Memoirs of a Reluctant Villain: Part Three
"Ah, you're awake." Dr Sloth circled the chair I sat in. "Feeling better?"
"I didn't forget you inflicted this wound upon me, scum," I answered, and spat at his feet.
"I did not," he replied with a laugh. "My guards did. I ordered you to be healed."
"With a lovely scar as a badge of honor," I answered sarcastically.
"I don't know why you're taking out your anger on me," Sloth said, standing in front of me, "when it's your comrades that left you."
"They had information that can defeat you, Sloth. They needed to get it back."
"They're a trained unit, are they not?"
"Yes, highly trained," I answered, unsure of his angle.
"You train in combat situations?"
"You are also trained to take the wounded away, for fear of what I might do and what secrets I'll extract from captives?"
I had forgotten, in all my pain, that we were trained to do just that. Sloth arched an eyebrow at me, following my thoughts.
Hadn't it been awfully easy for Gorix to leave me behind? He'd hardly blinked- hardly argued- leaving Parlax behind for dead. Or torture.
Sloth nodded, as he saw the thoughts flash through my mind. "I know how it is to not be appreciated," he continued. "I know what it's like to have your genius go unrecognized. I was only trying to help the Grundos, you know. They don't know what they're doing."
I thought back to the Space Faerie's appearance, and the Grundos' behavior. As if they'd already won in the middle of the battle. It's not as if Sloth had really hurt any of them. Sure, some of them were mutants now, but was that really so bad? I touched my scar. After all, I was a mutant now too.
"No one realizes what's best for them. They need to be told. Taken down a peg. They all think they're so smart. But what would they be without us?"
"Nothing!" I shouted as I stood, "They would be nothing. And then, they throw us away when they don't think they need us anymore!"
"You see how they persecute me!" Sloth roared, "Even after I've been defeated, THEY are trying to take me down!"
"Of course!" I exclaimed. "They can't have someone with a brain running things. It takes away their own glory."
Sloth nodded seriously, "But we can take them down. We could show them. Then we could rule them." He saw me looking at him uncertainly, "For their own good, of course."
"Simply tell me how, my liege," I answered.
"PARLAX!" Gorix yelled as he walked into the sick bay. I grimaced. "I thought you'd died." He clapped me on the arm.
Wincing, I smiled winningly. "It takes more than a laser beam to take me down!"
"But how did you get away?" Gorix looked at me thoughtfully.
"I crawled to the cooling vent. We know Sloth likes his ship warm, so he wouldn't be using it. I crawled through to the sick bay and helped myself to supplies. I lay there for a few days, to rest and get better. Finally, I couldn't stand the hunger. I hadn't been able to filch any food. So I made my break."
Gorix shook his head. "You've always been so resourceful, Parlax. I knew you wouldn't need a rescue party."
I stared at him incredulously. "You didn't send a rescue party?"
Gorix looked slightly embarrassed. "The General didn't think it was prudent to send out an entire rescue party for one person."
"Oh that's what he said?"
"Well, he said, 'I'm not going to risk you, one of our best scouts, for Parlax. I'm sure he's a great friend, but he's fairly useless to us. I'm sorry, I can't authorize it,' or something like that."
That stung. I knew the General thought Gorix was wasting his time on me. Nice to see my best friend standing up for me, I thought cynically. I remembered why I was there, the plan. Instantly, I smiled. Let him decide I wasn't worth defending, soon he would be defending himself to me.
As I watched him putter clumsily around the sick bay, getting the other patients drinks and giving them the comfort of his presence, I realized more strongly than ever that we couldn't have someone like him running things. Famous for a thing he'd hardly been part of, clumsy and obsessed with his own fame and importance. And what of all the pets who followed him blindly, based on one false success? No, these pets needed to be ruled by those who knew better. I was doing the right thing.
Gorix came back over. "You're being released from sick bay. We have an important mission to discuss."
"I've hardly been here a day; are they sure I'm healed enough?" I was chafed at their apparent disconcern with me.
"No, I did." Gorix looked at me seriously. "I need you for this mission."
"You needed me enough to leave me?" I asked quietly. Dangerously.
Gorix, thick though he was sometimes, heard the danger. "You're the brains. I know that. And this one will be... hard."
I nodded. I wanted to slap his face, to tell him to wake up. That all I had ever wanted was for him to admit that to anyone but me. But it was too late for that.
Instead, I got up and followed him to the briefing center. Gorix handed me my gear. "Where is everyone? If we're leaving so soon, shouldn't we be briefing?"
"Everyone has been. We were waiting for you," Gorix said. "It's a pretty simple mission. We're going to get Sloth."
"What!?" I looked at him, mouth dropping to the floor. "Whose mad scheme was that?"
"Mine," he said curtly. "We have the plans; we know where he is and how to get him. Capturing him should be a piece of cake." I was amazed at his audacity. At his assurance that we'd be able to do it. And I wasn't even getting a real briefing! we were going to fly by the seat of our pants. Just like our very first mission.
"Just because it worked then, doesn't mean it will work now. When will you learn that?" I looked at him seriously.
He shrugged. "Nothing serious ever happens. We always come out okay." I glared at him, touching my scar. "Well, you're still here," he said uncomfortably.
I didn't have much time to relay the message to Sloth. He'd thought they would make an attempt to capture him. I didn't think so, but he'd insisted, and I'd given in. He was proven right in this, as in so much else.
I went to my room and ruffled through my bag. Ah, there it was. An innocent looking water bottle. A signal to Sloth that we were on our way. I twisted the lid and threw it into the trash. It would be compacted and disposed of before anyone knew it existed.
Satisfied, I changed into my gear and went to the docking bay. Our ship stood, shining, ready for our journey. Eleni and Jorn looked at me, "Glad you're okay," Eleni said, uncertainly.
"Yeah, good to know I can count on my friends," I answered with a sneer. Jorn sighed and whispered something to Eleni, which she laughed out loud at. Soon, I thought, soon they will know my power.
As we wandered down the dimly lit hall to Sloth's chamber, I wondered if he'd gotten my signal after all. I thought I heard footsteps behind us. I listened closely. Sounded like there were half a dozen. No one else seemed to have heard anything. In fact, Eleni and Gorix were whispering together. I barely suppressed an eye roll and sigh. How could they not hear that?
As I made a mental note to retrain Sloth's guards, they stepped out in front and behind us. I hadn't heard the guards in front. I had to admit I was impressed. They had us fully surrounded. Two of them stepped forward and grabbed me before I had a chance to say anything. They dragged me away, and I screamed as loud as I could. I had to be convincing.
They let me go when we were a few feet away. That's when I heard laser fire. "WAIT!" I screamed at them. "Sloth said they weren't to be harmed!"
"He told us they needed to be destroyed." The guards wouldn't look me in the eye.
"That is NOT what I was told. Take me to him!" I yelled into the empty hall.
"No need," a silky voice said from around the corner.
"Sloth, my liege," I said, inclining my head, "you can tell them to stop this madness."
Sloth laughed. "I ordered it."
"What do you mean?" I sputtered, unable to believe it.
"I ordered them to take your friends down. You see, you need to be ruled as well." He smiled down at me, patted me on the head. "And now, you can never go back."
"You... you MONSTER!" I screamed, throwing myself at him. The guards intercepted me and took hold of my arms.
"You have nothing with them anymore. I have evidence of your betrayal." He held up the water bottle. "Don't bother to ask how I got it. The fact is, they think you're dead. If you were to turn up again, with this in hand, they would know who gave them away." Sloth grinned at me.
"What do you want with me?" I asked, admitting defeat. No one cared for me. Only Gorix. My side hated me already. What would they do if they found out my betrayal? Better they think well of me, dead like the others, than know the truth.
"I have realized, thanks to you, that direct action is not always the best action. I still need those Grundos to slave for me. But it will take time. So I need you to go into a covert operation, and help divide them for me..."
And here I am. It's funny, I thought all these years that Gorix had died in that hallway. But I should've known that what Gorix lacked in intelligence, he more than made up for in sheer dumb luck.
But the hatred in his eyes. He knew I'd done it, the moment he saw me. And I could see the grief behind it. He'd really cared for me, all this time. I saw all the choices I made that had led me here.
But like a petpet, I had gone back to my master. Tame, licking my wounds, ready to do his bidding. Once I had the world and didn't realize it. Now I have nothing but regrets. And now that Sloth has been soundly defeated, I've truly nothing left at all.
Maybe my story will teach another. A cold, hard heart will get you in the end. Be warm, be caring, and most of all forgive. There is nothing in this world or any other more precious than forgiveness. For Gorix, for me, for Sloth, for everyone.