The Greatest Story Never Told: Part Five
It was the middle of the night, and it was raining. Sebastian, Jaycee and Will appeared on the sidewalk of a silent Neopian street, the rain bouncing off their metal helmets with loud pings. They were warm and dry inside their robot suits, and their enhanced vision enabled them to see in the dark. As soon as they had steadied themselves from the sudden teleportation, they rushed forward into the darkness, their heavy boots thudding on the pathway.
“Where is he?” Jaycee yelled over the hiss of the rain.
“I don’t — there! He’s over there!” Sebastian broke into a run and charged at the cloaked figure of Dr Sloth standing in the rain. He was towering over a weeping little Kacheek, who was clutching her Fyora Queen doll tightly in her paws, looking up at him, terrified. He cackled insanely, before pulling the trigger on the Ray Gun...
“Nooooo!” Sebastian leapt at Sloth, knocking him over into a muddy puddle. His shot missed and sludged a tree behind them, oozing all over some Neopian’s nicely looked-after front lawn.
Jaycee urged the little Kacheek to run away, to run along home where she would be safe. She turned her huge eyes onto Jaycee, a giant robot with a handheld laser, and burst into tears, before turning and fleeing without looking back.
Sloth was beside himself with fury and, still lying in the puddle, he jabbed at a button on a small remote he was holding and he disappeared. A split second later, his three attackers had vanished from the street as well.
They reappeared inside a massive room, filled with computers, gadgets, weapons, chemicals, blueprints for world domination, and many more things along those lines. Sloth was standing right in front of them, a cruel smile twisting his face.
“Ingenious. Quite commendable. Most impressive.” He cocked his head to one side. “How did you manage it? Oh, but of course! You tapped into my teleportation, reapplied the coordinates. But I wonder why three of my own robots would mutiny against me?” He smiled horribly. “Come on now, don’t be shy. Show yourselves.”
None of them moved. Now they were here, in his domain, in front of him, none of them could seem to find anything to say.
“I said show yourself!” he snarled. “I am not a patient villain, I’ll have you know. So I will give you until the count of three to unmask, before I make you. One... don’t you know I can have a million guards in here with the touch of one button? Two... don’t make me wait now, I’m getting a little grumpy... Three! Reveal yourselves!”
Sebastian bravely stepped forward, his head held high. They had made it this far; they couldn’t chicken out now.
“We have a bone to pick with you.”
Sloth arched an eyebrow.
“Do you, now? Well, don’t keep me in suspense! Out with it.”
“You sludged our paintbrush!” Jaycee said.
“Did I? Oh, I’m ever so sorry! Can you forgive me?” He laughed madly. “I still want to know who you are. Not that I bother with tiny, insignificant pests like you; however, I would like to know who’s invading my lovely home.”
Sebastian pulled off his helmet and signaled to the others to do the same. He was getting worked up all over again— this was not how he had planned this.
“Right, a cat, an alien and one of those things that bounce— what are they called again? I forget. Anyway, lovely meeting you all, now clear off before I stop being nice and call my guards in here. Real guards, mind you,” he added.
“Xweetok, Grundo and a Blumaroo, actually,” Sebastian said furiously. “And we aren’t clearing off, no way, not until we get our paintbrush back. Oh, and free all the Grundos from the mines, too.”
Sloth merely looked bored.
“Should I be worried?”
“Oh. Oops. Well, apologies, but I am not.”
“You’re actually a little polite.” Jaycee spoke up.
“What? I am not!” He scoffed. “I am sarcastic, not polite. Polite is for heroes. Sarcasm is for villains.”
Sloth narrowed his startlingly red eyes.
“If you think I am polite, you are sorely mistaken. If you want, I shall prove it.” He pressed down hard on one of the buttons on his remote. Almost immediately ten guards came swarming into the room, lasers pointing at the intruders.
“Hold your fire. I want to know why these three misfits have been stalking me.”
“We told you— you destroyed our paintbrush!”
“But how did you find me here? And coordinate my teleport beam? It’s all very advanced, you know.” He scratched his chin thoughtfully.
“Lucky for us, we found a computer genius along the way,” Jaycee snapped. “And... well, it was sort of an accident, how we found you,” she added sheepishly.
“Yes, I gathered that when my Droids had brought some law-breakers from the Station because you were asking for me. Lucky coincidence I happened to take up residence on this moon, then, isn’t it? But what I don’t get it why you weren’t just converted and living happily ever after in the mines?”
“We found the Control Room,” Sebastian said simply. “And managed to avoid the Conversion Room.”
“You got lucky,” Sloth snarled viciously.
“We’re going to free all those Grundos, you know. Right after you give us a paintbrush. It must be Grey, mind. Has to be the same one,” Jaycee said.
“Oh, well, I’m afraid I can't have that! You have no way of freeing the Grundos, and you are quite silly for thinking you stand a chance against me. Guards!” he barked, turning to them. “Rid my domain of these pests!”
They brought up their ray guns and were just about to pull the trigger when—
Sebastian felt the familiar sensation of his stomach being jerked up by a blunt hook, flipping him upside down. A split second later it was over and his feet touched solid ground. Solid... sand?
“Where are we?” he asked, looking around. All he could see was sand, sand... and more sand. The ground was completely covered in it; there were no buildings or people in sight.
“Got the lost bit right, haven’t we?” Jaycee sighed. “How did we get here?”
“I teleported us,” Will said simply. “The link is still open; we would have to close it manually in the Control Room. So basically, we can go anywhere we like. Except... there is one slight hitch.”
“What's that?” Sebastian narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
“He comes with us.” Will pointed to something behind Jaycee. She turned around, yelped and fell over. Behind her was Sloth, holding himself regally with his cloak fluttering in the gentle breeze, his red eyes glaring at them.
“So the link wasn’t just external?” He spat on the ground. “Well, no matter, I can simply teleport back. And unless I am mistaken — and that never happens — you will come with me. My Droids are so eager to meet you properly; you were so very rude before.” He grinned maliciously, and with a flourish of his cloak he vanished.
“Oh, no...” Sebastian groaned. “Not again!”
“Not if I can help it,” Will said through gritted teeth, furiously pressing buttons on his suit. There was a loud beep and they were jerked off their feet yet again. Only this time they were neither in the Desert or Sloth’s lair; they were somewhere completely different. A warm breeze drifted leisurely around them while the bright sun shone overhead. They could hear the sound of softly tumbling waves far out to sea, and the grass was so green it looked like someone had tried to feed it lime jelly.
“Mystery Island,” Jaycee breathed, looking around in awe. “Middle of the day, looks like. Where’s Sloth?” she asked, automatically spinning around.
“I don’t know if he will be here,” Will mused, looking at the sky. “It might have broken the link when we tried to go a different way at the same time. But it was the middle of the night before, wasn’t it? The most it should be is morning. Different places don’t all have different time zones, do they?”
“No.” Sebastian frowned worriedly. “Why, what's happened?”
“I think something might have gone very, very wrong.” Will shook his head slowly.
“Ugh, can we get out of these suits now? It’s boiling in here!” Jaycee grumbled, extracting herself from the robot armour hastily. The other two did the same, Will still looking worried.
“I think... I think we are not meant to be here.” He reached up unconsciously to fiddle with his ears. “I don’t know how we’ve done it, but we have, I’m sure of it, it’s the only explanation...” he rambled on, much to his friends’ frustration.
“What have we done?”
Sebastian’s jaw dropped and Jaycee’s eyed boggled.
“Yes.” Will nodded wisely. “I think we have gone back in time, back to yesterday. This was where you were when Sloth zapped your paintbrush, was it not?”
They nodded wordlessly.
“Well, we are here before that happens, which is very, very bad. Two sets of us —well, two of you, really, as you met me much later— exist simultaneously. And that is bad. It goes against the very laws of time.”
“What do we do now?” Jaycee asked, her eyes looking as though they were about to pop.
“I’m not certain, but I think we should go. Yes.” Will nodded decisively. “We have to go.”
Sebastian had just had an epiphany.
“We can teleport to the Defenders HQ!” he said eagerly. “Sloth will be here about... mm, sunset, wasn’t it? Well, it was just getting dark anyway. We’ll get the Defenders to be here when he arrives to zap us, and they can catch him. We’ll be heroes!” he added, starry-eyed.
“Could we do that?” Jaycee asked Will.
“No, I don’t think we should...” he replied, biting his lip. “It would mess everything up; see, if Sloth doesn’t sludge your paintbrush, you’d never have gone to the Space Station, we’d never have gone to Kreludor, never found Sloth, and wouldn’t be here. I don’t know where we’d be, actually.” He frowned, tugging on his ears, much to Sebastian’s annoyance. “Perhaps it would just fit around our timelines, but what if it didn’t? The whole world might change... no, we really don’t want to go messing around with time.”
“So we have to leave? Where can we go?”
“I think the only thing we can do is to wait here until the time Sloth arrives. He zaps the paintbrush, and then I think...” Will paused for a second, his eyes closed.
“What?” Sebastian glared at him suspiciously.
“Well, it might go wrong. Like I said, time, it’s weird. You can't mold it. It happens precisely the way it’s meant to. If we stuff this up... we can't be seen!” Will shouted suddenly, causing the others to jump. “We can't let anyone at the festival see us, especially not ourselves. Yourselves,” he corrected himself. “We have to lurk, and wait until the time Sloth gets here. So we need to go back to the Lost Desert and wait for us. Then both sets of us will be there — eventually — and we can tell the other us not to teleport here. To just break off the link. And if we can manage that quickly enough, both sets will stay there. Then the first us should disappear, lost in time, pretty much. But it’s ok, we’ll be fine!” he added hastily, seeing the looks of panic on his friends’ faces. “We’ll be the only us in existence, how it should be, how it was before. We’ll be stranded in the Lost Desert, but away from Sloth. So we find a way to get ourselves out, and since we’ll be back in the normal time, we can go to the Defenders. Clear?” he asked, gasping for breath.
“Right. And we’ll just focus on the things that will go right, hey, not the dozens of things that can go wrong?” Sebastian said.
The others nodded, each thinking about every little detail that — if done wrongly — might spell their doom...
To be continued...