To Space!: Part Five
The truth was that had been Brandi's first fight ever. The danger had been real. She felt exhilarated, especially since she and AJ had been victorious and unscathed. She just wasn't sure that she wanted to do that, again.
"OK, then," AJ said, moving forward.
They walked along, each lost in their own thoughts. The tunnel they were in seemed to go on in only one direction. Shortly after sending off the robot Wocky, Brandi heard the sound of heavy footfall.
"AJ, do you-," Brandi began.
"Yeah, I hear. Too many for us to take on," AJ said grimly.
"There's nowhere to hide!"
"We take out the lights and then we run!"
AJ used her blaster to begin the chain reaction with the lights on her side. Brandi used her fire on the other. There were pops as the lights exploded and then they were flooded with darkness. There was the malevolent glow of a mutant Acara as AJ and Brandi ran for their lives. They made it to the shaft and climbed up. To Brandi's surprise, the tour group had made its way back.
Brandi rejoined Agneza. The alien Aisha's red eyes bored into her Brandi shifted under the older Aisha's gaze. The guilt hit her full force and she didn't like it. AJ walked beside Brandi. They exited the 'abandoned' mine.
"Did you enjoy the tour, Brandi?" Agneza asked, voice carefully neutral.
"Yes, I did," Brandi said hesitantly, unable to meet Agneza's gaze.
"So, what are you going to do now?" AJ asked.
"We're going back to our hotel," Agneza said crisply.
Brandi's ears drooped, feeling horrible for leaving Agneza as she had. AJ looped her arm lightly over Brandi's shoulders.
"I had fun. Where did you say you were from, Brandi?" AJ asked companionably.
"I didn't. I'm visiting from Neopia Central," Brandi said.
"You don't say! My older brother's there. He wanted to spread space food to all of Neopia."
"Your brother's name wouldn't be Gordon, by any chance, would it?"
"Yeah! Shadow Grundo obsessed with green?"
"How is my big bro?"
"Doing good, last time I checked. He told me about his family but he never mentioned any names."
AJ's pink eyes were thoughtful at this news. After a moment of silence, she smiled once more, looking at her two Aisha companions.
"Let's meet up at Café Kreludor for dinner, yeah," AJ suggested cheerily.
"Yes," Brandi replied enthusiastically.
"Great! See you both then!"
The rainbow Grundo bounded off. There was silence between the two Aishas until they reached their hotel room. Brandi sat on the Funky Blue and Orange Rocking Chair facing Agneza, who sat on the edge of her bed.
"Why did you leave the group, Brandi?" Agneza asked.
Brandi took a deep breath and related the entire mine adventure to the older Aisha. Agneza listened in silence, hissing in her breath as she heard about the danger Brandi had been in.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Agneza asked.
Brandi grimaced. "I didn't want you to tell me I couldn't go because it was too dangerous."
"It was too dangerous! What would I have told your parents if anything had happened to you? They trust me to take care of you, Brandi."
Brandi felt terrible. It was true and worse because she knew it. She looked down at her hands for a moment. Then, she looked up at Agneza, blue eyes wide.
"I apologize for my behaviour. I don't want to disappoint you or make you worry, again," Brandi said.
"I hope you don't, Brandi. I hope you don't," Agneza said.
They didn't speak for the next hour until it was time to meet AJ for dinner. This time, they ate nothing remotely gross.
"How long do you plan on staying on Kreludor?" AJ asked.
"Just for the night. Tomorrow morning, we'll head for Virtupets Space Station," Agneza said.
"Oh, cool! I've read so much about the space station and how there's so much to do there, like Neopia Central in space," Brandi said.
"Too busy for my taste. I much prefer Kreludor," AJ said.
Dinner finished, they got up to leave. Agneza was already at the door, Brandi ready to join her when AJ grabbed her wrist.
"Hey, Brandi. Whatever you've read, the Space Station is not like Neopia Central," AJ said in a low urgent whisper.
Before Brandi could respond, Agneza called her. She lay in bed that night, thinking on what AJ had said. What did she mean? The question rang over and over in Brandi's head. She flung her hands in the air, silently trying to puzzle it out, ever conscious of the sleeping alien in the next bed.
Brandi was an active sleeper and Abacuc was used to it. The twelve year old orange Aisha tossed and turned half the night before finally falling asleep. She dreamed that she was on the Virtupets Space Station, in a sea of faces that she didn't recognize. She was in trouble but she didn't know why or anyone who could help her. Suddenly, she was jumped!
Brandi yelped and sat up in bed, wide awake. Her attacker had been Abacuc. Recognizing that she was having a nightmare, Abacuc had jumped on Brandi to wake her. Anticipating her next move, he had wrapped his tentacles firmly around her wrist. Brandi looked at Abacuc, centering herself on her Petpet.
"Thank you, Abacuc. I needed that," Brandi said, rubbing her Nedler's ears.
"Nightmare," Agneza asked, sitting on the edger of her bed.
"I don't remember."
"Come on. We have just enough time for breakfast at the café before we leave."
Brandi combed out her short blue hair and changed into her day clothes. They ate breakfast. There was no sign of AJ and Brandi wasn't sure whether to feel relieved. They made it to their shuttle on time. During the two hour trip, all Brandi could think about was the rainbow Grundo's warning.
As their shuttle docked, Brandi shook her head. She had dreamed about visiting space for months. Now she was here and half of her trip would be ruined by a new friend's forewarning. She didn't like that at all. As they exited the shuttle, Brandi shook her head, pushing away ominous thoughts to focus on her trip.
Brandi felt the familiar excitement rush through her but he couldn't eliminate completely that feeling of unease. It hovered at the back of her mind like a Crokabek. There was plenty of hustle and bustle at the Station; all of the 'pets looked like they had places to go and things to do. The other tourists were obvious, all wide eyed and staring at their surroundings like Brandi.
Agneza placed a hand on Brandi's shoulder. "Let's go. We can drop off our bags and then explore."
"Great," Brandi exclaimed, hefting her suitcase.
Agneza steered Brandi through the crowds with practiced ease. They stopped in front of closed metal doors.
"This is an elevator, Brandi. It transports 'pets up and down to different levels without us having to do anything other than pressing a button," Agneza explained.
The doors parted and they entered the enclosed space. A slight whirr and they were moving.
"Wow, this is weird," Brandi said, one hand on the wall.
"Welcome to the Space Station," a robot Chomby intoned metallically.
Brandi may have said more but was interrupted by the opening of the elevator doors. Agneza herded Brandi out. A hovering robotic screen greeted them. Agneza typed something into the keyboard. Then, the computer extended a thin arm, dangling a pair of shiny metallic cards with a room number inscribed on them.
They walked down a curving hallway, all shiny metal. Brandi wrinkled her nose.
"No wonder 'pets are in such a hurry. They can never slow down and smell the roses because there are no roses," Brandi said.
Brandi's thoughts flashed to Adino and she felt a strong wave of homesickness. Abacuc clicked at her, clearly guessing her thoughts.
"Yes, I suppose I'll have plenty to tell them. Adino would hate it here," Brandi said.
"Your best friend? From what you've told me, I do believe that would be the case," Agneza said, pausing in front of a door.
The alien Aisha slid the card through a groove on the door and it slid open.
"The furniture is floating," Brandi squeaked in delighted surprise.
Indeed, it was. Not all of it, only the chair and beds. They hovered about a foot above the floor. Still, it was amazing to the young Aisha. She set her bag down in front of one of the beds and gave it an experimental push.
The Floating Virtupets Bed wafted away from Brandi. Wide eyed, she looked at Agneza.
"How does anyone sleep in that? How is this possible," Brandi asked.
"To the first question, I believe there is a button somewhere. I don't know how but then the bed is anchored in place. I don't know how it floats. You'd have to ask someone who builds them," Agneza said.
Brandi nodded her head thoughtfully.
"What would you like to do first, Brandi?"
"Then, we'll just wander until we figure it out."
"That works for me!"
As the pair of Aishas made their way, Agneza filled Brandi in on the Space Station layout.
"There are three levels. Going from top to bottom: Recreation Deck, Supply Deck and Hangar," Agneza said, counting them off on her fingers.
"I want to visit all three! Let's work from top to bottom," Brandi said.
They stepped out of the elevator. Across the walkway from them was an arcade. The noise, movement and lights drew Brandi readily while it repelled Agneza. Brandi would have eagerly run for the arcade but she was mindful of Agneza's distaste.
"Agneza, would it be OK if I played games in the arcade? You don't have to come with me. When I'm done, I'll just wait outside for you," Brandi suggested.
Agneza shook her head. "I could wait in Grundo's Café. It's just over there. I can keep an eye on the arcade entrance then."
"OK! Thanks, Agneza!"
To be continued...