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Change Needs Growth:Part Four


by jehtredmonkey

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     "N ash did what?!" Gumdrop looked at the broken shamrock in Patrick's hands. The only way to find the end of the rainbow was now gone. "You remember the way though, right?" Gumdrop asked, hoping.

      "Not well enough to get there before our enemies." Patrick said, acting defeated. "I know the direction to go, but Nash wasn't keen on us getting there easily." Patrick had explained that a red Psimouse had come into camp, tricked the shamrock out of Patrick's hands, and broke it on the ground because Nash wanted them to face a true challenge. Or he was trying to be a jerk like always.

      "Who is this Nash?" Gumdrop asked, confused.

      "A red Psimouse that has been terrorizing me ever since I was little."

      "Yikes." Gumdrop was not ready for the sudden indication of a deep subject. "Wanna talk about it?" Gumdrop had hoped to open up Patrick sometime about his past, but he didn't realize it would be so soon. The Psimouse closed himself off and seemed to be scared by emotion or admitting he had any.

      "No." Patrick finally muttered. Gumdrop tried other subjects of conversation to try to cheer Patrick up, but nothing was working. Patrick shortened his answers and seemed only mentally half there. Silence ensued for a long length of time. Gumdrop did not want to sleep thinking that they were defeated. He needed to get Patrick to open up.

      Patrick, Gumdrop, and silence stared at the fire from their logs they were using as seats. Darkness shielded the pair, keeping the light contained in their small camping area. The random movements of the fire seemed to be an improvised dance of light and heat. The burning wood reminded Gumdrop of times around a campfire and sharing stories meant to scare each other. He happily dwelled in the memories of cooking food over the fire and of how he had opened up. Once he got it off his chest that he felt rejected by his home, he felt much better. Maybe if he could get Patrick to talk, he would feel better.

      Patrick wanted to forget what had happened. He wanted to go home and leave behind this mission that was pointless. Maybe Nash was right. Mordecai must be out there somewhere. Who was he kidding? He wasn't going to be able to save anyone. If the town of Unishire knew it was him that they were depending on, they might as well leave. Yet, Shane was also depending on him. Or maybe Shane was helping Mordecai by sending him away. The old Turtmid was wise beyond his years. Although Patrick was trying to forget his failures, Gumdrop wanted to help.

      "Let's hear it."

      "Hear what?" Patrick was caught in the middle of his thoughts.

      "You know… The red Psimouse!" Gumdrop was excited to listen.

      "No."

      "I'll listen." Gumdrop pleaded.

      "No."

      "Did you know that those who share what they have gone through feel better after sharing it with someone? Don't think of it as helping me, but helping yourself." Gumdrop tried.

      "Well…" Patrick liked the idea of helping himself. That way he wouldn't come across as emotional.

      "I'll tell you the story about when I sat in my first cake because I was confused with the birthday celebration ceremony. Just tell me about this red Psimouse." Patrick Shifted in his seat, visibly uncomfortable. Gumdrop looked him up and down. "Well?" The Jinjah asked again. His tone was mostly irritable with a hint of curiosity.

      Patrick took a deep sigh. "You really want to know?" Patrick mumbled.

      "Finally! Let's get personal!" Gumdrop leaned toward Patrick.

      "Ok. Not because we are friends though." Gumdrop shook his head in his eagerness. "Well. It all began when I was little. I was a happy little Psimouse. I adored watching my dad make shoes and I aspired to be like him. My mom loved cooking because I loved eating! We all lived peacefully in our village of Psimouse's- Psimice? Psimeeces? Psimouse-i? Anyways, it was a village hidden away. Despite loving parents, my childhood wasn't that great. I lost my third eye when I was little, but I don't remember it. I then went through some… stuff." A memory flashed into Patrick's mind. Pain. Agony. Loss and misery. Patrick bit down hard as he tried hiding it all. He had almost forgotten that all that happened, but it was resurfacing as he explored his life in the past.

      "Is something wrong?" Patrick opened his eyes, the memories gone.

      "No." Patrick retraced what he had said in his mind until he arrived at where he left off. "As I was saying, it was a rough childhood. One day, I met another Psimouse in the village. His name was Nash Hinckley and he is the Red Psimouse that broke the shamrock and he is the one who is too cowardly to show his face. At the time, we became best friends. I would always go out to play with him and we would imagine ourselves on different adventures as we ran around the village. One day we were defenders of Neopia, the next we were exploring the caves of Tyrannia!" Patrick was starting to reminisce in his old fond memories. He and Nash were good friends at that time.

      "Everything sounds great!" Gumdrop said.

      "It was, but soon it changed." Patrick feared what happened next. "My parents didn't know about Nash and so one day my parents asked where I was going. I told them all about Nash and they got wide-eyed. It was weird. I went and played with Nash for the last time. The next day I found out that Nash had done something wrong, but they didn't tell me what happened. I was confused and wanted to talk to Nash, but they wouldn't let me. We would always meet under a big oak tree in our village, but they refused to let me go see him. I soon found out they had asked Nash to leave the village. Because he was my best friend, I decided to leave the village as well. That night, I snuck out and left through a tunnel that works as the only way in and out of our haven. Unfortunately, when a Psimouse leaves our haven, there is no way of returning. This way we can remain safe and hidden in secret." Patrick looked at his hands as he stifled some tears.

      "I thought life would be great with my best friend Nash, out in the world of Neopia together! But he had different thoughts," Patrick continued. "We had a fight and he got mean. Really mean. He blamed me for being kicked out of the village. Those bitter emotions resulted in physical actions as he started hurting me and chasing me. He hoped that he could somehow go back, but there is no way back. So he beat me instead. I thought we were going to be great friends, but I was on the run. I happened to stumble into Unishire after a long time. In that place, I met Shane, an old Turtmid, who had set up a small sanctuary that was able to keep Nash from entering that magical place. I helped make improvements with Shane, but they weren't that great. Now he tells everyone that I helped make it with him so they would accept me more, but I did not want their acceptance." Patrick choked back his pain.

      I lost my mom, my dad, my friend, my home, and I lost all desires to become like my father. My aspirations had vanished along with my hope and joy. I grew bitter and did not know how to cope. I guess I thought that by playing tricks on others, I would forget my pain. They started out innocent, but as they desensitized me, they quickly grew to be harsher and not as funny… They were only funny to me. Yet they never truly gave me happiness. I also saw the tricks as a way to tell everyone that I didn't need their acceptance or presence in my life, which resulted in more inward hate." Patrick took off his hat and stared at it.

      "When Shane gave me the option of going to the end of the rainbow, it felt like an opportunity to redeem all the wrong I had done. That's why I need your help finding the rainbow." Patrick finally looked up into Gumdrop's eyes, composed.

      "Wow." Gumdrop managed. "You wanted to be a cobbler? It all makes sense now. So, which kind of cobbler would you be? Peach, or cherry?" Patrick shook his head holding back a laugh, sniffing as the watery eyes dried up. Gumdrop was able to make a hard situation better. Maybe Gumdrop was better than he had first thought.

      "You know…" Gumdrop continued, "In order to fix the rainbow, you have to give it magic. I know you have magic, but it might need a lot of magic… as in all you have." Patrick looked up clenching his hat.

      "If I lose my magic… I will lose everything. Including my life. I will find another way to fix it. Hopefully the remains of the shamrock will be enough." Gumdrop eyed the hat.

      "So why do you take such good care of that hat? You are always cleaning it and protecting it. I heard from my friend, Cosmo, as you called him, that you were angered when you nearly lost the hat..." The Jinjah trailed off in wonder. Patrick looked at his hat in his hands again and pondered himself. He was obsessed with this hat.

      "I like it." Patrick stated. Gumdrop scoffed and laughed a bit.

      "Ok, now that you got your joke out of the way, tell me the story. I like how honest we are being." The Jinjah laid his belly on his log, using his hands to hold up his head as he gently kicked his feet in the air. The fire light dimmed to a soft glow, but it still gave off enough warmth to keep the atmosphere cozy.

      "I need it to cast magic." Patrick grimly stated. Gumdrop looked confused. "Back in my village, I was the worst student, but that gave me determination to be the best that ever was. I trained and trained, but my failures came in the form of not fully summoning motes. I was trying to summon a basic water mote, and I failed. Not the failure where you can't summon it. The failure where it's halfway there and you fail, resulting in painful repercussions. I was blasted at each failure, but my determination only grew stronger. As I tried summoning that water mote, my teacher was fearful of my injuries, so she gave me this hat. She said it was magical and gave me extra power to summon motes. That day, I summoned my very first mote, a water mote. Nothing special, but I believed in the power of the hat.

      "After becoming the best student and the best summoner in the whole village, she told me that the hat was a fake," Patrick went on. "It wasn't the magical hat I needed to become strong, it was confidence and belief in myself. It was a great lesson, but I relied on the hat too much that I couldn't summon without it. Even now, I feel magic inside it, giving me power. As soon as I let go, the magic fades."

      "Yikes. That went deep. Almost as deep as a well." Gumdrop mused. "Well the hat has no magic. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you can see that you are a great caster. Just think of it this way. It's not the hat that makes you Patrick or gives you strength. It's you who makes you Patrick."

      "What about you?" Patrick tried changing the subject. "Let's hear about you." Gumdrop looked shocked.

      "You didn't want me talking at all at times, but now you want to know about me?" Gumdrop held back a tear and a look of pride for a moment. Patrick was growing. He shook it away. "You know, my friends say that I am able to change any grumps into nice folks. I don't understand why they say people like you are mean. I think it is because when I look at a person, I see their capabilities instead of their limitations. Instead of seeing Petpets as how they first act, I am able to visualize their potential. Most people are not bad at all. It is because of the people they surround themselves with that influences who they become. I saw you and you are the kindest Psimouse I have ever met. I just have to bring that out of you."

      Patrick gawked at Gumdrop. "You don't think I am a jerk?" The Jinjah shook his head and smiled back at Patrick. "You don't think that I am worthless?"

      "Far from it. Everyone is worth more than they could ever know." Gumdrop beamed.

      "Do you think I am always going to be alone? Do you think I am crazy?"

      "Of course not."

      Patrick looked at Gumdrop with a renewed thought: hope. Tears burst from Patrick, the first time since he had let them out since he left his village of Psimouse. He cried and let the tears of pain and regret flow down his cheeks, restrained for too long. Relief flooded in, replacing the pain and regret. How has he endured this for so long? A warm source pressed against his back and shoulder. He looked up to see Gumdrop placing an arm behind the Psimouse. For once in his life, Patrick was not alone. He let all his pain drain out as Gumdrop poured in ideas of hope and overflowing him with happiness.

      Maybe, Patrick did have a friend. Gumdrop was just waiting for him all along.

      @@@

      The morning sun tapped on Patrick's eyelids as he blinked awake. Gumdrop was already packed and ready to leave. "Why the hurry? We aren't going to help." Patrick grumbled, his voice an octave deeper from just waking up. Patrick felt better about life, but his goals were still conflicting.

      "I have an idea." Gumdrop said eagerly. Patrick sat up and eyed the Jinjah with eyes that read 'proceed.' "If we are to go in the direction you remember, we will go straight there. There shortest distance between two points is a straight line. We will go towards the end of the rainbow and we are likely to run into those crooks with the other shamrocks! We can sneak up to them, take a shamrock and race ahead of them. Since I was born there, I know that we can seal the entrance off from anyone entering. We can restore the magic and protect it from the organization!" Gumdrop was sold that everything was going to succeed.

      "What if-" Patrick began.

      "Let's just try! It's better to try and fail then to not try at all and still fail!" Gumdrop seemed to have rehearsed what he was going to say. Patrick stared blankly at the Jinjah.

      "We are not problem-free yet." Patrick warned. "We need to figure out the particulars of the plan."

      "No more worries, I had plenty of time to think through everything! Pack your things, let's head out and I will fill you in on the particulars!"

      The team packed their items and collected themselves as they made their way on the path that Patrick had envisioned. The path took them even further west. They were fortunate to have come over to the west side of the mainland by chance, but they saw it more as Gumdrop recalling that there was an entrance to his home in this vicinity. They journeyed away from Shenkuu as Gumdrop filled Patrick in.

      Soon, the pair were walking with a little spring to their steps as they marched from there campsite and traveled a long distance. Both were confident in the plan. They were going to hike through the night and catch-up to the thieves who had taken the shamrocks. Once they found their campsite, Patrick would create a smoke mote on the far side of the camp and cause a distraction for the look-out. While the look-out was occupied, Gumdrop would sneak in and locate the stolen items and easily sift through them to find the shamrocks. If need be, Patrick was ready to silently knock-out the look-outs if they posed a problem. Although simple and basic, Gumdrop reminded Patrick that the complicated plans were the ones that had more ways to fail.

      Patrick recalled a time where he had a prank planned in Unishire. In Unishire, Patrick is considered the youngest, but most of the residents forget about Ms. Anderson's son, Jack. He was adopted by Ms. Anderson when Jack's parents had disappeared. He was a pudgy Snorkle that loved balloons. He would take a red balloon with him wherever he went. So Patrick devised a plan. If he hung a tack just right from the last tree that Jack passes on his way to his house, it would pop the balloon if the tack was sharpened enough. Knowing Ms. Anderson, She would run out to meet Jack because he would surely cry if one of his balloons popped. Patrick then would be conveniently selling balloons from across the street, disguised as someone else. Wanting to compensate her crying child, she would purchase a balloon that was secretly filled with several bubble motes and air motes. Because the balloon would be filled with all these motes, it would lift Jack off the ground and into the sky, but Patrick would be attached to the ground using heavy metal boots. Scaring Ms. Anderson, Patrick would take a balloon of his own, unhook himself, and fly after Jack to save him. He would then warn Ms. Anderson of the dangers of balloons and would offer her a deal to take all balloons off her hands. Patrick would then fill the balloons with bubble motes and paint and secretly give them to Jack that night without him knowing that there was paint in them. Jack would try and hide them, but along with balloons, Jack loves scissors. He has a whole collection that he leaves on the floor. Because the paint is heavy, the balloons would quickly loose elevation and sink to the ground and pop on the scissors. Ms. Anderson would enter the room to find popped balloons, a crying Jack, and paint everywhere! She would be furious!

      The great plan failed. While giving Jack the balloon, he was too heavy and didn't lift off the ground. In panic, Patrick had given Jack his balloon as well and Jack lifted up slowly. He offered a third for free, but Ms. Anderson said no, so he gave it to Jack who accepted willingly and he finally lifted into the sky. Making a fourth for himself quickly, Patrick tried unhooking himself, but fell face first into the ground. He finally got into the air, but he couldn't reach Jack and he didn't plan the getting down part well enough. Luckily the protection sphere stopped them floating out of Unishire, but they had to wait until Mordecai could fly up and save them both. It was embarrassing for Patrick. He learned that complicated plans were more likely to fail.

      With a plan in mind, the duo stumbled upon foot prints and paw prints. The thieves. As the sun set, they tracked them to a campsite as they had planned. Waiting until night could sufficiently cover them, they watched from a distance. There was an Erisim that they had seen at the mountain. There were nine other Petpets varying from Drackonack, to Grobrin, to Niptor, to even a Huggy. Currently, the Grobrin was keeping watch as the others fell asleep.

      Putting their plan into motion, Patrick crept to the far side and dropped a smoke mote and noiselessly slipped behind a bush. The Grobrin came over to inspect as they had predicted, not alerting anyone to the mysterious smoke emanating from the tree line. Patrick saw Gumdrop's outline as he creeped into camp, went through several bags and creeped out. The Grobrin was turning right as Gumdrop was leaving, but the Jinjah seemed to have been watching as he laid down instantaneously. The Grobrin walked into camp and continued searching the woods as Gumdrop crawled out of view. The two met up at a rendezvous point far from the campsite to discuss their next course of direction.

      "Did you take all their shamrocks, or take a few and break the rest?" They had debated whether Gumdrop would be able to silently break glass shamrocks.

      "They don't have them." Gumdrop dropped his head. Patrick laughed.

      "I like a good joke, but now isn't the time."

      "I don't have them." Gumdrop maintained.

      "Well where are they?" Panic returned to Patrick.

      "They must have sent a party ahead because of what I gathered, this Erisim is a Lieutenant. That means he is working under the authority of someone else. They must have taken those shamrocks to their leader." Patrick couldn't believe it. They were without a lead yet again. Maybe he would never get to save Unishire. Maybe it's hard for him because he is meant to fail and Unishire is meant to fall.

      "I do have an idea, but it will be hard." Gumdrop said somberly.

      "If you think that running into their camp and shooting a bunch of motes, capture them all and get them to talk to tell us where the shamrocks are, I guess I will do it because what other leads do we have at this point?"

      "That's exactly my plan." Gumdrop brightened up.

      "It is? Because I was totally joking. But I am a mastermind afterall." Patrick breathed onto his nails and wiped them on his shoulder as if to silently celebrate.

      "I was totally joking as well." Gumdrop laughed silently to himself. "They are going to meet up with the boss to help their boss find the end of the rainbow. So if we follow them, they will lead us to the boss. They might not tell us the truth if we force them to talk, as well as we lose the element of surprise with that. This way, they lead us to their leader- without knowing it!" Gumdrop seemed to be just as enthusiastic about this new plan as he was with his last plan. Patrick had to hand it to the Jinjah. The plan made sense and was better than his option.

      "Well, looks like we haven't got any other choice." Patrick was ready to give it another shot at saving Unishire.

      "Let's get some rest first." Gumdrop said, spreading out his sleeping bag. "Quick rest to get us ready for a full day of sneaking tomorrow will never hurt us!" Gumdrop hit the pillow and immediately started lightly snoring. Patrick unrolled his sleeping bag and laid down, staring up at the starry night. All those people in Unishire were worried about losing their homes and they probably could not enjoy the numerous stars, littering the sky as if Jack had left a mess of glitter across a black table. Jack made lots of messes. Those Petpets, including Jack were endangered from their acts of service and dedication to Neopia and they need the protection that was offered to them by Shane. If not, they would be hunted down by those who despise their heroic deeds, but they were mostly too old to defend themselves. Patrick smiled at the sky thinking of how life could be different if people saw him as a hero and not a trickster. Pondering in his thoughts, Patrick soon was dragged into a short slumber.

      @@@

      The Pair awoke early in the morning in order to assure that they could follow the group at a distance without complication. They had followed the Erisim and his group for most of the day as the band walked a similar route that Patrick and Gumdrop had been on before they had caught up to this gang. Nothing had transpired while Gumdrop and Patrick followed, just barely keeping the thugs within view. Patrick was still tired from little rest and worn out from the long days of traveling. Fortunately for him, the Erisim stopped everyone once in a while, allowing Patrick the short breaks he needed to stay energized. Just as they were wondering if they would reach the main campsite for the leader of the organization, something large started peaking over the horizon. The duo gaped in awe at the massiveness of the structure before them. A large Dome that was the size of Altador's walls and reached higher than the peaks at Shenkuu. The dome was separated into dark crystal triangles to from the shape of the dome. The sunlight beamed down on the dark dome, but it seemed to absorb the light from the sky.

      "Well that's a campsite." Gumdrop said astonished

      "Where do you cook the s'mores?" Patrick complained. The pair followed the Erisim up to the main entrance. The door was massive, big as Patrick's house, and it was concealed by the retaining the same pattern as the nearby dome and it was flush with the dome wall. The only way they knew it was a door was because the Erisim had waved and shouted a few words and it swung upwards to reveal a way in.

      "How do we get in?" Patrick whispered.

      "Easy. We find gear, climb to the top, cut a hole in the glass, repel in upside down and steal back a shamrock that is conveniently on a pedestal right below where we cut and the drop from the hole to the pedestal is void of all security that is meant to keep us out." Gumdrop was full of ideas. Some of them weren't that great.

      "Why don't we take the front entrance?" Patrick said innocently. Gumdrop looked to the door, still open.

      "It feels like it could be a trap." Gumdrop countered.

      "It looks like they are still bringing in supplies and sorting it there. If we hang close, we could cut in as they are leaving and as the door is closing." Patrick suggested.

      "My idea was great." Gumdrop grumbled.

      "We don't even know where the shamrocks are. We would be living on a prayer if they were conveniently there waiting for us."

      "Nuances," Gumdrop spat. "The movies lied to me." Gumdrop spoke to himself.

      Stealthily creeping over to the edge of the door, no one seemed to spot them. They crept up to the door as it still was wide open and peaked in to see the Erisim just starting to leave. The door made a mechanical sound as it came to life, slowly closing. Waiting patiently, the pair side-stepped in with little room left as the door slammed shut behind them. In front ran a long corridor that seemed to join a bigger room at the end of the hall. "How do we get out, oh wise one?" Gumdrop prodded.

      "We'll cut a hole in the ceiling and crawl out." Patrick joked back. The Jinjah and Psimouse kept to the walls as they moved down the massive corridor. Three stories tall, their efforts to keep quiet betrayed them as the echoes detected their movements. Slowing down to barely moving, they took their time reaching the main chamber. At the end of the door was an inner dome that was as big as Brightvale castle. This organization had funds! There were corridors leading out from this massive chamber and a single entrance to the inner dome. Looking up, where there should have been sunlight seeping through, only darkness prevailed.

      "Do we go inside the dome?"

      "Well you know what they say," Patrick began. "A dome is only half a sphere."

      "How is that relevant?"

      "Have you heard it?"

      "Of course! It's my motto!" Gumdrop said, slightly taken aback.

      "I haven't heard your motto…"

      "Let's just go inside." Gumdrop led them to the door. It seemed locked. There was no one around. How would they enter? As they were investigating, the door started swinging upwards. The pair dived to either side and watched as the Erisim slithered out with a Niptor in step behind.

      "Make sure no one steals those shamrocks. Guard it well, agent Niptor!" The Niptor saluted and ran in, not noticing the Jinjah or Psimouse, awkwardly positioned against the inner dome. Side-stepping into the inner dome, they were getting past security easy. These criminals must be focused on stealing the magic. They probably don't think anyone could enter their giant dome! As they entered the inner dome, they noticed the corridor was now normal size, one story, instead of the vastness of the first corridor. The hall led down to a door with branching halls on either side ling the hall. There were eight offshoots before the hall reached what seemed to be the center room of the dome. The hallways were cream colored. The off-white paint job added to the feeling of something being slightly off, just like how the walls were just slightly off from being white.

      Gumdrop peeked down halls on the left side of the corridor, while Patrick glanced down the hallways on the right side. They were looking for the Niptor. Where the Niptor was, they would find the shamrocks. Gumdrop found them on the third hallway, half way down. The offshoots seemed to curve inwards, as if to form a circular hallway all the way around the dome. Patrick created a frost mote and threw it at the Niptor as he turned the other way. Freezing him in a block of ice, the pair jumped up and heel-clicked in celebration. They ran to the door and saw the Niptor's eyes as he watched them enter.

      They searched the room. Inside there were a few crates and shelves full of supplies. As they rummaged through the crates, a knock boomed at the door. "Who's there?" Gumdrop teased. The door flew open and in a moment, the Jinjah and Pismouse were surrounded by a Grobrin, a Flerper, a Huggy, a Cobrall, a Crystacat, and a Niptor, dripping wet from just being unfrozen. In strolled a Skree.

      "Well, nice to see you again," The Skree said maliciously. "And by see you, I mean catch you!" The six petpets sprang at the pair. Patrick quickly fired an electrical mote that zapped the Niptor and knocked him out because of the excessive amount of water on him. Gumdrop launched a spray of lava motes at the Cobrall and Grobrin. The Crystacat fired a nova mote, barely missing both targets. Patrick and Gumdrop shared a worried glance and knew what needed to be done. New target. Combing their efforts, they let loose a spray of Rock and hail motes. The Crystacat built an instant wall from several gold motes. The Flerper ran in and jabbed at Patrick as his limbs went numb. He tried firing a fire mote at the pesky Flerper, but nothing came out. He was powerless! Gumdrop stopped and knocked the Flerper away with a rock mote, but not in time to stop the Flerper from hitting Patrick's pressure points.

      Patrick was freaking out. He lost the power to summon motes! How would he ever manage to save the world if he kept getting bested by a petpet that wouldn't fight like how he was used to? An idea sprang into Patrick's mind.

      Once the bombardment of motes ceased, the Crystacat launched the entire wall at the two. Gumdrop hit the wall in rapid succession with rock motes to no avail. Bracing for impact, Gumdrop covered his head as Patrick dove out of the way, yanking Gumdrop out of the way. The golden wall slapped the ground forcefully as the pair stood up. Gumdrop leaped into the air and fired a frost mote at the Cobrall and one at the Crystacat. The cat blocked the mote with a wave of its hand as it pitched a vicious mote. This cat wasn't kidding around. Surprised by the vicious mote, Gumdrop was left defenseless. Patrick soared into the sky, sword out and splitting the vicious mote into two.

      The Crystacat was in shock as Gumdrop took advantage of the moment, firing an electrical mote at the Crystacat. Building another barrier, the Crystacat was too late as it hit it square in the forehead. The Crystacat reared back in pain as it plopped to the ground, electricity coursing through the enemy. It glared up one last time as its head hit the floor. The Skree stood at the door slightly annoyed.

      "Well you have bested my incompetent team, but I will not be so easy." The Skree flashed two fire motes in each hand. Gumdrop held two light motes in each hand.

      "Stop!" Patrick yelled. The Skree held his position. Gumdrop relaxed a little. Patrick knew Gumdrop could defeat the Skree, but he wanted to fight the Skree. The violent words he had said infuriated him. He remembered how the Flerper fought in a way that Patrick was unfamiliar with. He had hoped the Skree was unfamiliar with a sword. "I challenge you to a sword fight!" Patrick was confident.

      "Very well…" The Skree mumbled. He buried his claws in his wings and threw them out with a rain of ninja stars. Patrick caught off-guard deflected each one, stumbling backwards. Lieutenant Skree lurched into action with a concealed scimitar as it rang down on Patrick's sword. The two clashed as the Skree was on the offensive, attacking savagely at Patrick. Playing defensive, Patrick was retreating backwards, a footwork maneuver in swordfights. He waited and blocked the fierce attacks, looking for a pattern. The Skree was strong and the attacks vibrated Patrick's sword to where it started to hurt to hold on. Just as he was feeling hopeless, Patrick noticed a small sign. Just before the Skree would attack for Patrick's side, he would shift his right foot a little to give him enough balance to swing powerfully. The Skree attack left and his right foot shifted slightly. Patrick lunged in with his first attack, parrying the right side-swipe before the Skree was half-way into the motion. Patrick blocked the attack and with one motion, grabbed the Skree's hand with his sword, twisted around and jabbed an elbow into the Skree's face, making him stumble backwards. Patrick now held both swords. Furious the Skree produced two more scimitars as they advanced forward.

      Gumdrop stepped between the two and caught the swords mid-swing. He turned to the Skree and with a motion of his arm, the Skree was flipped onto the ground. Gumdrop let Patrick's sword free from as his grasp as he stepped forward and launched a light mote into the Skree, knocking him out. "Sorry to interrupt, but folks will start asking questions about why this trap didn't succeed. We need to get away and hide until we can find the Shamrocks." Patrick nodded in agreement as he sheathed his sword and deposited the scimitar next to the Skree. They left the room and ran down the corridor, further away from the entrance of the dome. They found a small room and crept in. Full of boxes, they could easily hide here for a while. Patrick regarded Gumdrop as they ducked behind a box.

      "I knew you wanted that fight, so I waited until you knew you could win to intervene. It would have been much quicker if I took him out right away, but you needed the confidence boost." Gumdrop explained.

      "If it would have been so easy to take out the Lieutenant, then why did you have so much trouble with that Crystacat?" Patrick argued, teasingly.

      "I was caught off-guard. If they have summoners that can summon both nova and vicious motes, we might be outmatched here. The Skree only had more authority, but his powers were not even a shadow compared to the Crystacat. We got lucky because the Crystacat was so confident that it could out match us."

      "I see. If we are outmatched, all the more reason to hide." Gumdrop smiled at Patrick for realizing the need to run and hide. A distant howl ceased the camaraderie. "Was that a Werhond?" Patrick grew pale.

      "Who let the Werhonds out? Gumdrop complained. A moment later, six werhonds broke into the room along with a Wain and a Chumablah. Patrick looked to Gumdrop on what to do. The Jinjah stood up in defeat and fell to his knees in front of the Chumablah.

      "Come out, Psimouse," the Chumablah sneered. "It's time you come meet our Cap-ee-ton!"

      Patrick reluctantly followed Gumdrop's lead. "It's pronounced Captain, kiddo."

      "How dare you address a Lieutenant that way!" The Wain barked.

      "Now, now, agent Wain. These fools are confused. Cap-ee-ton will take care of that." The Chumablah's nasally creepy voiced slithered into Patrick's ears, unsettling him. They were chained up and led by the Chumablah and the Wain, down the hall back to the main entrance and led into the central room, past a large steel door. The room was spacious, but Patrick was drawn to the walls and the ceiling. Where he expected a dark ceiling like the interior of the outside dome, the walls were painted like the wilderness, with sky blue covering a majority of the walls. In the center sat a chair and a circular control console. A small box of glass shamrocks perched atop a table on the far side of the room.

      "My charms!" Patrick exclaimed.

      "They're not your charms!" The Chumablah stressed. "We stole them so they're ours! Agent Wain, take them into storage!"

      "Yes Lieutenant!" The Wain ran over to the box and hoisted them up as he waddled out of the room. Gumdrop was still admiring the decorated walls.

      "Like it?" Came a feminine voice. The chair spun to greet Patrick and Gumdrop. In it sat a hooded Meepit. "Watch this." The Meepit pressed a few buttons and the walls became fuzzy. She hit another button and the fuzziness stopped. "There." They followed her pointing finger to see the two of them when they were sneaking up. The walls weren't painted; they were showing the outside all around them! The Meepit knew they were here all along! "You guys aren't very good at sneaking. First my Lieutenant Erisim finds you while you are sleeping and decides to lead you to us instead of a special mission he was tasked with. Next you come inside, past all my security as I watched you every step. Even the Niptor saw you hiding! You fell into our trap, which didn't work and scared me a little bit. Feel honored that I let the Werhonds out, just for you."

      "Who are you?" Patrick asked.

      "Captain Meepit." She declared proudly.

      "Why doesn't anyone have names?"

      "A tragic story for another time. Long story short, it keeps our identities a secret, more or less."

      "Why is this organization trying to release Agent Splyke?" Patrick wanted as much information as possible.

      "Do you even know who agent Splyke is?" Patrick was silent. "And we have a name. Our organization as you call it is named the Itanimulli. It's an anagram for something else, but that would be spoiling all of our secrets."

      "Who is agent Splyke?" Patrick conceded.

      "A dangerous creature locked away and frozen for many generations. Most forgot him, but not I. His reputation for his destruction is lost because all who witnessed his powers perished- except for me. As a little Meepitling- Meepit baby? Meepit kiddo? Meepitito? Anyways, as a child, I saw his power, his destruction as it destroyed my entire village. Splyke was relentless. As I bragged and warned others about my witnessing of Splyke, no one believed me. One night, I awoke to see Splyke standing there. It couldn't communicate, but it didn't look happy. It had a document with it. It revealed that Splyke was a weapon of mass destruction with powers beyond comprehension, but it broke loose and destroyed everything."

      "It then cursed me for speaking of it as it wanted to remain a mystery," the Meepit continued. "I was given a long life to suffer and remember all the pain it had caused me. In retaliation, I sealed it away." Gumdrop stared in disbelief.

      "You are the Hooded Hero that sealed away that thing? Why are you trying to release it again?" The Meepit grinned. Patrick did not like that grin.

      "It caused me so much pain. So in my lifetime, I have researched how to destroy Splyke. Now I am going to release it, capture it, and slowly dismantle it and give it an idea of the pain it caused me. Only once it releases me from my curse will I allow it to be put out of its misery."

      "That's dark and cruel. Don't let those hardships weigh you down, but use them to build you up stronger and tougher than before!" Patrick said, remembering some words that Shane had told him.

      "How will you control Splyke? If it gets loose, all of Neopia will be lost." Gumdrop argued.

      "You doubt me? Enough. You wasted my time with your presence already. Dispose of them, Lieutenant Chumablah."

      "Follow me, folks." The Chumablah chuckled. They were lead into the hall and down a corridor into a room that contained several cells. "Pismouse into that one and the Jinjah into that one." He said waving to two respective cells in the back. "We want you separated. And don't try and getting cute. We have this room rigged so no summoning magic can happen in here."

      "Why are you helping her?" Patrick yelled as he was getting pushed towards a cell by a Werhond.

      "Captain didn't tell you the part where she might let Splyke destroy some of Neopia first. I have some friends that need some influence from Splyke." The Chumablah snickered. At the entrance of the room, the Wain closed the door. What are you doing?" The Chumablah demanded.

      Suddenly, the skin of the Wain was ripped off, revealing that it was a costume. Gumdrop gawked at the figure before them now. "Get behind me you two. I am here to rescue you!" Gumdrop looked over to see recognition creeping into the eyes of Patrick.

      "Do you know him?" Gumdrop asked, astonished.

      Patrick nodded. "Yeah, that Dragoyle is Mordecai, the same Dragoyle that believed I could save Unishire on my own. Apparently he lied."

      To Be Continued...

 
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