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Second Chance for Star


by firecomet14

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The mud plastered Bika yanked at her halter. The red Grarrl lashed at her with a long whip. The Bika suddenly turned on her heels and kicked out, startling the cruel Petpet trainer. His grip loosened on the lead rope, just long enough for the horrified Petpet to pull free. The Grarrl bellowed with rage as the Bika jumped through the bottom and middle rails of the fence and galloped straight into the bushes.

     *****

     The young Kougra woke with a jolt. She tried to push the image of the abused Petpet out of her mind. Nala loved Petpets, she even had a job at the Meridell Petpet Shop, and the thought that someone could treat a Petpet like that disgusted her. Nala stretched and got up. Looking out her bedroom window she sighed. "Ten acres of fields and a huge Petpet barn, and no Petpets to occupy it," she said to the blue Kougra looking back at her from the mirror.

     "Nala, time for breakfast," yelled Jennesa, Nala's owner, who was a tall thin girl with straight black hair. "It's your favorite." Nala smiled as the aroma of Breakfast Tea and Fluffy Faerie Pancakes wafted up the stairs and into her room. As Nala padded down the stairs she thought for the millionth time that this place would make the perfect Petpet farm.

     "Morning," Jennesa said as Nala entered the room. "Coming with me to town today," she asked as she served Nala a stack of pancakes on a pink plate. Nala grabbed the syrup from the counter and thought about it. Today was Sunday, her day off of work at the Petpet shop. She had been planning to explore in the rocky hills by their farm.

     "I think I'll stay home today," she told Jennesa. Jennesa simply shrugged and sat down at the table to have some coffee and read the paper. "Hey, Jen? Why can't we have a Petpet here?" asked Nala casually.

     "Well, for one thing, having a Petpet is a lot of work, but you have a lot of experience with caring for Petpets. And for another thing, we just don't have the money at this time. It's been tough at work lately, and I'm just thankful I haven't been fired with all the days I called in sick." Nala nodded as she remembered when Jennesa caught the flu that had been going around.

     "Okay," Nala said, trying not to let her disappointment show. She had always dreamed of owning a beautiful Whinny or a cute little Babaa or Symol. The Ixi at the Petpet shop had told her she had a gift with Petpets. Nala remembered the time she had rescued a Turdle from the Symol Hole. She had had to practically go in it herself!

     After Jennesa left, Nala wandered into the barn. She leaped up and grabbed the rope to the hayloft and jumped in. The hayloft of the old Petpet barn was her favorite place in the whole barn. The smell of hay and the sunlight shining in made it extremely relaxing and a great place for a nap.

     Nala jumped down and went into the house to get her backpack. She stuffed some cookies, a bottle of water, a rope, and a book, Lost Desert Petpets, into the blue backpack.

     After a long walk through the woods, Nala came to the cliff. She aimed her rope at the tree just above the small ledge on the cliff. It hooked on the first try and Nala climbed up. On the ledge Nala unhooked her rope and ran through the small tunnel entrance on the ledge. She came out on a higher ledge and got her rope ready again. She tossed it up and caught it on another branch and made the final climb up to her secret ledge. She sat down and caught her breath, then turned around.

     The view was breathtaking. She could see all of Meridell, the rolling green fields, the large windmills, the small splotch of houses and shops in the town, the lush green forests. It was amazing. The sky was clear, the sun was shining, and the air was fresh and calm.

     Nala laid back in the warm sunshine and relaxed. It was a perfect day. She let her tail dangle over the edge and watched a cloud float lazily by. Getting up she looked down again. A sudden movement caught her eye. What was it? She leaned over as far as she dared and looked closer. There was something moving at the bottom of the cliff.

     Curiosity got the best of her and Nala tied the rope to a jagged rock and began to climb down.

     *****

     The Bika galloped through the brush, desperate to escape her pursuer. She stopped and listened. No sound from behind her. She had lost the cruel Grarrl in the forest. Now she had to find water. She was dying of thirst! And she had not eaten in a while. The Petpet trainer thought he could break her spirit by not feeding her. Well, she had shown him!

     She trotted over to a large pond at the base of a cliff and lowered her head to drink. But just then there was a loud snap from the forest on her right, and the red Grarrl stormed out of the trees. The Bika reared up, turned, and ran into the forest before he could get close to her.

     She heard the Grarrl roar with anger and galloped even faster. Her throat was burning with thirst, but she didn't dare stop. She just kept running. The Grarrl wasn't very fast, so he wouldn't catch her if she could find a place to hide. She was well away from the pond now, so she dared a peek back. The red Grarrl was nowhere to be seen.

     Suddenly, the Bika's lead rope caught on a particularly thorny bush, and she was brought to a stop from her wild gallop. She tugged at it as hard as she could, but it wouldn't budge. Now she could only hope that the Grarrl had lost her trail. She was so hungry, but her throat hurt too much to eat any grass, so she just stood there, waiting.

     *****

     Nala rushed over to where she had seen the movement. She was in a small clearing bordered on two sides by the pond and the cliff. She saw some tiny footprints that she didn't recognize. They had to be made by a Petpet, but which one? There were deeper marks closer to the woods, which meant the Petpet had run into the trees.

     Nala followed the footprints for a while. She had plenty of time left before Jennesa returned. Soon she came to a small clearing where she used to pick juppies in the fall. One of the bushes was moving! She walked around it to find a dirty, scared looking Bika tugging at its lead rope which was caught in the thorns.

     The Bika looked up at her and reared up, laying its ears back and baring her teeth. Nala took a few steps back. The Bika stopped and looked at her confusedly. Why wasn't the Neopet doing something horrible to her like all the others?

     Nala had an idea. She reached into her backpack and grabbed the cookies and offered them to the Petpet. The Bika sniffed them, but wouldn't take them. "You must be thirsty," Nala said in a kind, soothing voice.

     She began searching around looking for a bowl she had left in the clearing last fall by accident. The Bika watched her warily. She found it under one of the bushes. It was covered in dirt and Spyder webs, so she washed it out and filled it with water. When she pushed it towards the Bika, the thirsty Petpet drank it quickly and watched as Nala refilled it.

     Once the Bika had drunk her fill, Nala offered her the cookies again. The nervous Petpet took them one by one. By the way she savored them, Nala could tell that she had never had treats before.

     The adorable Petpet, now less afraid, sniffed for more. Nala gave her the last one and tried to untangle the lead rope from the thorns, all the while talking to the Bika in a soothing voice. She got pricked quite a few times, but she managed to get the rope free. Then she started walking away, waiting for the Bika to follow her.

     *****

     This is it, the Bika thought. Bad memories of the Grarrl trying to get her to follow him were flashing up in her mind. But this was different; this pet had been kind to her. The Bika had never met a kind Neopet before. Everyone at her old home spoke in harsh, cold voices and rather than praising her for doing something right, punished her for doing something wrong.

     As the Bika debated it in her head, she stood firm. She decided that she would wait and see what this Neopet did. She put her head down between her legs and scratched at her halter. It was too small and too tight, and the material made her skin itch.

     The Neopet suddenly reached into its bag and pulled out a rope. Seeing the rope made the Bika remember her first impression of Neopets. She had been playing in the pasture she had lived in all her life when a strange creature came into the field. It carried a long rope and a longer whip. It cornered her and lassoed her, hitting her with the whip quite a few times. It had taken her away from her happy home, bringing her to a small, dirty stable. Ever since then she had thought of Neopets as her enemy, until now.

     She watched warily as the Kougra came over with the rope, whispering calmly. She took off the itchy halter and quickly slipped on a makeshift one she had made from the rope. The Bika shook her head happily. It felt good to have the old thing off, although there were still quite a few sores. Now she gladly followed the blue Kougra through the forest.

     *****

     Nala knew Jennesa would be home soon so she quickly got the Bika into the stables and settled her in a stall. When she dropped some fresh hay from the hayloft the little Petpet attacked it as if she hadn't eaten in weeks, which Nala thought, sadly, might be true.

     Nala dropped her backpack off in the house and headed for town. Jennesa would probably still be there when she arrived so she planned to tell her she had come home early and decided to come to town too. It wasn't exactly a lie. She'd just leave out the part about finding a Bika.

     After withdrawing some neopoints from her bank account, she headed for the Petpet shop. At the Petpet shop, a welcoming jingle met her. All the Petpets raised their heads and watched her as she went to the rack on one of the walls. She picked out some Petpet shampoo, some large Petpet food, a soft Petpet hairbrush, some Petpet vitamins, and Terror Mountain Petpets.

     Luckily on Sundays another Ixi managed the shop. Nala showed her her employee discount card and the Ixi charged her and put the items in a bag without question. As Nala walked out of the shop, she saw Jennesa through the food shop window. She quickly ran down the path to their neohome.

     When she opened the door to the stable, she heard a loud noise coming from the Bika's stall. The Petpet was running around and kicking at the walls of the stall, but when she saw Nala she calmed down. She trotted up to the door and started banging it with her front leg.

     Nala walked in and took the little Petpets lead rope and led her out to the aisle of stalls. She tied her lead rope to a hook in the wall and hooked up the hose to the faucet. Filing a bucket with warm water and dunking a borrowed sponge into it, Nala said, "How in the name of Fyora did you get so dirty?"

     The Bika just looked up at her and shook her head. "If you're going to live here, you're going to need a name," she told the small Petpet. "How about… Star!" The Petpet shook her head happily so Nala decided that would be her name.

     Cleaning Star was easier said than done. First she tried sponging the dirt off, but that became difficult when Nala realized that Star's coat was full of burrs. At last she had to resort to picking them out one by one and hosing the little Bika down.

     *****

     The little Bika shook her head happily. She had a name! And she had a new owner who loved her. Her coat felt so good now that it was clean! Star couldn't have asked for more.

     The kind Kougra put some ointment on her sores from the small halter and gave her another treat. Star shook her head again. Her life had improved so much! Her new home was the best place she could have thought of to live. She loved the smell of clean hay and the feeling of the thick bed of straw beneath her feet. Everything about this place was wonderful!

     But how long can it last? The dreadful thought came into her head before she could stop it. She knew that the red Grarrl would stop at nothing to find her. What if he took her back to that horrible place where she had spent most of her life? How would he punish her for running away? The Bika shuddered at the thought and tried to push it out of her mind. She was here now, and she was safe. And with that, she began munching on the food her new owner had left her.

     *****

     Nala sat in the living room, reading her new book. Her eyes scanned over the words, but her mind was elsewhere. How would she explain this to Jennesa? Jennesa was a great owner, but she wouldn't let Nala keep the adorable Bika. Nala knew that no matter what she said or did, Jennesa would give her a long lecture about how some heartbroken owner was probably out looking for the Star, put up posters everywhere, and post an ad for a lost Petpet in the Neopian Times.

     Nala knew that she couldn't let that happen to Star. The little Bika trusted her and Nala wouldn't let her down. She had seen the look of pure terror in the Petpets eyes and knew that she had come from a cruel and abusive owner. She would have to either have to hide Star forever, or buy her from her original owner. Nala only had 20,000 neopoints saved, so it looked like she'd have to go with the first option.

     She heard the front door open and rushed into the kitchen to see Jennesa unpacking groceries. "How was your day exploring?" Jennesa asked.

     Nala simply shrugged her shoulders and said, "It was pretty good, I guess."

     As she put some food in the refrigerator Jennesa said, "Did you happen to see a Bika running around while you were out?" Nala froze and began to sweat. She couldn't lie to her owner.

     "Why do you ask?" she said nervously. Luckily, Jennesa wasn't paying close attention so she didn't pick up on the Kougra's nervousness.

     "There was a red Grarrl from the Red Dust Petpet training farm asking around town. He said that an unruly Bika broke out of her stall and ran off."

     Nala's mind was racing. She had been to Red Dust Stables before to pick up an order of Turdle's that had been delivered to the wrong place. The person at the front office had insisted she had a tour of the facilities, seeing it as a business opportunity. Nala had been disgusted. The Petpets were ill treated, the stables were filthy, and the trainers were cruel. She had reported them to the PPL (Petpet Protection League), but since they fit the standards, there was nothing they could do.

     Nala shook herself back to reality. She could never let Star go back there. That explained why she was always so afraid and hungry! Nala had to convince Jennesa to let her keep Star! She would never let the little Petpet return there, no matter what anyone said. Then she remembered her dream from last night. The Bika in it was Star! And it had to be the same red Grarrl!

     *****

     That night as Star lay sleeping the Grarrl came into the stables. He had followed her tracks all the way through the woods and his temper had run out. That Petpet had eluded him for he last time.

     Star, sensing the intruder, woke up and started running around her stall nervously. She let out a tiny whinny and kicked at the walls, rearing up when she saw the mean Grarrl attempting to open the stall door.

     Nala, who had heard the distressed whinny, stood in the barn door and stared. "Wh… what are you doing? Who are you?" The Grarrl turned to face her. He looked very grumpy.

     "I'm taking back what's mine. This Bika broke out of her stall and ran off." Nala just stared, stricken as he walked by her, dragging Star behind him.

     "I'm reporting you for breaking into private property!" It was only an empty threat, a weak attempt to scare him off, but he just grunted as he walked off into the night. A light rain had begun to fall. Nala stood and watched them disappear into the fog. The rain began strengthening and Nala rushed up to her house.

     As she entered the kitchen, she heard thunder rumble in the distance. Jennesa was there, sitting on one of the comfy sofas. "Would you mind explaining what's going on?" she asked.

     Nala sat down in the seat next to her and spilled her heart out. She told Jennesa everything, including her tour of Red Dust Stables. After quite a bit of crying, she said, "What can we do?" Jennesa thought for a few minutes. Nala knew that when she was thinking like this, it was best not to disturb her.

     After a long time of silence, Jennesa said, "Why hasn't the PPL done anything?"

     "Red Dust Stables meets the certain PPL requirements and they have a license to train and sell Petpets. There's nothing they can do," Nala replied.

     "Then what's keeping you from doing some research. It couldn't hurt." The thought of going back to Red Dust Stables appalled Nala, but she would have to do it. For Star. The more she thought about it, the better the idea seemed. Maybe she could do an article for the Neopian Times. And Red Dust Stables might have even been hiding certain things from the PPL.

     That night, as Nala lay in her room, she couldn't sleep. She ended up pulling her pen and paper toward her and writing a long letter to the PPL, asking if one of their Petpet Rescue Agents would accompany her on a tour of the stables. Then she fell into a dreamless sleep.

     *****

     The small Bika could sense her entering the stables. She was so happy that the kind Neopet was here, maybe to take her home forever! She saw the blue Kougra, accompanied by a red Scorchio, and was overjoyed. She wanted to run right up to her, but the red Grarrl was there, so she held herself back. The red Scorchio was taking pictures of all the Petpets.

     The Grarrl, who was explaining all sorts of things to them, took Star's lead rope and attached it to her halter. He forcefully dragged her out of the stall and into the training ring.

     *****

     Nala had to restrain herself from crying out as the Grarrl whipped the poor Bika until she gave in and started galloping around. The Scorchio was taking notes all the while. At last, the Scorchio said, "I've seen enough. I'm a Petpet Rescue Agent, and you failed the inspection test."

     The Grarrl stared at him, expecting him to say "April Fools" or something, but the Scorchio was already on his way back to the stables, composing a neomail. "I'm going to need some people to help us get them out of here," Nala heard him tell the headquarters.

     He reached the barn and turned to Nala and said, "Do you know of a place we could keep all these Petpets? Even if it's only temporary?" Nala thought for a moment, then shook her head. There were no Petpet barns big enough nearby. Unless...

     "I have a big enough barn at my neohome. They could probably stay there for a while. Doesn't the PPL have a place to keep them?" The Scorchio just shook is head. The PPL in Meridell was fairly new, and they didn't have anywhere to keep Petpets yet.

     *****

     Nala was amazed at how much better things had gotten. Jennesa had agreed immediately to keep the Petpets on their property. The PPL had moved all the petpets and sent Nala a whole cartload of supplies for caring for them, as well as 40,000 neopoints for taking them in.

     Eventually Nala's farm became the Meridell headquarters for the PPL. It was made into a rescue and adoption center, with Petpets coming in and out constantly. But no matter how many Petpets came and went, Nala always had a place in her heart, and a treat in her bag, for Star, who remained at the farm all her life.

The End

Look for more by me soon. I support the PPL and all foster neopet agencies.

 
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