Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 172,294,116 Issue: 400 | 10th day of Swimming, Y11
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Defenders Good, Garoo Bad


by nut862

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VIRTUPETS SPACE STATION – Crates are lowered onto the green metal floor of the Supply Deck while robots zip back and forth, checking to make sure everything is delivered properly. The enormous bright green lights in the windows of the Space Weaponry shop pulse with energy, drawing attention away from all the other flashing lights and beeping electronics in place to ensure that the Space Station runs smoothly. The steel doors that I just stepped through hiss closed behind me and my Shoyru, Sparkler. A mechanical voice over the loudspeaker booms, “Virtupets good. Neopets bad. Virtupets good. Neopets bad.”

Sparkler and I are on a mission. We were sent by the Defenders of Neopia to locate Commander Garoo and bring him to justice for his attack on Captain K. The suspect is still at large, but Judge Hog has provided us with the information that Garoo is on secret duty at the Virtupets Space Station, considerably narrowing down the area we have to search. Still, the station is a massive construction; the decks are teeming with pets who are sipping drinks from plastic packages and going about their daily lives, having already forgotten about Dr. Sloth’s most recent attack.

Our mission is vital. A villain is lurking among all these innocent pets who believe that Sloth’s chief commander was defeated along with his master. He must be stopped for the sake of these pets’ lives.

Sparkler does not seem to understand the weight of the responsibility upon us. She is sauntering along in plain sight, ignoring the flashing lights and monitors all around her, muttering about how bored she is. “We’ve been walking in circles for an hour for the sake of that Defenders trophy,” she complains. “Why doesn’t Garoo just come out and try to kidnap us already so I can whip his tail back to the Maintenance Tunnels?”

For a Shoyru who takes such pride in enjoying the Battledome, she doesn’t have much strategy. In a case like this, sneak attacks are essential. I sidle along walls, occasionally ducking behind boxes and peeking round corners, trying to look in all directions at once. All I notice are the flashing lights, which are extremely distracting. I’m convinced that they were implemented to mesmerize intruders.

Sparkler finally lets out a groan. “Nut, would you quit sneaking around?”

“Ssh! You’ll give me away!” I hiss.

Something near me beeps loudly, nearly making me fall over in surprise, but I manage to recover my cool and stay hidden; in a hostile environment like this, it could be disastrous if one of the workers were to discover my presence.

At that moment a Grundo comes up from behind me, pushing a cart, and looks straight at me. I dive behind a crate, yelping, “We’re spotted! Sparkler, attack!”

The Grundo smiles cheerfully and says, “I hope you Neopians are enjoying your visit to the Virtupets Space Station! Please enjoy your visit!”

Sparkler buries her face in her paws. “Don’t listen to my owner. You know what they say about Neopian Times writers and insanity.”

“We don’t get the Neopian Times up here,” the Grundo says. “It’s been banned since they ran all those cartoons of Dr. Sloth wearing tutus.”

He moves away, and I climb up from behind the crate. I’m now beginning to think that we’re going about this mission wrong. Commander Garoo wouldn’t be walking around in the open in a place with all these Neopian visitors about.

“Sparkler, we shouldn’t be wandering around aimlessly out on the Supply Deck. If Garoo were here, everyone would see him immediately,” I say. “He must be hiding somewhere out of plain sight.”

“Good idea. Let’s check out the Space Weapons shop.” Sparkler points to the enormous metal structure with the glowing green lights. “Garoo might have stopped in to check out the latest technologically advanced weapons, like the new imitation model of Ylana’s Blaster with a barrel made of solidified Kreludite that would really boost my power in the Battledome and only costs a little more than the original. Say, do you happen to have a couple million Neopoints in your pocket?”

All I’ve got in my pockets is lint, and I just heard an announcement over the loudspeaker saying that there would be a mandatory lint check in three weeks. If all goes well, I’ll be safely back on Neopia by that time, but to be on the safe side I pull all the lint out of my pockets and drop it into a tumble dryer as I pass. You never know when evil leaders will kidnap you and delay your travel plans.

The loudspeaker booms a warning about intruders on Level 9. I dive under a machine.

Sparkler bends down to peer at me, looking amused. “They’re not talking about us. I think you’re jittery about running into Commander Garoo. Are you scared or something?”

“Of course not.” I climb out from under the machine, rubbing oil off my hands; that machine had been leaking. I don’t think the maintenance at the Space Station is as good as it’s claimed to be. “I’m just taking our safety into consideration. You’re my pet, you know, and I’ve got to protect you.”

Sparkler laughs. “Think you’re in a position to do that? I mean, humans are so... you know, weak.”

“Whoa, wait a second. You sound like one of these aliens around here. They didn’t brainwash you with invisible mind control rays while we were walking around, did they?”

“You’re right--you’re not scared; you’re just paranoid.”

The loudspeaker interrupts our discussion, ordering McCoy to the Sickbay. It seems like an illogical command considering that Dr. Sloth didn’t think to build a hospital wing on Virtupets, but perhaps the intercom system is just intercepting messages from some passing starship.

I’ve got to stop listening to these things and focus. We’re here on a mission. If Garoo were stopping by the Supply Deck on his way to execute some new evil mission, where would we be most likely to encounter him?

He wouldn’t be at any of the shops; too many battlers are constantly going through those doors, and they would be bound to recognize an infamous military leader like him. I drag Sparkler past the Space Weapons shop as she stares longingly into the window, unable to take her eyes off the blazing green lights. Those were definitely installed for mesmerizing purposes.

I pause briefly as we walk by the Grundo Warehouse, but it’s full of boxes and boxes of small trinkets that surely wouldn’t interest a commander bent on taking over an entire planet. With all of Neopia at his disposal, he wouldn’t have to redeem prize codes to get his daily plushie fix.

The Lever of Doom is a tourist magnet as always, and the usual long line of pets is standing in front of it, hardly able to wait their turn to yank the lever marked “Do Not Pull”. I’m sure Garoo isn’t here, for he wouldn’t be foolish enough to ignore the warnings placed by his own master. Still, I watch as an Aisha at the front of the line tugs on the lever again and again, letting out a scream of frustration every time the mechanical hand reaches out and steals her money, but she always immediately reaches out and pulls it again. Fascinating.

As I run past the various storage crates and visitor attractions, I begin to wonder why Commander Garoo would ever come to this area of the Space Station. Surely it’d make more sense for him to spend time on the Battle Deck. Then again, Grundo Leader Garb apparently isn’t spending much time there either, judging by the number of loudspeaker announcements asking him to report to it. Perhaps hanging around the Battle Deck would be too suspicious; Garoo might find it easier to recruit Grundos for his army by mingling with the common pets.

Recruiting Grundos? Of course.

I head to the Adopt-a-Grundo station, and sure enough, the bulky gray Blumaroo commander is there, dragging off a small young Grundo by the antenna. Sparkler jumps forward with weapons raised, her Golden Compass spinning wildly thanks to the magnets scattered throughout the Space Station, and grabs Garoo by his tail. The Meepits in the maintenance tunnels will soon have company.

 
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