Carpathia III: Episode 72 - Return of the Past

Nita's House, The Outlands

Jaze's leg was mostly healed. Though the shot hit his thigh muscle, it was more of a nick and he was only off his feet for a few days. Though his leg was still sore, he had no trouble walking around and helping out.

Jaze's lack of fortune in finding any trace of his friends weighed heavily on his mind. When he was back in the Outlands, he often focused on helping Jacob on the farm to keep his mind busy. On this day, Nita was away at a village council meeting and Jacob was across the river trading vegetables. Jaze entertained Aten, Roose, and Ryuu at Nita's house with his camera. Jaze showed Aten the video he just took of them hamming it up for the camera.

Aten: Does my voice really sound like that?

Jaze giggled at the look of genuine concern on Aten's face.

Jaze: Hee hee. Yup. Don't worry. You sound just fine!

Aten: I sound like a girl.

Jaze: Don't worry. That'll change soon.

Jaze switched his camera from playback to record mode and pointed it at Aten.

Jaze: Okay, you're on.

Aten leaned forward at the screen, but before he had a chance to do anything, Roose suddenly wrapped his giant bat wing around him like a blanket. Aten poked at the wing and everyone giggled at the muffled protests coming from within.

Aten: Hey! Let me out!

Roose: What do you say?

Suddenly, the poking stopped and Jaze heard a sigh coming from within Roose's wing.

Aten: Bats are the most amazing creatures in the universe.

Right away, Roose unwrapped his wing from Aten and collapsed it onto his back. He grinned impishly at the camera.

Roose: And there it is. Recorded forever!

Aten crinkled up his face and stuck his tongue out at Roose.

I'll be bigger than you someday!

Jaze giggled until, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that Ryuu appeared distracted. He sat on the table, looking around, and sniffing the air.

Ryuu: I smell something strange.

Everyone stopped what they were doing and waited for Ryuu to clarify. Roose took a deep breath through his nose as well.

Roose: Come to think of it, so do I.

Ryuu spread his wings, preparing to take flight.

Ryuu: I'm going to go check it out.

Ryuu took flight and soared out the door, leaving the others to speculate.

Jaze: I can't smell anything. I wonder what it is.

Roose: I don't know, but it is unusual.

Ryuu wasn't gone for long. Soon he returned, poking his head in the door from above.

Ryuu: Jaze, you should come and see this. There are a lot of people in the valley.

Jaze: Roose, you stay here with Aten. I'll have a look.

Jaze trotted out the door and followed Ryuu around the house and through the grove of trees that lead to the cliff overlooking the plain and river below. Jaze zigzagged through the trees while Ryuu flew low, just over the treetops.

When they reached the edge of the cliff, Jaze felt as though his heart fell into his stomach. In the distance, he could clearly make out Thirteen followed by the rest of the compound. The situation was exactly the same as when they were taken to raid the ramshackle farming village just before he was thrown into the oubliette. Worse still, Nita was arguing with Thirteen, just as the village elder he'd seen before, and that ended very badly. Jaze quickly dropped to the ground.

Ryuu: Is that...

Jaze: The compound. This is the worst possible thing that could happen, and if I go down there, it will only get worse.

Jaze thought and thought, all while keeping an eye on Thirteen and Nita's arguement, none of which he could hear. Could he cause a diversion? Would that help? Perhaps Ryuu would be a better distration. Maybe sending in someone far less conspicuous, like Jacob, to find some excuse to pull her away would be best. Jacob, however, was on the other side of the river and Jaze didn't know how he could cross the bridge unseen.

Jaze: What should I do... What should I do...

Anxiety built in Jaze as he thought, knowing that he was rapidly running out of time. He pawed impatiently at the ground, his hands shaking, as he considered recklessly sliding down the cliff and drawing Thirteen's attention to himself.

Time, however, ran out.

Jaze watched in horror as Thirteen reached to his side and pulled out his sidearm. Just as before, he didn't hesitate to raise it to Nita's head and pull the trigger. The crack of his pistol pierced the air as Nita fell to the ground. For a moment, Jaze watched as the compound slaves suddenly poured forth like an uncapped water bottle, some of whom were rapidly headed his way. Jaze's thoughts rapidly shifted to one thing: Aten.

Jaze: Back to the house!

Jaze ran recklessly through the trees as fast as he could, brushing several of them hard with his arms and shoulders. Ryuu flew ahead swiftly, his path unobstructed. When Jaze reached the house, he burst through the front door and found that Ryuu was, as expected, already there.

Aten: What's wrong?

Without answering, Jaze grabbed the heavy kitchen table and pulled, finding that it slid easily with the throw rug underneath. Once the hatch to the tunnels was entirely exposed, he ran around the table and pulled it open.

Jaze: Get in! Get in!

Aten was moving agonizingly slowly and looking very frightened.

Aten: What's happening?

Jaze: I'll explain later. Just get in!

Aten climbed in and slowly descended the ladder. That's when Jaze realized a major problem. Someone had to remain to push the table and throw rug back over the trap door. Jaze knew who that was going to be as Roose started climbing down after Aten.

Roose: What's going on?

Roose plopped onto the dirt at the bottom of the stairs as Ryuu flew into the tunnel last. Jaze grabbed the hatch and prepared to close it.

Jaze: No time to explain. Get to the island in the river as fast as you can!

Jaze could see Ryuu's eyes widen in the darkness below as he closed the hatch, securing all three of them into the tunnel. The last thing he heard was Ryuu's surprised voice just before the hatch closed.

Ryuu: Jaze!

As Jaze pulled the table back over the hatch, he could hear running footsteps outside. Jaze looked around for a place to hide and, deciding the large cupboard against the wall was the best choice, opened the door and squeezed himself inside.

Commissioned art in this episode from:

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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