what he meant, the beam of light that connected Thordon to Ossanlin had disappeared and Thordon had stepped back and crossed his arms.
Instantly, Ossanlin’s eyes shot open again, and he screamed-- a horrible, gut-wrenching noise that could only be heard in their heads. His weakly-flailing tail forced Salem and the dark-haired woman to scramble back, standing side-by-side just out of Ossanlin’s tail range. Parker still held on to Ossanlin’s torso, but only just.
<What did you DO to me!?> demanded the War-Prince, looking around frantically, fury in his eyes.
“Keep that ready,” Salem muttered to the dark-haired woman, indicating the sedative syringe. “This crowd still thinks we can take the easy way out, but I’m not sure he’s capable of morphing. Why are there never doctors around when you need them?”
The female Andalite Ossanlin had called ‘Aliciana’ still knelt next to him, in spite of his flailing. She placed a hand on his face, <I promise, love, I will keep you safe. But right now I need you to morph!>
Ossanlin finally, finally, seemed to get the message. He closed his eyes, and Salem saw the changes begin, the Andalite’s fur shriveling away, his hindquarters shrinking, his stalk eyes schlooping into his head.
He was morphing.
Around Ossanlin, the spreading relief was almost tangible, as he transformed, bit-by-bit, into a naked, black-haired Human man. An uninjured Human. Exhausted, barely able to move, but alive. The first female Andalite, the one who’d brought him the splints, was angrily demanding that someone tell her how Ossanlin had been injured. Salem figured he’d let the others explain that one.
His ears were ringing, and for some reason, he had a throbbing headache. Funny that he hadn’t noticed that earlier. He closed his eyes and drew a deep, shuddering breath. He suddenly felt weak, his legs just about ready to give out from under him.
“Good work,” said the dark-haired woman quietly, laying a hand gently on his shoulder.
Salem turned towards her and smiled weakly. Very pretty eyes... “I’m Salem,” he said, just as quietly.
“Elayne,” she offered her hand with her own shaky smile, looking about as rattled as he felt. “What a way to wake up,” she said, nodding towards Ossanlin with just a hint of a smirk.
That managed to wring a weak laugh from him.
They watched silently for a moment as the group that had gathered around Ossanlin congratulated each other and worked to carry his now apparently-unconscious body towards the larger ship that had landed recently.
He should go check on Al.
“Excuse me,” he muttered apologetically to Elayne. “I have something I need to do.” He turned and began walking towards the woods. From here, he could still hear the female Andalite insisting that someone explain how, exactly, Ossanlin had been run over by a ship.
“Somebody tell the War-Prince not to get himself killed until I get back!” Salem called over his shoulder to the chattering group gathered protectively around Ossanlin. To himself, he muttered, “Andalite owes me a jacket.”