“Etheria Liberation Effort, day two; Hordak and I are attempting contact with the Princess Alliance! We are en route to their last known location. So far, we have completely evaded Horde detection.”
Holding her recorder tightly, Entrapta extended all four of her mechanical limbs, raising herself up into the air to get a better vantage point. The tufts of her pigtails squirmed against their ties, but Entrapta was able to put the feeling aside. Now that her hair was long enough to tie back, it was much easier to ignore the useless automatic movements of the shorn strands and focus on controlling her new augments.
Entrapta and Hordak stood atop a hill at the edge of the Whispering Woods. The trees were so densely packed, it was impossible to discern anything other than the hills and valleys of the terrain. Entrapta strained up as high as the limbs would extend, but the extra height did not help much.
To the northwest, a giant white spire dominated the horizon. Her eyes constantly returned toward it. Spires like these descended all over Etheria on the day Horde Prime invaded, carrying thousands of Horde soldiers. Entrapta longed for a glimpse inside. The sheer amount of sophisticated technology to be found in just one of these spires was staggering to imagine.
“What do you see?”
Hordak’s voice brought Entrapta back to the present. She shook her head, lowering herself back onto the grass. “Nothing but trees, and the spire of course.”
Hordak nodded. He too was looking at the spire, his green eyes narrowed. “It is good fortune the spire is so distant. We do not wish to be anywhere near it.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” she huffed. “You know what’s inside it. I’ve never seen one up close.”
“There will be plenty of time for analysis later, if… when the Alliance is victorious.”
“Fair point.” Pocketing her recorder, Entrapta drew out her data pad and opened up a topographic map of the Whispering Woods. Bright green dots illuminated the screen, showing the movements of Horde clones and bots. Entrapta had managed to use the data from Sophie to track the signature of the Horde soldiers connected to Prime’s system. She could now monitor the Horde’s movements from her pad, provided they were within range, and no matter how the terrain of the Woods might shift, she could count on this system to guide them back to Sophie. “I suppose we should keep heading north for now...”
Together they made their way down the hill and deeper into the trees. Entrapta’s concentration on her monitor was so intense, she hardly noticed how eerily quiet the forest was. Barely any creatures stirred. It was as if the entire woods were holding its breath.
After a while of walking in silence, Hordak cleared his throat. “Entrapta, how certain are you that the Alliance has not relocated their encampment?”
“Hmm… I’d say about seventy two percent,” Entrapta replied without looking up or slowing her steps. “There are only so many places to hide a small army. Although....” her fingers typed away furiously on her pad. “With the increase in Horde activity, I revise my number to sixty percent.”
Hordak sighed. “How long will it take to search this section of the woods?”
Entrapta slid her finger across the pad to view a larger map of the Whispering Woods, temporarily losing sight of all the moving green dots. “If we examine each quadrant thoroughly, I estimate it will take around… twelve hours!”
“We should not remain exposed for so long. Can you find a swifter route?”
“On it!” Tapping the places with the least amount of green, Entrapta began to chart a course forward. An odd bit of movement caught her eye as she did so. Dozens of green dots were swirling around a single point on the map. It was in the wrong direction to be the spire, and too close to their location. Entrapta looked over her shoulder at Hordak. “What do you think this means?”
Hordak leaned down to examine the display. “I am not sure. A battle, perhaps.”
“With the Alliance?”
“It is possible.”
“Then let’s go!” Swerving left, Entrapta increased her pace to a trot. “We can get there in ten minutes if we hurry!”
Jogging through the brush, Entrapta had to look up or risk colliding with a tree. She kept glancing at her pad when she could, eyes focused on the cluster of green dots. This could be where her friends were.
“Entrapta, wait!” Hordak had already caught up with her. “I do not think we -- stop!”
He had not shouted. The word was more of a strangled whisper, yet it broke through Entrapta’s excitement and she skidded to a halt. “What is it?”
Hordak held up his hand for her to wait. One of his ears twitched a fraction. “Do you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Entrapta asked blankly.
A twig snapped loudly somewhere to her left. “Ohhh,” she tilted her head. “That. Your ears are so sharp!” Entrapta looked down at her data pad. “Well, it’s not from the Horde, whatever it is. I don’t see anything on the map… I’m going to go check it out!”
“Be careful,” Hordak said after her. “Keep out of sight.”
Entrapta nodded. “I know, I know…”
It took all of her self-control not to bolt forward through the bushes. Entrapta knew Hordak was right. It was better to gather data from a safe distance than lose everything by running straight into danger. Less exciting, perhaps, but a higher chance of success.
Whatever it was ahead of her was still rustling around, though very quietly. Did it have feet, or was it rolling along on the ground? Entrapta almost hoped it was some variation of Horde bot. Horde Prime would have to outsmart her rudimentary tracking methods eventually. Some sort of cloaking, maybe… a signal jam? If I can keep the bot intact, I’ll know exactly how it works.
A flash of red caught her eye. Entrapta crept closer. It was tall, whatever it was. She reached down to unhook her blaster, holding it at the ready. The blaster was set to stun. There was no use destroying her target, leaving nothing behind to examine.
Several yards ahead, the foliage shifted aside, revealing the figure’s true form clearly for the first time.
“Scorpia!” Entrapta squeaked, running out from cover.
Scorpia turned around, eyes wide with shock. “Entrapta?”
Immediately her face broke into a wide smile. She knelt down and held her arms out, and in the next instant Entrapta was wrapped in a tight embrace.
“It’s really you!” Scorpia said tearfully, lifting her up and spinning her around. “Oh, I’m so glad you’re okay! I’ve missed you so much!”
Entrapta felt joy swell in her heart. She hadn’t realized how much she missed Scorpia until this moment. “I missed you too!”
Scorpia released her and stepped back. Her bright smile was gone. “W-what happened to your hair?”
Reaching up to brush her tiny pigtails, Entrapta grimaced. “Horde Prime had my hair cut,” she said quietly. “But it’s okay now! I built robotic arms as a replacement until it grows back!”
“Whoa!” Scorpia jumped as Entrapta extended all four of her mechanical arms and wiggled them like the legs of a giant insect. Then Scorpia seemed to crumple and covered her face with a sob. Entrapta withdrew the limbs quickly, wondering what she’d done wrong.
“First Beast Island, and then captured by Prime!” Scorpia shook her head. “I can’t imagine...”
“Don’t cry, Scorpia,” Entrapta soothed. “It hardly hurts anymore, and my hair is growing back!”
“It-it’s not that. I --” Scorpia shook her head again, tears spilling over her cheeks. She took a deep breath before continuing. “When Catra sent you to Beast Island, I-I just stood there and did nothing. I c-could have stopped it, I could have -- I was afraid, and I wanted to stand by Catra, even though I knew what she was doing was wrong. I should have gone looking for you sooner, or told someone. What if you had --?” she choked off. “Oh, Entrapta I’m so… I’m so sorry.”
Entrapta felt a pang at the mention of Beast Island. For all that she discovered there, she could not shake those final moments of despair, the feeling of not mattering to anyone. “You were... looking for me?”
Scorpia nodded. “You’re so smart, and so strong, I hoped you’d still be okay, and I wouldn’t be too late. I’m so glad Adora was able to find you.” She wiped her eyes gently with the back of her claw, trying to compose herself. “You were the first real friend I ever had, and I…I let you down when you needed me. But I want to be better, if… if we can still be friends…”
Entrapta was silent as she took it all in; Scorpia’s apology, her tears, her worries, her request for friendship. Scorpia had been kind to her back when she was with the Horde, at least when they spent time together. She’d even drawn pictures of them as a group. Comparatively, Scorpia was a better friend to her than Catra was, even before the portal incident.
From the moment Entrapta woke on Beast Island, she knew she was alone. No one was coming for her. All the tech on Etheria could not fill that void inside her heart. The best it could do was cover the wound for a while. Scorpia said she made a mistake and she was sorry. She expected Entrapta to be angry, but truthfully, Entrapta was thinking about the hug Scorpia had given her minutes ago. She was thinking of warm memories of sharing hot chocolate during their expedition to the Northern Reach, the cheery smile and wave Scorpia always gave her when she popped into a room from the vents. On the island, such memories brought only pain, best buried deep inside her. Things were different now.
“Yes!” Entrapta nodded vigorously. “I want to be friends again.”
Scorpia’s eyes shone. Before Entrapta knew what was happening, Scorpia had scooped her into another hug. Entrapta tensed in surprise, then smiled and patted her friend’s armored shoulder.
“Thank you for giving me another chance!” Scorpia rocked back and forth, still holding her tightly. “I’ll make it up to you, I promise!”
Hordak’s voice sounded from within the trees, reminding Entrapta of what they were doing here. “Oh, right!” she said. “We’re on a mission!” Twisting around in Scorpia’s grip, she called out to Hordak. “I’m here! Everything’s fine!”
“Ohhh! Is that what you were doing when you got captured by Prime?”
Entrapta shook her head. “No, but we’re here to help now!”
“That’s great, but, uh... who’s ‘we?’”
At that moment, Hordak emerged into the clearing. He acknowledged Scorpia with a nod. “Entrapta and I would be grateful if you could lead us to the location of the Alliance.”
“Is this a Horde clone?” Scorpia gasped, pointing a single claw at Hordak. “Are the Horde clones robots? Did you reprogram --?”
“I am not a robot,” Hordak growled.
“No, that’s Hordak,” Entrapta said with a casual wave of her hand.
Scorpia took a step back. “L-lord Hordak, sir?” she stammered. “I didn’t recognize you! You look -- wow!” Recovering from her shock, Scorpia stood up a little taller. “I’m not sorry for running away,” she said in a stronger voice. “I’m with the Alliance now, and I’m happy here.”
“That is fortunate,” Hordak replied with a dip of his head. “For we also seek to aid Etheria against the Galactic Horde.”
Scorpia looked from Hordak to Entrapta. “Is this real ? Am I dreaming right now, or is the leader of the Horde -- well, formerly, of our Horde anyway -- changing sides?”
“Yep! Absolutely real,” Entrapta nodded. “We’ve got weapons and data from Horde Prime’s armada, so if you could direct us to the rest of the princesses that would be really great!”
“We should not linger in the open,” Hordak added as Scorpia hesitated.
“Of course!” Scorpia scratched her head with a small smile. “I’ll take you back to camp. Boy, is everyone going to be surprised to see you!”
“Surprised is not the word I would use,” he replied.
Scorpia gave an oddly-pitched laugh as she started to lead the way. “We’ll have a lot of explaining to do…. A lot . But with how bad it’s been lately, I’m sure everyone will come around. Oh, and Emily will be so excited!
Entrapta squeaked. “Emily! She’s with the princesses? How are her functions? Is her leg still sticking?”
“She’s doing great! A couple dings and, uh, scrapes, but nothing serious.”
Entrapta easily kept pace with Scorpia’s longer strides. Her hands fluttered in excitement. “I can’t wait to see her!”
“She’s missed you,” Scorpia replied. “I did my best to take care of her, but well… I’m not you. I don’t know Emily as well as you do. I hope I did okay.”
“I’ll give her a full examination! She could be due for a tune-up. Oh, and I can review all the things Emily might have recorded while I was gone! We have so much catching up to do! How far do we have to go, anyway?”
“Uh.... about an hour maybe? If we don’t run into any trouble.”
“We won’t,” Entrapta assured. “I can track the movements of the Horde forces. We can avoid them easily!”
Scorpia peered over at the green markings on her data pad. “What? That’s amazing!”
Entrapta beamed. She looked to Hordak and saw he too was smiling faintly. His smile widened for a moment as their eyes met, then he turned to look forward again.
As they walked, Scorpia filled them in on what was happening on Etheria during the time Entrapta and Hordak were away. The Alliance had rallied at Bright Moon, but soon after Adora and Bow had left on their rescue mission, they were overtaken and forced to flee. Even with the power of the Runestones, the princesses did not have enough strength to hold their own in open combat against the vast armies of the Galactic Horde. Their current strategy was to attack from hidden camps and disappear before the Horde could retaliate. This seemed to help them gain ground for a little while. That was before the chips.
Entrapta was fascinated by the concept. She wondered at the technology required to program the mind of an organic lifeform, all through a chip affixed to the back of the neck. Hordak and his fellow clones had a complex network of cybernetic implants designed to interface with Prime’s technology. How was Prime able to condense such a system into a tiny chip?
Are these chips a recent advancement of tech? Entrapta wondered. I could never have escaped if I’d been chipped… perhaps there are physical parameters that must be met? No, that doesn’t make sense either. There’s no reason Prime couldn’t have cut into me and implanted the necessary tech. Maybe he did, and I just don’t know about it yet...
The thought gave Entrapta a little thrill, a mix of excitement and fear. I’ll ask Hordak later, she decided. He’d tell me if I had Horde tech in my brain, or anywhere else.
Scorpia was now leading them along the bank of a shallow riverbed. Hardly any water flowed over the smooth pebbles. Entrapta checked her map and saw there was indeed a river indicated in the topography, though it looked to be bigger than what she was seeing. Perhaps the river had been diverted somewhere else. Even as she watched, the flow of water lessened further and further, until the bed was nearly dry.
How odd! Entrapta opened her mouth to say something to the others, but never got the chance.
Entrapta whirled around just as a wall of water slammed into Hordak, knocking him off his feet and into the riverbed. Mermista emerged from the trees, her trident pointed at Hordak. Before he had a chance to recover, the water rose back up to envelop his head and shoulders, a suffocating net he could not fight.
Seized by panic, Entrapta did the only thing she could think to do. “Stop!” she cried, diving for Mermista.
Mermista did not see her coming. Entrapta cannoned into her side, sending the two sprawling. Her magic ended, and Entrapta could hear Hordak coughing and sputtering as the water released him.
“Entrapta?! Get off me!” Mermista tried to shove her away, but Entrapta clung on, her heart pounding in her chest.
“No!” she shrilled. “You have to stop!”
“What’s wrong with you?” Mermista demanded, still struggling to get up. “Scorpia, Perfuma, can’t you do something?”
Entrapta felt something slither around her stomach and pull tight. In the next moment, she was being pulled away by several thick vines that twined around her limbs, holding her immobile. She struggled and kicked helplessly, but the vines were too tight.
“It’s going to be alright,” said Perfuma, coming to stand in front of her. “Mermista’s taking care of it.”
Entrapta felt tears prick the corners of her eyes. “Let me go, please!”
Perfuma bit her lip and took a step back. The vines loosened. Entrapta wriggled free.
“Now, If you just-- Entrapta!”
Entrapta wasn’t listening. She was already running to Hordak’s side. A vine nearly curled around her arm, but she pulled free and kept going. Hordak still knelt where he had fallen, soaked through and gasping for breath. Entrapta crouched down and put a hand on his back.
“Hordak! Are you alright?”
Unable to speak, he nodded. His skin felt cold, even through her gloves. Entrapta put her arms around him protectively, ignoring the chill of the water as it soaked into her clothes.
“Hordak?” Mermista’s voice was thunderous. “ This is Hordak?”
Entrapta flinched and looked up to see Mermista heading toward them, Perfuma and Scorpia hurrying behind her.
“Technically, yeah,” Scorpia replied. “But I can expl --”
“You bring the one responsible for almost destroying my kingdom, the one who called the entire space army here in the first place, and you expect me to let him go?” Mermista pointed her trident at Hordak. The water on the ground gathered together, rising up to circle around her. “Move, Entrapta.”
Entrapta bristled. Hands clenched into fists, she stepped in front of Hordak. “No! I won’t!”
The water around Mermista spun faster. “Why are you being so difficult? Is this why you turned your back on us? For him?”
“I’m not turning my back! We came here to help you!”
“Help us? I’m not letting you lead that monster back to the camp! He’ll have the entire Horde army on us in seconds!” Mermista shook her head, her voice lowering from a shout to something hard and cold. “This is your last chance, Entrapta. Move.”
Entrapta shook her head. “No! I will not let you hurt Hordak. After everything we’ve been through, after what I --” she faltered, the pain of losing her hair flashing through her, the moments of despair and loneliness, the pure joy of reunion. Entrapta drew her blaster, taking aim at Mermista. She may not have her hair, but she would fight. “I’m not going to lose him.”
Mermista growled in frustration. “I don’t believe this!” She raised her trident. Entrapta prepared to fire.
“Mermista, don’t!” Perfuma cried, stepping between them, arms raised. “We do not attack our friends!”
“Are you serious right now?” Mermista huffed. “They’re not our friends! That’s Hordak! You know, the warlord who's been trying to crush us for the last few decades? All of Etheria would sleep better without him around.”
“They’re not with the Horde,” Scorpia joined. She came to stand beside Perfuma, in between Mermista and Entrapta. Entrapta looked from Scorpia’s broad back to what she could still see of the sea princess.
“I know it’s hard to believe,” Scorpia went on. “I get it. You didn’t trust me when I first came here, either. But with She-Ra gone, we need all the help we can get against Horde Prime. I’m just asking you to give them a chance.”
Mermista stood rigid for a long time. Finally, she released a loud sigh and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Fine, if you want to risk it, we’ll bring them to the others. But I’m not taking my eyes off them. Not for one minute!”
Entrapta helped Hordak to his feet. His ears dropped a fraction as their eyes met, and he opened his mouth to speak, only to close it again.
“Are you hurt?” she asked.
“I will be fine.”
Entrapta nodded, but continued to examine him anyway. “The armor appears to have withstood the water, but we need to get the rest of you dry ASAP!”
Everything seemed to be in working order. Hordak did not resist her examination, letting her lift his arm and test the flex of the armor. “Entrapta,” he began, his voice kept quiet for only her to hear. “I know we have discussed this, however… I believe you are putting yourself at too great a risk.”
“If anyone wants to get to you, they have to go through me,” she replied firmly. Satisfied Hordak was truly uninjured, Entrapta held out her hand to him, not caring that everyone was watching. “We’re in this together, okay?”
Hordak nodded, though Entrapta could tell by the set of his ears that he was still uneasy. Hand-in-hand, they turned to face Scorpia, Perfuma, and Mermista. Scorpia offered her a smile, and Entrapta grinned back. The other two were less than pleased. Ignoring their stares, Entrapa went over to where her data pad lay face-down in the grass. Luckily it was undamaged from when she dropped it to tackle Mermista.
“Okay, to the camp!” Scorpia said cheerily. She pointed with both her claws. “This way!”
Entrapta followed after Scorpia, Hordak by her side. Mermista scowled darkly as they passed her, but the sea princess kept her silence, and Entrapta did not break stride. She felt a small twinge of apprehension and guilt. Perhaps Hordak was right and they’d made a grave mistake returning to the Alliance. She wanted so badly to be accepted, but she should have known better. That thought was consumed by sudden anger. Entrapta could endure many things, but when it came to Hordak she would stand her ground.
“Hey, Entrapta,” Scorpia slowed to walk beside her. “Do we have any bots to worry about?”
“Oh!” Entrapta brought the map back up on her pad with a few button taps from a robotic limb. “Nope, it looks like we’re clear!”
“That’s a relief!”
“What’s this?” Perfuma had drawn closer on Scorpia’s other side.
“Entrapta can track Horde soldiers and bots with her tech. Fancy, huh?”
“How did you manage to do that?”
Entrapta grinned. “During my preliminary analysis of the Horde bots I’ve managed to dismantle so far, I --”
“Actually, maybe you should, um, wait until we arrive.” Perfuma said in a rush, cutting her off. “That way you can explain to everyone at once.”
Tamping down the familiar disappointment at not being allowed to share the intricacies of her work, Entrapta focused on the hope that at least she was already proving herself useful. She wasn’t sure what would happen when they reached the camp, but if the Alliance was at least willing to listen, surely everything would work out for the best.