Enough Adventure for One Day: Part Three
“You have got to be kidding me,” I said, staring up at the vent.
“No, no, this is going to work,” Jalexis said. The yellow Acara stood under the vent and motioned for me to join her. “I need a boost, though.”
I lifted my sister up until her pink paws gripped the edge of the wall, and with one swift push she was inside the vent. I gazed up at her with worry. What is going to happen to us? What are we going to do? I wish our owner was here. We need some guidance.
“Colfer, it’s either get up here and have a chance at escaping or stay here, let Dr. Sloth turn you into a mutant and never see our owner again!” Lex snapped.
She reached down with a paw and I jumped up to let her pull me up into the small, dark space. I looked down to see the faces of the other Neopets being held in the Space Station, a mixture of awe, jealousy, worry, and fear.
“If we get out of here, the first thing we’re going to do is send help this way,” I promised, looking down at Varren, Charity, and all of our new friends with sadness. “I really hope we can do it.”
Varren nodded. The blue Draik eyed the door and said, “We’ll cover for you two.”
“Good luck,” added Charity, the eyes of the shadow Zafara darting between the door and us.
And with a snap of the grate, we were alone in the dark, empty ventilation system of the Virtupets Space Station.
“Worst vacation ever,” remarked Lex as we crawled slowly down one of the tunnels, trying to make no noise so our cover wouldn’t be blown.
“Now, what exactly is our plan?” I asked Lex in a voice quieter than a Feepit wearing tiny slippers padding through the snow.
“Well, I think we should just try and get out, really. Get back to the main Station and then run for it,” Lex said, pushing aside a little dust Meepit.
“What about Shannon?” I wondered.
“Oh, man, I totally forgot. We definitely need to find her first,” Lex agreed. “Thank goodness I’ve got you, Colfer.”
We crawled for another few minutes. There was hardly anything to be heard, except for Lex’s gasp when a Pinchit dropped down from over our heads and the muffled conversations from the rooms underneath us. The tunnel was darker than a stack of black Gruslens, until after about twenty minutes, when we saw a stream of light pouring into the vent from the right side. I nudged Lex gently and we looked around the corner.
Lex’s jaw dropped open, and she would have screamed if I hadn’t covered her mouth with my paw. The room contained a giant ray and a few Grundo workers, bustling about and checking every bit of machinery in the room, making repairs and testing the devices. A small line of about eight or nine Neopets stood shaking, waiting for their turn in front of the ray. The door burst open and Sloth entered the room with a sickening grin.
“I’m really starting to hate that guy,” Lex murmured from behind my paw. I nodded briefly in agreement.
Sloth addressed the pets in a low voice, and showed them some photographs that made them start screaming and freaking out in terror. He grabbed the first pet, a yellow Yurble and pulled him in front of the ray. He darted behind the massive piece of machinery, called out to the Grundos, and hit the giant red button.
A massive blast of green light burst from the ray toward the Yurble. Immediately, his fur changed into a turquoise colour, and he began to sprout pink and blue tentacles where his soft yellow mane used to be. His eyes morphed into one single eyeball and his teeth elongated and sharpened.
I turned to Jalexis, who wore a look similar to what would happen if Jhudora chased her Snicklebeast through Faerieland with a long pointy stick... shock and terror. She let out a low whistle.
“Yeah, that can’t happen to us,” she observed.
We ducked out of that vent and moved along the tunnel. We peeked down into a few other rooms and were greeted with similar macabre sights- different species of Neopets being transformed into mutated forms, with sickening skin and extra limbs. After a few of these rooms, we stumbled upon a different type of area. When we peeked down from our vent, we saw a young boy held by his wrists, hanging between two steel beams rising up from the floor. He was clearly very distraught by what he was forced to look at, but every time he shut his eyes, a Grundo threw a piece of bacon at him.
“Can you see what he’s looking at?” I asked.
“Colfer, if I lean any farther out of this vent, he’ll be looking at me,” Lex snapped.
I pulled her back into the ventilation system and we continued creeping through the tunnels, peering down into each room, but with no signs of our owner.
“What do you think they’re doing to her?” asked Lex.
“Well, given the sights of the other rooms, they’re probably showing her something not-so-pretty, while she has to hang there by her arms so she can’t cover her eyes or run away,” I observed. “If we only knew what she was looking at.”
Lex’s eyes softened. “Do you think we’ll ever see her again?”
“Of course we will,” I whispered. “I know we can do it. Lex, we’ll find her and bring her home. And we’ll get another brother or sister, and paintbrushes, maybe even become a foster home for lab pets. We’ll build up a sizeable shop, Shannon will get published in the Neopian Times, I’ll earn the Neopian Book award, and you’ll win the Pet Spotlight. It’s all uphill from here.”
And for the first time, I believed all of these things. The fact was, we were a family. And families stick together, no matter what.
“Here comes another room,” Lex observed, poking her head into the stream of light. I followed and gasped quietly.
There, held between two steel beams, her hands shackled to each one and her legs dangling helplessly, was our owner. She looked exhausted and had clearly spent a lot of the last few hours in tears. A brown Grundo, sitting with his feet crossed on the desk, tossed a piece of bacon in the air and caught it over and over while giving Shannon an occasional glare.
“I can’t believe we found her,” I whispered.
“I can’t believe she looks so helpless. I guess we’re the protectors now, aren’t we?” Lex replied with a hollow laugh.
I took in the sight of our owner, tears dripping down her face, her bangs matted, and her feet kicking hopelessly underneath her. It was really heartbreaking, but in that moment I realized how close our family was. Even after just a short time together, I already had such strong feelings toward my owner and sister.
“What are we supposed to do now?” Lex moaned, interrupting my train of thought. “The Grundo is going to stop any chances we have of saving her now. And I am not in the mood to be pelted with bacon.”
“I guess we’ll have to wait, and maybe he’ll leave or fall asleep or something,” I replied.
So we waited. We waited for hours, until Lex fell asleep on my shoulder and Shannon got pelted with bacon every time she fell asleep, each time waking up, shrieking a little upon seeing whatever was posted to the wall, and promptly staring into space once again. After what seemed like years, the Grundo’s voice broke the silence.
“Out of bacon. If you so much as move a muscle, you’re going to wish you were mutated,” he said, glaring at her as he shut the door with a slam. I nudged Lex until she finally woke up.
“If we don’t save her now, we won’t be able to,” I said, looking bravely at my sister.
“If we don’t make it out of here together, you’ll always be my big brother,” Lex said, her eyes filling with tears. I reached over and hugged her before we dropped into the room.
“What the-” Shannon exclaimed.
“Sssh!” I whispered, running over to her as Lex sprinted to the desk to try and free her wrists. “They think we’ve escaped and are running amok around the space station.”
“I thought you were mutated and running amok around Neopia!” Shannon said, giggling through her tears.
I turned to where she was forced to look and gasped as I took in the sight of two photographs, the mutated forms of an Acara and a Gelert: or what Jalexis and I would have looked like if Dr. Sloth had had his way. I shuddered as I looked at the slimy tentacles and crazy eyes I would have had to wear.
“I got it!” whispered Lex, as she pushed a tiny purple button marked RELEASE and our owner fell to the floor, rubbing her wrists. She wrapped her arms around both of us and we had a beautiful family moment.
“Sorry our vacation was terrible,” she said with a smile.
“Sorry we all got abducted,” Lex added.
“Okay, you two, we’ve got to escape if we’re getting out of here unmutated and unharmed,” I said, grabbing Shan’s hand in my paw as Jalexis ran behind her, guiding both of them back to the vents.
“I can lift you up there!” exclaimed Shannon, scooping Lex up in her arms and boosting her up into the vent, making sure she was settled before picking me up and lifting me in. Lex grabbed my paws and pulled me in, and we both reached down to grab our owner’s hands.
We tugged on her hands hard and began to pull her upwards. She was about halfway into the vent when we heard a loud slam. Jalexis and I peeked out from behind Shannon to meet the gazes of the white Grundo and Dr. Sloth himself.
“Well, hello there,” he said smugly, a sneer covering his face, as the white Grundo began to laugh.
To be continued...