Research and Development
It was over. Celebrations were taking place on Kreludor, the Space Station brimmed with an air of excitement, and the Resistance members were being hailed as heroes. Across Neopia, spoils of war were being claimed by the triumphant, action figures and miniature space ships being handed out as thanks to those who’d aided in the Sloth’s downfall. It was over. They had lost.
A blue Kyrii in a wrinkled business suit sat at a desk, running his fingers through his thick hair. Diagrams were scattered across the desk, with notes scrawled across the majority of them. Above the Kyrii’s shoulder, a blobagus hovered, emitting the light (and a bit of stray radiation) by which the former was observing the mess.
“Kelvin, would you back up a bit? I’m getting a sunburn with you hovering over my shoulder like that,” the Kyrii instructed, rubbing his neck. The blobagus bobbed back a few feet as instructed, and rose a little higher to keep the messy desk in view. The Kyrii returned his attention to the paper he was looking over. After a few seconds of staring at the first word of the third line of the forty-seventh page and not processing what it was, he leaned back. “What time is it anyways?” he muttered, glancing at his watch.
“Twenty-three thirty-five Virtupets Standard Time,” it answered in a tin voice. “Eleven thirty...”
“Oh hush, I don’t need NST. What I really need is sleep, but that doesn’t sound likely,” he muttered to himself. It had been a long day, with two of Lawyerbot’s androids attempting to sue Virtupets for development of weapons violating the Battledome standard established by Fyora five years ago. It had been up to him to bring out the original design specs, demonstrating that part AC-29 acted as a safety catch to limit power outflow under the circumstances in question. Then there was the business meeting... that didn’t bear thinking about. Things were in a state of decay at the moment. Without the good Doctor’s guiding genius to direct it, the company pulled itself in too many directions.
Life on the space station was interesting enough under normal circumstances. Occasional fluctuations and malfunctions of the Artificial Mass Unit kept you on your toes- or rather, off them, as gravity was a commodity available only so long as the machinery held together properly. It didn’t help that the only thing keeping the evil fuzzles at bay was the janitorial squad. Honestly, it was a wonder anything held together at all with the number of demonic dust bunnies nibbling at anything with half an ampere to its circuitry.
Life for the Kyrii had been somewhat more interesting, however, especially after open war had been declared. He was very close to the center of the whole affair, but did a neat job of remaining firmly seated on the sidelines. It was well known that the vast majority stock holder in Virtupets had always been Doctor Frank Sloth. Never anything that could be proved, of course. The company’s incredibly advanced technology and almost limitless supply of funds were always the driving force with which the Doctor propelled his numerous attempts at global domination. And as the Kyrii’s metallic ID pin revealed, he was Merron Senolson, Virtupets employee and head of Research and Development. He was the man behind the machines, having discovered the common genetic instability that allowed for both the lab ray and transmogrification potions, as well as designing the Artificial Mass Unit early on in his career. Like all his coworkers, he had been a dedicated and efficient worker, in part because, like all his coworkers, the threat of a quick kick out one of the many air locks if he didn’t perform hung over his head at all times. Sloth did not tolerate idiocy, incompetence, or bad luck.
Sitting and looking at his department’s designs would not get him anywhere, Merron decided suddenly. Certainly, battles had been lost. Even the war. But things would have to be ready. He was not even sure Sloth, at least as they knew him, would ever be back. The details regarding what had happened were unclear, except that Commander Gormos had turned traitor. That was all too clear. But even if Sloth had not survived the explosion, contingencies would surely have been put into place. Sloth’s clones had been a mainstay of research’s objectives, although their development was always carried out in private by Sloth himself. All that was known was that the mindless dummies seen about his fleets were merely decoys. The Kyrii could not guess what would happen, but Neopia had not seen the last of its nemesis. And when the boss returned, it would be much better for those who were prepared.
Standing up and brushing out the wrinkles in his suit, he started towards the doors. “C’mon, Kelvin. Time to visit the night shift.” The researcher strode out into the hallway, still brightly lit despite the hour. There was no night in the interior of the Space Station, just the occasionally flickering fluorescent tubes. Behind him, the blobagus bobbed along cheerfully, adding his own green glow to the illumination. Eventually the private ‘streets’ of living quarters gave way to the Supply Deck. Workers bustled about, aiding in the twenty-four hour business of keeping the macrocosm of the Station running relatively smoothly. At the far end, the merchants of advanced weaponry and armor hawked their respective wares, arguing the benefits over that of their competitor.
He continued across the deck, his position causing the workers to give him a respectful berth, to a well guarded door, placing both his ID badge and his hand on a scanner for identification. The guards nodded as the portal slid open to admit him to the command deck. The amount of time somebody was able to spend here without being pressured out was a rough indicator of political power on the Station at the time. Merron himself rarely came by, as whoever was in power could hardly afford to offend him unless they had Sloth’s intellect to apply to new inventions. Not likely. His authority had nothing to do with politics.
Even in the twenty-four hour world of the Station, a premium remained on ‘daylight’ hours. At this late time, only a pair of insignificant military officers, Admiral Arvakis, a well dressed yellow Lupe, and Commander Gharton, a more traditional mutant Grundo, were in. For obvious reasons, their branch’s influence was on low ebb for the time being.
The admiral looked up first, asking, “Any progress on duplicating Ylana’s blaster modifications?”
Typical. Their sort always considered the pinnacle of his department’s work to be a better blaster. “Yes. It’s not economically viable, except perhaps for special ops. Unfortunately, the resistance managed to come up with similar design specs. They’ll be manufacturing and issuing them to all the top war heroes. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but with the support they’re receiving at the moment, that could be a lot of really good guns pointed in your direction.”
Arvakis simply sighed. “By the time we’re ready to mount another attack, they’ll all be obsolete again anyways.” Behind him, Gharton still said nothing. He just reviewed the details regarding the last mission’s failure. He was an old veteran, left over from the Lost Desert campaign. Mostly he brooded over the gradual replacement of his Grundo troops with Garoo’s Blumaroos. After their incompetent show, they would likely be replaced with another general’s pick of pet.
Before Merron could respond, a report from the scanners flickered onto the main screen. An unidentified object broadcasting a mixed radio frequency was approaching the Space Station. As the signal’s wave form appeared, his heart left into his throat. He kept outwardly calm. “Blasted janitors can’t keep the fuzzles from eating this whole place like planetside termites. I’ll have to go see what’s been chewed loose myself,” he lied smoothly. “If you’ll excuse me.”
Once he was out, he started off towards the air lock closest to the object as quickly as he could without attracting too much attention. It was vital he get to it first. He could have recognized that signal anywhere. It was a harmony comprised of the mindless jabber of a black hole and the scream of a star going supernova. “You up for a game?” he asked, glancing back at Kelvin, who bobbed happily, and flickered.
A few minutes later, he arrived at the airlock. “Fetch!” he said to Kelvin, opening the first chamber. Blobaguses were the only natural petpet capable of living in space. The particle emissions normally used to keep them aloft in gravity allowed for maneuverability even in zero-G, and their surprisingly resilient outer membrane held up even in vacuum. Merron shut the first door, depressurized the cabin, and let Kelvin out into the void. Now to wait.
After what seemed like an eternity, a familiar glow reappeared in the window. This time, the blobagus held the source of the strange radio frequency in his mouth. The Space Faerie’s token. Upon seeing the signal, the pieces had all fallen into place. Sloth must have been sucked into it. Previous research by lower levels not occupied with exploiting Kreludite had shown that the heart of the token was a magically stabilized singularity, perfect for storage. Merron grinned. And retrieval. “Good job, Kelvin.” Sloth would have heard the incantation, and once he was released, the token’s full power would be accessible.
The scientist headed straight for The Laboratory. Not just one of the ordinary labs, but the most advanced facilities that Doctor Sloth himself used when working on his personal projects. Before, the token’s secrets had been subjected to only the slightest scrutiny. Kreludite had promised much higher return, what with its mutating decay. “I want Sloth’s squad to drop everything,” he ordered upon entering. “Mutation, cloning, I don’t care what. Admit nobody, make sure localized self-sustaining life support is running, and get this place into complete isolation. Instructions for the rest of R and D will be sent by screen.” He held up the token. “We’re getting the boss back.”