He who knows does not speak. He who speaks does not know. .
Lao-Tzu, Chinese Taoist Philosopher
A solitary Grundo typed in the code to open the airlock
doors, ready to go through the boring procedure of welcoming visitors. The Grundo
sighed, and waited as five pets came out of the darkened doorway. He waved a
little yellow basket in a bored sort of greeting.
"Hello and welcome to Virtupets Station. Please
put all loose change, keys, or any other metal object on your person in this
basket and proceed through the metal detector."
The five pets, led by a Lupe with a metal briefcase,
looked at each other. The Lupe grinned, and opened the suitcase.
"Really? I don't think all of it will fit."
The Grundo had never seen so many weapons with
a civilian at once. Throwing stars, stun rifles, darts, tazers, and a solitary
knife. The Lupe selected one of the tazers, and buzzed the Grundo in the temple.
He was knocked out before he hit the ground.
Keagn sighed. He wasn't used to this. Flame, however, seemed to be having the
time of his life.
He shut the suitcase, and Flame began scanning
the ceiling for air vents. He found one, and yanked the cover off. The Scorchio
flapped up and clambered in the dark recess, and more than a few anxious moments
passed before a rope fell down from the duct to the floor. The other four climbed
in, and began crawling through the pitch black Space, with only about 15cm clearance
between them and the other three walls. The only light came from the distant
glow of another vent. Keagn made a mental note that if he lived through this,
he'd never make fun of claustrophobic pets again.
The spotted Aisha shook her head. Sloth was crazier than even he thought he
was; going through all the trouble to kidnap her, a nothing. Order of Eternity,
what a load. Still, Vai couldn't help feeling upset. After all, it had been
a pretty cool story.
Vai dragged the Grundo over to the gel scanner
on the door, and pressed his thumb on it. The doors opened, and Vai crept out.
For a moment the spotted Aisha just stood there, thinking. She couldn't simply
continue down the hallway, the security was too tight.
Or couldn't she?
A cold breeze tickled the back of her neck, coming
from an air duct directly above her head. She smiled. It figures the most heavily
guarded area in the known solar system could fall completely to pieces over
one minor detail.
Vai wiggled the cover free, and hoisted herself
up. She decided on going back towards her cell, where Katanya would most probably
be. She was so busy thinking that she didn't notice the vibrations signifying
the arrival of something else…
Keagn's head collided with something over an air vent. Incidentally, he jumped
backwards and hit his head again on the surface of the duct. The vent he was
crouching over caved, and he fell out onto the floor some 10 feet below.
Before he could figure out what had happened,
something fell onto his stomach, knocking the wind out of him. He gasped, and
shoved the thing off with his foot.
"Oww… that really hurt."
The Lupe shot up, and looked directly into the
face of a spotted Aisha, rubbing her shoulder.
She raised a skeptical eyebrow, and then grinned.
Keagn laughed and picked his sister up, spinning
her around. Behind him, Flame and the others clambered down from the duct, trying
not to look interested. Torpedo held the suitcase. Vai noticed them, and stepped
"Keegs? Who are they?"
"Don't worry, they're bovy. They helped me get
here. See, this is Flame, Torpedo, Bahamut and Warblade."
Vai scrutinized the four brothers momentarily,
and then shrugged, leaning against the door of a supply closet.
"I still don't think that's a word."
Keagn ignored the reprimand, immediately cutting
to the chase.
"So what happened?"
"It's a long, very complicated story, and I'll
be glad to tell you all about it… later. How did you get here anyway?"
"Well, that brings us to another point," Keagn
Bahamut had seen the security camera one minute
too late. And when you are in the middle of the lion's den, "too late" is about
500x worse than normal… and even normally, it's not a good thing to be.
Vai knew from the sounds of running footsteps they wouldn't have time to go
back into the ducts. The only option was to run... if there had been anywhere
to run. The footsteps came from both directions, a lot of them. Then, Vai remembered
the supply closet.
She threw the door open, and huddled inside as
far back as she could. She made a frantic motion to the other five, and they
dove in just as a solid wall of Grundos coming from both sides collided where
they had been only a millisecond before. Muffled voices came from outside the
"Wher'd they go? They were here, I can still
"They not no more, Jxadz. Unless they done gone
in-vis-ibubble or sumthin"
"They 'aint in-vision-ibble, they just hidin'
"Well, mister geen-I-ous, where they hidin'?"
Silence for a moment. Vai was holding her breath,
too scared to make a sound. Keagn, however, was digging though Torpedo's suitcase.
Vai felt something fall into her lap, or rather two things. They were thin and
razor-sharp, shaped like stars…
"They're in there!"
The door of the supply closet flew open.
There were at least 90 armed Grundos waiting
outside the door, well trained and ready to fill anything that wasn't a fellow
Grundo full of holes. Vai, Keagn, Torpedo, Flame, Bahamut, and Warblade were
all untrained, and armed only with their wits and the contents of Keagn's suitcase.
The Grundos never had a chance.
Keagn buzzed the two Grundos unconscious with
double tazers. Seeing their comrades fall backwards, the other 88 Grundos charged
their weapons and began firing into the closet. Five pets rolled out, but one
crazy Scorchio dove headfirst into the melee, whooping ecstatically. He succeeded
in taking out 12 soldiers that way, slamming them into the wall like so many
sacks of Chia Flour.
Vai and Keagn fought back to back, trying to
stay in one place, while Hiker's pets were everywhere at once, knocking Grundos
away like flies. Vai caught sight of the blue Gelert slamming two soldiers'
head's together, and then sending another one sailing into his comrade with
a well-placed kick.
Vai tried to use only kicks and punches, but
used the throwing stars when she had to. Keagn was using a laser stun gun, firing
"Having fun?" she asked as Keagn let loose a
barrage of violet light at a legion of Sloth's minions.
That was answer enough.
The number of soldiers diminished to a decrepit
few in a short time, and the remaining ones took no chances. Either they lay
down and pretended to be knocked out, or turned tail and ran. Keagn fired a
few pot-shots at their retreating backsides, and leaned against the wall.
"I…think… we got 'em all, guys."
Flame shrugged, unconvinced. "We'll see about
that," he muttered. Flame tore a security camera off the wall, and looked it
over to see if it was unharmed. It passed the test, and Flame held it up to
his eye. The other five just stood leaning against walls, too tired and battered
to wonder what Flame was doing. The Scorchio teased some wires, dismantling
a few altogether. Then, after a while, he shook his head.
"We're still in the red. From what I can tell,
that was just the first wave. There are 500 Grundos on this ship, and it looks
like another 200 are on their way from the second wing."
The green Jetsam gave Flame a look.
"500 more? Gimme that, you lying sack of dung."
Flame growled, but shoved the camera at Torpedo.
He pressed his eye to it, and his jaw dropped.
"He's right. How did you do that?"
"Simple. I rerouted the fiber optic cable to
read from all the video screens in the main…"
Keagn stepped in.
"Uh, pardon the interruption ladies, but shouldn't
we be more concerned about the 700 minions of sloth hell-bent on killing us!?"
"If you'd give me a minute to think of a plan,
we wouldn't have to be worried."
"We don't have a minute!"
Vai had had enough. None of this was helping
"ARE YOU QUITE DONE?! We don't have time for
this! Can we just find Kitty and get out of this lousy place?"
Keagn and Flame just stared at her.
"Whoa… okay. Chill out before your head catches
Vai groaned, and began heading down the hall.
She yelled back, "if anyone wants to come…"
"How do you know that's the right way?"
Vai thought for a moment. How did she know?
"I don't know… I just do."
They decided not to argue; a very wise decision,
as it happens. Vai dropped to all fours to avoid the cameras, and gestured for
the others to do the same. Crawling against the carpeted walls, Vai finally
recognized the chrome blast proof doors that had hidden her from the world for
As she had suspected, there was another set directly
next to it. It was a simple coded lock, and Flame cracked it in a second. The
doors opened with a hiss, and Vai rushed inside.
At first, bright white filling her vision. And
then, she saw her.
Katanya was huddled in the corner, her eyes shut.
Without hesitation, Vai scooped her up. Katanya's eyes opened, and then closed
again. Vai figured the sedative in the dart had been too much for the little
Aisha's system. It still had not worn off.
Vai passed Katanya off to Keagn, and turned to
"Now… where's your wonderful escape vehicle?"
Flame averted his eyes, and mumbled,
"Well, we can't really use it now…"
Vai's stare could have ignited a firecracker.
"Oh, really. Why not, Flame?"
"Uh… they have all potential escape vehicles
guarded to prevent us leaving the station."
Vai rolled her eyes, and said in a deadly whisper,
"So… we're stuck here?"
"Unless you want to go against 50 more of Sloth's
minions. But if… no, that won't work."
"Tell me, Flame."
Flame took a step back.
"The escape pods. There are enough of them around
the station that there are only 2 guards to every one."
"What's the catch?"
Flame breathed exasperatedly, and announced,
"They were made to seat one pet each. We can
only take one to avoid being seen on radar."
Vai slapped her forehead.
"What you're telling me is that the only way
home is by cramming all of us into a walnut with engines?"
Flame ground his teeth, and barked,
"Do you have a better idea?"
Vai grinned, her green eyes flashing.
"Nope. So guess what? You get to drive."
Flame groaned, but didn't want to argue. Any
other time he would have, but even he had to admit the Virtupets Space station
with 700 Grundo soldiers after you wasn't exactly ideal debating area.
Zrax tapped his foot impatiently on the sidewalk as he waited outside the dingy
little shop. Mulgurg was inside, talking to some Nimmo who had agreed to help
them get revenge on Sloth.
Even now, Zrax was still sore about the incident
at Illusens. Beaten by an Aisha girl, not to mention badly enough that Mulgurg
had to use the digital transporter to get them out. They had used the opportunity
to escape, which Mulgurg had been ecstatic about… before the "Wanted: Dangerous
convicts" posters with their frowning mugs posted on them began showing up all
Mulgurg had heard rumors that Private Drakk had
been hired to take over where they had "failed", and this was enough to make
steam come out of Zrax's ears. Drakk was the prime example of hired muscle;
no brains, all brawn. He was the type who used his fingers to add 1+1, and then
Curse that good for nothing Furg, curse him
and his worthless ship… Drakk thought bitterly for the millionth time.
Now, the shop door opened, and Mulgurg pulled
his brother in. It was dark, the shades had been pulled. A single candle, set
in the center of an old end table, illuminated the Nimmo's withered features.
Her twinkling eyes, however, looked much younger. Something about this Nimmo
sent a shiver down Zrax's spine.
"So… if you want me to help you, you have to
help me first. Tell me everything you know about the Aisha you have been looking
for, and her companions."
Zrax thought for a moment, remembering.
"Well, there was a black Lupe, and the Spotted
Aisha. She was the one we were after. There was also this little white Aisha,
an Alien by the looks of her."
"And where are they now?"
"What do I look like, their keeper? I'd rather
spend my time worrying about my own well-being."
The Nimmo squinted angrily, and rose. She stretched
her arms out, and whispered something the two Grundos couldn't make out.
Then, a bright violet light filled the room,
blinding the Grundos, and a strange vibration rattled the items on the dusty
shelves. When the light subsided, the Nimmo was no longer there. In her place
was a radiant Fire Faerie with glowing silver eyes. A breeze from nowhere rustled
her abundant red curls and russet gown, and she seemed to glow with an ethereal
power that cannot be described.
The two Grundos were dumbstruck, eyes wide and
"If you won't tell a poor old Nimmo, perhaps
my true form will convince you. Now, you need not answer my previous question,
which was merely a test to see if you were truly on our side. And I bet you're
happy to hear that you passed it."
"Now," she continued, "my name is SanLin Starflame,
and my sister Railene Starflame was attacked in her own home by one of Sloth's
minions; a Grundo named Drakk. A direct assault against a Faerie is an outrage
to all Faeries, and will not be tolerated. Fyora would rather not go to war,
but unless we find another way, that is our only option. However, you two may
be able to help us prevent it from ever happening."
Zrax found his voice. How could he turn down
the prospect of an endeavor like this?
"W-what do you need us to do, ma'am?"
Sanlin smiled, amused at the Grundo's enthusiasm.
"The Aisha you were hunting, your job is to
tail her. Everywhere she goes, you will follow, but she cannot know. Anyone
who may be a possible threat to her or her task must be incapacitated. I will
aid you as best I can, but I cannot help directly as it may endanger the entire
mission. Do you accept?"
Zrax looked at his brother, who nodded eagerly.
"Yeah… I think we do."
To be continued...