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Agent of the Sway: Isolation - Part One


by herdygerdy

--------

12 Years Ago...

The recreation deck offered impressive views of Neopia. Grimilix liked to come there, and stare down at the planet. Back when Dr. Sloth had been in control of the station, there hadn't been time for such luxuries - as a programmer in Sloth's army, the little grey Grundo was given little free time. The station itself hadn't been the kind of place you had wanted to relax in either. It had felt more like a prison than anything else.

      But things were different now. Sloth had been removed from the station, his fleet scattered, and the doctor himself banished to the edge of the system in defeat. The resistance, headed by war veteran Commander Valka, were busy cleaning up the station. Slowly, they were unlocking the doctor's secrets. Only, Grimilix knew a lot. Some secrets should not be shared. Some of the things Sloth had been working on did not bare thinking about.

      A low cough interrupted Grimilix from his thoughts, and he jumped a good few inches off the ground in shock. There was a new figure stood behind him - a brown Kougra.

      "Grimilix, we have need of your services," the figure said.

      The Grundo did not need to ask who 'we' happened to be. He had the misfortune of working for the Sway once before. He had hoped it would be the last time.

      "Follow me," the Kougra instructed.

      Disobedience was rarely an option. Even when it was, that was because they wanted it to be. Grimilix fell into step behind the Kougra.

      "We require access to one of Dr. Sloth's projects," the Kougra said as they walked. "We believe there was active development onboard the station just prior to his invasion of Tyrannia a couple of years ago. The results were mixed, we believe the project was abandoned at that point."

      "I don't know every single project he worked on," Grimilix supplied, hoping against hope that the excuse would somehow stop this from going any further.

      He knew it was pointless. The Sway would not come to him unless they already knew he had the information. This was a formality, the conversation scripted long before the Kougra even reached the station.

      "You will know this one," the Kougra stated. "It was regarding time travel."

      Grimilix stopped following.

      "That's a dangerous project," he whispered. "You can't have access to that."

      "Don't whisper, Grimilix," the Kougra said curtly. "It draws attention. Follow me."

      Grimilix once again fell into line.

      "Besides," he added, "The project was a failure. It only produced a reliable method of teleportation, as far as I recall. Time travel required a pre-existing anomaly to be used properly, and those are rare and unpredictable. Sloth declared the project a failure after Tyrannia - the records were sealed."

      "We know," the Kougra replied. "We have already tried remote access. Which is why we came to you. We need you to unseal them."

      "I can't," Grimilix said, happy that he may be freed from his part in this scheme. "I don't have that authority. Only Sloth and a few of his high ranking officials can unlock those files."

      "We believe there may be an alternative solution," the Kougra said. "Would a system wide reboot work?"

      Grimilix paused. "No. Not entirely. Yes, it would free up files, but you'd still need Sloth's signature to access them directly. You'd need some sort of personal project hooked up to the..."

      Grimilix realised he'd said too much, but it was too late.

      "Go on," the Kougra said with a smile.

      "Sloth had a personal project, an AI he was planning to roll out as the basis for robot Neopets, to replace normal Neopians," Grimilix explained. "He called it Neopet V2. He took a bit of a dislike to it in the end and shut it down, but it is still on the station and theoretically its still hooked up to the system. Reactivating it with a system reboot might give you the access you need."

      "Excellent," the Kougra said. "I knew we were right coming to you. The Neopet V2 console, do you know where it is located?"

      Grimilix gave a little sigh, "Yes. Yes, I do."

     ***

      Clayton Moore had only been to the Virtupets space station once in his life, during the battle to save Neopia against Sloth. It had been the Kougra's first mission for the Sway.

      A lot had changed since then. For one, he had become a fully fledged member of the Sway. Now he walked with more confidence than he ever had done before. With access to the Sway's records, he had learned so much of Neopia's hidden history, of the lands that were sealed away - that the Duchess, in time, would reveal once more to the public.

      That was why they were there, the Duchess had claimed. The Sway required the technology Dr. Sloth had been working on before he fled, to reclaim the glory of ages past.

      The station too had changed. The service corridors had once been patrolled by fearsome robots and mutant Grundos. The patrols were still there, but now they were under orders from Commander Valka of the resistance, and they were much easier to avoid.

      Clayton slipped down from the array of pipes along the ceiling, glancing back towards the patrolling Mynci to make sure his descent had not been noticed. Stalking through the shadows, the Kougra approached a nearby door, using Grimilix's keycard to unlock it.

      Inside, a non-descript storeroom greeted him. It was dusty, filled with shelves of strange sculptures and empty bottles. To the untrained eye, there was nothing of note inside. The resistance had clearly thought so, as the dust had not been disturbed recently. If not for Grimilix, the Sway might have passed this room without note just the same.

      But there, in the corner, was the prize he was looking for. A small monitor screen like any other onboard the station. Dead.

      But not for long.

      Clayton took out a small radio.

      "I am in position," he whispered.

      "Excellent," came the curt response.

      It was Duke Hopesmeade, the Wocky that Clayton was working with on this mission.

      "We shall proceed as discussed," the voice added. "Cutting power now."

      A moment later, the lights in the small storeroom went out. It took a few moments before the emergency lightning flicked back on and the sirens began to wail out in the corridor.

      Hopesmeade had just destroyed one of the main power coils in the depths of the station. Clayton listened as the heavy footfalls outside marked the Mynci as rushing off to investigate. Every trooper on the station would be heading towards Hopesmeade's location. Clayton hoped he would be able to get out in time.

      The lights flicked back to their normal hue above Clayton. The other power coils had compensated for the power loss - the system was now rebooting. They had two minutes while the system was vulnerable, Clayton had to work fast.

      He leaned forwards, inputting Grimilix's programming codes to the derelict monitor. They should be enough to reactivate any Virtupets program. The screen flicked to life, acid green text flashing across the screen.

      HI...

      I'M READY FOR MY FIRST LESSON...

      HELLO...

      DON'T YOU WANT TO PLAY WITH ME?

      DOCTOR...

      ...

      DON'T YOU WANT TO PLAY WITH ME?

      There was a character at the top of the screen, like some basic two dimensional Chia. Was this Neopet V2?

      Clayton had no time to wonder. He began to type into the console.

      ACCESS: PROJECT CHRONOMOBILE

      The flicking code paused, as if the thing was thinking.

      PROJECT CHRONOMOBILE IS SEALED DOCTOR...

      Clayton sighed, time was ticking away.

      UNSEAL PROJECT CHRONOMOBILE

      Again the AI seemed to think about the command.

      PROJECT CHRONOMOBILE UNSEALED...

      Clayton smiled.

      ACCESS PROJECT CHRONOMOBILE

      Images and diagrams at once flicked across the screen. Neopet V2 was dumping all the data into his monitor at once. There was no way Clayton would be able to sort through all this before the security protocols came back online.

      TRANSFER FILES TO TERMINAL IN DOCKING BAY A-3

      The assault of images stopped, replaced instead with the flicking code.

      TRANSFER COMPLETE, DOCTOR, HAVE A GOOD DAY...

      Just in time. The code on the monitor spluttered. The security protocols were back online, and Neopet V2 was being forced to reboot.

      HI...

      I'M READY FOR MY FIRST LESSON...

      HELLO...

      DON'T YOU WANT TO PLAY WITH ME?

      DOCTOR...

      ...

      DON'T YOU WANT TO PLAY WITH ME?

      The words bloomed back to life across the screen. Neopet V2 was none the wiser of what had just happened. Clayton smirked, turning and leaving the machine.

      ***

      Hopesmeade was waiting in the hangar when Clayton arrived. The green Wocky was decked out as ever in his finest suit, sticking out like a sore thumb but somehow managing to melt into the shadows at the same time. The calling card of the Sway - they were there when they wanted to be, but invisible when they wanted to disappear.

      "I've downloaded the information," Hopesmeade said, gesturing to the terminal behind him. "It appears Dr. Sloth was closer to completion than we knew. We should be able to make a working model within a few weeks from these plans."

      "Excellent," Clayton agreed. "Back to Neopia Central then?"

      "For you, yes," Hopesmeade said with a nod. "I however will be taking a different course. There has been a complication."

      Clayton could only supply a quizzical look.

      "Neopet V2 does not have full access to the entire station, but it appears to have retained access to certain key internal systems," Hopesmeade explained. "There's just been a report that four children have been sealed inside one of the stations lifts - they have a finite air supply, and Neopet V2 appears to be holding them hostage in the hopes they will become his friends. I think we can now see why the Doctor turned the thing off."

      "I left it on..." Clayton gasped.

      "You could not have done otherwise," Hopesmeade stated. "Sloth's projects only require one programmer's access codes to activate, but four to deactivate. Dr. Sloth has already issued a message - the AI requires ten deactivation codes to shut down. Four of his programmers between them hold eight of these codes, while Neopet V2 itself holds the final two. I will remain on the station and assist the resistance covertly in finding these codes."

      "You don't want me to stay and help?" Clayton asked.

      "No," Hopesmeade insisted. "The Duchess will require the plans for the Chronomobile as soon as possible. I will able to cope with this assignment by myself, do not fear."

      Clayton nodded. It was best not to argue with Duke Hopesmeade, the Wocky got what he wanted one way or another.

      Instead, he took the data chip containing the plans from the Duke, and boarded the shuttle back to Neopia.

To be continued...

 
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