Storm of Fortunes: Part Four
After ten minutes of travel Tyson was sitting on a comfortable sofa, while Vaughn made some coffee. The Bori held a plain white envelope with no distinguishing markings whatsoever. He turned it over in his hands, ran a paw across the triangular flap at the back.
"Can I open it?" he asked.
"Of course," Vaughn called back. "Sugar?"
"What? Uh, no thanks."
He opened the envelope and removed a creased sheet of paper. Even as he opened it, his heart began to sink.
It was the same message he had decoded for Wolf.
Wolf stared. "What?"
"Vaughn Harp. He's a red Poogle from Tamsley. We believe that he's involved. Disappointed, Wolf? Perhaps he's not the only one with secret loyalties."
She shook her head. "No, Spark. Tyson's with him!"
It was the Poogle's turn to stare. "What?"
"He left this morning."
"Do you think...?"
"I don't know, but we have to find out what's going on. I'll... Sloth! He only has a receiver..."
"We should tell Clark," Spark said.
"I'm going after the Bori. If I hurry, I might catch him before he arrives."
Her wings came up, trailing mists in their wake. Spark laughed.
"Don't be an idiot. You can't take them alone."
She cast that unsettling, unshakeable gaze upon him. To his great credit, it can be said that Spark did not flinch.
"I'm going. Do what you like."
"Can you decode it?"
"Well..." Tyson was starting to panic. "Maybe. I don't know. But I'll try. Umm... where did you get this?"
"Work. It's part of a game we play. Your help is greatly appreciated, Jem."
"Is there a quiet room I can work in?"
His cousin gestured to an open doorway. "Sure. In there. Thanks again, Jeremy."
Heart pounding, Tyson entered the room and made sure that the door clicked shut behind him. His legs felt weak. The message... it had probably been copied from Stone's transmitter, which meant that Vaughn could be working with Vira. Had he been there when the purple Kougra fell? Had he seen her... or had he hid outside the door and listened to her cries? Tyson didn't want to believe it. He tried to convince himself that Vaughn wouldn't do something like that. At the most, perhaps he had waited in another part of the castle for whoever had attacked her to return with the coded file.
Or had he simply taken it off someone who was? But then, why would he lie to Tyson? If he was with the Defenders of Neopia, he would know that Tyson worked for them too. If he wasn't, then what reason would he have for wanting the message decoded? It was probably at least top secret. In that case, Tyson had no reason to decode it for him. And, if he did, what if it somehow made it back to Vira? Once again, the terrible idea that Vaughn could be working for her filled him with dread.
Tyson felt suddenly sick with fear. The code used was such that he could hardly imagine it would pique the curiosity of a casual passer by. In that case, the Poogle almost certainly had to have a connection to Vira. What if she found out who Tyson worked for?
He glanced quickly around the room and caught sight of a half open window. Maybe he could get away, find Sia, and contact Clark or Wolf...
There was a knock at the door. Tyson spun around.
"Jeremy, I've got some coffee for you."
It was his cousin. Tyson's legs almost gave out beneath him.
"Come in," Tyson called.
He quickly put down the message and pulled up a chair. The doorknob twisted, and the door swung open.
"Here." Vaughn placed a steaming mug on the table. "Any progress?"
"Not yet." Tyson smoothed out the page. "I'm not sure if that's a lower case "L", or a "1"."
"Neither am I. Just do your best, okay?"
Tyson nodded, and Vaughn left. When he had gone, the young Bori scrambled back out of his chair and went over to the window. Outside was a large flower box and, just below that, a garden. The window sill was wooden. It was about as wide as his hand.
He looked back to ensure that Vaughn hadn't managed to sneak up on him. Having confirmed that the room was still empty, Tyson clambered up onto the sill. He gasped as he lost his balance, grabbing hold of the curtain in an effort to steady himself. One of his feet slipped, encountering the chair behind him with a solid clunk. Tyson winced.
"Jeremy, are you okay?" Vaughn called from the next room.
Tyson gently placed his foot back beside the other.
"Yeah, I'm fine, thanks," he replied.
The Bori lifted his right leg and tried to step over the flower box. Unfortunately, he couldn't quite reach. He instead had to put his foot down in the box itself, crushing a small flower in the process. Tyson then manoeuvred into a crouching position, with both feet planted firmly in the flower box and his hands on the open window.
"Jeremy?" Vaughn said, from somewhere within the building.
Tyson shifted. The flower box swayed beneath him. He barely managed to keep his balance as he scrambled to the edge.
"Jeremy! What are you doing?"
Tyson half sprang, half toppled, down into the garden. Ignoring the attention he was attracting from passers-by, he got up and ran.
He wasn't the most athletic of individuals, but Tyson had a good head start. Several moments passed before he heard Vaughn's angry and confused shouting as his cousin left his house and gave chase.
Breathing heavily, Tyson rounded a corner and found himself in a wide lane. Up ahead, he could see the town's central square.
I have to find Sia.
He kept running, but more slowly now, as much of his energy had been exhausted in that first desperate sprint. Tyson glanced back. Vaughn wasn't yet in sight.
The Bori's heart stopped. He skidded to a halt, returned his gaze to the road ahead. What met his eyes was not his cousin, whom he had expected to see there. It was a tall wraith Korbat.
"Wolf!" he gasped, relieved. "I think Vaughn's working with Vira."
"I know," Wolf said. "Wait, you didn't?"
Something skidded into the alley behind Tyson, dislodging a small stone.
"Jeremy! What are you...?"
Vaughn's voice trailed off as his eyes widened. "You!"
Wolf blinked. "So, Mister Harp. Should we treat you as an accomplice, or as a major perpetrator?"
He disappeared back around the corner. Without another word, Wolf gave chase. She spread her dark wings, took to the air, and vanished after him.
Tyson stepped out of the lane, to see Wolf descend on Vaughn with remarkable swiftness and pin him down with both arms. As his struggles subsided, she moved one hand in order to seize his left arm, and with the other reached for the right.
Suddenly, one of Vaughn's legs came up, colliding with Wolf and sending her tumbling forward onto the concrete. Before she could correct herself, he had scrambled out from beneath the wraith and taken off down the street.
"Wolf! Are you okay?"
The Korbat had raised herself into a crouch. She turned towards him, eyes narrowed.
"You let him go."
"Umm..." Tyson had no response to this.
With a growl, Wolf took off at a run, leaving Tyson alone on the street corner. The bemused Bori watched her disappear amongst a crowd of Neopians, dark mist swirling about her form. He couldn't remember if that had always been present, or if it was purely an indication of her present mood.
What was he supposed to do now? What if Vaughn or somebody else came after him? His heart pounded as he contemplated the possibility that, somewhere nearby, a foul villain could be busily searching for him.
After a while, Tyson decided to continue on towards the town square. Perhaps Sia was still nearby- she could lead him out of danger. Tyson hopefully increased his pace to a brisk trot.
Then something thudded against his head. His vision flashed red, and Tyson collapsed. He was unconscious before he hit the ground.
Wolf hissed, swung her head to and fro. There was no sign of Vaughn Harp.
A connection to Vira, and she'd lost him! Part of Wolf acknowledged that she'd done all she could to catch him. A similar part was desperately cursing Tyson for letting the Poogle slip past.
For a time she prowled back and forth, searching in vain for any sign of Vaughn. At last, shaking her head in frustration, Wolf admitted defeat and returned to the place where she had left Tyson.
He wasn't there.
Wolf growled. Obviously, he'd got bored and wandered off. Most unprofessional. Did the fool have any experience at all with the D.o.N?
Of course he did. He was one of their primary translators. But the way he was acting, anyone would think otherwise.
The wraith approached a news stand, and signalled to the salesman that she wished to talk. He handed a paper to a customer, before folding his arms and resting forward against the counter.
"What do you want?" asked the Ruki.
"Have you seen a green Bori?"
"You'll have to be a little more specific than that."
"He's about a head shorter than me, and wearing a shirt with a blue tie. He has a scar on his left cheek. Have you... what is it?"
The Ruki had turned pale. He shook his head and avoided Wolf's scrutinising gaze.
"No, I haven't seen him."
Her eyes narrowed. "You're lying. Stop playing games."
When the shopkeeper remained silent, the wraith's eyes widened once more. She leaned towards him.
"Is he in trouble? Tell me!"
"Keep quiet," the Ruki hissed, lowering his voice. "He was being carried by a red Grarrl. I think he was unconscious."
"What? Did you see where they went?"
"In the direction of the western outskirts."
"Well, not really, but..."
"Thank you," Wolf cut in. She turned away.
To be continued...