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Agent of the Sway: Resistance - Part Two


by herdygerdy

--------

A few days into the voyage, Clayton was surprised to see a visitor in his little cargo hold.

     "I know you're in here somewhere," the little JubJub said.

     Werther tapped his foot impatiently.

     "If I have to search every single box in here, I will," he added. "I've known you'd be aboard ever since I spotted you at the Seekers meeting."

     Reluctantly, Clayton climbed out from behind his box.

     "Who are you?" he asked. "And how did you know about me? You're clearly not just the Professor's assistant."

     "Virtupets Resistance," Werther answered. "Sloth made enough noise about you back in the day that the higher levels of the Resistance are aware of your kind. When I accepted this mission, Commander Valka made it clear I might not be the only spy in attendance."

     "Mission?" Clayton asked.

     "You're not the only ones to link Murphy's journal with Dr. Sloth's early experiments," Werther said. "I was assigned to shadow the Professor years ago, in the hopes his efforts would pay off and we'd get access to Sloth's early research notes."

     "What are you going to do?" Clayton asked. "About me?"

     "That depends entirely on why you're here," Werther said. "You've helped and hindered Sloth at various points. What is it this time?"

     "We're no longer allied, if that's what you mean," Clayton answered. "We prefer a free Virtupets, for now."

     "And Kreludor?" Werther demanded. "You were the ones who tipped him off about the Kreludite in the mines there. Do you have any idea what happened to the Grundos up there, because of your actions?"

     "A necessary sacrifice, for the greater good of Neopia," Clayton said.

     Werther rolled his eyes.

     "Well, for now, I won't tell the rest of them you are here," he said. "I'm sure if I did, you'd reveal my nature as well. But we're not allies, remember that."

     "I will."

     ***

     The next day, they finally encountered the storm that served as the deterrent to those attempting to reach the island.

     It started slowly at first, but Rourke plowed the ship further in. By the third day, the storm was tearing the ship apart. The lower holds were beginning to flood, so Clayton was forced up towards the deck.

     Roxton was shouting at Rourke over the storm.

     "Are we still on course!?"

     "We're on course!" Rourke growled.

     "How can you even tell?" Roxton asked.

     "I can tell," Rourke maintained.

     "How very reassuring," Roxton supplied.

     "Can't see a thing in this infernal rain," Rourke cursed.

     From his position at the ship's bow, Scrap had a better view.

     "Land ho!" he yelled.

     Sure enough, there was a mountain looming through the darkness.

     "I can see that, you scoundrel!" Rourke shouted back.

     "I guess we were on course after all," Roxton remarked.

     The mountain was coming close. Too close. The wind seemed to be pushing them towards it, determined to dash them on the rocks.

     "We've got to veer course!" Rourke shouted, spinning the wheel. "The current's too strong. We'll be smashed up against those rocks if we don't break loose from it!"

     He span the wheel again, but the storm had other ideas.

     "Too late!" the Captain cried out.

     A moment later, the hull struck the perilous rocks on the island's coast.

     "Curse it all!" Rourke growled. "The hull's been breached. We'll have to..."

     He trailed off as he noticed the latest present the storm was sending their way - a giant tidal wave.

     "Abandon ship!" he cried.

     ***

     They survived, somehow drifting towards the coast of the island as dawn broke. Clayton had been prepared for what was coming, and had jumped overboard long before the others - as a result, he reached the island first, and hid himself in the rocks.

     Rourke was the first to come upon the remains of the SS Primella.

     "You're going to pay for this, Professor!" he shouted. "It'll be nigh impossible to fix!"

     The ship had a wide hole in the hull - there was no way it could sail in its current condition.

     "Nonsense, my boy," Hugo replied dismissively, overjoyed at the idea of his research being confirmed at last. "I'm sure you'll have her fixed by the time we get back."

     "And where do you think you're going!?" Rourke demanded.

     "Why, to explore the island!" Hugo laughed. "One does not stand at the gates of magnificence and not enter."

     Standing behind Hugo, Scrap nodded enthusiastically.

     "No way," Rourke said firmly. "You might have filled the kid's head with fanciful notions, but I've got more sense than he does. Our first priority is to fix the ship."

     "Surely, you can't be serious?" Lilian piped up, already fixing her adventuring gear.

     "Bits of the ship are washing away as we speak!" Rourke complained. "If we all go cavorting about this island, who knows what'll be left when we get back?"

     Roxton, who had been watching the exchange with a smug grin, chose that moment to speak.

     "Now then, if the good Captain doesn't want to explore, then he doesn't have to. After all, someone's got to stay behind and piece the boat-"

     "Ship!" Rourke corrected him.

     "-Whatever back together," Roxton added. "So it might as well be him. The rest of us can venture further into the island and explore some, while our sailor here can work on repairing the ship to his heart's content. I'll tell you what, old chap. If we see anything that might be useful, we'll bring it back. Everyone's happy then, right?"

     Rourke clearly wasn't happy about this, but agreed anyway, keeping Scrap behind under the thinking that he was the one member of the party he could order around.

     The other four, with Clayton following behind, ventured off into the jungle. Rourke shouted after them that he would be leaving once the ship was repaired, with or without them.

     "Amazing!" Hugo gasped as they cut through the jungle. "Simply amazing!"

     "Judging by the abundance of bryophytes, there must be plenty of moisture here - even more than on Mystery Island, by the looks of it," Lilian said, examining the plants.

     "Now keep your wits about you and stay close to the cover of the trees," Roxton instructed, aware that the Fairweathers were getting too giddy. "We don't know what to expect around here."

     Lilian, however, wasn't listening. She had just spotted a fruit on the forest floor, blue with purple swirls. She rushed forwards, spouting something about replanting it at home, but realised too late that she was not alone. Towering over her was a creature the size of five Neopets - to Clayton, it looked to be a giant Petpetpet, a Skritch, perhaps? But mutated - clearly, one of Dr. Sloth's test subjects.

     It pounced forwards, but luckily Lilian was not its intended target. There was another creature in the trees behind them, a form of giant Lady Blurg. The two appeared to be fighting, and while they were distracted, the group made their escape.

     "What was that!?" Hugo gasped once they were a safe distance away.

     "I don't know," was Roxton's answer. "But I can tell you in all my travels, I've never seen anything like it before."

     Lilian appeared to have recovered the fruit she had been looking at, and was busy hiding it in her pack.

     "Incredible!" Hugo said, his near death experience not diminishing his excitement for a moment. "Simply astonishing! Can you imagine what the existence of these creatures could mean? We must discover more about them!"

     "I'm not so sure that's a good idea, Professor," Roxton said. "You saw those beasts fighting - they could very well be deadly, and none of you are exactly equipped for a fight. Perhaps the Captain had a point..."

     "Look, there are more of them!" Hugo gasped, disregarding Roxton's words and rushing off into a fresh clearing.

     This one was a giant Mootix, busy munching on a tree. Lilian claimed it was a harmless herbivore, which was confirmed when it gave Roxton a lick, drenching him.

     The Lutari found bones on the floor nearby, the remains of what was most certainly a carnivore from the size of the teeth. Clayton was busy readying his crossbow - there were monsters on this island that were not as friendly.

     They continued their exploration, and soon came to a less natural structure. An ancient silver building, half ruined, jutted out of the landscape.

     Hugo was busy reading Murphy's journal - the old hermit had thought it a temple, and had never gained entry through the sealed door.

     But looking at it, Clayton could see Murphy was wrong. Firstly, it was not silver stone that it was made of - but metal. And although shaped like a spire, there was no doubt more of the structure was buried beneath the ground. Looking at it through fresh eyes, it was suddenly obvious to Clayton - it was a rocket.

     This was it, Dr. Sloth's first research laboratory. They had found it.

     Moving closer, Clayton watched as they tried to break the lock on the door. It appeared to be a modified form of the locks Dr. Sloth employed on Kreludor to hide his secrets. Werther had clearly recognised the technology as well, and silently guided the Fairweathers to the correct combination. The door opened inwards, with a mechanical hiss that confirmed Clayton's technological suspicions.

     Werther gave a knowing glance behind them as they entered, towards Clayton. He knew what they would find inside would be important. Clayton stayed outside, the doorway was so narrow that sneaking in wasn't an option.

     Thankfully, they weren't in there for long. The four of them were pursued out of the ship a few minutes later by the arrival of a giant mutated Moach, who attacked them first through the ruined roof of the structure. It followed them as they fled, leaving Clayton alone to explore Sloth's laboratory.

     A clutch of Moach eggs inside revealed exactly what the creature had been protecting. But they were not the treasures Clayton had come for. There were desks nearby, filled with ancient parchments. Diagrams and sketches, for the fruit and the creatures. Blueprints, Clayton realised. Sloth had designed every inch of the island. There were formulas on some of the sketches, so he pocketed them.

     The higher levels of the ship had been completely ruined, either through the attacks of giant Petpetpets, or simply the erosion of time. Clayton suspected that was where Sloth's laboratory proper had been, and it was now lost. Searching around, he found a trap door leading down into the bowels of the ship that were hidden below ground.

     It had been a long shot - what Clayton found was the engine room. What little he knew of Virtupets technology painted the power systems here as being rather archaic - Sloth had improved his methods since his time here. The engines themselves were almost devoid of power, centuries of use draining them until they could only provide power to the lock on the main door.

     The blueprints, it appeared, were all of value to be found here - Clayton hoped they would be enough. He left the ship before the giant Moach returned for her young.

To be continued...

 
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» Agent of the Sway: Resistance - Part One
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