Jimmi’s lab was strewn with what could only be described as junk. Heaps of metal contorted into various forms, but each looking gruesome, were piled in every corner. Scattered around the rest of the room were various other parts and pieces such as cogs and springs and wires. Jimmi himself was frivolously working at a desk that was completely submerged in papers. Blueprints, notes, and unreadable scribbles had been crumpled up and tossed aside until he was left with a sea of paper.
“Okay, okay, this one will work,” mused the Fire Chia as he wiped the sweat out of his orange puff of hair. “Mind-control, it never fails. The only question now is, how do I do it? Hypnosis, nanobots, little mind-control caps?”
“Ahem,” came a sharp voice.
Jimmi immediately jumped up from his seat and spilled papers in all directions.
“I’m innocent!” he cried as he cowered in fear.
He then realized who he was talking to, and saw that she was no ordinary neopet. She had the form of an Usul, yet she seemed to be made of pure darkness. It was like he was staring into the void of space, yet she only seemed partially there. As if she was simply a two-dimensional shadow that was now standing on its own.
“Are you the super evil genius?” she asked icily.
“Uh...” Jimmi paused as his mind raced to catch up. “Yes, yes, I am. Jimmi Chumpchange at your service, I can tell that you must be some supervillain.”
“I’m not just some supervillain!” hissed the shadow. “I am Lady Sala, the terror of the night, the scourge of Neopia, the bane of Champions.”
“Hang on a sec,” Jimmi muttered as he skimmed through his handheld Book of Evil.
“Put that book down and look at me,” she growled. “I am looking for an accomplice to do my bidding. I saw your ad in a newspaper, also on that billboard outside your house. I presume that someone like that must already have conquered various cities.”
“Well... not exactly,” Jimmi answered. “I mean, I have ideas, but it’s a lot harder than it looks.”
“Very well, I will assist you in seizing your first city,” the Usul cackled. “Where is your army? What sort of powers do you have?”
“Um... it’s a funny story,” Jimmi laughed meekly, “I was just working on an army, but advanced robotics isn’t exactly the simplest thing and...”
“I am wasting my time with you,” the Usul declared as she began to depart. “I’ll give you one word of advice: don’t advertise your villainy until after you’ve actually done something evil.”
“Wait, don’t go!” cried Jimmi. “We can work something out, I need the power of a greater villain to boost my career, and you clearly need someone to help you.”
As he grabbed at her wrist, his hand only clamped around air.
“I do not need help!” she growled. “I need someone to be my hand. As you can see my own hands have no power.”
“Come again?” mumbled Jimmi.
“Think, moron!” she barked. “I had a great power once, but obviously not anymore or else I’d already be ruling this world. No, one hero got lucky enough to gain the advantage in battle. I was foolish; I thought all heroes would fight with honor, but I was wrong. This hero allowed me to fall. Instead of heroically grabbing my arm, he simply let me tumble into the pools of Moltara’s lava. Yet you cannot kill a sorceress like myself. Slowly, so very slowly, my power began to return. Now I am strong enough to communicate with this world, yet no more.”
“And so you came to me,” Jimmi concluded.
“Yes, and you’ve turned out to be a great disappointment,” Lady Sala replied, “and yet there’s something I like about you.”
“Is it perhaps that I remind you of yourself?” Jimmi suggested.
“Ha, fat chance,” scoffed Lady Sala. “I’m going with pity for the underdog.”
“But does mean that you’ll let me work for you?” Jimmi begged.
“Yes, but if you fail me, I shall find a new hero and you shall get no mercy when he takes over the world,” the Usul threatened.
“Well then, let’s get started,” Jimmi exclaimed, oblivious to her last remark.
“You clearly need a weapon, to make up for your lack of army or powers,” Lady Sala explained, clenching her teeth at the last part. “When I fell through the pits of Moltara, I left behind a most powerful item. It is known as the Heart of the Inferno. If you can acquire it from the ferocious lava, you shall be unstoppable.”
“Ha, lava is no match for the skill of Jimmi Chumpchange,” the Fire Chia exclaimed.
He quickly began sorting through the piles of discarded metal. Eventually he came out with a glove.
“Behold my Stretchy Gauntlet,” he said in pride. “It turns out it can’t really stretch that far, so it’s useless when it comes to stealing diamonds... as I learned the hard way. But if you tell me where this pool of lava is, I should be able to reach this heart.”
“It will not be easy finding the Heart of the Inferno,” Lady Sala warned. “It is buried deep in the center of the underground.”
“Again, Jimmi Chumpchange is prepared,” Jimmi cried out.
The Chia reached into his pocket and pulled out a button. Upon pushing it he revealed a pipe that opened up in the floor.
“It leads straight to the source of all of Moltara’s lava,” Jimmi explained. “I was planning on freezing all the lava and throwing the whole land off balance. Turns out that lava doesn’t stay frozen long in small chunks.”
Sala may have rolled her eyes; it was hard to tell when she was only shades of darkness. The two crept into the tunnel and descended. It got hotter and hotter as they got deeper. Eventually Jimmi felt like he might melt, but they had arrived at their destination. Waterfalls of lava poured together into a sphere a glowing scarlet.
“There it is!” Lady Sala cried out.
Jimmi pressed a button on his Stretchy Gauntlet and it shot into the burning ball of fire. It emerged quite scorched but still intact with a black rock in its palm. Jimmi investigated. His first discovery was that it was quite hot. He screamed in pain and dropped it.
“Grab it, you fool, before it falls back into the lava,” Sala ordered.
Jimmi activated his Stretchy Gauntlet again and caught the Heart of the Inferno. This time he kept it in the gauntlet as he investigated it. The dark stone actually had a handle on either end. In the center was a grate like a furnace, inside was a deep amber glowing.
“With this power you shall bring all of Moltara to its knees,” Lady Sala laughed.
“Aw, I’ve been trying to take over Moltara all my life; can’t we try Shenkuu?” Jimmi asked.
“Find, as long as we get something,” Lady Sala sighed.
Jimmi stood on a cliff overlooking the mysterious city of Shenkuu.
“It won’t look so majestic after it is ravaged by the Heart of the Inferno,” Lady Sala cackled.
“Behold my power!” Jimmi boasted as he held the stone in the air.
Suddenly the sky turned a foggy orange and clouds began to form monstrously around the city. The clouds began to fall from the sky, only by now they had become balls of fire. As each one dropped, it burst into vicious flames that devoured all. Jimmi laughed maniacally at the panicked screams.
“I’ve got an idea!” Jimmi exclaimed as he began rummaging through his backpack. “Let’s see, my old Neovision set, one of these failed robot designs, and a megaphone.”
“What are you doing now?” asked Sala.
“You’ll see,” chuckled Jimmi as he began tinkering with the supplies.
Soon he had built a shoddy looking robot; it had the Neovision set in its stomach and the megaphone in its mouth.
“Now go, my minion, spread my message,” Jimmi commanded.
The robot hovered over to the panicked city and projected Jimmi’s voice as he spoke into a microphone.
“People of Shenkuu, you have fallen under the reign of terror of Jimmi Chumpchange!” he cried victoriously.
“Ahem,” coughed Lady Sala.
“And some creepy shadowy Usul person,” Jimmi added.
“No so fast,” came a booming voice from the flaming city as a knife flew into the robot.
The voice and knife both belonged to a tall, strong Ogrin.
“I’m going to put a stop to your horror, Chumpchange!” he challenged as he charged through the fire with his knife in hand.
“Oh no, we’re doomed,” cried Jimmi.
“What’s the big deal?” asked Sala.
“Don’t you get it?!” shrieked Jimmi. “He’s a hero. Every town has one and the villain is doomed to lose to him.”
The Ogrin was closer to the cliff now; the determination in his eyes was burning strong than the fire itself.
“Do something!” Jimmi cried as he shook the Heart of the Inferno back and forth.
Tendrils of fire sprang forward and reached for the Ogrin. Yet he dodged them easily and began to climb the cliff. Soon he had reached the top and came face to face with a shaking Jimmi.
“I surrender,” sobbed the Chia. “Please don’t hurt me.”
“You’re pathetic,” hissed Sala as she reached for the Heart of the Inferno.
Both Jimmi and the Ogrin watched in shock as the grate absorbed her shadowy presence. However, neither of them were prepared for what happened next. The clouds and fire began to the melt together in a horrible demonic flaming figure.
A face made out of flames contorted in rage and two burning hands reached out. The Ogrin hero shielded himself in vain as the massive hands surrounded him. All of the fire began to swarm in a hideous storm. Then it ended and all that was left was a statue of the hero and a wisp of an Usul.
“What happened?” Jimmi sputtered.
“I combined my power with the Heart of Inferno,” Sala rasped. “It was the only way.”
“I don’t understand,” Jimmi said, puzzled.
“I’ve used all of the energy I had,” Sala explained weakly. “The hero is no more, the Heart of Inferno is more, I... will be gone soon.”
“So, is it over?” Jimmi asked still confused.
“No!” Sala barked in a burst of strength. “You are weak, clueless, helpless, but I still see a true villain in your heart. Congratulations, Jimmi Chumpchange, you have conquered your first city. Now rule it with an iron fist and spread your domination to the rest of Neopia. I will return some day when my strength is restored and I want to see you as the emperor of all of Neopia.”
Then Jimmi heard the sound of a breath being released and Sala faded into shadow and smoke.
The Chia marched down from the cliff and into the town that he had brutally burned. Townsfolk cowered as he walked past the scorched ruins of their homes. Jimmi came to the palace that was now only a shell of what it once had been. He still managed to find the throne and sat upon it.
The Chia pulled out a clipboard and began to look over it as he muttered, “Let’s see, I’m going to have get started on that robot army; one guy can’t rule a whole kingdom. And I’d better start repairing all the damage I caused; there’s no point in ruling a city of ruins. I’m going to need a prison for any rebels that try to resist my command. Maybe mind-control would help out. Hypnosis is good, but there’s just something exciting about Nanobots, and then there’s those mind-control caps...”