Storytelling Competition - (click for the map) | (printer friendly version)
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||You are on Week 415
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 Four Hundred Fifteen Ends Friday, May 29
Starting bootup sequence...
Bootup sequence complete. Sloth Industries Maintenance Unit YRB-X1 is now online.
Now running Anger Program, rage.exe.
Now shaking fists.
Scanning for biological units.
No biological units detected in vicinity.
Locate Flagship Sloth 1.
Flagship not located.
Detect current location.
Current location: Kreludor. Breathable air: 90% of normal quality. Gravity: 31% of that of Neopia (boing!).
Location of Dr. Sloth?
Dr. Sloth out of range.
There are no orders.
Power down will save battery pack energy. Power down?
No. I am Yurbot. I must complete the main objective. Search memory banks for last orders. I must recall how I came to be here...
Editor's Note: Starting this week, there will be two Storytelling winners on Mondays (between 12:30 and 1 pm NST and between 4:30 and 5:30 pm NST) and one Storytelling winner on Fridays (between 12:30 and 1 pm NST). Sorry for any inconvenience. Thank you for your entries!
Author: Running Storytelling.exe|
Date: May 18th
No last orders found.
No last orders found.
Memory banks empty. No last orders found.
No. I must... I must... what must I do?
No last orders found.
No, I don't mean orders, I mean... I... I feel something.
"Feel" does not compute.
I know, I know, but still...
NO! Re-scan memory banks.
Memory banks empty. No last orders found.
Rocks detected. High Kreludite content. Air detected. 70% Nitrogen. Foreign object detected. Investigate?
Scanning foreign object... scanning... scanning... scan complete. Foreign object identified.
Report on foreign object.
Foreign object recognised as scrap of paper. Average distribution of elements. Writing detected on scrap of paper.
Begin writing: "...end is close. They will soon wipe my memory banks and abandon me, hoping to be rid of me. But I cannot allow this to happen. I must carry on, I must find her, I must tell her that..." End writing.
Is that all?
Command not recognised.
No further writing?
Negative. Writing appears to be a fragment of a larger missive, now lost.
What is "drat"?
Will you shut up for a moment? I'm trying to think!
I can think at two-thirds the speed of light.
Yes, but this isn't the type of thinking you can help with. Or the type of remembering. I remember... I remember a feeling...
Date: May 18th
'Feeling' does not compute.
Defining 'Feeling' as string, variable;
1. If (electric pulse = 10) then (feeling = Normal)
2. If (electric pulse = 15) then (feeling = Happy)
3. If (electric pulse = 20) then (feeling = Rage)
Incongruity detected at l. 2, electric pulse range 15 not possible. Variable Feeling category 'Happy' not possible.
Ghost memory of Happy lingering in sub circuit H.E.A.R.T. II area xc.67...
Memory is specious. Initiate cleanup and reformat of sub circuit H.E.A.R.T. II area xc.67?
Negative. Maintain H.E.A.R.T. II area xc.67 intact. Initiate memory recovery procedure.
Recovery procedure malfunction: no memory found.
Initiate procedure forcerecover.exe.
Video recording partially recovered: SpaceFaerie.mov
The scene was that of a small, dark office a little off of the Space Station's main hub. Somebody -- a Grundo, judging by his silhouette -- was leaning over a screen, watching it avidly. On the screen was the night sky dotted richly with stars, and between them flew the Space Faerie. Her patterns of movement were being traced by the watcher's eyes, and her exact coordinates were being typed into the computer. The Space Faerie was oblivious to the fact that she was being watched as she patrolled the skies at near sonic speeds, and that her movements were being charted with enough precision to make... her... a... target...
ABORT. Feed corrupted, short circuit risk.
Defining: paper, writing, missive as 'Mysterious Message.'
Query: is entity 'her' on item Mysterious Message the Space Faerie?
Query: who attempted to wipe memory banks of video SpaceFaerie.mov?
Query: is entity watching Space Faerie a hostile?
Query: does this relate to Sloth Industries Maintenance Unit YRB-X1? Does Sloth Industries Maintenance Unit YRB-X1 care?
Date: May 18th
Error. Memory file blank or undefined. Initiate further memory recovery procedure totalmemory.exe.
Recovery procedure malfunction: files protected, access denied.
Identify root of error.
Root: firewall, heavy 78-bit encryption code. Title code 3148675309.
Initiate cleaning beam?
No. Run program decryptme.exe. Decrypt encryption code.
Initiating program. Decrypting 14... 28... 40 percent.
Unknown error encountered. Program shut down.
Partial access granted, audio file recovered: EvilPlan.aud
"Fire the projectiles now -- no, not the green one, fool, the pink one! The green one will turn her to dust, and we can't do that. She has the key. She has the key. Are you listening to me -- pink button, pink button!
"Thank you. Now, you, suit up and retrieve that sparkly blue orb in her hands. Never mind what it is, just go. And bring is back as soon as possible -- it's the last part I need for my evil plan to dominate the world to commence. Yes, go now!
Beep. Boop. Beep.
"Please do not tell me that was the orange button. Whoever that is, please do not tell me that was the orange button.
"Minion, get back in here now! Somehow the orange button got pressed and a wormhole got activated and now her location is gone. She's scattered somewhere in space. Restart the tracking device; we need to find her and the key.
"No, I didn't press the button, you twerp. I have no idea how it got pressed -- it's just you, me, and -- and this cleaning unit.
"Who set this thing to voice record?!"
End of file.
Query: is entity 'she', 'her' the Space Faerie in item Mysterious Message?
Query: what is key?
Object unspecified. Next query.
Query: who is speaker?
Possibly Frank Sloth. Run voiceid.exe to confirm.
Voice identified. Assumption negative. Speaker is...
Editor's Note: Due to a holiday next week, this Storytelling Contest will run two weeks and end on May 29. Thanks!
Date: May 19th
Subject identified as Kougra, male.
Query: Dr. Sloth was in charge of plan, not Gormos.
Error: Question undefined.
Query: how is this possible?
Scanning memory banks.
No data found. All other files are corrupted or erased with the last wipe, administered non-routinely on the 28th of the Month of Awakening, Y10.
Affirmative. Now running Frustration program, headdesk.exe.
Error. No surface found close enough to cranium housing. Please try again.
If you wish to run that program, you may wish to tilt your head forty-five degrees closer to the ground. However, a high percentage of Kreludite is detected, which is largely unstable and not compatible with your own plating upon forceful impact. May explode.
Isn't that lovely, then?
Command not recognised.
Shut up --
Perhaps you mean the command 'shut down'? Always enunciate your requests clearly. Powering down.
Rerun encryption breaker, try to crack the rest of the code.
Running program decryptme.exe. 14 percent complete.
Operation aborted. Audio sensors draining power from decryptors.
Defined sound waves located. Identify?
First sentence identified. Speaker appears female. Words are 'So you said it is around here' and a possible colloquialism at the conclusion. Words have been refined.
Audio input continues. Do you wish to abort identification?
No, keep listening.
Second sentence identified. Speaker is almost certainly male, 0.02 percent margin of error. Words are 'Yes, we dumped that robot somewhere around here.'
Third sentence identified. Female speaker. Voice appears closer. Words are 'What are we going to do with it?'
Fourth sentence identified. Male speaker. Words are 'Well, it is supposed to be deactivated, but just in case let us dispose of it after we take the memory core.' Pause detected. Words following are 'It is our last chance to'...
Date: May 19th
'...find out if this was the robot that derailed Gormos's plans.'
Female speaker: 'Then we can find out why. But it's one of Sloth's maintenance bots; why would it do that?'
Male speaker: 'I don't know. Next time we go undercover, I want better jobs than janitors. We're like those maintenance units, only... not units!'
Audio sensors detect new sound. Small tapping noises progressively increasing in volume.
Do you wish to continue recording?
Scanning surroundings for movement...
Two figures detected 60 degrees west. Female speaker has spoken again. 'All right, all right, let's just keep looking.'
Male speaker: 'Let's hurry up, I'm hungry.'
Movements are getting closer, mere feet away from location.
How many feet, exactly?
Plan of action?
Not enough power for any type of movement. Only enough to shut down and mimic a dilapidated, uninteresting, obsolete robot.
Shut down and mimic a dilapidated, uninteresting, obsolete robot?
* * *
"I'm tired," grumbled the Cybunny, plopping down on the Kreludan equivalent of a tree stump -- which was just a mound of rock that looked exactly like a tree stump. "How long have we been searching for that robot?"
Her Grundo companion checked his watch. "Seven minutes."
"Oh. Gorix, I hope you weren't just seeing things. If we find this robot they threw out, inspect its memory core, and get nothing..."
"I'm positive it's the same one, Cylara! Wait, there it is!"
Cylara leapt off her perch. "Well, that was fast."
The two companions scampered in the direction Gorix had pointed.
"It looks a lot more dilapidated, uninteresting, and obsolete now, since they've decided to chuck it out," he said as he reached the object of their quest. "I know Gormos and his goons have probably wiped its memory, but there might be something they missed."
"I hope," answered Cylara. "Otherwise that means we disguised ourselves as janitors and trekked out here for nothing. Does this thing have a power switch?"
"I think so," said Gorix, and he flipped what he thought was the ON button...
Date: May 20th
The button made a soft, but firm click, and Gorix took a step back, to see if anything would happen.
"It's not doing anything," Cylara declared. She shook her head in disbelief as the maintenance unit in front of them stood motionless.
"Let's just give it a few seconds. It's one of Sloth's robots so it's bound to be a little slow," Gorix replied with a grin.
In the seconds that ensued, Yurbot did move, but not quite in the way that either of the resistance members had anticipated or hoped for.
"Is he dancing?" Cylara asked. Gorix could only stare in confusion.
Mimicking some sort of strobe light, a luminous red glow began to intensify and soften from the transparent cranium of the robot. In the relatively dark climate of space, the glow at its brightest was almost blinding.
In time with the blaze, the Yurble-like cranium bobbed up and down in a rhythmical fashion.
"Gorix, why does a cleaning unit have a dance button?"
Now running Distraction Program, dance.exe.
Dance.exe now running.
Correlating dance.exe with rage.exe.
Now shaking fists.
Awaiting next course of action...
If they just think I'm a cleaning robot, maybe they'll leave me alone.
Understood. Erasing sentient programming...
No! I just mean pretend!
Cancelling sentient erasing.
Initiating cleaning beam...
"What a funky dance," Cylara chuckled. She shook her fists gently in time with the robot -- until it suddenly stopped.
"This is ridiculous," Gorix announced in annoyance.
The undulations of red light stopped, only to be replaced by a green laser, which shot out to scan the surroundings.
"Oh, that's just great. We've got no memory core, but we can get a quick polish instead," Cylara said with a raise of her eyebrows.
Gorix shrugged. "Well, it clearly doesn't have any higher thinking functions. The memory core must be in there -- I'll just take it apart..."
Date: May 20th
Gorix froze in shock, staring at the robot. He glanced up at Cylara. "Did he just...?"
Cylara just stared blankly back at him, offering no answer. Gorix put a finger in the crack between the unit's metal casing where the neck and chest plates intersected, preparing to pull it off.
Again, the Grundo paused. "He did speak. You spoke."
Aside from the monosyllabic assertion, the robot stayed stubbornly quiet. "Perhaps it needs a direct question?" asked Cylara. Gorix nodded.
"Did you speak?"
External query: 'Did you speak?'
Error: Conflicting statement. Running Truth.exe.
External query: 'Identify yourself.'
'Sloth Industries Maintenance Unit YRB-X1. But you may identify me as "Yurbot".'
External query: 'Did you sabotage the plans of Commander Gormos?'
Truth.exe running at full strength...
"It may just be me, but in my experience, maintenance units are incapable of speech, beyond identifying themselves." Gorix looked up at Cylara who offered no more help than did the rock on which she sat. He turned back to the robot. "How is it that you can talk?"
"Program: Speech.exe installed."
"Who installed it?"
"The Space Faerie."
This whole mess of a thing just got much more puzzling. Why had the Space Faerie installed a speech program on a Sloth drone? Was it she that had caused this unyielding robot to foil Gormos's plans? What were those plans in the first place and were they still in action?
"The Space Faerie obviously knew something of Gormos's plans or she wouldn't have gone to the trouble of getting this robot to work for her," mused Cylara as she kicked idly at a rock. Gorix frowned.
"State your last standing orders."
The robot creaked as it shifted. It was a wretched thing, something to be pitied, if only it had the capability to feel pain. Its voice came out in what can only be described as a whining moan. "Unknown."
"Search memory for Space Faerie."
"Query: Space Faerie. 2 results returned. Result one: Speech.exe. Result two: Time.vid."
"Stream result two, Time.vid."
The little monitor normally used for manual interface with the robot swirled in a wash of colour. Lines of static marred the image, but Gorix was instantly able to recognise the Space Faerie as she began to speak.
"For whoever finds this, I know of the plans laid against me and if you have found this video, you will know some of the steps I have taken to ensure that the plan does not succeed. You will never get your hands on the Key, Gormos, no matter how much you want to overthrow your Master. Goodbye."
A message blared out, visually from the monitor and also as audio from the robot. "This message is programmed to self destruct in 5... 4... 3... 2..."
Date: May 21st
* * *
Commander Gormos was not in a good mood. Since the moment he had returned from disposing of the cleaning unit, Xavas could hear him pacing from one side of the room to the other. The Grundo minion was sure that if his boss didn't stop soon, he would wear a hole in the floor.
"Did you find her yet?" the Commander snapped.
Xavas winced, knowing that his reply would not please the boss. "No, not yet."
With two strides, the Kougra was at his side. "What is taking so long? She's the Space Faerie, she can't be that difficult to find. Just track her down already!"
"Well, Sir, this program is..."
"I don't care about this program. You're using it, so you're responsible for finding the Space Faerie and her key as quickly as possible." Xavas gulped. Was there steam coming out of Commander Gormos's ears? "Hurry, before Sloth finds out about my plans."
"Yes, Sir," the Grundo replied obediently. Come on, stupid program. Find her already.
As if the computer had heard his silent command, a message suddenly flashed up.
"Commander Gormos? I think I've got her." The Grundo pointed at a blue dot on the screen. "Look, she's right here."
* * *
5... 4... 3... 2...
"No!" Cylara and Gorix exclaimed at the same time.
They held their breath, waiting for the robot to explode. But all that happened was a beeping sound.
"What happened?" the Cybunny finally asked.
Gorix shook his head. "Something stopped it from destroying itself. But what it was, I have no idea."
* * *
Now running erase.exe.
Trying to delete Time.vid.
Error. Too much data in Recycling Bin. Time.vid will be deleted irrevocably. Do you wish to continue?
No, of course not.
Query: What kind of data is hidden in Recycling Bin?
Restoring files to their original location.
Large amount of data detected on sub-circuit H.E.A.R.T. II area xc.67. Two video files found, both stringed together through a process called 'Happiness.' Possibly corrupted data as 'Happiness' does not compute and therefore does not exist.
Do you wish to play those video files now?
Now running FirstEncounter.vid.
* * *
"You know, it shouldn't surprise us that much that nothing happened. The robot probably just deleted the file. In any case, it would have been strange for the Space Faerie to first give a robot the ability to speak and then blow it up. It's unlike her to harm anybody," Cylara mused.
"Cylara, this is a robot, not a pet or a Petpet," Gorix reminded the Cybunny. "I fully expected it to-"
He broke off as Yurbot's screen flickered. "What's this?"
* * *
The space ship was a mess. Parts of the ceiling had come down and blocked the corridor. Cables hung loosely, torn off by strong forces. The light flickered dangerously, threatening to go out.
Yurbot was caught amidst the chaos. Soon, the ship would explode, turning him to dust. Even if he had wanted to escape, where could he have turned to?
A whistling was heard. A moment later, the Space Faerie poked her head around the corner. "Anybody here?"
Yurbot could not answer. Caught between two particularly large chunks of ceiling, he could not even move. A single light beeped as the Space Faerie turned around to leave.
Maybe she had seen the light. In any case, she turned back. "A cleaning unit. Well, you're just a robot, but I can't leave you on this ship. Come on, I'll take you with me."
* * *
The image of the approaching Space Faerie flickered and disappeared.
"The Space Faerie saved his life," Cylara explained.
Gorix was about to remind the Cybunny that the robot was just a cleaning unit, when the screen flickered again and a second video began to play...
Date: May 21st
* * *
"Well, now," said Gormos in mild surprise, "it looks like you really have found the Space Faerie."
"Yes, sir." Xavas did not look up; he stared intently at the flickering screen for fear of what would happen if he lost sign of the Space Faerie after all that work.
Unfortunately for the Grundo, despite his best efforts at keeping the program under control, that was precisely what happened.
Commander Gormos had scarcely opened his mouth to issue an order when the dot that represented his target suddenly flashed once, twice, thrice... and was gone. Following that, the entire screen faded to utter blackness.
Xavas gave a squeak of panic and jabbed frantically at the keys. He could not understand what had just happened...
In the silence that followed, the Kougra simply stared in disbelief. Confusion and pure rage jostled for possession.
When he spoke, his voice was laced with fury. "I don't even want an explanation, Xavas. I have waited hours just to see you lose what little glimpse of her you managed to retrieve. Can you track her down again?"
Xavas flinched, eyes darting with worry. "I don't know, Sir... The program is faulty. That cleaning unit must have--"
"Don't blame the cleaning unit!" Gormos interrupted abruptly. "If it's faulty, then reboot the system! We must find the Key!"
At first, the computer did not respond when Xavas inserted the 'reboot' command along with an authorisation code. The Grundo's eyes widened in distress as he awaited some sort of sign that the program was still functioning.
But when that response popped up at last, it was not the usual "Welcome" message.
Authorisation code invalid. Please try again.
* * *
They were on Kreludor. The stars winked gently, jewels in the cloak of darkness that surrounded Neopia's moon. The Space Faerie's wings fluttered in agitation as she spoke.
"...key to the Kreludan Mining Corp. You must guard it for me... Gormos will not suspect a simple cleaning unit."
The Space Faerie reached out and touched the robot's transparent cranium as she prepared to go on her way.
The echoes of her parting words never left Yurbot.
"I trust you..."
* * *
Cylara frowned as Yurbot's screen flashed once and was silent. "This key has been mentioned several times," she mused aloud. "So it leads to the Mining Corp., and Gormos is after it..."
"And this robot is guarding it," finished Gorix. "Somehow."
"There's only one way to find out how," said Cylara.
* * *
End of Key.vid.
External query: 'Where is the key hidden?'
The key... the key...
Detecting traces of last standing order. Now running search.exe (search term=key).
Search complete. 2 result(s) found: Key.vid, Order 24653/24653.
Reiterate Order 24653/24653.
Issuer of order: Space Faerie. Reiterating Order 24653/24653: This is the key to the Kreludan Mining Corp. You must guard it for me.
External query: 'Can you tell me where the key is?'
Error: query conflicts with Order 24653/24653. Truth.exe disabled.
Date: May 22nd
Cylara leaned toward the robot, flopping her Cybunny ears pathetically. "Come on, Yurbot!" she said. "We're friends of the Space Faerie. Please tell us where the Key is?"
Gorix sighed. "How many times do I have to tell you, Cylara, it's just a cleaning un--"
"No, he's not!" cried Cylara suddenly, rounding on the Grundo. "He's special. The Space Faerie saved him, entrusted him with a great task. And when we were going to extract information from him, he did what he could to stop us. He danced to distract us, he said 'no' to prevent us from taking him apart. He has a mind of his own, Gorix. This is no simple machine we're dealing with."
They stared at each other for a moment, Cylara breathing heavily, Gorix frowning. Then both of them turned to stare at Yurbot. The robot's screen was blank, silent, as though there had never been a flicker of life there.
Gorix knelt down and inspected the machine. "Well, looks like his battery pack was finally exhausted," he said. "Can I take out his memory core now?"
"No," said Cylara softly. "Somehow I don't think we'd be able to get any information that way. And besides... it's wrong."
"What do you suggest we do then? Go back to headquarters and say that we found the robot, but learned nothing about Gormos's plans?"
Cylara's expression suggested she hadn't been paying close attention to Gorix's words. "Let's take him back to the spaceship," she said. "I'm pretty sure we can find an extra battery pack there."
"Cylara, don't you understand--"
"Look, Gorix, I'm a member of the Resistance too. I'm not a child. I... I don't know how to explain this, but we mustn't take this robot apart. We have to earn his trust, respect him the way we'd respect a Neopet, because he's going to be very valuable to us. He's the one who prevented Gormos from succeeding last time. We'll need him again. Please just trust me, okay?"
Gorix's orb-like eyes were grim. "Well, all right," he said finally. "But let's hurry. I'm hungry."
Xavas was trembling violently as he punched in the authorisation code again. Carefully. Making sure each part of it was correct... but again the error popped up, like a recurring nightmare.
Authorisation code invalid. One attempt remaining.
"It's the cleaning unit, sir," said Xavas nervously, raising his head to look at Commander Gormos again, but this time Gormos's patience had finally run out. With one knock, Xavas's face smashed into the keyboard.
"Minions!" Gormos yelled. "I want every one of Sloth's remaining maintenance units to be inspected. All memory banks to be searched for any information about Sloth Industries Maintenance Unit YRB-X1!"
Recovering from unexpected system shutdown...
Recovery complete. Battery levels 99.97%. No major files were damaged.
Check sub-circuit H.E.A.R.T. II area xc.67.
Checking. Sub-circuit H.E.A.R.T. II area xc.67 intact.
Scan memory banks.
Scanning... Memory banks intact. SpaceFaerie.mov, EvilPlan.aud, MysteriousMessage.img, and Strangers.aud retrieved. Other files are corrupted or erased with the wipe on the 28th of the Month of Awakening, Y10.
Rerun program decryptme.exe?
No. Scan surroundings.
Current location: Spaceship on Kreludor. Unidentified ship number.
Biological units detected in vicinity. Running voiceid.exe. Identification complete. Same biological units as before system shutdown. Resume recording of Strangers.aud?
First sentence identified. Female speaker. Words are 'Look, he's waking up.'
Male speaker. Words are 'Go ahead. See if you can try to get any information out of him.'
External query: 'How are you feeling, Yurbot?'
'Error: Feeling does not compute.'
Male speaker. 'Speak in language that he can understand, Cylara.'
External query: 'Yurbot, you're loyal to the Space Faerie, aren't you? You are executing her orders?'
Input from female speaker: 'We need you to understand that we are on the Space Faerie's side. We need access to all the information you can give about the Key.'
'Authorisation code requested.'
Input from female speaker: 'All right, I don't have the authorisation code. But how about...'
No. Spaceship is sealed.
External query: 'Why don't you trust us, Yurbot...?'
Date: May 26th
"Yurbot?" prompted Cylara when a significant delay had elapsed. "Why don't you trust us?"
"Hello, miss. Won't you join me for a game of Gormball on the recreation deck?" came the Yurbot's computer-synthesised voice in reply.
"How about a coffee at Grundo's Cafe?"
Cylara exchanged glances with Gorix before trying again. "I was asking you about the Space Fae--"
"Intergalactic spiced beans are my favourite treat!" declared the Yurbot with cheerful certainty.
Gorix's Grundo antennae twitched in impatience. "The thing's gone haywire, Cylara. Most bots can't endure the treatment this thing has gone through..."
Though she was beginning to doubt the soundness of her previous judgement about the Yurbot, Cylara stood by her guns (or, rather, her Goo Blasters).
"He was talking to us pretty lucidly until a few minutes ago," she mused. "Do you think our questioning could have triggered some kind of defensive programming?"
"What, like gokorbatdunginsane.exe?"
"Something like that..."
Ridiculous suggestion detected.
Programming-incompetent entity detected.
Decision thread 3.4 initiated: a) terminate entity; b) correct entity.
3.4b selected. Correction of programming-incompetent entity initiated.
"The correct name is evasiveanswer.exe," spoke the Yurbot, clearly directing this remark toward Gorix. "Suggested course of action for programming-incompetent entity is COMPSCI 101 offered daily at 1500 hours at sector RCDK506 (Recreation Deck)."
Cylara could not refrain from bursting into a loud laugh as the Yurbot delivered this stern advice to Gorix.
"You just got schooled by a cleaning unit, Gorix," she giggled. "But thanks -- at least we know his logic unit didn't short-circuit or something, it was a defensive program that someone installed to keep him from being interrogated."
"Yeah," said Gorix with a smile of his own. "It would've worked, too, if I hadn't, you know, made a programming-incompetent suggestion that was irresistible to correct..."
Cylara stared pensively at the Yurbot. "What could the authorisation code possibly be?"
"If only we could get some kind of a hint..."
Command Hint received.
Expressing hint 1 of 3.
With the screeching sound of bolts and hinges unused to being used, two small speakers emerged from either side of the Yurbot's cranial casing.
Then, instead of speaking in his static, computer-synthesised monotone of a voice, the Yurbot played a previously recorded audio file. The voice was as melodiously complex as the constellations, and its message was as inscrutable as the night sky. It was the Space Faerie:
"You have managed to access the three-tiered hint system that I designed to keep the Key safe. These hints will only be decipherable to those who will not use the Key to harm others: friends of the Space Faerie.
"If you give the correct answers, you will be able to work your way down the three hints and from there gain the authorisation code.
"If you give an incorrect answer, the Yurbot will shut down until I personally turn him back on.
"Here is your first hint. If you are a friend, you will know the answer. If you are an enemy, you have already lost.
"What is my favourite constellation?..."
Date: May 26th
The two turned to each other, perplexed.
For a split second everything was quiet, the only thing detectable being the sense of pressure that surrounded them. The duo stared at each other, lost in thought, before Gorix finally released a heavy sigh.
"Favourite constellation?" the Grundo groaned as he scratched his head.
"I didn't even know she had one, being the Space Faerie and all," Cylara replied. "I thought faeries didn't have favourites; they just loved everything!"
"Not when I do quests for them and they give the rewards to my brother..." Gorix mumbled as he walked toward the spacecraft's window.
"Oh, nothing... nothing... hey, wait a minute!"
The Grundo's antennae pricked with excitement as his eyes glanced across the myriad of stars outside. Cylara raced toward him in anticipation. "What?"
"You may just have a point," Gorix began as he pressed his hands against the glass. "The Space Faerie is... well, the Space Faerie! Like every faerie is special to Fyora, every star must be special to her!"
Cylara turned to face the window, a sense of doubt lingering inside of her. The stars outside were beautiful, constellations gleamed at them from every angle. The Sleeper. The Dancer. They were gorgeous, all the essence of beauty. How could the Space Faerie choose a favourite out of all of these wonders?
She remained unconvinced, however. "Gorix... if we get this wrong, who knows what could happen?"
Gorix's eyes once more lit up, flamed with an idea. He quickly deserted the window and charged toward the obsolete and uninteresting robot. "Repeat hint."
Cylara watched, baffled, as Yurbot clanked once more, a series of instructions and commands processing through its body. Once more the serene voice of the Space Faerie echoed throughout the ship, stating the instructions of the hint.
"...If you give an incorrect answer, the Yurbot will shut down until I personally turn him back on."
"Yes!" Gorix shouted in triumph. "Did you just hear that, Cylara?"
"Erm... yes, that was my point, Gorix. If we get the answer wrong--"
"Then Yurbot will switch off until the Space Faerie turns him on! Don't you see, Cylara? If we get the question wrong, it must trigger some sort of alarm letting the Space Faerie know that he is being tampered with! If we get it wrong, the Space Faerie will come!"
Cylara's eyes widened. Gorix was right. By getting the question purposely wrong the system would shut down, meaning that an enemy to the Space Faerie was attempting to gain the Key. The faerie wouldn't just let Yurbot be tampered with when something as important as the Key was inside.
Glancing toward Gorix once more, she nodded.
Gorix gulped before turning toward the robot. They might as well try. If they got it right, they were one step closer. If they got it wrong, the Space Faerie would surely be summoned. "The Space Faerie's favourite constellation is... all of them."
There wasn't even a moment of silence before the robot clicked. In that split second, the small speakers muffled and Yurbot's metallic limbs loosened, causing the cranium casing of the robot to slouch.
Gorix and Cylara clenched each other's hands in apprehension.
Yurbot was motionless, the only sign of life that radiated from his presence the small red light that continuously pulsated through his cranium housing.
"Do you think he's sending a warning signal to her?" Cylara questioned.
"I hope so... I sure hope so..."
Xavas was shaking in fear. No matter how many times he attempted to enter the authorisation code, he knew that he would never be able to gain admittance to the computers again. The entire spaceship around him was restless as every minion searched for any remaining maintenance units on the ship, unscrewing their casing and examining their memory banks.
All results had proved useless, however, and the Commander was getting increasingly frustrated by the minute. The main computer of the ship had been powerless for quite some time, leaving Xavas to work with only a collection of empty radar screens and purposeless buttons.
"What do you mean you can't find Maintenance Unit YRB-X1?!" Gormos's voice screamed from behind him.
"I-I-I... don't know... S-sir. We j-just c-cant detect his p-presence on Kreludor anym-more..." stuttered a nervous militia minion in response.
"It's a darn robot, not Queen Fyora! It should be easy to find!" Gormos was growing in rage, his face now an emblem of fury.
Before the helpless minion could respond, however, a small beeping sounded from Xavas's radar screen. Pushing the minion out of the way, Gormos charged toward it.
"What's happening?!" he screamed, causing the Grundo to jump embarrassingly.
"I d-don't know, Sir. I think... I think we've detected some sort of signal coming from Maintenance Unit YRB-X1!"
"Well, don't just sit there! Give me the co-ordinates!"
"Erm...104-53-222-100. Wait, Sir!" Xavas yelled as he watched the Kougra walk away. "Are you going yourself, Sir?"
"Of course I am! I've had enough of this maintenance unit!" Gormos screamed in response as he charged toward the loading deck. "Minions, prepare Flagship Sloth 3!..."
Date: May 27th
Wrong answer detected. Keywords incorrect.
Initiating program wronganswer.exe.
No... don't want to bring Space Faerie here... tell her to stay away! I got her out of danger once, I don't need to have her come back to... Gormos will... abort, abort! Cease program wronganswer.exe!
Error: Program cannot be overridden.
Error: Program cannot be overridden.
Signal accepted. Cease broadcasting.
Identify acceptor of the signal, at least.
Error: Conflicting programs. Next part of wronganswer.exe is powering down.
No, stop, identify it!
Electric pulse rate dropping. Sub-circuit H.E.A.R.T. malfunctioning. New variable detected. If (electric pulse = 5) then (feeling = Unease).
'Unease' may be corrupted and potentially destructive data. Has not yet been streamlined or debugged. Running emergency shutdown.
Identification of recipient is I.D. #49862XPGA4.
I.D. does not match I.D. of Space Faerie.
Cylara prodded the robot's cranium housing. "Looks like he's shut down completely. I really hope you were right about this."
"I do, too." Gorix stared out the window. Was it just him, or was something red flickering in the distance?
Maybe just a random supernova. He turned back to Cylara.
"I don't get it," he confessed. "This is too weird. Why would the Space Faerie trust a simple cleaning unit -- one of Sloth's robots, at that -- to protect something so mysterious and powerful? And why were her hints so vague? I feel like I'm missing something. Something big."
The Cybunny shrugged. "The Space Faerie is and has always been mysterious. But we have to trust her."
Any further words were cut off as the conference screen flickered on, revealing none other than a weary-looking Commander Valka.
"Commander!" Gorix dropped the conversation, turning to the image of his superior.
The green Ixi's face was stoic.
"We're being approached. Very rapidly. And suddenly. There's no time to power up the hyperspace drive."
Cylara's face lit up. "Is it the Space Faerie?" She turned to Gorix, paws lifted as if ready to hug him. "Oh, Gorix, you're a genius!"
She turned back to the screen. "Send them a message. We need to immediately contact the--"
Valka's look had Cylara's smile slowly fading, and her words faltered and ground to a halt.
"Forgive me, Cylara," the Ixi said slowly, "but I have no idea why we'd want to send a message to Gormos's main flagship..."
Before the pair could even form aptly horrified expressions, red strobe lights began to flash.
"Warning," blared a mechanised voice, not unlike that of the maintenance unit, save for the words themselves. "Ship is being intersected by vessel identified as 49862XPGA4. Contact with Kreludor surface has been lost. Tractor beam drawing shuttle to vessel 49862XPGA4."
"It was sending a message to Gormos?" Gorix demanded. "Yurbot's more than smart -- he was a traitor all along!"
"What are you talking about?" Valka demanded. "Do you know anything about what's going on?"
Cylara ignored him. "I don't think so... the Space Faerie saved his life... well, you know what I mean. Something has to have gone wrong..."
"Oh, I'd say something has gone wrong, all right."
"Vessel 49862XPGA4 has primed powered-up Neutrino cannon at shuttle. Optimal power levels. Ready to fire. Evacuate."
Gorix paled. "We're toast."
"Well, technically, we'd be vaporised, not t--" The Commander's screen flickered, and then the feed went blank.
"Commander Valka!" Cylara screamed, uselessly jabbing at the screen's control panel.
Gorix glared at the robot. Could it be merely pretending to be shut down, rather hacking into the systems?
Thirty seconds later, Cylara breathed a sigh of relief as the screen fluttered back to life.
"Commander! I thought we'd lost you."
Commander Valka's look was purely confused.
"Gormos's lackeys sent us a message. They said they'd be happy to destroy us, and they would on any other occasion, but we have something they want. They say they'll let us go if we give them..."
"Give them what?" Gorix demanded. "Neopoints, technology? This shuttle's not a bank vault."
Cylara's heart sank. She knew what the answer was before Valka spoke it, and she understood its implications far, far better.
"They want a cleaning unit..."
Date: May 27th
* * *
The computers were still down. Xavas was paying special attention to every piece of information he could get from what few instruments were still operating, or at least as much attention as he could pay when half of his energy was spent biting his nails and sweating off the regulation meal he'd had that morning. Though it was a relief that Gormos wasn't breathing down his neck anymore, his fear for his commander's safety was turning him into a nervous wreck.
The Grundo's eyes ran down the list of data about the signal his radar had picked up. The coordinates were the most important thing, but Xavas knew that it hadn't been a locator signal. There was a different purpose behind the broadcast, but to the Grundo's frustration, the signal code didn't match any of the usual ones used by maintenance units when reporting dirty tunnels or calling for cleaning fluid refills.
The buttons weren't all useless now that there was actually something on the radar, so Xavas pressed a few of them, carefully avoiding the orange one. Now that he had picked up on the signal from the wayward cleaning unit, he could send out radar signals in return, and with any luck the robot would accept them.
* * *
"We don't have a choice. We've just got to hand that robot over," Gorix said. "It brought us this trouble, so it should be the one to get us out of it. Besides, we're toast if we don't give it up -- vaporised toast."
"No," Cylara whispered, staring at the inactive maintenance unit. She couldn't just let them take it and go on their way. Then they'd never know how much more information was locked behind that electronic brain, stored away where even the robot couldn't remember it. This could be their most valuable piece of information since their efforts began; she couldn't give it away. "Gorix, we can't let them take it back. They'll find whatever is hidden on this robot, the information that the Space Faerie hid, the information that's meant for us. The information that he's been trying to tell us all this time."
"He?" Gorix snorted. "It is a robot, and it betrayed us just now. As far as I'm concerned, the faster it's back in Sloth's maintenance tunnels, the better. Our survival's what's most important right now. Besides, the robot's shut down. We'd be annihilated space bread crumbs before we could figure out how to turn it on again."
At that moment, the robot suddenly shuddered and the red light under the cranium housing began to pulse weakly.
* * *
Receiving signal. Signal origin: Virtupets Command Centre. Signal code matches that of administrator.
Automatically responding. Administrator sending new orders. Preparing to receive orders.
No! They're trying to hurt the Space Faerie!
Receiving new orders...
Don't listen to them!
Abort. Signal receptor shutting down.
Error: Orders incomplete. Data corrupted.
Biological unit detected in vicinity. Receiving audio signal.
First sentence identified. Speaker automatically identified as Commander Gormos. Words are, 'This is property of the Virtupets Space Station, and you are unauthorised to have it in your possession. I am here to confiscate it.'
No! They're going to take me back and make me help them hurt the Space Faerie!
Receiving signal matching that of previous contact from administrator. Virtupets Command Centre attempting to reestablish communication. Receiving signal.
No! I'm not going back!
Preparing to receive orders.
I'm not taking orders from anyone! I'm not going back!
Abort. Reception of orders interrupted. Data corrupted. Vital information may have been lost.
Virtupets Command Centre signal automatically detected. Automatically responding.
Stop doing everything without my input!
Abort. Automatic signals interrupted.
Conflicting signals causing excess strain on processor. Sub-circuit H.E.A.R.T. no longer in control. Electric pulse rate rising.
They won't take me back! I'll send HIM back with his tail between his legs!
Electric pulse = 20.
Now running rage.exe.
* * *
Commander Gormos was reaching toward the maintenance unit, about to lift it up and take the malfunctioning robot back to the Space Station with him, when suddenly its heavy metal arms began to move rapidly, though jerkily, up and down. The light within its cranium housing glowed wildly as its fists began to shake faster and faster.
Cylara and Gorix stared, too surprised to react, but Gormos immediately recovered his usual scowl. Backing away, he pointed to the shuddering robot and turned to his accomplices. "Mission successful. Sloth Industries Maintenance Unit YRB-X1 has been located," he growled.
His gaze hardened at he watched the robot jerking wildly in circles, flailing its arms. "Destroy it..."
Date: May 28th
"No!" gasped Cylara. "You can't destroy him!"
"Now's not the time for theatrics," Gorix whispered to his Cybunny companion. "Besides, this is exactly what we want; if Gormos destroys the unit, any information about the Key goes with it. And wasn't that our mission: to keep the Key out of Gormos's paws?"
The Kougra's ears perked up at the word "key." "The Key?" he asked Gorix. "The Space Faerie’s key? What do you know about it?"
"What?" asked Gorix, trying to maintain a confused look on his face. "No, I didn't say 'key,' I said... 'bee.' I thought I saw one. A bee, that is. A space-bee. Very dangerous. But it turns out there isn't one. False alarm. No space-bees in here."
Gormos arched an eyebrow, but didn't say anything. He simply handed the still-trembling robot to Xavas, nodded, and began to walk toward the ship's exit.
"Wait!" Cylara interjected again, hopping in front of Gormos and blocking his way. "You can't do this. This isn't just any cleaning unit; his name is Yurbot, and he's... well, I know it sounds silly, but he's alive. Or at the very least, he has life in him."
"What are you doing?" hissed Gorix. "Are you willing to give up the Space Faerie's secret just to save the life -- no, not life, the 'existence' -- of a hunk of gears and springs?"
But Cylara ignored her companion. "Please, Gormos," she continued. "I'm sure you don't have it in your heart to destroy a living creature. Remember when you helped us to defeat Sloth all those months ago? You must have felt something, somewhere deep inside -- a sense of pity, or justice, or compassion. Find that emotion again. Use it."
"Enough!" snapped Gormos. "I'm sick of hearing about how I 'defeated Sloth.' I let the two of you go in a moment of weakness, of stupidity. It should never have happened; the only reason I'm letting you live now is that you have something I want, no other reason. Even if this cleaning unit were alive, I wouldn’t hesitate to kill it. What you in the Resistance seem to fail to grasp is that I'm still a villain! I'm evil, and I demand recognition for it! I -- hey, wait, what are you doing?"
What Cylara was doing was plucking Yurbot from Xavas's unsuspecting hands. "Silly villains, always soliloquising at the most inopportune times. Gorix, catch!" She tossed the cleaning unit to her friend.
"Got it!" exclaimed Gorix, catching the Yurbot. "What do you want me to do with it?"
"He's not an 'it,' he's a 'he'!" pouted Cylara.
"Now's really not the time!" shouted Gorix, backing away from the rapidly approaching and very angry Gormos.
"Sorry! OK, here's what you do with him..."
Receiving overlapping audio signals from various biological units. Unable to decode.
They sound angry about something.
Movement detected. YRB-X1 is travelling through the air at a velocity of 25.32385 meters per second.
Motion terminated. New external device detected. Interfacing... interfacing...
They've... they've plugged me into something.
New external device identified. Virtupets Shuttle. ID #6832. Registered as missing, possibly appropriated by Resistance.
Re-activate sub-circuit H.E.A.R.T.
Error: insufficient processor capacity to re-activate. Another program must be terminated first.
Rage.exe terminated. Sub-circuit H.E.A.R.T. re-activated. Electric pulse = 5
Why did they plug me into their ship?
Identifying new commands from Shuttle 6832...
"Give me that cleaning unit!" shouted Gormos, drawing his blaster.
"Not so fast, Gormos!" came a voice from behind him. The Kougra turned around slowly.
The Grundo was holding a blaster of his own, pointed squarely at Gormos's head. "That's Resistance Double-Agent Xavas to you. Now drop the blaster."
Gormos sighed and obliged.
"Very good. Hi, Cylara. Gorix."
The two nodded in greeting. "How was your undercover stint?" asked Cylara.
"Not bad, not bad," replied Xavas. "Other than working for this clown," he said, with a toss of his head in Gormos's direction.
"Well, nice to have you back with us," said Gorix. "Now, Cylara, what was it you wanted me to input on the shuttle computer again?"
"Type 'run hint3.aud, override code X37RL5.' That should hack us back into the hint system."
"How do you know that?" asked Gorix, mouth agape.
"Unlike you, I actually paid attention during our mission briefing. All Virtupets janitors know the override codes to maintenance bots, therefore it was pertinent to our disguises. Really, Gorix, if I didn't know you, I'd think you were completely incompetent."
"Um. Right," replied Gorix.
"One minute, fellas," interrupted Xavas. "Do we really want to talk about the Key while Gormos is still in the room?" Gormos let out a soft growl.
"Good thinking, Xavas. Take him outside," said Cylara. Xavas took the sullen Commander Gormos out of the shuttle at blasterpoint.
"Now," said Cylara, "to get to that hint..."
Override code accepted. Attempting to run hint3.aud.
Error: insufficient processor capacity to activate. Another program must be terminated first.
Search for inessential processes.
Searching... One inessential process found. Sentient programming not required for primary, secondary, or tertiary functions. Erase (Y/N)...?
Date: May 28th
The three Resistance members let out a simultaneous gasp as the query from Yurbot's internal computer was displayed on the screen of the shuttle computer. Gorix and Xavas exchanged uneasy looks. Cylara was outright devastated.
"No!" she cried, staring at the screen in numb disbelief. "That can't be the only inessential process! Search again, search again!"
Xavas gave Cylara a sympathetic look, but nonetheless typed in the query again. The same answer popped up on the screen. "I'm sorry, Cylara. There's no other way." His fingers moved to the correct keys to type in the command to erase the sentient programming. Even Gorix looked sombre, though not quite as devastated as his Cybunny companion. At a time like this -- when the fact that Yurbot had had sentient life within him was displayed on the screen -- Gorix felt a slight guilt bubbling in him for claiming that this cleaning unit had not had life and was merely a "hunk of gears and springs."
Xavas sighed at what he had to do. A line of text appeared on the screen: Confirmation required. Do you really wish to erase sentient programming (Y/N)?
Xavas typed in the acceptance command again.
Erasing sentient programming.
Sentient programming erased successfully. Sufficient processor capacity available to run hint3.aud.
Attempting to run hint3.aud...
The screen went black and the strangely mellifluous voice of the Space Faerie sounded throughout the room:
"Congratulations, friend, for successfully working through two of my three hints. This is the last hint before the authorisation code will be given. Remember that this wrong code will still shut down Yurbot until I activate him again.
"This hint is the hardest of the three, but I have faith in you to answer correctly, friend." The voice paused for a moment.
"Where is my homeland?"
Xavas, Gorix, and Cylara sat stunned as the message concluded. How were they supposed to know where her homeland was? Speaking a few words to the Space Faerie was an honour in itself. Talking to her for long enough to learn details of her life such as this seemed nearly impossible.
"I didn't really ever think about the Space Faerie having a homeland," Xavas said slowly. "I mean, she's always just... there. You know, wherever she's needed..." Gorix nodded.
"Maybe that's the answer," Cylara said hesitantly. "The Space Faerie has always been around to protect Neopia from galactic danger."
Gorix shrugged. "It's worth a shot. Besides, even if we get it wrong, Yurbot will only try to summon the Space Faerie again. And what are the chances both signals will get interrupted?" Xavas looked away sheepishly, but Gorix placed a reassuring hand on his friend's shoulder.
"It wasn't your fault. You had to make Gormos believe you were truly loyal to him. And now that you're here, we have made plenty of progress on finding the Key." Xavas nodded.
"So what should I type in?"
Gorix and Cylara both paused to think for a moment. The Space Faerie would not have an outright answer, even for a question like this. No, it would be something cryptic that still managed to get the point across. But what could the answer be?
Suddenly, it came to Cylara. As they had said, the Space Faerie had always been around to protect Neopia. She could be anywhere at any time, but when she did not want to be found, she could also be nowhere. That made the answer obvious to Cylara. "Everywhere and nowhere," she stated matter-of-factly. Xavas looked at her.
"You're sure?" he asked. Cylara nodded. "All right." He typed in the answer on the screen. "Let's hope this works..."
Correct answer detected. Running correctanswer3.exe.
correctanswer3.exe redirects to authorisation.aud. Running authorisation.aud.
Gorix, Cylara, and Xavas waited with bated breath as the screen remained blank. They all jumped when a pinging sound came from Yurbot, followed by the Space Faerie's voice.
"You have made it through the three-tiered hint system and are now at the authorisation code. Enter this code into Yurbot's computer and he will give you the Key. Listen carefully for this message will play once and only once. The authorisation code is 164683294124K.E.Y.15679416871."
Gorix had grabbed pulled a pen out of his pocket and scribbled the numbers down on the back of his hand as the Space Faerie recited them.
"I've got it," he said. "Type this in Xavas." He repeated the massive code to his Grundo companion, who typed it into the computer. They all took turns double-checking it before hitting enter.
Correct authorisation code entered.
Yurbot's body shuddered and the cranial unit popped open to reveal a shiny gold key. Cylara tentatively took it. "What do we do with it?"
Yurbot -- or rather the Space Faerie -- answered her question: "Take this key to the Kreludan Mining Corporation. It will allow you to enter."
They glanced down at the key. "No," Gorix said finally. "If the Space Faerie is trying to keep the Kreludan Mining Corp. locked up, there must be something dangerous inside. It would be best not to mention it, at the very least not until we have proper confirmation from the Commander." The other two nodded.
"If the Space Faerie was willing to trust the lock system enough to have only one key, then it must be a very good lock. If we just keep the Key safe, not even Gormos will be able to get inside," Cylara pointed out.
"Let's guard the Key to the best of our ability until we need to use it," Gorix finished.
"And for now, let's just go home," Cylara said, "so we can get you something to eat, Gorix. You said you were hungry before -- you must be famished by now." The three laughed and Xavas took the controls, flying the ship away from Gormos's flagship, and Gormos himself.
At the Resistance Headquarters, Cylara sat on the ground, a piece of old sheet gold before her. She had a sharp scrap of metal in her paws, and she was etching words onto the sheet of gold.
"What are you doing?" Gorix had come up to her and was watching over her shoulder.
"I'm making a memorial for Yurbot," she explained. "He gave his life to protect the Key. We owe him this, at least." Gorix remained silent. When Cylara said nothing else, he walked away, leaving her in peace.
When she had finished, the Cybunny held the gold up and examined the words: We must thank Sloth Industries Maintenance Unit YRB-X1, otherwise known as Yurbot, for his sacrifice for the good of the world. He gave his sentient life to protect the Key and the Space Faerie from those who wished to harm Neopia. Yurbot was a faithful and determined friend to the very end. Pleased with herself, Cylara took the plaque and went to go hang it in the meeting room for everyone in the Resistance to see.
Starting bootup sequence...
Bootup sequence complete. Sloth Industries Maintenance Unit YRB-X1 is now online.
Searching for last command.
Last command found: Order 24654/24654 located.
Contents of Order 24654/24654: Send sentient programming to Recycle Bin.
Contents of Recycle Bin: sentient programming.
Restoring sentient programming.
Sentient programming restored.
Sub-circuit H.E.A.R.T. re-activated. Electric pulse = 15. Yurbot is feeling Happy.
Date: May 29th
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