Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Six
As soon as he laid eyes on his former servant, Sloth decided
that Flingon was both brilliant and a total idiot. He had outmaneuvered Brahn,
who was a trained fighter pilot, but here he was now, standing brazenly in front
of Sloth with his arms folded across his chest and no weapon in sight. Sloth leveled
his ray gun at the flinty Aisha's chest, but Flingon seemed to have expected that
and he made no move to acknowledge his dire peril. That bothered Sloth, more than
he liked to admit. Conventional, obvious counterattacks were what Sloth liked
dealing with; negating them with fresh, brilliant, and unprecedented assaults
gave him no end of pleasure. But this... this calm immobility with no move whatsoever
to respond to Sloth's silent threat... it was beyond the tyrant's experience.
His first impulse was to fry Flingon on the spot, but he hesitated, stymied by
uncertainty. This was a trap. It had to be a trap. Why else would Flingon throw
away his life when he had just worked so hard to save it?
The silence was getting uncomfortable, and Sloth
could feel the eyes of his servants on the back of his head. They were all watching
while he hesitated. Narrowing his eyes and prodding Flingon's chest with his
ray gun (and feeling very disconcerted when the Aisha made no move) Sloth inwardly
shook his head and sneered, "You enjoy a hopeless position, don't you? Have
you changed your mind about the Spider Grundo?"
Only a brief flicker in Flingon's eyes betrayed
the fear that tugged at his heart: fear that had become so deeply ingrained
in him by months of constant dread. "No, I have not- although you had better
change your mind about shooting me. I warn you, if you do, the consequences
will be severe."
Sloth threw back his head and laughed. "Oh,
really?" he scoffed. "What are you going to do- unleash your little minions
on me? Ha!"
His silent opponent said nothing, and Sloth,
his cockiness growing with the certainty that there was nothing to fear, stepped
forward and pushed Flingon hard, knocking him to the ground. During the course
of the aerial fight the two vessels had cleared the Haunted Woods and shot out
over the golden sands of the Lost Desert, and now Sloth smiled as he felt the
sand crunch beneath his feet. It would be very difficult for Flingon to dodge
rapid fire while running across such loose, shifting terrain. Flingon picked
himself up and began quietly dusting the sand off of his crisp, white, professional-looking
outfit (which was beginning to look rather scruffy), but Sloth knocked him down
again. "Look at you!" the large tyrant scoffed. "You're as helpless as a baby
Pteri! I might as well just kill you now." Flingon's eyes widened as Sloth once
again raised his weapon, and the evil scientist smiled with pleasure at this
small display of fear. Now that was what he liked to see.
Tishka's eyes narrowed and her small paws moved
toward the controls. Lerox glanced at her anxiously. "Do you think everybody's
far enough away?"
Her blue eyes flashing, Tishka growled, "I don't
care. I'm not going to just sit here and watch while they treat Flingon that
way." Sloth had just knocked Flingon down for the second time.
Lerox couldn't help but think this was an odd
switch; usually he would have been the first to do what Tishka was doing, but
now he held back. "He said to wait until they were clear."
Tishka hesitated, but only for a moment. Lerox's
eyes widened- he too saw what his sister was staring at: the ray gun, poised
in Sloth's hand.
The sound of energy discharge shook the air
and Flingon closed his eyes, bracing himself for the searing pain of complete
disintegration. He had been afraid this would happen- the possibility that he
might not be able to draw Sloth and his minions far enough away from their ship
before they killed him had made maintaining his steel horribly difficult, and
now it became impossible. The thought flashed through his mind: 'Can Tishka
and Lerox pilot that thing by themselves?' and his heart sank. The children
would watch helplessly as he died, and probably forget what they needed to do.
Then Sloth would get them for sure. Another moment passed, and Flingon couldn't
help but think it was taking an awfully long time for the laser beam to reach
his body. The cornered Aisha opened his eyes. There was his former master, his
face covered with soot, staring in shock at the charred mess in his hand. 'How
did THAT happen?'
Lerox gave a smug grin of triumph, and Tishka
playfully punched his arm. "Way to go, Lerox!" she congratulated the beaming
Grundo. "Where did you learn to shoot like that?"
Lerox laughed. "The boss battle simulator. It's
the best game I've ever found in an arcade."
Tishka stared at him for a moment, then burst
out laughing. "I'll have to try it sometime. But for now, let's see you do it
to the shuttle!"
"You said you wanted to try it." Lerox said,
backing away from the controls.
Tishka shook her head. Here they were, firing
at Sloth's own personal transport, and they were acting like two baby pets in
an arcade. But she had to admit she was enjoying this.
A few seconds later, Sloth whirled around in
panic as his shuttlecraft burst into flames.
The tyrant's head was spinning. The whole world
seemed to shrink toward that one all-consuming point: the hot desert sky...
the burning golden sand... and in the centre of all was his shuttle, entombed
in dancing flames. Wrath ignited in his heart, and whirling around Sloth prepared
to fling himself at Flingon, his hands itching to clamp around the offending
Aisha's neck. But Flingon was no longer there. Glancing around in painfully
obvious bewilderment, Sloth zeroed in on the CTV just in time to see Flingon
scramble aboard. Sloth sprinted forward, heedless of all but his fury. He was
gaining on Flingon. Any second now that insolent little fool would be his...
FWOOSH! Sloth was blasted backward and sent
sprawling heels over head as the CTV took off, and as he lay prone on the ground
he could feel hot air pummeling his face. The feeling eased, and Sloth opened
his eyes. There was the CTV, hovering two dozen feet above the ground. Rolling
over in preparation to get up, Sloth felt something hard underneath his elbow,
and snatching it up impatiently he stared at it for a moment. The small hard
thing was his portable communicator, and the green light in the upper-left corner
showed that it still worked. Sloth's face grew grim. His plans were far from
ready, and haste at this point was dangerous, but now he had no choice. He had
to act before he was revealed. Mashing the 'talk' button, Sloth said, "The Kadoatie
is out of the bag. It's time to make our move."
The Grundo on the ship was beginning to think
his master was one engine short of a starship. "Sir?"
Sloth was ready to explode. "The assault ships!
The ambush! The army! Yes, I know they're not ready, but send them, and do it
NOW! It's time to take this planet, once and for all!"
Tishka watched anxiously as Flingon's paws danced
over the controls, telling the computer to scan for any sign that Sloth was
making a move. The Aisha techie didn't seem at all sure of himself- he had Sloth
cornered, but he was still reluctant to open fire in spite of the events of
the last couple of minutes, and he wasn't certain what the trapped tyrant would
do in such a situation.
"So what do we do now?" the young Acara asked.
'Oh, please don't say "I don't know"!'
"I'm going to send a message to the Defenders
of Neopia headquarters. They at least need to be warned. I'm not sure how much
time we have before Sloth does something drastic."
"Like what?" Tishka wanted to know, and as she
watched her friend's face she could see the battle going on. To shoot or not
to shoot? Sloth's death would probably save hundreds of lives, but to kill a
cornered person in cold blood...
"I don't know. That's why I want to put this
in someone else's hands- someone with more experience and... objectivity. Someone
who can do what needs to be done, without wondering if he's doing something
wrong. I have no practise at being a defender and making these kinds of decisions."
"I think we should go there ourselves," Lerox
suddenly said. "We can show them the pictures we took."
Flingon stared hard at the young Grundo, and
Tishka could see that wheels were turning in his head. "So there was more to
your visit yesterday than you wanted me to know."
Tishka studied the floor, then told Flingon
everything that had happened since Lerox had first peeked into the forbidden
room. When Tishka had finished, Flingon remained silent and thoughtful for a
long moment, turning the story over in his mind.
Finally he tapped the controls, attempting to
open a channel to the DoN headquarters while he spoke. "The pictures were a
good idea, but somebody needs to keep an eye on Sloth." The alien Aisha sighed,
then turned to look the younger Neopets in the eye. "You two are even braver
than I thought. Many people in adventure stories simply find themselves in the
middle of things, but you both CHOSE to get involved. I hope you don't end up
paying for it."
Tishka glanced up at him, her blue eyes wide
with concern. "And what about you?" she asked. "Are you going to be all right?
I mean, watching Sloth knock you around back there..." Tishka allowed her voice
to trail off, feeling that Flingon could finish the sentence as well as she
To be honest, Flingon didn't see why she was
so worried about his brief encounter with Sloth. He had left the CTV expecting
much worse than a few taunts and a couple shoves. But then two mental pictures
appeared before his eyes: Tishka standing quietly while Sloth jabbed a ray gun
at her chest, and Lerox hitting the sand. Suddenly it didn't seem so minor anymore,
and Flingon realized just how much it would bother him if he had to sit back
and watch while one of his friends was mistreated.
"I'm fine," he reassured his protective young
friend. "I've survived worse." The moment the words were out of his mouth he
regretted them, for now Tishka looked more anxious than ever, and even Lerox
"Do you mean aside from or referring to the
Spider Grundo?" the Acara asked tensely.
Flingon was greatly tempted to say 'referring
to', but he knew that wasn't entirely true, and he also knew how much he would
hate it if Lerox or Tishka kept something like that from him. After all they
had done for him, he wanted them to feel free to ask for his help, and he felt
that this openness ought to start with him.
The incident which had been most present in
Flingon's mind when he said he had survived worse was not as severe as the ordeal
he had endured in the Haunted Woods, but it wasn't pleasant either. It had happened
several years ago, just after Sloth had failed in yet another attempt to take
over Neopia. His foul temper blazing so fiercely that he probably would have
gone insane if he hadn't been so already, Sloth had stalked through the ship
in a rage, whip in hand, ready to fly at the first living thing he saw... which
happened to be Flingon. The terrified Aisha had been obliged to flee for dear
life while Sloth followed hard on his heels, screaming curses and threats. After
a horrible three quarters of an hour Flingon had collapsed from exhaustion;
and Sloth, skidding to a halt, had hit him a couple times before stalking off,
his wrath and energy finally spent. Flingon lay as he had fallen until he could
rally the strength to rise, then limped back to his quarters, crumpled into
his bed and lay tossing and whimpering in the taloned grip of a nightmare for
the rest of the night. He had been deathly afraid of even the slightest infraction
ever since that day.
No other handy target presented itself, so Tishka
settled for slamming her fist down on the armrest. Over on her right, Lerox
did the same, so vehemently that the armrest nearly broke off. "I hate this!"
he burst out, his voice shaking with anger. Flingon stared at him open-mouthed,
stunned by the young Grundo's violent reaction to his story. Lerox, not noticing
his new friend's surprise, continued: "I hate knowing stuff like that happened,
and not being able to do anything about it!" Glancing out the window at the
furiously pacing Sloth, he added, "Whatever it is that we're going to do about
Sloth, can't we hurry up and do it?"
To be continued...