Neko Maneki was not a good pilot.
Her poor piloting skills caused the JubJub to swerve and dip and ascended at complete random intervals. There were quite a few times when she would bang into one of the canyons walls only with the sturdy frame of the airship preventing any real damage.
Since there were no seatbelts (save for those on the pilot’s seat) Morphan and Harry tumbled and jumbled a banged all over the insides. Neko ignored their comical bouncing around so that she could focus on flying.
Suddenly she came to a stop so abrupt that it caused Morphan and Harry to fly face first into the cockpit window. They stuck there for a while before they slid off onto the controls then onto the ground.
“We’re here!” Neko yelled full of her usual amount of energy.
Morphan and Harry got up while rubbing the sore parts of their bodies only to look out the window and find...
...nothing, just another canyon wall.
“What in the, where’s the base?” Harry sputtered.
“Right in front of us.” Said Neko as she twisted a certain knob.
“But, but that’s a...”
“Weren’t you paying attention Baldy? It’s a HIDDEN base, whole things built into the wall, wouldn’t be much of a hidden base if you could see it.” Neko continued to turn the knob till the sound of static came out of the radio, with the headphones disconnected a while ago the radio could now be heard by everyone.
“PASSWORD” asked a robotic monotone voice.
“Now let’s see where’s that button?” Neko then looked for unspecified button.
“PASSWORD” the robotic voice asked again.
“Oh be patient you’ll get it.” Neko’s eyes then lit up when she saw a small glowing button “Ah there it is.” She then pressed it activating the communicator on her end she then said into the radio “Cabbages and Kings!”
There was a moment of silence.
“You sure that was the right one?” Harry asked nervously, he had heard all sorts of rumours and news reports about the infamous Wonderland Circus and couldn’t help but fear what may happen to them if the bandit troupe found out about them.
“Give it a minute; this place is old and ill-kept.” Neko explained calmly.
“ACKNOWLEDGED” said the robotic voice.
Under Neko’s control the airship ascended till it was above the canyon. Then the top of the wall opened up revealing a hatch that was so well hidden that it was previously invisible. Neko flew the JubJub till it was right above the hatch “Now for a graceful landing.”
She cut the engines too quickly causing the JubJub to fall through the hatch with a loud crash causing a huge explosion of dust and dirt.
“Oopsie!” Neko mutter sheepishly as the dust and dirt floated in the air.
As Neko, Harry and Morphan got out of the JubJub the hatch closed plunging the room into darkness. Then one by one the lights came on each accompanied by a loud dimming sound.
“Welcome to the hanger” Neko said as she landed on the floor of the hanger bay.
As Morphan and Harry landed they looked around.
The JubJub was the only large scale airship, the rest were of the smaller Pairships. Neither Morphan nor Harry were experts on Pairships but they could tell that most of them were very old models. With the exception of a few brand new looking ones.
None of this meant anything to Harry at the moment “Gale, Gale where are you girl.” Harry yelled his voice echoing off the thick metal walls.
Neko slapped Harry in the back of the head “Your here for a BUS not a lap dog. You should keep your voice down unless you want the other bandits to hear you.”
“Doubt it.” Morphan said calmly “If the sound of that massive airship slamming into the ground didn’t raise the alarm then I doubt some loud talking will.”
Neko glared at Morphan for lecturing her on what is supposed to be her field of expertise, but realising he was right dropped the subject.
“So where is Gale?” Harry asked as he nervously rushed around the place looking for his bus.
“If it’s not here it must be in the treasure vault.” Neko explained.
“The treasure vault?”
“Yeah where else do you think bandits put their stolen goods?” Neko asked smugly “And that’s where it will stay until the Circus finds someone to sell it to.”
“You know something just occurred to me?” Morphan stated “Who WOULD want to buy the bus?”
“HEY are saying Gale isn’t worth anything?” Harry asked angrily.
“No I’m just saying I can’t think of anyone who would want buy a bus?”
“Maybe a rival transit company.” Harry smirked thinking he had won the debate.
“Why would a transit company buy from bandits? Don’t they have LEGAL ways of getting Buses?”
“Well I told you before that Argus’s transit business is surprisingly cut-throat. Besides it’s probably cheaper to buy them from bandits.”
“True-that Baldy.” Neko retorted “SO to sum up your Bus will remain in the treasure vault till they find someone to sell it to... or if that doesn’t work they’ll tear it apart for scrap metal.”
“Scrap metal!” Harry visible paled at the thought “GRRR what with these demons don’t they know the true value of a bus is to drive IT?”
“Why would they need a bus to take them where they need to go when they have an airship? And Pairships too?” Neko responded.
Harry opened his mouth to try and retort but unable to think of anything he could only slump in depression. Neko walked up to him and patted him on the shoulder “Hey Baldy you’re lucky that only Military Demons are allowed to have Airships and Pairships else you bus drivers would be out of a job.” Her eyes then focused on something “On the subject of illegal tech.” She then rushed over to what she was focusing on, which happened to be an unidentified object covered in a large dirty tarp.
She pulled off the tarp revealing a large laser gun of sorts suspended on a strong metal tri-pod. The most eye-catching detail about the laser was the two bottles attached on the sides near the handles. On the left side was a blue bottle with a blue liquid in it while on the right side there was a red bottle with a red liquid inside.
“So I bet you two were wondering how they got the bus out of here and into the treasure vault.” Neko asked smugly.
Morphan nodded while Harry shook his head in response, realising Harry was shaking his head both Morphan and Harry glared at him, “What?” he asked.
“You didn’t wonder how they got a BUS out of here?” Morphan asked sceptically.
“It’s just that the only way to get deeper into the base is apparently through that door...” Morphan gestured towards a metal door in the corner “...Over there.”
“Well sorry for not noticing, I was looking for a bus not a door.” Harry shrugged “Doesn’t really matter anyways Neko was about to explain how they did it anyways, isn’t that right Neko.”
“Huh oh right.” Neko cleared her throat “This here is a Shrink-ray!” as a demonstration she flipped a toggle causing the blue bottle to glow “The blue stuff makes things small...” she then flipped the toggle again causing the red bottle to glow “... and the red stuff makes them big again.” She flipped the toggle once again to shut it off “At least I’m pretty sure that’s how it works.”
“So what you’re saying is that they used this shrink-ray to shrink down the Bus so they could carry it and fit it in the vault.” Morphan answered.
“Bingo Lobster-boy.” Neko yelled “At the moment your little bus is an even littler bus. So unless you want a bus the size of a toy car you’ll need this thing.” For emphasis she tapped the shrink-ray loudly.
“I get ya we need to take this thing with us.” Said Harry, with that he went to the Shrink-ray to carry it. He quickly found out however that the device would not budge no matter how hard he struggled.
And oh how he struggled.
Neko chuckled at the sight of Harry’s laughable attempts to move it; she enjoyed it so much that she reframed from telling Harry why he couldn’t move it.
Realising this Morphan glared at her.
“(Huh) Fine I’ve had my fun. Hey Baldy.”
“What?” Harry barked while in a comical and ineffective lifting position.
“You can’t move thing it’s magnetically locked.”
“That means it’s locked into the ground with super powerful magnets or something along those lines.”
“Why the hell would they put magnets in a Shrink-ray?”
Neko shrugged her shoulders “Probably to keep it from getting stolen. Though obviously it didn’t work else it wouldn’t be here in the first place. ANYWAYS the only way to deactivate the lock is with a password that you type in to the keypad.”
“Keypad?” Harry asked.
Harry looked to the Shrink-ray to notice a keypad on the controls, apparently he didn’t notice it earlier when he was busy trying to move it “So could you give me the code?”
“Can’t Baldy don’t know it.” Neko stated “They never trusted me with any of the codes save for the password I just used to get in the base. BUUUUUT my friend Mad-Hat knows the password for the Shrink-ray as well as the password for the treasure vault.”
“SOOOOO...” Neko continued “...after we get the passwords from Mad-Hat, I’ll go and set things up with Jabberwocky while you go to the vault and get your little bus. Once you got it close the vault and come back here to get the Shrink-ray, then you’ll carry the Shrink-ray outside where you’ll use it to un-shrink your bus back to normal size. It’s imperative that you wait until you are outside else you’ll have a Bus in a building with no way off getting it out. Then you drive to the rendezvous point we have our battle. You win you keep the bus and drive off into the sunset, I win I keep the bus and you guys... uh... you guys...”
“What? We what? What happens to me and Harry if you get our bus?” Morphan asked sharply “In case you haven’t figured it out without that bus we’ll essentially be stranded in the canyon miles away from civilization with no food or water.”
“I didn’t think of that actually.” Neko said quietly, she then started to rub the back of her head “Look guys I’m starting to get fond of you two so if you guys find yourself stuck in the canyon I might find some way to help you.”
Morphan glared at her suspiciously before asking “Do you promise?”
Neko glared back “You’d take the word of a bandit?”
“I don’t have much of a choice.” Morphan retorted seriously.
There was a brief moment of intense silence. With Harry shifting his eyes nervously between the two in the background.
“Fine, fine I promise, jeez if looks could kill. Do you want me to cut my hand to seal the deal?” that last part was meant to be sarcastic.
“That won’t be necessary.” Morphan responded “Even if it was I don’t really know how to do a blood oath anyway.”
“If you really want I could show you?” Neko asked without thinking.
Morphan thought carefully for a second “Nah this will do.”
There was another moment of silence between the two of them, time with no specific mood.
“Uhm I have a few questions about your plan?” Harry spoke sheepishly.
“Shoot.” Neko said casually.
“First of all WHERE IS the rendezvous point?”
Neko thought for a moment “I don’t know?”
Morphan and Harry both face-faulted.
“Your making this up as you go along aren’t you?” Morphan asked as he got up.
“That’s how I roll!” Neko grinned widely showing of her canines “Don’t worry about it we’ll find a map or something along the way.”
“Second of all...” Harry continued “... How do you know we won’t take JUST Gale. I mean you’re basically letting us in your vault how do you know we won’t loot the whole thing.”
“Let me answer that with a question of my own.” Neko continued “How would you carry the loot out.”
Morphan stood waiting for her to explain further while Harry put some actual thought into it.
“You guys don’t have any bags or anything; I’ll doubt you’ll be able to stuff anything of real value into those pockets of yours. Plus there’s like a dozen bandits in here in order to steal everything and get it out safely would require a certain amount of cunning and ruthlessness that you two clearly do not posses. In short you guys are completely trustworthy.”
Morphan and Harry were unsure how to respond to that.
“Okay last question, last question and then we get going?” Harry asked “How do we get out of here once we’re done.”
“Do you mean out of the canyon or out of the base.”
“Ah that’s easy just go through the front door.”
“And that would be where?”
“At the front, duh.”
“I’ll show you where it is on the way.” Neko finished up.
“Good to know.”
“Well now that, that’s out of the way lets go.” Neko said as she rushed to the door “Follow me I’ll take you to the stairway no problem.”
A few minutes later...
“Ok problem.” When the gang got to the door to the stairway they found a sign on it that said “Sorry out of order” and had a picture of a demon bowing apologetically.
“How can stairs be out of order?” Harry asked, he decided to ignore the sign and try the stair anyways he immediately changed his mind after opening the door “I see that’s how.”
Out of curiosity Neko and Morphan looked in the doorway too “Well we can’t take the stair no more ifs, ands, or buts about it.” Morphan said, the others glumly agreed.
“So now what?” Morphan asked as he and Neko moved back into the hallway.
“Whelp we’ll just have to take the long way.” As Neko spoke Harry carefully shut the door believing that if he didn’t the stairway would get wrecked even more. He then walked away slowly and nervously.
So the gang continued on with Neko in the lead, before getting too far Harry looked back curiously towards the door and asked “What could have caused such a wreckage?”
“My guess feuding bandits.” Neko stated casually, Morphan nodded in agreement while Harry looked shocked.
“You mean some of the demons here are capable of that much destruction?” Harry became far more nervous.
“I’d wager it was one of the stronger demons, like Gobbling Crow or those two morons you had the pleasure of meeting today, who knows it might have been Jabberwocky himself. Turn here.”
As they continued to follow Neko they noticed they were now going in a downward slope.
“So you’re telling me it was one of the stronger demons around here that did that to the stairs.” Morphan asked.
“Yeah pretty much.”
“Well that’s a relief.
“Say wha?” said both Neko and Harry.
“Consider the alternative if a WEAK demon was capable of that then imagine what a strong demon could do.”
Harry nervously agreed, and as they descended into the bandit filled lair, following a plan they were improvising along the way he thought “Just what have I gotten myself into? Only for Gale, only for Gale.”
Neko Maneki the golden bandit of Labirinth was visibly tense as she was standing in front of a large pair of thin metal double doors. The sound of rowdy and rude behaviour was only slightly muffled by the doors.
She then turned to Harry and Morphan “Okay this here is the mess hall, there’s no way we can proceed without going through here so no whining. It’s around supper time so most of the bandits should be in here. Now you guys just walk in and try to be inconspicuous. That shouldn’t be too hard for you their probably too busy to notice you.”
“Busy doing what?” Harry asked.
As if on cue a beaten-up drunken demon was thrown out of the room and landed behind them in a rather undignified position “ask a stupid question.” Harry muttered sheepishly.
“I propose we split up, we’ll attract less attention individually then if we’re all together.” Morphan stated bluntly.
“Good idea Lobster-boy.” Neko stated with that she put her hands on the door handles “Whelp no time like the present.” She then opened the door and they went in.
The noise hit Morphan and Harry hard and fast while Neko was who was used to such behaviour remained unaffected. The first thing one would notice when entering that there was every size, shape, and color of demon imaginable. There were Damos Mediums as well as the more humanoid Damos Maximus, there were even a few Damos Minimus kept as pets there were also the assortment of demons that weren’t so easy to classify. There were the standard black skinned demons as well as white skinned, red skinned, blue skinned and the occasional odd skinned demon. They were covered in scales, shells, fur, feathers and had tusks, fangs, claws, talons, horns, spikes, tails; some demons would posses all these things and some none of them. The weapons they held were just as diverse; some wielded old fashioned medieval style weapons while others would be considered modern earth culture weapons and some would be quite futuristic and some would deify simpler explanations.
Although the weapons made them understandably nervous, neither Morphan, Harry nor Neko were very much impressed by the diversity, having lived in Argus where such an assortment was considered the norm.
Morphan had the easiest time making it through. Morphan learned the hard way that the best way for someone of his “heritage” to survive was to not draw attention to themselves. As such he was a pro when it came to being inconspicuous, so aside from the occasional brief curious glance from one of the bandits no one seemed to pay much attention to him.
“I guess no one payed attention to... what’s his name... Jabberwocky’s announcement.” Morphan thought “I guess it’s a good thing for me that he is obviously a poor leader.”
Harry on the other hand tried too hard to be inconspicuous, he waltzed about in what was supposed to be “casual” walk but only ended up making himself look silly. In addition to the fact that he was whistling loudly and avoiding eye-contact with everyone made for quite a sceptical. Thankfully the bandits were so engrossed with their own activities that they didn’t pay Harry any mind.
As Neko stated it was around supper time so naturally Harry was getting a little hungry, so noticing a loaf of bread in a basket on one of the tables he snatched it while the nearby bandits weren’t looking and started munching it.
“YOU STOLE MY BREAD YOU SCUMBAG!”
“I didn’t steal nothing stupid!” the accused bandits retorted.
With the rest of his body frozen by shock he turned his head around to notice to demons arguing over whether one of them stole the others bread or not. The argument quickly degraded into a brawl with the two of them falling off the table to beat each other. The sound of their scuffle being drowned out by the rest of the noise in the room.
Before moving on Harry quickly wolf down the bread and hastily wiped away the crumbs that got into his fur. Once he was certain the evidence was gone he left as quickly as possible.
Neko walked right through the center of the room since it was the fastest way to get across. As she did the other bandits started to notice her and started to make a combination of hateful insults and lewd comments. Some of the demons would glare at her then look away and try to pretend she wasn’t there others would whistle and cat-call as she walked by.
All of this just rolled off Neko’s shoulders like it was nothing.
“Mon that girl is tough!” Harry thought “All that abuse isn’t causing her to so much as flinch.” Harry then got depressed “She’s probably used to it by now.” With some minor difficulty Harry managed to spot Morphan “I wonder if he could handle that much abuse as well as she can? Bah all this negativity isn’t helping thanks to my super-sleuthing we are almost at the door. As long as we don’t get a bad break we should be okay.”
The whole room got quiet.
One of the bandits a particularly large and macho looking demon had the audacity to slap Neko on the rear. Neko responded with an uppercut to the chin.
The demon groaned in pain for a moment before falling onto the table unconscious.
Some of the demon glared at her and started to draw their weapons; others smirked as they drew their weapons anxious for a chance to kill the half-breed.
“What! You think this is enough of an excuse to put me down?” Neko asked sarcastically “You really think HES worth the effort?” Neko pointed at the demon she recently knocked out.
Everyone’s gaze turned to the demon that was still unconscious on the table, another demon in the commotion attempted to put the unconscious demons hand in a glass of water for mischief’s sake. When he realised that everyone was looking at him he smiled nervously and sulked away.
When that was over Neko jumped onto a chair and started yelling “Fine then, bring it!” Everyone remained where they stood or sat “come on, what are you waiting for, surly one of you got the guts to take me on.”
All the bandits looked to each other nervously waiting for one of them to step up.
“Once again you’ve managed to overstep your boundaries...” everyone in the dining hall turned to a dark corner of the room where a single demon dined alone, the next part he spoke with an arrogant giggle “...Golden Bandit.”
He reached for his bandana and wrapped it around his mouth before he stood up and stepped into the light to reveal his form. He was around 7 feet tall, with a slight hunch on his back, the hunch was made even more prominent with the puffy gray feathers covering the upper part of his body. Another set of puffy black feathers covered his legs like a pair of pants; they covered them all the way to his knees revealing his bird like feet. His whole body was colored black, from his black skin to his black feathers to his black claws. For clothing he wore a bandit mask covering his mouth, the bandana was blood red and had the Wonderland Circus logo on the front. In addition to the mask he also wore a Chinese straw hat enshrouding the upper part of his head. He also wore a belt of thick brown leather with a holster on each hip containing a hi-tech pistols as well as a harness of a similar material to carry a hi-tech shotgun on his back.
With a quick flutter of his big black wings he managed to close the distance till he was standing on top of a table looking down on her.
“Neko Maneki.” The demon said mockingly.
“Gobbling Crow!” Neko spat.
To be continued...