Sentinels: A Hyperion Story
A bell jingled when the door burst open and both the red Lupe and the blue Bori behind the counter looked up at once. It took a moment for either to register the identity of the Lutari who had stormed in: steel-grey fur, a Pirate by nature, but today garbed in a Defender's uniform, a navy jumpsuit with the word "technician" embroidered across the breast with him name underneath.
"Jackson," Greg said, stealing a look at the red Lupe out of the corner of his eyes.
"Yeah, yeah," the Lutari said, winded, "glad you remember. Greg and Devon, right?" Both nodded as Jackson whipped an envelope out of his side pocket. "Got a letter from Hyperion today. Thought you'd wanna know." He slammed the paper down on the desk, the sudden "thwack" it made leaving the small shop in silence afterward.
Greg and Devon dove for the letter at once, knocking into each other before the red Lupe finally overpowered the Bori and gripped the letter to his chest in defiance.
"Is he alright?" Greg said suddenly, turning his attention back to Jackson. "Did he mention Anthea?"
Jackson was still panting, didn't reply before Devon had the letter out, scanning it with his eyes.
"He says they're safe," the Lupe said, "but he really doesn't say much more than that. Something about the view from their backyard being as beautiful as a river running with gold." He looked up, his brow scrunched up in thought.
"That makes no sense," Greg said. "There's no river where gold runs."
Devon gasped and tossed the letter down. He was at the door in seconds, but Jackson was faster and blocked his path. "What's the rush?" the Lutari said, holding Devon back.
"I know where he is. I've gotta go to him."
"What?" Greg said, coming around the counter to face Devon. "You know where Anthea is?"
Devon nodded fast enough to give anyone else a headache. "It was a clue. A river where gold runs. Goldrun. Remember that case a while back? With the map?"
Greg nodded. "What about it?"
"It was the first one I helped Hyperion with. He wants me to find him. He needs me there."
Jackson laughed. "Goldrun's a joke. Judge Hog determined it was all a hoax a week after. Don't you know that?"
"Of course I know!" Devon grinned. "He's not in Goldrun--he's in the--"
"Don't say it!" Jackson jabbed Devon between the ribs to make sure he stopped in time. The red Lupe, once recovered, glared up at him with scathing eyes. "Hyperion had to leave for his own safety,” the Lutari continued. “You can't say who's listening to us right now. So what if you know where he is? For his sake, you've gotta stay right here."
Devon bared his teeth for a moment, then turned away and stomped toward the center of the shop. "I just can't do nothing. Hyperion's my friend. I won't stand idly by till he's found and killed."
"No, Greg!" Devon whirled around, pointing at the Bori with an extended claw. "You listen to me! Nemesis isn't going to just stop looking because he hasn't found him yet. He's gonna keep going, keep searching, until he finds Hyperion--and when that happens, Anthea's gonna be in danger, too. If we do nothing, just waiting for everything to get peachy, Hyperion and Anthea are the ones who'll get hurt. Are you okay living like that? Just waiting for their funerals?"
Greg was stunned, looking at Devon aghast. "Wh-what are we supposed to do then?"
Devon crossed his arms and leaned back, his chin up as he turned toward Jackson. "I want to join the Defenders."
The Lupe faced Greg again, his hardened face demanding a response. "What?"
"You just can't up and join the Defenders like that. You're no superhero. You'll get yourself killed."
Devon shrugged. "I don't have to be a superhero to be a Defender. Look at Jackson--he's just a technician."
"Just?" the Lutari said.
"I don't have to fight to help Hyperion," Devon kept on saying. "I've helped Hyperion with research countless times. I can do intelligence, undercover stuff, too."
"A what?" Devon said, turning on Jackson.
"A sentinel," Jackson repeated. "A field agent who doesn't handle villains. Most supers have their own sentinel, sorta like a personal assistant to do all their grunt work."
Devon shrugged again. "So I'll be Hyperion's. Easy as that."
"Not really," Jackson said. "Hyperion's not a super yet. He's just an agent. And right now, he's technically not even that. He's been disbanded, severed all ties with the D.O.N. to ensure we know nothing about his whereabouts. Judge Hog has to keep tabs on all active agents. It'd endanger Hyperion to do that right now, so he's out of the system."
Devon nodded accordingly. "So I'll work on my own. Anything to do something because I'm not doing nothing anymore."
Jackson shrugged. "Then let's see what the Judge has to say." He started for the door; Devon followed.
"You're leaving?" Greg said. "Just like that?"
Devon snorted. "And you're gonna stay?"
Greg looked over the shop, biting his lower lip. His hands fidgeted a bit. "It has been a slow day, and I'm not sure how I'd be able to help the Defenders..." He looked back at Devon. "But I'm done waiting, too."
* * *
"I can't put you on a case yet," Judge Hog had said, "but if you're up for some paperwork, I can make you agent today."
Undoubtedly, Devon had said yes. But he hadn't imagined "some paperwork" to be this much: There was a desk full of it waiting for him, accompanied by three piles of boxes filled past the brim, and an entire closetful, too.
"What am I supposed to do with it all?" he asked the Judge when he'd brought him here.
The retired super had shrugged and scratched behind his ear. "Haven't a clue, but something has to be done with it. It's been like this for three years. Catalogue it, recycle it, sort it by relevance and nonsense. Whatever you do, just get it done."
Devon nodded in amazement and the Moehog had left him before he could speak next, and what came out of his mouth was nothing pleasant, to be sure.
Hours later, he had cleared through most of what had covered the desk. Most of it had been old case file reports easily filed in the archives, while the rest was an odd combination of outdated tips and leads that needed to be put on file should the at-large be hunted further.
One page in particular caught Devon's attention. It was entirely blank except for a couple lines of scribbled text. No date was given anywhere on the paper, and all it said was this: "10:00. Shadow Shoyru seen robbing Magic Shop. Apparently stole a Nanka Bottle, a Stream of Light, a Firestorm Bottle, and a Starlight Potion. 3000 NP lost. Suspect not apprehended. No charges filed."
The entry seemed to jog a memory of Hyperion's last encounter before he fled Nemesis, and Devon shuddered at the thought. He put the paper in a separate pile and kept going, even more motivated than before.
* * *
"Done," Devon said. He stood before Judge Hog's desk with a small stack of papers in his paws.
The Moehog raised his eyebrows suspiciously. "You've only been here three days. Are you sure it's all done?"
"All done, sir. I stayed late the last couple nights. I felt it was worth it, sir."
Judge Hog's eyes narrowed a bit. "You're still in school, no?"
"Central University, sir," Devon said. "Finishing my last semester in the fall."
"Congratulations. What's your field of study?"
"History and anthropology, sir."
"And you got everything sorted?"
"Yes, sir. I filed all the misplaced documents, discarded the dated material already on report, and even compiled a list of tips and files I feel are relevant to the Nemesis case." Devon swallowed and dropped the stack of papers on the desk in front of Judge Hog.
The Moehog looked down and poked at the first page. "'Kayla's Potion Shop. Dark Vine Potion and Flower Tonic stolen by black figure. Witnesses report similarities to Shoyru or Scorchio.'" Judge Hog shook his head. "What does petty crime have to do with Nemesis?"
"Petty crime is an understatement, sir." Devon wrung his paws together behind his back. "There's about a dozen more reports like that one, and all of them with a Shadow Shoyru stealing elemental potions from magic shops around Neopia."
"That one gets me, too, sir."
Judge Hog paged through the remainder of the stack, not taking time to read any more than a word or two on each page. "What am I supposed to do with all of this? None of it’s evidence we can use to bring anyone to trial--and even if it were, we've had no luck locating Nemesis or his creation."
"Anion, sir. Nemesis's creation called itself Anion. Like Hyperion, sir."
Judge Hog nodded. "Yes, Anion. But it warrants again the question, what am I supposed to do with all of this?"
"Nothing, sir. I want to be put on the case. Let me follow these leads and figure out how they help us. Make me a sentinel. I'll make you proud."
Judge Hog stared hard-faced at the red Lupe for a long moment. "If I didn't know Hyperion would approve tenfold of my doing this, I'd stick you back in an empty office for another sixty days, but I've got a feeling you'll do good things for the Defenders of Neopia." He wheeled his chair back and pulled open a drawer. He reached in, grabbed something, and dropped a badge atop the stack of papers. "I'll cover the paperwork. Get back to work, Sentinel."
Devon nodded, "Thank you," and grabbed his badge and papers. He was out the door in half a second.
* * *
"I need your help," Devon said as he entered Florisshen Blotte.
Greg looked up and furrowed his brow. "Everything alright?"
Devon dropped his badge on the counter and walked into the back room for a moment. There were some rumbling sounds from his general direction before he came back to the storefront a moment later.
"So you're a sentinel?"
"Yeah," Devon said, jamming his badge back into his pocket. "Shame Judge Hog didn't see much potential in you. You’d be a good one, too, I think."
Greg shrugged. "It's alright. I wasn't really set on being a Defender anyways. I mean, it's not like I wouldn't do anything for Anthea and Hyperion, but this is me." He gestured to the shop around them. "It's all I know."
Devon grinned. "And that's why I need your help." He placed the papers on the counter and spread them out. "See all these items? I need to know more about them. I'm pretty sure Nemesis is planning something, but I can't figure out what yet."
Greg ran his finger down each of the papers, reading each of the stolen items in turn. He looked up with a perplexed look on his face. "These are all cheap Battledome goods. Most beginners won't even use them. What good would they be to a mastermind scientist like Nemesis?"
Devon shrugged. "They've got to mean something, or else he wouldn't have Anion stealing them all."
Greg looked over the spread of reports again. "As far I can tell, they're all fairly simple elemental attacks that produce fire, light, and dark magics primarily. Except Flower Tonic. I'm not sure how that one fits with the rest."
"Yeah, it stumped me, too."
"Hmm," Greg said, thinking for a moment. "It's funny."
"Hyperion uses light magic, and Shoyrus are fire-aligned Neopets."
Devon's mouth fell open even as Greg was still talking.
"What is it?"
"I think I know what Nemesis is doing." The Lupe put his paws on the counter and leaned toward the Bori. "He's trying to neutralize Hyperion's power. When Anion and Hyperion faced off, Hyperion was only able to get away because he was able to blind Anion with his Magic Torch. In order for Anion to succeed, he has to be able to withstand light attacks and defeat fire enemies. It all makes sense now." He turned away and cupped his paw around his chin. "But what to do, what to do?"
"What can we do?"
"Warn Hyperion," Devon said. "He has to know what Nemesis is planning so he can prepare. They're going to face off again, it's only a matter of time. Hyperion has to have the upper hand." Devon shook his head. "Other than that, I don't know what we can do. I didn't see any recent reports about potion theft, so it's likely whatever Nemesis was looking for, he's already found it."
"I still don't get it," Greg said. "What does Nemesis want with Hyperion anyways?"
Devon shrugged. "Revenge is all I can see. A mastermind outsmarted by his own failed experiment?" He laughed a hard, dark laugh. "You'd be angry too. Even more when you realize your failure was also your greatest success."
Greg nodded. "So what do you want me to do?"
"I don't know, Greg, I really don't know."
* * *
Devon glanced both ways before he grabbed the small, dark bottle off the shelf and then strode with it toward the counter. Kauvara looked at it, then up at him, then grudgingly rang up the item and bagged it for him. "Have a nice day," the Kau said as he turned away and left silently.
The red Lupe kept the bag at his side while he walked through the ascending dusk up Main Street, Neopia Central. He breathed heavily and nervously with every step down the yellow paved road as he approached the statue of a famous Neopian playwright and toward the spiral staircase it housed. Down into the Art Centre he plunged, into the Deep Catacombs once plain and stony, but now decorated by murals of each of Neopia's lands, valiantly put there by hordes of artists over the years.
Devon crossed past the bustling crowds toward a darkened corner made to look like the Haunted Woods. The resemblance must have been too great, he figured, for no one ever came to this part of the Catacombs very much, though he wasn't here for that reason alone. Instead he was here for the narrow slip of darkness that led somewhere far from artsy. He located it easily from his last venture here and slipped inside unnoticed.
Hyperion had told him this tale countless times, especially on dark stormy nights when the two were together and had nothing to do but tell each other stories. Devon would've been able to follow the path with his eyes shut, but after he pushed through the double doors into the Defenders prison--which as a sentinel he now had legal access to--the overhead lights built into the square metal corridors were too great too be ignored even with his eyes sewn shut and blindfolded.
He found the cell in question and looked around. He knew high-tech cameras imported from Virtupets were watching his every move, but at this point, it didn't matter. All that mattered was the small corked bottle he was withdrawing from his Magic Shop bag at this very moment.
He looked through the curved glass at the purple light inside. With a grin, the Lupe wrapped his claws around the cork and pulled it out.
A cloud of purple shadows erupted from the bottle and congealed into a Dark Faerie that hovered before Devon. "For freeing me," she said dryly with a sigh, "I shall bestow upon you the ability Night Vision." She lifted her hands, a soft purple glow enshrouding them, but Devon grabbed her wing and jarred her spell. Her face flared up, enraged, but he spoke over her.
"Teach me Nighttime instead."
"Excuse me?" the Faerie said. "It's protocol what I bless you with. No requests. Night Vision or nothing, darling."
Devon chuckled. "I'm a Defender. Do as I say, or suffer the consequences."
She shrugged, a dark glimmer in her little eyes. "Faerie Law trumps Neopian trivialities. If you don't want Night Vision, I'll be on my way, thank you very much."
Devon wrapped his fist around the sprite, holding her only tight enough to not yet be painful. "I need to speak with a certain Faerie I know, and to call her, I need a bit of darkness on my side. Either you give me Nighttime, or you give me darkness. Your choice." The Lupe squeezed a little tighter.
"Fine, fine!" the Faerie yelled. "I can't give you Nighttime, so I'll cast a spell for you. My favor, alright?"
Devon nodded and loosened his grip.
"Now what do you need, sweety?"
"Cast a shadow over this cell."
The Dark Faerie nodded and turned in his hand toward the cell door in front of them. She looked over it a minute, then laughed. "This thing? Not even a master Dark Faerie could get past these light spells. Pretty useless if you ask me. Might as well try to claw through it yourself."
Devon tightened his grip. "Just do it."
"Okay, okay," the Faerie said hastily and Devon opened his hand fully. She stood on his red fur and waved her hands before her. A soft glow enveloped her tiny fingers, and then a cloud of shadows shot toward the metal door. As soon as it made contact, the door flashed with light, fighting off the darkness as it tried to force itself through.
"Keep going," Devon said. "Don't stop till I say--"
Both turned toward the golden figure suddenly appeared beside them. Without a second thought the Dark Faerie flew off, but Devon no longer cared. He had who he wanted.
The Light Faerie narrowed her eyes at him but didn't lose the warrior look upon her face.
"I assure you," Devon said quickly, coolly, "that I'm not trying to release the Shadow Usul. I needed merely to speak with you."
The Lightbringer still did not abandon her forceful expression, but now she did seem reasonably more intrigued. "Who are you? I don't believe we've met."
"We've not," Devon said. "I'm a friend of a friend. Do you recall Hyperion?"
The corner of the Lightbringer's lips curled back, but her steely face remained. "I do. What of him?"
"I'm following a case on his behalf. In case you're unaware, he happens to be in some amount of danger at the moment and has been forced into hiding for the time being. Unfortunately, that leaves me unable to concur with him, which complicates matters considerably. Therefore, if it would please you to aid him, I request your assistance."
The Lightbringer remained silent for a moment then she nodded. "I shall assist, if I may. What do you need?"
Devon pulled a small slip of paper from his pocket and passed it to the Light Faerie. "These are all the items Hyperion's enemy has acquired to date, that the Defenders know of. It is my suspicion that he's trying to devise a way to neutralize Faerie magic as a defense and offense against Hyperion, but I haven't a clue how these items might allow him to do so."
The Light Faerie's face had devolved into a look of disgust and fury. "Preposterous! Devise a way to neutralize Faerie magic? It is a perversion of nature." She took a deep breath and softness returned to her face. "I find it is my duty as a Faerie to assist in this matter. Of course I shall assist you." She glanced sideways a moment. "There is no threat if I leave you a moment?"
Devon grinned, more a smile this time than before. "Of course not. I only needed your arrival, nothing more."
"Than I shall return." The Faerie vanished in a flash and Devon was alone. A few minutes passed until the light pulled itself together into the Lightbringer yet again. "I have the answers you seek," she said. "These potions are each infused with minute amounts of Faerie magic. By observing how these infinitesimal quantities react, it's possible to quantify these reactions chemically, scientifically. To do so might unravel the very mysteries of Faerie magic itself, though it would take a mastermind to accomplish this."
Devon sighed and shook his head. "I'm afraid we're looking at a mastermind."
The Light Faerie swore, very unlike her kind to so, a grave example of their even graver situation. "When was the last item acquired?"
"A few weeks at most."
"And what was it?"
"The Flower Tonic," Devon said.
The Lightbringer nodded. "I'm afraid that is the key. The Flower Tonic is infused with both Earth Faerie magic and Dark Faerie magic, a spell commonly known as Temporal Leak. The mixture of these magics create a soothing and tranquil feeling in the affected by slowing the sensations one experiences without slowing time itself. By adding this to a neutralization reaction, it would theoretically become possible to quantify Faerie magic and through these observations create a way to become resistant to it."
Devon nodded. "So what can we do about it?"
"I don't believe there is such a thing we can do. If it has already been done, it is done. However, I doubt that such results could be produced in large quantities, if they've yet been produced at all. If we can therefore locate where these experiments are taking place, we could arm ourselves and shut them down before they proceed too far."
Devon's eyes widened, a sudden thought having come to his mind. "And if we know where they're taking place, how would we arm ourselves? Better, what would we arm ourselves with?"
The Lightbringer crossed her arms. "We would have to arm ourselves with Faerie magic of a caliber higher than can be produced and neutralized by this man. Only by overpowering him could we prepare for the worst outcome."
Devon nodded. "Then rally your armies, for I feel we may have a war upon us."
The Faerie nodded. "I shall take up the matter with the Queen. How may I find you?"
"The Defenders Headquarters. If I'm not there, a shop called Florisshen Blotte in the Neopian Marketplace."
The Lightbringer nodded. "And what is your name?"
The Lupe nodded. "Devon."
"Then farewell, for now, Devon. My thanks to you." She nodded, then once more, she was gone.
* * *
Devon sat at his desk at Defenders HQ. He could barely believe that only a few weeks before the desk had been but one small part of a small office overrun with papers, but now was his office to keep his files and conduct his research. Now, however, he was not researching nor conducting any business at all. Instead, he was writing a letter. He knew where it must be sent, and had already addressed it accordingly: "Lost Desert. Deliver to the Shoyru and Gelert. Reward to be given accordingly."
He supposed that last part would ensure it'd arrive safely, and eventually to the right pair.
Then on the other side of the postcard, a simple message, one only Hyperion would understand, he was certain:
"It is time, my friend. Return to the beginning."