Protectors of the Night
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"Oh, please don't go, baby. You are my golden jellybean. You keep on running away like you never want to be seen. But I want to love you and treasure you next time that we meet. Because you are my jellybean, and I think you're really sweet."
"Please don't start the next verse," Evina pleaded.
"Why? It's a good song."
"Maybe it was for the first dozen times you sang it. But I would like to have some quiet now."
Glue Stick shot back a glare knowing he was defeated. All he could do was argue with Evina that day. The boredom levels were just as high as the day before, and they still had a ton of time to kill. "I could do something else, but you want to hog the monitors to yourself!"
"Your old movies are worthless. At least I'm learning something," Evina returned. "So, why don't you—"
"Hey!" Gyro shouted. "We can't keep going like this! You both need to learn how to live with each other."
"Well, maybe it would help if we did some exploring instead of sitting in this ship all day," Evina grumbled, but with a less harsh tone as to not upset Gyro.
"I already told you. We need to cover a lot of distance. You can't imagine how far Earth is."
"But didn't you say we were in no rush?"
"Yes, but I don't want to act like this isn't a big deal when it is. Flippy said..." Gyro paused. Evina had accidentally seen the end of their conversation and remembered how harsh the dog had been. "Never mind. We need an activity that will bond us together."
"What do you have in mind?" Glue Stick asked.
"I have plenty of games we can play," he suggested optimistically. Then he saw their dull faces and knew it was hopeless. "Okay then, wallow in your depression if you wish."
Evina was in his bed again, staring up at the darkness. He had been thinking about his past and tried to be grateful that he was bored instead of in mortal peril every second, but it didn't make him feel any better. Still, there was one thing that was hauntingly similar to this trip: the strange things that he saw. In the forest, he knew he had seen a toon. It didn't seem likely that the light was playing with his eyes, he definitely wasn't dreaming, and he wasn't going to accept he had gone crazy just yet.
Feeling guilty that so much time had passed by doing nothing, he went back to the main room to exercise again. There appeared to be some improvement in his strength, or maybe that was just his imagination.
"You know, seeing you do all of that makes me scared that we might have to fight," Glue Stick remarked. "We might encounter something scary."
Glue Stick stared back at him for a minute like he was thinking about something. "I know the kind of things you think about me."
Evina didn't look at him but continued doing more crunches.
"I know how easy it is to judge me. I know you think I'm lazy and useless. But you got to remember where I came from."
"I haven't forgotten."
"So, you're saying you don't think badly of me?"
Evina sighed. "Ok, you are a little annoying, but I really can't blame you for that."
Glue Stick's expression didn't change. He sat in his seat solemnly. "Good. Then don't say 'I told you so'." He got on the floor with Evina and tried to work out as hard as he could.
Evina was glad that they were finally starting to be more like friends now, even though the process still had a long way to go.
Gyro came back into the main room shortly thereafter and was pleased to see that the other two were at peace, for now. "Well, I looked at our progress and, well, we are actually doing better than I thought. I guess we can eat an early dinner then drop out to find another world to explore."
"Oh, thank goodness," Glue Stick groaned.
"So, you really want to explore now?"
"Yeah, why not? Who said you guys had more motivation than me?"
The lights were dimmed over the dinner table. Everything was silent except for the engine and the sound of forks clinking on the plates. Evina was eating his lasagna while another question began to bother him.
"So, uh, dad," Evina began.
"There was that world back there that you didn't want to go to. What was there?"
Gyro slowly cracked a smile. "Life."
"You didn't think we were the only intelligent beings in the tooniverse, did you?"
Evina paused as he had never given much thought to the idea before. "So, there are other... toons?"
"In a way, yeah. Humans have made countless creations other than just us."
"Wow. So... what would they look like?"
"Anything," the father answered. "The inventions of the human mind come in all shapes and sizes."
"So, do you think we might ever meet some others?"
"Possibly, but I usually try to avoid it, especially last night because you were so new to exploring. Plus, we shouldn't risk interfering with their stories."
"Yes, for the sake of continuity and avoiding paradoxes," Gyro continued. "You know what I mean." Then he hit his forehead with his glove. "Oh, I probably haven't explained it to you yet."
Evina had a lot more to think about. The prospect of finding other toonish life brought up many emotions. He both wanted it and feared it, just like his previous experiences with adventure.
Like the previous day, they cleaned up, got into their seats, and the ship appeared in another location in space. This time, they were only given a couple options for worlds to explore. Glue Stick was granted the chance to choose which one. He was indecisive but, once he made up his mind, they headed down there.
"We're going to the dark side?" Evina asked.
"Why not?" Gyro said. "After all, it's supposed to be night for us."
They soared over the dim landscape and searched for an interesting spot to land. There were lights in the distance, and the pilot headed toward them. It appeared to be a large, illuminated area up next to a large building. Gyro parked nearby, and the hatches unsealed.
As soon as they hopped out, they noticed that the place appeared to be some kind of gigantic garden. The grass beneath their feet was trimmed neatly, and the flowers all around were blooming and fragrant.
"This place is actually kind of nice," Glue Stick said. "Do you think this is natural?"
"No. This is definitely the work of some kind of toon life," Gyro answered. "I never expected to run into some this soon." His eyes scanned the whole area. It appeared to be empty.
"Ok, that brings me to my next question. Will they be okay with us wandering through their garden?"
"Relax. We're going to be fine," Evina told him. Then he glanced at Gyro and noticed how calm he still looked. "Right?"
Gyro pointed to a lit structure in the distance. "Do you see that building over there? The architecture is reminiscent of an area of Earth I studied called Japan. The same applies to this garden. Whoever owns this place must be very wealthy."
"Well, we should probably set up our camp here," Evina suggested, sitting down on a bench near a fountain with crystal clear water. The area was illuminated with torches placed around the perimeter.
"Guys, I really don't think this is a good idea," Glue Stick said. "Have you seen some of the dark shapes moving around?"
Evina turned and looked at him with his arms folded. "No. What makes you say that?"
Just as he finished that sentence, cloaked figures jumped out of the darkness and surrounded them. Evina had fast reflexes and tried to run, but the shadows moved way too quick. He had no chance at all. Something spun around his waist and legs that bound his limbs together. He fell to the ground, and a bag was thrown over his head.
The ropes that bound him were too strong to struggle against, and he knew it would be foolish to attempt an escape anyway. Arms picked him up and carried him. The sounds of many footsteps were heard around. He knew the others must have been captured, and now they were being taken somewhere.
Evina was terrified, and his mind frantically thought of all the worst possible things that could happen to them. This continued for several minutes before the footsteps stopped, and he was tossed carelessly onto a cold, hard floor. The sound of grunting from the others told him they had been dropped too. The blindfold was removed swiftly. Then everyone was gone. Everything was pitch black. He assumed he was alone with Gyro and Glue Stick.
"Well, that wasn't a good plan at all," Gyro admitted.
"We were stupid," Evina continued. "Where are we?"
"I don't know," the father replied. "Are we alone in here?"
"Of course not. You don't know anything about me," a voice answered. It was Glue Stick trying to imitate someone else.
"Sorry, I was just trying to have some fun with you," he replied with embarrassment.
"Sure, laugh all you want. I know you were right, but this isn't the time to say, 'I told you so.' We need to know if we're going to survive. Aren't you scared?"
"Very. But I'm trying to break up the tension with a little humor. You can't blame me."
"Shh," Gyro interrupted them. "I think I hear something." It was true. The sound of feet on the stone floor was nearing them.
A torch was lit, and it illuminated a face behind their dungeon cell. It looked similar to a human, but in some ways, it was different. Much of it was covered in a black mask. He was obviously a ninja. After staring at them for a moment, he turned and spoke to someone in the darkness who couldn't be seen, and in a language that none of them had heard before. Whoever he was talking to then left. He glared back at the prisoners with anger in his eyes. But after another minute, the other ninja returned and handed him a spherical object made of glass.
Glue Stick spoke warily. "Please don't hurt us."
"Who are you?" the man demanded. Nobody answered at first. They were surprised to hear the voice in their language, and they weren't sure how to explain themselves. "Speak now!"
"We are... toons from another world," Gyro replied, not sure how he was going to give the man a believable story.
"No, you are obviously spies," the ninja said. He leaned forward and glowered at them with disgust.
"We were just exploring and happened to come to your world," Gyro continued. "And who are you?"
"Who are we? We are the Protectors of the Night, the elite guard of the emperor of this land. Now it's my turn. What is this object full of dark magic?" He held up the pencil.
Evina suddenly remembered not closing the locker all the way. They must have rummaged through the ship and found it.
After not receiving an answer, the man threw down the pencil and turned his attention to the other ninja. "I will go speak with his majesty. Stand here and watch them."
"Yes," the other spoke. It was a girl. She took the torch while the man left the room. As they sat there in silence, she watched them with interest. With her free hand, she held a glimmering sword by her side.
"What was that ball?" Glue Stick asked.
"It is the translation orb," she replied. "I don't need it because I learned your language myself." There was a pause. "And I believe you too. I know you can't be spies. No spy would draw that much attention to himself."
"So, do you think they will let us go?" Evina asked.
"Unfortunately, no; they never pardon trespassers. You will certainly be executed within the hour." The last sentence struck Evina was despair, but the girl interrupted his train of thought. "And that's why I need to help you."
"Help us?" Gyro said.
"Oh, and did you say you're explorers? I'm coming with you."
With one swift swing of the sword, the girl broke the lock off their cell door. "Run!"
The toons leaped off the floor and followed her as fast as their feet could take them. Gyro grabbed the pencil and was slightly delayed behind them.
"Why are you helping us escape?" Evina shouted.
"Shut up and keep running, or you're dead," she replied. They hastily fled the emperor's house and sprinted through the garden.
Every few seconds Evina turned his head to look behind, dreading the thought of seeing the shadows silently pursuing them.
It seemed to take forever to reach the ship, but when they finally did, everyone dived inside. Gyro started the ship in record time, and the rumbling of the engines started. Outside the window, the ninjas could now be seen advancing toward them. Everyone dropped into their seats as the ship rocketed into the sky leaving the shouting ninjas below.
"Seal the hatches!" Evina hollered as they got higher in altitude. The doors sealed, and he grabbed his seatbelt. Everyone's nerves were on edge. The ride was very bumpy.
The moment they left the atmosphere, the ship stopped rattling, and they took time to catch their breath and relax. That was probably their closest encounter to death so far.
The girl ripped off her mask and looked down at her world below in awe. Then she showed a smug grin. She had long black hair and was different from any creature Evina had seen before. He never expected to meet another type of intelligent life in person.
The helper took over the piloting of the ship while Gyro went back to the main room where the others were gathered.
Gyro did not look happy. "Ok, explain yourself right now."
"Excuse me?" she said. "I just saved your life."
"Yeah, but you were one of them. How can we trust you?"
"Are you going to eat us?" Glue Stick threw in.
She groaned. "They were only like that because you were trespassing on the emperor's property. How can I trust you?"
Gyro was defeated. He took a seat and sighed. "Well, why did you suddenly decide to let us go and come with us?"
She folded her arms. "Because."
"Uh, can you give us a little bit more than that?"
"Yeah, I wanted to get away and have a little adventure. Everything down there, I've tried it, and it's not for me."
Evina was beginning to understand her response. It was oddly similar to how he had once spoken. He once felt that way about Toontown. Now he watched her while Gyro went to lock up the pencil more securely. "Why should we take you with us? What was life really like for you down there?"
"I wasn't allowed to do much of anything. It took me years to convince my father to let me join the Protectors of the Night, and he still didn't like it."
"Why was he like that?"
"Because he just is. He's the emperor."
Glue Stick's mouth dropped open at the same time as Evina's.
"Yeah, okay, I get it. You expect me to be daddy's helpless little princess, just like everyone else, but I wasn't born to be that way. Now he'll have to consider how much he loved me now that I've left him."
"I still think it was a stupid idea," Gyro said from the back of the ship.
"All the same, I think I can be of some use to you. I have superior training in the art of stealth and fighting, and I have my family's katana. You guys look like you need someone to protect you if you go to another world like mine."
"Alright, enough with the teasing," Gyro said. By now everyone admitted that what she was saying was true. "We don't even know your name."
She spoke her name in that other language that was much too complex for any of them to pronounce. It became obvious that they needed to use something else.
"Well, let's see." Evina thought it over for a minute. "You look like a Kate. We'll call you Kate."
"Fine, anyway, thanks for being cool with this. Where do I stay?"
Gyro pointed to one of the vacant bedrooms, and she headed in that direction, the sword swinging dangerously from her belt. He returned to the pilot's seat. "She is... something else."
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