The Shoyru from Outer Space
“At long last, I look the royalty I have always been!” cackled Nokura. She stroked her jewel-encrusted helmet, and twirled around in her silken blue robes. “I am SOOO going to rock the Battledome in this getup.”
“You better,” said Tashni. “Do you have any idea what I went through to save up the money to get you that Royal Paint Brush?”
“I paid for a whole third of it,” cried the Shoyru.
“A little less than a third, dear,” corrected Tashni. Then she smiled. “But you did a lot of work to earn it, and I’m proud of you. And you are just beautiful! Definitely the prettiest now.”
Nokura stuck her tongue out at her brother. “Haha, Shoonie. Your Faerie wings can no longer compete with my astronomical beauty!”
Shoonie smiled good-naturedly. “I never dared to compete with you, Nokura.”
“Alright, everybody,” said Tashni to the five Neopets gathered for Nokura’s painting party. “Let’s get back to the house. I am starving!”
The Acarsum family started to leave the Fountain when Nokura spotted another Royal Shoyru running around the other side of the Rainbow Pool. He seemed to be running towards something, but Nokura was not about to let a chance to meet a fellow Royal Shoyru pass her by.
“I’ll catch up later, Mom,” she hollered. Without waiting for permission, she sprinted after her target, although she caught a grumble from Tashni about starting dinner without her.
Nokura ran after the Shoyru past the Fountain and around the back of the Hospital. There, she started flying after him just to keep up. She called out to him to stop, but he did not appear to hear her. He dashed behind the hospital into the woods surrounding Neopia Central. She nearly lost track of him amidst the trees, but she always managed to spot some glint of a metal helmet, the tip of a wing, or the corner of his robe around the next tree. After a few moments of frantic flying, she could not see him anymore. She pushed ahead on foot, and without warning, found herself in a clearing, standing in front of a giant baseball.
“Whaaa?” came out of Nokura’s mouth.
The Shoyru she had been following whirled around at the sound of her voice. “Oh hello! I didn’t see you following me,” he said.
“Oh, uh, I just wanted to say hi,” she said and plastered on a grin. “I just got painted today and wanted to meet you. As a fellow Royal Shoyru, you know.”
“Oh,” he said with a frown. “Well, there’s not a club or anything. Not that I know of at least.” He turned his back to her and walked up to the giant baseball. Seriously, the thing was taller than he was.
“What is that?”
“Oh, this?” he said as if he hadn’t noticed it until now. “It’s my spaceship.”
Nokura raised an eyebrow. She knew from the moment he opened his mouth that he was a strange one, but now she was thinking she had better escort him to the hospital. It wasn’t that far away. “Um, it doesn’t look like Virtupets design to me.”
“You’re not an alien Aisha either, unless I am in grave need of glasses.”
“Nope, not an alien Aisha. I’m just a Shoyru, heading home.”
“In a baseball.”
He exhaled impatiently. “Look, you want to come with me so I can show you?”
“In your spaceship?”
“My baseball, yes.”
“Sure. Why not.” At the very least, she would have a great story for Nar when she got back home.
“Excellent!” exclaimed the Shoyru. He pulled a key out of a pocket in his robe and stuck it into the baseball. The outline of a door appeared in the side of the baseball. He turned the key, and the door opened downward into a ramp that met the grass.
Nokura’s jaw dropped a bit and her brow furrowed in disbelief.
The Shoyru walked inside his baseball. After a moment of her staring vacantly at the baseball, he stuck his head out. “Coming?”
Without thinking, she walked to the baseball, up the ramp, and inside it.
“Welcome to my baseball,” quipped the Shoyru.
The sphere was dark on the inside, and Nokura could only feel cool metal beneath her feet. She heard the Shoyru tap a button, and the dark walls faded away into paneled glass. Her eyes widened and she pressed her hands against the glass to ensure its reality.
“Hold on,” he said.
Before she could catch her breath, the trees around them dropped below and blue sky enveloped them. Nokura gasped. “We’re flying!”
“Wouldn’t be much of a spaceship if it didn’t,” said the Shoyru. “I’m Aekin, by the way.”
“Nokura,” she whispered. “Nice to meet you.” Her eyes were locked onto the shrinking trees below. Within moments she could see the marketplace of Neopia Central; it looked like an anthill with all the Neopians coming and leaving on the roads. A few minutes after than she could no longer make out the buildings, only a patch of deforested land. She then noticed the sky darkening around her, and slowly fading into a starry night sky. Nokura realized with a gasp that they were leaving Neopia’s atmosphere.
She felt that she should start freaking out about now, pondering how she would get home, how angry her mom would be at her for leaving the planet without permission, and just being terrified of the Great Unknown. But she wasn’t. She felt enthralled. “Where do you live, exactly?”
“Shoyru City,” said Aekin. He pointed in front of him. “It’s right there.”
Nokura followed his finger and saw a blood-and-coal-colored metallic monster. “That’s just the Virtupets Space Station.”
“Not that monstrosity! Beyond it.”
Nokura looked past Virtupets and saw a metal dot hanging amidst the stars. She remained skeptical of this “Shoyru City,” but held her tongue. After a few more minutes, the station became larger to her eye and she could make out a hat-shaped metal structure with Shoyru wings sprouting out of it. Nokura took in a large breath. “Omigosh, that is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen! How long has it been there, does anyone else know about it? How did you get here, why didn’t I know about it sooner? What’s it like there? We are going there, right? I want to go in, not just look around the outside. Oh my gosh, this is so cool!” She took a breath.
“Don’t worry, Miss Nokura,” said Aekin. “We’re going inside.”
The baseball-ship decelerated and docked with the “Shoyru Station.” Without a word, Aekin opened the door and held out his arm, inviting Nokura to go first.
She said nothing as she passed him and stepped into the station. Her hungry eyes soaked it all in. “Well, this is disappointing!”
“What?” he said with a hint of a bruised ego.
“It’s just a hall with metal floors and icky taupe walls. I could be in any one of half a dozen apartment complexes in Neopia Central.”
“Well, it’s just a hallway, what do you expect?” He grabbed her hand and towed her down the hallway. They reached a glass elevator and went in the direction labeled “down,” which prompted Nokura to wonder if “down” existed in space. Tope walls skimmed past them as they plummeted down the station. Nokura waited for something remotely exciting to show itself.
Aekin’s lips twitched in a hidden smile.
“What?” asked Nokura with a raised eyebrow.
“Oh, you’re just about to be really impressed, it all.”
“You have a pretty big ego, don’t you?”
He did not reply, except with a single raised corner of his lips.
The taupe walls abruptly ended, and Nokura was flying through a silver city, like a hollow sphere enveloping her. Her mouth slowly fell agape as her eyes soaked in the reality of this place. She pressed her hands against the glass; she needed to reassure herself that it was real. Shoyrus flew threw the air from one end of the spherical city to the other. Silver buildings lined the walls of the sphere, lights glittered all around. “It’s beautiful,” she whispered.
“Look up,” Aekin whispered back.
She did, and at the top of the sphere she saw a canopy of stars. “I’ve never seen so many.”
“No atmosphere,” he explained.
They landed at the bottom of the sphere and Nokura needed to look up most of the time to take in the magnificence. The elevator’s glass door slid open, and Aekin followed her out.
“Where to, Miss Nokura?” he asked.
Without a word she walked towards the center of the sphere and he followed.
A Royal Shoyru woman stepped in front of Aekin. “What have you done this time?” she asked in a defeated tone.
“Shakra!” Aekin exclaimed. “So nice to see you! How’s the family?”
She rolled her eyes. “Who’s she? Haven’t seen her around before. Just get painted?” she added the last with skepticism.
“Well, no,” Aekin said, shifting his weight. “She’s from Neopia, actually.”
“Aekiiin,” she whined, running her hand over her forehead. “I knew it would come to this. I knew it. How many times have I warned you? Do not bring plants, Petpets—or Neopets for crying out loud—onto Shoyru Station!”
“Well, in my defense, she did follow me.”
“All the way to Shoyru City?” she nearly yelled.
“Well, to my spaceship anyway.”
“You have a camouflage mechanism.”
“Yes, but I can’t find it if it blends in too well.”
She sighed. “What were you planning on doing with the girl?”
“Well, I was going to show her around Shoyru City for a bit, but now I’ll have to find her first.”
Shakra narrowed her eyes in confusion for a moment before she whirled around to see no trace of Nokura.
“I have come to realize that she is both curious and oblivious at the same time,” Aekin noted.
“We have to find her before she sees too much.”
“We have to? What do you mean, ‘we’? You’re the one who let her wander off.”
Shakra glared at him.
“Okay, okay!” He threw his hands up in defeat. “She seems to like shiny things.”
“That’s helpful,” grumbled Shakra. “And don’t think you’re off the hook, Aekin. As soon as we find her, you’re taking her back to Neopia. If we’re lucky, we can convince her all this was only a dream.”
“Good luck with that.” Aekin walked up the stairs to the first level of stores, and Shakra followed him closely.
“What does she look like?” she asked.
“It’s curious,” said Aekin. “On Neopia, one species’ color always looks exactly the same. There are minor differences, but most could pass as twins. You for instance, Shakra, would be classified as ‘Royal,’ but no Neopian Shoyru’s helmet would be silver or have red gems. They all have gold helmets with blue jewels. And your skin is different, too, although I rather like your ruby and smoke complexion better than the red and lavender coloring common on Neopia.”
“Huh. They must get bored with each others’ looks.”
“Nah. It’s quite fascinating, actually. They take it upon themselves to claim their own physical identity. Often it’s with clothes or cosmetics, other times they separate themselves by developing their talents. You really should see it sometime.”
“I have no desire to go to that planet,” said Shakra.
“See now, that’s the problem with lots of Shoyrus. You’re scared of the unknown, the forgotten.” Aekin’s eyes focused on something ahead and he chuckled into a smile. “There she is.”
“Excellent,” she replied. “I’m going to get Hansik to take her back to Neopia.” She gave Aekin a distrusting glare.
“Oh, Shakra,” he said with a familiar jesting in his voice. “You’re such a party pooper.”
She sighed. “Aekin, we have the security of Shoyru City to consider. If our existence became public, we could become just another tourist attraction, and then what would happen to us? Would we remain the scientific elite that we have been for generations? What about our culture?”
“What culture?” he exclaimed. “We have turned our backs on our history, our heritage—that ‘planet’ as you so callously call it! That girl,” he said and reached out his finger in Nokura’s direction, “is a link to who we are. I am a scientist, Shakra. I study our history and our heritage. Only it’s not dead history, it is alive, on Neopia below.” He pleaded with his eyes. “Shakra, let me live with it. Let me experience how they think.”
Shakra’s eyes softened and she folded her arms. “What are you thinking, Aekin?”
* * *
Aekin walked into Antique Furniture Imports to collect Nokura. Most of the store was stocked with Kreludan gizmos and novelties that most Shoyrus considered ‘quaint.’ He spotted a steel Hover Chair whizzing about the back of the store, followed by an employee frantically trying to catch up with it. In the Hover Chair sat Nokura; she looked almost intoxicated with laughter. Aekin chuckled in delight.
He waited and watched Nokura zip around. The chair flew towards the front of the store with Nokura clinging to its armrests. She did not even notice Aekin because of the violence of her hysterics. He stepped in front of her and caught the chair by its arms. Nokura’s laughter ended as abruptly as her ride, but as she looked at Aekin, she bubbled over again.
Aekin laughed with her. “Like the chair?”
“C’mon,” he said and nodded outside the store. “Take a walk with me.”
Nokura slid out of the chair to follow him. The store employee clutched the back of the chair, glaring after her as she left.
Aekin led her into a stroll on the metal promenade that hugged the outer wall of the sphere. “When we first met, you asked where my spaceship came from.”
Nokura gazed up at the window to the stars. “Uh-huh.”
“You know of the Alien Aishas?”
She nodded and gave him more of her attention.
“Well, many years ago when they first arrived on Neopia, the Aishas landed near a village of Shoyrus. Though the Aishas were initially met with fear and hostility, the Shoyrus quickly realized what they had to gain from friendship with the Aishas. Over time, they became friends. As a result, the Aishas shared their technology with us. The Shoyrus decided to reach for the stars, and with the Aishas’ help, Shoyru City came into existence.”
Nokura wrinkled her nose in thought. “So... Shoyru City is built on Alien Aisha technology?”
He smiled at her innocence of his world. “You see Nokura, Shoyru City has been completely cut off from Neopia for generations. We have lost a big part of who we are because of it. That’s why I was on Neopia—”
“Neopia!” Nokura shouted.
Aekin jumped a bit and stared wide-eyes at her.
“How long have I been here?” she demanded.
“It doesn’t matter, it’s been too long. Mom and everybody will be worried. And furious! Oh, the things Mom’s gonna do to me.”
“Don’t worry, Miss Nokura,” he said with a relieved grin. “I’ll take you home.”
“Can I buy that Hover Chair first?”
“You don’t have any of our currency.”
“Well, then you can buy it for me.”
“Excuse me, but I was practically kidnapped into coming up here!”
“Kidnapped! You followed me.”
“Are you willing to risk that technicality over a simple little Hover Chair?”
Aekin sighed. “Alright, I just thought you were in a hurry.”
Back in his spaceship, Nokura directed Aekin to the northeastern part of the planet. They soon saw a rural country of mossy green hills ribboned with water. Aekin could not remember the land’s name, until Nokura mentioned “Shenkuu.” She pointed out a small dwelling, obviously still under construction. He parked in the untamed grass behind it.
Nokura jumped out of the ship and ran ahead into the house through a side door. Aekin followed slowly after her. She left the door open, and the warm light of the home spilled into the dusk air. He regretted that such phenomena in the sky and air did not exist on Shoyru City. As he walked inside, he heard Nokura’s voice.
“—and so I was having fun, but then I remembered you guys, so Aekin brought me home.” Nokura’s audience appeared less than convinced of her explanation.
Aekin closed the door and Nokura looked over toward the sound. “See! I told you,” she said as if he was proof enough of her extraterrestrial adventure.
A brunette human gave him a hard look. Aekin still found humans to be exceptionally alien, even more than Kacheeks—and that said something.
“Um, hello,” he said and waved at the staring family members.
“Who are you exactly?” asked the spotted Zafara.
“Aekin,” he said. “My name is Aekin. I’m sorry Nokura was gone so long, but I lost track of time and, really, I wasn’t even thinking about a curfew.”
“I do not have a curfew,” Nokura corrected.
The human did not acknowledge Nokura’s comment. She kept her focus on Aekin. “And where did you take her? Virtupets?”
“No,” interjected Nokura, “I already told you. Shoyru City. I have proof!” She sprang out of the house, presumably to his spaceship.
“Well as Nokura said,” began Aein, “I took her to a space station, somewhat like Virtupets, only it’s filled with Shoyrus instead of Grundos and was built on Alien Aisha technology, not Sloth’s.”
“Alien Aisha?” said the human, softening her critical glare slightly. Perhaps she was starting to see some reason in this crazy story.
“Yes,” replied Aekin. He began to explain Shoyru City’s origins when Nokura came whizzing into the room on her Hover Chair.
“See?” she said. “It’s all alien and cool.”
Aekin was about to correct her when the Grundo finally spoke. “Actually Nokura, that’s Kreludan.”
The human’s critical glare sharpened again.
“I know it’s Kreludan,” said Aekin, throwing his hands up in defense. “I couldn’t very well give her our technology; the Aishas won’t let us. The Alien Aishas, that is. From my perspective, what you consider ‘normal’ Aishas are alien to me.” Aekin could see his rambling was getting him nowhere fast. He needed to present real evidence before he got kicked out of their home on his bum. “Uh, why don’t you all just step outside with me and I’ll show you my spaceship. Will that be proof enough?”
The Grundo huffed as he passed Aekin on his way to the backyard. “Depends on whether or not it’s Kreludan.”
“Fair enough,” said Aekin.
Nokura squealed with glee from her Hover Chair while the rest of her family went outside to investigate the so-called “spaceship.”
“I could be mistaken,” said the Grundo as he examined the ship, “but it looks rather like a giant apple to me.”
“A giant spherical apple,” concurred another Neopian. Aekin believed its species was called Lutari.
“It doesn’t look good for you, Mister Aekin,” warned the human.
“Just step inside and you’ll see,” said Aekin as he walked over and unlocked his ship.
With frowns of skepticism, the Neopians gingerly boarded the giant spherical apple. Aekin waited outside, and they returned a few minutes later appropriately humbled. Aekin felt pleased with himself.
“Have fun?” Nokura asked with an evil glint in her eye as her family returned inside with Aekin.
Tashni—who had introduced herself by this time—walked over to her hovering friend and smacked her over the head. Such a display of violence bewildered Aekin.
“What exactly do you think you were doing, getting on a spaceship with a complete stranger?” Tashni demanded.
“I really didn’t think it was a spaceship,” whined Nokura while she rubbed her head.
The Lutari strode over to Nokura. “And I thought I’d had some adventures,” he laughed.
“Aekin,” said Tashni, “We already ate, but if you’d like some food, you’re welcome to stay for a while.”
“Thanks, I think I will,” he said. “And you all understand that you cannot tell anyone about me, right?”
“Sure,” Tashni said as she shrugged. “It’s not like anyone would believe us anyway.”
Tashni proved to be a generous hostess, and Aekin enjoyed his hour with Nokura’s family. They were an odd collection of people—diversity of this kind simply could not exist in the bubble of Shoyru City. Zaf was a Petpet veterinarian living in the Lost Desert, Shoonie was a refugee of the first Sloth invasion, and Nar was Tyrannian by birth but raised Maraquan. Lute said nothing of his past, and Aekin could only imagine what he had gone through on Lutari Island.
When the time came for him to leave, Nokura walked Aekin out to his ship.
“Well,” sighed Aekin. He gazed fondly over his ship and then at Nokura. “How ‘bout it?”
“How ‘bout what?”
“Coming with me,” he said like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Her eyes widened a bit, but not in shock—in excitement. “Where?”
He smiled at her. “All over! I am a scientist. I’m exploring Neopia for the good of Shoyru City. And it would be nice to have a native around.”
“Yes!” she said and leapt inside his ship.
“You don’t need a toothbrush or anything?”