Blue's Way: Part Nine
As Blue neared the doors, they swung slowly open. The two Neopets pushing them from the inside made anxious salutes to their leader, recoiling when he irritably snarled in answer. They started to close the doors behind him when they noticed Fura and Rei, still just outside of the doorway. In an effort to do something right, one of them quickly called out for the two girls to state their names and business.
Blue immediately swung on the Neopet with a roar. “Foolish imbecile! They came to the door with me, did they not? Obviously you have no need to question them! Or did you think that they were snipers, sneaking up to attack me from behind? I am not stupid, lowly soldier! I suppose that you thought I did not know they were there!” Blue raised a paw, exposing five needle-sharp black claws.
The Neopet at the door cringed. “No, no!” He cried. “I wasn’t thinking- I’m just a soldier- I didn’t know-”
Blue lowered his paw. “Make sure that it never happens again,” he spat.
“Yes, O great General-”
Blue turned and stalked away. Fura and Rei, having entered through the doorway by this time, hurried after him. As she neared him, Fura thought she could spot a trace of sadness and disgust for himself upon his face. “It’s not your fault, Blue,” she murmured under her breath. As if he could hear her, his ears twitched and he glanced at her. She thought that she saw a glimmer of a grateful smile upon his face before it hardened back into its cruel mask. She dropped back next to his flank, the proper place for a lowly soldier when walking with her general. Her eyes met those of Rei’s on the other side of Blue’s body, and they shared a worried glance.
* * *
They walked for several more minutes through virtually empty silver hallways. The few pets they did meet saluted hastily and rushed away as soon as Blue stalked past them, dismissing them with a flick of his tail. Eventually they turned onto a smaller passageway, about ten feet wide instead of the main corridor’s twenty feet.
“So... where are we going?” Rei ventured quietly at last.
“To the heart of the headquarters- the development and operation room.”
They had walked in silence for a moment longer when Fura suddenly let out a gasp, which she quickly muffled.
“What is it?” Blue asked sharply, swinging around and scanning the hall.
“Nothing,” she muttered in embarrassment. “I just caught sight of my reflection in the metal on the wall, and it startled me. It was distorted because the wall is curved, and I didn’t recognize it as my own. I suppose I thought we were about to be attacked.”
They walked on, but an instant later Rei shrieked as a magnified voice resounded. In an instant Blue was at her side with a hand clamped over her mouth. When he was sure that she was calm again, he released her.
“What is that?” she asked in a low voice.
“It’s an intercom. It’s used to project a Neopet’s voice for the sake of giving announcements.”
“What’s it saying?”
They listened. “MEMBERS OF THE SUPERIOR PAINTED ONES, SOON THE WORLD WILL BE OURS! OUR TIME OF TRIUMPH IS NEAR!”
The intercom clicked off. The two girls sighed in unison and attempted to loosen up their muscles.
“You must relax,” Blue soothed them. “I know that this is your first mission, but you must learn to act nonchalant.”
Fura and Rei stifled their fears and the three continued to pad down the gleaming silver hall, almost noiselessly except for the click of Blue’s long, sharp claws. They didn’t see any other pets, which after a time began to unsettle Rei.
“Isn’t it rather- well, suspicious that we haven’t seen anybody else the entire time we’ve been in this corridor?” she whispered tightly.
“Not at all,” came Blue’s casual answer. “On the contrary, it’s quite reassuring.”
“Reassuring!” the Acara repeated. “For all we know, the entire organization is at the end of this hallway, waiting to ambush us!”
Blue glanced towards the girls with and amused smile on his face, but dropped it quickly when he saw how alarmed Rei and Fura were. “Yes, reassuring,” he replied soothingly. “This hallway leads to a single room, to which only the leaders- the generals- of the SPO have access. Nobody but Zalatu or I is ever down this way.”
“Okay...” Fura said slowly. “So you’re fine, but what about Rei and I?”
“We’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope we don’t meet anyone,” calmed Blue. Unfortunately, his words had the opposite effect from what he had intended.
“Keep our fingers crossed! Blue, what happens if we do meet somebody?”
“Ah... um... if they don’t find out that you aren’t SPO members, you will be punished severely unless you can talk yourselves out of it- you can just say that I ordered you to come here. Of course, Zalatu will probably be furious at me, but I’m his equal so he can’t really do much besides shout himself hoarse. If they do find out that you two aren’t SPO members, my memory will be erased completely and I’ll be dropped off at the pound so that I can’t possibly hinder the SPO’s plans. As for you guys, let’s just say that Sloth’s mind control machine is painless. The SPO’s mind control machine... isn’t.”
“Great,” came Rei’s glum reply. “Just perfect.”
“Well,” Fura sighed, “We may as well keep moving. It’s probably no safer out here than it is in the development and operation room.”
They walked around a bend in the passageway, and Blue nodded his head at something up ahead. “There it is.”
Fura and Rei studied the entryway up ahead. The large opening had no doors, but rather two heavy slabs of smoothly polished stone that slid closed to seal tightly.
“It looks like a good place for a trap,” Rei thought out loud.
Blue nodded. “Yes. But hopefully Zalatu won’t be there yet; after all, there’s still nearly an hour and a half to go until 12:00 a.m. NST.”
“But what if Zalatu knows that you’re coming to try to stop the SPO’s plan?” Fura inquired.
“Then we would have a problem. However, I can’t think of any way that he could know of the plan.”
They advanced towards the entrance and stepped through it. Immediately the stone slabs started to rumble and slide closed.
“Zalatu,” Blue greeted the Mutant Kougra calmly. “Is everything ready? Are the soldiers at their stations around Neopia yet?”
“Don’t play innocent with me, Blue,” the general snarled.
Blue spun towards the girls. “Go! Run!” He shouted, but Fura and Rei stood firm. A moment later the stone slabs shuddered shut and Zalatu released the lever that he had been holding.
Blue turned back to Zalatu, slowly this time. “How did you find out?” He asked evenly.
“Oh, don’t worry- none of your little Defender friends betrayed you. I found out by myself. The night after the meeting in the Woods, I followed you and watched you meet your charming little friends over there. I decided to stay a while to watch your little reunion, and I heard your very touching life story.” Zalatu’s voice turned into a sneer. “You thought me a fool!”
“Not a fool,” Blue corrected quietly. “Just half insane.”
Zalatu snarled, and leapt. Blue twisted to block the Mutant’s blow with his claws and teeth, but the general was not aiming at him. His jump took him off to the side of Blue, and in an instant the Blue Kougra saw what he was trying to do. He threw himself at Zalatu and pinned him down, shouting, “Fura! Rei! Grab that communicator! We can’t let him contact the invisible pets!”
Fura rushed for it and swiped off the counter on which it was lying. Meanwhile, Blue and Zalatu were tussling across the floor, raking at each other with their teeth and claws. Rei snarled viciously and, flying up into the air, attempted to dive bomb Zalatu. Alas, just as she came into reach Zalatu kicked up with both hind legs, throwing into a wall. She slid to the ground and lay stunned. Zalatu snarled and using the force of his kick sent Blue a blow that left him stumbling and shaking his head in confusion. The mad general turned and looked around, searching for the communicator. He spotted it in Fura’s paw and started towards her with a nasty grin. White-faced, the Wocky tried to back away, only to find that she was up against a wall. Suddenly, she saw the three Petpets fly into the room through a ventilation shaft in the ceiling!
“Jolonni! Catch!” she shouted, and flung the communicator as hard as she could. Zalatu leaped for it, but it was just out of his reach. Jolonni swooped and caught the communicator, then fled out of the room through the ventilation shaft. Zalatu slowly turned back to Fura. There was an ugly, murderous look on his face. He jumped at her, and Fura screamed. Abruptly Suncatcher and Riversurge flew in front of Zalatu’s face, scratching at his eyes. The Mutant Kougra struck out at them, but they refused to let him at Fura. Then Rei was there, slamming down hard on Zalatu’s neck. He collapsed to the floor under the added weight and shock. Then Blue was there, wrapping cords around the Mutant’s limbs and muzzle.
“It’s over, Zalatu,” Blue said firmly. “It’s over.”
* * *
Two weeks later, on a bright and sunny day, Fura, Rei and Blue were sitting in an audience in Neopia Central, listening to Judge Hog speak.
“...And so, ladies and gentlemen,” he was saying, “through all their hard work and skill, these three fine Neopets have saved Neopia!”
There was a roaring cheer as the two girls and Blue walked up on stage. “Congratulations,” said Judge Hog. “BluesKing186, I hold the highest respect and admiration for you that is possible. You have received from the Defenders of Neopia the highest honor that is available- the position of Lead Defender. Now you are one of the top ten Defenders that exist in Neopia. And to you girls,” he said, turning to Fura and Rei, “once you have finished Neoschool, you may come to the Defenders Headquarters. We will put you both into the best training course available, and in due time, you will be able to become Defenders of Neopia.”
The following cheers drowned out anything else Judge Hog might have had to say as Blue, Fura, and Rei ran together to give one big, bone-crushing hug.
“Forever together!” they shouted. Behind them, their Petpets called out their happy agreement. Fura and Rei turned to each other and whispered fiercely, “We’re going to go through life as Defenders- we’re going to go Blue’s way!”