Sam stumbled into the nearest alleyway, tucking himself as tight as he could into the corner where wall met cobblestone, nothing more than a single trashcan between him and certain death. He struggled to calm his breathing, somehow aware that any erratic noise would be immediately noticeable to his pursuers. For a moment, nothing happened. He almost allowed himself to think he might have lost them.
His heart stopped as a great shadow flew just overhead. Ice crystallized in his veins, paralyzing him. He held his breath, terrified of giving away the slightest hint of his position. The shadow passed over once, twice, three times, before disappearing.
Sam kept still, unwilling to gamble that he might be alone. Moments passed, and just when he was about to try moving, he caught the swish of near silent wings.The two voices he dreaded most murmured from the rooftop above him.
“Any luck?” Celestia queried, concern and frustration evident in her tone.
“Nay, I have not laid eyes on the cur since his escape. Many times I believed I had him cornered, only to find out I had been tailing a civilian. The fiend is surely a master of stealth.”
“Take heart, Luna. If he tries to leave the village, we’ll have him, and it’s only a matter of time before he slips up. He won’t be able to use his necromancy without being noticed.”
He heard the one called Luna shudder. “I still cannot believe Discord would transport such a foul instrument into Canterlot, and into your personal bedchambers, no less.”
“I am grateful that he did,” Celestia intoned gravely, “otherwise we would have had no forewarning of this creature’s true nature. Any machine so inundated with the stench of death could belong to no civilized being.”
They were silent for a moment.
“Do you really think it is only a form of transport, sister?”
Celestia sighed. “Neither of us could detect any sort of weaponry on the machine itself, so by its form, that is the only thing I think it could be.”
“To use necromancy so casually… I fear for the ponies here, should he decide to show his true colors.”
“Fear not, dear sister,” Celestia bolstered, “we will not allow him to harm our citizens. Come, let’s resume the search. He can’t have gotten far.”
The rush of air from two massive wing beats blew over him, kicking up the dust of the alley. Soon, the sounds had faded altogether, and Sam allowed himself to breathe.
He couldn’t stay out in the open. He needed a place to hide.
His attention was drawn to a cellar door a few yards away. Sam slunk over to the hatch, eyes alert to any sign of movement. He could hardly believe his luck when he found it was unlocked. Slowly, he peeled open one of the doors, wincing at every slight creak and squeal. He slipped inside, carefully lowering the door, and scrambled down the stairs.
Upon a cursory first inspection, he appeared to be in a storeroom of sorts. Rows of shelves extended out from either side the room, holding cans, jars, and bags of various sizes. The dry air smelt faintly of flour and sugar. It made his stomach growl unhappily, the memory of the delicious-smelling lasagna he had been forced to abandon, an exquisite torment.
What in the Nine Hells is going on here? Why do they think that I’m a necromancer, of all things? Everything was fine until they showed up, so why did everything have to turn to shit?!
*... I may have had something to do with that,* someone admitted regretfully.
For the umpteenth time that hour, Sam froze in place. He’d been hearing that voice in the back of his mind for the entirety of his escape, but he’d simply written it off as his panicked hindbrain being given speech; some sort of defense mechanism against the increasingly deadly odds he’d had to face. But now, it was conversing with him.
Good god… I’ve finally snapped, haven’t I?
*Far from it, I assure you.*
Then who are you? And how are you talking in my head?
*Well, to answer your first question…*
Before him, a jawless human skull unfurled itself in midair, blossoming from a single point like some macabre firework. It hovered in place, watching him with eye sockets that would be empty but for the small twinkling white light in each, focused on him like pupils otherwise might. Sam thought he could just barely make out shimmering runes dancing across its cranium.
*Your kind cannot express themselves as… eloquently as mine, so you may call me Bob. I am a Junior Reaper, Third Class, and the one who brought you to this world.*
The skull, Bob, dipped and tilted forward in a disembodied approximation of a bow.
Sam gawked openly. Just when he thought he’d gotten used to the oddities of this world, a fish like this just had to come up and slap him across the face.
*Originally, I had hoped to keep my existence a secret, but it appears that is no longer an op-*
“Why?” Sam asked, his voice barely more than a whisper.
*Well, Reapers are generally disallowed from interfering in mortal affairs-*
“No, I mean why did you do it?”
“Why did you bring me here?” Sam lost his cool, voice raising to a near shout.
*Mind your volume!*
Furious, Sam was about to respond when a quiet rustling above them shut him up. They sat in silence for what seemed like ages, watching the ceiling, waiting for one of the Princesses to come crashing through it. Bob spoke up again after a few minutes of waiting.
*If you wish to remain hidden, you would do well to be silent!*
“Yeah, well what about you?” Sam hissed.
*I speak in your head, idiot boy! You are the only one speaking aloud. In fact, why are you still speaking?*
“Because it’s weird not to!” He whispered harshly. “Now answer me!”
*Fine! You want to know why? Because you would have died otherwise.*
“Died? What the hell are you talking about? And how do I know you’re telling the truth?”
An image flashed into his mind’s eye, clear as day. It was another runic circle, similar to the one Twilight drew, but with different geometry and language. The runes were a different dialect, however; one that Sam could read, though he couldn’t, for the life of him, understand why.
The lettering was all vertical lines and diagonal swoops. It was unlike any language he’d seen before, and yet the words were as plain as English. For the most part it was a jumble of nonsense – words like ‘chaff,’ ‘spoil,’ and ‘empathy’ – distributed amongst the holes and vertices. But one sentence ran around the edge of the outer circle, begging translation.
“The Truth shall Burn away the Liars Web?” Sam recited.
Bob gave a hollow chuckled.
*Indeed, very astute. Perhaps there is hope for you yet. This is what is known as a Circle of Truth.*
“A spell? But won’t the Princesses be able to track it?”
*Normally, yes. But since it is confined to the contents of your skull, it is unnoticeable to all but you or I.*
“What? Why you?”
*That has to do with the answer to the second question you asked: where I am.*
It took Sam a moment to realize what he meant.
“You’re literally inside my head…”
*Correct. I have taken over operations in your hypothalamus and, by extension, pituitary gland, as well as a small portion of the thalamus. That is how I am able to appear before you in this form, though others cannot see or hear me.*
“You… I… How the fuck am I able to function in this state?!”
*I have been alive for thousands of your years, boy. Do you think I would not be able to manage something as simple as a human endocrine system?*
“So how do I know this Circle is doing its job, and that you’re not lying out your ass right now?”
*If I were to lie, you would experience an extreme case of nausea right now. Shall I provide an example? ‘I saved you out of the goodness of my heart.’*
Immediately, Sam’s stomach twisted in the kind of agonizing nausea that might make a grown man weep. Sam certainly would have, had the nausea not dissipated a moment later.
*You see now?* Bob remarked irritably. Somehow, his voice sounded more strained than it had been a moment before. *Not only will you know instantly, I, too, will feel the effects of the spell. Not a pleasant prospect, I assure you.*
“So why did you save me then?”
*Duty. I have a duty to protect humanity, and you were the only person I could save in the amount of time I had.*
*...I don’t know.*
Sam felt his stomach lurch. It wasn’t full-blown nausea, but something was amiss.
“But you have an idea, don’t you?”
*A few. But they’re nothing you can act on.*
Nothing that time. Nothing either way.
“... Is my family safe?”
*I cannot know for certain until I know more about what happened. And I cannot learn more if you are captured and imprisoned. So, first things first, we must escape the winged unicorns.*
“Aren’t they called alicorns?”
*What they wish to call themselves is no concern of ours. What our concern should be is how to leave this town without attracting attention.*
“Why are they so pissed at me, anyway? I’m sure as hell no necromancer!”
*Perhaps not, but can you think of a reason something that made the journey with you might reek of death?*
“No! I mean, it’s not like I killed anyone with my car!”
*Hush, boy! I’m not accusing you. But what about man-made automobiles utilizes death? Or perhaps its by-products?* Bob asked leadingly.
*Precisely. And you may not realize it, but most synthetic oils still use petroleum products. So, to their senses, your vehicle runs on – and is lubricated by – fossilized, liquefied, processed death. The fact that it was I, a Reaper, who magicked you into this world likely only amplified the quote unquote ‘stench.’ Thus, the understandable, if misinformed, prejudice.*
“Well, if it’s all just a misunderstanding, shouldn’t we just go out there and explain the circumstances? The others were kind enough, I’m sure we could just-”
*No! That is the one thing we must not do!* Bob shouted, making Sam’s head spin. *Under any other circumstances, I would wholeheartedly endorse that plan. However, the two after us are no less than demigods. And as demigods, they may be aware of the Mortal Accords. If they were to learn of my… meddling, it would spell out the end for me and, by association, possibly you as well.*
Sam felt a slight twinge in his stomach at the word ‘meddling,’ but he didn’t need it to understand that Bob wasn’t telling the whole truth. Whatever sort of Reaper organization Bob belonged to probably had prior grievances with him. And if that were the case, he had to ask…
“Is it possible for you to separate from me, now that you’ve integrated with my nervous system?”
Bob shook himself in negative, being that his image consisted solely of a head.
*Neither you nor I can perform such an operation with our current resources. It is not impossible, but the chances of finding the facilities necessary on this planet are infinitely approaching zero. You are, in every sense of the word, stuck with me. But I will be doing everything in my power to keep you alive. Now, I think this may be as far as we get today. I suggest you get some rest. You definitely need it.*
Now that Bob mentioned it, Sam became acutely aware of the fatigue creeping up his limbs. He slumped down against the closest wall, suddenly overcome by the thousand aches and pains of a dangerously strenuous day for someone recovering from malnutrition. In addition to the dozens of small embers scattered across his back, he noticed a deep burning pain in his calf. A large, jagged scab bled freely, torn open by his recent activity. Bob tutted.
*If we’re not careful, that may become infected. Luckily, I don’t see any trails of blood the way we came. I’m afraid you may have to sacrifice what little remains of your shirt if you wish to staunch the bleeding. And do not worry about lookout, I will watch over you as you sleep.*
Grumbling, Sam pulled the tattered cloth over his head, barely noticing as the image of the Circle of Truth faded from his mind. Too tired to pursue further answers, he focused on preparing for the night. He ripped the shirt as carefully as his tired hands would allow, creating several long strips. After these had been firmly wrapped around the wound and tied off, Sam yanked a fistful of empty burlap sacks off of a nearby shelf.
Just behind these, he struck figurative gold. It appeared to be a jar of maraschino cherries, which a taste test confirmed. He gorged himself until his stomach ceased rumbling.
Finally at a point he might consider himself sated, he curled up in his nest of burlap sacks. It was far from comfortable, but Sam fell asleep almost from moment his head hit the makeshift pillow.
A pair of disgruntled, anxious alicorns drifted down into the courtyard of Ponyville Town Hall, muttering harshly to one another.
“And you’re certain you found absolutely no sign of him?” Celestia grumbled.
“No, sister, I was too busy grazing on cakes and looking at my posterior,” Luna snarked acidly. “What about you, hm? What did your obviously superior tracking skills net you?!”
“Well, at least I wasn’t the one who failed to Silence him when she had ample opportunity!”
“Oh, pardon me! I must be thinking of the other Celestia. The one who allowed him to escape from the Library because she forgot to Ward it before barging in!”
“Hey!” Twilight bellowed as she charged into the courtyard, straining to be heard over their rising tones. “What is the matter with you two? First you scare off Sam, then you go off on a hunt, acting like he’s some kind of criminal, and now I find you two bickering like little fillies! What in Equestria is going on here?”
The Princesses at least had the decency to look ashamed of themselves. Twilight tapped her hoof expectantly, thoroughly fed up with the runaround. Twilight’s ear caught the clop of her friends’ hooves as they joined her from every direction, having gone off to search on their own. She raised a questioning eyebrow, bidding her mentors to explain themselves before the assembled Elements of Harmony.
Celestia glanced around briefly, before capitulating with a sigh.
“Twilight, we have reason to believe that this ‘Sam’ may, in fact, be a necromancer.”
All around her, the girls gasped, but Twilight remained unconvinced.
“And what kind of reason would compel you to use force before even talking to him?”
Celestia bit her lip, thoroughly shamed. But then Luna spoke in her defense.
“Twilight, my sister and I were only concerned about you and your friends’ safety. Yes, we may have acted rashly, but you have not witnessed the things we have. Discord found an alien vehicle crashed in the Everfree, so effused with the essence of death that neither Celestia nor I could stand to be in its presence for long. The thing was absolutely crawling with the traces of the necromantic arts. So when we received word that you had made contact with an alien, we could not risk allowing it the chance to harm you.”
“Be that as it may, you didn’t even give him the chance to explain! How are you so sure that vehicle even belongs to him? He might have even used it to escape something terrible because he had no other choice!”
“You may be right, Twilight,” Celestia admitted, “and we certainly acted without thinking.”
“Thank you, Pr-!”
“But! Aren’t you also jumping to conclusions? You’ve know this Sam for all of… nine, maybe ten hours? Are you entirely certain you aren’t the ones who have been deceived?”
Twilight was about to retort, when Celestia’s point began to sink in. She had only known him for a few hours, certainly not enough time to really get to know somepony, or somehuman in this case. What if he really had been lying to them?
Before Twilight could consider any further, however, Applejack decided to throw in her two bits. “Now hold on just a gol-durn minute! Me an’ the girls talked to Sam for a good long time, and I’d like to think we’re fair judges of character. I don’t think he’d be able to dupe us that easily.”
“Perhaps, dear Applejack,” Celestia admitted, “but even the Element of Honesty is not infallible. Discord showed us as much. I believe we should err on the side of caution, to be certain that nopony comes to harm.”
“Fine,” Twilight conceded, “just promise me you’ll at least try to talk to him first, if you run into him.”
“Agreed, just so long as you and your friends… don’t… Twilight? Where is Pinkie Pie?”
Pinkie Pie was closing in, she could feel it. It especially helped when her Pinkie Sense™ told her that a friend was waiting for her at Sugarcube Corner. But she wasn’t able to find him in any of her usual hiding spots. It took her nearly an hour to scour the entire house. After all that time, she had only one room left to check: the storeroom.
It was a pretty good hiding place, she had to admit, but it was too cold. Plus, she could never bring Pound and Pumpkin down there. Too many opportunities for little foals to get in trouble.
However, it was fairly out of the way. It also had access to the outside, so she could see why it would appeal, given the circumstances.
Honestly, why’d the Princesses have to go and break up a perfectly good party like that? We were just about to have food and everything. They could’ve just asked to join us. Sometimes they can be so silly. I hope Sam can forgive them.
Pinkie prowled down the stairs, careful not to step on any of the boards that creaked. She sidled up one of the shelves, when her right hoof got all prickly. Someone was on the lookout. She’d have to be extra sneaky.
Silently, she climbed the shelves, her face set with grim determination, like she imagined some gritty supersoldier might look climbing an incredibly long ladder. Of course, she was neither of those things, so the climb up lasted only a few seconds. She then skittered over top of the shelves like a fluffy, pink spider. When she reached the last shelf, she peered down. There, huddled up in a bunch of empty burlap, lay her target.
She couldn’t see his watchdog, however, even if her prickly hoofsie and twitching tail told her it was to the left. Probably watching the central aisle, like any sensible watchdog would. Silly thing hadn’t even noticed her. Then again, she was doing her very best to be extra super sneaky. Not many creatures were a match for an extra super sneaky Pinkie Pie.
Pinkie clambered down the shelf closest to the wall, and sidled along it until she was right next to Sam. He was too busy sleeping to notice her arrival. Poor thing. Must’ve been tuckered out from such a full day. He even went through an entire half of a jar of Mrs. Cake’s cherries. Not surprising, seeing as he probably hadn’t eaten since that morning.
He also seemed to be shivering underneath all those burlap sacks, shifting about in a restless sleep. Pinkie felt a pang in her heart at the pitiful sight. She didn’t want to wake him up, but she also couldn’t leave him like that. So she did the only thing she could think of in that situation.
Stealthily, she removed his glasses so they wouldn’t get bent while he slept, and placed them beside his bedding. Taking care not to disturb him, Pinkie burrowed beneath the coverings. She nosed around for a moment, until she caught Sam’s scent, then edged up against him.
Almost the moment Pinkie’s fur touched his skin, he curled up around her like she was the last source of heat in the world. Pinkie had to suppress a giggle as his free arm snaked its way around her midsection and then a surprised gasp as it pulled her flush against him. Emaciated though he might have been, Sam gave even better bear hugs than Harry, an actual bear. She’d have to enlist Applejack’s in her new campaign to help Fluttershy put some meat on his bones.
Pinkie shifted around a bit to get comfortable, until she had to stifle a creeping yawn. She snuggled further into Sam as he began to reciprocate the warmth, lay her head on the arm beneath her neck and across her chest, and drifted off to sleep.
Sam had been riding Falkor around Fantasia for a few hours before a harsh voice yanked him out of sleep.
Only half awake, Sam raised his head unsteadily, trying to focus his bleary vision on the white smear above him. He vaguely remembered having called the white smear Bob.
“Hey… Bob. What- what time is it?” Sam murmured, stumbling over his own tired tongue.
*Sam, do not make any sudden moves.*
A thrill of adrenaline banished the fog of sleep. Sam looked down slowly, expecting to see a deadly snake poised to strike. Instead, he found himself cuddling a happily snoozing Pinkie Pie. At first, he felt the chill of fear grip him, but it quickly faded into curiosity. How had she gotten past Bob? And why was she currently in his arms?
Sam shifted slightly, testing her responsiveness. Pinkie immediately groaned and tightened her hold on his left forearm; the one wrapped under her neck and over her shoulder to her chest, where she held it with her hooves. Then she sighed and settled back against his chest.
Immediately, Sam was conflicted. On the one hand, she was a pony. A quadrupedal, furred pony. But on the other hand, he knew she was intelligent, apparently liked him enough to cuddle with him, and, more importantly, he found her cute. Not like the kind of cute you would use to describe a puppy. The kind of cute that you would use when talking about a crush.
Everything she was doing was cute. The content little sighs, the way she held onto his arm, they way she pressed up against him…
Oh god, please stop.
Pinkie, in a subconscious effort to contour herself to his form, was grinding into a very sensitive area. He battled desperately against his little soldier, who was slowly but surely standing at attention. But try as he might, he was losing the battle. That is, until one dry, sarcastic remark cut into his thoughts.
*Are you quite done?*
That killed his morning wood quicker than an old woman in a bikini. But now he had something else to deal with.
*Shh! Think it, you moron.*
Sam glanced at Pinkie, but she was still asleep. Concentrating, he imagined he was speaking the words instead.
It’s not what it looks like!
*Listen, I know sleeping with attractive females is a high priority for you young males, but-*
Wait, you’re… you’re not… but she’s…
Bob looked at Pinkie, then back at Sam, confusion evident even on his expressionless countenance. But then he realized what Sam was having difficulty with, and rolled his “eyes.”
*Yes, yes. Look, I’ll give you the whole ‘let go of your primitive sexual hang-ups’ speech later. Right now you are literally in the hooves of the enemy.*
Sam recoiled, so confused and uncertain about whether he should feel insulted that he forgot not to speak.
“She’s not the enemy."
“Who’zzawutnow?” Pinkie slurred, stirring for her sleep. Sam tensed up. There went his chances of slipping out quietly. But then, she hadn’t flushed him out like a rat in hiding when she found him, so maybe… maybe she could be trusted.
*Oh, well done, genius. Now lock your arm around her windpipe until she passes out.*
What?! No! I am not going to hurt her.
*Well, what are you going to do? And please don’t say ta-*
I’m gonna talk to her.
But Sam was already tuning him out. Instead, he smiled and greeted her.
“Uh, morning, Pinkie…”
“Good morning, Sam,” Pinkie sung, already peppy, “how did you sleep? I don’t know about you, but I slept like a filly.”
“I, uh, I slept… good, too. So, Pinkie, what are you doing here?”
“Well…” Pinkie took a deep breath. “Last night, everyone ran off to look for you when you ran away – which, by the way, what was that about? – but I knew where you were because my Pinkie Sense told me a friend was waiting for me at Sugarcube Corner but then I couldn’t find you in any of my best hiding spots so I had to search for a whole hour and eventually I found you down here in the basement but you just looked so cold and I didn’t want to wake you up so I snuggled in with you to keep you warm and you’re pretty warm yourself so I just decided it would be a sort of sleepover and then I dozed off and I think I had a dream where something kept poking me in the butt but it felt kinda ni-”
Sam sighed. Just by listening to that run-on sentence, Sam ran out of breath. And yet this bizarre pink creature seemed unfazed. Plus, he thought he heard the narrative turning in a direction that set his ears ablaze.
“That was a really… rapid-fire synopsis, but I wanted to know why you haven’t, well… turned me in.”
“For what?” She cocked her head.
“Well, I did kind of… do… something, to your Princesses. And you.” Sam managed to feel even more guilty about the addendum than the initial admission.
“Oh… right,” she mumbled, eyes downcast. “Well… I mean, you were just scared, right? You didn’t mean to hurt anypony.”
“Wait, did I hurt someone?!”
“Oh! No no, I mean… You didn’t want to harm anyone, so you just scared us. It was pretty good, too. I couldn’t even laugh it off.”
“Well, I guess so, but I didn’t even mean to do that. It just sort of… happened. I’m not even sure how.”
Somehow, Sam could tell that Bob, too, was curious about this and had begun considering the implications.
“Well then it’s really not your fault,” Pinkie tried, sounding a bit desperate to exonerate him. “You didn’t know what you were doing.”
“That’s the same argument as before, when we were talking with that pegasus I attacked. I really don’t want to fall back on such an irresponsible defense. Besides, in a sense I did know what I was doing: I was trying to escape.”
“But why? The Princesses aren’t scary. I mean, Twilight’s a princess, and you weren’t that scared of her.”
“Pinkie, I could feel the power radiating from them. I have never, ever felt anything like that. It terrified me. So... I went into what my people call a ‘fight or flight’ response.”
Pinkie’s forced grin turned into a scared frown. Sam stopped, considering his next words carefully. “Pinkie, when faced with immediate, incredible, or unknown dangers, there are two responses: stand and face the danger or run away. Fight or flight. Fight doesn’t necessarily mean resorting to violence, but it does mean putting yourself in uncomfortable or even harmful situations. When I saw your Princesses, I felt like I was going to be killed.”
“What?! The Princesses would never-”
“Maybe not, but couldn’t tell. I saw death in them last night, Pinkie, and I ran for my life. So tell me, what do you intend to do now?”
Pinkie seemed to physically deflate, her normally bouncy mane went limp. “I… I don’t know. I don’t think the Princesses meant to hurt you either, but I don’t want to make you do something you're scared to. Would… would you at least be willing to talk to our friends about it?”
“Do you… do you not consider us your friends?”
Goddammit, don’t look at me like that, Sam fumed internally. Pinkie looked like she was about ready to cry. It was becoming heart-wrenchingly difficult to remain impartial. He sighed. He wanted to be tactful, but he couldn’t lie to her.
“Pinkie, I’ve known you for all of half a day. At most, I would say we’re friendly acquaintances. I just can’t call someone a friend until I get to know them better.”
Pinkie looked away, unable to meet his eyes. Shit! Backpedal, backpedal!
“But!” He nearly shouted. “But, I’m not unwilling to give you a chance. I’m just… I’m scared, and I’m homesick, and I’m… completely out of my depth.”
He finished with a sigh. Pinkie wasn’t crying, but she certainly wasn’t happy. Well, disaster averted, I suppose. Still feel like shit. Guess there’s only one thing for it.
*Please don’t tell me you’re actually considering-*
Sam hushed Bob mentally. Then he turned back to Pinkie.
“Alright, Pinkie, I’ll talk with the six of you. Just please don’t let the Princesses find out. I’m still not convinced about them.”
Pinkie smiled hopefully, wiping the unshed tears from her eyes.
“Thank you, Sam. You won’t regret this, I Pinkie promise.”
“I sure hope so, Pinkie.”
“Wait right there, I’ll be back in a flash.”
Pinkie jumped up and galloped away towards the interior of the building. Sam heard her hooves on a staircase, and then a door bursting open. He heard a warbling, matronly shout from further in.
“Pinkie Pie! What in Equestria-?!”
“Sorry Mrs. Cake, no time to talk! Important friendship business!”
Sam had a feeling this poor ‘Mrs. Cake’ had just been thoroughly bewildered. But then he had to turn his attention back to someone who wasn’t going to allow it to stray elsewhere.
*What in the name of the First Races are you doing?! Did you listen to nothing I said last night?!*
No, I did. I just think you’re missing a few things. If they truly are angry demigods, how can you be so certain they will content themselves with chasing us out of the country? If we want our stay to be peaceful, we’re going to have to face them in one way or another. I’d much rather that confrontation be nonviolent. Hell, we might even be able to make some powerful allies. Isn’t that worth the risk?
Bob scoffed. *Oh? And what makes you so certain that these ponies won’t turn on you the first chance they get?*
Sam studied his shoes, beat up and worn down from so long in the forest.
I’m not. I’m just tired. Tired of running, tired of hiding, tired of struggling to survive on my own. I want them to give me a reason to trust them. You’ve seen what they can do. If they have that kind of power, they might even be able to get me home!
Bob was silent for a long time, simply staring at Sam. Sam tried staring back, to show Bob he meant business, but quickly became disheartened. He just couldn’t get a read off of something that barely passed for a face.
*You idealistic fool… So be it. But when things turn south, I will not hesitate to protect my new habitat to the fullest extent of my abilities, whether you wish me to or not. I will not die for an idiot boy’s preconceived notions of morality. My only concern is your survival, and by extension mine. Should you do anything to endanger us, I will retaliate.*
Sam swallowed dryly. What abilities Bob could use from his hypothalamus, Sam couldn’t begin to guess. But he had a strong suspicion that he didn’t want to be on either end of them.