The next morning Billy realized at once that he had slept in. He checked the corner mattress, but there was no sign of Edie apart from a pillow stained with makeup. He went down the stone stairs to find the rebel force in the kitchen, putting on disguises; business attire.
"Hey, why didn't you wake me?" he yawned and stretched his arms.
Grumpy Lumpy looked down on him; he seemed much taller in the light. "We would, but your friend insisted we let you sleep."
Doris came into the kitchen. She had slipped into a bright yellow kimono and hobbled her way to the refrigerator. "Hmm, low on Arsenicola," she commented.
"Why are you packing food? If we want to break into a building seized by Mortimer, we'll have to travel light!"
"Because I'm not going," Doris said and chowed down what looked like an animated Slim Jim. "It's my job to monitor your outcast butts."
"What? But you're the only one in this group who…" Billy lowered his voice to a whisper.
"That's why I'm the one who ladles out the advice." She slurped soda audibly through a straw and didn't actually reassure him. "I'll be on the horn the whole time, gidget," she said; reading his mind. "Your future ex-wife showed me how your wristwatch works."
"Fine!" Billy sighed. "Are all the girls on this planet this cynical?"
Grumpy Lumpy came gliding by and mumbled something that sounded like "You have no idea, kid."
On the space trip to Fribbula, Agatha had told the humans how Melissa City was like any metropolis in the universe; every morning the streets were packed with people on their way to work. The best part of the city was, according to her, the street performers who filled the air with their song and music. They had been there since before Melissa even got its town status, and according to Alien Encyclopedia, which Billy was now reading on his ComputerWrist, their art was called "Breath of Melissa".
But now Melissa was holding its breath, and the only citizens were males carrying frightening weaponry. Grumpy Lumpy was shocked to his very core; one could tell from the look on his face. Edie and Lenore saw it, and grabbed him by the wrists, leading him quietly away.
When they reached Star Gazer Park, they realized that they would have to split up if they were to make it inside the tower without being caught, or worse, killed. They took a five minute break behind a gazebo.
"Everybody, check your disguises," Jimmy whispered. Edie had already done a check on hers and was surfing a slang dictionary on her ComputerWrist to calm herself down.
"Hey, a local one!" She exclaimed. "Wisconsin Tickler." Her face went pale as she read.
"You know what I really miss?" Agatha was sitting next to Billy, looking up at the Tower. "When I was a kid, I used to take my sister to the Conference Room with a big bag of sugarbell seeds and just stare at the stars."
"You could do that? Isn't this the royal family's home?"
"Yes it is, and it's always open to everybody; it's our second home. Isn't Tellusian castles like that?"
Billy charged the Neural Stunner. "Are you sure you wanna do this?"
"I made a promise."
Billy wondered if he was nervous because of the cockiness in her voice, or because this was the first time he had ever been a part of a team. Maybe it was all the girls in the team. Regardless, he had an awfully bad feeling in the pit of his stomach as he saw one of his best friends put in magnetic handcuffs.
The ComputerWrist started vibrating, and Doris' face flickered into focus. "Okay, guys. Gannalech has already started draining Purple Sea. It's been going on for quite some time. The pump is located in the bomb shelter. It's the lowest and most heavily guarded part of the Stargazer compound. I pick up life signs not only from Fribbulans, Bloogs and Shikadi, but from many of our more dangerous species."
"Can you see the Mother Prodigy?"
"It's in The Conference, which is, unfortunately, Gannalech's study."
Perfect. "Thanks, Doris. Over and out."
The stolen uniform was quite snug, so Grumpy's walk up to the Tower's main entrance took a bit longer than planned. He had a spear pointed at Agatha's back, making the scene adequately realistic.
A sign over the west entrance read: "Prisoners and sub creatures admitted here" in standard galactic writing. Grumpy almost froze as two much larger guards came towards him, but managed to stick to the script. He noticed the Crystals; worn in bracelets.
"Look what I found skulking around downtown," he said harshly and poked Agatha in the back; hard enough to make her falter. "Ouch, dude!"
"This is the renegade female," Grumpy Lumpy explained.
"Really?" One of the guards took a close look at Agatha. "We'll let the Grand Intellect confirm that!"
Oh, crap, he thought. He hadn't expected that. But as soon as they were inside the hall the problem was solved. The windows were smashed, and a Stunner came flying in. Agatha grabbed it, and pointed it toward the guards. Less than three seconds later, they were both in a coma.
They joined the others in the main hall, where plenty of guards lay frozen. "Jimmy, Lumpy," Billy said, now more stressed than ever. "You'll need to find the hydrogen pump. Lenore and Edie go first and stun any enemy you see, and then help destroying the pump. Doris will guide you through it while Agatha and I locate and destroy the Mother prodigy crystal."
Lenore bit down on her lip. "But what if Gannalech finds us?"
"He won't hurt you. It's me he wants."
Agatha scoffed. "With all due respect, Commander Keen, it's me he wants. He chased me across the universe just to see my head on a platter."
Commander. She had actually called him "Commander", and not mixed it up. He felt hesitant but not for long. Indecision rarely results in six successful space adventures.
"Well, then we'll both be the bait, right? The Mother Prodigy has not yet affected any of us. And I'm waiting until it happens."
"But none of us are tall enough to reach it. It'd be better if Edie and Lumpy searched for it. He's the tallest, and she's the lightest." Agatha put a helmet on her head to keep her hair inconspicuous.
"Just trust me, OK? I know what I'm doing." Billy said and reloaded the Stunner.