“No, no, that’s not it at all,” muttered the green Eyrie, stirring his hot chocolate.
“Well, then, would you care to enlighten us?” quipped the orange Kougra sarcastically. One good glare from the Eyrie quickly silenced her, however.
“I shall,” said the Eyrie simply. He adjusted his small black beret and launched into his story.
“Now, this happened a few months after Parlax betrayed Gorix. He was a double agent, still going on missions for the Resistance, but his true loyalties lay with Sloth. In this interval, Parlax had been under the personal tutelage of Sloth, and by now, all traces of his innocence had been eradicated by his master’s evil hand. Parlax had become a ruthless soldier.
“But there was one vestige of his humanity that remained: his love for Neocola.
“Yes, Parlax had an unusual obsession with this beverage. He loved every aspect of it, from the colors of the can, to the reassuring ‘hiss’ of carbonation escaping when he popped the tab, to the delicious sugary taste. He loved the way the bubbles played in his mouth, tickling his nose. He loved the slightly bitter aftertaste. He loved...”
“Get on with the story!” interrupted the Alien Aisha.
The Eyrie sighed melodramatically. “The story must not be rushed; it must unfold as the storyteller sees fit.” He snorted haughtily and took a long sip of his hot chocolate. The other pets at the table rolled their eyes at his pretension.
“As I was saying,” the Eyrie resumed, “Parlax loved Neocola. And so, as you can imagine, he was incredibly excited when he heard rumors of a legendary Neocola machine on Kreludor from another of Sloth’s minions. He made it his one goal to see this machine and receive a refreshingly-cool can of Neocola from it.
“However, living in the Space Station as one of Sloth’s students, he had very little free time; all his waking hours were consumed with lessons: ‘Doom 101,’ ‘Evil Laughter 302: The Art of the Guffaw,’ and ‘Victory Speeches 212: Don’t Forget to Gloat.’ Therefore, he would have to sneak away to get a taste of his beloved Neocola.
“And so, Parlax devised an elaborate plan. He studied all the security systems on the Space Station to find their weak points. He staked out the shuttle bay to find when the guards were least attentive. He stole a passkey from Gormos himself. And finally, his plan was ready to enact.
“He crept, ever so quietly, through a maintenance tunnel to the shuttle bay. He sneaked past the guards and used the passkey to swipe a shuttle. Then, with a grin on his face, he set the autopilot for Kreludor.
“Several hours later, the shuttle touched down on Neopia’s moon. Parlax warily stepped outside. And there it was, mere feet from his landing site. The structure that had haunted his dreams. The focal point of his passions. The Neocola machine.
“Parlax ran up to it and stood in awe. It was even more magnificent than he had imagined. He fell to his knees, overwhelmed by the emotions he was feeling. Tentatively, he reached out a hand to touch the machine, just to make sure it was real. It was. The cold metal was reassuringly solid.
“The Grundo then slowly rose to his feet and examined the wondrous contraption more closely. It was a regular rectangular solid, he noted, with the typical number of faces and corners (six and eight, respectively). The front of the machine proudly proclaimed ‘Neocola: drink it or perish!’ On the right hand side, there was a small slot and several labeled buttons. Finally, at the bottom, there was a rectangular opening; ‘Where the Neocola comes out, no doubt,’ said Parlax to himself.
“Now that he had fully inspected the machine, he was ready to partake of its liquid wonders. Just one problem: he had no idea how to operate it.
“This certainly was a quandary, and Parlax had completely neglected to prepare for it. He sat and pondered. Finally, he had an idea: perhaps the machine was voice-activated. He stood, looked directly at the machine, and said ‘One Neocola, please.’
“’I said, one Neocola,’ Parlax repeated, slightly louder.
“’ONE NEOCOLA!’ shouted the frustrated Grundo. When this third attempt was met with failure, Parlax realized it was time to reconsider his strategy.
“Thinking now that the buttons might hold the key to retrieving his Neocola, Parlax examined them more closely. They were labeled with different varieties of Neocola, from Dr. Slother to Smite. Parlax perused his options and decided that his thirst would be most effectively quenched by a Diet Doom. He pressed the corresponding button and waited.
“Parlax jabbed the button once again. Still nothing. ‘Maybe they’re out of that flavor,’ thought Parlax. ‘Might as well try another one.’
“But the second button he pressed, Alt Tab, also yielded no result. Parlax then proceeded to press every single button on the machine multiple times, culminating in a flurry of button-pressing.
“Exhausted, Parlax stepped back and waited for his sugary drink. But, of course, nothing came out.
“Parlax shrieked in frustration and began kicking the machine. He punctuated each kick with a shouted word: ‘Why! Won’t! You! Come! Out!’
“Suddenly, the machine began to rumble. Parlax gasped eagerly. ‘Here it comes!’ But then, just as suddenly as it started, the rumbling stopped. Parlax knelt to examine the opening in the machine’s bottom more closely, thinking that perhaps the cola had gotten stuck. He placed his face directly in front of the opening and tilted his head forty five degrees to the left. Suddenly...
“A can of Neocola shot out of the machine at an incredible speed, directly into Parlax’s face. Pain shot through the Grundo’s nerves as he was thrown back by the impact. Meanwhile, the Neocola can whizzed off into the distance in the low Kreludan gravity.
“Finally, after several moments of silence, Parlax was able to mutter a quiet ‘Ouch.’ He gingerly raised a hand to his face to examine how bad the injury was. He could feel a raised bump running from his right eye to the left side of his mouth. ‘That’s going to leave a mark...’ he thought.
“But, never one to be deterred by failure, Parlax decided to try again. After all, he certainly deserved an icy cold Neocola after this newest setback. He knew that kicking had worked before, so he tried the same approach again. After three resounding kicks, the familiar rumbling began again. Parlax hurriedly stepped back in an attempt to avoid another injury.
“However, nothing happened. No can of Neocola came flying out of the machine. And so, Parlax decided to once again examine the machine’s opening. He knelt and pushed his face right up against the hole, tilting it to the right this time. As you can tell, Parlax was not very smart.
“Of course, as soon as his face was in front of the hole, the can of Neocola zoomed out of the machine, and directly into Parlax. Again, the Grundo was thrown back by the impact and the can flew off into the distance.
“Now Parlax had a second raised bump on his face, running perpendicular to the first. ‘I give up!’ he shouted in anger. ‘No amount of Neocola is worth this pain and frustration. I quit!’ And with those words, Parlax turned around and started trudging back to his shuttle.
“As soon as he turned his back, a fresh can of Neocola quietly dropped down from the machine, ice-cold and ready to be drunk. But, of course, Parlax never noticed it.
“And that,” the Eyrie said with a smug grin, “is how Parlax got his scars.”
To be continued...