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A Space-Station Ghost Hunting Adventure


by jasper_eden

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     Life wasn't so bad on the Virtupets Space Station.

     Sure, sometimes the habitation wards had to be air locked due to hull breach, and sure, sometimes a rogue space drone still under Sloth control would get stuck in the recreation deck. But where else can you step outside into zero gravity?

     Kreludor. You can do that on Kreludor.

     But where else in space can you find... ghosts?

     That's right, there were ghosts on the space station. Edone the robot Grarrl was as sure of this as she was that the cafe meals were reconstituted from hard tack.

     Why else did the corridors creak and moan with nobody around? What explanation could there be for the random chills, the mysterious markings appearing overnight, and the disappearances of many of Edone's mint-in-package Lawyerbot memorabilia?

     Edone knew she had to do something about this. She just wasn't sure what.

     So she started with the basics: a stakeout.

     Dragging and scraping one of the station's standard issue MetaStorage Crates™ into the center of her quarters, she sat down on it, facing her collection.

     The UsukiCon Y9 limited edition. The Ultra Attorney Action!!! Figure. The official picnic basket. It was all displayed in its glory, shining under a jury-rigged display lamp and the light of a billion distant stars blinking in through the viewport.

     Edone ground her metal jaw in irritation as her optics aligned over the empty spaces where the ultra-rare Life of Lawyerbot #1 (the first and only Lawyerbot comic before its untimely end) and her extra special Holiday Rainbow Lawyerbot Mug once rested. They were the crown jewels of her display, standing tall and proud at the head of the Fleet of Glory. Now all that was left was an imprint in the dust where they once rested.

     Edone bowed her head in a moment of respectful silence. Then she filled the empty space with Lawyerbot branded QuickEats takeout bags.

     Surely whatever Lawyerbot-hungry ghost prowled the station wouldn't stop at just two of her collection, when there still remained a plethora of juicy, juicy artifacts.

     As the smartest robot she knew, Edone sat perfectly still on her MetaStorage Crate™, eyes locked on the shelved displays. She was going to wait here all night-cycle for the bot-thieving phantasm to reveal its despicable ectoplasmic form.

     Ghosts were made of ectoplasm, right? Edone speculated upon the nature of ectoplasm. Was it a solid? Well, with a name like that, it was probably a plasma. Did this mean it was hot? Would it melt things? Could it be used for transfusions? Was that the same type of plasma?

     Edone thought about this so much that the next thing she knew, she found herself hunched over on the crate, rebooting from a low-power sleepstate. Rubbing the rust from her optics, she straightened up, wincing from the creaks and cracks in her joints, and froze in horror.

     They had taken the Lawyerbot Yooyuball Collectible.

     Edone fell to her knees with a heavy metal CLANG. There were only three in existence, after the other twenty-two were lost in the Neopia Central Noodle Stand Tragedy. Even the unique Certificate of Ownership by the Collectibles Association, registered in Edone's serial number designation, was gone.

     If Edone could cry, a tear would be trailing down her facial casing. She clenched a fist, hailing the abandoned etched-metal nameplate once labelling the fabled collectible. She whispered an oath - "I will avenge you."

     Then she tore out of her quarters, sprinting towards Plan B.

          "Plan B" was a Grundo by the name of Exano. He was a brave and dedicated soul who manned Grundos Cafe, which, despite Edone's frequent thoughts otherwise, did not have a possessive apostrophe. Sometimes this led to concern in the customers as to what, exactly, they were eating. Exano did not appreciate when Edone would reassure them it was just reconstituted hard tack, despite that being much better than Grundos.

     Exano was having an ordinary day, leaning on the counter and arguing with a customer on whether or not they could get their money back if they found a bolt in their soup.

     "It's for the texture," he spat, and then an alarming noise drew his eyes down the corridor. He rubbed his face in defeat and muttered, "aw, geez, not again," as Edone thundered into the cafe, screeching to a halt and scratching her clawprints into the floor as her servos hissed and cooled.

     "Ghosts stole my Lawyerbot," she stated, looking around before beginning to hoist her metal body up onto the counter, causing customers to stumble back in confusion as their food got shoved onto the floor. She scrabbled along the counter, looking up at the ceiling and walls. "Exano, where are those marks? You know, the ones that look like some vermin live in your walls?"

     The several other remaining Grundo customers looked discomforted, and Exano turned to them in exasperation. "No! There is no vermin!" He looked back to Edone, furious, and snapped, "They're from poor station maintenance!"

     "Nobody believes that, OR the vermin theory," she stated back as she began to pry a piece of bolted plating off the wall.

     Exano sighed, glancing at his fleeing patrons. “So it’s ghosts, is it?”

     “Of course it is!” She ripped off the plating and it went flying over Exano’s ducking form. Edone began scanning the revealed spiderweb cracks into her 3d-mapping memory bank. “Look at these! They’re like a message!”

     “A message that our mechanic is too distracted by the idea of ghosts to take care of the space station!” He ducked again as Edone continued violently removing plating. “The bulkheads are rusting, or contracting with the temperature, or something!” A piece of plating flew like a frisbee into his Achyfi machine with a crash. “And that is definitely not helping.”

     Edone snapped away from her scan. “The temperature.” She jumped down with a heavy clang, shaking Exano off balance as she grabbed him by the shoulders. “The chills!

     “Oh, that’s the ghosts too, is it?” He called after he as she ducked into his backroom. “Hey, you’re not allowed back there, you know!”

     She ignored him and began scanning the grimy storage and prep kitchen for abnormalities in temperature. 23c… 23c… -5c? That’s cold!

     Taking inventory of the surrounding area - sticky floor, hissing cords, dripping faucets and all - she came to a conclusion just as Exano entered the room, looking surly.

     “Your freezer’s cooling element hose is leaking!” She beamed, then brought a hand to her chin in thought. “Probably because the ghost hates your food.”

     “Or,” countered Exano, “it’s because I submitted a repair ticket weeks ago, and you haven’t fixed it, because you hate my food, and also you’re distracted by ghosts.”

     “But the chills are happening everywhere else in the station, too.”

     “Have you forgotten that the station is an enormous machine, with an enormous cooling system?” Exano rubbed his forehead, trying to rid himself of this headache. Also, he was having a migraine. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but you’ve been letting this place get run down for months.”

     “Months, huh?” Edone glared at the Grundo cook and began listing things off on her claws. “Well, excuse me for attending Lawyerbot’s Usukicon appearance, the grueling Maintenance Bot assembly, the soup kitchen grand re-opening, and…” Her processor whirred as she drew blanks in what she thought was a full quiver. “Other… things.”

     Exano held rigid a moment, then put an arm around her shoulders. “Listen, Edone. This is from one friend to another. We’re friends, right?”

     Edone nodded slowly.

     “You’ve always been off-kilter, it’s just your natural personality,” he said. “But you never let the station get like this before. You were passionate about it. This isn’t like you.” Exano turned her towards him and gave her a serious look. “You should get your memory access, loop bypassers, whatever, checked out. You might need a little repair yourself.”

     She deflated. “You think so? You… you think it’s me?”

     “It might be you.” He patted her shoulder. “And, hey, maybe the fact that you were so certain something was wrong was an error message trying to get through. So you were right, in a sense.”

     Edone considered herself, and looked down at the floor. “Yeah. Maybe you’re right? I’m gonna go to the maintenance bay now.”

     He gave her a pat on the back that was more like a shove out the door. “Chin up, you’ll be right as rain soon enough. Say hello to XN-88 for me.”

     “Sure thing,” she said, slowly exiting the cafe.

          As she approached the Neotrak responsible for check-in at the robot maintenance bay, Edone felt dispirited. Had her thoughts and actions the last few months truly been the result of a malfunction? Was there really no ghost, no mystery, on the space station? How was she going to show her face around when she let herself shirk the integrity of the very place they all lived?

     She was drawn out of her thoughts by the Neotrak XN-88. “state issue.”

     “Uh, memory issues, I think? Sense of -” a low creaking, moaning sound interrupted her as it echoed throughout the bay. “There’s the creaking! That sounds like a ghost, right?”

     “analytic scans indicate cause of noise structural in nature.” XN-88 flashed its lights in sequence as it recorded data. “hull integrity lacking. submitting repair ticket serial code zero zero four eight nine seven eight for sector f.”

     Edone waited a moment. “Well, there’s our first problem, I guess, is that I’m not receiving repair tickets.”

     “confirmed. please prepare for diagnostics.” It began to wheel around her, pausing and scanning certain panels.

     Edone closed her optics as lasers flashed in them. “Ugh. I hate diagnostics.”

     “process 51% complete,” XN-88 assured her. With a retractable telescopic emitter it began to communicate to her digital access panel. “error code five three nine. unidentified obstruction in digital processes. identifying…” XN-88 emitted a series of beeps. “unknown error code. unidentified power surge detected in secondary processing. identifying… error code zero five six. partial physical obstruction in ventilation system. probable source of power drain.” A screwdriver replaced the penlight on its mechanical limb as it wheeled and began unscrewing a panel on Edone’s back.

     “obstructions removed,” it droned, setting them on the ground in front of her.

     She gasped and dropped to her knees, her open ventilation panel clanging on the ground behind her. “M- my Life of Lawyerbot! My Holiday Rainbow mug - my collectible!” She scraped the packaged doll off the ground and cradled it. “How did they - ?”

     “error code nine nine five,” XN-88 interrupted, peering into the ventilation system. “error code - error code unknown -”

     The crates and repair tools of the bay began to float into the air, and Edone’s sensors noted a sudden thirty degree localized temperature drop. Before her, in a swirl of mist and ectoplasm, appeared a real, genuine ghost.

     “no remaining internal errors detected,” XN-88 chittered to Edone as the ghost grew in size, looming before the both of them, extending translucent tendrils out to the far corners of the room. “errors resolved. list of resolving actions taken: none. have a nice day.”

     The phantasm lashed out with spectral claws, and Edone grabbed XN-88 and dived to the side behind a hoverlift. She peeked out from behind her cover to see it swirling in indeterminate shape, incomprehensible particles left behind as its clawmarks hovering in the air. “XN-88, that’s a ghost.”

     “confirmed spectral anomaly detected.”

     “That’s really a ghost!” The phantasm spiraled inward in a vortex, creating a whirlwind of lighter objects pulling in toward the center of the room. Edone held tight to XN-88’s small form. “It was… possessing me?”

     “spectral anomaly emerged from secondary processing systems, governing memory and subconscious processing. additionally showed tangible influence on surrounding environment.”

     “Haunting, more like, then…” Edone tightened her right-hand grip of XN-88, then glanced at her left hand, where she held her three rarest Lawyerbot collectibles. Under the ghost’s influence, they had been consuming her life, along with the fear of losing them. As the wind whirled around her, pulling at the bolts in the walls and threatening collapse of the station’s flagging integrity, Edone made up her mind.

     She stepped out from behind the crates. “Hey! You can have these! Catch!” Then she hurled the three memorabilia directly into the eye of the storm.

     As soon as they connected, the storm shrank to be as thin as a cardboard tube, simply holding the comic, mug, and doll in its spiraling winds. Slowly they pulled in, reconstituting the form of the phantom, holding the objects close to its core as it swirled protectively around them.

     Edone cleared her throat and waited for the ghost to glance over. “You probably know, but I’m X98876EDO on lawyerbotforums. Look me up when you make an account.”

     The ghost gave her a salute, and dissipated slowly out into space among the stars, bringing its cherished items along with it. The glowing blue joined the myriad of colors of the nebulae, spiraling out towards Neopia.

     Edone watched with a subdued satisfaction. She was disappointed her three greatest pieces were gone, but maybe she was devoting too much time and energy to knick-knacks. She could watch the old lawyerbot cartoon instead and feel just as good. She could even layer it over her optics while she worked maintenance!

     It might bring down her quality of work... but anything’s better than absolutely no work because a lawyerbot-obsessed ghost is haunting your system. That excuse probably wasn’t going to work, was it?

     As she had this thought, exactly 56 repair tickets pinged through on her processing system. She sighed, set XN-88 down, and began walking to the first one - back at Grundos Cafe.

     She couldn’t wait to tell Exano she wasn’t malfunctioning! It was just a minor case of being haunted by a ghost as a result of technically being an inanimate object! He’d surely respect her more after that.

     Far, far away from the station, away in the vast vacuum of space, a wayward spirit treasured its three worldly possessions. They were the most beautiful things it had ever seen.

The End.

 
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