Deeper: Part Eight
Nigel and I were in the elevator. The Space Station was going into lockdown, the alarms wailing their warnings. Three of the five double agents were still on the loose. The elevator had just opened its doors when Buzz contacted me again.
Kimmy, get up another level and get to the hangar bay. Sharron is headed that way. She's got overrides that we won't be able to cancel in time. Drop Nigel on that level and tell him Andrea is coming down through the duct work. I've got Nicola."
I relayed the message to Nigel and he nodded and sprinted off down the hall to intercept him. I pressed the button to go up to the next level. When the doors opened, I ran for the shuttle bay, reaching one of the entrances just as Sharron reached another.
"So," I said, stepping in her path and holding up my blaster. "Not the innocent little girl you pretended to be, are you? Get down!"
Sharron snarled, reaching for her blaster anyway. I fired a shot, but she was quick, leaping out of the way in time. She rolled behind a cart and then pushed it at me. I dived away, and just barely had time to dodge her shot. I got to shelter behind a crate. I looked around the edge carefully, trying to locate her. I couldn't see her anywhere.
I heard her just in time, though.
She had managed to get around me and was coming up from behind. I rolled around the corner, her shot just missing me. I spun around the corner and fired. My shot caught her blaster, tearing it out of her hand. It slid across the floor and under a cart. I swung around again; ready to take another shot now that she was disarmed.
Despite being disarmed, Sharron wasn't going down without a fight. She grabbed a thin tool off the floor and threw it at me. Her aim was good. She caught my blaster, knocking it from my hand. I turned to look after my weapon. It had slid a couple of yards and Sharron was already running for a shuttle. There wasn't going to be time to retrieve it. I was going to have to take her down the old fashioned way.
I took off running after her. I got close enough and dived, crashing into her and sending us both tumbling to the floor. I rolled up onto my feet, but she was a little craftier. She spun on her back, kicking my legs out from under me. She got up onto her knees and tried to punch me. I rolled away enough to the dodge the punch and catch her arm. I rolled, carrying her with me. She tumbled and sprawled on the ground and I released her and got back to my feet.
Sharron tried the spinning kick again, but I was ready for that and jumped over it. She jumped to her feet and aimed a kick at my shin. I turned to dodge it, but it had been a feint. Her blow connected with my tail.
If I had actually been an Aisha, that would have been decisive blow, costing me my balance. However, since I was just a human in some very realistic costume pieces and paint, her blow did nothing but rip the tail clean off the rig. It went flying across the room. Sharron froze, horrorstruck. I spun a roundhouse kick to her head. She managed to bring her arm up, deflecting some of the attack. She still staggered back, and I seized the opportunity. I threw another punch, but she caught it and twisted my arm, pulling me in and managing to get the other arm around my neck.
I pulled back with my arm and elbowed her in the abdomen. She let go of me as she doubled over. I swept my leg, knocking her legs out from under her. She fell flat on her stomach and I dropped on her, pinning her to the ground with my knee. I grabbed one of her arms and pulled it back, getting the hand cuff on it. She struggled wildly to get free, but I was angry and tired of the whole charade and was not about to let her escape. I got the other arm and cuffed it.
I sat down on top of her and let out a tired sigh, suddenly feeling weak and jittery now the moment was over. "Buzz, I got her. What is the status of the others?"
"All are in custody. Guards will be there in a moment to collect her," Buzz told me.
I looked down at Sharron. "You're gonna love what comes next. Buzz interrogates you to learn all you know about Iniquitous. I wouldn't want to be in your hooves right now."
"You're not a merc, are you?" Sharron growled.
"Nope. I'm the best undercover agent you are ever going to meet," I said, flashing her that cocky Eva smile. "Also, I think Buzz is one of the most amazing Neopets ever, and I would never sell him out to the likes of you, though I'm not half the partner Lynette was."
The guards came in and hauled Sharron away. I discreetly retrieved my tail and managed to pin it back on in a way that didn't look suspicious. Even though we had the moles, I still had to maintain my cover. Buzz walked into the hangar and actually broke into a jog when he saw me.
"You okay?" he asked, knowing any bruises wouldn't be visible since I was wearing a layer of paint over my skin.
"I'm going to be sore for the next week, but nothing's broken. Well, my tail is, but I'm sure that's easy enough to fix," I said.
He laughed and put a paw on my shoulder. "I'll admit it, I honestly never saw this coming. The idea that five of the top lieutenants could be corrupt together wasn't something that occurred to us. We thought we might have moles in multiple departments, but," Buzz trailed off, shaking his head.
"We have Nigel to thank for that, with his unexpected interruption. I don't know if Moire would have come out after I looked like I was going to cooperate, or if Miles would have told me right off the bat, but I wouldn't have thought to ask if he was the only one. I think he deserves a promotion, or at least a raise."
Buzz nodded. He then ruffled my wig's hair, though carefully to not knock it off center. "You did a good job, Starender."
"Well, that's why I'm your partner, right?" I asked, trying to muster the energy to sound properly cocky.
"So," Nigel said. "Starender doesn't really exist?"
"No," I replied. "She's just a cover."
Nigel and I were sitting in the café at the usual table, though it was far more empty then it had been in the past. We hadn't had much time to talk since we took down the double agents. There was so much turmoil caused by it that we'd all been worked off our tails, but it was finally starting to calm down again. Buzz was pretty much done with the interrogations, and we were planning on leaving the next day.
Nigel had invited me to hang out at the café, and for once I was happy to be able to tell him I'd love to.
"Then all those stories you told, they aren't real? All that time you spent as Buzz's partner, you being an amazing mercenary?"
"The stories aren't entirely fake. They happened to Buzz. I just wasn't part of them. There is no amazing mercenary named Starender, but I have been Buzz's partner for a while now. Just, in a different line of work. And, I'm not too bad. After all, you've seen me in action. I trained hard over the course of a few weeks to fake years, mostly with Buzz's help."
"I'm sorry to disappoint you," I said.
"You haven't really," Nigel said. "I've really liked the you of the last three days more than the Eva you were for your cover. I'm kind of sorry you're leaving."
"Yeah, I like not having to be a jerk anymore. I felt bad about treating you like that," I replied.
"So, who are you really, then?"
"You're just going to have to remember me as Eva Starender. My identity needs to remain a secret, both for my sake and his. The fact that Buzz and I were here needs to be kept as quiet as possible, also. You can't really tell people about the time you helped Buzz and Eva take down Iniquitous' moles. Buzz isn't making a return here. We are leaving tomorrow, for good. I'm not coming back, and neither is he. We've got lives somewhere, lives we live when we aren't doing this."
Nigel nodded, looking sad, but understanding. "Well, want to see who is the better shot one last time?"
"You're so on."
I stood looking at myself in the mirror of the ladies room of the Weekly World. It was a Saturday and the office was empty, which is why we had come back there. The shuttle had dropped us in Neopia Central only a few minutes ago, and we had come back to the offices. I had gone into the bathroom to take off my disguise and put on normal clothes.
I had had to look an Aisha face for better part of the last three weeks, so seeing my human face again felt almost weird. I touched my noise and laughed, I never thought I'd be so happy to have a nose. I was also happy to see my ridiculously long blonde hair again. I had missed my hair. Eva's platinum waves were nice, but they weren't my curls.
I shoved the non-disposable pieces of my disguise into a bag and left the bathroom. I walked into Buzz's office; he was seated at his desk reading his mail.
"Who are you?" Buzz asked when I walked in.
"You're hilarious," I replied sarcastically as I dropped the bag on his desk. "Here you go. Next mission, can we keep it to a day or two?"
"We'll see," he replied.
"So, did we learn anything useful? I mean, hurting Iniquitous' operation by removing his moles is, of course, a win in itself. But, it would be nice to know we hit him a little harder than that."
"We've got a few possible leads we can work on. Who knows, you might have an excuse to embarrass your daughter's bosses again in a few weeks. They would be envious of your good job up there if they knew," Buzz told me.
"Buzz, did you just praise me?" I asked.
"Go home already, Kimmy. Your kids are probably missing you."
I smiled as I collected my suitcases from his closet. I was glad to be going home. I hurried through Neopia Central to my home. Elise was working in one of the front gardens. Inna was with her, sitting in her playpen playing with Teddy.
"Mama!" my baby Acara shrieked when she saw me, hurrying to her feet and holding her little arms out.
I dropped suitcases on the grass and ran to her, scooping her up and covering her with kisses. Elise tried to control her smile.
"Wow, so you didn't provoke the jungle natives into eating you. I'm shocked," Elise teased.
"Oh, shut up and come here," I said, holding an arm out to include her in the hug.
The Faerie Cybunny gave up her attempt at being sarcastic and hugged me tight. "I missed you, a lot."
"I missed you too," I replied.
We picked up my suitcases and carried them into the house. As my other kids started shrieking and running to me, I felt good about everything. Everything we did to take Iniquitous down a little gave someone else a better chance at taking him down for good. It gave us a better chance at a safer Neopia for my family.
That made it all worth it.