Of Aisha-Bots and Crate-Moving: Part Two
“Where... am I?” she asked slowly. “This isn’t Shenkuu. And you’re not Lizzie.”
“U-Um...” Kalsau stuttered. How does one explain this situation? “I can explain more later. You just need to know that my name is Kalsau and that we need to get out of here––fast. Come with me.”
Dalia reluctantly took the hand Kalsau offered her and he sprinted to the Hangar, Dalia running as fast as she could, still in a daze. Finally they reached the Hangar and found it empty. Relieved, Kalsau found the tiny spacecraft and helped Dalia into it. He was just climbing in when there was a huge rumble of footsteps and the door opened. Dozens of Grundos poured in and were coming across the large room towards them. At their head was Sisen, looking not furious but smug. Kalsau had never liked the segment leader.
“Well, well, the old rule-breaker, Kalsau!” Sisen snickered. “Went to the principal’s office, did you? Apparently it didn’t go well.”
“Back off, Sisen,” Kalsau said. “We’re leaving, NOW.”
“We?” Sisen asked, amused. “Who’s that behind you?”
He looked around Kalsau and saw Dalia, looking confused and panicked all at once. Suddenly more footsteps could be heard, and about five green Grundos marched across the Hangar to Sisen.
“Sisen, sir!” one of them said. “Grundo squad reporting, sir! We’ve just come from the lower crate room, sir, as you asked. We found it was empty. Not a soul around, sir.”
“Now that’s odd,” Sisen rubbed his chin. “I didn’t expect you to return there, Kalsau – you’re not bright but you aren’t THAT dumb – but we had orders from Master Sloth to check there anyway. But Gecko, was there not an Aisha-bot working there also? If I’m not mistaken, she was his monitor? SOMETHING was reporting him all that time. Where was that good little Aisha-bot, Gecko?”
“Nothing was there, sir, not even an Aisha-bot,” the Grundo, Gecko, confirmed.
“But that can’t possibly be...?” Sisen looked again at Dalia. “That... thing can’t be the Aisha-bot. She’s not robot.”
“We found two empty halves of robot armor in the crate room, sir,” Gecko added. “And an empty paper slip. It appeared to be, judging from the instructions, a slip for a card key that had something to do with the Neo-bots.”
“Clever, clever, Kalsau.” Sisen grinned as realization came into his eyes. “Relieving a dutiful Aisha-bot of its service will get you in more hot water with Master Sloth. Now Gecko,” he turned to his Grundo squad. “Go tell Master Sloth about the events here.”
He turned back to Kalsau. “Sorry, Kalsau, but the road ends...”
But he was too late. He gawked as Kalsau smiled at him, returning the smugness. The spacecraft was lifting off! It was going through the always-open emergency airlock (Grundos can breathe in space, of course. They do live on Kreludor, after all). The Grundo squad had stopped when they’d heard the engine and were also staring. They watched helplessly as it disappeared into the blackness of space. They were silent for a long time.
Finally Sisen spoke. “I am so fired.”
“So, do you have an owner, Kalsau?” Dalia (ahem, Kyra) asked. She and Kalsau had been getting closer to Neopia every second. They’d been riding the spacecraft for an hour now. Kalsau had learned a lot about the Aisha. His hunch was right – she had an owner (named Lizzie), a sister (named Sage), a petpet (a Sandan named Kyle) and a house in Shenkuu.
“Well, not really,” Kalsau admitted sadly. “I was created to be a minion for Dr. Sloth.”
“Oh,” Kyra replied.
“Kyra,” Kalsau asked. “How did Sloth ever find you?”
“I don’t remember much,” Kyra said distantly. “Me and a group of friends were playing in the park, when suddenly we were floating. We started moving up, up, up, and then I remember something about an evil laugh, and then blackness. It just feels like I’ve been asleep a long time.”
“Wow,” Kalsau replied. “Sound like you were abducted by a UFO. And if he turned you into a robot...”
His voice fell. He didn’t dare say what he thought and upset Kyra.
“...I know,” Kyra said softly. “Sloth turned me into a robot, so my friends are probably robots as well, and still on the Space Station.”
“I’m really sorry, Kyra.”
“...it’s not your fault. Someday, someone will free them. It might even be you, Kalsau.”
Kalsau smiled a little bit. The rest of the trip to Shenkuu was spent in silence. Finally, though, they landed in the misty, far-off region. They asked around and got directions to Lizzie’s house. It was a grand reunion.
Lizzie sat by the window, her face sad and weary. The flimsy pale curtains were drawn. Sage was upstairs, locked in her room reading books as usual. They would barely talk. Nothing had ever been the same since Kyra had disappeared – she and all her friends. Her friend’s owners had said they were going through the same thing, that they were there for each other – but nobody went through quite was Lizzie was going through. Every day, every waking hour was spent thinking of Kyra, no matter how much she tried not to. She could remember clearly every minute of the day she created Kyra. But it did not bring a smile to her face. Kyra was gone.
A Sandan trotted over to her and started to lick Lizzie’s hand that hung off the chair. Looking at it, Lizzie burst into tears. It was Kyle. It was Kyra’s Sandan.
Today was the anniversary. Four years ago her second pet, her cheerful Kyra, had vanished into thin air. Nobody had been around when it happened. The park had been deserted except for them. Nobody could guess where they had gone, who had taken them – and most importantly, why? Why would anyone take such innocent young pets away from their owners?
Seeing Kyle, seeing him run around joyfully... he had forgotten his owner. Petpets do not remember that far back. As Lizzie watched him play with his ball, and scratch his scratching post, she could almost hear Kyra’s voice laughing.
Lizzie sobbed. Suddenly, Kyle stiffened and his ears pricked up. He looked like he tried to remember something, or that something felt familiar. He gazed unbelievingly at the door, and then all at once ran over to it and started to scratch it.
“Kyle, no,” Lizzie said firmly. “You can’t go out right now. I already took you on a walk.”
Kyle was generally very well-behaved. He had been to Petpet School, and he knew yes from no. But it was like he’d forgotten all his lessons all at once. He refused to stop scratching the door and whining anxiously.
“Fine, fine,” Lizzie grumbled. She cracked open to door so he could get out and then closed it again. He galloped over to whatever had interested him.
“Kyle! Kyle! Ohhh, I missed you so much!”
Now it was Lizzie’s turn to stiffen. That voice... was she really just imagining it? Of course she was. She had imagined it thousands of times in the last four years. Every time she had wanted Kyra to be there so badly she thought she could hear her. But this time the voice seemed more real.
“Kalsau, this is Kyle. He’s my Sandan. Let’s go inside!”
Lizzie did not care if this voice was fake like all the rest. She turned and flung open the door and the next thing she knew, a little yellow Aisha was in her arms. It was her yellow Aisha, older but still her little pet. Her voice had changed a little bit; it had lost its little-kid edge but to Lizzie it was the like the most beautiful song in the world.
“Kyra, Kyra, Kyra,” Lizzie repeated the name over and over. She hugged the Aisha tightly, making sure she was actually there. “I’m not imagining this.”
“Lizzie!” Kyra sobbed happily. “I’m back! And there’s you and Kyle and everything is so perfect... oh, Lizzie! I missed you so much!”
“You won’t believe how much we missed you,” Lizzie said. “Everyone thought you weren’t coming back.”
“Where’s Sage?” Kyra finally asked curiously, looking around.
“She’s in her room,” Lizzie sighed. “She stays in there for long periods of time. She only comes out for food and water. She won’t even talk to me. She knows it isn’t my fault, and she’s not mad at me but... she’s angry, Kyra. She’s angry at all of the world, because she doesn’t know who took her sister out of all the thousands of pets and owners. She doesn’t know who she can trust anymore.”
“Oh Sage...” Kyra said sadly. Then she walked right in the front door and marched up the stairs to the door of her sister’s room.
“Open the door!” she called.
There was a grumbling from inside. “Go away, Lizzie. I don’t want to talk.”
“Sage, I know how to pick this lock,” Kyra threatened, but she was smiling. “I used to sneak in here and steal your Hula-Girl Usuki, remember?”
The air grew stale, and the sound of breathing that had blended into the background stopped. Kyra thought she heard someone say, “It isn’t... it can’t be.”
“But it is, Sage.”
“...No. It isn’t true. Kyra’s gone. Go away.”
“Please Sage. Please just open the door and you’ll know it’s real.”
“NO!” Sage cried. Kyra thought she had been mad, but she heard the voice was anguished. “My mind has been doing this to me over and over. Every night, every single night! Every night I hear a knock on my door, every night I think she’s back again. But I always wake up. Always – right before she gets to say ‘I’m home.’”
Kyra’s mood dampened. Her sister and owner had suffered because of her. There was a silence. Kyra knocked again softly on the door.
There was a pause, a sniffle from inside the room, and then the click of many locks. The door swung open and Kyra’s older sister, a Spotted Kacheek, suddenly loomed over her.
Then Sage (all six feet, eleven inches, and nine centimeters of her) was hugging Kyra so tight she couldn’t breathe.
“You’re home,” Sage sobbed. “You’re home. I’ve been waiting for you to say that since you left for the park that morning. Oh Kyra, you’re home!”
“Sage,” Kyra explained, pulling free. “Before we catch up, you have to go thank Kalsau. To put a long story short, I was kidnapped by Sloth and turned into one of his Neo-bots. Kalsau worked on his Space Station moving crates, but when Sloth turned against him, he tried to escape. I was his monitor and he always knew I had to be a real Aisha, so he freed me and brought me here.”
Sage blinked. “Whoa,” she said. “That’s a lot of information to process. I think you’d better save it for when Liz asks for every detail. But I did get that this Kalsau saved you. So I will go and thank him. Is he downstairs?”
“Yeah,” Kyra nodded.
“Ok,” Sage said. “I still can’t over that you’re actually home.”
Sage wandered down the stairs and Kyra tagged along. Kalsau was being thanked numerous times by Lizzie. Soon he was being thanked numerous times by Sage.
“So, Kalsau,” Lizzie asked finally. “You say that up until now you’ve worked in the Space Station your whole life?”
“Now that you’re on Neopia and you can’t go back to Sloth...” Oh yes, Kalsau had known this question would come. “...where are you going to stay?”
“I don’t really know,” Kalsau admitted. “I didn’t have time to think that out.”
“Well, Kalsau,” Lizzie looked him in the eyes. “We’ve only just met you. But you brought Kyra back to us, and if you hadn’t, she may never have come back. So... would you like to stay with us?”
Kalsau stared at her. “I...”
He looked at Kyra, who was smiling, and Sage, who still had happy tears staining her face, and Lizzie, who grinned at him earnestly. He’d never had an owner before, and this change seemed a little too much for one day. But he realized he wanted to be Lizzie’s pet more than anything right that second.
“Thank you so much,” he cried. Kyra, Sage, and Lizzie cheered. They held a big dinner that night to welcome home Kyra and celebrate Kalsau’s joining the family.
It was said that years later, when the Space Faerie finally defeated Sloth, all the Neo-bots were taken from him. But the Space Faerie and her armies were not sure if they could be freed. Later the Space Faerie would answer in interviews that it was a white Grundo who led her to a secret room full of card keys, which were used to free the Neo-bots. The white Grundo, who had once been Sloth’s crate-moving minion, was named Kalsau the Confident.