Love Will Find A Way
He should have taken up a career in baby-sitting. Jetsam wrestling might have been acceptable too, favored as the safer option. Even hiring himself out as a private detective to track down the Yurble that stole the Neopian Times Editor’s cinnamon roll might have counted as a reasonable substitute.
But no, he had to be an evil genius hell-bent on taking over Neopia, and so he deserved every bit of what was coming to him.
Claws of energy like miniature lightning bolts tore and snapped at the air between the two wires as Dr. Frank Sloth approached his latest hapless victim, a small, unconscious Gruslen that lay sprawled across the lab table like dinner in front of a Werelupe. Not that food was really on Sloth’s mind at that moment, although he wouldn’t have been the least bit upset if his soon-to-be Spider Gruslen were to eat the Space Faerie.
“And I won’t even need to remember the mind-control powder,” he muttered gleefully as he touched the ends of the sparkling wires to the Petpet’s shoulders. “It isn’t smart enough to flout me.” He chuckled under his breath, the sound defiling the air like stones grinding against each other and crushing everything in their path. “Is there no end to my genius?”
The energy that was being channeled into its body activated the chemicals that had been injected into the Gruslen, and the tiny creature began to twitch and shiver. Sloth’s smile froze and fell away. “Darn you,” he muttered, “you’re supposed to be expanding!”
The Gruslen kicked twice and gave no other response.
Ever adaptive, the mad scientist suddenly grinned. “All the better! You’ll be more able to infiltrate enemy strongholds undetected!” With that, he gave the Gruslen one final jolt, then stood back to watch his handiwork come to fruition.
Sure enough, four long spider legs extended slowly from the Petpet’s sides, waving in the air like Cobralls to the music of a flute. The Gruslen slowly began to wake up, blinking blearily in confusion at the extra limbs that had materialized on its body. It flexed them slowly, then turned its head toward Sloth. The slime-green scientist braced himself, his hand straying toward the ray gun that sat concealed in a pocket; but when the furry genetic experiment failed to fly at him in wrath, he sighed softly with relief and left the weapon where it was.
“Xyrak,” he called, and the tiny blue Grundo assistant timidly poked his head into view.
“Yes, your Supreme Excellency?”
“Bring me the prisoner.”
“Yes, your Elevated Mightiness.” Xyrak disappeared, then reemerged a moment later at the head of a dismal procession consisting of himself and two mutant Grundos, the latter of whom were stolidly dragging a struggling blue Kacheek toward the fuzzy-faced, innocent-eyed promise of death that was sniffing delicately at the edge of the table as though enquiring as to whether hopping over it was a desirable course of action. At the sound of approaching footsteps, it lifted its golden-brown gaze to meet that of the Kacheek, and Sloth’s diabolical smile grew.
“Now, my pet, destroy it!”
The Kacheek whimpered piteously as the Gruslen sprang off the table, landed flat on its face, hoisted itself up onto its newfound spider legs and scuttled toward the trembling prisoner. It sat down in front of its prospective victim, who shivered at the sight of that steady, smiling pair of eyes. It rose to its feet, and the Kacheek shrank away from the small bundle of cotton fluff that meandered around it in a circle. And the poor little Neopet was visibly at a loss as to how to respond when the Gruslen paused beside a mutant Grundo’s foot, lifted a leg, and quietly proceeded to mark the huge green tower of muscle as its own.
Sloth’s grin dropped into a frown like a skydiver who had forgotten his parachute tumbling out of the sky. “You could at least have done it on the Kacheek!” he whined, his voice laced with frustrated wrath.
The Gruslen raised its head toward him, stared at him for a moment, then started to lick itself.
Sloth suppressed a groan. “Get him out of here,” he snapped, gesturing sharply toward the Kacheek. As the Grundos filed out of the room, he turned his exasperated attention back to the Gruslen. “You were supposed to be a murderous beast,” he moaned, and the Gruslen stuck its head between its hindlegs.
Sloth turned away in disgust, pondering possible ways to either fix the furry little error or at least to enjoy the process of eliminating it. He had just finished discarding the possibility of introducing its perceptibly proliferous posterior to the Space Faerie’s ankles when he felt a gentle nudge against his thigh, and glancing down he was startled to see a small fuzzy face smiling up into his own as the Gruslen nuzzled him. “Go away,” he snapped irritably. “Can’t you see I’m busy finding a way to annihilate you?”
The Gruslen emitted a soft yawn that nearly swallowed its face, then hopped up onto Sloth’s lap.
“No!” the evil genius barked, shoving it roughly onto the floor.
The Gruslen sprang back onto his lap.
Sloth shoved it off.
The Gruslen got back on.
Sloth shoved it off.
The Gruslen got back on.
Sloth picked it up and threw it across the room.
The Gruslen got back on.
Sloth grabbed it by the throat and flung it into a nearby garbage disposal unit.
The Gruslen climbed out and got back on.
Sloth carried it over to the now-dormant wires he had used to charge the chemicals in its body, and tied it to the wall.
The Gruslen, accompanied by a tangle of wires and a piece of the wall, got back on, and Sloth’s cheek suddenly found itself the startled recipient of the loving attentions of a rough, warm, wet, affectionate tongue along with a generous offering of saliva.
With a cry of disgust, Sloth tore the creature off his face, then held it at arms’ length, stared into the tiny Petpet’s adoring golden-brown eyes, and saw something astonishing: Even though he was a cruel, ruthless, hideous monster, defying all his faults, in spite of all his shortcomings, there was actually a being in the universe who was capable of loving him.
The Maraquan Kau who had been scrubbing King Kelpbeard’s toilet at the time still hasn’t figured out why he heard a scream.
Over the course of the next several days, the newly-modified Spider Gruslen’s philosophy for life became inescapably apparent: Enemies were to be ignored, prisoners were to be smiled at, fellow minions were to be either disregarded or marked as territory, and Dr. Sloth was to be showered with adoration every minute of every day. Normally, Sloth would have been pleased with this last part of the arrangement.
But when you get your toothbrush insistently jaw-delivered to your bed every morning at precisely five o’clock, accompanied by a fair measure of Gruslen spit, it gets to be too much of a good thing.
“For the last time,” Sloth roared in the wake of yet another punctual wake-up call, bulging red eyes glaring into smiling golden-brown ones, “get your foul, stinking, worthless tail away from me!”
The Spider Gruslen meandered over to his feet and curled up on top of them.
One sharp kick sent the creature flying across the room, where it became entangled in one of its own webs. That was another unfortunate side effect of the Petpet’s presence: upon the discovery of its newly installed spinnerets, it had begun to leave thick, sticky webs everywhere. Sloth had even found one stretched across the interior of his toilet, the discovery having been made in a decidedly unfortunate fashion.
A knock at the door alerted Sloth to the approach of one of his servants, who edged into the room in response to his barked “Come in!” as if stepping onto the rim of an active volcano.
The Grundo bowed and offered Sloth his morning coffee. The evil scientist snatched it out of the servant’s hands, which resulted in a splash of coffee making its way onto his lap, followed by the curious Gruslen. This game of ‘follow the leader’ was quickly reversed when the Petpet went flying off of Sloth’s lap, pursued by the flung cup of coffee.
Trembling and stammering, the frightened Grundo asked, “Will th-that be all, y-your Unstoppable M-mightiness?”
“Lock that thing in a containment unit,” Sloth snapped, gesturing irritably toward the Gruslen, “and then stay out of my sight for the rest of the day!”
“Y-yes, your Greatness,” the Grundo replied hastily, then grabbed the soggy Petpet and bolted from the room.
For purely scientific purposes, Sloth wished he had timed the Gruslen’s residence in its cell, because he was certain that the speed with which it escaped must have broken one or two records. As it was, he didn’t know it had gotten loose until he found it waiting patiently on his lab table, staring at him as if asking what had taken him so long. A good, long dose of his ray gun produced no results except for a purring Gruslen and a fair measure of disgust with himself at having created a creature immune to his own foul temper. Surely there had to be SOME way to get rid of this horrible thing.
Doctor Sloth was not a big believer in the concept of overkill. If he had been, he probably would have placed tying up a Petpet, isolating it in an emptied shuttle bay, and then ejecting it into space firmly into that category. As it was, he couldn’t stop the grin that spread across his face as the scourge of his existence tumbled across the viewscreen, head over tail and tail over head as it reeled slowly away in the wake of the rapidly retreating spaceship that had been assigned to its removal. As it diminished to a dot and then disappeared, Sloth drew and released a deep, happy sigh of relief. “Finally,” he murmured, “it’s gone.”
The mutant Grundo who had accompanied him didn’t seem so sure. “Master,” it ventured, “didn’t you design that thing to be able to survive in space?”
“Of course I did!” Sloth snapped, delight at the Gruslen’s eviction softening the rancor that was the default setting for his voice. “But there’s no way it’ll be able to catch up with us.”
And the Gruslen came back. They thought it was a goner, but the Gruslen came back, the very next day. Nobody dared ask their master how his brilliant creation had accomplished its impossible return, but gossip ran wild as the evil scientist madly engaged in what was to one participant a mindless mission to exterminate, and to the other a cheerful game of tag. The Gruslen, of course, eluded its knife-wielding pursuer, until Sloth, exhausted and frustrated, flung the knife with fortunate inaccuracy at a passing floor scrubber before slumping to the floor, which was still wet in the wake of the servant’s administrations. This, of course, was all the invitation the Gruslen needed to entice it onto Sloth’s lap, where it curled up promptly on legs too tired to kick while arms too weary to throw it or launch any other kind of futile attack hung limply at their owner’s sides. Unable and unwilling to tolerate the torrent of adoration that manifested itself through the Petpet’s warm, wet tongue, Sloth got one of his mutant Grundos to hold the Gruslen motionless while Sloth himself retreated to a remote region of the spaceship, securely sealed behind three locked doors, five forcefields, and eight armed guards.
But true love will find a way. Even if that way is up a guard’s sleeve, out his pant leg, into the ventilation system, through the waste management unit, out a vent, across every button on an active console, back into the ventilation system, and out through another vent resulting in a short drop into the lap of the beloved, love will find a way.
“This,” Sloth moaned as he shoved the adoring bundle of spider legs and cotton fluff off of his now fur-covered lap, “is the LAST straw. Tomorrow, I’m getting rid of you once and for all!”
The vast star-spangled canopy of space rolled slowly over the tiny shuttle that hung suspended in its airless grasp, cold, sharp starlight glinting brightly off the polished metal exterior of the lonely, vulnerable craft as it dangled quietly in the silent, endless void. Through a viewport, a small, wide-eyed face stared curiously back at the pair of glittering red eyes that met it across the gulf, the visual link between them never wavering until the moment when the bolt of crimson energy hit, the battleship’s unopposed attack transforming the shuttle into a blossoming starburst of shining orange-and-crimson energy and brightly-lit smoke, which hovered in its place in a silent obituary to the innocent little life that had existed in that spot. The blazing fire of destruction shone in Dr. Sloth’s eyes and glinted off his grin-bared teeth, tendrils of orange light playing across his hideous face as the fireball slowly faded to be lost in the blackness of space.
And then, satisfaction achieved, he turned his back on the window, went about his daily business, created a new transmogrification potion without tripping over a single furry nuisance, sat down to supper with his lap blessedly unoccupied, changed into a Gruslen fur-less nightgown, brushed his teeth with a brush devoid of kitty slobber, and then lay his head down on a soft, comfortable pillow.
And, as any sentient being who has ever seen or heard about an ordeal such as this will no doubt be able to predict...
The pillow began to purr.
The End. He wishes.