Come dance with the Wanderers... Circulation: 150,952,996 Issue: 232 | 24th day of Running, Y8
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by queen_aingeal


Space. How can one describe it? It is a vast emptiness, sparsely scattered with great balls of sheer flame. Yet to some, it is also home. To some, space is more than just a term for emptiness… it is life. The only life they've ever known.

      Such is the life of Doctor Frank Sloth. A genius - and a madman. With his flowing black trenchcoat and shining red eyes, he is a commanding presence, one that demands respect and obedience. Currently, however, Dr. Sloth was not towering over his Grundo slaves, but hunched weakly over his desk, his green hands covering his face in a classic pose of exhaustion. He had been working hard all through the night.

      A soft chime was heard, and Sloth looked up wearily, checking the clock. It was 0500 hours - five in the morning, NST. The great doctor slumped back in his chair and groaned softly. He was still nowhere near finished with his latest plan to destroy that tiresome planet, Neopia, though he'd been working on it for 15 straight hours. Sloth got up from his chair and walked to the window of his office, gazing out at the beautiful planet with a scowl creasing his face. "Why must you haunt me so?" he said to the planet. "I could make you so much better… we could achieve perfection, you and I…"

      "Sir?" came a small voice. Sloth whipped around, his red eyes flashing in sudden rage.

      "What do you want??" he bellowed at a cowering Orange Grundo.

      "S-Sir… there is a small p-problem with the Spider Grundo," the Grundo stammered.

      "What do you mean, 'problem'?" Sloth asked, his voice a low, fierce hiss.

      "Sir… he's escaped."

      Moments later, the Grundo fled the doctor's chamber as an enraged roar rang out after him. Sloth stormed out of his chamber and moved swiftly through the corridors of the Space Station, his black coat swirling around him like stormclouds. He brushed past the small Grundo workers and they scattered like ants before him. At last he reached a door, which slid open obediently, as if it knew he was not in a mood to be toyed with.

      "Where is he?" he demanded of the Grundos inside.

      "Sir, please, we're trying our best to -" began one, but Sloth cut him off.

      "WHERE IS HE?" he shouted, his voice echoing off the bare walls.

      "We… don't know," admitted the Grundo. Sloth's face grew dark. "But we're scouring the hallways, searching in every room," the Grundo added hastily. "We'll find him, sir, don't worry."

      "I am not worried," Sloth said icily.

      "Of course not, sir, of course not…" The Grundos scurried away, trying to look as though there was something important that needed to be done. Sloth growled impatiently and stalked away with a swirl of his cloak.

      He walked down the corridors, furious thoughts whirling in his mind. First the incident with that traitor Garoo, now this! And not to mention that puny planet and its inhabitants getting the better of me every single time I try to get control. "Not anymore," he snarled to himself. A cunning new plan was forming in his mind… one so clever, so brilliant, and so deliciously EVIL…

      For the first time in over a month, Sloth's face twisted in a hideous smile. And for the first time since his attack on the Lost Desert, the evil genius began to laugh.


     Meanwhile, deep in the heart of Neopia Central, Kari the Cloud Acara woke with a gasp. Her chest heaving, she tried to remember why she felt so scared. All there was, though, was a deep, sinister laugh that echoed through her mind. She slipped out of bed and walked over to the window, gazing out at the snow falling from the midnight-blue sky. She glanced at her clock and saw that the time was five-thirty am. The sun was going to rise in half an hour anyway, so she decided to have an early breakfast. It was unlikely that she'd be sleeping any more that night.

      She went downstairs to the kitchen, ready to make some toast for herself. It had been a long night, filled with fitful dreams. She sat down at the table for a moment, resting slightly so that she could clear her thoughts. But no matter what she did, she still heard that voice, that laugh, ringing in her head. She shook her head briskly and got up again, moving to the silver toaster and popping in some bread.

      "Long night?" asked a voice, and Kari turned. There in the doorway was her owner, a tall teenage girl called Missy.

      "You bet," Kari said, smiling. "Want some toast?" The Acara motioned towards the toaster, which was now steaming slightly.

      Missy shook her head and took out an ornate coffee cup. Kari watched her owner pour it nearly full with coffee, then add a marshmallow. Missy considered, then added another before bringing the cup to her lips and drinking. "Mmm…" the teen said, a look of contentment spreading over her face. "Nectar of the gods, I swear to you."

      Kari giggled. "I prefer borovan, if it's all the same to you."

      Missy scoffed. "HAH! Borovan WEAK! Coffee… coffee STRONG."

      "Perhaps a little too strong," Kari said through her laughter.

      "Perhaps," Missy agreed, putting the cup down. The sound of a spring called Kari's attention to the toaster, and Missy watched as the Acara spread raspberry jam on her toast. "Do you feel like sharing some of that toast with your loving owner?" she asked, batting her blue eyes angelically.

      "Not on your life," Kari said through a mouthful of toast and jam.

      Missy rolled her eyes and tossed her brown hair. "Fine," she said irritably. She went about slicing bread and buttering it. "Did you have any dreams last night?" she asked as she worked.

      "Yes, one," said Kari slowly.

      "Well?" Missy asked through a mouthful of bread-and-butter.

      "I don't remember what happened exactly… It was weird." The Acara shook her head. "All I remember is laughter."

      "Laughter?" Missy asked skeptically.

      "Not good laughter… evil laughter." Kari frowned at her toast. "I didn't like it." She shook her head suddenly. "But it was just a dream."

      "Right," said Missy, but she looked worried. Although she loved to tease, she really cared a lot about her neopet and certainly did not want her to be scared, for any reason at all.


     "That's it," Sloth hissed, staring at the monitor. "Keep going, you eight-legged monstrosity." He was speaking to the Spider Grundo, who was creeping grotesquely through the hallways, waving his two natural arms around pathetically. Hideous, and yet somehow pitiful.

      "Sir, if you would be so kind as to refresh my memory," said a small voice, "what are we trying to do again?"

      Sloth turned to look irritably at the Orange Grundo engineer. "I have told you ten thousand times. We are going to send the Spider Grundo to Neopia Central in a shuttlecraft. We will let him wreak havoc there for a while, and then when they're begging for mercy, we will bring forth the only man who wields any power over the monster."

      "Uhh… who?" the Grundo asked.

      "ME!" Sloth roared, and the Grundo cowered. Sloth turned his gaze back to the screen, where the Spider Grundo was making a freakish clicking sound that sounded like a cry for help. "When I save Neopia from the Spider Grundo, they will be begging me to rule them. Good, kind Dr. Sloth, who saved us from the evil spider…" He started laughing again, and the Spider Grundo sank down onto the ground hopelessly.


     "What's that?"

      Kari looked up from the blue scarf she was examining and over at Missy, who was staring up at the clear blue sky. "What?" asked the Acara.

      "THAT." Missy pointed at something that was fast approaching.

      "What IS that?" Kari asked. The something suddenly took shape. "It's a spaceship!" she screamed.

      "Everybody down!" shouted the Shop Wizard commandingly and Kari pulled Missy onto the floor just as the ship lowered onto the ground, the force from its landing scattering the carefully made Collectable Card Shop. The Buzz who owned it flew out yelling obscenities, but fell silent when he saw the massive ship.

      The door hissed open, and Kari stood up with Missy. She saw a few Grundos step out in protective suits. With them was a massive steel box. "What's in there?" Missy asked. Kari just shook her head, but she had a sick feeling in her stomach. The Grundos went over to the box and were about to open it when it shook violently. They turned and ran back into their ship. The door shut with a clank and seconds later the ship disappeared into the sky.

      Kari slowly approached the shaking, rattling box, along with a few other neopets. Something was clearly inside the box, and it wanted to get out. Kari could hear it scratching at the walls, and there was a horrible shrieking sound. "Kari, come back here!" Missy called, but Kari reached out for the latch on the box. Slowly, with shaking paws, Kari undid the latch.

      The door suddenly swung open and hit a small Kougra in the face. Kari saw a flash of black legs and a red hourglass marking fly by her before her gaze was blocked by other neopets fleeing the scene. The Kougra's owner ran forward and scooped him up, then turned and ran off, screaming.

      The Spider Grundo was scuttling around the Bazaar, shrieking in rage. "Kari!" Missy screamed. Kari turned and saw the monster advancing on her owner, who was pressed up against the wall of the Grooming Parlour.

      "No!!" Kari shouted, and looked down at the ground. She bent down, and straightened with a pile of snow that she quickly formed into a snowball. Looking straight at her mark, she heaved the snowball as hard as she could, hitting the target perfectly - the Spider Grundo's head. It turned immediately, forgetting Missy and heading as fast as its eight legs could take it towards the Cloud Acara.

      Kari realised that this may not have been the best idea. She turned and ran as fast as she could away from the massive spider. At last she made it through the swarming Neopians and hid in the shop wizard's den.

      "May I help you?" Kari gasped and whirled around. The elderly Jubjub was smiling at her. "May I help you?" he asked again.

      "There's, um… a giant spider thingy attacking Neopia Central," Kari said, calming down slightly.

      "A giant spider thingy," the Jubjub said gravely. "I see."

      "What can we do?" Kari asked hopelessly.

      The Shop Wizard took off his pointed hat and studied it, as if it might hold the answer. "There is one thing you can do… but it will not be good."

      "Anything to get rid of that spider."

      "Are you sure?" The Wizard fixed his penetrating black eyes on Kari's wide blue ones, and his tone was suddenly quite urgent. "Kari, are you absolutely sure about that?"

      "How do you know my name?" Kari whispered.

      "Answer me!" the Wizard insisted. "Are you ABSOLUTELY SURE that you would do anything - ANYTHING - to get rid of the spider?"

      "I - yes, I am."

      "Would you bet Missy's life on it?" he asked.

      "Now wait one second -" Kari began angrily, but the Wizard rose a few feet into the air and his eyes flashed.

      "WOULD YOU?" he demanded.

      "YES!" Kari shouted almost before she knew what she was saying.

      The Wizard lowered himself carefully to the ground. "Very well," he said, sounding somewhat mournful. "If you're sure." He fixed his eyes on his crystal ball and seemed to go into a sort of trance. "There is a man… A great man, but an evil man… he is the one to fear… yet he can save you from the beast."

      "Who is he?" Kari asked.

      "Sloth," the Wizard said. "Doctor… Frank Sloth."

      "Where can I find him?"

      The Wizard gasped. "He is… already here." Then those great black eyes closed, and he began muttering to himself. Kari sensed that it was time to go. She turned and left quietly, leaving the Wizard alone in his den.

      The world was curiously silent. Kari looked around and saw another spaceship in the square. She ran over and saw Missy standing in the cluster of Neopians around it. "Missy!" she sighed with relief. Missy turned and saw Kari. She silently hugged the Acara and picked her up. It had been so long since she'd done that. Kari enjoyed the moment while she could. "What's going on?" she asked, but Missy signalled for her to be silent. Kari looked over at the spaceship and saw a tall figure emerging. His black trenchcoat swirled around him, and Kari saw his red eyes gleaming.

      "Citizens of Neopia!" the figure bellowed, raising his arms high into the air. "I have come to save you from the eight-legged menace that roams your city! I am Doctor Frank Sloth, and I am the only one the Spider Grundo fears!"

      "I don't like this," Kari whispered.

      "Look well, for I shall now vanquish the beast!" Sloth continued. He turned to face the Spider, who looked mournfully back at him. "Come to me," Sloth said. The Spider sighed and turned away. "I said COME!" Sloth snapped. The Spider did not reply. Sloth dropped his voice, but Kari was close enough to hear him say, "Come on, you pathetic monster! I created you, you must obey me!" Kari gasped in shock.

      The Spider rose up to its full height, which was indeed impressive. It turned slowly on the spot and looked directly at Sloth, who seemed to shrink a little. "Now, now, let's not get rash," the Doctor said nervously.

      "You are the monster," the Spider said in a voice that sounded like a rusty can. With that, he lunged towards Sloth, who screamed and hid his face in his great hands.

      But the strike never came. The Spider had stopped, and Sloth slowly opened his eyes to see a small Cloud Acara standing in front of him. He quickly straightened, smoothing his hair, and cleared his throat. "I knew he was too weak to attack," he said loudly, attempting a nonchalant laugh. The Spider growled and Sloth flinched.

      "The only reason I stopped the Spider from killing you," Kari said distastefully, "was because I didn't want any bloodshed in front of younger neopets." She gestured to the many Baby neopets in the crowd. "And besides," she added, "I rather think that one so pathetic hardly needs to be killed. To us, you are already dead." She turned to face him, and the Spider Grundo stood behind her. "Now go, and never return here again."

      Within seconds, Sloth had departed in his ship. The Spider Grundo looked down gently at Kari. "You need to go too," she told him, gently stroking one leg. He made a small cooing sound, and Kari smiled. "I know, but you still need to go back to where you came from. You don't belong here." She got an idea. "I know!"

      Moments later, the Spider was on his way to Kreludor. He would be able to live freely there. As his ship disappeared into the sky, Kari looked up at it, wrapped in the tight embrace of her owner. "I'll miss him," she said.

      "I know you will, sweetie," Missy said, giving her Acara an extra squeeze. "I know you will."

The End

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