The three soldiers gaped at the x-ray picture. They stared in awe at the wires going around Entrapta's spine like a python sneaking on his prey before stifling it to death.
You didn't have to be a genius to understand this wasn't good.
"...I don't care, you're still coming with us." Scorpia asserted. "What's the worst that could happen anyway?!"
"Scorpia, when the hand starts on working, there's no telling what I could do."
"It doesn't matter, we'll figure things out if it happens!"
Lonnie walked away from the bickering duo. She needed to think… It was overwhelming…
Rogelio put his scaly hands on her shoulders. An attempt to reassure her. Easy for him to see the bright side of this. It was exactly the opportunity he was searching for earlier. They would get Kyle out of the pit, and run away from the Horde… But did he realize they had to fulfill the end of the bargain?
"This is a suicide mission."
"We can do this," he signed. "With Entrapta's device, we can find Catra."
"We have no idea where Mystacor is, how to go there, what to do once we're there… We have no plan. And we have no idea when they're gonna send her to the exile zone. What if we can't find her?!" Anxiety broke her voice. "What are we gonna do then?"
"We'll find a way to get her out of the Forbidden Zone. We can go to Adora, she used to be one of us… She wouldn't let us-"
"Adora didn't stop the trial, Rogelio! We can't trust her!" Lonnie yelled. "And even if we get Catra out… What's next?! We don't even know the big thing she's supposed to do! This is madness!"
Lonnie crouched, holding her head. Her thoughts were going to make it explode. She focused on the other duo instead.
"Of course I want to save Catra," Scorpia was exclaiming. "But I don’t want to leave another friend behind! We’re the super pal trio!"
"But you’ll come back for me whenever you can Scorpia!" Entrapta retorted. "I’ll be here waiting for you!"
"I won't leave you behind with this psychopath who mutilated you! No way! He will hurt you again!"
"He can't, he needs me too much, and he's making me pay already with the hand. Trust me, I know what I'm doing!"
"Oh yeah?! You said the same thing when you healed Rogelio, and look at you now, you can't even walk on your real legs!"
Lonnie pinched the bridge of her nose. She had never heard Scorpia so mad, and it was worsening her growing headache.
Rogelio wrapped his arm around her shoulders. She focused on her breathing, like Mr. Smoothscales had taught her during practice, whenever she was stuck in a program.
Thinking of her old dead coach made her heart ache…
...maybe they could do this. Maybe they could handle themselves, all together in the wild. Maybe it would be better than staying here, putting up with Octavia's tyranny…
"Scorpia, you need to go now, you are running out of time, I'm pretty sure they're going to execute their sentence tomorrow. That's what Bow suggested, so-"
"No problem. We're going now, with you, and that's all!"
Lonnie grunted. She hated change. And for good reasons. And right now, they were about to make the craziest decision of their lives.
Rogelio squeezed her arm. She looked up, deciphering the signs.
"If you really want to stay… Would you blame us if we left?"
"No," she answered. "Kyle needs to get out of here, I get it."
"And you too."
She didn't answer. She watched Scorpia sob in Entrapta's arms. How the hell did the last days end up like this?! Kyle was being tortured in prison, Entrapta was in contact with the Rebellion, Catra was alive but would be soon close to non-existence, and now they just learned they all had to leave the Horde and rescue her with no strategy whatsoever.
Lonnie stood up and joined the hugging pair, wincing at the pain of her ankle. Entrapta was patting Scorpia's back with both hair and hands… What an odd view.
"...Entrapta," the genius looked up at her. "This is crazy. You just dropped this on us like it's a...freaking vacation trip like the princesses do… Why didn't you warn us earlier today?! We could have...at least had a few hours to think about it!"
"I wanted Kyle to leave yesterday actually, but then he got thrown into the pit, and Octavia spent all night long with him… Then today she spent a lot of time questioning him again… And I didn't want anyone to see you in the lab in daylight anyway."
"This is… We have no chance of survival or success."
She hopped around the lab, tugging on her dreads. She couldn't take a decision on the spot! ...they would never get to Catra in time anyway. She'd rather sleep on that and figure out a way to save them all later.
She sighed and stood stiff in front of the scientist.
"I'm not going now. I need time."
The princess stared at her with an indifference that made Lonnie shiver inside. She detangled herself from Scorpia, who was wiping her eyes.
Entrapta went to her computer in silence. Lonnie watched her type something on there, suspicion and fear creeping in her mind…
"You're leaving me no choice."
The wall screens lit up. On one of them, Lonnie could see themselves in the lab...five minutes earlier. Arguing about Entrapta's request. On another screen, she could see Octavia sleeping in her room. And on the last screen…
"You have thirty minutes to get out of the Fright Zone before the system wakes Octavia and Hordak and sends them the video of what just happened here."
"You little shit…"
Lonnie fumed. She tried to pounce on her, but Rogelio locked his arms around her body. Lonnie elbowed him until he let go, and she aimed this time for the computer. But suddenly, Emily came out of a corner, pointing a deadly laser gun at her. The robot opened its body and put the computer inside. Entrapta had planned everything…
"I'm sorry…" the genius smiled sadly. "Observing Catra for a year taught me valuable tricks after all…"
"Entrapta…" Scorpia kneeled, warm tears rolling on her face. "I don't… I can't…"
"Scorpia, If you want to get out of here, I need to be in the lab… I need to check on the bots for you and guide you out," she said softly. "And in the end I'll deactivate the chrono."
But Scorpia only cried harder, punching on the ground. Entrapta wrapped her arms around Scorpia's neck.
"You'll come back for me… I know it."
Meanwhile, Lonnie was desperately trying to fight Emily, but her wounded limbs were impairing her.
"You have no right to do this!" she raged as she finally gave up, falling on the floor. She was shaking. Her ankle was hurting bad. This couldn't be happening.
She looked up at the screen.
"She wouldn't do that…" she mumbled to herself. "She wouldn't send us all to death..."
"Do you want to take that risk?" Entrapta asked with her typical stoical air.
"...for fuck's sake!" Lonnie groaned.
Rogelio helped her up. He had a backpack on his shoulders and the other one in his hand. "Come on, Lonnie," he signed. "We'll make it out safely, I promise."
He handed the other backpack to Scorpia, who reluctantly put it over her own shoulders. She didn't look at Entrapta when the princess gave her a third backpack Emily had prepared while they were talking, where the bot had gathered water and food supplies…
Scorpia turned towards Lonnie instead. She took the coach in her arms, and headed out. She sent a last painful stare back at Entrapta, before leaving the threshold.
Entrapta clicked on a button, locking the door behind them. She took her head in her hands, overwhelmed by the events. But she didn't have the time to dwell. She had work to do.
Emily gave her the computer back.
Operation New Rebels was on.
"Scorpia, how can you accept this?!"
The giant didn't answer. She was too busy fighting her tears, focusing on Entrapta's voice who was guiding her through the earphone, and running in silence through the Fright Zone. Next to her, Rogelio was fumbling in the backpack. He found out weapons at the bottom.
He gave a gun to Lonnie, and took one for himself.
Even if Entrapta was helping, they had to be on their guard.
Five minutes later, they reached the prison floor. Two guards were on duty. Octavia had considered it necessary, in spite of the presence of security bots.
"You have 19:44 minutes left."
Scorpia huffed. Delicately, she put Lonnie on the floor. She peeked around the corner, studying the guards.
"Rogelio says you need to create a diversion," Lonnie whispered. "Then he'll come from behind and stun them."
"Good idea. And you...you'll hide in the air vent."
"What?! No!" Lonnie wiggled when Scorpia caught her again. The woman had a colossal strength.
"Some bots are coming this way, according to Entrapta, so you need to hide while we get Kyle out of the pit."
Before she could protest any further, Scorpia had thrown her- but gently- inside the big pipe, along with the three backpacks. Lonnie wrinkled her nose at the weird smell. They never really washed those vents…
"Wait here. We won't be long."
"How long do we have? Scorpia!"
Lonnie groaned. They were already gone. She leaned on the metal and observed through the thin bars. She couldn't see the prison entrance from here, but she could hear Scorpia talking.
She had started the diversion. A few seconds later, muffled shouts and a zapping sound echoed on the walls. A door opening… And then nothing.
For long minutes, Lonnie waited. Her heart was beating too fast. She didn't like this inaction. She was a woman who always rushed forward in battles. She knew her abilities, and knew how to use them. Waiting on the sidelines was not an option for her.
Maybe it wasn't so bad to leave the Fright Zone after all.
It still made her want to puke, but she would get used to it…
She held her breath when she heard two security bots patrolling, their mechanical legs rattling on the metal ground of the building. She hoped Entrapta had warned the other two…
She exhaled when the sound faded. Everything turned silent again. But somehow, it managed to make her even more anxious… As if something was lurking nearby, watching her closely.
She looked up.
Empty white eyes on a baby face met her gaze.
She muffled a whimper. Hordak's spy demon didn't. Its scream resonated in the vents, and probably in the whole storey level.
Lonnie took her gun and shot its face. The demon ran away, crawling on the walls of the pipe. Lonnie followed him close, hurting her ankle and wounded arm in the process, but she didn't care. She had to stop the thing.
It screamed once more, and Lonnie shot, hitting it three times on the back. Finally, the spy slumped on the ground, blue electricity running on its body.
Lonnie shot one last bullet in its face, by precaution, before she sat again and leaned her head on the wall. Her ankle felt terrible now, and she could feel her broken arm again, whereas it had started healing painlessly…
"Lonnie?! Where are you?" Scorpia's voice resonated from afar in the vent.
"No, don't move, change of plans, the noise attracted too many bots. We'll use the vents to leave."
"What?! But Entrapta can't see us here, there's no camera!"
"I'll update her, don't worry."
Scorpia and Rogelio finally appeared in her vision perimeter. They looked breathless and shocked. Lonnie gasped when she saw Kyle in Rogelio's arms… He was clutching his friend's shirt, his eyes closed and face completely wrinkled in fear. His body was shaking...and several blood stains reddened his shirt.
What had she done to him…
"Come on, let's go. We have ten minutes."
They ran along the vents, not caring if they made any noise at this point. A minute later, they faced a dead end. On the ceiling, Rogelio opened a hatch. It was a high vertical pipe with metal ladder steps on the side.
"Entrapta, we reached the vent-" Scorpia read on the hatch door, "Z572X03. It's gonna take us longer than planned to reach the top, and then we'll have to find the skiffs somehow…?"
"Perfect! Let me check… Yeah there's a tower crane up there, use it to drop you on the skiff bay. It's the shortest way out, otherwise you have to go down the pipes, it'll take forever, and the bots are onto you right now."
"Alright I'll tell you when we're on top…"
"Good, I'm stopping the chrono. You can't come back anymore, so…"
Scorpia made a sad face. The sudden urge of dropping everything and going back to the lab took her for a second. But she knew Entrapta was right. They had already crossed the point of no-return.
The guards they had beaten up and locked in the pit instead of Kyle would talk. And the bots must have been gathering where the spy demon had screamed.
They couldn't go back.
Scorpia sniffed. She shook her head, adjusted Lonnie on her shoulder, and started going up the metal ladder. The weight of the two backpacks plus Lonnie slowed her progression more than she expected. Rogelio on the contrary, was almost on top, probably thanks to his new legs' strength.
Finally out, the Force Captain welcomed the polluted air on her face like it was the purest smell of the world. She put Lonnie on the ground, who didn't waste her time crutching her way to Rogelio and Kyle in the control cabin of the crane.
"We did it," Scorpia smiled. "We found the crane! We'll reach the skiffs in a minute now!"
Rogelio made the engine move, confirming with a thumbs up that it was working. Kyle helped Lonnie in the cabin. The toughest part would be to hang onto the hook, with two wounded people and their supply.
"Great!" She could hear Entrapta clap her hands through the mic. "Alright… I'd stay until I'm sure you're safe, but Octavia is awake."
Scorpia's smile fell.
"She's kinda coming my way now… And I have a few other things to do, so um… I guess this is goodbye Scorpia…"
She smashed her pincer over her mouth, hiccuping over the sobs.
"I'll… I'll come back for you… With Catra! As soon as we find her, we'll come back and get you out of here…"
She never imagined she could have so many tears inside of her. The last time she cried that hard was when her father died…
"Yeah, the super pal trio, together again…" Entrapta laughed. She was sure she had a big smile plastered on her face. Entrapta was that kind of careless against danger…
"Promise you'll call… I can't stand not knowing what Octavia and Hordak-" the words died in her throat.
What had she done… She couldn't leave Entrapta behind… She had to go back to her!
"I don't think I'll be able to call Scorpia."
Her heart sunk deeper in her chest.
Her pincers trembled. Realization hit her harder now that she was about to leave for good.
Entrapta had no idea if she would survive.
"You should hurry, bots are coming your way. Bye Scorpia."
Scorpia called her several times. But the earphone remained mute. She took it out of her ear, and delicately put her in her pants pocket. She joined the three others who were calling her, trying to forget about her pain. They were not out of trouble yet…
"We have a problem…" Lonnie was blank. Scorpia stepped in the cabin. The crane jib was placed above the skiff bay, and the trolley with the hook was right in front of them. All they had to do was program the trolley, climb on the hook, and let it drop them where they needed…
Scorpia blinked. She leaned over Lonnie's shoulder. The board was old… Too old.
"Somebody has to stay behind to move the trolley."
Her words had the same effect as a bucket of cold water dropped on their head.
"We… We can go the long way," Scorpia exclaimed. But just as she said those words, a detonation deafened them. The window of the cabin shattered, covering Kyle in tiny pieces of glass. The soldiers crouched in the cabin.
Lonnie peeked an eye over the edge. "Fuck, they're surrounding us…"
"And there are twenty of them downstairs!" Rogelio signed. "They're coming up the crane!"
Scorpia took the earphone from her pocket, and yelled Entrapta's name, calling for help. Kyle was holding his head, and Rogelio was desperately trying to find an automatic button that didn't exist…
Lonnie gritted her teeth.
"Hop on the hook right now," she ordered. The three others widened their eyes. They all started to shake their head, vehemently. She could see a protest forming on Scorpia's mouth.
Lonnie's face turned cold. "Go, now. I won't repeat myself."
She aimed her gun at them.
She fired at their feet. It seemed like a sudden rage took control of her hand. She let it fire closer and closer to them, ignoring their complaints so easily. She fired until Rogelio, carrying Kyle, had no other choice but take the small leap and wrap his free arm around the hook.
Immediately, the bots started to aim at them. Rogelio curled up into a ball, protecting Kyle from the assault.
"Stop it Lonnie!" Scorpia snarled, jumping around to avoid the hits. "Don't make me give up on somebody else tonight!"
"And you, don't let it all be in vain Scorpia," Lonnie yelled as she shot again. "It's me or all of us! So go, and make this count!"
Scorpia was crying again. She hesitated, but a new raid almost hitting the two boys, coming from the bots who got closer and closer, made up her mind. She joined them, shaking her head again at Lonnie, as if it was all just a mistake and she could come along…
"Find Catra," Lonnie said as she launched the trolley. "Tell her for me that..."
Scorpia raised her brows, but no other words followed. Lonnie closed her mouth, and only watched them get further away from her. Tears were rolling on her cheeks.
Lonnie never cried.
When the trolley reached the jib, the coach pulled the joystick to lower the hook. She had to crouch again because of the bots, so they lost sight of her. When the hook got a few feet above the ground, it suddenly stopped. A shriek came from the cabin. Then, silence.
"Lonnie!" Kyle screamed.
The three soldiers couldn't stay here. They hopped off the hook, crashing on the dirt. Rogelio's legs' strength absorbed the shock more than Scorpia's. Her knees hurt like hell. But she had to get up.
The watchpoint was hurling. They were spotted by the whole Fright Zone now.
Rogelio had already settled in a skiff. Scorpia threw the keys at him while she dropped the backpacks in the vehicle.
"Go, go, go!"
The fugitives launched the skiff full speed. They only needed five minutes to reach the Whispering Woods, where the Horde wouldn't be able to shoot them or track them down.
Five very long minutes.
Kyle was shaking more and more as he saw bots and soldiers aligning at the entrance of the buildings… Rogelio zigzagged when they set fire.
"Speed up!" Scorpia said as she aimed at their opponents. Her shots didn't go far but scared the soldiers enough to gain them some time. They got soon out of reach.
When they passed the first trees of the Whispering Woods, that was when realization hit them again. A new kind of fear clutched their heart when they thought of what awaited them.
There was no turning back.
Entrapta exhaled in relief.
She had done it. She had deleted everything. All the footage of her work during the past few months. All the data she collected on the crystals. Nothing remained on her computer or the Horde data system. She had also erased the footage of all the Fright Zone's cameras during the last two weeks.
Now whatever had happened in these walls since Adora had been captured was gone. It wouldn't delete the obvious suspicions of Entrapta's implication in that mess. But it was necessary that Hordak had no visual proof of everything that happened with the rebels.
There was only one thing she would keep.
"So Emily… You got it?"
The robot nodded. A little light emitted from her, and a hologram of Entrapta appeared in the room.
"Dear future me… If you ever see this, it means you're alive- good for you!- and your friends have come back to save you-"
Emily stopped the diffusion. Entrapta stared at her robot friend… Emily had grown so much in barely a year… She was now more intelligent and even more human than half of the soldiers of the Horde. She was her best friend and confident…
Tears formed at the corner of her eyes.
"I'm going to miss you..."
The bot made a sad noise, lowering its metal head.
The princess stood up and placed herself next to the Black Garnet. She looked up at the majestic runestone.
"Thank the First Ones Scorpia isn't connected to this anymore…" she mumbled to herself. "After what happened to Mermista…"
She shook her head, refocusing on what was important. She frowned seriously and nodded to Emily. The robot clicked on a few buttons on the central machine linked to the stone. Entrapta put a helmet on her head. Wires ran from the helmet to the machine.
"Okay, let's do this, Em," she breathed in and out, trying to stop her heart from racing. "Set the date to two weeks before Light Hope's Temple's invasion."
The Black Garnet grew brighter. Shadows appeared, lurking around the stone. Entrapta's heart pounded so hard against her ribcage she thought she might throw up.
"Don't forget…" she struggled to talk. Her whole body was shaking in fear. "You must hide, Emily. Don't ever let me find you until it's time."
The bot raised the equivalent of a thumbs up. A joyful laughter mixed with anxiety escaped Entrapta's throat. She inhaled and exhaled one last time.
"Erase my memories now."