Defenders of Neopia: The Vacation - Part Five
“I can’t believe he actually fell for that,” she muttered to herself, tying his wrists firmly together with his expensive green tie. “What an idiot.”
Still, Jackal reflected, it was quite a clever plan. She wondered what they had done with the newspaper deliverers...
The first thing she did was remove the Techo’s gloves and put them on. She was taking no chances with this; the whole thing should be relatively straightforward, but stupid errors could easily prove fatal.
The guards were the main problem at the moment. Jackal thought she had an idea as to how she might get rid of them, but first it was very, very important that she could be certain she hadn’t touched a newspaper in the past few days. Her hesitation was only momentary. Clearly she hadn’t touched one before coming here, and she certainly hadn’t touched one since.
All she needed now was a way to get whatever was on those newspapers all over the guards...
She didn’t know how many guards there were, but she suspected there were a good number, and whatever method she used had to be absolutely foolproof. It would be easy enough to fight off a few of them, but for all her Defender training she couldn’t battle hordes. If worst came to worst she could simply throw balled-up newspapers at them; however, there were obvious objections. First of all, if they got her hands behind her back, the fight would be over...
No, she needed something... cleverer. Or at least more effective.
Jackal carefully picked up a sheet of newspaper in her gloved hand and looked at it thoughtfully. Whatever chemical he had used, it was obviously very strong and very potent – was it strong enough and potent enough to transfer to something else? Tentatively, she rubbed the page down her sleeve as though she were scrubbing it. The cloth did not appear to have changed in any dramatic way, but looking closely Jackal could have sworn that it was darker than before. She experimented with a streak down her other sleeve.
Aha, she thought. It was working
As she coated the rest of her clothes with it, it occurred to her that she would have to be very, very careful not to get any of this on her fur. She could only hope that it wouldn’t somehow seep through her clothing. Whatever she did, there were going to be risks.
It was tempting, as a first act, to turn off the switch that held Dalynne, Jason and all those other poor Neopets prisoner in the holding pen, but according to Dr. Henderson they might at this very moment be reduced to mindless zombies, and she didn’t want them wandering off to get lost in the surrounding forest. Besides, if she let them all out now it would distract the guards, and she needed them all to come here.
In that spirit, she took a deep breath, thought about whether she had forgotten anything, and pulled the switch that would attract anyone who had come into contact with the chemical into the holding pen. Then she pressed the red help button.
Response was immediate and overwhelming. Two Tonu guards rushed in, saw the Techo scientist on the floor, and grabbed Jackal.
Before she could defend herself, the guards turned abruptly and marched back toward the door, where they collided with the guards rushing in. Over the next few minutes, Jackal was jostled back and forth rather uncomfortably and several times she barely avoided being trampled. As she had learned from arduous experience, those who had come into contact with the chemical would stop at nothing to get to the holding pen; in the confusion, the uncontaminated guards were too preoccupied to realize what was happening.
Finally, the commotion seemed to be over. Jackal heaved a sigh of relief as the last few dazed, staring guards straggled out the door. “Well, that was fun,” she muttered, and set about finding some sort of communication device.
Five hours and two cups of coffee later, Jackal sat shivering outside the laboratory... prison... headquarters... whatever it was, wishing she had thought of a better plan than contaminating her coat with hazardous chemicals.
She looked up to see Isla, a small brown Ixi who worked in the science department of DoN, trotting towards her with a guardedly triumphant expression.
“What’s the news?” asked Jackal evenly, taking another sip of coffee. She had been awake for a very long time, and, try as she might to stay alert, her eyelids kept closing of their own accord, letting her doze off for minutes at a time before she jolted awake again and cursed herself for being so unprofessional.
“Well, we’ve identified the compound that they were using, and with the right series of steps we should be able to remove the effects. Most of them, anyway.”
“Yes. But it was,” Isla admitted, clearly against her will, “an extremely intelligent idea. Imaginative, too. I wonder how long this would have gone on if you three hadn’t happened to come out here... I wonder how far it might have spread.”
Jackal shuddered. “That would be a Defenders nightmare all right. Think of the paperwork this alone will require.”
Isla laughed. “I will never understand you Defenders. Aren’t you shaken up after all that?”
The Lupe shrugged. “Not really. It was fairly straightforward – as a matter of fact, it was actually rather fun.”
This was almost true. Jackal could still feel the chill down her spine when she thought of waiting, all alone, in that empty, silent town, but she would sooner have died than admitted it.
“I have to get back over there... we’re testing our antidote on Dalynne. We think that the longer it’s on, the harder it will be to reverse the effects, so we’ve got to try before we get back to HQ.”
Jackal nodded, and Isla started off toward the building. It was lucky that the place was well equipped with laboratories. It was also well equipped with scientists; the search party had uncovered a total of fourteen, most of them hiding under desks or behind doors.
The thought had entered Jackal’s mind that this whole incident might be of some utility in securing her an interview with Judge Hog. She knew that she deserved better than her current position, and she wanted a higher one. Badly. She was prepared to do quite a lot to get it.
Dalynne was led out, looking a little lost but overall much improved. “Hello, Jackal!” she said with a wave and an uncharacteristic grin.
“Go to the hovercraft now,” instructed the Eyrie Defender who was escorting her. Jackal recognized him vaguely, her powers of recollection not aided by the fact that he looked like a bluish blur to her bleary eyes right now; his name was something like Sam, or Sal... something along those lines...
He drew his arm across his forehead. “Of all the annoying things. That Dr. Henderson was a mastermind, maybe, but an aggravating one all right. The one upshot is that it makes them so obedient.”
Jackal decided that he must be talking to her. “Helpful,” she agreed concisely.
“That depends. Hopefully it will wear off sooner or later; otherwise, they’ll be in a fix. The other one’s worse, too – James, I think his name is.”
“Ah yes, that’s the one, isn’t it? We think we can flush it out of his system eventually. Say, you weren’t contaminated, were you?”
“Not that I know of,” she answered.
“That’s excellent. Cold? Would you like my coat?”
“I wouldn’t mind, if you don’t want it.” She wondered why he was bothering to be so nice to her. So especially nice... no one was that considerate to a stranger... he had to have some kind of ulterior motive, but she was too tired to analyze what in Neopia it might be.
“Say, you were the only one in there, weren’t you? Do you think you managed to fight off all of those guards? I mean all of them?”
“Well, unless you’ve met any wandering around, I’m fairly sure I did,” she replied dryly.
“Oh, but maybe there were stragglers – there are always stragglers. Say, ahh... what’s your name again?”
“Jackalin, you wouldn’t happen to feel like doing me a huge favor, would you? Because I haven’t been promoted, not once, and I’d really like to. You don’t think maybe I came in at the end and fought off one or two of those guards...”
Jackal tipped her coffee cup and dumped it over his head, soaking his feathers and scalding him mildly. Then she took off his coat, tossed it in his general direction, and walked over to the hovercraft.
The Lenny that she had consulted an hour or two ago was waiting for her. “Judge Hog will speak with you tomorrow,” she reported.
It was good to know, Jackal thought languidly as she drifted off to sleep, that she had accomplished something.
It would be a while before she read the Neopian Times again, though.
Author's Note: I am by no means attempting to assert that reading the Neopian Times can be detrimental to your spiritual, mental, or physical health. Just watch out... you never know who might have contaminated it...