The young purple Grundo leaned against the railing on the Supply Deck of the Virtupets Space Station. Behind him was the Space Adoption Agency. It had been there for as long as he could remember. Turning around, he noticed a small sign propped on the reception desk. Approaching it, he was amazed at its simplicity. It wasn’t amazingly extravagant, but it provided a little color to the desk. ‘Happy Grundo Independence Day! Adopt Today!’ A Baby Grundo’s smiling image took up the bottom right corner of the display. As the purple Grundo looked at the sign, he muttered, “What’s this little thing doing here?”
“Why wouldn’t it be? Grundo Independence Day is just around the corner!” The blue Grundo who ran the Adoption Agency had left his desk and taken a step towards the purple Grundo. Digging into his pockets, he produced a cracker with a Grundo emblazoned across it, and placed it into the younger Grundo’s hands. “What’s your name, son?”
“Xarson.” He eyed the blue Grundo with confusion, but pocketed the cracker. “I realize that Grundo Independence Day is right around the corner, but honestly, what’s all the hype about? Grundos in Krawk Island get some free schooling, especially now that the Island’s back together, and some bakers in Neopia decide to bake cakes in the shape of Grundo faces. As far as I can see, we’re about as special as any other Neopet on their special days.”
The Blue Grundo just chuckled and placed a hand on Xarson’s shoulder. “Xarson, that’s not all there is to Grundo Independence Day. Now, I’ve got to get back to the Adoption Agency and file some paperwork before I can celebrate, but I’ve got a friend you can talk to.” Winking, he whipped out a notepad and pen, and wrote something down. “These are his quarters. Ask for ‘Xilrad;’ he’s a starry Grundo. I’ve got to get back to work now, but I’m certain by the end of duty today, you’ll find why we Grundos still, after 11 long years, celebrate our freedom.” Winking, he returned to his desk and began chatting with a Moehog who had entered during their conversation. Shrugging, Xarson wandered off. He knew that if he was to understand this holiday at all, he had to find Xilrad.
* * *
Later that day, Xarson finally found the room he was searching for. He knocked on the door and stepped back.
He was greeted by a starry Grundo. “Olleh. Ohw thgim uoy eb?” The Starry Grundo momentarily paused to smile at the younger Grundo. “Ym eman si Xilrad.”
Taken aback, Xarson stammered, searching for a response. “Uh... olleh? Me Xarson. I... err... ma... kinglook for...” Clearly bewildered, he stopped and blinked at the starry Grundo. “I honestly have no idea what you’re saying. What language is that?”
Frowning, the starry Grundo dropped the strange dialect. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t aware the youngsters didn’t speak that anymore. That language was what Grundos spoke, long ago. I was using it to celebrate – greeting another Grundo in our native language.” Pausing to think, he laughed and continued. “You weren’t half bad at it, though. What I said was ‘Hello. Who might you be? My name is Xilrad.’ It sounded enough like you were trying to reply by stating that your name was Xarson and that you were looking for... somebody.” The starry Grundo held his hand out. “As I said twice before, I’m Xilrad. Pleased to make your acquaintance. So, what do you need from old Xilrad?”
Xarson shook the older Grundo’s hand meekly, and quietly began, “Xilrad, I was sent to you by the Grundo from the Adoption Agency to learn the true meaning of Grundo Independence Day.” He frowned before continuing. “I’ll admit, I don’t really understand the significance of it. Clearly, I’m still very young, and I presume most of this happened before I was born.”
Nodding, Xilrad motioned for the youth to enter his quarters. “Yes, the start of Grundo Independence Day was long before your time, but recently, an event occurred which reaffirmed our need to celebrate our good fortune every year.” Pulling up two chairs, he seemed lost in his reverie of the past. “What do you think that second event was?”
Xarson racked his mind for anything he could possibly offer to the elder Grundo, but couldn’t think of anything Xilrad might want. “I’m not quite certain I know what you’re talking about. Again, I don’t really understand why we celebrate in the first place, so how can I know exactly what ‘re-affirms a need to celebrate good fortune?’ ”
Xilrad chuckled as he got up to fetch drinks for himself and Xarson. “We’ll get there when we get there, so if you want to sit back, I can begin telling my part of the story...” He handed Xarson a bar of green tea and motioned for him to sit. Xilrad himself sat in with his legs out, and his hands in his lap. “It happened several years ago, starting here on this space station...”
* * *
Month of Hiding, Year 2
Xilrad the blue Grundo ran down the hallway, pursued by two large Mutant Grundos. “I ma ruoy dneirf! I am your friend! Why are you hunting me like a common criminal?” He attempted to maneuver into a side corridor, and fool his mutated former ‘friends,’ but to no avail. The larger of the two mutant Grundos spotted him and picked the Blue Grundo up, holding Xilrad as if he were a doll.
“By the order of our Glorious Leader Doctor Frank Sloth, you, Xilrad, also known as Rebel SCUM, are under arrest. You will be taken to a holding cell prior to your muta-” Before the Mutant could finish, Xilrad jabbed his elbow sharply into the larger Grundo’s chest. With a yelp, Xilrad was released and continued down the hall. “Hey! Get back here!”
Scurrying down the hall, Xilrad continually glanced left and right. “Come on, the Space Faerie has got to be held behind one of these doors...” Without warning, Xilrad was yanked to the side. Before he could scream for rescue, his mouth was covered by someone else, who wheeled him around.
“Teiuq! Quiet! They’ll hear you!” It was a Green Grundo, who held his finger against his mouth, hushing Xilrad. “I’m Zorolin. You’re clearly a free Grundo. I’ll need you to trust me, and I know it won’t be easy for you to...”
“I’m Xilrad. I know I can’t trust the mutant Grundos, even if they were my friends once, so, congratulations, it looks like you’re my only friend as of now.” Xilrad held his hand out, and Zorolin firmly gripped it, returning the handshake. “Now, Zorolin, do you happen to know where Sloth is holding the Space Faerie?”
“As a matter of fact, I do. Come quickly, she needs us as much as we need her.”
* * *
Xarson listened intently. “Hold on a moment, Sloth was able to actually imprison the Space Faerie?” The young purple Grundo frowned. He knew the Space Faerie to be a rather powerful and formidable force.
Xilrad frowned and nodded grimly. “You see, Xarson, Dr. Sloth had mutated too much from space. Namely, he took too many Grundos and made them into something they were never supposed to be.” Smiling slightly, the old Grundo continued. “Luckily, however, the Grundo Adoption Agency was set up, and we were able to get lots of refugees off the station and into families across Neopia.”
“So then why are some Grundos who aren’t mutants still on the station?”
“Just because they are mutated, does not mean they serve Sloth. Gargarox, the Grundo Chef, is a mutant Grundo, is he not?”
Xarson nodded in understanding. Oftentimes, he would sit at a chair at Grundos Café, enjoying a Crown Roast Beef.
“You see Xarson, just because a Grundo is a mutant doesn’t mean that he or she is evil. What makes a Grundo evil is when they either choose to or are forced to serve Sloth. Somewhere out there, Sloth still lurks, with several Grundos waiting on his every whim. Why, I know of a Darigan Grundo who supposedly helps him with his Reedu-”
“Hold on,” Xarson started, “If there are still Grundos still under the subjugation of the Doctor, then why do we celebrate Independence Day to begin with?”
Xilrad blinked, apparently not used to being interrupted. However, his expression of shock quickly turned into one of joy. “My boy, you’ve just discovered it for yourself. We celebrate not for our own freedom, but in the hopes that our brothers and sisters out there, still under Sloth’s oppression, will one day be free like us.”
Realizing what he had just said, Xarson’s mind began working. “Doctor Sloth’s publicized ‘return’ when he tried to retake the Space Station. That’s what the second event was. That was a gamble to get us all in his chains, but it failed.”
“That’s correct, Xarson. He gambled for more power, and he failed.” Getting up, the starry Grundo put a hand on the younger Grundo’s back. “You understood the importance of Grundo Independence Day pretty quickly. I’m rather impressed, Xarson.”
Smiling, at the elder Grundo, Xarson replied, “Well, Xilrad, I couldn’t have done it without a bit of help.”