Needed Adventure: Part Six
Enzo ran to the window, followed quickly by Orla and Zinneus,
and the three watched as Whooter fluttered downward, struggling a bit with the
weight of the key, and perched atop the door sill. Just a moment later, the door
swung open-- Jason leaving for the day. As quietly as he could, the little whoot
flew inside over the boy's head. All three pets held their breath as the breeze
from Whooter's frantic flapping rustled Jason's hair... but the boy just brushed
a hand over his head, never looking up. He closed the door behind him, locked
it, and headed off down the sidewalk.
Now came what seemed an eternity of waiting
to the three pets. They stood, alert, staring at the hated door, waiting for
any noise from outside of it. Of course they knew that Whooter was coming--
they'd seen him fly inside with the key, and surely nothing could go wrong now--
Click. Finally they heard what they had been
anxiously anticipating-- the sound of the key turning in the lock. "All right,
then," came Whooter's voice from outside, muffled by the door.
Enzo ran to the door immediately and began pawing
at the knob without much success. Orla reached past him, her claws
shaking just slightly though her face was as calm as ever. She turned the
knob slowly, paused, took a breath, and then pulled the door open.
For all of the excitement that the three pets
felt at the swinging of that door, one would have expected that more
was to greet them than a barren hallway, but that was, of course, what they
saw. Whooter was lying on the ground, panting. He sat up a little
when they emerged. "That key is decidedly heavier than it looks," he said.
"Well, you know you're not done yet, Whooter,"
Enzo said, nudging him to his feet. "We just need you to fly back
outside and unlock the front door, too. Then, I promise, I'll carry you around
for a week."
Whooter sighed but got up. Zinneus pulled the
key from the door and handed it to the petpet once more, and once
more Whooter disappeared through the bedroom window with it.
Enzo, Orla and Zinneus stood quietly, staring
out the window for a moment-- for the last time, Enzo reminded himself.
Then he turned to the other two.
"All right, guys... let's go!" And without another moment's
hesitation, he went dashing down the hallway, feeling like a pup playing
tag again as he heard the others running after him.
Whooter flapped his wings furiously, hovering
before the front door and finally managing to insert the key into the keyhole.
Then, with some effort, he was able to turn it with another satisfying
click. He gave a sigh of relief as he perched upon the key, awaiting
Enzo's arrival on the other side of the door.
His part of the escape was over.
The sound of feet shuffling across the sidewalk
jostled him out of this sense of relief. He turned to see Jason walking hurriedly
back toward the house. It took a moment for the whoot to really comprehend what
he was seeing; things weren't going according to plan, though he shouldn't have
been surprised. He startled from his perch atop the key's handle and tried desperately
to turn it back, but the key wouldn't budge, and Jason was getting closer. He
finally had to give up, leaving it stuck in the door as he fluttered up and
perched again atop the doorjamb-- above Jason's line of sight.
Jason reached the door not a moment later, looking
distracted; he must have forgotten something when he left earlier, Whooter realized.
The boy went to use his spare key only to find the original stuck there in the
keyhole, waiting patiently for his arrival. He frowned and scratched his head,
staring at the key that he'd thought he'd lost earlier, but finally he shrugged,
sticking both keys into his pocket, opening the door, and walking inside.
Whooter watched all of this with dismay. "Oh
Enzo ran full speed down the hallway, a gleeful
smile painted across his muzzle. Only a few yards in front of him the hallway
ended; a left turn would take him down the stairway, and below that would be
the front door, unlocked by Whooter and just waiting for them to open it, and
then... freedom! But suddenly he heard something that made the smile drop immediately
from his face-- the front door opening. Even before he had time to process just
what this meant, he instinctively tried to stop himself, digging his heels into
the carpet. But his momentum carried him still. He slid across the floor, and,
before he could stop himself, over the side of stairway. He was only just able
to spin around and catch the edge of the floor with his front paws so that he
didn't fall all of the way down to the first floor, but his hind end dangled
precariously over the downstairs wall.
Orla and Zinneus rushed forward to help him,
each grabbing a paw, but they froze when they saw what had caused his sudden
halt: Jason was just walking into the living room, swinging the front door closed
Enzo clenched his teeth as he heard Jason's footsteps just
below him. He was certain that any minute the boy would look up and see
him hanging there. He struggled to hold his breath, and his heartbeat sounded
unbearably loud in his ears. He stared wide-eyed at Orla and Zinneus, watching
for any reaction, any indication that Jason had noticed him. He didn't
dare to look down for himself.
Then another noise broke through the tense silence--
a strange clattering sound from outside that Enzo couldn't place.
"What the--?" came Jason's voice. "What is that thing doing out there?"
He heard Jason turn and go running outside, slamming the front door behind
Enzo sighed with relief as Orla and Zinneus pulled
him back up onto the top of the staircase. He turned around and looked
out the window on the other side of the living room to see the source of
the noise that had distracted Jason. A small whoot hovered in front of
the window, hitting the glass with his wings and claws and beak and just
generally making as much noise as he was able. Enzo grinned. "Good old
Whooter. Come on, guys, let's get out of here while we've got our chance."
Without another moment's hesitation, they dashed
down the stairs and toward the front door. Orla turned the knob and pulled
the door open. "Good old Whooter, indeed!" Zinneus said. "For once in his
life, Jason forgot to lock a door behind him."
There was a moment then when everything seemed
so unbelievably perfect, like a picture out of a storybook, that the three pets
had to stop and stand still and simply take it all in through eyes half-closed
with wonder. The dry and dying lawn seemed like springy, soft grass beneath
their feet. The late summer sun that glared down seemed to be shining them a
warm welcome. And before them lay not only a dull suburban street lined with
house after house, but a whole world full of possible pathways to wander. Finally,
finally they were free!
In a moment that had been so much longed for
and so little hoped for, Orla and Zinneus were suddenly at a loss. "What now,
Enzo?" Orla finally spoke. "Where do we go next?"
Enzo paused for a moment. After all of his planning,
he had not given any thought to this step himself. But the answer came to him
quickly and naturally as he looked at the two pets before him. "Go to the west--
the western edge of the city. The junkyard there. I told you about my dad once,
The pair nodded. Though he had been reluctant
at first to talk about his family, fearing a similar reaction to the one that
the pets in the pound had had, there had been only so many things to talk about
and only so many ways to pass the time when stuck in that little upstairs room,
and eventually he'd given in. To his relief, Orla and Zinneus had not recognized
the name Dantam, but had urged him to tell them more, and no doubt Whooter had
politely filled in whatever details he'd left out whenever he was away.
"Go there and ask for him. Tell him I sent you."
And tell him about all of this, he thought, but he kept this secret hope to
himself. "He can find you a new owner-- a real, good owner like you both deserve."
They nodded again. "But what about you?" said
Zinneus. "Aren't you coming, too?"
Enzo hesitated. There was part of the idea of
home that pulled at him with a sudden and surprising strength. And he
had just had an adventure like he'd gone out to find, hadn't he? But
then again, he'd just spent weeks and maybe months being alternately dragged
about on a little leash and cooped up inside of a little room. No, he had more
of the world to see yet, more adventure than just this to find.
"No," he said, "I can't go home just yet. Maybe
I'll meet up with you guys some time later, but not just yet. Now get going,
The Krawk and Draik each wordlessly laid a claw
on Enzo's shoulder for a moment, smiling, and then turned together and ran off
down the street. Enzo watched them go, a feeling of happiness for his friends
and pride in himself welling within him. It exploded out of him in a joyous
bark and a leap in the air. "Haha, we did it, Whooter! Can you believe it, we
did it!" And then suddenly he remembered-- "Whooter...?"
"Looking for this?"
Enzo's heart lodged in his throat. He spun around
to see Jason standing beside him, clutching Whooter in one hand as the tiny
petpet struggled in vain. A cruel smirk sat on the boy's face. Enzo launched
himself at Jason in frustrated anger and a desperate bid to free the whoot.
And Whooter was freed; Jason released his grip as the Gelert came hurtling at
him, and the whoot immediately shot upward and out of the boy's reach. But just
as Enzo would have knocked into him, Jason dodged to the side, shooting his
now-free hand out and grabbing hold of the collar that was still around the
Gelert's neck. Enzo gave a yelp as his momentum was halted in the air with a
painful yank at his throat.
"You've been more trouble than you're worth,"
Jason snarled, staring after the two pets who were just disappearing from sight.
They were already too far away to catch, but he gripped Enzo's collar tightly,
relishing the choked whimper that escaped the Gelert's throat. "I may as well
try and make up some of my losses." He drew out the hated leash and snapped
it to the collar, setting the Gelert down and dragging him along.
"Where are you taking me?" Enzo growled, pulling
occasionally against the leash. He yelped as Jason yanked him forward again
each time, saying nothing but an intermittent "Shut up!" Eventually, Enzo gave
up resisting and just followed at a distance, gazing upward occasionally to
see Whooter following them high overhead.
The pads of Enzo's feet ached from being led
across the pavement, and the sun was beginning to lower in the sky when Jason
finally came to a halt. Enzo looked up at the building that towered over them
now, reading the words that were etched across its front in large, business-like
letters: NeoTech: Building the Better Lab Ray. He gulped and said quietly
to himself, "I don't like the sound of that," as Jason yanked on the leash again
and led him inside.
The inside of the building was bland and sterile,
innocent and boring enough at first glance, but there was something in the air
that set Enzo's fur on end. They stopped in front of a desk, where a woman in
a white lab coat was busily flipping through papers, jotting down notes, and
muttering to herself. Jason tapped his foot impatiently after being completely
ignored for a few moments. "Excuse me?"
The woman looked up, irritation flashing for
a moment in brown eyes behind square glasses before she straightened and plastered
on a smile. "How can I help you?"
Jason bent down and lifted Enzo up onto the desk.
"How much for this Gelert?"
Enzo stood awkwardly atop the desk as the woman
took hold of his muzzle and moved his head about, staring at him from every
angle as if he was a piece of jewelry. "Such interesting coloring," she said
finally. "I'd hate to ruin it with testing... But I could use him for the later
stages of the color-safe ray we're developing--"
"Whatever. How much?"
The woman glared at Jason again and sighed. "I'll
give you 10,000 for him."
"I could get thirty on the street, easy."
The woman's eyes narrowed. "Twenty then, but
that's as high as I'm willing to go."
Jason sighed dramatically and rolled his eyes,
but eventually he held his hand out. "Okay, fine. I just want to get rid of
The woman turned and vanished into the back of
the building, returning a few minutes later with a bag of Neopoints and two
men in lab coats identical to hers. The shorter and more thickly-built of the
men lifted Enzo down from the desk, removing the collar and leash and handing
them back to Jason as the woman handed him the Neopoints. Without another word,
Jason spun on his heel and stalked back out of the building, while the three
scientists turned to their new acquisition.
But as the door of the building swung open with
Jason's departure, a flutter of small wings brought Whooter flying inside. As
soon as he spotted Enzo, he dove down to the ground and scrambled behind one
of the Gelert's legs. "Hey," the taller man said, "what do you think you're
doing, little whoot?" He reached a hand toward Whooter, but Enzo bared his teeth
and growled instinctively at the intrusive appendage and the man quickly snatched
it back. "Well, fine, you keep him then."
"Hey, maybe we should work on a new petpet lab
ray, huh?" the other man asked with a smile as he wheeled a small cage over.
"Heh, yeah," the tall man chuckled, still rubbing
at his hand as if it had actually been bitten. "That'd be a sure goldmine."
Enzo swallowed hard and looked down at his friend.
"Maybe you should take your chance to get out of here while you still can, Whooter."
"And allow those ruffians to get a hold of me
and sell me to some spoiled Shoyru? Certainly not!"
Enzo looked fondly at the whoot, knowing there
was more to it than that. Whooter was small-- he could have slipped out of the
lab without being caught just as easily as he'd slipped in a few minutes earlier.
Whooter shuffled his claws, making no denial
of the reason for the gratitude in the Gelert's voice. "Well, I got you into
this mess. I ought to stick it out with you."
The men interrupted their conversation by grabbing
Enzo by the scruff of his neck, careful to stay out of reach of his teeth, and
tossing him quickly into the cage. Whooter hopped in after him just before the
door was swung shut. Enzo stared dismally through the bars as the men began
to wheel them toward the back of the building. He sighed. "No, you didn't get
us into this mess, Whooter. I did."
To be continued...