The 404: Part One
Life in the Space Station; Sloth Division is not always easy. Just today I had to go conveyor belt running to save a kadoatie that was stuck on a small plate, floating in a transmogrification potion vat. It was a bratty kadoatie too, because when I finally brought it back to safety it scratched me when I set it down. But saving it was fun. Very video game-esque. I had to run on the conveyor belts, swing on loose cables and leap over dangerous puddles. I really wish that there'd be a few more levels to this live action game. Perhaps "Save the Warf!" or "Rescue the Princess!"
Anyways, after that I took a long, hot shower in the locker room. I took care to keep away from the shower head that had a broken wire somewhere in it, because it gives you small electrical shocks every few bursts of delinquent water. At the end of even the shortest shower you felt like you'd stuck your finger into a spark plug. The only employee who uses that shower head is either a blooming idiot who just started the job, or Leopled, the electric Acara who works in accounting.
I dried myself off and put my 404 Shirt back on. A few of my friends and I had made up a band, called 'The 404', because then we wouldn't have to print our own shirts. We thought ourselves pretty clever for this strategic marketing move; there'd be tonnes of pets advertising their love for our band without even knowing it!
We have seven members. Me, general percussionist and song writer; Loris, friendly yet laconic shadow Ixi and amazing drummer; Vic and Pen, twin white Grundos and head vocals and guitars; Xion, goth Flotsam and wicked awesome bassist; Uuvie, white Usul, and extra guitar and female vocalist; and finally, Terrence, the other writer, keyboardist, and technician. He's a small and nervous green Scorchio.
We've all known each other for years, and just recently Uuvie sang at a talent show and we were all inspired by her bravery, and formed a band. That was a while ago, but we actually got ourselves pulled together a week ago, and now we're working on building up a repertoire.
Anyways, after I had completed my ablutions and put on my band shirt, I went off to pick up Sloth's neomails and bring them to him. Apparently he has more important things to do than walk about a quarter of a mile to where the SiPUT drops the mail off. I personally think it wouldn't hurt him even a little bit, and might actually be good for him. He may have a sculpted, devious face, but he has a pudgy, sheepish gut.
Wait, I hear you say, Bif! How can a gut be sheepish? I'm not sure. But his is. If it's mentioned or gets in the way, it seems to try and hide up in his ribcage, but of course his lungs aren't having that, so it just hangs there, gurgling apologies and excusing itself.
You're laughing. I know you are. But I swear: that thing has a personality all its own.
But he's the boss and I'm the underling, so I hopped to it and got his mail and delivered it to his desk.
The great overlord was reading the "Times" (which was completely hiding his face) and laughing under his breath. His feet were up on his desk and he was leaning dangerously back in his swivel chair. But he does that all the time and never falls, so I don't think about it anymore. It's rather irritating, considering the many times I leaned back in a swivel chair and the depressing percentage of time I've fallen.
"Sir, your mail," I said, holding it towards him.
He nodded and didn't move the paper away from his face, but instead chuckled more violently.
I tapped my toes. "Shall I put it on the desk, sir?" I sighed through clenched teeth.
Sloth replied not.
"Sir-" I began, and pulled the newspaper away from his face, only to find a horrifyingly realistic mutant Kau mask staring at me. "GYIAH!" I shouted, jumping back and nearly dropping Sloth's mail.
"Aha!" Sloth chortled, and removed the mask, showing a slightly less nauseating sight; that being his own face, wrinkled and crinkled in the extreme effort of smiling ear-to-ear. "Gotcha, Bif! Pretty good mask, eh? I got it as a gag gift from some random scientist underling on April Fool's. He got a kick out of the shock I had when I woke up on my bed–" he gestured to the dilapidated mattress in the corner of his office, "–and I saw what I thought was a severed mutant Kau head lying next to me! Of course he was a terrible sport when I slipped some actual Kau Transmogrification Potion into his afternoon coffee. People can dish it out, but they just can't take it, eh?"
I had finally gotten my emotions in check, and my breathing was once again abnormal—nothing about my health is normal, according to my doctor. I never sleep eight hours a night, eat horribly, but somehow my body keeps itself balanced near-perfectly. My doctor hates it.
"I think you rather dished it out harder than you got it, Sir," I reprimanded him.
"Hey, I pay the fellow enough for him to go back to whatever he was before," Sloth said, shrugging, and holding out a hand. "Mail?"
He got his mail, and gave me the Neopian Times in exchange. I flipped directly to the comics; I never read stories unless I know the author personally or the tag-picture really catches my attention. I sometimes feel sorry for those people; they probably write amazing stories that I should be reading, but I always feel so busy. Oh well; at least they got published.
"Oh, a new "In the Name of Science"!" I said, smiling. "Gotta love that pickle-shaped Quiggle. This 'Lombre' is quite talented..."
Sloth nodded, deftly opening a battered, yellow envelope with his Sword of Skardsen letter opener. He also has one that looks like Jeran's sword, just for fun. Actually, he says it's a present from his mother, but I rather doubt he ever had a mother, and if he does, that she still keeps in touch.
"Yes, Celeb works in the Transmogrification Potion Lab. I seem to employ a few 'Times' stars. I don't know what's so interesting about working here."
I glanced at him to see if he was joking about that last remark, but I couldn't tell. So I went back to reading the comics.
Finally Sloth spoke: "Bif, are you fond of the DFM Pteri?"
"DFM?" I queried, occupied with reading "The Comic Comic" and not in the mood for figuring out acronyms.
" 'Down For Maintenance'."
"Oh. No, why?"
"Your shirt. 404 is an error code. That wretched Pteri is in charge of error codes," Sloth explained, wrinkling his nose when he said the word 'wretched' and began to read a rather angry anti-fan mail from some random Neopian written on a scrap of Fyora-themed stationary to get the point across
"Oh. No, my friends and I started a band called 'The 404'," I said, smiling at my boss. I liked it when we talked about things I was sure could not be twisted and turned into an embarrassing situation. "I'm the back-up drummer, general percussionist, back-up singer and head song-writer."
The great evil overlord sitting across from me and stared a bit, mouth slightly agape.
"Is this a rock band?"
"Yesss," I answered, wondering why he seemed so incredulous.
"It's just... you don't seem like much of a rocker..."
I rolled my eyes. "Sir, can we ever get over the fact I'm pink?"
Sloth smiled without a hint of sheepishness. "No, it's too much fun."
"Right." I grumbled. "Anyways, yes, that's why I have this shirt. We named our band 'The 404' so we wouldn't have to print out shirts specially."
"Clever," he admitted.
"Thank you, sir." I beamed.
"Have you written anything really great?"
"I think I've got some good ideas, but they need polishing," I admitted, reading the editorial in case there was something that I might need to know in the future.
"Have you performed yet?"
"No, but as soon as we get a few songs down really well we're going to perform at 'Krellun Beat Cafe' on the Eastern hemisphere of Kreludor. The owner is a financial backer for the band because he knows the dad of the lead guitarists," I said, closing the Times and placing it on my boss's desk.
Then I noticed his face.
It was grinning. A thought-provoking grin. It knew something I didn't and it was obviously sure I was going to love what it had to say, but I had the feeling I wasn't. I've seen this grin. It's the grin before he throws girly clothes at you to wear; the grin before you chase after faeries to engage in physical combat; the grin when he's about to tell you he rigged it so the only place you could find a job was back with him after you quit.
"You know, I've never been to a real rock concert..." he began to say, tapping his chin with his hand in a non-intentionally menacing way.
The room shook with my scream of terror as it dawned on me.
Sloth is going to be at the first ever public concert 'The 404' performed.
And it's going to be my fault.
To be continued...