• Kiran Esvaran

Planet X-543 (Part 2)

Chapter 4: Pineleaf The Sailback Camodragon


“Mottledsnout!” Pineleaf shot up to Mottledsnout, putting her claw on Mottledsnout’s chest. Thump, pause, thump thump, pause. As faint as it was, Pineleaf could feel the remnants of a heartbeat, pulsing weakly and irregularly.

Mottledsnout was still alive. Barely.

She needed to get her back to the pack, where she could be taken care of. However, an injury from a nuclear blast. That was unheard of by anyone in the pack. But there had to be a way. To save her.

Pineleaf avoided thinking about the alternative. The sail on her back pricked up in fear. But what was she doing thinking? She needed to act fast.

She grabbed Mottledsnout. She leapt through the forest with more speed than ever before. Even a minute wasted could make the difference between life and death.

* * *

When they arrived home, Mottledsnout’s heart was still beating. Phew. The sun was starting to rise. It was morning already. Pineleaf dashed towards the healer’s tree.

Once she arrived, she placed Mottledsnout’s unconscious body on a sturdy branch. A bony figure turned around.

“Hello,” the bony figure said in a creaky voice. His physical features didn't seem too threatening, but there was something odd and scary about him. “What do we have here?” he tilted down his long snout, revealing a lengthy, jagged scar.

“She was exposed to a lot of nuclear radiation all at once,” Pineleaf said quickly and nervously. “You need to help her, it’s really urgent.”

“I see,” said the bony figure leisurely. He was taking way too long. Talking way too slowly. “She will need a week here, being cured by my herbal treatment.”

Only a week of healing, being given herbs that would probably do more harm than good? Pineleaf should have known. Healers’ treatments rarely worked. Pineleaf should have got Mottledsnout to a proper hospital.

Many have came to the healer’s tree, but few have exited. The stories of camodragons vanishing were quietly spread across the pack. None of them were official, however. The healer was one of the most respected individuals of the pack. The pack leader denied such stories.

The healer started rubbing Motlledsnout’s scales with leaves. Pineleaf contemplated her options. She could grab Mottledsnout when the healer wasn't looking. She would then fly as quickly as possible to the nearest hospital.

But the healer was looking at Mottledsnout so intensely that anyone watching would think he was oblivious to anything else in the world. It didn't look like he was going to look away, rendering Pineleaf’s plan useless.

Stop overthinking things, she told herself.

Rustle. The leaves in a distant tree shook abruptly. The healer didn't seem to notice, brewing some sort of soup. Rustle. This time it was closer.

Suddenly a sleek figure burst out of the foliage. He snatched Mottledsnout in the blink of an eye.

“You, fly away. I’ll deal with him,” The figure said to Pineleaf pointing at the healer. He was another camodragon, though he looked peculiar. “Name’s Specimen-57, by the way, though you can call me Specimen.”

Pineleaf dashed into the forest’s canopy, not questioning Specimen’s orders. The healer jumped onto Specimen’s back, grabbing onto Mottledsnout’s tail. Specimen whacked his own tail at the healer, who let go of Mottledsnout.

Specimen flew from the healer, looking for a safe place to store Motlledsnout as he fought. He placed her in a tree hollow. The healer dashed towards him, claws gleaming viciously.

Specimen managed to claw the healer a few times, but he was no match for him, who was nearly twice as big.

Pineleaf watched as a battle raged below. She couldn't stand by helplessly any longer. Remembering her combat training, she tucked her wings in and pointed her snout downwards.

She opened her mouth, ready to bite the healer’s neck. She was plummeting drastically by the second, jaws poised to bite.

3.

2.

1.

She shut her mouth, expecting to hit something. All she felt inside her mouth was air. Overhead, Specimen had bites and scratches marked everywhere on his scales. He wouldn't last much longer. Pineleaf needed to do something. Now.

She was below the healer at closer range than earlier, making it easier to strike. She just had to wait for the right time, if her attack was to be effective. But she couldn't wait. Specimen looked like he couldn't fight any longer.

Conjuring all her energy, she shot up through the air. Crunch. Her teeth clamped down on flesh.

“You really think that will be enough to stop me?” The healer sneered.

“Some camodragons have venomous bites,” said Pineleaf, “if you don't want venom in your system, let go of him.” she pointed to Specimen.

“You really think I don't have the antidote to my own kind’s venom?” He said. “ I discovered the antidote. I’ve had the antibodies stored in my system for years now. I’ve injected myself with so much of it, that even a cotton ball is deadlier than the venom to me.”

This got Pineleaf thinking. He was competent with medicine. How come he hadn't managed to save so many sick camodragons?

While the healer was talking, Specimen managed to break free.

Pineleaf slashed at the healer’s scales, trying to slow him down while Specimen fled. He flinched, then struck with his powerful jaws. He had Pineleaf’s neck in a grip. Her vision was blurring. It was getting hard to breathe. She felt blood trickling down her neck. She slashed violently at his scales, trying to break free. He didn't even flinch. She felt dozens of spikes piercing her neck, digging deep into flesh.

She kept slashing at his neck, and began whacking her tail. It was her only option. She couldn't bite, her neck was trapped in place. She had to hope that she would get loose before she ran out of oxygen or something vital got pierced.

Just before she could survive no longer, her slashing caused something embedded in the healer’s body to fall out. He let go of her immediately.


Chapter 5: Darkness The Moray Eel


Darkness blinked his eyes open, awaking to the sound of tentacles flailing.

“Where am I?” He sleepily mumbled. Light began to fill his eyes. “I had a dream about being attacked by a huge squid.

A creature Darkness had never seen before swam in circles overhead. “Well, that wasn't a dream. The squid is right over there, and it followed us all the way here. We rescued you after you blacked out. Also, you okay?” He said.

“Yes,” Darkness replied, feeling more awake.

He turned his head and watched as a shark around the same size as himself fought the same squid that had assaulted him earlier. The shark moved oddly, mechanically, unnaturally. It almost seemed robotic.

The creature he had never seen before had long, thin fins that looked like wings, a sleek snout shape and a whip-thin tail. He was a purplish-blue streaked with cyan.

“I’m Aquatic, he’s Qwerty,” the purplish-blue creature pointed with his fin to the shark, “Stay here while I help fight.” He dashed towards the squid like a torpedo.

Darkness looked around. Colossal kelp fronds towered immensely above. He was enveloped by their emerald greens and deep purples. He wanted to help fight, but his body ached and Aquatic had told him to stay.

He watched the fight helplessly. Aquatic and Qwerty were no match for the humongous squid.

Without warning, Qwerty’s eyes glowed an intense hue of red. Suddenly two beams of light shot out of them, destroying anything in their wake. After the beams vanished, the squid was gone as if it was never there in the first place.


Chapter 6: Pineleaf The Sailback Camodragon


Pineleaf breathed in and was so glad to feel oxygen fill her lungs. The healer blinked with curiosity and confusion, as if he had been in a thousand year sleep and just woke up to see everything changed.

“Where am I?” Said the healer, looking around.

“Don't try to trick us. We’re not fools. At least, I hope not,” Specimen eyed him warily.

“Who are you?” the healer asked.

“I’m Pineleaf, he’s Specimen,” Pineleaf introduced.

“Actually, let's reconsider that,” said Specimen. “You’re a fool, I’m not.”

“I’m pretty sure it’s genuine,” explained Pineleaf. “He looks really confused.”

“Alright, fine. But what happened?” Specimen asked.

Pineleaf was wondering that too. What had happened? One second the healer was attacking, the next, he stopped and forgot completely about what was going on.

Wait. She remembered seeing something drop from out of his neck immediately before he let go.

Could it be a mind control chip, maybe? She thought. It seemed like the most logical explanation. It explained why he let go after the object dropped.

“Wait. I saw something. Right before you let go,” she pointed to the healer, “I saw an object drop from out of your neck. Let me go get it.”

She dived down to the forest floor, tightly tucking her wings in. A piece of metal about the size of her eye lay beneath a dense cover of lush ferns. The only reason she found it underneath the fern tangle was because it emitted a pulsing red light. This object matched the one in her memory.

She picked it up with her claws and flew upwards towards Specimen and the healer.

“Found this!” She showed them both her finding.

“I think I could trace that to where it came from,” Specimen said. “All I need is a little time.”

“Sure,” Said Pineleaf, giving Specimen the object she had found.

Mottledsnout. Her mind flipped to her friend, who was resting in a tree hollow. Was she ok? How do we get her medical-

“Hello everybody!” Mottledsnout’s voice suddenly could be heard. Mottledsnout materialized out of the tree hollow she was sleeping in and glided up to a sturdy branch above Pineleaf. “What did I miss?”

Pinleaf was so relieved yet shocked and confused, she couldn't speak.

“Everything,” said Specimen, who acted casually. “I’m Specimen 51, but you can call me Specimen. Anyway, the healer tried to kidnap you, but I saved you and Pineleaf found a piece of tech that was inside the healer and seemed to control him. You missed all the cool stuff.”

“Mottledsnout! You’re awake! I didn't expect you to survive, let alone suddenly wake up,” The relief and shock faded into confusion. How did Mottledsnout manage to survive? What caused her to suddenly wake up as if nothing had happened in the first place?

After answering several of Mottledsnout’s questions, Pineleaf began to realize that Mottledsnout looked a little different than she had before. Her previously brown patterns had a bluish tint to them and emitted a faint glow.

A thought struck Pineleaf. Could the nuclear blast have mutated her DNA? Pineleaf had read true stories of that happening.

“I’m going to go work on locating where this came from.” Said Specimen, interrupting her thoughts. “You, come with me.” He beckoned to the healer, who had been observing the situation.

* * *

“Got it!” said Specimen. He flew back to Pineleaf and Mottledsnout. “I used the healer’s computer systems. Took me a while, but I located the object to come from an area along the coast of the southern continent.”

“Let’s go!” Mottledsnout cheered excitedly.

“Not so fast. We still have to plan,” Pineleaf stopped Mottledsnout.

“So, we’re trying to find who made the object controlling the healer or causing him to act evilly. I mostly have a plan to do that,” said Specimen.

“When we arrive at the location, what are we looking for?” Pineleaf wondered. “If we’re right and that piece of tech was doing something to the healer, the area where it was made likely isn't too obvious.”

“Guessing the location’s hidden in a large rock or cliff face somewhere,” Specimen replied. “Unless the piece of tech was made by sea creatures, though I haven't figured out if it’s waterproof or not. Don’t want to potentially damage it. You know, could be useful later on.”

“Makes sense,” said Pineleaf.

“Are we ready to go?” asked Mottledsnout with excitement.

“Nearly,” replied Specimen.

“What are we going to do if the location it was made turns out to be underwater?” Pineleaf asked.

“I said I mostly have a plan. My answer is, I have no clue,” Specimen said.

“We could wing it,” Mottledsnout suggested her typical idea of a plan.

“Well, that’s our best option,” said Pineleaf. “Wait, what about the healer?”

“He wants to stay,” replied Specimen. “Anyway, let’s stop wasting time and head to the coast.”


Chapter 7: Darkness The Moray Eel


Darkness was too shocked to speak. Were those- they couldn't be. Lasers were extremely expensive and difficult to manufacture. Almost no one had them, let alone ones that powerful.

A new thought popped into Darkness’s mind. Was Qwerty a robot? It made sense, with his artificial, technological look and robotic way of movement. Darkness had heard about robots like this being built for weaponization.

“WHAT. WAS. THAT?” Darkness had asked when Aquatic and Qwerty had returned and he could speak again.

“Oh, may have forgotten a minor detail,” said Aquatic. “Qwerty’s a robot. A robot built with laser eyes and super advanced AI.”

“The reason why I avoided using my laser eyes earlier was because my lasers take a while to recharge and I needed to wait for them to do so, and because I’m still learning to control my lasers. I only use them as a last resort.” Qwerty thoroughly explained.

“Thanks for rescuing me,” Darkness had forgotten to say that earlier.

“Welcome,” Aquatic replied. “Also, me and Qwerty have to tell you something that we’ve discussed and we think we can trust you.”

“Tell me,” said Darkness. “Wait, you two had no time to discuss.”

“Another minor detail I skipped over,” Aquatic said. “I have an implant in my mind that allows me to communicate telepathically with Qwerty. Anyways, can I tell you now?”

Darkness squashed all his questions and pushed them back into the far reaches of his brain.

“Okay, tell me now,” Darkness said.

“So, you've heard of The Leak, right?”

“Yeah,”

“So, Qwerty and I are looking for the source of The Leak, and I heard someone, an odd looking sea turtle to be exact, tell someone else that the security around The Leak’s point of origin was starting to weaken. They also mentioned that the deadly robots and predatory corals surrounding it were bypassed. So, to find the source, we should look for places with deadly robots and predatory corals,”

“Wait, an odd looking sea turtle?” Darkness asked. He had met an odd looking sea turtle recently, who radiated untrustworthiness. Could it be the same one? Should I say something? “I met an odd looking sea turtle a few days ago, who acted really suspiciously. Did they have a glowing pink top hat and seven eyes?”

“Nope, sounds more like my brother,” Aquatic replied.

“Oh, mine didn't either! Must be the same one.”

“Well if they both acted suspiciously, and they both looked strange, they’re likely the same,”

“Yeah. So, do you know anything other than the fact that the source’s location had deadly robots and predatory corals?”

“I know something,” said Qwerty in his layered robotic voice all of a sudden.

“You do?” asked Aquatic, “Never knew.”

“I recorded this a few nights ago,” Qwerty began to play the recording. A light shone on his back which began to form into a hologram displaying an underwater cave.

“Stage 1 of The Leak complete,” said a voice coming from inside the cave.

“Good,” said a resonant voice that sounded like a deep voice layered onto a high one that echoed booming around the cave. “Meet me at the rocky caves on the coast of the southern continent. Wait, I sense someone’s presence.”

The hologram showed speedy movement, then disappeared into thin air.

“Why didn't you show this to me?” asked Aquatic.

“It was that night when you said I couldn't sneak out, but I did anyway. I didn't want you to get mad at me,” said Qwerty.

The three discussed what to do, and they decided to trust the hologram and go to the coast of the southern continent and see if they could gather any information.

It took a few days, but they arrived at the southern coast at night. Above the water, there were swamps filled with luminous red grasses that swayed in the breeze, trapping and consuming any flying lifeform that got too close.

The person in the hologram said ‘the rocky caves’, thought Darkness. They didn't say anything about swamps like this.

“This is the wrong place,” Darkness told the other two. “We’re supposed to look for rocky caves, if the people in the hologram were telling the truth.”

Aquatic and Qwerty looked at Darkness strangely, as if something was different.

“What?” asked Darkness.

“Your skin looks more scaly than before and you seem to have four paddle-like limbs,” Qwerty pointed out.

He looked at himself. Now that he thought about it, he did look more scaly. He also did have four limbs now.

Well, nothing stays the same, he thought.

This was extremely shocking, but he would have to think about this later, and focus on the more important task.

They followed the coastline and eventually found a rocky shoreline. They decided to rest for the night and get information in the morning.

* * *

Beams of sunlight streaked brilliantly through the azure-blue waters. It was now morning.

“Okay, time to get some info,” Darkness said.

Aquatic and Qwerty lifted their bodies off the rocky crevice they were nestled in, hiding for the night.

“Let’s split up,” said Qwerty, “we can cover more ground that way.”

“We should stay together,” Aquatic had a different idea. “It would be safer so we could assist each other in case of danger.”

“Splitting up would give us more info,” said Qwerty.

The argument continued until Darkness stopped the fight.

“How about, we split up, then we meet each other up at a certain spot at a certain time, then investigate all together,” Darkness suggested.

“Fine,” said Qwerty.

Darkness searched through the waters. After a long search, he found nothing promising. He met back up with Aquatic and Qwerty to see what they had found.

Turns out, they had found nothing either.

“Maybe, what we’re looking for is above water,” said Qwerty.

“Oh yeah,” Darkness and Aquatic agreed.

It was decided that Darkness and Qwerty searched above water while Aquatic continued the search below the surface.

Darkness and Qwerty poked their heads above the surface. Darkness looked around. Something caught his eye.

Darkness saw three creatures on top of a rock spiking out of the water. They all appeared unconscious, lying limply on the stone. After about a minute of curious observation, he saw the three creatures, which all had lizard-like bodies, slowly get up, then talk a little.

After they talked, they seemed to be looking intently at the rocks and seemed to spend extra time investigating holes and crevices in the rock. He observed them from a distance, trying to figure out what they were doing. They seemed to be looking for some sort of opening.

He could identify them as camodragons, but he didn't know what camodragons were doing over here. They didn't appear too threatening. Perhaps Darkness could take a closer look. He resubmerged.

“See anything interesting?” asked Aquatic.

“I saw three camodragons on top of a rock, they didn't look that threatening,” said Darkness.

“Darkness and I will investigate,” said Qwerty in his deep, robotic voice. “Aquatic, you stay here and be useless.”

“Well maybe useless is the wrong-” Aquatic started.

“I have laser eyes,” said Qwerty.

Qwerty and Darkness slowly moved closer towards the two camodragons. Darkness could now make out clearer conversation, and maybe pick up a sentence or two.

After a few minutes of listening, Darkness made out words like tech and entrance. He had heard a sentence saying ‘whoever made this object must really want no one to find where it came from’. That really interested Darkness. He was right that they were looking for something. Something secret, it seemed.

“I recorded the conversation using a hologram,” said Qwerty. “My recording is better than your hearing.”

They listened to the recording.

“So, we’re looking for an entrance to a lab, most likely,”


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