Undiscovered Territory
CHAPTER TWO:  Sinister Personas
Falling from anywhere that was such a height as the tree in which they had been would have been bad enough on its own.  But they kept falling into and breaking weaker branches on their way down, twigs and bits of bark lodging themselves into their clothing, until finally they each landed upon one of the men that Dende was quite certain they should avoid at all costs, knocking them to the ground.
Shouts bounded through the air, from all four soldiers (for soldiers they must have been, by the armour) and the two Namek children.  Jolted into action by all the commotion, Dende scrambled to his feet and grabbed onto Scargo's arm, intending to leap into the air and escape.
He didn't get far.
A powerful hand wrapped tightly around his ankle before he made it ten feet into the air.  "And just where do you two pups think you're going?"
Dende's captor wrenched his ankle, and he winced, managing not to cry out, before he and Scargo were hurled to the ground.  He skidded along the forest floor until his back hit a tree.  Though his teeth remained gritted against the pain, Dende forced his eyes open, determined to show courage.
The figure that stood over him was not the largest he had ever seen (that distinction belonged to the second form of the tyrant Frieza), but was imposing enough despite that.  And it was almost human-looking, with pale skin and a frazzled mane of orange hair.  The only visible distinction was the set of fangs that reached down from the corners of its mouth, curving slightly before meeting the point of its chin.
"Looks like we got a couple miniature spies, here," he growled.  "The locals send out kids to do their dirty work?"
Dende said nothing, for he indeed did not know what to say.  Scargo latched onto him tightly, shivering in obvious fright.  In all truth, Dende would have liked to do much the same, but he was the older brother, and thus had to be brave, mature, and responsible.  His gaze did not waver.
"Ugly-looking species, wouldn't you say, Feldspar?" one of the other men said, coming to stand beside his orange-haired companion.  Dende immediately decided that this man wasn't exactly one to talk, with a triangular head, solid black eyes, and purple skin mottled with orange.  "Makes you wonder how any of them could stand to make brats with each other."
This drew a laugh from all of the aliens.  There was no disputing the fact that they were such; the Nameks were the only intelligent species which inhabited the planet.  Worrying, wondering how they had gotten here, Dende tried to struggle to his feet, but Scargo's grip was too tight, and prevented him from moving significantly.
"All right, that's enough!"  The first alien, Feldspar, sobered up before the others.  He stared down at Dende with a decidedly unfriendly smile.  "So how ought we deal with our little infiltrators, here?"
"I'm sure we could think of a few ways, sir!" another of the men, behind the first two and thus out of Dende's sight, joked maliciously, and Dende could not help but shrink a little from the statement.  Clearly frightened beyond words, Scargo buried his head in Dende's shoulder.
The purple alien crossed his arms, an almost thoughtful look creeping onto his face.  "Bringing back for study would likely suit.  You know that that insane Doctor Gneiss won't shut up unless some 'samples' get brought into the ship's lab.  I'd rather not have to deal with all that whining."
Dende's brave expression wilted for a moment.  The phrase "insane doctor" conjured up some most unfavourable images.  Better not to think about them.
And better still to avoid them altogether.
Discreetly, he slid his hand to grasp one of Scargo's and squeezed it marginally.  A signal to ready himself.  An escape attempt would be quite the dangerous risk, but Dende feared that merely sitting still and waiting for events to unfold as they were was a far worse one to take.  As soon as a second would present itself . . .
"You sure that's a good idea?  The doctor annoys me as much as anybody, but these things could be more trouble than they're worth," the final alien spoke.  "I say we just kill them off."
"Aw, what are they going to do?  They're just a couple of runt kids --"
In speaking, both Feldspar and the purple alien had turned to face their companions, and Dende took this as his opportunity to leap into the sky, pulling Scargo along with him.  He managed to clear the treetops this time . . .
"Dende, watch out!" Scargo cried.
Startled, Dende glanced down and his eyes widened at the yellow ki beam shooting straight toward them.  He dodged to the side, but barely had time to let out a relieved breath before another came.  And another.  And another.  They were coming in rapid succession, now, and becoming increasingly difficult to avoid.
While he managed not to be struck, Scargo did not end up so lucky; the younger Namek screeched in pain and went limp in his hand.
"Scargo!"  Dende's concern for his little brother, combined with the now increased weight he carried distracted his attention from evading ki blasts.  One burned a hole through his thigh, and another grazed his left side.  Dizzy from the sudden waves of pain and nausea, he could no longer hold onto his brother or keep himself in the air.  Once again, he and Scargo dropped toward the forest floor.
The ground was far more unforgiving than the aliens' bodies had been.  Dende landed badly, grunting as his shoulder hit first, and he felt the bone partially give way to the pressure.  He tried to get up, but his head felt heavy and refused to cooperate with him, so he settled for checking on Scargo.
The younger Namek lay a few feet away from him, facedown, and unmoving.  Hopefully not so for very long, though he could not be sure at this point.
Bushes rustled above them, and Dende forced his eyes toward the sound.  Through hazy vision, and whatever sense still currently resided within his skull, he determined that it must be none other that their captors.
"Tricky little things, these two are," one of them said, though Dende's mind was too addled to pick out which one.  "Just about got away with it, too."
"Yeah, but they're not going anywhere, now."
Hazily, Dende saw one of them walk over to Scargo and prod him with his foot.  The boy neither moved nor made a sound.  Not an encouraging sign.  But he would maintain hope.  He would not believe the worst about his brother until he had absolute, indisputable proof.
Another pair of feet, this one directly in front of his own face.  "Hmph.  Well would you look at this?  The little ring leader is still awake."  He felt a hand take hold of the back of his collar and hoist him up to face the speaker.  The purple alien, as it turned out to be.  He was only inches from the man's face, and could smell his breath, a similar scent to the fertilizer that the gardeners used to accelerate the growth of Ajisa plants.  "Thought you were being pretty slick, didn't you, boy?  Children are such stupid creatures."
"That's enough of taunting the brat, Pumice.  Let's just get back to the ship.  I'm sure Doctor Gneiss will be pleased with getting a couple specimens."
Pumice grunted in mild disappointment and hoisted Dende over his shoulder.  Now it seemed that he had no choice but to face this "insane doctor", as unenjoyable as that prospect figured to be.  There was no way for him to avoid it.
His dizziness increased as his captor walked, causing him to bounce on his shoulder.  And more than anything else, his left leg hurt; he felt blood leaking sluggishly from the wound.  A hole, torn right through.
And his last thought, before a comforting darkness overtook him, was a prayer that Scargo was at least no worse off than he was himself.
* * *
Mad.  Insane.  Obsessive.
All were terms that had been used to describe her.  She knew that.  She had overheard them many times.  While she would have preferred to be called eccentric, she generally paid little mind to such comments and the people who made them.  They were not worthy of her time; she had better things to do than worry about the opinions of lowbrow common folk who didn't have brains enough to understand the ways of science.
Again, she rubbed soap over her hands, coating them thickly until she dipped them in the sink's warm waters.  And she would continue to do so until she was certain that no molecules of dirt or germ tainted their normal bright yellow hue.  Clean hands were necessary for a scientist.  Dirt would contaminate samples, and render experiments inaccurate.  And inaccurate results could be downright dangerous, but even worse were extremely irritating.
She lifted her hands out of the water, studied them with keen eyes.  Deciding that they were indeed immaculate, she reached for a towel to dry them off.  Once finished, she rearranged the towel neatly on its rack, and strolled out of the washroom.
Her quarters were small --  ten feet square, to be exact -- but they suited her needs well enough.  All she needed them for was washing, sleeping, and looking up the occasional bit of information on her computer, so a great deal of space was not required.  As long as she had a large enough lab in which to perform her work, she was happy.  And she always did.  The Kold Empire knew to treat its scientists well.
She tied her stringy black hair into a ponytail to keep it out of her face, and reached up to grab her lab coat, which she hung on the back of her door every time she returned to her quarters as a matter of course.
A hollow hissing noise indicated the activation of her intercom.  "Doctor Gneiss."
"Yes.  What is it?" she asked sliding one arm through a sleeve.  "I am on my way to the lab, so this had better be fast and important."
"The primary scout patrol happened upon a lone pair of natives out in the wilderness.  They've recently arrived back at the ship and have taken them to your laboratory."
She perked up at these words.  A chance to study an alien species was always too tempting to pass up.  "Truly?" she asked, buttoning her lab coat.  "Looks like those louts did something useful for a change.  I shall be there momentarily."
"Yes, Doctor."  The intercom hissed again as the link was severed.
Well, this was certainly a gratifying turn of events.  She usually had to demand many times over that she get her hands on a local of any planet that the crews scouted.  And now here, not only did she not have to do so, but she got two instead of one. 
A smile stretching her lips, she exited her quarters, shutting the door behind her, and walked down the hall to her laboratory.  The day was looking up already.
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