Hannah and the Kreludorian Tunnels: Part Three
“I don’t get it,” said Kowrie. It was later that morning. Phiorri had been abducted by one of Evient’s robots, and they hadn’t been able to board onto Evient’s database to see where he was kept. “He’s removed the sensor.”
“Not that it matters,” Hannah snorted, pacing. “We’ve already sent the evidence planet-side. They’ve lost.”
“Evient must have known that when he saw Phiorri in that room,” replied Kowrie, aggravated. “He must have known you were there too. Why train someone and keep them at the safety base? The questions are: why did he abduct Phiorri when he knew he’d lost, and why didn’t he abduct you?”
“Maybe he didn’t understand. He saw all the chests were there, through the robot’s eyes. He must have thought we were going to steal them,” said Hannah. “He might not know he’s lost. He might think that he’d use Phiorri as a bargaining tool of some sort.”
“That’s a possibility,” said Kowrie. “He’s going to try to make contact with us. Maybe we can get back through to the databases and trap Evient.”
Suddenly a plan fizzled into existence in Hannah’s mind.
At first, Kowrie had been shocked. “No way am I doing that!” she had said at first. “That would be putting Phiorri into danger with Evient!”
“It’s a gamble, but Kowrie, Evient’s not going to harm his bargaining tool,” Hannah reasoned. It still took about twenty minutes to convince her.
Hannah was careful to only visit the replays of her adventure for the next hour. It would be any moment now. Suddenly a vid-screen popped up on the television. She fought to hide her triumphant smile. Kowrie would be getting to work now in the virtual testing room.
Hannah couldn’t see anything. Just a chair, silver against a black wall. She suddenly felt glad for the familiar brightness of the safety base. Only an Invisible Neopet could be happy there.
“Hello, Hannah,” said the Invisible Neopet on the vid-screen. “It’s Evient.”
“I figured,” she said back. She wondered what the villain saw. A hopeless little obstacle meant to be crushed? Or an honest-to-goodness threat? “What do you want? A farewell speech before you get sent to prison?”
“No,” said the silky voice. “Just an easy way out for your beloved boss. Are you interested?”
Hannah fought hard to keep from rolling her eyes.
“Hannah, give me those pictures. Erase the copies you have. And I’ll send your leader back through the tunnels, completely unharmed.” Underneath the lazy smoothness of the Invisible Neopet’s voice, there was a menacing edge.
“Now, Evient,” Hannah said, pretending to scold. She steeled herself and reeled forward with her plan. “Why would you want to ensnare your partner in a lifetime with the good guys? Everyone knows how desperate he is to be a part of a bigger world.”
Hannah imagined Kowrie’s mouth dropping open. Okay, well, not everyone. Just her. It had been a surprise for her too, even as a guess. But it had all made sense. Phiorri’s suddenly jumping into the plan, unprepared. His knowing the tunnels so well, even though Kowrie was the one who had found the maps. His dramatically failing leaps and performance in the tunnels. He had never wanted her to succeed in this mission.
There was silence at the end of the line, and then the silky voice started up again. “So you’ve finally realized.”
“I have a few questions, Evient,” said Hannah. They were both playing for time. Evient wanted to think his way out of it, and Hannah wanted Kowrie to have enough time to finish the job before Evient closed the connection. Time was one thing that was running out, one way or another. Hannah leaned forward, elbows on the desk. Her knee pressed the small RECORD button positioned under the desk. Her insides sighed with relief. Talk, Evient, she begged silently. Talk!
“Why would Phiorri start up a case against you if he was working with you?” Hannah asked. “Was he a double agent?”
“Oh no,” said Evient snidely. Little did he know that every word was his own undoing. Hannah was in no hurry to let him know, though. “His opinion simply changed once he investigated. He contacted me, we met out on the surface, and he covered up a few of my recent operations. But he had to end the case sooner or later. And he couldn’t just close the case with no obvious conclusion. You were too curious to let it go. He’d have to capture you with my robots. Imprison you until we are far, far away.”
“But the simple truth of the matter was, he underestimated you. He never expected you to come that far. He let himself be caught. I abducted him. I hadn’t understood at the time. I’d thought he’d come alone.” Evient laid out the situation as if it was the simplest thing in the world. Even in his quickly descending moments, the pride in his voice was clear. “He told me he’d saved you once when he should have left you. You’ve grown on him.”
“Well,” Hannah said. “That’s disappointing. I thought more of you.” She was hiding her revulsion. How long had she trusted this deceptive Neopet? It was astonishing to think that she had not seen it sooner.
“Really? I’m devastated. Now,” and his voice became icy, “where are those photos? Where is all the evidence?”
“As if I’ll let you know. As if I’d destroy them for you,” said Hannah harshly. The teasing and games were gone. They were two enemies, speaking without abandon (or so Evient thought . . .). It was true that Hannah was very angry. Come on, Kowrie! she thought to herself. Get through!
“No one will ever know about Phiorri, Hannah,” said Evient. He was grasping straws, his fright disclosed. “He’ll escape, come planet-side, and let me out. No one will ever find out.”
“Then I suppose this is a good time to tell you I’m recording this conversation,” said Hannah smugly, enjoying the quick intake of breath on the other side of the video feed. “And that your power lines are five seconds away from being cut, and all your doors are going to lock from the outside.”
He didn’t say anything, but Hannah could hear his breathing become more shallow and quick. He really was quite frightened. She wasn’t being very fair. But she couldn’t resist saying her last line. “Good-bye, Evient. My best wishes to your partner.”
That was the exact moment at which the vid screen went black. Hannah could read the notice appearing on the black screen: SOURCE DAMAGED. Kowrie had hit home. She pressed stop and prepared the video to be sent to Neopia. “Score,” she said to herself.
“I didn’t think it of him,” said Hannah into the microphone. “It was surprising, but I made the most of the situation. At least I wasn’t alone out there!”
It was three days later and the sun beat down. Kowrie and Hannah were standing in the middle of Neopia Central, being interviewed. Phiorri and Evient had been taken out of their headquarters-turned-prison and shipped down to Neopia in the same ship as Kowrie and Hannah. Even now they were heading away, casting vicious looks over their shoulders, hands cuffed. Hannah tried to ignore how different her trusty, responsible boss had come.
“Will you ever go back to the Tunnels?” asked Chelsea Demikirke, the reporter in charge of the Pet Spotlight. She was a Xweetok with a Faerie Paint job and a weird way of batting her eyes, as if prompting her interviewee to answer quickly. “Or has this experience been enough for you for the time being at least?”
“Maybe,” said Hannah, feeling especially carefree. The mere fact that no weight was on her shoulders made her feel giddy. She wasn’t responsible for uncovering anyone’s crime. Not anymore. The thought was oddly refreshing. She hoped it would stay that way for at least two months this time. “Maybe not. There’s nothing wrong with the Kreludorian tunnels. Maybe I should tour them first before taking a job there next time.”
Kowrie was being interviewed by another reporter. Of all things, the most Hannah wanted to do right now was to pull her away to the Mall and buy a new outfit. It was a perfectly normal way to spend the day, and perhaps Hannah could get all that silver and black obsidian out of her system. A pink shirt would be nice, maybe a white skirt. Something girly. Already her mind was wandering away.
“Last question,” promised Chelsea, flicking her bushy tail from side to side that was oddly hypnotizing for Hannah. “What’s next for you out here?”
“Eh,” said Hannah indecisively. She looked up at the moon, pale against the vivid blue sky. “I don’t know. Maybe I could investigate the scarabs in the Lost Desert? Or the whirlpools in Maraqua. Definitively, I don’t know what’s next. But I do know that this adventure was not enough for me!