"A curse on you!" the Khnum exclaimed, turning up his
nose at yet another offering of food. Zoma threw up her wings in disgust.
"You stupid, spoilt creature," the young Pteri
sighed, "I never should have taken this babysitting job." For the past few months
she had been taking any odd task that was offered so that she could see Yes
Boy Ice Cream in concert. Her most recent job was to watch over her neighbor's
prized petpet, a Khnum named 'Sparkles'.
Sparkles had been nothing short of a royal pain
in the tail feathers since his arrival. He had to go to sleep at exactly
8 p.m., drink the finest spring water, and play only with a hand-crafted linen
Neonip mouse. Fortunately, she had a little help from her friend, a pink Poogle
"Well, what does the paper that Ms. Maxwell left
you say?" he asked.
"It says he likes Cherries Jubalee, but I'm all
out. I went to the store down the street to pick up some more, but you should
have seen what they were trying to charge!"
"I guess there's just no help for it." There
was a strange gleam in the Poogle's eyes. "We're just going to have to go on
a shopping expedition!"
"Are you crazy? Aside from personally owned shops,
the only store that carries that food is on the Virtupet's Space Station!"
"Really? Ohhh... I can pick up a Pinceron, maybe
look for a good price on a lucky robot's foot..." Zoma rolled her eyes and picked
up Sparkles while Ketcher rambled on about hunting for deals.
"Let's hurry up and leave, if we're going. I
want to be back in time to catch YBIC's NTV special."
After only an hour or so (and much complaining on Zoma's part about how much
the cost of tickets for the space shuttle were putting her back) they reached
"Whoa... it's so big!" the two of them gasped.
The main market place was a huge, brightly lit room. The high ceiling and harsh
fluorescent made it seem more like a warehouse than a shopping mall.
It was absolutely packed with Neopets, their
yammering and bargaining nearly drowned out the loud speaker that went off occasionally.
Ketcher and Zoma pushed their way past noisy
shoppers and the many Grundos that were trying to sell them their wares. They
finally forced themselves to the middle of the room, where a mutant Grundo was
cooking food on a cart at the center of a circle of tables.
"Can I help you?" he boomed.
"Yes. I'd like a few orders of Cherries Jubalee
to go, please."
"No problem, that'll be-"
The whole station shook for a moment, like it
was in the throws of a minor earthquake. The lights flickered, then went out.
The noise reduced to a panicked murmur, but they were all still breathing, so
the life support was fine. Everyone stood where they were, confused and frightened
in the dark.
There was a loud 'click' as the speaker came
on, and the sound of a throat clearing.
"Panic all you like, you stupid sheep. It won't
do you any good." The voice was low and smooth. It sounded dangerous, like a
stagnant pond with strange, diseased life growing in it. "The great Dr. F. Sloth
is now back in control of this station. No harm will come to you, or at least
not much, if you shut up and cooperate. Trying to play the hero will get you
Someone next to Ketcher gave out a frightened
moan, and from somewhere on the far side of the room there came the thump of
a fainting Neopet hitting the floor.
In a few seconds the lights came back on. Now
there were three of Sloth's burly Grundo workers guarding each of the exits.
Soon even more of the evil doctor's drones filed in.
"Look!" Ketcher squealed, with a hint of fear
in his voice, "They're taking Neopets away!" They were putting their captives
into groups of no more than a dozen each, and leading them off.
"Where do you think they're taking them?"
"I don't know," a young Lenny next to them answered,
"but we'll find out soon enough! They're coming this way!" Zoma looked around
frantically. There was no place to hide, and with the people as packed together
as they were, running wasn't an option.
A troop of about five soldiers marched over to
where they were, and stopped. The biggest one, most likely the leader, looked
at them and grunted.
"Alright, boys. Let's round up these little 'uns
what don't have much fight in em." He stared straight at Zoma, "You, green birdie,
line up here. You, fall in next." He continued to bark out orders until there
was a group of twelve Neopets marching in twos.
The frightened hostages were hustled out of the
room and down a narrow hallway. They marched in dreary silence, because if they
tried to speak one of the guards would aim a kick at them. After what felt like
miles of nearly identical corridors, the group came to a stop.
"Ey, there's big trouble at processing point
eight," a messenger Grundo wheezed, "the boss wants all the troops you can spare.
It shouldn't take too many to watch this pack of pups." While their captors
bickered over who got to stay and who had to go and do real work, Zoma saw an
"Follow me," she whispered, and dragged Ketcher
down a side hallway. They snuck off as quickly and quietly as they could. When
they felt like they were a safe distance away, they ducked into a doorway to
"What are we going to do, Zoma?" Ketcher asked.
"I wish I knew."
The 'disturbance' that the guards were rushing to take care of was a very tiny
stripped Shoyru. Because of his large eyes and small stature, Sloth's none-too-bright
servants thought he was a child. When they took him to a processing point to
relieve him of any Neopoints or rare items that he had, he caught everyone off
guard by pulling out a honey potion and nailing a guard in the back of the head.
"What a sad lot!" he crowed. "I fought three
times this many soldiers back in the Lost Desert war without breaking a sweat!"
The Grundos had no way of knowing they had captured the great Trevain, Battledome
star and war hero in the fight against Dr. Sloth.
The Shoyru laughed with glee as he shocked a
guard in the tail end with a charge from his Zaptwig. Some of the other Neopets
being detained joined in with snowballs and sparkshooters. Pretty soon their
captors were losing control of the situation. Trevain led the charge, giddy
"Come on! Follow me!" he called, "We've got them
on the run!"
"I think that you might need to rethink that
strategy." In the doorway stood a tall, imposing figure. He was dressed entirely
in black, except for the crimson lining of his cape. His skin was green and
rough, weathered on an alien world under a long forgotten star. There was no
mistaking the red, hateful eyes or the strange green crest on his head; this
was Dr. Frank Sloth.
The appearance of the evil overlord cowed the
less powerful Neopets, leaving Trevain to fight on his own. He was desperately
outnumbered, and things were about to get worse. A glint of light caught his
eye, reflected off of the weapon in Sloth's hand. It was some sort of curved,
The Shoyru's heart nearly stopped beating. What
Sloth was holding was a claw from the Monoceraptor.
"Come along quietly, now. We wouldn't want you
to get... damaged."
To be continued...