Sailing the Stars: Part Five
“Quiet, everyone! All rise! Commander Kommet and the Battle Faerie now entering!”
Bugsy was amazed. The Mission Briefing room was huge! It was a great circular room with white walls, lit by rectangular neon lights up on the ceiling. The entire assembly was seated on curved metal benches, all facing a large white circular table; Virtupets pilots and officials on one side, Faerieland troops on the other. Bugsy and her crew were there too, sitting with the faeries. The seats near the back of the room were elevated, so their occupants could see clearly.
In the northern part of the room, there were two large clear doors, with a single aisle through the seats leading from them to the table. Everyone stood up as Commander Kommet and the Battle Faerie entered the room through the doors, followed by a few more faeries and officers. Commander Kommet raised his paw and everyone sat down. The Battle Faerie stepped forward.
“Thank you all for coming,” she said quickly. “As you all know, the Sloth menace is quickly getting out of hand. Sloth must be defeated if we are to protect our planet and its inhabitants from slavery and demise. Through carefully negotiation, Commander Kommet and I have constructed a plan for this great undertaking.”
The Battle Faerie glanced at Commander Kommet. He nodded back at her, stepped right up to the table and flicked a switch under it. A large holographic map of Kreludor suddenly appeared, hovering above the table’s surface. There was a grey circle hovering just to the left of Kreludor, and a smaller red circle at the far end of the table, around the other side of Kreludor.
“What you see here,” said Commander Kommet, pointing at the grey circle with a stick, “is Dr. Sloth’s star-ship, slowly gliding around Kreludor, its exact current position here. We are currently here-” he pointed to the red circle, “-on the far side of Neopia, exactly opposite the star-ship’s position near Kreludor.”
“The plan is this,” continued the Battle Faerie. “At twelve hundred hours (12.00 midday), we shall distract Sloth’s forces by engaging the ship in full battle! Whilst the battle is commencing, a team of highly-skilled agents are to come at the ship from behind and board it. They are then to find Sloth and capture him from the inside, at which point the mission will be completed and the battle won. A squadron of faerie-troops will accompany the team to the ship; while the rest of the troops, along with the Virtupets fighters, serve in the battle.”
While this was being said, a large cloud of holographic red dots above the table flew up to the grey circle, whilst another smaller cloud of dots, gathered around a small yellow circle, flew up behind it. Bugsy watched with fascination.
“Captain Bugsy,” said the Battle Faerie, suddenly, “is your team assembled and ready to go?”
“My team?!” Bugsy stammered. They were going in there?! She hadn’t been expecting this at all! Before she could respond, however, a bright chirpy voice echoed in from the corridor.
“Yes, it is, captain!”
The doors opened up and a whole crowd of Faerie Neopets came in; a few Striped and Starry ones among them. In the front, a small colourful Faerie Pteri stood, smiling. Bugsy recognised it at once!
“Pteri!” Bugsy cried, a smile spreading onto her face. Buckbeak and the others smiled too. “What are you doing here!?” Bugsy burst out, her voice filled with joy.
“We heard you needed a spot of help and snuck aboard the Faerieland ships last night,” said Pteri with a smile. “I said our allegiance lies with you last time, didn’t I? And I intend to honour that promise. You and your crew need help getting this guy? We’re here to give it! We can even help operate your ship if you wish.”
“Well, I was thinking of hiring some more hands, since there’re only five of us...” replied Bugsy. She glanced at her crew. They all smiled again. Bugsy turned back to Pteri and smiled too, holding out her hand to shake Pteri’s wing.
“Welcome aboard!” she said, proudly.
It was 11.45 a.m. The entire battle fleet was coming up to Kreludor on the exact opposite site to Sloth’s ship, just as the plan specified. The Sweet Fyora was hovering somewhere in the middle, its crew ready and waiting for commands from the radio communication system the ship had been equipped with.
Bugsy stood at the rear with Pteri, Commander Buckbeak and the three lieutenants; ZoshiDevil at the helm. The radio communication system had been fixed to the wooden wall behind them, with the microphone taped to the railing so someone could speak into it easily.
Down on the main deck, some of Pteri’s crew were busy preparing for the battle; tending to the sails, loading the cannons etc. The rest were all below deck, working on the lower levels.
Bugsy glanced down at them all, still nervously thinking about what they were about to do. She and her crew had barely come out alive last time. If it hadn’t been for Pteri and his crew... but Bugsy was still jumpy with adrenaline, in the calm before the storm. Would they be so lucky this time?
Suddenly, Commander Kommet’s voice echoed out from the radio. “OK,” he yelled, “it is now 11:50 hours! Main Fleet, move out and proceed to co-ordinates! Prepare to engage battle!”
“Copy!” yelled someone in the background. Bugsy watched as the main group of fighters – Faeries and Virtupets pilots – all broke off from their position and sailed around the side of Kreludor, where they all vanished from sight. The Sweet Fyora was left behind with the small group of faerie fighters who’d volunteered to protect it.
“And now we wait,” said somebody else on the radio.
“And now we wait....” repeated Bugsy to herself. She stood in silence for a few seconds and then stepped forward, looking down at the crew on the deck. “Prepare to move out!” she ordered, “All hands working on and above deck fasten their lifelines!”
At these words, the crew all immediately stopped what they were doing and hurried to the mast to attach themselves to it, using rope. Bugsy and her crew did the same using ropes tied to the railing. A few minutes later, there came the sounds of a battle taking place, over on the far side of the moon.
“Battle has been engaged!” said Commander Kommet’s voice. “Capture Team, move out and proceed to Sloth Ship. Prepare to commence objective!”
“Roger that!” replied Bugsy into the microphone. She came away and began speaking to the whole crew. “Team, we’re going in! Full speed ahead!”
The Sweet Fyora immediately started forward; its faerie escorts following close behind. After half an hour, they had circled around to the other side of the moon. Dr. Sloth’s star-ship was visible just ahead, and a little way apart from it, the battle was taking place. Ships were zooming everywhere, and the streams of golden bullets shooting from them were clearly distinguishable from the blackness of space. The faeries were there too, shooting out beams of magical energy from their fingertips to attack Sloth’s fighters. Gee, thought Bugsy. It was one thing to take part in a battle, it was another to watch one from afar.
Just then, the ship gave a great sideways lurch! The whole crew were nearly flung right off their feet as several small explosions occurred all around them.
“What the - what in Neopia was that?!” yelled Bugsy as she held tightly to the railing.
And that was when someone spotted the three Sloth fighter ships, zooming just away from the ship, headed west. All of a sudden, the space around them was thick with Sloth fighters in every direction! They’d been detected! The Sweet Fyora was under attack!
“Take evasive action!” yelled Bugsy, as the ship tilted and knocked from side to side as a result of the fighter’s blows and the faerie’s struggles to protect it.
ZoshiDevil grunted and groaned as he tried to turn the heavy wheel. “I’m giving it all I’ve got, captain,” he yelled back, “but I just can’t shake them off!”
“Can’t this thing go any faster!?” shouted Nikolikan. “We’re going at a Slorg’s pace and being rattled like a can of peas for it!”
Bugsy smiled, despite the situation. She knew instantly what to do. “We need a boost!” she thought desperately, gripping her hat tightly. It began to glow, as it had done before on many other occasions when they were in danger.
All of a sudden, the ship shot forward like an arrow from a bow, so fast that the entire crew were swept clean off their feet! Bugsy and the lieutenants weren’t finding it much easier to hold on either. ZoshiDevil tried to regain his footing in order to steer properly, but they were going much too fast. The Sweet Fyora climbed, dropped and swerved sharply as it zoomed into the fray, across the battlefield, heading for Sloth’s star-ship.
ZoshiDevil tried to lift himself up, but as soon as he had gotten hold of one of the wheel’s handles, he slipped again. The wheel spun around wildly, causing the ship to take the sharpest turn yet as it dove downward!
Bugsy tried to hold on to the wooden flooring as the amount of force created by the turn threatened to sweep her overboard, as it had already done so with half of Pteri’s crew, who would have been stranded if it weren’t for their rope lifelines. Determination lent her the strength she needed. Just a little more...
Suddenly the ship lurched forward and Bugsy found herself being flung upwards, over the side, drifting in space. But she was still being pulled away from the ship as a result of the force acting on her from the ship’s turn, as far as her rope would allow.
“Captain!” yelled Shadow in shock, as he caught sight of Bugsy from his position on the floor. Pteri and the other three lieutenants noticed her as well and started yelling to her in alarm.
“HELP ME!!!” screamed Bugsy as she held desperately onto the rope, too overcome by the force to pull herself back in.
“We’re coming!” shouted Nikolikan, as they all tried to get to the railing in order to pull the rope; but before any of them could take a single step, another small Sloth fighter came up out of nowhere! “Look out!” someone else shouted, but it was too late. The fighter ship came shooting upwards and collided with Bugsy’s rope; it’s sharp wing edge slicing right through it!
“Captain!” cried Shadow again, as they all watched Captain Bugsy speeding away from the ship. Though she was no longer attached to it, the centrifugal forces were still acting on her, sending her shooting away at high speed. In just a few seconds, she was right out of sight!
“Go back!” Shadow yelled at ZoshiDevil, who had just managed to regain control of the wheel. “We have to help Captain Bugsy!”
“I can’t!” cried ZoshiDevil. “It’s too risky a turn! We’ll start to break up if we collide with anything at this speed!”
Just then, Commander Kommet spoke up once again. “Capture Ship! Come in, Capture Ship! Do not divert from the objective! Repeat, do not divert from the objective! You can recover your crewmember later!”
“That was no mere crewmember!” snapped Shadow at the microphone. But he knew Commander Kommet was right. Bugsy was gone. All they could do was keep focusing on the job. Shadow cast a long, last look at the stars around them as he came away from the radio, sighing. He hoped the captain would be all right.
Bugsy opened her eyes. Her whole body felt stiff and her head was aching. She was lying on something round and hard and lumpy, and her sword was digging into her back in its scabbard. “Ow, what hit me? A giant Skeith?” she murmured as she sat up slowly.
Trying to shake off the pain, Bugsy stood up and began to examine her surroundings. She was standing on a small round asteroid, drifting in space. Far off in the distance, she could still see the battle raging, with the great star-ship featuring Sloth’s ugly face shadowing the scene. She supposed a fighter ship had hit her and knocked her towards this thing, where she’d crashed.
“Oh great,” Bugsy snapped angrily, throwing her arms in the air, “here I am in the middle of a battle, stranded alone on a bit of rock, with no means of communication, and ABSOLUTELY UNABLE TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT!” She gave a quiet snarl and sat down, crossing her arms and legs in a huff. “Oh well,” she said, after calming down a little, “at least it can’t get any worse.”
Just then, she heard a sound, like the humming of a spacecraft engine somewhere nearby. Bugsy got up slowly, trying to detect where the noise was coming from. She turned around... and gasped!
Another spaceship had flown up behind her and was now hovering there before her, a little high above. It wasn’t one of Sloth’s fighters, that was for sure, but it didn’t look like one of Virtupets’s either. There was something menacing about it, like a hungry predator looking for prey. Two energy cannons were poking out of the sides of the strange ship, and the cannons were pointing straight at Bugsy.
Bugsy let her arms drop to her sides in defeat as she looked up at the ship, clearly preparing to fire. “Oh fudge,” she said simply.
To be continued...