No Other Way: Part Two
“The world will be destroyed?”
“The engines on this side of the Station have stopped working,” explained Morlock hurriedly. “And the lever’s broken, so it can’t be re-engaged. The thrusters on the other side, though, are still running. The forces are pushing the Station towards Neopia.”
“What do we do?”
“The other set of thrusters are controlled by the control room on the far side of the Station. If you can turn them off as well, you’ll remain in orbit at the current height for long enough to allow the engines to be safely restarted.”
“But we’re locked in!” said Drakav. “How are we supposed to get across?”
The technician began to speak, but his voice was drowned out.
“The engines are broken?” asked the Krawk with the saxophone. Drakav turned. “Well? Are they?”
Morlock nodded. Suddenly, the Krawk stepped forward, raising his saxophone above his head, and renewed his assault on the glass.
“Stop him!” said Morlock. “You can’t let the glass break!”
Drakav intervened again, pulling the pet away from the window.
“He’s in the escape pod!” shouted the Krawk, struggling against Drakav and pointing at Morlock. “He’s safe. He’s escaping!”
The Tonu stepped in again to help Drakav. The Mynci remained standing in the middle of the room, staring at the tussle by the window with a slight sneer on his face.
“How pathetic,” he said. “Stop it, Krawk. That’s an airlock. If you break it, it’ll be something you’ll be lucky to live to regret.”
The Krawk glared at him.
“And who do you think you are to tell me what to do?”
Haughtily, the Mynci pulled himself up.
“I’ll have you know that I am Allso, a respectable business tycoon. Far more important than you, whoever you are.”
“This isn’t helping,” said the Tonu, quietly.
“You need to listen to me!” Morlock intoned. “You need to save the Station.”
But Drakav wasn’t listening. For a moment, he had been distracted by something crawling on the back of his neck. Gingerly, he lifted a paw, and
it was night. The mine was almost deserted. Three hours earlier, Drakav had tagged along in the last touring party of the day, and had slipped away unnoticed towards the end, hiding in the shadows of one of the larger machines.
He watched as the foreman came in to call off the last of the workers, and the night-time security started their watch. It wasn’t high security, though – two uniformed Gelerts with batons patrolling the perimeter. But then, the owners of the mine weren’t expecting any sort of trouble.
Carefully, being sure to remain covered by the darkness, Drakav made his way around to the hub of the activity, and waited, one hand on the blaster tucked in his belt. He didn’t expect to be there long.
And, sure enough, just a minute after he arrived, a cloaked figure slipped carefully into the room. His cursory glance around failed to take in the crouching Skeith, and he must have decided that the area was clean. Carefully, the shadow approached the large machine in the centre of the room. Drakav held back. He needed to wait, needed to be sure.
From inside his coat, the figure produced a sturdy stick, which he held in his right hand, tapping it against his left as he walked forward. Drakav’s suspicions had been confirmed. Now was the time for action. He rose, moved out of the shadows, and, drawing his blaster, pointed it at the figure.
“Stop!” he shouted. The shadowy figure looked up, bat in hand.
“Who are you?” he shrieked.
“I am Officer Drakav from the Defenders of Neopia.”
“So you work for them, now, do you?” asked the figure. “Do you know what they do?”
“More than you would think,” he replied calmly. “We’ve investigated the Kreludan Mining Corporation before.”
“So you know!” shrieked the figure. “You know how they force their workers to do gruelling work for long hours with minimal pay!”
“Yes,” said Drakav. “I do.”
“Why shouldn’t I do it, then?” the figure shouted, raising his bat menacingly, preparing to strike the piece of machinery in front of him. “Why shouldn’t I destroy the plant?”
“If you destroy it, all those workers will be out of a job,” Drakav replied, simply. “It’s not a good job, but it’s work, and a source of income that they all so badly need.”
The shape seemed hesitant. The bat wobbled slightly in the air.
“If you do this,” Drakav continued, “you will be the villain, the aggressor. KMC will come out as the innocent victims in all of this.”
“But they’re not!” The anguished cry of the potential vandal filled the quiet night air.
“I know. And you know. But the public do not. Trust me – there are better ways of doing this. Now, put the weapon down.”
“No!” said the form, but he didn’t sound certain.
“I’m not offering you the best way of taking them down,” said Drakav. “I’m offering you the only one. There is no other way of doing it. If you do this, you’ll be doing more harm than good.”
The bat dropped an inch. The silhouette was thinking about it.
“At the moment, the only crime you’ve committed is trespassing – and I can overlook that if you drop your weapon and leave now.”
The figure continued to say nothing, and Drakav fell silent, keenly watching him. The bat dropped another inch. Then another.
Suddenly, the figure swung the bat up again, and flung it at Drakav. Taken by surprise, Drakav dropped his blaster and dived out of the way of the flying club, which whistled past the space where his head had been milliseconds earlier, clattering harmlessly against the machine behind. When he looked up again, the shadow had disappeared into the night.
* * *
“You did a good job,” said Judge Hog. “Commendable work, Officer Drakav – especially since it was against your better nature to do so.”
It was the following morning. Drakav was sat in the office of the Head of the Defenders of Neopia, opposite the leader himself.
“There was no other way, sir,” said Drakav, firmly. “He needed to be stopped.”
“Very true,” said Judge Hog. “Now, I apologise for bringing you in to work again so soon after your last assignment, but there is another one for you. This one is... urgent.”
Producing a black file from one of the drawers of his desk, he slid it across the polished mahogany surface to the Skeith opposite, who picked it up.
“‘Project Mallard’” he read aloud, before looking up at Judge Hog. “Does this mean...”
“Yes,” replied the Moehog. “Our sources have informed us that the Space Station is in danger. And, since you know the Station best, we felt that it would be fitting for you to go and investigate.”
“Would I be assigned a partner?”
Judge Hog sighed.
“Officer, you know my policy on this. All agents work in pairs, especially on missions as dangerous as this.”
“Sir, you know I don’t work well as part of a team,” said Drakav earnestly. “I’m much better by myself. Two’s a lot harder to hide in the shadows.”
Judge Hog looked unconvinced. Drakav played his ace.
“And, of course, expenses would be halved if you only sent me.”
His commanding officer gave him a stare. Drakav met his gaze steadily. After a few seconds, Judge Hog smiled, and broke it.
“If you insist, Officer.”
Drakav smiled as well.
“Thank you, sir. You won’t regret this – I’ll do a good job.”
“You’d better.” Judge Hog passed an envelope over to him. “This is your shuttle ticket. It leaves in one hour. Don’t miss it.”
“I won’t, sir. Thank you, sir.” Drakav picked up the envelope, and stood. Judge Hog also rose.
“Good luck, Officer.” Judge Hog saluted. “Neopia is counting on you.”
Drakav saluted back, and moved towards the door.
“Oh, and, Officer?” Drakav turned again. “Don’t ever imply that I value the finance department over the safety of Neopia again.”
Judge Hog gave him a steely look, but there was a twinkle in the old eyes as well.
* * *
Drakav looked up with a start. For a moment, he was disorientated, before he realised where he was. It was odd that the memory had suddenly flared up now.
“Was that... you?” asked the Tonu, rubbing her head. Drakav stared at her.
“You... you saw that?”
“With the mine?”
Drakav was stunned.
“What? How... how did that happen?” Drakav turned, and looked at the rest of the occupants in the room. “Did you...?”
“I saw it too,” muttered the Krawk.
“And me,” said Morlock.
“Me too,” said Allso. “So, you work for the Defenders, do you?”
“Foolish boy.” The Mynci didn’t elaborate.
A flashing light on one of the panels of buttons attracted Drakav’s attention. The light was above the decreasing numbers.
10... 9... 8...
“Can we not get you out?” asked Drakav. Morlock shook his head.
“I’m locked in. This is it,” said the technician, a panicked look on his face. “Don’t fail me.”
“But I don’t know what to do!” said Drakav, desperately. “What do you need us to do?”
“You need to save the Station,” said Morlock, simply.
Morlock stared straight into Drakav’s eyes.
“You’ll find a way.”
With a loud, whooshing noise, the steel door of the escape pod slammed shut. There was a pause for a second, then the pod disappeared. There was no rush of engines, no sound of whistling air. Just the capsule there one second, and, in the next, nothing but the empty vacuum of space, hidden behind the glass for a moment before the Station closed again.
The technician was gone. Now, it was up to them.
To be continued...