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Prisoner of Conscience

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Adora struggled to hide her excitement; it was finally time to repay her debt and make everything right again. Collapsing the slag heap had gone perfectly. The entire garrison had charged out to meet her, Catra and Glimmer, only to see them vanish in a puff of glitter once they were close enough. They reappeared in front of the entrance just in time to watch Bow’s explosives send the rubble cascading into the road. Glimmer vanished again, teleporting herself back to the others and their next part of the plan. Now it was down to her and Catra.

“Let’s go.” The Magicat whispered as she began sauntering into the mining camp. There was something about seeing Catra so determined that she found exciting, not quite the awkward longing that she’d come to call the Catra feeling. Still, more like the rush she’d felt dancing with her at Princess Prom.

The mining camp was as quiet as they’d hoped; the miners were in the middle of their shift, and the garrison was struggling with the slag heap. Anyone else had better things to do or had gone into hiding once the alarm went off. All according to plan. At this point, the only reminder that this wasn’t a ghost town was the garrison’s distant curses and the gravely Reptilian roaring that had to be Dragstor losing his nerve.

There were still a lot of Dragstor’s troops standing around their vehicles, clutching their weapons as a handful were unpacking supply crates from his truck. The black steel behemoth Kyle and Glimmer had described was still sat in place on the back of the lead vehicle. That wasn’t ideal, they might have to go through more of Dragstor’s band than they’d hoped to get to Scorpia, but nothing they couldn’t handle.

Once the truck was in view, Catra’s whole posture shifted; the fur on her arms was standing on end, and there was a tremble to her step. Adora reached out a hand, quietly resting it on her shoulder, the only comfort she could offer. Catra’s head snapped back to her the moment she made contact, glaring at her in blue and gold. Okay, maybe she just needed to do this.

The ragged Force Captain was directing traffic from atop a crate, pointing and yelling at anyone not moving quickly enough. Catra’s photos hadn’t done justice to just how little of him was left; cybernetics littered him from head to toe, a missing arm, and tubes and pipes covering his iron-clad torso, hooking up the tanks on his back to an uncomfortable-looking breathing mask, there was something in his file about a swoop bike crash she recalled, but these injuries were far beyond such a mundane description.

Dragstor’s troops were a sloppy bunch, not one of them adhering to uniform regulations; in fact, they looked more like a bandit gang playing dress-up. Their weapons were no joke, though; each was armed to the teeth with pulse rifles, crossbows and melee weapons of every sort. They would need to be careful.

“Hey, assholes.” Catra just strode out into the open, yelling at anyone able to hear her. Dragstor’s soldiers ground to a halt, every eye on her, none of them daring to move until Dragstor hopped down from his makeshift pedestal.

“I know you; you’re She-Ra’s pet, right?” Dragstor growled in that heavy Reptilian tongue.

“Oh, I’m a lot of things scrap heap. Why don’t you and your goons get out of here before I walk you through the list.” Catra teased; suddenly, every weapon was pointed right at her, save Dragstor’s, who was pacing frantically.

“Get out of here? Get out of here? You listen to me, you stupid little traitor bitch, I’m going nowhere, you on the other hand….” He drew his sidearm, a harsh looking hunk of black steel with two gaping barrels; this wasn’t any kind of Horde standard issue; the damned thing would take your head off with no problem at all. “You, on the other hand, are going on a one way trip to the dirt.” He waved his weapon in Catra’s face as he chuckled at his own threats.

Catra didn’t so much as blink; she flexed her fingers for a moment, her claws retracted as she did so, before extending back out. For a few seconds, she just stood there watching the cyborg Reptilian gloat; he had begun a raspy diatribe on his own victory when Catra lunged. She was fast, so far; even from this distance, she could make out his blood-red eyes dilate, his slitted pupils shrinking almost to nothing. His weapon fell to the ground in ribbons.

“Haha, she got you good.” A low, wet voice spat from the shadows behind the truck, and the hulking blue-green form of a Slebatorian slunk into view. The slug folk some called them, and it obvious to see why; thick rippling layers of fat and muscle beneath slick teal flesh and a bulging gut distorting his slime stained uniform. His arms and feet were bare, exposing his bulbous fingertips and toes, each the size of her own forearm and connected by thick webbing.

Force Captain Leech, she recognised him from Catra’s wall of fame. He had been one of their pursuers in the Fright Zone, the one who subdued Scorpia to hear Glimmer tell the story, but who he was seemed less important than why the hell he was here?

“Let me guess, you’re here to babysit road rage over here.” She gestured to the snarling Dragstor. “Etheria knows you’re not much good for anything else.” Catra leapt straight into verbal assault. It was a trap that Adora had been stumbling into for most of her life, getting wound up at Catra’s taunts and taking the loss because of it, and these two were not as thick-skinned as they looked.

“I’m here to make a point,” Leech grunted, his giant gaping maw dripping thick mucus with every chuckle. What was this? Nothing in any of Kyle’s reports had him here; in fact, he was supposed to be down south somewhere if she remembered correctly.

“Then make it, so I can get to the kicking your ass part.” Catra’s voice dripped with contempt.

“I was getting bored of waiting anyway.” Leech’s thick lips twisted into a cruel smile. His huge webbed hand slithered to his belt and pulled something from it.” A dark cylinder with a few buttons that would have easily filled the palm of any human hand was lost amongst his slick digits. Wait, she knew what that was, and from the stern look on Catra’s face, she recognised it too; a detonator.

“It’s…” Catra’s words abandoned her, and even Dragstor looked confused at the device.

“A trap.” Leech cackled. No. What had they walked into? How had they walked into it? They’d planned everything so carefully. This didn’t make sense. She was putting a stop to this.”

“Enough.” Adora strode into the middle of the clearing, drawing all eyes to her.

“She-Ra!” Dragstor’s growl was shakey, his gun hand trembling as he cried her name. His men, too, seemed hesitant to do anything, all standing like Frosta’s ice sculptures in her presence.

“Shadow Weaver said you’d be here too.” Leech scoffed as loudly as he could manage, though his carefree expression remained. He had a reputation as a strong fighter but not much more than a  brute. There were those hands of his though, she could make out the markings on his palms, the ones that would clamp down on his victims and drain their power.

“How?” Adora demanded, her voice as cold as She-Ra could manage.

“That outpost you took out; they got a message off. Lord Hordak’s been controlling what you’ve been seeing ever since.” Leech slobbered. “He set you up.”

“Where’s Scorpia?” Catra snarled.

“She’s right where you think she is.” Dragstor hissed, finding his courage again.

“Live bait works best,” Leech confirmed. Catra’s eyes barely left the black crate with the cell door, still sat on the back of Dragstor’s flatbed.

Might be an overstatement, she was looking rough when we put her in there, and it’s been a bumpy ride.” Dragstor was straight up back to gloating now; she couldn’t wait to watch Catra tear him apart. It looked like she would get that wish; Catra’s fingers were flexing again, and no amount of armour would spare the cyborg her wrath.

 “Forget about that traitor; you’ve got other problems right now.” Leech raised the detonator again, his globular thumb hovering centimetres above its button.

“Whatever you’ve got planned, I’m going to stop you, put it down and walk away,” Adora ordered, all the authority of Etheria’s avatar flowing into her words.

He hesitated, his fleshy digit recoiled from the trigger for just a second, then his eyes hardened again. “Orders are orders. Shadow Weaver’s gonna reward me for this.” What was he planning to blow up? Did he know where the others were? Or was it Scorpia’s crate? There was nothing else she wasn’t going to find out.

She-Ra’s rage burned through her, and she started moving, a beeline for Leech. He seemed surprised with how quickly she closed the distance, but Leech slid backwards from her grip, and his plump digit found its mark with a horrifying click.

The ground beneath them roared. And the sky behind the rows of prefabs spat fire and dusky fumes into the air. He’d blown up the mine. Why? It didn’t make sense; it was full of the Horde’s own people, civilians. This couldn’t be part of the trap; this place was real; she had seen the shift start with her own eyes.

“What are you doing?” She cried, desperate for an explanation.

“It was never about stopping us….” Catra murmured; Adora could see the puzzle solving itself behind her blue and gold eyes.

“Why!” The ferocity of her voice, enough to make even Leech wince.

“I just kill who they tell me to kill, and right now, that means a bunch of useless miners,”  Leech growled and earned a raspy chuckle from Dragstor.

“Adora, it’s a false flag. They’re trying to make it look like the Rebellion did this.” Catra answered, but it didn’t make any sense; the Rebellion would never do anything like this; nobody would believe them. “It makes the Princesses look as bad as the Horde say they are, and this time they’ll have a pile of corpses to prove it. Also makes me look like a monster; anyone who thought Claw Squad were heroes will be thinking differently after this.”

“Shadow Weaver said, you’d be coming to save the traitor no matter what, and wasn’t much chance of us stopping She-Ra a second time. So why not hurt you where we can.”

“If this was the plan, you lot could have at least warned me.” Dragstor hissed.

“You blew up your own mine, killed your own people, just to make us look bad?”

“But we didn’t blow up the mine. You did.” Leech boomed, his stupid grin stretching to the corner of his thick lips. It was getting harder and harder to hold She-Ra back now.

“You want to turn this place into a bloodbath?” Catra’s fury seemed so much different than her own than She-Ra’s; she almost seemed to be in control of it. “Fine.”

And then all hell broke loose. Catra’s rammed her elbow into Dragstor’s gut; he roared in pain and stumbled backwards. Catra span and slashed at him with predatory precision, only his thick bracers sparing him from the Magicat’s fury. After a few frantic strikes, he came back at her with a knife, his own swings far less coordinated; it was almost like when she’d seen drunkards take swings at the guards outside the tavern in the market square.

Catra looked like she was born for this. Her whole body seemed designed to move and flow, to fight and dance and laugh in the face of anyone who dared oppose her. She hated how right all of them had been; Glimmer, Netossa, Spinerella, Angella, Rogelio; this had to be love, right? She could barely take her eyes off the fight before her, the warmth Catra brought to her very soul even lulling She-Ra’s passion for battle.

It didn’t last, one of Dragstor’s men came at her, swinging a mace, and just like that, she was in the game. She dodged the first blow with ease; the scruffy-looking faun on the other end was just like her boss, little more than a brawler, with none of the forms one saw with properly trained Horde soldiers. It took little effort to manoeuvre between her attacks, ducking under one swing, then sidestepping another. With a heavy swing, she brought the flat of her sword to bear against her opponent’s face, sending them spinning into the dust and gravel.

More were sprinting towards her now, five of them and a handful of others moving around further back. She-Ra urged her to fight them, defend Etheria, her friends, her Catra, anyone and anything that stood between them. She charged right back at them, screaming a battle cry of her own. There was no time to draw this out and no way they could take any prisoners; holding back was not an option. Blood would be spilt today.

The first soldier didn’t even get a chance to attack; the crystalline blade slid through his torso like he was made of cake; he didn’t even make a noise; he just slumped to the ground. It wasn’t the first life she’d taken; this was a war after all, but there was still something haunting about it, the way that she could turn a person into a thing with a flick of her wrist. She-Ra seemed pleased though; a warm feeling flooded her entire body; she seemed to be fulfilled if only for a moment before the next poor fools came for her.

Little gave the next woman’s identity away; a few flashes of lavender flesh poked out beneath layers of worn leather and dinted armour. Adora span to meet her and cut clean through the stun baton raised above her enemies head. There was a flash as the Sword of Protection met the electronics, an explosion of white sparks in her face and the woman dropped to her knees screaming and clutching her eyes.

Catra was on the offence again, leaping at the cab of Dragstor’s truck and almost bouncing off it into the Force Captain, slashing at his helmet and cracking his open visor. She landed behind him, crouching low and kicked at the back of his knee; he buckled with a scream, but before she could finish, Catra was driving his face into the ground. Dragstor let out a laboured scream, mangled by the sound of his visor shattering.

She dispatched another of Dragstor’s men, a squat man with a rust coloured goatee. She turned to Catra to watch her leave three bloody marks on the face of a bald woman. There were more of them coming, more than a dozen; even She-Ra would struggle against them all at once. Then another foe got close; a furious looking man swung a hatchet at her. His swings were as chaotic as his uniform, each one missing her. He screamed as he swang and screamed when she planted her sword into his stomach; another poor fool roped into this stupid war.

There was a wet roar, and Catra screamed. Adora’s head snapped back to see Leech drive his shoulder into her, slamming her into the side of Dragstor’s flatbed. Her oldest friend, the girl she loved, lay crumpled at that monster’s feet, enemies closed in around her, and Scorpia was still their prisoner. She-Ra wanted to stand and fight them, and honestly, so did Adora. She dug in her feet and raised her blade.

Leech ignored her; instead, reaching for Catra, the jagged teeth in the centre of his palm twitched, anticipating their meal. That wasn’t going to happen; there wasn’t a chance she was going to let him drain her lifeforce, or energy, or whatever his powers were supposed to do. She took a step towards him. “Leave her alone.” Leech snarled in response, finally acknowledging her presence. And grabbed at Catra. The Magicat shuddered.

WSSHH

An arrowhead erupted from Leech’s shoulder, and he wailed in agony. Bow! She looked past his flailing form to the rooftops where Bow was notching a second arrow. Beside him, Lonnie crouched, lining up the scope of her pulse rifle, sending a bolt of energy streaking across the battlefield into the chest of one of the charging soldiers. He spasmed for a few seconds when he hit the ground, then he stopped moving.

As if on cue, a blur of pink and purple dashed into the fray too, her father’s staff held aloft, crying “Brightmoon” as she ran. Kyle and Rogelio would be right behind Glimmer, Adora knew., together they would make light work of these idiots. Even Catra was stirring, using the bed of the truck, she pushed herself back up and glared into Leech’s orange eyes.

And then the soldiers were on them. There was no time to spare them or stop and think about them as people; the garrison would be here soon, and unless they could get to Scorpia, this whole mess would be for nothing. She had no choice but to cut them down but cut them down she did. Catra to one side of her, Glimmer to the other. This was everything she’d dreamed of; fighting for Etheria together, being the heroes she had always pictured them as.

Glimmer swang her staff, cracking a barrel-chested man across the jaw as Catra swiped at the neck of a second; and Adora drove her blade into another unfortunate trooper, he tried to say something when she drew it from their chest, but it only came out as a wheeze.

There was still no sign of Kyle or Rogelio; maybe they’d gotten caught up in something. That would be typical Kyle; maybe he sprained his ankle or buried himself under some crates. Maybe they were helping survivors; that’s what they’d gone to do, right?.

CRASH

A metal crate flew past her head, exploding into a mound of ration bars when it collided with the side of a prefab shack. Leech was back in the fight,  charging into the three of them, shoulder first. Catra danced around him, unwilling to get caught a second time, as Glimmer teleported from his path. Adora, though, she stood her ground, braced for impact and readied for sword yet again. He had already hurt enough people today. No more.

Leech saw the weapon and tried to course-correct, his slick feet struggling to find a grip on the gravel underfoot. This was her chance; Adora moved in on the right and drove her blade towards him, Leech stumbled, and crystal met flesh, slicing into his side. He grimaced, hollering every curse he knew at her, before grabbing the sword. And yanking it from his wound. Adora lost her balance and stumbled backwards with the bloody sword.

Panic flooded Leech’s eyes as he comprehended the slash across his flank; he pulled the detonator from his belt a second time and reached for the trigger. “No reward is worth this”, He slurred as he pushed that murderous red button. The ground trembled for just a second before the thunderous explosion rocked everything around them, small crates toppled from their stacks, and a few of the soldiers struggled to keep their balance. She even caught a glance of Lonnie grabbing Bow, stopping him from plummeting from his perch.

When she turned to inspect Leech’s mess, she saw a half dozen plumes of black smoke and even a few licks of flames from whatever rooftops had survived the blasts. When she looked back around, Leech was gone. Damn him.

“Are you okay?” Glimmer called at her as the Princess slid up to her.

“Yeah…” Adora grimaced, she’d found her balance, but she’d failed to stop Leech twice now; who knew how many more people had been in those buildings. How many civilians, or Horde non-combatants. She might as well have killed them herself.

Catra joined them, standing to her side, leaving the three of them back-to-back as the remnant of Dragstor’s men began their wary advance. Catra’s ears twitched, and she turned her head at some faint sound beyond her own hearing. “Kyle”, she muttered, “it’s Kyle; he’s calling for you. For She-Ra.”

“What?” Adora exclaimed.

“Coming from the mine, I think. The idiot sounds like he’s in trouble.” Catra explained. That couldn’t be good.

“Okay, but what about you?” Adora asked back.

“Go! we can handle these losers.” Catra cried, and she did, running past the carnage, past the fallen Horde troopers, the scattered cargo and into the smouldering inferno.

 


 

Adora forced her way from the fight, dragging She-Ra’s from the heat of battle. Sprinting into the maze of prefab buildings, bunkhouses, storage sheds and whatever else they were, it didn’t take long for them to give way to ruins and rubble. Putrid fumes filled the air, becoming a thick smog as it rose. She’d known the Horde was evil, but this was absurd; killing their own people; civilians even didn’t make sense no matter how Catra span it.

She clambered through the rubble, forcing herself not to look at the occasional charred limb that protruded from beneath the newly made ruins. She needed to get to Kyle and find out what had happened. She wasn’t going to leave them behind again; she couldn’t. It had taken a year to get them to Brightmoon. Since they’d arrived, they had already started to become, she didn’t know how to explain it, more of themselves; almost like when you coloured in a drawing.

As she neared mine, Kyle’s calls grew louder; she could hear them clearly now. His barely comprehensible sobs and rambling; occasionally, he’d stop to call her name. Was he hurt? He had to be, that or… Why couldn’t she hear Rogelio? If they were trying to get her attention, she’d be able to hear his roar from the other side of the compound. She picked up her pace, shoving aside the broken pieces of wall or blackened supply crates that stood before her, driving She-Ra onward to their common goal.

There they were, it was hard to miss them, given that nearly everything surrounding them had been reduced to ash.  Rogelio was propped against one of the still-standing structures as Kyle held his hand, loudly weeping. Something wasn’t right… no… not propped; he was pinned. Ro was pinned to the prefab by a giant metal pipe. No.

She ran towards them, she had to do something, help him, save him, anything. Then she was going to make Leech suffer for this, and not just him; Dragstor, his men, Shadow Weaver, Hordak, anyone and everyone who would do this. She was She-Ra; she was Etheria’s wrath.

“Kyle!” She cried, desperate to grab his attention, “Kyle!” she called again. “Kyle!” a third time, he looked up; the whites of his eyes were red, and he barely seemed to register her. “What happened.”

“I… I.. don’t know. There was an explosion; I went to check… check it out, and then he… there was another one, and then… I don’t know… you have to help him. Please, Adora, I can’t… I can’t lose him.” Then she noticed his other hand, clutching his side, a dark red stain slowly growing beneath his palm. That couldn’t be good.

Rogelio was still breathing at least, but it was laboured; there was no way his lung hadn’t been punctured. This was precisely why she needed to go back to Light Hope; the hologram had warned her that she would get her friends hurt, and here she had been right. The sooner Adora returned to the Crystal Castle, the sooner she would learn how all this worked, how to be a real She-Ra. Even if she had to give up her friends, even if she had to let all of them go, if it stopped things like this from happening to them, it would be worth it, right? That was how you won wars instead of battles; you planned long term, you made hard choices.

Adora knelt beside her friend and placed her hand upon him. She could do this; she’d managed to heal his wounds after the skiff crash; she had done it for everyone, easy. This was just the same, only much, much worse.

Where was she even supposed to start; maybe she should start with that wound on Kyle’s side. It looked pretty nasty, and she might need his help. Yeah, that sounded like a good idea. She marched around Rogelio and roughly stood him up as straight as she could, pulling his bloody shirt up as far as she could to reveal his pale, lean stomach. There was a gash down one side, no more than a few centimetres deep, but it ran the whole length of his side; if she didn’t do something, he probably wouldn’t make it back either. “Stay still”, she ordered.

“But Rogelio…” Kyle protested, wincing as She-Ra’s muscular hands pressed onto the wound. Triggering another trickle of crimson to ooze from within.

“Stay still; I’m going to need your help.” She announced, and Kyle meekly obeyed, remaining motionless as she worked. She could feel him; his life, his essence, it was like a pale light that somehow felt uniquely “Kyle”. The more she focused on it, the clearer the light got, and the more ‘Kyle shaped it became, and just like at the skiff wreck, She-Ra guided her to a hole in the light, an empty void along one side. She let Etheria’s power flow into the space, and slowly but surely, the light began to overtake it. A few moments later, the figure in her mind’s eye was pristine. When she opened her eyes, she found Kyle’s stomach was healed; only the faintest of scars remained. He nodded at her gratefully, but his newfound health had done little to offset his nerves; he still trembled with his every movement. His previous awe for She-Ra’s power was gone too; now, he was looking past her, locked on his dying friend.

“R-right” Kyle took a few deep breaths, his raw eyes still locked on Rogelio’s limp form. Now for the hard part, Adora took up position on Ro’s left and laid out her hands once again.

Just like she had with Kyle, she focused on Rogelio, on the connection between her hands, him and Etheria. His essence was there, but it was paler than she remembered, like it was fading away, the edges more grey than white. She willed She-Ra to guide her once again, and there it was; a great, dark void in Rogelio’s essence. She concentrated on it, and it began to shrink, slower than with Kyle, but it was still shrinking, pale light began to wash over the darkness until all of a sudden; it didn’t’. She’d barely made a dent into it when the void just stopped receding. That wasn’t right. What had she done wrong?

The pole. “Kyle”, she called. “I need you to hold that pole still; I need to pull him off.

She moved behind Rogelio and took hold of him under his muscular arms. She nodded to Kyle, urging him to keep the scaffolding pole as steady as he could manage. Adora pulled, and slowly Rogelio glided along the metal shaft, each centimetre a war between urgency and safety. As he slid along, he left a bloody trail until he finally came loose with a wet popping noise that made her stomach turn.

Adora dragged the limp form backwards a few paces; Kyle was still holding the pole, now topped by a slick red smear. She called at him,  and after shaking loose the cobwebs from his mind, he scampered to meet her. He knelt on Rogelio’s right as tears ran down his cheek, mixing with the soot and pooling black on the ground. He reached out and put the Reptilian’s hand in his own, stroking gently and trying not to let the terror in his eyes take hold. “Come on, Ro, you can do this. Come on, please.”

She went back to work and tried purging the void once again. This time, the slow reclamation by Rogelio’s essence was more successful, every second taking just a little more back into his life force. That lifeforce was still pale though, she thought it was even fainter than it had been on her first attempt. Wait…there it was; the whole shape just got that little bit darker and fuzzier around the edges. Damn it, she wasn’t going to let him die, couldn’t let him. She owed him too much, too much to let him fade away like this.

“Come on, Ro, stay with us.” It was Kyle, and for a few seconds, Rogelio’s essence flashed, brighter and stronger than she’d ever seen it, before fading back again. That was it.

“Kyle, keep talking; it’s important; keep going..” She called to him.

“You have to keep fighting,” He continued, “I can’t lose you, I can’t!” Kyle murmured, each word causing Rogelio’s essence to pulsate with life. As he spoke, Adora returned to the wound, restoring it with She-Ra’s healing touch.

“Just a little more”, Adora called, the wound so close to being sealed, and the light was getting brighter. It was amazing to watch it play out, to feel flesh, bone and organ knitting itself together, to feel the power flowing through her fingertips. To channel for once not just Etheria’s rage but its mercy.

“Please, I need you, I need you so much, please,” Kyle begged, each half-sobbed word breaking her heart. Kyle paused, “Ro, I love you.” Oh. Of course, he did, All of a sudden, scales turned to fur, and it was Catra dying before her.

“No!” Adorea screamed; she drew her hands away in shock and stumbled backwards. It couldn’t be; Catra was fine; she was back with Glimmer… fighting the Horde. What if... what if she was hurt, or face down in the gravel, slowly bleeding out? She should have been there to protect her. She couldn’t-”

“Adora”, Kyle’s voice cut through her nightmare. “Adora, please, you have to help him. I… I love him, Adora; I need you to do this, please.” Rogelio… she opened her eyes, and there he was, where she had seen Catra only moments before. Flat on his back, his chest rising and falling slowly in laboured motions, and Kyle kneeling beside him, hand in hand, his dark eyes pleading with her to save the man he loved.

He was right. Adora couldn’t just let him die; he was her friend, one of the most selfless people she’d ever known. He’d saved her life from that training accident, carried her back to their barracks when she’d collapsed from exhaustion, and he’d sat on the end of her bed and helped her with the Catra feeling. Adora crawled towards the two of them, pressed her hands back onto the supine Reptilian and continued her work.

Calm. Breathe. Adora could do it; she knew she could; she was so close and just had a little bit further to go. The final parts of Rogelio began restoring themselves under her touch. The hole in his lung was all but gone; next came his shattered ribs, the fragments of bone fitting into place like some grizzly jigsaw puzzle. Finally, the musculature, flesh and scales began to emerge on top of them. Eventually, it was done, and with Kyle’s declarations of hope and love anchoring Rogelio to the living world, pale yellow eyes slowly opened.

With a slow grunt, Rogelio slowly propped himself up on his elbows. Groggy eyes surveyed the scene taking in her and Kyle’s faces, gradually coming to realise what had happened to him. “What happened?” he growled raspily. She couldn’t help but grin at the sound of his voice; she had never been so glad to hear the rough Reptilian language or his

“You got caught up in that explosion,” Kyle explained, “You saved me.” his despair forgotten, replaced by delight.

“I did, didn’t I.” Rogelio smiled, flashing his pointed teeth with pride.

“He saved you back.” Adora grinned right back at him. “I just healed the wound; he kept you here.”

“Well, yeah, it was nothing really.” Kyle agreed nervously, quickly nodding at Adora, silently thanking her.

“He did…” A memory seemed to dawn on him, three little words she suspected that might change the Reptilian’s entire life. He stared into Kyle’s red raw eyes, and his smile changed; the bravado softened. She had best leave them to it; they probably had a lot to talk about. She pushed herself back to her feet and turned to leave. “Wait, what about the mission? What about Scorpia?” Rogelio asked.

“I don’t know; Catra and the others had it in hand. I'm going to go find out; you two had best get out of here.” She explained, craning her neck over her shoulder.

“Like hell.” Rogelio extended his hand, and Kyle took it, and with more than a bit of effort; pulling the big man to his feet. Rogelio stumbled on his first step forward, meekly growling as he fell to one knee. Maybe she should have healed him for longer, she might have fixed his wound, but she hadn’t managed to restore his strength.

“You should rest up. Kyle, get him to the rendevous point; I’ll get back to the others.” Adora ordered.

“Right.” He stepped towards Rogelio, “come on, Ro, on your feet.” He put an arm under his shoulder and hoisted him back up.”

She turned and began to walk away. “So…” She heard Rogleio growl from behind her, “you love me….”

“Uhm, well….” Kyle stuttered.

“It’s okay Kyle, I love you too.” She had to smile. After their talk in her room, she knew how much Ro had wanted to say those words, and maybe together, they could find some happiness. Part of her desperately wanted to do the same; to Catra, tell her how she felt, explain the yearning she felt deep within her heart. There was no way that her confession would end so happily, though. It didn’t matter what any of the others told her. It had been a battle just to get her to try to be friends again; anything else was out of the question. She sighed, continuing her walk away from the lovesick pair, and began her race back to the others.

By the time she got back to the battle, it had looked to have ended. None of the troops was left standing, there was no sign of Dragstor or Leech, and that ridiculous truck was speeding from the scene, still with that black steel crate strapped to its back, a skiff and a handful of swoop bikes around it. There was a blur of brown and purple chasing after it; Catra, she realised. All she could do was watch her sprint after the truck, half a heartbeat later, and she leapt onto a crate, using it as a launching pad for a second reckless jump to the truck. She wasn’t going to make it; not even Catra could manage that jump. Catra fell short, but no, she had managed to snag her claws onto a free-hanging tarp, and there she was, dangling from the back of it as Dragstor raced away. No, no, no, this was insane; she needed to get to them, to Catra and Scorpia.

“Adora!” Called Glimmer as she jogged over to them. Are the guys okay?”

“My boys? Adora, how are my boys?” Lonnie ran up to them, Bow in quick pursuit, trying to bandage her arm as they ran.

“Hey, stand still”, Bow called as they came to a stop,

“They’re good; Ro got hurt pretty bad in the explosion. But I gave him some of the old She-Ra healing magic. They’re heading to the rendevous.” Lonnie and Bow both nodded appreciatively. “We need to go after them. Glimmer, can you get me onto that truck.”

“I don’t think I have a choice.” The Princess responded, grabbing her arm.

“We’d better get out of here too,” Lonnie added, pointing to the camp entrance in the distance. The garrison was back in the game, pouring through the gates, scarpering to avoid the remnants of Dragstor’s fleeing convoy. “We’ll meet with the guys; keep to the plan.”

“Good luck.” Bow grinned. And with a puff of sparkles, she and Glimmer disappeared.