Tyrants and Heroes: Part Five
A series of asterisks appeared on screen. The Usul hit a large key.
“Connecting containment module to ship.”
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m attaching her lobby--where she keeps most of her prizes--to the ship. Maybe we can get back to the woods, and then we can figure out how to release the others.”
“Something’s rumbling!” Tor shouted.
“...And I also started the ship,” she quipped.
All havoc stopped. Chix looked at the Usul, noticing for the first time that somebody was messing with her computer. The door slid open, but it kept rumbling.
“What did you do?” She fumed at the Usul.
“I opened the door.”
“What else did you do?”
I suddenly chomped down on Callie’s scruff, shoved Tor out of the doorway just in time, and made a mad dash for the way out while dragging Callie, with Bronco (who had nervously waited outside the room) and Tor taking after me. As soon as we made it across the lobby to the exit, we found that the door was closed once more. Tor was about to pick the lock when a voice called out. Chix had caught up to us.
“You can’t pick it like you did to get in here. Since it’s lifting off, the door won’t open until the engine shuts down. But don’t worry, you won’t get hurt.” The Huntress smirked as she lifted up her arm cannon. I assumed that while we had been running, she had reloaded the gun.
“Run!” I yelled as we all dashed across the room and in every which way. There were no more commands, just acting wildly, quickly thinking for ourselves what to do.
It was the reason we stood a better chance than the Aishas had. We could think for ourselves and act for ourselves. Would we truly stand a chance in the end, though? The doors were shut, and we were far from home.
I dashed back to the cockpit as the Huntress tried netting the twins. They were cornered, so I surged towards her: My paws bounded across the tiling, leapt up, I soared and I collided with her back. She grabbed for me, not even using her cannon, but Callie was in the right place at the right time. Chix tripped over her and tumbled head over heels, already being surprised by my attack.
The rush had been almost identical to the one I had dreamt.
I had dreamt it! The entire mission had been something I was set to do!
I suddenly remembered that we didn’t know Rhubarb’s whereabouts. He had last been seen chewing wires in the electronics room. As the twins were fending for themselves well, I ran through the open door to the room.
“Rhubarb! Run!” I shouted. Callie, Bronco, Tor and Hill ran in (Callie was carrying Hill). Chix followed them, and she pushed a button on her arm cannon. The room’s door slammed shut.
Chix smirked evilly at me, and of course, aimed for me first. I rolled out of the way just in time to avoid a net, but two more followed. Neither hit due to me running in a zigzag through the tangle of wires. She cursed under her breath and decided she would rather have Callie as a prize, letting loose four nets at her. She dodged three, but the fourth got her, and the second got Tor. The Huntress merely ignored the tangled foresters, knowing that they wouldn’t be able to run for long.
The Huntress had no problem with Rhubarb (who wasn’t used to running, and also his coat made him look like an apple in a bunch of grapes in that situation), but Bronco was a challenge. Several nets became wrapped around various bunches of cords before he was down. Finally, she was back to me.
“Finally.” She closed her eyes and sighed as her arm cannon gave way to the long, rising shrill of charging. I was too scared to move, only watch as my fate take place.
Why? Why was I too scared to move, to run? Was it the fact that we weren’t in the forests anymore?
No. It was the knowledge that the only friends I had were tangled up in nets.
...Actually, that was incorrect. Chix screamed a cry of pain and instantly fainted the moment before she could fire. A jaw harp fell to the floor and broke in two beside her.
I could only stare in astonishment at Hill, the tiny hero.
After I managed to remove the nets from all of them, I looked over at my friends and smiled.
“Thank you all. Each of us has contributed to this in some way. I know there probably wouldn’t be time for saying that, but we might still have enough time to find out how to release the others before you-know-who wakes up. I think we’d better start now.”
“I’ll agree, Cerulean, you might even already have discovered how to release us.”
My head whipped around to the figure standing in the doorway. A smile quickly played across Rubia’s face.
“You didn’t notice me sneak in here behind you? Under other conditions, I might scold you for trying something like this. But since your plan, whatever it was, actually worked, I won’t.”
“But even though we had Chix down, we weren’t doing anything to free you! What happened?” Callie inquired.
“I don’t know. All of a sudden, the force keeping me still stopped short. I mean, I had been watching what had been going on, and then I was free. You’re a true hero, Cerulean.”
The Usul pushed a key on Chix’s arm cannon, and the door to the room opened.
“What about the others? Aren’t they all still paralyzed, too?” Bronco questioned.
As if on cue, three others walked into the room: A Uni, a Kacheek and a Kyrii.
“I have no idea what’s happening, but I sure do love what it’s causing.” The Halloween Uni sighed with happiness.
Sure enough, one by one, those that we had assumed forever lost were jumping back to life. Their poses, ranging from being delighted and ten feet high to simply seeming to carrying out daily life and almost touching the ground, were gradually springing with new energy.
Faces that had been in one position for months, sometimes years on end were enjoying the freedom of multiple expressions. Those that had once been parallel to statues were now stretching stiff legs. Children, hardly a third of your size, were once more playing with each other; as if just the day before, they had been frolicking like they were then.
It was, quite simply, a miracle.
I looked at Rhubarb, who was still eating wires.
“Do you have any idea what you’ve just done?”
“No. Is it bad?”
“See for yourself.” I pointed at the pets in the entry. The wires he had chewed through must have cut off the energy holding the foresters in place. The first few cords may have been for minor purposes, but in one tangled section of them, all of them were broken. Rhubarb’s paw slowly rose out of the mesh of wires and into the air, directing me to what was happening.
Chix was awake standing at the doorway, cannon aimed, blocking the only way out. The ship suddenly lurched as it landed on the Blank safely, however. I could see the Usul wink at me from the control room.
We may have technically been in our own world, but we couldn’t have our cake and eat it, too. The Huntress flicked a switch on her gun and nets started rapid-firing, her face twisted into a scowl.
The captured Neopets disbanded from their groups and started running every which way. The Huntress had never been seen this fierce; there was nothing to do but delay your outcome. They would run, slide, anything they could do to not be the last one caught. Every few seconds, Chix would slam a refill cartridge from her belt into the cannon. Why didn’t the pets think about doing anything?
If they couldn’t think, I certainly had to do it for them. Maybe it was because they hadn’t been expecting somebody to break in and try rescuing them. I, on the other hand, had started the operation; of course I wasn’t startled by some action. I started charging in Chix’s direction.
She snickered as she bagged a few more of us. They were rampaging everywhere: she didn’t notice me flying towards her face. That was the rush I had foreseen. I hissed sharply in her face, and prepared to claw her. But she managed to get up in time. In time to flee, that is.
She slammed the door open and ran outside. A beeline was made for the trees as I assumed she had given up. We all sat there for a few moments, those of us who had dodged all nets successfully helping those who were caught get out of their nets, and then we noticed the engine fly out of the room that had the workings in it. Bronco soon returned to the main room, without the rest of us noticing his absence.
“Just sabotaging the power supply so she’ll have to starve in the wilderness.”
As the once-threatening Huntress made off to the woods and became a speck in the distance, I looked over my shoulder at all of the foresters grouped behind me. I had saved them: no, I didn’t. WE saved them. Even Hill had tossed his jaw harp at her to temporarily get her out of the picture. Callie (who I also hadn’t noticed was missing) reappeared from the cockpit, holding the pieces of the instrument. She handed it back to him.
“Well, let’s go.” I smiled as I gestured to the open doorway.
“Thank you. Thank you, thank you, and thank you. I wouldn’t have done this if you were caught, and to believe, this relationship all started with me slamming a door on you,” Rubia admitted as we settled inside. “How can I possibly repay you?”
“You don’t need to. I was repaying you for keeping me safe all this time.”
“I was alone, and you were my Creator’s Child! You don’t need to pay me back for anything.”
“Well, you don’t need to pay me back for anything, either. You’re my friend.”
Sitting back, and about to begin another long session of staring at the ceiling, I sighed. Somehow, I felt like I had a little bit more of a purpose. I was the one who had cut off the energy holding the others petrified at the ship, I was a savior. But I still didn’t know everything.
For starts, beyond Cerulean telling me to eat through the wires, I didn’t have any idea of what the others had been doing. I didn’t know who Rubia was, other than the one who had made him make the decision, although not directly. More importantly, however, was Cerulean himself. I didn’t know the full story behind him being a Xweetok, let alone him actually being against his own kind.
In addition, I wished I could be one of them. I had never been very social, and I was only just starting now. Feeling slightly shamed, I decided that now would be a good time to start.
One of my hobbies (aka things to do when I was actually doing things) was woodcarving. There were several useless ornaments strewn about my house, as it was an addictive something I had done on and off. If I was now going to have friends, then this would be a good way to make them.
I took a chunk of wood off of my shelf and began to carefully whittle away at it. The shape I was carving was slightly tedious; working with such a small block made it worse. It was still simple, though, so after an hour or so of lollygagging on the floor while carving, it was done.
Flinging my door open, I realized that my first monthly meeting was soon, so I grabbed the carving and scurried off.
I inwardly cheered as the events unfolded to me from my eyes shut tight. Cerulean had won! He triumphed! Feeling good, I jumped slightly, landing with a quake. A single Ogrin entered the chamber within moments.
“Madam, is something wrong? The tremor awakened several servants.”
“Oh,” I said suddenly. Changing the subject, I delivered the news. “Cerulean and a few of his close friends have just raided Chix. They succeeded in bringing back many of the lost ones.”
The red Ogrin, Antir, gasped.
“What? Could you see inside?”
“No. I’m blind to the world of the Hunters even when one of my own is there. I tried Cerulean and Tor, neither worked. Aww, how sweet.”
A baby JubJub stared longingly at a broken jaw harp. I recognized him as Hill, the one who had yet to utter a word. Rhubarb approached him and handed him a new, wooden one. The jaw harpist happily took it and strummed four times.
Antir nodded and left me to my visions. I opened my eyes, blinked a few times, and the view changed to the Blank. The ship still loomed there. I had no idea of what went on inside during the mission, but knew that they had been successful as soon as I saw a great deal more walk out than walk in.
More important than the shuttle, however, was the Huntress. She emerged from the woods, arms crossed. Her hair was sopping, only complimenting her general mood. I had never seen her show so much emotion. For several minutes, she stood there, tears running from her eyes as she paced in circles. She then slowly trotted over to where a river of rainwater was running across the Blank. Her next move changed my entire view of her.
Her left hand reached over to her cannon and flipped a few switches. As it slid off of her arm, she effortlessly caught it. She heaved it high over her head, and hurled it into the stream.
A sinking feeling washed over me. Taking a deep breath, I decided to do something I didn’t do very often, just because of the sheer idea of it. I closed my eyes, concentrated, and when I opened them; I was looking into her mind, capable of sensing all emotions and digging deep into memories.
I soon realized that Chix had much more to her than what met the eye. Like any other being, she had many levels. I couldn’t let her perish out there; she couldn’t help which world she was born into.
I did what I could for her, to say the least.
To be continued...