The Greatest Story Never Told: Part Six
“Remind me again how you roped me into this?” Jaycee asked, kicking the ground angrily and showering Sebastian with sand.
“You followed me.”
“Why didn’t you just leave it? Why couldn’t you just walk away?!”
“I was angry.”
“I’ll show you angry!” Jaycee said threateningly.
“Stop it,” Will said wearily, sitting on his robot-suit.
“Stop what? Telling my best friend how stupid he is for charging after the world’s most hated villain? Stop asking him why he can't ever decide not to play the hero.” She sent another foot of sand flying in her rage. “’Cause you can just leave it, can you, Seb? Nah, ‘cause that’s the wimp’s way! The loser’s way! It’s not the hero’s way, so it’s not your way! You have to be the big man on the scene, I mean, it’s not like the Defenders or anyone else can catch Sloth; only you can do that. Why? Because you’re Sebastian, that’s why!” She ranted on for a while, and only stopped when she realized she had almost completely covered Sebastian in sand. After that, she just sighed and plonked herself down heavily on the ground.
“Do you feel better now?” Will asked her.
“Yes,” she replied, leaning back and yawning.
“Well, that’s good. And we only have another three hours left until we get here.”
Sebastian spat out a mouthful of sand.
“Three hours?” he said sleepily. “Surely we’ve been sitting here for three years already.” He, too, keeled over sideways and snuggled down into the sand, his eyes closed.
“Mmm...” Will stifled a yawn before resting his head in his hands, feeling his eyelids slowly drooping down...
* * * * *
“Where are we?”
“Got the lost bit right, haven’t we? How did we get— ahh!”
Sebastian, Jaycee and Will woke with a start, and found themselves staring face to face with... well, themselves.
“What the —?!” one of the Jaycees yelped, jumping backwards into Will, who toppled over.
“Don’t panic! It’s ok!” the other one said hastily, holding her arms up. “We’re here to help. Listen, Sloth’s going to appear very soon, and you have to listen to us. You have to —” She was cut off by the arrival of Sloth. He stood with his cape fluttering around his ankles as he stared at them in confusion.
“What did —?” He frowned and shook his head. He pressed a button on his ray gun and he vanished from sight.
“Disconnect yourselves from him!” Will shouted at them, who were still standing gawping at them from the ground. “NOW!” he roared, making them gasp in fright.
All around them the Desert swirled, sand was flying over their heads, the clouds in the sky rapidly whizzing past them, the dark night changing to morning, then afternoon... then night again...
“Time is breaking! You have to disconnect yourselves from the teleport; it’s the only way to stop this!”
The sand beneath them vanished, only to be replaced by black, burnt grass, as snow and rain hissed down upon them.
The other Will finally seemed to recover, and hurriedly pressed some buttons on his robot-suit. All their suits glowed blue for a second, then it faded and there was utter silence — the rain and snow had stopped midair — if they looked up they could see the individual droplets hanging above them. Time had stopped.
“You mustn’t touch anything, you can't move,” Will warned them. “Just wait...”
“For what?” the other Jaycee whispered, looking terrified.
“I’m sorry,” Will said, looking away. There was a loud crack of thunder right above them, and — still looking horrified — the other set of them vanished into the night. The dead grass was replaced by sand once more, and the frozen rain and snow melted back into the sky as it changed back to evening, to morning, and finally back to the night before.
“We did it,” Sebastian said weakly, still staring at the sky.
They all sat down without another word, each looking as though they had just been force-fed asparagus. Will was shaking his head and Jaycee’s eyes were glassy and unblinking.
They sat there for several minutes, just staring. Not moving. Not talking. Not thinking. What they had just been through, time travel, breaking time, fixing it, seeing themselves, and Sloth... it all came back to Sloth. Sebastian still wanted his revenge — he wanted his paintbrush back — and he wasn’t ready to give up yet. But what could they do? They were stranded in the Lost Desert with Sloth after them (it made a nice change), and they had just seen what happens when time goes wrong.
“Onwards,” he said, getting to his feet and helping Jaycee up.
“Where now?” she said heavily, still staring at the sand.
“I suppose, we have to go to the Defenders. We know where Sloth is, we have a copy of his hard drive on Will’s key, we let them do their jobs. They can free the Grundos too.”
“And what about us?”
“We go with the Defenders. Maybe they can get him to give us back our paintbrush.”
“And if they can't?”
Sebastian looked directly into her eyes.
“Then we go home.”
“No, of course not!” He laughed. “I promised you before, Jayc, I’m getting us our paintbrush back. And I haven’t had a chance to sludge him yet either.” He turned to Will. “Can you fix the teleport? But keep it disconnected, we don’t want any more trouble. But if we have a teleport, we can get back to the Defenders, then go straight to Sloth.”
“But we’d be handing ourselves over on a silver platter!” Jaycee said indignantly.
Sebastian shook his head.
“But we’ll be protected, see? If he goes to zap us or call his guards or whatever, we just teleport out. We’re safe!” he finished triumphantly.
Jaycee opened her mouth to say something, but then closed it with a loud snap.
“Fine,” she said. “We’ll do it.”
Will nodded and set to work fiddling with some buttons on his suit. They each climbed back into their robot disguise without another word to each other, pressing the blue button when Will pointed to it. Their suits glowed and they were off again...
They stood in an empty street, the night sky above them dark and starless. No lights were on in any of the houses and the trees stood motionless.
“Why is it so quiet?” Jaycee whispered, looking around the deserted street. “Are you sure we’re in the right place?”
“Yes.” Will nodded, pointed at one end of the road. “Down there is the Hospital, so the HQ should be right over there.”
They squinted in the darkness and could just make out a grand building standing tall, nearly invisible.
“Why aren’t there any lights on? Street lights even?” Sebastian wondered, stepping off the sidewalk and onto the road. His heavy metal boots clanged against the gravel, echoing down the street. They shrugged, and — feeling distinctly uneasy — started walking down the road towards the HQ. They walked up the worn stone steps and knocked loudly on the doors. When no one answered, they pushed them open and stepped inside, only to be swallowed up by the darkness.
“Oh, this is the worst! I can't see a thing!” Jaycee said grumpily, feeling along to walls for a light switch. When she finally found one, she flicked the switch and the room was suddenly flooded with light, making them all gasp at what they saw.
Everywhere was in ruins. Papers littered the floor, chairs were overturned, windows were broken— and there still wasn’t a single person in sight.
“What happened here?” Sebastian asked, peering over the reception desk curiously. The others just shook their heads and wandered around, rifling through loose papers and checking the other rooms.
“There’s no one here,” Will reported, coming back from the Trophy Room. “It’s completely empty.”
“Gee, real helpful they are,” Jaycee said, rolling her eyes. She picked up a fallen statue and set it back on its shelf. She was picking up some papers when she suddenly gasped and dropped them back on the floor, backing away as though they had burnt her.
“What is it?” The others rushed towards her, worried. She said nothing, but merely pointed at the place where she had picked up the papers. Will kicked them aside and he too, yelped in surprise. For a message had been painted on the floor in black block letters —
“To the cat, the alien and the thing that bounces. My Droids are still looking forward to meeting you ever so much.”
“We have to get out of here! NOW!” Sebastian said urgently, grabbing Jaycees hand and pulling her away. They had only made it back to the door, however, when it swung open suddenly, knocking them off their feet and sending them sprawling. In marched four of the Guards, each aiming their lasers at them.
“Déjà vu,” Will grumbled, glaring up at them. They blinked uncomprehendingly and pressed a button on their wrists, and the three adventurers were engulfed in a glowing red light. A second later they had left the HQ and were once more standing in Dr Sloth’s laboratory.
“Oh, I am getting so sick of teleporting,” Jaycee groaned. Sebastian looked at her with concern— she actually did look a little green.
“We meet again, my little Bandits!” Sloth beamed down at them from where he was sitting on his ‘throne’. Actually, it looked more like an armchair with red cloth draped over it to Sebastian, but he thought it would be better if he didn’t mention that. “Only this time— you cannot escape. I wouldn’t even bother, if I was you. I have blocked the entire teleportation network. You’re stuck here. But that’s good, because we have a few things to sort out.” He paused, examining his nails. “Like why you are so determined to ruin me. It wasn’t bad enough that you stalked me all the way from the Station to Kreludor, and then broke into my home. No, you had to go and teleport me all over the place! It was very uncouth of you. Then you go and stop time! Oh yes, I know all about that.” He smiled at their widened eyes. “See, because I was still linked with your teleport, and you with mine, when you froze time, I was still mobile. Oh, but I am a clever little cookie. I knew what had happened, and what you had to do, I knew you knew how high the stakes were. Mess up and you could destroy the world. So I didn’t just sit there when you were hurriedly fixing what you had caused; no, I was working.” He stopped there, panting slightly. “I was working—” he repeated, enunciating each word. “—on my Time Machine!” he finished exuberantly. When they stared blankly at him, he sighed. “Time machine. A machine to manipulate time. A. Time. Machine.”
Will narrowed one eye, the other staring unblinkingly at Sloth.
“And what do you intend to do with it?” he asked slowly.
“Oh, you know, the usual. World domination,” Sloth said airily.
To be continued...