Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 114,369,520 Issue: 229 | 23rd day of Awakening, Y8
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The Kreludan Conspiracy: Part Two


by azellica

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My team stood in a line in front of me. There were about ten of them. Some were huge surly soldiers and some were small technicians and programmers. I stood with my arms crossed; glaring down with a rather cold expression. I then proceeded to stroll back and forth as if inspecting them.

      "So," I said at last in my most authoritative voice, "you have been chosen out of hundreds of Virtupets employees to accompany me to Kreludor and work under my command. I want it to be understood right now that the nature of this mission is one of utmost importance. I will not tolerate any disobedience or incompetence from any of you. Dr. Sloth is relying on me. I will not disappoint him. Now, you'll find that I have supplied you all with-"

      "Sir," a rather small looking Grundo soldier stepped forward from the line. "My name is Irt. I want you to understand that I am prepared to fight my hardest for you and Dr. Sloth."

      I slowly turned my gaze to him. "Your enthusiasm is valued, Irt," I said softly, "but in the future do not interrupt me or the consequences will be quite unpleasant."

      To my annoyance he didn't shrink before me. Instead, he raised an orange hand and saluted me respectfully. I ignored him.

      "You have all been supplied with the most advanced Virtupets equipment. We will leave the Space Station in a few hours and arrive on Kreludor tonight. In the meantime, you will all wait in here and review the plan. I will rejoin you later. None of you have permission to leave this room until I call for you."

      I then turned and left my team alone. I wasn't going to wait around with them; I had better things to do. I took an elevator up to the main level of the space station and wove around the tourists crowding the corridors. Ever since the space station had been opened to the public it had become quite a popular tourist destination.

      I hated tourists. They were nothing but obstacles. I pushed my way through a knot of shoppers and headed to Grundos Cafe. An endless line of neopets surrounded the restaurant. I glanced at my brand new watch and noted it was just past lunch time; I would be waiting in line for ever. That is, of course, if I was a normal civilian.

      I drew my identification card and shoved my way to the front of the line. A few neopets protested as I cut in front of them, but all it took was one cold look from me and they were quiet. I purchased a handful of green tea capsules and then pulled away from the crowds.

      As I strolled down one of the corridors leading away from the shops, I felt as if I was being watched. I spun around to see if there was anyone following me, but no one was there. I turned back and standing right in front to me was a bright red Kyrii watching me slyly. I stared at her for a moment.

      "Move out of the way," I said gruffly.

      "Not just yet." She glanced swiftly around her and then gestured for me to follow her.

      I raised an eyebrow. "I have important business to attend to," I lied. I was actually planning on retiring to my office and taking a nap.

      "Sir, it is urgent." She looked at me anxiously.

      I had better things to do than listen to some jumped-up tourist. I dodged her and continued down the hallway.

      "Sir!" she cried. "It's about Kreludor."

      I froze. No one was supposed to know about the business I had on Kreludor. Perhaps the Kyrii was referring to something else... I slowly turned around and faced her. "What about Kreludor?" I said narrowing my eyes.

      She leaned forward. "There is a conspiracy," she whispered. "Don't go! You will be in danger. The mission is doomed to fail."

      "How do you know about it?" I demanded angrily.

      "I have many sources... I'm only warning you sir, don't go!"

      "What sources?" If knowledge of my mission to Kreludor was spreading I would be in big trouble.

      "Just be careful," she said. She turned and fled into the crowds.

      "Wait! Come back!" I yelled. It was too late; she had dissolved into the throngs of tourists. Great. Now there was someone running around the space station with knowledge of my mission.

      On my way to my office I stopped at the security desk and dropped off a description of the Kyrii. I also mentioned that it would be advisable to get her to the memory lab as soon as possible. Several security guards ran off in different directions and I proceeded to my office.

      * * *

      Later on that evening, I found myself sitting grumpily in a transport shuttle awaiting departure. My team filled the seats behind me and as far as I was concerned, they were extremely annoying. The diminutive programmers sat close to each other and jittered about new computer software while the tall stalwart soldiers sat coolly in their seats and watched me silently.

      I prefer working alone. However the Boss has always felt that teams accomplish more. Actually, the only one who was really getting on my nerves was the Grundo Irt. He was hovering at my elbow and looking at me in an admiring way. Now, generally I appreciate it when people treat me with the greatest respect, but I was fairly confident that this particular soldier was being a bit of brown-noser.

      "Sir, can I get you anything from the kitchen? Is there anything you want me to do for you?" he asked earnestly.

      I frowned. If Irt though that he could earn a pay raise by pretending to want to help me, then clearly he was misinformed. "Take a seat, soldier," I said coolly to him. "I am perfectly satisfied at the moment and it's the attendant's job to serve me."

      Irt shrank a bit and then shuffled over to a seat near me. "So," he smiled in a friendly way. "Have you read the latest edition of Virtupets Technology? There is an excellent article about the benefits of teleporters."

      I groaned and glanced at my watch. Another three hours until we landed. I shuddered and turned towards Irt. "I don't read," I commented.

      "You can't read?" he asked incredulously.

      "No," I gritted my teeth in annoyance, "of course I can read, I just choose not to. I have better things to do with my spare time then research why teleporters are preferred over transport beams." As a matter of fact, I spent my spare time placing bets on staring contests with my fellow commanders. I currently held the record; seven and a half minutes without blinking.

      "Well then," Irt said, "have you seen the new fighter ships? I can't wait until I get my pilots license!"

      Irt was undoubtedly annoying. I hated participating in conversation with those of lesser rank. After all, commanders such as me shouldn't have any obligation to speak to lowly soldiers. Therefore I excused myself and took refuge in the storage room.

      I sat on the edge of one of the cargo crates and watched the seconds flash by on my Microtronic Watch. It would take forever until we arrived. I glanced back towards the passenger area and sighed. I hadn't even arrived on Kreludor yet and things were going wrong. Someone knew that my team and I were going to Kreludor. Someone thought we were in danger. Were we? I gazed out the window and watched the stars twinkle through the glass. Was my life at risk?

      *

      "We will be landing in approximately fifteen minutes. Will all passengers please return to their seats and fasten their safety restraints," the pilot's dull voice vibrated over the intercom. I stood up and left the storage room. Irt immediately looked up at me.

      "What were you doing in there sir? I was going to go check on you."

      "I was thinking alright? I have enough to worry about without being pestered by employees," I snapped. Then I noticed that the rest of my team was staring at me. I sighed and sank into my seat.

      I watched through the window as Kreludor's grey pockmarked surface rose around the shuttle. The space ship slowly came down at an angle until we were flying low over Kreludor's dry landscape. I opened a map on the screen of my Microtronic Watch. The base would be located inside of a crater and the work camp was nearby inside an old water way.

      The transport shuttle slowly meandered to a stop and sunk into a ravine below. The grey rock walls rose around us and we landed softly. I moved out of my seat and faced my team.

      "You will wait here until I give command for you to disembark. When you do so, you will behave in an orderly and professional fashion. While we are at the camp you will not hinder the construction crews in any way. You will follow my command and do your best to get to the bottom of the sabotage. I will be speaking to the officers here and I will let you know what specific duties you will have." I turned and entered the transport beam chute. An electric blue ray of light immediately engulfed me and gently tugged me below.

      When I landed on the ground, I glimpsed a buzz zooming towards me. "Commander Roack? I'm glad you're here. I am Lieutenant Hwex." He bowed to me.

      "Well Lieutenant," I said, "it is a pleasure to meet you. What a pity it is such unfortunate business that has brought me to Kreludor. Perhaps we can go somewhere to talk. I have a few issues to go over with you."

      "Of course," Hwex said gravely. "Please follow me."

      The camp was an assortment of small elemental shelters and mining equipment. A few buildings had been erected and Hwex lead me into one of them.

      "This is my office," he said gesturing for me to sit in a black cushy chair.

      The office wasn't that exciting. It had cold metal walls and a small desk planted on a rock floor. I folded my hands on my lap and looked squarely at Hwex. "Now, the Boss has asked me to-"

      "I know what he has sent you here to do," Hwex interrupted coldly. "I told him it wasn't necessary, but he insisted on sending a team to investigate the few 'accidents' we've had."

      "Accidents?" I raised an eyebrow. "If you've read the reports, you'll see that there is no way that the nature of these incidents could have been accidental."

      "No, commander?" The Buzz gave a slightly sinister smile. "Well, perhaps you're right. However, I feel that you are only going to complicate matters by being here."

      "What do you mean? I am here to prevent any future incidents from occurring."

      "Maybe," he said softly, "I don't want them to be prevented."

      Before I could react, Hwex drew a Virtupets Stun Gun and aimed it at me. "As I said, Roack, I feel you'll only complicate matters. So I must regrettably put you somewhere safe for a while." He fired.

To be continued...

 
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