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||You are on Week 323
Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...
We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!
Story Three Hundred Twenty Three Ends June 1
Night fell fast in the wintertime, even in the usually sunny Neopia Central. Tinsum shivered in a lonely alleyway and whimpered. He didn't mind the dark so much, but with it came gusty winds and biting cold, bitter enemies for any stray Petpet.
The Doglefox howled mournfully and snuggled against the side of a building, hoping it would block off some of the relentless wind. A door creaked open, and a shopkeeper stepped out. "Why, hello," the Neopet said sympathetically to the Doglefox. "You look a tad cold there. Here..." He fished around inside his coat pocket, drew out a large handkerchief, and tied it around Tinsum's neck. Then he patted the Petpet and dropped a half-eaten cracker on the ground. "It's not much, but I hope it'll help. Good luck, little fellow."
The Doglefox barked gratefully at the shopkeeper, who closed up the shop and walked off into the night. Then he scampered off, the wind making the handkerchief stream behind him...
Almost like a cape, Tinsum thought, as he glanced longingly at the Defenders of Neopia headquarters. He found himself wishing that they hired Petpets, then chided himself for thinking that. It wasn't as if he had any special powers anyway!
Tinsum took one more look as he scratched his ear with his hind leg, then scurried off toward the headquarters. It couldn't hurt to check out what was in their trash...
Date: May 18th
...Tinsum slowed down as he drew near the headquarters, carefully avoiding the patches of glittering incandescence that the street lights cast upon the wind-tossed snow. As nice as it would be to join the Defenders, right now he was fully aware that he was crossing them, and the knowledge softened his creeping gait until the brittle crunching of snow beneath paw was nearly lost in the dark howling of the wind. Slipping behind a garbage can, Tinsum took a moment to study it. It was one of those nice plastic ones, the ones that didn't become painful to the touch when the temperature dove below freezing and, more importantly, didn't clatter when their lids were pushed off or the whole can was simply knocked over.
Tinsum, as was his habit, avoided the obvious mess that upsetting the can would cause. There was no reason to give people any more cause to hate his kind than they already had. Hopping onto an adjacent can, Tinsum leaned tentatively forward and, with practised delicasy, pried the lid off the container that smelled the most promising. The upper layer was a disappointment; the bird smell that had been emanating from it was nothing more appetizing than Lightning Lenny, the former owner of the badly ripped fabric that lay crumpled before Tinsum's disillusioned gaze. Pawing it aside, Tinsum began sniffing a little deeper into the can, wishing the cold had not muted the scents so badly. Finally, another hopeful smell! Tinsum reached down and began to dig, yanking crumpled papers and broken objects whose uses were foreign to him out of the way until he uncovered the source of the scent.
Going by sight alone, he never would have pegged the thing as food. For that matter, he wasn't certain what it was. The remains of some sort of Negg, maybe; he didn't waste time thinking about it. The smell of exposed food was likely to draw other any other strays in the area, and Tinsum knew that a fight would probably go badly for him, so he ate quickly, not pausing as his mind worked over the possible origins of the object's strange taste. Fruity and meaty at the same time, but there was also something else that he couldn't place. Definitely foreign. No matter. Food was food.
Finishing his meal, Tinsum pulled himself out of the garbage, hopped onto the nearest closed can, shook himself off, and prepared to set out in search of shelter. Strange, though, he didn't feel quite as cold as he had a moment ago. And maybe it was just his imagination, but when he jumped to the ground, he could almost have sworn that he flew just a little bit farther than he normally would have...
Date: May 21st
...He shook off the thought. Imagining things would get him nowhere -- on the streets, it was better to be realistic than to give in to flights of fancy. Now that he'd found food, his next goal was to find a place out of the wind to get some rest, where bigger, meaner Petpets couldn't find him.
As he hunted through the alleys for a good place to sleep, though, something kept tingling in the back of his mind. Something was wrong, though he couldn't figure out what, or why he knew. Something bad was happening. When he rounded a bend and saw two snarling Acaras backing a cowering Gnorbu into a corner he knew instantly that this was what he had been sensing.
"Now, just give us the potion and nobody has to get hurt," one of the Acaras said, brandishing a stick. The Gnorbu shrank back further, hiding something behind his back.
"N-no!" he said. "The Defenders need this potion! It's vital for all our safety!"
"Don't try to con us," the other Acara said. "We don't like that." He hunkered down like he was going to attack the Gnorbu.
Normally, Tinsum would have hid, or scampered away. He would have felt bad about it, but he was too small to do anything, and if he got hurt, there was nobody to take care of him. Today, though, the cold wind seemed to spark something inside him, and before he could second-guess himself he was charging toward them, leaping into the air with strength he didn't know he had, barking in anger. He...
Date: May 22nd
...crashed into the back of the more aggressive of the two Acaras, earning a surprised half-shriek from the bully as he dug his street-sharpened claws into the pet's back.
"What the-!" the Acara demanded, scrabbling at his back. Tinsum felt a strange kind of vigor surging through him. He was a good Petpet -- even though he was a stray, he'd never done anything to deserve that kind of life. Yes, he was good, and this Acara and his mean friend were bad, and Tinsum was going to teach them a lesson. Never mind that he'd never taught anyone anything before in his life. He could feel the strength thumping through his paws and shivering down his spine, running all the way to the tip of his tail.
Growling, Tinsum ripped the back of the Acara's shirt as he bounded free and, before gathering up some speed and head-butting the still-surprised figure in the stomach. At this point the other aggressor made to help his friend, but Tinsum was feeling quite unstoppable. With an agility he'd never known before he launched back, bandanna flapping in the cold air, and grabbed the second Acara's pantleg firmly in his teeth. With a tremendous wrench he spun himself around, causing the much larger pet to loose his footing and collide heavily with the ground.
"Leg it, he's got some kind of freaky guard Petpet!" the first of the two bullies declared.
"Bark, bark, bark!" Tinsum growled, meaning of course, 'let that be a lesson to you', as the two shocked pets got to their feet and took off down the street in fear.
When they were long gone from sight, Tinsum turned his attention to the green Gnorbu, who was staring at him in mingled shock and fear. "Uh... n-nice Petpet..." He stuttered, still shrinking against the alleyway wall. The look in his eyes clearly said that he expected Tinsum to charge at him, snarling viciously, at any given moment.
Slowly reality crept back towards Tinsum, and he blinked. Had he really just... done that? He shivered, bringing up one fuzzy blue paw and looking at it as though he'd never seen it before. Amidst the surprise and subtle, but distinct, glow of pride, there was now some fear. He'd just attacked two pets! Now everyone would think he was a vicious stray, which was a good deal worse than being just a regular one. Whimpering, Tinsum covered his eyes with his paws and lowered himself to the ground. Oh no. Just what was going on here? He was only a little Doglefox. He got beat up by Meepits and Feepits - two full-grown Neopets should have had no trouble taking him on.
From his place against the wall, the Gnorbu started to relax. He hadn't been able to believe his eyes when an unknown Petpet had suddenly jumped out of the shadows and started savaging his attackers. He'd been sure the thing was somehow deranged or rabid. But, now it was just crying on the ground, looking for all the world like an innocent and completely normal Petpet. He was even wearing a fetching little bandanna.
Gulping, the Gnorbu, who generally went by Curly thanks to his distinctive hair, approached the Doglefox. Still holding the extremely precious potion behind his back with one hand, he extended the other in the universal gesture used to greet strange Petpets. Palm up, arm shaking slightly with nerves from the fear of getting bitten.
"H-here, now, little guy..." Curly managed. The Doglefox appeared to be lost in his own world and clearly didn't hear him. Clearing his throat, Curly decided to try again.
"...Uhm... that was very brave of you..." He managed. Words had never been his strong suit. In fact, nothing had really been Curly's strong suit in life. "Er... you aren't going to hurt me, are you, boy?"
Tinsum finally heard some of what Curly was saying, and peaked up at him from behind his paws. For a moment they simply regarded one another with clear nervousness. Then Curly remembered that he had a quarter of a leftover sandwich from lunch. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled it free. Immediately Tinsum perked up. He watched as Curly freed the food from it wrapping and gently offered it to his tiny savior. The Gnorbu smiled as the Doglefox wolfed down the food and then, quite gingerly, licked his hand in gratitude.
"There. You're not so bad, are you?" he said, and Tinsum's tail began to wag a bit. Feeling more confidant now, Curly chuckled. "Good boy. You sure taught those two baddies a lesson, didn't you?"
Tinsum didn't know how he'd done it, but the Gnorbu certainly didn't seem angry. He wagged his tail rather proudly. If he wasn't in trouble then it seemed alright to be pleased with himself. Even if he didn't know how he'd managed to be so brave and strong, it had still been him, right?
"My name's Curly." The Gnorbu said, patting him on the head. Tinsum woofed softly and began gesturing with his chin towards the tattered remains of his collar. Taking the hint, Curly lifted it up and managed to make out the string of letters that had been Tinsum's only link to a better life for years now.
"Tinsum, eh?" he read aloud. Then he smiled. "Well, Tinsum, thank you very much for your help. I've got to make a special delivery to the Defenders of Neopia Headquarters now, though."
Curly gestured to the bottle he had been holding. Tinsum regarded the swirling potion with curiosity. It could have been his imagination, but he thought that, in the midst of the strange colours and odd swirls, he could make out the shape of a face floating within the confines of the bottle. He stared at it for a mesmerized instant, before the Gnorbu clutched it carefully to his chest and with a final 'thanks', began to make his way towards the Headquarters.
Tinsum watched him go with disappointment. He'd thought, for a moment, that he'd made a friend. But now Curly was leaving...
Date: May 22nd
...As he watched the Gnorbu leave, he felt the familiar tightness of regret constrict his chest. Somehow, the thought of returning once more to his feeble life amid beds of snow and meals of trash was unbearable. Anything would be better -- and any change would be worth the risk involved.
A strange recklessness seized him. Before now, he would have hung his head and scampered off to find another trashbin. Before now, he would have accepted his lot in life without a second thought. But something had changed within him. A small seed had been planted by his act of bravery, a tingling voice in the back of his head that seemed to whisper, "Try it."
After all, why not? What was the worst possible outcome -- how could he land himself in a poorer situation than wandering homeless in the snow? Gathering his feet beneath him, the Doglefox made his decision, and sprinted after the disappearing Gnorbu, darting in the already shutting door that would have been too heavy for him to open on his own.
His heart rate picked up -- he was actually within the Defenders of Neopia headquarters! Instinct, however, told him not to let the Gnorbu see that he had followed. If he was to offer help of any kind, it must be after he knew what was going on. Sure enough, Curly was so intent upon his delivery that he did not think to look behind him. Tinsum followed silently, thankful for at least one aspect of his street life -- he knew stealth. Sneaking into trashbins without alerting property owners (or other hungry hopefuls) required it.
He followed the Gnorbu down a long twisting hallway and up a flight of stairs, checking over his shoulder every so often to make sure he wouldn't be spotted from behind. Tinsum, tired from the fight, soon had to fight his urge to pant as he struggled up steps designed for much longer legs.
Thankfully, the Gnorbu began to slow. Curly checked a number on an open doorway before he entered it, and Tinsum was all but on his heels. They entered a dark anteroom with a single doorway -- an office of some kind. Curly knocked, and obeyed a gruff command to enter.
Excitement flooded through Tinsum's veins, banishing his exhaustion. If he could never be a Defender himself, at least he could, for the first time, hear some secret information about them. And possibly, just possibly, Curly would let him help if anything needed to be done.
Trembling with eagerness and nerves, the Doglefox put one of his sensitive ears to the door and picked up on the voices inside...
Date: May 23rd
..."You managed to get the potion. Well done," said a voice.
A second voice, which Tinsum recognized as Curly's, replied, "It was harder than I thought. Those two Acaras came back again, and some Petpet managed to drive them off."
The first voice sighed. "That pair is getting to be quite notorious. I wonder why they wanted the potion? We honestly need to stop them soon... and we couldn't have done it without this potion. Thank you, Curly."
"No problem, boss," replied the Gnorbu.
It's Judge Hog! Tinsum realized.
"But when are we going to deal with those Acaras? They've proved as of late that they're more than just a pair of petty criminals."
Judge Hog sighed. "I don't know, Curly. I just don't know..." He paused for a long moment. "We're running out of members," he said in an almost defeated tone. "More noble heroes are disappearing each day, and some of these disappearances are more mysterious than others. There's nobody to take the place of these heroes, either. I'm beginning to think that we have a greater enemy, who's striking from the shadows, and will finally emerge when we're too weak to do anything to stop him."
Curly sounded shaken. "Then we need this potion more than ever. If we lose too many members, there won't be anything to stop those villains from wreaking havoc."
"But where will we find new members?" asked Judge Hog. "I think we need to make this our first priority right now."
They're hiring members! Tinsum thought in amazement. If they're desperate for new recruits, then maybe, just maybe, they'll hire a Petpet. He couldn't believe it. Just earlier that day he had been convinced that he would never be able to become a Defender. But now he had these powers, and that insistent voice kept telling him, "Do it. Do it."
Tinsum took one look backward, then turned slowly toward the door. Trembling not with fear but excitement, he placed his trembling head against the door and nudged it open...
Date: May 23rd
...then wriggled through the opening. Neither Judge Hog nor Curly seemed to notice the door open. Tinsum gulped, then barked to announce his entrance. He trotted over to the front of the desk and sat, wagging his tail.
Curly had jumped when the Doglefox barked, and then stared wide-eyed at Tinsum. "Th-that's the same Petpet that helped me in the alley!" he cried, shocked.
Judge Hog frowned. "Really? Then how did he get in here?" He made a dismissive motion with his hoof. "Get it out of here. We can't have stray Petpets running loose."
Tinsum nearly left it at that, but the voice in his head told him not to back down. He barked again, and jumped for the top of the desk... and flew higher than he had intended to. He landed on the desk only after vaulting over seven feet of space.
The commander of the Defenders of Neopia thrust himself away from the desk just before Tinsum landed. His jaw dropped as he stared at the blue Doglefox.
Tinsum barked triumphantly at the Moehog, though he was just as surprised by his flying leap. He fully intended to make use of it, however.
Judge Hog blinked, and closed his mouth. He glanced back at Curly. "How exactly did this Petpet drive off those Acaras?" he asked.
Curly looked nervous now, staring at the Doglefox with the look of someone who has seen a ghost.
"I-I j-j-just saw it r-r-rip th-the shirt off of o-one, and, and it kn-knocked the other o-one over, an-an-and they r-ran away," he stammered.
Judge Hog gave him an ominous look and turned back to Tinsum with an interested gleam in his eye. He reached out and tugged at the bandanna tied around the Doglefox's neck. He spied the string of beads and pulled it out. "Tinsum," he read. Judge Hog looked the Petpet straight in the eye. "Are you Tinsum, then?"
Tinsum barked, focused on sitting straight and still as he imagined a Defender might. Judge Hog smiled.
"How would you like to be our newest member of the Defenders of Neopia?..."
Date: May 24th
...Tinsum's heart leaped! He barked loudly, and Judge Hog smiled. "Welcome, Tinsum, to the Defenders of Neopia."
"So he's in?" Curly asked, with a questioning look on his face.
"Yep, I think he'll be perfect... no one will suspect a Petpet. He'll be able to work undercover, even more secret than YOU Curly, and you're the best we have. Or had, because of our current loss of members..." Judge Hog trailed off.
Tinsum didn't hear any of that. All he heard was, "How would you like to be our newest member of the Defenders of Neopia?" It repeated over and over. But thankfully he snapped out of it in time to hear Judge Hog say,
"Curly, your next mission will include Tinsum. Take him, adopt him, or at least make it look like he's your Petpet. Your next task will be finding out what's behind Potion #45. Be as careful as possible. Those Acaras mean no good, and until we know what they want and why they want it, we must be on our guard. Sneakiness is the key. Find the balance between hurrying and being slow and careful. I trust in you, Curly. Now hurry out, and we'll meet as planned."
Tinsum followed Curly through the damp, dark streets of Neopia Central. He saw Curly go into the Main Shops and walk purposely towards a statue. He pretended to casually lean against it, but he was really making sure no one saw him, because if they did, the Defenders would be doomed. He whispered out of the side of his mouth to Tinsum,
"Just follow me. Be invisible." Then he started to whisper to the large statue of a Chia.
"Marleen, it's me. Curly."
"Codename?" a stiff and new voice said.
"Again? Alright... codename Curfew."
"Really, Marleen... don't you think security is a little high?"
"Our enemies will do anything."
"True, true. Fine, then, password: Gnarlygnorbusgetgrouthspurts."
"Correct. You will come in 5... 4... 3... 2... 1."
On 1, a small door opened and the Gnorbu started to go in. He whispered to the small Doglefox, "It's all right, go down like a good boy now."
Hesitantly, Tinsum disappeared into the hatch, and a whooshing sound was heard. The Gnorbu followed suit.
They were soon whizzing about on a slide of some sorts. It was thrilling, and Tinsum's stomach felt as though it was in his throat. Finally, they arrived.
"Welcome, Tinsum, to..."
Date: May 24th
"...Defenders Secret Installation 010," Curly said, with an elaborate gesture to the room which spread before them. Tinsum gave an appreciative bark. Not for the room itself - that was fairly bare and unimpressive - but for the delicious scent that was wafting over to him from a nearby table.
An impatient-looking Yurble, who must've been Marleen, gave Tinsum a look and raised a brow at Curly. "Since when do you keep Petpets?" she asked. Curly shrugged.
"He's not really mine, I guess. Judge Hog had him join the Defenders."
"Seriously?" Marleen asked, scratching her head. "Holy Kau. I mean, I know we're strapped for members, but things must be getting really bad if we're taking on Petpets..."
"Well, he's not exactly your average little guy," Curly offered. "He fought off those two Acaras that have been causing trouble lately. And earlier he really... well... I guess he practically flew. It was pretty impressive."
"If you say so," Marleen replied, giving Tinsum a warning glare as the Petpet inched closer to her supper. Remembering his manners as a Defender of Neopia, Tinsum reigned in his self-control and politely sat on the floor, tail thumping in an innocent and friendly gesture.
As the Petpet watched, the two Neopets got down to business. Curly gave Marleen an nervous look. "Anything new?" he asked. She shook her head.
"Surveillance has been slow going. I'm doing what I can, but it's been just me for a while now. Neopia Central's a big place - I keep telling Judge Hog I need more pets, but there's nothing he can do, either, when there's no one to spare," she explained with a heavy sigh. "You're lucky you caught me, even. I've been going out on patrol so often that the installation's pretty much unmanned unless I'm eating or sleeping. Did you deliver that potion safe?"
Curly nodded. "Yes, thanks to Tinsum here. What about The Door?"
Tinsum perked up. He could practically hear the capital letters. Again, Marleen sighed. She headed over towards the table and motioned for Curly and Tinsum to follow. Sitting down, she resumed her meal - not savoring the bites at all, but eating more like Tinsum did when he knew that bigger Petpets were on the way, and he'd have to move quick. "The Door has been top priority ever since we caught that crazy Lupe, but I just can't watch it twenty-four seven, Curly. Even if I did there's a good chance that nothing would happen."
Tinsum gave a little bark to show his utter confusion. Just what were they talking about here? Doors? Lupes? He needed filling-in if he was going to be any good at his job. And a corner of Marleen's burger probably wouldn't hurt either, he thought, licking his chops.
"Oh, fine," the Yurble relented, breaking off a piece of her meal and offering it the Doglefox. He munched delightedly and gave Curly an expectant look.
"Think we should fill him in?" he asked, and Marleen shrugged.
"It probably wouldn't hurt to go over the details again anyway. I'm stumped, I can tell you that much."
Curly took a deep breath. "Well..." he began. "I guess it all started with the disappearances, didn't it?"
"Nah," Marleen replied, narrowly avoiding spraying some of her meal onto Curly. "It started with that weird thief at the bazaar, remember? The one who broke into Uni's Clothing in broad daylight."
"Oh yeah." Curly agreed, tapping his chin. Tinsum perked up his ears to listen more closely.
It had been a bright and sunny day, just one week prior. Neopians were going about their usual business. Shoppers were buying, sellers were selling, baby pets were wailing for the newest toys and several Defenders were on the look-out for ne'er-do-wells and pick-pockets. Then the Kyrii had come bursting through the doors of Uni's clothing.
It had been an unusual robbery. Rather than carting off Neopoints from the shop till, the thief had loaded his arms with clothing. It had seemed a strange and desperate crime as he went racing down the streets, loose scarves and t-shirts flying free of his grasp, the sound of his manic laughter filling the air. The Defenders were on him in no time.
Curly hadn't been there. Neither had Marleen. Tinsum never paid much attention to the news, and hadn't even known that someone had broken into the clothes shop. But the thief's little escapade was doomed to be cut short.
Three Defenders cornered him in a nearby alleyway. The day was fairly hot, and all four parties were out of breath and sweating. "Come on, now," one of the Defenders had said, and then gestured towards his comrades. "The jig's up. There's nowhere to run. Let's go give back that merchandise and we'll see if we can't go easy on you, hey?"
The Kyrii had looked like he was about to give in. After all, he was young, and he'd mostly been put up to it by his friends. With a nervous gulp he'd started forward... and then, like a miracle, a door had appeared in the alleyway. Just like that. One moment there was only brick wall, and the next there was a small, deceptively humble wooden door. If four sets of eyes hadn't witnessed its inexplicable arrival, it would have been easy to believe it had just been missed.
Taking his chance, the Kyrii had lunged through, swinging the door wide and jumping in. It had swung shut very smartly behind him.
The Defenders had tried to pull the door open and give chase, but to no avail. No matter how hard they twisted, tugged, pounded and kicked, it would neither open nor give way.
So the mysterious door became a puzzle, and for a few days it seemed like it might just be one of those things that turned into a legend and fizzled away. That was when the agents started to disappear.
Some pets claimed that they'd seen shadowy figures nabbing Defenders off of the streets, even going so far as to describe scenarios where pets were abducted from the midst of heavy crowds. Others seemed simply to vanish. One day they'd be there, and then the next neither friends, family, nor co-workers could locate them. It didn't even necessarily happen while they were on duty.
No one was sure if it connected to the mysterious door or not, and investigations took on a new type of desperate energy. Until the day before yesterday there hadn't been any break-throughs. Then the Lupe showed up.
Marleen and her partner, who'd gone missing later that same night, had been on surveillance in the area where the The Door was. They'd both been keeping an unusually vigilant eye out, both for each other and for trouble. Just when they'd been about to head for another part of Central, the door had opened.
Due to their watchfulness it had caught their attention right away. Out from the opening had stumbled a half-delirious Lupe. He looked like he'd been tossed into a blender - his fur was a mess and clothes were tattered. Marleen and her partner had rushed toward him, but before they managed to get near a pair of Acaras had leapt from the shadows and accosted the mysterious pet. As soon as the Defenders drew close, they'd run off back into the night again. Marleen stayed with Lupe while her partner gave chase. He never came back, joining the long list of vanished pets.
The Lupe, in the meanwhile, had begun ranting and raving about 'Potion #45'. He'd been taken back to Headquarters, and the only sensible thing they'd managed to get out of him was that this potion was somehow linked to every strange occurrence that had happened since The Door appeared. Other than that he'd been practically incomprehensible, and they'd kept him at the Headquarters. According to the janitorial staff he managed to get his hands on all sorts of weird things, and they'd been cleaning up his strange messes ever since he arrived.
"We got a tip from a good citizen who said he'd seen those two Acaras messing around in his garden." Marleen said, taking up the recounting. "He investigated - we would have responded right away if it weren't for the short-staff - and found what we figure is Potion #45, which we've speculated is what the Acaras took from that kooky Lupe when he first came through The Door. So Curly went to retrieve it, and you know the rest."
Tinsum tipped his head thoughtfully, taking in this new information. Then, just as Marleen was finishing the last bite of her meal, a loud alarm began to sound.
"That's the Security System!" she declared. "Someone's trying to break in here!"
"W-what?!" Curly demanded, and Tinsum gave a loud bark as...
Date: May 25th
...the wall in front of them began to vibrate. It moved as a pond does when a rock is thrown within its waters. The walls quivered as the ripple effect echoed along the room. Then, from the source of the ripples appeared a door.
It wasn’t a very special door. It was wooden and plain, the kind you see everywhere. But Tinsum knew this was no average door. It was The Door.
”Impossible,” Marleen breathed, eyes wide with too many emotions to name.
“However did they find us?” Curly asked. But before anyone could reply, the door slowly opened.
Tinsum let out a low growl as two familiar Acaras entered the secret room. In the bright light of the room, Tinsum could make out the details he had not seen in the dark of night.
The first of the Acaras was the big, aggressive one. He was easily two times larger than the average Acara. His black fur was ragged and Tinsum could see bandages wrapped around his arms and legs. His red eyes narrowed into silts as he sneered at them.
The second Acara was slightly smaller. Yet he moved with much more agility than the bigger one, proving that he too was dangerous, despite his small size. His cold black eyes gleamed with intelligence, making them seem like the brains behind the pair. His white coat glistened unnaturally as they closed the door behind him.
“Surprised?” asked the shadow Acara. The ugly sneer on his face grew even larger as he raised an odd looking gun and pointed it towards them.
Tinsum let out a rough bark and leapt into the air, but before he could attack there was a flash of green. The emerald light surrounded the room, blinding everyone within its range. When the glowing concluded, Tinsum felt as though he were paralyzed, unable to move anything but his eyes.
“Not so tough now, eh?”
Tinsum tried to snarl, but all he could do was glare at the gigantic Acara as he moved past him. He hated this, he felt so helpless. All he could do was watch as he lay suspended in the air.
”Hurry up, Drek!” the white Acara snapped impatiently.
The shadow Acara, Drek, quickly moved towards Curly, who still had the potion clutched firmly in his hand. Tinsum waited for the Gnorbu to do something to stop them, but he knew nothing would happen. For both Curly and Marleen were as helpless as he was.
Drek pried Curly’s fingers off the gleaming surface of the bottle. The Gnorbu glared at him helplessly as he watched the enormous Acara take the bottle away from him.
There it was, that voice again. It echoed through Tinsum’s mind, encouraging him to do something. Yes, the voice was right. He had to stop them. Tinsum struggled violently against the power that made him powerless. He had to get free.
Drek, potion in his hand, walked back towards The Door. He let out a laugh as he twirled the precious vial between his fingers. His partner gave a smirk that lasted for about three seconds before turning the handle on The Door.
They were getting away! Tinsum struggled violently against the force. He felt his paw twitch. Yes! He was getting there! Just a little longer...
But time was running out. Before his eyes, the large Acara disappeared into the unseen vortex.
He had to hurry. The strength that held him seemed weaker, as if he’d break free at any second.
The second Acara surveyed the room one last time before disappearing. The Door was closing...
With a snarl, Tinsum broke free of the mysterious force and leapt through the void as The Door closed behind him...
Date: May 29th
...instantly sealing him off from the world he had known. Slow as the flow of thick mud, empty as the distant reaches of space, nothingness drifted around him, and the sudden and absolute sensory deprivation caused Tinsum's fur to stand on end. Whether it lasted for days or a moment he couldn't have said, for memory found no marker in that place with which to measure time.
Then suddenly light was flooding into his senses, seeming unbearably fierce and brilliant after that eternal instant of blackness. Tinsum shrank back, and only the urgent whisper of his increasingly unfamiliar mind prevented the whimper that rose in his throat from betraying him. Shading his eyes with a paw, Tinsum forced himself to squint into the glare, searching anxiously for some understanding of his surroundings.
It wasn't the kind of place he'd have expected. A corridor, yes; but instead of the sullen torchlight flaring from damp, forbidding stone walls that one might think to find in a villain's lair, this hallway displayed white walls and ceilings, lit with elegant lamps that tastefully accented the tapestries, paintings and potted plants that began to appear as Tinsum's eyes adjusted enough to allow him to look further down the hall. The pale blue carpet was deep and soft, allowing the Acaras who had emerged ahead of Tinsum to pad along in absolute silence. Staring straight ahead, the two criminals didn't seem to have noticed him, but Tinsum was reluctant to take chances - who knew what kind of allies those two could call upon here, and besides, there was also that gun to think about. Glancing around hastily in search of a hiding place, Tinsum noticed a side corridor branching off immediately beyond the door at the end of the hall through which they had entered, and almost ducked into it before he noticed the sign that glared down from above it.
SLEEPING GAS CHAMBER
Tinsum had learned long ago to read pet - it helped him figure out which packages to raid when opportunity came knocking - and while this particular combination of words was unfamiliar to him, it didn't take a genius to figure them out. They probably stuff their captives in there if they can't knock them out before they're forced to drag them through The Door.
Best to avoid that, then. Backing away nervously from the side hall's entrance and glancing around again, Tinsum noticed that the Acaras were starting to turn a corner, and were soon to be out of sight.
Follow them! See where they go. There was the voice again, and as it continued to make itself known Tinsum was finding himself more and more ready to obey it. Creeping along with the speed and stealth of the seasoned street Petpet, the small Doglefox hurried off in the Acaras' wake.
As he caught up with them, Tinsum became aware that the two of them were conversing, their tones hushed as if causing a loud disturbance were taboo in this place. "You were careless, Drek," the white one was saying. "You dallied far too much, both in opening fire and in acquiring the potion. Those who take the time to flaunt their advantage to their opponent tend to lose that advantage."
"Aw, come on. You're no fun, Shizique. Loosen up a little."
"Were I to do that," Shizique replied evenly, his tone an audio picture of emotionless efficiency, "it would jeopardize the success of our mission, and our leader would be displeased. Almost as displeased," he added with an arch of his eyebrow, "as he would be if you were to drop the potion you are so cavalierly tossing about."
The vial's repeated aerial round trip between Drek's paws ceased with guilty abruptness. "Yeah," he added sullenly, "and only about half as ticked off as he'd be if another of your hiding places got found."
"A mistake I intend not to make again," Shizique returned simply, entirely unflustered.
"You'd better not." Drek glanced at the vial. "If this thing gets activated before the plan's ready, it could..."
Date: May 29th
"...put all our hard work to an end... and you know that our leader would not like that, we got into enough trouble already with that lousy Petpet in the alley. Imagine! Us cowarding and running from a Doglefox!"
"Well, there's my point, you hesitated a lot more than we needed to; if you hadn't, we would have been long gone before that good-for-nothing showed up," replied Shizique.
Drek gasped, then ceased to converse with his partner. For a moment it was so silent Tinsum had worried that he had lost the pair of Acaras.
Then the silence broke as Drek began to talk once more. "Well, imagine that runt now and all those do-gooders... helpless... HA HA HA!"
Shizique joined in. "HA...That'll show 'em to mess with us!"
Tinsum growled. HOW DARE THEY! The anger in him started to boil and Tinsum felt like he was going to explode. The Doglefox felt like pouncing on the two and attacking them, but he calmed himself. He didn't want to give his position away, after all.
Tinsum took in a deep breath. He had to remain unseen, put all his skills he had learned on the street as a stray to another use, but to do that he had to remain free, and Tinsum intended it to be that way.
Tinsum countinued to follow the pair into what seemed to be a dimly lighted room where a long staircase ran through. Two couches sat in the middle of the room. The carpet that muffled the Acaras' steps was now gone. It was replaced by a dusty floor that hadn't been mopped or swept in years.
The couple walked toward the center. TAP, TAP, TAP! Both of the Acaras stomped in harmony together and in between the couches, where there once was floor was replaced by a hole.
"You're finally here," came a voice from within the hole. "I hope you've returned with that potion..."
Date: May 30th
...Tinsum shivered with terror. That voice seemed to be pure darkness. Despair and fear seeped through him like poison with every shadowy word it spoke, filling him with hopelessness. How could I have ever thought we could win? he thought.
He shook himself to clear his mind. I can't just run. The Defenders must be saved, he thought, and forced himself to stop trembling.
"Yes, my lord," replied Drek. "It was a very arduous -"
"I have not come to listen to you exaggerate the difficulty of your mission. Do not look to me for praise," hissed the evil voice.
"I apologize, my lord," replied Drek, with a hasty bow.
"I should think so," the darkness grated, and what happened next almost made Tinsum bolt away in fear, even with his newfound confidence.
From the hole, a black mist began to spiral up. It formed a tall, twisted column. Two Darigan-like black wings sprouted from both sides of the pillar of darkness, each as large as the column itself. Slowly, the mist began to settle. It formed an insubstantial wraithlike figure, with two six-fingered hands. Both of these hands were clawed, and they constantly opened and closed as if trying to clutch a victim. Its two eyes were so intensely red that they were glowing. The creature had no legs. Slowly it floated over to Drek, who along with Shizique, flung himself into a bow that made him almost level with the floor.
"Finally, the potion is mine..." the darkness said almost softly, his terrible fingers reaching for the potion.
It paused. "Hahahahaha!" it laughed manically. "The Defenders are helpless! Neopia belongs to me!"
It took another step forward, hand outstretched to take the potion...
Date: May 30th
...and in the instant, Tinsum knew that he could not let that creature possess the potion. Without hesitating to think, he bolted from his hiding place and leapt towards the three figures. His paws left the ground, and he felt himself floating easily through the air. He was almost... flying.
Focus! The Doglefox shook himself and focused on his target. The Acara's paw was meeting up with the creature's own outstretched hand, the potion in the process of being transferred over. Carefully directing his path in the air, Tinsum reached his goal with precision, snatching the vial just as the clawed hand tried to close around it.
He landed harmlessly on the ground and rolled away, potion firmly in his mouth.
"What was that?!?" he heard the creature hiss in a terrible rage. "You imbeciles, have you compromised our position?"
"No, my lord!" Drek cried. "I mean, we didn't see him. He-"
"Shut up and get him!"
"Yes, my lord!"
Acara paws were pounding after him now; he would have to move fast. Tinsum took stock of his surroundings. He had no idea how to get back through the Door into the safety of the Defenders Headquarters, and he couldn't run around and hide forever in enemy quarters. In fact, what he could use right now was a little assistance...
Like a flash, it hit him. Defenders vanishing... last seen near the Door... They were probably being kept captive here! If he could just find them and release them, all the while keeping the potion safe, they could prove a much more formidable force.
With newfound determination, Tinsum dove out of the way just as Drek pounced on him, and he once more bounded into the air...
Date: May 30th
...I must get back to that hallway, Tinsum thought to himself as he landed with a crash on the filthy floor. He dashed towards the exit, past the staircase, as swiftly as his small legs could take him. Fear eluded the Doglefox now, his emotions replaced with pure power and determination.
Tinsum raced into the brightly lit hallway with the two Acaras hurtling forward in his wake. Then he spotted his target, the one place he tried to avoid earlier: the corridor with “SLEEPING GAS CHAMBER” emblazoned above it in menacing red letters. The Doglefox didn’t think twice as he plunged down the darkened hallway. Countless meters down the hallway Tinsum ran, until he was met with a large steel sliding door, a small window made of thick glass placed neatly in the center. He remembered his strange, yet forceful jump that he had recently acquired and used it to hurtle himself up just long enough to catch a glimpse through the window. His suspicions were correct. At least two dozen Defenders were unconscious in the room, laid out like sardines in a tin can.
How on Neopia will I get into that room? Tinsum thought, while the horror of his situation was crystallized when he spotted the Acaras rounding into the corridor. They were silhouettes at the end of the hall, but the Doglefox knew they would catch up to him in a matter of seconds.
A yellow light was blinking on the wall next to him, and it caught Tinsum’s eye just in time. It was a keypad of sorts, with the letters of the alphabet and numbers 0-9 laid out in 6 neat rows of 6 buttons each. Tinsum shuddered with fear as it dawned on him that he would need to enter a password. The footsteps were getting louder as the Acaras were getting closer each second. All sorts of terrible thoughts flooded the Doglefox’s mind... a stray Doglefox thinking he could be Defender of Neopia, a Fool of Neopia is more like it... then Judge Hog’s face materialized in Tinsum’s mind. He remembered the Moehog asking him to join the Defenders, he remembered the stories he grew up with of great heroes helping others in the most dire of circumstances... The Defenders of Neopia need me, I have to do this...
Fear and uncertainty drained out of him until there was nothing left but bravery of the purest form. Without giving it a second thought, he quickly punched in a set of letters and numbers, P-O-T-I-O-N-4-5. He closed his eyes and waited for something to happen, it seemed like an eternity but he finally heard it: a hiss as air escaping. The door was opening as he saw the yellow blinking light turn to a steady green.
Tinsum inhaled one last gulp of fresh air then held his breath as he slipped through the door...
Date: May 31st
...The air was thick and hazy, and Tinsum didn't dare take a breath. He took a second for his eyes to get used to the gloom, and looked around.
The floor was strewn with motionless Neopets. They were breathing, and most definitely still alive, but they certainly weren't going to wake up any time soon.
A pneumatic hiss behind him made him whip around. The doors, out of safety procedure, were closing to ensure the gas did not spread to the rest of the facility. It bought him some time, but he wouldn't be getting out of here unless he found another panel.
Holding the potion bottle in his mouth, he padded over to the nearest Defender; a Darigan Kougra with a blue cape and paw guards. The Kougra wouldn't respond to any amount of poking or prodding; he didn't even stir. This is powerful stuff, Tinsum thought.
He began to feel dizzy from lack of air. I need to do something, fast! he told himself. Sweeping his blurry gaze over the room, he saw a ventilation pipe. That must be where it's coming from, he realized.
He half-stumbled over the motionless Defenders to the pipe. There were no control panels or switches. There's nothing I can do, thought Tinsum, loopy and fading.
His vision began to slide in and out of focus. He dimly heard the door slide open. Pawsteps pounded his way. Fast.
With the last of his strength, Tinsum dogded to one side to avoid the Acaras. Drek collided with him. Tinsum lost his balance, and the bottle of potion flew out of his mouth and into the pipe.
Down it fell, lost forever.
The three, two villains, one a budding hero, watched in silent, horrified unison as the potion spiraled out of reach.
I need to breathe, thought Tinsum. Gas or not, it's now or never.
He took a deep, hesitant breath, expecting to fall faint.
But it was pure and clean, without a trace of sleeping gas. Huh? he thought. He heard a noise behind him, and he turned around, alertness and agility restored.
The Defenders were rising...
Date: May 31st
...“Oh, no,” said Drek weakly. He raised his paws.
“What are you doing?!” hissed Shizique.
The Defenders of Neopia came forward, with their newest member in the lead. “Bark, bark!” said the Doglefox.
Drek quailed. “Don’t hurt me!”
Shizique roared. “I’ll fight you to the death!”
The Darigan Kougra, who was a skilled Defender, merely sighed. He had seen both of these reactions hundreds of times in his career. He stepped forward with his comrades and, in a few swift moments, had locked the Acara’s paws firmly in bands of steel.
“Lead the way back, please, fellow Defender,” said the Kougra to Tinsum, with a smile.
“Bark, bark!” said the Doglefox.
* * * * *
Defenders Secret Installation 010 felt like heaven after the terror of the sleeping gas room. Curly rushed up, eyes alight, the moment Tinsum came out of The Door.
“Tinsum!” he cried. “You’re all right! And -- wow!” He gazed in disbelief at the many triumphant Defenders that emerged smiling from The Door. “Wow.”
Marleen, too, stared at the long procession spilling into the room that she had so often occupied alone. The reason for her long solitary hours was now safely cuffed in steel. She had dreamed so many times of this day...
“Tinsum,” she whispered. “I never thought a small Petpet could do so much. Thank you, thank you for changing my life!”
She gave the little hero a great big hug.
* * * * *
Judge Hog stood in the hall of the Defenders of Neopia Headquarters. Beside him stood Tinsum, tail wagging with pride.
“I believe we have never formally welcomed our latest member,” Judge Hog announced in his booming voice. “Tinsum the Doglefox! He is a Petpet, yes, but without him, we will not be standing tall today. The Defenders of Neopia have come close to the point of breakdown, my fellow Neopians! This little Doglefox completed our mission and set our Defenders free.”
Cheers rang out.
“Now we must remain vigilant. The creature that masterminded this whole thing is still out there, but now that we are once more at full force, we will not let him stop us! Sadly, we lost Potion #45 during the last mission, but judging by its powerful effect on the Sleeping Gas Chamber, its powers have been used up and cannot be controlled by the villain either. We have this little valiant Petpet to thank for that also. Do you have anything to say, Tinsum?” asked Judge Hog, turning to Tinsum.
And the Doglefox said proudly for all to hear, “Bark, bark!”
Date: Jun 1st
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