Leave No Agent Behind
Author's Note: In memory of a great Neopian injustice!
"Excellent work, agents! Now Yurius is behind locked doors, all the petpets are safe. Your work will be rewarded," Mother Bruce, the saccharin Lead Agent in the Petpet Protection League, said elatedly to her three best agents. The Cloud Bruce turned to a young Gelert called Kaylee who had helped in the missions to bring the petpets home. "Agent 31, I would like you to make one last visit to our apprehended criminal."
Kaylee and her co-agents; Mike (a Green Nimmo) and Deckar (a Red Grarrl), tensed at the suggestion.
"On my own, ma'am?" Kaylee asked in surprise.
"We should go with her," Deckar insisted protectively. He was the strongest, but the softest, agent of the team. He turned to mush whenever he saw an adorable petpet (which was 99.9% of the time).
Mother Bruce (AKA "Weltrude" when she wasn't being formal) gave them a stern look. "Come now, get a backbone, you all arrested him this evening. Kaylee, I want you to interrogate Yurius."
The Yellow Gelert gulped but nodded. "I will get to it right away."
"Good!" Mother Bruce exclaimed as the male agents exchanged worried looks. "He is in cell R8-ME. Do not fear, I believe you can look after yourself, agent, and there is a panic alarm in the room should you need it."
"Thank you," Kaylee said stiffly. She shot a reassuring smile at her comrades and accepted a clipboard with an interview form clipped to it. There was also a pencil attached to it on a string. "I'll be back as soon as I am done."
Deckar watched her leave through a special door that led to some offices within the PPL building. Mike could tell that he was nervous. They both knew that Yurius was a dangerous Neopian and their friend could be in trouble.
* * *
Kaylee tied her long, brown hair into a ponytail and walked down the restricted corridors of PPL HQ.
She took a deep breath. I can do this...
Room R8-MB, Room R8-MD, Room R8-ME was opposite MD in the hall.
She peered through the window on the door marked R8-ME. Yurius, the Skunk Kyrii, was sat at an interrogation table on an orange and blue chair. His glasses disguised his eyes at this distance.
Kaylee unlocked the door with a special six-digit code and put on a poker face of calmness.
The criminal glanced up and scowled at her. "Oh joy. It's you again."
Kaylee scoffed in offence. "Be quiet. I stopped you from drowning, remember?"
The tension between them was like a steel thread constantly being tugged at from both sides but neither of them wanted to snap.
Yurius pushed his glasses up his nose and gave her an indignant look. "Why did you? I thought you and those lads hated me? The whole of PPL hated me. They STILL hate me."
"Calm down. I have some questions to ask you."
The Kyrii was less than co-operative. "I have some questions to ask YOU."
Kaylee slammed the clipboard down on the table and angrily sat opposite the convict. "Let me do my job!"
"Are we being watched?"
"What?" she asked, taken aback.
"Are we being monitored by the Head Moron of this stupid PPL establishment?"
Kaylee glanced around. "Yeah. Duh. This is an interrogation room."
"I'm not answering any questions that horrible Bruce has written for you." There was venom in his voice.
The Gelert looked shocked.
Suddenly a speaker crackled and Mother Bruce's voice filled the room; "JUST ANSWER THE QUESTIONS, YURIUS! OBEY THE RULES!"
The booming voice made Yurius flinch and Kaylee shrieked in alarm.
"Oh my GOODNESS! Don't DO that, Mother Bruce! Scare the HECK outta me, why don't you?!" The agent was yelling at the camera on the ceiling.
Mother Bruce sighed over the P.A. System. "SERIOUSLY, KAYLEE, HAVE SOME DIGNITY. YOU'RE IN FRONT OF A CRIMINAL."
Yurius snapped back. "I'm no criminal!"
"THE EVIDENCE SUGGESTS OTHERWISE," she responded coolly. Too coolly.
Kaylee grew fed-up of this situation and commanded, "Mother Bruce! I cannot do my interrogation with you contradicting me. Either shut off all surveillance or we'll move to another room that I know is not monitored."
"HOW DARE YOU DISREGARD MY INSTRUCTIONS, AGENT 31!"
"This felon will NOT talk in your presence, Mother Bruce. Grant us privacy and I'll get him to talk my way. Trust me on this."
Mother Bruce hesitated for a moment before saying, "VERY WELL. FIND A SECURE LOCATION WITHIN THE PREMISES THAT IS NOT BEING WATCHED. BUT I WANT THAT REPORT DONE AND BY NO MEANS SHOULD HE ESCAPE!"
"Yes, I understand."
Kaylee turned to the Kyrii. "Alright, let's move. I know the perfect location."
* * *
Yurius dug his heels in the carpet of the PPL corridor and looked disbelievingly at his warden. "No way! I am NOT going in there!"
Kaylee entered the code on the panel next to the door and glanced pathetically at him. "You wanted a private place to conduct an interrogation with no surveillance? Well this is an extremely apt place for it."
She opened the door.
"But REALLY inappropriate!" The Skunk Kyrii gasped, taking a step back.
"Do you want Mother Bruce to interrogate you instead?"
"Gah – NO! But I don't want to go IN THERE."
Kaylee rolled her eyes. "Don't be a baby."
"But that's the GIRLS TOILETS! I'm not going in there!" The mortification in his voice was probably heard by Lupes ten miles away.
The agent facepalmed and dragged him into the room anyway.
Yurius felt awkward as he entered the Girls Toilets because he REALLY shouldn't be there. Although, it did lull him into a false sense of comfort due to the cream-coloured walls that had a frieze of purple flowers to remove the blandness of the neutral tone. There was a large mirror above the sink and three cubicles opposite them. The floor was made of stone and there was a small plant by the door they just came through. There were also two comfy armchairs beside the sinks, next to a paper towel dispenser for employees to dry their hands on. Convict and agent sat down in these chairs.
Kaylee removed a pencil that was placed carefully next to her ear and scribbled down some information onto the form that was attached to her clipboard. She did not trust the pencil on a string that came with it. She liked to use her own stationery rather than office supplies. "Okay, Yurius, let's get this over with."
"Wait – what if some girls come in?" He was a little bit embarrassed and increasingly paranoid.
"We won't be disturbed. All of our agents are on field duty," she said reassuringly.
"Can we please have an informal interview?" he implored.
Kaylee looked at him quizzically. "Why? This is an interrogation."
"I swear, I'm not a bad guy!"
She scoffed. "Could've fooled us."
"No, really. I ADORE petpets! It's the only reason I tried to join the Petpet Protection League. Yes, I was not a fan of the rules, but I didn't care about them – I wanted to help the critters."
Okay, Yurius seemed to be answering some of the questions on the form. The informal interview thing seemed to be a good tactic after all.
"What about us agents? You could have seriously hurt us!"
Yurius looked guilty. "I didn't want to harm any of you. I was just trying to STALL you."
"WHY were you trying to stall us? Those poor petpets could have been harmed." Kaylee was getting angry.
Yurius was now becoming fervent. "No, you misunderstand! Remember back to when you 'rescued' those petpets? Do you think that they looked hurt or distressed? Were they injured or upset?"
Kaylee thought back to the missions and realised, to her surprise, that all of the petpets were happy, healthy and showed no signs of maltreatment. "No, they weren't."
"My point exactly!" He sighed with relief. "I made sure that they had food and were safe from predators. I was trying to prove that I AM a competent agent."
The Gelert wasn't sure what to think. "You're just attempting to talk your way out of a prison sentence."
"Of course I am! I'm INNOCENT! But I'm telling you the TRUTH."
Kaylee tapped her pencil against the clipboard in wonder. "Why were you rejected from the PPL?"
Yurius began to well-up with tears. "Go and look up the records they wrote about me. They are treating me like a criminal and they fired me for a stupid reason."
Kaylee considered this. During the mission she had gone back and saved Yurius from drowning in Maraqua after his trap had failed. Her colleagues, Mike and Deckar, were quick to leave him in favour of the petpets, whilst she had gone back to check on the villain.
Was he telling the truth?
"Stay here, Yurius. I'm gonna take a look at your PPL records."
The Kyrii was going to protest but she had already left him there. He cautiously explored the room and stopped in front of the mirrors. He splashed some water from the cold water tap onto his face and hoped for a better future.
* * *
Agent 31 stormed into Mother Bruce's office without knocking. "I'm onto something, boss! I need all your files on Yurius to help my interrogation."
Mother Bruce folded her arms. "Excuse me. Where are your manners, Agent 31?"
"I'm sorry. Please can I have our records on Yurius to progress my interrogation?"
The leader of the PPL was not impressed. "Kaylee, you ask the questions on the form provided. You do not need his files."
Oh, so she was playing THIS game? Kaylee thought irritably.
"This is much more than just an interrogation. And I'm no Defender of Neopia – my skills are to care for petpets, not to act like the police. Let me access those files."
Mother Bruce was not pleased but opened a filing cabinet behind her. She extracted a cardboard folder and paused before handing it over. "Be very careful around Yurius, Kaylee. He is dangerous. I will give you one more hour with him but then he must be escorted back to his holding cell. Is that clear?"
"Thank you, Mother Bruce!" she chimed, taking the file off her boss.
Now she could return to Yurius and get the truth!
* * *
The Skunk Kyrii was bored. He was back in the chair of the Girls Toilets and was actually relieved when Kaylee returned!
"Can we move to another location?" Yurius asked imploringly, ashamed to even look at the walls.
"Aww, is it making you uncomfortable?" Kaylee teased as she sat on the other chair, opening up the cardboard folder to take a look at the contents.
He scowled. "Shut up. You know I shouldn't be here."
"Glad to hear you have boundaries," she mused, reading the PPL's comments on his history with the agency.
"Can we move to another unwatched location?"
"Like the room at the other end of the building?"
"No chance," she said resolutely. "We're against the clock."
Yurius slumped back in his chair and waited for her to throw facts (or falsified facts) at him.
Kaylee's eyebrows furrowed. "I don't get this. All of your answers from the PPL exam are correct, yet they failed you."
"Uh... I did kinda... cheat a bit," he admitted sheepishly.
She glanced at him disapprovingly. "Oh."
"But it wasn't about the PAPER exam. I passed the on-the-job test with flying colours! I couldn't cheat on that because it was an assessed practical."
Kaylee cross-referenced the other results and nodded. "You had an excellent report on the practical. Apparently you demonstrated expert skills with petpets and in dealing with crises. How odd..."
"What?" Yurius asked, leaning forward in his seat.
"Strictly speaking, you ARE a qualifying agent, sans the written exam."
"Really?" he asked in awe. "You mean that?"
"Yeah! I mean, it was wrong of you to cheat but you passed on all practical exercises, which is sixty-percent of the marks, so you should have been allowed to at least train as a PPL crèche worker or as an emergency switchboard operator or something. You might have been able to retake the written exam, except under closer moderation."
Yurius began to sob. "So all of this could have been avoided!"
Kaylee felt a pang of sympathy towards him as she flicked through the other pages of the report. "I don't get it... why would they fire you?"
"I dunno... I was stupid..."
She then discovered Mother Bruce's written report on him. It said;
I have had several reports of a Neopian citizen who has taken our agency exam but has failed to follow protocol on several occasions.
For not using a No. 2 pencil on his exam paper, instead favouring a ballpoint pen (ink: blue), I hereby deem his actions unnecessary and foolish.
If he cannot be trusted to use the proper instruments in an exam, then how can we trust him on the field? He is not suitable PPL material and hereby cannot reapply for the position.
Kaylee was now completely baffled. "Mother Bruce fired you because you used a ballpoint pen in an exam?"
Yurius nodded sadly. "Would you believe it? Fired because of using a PEN?"
"Why would they allow a pen into the exam room anyway? You'd think they'd be confiscated."
"I don't know. I like using pens; you can see the ink clearer than using a pencil."
"I mean... I could understand it if you were fired because of cheating or stealing – and you didn't steal anything until you were fired – so really this is all Mother Bruce's fault."
"YES! Thank you!" Yurius exclaimed, hugging her tightly.
Shocked, Kaylee patted him on the back as he embraced her. She then eased herself out of the hug. "Let's get this straight – I don't like the fact that you put us all in jeopardy on the missions, but I think the PPL has not treated you properly or fairly, and I suspect that Mother Bruce has some kind of hostility towards you."
"I don't know why..."
"I'll try and prove your innocence."
"I've TRIED and I always end up as the criminal!"
Kaylee knew this was true. "Fine. Then we have no other choice but to break you out of here."
This suggestion stunned Yurius. "Are you crazy?!"
"I normally wouldn't encourage this, but you were a qualified agent... Yet you were driven insane because they wouldn't let you use a ballpoint pen. It cost you your dream job and I can't let you suffer because of it."
"You are crazy! You could get fired!"
"It's a risk I'm willing to take."
She then explained her escape plan to him.
* * *
Kaylee and Yurius "headed back" to room R8-ME in the last twenty minutes of interrogation time.
Suddenly they stopped as Mike approached them in the hallway. The Nimmo stared at Kaylee uncertainly. "I thought he was being interrogated?" he asked, glancing cautiously at the Kyrii.
Kaylee stiffened. "He needed the bathroom. We're going to the interrogation room now."
"Oh." Mike wasn't expecting such a cold response from her. "Well finish the job soon, will you? Deckar and I are going to Pizzaroo for dinner – want to come?"
"Oh! Well, I'll get back to you on that. I, uh, have an evening planned with Cindy and Natasha. We're going to a party at the NC Mall – Masquerade." Lying to her friend was painful, but she had to convince him that everything was normal.
"Sounds like a good time." He had bought the bait.
Yurius rolled his eyes. He wanted to escape this building and those agents were talking about their social lives! Boring.
"Um," Kaylee continued, lifting her clipboard up for Mike to see. "Well, I've better get this form completed. Seeya later, Mike."
She shoved Yurius ahead of her and they did not look behind them as they marched towards room R8-ME.
Once they were sure that no one else was in the corridor, they put their plan into action.
Yurius went back into the interrogation room whilst Kaylee turned back in the direction they came from to return the file she had borrowed from Mother Bruce.
"Thank you for the file, Mother Bruce," Kaylee said sincerely, watching her boss' expression. "It was very helpful."
"Good," Mother Bruce said satisfactorily. "I trust you are finished with Yurius?"
"Almost, just a few things to clear up and then he's the police's problem."
"Excellent, Agent 31! If you escort him to room 1827-D he'll be guarded until security takes him away."
Great! The wool was over Weltrude's eyes. Now Kaylee could work on getting the innocent Yurius out of the building!
Kaylee walked briskly back to room R8-ME and opened the door. She did not enter, though, but allowed Yurius out of the room.
"Come on, Yurius. Mother Bruce says you need to go to room 1827-D. Let's go!"
"As you wish," Yurius grumbled, stealing a knowing glance at the agent. He knew she was keeping her word because he detected no betrayal in her eyes.
They calmly strode through the corridors and when they were sure that no one else was following them, Kaylee activated the fire alarm to provide enough commotion throughout the building to enable her an Yurius to slip out of the alternative exit unnoticed.
Once they were outdoors in a backstreet, Kaylee turned to the culprit urgently. "I have to stay for now, but now is the only time you can make a break for it. Climb over the wall and run until you reach the Neolodge. Keep out of sight for as long as possible and at nightfall I'll meet you near the Money Tree. After that we'll figure out what to do. Find a disguise if possible."
Yurius hugged her gratefully. "Thank you!"
He then leapt over the wall.
Kaylee had no regrets.
* * *
Yurius felt free! Not completely free because Mother Bruce was determined to "hunt him down for justice" but Kaylee kept him under the radar and allowed him to secretly help her with PPL missions.
When Kaylee was not out on a mission she was like any other vet, but she helped petpets at her own home, away from the office. Yurius became a great friend and loved to spend time with the petpets. In the time that he spent cleaning and feeding the critters, Kaylee was working on a record of her own about Yurius' efforts to countermand Mother Bruce's scarring report. She was building up a good reputation for the Kyrii so that he could find his way back to helping petpets professionally.
Although Yurius' retaliation against the agents was reckless and morally wrong, he was keen to help petpets, and Kaylee could not help but imagine that if he had only used a pencil during the exam, he could have been one of the top agents in the business!
Well, she would do everything in her power to clear his name, because in the call of duty you leave no agent behind.