Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 127,331,912 Issue: 258 | 22nd day of Gathering, Y8
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The Return


by phsycoticdancer

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"I- CAN'T- TAKE IT- ANYMORE!" Two green hands slammed down on a hover table, over which the latest Neopian Times was spread. One hand ripped a chunk out of the paper.

     The room was brightly lit, but still had an air of overall bleakness. Large windows covered one wall, but they opened the room up to even further bleakness. Outside, craters dotted a barren, grey wasteland, and a cold black sky was studded with even colder stars.

     His cape rustled as the tall green figure swept out of the room and past the two mutant Grundos that stood guard outside its doorway. A meek purple Grundo followed in his wake. The Grundo kept its eyes to the ground, with nothing more to guide it as it scurried than the end of the black cape. The cape led it down a cold, metal-plated hallway. It was difficult to see the dark cloth since the halls were so dimly lit. Had the Grundo looked up, it would have seen the huge windows that lined the hall, which clearly depicted the other buildings of the compound to be as bleak as their environment.

     The cape suddenly escaped from the Grundo's view. It glanced up just briefly enough to see its master turn into another room, and it scrambled in after, just before the doors hissed shut.

     This room was unlike the others. Though it was still cold, the room was richly furnished with dark, thick rugs, painted walls, and large bookcases stuffed with thick, well-read volumes. A mahogany desk was at one end of the room, and a large, stiff armchair sat in front of a stone fireplace at the other end. There were no large windows in this room, but there were large oil paintings in ornate gold frames. It seemed all of the paintings were of the same person, but if one looked closely enough he would see that one painting was of the father of the next, and so forth. This lineage traveled across the wall, terminating in the largest painting of them all, which hung right above the fireplace. The subject of this painting was quite a handsome creature. His green skin was flawless, and his hair was slicked back. He wore a proud sort of smile - one that exuded immense power and control, and it would seem that the eyes in the painting glittered with the brilliance of the subject himself. The only light in the room came from the fire in the hearth, and before it stood the silhouette of a proud figure.

     The purple Grundo crept up to it.

     "A joke!" A green fist slammed down on the mantel and rested there. "Is that all I am?!"

     The caped figure raised both arms imploringly at the painting above the fireplace. "Is that all I have become?" he mourned. His arms fell to his sides, his hands tightening into fists. He swung around to look down at the quivering purple Grundo behind him, and shook one fist at it.

     "See this?! Do you see it?" Out of the fist protruded the scrap of paper he'd ripped from the Neopian Times. It was an article, with headlines that read, "Undercover Stories: Is Sloth the Happiness Faerie?"

     The Grundo didn't dare reply. Its master continued.

     "Every week, the same thing. They write about me as if I were some freak at the Haunted Fairgrounds - some sideshow that's there to be laughed for laughter's sake - butchering my interviews to portray me as a fool, featuring me in ridiculous events when I have not left the dark side of Kreludor for a cursed five years!"

     The master faced the fire again, and hurled the pitiful scrap of paper into the flames. In the ashes lay the remains of many other articles. The master placed both hands on the mantel, leaning against it as if he wished to throw himself into the flames.

     "That blasted Space Faerie," he hissed, "and her blasted magic! Trapping a mastermind in his own plan - there is no greater humiliation! Neopia has never even seen my true abilities - and now they laugh, while the greatest genius they'll ever know becomes a prisoner of his own thoughts!

     "Balthazar, that overgrown Lupe, has more fear to his name than mine does. It only shows how much more ignorant they are, that they fear a Neopet that catches faeries more than the mastermind who was only moments away from controlling their pathetic lives!" He straightened, his arms hanging limply by his sides once again.

     "My plans are nearly complete. That Space Faerie -" He spat into the flames. "- thinks she has me trapped, but I do believe it's time I pay her a little visit." With this he turned and seated himself in the armchair. The purple Grundo scrambled off and returned with a platter bearing a large cask of purple liquid and a crystal glass. It held the platter by the armchair, but the caped figure ignored it while he contemplated. The pitiful Grundo began to tremble from sustaining a weight too heavy for it. Finally, the master poured himself a glass and plucked it from the platter. The little Grundo ran off to set the platter down, and then returned to the master's side.

     The green hand held the crystal glass up to the light, and the master's eyes narrowed as he observed its sparkle. He swished the liquid around as he spoke.

     "The ignorant never know what is good for them. They should have just allowed me to rule their miserable lives. The end to everything is approaching, and very soon they will regret placing me here, disbanding my followers and leaving me with only a few loyal ones. They will mourn the day they dared laugh at my name, and they will learn to fear it - for they should always be afraid of the things they are too stupid to understand.

     "Yes, Adylene, Neopia will soon feel the wrath of Dr. Sloth."

     Adylene the purple Grundo nodded her agreement. There was nothing she knew how to do better.

     ***

     The Last Day came only a couple years later from that night in Kreludor. Neopia slept soundly one final night, and awoke to madness in the morning. From that moment on, the moment the first ray of sunlight touched Neopia Central, a new reality began.

     Not one Neopet knew exactly what happened. He didn't use weaponry and there were no ray-guns involved, nor any other mind-manipulating rays. He never used magic, nor did anyone see him, but everyone knew it was he.

     No one knows how, but Dr. Sloth took over Neopia.

     It started that morning with rumors. Grundos everywhere were acting strangely. The name of Dr. Sloth arose here and there, but it was always laughed away. Everyone knew that the Space Faerie herself imprisoned him on Kreludor, and that the only Grundos Dr. Sloth had any power over were mutant Grundos, since their mutations made them especially dim-witted. Furthermore, Grundo Independence Day was approaching. Surely all of this was in anticipation of that.

     By the end of the week the rumors had escalated. Grundos of every size, weight, age and color were changing. No one could pinpoint what exactly was different - did the eyes glow? Surely it was a trick of the light. Did they do their work more efficiently? No, they'd only done it for so long they became good at it. Did they seem smarter? Now that's a far-fetched tale - everyone knows Grundos are the dimmest of all Neopets.

     Little did anyone know how true the rumors really were.

     The following week, a strange spacecraft landed at the center of Neopia Central. It was a strange looking thing comprised of scrap metal. It was difficult to imagine the craft surviving any space travel at all. People were led to believe a new sort of Neopet had arrived in Neopia, until none other than Adylene the purple Grundo, Sloth's most faithful follower, emerged from the heap of junk metal. The witnesses who saw her claim that she had changed. She was naturally smaller than other Grundos, but her eyes were lit like fire. It's been said that the color change was a result of prolonged exposure to Sloth, having been exiled with him. Perhaps the same could be said for her intelligence, which was not only greater than that of all Grundos, but also of the exceptional Neopet. However, that was not something that could be determined by just looking at her.

     The Defenders of Neopia arrived on the scene shortly after Adylene's arrival. Judge Hog himself took her to Defenders Headquarters for interrogation, and to everyone's surprise, she went willingly. At Headquarters, the Defenders secured Adylene using the newest technology from the Virtupets Space Station. There were four Defenders present, in addition to Judge Hog. Though they were sure Adylene was too dimwitted to escape, they weren't about to take chances. Then, the Defenders peppered her with questions.

     How did she escape from Kreludor? Where was Dr. Sloth? What did he intend to do? Was he aware she had escaped? Who provided her with the spacecraft? Why did she come to Neopia Central, of all places?

     Adylene stayed silent until they had exhausted their questions. She looked at each Defender, a hint of a smile at her lips. The Defenders couldn't help but notice the fire in her eyes flash for a moment. Adylene opened her mouth, as if she was going to answer, but at that moment, the doors clicked open.

     In ran a dozen Grundos, sans armor, weapons, or any brute strength (meaning none were mutants). Five Defenders were more than enough to take on a dozen ordinary Grundos, but before they knew it the Defenders were being tied down with the same technology used to detain Adylene.

     Adylene dusted herself off, smiled at the defeated Defenders, and walked out the door, with a dozen Grundos following respectfully behind.

     Two weeks after Adylene arrived, she disappeared, along with all signs of her existence and her liberators. The Defenders of Neopia devoted every spare moment to finding her whereabouts, but to no avail. Finally the heroes implored Queen Fyora to summon the Space Faerie, which she agreed to nonchalantly.

     "A couple Grundos look at pictures in the Neopian Times and suddenly all of Faerieland thinks they can read. Now an undersized, unfortunate Grundo escapes and the Defenders of Neopia think she has the potential to restore Dr. Sloth to power? What nonsense."

     Despite the Faerie Queen's lack of concern, the Space Faerie investigated the situation thoroughly. A visit to Dr. Sloth on Kreludor sent her huffing in anger to Defenders Headquarters, where Judge Hog received a sound rebuking.

     "Judge Hog, this is unacceptable behavior."

     "I'm afraid I don't understand."

     "I cannot be summoned every time you have a vague suspicion that Dr. Sloth is going to attack. If that were to happen I would be better off shedding my wings and living on this ugly rock of a planet."

     "This isn't a vague suspicion, ma'am. Adylene was here, and my Defenders can testify to having witnessed it all."

     "You mean to tell me, Judge Hog, that you and four of your Defenders were defeated by a dozen ordinary Grundos being led by an incapacitated little Adylene? Where was she during all of this?"

     "Ma'am, I've told you, she was bound right in front of me."

     "Judge Hog - I went to the Kreludor compound and found it as secure as when I left it years ago. Inside, I was greeted by an irate Dr. Sloth, and - can you guess who else?"

     "No ma'am, I cannot."

     "None other than your tricky little prisoner, Adylene. Her eyes were fiery, that much is true, but she was as dull and dimwitted as any Grundo." The Space Faerie turned and walked towards the door. "Judge Hog," she called over her shoulder. "I expect the next time you go through such lengths as to pester Queen Fyora to summon me, you do it for legitimate reasons."

     With that, she walked out the door and into the sunshine, where she greeted passersby who recognized her, and then flew off into the sky. No sooner had the Space Faerie left Neopia's orbit for a distant galaxy (where she had been vacationing since Sloth's defeat) than a badly wounded Lightning Lenny appeared at Headquarters.

     "The Grundos are revolting," he sputtered weakly, before collapsing at Judge Hog's feet.

     By the time the Space Faerie returned, one week later, it was too late. Dr. Sloth's takeover was complete. As was expected, Dr. Sloth's strength came from his manipulation of the Grundo population. How he managed to manipulate them without having left his compound was anybody's guess, but many suspected Adylene of having a role in it. Again, there were no traces of Dr. Sloth having used horrible experimentation or laser beams or giant rays. It just seemed that over the course of a week, Grundos, one by one, began to turn back to Dr. Sloth - willingly.

     The second biggest mystery was that of the changing Grundos. The rumors had been completely true - the Grundos were getting smarter. Perhaps with their growing intelligence came also the growing resentment of being considered the dimwits of Neopia.

     Dr. Sloth was freed from his cold prison on Kreludor, and was greeted by every Grundo when he set foot on Neopian soil for the first time in five years. This time, he came to Neopia not to conquer, but to savor having conquered. Truthfully, Dr. Sloth couldn't stand living on a silly rock like Neopia.

     The Space Faerie did all that she could to rally resistance against Dr. Sloth. The Defenders joined the faeries in an underground resistance movement, but time and time again they were defeated. At times the Defenders joined their former enemies, for now they faced a common evil. Hubrid Nox resented being ruled over as much as the next Neopian, if not more because a fellow evil villain had conquered Neopia before he had.

     Those that Sloth could not win over, he crushed. The Grundos were not large in number but their growing intelligence (though still less than Sloth's) gave them other advantages. Lightning Lenny's intelligence to Judge Hog regarding the matter read, "The Grundos don't use sheer force. Their plans are so complex that the Resistance is taken by surprise every time, cornered into making mistakes, fooled into doing the Grundos' work for them. It's impossible to infiltrate their forces or use psychological strategies - they are simply too smart for us!"

     One would have thought that the Grundos were smart enough to see that Sloth was an unwise choice, but they harbored more resentment than anyone could have predicted. After years of not being "smart enough" to do more than grunt work, they were now the leaders and the bosses of every Neopian. No longer did they do the menial jobs, no longer were they scorned. Under Sloth's rule, the Grundos benefited the most.

     Dr. Sloth took the Virtupets Space Station as his citadel, where he and Adylene lived in luxurious comfort. As punishment for resisting his supremacy, he cut off supply of the Virtupets wonder that had made Neopian life so comfortable - electricity. Of course, Sloth's followers were the exceptions.

     At long last, Sloth had his revenge against Neopia and his well-deserved victory. Neopia had its first taste of his brilliance and it was safe to say that it would be careful to avoid a second helping.

     ***

     "I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!" Two green hands slammed down on a crystal table. The latest Neopian Times lay, untouched, at the center of it. The headlines, the same ones each day for the past two years, read, "Neopia Loves its Mastermind Leader, Sloth!" and below it featured a gigantic snapshot of a smug-looking Sloth.

     The artificial light in the room made everything seem bleak and tasteless. Dr. Sloth straightened and walked over to the gigantic glass window that was the front wall of the room. Adylene, of course, was not far behind. The great mastermind gazed out into space. The window gave him a full view of all he owned - all of Neopia, the entire planet, and its moon, Kreludor. Dr. Sloth's eyes rested on the rocky sphere, and he clasped his hands behind him. Two green eyes looked back at Dr. Sloth from his reflection in the window. He stepped back to take in the full view of Neopia and Kreludor, and all of the stars beyond them.

     "Adylene, it has been two years to the day that I conquered Neopia." Doctor Sloth's eyes never left the stars. "I am now supreme ruler of the planet and its moon, and all of its inhabitants are subservient to me and my loyal followers. My enemies reside now where they once imprisoned me - on the dark side of Kreludor." His eyes narrowed. "Every desire I have ever had has been fulfilled, but still I am not satisfied."

     Adylene walked up to Dr. Sloth and gazed with him at the stars. She no longer kept her gaze to the floor. The glow of her eyes seemed to throw out a challenge to the stars. Her robes gathered silently around her, and the slight clink of her scepter hitting the floor was heard.

     "Every day of my life I dreamed of contentment, of having every ambition realized. It's been two years, Adylene, and I am still not content."

     Adylene said nothing.

     "I have finally realized where my true happiness lies." Dr. Sloth turned, sweeping his signature cape around him. He was still a proud figure to behold, just as he was at the creation of Neopia. His skin was still a flawless green, and his hair was carefully slicked back, though now a few strands of silver could be seen. He strode up to the throne that faced the windows and sat down. Adylene tapped her scepter and two small Neopets rushed in with an enormous crystal platter, on which rested a cask of purple drink and a crystal glass. They were only children, and they trembled under the weight of the cask when Dr. Sloth did not immediately pour himself a glass. The glowing eyes of the purple Grundo dimmed when she saw this. She swept forward and poured a drink for the master, thus dismissing the children. Dr. Sloth swished the purple liquid around, watching it splash up against the edges of the glass. After a moment's contemplation, he downed the contents in a single gulp.

     "My true happiness lies there." Dr. Sloth threw the crystal glass at the window and watched it shatter on the floor. A single, slender, green finger pointed at the stars. "Those stars that taunted me during my imprisonment taunt me still - for those stars are other worlds - worlds that do not yet know the great brilliance of Dr. Sloth." The green caped figure jumped up from his seat, the sparkle of new ambition in his eyes.

     "Adylene! I must continue to conquer! This tiny, pathetic planet of imbeciles knows already just how brilliant I am." He gripped his hair with his hands and wailed to his self, "Two years, wasted, bored with where I am! Two years I could have spent formulating even more brilliant plans!" Dr. Sloth shot one last glare at the stars and swept off to his office.

     This time, however, Adylene did not follow. Instead, she turned from the throne to look back out into space. After being his faithful follower for so many years, she had gotten to know his psychopathic mindset better than was healthy. Still, she was so close to the realization of her own goals. She knew in a matter of hours Sloth would set out on his own to find a new planet to conquer, and would discard her carelessly like a worn Usuki doll. She brought out from under her robes a small Virtupets communicator, which allowed her to both speak and hear whomever she called. Adylene pressed a button, and on the screen appeared Judge Hog.

     "Adylene!" Judge Hog's voice betrayed his immense shock. Behind him, Adylene could see the bleak Kreludan terrain.

     "Adylene? Give me that!" Now the screen showed the Space Faerie. She looked worried. "It's been nearly three years, Adylene. Is everything still going as planned? We thought you were lost to us."

     A small smile crept onto Adylene's face. The Space Faerie gasped.

     "So you've done it? Sloth will leave Neopia?"

     Adylene nodded, and for the first time since she went undercover, she spoke.

     "Neopia is free. Sloth has discovered his true calling."

     A loud cheer erupted from her device. "Adylene, you are a true undercover genius." Adylene nodded in agreement. There was nothing she knew how to do better.

The End

For Fortune, Strife and all faithful Sloth followers of Neopia - here is your dream come true... sort of. Neomail is welcome.

 
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