Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 124,888,518 Issue: 252 | 11th day of Hiding, Y8
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Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Ten


by sarahleeadvent

--------

"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 it to.

      ^^

      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 rear.

      ^^

      "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 Hog?"

      "Yes?"

      "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. Not yet."

      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 own."

      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 intercept them?"

      ^^

      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 her part.

      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...

 
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Other Episodes


» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part One
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Two
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Three
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Four
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Five
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Six
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Seven
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Eight
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Nine
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Eleven



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