"Lone!" I called out.
It was useless. She continued to walk away from me as I chased after her.
I bumped into many people of different species trying to get to her but she always seemed to elude my reach. I continued to chase her further and further away from the shuttle until I completely lost sight of her.
I searched around quizzically for any sign or glimpse of her, but she was gone and I no longer knew where I was at.
Where was I going again? I felt like I need to be somewhere or do something but I couldn't remember.
Where am I? The surroundings began to slowly change around me into something more familiar…. I'm on… Sola. I remember this place, the red sandy cliffs that made up the walls around an area where I spent a lot of time as a kid.
I walked around, feeling the familiar crunch of the hard, gritty sand beneath my boots as I took each step. The two suns above me were almost in alignment in the clear blue sky, creating two shadows for each rocky pillar that I passed.
It was empty, no one was around. I turned the corner and suddenly I was now over-looking the large city of Sola from afar. Darkness covered it and soon the city was aflame as large battle ships flew over me and began to ravage the land. The sound of screams of pain and agony in the distance sent a cold chill down my spine.
What's going on?! Why is this happening?!
Suddenly I was now on a planet filled with beautiful white buildings. It looked like a technologically advanced planet with several large holograms set up in certain screening areas, as well as droids, cyborgs, and elegant shuttles carrying many glowing haired humanoids around. Then the same thing happened on this planet. It turned dark and large ships began to destroy everything in their path, leaving only despair.
Once again my surroundings changed to another dark planet. It was gloomy and war-torn. All of the buildings were either destroyed or nearly destroyed and humanoid bodies of different ages and genders were scattered across the ground in pools of their own blood.
Something or someone was coming toward me from the center of it all. I stumbled back when I saw who was approaching me from the shadows, his bright blue eyes visible even from a distance. It was someone I hoped to never run into again. His figure grew larger as he stalked toward me, a smile on his scarred face.
We were both teleported to another planet. Behind him it was the village on Dezner when it burned to the ground because of him. The monster was still walking toward me and I continued to try and back away from him, to escape his haunting presence. My eyes veered to the ground. There were bodies below me and I recognized all of them. It was the crew of the Jago.
I stared at their lifeless bodies sprawled in front of me. My heart stopped. I couldn't think. This couldn't be happening. I lost myself at the sight of my friends dead on the ground. They couldn't be gone. It felt too real to escape though, like a bad dream that you can't wake up from no matter how hard you want to shake yourself awake.
I stood there stunned. Someone was faintly calling my name in the back of my mind, and I felt their arms wrap around me from behind, pulling me back to reality. Everything went black.
"Sarth…" I was slapped in the face.
I opened my eyes. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust and when they did I found Tammy was crouched in front of me and examining me with her calculating eyes.
"Tammy?" my voice croaked.
I heard the sound of blasters firing in the background. I focused on her again, she looked almost completely different. She was dirty and her cape was filled with holes. I could see a streak of silver on her jaw line where she was cut by something.
"Where are we?" I asked.
"We can talk later" she insisted.
I was wrapped in a sticky clear substance and had nasty looking slugs on my face and chest. She helped me clear them off and stand up because I could barely move for some reason. Then she guided me towards a wall and lifted up her right arm. There was a machine attached to it and it lit up and hummed for a second before a rectangular square lit up on the wall. We walked right through it just like when we fell through the ground on Tizarr. She ran me out of several different rooms like this until we went through a wall that was outside the building.
The ship was docked not too far away and she threw me inside and jumped in as it took off. There were a few small mechanical gadgets running after us and I was about to kick it away when Tammy said, "Don't". The gadgets jumped on the ship and changed shape to camouflage with it. We zoomed away and the blasting faded.
"What just happened?!" I asked, suddenly full of adrenaline. "Why do you look like that?!"
She drove us further away before answering, "You've been missing for almost four weeks now."
"What?! No! I just saw you a few minutes ago, you were driving-"
"You suddenly jumped out of the shuttle and ran off." She insisted, "I've been looking for you ever since."
I felt my face. It felt like I hadn't shaved in weeks, so she had to be right.
"Well, where's everyone else?" I asked admitting my mistake.
"They're missing as well. We jumped out to get you and they suddenly ran off in different directions."
I couldn't believe she's been alone here for almost a month… on this unforgiving planet of all places.
"We're being toyed with," she continued, "those shady racers are back and I'm afraid they're not the only ones who have teamed up."
The big mechanical gizmo on her arm retracted into a cuff on her upper arm. I couldn't believe how much Tammy had transformed over the course of four weeks on this planet. She not only held up her own, but she also saved my butt from the horrors I was ensnared in.
I recalled my nightmare. The horrors…
"You don't think… Ozias is here do you?" I asked. She didn't answer, that could only mean one thing. "How are we gonna find Kiko and Rei?"
"The same way I found you."
I realized I didn't even remember getting captured, "How did we even get captured?" I asked.
"There's a type of illegal plant that induces hallucinations. If performed correctly, it can put a person into a coma inside of a virtual reality that's controlled by a wielder. The species that can do this is extremely rare though, and I wasn't expecting there to be four of them cooperating on one planet, let alone the same area. There's obviously something going on here."
"Well, I'm glad you escaped." I said relieved.
"That type of species doesn't affect mine very well since we're more electrical rather than biological. Our pursuers knew this however and sent others after me."
I felt guilty, "I'm sorry you had to be by yourself this entire time."
"It wasn't your fault. You have nothing to apologize for."
I still felt bad, but at least I could help her rescue Kiko and Rei. I was hoping they were doing better than I was, but if it really was Ozias orchestrating things then I feared the worse for Kiko.
"Let's find the others."
She drove us into a vacant part of a building and parked.
"We'll be safe here." She said getting out.
She helped me get out of the shuttle and set me down on what looked like a giant robot head. I stretched and tried to move my muscles around. She came back with something in her hand and pressed it on the back of my neck. It zapped me and I twitched on the ground.
"Ow! Geez! You could warn me!" I complained while getting off the ground.
"It would've hurt more if I did." She explained with a slight smile.
I moved my muscles around again and this time they felt back to normal.
"Alright, what are we waiting for?! Let's go save Kiko and Rei!"
"You should rest here first. We don't know where they are yet so you should use this time to gather your strength."
I wanted to go and find them right now but I guess there was no point in wandering around aimlessly. I sat back down and she handed me a can with mush inside and told me to eat it, so I did. It smelled really funky but at least it didn't taste like anything. The texture was disgusting though.
She went to work, searching through a map of the city and showed it to me, "I've narrowed it down to only a few locations left. They have to be in one of these areas."
I counted about five different locations. "When will we go?"
"Tomorrow if you're ready. We'll search them all and find them."
I nodded in agreement. Then she showed me where I could clean up and cut my hair. It was strange seeing me look a month older when it felt like just yesterday I was nice and clean.
I had just finished cleaning up when I finally remembered that I was supposed to be holding the morph stone. I quickly checked my pocket but it was empty. My gut wrenched. I was supposed to be protecting the stone and I ended up losing it only a few hours after arriving on Glutvagant.
I burst out of the cleaning room, "Tammy I lost my stone!"
She wasn't surprised. "I know. Don't worry about it. There was nothing we could do and I'm just glad you're still in one piece. We'll get it back, don't worry." She sounded confident but I was still disappointed with myself.
I sulked around for hours until I noticed all the gadgets that were lying around.
"What are these?"
She was working on one of them when she answered, "Stuff I've collected over the past few weeks… mainly weapons."
"Weapons huh?" I looked at them closely, "They don't look like weapons I've ever seen."
"That's because they're all contraband."
I was about to pick up a cool looking weapon when Tammy said, "Here," stopping me, "this one's yours."
She handed me a simple-looking silver ring.
"Uh, thanks…" I looked at it, slightly disappointed. "How do you use it?"
"It'll work when you need it to."
That didn't explain much. This was supposed to help keep me safe somehow? It seemed like it was more of a fashion statement.
"Alright…" I said, only mildly complaining, and wishing it was one of the cool looking ones I was just examining.
She went back to working again and I watched her for a while until I fell asleep. I woke up and Tammy was still working, but this time it was on the shuttle. She looked like a mechanic in her jumpsuit, with her goggles on and hair up, welding a panel to the ship.
"You're a mechanic too?" I joked.
She looked up at me with her goggles, she was almost unrecognizable aside from her monotonic expression. "I prefer design, but I know how to use one of these if that's what you mean…" she waved a strange-looking blowtorch at me.
I smiled. I don't there's anything she couldn't do or quickly learn how to do.
I got up and stretched, "Are we leaving soon?"
She took off her goggles and put down her hair to braid. "Yeah, I just finished."
She left to go clean up and change, then I helped her load some gadgets into the shuttle. I gave her a moment to double check the room to make sure we had everything we would need and soon we were off to the first location.
"Do we have a plan?" I asked, readying myself for a rescue mission.
"I'll be the distraction and you find and rescue Kiko and Rei."
"You're going to be the distraction?" I sounded skeptical, "Are you sure about that?"
"I'm the only one who knows how to use this stuff." She said simply.
I didn't like it but it was the truth and she was able to rescue me on her own so I had to take her word for it.
"Do you think they're in two separate locations like I was?"
"No, I don't think so. I have a feeling they're being held together, because the species work stronger together at closer approximations and I'm sure they have more than one to subdue Kiko."
I thought about it more. "This sounds like a trap…"
"I'm sure it is, but there's nothing we can do but hope for the best."
We got to the first location but we only had to drive by for Tammy to know that they weren't there. We drove by the second location with the same result but the third location she stopped short. Of course it had to be one of the most intimidating looking buildings out of all of them.
"They're on the second floor from the top," she said looking through what looked like a piece of glass. "Take this," she handed me a bracelet that looked similar to hers. "It'll allow you to walk through walls like before." I put it on and it hummed slightly. "Just focus on what shape and object you want to walk through."
That seemed easy enough. The plan was to go unnoticed for as long as possible, so I had to sneak inside the building.
She took me up to as far as she thought was safe, which wasn't very high, and waited for me to walk through the wall. I held up my arm like she did before and tried to visualize the wall and what shape I wanted to walk through.
I can't describe what kind of shape I produced because it wasn't an actual shape at all.
"What's that supposed to be?" she teased at the wobbly bubble.
"Uh… I was just trying it out…" I said for pity points.
I thought I focused on a square but then the idea of a circle crossed my mind and it turned into something completely different. It was embarrassing to try and squeeze and contort my body through the shameful shape I made. I'm sure Tammy now had doubts about my ability to rescue the others, because I certainly did now.
I was lucky to walk into an empty room filled with old, dusty furniture. I didn't think about how I would head upwards. Tammy answered my question by sending one of her droids with me. I didn't even notice it until it formed a sort of ladder for me to walk up. It must've known the safe areas too because it would form a ladder in specific areas of the room I was in.
Luckily I was getting better at projecting what shape I wanted and I always stuck my head in first to make sure it was safe to climb up. Then the droid would follow me by simply jumping and climbing up the ledge of the shape.
We went up quite a few floors without encountering anyone until reaching one floor where there were strange four-legged creatures pacing around in a scouting manner. I pulled my head out as soon as I saw one of them turn towards me. I held my breath, hoping it didn't see me. It was quiet so I didn't think it did.
The droid walked me to a different location and I poked my head up again. This time it was all clear and I quickly got up and hid behind some boxes while the droid joined me. Once it was up it began searching around for another safe spot. It took longer than usual but eventually we made it to the right floor and I took a look around. It was darker and smelled sour in the air. The droid pointed in a horizontal direction indicating that this was the floor they were on.
I took the lead and crept around. There were a few cloaked humanoids walking around but I was able to sneak passed them easily. I came to an open room and found what I was looking for, but it didn't look good.