In a normal bamboo house on the normal Neopia Central street of Market Street lived a little family of Neopets. The family consisted of two Eyries - a yellow and a blue - and a green Kougra.
The yellow Eyrie was named Theta, or at least that's what she wanted everyone to call her. She was the eldest of the Neopets, and considered herself the family's boss. She wasn't usually seen without her pet Buzzer, Billie, at her side.
The green Kougra's name was Tasha, and she was adopted from the Pound a couple of years before this story takes place. She was cheerful and peppy, and collected Xweetok plushies. Her petpet was a Whoot named Harry, and she loved him very much.
The blue Eyrie is perhaps the most unusual of the family, despite her seemingly bland story. Her name was Epsilon, but everyone called her Eps. She was Theta's created younger sister and was a taciturn and timid Eyrie. Her petpet was a cardboard Liobits named David, who mostly sat around and stared at Eps with his big googly eyes.
To a normal person, Eps may have seemed normal. But her closest friends and family knew never to let her use an idiom. Why was that, you may ask?
You'll see in a moment.
The day started out like any other, with the family awakening from their sleep and going to the kitchen for some omelettes and orange juice. Today, Theta picked a Sausage Omelette, Eps a Carrot and Pea, and Tasha a Green Pepper one. The family ate their breakfast, and when they had cleaned up, Eps and Tasha gathered their school supplies and homework and went off to Neoschool.
The day went smoothly for them, at least until lunch - for Eps.
She was sitting at one of the outdoor picnic table with her little group of friends - Gloria the purple Pteri, Ghoti the pink Flotsam, Sweety the red Bruce, and Tasha. Eps was eating a plate of lukewarm Spicy Wings she bought from the cafeteria and chatting with her friends.
"Do any of you have Loky in your classes?" asked Sweety, sounding excited.
"Loky Isodreami, that Eventide Lenny?" replied Ghoti. "Oh my gosh, he is like, SO cool!"
"He's in my third period Math class!" Eps piped up. "He sits in front of me! He's so HUGE, like, twenty feet tall!"
Suddenly, a loud, ear-piercing shriek burst through the air. There was a ripping noise, and within an instant there was a monstrously sized Eventide Lenny's head and torso visible over by the library.
"Dude! What the Fyora?" the Lenny boomed. "I'm a giant now! Maaan!"
"Is that Loky?" shrieked Tasha. "Oh my gosh, Eps, what happened?"
Eps was stunned. She didn't know what to say except "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!"
Loky was shouting something unpleasant about the school food and attracting a large crowd.
Some kids were taking out their Virtupets communicators and snapping pictures.
"Can't anyone do anything?" cried Gloria as a few teachers ran over to see the fuss.
"I...I dunno!" Eps cried. "I... didn't think Loky was twenty feet tall literally! He's probably only like 6 foot 3, I was exaggerating!"
There was another loud rip, and suddenly Loky's giant head and torso had vanished. The crowd around him babbled excitedly about Supersizes.
"Eps, what just..." Tasha's eyes were wide. "Could you... could you have done that?"
Eps was shocked. "That's crazy."
"But maybe you're gifted!" Ghoti suggested. "Like those people that get to go to Young Defenders' Academy, with their weird abilities!"
"If I'm gifted," grumbled Eps, "I'm a Mynci's aunt. One of Loky's friends probably used a Supersize on him as a practical joke."
When the final bell rang, Eps and Tasha walked home to a surprise. Theta greeted them at the front door with a red Mynci cradled in her arms.
"Who is THAT?" Tasha wondered.
"Eps, Tasha, you're aunties!" squealed Theta happily. "This is Karl, he's your new nephew. I adopted him from the Pound while you guys were at school!"
Karl gave Eps and Theta blank looks.
"You did this without... asking us?" Tasha finally said.
"Well, I went to the Pound to help Dr. Death sort out paperwork, and then I passed by the adoption cages and poor Karl was just sitting there! He looked so lonely and sad. So I paid the 182 NP adoption fee and took him home! He really liked the Baggusses we had sitting in the SDB."
Eps stared at Karl, and then at Tasha, who was staring at her in awe. Eps thought back to lunch, when she said that if she was gifted, she was a Mynci's aunt. She didn't think that it would actually come true.
"I got lots of homework," said Eps quickly. "I'm gonna go into my room with Tasha and we're gonna talk about it."
Theta's smile didn't fade. "Okay!" she said happily. "I'll go get Karl some clothes. He can't walk around without clothes!"
Karl's placid look didn't change. Eps wondered if her new "nephew's" intelligence was "dim witted".
Theta went back into the house, going towards the closet, and Eps and Tasha hurried into their shared room.
"Tasha," Eps said to her little sister. "I think Ghoti was right. I think I'm gifted."
Tasha sat down on her bed and put her chin in her hands. "What made you think that?"
"Well, I exaggerate Loky's height to twenty feet, and he grows to twenty feet. I say 'I'm a Mynci's aunt' and suddenly we have Karl in our household. He's eating our Baggusses!"
"Neither of us like those anyway," Tasha said. "I don't really mind that. But idioms and exaggerations coming true... that's really weird. If you're gifted to do that, it sure isn't like seeing the future or shooting fire from your hands."
"Maybe I should be careful as to what idioms I use," Eps replied. "I mean, if I used something like 'all ears'..." She shuddered, as if imagining a blue Eyrie covered in ears. "Tasha, your job is to make sure I don't use any idioms."
"Any idioms?" Tasha said. "Not even 'strong as a Blurgah'? 'Cause that one'd come in useful in a lot of situations."
Eps pondered. "Maybe idioms like that. But nothing like 'hot as a pizza in a brick oven' or 'all thumbs'. Just... stop me if I start to say something like that."
Tasha nodded. "Deal!"
The next day, Eps and Tasha ate breakfast while watching Karl happily eat an Ummagine with his orange juice. Theta had clothed him in a white shirt and khaki trousers, and was smiling as she ate a pear jelly.
"Is Karl gonna have to come to Neoschool with us?" Tasha asked.
"He's too young," Theta replied. "I'll stay home with him and read him some books instead."
Eps and Theta gathered up their school supplies and took the walk to Neoschool.
The two girls had the same second-period class, Neopian History. Today, Mr. Nickels, the silver Lupe teacher, was talking on and on about the explorers that first sailed to Neopia Central way back in Y1.
"His voice's gonna put me to sleep," grumbled the boy who sat next to Eps, an orange Uni named Willis.
Mr. Nickels seemed to have heard this, for he stopped his lecture. "Is there something you'd like to share with the class, Willis?" he asked.
Willis remained silent.
"Come on, Willis, Angelpuss got your tongue?" joked Mr. Nickels.
Willis shook his head. Eps stood up and spoke.
"Willis said that your voice was gonna put him to sleep," she stated.
"Oh, is it?" Mr. Nickels asked. "Well, how could the fascinating facts of Neopia Central put anyone to - "
There was a loud thud, and the entire class gasped. Willis's knees had buckled, and he fell to the floor right in front of the teacher, snoring very loudly.
"Oh my Fyora, it really did," Mr. Nickels gasped.
Eps's heart pounded violently. She had not anticipated this happening, and silently scolded herself for not knowing that anything could be a trigger for her "gift" - or "curse", she quickly decided.
Mr. Nickels had unsuccessfully tried to shake Willis awake, and called on his teacher's assistant, a Disco Skeith named Stan, to carry Willis to the office. Stan obliged, and when he was gone, Mr. Nickels remained silent for a total of five minutes - Eps counted on the clock - before cautiously resuming his lecture.
Eps sat down and caught a glimpse of Tasha in the corner of her eye. The Kougra was staring in awe and shock at the Eyrie.
"Why didn't you stop me?"
Eps asked this to Tasha outside of Mr. Nickels's room after class.
"I didn't think that it would work," Tasha admitted. "Repeating someone else's idiom? I didn't think that would affect them in the same way that just saying it yourself would."
Eps caught one of her fellow students - a purple Ogrin - whispering to her friend, a pink Poogle. The purple Ogrin often gestured to Eps, making the Eyrie's heart sink in her chest.
"I don't have any more classes with you today," said Tasha. "You're gonna learn how to control it yourself."
Eps nodded and headed off to Math.
Eps was always the first one into her Science class. She sat down, and the teacher, a Faerie Quiggle named Mrs. Goldstein, smiled at her.
"I heard what happened in Mr. Nickels's class second period," she said. "Rumor's started to spread about weird happenings. Natalie from my fourth period heard from her friend Gina, and she says it sounds very much like an episode of that Neovision show 'The Secret Files'."
Eps was sort of familiar with that program. In it, there were two Moehog detectives named Hoggs and Burnwood, who worked with the Defenders of Neopia in all their supernatural cases. She'd never watched it, but Theta used to before the new character Greenthorn the Chia appeared and she explicitly stated how much she didn't like him.
"Do you think it's like something off 'The Secret Files'?" Eps said nervously.
Mrs. Goldstein laughed. "I'm a science teacher, Eps, I don't believe in supernatural stuff like that. I think it's just a coincidence."
Eps sighed in relief. At least Mrs. Goldstein didn't think she was some freak mutant or something. But now she knew that rumors would spread around the school like wildfire, and by sixth period, she'd be labelled a witch, or a spirit, or something untrue and accusing.
Eps thoughts, sadly, came true. By the time that sixth-period Old Brightvalian 1 rolled around, the kids were bombarding her with weird questions.
"Did you have a Slumberberry Potion with you?"
"Are you one of the hypno-pets from 'The Secret Files'?"
"Can you make me fall asleep?"
"Do you have secret faerie abilities?"
"Why don't you go to the Young Defenders' Academy?"
Eps sat down in her seat and plugged her ears until the teacher, Monsieur Bonhomme the green Gnorbu, came into class and barked at all the kids to be quiet - in Old Brightvalian, of course.
"Now, I do not zink it eez WISE for you children to pick on zees poor girl because of some freak accident." Monsieur Bonhomme rapped a yardstick on his desk. "She did nothing wrong. Now, if you all would take out your books and turn to page 76..."
There was a rustling as the kids took out their textbooks. Grant, a blue Aisha who sat next to Eps, leaned over and whispered in the Eyrie's ear.
"You should totally put Monsieur Bonhomme to sleep," he said.
"No," grumbled Eps. "That would be bad."
"Eez dere a problem?" Monsieur Bonhomme asked.
"No," Eps replied quickly. The Gnorbu adjusted his glasses and turned to the board.
"I'll pay you ten thousand Neopoints," Grant insisted.
"Shut up," Eps hissed. She could feel anger bubbling inside of her.
"Twenty thousand if you can turn him pink too," giggled Grant.
"NO!" shouted Eps, surprisingly loud, and everyone in the class turned to look at her.
"Excusez-moi?" asked Monsieur Bonhomme.
"Grant," snarled Eps, fueled by rage, "I'm sick of you people pestering me because of that stupid thing! You make me so angry! Just because Grant fell asleep when Mr. Nickels talked, right after I said he would, doesn't make me a monster or witch!" Her face was livid red, and her forehead was beaded with sweat. "You crazy people! You know what you are? You're stupid little Greebles! That's what you are! You're - "
There was a cannonlike bang, and where thirty students sat in chairs now sat thirty Greebles. Eps turned, in horror, to see Monsieur Bonhomme staring at her in fear.
"Epsilon, vot have you done?" he gasped.
"Oh my Fyora!" cried Eps, tears streaking down her face. "I'm sorry! All of you! You're all Neopets, not Greebles!"
There was another bang, and the Greebles turned back into students, who all started chattering about how weird it was to be a petpet until Monsieur Bonhomme screamed at them to be quiet.
"Epsilon..." he said, shaking. "You are... dismissed."
Eps grabbed her things and ran out of the classroom, letting out a loud cry of despair before she fully closed the door.
Eps sat at her favorite picnic table and cried until the final bell rang. Tasha noticed her and came over, sitting down beside her.
"What happened?" she asked. "Did you lose control of your power?"
Eps nodded through eyefuls of tears.
"Hey, it's OK," Tasha assured her. "I'm sorry I couldn't help. But you'll be OK. You fixed it, right?"
Eps nodded again.
"I'm a freak," Eps sobbed. "Now everyone will think I'm a monster - except for Mrs. Goldstein. She told me... she thought it was nothing. But she's wrong!"
Tasha patted Eps's shoulder. "We'll talk to Dr. Barks. She should know what's going on."
Dr. Barks, a brown Scorchio, was the AP Psychology teacher at the school. She apparently studied books about Faerie Abilities in her free time.
"Let's go see her," Eps said, wiping away her tears and standing up. She followed Tasha to Dr. Barks's classroom at the end of the Science department.
Dr. Barks was, mercifully, still in her classroom when Eps and Tasha showed up.
"Good afternoon," she said to them. "What brings you two here?"
"Good afternoon, Dr. Barks," Eps said. "I'm not in your class, but I'm Epsilon Smythe, but call me Eps, and I have a problem..."
She explained to the teacher everything that had happened that day, and the day before. When she had finished, the Scorchio seemed very interested.
"Sit down, Eps," she said, gesturing to one of the desks. Eps obeyed, Tasha standing like a sentinel beside her.
"So idioms and hyperboles come true whenever you say them," Dr. Barks said. "Interesting, very interesting."
She reached into her desk and brought out a large, shiny book with a picture of a DNA strand on the front. In large, professional-looking letters, the title read "SUPER GENETICS".
"This book belonged to the Young Defenders' Academy," Dr. Barks explained. "The Genetics teachers would use it to explain to young students why they had their powers. This copy was donated to me by my friend, who taught there up until last year. Mr. Wilkinson, gray-haired, Pirate Xweetok, do you know him?"
Eps shook her head. She knew nobody named Mr. Wilkinson.
"Well, let's open to this page..." Dr. Barks said, flipping through the book's pages. "Here we go." She turned the book to face Eps, and the Eyrie could read a title that said "Unit 3: Psychic Powers". Beneath that was a passage about "We're going to cover these topics in this unit: Mind powers such as telepathy, telekinesis, astral projection, mind-reading, divination, and..." The last word had Dr. Barks's finger over it, and was "truthspeaking".
"What's that?" Eps asked.
Dr. Barks flipped to the page number that was next to "truthspeaking" and came to a page with a large, colorful illustration of a green Xweetok with a paw clasped over its mouth and a red Techo with a meatloaf for a head.
"Truthspeaking," Eps read from the first paragraph, "is a power that makes any saying the pet may say into the truth. As demonstrated in the illustration, the Xweetok called his friend a 'meatloaf head', and it came true. Truthspeakers, as they are called, must be careful as to what figurative language they use, in case they accidentally cause a horrible thing to happen with their speech."
"How does this happen?" Tasha asked. "I know that a lot of abilities are inherited, and Theta would've known if Eps was blessed by a faerie, she never mentioned anything like that."
Dr. Barks jabbed the next paragraph, and Eps read it.
"Truthspeakers' abilities are genetic. The gene for truthspeaking affects the brain and vocal cords and is caused by a repeat of the same line of genetic code fifteen times, one right after the other, in the gifted's genome. The repeated line is caused by a severe copying error in a Create-O-Matic, typically in models built in Y6 and before."
A Create-O-Matic was a machine used whenever a user wanted to create a new pet. The machine would take raw genetic code and form it into the pet of the species, color, and nature that the owner wanted, with stats that were pre-selected but with a random number of health points.
"Wasn't the Create-O-Matic that Theta used to create you made in, like, Y4?" Tasha wondered. "I remember she told me how much the guy managing it was having trouble with it, 'cause it was so old."
"Maybe that's why I have this gift," Eps mused. "Because of a glitchy... machine."
Dr. Barks smiled. "You're lucky," she said. "Sometimes copying errors end up with severe consequences. But you have an ability that you could use for good. Just be careful - people could want to use you for your powers. Don't let them take advantage of you. They might just use you to get whatever they want by making you say something like 'You have ten million Neopoints now'."
Eps nodded. "Thank you, Dr. Barks." She shook the Scorchio's hand, and she and Tasha left the classroom.
"So you have a power you can use for good?" Tasha said as she and Eps left the campus.
"I guess so," Eps said. "I mean, it's not like I have superpowers like the Defenders do - super-strength, lightning-speed, all that stuff - so I couldn't fight crime like they do. I could just tell the burglar something crazy and he'd turn into an omelette or something. That would be so bad."
Tasha laughed. "Speaking of omelettes, I'm kind of hungry. School lunch isn't terribly filling. Whaddaya say we go to the Food Shop and get some burgers?"
Eps smiled. "Same here. I'm so hungry, I could eat a - "
"Eps!" warned Tasha.
" - an Ultimate Burger with large fries," Eps corrected. She was about to say Uni, but figured quickly that it wasn't a good idea. A picture flashed through her mind of her chasing after a Uni with a knife and fork. Immediately, her stomach growled very loudly.
"I think I'll order a double cheeseburger, with a milkshake," said Tasha. "Come on, Eps, let's get you that Ultimate Burger and large fries."
Eps smiled, despite her hunger pangs, and went with Tasha towards the Food Shop.