A new chapter, hurray! It's a day late, but this is my Valentine's Day gift to all the readers who have read, reviewed, favorited, and/or added this story/me on their story/author alert's - You guys are so awesome!
While writing this chapter, I was really inspired by a song called "Parachute" by the band Bread of Stones. The meaning and intention of the song doesn't quite match, but the feel of the song really helped me write this chapter...Not that it's really important to the story right now. I just wanted to let you guys know what song I'm obsessed with right now, haha.
Anyway, not much else to say about this chapter, I guess...other than, like I said in the previous chapter, I hope you guys won't be too disappointed with this. Heh...um...enjoy!
Clenching the falcon feather in his hand, Martin slammed the button of his creature power suit and transformed. His wings barely finished growing feathers before he shot up into the air towards his brother.
"C'mon!' Aviva called the others, and the crew quickly scrambled back to the Tortuga.
As Martin soared up closer to catch his brother, Zach's jet suddenly tore through the sky, the thunderous engines sending a flurry of wind rushing in all directions. He gasped as the powerful gales sent him spiraling off course in a whirlwind of confusion. His wings pounded furiously, desperately yet unsuccessfully fighting the blasting currents that tossed him around.
When the gusts finally died down, Martin was able to right himself, flapping his wings to hover in the sky. He looked around frantically; during the whole struggle, he had lost sight of Chris' body. The falcon's heightened sense of sight helped, though, and soon he spotted his brother's falling form. The blast from the jet engines had also caught Chris and sent him careening in a different direction, but Martin noted in alarm that the winds had also propelled him down, sending him closer to the ground.
"Chris!" he cried, pumping his wings faster. Then he folded them inward, shooting through the sky with all the speed granted to him by the peregrine suit and hoping it was enough to catch his brother before it was too late.
He thought he heard…but was that even possible? The wind screaming in his ears made it rather difficult to hear anything. Was he just imagining it?
Where…was he, anyway? He felt almost…weightless, cradled by the air around his body. It almost seemed like he was…floating.
Despite the wind whipping around him, he slowly opened his eyes…and found himself looking up at the bright blue sky. With every passing second, the sky somehow appeared to stretch out wider, looming over him as he drifted further away from it.
Realization abruptly hit him and he gasped, the air stolen from his lungs to join the draft swirling around him. His heart raced, pumping fear throughout his body and leaving him cold. There was nothing he could do as he was rapidly pulled towards the ground…and the thought that he had no idea how far off the ground he was shook him to the core.
A shadow passed over him then and he looked up, squinting through the wind and blinding sky to see…something speeding towards him, ripping through the air like a bullet. He couldn't completely make it out, but seeing it somehow chased away his panic. He found that he wasn't scared anymore as he reached out for the silhouetted figure, grabbing the first thing his fingers came in contact with.
At that moment, Martin's talons closed around Chris' arm, holding tightly as he opened his wings to catch the air and swoop out of the dive. The sudden change in velocity jarred them both; momentum and gravity still tugged at Chris, swinging his body and nearly wrenching him from Martin's grasp. Martin grabbed his other arm and pumped his wings rapidly to keep them both in the air, but his brother's suspended and still-weak body made it difficult to stay aloft. He could feel them losing altitude, but soon it didn't matter as he finally spotted the Tortuga coming into view, and he concentrated on maneuvering to the ship's open ceiling hatch.
Slowly he lowered himself and his brother into the turtle ship, and as soon as he felt Chris' feet touch the floor he opened his talons to let him go.
Air quickly rushed into Chris' lungs as he took a breath, not realizing he had been holding it. It surged through his quivering frame, causing his legs to buckle underneath him and collapse to his knees.
"Chris!" Aviva said, kneeling beside him in an instant. "You okay?"
He looked up at her with weary confusion. "I…I think so…" he murmured, his soft tone raspy and cracking.
Martin hopped off the center dais to stand on Chris' other side; still in his peregrine falcon suit, he could only bend down low to look at his brother. "Are you sure?" he asked, looking over the other with worried eyes.
Chris swallowed thickly, trying to clear his dry throat. "Y-yeah…" Slowly he reached up and rubbed the back of his head. "My…my head hurts a little bit, but…i-it's nothing too bad, I think…"
Pulling out her Creature Pod, Aviva did a quick bio-scan over his form. "Hmm…there's a bit of inflammation," she informed them, "but it looks like there's nothing too serious."
Martin sighed softly, finally allowing relief to wash over him. "Okay…try to take it easy, though, okay?"
With Aviva's help, Chris shakily rose to his feet and gave Martin a small, tired grin. "No worries," he replied. "I've had worse."
Once she was sure that the younger Kratt was strong enough to support himself, Aviva found that she couldn't hold back any longer, and suddenly hugged him.
Chris stiffened, surprised by the unexpected action. Not knowing what else to do, his arms wrapped around her, awkwardly returning the gesture.
"We've missed you so much…" he heard her whisper. A frown crossed his features, and he turned puzzled eyes to his older brother.
Martin smiled a little as Aviva finally pulled away; as much as he wanted to do the same and embrace his brother, the peregrine suit made it rather problematic. And guessing that he couldn't deactivate just yet, he instead settled for draping a wing over Chris' shoulders. "It's good to have you back, Bro," he said thickly, not quite able to keep the tremor from his voice.
"Uh, guys…" Koki suddenly said in a reluctant voice, drawing their attention, "I hate to interrupt, but…"
Martin turned to her, his expression quickly becoming serious as he remembered what else they still had to do. For now, they would have to put off celebrating Chris' return; there would be time for that later, after everything was dealt with. "Did we catch up to Zach's jet?" he asked.
"But what?" Aviva wondered.
Koki simply pointed to the main screen. "Look!"
The three turned to the monitor as it switched to frontal view, revealing Zach's jet before them some distance away. But as they watched, they soon noticed small figures streaming from the aircraft. Aviva hurried to the consol and zoomed in on the image, revealing that peregrine falcons were being released from the vehicle. The falcons' bodies were encased in metal, a flashing red light on their chests that matched the light on the metallic helmet on their heads. The entire flock of raptors was flying straight towards the Tortuga.
"He's using the peregrine falcons already?" Aviva asked, though didn't sound too surprised.
Martin's eyes narrowed. "Well, he didn't have any other animals with him," he pointed out. "It was probably the only way he could try to slow us down."
Watching the screen, Chris noted that the falcons began to fly upwards, preparing to strike. "What are we gonna do?" he wondered. "We can't hurt 'em…"
Martin hopped up on the center dais as the ceiling hatch opened again. "You guys keep following Zach," he instructed. "I'll try to buy you some time."
Chris spun around. "Martin, wait –!" But he wasn't able to say anything else before his brother took off, rising into the sky and out of the turtle ship.
"Hang on!" he said to Aviva before she could close the hatch. Jumping up on the dais, he looked up to see his brother being followed by the flock.
Though some of them were simply giving chase, others were already higher above him for a stoop. They rocketed down, and Martin had to quickly dodge. But more falcons barreled for him, and Martin twisted through the air, just barely avoiding the rapid succession of attacks.
And as he watched, Chris knew that his brother wouldn't be able to keep that up forever. There were too many birds, and not even Martin could handle that all by himself.
Racking his brain and getting an idea, Chris jumped down from the dais and headed for the consol, switching on the communication lines for both the cockpit and Martin's Creature Pod. "Jimmy!" he said. "Can you fly us up higher?"
There was a pause, then a reluctant answer, "Uh, yeah…I should be able to, but why –?"
"Get us as close as you can up there, and try to stay directly under Martin," he directed.
They all quickly realized what he was up to. "Chris, are you sure about this?" Martin asked, his voice uneven as he barely dodged a falcon attack that grazed his wing.
Hearing his brother's winded tone, Chris was more certain than ever. "Yeah, it'll be fine," he replied hastily. Turning to Aviva, he said, "You think you can deactivate Zach's device?"
She hesitated for a moment. "I can…but it'll take some time. You'll have to do something about the peregrine falcon until then."
He grinned a little, already shrugging out of his green jacket. "Got it covered," he replied. Then he returned to the consol. "Ready, Bro?"
"…Ready…" Martin replied as the Tortuga came up underneath him. As another peregrine falcon descended towards him, he quickly veered out of the way to avoid it, letting it fly into the open hatch of their aircraft.
As soon as it entered, the peregrine falcon swooped up to attack. It flew with raised talons, forcing Koki and Aviva to duck in order to avoid the mind-controlled raptor. It raced about the room wildly, looping around in an erratic pattern.
Chris spread his jacket as the falcon rounded once again and flew towards him, ready to attack. When it drew closer, he jumped at it, draping his jacket over it like a net. The falcon became entangled in the cloth, and both it and Chris fell to the floor. The falcon began struggling and trying to shake the jacket off, but Chris quickly grabbed it, being as careful as he could holding it in his arms while still keeping a good enough grip so it wouldn't break free.
"How's it going, Aviva?" he asked, his tone slightly pitched as he continued wrestling with the raptor.
"Just a minute," she replied distractedly, intensely focused on her Creature Pod. Without the remote or gadget Zach used to control the robotic system, she had to scan for the correct frequency that the mechanism emitted. Once she located the right channel, she was able to tap into the machine's controls with her Creature Pod and deactivate Zach's automation that controlled the falcon.
Soon the falcon ceased struggling, allowing Chris to slightly loosen his hold on the bird. There was a moment of stillness, but then the falcon once again began to fight against the jacket covering it. Noticing the difference between this time and before, however, Chris carefully picked up the raptor and held it close to him.
"Shh, it's okay," he murmured, gently stroking the bird to soothe it. "It's okay…don't worry, no one's gonna hurt you…"
Soon the falcon stopped resisting, and Chris carefully drew his green jacket off the bird's body. The peregrine looked up at him, giving him a curious tip of its head, but gave no sign of putting up a fight this time. Instead it hopped up onto his outstretched arm, settling comfortably on the makeshift perch.
Rising to his feet, Chris left Aviva to remove Zach's contraption from the falcon as he reached into his pocket with his free hand, pulling out his animal power discs. Somehow he managed to juggle the discs around with one hand until he found his peregrine falcon disc, grabbing it with his teeth so he could put the other discs away. Then he reached into his power suit and pulled out the current disc, putting that with the others before taking the falcon disc and slipping it into the suit.
And…he froze. His hand hovered just inches away from the activation button, but he had no idea why it was suddenly shaking so much. He couldn't explain why his heart was suddenly hammering in his chest, or why his breathing was so short, or why his throat seemed to close up. He didn't know why…but he suddenly had a very bad feeling that something was wrong.
He turned, seeing the puzzled but concerned look Aviva gave him. "Are you okay?" she asked.
"I…" He tried to swallow, but his throat was too dry. "Yeah, I-I just…" He frowned, shaking his head. It was his idea to use the peregrine falcon suit so he could help his brother. So why did he feel so nervous?
Koki suddenly gasped, drawing both their attention to the screen she was watching. Up on the monitor, they saw Martin falter in the air, scarcely evading the attacking peregrine falcons. But even as he dodged one more, the raptor's talons caught his wing and tore some feathers from the suit, eliciting a surprised yelp from Martin.
"Martin…!" Chris gasped. Time was quickly running out, and he knew he had to do something. Taking a deep breath, he pushed aside his fear and, against his better judgment, pressed his suit's activation button.
The peregrine on his arm suddenly screeched and took off, flying out of the Tortuga as the suit began to transform. But instead of the normal warmth that accompanied the suit's glow, a blazing heat raged throughout Chris' body like a wildfire. He felt every shift in his bones, every contortion of his muscles…every single change to become the peregrine falcon left a deep, excruciating reminder across his convulsing frame.
The flames soon swept up his spine, trailing up as the falcon suit's beak encased his head. Then the dull ache in the back of his mind exploded in overwhelming agony, and he couldn't contain the pained cry that was ripped from his throat.
The crimson light on the apparatus in his hand suddenly began to pulsate. He looked at it, and for a moment he was a little surprised. But then the moment passed and a smirk appeared on Zach's pale face.
"Well, if that's the way he wants to do it…" he muttered with a shrug, sticking the gadget in his pocket. Then turning to the consol before him, he tapped in several commands on the keyboard and pressed a large red button.
Martin blinked as he finally realized that the manipulated falcons weren't attacking him any longer. Instead, as he watched with narrowed eyes and a frown, the raptors seemed to be retreating back to Zach's jet. Just what was Zach up to now?
He was set to follow them, to try getting inside Zach's jet and find how to break the inventor's control on the birds. But as he was about to fly forward, he noticed just on the edge of his vision a trail of smoke, rising into the sky. He turned, and his eyes widened when he saw the smoke was coming from within the Tortuga, as the turtle ship rapidly plummeted from the sky.
"Oh no!" he gasped. He folded his wings in to dive after the aircraft; there probably wasn't much he could do, but he had to try to help the others somehow.
As he neared the vehicle, however, a blur of green and black suddenly shot out from the Tortuga, causing Martin to falter in the air and stop.
"Chris?" he called to the other curiously.
The younger Kratt didn't seem to hear him as he flew higher in the air, higher above even Martin's position. Then he swooped back down, wings tucked in to rocket through the sky.
At first, Martin watched in confusion, wondering what his brother was doing. It wasn't until Chris' descent drew closer and closer, that he noticed Chris was in an attacking stoop…and that he was the target.
"Whoa!" he said as he dodged the missile that was his brother; he felt his feathers ruffle from the breeze as Chris sped past him. "Chris! Wh-what do you think you're doing?"
Chris didn't answer and simply spread his wings, catching the air and rising from the stoop. As the younger brother twisted in the air and looped back around, Martin gasped when he finally realized – too late – that the other was doing a swoop-under-talon-grab.
With sharp talons stretched out towards him, Martin quickly grabbed Chris with his own to protect himself; claws locked, Chris suddenly lunged towards Martin, swiping at him with his sharp beak helmet. Martin flapped his wings, both to put as much distance as he could between them, and to keep them aloft as they began to tumble through the air.
"Chris!" Martin exclaimed, surprised by how much strength the other was attacking with. "Chris, what's going on?"
The only reply his younger brother gave was a piercing falcon shriek; a noise that wasn't in Chris' voice at all, like it would be sometimes when they were playing around and imitating animal noises. It was a real falcon cry, generated from the information of the peregrine falcon disc that powered their suits, provided by the falcon's DNA.
That in and of itself wouldn't have been so alarming – there were instances when they would use the actual sounds produced by the animals, instead of trying to imitate the sounds themselves. But the natural cry of the falcon mixed with the…chillingly hollow look in Chris' normally bright eyes twisted Martin's stomach into deeper knots with the reality that something terrible was going on.
He dodged as Chris took another strike at him, but at such close range it was difficult to avoid the assault. And Chris was attacking with his all, fighting with all the ferocity of a real falcon protecting his territory. But even knowing that Chris wasn't holding back…Martin just couldn't bring himself to do the same.
Because…Because this was Chris, his little brother, who he had just gotten back…he couldn't bring himself to hurt Chris, especially since he knew something else was happening. Because he knew…he knew that Chris would just never do something like this!
"Chris!" he tried again, pleading. "Chris, what's wrong? Talk to me!"
Chris only gave another sharp screech, lashing once again at him with his beak. In Martin's reluctance to fight back, he wasn't able to dodge in time; the sharp curve caught his wing, slicing not only the feathers off the wing, but through the suit itself. The notched hook left a deep gash along the flesh underneath the suit, and Martin cried out as a jolt of pain erupted through his arm.
They flipped in the air again, and when Martin was under Chris, the younger one opened his talons and released him. Martin gasped; instinctively he tried beating his wings, but the sting in his injured wing prevented its usage. No amount of desperate fluttering with just one wing would keep him airborne, and he found himself swiftly approaching the ground.
"Chris!" he called in one last attempt to snap the other out of it. "Chris!"
But his younger brother remained high in the air, simply watching as he fell. It was the last thing he saw before the rough catch of tree branches encased his vision.
Zach cackled as he watched the scene on his monitor. "Well, that went a lot better than I expected," he muttered to himself.
As he continued observing the screen, he noticed that bird-Chris was still hovering in the air, looking down at the spot where Martin had disappeared. Then he shifted, looking ready to dive down towards the trees.
He pressed a button on his consol and spoke into a nearby microphone, "No."
Bird-Chris stopped in mid-air, flapping his wings to bring himself back up.
"Just leave him," he commanded. "Even if he survives that, he won't be much of a problem. Just get back to the jet…now."
Bird-Chris seemed to hesitate, but only for a moment before changing course and flying in the direction of the jet. Seeing his orders being obeyed, Zach sat back in his chair with a sinister grin.
"Yes, this is perfect," he said. "I could definitely get used to this…"