A Week in the Life of a Junior Defender: Part Two
Let me make this clear: Just because I like reading and studying about the law, does not mean I like paperwork.
As soon as we called into work the next day, Sergeant Brexis had given Kieavin and me a stack of reports to look at. It was mostly just sorting through statements of pets, and seeing which ones needed our immediate attention, but it was absolutely mind-numbing. Also, being a magma pet and the fact that the paper wasn't fire-proofed, I had to hold in my heat when dealing with it, and the pain was beginning to get to me. I can hold it in for two, three hours, max, and we'd been at this for two now.
I glanced up from a report of a cabbage seller's stall being destroyed by a mob of fighting pets to look at Kieavin. She seemed absorbed by the work, and she probably was. You could give her the most boring task that existed and she would go about doing it like she was going after the most notorious crime-lord in Neopia: with glee. I really wanted to go and see what was going in with the Halloween Uni we had brought in late last night, but I also thought he didn't really look like a pet that was operating major heists in the Woods.
My partner lifted her head as she sensed my scrutiny, and one eyebrow lifted questioningly.
"I wish we were out there doing something. Or at least questioning the suspects downstairs," I said. "Anything would be better than this."
She shrugged. "Just think about one day when you're a full Defender and you can assign all the mindless tasks to the recruits."
That actually made me smile dreamily for a few moments.
"Besides, this is sort of interesting to do, if you look for patterns," she said. "Have you noticed that that cabbage seller has sent in about a dozen different reports just this year? He really has the worst luck."
I hadn't actually, but now that she had pointed it out...
"Oi, you two!' said a sharp voice. "Captain Thunder wants to you see you in his office. ASAP!"
A woodland Grundo marched smugly past us. He had been smug ever since he had been promoted to full Defender a month ago. No more being called just plain Leth for him: Now he was the Vicious Vine (seriously), with the ability to shoot vines from his back to ensnare his foes. And he wouldn't let us forget it, either.
"Yes, sir," Kieavin said smartly, which thankfully was enough of an acknowledgement for the Vine, as he smugly stalked off again.
I wondered what the Captain wanted with us. He was one of the highest-ranked pets in the Defenders, although he and Judge Hog didn't quite get along. But his accomplishments more than made up for it. He had caught villains in their dozens, and was the first pet to dash to the aid of the Neopians when Faerieland fell. And for some reason he seemed to like me.
The door to the Captain's office was slightly ajar when we reached it. Like the rest of the building, it had been magic-proofed at great expense so that it wouldn't be affected by the hundreds of different abilities we all had. This door was twice as tall as Kieavin, and even that was probably a squeeze for the pet inside.
I knocked, and a grunt from inside encouraged me to push the door open, stepping inside and feeling dwarfed by the desk at the end came up to my chin, even when standing on my hind legs. The electric Skeith seated behind it glanced up, then nodded for us to come forward. Captain Thunder, was aptly named. Every time he took a step it would make a loud booming sound, and his fur would crackly noisily.
"I heard that you brought in a suspicious character last night," he said, spreading out some papers on his desk. A few stray sparks spat onto the paper, but it didn't catch alight. "I've been to question the young Uni, but he didn't seem bright enough to be the cause of all the trouble in the Woods, so I let him go. How did your inquiries go?"
Ah, I'd forgotten that Thunder had gotten himself put in charge of the case. I'd heard he had quite an argument with Judge Hog about it, too.
"Nothing. It's just the same story as everyone else," Kieavin said, sounding put-out for once.
Thunder nodded, his face serious. "How about you, Maelith?"
"Nothing new. But it's interesting that nothing else has been stolen except for battledome items."
"I agree." The Captain tapped his claws on the desk thoughtfully. "Well, I'm going to visit the Woods tonight, to take a good look at how everything is going. If that's everything, you two had better go back and do whatever you were doing."
"Paperwork," I muttered under my breath.
The Captain looked up in surprise, and I realised he had heard me. I would have blushed, if magma pets did such a thing.
"The bane of a Defender's existence," he said. "I don't see the use in it at all. Why should we be doing all this paperwork and leaving innocent pets to fight it out when bad things are happening? Just think of the Meridell-Darigan War. The Defenders did barely anything useful to stop it." He shook his head angrily, then quickly looked at me. "Ah, you'd better scram," he said.
I did. I found Kieavin sifting through the papers again, sorting them into neat piles. I tried to do the same, but the Skeith's words kept turning over in my head.
"Did you hear what the Captain was saying?" I asked her, and she looked up at me.
"Not really listening, he was talking to you," she said.
"Oh. He was talking about how in the Meridell-Darigan War the Defenders didn't really do much to help. Is it true?"
Kieavin put down the papers she was sorting and leant back in her chair, which creaked ominously as she tipped it back.
"I suppose it is. But the Defenders can't do everything at once, you know. As soon as the attention was turned in that part of the world crime increased in other parts. We're really here to deal with the mundane villains, to make a show of protecting the people so widespread hysteria doesn't spread. I mean, seriously, we live in a world where one of the main villains is a giant Meerca made of snot. With the smaller villains, we can deal with them ourselves and make the population feel safe, but on wide scale, like when the wraiths attacked, we needed the help of the others just to beat them."
What she said made sense, I guess. "But couldn't the Defenders have stepped in and forced Meridell to give the orb back?"
She shrugged. "You'll have to ask Judge Hog about that one. I was talking generally, but he was still the leader of the Defenders at the time."
We went back to sorting again, and I let my mind wander as I turned page after page. Then I noticed a pattern.
"There's a lot more vigilante activity around than normal, have you noticed?" I asked.
I looked up and would have said Kieavin looked grim, but really I couldn't tell except that she nodded solemnly. Vigilantes were pets that tried to take justice into their own paws, or flippers, or whatever. So say that a pet stole something from another, the vigilantes would punish that pet outside of the law, taking back more than what was originally stolen.
"And the thing is, I've been cross-referencing them with some other files, and a lot of them were wannabe Defenders that didn't make the cut. I'm not sure what it means, but—"
The wail of a siren drowned out whatever she had been planning to say next, and I stood up so quickly that my chair clattered to the ground. Sirens meant trouble.
Vicious Vine dashed past us, the vines on his back flailing madly behind him as he headed out the door. There was the sound of heave footfalls, and then Mammoth appeared, almost stepping on my tail. Luckily, I whipped it out of reach as his foot came down, and he stared at me with wide eyes.
"It's a Code Three," he told us. "We need every pet that can be spared to head down to the market. Apparently there's a very angry sorceress there."
Code Three. The only good thing about that was it meant there was only one pet to deal with. The Defenders had changed the codes from colours to numbers after too many mistakes to count, and now they went in descending order of emergency. Code One was a whole-scale attack on Neopia, such as the Shadow Wraiths, and Code Two was a group of individuals wreaking a huge amount of damage. But Code Three meant only one pet, and also huge amounts of damage. To need so many Defenders out there to stop her, this sorceress must have been something special.
It wasn't hard to locate her, either. If you ignored the unusually coloured clouds floating above the markets, you could find her simply by walking in the opposite direction to the fleeing pets. A few of them tried to warn us away, one even going so far as to grab my shoulders, though she quickly let go. Usually I would be containing my heat out on the streets, but this was too urgent to bother, especially since we were pretty close n—
I was knocked off my feet as the roof of a market stall collided with my chest, tumbling me backwards several metres. I quickly extracted myself from the igniting wood and cloth to find Kieavin hovering over me, her staff knocking away a vase that came flying near. Her eyes were narrowed ahead, and I spun to face whatever she was looking at, throwing my paws out. The tips glowed white-hot.
A rather small grey Usual stood in a cleared circle of the marketplace. Clear, because she had thrown nearly everything in a thirty metre diameter into a broken wall of items. There were no other pets in sight, except for those wearing the bright colours and/or the flowing capes of the Defenders of Neopia.
I watched in total awe as Mammoth went flying past me. He was one of the strongest and heaviest pets among us, and even he couldn't fight this. There was a loud crash as he hit something, but I was already stepping forward, clenching my paws in readiness.
"Wait—" Kieavin began, swooping down slightly, but I had already sent a fireball the Usul's way.
Despite dealing with about a dozen other attacks, the Usual swept in a circle to face the incoming missile, and lifted her chin up slightly. The fireball changed trajectory, doing a smooth loop back towards me, excepted aiming above my head.
"Fyora!" Kieavin cursed, and I realised it was heading straight for her. I waited for the impact, or for her to move aside, but at the last moment her left side and wing became insubstantial, and the fireball went straight through her, leaving wisps of purple behind. A second later and she had reformed, glaring at me. I had forgotten about wraiths being able to do that.
"Sorry," I said sheepishly.
"I'm not sure what we can do," she said. "The shadows aren't thick enough around her for me to creep up on her, and anything physical we throw at her she keeps throwing right back."
We both paused and watched with interest as Vicious Vine was swung around in the air by his own vines, then flung away. Elsewhere it was the same story.
"Lightning Lenny could probably put a stop to it," I said. "But he's in Tyrannia."
It took me while to notice the vibrations coming through the ground, but eventually I felt them and looked behind me. Kieavin was a little slower, being up in the air, but she followed my gaze to see Captain Thunder approaching. He was jogging at a steady pace for a Skeith, which – and I'm not trying to brag here – was about four times slower than me. He finally came to a stop, and even though he had been hurrying, he wasn't out of breath at all. His eyes roamed the scene, tightening ever so slightly as he took it in.
"Enough," he growled.
He took a step forward, then raised his right foot. The Usul must have felt him approach because she spun around, while numerous codestones spun in a miniature cyclone around her head. But she didn't stand a chance against him.
His foot came down was a loud crash, and I winced as I covered my ears too late. As his scales made contact with the ground a streak of lightning shot out towards the other pet, leaving the earth scorched and cracked where it passed. I blinked the light away, and saw that the Usul was lying unconscious on the ground, her reactions not fast enough to stop the lightning. Her fur looked slightly singed and was smoking.
"Right. Let's get her back to Headquarters," the Captain thundered, and a few Defenders quickly pulled themselves out of disarray and went to do as he said. The others, including us, had to help clean the place up as pets began to trickle in again. I flicked a glance at Kieavin and noticed something behind her back. I could have sworn it was the Halloween Uni we had arrested the night before, but a moment later he disappeared. I didn't think about it, groaning in my head as I imagined all the paperwork we would be getting later because of this.
To be continued...