Chronicles of a Caped Crusader: Against All Odds - Part Five
Every quiet week worried Judge Hog. He knew that Nefarious was not about to go away, so the longer he stayed quiet the more time he was taking to build his next robot. The longer he took, the more care he must be putting into it. The more care he put into it, the harder it would be to beat. He had appeared three days after Orig had become his apprentice, and though he had let him be on the scene, he hadn't actually let him fight. Orig had been okay with watching, he knew he wasn't ready to face Nefarious.
Things were going well with Orig. He seemed to be a quick and eager learner. He had the impulsiveness of youth, but he worked hard to restrain himself and learn what Judge Hog was teaching him, rather than just leaping in. The papers had been calling Orig 'Super Lupe'.
Judge Hog was sitting at his desk, filling out a report while Orig sat in a chair on the other side of the room reading Aethia's Battle Ready!. It was late, and Judge Hog was about to send him home. A knock came at the door and it opened. Chief Constable Alan Higgson entered leading a Blue Grundo. The Grundo was clearly nervous.
"Judge Hog, Orig, this is Zorliz. I'll let him tell you his story. He's going to design and supervise the building of the HQ for the hero organization we are creating. When he's done, there are two undercover officers waiting to take him to the safe house he is staying at," Alan told them and then left the room.
Judge Hog nodded as Orig rose and got a chair for the scientist. The scientist removed the massive bag he had slung around his shoulders before sitting down. He ran a hand through his blonde curls and sighed tiredly.
"I'm not really sure where to begin. I'm a fugitive; I escaped from Dr. Frank Sloth just forty-eight hours ago. The Resistance smuggled me out and shipped me down here. Unfortunately, I think Dr. Sloth knows I'm down here, but I don't think he knows anymore than that. I've been in contact with the Resistance for a while, and through them I learned of this job the Chief Constable is working on making happen. I was promised that I would be given a new identity in return for my help," Zorliz told.
"I see," Judge Hog replied. "Do you have any idea who Sloth may send after you?"
The Grundo reached into his bag and pulled out a Virtupets Portable Computer. He handed it to Judge Hog. "You can keep that. On there is information about anyone I think he might send. You've probably heard of most of them. I think Ylana Skyfire is the most likely. She may be green, but she's very good at what she does, and she's eager to prove herself in Dr. Sloth's eyes. He likes that. But, as I am the head of one of his engineering teams, it is possible he might send someone more experienced."
Judge Hog nodded.
"Chief Constable said you would take me to survey the building's site tomorrow."
Judge Hog nodded. "That we will. Anything else?"
"Not that I can think of right now," Zorliz replied.
"Thank you. Orig, will you escort him out to the officers? Then you can head off for the night. I'll see you tomorrow," Judge Hog instructed.
Orig rose and opened the door. Zorliz headed out.
"Good night, Boss," Orig said as he closed the door behind himself.
Alone, Judge Hog booted up the computer. He looked over the profiles and read the information about each of them. The final profile was actually for two people, Buzz and Lynette. Judge Hog knew those names, everyone who worked in any kind of law enforcement did. They were Dr. Sloth's special weapon, when he wanted something done well, he sent the duo.
There was a picture of them in the information, one captured from their most infamous mission. Dr. Sloth had managed to learn the location of one of the Resistance's bases on Kreludor, the base they used a safe house for the scientists and engineers before moving them onto their proper locations after escape. He sent a battalion led by Buzz and Lynette. The Resistance fought hard, but under the duo's daring leadership it was for naught. The base was completely destroyed and over a hundred members captured. The picture showed them back to back in the middle of fight, both had a sadistic grin on their face, they loved it.
There was plenty of info on Buzz, but almost nothing on Lynette. Prior to her being assigned to Buzz as a partner, she was obviously not noteworthy enough to be mentioned. He looked at the picture of them again. It was doubtful they would be assigned to finding a single scientist.
Judge Hog had no way of knowing that he and Lynette were on a collision course.
"Well, here we are," Judge Hog said.
They were standing in the Plaza district of Neopia Central. In front of them was a dilapidated looking building. They walked inside and Zorliz started looking around. He opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted by Judge Hog's wrist communicator.
"Judge Hog, come in!"
"What is it, Chief?" Judge Hog asked.
"Nefarious is back. He's near the Auction House," Alan told him.
"We're on our way." Judge Hog turned to Zorliz. "Stay here, stay out of sight. We'll be back soon. We'll continue this then."
Zorliz nodded and Judge Hog and Orig ran outside and took flight. It wasn't long before they could hear the screams and the massive thuds of the giant robot walking the streets.
"There it is!" Orig shouted, pointing.
Judge Hog spotted it too, they flew closer to it. From within, Nefarious saw them and laughed.
"Well, good to see you again, Judge Hog. And you brought your pet! Going to sit on the sidelines again, little boy? Smart move."
Orig fumed. Before Judge Hog could stop him he took off at the robot. Nefarious was ready. The giant hand wound back and came forward, a direct hit. Orig went flying backwards. He hit a tree and slumped. Judge Hog flew over to him.
"Kid, you okay?" Judge Hog asked.
Orig sat up and shook his head to clear it. "Yeah, I think so."
"What have I told you about allowing emotions to rule your head while out here?" Judge Hog asked, not too harshly.
"I won't forget that lesson again. Sorry, Boss," Orig apologized.
Judge Hog looked towards Nefarious, surprised he wasn't on them already. He was bent down, talking to a Pirate colored Ixi woman in a crimson bodysuit. She was pointing a blaster at him. She fired, ripping a small hole in casing of the robot, but causing no real damage. His robot rose and took a swing at her. She waited until the last moment then jumped, landing on the massive arm. She started running up the arm. Nefarious began to spin, trying to shake her off. She jumped off, firing at the robot again, hitting the glass done that housed the Eyrie. Her shot hit and a small set of cracks appeared on the dome. She landed and fired again, again a hit and another set of cracks appeared.
Nefarious managed to knock her face down on the ground. She rolled over quickly, but he had brought his foot up over her. She knew there was no way she could get out from under it in time. She raised her blaster and fired again, a last act of defiance.
Judge Hog didn't have to say anything to Orig; they both took off the moment she was hit. Orig got there first, he caught the foot as it came down, holding it aloft. Judge Hog flew under and caught the Ixi in his arms, carrying her to safety. Orig let it fall harmlessly to the ground and jumped back to join Judge Hog and the Ixi.
She was utterly furious.
"Lupe, distract him! Judge Hog, I'm going to fire one more time, right in the middle of the impact points I've already made on that dome. Hit with as much speed as you can in the center of the points and you should be able to break through the dome," she barked.
They both moved to do as she said. Orig flew by Nefarious causing him to turn to try to catch him. The Ixi fired and hit right where she said she would. Nefarious turned back to her. Judge Hog came flying in at top speed. He hit the weakened spot in the dome and crashed through, landing in the control room of the robot. Sitting at the controls was the Robot Eyrie. It was the closest Judge Hog had ever gotten to him.
Nefarious's head turned to look at him, gears whirring as he turned. He didn't look surprised or concerned, like would be expected. He was grinning. It was as wide a grin as his robotic face could manage. Between his lifeless, glowing eyes and his freakish smile, he was truly terrifying.
"It seems I lose."
The top of the dome shot off and Nefarious took flight. Judge Hog tried to go after him, but around him the robot began to self-destruct and pitch forward. Judge Hog got out of there as fast as he could. He landed on the ground and Orig flew up to him.
"He got away, Boss. He was too fast for me, I lost him almost immediately," he reported.
"He's good at disappearing. Speaking of disappearing, where is that woman?"
They both looked around, but she was gone. Judge Hog mentally cursed, he knew her. She was Lynette. In spite of the improbability of it, Dr. Sloth had sent one of his best agents after Zorliz. He doubted that she knew where Zorliz was, or that he was working with them, but it he would rather have had her in custody before going back to Zorliz.
"Come on, we need to get back to Zorliz. The Chia Police will be here to clean up this mess soon enough."
They took off, unaware they were being tailed.
They arrived back at the building and went in.
"Zorliz?" Orig called as they walked through the building.
Zorliz appeared at the top of a flight of stairs and walked down towards them. "Ah, there you are. How'd it go?"
"We beat him with help from some girl. She disappeared before we could talk to her," Orig told.
"Well, good! On to business, I've been all over the building while you were gone. I don't think we can fix this up. You'll have to tear it down and we'll build a new one. That is, if I can find away to free the others. With my escape, it's likely that Dr. Sloth will tighten his security," Zorliz said.
The female voice was familiar. Lynette stepped from the shadows holding a blaster, it was pointed at Zorliz.
"Lynette!" Zorliz shrieked.
"Ah, good, so I don't have to introduce myself. Come along quietly, back to the good Doctor, and we'll forget your little escapade ever happened. Make me drag you back and you will live to regret it, and the superheroes might too," Lynette threatened darkly.
Orig was clearly alarmed by the turn of events. One moment the girl had been helping them take down Nefarious, and now she was taking Zorliz prisoner. Zorliz slowly started walking away from them.
"But, you're the lady who helped us take down Nefarious' robot. Why are you doing this?"
"If you think I helped you because I'm some goody-goody superhero wannabe, you've got another thing coming. I just helped you because that nut job made it personal. Really, you're all so ridiculous, with your stupid costumes and the 'truth, justice, and the Neopian way' stuff," Lynette spat.
Zorliz reached her and she cuffed him. Orig started forward but stopped when Lynette pointed the blaster back at Zorliz. Orig looked to Judge Hog, but he was unreadable.
"Why?" Orig asked in confusion.
"Because that's what I'm paid to do, same as everyone," Lynette told.
"No one pays me to do this." Judge Hog spoke for the first time.
"In that case, you're a fool," Lynette replied.
"Maybe I am, but when all is said and done, I can live with myself. Can you say the same thing?" He challenged.
"I'll think about it."
It was mocking, but Judge nodded and said, "You will."
Lynette backed out with Zorliz. There was nothing they could do; Judge Hog knew Lynette would pull that trigger. They heard her ship fly off, taking Zorliz with it.
"That's not exactly true, we do get paid," Orig pointed out.
"We get paid for being patrol officers. The superhero crime fighting is its own thing," Judge Hog clarified.
"Oh. Okay then."
Orig walked out looking dejected, having Lynette turn out to be a villain and losing Zorliz weighing on him. Judge Hog looked around absentmindedly; he had seen something in Lynette. He wasn't sure what it was, but whatever it was, it made him feel hopeful.
Judge Hog returned to the building the next day. He had a feeling that he would find someone there, so he wasn't surprised when he heard footsteps echoing through the building. He walked quietly, his steps making no sound. He walked through a doorway and found Lynette standing in the room. She was dressed in civilian clothes, her deep blue hair loose. She held her blaster, but it was pointed at the ground, her thoughts clearly elsewhere. She suddenly kicked a rock that was lying on the floor, sending it flying into a wall. It dropped a cloud of plaster dust from the ceiling.
"It's no wonder this building was condemned," he commented.
She spun, her blaster raised and aimed at him.
"So, you're back. I don't have any more scientists for you to take."
"I only came back to have you answer a question," Lynette told him.
"Fire away. Your question that is. I'd rather you not use that thing on me," Judge Hog chuckled.
A reluctant smile crept across her face, though she stayed tense and focused. "You saved me from Nefarious yesterday, and yet you knew who I was and what I was doing there. Why?"
"Because a hero doesn't discriminate between good guys and bad guys when someone is in trouble, they just save them. I would save Nefarious if he were in need of it. Even if it would let him get away again; I wouldn't turn a blind eye. I certainly didn't want you to take the scientist, but I was not going to let you come to harm to prevent that from happening." Judge Hog explained, then said, "Now, I have question for you, how did you figure out our connection to the scientist?"
"That's for me to know," Lynette snapped.
"So, you didn't know. You just followed us," Judge Hog guessed.
Lynette stayed silent.
"Go on." Judge Hog gestured towards the exit.
"What kind of trick is this?" Lynette demanded.
"No trick, on my honor," Judge Hog promised.
Lynette kept the blaster trained on him until she had moved of sight of him. Judge Hog smiled. The feeling was growing stronger, and he could see Lynette was thinking about what he had said. She might even be having a hard time living with herself. Time would tell.
A week later Judge Hog was sitting at his desk filling out paperwork when his communicator buzzed.
"Hey, Boss, I think that girl who took Zorliz last week is at a restaurant here in Neopia Central having dinner. Should I apprehend her?" Orig asked.
"No, go on with your business. I'll handle this. Just move along as if you never saw her. Do you understand?" Judge Hog directed.
Judge Hog got up and put on a trench coat, hat, and sunglasses. He set out after Lynette. He followed her at a safe distance for an hour. Lynette seemed unusually at ease. After about half an hour he realized that she knew he was following her. She had probably spotted him the moment he began tailing her, but she was comfortable with it.
She entered a park and walked through it until she came to a bench overlooking a lake. She sat down on the bench and stared out over the lake.
"I can't live like this, though," she called out to him.
Judge Hog sat down next to her on the bench. "Why can't you?"
"It's not me," Lynette said.
"It's not Lynette, but you don't have to go on being Lynette. You could be someone else if you really wanted," he countered.
She was silent and Judge Hog asked, "How did you come to be Lynette?"
The question seemed to startle her. She was silent a moment, she seemed to be thinking.
"I don't know, sir," she hesitated then continued. "I think I was born on the station. I lived with an uncle. I don't even know how I came to live with him, or who my parents were, and I never asked. For that matter, I suppose I don't even know if he really was my uncle. I just took it at face value. I grew up; at fifteen he enlisted me in Dr. Sloth's army. He was one of Dr. Sloth's personal guards, so he had a lot of clout. I was good with a blaster; I did what I was told, so between that and my uncle I moved up in the ranks very quickly. For some reason known only to Dr. Sloth I was assigned to be Buzz's partner and we became amazing. I never once questioned anything in my life, made any plans, had any dreams. I did what I was told and I kept moving along. That's who I am."
Judge Hog looked at her in sympathy. She had never been given a chance to think for herself. That was how they made them up there. But, she was different; she had a heart. One buried under years of training, one she was trying to crush, unable to see a way out.
"But, you know you can't go on like that. You've begun to wonder and question things. Can you really go back to the way you were? Just take orders and never question if you are doing the right thing with your life?" he asked.
Her voice was filled with resigned despair as she answered. "We'll have to find out, won't we?"
"I guess so." Judge Hog rose.
"You're not going to take me in?" Lynette asked archly.
"Not unless I could take Buzz at the same time. All I'd be doing would be creating a dangerous situation for Neopia Central," he answered.
"Somebody does their homework. Slap your naïve Lupe friend for me," Lynette chuckled.
Judge Hog just waved as he walked away, leaving her to think over what they had talked about.
Orig and Judge Hog were sitting in his office in the precinct that night. It was almost midnight. Judge Hog was doing more paperwork and Orig was hanging around, desperately hoping Judge Hog would finally give in and tell him what had happened with Lynette and why he hadn't brought her in.
The door flew open with a bang. Zorliz stood there panting, two officers behind him, clearly confused.
Orig pulled forward a chair for him and offered him a bottle of water. The exhausted Grundo thankfully accepted.
"My pod came down about a mile from here," Zorliz panted. "I ran the whole way."
"We've got to get him out of here, that Ixi knows about our connection. They could get here at any time," Orig said.
"She let me go," Zorliz panted.
"What?" they both demanded.
"Lynette let me go. The Resistance got me codes for the escape pods. I made a break for it, but someone must have seen me go or realized I wasn't where I was supposed to be. The alarms went off. I took a route that took me through living quarters, hoping to throw them off my trail. But, I ran into Lynette in a hall. She was dressed in civilian clothes, but she had her blaster. I surrendered, knowing I didn't have a chance. But, she just put her blaster away and went into her room. She let me escape. I don't understand why, she did."
Orig looked to Judge Hog, but he was impassive. He turned to the officers who were standing in the doorway listening. "Get him to the safe house."
They nodded and Zorliz left with them.
"Why did she recapture him a week ago but let him go today? Is it some kind of game?" Orig asked.
"No, it is the birth of a better person."
Judge Hog walked down to the bench in the park where he had spoken to Lynette the day before. She was sitting there, looking haggard. She didn't look up as he sat down next to her.
"So, you couldn't live with yourself after all?" he asked.
"I didn't do anything. I walked away and let him go. I didn't even think about it, and yet I knew I'd do it again if I were in the same situation," Lynette told him.
"Give up, Lynette; stop trying to be someone you don't want to be," he urged. "I'm starting an organization of crime fighters, the Defenders of Neopia. Someone with your skills will be invaluable. You'll be granted amnesty from your past actions."
"You don't understand, I can't!" she gasped.
"Buzz? He's holding you back? Does he know then?" Judge Hog questioned her.
"No, and I don't want him to. He can't come with me if I leave. Judge Hog, he is who he is, but he is the only person in the world who has ever loved me. He is the only person I can legitimately say that about, no one else in this world ever cared about me. He is the only one who I can say the same thing about. I didn't have a family, I never had friends, I never cared about another living being until we were made partners. He is my only real friend and I'm his, and I can't do that to him. Ironically, he's the one who set me on this path, to losing Lynette. I want to be a better person than I am, but I could never hurt him. My death would hurt him less than my betrayal. But, I don't know how to go on being my old self now. I feel like that person died." Lynette broke down and wept as she confessed.
Judge Hog felt for her, she was a good person, one with too great a confliction before her.
"Well, then, there is only one thing to do," he said.
"What's that?" Lynette asked.
"Lynette is going to have to die."
Judge Hog stood at the Rainbow Pool waiting. He had just gotten there after escorting ten scientists to the safe houses they would be staying at for the time being. One by one they would each receive paint brushes or morphing potions to change their looks and assume new identities in Neopia Central. They didn't have to worry, no would be looking for them. They were dead as far as everyone knew.
A downcast Pirate Ixi walked towards him. She looked up at him; her eyes were still red from crying.
"How did it go?" he asked.
"As planned, sir. And, on your end?" Lynette inquired.
"Without a hitch," Judge Hog replied.
"Small favors. Now what?"
"Now, you use this Purple Paint Brush and start your life again. Your new name is Loraine; you live on Cairn Close in Neopia Central. You have a nice little house there. It has a beautiful view of Uni Meadows. I'll give you a file with all the details of your new identity to study later. Are you ready?" Judge Hog handed her the paint brush.
She nodded and went over to the pool. She dipped it into the pool and then ran it across her arm. The purple color spread out from there, transforming her harsh grey-blue fur to that of deep purple, her blue hair becoming lavender. The paintbrush disappeared and she leaned over examine her appearance in the water.
She came back towards Judge Hog.
"Well, come on, we've got work to do if we want to get the Defenders of Neopia's Headquarters built," she said.
"Welcome to the team, Loraine." Judge Hog held out his hand.
She shook it. "I have a feeling I'll like this name."
To be continued...