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Week 466
You are on Week 467
Week 468

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 Sixty Seven Ends Friday, July 16th

Just one... more... step... Denyz told himself as he willed his paw forward. He'd been repeating that phrase in his head for hours now, it seemed, and he knew that soon his feet would stop cooperating. The sand, heated by the vicious noon-day sun, seared the bottom of his paws with every step, but standing still would've been even more disastrous.

The Lupe squinted into the distance; all he could see was wind-rippled golden sand for miles, from horizon to shimmering horizon. The sky was white as a bleached sheet at its edges where it met the sand, but higher up, it was nearly bronze, seeming baked by the sun's heat.

Denyz's tongue lolled out of his mouth as he panted, desperately trying to cool himself. He wasn't sure exactly where he was -- he assumed it was the Lost Desert, but he hadn't thought even the Lost Desert was this, well, lost -- but he knew that if he didn't find water and shelter soon, he'd end up like the pile of bleached bones he'd passed a few hours before.

How did this even happen? One second, I was in Dr. Kaja's lab, and the next, I'm in the middle of a desert somewhere. It must be Neopia, but where are the great pyramids? The gleaming domes of Sakhmet? There's nothing out here.

The heat pressed down on him like a weight, and Denyz sank to his knees. Just a little rest, he thought, barely noticing the hot sand burning his skin through his fur, and then I'll go on.

As his eyes drifted shut, Denyz saw a figure, dressed all in brown, sliding down a sand dune toward him...

Editor's Note: This week's Storytelling beginning was written from an idea submitted by marveling123. Keep sending in your ideas for Storytelling beginnings, and they might just appear in an upcoming contest!

Author: Hot enough for you?
Date: Jul 6th
"I've found him," the figure said, seemingly to nobody. "I'll bring him in." Denyz passed out.

The next hours flew by in a blur. Denyz drifted in and out of consciousness. At times he heard snippets of conversations or saw images, but he could not tell if they were real or illusory. Still too weak to move or speak, he just let the sights and sounds wash over him.

***

"--go in and get him."

"But you don't know why it happened?"

"Well, I have a few ideas, but no, I don't know."

"I told you it needed more testing."

"Look, now's not the time for this argument. Go and take care of Denyz. I'll fix it myself. Wait -- before you go, could you pass me that soldering iron?"

"This one?"

"No, the smaller one, I need it to adjust--"

***

"--water."

"Well, give him more."

"You stick to your area of expertise, and I'll stick to mine."

"Fine, fine. But is intravenous delivery--"

"Yes. Now go back to the machine. Maybe this time you'll manage to get it right."

"I don't like that tone, Timothy."

"And I don't like the fact that you sent my friend into an untested simulation. If I hadn't gone in after him--"

"How was I supposed to know that the tiling algorithm was flawed?"

"Maybe if you had tested it another--"

***

A bare metal room, an uncomfortable bed. Something poking him in the arm. Lit computer screens, blinking lights. Dim, hazy, blurry. Smell of smoke and ammonia. A figure to the left, coming into focus. Green Gelert in a long brown lab coat frowning at a machine. Another figure behind him: harder to make out, kneeling, white lab coat. Working with another machine. Clock ticking, soft beeps, machinery whirring. Clearer sight now. Posters on the walls with detailed pictures of scenery: Meridellian forests, Tyrannian plateaus, Lost Desert dunes. Mathematical scribbles and diagrams over top of them. Sound from the Gelert: "I think he's coming to. Come over here, Kaja." Pet in white moves. Vision blurring again. "Stay with us, Denyz." Sign above the pictures: "Dr. Kaja's Virtual Reality Corp." Smaller text underneath: "We make your dreams a reality. Coming soon." Can't see any more. Gelert says something else; can't hear any more. Can't think any more. Blackness.

***

"--isn't going to be safe until then."

"But it has to be ready in six days."

"If it's not completely safe, we can't risk innocent pets--"

"No, Timothy, what we can't risk is losing our funding. If we can't show satisfactory results to the investors in six days, all the Neopoints get pulled."

"So you'd risk another incident like this just to keep the project afloat?"

"Yes. I would."

"Denyz is--"

"--alive. He's alive, he'll recover. It was a glitch, nothing more. The fundamentals of the program are just as strong as they've always been, you know that. You've been in dozens of simulations that have gone just fine."

"All right, one near-fatal 'glitch' in about 50 trials. You think the investors will like that? 'Well, it usually works, but there's a two percent chance you'll get trapped and die of dehydration.'"

"I'm warning you--"

"It's not right!"

"Enough! No more arguing! This mistake is as much your fault as it is mine. You asked to work with me; you wrote the software along with me; you stuck the electrodes to that Lupe's head and told him it would be fine. You pressed the button; you started the simulation. So I will not have you blaming me for the results. I could kick you off this project right now, do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. So stop whining and start fixing. We'll find the mistake, we'll correct it, and we'll have the simulator ready in six days."

"Yes, sir."

***

"--think your Lupe friend is opening his eyes."

Denyz blinked groggily and tried to speak, but his dry tongue stuck in his mouth. He could see nothing but a blinding white light.

"Denyz? Can you hear me?"

Denyz nodded. "Wa..." he managed to croak.

"Right. I'll get some."

Moments later, Denyz felt a cold metal cup against his lips. He lapped greedily at the water inside, spilling most of it on his fur in his frantic effort to quench his thirst. As he drank, his vision returned. He saw the anxious face of a green Gelert hovering over him. Memories began drifting back.

"Timothy?" he asked uncertainly. The Gelert nodded happily.

"Yes, Denyz. It's me. You're going to be all right now."

"What happened?"

A look of guilt flickered across the Gelert's face. "Well..."

Author: rosabellk
Date: Jul 6th
"...all right, let's take this slowly. First of all -- I'm sorry, Denyz, I lied to you. That wasn't a mood analysis device like I told you when you got in the chair..."

"I figured as much," the Lupe commented drily, and his friend found himself both relieved and exasperated that Denyz's sarcasm had returned.

"That machine is something big," Timothy continued. "Something big that we're working on, and we've been at it for seven months. It's a simulator -- the one we pulled you out from -- and the one we thought we'd finally perfected -- was NeoSimulator v17."

Denyz nodded. "Okay. But you haven't told me why this is even being built."

"I'm getting to that," the Gelert reassured. "Dr. Kaja received a commission back in winter to build the simulator. His instructions were very precise, if somewhat odd, and the employers wanted to make a business out of this. Taking pets wherever they wanted to go -- in their minds -- without even having to leave the chair. Someone afraid of heights, for example, may be able to overcome their fear in a controlled and simulated environment."

"I take it that being strained to the point of passing out in the bare desert wasn't part of the plan, though," Denyz mused.

"No, it wasn't. A glitch in the system... and now we have six days to fix it, or else we lose the funding and all that work will have been for nothing. Thing is, it was completely fine up until now."

Timothy ran a paw distractedly across his face.

"A glitch... or an interference?" suggested Denyz. "It's odd that the machine would suddenly act up for the first time just a week before your deadline..."

"It's odd, but it happens... this being a new concept and all that." The Gelert paused. "Denyz, are you sure you're all right now? Maybe you should rest a bit more..."

His friend shook his head hastily. "No, no, I'm fine. I want to see what's going on with all this! Oh, but first, can you pass me another cup of that water?"

***

Dr. Kaja strode through the main hallway of the laboratory, wiping one paw on his white lab coat as he went. His other held the blueprints to the new simulator, v17 -- blueprints that other scientists from all over Neopia would do anything to get their hands on.

It was true that Timothy had helped tremendously with the development of the machine, proving himself almost more an equal than assistant, but what the young Gelert didn't know was that v17 was not an improvement at all, but an experimental sabotage.

Kaja hadn't intended to work behind their backs, but he had realised it was necessary to maintain his position in the corporation. If he did everything they asked, and it all went smoothly, what was to keep them from displacing him as soon as the simulation business was well on its way?

No, he needed his trump card, and NeoSimulator v17 was vital to this.

The Eyrie turned a corner and went through the door of his office, noting the in-tray as he did so. Another letter from his employer... and to think he didn't even know the pet's name.

One thing was for sure, and he had figured this out long before experimenting on v17. This employer, whoever he was, had more than one purpose in mind, just like Kaja himself. Simulation was not only a business with potential, but an opportunity... an opportunity to look for something.

Kaja lifted the letter warily from the tray and found himself staring in disbelief at the words...

Author: _razcalz_
Date: Jul 7th
Destroy it.

Nothing more, nothing less. Just two words scrawled hastily on an off-white sheet of paper. No signature -- there never was -- but the cursive and the stationery were familiar, and the seal pasted in the upper-hand right corner removed all doubt...

Destroy it.

There was no question as to what "it" was. The machine. What else would it be? That was all his mysterious employer ever wrote about -- the simulator. The use of vague pronouns had been used before; it was a highly secretive project, after all. But still...

Destroy it.

Why? Had his employer already heard about the accident? No, that was impossible. He had forbidden Timothy to tell anyone about the glitch. Unless... the feathers at the back of his neck prickled... unless he was being watched.

But, no, that couldn't be it. There was no way anyone could possibly know about the sabotage. Kaja shook his head, as if to elaborate the point. No way.

And he knew his employer. Well, not much, but he knew this: the employer's ambitions reached far, wide. He would not give up just yet. Whatever he was looking for -- for Kaja was certain this was the motivation behind the pet's shadowy actions -- it could only be obtained with the help of the machine. And if this message told him to destroy it, it could only mean one thing.

No, two things.

Either his employer has changed his mind, gotten cold feet, decided that whatever it was he was searching for was not worth it, was too dangerous, etc. etc., what have you.

Or...

Or he had finally found what he was looking for...

Author: reveirie
Date: Jul 7th
Dr. Kaja shook his head, trying to rid himself of the absurd thought. There was no way he could have found it, not now. Not when they were so close.

But what if he had? That would not only spell the end for their funding, but the destruction of the lab altogether. Every invention he'd worked so hard on would be gone, no more than memories. And perhaps not even that.

The Eyrie shook his head once more. No, the employer couldn't have found it. It was something else. It had to be.

***

"And this is it," Timothy declared, gesturing to a chair with wires coming out from every crack in its surface. A helmet was suspended above the chair, large and bulky. There were several more like it going down a line in the room, each more primitive as the line went on.

"This thing is what you put me in?" Denyz asked, tentatively picking up a wire with a suction cup attached.

Timothy grinned at his friend's hesitation, as if the chair were a large beast rather than a metal seat. "Yes. This is the NeoSimulator v17. Well, 17.1, actually. I've made a few small changes to it, so hopefully what happened to you doesn't happen again."

Denyz put the wire down. "I feel really bad for the Neopet who has to try it out next time," he said with a smile.

Timothy's face shifted to nervousness once more. He looked to the floor, avoiding Denyz's gaze. "Um, I'm afraid the next one to go in will have to be you." The Gelert looked at Denyz apologetically.

"Are you kidding? I'm never going back in that thing!" Denyz cried as he took a big step away from it.

"You have to! I have no other choice. I can't go in because I have to manage it, so it has to be you," Timothy explained. "We'll send you someplace nicer this time, though. The Brightvale countryside. It should be pretty calm there. Nothing will happen like last time. Those few changes I've made will prevent that."

Denyz sighed and looked at Timothy with a wry smile. "Do I really have a choice?"

"Nope," Timothy answered, grinning. "Let's get you hooked up. Just sit down."

Denyz sat down obediently as Timothy situated the wires expertly on and around him. It wasn't long before the only thing left to apply was the helmet.

"Now, before I put the helmet on, there are some things to explain," Timothy began. "This will all be happening in your mind. Not to your actual body. So it may feel like you're feeling a cold breeze through your fur, but you're actually not. It's all an illusion. Try to remember that. And if you need to get out, say 'Abort mission.' That should shut down the down the system and get you out of the simulation. You got all that?" Denyz nodded. "Good, then I'll put this helmet on and go to the control panel to begin the simulation."

Timothy put the helmet on, and Denyz immediately was looking through a shroud of blackness as the visor on the helmet fell over his eyes. Through the darkness he could see Timothy walking away from him. Soon he could hear the Gelert's voice, announcing, "Simulation beginning in 3, 2, 1..."

Author: newmoon653
Date: Jul 8th
***

Denyz kept his eyes shut, amazed at how real it felt. A chilling wind, sweeping along his skin. Drops of water, splashing on his head. A Spyder on his leg--

Wait, what? Denyz opened his eyes in alarm, looking around him. A large Petpet crawled up his fur, slowly approaching his head.

"Get off me!" Denyz disliked Spyders. He brushed his nemesis to the floor, stepping back from its glowing red eyes. Then, he took note of his surroundings.

Suddenly the Spyder wasn't such a big problem.

Instead of a green countryside, he was looking at a rocky cave wall. Instead of a shining sun in the sky, there was only condensation on the stalactites. Instead of Brightvale, he was in a random cave. Was Timothy playing a joke?

No, the Gelert had never been one for pranks. And he'd never take it as far as this. This was frighteningly unplanned.

"Another glitch in the system," Denyz whispered to himself. But so far, it hadn't been too dangerous. The Lupe debated whether to keep exploring. He decided to continue.

Where was the harm in walking through a cavern? Denyz stepped around the Spyder, continuing deeper into the cave. After walking for a few minutes, however, he decided it wasn't a cave. Light still filtered in from somewhere in the distance.

Denyz was standing in the middle of a tunnel.

***

Timothy observed the screen dutifully. After what happened on the first trial, he knew these simulations were dangerous. But he had programmed a safeguard, a way out. Denyz would be fine.

"Get off me," murmured the Lupe. Timothy looked over at the Neopet warily. Who was he talking to?

The inventor decided it was unimportant. Denyz knew how to nullify the simulation. Unless he started screaming "Abort mission," there wasn't a problem.

But Denyz wasn't done talking yet...

Author: be2aware
Date: Jul 8th
"What's going on?"came Dr. Kaja's voice, interrupting Timothy's thoughts, as the Eyrie looked stricken at seeing Denyz sitting in the simulator chair.

"I made a few well-adjusted tweaks to the NeoSimulator 17.1," Timothy said proudly, "so we decided to have another test trial."

"Impossible..." Dr. Kaja hissed, raising a wing apprehensively to his forehead.

Timothy fidgeted nervously. "Don't worry, Doc. Everything seems to be working in tip-top shape. I sent Denyz to Brightva--"

"You can't have," Kaja snapped. He moved swiftly to the computer monitors and began tapping the keys hastily.

Dr. Kaja knew instantly that the Lupe was not in Brightvale at all. The only question was where he might have been glitched to this time. He watched numbers ascend on the screen, noticing some were a bit off as if someone else had tampered with his calculations.

"Sir, you should have a bit more faith in our invention," Timothy tried to joke.

"I do have faith, Timothy," Kaja muttered, "just not when an important computer chip needed for correct placement of coordinates is missing from the machine!"

The Gelert assistant tilted his head, confused. "But sir, how do you know that?"

"Because I'm the one who took it!" Kaja screamed, as he rounded on Timothy, raising his wings above his head. His eyes were bulging, and the Eyrie looked absolutely mad at this point. Timothy stumbled backward, taken aback.

"Wait, I'm not who you think I am!"

Dr. Kaja and Timothy both jumped at hearing the sound of Denyz's voice from the simulation chair. They seemed to have forgotten he was even there. Jaws parted, they both listened to what Denyz had to say next...

***

As Denyz walked, the cave floor slowly started to descend, and he could hear the slow trickle of water dripping placidly around the walls, but there was another sound, which seemed oddly out of place in the serene darkness of the cave.

It sounded like someone was hitting the walls of a cave with some sort of metal object. He could hear their effortful grunts as the weapon hit gravel. Then silence...

With his curiosity piqued and the abort words still on the tip of his tongue, he slowly entered a small alcove, peeking around the cornered wall.

Then a firm hand grabbed his arm. "I was wondering when you'd find me."

"Wait, I'm not who you think I am..."

Author: xx_neomania
Date: Jul 9th
Denyz struggled until the hand released him. The Lupe realised that he had climbed into a whole new cavern. More importantly, however, was that there was a Cybunny standing only a small distance in front of him.

"No, Denyz, you are exactly who I think you are," declared the Cybunny firmly. "You live in Neopia Central with your best friend, Timothy. Timothy recently asked you to try out his new invention that he made with Dr. Kaja, and that is how you ended up here."

"How... how do you know all that?" asked the perplexed Lupe.

"That's not important right now," said the Cybunny. "We need to get out of here before your friend shuts down the simulation again."

She pulled out a small remote and pressed a green button on it. Suddenly Denyz was no longer in a cave, and the blackness of the helmet returned. His first thought was that he had returned to the laboratory, but he realised that that was not the case when his helmet was removed.

He found himself hooked up to a similar machine, but the laboratory he was in now looked very different. The Cybunny was still in front of him.

"What happened?" gasped Denyz. "How did we get here?"

"It's actually quite simple," began the Cybunny.

Denyz sighed; whenever Timothy said that it was usually followed by a scientific explanation that he could never understand.

"The simulator is really no more than a transportation device," the Cybunny explained. "Dr. Kaja and your friend were using it to transport your conciousness into memories of real places. However, I have perfected my machine to be able to bring matter from one point to another; all I need is a thread from your consciousness."

Denyz nodded even though he had no idea what had happened. However, he did have a question for the Cybunny.

"How can you have a simulator? Timothy said that it was top secret," he posed.

"Yes, it is quite the secret from the public, but I'm a different case. I'm the one who ordered those two to build the machine," the Cybunny elaborated.

Before Denyz could ask why, she answered, "I had one goal, one target in mind...you..."

Author: a_greenparrot
Date: Jul 12th
"Me? What... do you mean?"

"You have the exact consciousness I need for this machine to work," the Cybunny explained. "After months of research I pinpointed you. And just my luck, your good friend Timothy happened to be a scientist in need of some money."

Denyz paused. "That's why you asked Timothy to work on the machine? Because of me?"

"I could have had Neopia's top scientists work on the simulator. Quite honestly, Dr. Kaja and Timothy aren't exactly the most... qualified," she chuckled, twirling the remote in her hand. "I only contacted them because Timothy was linked to you, and you were the exact one I needed."

"Who are you, anyway?" Denyz asked bitterly. "You seem a little insane. No offence."

"I'll take that as a compliment. You can call me Reya, though that's not the least of your worries."

She pressed a red button on her dandy remote, and the machine whirred before shutting down. The wires that glowed before with electricity dimmed, just as Denyz's vision did before he met darkness.

***

SUBJECT DISARMED.

Dr. Kaja gawked at the console of the simulator, which blared the words in bright red letters. "Timothy, what's happened?"

"I don't understand! It's almost like he's in two places at once, because his body is here, but his mind is no longer in the simulator," Timothy said breathlessly as he read the reports that scrolled on the screen.

"How..." Dr. Kaja noted Denyz's Lupe body, breathing in a steady pattern, still hooked up in the simulator chair. "He's in a dangerous state."

"I should contact Reya..."

"No! No, you can't! If you tell her, she'll never approve of the simulator," Dr. Kaja spat.

"Kaja, this is my friend we're talking about!" Timothy banged his fists on the keyboard, baring his fangs as he faced his partner. "It's no longer about the money. It's about saving my friend's life! Now what are we to do?"

Dr. Kaja said nothing.

"You lazy Spardel..." Timothy seethed. "I knew you were the wrong Neopet to work with!"

"If that's the way you're going to think, then fine," Dr. Kaja began to shut down the computer.

"Stop! What are you doing? He's going to be lost in the system forever!"

"I have more important things to think about than this Lupe!" Dr. Kaja roared.

Timothy lunged at the Eyrie, but was too late. All he could do was watch helplessly as Dr. Kaja unhooked the helmet from Denyz...

Author: crazy_4_sushi
Date: Jul 12th
The beeping alarms. The chaos of it all. Red alarms flashed all around them. Denyz was not there anymore, but yet his body was still in attendance on the now shut-down simulator.

"You fool! He's gone now! It could take years just to find where his mind and spirit are," Timothy wheezed, beginning to feel light-headed.

"You don't understand! Reya would have found out! She could have cancelled the fundings! All of our hard work for nothing," Kaja said greedily.

"Only one good thing came out of this," spat Timothy.

"And what's that?" snapped Kaja.

"I quit," Timothy said, yanking the chip from Kaja's hand and snapping it in half. Fury swelled inside Kaja's face, and he darted after the now sprinting Gelert.

"You ruined everything! The simulator won't sell now!" screeched Kaja in a high-pitched voice.

"Good! That's the least you deserve! I'm going to save my friend."

***

He glided gracefully along in the air, breathing in fresh fruity scents. He glanced downward and saw the beautiful gardens of Meridell.

After craving some seafood, the Lupe soon found himself by Maraqua. Crystal-clear water glistened above him, crashing along small islands with white sands.

Denyz realised he didn't have a form. He was nothingness, but everything. He could reach Kreludor in seconds, or plunge to Maraqua in an instant.

Paradise comes with glitches, though...

Author: chax1414
Date: Jul 13th
Denyz couldn't shake this terrible feeling something was missing. Obviously his body, yes, but something else. He searched for an answer.

It wasn't the lack of Neopets, though he was lonely. He certainly wished he could feel the water, but it wasn't that either. And he could think clearly enough, so his consciousness remained. "What do I lack?"

"A connection?" filled in a familiar voice.

"Reya!" he exclaimed in delight, glad someone was there. But that shout changed to a growl when he remembered she was the one who had put him here.

"No, I'm not who you think I am."

Well, that sounded familiar.

"Yes, you are." Denyz glanced around for the speaker, but couldn't see her. When he had all but given up hope, a Cybunny materialised.

"It is you," he accused the Neopet. But she shook her head.

"No, I am Reya's twin sister, Ali. Many years ago, when she built her crude machine, I used it. She had warned me not to, that it was unfinished. But how could I be stopped? Curiosity has no limits. Needless to say, it malfunctioned."

Comprehension came to Denyz. "And now you're stuck here, with no body."

"Exactly. Reya has found a way to partially enter this state of being, but she can't come here herself. Nor can she bring us out of it, yet."

Denyz lost hope in that moment. "We're trapped here." Then he remembered the Cybunny's answer to his search. "No connection?"

Reya's twin smiled sadly. "No wires. Free to roam Neopia, but never to reconnect to our bodies."

Denyz tried to be optimistic. "I always wanted to see Neopia." Ali smiled.

"There's a catch. A glitch, if you will."

Denyz refused to ask, so Ali continued.

"As time passes, your body will fade. Soon it will become as lost as we are. And with no body to reconnect to, there will be no solution. This will become permanent..."

Author: be2aware
Date: Jul 13th
"And you know this because?" Denyz asked, even though he already knew the tragic answer.

Ali mouth curved into a bittersweet smile. "Because my body has faded," she answered. "But there is hope for you. You can get your body back."

Denyz frowned in confusion. "How? You said yourself that there is no way to connect back to our bodies."

"Yes," Ali confirmed slowly. "There is no way to connect back to your body."

Denyz realised what Ali was trying to say. "You mean that you have to take someone else's body?"

"Not just any body. A body without consciousness. Two bodies' thoughts within one body -- I cannot even imagine the consequences. And the body's owner must give free consent. You cannot take one's body without permission," she explained.

"But there are some problems. One, I have no body to go into. And two, how can I get my own body when I'd be stuck in someone else's?" Denyz pointed out.

"To fix the second problem, you would be able to make a trade off. Once you enter the body, the body becomes yours. Thus, you can give free consent for the original to take it back, and the original can do the same for you."

"Okay," Denyz accepted, nodding. "But what about the first problem? I have no body to go into."

Ali smiled, a gleam in her eye. "Don't worry. I know just where you could go..."

Author: newmoon653
Date: Jul 14th
"...my body. We switch bodies, come out of the simulation, then go back in and switch again. Once we're back out, we wake up in our own bodies, as good as new."

Denyz did not trust the Cybunny in front of him at all. How does she know so much? he asked himself. He voiced his concerns aloud.

"How did you learn about these rules? You know, about consent and switching to other bodies and all that? I thought that you were trapped in here, unable to contact the outside world."

Ali froze for a moment, but quickly regained her composure. "I can't return to the real world, but my sister can make minor alterations in the coding of this simulation to pass along information to me. As she learns more about the rules of this place, she lets me know by beaming information directly into my head. That's how I know that you can only return inside another's body."

Denyz was now even more sceptical and put forward another question. "And why did Reya put me into this simulation without my permission?"

"She didn't tell you?" asked Ali, raising her eyebrows in surprise. "Well, I guess I can't blame her. I doubt anybody would come here willingly. She brought you here in order to get me out. Once I'm out, I can have my old life back, and she's free to shut down this simulation to tinker with it. She should have explained this to you; I'm sorry she didn't. I guess her concern about me made her act rashly."

Denyz's curiosity was still aflame. "So where's my body now? In Kaja's lab, or in Reya's?"

"Both," replied Ali. "It's complicated, but once your consciousness returns to one of the bodies, the other will disappear. I don't know the details, but that's the way it is."

"Then why can't you go into that body, then let me back into it?"

"Because that's not the way it works!" snapped Ali with a scowl. She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples, then said, more calmly, "Here's what needs to happen. Reya has kept my body hooked up to this machine. I can't return to it, but I'm guessing that you can. I think that having a new consciousness in it may un-fade it. 'Jump-start' it, if you will. While you're doing that, I'll slide into your body. The version of it in Reya's lab. Then, once that's done, we'll trade back. I'll be in my body, you'll be in yours, and we'll both be free. Then Reya can work on this simulation, fix it, and make it safe for future users."

"Future... users?"

"Simulations of Brightvale or the Lost Desert are all well and good, but isn't this," she gestured around her, "better? No physical limitations, all of Neopia available for you to roam? Who wouldn't want to pay to experience that?"

"So this is all about money," Denyz sighed, his thoughts flashing to Kaja.

"No, not entirely. Reya describes it as a service to Neopia. Imagine: you get into a chair in one location, spend a few wonderful minutes in this virtual world, and then wake up in another chair halfway around Neopia. There are so many potential uses. But a small fee would be required, of course."

Denyz shook his head. "Fine. I really don't care about the details, I just want my body back. How do we do this switch?"

Ali grinned. Perfect, she thought to herself. I'm so close now. Once I get into his body and trap him in mine, I'll be able to take advantage of his unique brain-waves and finally complete my plan. He's so eager to return to the physical plane that he's lapping up everything I tell him. He has no idea that I'm actually Reya. He fell for the "twin sister" story hook, line, and sinker. And, of course, he also has no idea that my plan is far more complex that a silly transporter or virtual-reality simulator. Once I get into his body, I can unleash my true power.

"Come on," she said aloud. "Follow me and I'll show you exactly what you need to do..."

***

Kaja buried his head in his hands. How did this happen? he thought. It all got out of hand so quickly. And now Timothy is gone, stormed out on some stupid mission to find his friend. I don't know where he's going, or how he thinks it'll help. And Denyz's consciousness is Fyora-knows-where. I was too greedy to realise what harm I was doing. I never should have trusted that Cybunny; this whole project was fishy from the start.

The Eyrie moved to the prone Lupe in the metal chair and gently touched his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Denyz," he whispered. "I wish I could bring you back."

Suddenly, an idea struck him. His head snapped up, and he looked intently at the broken chip Timothy had left behind. "Maybe I can bring you back, Denyz. It's a long shot, but it's worth a try." Kaja snatched up the two halves of the microchip, grabbed his soldering iron, and went to work...

Author: rosabellk
Date: Jul 14th
***

"Are you ready?" asked the Cybunny. She and Denyz were hovering in Reya's lab, looking down on their still bodies below.

"Yes," said Denyz, remembering all of Ali's instructions. "You're sure this will work?"

"Yes," said Ali confidently. "My sister is never wrong about these things."

"All right," said Denyz. "Let's do this."

Ali grinned, knowing that her plan was working. She extended her hand, and the Lupe's paw met hers, gripping it tightly. Hands clenched, they faced each other.

"On three, we recite the chant in unison," said Ali.

"Okay," Denyz agreed.

"One..."

She tightened her grip on the Lupe's paw.

"Two..."

Staring deep into the Cybunny's eyes, Denyz knew that something was not right, and he knew what he had to do.

"Three!"

***

Timothy raced through the building until he reached his destination. Throwing open the door, he raced into the smaller laboratory.

The previous version of the simulator, NeoSimulator v16, was still hooked up; its neon lights glowed in the darkness. Timothy flipped on the lights, and saw to his relief that the simulator was just as he had left it.

Their previous test of v16 had been successful. Before, Timothy hadn't understood why Kaja had insisted on building another machine when v16 was operational, but Timothy knew now that Dr. Kaja had proceeded to construct v17 only to sabotage their employer. Knowing that v17 wouldn't work properly, Kaja had left v16 hooked up and operational in the smaller laboratory.

Timothy began to connect the wires to his own body. Pressing buttons on the machine, he prepared the simulation. He only wished that there had been more test runs of v16, but it was too late for that now.

"I'm coming for you, Denyz," he whispered.

He placed the helmet on his head, and felt the visor fall into place. Timothy pushed the final button.

***

Dr. Kaja grinned, holding the repaired chip in his hands. It had worked.

Carefully, Kaja placed the chip in the simulator. A green light flashed, signaling that the chip had been accepted. Kaja turned the machine on once more, and watched it whir to life.

Stepping towards the Lupe, Kaja picked up the helmet and fit it onto the Lupe's head. The machine lit up, and Kaja watched breathlessly to see what would happen...

Author: alex313
Date: Jul 15th
***
"Why aren't you reciting the chant?" demanded Ali testily. "I'm telling you, it's the only way that we can return."

"I-I don't trust you," admitted Denyz nervously. "If I'm going to get out of here, I'm going to have to find my own way."

The Cybunny's face darkened into a menacing stare.

"Listen, you," she hissed, "I have worked long and hard. You are not going to ruin everything that I laboured on day after day to perfect. Now, recite the chant!"

Before Denyz could react, he felt the now familiar feeling of everything around him fading, then coming into focus as his body became material again.

***

"Denyz, Denyz, are you alright," asked Dr. Kaja eagerly.

"Dr. Kaja?" mumbled the Lupe.

"I'm a genius; I did it!" cheered the Eyrie.

"What did you do?" snapped the Lupe, although now his voice was female and icy.

"R-Reya," gasped Dr. Kaja.

"What's going on?" cried the panicked voice of Denyz.

"It seems that both our consciousnesses have been returned to your body," mused the Cybunny's voice. "But this is a very complicated matter; it's almost impossible for two minds to exist within one body. Dr. Kaja, what did you do, exactly?"

"Hold it," ordered the Eyrie. "I am entitled to an explanation here; one minute this Lupe is sent into the simulator; and he comes back with two personalities...one of which is my employer."

"There's no time to explain," snapped the Cybunny. "We need to find out what happened here so that we can fix the damages."

"Very well," conceded the Eyrie. "I had installed a failsafe into the simulator. I caused the simulator to purge all consciousnesses from it and to be returned to the host."

"But because of the thread that I had forged with this Lupe, we both were pulled into it," concluded Reya.

"Whoa, whoa, slow down, you're making my head hurt," moaned Denyz.

And he had a right to be confused. He had to put up with Ali's suspicious instructions, only to be returned to the laboratory and learning that not only was Ali Reya, but now she was inside his body. It was all one puzzling mess.

***

Timothy looked around at his new surroundings. He'd arrived exactly at where he had wanted to be, Reya's laboratory. He glanced around. He saw Reya's dormant body; was she asleep...no, it was deeper than that. There was no sign of Denyz.

"Alright, it's time to end this," the Gelert declared...

Author: a_greenparrot
Date: Jul 15th
Timothy found himself drawn toward Reya's dormant body. The Cybunny was still hooked up to an early NeoSimulator, by examining it Timothy concluded that it was most similar to the v15 Kaja and himself had developed. However, while the general structure of the machine most resembled that model, the buttons on the side were closer to those of the v17, while the helmet itself was closer to a much earlier model, v5 or 6 at the most. Timothy had been aware that Reya had been observing the NeoSimulator's development closely, but he hadn't been aware of how closely. It was as if Reya had taken the best elements of each model, and merged them into one super machine.

A soft, almost silent, whirring sound was the only indication that this NeoSimulator was activated, other than a flashing green 'on' light above the main control panel on the back. The models Kaja and he had developed had all been extremely loud when turned on, a combination of irritating buzzing, clanking, and whirring. Picking up a discarded screwdriver from a nearby metal table, Timothy leant over to examine the reason Reya's simulator was so quiet and efficient.

"A chip..." Timothy mused to himself, pulling a green chip from near the base of the simulator.

The whirring stopped completely. The Gelert carefully placed the computer chip in his paw, turning it over. There, written in golden square lettering, was a single word: Destructor3600. Timothy gasped, falling backward. He knew exactly what that meant.

It was then the helmet was lifted on his own v16 NeoSimulator, and the screwdriver clattered loudly to the floor of the lab as Timothy was forced to return to his body...

***
"Hand over the chip, Kaja!" Reya screeched from within Denyz's body. "It's the only way I can save my project!"

"I can't do that," Kaja countered, jumping backward from the Lupe's reach. "I can't allow you to exploit Denyz for your own gain. I've done too much damage already."

Denyz's body, currently controlled by Reya, dashed forward, swiping at the Eyrie.

"I'm sorry, Kaja, her will is stronger than mine... her spirit is pushing me back..."

"It's all right Denyz, I understand," Kaja panted. "Somehow, I will save you."

"Why do you still need Kaja's chip, Reya?" Denyz's voice was weak, a mere whisper compared to the strong and overpowering one of Reya.

"That's none of your business," Reya sneered. "And besides, since my spirit is stronger, it won't be long until yours dies. Two souls in one body... it doesn't work that way, Denyz. Only one can survive."

Kaja trembled. This is all my fault... if only I hadn't sabotaged the simulation!

"It's almost over, Denyz!" Reya cried, showing her control by making their shared body throw a punch in Kaja's direction. "As soon as your soul is dead, and I can feel that already happening, your brain-waves will be mine... and then no-one will be able to stop me from taking control of the Space Station!"

"That's your aim?" Kaja breathed. "Taking over Virtupets?"

"Neopia's traditional villains are just so stupid. With all the technology at his beck and call, Dr. Sloth should have been able to take over Neopia six times over. He just doesn't know how to use it," Reya sneered. "But now that I've told you my plan, I'm going to have to take you out of the picture, along with Denyz..."

***
Timothy's vision slowly began to return. He could see the rough metal walls of the smaller lab, and the outline of the NeoSimulator v 16. However, there was something... no, someone strange leaned over the table in the corner.

"Who's there?" Timothy moaned, realising his arms were strapped to the simulator when he tried to get up. "What do you want with me?"

"Timothy," a voice replied, and the Gelert recognised it straight away. "We need your help..."

Author: sadinei
Date: Jul 16th
The helmet was removed from Timothy's head, and he saw before him his best friend.

"Denyz," he gasped.

"No, Ali," corrected a soft female voice. "We don't have a lot of time so I will try to make my explanation quick. I am Reya's twin sister; she trapped me in the simulation because I got in the way of her plan. She switched places with me and took my identity to fool your friend; my mind was sent to the nearest empty body, the duplicate of Denyz's that had arrived in Reya's lab. Reya's hope was that when she returned to the Lupe's body my existence would be surpressed, but thanks to Dr. Kaja, there were difficulties involved."

The Gelert tried hard to absorb everything that he was hearing, but there was so much new information to take in.

"What do we do?" he finally replied.

"Reya's plan is to use the simulator to infect the Space Station with her conciousness," explained Ali. "However, she needs Denyz; whether he knows it or not, he has a strong mind. It might even be able to overpower Reya. What I need you to do is enter the simulation again and convince Denyz to dominate over Reya's control and stop her."

Timothy was finding it hard to believe so much information; it seemed so unexpected to what he was used to, but as a scientist he was familiar with accepting other Neopets' ideas.

"I'll try," he answered.

The Lupe's head nodded, and then she returned the helmet to Timothy.

***
The Lupe dove at Dr. Kaja, who jumped to the side.

"Hold still!" snarled Reya.

She dove again, this time grasping the Eyrie's leg.

"You've been more trouble than I expected, doctor," she declared angrily.

In minutes she had him tied up and the chip in her paw. She began to organise the simulator to her wants. She returned the chip to its rightful place and then attached the device to herself.

"You don't know what you're doing," cried Kaja. "This isn't what the machine was designed for."

"I beg to differ," she cackled. "This is exactly what it was designed for."

Then with that she went motionless.

***

Denyz felt himself separate out of his body and back into the virtual world. Yet he was still somehow attached to Reya. He took a look at his surroundings and saw that he was floating right in front of the massive Space Station. He also realised that he no longer had any form; he was simply thought.

He felt himself getting closer to the Station reluctantly. He struggled to return to Neopia to no avail.

"Stop resisting," came the voice of Reya. "I am in control now. You will not ruin my plan this time. Now, recite the chant for real this time."

As much as Denyz tried to resist he couldn't help but mouth the odd chant that Reya had taught him.

"STOP!" came a powerful voice.

"Timothy?" gasped Denyz.

"Denyz, don't listen to her, you are stronger than you think," the voice continued.

Hearing his friend's voice gave Denyz extra strength. He tried to turn away from the Space Station and toward his friend.

"No, I command you to speak the chant," barked Reya.

Denyz ignored the Cybunny and continued trying to break free.

"You can do it," urged his friend.

Ater much struggling Denyz felt a burst, and all of a sudden he was soaring through the stars. It wasn't long, however, until everything started to crack apart and disappear.

"SYSTEM ERROR," echoed a robotic voice.

"Timothy!" cried Denyz panicked.

"I'm here," his friend reassured, and he could swear that he felt a paw clutch his hand.

Suddenly everything went black. Denyz felt his two bodies merge together and then his mind returned.

"You did it! You stopped Reya," Denyz heard Dr. Kaja cheer.

Once Denyz became unhooked from the machine he saw Timothy enter. The Gelert rushed over and hugged his friend.

"It would seem that Reya has become trapped in the simulator," concluded Dr. Kaja. "She used up all of her strength to forge a bond with Denyz; she can no longer return to this world."

"What about Ali?" gasped Timothy.

"So, there is an Ali?" questioned the very perplexed Denyz.

"Yes, I still exist in your body," came the soft voice of the Cybunny. "Sadly my own body no longer exists. I will no doubt have to disappear within you."

"Not necessarily," said Timothy. "I saw Reya's empty body in her lab. Since you were twins I'm sure you'll be used to her body."

"I'm sure a couple geniuses like us could fix you up in no time," declared Dr. Kaja. "It will be our next great feat of science!"

The End

Author: a_greenparrot
Date: Jul 16th



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