Commander Valka's Grand Mission
Hope you enjoy it! ^^
Commander Valka was bored. Bored, bored, bored, bored, bored. Ever since Sloth had been defeated, things were pretty quiet in Resistance HQ. The biggest crisis Valka had dealt with in months involved what toppings to order on a pizza. (After much debate, the noble Resistance settled on pepperoni and mushrooms. Gorix sulked for weeks.) To restate, life was boring.
Valka glumly spun around in his swivel chair, dragging his hooves on the floor. In a corner of his office lay a discarded pile of jacks and a half-finished game of Pyramids. The Green Ixi sighed. If something exciting didn’t happen soon –
Just then, the light on Valka’s console that signaled an incoming transmission began to blink. Valka gasped and straightened up in his chair, hurriedly running a hand through his hair to make sure he looked presentable. Finally, something interesting! Valka put on his best “I’m in charge” face and turned towards the monitor. The static on the screen resolved into the face of Xarthab, the leader of the Orange Grundos. “Commander Valka here,” the Ixi barked. “What’s the situation? Has Sloth returned? Has the Grundo civil war resumed?”
“Hi, Valka,” Xarthab said with a sigh. “How’s it going?”
“No time for chitchat, civilian, I need to be informed of the situation! Are mutant Meepits attacking Kreludor? It’s mutant Meepits, isn’t it? I’ll send a battle squadron –”
“No, no, there are no mutant Meepits here, Valka,” said Xarthab, burying his head in his hands.
“Oh,” said Valka, somewhat disappointedly. “I had a hunch...”
“I know you’re desperate to see some action, but please just hear me out!”
“Can’t I send in even one battle squadron?” asked Valka hopefully.
“No. No battle squadrons.” Xarthab sighed again. By now he had grown used to the Commander’s neuroticism, but it still irritated him. Talking to Valka left him more flustered than a Niptor in a bathtub. He remembered an instance two weeks ago when Valka had beamed him a transmission marked “Urgent!!! Read NOW or Neopia will be DOOMED!!!!!!1!!” that turned out to be a note asking for Xarthab’s opinions on pizza toppings. Xarthab had suggested mushrooms.
“All right, no squadrons,” Valka acquiesced. “Now, please explain the situation to me.”
“You know Zorlix, my brother, right?”
“Of course. Purple Grundo, your former enemy during the civil war, now reconciled.”
Xarthab nodded. “You forgot to mention ‘annoying as a Tyrannian Buzz in a shoe factory’ but that’s him. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up –“
Valka listened with a grim expression on his face. “And now you want the Resistance to take him prisoner?”
“No, no, nothing like that,” Xarthab said hurriedly. “I just wondered if you had any ideas on what present to get him. I’d hate to have nothing better to give than a card.”
Valka leaned back in his swivel chair and stroked his goatee. He spent several moments in quiet contemplation of the task at hand. At last, he jolted up with a gasp, as if he had come up with a brilliant idea.
“What is it?” Xarthab asked eagerly.
“If we deploy two battle squadrons –”
“NO. No battle squadrons,” said Xarthab firmly, thinking to himself that maybe it had been a bad idea to come to Valka for help.
Valka dejectedly slumped back down in his seat. “It’s no fun if you aren’t going to use battle squadrons,” he pouted.
“Look, forget I said anything. Don’t worry yourself any more than a green Cybunny plushie covered in melted butter; I’ll take care of it myself,” Xarthab said, rubbing his eyes. He could feel a headache coming on, a common side-effect of talking to Valka for too long. “Just don’t do anything. And remember: absolutely no battle squadrons!”
With this final reminder, the transmission screen clicked off, returning to the game of Neggsweeper Valka had been playing previously. Valka began to spin himself around in his swivel chair as he mulled over the situation. “A gift for Zorlix,” he said to himself. “A formidable task indeed. But, if anyone is up to it, it is I, leader of the Resistance! There is no challenge too difficult for me! No feat too complicated! No puzzle too puzzling! For I am Commander Valka!” And with these heroic words, Valka leapt to his feet, then immediately sat back down and returned to his game of Neggsweeper. “I’ll get going on that as soon as I finish this game.”
Five games of Neggsweeper, two games of jacks, and seven rounds of virtual Gormball later, Valka remembered his task. He really did want to help out Xarthab, whom he considered a friend, despite his annoying habit of dropping non-sequitur-filled similes into conversations. As Xarthab himself would put it, “I’m more indecipherable than a model train growing from a marshmallow tree.” But confusing figures of speech aside, Valka had to begin his mission. He started to list potential presents in his head:
“Hmm... what gift can you get that says ‘we used to be bitter enemies, but now everything’s hunky-dory! Happy birthday, Brother!’ A bike? No, too gaudy. A new spacesuit? Too expensive. A Petpet? Too messy. Socks? Too cliché. Broccoli? Too healthy.” The Ixi sighed. This was going to be harder than he had thought.
Valka rose and began to pace around the room. However, the Space Station’s gravity generator had chosen that particular day to break down, so each footstep carried him several feet off the ground. Still, it was pretty close to pacing. In the middle of one particularly high pace-leap, inspiration struck. Unfortunately, gravity also struck at that moment, as the generator kicked back into gear. Valka plummeted to the ground, where he landed in a furry green heap. But he was not to be deterred; he immediately rose and jogged to his transmission screen. Once there, he punched in Xarthab’s identification code and waited for the connection.
Several seconds later, Xarthab appeared on the screen, looking very worried. “Now’s not a good time, Valka; is this urgent?”
“Incredibly urgent!” barked Valka. “The lives of all those on Kreludor – nay, all those in the universe – may depend on it!”
“Fine, you have my attention. What is it?”
“I know what to get your brother!” Valka pronounced triumphantly, looking quite pleased with himself.
All Xarthab could do was stare. “That’s the vital message?”
“Come on, Valka, that’s less important that Balthazar on his day off eating a carrot!”
“Does that mean it is important, or it isn’t?”
“What do you think?” snapped Xarthab.
“It issss...?” said Valka questioningly, drawing out the last syllable.
“...n’t. Isn’t. I was going to say ‘isn’t’ before you interrupted me,” hastily covered Valka.
Xarthab sighed again, his headache rapidly returning. “Fine, I’ll humor you. What’s your idea?”
Valka’s face brightened. “Well, I started thinking: you know the old saying, ‘there’s no “I” in “gift”’?”
“I can’t begin to describe how many things are wrong with that sentence,” replied Xarthab, “but I’ll try anyway. First, that’s not a saying. Second, it doesn’t make any sense. And third, there is an ‘I’ in ‘gift.’”
Valka looked stunned. “There is?”
“Yes, Commander. The second letter.”
Valka furrowed his brow and pulled a pad and pencil out of his desk. After several seconds of frantic scribbling, he looked up and sagely nodded his head. “You are correct. However, I am certain that there is no ‘W’ in ‘gift.’”
Xarthab conceded the point. “Very well. Now, I know I’m going to regret asking this more than the Spider Grundo regrets buying wallpaper, but what does this have to do with anything?”
“Exactly!” exclaimed Valka proudly, as if he had settled the debate.
Xarthab decided it would be easier if he played along. “Ah, I see! Well done, Commander, you’ve shown me the light. Well, I’ve got to go now; we have a pizza-ordering crisis.”
Valka nodded. “I understand completely. You go do what needs to be done. I’ll see you at Zorlix’s surprise party. Don’t worry about a thing, I’ll bring the perfect gift and say it’s from the both of us. Over and out.” With this, Valka turned off the transmission screen before Xarthab could protest. The Ixi leaned back in his swivel chair and mentally congratulated himself on a job well done.
It was finally the day of Zorlix’s party, and Xarthab was as nervous as Fyora’s sewing basket on Slorg day. By this point, all the other guests had arrived and hidden themselves, prepared to jump out and yell “surprise” at the opportune moment. Only Xarthab was still unconcealed. He hadn’t heard a peep from Commander Valka since his last transmission, and was afraid he had given his suggestible friend a little too much encouragement. Visions of Valka showing up at the front door with some hideous gift floated through Xarthab’s head, causing him to break out in a cold sweat.
“Xarthab, get behind the couch!” whispered an Orange Grundo.
“Just a minute,” Xarthab muttered, peering out of the window of his brother’s home, hoping to see Valka bounding towards them. But he had no such luck. Instead, he saw Zorlix’s spaceship landing in the front yard. (Well, the Kreludan equivalent of a front yard, which was basically a rocky plain.) “Zorlix is here!” whispered Xarthab, diving under a table. “Stay quiet!”
The guests all held their breath as they heard Zorlix’s key scrape in his front door’s lock. Then the door slowly swung open and the lights snapped on. At this point, several things happened in quick succession.
First, the guests hidden behind and under various pieces of furniture jumped out and yelled, “Surprise!”
Next, Zorlix dropped the bag of groceries he was carrying and grinned in surprise and gratitude.
Third, there was a loud rumbling noise that shook the very foundations of Zorlix’s house. Both the unwitting host and his guests looked shocked.
Then, with a great crash, two elite Kreludan battle squadrons burst into the home through every available door and window, smashing metal and glass in front of them. They were battle-ready, with blasters drawn and dressed in full spacesuits. The guests cowered in front of such a display of might.
Finally, Commander Valka entered the house through the now-smashed front door. He wore a broad smile on his face. “Happy birthday, Zorlix,” he shouted.
The guests looked completely baffled. Well, all except for Xarthab, who looked furious, his worst fears having just been confirmed. He angrily stomped towards Valka and shouted, “What in the name of bacon-flavored Maraquan custard is going on, Valka? I specifically told you no battle squadrons!”
Valka’s smile faded. “Oh, right. I forgot about that part. Well, no harm done.”
Xarthab considered pointing out to Valka that there had indeed been a great deal of harm done; specifically, structural damage to his brother’s house. He considered loudly telling Valka off for causing such a commotion. He considered sitting down and crying. But what he finally decided to do was ask a simple question: “What gift did you bring?”
Valka’s face fell even further. “Right, that. Well, I came up with the perfect gift! But... then I forgot what it was. So I got a card.” The Ixi shuffled his hooves in embarrassment and pulled a card and a pen out of his pocket and handed them to Xarthab. “Do you want to sign it?”
Xarthab took a deep breath and counted to ten. He felt madder than a Xweetok wearing a hat made of concrete. But before he could even begin to release his rage, Zorlix began to laugh. It started as a giggle, but grew into a hearty chuckle, and soon became a great guffaw. Xarthab and the other guests looked at him in confusion.
Now, for the first time since he came in, Zorlix spoke. He could hardly get any words out through his laughter, but he managed to squeak out, “Thank you, Brother! This is the funniest birthday I’ve ever had!”
Xarthab looked more confused that a Meowclops on an Altadorian pirate ship. “What do you mean?”
Zorlix continued to chuckle and gave his brother a hearty slap on the back. “The comedy routine the two of you planned out. Brilliant! The way Valka pretended to be completely clueless, and the way you played along, pretending to be all furious. Hilarious!”
Valka and Xarthab looked at each other and shrugged, their body language saying to each other “I guess we’ll play along with it.”
“That’s right, it was all a joke!” exclaimed Valka.
“Yes, no one could be as dense as Valka ‘pretended’ to be!” chortled Xarthab.
Now the other guests, and even the members of the battle squadrons, began to laugh. Soon the entire house was filled with peals of laughter.
“Now for the cake!” exclaimed Zorlix.
Xarthab looked as crushed as a Kadoatie with three shoes on a Tuesday. “I can’t believe it; I forgot to get a cake!”
Valka interrupted: “Not to worry, I can get one!”
Xarthab considered this, but quickly came to the conclusion that no good could come out of trusting Valka with another mission. “No, thank you, Commander, you’ve done more than enough. Maybe I’d better take care of this one...”