The Greatest Story Never Told: Part Three
“How did I let you talk me into this? That’s what I wanna know,” Jaycee grumbled as their rocket landed unceremoniously on the moon’s surface with a loud grunt.
“I don’t see what you’re complaining about!” Sebastian said loudly, before lowering his voice as two guards looked at him. “We got here in the end didn’t we — we’re closer than ever to Sloth! And besides, what better offer were you likely to get? Oh, Jaycee, let’s sit around the fire twiddling our thumbs while a million other people get to do exciting stuff. I don’t think so. This is an adventure!”
“We’ve had plenty of adventures, Seb! And they were fun, perhaps not as dangerous or as stupid, but they were still fun.”
“Oh, yeah? What adventures?”
”We went to Meridell and accidentally got locked in the castle. That was... interesting. And the time we went to Faerieland and they thought we stole their Glowing Battle Dung? They chased us all over the city.”
“Not an adventure.” Sebastian shook his head stubbornly.
“Krawk Island. Smugglers Cove.”
“Yeah, well... this is ten times more exciting. No, a million!”
She was about to retort when one of the guards stomped over.
“Move. Now,” he barked, and they had no choice but to obey. They followed him out of the rocket and onto the dry, barren moon. They had handed right in the middle of a particularly large crater, so the climb to the top was quite uncomfortable — especially with the guards scoffing every time they paused for breath.
At last they were at the top, and looking across the dented surface of Neopia’s moon. Directly in front of them was the giant Mining Corp, with huge robots prowling around zapping the Grundos that had stopped working. Working included digging, scraping, building; it all looked very painful to Sebastian, who had never worked in his life (and really didn’t intend to start now!).
One of the giants had stomped over to them and was beeping and clicking at the guards. It nodded curtly, and without another word, the guards turned and marched away, leaving Sebastian, Jaycee and Will looking up at the tower of living metal in front of them.
“You are to be escorted to the Conversion Room. Immediately.”
“What's the Conversion Room?” Jaycee whispered to Will as they followed their robot away from the Corp and towards a great, shining metal building.
“No idea.” He shrugged.
The robot paused at the front door of the building long enough for the guards to scan them, before stepping inside. He led them down corridors, through doors— they seemed to be walking around the whole moon and back. Finally he stopped outside a closed door with strange symbols on the gold plaque. He pressed some buttons on the wall next to it, and it swung open soundlessly. The robot stepped back and pointed inside.
“Hey, can I just say how much I hate Dr Sloth?” Sebastian asked conversationally.
“Sure, sure. But I just have to do this first...” *Crash!* He slammed himself as hard as he could into the robot, sending them both sprawling onto the floor. “Run!” he bellowed at his friends, before jumping to his feet and sprinting away. They could hear the robot behind them, gaining speed.
“Where... can we —” Will never finished his sentence, for they had just turned a corner and smacked into a door that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.
“In here, quick!” Sebastian tried the door handle and to his immense relief it turned and he swung it open cautiously. Looking up, he saw two gold plaques on the door, one with those symbols that was on the other door, and the other said ‘Control Room’.
“Ladies first?” he nervously asked Jaycee. She frowned and poked him in the back. Still catching his breath, he stepped cautiously into the room.
It was cold, that was the first thing he noticed. Quite chilly. And it was very dark, too dark for him to make out much, but he could see lots of little glowing lights all around the room. They covered the walls and the ceiling, blinking occasionally. They were all different colors — they were really very pretty. Sebastian smiled around at them, and they winked at him, shining their radiant glow, surrounding him in their colorful light...
“Seb! Snap out of it!” Jaycee poked him again. Irritated at her distraction, he snarled and turned away from her to continue staring at the lights.
“OW!” He spun round to glare at her. “What was that for?”
“Stop shouting, will you? We don’t know what's in here!” She looked worriedly around, but could see nothing but the glowing lights.
“Will? You ok? Oh, don’t tell me—” She groaned and stepped back to smack him across the head too. He came out of his daze and rubbed his head.
“Where are we now?”
“What's being controlled? Who’s controlling?”
“How should I know? Do I look like a scientist?”
“Oh!” Jaycee yelped above their chatter.
“What?!” they gasped together.
“Well, doesn’t it strike you as a little odd how the Grundos don’t just leave?”
“Well, I seriously doubt that they want to work in the mines. So you’d think they would just rebel. Maybe organize an attack or something so they can escape. But they don’t. You saw them; they just kept working, didn’t even look up when a great big rocket landed right on their noses. So something must have happened to them to make them work like this!” She finished dramatically, looking around at the others expectantly. When they just looked at her blankly, she sighed.
“Don’t you see? Control Room. All the Grundos are being controlled; they do whatever they are told. This room must be like, I don’t know, a giant computer or something. And they’re going to do something to us to make us work in the mines. ‘Cause let’s face it — who in their right mind would want to?” She screwed her nose up in distaste.
“So, in short, we really need to get out of here,” Will said. “Like, now.”
“Well, come on! Think, where’s the door?”
They all looked around, but to their horror they saw that they couldn’t find the door at all; in the room with them was just the darkness and the glowing lights.
“What are these lights anyway?”
“I don’t know! I wish we had some real light. Like, so we can see!” Sebastian bellowed angrily, before turning away and promptly crashing into a wall. Disorientated and seeing stars, he grabbed at it to stop him from falling, and felt his hand enclose around a switch. Steadying himself, he pulled the lever down and in a split second the room was flooded with white fluorescent light. He gingerly rubbed his bruised nose as his eyes adjusted and they all looked around. Each ‘wall’ was covered completely from the floor to the ceiling with buttons, switches, knobs, levers and dials, all different colours. Some were labeled with words they understood, others were in the same strange symbols that were on the door, and some had nothing written on them at all. There were a few small screens here and there, each glowing green and had numbers and codes flashing at them.
“Wow...” Jaycee looked impressed, despite being scared, and Sebastian felt the same way. He glanced at Will to see how he was reacting, but the Grundo had a completely different look to either of them. He had the look of someone who had been slaving over a riddle for a year and the answer had just fallen into place and clicked. He looked around at all the buttons and switches and he started fiddling with his ears, which Sebastian had taken to seeing as a nervous habit.
“What is it, Will?” Jaycee asked, moving closer to him, concerned.
“I always wondered... never asked...” he said softly.
“What is it?” she repeated, more determined this time.
He shook his head disbelievingly.
“I always wondered how the Space Station worked,” he told them, “I always wondered how it stayed in space, why it didn’t just come crashing down, and where did we get transmissions from, and loads of stuff like that. Now I know,” he finished simply.
“You mean... this room —on Kreludor— controls the whole of the Space Station? But— how? And who? Who could have possibly built something like this? This –complex and sophisticated?”
“Sloth.” Sebastian nodded wisely.
“It has to be! Who else wants to take over the world? Actually, no, don’t answer that, there’s a few. Anyway, he lives here, the robots work for him, he makes the Grundos work, he controls the Space Station, he steals paintbrushes and he wants to take over the world.” He leaned back on his tail, forgetting it was ignoring him, and he fell onto the floor with a dull thud. He frowned at it before looking up at his friends.
“Okay... so what do we do now?” Will asked, still fiddling with his ears.
“Not sure, but I know one thing, we have— can you stop that? It’s a little distracting.” Sebastian gestured at his ears with his hand, before stopping short at the look on Will's face. “Okay then, nevermind. Anyway, we really have to get out of here. Even with this light, the door seems to be lost. And all the walls look the same anyway, covered in buttons. So — buttons! We might be able to find one to let us out!”
“Well, we’d better hurry up before the clock hits zero,” Jaycee said in a soft, calm voice. He looked at her in surprise.
“What are you talking—”
She silently pointed to one of the screens, and even from his position on the floor he could read what it said.
Control Room lockdown in 4:23, 4:22, 4:21...
He leapt up and pressed his face next to the screen. But— it couldn’t be —four minutes?
“Quick, find a button and press it!” he yelled, looking over the dials next to the screen. He squinted to read what they said. Refreshments— no thanks, I’ve lost my appetite. Data base— and that meant what exactly? Grundo project— ah, a word he knew! But... not useful. Mine status— nope. Wasn’t there anything here for them?
3:44, 3:43, 3:42...
Keys? Yeah that might work.
“Oh well, here goes nothing,” he sighed, and with his eyes closed he slammed his fist down on the glowing purple button.
Immediately the lights turned a shocking fluorescent violet and all the blinking lights on the buttons flashed rapidly.
“What happened?!” he heard Jaycee yell, but he couldn’t seem to be able to get his eyes into focus. He stood numbly with his hand still pressing the button down. “Sebastian!” That time it was Will who was shouting, and as it was the first time he had ever heard it, it snapped Sebastian out of his paralyzed state. He pulled his hand off and glanced at the screen, which was still glowing green.
“Guys, over here, quick! I think we can get out!” he yelled at them. A second later they too were looking at the eerie screen and trying to figure out what to do next.
“It says Bronze, Silver or Gold,” Will read aloud. “Which one should we pick?”
“Well, you’d think the obvious one would be Gold, but maybe it’s a trick and we should pick Bronze,” Jaycee mused thoughtfully.
“It could be any of the three... or none! They might not be the keys to the door after all!” This had not occurred to Sebastian until then. “We should still check the other switches to see if any say ‘door’.” He scanned the wall briefly before a shiny gold lever caught his attention. It had those same weird symbols on it that the door had on the plaque. He looked at his friends and they shrugged back at him. Might as well, he thought before grabbing it and pulling it down.
An ear-splitting alarm wailed overhead, making them grab their ears in pain.
“Warning, warning, system breach...”
What had he done now?
To be continued...