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Chapter 14: Midnight Communications

Sound waves.

They were caused by vibrations which propagate through a medium, in this case, air. The larger the vibration, the higher the amplitude of the wave produced.

The teal experiment hidden in the forest chortled at the thought. Using his tail to support his body, he grinned in mischief.

He was made for high amplitude.

The megaphone-shaped foghorn on his head was designed to vibrate intensely after being charged up using the constant recoil stored from the spring tension whenever he bounced on his tail. Whenever he uncurled this weapon, it allowed him to create a large-amplitude sonic blast wave that could reach up to one hundred and ninety decibels at his best.

He frowned. Alas, at the moment he still wasn't at his peak. Still disoriented from his reactivation, the first few sonic blasts that he had sent out earlier were slightly softer than he would have preferred.

After he had sent out those initial few blasts, he paused. Shaking excess water off of his teal fur, he took a look up at the quiet night sky. It was so calming… peaceful, even.

It was really too bad that it wasn't going to last.

He grinned playfully, touching the apparatus on the top of his head. Now that he felt more recharged, he felt confident at consistently blasting at his peak potential. It was going to feel so good unleashing one of those suckers out into the serene, quiet night, shattering the peace to everyone within earshot.

Considering that sound travelled at approximately 343 metres per second, within ten seconds, everyone from within a two mile radius would have heard his ear-piercing blast. Within twenty seconds, that would have increased to a four mile radius, covering four times the area. In thirty seconds? A six mile radius, with nine times the original area disturbed!

It would continue to escalate and cavalcade until eventually everyone would hear it. And that was with just one singular blast!

He wasn't simply going to stop with just one. Not a chance.

With the rate that he would be sending out those booming blasts, the whole planet would eventually be annoyed by him. All of the noise pollution, caused by him, would travel to the point where they would eventually reverb and echo halfway across the planet. What a pleasant fantasy, and one that would soon become a reality.

He frowned. If only Jumba could see it that way as well. Till now, he still had a personal issue with his creator's perception of his purpose as an experiment.

"Ah! Very good morning to you. I am your creator, Dr. Jumba Jookiba! As you can see, these are extremely strong earmuffs I am wearing," he said, tapping against them. "And for very good reason, for you are being Experiment six-one-three, my loudest experiment yet!"

613 had looked at Jumba curiously, hesitantly touching the horn-like object that he felt protruding out of his forehead.

"Ah, so you can feel that? That is basically like loudspeaker! Your primary function is being that of noisemaker! Now with you, my trusty experiment, I will be able to cause unbelievable ruckus and wake all of my neighbours up at night!" he chuckled with glee. "Heh heh, so evil."

That was what Jumba had designated him as. A noisemaker… basically someone who made noise. It was something he couldn't understand. He really couldn't comprehend why Jumba had called his sonic blast a "noise".

Such a barbaric description! As if the sound that he produced deserved to be categorised as something with such a negative connotation. The experiment distinctly remembered folding all four of his arms at Jumba and frowning at his job assessment when he had been told that noise was something that people considered unpleasant.

It was almost as though Jumba had designed for his capabilities to be nothing more than an annoyance. The upset experiment had tried to convince Jumba otherwise, but the scientist had put his foot down on the matter. His protests couldn't stop Jumba from designating his official primary function as a "noisemaker".

Such a term didn't suit him at all. Why was it a "noise"? Why couldn't his sonic blast waves just be classified as a sound? The word noise sounded so negative, almost as though his sonic blasts weren't music to someone's ears, but rather, an irritation to their eardrums.

He scowled. So what if they didn't enjoy it? It didn't matter to him! He was the conductor, no, the composer of his own piece! His music piece didn't have to be a pitch-perfect melody with rhythm. What was wrong with his low-pitched, high-amplitude blast? Wasn't it also a harmonic beat? Why did it have to be unwanted, disregarded to the point where it was called "noise" by others?

Hmph! So what if they didn't like his sonic blasts? So what if he couldn't tune his blasts to play an orchestral symphony? There were other experiments that could play music, like for instance, that dancing Experiment 123 with her maracas. He didn't need to be one of them.

For him, he lived for noise. Such disturbance excited him, no, thrilled him! Whenever he sent out a shockwave, he could feel the excitement in his veins. His eyes would grow wide with ecstasy. It was so much fun to make the sounds that he would immediately be poised to send out another wave right after. Tranquillity didn't suit him in the slightest, not when he had the potential to disrupt it with a single blast.

And he was about to do just that. Jumping up and landing on his tail, he leaned his head forward, squeezed his eyes shut and let loose another blast from his foghorn.

HOOONNKKKK!

Letting the foghorn curl itself back into its spiral shape, he looked up and smiled at his handiwork. This was his mission. This was what his creator expected of him.

He didn't care whether or not others thought of his sonic blasts as a harmonic sound or unwanted noise. To 613's own ears, they were a delightful symphony that deserved to be heard by all. To some, he might be seen as a noisemaker, but to himself, he was just doing what he loved.

But to a certain gerbil-like creature who was approaching his direction with very large, high-quality ear plugs stuck into his ears, the deafening sonic blasts weren't either noise or passion, but a mere distraction to his true prize.

"That stupid stretchy experiment might have slipped through my grasp, but you on the other hand, are mine! All mine!" he stood upright, cackling.

Some might call it a miracle that the gerbil managed to outwit the noise-making experiment just like that, but the truth was that 613 was distracted and couldn't hear the evil tyrant's devious monologue over his own loud blasts — pure bad luck on his end.

After all, the only other reason 613 would be unable to hear him was because he was a teeny tiny gerbil that could only squeak with an inaudible volume—

"I am not a gerbil! I am a hamster, HAMSTER!"


His ears still ringing, 625 finally stopped running after he reached an area that was decently far enough away from that ear-nuisance Experiment 613.

"Yoww…" he clutched his antennas. "That was like watching a movie in a theatre, but with the volume turned up to eleven. It really hurts!" Kicking a pebble, he angrily complained, "Great. You lost your chance to get a disguise experiment, and now your eardrums are gonna burst."

Beep! Beep! Beep! The transceiver that he had been given started beeping in a high-pitched whine.

"Gah!" 625 yelped, jumping a feet in the air. He twitched his eyebrows, already annoyed from Experiment 613 nearly turning him deaf. "Hello!" he snapped as he answered the incoming call.

"Insolent trog! How dare you talk to me in that tone!"

He winced a little as Gantu became the third thing to yell into his ear that night in a disproportionately loud volume.

Boy, 625 had not missed his face at all. He hurriedly brought his shocked facial expression back to one of neutral displeasure. He would very much wish to avoid a show of weakness, unlike what had happened at their last departure.

"Yo, Blubby! What's up?"

Gantu sneered at 625's cheerful greeting. "Hmph. It appears that you are still ever the disrespectful little punk. I oughta teach you a lesson on authority, but fortunately for you, trog-face, I don't have the time for that now." He leaned forward, his face completely filling the transceiver screen. "It has been almost twelve hours since you have landed on this miserable planet of dirt. Give me your progress in your mission of capturing that treasonous absconder."

"Well, uh…" he struggled to keep his face straight. What could he possibly say? The things that he'd just discovered about Jumba? Or that he'd suckered their own Galactic Agent to do all the work? Not a chance!

As he struggled to come up with a response, the Armada Captain smirked. "As I thought. You didn't even bother trying to nab that idiot scientist, did you?!"

"Hey! Don't doubt me!" Gantu's remark pestered him more than he had anticipated. Sure, he might be lazy, but he wasn't that lazy! At the very least he planned out the capture plan, even though it was Pleakley who had been sent to do the job itself.

"I knew that this was a bad idea from the start! In case you have forgotten, I've parked my ship in orbit around this planet. If you have any second thoughts…" he gave a savage grin, "then I will take over Jumba's capture."

To 625's own surprise, he found himself growing defensive when Gantu tried to take control from him. "Oh no you don't, shark-face! This mission is mine, you hear!" he pointed at Jumba with steely determination in his voice. "I will bring him down with my own two paws, and that's final!"

He himself was surprised that he'd burst out like that. He hadn't expected to unconsciously be so persistent on the matter. Of course he knew the reason, but he refused to reveal why. He wasn't going to reveal his personal stake in this.

They didn't need to know why he wanted Jumba out of the way. Let them think he was still doing it out of obligation to their little deal.

Needless to say, Gantu was shocked by 625's response as well. His behaviour when he had retorted didn't seem like that of the joker back at the Turo holding cell. He raised an eyebrow in suspicion. "You seem awfully enthusiastic about this… are you faking your commitment?"

"Oh, come on! I'm being completely serious about this!"

"The last time I checked, you were serious about nothing!" he snarled. "If this is your idea of a practical joke, let me tell you that I can sniff a liar out from two galactic miles away."

"Whatever makes you think I'm lying anyway?" Before Gantu could answer, he suddenly grinned sadistically. "Oh wait… I know the reason why. When you dumped me on this planet, you said something very interesting…"

Gantu felt uneasy at seeing 625's mood abruptly turning so cheery. After the Council Trial, he had learned that a happy 625 meant bad things in store. He decided to tread carefully. "What exactly… did I say?"

"Before you left, when I was in the water," 625 shuddered at the memory, "you called me a drama queen. Of course, at that moment, I was too frantic to notice what that implied, but you know what I just realised?" His smile grew broader and broader. "For you to know what a drama queen is, you had to have watched all those sappy drama shows before. That's the only possible way that a gruff, all-serious guy like you would know how a drama queen behaves."

Gantu's eyebrow twitched as 625 continued rambling about drama serials. "Seize this train of thought at once, six-two-five! I'm warning you…"

As usual, the cheeky experiment simply ignored Gantu's complaints and threats. "Yeah, it also explains why you think I'm being dishonest. That's like the standard low-budget drama plot twist—"

"Shut your big mouth, trog! O-Or I'll blast it off!" Gantu bellowed, whipping his plasma blaster from a holster and pointing it in 625's direction.

It would have been an effective threat if it wasn't for the fact that the target in question was using a communication line to talk to him. As a result, all 625 saw was Gantu pointing the blaster at him through the screen, which just made the Armada Captain look silly. He couldn't help but snicker at the sight.

Gantu, on the other hand, was not as amused. "I asked you to keep your mouth shut! Laughing is included as a subset of that order!" The finger on the trigger tightened as 625 just laughed harder, "This is your last chance! Before I—"

"Captain Gantu, please do control yourself," an amused voice uttered.

Gantu flinched back at the sudden intrusion. He wasn't the only one to do so. 625 hurriedly brought his laughter under control, inwardly cursing in his head. He'd unconsciously let his guard down.

Now that Gantu had stepped back and no longer took up the entire transceiver screen, he could see that there was a large television screen meant for secure transmissions behind the captain.

And who else would be co-transmitting and listening in to their call on Gantu's ship computer screen… but the Grand Councilwoman herself.

"You shouldn't have set your ship's computer to automatically accept incoming transmissions," she explained to a gobsmacked Gantu with a mischievous smirk. "You didn't notice that I called in, and your ship's communicator automatically accepted the call." As she spoke, her grin grew wider in proportion to that of Gantu's horror. "So as a result, I've been listening in to your little argument for quite some time…"

Her sentence was cut off as Gantu let out a choked gasp. "Ma'am, I assure you—"

"Whatever you do in your free time is of none of my concern, as long as it doesn't interfere with your work."

Gantu continued to stutter in embarrassment. "NO! I don't watch-I mean, why would I ever… it's not true!"

The Grand Councilwoman sighed at his bumbling attempts to recover. "Alright, joke time's over." She fiddled with her golden collar, straightening her cloak. As it shone brightly, she rapidly changed to her business-like persona.

"You were interrogating experiment six-two-five, right? Let's not pressure our trump card too much, shall we?" she asked in a slow but steady tone. "Need I remind you of the importance of having six-two-five be the one that brings in Jumba?" she cunningly smiled.

625's face became contorted in confusion. What did she mean by that?

Come to think of it, why was the responsibility given to me anyway? I know she said it's because we mutually benefit, but from the way she said that, there seems to be another reason too…

"No, ma'am!" Gantu's salute brought 625 out of his funk.

"Good. Now please step back, Captain Gantu." She made a sweeping motion with her right hand. "You're blocking my way. I would like to address experiment six-two-five directly."

Gantu followed the order, adjusting his communicator so that it directly faced the computer screen with the Grand Councilwoman, allowing both her and 625 to see the other clearly.

He stood up straight. The Grand Councilwoman was someone who he knew not to mess around with. He might be playful around Blubby, but he knew when to cut the jokes.

Though, he had to admit that it was hilarious that Gantu got shafted. His conversation was basically on infinite hold, and his ship became the midway point for his talk with the Grand Councilwoman.

"It is nice to see that you have become committed to the mission, experiment six-two-five," she began. "As you can see, I have placed significant faith in your success. I hope that my trust in you isn't misplaced."

"Of course not, ma'am!" he readily responded.

"I sincerely hope you mean that." She gave a cunning smile, "It would truly be a shame if I rescinded my offer to you…"

"No, no, no!" 625 waved his paws frantically. "No need for that, ma'am!" Darn it all, she still had him under her grip. She knew that there was no way he dared to defy her instructions.

"Good." Her hand then fell to her hip, "Now then, where is Dr. Jumba Jookiba?"

"Uh… I've located him, but me and Pleak ran into a slight problem, y'see."

"What slight problem?" the Grand Councilwoman raised her eyebrows, slightly sceptical. "Please elaborate, six-two-five."

"Y'know, my creator's real smart. He managed to disguise himself as part of the local population. Your poor agent Pleak's freaking out right now because Jumba had already made contact with several people," he shuffled his feet as the Grand Councilwoman gazed at him through the communicator. "I can't just make him disappear that easily, people will surely suspect something's up!" he shouted in worry.

"I can call Agent Pleakley to verify that, you know."

He grinned. Finally, he could one-up her. "That might not be the best idea. He's… in disguise—" he grimaced, remembering that Pleakley was wearing a goofy looking dress for some reason, "—and is currently with Jumba incognito. If Jumba spies you trying to contact him, your whole plan is finished!"

"He's incognito?"

"That's right. I sent him to Jumba so that we can pull the 'ol betrayal trick. Let 'im trust Pleak and then I can ambush him." He gave a thumbs-up. "See! I planned something!"

"You're smarter than you look," she commented after a slight pause. "I would never have guessed."

625 bowed from the compliment. "Thanks! That's the… nicest thing anyone's said to me all day…" He couldn't keep the wistful tone out of his voice.

There was silence on the other end.

"Trog… can you repeat that?" Gantu muttered from offscreen. Even his usual snarl in his voice was missing.

"It was nothing!" 625 hurriedly yelled, opting to put on his usual mischievous face. He didn't need their pity, especially not Gantu's. "Thanks for your concern though, Blubby!" As Gantu went back on screen to scowl at 625, he simply grinned in response. "Aw, you do care about me," he said, giving his first genuine smile to the Armada Captain.

"Don't push it, trog-face."

"Ahem!" the Grand Councilwoman coughed, motioning for Gantu to move out the way. "I believe I was the one doing the talking here." Her sympathetic face turned serious. "You better be telling the truth, six-two-five. I have people everywhere. I'll know immediately if you're trying to trick or deceive me."

"Cross my heart," he performed the action with his right paw to prove his sincerity. "I'm telling the honest, 100% truth."

The Grand Councilwoman sighed. "I guess it can't be helped. I will concede that Dr. Jumba Jookiba must have planned this deception very elaborately. I'll ask Gantu to check back on you later." She put both her palms together, as if in prayer. "I look forward to your success, experiment six-two-five."

The computer screen blinked out, leaving only Gantu behind.

"Well this is awkward. So, uh, about the drama serial thing. If ya want, I got some soap opera recommendati…" 625 started, trying to poke a little bit of fun after the serious talk.

It didn't work. The moment Gantu heard those words, he hung up with a glare.

625 heaved a sigh of relief when the call finally ended. Overall, that could have gone better. But then again, it could have easily been much, much worse.

Had it really been a day since his mission started? So much stuff had happened to him over the course of those twelve hours.

He shook his head to clear his mind, slowly strolling back towards the waterfall that Gantu had dropped him off at the start of the day. He might as well sleep there. After all, it wasn't like he had any accommodation as long as Gantu's ship was in the stratosphere.

There was something the Grand Councilwoman had said in their conversation that bothered him, however. I have people everywhere… what about this statement bugged him so hard?

I have people everywhere…

He jerked forward as the answer hit him like a burnt slice of toast ejected from a faulty toaster.

If she wasn't lying and truly had other agents besides Pleakley on the planet, then they would find out about the experiment that he had unwittingly set loose — that noisemaker, experiment six-one-three!

Or worse still, Jumba's pride and joy, the destructive experiment six-two-six.

He clutched his eyes shut, pulling the floppy antennas on his head. The Council didn't know a darn thing about there being multiple genetic experiments, did they? Jumba had "conveniently" forgot to mention such a fact at his hearing with the council, hadn't he?

625 rolled his eyes. Why was he asking himself a rhetorical question? After all, the guy wanted to at least have a chance of not being tossed into prison immediately. Jumba wasn't going to go out in a blaze of glory by announcing that he had experimented on more deadly things than a sandwich maker.

He began to fret. Oh crap. They definitely weren't going to take it well. All of the good fortune that had helped him get free of his cell at the moment—the Grand Councilwoman taking Captain Gantu off the case and handing him control of the operation—was because they were under the assumption that he was the only experiment.

So what would happen if they found out the truth? Well, that was a no-brainer, really.

The real question is what would happen after. What if they withdrew their offer to him?

His eyes darkened as the thought crossed his mind. "Oh, no, the Grand Lady won't dare to withdraw her offer," he muttered darkly. "Because the Council will never find out about this!"

He was beginning to grow concerned. It was true that instinctively, some part of him had feared that the Grand Councilwoman would go back on her word to release him after Jumba's capture, but after seeing how she and Jumba had reacted upon his slip of the tongue earlier, he couldn't help but trust that they would fulfill their end of the bargain.

The problem now was that they, on the other end, wouldn't trust him if they found out about Jumba's multitude of experiments. But he couldn't very well say it! The only reason he was out of prison in the first place was because they thought he was the only one. If they found out the truth, he knew that he would be locked away with the remainder of his experiment comrades. With that information, they would no longer see him as a harmless sandwich maker, but rather as a member of Jumba's six hundred plus experiments.

Damned if he do, and damned if he don't. His only choice was to keep mum and make sure they do not find out about it. It was his only chance for a guaranteed release.

625 knew that if Jumba was captured, the scientist would keep quiet about the topic to avoid heavier charges. The only real loose end was Pleakley. If that paranoid agent discovered the truth about the nature of the experiments and blabbed to the Grand Councilwoman, he would be in deep trouble.

A literal flash of inspiration then came to him, making the experiment chuckle with glee.

It just occurred to 625 that the opposite also held true. He was going about this the roundabout way. For the exact same reasons, Jumba would not want to let the Council know about any of the experiment's existence.

Experiment 613 might currently be his problem… but in the long run would be a much bigger problem for Jumba. The utmost priority for the scientist would be to rein his own experiment in. Jumba absolutely would not let the Galactic Council know of 613's existence, or else his entire plan will fall apart.

And lo and behold, his dear friend Pleak was currently with Jumba the last time he checked. Although, out of context, he had no idea why the last time he saw Pleakley, the Galactic Agent had been squabbling with Jumba over the wheel… while simultaneously wearing a dress.

Some things were probably better left unanswered, he thought to himself while shaking his head. That image had already been seared into his mind. He would rather not remind himself of it.

Leaning against a tree, he took out a red communication transceiver that he had been given and dialled Pleakley's number.

"Hello?" A tired and confused Pleakley appeared on the transceiver screen. "Who is this—" he froze as his mind registered the yellow experiment that landed him in this mess in the first place on his own screen. "You!" he exclaimed in surprise before leaning forward nervously, as though he didn't want to be seen talking.

"Hey, hey," 625 smiled widely when he saw that he could still keep the Galactic Agent frantically on his toes. "It's been quite some time since we last talked, hasn't it Pleak?"

Pleakley frowned in annoyance. "I already told you not to call me Pleak, you little troublemaker! My name's Pleakley! Get it right or don't say it at all!" he pouted.

"Come on!" he pleaded, "It fits you perfectly. I made slimmed your name down so as to fit your scrawny body size."

"Why thank youuuu… hey, wait a second!" It struck him too late that 625 was diverting his attention to elicit praise for his unwarranted nickname. "I'm not falling for that! And before I forget! You said that it would be a relatively safe mission! Well, I'm telling you it's most definitely not!" His voice became shaky. "Jumba's crazy! He's madder than the cuckoos on Cuckootopia!"

"Well, Jumba's not crazy. He's just evil," 625 stated bluntly, before mustering up a serious expression. "But I didn't make this call to you to chat about Jumba's sanity. There's something you need to know. An extremely dangerous wildlife animal has escaped." He was trying his best not to laugh and give the whole charade away. Surely Pleakley couldn't be that dense, right?

He was.

"Oh no! A dangerous animal? Tell me the situation immediately! I need to know!" Pleakley shouted back into the receiver, forcing 625 to turn down the volume dial on the speaker of his transceiver before his ears received even more damage. Three times in a single night was enough.

"Look, just calm down here…" he began.

"Calm down? You want me to calm down?!" Pleakley's voice went high pitched as he grew more and more nervous. "I can't calm down! This is a disaster! This is even worse than Jumba! A foreign animal introduced into an environment can disrupt the food chain, causing widespread ecological damage and possible extinctions! I can't let that happen to this precious wildlife reserve!"

Is Pleakley allergic to the word "dangerous"?

"Listen to me!" 625 managed to get his words in, interrupting Pleakley's panic-induced imagination. "Your new priority, Pleak, is to make sure that this 'extremely dangerous' wildlife animal is contained. If you'd just listen to me, I would've told you that this "so-called dangerous" situation is possible to avert," he grumbled, letting his annoyance show.

"How?"

625 gave a savage grin. "Why, just ask Jumba for help."

"Ask him for help? That crazy scientist?" Pleakley retorted, rolling his single eye in disbelief. "What good would that do? He's a mad, dangerous escaped criminal! He won't make the situation better, he'll just make it worse!"

625 rapidly lost his patience. "Oh, I dunno, just tell him the escaped creature is a blue loud noisemaker."

"What difference would that make?!"

"Just trust me, okay?"

"Trust you? You?!" Pleakley folded his arms, his eye looking away in annoyance. "The last time I trusted you, I almost got stampeded over by a crowd, and on top of that, ended up riding on a death trap!"

"Hey, don't put words in my mouth," he protested. "All I asked you to do was wait at the entrance of the Birds of Paradise Hotel. I didn't ask you to ride in the same vehicle as Jumba, you did that on your own accord." He laughed as Pleakley gave a hmph and looked away. "And as for the stampede? Bad luck, I suppose."

"Come on, be serious! How do I find that dangerous animal?" he pleaded.

"I am serious, Pleak. Jumba would know what to do. Don't worry, the noise-making rascal will be easy to find. You can hear 'im from miles away!"

"Why him? Why Jumba?" Even though 625 could only see Pleakley through the transceiver, he could detect his nervousness.

"Why not?" 625 flashed his teeth in response.

"Okay! Fine!"

Yes! Pleakley fell for the bait. His plan was falling into place.

He was going to play them both against each other.

Jumba would recognise Experiment 613, but wouldn't want Pleakley to find out about his remaining experiments, and hence be forced to go along with the charade. Pleakley, legitimately fearing a wildlife crisis, would tag along, denying Jumba the chance to reconcile with 613 lest he loses Pleakley, who he thinks would be his only ticket out of Earth.

End hypothetical result? He wouldn't even have to lift a finger in the 613 situation, just the way he liked it. Jumba would end up taking care of the entire problem for him.

"Hey! Pleakley! Who are you talking to on phone?!"

625 froze stiff for just a moment, before immediately tossing the red transceiver away from him so that his face wouldn't be transmitted via video.

When he finally calmed down, he allowed a sardonic grin to form. How long has it been since he heard that voice… Jumba's voice.

Oh, don't worry. He carried on smirking as he eyed the transceiver on the ground. From the distance he was standing, he was still able to listen in on the call despite not being in the video transmission. You'll get what's coming to you soon enough, Jumba…


"Hey! Pleakley! Who are you talking to on phone?!"

All four of his eyes had lit up when he turned around and happened to see Pleakley on the line. It didn't matter if it was a mere operator, this was his ticket out of here! Without even a prompt, he snatched the red transceiver out of Pleakley's arm. "Hello?!"

There was no one on the other end.

"Pleakley! Who was being on transceiver just now?"

Pleakley jumped, before laughing nervously. "Oh, nobody. It was nobody important, that is! Just the operator, haha, couldn't get through to anyone important." He frantically darted his eye left and right, avoiding Jumba's piercing gaze.

He narrowed his eyes. That seemed very suspicious. But, before Jumba could question him, he heard the shuffling of footsteps approaching.

"Isn't it a little late for someone like you to be sightseeing, Jumba?"

That squeaky voice…! Turning around, he saw a tiny gerbil in a cape with a triumphant smirk on his face.

"Dr. Hamsterviel!" Jumba gasped in surprise before his anger took over at seeing the instigator of his problems still very much alive. "You! What is the meaning of this?"

"Yes, it is indeed I, the great Dr. Jacques von Hamsterviel!" Hamsterviel's sneer could be heard as a distinct rasp that complimented his snivelling voice. "Surprised to see me alive and kicking?"

"Doctor Jacques von… who? I've never heard of… woah!" Before he could finish his question, a confused Pleakley was shoved aside by Jumba, who then immediately shouted his own questions. "How did you survive aircraft freefall? And just what are you doing being here on dirt planet?" he demanded.

"You are very talkative today, aren't you? So many questions… it's really such a pity that I don't have the time to answer any of them," he spat. "Muhahaha! It appears I have the upper hand now."

Seeing Jumba's "you-can't-be-serious" look, he tugged on a leash held in his paw, bringing his captive towards Jumba and Pleakley's line of sight.

"Recognize this, Jumba?" he taunted, laughing when Jumba's jaw dropped.

"Experimmmmmeent…ally trouble!" Jumba almost called out Experiment 613 by his number until he remembered that Pleakley was by his side, forcing him to swap the word syllable at the last second. "Y-You! Let go of my exper-experienced… uh, never mind." He shook his head to clear his muddled thoughts. "You know what I mean!"

"Let go of him? Never! You see this device I attached to him?" he pointed at a metallic collar attached to 613's neck. "I pilfered this electric collar from a hardware store and modified the transistors and step-up transformers so that the voltage is one thousand times the original! In other words, he will do as I say… unless he wants two thousand volts of electricity running through him!"

"That's terrible!" Pleakley yelled, looking at 613 with sympathy, "You're a monster!"

"Oh, quit your yapping. And now," Hamsterviel cackled, "you will know exactly how it feels like to have a mass weapon of destruction turned against you, Jumba!"

"Mass weapon of destruction?" Jumba turned pale at Pleakley's bewildered voice, fearing that he would figure it out.

Luckily, for now Pleakley was more focused on Experiment 613 than Hamsterviel. Pleakley gazed at the experiment, who was wincing in pain from the collar stuck on his neck. "But that thing's so innocent and cute! How can it be a mass weapon of destruction?"

"Ah, but looks can be deceiving. This little slave right here," he gestured at a growling 613, "is a noisemaker capable of delivering sonic blasts louder than a spaceship going into hyperdrive. Imagine the sheer destruction he could cause in my possession!"

Jumba felt sweat sticking onto his tank top as Pleakley took in all of the information that Hamsterviel had given.

That stupid Hamsterviel was going to ruin everything! Sooner or later the cat would be out of the bag if he continued bragging. It didn't matter if Pleakley currently didn't know that he was an escaped felon, he would surely figure it out if Hamsterviel said something that could link him to villainy.

And knowing Hamsterviel, the probability of him saying something he shouldn't was way too high.

As of now, he still didn't have his experiment container or Experiment 626 with him. Since he refused to leave Earth without those two items in his possession, he had to keep his identity secret to avoid detection. If his cover was blown, it was all over.

This meant that he couldn't let a random tourist find out about his genetic experiments… at any cost.

Jumba slowly reached into his shirt and felt the cool plastic of the plasma blaster within. Sure, the Armada would be on his tail if a random tourist like Pleakley disappeared on a planet like this, but the alternative was far worse. With the Galactic Council under the impression that 625 was his only experiment, should Hamsterviel reveal the existence of his other six hundred-odd experiments…

Should that really happen, he would have to silence Pleakley. And the easiest way to do that was to make sure that he disappeared.

Jumba slipped his index finger into the trigger, closing his palm around the handle. As he gripped onto the plasma blaster, he trained his eyes on Pleakley. Pleakley himself didn't notice that Jumba's hardened gaze had switched its focus from Hamsterviel to him.

If that guy figured out the truth… he would be forced to turn his weapon on Pleakley.


Author's Note:

Happy New Year, guys! First chapter of the year! It's been quite a while since the last update, so here's a long chapter.

625 had let Pleakley and Jumba take care of Experiment 613, but he hadn't put Hamsterviel into consideration. Will the evil hamster's big mouth reveal everything?