No.9 turned around to find himself face to face with what had to be Setra. He was the spitting image of a medieval dragon. His body was at least fifty feet long and slender and lizard-like, covered in scales that were a deep, blood red. His infamous head had four ivory tusks sticking out like a crown, two on either side. At that instant his nostrils were flaring from his protruding nose and his beetle-black eyes were narrowed in hatred.
No.9 glanced sideways at the rest of the team a few paces away. They were frozen in fear just like No.9, L.G. and Mortimer were in that instant. Suddenly, without hesitation, Genie Wiz rushed over to Setra with her flamethrower ready for action. Setra happened to notice this too and focused his attention to the tiny attacker.
“Quick,” No.9 yelled to Genie Wiz, “go for his tail!”
Genie Wiz tried to edge by Setra to get to his tail, but he was too quick for her. In an instant he had whipped his body around and was facing her head on. His tail was whipping back and forth wildly near No.9, L.G. and Mortimer now and they just barely managed to escape to the rest of the group before the six ivory spikes along each of its sides impaled each of them.
“Invent,” L.G. yelled out as he ran towards the group, “use your Confuser Grenades!”
Mr. Invent rummaged through his back pack and pulled out a cluster of three of the gas bombs. Genie Wiz was dodging Setra’s snapping mouth a few feet away as Mr. Invent fumbled through his pockets for his lighter.
“Hurry up!” Genie Wiz yelled out as Setra’s razor sharp teeth narrowly missed her leg.
Mr. Invent finally secured his lighter and quickly lit the fuses for the Confuser Grenades. As soon as he did so he threw the sizzling cluster near Setra’s clawed feet.A second later there was a loud CRACK and neon green gas floated in the air around the beast. The noise distracted Setra and the sight of the gas itself was enough to direct his anger away from Genie Wiz.
Setra looked dumbfounded as the gas floated higher and higher towards his horned head. The team stood still and cautious a few feet away with their weapons ready. Suddenly, Setra took a deep sniff of the green gas and within a few seconds his eyes had closed shut and his enormous body collapsed on the ground, shaking all of the charred trees around them.
Genie Wiz took this opportunity and darted towards Setra’s tail with her flamethrower at the ready.
“Careful,” Mr. Invent called out, “this stuff was meant for humans. I don’t know how long the effects will last!”
Genie Wiz pulled the flamethrower’s trigger and an amazing burst of flame erupted from the barrel and engulfed Setra’s tail. When the tank on Genie Wiz’s back was empty the flames died down and the effects of the fiery assault could be seen by the whole team.
The tail was unharmed.
“We never catch a break, do we?” Bombshell blurted out in amazement.
“Never mind,” No.9 replied to the whole group, “we got what we came for. Let’s get out of here while the thing’s still knocked out.”
Everyone agreed with this plan wholeheartedly. They had all started to gather their weapons together when a loud beeping noise started coming from L.G.’s pocket.
“The danger meter,” L.G. said with a worried expression as he took the black box from his pocket.
“Where are they?” No.9 asked hurriedly. It had to be Team 114 closing in.
“Right behind you.”
No.9 turned towards the burnt forest behind him at the sound of the voice, which was quickly followed by the cock of a pistol. Six agents emerged from the trees with their weapons drawn.
“Give us the particle and no one gets hurt,” said a burly man from Team 114.
No.9 turned his head to face his fellow team members. He had let them down. They were in no position to negotiate with these men and No.9 knew that they were unlikely to escape punishment from the agency if Team 114 didn’t kill them first. He was just about to pull out the container housing the Satar particle when he noticed Genie Wiz holding something long and shiny behind her back.
“No,” Blonde Bomb yelled back at the husky agent. “You can come get it over our dead bodies.”
The agents from Team 114 laughed at Blonde Bomb’s foolish courage.
“I suppose we’ll have to take you up on that offer,” the agent replied with a wicked smile. “You heard her boys. Over their dead bodies.”
Team 114 aimed their pistols directly at Blonde Bomb’s heart. Little did they know that 10 feet to her right, Genie Wiz had programmed her Booma-Bat to target all six of them.
Quick as a flash, Genie Wiz hurled the bat towards the six gunmen. The bat zoomed directly towards the husky agent and smacked his head with a loud crack. It whirled around to the knocked out point man’s right and whacked another agent dead in the nose before he even knew what was happening. Suddenly, the four remaining agents turned on the bat with confusion as it continued to assault them. Three more of the agents had been knocked unconscious before the last man standing realized what was happening. He weaved from left to right to avoid the blows as the bat whooshed past him. The desperate survivor fired a shot at the bat as it came racing towards his head but he missed and hit Setra instead, who let out a loud, painful roar. The beast tried to get to his feet but was quickly back on the ground and unconscious again.
The agent lost his concentration at the sight of Setra and the bat finally managed to strike a blow. However, instead of hitting him in the head, the bat smacked him directly in his right arm. As it did so his muscles reacted, just like anyone’s body would, and his fingers twitched, firing a single shot from the pistol.
Time seemed to slow down as the bullet fired. No.9 could almost see the trajectory and he looked on in horror as the cold grey cylinder glided towards Mortimer standing a foot away from him.
In less than a second the bullet had hit Mortimer. In less than a second the bullet had broken the skin. In less than a second Mortimer had fallen to the ground, a green substance oozing out of his wound.
“Mortimer!!!” No.9 shouted as he knelt down to his fallen friend.
The Booma-Bat made another turn in midair and headed towards the remaining agent. He took aim and fired six times. Two of them made contact and the Booma-Bat fell to the ground.
“I think you dislocated my shoulder you little brats!” The agent was rubbing his arm where the bat had struck him as he snarled at No.9 and the rest of the team. “You’ll pay for that dearly!”
The agent raised his weapon once more and pointed it at No.9. There was a small click as he pulled the trigger. He was out of ammo.
No.9 stood up consumed in anger. With one motion he ripped the Stun Sabre from his gym bag and swiped at the agent as he frantically tried to reload. The gun fell to the ground at No.9’s feet as he swung wildly through the air at the last remaining member of Team 114, the last connection to the agency that had betrayed him. Through gritted teeth and angry tears No.9 slashed through the air. The agent tried desperately to get away but was unsuccessful. No.9 landed a heavy blow to the man’s temple and he fell like a sack of bricks to the dirt floor.
No.9 dropped the Stun Sabre and ran over to Mortimer. Bombshell was cradling his head and Genie Wiz was throwing the contents of No.9’s supply box through the air in search of medical supplies.
“Mortimer,” No.9 let out with tears still streaming down his face, “It should have been me, Mortimer! I’m so sorry!”
No.9 knelt down next to his recent companion. This was what he had been afraid of: losing someone. And although he had just met this strange alien, they wouldn’t be anywhere without him.
“Stop your crying over me, sir,” Mortimer let out weakly. “I’m going to be just fine.”
No.9 wiped away the tears and did his best to reply in a firm voice. “You’ve been shot, Mortimer,” he replied. “What can we do to help?”
“My step mother,” Mortimer replied. “She’s a sorceress. Can make a missing leg seem like a scratch. You take me to her in my village, sir, and I know I’ll be just fine.” Mortimer lifted his pink hand and placed it lightly on No.9’s shoulder. “A simple bullet isn’t going to kill an Ubleg, sir. Not today.”
No.9 gave Mortimer a quick smile before leaping into action.
“Alright,” he directed the team, “we’re getting out of here immediately. How far is your village from here Mortimer?”
“About a mile west of here, sir,” Mortimer replied.
“Right then. L.G., help me make a stretcher from some of these branches that aren’t burnt. Genie Wiz, stay with Mortimer and keep him awake. Blonde Bomb, keep an eye on Setra. Bombshell, you make sure those agents don’t wake up.”
Everyone jumped into action immediately and within five minutes No.9 and L.G. had made a long enough stretcher for Mortimer to lay on. They lifted his body as carefully as possible and were surprised at how light he actually was. After they made sure Mortimer was comfortable, L.G. and No.9 lifted the stretcher up and began to walk down the path.
“Um, guys,” said Blonde Bomb quietly. “You might want to see this.”
No.9 and L.G. turned around to see what Blonde Bomb was talking about. Directly in front of her, Setra’s sleeping body had begun to glow a bright orange.
“Everyone gear up,” No.9 yelled out as he carefully put the stretcher down.
“No, sir,” Mortimer replied, “don’t!”
“What are you talking about?!” Mr. Invent yelled back in a panic as he pulled out more Confuser Grenades.
“He’s changing, sir. He’s so near death that he has to evolve into something else. Something harmless so he won’t be attacked.”
“Well what are we supposed to do?” Blonde Bomb cried back as the glow became brighter and brighter.
“Leave him be miss,” Mortimer replied. “Anything you wish, but don’t attack. He may be a beast, but he belongs to this garden just as we belong out of it.”
“Stand down,” No.9 ordered. “Let’s make sure we’ve got nothing to worry about and then move on.”
No.9 watched closely as the dragon-like beast began to shrink and morph. His scaly skin was shed in an instant and replaced with jet black fur. His once long and slender body had been compacted into a rough ball. His horns and claws that were once the size of elephant tusks had been shrunken down to the size of a bird’s beak. Its once long and deadly tail had been replaced by two white and rubbery wings. If they had encountered this Setra moments ago they would have laughed at its harmlessness or been overwhelmed by its cuteness.
Blonde Bomb took a few paces towards the new Setra lying in the grass.
“There’s no time, Blonde Bomb,” No.9 called out as he and L.G. picked up Mortimer’s stretcher again. “We’ve gotta move. Now.”
“Hold on,” she called back as she approached the ball of fur. “I think…I think its dying”
Blonde Bomb carefully lifted Setra into her arms. The bullet that had hit its once intimidating body was lodged into it’s right side and the creature was struggling to take a breath.
“I think it was shot in the lung,” Blonde Bomb cried out. “We have to help him, 9.”
“We don’t have time!” No.9 yelled impatiently at Blonde Bomb. “That thing would have killed all of us without a thought. We need to get Mortimer to his village!”
“Wait, sir,” Mortimer called out. “She’s right. If you help him maybe he will be in your debt. A creature like that is a strong ally to have, sir.”
No.9 considered Mortimer’s words before agreeing to help Setra.
“Alright,” he said to Blonde Bomb. “But you keep an eye on it. If he tries to change again to catch us off guard we’re killing it.”
Blonde Bomb placed Setra into her shoulder bag softly and followed behind No.9 and L.G. The team reached the gate of the garden after a few minutes and they continued through it. They had made it back into the dessert again. Although Mortimer was injured, they had all made it out alive. A better outcome than No.9 had expected. They headed Westward through the dessert towards Mortimer’s village. No.9 glanced down at Mortimer as his pink eyelids struggled to remain open.
“Wake up, Mort!” Genie Wiz yelled out. Mortimer opened his eyes wide and smiled back.
“Sorry, miss,” he said. “I’m just so tired suddenly.”
No.9 picked up the pace. Throughout his time at the agency he had never once failed a mission or directive, a streak that continues after rescuing the Satar particle.
Now he had a new mission: to make it back to Mortimer’s village on time for him to be rescued.
No.9 was planning on keeping more than his perfect record alive today.