Witches Further Abroad: Part Four
Consider the intruder as he walks rigidly through the corridors of the moon base. He imitates a robot perfectly; he has studied them enough. Passers by barely even notice him as he stalks down the corridors purposefully. He reaches his destination and looks around, checking that no one is nearby. Then, he removes the robot covering from his head, and the black Wain jumps out. The figure lifts the Petpet to a nearby grill, and opens it.
“You know what you need to do,” the figure whispers.
The Wain nods obediently, and then trots into the darkness of the ventilation shaft.
Captain K was a skilled pilot, docking the escape pod with the moon base airlock went as smoothly as the witches could have hoped for. The doors slid back, and they were greeted by the face of a Grundo in armour.
“We saw the blast from here. Are you the only survivors?” he asked, not bothering with introductions.
“Ah, Zarex,” Captain K replied happily as he stepped out, “the rest of the pods were sent down to Neopia. We came to find out who shot us down.”
“We thought it came from our side, most likely the meteor fields, we think. Follow me,” he replied.
Without another word he turned and marched off down the corridor. Captain K was behind him, and Grimilix followed bewildered in his wake. The three witches exchanged glances.
“People in foreign parts have got bad manners,” Morguss muttered as they set off after Grimilix.
Zarex led them down the polished metallic corridors of the moon base to a large room that apparently served as a control centre. A handful of uniformed Neopets bustled around the various screens that blinked and pulsed in ways that were equally various.
“This is the Command Centre; from here we monitor all the activity on Kreludor,” Zarex told them. “We picked up the energy discharge when it happened. I can assure you it was unauthorised.”
“Why do you need to monitor Kreludor?” Sophie asked. “I thought you people were at peace?”
“Well, we are,” Zarex told her, “but by common consensus we keep tight security to ensure Dr. Sloth can never sneak in and enslave our people again.”
“Have you sent out a search party?” Captain K asked, studying a large display that was projecting a holographic version of Kreludor into the middle of the room.
“We were just about to,” Zarex told him. “You would be welcome to join us, of course.”
Captain K nodded.
“You may find this fellow useful,” the Captain said while gesturing to Grimilix. “He’s a programmer from the station. We may also want to take the witches.”
“No,” the witches chorused.
“You aren’t getting me outside,” Morguss said forcefully. “I’ve heard stories about space funguses-”
“Fungi,” Grimilix corrected her.
Morguss glared at him, and the Grundo shrank back behind Captain K.
“As I was saying,” she continued, “I’ve heard stories about space fungi funguses attacking people and sucking out their brains.”
“I might do myself a mischief tripping over a rock,” Edna told the room in general, “on account of my painful arthritis.”
To illustrate a laboured point, she clutched her foot and made a theatrical groaning noise. By a process of elimination, eyes turned to Sophie.
“Oh all right then,” she said under pressure, “but if any Fungi funguses, space or otherwise, suck out my brains, I shall personally curse every single one of you.”
“Very good,” Captain K said gladly. “Shall we get going?”
“While I am away, Lieutenant Zenglod will be in charge,” he said. “Address him if you have any concerns.”
Zarex introduced a small green Grundo in a uniform. A small blue Wain was sat on his shoulder. Sophie’s face fell.
“Zenglod!” Zarex shouted, “What have I told you about bringing your Petpet to work?”
“Sorry, sir; won’t happen again, sir,” Zenglod replied while saluting. The Wain toppled backwards onto the floor.
Sophie grabbed the other witches by the hems of their robes and dragged them back into a corner.
“The Fortune Teller warned me to be wary of a man with a Wain,” she whispered.
“That Fortune Teller is a loon,” Morguss replied. “Everyone knows that.”
“Still, we’d best be sure,” Edna whispered. “We’ll deal with that Grundo while you are out.”
“Are you ready, Sophie?” Captain K asked.
Sophie nodded, and left the room with Zarex, Grimilix and the Captain.
Morguss and Edna whispered hurriedly to each other for a few minutes before approaching the small Grundo.
“Mr. Zenglod?” Edna asked frailly.
“Lieutenant Zenglod,” the Grundo corrected her.
“Yes, I’m sure,” Edna said irritably. “I don’t suppose you could show us the way to the toilet, could you? We are but simple old ladies and all this excitement seems to have taken its toll on our...”
She leaned in closer.
“...constitution,” she finished.
Zenglod visibly blushed beneath his green skin.
“Yes, I’m sure we can find someone to help you with that,” he said, looking around for the nearest hapless Ensign.
“No,” Edna said stealthily as she grabbed his arm and locked it tightly under hers, “I think you will do just fine.”
Zenglod began to protest. He might have succeeded if Morguss had not appeared on his other side and claimed his other arm.
“I’m bursting,” she declared to the world at large.
Then in perfect harmony they frogmarched Zenglod out of the door. Unnoticed to the baffled officers in the command centre, a small button began to flash red in a corner.
“So who’s this Zarex bloke?” Sophie asked Grimilix as the search party made their way to the outer airlock.
“Oh, he’s more or less the head of Kreludor security now,” Grimilix explained, “He was part of the top secret Section Six during the civil war. Since then he’s protected Kreludor against lots of invasions, Xarthab and Zorlix appointed him chief of security personally.”
“What do you mean more or less?” Sophie asked.
“Oh, Kreludor isn’t officially run by anyone now...” Grimilix told her, “People just tend to find a job they want to do and do it.”
Zarex stopped near a heavily built door and entered a code on a keypad attached to the wall. The doors slid open with a jet of smoke, and Zarex stood aside.
“We have a different air pressure inside the moon base to the rest of the moon,” he explained to Sophie as she stepped inside the airlock along with Grimilix and Captain K.
Zarex followed her, and tapped another panel inside the airlock, which caused the doors to close. There was a faint humming noise, and Sophie’s ears popped. The outside door then opened, revealing the moonscape beyond.
Zarex stepped out first, followed by the Captain, Grimilix and finally Sophie gingerly stepped out.
“Current gravity should be 22% of what you are used to,” Zarex told her.
Sophie felt strange, slightly lighter than she was used to. It didn’t sit right with her.
“Let’s get on with this,” she muttered.
“Yes, we are wasting valuable time,” Captain K agreed.
Zarex led them across the surface of the moon. The quality of the air soon became apparent, as Sophie became out of breath after only a few hundred paces. The entrance to the Kreludor mines could be seen on the horizon as they passed onto the dark side of the moon. The temperature plummeted instantly, and Zarex lit a flare to show them the way.
“This is known as the meteor fields, hundreds of them impact here daily,” Zarex explained.
“Are we safe?” Sophie asked.
“Safer than being on the space station,” Grimilix told her.
Zarex came to an abrupt stop.
“Our scans indicated that the energy beam came from this vicinity,” he told the rest of them.
The four of them split up to search for any evidence.
“Here it is, ladies,” Zenglod told the witches.
Edna stared at the sign at the toilet door.
“Why thank you, young man,” she replied kindly.
She smiled brightly, and Zenglod heard a dull thump as Morguss hit him over the head. Zenglod fell forwards, sending the blue Wain flying into a wall.
“What did you hit him with?” Edna asked as she picked the Grundo up, putting one arm over her shoulder.
Morguss held up a small length of metal with a kink in it.
“Where did you get that?” Edna asked.
“You never know when a length of metal might come in handy,” Morguss said, opening the toilet door for Edna.
“You keep stuff like that on you?” Edna asked.
“You mean you never wondered why I wear such a lot of robes?” Morguss asked rhetorically.
The witches deposited the unconscious Zenglod and his Petpet in the toilet and closed the door firmly. Morguss put the strip of metal through the handle, locking it tight.
“Just what else do you keep inside your robes?” Edna asked.
She watched in astonishment as Morguss produced a wand, a hat, a Neoquest board game, five handkerchiefs, an impressive collection of pins, and a full tea set.
A tall Grundo wearing robot casing walked past jerkily.
“You know,” Edna said thoughtfully, “if we hadn’t just apprehended the villain, I’d say that Grundo that just passed us dressed up like a robot was awfully suspicious.”
“Nah,” Morguss said as she repacked her various belongings. “Foreign types always act weird. Maybe he was going to a fancy dress party.”
“I’ve found something!” Sophie called in the darkness.
The others were there within moments. Sophie was standing in front of what was quite obviously a large plasma cannon. It glowed quietly, and was pointed up towards the space station. Grimilix rushed forward and began to examine it.
“This looks like a model 4X1, Supernova edition... but it can’t be,” he muttered to himself.
“Why?” Captain K asked.
“None of them were ever made; Sloth never approved the final designs for construction. Only the designers and him were aware of it,” Grimilix explained.
“Well, someone seems to have made one...” the Captain replied.
“Why would a programmer attack the station...?” Grimilix thought aloud. “... Unless... is Rylon still here?”
“How do you know that name?” Zarex asked accusingly.
“Rylon was a programmer on the station. Dr. Sloth had him relocated to Kreludor just before the Space Faerie got rid of him the first time,” Grimilix answered. “How do you know him?”
“Rylon was the name of a war criminal, he sided with Sloth during the rebellion,” Zarex explained. “We dealt with him the same way we did with all war criminals; we ejected him in an escape pod into deep space.”
“Well, aside from me, a few other programmers who are on the station, and Rylon, no one else knows the blueprints for this weapon,” Grimilix told him.
“I’ve found something else,” Sophie said from a short way away.
The other three crowded round. It was a meteor, perfectly cut in half. Or at least, it appeared to be at first. On closer inspection, it had a metal interior.
“An escape pod,” Grimilix said, “covered in frost from space.”
“Rylon is back,” Zarex confirmed.
“Why didn’t Sloth approve it?” Captain K asked from the cannon.
“Oh,” Grimilix said absent-mindedly, “there were issues with the power cell; it overloaded and eventually exploded, destroying a large radius.”
“Destroying a large radius?” Sophie asked.
“I’m sure Rylon will have worked out the kinks,” Grimilix told her.
“We have to get back to the moon base,” Captain K said, “If this Rylon did this, he could be planning something there.”
“The moon base is safe,” Zarex told him, “In the event of a security breach, full control is given to the commander, or in this case acting commander.”
“You mean that Zenglod bloke?” Sophie asked.
“Yes, he’s perfectly capable,” Zarex replied.
“Ah,” Sophie admitted, “Edna and Morguss might have knocked him out.”
To be continued...