Dr. Ferrarius was tapping her fingers relentlessly on the life support machine. She sighed once or twice, making faces as she gave a penetrant gaze to the weird little woman with purple hair. Entrapta, Hordak's scientific right hand. The genius.
Well she wasn't a genius regarding human contact apparently. She didn't catch the doctor's exasperation at seeing her meddle with her patient. She had cringed several times when Entrapta had "observed" Rogelio's thigh stumps, putting wires here and there on the skin to make tests…
Dr. Ferrarius wanted to scream, chase her away, make it stop… But she had always had very little power in the Horde. If she wanted to keep her job and save as many soldiers as she could, she unfortunately had to let these people, her leaders, interfere with her work and her patients' sanity…
At least she had managed to convince Entrapta to wash and disinfect her hands as well as the tech she was handling.
"Do you think you can wake him up, Princess Entrapta?"
"Well, the first tests I made are quite promising," she answered without looking at her. It irritated her. "His spine responds splendidly to the stimuli I sent and actually connects with the tech. When the artificial legs are ready, his brain will be more than capable to control them."
"But what about the coma?"
"That's the part I'm currently working on. I've actually never worked on living beings before, so your help would be precious, if you could enlighten me on how the brain works in that state?"
"You've...never manipulated Lord Hordak's tech before?" Ferrarius widened her eyes.
"No." Entrapta simply answered. She didn't look nervous or worried in any way. Did she realize a life was at stake?!
"Alright then…" the doctor tried her best not to show her concern. "I'll go fetch my notes and Rogelio's file. I'll be right back."
Entrapta watched her leave. The doc judging her hadn't gone unnoticed by the genius princess. But she was used to it by now, she didn't blame her. In fact, the nervosity Ferrarius tried to conceal, threatening to make her burst at every word Entrapta pronounced, reminded her a bit of Perfuma.
Or maybe she was thinking of the flower princess because she actually saw her for the first time in a year just the day before…
She had been in the middle of a conversation with Bow, when Perfuma had barged in, snatching his tablet, and ruined the screen with her tears.
"I'm so glad to finally see you again, Entrapta, I'm so so sorry I failed you…"
It had made her uncomfortable. Entrapta didn't like it. She had had to reassure her, that there were no hard feelings from her side.
"But you're still working for the Horde…" Perfuma had stated sadly.
"For now, I am, yes."
Perfuma had wanted to pursue the conversation, but Bow had gently reminded her that the call had another purpose. Perfuma had looked angry, but she had concealed it. She must have had a lot to say. Entrapta didn't really understand why Perfuma would blame herself so much, more than the other princesses.
Humans developed a sense of responsibility towards other people they cared for and whom they felt the need to protect. Entrapta had realized soon enough that it had been a major pillar in Adora and Catra's dynamics when they grew up, because of how many times Catra had complained about Adora's hero persona... Entrapta had also felt it once or twice, regarding Scorpia and even Catra. But she didn't understand why Perfuma cared so much about leaving her behind and losing her to the Horde, such a long time after it happened.
"Here it is," the doctor came back into the room, hands full of old books and Rogelio's file on top. "You'll find all the biology you need to figure it out in these."
"Thanks, Doc." Entrapta smiled, which made the doctor blink several times, as if she hadn't expected the princess to be able to make a facial expression. It made her snort internally.
She looked through the different books one by one, throwing on the shelf without much regard the ones she wouldn't be needing. She finally settled her choice on two books, one about global physiology, including neurophysiology, and an anatomy atlas. She read the little note on the first page of the book.
Printed in Grayskull Medicine Academy
Odd. Wasn't Grayskull the magic word Adora used to call She-Ra?
Oh well. She would think about it another time. Too many projects were waiting for her right now, and she had to focus more than usual if she didn't want to screw up.
The Rogelio project wouldn't be the hardest task, but it would take a little time to read the books and adapt the tech magic to wake him up.
No, the one she dreaded expected skills she wasn't really used to handling.
The Salineas problem.
"Why exactly do you want the runestone back there, Bow?"
"You called just for that?" Bow looked uncomfortable. "Well...I had a feeling you would ask for the reason, but I thought you'd send Kyle back…"
When Entrapta learned Mermista was sick, it finally all made sense in her mind. Her runestone was not supposed to be moved from its connection point. The magic usually running from Etheria's core through the stone was now blocked, and even if some energy was stored in the shiny blue rock, it would die out quickly.
However Entrapta had connected the runestone to the Black Garnet, transferring its shadow magic to the sea stone. It was enough to maintain it somehow active, but it wasn't natural.
Now why did it affect Mermista to the point of nearly killing her? Entrapta saw this as an evidence that the link between the princesses and their runestone was more than just magic. It must have involved some vital energy, just like Hordak's bio tech. The pieces of metal were more...alive than it seemed at first sight, and that mechanism was probably similar regarding the princesses' magic.
Mermista needed her runestone back at its connection place to call her powers… Without it, she would slowly die. And that...Entrapta couldn't let that happen.
So there she was, heading to Hordak's, with a delicate request in her bag… And she would have to hide the truth about Mermista's illness. Social skills, and lies. Entrapta didn't like it at all.
"I'm risking an awful lot for a simple hair…"
"A hair? What are you talking about?"
"Well Angella's hair of course. That's what I asked for. Kyle told me he would get it, then he came back with your deal."
"My...deal? What?" Bow's voice got an octave higher.
That had been when Bow and Entrapta realized Kyle had played the cards for himself since the very beginning. If Catra had been here, she would have been impressed, even if Kyle had screwed up in the end.
Entrapta wasn't mad at the boy. Thanks to him, she had still managed to get what she wanted, and anyway, she had promised to heal Rogelio, and actually wanted to work on that project.
The deal was on. Bow had accepted, on behalf of the rebellion. Entrapta had to fix the Mermista problem, then Bow would meet Kyle in the Whispering Woods to give the hair. Kyle had accepted the mission, too happy to see things wouldn't turn against him in the end.
"By the way Bow, I made such progress with Emily, maybe someday I can show you…"
"That would be great Entrapta," he said as he smiled.
"Well. I got to go. Tomorrow I'll talk to Hordak."
"Thank you so much, if someone can do it, it's you!"
"Yeah. Oh and don't try to fool me with the hair. If it's not Angella's, I'll know it."
Entrapta's warning had been necessary. She had noticed the discomfort in Bow's voice at her request. He didn't want to give his enemies a part of his queen's body… Which she could understand, given how much power she could hold from that.
Bow had paled, laughed awkwardly, and it had been the end of their call.
Now the hardest part awaited her.
She stopped in front of Hordak's throne room. She had been so lost in her thoughts she hadn't realized she was there until the soldier guarding the entrance waved in front of her face.
A hysterical laughter left her throat, puzzling the guard who didn't waste his time opening the gates. The room was empty when she came in. A ray of light tickled her vision, coming from behind the throne. Hordak was in his lab.
Entrapta breathed in and out, bracing herself. She knocked on the back door.
"Entrapta. I didn't expect you today," he noted with surprise. He had given her so many weapon projects beside the bio tech homework that he truly thought he wouldn't see her for a week. "Are you having a problem with your hand?"
"No, not at all, my Lord," she raised the hand in question. "It's adapting nicely to my body. I didn't see any side effect, or any effect for that matter."
"It's normal, the magic can take a while to start working. Why are you here then?"
"I have good news and bad news."
Hordak raised a brow. This scientist sure was bold to come here announcing him her probable incompetence with such confidence. Any other Force Captain, and even his Second would have trembled in fear, or tried to soothe the expression. She was just...blatantly honest.
"Start with the bad then," he said as he resumed his welding work.
"Salineas' runestone is drained out of energy. I thought connecting it to the Black Garnet would act as a relay, but it's only tarnishing its magic. I can't use it, and if we don't put it back to its original spot, we might lose the stone and its power."
"Really?" Hordak frowned. "Show me the data."
"Right here," Entrapta handed him a tablet. She had run a few tests during the night, proving her hypothesis...at least partly. The Black Garnet wasn't tarnishing the runestone per se, but she needed another argument in her favor. Hordak wasn't as good as her regarding the runestones' math analysis. He wouldn't notice.
"If we lose the runestone…" he rubbed his chin, furrowing his brows. "I wonder if it wouldn't help us in the end. The princesses would lose their recent boost…"
"But if it's lost for good, isn't it going against your plans to reach Eternia?"
"Catra's mask wasn't really destroyed in the end. What if the runestones act like batteries? We'd plug it again in its connection point when I need it… And in the meantime we'd keep it here, inactive, to make the princesses powerless."
That was not where Entrapta wanted this to go…
"Well, I'll run a few more tests and do the maths to prove this, but meanwhile I think it's best if we plug it again...just in case. We're not sure we can activate it again after it dies out."
Hordak stared at her. She wondered sometimes if his red eyes could analyse body language or people's heart race. She hoped not, because her heart was pounding too fast in her chest.
"You really think the stone won't hold on until you finish your experiments on it?"
"Well, to be honest, it's a delicate experiment, I have to be cautious if I don't want to screw the rock, since nobody ever tried that before, so given how much time it would take, I think it's best I try that on the Black Garnet instead. Besides I have many projects on the run… That's the good news I wanted to tell you, by the way. I'm practicing your tech magic!"
"Already?" He nodded, impressed.
"Yes, I heard there was a cadet in the coma with no legs, so I took artificial legs from the bots' store and now I'm studying the boy to see if I can put him out of the coma with your science and the prosthetics."
"Interesting. It's a good exercise to start on. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes."
Entrapta beamed, obviously proud of herself.
"As for the runestone…"
She held her breath without noticing.
"You made an interesting discovery. We already know that a weak runestone affects their powers, and the destruction of one tampers the magic of all princesses at once. If we can understand how the non-mobile stones work, and if we can control the on-and-off side effect when they're moved... "
Entrapta gulped, waiting for his decision.
"You might have a point about this. We can't risk to lose my possible connection to Eternia without being sure it's reversible. Study this hypothesis on the Black Garnet, and we'll bring the other one back to Salineas."
Entrapta smiled as she bowed. Hordak watched her leave, squinting his eyes as he hummed.
"The sooner the hand's magic works, the better…" he murmured. He sat on his throne, but didn't get the chance to think the scene through. The wall screen lit on.
"My Lord, Shadow Weaver is requesting an audience."
"Is she really…" he pinched the bridge of his nose. "Put her on screen."
"I can't believe Bow!" Glimmer groaned. For the twentieth time of the day. "Can you believe it Adora?! Promising Entrapta that?! I mean, what on Etheria was he thinking?!"
Adora, unfazed, shrugged. For the fiftieth time of the day. "He had to take a fast decision. Mermista's life is at stake."
"But he could have called us during the conversation! But nooo, Mister Smart had to talk to her all by himself. If Perfuma hadn't warned us…"
"Glimmer… Now it's done," she tried to say as softly as possible. The sparkle princess stopped walking. Her lips got thin, and she tightened her fists.
"You don't look like you understand, Adora," she replied aggressively. "There is NO WAY I'm giving my mom's hair for whatever experiment she planned with her primal body component or something."
"She said it wouldn't hurt her though. And it's a secret experiment, it's not for Hordak. He won't use it against us."
"I don't care. I'm not putting my mom's life in danger! I'd rather give my own hair. Perfuma said kids have the same body component thing as their parents, so she won't notice."
"No offense Glim," Adora giggled. "But Angella has much longer hair than you. She will notice that."
"That's not a problem, I can make them longer with my staff."
Glimmer had started a formation with Mystacor's sorceresses a few months ago, to master the art of her father's magic. She had a lot to learn, but she made big progress in little time.
"Point is, I don't trust Entrapta, and I want to know if giving my own body part away will really save Mermista."
"And this is why we're going to see Catra right now! As you suggested, may I remind you," Adora smirked.
"I don't know why I suggested that to be honest… Entrapta was working for her. Why would Catra think she's to be trusted by us? And even if that was the case, she wouldn't tell us that."
"I don't know, Catra was betrayed by Hordak. She has no reason to protect the Horde anymore."
"But she doesn't like us."
"She told us about Mermista's runestone…"
"Okay well, since we're going anyway, it can't hurt to try..." Glimmer sighed. "I'm not looking forward to it, but it'll last only a minute…" she whispered to herself. "We come in, we ask, and we leave."
"Yeaaaah, you don't know Catra." Adora laughed awkwardly. Glimmer raised a brow, asking for an explanation. "She's never going to give you a straight answer. If you want to get an honest opinion from her… You need to take a bit of time. Or surprise her."
"Surprise her? And how exactly?"
"I don't know… But just asking her if we can trust Entrapta with a life and death situation..." Adora shook her head. She could already picture the feline's mischievous grin. "Catra will only play with your mind. So don't be that blunt."
"Awesome…" Glimmer grumbled. She observed her friend from the corner of her eye. She was a bit annoyed to see a small smile tucking her lips. Adora was happy to have a good excuse to go see Catra again after her morning balm session.
Pfft. That was ridiculous. They had many nurses who'd be willing to do that. But Adora had to do it herself.
Glimmer knew she was being unfair right now. After all, Catra and Adora had history, but today she was annoyed by Bow, anxious for Mermista, and also for herself… She was going to put her life at risk for Mermista, and she was willing to do it- that was why they hadn't told anything to her mom- but she wanted to be sure it wouldn't be in vain.
She had to be certain Entrapta would fulfill her part of the deal.
"Here we are."
Glimmer shook her head. She still had no idea how she was going to take the truth out of Catra's mouth. But she had to try. And no matter how much she loved and trusted Adora, she needed to evaluate Catra's reaction by herself. Adora was too biased about her old friend for her taste.
"Hey Adora," the voice made Glimmer cringe. "You're back early."
Sparkling eyes met mismatched eyes.
"Oh… You brought company."
Adora nodded, feeling uncomfortable. The tension had risen to its highest level in a second. The two girls wouldn't blink, holding the other's gaze like it was a freaking glaring contest.
"Um… Glimmer wants to talk to you."
"Oh yeah?" Catra smirked. "Why didn't she come by herself? Scared of the evil Horde Commander?"
"You're not as scary as you think you are, Catra…" Glimmer spat her name like it was rotted fish. The feline gripped the bars of her cell.
"Why don't you teleport inside and I'll make you reconsider?"
"I can take you anytime, tail-girl!"
"Come and get me then."
"Woah time out girls!" Adora grasped Glimmer's shoulder before the princess could put a fist on Catra's nose.
"I don't know why I thought it was a good idea- Wait…" Glimmer frowned as she eyed Catra's outfit. "Is this the sweater I gave you Adora?!"
Adora paled as she stared at the piece of clothes… The little unicorn on the chest smiling at her, knitted by Glimmer's own hands...
"Aw Adora, don't you know it's rude to give away your lover's presents?"
"Oh, you're not going there, Horde bitch!"
Before Adora even had the time to open her mouth, Glimmer teleported right above the snickering feline, crashing her on the ground. The guard ran into the prison, hurrying to open the cell for Adora.
"Stop it you idiots!" Adora yelled at the two girls who were rolling on the ground, sending punches in each other's face. Adora grabbed the ear of both girls, who stopped their kids' fight right away, howling in pain. "You- just- Behave, or you won't have any eyes to cry after I'm done with you!"
Glimmer teleported back outside away from her. She rubbed her ear as she glared at Adora.
"Can you let me go now, I can't hurt Glitter from here," Catra groaned.
"Alright, but you behave! And I'll stay here, just in case," she sent daggers to both girls.
"And my name is Glimmer, you asshole!" the princess huffed.
"Like there's a difference..."
Glimmer was right, it really wasn't a good idea to put the two girls in the same room. Adora didn't understand though. Why was Glimmer so impulsive around Catra? And why did Catra feel the need to tease her that much?! She hadn't acted like that at all with Perfuma.
"You want your sweater back, Glimmer?" Catra pouted at her name. "I don't like horses anyway."
Glimmer snorted but didn't say no. Catra tugged up the hems of the sweatshirt, revealing the skin of her stomach. Glimmer's and Adora's cheeks flushed as they processed what was happening. That wouldn't make things easier at all… Adora caught Catra's hands, stopping the stripping process.
"Yeah, no, let's just not, I'll find you another sweater later."
"And you'd think that after seeing me topless twice a day, you'd get used to it..." Catra tried to free her hands, pesting against Adora's strength, but the princess only squeezed stronger. She tried to catch Catra's gaze. She needed to calm her down… Bickering like this with Glimmer wouldn't bring them anywhere.
But Catra didn't look up at Adora, she was too busy glaring at Glimmer. She squinted her eyes, deciphering the princess's face. She looked pissed, very pissed. And she looked even more upset when Adora closed space between her and Catra.
The prisoner smirked.
Ohoho… She was jealous…
"Can we please all sit down and relax?" Adora sighed, meeting Glimmer's eyes. Her friend shrugged and nodded. Adora looked back to Catra then, and blinked in surprise. Catra's face was weird. Her pupils were dilated, her ears half flat on her head, and she had a weird compliant grin on her face.
"Sure Adora…" she purred. She purred.
She brought her face closer to Adora's, very slowly. Adora's breath hitched. Her grip loosened around Catra's hands, who took advantage of that freedom to slip them on Adora's waist. She could also feel her tail wrapped around her leg, and her body crash against her own.
Catra's cheek brushed against hers until her mouth was close to Adora's ear.
"You know I love to relax with you…" She nibbled Adora's earlobe.
Glimmer hiccuped. She teleported out of the prison, leaving a sparkling cloud behind her. Catra's dark snicker echoed on the walls, ringing unpleasantly to Adora's ears.
"What is fucking wrong with you?!" Adora shoved Catra, bringing back distance between them.
"Oh wow, you cursing, what a rare sight."
The second Adora realized Catra had used...whatever was going on between them, this weird tension that had been slowly growing since the first time they got close a week ago, she raised a wall in her heart. She couldn't let Catra even think she could play with her feelings, or Glimmer's.
"Catra…" she snarled. "Don't you EVER do that again. You hear me? Why are you so… So…" Adora extended her arms, waving them as if the words would appear out of nowhere.
"Take your time," Catra said as she picked her nails.
"You're the worst! What did she do to you, huh? Why are you trying so hard to get under her skin? She just wanted to ask you a question!"
Adora paced in the cell. If she didn't control herself, she could punch a wall.
"I don't like how she looks at me," Catra shrugged. "And now that I know why she looks at me like that, I'm definitely not going to change my behavior."
Adora blushed as Catra's eyes pierced through her. She knew perfectly well what Catra meant, and she wanted to slap the prisoner for that.
"You're just seeing things."
"And you're a dumb-dumb. Seriously Adora, giving me her present to you?"
Adora scoffed, mad at herself for her lack of perspicacity. Why hadn't she thought it through… Among all the sweatshirts she got, she had had to pick the one Glimmer offered her for her first year in the rebellion… That was pretty dumb.
"It's not a reason to tease us that way. I won't let you use me Catra. If you want to...do the thing you did again," she blushed at the memory, but then frowned and sent her daggers. Catra raised a brow. She wouldn't forget that blush. "You got the wrong person."
Catra stayed silent as she contemplated the blonde princess. She was hurt, it was pretty obvious. Adora really felt the thing between them, and Catra had played with it… Catra didn't even know what it was exactly… She just knew it was more than the beginning of mending their relationship.
And definitely more than basic sexual tension.
A pinch of guilt squeezed her heart as she looked in the deep blue eyes.
"You need votes for the trial, Catra. You can't afford to act like a bitch, or nobody from the rebellion will want you."
"Yeah, well, maybe I don't want the rebellion either! I didn't ask for your fucking help, Princess!"
"For the last time, I'm just trying to save your damn life Catra!" Adora shouted, taking a step towards her.
"I don't care, I don't need you saving me Adora!" Catra shouted louder, getting closer as well. "Why are you so fucking persistant?!"
"Because even if you're a jerk, I don't want to see you die!"
Adora had clenched Catra's shoulders at these words. She expected Catra to retaliate, but the feline closed her mouth. Her ears flattened, and her whole body relaxed under Adora's touch. Adora saw some feelings she did not understand in those mismatched eyes. She lowered her head, too tired to try to decipher them.
A purple ball of light exploded in the prison again, revealing a very red-angry Glimmer, who stood straight in front of the cell, planting her eyes in Catra's.
"Last week, did Entrapta tell you that Adora was alive and that she helped us escape?"
Catra blinked twice.
Shadow Weaver had made a lot of mistakes in her life. Some she regretted more than others.
Stealing the Queen of the Magicats' mask had been her first big mistake. She still bore the mark of Katriska's wrath underneath her own mask…
Letting the new queen live for so long had been another very regretful mistake. Catra… Oh she had despised her the moment she saw the heterochromatic eyes on her kitten face. She should have killed her the first night she met her. She should have never let Adora grow fond of her.
But mostly, and that was probably her biggest mistake, she should have never listened or trusted Hordak. Since the very beginning, that alien had only caused her trouble. Pushing her to steal Katriska's mask, then enrolling her in the Horde with the promise of her revenge against Mystacor, forbidding her to kill Catra… To finally letting her rot in a dark cell.
Now that Catra was gone, Shadow Weaver had a new target in sight.
And she would get to him somehow, then to Mystacor. And if she was lucky, she could eventually kill Catra, putting an end to the magicat race.
She would reign on Etheria, bringing back balance and order, like she always dreamed of.
"My Lord… Thank you for allowing me to-"
"Be quick, Shadow Weaver, I have a tight schedule."
She swallowed a bitter comeback. It wasn't the time to fight. "My Lord, now that Catra isn't Second-in-Command anymore-"
"Octavia is my new Commander."
"...I can still be useful to you. Let me prove my worth to you, Lord Hordak."
"Your magic is weak without the Black Garnet, Shadow Weaver. You lost your past strength."
"If you give it back to me though…"
"No. Entrapta will keep it for her experiments."
Shadow Weaver tightened her fists, trying to push down the rage that threatened to spill. But she was so done.
"I have given everything to you…" she muttered.
"For all these years, I have been nothing but patient, loyal and hard working! You promised me Mystacor!"
"And you promised to help me defeat the princesses. But you only used the power of the Black Garnet for yourself. Your work never helped me improve my battle strategies, and you know it. I have no remorse taking back my word."
"I got banned because of you! For you!" Shadow Weaver roared. "I stole that filthy queen's mask for you, lost everything I had and then pledged to you, and that's how you reward me!"
"I never told you to steal the magicat mask," Hordak spat. "I only shared with you my theories about the runestones."
"You told me conquering the runestones would save the planet! You said it would bring back ancient power! I only wanted to help you! You owe me!"
"And you screwed up, Shadow Weaver. You screwed it all up and then...you sold me. You accused me at Court, and because of you, I lost Mystacor's trust," Hordak snarled. His impassive face turned almost animalistic, and Shadow Weaver felt lucky she wasn't in the same room as him. "I consider myself very merciful I saved you before you got sent to the Forbidden Zone… If anyone owes me anything, it's you... Light Spinner."
Shadow Weaver cringed at that name. She hadn't been called that way for over fifteen years, and Hordak knew it triggered bad memories.
Shadow Weaver looked up with hope.
"If you really want to be useful, I guess I could try to find a way to give you more power... "
She bowed respectfully. Finally, she was going to get out of the cell. She would have to stay low for a while, but she could at least study the new situation of the Horde… Especially Entrapta.
"I'll need your mask, Shadow Weaver."
"My mask?" she asked in surprise.
"Yes. When it's ready, you can get out of jail."