The Maraquan Pet Woes: Part Three
Dana goggled at her owner. This wasn’t supposed to happen! She was supposed to go live with Sheila and everything would be all right again!
“Well... if you can’t use a paint brush, is there something else we could do?”
“I think the best I can do would be to sell the Neohome and move down here.”
“But then you’d have to wear all of your equipment all the time...”
“I know. I’d really rather not.”
“Then don’t. What about the Lab Ray?”
Sheila shook her head. “Even if I managed to buy the map, I can’t get you all the way to the Ray, wherever it is.”
Dana sighed. She was used to being incredibly spoiled, but it looked like this was one problem Sheila couldn’t fix for her.
“Then I’ll live down here. It’s okay... I’ll be all right.”
Life in Maraqua had reached an all-time low. Dana was earning just enough to survive, mostly because she stubbornly ate at the Kelp restaurant every night. The thought of eating Breadfish or Rockfish didn’t really appeal to her.
But one day she moved toward the restaurant and was barred by an official looking Maraquan Grarrl. “Out of supplies,” he said gruffly. “Move along. Find somewhere else to eat.”
Looked like she’d be going hungry tonight.
The next day, she tried again with the same result. By now her belly was beginning to rumble in protest, but she put it off for yet another day. This time, instead of the Grarrl, there was a sign on the locked door of the restaurant.
MARAQUA IS IN THE MIDDLE OF A FAMINE. FIND YOUR OWN FOOD. EVERY PET FOR THEMSELVES.
“Char!” Dana yelled, spotting her friend digging through a pile of rubble in the Ruins for shells. “Char, have you heard?”
Her friend looked distressed. “About the famine? Everybody’s heard. What are we going to do?”
“I have enough to buy a weapon, I think. Looks like we’re going to have to start hunting for fish instead of shells.”
“That’s not good. Remember what I told you? All the fish are around the Fishing Hole.”
“We’ll be all right if we’re careful. It’s the only chance we’ve got. Otherwise... otherwise, we’re going to starve.”
Her friend looked grave. “Miss Flora will understand. Let’s go.”
“Look,” Char muttered quietly, pointing to a school of Rockfish. “It’ll be the best catch of the day.”
“Char,” Dana replied, a note of fear in her voice as she caught a flash of silver, “they’re right underneath the Fishing Hole.”
Char ignored her and began to move stealthily forward. Dana had no choice but to follow.
Suddenly a sharp pain pierced her side. Dana looked down in horror to see a hook jabbing the layer of blubber. It dug in deeper as a mysterious force began to haul it up, taking her with it.
“Char!” she shrieked. The Blumaroo whirled around. “Char, help me!” As she rose closer to the surface, her struggles became more violent.
Her friend swam toward her at full speed, but it was too late. Dana was already breaking the surface.
Char swam back toward her Neohome dejectedly. This was all her fault. It had been hours, but there was no sign of Dana. Apparently, whoever had found her wasn’t throwing her back.
The room that she had shared with Dana seemed especially empty now. Char swept the shells that covered her friend’s side of the wall down. She might as well give these to Miss Flora to sell. She probably wouldn’t see Dana again.
Grief stabbed her as she piled the shells in the satchel and began to move out. But she stopped dead when she saw a familiar figure outside the Neohome.
Sheila, clad in her diving gear, moved toward her. “You’re one of Dana’s friends, right? Where is she?”
“She’s in trouble. She was caught... at the Fishing Hole.”
The little that Char could see of Sheila’s face went white. “Is she okay?”
“I don’t know. They took her away. I couldn’t stop them.”
“We’ve got to find her. I can check the Pound, and you can search Maraqua...”
Char shook her head dismally. “You won’t find her in Maraqua, and I’m almost certain she’s not in the Pound. Sheila, she’s gone.”
Dana knew she was in serious trouble as soon as she broke the surface. She couldn’t breathe, only make an odd gasping noise as she surveyed her captor. It was a man, clad in fishing gear, looking ecstatic.
“Well, I was ‘oping to catch a fish, but you’re a much more valuable specimen, ain’t ya?” he asked, leering at her and pulling the hook away.
The edges of her vision were beginning to darken. “Let me go,” she choked.
He laughed. “I ain’t gonna let you go! My first pet had to live down here, and I’ve got a tank at home just for this occasion. I’ve been saving up, but I won’t have to spend the money, looks like. What a lucky day! A limited edition and Maraquan pet all in one...”
He kept talking, but Dana didn’t hear any more. She had passed out from lack of oxygen.
Sheila was still looking for a loophole. “We can search all the Neohomes... maybe somebody has a Maraquan pet directory...”
“You can try. But don’t expect anything.”
Sheila hid her face in her hands. I should never have agreed to this.
When Dana woke up, she was thankfully immersed in water. But there was glass all around, and glass slid over the surface of the water. She was trapped.
Her captor moved over toward her, peering at her through the wall. “Good, yer awake.”
“Let me go,” she told him again.
He laughed again. “No way!”
“Fine, then,” Dana sighed, giving up. “What about food? I’m hungry.”
“You’ll survive. Deal with it.”
Great. This is worse than the famine.
Sheila wandered down Main Street, groaning at the thousands of Neohomes lining her path. She’d spent all of the past three weeks scouring Faerieland, and nothing. Now she had progressed to Neopia. At this rate, it looked like Char was right. She’d never find Dana.
Oddly enough, it looked like a cluster of Neopets had gathered around one of the windows. Sheila strode up to it, peeked inside, and gasped.
But it wasn’t the plump Chomby she knew. This Maraquan pet was scrawny, her flesh clinging to her skeleton. Whoever had kidnapped Dana was starving her.
Sheila felt a hot surge of anger pulse through her, but then Dana looked up and made eye contact. Her entire face lit up, making her seem much more like the Neopet Sheila knew. Sheila pushed a few smaller Neopets out of the way and pressed her face against the glass.
I’ll get you out. Somehow.
Later, Sheila had gone back to Maraqua to plan with Char. She would have to kidnap Dana; that was all there was to it.
Char shrugged as she sat on the floor of her Neohome bedroom. “Seems pretty easy to me. You break in the window at night, grab Dana, and run for it.”
“But she won’t be able to breathe!”
“Oh, right...” Char was momentarily diverted, but then her eyes brightened. “Well, do you have another Starter Paint Brush?”
“No, but...” An idea struck Sheila. “I was saving up for a paint brush for Dana before we got the Fountain Faerie Quest! I think I’ll have enough to buy her a Sketch Paint Brush...”
“Well, then, that’s what you’ll do. Break in, grab Dana and paint her Sketch. Simple as that.” But then Char’s eyes clouded. “What about me? She’s my best friend.”
“We’ll come visit you at least three times a week. Promise.”
Char nodded, and Sheila moved out of the Neohome.
Dana sighed. She didn’t have enough energy to do much but that. She’d spent most of her time lying on the bottom of the tank while other owners goggled at her like she was some kind of freak. She’d seen Sheila in the window once, but Sheila had just left.
Or maybe she hadn’t seen Sheila. Maybe the vision had just been a delusion.
Dana didn’t want to think that Sheila hadn’t found her, but she also didn’t want to think that Sheila hadn’t rescued her when she had the chance. She didn’t know what she thought anymore.
Suddenly, there was a great crash of breaking glass. There was a ripple in the water as a few shards dropped into the tank. Dana sat bolt upright, reenergized.
She had come back! And what was that in her hand? A paint brush! She was going to be repainted and out of this place at last!
But just as Sheila neared the tank, there was a yell from behind her. Dana’s kidnapper skidded into the room, screaming at the top of his lungs. Sheila yanked Dana out of the water, hurdled back out the window, and ran.
Dana tried to hold on to consciousness as she fought to breathe. This moment was far too important for her to pass out now. Her kidnapper’s footsteps pounded behind them. He was gaining.
Sheila glanced over her shoulder and gasped when she saw how close the pursuer’s silhouette was. She let out a hiss of sorts and swiped the paint brush over Dana’s neck, covering her gills. At the same time, Dana felt her lungs come back and she inhaled air gratefully.
Another swipe of the paint brush, and her legs came back. Another, and her tail returned to its normal stubby form. A few more swipes...
Dana looked down at herself. She was a white color, with blue lines crossing her flesh. Sketch! She grinned. It was a nice color.
The Chomby wriggled out of Sheila’s arms and turned to face the kidnapper. She opened her jaws and chomped down on his ankle.
He screeched, turned, and fled.
Dana smirked. Not as tough as he tried to seem.
She turned back to the road. After a few steps, she tripped over something.
“What in Neopia is that?” She lifted the item and gasped.
“No. Way,” Sheila breathed, coming up behind her.
“A paint brush?” Dana said incredulously. “I did not just trip over a paint brush!”
“An Electric paint brush,” Sheila said. “Great. Could’ve stumbled across this before I bought that Sketch one...” The tension was wearing off, and Sheila’s normal character was coming back. “Guess we could sell it...”
“No!” Dana interrupted excitedly, an idea striking her.
“Char?” Dana asked, edging into the Maraquan Neohome. She was wearing so much diving gear it felt like she’d never be able to rise to the surface again.
Char raced out of a room and embraced Dana. “I thought I wouldn’t see you again! And now you’ve got your wish and you can live back in Neopia...” Sadness crossed her face. “I guess that’ll be nice...”
Dana grinned. “You know what? You can, too! You’ll never believe what happened...” Quickly she related the chase scene. “And if you don’t mind moving to Neopia with Sheila and me... we can be sisters!”
Char and Dana did end up moving to Neopia and becoming both sisters and the best of friends. It didn’t take long for Sheila to make the adoption official. The Sketch Chomby and Electric Blumaroo were always seen together, often on the shoreline reminiscing about their days in Maraqua. They both still loved the water, but neither of them ever lived in it again.