Chapter 24 ★ An Awakening

The High Commander never hit the ground. There was a flash of negative light, and briefly Ru saw Sylph catch him, a split-second glare in her direction before flashing away again. Just as quickly as it set in, the tornado gusted away, the clouds drifted back to sleep with a quiet rumble of thunder. Stars glimmered through the swaying trees, leaves quit their spin and rained to the ground. At last, the glow peeled off Ru in wisps, only leaving her eyes with an unearthly skylight shine.

The others, shaken and aching, slowly stood.

“What — what was that?” Jayson asked.

“Bet you couldn’t do it again,” Randy said.

Ru, who had been in something of an anger-fueled daze, had no answer. She was checking her new armor, puzzled over the change. Fuse ran to Ru, breathless. “That was an awakening of an Axle! You are awakened!” Her hand flew to her mouth, and she laughed. “The galaxy — we could have a chance now. Yes! You could save it! We could save it!”

Ru’s face lit up. “We can?”

“Hey, wait a second!” Randy yelled. “How come she gets armor! I should get some if I have light for a power!”

Beyond him, Ru saw Colleen stir on the ground. Ru blew past everyone and screeched to a halt next to her friend, tossing up a cloud of sand. “Colleen! You OK?!”

Colleen stared with bleary eyes, confused, but gasped and smiled when she laid eyes on Fuse. “You’re alive,” she breathed. “What happened?”

“She should probably see a doctor,” Jayson said. “We all should. We got struck by lightning, didn’t we?”

“You’ll be healed once you turn back to your normal forms,” Fuse explained.

“Yeah, and I ain’t going anywhere ’til I get my armor!” Randy screeched.

Jayson snorted a laugh. “You gotta earn it, mooch!”

A quick check revealed that there were no more Lraenu in the vicinity, and the Skaeya moved on to the Council’s complex. Ru had vague memories of the complex and the actual people there, but this was the first time she had seen this endless hall of mirrors clearly, and the true scope of all the alien leaders who had been near. Two of them could not be seen at all; she only knew they were there because of the System, and that the one named Veah was extremely vocal.

Once inside the complex, Randy immediately tried to see how far he could slide across the highly-polished floor before Jayson grabbed him and firmly placed him back with the group. Colleen wedged herself close to Fuse, and Ru stayed nearby.

“Why did you attack the High Commander?” Ru asked her, after Colleen had been caught up on the part of the fight she’d missed. “I would have never thought you’d fight first.”

Colleen beamed, and she stumbled all over herself trying to explain. At last, she said, “It was that dream! The High Commander was the one who killed Fuse. Remember I told you he was a red star and he came out of that? That’s what I saw! But I stopped it!”

“Oh, wow! You did!” Ru cheered, wrapping her in a hug. “You totally did!”

They quieted as they entered the heartroom, though Randy strode in first with his fists raised. “Hey, Area 51! Yeah, we took out the High Commander. What you got to say about us now?”

Jayson slapped a hand to his face, but to Ru’s surprise, there was laughter amongst the Council. She also noticed that many of the Council seemed to be looking at her in a different light. Cutyri outright smiled, and there was a touch of reverence in Odeny’s voice when he welcomed them.

They had decided to call the Council early as to not keep the Skaeya, Fuse, and the rest of Kelsilde’s residents in suspense. “As you said — you single-handedly defeated the Lraenu High Commander, one of our most feared enemies,” Odeny said when everyone had settled. “This is a feat not seen from the Skaeya in ages. Although some of us are in disagreement, we have given more weight to those who have the most to lose, and we are also aware of a plan to rid the galaxy of the Lraenu as Cutyri laid out. We have come to an agreement — as long as you live, we will not destroy the galaxy.”

Some of them cheered. “Cool, I wasn’t planning on dying.” Randy shrugged. “No problem. We got this.”

Jayson couldn’t help a lopsided grin when Randy spoke up. “I mean, Ru’s got this. She’s the one that has the armor.”

“Like I need armor to take on a bunch of rotten marshmallows!”

★★★

The sun was gone, but the light in sky remained a brilliant red, gold, and violet. As the four Skaeya left the forest to return home, all eyes were turned upwards. A few jet trails lingered in the air, shining in the hidden sun. “You really think we can do this?” Ru said to the others.

“Maybe.” Colleen wore a soft smile. “I didn’t think I could change my dreams, but I did.”

“That’s compared to protecting twenty galaxies, though,” Jayson pointed out.

“Please, the Lraenu don’t have a chance.” Randy made finger guns. “As soon as I learn how to shoot lasers they’re all going down.”

“Why not try it now?” Jayson shrugged. “I mean, since we’re dreaming.”

Ru play-punched him in the shoulder. “Oh, don’t start that again!” They had a long road ahead. Twenty galaxies was a heavy weight, and much of it unknown. But as Ru stared up at the first star that appeared, she remembered that just a few weeks ago she was wondering why she never saw strange things, and now was wondering what strange things she would see next. The danger was real — but a fair trade, she decided, for something beyond belief.

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