Tyrants and Heroes: Part Four
After going through a simple anteroom that looked exactly like the first (minus the fixtures), we reached another room, which was still identical aside from furniture. Several tools on the walls hung from racks. Three doors were on opposite sides of the room. A perfectly rectangular table in the center of the room burned my eyes, it was so boring.
Chix gave a deep, heaving breath as she set me on the table, slid her arm cannon off, mounted it on an empty rack and began removing my net. She muttered under her breath slightly as she worked.
“Now just hold still for a second, I promise this won’t hurt...” she said as she reached for an instrument on the wall I had trouble identifying.
Whenever somebody says something like that to you, it’s going to hurt.
I gave way to a bloodcurdling scream and flew at her arm, clawing and biting. She tried as hard as she could to shake me off, all to no avail. Her arm thrashed back and forth. She desperately attempted to stop my fighting as she staggered around the room, but it wouldn’t happen.
For a moment, I had a spare paw, which I used to lung out to a rack’s hook, kick and break that part of the support. The weapon which it held no longer had enough strength holding it up, and thus it fell onto the floor. Chix finally got it in her head to do one final, smooth arm movement and I lost my grip, sailing through the air until I landed on all fours.
Chix forgot about me and began checking the weapon for damage. She completely forgot about me! A door opened. It closed. She was gone. I had a moment, so I ran through the anteroom (the doors automatically opened and closed) and the glass vacuum tube (which was also automatic). I was back at the beginning.
One by one, I picked the locks of the crates. The Huntress must have been very preoccupied with her gadget, which meant I had time to rescue all four of them. Rhubarb was the first to hop out. He stuck a paw near the glass vacuum tube. The sliding part opened.
“Fascinating,” he marveled.
“No time for fascinations!” Cerulean pushed him aside and stepped in. We watched as he was sucked through the vacuum hose.
“So,” Bronco said as he glanced around a little. “Who’s next?”
“Me, I guess,” Rhubarb shrugged as he stepped inside. When he flew upwards, his scream was rather comical; we would have laughed if the situation weren’t so serious. There were a few moments of awkward silence.
“All for nothing,” Bronco half-heartedly said as he jumped into the pipe.
“I must do what I must do.” Tor’s voice shook. Maybe he was a little elderly to be doing this sort of thing, as he showed signs of fear. He went into the tube anyways.
I sighed and stepped into the vacuum. We went through an anteroom, the room Chix had taken Callie to, and the Kacheek pointed out which door Chix hadn’t gone through. We entered it.
The floor of the round room, which would probably involve running four bounds to get to the other side of, was entirely like the other ones in general appearance. It was well-lit, with light panels on the domed ceiling. We stared at the room’s contents with mouths agape.
“Whoa...” Rhubarb marveled, staring at something that made our jaws drop. It also caused the next string of words to come from my mouth:
“Rubia! I’m so glad you’re still alive!”
I looked up at Rubia, but could tell something was different. It appeared she was frozen mid-flight, hanging still in the air. But we can only fly to save each other. Wait- could it be that she was trying to save somebody when she was frozen?
Furrowing my brow, I inspected her further. She had a blissful expression on her face, and her tail coiled once close to its end. If she had been so happy, I guess she wasn’t trying to save anybody. But why isn’t she talking to me?
Her eyes moved! Her gaze shifted to meet mine. I couldn’t tell whether she was trying to communicate to me “Help me...” or “What are you doing here?!” Not another of her muscles budged. Curious, I got a running start and jumped up, tackling her.
She tumbled to the ground. But she still wouldn’t move on her own. I stepped off of her, and she immediately floated back to her former position. Literally, she floated.
And then I noticed that there was something holding her up. Beneath where she was hovering, there was a wide, round pedestal. The entire top of it was glowing blue. A plaque was on the side of it.
“Species: Hissi. Color: Red.
“This specimen is a lucky catch. Its kind is common, but this particular Hissi has an entire underbelly coated with gems of all kinds; a rare sight. It is suspected to be female.” I read it out loud. The others turned to me.
“You’re set on Rubia, aren’t you? Haven’t you noticed the others?” Bronco pointed out, waving his hand over to the other captured foresters. I gasped.
Every one of them looked delighted, and in poses that made them look like they were enjoying it all. Unis were galloping, Kyrii were searching underbrush and Kougras were pouncing: But none of them moved. They blinked. They looked around.
And that was it.
Was it their own choice, did the Hunters persuade them, or were they incapable of action? I stared Rubia in her eyes, and she must have been surprised or confused. Taking a few steps back, I ran forward, pounced again and growled. She didn’t move.
“Mother! Father! Are you still alive?” Bronco pleaded to a Pink Kyrii and Shadow Kacheek, frozen in joyous-looking poses.
Why couldn’t they reply to him?
“It-won’t-open!” Bronco expressed, trying one of the internal doors of Chix’s home. Like he did at the entrance, Tor shoved him aside and picked the lock again. The door swung open, and we progressed.
“What is this?” I uttered, taken aback at the masses of sparks flying and twisting wires. They were everywhere. The only door in the room was the one we used to enter. At the center of it all, steam emitted from a huge engine.
“This must be the shuttle’s inner workings,” Tor commented. “I saw this place in a dream once, and now I actually know who the ship belonged to.”
“Wait, you see things- real things- in dreams?” Rhubarb scratched his floppy ear, confused.
“What’s more, something actually told me what it all was. The electric mechanisms that keep the Neopets stunned like that are probably in here.”
Suddenly, through the door that we left open, we saw a silhouette.
A silhouette of the Huntress.
The mission couldn’t fail. There was a chance for retreat, but what would have come out, aside from finding out that our relatives were still alive? The mystery wasn’t entirely solved, still. And they needed to be free! I grabbed Rhubarb by the legs and stuck his face in some electrical circuits.
“You’re a Cybunny, chew through the wires!”
He hastily started gnawing at them, but I pressured him further.
“Hurry!” I yelled.
Bronco looked back over his shoulder for a split second, and his eyes widened. He charged out of the small room and towards the Huntress. “Bronco, you’ll give away our-” Tor didn’t manage to finish the sentence. A long scream punctuated the air.
I saw the Kyrii make a huge leap towards Chix in the room with the captive foresters, who was a quarter bound away. Bronco had noticed she had caught Callie! None of us had noticed? Halfway to Chix, he landed, and made the rest of the distance towards her by sliding on his claws. Sparks literally flew from the tile as his giant, lithe body skidded across the floor. The Huntress tumbled, head first, onto the ground as Bronco collided into her lower legs. Thankfully for her, her hands flew to the tiling and stopped her fall.
Too bad she couldn’t stop Bronco from gripping a part of Callie’s net with his fangs and swinging it out of her reach. In the process, Callie tumbled out of the open web. Chix got up.
“I don’t know what’s going on, but these will be the easiest scores I’ve ever had.” She pointed her arm that was equipped with the gun at us and pulled a trigger. The ascending, electronic noise of the net preparing to fire was heard. I was the first one she aimed at.
“Move it! Destroy her focus!” I hollered and started rampaging around the room. The Huntress swung her arm just as the net fired. Actually, it would be more accurate to say “should have fired”. A puff of steam escaped from the chunky, pink-and-purple weapon.
“I used all of them up during my chases around here with the Kacheek!” She slapped her face. It was almost funny how she talked to herself.
Bronco darted to the door that lead back to the original rooms. But instead of escaping, he settled with blocking the doorway. Tor, Callie and I approached Chix with barren fangs and vengeful looks. As far as we were concerned, Rhubarb was still gnawing at circuits.
Her eyes darted around as we closed in on her. Then, she suddenly bolted, vaulting over Callie. What a mistake. The Kacheek jumped up, chomping down on our enemy’s boot.
“Auuugghhhh!” she wailed, but hopped along on one foot anyway. She made it to the wall, where she snatched a transparent container from a tool rack and hastily tried screwing it open with her left hand. I rushed forward, jumped and flew six feet in the air. There, I angled my wings and dived, Chix once more tumbling to the ground. The plastic canister she had struggled with finally opened, ten spare nets spilling out.
All of a sudden, she kicked the air, causing Callie’s teeth to lose grip. She pursued Chix once more, triggering the rest of us joining her. The Huntress rapidly slunk along the wall, not daring to make any sudden movements until she reached a seam in it. There, she hastily lashed around, shoved a key from her utility belt into a lock, turned it and swung the door open. She slammed the door behind her. Bronco started repeatedly ramming into it.
“Bronco, haven’t you learned about how ineffective doing that is? You saw me pick those -” Tor was cut off by a crash and he noticed that there was now a decent-sized chunk of door beneath Bronco’s paws. I leapt through the hole, making eye contact with Chix as the black leather swivel chair she was in turned to face me. It was obvious she was still catching her breath, but she was slightly calmer. In case you were wondering, the room was in the same style as the others we had been in. It had a giant monitor, and a few other captives were in there.
“How did you get through the door?!” She cursed.
“I’ll have to credit my friend Bronco with that,” I snarled, pacing closer to her. “In case you didn’t know, we do, indeed, have names. And lives, for that matter. How about a... treaty?”
“What sort of treaty?”
“Answer this question first. Why don’t you seem so scared anymore?”
“First point: I already made it to my computer. Second point...” She paused and keyed in some commands to the giant computer in front of her. A second door slammed shut over the broken first. My companions had been slowly creeping in, curious, more watching than doing. Tor, who had unfortunately happened to be in the doorway, found that he was now stuck between the tiling and the platinum entry, two legs in each room. “Spare door. You’re alone. I’ll have you now, finally, little friend.”
Gritting my teeth, I replied.
“Don’t call me a friend. If you let us go, including those you’ve already stunned, and give up hunting forever; then we’ll let you go. And you can never hunt again.”
“You really think you’ll win at this point?” she snapped and aimed her cannon straight at me. Since she rose from her chair and actually grabbed me by the neck to hold me in place, I couldn’t run. I couldn’t hide.
I was defeated.
A huff of steam touched my fur.
“What? I thought I reloaded it while that Kyrii was making a perfectly good door go to waste!” she exclaimed.
“He has a name, you know! It’s Bronco, not ‘that Kyrii’!” Callie shouted, jumping down from her hiding spot. The white Usul with the embedded diamonds that had been hovering eight feet off the floor rocked slightly as the Kacheek pounced from it, landed on Chix’s head and started clawing at her. She had snuck in through the door’s crack, which had been just big enough, thanks to Tor keeping it up.
Chix thought she would have won. But thanks to Callie, I wasn’t cornered and alone in the cockpit. I jumped on the keyboard of the computer she had been entering commands in and started stepping on keys.
“Callie, distract her!” I yelled as I stared at the screen, trying to decode all that I saw on it. Suddenly, the White Usul fell and pushed me aside.
“I know what everything does! Let me do it!” she said and started typing, moving the mouse and pressing buttons. Several moments passed. The Usul was rapidly keying in commands, Callie and Chix were wrestling; I was merely staring in awe at the computer.
To be continued...