Chronicles of a Caped Crusader: Against All Odds - Part One
"Well, that was not what I expected to happen," Chloe declared as she regained consciousness.
The White Zafara looked out the windshield of Captain K's spaceship at the ocean around her, her brain trying to process what exactly it was that she hadn't expected to happen.
"Look at me, Chloe."
Chloe turned to look at the voice, it was Judge Hog. Judge Hog ran through all the standard tests to check for a concussion. As he did it, the memories of what happened came back to her. A few weeks ago the Defenders of Neopia had received an anonymous message from someone claiming to be one of Dr. Sloth's scientists. He had been in contact with them over a period of weeks and said he had information he wished to trade in exchange for protection. He had finally given them a location to meet. Captain K was away on an undercover mission with the Resistance, so Judge Hog had taken the mission, bringing Chloe along so she could get more piloting experience with the spaceship.
They had almost reached Terror Mountain when they were ambushed by three Virtupets fighter class ships, Parlax 's fighter at point. Chloe had managed to out fly them long enough for Judge Hog to score decisive hits against two of the ships. But then Parlax dealt the ship a crippling blow, disabling their engines and sending them plunging towards the sea. Chloe's last memories were of trying to angle their rapid descent so that they wouldn't be ripped apart when they hit the water.
"You seem to be okay, or it's very minor. You'll still have to report to Dr. Flexo when we get back, though." Judge Hog told her.
"You okay, Boss?" she asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Judge Hog answered. "Nice flying, crash landings are difficult."
Chloe turned her attention to the ship. "Reports indicate that our engines are absolutely destroyed. Captain K is going to be livid when he gets back."
"He'll survive," Judge Hog chuckled. "He actually likes tinkering with this ship."
"Diagnostic systems are still working, thankfully. According to the log, we entered the water at a 30 degree angle, but we came in pretty fast and not too far off the coast of Tyrannia. The ocean floor here is only about a mile and a half deep, which is relatively shallow. We scraped along a good distance, probably about five-hundred feet. We're lucky the hull held up. A lot of systems are damaged from the crash, but hull integrity doesn't seem to have been compromised and our oxygen systems are running. We've got enough air to last us about two days. Communications are down, but our tracking beacon is still operational. I didn't have time to active our distress signal before we crashed, and that's down too. They aren't going to be worried for a while, so they probably won't check our location for an hour or two yet, and then it'll probably take Loraine about five or six hours to arrange a rescue and recovery from the Maraquans," Chloe reported.
"I see," Judge Hog said. "We seem to have been very fortunate."
Chloe unbuckled and got out of her seat. She kicked a stray helmet that was lying on the floor into the back of the ship, suddenly furious.
"I can't believe we got played for fools! By Parlax of all Neopets!"she screamed.
"It happens, Chloe. It isn't the first time we've been invited into a trap," Judge Hog said calmly.
"How can you be so nonchalant about Parlax managing to knock us out of the sky? Stupid, Parlax!" Chloe cried.
"Chloe, if I got mad every single time I lost one, I would be a very angry person. I spent my first years of my career losing to Nefarious. I'm used to falling into traps," Judge Hog explained.
"You're also far more forgiving than I am, which I'm told if a fault of mine," Chloe replied sullenly.
"If it is going to leave you an embittered young woman, then yes, it is."
Chloe sighed and pulled off her black haired, Shenkuu styled wig. She untwisted her orange hair from its bun and shook her head to get it to fall comfortably.
"Well, I suppose I can try fixing the communications system. It'll help Loraine coordinate our rescue if she can talk to us," Chloe said, tossing her wig in the pilot's seat.
"Good idea." Judge Hog rose and reached down the tool box for her.
Chloe opened a hatch below the console which led into the main circuitry. Liquid spilled out onto the floor.
"The crash clearly knocked a lot loose," Chloe said as she rose to her feet. "That's coolant for the systems; it's all over everything. It's quite a mess in there. I'm going to need some towels to try to clean some of this up first. I hope my bodysuit is insulated. I never asked Loraine because it never came up, and now when I actually need to, I can't."
"Life is funny that way," Judge Hog replied as he handed her the towels.
She went to work in the console, wiping up the fluid so she could begin figuring out what was broken. The silence soon became awkward. Chloe respected Judge Hog more than anyone else in her life, but she was unsure how to talk to him in a non-work capacity. He broke the silence.
"So, hopefully Loraine will have a good excuse to tell your mother when she shows up in panic," Judge Hog said jestingly.
"Today, I think she'll have plenty of time," Chloe laughed.
"Yeah, it's great day for her. Today is the first of Yanli's bimonthly play dates with Eliv Thade. Kristy usually beats a hasty retreat after dropping her off. I'm not sure if it is Yanli's ability to understand anagrams without effort or Thade who freaks her out, though. She hangs out with the Brain Tree and tries to get him to tell her about interesting goings on in the Haunted Woods. As much as he tries to deny knowing anything about current events, he actually knows everything that goes on in that forest. But, Sidney is in spying distance of the Brain Tree, and has learned that she freaks out easily and that amuses him. So the moment she lets her guard down, he pounces on her. She always winds up a spazzy mess hours earlier than she usually does. It'll probably be pretty late before someone finally asks her where I am," Chloe explained.
"Your family is never dull, are they?" Judge Hog asked.
"I like my family. It makes things like this seem dull," Chloe chuckled.
Judge Hog also laughed. "How's the new girl settling in?"
"Molly? Oh, she's wonderful. She's totally a part of the family now. It's like she's always been here," Chloe replied.
They lapsed into silence again.
Chloe finished her cleanup inside the console and then turned to dump the towel out of the way. She noticed Judge Hog had risen and was staring distantly into the sea. There was a clear melancholy in his expression. Chloe got up and looked out, but there was nothing out there that she could see to cause his sudden low spirits.
"Are you okay, Boss?" Chloe asked.
"I was thinking about Marcus. It's all I really can think about when I see the ocean," Judge Hog said. "I'm always sorry it had to end the way it did. In some ways, it was probably for the best. Marcus was a genius, but he was too smart to ever be satisfied. Nothing lasted for him. He could have taken over all of Neopia, he of all people really could have, and he knew it. But, he knew once he had it he wouldn't want it, the thrill would be over. He probably would have done it anyway, just to relieve the boredom of the moment. Marcus was probably truly happy for the only time in his life, sinking into the depths, coming to the end. Finally at the end. But, I wanted to save him."
"The hardest thing to save someone from is themselves. It wasn't your fault it had to end that way," Chloe said.
"I owe everything to him. The Defenders of Neopia, Loraine, even who I am. You do too. You might not be the person you are today if there had been no Defenders to aspire to, no Iniquitous and Veronica to force you into becoming one. None of that would have come to pass without him. Marcus made you Morphica. Life is funny that way," he repeated his earlier statement with a wry grin.
Chloe chuckled half-heartedly. "That's so ironic I'm not sure how to respond to it."
She couldn't think of anything more to say, and he didn't respond, so she knelt down and got back to work. It was slow going, digging about in the mess of wires, trying to figure out what was broken and where. She kept at it, as she didn't have anything else to do. Judge Hog bent down to inspect her progress.
"It's going to be hours before I get this working, if at all," Chloe told him. "I'm trying to find and fix the emergency beacon first so we can try to alert Loraine a little sooner, or at least confirm for her that we are okay and in need of an assist."
"Keep at it. You're pretty good with tech. I'm sure you can do it," Judge Hog encouraged her.
"Being a geek pays off once in a while."
Judge Hog sat down in the co-pilot's seat. After a moment he said, "You always been very interested in the history of the DoN and Captain Nefarious, haven't you?"
"I've got a journalist for a mom, a future historian for a sister, and an archeologist for a cousin," Chloe replied. "It tends to rub off on a person."
"Well, we're not going anywhere, and the silence is getting oppressive. I might as well tell you."
"I'd like that, Boss." Chloe turned to give him a quick smile before turning back to her work.
Judge Hog took a deep breath and began.
To be continued...