There are certain situations that seem so unreal that
it takes a while to realize that they are actually happening. This was one of
those times for Zoma. All that was really getting through to her brain was that
there was no way she was going to get home in time for the Yes Boy Ice Cream
Ketcher held on tightly to Sparkles, who was
struggling to get out of his grasp.
"Rrrrrioooop!" the Khnum growled, and bit him
on his paw. Startled, Ketcher dropped it. He wasted no time in racing down the
corridor and disappearing around a corner.
"We can't let Sparkles get away! Ms. Maxwell
would kill us," Zoma said while taking off after the desert petpet. Ketcher
yanked her back to him right before she turned down the hall that Sparkles had.
"What are you-" she started to protest, before
the pink Poogle held her beak shut.
"Shh! The guards..." he whispered. A troop of
mutated Grundos hustled past, filing into a door further down the hall. The
Khnum ran in behind them, thankfully going unnoticed.
"Rats! What are we going to do now?" Ketcher
said as he rubbed the back of his neck with a paw.
"We need to get in there unnoticed somehow. Unless
we suddenly grow six feet tall and scaly, I don't see how we're going to do
that," she said as she looked around, searching for inspiration. "Wait a second..."
she said, eyeing an air vent.
"No. No way! That might work in the movies, but
there's no way that it works like that in real life." Even while he was protesting,
the green Pteri was pulling the cover off.
"Come on, there's plenty of room," Ketcher finally
agreed, and followed her into the metal shaft.
His Poogle feet were padded and silent, but his
friends claws clicked against the metal. The noise made him nervous.
Somehow, Zoma managed to lead them to the right
room. The vent was mounted very high up on this wall, so they had a very good
view of what was going on. At that moment, Ketcher wished he couldn't see it
They were looking down on some sort of lab, where
a Shoyru was strapped to a steel table. Guards were stationed all around the
room. At the head of the table was a sight that made Zoma freeze with terror.
It was the would be conqueror of Neopia, Frank Sloth. In one hand he had a weird
vial of ooze, in the other was a small black tape recorder.
"8:00, NST. The subject remains heavily sedated.
We will commence with the mutation process." The Doctor said, with all the emotion
and concern of a man ordering a pizza. He reached over, opened the small reptile's
mouth, and emptied the vial down it's throat.
Nothing happened for a few minutes. Then, slowly,
Trevain opened his eyes. The pupils contracted into pinpoints, and the irises
were swimming with patches of gray. His skin was turning a darker gray-blue,
and the soft scales were becoming rough and lumpy. All over his slight frame,
the muscles were bulging and growing.
Sloth nodded and murmured into his recorder,
pacing back and forth. He seemed perfectly at ease, even though his mutant servants
looked ill. As Trevain stopped struggling and lay back panting, Dr. Sloth leaned
over him and grinned.
"Ah, I see you're back with us, Trevain. You've
caused me quite a few setbacks, so this is going to feel especially vindicating.
You, over there!" he barked at one of his Grundos, "Bring that machine over
The device was a buzzing, humming bunch of wires,
ending in a steel cap. It was placed on the mutated Shoyru's head, and fastened
under his chin with a leather strap. As soon as it was in place, Trevain stilled.
"Nod if you can hear me," Sloth commanded. The
Shoyru complied without hesitation. "Mutation has made the subject open to mind
control. Let us proceed to stage two, shall we?"
Zoma gasped in shock. She had always wondered
why Sloth made Neopets into mutants, since the mutants she knew seemed to be
normal, and not particularly evil. Something about the mutation made it easy
for Sloth to make them into mindless slaves.
"Well Trevain, you've put up quite a fight. All
for nothing, I'm afraid. I am your master now. When I tell you to do something,
you will do it without question." The doctor continued to describe in detail
the sort of punishments that disobeying him would bring.
Meanwhile, Sparkles was emerging from his hiding
place under some sort of monitor. He gazed around the room, looking for something
interesting to occupy himself with. When it spotted Ketcher and Zoma crouched
behind the air vent, it started yapping loudly.
They shook their heads, trying to silently send
it away, but the petpet had already been noticed.
"How did that thing get in here? Don't you fools
realize how delicate this procedure is?" Sloth roared. "When I find out who
is responsible for this, I'll throw them out of an air lock!"
The Khnum ran back and forth under the vent,
as if he was consciously trying to give away their position. Zoma desperately
tried to shoo it away, when suddenly the vent she was leaning against popped
right out of the wall.
As she fell, she wondered why the station had
been made so shoddily.
The moment she hit the ground, she was picked
up by the guards.
"It's a pity that we haven't perfected the mutation
process in the Pteri species yet. However, I think that I can come up with a
suitable use for an interloper like you." She realized he was only talking to
her. That meant that they hadn't noticed Ketcher.
Don't try to make a daring rescue, please...
Zoma hoped. Just get away and try to find help.
"I've got to rescue Zoma!" Ketcher said to himself once he was far away from
the lab. He had stayed in the vent as long as he could afford to, trying to
make sure nothing had happened to his friend. After Sloth had mentioned having
special plans for her, she had been taken to another room.
He had no idea where they had taken her, and
not even an inkling of a plan to get her back. All he could do was watch for
an opportunity, and wait.
The room Dr. Sloth moved Zoma to was absolutely nothing like the lab. There
was actually carpet here, instead of cold tile, and not nearly as much machinery.
One wall showed a magnificent view of Neopia below them, but there were more
pressing things on the young Pteri's mind than the scenery.
"Contact the Neopian press and let them know
what our demands are. They have forty-eight hours to comply. I doubt that they'll
have much trouble scraping the ransom together, that bleeding heart Fyora will
probably pay most of it herself from the Hidden Tower money," Sloth commanded
one of his followers.
"A petty ransom? I was under the impression that
those sorts of things were below you."
"They are," he replied with a smirk, and said
Darn. She was hoping that he would spill his
master plans in a typical super-villain manner.
The doctor bustled around the room, getting equipment
ready and sending memos off to underlings. Every once in a while he'd pause
to admire the blue planet he aspired to rule.
"Such a beautiful world. You'd never guess just
by looking at it all the pain it's caused me. In all my years I've never had
such difficulties getting the natives of a planet under control, and I've been
doing this for longer than you could fathom," he said during one reflective
moment. "All I want is a world at peace, a world united in glorious servitude
"You're mad," Zoma growled.
"They always say that about the true geniuses."
To be continued...