Enter the Snowflake's lair... Circulation: 189,010,903 Issue: 546 | 25th day of Hunting, Y14
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Escape from Virtupets Station

by secant


Also by sammy42004

Behind every game is a programmer, behind every question there is an answer, and behind every logical statement there is an irrational response.

     ...if A, then B. If not B, then not A...

     Meet Andy the Kacheek.

     Having graduated from the intense studies under King Hagan of Brightvale, Andy preceded most Neopets in intellect and skill, especially in programming (although his social skills were lacking). But bright did not just describe Andy's yellow fur; unfortunately, his talents attracted Dr. Frank Sloth, who immediately hired—or blackmailed, more specifically—Andy to work at his concealed lair in the Virtupets Space Station.

     As you well know, Sloth and his team were responsible for the wretched ads in Advert Attack. If you thought that was bad, just wait.

      "Your job is to manipulate the codes and physics behind those silly games the Neopians play so they have a harder, tougher, more frustrating time with a small ratio of neopoint pay per play," instructed the monotone voice of the Sloth Clone supervising the workers daily.

     What diabolical work could this include?

     Andy squinted at the digital screen in front of him. He had to figure out how to tweak the game SMELT so that the average player would have a difficult time—difficult but not too difficult, so that the player would still be willing to spend over two hours playing. This was Sloth's ideal goal: get the Neopets hooked and turned into mindless gaming zombies.

     ... Modulus simply means the remainder when dividing the first number by the second. For example, 42 mod 8 = 2, because 42 divided by 8 = 5 with a remainder of 2.

     Andy shook his head. Back at Brightvale, he was used to problems like these, but Sloth's lair had made him... sloth. As in lazy, emotionless, and empty.

     Number of groups completed: G(s) = ((s-1) - ((s-1) mod 9))/9.

     The parentheses were confusing him. Complicated equations were the least of Andy's problems, though. The problem was not working for an evil villain who forbade any of them from exiting due to a tightly written contract that would shame Lawyerbot. The problem was not that Andy's quirky math comments went unnoticed in the dull office of Grundo drones, which occasionally bored him to the verge of tears.

     No, the real problem was that just two days ago, Andy discovered a vile plan awaiting him. He was passing the room where Sloth held his dastardly meetings when he overheard the following:

     "Kreludor has many natural resources beneath the surface, my little imbecile," Sloth was saying in his arrogant tone. "It would only be a matter of time before we execute the operation."

     "We need a highly adept engineer for that," replied his secretary, an Alien Aisha whom Andy had once tried to discuss the Theory of Calculus—in return for nothing more than a few blank glares.

     Sloth cackled. "Leave that to me," he snarled. "I happen to have the most talented mathematician locked up in my lair. As soon as we brainwash him, he is ours."

     "Why not brainwash him now?" quipped a pipsqueak green Grundo at the table.

     "How dare you suggest I should do something," snarled Dr. Sloth. "The brainwashing process takes time. He is currently 244th in line! Be patient or you will be the new 244th!"

     After that, Andy decided on an escape plan.

     It would be hard, with the security and surveillance cameras, numerous Sloth clones, muscular Grundo guards, and access codes before every metal door, but Andy was determined to return to Neopia and escape the doldrums and dry space food. Most importantly, he needed to avoid being brainwashed by Dr. Sloth. Think of the horror! The creative mind of a mathematician under captivity, never to think of theorems, equations, or equilateral triangles again on its own!

     The screen in front of Andy blinked, and Andy blinked as he realized he had almost fallen asleep.

      Number of pieces in stage: N(s) = 4 + ((s-1) mod 9). Time equation: T(s) = (0.6^G(s)) * (6 + N(s)). Put into words it becomes: stage time = (0.6^number of groups completed) * (6 + number of pieces in current stage)...

     "Enough with this!" Andy jabbed at the power button on the keyboard, and the screen turned black. It was time to hatch his ultimate escape plan.

     Andy had calculated it would take 4.4 hours if everything went successfully. He packed his measly belongings in a duffel bag, left his workstation for the last time, and tiptoed to the upper lobby, where six Clockwork Grundos guarded the exit and entranceway.

     The force required to open a door, calculated by the torque equation, is in this case infinitely large and nobody—not even the Space Faerie, can break open it.

     "Where are you going?" questioned one of the robots, a red one with shiny casing.

     "Lunch break," replied Andy, surveying the deadbolts on the metal door—not that it needed them, as secure as it was.

     "You carry your lunch in your duffel bag?" questioned another Clockwork Grundo.

     "No, this is my sick bag," lied Andy, feigning sickness. "I do not think yesterday's dinner agreed with my stomach." (Truth was, it hadn't.) "Why, I once made a mess on the cafeteria floor, and it definitely represented the radioactive green goo of Room 39! Do you want to see, I have some bits inside—"

     "There you go, sir," said one of the other Clockworks, who keyed in the access code and slid open the heavy metal door. The clockwork Grundos quickly distanced themselves from Andy, as if they wanted to keep their shiny exteriors clean.

     "Thanks," chuckled Andy.

     Now came the hard part. Wringing his sweaty paws, Andy paced the long corridor until he noticed an empty spot where the turnabout angle of the surveillance camera did not reach. He raced to the spot, caught his breath, and made a mental walkthrough for the 249th time of his escape plan. Clockwork Grundos, check. Surveillance cameras, check. Window...

     The circular window on the highest floor was the only known escape route among the trapped workers. It was known to lead to the tourists' section of the Space Station, and from there it would be a simple breeze to fly back to Neopia. Determined, Andy searched the ceiling for a vent to escape through.

     By calculating his trajectory...

      -16.087 times x2 + 6*x + 108.27, since the building was 10 stories tall, and the equation for distance with respects to time was distance + velocity times time + half the value of acceleration times time squared...

      ...he was able to swing himself up and grab a bar that hung just thirteen inches below the vent shaft. Andy straddled across the bar, removed the vent cover, and crawled inside the dark tunnel. Inside was the smell of musky mold. According to his mental map of the place, which he had memorized clearly in his brilliant mind, all tunnels led to the center, where the circular window was located to refresh the air. Seventy seconds later, he saw it, an open space where four tunnels intersected. The window was at the very top of the space, six meters upwards, protected by a circular metallic door.

     Ah, the window—that which led to freedom.

     Now was time to abandon all mathematical thoughts and use pure strength. Well, pure strength and a little mathematics.

     The Kacheek calculated the places where friction was at its fullest and climbed the vertical shaft towards his goal, using the cloth from his duffel bag as an aid. Determination to meet new Neopets who understood math jokes was his inner motivation. Finally, the Kacheek reached the door, which was latched by several bolts.

     Andy muttered under his breath; he had no tools to pry open the bolts, and there was no passcode to crack. But he came too far to quit now. Freedom was right on the other side of the window. He could already hear tourists on the floor upstairs.

     A surge of rage filled the Kacheek's body like an electrical current. He scratched at a small bolt in the corner aimlessly, summoning all his strength and will. His steady paw that clacked on intricate keyboards was just enough to loosen the tiny bolt... and the entire door slacked in its place.

     Happiness elated the locked mathematician. He pried open the metal door with a strength unknown to him before. A relieved smile emerged on Andy's face as he reached for the newly unveiled window, and then he slowly stiffened.

     It was only a picture.

The End

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