The Age of Reason
The Space Station wasn't particularly crowded, which made it a mystery as to why Sloth chose that day for his next invasion. If he had any sense in him, he would have chosen a day when the Station was jam-packed, so he would have a better chance of causing terror. However, that's in the past, and it wouldn't make any sense to wonder any more. On the fifth day of the Month of Hiding, year eight, Dr. Frank Sloth blew out a wall in the Space Station and paraded in, an army of Grundos at his heels.
“Fools! You didn't think I'd return? Hiding, some say!” He snorted with fake laughter. “I'll conquer you yet!” He blew a whistle around his neck, and the Grundos behind him began marching forward, and he threw his head back and commenced an evil cackle.
Hardly anyone in the Space Station seemed to take notice. A few showed signs of minor annoyance, but for the most part, the lobby remained calm.
But Sloth stood, in the middle of the army of Grundos, laughing evilly, evidently convinced there was a minor panic. When he opened his eyes, though, he scowled.
“Imbeciles,” he muttered, and raised his ray gun.
No one is quite sure what happened next. Some say he fired the ray gun, but others insist he dropped it and it fired by accident. Some say it was never fired. But whatever happened, something hit the lights and they exploded, causing a shower of sparks over the Neopians.
The Grundo army heard Sloth shouting with anger and frustration, and became convinced that he was giving them orders. Thus, they snatched a small Kougra child from her mother, who immediately attacked the Grundos.
The civilians began a sort of riot at this time, in an attempt to save the girl and protect her mother, but the Grundos fought back bravely. In a flash, the girl was whisked through a portal behind Dr. Sloth.
When the army spotted the first Grundo entering the portal, it rose as one mass to join it, and began pouring through the portal. Some carried hostages, but most were empty handed. Sloth roared and screamed for his slaves to return, but when he realized his army was gone, and he was alone in the Space Station surrounded by an angry mob, he followed after them.
And that's how they met.
Sloth's army had taken four Neopets hostage: the plushie Kougra child, along with a split Grundo, a gray Krawk, and a royal Uni. They were shoved roughly into a room slightly smaller than half a gymnasium, with a large window on one wall, too high to see out of, and they heard the door slammed behind them. The Grundo pounded violently on the door, shouting curses and demanding that the Grundo army return to fight him. The royal Uni pranced around nervously, while the Krawk took one look at his surroundings and seated himself against a wall. The Kougra child found a corner, where she curled up and watched her companions.
It was nearly an hour before any of them spoke. By this time, the Grundo had seated himself next to the door, almost waiting for the army to return. The Kougra had taken to examining every detail of the room, but hadn't found anything of worth.
“So... what's everybody's name?” the Kougra asked, half cheerfully, half apologetically.
The Krawk appeared not to hear her, absorbed in a book, and the Uni huffed indignantly. The Grundo, however, answered, “I'm Skipper, but everyone calls me Skippy.”
“It is very nice to meet you, Skippy.” The Kougra beamed. “And what's your name, Miss Uni?”
The Uni glared at her. “Analice.”
“That's a nice name.” She smiled, and gave a little wiggle of delight at having learned her name. “And what about you?” She turned to the Krawk.
“Hm?” He looked up from his book.
“What's your name?”
“Nice to meet you. Where's everyone from?” she asked.
“Why are you asking so many questions?” Analice demanded. “Who are you, anyway?”
“I'm Danee!” the Kougra answered, positively glowing.
“Look, Analice, the way I see it, we're all stuck in here anyway, and we have no reason not to make the best of it.” Skippy frowned.
Corban half shrugged, without turning from his book. Analice put her nose in the air.
“Forget them.” Skippy shrugged. “What do you like to do?”
“I like a lot of things. Do you like tea?” Danee smiled.
“I can't take it!” Analice stood, and stomped to the door. “How could they lock me up like this?” She kicked the door several times. “HOW DARE YOU LOCK ME UP WITH A BUNCH OF LOWLIFES!!!”
“Who're you calling a lowlife?” Skippy demanded, suddenly suspicious.
“I'm calling you a lowlife! You have a problem with that?!”
“Yes, I do!” Skippy got to his feet.
“Well, I get the feeling I'm not going to like you, Skippy,” Analice said, nearly spitting the word.
“Well, that's good. Then I won't be under any obligation to like you.” Skippy smiled.
“Stop fighting...” Danee whined.
“YOU LITTLE BRAT!!! You think you can tell me what to do?” Analice looked appalled. “Look at me! I'm a royal pet! You can't...”
“Leave her out of this! She's trying to...”
“I knew it! I knew you'd take her side. What do you have against royalty, anyway?”
“I have nothing against royalty. You're just not royalty.”
“Shut up!” Danee begged.
Analice's eyes grew wide. “Who taught you that word? Surely your mother wouldn't let you say it.”
Danee's face set.
“Or is your mother...” Analice continued.
Danee kicked her firmly in the shin.
Analice seemed to snarl, and Danee squealed and scampered across the cell. Analice chased after her furiously, screaming curses and threats, along with several other words.
“LEAVE HER ALONE!” Skippy yelled, and joined the chase.
“Would you guys shut up?” Corban yelled.
Skippy replied with a string of curse words aimed at Analice, and he tackled her to the ground under the window.
“GET OFF OF ME!” Analice screamed, and nearly impaled him on her horn. Skippy jumped back, and Danee hid behind his legs.
“Disgusting... four showers, at least... ” Analice muttered angrily, brushing herself off.
“Sorry,” Danee said quietly while Analice walked past, but the Uni ignored her. Skippy opened his mouth as if to say something, but stopped when he recalled Danee's young ears.
The next few hours were quiet, and no one said much. Corban hardly moved except when he turned a page, and Skippy looked like he was asleep. Analice took up pacing around the cell, while Danee conjured a plushie out of nowhere and began a tea party.
A flap in the cell door swung open and allowed four cans of food to roll in.
For a moment, no one moved.
“THANKS A LOT!” Skippy yelled, and banged a fist on the door.
Analice sighed at him, and strolled to the middle of the room to examine their rations, before stopping dead halfway there.
“Ew.” She took a very small step backwards. “Is this supposed to be... food?”
“Nothing wrong with a bit of canned gruel.” Skippy grinned widely and retrieved a can. “Hungry?” He held the can out to her.
“Ew,” Analice repeated, and backed away before returning to her corner.
Danee ate her can quickly, cross-legged in the middle of the cell, and looked around. Skippy was finished with his gruel, and Analice was still eying the cans with disgust. Corban, however, hadn't moved. Danee picked up a full can and approached the Krawk.
She placed the can by his knee and sat back. Corban looked, first at the can, then at Danee, then back at the can. She nudged the can a few inches closer to his knee and wiggled with delight.
“Er... thanks,” Corban said, and picked up the can.
Danee made a noise similar to the one made by a Puppyblew, and skipped back to her corner and proceeded to chastise her Kacheek plushie for spilling tea all down its front.
After about twenty minutes, a mutant Grundo appeared in the barred window in the door.
“I... uh... need the cans,” it said dully.
“GET IN HERE AND FIGHT LIKE A GRUNDO, FIEND!” Skippy sprang to his feet and threw himself against the door.
Danee skipped back to the pile of cans and delivered those used cans through the flap in the door.
“I need that one.” The guard pointed at the unused can that had been for Analice through the bars. Skippy nearly bit his hand, but he withdrew it.
“It's still full. We need it,” Danee said.
The remark didn't affect the Grundo. “I need it.”
“It still has food in it,” Danee repeated.
“What seems to be the problem, here?!” Sloth shoved the guard out of the way, jumping back when he saw Skippy pressed against the door.
“EVIL COWARDLY SLIME!!! YOUR MOTHER WOULD BE DISTURBED! YOU EVIL...” Skippy shouted a few words that made Corban look up from his book in mild surprise, “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?”
Sloth ignored him. “I said, what's the problem here?” Sloth repeated.
“Er... that one.” The guard pointed at the can.
“That's a can, 5763. It shouldn't be causing you any problems.”
“No, he wants us to give it to him and it's still full. We need it to eat.” Danee shook her head.
“So?” Sloth stared blankly.
“She... hasn't eaten it yet.”
“I don't plan to! It's disgusting! And while you're here, Sloth, I hope you understand that I am the daughter of Francesca LaPeu Demarvio III, and you have NO RIGHT to keep me here!” Analice shouted at him.
Skippy cursed a few more times.
“SHUT UP! I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU DO WITH IT!” Sloth slammed the shutter over the bars closed and stormed away. Skippy seated himself next to the door again and was quiet for a moment. Analice returned to her corner, fuming, and Danee stood by the door, looking confused.
“Does anyone have a watch?” Skippy asked suddenly, remarkably calm.
Corban glanced at his wrist. “It's about 6. Why?”
Corban looked at him as if he were crazy, but returned to his book, which promptly vanished into a puff of smoke.
“I wasn't done with that...” he complained.
“How're we going to get out of here?” Danee changed the subject quickly.
“Good question,” Skippy said.
Analice turned up her nose at them, and Corban pulled out a CD player and started a 2 Gallon Hatz CD in it.
“Where are you getting all this junk?” Skippy asked suddenly.
“You have a backpack on?”
“No. I took it off.”
“What've you got in it?”
“What if there's something that can help us get out?”
Corban frowned, but threw the backpack to Skippy anyway.
Skippy promptly began digging through the backpack. “You've got, like, forty books in here.”
“Could I see one of them?” Corban asked, turning his music down.
“Uh... which one?” Skippy looked in the bag.
“I don't care.”
Skippy pulled out a book and threw it to Corban. “Why have you got a Sitting Bruce Gnome in here?”
“Sitting Bruce Gnome.”
Corban didn't know how it had gotten there, nor did he know how a blue Yurble plushie had found its way into his bag, so he gave it to Danee, who squealed and ran to introduce it to her Kacheek Plushie.
“A rope!” Skippy said, pulling out a coil of rough rope from the backpack.
Corban looked very surprised. “That's been in there for about a year.”
Skippy laughed, and put in aside to begin a pile of items that might be useful for escape purposes. He dug through for a bit longer, then stopped. “Corban?”
“You mind if I dump all this out?”
“I don't care.”
“Okay.” Skippy flipped the backpack over and poured its contents onto the floor. “Danee? Could you come help me sort through this stuff?”
“Coming!” She and Skippy spent the next few minutes sorting Corban's belongings into “useful” and “useless” piles. The “useless” pile grew taller and taller, while by the time they finished sorting the items, the useful items consisted of the rope, an empty water bottle, a few rubber bands, and a rock.
Then the lights went out.
“What just happened?” Danee asked nervously.
“Um... the lights went out,” Corban said.
“Yeah, yeah, we know. Hey, what time is it?” Skippy asked.
“It's about... nine,” Corban said.
“That would explain it, then. Danee, go to bed.”
“It's not my bedtime,” she whined.
“Well when is your bedtime?” Skippy asked.
Danee muttered something that sounded like “eight.”
The night was quiet, and they slept fairly well, until Skippy heard a guard walking past and found it necessary to pound on the door for a half hour or so, but after that it was quiet.
“Good morning!” Danee shouted, as soon as the lights were turned back on.
“Go away,” Analice muttered, half asleep.
Skippy rubbed his eyes, and Corban sat up blearily. Danee hugged her plushies and asked, “How is everyone today?”
Corban shrugged, Skippy yawned, and Analice groaned and rolled over.
But then the flap opened, and a few boxes of Wheat Flakes clunked to the floor.
“Gee, thanks!” Skippy yelled, but he picked up a box and ripped it open.
Breakfast was quiet enough, though Danee insisted on bringing her plushies everywhere she went, and before long, the guard returned to retrieve the boxes. Skippy shoved his at the Grundo's face between the bars.
After that, they spent the next few hours attempting to find a way to escape, without much luck. Analice flew up onto the windowsill, in search of an escape route, but after that wouldn't come down. Corban gave up at one point, or got bored, and began to read, but Skippy and Danee searched every corner of the cell before finally Corban closed his book, turned off his CD player, and stood.
“Danee? How big are you?” he asked distantly.
“I'm almost four feet!” she answered, beaming with pride.
He walked to the door. “Um... yeah.” He sat on his knees and examined the flap. “You think you could fit through here?”
Skippy and Analice stared at the door, appalled that they hadn't discovered that particular escape route as of yet.
“I'll try!” Danee grabbed the Kacheek plushie and dove through the flap.
It was silent for a moment.
“Wow. We're stupid,” Skippy said.
“Hey, look, guys! I'm headless!” Danee poked her head through the flap, giggling.
“Yeah, yeah, we know. Is there a key?” Corban asked nervously.
“Um...” Danee searched. “Yeah! I'll get it.”
There was a small crash.
“Got it!” Danee shoved the key through the flap.
“No, no! Open the door with it!”
“Oh.” Danee fiddled with the lock for a moment, and the door swung open.
Corban grabbed his backpack, and Danee the Yurble plushie, and they set off. Before they had gotten far, they reached a split.
“Which way?” Analice asked.
“Um...” Skippy looked at Corban.
Corban shrugged. “That way?” He pointed to the hallway on the left.
“Great!” Analice smiled, and trotted off down the hall on the right.
They wandered for quite some time, without finding anything other than a dead end with a door labeled “sewer leaks.” Eventually, Analice caught up with them, but refused comment on where she had been.
The next door they came across was unlabeled.
“Danee?” Corban asked. “Can you see under the door?”
She didn't answer, but dropped to the floor, her head pressed against the cold metal of the floor.
“I see... a light. No, not a light. I think it's a light reflected off a chair. No, it might be a...”
“Never mind what that is. What else can you see?” Corban interrupted.
“Hey, look! It's Dr. Sloth!”
But then the door opened, and Sloth emerged wearing a pink spotted bathrobe. He shrieked, and Skippy leaped forwards, but Corban grabbed the back of his shirt to restrain him.
“What... what are you doing here?!?!” Sloth's voice shook, and he hid partially behind the door.
“We're... exchange students... from Maraqua,” Corban lied, trying to get a better grip on Skippy, who roared curses and threats.
“Er... I'm... sorry you came across me like this...” Sloth squeaked. “It was... nice to meet you. What's wrong with your friend?”
“Skippy? Oh, he...”
“EVIL DISGUSTING LIAR!!! HOW COULD YOU, SLOTH... CORBAN, LET GO OF ME!” He twisted violently, but Corban grabbed his sleeve and pulled him backwards again.
“He forgot to take his medication this morning.”
“Er... oh. It was...”
“Before you go, could we possibly borrow a ship? Ours seems to have... broken down.”
“Erm...” Sloth tossed a set of keys at them. “Good luck.”
The door closed, and Corban released Skippy, who fell forwards and slammed into the door.
At some point, they found their way into the main room, where they had no problem finding the ship that matched the keys, as there was only one ship available. They boarded, and found the control room, but none of them moved for the controls.
“Um... Skippy?” Corban said finally. “You know how to drive this thing?”
It was silent.
“Oh, I'll do it.” Danee stepped forwards, to the great alarm of the others.
“You know how to...” Corban stuttered.
“Only from playing Neverending Boss Battle. But I play a lot, so we should be okay.” She began adjusting the seat height.
For the next hour or so, Danee cheerily piloted the ship, while Analice, Corban, and Skippy alternately shouted at her which button to press or clung to something for dear life. Before long, the Space Station called their radio.
“Space Station to unknown flight, come in. Request identification.” The radio buzzed.
“Unknown flight- wait, Corban, is that us?” Danee asked, but Corban nodded. “Yeah... Unknown flight to Space Station, Hi.”
“Er... Space Station to unknown flight, please identify yourself.”
“I'm Danee!” Danee laughed until Corban snatched the speaker from her.
“Unknown flight to Space Station, we are Danee, Analice, Skippy, and Corban, kidnapped by Sloth yesterday. Request... very detailed landing instructions.”
The radio fell silent for a moment. “Tell your pilot to hold the ship still.”
She pulled on gears and levers, and the ship slowed to a stop. Suspended in space, they waited. The ship shook violently, but then it stopped altogether, no longer drifting.
“Turn the ship off.” The radio buzzed again.
When they left the ship, they were once again aboard the Space Station. Skippy cheered.
After the Defenders of Neopia finished interviewing them, Danee's grateful mother invited them to have cookies at her house. They agreed, and took the nearest portal to Neopia Central, where Danee's house was.
Danee's mother was an excellent chef- they enjoyed the cookies immensely, and Danee had a great time introducing everyone to her plushie collection. After some time, Analice grew bored and vomited on Corban's shirt, sending them both home.
They didn't see each other after that very often, although Skippy visited Danee nearly every month. When they happened to run into each other, though, they would say hello, but the conversations never went much further.
Analice returned to Faerieland, and her parents tried to have Skippy arrested for assault, but failed. Corban went back to the Haunted Woods, but moved to Krawk Island shortly after. Skippy and Danee remained good friends, and saw each other often, but none of them ever, ever returned to the Space Station.
If you are reading this, yay me! I'm in the Neopian Times! Enjoy, and feel free to Neomail me with comments or whatever.