Back at the human settlement, Leela and some of the others found Colin and Rock on the surface. Together they were able to convince Colin that taking the time to confirm where the young women were and formulating a plan to rescue them made a lot more sense than blindly rushing off. Colin agreed, but reluctantly.
Colin begrudged every moment it took to locate them, and it took a couple of days, but eventually Rock was able to confirm the Draco had found where they were being held.
“As you people say, there is good news and there is bad news,” Rock told him. “The good news is we have found them. The bad is that the Others have the ability to sense our Draco form and have always killed their captives before we can get close enough.”
After some discussion, Colin asked, “How close can you get before they sense you?”
“We’re not entirely sure. We do know that at three miles they cannot sense us - or if they do they don’t perceive us as a threat. Closer than that is a…toss up I think the phrase is.”
“OK, when you are in human form, how ‘human’ are you?” Colin asked.
“We are entirely human, just like we become entirely whatever species we transform into.”
“Can they detect you in a form other than your Draco form then?”
“I…” Rock blinked. “I do not know.” He closed his eyes and went still for a moment. Opening them, he continued, “I asked the nest. No one is sure. It’s not been tried. We’re at a disadvantage to the Others in any form other than our own. As Draco, we’re impervious to their technology and we completely over-match them so no one has fought them in any other form.”
“Well then why haven’t you, you know, exterminated them or something?” Colin asked.
Rock looked reproachfully at him, “Colin. Beware that when fighting monsters you yourself do not become a monster.”
“Nietzsche?” Colin said, rolling his eyes. “You’re quoting Nietzsche at me? I’m sitting at a table trying to figure out how to rescue my girlfriend with a red, giant, NAKED, dragon-man who quotes Nietzsche. Jesus fucking Christ.”
“Nietzsche is an interesting figure,” Rock said. “Much of his work was tainted by his sister after his death and her misinterpretations of his philosophies.”
“Can we stay on topic?” Colin said.
“We are. My point is we cannot undertake actions in fighting the Others that would make us their equivalent, as much as we might like to. Yes, the Draco have the power to utterly destroy the Others in this world-line but were we to do so, we would be no better than they.”
“Even if that means the death of Rory and Astra and Dee?” Colin shot back hotly.
“Even so. I would regret it deeply and I would grieve their loss and the loss of their potential, but yes. Even if. To do otherwise opens the way to such actions as, ‘We had to destroy the village to save it.’”
Colin raised an eyebrow, “You know a lot about the world I came from.”
“We do. You study us, we study you,” Red said enigmatically.
“OK, so does that mean that you won’t help me fight the ones that have them?”
“No, not at all,” Rock said. “You asked why we don’t wipe out the Others collectively. We’re talking about individuals who have done evil, have committed evil acts and by they actions have proven themselves to be evil. As individuals, I have no compunction to the use of force to stop them from hurting others.” His purple eyes glinted, “In fact, I’ll rather enjoy it.”
“Now we’re talking,” Colin said. “OK so what if we go to this three mile limit, you and your buddies change into human form, we get as close as we can, too close for them to be able to react and kill the hostages, you turn back into dragons and boom, you eat them or something.”
“Well, for one, we wouldn’t eat them, they taste like, as you say, shit,” Rock said.
Colin looked at him and saw the glint. He THOUGHT Rock was making a joke.
“For another, any sizable group approaching would likely be noticed and they’ll react. But, your plan has merit. A small group,” he looked at Colin with a wolfish grin, “Say, two ‘humans’ could get close enough without being noticed to potentially get inside their facility. Once inside I could change back to my true form and it would be…’game over?’”
“Game over,” Colin agreed.
“And if there were more Draco standing by, we could summon assistance if needed,” Rock added.
They pitched the idea to the leaders of the human settlement and the Draco.
Leela suggested, “What if we and the Draco do something to draw their attention elsewhere, it might reduce the chances of them discovering you while you get closer.”
A plan was agreed upon. Colin and Rock would infiltrate the Other facility and, if possible, penetrate it and free the captives. If they needed assistance, Rock would call and other Draco would rush to help. It wasn’t perfect, but they knew they were under a time constraint. The Others didn’t usually keep their captives alive for very long before ‘destructively harvesting’ them for their life-energy.
Rock flew Colin to the edge of the three miles, landed and changed into human form.
“Wow!” Colin said, dividing the bundle of supplies into something two humans could carry. “That was amazing!”
“I’m glad you enjoyed it!” Rock said. “Rory liked it.”
Colin gave him side eye, “Really dude?”
Rock looked confused. Colin sighed. “Read my thoughts,” he invited.
Rock touched his mind.
“Oh!” He said startled. “Subtext. Strange. Humor? Hmmm. Humans are complex indeed.”
“You got that right,” Colin said.
“I have a suggestion,” Rock said. “You fear that your relationship with Rory is out of balance. We should have sex, you and I, to correct that. You both will be ‘even’ so to speak.”
“Wait, what?” Colin asked, startled.
“I’ve not had a homosexual encounter in this form and it might be interesting,” Rock went on.
“Uh, thank you but I’m not…” Colin stammered and then noticed Rock’s expression. “Asshole,” he said, laughing.
“Humor,” Rock said, satisfied. “Male bonding. This is appealing. Yes. Thank you for this concept Colin. Now let us go ‘kick some ass’, I said that correctly?”
“You did,” Colin agreed. “I still don’t see why you didn’t opt for a weapon,” Colin said, slinging his sword over his shoulder.”
“I’ve not trained with one,” Rock said, gathering up a very large backpack. “Besides. I AM a weapon,” he added with a ferocious grin.
“I’ve created a monster,” Colin sighed.
“No, I was born that way,” Rock said.
“Lord help me.”
Their 3 mile trek took the entire morning as they were being as stealthy as possible. There were human encampments along the way. Rock used his ability to project his thoughts to explain to Colin that these were groups that were allied with the Others. The Others used them as a combination early warning system and energy source. They exacted ‘tribute’ from these humans - a sacrifice of a woman every year in exchange for a share in the harvested energy, of course until they ran out of women, then the Others abandoned them, or worse. They gave those settlements a wide berth.
“Why women?” Colin asked Rock quietly when they were in the clear.
“Females in the child-baring years carry the most life-energy. They have the capability of bringing forth new life. Species not native to this world-line cannot reproduce here so that energy continues to build up with no release. Males have some as well, as they contribute to the creation of life, but at a much smaller scale than do females. Draco, and humans as well as other species, can harvest this energy in non-destructive ways through the act of voluntary coitus. The donor isn’t harmed at all in the process and, the more they donate, the more they actually create so it’s mutually beneficial.”
“So why don’t the Others just do it that way?”
“Well, for one the Others don’t reproduce the way most species do. They reproduce though a version of parthenogenesis where the offspring consumes the host, becoming a genetic clone of the parent. This colors their thinking. To them, taking life energy requires the death of the host. We believe they’ve been experimenting with other methods of harvesting life-energy. We’ve been able to establish, through our contacts with some in the villages we’ve passed, that our friends are still alive. This is the only reason I can think of as to why they might be. The Others usually harvest their captives shortly after taking them.”
“So you have spies. Good. How do they know?”
“There are not many Others here. They use Humans and other species to do much of their support work. We’re likely to find human guards at their facility.”
They crept closer to the Other’s lair and located the entrance. As suspected there were humans guarding the entrance, but only a few making random patrols. They observed for a few hours, to establish the patrol’s patterns. Rock observed their thoughts as stealthily as he could, hoping to identify one who was careless.
“I have an idea,” he whispered to Colin. “Regrettably, none are careless however that one, with the hair like Flow..Rory’s, is impetuous. You could draw him off and we could subdue him. It’s important that we do NOT kill him.”
“Why?” Colin asked.
“Were he to die, his life-energy would be automatically collected by the Others. They would know instantly that one of their guards had been killed and would be alerted to our presence.”
Rock laid out his plan, Colin added a few embellishments.
The guard rounded the corner on his path. Colin stood in his way, arms folded, arrogant in posture.
“Hi shithead,” he said. “Still sucking Other cock?”
The guard, stopped, “What did you say?”
“How many women have you killed to steal their life-energy, you piece of shit!’ Colin taunted, spitting on the ground.
“I’ll steal your’s right now!” He said with a grimace and charged towards Colin.
Colin ran, drawing the guard away from his route and into the woods before stopping and drawing his sword. The guard hacked at him with a lot of anger but little skill, Colin parried his cuts easily. Rock stepped out from behind the bush where he had been concealed and hooked the guard’s feet out from under him, tripping him. Colin rushed forward and hit him in the head with the pommel of his sword.
“Is he OK?” Colin asked as Rock checked him over.
“He is not dead. He’s also not going to wake up anytime soon. Come, this is our chance.”
The two warily stalked to the entrance to the Other’s facility, a cave like opening in the rock. There were no other guards. They followed the short tunnel to the interior cavern. From the entrance where they were hidden they spotted three of the Others. The also saw the three girls in some kind of holding pen. They were very relieved to see they appeared unharmed.
“This was too easy,” Colin whispered.
“The Others rely far too much on their ability to sense my people. They don’t credit your people as a threat. This is something they won’t do again but for now we benefit. Now,” Rock said, looking at Colin with a predatory grin, “Let’s show these skinny fuckers what a threat looks like.”
Rock shimmered and assumed his natural form. The cavern was vast but the huge creature filled it. Alarms immediately began shrieking and one of the Others ran towards the captives.
“I don’t think so!” Rock’s baritone boomed as he left forward and grabbed the Other in a massive paw, picking it up like a doll.
Colin ran forward, sword in hand, prepared to stop the other two. One of them raised a wand like weapon but before he could do anything with it, Rock waved the other paw and the Other holding the wand screamed and dropped it. It glowed red for a moment with heat.
“Now,” Rock said. “You’re going to let these women go, and if they’ve be harmed even a little bit, you’re going to be very, very unhappy.”
Sorry for the length of this update but I wanted to wrap this part of the story - but we've got 2 renders today and boy was the second one fun to do!