Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 103,901,843 Issue: 205 | 26th day of Hiding, Y7
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Escape from the Space Station: Part One


by sois_sage

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Space is a cold, bleak, unforgiving place. Which is rather ironic, in a way, because that is exactly what my life has been up until a few months ago.

     My life began on the Virtupets Space Station. I won't say that I was born there, because that implies having a family who wanted you for you, even before you existed. I was created because there was work to be done. There was a new facility to be built, and weapons to be put together. For what, I didn't know.

     I was one of hundreds of Grundos created for this purpose. We all slept in one long room, in cages on either side of the walls. Names were foreign, unimportant things. All we had were our individual numbers to tell each other apart. I didn't try to make friends. Socializing was frowned upon.

     The days followed a pattern. We rose early, woken by a large bell near the door. If we were lucky there would be some food and water for us on our way out of the room where we slept. Out we went, to work in our individual sectors. I worked in Weapons Assembly, sector J. We worked at repetitive, mind numbing tasks for twelve hours. Mistakes were quite costly. Usually they had to be paid for in blood. After our jobs were done for the day it was back to the room where we slept, into our cages, and then the lights went out. My life went on this for a very long time. Years, I suspect, but I have no real way of knowing. Then everything changed.

     One morning as the bell went off I woke to find the cage next to mine empty. That was strange. Once we had entered our cages for the night, they locked automatically. There was no way of getting out until morning unless someone with a key let you out.

     Strange as it was, I tried to put it out of my mind as I left the room. Then I noticed that there seemed to be fewer Grundos trudging down the hall than usual. Maybe I had just left a bit later than usual, I told myself as I sat down at my station and began to put together a QX-92 Neutrino Blaster.

     I put the thoughts of my disappearing fellows out of my mind for the rest of the day, and tried to concentrate on my work. But that evening as I returned to my cage I was sure that more Grundos were missing from the ranks. Soon I would find out why.

     The next morning the room was nearly empty. Only fifteen other Grundos remained, most of them brown, like me. A tall Blumaroo with cruel, reddish eyes coloured eyes and a scowling face was waiting for us in the hall.

     "Follow me," he ordered, his voice low and gruff.

     He lead the way through twisting and turning hallways, to a part of the Space Station that I had never been before. Judging by the bewildered looks on the faces of the other Grundos, I guessed that this was new territory to them, too.

     Finally we arrived outside a large metal door. It didn't have a handle, and I wondered how we could possibly get inside without one. The Blumaroo punched some numbers into the keypad by the door, and it slid open.

     The room was large, with bright, harsh lighting. I had to shield my eyes for a moment, until they adjusted. Once I was able to put my hand down, I saw that it was full of metal tables. File cabinets took up the entire left wall. A counter lined the rest of the room. Scattered about it were bottles and beakers of various coloured liquids. In the center of the room stood a tall figure wearing a long black robe. His skin was a green, a different shade of green than the other Grundos I knew. This bloke was no Grundo. He looked up from the file he was reading as we entered the room.

     "Ah, there you are, Garoo. Took you long enough," he said to the Blumaroo who had escorted us.

     Garoo said nothing, only scowled even more deeply.

     The cloaked one looked over at us, and I realized with a jolt that his eyes were blood red and shone with malice. He glanced back down at the file.

     "Grundo 471," he read. "Come here."

     A yellow Grundo disengaged herself from the group and slowly walked up to him.

     The green man checked the metal identification bracelet on her wrist and then took a corked bottle from the counter next to him. The liquid inside of it appeared to be two different shades of green, and looked a bit chunky.

     "Drink this," he ordered, thrusting it at her.

     Hesitatingly, she accepted the bottle and unstoppered it. Then she upended it and swallowed the contents in a single gulp.

     Instantly she began to transform. Her skin changed until it was a few shades darker than that of the bloke who stood in front of her. She grew from barely reaching his waist to being on level with his eyes. Muscles bugled beneath her skin, and her shoulders sloped forward. The changes stopped just as suddenly as they had started.

     "Through there," ordered the man, pointing to a door on the right.

     She obeyed, marching through immediately. I caught sight of her eyes as she went by. They were completely empty, not a trace of emotion left in them.

      He called the next Grundo forward, and then the next, and the next. I stood there, reeling in shock the entire time. I wanted to run, but my legs were locked in place. As bad as my life had been so far, not being able to feel anything had to be much worse.

     Finally it was my turn.

     "Grundo 529," said the cloaked monster, eyeing me. Of course he knew it was me. I was the only Grundo left in the room.

     Unwillingly, I stepped forward. He handed me the flask.

     "Drink," he commanded.

     Finally I got my mouth to work.

     "Why?" I asked.

     He looked back at me, stunned, perhaps, that I would dare question him. He narrowed his eyes.

     "Because I told you to," he said dangerously.

     I stood frozen, waiting.

     He sighed.

     "Because I am no longer in need of builders. The construction is complete. I have all the weapons I will need. Now it is time to put them to use. Now, I need an army, one that will follow my every command without a second's uncertainty."

     He pulled the cork from the bottle I still held. A nauseating odor emanated from it. My stomach rolled in protest.

     "Now drink."

     "No."

     The word came from my mouth unbidden, and for a split second I wasn't even sure who said it. The man gaped at me for a moment. Then he recovered.

     "You dare to defy me, you pathetic little creature?" he asked, his face a mere centimeter from mine. "You dare to defy Dr. Frank Sloth, the soon-to-be Master of Neopia?"

     I said nothing.

     He snorted in disgust.

     "Garoo, hold his mouth open," he ordered.

     Strong hands grabbed me from behind, forcing my head to tilt up and prying my jaws open. Sloth snatched the bottle from my hand and poured its contents into my mouth. It was the most rancid thing I'd ever tasted in my life. Garoo released me, and I fell to the floor.

     Long moments passed, and nothing happened.

     "Why isn't it working?" Sloth demanded.

     He grabbed my chin and forced me to look at him. I spat the potion in his face.

     "GET HIM OUT OF HERE!" he bellowed, outraged.

     Garoo seized me and dragged me from the room, all the way back to the place where I usually slept. He tossed me in my cage and left. I sat in the corner for hours until the lights went off, thinking. Something told me that I wasn't rid of Dr. Sloth yet.

      * * *

     The next few days passed slowly. I was kept in my cage, unable to get out. A few times someone came in with food or water for me, but I refused to take it, afraid that there might be some of that vile potion hidden in it. Without anything to eat, I grew weak, and slept more.

     Then I awoke to be nearly blinded by bright lights. Panicked, I tried to move, to run, but I couldn't. I had been strapped down to a cold metal table in a lab.

     "Ah, awake at last," said a voice to my left.

     I turned my head to see who it was. Sloth was leaning against a counter, leering at me.

     "What do you want with me?" I shouted, fighting against my bonds.

     "We have business to finish," he said.

     He turned to adjust something on the counter, and continued. "Now, you did pose quite a problem for me, refusing to swallow my little brew earlier. But I've come up with a solution. I always do."

     He turned back to me, wearing an evil grin. A large hypodermic needle full of dark greenish brown liquid was in his hand. He moved closer, and a droplet of the potion spilled from the tip of the needle. It fell to the floor, leaving a deep burn mark. My eyes widened, and I thrashed even harder against the straps that held me.

     Sloth gave a humorless laugh. "That is useless. And you know it."

     I sighed in defeat and shut my eyes. I just couldn't watch the needle sink into my skin. Pain shot through my arm as the needle bit into my flesh, but it was nothing compared to the pain that wracked my body as I started to change. It felt like fire was racing up my limbs as they got longer, more muscular. My whole body shook.

     Then slowly, the pain began to fade, and I was left in a fog. And that's the last thing I remember for a very long time.

To be continued...

 
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