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So Much For Just Collecting Stamps

by redcrayon101


He smiled as she lowered the glistening shell into his outstretched green flippers. The smooth cold texture of the shell sent a small shiver throughout his entire body, finishing at the base of his own patterned shell.

     She closed her eyes and smiled in the maternal way she always used when he visited her shop. "There you go, Mr_Teckno. Be careful, this one's particularly fragile."

     "Thank you, miss. Alright. Only one left to find," he replied with a chuckle, tucking the rainbow coloured shell away deep inside his own shell.

     The Maraquan Aisha who ran the Collectable Sea Shell Shop of Maraqua laughed as he tucked his new treasure away. "It's so fitting that my favourite customer who happens to have a shell, collects shells," she giggled. "Take care now Mr_Teckno!" she said with a curt wave that caused the pearl necklace on her neck to dance with the ripples of the water. "Oh, and you too, Squishy," she said, gently patting the Maraquan snarhook on his soft, blue head.

     Squishy extended his curled nose and contently let out a high pitched "Prrreeeee!"

     The Aisha giggled once more. Clasping her hands she exclaimed, "Yes Squishy, I hope to see you again soon too."

     Scooping up his somewhat ill-tempered breebly, Squishy propelled himself towards his owner, Mr_Teckno the Maraquan Shoyru. Mr_Teckno scooped Squishy up as Squishy attempted to stuff his ornery breebly inside his soft, jelly body using his long uncurled nose.

     Amid the loud, angry "Preeees!" from Squishy and the disgruntled chirps from the breebly, Mr_Teckno called out, "Thank you again, miss! Tell me when you get hold of a tangerine trumpet shell. It's the only one I'm missing. Goodbye!"

     As Mr_Teckno stuffed both Squishy and his breebly deep within his shell in a fruitless attempt to quiet the two, the Collectable Sea Shell Shop owner called out to him, "Sure thing. Remember to look up your new shell in Shell Hunters Guide Book I gave you!" as he pushed himself and his squealing pet through the dark green kelp curtain.

     This had begun as just another average day in the life of Mr_Teckno the Maraquan Shoyru. An avid shell collector, Mr_Teckno spent his weekdays working deep within the Maractite mines of Maraqua making money to support his growing collection. Two years of working in the mines had lead to Mr_Teckno gaining a collection of shells so large it had outgrown the massive display case he had built in his living room and resulted in shells being placed in the most curious places throughout the house. His neighbors were often amazed to find shells shoved in the slits of his toaster or at the bottom of his sock drawer. However, all the credit of placing shells in the strangest of places should not just be given to Mr_Teckno. The constant bickering of Squishy and his breebly often managed to dislodge a few shells and have them end up between the cushions of the couch during one of their many high speed chases.

     Unbeknownst to Mr_Teckno, today's newly acquired shell would cause a few misadventures he really wasn't prepared for.

     The five minute swim from the Collectable Sea Shell Shop to his home had left Mr_Teckno with a throbbing headache due to the never-ending yelps emanating from the wrestling match inside his shell. Once home, Mr_Teckno removed the radiant rainbow coloured shell, hissing petpet and petpetpet and placed them all on his rough, yellow coral table. An upside-down tea cup for the breebly and an overturned salad bowl on top of Squishy gave Mr_Teckno the few minutes he needed to consult his Shell Hunters Guide Book for information on his new rainbow coloured shell.

     Sitting himself down on his immaculately clean, overstuffed pink oyster shell chair, Mr_Teckno began flipping through the crisp white pages of the Shell Hunters Guide Book. Hoping that reading aloud would curb some of Squishy's newly directed anger, Mr_Teckno began reading in his smooth, melodic voice. "As one of the rarest, and perhaps prettiest shells of Maraqua, the rainbow coloured shell if sought after by all serious collectors. The rainbow coloured shell's rarity is attributed to the very strange habits of the mollusk that originally inhabits these beautiful shells. The rainbow coloured shell mollusk never gives birth to a large number of baby mollusks. The mollusks give birth to twins who start out with tiny shells on their backs. The small number of births have caused the rainbow coloured shell mollusks to gain a very unique defense mechanism in order to survive. Regardless of their positions, the twin mollusks can communicate between each other through their own shells . . ."

     "Isn't that neat, Squishy?" Mr_Teckno asked absentmindedly, looking up at the salad bowl on the coral table. Just as Squishy began uttering an obviously upset "Preeee!!!" a rumbling noise emanated from the large, ornate shell resting in the middle of the table. Looking dumbfounded, Mr_Teckno swam from his chair and raced towards the table, placing his eye near the hole of the shell that was issuing tiny bubbles and jets of water. Out of nowhere, something large and solid hit Mr_Teckno squarely between his green eyes and caused him to go flying across the room and knock over a small lamp, much to the delight of Squishy and the breebly. Needless to say, this did nothing to help his headache.

     Clutching his forehead, Mr_Teckno blindly righted himself while muttering a great number of "owwwws." The sound of a metallic clanking caused Mr_Teckno to lower his flippers just in time to see a rusty old can roll beneath the chair he had previously been sitting in. Pushing his chair out of the way, Mr_Teckno futilely extended his flippers to retrieve the object that had just caused him so much pain.

     Unable to do it himself, Mr_Teckno sheepishly approached the only salad bowl in Maraqua to ever emit the sounds of laughter. "Ummm, Squishy, my BEST friend in the entire world," he began, slowly turning over the salad bowl, "would you, uhhhh, mind getting that can under my chair for me?"

     Now, everyone knows Maraquan snarhooks have a natural dislike for salad bowls, especially being trapped under them, so it really shouldn't have come as any surprise to Mr_Teckno when Squishy extended his curled nose and let out a deafening, "PREEEEE!!!" directly in his ear. However, at that same moment, a large brown boot whizzed past Mr_Teckno's head and hit Squishy directly in the jelly and sent him tumbling backwards, overturning the teacup holding back the anger of his enraged breebly.

     After a minute of trying to stuff his breebly deep within his soft jelly body once again, Squishy gave up and swam towards the bottom of the pink oyster shell chair with his nose held high in the air in an attempt to retain his newly-battered dignity. Seconds later, Squishy returned triumphant, his prize held high in an attempt to spite the projectile-throwing rainbow coloured shell that only a Maraquan snarhook would truly understand.

     Mr_Teckno gazed down at the two items on the now crowded table. Scratching his head, Mr_Teckno exclaimed "How exactly did this big boot and big can come out of that tiny shell?" Squishy shrugged his tentacles and quickly lost interest in the dilemma, swimming off to search for his breebly in the kitchen. That gave Mr_Teckno a brilliant idea. He swam off towards the kitchen in the wake of Squishy.

     Moments later, Mr_Teckno re-entered his living room. This time he was prepared. Wearing a spaghetti strainer over his bruised forehead, Mr_Teckno approached the rainbow coloured shell once more. He cautiously lifted it off the table with a pair of old tongs and held it directly in front of his face. Peering deep within the darkened hole, Mr_Teckno was amazed by the beauty of the vibrant swirls that met his gaze. Mesmerized, Mr_Teckno had little time to react when the first tiny bubbles obstructed his view. Preparing for the worst Mr_Teckno quickly diverted his gaze and stood their shaking and waiting.

     And waiting.

     Nothing shot out at him. No piece of garbage rolled under another piece of hard-to-move furniture. Nothing but bubbles, slowly bursting up near the ceiling.

     Astonished by the lack of projectiles, Mr_Teckno held the shell close to his face and gawked. Captivated by the swirls once more, he stared. Hypnotized by the shell, the sounds of the squabble in the kitchen melted away. Standing there awkwardly in the living room, the room faded away and Mr_Teckno could think of nothing but the shell's infinite beauty. The eerie silence of the living room was broken by a soft "Help!" that brought Mr_Teckno back to reality; a sound that no matter how soft sounds like a deafening yell to a would-be hero.

     Stunned, Mr_Teckno dropped the spaghetti strainer and allowed the shell to fall from his grasp and land on the coral table, unscratched. The crash of the spaghetti strainer summoned the curious snarhook and breebly back into the living room. The horrified look on their owner's face told them not to push their luck and behave.

     Collapsing on his favourite chair, Mr_Teckno mulled over everything that had happened in the last five minutes, oftentimes mumbling to himself much to the dismay of Squishy and the breebly. Through this one-sided conversation, the pets were able to gather a general knowledge of the happenings of the last five minutes. Scooping up the rusty can and faded boot with his nose, Squishy dropped the two items in his owner's lap, quickly followed by the breebly dragging the spellbinding shell. After a moment of uneasy silence while Mr_Teckno remained in the chair with a look of deep concentration on his green face, he looked up at his two pets and said quietly, "Guys, we're going on a little trip."

     An hour later, all that could be seen on the outer ridges of the Ruins of Maraqua were three shadows silently gliding through the murky water single file. At the front of the line swam Mr_Teckno, his shell stuffed full with all the items that had caused him to undertake this journey. The rainbow coloured shell, boot, can and Shell Hunters Guide Book were all tucked away, leaving no space inside for those swimming silently behind. Next came Squishy; no longer concerned with his breebly, who just happened to be bringing up the rear of the peculiar line.

     Squishy and the breebly had dutifully followed Mr_Teckno without actually knowing where they were headed. However, Mr_Teckno did not leave them in the dark for long.

     "Guys, I think we're on some sort of a rescue mission. That voice... she sounded so scared. Guys, I think we need to go to Underwater Fishing Cavern. That's the only pace I've ever seen these." He quickly pulled out the rusty old can and the leather boot. "She needs our help, I know she does. My book... it said the shells can communicate, right? I think we found our shell's twin."

     With a rescue as incentive, the trio approached the darkened cavern just as the last rays of the sun disappeared from the churning water.

     As a rule, most Maraquans stayed well away from the Underwater Fishing Cavern. As residents of the ocean, the denizens of Maraqua clearly understood the dangers posed for them by fish hooks and fishing nets. Despite this knowledge, Mr_Teckno propelled himself inside the mouth of the foreboding cavern with his green flippers and was lost from sight by Squishy and the breebly. Without hesitation, the other two followed quickly behind.

     Darkness quickly surrounded our trio as the fiery torches on the cavern walls only cast dim shadows in the murky lagoon. The calm water was only ever broken by the movements of their own slick fins or the occasional glimpse of the shy citizen fish of the cavern. Unsure of what to be looking for, they swam on.

     The deeper they moved into the cavern, the darker and colder the water became. Their glimpses of fish became fewer and fewer until they found themselves completely alone in the waving seaweed lining the bottom. The sheer size of the cavern amazed Mr_Teckno, yet also struck fear in his heroic heart. What if they wouldn't be able to find the owner of the desperate voice?

     In desperation, Mr_Teckno withdrew the rainbow coloured shell from his own and held it in his flippers. Floating to the surface he rose; his head breaking the tranquil water. The shell scintillated in the dim light and captivated Mr_Teckno once more. If not for Squishy's constant prodding, Mr_Teckno might have easily missed the sign the shell was providing.

     Snapping back to his senses once more, Mr_Teckno followed the gaze of his entranced snarhook. The tip of the shell was glowing in the soft light, casting an eerie glow on the cavern floor below. In that faint light, Mr_Techno noticed something half buried in the silt and grime. Diving under into the realm of silence, Mr_Teckno dug out the corroded can and brought it to the surface. Smiling, Mr_Teckno nodded at his companions. They were close.

     Another fifteen minutes of silent swimming lead them to what appeared to be the end of the cavern. A craggy rock wall covered with lichen and moss marked the end of the water. Scanning the cavern floor below them, Mr_Teckno and the others could find no sign of the voice. The habitants of this part of the cave appeared to only be old discarded footwear, the occasional can and an ominous fishing net, half covered by a disfigured boulder.

     Feeling defeated, Mr_Teckno considered turning around and giving up the search. Risking his life for a mysterious voice emanating from a shell was not typically something he enjoyed doing. However, like all heroes, Mr_Teckno still had the gut feeling that his job was not yet complete.

     Lost in thought, Mr_Teckno was brought back by an echoing, "Preeee!" Looking down, Mr_Techno watched as Squishy rapidly gestured with his elongated nose. Squishy repeatedly pointed at Mr_Teckno's flippers and then back to his shell. Catching on, Mr_Teckno rummaged around until he found what he was looking for.

     The three heroes were blinded by the light that radiated from the shell. Shielding his eyes with his flipper, Mr_Teckno fruitlessly tried to follow the ray of light with his eyes. After allowing his eyes to finally adjust to the harsh new light, Mr_Teckno was able to figure out where the light was going. The shell had cast its rays of light on the lone boulder that trapped the menacing fishing net.

     Hesitantly, Mr_Teckno glided over towards the slimy boulder, bypassing cans and boots as he swam. The boulder was firmly pressed against the wall, half buried in the sand. Mr_Teckno quickly circled the boulder, looking for a possible opening. Sadly, there was no such opening large enough for a Maraquan Shoyru. Sighing, Mr_Teckno broke to the surface, looking for Squishy and the breebly.

     Mr_Teckno was relieved to find Squishy swimming near the surface. Squishy however appeared far less relieved. After a minute of high-pitched "PREEEES!" and nose gestures, Mr_Teckno was able to gather that the breebly was nowhere to be found. A quick scan of the water confirmed their fears. The breebly was gone.

     Half panicky, half stunned, Mr_Teckno propped himself on the boulder in the hopes of calming his racing heart. Squishy would be devastated over the loss of the breebly, not to mention the pharmacist who supplied Mr_Teckno with all his headache pills. He watched as his Maraquan snarhook raced from corner to corner, rock to rock in the hopes of finding a sign of his little petpetpet. Closing his eyes and resting his head against the wall, Mr_Teckno began preparing himself for the worst, his head filled with the happy chirps of breebly memories. He tried to think of a logical plan to curb his petpet's sadness, but was unable to concentrate over the chirps coming from beneath him.

     Beneath him?!

     Diving from the boulder, Mr_Teckno re-circled the boulder. At the very bottom of the boulder, Mr_Teckno discovered the source of the chirps. The cheerful eyes of the breebly could be seen from the tiny crack in the wall behind the boulder that he had missed before. Calling Squishy, Mr_Teckno groped for the breebly. The breebly however would have no part in this. He continued to incessantly chirp, his antennae beckoning Mr_Teckno. Placing his eye to the hole, Mr_Teckno heard the heart-stopping voice once more. "Heelllpppp..."

     Frantically digging at the sand, Mr_Teckno tried to free the voice. With the help of Squishy, Mr_Teckno began making progress. With each stroke of his fin and the multiple strokes of Squishy's tentacles, the bottom of the boulder was finally exposed.

     However, this did nothing to help the pair. The boulder was at least ten times Mr_Teckno's size and neither Mr_Teckno nor Squishy were known for their strength. Fumbling within his shell, Mr_Teckno retrieved the rainbow coloured shell. Hoping that the shell would be of use again, he pressed it against the base of the boulder, closed his eyes and pushed.

     The raw magnetism of the shell amazed Mr_Teckno as he lifted. He was afraid the shell would literally jump from his hands and smash against the boulder. It was drawn to something. Shaking, Mr_Teckno continued pushing. Inch by inch the boulder cleared away as the light of the shell filled the gaping hole behind it.

     With his last ounce of strength spent, the shell leapt from Mr_Teckno's hand and darted into the crevice, landing with a resounding "clink" as it hit something hard. Looking up from his collapsed position on the sand, Mr_Teckno uttered a low gasp. Tangled amid the old fishing net was a beautiful Maraquan Uni, her mane littered with sand and seaweed. Her neck throbbed as if breathing was hard while a shiny, spiraled shell hung on a thin strand of string. A rainbow coloured shell, now accompanied by Mr_Teckno's own.

     For Mr_Teckno, the next few minutes were a blur. As if compelled by another being, Mr_Teckno had somehow mustered enough strength to tear at the net in the hopes of freeing the Uni. Her sighs and blinking eyelashes were the only things that assured Mr_Teckno that she was indeed still alive. When the final line was torn with his teeth, she collapsed on the cavern floor, the shells falling against the sand. Feeling faint, Mr_Teckno collapsed himself, his eyes last gazing at his terrified snarhook and breebly.

     Unknown to Mr_Teckno and his pets, the owner of the Underwater Fishing Cavern, an extroverted Maraquan Grarrl, had noticed them enter the cavern. Silently following behind, he accompanied them in the cave, ready to detain them if it turned out they were up to no good. Watching the entire thing unfold, he was amazed as he repeatedly saw the magic of shell and amazing strength of the Shoyru. As he watched them collapse, the Grarrl quickly swam to their assistance before swimming for help.

     A week later Mr_Teckno was at home, resting as the doctor had ordered. No one had ever been able to explain what had happened in the cavern that day. Mr_Teckno and the cavern's owner's accounts were so bizarre that the Neopian Times had not wished to publish them. Mr_Teckno was not upset over this in the least. He enjoyed his privacy.

     A knock at his door threatened to disrupt this privacy. Rising slowly from his chair, he swam towards the door, tripping over his napping petpet and petpetpet who now had an incredible respect for one another and actually acted like friends. Peeling back the kelp curtains, Mr_Teckno poked his head through the doorway. Before him hovered an image of beauty. Her mane was no longer grimy and matted; it flowed freely and glistened in the light. She flashed him a glimpse of her pearly teeth. "Hello," she purred; her voice like a soft wind-chime.

     Stuttering, Mr_Teckno managed to issue a pathetic "H-h-hi!" She giggled at his surprise and extended a fin. "I'm Aura," she continued. "I wanted to thank you for... for your help."

     "Uhhh, don't mention it," he stammered, his throat closing tight and face going red.

     "You saved my life and I wanted to repay you," she began, her flippers playing with the shell around her neck. Her flipper moved from her necklace to the clamshell purse she had tucked under her arm. It disappeared through the opening and withdrew Mr_Teckno's lost shell. Glinting, she rested it in his palm. "Oh, and as a reward," she purred, lifting an elongated orange shell from the purse.

     His eyes bulged from their sockets as he gazed upon the tangerine trumpet shell he had been missing from his collection. He smiled, happy that his collection was finally complete.

     Another few minutes of small talk left Mr_Teckno alone; Aura was due back at the hospital. Returning to his living room, he placed both the rainbow coloured shell and the tangerine trumpet shell on his table. Squishy and the breebly smiled as they watched their owner collapse into his chair delighted.

     All of a sudden, an all too familiar rumble filled the room. Bubbles pouring out of the rainbow coloured shell, a bottle of light blue sand shot across the living room carpet.

     Eyes wide, Mr_Teckno ran to catch it. After retrieving it from behind a bookcase, he ran to his table once more, only to find Squishy turning the pages of his Shell Hunters Guide Book with his nose. After a moment of turning pages, Squishy let out a loud, "Preeee!"

     "But Squishy," Mr_Teckno began, "we've already read that. That's all there is about the rainbow coloured shell."

     Turning one last page with his nose, Squishy gave Mr_Teckno a full view of the book. This page contained one additional side note to the information on the rainbow coloured shell. "Although not frequent, a small number of cases of triple births of rainbow coloured shell mollusks have been recorded."

     Looking at his pets, the only thing Mr_Teckno was able to say was, "Uh oh."

The End

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