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Encountering Resistance: Part Three


by moosuem

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The attack on the Resistance Headquarters was swift and straightforward. The Emperor's Grundo soldiers, as everyone knows, are not exactly the brightest of Neopets - huge, muscular, and single-minded, yes, but not as strong mentally. They do not sit back and compose a plan of attack before attacking. They simply charge in and smash whatever gets in their way.

      When about fifty Imperial Grundo soldiers are attacking an underground base defended by only seven half-awake Neopets, though, this strategy works surprisingly well.

      Commander Pagger woke to find a number of small pieces of ceiling lying on the floor in front of his perch. As the Lenny was sleepily trying to decide whether the ceiling had come to the floor or he had somehow moved to the ceiling, there was a THUD and several new pieces of ceiling added themselves to the pile. Obviously, the ceiling was moving to the floor.

      Commander Pagger twisted his neck around and shook one wing at the ceiling. "I say, why can't you stay in your place!" he barked.

      As if to answer him, the patch of ceiling he was addressing bulged and fell in. Commander Pagger just barely had time to flap awkwardly off his perch and pull Samrindela to safety before his perch and the Kacheek's small pillow were buried under large amounts of cement and spurting water pipes.

      Commander Pagger stared at the dust-covered rubble for a moment, but his attention soon moved to the hulking Grundos dropping through the hole in the ceiling. "We're under attack!" bellowed the Lenny, his normally loud voice at foghorn volume now. "Everyone man your stations!"

      While Grundos continued to drop through the hole, the first one leveled an unpleasant-looking object at Commander Pagger.

      Between this and the hordes of Grundos dropping through the ceiling, Commander Pagger decided that, on second thought, a counterattack was probably not the best course of action. "Retreat!" he blared, and promptly followed his own advice.

      By now, the others had woken too. Roshen, with his three sets of fangs, and Akzanti, with his spiked tail, were putting up a bit more of a fight than the Grundos had been expecting. However, they were still being forced relentlessly into a corner by the sheer bulk and numbers of the Grundos.

      That is, until Trevor joined them. Out of all the Resistance, the huge Grarrl was the only one large enough to simply toss the Grundos out of his way. Roshen and Akzanti could only stare as the Grundos menacing them suddenly took short flights directly into what remained of the ceiling. They did have a few seconds to look very surprised before they were knocked out.

      "Hi!" said Trevor cheerfully, beaming down at Roshen and Akzanti. "Are you okay?"

      The two nodded mutely.

      "Oh, good!" thundered Trevor. "Come on!" With no more warning than that, he bent down and scooped up the two surprised Neopets. Letting out a wordless cry of rage - or maybe amusement - he lowered his head and charged through the ranks of the Grundos.

      "He really is something else, isn't he?" yelled Akzanti to Roshen. The Aisha could only nod as he watched the hulking Grundos flying away from Trevor's pounding claws.

      Astral was a whirling ball of fury, her cloak whipping out around her as she lashed out at the Grundos with all six paws and her formidable mouthful of teeth. The Lutari was moving so fast that to Commander Pagger, she seemed to be teleporting around the room. At one point, the Commander was certain he saw her on one end of the room, keeping cautiously to the shadows; the next moment, though, she was slashing and kicking at the Grundos on the opposite side. Commander Pagger's thin, hollow-boned body would not have lasted long down among the hulking Mutants, so he contented himself with hanging from loose pipes on the crumbling ceiling and dropping pipes and chunks of cement on the Grundos below.

      Samrindela had her fangs clamped tightly onto the arm of one hulking Grundo, who roared and ran around in circles until his head hit a hanging water pipe and he collapsed on the floor. Grundos, as said before, are not the brightest of Neopets.

      Suddenly, all the Grundos stopped at the sound of a harsh, angry voice. It came from somewhere in the room - where, no one could tell. "What are you doing, you idiots?" snapped the voice. "Just get out and bomb the place!"

      Everyone in the room seemed to have a different reaction to this. Astral jumped at the sound of the voice, looking frantically around the room. Half the Grundos started climbing out through the same hole they had entered through, while the other half left by the rusty ladder. In the confusion, Roshen was sure he saw Astral darting nimbly over the pile of Grundos and out the hole. Seconds later, though, she was at his side, barking orders into the quickly emptying room. "All right! I don't know how much time we've got, but it won't be long!" she yelled. "We'll leave by the ladder, there are less Grundos there; Akzanti, get your ray and meet us there."

      "But what about all the rest of my-" Akzanti began.

      "We don't have time!" shouted Astral. "Get the ray and leave everything else! 'Rinda, Pagger, you get out now; Trevor, make sure they get out safely. We'll join you soon. Roshen, you're with me." With that, she tore off across the room, following Akzanti into the machine room. Roshen darted after her.

      Roshen arrived at the door to the machine room to see Akzanti moaning while he disconnected wires from a small machine near the middle of the room. Astral burst out of the shadows at the back, carrying Caralen with two paws. "Get Caralen out of here," she snapped, handing the thin Kyrii to Roshen. "She's not strong enough to run by herself, and I'm going to need all my paws free to get us out. Akzanti, hurry up!"

      Roshen lifted Caralen onto his broad back. She wrapped her frail arms around his neck and lay still, breathing heavily. She weighed hardly anything. Astral darted out the door into the main room; Roshen followed her, trying to move as fast as he could without dislodging the Kyrii. Akzanti came last, stopping for a second in the doorway to cast one last, heartbroken look at the plethora of machines that covered the floor. For once, the amiable Techo had nothing to say.

      Astral hissed at the sight of the empty main room. "They'll be dropping the bomb here any second," she exclaimed, and practically flew up the ladder to open the door at the top.

      The door wouldn't open.

      "Mootixes, they sealed it!" snarled Astral. "I hope Trevor's still around. TREVOR!" she roared, nearly deafening Roshen. "IF YOU'RE UP THERE, OPEN THIS DOOR!"

      There was a moment of agonizing silence, broken by a muted thumping from above. Then a thick, scaly foot crashed straight through the middle of the door in a cloud of splinters. Astral quickly climbed through the hole where the door had been; Roshen followed her, still carrying Caralen.

      Astral burst out of the opening, Roshen close on her heels, and quickly took stock of the situation. Trevor and Commander Pagger stood next to a pile of crates in the warehouse; around them were several unconscious Grundos that had, apparently, gotten in Trevor's way. As she watched, they woke up, caught sight of Trevor, and lumbered out the open warehouse door as fast as they could. With a sinking feeling, Astral whipped her head around, scanning the warehouse, and found what she had been afraid of.

      "Where's Samrindela?"

      Trevor and Commander Pagger exchanged horrified looks.

      "Huh?" said Trevor.

      "We thought she was with you, Sir!" said Commander Pagger.

      That was all there was time for before the bomb broke through the wall of the warehouse.

     * * *

      Under the floor of the warehouse, Akzanti grabbed Samrindela from the table, where she was calmly sweeping all her unmatched scraps of Neopian Times into a box, and charged with the tiny, single-minded Kacheek towards the ladder.

      "Get out! Out!" roared Astral, shoving Roshen, who was nearest, in the direction of the door. He didn't need to be told twice, and neither did Trevor and Pagger. In seconds, they were out the door and running as fast as they could, Caralen hanging on grimly to Roshen's neck.

      A red light appeared on the shining surface of the bomb. It blinked slowly at first, but rapidly grew faster.

      Her claws scrabbling on the cement floor in a rare moment of awkwardness, Astral threw herself down on the floor and stuck her head through the hole. "Akzanti!" she screamed. "Get out-"

      "No time!" yelled Akzanti from the bottom of the ladder. "Five-second timer! Catch!"

      Astral understood immediately. Five seconds till the explosion. There was no time for Akzanti to climb the ladder - or for her to argue. Astral caught Samrindela as Akzanti threw her up through the opening, then dashed through the door, tears streaming from her eyes, as the blinking of the bomb's light blurred into a constant glow.

      She just barely made it out of the warehouse before it erupted in flames behind her.

      Instinctively, Astral curled into a ball, protecting Samrindela as the shock wave from the explosion hit them. In a roaring wave of flames and noise, they were bowled along the smoking street like a tumbleweed in a hurricane. Windows blew out of the buildings in eruptions of glass as they were blown past them.

      Finally, the shock wave left them behind. Astral's cloak steamed and smoked in the puddle they had landed in, but she had been knocked out by the blast. It would be a while before she would feel the burns in her fur.

      Commander Pagger found Astral and Samrindela there a few minutes later, still sitting in the puddle. Samrindela was clutching a box with one paw and mechanically splashing water onto Astral's unconscious face with the other. As Commander Pagger called Roshen and Trevor over and bent down anxiously to look at the singed Lutari, her eyes flickered open and she sat up painfully. Commander Pagger waited with a feeling of dread until she looked up at him.

      "Where's Akzanti, Sir?" he asked quietly. He was fairly sure he already knew the answer.

      Astral said nothing, but closed her eyes again and shook her head.

      Commander Pagger nodded calmly. Inside, he was almost overcome with grief; the amiable Techo had been a better friend than anyone else in his life. For now, though, there were more important things to do than grieve, so he sealed the feeling off from his mind until later.

      "Those Grundos will be back soon, Sir," said the Lenny quietly. "We'd better get out of here before then."

      Astral nodded without opening her eyes. She was trembling, whether from shock or from the cold water, Pagger wasn't sure. He shot a glance at Trevor, who understood surprisingly fast. With a faint grunt, he stooped down, lifted the shivering Lutari in his arms, and slung her over his massive shoulder. He scooped up Samrindela, still tightly clutching her box, and deposited her on his other shoulder.

      Roshen could feel Caralen shaking quietly on his back. From what he had seen of her, she had seemed more comfortable around Akzanti than around anyone else besides Astral. He wished he could give her more privacy, but that was rather difficult when she was hanging on to his neck.

      Commander Pagger allowed himself one last look at the glowing orange crater that had been his home for a short while and was now Akzanti's - no, he couldn't think about that yet.

      "Don't worry, old friend," he whispered. "When we're through with the Empire, you won't be able to tell it apart from one of the Emperor's piles of sludge. Well fought, Akky." He raised his wing in a final salute, then turned back to Trevor and Roshen. "Well, what are you waiting for?" he demanded. "Do you want to be caught by those great green brutes? Quick march, ho!"

      The fires in the remnants of the warehouse were dying down as what remained of the Imperial Resistance Movement crept quietly out of Imperial Central City. Behind them, they left the wreckage of the room where hundreds of devoted, silent paws and claws had stored the lovingly drawn pictures of the Neopets of decades. The Emperor would have destroyed the pictures if he'd found them. As it was, his soldiers had blown them up for him without even knowing it. One small picture of a smiling Usul blew through the streets, torn and blackened around the edges, while the ashes of the last haven of the Neopian Beauty Contest cooled in the dark.

     * * *

      The same darkness surrounded the one small screen.

      "Well, Operative 126. The raid was successful, I hope?"

      "Partially, your Superb Elevated Ingenious Imperial Majesty."

      The Emperor frowned. It was almost as unpleasant a sight as his smile. "What do you mean, partially?"

      "One member of the Resistance was killed in the explosion, your Superb Elevated Ingenious Imperial Majesty."

      "And the rest?"

      The spy's calm, normally cool and unbreakable as solid steel, was beginning to quiver slightly. "The rest... escaped, your Superb Elevated Ingenious Imperial Majesty."

      "They escaped," said the Emperor in a soft, even voice. "Did I order you to let them escape?"

      "No, your Superb Elevated Ingenious Imperial Majesty."

      "What were your orders, Operative 126?"

      "To ensure the death or capture of every member of the Resistance Movement, your Superb Elevated Ingenious Imperial Majesty." The spy's voice was monotonous, as if reciting a thoroughly drilled series of meaningless words.

      "Well," said the Emperor with a smile. The spy just barely managed to repress a shudder. "I'm giving you new orders, Operative 126. Make sure that every single member of this foul little pocket of disobedience is either dead or in my prisons by the end of this week, or you shall suffer one of those fates yourself. As to what exactly your punishment shall be... I'll leave that to your capable imagination. Your report is over, Operative. I expect to hear a more pleasing one next time."

      "Yes, your Superb Eleva-"

      The Emperor leaned forward abruptly and switched off the screen. The room went completely dark and silent for a moment.

      Then a smug, horrible chuckle echoed from the depths of the room. The Emperor smiled to himself. Fear was such a wonderful way to motivate your subjects. A terrified individual could perform acts they would never dream of normally. This knowledge had served him well for centuries.

      After all, it was how he'd built his Empire.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Encountering Resistance: Part One
» Encountering Resistance: Part Two
» Encountering Resistance: Part Four



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