Sailing the Stars: Part Three
After a few more minutes of creeping along amongst the rocks with Shadow and the Space Faerie, Bugsy spotted another large pit just ahead of them. Something thin and straight and tall was slightly visible, sticking out above the edge of the pit. It looked like... the tip of a mast of ship!
Bugsy turned around, beckoning to the others to follow her quickly, her heart racing. They all hurriedly crept to the edge of the pit and looked down. There it was, the Sweet Fyora in all its glory, stuck in a pit! The pit wasn’t as deep as the other one, but it was much wider; almost double.
Bugsy was relieved to see that the ship didn’t seem to have any damage. It just sat there, in the pit, fully stationary; with the sails rolled up at the top of the rigging on the mast, and the gangplank down. She and the other two looked carefully around for guards, but there didn’t seem to be anyone there at all! Did that mean it was safe to approach?
“Ok,” said Bugsy to the others, “follow me, but carefully!” She leapt upwards and the rocket boosters on her jet pack started firing automatically, propelling her through the ‘air’ as if she was flying. Shadow and the Space Faerie followed. They all flew towards the rigging and landed on it, holding onto the mast for support, facing the two viewing platforms at the rear of the ship. ‘The stern’, Bugsy firmly reminded herself, proving that her Sailor Jargon revision sessions hadn’t been for nothing.
Suddenly, there was a disturbance in the mood of the eerie pit. At the far side of the pit, at the top of a staircase leading down into it, several guards appeared! More big Mutant Grundos, all armed with laser blasters, began to walk down into the pit, towards the ship, where they all assembled in two long lines.
Even more suddenly, Dr. Sloth appeared at the top of the staircase and began to walk down, followed by two more Grundo guards also armed and ready. Sloth was wearing the usual; his long black cloak, his cheeky evil grin and... Captain Bugsy’s hat!
“Hey! Get my hat off your fat ugly head!” muttered Bugsy furiously. She leaned forward, poised to attack, but the Space Faerie reached out and gently took hold of her wrist, cautioning her to stay put.
Dr Sloth arrived at the bottom of the pit and began to walk along the line of Grundos with his bodyguards towards the Sweet Fyora’s gangplank. A lump came to Bugsy’s throat. Would he see the three of them? Probably the best thing to do now would be to just keep still... and pray they wouldn’t be caught.
Sloth smiled confidently as he strode up the gangplank, with the guards following closely. “At last,” he sneered as he stood on the deck, “the hour of my vengeance draws near!” He hurried over to the side of the deck and leant over the railing. “Stand back, everyone! We’re going to fly!”
The Grundo guards on the ground instantly cleared the surrounding area. Sloth stepped into the centre of the deck and then, in a loud and clear voice, began to make an announcement:
“O.K, SWEET FYORA! I AM YOUR CAPTAIN NOW, AND SO YOU WILL DO AS I SAY! LET’S FLY!”
But nothing happened. Sloth began to get ever so slightly angry. “Fly!!!” he yelled, “Fly! Come on, fly! I COMMAND YOU TO FLY!”
But still, nothing happened. ‘Tee-hee,’ thought Bugsy, ‘serves you right!’ Sloth’s hands turned into fists and he began to shake with fury. The Grundo guards with him seemed to have noticed the storm signs too, because one of them came up to him and put its paw on his shoulder.
“Sir, please,” it said, “don’t get angry! Maybe you have to say a certain magic word, or... phrase or... something in order to get it going. After all, it is a magic ship.”
Sloth thought for a moment. “Hmm,” he said, “uh.... GO, SWEET FYORA!” he suddenly yelled, “FLY! UP, UP AND AWAY, SWEET FYORA!”
He tried many more ‘magic’ phrases. Nothing happened, not even a sound. Sloth was practically fit to burst now. He gave a roar of anger, whipped Bugsy’s hat off his head and threw it away. It hit the mast and drifted slowly back down to the deck.
“Stupid useless thing!” he yelled in frustration as he stamped his foot on the deck floor. “If I can’t get it to fly, then it never will again!”
Bugsy leaned in closer, her joy caused by Sloth’s failure now replaced by suspicion. If he meant what she thought he meant by that... he had another think coming!
Sloth turned and started stomping back towards the gangplank. “Take a flaming torch to this wretched ship and burn it to cinders immediately; and the hat too!” he snapped at his guards as he passed. “I never want to see them again!”
“OH NO, YOU DON’T!”
Dr. Sloth looked up and saw Captain Bugsy diving down straight towards him, her jet pack providing propulsion and momentum. He tried to bring out his laser blaster, but Bugsy was too fast! Bringing her feet forward, she dove down and smacked right into him, knocking him backwards along the deck and into the back wall, where he collapsed to the floor.
The Grundo guards burst into action immediately, bringing out their own laser blasters and firing wildly at Bugsy. She dodged their shots and did a front flip towards them, drawing her sword in mid-air as she went. She slashed one of the guards across the chest with the blade and elbowed the other one in the face! Both guards crumpled to the floor, groaning deeply.
Wasting no time, Bugsy grabbed one of the guards with both hands and tipped him over the side of the deck, out of the sight of the guards below. She had to shift her weight from left to right in order to manage it. Then she turned to the other guard and did the same to him.
“Oh look,” said Dr. Sloth with a heavily sarcastic tone as he started to get up, “a scary human from Earth, come to stop old Dr. Sloth!”
“Flattery won’t get you anywhere,” snapped Bugsy as she turned away and walked over to the mast, where her hat lay on the deck.
“Wait! Stop!” said Dr. Sloth, as Bugsy swept her hat up. “That’s mine! Put it down at once! It doesn’t belong to you!”
“Excuse me,” snapped Bugsy as she turned to face him, “but I think you’ll find... it does.” And with that, Bugsy reached up and placed her hat on her head. Almost at once, she felt the magic power flow through her once again. “And you stole it from me,” she added.
Dr. Sloth stared at her in surprise. “Captain Bugsy?!” he gasped. “But how in Kreludor did you know-“
“Because you left Neopia being one crewmate short!” yelled Shadow as he fluttered down from the rigging and landed on the deck, cutting off part of Sloth’s retreat. “Shadow the Scorchio, lieutenant and ship’s cook!”
“Oh yes,” remarked Dr. Sloth, his famous evil grin re-appearing on his face, “I thought there were four of you last time!” He turned back to Bugsy. “But no matter,” he said, “seeing as how I’m about to gloriously defeat you both and conquer Neopia with my all-new powerful space fleet, with matching army! And there’s nothing you can do or say to change that!”
“What?” asked Bugsy, confidently. “Not even a little phrase like... SET THE SAILS?!”
And all at once, the Sweet Fyora came to life! The magnificent white sails unrolled themselves, from the top half of the rigging on the mast to the bottom half. The great white wings unfolded and started to flap; slowly at first then faster and faster until the ship slowly began to rise off the ground, much to everyone’s surprise!
All of a sudden, however, something began to go very wrong! The whole ship began to tilt slowly to the right! Everything not fastened down started sliding towards the right wall, adding to the weight and making the ship tilt further. Every Neopian on board was suddenly scrambling for something to hold onto as they began to lose their footing. Shadow took off and hovered in the air; while Bugsy managed to grab a length of rope dangling down just before she fell. The whole ship was now right on its side in mid-space!
Dr. Sloth hadn’t been so lucky. He’d slipped and fallen right down, grabbing onto the end of the gangplank for support. Bugsy thought desperately! How to get him off?! She looked up and saw the ship’s cannons, all hanging down from ropes attaching them to the side of the deck. One of them was breaking loose, its ropes about to snap. Aha!
“Shadow!” Bugsy yelled. “Live up to your species! Scorch that cannon!”
Shadow hesitated for a second. Had his captain gone mad?! Nevertheless, he flew up to the breaking ropes and gave them a great burst of flame from his mouth! The cannon broke loose and fell fast across the deck despite the low gravity, Bugsy swinging out of the way just in time!
The cannon crashed through the barrier on the right side of the deck and rolled down the gangplank, knocking Sloth off the end and sending him crashing to the ground with it, where it pinned him down uncomfortably.
Bugsy watched for a few seconds, before trying to re-focus. “Okay, back to the mining area! Let’s go!” she yelled. The ship tilted upright again and Bugsy found herself being swung upwards, across the deck and dropped behind the helm... as if the ship had just picked her up and put her there! But there was no time to dwell on that!
“Positions, everyone,” Bugsy called, as she took hold of the wheel. Shadow and the Space Faerie landed back on the deck and started pulling up the gangplank, while down below, Sloth’s guards were running to haul the heavy cannon off him.
The Sweet Fyora rose high out of the pit and started moving forward, turning sharply as Bugsy turned the wheel. She smiled happily. It felt wonderful to be sailing the skies again after so very long... but no! She had to stay focused!
Bugsy removed the oxygen mask she was still wearing and felt her body instantly adapt to the lack of air, thanks to the magic of her hat. It was if air was all around now. Bugsy smiled again. Phase 1 completed! Now to get the crew back, plus four or five... hundred passengers.
“Captain, we’re now approaching the pit!” called Shadow as the Sweet Fyora flew on over the surface.
“Excellent,” replied Bugsy as she gave the wheel another spin clockwise.
Down in the pit, the mutated Neopian slaves struggled on with their work; not even a tiny flicker of hope left in their hearts. Someone looked up, and so did everyone else, as the unmistakeable wooden ship’s bow came into view from the high edge of the pit.
Immediately, Sloth’s guards inside the pit burst into action, shooting up at the Sweet Fyora as it approached. The Space Faerie took care of that, however, shooting magical beams at them from the palms of her hands, which knocked them out instantly.
“Shadow,” called Bugsy from behind the helm, “cover for me for a moment!” She stepped away from the helm and ran up to the tip of the bow while Shadow took her place.
Bugsy looked down. She was now in full view of every slave in the pit. They all looked so scared and confused. Time to show them just which side she and the others were on! Bugsy took a deep breath, unsheathed her sword, held it high in the air and said in a firm, clear voice: “Hail Fyora, queen of the faeries!”
The slaves all looked at each other... and started cheering loudly as they realised someone was coming to help them!
The Sweet Fyora began to descend slowly. Bugsy leapt off the tip of the bow and landed among the slaves. She began half-running through them all, searching for Buckbeak and the others; slashing through their chains with her sword as she went.
The slaves began cheering and shouting desperately as the Sweet Fyora finished its descent and the gangplank was lowered. Shadow and the Space Faerie found themselves desperately trying to keep order as a flood of Mutant Neopets stormed up onto the ship. “Whoa! Whoa!” called Shadow. “That’s enough! Not too many at a time!!”
“At least they’re all happy to be rescued!” replied the Space Faerie over the noise.
Bugsy just carried on running among the slaves, freeing them while she searched. Buckbeak, Nikolikan and ZoshiDevil had to be here somewhere!
Fifteen minutes later, every single Mutant Neopet slave inside the pit had boarded the Sweet Fyora. Even though the ship was so big, it was still a tight squeeze. The cages of the brig down below had had to be opened just to provide some more breathing space.
Of course, Bugsy had scanned the entire passenger count as they’d boarded, still trying to locate her crew. But there were just so many Neopets, it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. So for now, she was standing at the helm with Shadow, steering them home. The Space Faerie had teleported ahead to inform Queen Fyora of their return.
“Wow,” remarked Shadow, “I bet nobody else on Neopia has liberated five hundred slaves from evil and brought them back in a flying ship!”
“Yes...” replied Bugsy sadly as she turned the wheel. She was still grieving over her failure to find the crew.
“Oh, don’t worry, captain,” said Shadow, guessing her thoughts, “we’ll find them. Someday, we will find them.” Then, changing the subject, he added “think of the look on Sloth’s face when he finds out what we’ve done, freeing his entire workforce!”
“Yeah,” replied Bugsy with a slight chuckle, “that would really make his day... NOT!”
Shadow laughed. But then, suddenly, a little thought entered his head. “It’s just as well he might get really angry. Then we’ll be in trouble!”
“Yes well, consider us lucky,” replied Bugsy, “that’s all we have to worry about!”
To be continued...