Three Kreludan Rocks
"Hey, Gorix, come on. Commander Valka wants to talk to us."
Gorix’s fork halted on its way from his lunch tray to his mouth. He groaned, lowered his arm and looked up at his partner Cylara.
“But I just started eating!” he complained.
“Your precious fruit ice will be there when we get back,” Cylara urged. She beckoned him quickly then disappeared around a corner.
The Grundo groaned and stood up. An Officer of the Resistance didn’t deserve this, he thought. He stomped his way out of the lunch room and ignored the other officers patting him on the back, jokingly wishing him luck. He’d been especially grouchy lately ever since he’d found those rocks... but he didn’t realise.
He stopped in front of Commander Valka’s door and knocked. A gruff voice muttered, “Come in,” and he hesitantly obliged.
“What took you so long, Gorix?” Cylara was in there already and she confronted him when he entered. He brushed past her and sat down.
“You wanted to speak to me, Commander?”
The office was smaller than the expected size of a Neopet of Valka’s rank. All it contained was a desk, a row of keys dangling from hooks, and three chairs, two of which were occupied.
The Ixi Commander cleared his throat, slightly surprised at Gorix’s straight-forwardness, and started. “I’ve become a bit concerned about this experiments you’ve been running, lately, Gorix.”
“Wha- What experiments?” Gorix stammered.
“Don’t play dumb with me,” Valka snapped, slamming a hoof on his desk making the two jump. “Those three rocks you collected while you were off strutting around Kreludor.”
“You still have those silly rocks?” shrilled Cylara in disbelief. Valka hushed her.
“I’m aware that ever since Dr. Sloth has been kept astray, you’ve been somewhat bored with the menial tasks I’ve been assigning you lately,” Valka attempted to sympathise, but Gorix just scoffed in reply.
“You call lecturing beginning officers a task?” he jibed.
“Education of our new recruits is highly important.” Valka’s rage began bubbling more ferociously now. “And may I remind you where you yourself started out in the Resistance.”
Gorix rolled his eyes. From his peripheral vision he saw Cylara squirm uncomfortably.
“To continue, I’ve become concerned because I’m afraid that these particular rocks you’re experimenting on may become a distraction when a crisis comes along...” Valka informed him, before being rudely interrupted.
“Hello? The only reason the Resistance was founded was to defeat Dr. Sloth!” Gorix laughed scathingly. “And we did that already. Any other ‘crisis’ is the responsibility of the Defenders of Neopia...”
“You really expect the Defenders to travel all the way to Kreludor when we have perfectly capable officers to deal with crises?” Valka stood up leaned over the desk and snorted in Gorix’s face.
“Oh, dude! Would it kill to have a mint?” Gorix gagged, waving his hand in front of his face. Cylara took action immediately when Valka started growling dangerously. She grabbed Gorix, apologised to the Commander and dragged him outside.
After she closed the door and trudged herself and the dead weight of her Grundo partner a safe distance away from the volcano about to erupt in the office, she stood Gorix up and pushed him against the wall.
“What is the matter with you lately?!” she screeched. “This isn’t you! You’ve been so rude and arrogant and selfish lately...”
“Just add a few more adjectives to that, you’ll make me feel a lot better!” Gorix retaliated, and then tried to walk away, but Cylara pushed him back against the wall before he could escape.
“Tell me what’s wrong, Gorix,” she said, gentler this time. “I’m your friend. You can tell me.”
“I don’t have to tell you anything,” Gorix snapped.
Cylara’s head clicked, and she sighed. “It’s those rocks, isn’t it? They’re messing with your brain!”
“That’s stupid, Cylara!” Gorix’s voice rose to shout now and he grabbed his friend’s shoulders and shook her. “Am I not entitled to be in a bad mood? Everyone has their bad days!” With that, he stomped off to his room, and Cylara didn’t stop him. She pouted angrily and went back to the lunch room.
Gorix knew Cylara had a point; ever since he’d found those rocks lying side by side while out wandering Kreludor’s surface, his mood definitely had been affected. But he wasn’t going to admit it.
Nevertheless, they had fascinated him. He took the lid off the box next to his floor-level bed and gazed upon them. Three perfectly spherical rocks, all vibrant and contrasting colours, one red, one green and one blue, sat in the box. He stroked their smooth surface, and his greedy fascination overtook him again and plonked the blue one under his microscope.
Just like the last thousand times he’d inspected them, the microscope showed nothing but the most vivid blue, yet he could hardly look away. If he looked at it long enough, his eyes began playing tricks, he could see beautiful blotches appearing and vanishing... and often he heard faint voices coming from the rocks. He couldn’t make out what they were saying, but he kept listening.
After an hour of whispers passing through his ears and blotches forming like amoebas and darting around, he took the blue rock out and put the red one underneath the scrutiny of the lens.
Gorix knew this obsession was extremely bad for him, but he just couldn’t stop. It was like back in the old days when he and the Resistance were combating against Dr. Sloth and the Garoo soldiers. He had an ambition then, and once it was all over, there was nothing but incredibly menial tasks- patrolling Kreludor like the Defenders patrol Neopia, the occasional arrest under suspicion that anyone was working for Sloth... even thinking about it brought him to tears of absolute boredom.
But now he had an ambition again, to find out the mystery behind these rocks. Where had they come from? What powers could they possibly have? Is there anything inside them? They could be eggs for all he knew... what could be inside them?
Gorix had a sudden idea.
“Time for lights out, everyone! We need to conserve power!” a voice shouted from outside, ricocheting robotically off the steel walls. Gorix was slapped out of his reverie and looked at the time. It was lunch just before, and now it was nearly midnight! The lights shut down and the Headquarters was plunged into darkness.
Darn the power restrictions! Gorix thought. I didn’t even have a chance to look at the green one...
The lights came back on, waking up Gorix. The restless sleep did nothing to help his irritableness, but he didn’t mind. Now that the lights were back on he went to bolt over to his microscope, but as soon as he lifted his blanket, he went shooting up into the air and crashed into the ceiling.
“Gravity filters now turning on.” Valka’s voice was projected through the station. An unseen machine whirred into life, and Gorix was forced downwards and crashed into the floor. He inwardly cursed whoever it was that decided to build the station completely out of steel.
The recent power cut had had a bad effect on everyone in Kreludor, and the Resistance were now forced to turn their gravity off at night to conserve energy. Though it was unknown why the power had been cut in the first place, and some of the highest ranked officers were sent out to discover this fact. Gorix grumbled at the thought, he felt he deserved to be out there doing the really important jobs rather than what he was doing now.
But no matter, Gorix thought. Now that the lights AND the gravity were successfully up and running, he went to his microscope and slotted the green rock underneath it.
Again the hypnotic amoebas drew him into a trance-like state, and he allowed the whispers to enter his head again.
“Put us away...”
Gorix jumped as if the gravity had been turned off again. He looked around his room to find who’d talked, even though he knew he was alone.
“Put us away! Quickly, someone’s coming!”
Gorix’s eyes widened. He could understand what the rocks were saying!
He gathered the rocks and placed this in his box and quickly slotted it under his bed just milliseconds before his door opened and Cylara walked in.
“Oh, you’re up,” Cylara noted.
“Yeah, well, how can you not be with Valka booming his voice throughout the station,” Gorix joked and laughed feebly.
Cylara smiled. “So... you’re feeling better now?”
“Uh yeah, much better,” Gorix said. This was a lie, he was feeling just as grumpy as yesterday, but now that he was aware of why he was feeling that way, he decided it was best to act happy in front of Cylara. He didn’t want to lose her.
Thankfully, she seemed convinced. “That’s great, Gorix. Let’s go get some breakfast.”
Gorix looked down to where his rocks were under the bed, and he could swear he heard them talking to him again.
“Go, we’ll still be here when you get back...”
“Okay, let’s go,” Gorix said.
As the two walked cheerily (well, for Cylara anyway) to breakfast, a particular door caught Gorix’s attention on their way. It was labelled The Heat Room. He himself had never been in there, but knew it was used to extract liquid from any type of substance for closer examination.
The rocks might contain liquid... Gorix thought, smiling wickedly. He hurriedly hid the smile before Cylara got suspicious. So wrapped up in thinking of a plan to unlock the Heat Room Gorix was that he hadn’t even realised he had sat down and began eating until Cylara spoke to him.
“It seems you’ve gotten over your rock obsession as well,” Cylara snorted quietly- she knew she was entering dangerous territory, but felt it a duty as a friend to talk about it, so she tried to be a light as possible. Gorix dropped his fork in shock, his mouth still gaping open.
“Gorix, are you alright?”
He looked up at her with a sudden, jerky movement. “Uhh... yeah. I’m fine.” He forced a reassuring smile and resumed eating.
“Okay,” Cylara said uncertainly. She watched him eat for a little bit until she decided to drop the subject- for now. “So what’s on the itinerary today?”
Gorix flipped open his electronic wrist strap and brought up today’s duties and sighed.
“The usual,” he muttered. “Patrol the shopping area and make sure everything is still civilised and not about to explode. You know, I sort of wish Sloth would attack again just to spice things up!” He said that last bit mockingly, and Cylara stared at him disbelief.
“I can’t believe you would joke about that, Gorix,” she stammered. “On that day when the Garoo soldiers attacked the Space Station... I could’ve lost my family. I still only talk to my parents every other week as it is...”
Gorix was quick with a reply. “Well, I can’t believe you would joke about those rocks, either! You’re not the only one with cares and ambitions in this universe.” He stood up aggressively, and everyone was now gawking at the two.
Cylara stayed silent for a while before saying, “You’re still being influenced by them, aren’t you?”
Gorix didn’t say anything. Instead, he seized his food tray and stomped back towards his room.
“I’m going to have to report this to Commander Valka,” Cylara called to him. He stopped in his tracks and turned. She was still looking down at her food, nudging some jelly-like substance with her fork.
“You do that then,” Gorix said and walked off. Cylara cried silently as all the witnesses conspicuously went back to their breakfasts.
Gorix dumped his food tray in a nearby rubbish bin and stormed off in the direction of his room. On the way he passed Commander Valka’s office.
That hairy Ixi is probably in there eating breakfast alone, Gorix thought with malice. Doesn’t want to be seen with his own officers...
Then he had an idea. When he was in Valka’s office yesterday, there was a row of keys above the desk. One of those must unlock the Heat Room! But how to get it...? He darted off to his room before Cylara could finish eating.
“Commander Valka?” Gorix knocked gingerly on the Ixi’s door.
There was a slight pause, some jingling noises and then, “Come in, Gorix.” He stepped in.
The first thing Gorix noticed was the absence of the keys above Valka’s desk. Gorix’s forehead creased, but smiled and approached Valka with his hands behind his back.
“I just wanted to apologise for my behaviour yesterday,” he said. “It was inexcusable to speak to you in that way and I hope I haven’t tainted my position in the Resistance.”
Valka raised an eyebrow and leaned back in his chair. “Why are you really here, Gorix?”
Gorix was taken aback. He hadn’t expected this. “What, Commander?”
“I know you by now, Gorix,” Valka sighed. He stood and walked around the desk to face him properly. “You haven’t been behaving like yourself lately, and I haven’t the foggiest idea why. The only theory I have is what Cylara said to me yesterday before you came in, that those silly rocks you’re experimenting on are affecting your mood.”
Gorix twitched slightly and nearly dropped his case, but took the opportunity of Valka being so close.
“You mean these rocks?” He grinned and swung the case containing the three rocks at his Commander’s head. He stumbled from the shock, but Gorix knew it would take more than one blow to knock the tough Valka out. Before he could have a chance to react or retaliate, Gorix hit him over the head three more times before he finally slumped to the ground. Gorix bolted over to the drawers on the other side of Valka’s desk to find the key.
They were in the fourth drawer from the top, and Gorix laughed. He must’ve expected something, he thought. All the keys had helpful swing tags on them, so it didn’t take long to find a particularly long key labelled ‘Heat Room.’ There was more scrawled underneath: ‘Do not use due to energy constraints.’ He shoved the key in his pocket and pelted out the door before Valka could wake up- which he knew wouldn’t be long. He ran to his quarters, snatched a tightly-knitted blanket from his bed and returned to the hall.
The Heat Room’s reinforced door wasn’t far from Gorix’s room, but quite a way from Valka’s so he needed to hurry. Even if Valka didn’t wake up anytime soon, Cylara was going to report him and would find out what he had done. As would the rest of the station.
But that didn’t matter. All that mattered was what was in these rocks. Gorix thrust the key into the lock, and the door relented with loud clunks and screeches of protest. It was like waking a beast from its hibernation.
He stepped inside the small room adjacent to the actual Heat Room. Here there were two suits not unlike the space suits they required to do their rounds. Except these suits had a coolant in them so you didn’t dehydrate under the intense heat. Gorix put one on, shifted the box of rocks under his arm and stepped inside.
The massive metal cube that was the Heat Room was bare except for two buttons on the opposite side from the door. Also, the roof was simply glass, giving a beautiful view of the trillions of stars out into space. Gorix closed the door behind him and walked over to the buttons. It was a simple procedure- press the green button to turn the heat on, press the red one to turn it off. He did so. Almost immediately, the Heat Room whirred into life, the air went blurry and the coolant in the suit kicked in, but it was still tough to bear.
Gorix opened the box, the three perfectly smooth rocks shining, leering at him. Before he could become intoxicated by them again, he put his blanket over them to catch any liquid that might be evaporated.
“WARNING: SERIOUS POWER BREACH! WARNING: SERIOUS POWER BREACH! SHUT OFF ALL APPLIANCES IMMEDIATELY.”
The station’s automatic computer system announced this loudly, accompanied with a deafening alarm. Gorix began to panic. He looked down at the blanket covering his rocks- and indeed he could see stains! He rejoiced.
“POWER LEVELS BELOW 10%. SHUT OFF ALL APPLIANCES IMMEDIATELY AT RISK OF LOSING ALL POWER.”
I still need more... I still need more.
Valka was well and truly woken up by the alarm, and Cylara was with him in his office. The alarm was still blaring.
“Are you sure every light is off?” Valka growled.
“Yes, Commander!” Cylara stressed for the umpteenth time. “Why have you called me in here?”
“I looked at my computer before shutting it down- the serious breach is occurring in the Heat Room,” he grumbled.
“The Heat Room?” Cylara was taken aback. “No one has used that for months, and you hold the only key... and that doesn’t answer my question.”
“POWER LEVELS BELOW 5%...”
“Take one guess as to who is in there!” Valka yelled, standing up and slamming his desk. “Take one guess who gave me this gargantuan lump on the side of my head!”
Cylara’s stomach fell to Neopia. “Gorix... no...”
“We have to shut off the gravity; it will give us a few hours to convince Gorix to get out of there...” Valka mused.
“But sir, the roof in the Heat Room is only glass!” Cylara said. “If we turn off the gravity he could go flying off into space!”
Valka sighed quietly. “It’s a risk we’re going to have to take...” His hoof reached under his desk to a concealed lever.
“Valka, no!” Cylara screamed. “Please!” She restrained Valka’s arm, and burst into tears. “If it weren’t for Gorix I wouldn’t be working here, remember? He’s my friend!”
“POWER LEVELS BELOW 1%.”
“I’m so sorry, Cylara.” Valka shook his hoof out of the tearful Cybunny’s grip. “I have no other choice.”
Cylara knew this was true. She slumped in the corner and sobbed.
“I really am sorry,” Valka said. Then he pulled the lever.
“GRAVITY SHUTTING DOWN IN FIVE SECONDS. PLEASE RESTRAIN YOURSELF. FOUR... THREE...”
“What?!” Gorix exclaimed. He looked around desperately for something to hold onto, but there was nothing.
He ran to the red button and turned off the Heat Room.
He leaped for the rocks, and held them close to his chest.
“GRAVITY SHUTTING DOWN.”
The alarms stopped, and there was a moment of pure silence... except Gorix could hear sobbing in the distance- piercing the thick metal walls.
“Cylara...” FWOOMP! He was forced upwards, and he smashed through the glass and was hurtled into the eternal beauty of space.
“Gorix! Please, you need to get out before the power shuts down completely!” Valka slammed at the Heat Room door, crashing it against its jamb.
He growled and floated hopelessly. He then realised the lack of sound emanating from the room.
“He turned it off,” Valka realised.
“ALL APPLIANCES HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFULLY SHUT DOWN. POWER LEVELS AT 0.3%. ORDER WILL BE SENT FOR POWER REPLENISHMENTS FROM KRELUDOR MINES.”
He finally found the opportunity to exhale. But there was still one heavy stone festering in his mind.
What happened to Gorix? Obviously, he must’ve been hurtled into space, otherwise he would’ve come out by now. All these thoughts that Valka didn’t want to cross his mind did just that. He fought back the emotions with difficulty- he was trained to hide emotions; he was Commander, after all.
As he pushed his way back to his office in the utter silence, he heard Cylara still bawling. He would now be putting his training to the test as he informed her of Gorix’s fate.
[From the diary of Gorix, former Space Cadet from the Resistance- 9th day of the Month of Sleeping]
I bought a new necklace today. It’s a string of shells from the beach with a wooden carved Grundo on it. I intend to send it to Cylara on the station, with a note telling her exactly what happened. To tell her I’m still alive.
Though I probably won’t send it. She must’ve found out what I did by now, how I nearly doomed all of the Resistance. Hey, I probably did. I don’t know. She won’t want to hear from me anyway. I’ll never stop thinking of her every day. And I’ll never stop thinking how lucky I was to be caught in Kreludor’s orbit that day. I didn’t deserve to be that lucky.
Anyway, I’m trying to make new friends here on the island. I’m succeeding, I guess. I met a Kiko named Jules, who is a nice guy. Though he suffered because of me, too. And those cursed rocks.
I was still obsessed, transfixed by them. I locked myself away to stare at them. It was Jules who stayed by me, and convinced me to throw those cursed things in the ocean, along with the blanket which possibly contained the answer to my mystery. It was hard work, I physically hurt him. But he never gave up on me. Another thing I don’t deserve.
I sincerely hope no one else finds those rocks. They have a horrible power to them. And I will never forgive myself for what I did to the Resistance.
Though I hope Cylara forgave me. If she’s still alive. I’m so sorry, Cylara.
I’m so, so sorry.