Cybunny Chronicles: Two-Sided Rescue
5th day of the Month of Hunting
“Agent 52,” a whisper slid through the air, interrupting the red Cybunny’s exercise routine. The agent stopped midkick, a feat demonstrating her impressive sense of balance. “I have another assignment for you. Will you come with me?”
“Of course, milady,” the agent replied promptly.
“Brenyssa,” an annoyed voice interrupted the Usul’s seeming trance with her mirror.
“Judge Hog!” Brenyssa nearly jumped out of her skin. She had not noticed the Moehog’s noisy approach. “You should have knocked, or something!”
“I did,” the Defender replied dryly. “You were so enamored of your reflection, you must not have noticed.”
“Oh.” The Usul’s face flushed bright red. “Was there something, then, sir?”
“Yes, ma’am. You have your first mission.” The Usul’s shriek of delight made the Defender wince in pain. “Will you please come with me to get details?”
“Of course, sir!”
Judge Hog smiled, even as he rolled his eyes. The Usul was certainly enthusiastic, even if not for the reasons he might have liked.
“Excuse me, milady, but I could have sworn you just told me that I will be working with a Defender. Did I mishear?” The Cybunny’s expression of horror almost made her boss laugh.
“No, Agent 52, you did not. I know you don’t particularly like it,” she held up a hand to keep the agent from responding, “but the mission is to rescue a Defender. It will be better if there’s someone with you to take credit.”
Agent 52 sighed as she nodded. Her boss was right; someone else needed to receive credit for her work for her to still be useful, and for the Agency to remain a secret. “Very well, ma’am, what are the additional details, and when do I leave?”
“I knew I could count on you!” the boss replied with an overly cheerful tone of voice. “Here are the details...”
“You want me to babysit a civilian during this mission?” the Usul screeched incredulously. “Are you serious?”
“She won’t need babysitting, but yes, I want her with you. She is responsible for the information we have, after all, and this was one of the demands,” the Judge explained patiently.
“Judge Hog, sir, I won’t do it!” Brenyssa stated firmly as she stomped a foot in disgust. “I won’t have some untrained upstart young citizen sharing my spotlight!”
“Very well, Brenyssa,” the Judge replied sorrowfully. “I guess I can find someone else interested in serving Neopia, and getting the Neopian Times article that will come with it...” he deliberately let his voice trail off. If anything would convince the egotistical Usul to accept this mission, fame and publicity would.
As he expected, after a couple of moments to think, the Usul replied, “Very well. But it had better be worth it!”
“Very good,” he replied. “Here’s the information you need...”
7th day of the Month of Hunting
Agent 52 looked at her Defenders of Neopia “escort” with well concealed annoyance. Certainly at first glance, the Usul appeared to be exactly what she feared when she first found out she’d be accompanied by a Defender, but the Agent knew from herself that appearances could be deceiving. For example, she herself was currently dressed as a normal, if woodsy, Neopian as part of her disguise. According to this Usul, she was Emmy, a native of the woods on the border of Brightvale and the Haunted woods, not Esmerelda, one of the most promising agents in an organization whose primary goal was to remain secret.
Looking at the Usul, Esmerelda could tell that they probably felt the same way about each other. Except that she, Esmerelda, would be willing to listen to any advice her companion might decide to give. The Cybunny doubted that the Usul would, even though the Defender had been told that she was an expert in wood-crafts.
“Ok, Emmy, was it?” the Usul began in an extremely condescending manor, “I have been informed by Judge Hog himself that you are to accompany me with this extremely important mission.” The Usul glanced at the Cybunny, clearly hoping that the “civilian” would be impressed that her instructions were from the Chief Defender of Neopia. She was more than a little annoyed by the bland expression on Emmy’s face. “Now, I hope you realize that what we are going to be doing is dangerous. In fact, I was against having you with me in the first place- I can’t afford to have to babysit you while trying to bring back our missing Defender.”
Esmerelda barely contained a retort of her own. Instead, she replied mildly, “Milady, I’ve grown up here my entire life. I know about the dangers of the woods.” It never hurt to address egomaniacs with titles reserved for royalty.
The Usul sniffed disdainfully. “Well, I’m sure you have. But as a Defender, I’ve received training on how to respond to any situation that arises. I can only trust that you will follow my lead if anything dangerous should happen, and let me deal with the situation as I see fit.”
The Agent merely smiled blandly, not giving voice to her disdain of the Defenders of Neopia’s training. If an agent from her organization had been caught, odds were high that the agent would have found his way out in as long as this Defender had been missing. “Milady, are you ready to leave? It is not wise to travel these woods by night, and daylight is slipping.”
Brenyssa glared at Emmy with annoyance and nodded. She stalked off into the forest, making enough noise to deafen a Meepit. The Cybunny quickly dashed up to her, and whispered, “Milady, the prisoner is being held that way,” and pointed in the opposite direction of where Brenyssa had headed. The Usul flushed. The plain civilian already wasn’t as in awe of her as the Defender had expected, and she had just embarrassed herself further.
Agent 52 glanced at the Usul and sighed. It would be a long mission.
They made good time; indeed, much better than the Cybunny had expected. After the first couple of hours, the Usul demonstrated knowledge of survival comparable to what Esmerelda had come to expect of Defenders. The Usul wasn’t quite invisible, and was certainly louder than the Cybunny was, but she still wasn’t bad.
“Milady,” the Cybunny murmured softly into the Usul’s ear, “I think it’s probably wise to set up camp. We are less than an hour’s walk away from the fortress where your fellow Defender is, and only a few minutes away from dusk.” She stared pointedly up at the dimming sky barely visible through the trees.
“No,” the Usul replied haughtily. “I won’t wait. If we’re only an hour away from my fellow Defender, we must rescue him immediately! Think of the glory I’ll get if I return after less than a day out with my mission completed!”
Esmerelda stared. The Usul was going to fly in the face of common sense for publicity and glory, which she would already get? “Lady Brenyssa,” she whispered more urgently, “I really think it’s a good idea to set up camp for the night. Even if we got in, and managed to rescue this Defender, how would we get back out? You’re tired from the day’s travel, and the prisoner is likely in no condition to run, much less at night! And there are genuine monsters out here, monsters that only come out at night. I don’t think even Ilere could keep them all away, with a wounded defender in tow. Brenyssa,” Esmerelda started to unpack the tent even as she argued with the Usul, “do you really think that you’d get any glory if you also got captured, simply because you did not think things entirely through and consider the multiple sides to every situation?”
The Usul flushed. This civilian was right. Again. What was it about this Cybunny that made her, the Defender, appear so foolish? “Very well, Emmy,” she replied, as though she were granting a tremendous favor, “we can wait until dawn.”
“Thank you, Lady Brenyssa,” Esmerelda huffed as she struggled to set up the tent. She was more accustomed to finding her own shelter than using camping supplies.
“Here,” the Usul snapped, and took a piece of the tent. “Let me, as you’re obviously too incompetent to set up a tent properly.”
Esmerelda watched with awe as the agile Usul put the tent together in a blink of an eye.
“Wow,” the Cybunny replied in all honesty, “I’m impressed.”
“See? I told you that you should follow my lead,” the Usul retorted with her usual condescension. “The DoN tries to equip its workers with decent outdoor skills.” With a flip of her tail, Brenyssa sauntered into the tent.
Esmerelda just shook her head. If only the Usul would lose her irrational pride, she might actually be able to do some good for Neopia!
After informing Brenyssa, the Cybunny Agent placed some standard-issue enchantments around their tent to make it safe from outside attack and entered. Fortunately, the Defenders had sent a nicer tent- each of them had a whole room-like division to themselves. Esmerelda silently thanked her lucky novas that she wouldn’t need to share a room with the Usul.
8th day of the Month of Hunting
Brenyssa woke up a few hours later to the discovery that she had a knot in her back. She hated sleeping on the ground! Grumpily, she tried to go back to sleep, but she couldn’t. This was her chance. The Cybunny civilian was still asleep, and in a tent with impenetrable enchantments. She knew where to go to find the missing prisoner. If she were careful, she could leave the tent without Emmy noticing, rescue the Defender, and finally receive the adulation she knew she deserved! True, the Cybunny had done a lot of the tracking for her, but that didn’t matter. She was an Usul Defender of Neopia, and so therefore deserved all the praise, even if she had done very little of the actual work.
Yes, she liked that idea. It would be a quick way to receive public recognition, and she could prove to that civilian that Defenders were better than everybody else. With ease, the Brenyssa rolled out of her sleeping bag, stretched luxuriously, brushed her hair, and then left the tent. She felt a sliver of concern for the Cybunny, but it quickly left her. After all, the citizen had said the tent would not be able to be attacked. Therefore, she was still fulfilling her duty to protect the citizen by leaving her there.
With a little nod of satisfaction and a gentle smirk, Brenyssa sprang into a tree, and started scampering towards the fortress where her fellow Defender was waiting. As she looked at the sky, she estimated that it was about three hours until dawn- plenty of time to finish the job before Emmy would wake up.
Brenyssa reached the castle about when she had expected. After a quick survey, she noticed no guards, and crept over the walls. She wiped the dirt off of her paws and took another quick glance around. She didn’t see anything, so she sauntered towards a conveniently open window. She scaled that wall as well, and jumped down with a slight thump. Again, she didn’t see anything, so she casually walked in the direction she expected would lead her out. Much to her surprise, a hand reached out in front of her and clasped a strangely scented cloth over her nose and mouth.
She started to feel dizzy, and then everything went black.
Esmerelda woke up the instant Brenyssa left the tent. Not quite sure of what she’d heard, the Cybunny crept out of her sleeping bag, and went to check on her companion. The Usul was missing, but there were no signs of a fight. Esmerelda noted that there seemed to be signs of an exceptionally vain Usul getting ready to go to the Beauty Contest. Did Brenyssa really need to put on Gold Eyeshadow before storming a castle?
Shaking her head at the Usul’s habits, she sneaked outside. There, to her complete lack of astonishment, were Usul footprints leading to the top of a tree. Esmerelda sighed silently to herself. At this point, the Usul was committed. It would be better to follow the Defender than to attract attention to herself. Even she was concerned about Werelupes, the Spider Grundo, and the other mysterious Haunted Woods creatures.
Silently as a shadow, the Cybunny ghosted along under the trees towards the fortress.
Esmerelda arrived at the fortress about the same time Brenyssa did. Unfortunately, the Usul had slightly arrived earlier, and had already started clambering up the wall. Esmerelda resigned herself to the fact that if she tried to call Brenyssa back they would both be caught, possibly not by the right villains. Instead, she sat back, hidden under a tree, and listened. Although the castle looked unguarded, she knew it was likely that there was more to this fortress than met the eye. But very little could be hidden from her extraordinary ears.
About two minutes after Brenyssa had first started the climb, Esmerelda heard a little thud as the Defender landed on the other side. The Cybunny held her breath, but didn’t hear any signs of her temporary companion getting caught. She let it out in a silent explosion.
Then, shortly after, she heard another set of little scrapes as the Usul started hoisting herself over the window frame. When Esmerelda heard the chink of metal armor, she knew what must have happened. So much for Brenyssa rescuing the prisoner without her. Esmerelda inhaled deeply as she resisted the urge to start muttering under her breath.
With a gentle shake of her head to clear her thoughts, Agent 52 started to ponder her options and let her breath back out. She recalled a picture of a map of the castle she had seen as she considered. There were secret tunnels, she remembered, that would lead to the dining hall from outside the border of the walls. That could work. Or, on the other hand... The image of the jail compound sprang into her head. Right. If she could get out of the jail complex, she would be able to escape to the dining hall escape route. But she couldn’t use the escape route to get in- in all probability the guards had forgotten about its existence. Very well, that left one choice. Her briefing had been very clear- the prison door was easily breakable, with the equipment that she had brought with her. She would therefore let herself get caught, and rescue the two other prisoners.
She nodded decisively to herself- that was the best plan she could come up with on such short notice.
Purpose written on her face, at dawn she bounded towards a tree that conveniently overshadowed a wall. That would be a great place to enter.
Agent 52’s plans for capture went roughly as she had planned. She woke up inside a cell with both of the Defenders she planned to rescue.
As soon as Brenyssa noticed the Cybunny was awake, she started yelling at her. “Emmy, what were you thinking, leaving the tent? TRAINED DEFENDERS have gotten caught here, you, you civilian. What chance did you think you have? Now there’s no hope of us getting rescued, because you can’t go back and tell anybody, and now I’m not going to get my spotlight!”
Esmerelda shook her head and shook her head with amusement. No longer needing to hide her competence, she replied brightly, “Oh Brenyssa, I got caught because I wanted to. Now, will you quiet down so I can let us out? Oh, and greetings to you, Defender,” she addressed the Kougra in the cell.
Brenyssa sputtered. The Kougra raised his eyebrow. “Brenyssa does have a point, miss,” he remarked dryly. “How were you expecting to let us out?”
Esmerelda held up the contents of her hands in silent response.
“Where did you get those enchanted lock picks?” he furiously demanded, every inch the infuriated crime-fighter who had just uncovered proof of illegal activity occurring under his nose.
“Relax,” she replied with a twisted grin, “it’s not illegal. Judge Hog knows. You can ask him yourself when you see him again. Now, please stand back.”
To the surprise of both Defenders, but not Esmerelda’s, the door didn’t just open, the lock sprang off completely. Esmerelda stepped out cautiously, aware that guards would likely come shortly after that noise, and scanned the room to get her bearings.
“This way,” she whispered, nodding to the right. “There’s a secret tunnel we need to get to as quickly as possible.” The two prisoners followed her closely as they dashed silently along.
Following the map in her head, she deftly lead them up a flight of stairs, down several corridors, and through a few rooms. Finally, they reached the dining hall. Esmerelda quickly swept the floor with her eyes. “There,” she pointed. A tile was missing a corner of its design, featuring a hole barely large enough for a slim finger to fit in it.
Brenyssa, recognizing a use for her delicate hands, swiftly tugged the trapdoor open to reveal another flight of stairs. “Told you my Defender training would be useful,” she muttered, pleased with herself for having realized her use before being asked.
“Get down, now!” Agent 52 whispered urgently. She could hear guards coming.
“And leave you?” the Kougra asked, aghast.
“I’ll be fine,” she called back over her shoulder. “And you’re in no condition to fight! Now go. I’ll join you shortly.”
Unable to find any fault in her logic, for the Kougra Defender was indeed very weak from his long captivity, he entered the tunnel with Brenyssa. While he was still lowering himself down, Tonu guards stormed into the room.
Esmerelda glanced quickly over her shoulder to make sure the two Defenders were out of her way, and then focused her attention on the fight at hand. Very slowly, she backed towards the trapdoor, but made no move towards any of the guards.
“Step away from the tunnel,” one of them bellowed. Esmerelda kept backing up. The Tonus pointed their spears at her. “We mean it!” Esmerelda kept backing, refusing to make the first move of the fight.
When she was about a foot away from the opening, a guard charged her. She smiled a menacing smile. The fight was on.
The Kougra Defender watched from the passageway. He had been trained in combat by all the top Defenders, and could analyze even Judge Hog himself, but he could not follow everything that the Cybunny was doing. He stared with awe as his rescuer would kick, punch, kick, punch- every time she moved, it seemed, another guard fell to the floor unconscious. He shook his head silently to himself in amazement- the Cybunny was right, it seemed. She really didn’t need his help. Still, he watched, longing to lend his aide, and yet knowing that he couldn’t.
Finally, there were no more guards. Esmerelda paused for a moment to catch her breath, and then entered the passageway. After closing the trapdoor, she grabbed a glowing mote that was hidden under her fur ruff, and lead the two Defenders towards the Haunted Woods. Even though she was tired from her recent battle, she was pleased. It would be easy to leave the Haunted Woods in the middle of the day. Her mission was as good as finished.
10th day of the Month of Hunting
Brenyssa sighed pensively. The last couple of days had been very different from what she had been expecting. The Cybunny, whoever she really was, had disappeared as soon as they were in sight of Brightvale, and all the fame and glory for rescuing the other Defender had been given to herself. The Usul knew that only a couple days ago, she would have gladly stolen the fame and honor from the Cybunny, but now...
All of a sudden, after being rescued by the “civilian” she had thought so poorly of, Brenyssa reconsidered her position. Clearly, being a Defender of Neopia was not the only thing to be prideful of. This confused Brenyssa, but she knew she would work it out, somehow. But things were suddenly a lot more complicated than she had given them credit for.
It was with mixed relief and satisfaction that Esmerelda had watched the two Defenders leave her company. They hadn’t even noticed she was not with them until they were out of the Woods. That hadn’t bothered her at all; she knew they could find their way home from Brightvale.
Now, two days later, she looked at the cover of the Neopian Times with sardonic amusement. “Up and Coming Defender Saves the Day!” the headline read, with a grinning picture of a particular Usul Defender Esmerelda had come to know. It was with interest, though, that Esmerelda noted a seeming uncertainty in the Usul’s grin. Esmerelda smiled with satisfaction to herself. Perhaps she had not only changed Neopia for the better- perhaps she had changed one of the Defenders as well. It could only be good if a Defender were a little more aware of others in the world.
With a small sigh, Esmerelda shoved the Neopian Times away, and went to the Gym. She still hadn’t finished that exercise program her boss had interrupted.
Author’s Note: Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, epiphanies, etc., please feel free to drop me a Neomail!