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Encountering Resistance: Part Eight


by moosuem

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"All right, Akzanti," said Astral in a low voice as the Resistance hurried through the corridors after Caralen. "All you need to finish your detransmogrification ray is a paintbrush, right?"

      "Exactly," replied the Techo. He was limping slightly on his bandaged leg, but still keeping up with the rest of them. "Nothing else."

      "Good," said Astral, the Lutari's deep blue eyes fixed on the shadowy figure of Caralen ahead of them. No one had gotten a close look at the Kyrii since her mutation, and no one was especially eager to get one. "Now all we need to do is find out where Emperor Sloth put all of them."

      The members of the Resistance walked quickly along the hallway, catching brief glimpses of the contents of the storerooms as they passed them. Samrindela was too short to see through the storerooms' small, high windows, but the small Kacheek had an uncanny ability to identify their contents from the others' descriptions.

      "This room's full of weird little pink staring creatures."

      "Meepits. Don't make eye contact."

      "Nothing but a great lot of shiny bottles in here."

      "Could be anything. There are hundreds of things that used to come in shiny bottles."

      "This one's full of little purple rocks with holes in them."

      Samrindela snorted. "Volcanic Rocks," she said, shaking her head. "A lot of good those will do us now. Too bad no one figured out what they were for until it was too late."

      The six Neopets were startled when they came across the first security guard. The huge Grundo lay on the floor, unmoving, and at first they weren't sure what was going on. When they cautiously crept closer, though, they found that he was merely unconscious.

      Akzanti whistled softly. "Well, I don't know much about Mutant Kyrii," said the Techo, staring at the immobilized Grundo, "but they must be something else. Looks like he won't even know what hit him when he wakes up."

      Over the next few minutes, they passed several more unconscious guards. A few moaned and stirred as the six passed them, but each one stopped after a firm thump from Trevor. Not one of them had had time to sound the alarm before Caralen reached them.

      After a while, they all simply got used to them. Samrindela continued to identify the things in the storerooms.

      "Yikes. This one's full of headless dolls."

      "Probably Faerie dolls. The Emperor really hates Faeries."

      "A bunch of junk, lots of bags and old toys and vegetables and stuff. And something that looks like a high-tech piece of plumbing."

      "The Emperor must have put all the stuff from the Hidden Tower in one room. Nothing useful in there."

      It was fortunate that Samrindela had read as much as she had, as none of the others had any idea what a paintbrush even looked like. Of the seven, all but Astral and Caralen had been born after the Emperor had taken over and locked the precious objects away. Astral had seen a paintbrush once in her childhood, but she had been only two years old then. She vaguely remembered that it had been shiny and had had a handle, but this was not much help. If Caralen knew what a paintbrush looked like, she never stopped to tell them. No one felt like trying to catch up to the flitting, indistinct shadow ahead of them to ask her.

      When they had gone around the entire storage wing of the Space Station three times, checking each and every storeroom more and more carefully each time, it was impossible to avoid the unpleasant conclusion they were all approaching.

      In near desperation, Astral had Trevor carry Samrindela around for a fourth time, lifting the small Kacheek to look into each room. She confirmed what the rest of the Resistance dreaded.

      Wherever the paintbrushes were, they were not in any of the storerooms.

      While the rest of the Resistance (except Trevor, who was still carrying Samrindela) sat hopelessly in a corner of the corridor, trying to decide what to do next, Samrindela's face was as emotionless as ever. "Commander," she said, her face pressed to a storeroom window, "you said these were just a lot of shiny bottles, but they're glowing."

      Commander Pagger didn't even lift his head. The Lenny's face was dull with disappointment. "Shiny, glowing, same thing really," he muttered. Samrindela opened her mouth to say something, but Commander Pagger interrupted. "Or, if not, I don't really care at the moment."

      "Well, I just thought you might like to know that this room is filled to the ceiling with bottled Faeries," said Samrindela calmly.

      Immediately, Astral was at the window next to the Grarrl and Kacheek. "Faeries?" she said excitedly. "Are you sure?"

      "Perfectly," murmured Samrindela. "Look, you can even see their little silhouettes through the bottles."

      "Do you think they could help us?"

      "Almost certainly," said Samrindela, a slow smile growing on her face.

      "Can Caralen break through this door for us?" asked Akzanti quietly, joining them at the window.

      Astral looked over to where the Kyrii crouched in a dark corner of the corridor. The other five didn't follow her gaze. In a moment, she turned back and shook her head solemnly. "Not yet," she murmured. The others didn't ask her to explain; she knew Caralen better than any of them.

      "Well, that's all right then, Sir," said Commander Pagger briskly, his depression gone as if it had never existed. He gave the storeroom door a quick, appraising look. "Cheap," he said finally. "I couldn't have handled the door of the prison cell - high-security stuff, that - but this is cheap and flimsy. It ought to be easy, Sir." He started rummaging around in his pockets and continued without looking up. "The rest of you might want to go around the corner. I'll join you shortly, Sir."

      The other five hurried around the corner of the corridor. Caralen followed them like a shadow, keeping to the darkest parts of the corridor. After it seemed that they had gone far enough, they simply sat and waited.

      They didn't have to wait long. In a few seconds, Commander Pagger tore around the corner, running as fast as his long, wiry legs could take him. He reached the safety of the corner just in time.

      The explosion actually rocked the corridor slightly. Sparks and small pieces of metal flew past the seven Neopets pressed against the wall, smoking and skidding along the floor.

      "That was something else! What in Neopia was it?" hissed Akzanti eagerly to Commander Pagger as the Resistance cautiously came back around the corner.

      "A highly overripe bomberry!" the Lenny replied brightly. His face was dreamy as he watched the smoke rise from the ragged, smoking hole where the door had been. "They do go off beautifully when they go off, don't they?"

      Apparently, the Commander carried this sort of thing around all the time in his various dangling pouches and pockets. Roshen made a mental note to stay a bit farther away from him in the future.

      "All right," said Samrindela, darting into the room ahead of the rest. "We need to find a sort of lavender-colored bottle."

      "Lavender?" said Roshen blankly. Akzanti and Commander Pagger looked equally blank. The Empire they had grown up in was composed nearly entirely of dark, dull colors; there probably hadn't been so much as a lavender hairpin on the surface of Neopia for decades. The only way Samrindela knew of the color was from her reading.

      "Sort of a pale purple," said Astral impatiently. The Lutari swept away into the shelves of bottles, ranks on ranks of them, in shades of gold, green, violet, and many other colors.

      That was when the alarm went off.

      Apparently, the Emperor had not been satisfied with reinforced steel doors; he had also installed a burglar alarm. It was only the shock to the circuitry from the explosion that had kept it from going off instantly.

      Everyone froze for a second as the repetitive screeching began. Then, in a flurry of desperation, they went frantically back to searching.

      Roshen ran through rows and rows of bottles, gleaming now white and blue, now a deep red in the flashing lights of the alarm. Finally, in the break between flashes, he saw it: a pale purple bottle, lying sideways on a dusty shelf at the back of the room.

      "I've got it!" yelled the Aisha, reaching out to grab the bottle with one mouth tentacle.

      "Good!" yelled Samrindela across the room. It was the first time Roshen had heard the small Kacheek speak above a murmur. "Bring it over here and open it!"

      Roshen ran through the aisles of shelves until he had reached the door. The others were waiting there, tense and nervous in the flashing red light. Roshen skidded to a stop on the steel floor, fastened the fangs of his other mouth tentacle firmly in the bottle's cork, and pulled it out.

      There was a burst of purple smoke, temporarily obscuring the glaring red light of the alarm. When it cleared, a Faerie was lying on the floor in front of Roshen.

      None of the Resistance had ever actually seen a Faerie before. Samrindela had seen pictures of them, but that was as close as any of them had come. They all stared at the slender, graceful, butterfly-winged creature lying in front of them. She was dressed in a simple, flowing gown, lavender like her skin and hair, and on her head was a delicate tiara. Her hair, mostly a soft, pure lavender, was streaked with gray.

      "Oh no," whispered Samrindela. Giving her box to Akzanti, she rushed to the Faerie's side and tried to lift her off the floor. Trevor and Roshen hurried to help her.

      "What's wrong?" asked Roshen anxiously, yelling to be heard over the blaring of the alarm. "Did I get the wrong bottle?"

      "No, no, you got the right one," said Samrindela. "This is Queen Fyora, the ruler of Faerieland. But her hair shouldn't be gray. Faeries aren't supposed to age at all. It must be from being shut up in that bottle for all those decades. Oh, if I could just get my teeth into that slimy excuse for an Emperor..." The tiny Kacheek trailed off into a string of vehement hissing. Roshen couldn't make out the words over the shrieking of the alarm, but the meaning was clear. Samrindela, the Kacheek who was always calm, always collected, who never showed any signs of any emotion at all, was absolutely furious.

      That was when the security guard showed up at the hole where the door had been. He had been drawn by the sound of the alarm. Like most Grundos, though, he was not particularly intelligent, so it took him a few seconds to figure out what was happening.

      "Intruders!" the guard finally decided, and raised a nasty-looking blaster.

      He never got a chance to fire it. Before anyone could move, the guard received a full nine pounds of furious, needle-fanged Kacheek directly in his face, screaming wordlessly in rage. With a roar of surprise, he dropped his blaster on his toe and lurched off into the corridor, trying to get the thing that had attacked him off of his head. A few seconds later, there were more surprised shouts as the guard, unable to see where he was going, lumbered straight into another group of security guards running down the corridor.

      Roshen, Trevor, Astral, Pagger, and Akzanti stared out the door for a second, listening in stupefied silence to the yells, screams, and thuds of the security guards. They turned back to the Faerie Queen as her eyes fluttered open.

      The first things Queen Fyora saw when she opened her eyes were the faces of two Mutants (Trevor and Roshen, to be exact, but she didn't know that) leaning over her. She was on her feet instantly. "You may have destroyed my country," she hissed, backing up against the wall and pulling a thin lavender wand out of her pocket, "but you can tell your 'Emperor' that if he tries to lock me up, I'll-" At that point, her strength gave out, and she would have collapsed on the floor if Trevor hadn't caught her.

      "We're not working for the Emperor!" said Astral quickly. She didn't know what the Queen was planning to do with that wand, and she didn't want to find out. "We're trying to get rid of the Emperor! That's why we're setting you free!"

      Queen Fyora stared at Astral, a hunted look in her eyes, then finally seemed to relax slightly. "A Lutari," she whispered. "So some of you have survived."

      "Yes, a few," said Astral hurriedly. "Look, I'm sorry, but we don't really have a lot of time to talk right now." As if to emphasize her words, the alarm shrieked again. "We need to find a paintbrush, but we don't know where the Emperor hid them. Samrindela seemed to think you might be able to help us."

      At this, Queen Fyora drew herself up, standing on her own. She was, all at once, every inch a Queen. "Of course," she said, as if it should have been obvious. "Excuse me a moment." She closed her eyes and murmured something under her breath, then turned and pointed her wand at a blank section of wall between two shelves of Faerie bottles. A beam of lavender light shot out of the tip of the wand, lighting the patch of wall up like a Sloth Day firecracker. When the light died down, a small, rectangular door had opened in the wall.

      "There you are," said Queen Fyora briskly. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I must start releasing my subjects." Without another word, she turned and walked into the rows of shelves.

      "Wow," said Akzanti, gazing in admiration after the tall purple figure. "She's something else, isn't she? Well, come on!" Followed closely by the other four, he ran through the door in the wall-

      -And stopped short.

      The wealth of generations sat in a towering heap before the five Resistance members. In the days before the Empire, people would have begged, cajoled, sold their homes and all their possessions to own just one of the shimmering paintbrushes in this room. Now, the beautiful, priceless objects sat and gathered dust. The legendary hoard of the Snowager, melted in the defrosting of Terror Mountain decades ago, would have paled in comparison to this one, no matter how dusty.

      "That's something else," said Commander Pagger, anticipating Akzanti's response to the sight.

      Akzanti did not speak. He simply stared at the glistening heap for a moment, dazzled by the rainbow of pretty colors, then bent down and picked up the closest paintbrush, which happened to be blue. "I guess this one's as good as any other," he said. "I wonder why they're all locked up here? They're pretty, sure, but I don't see what good they are unless you need one for a detransmogrification ray, like we do. No color but Mutant would last more than five minutes in Neopia these days."

      "Well, don't ask me," said Astral, turning to go back through the door. "We've got what we came for, though. As soon as we get Samrindela, we should get out of here."

      The other four followed her out the door, then stopped at the sight of Queen Fyora staring in horror at one of the bottles. While most of the bottles glowed various shades of orange, white, blue, or whatever color corresponded to the Faerie they contained, this one glowed an odd mix of brown, green, and smoky purple.

      "Oh, no," breathed the Queen. "Some idiot put Jhudora and Illusen in the same bottle!"

      "Should we open it?" asked Roshen innocently, reaching for the bottle with one tentacle.

      "No!" said the Queen sharply. Roshen jerked back, startled. "Those two hated each other passionately," she continued in a more gentle tone. "Frankly, I don't want to see what they've been doing, stuck with each other for the last few decades."

      "We've got to leave now," said Astral, looking around at the shelves full of bottles. "Will you be all right here? There will probably be more guards coming soon."

      The Queen turned to look at her. "Young Lutari," she said regally, "I am the Queen of the Faeries. I will be fine. I would be fine if Emperor Sloth himself slithered through that door with a thousand legions of Mutants behind him. You most certainly do not need to worry about me. Now get out of here - when those guards do come, you should be gone already." She smiled at the five Neopets in front of her, then added, "and tell those two out in the corridor that they are much braver than most of the people I've met - and I've been around for longer than you could imagine. That will be all."

      Astral didn't even stop to ask how the Queen knew about Caralen and Samrindela. She simply bowed once - it seemed like the right thing to do, somehow - and led the other four out into the corridor.

      Samrindela met them as they walked out the door. Behind the tiny Kacheek was a large pile of moaning security guards. A few more were running away, screaming, down the corridor. Samrindela, her face returned to its usual calm, gave the five surprised Resistance members a satisfied smile and didn't say a word.

     * * *

      Between Samrindela's research on the Space Station and Akzanti's knowledge of mechanics, they were able to find the spaceship hangar without too much trouble. Caralen continued to do whatever she had been doing to the guards as she encountered them. Akzanti worked on his detransmogrification ray as they ran, fastening the blue paintbrush firmly into its space in the small machine. "Well, it's finished," he said eventually, panting as he ran. "All it needs now is a power source - a big one - and it'll be ready to reverse any mutation you want reversed."

      "Good job, Akzanti," said Astral, dodging a guard lying on the floor. "Keep it safe."

      The spaceship hangar was normally crawling with guards. At the moment, though, most of them were busy chasing the Resistance through the Space Station. It was easy for Caralen and Trevor to knock out the few that remained. In just a few minutes, they had reached the ship they had arrived in.

     * * *

      "Your Superb Elevated Ingenious Imperial Majesty," said a tall, dark Blumaroo, walking respectfully towards the Emperor, "the rebels have reached the spaceship hangar."

      "What is your point?" asked the Emperor, not bothering to look at the Blumaroo. "They shall be caught, shall they not?"

      "I am afraid, your Superb Elevated Ingenious Imperial Majesty, there is a chance that they might not," said the Blumaroo. At this, the Emperor did turn to stare at him with the rage of one who is accustomed to always getting his way. The Blumaroo gulped and continued before the Emperor could speak. "The guards have been strangely ineffective against them. Due to this unprecedented evasion of our security systems, the rebels now classify as a level three security threat. The standard evacuation of the Station is currently being completed; all personnel have left except the Imperial Fleet pilots, who are now on their way to the hangar. We have readied your personal ship as well, should you wish to leave the Station until the threat has been neutralized."

      By now, the Emperor's face had turned a strange shade of purplish green. "Leave the Station?" he screamed at the Blumaroo. "I am the Emperor, ruler of the entire world of Neopia! I will most certainly not run away from my own Space Station because a few little escaped criminals get lucky! You and all the rest of the cowards on this Station can run away if you're too scared to stay here and see them get slaughtered, but I am staying right here to watch the fun! Now get out before I have you shoved out the airlock!"

      The Blumaroo got out. He said not a word to anyone he passed in the rapidly emptying Space Station. Within minutes, he had gotten into his own personal ship and was out of the Station before he could even start to worry about the what the Emperor would say if the rebels really were defeated. Or, for that matter, about what might happen if they actually managed to do something.

      The Blumaroo never looked back as he flew away from the Space Station. If he had, he might have seen a cloud of rainbow colors emerging from an open airlock behind him. Faeries, after all, are immortal and can survive perfectly well without air. The starry blue one in the front could almost have lived in space, she flew so easily in the vacuum. They were far from the Station in nearly no time at all.

      The Emperor remained on the Space Station. He watched gleefully as the pilots of the Imperial Fleet, even stronger and nastier than the security guards, began to flood into the spaceship hangar to which the Resistance had fled. They would crush the rebels in a matter of seconds.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Encountering Resistance: Part One
» Encountering Resistance: Part Two
» Encountering Resistance: Part Three
» Encountering Resistance: Part Four
» Encountering Resistance: Part Five
» Encountering Resistance: Part Six
» Encountering Resistance: Part Seven
» Encountering Resistance: Part Nine



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