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Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Eleven


by sarahleeadvent

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"Flingon!" Tishka's eyes shone with delight, and Lerox was no less startled, happy and relieved.

      The alien Aisha threw back his head and laughed. "I hope your escort didn't frighten you too much - I thought it would add to the surprise." A twinkle flashed in his eyes as he added, "And it's also good to see that you didn't damage them!"

      "We were scared stiff," Tishka answered honestly, then joined Flingon in his laughter. "But you're right - this is an awesome surprise, and that much better for being a relief as well!"

      Even the six-pet escort had to laugh at that, and when the laughter died down they quietly filed out of the ship, giving Flingon and his friends privacy for their reunion. For a few moments there was silence, then Tishka finally said, "This would have been an enormous relief even if you hadn't sent your friends to scare us. I've been really worried about you."

      Flingon looked suddenly solemn, and Lerox nodded in confirmation. "Tishka even went looking for you in the DoN headquarters. Kella, the receptionist, wouldn't tell her anything, so when Kella got called from her desk Tishka slipped into the building. By the time they caught her she had poked her head into every unoccupied room she could find, and had started on the cells. She was afraid they might have decided to put you in prison as punishment for serving Sloth."

      Tishka smiled at her brother's unexpected modesty. "The reason he knows all this is because he was there with me."

      Flingon's reply was not designed to make the young pets feel good - he was absolutely serious. "I'm as grateful as if I had actually been in one of those cells." His gaze flickered away from theirs, then slowly dropped to the floor. "It's good to know that you hadn't gone on and forgotten all about me," he added softly.

      "We could never do that. You're the best friend we've ever had," Tishka answered quietly, and once again Lerox nodded his agreement.

      Flingon's head snapped up and he stared in shock at the children, completely overcome. No one had ever said anything like that to him before.

      For a while the stunned Aisha fought to make himself understood, but his throat was so tight that it was impossible. Tishka, her eyes wide with concern, placed her paw over his, just to let him know that she cared and that she wasn't judging him for this display of emotion. When he was finally able to speak again, Flingon replied softly, "And you're the only friends I've ever had. Nobody else I know of would have risked their lives for a Sloth minion, and you have no idea what it's like to have no one to turn to, on your side or the other. That's why I had you brought here - I wanted to thank you for standing up for me when no one else would." And with that, he tapped the controls, and the ship came to life and streaked toward the end of the runway.

      Lerox's eyes shone. "You mean we're really gonna have a stunt show - and be in the ship?" he shouted over the whine of the turbines.

      Flingon was positively grinning now. "That's exactly what I mean," he said as the ship lifted off.

      Lerox let out one of his patented whoops and Tishka couldn't wipe the grin off her face as the small aircraft sped through the air, then suddenly reared into a loop. Just as the nose of the plane was beginning to point toward the ground, Flingon grinned at Tishka and Tishka understood: this was the same maneuver that had defeated Sloth's shuttle. The next half-hour was filled with every kind of stunt Lerox could imagine: loops, hot-dog rolls, lurches and dives, and once, a race straight upward followed by a free-fall that took them almost to the ground. Tishka was beginning to panic by the time Flingon pulled the plane out of the stomach-twisting drop, and both children closed their eyes as the small craft passed only four feet above the ground.

      Flingon was obviously a natural at this, and it was plain that he enjoyed every minute of it. Tishka didn't know when she'd been so happy - it was so good to see Flingon smiling instead of looking strained or scared out of his wits.

      ^^

      Finally, after a particularly heart-stopping series of loops and lurches, the engines quieted slightly as Flingon settled into a flight pattern parallel to the ground and allowed the ship to cruise out over the sea. Tishka blinked, dazzled by the brilliance of the sun on the water, then turned to see Flingon gazing fondly at her and her brother. For a long moment they sat there in companionable silence, gazing at the sky above and the water below, then finally Tishka ventured, "Are you going to be staying here long?"

      "Probably for the rest of my life." Tishka's entire face lit up, and Flingon smiled as he continued, "Far from punishing me, the Defenders of Neopia have actually rewarded me for my part in the battle against Sloth. They gave me a home on Mystery Island and they gave me a job which already looks like being successful. You may have wondered why you were the only ones who showed up for the air show - well, that's because the directions in the brochure I sent you were a little different from the ones most other people got. There was actually quite a crowd there. I am now flying a stunt plane for a living - a good beginning to a clean, new life. And you know what?" Flingon added with a grin, "You two are welcome to join me anytime you want, free of charge. My way of saying 'Thanks'."

      Tishka couldn't stop grinning. "This is awesome!" she said, then added with a shy smile, "but I'd be glad to see you even if you weren't on an ship."

      Lerox nodded. "That goes for me too."

      "Thank you- that means a lot to me." Flingon gave them a conspiratory smile, and both children fell silent, sensing that something more was coming- something they would like. "A stunt pilot isn't the only role I'm filling at the moment. In fact, you are now looking at the very first member of the Defenders of Neopia's new JDPP. I don't suppose you'd guessed that this ship is armed?"

      Tishka was confused. "What's a JDPP, and what do weapons have to do with it?"

      Flingon grinned broadly and replied, enunciating each syllable proudly, "Junior Defenders Protection Program. This thing is equipped with all the latest weapons and scanning technology, including a lot that we recovered from the ship we shut down and took over. We now know as much as Sloth does about the technology he uses, and it could be a long while before he feels that he is ahead enough to challenge Neopia again, but when he does we want to be ready."

      Lerox was ecstatic. "You mean Tishka and I are officially Junior Defenders?"

      "Everyone at headquarters agrees that you've earned the position, although it was my idea. And one more thing - just this morning they found an underground Sloth facility at the base of Terror Mountain. They've checked it out and disabled all the failsafes, and they want to give you two a tour of it."

      Tishka and Lerox were delighted. "Mom and Dad are going to totally freak out," Lerox said with a grin. "Just wait till they find out! We still haven't told them, you know. Judge Hog told us not to - I wonder why?"

      "Because he thought it would sound much better coming straight from him. He's at your house even as we speak, giving your parents the biggest bundle of news they've received for a long time."

      ^^

      "THEY DID WHAT?" Shyla collapsed into a chair, and Judge Hog shook his head. 'Biggest bundle of news' was obviously an understatement.

      "I told you you would want to sit down for this. And it only gets wilder from here..."

      ^^

      "I cannot BELIEVE you didn't tell me about that!" Shyla's voice echoed off the walls of the dark subterranean corridor of the abandoned research facility.

      Lerox sighed and grinned. "I can just hear myself now. 'Oh, by the way, Mom, Tishka and I are going to visit the Haunted Woods in hopes of getting into a fight with Sloth and his Spider Grundo. We might be a little late for dinner, so don't wait for us, OK?'"

      Flingon smiled at the young Grundo's tactful omission, and although he didn't say anything he inwardly added, 'You forgot to mention that this fight was for the sake of a former Sloth minion- and the 'former' wasn't even official.'

      Several people chuckled, including Xanro, who smiled proudly at his offspring and said, "I'm glad to see you've been putting my old weapons to good use. My grandchildren will hear a good story. I'm so proud of both of you."

      Shyla smiled ruefully and said, "I am too - although I hope you don't intend to do anything like that again - at least, not in the near future. Our grandchildren won't hear anything if they never exist. Although from what I hear, you two are now in pretty good hands," she added, giving Flingon a gently teasing smile. "Our Junior Defenders. I never would have guessed. For all I knew, you two were playing Splat-a-Sloth on the space station."

      "Mom," Lerox replied with a grin, "you've got to admit, that game is totally boring... when you compare it to the real thing."

      Even Tishka had to agree.

      ^^

      As the tour progressed, Tishka and Lerox allowed themselves to fall behind the main group, and for a while they walked side by side in silence, each lost in memory. Tishka's mind was filled mainly with images of Flingon: the grim helplessness she had seen when he heard the 'incoming transmission' signal... the terror on his face during the Spider Grundo attack... and finally, the peace and joy he had shown aboard the little stunt plane. What a change from the anonymous staff member she had met ten days ago! She hoped it would always be like this: being able to see her Aisha friend with no fear or pain or strain of will on his face. More than anything she wanted him to be able to live a long and happy life - he deserved it after all he had been through.

      "It's hard to believe it was less than two weeks ago that all of this began," Lerox finally said, breaking the silence. "It feels like forever."

      "I know. It's so weird," Tishka responded in a whisper, feeling that this conversation should remain between her and her brother. "You know Lerox, I agree with Flingon. I'm really glad you poked your head into that room."

      Maybe that wasn't the best thing to say, for at that exact moment the little Grundo paused beside a solid iron door. Printed on the door in hard black letters was: RESTRICTED AREA. AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.

      Tishka shook her head. "That doesn't mean it's always a good idea, you know."

      Lerox grinned at her reassuringly. "Don't worry, Tishka - I'm not going to go in," he promised.

      Tishka let out a sigh of relief, then seeing that they were getting left behind she hurried to catch up with the others. Lerox, however, lingered beside the cold, forbidding door, and with a grin on his face and a gleam in his eye he whispered under his breath...

      "I'll just take a tiny peek."

The End

 
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Other Episodes


» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part One
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Two
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Three
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Four
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Five
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Six
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Seven
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Eight
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Nine
» Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Ten



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