To Succeed is to Fail: Chapter Four
Fear me not.
Do you appreciate the relevance the tiny phrase has throughout this story?
Please say you do.
However, if you really require everything in strict black and white: does Judy fear the zombies; does Melisma fear her employer; do you fear me?
I can't answer with absolute certainty any one of those questions.
But, then again, is anything in life absolute?
Please tell me you know the answer. ***
Part the Fourth -- Search and Destroy
"Fascinating," Judy remarked. "Did the witch use it to turn you all into zombies?"
Hoshi laughed. "Oh, no," she replied. "But, one of the internal mechanisms of that ray should give us greater understanding on how to reverse zombification. This part is quite reactive and very dangerous, however, so you'll have to carry it with gloves--" the Usul handed her a pair of thick rubber gloves "--and ensure that proper safety procedures are carried out; treat the piece with intense caution. Even the slightest overpower of its energy could render an explosion so intense, a good section of the Woods would explode into nothingness."
"So, this item is dangerous?"
"Very much so," Ms. Star returned.
"And you will ensure to treat it with caution when I hand it over to you?"
"Absolutely. You see, if my research is true, the inside of the little instrument contains a liquid which can cause 'zombiism'." She laughed a cute, light-hearted giggle, and Judy could not help feeling a tad envious. "If anything, I can reverse engineer the liquid into an anti-zombie antidote. So many legends surround this orb!"
Judy's hopes fell slightly. "You mean, your research is only based on legend?"
"Not all of it... And, remember, all legends are based on some form of truth."
The Acara had to agree with her statement. "Where can I find this ray?"
"Well, that's the thing," Hoshi returned. "I am not sure. As a matter of fact, no one is sure. Any records as to the exact location of the facility are long since destroyed -- the overall project ended up going quite awry -- so no one really knows where it is. Except..." she gave a dramatic pause, "for an elderly and disfigured old Quiggle, who apparently used to work alongside the professor who constructed the contraption. He lives behind the Brain Tree, and is sometimes referred to as the 'beast behind the tree'."
"Got it," the Acara responded.
"Good," Hoshi concluded as the two parted ways. "Despite the costs, secure that piece."
Judy entered the main hall of the building, and was met by several statements of "Good luck!" before she finally departed.
A grand adventure would follow...***
Wanting to know what happens next, listener?
Well, I've decided to take a bit of a detour from the main line of events.
But don't be so upset. I'm sure you'll enjoy it...***
Aside II Continued
Melisma sat by the machine, ready to work.
"Pass me that wrench, girl," the Scorchio called out to her. "And hurry."
She did as she was told. It was relatively easy work -- she had gone through a quick prep as to the tools that she would have to fetch her master, but other than that she was plunged right into working on the ray.
"So, when will it be ready?" the Shoyru asked him.
"Not for a while, yet," he replied, a tinge of sadness in his voice.
But she wasn't sad. No, Melisma was bouncing with excitement. Just imagine all the cash she would earn from this endeavor! 10,000NP an hour times eight hours a day times an indefinite amount of days...
She'd be rich in no time.
Several days later, she found herself beginning to slip, however.
"No, Melisma," the scientist responded, annoyance thick in his voice. "I wanted a Philips head screwdriver, not a Frearson!"
"I'm sorry," she said. But he was right. She was, in short, elsewhere.
"You're beginning to run into the same problems my former apprentice encountered."
"You had a former apprentice?" she inquired curiously. "I thought that you said 'when you arrive I can't let you leave'?" She tried her best to mimic him.
"Oh," the Scorchio responded, a maniacal laugh building in his throat, "I let him leave. But he won't dare tell another soul what happened here." He began to laugh. The laughing got louder.
Melisma gulped. "You mean..."
"I totally destroyed his ability to show himself in public. Poor young Quiggle..."
"You did that just because he began getting mixed up in what tools he gave?"
"No." He was now sobbing from laughing so hard. "Not just that. It was done so I could get out of paying him all the money he was owed."
"People post 'Hire Me' ads up all the time. I reason I can get as much free labor as I wish by constantly using and abusing the poor Neopets who place them and disposing of them when they begin to falter, or when they insist on payment."
Melisma was in disbelief. "How long has this been going on for?"
"You're my second apprentice. But you certainly won't be my last."
Giggling, the mad Scorchio picked up a tiny ray gun and shot it at her, but the Shoyru managed to escape unharmed. However, the potted plant it did hit became all furry and alien-like. Parts decayed here, while other parts expanded in a seemingly random pattern. The plant was quite disfigured.
Just as Melisma would be if a shot from the gun hit her.
Hurriedly, she flew toward his monstrous zombification ray, landing at the control panel atop the machine. She had no idea what it would do in its unfinished state, but she aimed and pointed it right at the Scorchio's head.
Immediately, the scientist dropped his weapon. He seemed afraid of the potential outcome as well.
"You don't think I won't shoot?" she roared at him. She armed herself, and pulled the trigger. The machine warmed itself up and made a giant, ghastly, metal-resounding noise...
And then the Scorchio decided to flee for his life.
Melisma disarmed the ray and hopped down from the control panel. "Yes, that should teach him never to mess with me or anyone--"
And then she was cut short.
You see, a major problem with the ray, yet -- a component had yet to be installed -- was its inability to disarm itself after its mechanism had been triggered.
Melisma found that out the hard way.
The ray practically exploded, sending random blasts here and there.
Several of the high-intensity rays bombarded her at once, causing drastic transformations unpredictable to all but the ray and Fyora herself.
Miraculously, Melisma emerged from the wreck. Even more unbelievably, she found herself physically unscathed and unchanged... though scarred mentally for life.
While feeling absolutely healthy, she couldn't help but feel disfigured on the inside.
The Shoyru had no idea what to expect, yet found herself imagining a whole new world of possibilities...
Walking away from the mild wreckage of the home, she cast her hands out toward the pile of wooden rubble. "Resolve," she commanded.
The wood flew up into the air, rebuilding itself into a home.
"I wonder what else I can do," Melisma remarked to herself with a slowly widening grin...***
What a great piece of the story.
So, can you predict what's about to happen?
Even if you succeed in getting the gist in your prediction, do note that one -- or more -- of the characters must fail in order to make your hypothesis completely true.
This story, as is life, does not have a happy ending in absolute.
Someone has to lose...***
Part the Fourth Continued
Quickly, Judy made her way toward the Brain Tree. The Acara was mumbling to herself, trying to remember her instructions.
There was someone she had to meet. Some kind of... Quiggle, yes, that was it. The beast behind the tree.
She had to meet a Quiggle.
"I have to meet a Quiggle," she told herself, "for he knows the whereabouts of this zombification ray."
As she continued wandering down the trail, fear began creeping into her veins. Something was off about this pathway. She just couldn't quite place what it was.
And then Judy figured it out.
There was a constant rustling; someone seemed to be following her.
The Acara started running. She wasn't sure what it was, or who it was, or what it would do to her... she just knew she had to keep running...***
I shall pause this segment here, and choose instead to complete the second aside. Hopefully, as this subplot reaches its inevitable conclusion, your depth and understanding of this tale will increase tenfold.
Perhaps you'll even be able to tell this tale; perhaps, secretly, I am you, from a different time and place.
Or perhaps this entire little section is absolutely ludicrous by all accounts. ***
Aside II Continued
Melisma returned to the home in which she had spent her past week-or-so working. Navigating back downstairs to the basement, she flew -- using magic now, rather than her little Shoyru wings -- toward the control panel.
She had to ensure that what had just happened to her would not happen to anyone else, ever -- having powerful skills were amazing, but what would the likelihood be of another Neopian getting them without consequence, like she seemingly had? Pointing toward the panel, she attempted encircling it with a force field; however, she found her magical abilities insufficient to carry out this task -- she would have to better hone her skills later.
Instead, she managed to encase the panel -- the levers, the buttons, and the release handle that opened up the panel to make any further modifications -- in an unbreakable metal shield, locking the entire unit with a silver key.
And then Melisma left the house.
Stopping just once to look back at its glory, she flew off into the night. The young Shoyru had to find a place to deposit the key, had to find an area in which to hide it from all but her -- a location only she would know.
Soaring through the skies and gazing down below, she saw a little house, just southeast of her little town.
She swooped down and entered the marvelous place. Old Mr. McSweeny had commissioned its construction just before he passed, to serve as a forest home for him.
Alas, he was never able to use it.
Everything looked very recent; the only imperfection was a very thin layer of dust covering everything. The floorboards appeared delightful, the staircase ornate, the furniture... oh, it was all just so amazing.
Yes, this was where she would hide the key.
Slipping into one of the side rooms, Melisma used her magic to remove one of the nails in a floorboard. She carefully placed the key underneath and, from the inside, locked the door.
Leaving the abode via teleporting through the wall, she floated mysteriously off into the night.
Melisma had skills to practice, spells to hone.
Perhaps she would visit Ilere, or someone else around who could help the Shoyru increase her magical prowess...
To be continued…