The Archer chronicles
Lost Boy
CHAPTER
28
The Exchange...
It seemed to take forever for Dash to return and when he did, Archer heaved a big breath and felt a little dizzy. He was hot and anxious and—-
“Are you okay?” Del asked quietly.
“Yes.” He looked up at her then and saw all the emotions he was feeling reflected in her eyes. The anxiety. The uncertainty. The fear.
He reached for her and squeezed her shoulder. “I mean, I will be okay just like you’re going to be okay.” Archer glanced up at Dash who was hovering a few inches away. “You know, just as soon as we get your dad back.”
He cleared his throat and set his backpack down onto the ground. The light from the prisms shone through the thick fabric, creating a glow that looked a bit hazy in the heat.
“Are they ready?” he asked his bot. “The pirates?”
Dash whirred and beeped, eyes glowing red, then yellow and then blue. “They are ready to make the switch and have asked that Del be the one to do it.”
“Huh,” Archer replied, eyes narrowed.
“It was not a request,” his bot continued. “However I felt it prudent to inform them that the original agreement was for the three of us to hand over the prisms in exchange for Del’s father. I went on to further explain that if the original terms were not met we wouldn’t be able to conclude our business today and that wouldn’t be good for anyone.”
“What did they say to that?” Del asked, fear in her voice.
“I bet they didn’t even understand half of what Dash said,” Archer muttered.
“They understood,” Dash replied, zooming closer. “And they’re ready.”
Archer’s stomach took a dive and he exhaled, glancing back into the jungle. “Is everyone ready?” he asked Sousha.
“They are,” she replied, her voice sing-song.
He wasn’t sure when it happened, but Del’s hand was in his and the two of them stared at each other for so long that Sousha snorted and jumped up and down. “Hurry, hurry,” she said, pointy ears trembling.
“Oh, ah…right,” Archer replied, nodding at Del before letting go of her hand.
“Yes, what are we waiting for?”
Archer, Del and Sousha glanced up at the tree branch that wavered in the air. A large purple cat stared down at them and Archer shook his head. “Bruce, I thought you were with Magnar.”
The cat stood, stretching his body and flexing his claws. “That I was, until I wasn’t.”
Bruce hopped down and flicked his tail back and forth. “We must do this now. Time is running out.”
Archer hiked his backpack onto his shoulders and patted Sousha on the head. “You stay here with the creepy crawlies. We’ll go out and make the exchange. Once we have Del’s father and they have the prisms Magnar will attack from behind the pirate ship. I want the creepy crawlies to form a circle around the entire area in case the pirates try to escape from Magnar and his babies.”
Because I know that I would, Archer thought.
“Aye, aye captain.”
His heart squeezed a bit. “You stay here, Sousha. I mean it. I don’t want to worry about you. I need for you to be safe.” He glanced at Del. “I need for all of us to be safe.”
“I will,” Sousha answered with a soft smile. Her large eyes were dewy. “You just make sure that you stay safe as well.”
“Deal,” Archer replied, shifting the heavy backpack.
“Archer we must go,” Dash said, zooming past him and hovering at the edge of the clearing. “They’re expecting us.”
A thought came to Archer. “Do they suspect our plan?”
Dash beeped. “I scanned the pirates heat signatures and brain waves. They seemed confident their scheme will work. They seem confident that they will be rewarded with the prisms as well as new prisoners to sell to one of the slave planets. Their fatal flaw is that they look upon you two as just children, incapable of coming up with a plan that would see their defeat.”
“Good,” Del said savagely. “Their arrogance will work for us.”
Suddenly full of energy and the need to see this through, Archer took a step forward. “Let’s do this.”
With Del on one side, Bruce on the other, and Dash zipping through the trees just ahead of them, they took off as the creepy crawlies and Sousha melted into the jungle. The large crab-like creatures’ glittery silver skin turned different shades of green and yellow and the entire force disappeared as they took on the color of the jungle.
“Wow,” Del said. “It’s like they’re invisible.”
The three of them were silent as they carefully made their way through the jungle. The clearing was just ahead. Archer knew this because Dash hovered in the same spot, just above the tree canopy. As the trees thinned and noises from the pirates penetrated the jungle, Archer’s stomach rolled over.
And over.
Del squeezed his hand. “We’ll be fine,” she whispered, tugging him hard so that he stopped in his tracks. Her large eyes were intense. “Thank you,” she whispered fiercely.
Suddenly more than a little embarrassed (which was silly because Del was his buddy) Archer shrugged and tried to be cool. “It’s what friends do for each other.”
They parted long strands of greenery that crept up from the jungle floor like ribbons and suddenly they could see the ship and nothing else.
Dash floated above them and then zoomed ahead, stopping just outside of the ship.
“Where is everyone?” Del asked, glancing around nervously. “They were just here. We could hear them.”
Uneasy, Archer’s eyes moved across the clearing and then settled on the pirate ship. A loud creaking echoed into the quiet and the large door slowly fell open revealing none other than Big Bully.
The large pirate grinned and started forward, his eyes glowing crazily in the hot jungle heat. “So,” he said, voice gravelly. “You’ve come.”
“I said I would,” Archer replied, swiping at the sweat on his forehead.
More pirates spilled out behind Big Bully and their leader didn’t stop walking until he was about five feet from Archer.
“And you,” Big Bully said, expression nasty as he glared at Del. “Traitor.”
“I’m not a traitor,” Del spat. “Because that would mean that I was part of your team and we both know that isn’t true.”
Big Bully shrugged. “Doesn’t really matter, now that I’ve got you where I want you.”
The pirates behind him snorted and a few of them giggled like little girls. Archer squared his shoulders.
“Where’s Del’s father?”
“Where are the prisms?” Big Bully shot back.
“Where are the prisms?” Bruce mimicked, his voice identical to the large pirate’s.
A thunderous expression crossed Big Bully’s face and he swung his gaze toward the cat. “And what is this?” he asked, cocking his head to the side. No one had a chance to answer because the pirate laughed, his great belly jiggling like the jello Archer’s grandfather used to make, his broken yellow teeth so gross that Archer couldn’t believe it.
Cook McDaniel would have Archer’s head if he ever let his teeth get to that state.
“Doesn’t matter,” Big Bully said, leering at Bruce. “You’ll fetch a pretty penny.”
“Are we going to make the switch or not?” Archer asked, stepping forward. “We need to see Del’s father or no prisms.”
Big Bully scratched at his chin and then nodded to one of the pirates behind him. The skinny pirate disappeared back inside the ship and all was quiet until he led out a man whose hands were tied together. He shoved the prisoner toward Big Bully, who grabbed him.
“Father!” Del said, voice shaky.
Her father looked tired and sad and scared. “My darling daughter. What have you done? Why would you come back?”
“Enough!” Big Bully shouted. “Where are the prisms?”
For several heartbeats, the jungle was silent. Not even a whisper of wind through the trees could be heard. Dash floated above Archer, his eyes glowing yellow and Del was just behind him.
Archer prayed that Magnar and his babies were ready. He prayed that the creepy crawlies were ready. He hoped that Sousha would be safe and he really hoped that their plan worked.
Carefully he reached into his backpack and lifted the heavy prisms, holding them in front of him so that Big Bully and the others could get a good look.
“No,” Del’s father said, his voice breaking. “Child, what have you done?”
“What we had to do,” Del whispered.
Archer held the prisms higher. He saw the gleam of craziness in Big Bully’s eyes. He heard the cackle of excited laughter from the other pirates.
He held the prisms high…
And he waited.
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