Episode 11: Breathe

StarSinger, Dylan, and Beka followed the chain of prisoners for half an hour before they came to a building in a valley on the edge of the town that was being used to house them. They waited for the doors to open and the prisoners to be safely inside before attacking. Beka and Dylan started firing at the guards while StarSinger created a wall of water that crashed down on them.

“StarSinger, can you get in there and free the prisoners? Beka and I will cover you?” Dylan asked her.

She nodded. “I can.” She got up and took a deep breath. “Ready.”

“Go!” Beka and Dylan concentrated their fire to keep StarSinger safe. Once she was inside, they shot anyone trying to get inside.

“Drop your weapons now,” a voice said from behind them. Dylan felt the cold muzzle of a gun on his neck. He dropped his force lance. Beside him, he saw Beka drop her gun. “Stand up slowly. Walk towards the building.”

“And if we don’t want to?”

“Then you’re a dead man. You, and your friends as well.” The guard behind him smashed the body of the gun into Dylan’s head. “Move it!”

The guards paraded Dylan and Beka down into the building where StarSinger, backed by some of the freed prisoners, greeted them. Some of the freed prisoners were releasing their fellows. Grinning, Dylan turned on the guard holding the gun to his back.

“Water Dragon!” StarSinger shouted. A spiral of water shaped like an Asian dragon hit Beka’s guard, knocking him backwards into the others. “Get out of here!” she called to the prisoners. They didn’t need to be told twice. They rushed out the door. “We’d best get out of here as well,” she suggested to Dylan and Beka. They nodded and turned around, heading out.

Outside, they saw a group of Nietzscheans headed for them. “Run!” Dylan shouted. “I’ll hold them off.”

Singer grabbed his hand. “No, you won’t. They’ll kill you. If we can get up to the edge of the valley, I can stop them.”

Together, the three of them ran for the edge of the valley. Beka made it first and took aim at the approaching Nietzscheans, picking them off as they got closer to StarSinger and Dylan.

Singer joined Beka, gasping for breath. Dylan took a spot by Beka and started shooting. “Whenever you’re ready,” Dylan told her. “I suggest you hurry and do your thing.”

Singer took a deep breath and reached inwards for calm and balance. She closed her eyes and pictured the valley in her mind. She could see the elements in the area: the earth of the ground, the air, the fire of lasers, and, deep beneath the surface, an underground river. She reached for that water and pulled it upwards. “Water Rise!” she commanded.

The ground started to shake, causing the Nietzscheans to stumble. A minute later, great geysers of water erupted from the ground, flooding the valley. The Nietzscheans turned and ran, confused.

Dylan watched StarSinger, fascinated. She was glowing a deep ultramarine blue. Her eyes were closed and her long blue hair was floating around her despite the fact that there was very little wind. When the valley was completely flooded, she collapsed to her knees, the glow vanishing. He knelt beside her.

“Are you alright?”

“A little dizzy, but otherwise fine,” she said with a slight smile.

“I hope that the planetary leaders don’t mind their new lake,” Beka said, staring out across the water.

“It’ll go away on it’s own eventually. I’d put the water back underground myself, but I’m too tired.”

“Now what, Dylan?”

“Now we wait for the others to finish what they’re doing.”

StarFire and the others joined Terazed in the hallway. There was a group of armed Nietzscheans headed their way. “Perfect,” StarLight muttered. “Just perfect. StarFire, don’t you dare use your powers.”

“Care to explain that?”

“You’ll wind up torching the place. That crystal may be stabilizing your powers, but I don’t trust it to do that much.”

StarFire shrugged. “There’s, as they say, more than one way to skin a cat. Or, in this case, a group of Nietzscheans.”

“Was that really necessary to say?” Terazed asked her.

She simply gave him a look and headed for the Dragos. They aimed their weapons at her. She simply flashed a feral grin at them before attacking. She lashed out with fists and feet, knocking a couple of them down. They recovered quickly. One got behind her and grabbed her arms while another slammed his foot into her stomach. The other senshi joined the fray. Vedra, not being overly good at hand to hand, went back into the room and took one of the guards’ guns and did her best to pick the Dragos off her friends.

Terazed took out the one holding StarFire’s arms, freeing her to fight some more. He stayed as close to her and Nomaie as he could, watching how they interacted. They fought well together, turning their movements into a vicious dance, playing off each others moves without really seeing what the other was doing. Nomaie was right; they did have a connection. He felt another surge of jealousy just before a fist connected with his jaw, knocking him down.

“Careful, Terazed!” StarLight warned from beside him. “Don’t get distracted.” She helped him up to his feet and took down another Drago. “I think that’s the last one.”

“Let’s go find Dylan,” Vedra said, dropping the gun.

“Do any of you remember seeing a lake on our way down?” StarLight asked as they approached the spot where the others waited.

“This smells of StarSinger,” StarFire said. “I’d recognize that power aura anywhere.”

They found StarSinger lying on her back, her head cradled in Dylan’s lap. Beka was sitting off to the side, staring out across the artificial lake. Dylan looked up at the sound of their approach. “Glad you could make it back,” he said.

StarLight and StarFire knelt beside their friend. “What happened?” Light asked.

“Got a little carried away?” Fire asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Something like that, yes. I’m exhausted,” she said quietly with a faint smile.

“Well, I can give you an energy boost to last you until you can get back to the Andromeda, but I’ll only do that if no one has any serious injuries to attend to.”

“Dylan got hit in the shoulder.”

“I’ll be fine,” he told her stubbornly. “You need help more.”

StarLight looked at the others. “Anyone else hurt badly?” They all shook their heads. “Alright then.” She placed her hands on StarSinger’s stomach. Almost instantly their auras became visible. It looked as if StarLight’s aura was pouring into StarSinger’s body. They sat like that for a couple minutes. The color gradually returned to Singer’s face.

StarLight swooned a little as she sat back. “That should hold you for a while.”

“What did you just do, anyways?” Dylan asked.

“As the avatar of the earth element, I have limited healing abilities. Unlike those possessed by StarLove or StarFire, mine can be used to heal injuries or restore energy levels.”

Terazed looked at StarFire. “You can heal?”

“It’s not what you think. We’ve come across creatures that were once human, but were either corrupted by their own power or by an outside influence. Love and I can return these things to their original form.”

“StarLight, you only said that three of you could heal. What about Singer?” Dylan asked.

StarSinger shook her head. “My powers are different than theirs. I can do other things.”

“Such as?”

“Things I’d rather not get into right now,” she told him gently. “I hope I won’t have to use them.”

StarFire stepped away from the group and looked out across the lake. The breeze picked up, blowing her long black ponytail out behind her. Her form fuzzed and she returned to her usual self. Terazed did the same and walked over to join her.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Rhade asked conversationally.

“No, it isn’t,” Jen said, shivering.

“What do you think of it then?”

“Aside from an urge to back far, far away from it, very little.”

He looked down at her. “You don’t like water?”

“None of me people do. Well, with the exception of Jason, but he’s always been an odd one. Nomaie doesn’t have any bodies of water. This much water in one place is just unnatural.”

“Can’t swim either, can you?”

“Why would I want to do that? Water only has two purposes: drinking and bathing.”

“Might help keep you alive if you learned how.”

She turned to face him, taking a step backwards. “I have no desire to do so.”

“Careful, Jen,” Okami called out to her. “You don’t want to fall in.”

She spun to face her friend. “I’m not a child, Okami. I know-“ Whatever she was saying got cut short as the ground beneath her feet gave way and she fell backwards into the lake. Like a stone, she dropped beneath the surface.

“Jen!” Jason shouted out.

Rhade pulled his vest and sweater off and dove in after her. He resurfaced, looking around. “Jen!” Her head broke above the surface fifteen feet away from him before falling back under again. He swam towards her, taking a deep breath, and diving under the surface.

The water wasn’t too dark for him to see through. He looked around. There. Beneath him. She was sinking. Kicking furiously, he dove for her, grabbing her wrist. Rhade pulled her towards him as he headed for the surface. Her body reached his arms just before he broke the surface, so he wrapped his arms around her.

With his head above water once more, he gasped for breath and looked at Jen. Her eyes were closed and she hung limply in his arms. Frantically, he swam for shore where Jason and Dylan were waiting to help them get out. Jason took Jen while Dylan helped Rhade pull himself up onto shore. Jason lay Jen down on the ground. The natives gathered around them as Rhade walked over and dropped down to the ground at Jen’s side. Jason knelt at her feet.

Frowning, Rhade stared at her chest. “She’s not breathing. Is there a doctor around?” The people all shook their heads. “I’ll do it myself then,” he said, tilting Jen’s head back and opening her mouth.

“What’s he doing?” one of the natives asked Okami.

“It’s called mouth-to-mouth resuscitation,” she told the young man. “He’s trying to get her to breath again.”

“If she finds out that he’s done this, I don’t know what she’ll do,” Trance said, worried.

“It might actually be a good thing,” Tenshi said.

“Or it could make things worse,” Okami countered. “Point is, we have no way of knowing.”

“Come on Jen, breathe!” Rhade pleaded with her in between breaths.

Jason started to make a strange noise in his throat. “She’s gone, Rhade.”

“Damn it, Jason, I’m not giving up!” A few breaths later, Jen said up, coughing out the water from her lungs. She swung up onto her knees, coughing. She wrapped her arms around her chest, shivering.

“Someone get her a blanket,” Rhade called out to the people around them. Four women came forward with thick blankets and one with dry clothes. With her was a man, the same one they’d talked to when they’d first arrived in the Callien system.

“My people owe you a great debt of gratitude, Captain Hunt,” he said as the women fussed around Jen.

“Really, I had very little to do with it. It was mostly some of the odd passengers I’ve picked up.”

“It doesn’t matter who did most of the work,” the man told him. “What matters is that my people stand a chance now.”

“We can’t stay here forever, sir.”

“My apologies. I am Jarek Der, First Minister of Callien. Our leader was killed sending the distress signal.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

“It was nearing election time again anyways. We will mourn his loss all the same, though. Won’t you and your crew stay the night here? That woman doesn’t look to be in any shape for travel. We have medicine here that will help her.”

“Before you give her anything, I’d like to have a look at it first,” Okami told the minister. “She has a very unique physiology and what would heal you could make her worse.” “Of course, of course. We understand that not all people are like us.”

Jason’s face went white. “Okami, a word with you in private if I may.”

Okami frowned. “What’s all this about?”

“I’ll explain when we’re in a private place,” he said, heading off. Okami shrugged and followed.

“Let me contact my ship and let them know what’s going on. The rest of my crew may want to come down as well.”

“They are more than welcome to do so,” Jarek said, smiling broadly. “Aleis?” A young woman walked over. “Instruct the women to take the drowned girl and her companions to the guest house.” She curtsied and headed off. “My apologies, captain, but our accommodations are, at present, limited.”

“We understand.” The sound of engines caught their attention. “Well, it looks like the Dragos have decided that the people of Callien aren’t an easy mark.”

“They’ll be back with more ships,” Beka reminded him. “Typical Nietzscheans.”

“We’ll find a way to keep your people safe,” Dylan assured the panicky minister.

“We will be forever grateful for any help you can lend us.”

Jen woke up in unfamiliar surroundings. Panicking, she sat up, looking around frantically for anything familiar.

“Relax, Jen, you’re safe.”

She swung around to face Rhade, who was sitting beside the bed she was in. “What are you doing here?”

“The others are all busy helping the Calliens repair buildings and find food. The Dragos destroyed most of their supplies in the initial attack. They thought I would be best suited to protect you if they attacked again.”

“You certainly aren’t my first choice.”

“Likely I’d be your last choice.”

“If you were the last man alive in the universe, I still wouldn’t choose you.”

He frowned. “That’s a little harsh.”

“You go ahead and think that,” she said, peeking under the blankets. “Where are my clothes?”

“The women took them to dry them out. There are spare ones in the drawer beside the bed. What’s the last thing you remember anyways?”

“Falling into the lake.”

“That explains your harshness,” he said standing. He put his hands on either side of her and leaned forward. “Let’s clear one thing up here, Jen. You almost died out there today. Jason even thought you were beyond help after some attempt was made to revive you. I was the one who went in there after you. I got you to start breathing again. I’m told that this will mean something to you.”

The small amount of color in Jen’s face vanished. “You saved my life?”

Rhade nodded. “Just for the record, you don’t owe me anything. I didn’t do it for that reason. I did it for your friends. I was closest at the time.”

“Turn around.”

“Pardon?”

“Turn around,” she repeated. “I’m getting dressed and I’d rather that you didn’t see me do so. Bad enough that these women you speak of did.”

“Shy?” he asked as he turned around.

“Not shy. I’m just picky.” She climbed out of bed and pulled the clothes out of the drawer.

“Jason says that these are some of the clothes he brought for you on his shuttle. Harper and Yumeko came down while you were sleeping. The women here had clothes for you as well, but he figured that these would appeal to you more than the dresses the women here wear.”

“He’s right about that,” she said, slipping the soft, sleeveless, sand colored tunic over her head. She pulled the darker leggings on and belted the tunic over top. The leggings were a little loose around her feet just the way she liked them. Just the boots and three scarlet ribbons left. One of the ribbons was long, designed for her hair. “I don’t suppose they left a brush, did they?”

“Afraid not.”

“I’ll just have to do this without one then.” She untied her hair and discarded the soaked string. She took the ribbon and wound it down the entire length of her long black hair, tying it in a knot at the end. The remaining two ribbons were shorter, meant for decoration. She smiled to herself as she wrapped one ribbon around her left forearm, using her teeth to help her tie the knot. After she got the second one wound on her right arm. “Alright. I’m done now.”

Rhade turned around. “You look nice,” he said, stunned.

“I have nicer things on Nomaie. Not that I ever wear them,” she added, putting the ankle boots on and pulling the legs of her pants down over top.

“This is Nomaien fashion?”

“It’s a variant of what the common folk wear.”

“You’re not common?”

She sighed. “I am the third highest ranking woman after our Queen and her Heir. This is only because I was formerly Sailor Nomaie before I was chosen to become the new Fire Guardian.”

Rhade stared at her. “I had no idea. I thought you were just from a wealthy family.”

“Well, yes, that, too.”

They stood in awkward silence for a few moments before Jen cleared her throat. “So Jason told you that you saving my life would mean something to me. Did he say what?”

“No, he didn’t. He said you would explain that.”

“Typical. My recent near death experience must have scared him. He’s not normally this mean. Anyways, on Nomaie, life debts are taken very seriously. Until the debt is repaid, the person under the debt can’t do anything. They can’t take a mate, hold any sort of important position and, in fact, must give up any if they have one. If you weren’t a senshi as well, effectively I’d have to retire until I repaid you. Unless, of course, using those powers would help in some way. As distasteful as it is, until the debt is repaid, my life is yours.”

Rhade shook his head. “Your life belongs to no one but yourself. I can’t let you do this.”

“You can’t? Are you mocking my people’s traditions then? By refusing, you give great offense.”

“You hate me though.”

“I don’t have to like you to be indebted to you,” she pointed out. “This may also work out to my advantage. Not quite sure how, but I’ll find a way.”

“You’re a strange woman, Jen.”

“Aside from Jason, you’re the only person who has ever called me just a woman. Usually it’s ‘girl’ or ‘young woman’.”

Cautiously, Rhade walked towards her. “This means you can’t hurt me, right?”

“Technically, yes; however, if you take advantage of this, there is a loophole that allows me to defend myself.”

“I would never do that. You have my word.”

Jen snorted. “The word of a Nietzschean.”

He caressed her cheek with a finger. “I swear. I’ll do what I can to help you discharge this debt of yours as quickly as possible.”