No one questioned him. We all ran inside, grabbed as much as we could, and set it by the entrance where Cashel was shoveling it in a transport ship and directing it to the spaceport.
I helped Tammy throw all her stuff in boxes since she wasn't the fastest packer in the galaxy, and Rei took all the food and some weapons. Kiko had the rest of the weapons and then helped Cashel pack it into the ship. There was no more room for us so Cashel sent it off and we waited for another to arrive.
"Aki did you grab the mineral cutter?" Rei asked, suddenly realizing she didn't grab it.
"No, I thought you did." Kiko replied.
Rei shook her head and Kiko quickly ran back inside the apartment to get it.
Another automated ship arrived to take us to the spaceport and we piled in just as a dark shadow covered us. The ship started vibrating fiercely as a large space ship came down on us.
"Aki get down!" Rei bellowed toward the apartment.
Cashel watched the ship lower and stop in front of our place. "Tammy get us away from here!" he said urgently.
Tammy's hair was already glowing and pressed into the ship's control board. We whizzed away just as the large ship crashed onto the platform and fired its large blasters into our apartment.
BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. They were relentless.
"Kiko!" I shouted, worried that she was blasted away. It was hard to see with all the smoke and debris flying everywhere.
"She's fine," Rei assured. "She fled to the upper levels."
I forgot that she could see through Kiko's eyes.
Cashel examined the situation, "Tammy make a pass around, we can pick her up on the other side of the ship."
I watched through the window as Kiko ran out from an upper level and jumped on top of the attacking ship. I caught a glimpse of the red laser light that came from the mineral cutter as she made a hole in their ship and jumped inside.
We made a pass around and the large ship began to rapidly descend with fresh smoke pouring out of any openings from it. Towards the bottom of the ship we saw a piece fly off. When we got closer I saw Kiko sticking out of the hole. Tammy brought us next to it and she jumped on top of our ship before the large ship crashed into the ground.
I turned around and saw our apartment ablaze with people fleeing in terror.
Kiko joined us inside the ship. "They knew we were in the race, that's why they came after us." She informed as she checked the long blaster she took from inside the large attacking ship and gave it to Rei.
"We became a target once the race started." Cashel said with frustration. "We need to get off this planet."
Tammy steered us through the collapsing city, which was now a live warzone.
I didn't understand, "Why are they attacking each other!?"
"Eliminating the competition" Kiko said calmly. "There are no rules to collecting the stones."
People would actually put innocent lives in danger for this race. I was starting to see how the world and the galaxy really worked; I just wasn't prepared for it to collapse this quickly and right in front of my eyes.
When we arrived at the spaceport most of it was empty but in ruins, other racers targeted the larger ships, including the sola battleship which we technically sold when we first arrived. Luckily our ship was smaller than most so it wasn't a main target, but it still looked pretty banged up. I don't think I was ever going to see this ship in prime condition, but at least it was much better than how it was when we got here.
Everyone got inside. Since it was still stored underground Tammy hacked the elevators to bring it up.
Cashel explained what we were going to do, "Once we're in the air we're going to be a target. Everyone needs to jump on a blaster and defend the ship until Tammy can get us out of here."
I'm sure the others already knew what to do so he was directing it more towards me. Rei told me to go on one of the side guns, which was controlled from a small dark room. She was on the other side and Kiko was in the rear.
The room lit up once I was inside and all the walls in the room lit up to the view that each blaster was capable of firing at. It was like being the eyes of the blaster, and from what I could see, we were about to enter a maze of many ships and billows of smoke darkening the already gray sky. To my sides were the views of the other blasters, which showed pretty much the same thing in each direction.
Blasters were forbidden on Sola, so I had never used one before. Rei gave me a quick rundown through her soul link. Basically all I had to do was mark my targets to blast at, seemed simple enough.
Tammy fired up the engine as the ceiling bay doors opened and we took off faster than I ever thought this ship could go.
"Whoa! Geez!" I said trying to stabilize myself since we were standing up.
Cashel was right, we became an instant target to any hostile racer in the area. Many ships pursued us, but the dangerous ones were the big ships. They had smaller ships hovering close to them protecting the big ship and attacking anything that got close to it. We had to weave through a few big ships and blasting the smaller ships was a challenge for me.
The controls for the blasters were all touch activated. The walls of each blaster room had touch holograms to lock on the target and to choose which weapon to fire. Plus we had to keep track of the top and bottom of the ship. The good thing was, all the rooms were the same and connected so even if I missed a ship, Kiko or Rei could catch it and lock on to it, which happened a few times.
The Jago jarred. I know we were hit more than once but somehow Tammy held it all together. I had heard she designed a shield that could absorb most of the energy from blasters, but I don't think that worked against projectiles.
Tammy's voice announced, "30 seconds until we are able to warp speed." It was the longest 30 seconds of my life. "Prepare to jump…"
The room went dark and then filled with streaks of light. I didn't know what that meant so I stood there, staring at nothing.
Rei spoke in my head, "You can get out now."
"Oh… right." I said.
I was still full of adrenaline as I got out of the room. My legs were shaky as I made my way over to the flight deck and sat down at the table. I don't think we'll be returning to Crux any time soon.
Kiko and Rei walked in.
"What are we going to do Cashel?" asked Kiko, getting straight to the point.
He continued pushing buttons on the flight deck control panel, "We're going to the safe house."
"The safe house?! We're still going to run away and pretend we didn't see Crux getting destroyed?!" Rei asked in a fury.
Cashel didn't answer so she stormed off angrily.
I went to go wash up and put on extra clothes since I had forgotten how cold it was in space. I guess I should get used to it considering how much more time we spend traveling than on an actual planet. I didn't mind it.
It was going to take us two weeks to get to the safe house on Dezner and I was determined to apologize to Kiko before we got there.
I didn't have to wait long, the next day I was running in the training room when she asked if she could talk to me. I was elated when she came to speak to me.
"Yeah sure," I said happily.
"I'm sorry about my behavior these past few days..." she started.
"No, I'm sorry too. I didn't mean to worry you or make you upset." I explained trying to catch my breath, "I just… want things to go back to how they used to be."
"Yeah… I agree." She nodded and then turned around to leave to let me get back to my running.
"Wait!" I said suddenly remembering I had something for her. I've always kept it with me since I bought it, to be able to give to her at the first chance I got. "I bought this for you. I know you love gazing at the stars…"
I handed her the small black vial with the now brightly glowing star and her face lit up right along with it. "It's a-"
"Firestar" she finished in complete awe.
So apparently everyone knows what I got them except me. And here I thought I was buying random junk.
She smiled with happiness, "Thank you".
I couldn't help but smile with her, "Your welcome."
I was on the flight deck with Tammy. A week had past already since we set off for Dezner but something was bugging me.
"How is it the other racers knew we were in the race?"
"Everyone who wishes to participate is tagged." Tammy explained.
"We're tagged? Electronically? Can't you un-tag us or something?"
"It's not from an electronic signature. This is a different power that I have no control over. Vo is a completely different power altogether. There is not much I know about it to be honest."
"So can we see where the other racers are?"
"Not that I'm aware of. We can only search to see who's in the race. Those racers that attacked us had their sights set on us before the race even began. It was the perfect opportunity to finally get rid of us once it started."
Rei came in the room.
"Hey there you are! You wanna practice soul linking?" she asked me.
Soul linking with Rei was pretty fun. We would spend hours trying to get through obstacles together and afterwards we would play cards from each other's hands. She could only use her power for so long with certain people. For Kiko it was about an hour max each day and for me we were able to soul link for almost six hours straight and every time we did it we were able to keep extending the time.
"It's probably because your species is very basic." Rei contemplated. "I can only stay in Tammy's head for about five minutes before I'm pretty much thrown out from her complex thought processes." She shot a target from across the training room with a blaster using my vision to aim. "And that was when she was just sitting there and not doing anything."
"What about Cashel?"
"I can't link with him at all. He did say he was able to nullify other species' powers though, so it makes sense that I can't."
I remembered when he told us about his species. "That's right."
Another week passed. It felt like any other casual trip on the ship. I had to remind myself that a huge race was taking place, where billions of racers were searching for four stones.
How would they even begin to search for stones across an entire galaxy? Tammy said it might be possible to track them if they had the right tools and knowledge. I wonder if we could ever track them… we did have someone who won before. I wonder how long it took for them to gather all the stones… These were questions that were probably pointless to dwell on, but I couldn't help but wonder every once in a while.
"Prepare to enter Dezner's atmosphere." Tammy broadcasted.
I left my room and went to the flight deck. This time Kiko and Rei were just sitting at the table.
"So have you guys ever been here before?" I asked them.
"Once about six years ago, the Jago actually discovered this planet" said Kiko.
"You found the planet? Six years ago?"
"Yeah… well actually Tammy found it, the rest of us just explored it" said Rei.
"What were you like… eight Rei? And Kiko you were hunting since you were twelve?"
Rei gave me a look. "We age twice as slow as humans. So I looked more like eleven and Kiko was about fifteen."
"Still, that's pretty young."
Kiko didn't look pleased about my last comment, luckily Tammy bailed me out.
"Sarth, would you sit down please?" She insisted.
I did as I was told and sat down next to Rei as we landed. From what I could tell, Dezner was a very green planet, like nothing I've ever seen before. It was like finding a huge oasis in the middle of dark space.
We landed in a very remote area at the edge of a treeline, with no sign of life nearby. Tammy opened the cargo bay doors and we got out of the ship to walk around. Everywhere, everything was green. There were trees, bushes, plants and grass. It was truly a beautiful sight seeing so many different, natural life-forms living in untouched, peaceful harmony on the planet.
"I found something!" Rei shouted and then took off through the brush.
"Rei!" Kiko yelled running after her.
I took off as well, following behind them. They were fast but I was able to keep up. I guess my training came in handy after all. We headed towards the mountain through the trees and plants. It felt so good to run freely again.
Finally Rei stopped at the base of a mountain where water was falling out from the side into a pool. She quickly took off her boots and utility belt and jumped in. Kiko and I watched her splash about from the side.
"Come in it feels great!" She insisted.
Kiko shook her head. "We're not even here five minutes and you already take off."
"Aw come on Aki! When's the last time we went swimming?!"
Kiko finally gave in and joined her. "Aren't you coming in?" she asked me.
"Nah that's okay. You guys have fun." I said, trying to sound uninterested.
Kiko read me like a book and gave me a little smile. "You can't swim can you?"
Something alerted Kiko and her attention was drawn to some bushes off to the right of us.
"Grab our stuff and hide" she said to me as she took out her knife from underwater and dragged Rei behind the falling water.
I did as she said and hide inside some tall bushes. Less than 30 seconds later I heard leaves rustling and the sound of babbling, then a group of kids ran out of the bushes and jumped into the water splashing and horsing around. It was just a group of kids playing in the water. So why were Kiko and Rei hiding?
In a moment I realized why. One of the kids by the falling water noticed Rei and Kiko hiding and started screaming.
"Something's in there!" she screamed. "Behind the waterfall!"
I guess it's called a waterfall. I watched with anticipation, wondering how both groups were going to react towards each other.
"What is it?" asked one of the kids.
"Are you sure?" asked another.
Then a bigger kid went to grab the stick he was playing with earlier.
"Guys get out of the water, I'll see what it is." He said.
The other kids backed away as the one kid with the stick slowly approached the waterfall. That was when Kiko and Rei made their appearance. The kids started screaming as soon as they saw the water move in their direction. Even the one kid with the stick hesitated at first and then raised his stick, taking a swing at the first chance he had. Kiko caught the stick with one hand, their faces still hidden behind the falling water, morphing their identity. That's when they all started freaking out and splashing to get out of the water.
"Wait! Wait! It's alright! We're not going to hurt you!" Rei tried to say but it was too late. The screaming caught the attention of a strange large beast passing by, and it did not look friendly as it approached us from the bushes, baring its long sharp teeth.