Ghostchasers: Part Four
A light flickered against the darkness, then went out. It
went on again, for a little longer this time, before vanishing once more.
"You can't even make fire, can you?" Jeri asked.
Trick glared. "I'm working on it!" He snapped
his fingers irritably, and this time all that appeared was a tiny hint of grey
smoke. He slumped back against the fallen log behind him. "Great, now look what
you've done. You've ruined my concentration."
"Terribly sorry." The Bori reached deep into
his pack, and used the sizes and shapes of its contents to guess what they were.
The light was almost entirely gone in the Woods. "Ah well, I suppose now would
be a good time to just light a match." He held one up triumphantly, but of course
neither of the two younger neopets could see anything, so he just struck it
against some bark and placed it at the heart of the wood they'd arranged.
"You know," Aley said, "we may just have to
start thinking about sleep."
"You're crazy; Kiyoshi's still out there!" said
Trick in disbelief.
"Actually," Jeri intervened, prodding the fire
with a stick, "I reckon it's only about mid-afternoon. There, that's better,"
he said as the small clearing lit up a bit.
"Really?" the Lupe yawned. "It's not only blacker
than a Nanka Bottle out here, but it even feels later."
"Just a bit of Woods-disorientation. All outsider
pets feel it the first time they come here." Suddenly Jeri's supersensitive
Bori ears shot up.
"What is it?" asked Trick eagerly.
"I dunno, it's --"
For a moment, the three just sat in anxious
silence. Then it sounded again, and they realized what it was.
"I'll get it!" shouted a very restless Trick
as he clambered over the makeshift camp in the direction of the computer transmitter.
"I should think not, mate," said Jeri, restraining
Trick, loudly protesting, from the communications array.
The Bori punched a key on its surface for audio-only
"This is Jeri -- got the word?"
"Spooks behind you," came the reply in the welcome
form of Tyra Magena's voice.
Jeri flipped the switch on the back of the box-like
display, and once again looked into the attractive face of the Aisha. She positively
grinned. "Hey there, Jerafiyell!"
"Tyra, am I glad to see you." Trick had started
Aley giggling by whispering something about "Mr. Paco's friend," but Jeri ignored
"Is Kiyoshi there?"
"Well, in any case, I've managed to find a little
job for you. Some farmer out in Meridell wants --"
"That's just it. I don't think now would be
the best time to accept another mission."
"Why not?" Tyra asked. "Did you get whatever
the problem was at Crystal Valley solved?"
"Well, sort of --" Jeri hesitated, remembering
they were still traveling with a couple of junior high students. "You know they
even put up that snowbeast fence, on the request of a certain Mrs. Park?"
"I thought that was Kiyoshi's --"
"I know, I know. Explain later. You think you
can give me any advice on how to lure an easily distracted young Shoyru back
"I don't suppose you have a piece or two of
the lab map on you."
"Didn't think so."
Jeri glanced around and bit his lip. "Tyra,
I'm actually getting worried," he said in a low voice. "It's not unusual for
Shoyrus, and especially not unusual for Kiyoshi to wander off, but he's been
gone for over an hour now."
"That is odd. No, it's more than odd. I can't
imagine him splitting up the team for more than a couple of minutes. Something's
Tyra seemed to sense the Bori's concern, and,
hoping to ease his mind, told him, "It'll be okay, Jeri. But maybe you should
go after him. By the way, who did you pick up? Is that Trick from Crystal Valley?"
"Yeah, that's Trick alright, and that's--" He
had been turning around to point out the two Neopets behind him, but he spun
back to stare at Tyra. "They're gone!"
The next thing Kiyoshi was aware of was a foggy
scene of murky colour, slowly swirling about him. If he could feel anything,
it might have been sickening. Admittedly, Kiyoshi immediately started wondering
if Lander Cosmo had been right. Was this nothingness? It sure didn't look like
much of anything.
A curious noise filled the space, like a dozen
voices murmuring among themselves. It was puzzling -- if this was a void, the
absence of anything, then why did there seem to be so much going on?
One noise seemed to rise above the others. It
said, "I thought you said the highest setting would take him out for hours!"
It struck Kiyoshi as an odd thing for the voice of the void to say --
And then with a pang, he realized what had really
He tried to sit up, and the blurry landscape
began to solidify into the familiar images of the Haunted Woods. As well, a
Virtublaster 1000 seemed to be pointing at him, about an inch from his face.
Grudgingly, he lay his head back on the ground again.
The green Grarrl holding the weapon turned to
an approaching figure. It was Cosmo. "Sorry, Cosmo," the Grarrl said in a fairly
high-pitched voice, "But that's what it said on the package."
"Piece-of-junk space weaponry," muttered the
Eyrie. "Oh well, you get what you pay for, right Mank?"
"I guess so," said Mank uncertainly.
Kiyoshi raised an eyebrow. He glanced cautiously
around. The surroundings had changed, and the trees were, if anything, thicker
here. It surprised him to see a rough wall of tree trunks, bound together, about
fifteen feet off his right.
"Like my little hideout, Mr. Ghostchaser? I
created it so that it is cunningly invisible from most angles." The Eyrie's
"I thought that old Wocky Shrak built it," piped
up Mank. "We sure paid him enough."
Cosmo held his paw to his forehead and raised
his eyes forward, as if embarrassed by Mank's antics. He took the blaster from
Mank. Suddenly looking significantly more intimidating, he held it up to Kiyoshi
himself. He gestured with it for the Shoyru to get up.
Kiyoshi obeyed carefully, not wanting to get
zapped with that Virtublaster again, however 'ineffective' it was.
"Now, Ghostchaser, we only found a stone shard
in your belt pack there," Cosmo started. "And of course you understand how I
can't have you walking into my home with some hidden armoury. So if you'd kindly
tell me where all your belongings are..."
Kiyoshi shrugged. "That's it," he lied, trying
not to think of the pack he'd left with Jeri, Trick and Aley.
If you'd ever seen an Eyrie's wing, you'd think
it were more of a decoration than a weapon, but its full strength is nothing
to laugh at. The blow hit him in the stomach and he dropped to the ground, doubled
over. He wasn't having a very good week.
"Come on, Paco," Cosmo said impatiently. "I've
heard you tend to be fairly nonviolent, but you can't walk so far into the Haunted
Woods with nothing. Last time I heard, you carried a little system worth
at least 50 000 NP."
"Nonviolent?" gasped Kiyoshi, pushing himself
up a little. "Yeah. I left my weapons at home." He rolled to the side to avoid
a downward smack from those wings.
"Food? Communications?" the Eyrie demanded.
"Surely the famous Haunted Woods Ghostchaser came better prepared than that.
Maybe you left your things with your friends."
Kiyoshi automatically opened his mouth to desperately
invent a story, but Cosmo himself beat him to it. "No," he murmured. "No, too
independent -- they say you're always wandering off by yourself. So, where
is your camp set up?"
There was something strange about this conversation,
and Kiyoshi realized what it was. Cosmo seemed to be lost in his own power,
not sure of his own assumptions even as he rushed to them. But his unpredictability
was making up for this lack of intuition. An idea suddenly hit him, and he followed
"If you'd heard so much about me, you'd know
I don't travel with that many supplies. What I did bring," he added before Cosmo
could argue, "I don't have anymore. I dropped my bag near your trap." It had
a thread of truth to it -- what he had dropped was one weapon out of his belt:
a Scarab Stone Slingshot.
"I see." Cosmo studied him, but he seemed to
buy it without much suspicion. Kiyoshi had been right. "Carmy. You'll come with
me to collect Ghostchaser's belongings." A sinister-looking Acara, her smooth,
dark hair pulled back, nodded and walked over. "Mank." Cosmo tossed the Virtublaster
back to the Grarrl, who eagerly trained it on Kiyoshi, as if it was his life's
ambition to blast things with it. "You'll be in charge of watching over this
place. I want Mr. Ghostchaser guarded at all times. We'll be about forty-five
minutes -- I hope you can stay on top of things for that long."
Mank saluted smartly. Kiyoshi tried to keep
his mounting feeling of triumph from showing as Cosmo and Carmy vanished into
the darkness. If Cosmo had been a little more experienced in his chosen field
of underground operations, he might have known never to leave the base in the
hands of a second-in-command.
Kiyoshi moved surreptitiously to his feet. He
sighed. "Just me and you now, Mank."
The Grarrl fingered the blaster longingly.
"I'm not so sure it was a good idea to abandon
Jeri," Aley whispered. She peered around the tree for a few moments, then resumed
her cover behind the thick bramble. "I mean, what if something happens to him?"
Trick laughed softly, also taking a peek from
behind the bushes. "That's funny. You think Jeri can't take care of himself?"
"Fair enough." She sat on the leaf-strewn ground.
"So what if something happens to us?"
"You're saying we can't take care of
Aley frowned. "That's about right, yeah."
She could hear his annoyed little groan before
he complained, "I can't even see anything. I miss the snow."
"Well, it was definitely --" She stopped mid-sentence
and pulled Trick down beneath the leafy cover. "Be quiet, I think they're back."
"Great, now we have a reason to hide," Trick
"...own business?" a voice was saying as it
became audible. "You know him as well as I; he always thinks he's doing it for
the greater good, but someone always ends up worse off than anyone was to start."
"I see now why they call him 'Ghostchaser',"
a second voice said, cool and feminine. Aley tensed at the uttering of the word.
Beside her, Trick's mouth formed the word, 'Ghostchaser'. "He is chasing something
that is impossible to catch," the female voice continued. "Peace."
Through the gaps in the foliage, Trick and Aley
watched as two pets entered their sight. One was a large red Eyrie, smartly
dressed, the other a very pretty red Acara who looked like the last time she
had smiled had been at someone's funeral.
The Eyrie snorted. "Peace," he mused, glancing
around. The hidden pets hardly dared to breathe. "Peace is something that will
never be present on this planet. There will always be another war."
"Speaking of war --" the Acara started, but
she was cut off by her companion.
"Don't think of it as war," he snapped, and
the Acara's eyes narrowed bad-temperedly. "It will merely be a few attacks.
Trust me, there will be no counterattack. Even if there were Neopians with enough
courage to do so, it would be -- well, like chasing a ghost."
Aley stared at Trick, not believing her ears.
A series of attacks? What had Kiyoshi stumbled into? What had they stumbled
The Eyrie and Acara were wandering around, as
if combing the area for something. Aley started to shift her position so that
they wouldn't move out of sight altogether, but Trick grabbed her arm to stop
"Perhaps he was lying," the Acara's voice said.
"I wouldn't put it past hi -- wait." The sounds
of the Eyrie's movements came closer again. Aley felt as if her heart were going
to burst out through her mouth -- but luckily, the Eyrie stopped short of their
cover. She chanced a glimpse and saw that he was holding some type of slingshot
in front of him. "That's Kiyoshi's," Trick silently mouthed.
"Scarab Stone," the Eyrie chuckled mirthlessly.
"I should have known our Ghostchaser would never carry a sword." His eyes snapped
back to the Acara. "But where's the rest of it?"
"I couldn't tell you," the Acara replied smoothly.
She touched the handle of a weapon she had in her belt. "He was lying."
"Had me going too," he said dangerously. "Odd
how he could so easily convince me, and yet he himself has no trouble refusing
the given facts that declare the master forces." He turned to the Acara. "We
must get back to the base. Now."
Something in what the Eyrie had just said was
stirring in Aley's memory, struggling to reach the surface. And as they were
moving off, it clicked. "Cosmo," she breathed.
But then Cosmo paused. Ever so slowly, ever
so threateningly, he turned. "If there's one thing I can pick out of a conversation,
it's my own name," he hissed. He strode over menacingly, too close to the two
friends now for comfort. "Show yourselves!" he snarled.
Before Aley could stop him or comprehend what
he was doing, Trick shot up. "Behold!" he yelled, producing an all-too-familiar
glass sphere. "The Orb of the Fire Faerie!"
Somewhere in the back of her mind it occurred
to the Lupe that the relative brightness of the Orb would blot out the features
of the Shoyru and create an impressive display of fire and shadow on his face.
Was it possible that he knew what he was doing...? She decided to stay where
she was until Trick unveiled his master plan, but shoved a few branches out
of the way so she would have a clear view.
The Acara, who had immediately drawn her blade,
was recovering from the initial shock. "It's hardly even glowing," she pointed
Trick raised an eyebrow and smiled enigmatically.
Then, in one quick movement, he heaved it up, straight into the treetops high
Cosmo had stiffened, but now he looked at Trick
and laughed. "That's a pretty bad battle maneuver, kid."
The Orb landed in the grass at Cosmo's feet.
For a moment, nothing happened.
Noises started -- from above. Noises like squeaks
and chatters and tiny growls... and then the dreaded shriek of -- "Meep!"
And they were upon Cosmo. They dropped from
the treetops, dozens of them, like tiny, pink, parachuting bundles of teeth
They were enraged. Anything within three feet
of the fallen Orb was fair game. In just moments they had swarmed over both
the Eyrie and the Acara, engulfing them... they both fell under the weight of
the hordes of Meepits.
Quickly but cautiously, Trick retrieved his
weapon, plucking off a couple of the creatures and tossing them into the mass
He placed the Orb in his bag, hiding it from
view. The two friends backed up to a safe distance as even more Meepits poured
into the scene. "Northern Woods 101 if you live up here!" Trick called. "Meepits,
" he said perceptively, "do not like fire."
Then they ran. And just when they thought they'd
made it, two strange-sounding zaps from behind them were followed by complete
To be continued...