Skipping School:Part Five
It was then that many things happened in very quick succession.
I yelled and leapt on the Ruki, wrenching his arm to the side. There was a horrible grating sound as the metal of the machine he was clutching twisted violently, and the lever cut into the casing on the other side. Wires snapped and flew, and sharp bits of steel scratched my face while I dropped to the ground, paws wrapped firmly around the Ruki’s neck. He was still grasping the lever, causing it to scrape through even more metal.
"No!" he gasped, horrorstruck at the destruction of his machine.
"Ice - look!"
Eric, terrified, was pointing at the stolen piece of the Lab Ray. It was still glowing with increasing amounts of fiery energy, even though Eric wasn’t powering it anymore.
"But - " I gasped. "Triya! TRIYA! Wake up!"
I whistled the highest note I could; it was the same call Sally used whenever she called Triya in for the night. Triya opened her eyes blearily and struggled into a standing position, staggering against the wall of the cage. She couldn’t get out of it, there was no door, she was trapped -
"Ice – what - where-?"
She looked up and saw the ray, glowing brighter than ever and pointed straight at her, and she gasped. "Help!"
"I will," I whispered. "Trust me. Wait - one more second - get ready!"
I was counting on that cage now. It was our last chance. The Ruki, eyes wide, was still holding on to the lever, which was now only connected to the ruined right half of the machine by a single wire. "It’ll still work," he muttered to himself. "It’ll still conduct the energy - it will - "
A spark flashed at the end of the ray. A hot, blinding flash of light filled every section of the room, reflecting off the shiny marble walls, multiplying in intensity. I squinted, trying to see Triya -
The light died as suddenly as it had started, and without warning, a bolt fired from the ray.
"TRIYA! RUN! NOW!"
Triya gasped. The bolt from the ray hit the cage, and appeared to absorb the metal into the sparking energy. In the split second in which the cage was gone, and the ray had not yet hit, Triya practically flew away from the machine.
"Triya!" I cried, and ran to press myself against her. She was shaking. "Oh, Triya, I’m so glad you’re not hurt - "
A sudden scream broke our reunion. That Ruki always messed up everything.
His arm was still twisted around the lever, and he couldn’t seem to pull it off. The bolt of yellow energy that had sucked in the impenetrable metal cage was now sparking inside the machine, it was traveling through the wires - and it managed to squeeze through the single wire that connected the lever to the machine. And the Ruki was still connected to the lever.
The energy was flooding inside him, and he was gasping for air - something had frozen his lungs. His face was turning purple. No, not purple, but a shiny grey….
He turned to face us with a jarring scrape that made me flinch. His eyes were shining with malice, and possibly even fear.
"The pet’s – power - was supposed to - to cancel out the metal cages - "
He slumped to the floor. No, he didn’t slump. He fell, immobile, and landed with a resounding, clanking crash. His eyes still shone brightly. And so did the rest of him. It reflected the light cast by the diminishing glow of the ray.
He had turned to metal. Not just a casing, like a Robot Neopet, but complete, solid metal. No technological wiring to make him live and think. Just cold, shiny, grey metal. Only his eyes ever betrayed that he had once been alive - they still shone with his last feelings, fear and anger, but still frozen forever.
I couldn’t take any more. I crumpled in a dead faint at last. It had to happen sometime.
"Ice," a soft voice said in my ear. "Ice, wake up, come on."
I blinked. Had I fainted after all? Triya was blowing softly on my face, and I was still lying on the marble in front of the destroyed machine.
"Did I - pass out?"
"Yeah," Triya replied. "It was only for a bit though. Don’t worry, you haven’t lost your dignity, no one saw but me. Well, and Eric, but I think he’s too terrified to really register anything."
"Thanks," I said, getting to my paws. I swayed, and Triya leaned against me so I could regain my balance. "How - How can we get the rest of these Neopets out?"
"Use the ray?"
"Yeah, right, way too risky, Triya!"
"Just a joke - "
The Grarrl had appeared beside me. He was holding out a simple knife.
"It’s imbibed with magic," he explained. "Faerie magic, Eliv Thade’s, I don’t know. We just had it for emergencies."
"Why are you helping us?" I said suspiciously, not taking the knife.
"We were forced into this," he babbled. "Me and Ymas, both of us, he offered us so many Neopoints, we were starving and poor but couldn’t get to the Soup Faerie - "
"I understand," I said. I pointed to the metal statue of the Ruki on the ground. "What was his name?"
"He never told us," the Grarrl whispered. "I don’t know if he ever had one."
I nodded and accepted the knife he was still held out to me. "Come on. Let’s wake them up and get out of here."
Triya and the Grarrl nodded and moved to start waking the many Neopets, and I sliced their cages open as if the metal bars were made of butter. Slowly, as the Neopets woke and regained the use of their various numbers of limbs, we made our way up and out of the imprisoning hallway. Even Eric came along quietly. Well, he was begging us for forgiveness, but at least he never argued or insulted us.
"Do you think the faerie magic will still hold?" I asked the Eyrie, Ymas, when our huge crowd reached the double doors that lead to the underwater city.
"It should," the Eyrie replied croakily. "But Fire Neopets should try to lower their flames, and everyone should grab on to a Maraquan Neopet or a good swimmer if they cannot swim well themselves."
"You heard him," I said to the crowd. "Come on. We need to be ready to swim, and fast, up."
A bit of scrambling ensued, as Gnorbus and Chombies and others who were impeded by water held tight to those who could swim well.
"Okay," I said. "Ready? Open the doors on three. One – two - three!"
I took a deep breath as Fryar, the Grarrl, pushed open the door. But, as Ymas had predicted, the Water Faeries’ magic still held the water in place.
"Phew," I said, relieved. "Let’s go in groups of four. Just swim right to the top, as fast as you can, you’ll make it. Stay by the oasis once you leave the water."
Triya, Ymas, Fryar, and myself stayed behind to regulate the exits of all the Neopets. After what felt like hours, we were the only ones left. "Let’s go," Triya said. We all breathed deeply, and then plunged ourselves into the cool water, pumping upward with all our strength. It looked so far - could we make it?
We could. All four of us broke the surface at the same time, emerging to cheers from the crowd already present. I couldn’t help but smile happily. I felt a tiny tickle on my shoulder, and turned in surprise to see the Scriblet buzzing his wings happily.
"Why, you little," I tried to say angrily, but I couldn’t help smiling and laughing. "You got me into all this trouble!"
The Scriblet started to doodle on my ear.
"Okay, okay, thank you!" I scrambled out of the water. Triya was looking at me oddly.
"You hate bugs," she said perplexedly.
"Not this one," I assured her. "Without this little guy, you’d be dead. Or as good as dead."
Triya just laughed and gave the Scriblet a little pat. "Well, thank you, little bug."
"What do we do now?" The question everyone must have been wondering was voiced by a little Pteri standing in the front. "We’re kind of stuck in the middle of the desert, you know."
"Don’t worry," a Desert Hissi said cheerfully. "I’m from around here. Qasala’s only a little bit that way, everyone can make it, and they can provide us with transportation, and we can all go home." He pointed to the left.
Everyone looked that direction, then looked at me. I shrugged. "You heard him."
I was nearly trampled by the rush in that direction. They all wanted to get home. Understandable. So did I; I wanted nothing more than to have Kate shout at me, hug me, then shout at me some more, then give me a kiss and send me to bed. I was even looking forward to dealing with Angie and Sheiluu. And Miekeia too.
"Come on, Iciefur!"
Triya was smiling and beckoning me with her tail. I had fallen behind. Kicking my legs hard, I flew low across the sand to catch up. And coughed up a lot of sand the other Neopets had kicked up in the process. The back wasn’t the best place to be.
And then we arrived in Qasala. And after being fed and watered with the utmost care, the kind (and clearly wealthy) Qasalans arranged passage for us each to get home to out native lands tomorrow, and they even sent personal Neomails to every owner.
Sorry I’m not really going into detail here - nothing very exciting happened. Well, unless you count Triya tripping over an innocent baby Blumaroo and flying headfirst into a Chokato delicacy intended for Queen Nabile’s birthday feast. But that’s just typical Triya.
And, on the ship back to Neopia Central, she fretted about how worried Sally and Kate must be, but more importantly, how many tests we must have missed. Ymas thought we had our priorities completely wrong, but I shuddered at Triya’s latter point. That was what was really worrying, after all. Sally and Kate are forgiving; dish duty isn’t.
But the worst part of the entire journey was probably the return home. What, you say? Shouldn’t that be the best? Ohhh, no. I had to undergo pure torture when we arrived back in the city.
"ICIEFUR! Iciefur, oh Ice, my darling, I was so worried - "
In front of everyone, Kate was breaking down crying and hugging me and sobbing into my fur as I patted her awkwardly. "Kate, it’s okay, I’m fine - "
"It was all my f-fault, oh Icie, I’m sorry, I love you so much, I’m so glad you’re safe - "
"Kate - Kate, I - "
"Oh, Ice, you were so brave, I’m so proud, I’m so happy-"
"KATE," I thundered. "SHUT UP FOR A SECOND!"
She gulped and looked at me.
"Sorry," I said more quietly. "I - I’m glad to be home, Kate, but… don’t make a scene."
She laughed and stood up, wiping her eyes. "Oh, Ice, I should have known. Y-You must keep up your dignity." She winked at Sally, whom Triya had just managed to escape from.
"Let’s go home," Kate said. "I know of a certain baby Kougra that really wants to see you."
"What, Angie and Sheiluu don’t?" I joked. "Don’t they love me too?"
"Oh, you know them," Kate said, stroking my fur. "They’ll pretend to be completely and utterly indifferent. But it’s obvious they miss having someone to tease. After all, Miekeia pummels them into a pulp if they try to pass one off on her." Her hand paused on my shoulder. "Who’s this?"
She had picked up the Scriblet.
"Oh," I said. "I met him in the Lost Desert. He helped me rescue Triya and the others. He wanted to stay with me."
"But you hate bugs," said Kate, bewildered just like Triya had been.
"Not this one," I said happily. Kate shrugged and replaced him back on my shoulder as we approached the door to the house. It flew open before Kate even touched the doorknob.
And so, I ended my ‘adventure’ with an insanely strong bundle of soft baby fur crashing into me in a bone-breaking hug. Everything after that was ordinary. Angie and Sheiluu teased me, Kate finally got around to scolding me, and Triya and I were stuck with dish duty for three months because we had missed so many tests. Never mind that we had been in mortal danger, oh no, we still had to do the dishes.
Ymas and Fryar kept in touch. Eric was nicer to me than he usually was, if he dared talk to me at all. I think he was a bit impressed at how I had taken out that Ruki. Miekeia and Kate were awestruck when I told my story, and I think Angie was a little jealous I had managed to pull off a stunt better than her trip to Terror Mountain when she almost burned down the Igloo. But never mind. I’d have to write another series to explain that.
So as of now, I say farewell. I hope you enjoyed my enthralling memoir. It was enthralling, right? Comedic? Charming?
Well, obviously it is. As it’s published in the Times. I’m just so skilled. In every way.