From a Rock to a Hard Place: Part Two
“I bet you can’t keep up with me!” Vivily sang.
“No fair, you don’t have any feet to sink into the sand!” It was a logical answer. Not many unusual things there, even if I did say so myself. “I can hardly move! I know that these sands are pleasant to a Hissi, but can’t we please take a different course, AFTER YOU GET ME OUT OF HERE?” I was further sinking into the sand. It bore an unusual resemblance to quicksand.
“Sorry, Redd. Here, grab my arm.” Vivily turned around and helped me get out. The sand was heating up from the sun and I was slowly sinking down. But it couldn’t be quicksand, it was completely dry. “I’m not sure I can get you out, should I get help?”
“You are a perfectly strong Hissi,” I pointed out.
“Maybe I am, but this really is tough, and I’m serious. I’m getting help from our village.” She turned around and slithered to the head of the forest. There was a small dropdown at the head, so she coiled and got ready to spring through the two trees marking the forest “gate”, to then land at the lower ground while treading air to break her fall. I was getting a burn from the hot sands, and it wasn’t supposed to be this deep. I started to struggle. Then I saw Vivily spring through the Forest Gate, or at least try to. She was caught in midair as the middle of a giant golden web appeared. Then it faded, although she was still caught. She struggled, but it was no use.
Rapid footsteps came, and I just barely remember being plucked from the sand by a mutant Kougra and being tossed into a large mesh bag before the sleeping chemicals in the sand trap got to me.
“We used magic to create hallucinations of forests or oceans. We watched the captured pets in their hallucinations; as they were stuck with the person he or she is closest to. We made their every dream come true because we know how to control and bend the hallucination. One day, Our Master told us to enter the hallucinations to help to keep them from knowing its all fake and keep them from escaping. I entered your hallucination without using a different name, like most mutants who work in that department do. You wouldn’t believe how many escape each day.
“We went to space in Virtupets fighters to get some Grundos, eventually. But we didn’t mutate them because then their minds for technology would disappear. We now have captured almost three and a half thousand pets, not counting mutant ones. Okay, now that I’m done with your history lesson, I’m going to swing by the mess hall while you two are transmogrified. By the way, you can’t really fly.”
I attempted to flap my wings. They hardly moved, and not just because of the chains.
We just then discovered that the pipes with openings were some sort of loud speaker.
“Prisoners #3410 and #3411 to transmogrification unit B-64. I repeat, Prisoners #3410 and #3411 to transmogrification unit B-64.”
A mutant Bruce and mutant Lenny in uniforms with many badges came inside the tiny room; they unchained us from the stone slabs and managed to carry us out, even though we put up quite a fight. The fortress was made almost entirely out of stone, pipes trailed along the walls and ceiling, with doors that slid open when cards were scanned, and also there was some sort of device on the ceiling of each room.
Like the room we had woken up in, the halls were also poor in light. Instead of just one large hallway that split off into smaller halls at some intervals, it was a series of several tiny rooms. We yelled and screamed and struggled the whole way, but the passing mutants ignored us. It was as if they were used to that. The Lenny that was carrying Redd slid some sort of card into the devices on the walls; they were to the left of each door.
Redd and I had often had play fights in the hallucination forest. I always won because I had the advantage of size and I guess I was just good at it. I now used one of my favorite moves.
I lashed out my middle body at the mutant Bruce.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Vivily was fighting that hulking mutant Bruce and winning? Soon, the Lenny carrying me was also down from one of her good slaps. I squinted, managing to make out a bomb on the ceiling. There were rungs on the wall leading up to it. Just in case any ‘rebels’ tried to get through, I guessed. A mutant could climb up the ladder, throw the bomb at the rebels and while they were hurt, transmogrify them. It made so much sense. Already, alarms were sounding. I began hastily climbing the rungs while Vivily fended off mutants that were streaming in through the corridors. I could tell she was struggling. I have to detonate this fast was my only thought.
I had just been promoted to a Magic Specialist Officer by Master Xarone himself when I had been assigned my first task. I rushed to Corridor I-93 as fast as my mutant Kougra legs would carry me, armed with a laser bazooka, my weapon of choice. I knew from the start that it was the two I had just been babysitting for FOUR YEARS (thankfully I could slip out of their hallucination to eat and sleep) that were causing all the trouble. They were going to pay for two years with a couple of shots from my laser bazooka.
For some reason, when I entered the room, I had grabbed the barrel of my laser bazooka and hit Vivily’s head with the handle by doing an overhead swing instead of just shooting a light ball at her with it. Then I felt a blinding pain in my stomach.
I accidentally let go of the rung. When I fell, my foot slipped into some trigger and pushed it. I then saw that both Vivily and Visom (who had come in to help capture us) were knocked out cold, with a huge laser gun lying across them, the end of the barrel pointed at Visom. What I later guessed what happened is that Visom hit the top of Vivily’s head using the laser bazooka handle, then my foot had slipped into the trigger, firing right at him.
Being small was an advantage because I could slip between the legs of mutants and I could easily trip them, and so I did. When they got to their feet, I was halfway up the ladder. Thankfully, the ceilings were kind of high, so the mutants couldn’t reach me. I managed to yank the bomb from the ceiling. How to detonate, how to detonate... maybe this switch will do it. They were knocked out cold when I chucked the bomb at them.
I heard footsteps coming from behind a door, so I walked up to the device that opened it and yanked it off the wall so we couldn’t be caught. Then I heard fists slamming in frustration against the door. I waltzed right up to another device and ripped it off the wall. As I ripped the third and last device off, I realized my mistake. There was no getting out.
I opened my eyes. My head still hurt from the cold metal of the butt of the laser bazooka. Unconscious mutants lay about the room. Redd saw me and explained that he threw the bomb at the mutants and how we wouldn’t be able to get out. I sighed.
“Do you know enough to put a device back on the wall, Redd?” I said.
“One, I doubt I know enough. Two, if I did know enough, some of the wires are snapped. Three, we would just be captured and transmogrified somehow.” He frowned.
“Worry no more!” said a voice from above as a roof tile was removed.
“Oh, Derei, must you always be so dramatic? I apologize for my friend’s childish behavior.” A cloud Aisha’s head poked out of the gap in the ceiling. “While you are down there, umm...”
“Yes, well, Vivily, could you please find and get key cards out of the uniform pockets of the mutants? Those come in handy for rescuing would-be mutants. I pardon for not introducing myself. My name is Suemina, you may call me Sue. I am the co-leader of the Rebels. We rescue fellow Rebels from being transmogrified and hope to someday overthrow Lord Xarone, the mutant leader. We refuse to follow the rule that we must only speak his name on special occasions.” I handed her the key cards from the rung he was hanging from.
“Can my friend and I be Rebels and come up?”
She laughed. “Oh, why of course you may come up! You are already Rebels, unofficially though. We call anybody trying to escape a Rebel. Derei, bring down the rope!” A green Lupe appeared in the gap in the ceiling with a rope that had a loop tied at the end. I slid my head and arms through the loop and Redd clung to my back. We were lifted through the roof into a very musty, dark attic.
The small (but relatively large compared to the lower floor corridors) room wasn’t very full. Metal crates were in a jumble at the edges instead of being spread out in the middle. There weren’t any mutants in sight; in fact the only pets there were Sue and the rope-pullers. She moved the tile back where it was. She motioned for us and the pets that had been carrying the rope to come behind some of the crates. She quietly opened a door hidden by them.
“This floor used to be used for storage before it was decided that all the stomping around from above disturbed the Grundos working below. We must still be wary, however, for they occasionally come up. We also must be very quiet, so I am warning you,” she said, motioning us inside. It was a large closet, obviously meant for equipment, but the shelves were slightly packed with sleeping Neopets. On some racks hung ropes, some had planks atop them and were used as shelves; a few still had equipment on them.
“This is simply the entry room. If you join us, you’ll be putting yourselves in great danger. If you are caught, you may be imprisoned and never see light again. You may regret joining us later. Are you sure?”
“It’s the right thing to do,” I said.
“Are you sure?”
“We hate Xarone with all our hearts.”
“ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN?” This was getting annoying.
“Yes.” I took a deep breath.
“Very well then. You will have to officially be registered by Nero, the leader.
“I hereby present the door to the official Rebel base. You may not quit. If you are caught and transmogrified, you cannot return for fear it is someone else, unless you have some sort of proof that it is you...” She kept on going with the Official Rebel Rules and Pact for probably half an hour, but we paid attention all the same.
“...Am I clear?” We nodded.
“Very well then. This is the true door to our base.” She slid aside a gel mat of some sort on the floor. It revealed a trapdoor, which she opened. There was no ladder or staircase and it had to be impossible to jump. Sue knocked on the trapdoor from inside. A ladder poked out of the room beneath. Redd and I cautiously lowered ourselves down, me first. Of course I had no feet to put on the ladder, so my arms had to hold myself up all by themselves. It was a great strain, holding up my entire body and huge wings on a very old ladder.
Then a rung snapped.
I plunged down when I was just beginning the climb. I managed to lower and stretch my wings to catch the wind and slow my fall, but it wasn’t very much help. Then I managed to flap them slowly, faster, faster. I slowed my fall enough to land safely. The ground below was dotted with just a few pets. The floor had the same haze of light coming from the ground as the other rooms in the colony; only there were large squares here and there that were out. Redd lowered himself from the ladder and landed beside me.
Pets stood around the large room, some slid down or climbed up on ropes coming through ceiling holes. Some carried lunch trays, obviously stolen from the mutants. Empty crates stood around, some were being used as furniture as pets lay, sat, or set food trays down on them.
To be continued...