Voice of the Neopian Pound Circulation: 121,679,817 Issue: 245 | 23rd day of Relaxing, Y8
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Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Three

by sarahleeadvent


Or else. As if there was anything Sloth could do that would be worse than that modified many-legged monstrosity. For a brief moment Flingon considered fleeing the Space Station and going into hiding- but what would be the point? Sloth knew how to deal with renegades- all it would take was a bug in the right person's ear that Flingon had once worked for Sloth, and everywhere he went Flingon would be a fugitive. He wouldn't last long with all of Neopia on the lookout; as an alien Aisha he was hopelessly recognizable. Flingon lowered his eyes. "Yes, sir." The trembling Aisha didn't look up again until the sudden darkness in the room told him that Sloth had signed off. A few thoughts drifted listlessly through his mind, like twigs on a river nearly consumed by drought. One hour. Maybe if he could get the code in that time, Sloth would let him off the hook. But not very likely. Once that sadistic tyrant had the idea of a spider show in his head, he wasn't liable to deny himself such pleasure.

      Flingon pushed himself out of his chair and trudged over to the door. Just before leaving, though, he allowed his eyes to travel around the room in which he had spent most of the last month. He wouldn't miss the place. He hated it more than anything else he knew of, except maybe Sloth. Last of all he glanced up at the screen, and wasn't at all surprised to see that the coordinates Sloth had sent him indicated the hidden ship. Sloth would want to accompany him to the Spider Grundo's web, just to watch him tremble.


      A cruel smile twisted Sloth's ugly face as he watched Flingon's small vessel decloak only a couple miles away from the port side of the large, looming ship. His eyes followed the tiny shuttle until it swung out of his line of vision, then with a snap of his fingers he summoned a pair of hulking mutant Grundos who had been waiting silently in a corner. "Report to the docking bay and escort the prisoner to the captive transport vessel, then return to your usual stations." Turning to a smaller, more timid-looking blue Grundo, he added, "Have Rorn and Konar meet us there."

      The three Grundos nodded. "Yes, sir."


      Every eye in the now-repressurized docking bay was fixed upon the shuttle that had just landed, but Flingon had no intention of going out to meet them until he absolutely had to. Scanning the room from his position in the cockpit, he was not surprised to see that the Captive Transport Vessel was in takeoff position, its gleaming black nose pointed toward the doors. The minutes dragged slowly by, then Flingon's eyes were drawn to a pair of mutant Grundos lumbering in his direction with a purposeful look in their eyes. Well, there was nothing for it now- he might as well walk as much of the distance to the CTV as he could before they got there. Flingon unbuckled himself and exited the shuttlecraft, managing to make it halfway to the CTV before he felt a strong hand around each arm, dragging him forward. These mutants seemed to take pleasure in demonstrating their strength on smaller Neopets.

      It wasn't often that Flingon said anything that might start a fight, but since he was about to die anyway he thought he might as well. "I can walk, you know. If you must accompany me, you may follow at fifteen paces."

      A couple of the staff members chuckled nervously and were silenced by threatening glances from Flingon's escorts, but most of them simply stared at him in shock. The Grundos hesitated, and Flingon looked around him, enjoying the effect of his words in spite of the situation.

      "Looks like four-eyes finally grew some guts!"

      Flingon turned to stare coldly at Boloro, a small blue JubJub with a larger-than-life attitude. Most people on the station left the plucky puffball alone after what had happened a few days after Boloro joined Sloth's forces. Tando, a Moehog who enjoyed bullying others, had tried to tease Boloro, calling him a bug-eyed little pompom. Boloro had responded by lunging forward and bowling Tando's legs out from under him, sending him tumbling into a garbage disposal Unit.

      But Flingon, emboldened by the effect of his last retort, replied in an icy voice, "My name is Flingon, and in case you haven't noticed, these four things are ears, not eyes." Flingon didn't wear glasses, but a lot of people, both here and on the Virtupets station, called him four-eyes; another way of saying 'computer geek'.

      Boloro's dark eyes narrowed, and suddenly he tumbled forward, aiming for Flingon's feet. But the mutant Grundos still hadn't released their prisoner's arms, and at the last moment Flingon raised his feet, allowing Boloro to pass beneath them and slam headlong into the sturdy ankle of one of the towering mutants. This time the round of chuckles was louder, and as Boloro staggered away, dazed by the unexpectedly solid impact, even Flingon felt the beginnings of a smile. At least now he wasn't going to go out like a weakling.


      All heads swiveled to the source of the cry, and all eyes stared tensely as Sloth picked himself up off the ground, his eyes blazing with wrath. "You fuzzy lump of space trash!" he bellowed. "Get out of my way!" With that, he aimed a tremendous kick at the JubJub, who had tripped him in the process of staggering toward the exit. Boloro jumped out of the way just in time, then backed off to a respectful distance.

      At the sight of his dreaded master, Flingon's sassiness fled as suddenly as it had come, and he felt the familiar chill of fear clawing at his chest. Then he was moving again, as the Grundos on either side dragged him suddenly forward to forestall Sloth's rebuke.


      "Lerox! Lerox, wake up! Lerox!"

      Lerox rolled back over with a low, sleepy "Mmmmf," and Tishka grabbed his Grundo stalks and used them to poke at his nose. The young Grundo's eyes fluttered open, and he mumbled groggily, "Tishka, leave me alone." There was only one thing left to do. Tishka grabbed one of the books they had borrowed, plopped it down on Lerox's stomach, then grabbed his head and yanked it up and forward so that he was facing the picture on the front. At the sudden sharp movement Lerox's eyes flew open, and he found himself staring into the gleaming blood-red eyes of the Spider Grundo. "WAAAGH!" It was not a pretty thing to wake up to, and all traces of sleep fled on the instant. Lerox sat bolt upright, then a look of comprehension crossed his face as he remembered what they were going to do.

      "Come on!" Tishka urged, already halfway out the door. "Let's go!"

      Lerox leapt out of bed, and slammed headlong into Tishka when she suddenly froze. "Why did you stop? I thought you were in a hurry!"

      "Weapons," Tishka replied. "I have a Cobrall Dagger that Dad gave me- a souvenir from his battling days."

      Lerox's face lit up. "And he gave me a Poison Tipped Dagger! I'll go get it!"

      "Meet me here." Tishka's spirits were high as she dashed into her room and retrieved the weapon, but they suddenly sank as she laid eyes on the cruel, gleaming blade. Sneaking, spying, fighting... it was all totally against her nature. How could she possibly go through with this?

      And what if she was wrong? What if she found out that her new almost-friend really did enjoy his dark work? 'Maybe I should just forget the whole thing' Tishka thought, and began to close the door to her closet. But then she saw it again, as vividly as she had when she had crouched fearfully in the darkness of the computer room: a terrified alien Aisha, and the cruel look in Sloth's eyes as he pronounced a death sentence. She also remembered the look on Flingon's face when he went to answer the transmission she had watched; and she knew, beyond any doubt, that if she backed out of this now those visions would haunt her for the rest of her life. She could only imagine the questions that would run through her head; she could hear them as clearly now as if the deed were already done. What must it have been like in those last few hours, when the last echo of hope faded and he knew for certain that he was going to die? Could he have somehow escaped on his own? Had anyone else cared enough to help him? Was he still alive? Was there anything I could have done, if only I had tried?

      Resolve hardened in her heart, and with a firm paw Tishka took the dagger by the hilt. The words which Lerox had spoken the night before popped into her head, and her lips curved slowly into a smile as she whispered them to herself: "Let's do it."


      Tayna the Usul watched as two young Neopets came shyly up to her: Tishka, who was mentally going over the words she had prepared, and Lerox, who was trying to look innocent while hoping fervently that the daggers they had hidden in the woods outside the ferry station wouldn't be found. And that wasn't all they had to worry about: they had already knocked on the door to Flingon's computer room, and tried the handle when no answer came. The room had been empty, which had Tishka slightly worried. She had sent Lerox to check in the men's bathroom, but that had been equally unsuccessful. If plan C failed, Tishka knew exactly where Flingon would be, and she did not like the idea of what she would have to do then.

      "Welcome to the Virtupets Space Station. Is there something I can do to help you?"

      The prim, friendly voice of the Usul staff member brought Tishka back to the present, and taking a deep breath she asked what was probably the strangest question Tayna had heard in a very long time. "Do you know where Mr. Flingon is?"

      Tayna stared at the young Acara blankly. Ever since he had come to the Space Station Flingon had spent most of his time locked in a room with a warning sign on it, so how he and these two youngsters had met was more than she could fathom. "Why do you want to know? And how do you even know him?"

      Tishka fidgeted, and fell back on plain truth. "Lerox poked his head into the room where Flingon was working-"

      "The whole world doesn't need to know," Lerox interrupted with a scowl.

      Tishka glared at him, then turned back to the task at hand. "Anyway, Flingon went easy on us about it, and that's how we became... um... acquainted. I'm not sure whether or not you could say 'friends'."

      Tayna smiled slightly. She never would have guessed that the computer-minded, somewhat shy and distant Aisha would be making friends with children. But then she suddenly frowned. "I didn't see him leave, but Ulanda there-" she gestured toward a pink Uni across the room- "she said Flingon left at about quarter after ten. Apparently he looked very upset. Ulanda asked him what was wrong, and he muttered something about having an appointment in the Haunted Woods." With that she looked questioningly at the young siblings, as if awaiting an explanation.

      Tishka's heart sank. She knew exactly why he had left, and the reason for his distress. "Thank you for your help," she said politely, then turned away and began walking quickly back toward the Station's docking port. "Have a nice day," she added over her shoulder, leaving Tayna to stare after them, mystified.


      As soon as they were out of sight of Tayna, Tishka broke into a run. "Come on!" she called to Lerox as he struggled to keep up with her. "There isn't much time!"

      "So we really are gonna fight?" Lerox asked eagerly, and Tishka wondered how long his childish confidence would last.

      "It looks like we'll have to. Who would have guessed a couple days ago that we'd be trying to save a Sloth minion?"

      Lerox shook his head and grinned. "We are SO weird."


      The Lupe who was driving the ferry had looked dubious when Tishka told him they wanted to be dropped off at the border of the Haunted Woods, but he hadn't said anything and three quarters of a very anxious hour later Tishka and Lerox sat in the dark shade of some spooky-looking trees, watching the sky carefully. The plan was to see where Sloth landed, and to follow him until they had a clear idea of what was going to happen. As they waited and watched, Tishka fingered the handle of her dagger thoughtfully. The Cobrall head's eyes stared back at her expressionlessly, and the small, slender blade looked hopelessly inadequate when she thought of the lasers and ray guns and who knew what else that Sloth and his soldiers would be carrying. She remembered the story of the Space Faerie's victory over Sloth, and for a moment she wondered whether she shouldn't send Lerox to try to hijack a shuttle from the Space Station and try to find the elusive faerie. Tishka shook her head. The thought was ridiculous, of course. Lerox didn't even know how to fly a shuttle, much less outmaneuver any pursuers he might have. Besides, on a crazy mission like the one she was about to try, she would need all the help she could get. Even from her bratty little brother.


      "There it is!" Lerox leapt up, pointing.

      "Get down!" Tishka hissed, pulling him behind a tree. "Do you want us to be spotted?"

      "No, actually I'm going for striped."

      "Ugh! Do stripes from a whip mean anything to you? Who knows what Sloth'll do if he catches us!"

      The small, black ship sank lower, and Tishka and Lerox both frowned. They had expected Sloth to land on the border of the forest- but instead he seemed to be heading near to the center of it. The vessel sank out of sight, Lerox and Tishka exchanged a glance, and together the determined siblings raced off into the depths of the Haunted Woods.


      Flingon sat in a corner through the entire trip, staring at the wall. He wouldn't give Sloth the satisfaction of seeing the fear in his eyes. Finally, the impact of landing shuddered through the shuttle, and Flingon felt a set of pincers take him by each arm. Glancing listlessly up, he saw the steely faces of Konar and Rorn, Rukis so stolid, cold and expressionless that even Flingon, who was familiar with nearly all things mechanical, had once mistaken them for very authentic-looking robots.

      Flingon made no move to resist the two Rukis as they followed Sloth out of the ship, and soon they were moving wordlessly through the murky depths of the Haunted Woods. Now Flingon began to struggle. He had been docile enough when surrounded by the cold, sterile ship interior he was accustomed to, but now, with the gnarled branches of the trees seeming to reach down toward him like greedy claws and the sinister darkness closing in about him, the doomed Aisha felt a stab of panic penetrate his heart. No matter how strong his Ruki escorts were, no matter how ruthless Sloth could be in tracking down his former servants, somehow he had to escape.

      But fighting proved to be hopelessly futile. The Rukis held him at nearly arms length, so that if he tried to kick one or the other he could only barely touch their legs, and with his own arms stretched painfully to full length biting and head-butting were impossible. All he succeeded in doing was rubbing his arms raw on their sharp pincers, but in his rising terror he scarcely noticed the pain. And no matter how desperately he struggled and squirmed, Rorn and Konar walked on like falling snow: without the slightest sound or change.

      Finally it loomed ahead of them, barely visible in the gloom: long, sticky grey cords woven into a tangled snare. Sloth nodded to Konar and Rorn, and with a movement so simultaneous that it must have been rehearsed the two Rukis stepped toward the web, thrust their arms forward and released their grip, sending Flingon staggering forward. The terrified alien Aisha felt his right arm catch on something sticky, soft and yielding, but horribly strong. He lurched backward with all the strength in his body, but the horrid thing held firm. Looking down, Flingon felt his heart sink. His arm was stuck fast to a long, sticky grey cord.

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part One
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Two
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Four

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