A Yurble stole my cinnamon roll! Circulation: 127,331,912 Issue: 258 | 22nd day of Gathering, Y8
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Needed Adventure: Part Five


by tdyans

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Enzo felt the gentle morning sunlight on his face and slowly opened his eyes. He yawned and stretched, considering the idea of going back to sleep for just a few more minutes, when he suddenly noticed the absence of a familiar ball of feathers that should have been pestering him to get up. His eyes opened wide and he shot to his feet, quickly surveying the room. But there was no sign of Whooter anywhere-- just the Draik and Krawk, who sat nearby, watching him with amused curiosity.

      Staring at the two of them and still only half-awake, Enzo suddenly had a horrible thought. "Whooter...?" he whimpered.

      The other two pets laughed lightly. "Relax," the Krawk said, "we didn't eat him."

      The Draik nodded. "Your whoot-- sorry, your friend-- said he was going out to find some food for himself. Said he'd bring back some breakfast for the rest of us as well, once he was done."

      "Oh," Enzo said, relieved but embarrassed. "Well, of course... I--"

      The pair laughed again. "It's all right," the Krawk said. "After the way we acted yesterday, we can hardly blame you for thinking we'd make a meal out of your friend."

     At this the mirth left their eyes, and they dropped their gazes to the floor. The Draik rubbed his arm. "It's just that... when Jason gets a new pet to show off...."

     "Then the rest of his pets become nonexistent in his eyes," the Krawk finished. There was less emotion and more matter-of-factness in her voice and expression than in the Draik's. She was hardened to this-- but still not immune.

     "Aye." The Draik nodded. "I watched it happen to Orla when he first brought me home."

     "And I've watched it happen to Zinneus here over the past couple of weeks-- so I had an inkling you were coming. Whenever his latest pet stops being quite the status symbol that it started out as-- when there get to be a few too many pets already like it out there or when everyone just gets tired of him showing it off-- then he goes off to the Pound to find the next big thing."

     "Can't even go to the effort of creating and raising the pets for himself," Zinneus grumbled. "Has to go scavenge off of someone else's leftovers."

     Orla sighed. "He's not the sort of owner worth fighting over--"

     "But he's the only owner we've got," Zinneus finished. "I didn't like getting dragged around and treated like a trophy, but at least I was fed." He paused and then made another admittance, almost too quiet for the other two to hear. "And at least he cared about me for some reason, even if it wasn't...."

     "Breakfast!" The three pets turned to see Whooter pulling a long, thin loaf of bread through the bars of the window.

     Enzo turned to Orla and Zinneus and offered a friendly smile. "Come on, let's eat... and talk."

     ***

     Zinneus chewed slowly on the last of his piece of bread with a thoughtful expression. "So you really think that you can get us out of here?"

     "Sure," Enzo said with perhaps a bit too much confidence. "Like I said, all we need is to get a hold of that... what did you call it, Whooter?"

     "The key."

     "Right. Once we have that, it'll be no problem." Zinneus and Orla-- and Whooter, as well-- still looked skeptical. "Don't worry!" Enzo coaxed. "My dad used to do this sort of thing all the time. It'll be a cinch."

     "All right," Orla said, "but how are we supposed to get the key?"

     "You say Jason's going to be spending all of his time with me now," Enzo replied, "so leave that to me."

     Zinneus and Orla looked at each other, shrugged and nodded. At the very least, they had nothing to lose.

     ***

     Orla and Zinneus' prediction that Enzo would now become Jason's favored pet-- and, in fact, treated as if he was his only pet-- was soon proven true. The boy arrived at the Neohome each morning and took Enzo out, acting as if the other two didn't even exist, except for the fact that he still made sure to lock the room behind him. After this, Enzo was bound each day to be dragged around Neopia Central and shown off to whoever would pay attention.

     Unfortunately, Enzo found it more difficult to prove his own prediction that escaping would be easy. Jason kept the key secure in his pocket at all times, removing it only when he unlocked the house, and then the hated room, at the start and end of each day. Enzo was constantly watching for his chance, but things were not coming quite so easily as they always had in his father's stories.

     For the first week or two, Orla and Zinneus would stand with anticipation whenever he arrived back in the room at the end of the day, but time and again he had to shake his head and watch their faces fall. Soon enough they didn't bother to stand, though they would still look up, eyes shining hopefully, only to dim. And eventually they didn't even bother raising their heads when the door opened and Enzo padded wearily inside, followed by the heavy sound of the door being locked once more. They seemed to have let the small spark of hope that Enzo had ignited fade and resigned themselves again to their monotonous lives-- with the daily departure and return of the Gelert simply another part of the routine.

     But Enzo was not content to do the same. While the other two pets became more and more resigned, he became more and more frustrated, and frustration tends not to adhere well to a routine.

     He was pacing the floor one evening, a low growl in his throat. "If I could just find a way to get him to take that key out of his pocket," he muttered. "Just set it down for a moment, take his eyes off of it. I've got to get my chance somehow, I...."

     Orla sighed. She knew that the young Gelert meant well, but when one has given up, another's determination not to can become quite annoying. "Enzo, really, it's all right," she said in as soothing a voice as she could muster. "We know that you tried your best. It was a nice idea, but it just wasn't meant to be."

     "Aye," Zinneus said, "and besides, it's really not so bad. I know we made it out to be, but, well, we've got shelter at least, and we'll be well fed as long as Whooter sticks with us, right?"

     "That's right. It's not ideal, but--"

     "Enough!" Enzo's frustration exploded in a bark. "Can you two honestly say that you're happy staying cooped up here for the rest of your lives?" Neither answered. "Well, I'm not, and--"

     "Now see here, Enzo." It was Zinneus' turn to interrupt this time, nostrils flaring. "It's easier for you to keep this up, you know, to stay hopeful--"

     "Don't you say that I'm better off than you two because I get to be dragged around on the end of a leash all day and treated like some trophy, Zinny. That you think that's so much better... it only shows how badly you need to get out of here and live a real life... how much you deserve it...."

     Orla and Zinneus hung their heads. Enzo looked at the ground as well, as he continued softly. "I made a promise to you guys. And every day I see you here, the more I need to keep it. I will keep it. Please believe me. I'll get the key... somehow."

     A cool clawed hand came to rest upon his shoulder, and he looked up into Orla's calm gaze. "All right, Enzo," she said. "All right." Zinneus nodded quietly from where he stood. Enzo sighed and smiled, and without another word spoken between the three, they moved to their favorite spots on the floor and fell asleep.

     ***

     The frustration of the night before flew back at Enzo full force with the morning's light and the usual rude awakening from Jason. And it only grew throughout the day as the boy led him everywhere, showing him off to everyone, and Enzo tortured himself with the seemingly unsolvable puzzle of how to get the key that always stayed safely hidden within Jason's pocket.

     The afternoon shadows were lengthening when they made their last stop for the day at the local park. After tying the end of Enzo's leash to a bench, Jason headed off to an ice cream cart a few yards away. Enzo scowled after him, but found that his loathing was directed more at himself than at Jason at the moment. He felt completely useless... and apparently it was evident.

     "Hey kid, why so down?" Enzo looked up to see a Chia cop looking curiously at him. He opened his mouth to answer, but the Chia spoke again first. "Hey, you know, you look familiar somehow.... Yeah, you sorta remind me of Dantam-- don't know 'im, do you?"

      Enzo's eyes widened. "You know my da-- Dantam?"

      The police officer smiled knowingly. "Sure! I was on duty the night that he helped bring in some pet smugglers a couple years back."

      Enzo chuckled. "Huh, I was beginning to think maybe that was just a story."

      "Nope, son, it really happened. What a night! So now a few of us on the force know about your da-- Dantam," the Chia said with a wink. "But we try to keep it quiet. That's important work he does."

      Enzo's snout wrinkled in disbelief. "More important than catching smugglers?"

      "Well, sure, catching criminals is important, kid, but there's plenty of us--" the Chia pointed at the shiny badge on his chest-- "to do that sort of thing. Dantam's the only one out there taking care of all those homeless pets and helping them find good owners who'll treat them right. It may not seem exciting or glamorous, but sure it's important."

      Enzo sighed thoughtfully, his ears twitching as he considered what the officer had said.

      "So really, kid, what's eating you?"

      Enzo narrowed his eyes a little, uncertain of whether he should trust the Chia cop with this. But finally he decided to relent. "You see that guy over there?" he asked, motioning toward Jason, who had just laid his Neopoints down and was making his way back over toward them with his ice cream cone.

      The Chia nodded. "Yep."

      "He's got a key in his pocket-- a key that I need. But--"

      "No problem!" the Chia said with a sweep of his paw.

     Enzo gave him a puzzled look, but didn't have time for questions as Jason walked quickly up to the two of them with a frown. "Hey, what's going on here?"

     "Oh, I was just interrogating your Gelert here, sir. There've been some robberies around this park lately, you see, and--"

     "So? What does that have to do with us?" Jason asked petulantly.

     The Chia cop whipped out his rainbow gun and aimed it straight at Jason. "Drop the ice cream and put your hands up!"

     His mouth transformed into a shocked, silent 'O,' Jason complied quickly with the request, allowing the ice cream cone to splatter to the sidewalk. "I'm sorry to say you fit the description of the robber, sir. Now, I'm going to ask you to slowly reach down and empty your pockets for me."

     Again, Jason complied, although his annoyance was obviously beginning to return to overshadow his earlier shock. He muttered to himself as he reached into his pockets and pulled out the candies, scratch cards, lottery tickets, and various other items that were crammed inside, letting them fall to the ground around his feet.

     The Chia moved around behind him, pretending to examine the suspect. As he patted his paws down Jason's sides, searching for any hidden items, he shot a meaningful look at Enzo, who stood staring at the scene, dumbfounded. At the officer's nod, he finally shook himself out of his stupor and looked at what he was pointing toward-- the key! Like all of the other junk from Jason's pockets, it had been dropped to the ground, and now it lay half-buried in the mound of slowly melting ice cream.

     Enzo's eyes lit up and he bent his head down to the ground while Jason was still preoccupied with the Chia's close scrutiny. Pretending to eat the ice cream, he scooped the key up into his mouth in one quick motion. A moment later, the officer was shaking Jason's hand. "Well sir, I apologize. As I said, you fit the description of the criminal and it was my duty to check you out, but you're obviously not him. You have the thanks of the Neopian Police Department for your kind cooperation." He tipped his cap at Jason's scowl and then shuffled off, sending Enzo one more wink over his shoulder as he departed.

     When Jason looked down at him, Enzo smiled sheepishly and took a bite of ice cream, being careful to keep the key pressed firmly beneath his tongue. "Fat lot of help you were," was all Jason growled, and the Gelert tried not to sigh with relief.

     ***

      A moment of apprehension came for Enzo when he and Jason arrived back at the Neohome late in the afternoon. Standing on the front porch, the boy began digging in his pockets in search of the key that the Gelert had hidden beneath his tongue. He held his breath and clamped his mouth a bit more tightly shut, his heartbeat thrumming louder and louder and quicker and quicker through his ears, every second that Jason searched and grumbled making him more and more certain that the boy would somehow find him out.

      And then, he thought dismally, he'd be doomed. This was his one chance to escape. It had been difficult enough to get the key this once. If Jason caught him now, he'd never get such an opportunity again. The boy would keep him under even closer watch, tighter lock and key, never letting him off of that awful leash.... And then, one day, he'd end up just like poor Orla and Zinneus-- stuck in a tiny room forever, hardly living, completely out of hope, and--

      "Bah!" Jason gave a shout of frustration and threw his hands up into the air, apparently giving up the key for lost. Then, with a huff, he bent over and lifted up a rock from the "garden," revealing a key hidden neatly beneath it. Enzo would have gaped in shock if it wouldn't have put him in danger of revealing his own hidden key. To think that one had been there all along, so easily accessed! But he quickly brushed his chagrin aside; it didn't matter now how long it had taken-- he had the key, and they were getting out, once and for all!

      It was almost difficult to contain his excitement as Jason led him on the familiar path through the living room and up the stairs. He had to remind himself to hang his head and look tired and ill-tempered like he usually was at the end of a day with the boy, instead of ecstatic and ready to leap with joyful anticipation. Still, he was sure that if Jason had ever bothered to look into his eyes, there would have been no way to keep from giving himself away. Instead, the boy simply unlocked and opened the door, unclipped the leash, shoved Enzo inside and shut and locked the door once again behind him, all without a word.

      Orla, Zinneus, and Whooter all looked up at the Gelert's return, and unlike Jason, they did notice the excited twinkle in his brown eyes and knew that it must mean something. They were loathe to place their hopes too high, but their gazes locked with his in silent anticipation just the same.

      "Guhs, Ah gah za keeh!"

      Orla and Zinneus blinked and looked at each other.

      Whooter hopped forward, shaking his claw at the Gelert with a stern expression. "Enzo, don't speak with your mouth full."

      Happy to comply, Enzo spit the key out and it landed with a squelching plop between his paws. "I said, I got the key!" he said.

      "So we can see," Whooter said, eyeing the drool-covered key with disgust.

      "Whooter, come on, the plan-- remember?" Enzo said quickly, nudging the key with his nose toward the whoot, who wrinkled his beak and hopped back a step. "You have to hurry, before Jason leaves."

      "Can't we wait for it to dry off for a bit?"

      "Whooter! I don't want to stay here one more night if I can help it." And besides, it wasn't nearly as exciting to sit around and wait quietly and calmly for the next opportunity as to make a quick break just in the nick of time. "Please."

      "All right, all right," the whoot said with a put-upon sigh. He picked up the dripping key, and, with a bit more effort than usual, flew upward, squeezed through the window, and disappeared from sight.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Needed Adventure: Part One
» Needed Adventure: Part Two
» Needed Adventure: Part Three
» Needed Adventure: Part Four
» Needed Adventure: Part Six



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