Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 185,422,742 Issue: 497 | 3rd day of Relaxing, Y13
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Sailing the Stars: Part One


by bugsypal9

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Finally! The sequel to my previous series, Flying High; this time featuring a lot more action, more friendship and much less conceit. You don’t have to have read Flying High in order to read this series, but I would recommend it - this one contains spoilers! Enjoy!

Oh, and thank you to that nice user who sent me the Neomail after the last part of Flying High was published – sorry, I’ve forgotten your name!

It was a light, starry summer evening in Neopia Central. The sky was a nice mix of dark blue and pinky-orange as the sun was setting and the stars were beginning to appear. Unfortunately, absolutely no-one in the small, one-room Neohome felt like doing anything. They were all just lazing about in one way or another; for even though it was evening and all the windows had been opened, it was still quite hot inside.

     Buckbeak_002, a blue Eyrie, was snoozing peacefully in a corner; an Eyrie Sleeping Cap perched on his head.

     Nikolikan, a yellow Shoyru, and Shadow_the_Scorchio, a red Scorchio, were both sitting in armchairs with bored, grumpy looks on their faces.

     Over by the window, ZoshiDevil, a green Techo, was looking up at the sky and gazing at the stars that had just appeared.

     Nikolikan stretched out her arms and gave a yawn before relaxing in her seat again. She looked over at Shadow. “Hey, Shadow!” she called.

     “Yeah?” mumbled Shadow.

     “Want to have another game of Neo-chess?”

     “Nah!” replied Shadow, “We did that two hours ago. I don’t want to do that.”

     “Oh,” said Nikolikan. She paused for a moment. “I know!” she said suddenly. “How about we go outside, get the Red Bouncy Ball out and play ‘Catch’.”

     “Four hours ago!” said Shadow.

     Nikolikan folded her arms crossly. “Well, if none of my ideas are good enough,” she snapped, “what do you suggest we do?!”

     “I don’t know!” snapped Shadow in reply, getting up from his seat. He glared at Nikolikan, and then turned to Buckbeak, who was still snoozing in the corner.

     “What do you suggest we do, oh great Commander?!” Shadow snapped at him.

     “Huh... wha...” mumbled Buckbeak as he woke up and raised his head to face Shadow. “Oh, go back to your... whats-it... your game of Neo-checkers, Lieutenant.”

     “Sorry, Commander,” snapped Shadow, “we just finished it! But hey, I’ve just thought up a new game we can play!” And before anyone could say or do anything else, Shadow took off into the air, swooped down and snatched the Sleeping Cap right off Buckbeak’s head!

     “Hey! Give that back!” shouted Buckbeak, immediately getting up and snapping at Shadow.

     “Shadow!” snapped Nikolikan, “Please! Let Buckbeak have his cap! “

     Shadow took no notice. He continued to wave Buckbeak’s cap above his head, dancing in the air high out of Buckbeak’s reach and singing a taunting sort of tune.

     “What if it was Captain Bugsy you were taunting and it was her hat you were toying with!?” asked Nikolikan, still focused on Shadow.

     “Uhhh....” replied Shadow, faltering slightly and looking down at Nikolikan. The instant moment that he hovered in the air to do so, however, a long pink sticky tongue shot out of nowhere and yanked the Sleeping Cap out of Shadow’s paw. It flew back through the air and into ZoshiDevil’s open mouth.

     ZoshiDevil turned away from the window and dropped the Sleeping Cap into his paw. “Here you are, Commander,” he said as he handed it back to Buckbeak.

     “Uh... thank you, Lieutenant.” replied Buckbeak as he took the cap and put it back on his head. He glanced at the clock on the wall for a moment and then turned to Shadow.

     “Shadow... it’s getting rather late,” said Buckbeak. “Any apples still in the barrel on the ship?”

     “Still quite a few, last time I checked,” replied Shadow, grumpily.

     “Go up there and get some, would you?” asked Buckbeak, as he settled back down, “We might all be able to have a little snack before bedtime.”

     “Fine...” said Shadow slowly. He did a little swoop in mid-air and flew towards the door, which opened automatically to let him out and then closed again after him.

     Nikolikan watched him go. “Hmmm, he seems pretty angry,” she commented. She sighed heavily. It had been six whole months since their owner, Bugsypal9, had left them all alone when she’d gone back to Earth after their last adventure together, though it had felt more like over a year. And everyone had to admit that since then, life had definitely slowed down a lot. ‘Shadow must be missing her,’ Nikolikan thought.

     Bugsy was a lot more than just their owner, though. She was also their leader, their captain! The director of the adventure group they’d formed not so long ago. Without her, they were nothing. Nikolikan sighed again. How could she and the other pets possibly get on together without her!

      ****

     Shadow growled as he soared over the trees of the forest that grew near their Neohome, heading towards a clearing he could see just ahead. The tall, wooden mast of a sailing ship, with magnificent white sails on the rigging, loomed up in front of him.

     Shadow swooped down, landed gently on the grass and gazed up at the ship. It was a tall, wooden, classic seventeenth century sailing ship; but with one major difference. It had a pair of giant white wings, shaped like a Lenny’s, that were currently folded away either side of the ship. The Sweet Fyora, Captain Bugsy’s pride and joy. The sails had been rolled up and the gangplank was down, just waiting for someone to board.

     Suddenly, something huge flew across the sky overhead, casting a dark shadow on the ground. Shadow saw it and darted under the gangplank for cover!

     He could see the object properly now. It looked like an enormous spaceship, with big deadly-looking turrets in places, all loaded with ammunition. On the rear, Shadow could see three huge rocket-boosters, firing at full blast to propel the ship along. Several smaller spaceships were flying alongside the big ship, all gathered around it like a fleet. Most of them were ordinary transport shuttles, but a few of them looked like one-man fighters!

     Suddenly, all the ships tilted to the right as they turned; and as they did so, Shadow noticed that they all carried the same logo. It was a face, like a Mutant Grundo’s, but different; a rounded-triangle sort of shape with pale green skin, glaring red eyes and three hairs sticking out of the top. It also wore a cheeky evil grin.

     Shadow thought hard. That face seemed awfully familiar. Where had he seen it before? But before he could look again, the fleet of spaceships all disappeared above the forest canopy, almost as quickly as they’d come.

     “That’s funny,” thought Shadow, “they’re headed for our Neohome.” He put it from his mind for now and headed up the ship’s gangplank, but not before casting a worried glance at where the spaceships had been only a few seconds ago.

      ****

     A few minutes later, Shadow emerged from The Sweet Fyora’s hold, clutching some apples in his arms, back into the clearing. The sun had set and it was dark all around, but Shadow could still make out a strange orange glow in the distance through the trees.

     “Wait a minute!” said Shadow to himself. “That is our Neohome!”

     Shadow dropped the apples and started running, across the clearing, through the trees, right to the edge of the forest where the Neohome was – and a horrible sight met his eyes!

     The whole Neohome was on fire, going up in flames and smoke! There were several Neopets in strange grey spacesuits, tinged orange and yellow by the flames, armed with laser blasters. They were all running around outside the house, as though they were looking for something. Some of the transport shuttles and one-man fighter ships that Shadow had seen earlier were there too, on the grass. So it had been the Neohome they were going to! And now they’d attacked it. But why?!

     Suddenly, Shadow saw about ten other soldiers dragging three struggling figures away from the burning house. They looked like Buckbeak, Nikolikan and ZoshiDevil!

     Shadow gasped and started running around the edge of the forest to the other side of the house, where he could get a better view. The enormous spaceship he’d seen was now settled on the grass, and Buckbeak, Nikolikan and ZoshiDevil were being dragged right up to it, despite their struggles.

     Shadow was glad to see that Buckbeak was putting up a good fight, rearing up and squawking and beating his mighty wings. It was taking no less than six soldiers to try and overpower him. After just a few seconds however, they’d managed to pin him down and put him in chains.

     Nikolikan and ZoshiDevil were trying to break free too. Nikolikan tried to take flight, but a Xweetok soldier leapt up and threw a thin rope at her; which wrapped around her tail and yanked her back down. Shadow watched in horror as she was tied and chained up, along with ZoshiDevil and Buckbeak. Nobody seemed to have noticed him, however.

     Just then, two large doors in the side of the spaceship slowly opened, and a staircase began to descend from inside. No sooner had it reached the ground then a tall, thin figure started walking down. A figure with a green triangular face, glaring red eyes, three hairs on its head and wearing a long, black cloak with a red hood on the back.

     Shadow let out a gasp no-one else could hear. It was Dr. Frank Sloth! It had been his picture Shadow had seen on the side of the spaceship and it was his fleet, his army that was now attacking their home.

     Shadow had heard about Dr. Sloth before. Wasn’t he the guy that had tried to enslave all of Neopia and turn all the Neopets into mutants a while back? From the way things were looking now, he was planning to try it again. But why on Neopia had he come here and attacked them?

     Shadow ducked down amongst the bushes and the trees. If he just lay low, there could be a slight chance he would escape unnoticed. He strained his ears hard to pick up any little piece of information that could provide an answer.

     Dr Sloth stepped onto the grass and strode over to where Buckbeak, Nikolikan and ZoshiDevil were lying helpless on the ground. He took one look at the three trapped pets and started to laugh a cruel, deep laugh of thunder.

     “At last, the means to finally achieve world domination is within my grasp!” he sneered, grinning his cheeky, evil grin.

     “What do you want from us?!” snarled Buckbeak, more bravely than he currently felt.

     “Why, a certain flying ship I’ve heard about and the one item of clothing that’ll allow me to take over and command said ship, of course!” replied Sloth.

     “What do you want them for?!” shouted Nikolikan.

     “Isn’t it obvious?” snapped Sloth. “So that I may use them to finally take over Neopia and make everyone my loyal, obedient, mutated slaves. Many years ago, that’s what I tried to do. But they all rose up against me and sent me back crawling back to the Kreludan Mines. But with The Sweet Fyora in my hands, I’ll blow them all away! Well, the ones that still remain after I’ve taken over and enslaved every Neopet I can find.”

     “What in Neopia are you talking-“ began ZoshiDevil.

      “Don’t play dumb with me!” yelled Sloth, cutting in, “I know you three are the only crewmembers of The Sweet Fyora and that your captain is away, having left the ship in your care. And now I’m here to take it from you! But in order for that, I’m going to need Captain Bugsy’s hat; and you lot,” he pointed at the three pets, “are going to tell me where it is.”

     “Never!” squawked Buckbeak!

     But before Sloth could respond, a small squadron of his soldiers came running out of the forest with delighted looks on their faces. One of them, a Yurble, ran up to Dr Sloth, breathing heavily. “Sir, we have located and captured the ship,” he said, still breathing.

     “No...” whispered Shadow from his hiding place.

     “Excellent,” replied Sloth, “prepare the transports. It won’t be long until our mission is accomplished. Now all we need is the hat.”

     The Yurble soldier nodded and made a gesture. His squadron raced back into the forest with more supplies from one of the transport shuttles. Just then, another group of soldiers burst out of the front door of the blazing Neohome, all of them wearing special fire-protection suits. One of them was holding a small wooden treasure chest.

     “No!” whispered Shadow, “No! It can’t be...!”

     “Sir!” called the soldier carrying the chest. “We think we’ve found it.”

     “Well, what are you waiting for?!” said Sloth. “Bring it here!”

     The soldier hurriedly brought the chest over. Dr Sloth laid it on the ground and began to open it while Buckbeak, Nikolikan and ZoshiDevil exchanged looks of horror and sadness. A golden glow burst out of the chest, and the grin on Sloth’s face widened as he reached inside and pulled out a navy-blue captain’s hat with golden lining.

     “At last,” he sneered, “the hat of Captain Bugsy is finally mine!”

     All three captured Neopets hung their heads in shame and sadness. Dr Sloth gave a slight evil chuckle, carefully placed the hat back inside the treasure chest and closed it; picking it up and tucking it under his arm as he turned away to yet another soldier.

     “Prepare the flying ship and its crew for transport back to Kreludor, followed by immediate transmogrification and enslavement for the crew upon arrival,” he ordered.

     “What?!” squawked Buckbeak.

     “You can’t do this!” yelled Nikolikan as yet more soldiers grabbed her and her fellow pets and started dragging them towards the enormous spaceship.

     “Oh yes, we can!” snapped the soldiers. “If you are prisoners of the great Dr. Frank Sloth, you are automatically slaves. Now pipe down, all of you!”

     “Captain, forgive me...” sighed Buckbeak as he was dragged on board along with Nikolikan and ZoshiDevil. Dr Sloth and some of his men climbed up after them, while the other soldiers got into their various transports. The staircase retracted back inside the spaceship and the large doors slowly closed, ready for take-off.

     “No!” cried Shadow from his hiding spot, as the spaceship’s main engines roared and the three giant rocket-boosters prepared to ignite.

     Just then, there was a loud humming noise, and Shadow saw several large spaceships flying upwards, out of the forest canopy with chains attached to them. As they rose up into the air, Shadow saw The Sweet Fyora come up with them, with chains wrapped under its hull and wings; all of the spaceships working together to hoist the flying boat into the air.

     The sight of the group’s most precious possession being taken away right before his eyes made Shadow completely unable to contain himself any longer! He gave out a yell and a lick of flame burst out of his mouth. With a great Fiery Roar, he took off and burst out of the forest, flying furiously towards the giant spaceship on which his friends had been stowed away.

     But before he could reach the large doors leading into the spaceship, the giant rocket-boosters ignited, blasting Shadow right in the face! He was thrown backwards through the air, even faster than he’d just flown, over the grass towards the forest, where he crashed into a tree and fell to the ground, unconscious and not moving.

     Meanwhile, the burning Neohome which, up until now, had been a simple place for Neopets and humans to live, continued burning throughout the night. Dr Sloth’s giant spaceship rose up through the air and into the atmosphere. Several transport shuttles and one-man-fighter ships accompanied it, higher and higher, into outer space, to its destination on Kreludor... with a flying ship and its now enslaved crew in tow.

      ****

     Shadow gave a slight moan as he shook himself awake and opened his eyes. It was morning. The sun was just peeping out over the horizon.

     “Uh, what happened?” he moaned as he got up and looked around. Everything seemed ok. The trees of the forest were waving in the wind. He could see a few Neopians preparing to open their shops down in Neopia Central.

     Shadow smiled and turned round again.... and saw the Neohome. It had burnt down entirely during the night. The fire was out, but now there was nothing but a pile of grey, ashy ruins and black smouldering furniture.

     It was then that Shadow remembered the events of the previous night. How Dr. Frank Sloth had attacked their peaceful little home, stolen the ship and Bugsy’s hat and kidnapped the crew; and how he, Shadow_the_Scorchio, their only hope, had failed to stop him.

     Shadow held his head in his paws and began to sob heavily with grief. As he did so however, something shiny caught his eye. He looked up and saw the long, flat, pointy, shiny thing lying visible in the ashes of the burnt-out Neohome.

     Shadow took off and hovered over to the object, a new flicker of excitement awakening in him. Shaking slightly, he took hold of the object and pulled it out. It was a sword. A long, slightly curved sword, sticking out of a long brown scabbard.

     “It’s the sword,” gasped Shadow. “Captain Bugsy’s sword! It survived the fire.”

     And all of a sudden, as he held the sword in his paws, Shadow had a funny feeling of determination deep inside. The Sweet Fyora was in Dr Sloth’s hands, the crew might even now be being turned into horrible mutant slaves and all of Neopia was in trouble. Sloth had to be stopped, no matter what! It was time to bring Captain Bugsypal9 back to Neopia!

     And Shadow knew the very Neopian who could help him do that...

To be continued...

 
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