My life flashed before my eyes as I was falling. I lost Lux's hand so I tried my best to cover myself as I slammed into hard ice chunks on the way down. Each chunk was like being slammed against solid rock. I knew I had broken many bones in my body and after finally hitting my head on one of them, I lost consciousness.
When I finally came to my senses, the first thing I noticed was how good it smelled. It smelled like I was walking back through the flower field on Crux when we went to go meet the King and my first thought was that I had died and gone to a peaceful place.
That was until something soft brushed against my skin. I slowly opened my eyes wondering where I was. It looked familiar, and it should because it was my own tent and I was inside my own sleeping bag.
I wondered how I got there.
"Oh… you're awake" came Lux's soft voice from inside my sleeping bag.
"Ahh!" I looked down and noticed she was lying on top of me and we were both half naked. "What're you doing in here?! And where are our clothes?!" I asked, clearly freaking out given our appearance.
"Well, we both fell off the cliff and when I found you, you were near death buried under the snow. I lost my pack so we had to share your tent. Then I noticed your battery is practically dead so the only way to save you from hypothermia was to use my own body heat, so here I am."
She sounded kind of tired and when she was done explaining she rested her head back on my chest. I didn't know how to feel about how close we were but she did save my life… again. I tried to remain motionless as I let her rest on me.
I don't know how much time passed but I found myself getting hotter and hotter in the sleeping bag. Lux still hadn't moved since she last spoke to me and I began to get antsy.
Buzzbuzzbuzz. My wrist was vibrating and I saw it was the device that Tammy had given me earlier. I tapped it and a small hologram of Tammy appeared.
"Tammy!" I whispered with a smile.
"Sarth, I'm glad you're okay. I've been monitoring you and have been trying to contact you for some time now."
"Yeah, I'm okay now."
"I see that," she said looking down in Lux's direction.
"No! It's not like that!" I said trying to clear up any indecent thoughts.
"Actually, I'm more concerned about Lux. She spent a lot of her energy healing you completely and it exhausted her before she could heal herself."
"She did?" I remembered how tired she sounded before falling asleep. I noticed then just how hot she was and I touched her forehead. "She's burning up!"
Tammy continued, "I can see that," She was typing on the panels in front of her. "There might be a way you can help her heal herself. The stone you managed to obtain is the Elemental Stone. It contains the galaxy's basic elemental forces. The fact that you are human is probably the reason why you were the only one capable of activating it. Considering Lux's species, you might be able to use the stone's power to heal her."
"What do I need to do?" I asked determined to help her any way I could.
"Get the stone and press it to your lips." Tammy instructed.
I glanced around looking for the stone I was carrying earlier. I found it on top of my clothes next to me and grabbed it. I pressed the cold stone against my lips and it glowed slightly.
She stopped pressing buttons on her side to speak to me. "Now press your lips onto hers."
"What?! You mean kiss her?!"
"Yes, kiss her." She answered in her usual monotone voice.
I hesitated. Just the thought made me blush already.
Tammy tried to rush things along, "You have a few hours to decide if you want to save her life."
"Just give me a sec!" I sassed back. I gently turned Lux on her back. She was still unconscious and her fever was rising quickly, giving her a red glow. "I'm… just trying to figure out the best way to do this."
I moved myself on top of her. She was even more beautiful with rosy red cheeks and I found myself getting nervous. I slowly approached her face with mine and gave her a quick kiss.
"That's not going to save anyone" said Tammy. Even she sounded a little disappointed.
I grunted with anger and frustration at myself. Why was I acting this way? I'm sure Lux did everything she could to save me and here I am acting like a child with her life in my hands. I have the power to save her and I want to so what was stopping me? Only myself.
I approached her again, but this time with my burning desire to save her life. Our lips touched and I found myself putting more meaning behind it as time seemed to stand still around us. Her lips were soft and warm. I could feel the heat radiating off her body like a heater.
What was this feeling? I didn't want let go of her but eventually I removed my lips from hers. When I looked back down at her I noticed her eyes were now open and she was staring at me.
I realized my position. "I'm sorry! I'll-" I quickly said in a fluster but she cut me off by coming up to kiss me. After the initial shock I lost myself, kissing her back. I don't know how long we kissed for or why we were kissing but I couldn't let go.
It came to our attention that we were being watch when we heard girls giggling coming from my wrist and Lux let me go. I was too stunned to move afterwards so Lux turned her attention to my wrist.
"My apologizes," said Tammy.
I finally turned my head to see a bunch of girls from Breccan's crew standing behind Tammy, apparently watching our every move.
"No need to apologize. I assumed you were the one who knew how to help me. Thank you." Then Lux's tone changed, "As for the others behind you…" she cleared her throat with a displeased attitude and the girls giggled again before scattering.
Tammy was clearly amused but apparently only I could tell. "I'll leave you two alone. See you in a few days." She said before turning off the hologram.
I was dreading the thought of her telling anyone on the Jago what Lux and I did, especially Kiko.
Lux turned back to me and I saw I was still hovering over her and I quickly moved over so we were side-by-side in the sleeping bag.
"So…" I said first. I was still a little taken aback by all the kissing.
"Thank you for saving me" she said simply.
"You saved me too," I responded automatically.
We laid there awkwardly for a few minutes listening to the rain and thunder patter the tent.
"We should probably get going," Lux said as she began to slip out of the sleeping bag. I quickly turned the other way since she was still half naked.
"Uh… yeah you're right." I grabbed my clothes that were beside me and quickly threw them on, tucking the stone back in my pocket.
We started breaking everything down and packing up before heading back down the mountain.
When I stepped outside I was surprised. Not because the weather was getting worse, but because I noticed how far down we've come.
"Did we fall all the way down the mountain?" I asked, confused about our location.
"No, you've been out for a few days. We've made it further down the mountain than you think." She answered as she started to lead the way.
I followed her. "How long was I out?"
"You carried me all the way down the mountain?"
"Well, I'd say more like… drag. We had to keep to the schedule, this place is still gonna disintegrate in a few days."
Oh yeah that's right, I forgot we were on a time limit for a moment there. That fall really messed up my head, I hope it didn't affect my memory.
Lux and I moved quickly down the rest of the mountain. I was happy to be out of the snow because my battery was now dead so there was nothing to keep me warm. Of course the constant rain and wind didn't help but at least it was still warmer down here than on the mountain.
We walked all day, taking an unfamiliar route. Finally, when it got too dark to see we set up the tent again and Lux got cozy inside the sleeping bag.
"You can have the sleeping bag," I said offering it to her.
"You're going to freeze to death again, just get in." She argued.
I didn't want to argue so I just did as I was told and slipped inside the sleeping bag with her. It was warm and comfy. There was a lot on my mind about what's happened the past week that I wanted to get off my chest.
"I'm sorry about Tobiah," I said out of nowhere. I hoped she wasn't asleep yet as I soon realized after a pause.
"He was a loyal friend to Breccan. He's been part of the crew for years…" Her voice trailed off in her thoughts. "He'll be missed but not forgotten. We'll make sure his death wasn't in vain."
I remembered the moment before his sacrifice. "He saved my life."
"He's saved all of our lives, countless times before. He may have distaste for humans but his loyalty to Breccan runs deeper."
I couldn't believe the man I thought to be a narcissistic weirdo when I first met him, would have such an amazing crew. Not just Tobiah, but the entire Breccan crew never ever questioned his leadership or motives. They were loyal to the end.
"How did you join his crew?" I asked curiously.
She chuckled, "I met Breccan when I was a little girl. I hated him at first and he begged me to join his crew but I always said no." She thought for a moment. "Then one day he changed my life and I couldn't just say no anymore so I suddenly found myself as part of his crew."
"Wow, you've been part of his crew since you were a little girl?"
"Yeah, pretty much. After that we eventually started gathering more crew members along the way."
It was interesting to learn more about Lux and Breccan. The crew really did have a deep history behind them. Before I knew it, hours flew by and we had laughed together and talked about all sorts of different things.
A cool thing I learned was that the whip she used was able to cut anything it touched, through any layer. She demonstrated by having me hold a nourishing capsule in my fist and she wrapped the whip around it and the core glowed orange. Then she took off the whip and told me to open my hand. The capsule was now cut in half. That explained how the large man who grabbed me had his arm cut off, and how she cut the twine when Rei shot her with the twineulator.
"We should go to bed," she said after hours of talking.
I sighed. "You're right, it's getting really late now."
She smiled at me. "Good night."
I smiled back. "Good night."
I awoke early the next morning to find Lux lying on top of me once again. I didn't freak out this time because she looked so peaceful and I didn't want to disturb her. I was about to fall back asleep when she suddenly woke up and realized she was on top of me before rolling off. I pretended to be asleep as she quietly slipped out of the sleeping bag to change.
"Sarth," she whispered at me, trying to wake me up gently.
I opened my eyes and she was waving some dry meat in front of my face.
"This is the last of the food so chew it slowly." She said popping a nourishing capsule in her mouth.
I took the meat from her hand and stuck it in my mouth to suck on.
It was hard to pack up this day. The wind and rain had picked up so much that we needed to hold onto each other so we wouldn't blow away. I didn't know how she was able to lead us anywhere. She told me earlier that we were a little off course but she knew the direction we should travel. I had no idea where we were so I was relying on her to get us back to the ship.
It was hard to make progress trying to walk against the wind, especially since we lost the spikes for our shoes. I gave up trying to clear my mask from the rain and just focused on following Lux.
"Sarth! Where have you guys been?! You've had us worried for days!" Came Rei's voice in my head.
I perked up. "Rei! We're both fine. Where are you?" I asked searching around in vain. Lux noticed my movements and stopped.
"Wow you can't see anything! I'll look around to see if I can find you."
Lux came up to my face and lifted her mask to talk, "What's the matter?"
"Rei found us! She looking around to see where we are." I told her while lifting up my own mask. It was a pain not being able to use the masks to communicate because my battery died and Lux lost hers.
"Great! I'm glad we finally found them!"
Rei spoke again, "It's a good thing I found you guys! You're headed straight into a wild herd of unfriendly looking creatures up ahead!"
She gave us directions and I relayed them to Lux. We followed Rei's instructions and finally caught up with them. They were resting underneath some shelter from the wind and rain.
Rei jumped on me and gave me a big hug. I was happy to see them all again. Everyone except for Tobiah was still together in one group. We were all exhausted and dirty but we were finally back together again.
"We were so worried! Kiko was about to jump off the cliff to find you! Breccan and Shihon had to stop her, which wasn't easy… or pretty." Rei recounted.
She turned to see Lux healing Breccan from an apparent arm injury he sustained by trying to subdue Kiko, but he had a big happy smile on his face like it was his fault he hurt himself. His crew was happy to see her again and Pippa gave her a big hug.
I looked around for Kiko. She was standing behind me, staring at me with a small smile on her face.
"Welcome back" she said.
"Thanks, I'm glad to be back." I answered.
She turned her attention to Lux. "Where's her pack?"
"Oh, she lost it in the snow." I said without much thought.
She thought about it, "I see…" Then she walked away.
"Alright!" Breccan said getting pumped up, "let's get moving now!"
We all took off again, walking a few more hours. This time it was a lot easier being pulled along by Kiko with the twine they were using. The only person I got to talk to was Rei because my mask was still dead. That was okay though because Kiko was acting strange ever since Lux and I got back.
I got lost in my thoughts and I remembered our kiss…
"Kiss..." Said Rei.
"Kiss?! What kiss?!" I said trying to hide my thoughts.
"Huh? I said Kiko missed you…"
"Oh… yeah? I missed you guys too." I tried to redeem myself but it failed.
She thought about what I said, "…Kiss? Wait…"
"WHAT?!" she screamed aloud. I guess she came to a sudden stop behind me because I lost all my slack and almost fell backwards. Then everyone else stopped and turned to Rei for an answer. I couldn't hear what they were saying but I knew they had to be asking what was wrong.
"SHHHHHHHHHHH!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT HAPPENED!" I was in full panic mode. I couldn't let Kiko find out I had kissed her bounty hunting arch nemesis.
"Uhh… sorry… Sarth said he ate the dried meat I was saving." She chuckled nervously, "well let's keep moving!"
All eyes turned to me and I just shrugged nervously. Then we all resumed the trek through the jungle.
"YOU KISSED LUX?! WHAT HAPPENED UP THERE?!" Rei yelled in my head.
"Nothing happened. Don't worry about it." I said making up my mind that I wouldn't say anything about what happened.
Rei grumbled. I guess she knew she wasn't going to get any information from me and after that she stopped talking to me for a while.
We walked for hours and out of nowhere light green raindrops began splattering my mask.
"Huh?" I said to myself.
"It's starting to rain sage." Rei explained.
I wiped my mask to see the others taking notice of the green rain as well.
"That can't be good." I said.
"It's not. Apparently we need to pick up the pace."
It was pitch black outside when Breccan finally decided to stop for the night. Since Lux and Pippa lost their tent I ended using Shihon's since he insisted I use his tent because he wasn't going to need it tonight. I gladly took it if he wasn't going to use it.
Every inch of me was tired and exhausted. I snuggled inside my sleeping bag, watching the sage droplets batter the tent when I realized I was surprisingly lonely. I thought about how Lux and Kiko were doing in one tent.
"Hey Sarth, you still awake?"
"It's awkwardly quiet in here. Pippa fell asleep right away but Lux, Kiko and I are just laying here obviously still awake. The tension here is getting unbearable."
"Can't you all just get along?"
"Yeah, that's not happening… oh Kiko gave up… she's leaving the tent now… go talk to her."
"This is your fault."
"What? How is this my fault??"
I sighed and got up to go outside. It took a moment to put my boots and jacket back on and when I opened my tent I found Breccan and Kiko at the PSL, talking to a hologram of Tammy.
I walked over to try and listen but they were just finishing by the time I reached them. They both looked distressed.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"We need to leave right now," Breccan said seriously as he and Kiko walked to the other group members.
"Why? What's going on?" I asked getting worried.
I followed Kiko to the other tent where she opened to a packing crew. Lux, Pippa and Rei were already up and packing.
Lux said while packing, "Breccan said we need to leave right now."
"I see you got that memo already" Kiko sassed back as she started throwing their stuff together.
"Will someone please tell me what's going on??" I asked again.
Kiko stopped briefly to explain, "This planet will be gone by tomorrow morning. It's degrading faster than we anticipated."
My mouth dropped. "But we're still two days away!"
"That's why we need to leave like right now. Go pack."
I didn't have to be told twice. I ran to Shihon's tent where Breccan was helping me throw all my stuff together. We were all packed in record time and within 5 minutes of learning the planet wouldn't last another day, we were back to running for our lives.
The weather was getting exponentially worse by the hour and I was practically dragged through destroyed brush or the rising water level the entire time. Soon lightning filled the dark sky, its booming echo nearly made my ears bleed and I was dead tired after a few hours of such an insane pace.
Rei would try to inspire me at times. "C'mon Sarth, we have to pick up the pace. You can do it, we're almost there."
But I simply didn't have the energy to respond back, even in my head. I tried to keep up but I was getting slower and slower by the hour.
I was about to give up completely when I felt a familiar hand take ahold of mine. I used my other hand to clear my mask and see who it was. I saw Lux's back as she lead me with her hand the way we traveled the few days without the others. A yellow light was visible between our hands and I instantly began feeling better with a steady stream of energy entering my body, keeping me moving forward. I smiled at her even though she couldn't see it. She was always looking out for me. I squeezed her hand and I saw her glance back with a smirk on her face.
We ran the rest of the way like this and finally, after running all night we saw our ships with crewmembers running frantically all over the place. A light-greenish shield was protecting each ship from rain, wind, lightning, and anything else that was flying through the air.
Chunks of earth from afar were now rising off the planet and soared through the sky getting smaller and smaller until it disappeared in the darkness. The ground beneath us started to crack as we ran to the ships.
"You're finally here!" Cashel howled through the wind. "Get on board so we can get off this dying planet! Tammy finished re-equipping both ships a few hours ago. We're both set to leave!"
"Great!" yelled Breccan, "We'll see you in space!"
I watched as the Breccan crew headed back to their ship. Lux smiling at me again and I smiled back before she followed Breccan inside.
"How was your trip?" Cashel asked me on the way to the Jago.
"Long" I answered earnestly.
He chuckled, "At least you made it back!"
That was definitely true. I thought about all the times I almost got killed. It was too many times if you ask me.
We all gathered on the flight deck where Tammy was handling all the controls. The entire ship shook disturbingly as the ground underneath it began to give away.
"Tammy let's get off this planet!"
She didn't need to be told because we were soon hovering in the air and ascending hastily.
A hologram of the Breccan flight deck appear before us on our own flight deck panels.
"Whew! We're cutting it close here!" said Breccan as he assumed control over his ship.
We all watched, holding our breaths as we began to slow down, making our way toward the crumbling sage layers that used to protect the planet, and away from the black hole trying to suck us in.
We were so close to the green sphere when an alarm rang out simultaneously on both our flight deck and Breccan's.
"What does that mean?!" asked Rei looking alarmed.
Both Tammy and Cashel were too busy trying to stabilize the ship. Breccan's crew had the same reaction as he assessed what was happening.
"We're not gonna make it." Kiko said, realizing what was going on.
The ship was almost slowed down to a complete stop now.
It was quiet for a moment as the truth hit us all like a punch to the stomach.
Breccan broke the silence by giving orders, "Tammy, concentrate your ship's sage shield to the rear of your ship."
"Are you sure about that?" She asked.
"Of course I am!" Then he turned to announce to his crew, "Listen up! We're going to re-direct all of our power to our front two main blasters! Does anyone object?"
It took a moment to sink in but soon smiles started creeping up on some faces.
"We get to fire them?!" someone on the flight deck asked.
"Indeed we will, and we shall!"
His flight deck started cheering and got to work to prepare the large blasters.
"Wait…" I said as I pieced together their plan. "You're gonna fire your main cannons at us?"
"The propulsion should be enough for you guys to escape" explained Lux.
"But what about you guys! We can't just leave you to die here! It's not fair! You can't just sacrifice everyone on board for us!" for some reason I was angry at first, and then I was suddenly holding back tears.
Lux just smiled at me with her usual kind smile. "We want to do this." she said. "There's a reason why we follow Breccan without hesitation."
Tears were now making their way down my face.
"Why?" My voice cracked as I tried to hold them back.
"Because we trust him, so you should trust us."
I didn't want them to die. I wanted us all to collect the pieces together and have fun like we have been the past two weeks. Why did it have to be this way?
"Cap'n the main blasters are ready to go on your command!" came Pippa's cheery voice from the background.
Breccan came back on the hologram, "Well Jago, I expect you to win this race! Kiko my darling, until we meet again!"
"You should all take a seat" said Tammy quietly.
Kiko directed me to the chair because I couldn't take my eyes off the hologram. I watched as the Breccan crew prepared to save our lives once again.
Breccan smiled and waved goodbye to us before shouting, "Fire!"
Our ship was launched forward and a blinding light made me close my eyes. I could hear the Breccan crew cheering as we took off further and further away from them and the dying planet. When we slowed down the hologram flickered for a few more seconds.
"Good luck Jago!" said Breccan as we watched the crew smile and cheer us on before we completely lost connection.