Defenders of Neopia: The Vacation - Part One
Jackal staggered, fell, and managed to regain uprightness. For a moment she swayed dizzily, leaning on an end table. Naturally, the lamp that stood upon it slid and crashed to the floor, but she conceded that at the moment household damages were likely the very, very least of her concerns. She grabbed her Virtupets StunGun X35 and hurried after her friend.
“Yeah,” she said between gritted teeth, “some fun, relaxing vacation this is...”
The whole thing had started two days ago – just two days ago, though it seemed like an age. Anyway, it had begun two days ago at Defenders of Neopia Headquarters, Neopia Central, seven o’clock A.M. precisely. The reason that Jackalin remembered the time so well was that she had spent laborious weeks training herself into absolutely punctuality when coming to work each day. It was one of many things that Judge Hog was a stickler about.
She had been carrying a cup of coffee, because that was what she did every morning, when she had run into Agent 00 Hog, hurrying very quickly in the wrong direction, and spilled coffee on him. The way Jackal considered it he had more accurately spilled coffee on himself, but – Agent 00 Hog being Agent 00 Hog – she was surprised when, to all appearances, he saw her point of view.
“How clumsy of me, Agent 79 Lupe,” he muttered. “I would be delighted to stay and chat; however, it is imperative that I remove myself from these premises with all possible, plausible, likely, and precautionary – ”
“Ahh, Agent Hog?”
He closed his eyes, deeply offended.
“Sorry, Agent 00 Hog... I think I’m going to be late. Could you maybe consider coming to the point?”
Agent 00 Hog glared at her, huffed, stamped a hoof, and gave in. “I have to get going.”
It was clear by now that something was going on. The halls swarmed with Defenders who should have been at work by now. Jackal discarded the empty coffee cup in the nearest garbage receptacle and pursued Agent 00 Hog down the hall. “Wait, Agent 00 Hog, what’s going on?”
“That is extremely classified information,” he told her sternly.
She gave up. Truthfully, it had not been especially intelligent of her to annoy Agent 00 Hog in the first place, and she knew it. Whatever the circumstances might be, he was a superior officer. It was speculated that this might have something to do with the fact that there were only five Moehogs in the service, but that did not alter anything as far as behavior in the ranks went – and even if there were six hundred Lupe Defenders, Jackal was still just Agent 79. The way things were going, she would be Agent 79 for a very long time.
The answer to her current dilemma, however, was not long in coming. Almost before she had time to look around, she was assailed by Agent 45 Blumaroo. “Jackal!” he said enthusiastically. “Whoa dude, almost didn’t see you there. Man, this is so intense.”
Agent 45 Blumaroo, better known as Ryan, was a fixture at Defenders Headquarters and one of Jackal’s personal grievances. He was one of those singularly indiscreet individuals who appeared to have no inhibitions at all, and to add the icing to the cake, for the past six months he had referred to everything good, bad or indifferent as either “intense” or, if it merited especial distinction, “high intensity”.
Jackal cut to the chase. “Would you mind telling me what’s happening?”
“You don’t know?” he exclaimed. “You are messing with me. You so do not not know what is happening.”
“Actually, I so do. Believe it or not, there are people with other things to think about in life than Defenders of Neopia.”
“You have no idea, Jackal, it is the highest intensity thing I have ever experienced. The sewage system broke, dude, so now we get a vacation! Can you believe it? How intense is that?”
Jackal was already thinking about how to disentangle herself from Ryan, and whether to simply walk away or to be polite, when the intercom buzzed into life. A familiar, jovial voice filled the air. “Defenders, as you may know by now, we are experiencing a problem,” boomed Judge Hog. “Do not be alarmed. In fact, you should be overjoyed! This is a wonderful chance to take a fun and relaxing vacation. We are generously giving everybody four days of half-paid vacation while the situation is resolved. Have a wonderful day, my friends.”
It seemed that he was finished. Jackal supposed she was pleased, but it was a little hard to say. She had been meaning to speak to Judge Hog, which would clearly have to be postponed, and besides that, there just wasn’t anything much to do in Neopia Central. The novelty had worn off some time ago. She preferred Sakhmet by far.
The average Neopian would probably not have guessed it, but Jackal was from the Lost Desert, Sakhmet born and bred. People tended to classify her color as brown; nobody in Neopia Central was adept at recognizing a Desert Lupe without the stereotypical headdress and bangles, and Jackal’s light blue eyes were not really identifiable with any origin. On the whole she considered that it was probably for the best. She had a distinct distaste for any honors not earned, and she preferred to stand out in her performance, not her fur color. Not, of course, that her performance seemed to be earning her a promotion, which was exactly what she wanted to talk with Judge Hog about. It was not the time to be modest. She deserved a higher rank and she knew it.
There was nothing for it, however. She would have to wait.
She made her way through the crowded halls out into the courtyard and was about to head home when she heard her name being called. “Jackal!”
It was Dalynne. Dalynne was Agent 61 Lupe, a red Lupe (as her title suggested) of staunch sense but no lack of humor, someone that Jackal often worked with and spoke with almost daily. Debatably, she could have been called a friend. “Good morning,” Jackal said, wondering what she had to say that was so urgent.
“Jackal!” Dalynne panted. “I’m glad I caught you. Listen, do you have anything planned for the next few days?”
“I – well, no,” she conceded after a moment’s consideration.
“Good. A few years back I inherited some house from my great-aunt – it’s on the outskirts of Neopia Central, so of course being a Defender I’ve never had the time to take a look at it. I’ll probably sell it, but I would at least like to see it first.”
Jackal thought she could see where this was headed.
“How would you like to come down with me for a few days and look around? I was thinking of inviting Jason, too, if you don’t mind, but I thought I’d ask you first.”
Well, it was as good a way to spend four days as any. She liked Dalynne and Jason very much. It sounded relatively interesting – fun, even, and, Jackal reflected wryly, she needed a break. “I’d love to. And of course I don’t mind if you invite Jason.”
“Excellent! I’ll go find him, then. Why don’t we all meet in front of the Neolodge in a few hours, say noon? They’ve got a Virtupets Motorcraft there out on hire for tourists, and I doubt it’ll be reserved in the middle of a weekday.”
Jackal agreed, demonstrated the appropriate gratefulness, and headed home to pack and make another cup of coffee.
By the time they had managed to convey to the Neolodge staff the fact that they would like to hire the Motorcraft, it had been well past three o’clock. Jackal was sprawled lazily on one of the chairs, soaking up the sun with her short tan fur. Dalynne was sitting likewise, and Jason, a blue Shoyru and slightly smaller than either of them, had been relegated to the pile of luggage and was snoring.
It felt good to relax completely – she had almost forgotten what it felt like. It was nice, she thought lazily, that the Motorcraft came with a driver and no roof. Of course, it also meant that, however bored they were, they would be unable to leave for the next three days. But it was worth it.
After a few more minutes, she sat up. The sun was disappearing fast beyond the trees and her position was beginning to feel uncomfortable. “When you said outskirts,” she asked, “how far out did you have in mind?”
Dalynne chuckled. “It shouldn’t be much longer now, I don’t think. Longer than I thought, though. I understand it’s one of those planned communities, the ones where they build a lot of expensive neohomes and advertise it as a sort of... neighborhood in the wilderness, but I’d have thought the residents would want to be able to make it back to Neopia Central now and then.”
“Apparently they feel very self-sufficient,” observed Jackal drily. “But not too self-sufficient,” she added with more enthusiasm, spotting houses ahead. “I think we’re finally here.”
To be continued...