Light snores resonated in the dorm. It was barely midnight, but in the Fright Zone, soldiers slept early, and fell fast asleep. It was a necessity, given the level of stamina a single day in the ranks of the Horde demanded.
Only one cadet was pretending to sleep, waiting for the clock to hit the 0000 number. He was fully clothed beneath his blanket. Only his shoes were missing, waiting for him at the foot of the bottom bunk bed.
The clock ticked. The day changed.
Kyle pushed his blanket away, and jumped off his bed as smoothly as possible. He stayed in a crouching position for a few seconds, listening to the noises of his twenty roommates. Nobody was moving. He could leave the dorm safely.
He had done this so many times, but tonight, things were different. Tonight, for the first time, he had to leave the Fright Zone. And the most difficult part, he had to come back. Undetected.
He put his hand to his ear and tapped the little earphone plugged in it. Entrapta had given it to him earlier. She would check on him through the cameras as long as he was in the Fright Zone, and could speak to him with the device. She would make sure he wouldn't cross the path of any security robots or guards. Or worse, Octavia and Hordak's demon spy.
Kyle checked on his belt. He also had a waterproof bag hanging there, with another machine inside, that he would need for the meeting with Bow.
He was ready.
He opened the door of the dorm, trying not to make it creak, and stepped outside, as silent as Catra.
"HQ to Lizard, do you copy?"
Kyle jerked forward as the voice screamed in his ear.
"Princess! You almost gave me a heart attack!" he complained, clutching his chest. He snapped his head left and right, making sure nobody was coming that way, drawn by the sudden noise.
"That is not physiologically possible, you're too young to have clogged arteries. Although according to those books I've been recently reading, you could actually get a Tako-Tsubo infarct-"
"Princess!" Kyle hissed. He tiptoed in the hallways, heading to the direction of the usual air vent he used.
"Alright, alright. Ah, you shouldn't use the vents tonight, it's dangerous."
"Octavia's patrolling on the second floor right now, and with her new 360° biotech-improved infrared vision, she can spot you even through obstacles- whereas it's not usually possible- so if she's coming too close you won't be able to get away from her perimeter when you're stuck in a tube."
That explained how she could see behind her back now...
"How am I supposed to reach the sewer, if I can't use the vents?! There are guards everywhere!"
"Don't worry, I'll guide you there," Entrapta answered cheerfully. Kyle had never been more anxious in his life, and that counted the time Bow and Glimmer infiltrated the base…
"Scorpia is currently on the basement floor, if needed she'll distract the bots so that you can-"
"Take a dip?" Kyle snorted. He wasn't particularly excited at the idea of leaving the Fright Zone by the sewers, but they couldn't use the purging chambers in the middle of the night. It would attract too much attention. He was glad they had unclog the sewers a few days ago at least…
"Exactly, HAHAHAHAHA, excellent, Kyle. Do you have the skiff keys?"
He checked in his pockets. The keys were in place. He confirmed with a hum.
"Great, let's go then. Operation Quartz, begin!"
Kyle rolled his eyes as he took the central stairs. He perked up his ears, heart thumping in his chest.
The Fright Zone wore its name best at night, when everything was silent. It wasn't a natural silence, like outside in the nature. It was an imposed void, a threat to anyone wanting to break the curfew. As if the metallic walls themselves were watching and listening to the traitor who was about to break out.
Kyle almost missed a step at the sudden sound. He couldn't get used to that. He was a solitary spy, only relying on himself, automatically checking for the cameras that could spot him. But tonight he didn't need to mind them, and it only made him more nervous.
Entrapta made him do several detours because of security robots patrolling. It took him a while to reach the basement. This floor was contrasting with the rest of the main base. It was loud and hot, rumbling with machines and robots that didn't need to sleep like humans.
He walked through several familiar rooms on his way, like the food chain factory. A decade ago, Hordak's bots weren't as efficient, and Kyle remembered working there with other Horde soldiers. Adults made the tasteless ration bars, while kids cleaned the room. Now the bots were making themselves the food. It was as tasteless as before, and it also lacked some human soul in it.
Bow had been devastated when he learned what the Horde was eating from Adora, so he had given Kyle some weird chips and fruits and other tasty stuff several times.
Kyle wished he hadn't. It was harder now to put up with their usual ration bars.
"Okay, you need to crawl, like right now."
Kyle threw himself on the floor, sweat rolling on his forehead. A big security bot came in and scanned the factory area. How did Entrapta know that crawling would bring Kyle out of the red ray's range by only an inch, that was a mystery. She really was a genius.
Kyle puffed in relief when the bot left.
"Come on, you're almost there."
He stood up and accelerated his pace, holding his chest and begging his vision to stop being blurry. Maybe he was having a Tako-Tsubo thing.
Finally, he reached one of the sewers' opening. Entrapta chose a small one instead of one of the big entrances the Horde used to evacuate the entirety of the Fright Zone water plumbing, bless her.
He checked one last time if he was ready. He opened the sewer, breathed in and out…
"Don't forget to put your earphone in your waterproof b-"
Kyle's body dived in the water. He closed his eyes and pinched his nose, trying to forget he was floating in dirt. He kicked the floor beneath him, and finally emerged. He took the earphone off his ear.
"Shit, shit shit…"
It was soaked. He tried to call Entrapta, hoping it wasn't completely ruined, but only silence answered him.
Panic took him over. This was bad. Very bad. He had to come back, abort mission.
But he couldn't. But without Entrapta's help, he would get caught. But there was Scorpia on the basement floor, who could help him. Too many buts…
Entrapta warned him Scorpia's intervention would come in last resort. They didn't want to take the risk of the Horde thinking Scorpia and Kyle were plotting something together. It would only take one unfortunate rumor to make Octavia suspicious. The Second-in-Command was already onto him because of his snooping.
Kyle decided to go with the plan. He would figure out later how to contact Entrapta. Bow would have his tablet with him, Kyle hoped.
While he was thinking, the flow had already taken him far in the sewer. Kyle reached the larger part of the tubes, with ledges on each side of the water, where soldiers and bots could walk when they needed to clean the place.
He raised his body on the left side, standing up groggily on the metal. He exhaled as he shook his limbs, chasing the water and dirt away from his clothes. He tried the earphone again, to no avail. He put it in his bag, then started to run.
There was no time to waste.
There shouldn't be any surveillance here, but one could never know. Thankfully -but sadly Bow would probably say- Kyle knew these sewers by heart. He knew exactly where to stop to find the perfect opening that would lead him outside, in a spot where there were no bots to spot him.
He ran for ten long minutes, hoping his muscles he could never train properly would hold on, until he found the opening. He grinned in relief, but suddenly froze, his mind going blank.
A robot was coming his way. Fast. What on Etheria was it doing here?!
Kyle couldn't move. He couldn't even scream. He was paralyzed.
The robot stopped in front of him. Its purple signal blinded his eyes.
"Kyle! Finally! I'm glad Emily found you!"
The voice came from the robot. That was Emily… Kyle hadn't recognized it, since most robots look the same to him…
"I really should install cameras in the sewers. I was worried you were found!"
"Sorry about the earphone…"
"It's okay, I'll make a new one. Now go meet Bow, Emily will wait here for your return."
Kyle smiled as he climbed on the wall ladder. He reached the manhole, pushed the metal cover open, and risked the top of his head outside. The opening stood in a narrow dead-end alley between two old watchpoint buildings. Before cameras and bots did the night surveillance, soldiers had to take shifts in there.
Kyle lifted his body from the sewer, closed it and walked out of the dead end. He walked cautiously, body sticking to the walls to be sure he wouldn't be spotted by any cameras. He knew he didn't have to, but he was scared… Maybe somebody else was watching the cameras after all…? But he would have been discovered before then. Still, it released his anxiety to do so.
Entrapta also told him before he left the sewers that she would create a little diversion that would attract the robots of the section, to be sure they wouldn't cross his path. He didn't know what the genius did, but it had been efficient. His way to the garage went completely silent and lonely.
Finally, he reached the skiffs parking lot. He took the first that crossed his path, too much in a hurry to check if it was the most functional. He inserted Scorpia's keys in the headboard, looked around him one last time, and launched the machine.
He yelped at the speed of the thing. He had never driven a skiff before. At least not alone. Lonnie had always been there to take the bar. Maybe he should have thought of this before… After a few chaotic minutes of driving, he finally got the hang of it.
In ten minutes, he reached the entrance of the Whispering Woods. He parked the skiff in front of a weird looking fruits tree- oranges maybe? He couldn't remember- and adventured himself in the Woods, one shaking step at a time.
"Bow…?" his voice cracked. The Woods were so scary now that they had grown back. They were almost back to their original state. As soon as Kyle put a foot on a root, the insects stopped their grinding melodies. It was like the Woods were staring at him. Judging him for belonging in the ranks of their murderers. They didn't want the Horde soldiers on their ground…
Kyle gulped, not enjoying at all this heavy atmosphere. He wanted to pee so bad now.
Suddenly a creaking noise broke the silence.
Kyle screamed, running back to his skiff as if he had seen a ghost.
"Kyle! It's just me!"
The Horde soldier relaxed as he saw Bow come out of the bushes, accompanied by that flying horse Adora mounted.
The two boys smiled genuinely, happy for a second to see each other again...then awkwardness tainted their face expression when they remembered the conditions of their meeting.
"So, um... " Bow scratched the back of his head, then eyed the soaked boy up and down. "Did you get any trouble coming here?"
"A little…" Kyle shrugged. He put his hands in his pockets, switching his weight from one foot to the other. "Nothing I couldn't handle though."
Bow nodded. He wanted to ask more about his friend, but somehow...it seemed inappropriate. Something had broken between them ever since that battle.
"So do you have…?"
"Oh right!" Bow facepalmed. Swift Wind rolled his eyes while the boy fumbled through his bag. He took a little tube out, showing off the pink hair inside. "There it is! ...Angella's hair."
"Great, give it to me!" Kyle opened his own belt bag, revealing a flat cylinder device that he grabbed carefully. Bow frowned as he held out the tube, wondering for a second what that thing could do… And then freezing when he understood.
Kyle seized the tube, opened it and shook it above the cylinder. The hair fell, but floated like a magic field was suspending it in the air. A green light beamed from the machine, reverberating on the length of the hair, scanning every microscopic part of it.
Bow felt sweat run on his forehead. How didn't he anticipate that Entrapta would actually check during the meeting if he was fooling her?!
Swift Wind nudged his shoulder with his snout, trying to relax him. He was right, acting all weird would only make things worse…
"Object- First Ones Descendant DNA- " a robotic voice chanted. What on Etheria was DNA?
A satisfied smile lightened Kyle's face. He looked up at Bow, who was too flabbergasted to process what the machine had said.
"Entrapta will be happy," the soldier said. "Are you okay?"
"Y-yeah! Definitely!" Bow exclaimed a bit too loud. He didn't understand what had just happened, but somehow it had all worked for the best and his heart was still pumping on the adrenaline of a probable catastrophe. "What is- Um, what does she intend to do with it?"
"Nothing dangerous, don't worry," he answered softly. "I can't tell you more, I don't really know what she's doing. Too smart for me."
"Now, don't depreciate yourself like that!" Bow put a hand on his shoulder. "Look how you tricked us both, it needs some grey matter to make up a plan like this!"
"Yeah, that kind of went downhill though, I'm lucky Entrapta is a nice person."
"She really is…" Bow's face saddened all of a sudden. He had realized, when he saw the princess on his tablet, how much he had missed her friendship, her quirks, her excitement when she showed him her inventions. He wished she could switch sides, come back to them… Bow had the certitude that Entrapta wasn't evil, she wasn't a real Horde soldier at heart.
Just like Kyle.
"So are you, Bow," he broke out of his daze. Kyle was looking nervous, but he looked up at him with grateful eyes. "You're nice, and honest. You didn't trick me, and…" Bow gulped, discomfort nagging his heart.
"...you have no idea what it means to me, Bow. I'm sorry I doubted you."
"It's okay, your doubts were valid, Kyle. You were perfectly right to question yourself about the rebellion... " Bow sighed. "I myself...am learning new things about the rebellion everyday."
Kyle raised his brows, his curiosity peeking. What could have the ever positive archer learned about his side and family to make him look so sad?
"Nobody's perfect in this war, but I won't stop fighting against the Horde Kyle, because no matter what, Hordak's actions are hurting innocent people for selfish reasons. For power."
Bow's gaze pierced through Kyle's. He was trying to call his sense of justice, the soldier felt it. That was how he had persuaded him to spy on Hordak for the rebellion. While most of the time Bow was this gentle soft teenage boy gushing over a pirate's shanties, he also had these sudden burst of inspirational talks that came when people around him needed it most. It was his biggest strength.
"I know right now you need to stay in the Horde, for your friend Rogelio," Bow stated, acceptance in his tone. "But I hope someday, you'll consider my proposal. I know I'm being repetitive, but we want you in our ranks, Kyle. We would be proud to battle at your side."
Kyle blushed. Damn him…
"I- As I told you before…" he shifted away from Bow's touch. "I'm not ready for that. But I'll remember it."
The rebel didn't protest. He understood. At least, he was glad they could ease part of the tension between them.
"Entrapta told me to tell you that the runestone should be home by tomorrow by the way. She wishes the best to Mermista. I hope she'll get better too…"
Bow's eyes watered.
Kyle was a great person, and Bow really hoped they could reunite someday. He never expected to grow so fond of the Horde soldier the first time they met, but Kyle… This guy was worth getting to know.
Bow waved at him as he turned the skiff engine on, and left the Whispering Woods. The archer was relieved to know that he was returning to Entrapta's sides. He trusted her to protect him. Not that Kyle really needed protection, he was invisible to his superiors… But he could use another friend.
"Oh my First Ones, Kyle, this is awesome, HAHAHAHAHA!"
"Princess, please I beg of you, keep it down…"
Kyle looked around him, anxiety creeping its way to his brain again. He was back in the sewers with Emily, walking at a fast pace behind the robot, who made him take a different path than before.
"The key is perfect Kyle! This is incredible! We were right about Angella! And the crystals! Now I can decrypt them! This is HUGE KYLE DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!"
"Yes, yes, Princess, I do but-"
"This is not a coincidence, it can't be… The only descendant of the First Ones on Etheria, waiting to be used for the temple's data… What are the odds Kyle?! I'll do the maths."
"Yes, do it, but in silence, please…"
Emily plugged a metallic finger of hers in the control board of a door, opening it in a second. Kyle breathed deeply at the refreshing air. He couldn't wait to take a shower…
He followed Emily through the countless corridors of the robots storage rooms. No soldiers ever came in here any longer, they had no need for the obsolete bots anymore. But if they ever needed to raise a surprise army, as a last resort… They had some material.
"How was Bow, by the way?" Entrapta asked cheerfully. She was humming, creating an eerie atmosphere in the silent main base.
"Um, he seems good…" Kyle hesitated, but decided to open up. He had to see how far he could trust the genius. "He asked me to join them. The rebellion."
"Oh… And what do you think of that?"
"I have mixed feelings… What about you? You were a part of it once..."
Emily grabbed Kyle by his collar and threw him up through a ceiling hole. Kyle whimpered as he landed on his ass. He groaned. Robots' pathways through the Fright Zone were definitely not his favorites.
"I don't know. For now, I need to decrypt the data, then… Then we'll see."
She sounded less confident than usual.
"Why are these data so important by the-"
"Oh crap!" Entrapta hissed. What was happening?! Kyle had never heard her swear before. "Okay, Kyle bad news but please relax and try to act normally... "
His heart pounded faster in his chest.
"You're on Octavia's radar."