A Confusing Conglomeration: Part Three
Rocky looked around the network of underground tunnels and
rooms in awe. He'd had no idea Ruki colonies were anything like this! "It's incredible!
But where is everybody?"
"Noontime siesta-the hour of rest. Only the guards
and the royal family are awake," answered the Head Guard.
"Which includes you both ways!" laughed the younger
"What?" asked Rocky imperturbably, only half
thinking about what was being said. He was curiously examining the braces that
held up the cavern roofs and the unique glowing lights made out of something
jelly-like and iridescent that he'd never seen before.
"Guards and the royal family, you're both," said
the younger guard again.
Rocky looked towards the older Ruki for an explanation.
"Your father was one of the elite of the guards,
and didn't you know your mother was a princess?"
"Well, yeah. But I never really thought of it."
"You'd best start, young man," advised the Head
of the Royal Guard. After that last word, he pushed open a massive door and
they stepped into the throne room.
Rocky's already large eyes widened even more
at the huge, gorgeous room. It was nearly as large as the Battledome! Gold fabric
draped from the roof to the floor and over nearly every surface. A deep maroon
carpet stretched from where they stood to a sparkling golden throne set with
deep red crystals. Expensive Sakhmetian vases lined the walls. At the end of
the hall stood two more red Rukis, clearly more guards, and two Purple Rukis,
clearly female. A third purple Ruki sat on the throne, very old and elegant,
a scepter in one claw and a crown set on her head.
The younger guard pulled on Rocky's arm and he
belatedly realized he was supposed to bow. He did, a little clumsily but without
unduly embarrassing himself.
"Who is this?" demanded the old queen in a raspy
voice. "Come closer, I can't see a thing at that distance, and tell me what's
They walked down the carpet, then bowed again
when they were a few feet from the throne. The Head Guard spoke.
"My queen, I present the son of Royal Guardsman
Rickster_Rocker and our Princess Azalea. He bears the tragic news of their death
many years past and-"
"Ah, pish-posh, Silas," said the raspy voice.
"I've known they were dead for years," she continued, standing up and slowly
walking over to stand directly in front of Rocky. She was short and bent over
from age, and had to look practically straight up to see his face.
She stared at him for a long, silent moment,
and Rocky was getting decidedly nervous by the time she nodded approvingly.
"The spitting image of your father, although
something in your face does remind me of my darling, sweet daughter. The last
I heard from your mother was the message of your hatching. You go by Rocky,
"Yes, ma'am," said Rocky nervously, wondering
how to bring up that he had to leave as soon as possible.
"Call me grandma, child. If you can't manage
that, I'll settle for Rose."
Rocky shuffled his feet. "Yes ma'… er, Rose."
"Now," said Queen Rose, stretching up and patting
his arm comfortingly. "What brings you here, Rocky?"
"My, well, err… I have a friend that's in trouble."
"What sort of trouble, dear?"
"The, um, well…" he scratched the back of his
head, not knowing how to explain without betraying DeSoni's secret. "Well, he
has an old friend that's being framed or-or something and we came to help that
friend and I think my friend got himself captured and-and I really need to go
help him now."
Rocky nearly stumbled backwards in surprise.
"Seriously, ma'-er, Rose. I have to-"
"No. I will not have my grandchild running off
on a crazy adventure, no matter how urgent it may be. You will stay here, where
you belong. If you wish, I shall send several of our elite guardsmen to-"
"I-I'm very sorry," interrupted Rocky. "But I
really must go. I understand you loved my parents and they were loyal members
of this colony or-or whatever, but I-I really don't belong in any case. I need
to save my friend, and I do need to leave."
He paused, but the queen was simply watching
him to hear him out.
"Ma', um, Rose, I'm a legal citizen of Neopia
Central. So's DeSoni. It's our home, it's where our friends and family live,
and I have every intention of returning there after this mess. But for now my
closest friend is in trouble and I will go to his rescue, whether I have
help or not."
Elderly Queen Rose eyed her stubborn grandson
thoughtfully. There was a long silence, which the queen broke.
"It seems the only way to prevent you from running
off would be to forcibly detain you. That idea does not appeal to me, though
it would certainly be possible-even granting your exceptional height and obvious
experience, growing up in a crime-infested city. I have over 60 guardsmen at
Rocky knew he'd be able to break out of nearly
anything she threw at him, thanks to DeSoni's potion and not to growing up in
a rat hole like the queen presumed. But he decided to keep silent over that
secret as well as the insult to his home.
"I shall allow you to go help your friend on
three conditions. One, you be patient and wait for us to gather intelligence
first. Two, when you do go on this mission, you stay at all times with my appointed
guards-probably only two or three of the elite. And three, that you return here
afterwards and hear me out in a discussion regarding your future."
The older Head Guard, still at Rocky's side,
nudged him and nodded. It was a fair deal, and he did need the help. He could
handle maybe a few hours of being surrounded by his parents' family and friends.
He hoped… It should be alright.
"Okay," said Rocky softly.
It was for DeSoni, who was undoubtedly going
through worse. He could do it.
Detective Khargana and CarissaOfire had just
arrived at the Lost Desert-instantly, via another of Kay's wacky inventions:
a teleporter, of all things. It actually wasn't much of a typically Space Station-style
'technology,' as it mainly used a mixture of faerie potion that Kay had gotten
Queen Fyora to bless with the ability "Teleport."
"Wow! That was so cool!" cheered the small blue
Shoyru, bouncing around, looking every which way, and overall checking out the
"I guess," huffed the green Wocky, looking at
the seemingly endless sands and the cloudless sky with less than the usual anticipation.
She found her excitement at another mystery greatly diminished from feeling
the infamous dry heat of the Lost Desert. Why did Wockies have to have such
long, thick fur? Hopefully the trip wouldn't take too long.
"So, what now?" asked Rissa.
Khargana flipped on a pair of sunglasses to shield
her sensitive eyes, after which she pulled a diagram of sorts from another vest
pocket. The squiggly lines and tiny numbers meant absolutely nothing to Rissa,
but the detective seemed to understand it, as she nodded after a second.
"My sources match up with the terrain, and according
to my calculations from their mobile positions and from what I know of the public
transport they took, they likely split up about there." She glanced up and pointed
to a palm tree some 200 feet off to their left. Towards the scalding sun and
away from Sakhmet… Oh well.
"Let's go!" shouted Rissa to the sky, perfectly
happy. She took a skip, flapped open her wings, and took off. Khargana set off
after her at a jog, already uncomfortably hot and sweaty from the wicked heat.
Miamice, grumbled the Wocky in her mind.
But if worse comes to worse I can always cool myself with a faerie-blessed
ability. Quench would do perfectly, if only it didn't use up so much power.
Neoflakes! If I hadn't had that one experience of the time I needed an ability
and didn't have enough power to charge it…
She reached the palm tree soon after Rissa, and
the Shoyru was already hovering over some large, faded, boot-like footprints.
Khar bent over the set of four closest to her.
"These are Rocky's, no doubt. Must be from over an hour ago."
"And those?" asked Rissa, landing and pointing
towards two more sets.
Khargana walked over. "More of the same-Rukis.
One was older, one was fairly young-probably about your age, Rissa. Both were
quite a bit shorter than Rocky." She looked over the very faint leftover trail
uniting the sets. "Rocky went off with them." She grinned suddenly and whipped
out a pad and wrote a few notes with a pencil from another pocket. "Which proves
Kay's hypothesis that Rukis live in vast underground colonies. She was so fussing
when she couldn't get a straight yes or no, and Rocky hadn't a clue."
She quickly sketched the footprints next to her
notes, then slipped the pencil and pad back in a pocket.
"Uh, Khar? Hello? What about DeSoni?" asked Rissa,
thinking her friend had forgotten what was going on. She should've known better.
"Whatever trace of his footprints and whoever
else met them are long gone. Shifting sands, Rissa," said Khargana, bending
over and picking something half-buried out of the sand. "Although that certainly
does not mean all clues have vanished." She held the very small, very familiar
cylindrical object towards the Shoyru to show her what she meant.
"My Virtupets pocket-phaser," the Wocky explained.
"A micro-stunner. I lent it to DeSoni last week, despite his protests that he
wouldn't be jumped on his way home from his Fix-It shop."
"So he dropped it?" asked Rissa.
"No, he was going to use it and didn't get the
chance," said the Wocky softly. "Which would mean, considering super-powered
Rocky was with him, that their assailant was armed and had already taken out
Rocky. And I'd bet anything that not only did they recognize that someone, but
that someone was waiting for them and knew them on sight." She paused before
saying heavily, "This was no clumsy ambush."
"Hey, a blaster!" said Rissa excitedly, bouncing several
feet and pulling something out of the sand. She tossed it over to Khargana.
Khar slipped the phaser in her pocket and caught
the largish blaster. "Very nice," she said thoughtfully. "Double-barrel, plasma-coolant
mixture, very high-tech and sophisticated. Seven levels, anything from a light
zap to a full blown painful knockout lasting days. It's set on 3-probably around
the same effect as a Rainbow Flash. Alien Aisha Military-standard issue."
"How'd ya figure out that last part?"
Khargana tapped a small metallic piece on the
left barrel. "AAM insignia. No security locks or paw scanners. You do know what
this means, don't you?"
"DeSoni went and got himself kidnapped again?"
"A bit more than that, and I'd use the term 'captured'.
'Kidnapped' implies a ransom or exchange with the hope of a return." Khargana
pulled out a printout of the message from someone named Kregor and stared at
it for a minute.
"I wish I knew who this Kregor was, because these
clues seem to lead to the conclusion that it was him who laid this trap and
"It's not so impossible," huffed Rissa, folding
"Everything seems to point to this Kregor, obviously
an Alien Aisha by name and inference, luring DeSoni here to be captured," reiterated
the Wocky Detective slowly. "But it's too perfect. There are too many clues
here. No one that clever would leave a blaster behind, nor neglect to retrieve
the phaser. And this letter was written wrong; if it was a trap I doubt this
Kregor would've signed his own name. This is more a personal request for help
to a very close friend. If his feeling about DeSoni had changed to the point
of wanting to capture him, surely he wouldn't have been so…" She waved her paw
as if it didn't make sense.
Rissa was politely trying to follow the detective's
reasoning, but she didn't agree. It seemed perfectly clear to her that this
Kregor had betrayed DeSoni and was an enemy.
"I think this letter is honest and true, not
a trap in itself. This Kregor really is being framed, and he and DeSoni must
really be in trouble," concluded Khargana.
Rissa didn't answer. From her street background
she knew how often people you thought your friends would abandon you, even turn
completely against you. She held to her theory.
Instead of a slow, gradual awakening, DeSoni
bolted fully awake the instant he was aware that he couldn't move his paws.
It couldn't be real-it couldn't be real! DeSoni
tried to reason to himself. Now was not the time to go crazy. He was laying
flat on a cold, metallic table, each of his paws strapped to one of the corners.
A thick leather strap was around his waist, belting him to the table and effectively
stopping his struggling before it could begin.
It couldn't be real. It couldn't be real. They
had promised-hadn't they promised? No more-it couldn't be real.
But he knew it was, no matter what he was trying
to convince himself. He felt the same old, familiar terror, and all he could
think of was what had happened to him in the past.
A table-a stupid table! That's all it really
was. There wasn't any reason for the very sight of it to fill him with fright
and alarm. Even more foolish for the feel of it to practically drive him mad.
He was trapped in a swirling nightmare… but he
was awake. He couldn't concentrate on anything. What had been happening? What
was going on? Where was he? Why was he wherever he was? He couldn't think-only
of the past. The past he'd spent his entire life trying to forget.
Kregor had been watching his friend for a while
now, Galba having stepped out of the room for his own meal. Derek had tossed
for a bit, then woken with a visible jolt, his eyes wide, vague, unfocused black
circles. He clearly couldn't take in what was going on, let alone reason a way
out of it. Once he'd jolted awake his body began trembling and broke into a
cold sweat. After a minute or two he closed his eyes and clenched his jaw tight,
trying to break from the fear and confusion that bound him faster then the straps.
The slim blue Alien Aisha knew enough about psychology
and his friend's past to know exactly what his old friend was going through.
He could even explain it in advanced scientific wording, not that that would
help his friend in the least. Normally, the best solution to such a problem
would be to talk about it. Face your fears and your past and come to grips with
the cold reality of it all-but, just now, that was out of the question. Kregor
took a deep breath and decided to try the oldest dodge in the book-distraction.
"Hey Derek, it's Kreg."
The tiny yellow Alien Aisha's two earstalks twitched,
but he still shivered and kept his eyes shut tight.
"Yeah, long time no see. I know all about what
you've been up to-I always made a point to know. Congratulations on abandoning
the espionage sector for the Neopians. You've more guts than I ever had-brains
too. They're still using many of the potions and inventions you created. And,
believe it or not, many Alien Aishas are beginning to side with your opinions
and views." He smiled sadly, slightly cheered by the lessening of his friend's
"I'll take some credit for that. I suppose you
know all about me switching to medical after you left-engineering wasn't any
fun without you to explain it in new and interesting ways. I've done really
good in medical-saved 63 lives and repaired or healed over 700 others, to date.
I've been Head Doctor for four years, going on five. I started campaigning your
cause about six years ago, shortly after you left. For the longest time no one
listened, not counting our moms, of course. I mostly just spoke at conferences,
nothing much, especially after you deserted. I don't blame you-if I hadn't been
such a good doctor who knows what would've happened."
Derek opened his eyes slightly. "Your… mom?"
he queried softly.
"She's fine. Still teaching, in fact. She was
very happy last time your parents came back from the Space Station with such
great news. They're all so proud of you."
Derek was still shuddering slightly, but seemed
to be getting himself under control. "Keep… keep going."
"I-yes, speaking at conferences, or wherever
else I got the chance for that matter. I always managed to link it to my topic,
so they never had a good enough reason to throw me out, especially once I became
Head Doctor. I spoke a lot about the benefits of peace with Neopians and how,
medically and psychologically, physical appearance has no real bearing on who
a person is. I spoke a lot about completely outlawing unnecessary tests and
He lowered his head. "You need to know; last
year Doctor Torix joined my side."
The tiny yellow Alien Aisha who'd come through
so much closed his eyes.
"What he did to you was wrong, Derek. He's known
it for a long time-and now he admits it. I have a real chance at making sure
nothing like that ever happens again! Or… or I did."
His small buddy opened his eyes again and halfway
focused on Kregor, still somewhat vague as to what was going on. "And… the Council?"
"Last week the Madam Commander approached me.
My appointment is set for three days from today. Unless someone's noticed my
absence yet, it shouldn't have changed."
"Did she… was it… because of me?"
"Yes. She respects my points and admires my 'intentions,
determination, and way of thinking', her words." He smiled gently. "She says
she'd much rather have you, and I was only the next-best choice. Considering
I was both available and had the respect of the majority of Alien Aishas, I
got chosen for the position."
DeSoni, once known as Derek Sonix, closed his
eyes and shuddered again. But he clearly was finally getting his nightmares
from his head. Slowly, he said, "Kreg, please, what is-what's Galba going to-?"
Kregor Geiger looked away, unable to meet his
friend's pleading eyes.
"Kreg? I have to know. Is he-Torix-is-?" He gulped
and gave up trying to form that sentence. "I have to know."
The blue Alien Aisha took in a deep breath and
let it out. "Well, it could be worse. I'm pretty sure he's planning to," he
gulped and continued, "test some potions."
"What kind, Kreg?" whispered Derek.
"Truth serums, memory drugs, mind enhancers-stuff
like that. Galba," he rubbed his forehead weakly and closed his own eyes. "Galba
stole them from my own research lab. I'm such a coward, Derek."
"What?" asked the tiny yellow Alien Aisha wearily,
"I'm a coward. This whole mess is my fault. All
he had to do was level a blaster my way. I didn't even try-I was so scared.
I was in the lab; he didn't even have to break in. And that letter! I
had only one chance to send it when we passed through a public square and I
took it, not even thinking of consequences." He groaned, covering his face with
a paw. "And now…?"
He looked down at his own shackles, then over
at his old buddy, his eyes spilling over with tears. He wiped them away impatiently.
"That's what I was trying to tell you earlier.
That's why I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Derek. As much as being framed will ruin me,
I deserve it for letting this happen. For opening the door when Galba knocked
and for not fighting when I had the chance. For sending that stupid beg for
help, not guessing Galba would figure out who it was for."
Derek didn't answer. He couldn't.
Kregor looked away, burdened with the immense
weight of guilt. "Galba's going to fry your brain, Derek. And it's my fault
for not stopping him when I could've."
To be continued...
Author's Note: Please write me and tell me what you think so far! And, no,
I'm not going to give away anything in part four! Just promise me you'll stick
to the end of this series and let me know if you enjoyed it!