Starlight Invasion: Keeping Secrets - Part Three
A few hours had passed since lunch, but I didn't feel like
going to my classes. I lay on my bed, staring at the stars outside the window.
The door was locked from the inside, so Dar and Starie couldn't get in until I
left. And that was how I wanted it to be.
I wished that I could be outside, flying among
the stars. I wished that I could be anywhere but on the cadet base, even that
I hadn't ever come to Kreludor. I wished that Lady Mianne hadn't ever come to
the Adoption Centre looking for pets to train. If she hadn't come, I would still
have been there, still lonely, but always with a hope of better things. Now
that hope seemed to have faded away, and the only thing I could look forward
to was graduating from the cadet academy and flying away from here.
There was a knock at my door. I looked out hesitantly,
but the visitor was only Nellenne, holding a small white envelope in her paw.
"Maylaura, I wondered if you might be here," she explained. "You weren't in
your classes this afternoon. You aren't ill, are you?"
"Homesick," I managed. It was the truth, in a
way. There'd been enough deception.
"Oh, dear," she sighed, genuinely worried. "You
had best get over that, my dear. The new cadet group will be arriving in a week,
so some of the better trainees will have to move to the base at Star City. Maybe
you should take some time to practise with your friends." Remembering why she
had come, she set the envelope on the bed. "One of the other cadets sent this
up for you. Can't remember her name."
"Thanks." I nodded weakly. Nellenne bustled out
of the room, closing the door behind her. Catching my reflection in the mirror,
I sighed. She had had good reason to think I was ill; I hadn't looked so bad
since my first day at the Adoption Centre.
Lifting the tiny white envelope in one paw, I
slit it open.
Inside was a beautiful drawing. A little yellow
Shoyru was seated by a window, looking up at a starry sky outside. In a neat,
careful hand I didn't recognise, someone had written words below.
I wish I could be what I was
when I wished I could be what I am.
I turned the card over and over, but there was
no name, no indication of who had sent the drawing or why.
Someone on the cadet base knew how I was feeling.
Someone had seen straight through my defences, into my heart and all my secrets.
I didn't think it could be Starie, with her constant breezy optimism. But I
had no other real friends on the base, and I stared at the card trying to think
who would be able to judge me so well.
I wish I could be what I was
when I wished I could be what I am.
My mind returned to Nellenne's words. Some of
us would be flying away from this place, in just a few days. Perhaps, if I practised
well enough, I would be among them. I'd get to leave all of this behind and
make another new start, without Dar or Starie or anyone.
Out of nowhere, my hope for the future was returning.
"Get out of the way! I can't see!"
For once, the cadets on lunch break had no time
for their food. Pets were jostling one another in the corridor, trying to catch
a glimpse of the already creased paper that Nellenne had pinned to the wall.
A white Aisha squealed in delight, hugging her Kiko friend in enthusiasm. "We're
both on the list! We're going to Star City!"
"Let me through!" I took off at a run, flapping
over the heads of the crowd to see the list. Slowly, almost disbelievingly,
I read it.
"I'm not going..."
It was no mistake. My name, for all my training,
was nowhere to be seen on the list. I tried to stop my eyes filling with tears;
I'd worked so hard for this. Last night, I'd even fallen asleep in the holographic
lab, my head resting on the simulator controls. And now all that effort had
come to nothing.
But Starie's name was there, somewhere towards
the end. My heart leapt for a moment. Perhaps, if I brought her the news, Starie
would be happy enough to talk to me for a while, instead of Dar. Perhaps we
could be friends again.
I didn't see Dar or Starie in the crowd, and
the cafeteria was deserted. Pushing my way past the excited cadets, I flapped
my way back to our room complex, shoving the door open in my haste to get to
"Starbethanie? You're on the- "
No-one was there.
Dar's suitcase was lying on the bed. It looked
as though a few items had been snatched up hurriedly, leaving most of her books
and belongings behind. A dusty circle on her bedside table was all that remained
of her Airax's cage, and her bedcovers lay on the floor as though she'd been
in too much of a hurry to make the bed. On Starie's side of the room, there
was no such disorganisation; her own bedclothes were neatly folded, and her
suitcases were gone without trace.
"Starie! Dar? Starie- " I ran through the base,
asking cadet after cadet whether they'd seen my roommates. No-one had. The trainers
hadn't noticed their absence, but they'd been missing from all the morning's
classes. By now, the others were beginning to gossip.
"I bet Starie's owner came back for her when
he found out his little girl was getting her fur messed up..."
"Dar's probably decided the teachers are way
too stupid for her. That Gelert always had her nose in a book."
Starie's disappearance was worrying them. Dar's,
less so. It seemed no-one had cared much for my roommate's cold manner and sarcastic
As for me, I couldn't help thinking of my own
theory, like a cold dagger to my heart.
Dar had told Starie that I wasn't a celebrity
It seemed the only explanation.
After that, it wasn't hard to imagine what would
have happened. Starie had been upset beyond words, horrified by my deception,
and Dar, as smooth and unruffled as ever, had sweetly offered to take her home-
because, after all, why would Starie want to spend another day around a liar
If I hadn't tried so hard to keep my abandonment
a secret... The voices in my head were mocking and cruel. If I hadn't been so
afraid of that evil, evil girl Dar...
By evening, the chosen cadets had taken off on
the shuttle to Star City. With half the trainees gone, the Kreludan base felt
empty and much too large for my liking. I wandered from room to room, feeling
that it would be comforting even to hear one of Dar's acid remarks.
It's all my fault. The thought was too strong
to leave alone. Without waiting for supper, I climbed into bed and cried, again,
for the loss of my best friend.
I drifted out of sleep, hoping to see a familiar
Nellenne smiled down at me. "Maylaura? You might
want to see the new cadets arriving, I thought. One of them might be sharing
your room, now that your two friends seem to have moved out."
New cadets? I jumped out of bed and ran
to the arrival port.
Sure enough, a new shipload of pets was spilling
out into the light, holding suitcases and toys in their paws and wings. One
little pet caught my eye; a small Ixi, staring not at the strange gloominess
of Neopia's moon, but at the huge complex beneath its permanently starry sky.
She didn't have the enormous suitcases that some of the other pets carried,
just a Super Springy Poogle trailing from one hoof. My heart went out to her
at once, but I wouldn't be able to meet her for a while. She would have her
training to go to, and her fellow cadets to meet.
Once the shuttle was empty, I checked no-one
was looking before sneaking out of the building. It wasn't impossible that some
of the richer cadets might have dropped their belongings in the shuttle; careless
and decadent pets rarely cared for the occasional plushie or fur-brush that
got left behind. My own Meerca toy had been my rich cousin's before she decided
she didn't need it any longer, back when I still had cousins, siblings, a family
of my own. Before everyone I got attached to seemed destined to leave me.
Sure enough, a gold bracelet lay on the landing
field. I slipped it onto my paw and tiptoed to the shuttle.
The lights in the little spaceship were turned
off. I knew I shouldn't be here, but I had to find some new possessions. I couldn't
let my... my next best friend find out that I was a homeless Neopet.
This time, without Dar to ruin everything, I might just make it work.
"Oh, yes," I practiced under my breath. "Maylaura.
As the light flickered on above my head, I gasped.
Lying huddled in the corner of the shuttle, her
eyes closed, was a rainbow Uni with a tangled mane, wearing a torn dress. Wrapped
in her forelegs was a birdcage, where a blue Airax watched me with suspicious
"Starie?" I whispered, creeping closer. "Oh,
what has that Gelert done to you?"
There was a click. The wire door of the birdcage
swung open, and the Airax stuck out its neck to offer me a carefully folded
"Huh?" I opened the paper. "A letter? For...
It seemed as if I'd seen the handwriting before
somewhere as I read.
By now, you will have noticed that I'm gone.
I am sorry I left without warning, and that I most probably won't be back any
time soon. I was afraid this would have to happen at some point.
Maylaura, once I told you that everything
in our world might be nothing but an illusion. If you like, that's true.
A few months ago, two Neopets- a silver Uni
and a Kiko-- went missing while exploring Kreludor. One of them we found without
too much trouble. He was trying to talk his way into Star City, in a stolen
spacecraft. The reports said he'd been subjected to some kind of mind control.
It was my job to find the other.
That Neopet was your friend, Starbethanie.
I stared at the Uni lying asleep in the corner,
her forelegs still curled around the birdcage.
Starbethanie's job was to infiltrate the Neopian
Defence Force, with a new rainbow coat and a new manner, disguised as an ordinary
trainee cadet. She had to ask the key questions that would help her report back
to her leader, and you proved to be a perfect target for those questions. I
had to scare you away from her while still holding onto her trust.
When Starie vanished from her room a couple
of days ago, I thought I was too late. I was lucky enough to guess her destination
and get to the landing bay of her spaceship before her little shuttle did. The
drug I've given her has just about cancelled out the control he had over her
mind, but unfortunately I can't fit the both of us in my one-pet ship, and her
own shuttle is out of fuel. I guess you could say I'm in trouble, Maylaura.
Never mind. I've come through worse, and it'll take more than being stuck on
a space station to stop me.
I'm giving this note to my Airax. Bethan will
take him with her and try her best to get back to you. I can only hope she makes
it. Despite everything she's been through, she is a brave little Uni. Take care
Keep your courage, Maylaura, and don't give
up. One day, you'll be the pride of Lady Mianne's forces. As a great writer
once said, there are no stars brighter than the light that shines from a Neopet's
pure heart. And if memories are the only place where we ever meet again, I hope
they only ever bring you happiness.
Watching you across the stars,
I looked up from the letter, tears falling onto
the crumpled page. Starbethanie gazed back at me, her dark eyes filled with
worry and sadness. She must have woken while I was reading.
"Starie? Do you know where you are?" I asked
"My name was never Starie. Call me Bethan." Hanging
her head, she turned her eyes away from me. "Yes, I know. Dar took away that
thing that was inside my head... but I can't forget what's happened. Maylaura...
I lied to you. I'm sorry."
I could almost hear Dar's voice, firm but gentle.
No more secrets.
"I was never who you thought I was myself," I
told her, helping her to her hooves. "I'm not the famous Maylaura of Altador,
that's for sure. I've never been out of Neopia Central in my life."
"My owner..." Bethan was trembling. "I tried
to contact him, but he'd taken my brother and gone away. He didn't have time
for a traitor to Neopia, he said." She choked back a sob, taking a long breath
of the cold, thin air. "I'm ownerless, now."
"We both are," I said distantly, folding the
paper and giving it back to the Airax. "There's a lot I have to tell you, Bethan."
"Can we..." She picked up the birdcage, holding
it close as if it was a magical charm. "Maylaura, can we... be friends? Even
"C'mon, Bethan," I said, wrapping my wings around
her. "You can't stay out here all night. Let's get you inside and I'll find
you something else to wear."
She didn't move. I took her hoof, guiding her
back to the base.
"Don't cry, Bethan. Don't. I'm here. And Dar
is watching you, wherever she is." As I spoke the words, I realised I believed
them. There was no time for deception. "You know she always will."
I wish I could be what I was when I wished I
could be what I am.
Dar must have written that. Now, I knew, it was
true. I wished I was still that silly little Shoyru who thought there was nothing
to the world but friendships and childish rivalry. I wished I still thought
I was the only one who tried to outsmart the world. But there was no use in
Bethan and the Airax were mine to take care of.
Neopia itself was mine to take care of. And for one brave, misunderstood Gelert's
sake, I was going to try.
There would be no more time for keeping secrets.
Dedicated to a Neopet I'll always miss, mine forever in my imagination.
Memories and stories are the only place we'll ever meet, but in my heart you'll
always be among the stars, Darieto.