A House, A Home: Part Two
Two weeks had passed. Edda flew the hovercraft home from her new job working at the depot, this time with a few new posters for the walls.
Marielle had been working hard to make their one little room feel like a whole home. She had used shelves and curtains to make bedrooms, carpets to make soft floors, and lots of personal touches and bright colors to make it feel cheerier.
She ran in to smell dinner cooking on the new stove. Juju grinned proudly. “I haven’t even burned anything!” Nally clapped and laughed.
Edda said wryly, “This time. Unlike last time. I’ve seen brown rice before, but never black rice.”
“Well, now I know that it needs a lot of water.”
After dinner, Juju went out with orders to clean dust out of the shed so it could be used to store plants and gardening supplies. She walked in, and banged her broom on the floor.
It made a hollow sound. Juju bent down. Was this piece of floor slightly darker than the rest? She felt around it and got her fingers in the grooves. She lifted it up.
A ladder led to a tunnel below. Juju’s heart raced. Adventure!
The cautious side of her paused. Should I tell Edda?
She quickly decided not to. She told herself it would be better to be able to tell Edda what was down there, not just that there was a ladder.
She grabbed her flashlight and headed down into the darkness.
She found herself in a dark corridor, sloping down. It was very smooth, and nothing branched out to the side. Definitely man-made. But who builds an underground hideout under a garden shed on the outskirts of Crater Valley? Something fishy is going on here...
Soon, Juju’s eyes caught light ahead. She switched off the flashlight, wary. She pressed herself against the wall as she crept forward.
The sight she saw made her freeze. It was a huge, round chamber, with several doors leading out in different directions. But it wasn’t the high-tech underground warren that scared her.
It was the Garoo Elite standing around each door. It was the giant image of Sloth tiled onto the ground. It was the loudspeaker blaring something about “successful mutations.”
It was Commander Garoo and Sophix standing in the center of it all.
Sweet Fyora. Two notorious Sloth minions are hiding in an underground lair beneath our shed. Sweet Fyora.
I need to get out of here right now.
Juju turned around quickly to run toward the exit. Too quickly. An alarm started screeching, “INTRUDER! INTRUDER! INTRUDER AT THE ENTRANCE!”
The Kyrii girl heard footsteps behind her – heavy boots clomping after her far, far faster than she was running. She hadn’t gotten ten yards before her arms were pinned behind her and she was half-dragged back into the big room.
Commander Garoo looked down at her with cruel eyes. “So, who would this be?”
Fear was half-choking her, but she managed to get out, “I... I live in the house up there... I was just looking in the shed... please let me go! I promise I won’t tell Edda!”
He smiled condescendingly. “As a practiced liar myself, I can tell you I don’t believe your promise one bit. You think it’ll be easy to whisper it to her in your own home. She can go to work and tell the Defenders of Neopia – all two of them that are stationed here,” he added, mocking her.
She tried not to show how scared she was, but he continued, “In fact, I think I need to go have... a talk... with your sister about letting children trespass where they aren’t wanted.”
He’s going to hurt Edda! “Please don’t! Don’t hurt them!”
“If they cooperate with me, they won’t suffer so much as a scratch.” He shouted some orders that Juju didn’t listen to... her mind was a whirl of despair.
How on earth are we going to get out of this alive?
Edda frowned. She had just called Juju in... silly girl wasn’t keeping track of time. She was about to go and look again when she heard a knock on the door.
It’s not Juju... she has a keycard.
The Ixi girl opened the door... and walked straight into the blaster aimed point-blank at her chest. She looked up in shock, to see the well-known red eyes of Commander Garoo looking down at her. She blinked, and quickly stepped backwards.
The commander smiled at her. “Now, don’t be so unfriendly. Invite us in!”
Two seconds – that was all it would take to slam and lock the door. But Garoo realized what she was thinking about. “I wouldn’t shut us out if I were you. We have your sister, after all.” He stepped back and pointed his blaster at Juju, who was pinned by two members of the notorious Garoo Elite, big brown eyes wide with fear. Sophix stood next to her, smirking.
Behind her, she heard Marielle scream, and Nally start to cry. The blaster swung back around to her. There was nothing she could do. The only way to keep her sisters alive right now was to surrender.
My home. My home. Sloth’s most evil minion is here in my home, threatening my sisters, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do.
Later, they all sat on the sofa, too nervous to try and go to sleep with the two Garoo Elite members guarding the door, blasters at the ready. Edda remembered the orders she had been given by the loathsome Blumaroo. “You must go to work as normal tomorrow, so my presence here is not noticed. But if you breathe a word of this to anyone... well, your sisters are here to ensure your good behavior.”
Edda tried to think past the fear. Somehow, she had to get her sisters out of here alive. Somehow, she had to take the hovercraft to warn the Defenders of Neopia. Maybe the small amount here couldn’t get rid of the Garoo Elite, but they could find someone who knew what to do about the minions of Sloth who had their hideout under the garden shed.
It’s so absurd that I’d laugh. If that blaster wasn’t pointed at me.
She thought long into the night as she pretended to sleep. She knew it would be easy to get the news to the Defenders... she could tell them while she was at work. But Garoo and Sophix would kill her sisters before any help could come. Somehow, they had to escape. But how? There were only three windows in the house... all visible from the main room...
Except for the one in the bathroom.
The small window could still be wiggled through, and it faced the front of the house. She quietly excused herself to go look through it. Her heart rose... there was a Virtupets hovercraft outside with the key in the ignition.
But how to get all of them through that window without attracting attention?
By the time her siblings were beginning to stir, she had a plan.
She slipped Juju her hovercraft keys as she got up. She looked uneasily at their guards... what if Garoo had decided it was too risky to let her leave?
From out in the garage, she yelled, “Juju! Do you have my keys?”
She heard Juju’s surprised reply. “Oh! Oh, yes, I do! Sorry.”
She came outside... the guards didn’t follow! Yes!
Edda grabbed Juju’s shoulders quickly and whispered, “You take Nally into the bathroom. Say she needs a bath. Call Marielle in to bring you a clean outfit for her. All of you need to go out that window and escape with the hovercraft in front of the house. Do you understand me?”
Juju’s eyes brightened. Edda added, “Also, don’t look like that when you go back in the house – they’ll see that something’s up!”
As Edda flew to work, she prayed that everything would work out. This was incredibly risky – if the escape didn’t work, she wouldn’t know in time to not tell the Defenders. Her sisters’ lives would be in very real danger.
I’ve fought way too hard to make this new life work, to make this house into a home. I’m not going to let them hurt anyone in my family or any of my chances of making this new life work. This is my best chance – I’m taking it!
Juju waited for a long, slow hour before she took Nally for her bath. Everything had gone as planned. They were all in here and she was standing on the toilet working with the window. She winced as it opened with a crunch.
Marielle’s eyes widened – she heard voices outside! Quickly she handed the baby to Juju. “Go! Now! Youngest first!”
Juju scrambled out the window one-handed as Nally clapped and laughed. She thinks it’s all a game. Don’t I wish!
Her tail disappeared as the door handle started to turn. Marielle jumped to follow, knowing that she wouldn’t make it.
The soldier behind her didn’t say a word as he fired his blaster. She screamed, barely avoided it and jumped, scraping her palms on the hard moon rock. She dashed for the hovercraft. Juju sat in the driver’s seat, and turned it on as her sister scrambled in. The Acara asked, “Do you know how to fly one of these things?”
“You don’t, do you?”
“But you don’t either, and we have to get out of here somehow! So be quiet!”
Another blaster bolt barely missed Juju’s long ears. She stomped on the gas, and they sped off.
Marielle screamed as they went straight toward the garden shed. But the old machine was made of stronger stuff, and they knocked it off the ground, leaving only the trapdoor behind.
She risked a glance behind them as Juju flew erratically down the road, and witnessed the garage blow apart and a fleet of hovercrafts zoom out. Large, heavily armed hovercrafts.
“JUJU! FULL SPEED!”
They sped off as quickly as they could, hoping with all their hearts they could make it to Crater Valley.
To be continued...