Flame in the Sky
If anybody noticed the ship docking at the Virtupets Space Station, they soon forgot it. It was just everyday traffic, one of the many private ships that went out for a joyride, or came in for maintenance. If anyone knew who was onboard, they would have been stopped instantly. But nobody did, and nobody would, even when it left a few hours later, although the pilot had much to do before then. So, so much.
* * * * *
Xargax was not the type of person you would normally see at the Space Station. It’s not that it was uncommon to see Myncies around. There was just something different that made him disappear. Not just blend in, but almost literally disappear. You could not see him unless you looked right at him. It was this that made him so good at his job. He didn’t seem to belong at the Space Station either, instead he would often be imagined somewhere in the Haunted Woods, by those that did see him. He wasn’t any spooky looking colour either; in fact, he was a Robot. He simply seemed to belong there, and nowhere else.
But Xargax had never been to the Haunted Woods, or in fact, anywhere on Neopia. He had been to Kreludor a few times, but they were the only times he had left the Space Station. His job was important; much too important to have a holiday.
It was Kreludor that he was concerned about today. His company had received information that there was a war brewing, and as far as they could tell there was something fishy behind it. Xargax had been sent in to investigate, and if possible prevent the war from starting. He was due to take his ship, the Horizon, in a few hours.
The Horizon was due to be fixed, and the Aisha mechanic had just begun working on it. The mechanic climbed underneath to get to the mainframe. Then he felt drowsy. He felt so drowsy he couldn’t keep himself awake. His red body slumped to the floor, and a being that was dressed as a mechanic came along and began an entirely different job.
* * * * *
Dr. Sloth was getting worried. He hadn’t received news of the goings-on yet, and Xargax was going to leave soon. He had given specific orders that he should receive reports as much as possible, but had received none yet.
Perhaps he was just over-reacting. His employees did tend to break a few rules, and he didn’t care, as long as they succeeded in their tasks. But this was very important, and if they didn’t succeed....
His mind began to wander about how he might punish his employee in the case of failure. Perhaps the Gel Room, he thought. Yes, that’s it. The Gel Room would fit his needs perfectly.
Dr. Sloth cackled loudly.
* * * * *
The mechanic did not remember anything that had happened. As far as he was concerned, he had only just climbed under the Horizon. Sure, he might have felt a little bit tired, but he always felt that way. He returned to his work, not noticing the minor change to the spacecraft, the small device which had been planted in his unconsciousness. The small device that could ruin everything.
* * * * *
Xargax was getting bored, waiting for his ship to be repaired. He wandered around the Space Station, then made a decision. It was time for a drink. He headed to the Grundo’s Café, sat down and ordered a Neocola. Little did he know he was being watched. Or rather, his waitress was, by a rather shadowy pair.
The watchers worked for the same company as Xargax, and their job was to protect him at all cost. They had been on missions like this before, as they were well suited to this line of work. They were agile, they could spot anything from a long way away, and to top it off, they were Invisible Poogles. The Virtupets Board of Directors could afford to hire people like them, and they often found that they needed to.
“Isn’t that –” said one of the watchers, with his eyes still trained on the waitress.
“Maybe,” said the other. “But I’m not sure enough to do anything about it. Not yet.”
The Acara was watched by the pair from taking the order until serving Xargax his Neocola, but not once did she make a move. She simply went to the counter, reached under it, and returned with the Neocola. She didn’t even appear to have a blaster. But the watchers would keep their eye on Xargax, and if they saw the waitress again, they would keep an eye on her too. They were suspicious, and Xargax needed to complete his mission, or there were going to be great, dire consequences. They couldn’t let it happen.
* * * * *
On Kreludor, things were only getting worse. Strange beings had moved to the mines, unbeknownst to the purple and orange Grundos, who were at each other’s throats, and were now completely blind to their surroundings. The company’s spies knew that Xargax was their last chance of stopping a war. If they could stop the war, they could find out what was going on. If they could stop the war, they could solve everything.
But they were still waiting for him to come. He was taking a long time, and they did not like it. They wished that he would be there, but until he was, all they could do was sit and wait. Sit, hold tight, and wait.
* * * * *
Xargax’s wait was finally up. The mechanic reported finishing his job, and Xargax got the message he was free to go. He headed to the hangar bay, completely ignorant to his own sleepiness, and boarded the Horizon. He received clearance to take off, and then Xargax made his way towards Kreludor. He pressed a few buttons and lay back.
But halfway there, his problem occurred. The problem that could make his entire mission go wrong. The ship’s computer had just lit up with a message. A very important message.
FLIGHT PATH ERROR – AUTOFIX? YES / NO
The computer stopped the ship dead, as its programming said it should do, and waited for a reply. But it would not get one, for Xargax was asleep. The sleeping pills put into his Neocola had taken effect, and he would not wake for hours, or even days, by which time, he would have failed.
* * * * *
Sloth was infuriated. By now Xargax would be halfway to Kreludor, and nothing could be done. He would arrive, sort out the problems, and drive Sloth’s army from the mines. Or so he thought.
Three loud beeps from the computer alerted him to the message. He was intrigued, for a few moments, as he did not think a message would arrive any time soon. He had half expected her to run away, never to be seen again. She had not failed before...
Mission Completed. Waiting for next assignment.
Sloth read the words just as war broke on Kreludor, and Xargax could not do anything about it. Sloth smiled. It wasn’t so bad, after all.
Ylana Skyfire had done her job well.