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 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 all 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." The duck retorted. "So why don't you-"
"Hey!" Gyro shouted. "We can't keep going like this! You both need to learn how to stay happy and get along."
"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 to not upset his father.
"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..." the chicken paused. Evina had accidentally seen the end of their conversation and remembered how harsh the dog had been. "Never mind. We need to try something that will really bond us together."
"What do you have in mind?" the horse 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. Still, there was one thing that was hauntingly similar about this trip, the 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 again, he went back to the main room to exercise again. There appeared to be a little 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. We might encounter something... scary." Glue Stick remarked.
The horse stared back at him for a minute like he was thinking about something. "I know you like to think a lot of things 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 look so 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 can forgive you for that."
Glue Stick's expression didn't change. He still sat there 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 others were talking peacefully together. "Well I looked at our progress and, well, we're actually doing better than I thought. I guess we can eat an early dinner and 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 says you guys can do more 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 when you were so new to exploring. Plus, we shouldn't risk interfering with their stories."
"Yes, you know what I mean." The chicken continued. Then he hit his forehead with his glove. "Oh, never mind, you probably wouldn't understand it 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 somewhat feared it, just like so much of the adventure so far.
Just 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 his father.
"Yes. After all, it's supposed to be night for us."
They soared over the dim landscape looking for an interesting spot to land. There were lights in the distance and the pilot went towards them. It appeared to be a spacious decorated area lit up next to a large building. Gyro parked nearby and the hatches unsealed.
As soon as they hopped out they first noticed that the place looked like some sort of huge garden. The grass beneath their feet was cut nicely and the flowers all around were blooming and fragrant.
"This place is actually kind of nice." Glue Stick remarked. "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." He let his eyes examine the whole area which 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 his father and noticed how calm he still looked. "Right?"
The inventor 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..." the horse persisted. "Have you seen some of the dark shapes moving?"
Evina turned and looked at him with his arms folded. "No. What makes you say that?"
Just as he was finishing that sentence, cloaked figures jumped out of the darkness and surrounded them. The duck had fast reflexes and tried to run but the shadows moved way to quick. He had no chance at all. Something spun around his waist and his legs which bound his limbs together. He fell to the ground and something was thrown over his head.
The ropes that bound him were too strong to struggle and he knew it would be useless to attempt an escape anyway. Arms picked him up and were carrying him. The sounds of many footsteps were heard around. 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 and then everyone was gone. Everything was pitch black. He assumed he was alone with his father and Glue Stick.
"Well, that wasn't a good plan at all." The chicken 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 another voice.
"Sorry, I was just trying to have some fun with you." He replied sheepishly.
"Sure, laugh all you want. I know you were right, but this is not 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 not really. 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 clear sphere.
Glue Stick spoke warily. "Please don't hurt us."
"Who are you?" the man demanded. Nobody answered at first because 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 spat, learning forward and glowering 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 dropped the pencil with disgust 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." There was a pause. "And I believe you. I know you're not spies."
"So, do you think they will let us go?" Evina asked.
"Unfortunately, no; they never forgive trespassers. You will almost certainly be killed within the hour." The last sentence struck Evina was despair, but then the girl interrupted his train of thought again. "And that's why I need to help you."
"Help us?" Gyro inquired.
"Oh, and 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 had 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 of shadows silently pursuing them.
Time was slowed and it seemed to take forever to reach the ship, but when they finally did then 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 towards them. Everyone dropped into their seats as the ship rocketed into the sky leaving the sword wielding warriors below.
"Seal the hatches!" Evina hollered as they got high in altitude. The doors sealed and he grabbed his seatbelt. Everyone's nerves were on edge and the ride was very bumpy.
Once their flight out of the atmosphere was made smooth 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 with awe which turned into 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.
Gyro's helper took over the piloting of the ship while the inventor went back to the main room where the others were gathered. He did not look happy. "Ok, explain yourself right now."
"Excuse me? I just saved your life." She responded.
"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 recognize how her response sounded oddly similar to how he had once spoken. He watched her as his father 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 a long time 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 probably expected me to be daddy's helpless little princess. But I wasn't born to be that way. Now maybe he'll consider whether he actually loved me now that I've left him."
"I still think it was a dumb 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. You guys look like you need someone to protect you if you go to another world like mine."
"Alright, enough with the teasing." The chicken continued. 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 which 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 concentrated. "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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