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||You are on Week 585
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 Five Hundred Eighty Five Ends Friday, December 14
|A familiar super-villain gazed at the whole of Neopia from outside his window. He sighed. He gazed again.
"Esterhazy," Dr. Sloth shouted to the most recent of his malevolent assistants.
"Yes, boss?" the young green Grundo inquired as he rushed up beside his master, ready and capable of whatever task would be presented.
The festive lights adorning the edges of the windowpane blinked casually and in an intriguing manner; however, Dr. Sloth made clear his apathy toward them. "We've entered the holiday season," he responded.
"Yes, we have," Esterhazy cheerily agreed. He was rather peppy for a Sloth employee -- everyone said so -- but somehow, Frank had placed him almost ahead of the other candidates because of the peculiar trait.
Really, he was just happy to be onboard the same ship as his idol.
"Is there any more information you desire, sir?"
"No," Dr. Sloth started. However, he then seemingly changed his mind. "Actually, Esterhazy, yes. How many times have we tried taking over Neopia in the last month?"
Esterhazy retrieved a small book of records from his pocket. "No times, sir."
Sloth seemed to sinker deeper into his depression. "The last six months?"
"Still no times." The Grundo shook his head.
"The last year?"
"Twice," Esterhazy responded, his overly-excited tone an odd contrast to Frank's desolation.
"How did the attacks go, Esterhazy?"
"According to this," the Grundo responded without so much as a flicker in his smile, "they both went terribly."
Silence fell over the room.
"I decorated your workstation a bit, sir," the Grundo breathed, breaking it. "Pretty lights, some holly, the odd miniature tree here and there..." He continued rambling on.
His musings were quickly interrupted. "Yeah," Sloth said, a hint of irritation in his tone. "I saw that."
The creature's demeanor then changed entirely. "I hate the holiday season," Frank practically raged.
For once, Esterhazy was shocked. "What? Surely, you don't mean that, sir?"
Dr. Sloth sighed again and gazed out the window once more. "Christmas marks the end of the year -- a year always unsuccessful in my ventures to take over Neopia."
Esterhazy stared solemnly toward the ground. His usual smile then returned to his face. "Well, sir, the year isn't quite over yet." He was now grinning mischievously.
"You honestly think I can plan a whole invasion in a few weeks?" Sloth asked.
"No," the Grundo said. "But maybe you don't have to. Have you ever heard of a place called the Advent Calendar?"
"I tried going there once -- I heard over the intergalactic bulletin board system that they were handing out tiny white Cybunny-like Petpets and I felt the need to have one -- but they rejected me and insisted that I leave the building. I've... never gone back." His face was harsh and unforgiving.
"Well, each day virtually the entire population of Neopia goes out and grabs their free prizes."
"So? It's a tiny knickknack that's worthless at best."
"I believe you're missing my point, sir," the Grundo responded with no trace of anger or resentment -- he continued remaining perfectly at ease.
"Make your point."
"If you could, say... hijack the main prize feed of the Advent Calendar and give everyone... a wearable 'Mind Control Hat' or something like that, you could potentially rule Neopia in a day."
Sloth rose from his slumped position. Gradually, a smile formed on his lips. "I believe... that I like your idea."
Esterhazy smiled out of self-satisfaction.
"Now, get to doing it!" the doctor roared in a more encouraging than angry tone. It was really a very odd motivational tactic.
"Yes, sir!" Esterhazy replied happily before dashing from Sloth's office...
Date: Dec 10th
...The Units had all done a wonderful job in bringing some Holiday Spirit to their workplace, Esterhazy thought approvingly as he dashed from one workstation to the next, happily shouting instructions at everyone.
"End of the Year Takeover!" he called to each of the management staffs. "Standard Mass Mind Control. I want to see all Units working extra hard and churning out product before the end of today."
Esterhazy was nothing if not incredibly well-versed in the impatience of Dr. Sloth -- he knew his boss would need to see something substantial soon or it would mean big trouble for them all.
"This project has been assigned Rank AA-01, and yes, that means it is Top Priority!" he continued. Then, having spotted a few confused looks, added, "This is not a drill, Grundos. I repeat: this is NOT a drill!"
Before long, Esterhazy could hear the happy buzzing, humming, grinding, and squeaking of a hundred machines being put to use, echoing across every Space Station hallway. He felt a little giddy with excitement.
There was only one last workstation left to visit: the Frank's Armed Invasion Legion. Esterhazy always loved a chance to visit F.A.I.L. It was common knowledge that those unnaturally tall and strong Grundos were hand-picked and trained by Dr. Sloth himself. They had fought countless battles, bore many scars, and were highly respected.
Now, once again, they would have their chance to prove themselves. Once the Mind-Control Headsets had all been manufactured and shipped, it would be F.A.I.L.'s duty to conquer Neopia for Virtupets.
F.A.I.L. seemed to have had extra time on their hands this season: their station was covered from ceiling to floor in the most breathtaking of Christmas decor! However, Esterhazy did not stop long to take it all in. He hurried past some rather muscular troops jogging in formation and made his way to High Commander Vainglor's office.
"Senior Assistant Esterhazy, here on Official Take-Over Business," he said, knocking cheerfully. "Project Rank AA-01... just you wait till you hear this, Commander!"
There was no answer, though. Esterhazy felt a little uneasy as he knocked again, "H-hello? Commander Vainglor, are you there?"
He pressed closer to listen. Hurried whispering could be heard from the other side of the door, but it was so quiet he could barely make out what they were saying: a strange high-pitched whinnying came first, sounding distressed, followed by...
"I assure you," a voice said smoothly, "Project Advent will, indeed, fail..."
Date: Dec 10th
...Esterhazy stifled a gasp, his mind whirling. He pressed an antenna to the crack in the door and listened carefully.
The high-pitched other voice said, "But how can you be sure, Commander?"
"As soon as I heard that little fool explaining his plan to the workers, I leapt into action," Commander Vainglor -- for there was no doubt the smooth voice belonged to him-- explained. "I have planted my own agents among the Advent Calendar workers. They will intercept--" he broke off suddenly. "Do you hear something?"
Esterhazy leapt back, away from the door. Then, just in case, he knocked brightly once more, as if he'd just arrived.
The door whooshed open, revealing Commander Vainglor -- the tallest and most imposing Grundo that Eseterhazy knew, made even more imposing by his shiny black battle armor --standing next to a shadow Uni in bright orange armor. "Ah, young Esterhazy," the commander said, his voice slick and oily. "My colleague Nefari and I were just discussing matters of mutual tactical interest. She is the leader of the Kreludan Defense Force."
"Pleasure to meet you," Esterhazy said politely. After all, there was no point in being rude, even if someone was trying to disrupt your carefully-laid plan!
"Likewise," the Uni said, in an icy voice that indicated she felt anything but.
"Now, if you'll excuse me," Commander Vainglor continued, menace barely concealed behind his silky tones, "I must report to Dr. Sloth right away about a matter of vital interest to Project Advent."
"But I haven't told you about Project Advent yet," Esterhazy said before he could stop himself.
Commander Vainglor narrowed his eyes and then relaxed his expression, giving a chuckle that sounded forced. "Of course not, but you must know that I hear things on the station quickly." He tapped one of his antennae. "A good commander knows to always keep one ear to the ground."
"O-of course," Esterhazy said. "Have a good day, sir!"
The commander smirked. The Uni sneered. The two walked off, leaving Esterhazy stewing in his own confusion.
But he's Dr. Sloth's most trusted second! Esterhazy thought. He's been here since the beginning! He's the leader of F.A.I.L., for goodness' sake! How could he be plotting against us, and who is that Uni? I don't believe for a minute she's just here discussing mutual defense...
Esterhazy wrung his hands. His instincts said to go straight to Sloth and spill the beans about what he'd seen, but that was where Commander Vainglor and that mysterious Uni were headed, and while Esterhazy was an optimist, he wasn't stupid. It wouldn't be safe to go that way.
After a moment's panicky thought, he made a quick right turn, heading for the one Neopian he knew could help...
Date: Dec 12th
...At the end of the hallway was a communications monitor. It wasn't being used at the moment, which Esterhazy took as a good sign. He needed to get this done as quickly as possible. The fate of Project Advent and Sloth's invasion of Neopia depended on it.
Esterhazy picked up the communicator line and hit the encrypted number to reach exactly who he needed. A few moments later, a blue Acara appeared on the screen.
"Ylana Skyfire here," she said, looking at the screen.
"Ylana," Esterhazy said, "I have a job for you."
"Of course you do," Ylana said. "That's why you called... and you also know that my rates have gone up. Holiday shopping and all."
"Of course." Esterhazy thought for a moment, trying to calculate how much he had saved and hoping that Sloth would give him a bonus when Project Advent was a success to foot the bill he knew he was going to get.
"So, what do you need?" she asked impatiently.
"I need you to investigate Commander Vainglor," he said. "I have a suspicion that he might be working to undermine Dr. Sloth, but I have no proof other than a gut feeling and I would like to have concrete evidence before I do anything hasty."
"Heh," she said. "Easy enough. I'll have everything you'll need within the day."
"Thank you, Ylana," he said.
"Thank your bank account," she replied with a smirk. "You won't be seeing it again for a long time."
Esterhazy winced at the statement before the viewscreen went black. At least that's one trouble off of my mind... he thought to himself before turning around and running right into Commander Vainglor.
"Commander!" he said in surprise. "I wasn't..."
"Save it," the Grundo said. "I heard everything..."
Date: Dec 12th
...Esterhazy slowly backed away from Commander Vainglor. "It's... it's..." he stammered. "It's not what you think it is, Commander."
"Oh really?" Vainglor asked with an air of feigned interest. "What is it, then?"
"Uh..." Esterhazy frantically wracked his brain for any possible excuse. "It's, uh... it's something else," he finished lamely, mentally kicking himself for such a stupid response.
Vainglor burst out laughing rather obnoxiously. "Oh, you're a funny little Grundo, aren't you?" he asked, still chuckling. "'Something else.' Ha! Well, let's see if you feel more like telling me exactly what that 'something else' is after you've spent a while in the holding cells!"
Esterhazy frantically backed away from Vainglor, casting his gaze everywhere for a means of escape. "Your plans won't succeed!" he said, trying to distract Vainglor. "You'll fail; Dr. Sloth will make an example of you!"
He spotted a door at the end of the hall to his left and started to head toward it.
"Oh no," Vainglor said. "That won't do at all. When I'm ruler of Neopia, all will bow before me. When that day comes, I'll want you to be with them."
Vainglor waved his hand, and a group of F.A.I.L. Grundos surrounded Esterhazy, two of them grabbing his arms and holding him still. "Teach our friend some respect," Vainglor commanded. "Give him a little preview of what life will be like when I'm in charge."
The F.A.I.L. Grundos pushed his head down, forcing him into a bow. "Show the commander some respect," grunted the one on Esterhazy's right, "or you'll be sorry."
Esterhazy struggled against the F.A.I.L. Grundos, but they were too strong. "You'll never have my respect, Vainglor. Do what you will."
"Oh, I will," Vainglor said with an evil chuckle. "I will."
Meanwhile, back on Neopia, Ylana was encoding a transmission to Dr. Sloth's station, but it wasn't directed to Esterhazy...
Date: Dec 13th
...Dr. Sloth quickly began to decode the encrypted message.
I REQUIRE AN URGENT RESPONSE TO THIS QUESTION: HAVE YOU NOTICED ANYTHING SUSPICIOUS CONCERNING--"
Before he was able to finish, however, Commander Vainglor's sinister shadow appeared in his doorway.
"I hate to have to interrupt your important business commander, but Esterhazy implored me to bring this here, as he was just too... busy to bring it to you himself. It's the prototype mind control helmet for Project Advent."
Dr. Sloth sat motionless, trying not to show one hint of emotion on his face. Inside, though, excitement bubbled through him; the incredible object -- the one that might lead him to his first successful takeover -- sat right before his very eyes.
Commander Vainglor read Dr. Sloth's façade of disinterest like a book. "Go on, try it out! It's made to look like a new Battledome weapon. Oh, and don't worry, the mind control doesn't work on this particular prototype..."
Dr. Sloth placed the helmet on his head. "I do like--"
"Or does it?" Commander Vainglor sneered as he pressed a button on the small remote in his hand. "Even Dr. Sloth, the greatest villain in all Neopia, cannot stand against me!"
He activated the loud speaker. "All minions of Dr. Sloth, this is your commander, Vainglor, speaking. I have an important announcement! Unfortunately, Dr. Sloth is unavailable at the moment, but he would like me to relay this message to you..."
Esterhazy winced as he heard the booming voice from his holding cell. He had to find a way to escape...
Date: Dec 13th
...That's when he heard a heavy thump outside in the hall. He started to his feet, glancing fearfully at the door. A moment later, it slowly cranked open.
"You know who I am," Nefari replied, her blue eyes narrowed with disdain. Behind her, a F.A.I.L. guard was slumped against the wall... evidently that orange battle armor wasn't just for show.
Esterhazy blinked back at her. "But why are you--"
"I'm here hoping the idiot who got us into this mess might be able to get us out," she snapped, evidently fond of cutting him off. He glared back at her.
"Why would I help you? You're helping Commander Vainglor!" he retorted, crossing his arms. She was probably just here to boast; the whole "evil villain's final words to those she'd bested" thing.
Nefari just rolled her eyes, however, shaking her head. "Do you really think a member of the Kreludan Defense Force would help someone take over Neopia?" Her reply begged an obvious question.
"Why are you here, then? Why were you meeting with Commander Vainglor?"
"I'm a double-agent," she sighed. "Vainglor thinks I'm his 'in' with the force, that I'll be able to keep the customs off his back when his helmets ship out. I'm actually here to prevent any such thing, and was hoping to stir up some 'Sloth-Vainglor Virtupets higher-ups at each other's throats' drama to keep you all occupied this holiday season."
Something wasn't adding up for Esterhazy, however. "I only came up with Project Advent this morning. How could Vainglor have gotten in contact with you about it?" He had barely finished, though, before Nefari started snickering.
"You didn't realize at all, did you? How you'd just manufactured a new mind control prototype? How Advent Calendar reminders appeared on every calendar in the building, especially the one right across from your workstation?"
Esterhazy gulped. He had noticed. It was what had sparked the whole idea. "You mean to say..."
"It was all Vainglor's plan; he's been working on it for months. He made the blueprints, planted the Advent Calendar reminders, probably even decorated this place if that's what it took. You were just his unwitting pawn in all of this. In fact, it worked out too well. With Sloth under his control, he doesn't even need to sneak his shipment out; he and F.A.I.L. can overpower our security wherever they ship out to."
Esterhazy felt his knees buckle and sat down hastily before they gave out. All this time he thought he'd been so clever, made his idol so proud. Instead he'd fallen for another villain's plot, and even worse dragged his boss down with him. And it was all. his. fault.
"Really now, are you done with your moping?" Nefari demanded, hardly a moment later, stamping a hoof. "We do not have time for this."
"Of course we. You don't want Vainglor to take over Neopia, do you? We stop Vainglor, your idol carries on to execute his evil ways another day, and nobody needs to know how much of a fool you are... or would you rather just rot in this cell?"
The choice was obvious. Esterhazy stood up again. "What do we have to do?"
"I think you know what we have to do," Nefari replied, and now there was something of a smirk on her face. A moment later, Esterhazy was smirking too...
Date: Dec 14th
...Esterhazy nodded his head vigorously. "Definitely," he proclaimed with a determined energy. His smile not wavering the slightest with the inquiry, he asked, "But, you know too, right?" The Grundo just wanted to make sure he had the details sorted.
Nefari sighed. "Yes, yes I do. Follow me."
Esterhazy found himself outside of F.A.I.L. Headquarters, in which he first stumbled onto Vainglor's plot. "Why are we here?"
"Inside there is the mechanism that controls all of Vainglor's sinister hats," Nefari responded. "I should know -- I was the one who designed the program for him."
Suddenly, everything made sense to Esterhazy -- they were going to disrupt the machine's transmission.
Waving her security card in front of the lock, the Uni stepped through. "Wait here," she whispered to him. "I'll scan the premises to ensure Vainglor's absence before I come back to retrieve you. If he sees you with me, then everything will be ruined."
The Grundo gave her a thumbs up.
A fun game of waiting started for the young Grundo. Seconds slipped away into minutes, which slipped away into... well, not hours, but... some measure of time, anyhow.
Esterhazy then heard some footsteps coming from down the hall. Quickly, he dashed and peered out from behind a corner.
He looked for a weapon with which to arm himself; all he found was a stray mind-control hat. Er... it's blunt, he thought to himself.
However, the shape that materialized wasn't Vainglor; it was Skyfire.
"Ylana!" Esterhazy whispered fiercely, attempting to gain the Acara's attention. It worked, and she started walking over to him.
"Esterhazy," she whispered back, picking up on his subtlety. "What's wrong?"
"Well, I tried sending a message to Sloth, but the transmitter indicated that he never finished decoding it."
"It must have happened, then, while you were sending it."
Ylana smirked. "So, Sloth got attacked, eh?"
"Yes," Esterhazy replied, desolation on his face from the idea of his suffering idol. "By Vainglor."
"I expected as much."
"But, why did you come to the station? You already got paid."
She smiled. "I don't know, kid. Sloth comprises a major amount of my business, and I guess I was concerned for his -- and, maybe everyone's -- well-being." She paused. "What are you waiting out here for, kid?"
"I know who Nefari is," Ylana spat. "Kreludan Defense Force. Another double agent, like myself. We've never gotten along."
Nefari returned from the doorway. "Esterhazy, it's all--" She then stopped mid-sentence. "Why is Ylana here?" she asked him.
"Ylana was originally going to help me find information on Vainglor, and now she's sort of just... here." Esterhazy smiled feebly.
"I guess we're on the same side, this time," Nefari began.
"I guess so," Ylana responded.
Tension lay thick in the atmosphere. "Er, let's just go and disable the machine, alright?" Esterhazy suggested.
Nefari turned and started walking toward the machine. Ylana and Esterhazy followed.
Esterhazy took note of the machine. It looked very slick and shiny, with a radio antenna sending out signals to the helmets. A quaint little control panel sat off to the side. "How do we disable it?" Esterhazy inquired.
"I'm... not quite sure," Nefari returned. "I was never allowed to use it."
"I thought you said that you designed the program?" Esterhazy asked.
"Yes, but he set the password and the commands. He made sure that everyone -- including myself -- was out of the room, and did it secretively; I didn't even set up a camera."
Ylana stepped forward. Pressing some random buttons, the screen on the panel unlocked.
"How did you know the password?" Nefari asked, amazed.
"I've worked with Vainglor enough times to know his password. It's a specific day -- the very same day, those many years ago, that the Advent Calendar handed out tiny white Cybunny-like Petpets that everyone adored." She smiled.
Quickly, Nefari sought to reverse the effects. "Right now it's set on 'Duh' mode, turning its wearers into mindless zombies. If I can just--"
Suddenly she was interrupted by a voice from behind. "But you won't get that far," Vainglor announced as the three turned to face him. He glared with disdain at the three. "Did you really think you could stop me? And, oh," he proclaimed with a sweep of charm, "Nefari, I didn't take you to be the double-agent type." He laughed. "That's why I stopped using Skyfire over there."
Ylana pointed her weapon at him.
"Oh, those won't work in here," he said smoothly. "This room contains a forcefield -- only devices created by me have any effect."
Nefari, too, drew here gun. Alas, it failed as well.
Esterhazy then had an idea. As Vainglor continued to ramble on to Nefari and Ylana about "how bad they were," the young Grundo inched his way to the other side of Vainglor.
In a single, swift motion, he placed the helmet he'd found out in the hallway earlier atop Vainglor's head.
The villain collapsed to the floor, as mindless as the presently incapacitated Dr. Sloth.
Sloth rose from his desk. Esterhazy sat on the other side. "So, you say that Project Advent has failed, hmm?" He looked disappointed.
"Well, that wasn't my fault," the Grundo responded with a smile on his face. "It was Vainglor's doing. I helped rescue you, remember? As did Nefari and Ylana?"
"I recall," Sloth said with an unusually large smile. He handed Esterhazy a box. "Inside is a gift. It's nothing much... just a souvenir."
Esterhazy, grinning, opened it. Inside was the mind-control helmet Sloth wore, autographed by the super-villain himself! Of course, it didn't work -- the mind-control machine was disabled -- but the gift itself was... well, it was like Lawyerbot getting a new Usuki for Christmas.
"Thanks, sir!" he said as he ran out of the room.
Vainglor, assisted by Nefari, was sent in. "Here's Vainglor," she said as she stood guard by the door.
Vainglor sat down, looking very sorry and scared.
Sloth, on the other hand, looked excited. He'd just made an even more loyal employee out of Esterhazy -- My, the young lad will rule my armies someday, he thought -- and now he was going to yell his brains out at this failure of a worker.
It was going to be a good Christmas, after all...
Date: Dec 14th
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