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Starlight Invasion: Keeping Secrets - Part One


by rainbow_daydreamer

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Author's Note: "Keeping Secrets" is a Starlight Invasion story intended to take place some months after "Starlight Invasion: Star City". I've tried to make this series as stand-alone as possible, though, so you don't really need to have read the other stories to understand this one. However, if you want some background on what's going on here, the first SI story-"Mianne's Normality"-ought to fill you in.

     *

It was my first evening in a world without a sunrise.

     Kreludor was a strange place, more so to a pet who had never left her home town. Around me, I could hear other pets whispering to one another, surprised by the rocky terrain and the permanent dusklight that bathed Neopia's moon. It was a different aspect of the scene that interested me, though. Leaving the group, I flapped ahead to look at the cadet base, the small, bubble-roofed building that would be my home. My home, beneath the stars. I barely even noticed Star City glittering in the distance, or the comets that raced past above my head.

     I waited impatiently for the rest of my group to leave the ship, the last few stragglers being helped down by a kindly Faerie. The other pets spilled out into the white lamplight, chattering excitedly. I hadn't met any of them yet; we'd all been confined to our rooms on the ship while we travelled, in case of space-sickness.

     "Maylaura, you're to come this way." The Faerie helper pulled me over to the base, pressing a key into my paw. "You'll be sharing a room complex with Starbethanie and Darieto. Bring your luggage through here."

     "I don't have any luggage," I told her in a whisper. "Except this toy Meerca." She nodded sympathetically, ruffling my short fur with one hand. Holding the plushie by its long tail, I followed her.

     The room, my room, was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. Not only was the carpet incredibly soft on my tired paws, but there was a pretty little lamp beside my bed, and a curved glass window where I could see the stars. I'd only ever dreamed of such a view.

     "Your roommates won't be arriving tonight," the assistant told me. "Get yourself a drink and have a wander around. It'll be good to learn what things are like here, get on your feet, if you like. See you in the morning. Breakfast's at eight." She turned, and smiled at me from the doorway. "Hope you like this place."

     Like the cadet base? I adored it already. I'd always believed that heaven was somewhere beyond the sky, and now I knew it was true. As I curled up on my own little bed, my own bed, I hoped with my paws crossed that it wouldn't turn out to be a dream after all.

     *

     When I woke, the lights on the base had already been lit, brightening the room and the corridor outside. Of course, it must be morning. The kind assistants had left a few things for me: clothes in my wardrobe, and a set of grooming brushes by the washbasin. I dressed and washed, and was about to leave for breakfast when there was a knock at the door.

     I opened the door, and saw a Rainbow Uni standing on her hind legs, dressed in a summer-frock. Without asking whether she could come in, she swept over to the bed. "I see you've got your stuff put away already. Good on you!"

     At once, I decided that I shouldn't tell this graceful, elegant creature exactly how little 'stuff' I had brought with me. "Um, hi," I nodded, swinging my feet over the edge of the bed, trying not to feel clumsy and awkward in her presence.

     "I'm Starbethanie, by the way," she added, copying me and sitting down on the bed opposite. "Who're you?"

     So, this was the first of my roommates. I took a deep breath, on the point of telling her everything about myself, my life. But something stopped me. This Rainbow Uni, so beautiful and stylish, surely wouldn't want to be friends with a plain Shoyru, and as for my home, well, if she only knew... No, I couldn't tell her that. Out of nowhere, I felt my creativity flash into life.

     "Don't you know?" I replied, sounding surprised. "Wow, I thought a pet like you would be sure to recognise me. I'm Maylaura. The Maylaura. From Altador." Tossing back my wings, I gave Starbethanie my very best smile. "Naturally I don't need the money, but I thought it'd be fun to come and play space cadet for a while up here."

     "Me, too." The Uni grinned. "My owner paid for the flight, but I wish he'd gotten me a bigger suitcase. I had to decide what to bring." She began unpacking all her dresses and toys. There were Faerie dolls with gauzy wings and stiff backs, Chia dolls with button eyes and fuzzy hair, and a Baby-Doll Kyrii that looked almost real. My eyes widened as I saw them, but I didn't let her see my face.

     "Can we be friends, d'you think?"

     She wanted to be my friend... I nodded straight away. "Sure we can, Starbethanie. Now, let's go down to breakfast; the older pets told me that all the good stuff is eaten pretty quickly here."

     I had my first friend. And although she'd been obtained by a little deception, I didn't regret it. Starbethanie and I raced down to breakfast, my wings brushing her mane, laughing aloud. "Last one there is a Gummy Slorg!"

     Starbethanie finished her cereal before I did, and ran off to brush her mane. As I looked around the vast dining hall, I noticed another pet walking into the room. She still carried her suitcases, clearly marking her as a new arrival.

     "Come over here!" I called. "You're late to breakfast."

     The Gelert walked over to the table without any acknowledgement that she'd heard me. Taking a mug of coffee from the breakfast stand, she found a seat and began to sip her drink.

     "You're new, aren't you?" I asked happily. "What's your name? I'm Maylaura." The memory of my game with Starbethanie came back to me, and for safety I corrected myself; "The Maylaura. From Altador."

     There was a long pause, then she replied. "Back home, people know me as Darieto. You can call me Dar."

     Dar pulled a book from amongst her belongings and began to read; I saw the title, On the Art of Philosophy. Her head lowered to look at the page, as if our conversation was over.

     "Darieto?" The name rang a bell in my mind. "You're my roommate! You and a Uni named Starbethanie."

     "Oh, joy." There was sarcasm in the Gelert's voice. Her frown evaporated as she turned back to the book.

     After a few more attempts to draw Darieto's attention, I gave up and went to find Starbethanie. It seemed that my second roommate was not much of a conversationalist.

     *

     Dar turned up later that day, declining our help as she moved her suitcase into the room complex. Her books on philosophy seemed to fill most of her luggage, and she carried them one by one to the bedside shelf.

     "Wow, Maylaura, you met our roommate this morning," Starie giggled. "You two must be friends already! How do you feel being friends with a celebrity pet, Dar?"

     "So, you're 'the' Maylaura?" the Gelert asked, brushing down her Skunk-coloured coat. I glanced at her, but her expression- one eyebrow raised, and her eyes looking down at yet another book- gave away nothing. "What's it like, then, being a top pet in Altador?"

     I froze on the spot, but my wild imagination came to my assistance once again. "Oh, it's wonderful," I gabbled. "Such lovely food, deluxe sandwiches and treats every day... silk sheets for your bed, and a room where you can see the clouds through the glass ceiling... and the pets you meet! I was talking to Jacques Kyrii just the other day. He'd popped by when his ship made anchor on the coast."

     "Hmmm." Dar went back to her unpacking, taking out her assortment of belongings: a case for her spectacles, a flashlight, and, in a birdcage, a blue Airax which squawked loudly at Starbethanie.

     "He's adorable!" my friend exclaimed. "Did your owner buy him for you?" Dar nodded reluctantly, and the conversation- for what it was- turned to families. Starbethanie's owner, from what I heard, lived on Roo Island with Starie's brother, and always had time for games with the two of them. Dar, eventually, talked about a little Red Kougra, her brother back home. She was still a Gelert of few words, but her brisk manner seemed to soften slightly now, and I could have sworn I saw something like sadness in her dark eyes. I sat as quietly as I could in the corner of the room.

     "Maylaura? What about you?" Starie turned to me. "Have you got any brothers and sisters? And where d'you live in Altador?"

     Dar looked up at the clock on the wall. "Our first training class is in ten minutes," she said smoothly, snapping her book shut and getting to her paws.

     "Oh, my gosh!" Starie jumped up. "That doesn't leave much time! C'mon, Maylaura. Let's go!"

     I followed her, thankful that Dar had inadvertently protected me. Somehow, I had the feeling that it was going to be difficult to keep my lowly origins a secret.

To be continued...

 
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