Hannah and the Kreludorian Tunnels: Part Two
“Thanks for coming, Hannah,” said the Aisha as he sat up behind his desk. His Electric Paint job made him a splash of color against the blindingly white walls and ceiling of the safety base in Kreludor.
Hannah nodded. Behind her back, her crossed hands shook. It wasn’t the authoritative detective and head of the safety base that made them shake. It was the combined adrenaline and excitement. Even at six in the morning, she would always feel this way. For Phiorri was sending her into the tunnels for the first time.
Hannah had worked at the Kreludor Safety Base, hoping to bring a splash of adventure into her otherwise flavorless life, especially after her many adventures. As Head of Security, she had been anticipatory of some adventure. The head of the safety base was a detective after all, one of the best in Neopia. A golden badge straight from the lapel of Neopian Defense. She had gotten her wish. Eight months into her job, Phiorri had found an Invisible Kyrii who had been stealing from all the legit miners on the moon. His name was Evient, apparently a rich big-shot back Neopia-side.
So not only was Hannah going to be used to recover all the missing gems from the tunnels Evient had created illegally using robots, but she was also going to scout for evidence. She and Kowrie, the Peophin genius in Technical Support, had almost found enough. Pictures, video feed, copies of his plans, maps, lists of the stolen goods . . . The only step left was to go into the tunnels.
For the past few months, Evient and Kowrie had battled using sensors in data-streams and upgrades (basically a one-sided battle; Evient must have thought the interference were glitches). Hannah had prepared using virtual testing, with replicas of the actual tunnels. Only recently – quite recently – had Evient discovered the sensor. It hadn’t been a very proud moment for Kowrie. And it hadn’t been a very good moment for Hannah and Phiorri either.
“I believe you’ve been waiting for this?” asked Phiorri, his antennae swaying lazily through the air as he signed off on his computer. “You’ve been preparing for a long time.”
“A very long time,” agreed Hannah. She was confident that today was THE day. Or if it wasn’t, just another disappointing one. “I think I can ace these tunnels. It’s easy enough, if Evient doesn’t hear us coming in. Do you think he will?”
“I don’t think he will,” replied Phiorri, smiling warmly and standing. He walked over to his office door and opened it with a five-number access code. A long hallway, ending in dimness, opened up in front of them. “I haven’t disclosed anything about the raid onto our private databases, and that’s the only place he has any footing on our ground.”
“So there won’t be a massive security breach once we get in?” Hannah asked, worried. She followed him out, into the hall. She never knew where this one went.
“The only ‘security’ are those robots. And ever since we’ve left his databases alone he’s let them downgrade. Apparently it takes a lot out of their energy levels. They can’t go into superdrive, like they did in the virtual testing, for more than a few minutes.”
As they walked down the hallway, the lights grew dimmer. The hum of the filters died out, and the lights faded to Min1, the lowest kind. The hallway was silent of energy. Hannah suddenly felt as if the hallways were closing in.
“Limited oxygen here,” said Phiorri, suddenly sounding breathless. A sheen of sweat erupted on his skin. They turned into a small room, where two space-suits stood waiting. “We’re a little more than eight yards away from the tunnels.”
Hannah stared at the second space-suit. “You’re coming with me?” she asked. “You won’t watch my progress from the video office?”
“There’s Kowrie for that,” assured Phiorri, climbing into the space suit. “She’ll be with us every step of the way.”
“But you haven’t been on the virtual test runs!” protested Hannah, zipping up her suit and stocking it with oxygen and fuel. Both levels zoomed onto the FULL section. She didn’t turn the suit on; she didn’t want to waste oxygen. She turned her attention back to Phiorri. This was a new development. She usually worked alone. That was best, and Phiorri knew it.
“Hannah!” said Phiorri, smiling, and holding up two paws. “Stop worrying. I know more than you think about all this. Trust me!”
And Hannah did. Explicitly.
They walked down the hall together, the helmets still up, the suits still powered off. “Turn it on just as soon as you’re clear of the doors,” instructed Phiorri. “We’ll start getting radio feed from Kowrie too.”
Hannah nodded, as if she had forgotten. They both held their breath and slid on their helmets. This was a delicate part in operations, as Hannah had been told. Oftentimes you could accidentally take a breath outside, the toxic-to-Neopets gas would fill your lungs, and the results would be devastating. Phiorri entered the pass code, and the door slid open, disclosing the familiar slate-gray walls and sheeted metal. Only this was real.
They stepped through, and powered on their suits. Instantly cool oxygen wafted into the helmet, and Hannah sighed. “Well hello, Hannah!” said Kowrie’s voice. “Feeling good?”
“Pretty much,” said Hannah, looking warily around for flashing blue lights and screaming sirens. The corridor was silent. “What tunnel are we in?”
“Lunar Caverns,” said Kowrie. “I’m pulling up a map saved from Evient’s databases. Hold on . . . yup, there are a lot of air pockets around here, so you can fill your oxygen tanks any time you want.”
“Where’s the nearest robot?” asked Phiorri. “Close?”
“Hmm, yes, in fact,” said Kowrie. “Past that corridor and down the hall. There’s a key beside it – should be gold. It unlocks a door to a cavern on the other side of the caverns. There aren’t too many high jumps – you shouldn’t burn through all that much fuel.”
“Where’s the evidence?” asked Hannah, moving silently down the hall.
“Beyond that golden door,” said Kowrie. Hannah could hear the smile in her voice. “Three chests full of ember jewels. Only found in a restricted area of the Kreludorian mines, one about eighty or ninety miles away. When you get there, I’ll turn on the camera in your helmet. Take a few pictures. I’ll save it on a hard drive, with all the information and send it on a ship back to the planet before you get back to base.”
Hannah nodded, peering around the corner. She could see the robot clanking away by the end of the tunnel. She could see a shelf which she could easily reach.
“Kowrie,” she whispered, “are the robots on superdrive?”
“No, Hannah, I checked,” she said. “Completely clean.”
“Is the video-feed running?”
“I’ve been feeding it a replay from the past ten minutes. Even if anyone’s awake right now, they’re seeing an empty corridor.”
Hannah sighed and crept down the corridor. The robot was clanking away from her. She pressed herself to the wall and scanned the halls for cameras.
“Hannah!” whispered Phiorri. “Fly!” He pulled her into the air with small spurts from his boots. The robot had been staring at her while she’d checked. It had turned around while she’d been distracted. They both landed safely onto the shelf, and trembling, Hannah picked up the golden key. That had been a very close repeat of the virtual testing disaster yesterday.
“Intrusion?” droned the robot. “None.”
Sighing with relief, Hannah spoke into the mike. “Any more?”
“Two. Not far from the door, but a fair distance from where you are now,” said Kowrie. “Get going. Your oxygen’s half full, by the way. And be careful with your fuel.”
Hannah followed Phiorri up a chute above the shelf. Kowrie was right: Her fuel level was dropping steadily. She was sure she could find a fuel pool somewhere. “Thanks for saving me,” hissed Hannah.
“No problem,” he replied.
The pair reached the door without danger. A robot had scanned one of Phiorri’s boots, but had ignored it as a glitch. His leaps, sadly, had been pathetic. His familiarity with the tunnels wasn’t affecting his skill in the suit, and it showed. Despite the reassuring thought that an experienced person was here, Hannah admitted to herself that Phiorri’s being here was rather of a nuisance. Why was he even coming? He was basically a third wheel.
With shaking fingers, she slipped the key into the keyhole in the door. They had been in the tunnels for a little over an hour. She had refilled on oxygen two times, and that final hurdle over the robot had worn her out. She couldn’t wait to get out of the tunnels. The exit was only yards away.
“Camera activated,” said Kowrie in a fair impersonation of the droning robots. “Snap away.”
Hannah took ten or more pictures of the gems and the label on the chests. “Ember Jewels: Restricted Kreludorian Material! Only found in the Caricurus Caverns.” Every click sent proof to Kowrie. Hannah backed up and snapped a few shots of it in the dark cavern, where it certainly did not belong. She could hear Kowrie typing. Hannah stretched inwardly with the luxury of being able to take her own time as she clicked. No matter what happened to her, the pictures would be the evidence. Kowrie could handle it now that she had the prints. She backed into a corner of the room to snap a shot of the entire room.
“Intrusion,” droned a voice. The robot! It had seen Phiorri. He froze in the red glare of the robot’s eyes. Hannah stood in the corner, watching, obscured. It hadn’t seen her. “Waiting for orders. Code blue.”
The blue lights flashed and the alarms screamed. Clank! Clank The other robots were coming.
“Orders received,” muttered the robot. “Orders: Take Intruder. Commencing orders.” Without further ado, it grabbed Phiorri around the middle with its titanium hand and began hurtling away. Hannah ran in the other direction. The yellow and black doors slowly opened and she flew through them. She was safe.
Phiorri was not.
To be continued...