Chronicles of a Caped Crusader: Days Yet to Pass: Part Three
They all turned to look at the speaker. It was Buzz. He filled up the door frame, looking taller than Chloe remembered him being. Granted, she'd only once seen him out from behind his desk, but it was still surprising. He was wearing crimson body armor, Virtupets style. Chloe's heart leapt into her throat, the armor was very reminiscent of a different Lupe she was acquainted with stories about.
“Should have known you'd show up fast,” Bluejay muttered. “Who told you she was here?”
“I don't know why you keep asking a former editor-in-chief of a newspaper to out his sources. You know we don't do that,” Buzz replied with a dark smirk. He entered the room, locking eyes for a moment with Chloe and then said, “I would like to talk with Morphica, privately.”
“Why should we let you do that?” Bluejay asked. “What could you have to talk about that has to be so private?”
“That would be none of your business, boy,” Buzz said, barely sparing the antagonistic Pteri a glance. “That's why I said privately.”
“Maybe you'll have to change your mind about that,” Bluejay snapped back. “You're not in charge here; this isn't the Space Station or Neopia Central. We don't answer to you or your whims.”
“Don't cross me, boy. I've only let you run your mouth like you do because you're Kimmy's son. Keep going and you'll push me past the little allowance I make for that,” Buzz threatened, finally becoming annoyed at Bluejay's antics.
Bluejay's feathers fluffed up in rage and he opened his beak to make a retort. Chloe lunged forward and grabbed his beak, forcing it shut. The last thing she wanted was more fighting, particularly a dispute that would end in favor of Buzz Johnson. As aggravating as Bluejay was being, he was still her brother and she did not want to see Buzz mop the floor with all of his starry down.
“Bluejay, go calm down somewhere. You're behaving like a moron. I'm not a commodity for you to ration out. If Buzz wants to see me, I think he's entitled to my time every bit as much as you are if I feel like it. I do feel like it, so please, let's not make a scene. I've had enough of those today. Just please, go, okay?”
She let go of his beak and he nodded, his feathers settling down again. Chloe looked to Elise who shrugged. “If you want, go ahead. You're not our prisoner. You can do as you choose.”
Jeran left without a word, but with a meaningful glance at her, the others following him. She could tell that despite Buzz's long work in this Resistance, and his high position in the Virtupets branch, he was not trusted among the Darigani. Buzz went over and locked the door, leaving the key in it so no one could look through or eavesdrop.
“Is this what the world has come to? A bunch of shattered fragments of a world who do more fighting against each other than working together for their freedom?” Chloe asked, feeling weary.
“That about sums up this life. There is no more freedom fighting truly happening at this point. Mostly, we try to hang onto the little pockets of freedom we have. They are very few and far between, and all the remains is suspicion of those outside of each pocket and bitterness within,” Buzz said, shaking his head wearily.
They lapsed into silence, Chloe trying to digest what she had learned, and Buzz giving her time to do that. After a minute, he broke the silence again.
“Well, Chloe, I certainly never expected to see you again,” he said abruptly.
“You know?” she asked incredulously, her head snapping up to look at him. No one else had known, so why did Buzz know?
“Yes, it was one of the things we found out from the data we recovered from the wreckage of the Defenders' Headquarters. It was not something we shared with the others. Your mother thought it might be more painful to open those wounds again by bringing all that up,” Buzz said with a shrug. “I don't know if it would have been, but I suspected she didn't want to have to associate you with Morphica in her own mind. She had to deal with a lot the Defenders' data on a daily basis, and keeping you two separate kept her sanity together. It was hard for her to even think about you. She felt like she had failed you; like somehow she had missed something and failed to keep you safe. You can't talk a mother out of feeling something like that. She'll never believe that she did everything she could do as a mother for you.”
Chloe removed her mask and wig, very glad that one person in the whole world knew the truth, even if it was someone she barely knew or liked back in her own time. She looked down at the mask in her hands, wondering if she had worn it when she died. Had she been Chloe or had she been Morphica. Did it even matter? She shook those thoughts from her head to focus on the situation before her.
“Mr. Johnson, what happened here? How could it have come to this? How could this have happened; how could I fail to stop them before they did this to the ones I loved? I gave up so much; I trained all the time. I gave up the time I used to have for books and my violin so that I could train. How could I fail to protect them when that was the only thing I lived for?”
The tears she had worked so valiantly to hold back finally broke free. She sobbed, her words choked by her emotions. She couldn't go on. She sank to the floor and lay against the cold stone, her eyes clamped shut. She felt a hand on her head, gently stroking her hair. It startled her enough to calm her enough to look up at him. The Buzz she had always known she hadn't thought capable of tenderness or sympathy. There was true sympathy in his eyes.
“We have got a lot to talk about, Chloe. However, we can't do it here. There are things you need to see, and people you need to be reintroduced to,” he said, his voice soft. “This is a very different world, and I understand your pain, but you need to be strong a little while longer to get a full picture of what is really going on here.”
Chloe rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to break down like that. It's just really hard to take this in. It's insane.”
“It is,” Buzz said, handing her the mask.
Chloe looked at it ruefully before putting it back on. She had donned that mask to keep her family and her world safe. All of that had apparently been for nothing. She got to her feet at looked to Buzz. He opened a door on the other side of the room. She followed him through it and found that it led out onto a balcony.
“I assume you can still fly?” he asked.
“Yeah, my cape works fine, or at least it should,” she said, joining him at the rail. “It worked last time I used it. It's magic, so it shouldn't fail, unless the time travel damaged it somehow.
Looking out over the Citadel, it looked the same as it ever had, save for some buildings flying flags of other lands and flags with emblems she didn't recognize. Looking at the mostly unchanged land, it seemed strange that it could be ten years in the future. A future which had realized every horror she had helped fight against.
“How could we fail?” Chloe said, the question more hypothetical than anything else. “Did we do something wrong. Were we arrogant? Oh, Fyora, I know we were arrogant. The Painted Lady debacle only proved how arrogant we had become. Did we not learn our lesson from that? Was this our fault? How could we have fallen so easily and led to this?”
Buzz just wisely shook his head and said nothing. He just placed a hand on the rail and sprang over the edge of the balcony. Chloe gasped as she leaned over to look after him. He hadn't been wearing anything resembling a jetpack, or even rocket boots. He flew back up to her level, his boots giving off the same exhaust a pair of rocket boots would have. They were so small in comparison to the clunky things of her day that she would never have guessed they could do that.
“The tech has advanced,” she commented.
“It has. Now, follow me,” Buzz instructed.
She climbed up onto the rail and dived off, taking flight. Buzz led her through the city, and again she saw little change, but enough to show time had passed. They came to the edge of the Citadel. In her time, the edge was simply that. Now, it was a landing zone for flying ships of all kinds. A Virtupets style fighter sat on one of the landing pads, the one Buzz was aiming towards.
They landed and Buzz pressed a button on a gauntlet on his arm. The doors opened and they started to walk in. As they did so, Chloe caught sight of the name of the ship painted on the side, Lynette.
“Mr. J-Johnson, the name of your ship, it's...” Chloe started.
“We'll talk more in a moment,” Buzz said as they climbed aboard.
He sealed the door behind them and gestured for her to follow him to the cockpit. “Strap in there. We're leaving.”
Chloe slid into the co-pilot seat and did as she was told, though part of her debated the wisdom of leaving what she had been told was one of the only safe areas left in Neopia. Buzz started up the ship and took flight.
“Engage stealth systems,” he told the computer.
“Stealth systems engaged,” the computer said.
“Engage auto-pilot and set a course for you-know-where,” Buzz said.
“You-know-where?” Chloe asked.
“When you're consorting with the enemy, and have their main address as one of your pre-programed auto-pilot destinations, you don't actually put in the name of the place. It's a little like digging your own grave,” Buzz explained. “It would take far more hacking of my systems to find out where 'you-know-where' goes to than it would to just find the name in the system.”
“You're a leader of the Resistance, and you're consorting with the enemy? Should I be concerned?” Chloe asked, wondering if she had made a rather large mistake in trusting him. She hadn't thought very hard about what she was doing when she had followed him out to his ship and got on. His face was the most recognizable to her, having changed far less than any she had seen so far, and therefore she had unconsciously clung to him.
“Only if you're not willing to understand, much like half of your siblings,” he grunted.
“So, can we talk now?” Chloe asked, taking off her mask once again.
“Yes, it's safe to do that now. Where do you want to begin? I suppose you have questions. Why don't you start with them?” Buzz said, a grim smile on his lips.
“Your ship is named the Lynette,” she said, realizing that was the least important question of them all, but it was foremost in her mind.
Buzz let out a grim chuckle. “I suppose you realize the significance of that. Yes, I am the Buzz of that infamous duo. Honestly, when I learned the truth of about Lynette, I was rather surprised that you never put two and two together. I simply assumed you didn't know the truth about Loraine's past.”
“No, I knew. I didn't know, though, about you. For a short time, there was a part of me that suspected, but there were just so many things that didn't seem to match up. Your history, a fake one I guess, was so good I couldn't poke any holes in it, the way you usually can with false identities. Also, the Buzz Loraine told stories about, the way she described you, it didn't match up with you.”
“What do you mean by that?” Buzz asked.
“Your absolute rigidness. She was utterly convinced you could never change, would never be able to forgive her, to accept her as a better person. At the Beauty Contest, when you and Kristy took on Veronica... I mean, you were always kind of awful to my mom, but I saw how much concern you had for her. You honestly cared about her. The Buzz Loraine told me of, he couldn't have cared about her. Kristy was too good, too soft-hearted. Kristy honestly seemed to love you, which just didn't seem like something that would have happened if you were that Buzz. You just didn't match up with every account I'd ever heard of that Buzz,” Chloe explained. “I guess I was wrong, because you are him?”
Buzz shook his head and laughed weakly. “Ironic that my growth into a better Neopet, a person who could forgive Lynette, would be the one thing that fooled you. She wasn't the only one who could grow better. Losing her, gaining your mother, these things changed me for the better. I'm not the monster I used to be.”
“I'm sorry, I really didn't know. It didn't seem possible. I mean, what were the odds that somehow you could be him?” Chloe apologized.
“Very good actually, Chloe. I was living the life Lynette had hinted that she wanted, albeit with some less noble activities on the side. Of course, I personally avoided the Defenders with a vengeance. There was always the chance someone, particularly Captain K, would recognize me, which is why I never saw her and realized she was still alive. She was very careful to make sure pictures of her face were never made public. Enough about that. She truly gone this time, and no amount of what ifs will change that.”
“They are really all gone? Every one of them?” Chloe asked. “No one survived?”
“They are, Chloe. You're one of them, you realize. Your body lies in a tomb in what was Meridell, on the estate you called home during your stays there. It's the only grave site that remains undefiled by Iniquitous,” Buzz said.
“A lowly secretary not worth the effort?” Chloe asked with a wry smile.
“A soul was sold in exchange for it to be left untouched, along with a few other provisions,” Buzz replied.
“A soul?” Chloe asked, unsure she wanted to know what he meant by that.
“I'll let someone else tell you about that. Luckily, we're almost there. Darigan Citadel is rather close to our destination this day,” Buzz said.
“Prepare for landing,” the computer announced.
Buzz turned his attention back to the controls and Chloe looked out for the first time. They were landing at a familiar place: her Meridellian home.
To Be Continued…