Maternal Instincts

By Lana Emerald

Five years ago...

Lana shivered as a cold wind cut through her barely there attire. She clutched her long, black leather trench coat closely to her, and walked across the snowy courtyard. The alleyway behind her was a backyard to a laboratory of some sort. She adjusted her sunglasses, and faced the courtyard's dying garden. She paused, taking a long drag from her cigarette. She closed her eyes and breathed in the toxic fumes. She heard a crunch of snowy ground behind her, and she turned with much agility, her sword at the ready.

" Easy, easy...I didn't mean to startle you, miss. I was just going to ask if I could bum a smoke."

Lana looked about, and saw no one else around but a bearded gray duck in a long white lab coat. She deactivated her sword. She pulled her cigarette out of her beak, and exhaled. She studied his name tag.

" Sure...Dr. Ikal." She watched him closely as she handed him a cigarette. There was something about him she didn't like.

" Do you have a light?" Lana flicked the lighter's tab and ignited his smoke. " Thank you."

" Yeah. Whatever."

" Cold day. Especially cold for this region."

"It's Puckworld, what do you expect?"

"Sorry, miss. I was just making polite conversation."

"Yeah, well...Sorry I bit off your head like that."

"So, uh...what are you doing here? In the backyard of a private facility?"

"Just looking."

"Ahhhh...for what, may I ask?"

" Roaches. I'm a building inspector. What do you think? I just was walking around, I came here, now, I'm leaving. Bye." Lana turned hastily and started to walk steadily to the end of the property.

"That's good...I would hate to have to turn you in, Miss Emerald...for trespassing on top secret grounds..."

Lana stopped where she stood and slowly turned around to face him.

"What? How do you know who I am?"

"I know lots of things about you. I know you came here to infiltrate this lab building from an anonymous tip you received on underhanded experiments that may be going on here...I know you are six feet tall exactly, a runaway from your childhood manor in Grover Island, you like cream cheese on your pretzels, you are an ex-elite member, now a freelance Interstellar Bounty Hunter that will do anything for gold, and you have had more variations in your love life than a Alterian whore."

Lana strode to face him, and pulled a gun to his forehead.

"You do know lots about me. Too much. Who are you? Are you the from the Four Planets Federation? Talk!"

He smirked.

She cocked the gun.

"I said talk!"

"We have been watching you for a long time, Lana Emerald. We like what we have seen and learned. I would like to make a proposal, if you please, on behalf of Hess Lab's entire staff and patronage."

Lana never broke her stare, and remained motionless, holding the gun to his face.

"" He sighed.

"Are you going to shoot me or poke my eye out?" Lana slowly put the gun beneath her trench coat.


"Better." She scowled. "Charming lady. Lana, may I call you Lana?"

"Knock yourself out."

"Your anonymous tip was made by none other than myself. We wanted you to come down here. For a project that you can benefit from." He rubbed his fingers together in a dollar motion.

"I'm listening."

"All we ask of you is that you let us take some samples from your person."

"What KIND of samples?"

He waved off her apprehension.

"The, blood, feather, hair, brain and female fluids...nothing hazardous."

She put her cigarette out and stomped it flat. She made a face. "Why do you need them?"

"Oh...a little project we're working on. Top secret, I'm afraid. But we will pay you handsomely for your contributions."

"Mmmm...that may be, but I don't do business in the dark. Besides, why the subterfuge? And why me? It all seems a bit shady."

"We thought you liked it that way."

"Not when it comes to biological science. I gotta jet. I have another gig." Lana turned on her heels and started towards the end of the property again.

"Don't you want to know why we chose you?" He shouted after her. She waved goodbye. "Pity. Really. You could have done drake kind so much good..."

Lana turned quickly and stared hard at him.

"What is your problem?"

He walked slowly and steadily towards her.

"The good you could have done would have saved this planet from vice and error."

"What? There's no such possibility."

"Come inside and I will explain in private."

"I don't know..."

"Don't you want to do some good for your planet? Traipsing around the heavens as cut throat does no justice for your race."

"If you think that's all I do, then why did you chose me for this?"

"I will tell you inside..."


Lana plopped on the desk in Dr. Ikal's office. He raised an eyebrow. She didn't take notice of him as she wriggled out of her coat. Her scantily clad metal 'clothing' caused him to raise his other eyebrow.

"What?" She asked angrily and bewildered.

"Nothing...So here we are...down to business."

"Yeah. So tell me why you chose me. And what you are doing with these samples, and this whole 'benefit my planet' jargon."

" All right. First get off my desk and sit properly on that chair."

She sighed and did so. He sat at his desk, making a steeple with his thumb and forefinger.

"You are aware of the defects in our society and health worldwide?"

"No one's perfect, doctor."

"What if there was a chance we could make it that way? Rub out all the error in drakes by genetically breeding it out of their systems? Banish the failures and insanity, illness and physical ugliness from people?" Lana stared silently at him. He continued. "All one would need to do so is create people that are in fact, perfect. They would be of course, mortal and they would act normally, but they would be the epitome of a perfectly sculpted being. Physically beautiful, highly intelligent, athletic, artistic...they would have it all."

" But what about emotion and drive?"

"That would come naturally. It wouldn't effect the perfect being."

"Emotion and drive are what fuel people into who they are. You can't stop that."

"Emotions are weak. They will be small. We'll make it so the being would be all these wonderful things, and yes, Ms. Emerald. They would have emotion. But their perfect selves would overpower everything else."

"I see. But that doesn't explain why you need me and my 'samples.'"

"Remember how I said this company had been watching you? We feel that the only way to go forward with this project, is to find near-perfect people."

"Gee. All this and you haven't asked for a drink or a date..."

"Seriously, Lana. You are the most skilled female warrior we've come across. You sing, dance..."

"Only for money."

"You have strategically captured all your charges and foes. Your methods for action and capture are most unique, but all the same, undetected and unbelievable. No one can touch you. And, you are physically alluring. Beautiful, tall, a siren."

"Heh. Thanks. Is that all? I'm tough, talented, smart and beautiful? Geeze. It doesn't take much to impress you guys. There are girls like me everywhere."

"No there are not. We've looked."

"I know. I just wanted to hear you say it." She smirked.

"It's your abilities and beauty we are after. So, what do you say? Will you join us in our project?"

Lana sat back and breathed out. She inspected him closely.

"No one will be harmed?"

"No one."

"And I'll get paid for all this?

"350,000 deros."

"That's a lot of money for some samples."

"Now do you see why we value this project so much?"

"When do I get paid?"

"I'll write you a check right now."

"No check. Cash. Or collateral."

"Fine. It will be arranged before you leave."

"When do I start?"

"Now." Lana got up, and gathered her things. "Oh and one more thing. After you get paid, you will be sworn to secrecy.< Otherwise...we will turn you into the Four Planets Federation."

"You can't do that. I'm not even registered on this planet."

"We can. We have our ways." Lana sighed and raised her brow.

"Your secret's safe with me."

"Good. Follow me."


Present...five years later, in the far east of Puckworld....

Evan ran as fast as lightning, and ducked with grace and agility behind the mounds of tattered sculptures. He watched with anticipation, and covered his ears. The laser strike followed the wick all the way to the tomb's stone door. He squeezed his aqua-green eyes shut, and at that instant, the door was blasted into smithereens. He coughed through the dust, and waved the billowing clouds of rock and ancient dirt away from his eyes. He gathered his things, and walked slowly through the haze of dirt.

His lean, yet strong and perfectly shaped silhouette appeared dark and menacing, though his stature was small for a young man. There was a sound of distant screams in the night. He turned slightly, and smiled halfway. He took out his laser bazooka and shot the opening to the tomb shut behind him. He turned back to the black, intimidating entrance ahead of him. He smiled again, this time, completely, and turned his flashlight on.

The scattered skeletons of warriors and thieves before him all warned him of the traps that would lay ahead. Evan was a very young man, an adolescent. But he wasn't afraid.


In deep space, three planets away from Puckworld...

Lana strode to the Captain's chair in the control room of the space ship Bone Ornament.

"Why are you driving this hunk of metal like a drunken frat boy?"

"Calm down, honey. I know what I'm doing." Cody smirked, then successfully dodged her slap.

"Like Hell...The-GAH!"

Lana fell backwards as Cody hit warp speed, and the massive ship jerked forward with a great g-force. The FPF police behind them were throwing everything they had at them. Cody smirked again and looked to his crew running the bridge.

"Can we continue at this speed without burning out?" Cody asked with a laugh to his voice.

" 'Course, captain. Our generators were lifted from planet Gavalia, remember?"

"Ah yes. The most advanced race in transportation. I lead us to the best places, don't I?"

"We always have our fair share of fun, Captain." Another crew member added.

The FPF police fired at the rear of the ship, and the gargantuan ship shook like thunder.

"Remember when I brought us to the V-planet sector?"

The ship shook violently again.

"Excuse me, I'd hate to interfere in your reminiscing hour, but have you noticed? We're being fired at!" Lana grabbed Cody's arm as the ship rattled.

"Easy, babe."

"Do you have a death wish, you idiot? They'll get us! Drive this thing like you mean it!"

Cody laughed loudly and jerked the control at a sudden right, and Lana lost her balance again and fell on her backside. "Some fun, huh Lani? Just like old times."

"Gee...A barrel of fun. Thanks."

Cody jerked the control left, and as Lana got up, she was thrown to the floor again. "I hate you, of course." He only laughed. He pushed the control downward, and the ship nose dived into space. Everyone on crew who weren't buckled in, were thrown about. Lana was spun backwards until she hit the wall. Cody laughed.

"I love my career. I could do this until I'm a hundred." Cody and his crew laughed merrily. Lana scowled and fumed.

"Quit playing around and take this seriously, you big dumb oaf!"

The laughter ceased. The crew stared in awe first at Lana, and then to their captain. He didn't even turn around to face her. His voice had lost all it's warmth and humor.

"Remember, Ms. Emerald. It's YOU the Four Planets Federation is after tonight, not us. If you don't like how I'm flying, I can drop you off at the next quasar. I told you. I know what I'm doing. If it weren't for me and my crew, you'd be face down on an executor's block in Sector Four."

Lana was silent. She closed her eyes halfway and looked down.

The ship soared ahead in silence. The silence was deafening. Suddenly it was broken by another laser hit on the Bone Ornament. Cody sighed.

"Hey, Davido, how long until we reach neutral territory?"

The Navigator looked up from his screen.

"Puckworld, east side, dead ahead in check...five seconds...four!"

Cody smiled and winked at the pretty weapons commander. "Sessy? Fire away."

"Yes, Captain." She hit the laser cannon, and it hit the FPF ship right at the helm.

The crew cheered. Cody howled.

"Woo!! Sessy! I love you! Always a bull's eye, every time."

"That's why you hired me, Cap'n."

"And then some! All right everybody, we're heading for Puckworld's atmosphere." He whirled his throne-like captain's chair to face Lana. She walked slowly to him. "We're home free. They can't touch us now."

She looked down, and smiled awkwardly.

"Uh...Thanks for the ride."

"No prob." He smiled widely and warmly.

"I guess, you can drop me off in Eastern Puckworld, since we're facing it."

"Sure. We're heading there anyway. Princess wants me to check out their political situation."

Lana closed her eyes and nodded, not looking up to meet his eyes. She laughed quietly.

"Are you a pirate or an emissary?"

"Always a pirate." A crew member approached them.

"Captain, we set the generators back at normal speed. Where are we landing?"

"Eastern side. How Han-Jing?"

Lana nodded.

"Right away, Captain." He went off to the controls.


"I know." He stroked her arm for a second, then drew away slowly. He scratched his eye and turned away. He clapped his hands loudly. "All right ev-ery-body! We're going to do some free-of-charge buying in Han-Jing!" The crew on deck cheered, and Cody grinned. He turned to face Lana, smiling brightly. "I have to get my Princess Elaine something special!"

Lana wilted inside. She forced a smile.

"And I need to get some jade for my dealer on Rizal."

Cody smacked her back.

"That's the spirit!"

Lana faked a smile and turned out to the doors. She headed down the hall of the main wing to an empty room on the ship. She collapsed in a chair, in the dark.

"I'll always be alone."


Evan eyed the hieroglyphics with much scrutiny. He rested his chin on his hand and raised an eyebrow.

" 'Secret portals reveal themselves,'" He read. He squinted his eyes. He held his flashlight up higher to read the next series. His white hair and vermilion feathers shone like a celestial body. He laughed, annoyed. " ' Look for pointing dragons.'" He rolled his eyes. "The cryptic language of these ancient peoples is ridiculous!" He read on. " ' Beware the fool who laughs.'" His angular, thick lashed eyes widened. "Ouch. That better not mean me." He gasped at the next message. " ' He who laughs in vain will surely die.'" He let out a low whistle, and looked about. He sighed. "Well, I was looking for my aides, and was going to ask if THEY wanted to go first, but I just remembered. I don't have any. I work alone." He looked down and added absently: "Always alone." He looked up and followed the hieroglyphics into the next room.


The Spaceship Bone Ornament landed in an open meadow, boarded by Mountains. The clear blue green lakes of the meadow reflected the night sky like a satin sheet pinned with diamonds. Cody stepped out and put his hands on his hips. He took in a deep breath.

" place like home. Puckworld, I love you."

Lana approached him from behind. She looked at the open field and gasped.

"We' re in the middle of nowhere! Where's Han-Jing City?"

"We're where no one will find us. FPF will be sending out distress calls to Puckworld's leaders about our little altercation. We need to lay low for a few days."

"Damn it!" Lana leapt off the on ramp onto the ground. "What are we going to do until then? Count the lilies?"

He smiled.

"Lana. The years have made you soft. You're losing your edge. You're a thief, too, right?"

"Yes, you insufferable man."

"There are tombs of ancient Puckworldian Emperors and feudal lords. Time to party, babe."

"I'm not a grave robber, idiot."

"It's not grave robbing if their relatives are all dead."

"Your reasoning is shocking, Thunderfeather."

"Thanks." He tapped his gadget gauntlet and called for his second. "Zephyr? Assemble a scouting group of four, counting yourself. Lani baby and I want to go a-stealing."

Lana raised and eyebrow.

"Please don't tell me you called me baby. And I will not rob the graves of old kings so you can have a rush."

"You're no fun anymore, Lana. You used to be so candid and wild. It's like you've lost all your zip."

"People change, Cody."

"No...I think you're holding back."

"I'm still the same Lana. I just...don't feel like going the whole nine yards is all, lately."

"May I ask why?"

Lana looked up at him from the ground. She motioned with her head for him to follow her. He jumped off the ramp and landed right next to her. She walked towards the lake, and he came up behind her.

"Cody...Do you ever feel like you're missing something?" "What do you mean?"

"Like you have all the material things you could ever need and you feel you've evolved into a perfect version of yourself, but something's still not there?"

He sniffed and looked to the side.

"Not really. I have everything I could want. I have a loyal crew, lots of respect, adventure, and my princess at my side...well...not literally. But you know? I have all I could want."

She nodded sadly. And turned her back to him.

"I have a wonderful life. I have respect and I have fame. I even have fear. But I don't have...there's just a missing piece to my life."

"Oh I see..." He smiled cockily. "Why didn't I see it before? You miss the Code-man's lovin'?"

Lana widened her eyes in shock and turned to face him.

"Argghh! As if!"

"I know. I know. It's hard to go back to the pool, when you've swam in the lake know as Thunderfeather."

Lana stared blankly at him, her beak in a sneer.

"Are you for real? Please. I'll admit. We had some good times, but those times are over. I've moved on."

" too..." He smacked her buttocks and she glared at him. She motioned to do the same, then wilted as he dodged her. He only laughed. "Kidding, sweets. I was trying to lighten the mood."

"You could never take anything meaningful seriously."

"Not true. I care about meaningful things. Just you don't know me as well as you thought you did, Lana."


"Yeah whatever. Miss missing piece."

Lana turned to the sky and closed her eyes tightly.

"I'm serious! I can feel that there's a piece of me out there. Waiting to join with me close. I know it is."


Evan gripped on the edge of the wall for dear life. The ground beneath him had been reduced to a balance beam thick floor. He watched with utter annoyance at the bottomless pit behind him, which taunted him.

"Stupid! Idiot! Brainless moron! How could I make such a childish mistake???!!!"

He looked up and screamed into the darkness.

He squeezed his eyes together and gritted his teeth. His beak looked as if it was going to crack. He stayed, clinging to the wall. He looked up at the hieroglyphics in front of him. He read them, shaking with anger.

" ' Laughing fools always hear their laugh echoing too late.'"

He screamed again. He pressed his forehead against the carved wall in front of him. He panted, then counted to ten. "All right. All right. That was a stupid mistake. I just can't afford to make anymore." He took a deep breath, and sighed. He paused a moment before he edged his way past the hole.

Evan leapt to the path with the grace of a jungle cat. He dusted himself off, and set his backpack on the ground. He had lost his flashlight down the pit, but he had a spare. He flicked it on, and continued toward the narrow, blue lit corridor in front of him. Another step closer to his prize. Before he entered, he reached in his pocket, and fished out a crumpled photo that he had. It was a Cardakian woman, in her very early twenties. He sighed at the image, and held it to his lips for a minute. "Wherever you are, I know you're with me, mother." He looked at the photo one more time, and restored it to his deep pocket. He continued towards the blue light.


Captain Cody Thunderfeather laughed as his machete slashed through the thick barricade of bamboo shoots.

"Very good, Cody. Now the animals here won't have anything to eat."

"Calm down Lana. I only knocked the old ones down. Hey Zephyr? How are you guys doing back there?"

"All right Captain. The scouter says we're only a few square yards away from that Shogun's tomb."

As Zephyr read his scouter intently, another pirate spoke up. "Hey isn't he the Shogun that was a sorcerer of some sort? Dappled in ancient remedies and spells of the dead?"

The second pirate girl laughed.

"Oooooh! You're scaring me! Stop. Please."

The third pirate continued with the legend.

"And he made some talisman that located lost loves of living and...dead things...Hey, Captain. He could bring back your sex life."

The pirates laughed. Cody rolled his eyes.

"Ha, ha. Remind me not to pay your salary next week."

Lana stopped in her tracks, and pointed.

"Look, there."

Cody and his four pirates caught up to her, and gasped at the sight before them.

Surrounding the clearing of vines and oriental greens and trees, there was a clearing, wide open with nothing growing all around it. It was a catacomb of great stature. It was intimidating and gray. The marble cut grave was enormous and patterned with fine carvings of this Shogun's brave life. The base was massive with a wide stone stairway to the entrance. It was blocked by broken statues and molding.

Cody stopped in front of it, Lana and his scouts close behind. He scratched his chin.

"Hmmm...You think we could blast it away without tearing down the place?"

Zephyr stepped forward and inspected the door frame.

"Someone blasted it before us, and it's still standing."

Lana sighed impatiently.

"How can you tell the damn place isn't decaying, and it fell on its own? If we go in, we're liable to get squished."

Zephyr shrugged.

"There's mortar blast wires attached to it from this corner. See?"

They all looked.


Cody crossed his arms in front of his wide chest.

"I say we try blasting it with our guns. Everyone, be prepared to run like Hell if something goes wrong."

The second pirate girl spoke up.

"What if whoever blasted this place is still in there?"

Lana crossed her arms like Cody.

"Yeah, 'Captain' what if?"

"Then they'll be getting some competition. Everyone, line up and prepare to fire."

The six ducks lined up about two meters away from the opening, and started to fire their lasers and puckblasters at the hole. Cody shouted through the loud blasts.

"Everyone keep your aim clear of the door frame!"

The blasts continued, with gusts of ancient dirt and rock dust billowing up towards them. All anyone could see was the sparks of the gunfire through the clouds and clouds of dirt and dust. Cody shouted again.

"Cease fire!"

The firing stopped. The clouds began to dissolve, and pull away. The doorway was clear.

Lana stared wide eyed at the entrance.

"Dark in there."

"We can handle it." The third pirate commented.

Cody made a face.

"Shush. We need to be careful. These tombs are deathtraps for the inexperienced and cocky."

"Right, Captain."

Cody waved it off, and gestured for the others to follow him. Lana brought up the rear. Just as she crossed the threshold to the tomb, the outer wall began to rumble, and shake like a giant earthquake. They all turned to the doorway, and a cloud of dust flew up in pillows around them. The doorway was completely blocked by the old stone catacomb's loose rock.

"Damn it! How are we going to get out of here now, oh brilliant one?" Lana threw her blaster down in the darkness.

"We're going to die, here with no air, Captain," Zephyr put flatly.

"Great! When I signed up for your crew, I was promised money and excitement. Not certain death!"


"Calm down everyone. We've been in worse scrapes than this before. You're all just a bit claustrophobic, is all. We can get out of here. There's always a back exit to these places."

"No, Cody. There are back exits to nightclubs and movie theaters. Not ancient oriental tombs!"

"Oh ye of little faith, Lana. Everyone, start your lights on your gauntlets. Follow me."

The five other ducks turned their lights on, and reluctantly followed Cody into the uncertain darkness. The pirate girl tripped over a fuse.

"AHHHHHH! A snake! I know it is!"

"Look at the's a fuse."

"Oh...I almost had a heart attack!"

Lana bent down on one knee and examined the burned out fuse. She ran her gloved finger across the wire, and lifted her hand to her beak. She smelled it, than tasted the residue.

"This fuse was lit not too long ago. Whoever is here, isn't very far."

"Then we'll have to be careful and quiet. That treasure is as good as ours." Cody turned to the next doorway. "Let's go."

"How can you think of treasure? We need to get out of here."

"As long as we're here, we'll do what we came for. Now, come on." The four pirates followed Cody instinctively and loyally. Lana lingered a moment and looked around.

"This is not good." She looked around and noticed it was getting dark and scary without all six lights burning. "Hey! Wait for me!"


Evan turned suddenly as he heard an echoing of voices behind him. They were coming from the pit he created. He thought he heard a series of small explosions before, but they could have been fireworks. Now, he wasn't so sure. There were people nearing his location. And they can't have come for the ancient artwork on the walls or to pay respect to a dead shogun. No, at this hour, they could be only one thing: tomb raiders like himself.

"Oh no you don't. I got here first. The Talisman of Wei Shang is mine. I've looked for it my whole life."

Evan reached into his pack and pulled out a barrel to a laser bazooka. He pulled out a base and a handle as well, putting the weapon together.

"You're not getting it without a fight." He clicked the last piece in place. "I've studied and searched for four years on the exact location of the talisman, and I've lived like a gypsy, saving for the right equipment for this venture. No, this is my night, my find." He crouched down and aimed for the opening of the blue hall, waiting.

The voices neared, getting louder and more enunciated. Their footsteps were loud booms of echoes in the hollow tomb. Evan clicked the trigger...

The first to enter was a big, muscle bound man with wild green hair. A Cardakian in race. He was leading the way, and was decorated man. He must be the leader, Evan thought.

The next man was a lean man, light gray in color, and silver in hair, he had glasses and enough tracking and portable computer equipment on him to be a spy. He looked dry and obedient. He must be the second.

Three other warrior looking ducks followed. A woman, hardly twenty two, and a man with slicked hair and dumb expression. The other man entered, looking even dumber than the other. But all three looked like they could take out anybody.Evan noted to be careful, he wasn't a wimp, but he wasn't exactly a hard core warrior. He aimed for the three, readying to fire at them first. Take out the groundlings, and survive. But then there was that large man...he'd have to kill him right after these three.

Then, she entered. A Cardakian with long green hair, and near thirty...She was stately, yet something about her poise was sleazy. Evan squinted his eyes, studying her face. She was so familiar! Those eyes, that smile...she! She couldn't be!

He reached in his deepest pocket and pulled out the photo. Their faces matched exactly! Only, this live woman was older. It makes sense, she would be. It's been five years since his birth. He knew, at that moment, he could not kill any of the intruders.

The Cardakian woman spoke."Cody, there's been nothing but carved rock. No opulent decor or valuable artifacts. Where's the treasure?"

"Give me a minute. It's got to be here." He traced the outline of a large wall. It had more hieroglyphics on it, and large pictures of samurai getting impaled by large blades from all angles. Evan watched him closely from the shadows. 'Cody' was getting near a carving that jutted out more than the others. Evan's heart stopped. He didn't hear himself yell or feel his feet sprint to the man...


It was too late. Cody had triggered the trap, and large creaking blades flew from their perches. Evan managed to offset the big man's balance, and they all shot to the floor, dodging the many blades. The blades all ceased firing after a minute, and the hall was decorated with large semi circles, razor sharp. Everyone seemed to let out a deep breath, in unison. Evan lay stomach down, over the Captain's chest, mock pinning him. Evan wiped his forehead.

"Whew. That was a close one."

"Heh...yeah. Thanks, kid." Cody looked uncomfortable. Evan immediately jolted, standing above him.

Cody got up slowly, eyeing the strange looking young man carefully. They all were. Evan turned in all directions, watching them watch him.

"What? Look, I saved you guys...don't get any ideas."

"What ideas?" The girl pirate let out breathlessly. She eyed him fondly, and he glared at her, feeling like raw meat.

Zephyr was the first to come near him.

"My boy, who are you?"

"I'm merely a tomb raider, an explorer."

"You're a grave robber, is what you are." Lana folded her arms over her metallic chest.

"And what are you people? I mean no harm to these ancient people. You guys look like a bunch of rogues...pirates..."

"We are." Cody stuck his chest out proudly. "Captain Cody Thunderfeather, of the Spaceship Bone Ornament. And you are?"

Evan hesitated. He looked to Lana.

"Who is she? She's not a pirate."

"I'm not. I'm a bounty hunter."

"Why are you allied with thieves?"

"We called a temporary truce. And I am a thief as well. But that doesn't matter. Who are you?"

He swallowed. She could very well be it. He turned to her and spoke.

"Evan Emerald."

"Sorry kid, that's my name. Legally."


She laughed shortly.

"Yeah. Right."

Cody scoffed.

"Gee Lana. I knew you when you were eighteen, you're twenty eight now, he's got to be a teen himself, that would have made you a kid...Man! Impossible."

"Indeed." Zephyr scoffed.

" say I'm your mother? I don't think that's possible. Being that I would remember the excruciating painful experience of childbirth."

He shook his head quickly.

"No. I wasn't born that way."

"Excuse me? Then how, pray tell? I'm finding this hard to believe, kid." Lana rolled her eyes. Cody scratched his chin. "Say, Zephyr? Can't you take a blood sample with your organic scanner? Settle this mystery."

"Of course sir." He neared Evan and Lana with a scanner. The needles protruded outward, and Lana and Evan jolted.

"Needles? No. No, no, no." Lana shook her head rapidly. Evan backed away from the scanner.

"There's so many technological advancements. Isn't there a way to read blood types with out disgusting methods?"

Zephyr tapped the needles with a rubber gloved hand.

"Nope. Give me your arms. Bottoms up. Wait...that can't be right. Here she goes? Eh..."

Lana squinted her eyes and screamed,

"Just do it, you moron!"

"Righto." He plunged the first needle into Lana's arm, and took the sample. Evan squirmed as Zephyr neared his arm with the second needle.

"I really hate this." Evan gritted his teeth as the needle took his blood.

"You and me both." Lana gulped as Zephyr took both needles out. "Scanning...processing...hold on...Huh. That's funny. They're exactly alike in every property."

"How is that funny?"

"He's your kid, Lana." She laughed.

"Yeah, right. How???"

Evan sighed and turned away from her.

"I'm a horrible experiment gone wrong."

"Excuse me?"

Cody repeated,

"He says he's a horrible-"

"I heard him, Cody!"

"Do you remember selling your personal organic samples to a place called Hess Labs, mother?"

"Long time ago, don't call me mother."

He sighed.

"Please. This is difficult for me."

"No shit. How do you think I'm taking it? So, you're a petrie dish kid? My eggs, yadda yadda..."

"No. Not that simple." He looked about him. Everyone was nearing him. Cody put his hand on Evan's shoulder.

"How then?"

Evan swallowed.

"Biologically engineered duplicate..."

"A what?"

"A clone." Zephyr put flatly.

Lana crossed her arms and fidgeted where she stood. She furrowed her brow and looked down.

"So, basically, you're a freak?"


"Yes, I think you are. Some science lab takes my blood and fluids, and then mixes it in a big pot, and grows you from nothing. No spirit, no emotion, nothing. Just like a vegetable. You're not real. No."

"Please, don't...mother..."

Lana backed away from him as far as she could. She put up her hand as he neared her.

"No! Don't call me that. I remember now! Hess Labs? Some doctor finds me on the grounds, when in fact he contacted me, and tells me he's ridding the world of vice, sin and error! By taking my samples and someone else's and making a monster."

"I'm not a monster."

"Than what are you?!"

"Your son. I want nothing more than to belong to you, mother."

"Stop it! I'm not your mother. A thing like you could never be mine!"

Cody strode over to Lana and grabbed her harshly. She tried to get away. "You're hurting me."

"Enough, Lana. Don't act like this!"

The other pirates watched speechlessly, unable to understand. The dumb one spoke.

"So, you're like, a clone? That means you're bred from...woah..."

"Don't think so hard, you'll hurt yourself!" Lana shouted. She struggled to break free from Cody's grasp.

"Shut up, Lana! Take this like an adult and calm down!" Cody shook her.

"Let go of her!" Evan gripped Cody's shoulder in an asymmetric angle, causing immense pain to shoot up Cody's arm and chest. "A-arghh...stop it, kid...I'm on your side."

"Yeah. Let go of her. She's just confused."

"I don't think so...kid." Evan gripped Cody's pressure point, weakening him to his knees. "All right! All right!" Cody released Lana. Lana backed away as Cody caught his breath. "What was that?"

"None of your business. I was taught well on Rizal."

Lana made an infuriated face.

"There was no need to hurt him like that."

"He was hurting you."

"I could take care of myself."

Evan looked sincerely hurt.

"Please...Mothe-Lana. I've been searching for you all my life. I even have your picture! I downloaded it from Hess Lab's records..." He pulled out the crumpled photo and showed it to her. Cody and Zephyr neared. "See?"

Cody kept his distance from Evan.

"Gee Lana...were you ever dressed decently?"

"You never complained."

"That was different."

Evan made a face. He felt disgusted all of a sudden.

"You two...were..."

Cody smirked.

"Six years ago we broke it off. She was getting set in her ways. You know? All she thought of was work, work, work. Capture, kill, capture, reward..."

"And all you thought of was money, fame, reputation."

"And sex. Don't forget that."

"Please." Lana rolled her eyes. Evan glared at Cody.

"Anyway...Don't you see? Proof that I knew you."

Zephyr looked around the blue lit hall.

"Why were you here? For treasure?"

"The Talisman of Wei Shang. It finds people dead or alive."

Lana turned sideways, grimacing. Cody looked to her as Zephyr came forward.

"And you were searching for Lana, I presume."

"Yes. I've tried every method of search, but all have failed. I found this Shogun's history in a raid I did just south of here. I figured, if this talisman was real, I could find her."

"Magic is fake, Evan." Lana spat.

"No, there is some truth in fairy tale. I know so. I knew this was my last chance in finding you. But I don't need it now that I've found you. I can't believe I have! What are the odds? Pretty damn slim! But I beat them. I finally met you after all this time."

He neared her again, cautiously, but with all the joy of a child found. She jolted, shocked by his nearness.

"No. Don't touch me."

He wilted, shattered. The three pirates looked at one another.

"He's not going to bite you, Lana." One of the men said. The girl whispered under her breath.

"I wish he would bite me..." No one heard but Evan. He spun around.

"Superior hearing. And I would never do that. Sorry to disappoint you." She flushed and backed away.

Cody looked about.

"So...there's no treasure?"


"How can you still think of that?!" Lana spun around.

"Lan-mother-Oh I don't know...if it wasn't for his money lust, you'd never have met me. And I would have never found you." She blew up...

"You! Evan! You're some monstrosity! And you come into my life asking for five years worth of love? I can't even fathom it!"

Cody gritted his teeth and clenched his fist. A rare anger was beginning to flare up inside of him.

"Lana! I've had it! I don't care if the pressure point wonder here zaps me again! He's your son! Sure, he wasn't made the conventional way, but he's your blood! I would kill to meet my parents! I never knew them, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't imagine what my life would have been like if I had a family! Now he has this chance! How can you turn your back on him? How? Don't you even want to know about him? Anything in depth before you embrace any prejudices? You said you felt something's the piece you were talking about. What? No? Screw your damn hard headedness and screw your cold hearted beliefs! Geeze!"

Lana looked wide eyed. The four pirates looked at Cody, then back at Lana again and again. Evan came forward.

"Thank you, Captain Thunderfeather...but...Mother...Lana...I wanted to find you because I need a family. I need you. Hess Labs housed my kind, but I failed them, so I was thrown into the streets. Even then, I wanted to meet you. Please, listen to me..."

"Your kind? You mean there's more of you?"

"Yes...Hess Labs wanted to create a new race of Drakes. One that would overshadow the 'naturals' and breed out all the flawed people of Puckworld. Dr. Ikal, or as he wanted us to call him, 'father,' was the director and educator of us all. He started the projects, and created the whole idea. He called our new race: The Perfection. We are beautiful, alluring people, with high intelligence, skillful in athletics and vigor, and artisans of some genre."

"I remember...He asked me if I knew how corrupt Puckworld was, and if I knew, hypothetically, if there was a way to cleanse it by taking away all that was 'in error.' I had no idea he was doing this..."

"He also educated all of his 'children' to never question how they came about. We were to fully embrace that we were made for the good of our kind. To go out into the world and only pair off with someone with our equal abilities and appeal. No one ugly, or stupid, or clumsy. We were created to mate with the 'naturals' and start a whole new race."

"And he also told me that I was near perfect...that only beautiful and intelligent people with talent could be used for their samples."

"Yes. We were created from pure beings. We were to never involve ourselves in flaw. We were to follow the code of our remain aloof and snooty to impure naturals, to copulate with pure naturals, or our own kind. To never question our background, and to be successful in whatever we do. If we fail, we are shunned...some of my kind were incinerated for believing they were monsters. I got away with a banishment, because Dr. Ikal treated me as his favorite, and believed that I would one day come back to Hess Labs and start the revolution. Boy, was he wrong. I don't want anything to do with 'The Perfection.'"

Cody smashed his fist into his other palm.

"We have to do something about it!"

"We're not heroes, Captain..." Zephyr commented.

"We're the dark heroes, Zephyr. Evan...does this 'Perfection' project take place anywhere else?"

"Yes...there are ten Hess Laboratories in Puckworld. All of them creating a race of perfection."

"How many of you are there, kid?"

Evan shook his head.

"Too many to count. Infinite, actually. Dr. Ikal plans on taking this world by storm."

Lana remained silent.

"Well, kid. We have our hands full. This isn't the first time Hess Labs did something against the laws of nature."

"The Perfection means no harm, Captain Thunderfeather. It's Ikal that needs to go down. My brothers and sisters are victims, not culprits."

"If you say so, Evan. Happy to assist you in any way...just don't put that kung-fu grip on me again. Gang? We have to get out of here. Lana? Yo! Lana!"

"I heard you."

"You in?"


"Fine, be that way. Bitch. We need to turn around the way we came." Evan rested his hand on Cody's tall shoulder. "No. We can't leave without that talisman. We need to keep going-we 're almost there anyway."

"I thought you wouldn't need it now that you know the Grand High Bitch over there."

"Don't call her that, please. And yes, I still need it."

"To find your father?"

"I don't think I have one...technically."

"Genetic Engineering is complex. You very well could, Evan." Zephyr pushed the bridge of his glasses up.

"I don't think he'd be understanding. She isn't. My hands are tied in what I am. I disgust people...apparently. No. The Talisman of Wei Shang will bring me fame. Not many people have heard of it, and if it's reintroduced, I can profit from it in more ways than one."

"You are Emerald's kid..." Cody laughed. Lana kept her silence. Evan shrugged. Cody grinned and slapped Evan's small frame forward. Evan was taken by surprise and plummeted forward, falling to the ground.

"Okay kid! Lead us to it." Evan rubbed the back of his neck as he got back up.

"Gee...thanks...this way." He pointed down the blue hall. The six ducks followed, Lana several steps behind the group. She watched as Evan's white hair shone up front in the blue light, leading them like a beacon. She sighed painfully and followed.


Evan entered the tomb's main hall carefully, waiting for a trap to trigger. He looked to the center of the blue room, and gasped at the ivory carved coffin. It held an ominous aura about it, and Evan dropped to one knee, and lowered his head in respect. Cody and Zephyr came up behind him, and looked quizzically to one another. Evan didn't even turn and face them.

"Show some respect. He was the most powerful man of his time in this country. He was a brave warrior, and well educated. He was the most powerful white sorcerer in Eastern Puckworld."


"At least lower your eyes to his coffin. If he were alive today, he could crush you with a thought."

"Okay...Zephyr. Genuflect for this guy."

"What about you?"

"I'm a Captain! We're on the same level!"

"You just feel silly bowing to a dead man, just like me."

"Enough! Forget it. Karma." Evan rose to his feet and opened his backpack. He pulled out two gloves and put them on. He kept his back to the two men the whole time. He spoke dryly. "Where are your flunkies, Captain Thunderfeather?"

"Keeping watch by the entrance."

"Good. There could be traps that are hidden well." His voice was serious and stern. It suddenly changed to the voice of hurt child. "What about...her? Is she safe?"

"Don't worry about Miss Emerald. She's a spitfire." Zephyr crossed his arms. Cody coughed.

"Yeah. I'd say so." Evan kept silent. He spoke again, his voice serious again.

"Now. I'll need your help lifting the sarcophagus' top. Don't touch anything but the top! I alone can search it for the talisman. Understand? Don't touch anything! Lest you desecrate the body." He spoke as if they were idiotic children. Zephyr sneered.

"Boy, we have at least twenty years your senior. We can follow your instructions minus the attitude."

Evan scoffed and zipped the bag again. He turned to face them. "Pardon me, gentleman. But I know what I'm talking about, and it's vital. I alone have the knowledge to get us out of here safely and alive. Got that? Alive. If you hadn't found me, you and your crew would surely be dead. And I know more about the ancient history of Puckworld and it's neighboring planets than anyone else on this retched planet. I can handle this deathtrap better than you, and I respect these native people. Therefore I alone can do anything without incident. So, that my friend, will out weigh my 'attitude' and keep us going. Okay? Thanks."

"Why you, arrogant, plebeian, little-" Cody set his large hand on Zephyr's shoulder.

"Forget it. He's right of course. Leave him alone. You know, Evan? You're awfully serious for a..."

"Go on say it...a child."

"Heh...yeah. You should be out partying. Not pillaging tombs and bossing around men twice"

"Look who's talking. When did you start?"

"I was fifteen." Cody shrugged.

"I was twenty." Zephyr put flatly. "But we had no where else to go."

"I didn't either. No one would have me. You do what you can to survive."


Evan scoffed. He turned his back to them again and started towards the coffin.

"Come on. Let's do it."

Cody whispered to Zephyr.

"That kid gives me the shivers. There's something dark about him."

"I know. May I advise you, Captain. We need to keep our faces to him at all times."


Evan raised and eyebrow. Do they really think he couldn't hear them? He had superior senses. He smirked and started at the coffin. He pushed at the heavy, ivory top.

"Some help?"

"Right!" Cody got on one side, and Zephyr joined Evan on his side. They managed to push the top off and lean it against the side. Bodily dust and decay swarmed up, filling their noses with the stench of old death.

They coughed and brushed the dust away. When it cleared, they saw it...Wei Shang's body. It wasn't decomposed at all! He was intact! But the smell of death was everywhere.

"Are you sure this guy's not some vampire? Or goul? Ech...he looks fine. Like he was laid out yesterday."

"Captain Thunderfeather...he was a vessel of great power, remember? He probably cast a spell on himself for eternal youth, even in death. Remember! Don't touch anything!" Evan pulled the gloves taut, and reached inside, gently pushing the Shogun's arms aside, and lifting his legs, reverently.

"Echhhh! How can you do that!?"

"It doesn't bother me." Evan lifted the torso. "He can't hurt me now." He reached behind the dead warrior's back and found the Talisman of Wei Shang. "I have it!" He pulled it out with one hand, setting the Shogun down. He set the talisman down on the floor, and set Wei Shang how he found him. "Rest in peace, sire. You deserve it. Thank you for your gift. I will use it wisely...Okay! Help me put the top back on."

The three men struggled to get the coffin's top back on, but they managed to close the coffin, and put Wei Shang to sleep again. Zephyr tried to catch his breath and Cody stretched out.

"Whew! That was a workout!" They turned to Evan, who was eyeing the talisman with great awe. He held it above him, turning it slowly in a circle, taking in every detail. The Talisman of Wei Shang was encrusted with gold, Jade, and a blue obsidian. Pearls dotted each corner on the pentagon-shaped prism. It came to a point at the top, in a pagoda fashion. At the top of the 'roof' was an egg shaped jade stone. It was netted with gold, and stood on a gold pedestal. Along the sides, in blue, green and gold outline, were five phoenix birds. One of fire, one of water, one of earth, one air, and one of heaven. Cody and Zephyr were caught in the awestruck stare, as was so exquisite. held the three of them captive. They could not take their eyes off of it.

"Look at it! After all this time! Can't you just feel it's power? Probably not...I'm holding it." Evan pulled the talisman down to his chest. "All right. Let's go."

Cody and Zephyr blinked, the spell broken.

"Right. Where to?"

"Get your crew...and her. There's way out behind that stone."

Cody called to his three warriors, and to Lana, striding over to where they were, just outside the doorway. Suddenly, the walls began to shake.

"Shit! Evan! What is that?"

"It must be the spirit of Wei Shang!"

"I thought you said your were tight with him!"

"It wasn't me! It's got to be one of them!" Evan clutched the talisman to his chest, pointing at the four who entered.

"What did you do?" Cody shouted over the loud rumbling.

"Don't look at me! Look at Davido! He did it!"

"Aw, geeze! Punishments later. Let's get out of here!"

They all ran, following Evan. Davido shouted.

"All I did was try to cut part of the carved boarder over the doorway! It's got to be worth a million!"

"You dufus!"

"Ahhh!" The girl tripped over the cracking floor. Evan turned to her, and offered his hand.

"Come on!"

She took it, blushing, and followed him out the back exit. Lana brought up the rear. She noticed Evan, who was guarding the exit, showing the way out to everyone, one by one. She reached him.

"This way, Lana!"

She ran out past him, and he turned suddenly, facing behind himself. There was quake in the tomb, which threw him off balance. He fell backwards, into the tomb.

"Evan!" The girl screamed.

"All right! I'm going after him! Don't come after me if I'm not back in five minutes." Cody started to run to the exit. Lana gripped his arm.


"What do you mean? Are you nuts? We can't leave him!"


Cody's still face crunched into an enraged one.

"I can't believe you, Lana!"

"I mean, I'll go."

She pushed a surprised crowd aside, and ran into the darkness of the tomb. Lana searched the darkness for him, and screamed out into the rumbling tomb.

"Evan! Where are you! Evan!" She turned her light on, frantically searching for any sign of the boy. She found him, lying on his side, his back to her, unconscious. " alive."

She turned him onto his back, his arm clutching the talisman tightly to his small, but strong chest. " owe me big time, boy." She picked up the lithe body, and slung it over her back. She was about to leave, but glanced down at the talisman. It was rolling down the floor, towards a huge crack. She hesitated. It wasn't worth it.

But it meant something to him. She sighed, and put him down on the ground again. "Like I said, you owe me, boy." Lana ran to the talisman, not quick enough. It fell down the crack, but landed on a ledge just out of arms reach. She jumped to her stomach, and pushed her torso halfway down the crack.Almost...not was too far from her hand. She pushed a little farther...Too far! She was starting to fall down the crack!

Suddenly, a strong arm gripped her leg. The other arm reached at her waist and pulled her towards the floor, effortlessly. "Who? Who saved me? Evan??"

"Yeah. You needed I..."

"You're don't look strong enough..."

"Did I mention The Perfection has superior strength? Let's get out of here before we become a part of this world forever."

Evan turned and gripped her hand, deftly. They ran towards the exit, and just as they crossed the threshold, the exit was collapsed with an ominous thud.

"They made it!" The pirate girl ran towards Evan, embracing him passionately. He looked awkward, and politely pulled out of her hold. He edged away from her shocked expression.

" guys okay?"

"Intact." Evan brushed the dust off of him.

"I'm good."

"Too bad about the talisman, Evan...We know how you wanted it so badly."

He looked broken.

"I know...I guess I'll need a new hobby now." He sighed. "But it took me so long to find it. Now it's lost again."

"I wouldn't a...say that." Lana presented the talisman. "This what you want?"

Evan gasped, and ran towards her.

"How? I saw you! You couldn't have..."

"It was dark in there." She handed it to him. "Here."

"Thank you."


Cody coughed.

"Uh, let's high tail it out of this country! Head on back to Ellie's place. All right?"

"Ellie?" Evan raised an eyebrow.

"Princess Elaine of Callaway. Cody is oh so formal, isn't he?"

"The Princess? I can't..."

"Come on, kid! She'll take to you!"

"I'm not interested in matchmaking."

Everyone coughed, simultaneously. Cody crossed his arms and furrowed his brow.

"She's mine."


"It's okay. She'll find some courtier for you. Anyway. There's got to be a place in court for you."

"Thanks...but I'm a 'grave robber'..."

"I'm a Space Pirate...Emerald's a ruthless hunter. She's easy. She'll love you. Ellie goes for the underdog."


"Let's get out of here!" Cody smacked his hands together, and turned to the wilderness. They all followed. Lana lingered behind a minute, watching Evan follow them through the underbrush. Evan stopped and turned to see Lana behind him.


"I'm coming." She started towards him, and he turned back to the crowd.

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"Saving me."

"Forget it. Let's just get back to the ship."

They walked in silence the rest of the way, side by side.


The Princess Elaine sat at her table, upright, proper and delicate. She smiled sweetly at Cody, and turned her face to Lana.



She smiled brightly again. There was a period of silence. Evan stood between Captain Thunderfeather and his mother. The great hall was empty except for them, and two guards at the doorway, far behind them. Evan fidgeted. He couldn't take silence with company. The Princess rose from her chair, and walked to Evan.

"'re Lana's son?"

"Yes. Technically."

"I understand. My spies have been investigating Hess Laboratories for some time now. Waiting for them to slip up."


She nodded.

"Cody tells me you saved him. And his scouts. And my dear friend Lana, here."


"Mostly is yes. I appreciate your bravery and honor. Cody also tells me that you are without a place, a home..."

"That is true, your highness." Elaine smiled. She walked slowly around Evan. He fidgeted. He hated being looked at.

"No need for formalities when we are in private. Plain old princess will do. And I have decided. You can stay here, in my court. However..."

Evan sighed. Here it comes.

"You pledge fealty to me, and act courteously to all here."


"And above a friend to me." She was now facing him.

"Cody can show you around. He knows this palace well."

Cody cleared his throat.

"Oh, yes. One more thing. I will do all in my power to stop the criminal acts in Hess Laboratories. Your kind will be treated fairly. This infamous Dr. Ikal will be punished for his crimes. I will send out my secret service after a plan is formed."

"Thank you, Princess. But what is my use here?"

"You will be my scholar in research and history. I need one."

"Thank you." Evan slowly turned his head to Lana.

"And Lana?"


"I will not tolerate your behavior to your son."

"Oh, god! Elaine, you can't be serious."

She shook her head.

"Whatever you do outside of my presence is one thing. But not in front of me."

Evan stepped forward.

"Excuse, me, Princess? I don't want her to fake anything. She can't help her feelings...although I hate them."

"What?" Lana turned her head to him.

"I hate them!"

Elaine frowned, and turned to Cody. He shrugged.

"Let them work it out. It's the only way."

She nodded, solemnly.

"You're right. Dismissed! Cody, come with me?"

He bowed to her, and followed her out the doors. They laughed at something the other said, and Cody playfully gripped the princess Elaine. She giggled as they exited. Lana watched them frowning. She hated seeing them together like that. She suddenly realized she was being watched.

"What is it?"

"Nothing. I'm sorry." Evan looked at his feet.

"Evan...try to understand. I can't take this. Not now. Maybe someday I can look at you and accept this."

"But you can't love someone you are disgusted in."


"No! It's how...things... are." He spoke like an old man, knowing the truth finally.

"I'm sorry. I need time to let it sink in."

"Take all the time you need, mother. I quit. I know how things are. You'll never accept me. Never."


He started towards the doors. She was at his heels.

"No! Enough! I can't deal with it, just like you! It's all or nothing!"

He ran away from her nearing hand, pushing it away with such strength, he had hurt her physically and severely. She gripped her hand gently. Lana watched as he ran, just barely hearing his silent tears. She had truly ruined him. He was never a child, but he became one in front of her eyes.

Lana sank into herself. For the first time in her life, she was ashamed of who she was.

The End
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