Author’s Note: Click Part II and Part III to jump down and read.
Kasha was running swiftly through the forest. Funny. She’d never thought about Zyler having forests. It’s known for its spiral oceans and sandy beaches. She didn’t know where she was going, but she knew she was moving away from her captors. Kasha thought she heard a noise behind her, but she kept moving. She didn’t look back. She couldn’t slow down.
The trees cleared out and she saw a large, red ring. It was beeping. She started to slow down. Was this some sort of laser security? Would it cut her in half? She ran back to the treeline and found a stick. She threw it through the red ring. Making it through the red ring was her only way forward. The stick landed on the other side unharmed. Kasha hoped it wasn’t a tricky security setting, lulling her into a false sense of safety before proceeding to slice her in half. Kasha took a deep breath and walked through.
She sighed after realizing she was whole. She was about to start her running again when a guard approached her.
“Hi. What brings you to Tylon Village at this time of night?” the guard asked.
“I need your help,” Kasha said. “I managed to escape my captors, but I need to hide. Even better, get back to my home planet.”
“I hear two heartbeats. Andan, I’m guessing?” he asked.
Right. Zylerians and their exceptional hearing…
“That would make your captors…”
“And your crime?”
“Is trying to take back ownership of my planet really a crime?”
“According to the Octopada, yes.”
Kasha sighed. “If you’re not gonna help me, pretend you never saw me.”
She took one step and the guard grabbed her arm.
“My grandmother is Andan, but she lives here. She’s very proud of her race and planet. But all you Andans are. And she wept when the Octopada took over,” he said.
Kasha relaxed. “There’s an old Twi word from planet Earth, continent Africa, country Ghana. Sankofa. It means go back and get it. It’s more about learning from the past to make positive change in the present. But go back and get it was the mission. My team’s mission and we failed. So the next team can learn from us and hopefully be successful. But I, as a descendent of a founder of Anda, need to go back and get it. Even if the Octopada were kind rulers, we would fight to take back control. Can you help me go back?”
They stared into each other’s eyes. Kasha hoped her connection to his grandma and her speech was enough. The guard opened his mouth, but Kasha heard a different voice speak.
“You’ve captured our prisoner,” one of the Octopada captors said. “Tell us your name and we’ll send praise to your commander.”
She turned to face the Octopada: creatures that evolved from the planet Earth’s octopuses. Their heads were the whole body of an octopus: eight wriggling tentacles and beak for a mouth covered by a flap of skin. They were bipedal like the rest of the humanoid aliens like Kasha and the guard. Their hands and feet were webbed, made to swim on their water-covered planet.
She kept her face straight. Unsure of what the guard would say.
“You’ll have to speak to my commander in the morning,” the guard spoke. “This intruder wandered into our village. I have to guard her until then.”
“But why? Just return our prisoner,” the other Octopada said.
“So she can escape again? And bring harm to one of my people? Absolutely not.”
Both Octopada snorted. Their tentacles tightened.
“She won’t escape again,” the first Octopada said.
“And you can guarantee that how?” the guard asked.
The Octopada looked at each other and back at the guard.
“Listen, we will get in trouble with our commander if we don’t keep track of her,” the second Octopada said.
“At least let us stay with her,” the first Octopada said.
“No,” the guard said. “If you cross the radar, I’ll have to keep you in another cell.”
“But we’re registered to be on the planet,” the first Octopada said.
“Registered to be in the Docks and surrounding areas or registered to be on planet?,” the guard asked. “Because we’re considered to be outside of ‘surrounding areas’.”
“Fine. We’ll return to our ship and return in the morning,” the second Octopada said. “What’s your name?”
“Tevin London. Guard for Village Tylon. Member of Troop 82.”
“And your commander?”
“Max Furlough,” Tevin said. “Go to the guard’s office in the village square. Another guard will have to escort you there since I’ll have my hands full.”
“We’ll help you keep track of her,” the first Octopada said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small suction cup similar to the ones on his tentacles. “Hold your arm out, prisoner.”
Kasha didn’t move. Tevin pulled her close to the Octopada and extended her arm towards them. Kasha gritted her teeth as the tracker was placed on her forearm. The second Octopada started clicking around on what looked like a personal communicator.
“The tracker is connected. She better not escape under your watch,” the first Octopada said.
“Yeah she has some mining to do for us,” the second Octopada said.
“I’ll keep a close eye on her,” Tevin said.
The Octopada glared at Tevin and Kasha menacingly before heading back toward the ship. Once they were out of sight, Tevin started walking farther into the village. He gently pulled on Kasha’s arm.
“So you’re just going to turn me in tomorrow morning?” Kasha whispered.
“No,” Tevin whispered. “I’m going to get you off this planet.”
Kasha’s hearts pounded with excitement. “Thank you, Tevin.”
“Don’t thank me yet. I have to figure out how to disable that tracker and get you the docks. Fortunately, it’s separated from where visitors are staying, but it’s close enough to be dangerous. Not to mention, sending out one of our ships. I’ll have to disable all alarm systems.”
“I can help with the Octopada tracker. This isn’t my first time removing one. Can you actually disable your ship’s alarm systems?”
“Yes, I can,” Tevin said.
Tevin took Kasha to a small building. Inside, there was a guard sitting at a large desk and down the halls on both sides were two large cells.
“Hi Cami,” Tevin said.
“Hi Tevin. Intruder? Want me to do the paperwork?” she asked.
“Umm, no. I’ll take care of it,” Tevin said. “Is the rover fully charged?”
“The rover? She’s going to max?”
“I’m considering it. She’s a high level Octopada prisoner. Can’t be too careful.”
Cami looked Kasha up and down. Kasha kept her face straight.
“Operation Sankofa?” Cami asked.
Kasha’s eyes widened. She refused to look at Tevin.
“Yep,” Tevin said calmly.
Kasha slowly sighed, trying to let the nerves die in her stomach and not show on her face.
“Yep, better get her to max. Do you have everything you need to get her there safely?” Cami asked pointedly.
Kasha looked at Tevin and he grinned. Kasha sighed.
“Yes, I do,” Tevin said.
“Keep me posted with your progress,” Cami said, smiling.
“Would you be willing to help keep this tracker warm?” Kasha asked. “I know it’s a lot to ask, but it would help a lot.”
“I’d love to,” Cami said.
“You two figure that out, I’ll grab stuff we need for the trip,” Tevin said.
“Do you have a knife and bandages?” Kasha asked.
Cami pulled out a first aid kit from one of the drawers in the desk and a small towel. She spread out the towel and pulled out a shrink-wrapped scalpel, alcohol, gauze, and bandages. She carefully opened the scalpel.
“Now what?” Cami asked.
“Now you’ll have to cut some of my skin off with the tracker. Cutting off the tracker alone won’t do. I’m not sure why. Keeping some skin and keeping it warm will keep the reading going.”
Cami wrinkled her nose as she positioned Kasha’s arm over the towel. “You’re sure about this?”
“Positive. Start from here,” Kasha said, pointing about one inch away from the tracker.
Cami gave her a ruler. “Bite down on that.”
Kasha nodded and put the ruler in her mouth. Cami took a deep breath and started cutting, making sure she was deep enough to get enough skin.
Kasha groaned, but concentrated on getting on the ship and going home. Cami placed the bloody skin and tracker in the palm of her hand.
“I have the perfect spot to keep this warm. It’s a good hiding spot too. If you need help cleaning up, I’ll be right back.”
Kasha opened the alcohol bottle and cleaned her cut. She groaned again. She tried to unroll the bandages, but couldn’t get it done.
“I got you,” Cami said. She placed a fresh piece of gauze on her cut and unrolled the bandages. She gently, but firmly pressed down and wrapped the bandage around her arm. She wrapped her arm three times and secured the bandage.
“Thank you so much, Cami. I really appreciate this,” Kasha said.
“You’re welcome. It’s the least I could do.”
Kasha smiled and sat on a bench near the doorway while Tevin finished preparing for their trip.
“Let’s move, Kasha,” Tevin said. He had a big backpack hanging on one of his shoulders.
“Safe travels,” Cami said.
Kasha gave her a nod and Tevin said thanks. Just as they were heading toward the side door when someone burst through the front.
“Simon got a little too rowdy at the bar,” the voice called out. “Felt like putting his hands on people so I felt like bringing him to jail. What’s up Cami?”
“Hi Khalil,” Cami said, quickly kicking the towel she had knocked down under her desk. She stood up and went to the front of the desk.
“Your usual cell, Simon?” Cami asked with a grin.
Kasha and Tevin had kept walking calmly to the side door. Tevin touched the doorknob.
“Hi Tevin,” Khalil said. “What we got? Intruder?”
“Yep,” Tevin said. “High level Octopada prisoner. Taking her to max.”
“A high level prisoner without handcuffs?” Khalil asked.
“Yeah,” Tevin said. “Wouldn’t be the first time. I can handle it.”
“Let me square Simon away and I’ll help you,” Khalil said. “I insist. Because it sounds like we have an Andan here if I’m hearing two heartbeats. Which means she’s likely to escape. And you’re making it easy for her.”
“I said I got it, Khalil.”
“Don’t move. That’s an order.”
Tevin nodded. Kasha kept her eyes on the side door. She was so close to freedom. She refused to look at Tevin. She was worried she would give their secret away. Her nerves got worse the more they waited. Tevin grabbed her arm. She looked at him, but his face was neutral. She felt someone grab her other arm and she turned to face him.
“Oh, you’re the girl who’s been on the news. Some failed, secret operation. Listen, the Octopada are alright. I wouldn’t go crossing them,” Khalil said. He pushed open the side door and led the way out.
“Easy for you to say,” Kasha said. “You get to peacefully coexist with the Octopada. We don’t.”
“Umm, what’s that old Uni saying?” Khalil asked as he opened the back door of the rover. “All’s fair in love and war? And the Andans lost fair and square. Take a seat. Or I can help you.”
Kasha slid in the back seat. “Remember that when they come for your planet.”
Khalil’s grin turned to a grimace as Tevin hit him hard in the back of the head. Not hard enough unfortunately because Khalil spun around quickly and pushed Tevin.
“That little bit of Andan blood flowing through your veins got you betraying the Octopada? When we’re on good terms with them?”
Khalil punched, but Tevin dodged it. Tevin punched and connected with Khalil’s right cheek.
“I’m doing what’s right,” Tevin said. He tried to block Khalil’s punch, but failed. Tevin slipped on the ground. Khalil kicked him. Kasha jumped on Khalil’s back and wrapped her legs around his waist and one arm around his neck, holding it tightly with her other arm.
He dropped to his knees and tried to throw himself back, but Kasha had managed to dig her heels into the ground. He clawed at her legs and then Tevin came and pinned his arms to the side.
“Sleep,” Kasha said, squeezing tighter.
Khalil growled. Tevin let go of Khalil’s arms and backed up. He ran forward and punched Khalil using some momentum. Khalil slumped. Kasha let go and made sure he was still breathing.
“Let’s move,” Tevin said. He grabbed his backpack and tossed in the back seat. Kasha got in on the passenger’s side. Kasha settled into her seat, buckling her seatbelt. The rover was similar to ones they had on Anda. After buckling his seatbelt, Tevin turned on the rover and entered a code into the screen. After “Welcome Tevin” appeared on the screen, he swiped and entered another code.
“What are you doing?” Kasha asked.
“Covering our tracks,” Tevin replied. “There. GPS disabled.”
“I can’t thank you enough, Tevin,” Kasha said. She checked the mirror to see if Khalil was still on the ground. He was.
“We’re always called to do what’s right. That’s why some Zylerians were sent to fight the Octopada on Anda. They felt the Octopada were wrong. Some wanted to stop the Octopada from taking over any more of our galaxy. So I believe my commander will understand. I couldn’t bring myself to fight in the war. Call me a coward. But this is how I can do what’s right.”
“Nobody wanted to fight in the war,” Kasha said, touching his shoulder.
Tevin nodded. “Let’s go.”
They pulled off.
“So how long will it take to get to the docks?” Kasha asked.
“About 20 minutes. And hopefully you’ll be on your way before Khalil wakes up.”
“I can’t thank you enough. Seriously,” Kasha said.
“Anything to make my grandmother smile when she mentions Anda again,” Tevin said. “You better win so she can brag about me.”
“Are you sure your motivation was doing what’s right? It sounds like you just want Grandma going around saying, ‘You know my grandbaby helped her get back to Anda. That’s right, MY Tevin.’”
“That’s high praise. That’s right up there with doing the right thing,” Tevin said.
They glanced at each other and laughed.
“While I miss my grandma, I’m glad she isn’t alive to see this. This would’ve killed her,” Kasha said.
She whispered a phrase in Andan and clasped her hands together. She kissed her thumbs and looked up, lifting her hands.
“‘From stardust we became, to stardust we become,’” Tevin said.
“I shouldn’t be so surprised that you know some Andan,” Kasha said.
“She always said ‘water flows, life grows’ when we went to the beach.”
“Ahh, she grew up along one of the rivers.”
“The Clarion,” Tevin said. “It’s beautiful there. I saw it several years ago.”
“Well you’ll have to come back when the planet is Octopada-free.”
“Yeah. I’ll have more to see than just the Clarion,” Tevin said, glancing at Kasha.
Kasha grinned. “Really?”
“My grandmother will want to meet you, of course. I mean you are a descendant of a founder of Anda.”
“Of course,” Kasha said. “Anything for Grandma.”
“You got it,” Tevin said.
Kasha smiled and looked out the window at the forest. It was nice to have something to look forward to after all the fighting.
Soon they left the forest behind. Buildings lined the side of the road and the road went from dirt to concrete. She started to see more and more people and wondered if she should have had some sort of disguise.
“Almost there, don’t worry,” Tevin said.
“What if people recognize me?” Kasha asked.
“You’re still my prisoner,” Tevin replied.
“Weapons and restraints aren’t a big thing here,” Tevin said. “As long as you’re peaceful, you can keep your hands free.”
Kasha sighed. “Okay.”
Tevin parked in the designated spots for guards. Fortunately, the other spots were empty. They walked down to the facility that held the ships. After Tevin’s badge was scanned, they entered and went to the first ship. Tevin scanned his badge again and opened the glass hatch. He helped Kasha get in first and closed the hatch behind him.
“You sure you can fly this?” Tevin asked as he started turning on the ship.
“Yep,” Kasha said, glancing around. “It looks similar to the escape pods we have on Anda.”
“Great. I’m using a generic log in to get you set up in case Khalil has called for back up. All GPS tracking will be turned off. Once you’re in the air, they can’t do anything to shut you down. So the quicker we move, the better. Keep my backpack, there’s plenty of water and snacks for you.”
An automated voice announced that the ship was ready for take off. Tevin and Kasha switched seats. Kasha strapped in and confirmed with Tevin which parts did what.
“Yep, you know your ships,” Tevin said.
“I can’t thank you enough, Tevin,” Kasha said. “I’ll send word when it’s safe.”
“Travel safely, Kasha,” Tevin said.
Tevin froze as soon as he opened the glass hatch. He immediately resealed it and sat down.
“What’s wrong?” Kasha asked.
Tevin started strapping himself in. “Take off now. I was so focused on getting the ship together, I forgot to listen for guards. They’re moving in.”
Kasha immediately pushed the launch button and they flew out of the dock.
“Please don’t shoot us out the sky,” Kasha said, glancing around for any other ships or weapons systems.
“They won’t. I can’t speak for the Octopada,” Tevin said. “But I have a feeling they don’t know yet. We usually don’t alert guests about prisoner escapes unless their lives are actually in danger.”
“So best case scenario, the Octopada won’t know until they come back to your village in the morning,” Kasha said.
“Correct,” Tevin said.
“We’ll be safely tucked away by then,” Kasha said. “I hope you have enough water and snacks for the both of us.”
“We’ll make do,” Tevin said. “Guess I’ll be going to Anda sooner than I’d thought.”
“We’re not going to Anda,” Kasha said.
“Where are we going?” Tevin asked.
“I can’t tell you. All GPS tracking is disabled but I’m not sure all your comms are.”
“What am I? An amateur? Of course they are.”
“Is your personal communicator on you?” Kasha asked.
Tevin reached into his pocket and sighed. “It is.”
“Does this ship have a compactor?” Kasha asked.
“Yep. Dropping it in there now,” Tevin said.
He unbuckled his seatbelt and moved towards the rear of the ship. The compactor was attached to the wall. He opened the lid and dropped his communicator inside. He turned it on and sighed as he heard his communicator being crushed into pieces.
“Thanks. I know this wasn’t the plan, but I think it’ll be nice having you here,” Kasha said after Tevin was back in his seat.
“Can you tell me where we’re going now?” Tevin asked.
“I can’t. I’m sorry. It’s protocol. Better safe than sorry. You’ll understand once we get there. That is assuming you want to be part of the team.”
“I might as well. I’ve come this far. Plus, I have a feeling that not helping won’t result in me returning to Zyler.”
“Correct. I mean, you’d get back to Zyler…eventually.”
“Imagine how thrilled my grandma will be when she hears I not only helped you escape, but I’m fighting alongside you? I will officially be her favorite grandchild.”
“Again, your motivations are a little shaky,” Kasha teased.
“Well, they got you this far,” Tevin said.
“True,” Kasha said. “Buckle up.”
“Why?” Tevin asked. But he didn’t wait for an answer to buckle his seatbelt.
Kasha sped up and flew into a wormhole that disappeared after they went into it.