Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Three
Or else. As if there was anything Sloth could do that would
be worse than that modified many-legged monstrosity. For a brief moment Flingon
considered fleeing the Space Station and going into hiding- but what would be
the point? Sloth knew how to deal with renegades- all it would take was a bug
in the right person's ear that Flingon had once worked for Sloth, and everywhere
he went Flingon would be a fugitive. He wouldn't last long with all of Neopia
on the lookout; as an alien Aisha he was hopelessly recognizable. Flingon lowered
his eyes. "Yes, sir." The trembling Aisha didn't look up again until the sudden
darkness in the room told him that Sloth had signed off. A few thoughts drifted
listlessly through his mind, like twigs on a river nearly consumed by drought.
One hour. Maybe if he could get the code in that time, Sloth would let him off
the hook. But not very likely. Once that sadistic tyrant had the idea of a spider
show in his head, he wasn't liable to deny himself such pleasure.
Flingon pushed himself out of his chair and
trudged over to the door. Just before leaving, though, he allowed his eyes to
travel around the room in which he had spent most of the last month. He wouldn't
miss the place. He hated it more than anything else he knew of, except maybe
Sloth. Last of all he glanced up at the screen, and wasn't at all surprised
to see that the coordinates Sloth had sent him indicated the hidden ship. Sloth
would want to accompany him to the Spider Grundo's web, just to watch him tremble.
A cruel smile twisted Sloth's ugly face as he
watched Flingon's small vessel decloak only a couple miles away from the port
side of the large, looming ship. His eyes followed the tiny shuttle until it
swung out of his line of vision, then with a snap of his fingers he summoned
a pair of hulking mutant Grundos who had been waiting silently in a corner.
"Report to the docking bay and escort the prisoner to the captive transport
vessel, then return to your usual stations." Turning to a smaller, more timid-looking
blue Grundo, he added, "Have Rorn and Konar meet us there."
The three Grundos nodded. "Yes, sir."
Every eye in the now-repressurized docking bay
was fixed upon the shuttle that had just landed, but Flingon had no intention
of going out to meet them until he absolutely had to. Scanning the room from
his position in the cockpit, he was not surprised to see that the Captive Transport
Vessel was in takeoff position, its gleaming black nose pointed toward the doors.
The minutes dragged slowly by, then Flingon's eyes were drawn to a pair of mutant
Grundos lumbering in his direction with a purposeful look in their eyes. Well,
there was nothing for it now- he might as well walk as much of the distance
to the CTV as he could before they got there. Flingon unbuckled himself and
exited the shuttlecraft, managing to make it halfway to the CTV before he felt
a strong hand around each arm, dragging him forward. These mutants seemed to
take pleasure in demonstrating their strength on smaller Neopets.
It wasn't often that Flingon said anything that
might start a fight, but since he was about to die anyway he thought he might
as well. "I can walk, you know. If you must accompany me, you may follow at
A couple of the staff members chuckled nervously
and were silenced by threatening glances from Flingon's escorts, but most of
them simply stared at him in shock. The Grundos hesitated, and Flingon looked
around him, enjoying the effect of his words in spite of the situation.
"Looks like four-eyes finally grew some guts!"
Flingon turned to stare coldly at Boloro, a
small blue JubJub with a larger-than-life attitude. Most people on the station
left the plucky puffball alone after what had happened a few days after Boloro
joined Sloth's forces. Tando, a Moehog who enjoyed bullying others, had tried
to tease Boloro, calling him a bug-eyed little pompom. Boloro had responded
by lunging forward and bowling Tando's legs out from under him, sending him
tumbling into a garbage disposal Unit.
But Flingon, emboldened by the effect of his
last retort, replied in an icy voice, "My name is Flingon, and in case you haven't
noticed, these four things are ears, not eyes." Flingon didn't wear glasses,
but a lot of people, both here and on the Virtupets station, called him four-eyes;
another way of saying 'computer geek'.
Boloro's dark eyes narrowed, and suddenly he
tumbled forward, aiming for Flingon's feet. But the mutant Grundos still hadn't
released their prisoner's arms, and at the last moment Flingon raised his feet,
allowing Boloro to pass beneath them and slam headlong into the sturdy ankle
of one of the towering mutants. This time the round of chuckles was louder,
and as Boloro staggered away, dazed by the unexpectedly solid impact, even Flingon
felt the beginnings of a smile. At least now he wasn't going to go out like
All heads swiveled to the source of the cry,
and all eyes stared tensely as Sloth picked himself up off the ground, his eyes
blazing with wrath. "You fuzzy lump of space trash!" he bellowed. "Get out of
my way!" With that, he aimed a tremendous kick at the JubJub, who had tripped
him in the process of staggering toward the exit. Boloro jumped out of the way
just in time, then backed off to a respectful distance.
At the sight of his dreaded master, Flingon's
sassiness fled as suddenly as it had come, and he felt the familiar chill of
fear clawing at his chest. Then he was moving again, as the Grundos on either
side dragged him suddenly forward to forestall Sloth's rebuke.
"Lerox! Lerox, wake up! Lerox!"
Lerox rolled back over with a low, sleepy "Mmmmf,"
and Tishka grabbed his Grundo stalks and used them to poke at his nose. The
young Grundo's eyes fluttered open, and he mumbled groggily, "Tishka, leave
me alone." There was only one thing left to do. Tishka grabbed one of the books
they had borrowed, plopped it down on Lerox's stomach, then grabbed his head
and yanked it up and forward so that he was facing the picture on the front.
At the sudden sharp movement Lerox's eyes flew open, and he found himself staring
into the gleaming blood-red eyes of the Spider Grundo. "WAAAGH!" It was not
a pretty thing to wake up to, and all traces of sleep fled on the instant. Lerox
sat bolt upright, then a look of comprehension crossed his face as he remembered
what they were going to do.
"Come on!" Tishka urged, already halfway out
the door. "Let's go!"
Lerox leapt out of bed, and slammed headlong
into Tishka when she suddenly froze. "Why did you stop? I thought you were in
"Weapons," Tishka replied. "I have a Cobrall
Dagger that Dad gave me- a souvenir from his battling days."
Lerox's face lit up. "And he gave me a Poison
Tipped Dagger! I'll go get it!"
"Meet me here." Tishka's spirits were high as
she dashed into her room and retrieved the weapon, but they suddenly sank as
she laid eyes on the cruel, gleaming blade. Sneaking, spying, fighting... it
was all totally against her nature. How could she possibly go through with this?
And what if she was wrong? What if she found
out that her new almost-friend really did enjoy his dark work? 'Maybe I should
just forget the whole thing' Tishka thought, and began to close the door to
her closet. But then she saw it again, as vividly as she had when she had crouched
fearfully in the darkness of the computer room: a terrified alien Aisha, and
the cruel look in Sloth's eyes as he pronounced a death sentence. She also remembered
the look on Flingon's face when he went to answer the transmission she had watched;
and she knew, beyond any doubt, that if she backed out of this now those visions
would haunt her for the rest of her life. She could only imagine the questions
that would run through her head; she could hear them as clearly now as if the
deed were already done. What must it have been like in those last few hours,
when the last echo of hope faded and he knew for certain that he was going to
die? Could he have somehow escaped on his own? Had anyone else cared enough
to help him? Was he still alive? Was there anything I could have done, if
only I had tried?
Resolve hardened in her heart, and with a firm
paw Tishka took the dagger by the hilt. The words which Lerox had spoken the
night before popped into her head, and her lips curved slowly into a smile as
she whispered them to herself: "Let's do it."
Tayna the Usul watched as two young Neopets
came shyly up to her: Tishka, who was mentally going over the words she had
prepared, and Lerox, who was trying to look innocent while hoping fervently
that the daggers they had hidden in the woods outside the ferry station wouldn't
be found. And that wasn't all they had to worry about: they had already knocked
on the door to Flingon's computer room, and tried the handle when no answer
came. The room had been empty, which had Tishka slightly worried. She had sent
Lerox to check in the men's bathroom, but that had been equally unsuccessful.
If plan C failed, Tishka knew exactly where Flingon would be, and she did not
like the idea of what she would have to do then.
"Welcome to the Virtupets Space Station. Is
there something I can do to help you?"
The prim, friendly voice of the Usul staff member
brought Tishka back to the present, and taking a deep breath she asked what
was probably the strangest question Tayna had heard in a very long time. "Do
you know where Mr. Flingon is?"
Tayna stared at the young Acara blankly. Ever
since he had come to the Space Station Flingon had spent most of his time locked
in a room with a warning sign on it, so how he and these two youngsters had
met was more than she could fathom. "Why do you want to know? And how do you
even know him?"
Tishka fidgeted, and fell back on plain truth.
"Lerox poked his head into the room where Flingon was working-"
"The whole world doesn't need to know," Lerox
interrupted with a scowl.
Tishka glared at him, then turned back to the
task at hand. "Anyway, Flingon went easy on us about it, and that's how we became...
um... acquainted. I'm not sure whether or not you could say 'friends'."
Tayna smiled slightly. She never would have
guessed that the computer-minded, somewhat shy and distant Aisha would be making
friends with children. But then she suddenly frowned. "I didn't see him leave,
but Ulanda there-" she gestured toward a pink Uni across the room- "she said
Flingon left at about quarter after ten. Apparently he looked very upset. Ulanda
asked him what was wrong, and he muttered something about having an appointment
in the Haunted Woods." With that she looked questioningly at the young siblings,
as if awaiting an explanation.
Tishka's heart sank. She knew exactly why he
had left, and the reason for his distress. "Thank you for your help," she said
politely, then turned away and began walking quickly back toward the Station's
docking port. "Have a nice day," she added over her shoulder, leaving Tayna
to stare after them, mystified.
As soon as they were out of sight of Tayna,
Tishka broke into a run. "Come on!" she called to Lerox as he struggled to keep
up with her. "There isn't much time!"
"So we really are gonna fight?" Lerox asked
eagerly, and Tishka wondered how long his childish confidence would last.
"It looks like we'll have to. Who would have
guessed a couple days ago that we'd be trying to save a Sloth minion?"
Lerox shook his head and grinned. "We are SO
The Lupe who was driving the ferry had looked
dubious when Tishka told him they wanted to be dropped off at the border of
the Haunted Woods, but he hadn't said anything and three quarters of a very
anxious hour later Tishka and Lerox sat in the dark shade of some spooky-looking
trees, watching the sky carefully. The plan was to see where Sloth landed, and
to follow him until they had a clear idea of what was going to happen. As they
waited and watched, Tishka fingered the handle of her dagger thoughtfully. The
Cobrall head's eyes stared back at her expressionlessly, and the small, slender
blade looked hopelessly inadequate when she thought of the lasers and ray guns
and who knew what else that Sloth and his soldiers would be carrying. She remembered
the story of the Space Faerie's victory over Sloth, and for a moment she wondered
whether she shouldn't send Lerox to try to hijack a shuttle from the Space Station
and try to find the elusive faerie. Tishka shook her head. The thought was ridiculous,
of course. Lerox didn't even know how to fly a shuttle, much less outmaneuver
any pursuers he might have. Besides, on a crazy mission like the one she was
about to try, she would need all the help she could get. Even from her bratty
"There it is!" Lerox leapt up, pointing.
"Get down!" Tishka hissed, pulling him behind
a tree. "Do you want us to be spotted?"
"No, actually I'm going for striped."
"Ugh! Do stripes from a whip mean anything to
you? Who knows what Sloth'll do if he catches us!"
The small, black ship sank lower, and Tishka
and Lerox both frowned. They had expected Sloth to land on the border of the
forest- but instead he seemed to be heading near to the center of it. The vessel
sank out of sight, Lerox and Tishka exchanged a glance, and together the determined
siblings raced off into the depths of the Haunted Woods.
Flingon sat in a corner through the entire trip,
staring at the wall. He wouldn't give Sloth the satisfaction of seeing the fear
in his eyes. Finally, the impact of landing shuddered through the shuttle, and
Flingon felt a set of pincers take him by each arm. Glancing listlessly up,
he saw the steely faces of Konar and Rorn, Rukis so stolid, cold and expressionless
that even Flingon, who was familiar with nearly all things mechanical, had once
mistaken them for very authentic-looking robots.
Flingon made no move to resist the two Rukis
as they followed Sloth out of the ship, and soon they were moving wordlessly
through the murky depths of the Haunted Woods. Now Flingon began to struggle.
He had been docile enough when surrounded by the cold, sterile ship interior
he was accustomed to, but now, with the gnarled branches of the trees seeming
to reach down toward him like greedy claws and the sinister darkness closing
in about him, the doomed Aisha felt a stab of panic penetrate his heart. No
matter how strong his Ruki escorts were, no matter how ruthless Sloth could
be in tracking down his former servants, somehow he had to escape.
But fighting proved to be hopelessly futile.
The Rukis held him at nearly arms length, so that if he tried to kick one or
the other he could only barely touch their legs, and with his own arms stretched
painfully to full length biting and head-butting were impossible. All he succeeded
in doing was rubbing his arms raw on their sharp pincers, but in his rising
terror he scarcely noticed the pain. And no matter how desperately he struggled
and squirmed, Rorn and Konar walked on like falling snow: without the slightest
sound or change.
Finally it loomed ahead of them, barely visible
in the gloom: long, sticky grey cords woven into a tangled snare. Sloth nodded
to Konar and Rorn, and with a movement so simultaneous that it must have been
rehearsed the two Rukis stepped toward the web, thrust their arms forward and
released their grip, sending Flingon staggering forward. The terrified alien
Aisha felt his right arm catch on something sticky, soft and yielding, but horribly
strong. He lurched backward with all the strength in his body, but the horrid
thing held firm. Looking down, Flingon felt his heart sink. His arm was stuck
fast to a long, sticky grey cord.
To be continued...