Identity Crisis: Part Three
Commander Halster slowly punched in the security code to
undo the observation cell's locks where the wayward Sloth Clone was being contained.
Just before he pressed the last button, he said to Gazlow without turning to look
at him, "Remember my orders, soldier."
Gazlow nodded in response but then, realizing
that his action went unseen, barked a quick, "Yes, sir."
The commander pressed the final button and,
after a great deal of clicking and whirring from the inside of the steel panel,
the door slowly slid open. Halster heard something make a sudden movement inside
the cell and growl in hatred and irritation. He then stepped inside with the
captive, Gazlow close on his heels. The door then slid shut with a final slam.
"So...I guess introductions are in order," Commander
Halster said calmly, noting that Gazlow was narrowing his eyes at the Sloth
clone, one of the young Grundo's blue hands wandering dangerously close to the
blaster at his hip. "I am Commander Halster," he went on, "the one in charge
of this space station, and this is my trusted guard, Gazlow."
"I need no introduction, mortals," snarled the
clone. "All Neopians know full well who I am. The mere mention of my name can
cause grown men to crumble, children to cry...Even the faeries themselves fear
The Buzz only blinked his cold, green eyes slowly,
as if he was duly unimpressed. "I would still appreciate you giving me your
name, just for the record." He could hear Gazlow snicker at the shocked expression
the clone displayed due to Halster's blatant lack of fear, but a slightly raised
claw from the commander quickly silenced the Grundo.
The clone glared malevolently from behind its
cowl for several, silent moments before complying with the Buzz's request. "I
am the one known as Dr. Frank Sloth," it said in a smooth, venomous, voice identical
to the its creator, "but I will soon also hold the title of Lord of all Neopia."
Halster arched his eyebrows, as though he was
somewhat impressed by this response. "Yes, I'm afraid I have heard of you, Doctor.
And I've also met you before a few times on the battlefield. Me and several
friends took part in overthrowing you during your attempted attack on the Lost
Desert a few years back...Several of those friends perished in that battle."
The clone chuckled darkly as Halster finished
his sentence, causing Gazlow to curse and close his fingers over the handle
of his gun. Another raised hand from the Buzz commander, however, held the young
Grundo's wrath at bay. The commander continued to speak calmly as he went on.
"While I have seen your heartlessness towards
other living things firsthand," Halster spoke, "I have also witnessed your amazing
ingenuity and intellect. I must say, I'm a little shocked that THE Dr. Sloth
hadn't yet broken his way out of this cell by now. The Frank Sloth I know would
find our locks as mere child's play."
The clone snorted derisively and pulled his
cloak closer around itself. "Don't speak to me in that tone," it snarled. "At
the very least, I've already figured out that you must've given me some sort
of sedative that stunts my mental abilities. I've ran into difficulty trying
to piece together the exact events that transpired to result in me ending up
in your prison, but I assure you, once I regain my composure and stability,
you will all..."
"Pay a terrible price, right?" Gazlow finished,
his voice dripping with sarcasm.
The Sloth clone slowly turned a glaring eye
upon the haughty Grundo. It stared a long while before a thin, venomous grin
spread over its green features. "Why don't you tell your little stooge to behave
itself while we talk, Commander?"
" A 'little stooge', huh, Sloth?" spat Gazlow
as his grip tightened more fiercely around the handle of his blaster. "You should
talk! You're nothing but a stupid robot servant!" Halster turned abruptly on
Gazlow and told him to hush. The clone started slightly and murmured for Gazlow
to repeat himself.
"Yeah, you heard me!" Gazlow shouted despite
Commander Halster ordering him to remain quiet. "You're nothing but one of those
stupid clones that you probably think you make! You're not the real Dr. Sloth,
The clone laughed and said that that was impossible,
but there was a hint of uneasiness in its voice.
Gazlow went on, his voice growing louder and
shakier. "Go ahead and deny it; it makes you closer to the real thing, anyway,
which gives me a perfect chance to tell you what I've been meaning to tell you
for a long time now! 'Stooges'!" Gazlow spat. "Is that all you see us Grundos
as? Just stooges? Or maybe the better word would be 'slaves'?!? We're nothing
more than cheap labor and lab rats for you, that's all! I remember what it was
like, being forced to work in your factories! But that's nothing compared to
what my family went through!" Gazlow was now clutching the gun in both hands,
as if struggling to bring it out of its holster. "You must be one sick jerk
to actually pick out the entire family of a single slave and use them all for
you twisted experiments! My sister would come back and tell me about how you'd
prod at her and pump chemicals into her like she was some sort of science project!"
Tears were now welling in Gazlow's eyes and he continued, his gun now slowly
being lifted out of its holster. "And the last time I saw her before she disappeared
into your lab and never came back out, you couldn't even tell she was a Grundo
to begin with! And this is all NOTHING compared to what you did to my mother
and father and younger brother, you...SICK..."
Gazlow suddenly raised his gun and leveled it
at the clone's chest.
Commander Halster reached out for the gun, yelling
at Gazlow to stop.
The Sloth clone's eyes widened.
The gun fired. Up in the observation lab, Talzee
screamed and covered his mouth. Nate could only gawk in horror.
Commander Halster snatched the gun from the
Grundo and knocked him to the floor. Gazlow didn't move from the spot from where
he fell; he only laid there limply and sobbed into his shaking hands. The commander
was about to say something to him concerning his disregard for orders, but a
sound behind him caused him to look back at the robot.
The Sloth clone had slid to the floor, his back
against the wall and his legs sprawled out in front of him. The blast, being
at such close range, managed to blow a large hole in the robot's chest, as well
as strip half of the prosthetic skin from its face, thus revealing a glimpse
of its mechanical skull. The clone was looking down in dismay at the hole in
its chest, its hands shakily reaching up towards it but not touching it, as
if in fear. Its jaw worked slowly as if trying to form words as it stared in
absolute horror at the wires and gears that made up its insides. Then it haltingly
brought its hand near its face and looked at the dark liquid that was smeared
on its fingertips. Not blood, but oil.
The clone slowly looked up at the commander
with genuine sorrow filling its remaining eye. "I-I'm a...?" it said weakly.
Halster could say nothing in reply. The clone searched the Buzz's face pleadingly
for an answer as oil oozed from its undamaged eye like black tears. Then, as
sparks, crackling sounds and a thin trail of acrid smoke emitted from its damaged
chest, the clone arched his back as if in pain, jerked its limbs fitfully a
few times and then slowly went limp, its chin resting on what remained of its
chest, its only eye staring blankly at its feet. There was a slow droning sound
as the robot became still.
Commander Halster listened and watched as the
clone shut down and didn't even turn when he heard the door behind him slowly
grind open. Nate dashed in and quickly began to babble questions about whether
he and Gazlow were all right.
"We're fine, Nate," Halster told the Kacheek,
not taking his eyes off of the motionless robot. "But I'll see to it that Gazlow
here spends a few days in the brig." When Nate questioned exactly why, the commander
replied, "For disobeying direct orders, for damaging a robotic research subject...and
for....that..." He jerked his head slightly in the direction of the unmoving
clone lying on the floor.
"I-I don't understand, Sir," Nate ventured carefully.
"You already charged him with damaging a robot research subject. What do you
mean by 'that'?"
"I mean there are worse things than death, Chief
Examiner Nate," Commander Halster responded.
"It's one thing to die. It's another thing to
discover that you were never alive to begin with."