Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Ten
"Yes!" Flingon pumped a fist in the air. "It worked! Look
out the window!"
Lerox complied immediately, and Tishka risked
a quick peek - she didn't quite dare to take her eyes off the controls any longer
than that. But that one brief glance was enough. Far below came the sound of
small ships hitting the ground - the droid army was no more.
Now the Neopians began to gain the upper hand.
With two thirds of their forces gone, the mutants and Neopets who worked for
Sloth began to falter. Swords, slingshots and Cobrall Daggers suddenly looked
more threatening when there were no robots to hide behind, and on Mystery Island
Xanro and Shyla's spirits lifted now that their only enemies were the ones who
could be affected by their weapons, claws and fangs. And then came the Space
Faerie. A blur of wings and power, she rushed headlong into the fray, one battleground
after another, helping the locals to clean each area of Sloth followers before
moving on to the next. At the sight of this powerful enemy many of Sloth's Neopet
slaves threw down their weapons and begged for mercy - some of them even turned
around and attacked the nearest mutant they could find, hoping to gain some
measure of pardon. And somewhere up in space, try as they might the crew of
the hidden mothership still couldn't get their vessel to do anything they wanted
Finally, it was over. Sloth's massive army was
either dead or captured, including the mothership's rather dejected crew. The
droids which had remained aboard had been reprogrammed to help repair the damage
their master had caused, and although many Neopians had died around the world,
they were still far fewer than any expert had dared to hope. The only thing
that worried the remaining Defenders was Sloth himself; somehow he had managed
to escape before they had reached his ship, and even an exhaustive investigation
of the ship had revealed nothing as to how he had done it. None of his former
servants could say how such a feat could have been accomplished, but everyone
agreed that it was certainly not beyond Sloth, and that the evil green tyrant
would someday be back for revenge.
A cheer went up from the crowd and from the
surviving members of the Defenders of Neopia as Judge Hog's fighter set down,
and they looked with curiosity at the very obviously Sloth-made assault ship
which joined the smaller plane a few seconds later. For a moment Tishka had
a horrible vision of what might happen if the gathered Neopians discovered who
Flingon used to work for, and shuddered as she considered the fate that a former
Sloth minion might meet at the hands of Neopets who had just been devastated
by an unprovoked assault. Fortunately, a team of volunteers kept the inquisitive
Neopets from crowding around as Judge Hog strode into the DoN headquarters,
followed closely by Flingon and Lerox, a somewhat wary Tishka bringing up the
"So let me get this straight," the Moehog said
when Flingon had finished telling his side of the story. "You used to work for
Sloth, then defected when he tried to kill you and these two-" he nodded to
the young siblings- "saved your life."
Flingon nodded, then his gaze hit the floor.
"For a long time, yes, I was an enemy of Neopia. I only hope I can repair any
damage I have helped to cause, and that someday Neopia will forgive me."
Judge Hog raised his eyebrows. "I must speak
to you about this. If you will accompany me to my office..."
Lerox jumped out of his chair. "What about us?"
"It is time for you to go home. I imagine your
parents will be worried about you." A twinkle lit his eyes. "Perhaps don't tell
them about your adventures just yet. They will find out soon enough."
Tishka nodded and turned to leave, but then
she stopped and looked back. Judge Hog was striding purposefully toward the
back of the building, with Flingon following silently a few feet behind. The
alien Aisha sure didn't look like someone who had just saved Neopia; instead
of the triumphant march of a victorious defender, Flingon's gait more closely
resembled that of a whipped Puppyblew. His head was bowed, his ears drooped
forward and the young Acara thought she saw a hint of the all-too-familiar tremble
in his paws, until he clasped them tightly together in an effort to keep himself
steady. Concern tugged at her heart, and on an impulse Tishka called, "Judge
"Can I talk to you for a moment?"
The masked Moehog nodded, pointed briefly to
direct Flingon to a room on the left of the hall, then strode back to Tishka.
"What is it?" he asked gently.
Tishka fidgeted, searching for the right words,
then finally pleaded, "Please don't go too hard on him. He had a really hard
time under Sloth, getting threatened and pushed around constantly, and well...
you saw what he did for Neopia as soon as he got the chance. And in spite of
how he was treated I haven't seen him complain once, or look for revenge except
what was needed to save Neopia. He's one of the nicest people I've ever met,
and... well... I just wanted to ask you to please treat him gently. He's had
enough abuse as it is."
Judge Hog looked her in the eye, his mind processing
her words. It was rather touching, really, to see a former Sloth minion and
two young children become such good friends. Nodding firmly, he said, "I'll
see that he is treated justly."
Tishka nodded and thanked him, but her heart
was still heavy as she left the building. 'Treat him justly'? Would this justice
be based on his service to Sloth or his service to Neopia? Tishka swallowed
hard, wishing she could sit in on the meeting Judge Hog was having with her
friend. For a brief moment she wondered if Flingon had overheard her stumbling
effort to speak in his defense. Tishka hoped so. She had done everything she
could, but if only she could be sure...
"Tishka! Lerox! Where have you been?" Shyla
cried as she rushed toward her children and gathered them into her arms. "Oh
my babies - are you all right?"
Lerox grinned broadly. "We're great, Mom, and
we've been all over the place. You'll hear about it someday - but not from us.
Xanro shook his head, and took his turn embracing
his son and daughter. "Trust you to say that, Lerox," he said, "but I'm just
glad to have you home."
Even the traumatic events of the week before
could not compel the people of Mystery Island to cancel the end-of-the-season
soccer playoffs, especially since both of the finalists were Islanders anyway.
The sun was shining, the stands were full, and the electric blue Cybunny announcer
was getting excited as the end of the game approached. "The Mystery Island Myncies
have the ball, and are dribbling it skillfully down the field. Tello is being
intercepted by one of the Geraptiku Grundos - a brilliant dodge by Tello, and
now he's passing it to the Myncies star player, Frendo. Frendo is taking it
down the field... he's nearing the net... whoa, what is this? Geraptiku Grundo
Lerox just swiped the ball right out from under Frendo's foot, and he's racing
toward the Myncies' net! Tello is moving to intercept - and Lerox sends it right
between his legs! Lerox is out in front with nobody left to contend with but
the goalie, but the Myncies are catching up! Here comes the shot - a beautiful
save by the goalie! That dive and deflect might leave the game tied at 3 all...
no wait, Lerox is going for it... the ball is coming back down... Lerox is winding
up for another kick... three seconds left in the game... ladies and gentlepets,
it is going in! An amazing unassisted goal by Lerox, and the Geraptiku Grundos
win the series!"
Lerox leaped up in the air, pumping his fist,
whooping loudly and turning 360 degrees before landing. "All right!"
Frendo was not amused. Storming up to Lerox,
he growled menacingly, "You'd better watch you back, Grundo."
Lerox fell silent and tensed - Frendo was three
inches taller and twenty pounds heavier than he was, and he did not relish the
prospect of a fight. Unfortunately, it looked like Frendo did, and he had a
record for pounding opponents...
"Touch my brother and you'd better watch your
Frendo's head snapped up, and to his alarm he
found himself staring into the flashing azure eyes of an angry blue Acara who,
while much smaller than most adult Neopets, was significantly larger than any
of the Mystery Island Myncies Frendo did the wisest thing he could have done:
he made a break for it.
Tishka followed him a couple steps just to get
him scared, then turned back and gave her brother a high-five. "Great job there,
Lerox!" she congratulated him. "They'll be talking about that goal several seasons
from now: 'Here comes Lerox - the goalie had better be on his guard!'"
Lerox laughed. "I hope so, and - hey, what's
that you've got behind your back?"
Tishka showed him the two small slips of paper.
"They came in the mail earlier today. I don't know how, but apparently we've
won two free tickets to the Freedom Flyers air-stunt show."
"Freedom Flyers? Never heard of them."
Tishka shrugged. "They must be fairly new. Anyway,
Mom and Dad said we could go, but we'd better hurry - it starts in fifteen minutes."
Lerox's eyes were alight. "So they're going
to be doing loops and free-falls and hot-dog rolls and stuff?" he asked as he
fell into step behind Tishka.
"I'm not sure, but we'll never know if we miss
it. Come on!"
Nearby, in the shadows between a canteen and
a washroom, a dark figure watched the two young Neopets leave. Grabbing a walkie-talkie,
the shadowy creature hissed, "The targets are on their way. Are you ready to
Tishka and Lerox had expected the small airstrip
to be crowded, but instead it was nearly deserted. "Are you sure we're at the
right place?" Lerox asked anxiously.
Tishka looked worried. "We'd better be. The
show will be starting any minute now."
"Oh, you'll be seeing it all right," a deep
voice said. "You'll have to come with me."
Both children whirled around, and Tishka stifled
a scream. There in front of them, hovering in midair, was the largest and most
frightening shadow Hissi either of them had ever seen. The two siblings glanced
around quickly, and to their horror they saw that they had been quickly and
silently surrounded by five more assorted Neopets, all of them stern-faced and
strong. The cornered Neopets had no choice but to follow the Hissi as the other
pets fell into step beside and behind them, cutting off their escape. Lerox
looked frightened and Tishka grabbed his paw, willing herself to be strong for
her little brother.
Trying to sound as defiant as she could, Tishka
faced the leader and demanded, "What is going on here? Where are you taking
us? If you or any of your lackeys touches my brother..."
The Hissi's reply was calm, and quite untroubled
by Tishka's brazen attitude. "We are taking you to the aircraft. As to what
is going on, well... I think you can guess." With that he chuckled in a way
that Tishka really didn't like.
Lerox met her eyes, and she could see the question
there. 'Are we being taken to Sloth?'
Tishka squeezed his paw harder, determined not
to let him see how frightened she was. She was the older sibling, the protector.
Lerox was usually braver than she was, but this time she was determined to play
The walk to the ship was short but it seemed
to last forever. Finally the two children were herded up the steps, through
the door, down the hall and into the cockpit, where the green, smiling pilot
was waiting for them. A pilot who seemed to have had little trouble tracking
them down. A pilot they both recognized immediately.
To be continued...