Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 123,710,650 Issue: 248 | 14th day of Swimming, Y8
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Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Six


by sarahleeadvent

--------

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 could.

      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 seemed troubled.

      "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...

 
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Other Episodes


» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part One
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Two
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Three
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Four
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Five
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Seven
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Eight



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