Lachlan pushed himself to his feet with shaking hands, his head still buzzing with adrenaline and panic. He leaned against the shop window behind him and waited to catch his breath.
He’d been chased and grabbed by a few monsters since he’d been put in this place, but this time had been the most terrifying. His arms had been completely pinned to his sides this time, leaving him feeling paralyzed in a way that reminded him of when he’d been drugged.
The creature lay unconscious a few meters away. Sam lay near it, the sword he’d been holding on the ground beside him. Mrs. Sharma knelt beside him, feeling his pulse on his wrist. Jen stood nearby, her face knit with concern as she looked down at her boyfriend.
“Is… is…” Lachlan paused for a moment, trying to stop his voice from shaking. “Is he alright?”
“His pulse and breathing pattern are normal. I don’t see any sign of head injury.” She shook Sam lightly. “Sam. Sam, can you hear me?”
When he didn’t respond, she grasped the muscle between Sam’s neck and shoulder, twisting. He opened his eyes, squinting up at her.
“Ow,” he said. “What was that for?”
“I was testing your response to a painful stimulus. And you responded. Congratulations,” she said. “Anyway, you’re awake now. Get up.”
“Get… up?” said Sam.
“Yes, get up. There’s no time to coddle you. You don’t appear to have any serious injuries, and if you want to keep it that way, we need to move before the Dave fabrication wakes up.”
“Seriously?” said Jen.
“As eager as I am to get away from that thing,” said Lachlan, “I can’t help but notice your bedside manner could use a bit of work.”
“Damn it, Lachlan, I’m a biologist, not a doctor,” said Mrs. Sharma. “Sam, get up. If you can’t get up, one of the Stanley fabrications can carry you.”
“Nah, I’m… I’m good.” Sam pulled himself shakily into a sitting position with his good hand. “I think.”
Lachlan stepped forward, offering Sam a hand. Sam took it, and Lachlan pulled him to his feet, then turned to Mrs. Sharma.
“You know, that’s really no way to treat the king among peasants who just saved my life.”
His voice still felt shaky, but he tried to sound as normal as he could.
Mrs. Sharma rolled her eyes.
“If you’ll recall, I also had a hand in saving your life.”
“Yes, but you didn’t do it whilst flying and dual wielding swords.”
“I don’t see how that’s relevant. We need to move before the Dave fabrication wakes up, or we need to take care of it permanently.”
“Take care of it permanently?” said Angelina. “You mean kill it?”
“No, I mean build a rocket ship and launch it to Saturn.” Mrs. Sharma sighed. “Obviously I mean kill it. What else would I mean?”
“I was just asking.” Angelina pouted.
“Even if we kill it, it’s only a matter of time before Zogzhesh wakes up and finds us. Or before the Sarah fabrications come back. Or before we run into some new danger. We have to keep moving.”
“But–” said Lachlan.
“But nothing. This is exactly why I was against leaving my house.”
“You mean why you were willing to leave an innocent woman stranded in this place?” said Mahender.
“I’m not going to argue with you about this–“
“Hey!” interrupted Angelina. “Is anyone going to bring up how whatever-his-name-is was flying a minute ago? And where he got those swords? And where his shirt went? Why are we not going to take a second to talk about that?”
“I hate to agree with Angelina,” said Lachlan, “but I do feel that all of her points warrant some addressing.”
“Believe it or not, I agree with you both,” said Mrs. Sharma, “but this isn’t the time or place to talk about it. We’ll keep moving now and talk about your friend later.”