Memories of a Freedom Lost – Chapter 1: Riveredge

Lilac the Dragon Girl stood at the top of a cliff overlooking a small village below. It was built beside a long river, which stretched away from the little town’s territory and into the vast beyond. Not far from this village, the target: an enormous yellow machine, spherical in shape and packed to the brim with artillery, wandering aimlessly across the landscape.

She stepped out of the way of the motorcycle that zoomed up, sending off a cloud of dust as it skidded to a halt. At the handlebars was Carol the Wildcat, wearing a gleeful grin and looking rather energetic. Seated behind her was Milla the Hound, clinging to Carol’s waist and now glancing uncertainly over the cliff they had just barely not fallen off of.

“Took you long enough,” said Lilac, though her tone was pleasant.

“Yeah, whatever,” Carol responded, smile unwavering. “What have we got?”

Lilac raised a hand over her eyes for a better view, a motion which Milla mimicked. “Something big,” Lilac answered, “and probably stupid. A little too close to that town for comfort, though. We should have been here sooner.”

Carol chuckled. “Don’t sweat it, Heropants. We’ll clean this up no problem and be home in time for my mid-midday nap. Got a plan?”

“I think so…”

“Good enough for me!”

At that, Milla let out a howling battle cry, and Carol roared with laughter. “Yeah, that’s the spirit! Alright, let’s go kick some metal butt!”

Carol jammed down the gas, and she and Milla rocketed down the cliff face. With a sigh and a playful eye roll, Lilac took after them.

“Milla, I need you to warn the townspeople. Tell them that they’re safe, but they have to stay in their homes until we’re done.”

“But I wanna help!” Milla yipped over the motor’s roar.

Lilac chuckled and offered a reassuring smile. “You can meet up with us once everyone is inside. We’ll make sure there’s still bot for you to bust!”

Putting on a determined face, Milla nodded. “Okay! I’ll do my best!”

After a moment’s hesitation, Milla leaped off of the motorcycle and rolled across the dirt. While she sat up and shook out her fur, Lilac paused to kneel beside her. “You’ll do great!” she assured, and ruffled the little hound’s hair. The two shared a laugh before darting in opposite directions.

“What about us?” asked Carol.

“We’ll lead it away from here,” Lilac answered.

“And then?”

“We smash it!”

“Sweet! Then let’s get on with it!”

While Lilac and Carol trailed away from the village borders, Milla centered herself in the middle of the town and magicked a large green cube to stand on top of.

“Attention, people of town!” Milla shouted, cupping her hands around her mouth. “There is no cause for alarm! A big, scary robot is running around outside of your village, but we’re taking care of it! Please return to your homes in a calm and orderly fashion—”

This was immediately met with panic.

“Hey, ugly!”

The robot turned slightly, only for a sharp disc to be hurled into the side of its body. Before it could react, Lilac boosted clean through it, retrieving the disc as she did so. She busted out the other side and skidded across the ground, handing the disc back to Carol when she pulled up.

“Nice shot!”

“You too!”

The robot turned on them, apparently still functioning just fine despite the Lilac-sized hole now through it.

“You want some of this, buddy?!” Carol taunted. “Come and get it!” The girls sped off in the direction the village wasn’t in, giggling to each other as they did so. The great mechanism followed on four pointed, spider-like legs.

“You’re in a good mood today!” Lilac observed as Carol continued to cackle. “You’re not usually so eager to go out for a cleanup.”

“Yeah? I had a good nap.”

“Ha! Yeah, a good thirteen hour nap. You may as well have downed a gallon of catnip-laced coffee.”

The two let out a joint shriek as something exploded behind them, and they glanced back shortly. The robot had opened fire.

“Uh, we might want to speed this up,” said Carol.

Lilac nodded. “Right. We should be far enough away now. You go behind.”

“On it!”

While Carol fell back, Lilac sprang up and gave the bot a good smack across the eye. It released another missile at her, but she boosted away before it could connect. When she landed, Lilac found herself at the edge of the river that she had observed from the cliff. It looked fairly more daunting down here than it did from up there. It must have been at least twice the robot’s width, and its depth likely more than ten times her own height.

“Yikes,” Lilac gasped. “Guess we’re not getting it across there…”

She looked back at the rapidly approaching robot and clenched a fist. She dashed toward it, leaped up and scaled to the top of one of its legs. The robot frantically tried to shake her off, spinning around in circles, to no avail. While clinging for dear life, Lilac caught sight of Carol, stopped not far from the action.

“Aim for the eye!” Lilac exclaimed.

Carol flashed a thumbs-up, then whipped her disc back out. She locked her eyes onto the robot’s own as it spun, blinking a few times as she waited. Then Lilac pulled back on the leg she had climbed, and the robot recoiled to reveal an opening. The disc was jammed into it shortly after. Lilac swung off of the leg and latched onto the disc, dragging it down the eye and slicing it in two. While the now blinded robot stumbled and stuttered, Lilac hopped off and again returned the disc to its owner.

“Did that do it?” Carol queried.

The release of more explosives answered that question before Lilac could.

Milla, meanwhile, tried to calm the rampage of townspeople. “Please calm down! There’s no need to panic! Return to your homes and you’ll be safe!” Upon receiving no response beyond more screaming, Milla heaved a sigh. “Or keep running. That works too…”

The panic was anything but aided by the loud, earth-shaking boom that came from the distance. Its force caused Milla’s cube to poof out of existence, and she plopped down to the ground. She looked around and spotted the rising smoke by the river. “Uh-oh.” Forgetting her assignment, Milla sped away.

Carol slid across the dirt just far enough away from the explosion to avoid being impacted. She scanned the battlefield, and smiled with relief when she saw Lilac boost upward out of the smoke. Carol swerved back around and drove across the charred ground for a head start, then jumped up to give it a devastating slash of the claws. The robot stumbled.

Lilac made to deliver what would hopefully be the finishing blow as she descended from her escape boost. However, her kick was just barely misaimed. She clenched her teeth as she flew past the robot and careened into the water below.

Her eyes were closed tight for the impact, and once she had sunk a few feet, she reopened them. Lilac shook herself, preparing another boost that would propel her out. Perhaps it would have done so, had she not misfired and accidentally launched herself into the rocky floor.

Carol delivered a good kick to the robot’s face, knocking it off balance.

Lilac rubbed her head, opening her eyes again to find that her vision was blurred. This couldn’t stop her from staring up at the enormous shadow looming over the water.

In a swift movement, Carol shot across the river edge like a bullet, tossing out her disc one last time as she did so. This sliced off both of the robot’s back legs. It toppled over.

When the robot crashed into the river, it caused the water to push out around it. Swept up in the force, Lilac was slammed into the rocks below her.

Carol’s motorcycle screeched to a halt, and she snatched the disc out of the air. Behind her, water splashed up like a tidal wave, and she couldn’t help glancing back to watch. “Alright! That was totally awesome!” She pumped a fist in the air. “Did you see that, Lilac?!” Carol waited for an answer, but none ever came. Confused, she looked around. “Uh, Lilac…?”

Her heart stopped momentarily as something exploded behind her, and she swung around just in time to see a green blast completely obliterate the cripple that was once a dangerous machine of war.

Under the water, chaos ensued. Rubble from all sides shattered and crashed into each other. Mass clouds of dirt and bubbles obscured the once clear view. The carnage tumbled rapidly downstream, and among the leaves and pebbles that floated away were a bunch of little lavender feathers.

“Milla!” came Carol.

The pup stuck her landing just by the river, though she didn’t address Carol’s call. Her nose was working. She lowered herself to the ground, sniffing along the river’s edge and leaning over the water.

“Do you smell Lilac?” Carol asked eagerly.

A small gasp squeaked out of Milla’s throat. She stood up sharply, eyes bugging wide.

Not exactly the response that Carol had been hoping for. “What? What’s the matter?”

She yelped as Milla hurled herself into the water, the resulting splash wetting Carol’s shoes. She stood stunned, breathing heavily as she watched Milla’s silhouette drift away.

Milla made herself a block and fired it off, launching herself downstream. She blinked the debris out of her eyes as she scanned the water for anything that even vaguely resembled a person. When she found something, she carefully swam down to examine it. Tendrils. It was Lilac. Milla took Lilac by the arms and hastily made another block, choking on the breath she was holding. The cube fired, and the two were sent back up to the surface.

After gasping for air and swimming to shore, Milla grabbed hold of the ground and shoved Lilac up onto it. She struggled to pull her own soggy self up, and broke into a wet coughing fit when she finally succeeded. The moment that Carol arrived, she threw her bike aside and dropped to her knees beside Lilac’s unconscious figure.

“Lilac!” Carol cried, grabbing a limp arm and shaking it. “No, no, no…”

Milla shook the water out of her coat, but Carol didn’t so much as flinch when it sprayed her; she was too busy checking Lilac’s vitals to care. Milla crawled over and took Lilac’s hand in hers, gazing hopefully at her resting expression. Then Milla’s nose started working again. It lead her to Lilac’s head, and as she sniffed closer, a lump caught in her throat.

“Carol,” Milla whispered. “Carol…”

“What?!” Carol spat, hardly glancing up from Lilac’s wrist.

“Look.” Milla indicated the hidden back of Lilac’s head. Carol’s expression loosened uncertainly. She reached out, taking Lilac’s head in one hand and lower back in the other, and gently turned her over.

Carol gasped and Milla bit back a sob. Neither had ever seen this much blood in one place.

Staring into nothing, Carol turned Lilac onto her back, trying and failing to keep her breathing even.

“W-What do we do?” Milla stammered.

Carol looked up to find tears streaming down Milla’s face. Carol didn’t look much better. She held her hand out in front of her, shaking. The hand that had been holding Lilac’s head. “I-I…” The words caught in her throat. Milla was staring.

With a deep breath, Carol spoke as steadily as possible in this moment. “Milla,” she instructed. “Go into that town… and find its hospital. Or clinic, or infirmary, or whatever the closest thing they have to a hospital is. Find its doctor… and bring them here. Preferably… with an ambulance.”

“I-I—”

“Go!”

Milla scrambled back to the village without another word between them.

Carol stared at her hand again, stained with Lilac’s blood. Then she stared back down at Lilac. “It’s… it’s going to be okay,” she murmured, bitter tears reaching her mouth. “It’s going to be okay. I promise. I’m right here. I promise.”

At that, Carol recalled and executed each and every one of the lifesaving procedures that she had learned from Lilac herself.

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