Robotic by the Lab Ray
Angela patted her yellow Kacheek, Kira, and smiled. “Are you ready?”
Kira smiled back. “Yup! Let’s go for it!”
They were up next for their try at the lab ray. Angela had never thought of the possibility of being here in person. She had always been happy with the colours and species of her pets. But when she adopted Kira, the little Kacheek told her that it had been zapped by the lab ray before, and wanted to again. So finally, after months of saving, they were standing outside the room of the mad scientist.
Zzzzzzzzap! What was previously the blue Grundo in front of them had turned Mallow. He looked slightly bewildered as he examined himself, and saw that he had no arms. But his owner rushed over and helped him out of the room, both of them chatting in excitement.
“Next,” said the mad scientist. Angela and Kira walked into the room.
“So you have found your way to my lab, have you? I’m working on a new experiment, a ray that will give any pet super powers, and great strength. Of course it’s not finished yet, but if you are willing to take the risk then I may let you have a go.”
Kira nodded enthusiastically. “Sure!”
“Then stand there, please.”
Kira gave Angela a reassuring smile, then walked to the other side of the room. The mad scientist positioned his ray, and Kira closed her eyes.
Angela shielded her eyes in the sudden light. When she looked over at where Kira had been, though, her jaw dropped open.
Firstly, and most importantly, Kira was still whole. She hadn’t collapsed, either, and didn’t bear any marks of injury. That was a bit hard to tell, though, since Kira’s entire body had transformed.
“What colour is she?” Angela asked the mad scientist. “She still looks like a Kacheek.”
The mad scientist looked at Kira. “Well, well, well. That’s not something you see often.”
“What?” Angela demanded.
“She’s changed colour, yes. To robot.”
Angela’s eyes widened. She ran over to Kira’s side. “Kira! Kira! You’re robot? How do you feel?”
The now-robot Kacheek turned around and looked at Angela squarely in the eye. But when she spoke, her voice sounded nothing like her old one. Her words were strange, too.
“Name — Kira. Affirmative. Robot — affirmative. Feel — negative. Can not feel anything.”
Angela stared at her. “Kira?”
“You might want to leave now,” the mad scientist said. “There are other people waiting.”
“All right. Um... come on, Kira. This way.”
Kira followed Angela, taking steps that just looked... mechanical. Neither of them spoke a word as they left the lab and the island.
There was the sound of someone rushing to the door as Angela’s keys jangled. She was greeted by an excited-looking faerie Shoyru.
“Angela! You’re back! Where’s Ki—” He broke off as she saw the Kacheek, standing absolutely still. “What in Neopia happened?”
“I’ll tell you in a moment, Dee,” said Angela. “Come on. Kira?” She put a hand on her shoulder, and moved her into the house.
Two other Neopets — a white Cybunny, Kay, and a royalgirl Aisha, Leila, were coming down the stairs. They both stopped dead at the sight of Kira. “Angela! What happened?”
Angela sat down at the dinner table. “We went to the lab ray, like I told you. And Kira got zapped — she’s turned robot.”
The other three Neopets all stared directly at Kira, who gazed back at them, looking distant and unconcerned.
“Kira, do you want to sit here?” Kay said, patting the chair beside her.
Kira’s head swivelled towards her. “Access denied. Cannot reach chair.”
She was the youngest, and shortest, out of all of them, and being turned robot hadn’t changed that. Kay looked frightened, hesitated, and reached out a paw to help Kira up.
“Accepted.” Kira’s metal arm fastened painfully around Kay’s, and she let herself be dragged up to the seat. She then made a strange sort of movement, kind of like she was shrinking, and then grew back to be sitting straight up, looking blankly at the opposite wall.
“She’s acting exactly like a robot,” Leila said. “Like some kind of machine! I thought the lab was only supposed to change appearance?”
Angela shook her head. “The lab can bring down levels, make the Neopet weaker or stronger, and so on. I guess it makes sense that if it turns a Neopet robot, they do become robot.”
Kira still said nothing.
“There’s absolutely no way that we’re going to keep her like this,” said Kay firmly. “Angela! You have to repaint her!”
Angela shook her head. “I can’t. I’m totally broke after buying the lab map. A lot of paint brushes have heavily deflated by now, but it will still take me some time to save up.”
“What about going back to the lab, then?”
Dee, who hadn’t said anything until now, frowned. “Are you sure that’s a good idea? It’s a risk... who knows what’s going to happen to her again?” He looked around at them and waited.
Angela stood up. “We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to go to the lab again, anyway. I might go out to the Games Room now — try and earn a few neopoints to repaint Kira.”
Her pets waved and said goodbye as she left. All except for Kira. She sat still, facing the wall opposite.
When the door closed, a silence seemed to envelope the room. Dee looked down at Kira. “Hey, Kira, do you want to go back to your room?”
She replied in the same unnerving tone. “Accepted. Will proceed to room.” She rose, sort of unfolding, from the chair and stepped off it, landing on the ground with a metallic thunk. She then took slow, even steps out of the room, up the stairs, making mechanic noises as she did so.
Dee, Kay and Leila hurried after her.
When Angela returned to their Neohome that night, she told her Neopets that she had managed to make 12,000 neopoints.
“That’s really good, that’s a start,” Kay said. “If you do it again tomorrow...”
“I’m not sure I can manage it tomorrow, though,” Angela said, sighing. “I mean, honestly, I’m absolutely exhausted after all that.” She took a drink of water. “I won’t be able to keep that up.”
Dee looked at her with anxious eyes. “Are you going to go back to the lab tomorrow, then?”
Angela nodded. “Things can’t get much worse.”
“That’s true,” Leila said. “All right then, do it tomorrow.”
“Yeah, and every day after that until I either get a paint brush or Kira turns back. Where’s she now, by the way?”
Leila pointed upstairs. “She’s just sitting in her room. Doing nothing. Staring at the wall. Humming...”
The situation was desperate, Angela could see that. She took another drink of water and leaned back. “I know. I’ll take her back tomorrow, I promise.”
Their plan to take Kira to the lab didn’t quite work out, though. She absolutely refused to go back.
“Access denied. Negative command. Will not go to lab.”
“Come on, Kira, please?” Angela said.
They tried pushing her, but that was no use, either. Kira’s robot body seemed to have something at the bottom of her feet which used to plant herself firmly into the ground. Nothing they did would make her move.
Angela rubbed her eyes. “Well, it looks like I’ll just have to go and save up for a paint brush, then.”
“You can do it,” Dee said. “Try the stock market, maybe? You might get lucky.”
“Not right now,” Angela said. “I’ve got too little money to gamble with in the stocks. I could try the Faerieland Employment Agency, though...” With that, she left the house.
Dee was sitting inside Kira’s room. He was slightly worried about her — although she’d just been sitting there, for most of the time, he wondered if she would do something irrational if she wasn’t watched. So he had been sitting beside her, in his room, reading the Neopian Times and glancing sideways every few minutes.
Having just finished reading the latest part of a series, he turned the page to the comics. Kira’s head turned then. She was reading the comics — or just looking at them, he couldn’t tell.
“Doctor Sloth,” she said.
Dee glanced at her. “What, this comic?” He pointed at the one with Doctor Sloth in it.
He read it himself, and at the end, he rolled his eyes. “That was just lame. Seriously, what are they thinking, publishing something as stupid as that?” He flipped back to the short stories, and was soon absorbed in one of them.
Which was why he didn’t hear Kira whisper, “Must serve Doctor Sloth.”
Angela returned home in good spirits. “Look here, guys!” She waved a Christmas Paint Brush in the air.
Kay’s jaw dropped. “You got it then? You got a paint brush?”
“Mmm-hmm. Now let’s go to the Rainbow Pool. Leila? Dee? Kira! Come on.”
But Kira flatly refused to go to the Rainbow Pool, similarly to the way she had refused to go to the secret lab. Angela was on the verge of tears. She sat down and buried her head in her arms.
Dee looked at Kira angrily. “Gosh, can’t you just act normally again? This is all your fault!” He pushed her.
“Dee!” Kay and Leila said at the same time. Kira had toppled over and hit the ground. Something fell out from her.
Dee kneeled down. “What’s this?” He pulled out what looked like a disc. “Weird.” Turning it over in his paws, he read the words engraved on it: “Dr. Sloth, Virtupets Inc.”
There wasn’t time for the others to react before Kira turned over. She frowned from inside her casing. “What’s going on?”
“Kira! Are you all right?” Kay and Leila helped her up. Dee and Angela were watching, open-mouthed.
“I’m all right,” Kira said. Her voice sounded totally normal, like it was before, now. “What happened?” She turned around and examined herself. “How come I’m wearing this thing?”
“You were zapped by the lab ray, Kira,” Angela said, having recovered from her shock. “You turned into a robot.”
“Wow! That’s so cool,” Kira said. “But how come I’m here now? Did I faint after I was zapped or something?”
Kay, Leila and Angela explained the events of the past two days to Kira, who looked totally bewildered and had no recollection of it whatsoever. Dee was examining the disc.
“It must be the work of Doctor Sloth,” he said. “He must have done something to put the disc inside you. Angela, when did Kira start behaving weirdly?”
“The moment after she was zapped,” Angela said.
Kay gasped. “It was the mad scientist! He’s working for Sloth!”
“I don’t really think so,” said Leila. “He’s spent all this time working on his lab ray invention, hasn’t he? It wouldn’t be natural for him to join Sloth.”
“Come on,” Kay said, “You know how much they have in common. I mean seriously. They’re both crazy and mad and scientific with weird inventions.”
Angela cut in. “I don’t think so, either. His lab ray zaps Neopets to turn them into different colours, different species and change their stats. Why would it be that Kira was the only one who started behaving like that when she turned robot? The Grundo before us...” She broke off, eyes wide.
“What?” Dee said.
“The Grundo! Many Grundos work for Sloth! That Grundo must’ve been Sloth’s servant! He could have tampered with the lab ray when it was his turn.”
Dee considered this. “It’s possible. Sloth might be using one to tamper with the lab ray by staying with an owner and going to the lab ray.”
Kira grinned. “Well, who cares. That disc thing is gone now, so I’m pretty much the same as I was before.”
“Pretty much,” said Angela. “I’ve got a Christmas Paint Brush here. Would you like to be painted Christmas? Or go back to the lab?”
“Nah,” Kira said. “I kinda like this look.” She twirled around, but it didn’t quite work as her feet had automatically replanted themselves into the ground. When she hit her head against the wall, she straightened herself again, and all of them broke out into laughter.
Thanks for reading! Neomails are welcome and appreciated. :)