Entrapta was happily walking on her hair and feet on the way to Hordak's lab. Her legs were doing better day by day. The new doctor even said she might be able to get all her abilities back in a few months. He was impressed! Entrapta was glad she would soon be able to stop wasting time at the doctor's office.
She missed the old doctor though. The one who reminded her of Perfuma. Dr Ferrarius. At first they didn't really get along, but with time, they became friends.
Entrapta hoped she was doing well with the Dissidents.
Not that Entrapta approved of the Dissidents. Those traitors!
She looked down at her metallic hand. It remained inert. Entrapta breathed out. Not that she'd been worried. Not at all.
"Lord Hordak!" she called as she stepped inside his sanctum. "Shadow Weaver's got crazy new information for you!"
Not even checking if her boss was here, she pounced on the computer sitting on the ground. It was wired to a big circular machine with a metallic pillar in the center. Several First Ones tech pieces were connected to the machine, set at regular intervals to form a circle.
"Hmm, the Sea Pearl needs recharging," Entrapta said to herself. "Shadow Weaver used a lot of its power today."
She inserted the little blue rock on a remote. She plugged its cable into the computer and pressed enter. The piece of runestone emitted a satisfying blue light. Entrapta clapped at the success. She was always scared that Emily might hack the complex connection Entrapta had designed to charge the rock with the power of the original Sea Pearl that was still in Salineas. She had outworked herself to secure the connection from hacking. If she let the robot sabotage her work, she would pay the bigger price with Hordak.
Maybe Emily knew that, too. Entrapta didn't doubt the robot had enough power to crush Hordak's dreams of opening a portal using the power of the Sea Pearl and the Black Garnet. So it meant Emily was possibly voluntarily sparing the experiment. To protect Entrapta.
It made her heart swell.
It was nice to know Emily cared for her, even from afar.
"Entrapta. What took you so long? I said three hours, not the whole afternoon."
The genius didn't even turn around at the tyrant's growl. She shrugged. "Shadow Weaver was so deep in her discoveries I left her to it. It's okay, don't worry. In one hour, the Sea Pearl will be ready to be used for another whole day!"
"You disobeyed me." Hordak sounded more disturbed than angry. Entrapta knew why. She glanced down at her prosthetic hand.
"I didn't really disobey you. You said you allowed Shadow Weaver to get the Sea Pearl for three hours or until she discovered something useful for us." She looked up at Hordak, who was waiting for her explanation with a threatening glare. "When the three hours passed, Shadow Weaver was already in the middle of discovering important info. So technically, I followed your orders. As soon as she was done, she gave me the Pearl back."
"You twisted my words," Hordak seethed. "Your information must be extremely useful, Entrapta."
"Oh, it is!" Entrapta grinned. "Here you go."
She handed him Shadow Weaver's report. She observed Hordak as he read it, pacing slowly in the room until he unconsciously reached his throne and got lost in Shadow Weaver's work. Entrapta resumed coding on her computer while she waited for her boss's reaction.
"So, they will attack us just before the next moon alignments…" Hordak said thoughtfully.
"Yes!" Entrapta chirped. "They think you would expect them to attack the day Mystacor's sorceresses are at their most powerful."
"Therefore, they will launch a raid earlier. It makes sense." Hordak rubbed his chin. He looked upset.
"Are you concerned that they might have a shot at winning with the help of their new princesses from the South?"
"No!" Hordak growled. "We can't lose. We know all their plans thanks to Shadow Weaver."
"Not all of them. We still don't know exactly what's happening in Catra's group."
Hordak glared at Entrapta but didn't answer. Because she was right. Shadow Weaver's spying abilities had limits, especially since Hordak didn't allow her complete access to the Sea Pearl's magic. Entrapta could suggest that he give her more control. It would benefit him.
But she didn't want to.
No, she wanted to.
She had to.
"If Shadow Weaver could extract more power from the Sea Pearl, she would be able to give us more precise information," she finally said after a few seconds struggling with her thoughts.
"We need the Sea Pearl just as much as the Black Garnet for the portal."
"Let's be real here." Entrapta walked towards him. "We made huge progress with our portal experiment, but these last few months we've been stuck. There's just something that's missing to succeed. As long as we don't know what it is, we can't move on. And I'm pretty sure whatever it is, the princesses, and possibly Catra, will give us a hint."
Hordak squinted as he thought about it. He looked a bit frightened. "Catra knows things I don't."
"Obviously," Entrapta shrugged. "She told Adora about 'memories from her mask'. If my assumptions are correct, it would mean her runestone has a memory storage option, which could mean Catra holds several memories, probably from her past life as Katriska-"
"I know that," Hordak grumbled. He resumed pacing around the sanctum, speaking to himself. "Why was I never aware of that ability? Did Mortella know…?"
"What's your connection with Mortella, by the way? You've been mentioning her a lot, lately."
"That is none of your business," Hordak snarled. Entrapta didn't retort, waiting patiently for her boss to open up. She knew he would. He had nobody else to talk to about his plans anyway. "A long time ago, she and I made a pact."
There it was.
"The Council of Shadows needed something from me. In exchange, Mortella promised Mystacor would remain neutral in the war against the princesses and let me conquer kingdoms."
"Wow. They accepted your terms and allowed you to get more power like that? That sounds unrealistic."
"They did accept, but I didn't trust them indeed. So I didn't follow the pact in its entirety."
"Does this pact have anything to do with Catra?"
Hordak opened his mouth, then glanced at the metallic arm and back at her face. He narrowed his eyes. Entrapta's heart beat faster in apprehension.
"It isn't important anymore. Mortella and her Council of Shadows are my enemies now. One more obstacle to my objective," Hordak snarled again. Entrapta was disappointed. She didn't like knowing half of a secret. It itched at the back of her mind.
"Seems to me like Mystacor is going to be a trickier obstacle," she noted. "They sound pretty unpredictable to me. Maybe Shadow Weaver should spy on Adora 24/7…"
Hordak's face twitched. Something unusual shone in his eyes. Could it be...fear?
Hordak cleared his throat, composing his face. "I suppose she could use the Sea Pearl for a few more hours today since we're not making any progress on the portal."
"Really?! That's great. She's gonna be thrilled!"
That was a bad thing.
No. That was a good thing. Good thing for the Horde. Good thing for Hordak. That was all that mattered.
"I'll bring it to her as soon as it's fully recharged," she chirped. She hopped back to her computer, resuming her work enthusiastically. Or so it seemed.
This is wrong.
It doesn't matter. Hordak wants it.
But if I hid things from him in the past, there must have been a reason.
You betrayed him. You must fix this.
Maybe I actually did. Maybe it helps him that I betrayed him.
I do. I will take the Sea Pearl to Shadow Weaver.
Then you will report to him.
He didn't tell me to.
… I don't want to.
The princess jolted. She blinked, and realized she had zoned out, her metallic hand clutching her other arm with such a strength she couldn't feel her fingers. It took her a few seconds to release it, as if the robotic prosthetic had ignored her motor command.
"Entrapta." She snapped her head on her right. Hordak was squinting, his arms crossed on his chest. "When you're done tonight, I will review your arm's circuits. Unless you think that's unnecessary."
He wasn't really asking her opinion. Entrapta had to agree with him.
She didn't want to.
He would strengthen the grasp of the hand over her mind.
She didn't want to.
She did want to.
She wanted to obey.
The soldier opened Shadow Weaver's cell. The old sorceress looked tired. She must have worked hard for Hordak today.
"Your meal, prisoner," the soldier said coldly.
Shadow Weaver turned around, contemplated the soldier for a second before answering, "Brown ration bars again?"
Brown. The code name.
"You're lucky you're allowed anything else, you clod."
Ugh, what a stupid code name response.
The soldier held out the tray until the prisoner took it.
It all happened in a second. A small piece of paper, folded in Shadow Weaver's gloved hand, travelling to the soldier's own. It didn't even make a sound.
The soldier left the cell, carrying the message through the concrete buildings of the Fright Zone, making sure they would be seen by their colleagues and cameras for a few hours to avoid suspicion. The message travelled from hands to hands, until it reached its final destination, at the other side of the polluted area, deep in the undergrounds of a once flourishing kingdom…
Destroyed marble stones sprouted from the ground where houses, markets, and shrines used to stand. The floor was covered with dust and dirt. Old weapons were lying in piles, gathered there by the victorious soldiers of the Horde after they took over the unfortunate kingdom. Magical fireflies from two decades ago kept illuminating the place as if they were waiting for the former inhabitants to come back to their home.
The soldier dodged the watching point set under Hordak's order at the entrance of the kingdom.
The ancient Magicat refuge was divided into a multitude of hallways. A maze to the unfamiliar visitors who would dare try to rob the lost civilization from its remaining ruins.
Hordak never bothered mapping the underground after having the surface destroyed. He regretted it soon enough when he discovered that the group of insurgent soldiers threatening his plans had set base deep in the heart of the maze.
The soldier turned left, making sure she wasn't followed. Almost as silent as a Magicat, she followed the path she knew by heart now, sometimes helped by a clue left on the ground by Emily. Twenty minutes of a fast-paced walk later, she stopped at a dead end. A blue marble tree was decorating the left corner of the blind alley. The soldier reached out to the most crooked branch, disturbing the fireflies that were sleeping there. She fumbled until a rough edge tickled her finger. She pushed on it.
The dead end vanished in silence, revealing a whole new space past the illusion wall. Dozens of Horde soldiers suddenly entered the newcomer's line of sight, shouting orders, playing dice, carrying supplies or polishing weapons. These soldiers had their Horde insignia turned upside down.
With her first step into the crowded place, the newcomer turned her own insignia down. A bulky woman with a loaded stun gun marched towards her, stopping an inch away from her.
"You're late. Captain Lonnie awaits your report."
"Forgive me for trying my best to avoid being caught, Lieutenant," the soldier replied. "May I remind you that stealth missions are not my primary function?"
"You were raised in the Horde like all of us. We have the same formation. You're perfectly capable of replacing one of our recruits, Dr. Ferrarius."
"Capable, my ass. My last stealth drill was years ago."
"It shows," the Lieutenant snickered. "Now, go. Lonnie's in the weaponry."
The doctor grumbled to herself as she headed towards the most crowded spot of the agora where the headquarters stood. She elbowed a few people on her way, grunting a few excuses that earned her disapproving looks. But when the soldiers recognized the doc who always patched them up when they got hurt on their missions, they all smiled and pushed aside to let her in.
Never mind the nice faces, she should have saved herself the trouble of going back into the field. What a great idea she had, to leave the Horde for the Dissidents.
"This is the last time I'm playing princesses…" she huffed as she closed the door behind her.
"Excuse me, what? You think fighting the Horde puts us on the same level as the Princesses? I'm offended."
Ferrarius sighed when she heard the soft voice of her captain. "Why don't we let the Princesses do their part so that I don't have to do a job I'm clearly unqualified for?"
Lonnie crossed her arms against her chest, obviously amused by the doctor's suggestion. "You know perfectly why, Fee. I'm not going to explain it again."
She looked good like this, self-assured and confident in her leading. It was hard to imagine she used to cry when Ferrarius stitched her wounds from drills a few years ago. They were her first stitches, sure, but she did them pretty well. At least, that was what she thought.
"You're no fun, Captain. If I can't even complain anymore…" she ignored Lonnie's snort. "I almost ran into Octavia. I think I deserve a medal for coming back in one piece."
Lonnie looked sad at that statement. Ferrarius should have thought twice before mentioning their main opponent. She had learned by hearsay that Lonnie was trying to snap Octavia out of the killer-machine frenzy that Hordak had turned her into.
"Here, your message of the week."
Lonnie shook her head. Her face composed a serious mask, enhanced by the light emitted by the magical firefly tech of the Magicats. She grabbed the paper, and as she read it, a frown distorted her traits.
"Is everything okay?" Ferrarius asked in concern.
"Yeah… Just complications. Thanks for getting the message here safely."
Ferrarius smiled and walked out, leaving the captain alone with her thoughts. She might have complained a lot, but she didn't regret defecting from the Horde at all. She trusted Lonnie to keep them all safe in the end. Safe and independent, free from any form of submission.
"The Dissidents. Need. The Rebellion."
"I know, Emily," Lonnie replied as she paced around the bot, who was processing tons of data stolen from the Horde at the same time. "But I really don't think it's a good idea to put our trust in them when they can't even get along with each other."
"We. Need. Catra. For Entrapta."
"Yes, I know that too. Ugh… Why can't you just refresh Entrapta's memories without Catra?"
"It will. Endanger her. With Hordak." The bot's mechanical voice annoyed Lonnie sometimes. She preferred when she still had to read her sentences. "Once. Catra is there. We can start. Revolution."
"Right, like we're not doing anything right now on our own," Lonnie retorted. She jolted when she heard the door of Emily's improvised lab open. She breathed out when she recognized Rogelio stepping in. Lonnie's nerves had suffered a lot since her escape from the Horde. "Hey, Rogelio. Guess what? Catra pulled some bullshit again, and now the Northern Princesses don't wanna talk to her Alliance anymore."
"What did she do?" Rogelio signed as he plopped down on a chair, his prosthetics clunking pleasantly against the metal.
"I don't know. Shadow Weaver said she harmed Angella. What the fuck was she thinking?" Lonnie asked herself.
"That's weird," Rogelio signed slowly. "Why would she do that?"
"I have no idea. But it's compromising our operations. We're officially on Catra's side now since she's supposed to help us keep the Fright Zone to ourselves after the war."
"The Princesses. Will. Come around," Emily said. The reassurance she wanted to convey really didn't push through in Lonnie's opinion.
"Oh yeah? Because of the big secret Catra knows that you don't wanna tell us about? Well, they better come around soon, then. I'm sick of living down there with lighting bugs floating above my head every minute of the day."
"Calm down, Lonnie," Rogelio patted her shoulder. "We're almost there."
Her shoulders slumped, releasing a tension she didn't realize she was holding. She was so anxious to see the end of the war coming. She had worked so hard for the Dissidents. She couldn't make it all go to waste because that stupid Magicat didn't know how to control her claws.
"Shadow Weaver said we should make a move soon," Lonnie added. "Hordak knows when the Rebellion plans on attacking. We can't afford to lose. We can't…"
"We won't," Rogelio signed with assurance. "Whether Catra, her alliance, and the rest of the Rebellion help us or not. We have Shadow Weaver on our side. And by the way…" Lonnie raised a brow. Rogelio looked uncomfortable. "Did you tell Catra about her?"
"No. And I don't intend to until it's absolutely necessary."
Rogelio pouted but didn't reply. She knew what he was thinking. He understood how vital it was to have their old caretaker snitching for them. She gave them great info and helped them many times to counterattack Hordak and Octavia's plans.
But she was still the woman who raised them...with much cruelty. Trusting her had been a hard pill to swallow for many of the Dissidents. And Lonnie was aware that Catra would never accept it. She would probably never forgive her.
"Shit…" Lonnie cursed under her breath as she pictured that scenario. Catra rejecting her still hit a damaged nerve in her heart. But Lonnie had made her choice, just like Catra. The Dissidents mattered more than her personal relationship with the Magicat queen.
Rogelio waved to catch her attention then signed, "It's going to be fine. We're all supporting you, Captain."
Lonnie smiled. The Dissidents were worth it all. All the pain and the stress she'd endured for months after escaping with Emily. All the inner fights she faced about the hard decisions she had to make, like leaving Entrapta in Hordak's hands for months. Trusting Shadow Weaver. Making her own terms with the Alliance of the South. Rejecting Catra when she'd asked to come back as their leader.
"One step. At a time." Emily concluded with her monotonous artificial voice. "We will. Make it. In the end."
"Alondra, dearie… Come in."
"Am I too late, Razz?"
"You're not, don't worry. She's still breathing. Mara is still with us."
It has all happened before
Cursed with Mara
Listen to the ghosts
Doomed with Adora
Change your fate
Adora and Mara
Taste the truth
Unleash your wrath
and the Beginning
Listen to the mask,
She woke up in a loud gasp, propelling herself up straight until her head collided with a sharp surface.
"Ouch! Man, you have a way of coming back alive, Wildcat!"
Catra groaned as she rubbed her forehead. It took her a few minutes to make sense of her surroundings. She was lying in her tent, back at the Magicat camp, surrounded by Scorpia, Lucio, and… Mermista?
"Dude, you really look like shit. No offense," the Salinean princess noted in a pitiful tone. Plopped down on a bean bag, playing with Catra's bracelets, she was looking way too casual for the situation. Catra blinked several times, going back and forth between Mermista and Scorpia.
"Shit." Catra facepalmed. She shouldn't have let Scorpia join her in Brightmoon. She should have asked her to go back to the desert, to Little Halfmoon, where the Magicats were finally safe. But she wouldn't have been able to give her news from there about her spying on Hordak... There was no way of getting in touch with Little Halfmoon. Made on purpose, to protect the Magicats. "What are you doing here, Mermista?!"
"Wow, chill out, dude," Mermista snorted. "I was just passing by when Glimmer freaked out and locked down the castle, so I went in and saw your niece carrying you back to your tent, and then I saw Scorpia, and it's been ages since I've last seen her so I decided to come say hi and ask why the fuck she was in Brightmoon and not the super-secret-miles-away Magicat hideout in the desert. Can I take one of these?"
Mermista was already trying an arm bracelet on while Catra watched her incredulously.
"Catra, it's fine, really," Scorpia put a pincer on her shoulder. "I just told her I had a dangerous mission that nobody could know about, and then we had a talk about being a powerless princ-"
"HEY!" Mermista snapped. "That stays between us, crab girl."
"I'm a scorpion, actually."
"Okay, stop!" Catra rubbed her eyes. She felt so dizzy, as if she would pass out again. "Glimmer did what? What happened? Why am I like this-"
"Oh no…" Catra jumped on her feet. It all came back to her in a flash. The conversation in the woods. The horrible flashback. Shadow Weaver torturing Katriska. Waking up alone with the dreadful feeling she had done something she would regret forever. "I need to go." Catra grabbed a shirt and headed towards the entrance of the tent, but a firm hand on her shoulder held her back.
"You can't," Lucio said calmly. "The North doesn't want you there for now. You need to stay, get some rest, and tell us what happened."
"I don't KNOW what happened!" Catra slapped his hand away angrily, but her voice cracked in distress. "I don't remember, but I…"
"Catra, stop, please!"
Tears mixed with blood on her pretty purple face.
"Catra. Sit down. You're shaking." Catra followed Lucio's soft order. She buried her face in her hands, hiding her own tears from her audience.
"I hurt Angella," Catra said in such a small voice Lucio had to perk his ears up. "I had another flashback, but this one was different. It was like someone forced the memory out and smashed it against my face."
"So you smashed Angella's for good measure," Mermista said in a bored tone, then shrugged when she saw all the glares directed at her. "Whaaat, it's kinda true."
"I didn't want to," Catra protested. "Fuck, I ruined everything."
"Yeaaah. Glimmer is like, royally pissed, pun intended, so if I were you, I'd stay away from her, 'cause she's as Magicat-friendly as the Fright Zone right now."
"Princess Mermista, as much as I appreciate a good sense of humor, this isn't the time for jokes," Lucio scolded her then turned back to Catra. "What was the flashback about?"
Catra stared daggers at him. "I saw Katriska beat up Shadow Weaver in Mystacor the night that witch stole the mask."
The old man looked uncomfortable. "I'm sorry you had to relive that."
"Not as sorry as me," she spat, then just stared at him. She turned towards Scorpia and Mermista after a few seconds of consideration. "I need to speak with Lucio. In private."
"Oh, sure! No problem, Wildcat! See you later," Scorpia smiled. She grabbed Mermista by the arm, but the Salinean princess protested.
"Waaait, the drama's barely started. I wanna hear the end!"
Catra rolled her eyes when the princesses were out of sight and Mermista's complaints out of earshot.
Lucio sat on the bean bag, tucking the folds of his Great Advisor's robe in a manner that didn't fail to remind Catra of the Queen of Brightmoon.
"What do you wish to say to me, my Queen?"
"Why the hell did Katriska go to Mystacor?"
"Why did she leave Halfmoon? That night?" Catra's voice sounded desperate. She knew it. She knew she should learn to control her emotions, but she didn't care right now. "She left, alone, during the lockdown… For what?! Another silly meeting she knew wouldn't change the Princesses' minds about Hordak?"
"She wanted to show them proof that Hordak was evil, Catra," Lucio argued calmly. "Our mages had finally discovered the connection between Hordak and Light Spinner-" Catra flinched at that name. "Katriska wanted to spill the truth to the King of Mystacor."
"And not even once did she think she could be in danger from, oh, I don't know… Shadow Weaver herself?!"
"She had Angella."
"Angella and I sure know how to protect each other," Catra said pettily.
"Katriska and I were the only ones who knew about the secret entrance to Halfmoon. She had to leave alone, and I had to stay behind in order to open the magical gate for her."
"You can do magic?"
"Only this trick."
Catra huffed. She was pacing around him, silently wondering if he was hiding other things from her. "She made a mistake. A stupid mistake."
Catra kicked a big brown soldier bag under Lucio's contemplative stare. A shiny purple crystal fell out of it, bumping softly on the carpet. Catra picked it up and threw it back in.
"A sad mistake," Lucio nodded. "But you know it couldn't be avoided. Sooner or later, Hordak would have found our people and-"
"Don't you DARE finish that sentence," she seethed. "You all and your fucking prophecies… Your life wasn't controlled by this bullshit. You planned out your life according to it!"
"That is your opinion on the subject."
"You're damn right that is my opinion, and you're not gonna make me change it!"
"I wouldn't have it any other way."
Catra groaned. He was so infuriating. Her head was getting hot from overthinking. A queen was supposed to keep a cool head during stress. She was supposed to be able to see the different problems and their outcomes clearly. But how could she?
Katriska. Angella. The Magicats. Hordak. Adora. Mystacor. The prophecy. The flashback...
"Fuck Katriska!" she yelled. "Fuck me! All of this could have been prevented!" She snapped her head back at him, anger making her eyebrows twitch. "Be honest with me. Did she know?"
"Did she know?" Lucio just repeated back. He didn't look the least impressed by Catra's outburst. It just made her angrier than ever.
"Did she know that we would be slaughtered?" Catra's claws unsheathed on their own. "Did Katriska know that I would be her after her? Did she know how much I would suffer?!"
Lucio took a while to answer. He looked at her panting, with his tranquil eyes. As if he was pondering what part of the truth he should tell her.
"No. None of us knew, Catra."
She stared hard in each of his green eyes, then at his ears, his tail, his wrinkles. She couldn't read him. She couldn't read anything.
She wasn't a real Magicat.
"FUCK!" she raged. She clawed at the tent, leaving a gash in the fabric. "What if you had known? You wouldn't have stopped it, right?!"
"How... dare you!" Lucio stood up, taking Catra by surprise. For once he wasn't hiding his emotions under a mask. "I know you still struggle to trust us, to trust me, but how could you ask if I would let my people, my own daughter, and my queen die under Hordak's cruelty?"
Catra wanted to shrink on herself, but she held her posture. "You can't blame me for doubting, given the situation."
"It's fine. If you let yourself unlock all of Katriska's memories, you would see everything that happened."
"You know I can't." She hugged herself when she thought of the flashbacks she was regularly suffering from. Keeping them out by force was the last thing she should do. She was aware of that. But it was too hard. It was too hard being her. "And I didn't need to in the end. I have the crystals from the Temple. They hold more information than the mask ever could."
"The crystals just tell you the facts of the story," Lucio shook his head. "If you want to know what's in your heart, you need the mask."
Catra looked away to hide her discomfort. She would never get used to sharing a link with the Magicat queens, and especially not Katriska. Never Katriska. She was not her. She would never be her.
"Look at what it brings, digging up the past," Catra scoffed. "Angella spent almost twenty years wondering if she was the reason for our fall. And someday, I'll have to tell her she was right," she snickered bitterly.
"You don't have to tell her."
"I'm sick of lying." She used to be so good at that. She used to do it so easily. To keep her position close to Hordak as his Second-in-Command, she had to hide or twist the truth to her advantage so many times.
Now she couldn't stand it anymore.
Funny how things changed.
"I'm really sick of hiding the truth, Lucio," she sighed again.
"Start talking then."
Catra's and Lucio's ears perked up at the sound of a new voice. They whirled around at the same time. Catra widened her eyes when she saw her, gripping the handle of her sword like she wanted to break it. Dark circles under her blue eyes made them look murderous. Her blonde hair was sticking to her head like she was feverish.
"I said," she repeated harshly. "Start. Talking."