Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 177,117,063 Issue: 323 | 21st day of Celebrating, Y9
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Hyperion: The Holiday


by micrody

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Anthea looked both ways down the crowded aisles of the Collectible Card Shop and bowed her head, sighing. It would be impossible to find a gift for Hyperion if all the other shoppers snatched the cards before she could.

     She took a deep breath and trudged forwards into the foray. Once inside it, the crowd was less dense than she had imagined it would be, but nonetheless, it was uncomfortable to have to push past everyone else there.

     As she worked her way back towards the cheaper selection (she had limited funds, after all), she tried to remember which cards Hyperion already had. He wasn’t an avid collector, but he enjoyed playing the trading card game with other Defenders. He always raved when his deck reigned superior, and he always seemed down when he lost because of a single missing card.

     Anthea’s eyes flew open when she turned the corner and saw the rest of the shop empty. Empty of other Neopians. Empty of collectible cards.

     She kicked a scrap of wastepaper across the floor and started walking deeper into the abyssal aisle. Someone was sweeping at the far end, a white Xweetok by the looks of him. As she neared him, he looked up.

     “Can I help you?”

     Anthea looked around and felt the feeble weight of the coin purse in her pocket. “Do you know when you’ll be restocking next?”

     “Eight times an hour,” the Xweetok said. “But these cards? They’re backed up at the factory. We probably won’t have them in stock again till after Giving Day, maybe even after New Year’s.”

     Anthea nodded solemnly. “Well, okay then...” She turned weakly, her chocolate-brown Gelert ears drooping, and began towards the door. As she pushed through the thickening crowd of shoppers, as she neared the sliding-glass doors leading outside, as she walked further and further from the empty aisles she could afford, she pulled her ratty red scarf tighter around her and hoped she could find a gift for Hyperion before it was too late.

     * * *

     “You called for me?” Hyperion asked, and when Judge Hog nodded, the green Shoyru took a seat before Judge Hog’s massive desk.

     “Giving Day is fast-approaching,” Judge Hog said. “It’s the season of giving, a time for family and joy. Now, Hyperion, you’ve not had any major time off since you arrived here back in... some months ago, right?”

     “Yes, sir,” Hyperion said slowly.

     “Good, good,” Judge Hog said, his hooves steepled on his desk before he leaned back and spread out his arms. “Our annual Giving Day party is also fast-approaching, and since heroes and villains alike celebrate Giving Day, it’s become a tradition to invite a villain ever year. Last year, Frank Sloth himself visited. This year, we’ve invited Jhudora.”

     “Really?” Hyperion said. “Jhudora celebrates Giving Day?”

     “Well, we’re not certain,” Judge Hog said, “but we’ve got surveillance on her to find out.”

     “Oh, okay,” Hyperion said.

     “Anyways, I think I lost myself talking about villains there for a while. Where were we? Oh, yes, I recall: In reward for your services to Neopia, and in the honor of Giving Day, I want you to take the week off and celebrate Giving Day with your family. I’m sure they all miss you back home.”

     Hyperion swallowed and forced himself to nod. “Yes, I—I’m sure they do.” He stood up quickly, glancing at the door, and then let his eyes fall back over Judge Hog’s desk again. “May—may I be excused, sir?”

     “Yes, yes, Hyperion,” Judge Hog said, waving his hoof in the air. “Go enjoy yourself, have a blast, enjoy your holiday.”

     “Thank you, sir,” Hyperion said. “Happy Giving Day.”

     “Happy Giving Day to you, too, Hyperion.”

     * * *

     Hyperion sunk back into his bed and groaned. He thought Judge Hog had known his story, thought he had known that he and Anthea had been abandoned and sent to the Secret Laboratory as lab experiments. Judge Hog knew how he had saved Anthea, but Hyperion hadn’t realised Judge Hog didn’t know the rest of it.

     The truth was, they had no family. He couldn’t remember the last owner they’d had very much, and he couldn’t remember their owners before that either.

     But he still had Anthea. She was everything to him. He guarded her like any older brother would. It was for her that he’d stayed here in the first place, to make sure she was alright.

     Hyperion turned at the sound of knocking. Reluctantly, he rolled off his bed and walked towards the door; after he’d peeked through the eye hole, he pulled it open.

     “Hi, Lightning Lenny,” he said.

     “Hi right back at ya, Hyperion,” Lightning Lenny said, the electric blue of his uniform sparkling, “but just call me Lenny.”

     “Oh, okay... Lenny.”

     “So,” Lenny said, “we’re setting up the Giving Tree in the lobby—it’s massive, the tree, not the lobby—and we want everyone to hang an ornament showing what Giving Day means to them on it. Want to hang one, too?”

     “Sure,” Hyperion said, “I mean, I guess so.”

     “Good,” Lenny said. “We also need volunteers to help with the garlands and tinsel, the other ornaments, and the popcorn.”

     “Popcorn?”

     “Of course. It goes great with the other garlands. Really makes them all stick out.”

     “I’m sure,” Hyperion said.

     “So, can you help us?”

     “I—I guess I can,” Hyperion said. “Let me just get my things ready and I’ll be there.”

     “Great! We’ll see you there.” Lenny saluted and dashed away before Hyperion could even blink.

     Hyperion sighed and leaned back against the door as it latched shut. “An ornament, what Giving Day means to me?” He shook his head and watched a bit of dust fly across the room. He’d never been fond of Giving Day since their first owner had left, but it seemed Giving Day at the Defenders Headquarters was everything to everyone except him.

     * * *

     Hyperion wiped the sweat off his forehead and took a step back. He heaved a sigh and looked up at all the work they’d done. It’d taken them all day and long into the night (morning was probably just an hour or two away by now), but the Giving Tree looked amazing. Tinsel and garlands of red, blue, and gold wrapped around its entirety, and ornaments of all shapes, colors, and sizes hung from its boughs here and there. The rich green needles of the pine were long and strong, and clusters of Faerie lights wove in and out of them, each shedding a bit of light for all to see.

     The popcorn, to Lenny’s utmost displeasure, had never made it to the tree.

     “Well,” Lenny said, patting Hyperion on the shoulder, “now it’s time to start filling it with our ornaments. Anything in mind?”

     Hyperion bit the corner of his mouth and squinted his eyes. “Hey,” he said after a moment, “where’s the topper? All Giving Trees need a topper, don’t they?”

     Lightning Lenny laughed at him. “Of course they do, but here at the Headquarters, we don’t put it on until after we take the tree down.”

     “What he means to say,” a flaming Scorchio whose name Hyperion couldn’t recall said, “is that last year Sloth destroyed our topper. It was a golden Space Faerie.”

     “She’s an honorary member, y’know,” Lenny said.

     “I’ve heard that before,” Hyperion said. “So what are we going to do this year? It still needs a topper, doesn’t it?”

     “Quite frankly,” the Scorchio said and was met with narrow-eyed glares, “we really don’t have anything we can do. All our holiday funds were exhausted on the tree.”

     “Oh,” Hyperion said. “Well, then, maybe we can figure something out...”

     The others had begun to disperse, but Lenny still stood beside him. “Yeah, maybe, maybe we’ll be able to do something.” He yawned, which looked rather awkward considering he was a superhero in full uniform. “Well, I’ve got to hit the sack. ‘Night, Hyperion.”

     “G‘night, Lenny.” He didn’t even hear any footsteps before he was standing there alone. He stood there for a long time, too, just looking up at the tree. It really wasn’t that long ago when he and Anthea had had an owner. Maybe he remembered more than he thought he did and just didn’t want to remember it at all.

     * * *

     Anthea shivered as the wind blew cold around her. Giving Day was only two days away now, and she still hadn’t found a gift for Hyperion. The Marketplace streets were practically empty, everyone swept inside by marvelous sales she couldn’t quite afford, and as she wandered from building to building, she hoped she wouldn’t get lost.

     “Happy holidays,” a voice said from nowhere.

     Anthea turned and saw a blue Bori in brown clothing and a black scarf waving to her.

     “Come inside,” he said, “I’ve got some hot cocoa you can have.”

     Anthea smiled as she walked closer to him. A wooden sign hung over his head and read “Florisshen Blotte.” He opened the door for her, and as she passed, she caught his deep, earthy eyes and he blushed.

     “I almost missed this place,” she said, shivering slightly and loosening her scarf. “Thanks for inviting me in.”

     The Bori grinned. “It’d be a shame to pass up a customer, you know?” He laughed a bit. “Besides, we’re new, and we don’t get a lot of business yet, and it can get pretty lonely in the middle of winter.”

     Anthea smiled, awed by the small but quaint shop she’d stumbled upon.

     “Let me get you that cocoa,” the Bori said and moved towards the back of the store. Behind the counter, Anthea could see a rustic, bronze-colored cocoa machine that the Bori had fiddled with and which now spewed a stream of steaming cocoa into a white mug. He sprinkled a bit of spice over it and then carried it over to her.

     “Thank you,” she said and blew off some of the steam. It was still too hot to drink, but the warmth of it in her hands was stupendous.

     “So, what are you looking for? Anything in particular?”

     Anthea shrugged and began around the shop. Their selection was eclectic, from keyrings to a couple Battlecards to a few plushies, all on the same shelf.

     “Holiday shopping for my brother,” she said absently. “Do you have any collectible cards?”

     “Nope, sorry.” He paused and stepped up behind her. “I don’t have any brothers, just me and my dad. Guess you already shopped for yours, eh?”

     “Nope,” Anthea said, “I don’t have one.”

     “Oh,” the Bori said and nodded a couple times, “then you must be one of those pets with an owner, right?”

     “I used to be,” Anthea said, reaching out and turning over a small trinket she’d found intriguing, “now it’s just me and my brother.”

     “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”

     “It’s alright,” Anthea said, “It’s been a while since we lost the one that mattered to us anyway.” She shook her head. “This hot cocoa is really good, thank you.”

     “A pleasure,” he said.

     Anthea glanced back at him; he was grinning boyishly. He didn’t look more than a year or two older than herself, actually.

     “So,” he said, clapping his hands together, “what’s your brother into? Maybe I can help you figure something out.”

     Anthea nodded. “I would like that.” She poked at one of the trinkets and took another sip of her cocoa. “Well, he likes collectible cards, I know that. Then, well... I don’t know, he always seems so content to me.” She shrugged. “He’s a Defender, if that means anything.”

     “A Defender?” The Bori’s eyes widened a bit and he gulped. “Well, then, erm, what kind of fighting style does he use? Maybe you could get him something to help out with that or something.”

     Anthea smiled. “Yeah, I could do that, couldn’t I? Um... I don’t ever go with him, but I guess he uses a lot of Faerie magic. He seems really good at it around the house.”

     The Bori nodded. “I have just the thing. It’s over here.” He turned away and walked into a back room.

     “We didn’t really want to bring these out just yet,” he called out to her, “but I think it’s the perfect thing for your brother.” He came out of the back room with a box in his arms; he set it on the counter and waved her over to look inside.

     “Faeries,” she gasped, her paw to her mouth. A dozen of them, two of each type, each securely housed in a tear-shaped bottle fastened with a bit of wax and some cork. The glowing sprites inside appeared resting and still, but as she looked on, a few seemed to stir and grow restless.

     “What magic does he practice?” the Bori asked.

     Anthea pursed her lips for a moment. “He’s really good at Air magic, though he said he was blessed by a Light Faerie once, too.”

     Outside, the wind blew and caused the sign to rattle and knock against the storefront.

     “Well, it’s windy enough, I think,” the Bori said, “so how about the Light Faerie?”

     Anthea smiled and reached for her coin purse. As she lifted it from her pocket, she remembered just how empty it was and felt all her happiness slip away.

     “I... I don’t know if I have enough.”

     The Bori smiled. “I’ll take whatever you’ve got—it’s the season of giving, after all—as long as you’ll spread the word of this place, okay?”

     Anthea felt herself smile and laughed. “Of course, this place is great. Florisshen Blotte, right?” She began emptying her coin purse on the counter. “What does it mean?”

     “Something about flowers, I think,” the Bori said. After he’d counted her money and put it in a silver tray, he lifted the first bottled Light Faerie and held it out to her: She took it with a smile.

     “Thank you,” she said and gave a slight bow before she turned to leave.

     “Hey, wait, I—I didn’t get your name.”

     “Anthea,” she said.

     “Mine’s Gregory.”

     * * *

     Hyperion sat hunched over his desk, fiddling with a pair of pliers and some wire he’d gotten out of the Defenders’ supplies closet, one of the three he knew about, at least. A twist here, and a twist there, and he would probably be done in minutes. Then, he’d just need the picture he’d set aside and a piece of string.

     He put down the wire when he felt Anthea walk up behind him. He sat up a bit, but didn’t turn around.

     “Hyperion, what was our owner like?”

     They’d had three, but he knew which one she was talking about. Their third had been cruel, hardly fed them and used them only to earn money, playing this game or that. But even then, the games they played were never fun. Their second hadn’t been as bad, but had been little better, too, only interested in using them for fame. But when another, easier way to glory came around, they were back at the pound a second time.

     But their first owner had cared for them, had genuinely cared for them. Not for money, not for fame, just for them. When he’d first started out, she was there for him every day. A couple years passed and she got Anthea. They were so happy.

     Then all of a sudden she started coming home less and less until one day she burst through the door in tears, sobbing as she threw the few things they had in bags and lifted them up, sobbing as she carried them to the pound and left them there, sobbing as she promised it was for the best, telling them how much she wished it didn’t have to be this way. It had been nearly eight years since then, a little more than half Anthea’s entire life.

     “Well, it’s, uh, it’s okay, Hyperion.... I, uh, I understand.”

     Hyperion blinked and shook himself awake. He turned after her, but hesitated to reach out. “No, Anthea, it’s just...” He shook his head, looking up at the ceiling. His voice was quiet. “It’s been a long time, that’s all.... It’s... it’s hard to remember how it was sometimes.”

     He stood up and walked over to his bed, took a seat and patted the bed next to him so Anthea would do the same, and she did.

     Anthea looked up at him and sighed, then leaned into him and closed her eyes. “I miss her, Hyperion. I miss... I miss having someone here to take care of us and love us all the time.”

     “I take care of you,” Hyperion said, “and I love you all the time.”

     Anthea shook her head, burying her face in his arm. “It’s not the same, Hyperion. I don’t want you taking care of me, I want someone taking care of both of us.”

     Hyperion felt his bottom lip quiver and he scooted a bit away from her.

     Anthea looked up at him, her mouth open and tears forming in her eyes. “No, Hyperion, that’s—that’s not what I meant. I—I just—” She shook her head, leaning in closer and hugging him again. “I just don’t want it to always have to be you, Hyperion.”

     Hyperion smiled weakly. “Judge Hog kind of looks after us, and there’s all the other Defenders, too.”

     Anthea shook her head. “No, Hyperion, it’s not the same. They’re acquaintances, not friends. I want friends again, Hyperion. We haven’t had friends in a long time. You’re always working, Hyperion. I want my brother back.”

     Hyperion lowered his head. He knew she was right. They really hadn’t had any friends since their first owner had left them. She had been their best friend, maybe even their only friend; he couldn’t remember having any other friends now, but he was certain they’d had them. And he was always working. Sure, a day or two usually passed between missions, but with training and paperwork, it was never quite enough time to just lay back and rest, to then get up again and do stuff with Anthea.

     “I’m sorry,” he whispered, “I... I just don’t know what else to do.” He hugged her for a minute, his chin resting on her head, and then sighed and loosened his hold on her. “I have to go finish,” he said. When he got up and returned to his desk, she said nothing and didn’t resist.

     It wasn’t long before Hyperion had finished twisting the wires, and it wasn’t long after that when he’d cut the photo he’d selected down to size and fitted it in. He tied a bit of string to the hook he’d formed and then lifted his creation to admire it. It spun in small circles and the wire frame caught the light.

     “I’m finished,” he said.

     Again he felt Anthea walk up behind him.

     “What is it?” she asked and leaned in to see.

     “It’s an ornament for the Giving Tree,” he said and handed it to her to see it better. “We each have to hang one that shows what Giving Day means to us.”

     Anthea turned it over in her hands and admired its craftsmanship; on the back, the wire had been twisted into a star design that covered all the white space on the photo’s back. And the photo was perfect, just the two of them playing in the snow.

     “How’d you even get this picture?” she said. “It’s... it’s from when we were...”

     “Yeah,” he said, scratching the back of his head. “I went down to the pound yesterday to see if they still had the bags we went there with. Mrs. Rose—the Uni who works there—looked for me, and she said they did. That picture was one of the things in them. I... I was going to keep them a surprise till later, but—”

     Anthea threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly. He was unable to finish, but he didn’t care.

     “Thank you, Hyperion,” she said to him, “this means everything to me.”

     “I know,” he said, and she pulled away to let him stand. “Come on, let’s go hang that on the tree, and then, maybe... well, maybe we can go out for some hot chocolate afterwards.”

     Anthea smiled and hugged him again. “That would be great, Hyperion, just wonderful.”

     * * *

     Hyperion took another sip of his hot chocolate and drained the cup. They’d been out here for hours and had already gone through five hot chocolates together. Outside, the sun was beginning to set.

     “Mind going home without me?” he asked. “I still have some shopping to do.”

     Anthea grinned and nodded. “No, it’s okay, I’ll be fine.”

     Hyperion smiled and stood up; she did the same. Outside, he hugged her and watched her begin for home. Then, he turned in the other direction and began towards Uni’s Clothing.

     The store was less crowded inside than he’d expected it to be. He happened to arrive just as they were restocking, though, so he had a nice selection to choose from.

     Her scarf is a bit worn, he thought to himself as he lifted a Woolen Scarf and admired its autumnal colors. It would match her fur perfectly.

     “There’s a matching cap for that, sir,” a yellow Acara said and pointed to a Woolen Cap on the shelf above him.

     “Thanks,” he said, “my sister will love it.”

     “Just that?” the Acara asked. “We have some purses if you want to look at them, too. How about a... a Pink Knit Purse? They’re really cute.”

     Hyperion grinned. “Then I’ll take one of them, too.”

     He left the store a few minutes later carrying two gift-wrapped boxes, the purse in one and the cap and scarf in the other. He was glad he’d gotten a holiday bonus from Judge Hog. Anthea would really be happy this Giving Day.

     * * *

     “Hyperion, thank you so much.” Anthea had already pulled on her cap and her scarf was proudly wrapped around her neck even though they were inside, gathered around the Giving Tree on the morning of Giving Day, surrounded by all the other Defenders, each engrossed in opening their own gifts or giving gifts to others, and she had just opened the box with Pink Knit Purse in it and was now genuinely beaming.

     “I’m really glad you like it,” Hyperion said.

     “Like it? I love it, Hyperion!” She gave him a big hug, then grabbed his hand and rushed him up to the tree. “I have something for you, too.” She lifted a small white box with a yellow ribbon wrapped around it and handed it to him.

     “You—you got me something?” he said. “You really didn’t have to, Anthea.”

     “Just open it already,” she said with a smile.

     “Okay, okay,” Hyperion said before he tugged at the ribbon and let it slide off to the floor. He opened the top of the box and withdrew the bottled Light Faerie.

     “Anthea,” he said, “you really didn’t have to....”

     “Hyperion...” She shook her head. “Just open it already—I told her she wouldn’t have to wait long, and—”

     Hyperion smiled, said, “Thank you, Anthea,” and gave his sister another hug. He struggled a moment, but finally the cork popped out and the Light Faerie engulfed him in a cloud of glittering lights. He felt the new magic swell inside him as the cloud of Faerie dust settled to the floor.

     He reached out and grabbed the Faerie before she could fly away. He drew her in close and whispered something in her ear, then she nodded and flew away. A minute passed and a burst of golden light filled the room. Everyone turned to look up and saw a golden star shining atop the Giving Tree.

     “Now it’s really Giving Day,” Hyperion said.

     Anthea leaned in closer and wrapped her arms around her brother. “And it’s been the best Giving Day I’ve ever had, Hyperion, the best Giving Day we’ve ever had together.”

The End

 
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