Entrapta felt uncomfortable. It didn't happen a lot. She was used to being stared at, or criticized. She was not like all the princesses and people she met, but she didn't really care. She didn't need people's approval, she was happy enough with her robots' love. However she didn't like to be a cause of harm to people she cared about. The last time it had happened was when her robots went berserk after her failed First Ones Tech experiment, over a year ago, terrorizing her human employees.
"Come on Entrapta! I can't believe you have nothing on her."
The most recent cause of her discomfort was waving her tail impatiently next to her.
"I'm telling you Catra, Octavia's as clean as Emily's circuits."
"It can't be…" Catra paced through the lab, mumbling of herself. "How am I going to get back at her if she has nothing to hide?"
Entrapta stared at her silently. Catra was a peculiar being to say the least. Not only physically, her behavior too was sometimes contradictory, like her obsession to fight with Adora that somehow always ended with Adora being allowed to run away. She claimed that she hated her, but had cried a river when she learned of her death… Her death, right. Here was the discomfort.
"Entrapta, promise me you won't say a thing to anyone!"
"Not even Emily?"
"Okay, only Emily then, but nobody else, and especially not Catra!"
Entrapta never had any problem keeping a secret. Being part of a social experiment was always exciting. However this time it involved watching her friend go insane. This would never happen with robots. She sighed.
"I'm going to look through older tapes. But it'll take some time Catra, and Hordak asked me to give him a way to modulate the Black Garnet's power at will during the battle. I might not have the time."
"I can do that for you!" Scorpia said as she came in. "I can look through the tapes. I've been assigned to the Fright Zone protection squad tomorrow, so I don't have many preparations to make anyway."
"What?!" Catra shouted. "What the hell? You're supposed to be with me for the leading operation!"
"Hordak thinks that I'm more useful protecting Entrapta and the Black Garnet, since it originally belonged to my family. Don't worry Commander, you'll win the battle in a snap of the claws, and we'll be back to the Super Pal Trio in no time!"
Catra huffed at Scorpia's bright smile. Something felt fishy in that sudden change of plan, and she was sure Octavia had something to do with it.
"What's she doing right now? That dumb tentacle face?"
"Checking her strike team's tanks."
"Aren't you supposed to be doing the same?" Scorpia asked.
"What? Yeah, I will. After I give her a piece of my mind…"
"Oh, Commander speech, nice!"
"Are you sure that's a good idea Catra?" Entrapta worried. The feline commander finally looked her in the eye. It was the first time she had seen the geek princess look so ill-at-ease. She was fidgeting.
"If you have something to say, speak your mind."
"Well you just seem emotionally unstable, it might not be the best idea to go have a word with Octavia in that state…"
"You're right." Catra rubbed her chin. "I'll first go ask Hordak why the hell he changed his plans without telling me, then I'll kick Octavia's butt," she said as she left the lab, a laugh lingering on the walls.
"Edit to log. Social experiment day 452 : people are exhausting."
A dark aura emanated from the Commander as she jumped from storey to storey in the main base building. Soldiers were conveniently avoiding her gaze, not wanting to get yelled at or scratched, but Catra didn't care. Only one thing mattered right now. She had to demand respect from Hordak, and she had to take Octavia out somehow. Then maybe the fire in her heart would stop eating it alive. But then what would be left? She mustn't think about it. There was the battle, it would occupy her thoughts. Or maybe she could use the battle to get rid of Octavia.
"Catra, I didn't require your presence." Catra ignored her boss's discontent.
"I learned that Force Captain Scorpia has been reassigned to the Fright Zone, despite being the most familiar with my battle techniques and strategies."
"She's also the most qualified to guard the Fright Zone and the Black Garnet. We can't risk a surprise invasion from the Rebellion."
"If you had only informed me earlier, I could have trained someone else. Now it's-"
"You are perfectly capable of leading the main strike team under my command, Catra. Don't forget that I'll be joining the fight, and don't forget who the ruler here is," he replied acidly.
Catra repressed a frown. "I wouldn't dare, Lord Hordak. I just felt that it would look less imposing without a Force Captain like Scorpia. How about assigning Chief Octavia in her stead?"
Hordak raised a brow. "Octavia is leading her team against Salineas. I need a representative leader at the top if I want to scare Princess Mermista enough to make her call her allies."
"Our new canons are so powerful that the sea gate won't hold up five minutes. Octavia won't even need to show her Force Captain badge. The Princess Alliance will run over there at the first blow, leaving Bright Moon defenseless."
Hordak tapped his fingers on his seat as he stared at Catra. She gulped, holding his stare. She couldn't be too pushy, but she had to make sure she wasn't losing her influence over Hordak. Having Octavia obey her orders during the battle was essential.
"Very well, Commander. I'll let you find a new Force Captain to lead the Salineas strike team, and announce the change of plans to Octavia. You're also in charge of making all the teams fully prepared. If there's any failure due to that last minute disturbance, you'll take the responsibility for it."
"Of course, Lord Hordak," Catra bowed, internally grinning. She was about to leave when the ruler called her back.
"Tell me Catra, that mask of yours… Why don't you ever remove it, or place it in front of your eyes like it's meant to be?"
By instinct, Catra reached up to her mask. She delicately lowered it until she could see through the holes meant for the eyes. What she didn't see though, was the sparkle that briefly passed in Hordak's empty eyes.
"I don't know my Lord, I've always had it. Shadow Weaver said it's the last thing that belonged to my race. It's a sort of inheritance, I like to wear it to feel strong."
"I see. Wear it as you lead the war then, Commander."
Catra left a bit puzzled, not noticing the smirk tucking Hordak's lips as he was petting his little demon. One good thing was done. Now she needed to think fast. Who would replace Octavia? What could she do to her? She also needed to make a final prep talk to the different teams. And she had to prepare herself for the battle. Catra stopped in the middle of the stairs. Her breath was short. She was sweating. Something was crushing her chest, she thought her ribcage would explode. She had to get out.
She quickly jumped on the walls and pipes, until she reached her favorite spot, the highest point of the building, the one that let her dominate all Etheria. She clenched the metal bars as she watched the sunset. Her lips trembled as the reddish sky reminded her of her. She used to love the sunset. Catra's face broke, a whining sound escaping her mouth. Her knees dropped as she kept staring at the setting sun, as if it was Adora saying goodbye to her forever.
What a beautiful color. Adora sighed as she watched the sky explode in dozens of shades. She wondered if Catra was watching as well. Probably not. She'd never been as dazzled by the sunset as she herself had.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
Adora turned around and smiled as sincerely as she could. "Hey, Glimmer. I was just admiring the sky."
"How are you feeling?"
"Relieved. Grateful to you guys. And…" she sighed again. Guilty.
"You're thinking of her, right?" Glimmer's disdain was thinly veiled. She sat next to Adora, who was curled up in her blanket.
"She thinks I'm dead."
"And that's a good thing. We need them all to think that you're dead. You're our secret weapon now, more than ever."
"I know, and tomorrow the truth will be out, but I can't forget how she screamed when we left..."
"I don't understand you," Glimmer said a bit aggressively. "After all she's done, all the fights, the bruises, the kidnapping… You still love her."
"Love?! You mean like Netossa and Spinnerella?! I don't- I just-"
"Oh come on, it's as obvious as the nose on the middle of your face!" Glimmer gritted her teeth.
"It's more complicated than that."
"I know, and it kills me, because I want you to be happy. I want us all to be happy. But it means winning. It means defeating Catra. Will you be happy with that outcome?"
Adora didn't answer. It had been over a year since Catra had cut Adora from her life to become Hordak's right hand, and yet the princess hadn't stopped hoping she would forgive her and change her allegiance. She still clung to the old Catra she knew, the one who always looked out for her. It was also the one who had been tortured by Shadow Weaver, had endured the bullying of the other cadets, and had been abandoned by her best friend…
Adora's feelings would always stay conflicted about her decision. She had made the right choice for Etheria, for the common good, and for her own values. However she had betrayed the one person who needed her most at the time. It took her some time to understand how Catra had felt. The more Adora deciphered her best friend's mindset, the more Catra seemed to embrace the path of darkness.
"Adora? I know I've been repeating that a lot, but it's not your fault Catra acts the way she does."
"I know. She told me herself."
"She did?" Glimmer looked surprised. This might actually help Adora move on.
"She said I'm responsible for leaving her, but she's responsible for the choices she's made from that point."
"She's right. She chose to stay with the Horde. She knows that they're evil, and she embraces it."
"But to what point, Glimmer?" Adora stared at her, with her big despairing blue eyes. "What is she looking for in the Horde's power? I can't help thinking…"
"I know what you think, but you can't let it disturb you! Even if she does this only to prove to herself that she's better than you, she will still strike as hard as she can. Remember the scars Adora."
Adora reached her back, where some stitches left ugly white marks between her shoulder blades. They only hurt in nightmares now.
"Becoming the best… For her sake... " she whispered to herself then gave a hopeful look to her friend. "Today proved that she doesn't want me dead at least. I take that as a good sign. She's not totally lost, Glimmer."
"Whatever Adora. Don't forget though, that if she comes out of the war alive, she'll have to face the Rebellion's judgement."
Glimmer said this with a sorry tone. She didn't like Catra, but she knew that whatever happened to her would hurt Adora, and Glimmer couldn't do anything about it. She reminded Adora to come to the meeting room for the strategy preparation in an hour, then left the bedroom. Adora snuggled deeper into her blankets, staring intently at the red sky.
An hour later, as she entered the staff room where all the princesses were gathered, Adora felt for the first time as if her allies and friends were talking behind her back. The silence that welcomed her was more than a little bit suspicious.
"Adora, dear, please take a seat," Angella invited. "Glimmer was about to tell us more about Hordak's operation tomorrow."
Glimmer cleared her throat and waited for Adora to sit. "So Hordak's plan is to launch an attack on Salineas tomorrow morning at dawn, using their new extremely powerful canons to blow up the sea gate. Bow and I have seen the machines, they are not to be taken lightly. His real offense though will be against Bright Moon, after the Alliance sends some Princesses to protect Salineas. He will use the best of his forces here in Bright Moon, while we're trying to protect the sea gate.
Obviously we would send our troops back to Bright Moon when we realize the trick, but the problem lies in Plumeria. Since Hordak took Perfuma's kingdom over a few months ago, he's built underground galleries all the way from Plumeria to the sea. He's stored some artillery machines there and plans on releasing them while we're fighting in Salineas, creating a barrier to stop us from coming back to Bright Moon."
She made a pause in her speech. Mermista looked outraged. Perfuma, devastated at the reminder of her lost kingdom. The rest of the audience was eagerly waiting for Glimmer to continue. She smiled a little, delighted to reveal her plan.
"Hordak's plan is simple, but it would really weaken us. Since he can now matchour power with the Black Garnet, we need to be all together in Bright Moon when we face him, and he knows that. He doesn't really care about Salineas, he just wants us to split our group."
"Wait hold on. Face him? He will be there?!"
"Exactly. He wants to end the Alliance in Bright Moon, since it's our headquarters. Capture us and Queen Angella, and make us surrender. If he can also win Mermista's kingdom as well, it's a bonus. Tomorrow is his big show."
"Do you have a plan in mind, Commander Glimmer?" her mother asked.
"I do. This will be hard to hear, Princess Mermista, but we can't send any Princess to fight for Salineas. We need to give up on your kingdom."
"I'm sorry, whaaat?" Mermista rose from her seat. Balls of water levitated from the glasses on the table.
"Please, listen to me! Tomorrow will be decisive for either side of the war. We need to act together, all elemental princesses united, in order to defeat the Black Garnet's power. We have She-Ra with us to act as an independent runestone and to boost our power, which they have no idea of. They think they've killed her."
Glimmer bit her lip as she said those words. She didn't mention yet to anyone that one person in the Horde knew about their secret. Could Glimmer trust her though? She had to believe in her.
"Sooo, you basically want me to abandon my people."
"Temporarily! We will win against Hordak tomorrow, capture him and his commander, and release both Salineas and Plumeria."
Adora's eye twitched at the mention of the commander. A question burnt the tip of her tongue, but it wasn't the time to ask it.
"Okaay, and what if we…you know, don't win against the Horde? What if we win but he runs away? How do you intend to take my kingdom back?"
"I can send my troops to back them up," said Frosta. "Us princesses will fight in Bright Moon, while my soldiers help your soldiers in Salineas to hold the siege."
Over an hour of negotiations passed, trying to decide what was best for tomorrow's fight. The only thing they could all agree on was that Plumeria was a real thorn in the side. If they had known sooner about the Horde's underground battle field, they could have anticipated. They finally agreed on a compromise. Salineas' folks would evacuate to Frosta's nearby kingdom tonight, while part of Frosta's and Mermista's soldiers would head to Plumeria, ready to ambush it in the morning. The Horde wouldn't expect this inside attack, focusing on Salineas and Bright Moon.
"What will happen, when we win?" Adora finally asked. "What will happen to the Horde soldiers?"
Glimmer and Bow glanced at each other, then looked over at Angella, whose face grew harsher. "They will be judged at the Grand Court of Mystacor, like all war prisoners."
"But what would their sentence be...at worst?"
"I don't like this Bow…" Glimmer was pacing in her room. It was late now, the moon was up in the sky, feeding the runestone with power.
"Me neither. But we can't do anything but have faith in Adora."
"Did you see how she was zoning out during the meeting? It's like she's still over there, with her."
"Yeah. Three days back in the Horde did take a toll on her."
"My mother is suspicious. She loves her, but she realized that Adora was affected by Catra's sentence."
"She hasn't been judged yet."
"Come on, you know how it'll end! If she's not sentenced to death, she'll be exiled to the Forbidden Zone, which is even worse…"
Bow remained silent. He didn't know what to think of Catra. She had shown such contradictory behavior within a few months… Her relationship with Adora had a kind of strength and weakness at the same time, making them long for each other as well as fight each other. They hurt themselves repeatedly, due to that damn lack of communication. However it didn't erase all the suffering Catra had caused around her.
"Bow, remember how I was in the ceiling back in the Fright Zone?"
He looked to see a very anguished Glimmer. "Yes? You didn't tell me how you ended up there."
"Well, I got some help."
"Aaah finally, I did it! Look Scorpia, with this little clicker, Hordak can now activate the Black garnet and make it siphon any runestone he wants at will! He can even redirect a runestone power against the princesses if he wants."
"Amazing! You are one true genius Entrapta! Does it work on the sword of She-Ra?"
"No, that's the one runestone we can't control. I'd need to have the sword in order to study it."
"Well, anyway, it's not like She-Ra will be a problem anymore," Scorpia said uncomfortably.
"Yeah...not a problem."
"Glimmer, what are you doing here?"
"Um… Visiting a friend?"
"You're here for Adora, right?" a little pinch of sadness could be heard in Entrapta's voice.
"I…yes, Entrapta. I won't lie to you. We need to save Adora, we can't let her die."
"Oh that's right, Hordak sent some soldiers to kill her. Are you alone?"
"No. Bow is here as well. On his way to rescue her."
"Right, right…" What was she supposed to do? As a Horde member, she had to stop them.
"Entrapta, I'm sorry, by the way."
"About leaving you behind. About not trying to rescue you when we learned you were still alive."
"Oh well… I'm working for the Horde willingly, saving me would be illogical. Kidnapping me would, on the other hand."
"I'm still sorry I gave up on you."
"It's okay. I feel better here, with Scorpia and Catra. I've never had so much fun in my life!" She saw Glimmer hold back a frown. Of course she wouldn't understand.
"So what now?"
"Well I think it's better if you three just leave the place. Come on, I'll show you the way."
Entrapta didn't know why she still cared about them enough to help them escape back then. Like Catra had told her numerous times, these princesses never understood her, except for Bow maybe. And they had left her behind. Well now she knew that they had thought she was dead at first. Which kinda made sense.
Anyway, Entrapta was happy now with her new life in the Horde, with her friends, her discoveries, her experiments… However, even if they were officially her enemies, she couldn't let Adora die, or Glimmer and Bow be captured. They had shared some things together. Even if they didn't work for the same side now, Entrapta would never mix her friendships with her allegiance. She was the exact opposite of her commander.
"Where is Catra? I need to tell her something."