The Alien Aisha Avenger and Orp the Oracular, Vol. 1
There is gravity on the moon. This comes as a surprise to many Neopians. There's less gravity on the moon than there is on the planet Neopia, but gravity is still there. It's considered a shock, and to some, an unacceptable anomaly, even as those naysayers don't give a second thought to the Neocola machine being firmly planted on, and somewhat in, the ground.
Not too far away from the Necola machine is Cafe Kreludor, and not far away from that is what at first appears to be a nondescript building. It's somewhat small, and there's a dome on top of the building with a telescope. It's pointed directly at the Kreludan Mining Corp, or more specifically S750 Kreludan Defender Robot. The building is suddenly a lot less nondescript.
It piqued a tourist's interest. The tourist, a shadow Grarrl, headed to the building with a healthy amount of trepidation. He wasn't the cowardly type, but the inhabitants of a building which allowed for spying on the old mining tunnels probably had some issues.
The Alien Aisha Avenger
and Orp the Oracular
It was all the plaque on the door offered. The Grarrl wondered briefly if this Alien Aisha Avenger and Orp the Oracular were once Defenders of Neopia, but dismissed the thought. Surely they wouldn't retire and then just go to Kreludor to do the same work.
He shifted uneasily.
He raised his hand to knock, but before he could do so, he heard a voice.
"What?" said a second voice as he entered.
"There was someone at the door."
"Maybe next time," the second voice said, "you could mention that before you invite him in!"
The Grarrl stood in the foyer as the owners of the two voices rounded a corner. He peered at them curiously. They were, as expected, an alien Aisha and an Orp.
"Hi," said the Orp. "I'm the Alien Aisha Avenger."
The Aisha stared. The Grarrl blinked.
"But you're an Orp."
"Yes, it's a sad affliction. A local newspaper got us mixed up once. I can see how. I mean, after all, I am quite tall and have six ears."
The Aisha sighed. "I'm the Avenger," she said. "Although I quite wish right now that I weren't."
"So what brings you here?" said Orp.
"Can't you tell?" asked the Aisha.
"I'm not infallible!"
"You knew he was at the door, but you didn't know why?"
"Again, I repeat: not infallible."
"That's not what you said before the pipe burst that you were so sure was okay. Or when the mine got that hulking robot outside of it to stand guard, and you said he was harmless!"
"He is harmless!"
"He shot his laser at a Grundo that asked for directions!"
"He's harmless if you leave him alone," Orp amended patiently. "Don't mind her," he said to the Grarrl. "She's having a bad day." The Aisha glared at him.
"So... what are you two?" the Grarrl chanced.
"We... keep the peace," said the Aisha, at the same time as Orp declared, "We're superheroes!"
"Like the Defenders of Neopia?"
"Nah, they're a bigger outfit," said Orp, "being that they protect a whole planet. This is just us two."
"We're the closest thing Kreludor has to a civilised police setup," the Aisha said. "Although it's mostly safe. The biggest threat right now is the hulking robot outside the mine."
"She hates him," the Orp told the Grarrl.
"He keeps shooting his laser at passersby!"
"I walked past the mine earlier," said the Grarrl, "and he didn't seem very concerned about me."
"He's not very consistent," said the Aisha. "You can count yourself lucky."
"Why can't you... arrest him, or contain him or something?"
"We've tried," said Orp. "Each time we come home with myriad injuries."
"He's a robot," said the Aisha, "with a laser. We think he was put there by Sloth. He's a little difficult."
The Grarrl nodded thoughtfully. This made sense.
"So what brings you to Kreludor?" asked Orp brightly.
"I'm a tourist," the Grarrl said. "This place looked a little... strange."
"If you like strangeness, you've come the right moon. What do you think about the gravity issue?"
"I like my feet on the ground," said the Grarrl.
"Oh, there are special suits you can wear in the lower gravity areas so you're not floating around," said Orp. "Most of those aren't tourist areas. The Kreludor Altador Cup team practices over there in the off-season, though, and they're always happy to sign a Yooyu."
"The Yooyus aren't quite as happy," said the Aisha. "I'd recommend a picture or a pennant instead." Orp produced a Kreludor team flag and waved it around. "You just carry that thing around with you?"
"I'm full of team spirit!"
"What place is Kreludor coming in next year?"
Orp put his fins against his head and squinted. "I see... twenty-first place."
The Aisha sighed.
"You can't possibly be a psychic," the Grarrl said, looking at Orp pointedly.
"I knew you were coming, didn't I?"
This stumped the Grarrl.
"He's just not very reliable," the Aisha said. "We have lots of disagreements. As far as sidekicks go, he could be a lot worse."
"Thanks a lot!" Orp huffed. "I'll have you know that -"
"Here we go," the Aisha said. She rolled her eyes behind her mask.
"- and it was only because you decided that it wasn't 'important enough to warrant yet'!"
"I'm not infallible," she said, repeating his earlier words back to him. "I at least do the heavy lifting."
The Grarrl decided that they probably didn't get visitors often. He asked so.
"Oh, sure. Just two days ago a pod crashed through that window with a small Griefer in it. It makes quite the mess!" Orp said.
"I don't think that's the type of visitor he means," the Aisha said, before Orp went on:
"The C430 Autobot was a nice surprise, though. We think he must have been lost. He does a good job of cleaning up after the Griefer."
"No," interrupted the Aisha. "Visitors aren't very common. The ones we do get are usually up to something."
"Who threw the pod?" said the Grarrl.
"No idea!" said Orp, unperturbed.
"And you're not concerned?"
"We were at the time," admitted Orp. "But I think if that was meant to be sinister something would have happened by now."
"I'm still concerned," said the Aisha. "That window's expensive to replace!"
The Grarrl looked at the window. It was large, encompassing almost a whole wall, and the crack was in the middle, with smaller cracks spider-webbing out of it. The entire window was, as a whole, useless.
"Maybe you should board it up," suggested the Grarrl.
"With what? The thing's the size of a crater!" said the Aisha. "And it's even worse from the outside, see," she went on, gesturing for him to follow her out of the office.
The Kreludan moonscape looked lovely in the setting sun, even if the light glinted off of S750 Kreludan Defender Robot somewhat worryingly.
"It looks like the Griefer and the Autobot had a water balloon fight, only with bricks instead of water balloons," said Orp. The Grarrl didn't disagree. "Can we go back inside now?"
"What's the rush?" said the Aisha. "Anyway, whoever did this should pat himself on the back. It's going to be a pain to fix up!"
They contemplated this, and then:
"I'm hungry," announced Orp.
"Cafe Kreludor is just around the corner," the Aisha said absently, still looking at the window.
"Let's all get a snack. Even you," he said to the Grarrl.
They went to Cafe Kreludor. The Alien Aisha Avenger and Orp the Oracular were regulars, apparently, and ordered some local delicacies. The Grarrl, having never eaten space food, played it safe. "I'll have a Moon Soup," he said the waitress, thinking soup couldn't be too weird.
The Aisha insisted on paying for everyone, even as the Grarrl was getting his wallet out. Moon hospitality wasn't too bad, considering.
"She's a bit mother hen-ish," Orp said.
"Maybe I just have better financial habits than you do," the Aisha said.
"We make the same income."
"Yes, but I don't spend my share on collectable moon rocks or Neocola or pillows the size of my entire body."
"Those were a necessity! I had a crick in my neck!"
"Okay, what about the rocks?" the Grarrl asked. "You live on the moon. You can just go outside and pick one up."
"Thank you," the Aisha said.
Orp huffed. He was about to respond when the food arrived.
The Grarrl looked at his soup carefully. It was bright orange. "Either of you know what this is?"
"Tomato soup," the Aisha said. The Grarrl relaxed. "With peppers, moon salt, and cheese," she added.
"...what's moon salt?"
The Aisha and Orp both gave him a Look. "It's salt," Orp said, mouth full, "from the moon."
"Yes, but how's it different than regular salt?"
"You mean earth salt?"
"I think it's just 'salt'."
"Not here it isn't," Orp said. "In space, no one can-"
"Oh Fyora," the Aisha moaned. "Not another 'in space' joke."
"-cook with earth-bound minerals," Orp finished.
"Why not?" the Grarrl asked.
This was not a sufficient explanation to the Grarrl, but he accepted it anyway. He took a cautious spoonful of his soup to his mouth. He quietly set down his spoon, and then he quietly reached for his glass of water (moon water), and then he quietly took a very large sip.
Then he asked, faintly, "Is there anything on the menu that my delicate earth-bound sensibilities might be able to stomach?"
"Why did order Moon Soup if you didn't think you'd like it?" the Aisha asked.
"Because it's soup! Soup is just... soup! It's not supposed to taste like... whatever that was!"
"Meteor meat pies are pretty good," Orp said.
"They're only shaped-"
"Excuse me, are you the Alien Aisha Avenger and Orp the Oracular?" an elderly Kau asked as she approached them. She had knitting needles in a very tight bun on the top of her head. She looked every inch the strict primary school teacher the Grarrl recalled with little fondness.
"Yeppers!" Orp confirmed.
"Oh, good," the Kau said, relief visibly washing over her. "I'm Mrs. Pushpram. My nephew, dear little Odo, is trapped in the mine, I'm afraid!"
"The mine with the giant hulking robot outside of it?" the Aisha asked.
"Yes, that's the one."
"How did Odo even get in there?"
"He's very small and very fast," Mrs. Pushpram said. She wrung her hands. "One of his friends dared him!"
"If he'd been dared to fly a spaceship blindfolded, would he have done it?"
Mrs. Pushpram looked at the Aisha, horrified. "Of course not!"
"Then why did he do this? It's just as brainless. More so, perhaps."
"I don't know! I'm not his mother!"
The Aisha was about to ask who and where his mother was before Orp intervened. "We're not very good about containing S750 Kreludan Defender Robot, but we'd be happy to try, ma'am!"
"Oh, thank you! I'm sure poor little Odo is just out of his wits at the moment! When do you suppose you might have him out?"
"If we're lucky, it'll only take five minutes," the Aisha said.
"Are you often lucky?"
The Grarrl tagged along on the rescue mission, even though both the Aisha and Orp advised him not to. Mrs. Pushpram had been left at Cafe Kreludor with a soothing cup of tea that was probably not soothing her much at all.
Currently Orp was tapping into his mind tricks to try to discern where in the mine Odo was. He was concentrating very hard.
"Concentrate harder," the Aisha said.
"It's not working!" Orp whined. He dropped his fins and shrugged. "We'll have to do it the old-fashioned way."
"I hate the old-fashioned way."
"What's the old-fashioned way?" the Grarrl asked.
"Walking. We're going to need a flashlight," the Aisha said, rummaging through her pack. "One of you should distract the robot long enough to get in."
"Will shouting 'hey you lumbering idiot!' do it?" Orp said.
"Then it's not going to be me."
"I can yell pretty loudly," the Grarrl volunteered. "Which way do I run after I insult him?"
"I'd hide behind something, and then wait for him to turn around and follow us in," the Aisha said. "Last I checked, there was a metal wheelbarrow several yards away from the main entrance."
The trio carefully made their way to the mine, hiding behind various landscape objects. As they got closer, they noticed the robot was...
"Is he... taking a nap?" the Aisha whispered.
"Looks that way," the Grarrl said. "Do androids dream of electric Babaas?"
"Do they dream at all?" Orp wondered. "He's a blasted robot. He shouldn't need sleep."
The Aisha adjusted her mask. "Original plan still?"
"I'm getting something." Orp had his fins at his forehead. He scrunched his face as he processed his brain's signals. "A faint mooing."
"I don't know. Is he a Kau?"
"We should have asked," the Aisha said. "I probably would have gotten there if you hadn't jumped up and said yes so soon."
"You were going to ask questions all night!"
"Information is important," she said.
"Useful information!" Orp said. "Why he went into the mine, his mother's name, and his favourite colour are not relevant currently!"
"What?" the Aisha and Orp demanded simultaneously.
"We woke him up," the Grarrl said, staring straight ahead. The two superheroes followed his gaze.
"How prosaic," the Aisha deadpanned. She pulled her gloves on tighter. "Wait until he's on me and then go inside."
"What are you going to do?"
"She's going to make sure we don't die," Orp said quickly, tugging the Grarrl's hand and pulling him away from the Alien Aisha Avenger and her target. "Don't die," he added to her.
"Yes, I'm going to stay alive solely because you want me to."
"I'm just saying!"
Orp and the Grarrl watched the Aisha and S750 Kreludan Defender Robot exchange a few blows and started shuffling into the mine. They saw her land a particularly admirable roundhouse kick to the robot's head before they were engulfed in darkness.
"It's dark," the Grarrl pointed out.
Orp clicked the flashlight on. "Now it's slightly less dark!"
"Okay, now what?"
"We pick a direction to go."
The Grarrl looked around the dimly-lit tunnel. "Left?"
"Right it is!"
Orp bounded along the right-hand passage, the Grarrl lumbering behind him as quietly as he could manage, which was not very quietly. Orp took notice.
"Why are you trying to be silent?" Orp asked.
"I don't want to alarm Odo."
"He's trapped inside a dark mine with a giant hulking robot outside. I don't know how much more scared he could get."
"You have the bedside manner of a can of Diet Doom."
"Diet Doom is delicious."
"You've tried it?"
"I wonder how AAA is doing," said Orp, apropos of apparently nothing.
The Grarrl envisioned the battle in his mind. His hopeful side conjured up images of the robot smashed to smithereens with the Aisha casually eating a meteor meat pie. The part of him that was, at heart, a realist, had less pleasant images in mind.
"I doubt it's come to that," Orp said. "At least not yet."
"Do you just go poking around in people's minds for the heck of it?"
"I was trying to get Odo!"
"Well, I don't think he's this way."
"No, I suppose not."
Orp and the Grarrl stared at the dead end ahead of them. Orp did not, the Grarrl noticed, look the slightest bit sheepish for having been wrong.
"Well, that happened," Orp said. "Let's turn around."
The Grarrl said nothing about the mishap, supposing that getting into a fight with a superhero, albeit a second-rate one, in a tunnel would not be one of his smarter ideas.
S750 Kreludan Defender Robot was currently missing one of his forearms. The Alien Aisha Avenger was glad to be making progress, but unfortunately, lacking part of one of his limbs, the robot was very angry.
An angry robot meant lasers, and lasers, to the sensible person, meant GET AWAY NOW.
The Aisha sighed. She was not getting paid enough for this.
"We don't get paid enough for this, you know," Orp said conversationally.
"Do you get paid at all?"
"No, we live on good vibes and well wishes," Orp said. "Also tape."
"I don't think tape is supposed to be a long-term solution for anything," the Grarrl said.
"Well we can't afford an entire new window with caulking and reinforcements!"
The Grarrl was about to respond when he heard a faint mooing sound. Orp held up a fin and motioned him to be quiet. Then:
"Moo," said Orp.
"That can't possibly work," the Grarrl objected.
They tripped over a small Kau. The Kau glared resentfully and bit the Grarrl's ankle.
"Odo?" Orp asked. The Kau nodded. "Okay, we're getting out of here."
"Your aunt is very worried about you," the Grarrl said.
"Worries about everything," Odo said.
"Old ladies do," Orp agreed.
"Where are your parents?" the Grarrl asked, feeling like one of them should be a somewhat responsible adult.
"Home," Odo said.
"Do you remember which way to go?" Orp asked, staring at a fork in the tunnel.
"Left," the Grarrl lied.
Predictably, Orp went right.
They crept out of the tunnel entrance carefully, minding the fact that the robot was probably still hulking. Their eyes quickly transitioned from the black darkness to the purple not-quite-darkness. There was silence.
"Can I go home now?" Odo asked.
"Sssh!" Orp and the Grarrl whispered simultaneously.
"Oh hey guys!" the Aisha said, bounding onto the surface. Her cape swished fetchingly behind her.
"Robot?" Orp inquired.
"Missing part of his arm, distracted by a screwdriver."
"Where did you get a screwdriver from?"
"Odo!" the Aisha said. "Let's go to the cafe and get you a milkshake."
"Cool," said Odo.
"What about the screwdriver?"
The Grarrl and the Aisha stepped back to admire their handiwork.
"It's a nice window," the Grarrl said.
"Thanks for helping me!" the Aisha said. "It was nice of Mrs. Pushpram to offer to replace it for us."
"How much did it cost?"
"I don't even want to know."
"Ninety thou - " Orp began.
"I said I don't want to know!" the Aisha said.
Orp picked up a moon rock and looked at it thoughtfully. Then he threw it at the new window. The rock shattered. The window was still pristine.
"That's a good window," Orp said.
The shadow Grarrl tourist bid his new friends farewell, with a promise to send postcards and 'earth' salt now and then. The not-so-nondescript building with the telescope pointed at the Kreludan Mining Corp quickly faded from view as he looked out of the window of the shuttle.
He could also see, very faintly in the distance, S750 Kreludan Defender Robot still trying to reattach his forearm.