Sloth and the Salesman
Doctor Sloth sat hunched over a crisp new set of blueprints, his Grundo scientists having assured him that this was the pinnacle of their combined efforts. With this new piece of machinery and this particular plan of attack that his strategists had spent weeks devising to go along with it, total Neopian domination was nearly inevitable.
He had tuned out their disclaimers about the “quality of parts” and “unforeseen challenges,” as well as their attempts to pass off any potential (and likely, it seemed) failure on the strategists just as he had tuned out the strategists claiming that absolutely nothing about their plan could go wrong, unless, of course, those fools down in engineering and development failed to deliver a sound product.... He had long since come to the conclusion that his workers were incompetent, and resolved to review each piece of a potential invasion plan himself. After all, he was a genius, and good help was so hard to find....
He spun toward the door with a glare. The ‘whoosh’ sound of the parts sliding open had announced the presence of an unwanted and unauthorized visitor, at whom he glared intently. The unfortunate Grundo scientist, small even for his species and particularly scrawny, wrung his hands in discomfort. Stringy brown hair fell over his goggles as he directed his gaze toward the floor. A green Blumaroo in a brown suit stood on his tail beside him.
“F-forgive me, Doctor Sloth, your evil greatness, sir, but this gentleman said he had an appointment....”
Doctor Sloth rose to his full, intimidating height as the Grundo cowered and shook even more.
“Did I say I had any appointments today?”
“W-well, no, sir, but....”
“And were there any appointments scheduled on my calendar?”
“Then get out! ”
“Y-yes, sir! Right away, sir! I’m sorry, sir!”
The Grundo scurried away, yet the Blumaroo remained balancing there. The dictator raised a threatening eyebrow at him. Undeterred, the Blumaroo bounced forward.
“Well, Slothy, I see I was right to come here! You definitely need the help of my services.”
“What services?” Sloth inquired, punctuating each word in an obvious warning.
Again, the Blumaroo ignored it.
“Why, public image, of course! PR! Stanley B. Ready, at your service. I’m here to help you be the best Sloth you can be! And, as I said, I should have come ages ago.”
“PR?” Sloth repeated, confused. “Why on Neopia should I care about my public relations? I’m trying to dominate those scuttling little insects, not host a feel-good rally!”
Stanley shook his head, an amused, pitying smile on his face.
“Slothy, baby, that’s not what I’m talking about! Of course you don’t want to make them feel good. You’re an evil genius, a would-be dictator, I get that. No, what you want to do is inspire fear, terror, abject groveling!”
A slow smile appeared on the Doctor’s lips as he listened to the words. Yes, he did relish the thought of terrified Neopians bowing before him, pleading for mercy he didn’t plan to give. His delightful daydream was interrupted by the insistent, nasal voice of Stanley B. Ready, once again on his pitch. The man reminded him of a rather persistent and annoying mozito, assuming the mozito had also gotten into selling second-hand “guaranteed!” Virtupets technology. The urge to swat him was great, but the urge to bask in the terror and servitude of others was greater. He let him speak.
“Exactly! I can see the idea appeals to you. Of course it does! What would-be evil conqueror wouldn’t find it appealing? It’s practically part of the job! In fact, I think it is. Probably on page 32 of the handbook or something. Wouldn’t quite know myself, not being an evil genius, but it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Now here’s the thing, Slothy. Can I call you ‘Slothy?’” he asked, taking a pause in his massive dialogue to ask the question.
Did the man NEVER stop talking?
It appeared not, because he didn’t even allow Sloth the time to interject with a ‘No, you absolutely may not!’ before continuing again. For a moment, he considered putting the man on his payroll. With Stanley in his employ, he wouldn’t even need all this blasted technology. He could just have him talk at the people of Neopia and they’d be clamoring to surrender to him. Anything to make him stop.
“Anyway, Slothy, the thing is, the whole point of my visit, is that Neopets just aren’t scared of you.”
This brought Sloth up short. He thought he had been doing a marvelous job of cultivating the evil, horrifying bad guy image.
“No, they’re not. Let me ask you this: The last time you ran into a Neopet that didn’t work for you, did they appear frightened? Or did they laugh in your face? Did you get some punk kid or two telling you they could beat you up in the battledome with one paw tied behind their back?”
He took the dictator’s thoughtful frown as confirmation.
“You see? It’s all like this, all over the place. And who can blame them? I mean honestly, what sort of terrifying evil genius appears in a puff of smoke, hands them a present, and disappears while laughing maniacally? Who’s supposed to be frightened of a guy that gives out presents, and not just any presents, but valuable presents? Let’s face it; you’re like a Santa Claus who failed his lesson in ‘ho ho ho’s. You’ve even got the ‘bowl full of jelly’ thing beginning to go on. Not that I’m saying you’re fat, you understand,” he assured him, never pausing for breath. “I’m sure you look as wonderful as you ever have, but the point remains. Even my sister’s baby pet wouldn’t be afraid of you. He’s more afraid of the monster under his bed, if you know what I’m saying!”
He chuckled with a smirk as he finally paused. Doctor Sloth narrowed his eyes in consideration. Finally he nodded.
“Very well. I will listen to what you have to say.”
“Excellent!” The Blumaroo held out an arm in a friendly invitation as he moved toward the door. “Walk with me; talk with me.”
Baffled to the point of compliance, Sloth followed. The two passed into a busy computer room, walls and walls of the massive expanse covered by the gleaming, flashing surfaces as nothing but the frantic sound of typing and the hum of over-worked cooling fans filled the air.
“Would you look at all this technology?” Stanley marveled. “Bet it costs a fortune to maintain and expand.”
“It does,” Sloth confirmed.
“And I bet each new invasion plan, from the planning stages to the actual building of the pieces required is even more expensive. One of the major pitfalls I see every day with things like this is that companies just don’t have the money to fund their extravagant projects. So what do you say, Slothy? Money a little tight?”
“Well, we were going to have a fundraiser for that....” he replied, a little sheepishly.
“And that’s what I’m saying! Somebody’s got their wires crossed somewhere. Miscommunication! Think about it; how’s a company that’s tight on money supposed to get anywhere giving expensive potions away? Do you know how much those things go for on the market? Especially those Draik and Krawk trans-es you hand out. You’ve given away a fortune! Literally, a fortune! And what if those pets decide to save the money they get from those potions for a counter-attack? What then? You’re giving your resources away to the enemy!”
That was true.... Perhaps he ought to reevaluate that practice. Pets didn’t seem to be as afraid of mutants anymore.... And he could use the money. Invasion taxes aside, he could do with an extra billion here or there.
“And that’s not the only problem you’ve got with this operation,” Stanley continued, waving his arms around enthusiastically as they walked.
“No! Look at these minions.” He gestured in front of them at the furiously typing and scurrying personnel. “No organization is going to succeed if it doesn’t have happy, talented minions! I mean, where are their benefits, their opportunities? You there!”
Stanley pointed to a hapless Grundo with a long, auburn pony-tail and round-rimmed glasses the size of her head. Those same glasses seemed to magnify her widening eyes to an impossibly comical degree as she realized she had been singled out. She clutched her clipboard to her chest.
“Y-yes? May I help you? G-good day, Mr. Sloth- DOCTOR Sloth!- your horribleness, sir.”
“Yes, you can help us, actually,” Stanley continued. “How do you like working here? Are you happy?”
She glanced between the newcomer and her boss uncertainly before replying in a too-eager tone.
“Oh, y-yes, sir, very happy. Couldn’t be happier, in fact. I can’t imagine a place I’d rather work. C-could I get back to it, please? That is, if it’s OK with you, Doctor Sloth!”
Stanley waved her away dismissively and she smiled in weak gratitude before rushing across the room.
“You see? Terrified. Low job satisfaction, non-existent morale,” he asserted, ignoring her words and pouncing on the emotion behind them.
Sloth raised an eyebrow in dizzy confusion. Hadn’t she just said she was perfectly content? After all, he wouldn’t stand for anything else, and they all knew it! How Stanley could get from one thing to the other, jump to new topics like the wind, and never stop talking was a mystery to him.
“What are you talking about? She said she was perfectly happy here.”
“Well of course she did! What is she gonna say, ‘No, I hate my job. I’m miserable, and my boss is a real tyrant?’”
He snorted a little at his own joke. Sloth did not appear to find it amusing.
They continued walking, passing through a second control room, past the planning room, through the machining section, and finally to the holding cells. Stanley shook his head and made comments all along the way. His host’s expression was growing sourer and more irritated the longer he talked, yet, as usual, the Blumaroo was blissfully oblivious. They stopped in front of an open cell as Stanley raised himself up as high as he could on his tail, attempting to look Sloth in the eyes and strike a business deal.
“But like I said when I came in, that’s not your main problem. Money, morale, those can all be fixed with minor restructuring. Your real problem is your image, and that’s why I’m here. You’ve got to convince the citizens of Neopia that you’re scary again! That you’re a threat not to be taken lightly! Come on, scare me.”
Without saying a word, Sloth snapped his fingers. A massive Skeith guard came rushing to his side, nearly tripping over himself in his discomforted haste. A long, green finger pointed to the bouncing Blumaroo, and the guard nodded, grabbing Stanley by the arm and throwing him into the cell. He then shut and locked the door, at which Sloth nodded. The guard returned to his post.
“Ya see, that’s what I’m talking about! Good old imprisonment! No mincing words, just straight into the cell. Bread and water, long-term incarceration, the fear of never seeing family and friends again; brilliant! Now if you can just do things like this more regularly in your interactions with the people of Neopia, I think you’ll be well on your way to scaring the pants off every man, woman, and child again.”
“You will remain here until or if I decide I need you,” Sloth declared, a cool, triumphant look on his face.
“Ooh, brilliant! Amazing! The forceful threat, the cold, uncompromising tone! Gave me shivers.”
The naïve smile melted slowly off the Blumaroo’s face as Sloth began to leave, nodding once again at the guard stationed by the door.
“Uh, Slothy, you seem to have forgotten something.”
He walked out the door.
He sat quietly in his cell and pondered the floor.
Finally he lifted his head and declared, “I should have seen that coming.”
A moment later, with a tearful catch in his throat, he added, “I’m so proud!”