Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 90,554,371 Issue: 172 | 7th day of Sleeping, Y7
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Sir Chickenhead


by child_dragon

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There are some days when I wonder if I should have just stayed in bed. It's mostly because I have to work to feed my rainbow Pteri and well, it's a job. What can I say? The catch is that I'm a programmer. Yeah, you heard me right, I'm that little obscure profession that no one wants outside of Virtupets. Well, not only am I trapped in space with no sky and just metal all around me, but of all the job offers I could have picked, I chose one where I was working for Dr. Sloth. That makes life interesting. Very very interesting, to the point where I wish I could just hide under the covers and never come out. Actually, I've tried that before. Miriane, my pet, pegged me with rolled up socks like a pro Gormball player until I conceded defeat and crawled out of bed.

      Well, I'm rather cynical about the whole deal and the rest of the programmers I work with are all terrified of The Dr. We keep to ourselves and I deal with Sloth as needed and as little as possible. However, one day we wound up getting a new unfortunate soul chucked into this purgatory. See, one of the Grundos went missing from the IT department. No one knew why except that Garoo was asking a lot of questions about it one day.

      I strolled in with a sleep deprivation hangover from a late night Gormball practice session with Miriane - I hate the game but she needs someone to practice with - and immediately noticed this pall of tension over the air. You don't last long in here unless you develop a nose for when something bad is about to erupt. Survival instincts. I'm actually not very high on them cause when all heck breaks loose I'm still standing there instead of crawling into the nearest hole.

      Anyways, Garoo caught sight and called me over.

      "Geek," he said, "did you know Zeelin?"

      "Yeah, he was in my department. What's up?"

      "Come with me."

      And I wind up being quizzed on everything I know by the commander of Sloth's army. Might have well as been a full military interrogation. Unfortunately, Garoo kept my head spinning with trying to remember what he wanted to know so I couldn't figure out what the heck was going on. Worst of all, I managed to let slip my own private nickname for Sloth - Sir Chickenhead. Garoo just kinda twitched and fired off another question while my stomach ate itself.

      I didn't really pay attention to the going-on's after that as I expected something unpleasant to come my way due to the Sir Chickenhead comment. That's the nature of Sloth; revenge is one of his favorite things to dish out. It's like his hobby or something.

      Two days later we get a new programmer to replace Xeelin. Still no word on what happened to the dude. But this new guy - wow. He strolled in and made his way over to me to get the low-down on what we were working on. I just sat there and stared. He was a Lupe and let me say this - Jeran ain't got nothing on this guy. Fire pelt that almost shone where the light hit the black, tall, muscular, well, you get the idea. And let me add that I'm human here, saying this. So I'm amazed and wondering if introducing him to Miriane would be a good idea and then he opens his mouth. Things went rapidly downhill from there.

      "So, um, when do I get to meet Mr. Sloth Dr. Sir?"

      His voice was fairly normal pitched, except his excitement threw it up an octave and every other syllable it'd crack like some preteen. The Lupe was fairly beside himself with joy. I swear he looked like he was about to chase his tail right then and there.

      "Never," I replied, and added in an undertone, "if I can help it."

      "What? You mean-"

      "Sloth doesn't bother us except to relay orders and that's usually directly to me and nothing more than what's needed. We don't see much of him otherwise. Now what's your name?"

      A couple of the Grundos muttered things under their breath, probably derogatory things about The Dr. or our new co-worker. Mostly likely both.

      "Davis. Um, I guess… what's your name?" He sounded like someone had just kicked him out in the snow. It was quite pathetic.

      "Forget it. Just make up your own, everyone else does."

      It was a great start to our relationship. Davis came in every day with about a zillion questions, none of which had anything to do with our job. Did Sloth really make all those transmogrification potions himself? Just how many Grundos were under his command, anyways? Did I ever get to see Garoo around? Does Sloth this and Sloth that and yada yada yada.

      "I've got a freaking fanboy on my hands!" I finally cried in exasperation to Miriane over dinner one night.

      The Pteri just kinda looked at me sideways and gobbled down some more veggie meatballs.

      "He's driving me up a wall," I continued. "If he asks one more question about Sloth I'm going to throttle him. I am. Just you wait."

      "Well, you do have a sort of rapport with Chickenhead," she replied thoughtfully.

      "Oh yeah. One that consists of him heaping abuse on my shoulders. Great friendship we have going there. 'Girl, have it on my desk or I'll have a mutant Grundo step on you.'"

      "Well, I didn't say it was a good connection…"

      And in the midst of all this, I totally forgot about Zeelin disappearing and Garoo's interest, which was incredibly stupid. Think about it for a moment. Sloth ain't popular around here and we're kinda lumped in that category by virtue of working for him. I should have been concerned, or at the very least mildly suspicious. I should have noticed that Garoo had stationed more guards than normal around the place, should have noticed the frequency of his cronies poking around in our business. But there was Davis and his wide-eyed innocent idiocy bothering me and it took all my willpower to not hit him across the nose. I just didn't have the wits to realize something was up.

      Nearly a week and a half after Zeelin vanished and Davis came to haunt me I found myself working late. The main lights had been shut down to night cycle so there was little illumination from the overheads. I was typing at my terminal, trying to get something up and running before midnight rolled around. When I work, I zero in and notice little else. So I didn't hear anyone enter the room, not until a burly arm had me around the neck and was dragging me out of the chair in a chokehold. I tried to hit whoever had me but he snagged my wrist with the other hand and twisted it up behind my back. At that point, I was struggling to breath from the arm crushing my windpipe and lacked the strength or reactions to kick him in the shins.

      Crazy as it might sound, my initial thought was that it was Garoo. I called Sloth Sir Chickenhead in his presence after all and I'm pretty sure he knows I startle easily. This would be quite the revenge.

      But it wasn't. After a few moments I felt the arm around my neck slacken just enough so that my toes could brush the ground and I could breath a bit.

      "Even if you were to scream," a voice whispered in my ear, "no one would hear you. I've made sure of that."

      It took me a minute to figure out who it was. The voice was deep and lacked the usual overlay of giddiness.

     "Davis?" I choked out.

     "Yes. Now, traitor, you know the access codes for Sloth's system."

     I said something extremely rude in reply and he tightened his hold again, twisting my arm further until tears filled my eyes and overflowed onto my cheeks.

     "Just the codes," he said, "That's all. Then I'll let you go with the knowledge that you've helped rid Neopia of Sloth."

     "You… got rid of Zeelin…"

     "Heh. Clever, aren't you? Yes, I belong to a group dedicated to wiping out the threat of Sloth. We kidnapped Zeelin but found that he didn't have the access codes we wanted and that YOU did."

     "You're hurting me," I whimpered.

     "Pity that, isn't it? And all this time you thought I was just some annoying Lupe. I know you looked down on me; it was obvious. And now look where you are. The access codes, girl. What are they?"

     I won't lie. I was very tempted to tell him. When I first started working for Sloth I really wrestled with my conscience over it. Was this right? How could I help someone who would destroy Neopia? And I never really resolved those questions, just shoved them somewhere deep where they wouldn't twist in my guts anymore. Every now and then they'd surface again though, worming through my mind late at night when the lights were all out and everyone was asleep and I was alone with just that inner voice.

     If things had been different I might have done it. Davis had made a fatal error though - he had hurt me. I've got a stubborn streak of pride and it usually clashes with what would be in my best interests. Although Sloth might be evil he wasn't stupid - with all his threats he never once actually did anything, c'mon, I do work for him, willingly too. Davis… well, he assumed that I'd cave in if he used brute force. Not a chance.

     My reply was succinct, to the point, and as vulgar as I could make it with just a few words. Enraged, he threw me to the ground. I landed on my back and all the wind was knocked from me. I caught sight of his darkened form looming over me and some other shape silhouetted in the doorway. Then I was blinded by a bright flash of light and heard a heavy thump close by to my right. Gasping, I furiously rubbed my eyes, trying to get rid of the spots that danced before them.

     "Kid. Are you hurt?"

     Second familiar voice of the evening. I finally cleared my sight enough and looked up to see a dark robed green-headed figure standing over me. To my right was Davis, unconscious with his tongue lolling out of his mouth. In Sloth's hand was a blaster.

     "I'm - fine…" I said hesitantly, rubbing my throat, "What just happened?"

     My wrist ached where he had grabbed and twisted it and I was still having a bit of difficulty breathing, maybe just from adrenaline though.

     "You've figured out the first part of it," he replied calmly while I picked myself up, "Davis was an infiltrator for a group determined to destroy me and my organization. We knew this and brought him in anyways."

     "Why?"

     "Think girl. What do I have in my possession now?"

     I looked over at Davis and felt a twinge of sympathy. But only for a moment.

     "So - what? You leave him in here, why? Why didn't you nab him sooner?"

     "All this time we were monitoring his actions to see if he'd lead us to his superiors. We were also monitoring you in case he tried anything."

     He turned and looked directly at me. I looked aside and at the unconscious Lupe. There was a lot he didn't say there. He didn't want to just protect me, of course not, but to see how far my loyalty went. When push came to shove, who would I side with? I felt like a game of Gormball was going on inside my stomach. Outside, I could hear a commotion building in the hallway. Sloth had called for his guards or whatever.

     "Turns out our security is lax in some areas." He sounded irritated. "You got lucky. I happened to be passing through this area and found that the guards were missing."

     "But now you can't track him to the rest of his companions…"

     "No."

     Some mutant Grundos streamed in, along with Commander Garoo.

     "But we'll find out anyways." And he smirked, that evil little grin that makes you realize that something very very bad is going to happen. "Guards, take him to a cell."

     "Wait," I hastily interjected. I eyed Davis carefully, lined up, and kicked him as hard as I could in the stomach and instantly regretted it. He grunted and his eyelids flickered. "There. He's all yours."

     They dragged him off and I seemed to be forgotten in the mess. I slunk to the back of the room and started shivering, not because I was cold, but just from the shock of all that had happened. Eventually Sloth trailed out along with the guards. Just Garoo was left. He eyed me and I swallowed hard and tried to stop shaking.

     "He might have saved you faster," the Blumaroo said, "If not for, heh, Sir Chickenhead."

      "You told him."

      "Of course. Now go home."

      "But…" I gestured helplessly at the computer.

      "Go home. It can wait."

      And numbly, I did what he said.

      Fallout? Minimal. I got a raise the next day and no one told me which led to a bit of panic when Garoo came around and planted a finger just between my collarbones. I thought for sure I was in trouble for something I didn't do.

      Instead, he just glared at me and said, "You, Geek, need to learn some self-defense. Oh, and I had your salary raised. Use it to take lessons or something."

      And I started breathing again. I'm seriously considering Garoo's suggestion, actually. If Sloth is going to use me as bait or something then I might very well need to know how to protect myself. I must admit; I'm a bit irritated that this would even be an issue. I don't recall 'expendable' being in my job description, but then again, I could very well be wrong about that. This is Dr. Sloth after all.

The End

 
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