Awakened by Science
"He's not moving."
"Give it time."
Nearly obscured in the shadows of the laboratory balcony were three figures, two of which were the ghastly little twins of the Awakened, Lanie and Lillie. The third belonged to the comparatively imposing stature of the scientific head of the Seekers, Professor Lambert.
Situated on a metallic slab below was the object of their attention, the unidentifiable skeleton of some poor Petpet that had probably passed on a century ago. Lined down the creature's spine were a series of cables, the wires snaking down to connect to a large machine that had been feeding it electricity.
The machine had reached its limit only moments before. It gave one last jolt and sputtered violently to a halt, plumes of smoke escaping from the underside.
The skeleton gave a shudder and then collapsed onto the slab. As it did, the skull popped off and went bouncing across the floor, rolling behind one of the machines. The room went silent.
The professor slowly lifted his hand from the lever and turned to face the twins. "I'm sorry. It didn't work."
The twins' faces fell with disappointment.
"Perhaps a different method might yield better results," he added quickly. "But that will have to come later. The machines need to cool."
To his surprise, the twins approached and hugged his legs.
"It's alright, Professor. You tried your best," Lillie assured him.
"Even if you didn't bring him back to life," Lanie added.
"Edgar never moved much anyways."
"Wait, what did..." Before he had much time to contemplate this, the twins had gathered up the Petpet, Lillie with the skeleton and Lanie with the skull, and skipped off to the battleground.
The professor approached the slab where the Petpet had been only moments before and gently brushed it off with his sleeve. Curious thing. There were a great deal of Neopets and Petpets alike that seemed to have a chance at life beyond the grave, an undead life, as the Awakened proved. And yet for some, it seemed that their death was the end, and no amount of incantation or science could revive them. Such was the case with the Petpet that the Awakened had brought him this evening. Even Lambert's most powerful machines set on the highest voltage possible had done nothing more than awaken a few Scriblets, and anything larger seemed impossible. There seemed to be a greater force at play, but the professor had yet to unravel it.
Professor Lambert stepped outside of the makeshift lab and surveyed the scene of the battleground in the distance. The skirmish would begin in only a few short hours, and he wanted to make a timely arrival. Reluctantly, he would have to leave his studies behind for now. He turned to retreat back into the lab to prepare himself and was met with a soft crinkle. Cautiously, he peered down to see what he'd nearly crushed under his foot. Oh, how delightful. They'd left him a bit of candy floss.
As the professor made his way across the toiling battleground, a space cleared for him in every direction. From the beginning, the other factions had distanced themselves as much as possible from the deplorable creatures of the Awakened out of fear and disgust, and since he'd formed his alliance with them, they had begun to avoid the Gnorbu himself. Even his own Seekers seemed uneasy in his presence. Oh well, he thought, at least he didn't have to push his way through the crowd like he used to. Clearing the radius of the battleground in minutes, he joined the other faction leaders at the base of the obelisk as they prepared to commence the skirmish.
Not long after he'd arrived, Rasala the Bright, the brash head of the Order of the Red Erisim, made her appearance. As the Bori mage approached the professor, she gave him a glare of contempt from under the brim of her hat.
"Must you look at me like that?" he asked with a tone of amusement.
The Bori sneered. "Don't joke with me. I know of your experiments with the Awakened. It's one thing to befriend them. And now I've heard that you're trying to create more of them. It's just... unnatural."
"One could likewise argue that the magic that the Order practices is unnatural," the professor pointed out. "It is knowledge alone that is my motivation. This alliance was meant to last the duration of the last skirmish, and nothing more. Yet there is something of fascination about the Awakened that continues to draw me back to them. Even after all this time, I still have yet to discover the force behind the dead."
The Bori smirked. "Isn't it obvious? It's magic."
"If it were mere magic, I'd be able to revive the creatures in the lab," Lambert protested. "The scientific methods I use are much more methodical than any magic. There must be a greater force at play. And I intend to unlock its secrets." The statement was met with nothing more than an exasperated huff as Rasala turned her attention away from him. Lambert hardly cared, he simply wanted the skirmish to be done with so he could return to his lab.
He knew the Bori's words were true. He himself had questioned the morality of his experiments from the beginning. And he could admit to himself that knowledge was no longer his core motivation. By some strange twist of fate, it seemed that he had developed a love for the dead.
Many hours into the night, Lambert arrived back at the lab. On schedule, the twins appeared shortly afterwards, skipping across the balcony to where he was standing.
"Hello, Lanie. Hello, Lillie," the professor greeted politely. "I see you're empty-handed. Couldn't find any test subjects for me this evening?"
"We haven't retrieved him yet."
The professor was taken aback. "Oh."
"We need your help," the twins continued, as if this offered any explanation. "Follow us." Before the professor even had so much as a chance to react, the twins each grabbed one of his sleeves in their hand and yanked him down the balcony. The two dragged him down the stairs to a secret room apart from the lab where Lambert stored a crude teleportation device.
"We must go to the Haunted Woods. Will you teleport us?" Lillie inquired.
"I'm beginning to regret telling you of this device," the professor sighed. "Very well, we may. But this will be the last time."
The three stepped inside and shut the heavy metal door behind them. Lambert pulled down the activation lever, and in an instant they'd appeared at the edge of a graveyard. "Strange, I had the coordinates set for the edge of the Haunted Woods," the Gnorbu frowned. "Is this where you two intended to go?"
The twins nodded but said nothing as they stared out at the graveyard with a strange unwavering gaze.
"Well then, we should hurry. We don't want to be away for too long." The professor looked down to realize that both had yet to release their grip on his sleeves. "Ahem."
"Sorry," they said in unison, although he doubted they were sorry at all. The two departed from the device and began to weave between the gravestones. The professor expected them to stop at any moment next to one of the Petpet graves at the entrance - after all, the two had brought him almost nothing but the tiny creatures until now. But to his surprise they skipped past and kept going, disappearing out of view in the fog of the graveyard. Deciding that it would be best not to lose sight of them, the professor followed along. When he finally managed to catch up to them, the twins were already kneeling at one of the graves.
This grave, unlike the rest, had been neglected to be filled, and remained as a deep gap in the ground with a small wooden coffin resting at the bottom. It seemed that whoever had been left to fill the grave had been scared away by something before they'd finished.
"This is it," Lanie told the professor as if he hadn't guessed by now.
"We need that coffin," Lillie explained. "Neither of us can retrieve it. But we think you can."
"You didn't tell me beforehand that we'd be robbing graves, you know," the professor pointed out indignantly.
"It's not robbing. This coffin belongs to us," Lanie insisted. "It's a matter of... unfinished business. Now, will you help?"
The professor sighed. If he wanted to remain in their graces, it looked like he didn't have a choice. Diligently he climbed into the grave, slid his hands underneath the coffin, and lifted it up to where Lanie and Lillie were standing.
"We knew you could do it," they said with little hint of enthusiasm. "Now we can begin."
With the three now sharing the weight of the coffin, they retreated swiftly back to the teleportation device and were instantly phased back to the lab. While the twins climbed the stairs to the balcony, the professor dealt with the preparations.
With caution he pulled back the coffin lid. The identity of the Neopet inside was difficult to discern, but Lambert could only guess that the mystery creature was an Ixi. And a small one, at that - the little fellow was hardly bigger than Lanie and Lillie. Carefully the professor retrieved the body and laid him across the slab, securing his arms and legs with metal cuffs. Then he reached for the cables that connected to the main machine. Not quite sure where to attach the clamps, he put one on each of what he assumed were the Neopet's horns and backed away. The display looked a bit silly, but he knew it would be effective.
The professor joined the twins on the balcony and nodded to them as he pulled down the lever to begin the process.
In an instant, the room was immersed in a deep crackling hum. Lambert watched with determination as a white light flickered from high above, growing more steady as the machine gathered its power and channeled surges of electricity into the cables. In seconds the whir of the machine had become near deafening, and he braced himself for what was about to happen. Finally the limit had been reached. The machine ground to a halt and let loose a burst of electricity that caused Lambert's fur to stand on end.
The Ixi gave a leap but then fell motionless to the slab. The electricity from within him escaped in all directions, one bolt careening through the open window. There was a blinding flash of light from outside, and the room went silent.
The professor stared after it with a look of bewilderment. Slowly, he removed his hand from the lever and turned to face the twins. "I'm sorry. It didn't work."
The morning afterwards, there seemed to be whispers of terror and uncertainty on the battleground. As Professor Lambert approached the obelisk, he could see that, this time, all of the faction leaders were glaring at him. Well, he thought with a smirk, after last night's mishap this didn't come as a surprise.
Before he had the chance to speak to them, Flint, the head of the Brute Squad, lunged forward and grabbed him by the cravat. "What have you done now?!" he raged. "We saw the light from your lab hit the obelisk last night. Now the obelisk is losing its glow! We've had enough of your affairs with the Awakened. It's bad enough that you're trying to make more of those infernal creatures, but now your little experiments are interfering with the obelisk's magic!"
"I can't say I can explain the exact nature of last night's occurrence," the professor stated in his defense, "but I assure you the effects on the obelisk are only temporary. My laboratory can hardly awaken Petpetpets, I doubt the obelisk will suffer any harm from one tiny mishap."
"If not today, then it's only a matter of time," Rasala cut in, prompting Flint to release his grip on Lambert. "If you don't put an end to this, we will! The Awakened are vile creatures best left alone, unless you want to become one of them."
The professor stepped back and straightened out his jacket with a scowl. "Well, try all you like, but nothing you do will cause me to cease my experiments," he answered coldly. "I'll continue toying with the Awakened until the day I discover their secret. I can't see any fault in gaining favor with the dead. And what would it matter to you if I did become one of them? After all, one day, we will all be joining the Awakened."