"Are you sure someone else has landed?" It was the first time I heard Kiko sound seriously nervous.
"Yes." Tammy replied on her back.
We ran down the mountain as fast as we could and made great time because of it. We were only about five minutes away when Tammy told Kiko to let her down.
"Kiko drop me off here. Stellan and I will take the Jago to the village."
Kiko nodded and set her down.
"Stellan look after her for me" Kiko told him as we took off again.
"I will!" Stellan yelled back.
We ran fast downhill through the trees and it was getting harder to keep up with her. Once most of the trees cleared, my heart sank to the pit of my stomach.
The village was on fire.
Kiko took off sprinting. I tried to follow her but she out ran me easily.
How could this happen to the village so quickly? We were only gone less than a day.
My lungs, arms, legs all burned with pain from exertion but that didn't stop me. I had to get there as soon as possible. Rei… and the others in the village… they had to be alright, they just had to.
I reached the outskirts of the town. People were screaming in terror as they ran from the burning houses. I ran to Vero's house which had caught fire and called for Rei and Cashel but no one was there.
I ran towards the other end of the village where a bunch of unknown men were slaughtering anyone they could find, making their way through the entire village. I hid behind a house to catch my breath and to try and make sense of it all.
This can't be happening. Was there nothing I could do?
I peered around the corner when I heard something, a toddler crying inside the house I was leaning against. I glanced around to see if any of the men were around to see me, then I snuck inside. I quickly scanned the house trying to pinpoint where the crying was coming from. I found the toddler hiding under a bed, eyes and cheeks red from tears.
"Sh sh sh it's okay, I'm not gonna hurt you" I whispered to her and she quieted down a little. I remembered this little girl. I've seen her around the village in her mother's arm. She was only about three years old and her mother was nowhere in sight.
I gently took her in my arms and ran for the door.
A man with red glowing eyes stood at the doorway staring at me with a sinister smile.
"Well… look what I found…" he said threateningly as he slowly stalked toward me.
I took a step back and grabbed a kitchen knife with my free hand that was lying on a nearby table.
"Get back!" I said waving it around like I knew how to use the knife.
He just chuckled at me and continued walking.
Someone appeared from the doorway and blasted him from behind. He fell to his knees and then thudded face forward on the ground, exposing the shooter.
It was a girl with the same bright glowing red eyes as the man. She lowered her blaster and called to me.
"Sarth!" she said.
It was Rei, but with different eyes. Her eyes made me nervous and she could tell.
"It's me Rei!" she pleaded.
She looked and sounded like Rei, all except those petrifying red eyes.
I slowly put the knife down and she came up and grabbed my hand to lead me outside where people continued to frantically run away.
"Give her to me," she said "I took all the kids up the mountain and I can take her there."
I handed her the crying toddler.
"Have you seen Kiko?" I asked.
"She's right-" without warning she kicked me out of the way of a blast from another man with red eyes. Kiko suddenly appeared and struck the man from the side.
"Get out of here!" she turned to yell at us.
Then something I've never seen before or imagined could happen, happened. A large, muscular man appeared out of nowhere right in front of Kiko and struck her hard with his fist, sending her flying across the ground. It was not a human punch.
"Kiko!" I screamed.
She quickly got up and adjusted herself to face the man, knife out, in a defensive position.
I couldn't believe what I just saw. Who is this man who was able to catch the amazing Kiko off guard?
I took a step toward her and slowly the man turned to face me. His eyes were glowing vibrantly blue, a color like the Quwallie's but with much more intensity and desire. A long scar ran across from the bottom of one eye to chin of the other.
I remembered how the second fight with the Quwallie went for Kiko. Looking at this man I knew he was a much better fighter than the Quwallie, with much more experience.
For the first time since I've met her, I feared for Kiko's life.
"We need to move!" Rei took my arm.
"No! We can't leave her! This guy-" I started to say.
"I know what he is! Which is why we can't distract her by being here!"
I was torn. I knew Rei was right but something about this guy made me really nervous.
"I'll back away but I'm not leaving her" I decided.
Rei reluctantly agreed, "Fine, but stay out of sight. I'll be right back."
She turned to leave with the toddler still in her arms.
I did as I promised and moved back, away from Kiko and this mysterious fighter but not enough so I couldn't hear them.
"How did you find me?" Kiko asked, still in her defensive position.
The man stopped and stood there. The other men with red eyes began gathering around to watch. Apparently the man with blue eyes was their leader.
The village continued burn down around them.
"I've been searching for you for years…" the man had a deep, booming voice. "It doesn't matter how I found you. Now that I've finally caught you, your power will be mine."
He suddenly disappeared again. This time Kiko was ready, but she wasn't nearly as strong as he was. He threw her against a burning log house and she went crashing through, exiting the other side.
Amazingly she got up and ran towards him. This time she was catching on quicker and was able to avoid his attacks, which were extremely fast. They exchanged blows and it looked about even but that was only because the large man was holding back.
Someone came up behind me as I was watching Kiko and this man intently. Their presence startled me. It was Stellan. He was also watching Kiko intently as he came up next to me.
The two fighters were still going at it until one finally out maneuvered the other. The man's speed increased even more and he knocked Kiko onto her knees with both arms locked behind her back.
"You've been with these humans for far too long Kai." He bent over to whisper in her ear, "Or should I say… True Kai…"
Kiko angrily tried to jerk free but he had her pinned well.
"Tell me," he put his foot on her back, on top of her arms, and shoved her to the ground. "Why do you fight it? Your magnificent power."
Stellan flared with anger. "Hey you jerk!" he threw a rock at the large man and it bounced off him like it hitting a stone wall. "Get off of her!"
The man turned to Stellan and smiled.
"No! Stellan get back!" she struggled harder to get break away from the man's clutches.
He laughed. "You fight for them? These puny beings are worth nothing. They're lower than even the dirt we stand on." He took out a blaster from his long trench coat and aimed it at Stellan. "Why don't I just put him in the dirt where he belongs?"
"NO!" Kiko screamed.
The man fired the blaster but I tackled Stellan just in time for him to avoid getting hit. He aimed the blaster at us again. This time we wouldn't be able to run away in time. I covered Stellan and readied myself to be blown to pieces, but it never came.
I looked up and saw the man smiling with excitement at Kiko, who was now quietly facing the ground, seething with anger.
"Which one shall I kill first?" he asked her, his deep voice brimming with excitement.
A humming sound rapidly approached. It sounded like the Jago.
The man looked up to the sky and at that moment, Kiko turned over and kicked the man in the side with so much force that even though he was able to block it, he skidded straight back at least twenty feet leaving a carved trail where his feet dug into the dirt ground.
As soon as they were apart, the Jago made its appearance and started firing its large blasters at the men. Kiko ran toward us and lifted us on our feet.
The long cables shot out from the ship and picked the three of us up. Kiko took out her blaster and fired at the large blue eyed man. The blasts didn't seem to hit him. He easily dodged them as he watched us being towed into the ship with a smile on his face.
Once inside the ship, Rei helped Stellan up. "We're going to drop you off with everyone else" she told him.
"No! I want to stay and help you!"
"You're friends need you, your father needs you. Don't tell me you want to abandon them?"
He realized what he would have to leave behind if he came with us and he looked to the ground indecisively. "Promise me you guys will come back" he said, finally making up his mind.
She smiled at him with tears in her eyes and gave him a hug. "I promise we will."
Kiko stood looking through the red gel wall as they passed treetops. The cables wrapped around Stellan as it prepared to set him down.
"I know you can win" he said to her with a smile before the cables took him through the gel and back to Dezner.
Kiko didn't react to his statement, nor did she make any sort of movement as we began to ascend back into space.
Tammy's voice brought us back to a harsh reality, "Prepare to leave Dezner's atmosphere". We were now leaving our destroyed safe house to enter the race track.
Once we were satisfied about the distance we put between us and the planet, we all met on the flight deck. It was full of somber faces and fresh memories of death.
Rei was the first to speak, "How did they find us?"
Her eyes were back to their normal color but they were filled with tears.
"It seems they were able to trace us" Tammy answered.
"Yeah but how?!" she raised her voice out of frustration. "They killed them! They killed the villagers because we were there! This was our fault! We shouldn't have gone there!"
She was getting it all off her chest, the emotions she held back in order to save the village kids had caught up with her.
Kiko, who was standing in the corner of the room, turned and left without a word and Rei fell to the table weeping out of frustration and sorrow.
I wanted to know too, why and how this happened, but most of all I wanted to know what we were going to do about it. Our safe house was found and destroyed. Were we going to try and find a new hiding spot?
Finally, after months of debate, Cashel finally gave in to what he had been trying to avoid for a thousand years, declaring the Jago's next mission with a whisper of a voice, "We have no choice. We have to win the race." The creases were more prominent on his face as he spoke. Only people who have spent as much time with him as us would know that the look on his face, although trying not to show it, was just as sad as Rei's.
A few days went by and I hardly saw Kiko or Rei. When I did see them in the sky deck one day, Kiko was consoling Rei, so I let them be. Since I didn't want to disturb them, I went to Tammy.
She was almost always in her tech room working on a way to track the stones.
"Who are they" I asked. "Kiko seemed to know the man with blue eyes and Rei had the same red eyes as the men who slaughtered the villagers."
It took a moment before Tammy answered, "They are the same as us, competitors for the race. They are also from the same planet and the same species as Rei and Kiko."
"They're the same species?"
"I'll start from the beginning since I now have clearance to tell you this information" she set aside her work to talk to me. "Rei and Kiko are from a planet called Drogonaaz."
"Drogonaaz? They're drogonians?!" I interjected. "One of the most vicious planets in the galaxy?! It really does exist?!" Indeed some legends even reach to the far edges of the galaxy like Sola.
Tammy stared at me, waiting for me to finish.
"Sorry," I said, "Please continue."
"Yes, Drogonaaz is in fact one of the most vicious planets around. It breeds some of the galaxy's most feared warriors and the planet is constantly in a state of civil war for more power.
There are two different types of species on Drogonaaz. One is called Eyes of Red, the other is called Eyes of Blue.
The Eyes of Red are a less commonly known species. They do not focus on fighting; rather their skills lie within their eyes. They are able to see through another's eyes and also, sense the presence and power of an Eyes of Blue. But they are also able to soul link with other species, and like their name suggests, their eyes turn a ruby red color when sensing an Eyes of Blue.
Unlike the Eyes of Red, Eyes of Blue always hunger for more power. They are bred to be soldiers. Their eyes turn a glowing blue after they've killed their first Eyes of Blue. They are physically much stronger than a human with much keener senses. They are also able to link to an inanimate object with their soul stone, to greater heighten their power. They are said to possess no fear and crave killing."
Does this mean that Kiko, the girl who saved my life, is actually a bloodthirsty killer?
I realized I've never seen Kiko's eyes change color, "Is Kiko an Eyes of Red?"
"No. She's an Eyes of Blue."
Rei and Kiko didn't seem to fit with Tammy's story.
Tammy caught on to my confusion and continued, "Rei is a different sort of Eyes of Red. A true Eyes of Red's eyes will turn red when an Eyes of Blue is near. You have probably noticed that Rei's eyes do not turn red around Kiko, who is an Eyes of Blue. Instead, she can only sense other Eyes of Red."
I thought back to when I first saw Rei's glowing red eyes. She was standing next to another Eyes of Red, her own species.
"Kiko's eyes are not blue because she is suppressing almost all of her power. Lately, it's been harder for her to keep suppressing that power. Cashel and Tiberius had both used their powers to help contain Kiko's power. However, when Tiberius turned into Vo and spread throughout the galaxy, his seal on Kiko had also vanished, leaving a crack in the barriers so to speak."
Things were starting to make sense now, but how did the large Eyes of Blue man find us on Dezner?
"Do you know who that man was? How did he find us?" I asked.
"I've already found him in the race manifest" Tammy responded as a hologram picture of the large man popped up. "My guess is that he used those Eyes of Red to track Kiko down."
I read the hologram info. His name is Ozias, home planet is Drogonaaz, and species is Eyes of Blue. There he was. There was no way we could let this man win Vo, he would destroy the glaxay with it. And the only one who could stop him was apparently Kiko for some reason.
"He said he wanted Kiko's power…"
"That is the main reason why Eyes of Blue live. It's called soul stone collecting. When two Eyes of Blue commit their battle to the death, they summon their soul stone. Their soul stone heightens their power to the greatest extent, but at the cost of its location. When they summon it, the stone becomes visible on some part of their body. The only way to kill an Eyes of Blue is to destroy their soul stone, and the winner receives the loser's power. If you gather enough power you receive a title, Kai being the highest."
I got chills down my spine. I never would have guessed that Kiko's species was the most formidable one in the galaxy.
I let Tammy continue working and went to my room to reflect on everything I just learned. From then on we weren't trying to avoid the race, we had to win it. If we didn't, who knows what would happen to us and the galaxy. No pressure.
We had a meeting on the deck the next day to discuss our next move.
Tammy spoke first, "I was able to assemble a makeshift tracking device that can locate a stone on a given planet."
"How'd you do that?" Rei asked. These past few days have been especially difficult for her but she tried not to show it.
"Since Cashel and Tiberius are of the same, particularly rare species, I analyzed Cashel's chemical makeup and was able to create a device that would locate any matching remnants found in space."
I had a question, "Cashel how did you locate the stones during the last race?"
He chuckled and took a swig of his drink. "Boy, I wasn't sober enough to remember that. Plus it was a thousand years ago."
It was silent.
"Shall I continue?" Tammy asked.
I guess Cashel's prior experience was going to be no help at all.
Kiko spoke, "Have you found anything yet?"
"I am only able to scan a piece of the galaxy at a time and so far I have found nothing. It could take months to find any trace of a stone."
"Months?! Someone else could've found the stones by then!" Rei burst, suddenly losing her cool.
"Calm down Rei," said Cashel. "I'm sure most of the racers don't have any clue on how to find the stones. At least we have a way of tracking them now."
Rei sighed. "Alright, so we just have to wait until we find a trail?"
"Yes," said Tammy, "that's currently our best and only option".
There was nothing else we could do but wait. It was actually harder than it seemed. Kiko suggested that I learned how to defend myself properly since we were now going to participate in the dangerous race. She taught me the same dodging and defensive moves that she taught Stellan and never any offensive moves. It was hard at first but I eventually got pretty good at it. We spent a lot of time sparring and even more time meditating. Anytime I tried attacking instead of defending she would take me down… hard. She made all of her movements look so graceful and easy. I found myself wondering if it was hard for her to hold back, but I never asked.
Rei taught me how to fire a blaster and aim at a target. I really sucked at it. Even after weeks of practice it didn't seem like I was getting any better but Rei was always optimistic about my progress. Every day she told me I was getting better. I really wasn't, but hearing her say that made me feel better, her too probably. She would often use the memory flasher I got for her and send Cashel images of my "progress" either with shooting or with Kiko. I could sometimes hear him laughing all the way from the flight deck and he would send her pictures back of funny faces or pranks he pulled on Tammy.
After a while it didn't seem like we were in a life-threatening race. We went back to our usual, routine, traveling life. I even got Kiko and Tammy to play cards with Rei and I and those were always full of laughter. Rei and Tammy were determined to out-cheat each other but Tammy always won somehow. It was one of the rare times you would see Tammy smiling.
One day I was relaxing in the sky deck with her, which was unusual for someone who hardly ever sat still long enough to actually be relaxing.
"Has it always been like this?" I asked her.
We were lying next to each other on one of the larger beds.
"No" she said honestly.
"It hasn't? Then how was it?"
"It's different with you around… more cheerful."
"Oh" I said smiling. Then I remembered the devastation we caused on Dezner. "Do you ever have nightmares? Can you even have any?"
"I used to, until I joined the Jago." She paused. "I've noticed that you've had a few since we left Dezner."
"You can tell?"
"Yes. I monitor your vital signs."
"Oh… yeah I've had a few" I sighed. "I'd never seen people get killed right in front of me."
"You're actually taking it very well" she insisted.
I shrugged and we continued to watch the stars pass by.
"Are you ever going to tell her how you feel?" she asked out of the blue.
I was startled, "What? What do you mean?"
I hesitated. "Tell her what? There's nothing to tell her."
"Did I not just say I monitor your vital signs?"
I didn't even realize my heart was pounding faster.
"I… uh… guess I…"
"Hey, you called me?" Came Kiko's voice from the entrance hole.
I nearly fell off the bed from hearing her voice.
"Something wrong?" she added, giving me a concerned look.
"No. Why don't you join us?" said Tammy beckoning her to us.
My heart was beating out of control as I tried to make myself relax when Kiko came to lie down on the bed beside me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a smile creep across Tammy's face. This was all her evil plan for her own enjoyment.
"So what were you guys talking about?"
"Nothing." I said quickly. "Just umm… the… weather."
"The weather… in space?"
"Well… yeah… its cold isn't it?" I laughed nervously.
"Oh, well if you want we can get under the covers-"
"No! I'm fine here actually. It just got really hot here all of a sudden." I half lied. I'm sure my face was turning bright red.
"Alright…" she said with a quizzical look.
I'm sure Tammy was enjoying every second of this. For someone who didn't express much she sure enjoyed meddling with other's feelings.
"How dare you have a star gazing party without me!" Rei bellowed from the entrance hole.
Could this get anymore awkward? Thank you Tammy.
"Hey, I just got here myself" said Kiko scooting closer to me to make room. Tammy wouldn't budge so I was left getting extremely close to both of them.
Rei joined us on the bed, next to Kiko. "So what's going on?" she asked.
"Nothing much" said Kiko
She snuggled next to her, "Sounds fun."
No one spoke much after that. We just watched the stars go by and enjoyed each other's company. I made myself a mental note to never forget this moment, being together here with my friends… I just realized I'm surrounded by girls.
After about an hour, I fell asleep and when I woke up I found Tammy asleep on my shoulder. Her hair was glowing in a peaceful, soothing pattern. I made sure not to move so I wouldn't wake her.
I looked over to see Kiko was still awake and Rei was asleep on her shoulder too.
She turned her head to face me, "I've never seen Tammy so attached to someone" she whispered.
"I guess I make a good pillow" I joked.
"No. I've known her for years and I've never seen her so happy since you've arrived."
I looked down on Tammy still in a peaceful sleep on my shoulder. I remembered her telling me that she'd never really had friends until joining the Jago.
"I know I can tell her anything. In fact, she knows me better than myself."
Kiko smiled. "Those are the best kind of friends."
I looked over at Rei. "Like you and Rei?" I asked.
"I've known Rei a long time. I made a promise to protect her no matter what."
It's true. Rei and Kiko were very close. Kiko was like Rei's older, protective sister. They always seemed to know what the other was thinking. Or maybe they were always in Rei's soul link, which was possible.
There was one other thing I've wanted to ask her for some time now.
"Kiko, how do you know Ozias?"
I was afraid I might have gone too far but she answered, "He's from my planet. He's one of the strongest Eyes of Blue."
"He called you… True Kai…"
She cringed at the sound of the name. "I…" she started to say until an alarm cut her off.
Beep beep beep beep. Tammy's hair flashed in the same rhythmic pattern as the alarm. Not a moment later, all four of us were sitting up on the bed awaiting Tammy's explanation.
She looked at us, "I have the location of the first stone."