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As Stephanie and Robbie were pushed into the room, Sportacus looked, as if he was dead.
His skin was ghostly pale, his eyes were closed. Diodes had been placed on his chest to monitor his heart. A needle had been inserted into his vein. The doctor was attaching an IV bag to his arm. He was mumbling something, they couldn't understand.
Sebastian Secret was sitting in a chair, watching Sportacus. His tiny computer sat on his knees, already turned on, and waiting for him to document his own cruelty.
"Sportacus?" Stephanie shouted. "He's not...he's not dead, is he?" Tears welled up in her eyes. She was still holding Robbie's hand.
"Not yet," Secret replied. "It's not that we want to kill him, but if he dies..." he shrugged his shoulders.
Stephanie closed her eyes. Her body started to tremble, and she sobbed silently. Robbie slowly and awkwardly put an arm around her shoulders. The look on his face was blank. He didn't show any emotion.
"Please, don't do this," Stephanie begged. "Please, let us go."
"I can't do that, little girl. You can thank Mr. Rotten. It was his idea to use you as bait. I guess you were just unlucky," Secret said.
"Doctor, are you ready?"
The doctor nodded, and felt for the plastic tube. The clear liquid started to drip down, slowly flowing through the tubes and into Sportacus.
"What are you doing? Are you helping him? Will Sportacus get better?" Stephanie asked. She wanted to step forward to get a better look at Sportacus, but Robbie softly pulled her back.
Again, Sebastian Secret shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. It would be awesome, if my theory actually worked. I guess we have to wait and see."
Nothing seemed to happen. Sportacus didn't move. His eyes remained closed. He only let out a small moan, and slowly turned his head from side to side. After the first bag was empty, Secret looked up from his computer.
"Doctor, another one. Make it quick."
The doctor sighed, but obliged without objecting.
Sportacus started to shiver, as more liquid sugar invaded his system.
His moans turned into pain-filled gasps. He pulled at his restraints, clumsily kicking out with his legs. His body convulsed and spasmed, as if he had an epileptic seizure. The cardiac monitor beeped faster, as his heartbeat quickened.
Stephanie tried to free herself from Robbie's grip. "Let go off me, Robbie. I want to help Sportacus."
"You can't help him, Pinky, "Robbie quietly said, glancing at Secret, who was writing down every change in Sportacus' condition. Still, more and more sugar solution was pumped into his body. Sportacus groaned, arching his back. Sweat and tears were streaming down his face. His veins glowed dark red underneath the skin.
All of a sudden, his eyes flew open. "Let my friends go," he rasped. "Let them go, and kill me already."
Secret ignored him. "Hook up another IV. His body is still fighting it."
The doctor slowly obeyed. It was good that Sportacus had regained consciousness, but he believed that Sportacus wouldn't last much longer. The way he reacted to sugar had showed the doctor that his whole body shut down. Only a small amount of sugar weakened Sportacus. As a consequence, he couldn't bear a lot of sugar. His body tried to fight it – that was right – but sooner or later, Sportacus would give up. Multiple organ failure. Maybe internal bleeding, and finally cardiac arrest. Sugar was poison to Sportacus.
As the third bag was attached, and the liquid sugar entered his system, Sportacus screamed.
Stephanie turned around, and pressed herself against Robbie. With her hands she covered her ears, blocking out the terrible sound.
Robbie remained quiet, his lips tightly pressed together.
A single tear slid down his cheek. He had always been a coward. What could he do anyway? They would kill Sportakook, and then they would kill him and Pinky. He had messed this one up.
Usually, the blue elf would come and save them, but not this time.
All of a sudden, Sportacus fell silent. The heart monitor showed his racing pulse. He was shaking like a leaf, his body drenched in sweat.
His teeth chattered, as he tried to speak. "I am not a soldier, Secret. I'm weak...and vulnerable...and I beg you...let my friends go... I … I can't..."
His eyes rolled back, and he lost consciousness once more. His heartbeat immediately slowed down.
"Doctor?" Secret asked. He didn't seem to be impressed by Sportacus' speech.
The doctor quickly examined Sportacus. "He's in a coma. His temperature is down, and his pulse is way too slow, even for him. He has trouble breathing. I don't think he will make it."
Robbie lowered his head, and sighed. Stephanie was hugging him so tightly, she was nearly crushing his ribs.
"What a pity..." Secret stood up. "I better inform the President, and ask him, if we should proceed. You tell me, when there's any change."
"What do you mean by that?" The doctor gaped at Sebastian Secret.
"Maybe testing this subject wasn't such a good idea."
The doctor clenched his fists. "You mean torturing him."
"Shut up," Secret spat, and glared at the doctor, before he left the room.
The doctor sagged against the wall, and buried his face in his hands.
As soon as the door was closed, Robbie gently pushed Stephanie aside, and went to Sportacus.
The sugar solution was still dripping into him. In one swift motion, Robbie grasped the tube, and ripped the needle out of Sportacus' hand. Blood was slowly trickling from the wound.
"Hey, what are you doing?" the doctor asked.
"I'm trying to help him. What do you think?" Robbie snapped back.
Tiredly, the doctor rubbed at his eyes. "You have to be careful." He pushed himself off the wall, fetched a cotton ball, and a band-aid, and tended to the wound.
Robbie was eying him nervously. Sportacus hadn't moved, he hadn't even flinched. The only sign that he was alive, was the steady beeping of the cardiac monitor.
"He's not waking up," Stephanie wailed. "Why isn't he waking up?"
"The sugar is still in his system, if we could stabilize him, he could survive. His body is in some sort of shock. We need something that gives it a wake-up kick," the doctor explained. He hadn't even thought about what he had said. Had he really suggested to help them?
"Sportscandy," Stephanie said. "Sportacus needs an apple...or a banana...or..."
"We don't have fruits here. And I don't think, he would be able to..."
"Wait." Robbie raised his arm. "Be quiet. Do you hear that?"
"No, what..." the doctor began, but Robbie silenced him.
And then he could hear it, too. There was another faint beeping that was coming from the closet.
"What's that?" Confused, the doctor looked at the closet.
"It's his crystal. Sportacus' crystal." Stephanie shouted.
"His crystal?" the doctor repeated. Then he remembered the emblem on Sportacus' clothes: the yellow and orange 10.
"The crystal is powerful. Sportacus needs it. It shows him, when someone is in trouble. Maybe it can help."
"Pinky," Robbie hissed, "maybe you shouldn't tell him about the crystal."
For one moment, the doctor considered calling Sebastian Secret, but then he shook his head. He had enough.
"We should try it," he said, already opening the closet door. He grabbed the vest, and pulled it out. The crystal was beautiful. It was glowing in sparkling rainbow colours. The vest was softly vibrating in his hands. The faint beeping sounded, as if it was about to die.
"Help me dress him," he ordered Robbie. Quickly, the villain undid the straps that bound Sportacus' hands, while the doctor freed his legs and waist.
"Are you really going to help us?" Stephanie doubtingly asked. She was confused. The doctor was not a doctor, who made people feel better. He was a mean man, and he had hurt Sportacus. And now he seemed to be nice. Maybe he was a little bit like Robbie Rotten. He always tried to scare them, but he could be a really nice man, too.
"Yes, little girl, I will help you. Although I think, Mr. Secret won't like that," the doctor replied.
Carefully, Robbie brought the sweaty and unconscious Sportacus into a sitting position.
"You can come with us to LazyTown," Stephanie told the doctor.
Despite the serious and dangerous situation, the doctor smiled.
"Yes, she is always like that," Robbie remarked.
The doctor grinned, and maneuvered Sportacus' arms through the holes. He fastened the vest, and stepped back.
Robbie, who was still holding Sportacus, gasped. The crystal turned bright white. Its glow surrounded Sportacus. It was so blinding, they had to close their eyes.
The heart monitor beeped wildly, as Sportacus began to moan faintly. His body stiffened, every muscle seemed to be tense. The white light faded, and the crystal stopped beeping. Sportacus sagged in Robbie's arms. His eyes remained closed, but he was still breathing.
"Did it work?" the doctor wanted to know.
"I have no idea. I think so. He is not that cold anymore," Robbie replied.
"We have to get him out of here," Stephanie begged.
"What was that?" the doctor asked.
"I didn't say anything," Robbie defended himself.
This time, they saw Sportacus moving his lips. "Airship has an autopilot...back...to LazyTown."
"And how on earth should we reach it?" Robbie's arms ached from holding Sportacus upright. "The guards are everywhere."
"Let me handle this," the doctor said. He felt for his cellphone, and quickly dialed a number.
"Greg? It's me...they...they have escaped. I think they went to the back door... No, the thin clown knocked me out... Don't tell Secret! Capture them! Quick! Don't tell him, or he will punish us all. And bring them to me..."
Proudly, the doctor looked at Robbie. The villain frowned at him. "Thin clown?"
"I had to be convincing. We have to move fast. The airship is in front of the building. Do you know how to fly it?"
"I d...do..." Sportacus whispered. He tried to move his legs, but the sugar had weakened him so much, he couldn't even lift his head.
"All right, let's go!"
The doctor grabbed Sportacus' legs, and Robbie put his arms around his waist. Together, they lifted him from the table. The heart monitor protested, as the diodes were ripped off.
"Stephanie?" Sportacus asked.
"I'm here. Don't worry, Sportacus. I'm fine," the girl piped up, before opening the door.
The gym-like hall was deserted. The guards had believed the doctor's lie.
Grunting and panting, the carried Sportacus through the huge room, and out to where Sportacus had landed his airship. Robbie hoped that Secret and his men hadn't torn it apart, and that everything was still working. Sportacus was becoming heavier and heavier. His skin was wet from all the sweat, and he had started to moan.
The door of the airship was open, and they could easily step in. Sportacus mumbled: "Door. Close."
Stephanie gasped. She had never visited his airship before. It was glowing white like his crystal had. She had to admit that it looked like an alien spaceship.
"Now what?" Robbie asked. "I don't want to complain, but I don't think I can hold you any longer."
"Bed..." Sportacus demanded weakly, and the others watched the magically appearing bed with surprise. They had never seen anything like that. Sportacus slit his eyes open, as they laid him on his bed.
"Thank you..." he sighed. He seemed, as if he was about to pass out again.
"He needs sportscandy," Stephanie reminded them.
"And where does he have it, Pinky?" Robbie snorted.
"Table," Sportacus replied. A table slid out of the wall – just like the bed. Behind it was a shelf with a fruit bowl, and a jar filled with orange juice. Some glasses were stacked next to it.
"Why don't you watch him? I try to start the airship," Robbie suggested. He looked around. The airship appeared to be fine, although there were ugly scratches on the walls, and the floor, where Secret had tried to open it up. He hadn't succeeded. Sportacus had been right. He was the only one, who could control the airship. And he was the only one, who could fly it. It only responded to his voice.
He found the pilot's seat, and heavily sat down. "What the..." he exclaimed. There were so many buttons and levers, and none of them was labeled.
Meanwhile, Stephanie fetched a glass, and filled it with orange juice. Then she returned to Sportacus' bed. The doctor checked his pulse, and was helping him to sit up again.
Sportacus sighed. "I'm so tired," he whispered.
"You have to stay awake, Sportacus," the doctor told him.
"Here, drink this," Stephanie said, and carefully held the glass to his lips.
When Sportacus drank the juice, his crystal started to glow again.
"Thanks, I feel better now."
"Listen, Sportakook. You have to help me start the airship," Robbie shouted.
"Oh... all right. Airship controls transferred to Robbie Rotten," Sportacus said and yawned. "Now push the green button, and tell the airship to return to LazyTown."
Robbie obliged, and quickly pushed the button. The airship came to life, and smoothly rose from the ground.
Clearing his throat, Robbie ordered the airship to fly back to LazyTown.
"This should do it," Sportacus said, his voice slightly stronger. Tiredly, he leaned back so that his back rested against the wall.
"Sportakook, this is amazing," Robbie admitted.
"Sportacus, I was so scared," Stephanie said, sitting down on the mattress. "But everything is going to be all right, isn't it?"
"You were brave, Stephanie. I think we are safe now."
Stephanie smiled, curled herself up on Sportacus' bed, and fell asleep almost instantly.
Suddenly, Sportacus felt for his throat. A groan escaped his lips. "The collar," he croaked. "He's turned on the collar..."