Preparing Neopia for the Meepits Circulation: 114,248,913 Issue: 228 | 17th day of Awakening, Y8
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The Kreludan Conspiracy: Part One


by azellica

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I was not accustomed to fear, but never before had I been so afraid. My heart was pounding in my ears and my breathing was rapid. I was in trouble. There was no doubt about it, but what would be the consequences of my actions? I stared at the floor and crossed my arms nervously.

      BLEEP! BLEEP! BLEEP!

      My Virtupets microtronic watch went off; reminding me of the 'appointment' I had with the Boss. A new wave of fear engulfed me and I started to feel sick. My eyes swept across the door. Any moment it would open and I'd have to enter the room beyond.

      A few security officers passed me in the hallway. They gave me fairly sympathetic looks; they knew how uncomfortable my situation was.

      I watched the time travel on my watch, and as the seconds passed, my anxiety grew. It was my entire fault. If things had gone according to the plan I wouldn't even be here.

      The door slowly swung open and a small Grundo clerk stepped out and gestured towards me. He leered at me as I staggered over to the door.

      "The Boss will see you now," he told me.

      I entered the room and heard the door close behind me. I slowly walked towards the desk at the end of the room. I wiped my sweaty palms onto the fabric of my Virtupets uniform. This was it.

      The room was ominously lit with soft green lights and computer monitors were forced into all of the walls. At the end of the area was a huge desk and positioned behind it, facing a wall-to-wall screen, was a tall high-backed chair. I gulped nervously and gave a short bow to the back of the chair. Then I reluctantly sank into a cold metal seat in front of the desk and waited.

      After what seemed like eternity, a voice spoke from the depths of the chair. "Well Commander, what have you got to say for yourself? The reports I have received are very unsatisfactory."

      That was a very polite way of putting it. I took a deep quivering breath and said, "I- I can explain, sir; those reports contain false accusations."

      "Do you think so, Commander? I am willing to listen to your side of events if that is the case. If not, then you are wasting my time and I will be even more displeased." The tall chair swung around and Dr. Sloth pierced me with his eyes. "If these reports bear truth, then it would appear that you have been treacherous, and treachery is one thing I will not tolerate." He surveyed me trembling before him. "That and fear," he said coldly.

      "P-please," I fought to steady my voice, "give me a chance."

      "Very well, Commander Roack, you may explain to me what happened now. If I have misjudged you, you will be pardoned, if not..." His voice trailed off echoing with threat.

      I had a chance. Just one chance to save myself. I brought my eyes up to meet his and I took a deep breath...

      *

      ...I leant back comfortably in a cushy VIP chair in the passenger area of a Virtupets Transport Shuttle. There was still another half orbit until it was time to land. I snapped my fingers and a diminutive Grundo came scurrying from the back of the shuttle.

      "What can I get you sir?" he squeaked.

      "A can of Neocola will do for now," I told him. "And be quick about it. I have better things to do than demonstrate patience to you trainees."

      He scuttled away to fetch my demand and I casually flicked through copy of Kreludan Facts. After a few seconds, I tossed the book aside in boredom and was about to yell for the attendant when suddenly...

      BLEEP! BLEEP! BLEEP!

      I squinted at the tiny computer screen on my watch and saw the little mail icon appear in the corner.

      "Open mail," I said, hoping it wasn't another Money Tree charity request.

      "Downloading message. Please wait..." a whiny programmed voice filtered from the watch's speakers. "Download complete. Open now or later?"

      "Now! I already told you I wanted to read it!"

      "Message file is video formatted. Open now or later?"

      "Now," I said through clenched teeth. The smarter the computers were, the harder it was for them to take a simple order.

      "Opening file. Please wait..."

      The screen on my watch went blank and was instantly filled with an image of the Boss. "This message has been broadcast to all of my commanders. You are to attend an urgent meeting at the Space Station regarding our current situation with Kreludor. Further details will be discussed there. Due to security reasons, this message will self-destruct in ten... nine..."

      Uh-oh.

      I pulled the watch from my wrist and bounded over to the trash chute. I tossed it in and pressed the 'eject' button. Moving over to the window, I saw the small computer drift into space. Then a small explosion erupted from its center and it was engulfed in flame.

      Every single time I received a message from the Boss I lost a Microtronic Watch. I slunk back to my chair and sat down grumpily. Now I'd have to buy a new one.

      The Grundo attendant approached me apprehensively and handed me a can of Neocola.

      "You certainly took long enough," I snapped. "It's not even cold! And you could pour it in a glass with some ice! What do they pay you for? Standing around moping?"

      "I'm very sorry, sir," he said shaking. "I'll go back and get another one."

      "Don't bother," I said. "I need you to tell the pilot there's been a change of course. We're going to the space station now. And also, get him to turn the gravity generator up. I can feel my feet rising!"

      "Sir, this shuttle is scheduled to land on Kreludor. We can't change the course. I'm sorry, but it's regulations. Scheduled transport shuttles must always remain on course unless an emergency situ-"

      "I know what the rules are! Tell the pilot we're going to the space station now! Unless, of course, you want me to tell the Boss why I was late for a meeting." I stared him down.

      "I-I'll go tell the pilot, sir." The attendant bowed and hurried from the room.

      I sat back and popped open my can of Neocola. An urgent meeting at the Space Station eh? What on Neopia was going on?

      *

      Several hours later the attendant appeared before me. "We've landed, sir. It's safe to disembark."

      I ignored him, I stood up, and left the passenger area. As I descended down the transport beam a security guard approached me.

      "Commander Roack?" he said as my space boots touched the space station's floor. "You can follow me sir. I'll show you where the meeting is being held, but first I'll need an identification scan."

      The guard held up a computer in his palm. I pushed my thumb into its surface and watched my name flash up on the screen.

      "Good. Follow me please." He led me into the warehouse level and directed me through a maze of cargo boxes. "The meeting of course has to be held in a secret location," he said conversationally. "We don't want tourists stumbling in do we?"

      I grunted in reply.

      The guard guided me to a solid stretch of wall in-between a stack of crates. He pulled a metal card out of his belt and pushed it into a crack on the metal plating of the wall. A small beep was heard and the wall neatly slid away to reveal a conference room behind. The guard bowed and left me.

      I strolled into the room beyond and took my seat at the conference table. I gave a few polite nods to my fellow commanders and then glanced at my watch to check the time... and soon after remembered that my watch had been the victim of one of the self-destruct viruses embedded in all of Dr. Sloth's messages. I sighed and drummed my green hands on the table.

      Moments later, Dr. Sloth stormed into the room and took his place at the head of the table. He surveyed us closely for a few moments. I stared nervously at the table top and wished he'd get on with the meeting.

      "My loyal commanders," he said at last, "I have summoned you here to discuss the difficulties regarding my Kreludan moon base. As you know, construction of this base began a few months ago, but since then, many attempts have taken place to sabotage what has already been completed. It is not necessary to explain that the base will play an essential role in my upcoming Kreludan campaigns. I need it to be completed by the designated date or my plans will be delayed and I will face several unnecessary difficulties."

      He stood up and began to slowly circle the room. "I have sent agents to Kreludor, but many of them have disappeared. This 'inconvenience' must be resolved as soon as possible. I therefore intend to send a team to Kreludor to further investigate this matter and identify the culprits. The perpetrators will be caught and punished severely." Sloth returned to the head of the table and leant forward. "I want one of my commanders to lead this team. You will be given further details when you're appointed for the position. Now, are there any volunteers?"

      I lowered my eyes to the table's cold metal surface. Although I was a devoted commander, I'd prefer to avoid a job like that. The fact that several agents had already gone missing was slightly unnerving; even for someone as brave as me. Apparently my fellow commanders were thinking the same thoughts. Not one of us raised a hand.

      Sloth smiled coyly. "No one?" he said softly. "How very disappointing." He resumed pacing around the table. "I hoped that one of my commanders would have the little courage it would take." He suddenly turned to me. "Commander Roack, your past efforts in our Neopian wars have been quite satisfactory."

      Uh-oh.

      "I would like you to 'volunteer.'"

      The Boss stared right at me as if he were daring me to refuse. I met his red eyes.

      "Sir, it would be an honour to be chosen for this mission," I said confidently.

To be continued...

 
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