Undercover Defenders - Swamped: Part Four
5:19 PM – Somewhere in Bogshot Swamp
We still hadn’t found any Bogberries.
“This is the worst mission ever,” snarled Levi as she emptied her boots of jumping of muck for the fourth time.
“We just need to keep going,” I said, exhausted. After all, it was our job to help pets. Just the thought of it made me work through bushes faster.
“If Adella ever suggests coming back here,” Levi said, “I’m gonna punch you in the gut.”
“Wait a second... why punch me?”
“Because it’s your fault I feel such malice towards a swamp,” she growled. “And Adella would suspend me from work for punching her.”
“How many times has Adella suspended you?” I inquired, wondering if I really wanted the answer.
“Quite a few,” said Levi, brightening for some reason. “I think it’s around eleven times. She doesn’t like to do it because I complete missions. I’ve held back myself lately because I hate getting a suspended payroll. I like neopoints.”
“Hey, I’m still the best, even in the number of suspensions,” she said, smug. “If someone else got as many suspensions as me, they would’ve been fired long ago.”
“Hey, Levi,” I snapped. “Quit emptying your boots; there’s nothing in them. Get over here and work!”
“Then why don’t you find the berries, Mr. 'I want to save the planet even if we have to suffer doing an impossible task'.”
“Levi, if you’d just stop complaining,” I said, trying to untangle myself from vines for the millionth time, “we could be done by now.”
“In a swamp of this size?” Levi said, exasperated. “I’ll be surprised if we finish by dawn.”
“Just keep working,” I hissed.
“This is your fault.”
“I don’t care.”
“I hate you.”
“I still don’t care.”
“This is stupid.”
“You know, Levi,” I said, fuming. “You could at least try to work.”
The silver Acara was now sitting on an extremely low branch of a tree nearby, trying to wipe the muck off of her robe with her face twisted in disgust.
“Shut up. I’m resting.”
“Can you please stop acting like you’re five?”
“I always act immature. Build a bridge and get over it.”
I sighed heavily as I pushed more bushes aside. We really weren’t getting anywhere. It was like looking for three needles in the Rubbish Dump: dirty, smelly, and nearly impossible. Yet every second we took, the more pets would get ill in the village. They needed us, but the task at hand was so rigorous that we made no progress.
Wait a minute...
I pulled apart the bushes I just looked through, but this time more carefully. Then I saw it; dark green berries with a dark stem. I plucked them off the bush and held them up.
“Levi, I found some!”
Two things happened simultaneously: As Levi jumped down from her branch to take a closer look, a giant Crokabek swooped down from above, snagged the Bogberries from my hand, and flew off.
“Get it!” Levi shrieked.
“It’s gone!” I burst, turning in every direction in dismay.
“Keuna, find that bird!”
The Faerie Seti flew off at high speed from her perch, searching for the culprit.
“How stupid can you get, Seg!” Levi yelled, completely livid as she approached. “We had it but no, you had to wave it in the air, and make it completely vulnerable to predators!”
Heat flared up in my chest. “How was I supposed to know a Crokabek would steal those Bogberries? Even you can’t predict that, Levi!”
“At least I have enough sense not to flail something like that in the air!”
“Just be quiet already!” I yelled, furious at myself. “Alright, the Bogberries are gone, what’s done is done. Let’s go after Keuna and see if she got it!”
“Fine!” she spat, and we both ran as fast as possible in the direction Keuna went off in, trying not to get tangled in vines or tripped by tree trunks.
We ran and we ran, but we couldn’t find the Faerie Seti anywhere in the dim swamp.
“Great,” I said through gritted teeth. “Now we lost her.”
“Not yet,” Levi said as she pulled out a small whistle and gave it three quick, loud blows in succession. “Keuna can find us now, if we can’t find her.”
We waited a few minutes, and sure enough, Keuna appeared above our heads.
“Show us where it went,” Levi said to her Petpet. Keuna took off again with us following from below.
After about a minute, we could see the Crokabek in a tree branch far above our heads. How in Neopia could we get it?
“Did it eat the berries yet?” I wondered, my stomach lurching as I craned my neck for a look.
“You better hope not,” said Levi darkly. “Go find out.”
“What, do you want me to sprout wings and get it? You get it!”
“Xweetoks are better climbers than Acaras. You get it.”
“I can’t climb that high!”
“And I can’t and don’t want to. It was your fault that the Bogberries were taken. You do it.”
I felt a pang of guilt. It was slightly my fault... but what were the odds of a Crokabek swooping down at you at the worst possible moment? I think the presence of deranged silver Acaras increased bad luck.
“Fine,” I sighed. “I’ll try.”
“You’re going to have to distract it,” Levi said. “If it still has the berries, draw the bird away and grab them. If it ate them, we’re having roasted Crokabek tonight. I’ll be looking for Bogberries down here. Oh yeah, and don’t fall – I don’t want to carry your body back to the village.”
“Thanks for the advice,” I said angrily as I began climbing a tree close to the Crokabek nest.. It wasn’t easy work; the tree was covered in loose vines and slime, causing me to slip down the tree slightly as I ascended.
Whatever you do, Segyx, do not look down, I thought, climbing up the perilous tree as cautiously as possible. I had to keep moving. That thieving bird wasn’t going to get away with it. But even as I concentrated, a vine I had grabbed snapped; I had to grab a nearby vine in desperation as I slipped a few feet down the tree.
“Be careful,” called Levi from below. “You nearly became a pancake!”
She was great at encouraging others.
After a few more close calls with lousy encouragement, I finally climbed higher than nest. I could see from my view that the berries lay uneaten in the nest, but the Crokabek was grooming its feathers next to it.
How was I supposed to get the Bogberries?
With a slight jolt, Keuna flew next to me, rubbing herself against my shoulder. I guess she wanted to help me, unlike her good-for-nothing owner, searching for Bogberries below.
Now how to distract the bird.
I looked at my items in my utility pack. My two silver sais wouldn’t be of help or my cooling ointment. My tangle net gun could catch the Crokabek but I could knock the nest and berries off the tree. My purple sticky hand could grab the berries but the nest was a bit far to get a good shot. And the thick smoke bomb... wait, why did I have one of these? I grabbed the bomb in confusion. I didn’t remember packing one. Maybe Levi...?
Whatever, it was this or nothing. I threw the bomb at the trunk of the tree and watched it explode into a cloud of black smoke. As planned, the Crokabek flew out of his nest in panic and left the berries unguarded. Not as planned – the Crokabek flying at me with his feet extended.
With a shout, I ducked as the Petpet charged at me and I yelled, “Keuna, get the Bogberries!” With a gust of wind, she flew off and I prepared myself for the next attack.
The Crokabek cawed and cawed nonstop, thinking I was an enemy. It tried to scrape my arm as it charged again, and I nearly slipped off the tree branch; I just managed to grab a firm vine on the truck and managed to prevent myself from plunging down towards the ground. This wasn’t time to be messing around: I grabbed my tangle net gun and took aim. Just as the Crokabek charged again, I pulled the trigger and a net flew out, entangling the Crokabek and causing it fall towards the ground. I was worried for its safety until I saw Levi jump up and catch it in her arms.
With a sigh of relief, I climbed back towards the ground, my heart beating wildly as I looked down, trying to find places to put my feet. After what seemed like forever, I touched the blessed ground, my legs trembling like jelly.
“Did you get the Bogberries?” Levi asked immediately, holding the struggling Crokabek in her arms.
“Keuna probably has them,” I said shakily and at that moment, Keuna came down from the nest with the berries in her mouth. Levi placed the trapped Crokabek on a tree stump and grabbed the berries.
“They’re fine,” she said with relief. “And check this out.” She pulled out more Bogberries from her pack. “I found them while you were being attacked by this Petpet. It was a mighty entertaining fight, I must say.”
“This means we only need one more,” I said in wonder. One more and we could finally get out of the swamp.
“One more,” Levi repeated in happiness. “Oh yeah, what are we going to do with the Crokabek?”
The Crokabek was still struggling in the net, cawing out loudly every few seconds.
“I say we have Crokabek stew tonight,” Levi said eagerly. “This bird gave us enough trouble for today.”
“Let it go, Levi,” I said wearily. “It’s just a Petpet.”
“What?” Levi said, outraged. “Where’s the fun in that?”
“Just do it, Levi. We only need one more berry and we wouldn’t have found the second if the Crokabek hadn’t stolen the first.”
“Fine, fine,” Levi said as she pulled out a useful crystal and cut the Petpet free. “Happy now?”
At first, the disgruntled Crokabek tried to peck Levi, who avoided the blow, but then it flew back towards its nest, wanting to put as much distance between itself and us.
“I really did want Crokabek stew,” Levi said, sighing. “It sounds good.”
“You have a weird appetite.”
“Of course!” said Levi indignantly. “I can’t eat normal things, can’t I? It would ruin my reputation!”
“Or at least what’s left of it,” I muttered under my breath.
“Seg, Seg,” said Levi, shaking her head in mock dismay. “This is a perfect example of why you’re known as Levi’s lowly and unimportant sidekick. You don’t stand out at all compared to my personality!”
“At least I can pride myself in being normal,” I said defiantly.
“Why would you do something as weird as that?” she said, bewildered.
“Let’s keep going, Levi. Just one more berry to go.”
As we rummaged through bushes, I suddenly remembered that Crokabeks were an ominous sign of misfortune to Neopians. Was there to be more obstacles in this never-ending search?
To be continued...