I am not a very dedicated person, nor am I very focused
with what time I do commit to a project. It's extremely difficult for me to concentrate
on one thing, especially when there are more interesting events occurring all
around. Working for Dr. Sloth on Virtupets… well, every day is full of all sorts
of going-ons that I am irresistibly drawn to. Combine lots of activity, a bored
programmer, gobs of caffeine and sugar and you have a recipe for disaster.
Well, maybe not disaster. But I do end up working
late a lot.
It was a week after the incident with the spy
and I was preparing a report of my department's security procedures. It wasn't
so difficult - I had already established what I believed to be a rather strict
password and login/logout procedure. Of course, after I wrote it down on paper
it looked quite pathetic. Then I went around and quizzed the Grundos I worked
with about their own personal security habits. The answers were not good ones.
Bottom line: I didn't want to hand this report
in. It was going to the Grundo in charge of security around here and I'd probably
wind up hearing about it later on, possibly from someone higher up in the Sloth
hierarchy. Knowing my luck I'd get yelled at by Sloth himself, which sadly,
I was used to. But the prospect was not a very pleasant one. So I procrastinated,
stuck my busybody nose into everyone else's business, and found myself staring
at a "on my desk by morning" deadline shortly after everyone else had gone home
for the evening. I got myself some coffee and reluctantly sat down to finish
up the report.
It only took a couple hours but by the time
I polished the final copy the only people around were me and the mutant Grundos
that were our security personnel. I shut down my station and slipped out the
door, flipping off the lights and punching in the code to lock down the room
The office of the chief security Grundo was
not too far from mine - only a couple twists and turns away - but I took the
long route. Although it often wound me up in trouble I did enjoy being in the
middle of things. It always made good stories for later when I was telling my
rainbow Pteri, Miriane, about my day.
Well, this time I swung by Dr. Sloth's personal
lab. It was always shut and locked, the red light at the top glaring down like
an eye at anyone that would dare bother the Dr. while he was working. However,
this time the light cast a calm green glow over the metal corridor and a rectangle
of light streamed through the open door. I sidled to the doorway and peered
The air was sterile and reeked of disinfectant.
I could see beakers lining the shelves and countertops. There were cabinets
all along the walls and in one corner an immense terminal arrayed in a semi-circle
around a metal table. The Dr. himself was standing at the nearest countertop
to this, writing on a chart. I leaned in further; trying to determine what was
lying on the table. It was a large shape and almost looked like a NeoPet.
"I suggest you either say who you are or leave
very quickly," Sloth said calmly, not even bothering to turn around.
Ice spread through my blood as terror temporarily
flooded my system. There's certain things in life that just send alarm bells
ringing - the "I'm in deep trouble now" alert. Being caught eavesdropping on
Sloth was one of those.
"It's me," I replied, "I'm sorry. I just saw
"Oh. Kid. Come in if you want but don't touch
Still not looking at me. I swallowed and realized
that if I didn't act on this opportunity to nose around I'd regret it later.
So I stepped in and watched where I walked, staying a good distance away from
the equipment. There was a glass cabinet a couple feet behind where Dr. Sloth
stood and I stopped before this, looking inside at the contents. I wasn't quite
ready to inspect whatever was on the table.
"Transmogrification potions," I said outloud.
"Yes. I'm testing a new variety, one that only
has to come in contact with the skin."
I turned from the potions to look at the NeoPet.
It was a Lupe, unconscious and laying on his side. He was mutant and I had no
doubt that this was Sloth's latest test subject. I walked over and carefully
put one hand on his shoulder, rubbing along the bone and smoothing out the fur.
"Unfortunately, it still needs a lot of work,"
Sloth continued. "The potion takes far too long to take effect and is distinctly
noticeable by the pet. They'll just wash it off before being transformed."
"What do you mean?"
He moved slightly and a couple drops of liquid
landed on my arm.
I grabbed a handful of my shirt hem and frantically
rubbed it off. The skin was reddened and blistered and it felt like I'd just
been stung by wasps.
"That-" I managed to say through gritted teeth,
"was uncalled for."
"But you understand the problems this batch
has. I'll need more test subjects…" He was musing to himself. I turned my attention
back to the Lupe.
"So, this was your latest… test subject?" I
didn't like the taste of those words.
"The poor guy. What are you going to do with
"I am not telling you," he replied, annoyed.
"You're crying. Humans."
I didn't say anything. I had thought he wouldn't
be able to see my few tears. Chickenhead left into a back room for a bit and
I stayed where I was, stroking the Lupe's fur. His breathing was slow and regular
and I was glad for that. Sedated most likely. For some reason he looked familiar
but I couldn't quite place my finger on it. There were lots of Lupes running
around Neopia; surely I was just having a déjà vu moment here. Eventually Sloth
came back, this time with some files stacked up in his arms. I tried catching
a glimpse of them but Sloth's bulk obscured my view.
"Why do you stay late all the time?" he asked,
writing something while he spoke, "You obviously don't like what I do. The other
few humans here are dedicated because they want power. You show no interest
in it. So why not just go home?"
"I stay... because there's nothing better to
do. My pet is out late most nights and that's all I have here on Virtupets."
"Then you are lonely."
I wanted to change the subject. "Is that why
you work so late on these," I gestured at the potions, "as well?"
"It amuses me when you make assumptions. You're
assigning human emotions to something that isn't human."
And he laughed because to him it really was funny,
while I wished I weren't so easy to read or that I could have the upper hand
for just once in my life. My eyes were filling with tears again and I blinked
quickly, trying not to look down at the pet sprawled across the metal table.
He was so helpless and I wanted to stay and protect him. That's what we humans
do, right? We protect our pets. Well, this one didn't have an owner and I was
the only one around to be a stand-in.
I've said before that it was difficult to work
here, that my conscience refused to remain buried at times and stabbed sharp
needles into my thoughts, pricks of guilt and a keen desire to make things right
and atone for my actions. Most of the time it was late at night when I was trapped
in the darkness of my room.
But now - it couldn't be ignored.
"Sloth. This Lupe."
"Yeah. Since you're just getting rid of him,
can I take him home?"
"I'll forgive you that request because you're
a weak little girl subject to human emotions and frailties. No. He's a subject
of an experimental potion and needs to be destroyed."
"What?! No you can't!"
Mistake number one - disagreeing with Sloth.
Mistake number two - yelling at him. And now for mistake number three. He rounded
on me and glared. It's a very frightening thing to face the wrath of an annoyed
Dr. Sloth. I did what I usually did in this situation - cringe and stagger backwards
away from him. Only I forgot where I was and true to my nature, my elbow snagged
a glass beaker on the counter and sent it falling to the floor to land in a
terrific explosion of noise and shrapnel.
"You IDIOT!" Sloth roared and I flattened against
the far wall, heart in throat. He stomped towards me.
"You," he snarled, seizing the collar of my
shirt and dragging me towards the door, "annoy me. And for your information,
X92C used to be named Davis, the spy who tried to force you to give up the system
password. The one you helped capture. So even if he wasn't an experiment I still
would have him destroyed."
And he threw me out into the hallway. I slammed
against the far wall and hit the floor in a heap. The door to the lab shut and
the light switched to red, signifying that it was locked. I curled into a ball
and cried into my arms for a short time as my heart turned to pure empty space.
The smart course of action would have been to
go home and quietly forget about the incident. I'm not the brightest person
at times though. I still had a report to drop off and this time I made a beeline
to the security office. The door was locked so I just slipped it under the door.
Then I hesitated, sidled up to the control panel that ran the door lock and
slipped a pocketknife from my jeans.
I don't quite understand the reasoning behind
what I did. It's not precisely moral to pry off a control panel and unlock the
door by rearranging the wires inside. It's even less moral to access the head
of security's computer. So I don't know why I printed out a map and inked out
the route to where Sloth stored the NeoPets he used for experiments. I'm not
sure why I found and recorded the access codes that I'd need. It's just something
I had to do. I was partly responsible for what happened to Davis and even though
my involvement was involuntary, I still could not just walk away and leave him.
Things had gotten fuzzy. Was Davis really my enemy? Perhaps. Or maybe Sloth
was. I didn't know. All I knew was that I had cried because my heart was breaking
and if I didn't do this I would never be able to look at myself in the mirror
again. If I didn't protect him no one would.
The best time to get the Lupe out of there would
be tomorrow evening, once the station wound down into night cycle. I will admit
it, I was terrified. When I arrived at our apartment my pet Pteri could tell
and tried to find out what was going on. I didn't tell her much, just that she
needed to be very careful for the next couple days. She looked at me like I'd
betrayed her for keeping secrets and went to her room until I left for work
in the morning.
I never stopped to ask myself any questions.
Things like, what would happen if I got caught? And why was I so willing to
risk my skin for this Lupe? Above all, why did Sloth let me see Davis to begin
with? I can be clever but sometimes I don't think of the obvious things. In
all the time I'd been here this was the first time I'd ever seen the lab open.
Why? Like I said, I didn't stop to reason things out completely. I had a Lupe
It was easy to find something to keep me occupied
after normal quitting time. This is me. I'm the resident master of distraction.
The local night owl. Caffeine queen. You get the idea.
I tried to appear casual as I wandered down
past Sloth's lab. The storage area was just around the corner. The door to the
lab was shut this time and the red light felt like it was boring a hole in my
back. I had to fight to not turn around and see if there was anyone watching
me. The corridor was empty. I hadn't heard anyone approaching. I was alone.
I'd memorized the access code to the storage
area that morning. The inside was dark and I could see the small lines of metal
in what little light came from the ceiling and doorway. The cages appeared to
be empty. I moved from row to row, straining to see in the darkness, until I
found one that was occupied. I squinted and tried to read the tag on the door.
"Hey," I breathed and the shape stirred. Two
bright eyes opened to look at me. "Let's get you out of here."
The cages were coded shut but I had memorized
that as well. It sprung open with a soft click and the Lupe just stared at me.
"Please. We need to go. Davis?"
It was like looking into a well. His eyes were
so blank and so empty. There was absolutely no recognition in there. Whatever
Sloth had done to him it had destroyed his memory and perhaps a lot more. Was
he even worth saving?
Yes. Of course. I reached in, grabbed his scruff,
and pulled. He came out and landed on my feet like a sack of potatoes. I wanted
to sob from frustration. I tugged on his skin some more, trying to wrap my hands
around his chest and pull him up. It was far too late that I heard the sound
I yelped and spun, tripping over the nearly
comatose Lupe's foot and falling on my rear. There was a human form in the doorway,
legs spread and hands clasped in the unmistakable firing stance of a blaster.
I didn't move.
"Hands on your head. Now."
I knew the voice. I'd seen him once but never
really spoken to him. The only reason I remembered was because he was one of
the few humans that actually worked for Sloth. Managed part of security, mostly
the non-technical stuff like Grundo patrols and guard stations.
"Just let me go," I whispered, "Sloth is going
to kill this Lupe for no good reason. I want to save him. That's all."
He was walking slowly towards me. I got to my
"I said, freeze."
"Please. This is a Neopet here. Don't you care?"
"Not at all."
And by the tone in his voice I could tell that
he meant it. I lunged, trying to reach the blaster and pull it out of his hand.
He jumped back and swung the butt of it down. I saw a glimpse of metal and then
my vision blacked out for a moment to be replaced with a swimming haze. There
was warmth spreading across my forehead and I fell backwards onto the ground,
landing next to the Lupe. Too much pain… I was going to faint. I managed to
curl around the Lupe, shielding him with my own body before I finally slipped
I caught snippets of voices. Both complaining.
They wove in and out of my struggling mind.
"…didn't have to hit her so hard…"
"…not my fault… …waking up I think, hand me
And I registered a quick prick on the arm and
the next I knew I was waking up in a quiet room with the smell of disinfectant
and bright lights overhead. My head hurt, but not as badly as before, and I
could feel some gauze taped to the skin, just a bit below the hairline. I turned
my head and my heart skipped a beat or two. I knew this place. I'd been here
before, just once before. Sloth's lab; except this time I was the one laying
on the metal table. Sloth himself was nearby, writing in some of his records.
"Don't move," he said and I was amazed that
he'd realized I was awake without even looking at me, "Not yet, at least. You
have a concussion."
The file was labeled G20K. A photo was taped
to the inside but I couldn't tell what it was of before he shut it.
"Greg brought you here to be patched up so as
to avoid the mess of getting you elsewhere for medical attention. The blaster
left a gash on your forehead that took five stitches. They'll fall out naturally
when the wound is closed."
"You do have a concussion. But I'll try to explain
and maybe something I say will manage to lodge itself in that human brain of
Sarcastic. A good sign.
"This file," he began, tapping on the folder,
"is yours. I started keeping it shortly after hiring you, when I realized that
you were nothing like the other humans I keep around. They're here for power
and personal ambition. Easy to understand because they are like myself in some
regards. They're also not the ones I'm interested in.
You see, in some regards humans and NeoPets
are the weakest creatures in existence because of their willingness to do something
contrary to their nature for another being. You compromised your morals to work
for me so that you could have money to feed your pet. And yet, it's this very
tendency that has thwarted me more than once in my attempts to dominate Neopia.
Humans and pets that would normally be too timid to stand up for anything will
fight and die for those they love. And you risked everything tonight for a pet
that you only knew as a spy with no inhibitions against hurting you to get what
X92C wasn't my primary experiment. You were."
He crossed over to stand by the table. His hand
wrapped around my shirt and he pulled me into a sitting position. It was an
effort to stay like that and I licked my lips several times, trying to keep
down both nausea and dizziness.
"All this was a test. I had no reason to not
let you have the Lupe but I wanted to see what you would do if I refused. And
although the results were not unexpected the reason behind them is still a mystery."
"I just couldn't leave him," I whispered.
"But why? You're the enigma - if I solve it
Neopia will be mine. If I can find a way around your stupid and selfless courage
nothing will stand between me and victory. There will be no humans or pets to
challenge me because there will be nothing for them to fight for."
"Conscience," I replied, tired, "and I can't
explain it. It's something we're made with. It just depends on how good we are
at ignoring what it says. Those that can completely disregard it we call evil.
For the rest of us it's only a matter of time. We can try, but in the end we
won't be able to ignore its call and we will stand and fight for our homes and
those we love. You can't win against it Sloth."
He smirked and said in a low voice, "We'll see."
"What are you going to do with me?" I asked
as he walked away, back over to the counter.
"Place you in the infirmary to be monitored
until your condition is stable enough for release. Then you can return to work
and even take X92C home with you if you still wish to."
He gathered up the files and started to walk
them into the back room. I stared at my feet.
"I don't think I have to tell you," he said
evenly, "that you are under surveillance and have been so for quite a while
now. Don't do anything stupid. I'm not done with you yet, subject G20K."
I didn't even try to reply. My head hurt and
I was tired. I lay back down on the table, curled up, and fell asleep.