Sharpening His Talons


[2 Weeks before Jake, Rachel, and Cassie received the morphing power]

It was night in the desert, and as such it was freezing cold. The desert is a hostile place to be in, especially at night, but in desperation, one Andalite had ventured there and was in the process of demorphing amid a formation of dunes that would keep him hidden. The process was slow as duck feathers turned into blue fur, a long and thick tail with what looked like an artichoke at the end, but was in fact the sheath for his tail blade. Stalk eyes with night vision lenses on them warily scanned the surrounding dunes for his pursuer. The Andalite's breath came out of his nasal slits as misty puffs of air in the hellish cold. Like Humans Andalites do not like the cold, yet another advantage the one hunting this Andalite has over him.

Once the transformation was complete the blue furred alien twitched all over and fell to his knees, breathing from the exertion.

That was too close, he thought to himself. He put his shaking seven fingered hand to his side where there was a barely patched over gash. The pain was still sharp as he checked the wound, but the patch was holding up.

Those damnable crystals, he thought, shaking his head, a habit he picked up from the humans. So that's what it feels like, ah, by Crangar's bloody tail, that hurts! This morphing technology is so clunky! It can heal everything, why is it having such trouble with this...this...purple glass?!

The Andalite moved his left hand away from his sealed wound to the vessel he carried. He opened the cap and removed a device shaped like a long staff. It looked like it was made from brass, and below the grip there were a number of small holes perforating the staff, but not going deeper than the core. At the top of the staff there appeared to be what looked like a silver colored flower, at the bottom there was a thick butt made of steel ending in a spike. The Andalite gripped the staff in both hands, desperately praying that the device would work. The moments that pass feel like lifetimes.

He flinched in fear as he heard the cry of his pursuer, a metallic guttural shriek of rage.

No! Do not lose focus! The Andalite reprimanded himself. If you lose focus then you're dead!

The warrior felt a pinprick on his hands, his fur began to straighten, and then the flower at the top flashed blue.

Relief came over him so potent that he almost collapsed to his knees.

Good, good, good. I still have a chance. I can still control it, he thought with desperate relief.

The Andalite tilted the flower end of the staff towards his face, hands trembling from pain, and aimed his left eyestalk at it, bending the right one away. He sniffed the flower, and a silvery powder blew off of it and coated his eyes, it only took an instant for the coating to solidify once the powder stopped coating him. When all but one of the Andalite's eyes were blinded he raised the staff into the air, and planted the butt into the sand. He tilted it back and forth to force the staff deeper into the ground. In order for the weapon to work, he has to make sure it's planted as deep in the earth as possible.

Another one of the monster's cries rang out, the Andalite nervously swiveled his right eye stalk in the direction of the sound.

It didn't take long for the Andalite to drive the staff down deep enough. He closed his eyes and sent out the command.

Launch.

All of a sudden tiny explosions burst around the staff and sped away. The little digger drones were transmitting all of the visual and audio data they were receiving, even their location, what they saw, he saw. The Andalite smiled with his silver blinded eyes. The tiny drones were the size of baseballs, they ran all over the place, hidden, and hopefully unnoticed.

All right, The Andalite Warrior thought as the drones poked their tiny observation devices out of the sand. How are you going to take this weapon while I'm using it on you, my savage friend?

The drones burrowed throughout the sand, digging their way through the dunes, feverishly attempting to find their master's hunter.

They had traveled some distance and the Andalite Warrior was growing more concerned, he knew his opponent was a cunning and brutal warrior as well as a gunman with preternatural aim. His most dangerous assets were the weapons that enabled his ranged superiority, if he can see the Andalite Warrior, then he can shoot him. The warrior knew his chances of survival grew slimmer with each passing moment.

If everything went right, the drones deployed by the Digger Rod would find the enemy and render him incapable of using a gun.

A few minutes after they begun their search, one of the Diggers located a mass in the sand. The Andalite smiled with his eyes, found you.

The Andalite redirected the rest of the dig drones to the mass in the sand, in less than a minute all of the Diggers had surrounded the mass in the sand. Suddenly a dozen digger drones all rushed forward, rushing into the mass as the sand above them exploded from the speed of their approach, they ripped into the mass. He could see blood spray out as the mass was violently flayed alive and eviscerated, but after a few seconds into the gore-fest he noticed something was amiss. He called off his diggers and saw that it wasn't the target, it wasn't even alive at all!

A decoy? The Andalite thought before frantically looking around himself with his remaining eye. The Warrior barely managed to catch a glimpse of the shadow above him before it landed on top of him. He recalled the drones and swung his tail blade at his assailant, Warlike caught the tail with his left hand and squeezed hard enough to crush it.

((Aaaah!)) The Andalite cried out in pain. He raised his arm and with his remaining stalk eye aimed for his chest. Warlike stepped on his arm and crushed it, grabbing the staff with his right hand as the Shredder fell to the Andalite's side.

((No! No! NO!)) The Andalite Warrior cried out as the staff was pried from his much weaker hands.

The silver coating left the Andalite's eyes, rendering him able to see Warlike in all of his inhuman glory. His orange glowing eyes were perusing the staff he now held with disappointment and surprise.

"You can't be serious, you really thought...you actually thought you could keep this from me?" Warlike mockingly reprimanded the Andalite before his eyes were overwhelmed in a wave of revulsion as they turned toward the Andalite. Warlike opened his mouth to say something else but was interrupted.

((It's a matter of principle, just because you can take something doesn't mean you should! You had no right to even lay eyes on it! You savage!))

Warlike's expression melted into a mask of fury.

"Take? TAKE?!" He roared. "Oh that's rich, coming from an Andalite! What right do you, you feculent creature, have to lecture me about taking things that don't belong to me?! Take this staff you so so coveted, it's not even Andalite technology! So much for the talk about you Andalites being able to stand on only your feet."

Warlike looked at the staff he now held and looked at it with an expression of pity. He scoffed before planting the staff in the sand and continuing.

"You probably didn't even realize that this is an agricultural tool that was later refashioned into a weapon. A devastatingly effective tool despite its makeshift nature, but my point stands, you do not understand this technology. Due to your ignorance alone, this device is better off in my hands."

The drones returned to the staff, crawling up its length and refusing with the rod itself.

((What are you planning on doing after you eradicate us from this world?)) The Andalite asked in a tired voice.

"After I wipe you from the face of this planet?" Warlike asked.

((Yes, you keep saying you were out to kill us all. Are you going to slaughter the rest of my kind beyond this world as well?))

"After I'm done extincting your human allies on this Earth, and extract appropriate reparations from the remainder of their race, maybe I will."

Warlike violently removed the staff from the ground, blinking his orange glowing orbs despite the sand failing to reach them.

"But, maybe I'll get burnt out. Maybe I'll run out of steam and be content to spend the rest of my days here. That aside, I have no business divulging my intentions to you, who cannot hope to understand. Aloth, I believe you are called? You Andalites still use names, right?"

At the utterance of his name the Andalite pointed his remaining eyes towards his enemy. Upon hearing the insult at the end, the warrior began shaking with rage.

((If you're going to kill me, then just get it over with already!))

"Ah, defiant to the end, you're not cold or hateful, and though you don't understand much, you're not arrogant. Were you more enlightened you would've beaten me. I know you don't care about the mission on this planet nearly as much as your superiors, who are now gone, do. You're not the kind of threat I'm here to kill, I like you, so let's cut a deal, trust on trust. Tell me where he is, and I'll allow you to leave with every injury upon your body undone and with your dignity intact."

Aloth's eyes began looking into a distant place as he processed his words.

"Tell me," Warlike repeated in a calm and smooth drone, his words washing over the Andalite like the high tide gently washing the sand into the sea. "Where is Elfangor-Sirinial-Shamtul?"

((O-okay, we have a deal,)) Aloth said, the shame evident in his voice. ((Elfangor is currently en-route to Alaska, he's going to-))

Before the Andalite could know anything was coming, Warlike swung his right hand out and pierced Aloth's skull with a green rod. Warlike's eyes fluttered shut as light danced behind the lids. After a few seconds Warlike opened them, unperturbed at the violence of the sudden action he had taken a mere moment before. As a matter of fact Warlike was wearing a disappointed expression on his face as he removed the rod from Aloth's brain.

"Oh, smart boy. You could've told me you didn't know."

Warlike turned away from Aloth's body and stepped off of him, retracting the rod back into its wrist mounted sheath. He went to a flat part of the desert and leaned down, planting the staff in the ground besides him. When he was on his knees Warlike began digging a hole, when the hole was wide and deep enough he placed dried leaf litter and grass in the hole, after lighting it on fire he removed a wide metallic bowl from the sack he was carrying on his back and put it in the flaming hole. A breeze began blowing in the freezing cold desert air. Warlike closed his eyes and looked upward, a small smile on his face.

"At least I know where to find a few more of your fellow filth now...if anyone would bother to bury you, at least your eulogy would say you're not a traitor. But then again, the opinions of your dinner generally shouldn't be regarded."


[1 Week & 6 Days before Jake, Rachel, and Cassie received the morphing power]

A van rolled through the desert that was packed with sensory equipment, it was filled with a detachment of soldiers, all grim faced and determined. The vehicle had the letters ETCS painted on the side.

"There it is, right here!" The operator of the sensors in the right side of the seat called out. The van braked to a stop, kicking up sand as the tires halted the vehicle's momentum.

"All right, let's go," the commander said as his squadron exited the van. They split into two groups and circled the dune, they almost reunited when the group walking counterclockwise found it.

They dug quickly and feverishly as the rest of the squadron reunited with them, the radios started buzzing and more cars began pulling up to the site. It didn't take them long to uncover the remains of the alien they had tracked there.

The commander sighed and shook his head at the sight of the alien corpse, the flesh of which had been stripped from the bones. He put his left hand to his ear.

"West Pacific Counter-Op Squad 11 to Control, Chapman here, we found the Andalite, he's dead. Requesting ETCS Materials Extraction to assist in removing the remains."

"Solid copy," ETCS Control replied. "Secure the sight, we are sending a team straight to you."

One of the younger soldiers shook his head, "Man, it looks like whatever got ahold of him stripped the flesh from his bones."

"One of the few good aliens, and among humanity's only allies, and he just gets murdered in the Mojave and eaten?"

"Did the freak even wait until he was dead to eat him?"

"Judging by how quickly we dug him up, whatever did this to him just left him there."

"This world's cruel, men," Chapman told his squadron. "Make no mistake, they understood it more than anyone, the world they live in is way crueler than ours. But whatever did this to him is still on the loose, we're going to have a busy month on our hands..."