Author's Note: To make things easier to read, all dialogue is in common
Neopian. All conversations in this story are in Grundoish, but it's easier to
read when it has been translated.
Deep in the coldest void, bright points of light mark
distant stars. Nothing is living here, nothing moving, except...
Could that be a glimmer of metal, in the distance?
The dim gleam of starlight on the hull of a mighty spaceship, journeying tirelessly
Okay, so tirelessly is the wrong word. So is mighty.
It's a small ship, and obviously made for short voyages carrying bulky loads.
It's old, too- everything has been replaced several times except the engine,
and that's obviously on its last legs.
Or whatever it is that engines stand on.
A chunk of rock knocks against something very
fragile looking on the top. It breaks away in a sizzle of sparks, but more damage
has been done than that. The ship is veering slightly away from its intended
destination...towards a blue and green planet circling a medium-sized sun...
The ship flashes past. Spray painted in purple
on one side are the words xorhtralb zuw ereh.
Zelkon was homesick. She missed her native planet,
and all the other Grundos there. She missed the rolling red and brown mountains
rising up into the purple skies. She missed the deep indigo lakes and orange
grass. She missed her family.
Well, not all of her family. Her mother and
father, to be precise. Her brother she didn't miss so much, partly because he
was stuck on this spaceship with her.
Exile. She had been told it was a fact-finding
mission, but she knew what it really was. You didn't just put a couple of untrained
youngsters in a cargo ship scheduled for demolition and tell them to go out
and explore. So here she was, trapped in this old ship with no one to talk to.
Zarkon was her brother, he didn't count.
Zarkon, however, was very good if you wanted
to pick a fight with someone. For one thing, he was very small for a Grundo.
They were actually twins, both red Grundos, but Zelkon was by far the larger
of the two. Zarkon had also gotten them into this whole mess by being too smart
for his own good.
Zarkon was in the control room at the front
of the ship, fiddling with a panel of switches and levers. A small screen above
the panel was showing static. His sister sat down in a chair near the controls,
readying herself for a good long debate.
"Communications went down last week," he said
matter-of-factly, as if he hadn't said this at least twenty times before.
"That's a news flash," muttered Zelkon,
slumping in her chair and suddenly feeling more homesick than ever. When you'd
been stuck in a spaceship for over a month you ran out of interesting topics
"And the fuel's low."
That jerked her out of her trance. "But we had
enough for... at least another month!"
"Well, yes," explained her brother in his annoyingly
superior tone, "But the engines are fighting to stay on course. Something is
pulling us into its gravitational field- a planet, I think."
Geez, how many other large objects were there
out there to get sucked into? "Inhabited?"
For once, Zarkon looked a bit less confident.
"I noticed that we could still receive signals from a close range," he said,
"Because I got this broadcast yesterday. But the life forms there are like nothing
I've ever seen."
He pulled a lever and typed something in on
a keyboard. The static on the screen jumped into life.
Something pink with one odd antenna sticking
up from its forehead was looking at the screen. The mouth- it must have been
a mouth, but it was on the wrong part of the face- moved in time to a foreign
Words flashed onto the screen. The letters were
similar to Grundoish letters, and Zelkon tried to memorise them before they
disappeared again. Maybe she could decode this message.
The odd pink thing popped up again, hugging
another strange thing. This one was obviously sick--its antennas were puffy
and drooping. And its eyes were tiny! The picture zoomed out to a group of life
forms clustered around the pink thing.
Zarkon froze the picture. "See anything unusual?"
Zelkon saw it. There, in the right-hand corner amid the strange things, was
a small green Grundo.
"Land on the planet," she said.
"I've decoded the message!" Zelkon yelled. Zarkon winced. The ship's functions
were set on their planet's 28-hour day, and it was still hour 3. His sister
had made sure he got no sleep by constantly running in exclaiming she had 'solved
the message.' He had pointed out to her that if the message was really something
like 'uwsqagasduu132097jkwed901298903' then it might be pretty useless to attempt
communication at all, and that she really needed some sleep, she was getting
far to worked up about this.
"Well, that was quick," Zarkon muttered with
an uncharacteristic dose of sarcasm.
"No...really!" His sister shoved a piece of
paper in his face. "And it was so easy- you'd never believe it. Their weird
language- it's ours, backwards. It's a completely backwards planet, Zarkon!"
"So what did the message say?" This wasn't
expected. He didn't remember ever hearing of a backwards planet before.
"It says--" she snatched the paper back and
read it, "Adopt, don't abandon."
"My point exactly."
"At least these life forms are humane towards
their young," Zarkon commented dryly. He paused, then asked, "Completely
"I spent a while looking at landforms," Zelkon
explained, "And I found out that the planet even rotates backwards. The
star they orbit rises in the east every day, not in the west like it should."
"And there's nothing at all on a backwards planet
in the database?"
His sister shook her head. "None. I remembered
being told that we were supposed to head for Urglekon XXI, so I looked up its
coordinates. We're way off course, wherever we are."
"And when are we landing?"
"Now," said Zelkon, "I put it on autopilot."
There was a lengthy silence. Odd, thought
Zarkon, It seems like something's missing.
There are many different kinds of silences.
There is the tense, nervous silence of anticipation, the uncomfortable silence
that comes when you don't have anything to say, and the peaceful silence of
not being in any hurry and not having anything particularly important to do.
This silence, however, was the silence most space travelers only heard once
in their life: the silence where there should be the sound of the ship's engines.
Zelkon felt an all-too-familiar panic rising. Now was not the time to go to
pieces. She would stay calm. She would be completely cool when the ship began
its downward plunge, burning up in the atmosphere of this strange planet so
far from home. She would not think about the red-hot remains of the cargo ship
scattered all over the alien landscape...
She'd always had a vivid imagination.
The ship lurched and shuddered in the atmosphere
of the new planet. There was a brief, sickening moment, and the pathetic craft
started to fall.
"As long as I live, I'm never going to forget
that you got me into this," Zelkon yelled at her brother from the ceiling. (G-force
being what it was, both of them were now pressed against the top of the shuttle
along with most of their equipment and a small table)
"That won't be a huge feat of memory," her brother
shrieked back, hysteria creeping into his voice.
A metallic voice began counting down from somewhere.
"Thirty nine. Thirty eight. Thirty seven." The two continued to scream over
"You started all this!"
"You were the one who came up with the
whole idea in the first place!"
"But you took it seriously! How was I supposed
to know you were taking it seriously?"
"It didn't seem like a joke at the time!"
"I was curious! Is that so wrong?"
"Ten. Nine. Eight. Initialising landing sequence.
The ship slowed suddenly and landed with ease.
Unfortunately, due to the annoying tendencies of matter and inertia, the items
in the ship continued to fall at the same pace.
"Three. Two. One. Landing complete."
Zelkon hit the floor and blacked out.
There was relative quiet, except for the cooling sounds of metal that's been
put under much greater pressure than it was designed for and the faint tinkle
of expensive and irreplaceable items rolling around on the floor in several
Zarkon hauled himself up and rubbed his bruised
antenna, wincing. He didn't care how bad his piloting skills were, he wasn't
going to leave everything to autopilot next time.
His sister was twitching and muttering something
into the floor that probably shouldn't be repeated here. Well, at least she
Most of their fragile equipment had shattered.
As Zelkon had pointed out, they'd never have needed it anyway.
Now his sister was getting up. One of Zelkon's
eyes was blackened, but she seemed to be in mostly one piece. "My bruises have
got bruises," she complained.
"At least you're alive," countered Zarkon, always
"Yeah, well, I'm not too certain about that,"
his sister growled.
"You were the one who put it on autopilot."
"Because if I hadn't you would have been piloting."
Of course. Rub it in about that time,
sister. I have my limits, you know. "Okay, forget this. Let's go meet the...
"No," said Zelkon decisively, "This isn't the
planet we were supposed to end up on. It's weird and backwards. We should take
off again. Now. Maybe we aren't too far off--"
"When did you get the idea that you had any
choice in the matter? Do you honestly think this thing could get off the ground?"
Zarkon's patience was wearing thin.
She deflated a bit. "But I've got a bad feeling
about this. Technology is very advanced. What was the chance someone would overlook
an entire planet? And," Zelkon added, barely audible, "We aren't supposed to
"You're the one who said they were only sending
us off to get rid of us for a while," Zarkon told her, "Now's our chance to
do something actually important."
Zelkon brightened. "You're right. Let's go."
Hotty the green Mynci was visiting Meridell with her owner, warm_and_cuddly.
She rather liked it there: it was so peaceful and all of the natives seemed
so friendly. Munching on a snidberry she'd picked at Meri Acres farm, she wandered
along after her brothers and sisters.
Up ahead, her owner was talking with a good
friend. "Do you think there'll be an invasion soon?" the second girl asked enthusiastically.
Hotty shuddered. It was all so nice here, she'd
really hate this land to be ruined by a war...
That's when the spaceship crashed only a few
yards from where they were standing.
A small group of natives had gathered around the space ship, looking amazed.
Some of them were wearing extremely primitive clothing in shades of brown and
green. Behind them, a few slightly more modern-looking life forms were watching
them with more amusement than astonishment.
"What should we tell them?" Zarkon hissed at
Zelkon was at a loss. "How about the message
"Okay, sure whatever."
Hotty stared up at the two red Grundos that had come from the wrecked ship.
They were arguing about something, obviously. She tried to translate their strange
words using the limited Grundoish she'd learned in school.
The larger of the two Grundos began to read
haltingly in Neopian off of a sheet of paper.
"Adopt, don't abandon."
Her older brother Buzzy (a blue Kyrii) turned
to go with a snort of disgust. "People these days will do anything to advertise..."
Most of the crowd dispersed, muttering in their backwards language. Zelkon
looked guiltily at her brother. "Was it something I said?"
Only a small green thing seemed to be interested.
He/she/it was making his/her/its way through the group of life forms towards
It smiled--or at least, its mouth curved upwards--and
held out something that looked like a hand. It's at the end of something
that looks like an arm, reasoned Zarkon, It's got to be a hand. But
this hand had fingers easily twice as long as any he'd seen before and it was
covered with strange green fuzz.
Most amazingly, the thing was speaking
in Grundoish. "Hello, my name is Hotty. What's yours?"
Zarkon stared at it, confused. It spoke their
language? "Um... I'm Zarkon. My sister is Zelkon."
It giggled. "What odd names!"
Zarkon resisted the urge to point out that hers
was just as strange. "We seem to have got a bit lost. What planet is this?"
It laughed again. "This is Neopia."
He decided that he might as well ask what he'd
been wondering. "Why are there other Grundos here? I've never heard of this
"Oh, yes," Hotty said with a shrug, "Sloth brought
Beside him, Zelkon paled noticeably. "Sl-sloth?"
"Of course, that was a long time ago," chattered
Hotty cheerfully, "Before I was born. There was a big war and everything. But
you know, good and justice always wins and all that."
"Sloth? Here?" Zelkon muttered to her brother
(Hotty continued to chatter), "He disappeared ages ago... they said he'd gone
"It explains the Grundos being here," he reasoned,
"Maybe there was a revolution or something."
He briefly reviewed their situation.
We're stuck on a backwards planet called Neopia
that was apparently visited by an insane and dangerous outlaw some while ago.
It's obvious we aren't going to make it home any time soon. The inhabitants
are used to Grundos, but we've never heard of them. Only one person seems interested
in helping us, providing she doesn't drive us insane first.
At least, Zarkon reasoned, Our stay
here will be interesting.
The human carefully counted the weird gold coins Hotty had called Neopoints.
"That's a two thousand Neopoint rent a month, and I'm only being nice because
business is slow at the moment."
Zelkon recalled Hotty's advice. "The owner of
the house is horribly stingy," she'd warned, "He'll do anything for money, event
rent out rooms in his own NeoHome. But the rent is low and it's in a good neighbourhood.
Plus, one of my owner's friends lives on the corner if you need help."
Zarkon had calculated that (based on the prices
of food and items they'd seen so far) one unit of the currency they'd used on
their home planet was worth about 100 Neopoints. But Zelkon still had some doubts
about the friend on the corner. There was a house at the intersection between
Bread Street and Chia Close, but it seemed uninhabited. The windows were dark
and huge plants with gaping mouths lived in the overgrown flowerbed. It was
the kind of house neighbourhood kids went into on dares.
Okay, so she missed her own planet. The grass
here was green, and that was weird. The sky here was blue, and that was even
weirder. But she would finally have a chance to prove herself, and she was planning
to take full advantage of that.
The End (or the Beginning...)