Chronicles of a Caped Crusader: Against All Odds - Part Nine
Nefarious returned to his base in Terror Mountain. He dumped the jetpack and hurried to the main computer, deleting everything on it. Aisheena, Danger Buzz and Mammoth would not be long in arriving. Vicki had known way more than he had expected, and she had clearly shared every bit of it with the Defenders. The battles were so close now; he was having a hard time keeping one step ahead. It was aggravating and thrilling at the same time. He liked being in control, he hated being the loser when that wasn't in his plans. But he loved being pushed to think harder and faster. He loved that there was real danger to him.
Iniquitous came running from the hangar bay.
"I've got the ship ready," he reported.
Nefarious turned to him.
"How could this have happened, Master? They were never a match for you. How is it they suddenly have this advantage?" Iniquitous asked.
"Never underestimate your opponent, Iniquitous. I told you this day could come."
"But it won't. You'll turn the tables, you'll still win," Iniquitous insisted.
"What happens from here is all up to chance."
Nefarious came up to Iniquitous and laid his hand on his shoulder. "It is time to part ways. You must take the tunnel out and trek down the mountain. Go into hiding. I know how to find you. If things change I will summon you to me again. If I fall, disappear. Go back to living an ordinary life. Don't come out of hiding for at least five years. After that time you can decide for yourself what you want to do with your life, if you want to pick up where I left off or forget all this."
"But, Master, I can help you!" Iniquitous insisted.
"No. Do you remember what I told you?"
"I'm your successor."
"Yes, you're my successor, my best pupil. Now go, if they catch you everything I've taught you, all these years will be wasted. Go!" Nefarious ordered.
Iniquitous saluted him then turn and ran, disappearing down a passage. Nefarious calmly walked into the hangar bay and got into his ship. He opened the hangar doors and took off. He waited for the doors to close again and then hit the button that would activate the self-destruct. When the Defenders agents reached the base all they would find was a blackened, smoldering mess.
He only had two bases left. They would find them soon enough. It would come down to a final showdown, but who would come out the winner was still up to chance.
"Aisheena just reported in. They beat Nefarious's robot in the Ice Caves, but he made it back to his base there before they did. He escaped and activated the self-destruct. Captain K has rendezvoused with them and picked up Mammoth. They are on their way back now," Loraine reported.
"We're getting close," Judge Hog said. "He clearly doesn't know how much we know about him and is underestimating us still. He's also running out of options. But, we still need to be careful. He's still very dangerous, and probably more than before because he is no longer in control of the situation. He'll be playing to win now, not to drag on the stalemate."
"Yes, sir," Loraine agreed. "What is our next move?"
"There are only two lands we haven't found a base in, excluding Mystery Island since he clearly has been avoiding it to keep Vicki safe. We keep pushing hard to find it, but discreetly. Once we locate one of them, we will keep it a secret until we find the other. Then, we can flush him out of the one he is currently in and drive him to the other, where we will be waiting."
"That's a good plan. I think Faerieland would be the best place to try to spring a trap and end it. We could even rely on Faerie help for that. Our connections in Faerieland are quite good now. I'll ask Dominica to pick a team of Faeries she trusts to join the search and be ready to back us up if this plan works," Loraine said.
"Good. Get on that. Redirect Aisheena and Danger Buzz to Faerieland to help out with that. Bring Mammoth and Captain K back here. Do we have progress report from Orig yet?" Judge Hog asked.
"No, but his check in time isn't for another two hours. If he checks in sooner he will have found it. The Lost Desert is huge, but I think Nefarious will be close to Sakhmet. It is the biggest city there and one of his robots would be sited miles off. He would want to reach the city before we showed up. I think we will find it within the week," Loraine told.
The screen flashed. "A bank robbery in process," she reported. "It is the National Neopian. It seems to be two Meercas."
"I'll handle it. It's been a while since I stopped a bank robbery."
Judge Hog left to handle it and Loraine got to work on their plan.
"Loraine, we found it!"
The voice who spoke from over a communicator was Dominica's. The Fire Faerie was clearly excited. "It has to be it. I can't scan through this building, it is the only one in Faerieland that I can't. We don't make buildings out of a material that could keep Virtupets Heat Scanners from being able to detect heat signals through it. Also, the history of the building fits. It started construction right about the time Nefarious made his first move on Neopia Central. At that time Vicki's daughter, Veronica, was here attending a special school. He could have built it anywhere in the city, and there are certainly places that would have been better for him if he wanted to cause havoc in the city, but he chose the farthest possible location from that school. I think we've got him."
Loraine summoned Judge Hog to tell him the news.
"Adding the Faeries was a good call, Loraine. Dominica's team found it in forty-eight hours. If we had kept going alone, because of keeping a low profile, it would have taken us a week or two. Now we just need to find his Desert base. I think we'll go there in force. It is possible if a lot of us show up he'll rise to the challenge. It's risky, engaging him on his terms, but if it speeds the plan along, it will be worth it," Judge Hog said.
"All right. Shall I redirect all Defenders in the field to Sakhmet to await your arrival?"
"Yes. Tell Captain K to fire up his ship and send Mammoth to join him."
Judge Hog stepped outside and looked up at the sky. It was time to bring this contest into its endgame. He took off, heading for the Lost Desert.
Captain Nefarious looked at his computer screen. All the Defenders were in the Desert. He chuckled; they were clearly hoping to find his hideout and storm it, using all the manpower available to them. Well, he might as we give them some fun. See if they could take him down. If he let them find him, there would be no way to escape to Faerieland.
Faerieland was his last stand. The false house there housed his mechanical battle suit. It was stronger than his robots, built to not let the Defenders through. The other robots had weaknesses, ones for Judge Hog and his allies to find and exploit, if they could. They were useless to him in his current situation. But, he might as well have one more game before it came down in earnest. He deleted all the information from the computer and readied the base for a self-destruct. He went to the hangar and got into the robot that waited there.
He grinned as the doors above him opened and the floor lifted, carrying Nefarious out from under the sands. It was time to play one final round before they reached the endgame.
Judge Hog paused for a moment, seemingly lost in his thoughts.
"So? What happened when you confronted him?" Chloe asked, flipping the back off her wrist communicator.
"Oh, well, he didn't even really try to win. Just knocked us around a little and taunted mercilessly. Of course, I found that worrying. It made me wonder what exactly it was that he had up in Faerieland that he felt he could afford to be so careless there," Judge Hog said, and then asked, "What exactly are you doing to your communicator?"
"Oh, the wires that connect the communication on our end are totally busted. A stray piece of shrapnel from the crash sliced through them. But, the transmitter is fine. Our communicators don't function at this depth, no connection. So, if I hook my communicator up to the transmitter we can use it to communicate with Loraine. It took some time, finding wires I could salvage in here to use for it, but I've got them now," Chloe explained as she attached the wires to her communicator. "Let's give this a shot."
"Loraine? Can you hear me? It's Morphica."
Crackling with static a reply came. "Thank Fyora, Morphica. It's good to hear your voice."
Chloe handed the communicator to Judge Hog.
"Loraine, I'm sure you know by now, but we are stranded in the ocean. We were shot down by Parlax; the whole thing was a set up. Life support is fully functional and hull integrity is full. Morphica has managed to get communications back, but that is about all we can fix down here."
"Yes, I am in contact with our friends in Maraqua. They are preparing a full rescue and recovery for the ship. I've also got the Resistance waiting to tow the ship back here as soon as the Maraquans raise it to the surface of the ocean. Just sit tight, it'll still be an hour or two before the Maraquans will reach you," Loraine reported.
"Very good Loraine."
"Are you both okay?" she asked.
"Morphica lost consciousness for a few minutes, but she seems to be okay," Judge Hog told her.
"And you?" The tone of Loraine's voice told that she knew exactly who was on his mind down there.
"Okay. I'll send you periodic updates. See you soon, sir."
Judge Hog set the communicator down carefully on the console. Chloe got up and sat down in the pilot's seat, twisting her hair up and setting the wig on her head again. It was nice to be able to sit straight instead of stooping on her knees while digging around inside the ship's console. She pulled her feet up into the chair, propping her chin on them, and wrapped her tail around her legs.
"And then came the final battle, right?" Chloe prompted.
"Then came the final battle."
To be continued...