The End: A Shoyru Tale - Part One
"Cheat!" exclaimed Arthur as I played my hand. He was right: I'd claimed to play two Kings when I had really played two Fives. I let out a sigh and picked up the pile, which was about ten cards larger than I was comfortable with, and gave a few coins to my pursuer. Arthur was a blue Shoyru, like myself, and one year my senior. He's obviously been playing for a lot longer than I had, and I swear he never made a bad move.
Arthur coughed lightly; the air was dusty and still. He and I were the two remaining owners of a closed down fallout shelter. It had been built by our parents during Sloth's first invasion, and it was finally seeing use. Of course, now it had become a hangout for Arthur and me, and we were playing our favorite card game, Cheat, with a group of our friends. There was Dusty, a green Techo; Trek, a yellow Chia; Cherry, a red Jetsam; and then Arthur and me, "tiny" Mac, two Shoyru brothers.
"You alright, Art?" Art was the pet name that Cherry gave to my brother awhile back. She had known him since before I had been created, and the two knew each other so well that if either of them were to cheat at this game, it could only be because the other allowed it. I swear, they could read each other's minds.
"Just fine. Two Aces, that's game." Nobody questioned my brother's move. If someone were to call him out, it would have been Cherry.
That was the winning move; Arthur was a real champion. We all decided to watch some TV after then, instead of playing again. Since the building was a real safety shelter, there was plenty of food for all of us to snack on. That was my job: getting snacks from the basement.
"Tiny Mac, get over here!" I had only grabbed a few cans of Neocola, but since it was my brother calling for me, I figured that it was important, so I made my way up to the television. We had it set up with bean bag chairs all around, enough to fit all of us at least. I took a seat, passing the Neocolas around, and looked at the television. The National Neopian News was on.
"Breaking news – special report! Late last night, the infamous Doctor Frank Sloth created a public service announcement, which we have been instructed to play on the air. The following was his creation."
The gentle Kougra's face on the TV screen was replaced by a silhouette on a dark red background. It stood tall, and from what I could tell, it was wearing some sort of a robe. A slight green tint shone through the shadows, and the figure stood tall, but perhaps the most defined part of it was the man's spiky hair, which grew wildly from the head of the mildly chubby form. I looked to Arthur, Cherry, and the others. Dusty was leaning in, trying to hear every word of the broadcast.
"Is that him?" Cherry asked. She and Arthur had been children the last time they had seen a live image of Sloth. A deep voice from the speakers answered her.
"People of Neopia," it began, "I have given strict instructions to all television and radio networks, as well as newspapers to send out this message, so that all of you puny Neopets may hear my word. I, Doctor Frank Sloth, the most intelligent creature in the universe, have returned once more.
"Do not panic, for it will do you no good. This time, I have decided to skip the standard cat-and-mouse games we have played in the past. No, no, by the time this has been broadcast, my plan for world domination will have already come to fruition! A high-power mutating laser has been fired. In only minutes, all of you weak Neopets who ruined all of my dreams and ambitions will feel my wrath, and become my servants. All hail Sloth!!!"
"That's impossible!" Dusty yelled, standing and turning off the television. "There's no way that could be real – it has to be some kind of sick joke!"
All of us were shaken by the sudden appearance of Dr. Sloth. Only Arthur and Cherry were old enough to remember Sloth's previous attempts to take over Neopia. Dusty, Trek and I had only read about it in books, and as far as Dusty was concerned up until this point, it was all just a horrible story. Dusty was the youngest of us all, and he refused to believe Sloth could ever come back.
"Was that him?" Cherry repeated. "Art, was it really him?"
"Yeah," my brother said without hesitation, standing up. "I'm pretty sure it was really him."
"You guys are crazy!" Dusty insisted. "Trek, Tiny Mac, you guys don't believe this junk, right?" Trek didn't say anything. Neither did I. "Come on, Mac, it can't be true."
"It was on the news, Dusty!" I blurted out. Arthur, then standing, walked over to a window and looked outside. "Besides," I added, "we should be safe in here. This place was built for that kind of thing."
"Whatever, you guys. I'm going home." Dusty stormed out of the front door, and shut it behind him. Arthur called out for him to wait, but it was too late; Dusty was gone.
"Ugh, he never listens." Arthur seemed annoyed by Dusty's outburst. He was the type to stay calm in any situation. "Come on, guys, we had better move."
We had often explored the shelter, and we learned that there was a total of five rooms in the building: there was the main room, where we were. It included the entrance, a window, a few tables, chairs, and a TV. Connected to it, opposite of the door, was a room filled with bunk beds. If one were to snoop around enough – and we did – they would find a hidden electric trapdoor, leading to a basement.
The basement was completely cement; the walls, floors, and ceiling were all covered with a thick layer of the stuff. Initially, you would find yourself in a large, open room filled with workout equipment, which Arthur used in his spare time. Connected to that room was a large food-storage and freezer room, with enough food to easily last all of us a year or more. Opposite the food storage door was another door, which only Arthur could open. I hadn't ever been told what was in there, and at that moment I didn't really care.
Arthur lead us into the basement, and sealed the electric trapdoor behind all of us. He looked more panicked than usual, probably mostly due to Dusty's actions. We were all worried about the Techo, but no one said a word about it. I don't think anyone really wanted to talk about anything at that moment.
Only a few minutes after we entered the basement, there was the sound of a loud explosion coming from outside of the shelter. We were lucky to be where we were. Now we all knew Sloth had been telling the truth, and we were lucky to be prepared. We were probably the luckiest in Neopia.
Sloth had apparently won, as far as we could tell, but our shelter kept us safe from the initial blast. He had, as promised in the broadcast, used the power of a high-powered laser to mutate nearly all of Neopia. These mutants, when transformed by the blast, almost always instantly became minions of Sloth, as he took control of their minds.
Again, we were very lucky. After the blast, we still had our own bodies, our own minds. Trek and Cherry were visibly shaken, and had taken a seat to calm their nerves. Arthur kept and eye on the trapdoor, and I kept an eye on my brother. He always seemed to be on top of every situation. I admired that about him, and wished to be more like him. However, at the time, I couldn't really focus on a thing. He was on top of everything, and I could barely think.
"Arthur," I called out to him. "Are you okay?" He shushed me; a clunking sound came from upstairs, and I stayed quiet.
The trapdoor opened.
Dusty jumped down the newly opened electric trapdoor, except it wasn't quite Dusty. Gone was his green skin, replaced with a deep blue. His features were twisted, spiky; his tail had become a weapon in itself. He hissed as he came down, aiming to land right on top of Arthur.
But my brother was ready for it. He knew this would happen from the second Dusty had left the building. He grabbed the mutant Techo by the feet and threw him to the side. Dusty crashed into a punchbag and quickly jumped back to his feet. Cherry and Trek, frightened, ran into the food storage. Dusty then made what I can only describe as some sort of twisted grin.
"Take him down, Mac!" Arthur yelled at me. I didn't want to hurt my friend, but when Dusty jumped at my brother again, I leaped at him and tackled him down to the ground.
I had wrestled with Dusty before, but this was completely different. Gone was the childish sense of competition; this was survival. As I struggled with Dusty, I saw Arthur from the corner of my eye. He was opening the door opposite the food storage. I had Dusty pinned, but holding him down was increasingly difficult. He was much stronger than before, and was violently thrashing about.
"Get off of him, Mac!" It was Arthur's voice. I pushed myself off of Dusty. I couldn't hold him down much longer, anyway. When I came off of him, I was blinded by a bright white light, and for a moment the entire room went ice cold.
Arthur let out a sight of relief. I was still seeing dots, but after a few moments of frantic blinking, my eyesight came back to me and I saw the source of his relief: Dusty was frozen solid in a perfect block of ice. In my brother's hands, I saw a Snowglobe Staff.
The mystery room was the next thing I looked into. I saw a great amount of various weapons and armor, and a very strange looking chair. Arthur said that he didn't know where the chair came from, and that he had been stocking the place with spare weapons and armor for years. He had kept it a secret, and said that he'd hoped that there would never come a day when we had to use any of it.
Cherry and Trek peeked out from the food storage doorway. Trek came running out and went to Dusty, putting his hand on the ice block. He pulled his hand back, the magical cold being a bit much for him.
"Dusty, this is no good," Trek said to the ice. "No good at all."
"Is he okay, Art?" Cherry asked, coming out from the doorway slowly. Despite the mutation and the sudden attack, this was still Dusty, and he was still our friend.
"He'll be fine," Arthur replied. It was a relief to us all. "He's only frozen."
"Is there any way to change him back?" I asked. That was what we all really wanted.
"I don't know," Arthur said, "I just don't know."
To keep Dusty frozen, we put him in the freezer section of the food storage. It was a hard job, but with all four of us working together, moving him only took about ten minutes. Afterwards, Cherry and Arthur went off to talk, which left me and Trek to look over the weapons room.
Trek took a short sword for himself off of the wall, but ignored all of the armor. He figured that the armor would only slow him down. I felt myself strangely drawn to a black staff. Granted, it wasn't a sharp weapon like the sword, but the staff had a charm of its own. I also took a shield, which I wore on my back.
My attention then went to the chair. It was rather large, looking like it could fit anything up to a Werelupe's size. It appeared to be made of a strange metal with a black tint, which shone like polished steel despite it being covered in layers of dust. It was wholly unrecognizable to myself or my Chia companion. On its armrest, there was a screen and a number pad. Otherwise, it seemed to serve as a fully functional sitting device.
I sat down in the chair and examined the number pad closely. It was of a strange design, with all of the numbers represented by Roman numerals. I wiped the dust off of the screen.
Please Enter Passcode
I couldn't believe it! The screen was active. We didn't see any kind of power input at all on the chair. Trek came over to look at it. Neither of us knew exactly what to do – it was then that Arthur came in.
"Cherry thinks that we should work on sealing up the place," said my brother. He then noticed me, sitting in the strange chair. He walked past Trek and looked at the screen. "But I think I have a better idea."
"Oh, you do?" Trek asked, with a tone which said he demanded to know his idea.
"Yes. Listen, there may be a chance that one of us could safely get out of here."
"The chair," Arthur said, looking down at me.
"What do you mean? I thought you said you didn't know where it came from."
"Earlier when I told you that, I didn't tell you the whole truth."
"You lied!?" I couldn't believe it. Arthur would never lie; he never even lied while playing Cheat.
"No, I didn't lie, I only left out details! Listen, it was for a good reason. The chair is a machine, a form of transportation. It can only be used once, and only one of us can use it."
"Why didn't you tell me!?"
"I'm getting to that! See, it's very dangerous, Mac, Trek. There's no guarantee that it will work properly, and I didn't want to risk it. Now, though, I think it may be worth the risk."
"What are you talking about Arthur?" Trek asked. "The safest place in all of Neopia is right here."
Just as Trek finished talking, a series of bangs and grunts could be heard upstairs. Arthur hurriedly grabbed a purple sticky hand from the wall and, pushing Trek aside and not saying anything, quickly entered a code into the number pad.
"What are you-" I began.
"No time to argue," Arthur interrupted. The chair was beginning to buzz. "You're going to Faerieland. Find the Queen – Mac, you're our only hope."
The chair kept on buzzing, and everything began glowing white. I heard a loud bang, and saw a massive mutant Grundo come down the trapdoor. My brother and Trek went to confront him and stop him from coming all the way into the basement. I was powerless to stop anything as the Grundo knocked my brother aside and the white light filled my field of vision.
When the white light faded, I was no longer in the basement of my family's fallout shelter. Around me, I saw walls, and green fields through windows... windows!?
I was inside of a building. The walls were painted dark purple. I looked from side to side, then stood up. The chair fell apart as I stood up; apparently, Arthur was right about it being one-use, but that wasn't the issue here. The issue was that I was in a strange place and didn't know a thing about what was going on.
"You," a feminine voice hissed. "What business do you have here?!"
Suddenly, my location didn't seem to be so important.
To be continued...