The Return of Dr. Sloth: Behind the Scenes - Part Three
Keema yawned hugely as she changed the ship’s coordinates for the last time. She had been on duty for thirty hours straight now, between unloading, loading, and flying the ship, and it would be such a relief to eat something that wasn’t pre-packaged in less than an hour, then get in a bed and sleep.
Leaning back in her chair, she surveyed her ship’s control panel. She had modified much of it herself, working long hours to improve the standard grade of her space ship. But it was all worth it, now that she was the Kougra in charge of the fastest ship not only in all of Neopia, but also in the objects orbiting it.
Smoothing down her orange fur with one paw, she glanced over at her partner. Jixy was a pink Lutari, and excellent when it came to connections and bargaining. She had been the one to suggest that they take up the transportation business, to get enough profit to upgrade the ship even more, to keep improving it. She also kept a steady head in emergencies.
But at the same time... Jixy had seemed different, this past month.
“Are you sure it’s a good idea to go to the Space Station now, Jix?” Keema asked, gazing out at the Station, still small and far away, but gradually getting closer. “Kreludor is closer, and they needed those new books.”
“Yeah, it’ll be fine,” Jix said, polishing her claws. “Anyway, a friend told me that something interesting is going on at the Station today. I want to see it.”
“Okay then...” Keema sighed and pulled out the ship’s keyboard, typing in the command to start up the ship’s computer. It had taken a long time to figure it out, but she had eventually managed to connect the ship’s computer to the ones on the Space Station, despite the fact that it hadn’t been manufactured in the Space Station. The scientists there were still clamoring to figure out how she had done it.
Pulling up her neomail, she started typing away. “As long as we’re going down there, I’m going to get a friend to eat with us, alright? I haven’t really talked to Morx in a while.”
“Whatever you want, Keemy,” Jixy murmured.
Keema looked at her for a moment, then shrugged.
Hey Morx, I got your message. We’ll be having lunch down on the station’s main deck some time this afternoon. Supposedly there’s some interesting ships docking later today and Jixy wants to check them out. Seeya.
Keema pressed ‘send’, then looked back out at space. The Space Station was getting closer, but something was wrong. There were far too many ships in the docking bay, and she didn’t recognize the designs of many of them. She frowned.
“Jixy,” she asked, “is this your event?”
“Yes,” Jixy said softly, “yes, it is.”
Keema looked at her friend, worry and suspicion in her eyes. Something was wrong. Jixy never smiled so- so maliciously.
“It’s too late to change the course, Keema. Commander Garoo is pulling us in now.”
Keema looked down at her controls, at the data on her computer screen, and realized that Jixy was right; the ship couldn’t be moving that fast on its own, even with her adjustments. Panic was starting to set in, but she managed to fight it back. As she changed the coordinates, tried to turn the ship, she glared at Jixy. “You’re working for Sloth, huh? Did he actually brainwash you, or are you just doing it for the money?”
“Don’t worry, Keema,” Jixy said calmly, still working on her claws. “He knows that you’re talented. He wants you to work for him, and Dr. Sloth can be very good to those who are useful to him.”
“Traitor,” Keema hissed. The ship was turning, but it was still being pulled to the Space Station. She probably didn’t have a chance at escaping with the ship intact.
“Of course, he expects this attitude at first,” Jixy continued, “but you’ll see reason with time. Dr. Sloth knows this, just as he knows...”
Jixy stopped talking, because she had just realized that Keema had disappeared. She looked at the computer screen just in time to see that the escape pod was being engaged.
She knew that she could stop Keema... but Keema was still her friend.
Once the ship had been pulled into the docking bay, Jixy walked out. As Commander Garoo walked towards her, she saluted him; he returned the gesture.
“The pilot escaped, Commander,” she said blandly, “I couldn’t stop her.”
“That’s a waste,” he growled in reply, “but we still have the ship, the fastest ship in all of Neopia. Good work, soldier.”
Once he had turned away, she smiled.
Sarlyi was deep into the most recent copy of the Neopian Times, laughing her head off at one of the stories, when another neomail popped up on the screen. She frowned at it as she clicked it open.
Eva Maztraminh again. This person was persistent.
She was about to mention that fact to Houston, when she remembered that he had gone down to the Recreation Deck just a short while ago to get a drink. Well, she’d bring it up when he returned, which wouldn’t be for a while yet- the Weather Station was pretty far away from where most people worked.
Instead, she read the new neomail.
It’s important that the weather be more... depressing for my research. Couldn’t you skew the data a little bit?
Sarlyi frowned, deeply insulted. She might make up completely erroneous weather reports for fun, but she’d never mess around with real data! The nerve of this person! Determined to annoy this ‘Eva’ now, Sarlyi set to typing up a new weather report.
Clear through the weekend, but solar storms and sunspots may drench the whole system in Class-7 radiation. Apply sunscreen liberally.
And Sarlyi hoped that this persistent person burned easily indeed!
“Ylana, I find this absolutely useless,” Commander Garoo growled, towering over the Acara who was lounging in front of the door to the transport shuttle. “I understand that this is your job, but must you really inspect every single person?”
Ylana examined her gloved paw, the very image of boredom. “You cross-examining me here only makes it take longer.”
“You only need to look at the Cybunnies! Not every single pet!”
She looked at him critically. “We’re talking about a spy, Garoo. Why on Neopia should a Cybunny spy take on the image of a Cybunny?”
“And the soldiers?”
“Easy- find one alone, blast him, put on his uniform. Even you could be the spy in disguise.” She smiled sweetly at him. “Could I get back to my work now, please?”
Extremely irritated, Garoo turned around and stomped away without replying. Yes, Ylana also worked for his master, but that gave her no right to- to condescend!
“Excuse me, Commander?”
He whirled around, glared at the soldier who had dared to speak to him. “What?”
“A message from Dr. Sloth, sir.”
Finally. Refusing to acknowledge the soldier further, he swept over to the public terminals again, and opened the new message. He was frowning to begin with, but his frown only grew deeper as he read through the message.
What was Dr. Sloth trying to accomplish with this task? He had important jobs to accomplish for the overall plan, and yet his Commander sent him on menial errands? And the way that Dr Sloth was second-guessing the security he had over the Station was demeaning to the extreme. He respected his master, yes, but why did he seek to test him?
So his reply was terse, and did not mention the menial task. He would get to it when there was time.
The main docking bay and civilian concourse are secure. We are proceeding into other areas. Soon the station will be ours.
When his master realized that he was truly confident in their possession of the Space Station, no more questions would be asked. He would finally get the respect he craved, the respect he had always needed from Dr. Sloth.
Captain Rolls grumbled aloud to himself as he typed away at his computer. His workers never seemed to do anything right these days, and where was Zerp when he needed to rant? The Aisha had four ears- couldn’t she spare at least one?
Holding his tail in one hand, he scanned over the most recent list of appliances that needed fixing. Why, oh why was everything on the Space Station so breakable? And how had it become his job to fix those objects which became broken? Still grumbling, he made the decision to delegate the necessary tasks. That was the only perk to his job and he fully intended to enjoy it.
And oh, he knew that those workers of his talked about him behind his back, and called him a miserable old Techo, but what did he care? So what if they joked that he must be related to Dr. Death, to have such a bad attitude? Someday, somehow, he’d show them who was really the boss! Then they’d be the ones complaining!
His mind made up, he decided to send his crew a letter about the disastrous state of the maintenance level. He had tried to take a look around just the other day, only to start sneezing his nose off at all of the dust. Well, that’d be one problem he’d make sure was fixed!
I went down to the maintenance tunnels yesterday and they are FILTHY! Gorix, you’ve been going down there constantly—what are you doing if not cleaning? You ARE a janitor, if I’m not mistaken? If anything ever goes majorly wrong on this station we’re going to have a heck of a lot of dirt to wade through just to fix it!
Maintenance Captain Rolls
He clicked ‘send’, thoroughly pleased with himself. He was sure that he had come across as strict that time. They wouldn’t dare defy him. In fact, he was so pleased with what he had accomplished that he decided to take a late lunch break and go up to the Recreation Deck to eat.
He got quite a surprise upon his arrival.
Zerp scratched her head, utterly perplexed.
What was wrong with those two generators, she wondered for what felt like the millionth time. Why were they constantly breaking down? She had gone over them meticulously so many times, had even asked Captain Rolls to call in a specialist to take a look, and yet they constantly kept spazzing out! The other generators were almost always fine, but those two drove her nuts.
Resigned to her fate, Zerp sat down at the computer connected to the generators and started typing in the necessary commands. The stats on the generators scrolled down her screen, long lines of numbers that had taken her long enough to understand in the past. But looking at them showed no particular difference between generators two and six and the rest. Maybe there was a trend somewhere, but it’d take her at least an hour to find it out.
She checked her watch. It was only ten minutes ‘til her afternoon break, and if she hadn’t been able to figure out the real problem in the past few months, how would she figure it out now? It’d be better to just get replacements in right away, and then take a better look at them later.
Pulling up the generic neomail on the terminal, she quickly typed out her request.
Generators two and six in the southeast sector are on the fritz again. Bring up the spares from two-two-one, okay?
She sent it off, then leaned back in her chair with a sigh, gazing over at the generators. Number 2 was now giving off puffs of smoke, which were sucked up by the ventilation system, but still! The nerve of these machines!
She had to smile at herself. She had always had the habit of talking to and about machines like they were sentient, ever since she was a kid. That was why she’d decided to work with maintenance- fixing machines was one of the things she liked doing best. And it annoyed her so much when they refused to get fixed. It was like a battle then, her versus the machine, fighting it out ‘til the machine was either as good as new or completely broken and useless.
But that battle could wait for at least a short time more. She stood up, dusted herself off, and started up to the Recreation Deck, never noticing that there were no other people in the hallways.
To be continued...