Yeah, updates aren't always going to be this quick. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy the story regardless. Just be prepared for long waits. Thanks for all the reviews so far. I appreciate the feedback.
She was a soldier. A guard. An Orange. She fulfilled the duty that the coloration of her exoskeleton assigned her. She was a loyal member of the Swarm. And she would obey any command that the great and glorious Queen Soltus, the only one who deserved a name and individuality, might provide. She would do it without question, serving as an obedient piece of the whole.
Today, she and two other Oranges were going on a stealth-based retrieval mission on a primitive, but hostile planet. An image of the target was obtained from the files of the United Galactic Federation, though most of the available information was left alone to avoid complications. Bringing the attention of the Federation to the Swarm was not a smart idea, so meddling in their files would be kept to a minimum. The coordinates were quickly typed into the computer system of the ship: Quadrant 17, Sector 005, Area 51.
The planet, from what the Orange could observe as their spacecraft drew near, seemed to consist of a mostly water-covered surface with large chunks of land scattered across. Their target, however, should be located on a very small piece of land created by volcanic activity along with a handful of other islands. That would save time since there would be a limit to the area the target could hide. And while the primitive life-forms were unaware of life on other planets, those on the island seemed particular adept at ignoring the presence of extraterrestrials and that would further simplify the mission. The minor issue of the suspected guard on the target would be dealt with if necessary, but the Orange held high hopes that they would succeed and the mission would greatly benefit the Swarm.
But, as she examined the image of a small and squishy biped that they were intending to capture for their queen, she wondered uneasily if the command to kidnap a child could be a mistake.
David, in Lilo's opinion, was the best person for Nani to marry if a certain big sister would ever hurry up about it. He was already practically ohana, he and Nani clearly liked each other, and she enjoyed spending time with him whenever he managed not to be too busy. Furthermore, he barely blinked at the more unique parts of the ohana. It didn't matter if Jumba was inventing at the kitchen table, Pleakley was trying on a new dress, one of the hundreds of cousins were visiting, or Stitch was climbing across the ceiling. David just shrugged and went along with it. And as a final vote in his favor, he was loads of fun when it came to surfing.
It was always smart for them to surf in a group, so it was probably a great thing that it was more fun to surf with friends than alone anyway. Lilo knew she was getting better at controlling her surfboard over the years and could probably enter some of the contests as she got older, but she also knew that she would never ride alone because it wouldn't be fair. She or David would almost always have Stitch with them.
For a genetic experiment with the buoyancy of a brick, he was surprisingly talented on a surfboard. He was also fairly experienced at staying on the floating object even after a spectacular wipeout. But none of them would ever forget that deep water was something the nearly indestructible experiment couldn't survive. Someone always rode with him or stayed right next to Stitch just in case. And if he wanted to show off on his own, Lilo would ask some of the aquatic cousins to help watch.
After all, Stitch did everything in his power to keep her safe from harm. It was only fair that she did her best to return the favor when given the chance.
Now, coated in salt and sand from a day at the beach, she and Stitch proceeded to construct a small sandcastle on top of the partially-buried David. At least, it was originally a small sandcastle. As she worked on the spaceship landing pad near David's left ear, Stitch was working on the invading army of sand zombies with a gleeful grin across his face. Lilo knew getting the smell of ocean out of his fur would be a nightmare due to his dislike and fear of baths, but a fun day at the beach was worth it.
"Cobra Bubbles visited not too long ago," she chatted casually, shaping the sand with her hands. "He couldn't say too much because of all the classified stuff he isn't supposed to do or know about because he's retired from that, but he really isn't completely retired. But I think he was trying to offer me a job or a class or something about their secret group that deals with aliens. He said they mostly recruit people from jobs with three initials, like the FBI or CIA."
"That sounds exciting," David commented as Stitch covered his toes with a sand sculpture of a miniature catapult.
"It might be fun," she nodded. "Or really boring. Cobra also said I have to wait a few years though. Even if I know more about aliens than most of their recruits, he thinks it might be bad idea for a little kid to join. It'll probably destroy all their self-esteem and leave them feeling vulnerable. So I guess I'll have to wait until I'm thirteen."
"At least you have something to look forward to," the young man said. "Have you talked to Nani about this?"
"Naga," replied Stitch, dusting off some of the sand.
Lilo admitted, "Not yet. There's still loads of time."
"Well, make sure you give her plenty of time to think about it and get used to the idea," David advised, craning his head as much as possible to look at the girl over the growing sand creations. "You know she worries."
Nodding, the dark-haired child shifted her attention to the miniature version of a mad scientist tower for the Frankenstein's Creature she'd just finished. She knew Nani worried. Her sister worried too much sometimes in her opinion. Lilo knew Cobra Bubbles arranged things so the Child Service people could never take her away from Nani. She knew Hamsterviel was in space jail. And she had Stitch to keep her safe from anything else they might run into. She was probably the safest girl on the whole island.
"Lilo," Stitch called, pointing excitedly at the leader of his army of sand zombies.
Leaning in close to the constructed figure, she could see sections of "skin" peeling off and the zombie was carrying his head under his arm. The way she could tell that this sand sculpture was the leader was due to the large hat placed on the decapitated head in the form of a seashell.
"Cool," she grinned as her friend released an evil cackle.
"Shouldn't there be a graveyard for the zombies to come from?" asked David.
"Oh, yeah," said Lilo. "We almost forgot. Maybe we should add one near your knees."
"Naga," Stitch shook his head. "Armpit."
The girl nodded, "Perfect."
While the scent of sea water was a scent he'd grown extremely used to since his sensitive nose could detect it from most locations on the island and he could now ignore it in favor of more informative smells most of the time, getting some of the ocean soaked into his fur left behind a strong scent that wouldn't leave his nose alone. It was just too close to ignore. He could barely smell Lilo and she was walking beside him. Probably the only reason he could pick up her scent at all at the moment was because it was one of the most familiar and important ones he knew. Even through the overwhelming aroma of salt water in his fur, he knew she smelled like warm sand, cool sea breezes, a fruity shampoo and a duller soap, sugary cereal from breakfast, cheap detergent and cotton from the dress she pulled over her swimsuit, and a warm and comforting scent that was unique to Lilo and pure ohana. He would always recognize her, even when his nose was almost completely swamped by his own salt-water-encrusted fur masking every other scent on the island. Honestly, even if it meant he couldn't smell almost anything else at the moment, he'd had fun on the beach and it was worth it. Besides, it wouldn't take long to get it cleared off.
He still hated baths. He hated and, to be perfectly honest, feared them. Purposefully sitting in a container as the choking substance tried to rise up and swallow him below its depths… Stitch couldn't see why Nani found the things relaxing.
But after hundreds of battles about the necessity of remaining clean, countless times where someone would try dragging him to the bathroom while he climbed every surface possible to avoid such a thing, and Lilo promising repeatedly she would never let him drown, a compromise was reached. He wouldn't take baths, but he would take a shower. While he still wasn't perfectly comfortable with the idea, the water level never rose above his feet and it was no more disturbing than being caught in a rainstorm. He also used a shampoo that smelled the least like fruit, flowers, or various chemicals that the human nose couldn't detect (again, he couldn't figure out how Nani could enjoy her scented bubble baths). At least the new arrangements meant he would be clean with minimal suffering for everyone.
"So we'll stop by Slush's snowcone stand for a snack before heading back home," Lilo remarked casually as they left the beach, the girl pausing briefly to take a picture of a tourist who was strangely wearing socks with his sandals. "That way, we can check on him and Dupe."
"Oketaka," he nodded, grinning.
She hesitated just a moment before adopting her own grin and said, "Hey, why don't we make it a race? Last one there has to help Pleakley clean the living room."
"Goobaja," he laughed in agreement before taking off.
Stitch knew rolling would be easier, but part of the fun of a race was the actual running. Neither he nor Lilo possessed very long legs, but using his front limbs to help run gave him a slight advantage. He ran, scrambling along the walls of buildings or scurrying under people if he encountered an obstacle. The streets were rarely busy with vehicles, but Stitch keeps his ears pricked just in case a car approaches the running and laughing girl who was doing her best to beat him to their goal. Even during a race across the small town, he paid close attention to anything that might accidentally cause her harm. Just because he could easily withstand a large amount of metal smacking into him didn't mean that Lilo could. Of course, she was smart enough not to run in the road when there was traffic, but it didn't hurt anyone for him to pay attention for trouble anyway.
The blue experiment was ahead of her as his mind went over possibilities, cackling to himself while occasionally glancing backwards to where the girl was following. Of course, if a car were to crash somewhere that wouldn't threaten anyone (including the driver), that would be entertaining. Say, for example, if a certain genetic mutant experimentation were to grab several thousand pounds of metal, glass, and rubber tires off the road and swing it into the nearby brick and glass structure with enough force to both crumple the vehicle and shatter the building. He could already picture it. Metal warping, glass cracking and splintering into shards that would quickly sprinkle across the asphalt and concrete, bricks tumbling, and wonderful crashes that would ring in his ears as broken pieces continued to fall long after the initial impact. Screams and shouts from witnesses would add to the noise and, if he did everything perfectly, perhaps a telephone pole could be knocked over so that the wires would be ripped free and sparking electricity along the ground. He could practically feel the metal framework being sliced by his claws, glass shards bouncing off his fur, and crushing brick fragments beneath his steps. His mind was already making the necessary calculation required to know the ideal force, angles, and timing required in order to produce the greatest level of destructive chaos with the present resources. He wouldn't ever do it because Lilo would disapprove and it would be wrong, but the desire remained.
The brief daydream of destruction was abruptly shoved away by a shriek. Other yells of surprise and shock quickly followed, but Stitch's full attention was on the initial sound because it was a noise that haunted his nightmares. It was the sound of Lilo in trouble.
"Lilo?" he responded, their race forgotten.
No matter how fast his reflexes might be, he only managed to catch a glimpse of the girl as he spun around. Something tall and orange was pulling her into a gap between of two buildings. People, some locals and some tourists, were equally drawn by her shriek and were pointing towards the spot she was snatched away. Stitch barely noticed their reactions. All that mattered was that Lilo was in trouble.
The small blue figure sprinted, plowing straight through any obstacle in his way. He ignored the yelps of confusion and annoyance as he knocked people off their feet with his desperate attempt to follow where she vanished. As he reached the narrow gap between buildings, not even large enough to be considered an alleyway, Stitch still couldn't see her. Almost any scent he might pick up was still masked by the salt water crusted on his fur. All he had left to follow was the annoyed yells and calls for help that were quickly growing fainter as the distance between him and Lilo increased.
Experiment 613 wasn't the most powerful of Jumba's creations. Nor did the light blue creature have the busiest or most difficult role in his one true place. The lemur-like being spent most of his days relaxing in the small little house built for him or perched on a rooftop, keeping an eye out for trouble. True, he was supposed to serve as an alien invasion alarm that someone could used to alert people, but he saw no problem with adding his voice when a different disaster was occurring. There could never be too many fire alarms, tsunami warnings, and such. As long as he used a slightly different sound for each one (and kept the volume at a safe level), it seemed like a good strategy to him.
Yaarp stared out at the surrounding area, perfectly content with his life. He and his cousins might not be doing exactly what they were built to do, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. It was more fun to have a big ohana. He liked his one true place. And even if he was created for evil, that didn't mean he had to stay evil. Even Jumba wasn't really that evil.
Movement caught his eye, pulling the creature's attention to a particular section of the island. The size and color of the movement was what really held his focus. Humans tended to be in similar colors and the more vibrant experiments on the island tended to be smaller. A tall, orange shape was moving swiftly towards the tree line, clearly neither human nor experiment.
Yaarp bounced up to the highest point on the building he was perched on, peering at the scene. The orange shape was carrying something. Then, he saw a blue figure further back, clearly trying to follow the escaping orange thing. Yaarp recognized Stitch. He also figured out the orange figure was probably an alien. And if Stitch was chasing the alien, his movements clearly desperate even at that distance, then it wasn't a friend.
He knew he was supposed to wait for someone to let him know that a possible alien arrival was an enemy. After all, it would be embarrassing for everyone if he started blaring out a warning when it turned out to be just Gantu or someone visiting. But Yaarp's instincts were telling him that something was wrong and that the orange figure disappearing into the foliage was an enemy.
Drawing himself to his full height by perching on his tail and uncurling the horn on his head, Yaarp performed his important responsibility. While taking care not to cause any damage to nearby structures or the hearing of the closest humans, he blared out an alarm to warn everyone of the presence of hostile aliens.
"Let me go," Lilo shouted, struggling in the grip of her captor. "Stitch, help!"
Normally, the girl would be impressed by the fact she was dealing with a giant bug person. A giant, orange, praying mantis with yellow eyes was holding her tightly with her pincher-like arms and carrying her through the forest at a rather quick pace. It was the kidnapping that was ruining the moment. She'd simply been grabbed off the street by the insect person.
"Let go," she yelled, kicking at the solid exoskeleton of her captor. "I'm warning you. You're going to be sorry."
"Silence, human," the orange praying mantis creature ordered. Lilo quickly determined that her captor was a girl based on the voice. "The queen demands we bring you back for study."
"If your queen turns out to be a wasp mummy, you should know I've seen almost every movie. I know how to defeat the wasp mummies without being eaten or turned into one of your worker drones."
"Silence," she repeated, a slight hint of clicking in her voice. "Your struggles and noise will not aid you. We will soon reach the ship and we shall not be distracted or detained."
Lilo quickly changed her thought process from monsters to aliens. On the one hand, that was mildly comforting since she had plenty of experience dealing with aliens from other planets. On the other, it was a lot harder to escape from someone after they had you on their spaceship and off the planet.
"Aggaba!" Stitch's voice called out from somewhere behind them. "Lilo!"
"Stitch," the girl shouted back. "Please help!"
Lush plants blocked her from seeing if her best friend was catching up. But she knew he was still following. She trusted him. She knew he would save her. He always would.
A loud blaring sound filled the air, making the girl look up in surprise. She knew that sound. On a bad day, it could deafen anyone within range and knock them flying. On a good day, it was simply a friendly noise from one of the many cousins who lived on the island.
"Yaarp?" Lilo muttered to herself before a grin spread across her face. Glancing up at her giant praying mantis captor, she said, "You're in big trouble now. Hear that alarm? Everyone on the whole island knows that there are evil aliens here now."
"Interesting. We were not informed that your species were taking measures concerning extraterrestrials," said the orange creature, not even slowing in her sprint through the forest. "It does not matter, however. We have take precautions to guarantee success."
"Lilo," shouted Stitch, the girl finally catching a glimpse of her loyal friend as he leapt over some of the vegetation.
Just as she was about to call out to him again, several plasma bursts struck him as someone fired from the undergrowth. The unexpected impacts knocked him flying back, at the very least stunning him for the moment. Two other orange praying mantis people, each one holding onto a spear-shaped object with a glowing green tip, instantly joined Lilo's captor from their hiding places.
The girl realized that it was an ambush set up in case someone tried to follow and rescue her. Just like Stitch did. They knew when they grabbed her that someone would try to save her and they'd been prepared. And if they were prepared, then they might actually stand a chance of taking her away.
"Stitch?" she yelled, hoping to see or hear some sign that he was still trying to follow her.
She knew that he could survive a hit from a plasma cannon (or whatever the spear-shaped blasters were), but that didn't stop the girl from worrying at least a little. She needed to know he was okay. And, because her struggles against the firm grip holding her wasn't working, she needed to know that he was still trying to rescue her. But she couldn't see him or hear him anymore and they kept moving farther away from where he landed.
It was like their first encounter with Gantu all over again, the last several years of her life stripped away until she was just a six year old girl once more. It didn't matter at the moment she'd spent three years facing impossible odds with her best friend in order to make sure over six hundred experiments didn't unleash complete chaos on the island. All that mattered was that she couldn't escape and was alone. She was captured by an alien she knew nothing about, about to be taken far away from her home. She might never see her ohana again. None of them. Her sister. Jumba and Pleakley. All the cousins. And Stitch. She wouldn't have Stitch. Lilo knew that, as long as she and Stitch were together, they could always find a way out of a problem. Together, they were unstoppable. But apart, they were more vulnerable.
"Stitch!" the little girl screamed desperately. "Please don't leave me."
She needed him. And he needed her. She didn't want to be alone again. She didn't want to lose her ohana.
She caught sight of their destination. While smaller than Jumba's ship, she recognized a spacecraft when she saw one. Even if this particular one was shaped vaguely like a dark-green dragonfly. Knowing that she was running out of time, Lilo fought against the insectoid-alien's grip in a final desperate attempt to stay on Earth. Even if she couldn't escape from all three of them, maybe she could at least delay them long enough for Stitch to recover and catch up. He would come, after all. She knew he would. He had to.
"Stitch!" she called as she was carried inside.
Between trying to unscramble his thoughts after being hit by at least four direct hits by plasma blasts within seven seconds, Stitch called himself every insult he knew in English, Hawaiian, and Tantalog. He shouldn't have been caught off guard like that. If he could have smelled his surroundings properly, he would have realized there was an ambush. And while Yaarp's alarm would normally be helpful, it was drowning out a lot of the ambient noise and left him even less aware of his surroundings. He shouldn't have been hit, but he was too focused on the most important thing in his life to notice the kidnapper had friends.
Shaking his head in an effort to clear it as he climbed back to his feet, he forced away some of the more treacherous thoughts his racing mind was already producing. After all, based upon his previous speed and the rate at which he'd been gaining on them, it wouldn't be easy to catch back up. The amount of distance and time it would require for him to reach Lilo was quickly growing. And with each passing second, he could calculate the diminishing odds that he would be able…
All doubts and fears of failure were shoved aside as he ran towards the sound of her voice once again. He couldn't fail her. That single concept pounded through the genetic experiment. He couldn't fail her. He simply couldn't. He had to reach her. He had to get to Lilo before it was too late.
Tearing through the vegetation in his way, he tried to deny the sounds of a large engine starting. He ran, sprouting his extra arms in an attempt to increase his velocity in any way that he could. His limbs, designed for strength rather than pure speed, pushed him forward through the forest. He couldn't fail her. Even as he heard something large lifting off the ground, the blue figure ran after his lost friend.
Just as he reached the small clearing and caught sight of the spaceship that undoubtedly now contained a certain dark-haired little girl, Stitch realized that it was already too far off the ground for him to reach. His brain was already connecting various scenarios to make the attempt to reach the rising spacecraft, ranging from using a tree for a slingshot to trying to ride an explosion again. But just as quickly as the options formed in his head, they were discarded. Within seconds of seeing the dragonfly-shaped object heading for the stratosphere, Stitch knew he couldn't reach it. And by the time he reached the only other space-capable form of transportation on the island, it would be gone.
"Lilo," he whispered, horrified to realize that there was absolutely nothing he could do now to prevent her from disappearing from the planet. "Naga."
Gone. She was gone.
He stared up at the vanishing shape of the spaceship, his dark eyes unable to turn away from her last known location. His limbs, normally so easy for him to move, felt heavy and hung at his sides limply. He couldn't think; his rapid thoughts and efficient mind now seemed to be drowning in thick mud.
That was the perfect description for him. Drowning. Stitch felt like he was plummeting to the bottom of the ocean, helpless and lost. She couldn't be gone. She'd been there for almost his entire life. He'd always had Lilo. Not having her was just wrong. She was his ohana. The one place that he truly belonged was with her. She was his first and best friend, the one who taught him about life beyond his programming for destruction, and the most important person in his existence.
And he failed her. It was all his fault. He should have stayed closer to her when they were playing and racing across town. He should have paid closer attention to his surroundings. He should have been faster. He should have realized they set an ambush to slow him down. He should have saved her. He heard her calling, pleading for him to save her, and he failed.
Slumping down to the ground as limply as Lilo's doll, Scrump, Stitch didn't even try to push aside the feelings of guilt. He was Jumba's greatest creation, Experiment 626. He was unstoppable. He was able to escape from the entire Galactic Armada shortly after his creation. He was able to evade attempts at recapture on a small island for days before Gantu's arrival to Earth. He'd helped defeat and rehabilitate his cousins while keeping Hamsterviel's plans from coming to fruition. And yet, even when he was capable of so much, he couldn't accomplish the most important thing of all. He couldn't keep Lilo safe.
"Lilo," he said softly, his eyes dropping to his clawed limbs as the clenched and unclenched in frustrated helplessness. "Stitch sorry."
He couldn't just stay there, drowning in guilt and sorrow at failing her. There had to be a way to fix things. He couldn't give up. He had to find her.
Pulling his numb and heavy limbs back into motion, the blue experiment tried to focus on how he couldn't just give up on her. They managed to save Jumba when he was kidnapped, right? And she didn't give up on any of her ohana when Leroy and Hamsterviel were causing trouble, right? There had to be some way to find her and save her. And if she was even slightly harmed, Stitch would rip all of them apart. He would tear their limbs off, snapping each one into multiple pieces. He would crush them with chucks of their spacecraft, torn loose for the specific purpose of smashing the kidnappers. He would slice open their heads and…
Stitch grabbed the sides of his head and squeezed his eyes shut, trying to banish those thoughts. Anger and destructive programming weren't always a good combination. But he wasn't like that. He was good now. Good. Lilo wouldn't want him to have those kinds of thoughts about someone, even people who kidnapped her. And those types of ideas were a little scary for him. If he considered how easy it would be to do that sort of destruction against someone, about how completely fragile they were in comparison to his strength, then it didn't take much imagination to realize how simple it would be to do something similar to people he cared about. How simple it would be to harm his ohana…
No, he was good. He was good. Lilo might be lost, but he would be good so that she wouldn't be disappointed with him when she got back. Because he would get her back. If he had to search the entire universe and turn the United Galactic Federation upside down in the process, he would. But he would also make sure that he did what Lilo would want him to.
Not wanting to waste any more time that he could be using to search for her (and not completely certain that he should be alone while his anger and hurt over her disappearance fed into his original programming), Stitch took off toward home. If he wanted to save Lilo, he would need help and a spaceship of his own in which to follow.
And now Lilo has been kidnapped by aliens and separated from Stitch. You really have to feel sorry.
…for the kidnappers. The Swarm really doesn't know what they've just done. Messing up the ohana never goes well. The consequences for their actions will be far beyond what they could ever predict.
Remember, the updates will likely be very slow. But feedback is always appreciated. Thanks for the reviews for the first chapter and I look forward to more for this one.