All characters except Sparrow, Cobran, Jaxara, Dactylar, Julianna, and other Saurian characters belong to Disney. This story is for fun only. No profit is intended or even wanted so don’t sue me - it’s not worth your time.

NOTE TO THE READER: This story is quite dark. It is a rewritten version of the First Face-off. I tried my best to keep characters in character. So please don’t shoot me with a Uzi. J/K ^_^


By Maedara Dracomir

Part One

"Wildwing, they came for me."

"Dive - -"

"Man, big bro...What if I never see you again?"

Wildwing embraced his fifteen-year-old brother, rubbing his back gently. "I can't leave you," Dive muttered into Wing’s shoulder.

"Listen, no matter what happens to me, I'm always with you. Mom's at the camp you're going to. Tell her I love her, okay?"

Then the Saurians arrived at their cell. "Nosedive Firedrake. Step forward." Dive obeyed and was suddenly arrested in a bruising grip by two Saurian officers. "You will be transferred to the ore mine in charge of General Dactylar. Resist and you shall be punished." Dive tried not to let more than a soft groan escape as the Saurian on his left twisted his arm painfully behind him.

Dive looked back at his brother who watched with anger and helplessness as they dragged him away. A blow to the face from the Saurian in front of him sent the lights dancing before his eyes.

"Keep looking ahead. You're slowing us down, scum!"

Nosedive watched the other prisoners be dragged away to the Saurian transporter ship and cried out as he was flung against it, face first and his arms were shackled behind him. The impact of the cold steel left a trickle of blood to appear on his beak as he was searched for weapons and thrown into the cargo hold. They chained the captives together and made them sit along the inside walls, their chains stretching across the floor. This way, they could all be monitored by the officer standing within the hollow ring of captives.

The officer lashed out with a whip if someone so much as whimpered. The three-hour drive was hell. Dive didn't know which direction they were headed or when they would get there.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw an officer walking over to strike a ten-year-old who was crying. Disgusted by the leer the Saurian was wearing, he tripped the officer with his chains and watched with satisfaction as the Saurian flew forward, and landed on his face.

The Saurian was stunned for five blessed seconds, but then he got up and was about to beat Nosedive with his whip when, fortunately, the officer was called away to deal with an urgent technical problem, so he had left off with a warning glare.

It wasn't until the cargo ship's hatch opened that he realized where they were. At a prison for felons and convicts of Puckworld. Nightingale Prison Institute, to be exact.

Nosedive winced at the pain in his cramped legs as he was hauled to his feet and dragged along by the Saurians. He looked around him at the devastation wrought by the Saurians. He could see the fragments of the shattered statue of Drake DuCaine which meant his home was not far from the ore mine. He knew, that beneath the rubble of the city laid his home and his friends' homes. He also knew without a doubt that all of the people brought to the camp with him were at loss too.

As he was herded through the halls of the prison, the smell of death became overpowering. It was only a moment before he realized that the cells were all empty because the Saurians had murdered the occupants in cold blood while they were helpless behind bars.

Saints have pity, Dive prayed, as he chanced to look in upon a cell that had not been 'cleaned out' yet. The guards threw him into a cell that was fortunately empty. When they came back a few minutes later, they had a bunkmate for him. It was the ten-year-old he had rescued from a beating. The guards unshackled him, threw him in, slammed the door behind him, and walked away. The duckling got up and dusted himself off. He looked over at Nosedive and grinned. "You're the one who saved me!"

"Well, yeah, I didn't want to see you hurt by that Saurian creep. And to look on the bright side, falling on his face might have actually done good for his features."

"That was a cool trick. I wish I could do that. I'd show those scaly misfits who's boss."

Dive laughed, but then grew serious. "Don't. They might kill you. Just like they killed all the prisoners here."

Nosedive never thought he'd feel pity for the murderers and rapists jailed here, but the thought of being fired upon while trapped in a cell with nowhere to run and no defence . . . it was just too horrible to imagine.

“What's your name?" he asked, trying to get his mind off the subject.

"My name is Sparrow Gyrfalcon. Friends call me Spar. What's yours?"

"Nosedive Firedrake. Call me Dive. Do you have any idea where your parents are?"

"Dead. Since I was three. What about yours?"

"My mom is somewhere in this camp. My dad was - is in the military. Wherever he is. Haven't seen him for a long time."

"Dive, what are we supposed to do here?"

"We have to mine for ore. Hey, someone's coming! Be quiet!"

Spar edged away from the cell entrance. Dive, being the elder, moved in front of him protectively.

The Saurians passed by their cell and walked into the next one. Nosedive heard one Saurian say something to the ducks in the cell.

"Governor Woodstin, you and your . . . children . . . your wife are to be . . . executed . . . for . . . and of anarchy against the Saurian . . . tomorrow at first morning light." The speech was longer, but Nosedive couldn't make out all the words. He heard crying out for mercy and a door slamming . . . footsteps fading away and a voice sobbing.

Dive wasn't too young to know what was going to happen to the people in the cell next door. Sparrow was.

"Oh . . . Saints!"

"What's execute-sion?"

"They're going to be put to death, Spar. Governor Woodstin! He- he was so nice when he came to our school to visit- he helped so many of our people. Now he's going to die? And his family too? His three daughters-no! This can't be happening!"

"Dive, don't give up. Maybe Drake DuCaine will come and save us!"

"No . . . Drake DuCaine-- well, if the Saurians came back, then . . . maybe he is real after all. Wing might be right, though. It could be just a legend."

"You don't believe in him? He's my hero! Of course he's going to save us."

"I did believe in him, but now I don't know, Spar. If he is real, where is he now?"

"Maybe he'll save Governor Woodstin tonight. And hide him and his family away."

"I wish he would. You should sleep, Sparrow. I think tomorrow's gonna be a long day."

Spar nestled up in the single bed and fell to sleep. There was a pallet of cloth on the floor for another prisoner to sleep on, and Dive insisted that Sparrow would not sleep on the floor since catching a cold while imprisoned by Saurians was the last thing the duckling needed. Nosedive pulled the blanket up over the duckling's shoulders, then leaned back against the bunk and looked up through the steel bars of the window and at the night sky. Instead of stars, there were clouds.

Nosedive looked over at Sparrow who was half asleep, no worry or fear showing on his young face as he drifted into dreams. Spar murmured and closed his eyes. Without a word, Dive laid on the pallet, closed his eyes. This was no place to wish one’s friends ‘goodnight.’

* * *

The Saurian officer kicked Nosedive in the ribs, causing him to wake with a shattering fit of coughs. Sparrow was awake and kicking the Saurian's shins, furiously. "Stop it! Leave him alone!"

The Saurian laughed harshly and pushed the duckling to the ground, not gently. "Take it easy, little warrior. You should save your energy for the labor ahead. Get up!" he yelled at Nosedive, kicking him once again.

Dive struggled to get up while Spar launched himself onto the Saurian from behind. With a grunt that sounded more like an exasperated sigh, the Saurian, whose name was Roast, picked the little duck up and threw him into Nosedive who had just managed to catch his breath. "Tell your feisty little friend that the next time he attempts to bite my tail, I'll not be so tolerant. Get up and follow me to the main mineshaft. We have some entertainment in store for you. An execution may harden up your tender emotions."

Dive and Sparrow looked at each other, in horror at what they both knew what they were about to witness. Soon everyone was gathered into the mineshaft and forced to stare at an empty stadium. On the stadium, five gallows were built up. The crowd of prisoners, seeing the gallows suddenly knew what the 'entertainment' was.

"Governor Woodstin, Cornelia Woodstin, Jamie, Amelia, and Hettie Woodstin are to be executed
by hanging on charges of anarchy to the new Saurian empire."

"No! Not Woodstin!"

"Not his family! This isn't right!" another prisoner cried.

"What do you want from us? Just take it and be gone! You don't have to -"

"SILENCE! Another word from any of you prisoners and one of the little girls will be tortured before she is killed."

There was an immediate hush. Nobody doubted the severity of Saurian torture. A quick death was a merciful one. Although many doubted whether or not the Saurians would keep their word about not torturing the family before killing them, no-one was willing to take the risk.

Only there was no risk to be taken. A Saurian that had been sent to fetch the prisoners to be executed had come back empty handed and with a sprung lock in his talons. "They've escaped, General. It looks like the work of the Resistance." Even though the Saurian whispered it, the word leaked out to the crowd and the General turned to face cheering prisoners. "SILENCE!" he bellowed.

The crowd's jubilance melted away and blood ran cold at what the General had to say next. "Since our prisoners have been rescued, five of you shall die in their place!" Nosedive gripped Spar's shoulder and hid the boy behind him. Saurians fanned out through the crowd selecting and dragging their victims to the stadium. Dive willed himself to look up and his heart froze like ice as he saw his own mother standing among the gallows; her head being fitted into a noose.

She looked over the crowd, searching for him. He raised his head and tried to meet her gaze. She still didn't see him. He knew more than anything that what his mother wanted was to die looking at one she loved. He ran, squeezing past prisoners. He arrived into the front of the crowd to see her turn her head in his direction. She smiled. She saw him. He looked at her, shaking his head in denial. No, she could not leave him this way.

Julianna saw his anger and his fright. More importantly, she saw the hatred with which he looked at the Saurians standing ready to kill her and the other chosen victims. She shook her head once and made a motion of breaking an arrow in half. Nosedive understood.

The temples of Shen, Saint of Peace, bore that symbol imprinted in stone. Julianna's motion made him aware of the fact that he could not stop what the Saurians were about to do, and if he tried, he would gain only his death. Hating her murderers, she motioned by drawing a circle around her heart, would only bring him more pain and blacken his heart.

Nosedive knew that this was the truth. He swallowed a sob, determined to be brave for her. Julianna's eyes were brimmed with tears as well.

He wanted to say goodbye, but he knew she'd never hear him through all the screams of terror and brutal laughter of the watching guards. She understood. Nosedive knew that much. The Saurian kicked the chair from under her and the rest of the guards on the scaffold followed suit with the other prisoners.

Dive crumpled to the stone floor of the mineshaft, sobbing quietly. He had seen the peace in her eyes fade out into emptiness. All the sparkle of life and happiness that he and Wildwing had shared with her, was gone forever in just one instant. Nothing left but emptiness and memories.

Nosedive felt a hand on his shoulder. It was Sparrow. "Dive- Did -- are you okay? What happened?" Spar was frightened.

"My mother, Spar. She was up there."

"Dive- I--" Sparrow looked up at the gallows and gave a small cry of terror.

"No, no, Spar. Don't look." Sparrow was only too happy to comply. A Saurian nearby saw the two children, the older in grief.

"What's wrong? You'd better get up before the General sees you."

"One of them was his mom," said Spar forlornly, speaking for Nosedive, who was too upset to answer. The Saurian took Dive by the shoulders. Nosedive flinched, expecting a blow, but the Saurian didn't make any move to harm him.

This Saurian's hands had no claws, unlike many other Saurians, and its fingers were long and slender. Its face was shaped like a serpent's and it's eyes were amber-colored, complimenting the Saurian's green skin. The Saurian had the familiar crown of the cobra, probably where the Saurian got his name, for his name was Cobran. Cobran gently wiped Dive's tears away.

"Don't cry. She's at peace, now. Far from this." Nosedive and Sparrow looked up at him, stunned at his gentleness, a far cry from the other guards. Just then, another Saurian spotted them.

"What's this?" roared the three-horned Saurian named Ripper, a rank higher above the other Saurian. Ripper charged toward them like a bull. "Cobran, get your scaly arse back to your work. I'll deal with this lot."

Cobran reluctantly obeyed, not wanting to leave the children to Ripper's cruelty, but knowing death awaited those who disobeyed authority. Sparrow whimpered and Ripper seemed to take delight in this.

“That's right you little brat. You better be afraid of me." Ripper raised a taloned fist to hit the duckling and was astonished and slightly amused when Nosedive, his tears dried, leapt to his feet and pushed Sparrow behind him.

The horned Saurian chuckled. "You're quite the warrior, aren't you?"


The Saurian struck Nosedive hard across the face. "Listen, scum. When I tell you you're a warrior, that means, you're a warrior. No-one, says no to me."

"Unless you're proposing to them, you ugly jack-ass," Nosedive muttered beneath his breath, earning himself another blow.

"Now answer me." Ripper saw Nosedive turn his gaze to the gallows. "What are you looking at, scum? The corpses are no longer your concern. They'll be thrown into an ice hole at sunset. We don't like the smell of rotten eggs, and we don't like rotting ducks either." Ripper chortled at his own joke.

Nosedive ignored the dig, and turned back. "Let me bury them."

"Bury them?! Listen, we don't give a damn about your stupid beliefs. The Saints, or whoever you called them aren't real. Get over it."

Dive felt a deep flash of anger and resentment. "The people you killed were innocent of any crime. Whatever reason you had for dragging them up in the first place to die in shame was bad enough, but to dishonor their bodies?" If it was one thing Dive had quickly learned about Saurians, it was that they were very superstitious. He decided to play on their fears a little. "Unless they are given their last honors, they'll haunt you until your scales rot. I suggest you let me bury them for your own good if not out of decency."

"Are you trying to scare me?" Ripper snorted incredulously, but Dive's cold gaze made him shudder, nonetheless. "Allright, 'warrior'. Bury them. Alone. Be done by sunrise tomorrow, or suffer." Ripper, uneasy at first, then ashamed of his fear, made it sound like a command more than permission. Ripper spotted Sparrow, still hiding behind Nosedive, and took him by the arm, dragging him to work in the mines, involuntarily mindful of Nosedive's warning glare.

All through the morning, noon, and rainy night, Nosedive dug the five graves for the innocent prisoners on the gallows. He was supplied with a shovel, but the ground was hard and frozen. It was dark, cold, and pouring by the time he was shovelling the dirt back in the graves. He shivered, feeling the freezing rain like icy daggers against his skin.

Finally, he was done. The last shovel of dirt was smoothed, back into place. He could not leave any marker, for fear the General, furious one of his officers had been so easily manipulated, would order the graves dug up and do evil to the bodies of his mother and the other innocents who had died along with her.

Nosedive dropped his shovel, and fell to his knees, exhausted and aching. He had done the right thing to bury them. They were martyrs, considered holy to the Saints. It was unacceptable for evil to be done to them after death, and was a tradition in Puckworld that all dead, good and bad alike, return to the soil honorably.

"Mom," he whispered, placing a bleeding hand, chafed by the wooden handle, on her grave. "I'm sorry. This was all I could do."

Once again, Dive knew she understood.

He turned and looked up, feeling a presence towering over him. The Saurian, Cobran, draped a cloak over the young duck's shoulders and helped him up. Expecting to see a hard glare in the Saurian's eyes, that would render this all as a mockery of kindness, Dive was surprised to find only compassion.

"Why are you helping me? I thought I was just 'Puckworldian scum' like the rest of you seem to think," Nosedive yelled above the wind, rain mixing with tears. The truth was, he didn't want to be helped. He felt overwhelming guilt for watching his mother and four other innocent people die for no reason, without doing anything to stop it.

Stunned, Nosedive saw that the Saurian understood his pain. He didn't know how, but he felt it. But weren't the Saurians all members of an evil race that the Saints had fought back from seizing Puckworld? How could they be capable of sympathy and kindness?

Nosedive, puzzled and grief-stricken, allowed himself to be guided to his cell. Sparrow was waiting for him already.

Dive and Spar were given some bread and milk mixed up in a pan. It was bland, but it was better than the food he had received at the previous labor camp.

"Dive, do you think Drake DuCaine released the Governor and his family?" Sparrow chirped, finishing his food.

"No. It was the Resistance. Drake DuCaine wouldn't have let five innocent people die." Nosedive immediately regretted his tone of voice at the younger duck's crestfallen expression. He pushed the rest of his food toward Sparrow, having lost his appetite. "Sorry."

"You're mad at the Resistance because your mom died."

"No, I'm mad at myself. I froze. I was too afraid to even say goodbye."

"That's only because you didn't want to," spoke Cobran. Nosedive looked up, surprised. Cobran had been so quiet, Dive hadn't even noticed the Saurian was there.

"Why did you have to kill her? Or anybody? They were innocent."

"I'm truly sorry for their deaths. I know what it is like to lose a parent. My mother- she was executed for killing a male who tried to r-rape her." Here, Cobran looked embarrassed, but continued. "Females have little respect in our society. Although the crime was her attacker's, she paid the price for defending herself."

"Man, that's not right. I'm sorry," Nosedive murmured, closing his eyes. He tried not to imagine a world where his own mother would die in disgrace for merely trying to protect herself from harm. Nosedive saw his own pain in Cobran's eyes, and knew then, more than ever, that Cobran had seen his mother's death with the same feeling of guilt.

Grateful that at least someone other than himself believed his mother had received injustice, Cobran reached through the bars and put a hand on Dive's shoulder. Before he could say a word, a voice rang out through the prison halls.

"Warning. All Saurian soldiers and officers report to the barracks. Initiating laser probes in twenty minutes."

"I must go. I hope your Resistance friends don't show up any time soon. These probes will certainly make things interesting for them. Sleep well. I'll see you tomorrow."

Cobran slipped away and down the hall to the soldiers' dormitory. Nosedive leaned back against the wall of the prison. Sparrow, shaken by the gruesome events of the day, insisted on sleeping on the floor, next to Dive, so they shared the pallet and fell into an exhausted sleep.

Early in the morning, an alarm blared, causing Dive to wake up with a start. He shook Spar awake. Sparrow opened his eyes and sat up, wondering what was causing all the noise.

Some Saurian officers ran down the hall, cursing and swearing oaths. Cobran ran by and Dive rushed to the bars to talk to him.

"What's going on?" he whispered. Cobran motioned for him to sit down and be quiet. Dive went back to sit with Spar as Cobran ran after his comrades.

Then there was an explosion. Dive and Sparrow ran to the window to see what was going on. The mine had been rigged with explosives in the night. Not all of them had gone off, so the Saurians were digging frantically to find them and put them out.

"Dive, I'm worried. What if Cobran gets killed?"

"I'm sure he'll be fine, Spar," consoled Dive. Worrying about a Saurian? What is happening to me? Dive thought to himself. But he looked on anxiously, hoping against hope, that they would find all of the explosives in time and that Cobran would not be harmed.

The last explosive was destroyed before it went off. The Saurians cheered. Nosedive, relieved, felt like cheering along with them, but froze when he heard silence from the surrounding cells. Why should he cheer for the Saurians? The mines would be unstable now and more deaths would result from cave-ins and possibly hidden explosives. Then again, whoever was stupid enough to rig the mines was the one who made the situation worse. And now, Dive realized with a shudder, there might be punishment because of what the Resistance did.

Nosedive was right. Because the Resistance had managed to get into a security controlled perimeter, General Dactylar, the very same who had ordered the execution of his mother along with four innocent people, was 'interrogating' certain people about the military.

Dive had reason to fear. His father, Silverwing Firedrake, was in the military although he had been declared missing since Dive was six years old. That, unfortunately, was no exception.

"Firedrake, step forward," said a Saurian officer, standing before the boys' cell. Sparrow threw his arms around Nosedive's waist and held on tightly, too afraid to let go.

"Spar, let go, you'll get into trouble."

The Saurian moved forward to separate the boys. Dive pushed Sparrow behind him. "Please, sir, he's just a child – Oooh!!!"

The Saurian struck the teenager across the face with his armored gauntlet. Nosedive crumpled to his knees holding his face in his hands.

"Now, little one. Back away or I'll do worse than that."

Spar retreated to the back of the cell and watched, trembling, as Dive was hauled to his feet and dragged out of the cell. "Please don't hurt him!" he cried as the cell door was swung shut and locked. The Saurian officer looked at the duckling with something that almost looked like sympathy despite it's coldness.

Then, without another word, the Saurian twisted Dive's arm behind him and took him to General Dactylar. Cobran was just up ahead talking to one of his comrades, when he saw the officer and his captive. His amber eyes grew wide with both concern and horror, which Nosedive did not like at all.

"You're interrogating him?"

"His father is in the military, soldier. Might've told the boy something while he was around."

"I doubt it, Grunt," argued Cobran . But Grunt, the Saurian officer, dismissed him. Cobran looked at Nosedive and their eyes met.

"Spar," Dive mouthed, and Cobran nodded, understanding, and went off to console the ten-year-old. Nosedive felt a little relieved that Cobran was aware of his plight and would look over Sparrow until he got back from his 'interrogation' . . . if he survived it.

"General Dactylar, this is the one you sent for. Nosedive Firedrake."

"The one whose brother escaped from the other camp?"

"Yes," said Grunt, in an indifferent tone.

"Wildwing- he escaped?"

"Don't think for a moment he's fortunate. If he is seen, he is to be killed on the spot."

"NO!! You can't do that!"

"Can't I? Tie him down."

Grunt dragged Dive to a table and lifted the young man, forcing him to lie on it. Nosedive struggled valiantly, although there was no hope for escape should he break free of the Saurian's cruel grip.

"Stay still. Don’t make it worse for you than it already is," Nosedive heard Grunt hiss as the Saurian finished adjusting the straps.

"I don't like torturing your people. I really don't," General Dactylar said, although he grinned as if he meant the exact opposite. He reached into the fireplace and pulled out burning red tongs. "Ready?"

Nosedive saw the burning tongs. The sharp remark on his tongue melted away as he realized that Dactylar meant business. No answer did he have, but silence.

Grunt peeled Nosedive’s ragged shirt from his body and stood back. "You have five seconds to tell me what you know about the Resistance or the military."

"I don't know anything about them. Dude, no! - AAAAAAAHHHHH!!!" The pain in his shoulder was unbearable. Nosedive thought he was going to die. He cried out for mercy. It was not until he opened his eyes that he realized that the hot iron had been removed a few seconds ago. It still hurt as if it was there.

"Do you want to feel such pain again?"

"Take a wild guess," Dive growled back. He groaned as the weight of the General's heavy hand struck him across the face.

"Then answer me truthfully. What did your father tell you about the military?"

"I was just a kid - - AAAHHHH!! Stop it!! I have nothing to tell you!" Nosedive tried twisting away, but it helped little.

"When my grandfather told me about Drake DuCaine and what he did to our people, I was only three and have not yet forgotten," said the General, almost conversationally after removing the hot iron from the boy's chest.

"That's different. You were reminded about it throughout your life. I had only six years with my father."

"I had only four years with my grandfather and I remember everything he said."

"Good for you."

"You should be able to remember all that your father told you if you truly loved him."

Dive scoffed. "What would you know about love?" He was rewarded with yet another cuff, but he continued on. "I remember what my father told me. He promised he'd always come home to us. And one night, he didn't, and then the next. We never saw him again. They never even found his body, and they never told us what could have happened. I'd like for nothing more than to know the truth."

"Touching. But a stupid cover-up. Don't expect me to believe it. Everyone else has known something."

"Well I'm not everyone, am I?"

"We'll see about that." The burning pain came again, directly below the preceding burn so the pain that had dulled in the latter started anew. Dive could not help from crying out again, but he refused to let himself beg for mercy. At last, he felt the blistering heat withdraw and he opened his eyes, letting the tears fall.

"What do you know about the Resistance?"

"You n-never give up, do you?"

"Our spy, Madame DeCoy, has confirmed that your brother has joined up with the Resistance. What do you know about them, if anything?"

"N-nothing. S-same as before."

"Really? Nothing? How does your brother know about them?"

"Man, I don't know, okay?!" Nosedive moaned. The pain of the burns was making it hard for him to breathe.

"How would your brother manage to escape? Who in the Resistance might be a friend?"

"Hello! Are we talking in the same language? I . . . don’t . . . know!!"

The burning pain came yet again, with the whole burning iron bar pressed against his side. Nosedive gave a tormented wail and writhed in his bonds. "NOOO, STOP! PLEASE STOP!!"

"I'll burn you until you answer me. What base did your father work at?"

"I won't tell you!!"

The iron bar was lifted and placed back into the fireplace. Dive trembled, senses reeling with pain and nausea. Was it over? Were they satisfied? Not a chance.

"Once it's heated up again, I'll show you no mercy unless you answer my questions."

"You-you'll r-run out of room to burn me. You'll h-have to give up th-then."

"If I run out of room, I'll start right at the very beginning. Right here." General Dactylar said, tapping the burnt area where the tongs had first made contact with a talon. Nosedive flinched and tried to twist away. But the bonds still held him tightly. "All I ask is that you don't die before I finish."

"I c-can and will tell you nothing."

"Then you'll suffer for it."

"S-so will you."

General Dactylar struck the boy across the face with his talons, even harder than before, leaving nail marks along with a quickly forming bruise. Nosedive did not even bother to open his eyes again. He knew what was coming. But before the burning iron could touch his body again, General Dactylar was hailed by an officer.

"What is it, Sala? It had better be important. I'm in the middle of an interrogation."

"It's our spy. She claims she knows how to get past codes to top secret military records."

"Escort her to my office, Sala. If I find that what she says is true, I'll contact Lord Dragaunus. You, Mander! Take this boy to his cell. He is of no use to us now except for hard labor."

Nosedive's straps were undone and he was lifted from the table. His shirt was pulled on over his burns and he allowed himself to be dragged through the hall toward his cell.

Cobran saw them coming and opened the door. Mander shoved Dive in and he collapsed to the ground. Cobran began to close and lock the door while Mander walked back to his post. Once the other Saurian guard was out of sight, he opened the door and went inside. Nosedive protested gently as Cobran lifted him and laid him gently on the bed.

"What did they do to you?" Cobran demanded, concerned.

"No, no. You'll get in trouble. You shouldn't be in here."

"I won't get in trouble. My next shift is not until three hours and the others are busy checking the mine tunnels for further damage. Speaking of damage - - Vectensia, Dragoness of Death, curse them! Look what they've done to you!" Cobran’s blood ran cold as he surveyed the burns and blood on the young duck’s body.

"Where's Spar? He's not here . . . where did they take him??" Nosedive demanded in a hoarse whisper, and struggled to get up. Cobran pushed him down, firmly and gently.

"Shhh, nobody took him anywhere. He's out working with the others. No, no. Don't try to get up. I've assured him that I'd take care of you. He'll be all right. You'd have been separated today anyway. He works in the main tunnel. You were to work on the left."

"The tunnel, as in the mine? Isn't that unstable?"

"No. The main tunnel as well as the others is as solid as rock. They have all the workers near the entrance in case something does happen. Now let's get some water on your burns."

Cobran took care of Nosedive's wounds, applying water to the burns and wrapping his chest in sterile cloth to prevent infection and to lessen the pain. "I wish I could do more."

Nosedive smiled despite his wounds. "I'll be okay. Thanks."

"Don't thank me. I've done nothing."

"Yes you have."

"What? What have I done to help you?"

“Look at everyone else here. They hate and fear any and all Saurians, as if all of you are evil. I see it in their faces everyday. No other emotions. I'm glad I don't have to look at you like that. And that Spar doesn't either."

"A silly thing to be grateful to me for. But I appreciate it."

"Cobran , you don't suppose the Resistance will rig the mines again do you?"

"I can't say for sure. But I hope they realize it's hurting you and your people more than us Saurians. If not, you have some pretty stupid people in the Resistance."

"Hmm. I guess so. Speaking of which, my brother, Wildwing . . .will the guards find him?" Nosedive asked, anxiously.

"I don't know but, for your sake and his, I hope not."

"Does anyone know about you talking to me and Sparrow?"

"There's nothing wrong with talking to you. You're prisoners, not spies."

Suddenly, an explosion shook the ground and another alarm went off. "The mines!"

"Were they rigged again?" asked Nosedive, alarmed.

"I don't know. We'd best hurry -"

"Sparrow!" Ignoring his pain, Dive got up, threw his shirt on, and ran past Cobran, through the open cell door, and toward the mines. Cobran raced after him.

"Wait! Stay beside me. You'll be killed if they see you running loose." Cobran grabbed Dive's arm, not un-gently, and they soon reached the mines. There was some light shining in the depths of the main tunnel and voices drifted out.

"What about this one?"

"No, he's dead. I checked already. Wait! There's someone over here! She's breathing. Just a broken arm by the looks of it. Take her to the sickbay. She's still valuable."

Two Saurians emerged carrying a stretcher with an unconscious female on it. "How many?" asked Cobran. It was all he needed to ask.

"Not that many, fortunately. Seven dead and six wounded so far. The other workers have been transported back to their cells. It was a bad explosion but at least we got most of them out in time." The Saurian speaking looked over at Nosedive. "What's he doin' out?"

"I was guarding him in his cell after his 'interrogation'. He was alone, so I didn't want to leave him unguarded. Besides, maybe he can help with the workers trapped inside."

"Well, he better not try and make a break for it, or it's the General who'll be breakin' him." The other Saurian said with a nasty chuckle as he and his comrade took the female duck to the sickbay. Dive stuck his tongue out once their backs were turned. Cobran grunted disapproval, but could not resist a small smile as he escorted Dive into the mine.

"You, with the prisoner. Start digging over there."

In no time, Cobran and Nosedive were busy digging through the rubble to find any sign of life. A Saurian was back with a report.

"We have four hundred fifty seven people at this camp as of yesterday including the prisoner working with you and those six you've transported to the infirmary. We're still missing eight. We've no word from you of the dead."

"We've discovered seven so far that are dead; five bodies near the entrance and two more further down. The last one missing one is surely dead by now."

"Keep searching. I'll send some other soldiers to dispose of the bodies."

Dive felt a lump in his throat. He hadn't had a look at any of the dead, and was not sure whether or not Spar was among them. But soon, he had his answer.

A faint coughing sounded from the other side of the rubble. Nosedive turned to the other Saurians. "Hey, over here! I hear somebody!"

"Watch the way you talk to us, you little . . . wait a minute, you said someone's over there?"

"Move back. You better be right for your own sake." Despite what the Saurian officer growled, he looked relieved that they had found a live prisoner. The Saurian yanked Nosedive back and he and the others dug through the debris. Soon, a dusty, coughing Sparrow was pulled from the dark side of the crumbled wall of rocks. Dive wanted to run to his friend, but Cobran's eyes told him to stay put.

"Damn. A broken leg. Ah, well, he's young. He'll heal fast. Take him to the sickbay and set it. And take the other one as well. If he just came out of interrogation as Cobran said, he’ll need to be treated. We can’t afford to lose any more laborers than we already have."

Cobran lifted Sparrow and carried him out of the tunnel. Dive followed, but was quickly grabbed from behind and forced to his knees. "Not so fast. I'll not chance you running off while our backs are turned." Roast, one of the few Saurians Dive knew by name, forced Nosedive to walk ahead of him with his wrists tied behind his back.

At the infirmary, a female Saurian dabbed at Nosedive's face and burns with stinging medicine and rebandaged his chest. "How is he?" asked Dive anxiously, looking over at Spar. Sparrow had slipped into unconsciousness an hour after they had arrived at the infirmary.

"He only has a broken leg. He'll be okay in a couple weeks. We have advanced medical treatment that heals much faster than the natural process. Dactylar insisted we be prepared." The female Saurian placed the medicine on a shelf and, turning back, bumped into another Saurian officer. He cursed and raised a fist to hit her. Cobran stepped in and deftly twisted one of the officer's arms behind him.

"Wouldn't want to harm the doctor now would we? Do you know how to handle broken bones and cuts? Because you'll need to if anything happens to her, Assistant Medic. Strike her- ever - and your first patient will be yourself." Cobran released the officer who stumbled, cursing but slightly paler, into the corridor that lead to the soldiers dorm.

"Are you all right, Jaxara?"

"Yes. Thank you, Cobran. You should know by now that I'm not worth the trouble you'll get in if that officer reports you."

Cobran gently caressed her face and drew her close. "You are worth dear life to me, Jax. Don't try to convince yourself otherwise."

Jaxara's eyes lingered in his for a brief moment then tore herself away from his gentle embrace. "I am a woman. It is my duty to serve you. No woman is worth the life of any Saurian male." She turned and walked down the hall to care for the other patients. Cobran sighed and turned to Nosedive.

"She thinks too lowly of herself. I told you before that the calls of our society deems women as little better than servants. At one point in her life she wouldn't accept that. But over the years, she was broken. I tried to keep the fire alive in her. I failed."

"No, Cobran , you didn't --"

"Look at her! She would have let herself be hit by that officer if I hadn't interfered. If she was the Jaxara I know, she would have ripped his head off and spat down his throat." Dive winced at that. "But she just stood there and waited."

"She still has courage. S-she's just . . . afraid to let it show. Fortunately for that officer dude."

"I can't let her live like this. She's miserable. I wish . . . " Cobran looked after her forlornly.

"I guess she's a prisoner here like the rest of us, huh Cobran ?"

Cobran looked from Nosedive, to the unconscious Sparrow, and then in the direction Jaxara had walked off in. He clenched a taloned fist. "No. I refuse to let it be this way any longer," he growled angrily.

"Cobran , what do you mean?" Nosedive was taken aback. Was it something he said?

Just then, a guard entered and told Cobran to take Nosedive back to his cell. Cobran took Dive by the arm, in a pretence rough manner and 'dragged' him towards the prison building. "I'm going to find a way to get you three and myself out of this camp. And off the planet," he whispered as they walked along in the darkness.

"I-I can't go with you, Cobran . My bro -"

"Nosedive, you can't wait for the Resistance to come and release you, if Wildwing's even joined yet. They won't breach a high security system just to rescue someone's kid brother. If you want to get out of here, you're going to have to come with me."

"I can't just leave. The General will make the others suffer. Take Sparrow and yourself as far as to can from here, but leave me."

"You may be killed or tortured even more. I won't be here to protect you."

"I'm not leaving Wing," Nosedive said firmly.

"I'll talk to you in your cell. Later tonight."

"What about Jaxara?"

"I'll talk to her."

"She won't tell anyone?"

"Not if she still loves me."

"She better."

Cobran nudged Nosedive cutting off his next question. They walked past the guards at the entrance and down the hall to the cells. Cobran opened the cell door and thrust Nosedive inside under careful watch of the guards. They turned away as soon as Cobran had shut the door.

"Stay awake. I'll come to you later. I'm going to talk to Jax."

Nosedive nodded and curled up against the wall. Cobran walked down the hall and out the door leaving Nosedive alone. But not for long.

Footsteps sounded through the hall. Many footsteps. Nosedive stared listlessly at the ground, thinking it was just another group of soldiers headed outside to check the mines. The opening of his cell door caused him to glance up sharply.

"The Resistance strikes again, eh?" sneered General Dactylar. "There's a spy around here, Firedrake. That's how they released Governor Woodstin. That's how they managed to breach the security and slip in unnoticed to bomb the mines. I don't like it."

"Well, I don't think it's very bright either, so why get on my case about it?"

With a deft motion, General Dactylar's talons snaked out and yanked Nosedive upright by the collar. "Glad we agree. So you won't mind about being bait for the Resistance? Not that you have a choice, but I am hoping you don't mind," the General said, in mock politeness. The other men chuckled sinisterly.

"Why choose me for bait? Just out of curiosity."

"If your brother's truly part of the Resistance as Madame DeCoy insisted, he'll rush out into the open to save his dear little brother, don't you agree? Perhaps he'll bargain with us; betray the Resistance to ensure your safety."

"He wouldn't. He knows better. The only thing you'll gain from him by killing me is a death curse on your heads - and one I hope he carries out."

Dactylar's face grew dark, but his smooth voice did not betray his anger. "Whoever said we were going to kill you? I said you were tomorrow's entertainment. A flogging would be most entertaining."

Nosedive gasped. "A-a flogging!? That's torture, not an execu-"

"Exactly. I don't want you dead yet. And I want your brother to have time to think while he's watching your torture. And to make sure you don't do any disappearing acts, the laser probes will keep your Resistance fri-"

"They're not my friends," spat Nosedive, defiantly.

The General let go of Nosedive, and weakened, the boy slipped to the floor. "Very well. Don't try anything. You'll be flogged tomorrow night. Sweet dreams."

The Saurians again laughed at this and walked out of the cell, slamming the barred door behind them.

Nosedive shuddered as if poison was running through his veins. They had given him an execution. He had felt the weight of a lash across his back a good many times in the mines and after each beating, in his weakened state, he had felt like dying. They had called it torture, but it was an execution nonetheless. A slow and painful one.

An hour later, Cobran found the fifteen-year-old curled up with his back to the wall and trembling.

"Nosedive, what happened?"

"They-they're going to torture me tomorrow. In front of e-everyone."

"No! I won't let them."

"Cobran, listen to me. Don't let this interfere with taking Spar and Jaxara out of here. Please. General Dactylar wants the Resistance and he wants them bad. I'll be the diversion you need to slip out unnoticed."

"I won't let you do this. You'll die."

"If - if you take me out of here, someone else will pay in my place. Someone else who is innocent will suffer -"

"You are innocent!" Cobran hissed, grief strangling his voice.

"Cobran . . . I wish . . . " Cobran listened, but all that followed was quiet sobbing.

"If anyone deserves to die it is the ones who made the lies that brought this evil to Puckworld. For years my ancestors told me that the Puckworldians were a savage, ruthless race, that they'd harm us if we didn't get them first. And yet when I see you and your - your will to understand, I can't help wondering who the real savages are. My people are a bitter and violent race. You are the only real friend I've ever had. I can't lose you."

"I can't leave Puckworld. Not when it's like this, and not without Wing. It isn't right. "

"If you join the Resistance, maybe you can change all of this."

"The Resistance? Why? So I can rig some more mines? Cause more people to be killed and tortured for information?"

"It wasn't the Resistance that rigged the mines. I found out from Jaxara who was tending one of the General's bodyguard who got hit from debris during the explosion. The medicine she made him drink was 30% alcohol. Loosened his tongue quite a bit, I'd say.

"Anyway, it was all an elaborate lie. He staged the whole thing so you prisoners would want to betray the Resistance. He thought you and your people's reaction would be worth the loss of any who died. The Resistance did release the Governor and his family. Dactylar wants them, bad. He's furious they're powerful enough to slip through Saurian security and he's afraid it will happen again.

"We have found other rebel camps, but never that of the Resistance. Our spy, Madame DeCoy, can't very well help Dactylar or the Overlord because security is too tight to let her in and out as she pleases. General Dactylar had the idea to call off the hunt for your brother because he wanted him to have a chance to find and join the Resistance. So he could use you to lure them out."

"That son of a . . . "

"Precisely. The Resistance is General Dactylar's personal goal. He intends to find the secret headquarters and kill off everyone he finds no matter what the price.”

"I can't let him use me for that. But if I leave . . . someone else will pay."

"When are you to be . . . " Cobran couldn't say the word.

"Tomorrow night."

"I won't leave without you. I've found a ship. Jaxara and Sparrow will meet me at the hangar and we can use the built in lasers to -- "

"No. Cobran , listen. You can't just swoop down out of the sky and save me. It will put you in greater danger. I'll be the diversion. They'll be watching me. You can escape."

"Nosedive, I can't just turn my back on you."

"If you and Jaxara and Spar get caught and killed trying to rescue me, that will hurt me worse than any torture General Dactylar can inflict upon me. It would be in vain anyway. I could never find the Resistance Headquarters any more than I could leave my bro."

"Are - are you sure you won't come with us?" Cobran's voice was heavy with sorrow.

"Where do you plan on going?"

"We will travel as far from this world as we can. You may never hear from us again."

"Good luck, Cobran . I won't forget you."

"Your mind is made up, then. I will never forget you, Firedrake." Cobran and Nosedive clasped hands through the bars.

"Warning. All soldiers and officers report to the barracks. Initiating laser probes in twenty minutes," called a Saurian voice over the intercom.

Cobran turned and walked down the hall of the prison. He did not look back. Nosedive wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Nosedive leaned back against the wall of the prison and looked up at the sky through the barred window. The stars were shining brightly.


Go to Part Two
Back to Dendraica's Fanfiction
Back to Fanfiction