Feathers That Don't Merely Shine
Asiden fluttered timidly through the dark corridors of Sloth’s space station. His white lab coat ruffled in the wind of his wings as he soared around the corner and up to a card-reading mechanism fastened to the wall. Extracting his pass card from his pocket, he slid it through the machine, and the door beside it simultaneously opened itself and granted him entry into the main lab.
After he had safely passed through the doorway, the door shut itself and sealed him inside.
“What’s on the sk’dule today?” Asiden muttered quietly as he grabbed a metal clipboard from the wall and began scanning the list of experiments waiting for completion. “Attain equilibrium between Tyrannium and Slothite... measure partial pressure for Faeryllium-Krawkite concentration solution... solve X for the complete ionization of Neopium...” The green Pteri mumbled past another dozen or so of these tasks until he reached the end of the list. “Ah, yes,” his beak curved into a devious grin, “test the affects of Tri-Slothite Neopium(aqueous) on living organisms.”
Asiden tossed the clipboard away and latched it back onto its hook in one swift motion. In the next moment, he was reaching his now-gloved wings into the industrial-strength cooler and retrieving a vial of glowing liquid from the eerily-lit blue expanse of coolant.
He flicked the vial, small pieces of ice dropping off its sides, and drew his face nearer the solution. It shadowed his face with a haunting, white light.
He spun swiftly and poured the vial’s entire contents into a beaker for heating and dilution for experimentation. Next, Asiden twirled from the slowly-simmering concoction and darted to a pile of cages lining the fourth wall of the laboratory. He reached the darkened metal bars and shouted with rage--they were all empty!
“Calm yourself, Asiden,” he said coolly, “else Lord Sloth will exterminate you.”
He turned from his own musings, sighing aside his rage as he keyed in a few numbers on a nearby communications unit. When the signal announced that his call had been received, he began. “Your Majesty, the Magnificent Man of Millions, Master Sloth, it would seem that we have run out of Miamice for experimentation and are in need of more for the Tri-Slothite Neopium project to continue.”
“Hmm,” was Sloth’s initial response. His second response was, “You tell me this... because?”
Though Asiden had the complete authority, being the Sloth’s lead scientist and head of the chemistry department, to contact his Master, a response like this was never one that he wanted. Yet it was always one such as this that he received. “I am telling you so because you wished for this project to be given the entire focus of your knowledged staff.”
“Ah, I see,” the communicator broadcasted, Sloth’s voice coming to Asiden through a cloud of static. “Very well, Asiden,” the space-overlord continued, “you know very well that our budget is limited at the time, so unless you can find sufficient funds for yourself, or another being willing enough to be our next vict--I mean, our next subject--you will have to fend for yourself... unless--” Sloth’s voice cut off and there was silence.
And more silence.
And even more silence still.
Asiden was about to redial, assuming the call had been dropped, when Sloth’s voice returned, saying, “Asiden, my boy, I’ve sorted everything out for you! Professors Dai and Ziya will be arriving momentarily with your new subject, and this time I do mean victim.” Asiden heard sinister laughter, and more laughter, and even more laughter still that was suddenly followed by a hacking cough and a depressed sigh.
“You really should watch your throat, My Lord,” he offered.
“Oh, Asiden, I know,” Sloth said pitifully back to him, “but the lozenges you gave me just taste so horrible...” Asiden chose not to reply to this, allowing Sloth to continue with renewed vigor after a moment. “Besides, my dear boy, you should be calling Tri-Slothite Neopium by its true name now, Conquerium.”
“Yes, Your Insatiable Intellectual, very well.” There was to be no arguing with this, especially after the last fiasco when Sloth insisted that Di-Neopium Phosphate be called “Die Neopia” and the subsequent chemical confusion had caused an explosion that decimated the chemists’ quarters but had resulted in the production of the iron(II) Neopium cation being discovered. This particular ion happened to be the main ammunition of Lord Sloth’s latest invention, the Irrefutable Ray of Supremacy, called the IRS for short. Though the weapon had only recently begun its initial testing, when the full missile was ready for launching, it would most certainly go off with a bang.
With a resounding “click,” the communications line was lost.
Asiden turned around and headed for the doorway, where Professor Dai, a yellow Lenny, and Professor Ziya, a purple Techo, had just entered. The Pteri paused a few feet from them and his beak fell open and his eyes narrowed in confusion. “Where is the subject Lord Sloth told me you were bringing?”
Ziya snickered. Dai squawked, “It’s already here.”
“It is?” Asiden asked, whirling around and looking for the subject.
The very next instant, he was struggling against the grip of his assailants as his colleagues dragged him onto the experimentation table and strapped him down. “What are you doing?” the Pteri wailed as he watched the two grab the Tri-Slothite Neopium and fill a large syringe with it. They squirted a fraction of it out of the needle’s tip, ensuring that there were no air bubbles left inside, and Asiden knew exactly what they were doing.
“No!” he protested, “You can’t give me all of it! It’ll kill me!”
“That’s the point,” Ziya said, slapping him across the face and knocking him unconscious. “Dai,” she said, reaching her hand out behind her, “give me the Conquerium.” The next second, she was leaning over the out-cold scientist and injecting the shimmering solution into his forewing. Tossing the emptied syringe to the side, she said, “Let’s toss him down the disposal chute; it’ll end him for good.”
Five minutes later, the two turned away and began wiping their hands free of the deed. “Say,” Dai asked as they crossed the lab, “why’d we have to do him in, anyways?”
Ziya snickered. “He was compromised, told Sloth we ran out of Miamice.”
Dai gulped as best as a Lenny could gulp. “But, Ziya,” he said slowly, his voice hardly more than a whisper, “there aren’t any Miamice left. The cages are empty.”
The two exchanged hurried glances.
“Say not a word of this to Sloth,” Ziya said gravely. “He never needs to know.”
* * *
Asiden woke slowly, flexing his wings as if waking from a nightmare to only find that what he had dreamt had in fact been real. He leapt up, though he fell down as quickly as he had, squawking in agonizing pain--his left talon felt broken and his wing, out of place.
The room he was in smelled of putrid decay. And what he lay upon was soft and mossy. The air around him was lit with a soft, glowing light, and in utter terror, Asiden realized that it was he himself who was emitting such light. He was astounded, yet equally amazed. There was no way to explain this, unless... unless Ziya and Dai had injected him with the Tri-Slothite Neopium he had prepared for the Miamice.
But even with such light of his own emission, Asiden gravely realized a moment later, the shadows were still too thick around him for him to make out exactly where he was. It wasn’t until a flashing red light broke the darkness and warning signals began blaring through the air that he knew exactly where he was: inside the garbage compressor.
The island of trash Asiden sat upon began shifting beneath him, grinding painfully loud against the walls, but he was too weak to stand and his cries were unheard outside. The wall across him began moving closer, more closer, and even more closer still. Fate spelled out his doom, yet he knew there was a service hatch somewhere near him.
If only he could find it and escape.
To be continued...
Will Asiden survive? Will Sloth’s plan for world domination reign supreme? Will Tri-Slothite Neopium ever truly be called Conquerium?
Find out the answers to these questions and more in the stunning conclusion to Feathers That Don’t Merely Shine, Radio Active Pteri Part 2! Available where all books are sold.*
*Radio Active Pteri Part 2 may not be available in all stores where books are sold.