A House, A Home: Part One
The three girls stepped off the transport into the clean brightness of the Kreludor City hangar. The first was a tall Darigan Ixi, hair swept back into many tiny braids. The second was a shorter desert Kyrii lugging a few suitcases and a backpack. Finally, there came a royal Acara, who held a tiny baby Xweetok in her arms. All four wore space suits, and gaped with the air of people who had clearly never left the surface of Neopia before. The Ixi girl turned to the Kyrii. “Juju, I need to see the map.”
Jujisu knelt down and started going through the backpack as the Acara comforted the baby, who had woken up and was starting to cry, confused by all the noise around her. “Shhh, shhh, it’s okay, Nally, it’s okay.”
“Here’s the map, Edda!”
Edda took the map from her little sister and started to read. “Okay. We’re going to head to... the east gate of Kreludor City. There’ll be a ship heading out to the settlement we’re going to. Two hours on that, and we’ll get a small hovercraft to take us to the house. We get to keep the hovercraft... that’s part of the offer.”
The Acara sniffed. “That’s because this place is so desolate that they have to sweeten the pot a whole bunch to get anyone to buy a house here.”
“Marielle, there’s open space here, which is a lot more than you can say for Neopia Central. Come on! It’s a whole new life – a splendid adventure story – four sisters moving to the moon!”
“I wanted to go to Meridell.”
Edda frowned. “We told you the problem with that. They still don’t like Darigan pets there much.”
“But that’s where my color fits in. I’m a royal Acara – I belong in Meridell or Brightvale!”
“According to that reasoning, I belong in the Citadel, Juju belongs in the desert, and we shouldn’t be sisters at all. Remember that I told you that you could decorate the house.”
Marielle smiled at the thought, and they started to walk through the giant corridors of Kreludor City. They were almost to the east gate when Juju stopped dead. “Edda... you might want to take a look at this...”
“This” was two large posters on the wall. Several other people were gathered around. One bore a picture of a pink Aisha... the name underneath was Sophix. The other was of a grayish Blumaroo – Commander Garoo. They all recognized the names from the battle with Sloth last year. Edda winced. They had both escaped from prison in the Space Station and were at large. Marielle whimpered, “I knew this was a bad idea...”
Edda forced a smile onto her face. She couldn’t let them see that she was just as scared of Sloth’s minions as they were. “You guys, Marielle said herself that our new home is in the middle of nowhere. We’re far away from Kreludor City or the Mining Corp... anywhere that had to do with Sloth. We’ll never hear about them again until we get the news that they’re safely behind bars.”
Edda sighed softly as she led the way to the ship. Eighteen was too young to be taking care of sixteen-year-old Marielle, thirteen-year-old Juju, and one-year-old Nally.
Mom, help me to take care of them. Help me to do the best I can. Help me to make a good life for them here – so far from Neopia Central.
The ship they were on was just about empty – the settlement of Crater Valley didn’t get a lot of traffic. It was truly the end of the line... no major exports, no tourist value, only a third-rate Kreludite mine.
Juju was trying to read one of the books she had brought with her, but she kept being distracted. There was the fantastic cratered landscape outside, for one, and the beautiful blue-and-green orb that was Neopia hanging in the sky. She could see the shapes of the continents – there, there was where Neopia Central would be, far too small to be seen.
So close... yet so very far. We’ll probably never see Central again. For making new beginnings, this is a pretty good place to go.
“Here we are! Crater Valley!”
Marielle groaned as she stood up – Nally’s weight had caused her legs to fall asleep. Edda stretched – uncomfortable after sitting for three hours. She looked out at their new home, taking a deep breath so she could get enough oxygen in the thinner air. The houses were fairly small and boxy, all either orange or purple, as most things on Kreludor were. The people, as expected, were mostly Grundos, but there was a mix of other species as well.
Edda stretched her wings out, and flew up for ten feet or so. Flying was easy here, since the gravity was so light. Marielle looked around. “Over there!”
There was a small, grey, battered hovercraft sitting at the edge of the platform. There was a note taped to the side. “For Edda and family. Welcome to Kreludor.”
The other people had gotten off the transport. It took off and turned around, headed back to the city. Edda forced a grin onto her face. “Well, there’s no going back now. Load up!”
They sped over the streets of the town and into the outskirts, as Marielle’s face grew more and more dismayed. “We’re not just in the middle of nowhere... we’re in the middle of nowhere’s middle of nowhere!”
There was a twenty-minute span where they didn’t see any houses at all. Even Juju asked, “Are you sure you didn’t make a wrong turn?”
Just as the Kyrii was ready to take the directions from her older sister and check them, they pulled around a hill and Edda said, “Here we are.”
The house was a little square orange structure. There was no garden or any attempt to tame the wild moon surface around it – the only other structures were a garage next to the house and a garden shed a little up the hill. But they were so tired from the two days of travel since they left Central that even Marielle would have been fine with a cardboard box.
Edda opened the door. Suddenly, as her expectation turned to dismay, she felt much more awake.
The walls were white. The floor was grey concrete. It was all one room, except for a tiny corner cut off as the bathroom. The small amount of green starter furniture was not nearly enough to be comfortable and only looked pathetic.
Marielle froze. “One chair. One bed. A lamp and an end table. A rug, a sofa, and a table. That’s not even enough seating for all of us!”
Edda sighed. “Looks like we’ve got work to do. Marielle, what do you want me to fetch from the depot? I’ll go there and pick up food and furniture while you guys unpack.”
“Get as much as we can afford – we need everything! Oh, if only we could have brought some things from the apartment... there’s not even a dresser! And one room!”
Edda walked back out to the hovercraft as Marielle bossed Juju around. She wished she had known... they might not all have a place to sleep tonight as it was right now. Oh, please let them have cheap beds... and a trailer so I can get all we need back here.
As Juju dragged the furniture around, Marielle walked around outside. She wondered what plants could be grown in this rocky ground and thin air...
She looked in the garden shed. Nothing. It was completely empty. I’ll work on the inside of the house first. Oh, sweet Fyora, we have so much work to do!
That night, they had a few more pieces of mismatched furniture to go in the house... the big room still felt empty, but they all had places to sit and places to sleep. Marielle forced herself to put up with the disorder, knowing that as long as nothing matched, it all looked okay together. Painting the walls would be hard, but if she could get some posters and some rugs for the floor, it could all work out nicely.
She fell asleep planning.
Outside the house, two figures stole through, a man and a woman. The woman smiled. “You worry too much, Garoo. I watched them move in... three children and a baby. No danger to us at all.”
Garoo frowned. “I haven’t forgotten the stories – two children were the ones who snuck onto Sloth’s ship and imprisoned him within the token. Sophix, we must assume that they can be a threat.”
Sophix tossed her hair. “Our scanners show that the drills in Crater Valley will soon hit a large vein of Kreludite. If our forces can take over by then, we’ll have enough to rebuild the fleet. The last ships are still out in space, looking for the remains of the ship and the token that imprisons our master. When he returns, he’ll praise bravery, not shrinking and acting like a baby Xweetok is a threat.”
“I wasn’t saying that the Xweetok is a threat!”
“Well, stop worrying and follow me.”
They both stole into the garden shed on the hill. Garoo lifted a patch of the floor, and they both climbed down an iron ladder into the fortress hidden in the earth.
To be continued...