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||You are on Week 352
Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...
We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!
Story Three Hundred Fifty Two Ends January 18
Parrick yawned as he stared at the computer screen. Numbers flitted across it, an orderly parade of information on the Station's status. Not a single number had taken a step out of line since the day the Buzz had started working there. Working in the Space Station's control room had turned out to be nowhere near as glamourous or exciting as he'd always imagined.
Aimlessly stirring his now cold coffee, Parrick eyed the worn book peeking out of his satchel with longing. It would’ve been so easy to just prop his feet on the controls and bury himself in his favourite book. His job was to monitor the Space Station, though, and monitor the Space Station he would. Even if that meant that all there was for him to do was stare at those wildly changing numbers all day.
Wait a second.
Wildly changing numbers? Parrick thought, frowning and looking closely at his screen. Something was wrong with the data... or his computer was malfunctioning badly. He typed a few commands into his keyboard, but the numbers heedlessly continued to fluctuate.
The Buzz was leaning over, about to hit the intercom button on his left, when the door burst open, revealing the worried face of his immediate supervisor, Cori. "We've got a problem," the tall Aisha said breathlessly, beckoning him over.
"I noticed... what's going on?"
"We're not sure what's causing it right now, but something is making the Station drift ever closer to Neopia. Once we get too near, the planet's gravitational pull will suck us in and cause us to plummet..."
Date: Jan 11th
Parrick's eyes widened in shock. "P-plummet?" he stuttered, tasting the word as if he'd never heard it used before.
Cori looked at him grimly. "It looks that way; I came in here because I need you to sift through some of the data and figure out what exactly malfunctioned and when. There may be a bug in the system, but it could also be something malicious that was implanted."
The Buzz nodded and hurried over to his computer, his cold coffee and favourite book long forgotten. After a few minutes of furious typing he stopped, his mouth agape in horror. "Boss, you'd better come over here and look at this."
The Aisha hurried over behind the Buzz, anxiously peering over his shoulder at the screen. The computer had blocked Parrick's attempts to get into the system log, and a message box had popped up on the screen that read:
The log is currently unavailable; any further attempts to access it will result in the termination of oxygen supply in your sector of the Station. Have a pleasant day!
"What are we supposed to do now?" Parrick asked, looking at the Aisha nervously. "That's either a really malicious virus or the motherboard's gone totally haywire."
"Or both..." Cori added, his brows furrowed in thought. "We need to do something and fast, or we're going to be a crater and some burning shrapnel by the end of the day."
"What can we do to fix this? There has to be something."
After a moment of thought, Cori began to speak hesitantly, "I have an idea, but it's dangerous and you're not going to like it."
"Anything's better than sitting here and doing nothing, Cori, so whatever it is, I'll listen to it."
"Well..." Cori began. "We'll have to manually override the system error and look at all the high-priority encrypted data."
"What? No! You can't mean..."
"That's right," the Aisha said, looking pale. "We're going to have to pay that motherboard a personal visit..."
Date: Jan 14th
"You're crazy," said Parrick. "No one has touched the motherboard since, well, that one Grundo who thought all of the clocks were a minute fast. And you know what happened to him."
Cori had dragged the Buzz out of his chair and now began marching him down the corridor. "Well, we aren't trying to change the time," said the Aisha, glancing up at one of the digital clocks on the walls. Green numbers flashed in random patterns. "Although I certainly hope it will be fixed along with everything else."
"Do you even know to fix the motherboard?" asked Parrick. "Because, just to let you know, I don't."
They turned a corner. "I'm not exactly sure either," Cori said, concern in his voice. "But we'll figure it out. We just have to take a look and see what the problem is."
"But--" began Parrick.
"Look," said Cori, stopping in front of a set of double doors and grabbing the Buzz's shoulders. "We have to fix this, all right? I'm going in there and seeing what's wrong with the motherboard. You can either come with me, or go tell everyone that the Space Station's computers are malfunctioning and the whole craft is falling toward Neopia."
Parrick gulped. "All right," he said, pressing the green button on the wall. "I'll see what I can do."
The doors slid apart with a hiss, and the two Neopets walked into the dark room.
The motherboard was a massive panel that covered an entire wall. Buttons were lined in rows at the bottom, various levers lined the sides, and three separate screens monitored the inner workings of the Virtupets station. The motherboard was self-sufficient for the most part, taking some commands from other parts of the ship. It was rarely used manually.
Cori walked up to the intimidating screens. The left panel showed the familiar stream of garbled numbers, racing indiscriminately down the screen. The second showed a blinking red V that was slowly moving toward a large blue circle, tracking the motion of the spacecraft. The third screen, however, showed only a single word and a blinking cursor.
"Hello," said Parrick. "Is that supposed to be on the--" He looked at the label beneath the panel-- "Diagnostics Screen?"
"I doubt it," said Cori, approaching the glowing green word. A key pad sat innocently beneath the panel, and the cursor blinked invitingly.
"You've got to be kidding," said Parrick as the Aisha stared at him.
Cori sighed. "Who's in charge here, you or me? Now, if you don't want to crash into Neopia and explode, I'd recommend you have a seat."
"Why me?" asked Parrick.
"Because if the motherboard crashes, I don't want it to be my fault," said Cori. "Now, sit."
Parrick paused, but knew that there was no way out. He sighed and sat down in the chair, putting his fingers on the key pad. He typed, "Hello" and, with a shaking hand, hit "Enter..."
Date: Jan 15th
For a moment, nothing happened. Parrick sat there in the chair, staring foolishly up at the screen. Then the word "Hello" faded off the Diagnostics Screen, leaving it completely black.
For a moment, the Buzz's heart skipped a beat, as he believed he had caused the system to completely crash. But then neon green letters scrolled quickly onto the black screen, as though being typed by an invisible hand.
Who is this to come across my lonely self?
Both Parrick and his boss frowned in unison at the screen with a mixture of confusion and fear. This was not like the motherboard at all. Wiping his clammy hand, he typed another message.
"My name is Parrick. I work at the Space Station." He pressed Enter again, and he and Cori subconsciously leaned forward in anticipation.
This time, the screen didn't respond. They waited impatiently, but when the screen didn't change, Parrick had to suppress the urge to smash it with one of his fists. He needed to get this glitch worked out. The jobs -- and possibly lives -- of his co-workers and himself depended on it.
"Try one of your basic commands," the Aisha instructed. His voice sounded strained and anxious, lacking its usual authoritative tone.
Parrick's fingers scuttled across the key pad as he punched in a bunch of numbers and figures to gain access to the control of the Space Station's orbit.
This time, they did get a response.
"Access denied?" Parrick cried in frustration. He typed in the code again, thinking he'd misspelled the command. He and Cori waited with bated breath.
The message "Access denied" was wiped off the screen, and new letters appeared.
I have already denied access, Parrick. You don't need to keep trying to get past the block...
Date: Jan 15th
"What... block...?" Parrick murmured under his breath as he typed.
The computer screen remained the way it was, the tiny pixels pulsing ever so slightly.
"Why is there a block?" Cori asked, talking both to the computer and to Parrick, leaning over to enter his question.
Why is there a block? It wouldn't do to have amateur techies trying to recode my program, would it? The computer seemed to find humour in this.
Parrick frowned. "What program?" his fingers danced out on the keyboard.
Neon green letters were replaced by an emoticon. It was smiling smugly at them. Below the face scrolled: That's for me to know and you to find out.
Cori huffed a breath and shoved Parrick unceremoniously out of the seat. "I'm taking over, no-brained one." The Aisha's fingers flew across the keyboard, the angry click of keys being pressed rattling through the room.
Touchy, the computer replied. Parrick imagined a smirk from the motherboard... or whatever gave this hunk of electronics a mind. Cori seethed in the chair.
"Look at this impudence!" he snapped. "Who coded this monstrosity?!"
Parrick shrugged. If not for the fact that the "monstrosity" was trying to crash the Space Station, he would have liked it a lot. It wasn't every day Cori was put in his place. "Someone probably sent a virtual codebreaker," he offered.
Cori grunted and turned back to the computer, typing again.
You are bad at this, whoever you are. Let me speak to Parrick again.
Cori scowled and slapped the monitor.
Ouch. Having a little temper tantrum, are we?
"Cori, if the motherboard... or whatever... wants to speak to me, don't you think you should let it? I mean, if it doesn't have its way, I doubt we'll live long enough to have ours either."
The Aisha stared at Parrick and nodded curtly. "This is why coffee was invented," he muttered as he rose. "I'm so irritable without it."
Parrick ignored his supervisor and began typing again.
"Why are you asking it for its name, of all things?!" Cori groaned, red in the face.
Parrick shrugged and waited for the computer to respond. After a painfully long moment of the same letters, they were replaced.
I can't tell you. You wouldn't believe me.
The Buzz frowned and poised his fingers to enter a new query when a blaring alarm sounded.
"Parrick! Parrick!" Cori shrieked anxiously. "Hurry! We're too close -- Neopia's gravity is starting to pull us in!"...
Date: Jan 16th
"I'll believe you," typed Parrick, trying to block out his impending panic. "I want to know who you are. Not many Neopians can put Cori in his place."
You thought that was funny, too?
"Of course! And I've never met a program with a sense of humour before. You must be very special."
"Parrick," cried Cori, "quit chatting and tell it to stop!"
"Cori, be quiet! I don't have time for you right now!" Returning his attention to the computer, Parrick typed, "Don't you want me to know who you are? How can you be so special and so amazing that you can take control of the Space Station and make jokes at the same time?" Parrick had briefly worked as an anti-virus tech and had quickly learned that the most malicious viruses were created by the most ingenious of programmers -- and they often had an ego the size of Kreludor. Sometimes, just sometimes, they would let their work slip for the sake of infamy.
How old are you, Parrick?
"What kind of question is that?" the Buzz asked aloud.
"I don't care," said Cori as he grabbed his bag of equipment and headed down an access ladder. "You talk all you want to the thing. I'm going downstairs to manually reset the Station's computer."
"What? Cori -- that's never been done before! If you do that, the computer might not come online again. We could all die!"
"Well, which would you rather do, Parrick? Trust a malicious program or take a 50-50 shot at regaining control of the Station? It'll take me at least 15 minutes to do what I need to do. In the meantime, you try to talk some sense into that program." The Aisha's head ducked below the floor as he climbed down the ladder.
Parrick's fingers trembled as he typed. "I was born in Year 3. How old are you?"
Then you would remember, wouldn't you Parrick? The day those kids were caught in the shaft at the mercy of a crazed program? You remember, don't you, Parrick?"
Parrick's fingers froze above the keyboard. "Neopet V2..." he whispered.
That's right, little Buzz.
"But, how did you hear me? How'd you know I'm a --" He gasped and whirled around. Up in the far corner of the ceiling, Spyders' webs held up a security camera, its light blinking red, its lens focused on him...
Date: Jan 16th
The Buzz whirled back to the Diagnostics Screen. More of the neon green letters were crawling along beneath the glass.
Don't be afraid. Come and talk to me...
"No," mumbled Parrick. "No, this... this isn't real!" The Buzz shakily tapped in some commands, ordered the screen to shut down. None of it worked.
Relax, little Buzz, there's no reason to fear me. I just want to talk. That's all. Sit down and chat to me. Do you like to play games?
Parrick turned his head slightly. The camera was moving slowly, surveying his every movement. It felt unsettlingly like a disembodied eye, suspended in the corner of the wall, watching, waiting for him to make a move. He felt the hairs prickle up on the back of his neck.
"Let me go!" screamed the Buzz, attempting to appear strong. Unfortunately, his act was shown up by the tremulous shaking of his hands.
No, little Buzz. You're not getting away that easily. I'm only going to let you go if you agree to help me.
Parrick bit his lip so hard that it almost bled. Did he really have any choice but to comply? Probably not; it wasn't his power to try and control the situation anymore. Neopet V2 held all the cards. "Fine," he said, reluctantly. "I'll do it, whatever you want, just as long as you let me go, and stop the Space Station from colliding with Neopia." The Buzz flipped back to the screen.
Now, that wasn't hard, was it? I like you, Parrick, I wouldn't want you to get hurt.
There was a pause in the flow of text.
We're going to play a little game now, friend. I'm going to open the door, and you're going to go outside. Once you're in the corridor, you must make your way to another door, and go inside. No telling anyone about what has happened, or trying to escape. If you do, I shall trap you forever. Do you understand?
Parrick nodded lamely.
In the room, you will find a robot. Bring it back to me, and connect it up to the motherboard. I will do the rest.
Parrick didn't understand. What could he want to do with that old thing? It was one of their old experimental drones, abandoned many years ago because its usefulness had run out. Though it still roughly functioned, it was really nothing more than a lump of scrap-iron.
And then the thought hit him suddenly, like a ton of bricks. A look of horror crossed his face. Neopet V2 wanted Parrick to give him a body...
Date: Jan 17th
...and there was nothing he could do about it.
Parrick sat dumbly in the chair, staring at the motherboard. Either he would fetch the robot and give Neopet V2 what it wanted, or the program would crash the Space Station into Neopia. He had no choice.
Parrick stood up. "All right," he said, avoiding the camera with his gaze. "I'll do it."
Thank you. Your help will not be forgotten.
Parrick began walking to the door. Cori was still below, doing who knew what with the mainframe computer, and it would probably be about five minutes before the Aisha would try to regain control of the system manually. As Cori had said, it would be a 50-50 chance. Parrick was a computer programmer, and those odds did not sound good to him. There had to be another way.
The Buzz pressed a button and the double doors slid open. He stepped out into the hallway, which was eerily empty. If he could only figure out a way to give Neopet V2 what it wanted without actually letting it take over!
Parrick walked quickly down the hall and came to a door. It was one of the old storage units, and he quickly punched in a number code. The door hissed open, and the Buzz was confronted with the sight of a life-size metal robot.
It was modelled after a Tuskaninny, with wheels underneath and a black bar instead of eyes. Parrick could just imagine the bar lighting up with two big zeroes as Neopet V2 took control. It was frightening.
Knowing that Cori would be making his move any minute, Parrick quickly wheeled the robot out of the storage unit and into the hallway. He pushed it hurriedly back into the room where the motherboard was located. The screen that Neopet V2 had been using to communicate was now blank.
The words appeared on the screen as Parrick wheeled the robot into the room. "All right," he said, glancing at the access ladder beneath which Cori was working. "I have your robot. What do you want with it?"
Plug this cable into the back of it.
A black cable slithered out from underneath the key pad that Parrick had been using to type with. Two little prongs stuck out from the end, matching the two holes on the back of the robot.
Parrick was trapped.
He was sure that Cori would try to take over the computer within less than a minute. Then it would be up to luck.
But maybe, just maybe, Parrick could do something about it.
Realising that time was running out, he took a deep breath and plugged the cord into the back of the robot.
The black bar on the robot's face lit up, and numbers scrolled across it rapidly. Soon, it would be the body of Neopet V2...
"Parrick!" Cori's voice drifed up from below. "I'm going to flip the switch!"
The Buzz put his plan into action. "Wait!" he called to Cori, and at the same time he yanked the cable out of the back of the robot...
Date: Jan 17th
Instantly, the lights died. Everything was flung into an inky darkness. Parrick's mouth dropped open. How did this happen? This wasn't supposed to happen...
Cori's voice drifted down from above. "Parrick? What happened? What did you do? We've lost all power to the Space Station."
Parrick gritted his teeth. Did the V2 have something to do with it?
But no... if everything had gone according to plan, the V2 should be dead. Lost somewhere between the motherboard and the robot. It shouldn't exist anymore. It shouldn't...
"Parrick! Do something!" Cori's voice sounded panicked. "We're nearing Neopia's atmosphere. If you can't stop it now, we'll be-"
The Aisha's voice was cut off as the Space Station shuddered violently and Parrick fell to the floor. "But how can I stop it now?" he mumbled sleepily. "The power's gone..."
Parrick stopped talking as he saw flashing green letters on the monitor. His heart surged. Somehow, the motherboard seemed unaffected by the loss of power. There was still a chance!
He leapt toward the keyboard and began to frantically type away at the keys, relying on his memory only in the pitch blackness of the Space Station. The V2 was gone now, so the motherboard should be working normally, it wouldn't interfere...
...or so he hoped.
Parrick froze as he saw a single message appear on the screen.
It's too late...
There was a buzzing sound behind him, followed by a terrible creaking. It could only mean the worst...
Parrick slowly turned around and was met with two gleaming orbs of green light -- the eyes of the robot -- staring at him from the shadows...
Date: Jan 18th
"Why?" Parrick asked. He was sure the robot -- and, in turn, Neopet V2 -- could hear him.
The robot shrugged. "Why what?" it asked, mechanical and cold.
"Why destroy the Space Station?"
Pixellated eyes stared at Parrick, unblinking. Simple graphics, yes, but they held some sort of penetrating quality. The Buzz felt like he was being X-rayed. "Why do you ask?" the robot asked finally.
"It's where I --"
"No, no," the robot cut him off. "I want to know why you want to know about me, instead of smashing me. I'm entirely vulnerable now, aren't I? I can be broken without harming the Space Station any further now that I'm in this form. I'm as good as paralysed as well. Look."
Parrick nodded as he saw they were hovering a few feet above the floor. Zero gravity. Wheels were the dumbest thing to have in such a situation.
"Answer my question, Parrick. Why?"
"I might still smash you, you know," the Buzz cautioned halfheartedly. Neopet V2 let out a harsh laugh through the robot.
"No, you wouldn't. That's precisely what I'm getting at. Why?"
Parrick stared at the floor that was getting farther and farther away, and then out the window at the looming image of Neopia, and sighed. "You remind me of my little brother. Annoying, evil, plotting, and yet likable at the same time."
The robot assumed a hurt expression. "You think I'm evil?"
Parrick shrugged helplessly and then admitted it. "No, I don't think you're evil. Except for the whole crashing the Space Station part. Which is why I want to know why."
The robot nodded, slowly. "Then I'll tell you," it said quietly, somehow managing to lower and soften the harsh tones of the robot.
"All ri -- no."
"No?" the robot asked in bewilderment.
"Stop the Space Station first. I know you can do it. You managed to set up some sort of infrared between the robot -- you -- and the you in the motherboard, because you never finished downloading into... er, you."
"Stupid genius nerd head," the robot complained in a good-natured fashion. "I suppose you want me to get the power back as well?"
"Yes," Parrick said firmly. "And I'll be watching. No tricks, like you just tried to pull. You're weaker now that you're split up, and so I can and will shatter that robot part of you." To prove his words, Parrick half-drifted to the wall and yanked off a section of railing. At least zero gravity had some advantages.
"What gave me away?" the robot asked while green words flickered across the screen, re-initiating everything in the Space Station. The movement of the Station stopped, and the lights flickered back on, one by one.
Parrick shrugged. "You are like my little brother, after all. This is exactly the sort of prank he'd pull." And then Parrick sighed, feeling a tiny crack in his heart grow. It'd been a long time since he'd thought of his little brother, a long time since his brother had been trapped in a --
The robot cocked its head at Parrick's expression.
"You are part of my brother, aren't you?" Parrick asked, trembling. "You aren't really all Neopet V2. And this... this whole stop-the-Space-Station thing was just about getting our family back together again, wasn't it?"
Inside the mechanisms of the motherboard, the virtual Neopet V2 struggled with the virtual being of Parrick's brother. A series of broken codes flashed up on the screen. Sparks jumped out in every direction. The Neopet V2 was desperate to hold on to the glue that kept it from shattering into a billion tiny, worthless codes. But Parrick's brother was even more desperate.
The Buzz's eyes widened as the words appeared on the screen. He dove for the chair, fingers flying in every direction. "Welcome home, little bro."
* * * * *
A screen in another part of the Space Station flickered. The Ruki working at it frowned and slapped at it, keying in a few codes. The codes sparked through the wires, picking up the remnants of Neopet V2. It was enough.
Inside the wiring of one computer, a broken version of Neopet V2 sparked to life, sending one message scrolling across the confused Ruki's screen.
It's not yet over...
Date: Jan 18th
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