Chapter 30: The Seven Seekers
Ace was reunited with Kurt, Bettilena and Aster. He was praised by the three upon arrival, giving him a good feeling of relief - though he had still not yet seen Jake, Jenna and Leera.
The small group walked on through the city ruins and noticed the citizens and robots were cleaning up and repairing the buildings already. A few people even waved at them as they walked by, passing on their words of gratitude. The quad of heroes eventually caught up with the rest of the Seekers once they reached a certain point in the city. Jake appeared out from above on his Skyboard while Leera leapt down from a large pile of rubble – with Jenna on her back.
This reminded Ace even more of the old times he spent with them when they went on missions together.
”About time you guys showed up!”
Aster remarked, as Jake came down to land on the ground. He picked up the Skyboard and placed it under his arm. Leera trotted up towards the group as well, and allowed Jenna to jump off. The three of them noticed Ace’s presence though, but avoided looking him in the eye for the time being.
”Yeah, sorry ‘bout that. Even though now it seems that our job here is done…”
”And it is all thanks to…”
Aster said after Jake, before turning around to look at Ace; gesturing at him with his elbow. Ace took a glance back at Jake, who was staring right back at him. It felt kind of uncomfortable, especially after all the angry glares he received from Jake in the past two weeks.
”Yeah… we heard about what happened. You did a really good thing out there today, Ace”
Ace could only blink back at Jake. Did he really just say that? He grinned back slightly and nodded.
”Thanks. It reminded me of old times…”
Ace glanced over towards Leera and Jenna now. Jenna was unsure what to say to Ace, but she didn’t appear to look agitated in any way. Ace decided to leave her be for now, already quite relieved to hear something positive from Jake for a change.
”I think we better head back home and think of something to celebrate this fine day, don’t you all agree?”
Almost everyone gave a nod in agreement to Kurt. The whole group walked down the path that lay ahead of them, back in the direction in which their spaceships currently resided.
Along with the positive feelings Ace had felt, he also couldn’t help but feel as if they were all being watched…
They walked on for about half an hour now, but he still had that feeling. He took a glance around him occasionally. Maybe it was the media? But it wasn’t. There were no camera flashes or any kind of HV recorder about. It was quieter out here though, noticing that the repair-bots and other volunteers hadn’t made it to this part of the city yet for clean-up; many of buildings were still damaged or completely destroyed.
Aster noticed Ace was wary of something though, as he was walking right beside him.
“What’s up, Ace?”
”I... don’t know. I just can’t shake the feeling that we are being watched or followed by somebody out here”
”I’m sure it’s nothing. Might just be some animals out there amongst the rubble” Aster told him.
Ace stopped still for a moment while the rest of the team walked on. Right there, he saw something shift behind a damaged wall to his right in a distance. He rushed off without saying anything and the Seekers all stopped; stumped as to why he took off all of a sudden.
Leaping over a fence and several other objects blocking his path, he continued to look out for any signs of movement from the same thing. The buildings around here looked abandoned though, as most were too damaged to be inhabitable. But while he followed the distinctive path, he could see signs of small footprints on the dust covered ground.
He came across a small building up ahead. Corrugated iron sheets covered the windows here, oddly enough and the entry was also blocked my more sheets of iron, which Ace became even more wary of.
No one responded. But Ace knew there was someone nearby. He walked up to the door of the shack and grasped both sides of the sheet of metal. With his hand, he pulled it off from the small building and gently placed it aside. The entrance was quite small, and with that he flipped his visor up to get a proper look inside.
What he saw came as a bit of a shock to him. He could see a few lights in here, as well as a small, barely working HV screen, food wrappers lying around, as well as a few other household items.
But what actually caught his attention were the three small children in the corner of the room, huddled up together and staring back at him with their proportionately large, gleaming eyes.
”What are you doing in here?”
”Please don’t take my sisters away from me, please!” One of the children called out.
Ace wanted to get inside to get a closer look at them. He slipped himself through the entry with a bit of effort and the children gasped, a little startled by his large size and presence inside of the small room.
”I won’t take you away from them but… where are your parents? Is this where you live?”
Ace looked closer and noticed the three of them where young cazar children. One was a young boy, around 7 years of age while the other two appeared to be twin girls, much younger in appearance. One of them was holding a small plush animal. The three of them looked very rough, wearing torn and aged clothing; even their fur wasn’t as smooth as a cazars’ coat usually was. Ace was concerned with them, living out here alone, though he couldn’t help but wonder why, especially in a civilized planet like this.
The young male cazar looked down after Ace asked him the question for a second, before looking back up at him.
”We… we don’t have any parents. And this is our home. We don’t want to be separated, please!”
”I will never take you away from your sisters. Neither would I let anybody else do that. But this isn’t a good home to be living in. Surely you do have some parents out there missing you all…”
”They’re… gone. Like, forever gone”
Ace’s face drooped and he set his eyes downcast, seeing the young boy look away - an attempt to hide any tears. The two younger sisters looked at their brother and huddled closely, seemingly unsure of what triggered his grief but trying to comfort him, nonetheless.
Ace felt that he needed to move in closer, but at the same time, he didn’t want to scare them in any way. He felt bad seeing them in this state…
”I am sorry… but I can help you though, if you let me”
”… really, sir?” the boy asked.
”Why yeah, of course. Living like this isn’t any good you know… why not let me take you someplace else?”
”… I guess I can I believe you! Because me and my sisters saw you kicking space pirate butt out there today! We saw that happening on live HV just before!”
Ace couldn’t help but smile a bit He was pleased to see the children’s expressions change to a more hopeful one, yet he knew he had to help them out. He moved closer knowing the children were no longer shy of his presence.
”Well, I say we get you lot out of this dump then. You guys deserve better than this”
”Okay then, Mr. Superhero!”
Ace smirked at the kid’s comment and kneeled down as the three children came up close to him, allowing him to pick them up with his large arms.
Ace could already hear Bettilena and some of the other Seekers shouting for him outside, so he left the small building and went out into the sunlight. The three children clung to him as they were being held, feeling safe with him and Ace was taken back to past once again.
He was used to dealing with orphaned children, especially being that he was once an orphan himself. He had helped rescue many in the past; homeless children living on the streets, helping them find a place in an orphanage or a new family to become a part of. It was one of the many good deeds he did during his time as a superhero, several years ago.
He still had a real soft spot for children; especially the misfortunate ones who have had a rough start in life or a tough life in general. He could not stand seeing children suffer in any way.
He carefully paced down the path with the three kids in his arms. When he made it out onto the main path again, Betty was the first one to gasp at his return.
The seekers all rushed up to him to see the children. The children all looked a bit shy at the presence of these aliens being around them,
“Are they… orphaned children?” Bettilena asked Ace.
”Yeah. They’ve been living out amongst the ruins for some time… they lost their parents a while back”
Kurt looked back at the young cazares and the other seekers came in closer to see them. The children were quiet though, very shy with the others around them.
“We better try finding a local orphanage for them…”
”No! We don’t wanna go back there!”
The boy yelled, shutting his eyes in response.
”What, you guys came from an orphanage? Why did the three of you run away from there?”
Ace asked the male cazar. Ace kneeled down to his knees to let the children stand up on their own. The two sisters looked all around them with curiosity, while the brother looked down, seemingly unsure of what to say…
”Well uhh… we ran away when the city got attacked by the pirates. We wanted to escape because somebody was gonna adopt my sisters but… not me…”
The young boys face changed to a gloomy one again but this time he couldn’t stop the tears, which only caused Ace to feel sorry for them. The Seekers were silent, but giving off thoughtful looks towards the cazar children as well.
Ace kneeled down again to see him eye to eye, no longer being able to stand seeing them in a sombre mood…
“Hey, chin up kid. I will make sure that doesn’t happen when I take you guys back”
”… you will?”
”I promise. You know… I came from an orphanage too”
”What the… really? A big superhero like you was an orphan!?”
”Oh that, I’m not really a superhero-“
Ace was elbowed by Aster for denying that. The other seekers giggled and even the small children were all giving smiling now, lightning Ace’s own mood as well.
“So it isn’t a bad thing being at an orphanage. A family will adopt you all together one day, you’ll see. I was adopted by a great family myself, heh. So come on up, I bet you guys can’t wait to have a decent meal and shower”
Smiles spread across everyone’s faces now, even Betty could be heard saying ‘aww…’ from the background.
As Ace picked up the children again, he caught a glance of Jenna smiling back at him too, even. It was the first time he saw her smile since arriving back with the team.
The team were quick to find the local orphanage of the city centre. To Ace’s relief, the buildings around here weren’t as damaged as seen in other parts of the city, and repair bots and volunteers were all over the place, helping fix and rebuild the nearby homes, outdoor furniture and gardens.
The Orphanage was safe as well, and as soon as he walked in, a female worker rushed towards Ace in joy. She was delighted to see the three cazares again.
Ace had a talk with the caregivers there and found out that the twin sisters were asked for adoption by a couple, but they were going to turn down the offer; after the couple refused to take the brother of the sisters. They assumed that the brother heard them discussing this though thus he thought that he was going to be left behind.
The employee explained that they would never separate them, especially as the three of them shared a very close bond after losing their parents about a year earlier. Neither of the sisters had spoken a word since it happened. Ace was relieved to hear that, but before he could turn back to the doorway entry…
”… wait mister superhero!”
A couple of quiet, young voices called out. Ace turned around and looked down to his side; to see the two young cazar twins looking up at him. He was a little surprised to see them again, as well as their younger brother behind them. One of the twins carefully walked up to him, with her hands held out in the form of an embrace, her twin sister copying her.
Ace was speechless and wide eyed; they wanted to give him a hug. Their brother even came forward as well,
”Me and my sisters umm… we just wanted to… thank you”
Ace was completely stumped and unsure how to respond, but he didn’t want to let them down. He kneeled down with open arms, allowing the three children to embrace him.
It was a very odd feeling, getting this sort of affection from anyone; especially young children. But at the same time, it did warm his heart and made him feel good about himself.
”Now you guys take care of yourselves… and don’t run off to live on the streets again, got that?”
They all nodded, and smiled. Ace walked back towards the entry of the building where the rest of the Seekers were waiting, while the cazares waved goodbye to him.
The other Seekers were delighted to see him when he came outside. To Ace’s surprise, Jake was the first one to greet him. With a pat on the back, he told him…
”Nice way to sacrifice your tough-guy image…”
Ace could only give off a scoff to his remark.
The day was late now, and the Seekers had made it back inside the Star Seeker Spaceship. So much happened in such a short space of time, but it was a good day. It was one of the best days Ace had experienced for such a long time.
Just when he thought things wouldn’t get any better, it did. Especially once he got to help the cazares on Marcadia. It had been a very long time since he did a mission like that. Even though he preferred not to get into the ‘superhero’ style missions again, it was still a great adrenalin rush and a good way make himself useful and help out those in need. Especially with the absence of heroes, such as Ratchet and Clank – who were currently in the Polaris Galaxy.
However, he was still uncomfortable with the thought of getting too involved with the public again. He could tell that people were still wary of his presence, especially those who recognized him from DreadZone a few years back. He didn’t want to cause anymore grief to the innocent again, and so he hoped that he and the Seekers wouldn’t have to be called in too often for assistance. At least straight into the public eye.
The Seekers made it back to the Star Seeker with Ace at their side later during the day. They decided to leave Marcadia to continue on their trek through the depths of space, until they were called in for another mission.
Everybody was out in the lounge area, relaxing after such an eventful day.
”I say we call for a celebration of this fine day, wouldn’t you all agree?” Kurt suggested.
”Yeah! Especially after Ace helped kick some villain ass out there… just like old times, really” Jake said afterwards. Before Bettilena came forward to speak,
”I agree! Acie here deserves something good after what he did today!”
Aster and Jake burst out with laughter after Bettilena spoke. While Ace could only blush, feeling slightly embarrassed at that.
”Thanks… but you guys did a lot too, don’t forget that”
”But not near as much as what you did out there, Ace. It really does take us back to those good old days”
”Yeah… it does. But I think I would prefer to have a break from these ‘hero’ style missions for a while”
”Ha. Don’t worry, we feel the same too. Especially after a big day like that”
Replied Kurt. It was a good feeling seeing everyone with high spirits again. Even Jenna looked calm now; however, she still hadn’t said anything to Ace yet.
“Okay everyone, I say we go out somewhere for dinner tonight to celebrate!” Betty announced, standing in the centre of the room.
”Ohh! I wanna go to Galaxy Burger!”
”Nah Aster, Pizza Planet is way better with more variety!”
“Well I think it’s better than Deep Space Deep Fryers!”
Jake replied, intent on arguing with Aster over their choice of restaurant.
”What? I don’t want any of that cheap, processed crap. I’d much rather have what Bettilena makes. No other restaurant in the universe stands up to her quality”
”Aww… you’re a real sweetheart, you know that? I’ll be sure to make you ALL your favourites!”
Ace became dead silent, and everyone else began to chuckle around him. His face turned even redder than before, and found himself rubbing his own cheek - Bettilena’s metallic fingers were a little rough pinching that area.
As Betty went to prepare the dinner - with Leera watching her with supreme curiosity - everyone else went to their rooms to relax, shower and prepare themselves for the evening celebration.
Ace was rather overwhelmed with what had happened today. It was such a good day that at times it almost felt unreal. But it was a good feeling, especially after helping those children out. He didn’t think he’d ever get to rescue orphaned kids again, like he did in his past. Nevertheless, he was pleased to get the chance to do something like that again.
He sat at his bedside, preparing to take off his heavy, iron-capped boots and other protective clothing he had on him, but before he could do so…
”That is one of the things I always liked about you…”
Ace looked over towards his doorway, after hearing that familiar female voice. He could see Jenna there, much to his amazement. He turned away though, to look down at his boots, attempting to take the second one off.
”So you’re not here to scream and yell at me this time?”
Jenna sighed after he replied, and walked in casually. Ace kept his focus on his boot though, and she came up near him
“What you did today was wonderful. Especially for those young children…”
Ace was still quiet though, unclipping his second boot.
”Okay I’m… sorry for judging you so quickly. It’s just that… I wasn’t if you had changed or not-“
”No it’s okay, really. You have every right to be angry at me. And so does everybody else. I’m very lucky to be given this second chance… maybe a bit too lucky”
”But even then, I was too judgemental at first. And I’m really sorry…”
”It’s okay, you don’t need to apologize… but that kick was ruthless - very ruthless… apologise for that!”
Ace said, frowning slightly but also giving off a sarcastic grin at the same time. Jenna sighed again but smiled, especially when noticing his expression.
”…Okay fine I’m sorry for doing that. But it wasn’t that hard… was it?”
”A kick is a kick. Especially one coming from you. I had to watch out for myself whenever you were around since!”
Jenna began to chuckle, and Ace rolled his eyes in response but he found her joy to be uplifting at the same time too. It was much better than their last conversation.
She came to sit near him on the bed. Ace was feeling a little unsettled with her being so close now, but he didn’t move away.
”Well… I think I should do this now. It’s a bit late coming but-”
Before Ace could move, he was given a sudden hug of homage. His eyes were wide open - definitely not expecting that from her at all and he had no idea how to react.
”Welcome back to the team, Ace”
It wasn’t too often that he would get this kind of affection from another organic life form. Today had been a very eventful, indeed; not that he didn’t mind.
He was now a true member of the Seven Seekers.