Chronicles of a Caped Crusader: Against All Odds - Part Eight
Vicki kissed her daughter goodbye. The child clung to her neck, sorry to see her mother go away. Veronica could tell her mother was sad, but Vicki wouldn't say anything more than something bad had happened to Uncle Marcus and she had to go. She finally let go and smiled at her mother.
"You okay, Mummy?" Veronica asked.
Vicki knew Veronica would know if she lied. "No, baby, I'm not. But, don't worry. Everything will be okay when I come back."
Veronica nodded. Vicki stood up and thanked her friend. Veronica stood on the pier next to Vicki's friend; Alana would care for the child while Vicki was away. Vicki picked up an old cardboard box and got on the ship. She set the box on a chair and waved to her daughter as it set off.
"Mummy, I love you!" Veronica shouted.
"You're my good girl!" Vicki shouted back.
Veronica smiled and they kept waving until they could no longer see each other. A few hours later, the ship docked at a harbor in Neopia Central. Vicki clutched her bag and the old cardboard box as she got off. She made her way to the Defenders of Neopia Headquarters.
Vicki reached the building not long later and looked up at the impressive structure. There was no delaying it any longer. She took a deep breath and then set the cardboard box on the ground. She opened her bag and pulled out the little communicator Marcus had given her all those years ago to communicate with him. She started typing.
'I will always be proud to be your sister.'
Nothing more needed to be said. She sent the message. She put the communicator back in her bag and picked up the box. Vicki walked through the doors of the HQ, ready to do what needed to be done.
Loraine was walking through the lobby on her way back to the control room. As she passed, the doors opened to admit an Island Acara holding an old cardboard box. Her face was drawn and her eyes tired and sad.
"May I help you, ma'am?" Loraine asked.
The woman took a few deep breaths, trying to speak, but seeming not to be able to find the words or to force them out. Loraine waited patiently, a kind smile on her face.
"My name is Vicki."
"I am Loraine," Loraine told her. "Can you tell me why you are here?"
Tears fell from Vicki's eyes. "I know who Captain Nefarious is."
Loraine called for Judge Hog and Orig before rushing to comfort the distraught woman.
Judge Hog and Orig were sparring in the gym three levels below. Both their communicators went off.
"Judge Hog, Orig, get up to the lobby. There is a woman here who says she knows who Nefarious is!" Loraine cried.
They ran for the elevator and hit the button for the ground floor. The elevator rose, but not swiftly enough for them. When they finally reached the ground floor they broke from the elevator and ran into the lobby. They found Loraine kneeling on the floor, comforting a sobbing Island Acara.
Loraine looked up at them. "Her name is Vicki; she's a doctor from Mystery Island. Why don't you summon the rest of the Defenders to the meeting room and wait for us? I'll bring her along when she's a little calmer."
Judge Hog nodded and gestured for Orig to follow him. Twenty minutes later the Defenders were all seated in the meeting room. Loraine came in, leading Vicki. Vicki had clear traces of tears on her face, but she was much calmer now. Loraine led Vicki to a chair and then sat down across the table from her, next to Judge Hog.
Vicki set the old cardboard box on the table and looked around at all of them. She took a deep breath, she seemed unsure.
"Whenever you're ready," Loraine said.
Vicki nodded. "My name is Vicki. I'm a doctor; I work in a hospital on Mystery Island. I must admit, I never paid attention to what was going on with Captain Nefarious because it never affected Mystery Island. I heard plenty from patients and friends about him, and about the Defenders of Neopia. I admire very much what you have done for Neopia. Six months ago, I saw a picture of one of Nefarious' robots in the paper, and I recognized it."
She paused, opening the cardboard box and taking out a piece of paper. She slid it across the table to Judge Hog. He took a look at it. It was very close to the robot they had fought six months ago when Nefarious reappeared after his two year absence. Most telling was the dome on the top half of it, Nefarious' trademark.
"That was drawn nearly twenty years ago, by a child," Vicki continued. "My brother, the smartest person in all of Neopia. His name is Marcus."
"Oh, Fyora!" Loraine screamed as her head dropped into her hands. They all looked at her.
"You knew him?" Vicki asked.
"Yes, all too well. He was Dr. Sloth's top scientist and engineer a little over three years ago. He was absolutely brilliant, and completely mad. He quit and disappeared not long before Nefarious first appeared."
Vicki's voice quivered. "He worked for Dr. Sloth too?"
"I'm afraid so," Loraine said. "He and my partner Buzz got into some fight early on and they carried it way too far. He used to try to be chummy with me in hopes of aggravating Buzz. I always told him to get lost. When he left Dr. Sloth's employ, I completely forgot he ever existed. It makes sense now. He really hated Buzz and I knew that while he didn't care about me one way or the other, he'd have happily harmed me to strike at him, which is why he attacked me so long ago. Fyora, how could it never have crossed either of our minds that Nefarious was Marcus?"
Vicki was silent, clearly having trouble swallowing that her brother had done more wrong than she had suspected. Finally, she roused herself.
Vicki pushed the box across the table. "I've read that Nefarious' machines always self-destruct on the inside so you have no way of studying them. They are old, but these blueprints might help you understand how some of them work, weaknesses they might have. There are some other things in here, they might give you insight into how his mind works, how he operates."
"Why are you telling us all this? He's your brother," Orig pointed out.
"I love my brother; he and my daughter are the most important things in my life. But, he's done wrong and needs to be stopped. Marcus is the smartest person in Neopia. He's just too smart for his own good. His life is torture, nothing is ever enough for him. Nothing lasts, nothing stays interesting. Playing arch-villain has been a good run for him. Judge Hog may not be able to keep up with him intellectually, but he knew how to rise to the occasion when he was called on. Judge Hog could keep it interesting. With taking on an apprentice, building the Defenders of Neopia, capturing Nefarious' apprentices. It has clearly stayed interesting for so much longer than anything else. All arch-villains need a hero, he found his. But, there is only so long it can stay game. Eventually this cycle will bore him. It has already begun to, which is why he reemerged. When he comes out in earnest, all of Neopia will suffer. He could bring about the end of the world as we know it. All to cure his boredom. There is no end to it unless he is stopped, nothing will ever be enough. He needs to be stopped before that day comes. I'm sorry Marcus became this monster. I love him and I'm still proud to be his sister, but Nefarious needs to be stopped."
Judge Hog nodded; Vicki had confirmed for him what he had believed all along about Nefarious' game. Now they had the information they would need to bring the game to the next level, the final level. If they played it right, Captain Nefarious was about to fall.
Marcus' computer beeped. It was Vicki. He hesitated a moment, unsure what to expect from it. Vicki was good, and he knew he hadn't convinced her that he wasn't Captain Nefarious. He didn't know what she would do, if she would just forget about it, or convince herself that he was still the Marcus she had been proud of. Or, if she would accept it and do what she thought was right.
He finally opened the message. It consisted of a single sentence.
'I will always be proud to be your sister.'
That one sentence told him all he needed to know. It was over now. Vicki had done what she needed to do, and he respected and loved her all the more for it.
He typed his message, the final message.
Something beeped inside Vicki's bag. She opened it and pulled out a little communicator.
"Is that Nefarious?" Captain K asked.
Vicki shook her head no. "It's Marcus. It is his goodbye."
'I love you so much, Vicki. I hope you find every happiness. You were the one decent place in my heart. Forgive me.
Proud I was your brother,
Tears slipped down her cheeks. She couldn't save him now.
To be continued...