"What an eerie place,” she mumbled under her breath. She was a young adult Flotsam, and said “eerie place” was the Neopia Central Pound.
“Now don’t be rude, Mist,” chided something that had chosen to look like a small star hovering over her shoulder. “We don’t want to insult our guide, do we?”
“I don’t think you can see what I see,” the Flotsam, who did go by Mist whispered in response.
“I don’t. But I think I have some idea. Cages in disrepair that go on forever, none empty that you can see.
Something like that?”
“You’re way too calm about this,” Mist muttered. Her companion apologized as best he could.
“Sorry about the mess,” the pink Uni leading the way said. Common consensus was that her name was Rose, but almost no one bothered to ask her whether that was correct. “I keep telling them that we need better construction and supplies, but they haven’t done anything but install more cages since they built the transfers department – and that was years ago now.”
“I’ll admit, it’s really hard on the Neopets that live here – and even the others who work here,” Rose continued quietly, as they walked past another cage containing a green Korbat leaning against the wall of their cage. “Poor Dr. Death seems to have snapped, now that he knows that pets left with him will never have someone lined up and waiting to get them out quickly again.”
Mist shivered, remembering the old yellow Techo’s maniacal grin and her own brief flash of terror as both of them briefly thought that she was going to be the next abandoned pet left in his care.
“I’ve reviewed his records. After he replaced his predecessor, Dr. Death went from a hopeful idealist to a sour and hateful person who hated his job and all of the owners who used his services. Now it’s just possible he’s started finding happiness in the suffering of other pets because he has nothing else left now. A truly sad plight… I hope you see now why I’ve chosen to adopt, rather than get a completely new pet.”
“…I think you’re right,” Mist responded to both of them, unsure of whether or not Rose was capable of hearing when her owner spoke to her.
“Well, that’s why you’re here,” Rose put on a smile again, “To make sure one of these pets has a home again. How long do you plan to look?” While Rose’s tone was light, behind this she was slightly disappointed that her guests weren’t so soft-hearted that they adopted the first caged pet they saw. But that also meant that they had something in mind and would not leave until they found someone suitable.
“I think I’ve found someone,” the owner had stopped in front of a particular pet’s profile.
The rest established that the golden-furred and feathered being was known to have a friendly temperament, and strongly implied that he had been abandoned after spending very little time with his first owner. Unfortunately it would be almost impossible to discover the full story behind that, especially without first adopting him.
While the owner was considering this, Mist had shuffled closer to Emergence and peeked in through the bars. While her owner read that emergence the Eyrie had a positive temperament that enjoyed making friends, she could see by the way he looked that Emergence’s years in the pound had left him underfed and too depressed to even look up at a potential savior anymore.
The cetacean and the star shared a look and came to an agreement.
A few hours later, a party of three arrived at a sparsely-decorated neohome and began a campaign of TLC to bring their new family member out of his shell of depression.
A few days later… relative time.
After a few long days filled with tiny adventures, they had settled into a routine. Mist, who shared the owner’s interest in Neopia’s history spent most of her time reading books and news archives. Meanwhile, her new big brother worked out his frustrations at losing so much time - he didn’t know exactly how long – to the pound by fighting in the Battledome. And the owner was always going somewhere or other to scrounge up something useful. They were still adjusting to each other, but no real problems had emerged so far. There had even been times when Mist stepped in to take Emergence’s place in a battle, or Emergence asked Mist about the subject of her research (Applied Temporal Mechanics and the Meridell Paradox, which would be the subject of her attention for several weeks at this rate). They had different interests, but since neither of them had a mean nature they hadn’t stumbled into any arguments yet.
However, the scars of the Eyrie’s imprisonment still ached. After having a taste of freedom, he realized that not even he remembered the circumstances of his abandonment, the circumstances of his abandonment… or even how old he was. Just that he was much older than his new family.
So while he and the owner went off on an expedition to Geraptiku, Mist departed on her own to the Neopia Central records office. The pound didn’t keep track of who left their pets with them, but somewhere, some record of Emergence’s – or rather “emergence’s” life had to exist somewhere.
Her search seemed to take hours (although the subject of her other research had taught her that one could never be too sure of time). Hours of rifling through old filing cabinets and card catalogs, making sure that nothing ended up out of place when she was done.
Finally she thought she had found a lead – something she’d almost overlooked. A matter of simple calculation in fact. But if it was true then it was almost too perfect. Her priorities shifted from finding information to acting on it. A trip to the bank, the shop wizard… a note addressed to the old man so that he would be in on it…
Emergence favored a bruise and a ruffled wing on his left side as he walked. “I’d swear that Chia Clown’s getting smarter, slipping a freaking Clown Car past my guard like that.”
“Those tricks of his have served him well for approximately 15 years, despite his refusal to learn legitimate fighting techniques… or exercise. And he never turns down a challenge. It’s easy to see him as inferior, annoying, or pathetic… because it’s true. But there are traits to admire in almost everyone.”
“Guess so. As for me, I know I can’t rely on my natural strength forever,” he thought. “…You know, I would’ve beaten the robot too if it weren’t for that sudden flash.”
“I believe it.”
As they arrived at the neohome, Mist was standing on the front porch.
“Oh, I was wondering when you’d make it back,” the flotsam said, with her signature sweet smile. “How did it go today?”
“The same as usual,” Emergence responded, “I’ll just have to keep pestering the Spring Faerie until she finishes the job. What about your reading?”
“Oh, I’ve had a busy day, but I discovered something that I really have to tell you,” she said, turning around and opening the front door for them.---
The lights were dimmed, and a table had been set up in the middle of the living room. While Emergence raised his guard as he fumbled for the light switch, Mist had slipped away into the shadows. (One day he’d ask how aquatic pets managed that on land.)
Once the lights were on, he raised his head in surprise at the sight in front of him.
Then he started reading.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
“Happy fifth birthday,” Mist said softly from just behind her adopted brother. He had stepped forward in a trance after catching sight of the cake.
“…Five years,” the Eyrie repeated his thoughts aloud.
“I’m only sorry I couldn’t do more.”
“No, this is good,” Emergence said, “It’s more than I ever expected. It’s really true, isn’t it? Everything has changed for the better…”
There were no words to respond to that. None were necessary.
From the start, their acts had been simplistic and imperfect. But now that didn’t matter. What mattered most was that a long-forgotten companion was happy and the world was just a little bit brighter.