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"Oh no!!!!" screams MowMowDominacious, "Where is he?"
The little blue Wocky slams the lid of the cage down and runs into her sister's room. "GrundoMoody!!!!"
GrundoMoody quickly hides something behind her back. "What!?!"
"Where is he!?!" MowMow frantically searches the room with her eyes, "What did you do with my Greeble!?!"
"What are you talking about? I haven't got your Greeble!"
MowMow notices her sister hiding something behind her back, "What are you hiding from me!?! Is that my Greeble?"
"NO!" GrundoMoody cries, backing away. MowMow grabs her sister's arm only to find a half eaten blob of jelly.
"GRUN*DO*MOOD*EEE!!!!" MowMow gasps, "What are you doing with that jelly? Oh! Manda will be so mad! You know she was saving that for the party tonight! You're going to be in so much trouble!"
"Not in as much trouble as YOU'RE going to be when she hears you lost your Greeble!" GrundoMoody regretted the words as soon as she saw her sister's face. "Oh! Don't cry MowMow! Please don't cry! Look, I'll help you find your Greeble just as long as you don't say ANYTHING about this jelly!"
MowMow sniffed and whispered, "Alright... But let's hurry! We have to find her before Manda gets back!"
The two girls start at once. They search under their beds and behind the dressers, in the closets and under their toys. The little Greeble is nowhere to be found! "Oh! GrundoMoody! Where could he be?"
They stand quietly, dejected, until GrundoMoody brightens up and says "Maybe we're going about this the wrong way, MowMow."
"What do you mean?"
"Your little Greeble's never acted this way before! Even when you left his cage WIDE open he always stayed put! He must have had a good reason for leaving it. We need to find out why!"
"Okay! How do we do that?"
"Well... let's check his cage for clues."
MowMow lifts the lid of the cage and the two stare inside. Everything looked pretty normal. The woodchips were settled nicely. The half hollow log was in its normal place. The miniature pond was free of debris. The food dishes were perfectly clean...
"Where is the food?" asks GrundoMoody, "You can't possibly expect someone to go without any food... not even a snack!?!"
MowMow eyed her sister sideways, "GrundoMoody... not everyone in Neopia is as hungry as you! My little Greeble has had plenty of food!"
"I'm not hungry!!!" yells GrundoMoody defensively, "I just like jelly!.. Anyways, you don't think he was just hungry and went to the kitchen?"
"No way!" MowMow pauses, "Even on the very SLIM chance he did go get something to eat, he surely would be back by now."
They both turn back to the cage. "What is that?" MowMow asks. She reaches into the hollow log and pulls out a microscopic piece of rolled up paper. "What's this? My Greeble can't read! What's he doing with such a small scroll?"
GrundoMoody takes it from her and studies it. "I think I see something written on this... but it's so small, I can't tell what it says."
MowMow asks, "Do you think Manda has a magnifying glass in her room?"
"No magnifying glass will help us see this. What we need is a microscope!"
"Who has a microscope?" asks MowMow.
GrundoMoody exclaims, "My friend, Matty, does!"
"Who's Matty?" MowMow asks.
"Matty05251! She's a flotsam down the street. She doesn't come out much. I only know her because I was behind her house one night and she was watching the stars with a telescope. She got real excited to meet me, being a Grundo and all, and let me hang out with her. She had an ultra cool microscope in her room! We didn't use it or anything. I just remember thinking how cool it was, and then I had to come home."
"Do you think she'll let us use it?" MowMow asked.
"Why not? Let's go!"
The girls race down the long, winding road of Guild Street in Neopia Central. They knock on the front door and a woman answers. "May I help you?"
"Hello Miss Lakey," replies GrundoMoody shyly, "Is Matty home?"
"Matty?" asks Lakey, somewhat shocked. "Are you a friend?"
"Kinda'." GrundoMoody answers, "I need to ask her a favor. It's an emergency."
Lakey looks at the two girls suspiciously, "Alright, dears, come on in. Matty is in her room." She steps aside and the girls run upstairs.
Matty looked up from her book in surprise, "GrundoMoody! What are you doing here?"
"Matty! Can we please use your microscope? It's an emergency!"
"What's wrong?" Matty asks.
"MowMow's Greeble is missing, but we found a clue... only the clue is so small, we can't read it without a microscope!" GrundoMoody hands over the tiny scroll.
"How intriguing!" exclaims Matty. She takes the scroll to her microscope and removes a slide. She carefully centers the scroll, open, between the two glass plates. As she peers through the microscope, she gasps. "What is this? It seems to be a letter!"
"What does it say?" echo the sisters.
"I'm not quite sure. It is written in a very old Neopian dialect. Let me try to decipher it for you." Matty pulls a book from a shelf and begins scribbling notes into a pad. It takes well over three minutes, but she finally slams the book shut and looks at the girls.
"Well?" MowMow encourages.
Matty clears her throat and begins to read. "It says something like this... Dear Centurian, I am in much trouble and desperately need your help! Please come at once. I am below the high street." Matty looks up and pauses. "It's signed, 'Your loving sister, Bethany.'"
"Who's Centurian?" MowMow asks.
"Who's Bethany?" asks GrundoMoody.
Matty reflects only a moment before stating, "Well, obviously, YOU'RE missing Greeble is Centurian... and Bethany is his sister."
"Ridiculous!" MowMow exclaims, "My Greeble can't speak! He certainly can't read! This has to be some kind of elaborate hoax!"
"What makes you think your Greeble can't speak?" Matty asks.
"Do you really think he can speak?" asks the little wocky in a tiny voice.
"Sure!" exclaims Matty, "Why not? Some of the highest scientific minds in Neopia claim that all petpets are intelligent enough to speak. Theories abound on why they would keep quiet. Some say that petpets are so loving that they won't speak. We'd treat them like equals if they did and THEN who would we have to take care of and learn responsibility from? Others claim that they are just being incredibly smart by not speaking. They live in the lap of luxury! We're just a five star hotel to them!" she laughs.
Matty leans close and whispers, "There is even one theory that says petpets are the secret defenders of Neopia. They want their troops stationed everywhere! But if they were stationed everywhere, they wouldn't be a secret, would they? So years ago, longer than most people can remember, they decided how they would accomplish it. They'd station all their soldiers in Neopians' homes... as petpets. Who would ever suspect a petpet to be a soldier? I certainly wouldn't! It's perfect!"
MowMow leans closer and whispers back, "But you do... so it's not."
"You're right." Matty states simply and straightens. "But that's beside the point. Let's just assume that your Greeble can speak and that he is this Centurian. What next?"
GrundoMoody replies, "Then we need to find out what 'under the high street' means."
Matty stands. "That's easy!" She heads for the door. "It means they are at the Art Centre."
Matty convinced her mother that they needed to go to the bookshop. Lakey took them straight away and then left them for some business at the bank. As soon as she was out of sight, Matty led them off to the old statue on the East end of Neopia Central.
She spun around and gestured grandly for silence. "This, my friends, is the Art Centre!" and with that, she revealed the secret entrance.
As the girls climb down, MowMowDominacious and GrundoMoody look around in amazement. The cavern was filled with Neopians. Some were learning to draw, others were speaking in rhymes, and more were telling the most interesting stories. There were even some thriving businesses.
"What is this place?" gasped MowMow.
"Why, the Art Centre, of course." replied Matty. Laughing, she went on, "Only the smartest of Neopians are told how to get here. Come on. I'll introduce you to a friend."
She led them to the center of the throng where a boy was selling papers. "Hot off the press! Get your Neopian Times here! The Neopian Times! All the best news found right here! Oh! Hello Matty! Would you like a copy of the Neopian Times?"
"No, Sam. I need your help."
"Sure, Matty. What can I do you for? Ask anything at all!"
"Well, we're hot on the trail of a missing Greeble. We found a secret message that leads right here to the Art Centre!" Matty explained the situation to Sam before they came to an agreement. Sam would start asking around while the girls explored the shops. They'd meet back at the newsstand in ten minutes.
"Right," said Matty, "Let's go!"
The girls head for the Coffee Shop first. Seeing the various drinks for sale made them thirsty. Matty bought a House Blend Coffee, MowMow chose an Earl Grey Tea, and GrundoMoody decided on the Purplum Mocha.
"Oh! This is delicious!" MowMow exclaimed. "And the little cookies are so good, too!"
They look around the shop but find nothing. This didn't look like a place where a Greeble would feel safe. Too much foot traffic. With a skeith operating the coin shop, they didn't think the little Greeble would feel safe there, either!
"Oh!" cries MowMow, "This is useless!"
They run back to the newsstand to find Sam grinning.
"What did you find out?" asks Matty.
"Well, a woman I spoke to said she saw something small hop into the Art Gallery earlier but didn't think much of it." His smile broadened.
Matty replies. "You did good, Sam, now wipe that silly grin off your face." She turns to MowMow, "You go on ahead. I've got to do a couple of things while I'm down here." She turned away and went back to the coin shop. GrundoMoody grabs MowMow's arm and they run to the Art Gallery.
As they enter, the air falls instantly quiet and their footsteps echo loudly. They force themselves to step lightly. The walls of the cave were perfectly vertical, the floor was absolutely flat and the ceiling was a perfect arch above. This, obviously, was not natural but cut out by fine craftsmen. The place was humongous with rooms and halls leading off everywhere.
"GrundoMoody?" MowMow asks, "How are we going to find my Greeble in here? It's so huge!"
"One room at a time. It's the only thing we can do."
They enter the first room they find. Pictures and paintings line the wall and statues stand-alone in the center. It was all overwhelming and this was only one room.
"Oh! This is impossible!" cries MowMow in despair. "What are we going to do?"
GrundoMoody was loosing hope, herself. "We can't do this alone... not without some clue to help us along. This place is just too huge and we're running out of time!"
"Let's go find Matty!" MowMow begs, "Maybe she can find some more friends to form a search party or something. Manda will be back home in less than an hour and it's going to take at least thirty minutes to get back there ourselves!"
They run back out to the newsstand just as Matty comes out of the coin shop. GrundoMoody exclaims, "Matty! We're almost out of time and he's nowhere to be found! Is there any way we can get some more people to help us search the gallery for him?"
"There's no need." says Matty, "You're not going to find him in there. I think he's done with whatever he was doing and has returned home. We should do the same." She turns back to the entrance of the cave.
"But Matty!" cries MowMow, "What makes you say that? What about the woman who saw him hop into the Gallery?"
"Don't worry about that. I promise you," says Matty, "You'll find him safe and sound at home. Let's go."
They follow doubtfully back to the bookshop where Lakey was looking around a bit worried. "Where have you been? I was worried sick!"
"We went to the Kadoatery to see all the cute little kadoaties." Matty lies. "But we need to hurry home. MowMow and GrundoMoody need to be back before Manda gets home.
Lakey looks at her suspiciously, "Alright, dear, but don't run off without me again. When I leave you at the book shop, I expect to find you there when I return."
When they made it home, the little Wocky and Grundo rush up to MowMow's room. MowMow runs to the cage and lifts the lid. "Ah!" she screams, "There he is!" Both girls stare in amazement as the front door slams.
"MooooowMooooow!" Manda yells, "GrundoMooooody! I'm hoooooome!"
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