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Petpet for a Madman


by turquoisephoenix

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"In the purple building, where the petpets are...grinning, buy the petpet of your dreams, the prices are lower than they...seem?"

     The ever-famous Petpet Shop Owner fumbled with her pen as she scribbled against the parchment she held in her nicely manicured hands. The green Usul was well known to be an expert of petpets and choosing the right prices for selling the happy little critters to Neopets of all shapes and sizes, but she certainly wasn't any good at making a commercial jingle. Business had been slow all summer, and the Usul was quite eager to rouse more shoppers into her building. She adjusted the daisy in her pristine little hat and sighed wearily.

     "I bet Archimedes in the shop next door is having a great amount of customers. With school rolling around, everybody wants a new notepad," she wondered.

     Archimedes, of course, was the name that she had dubbed the blue Techo at the Back to School shop. With business coming before formal introductions, hardly anyone that spent every day of the week catering to Neopets from around the globe ever revealed their names.

     The Petpet Shop Owner herself went by the name of Daisy, even though she knew in reality, her name was followed by random dashes and numbers.

     Daisy had resumed writing out some more lines to a song for her shop when the bell above the door tinkled harmoniously. The Usul jumped; after four days without a single purchase from anyone, the sound that would alert her of an entering customer seemed almost alien. Immediately, she set the pen and parchment down and threw her hands above her head in the standard greeting that Usuls knew by instinct.

     "Welcome to the Neopian Petpet Shop, where happiness is just a petpet away!" Daisy replied, the smile of a shopkeeper worn on her face. Her expertise was making the customer feel happy. After all, harsh feelings against her meant no purchases and more petpets would have to be sent to the pound.

     "How may I help you?"

     Her eyes fell upon her new customer, and although she still wore her business-like "the customer is always right" smile, she couldn't help but be slightly creeped out by the demeanor of the new arrival. A hand covered in yellow scales held the glass door open as a cloaked figure entered the humble shop. Growls and whimpers from the petpets on display, although quiet in volume, seemed to fill the room as a cloaked figure only determinable to be a Scorchio by his exposed hands, tail, and feet shuffled into the room. He swept his head to look at a particular Warf that was crouched and ready to strike behind a cage and quietly chuckled.

     The hair on Daisy's tail stood on end. That chuckle was familiar.

     "Hello. I'm looking for a companion. A friend, one might say..." the voice underneath the hood replied in a voice that, while hesitating and quiet right now, would be downright commanding if used in a higher volume.

     Claws clicked against the wooden floor as the hooded Scorchio approached the counter that the green Usul was standing behind. He placed his hands on the counter and looked at her through red...yellow? Daisy could've sworn that they were both colors...eyes.

     "But I must be quick. Very quick. They never let me leave. Never. People will see me and I'll be ruined. I'll be swamped with questions and demands. They will try to get at me and my work...My work and my creations. I can't let that happen..." the visitor said, his voice becoming almost frail in his worry.

     Many thoughts sprang to Daisy's mind that she felt were too personal to ask. What kind of person would be so terrified of somebody asking questions about their inventions that they'd be too frightened to leave their home?

     Was her customer a minion of Dr. Sloth and he needed a petpet to run a Doomsday machine?

     "So, why didn't you send for a mail order? I'm sure you can always get a Neofriend to send you a Petpet if you can't-"

     "I have no Neofriends."

     The sentence spoken had a hint of finality to it. It wasn't a matter of opinion; it was a true-blue fact that the customer had no hesitation in sharing. He folded his arms across his chest, still looking at Daisy with those intriguing red/yellow eyes.

     "My work is...very confidential. I can't leave, I can't make friends. And even if I could leave, I wouldn't be able to make friends. People think I'm..." the Scorchio wouldn't finish, but the Petpet Shop Owner could definitely guess what word her customer refused to mention.

     "I just need a Petpet. Something in yellow," the Scorchio replied, leaning against the counter and looking into the Usul's eyes. The shop owner once again locked her gaze with those strange eyes and felt her head pound with a freshly born headache.

     "Ahh...One that fits your personality and color? May I suggest the Kookith? I must warn you, though. They're a bit on the expensive-"

     A bag of Neopoints slid across the counter. Not a single point was counterfeit, and it was exact same amount as the price tag she offered. Nothing more. Nothing less.

     "...side," Daisy finished, her jaw set firm to keep it from hanging open.

     "I'll take the Kookith," the Scorchio replied. Wordlessly, the shopkeeper accepted his offer and placed the tiny rectangular petpet into the Neopet's arms. The Kookith cooed uncertainly as its new owner held it against his body in a mock embrace.

     The smile that glimmered underneath the cloak's hood was a genuine smile of someone who had lived without companionship for a long time, but the experienced shop owner could catch the small glimmer of insanity within his glee...

     "Uh, may I see your identification? The Petpet Protection League wants to keep potential problems to petpets like intentional endangerment from happening..." Daisy trailed off, unsure of how to finish. She had to pick now of all times to ask her customer for identification. Sure, he seemed quite suspicious while wearing a cloak and stating that he needed to enter and leave so quickly, but he really was only doing this to have a friend...

     But then again, Neopia did not want to take chances after the Florg-related Petpet shortage of Year Five.

     Instead of arguing, the strange customer used his free hand to remove his hood, revealing a pair of swirling red and yellow eyes underneath black bushy eyebrows and a full head of tangled gray hair. The Scorchio was wearing a lab coat underneath, as the brief flash of a white collar showed behind his neck. He smiled, almost cruelly, at the fact that Daisy jumped at the sight of him.

     Of all the famous Neopian celebrities Daisy had daydreamed to appear in her shop, be it Jeran, Hannah, or even Capara the Kyrii, the Lab Ray Scorchio was the last to spring to mind.

     "You should consider yourself lucky. You're one of the few people to see me without some kind of expensive map. The poor fools actually believe that the ray is under intensive repair," the Lab Ray Scorchio replied, a hint of malice in his voice. The Usul couldn't tell as to why he referred to the people that searched and paid for the Secret Laboratory Maps in an almost hateful way. Did he hate having a line of owners willing to torture their pets line up on his island, or was he simply bitter to everyone?

     Suddenly handing him the Kookith seemed like a bad idea, with or without Neopoints.

     "Actually, I have seen you before. My sister bought your Secret Lab Map with all of her savings and then was zapped into a Mutant Elephante. Ever since then she's been training on Mystery Island and is counting the days until she beats you in the Battledome," the green Usul shopkeeper replied in a very defensive manner. It was in her shopkeeper oath never to bother the customer with her personal life, which was considered to be separate from business, but then again, her oath never mentioned the possibility of a crazed maniac entering her store.

     But instead of adding his two Neopoints to her response, the Scorchio pulled the hood over his head to hide his telltale features from the rest of the world. He felt no need to reply to her statement about her sister. After all, for almost six years, he'd been hearing the same sob stories told to him by activists against his work.

     Still holding his new companion to his chest, the scientist gave one last smile to the shopkeeper and left her store.

     ------

     The Lab Ray Kookith.

     Yeah, that had a nice ring to it.

     The Lab Ray Scorchio looked down on his petpet, smiling at his handwork as he did so. The little creature was now tailored to look like the miniature Kookith version of his owner. His petpet now wore a lab coat specially fit for its body and its eyes were now swirly red and yellow.

     Of course, unlike him, the eyes were only contacts fitted for the small creature. It was going to take a lot of work with its specially designed ray to give him the eyes that branded the Lab Ray Scorchio as a complete lunatic.

     The Scorchio reached down to pet the Kookith with one hand as his other hand pressed the button that had always fired his Secret Lab Ray. He laughed his infamous cackle, but not because the Island Uni he fired at had transformed into a Mutant Lenny. Instead, the laughter had come from the fact that the Kookith he had purchased from Neopia Central had curled up at his feet and was making a sound akin to the purring of a kitten. It was the only creature that found comfort in being in the same company as the Lab Ray Scorchio, and the madman found comfort in this fresh new change.

     With a smile, he escorted the owner out of his lab with the wave of his hand and ignored the protests coming from the angered owner. He didn't care. It bothered him even less than it did before.

     As for the first time in six years, the brilliantly deranged scientist had a friend.

The End

 
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