The Archer chronicles
Lost Boy
CHAPTER
32
A Call For Help...
Two hours passed, spent trudging through the thick forest. Could it get any hotter? Archer thought. Sweat beaded his brow and his hair was stuck to the back of his neck. As he finally entered the large cavern where Sousha’s people lived, he thought that maybe he’d ask someone to hack it all off.
What did he need hair for anyway? It only got tangled and then it hurt when you had to brush it.
With a sigh, he glanced around, reaching into his backpack for the last of his jupe juice. He offered some to Del, but she was too busy chatting and laughing with her father. Besides, she had her own, he guessed.
Sousha ran to her father and the rest of the guards disappeared, so Archer walked over to a log that was set beside the fire and sat down. Dash hovered just overhead, and if the little bot was human Archer thought he’d have a smile plastered to his face.
“What are you doing Dash?” he asked, taking a sip from his bottle.
His bot floated backward and then forward, beeps emitting softly. “It may appear as if I’m relaxing, though I must say that I’m contemplating the logistics involved in setting up our transmitter.”
“Good,” Archer mumbled. He felt…sad? “No,” he muttered. “Sad and hungry.”
“What’s this?” Bruce purred, rubbing his purple body along Archer’s legs before hopping up onto the log beside him. “I dare say our friends are preparing a feast as we sit.”
Archer kicked at the dirt on the ground, his eyes on the hundreds of homes that encircled him. So many families lived here. So many kids. So many Moms and Dads. He reached into his bag and grabbed his photo.
“Archer, your father will return for you.”
Archer glanced at Bruce and shrugged. “How can you be sure? How do we even know The Reamus survived the big guns on that pirate ship?”
His bottom lip trembled because that was something he’d tried his hardest not to think about. And now with the pirates gone and his friends safe, it was all he could think about.
Bruce head butted him, the cat’s purring so loud that they attracted the attention of a few pointy-ears.
“I’ve lived for eons,” the cat murmured, moving so that he was now on Archer’s lap. “I’m both one who knows things and one who knows nothing.”
Archer scratched Bruce behind the ears. “That doesn’t make sense.”
Again, the cat gave him a head butt.
“What it means my friend, is that no matter what we think we know…no matter what we fear we might not know, there is always the chance that the opposite will happen.”
Archer’s hand stilled, a big clump of purple fur in his fist. He thought about the cat’s riddles and his eyebrows furrowed as his mind raced. He glanced up again, his eyes on Del. His young friend was sitting next to her father and the two of them were deep in conversation. He watched them for so long that his eyes began to sting. They began to blur.
He scrubbed at them and cleared his throat.
“So basically, you’re trying to tell me that there is always hope.”
The cat stopped purring and jumped from Archer’s lap, to land gracefully near the fire. The huge amber eyes stared at him and for one weird moment, Archer felt as if someone else was looking at him through the cat’s eyes.
“You’ve no need for me,” Bruce said slowly. “But there are others out here in this vast universe who do.”
Archer sat a little straighter. “But wait. You’re not leaving are you?”
The cat cocked its head to the side, staring into space for several long moments. It seemed to Archer as if Bruce was listening to something that Archer couldn’t hear.
Or maybe someone.
Finally Bruce turned back to Archer, his long tail flickering back and forth slowly, like a long dandelion in the breeze.
“I must away, but never fear, Archibald McTavish the 4th. We will meet again.”
Archer barely got to his feet before Bruce disappeared.
“Did you see that?” he shouted at Dash, turning in a circle.
“You’ll have to be more specific, Archer,” his bot replied.
“Bruce! He just…” Archer threw his hands up into the air. “Well he just disappeared.”
“Who disappeared?” Sousha asked with a grin, grabbing Archer’s hand and not letting go.
“Bruce,” Archer replied.
Sousha shrugged. “He comes and goes. That’s his way.” She tugged on his hand. Hard. “Come. We’re going to celebrate.”
Archer followed Sousha, Dash floating behind him, and they made their way across the center of the cavern. Del and her father joined them and as they walked along, Archer winced as his stomach rumbled.
“Here,” Del said, tossing him an apple. She kept one for herself and took a big bite.
“Where’d you get this?” Archer asked with a grin.
“From your bag, remember?”
He didn’t get a chance to answer because they came to an abrupt halt. Archer glanced up and spied a regal looking female pointy-ear on a ledge that overlooked them all. She looked older. Like a grandma and she smiled down at everyone, nodding as she did so.
She stopped when her eyes reached Archer and he got the same feeling that he did about Bruce. Like the woman was so much older than she looked.
“We are here to celebrate an enemy vanquished and the joy of new friendship.” Her voice was soft and she spoke slowly, as if thinking about each and every word.
Archer shifted his feet a bit, more than a little uncomfortable because her eyes were still on him.
“I’m Valeeki. Welcome to our home, Archibald.”
Everyone turned to him and he felt his face get hot. He waved. “Hey.”
“That was lame,” Del whispered.
“No kidding,” he answered.
Valeeki’s smile deepened. “You are an honored guest for as long as you need to be. Tonight we will dance and eat and sing your praises.” She nodded at Del. “For each and every one of you.”
Valeeki held her hands up. She paused dramatically. And then she clapped them together three times. “Let it begin.”
From out of nowhere a horde of creepy crawlies marched toward them, but instead of being freaked out and maybe a little scared, Archer’s stomach growled even more. Because each one of them carried hot food on their backs and as they made their way toward Archer, the smells were so good that his mouth began to water.
“Wow,” Del said, taking a step forward. “I’m going to eat until I can’t eat anymore.”
Everyone grabbed a plate and for the next hour or so Archer, Del, and her father ate and ate and ate. They ate so much that Archer thought he just might pass out.
He was just about to ask for some more of the delicious juice that Sousha was serving when a loud and piercing noise erupted from the far side of the cave.
Archer’s head whipped up and he wiped at the gravy dripping from the corner of his mouth. His eyes searched for Dash but his bot was already zipping past them all.
“The transmitter!” he shouted, jumping to his feet and running after Dash. His heart was beating heavily and by the time he reached it, he had a pain in his side and he could barely speak because he was out of breath.
“What’s….” He had to pause. “What’s it say, Dash?”
His bot chirped and beeped, his eyes glowing red and then blue.
“It’s a distress signal.”
What????
“From father?” Archer said, kneeling down in front of the device.
“No. “
“But…” Defeated, he sank to his knees. Of course it was too good to be true. “From where?”
“A planet in the fourth quadrant.”
Archer couldn’t understand the series of sounds the transmitter was relaying. “What does it say?”
Dash floated lower. “Help.”
That only made Archer feel worse.
“Cheer up, Archibald.”
“Why should I? Someone needs help. I’m stuck here and I don’t know if I’ll see Father again.”
“We know the transmitter works. If we’re receiving that means your father will receive our message.”
“Dash is right,” Del said carefully, sinking to her knees in front of him.
Archer thought of Bruce and of what he’d said. There is always hope. Archer had to believe that. He sighed and glanced at the transmitter.
“That’s all the message is, Dash? Help?”
“Affirmative.”
“I guess I’m not alone then,” he murmured.
I’m not alone.
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