Tomb of Doom

By: msrandom

 

I'd like to dedicate this story to Mara S. for always reading my fanfic, being interested in it, and for encouraging me and offering much needed constructive criticism. Tomb of Doom would've never existed without you!
 

INTRODUCTION

 

I couldn’t read the thoughts behind her eyes for the first time in my life. The emerald gleam that was normally there when she was happy…gone. That fierceness that blazed like untamable flames she used to glare at me with when she was angry…disappeared. Even the glazed tears she adorned when she was sad…faded away. All I could see in those eyes of hers were dim shades of gray; no emotion, no readable quality lay in her, not even her usual green-eyed glow…just the faintness of disappointment and guilt. And for once in my 5th grade life, when I actually wanted to, I had no idea how to help her.

 

But before I get ahead of myself, I’ll take you back to the beginning, to the moment that began the most challenging adventure of my life…

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

Inspiration From the Science Fair

 

Well, my name is James Isaac Neutron and once upon a time I was born; I remember the first breath of air I took in and the precise amount of oxygen molecules I breathed when my eyes first opened…well maybe that’s going a little TOO far back. I’ll just start you off at school the day this whole challenging predicament began:

 

Ms. Fowl: Bwaaark!!! Claaass, as you all very well know, the school science fair is next Friiiiday!

Cindy interrupted: And I’M going to win this year! You don’t even stand a chance against my idea this year Neutron!

I, curious to see what pathetic bucket of bolts Vortex would come up with this year, yelled back: Oh puh-leeze! And what could you possibly make that could beat me?

Sheen added: Well whatever it is, it won’t be better than my invention!

Carl blurted: Yeah right Sheen! You showed me your “invention” and it’s just a…

Sheen slapped a hand over Carl’s mouth: SHHHH! Well let’s see YOU do any better!

Carl challenged him: I will! Mine will be the biggest, bestest…

I questioned Carl’s grammar: Bestest?

Carl corrected himself incorrectly: Sorry…bester…

Libby cut in: Well, all of you are seriously outside yo’ minds if you think anything y’all come up with will ever get first place before me!

I stated with pride: MY invention is going to win the science fair like it ALWAYS does!!!

Cindy shot back: Well I told YOU that I’ll outsmart you this year, Nerdtron…ooh I’m taking you down!!!

Ms. Fowl covered her ears with her hands and squawked: CLAAAAAAAAAAASS!!!

 

At last all the students settled down and the matter wasn’t brought up the rest of class, but it weighed heavily on my mind all day. So as soon as the final bell sounded, I rushed home from school, ideas flowing through my mind, prepared to come up with the most extreme and incredible invention I’d ever imagined…and it would beat Cindy. I didn’t even bother to go into the house, that’s how dedicated I was; I ran straight down to the lab to begin my work. And it was there that I invented the most dangerous invention my mind had ever composed. Of course I didn’t know this at the time; I thought it was just an innocent little science fair project. But it turned out to be a whole mess of trouble…and much more than I had ever bargained for.

 

CHAPTER TWO

New and Improved

 

I toiled away for hours attempting to come up with the most perfect invention my brain could conjure up, but for some reason I couldn’t seem to think clearly. I felt challenged for once. Not because of Libby or Sheen or Carl, of course, but someone else’s words got to me. Cindy’s quarreling speech played in my head over and over again. The challenge, “I’m taking you down Neutron” and the fiery glare in her green eyes when she spoke it affected my thought process. I always knew what she was thinking when I looked into her eyes whether it be anger or excitement or sadness…she was SO predictable! And for some reason, this year, she actually seemed like competition to me. Her grades had been close to mine before, but never seemed so close as they did this year when I actually had to work harder to keep my scores above Cindy’s on the report cards. And each model of every idea I created to beat her again wasn’t adequate enough for me; I kept imagining her invention to be some amazing, exquisite piece that would knock my socks off. But my brain, my better half, returned to me and, since I couldn’t seem to compose a new masterpiece, I decided to revise one of my old ones.

I was fusing away at this renewed invention when I heard voices outside my lab door. Goddard looked down at his metallic chest which revealed a screen displaying the activity outside my lab. Watching, I observed Sheen and Carl waiting “innocently” outside the door.

Sheen suggested, flinging himself into a ninja pose: Let’s just break in, Carl! Like Ultralord busted into the Galactic Evil Goon Squad Orbit Headquarters or G.E.G.S.O.H. in Episode #217!

Carl whined: We can’t break in Sheen! (He covered his head with his arms) One of Jimmy’s laser-thingies will shoot at us!

I rolled my eyes at their usual childish dialogue and pressed down on a red button near my chair which opened up a gaping trap door beneath them, sucking them unexpectedly down a chute and into my lab. I heard Sheen screaming with delight the whole way and Carl squealing with boyish fear.

I clasped my hands together behind my back and eyed them suspiciously: So gentlemen, are you here to steal my soon-to-be first place invention idea for the Science Fair?

Sheen’s eyes shifted: Psh, we just wanted to uh…um…check up on our bestest buddy!

I ignored the use of the word “bestest” again in my friends’ vocabulary and watched as Sheen and Carl tried to peer over my shoulders to catch a glimpse of my invention.

Stopping them, I lectured: Ah ah ah…no peeking. (I shooed them away) Go work on your own projects!

Carl whined: Aww, Jim…can’t you just tell us what it does?

Taking a step to the side in an attempt to view my invention, Sheen agreed: Yeah! Like we’d be able to make anything like you can anyways!

Silently agreeing with him, I compromised and decided to tell them what my invention could do: You guys have already seen this invention before, at my birthday party, and my other one, and the one after that, and…

Sheen yelled: Yeah, yeah we get the point…for the love of Ultralord just tell us!!!

I sighed and continued, speeding up the informing process: I made some changes to my Hypnotism Ray so that when it is turned on, it convinces anyone around by hypnotism to believe exactly what is going on…or what someone pretends is going on.

Carl scratched his head: I don’t get it…

I explained further: Well, say Carl, you were pretending to be a llama and Sheen, you were acting like Ultralord and I started the new Hypnotism Ray up, then Sheen would believe he was Ultralord and that Carl was a llama, and Carl would believe that he was a llama and Sheen was Ultralord!

Sheen at first looked confused: That…is…AMAZING!!! Let me try, let me try!

I held him back: No Sheen, you can’t see it until the Science Fair!

Carl knew I wouldn’t give in: Aww, all right. Let’s go Sheen; my mom will be mad if I miss dinner.

Sheen glanced at his watch: I’ll be mad if I miss Ultralord! Let’s get out of here!

Sheen and Carl bolted out of my lab as I carefully lifted the new and improved Hypnotism Ray from my work table and looked it over. Little did I know how much danger it would place us all in a shorter time than even my imagination could ever dream up.

 

CHAPTER THREE

The Life-Changing Phone Call

 

I couldn’t help but wonder as Sheen and Carl left my lab what concoction they would come up with this year. I recalled Sheen’s typing lizard project and Carl’s pathetic attempt at mashing potatoes with fizz from Purple Flurp. I actually felt embarrassed for them…until they won first place and I didn’t. I had to admit that Cindy’s invention that year was decent and actually somewhat useful …but totally girlish. It’s typical that she would create something that made clothes. Psh, girls. Although I still couldn’t imagine what she planned on bringing this year…and the more I pondered that thought, the more I longed to defeat her.

I fused another part onto my Hypnotism Ray and glanced over at my robotic dog: We’ll get her this year…won’t we, boy??

Goddard, on his screen, displayed a video of me beating Cindy at the science fair a few years back and agreed: Bark, bark!

I patted his metallic head: Thanks, boy.

As I further examined my new and revised Hypnotism Ray, contemplating ways to even further improve it, my raging thoughts were interrupted by a repeating ringing noise. At first I checked my ears, making sure my ears weren’t ringing from thinking too hard, then realized my stainless steel phone was ringing rapidly on my desk. I carefully placed the Hypnotism Ray back down on the table and raced over to answer the phone before the ringing ceased.

I removed the phone from its receiver and questioned into it: Hello?

A voice boomed on the other line: Mr. Neutron?

Assuming he wanted my dad and somehow happened upon the number to my lab, I answered: I’ll go get my dad…

The voice asked: Your dad? I’m looking for a young boy genius named Jimmy Neutron…

Proudly, I replied: This is the boy genius…most intelligent, top of his class…

The voice cut in impatiently: Yeah, yeah kid we’ve heard it all. We just need you here ASAP.

I scratched my oversized head: We? Who? Here? Where?

The voice sighed and answered: My name is Colonel Sparky Miner from the S.E.F.S. and I desperately need you to report to my headquarters immediately.

I recognized the name with excitement: The S.E.F.S.? The Secret Evil Fighting Society…needs me??? I’ll be over right away!

I almost hung up the phone to leave but the Colonel stopped me: Kid, you need directions right?

I blushed at my foolish haste and answered: Yes, sir.

Colonel Sparky: All right, do you know the alley between The Candy Bar and the hardware store?

I nodded: Yes.

Colonel Sparky: Walk down that alley and on the right you will see a bright yellow garbage can. When you take the lid off, it will look like any other heap of smelly garbage. You may have to dig a little, but on one of the sides of the inside of the trash can there’s a huge red button; you can’t miss it. Press that button; the garbage will be sucked down a chute and so will you…down to our headquarters.

I tried to memorize all the directions: And you need me to go…why???

Colonel Sparky: We have a top secret mission for you, Jimmy Neutron, and only YOU can help us.

 

CHAPTER FOUR

Trashed Reputation

 

With that, Colonel Sparky Miner speedily hung up the phone and left me hanging on the other line, listening to nothing but the humming of a dead silence. Placing the phone back on the hook, I whirled around slowly, still awestruck at the fact that the S.E.F.S. would ask for my assistance. While pondering this thought, I caught sight of the mirror hanging quite lopsidedly in front of me and examined myself in its shine.

I admired myself haughtily: Why wouldn’t they call you for help? After all, you ARE the smartest person in Retroville…no, scratch that, in the world!!!

I practically lost myself in my reflection until I finally snapped out of it and remembered what the Colonel had asked me to do.

I tossed my blue lab coat aside: Ah, this will be a cinch!

Goddard pleaded with a bark but I told him quickly: You can’t come this time, boy.

Bolting out the exit of my lab, I rushed inside to inform my parents that I was going “out for ice cream” at The Candy Bar, but truly to seek out this yellow portal to the S.E.F.S. headquarters.

 

My mom headed into the kitchen: Why do you need to go out for ice cream, Jimmy? I could just bake you some brownies here…

I objected: Mom! I really need to go! It’s important…

She crossed her arms across her chest: Eating ice cream is not a life or death situation! I’m not driving you all the way over there unless you give me a reasonable excuse, young man!

My dad strode in: Hiya Jimbo! You need a ride?

I begged: Yes; PLEASE take me to The Candy Bar!!!

A grin swept my dad’s face: Oh boy, now we can have some of that father-son bonding time!

I shook my head: No, Dad! I just need you to drop me off there.

My dad sighed disappointedly: Oh, well all righty…I guess I can take you anyways. My ducks need polishing today anyhow…

I wrapped my arms around my dad’s leg: Oh thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!

I grabbed my dad’s hand and dragged him mercilessly out the front door and to the car. We hopped in and the car puttered out of the driveway and down the road; all the way I was continually urging my dad to go faster.

My dad asked coolly: Well, what’s the rush, Jimbo?

My eyes shifted: I, um…REALLY am dying to have one of those new Bubble-Gum  Slushies!

My dad rambled as he pulled up in front of The Candy Bar: I know what you mean, son. When I was just about your age, I used to go down to The Candy Bar when there was a new treat and…

I rushed his sentences: Yeah, great story Dad, gotta go!

In a flash, I hopped out of the car and darted into The Candy Bar. With a quick wave, my dad said goodbye and edged his way down the street and back to our house.

I watched intently, waiting for the opportune moment when I knew my dad was around the corner, then I trampled into the alley. Darting back and forth, my eyes scoured the alley in search of the yellow trash can in which I could find the button to transport me to the headquarters. After a few long strides, I spotted a bright yellow trashcan on the left side of the alley.

I yelled happily: AHA!!

Stumbling over to the trashcan, I flipped off the lid and began to dig through it, sinking my hands into the foul-smelling grime of the garbage disgustedly, but finding nothing. Suddenly, my mind took me to a flashback:

 

Colonel Sparky Miner: Walk down that alley and on the RIGHT you will see a bright yellow garbage can.

 

I hit myself in the head and backed away from the garbage can.

I scolded myself: And you call yourself a genius…

Wiping my dirty hands off onto my blue jeans, I did a 180 and turned to face a yellow garbage can on the RIGHT side of the alley and approached it silently. I quickly removed the lid and, without even having to touch the garbage, I discovered the large red button on the side of the can. Cautiously, I pressed the button and without warning, the trash can sucked down all the garbage and then me down into the chute as well. I was pulled down a long, dark, winding tunnel then spit out in a dimly lit room that I could only suppose would be the headquarters of the S.E.F.S. I could only imagine what my secret mission was to be.

 

CHAPTER FIVE

Howsaboutisaveya

 

I slowly rose to my feet and dusted my jeans off while peeling a banana peel off my arm, then removed various newspaper articles from inside my shirt and scraped some gum off the bottom of my shoe. After I did all I could to make myself as clean and presentable as possible, I glanced around, observing my surroundings, but all I could see were shadows and silhouettes in the dim lighting.

I stuttered: H…hello?

A deep voice echoed throughout the room: Hello, Mr. Neutron. We’ve been expecting you.

Suddenly, bright lights flickered on and flooded the room, illuminating the owner of the voice, revealing a large, muscular man with a chiseled, rugged face and a stern look in his eyes.

I assumed: Colonel Sparky Miner???

The man nodded and held out a large hand that looked monstrous when it engulfed my tiny elementary sized one in a firm handshake.

I cautiously glanced up at Colonel Sparky’s face and, with a smile, inquired: So, what is my mission, “should I choose to accept it”?

Colonel Sparky’s lips didn’t even form into a smirk; he only answered dryly: Follow me, Mr. Neutron.

Rubbing the back of my neck nervously, I followed a few steps behind the Colonel, absorbing all the sights as we moved along. He led me through a long hallway that was plated with stainless steel from the floor to the ceilings with colorful wires running through them, seemingly filled with mercury-like liquid. At the end of this lengthy passageway, we entered into an enormous room, steel plated like the hallway but filled with metal chairs, desks, and high-tech computers that all faced a central area on the back wall which was completely engulfed in a television screen larger than any house I had ever laid eyes on.

My eyes widened, impressed: Whoa…Colonel, I must say that this headquarters of yours is superb! I admit, sadly, that this is even better than MY lab!

Not responding, Colonel Sparky Miner motioned for me to sit in a front-row chair, grabbed an iridescent remote from a holster on his belt and hastily flipped the screen on.

Colonel Sparky: This will explain everything, Mr. Neutron.

I watched intently as a video flashed across the screen and on it appeared a tall, gray-haired man with intense eyes, deeply inset behind thick, black-rimmed, intelligent-looking glasses; he was dressed in all black. He sat in a brown leather chair and stared out at me with an important and urgent message on his lips.

The man introduced himself: Jimmy Neutron, my name is Professor Beesworth and I desperately need your help.

I replied, not knowing if the man on the screen could hear me or if it was prerecorded: Me???

Professor Beesworth exclaimed: Yes, you! You’re the only one that can help us!

I asked, incredulous: Why do you need MY help? Don’t you have secret agents for this line of work?

Professor Beesworth leaned back in his chair: Let me explain, Mr. Neutron. Do you recall that little “adventure” you had a while ago with your friends that led you into the desert where you stumbled upon the uncharted Egyptian tomb of Queen Howsaboutislapya?

I recalled it quickly: Of course! How could I forget?

Professor Beesworth continued: Well, we heard about your expedition, but we still have no record of where that tomb is located, and there are items in it which must be preserved and kept from others’ hands.

My mind fumbled over all the questions: You want to know where the tomb is? Items? What kind of items? Wait…who should we keep them from?

Professor Beesworth clapped his hands to his balding head: Ahh! Too many questions!  Let me answer them one at a time (He began to calm down). A certain man, Professor Calamitous…

I shouted: PROFESSOR CALAMITOUS?!?!

Professor Beesworth narrowed his eyes: You know this fiend?

I answered abruptly: He’s only my arch nemesis! The man who can never finish anything!

Professor Beesworth nodded his head: Yes, I see you know him well; now we are giving you the chance to foil his plan. Apparently, Calamitous started to construct a machine in which he could take over the world, but forgot what he was supposed to finish and found himself with five precious stones of which he’d forgotten the purpose. Supposing he would need them later, Calamitous discovered this tomb you once visited and hid them somewhere inside. We have learned that the Professor has remembered what he needed the stones for and is returning for them. You must stop him, Jimmy Neutron; you must keep them from his hands or…

I trembled: O…or…what?

Professor Beesworth: Or our whole world is in jeopardy…

 

 

CHAPTER SIX

Travel Buddies

 

My jaw hung in place; I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders, restraining me from even speaking until I could finally utter a few words.

I blinked: I’m supposed to do what???

Professor Beesworth explained: It really is simple, Mr. Neutron. All you must do is return to the hidden tomb, seek out the stones and bring them back to our headquarters before Calamitous finds them first.

I composed myself then blurted: How am I ever supposed to find it again?

Professor Beesworth: YOU are the genius here, Mr. Neutron. I’m sure, with your superior intellect, that there is some way you can relocate this Egyptian tomb. So…are you up to the challenge?

I began to believe in myself with the Professor’s compliments and answered with a nod towards both men: Professor Beesworth, Colonel Sparky Miner (I jumped from my chair)…bring it on!

Smiling, Professor Beesworth added abruptly: And I would like you to bring some of your past companions along as well.

I spun around to face the screen once more: WHAT?!?!

Professor Beesworth: Well, your friend, I believe her name was Libby Folfax, DID save you all the last time you were there. Perhaps you will be in need of her again this time around? And, come to think of it…all your other friends should accompany you as well.

My eyes glared angrily at the screen: I even have to take…VORTEX?!?!

Professor Beesworth agreed: But of course! We did our homework and figured out that this Cindy Vortex is Libby’s best friend. A girl wouldn’t go anywhere without her best friend now would she?

I sighed and surrendered unwillingly: I guess not…

Professor Beesworth informed me: Now, Colonel Sparky will hand you a chip to place into the bottom of your watch. This will allow us to communicate with you or give you maps if you are lost in the desert at any time. It will be very useful on your journey.

Colonel Sparky Miner pulled a small chip from his belt and handed it to me; I immediately inserted it strategically into my watch alongside all my other gadgets and wires.

I breathed: Thank you Prof…

The Professor cut in: And we expect you to leave tonight.

I pointed to my watch and exclaimed: Tonight?!?! But it’s nearly eight o’clock right now! My friends’ bedtimes are barely an hour or so after this time!

Professor Beesworth: Jimmy Neutron, this is the most important task you and your friends might ever accomplish.

I tried to explain: Trust me, Professor, their mothers won’t believe me when I tell them that, let alone even let them go along with me!

Professor Beesworth suggested: Sneak them out! This is urgent, Mr. Neutron. And before you can say anything (which I was about to do), I don’t care how you do it. Just get to that tomb and keep the stones from Calamitous’s hands!

I absorbed his words and, with clipped words and a salute, answered: Yes, sir!

Colonel Sparky Miner quickly turned off the screen, leaving the room in an eerie silence until he spoke.

The Colonel guided me: I’ll show you your way out, Mr. Neutron.

I gulped and followed the Colonel once again; he led me back down the hallway and into another expansive room.

Colonel Sparky told me: I know this sounds strange, Mr. Neutron, but I need to blindfold you. You mustn’t see the way in which I get you out, so do not try to open your eyes and see through the fabric. This may feel strange, so clench your fists and you’ll be out of here momentarily.

Nodding with a puzzled expression on my face, he stretched a blindfold across my eyes and suddenly I felt a kind of soft electrical shock around me. Before I knew it, I woke up lying on my bed, Goddard beside me, without no blindfold or the stench of garbage on my clothing anywhere.

Grasping my aching head, I mumbled: It must’ve all been a dream…a very realistic dream…

Just as I was about to shake the memory of the whole ordeal from my brain, I heard a crackling noise from my watch. Glancing down at it, I noticed Professor Beesworth on the screen.

Professor Beesworth: Get going, Mister! You’ve got a world to save!

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

All In This Together

 

Dragging myself up out of bed, I escaped to my lab silently, making sure my mom and dad didn’t notice my departure. Once I arrived, scanned my DNA and entered, I called up Carl, Cindy, Libby and Sheen and told them to report to my lab immediately.

 

Cindy asked impatiently : What are we doing here, Neutron?

Libby snapped: If this has anything to do with you wanting to know what my amazing science fair project is…you’re dreaming.

Carl questioned: Can I use your new invention yet, Jimmy?

Sheen yelled angrily: I’m missing Ultralord the Movie!!!

Carl aborted his question and turned to Sheen: But you rented the DVD, Sheen; you can watch it whenever you want…

I silenced the group by clearing my throat and, looking at Sheen and Carl, started: Friends…(I glanced at Cindy)…enemies…

Cindy caught my glance and shouted: That’s it! I’m out of here!!!

I rushed ahead of her before she could exit: No, no, no…don’t go yet.

Cindy stared me down intensely: What do you want?

I whispered: I need your help.

A wash of contentment flooded Cindy’s face: YOU? Need MY help?

I looked out at all four of them: Actually, I need ALL of your help.

Sheen karate chopped Carl’s shoulder who returned it with a cower; he asked excitedly: Do you need us for some top secret mission or something?

I stood in silence and everyone’s eyes darted over to me.

Libby looked surprised: Is that it?

I asked, avoiding an answer: Do you all remember that little “field trip” we took to an Egyptian desert where we discovered Queen Howsaboutislapya’s tomb?

Sheen placed a finger on his chin: You mean that place where all those TP-ed dead guys came to life and chased after us?

I nodded and Carl, Cindy, Libby and Sheen urged me to continue: Yes…

I began but was interrupted: Well, Professor Calamitous….

Carl recalled: That guy who never finishes anything?

I sighed: Yes, Carl. Anyways, Professor Calamitous hid some precious stones inside that tomb which he’s returning to get. He’s going to use those stones in a machine he’s built to take over the world.

Libby pulled out a nail file and began to shape her nails: So…?

I continued: So…we need to retrieve those stones before he reaches them or he’s going to conquer the world!

Carl screamed in dramatic horror: Conquer the world?!?!

I placed my hand out into the middle of the circle we five had created: Who’s in?

Carl rubbed his nose: That sounds kind of dangerous…

Sheen grew excited: Dangerous?… I’M IN!!!

Sheen jutted his hand out and placed it on top of mine. I smiled and looked around at the others.

Carl lifted his hand and let it dangle in mid air, shaking: I don’t know…

Sheen grabbed Carl’s hand and slapped it down on top of his and mine.

Libby inquired: If this Calamitous dude takes over the world, will Dance Gazebo still be on TV?

I stated dryly: No, Libby. He’ll outlaw dancing from the world.

She threw her hand out on top of ours with urgency: Let’s do this…NOW!

Cindy stood with her arms crossed, her blazing eyes filled with a look that told me there was no way on earth I could ever convince her.

Libby convinced her: Come on, girl. I’m not gonna’ save the world without you.

I smiled; I guess Professor Beesworth was right after all.

Cindy shrugged with defeat and reluctantly moved her hand out and covered Libby’s with it; they were all in.

Surely my friends wouldn’t have done such a thing if they knew what was to come, and only cruel fate could bring us to the point we’d arrive at all too soon.

 

CHAPTER  EIGHT

Road Trip

 

A smile swept my face as I glanced down at all the hands rested atop mine; I knew that all my friends, and even my “not-really-friends” had my back…and I was grateful.

I directed: Well, we’d better hurry and get to the hovercraft; Professor Beesworth told me that he wants us there tonight…

Libby shrieked: TONIGHT?!?! Jimmy, I gotta get my beauty sleep!

Sheen twirled around as if he were dueling with a laser-saber: But you already look like Azurga, goddess and Queen of Planet Galactica in Ultralord episode #869!!!

Cindy rolled her eyes: Is that supposed to be a compliment?

I calmed the chaos as I imagined I would many times with this group on a mission: Quiet!!!

Libby spoke up: And how are we supposed to explain this to our parents?  How do you solve that one?!

Cindy thought for a moment then yelled: Yeah, how are we gonna pull this off??? My mom will never let me go! I have piano lessons tomorrow at four and…(Cindy rambled off a ‘to do’ list)

Carl pointed at the clock hanging on my wall: Yeah Jimmy, my bedtime is in less than half an hour!

Sheen whined: I STILL haven’t watched Ultralord the Movie!!!

I shook my head: You rented the videotape, Sheen. You can watch it once we get back.

Cindy complained: But that still doesn’t answer MY question!

I shot back: Well, believe it or not VORTEX…not everything is about you!

She came right back at me: You just want all the attention!

Turning her back to me, Cindy crossed her arms in front of her with stubbornness plastered on her face.

Libby inquired, wary: Can you two go three minutes without fighting?? For all of our sakes, please!

Sheen cheered: You tell ’em Libbs!

Libby growled: I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear you say that.

Sheen ignored her comment and added: Maybe we could tell our parents that we’re going on a road trip…or on vacation!

Carl became excited: We’re going on vacation?!?! I’ll have to bring lots of sun-block though, since my skin is very pale and sensitive, and when the sun hits it I get these weird…

I stopped him abruptly: No, Carl we’re not going on vacation! (As I spoke the words, a thought popped into my mind)…but since it’s Friday, we COULD tell our parents that we’re going on a weekend field trip!

Sheen became defensive: I am NOT going to the Retroville Art Museum again! (He placed a finger on his chin) Although it would help me catch up on my sleep…

Cindy seemed to be pondering the idea: That…just…might…work!!!

I was flattered for a moment: Really?  (My flattered expression faded) Well, of course it will work since I thought of it!!!

Carl cut in before we could debate more: How are we gonna make them believe that, though? My mom will need calls every day from a supervisor who’ll tell her I’m getting my medicine…

I piped in: I’ll use the camouflage system on my hovercraft and a holographic supervisor like I did when we left to mine space rubies! Now let’s go!

Carl asked quietly, tracing the lines on his pudgy hands and glancing shyly up at me: Shouldn’t I call my mom?

I contemplated it, then agreed: Yeah, Carl that’s a good idea. Everyone call their parents on my phone over there and tell them that we are driving to…um…Washington D.C. (I paused to think again) for a weekend field trip to tour the White House and that we’ll be back before Monday!

Sheen told me: My mom’s gonna’ ask if there’s a “guardian”…whatever that is…

I continued: Tell them they’ll be getting a call from ‘Chip’ every day to give them an update…oh and convince them that they already signed the papers sent out by the school for admittance.

Cindy placed her hands on her hips: Wait, Chip? That fake guy you made with the weird voice that reminds me of an alien from some planet named, Yugopotamia, or something stupid like that?

I smirked: None other…

 

After everyone called their parents and explained the “field trip”, Carl, Cindy, Libby, Sheen, and I marched confidently, with Goddard clinking behind, out to my garage and I, by way of remote, directed my hovercraft out to the driveway. I quickly camouflaged it as a bus with a holographic ‘Chip’ in the driver’s seat as my parents scurried outside to see what all the noise was about.

My dad noticed the newly camouflaged hovercraft, masquerading as a bus and ‘Chip’: Jimbo, are you going to summer camp again?

I laughed: No, dad we’re not going to camp…we’re going on a school field trip over the weekend to Washington D.C. You…uh…already signed the papers.

My dad scratched his head: I don’t remember signing any papers…I must’ve forgotten…

My mom waved: All right, Jimmy. Wait…do you have clean underwear?

I blushed and heard the girls giggling mercilessly at my expense behind me.

I murmured: Yes, mom…

She smiled: Okay, honey; have a good time!

I waved a short goodbye and hopped, along with all the others, into the “bus”/hovercraft with ‘Chip’ following.

If only my parents would have found out right then and there where I was going; if only they would have stopped us from leaving to seek out the tomb, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten all of us into such a tangled predicament in the first place. But I’m getting ahead of myself again…

 

CHAPTER NINE

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

 

At last, my parents retreated back to the house; I switched the camouflage off and Carl, Cindy, Goddard, Libby, Sheen and I all piled into the hovercraft, trying to adjust and arrange ourselves in the tight space.

Cindy forcefully pushed Carl’s arm out of the way: Nerdtron! Why didn’t you build this hunk of junk so it could seat more than three?

I gasped in between words while being shoved around: Well…if you GIRLS….didn’t take up…so much…space!!!

Libby’s eyes snapped open: Oh no you didn’t!

Sheen defended his woman: Jimmy! That was uncalled for!

Cindy started: Finally, someone stands up for…

Sheen argued: My Libby does not take up space!

Cindy made an attempt to put her hands on her hips: What about me?

Libby turned to Sheen: Please tell me I did not just hear you put the word “my” in front of my name!

Carl began to itch: Guys! Stop fighting! Arguing gives me the hives!!

I interjected: Carl’s right, everyone.

Libby inquired: About the hives?

I gave her a blank stare: About the arguing, Libby. Just settle down and try to relax as much as possible. With the “light speed” setting I recently developed and installed , (I typed in the coordinates of where we would begin our search and quickly pressed the “light speed” button), we should be there in no time!

Sooner than any of us could realize it, thanks to light speed, we five all glanced around and found ourselves in the middle of a vast Egyptian desert. The hovercraft came to a complete halt and landed softly on the sandy ground, the door opening swiftly.

Cindy shrieked, pushing her way through everyone selfishly to get to the door: Get me OUT OF HERE!

Finally, Cindy made her way out and leapt onto the ground, stretching out and yawning while holding all of us up behind her.

I yelled angrily: Move it, Vortex!

Sheen pushed Libby out the door: Yeah! Make way for Libby!

Eventually, Carl was the only one to not have departed from the hovercraft and he stood at the door, gaping and trembling.

Sheen urged him: Come on, Carl!!!

Carl bit his fingernails: I…I’m scared of heights!

I sighed: Oh puh-leeze, Carl! It’s less than five inches off the ground!

Carl panicked further: FIVE INCHES!!! I thought it was only three!!!
Cindy snapped: Neutron, if you’re such a genius then why did you bring this wimp along?

Sheen marched up to the hovercraft, grabbed Carl’s knees (connected to a wildly shrieking Carl) and threw him to the ground.

Sheen dusted off his hands: There we go.

Rising to his feet, Carl shot Sheen a “look” and a tear slid down his cheek as he noticed a tiny scratch on his leg.

Libby rolled her eyes and ignored him: So Jimmy, where’s that tomb anyways?

Sheen’s eyes darted around: Yeah…we’re in the right place aren’t we?

I fiddled with my fingers: Well, we haven’t exactly found it yet…

Cindy threw herself into another useless rage: WHAT??? Do you mean that I have to go gallivanting around with you and your numbskull friends in this extreme heat for hours and hours looking for a tomb we don’t even know the location of?!?!?!

Libby took a quick look at her hands: We’re doomed! (We all became alarmed until she finished her statement) I already broke a nail…

I shook my head and pulled my new invention, the Direction Doctor 3000, from the utility belt (which I’d packed various inventions and tools into including my new and improved Hypnotism Ray and other useful gadgets I’d created) I’d recently wrapped around my waist: We’ll find it soon enough with this! When I created the Direction Doctor 3000, I hooked it up to my watch which records all the coordinates of the places I’ve been and downloaded the maps onto it. It will give us a specific area that the tomb should be in. And besides, we’ve still got the hovercraft if anything goes wrong…

Just as I spoke those words, I heard the hovercraft door slam behind me and whirled around in horror as it transferred into total lockdown, surrounded with the stainless steel plating I’d toiled so hard to develop and which I formed to be stronger than a fleet of armored men; we were now unable to even enter it again.

Cindy glared at me with fear and flaming anger within her eyes: You were saying?…

 

 

CHAPTER TEN

Aye, Aye Vortex!

 

I stared at the enclosed hovercraft, attempting to comprehend how its total lockdown could’ve activated without my consent.

I pondered: There must be some explanation…(I kicked the hard metal shell of the hovercraft) Why won’t it open???

Goddard’s back compartment flipped open and a metal pole shot out with a laser at the tip: Bark, bark!

I smiled : Good idea, boy!

Goddard shot a laser at the hovercraft, engraving a dark burnt spot on its side, but it barely penetrated the first layer.

Libby sighed  as Cindy screamed: NOW WHAT NEUTRON?!?

Carl carefully wiped some sweat from his forehead: Yeah, Jimmy, it’s starting to get really hot out here…

Checking his watch, Sheen added: If we don’t get back soon, I won’t get to watch the new Ultralord episode…with 6 seconds of extra special footage!
I sighed, ignoring Sheen: Well, if we can’t get the hovercraft to work now, we’ll just have to seek shelter in the tomb.

Libby’s eyes grew wide: The tomb? We don’t even know where the tomb is!!!

Cindy argued: I’m not “taking shelter” in a tomb!
Carl panicked: The tomb? But the dead things!!!

I silenced the group: CALM DOWN EVERYONE!!! The professor who distributed this important and necessary mission implanted an immensely technical chip into the base of my watch to direct us if we were to find ourselves misled in the desert…plus I have in my possession, the Direction Doctor 3000!

Sheen looked as if his brain had been fried: So this professor led you out in the -desert-  , and you found out he was a -doctor-  and…did you say something about potato  -chips- ?!?!

Carl, Cindy, Libby and I stared at him as if he were crazier than we’d ever previously thought…and it was probably true.

A sigh escaped Libby’s lips and she explained: Sheen, he means some smart dude gave him some kind of map around the desert and Jimmy has another one of his inventions to help us find the tomb.

Sheen’s eyes sparkled as he took a step closer to Libby: Of course, Libbs …(his expression turned angry as he glared at me) Why couldn’t you have just said that?!?!?!

Before Libby could oppose Sheen’s nickname for her, Cindy blurted: Would you all stop this mindless chatter and get me out of this heat?!?!

I quickly pressed a small green button on the face of my watch and Professor Beesworth appeared on the screen.

Professor Beesworth answered: Yes, Mr. Neutron? Are you in need of assistance?
I replied: Yes, sir. We have somehow been locked out of our hovercraft and can’t seem to figure out where we are.

The professor smiled: No problem, Mr. Neutron; I have pinpointed your exact location and you are right…

Almost instantaneously, a map popped up on the screen and a large red dot indicated that we were fifteen miles left of the Nile River.

I grinned gratefully: Whew, thank you, Professor! I think the Direction Doctor 3000 can take us from here!

Professor Beesworth spoke just before his face left the screen: My pleasure, Mr. Neutron.

Cindy’s eyes flashed with impatience: So…can we leave now?!?!

Sheen asked: Will I get to watch Ultralord?

Carl cringed: Do we still have to see the dead things?

Libby asked the first sensible question: Jimmy, did he tell you where to go?

I stammered: Well…not exactly. But I DO know that we’re fifteen miles left of the Nile River!

Sheen’s eyebrow arched up: So…

I continued: So I can type our location into the Direction Doctor 3000 and it should guide us from there.

Sheen took a deep breath, then randomly made an observation: Wait a second…if we left at night at home, why is the sun up here?

Cindy started off in her bossy tone: Duh, Sheen! (switching to a smart-sounding voice) We passed through several alternate time zones and have now arrived in one quite opposite to our own. So, therefore, when it is night back in Retroville, it is midday here in Egypt!

I stared at her with amazement, mouth agape.

Cindy blushed  for a moment, then her face twisted into its usual stubborn fixture: Well, make yourself useful, Nerdtron, and make that contraption of yours lead the way!

I sarcastically saluted her and went to work typing formulas into the Direction Doctor 3000: Aye, aye, Vortex!

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Hovercraft Gone Haywire

 

After ten minutes or so, I was still fiddling with the Direction Doctor 3000, trying to make it tell us where the location of the lost tomb was.

Carl collapsed onto the ground, rousing up a cloud of sand: Are you done YET???

I started: If my calculations are correct…

Cindy blurted: When are your calculations EVER correct?!?!

I scrunched up my face, glared at Cindy, then returned indifferently to my invention.

Libby exclaimed: For real Jimmy! We’ve been standing out here for hours! I shoulda brought my sun tan lotion so I could at least sunbathe…

Sheen added: Well I should’ve at least brought…(Sheen paused to ponder)…a TV so I could watch Ultralord!!!

Carl set his chubby hands on his waist: Who cares about Ultralord when I’m missing Lily the Llama?

Sheen shot back: Ultralord could annihilate every one of your puny furry llamas!

Sitting up and shading his face from the sun with his hand, Carl battled: Llamas beat dolls any day!!!

Not even responding to such an insult to his ‘action figures’, Sheen turned his back to Carl and crossed his arms across his chest.

Libby rolled her eyes and whispered to Cindy: This is pathetic…
Cindy impatiently stomped up to my hovercraft and screamed: I can’t take it any longer! I want to go home NOW!!!

She began to kick the hovercraft, attempting to at least puncture its hard metal outer shell, but she had no effect. She obviously didn’t know how efficiently I’d built its protective layer.

Cindy absent-mindedly kicked: Must…get…hunk of junk…to…WORK!!!

Cindy released one last hard blow but quickly stepped back when a distressing rattling sound emerged from within the hovercraft.

Libby took a step farther from Cindy and the hovercraft as the noise continued: What’s going on???

Sheen raced in front of Libby with cheesy braveness: Stay back! I’ll protect you!

Looking for a weapon, Sheen discovered a stick lying on the ground, grasped it and chucked it at the shaking hovercraft…it bounced off and the hovercraft only shook harder.

Libby commented sarcastically, stepping back in front of Sheen: My hero…

After a few moments, I spun around and observed the hovercraft’s erratic behavior. Then suddenly, realization hit me.

I breathed: Oh no…

The hovercraft began to tremble violently and the missile launchers rose from the sides. All were stunned with fear, our feet cemented to the sand with terror. And all of a sudden, one missile shot fiercely into the air, then landed some yards away with a great explosion. Then…all fell silent.

Carl’s shocked expression faded: Whew! I’m glad that’s over…

I took a deep breath: It’s not over yet, Carl…(I watched as the missile launchers began to go haywire)…RUN!!!

Without warning, missiles began to launch through the air in all directions, nearly knocking each of us to the ground. Carl, Cindy, Libby, Sheen and I rocketed away through the sand, doing everything in our power to escape the swift missiles. Goddard flew just behind us, snatching a few missiles in his mouth and spitting them into the sand where they could explode without harming us, but not even he could capture every missile.

As we were running, I glanced behind the group and noticed a missile headed right for Cindy’s head. I could have very well allowed it to take her down and I would’ve never had to worry about her again. But the waves of immense fear in her eyes pierced my heart and I convinced myself to reconsider.

Alarmed, I shouted: WATCH OUT!!!

I urgently dove over, knocking both Cindy and I to the ground; the missile barely missed her head.

A cloud of sand and dust rose, concealing everything from my sight until finally it cleared and I noticed that the missiles, at last, ceased to fly. I stood up and glanced down at Cindy and asked, concerned: Are you all right?

Cindy glanced up at me with a thankful shine in her eyes, rubbed her head and smiled at me for the first time in years: You saved my life…

I offered a hand to her and she began to reach out to take it, but out of the blue, she shook her head rapidly and suddenly the thankful shine in her eyes transformed to raging anger: You tackled me! How dare you jump on me like that!!!

Picking herself up and pushing me back to the ground, she marched away, blonde head held high.

Carl whined: I want to go home!!! (He tried to brush all the sand off of himself but failed miserably) I want Jimmy’s Mom!!!

My head whipped around along with all the others to stare at Carl awkwardly  .Carl blushed and corrected himself: Jimmy’s Mom…’s…cookies!!!

I thought quietly: What is it with him and my mom’s cookies?

I had already risen to my feet again and yanked out the Direction Doctor 3000; at last I realized something and screamed: Puking Pluto! I’ve got it!

Libby tried to fix her hair and brush the dust from it: Got what?

I yelled excitedly: Follow me! The tomb isn’t far from here!

 

CHAPTER TWELVE

Mirage Matters

 

Trudging through the scorching heat and intensely dry air, I held the Direction Doctor 3000 out in front of me, still following its lead as my tall hair blew behind me through the wind.

Cindy battled: Are you sure that bucket of bolts even works, Neutron???

I snapped: YES it works! How could it not? After all, I made it!

Libby whispered: In that case, how COULD it work?

Cindy and Libby burst into unceasing laughter.

Knowing the girls were mocking me, I shot them a glare then turned my face back to my invention, attempting to ignore their giggles and whispers.

Sheen placed a hand over his brow, shielding his eyes from the wind and sun: I think I see something up there!

Carl’s head bobbed around in every direction: Where?? I don’t see anything! SHOW ME!!!
Sheen spoke: It looks like…Ultralord’s Sun-Desert Castle from Episode #332!

I sighed: Sheen, you’re just seeing mirages…

Sheen stuttered: Mir…mira…what’s a mirage?

I began smartly: A mirage is simply…

Cindy finished my lecture before I could barely begin it: …an optical illusion in which atmospheric refraction by a layer of hot air distorts or inverts reflections of distant objects…come on; EVERYONE knows THAT, Nerdtron! We don’t need your “genius talk” to explain something that simple!

Libby shook her head in disbelief: Girl…

I asked, dumbfounded: H…How’d you know that???

Cindy gave me an “obvious” glare and I could see the flecks of jealousy in her eyes: Well, I WAS the smartest kid in the class once, you know! Until your oversized head came and took the spotlight!

I stared down at my feet: Oh…well I’m sor…(I pondered what I was about to say but quickly halted the words before they could escape)…I’m sorry anyone ever thought you were the smartest kid in Retroville! They must’ve all been delusional! 

A hurt look swept Cindy’s face, followed by a hateful glare.

Carl moaned: Why are you two always fighting???

I yelled: Well if Cindy here would keep her lengthy, show-offy explanations to herself!

Cindy grunted: And if you would stop shoving your big brain in where it doesn’t belong!

Libby shrieked: Guys, stop! (She pointed ahead) I really do see something up there!

I didn’t even bother to glance in the direction she pointed out; I thought she’d lost it as well: Oh, not you too…

Cindy pointed also: No! There really is some kind of castle thing!

I shook my head and looked over the horizon, spotting the same thing they all were speaking of: THE TOMB!!!

Carl elbowed Sheen: I told you it wasn’t a castle!

Sheen objected: No you didn’t! You didn’t see anything because you’re as blind as (he thought up a comeback)…my 101 year old grandma!

Carl wailed: AHHHH! I’m…I’m…(Carl let out an enormous sneeze)…I’m allergic to elderly people!

I stared down at the Direction Doctor 3000: This is odd; the Direction Doctor 3000 doesn’t say the tomb is here…it’s pinpointing a location somewhere…

Libby commented: Maybe that’s why they call it the “LOST” tomb!

Cindy laughed: And as if YOUR invention would bring us to the right place anyways!
I contemplated the problem: But I programmed it accurately and…

A look of disappointment swept Sheen’s face: Does this mean that this ISN’T Ultralord’s Sun-Desert Castle?

No one even replied to Sheen’s question as we edged closer and closer to this tomb.

Libby pulled a compact mirror from her pants pocket: How does my hair look?
Sheen grinned: Perfect as always… 

Libby made a gagging face but her breath caught in her throat as she glanced at the tomb: I don’t remember it looking like this…

Carl observed it with a chubby finger on his chin: Me neither!

Sheen exploded with excitement: Maybe it’s a morphing tomb that can automatically change into whatever it wants! (He thought about this a moment). Do you think it could turn into Ultralord?!?!

I breathed: I highly doubt that, Sheen. But you’re right…this doesn’t look like the tomb we visited earlier. Something very strange is going on here…

Cindy whispered to Libby while she giggled: With Neutron, that’s a pretty safe bet …

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

From Captivated to Captivity

 

We all stood in awe of the great structure, reaching up to wards the heavens and basking in the sun’s warming rays.

Sheen squeezed his hands between his legs, staring at the tomb: I hope there’s a bathroom in there!

I told him: Sheen, I don’t believe they built bathrooms in thousand-year-old tombs.

Carl whimpered: Why do we have to go in if it’s not the tomb we’re looking for?
Cindy piped up: We don’t know that yet! If Nerdtron says this ISN’T the Tomb, then I think it is!

Without another word, Cindy trampled into the tomb.

I yelled: Cindy, wait! You can’t go in alone! It might be dangerous!

Cindy commented back from the shadowy tomb: Since when do YOU care if I’m in danger?

I bit my lip…hard.

Carl grew alarmed: Dangerous? (He peeked into the dark tomb with fear) Cindy, is it d..d…dangerous?

Carl waited for an answer; no reply.

Sheen screeched: Is there a bathroom in there?!?!

Cindy still uttered no response.

I called out after her: Cindy?

Suddenly, a shrill cry echoed from the darkness.

Libby laughed: Come on girl, quit playin’.

We heard nothing after the scream for minutes.

I panicked, Goddard and I running in after her: I don’t think she’s playing, Libby!

Carl, Libby and Sheen jolted in after us and soon we were clumped together, searching for Cindy. All my eyes could drink in was darkness; I couldn’t see my own hand in front of my face, let alone Cindy.

Libby cried, fearing for her friend: CINDY!!!! WHERE ARE YOU?!?!

A nasally man’s voice spoke back from the darkness: She’s right…um…uh…

I finished the unknown man’s sentence: …Here? Wait a minute…(I pondered)…Professor Calamitous?!?!

I heard struggling as the man replied: How did you guess?

Libby replied matter-of-factly, hands on hips: ’Cuz you never finish anything, duh!

Faint lighting flickered on and dimly lit the inside of this tomb we’d entered which was composed of merely sand, dust and nothing more...except the steel cage Carl, Libby, Goddard, Sheen and I now found ourselves confined in. This was obviously not the tomb we were in search of…it was a mere trap.

Professor Calamitous perched elevated inside a gigantic metal robot with extended mechanical legs and metal crab-like pincers on the end of steel arms with various weapons attached, all plated in solid sheets of iron. Cindy dangled helplessly by her shirt from one of the pincers, bound in ropes and taped at the mouth. Her emerald green eyes were flooded with terror and hopelessness as she glanced down at me as if begging me to set her free.

He growled at Libby: Don’t give me lip, young lady! I would be very cautious with your words if I were…um…(he gave up, waving his arms in the air)…oh whatever!

I rattled the bars of the cage and pointed up towards Cindy: LET HER GO!!!

Professor Calamitous ignored my demand and explained: I ingeniously built this phony tomb because I knew, with your inferior intellect, that you would enter it and then I could take one of your pathetic little friends into captivity and trap you so you couldn’t find my precious stones.

Carl noticed: You spoke in complete sentences!

Professor Calamitous smiled proudly: Yes, I received some training. Now I can do what YOU cannot!

Sheen grew defensive: Hey! That’s not…I can….(he surrendered with a sigh) ugh, I got nothing.

I inquired: What’s the point in taking Cindy? It won’t stop us from getting to that tomb!

Professor Calamitous grinned deviously: If you so happen to escape from my steel cage, which I highly doubt…(he rubbed his hands together and chuckled)…you’ll still never harm me if she is in my possession.

I opened my mouth to object but, looking into her desperate eyes, I knew he was right.

Libby interjected with attitude: So how did you know we were even going to the tomb?

Professor Calamitous looked down at us devilishly: Didn’t you know? I would think a genius like Jimmy Neutron over here could figure it out for you! Haha, his mind is weak! I formerly worked as the lead professor at the S.E.F.S.! Those imbeciles kicked me out when they discovered some of my evil work! But before I left, I installed spy cameras in all their rooms and therefore witnessed Mr. Neutron’s little interlude with the Captain and the new Professor. They’ll be sorry when I retrieve those stones. Oh…they’ll be sorry.

A jetpack connected to Professor Calamitous’s robot fired up and the robot, he and Cindy hung in mid air.

I fiercely questioned: Where are you taking her?!?!

Professor Calamitous lifted higher into the air: I’ll take her with me wherever I need to go. But as soon as I find that tomb again and collect my precious stones, I’ll be sure to get rid of her for good. (Carl, Libby, Sheen and I gasped) After all, I won’t need her anymore after I take over the…um…the uh…

Sheen shouted: The world!

He laughed menacingly and shot up into the air, soaring away and disappearing from my sight, deserting we four and Goddard in the binding cage. My eyes darted around, looking at my three friends and secretly panicking beyond all reason.

Libby placed her hands on her hips: Got any more bright ideas, genius?

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

The Great Escape

 

Carl whined: We’re gonna be trapped in here forever! Are we gonna…DIE?!?!

Sheen patted his back comfortingly: No, Carl, we’re not gonna die. (He raised his voice and began to shout) We’re gonna get dehydrated and starve and get eaten by poisonous snakes…THEN we’re gonna die!

Carl cried: Sheen, stop it! That’s not funny!

Libby shrieked: Who cares about you two?! How are we gonna save Cindy!

I calmly said: No problem.

Libby exploded: NO PROBLEM?!?! Cindy is dangling from a giant robot controlled by a menacing psycho and you don’t think that’s a problem?!

I laughed coolly: I’ll have us out of here in no time.

Sheen yelled: You better! Cuz there’s a scorpion heading right for Carl’s…

Carl jumped into the air screaming: WHERE? WHERE?!?! (He bolted to the opposite side of the cage and huddled in a corner, still screeching and trembling)

I shook my head: Relax, guys. Goddard will take care of it!

Goddard barked then opened his mouth, allowed the scorpion to crawl in, then bit down and shot it across the room through the bars, sweeping a picture of relief across Carl’s face.

Libby placed her hands on her hips: So how are you gonna get us out of here?

I glanced down at my watch, turned a few knobs and directed it towards the bars: My watch has a cybertronic laser built right into it! There’s nothing this bad boy can’t shoot straight through!

I pressed down a tiny button on the side of my watch and a green laser shot out, striking the bars; a cloud of filmy smoke rose up, blinding us all from the effects.

Carl sneezed as he batted at the air: AHHHH! I’M ALLERGIC TO SMOKE!

Sheen’s eyes were mesmerized by the laser still: Do it again!

Libby strained her eyes to see: Did it work?

The smoke cleared and…absolutely nothing happened; all bars remained in tact.

I stared at the unaffected bars for a moment then angrily hit my watch: How is that possible? I combined the correct amount of protons with citronic acid and…

Sheen added: It didn’t work.

Libby breathed: Big surprise…

Carl’s eyes popped opened wide: So we ARE gonna die!

I looked him in the eyes and reassured him: We are NOT gonna die! So stop panicking!

Sheen started again: Yeah, we’re just gonna get dehydrated and starve and get eaten…

Libby slapped a hand over Sheen’s mouth just in time: Can it, Sheen!

Sheen placed two hands over his heart and with fluttering eyelashes said in a cheesy tone: Ah, my lady’s hand hath touchethed my lips…

Libby quickly pulled her hand away and wiped it off on Carl’s shirt: EW! I am not YOUR lady!

I tried to silence them although no one listened: Guys!

Carl grasped his shirt and attempted to examine the spot Libby wiped her hand on while jumping up and down desperately: YUCK! GET IT OFF! Now I have Sheen’s amoebas on my shirt!!!

I screamed: GUYS!!!!

Everyone silenced but Libby added: Excuse me? I am not a guy!

I corrected myself with a sigh: Sorry…guys AND Libby…(she nodded a thank you)…we are yet going to escape this cage.

Carl whimpered: How are you gonna do that, Jimmy? Your laser-thingie didn’t work so…

I pointed to my robotic dog: So…we still have Goddard!

Libby seemed skeptical: He couldn’t beam through your hovercraft so how could he get us out of this?

I explained: My hovercraft was specially built by myself, therefore I made it so that it was stronger than all of my other inventions. These bars…I doubt they’re strong enough to withstand Goddard’s laser!

I told Carl: Back away, Carl…this will be powerful…

Carl sniffled and took a few wobbly steps backwards: Okay, Jim…

Goddard: Bark, bark!

Goddard’s laser suddenly burst from his back compartment, aimed itself directly at one of the steel bars and fired away, zapping noises filling our ears. Opening his mouth, a fan from inside blew the wisps of smoke away, revealing an enormous hole in the cage, large enough for all of us to fit through.

I patted Goddard’s head gratefully as Carl, Libby and Sheen cheered: GOOD BOY!

I smiled as I abruptly exited the confining cage: Come on guys! We’ll have Cindy back in no time!

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Runaway Girl

 

Carl, Goddard, Libby, and Sheen all exited the broken steel cage immediately after I did, breathing thankful sighs of relief as they escaped their captivity.

Libby glanced around: So…now what?

Sheen raised a valiant fist in the air: We go save Cindy!!! Duh!

Carl whined with fear: We have to SAVE her? From that big scary robotic man? Maybe that’s not such a good idea…

I glanced at him: And what do you propose, Carl? Just go home without her and allow Professor Calamitous to take over the world?

Carl stuttered sheepishly: …Yes…

Libby yelled: Not if I have anything to say about it!

Sheen elbowed Carl: Yeah, not if she has anything to say about it! Wait…say about what?

I sighed and told them all: I am NOT leaving this desert until we rescue Cindy and get those precious stones before Calamitous gets there first… (Carl tried to interject but my next words halted him)…CASE CLOSED!

 

Miles away, Professor Calamitous carefully landed his robot for a rest, declined down the back stairs and hobbled around to where Cindy hung.

Professor Calamitous lightly clapped his hands: Ah, my dear…you may just be the key to me defeating Jimmy Neutron!

Cindy struggled and grunted but could not speak through the tape or break her body free from the rope.

Professor Calamitous laughed: Not to mention that if I defeat Jimmy Neutron…I shall at last take over the world! (He noticed Cindy trying to speak) What…are you trying to say something?

She nodded and flashed innocent, helpless green eyes glazed with tears.

Professor Calamitous peeled away the adhesive from her lips: Well…I guess it wouldn’t hurt if I just took the tape off your mouth for a little while…

Cindy exploded: You will NEVER defeat Neutron! And you will NEVER take over the world because pretty soon you’ll probably just forget why you even have me as a hostage!

Professor Calamitous placed his gloved hands on his hips and squeaked: Well, young lady, I think you are terribly mistaken! I’ve overcome that whole…not finishing things…phase. And in doing so, I’ve become more intelligent than Jimmy Neutron could ever even wish to be!

Cindy rolled her eyes and shouted: Yeah right! I’M smarter than you!

Professor Calamitous chuckled: You are a funny one! And why do you think you’re so smart?

Suddenly, the ropes confining Cindy snapped and broke loose, falling to the ground along with her and allowing her to slip free and stand on her own.

Professor Calamitous stood shocked, mouth agape: What the…??

Cindy answered his question as she exposed her open palm, armed with a knife: I’m so smart because I keep a pocket knife in my back pocket where I can reach it in case some wacko nut job decides to tie me up!

Without another word, Cindy bolted off across the sand, leaving Professor Calamitous behind in a cloud of dust.

Professor Calamitous shouted: Oh no you don’t!

He quickly climbed back into the robot and tinkered around with the controls; finally, he lifted it into the air once more and speedily jetted after her.

 

Carl, Goddard, Libby, Sheen and I made our way out of the false tomb and back into the blazing desert sun; Staring down at the Direction Doctor 3000, I attempted to follow its directions.

I started explaining: Well, the Direction Doctor 3000 tells me we were a few miles south of the Nile River when we discovered the tomb which is west of where we are right now and therefore we need to go…northeast!

Sheen’s arms were all twisted around himself from trying to figure out which direction we were supposed to head in while I was talking: WHERE?!?!

Carl carefully tried to untangle him: Sheen! Hold still!

Libby shook her head at them and glanced over at me: So which way are we supposed to go?

I pointed in the northeastern direction: This way!

Sheen wiggled his now free arms: How do we know if that thing actually works?

I glanced up at the clear sky: Well, even if it doesn’t…Goddard can scan the horizon and see the line of smoke from Professor Calamitous’s robot in the sky…and if we follow that…we can’t go wrong!!!

Libby gulped as she spotted mysterious shadows up ahead and whispered fearfully: …Or can we?

 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Bad Luck All Around

 

Professor Calamitous cackled from inside his robot as he soared above Cindy who was running at an impressive pace: You’ll never outrun me, Blondie!

Cindy, with heaving breaths, sprinted below and pushed herself further: Watch me!

At last, Professor Calamitous flew directly above her and, from one of the feet of the robot, an enormous net dropped on top of Cindy’s head and captured her, halting her mad sprint and tangling her limbs into its mesh claws.

Professor Calamitous smirked: Caught ya!
The net slowly closed in around her, seemingly ignoring her struggle, and wheeled upwards, heaving her flailing body into the robot through its foot and depositing her in the control room by Professor Calamitous. Before she could even utter a word or stand up to confront him, mechanical arms sprung from the walls, snatched her pocket knife away and tied her up once again.

Professor Calamitous glared back at her: I wouldn’t try that again if I were you.

 

Carl, Goddard, Libby, Sheen and I headed away from the tomb imposter, pressing forwards in the intense sun and oceans of dry sand.

Carl placed a chubby hand over his eyes and pointed forwards: Jimmy, what are those?

Sheen slapped Carl: Stop hallucinating! You’re just seeing a “mirror” thing like Cindy said!

I rolled my eyes and corrected him: You mean a mirage? Carl, what do you see?

Carl shook his head to make sure he wasn’t imagining it: I don’t think it’s a mirage thingie, Jimmy. I see big, scary shadows!

Libby examined the shadows: Yeah, I noticed those a little while ago too! What do you think they are, Jimmy? You’re the genius…

I squinted my eyes: They’re probably just cactus shadows! Nothing to worry about!

Sheen told me: I don’t think so…

Carl agreed: Yeah, Jim…cactuses are NOT that big! And they don’t stand on four legs either!

I thought: Four legs? What kind of animal in the desert stands on four legs and is THAT big?

Sheen wiggled his fingers and tried to scare Carl: A…GIANT SCORPION?

Carl shrieked fiercely.

I pondered: No…it could be a very large sand cat…

Libby put her hands on her hips: A sand cat? Are you making that up?

Sheen laughed: Yeah, what’s a sand cat?

Carl’s eyes grew large with excitement: Are there sand llamas?!?!

I sighed: No, Carl. A sand cat is a mammal that is well-adapted to living in the desert. It has thick mats of fur on the bottom of its paws to protect them from the hot sand, but…they’re usually no bigger than a domestic housecat. 

Sheen puffed out his chest and suggested: Maybe it’s a mutated sand cat like in Ultralord episode #458, Attack of the Wild Sand Felines! (He sunk his teeth into Carl’s shoulder, pretending to be a wildcat)

Carl ran around in circles screaming, trying to shake Sheen off his shoulder.

Libby calmed the insanity: GUYS! Cut it out! They’re getting closer…

I stated: Maybe their shadows are enlarged because of the way the sunlight is hitting them.

Sheen unlatched his teeth from Carl’s shoulder: Shouldn’t they get smaller sometime?

Carl objected: No, Sheen…Jimmy’s always right!

Libby crossed her arms across her chest and whispered sarcastically: …And I’m Smally Big Big’s wife…

I yelled defensively: Hey, I heard that!

As the words escaped my lips, I heard a snarling growl emerge from the direction of the shadows and my heart ceased beating immediately.

Carl cowered behind Libby: Wha…What was that?

Just then, from behind a sand dune, emerged some of the most fearsome, violent looking creatures I had ever seen…and they were bounding mercilessly toward us…

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Face the Cats or Die Trying

 

I had been correct; they were sand cats alright. Enormous sand cats. The biggest sand cats that had ever walked the earth as far as I knew and they looked more terrifying than any one I’d ever seen or heard of as well. Their fangs protruded from their mouths several inches and could easily tear right through solid brick…I winced just thinking about what they could do to ME. Behind their dark brown, sand-matted hair, the cats’ eyes glowed a fierce red, and as we watched them race faster and faster in our direction, the four of us all but surrendered to what we believed would surely be our untimely death.

Carl’s shriek at that precise moment could’ve shattered the sound barrier: WHAT ARE THOSE?!?!

I answered as calmly as possible: Sand cats…REALLY big sand cats…

Sheen’s knees knocked together in fear as he nibbled at his fingernails and, with darting eyes, he asked himself: What would Ultralord do?

Libby’s eyes filled with tears as she hunkered behind Sheen: Jimmy…make them stop (They continued to grow closer and closer and I attempted to pull myself together and formulate a plan)…NOW!!!

An idea popped into Sheen’s head: Ultralord would use his Galactic Moonstone Launcher from Episode #157!

Sheen glanced around himself in all directions, grabbed a few stones and began to hurl them towards the animals imitating Ultralord…every single one missed.

Libby sighed: Sheen! Do something…effective!

Carl questioned frightfully: Is running around screaming effective?

I stopped him before he tried: No, Carl! You’ll never outrun them!

Sheen panicked: Then for Pete’s sakes what do we do??

Carl interjected: Who’s Pete?

Sheen pondered this a moment and obviously his mind came up blank…big surprise. He questioned me: You’re the genius…who’s Pete?

Libby yelled: Never mind that! We’ve got bigger problems right now!

Carl’s attention turned back to the sand cats and he screamed: AHHHHHHHHH!

I quieted him: Shhh! Don’t make them even more angry!

Carl trembled: What do we do?!?!

I told them: We’ve got to face them or…

Libby stuttered: O…or what?

I released a deep breath:…or die trying.

 

 

Cindy sat curled up and bundled in ropes in the back of the control room, observing Professor Calamitous working his robot. He seemed to fumble around a bit, getting flustered and pounding the controls when he couldn’t make the robot do what he wanted it to.

He glanced back at Cindy and noticed the questioning look in her green eyes and answered her: I’m trying to land this blasted thing!

He saw yet another question in her gaze: I’m trying to land it because my weather signal tells me that a sand storm is on the way! Must you ask so many questions?!

He fiddled with some levers and buttons but failed miserably: Dag nab it!

He growled and glanced back at Cindy yet again: Can you help?

Cindy nodded and Professor Calamitous untaped her mouth again; she informed him: You have to pull the green lever to the left then press the buttons in the pattern of red, green, orange, blue, purple…

Professor Calamitous got lost in the directions: Oh never mind! (He untied her arms and legs) Do it yourself!

Cindy leapt up from her spot on the ground and raced over to the control panels, at once landing the robot.

Professor Calamitous smiled and adjusted his glasses: Why thank you…

He turned his back and told the robotic arms to tie her up once again but spun back around just in time to gaze out the window and spot Cindy jolting across the sand yet again.

Professor Calamitous rolled his eyes: Oh, not again!

 

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Partner In Crime

 

Professor Calamitous rubbed his hands together and elevated the robot back into the air to once again chase Cindy down: Oh, you’re in for it now little girl…

Below, Cindy ran short of breath; the intense sun drenched her skin and seemingly absorbed every pinch of air from her lungs. She didn’t know how much longer she could make it.

Professor Calamitous jerked a few levers and, just like the previous time, a gigantic net plummeted from the robot’s foot and as it descended further and further through the air towards Cindy, she glanced up and, barrel rolling to the right, evaded the net.

Professor Calamitous’s face scrunched up into an angry fixture; he yelled, determined: There’s more where that came from!

Pressing a few more buttons, two more nets released from the robotic foot; the first  hooked onto Cindy’s ponytail but she immediately unlatched it and refused to allow it to slow her down. The second net began to fall directly in front of her and…

Cindy breathed: I hope all that practice wasn’t for nothing…

Letting out a desperate scream, Cindy performed a full double front flip over the net and landed perfectly on the other side. She wiped her brow with satisfaction but jolted into motion once more when she noticed more nets crashing down.

Now frustrated, Professor Calamitous shot every last net down at Cindy in a hopeless attempt to once again capture her; he vowed that this time, he’d keep her bound in ropes for good.

Calamitous stared down below as each net was dodged by Cindy’s agile rolls or flips or cartwheels…he couldn’t believe that any girl her age could contain so much energy or skill.

Professor Calamitous pondered to himself: Forget just using her for bait! This girl…with a simple shock from the mind-control helmet…could prove to be a worthy accomplice! With her help, taking over the world will be a cinch!

With this thought in mind, Professor Calamitous pulled back and allowed Cindy to scurry on, leaving her unaware of his plans and causing her to believe she had escaped. For several minutes Cindy sprinted forward, thinking the robot was still in pursuit of her.

Cindy’s eyes flitted back and forth; the nets had ceased to fall and Professor Calamitous and his colossal robot were far out of sight.

Cindy slowed her pace to a walk, caught her breath, and proudly admired herself: He must’ve given up…haha…I bet Nerdtron wouldn’t have been able to get himself out of that one!

Just then, one last tightly-wound net fell from the sky…one she didn’t notice…and enclosed itself around her; Cindy had been captured once again. In her prideful state, she grasped at the ropes as if she could break free but the fibers were strong and the net was inescapable; she was forced to surrender.

Cindy was speedily deposited back into the control room and immediately secured in tape and ropes once again. Her face grew pale, her green eyes choking back tears; a look of disappointment and failure graced her once self-confident face. She couldn’t conjure up any way out of this one.

Professor Calamitous set the robot on cruise control, hopped down from his tall chair and, with his hands clasped behind his back, commented: I’m getting quite tired of this routine.

Cindy didn’t even struggle to reply to his words; weakness overcame her and all that escaped her lips were exhausted gasps as she attempted to catch her breath.

Professor Calamitous leaned in closer to her face, his squinty eyes blinking rapidly behind his glasses: So you’ve given up have you? I thought you were the smart one…

Cindy’s face swept with fury but her exhaustion closed in on her once again and she decided to save what little energy she had left.

Professor Calamitous paced the room: You put up a mighty good fight, young lady. You shall make a great partner in crime indeed…

Cindy yelled through the tape blocking her mouth, muffled but clear: PARTNER IN CRIME?!?!

Professor Calamitous cackled: Of course! As if I would allow all that physical talent of yours to go to waste for Jimmy Neutron!

Cindy screamed through her confinements: NEVER!!!

Professor Calamitous snatched a silver, light-adorned helmet from the closet in his control room and presented it to Cindy, laughing menacingly: You won’t think that way for long…

 

CHAPTER NINETEEN

Bite-Sized

 

My eyes swelled larger and larger as the enormous sand cats descended upon the sand dunes. Their long fangs were bared as they snarled at us, their crimson eyes fiercely glowing and deepening the closer they came to us. Nothing lay in their way but our fragile bodies…growing weaker every moment with fear.

Carl cried, cowering behind me: DO SOMETHING!!!

Libby agreed while she attempted to fix her hair: Yes, please! I will NOT die looking like this…do you see these split ends?

Sheen pulled a small Ultralord action figure from his left pocket and, looking at it sadly, shook his head: So this is how it ends…

I urged myself: Think…think!

Suddenly, images began to flash across my mind; I watched myself preparing for the trip, packing my inventions into the utility belt around my waist and the…

With realization, I shouted: AHA! Brain blast!!!

Libby sighed: Thank goodness. (She glanced up at the sand cats bounding closer and closer) Now HURRY!

I told them: I packed all my useful inventions into this belt around my waist and (I pulled a ray from one loop) I luckily remembered the shrink ray!

Carl became confused and took the ray from my hand: So you’re gonna…shrink us?

Sheen tried to explain to Carl: Yes, Carl. Then we’ll be bite-sized and easier to digest…

Libby cut in: NO! To shrink the cats you nimrods!

I nodded, snatched the shrink ray back from Carl’s grasp, and pointed it directly at the first cat, wincing: Here goes nothing!

I pressed the button and a greenish-yellow glow surrounded the sand cat…all at once it became a tiny insect-sized sand cat, harmless and miniscule; I moved on to the next one, shrinking it down, and the others until finally there were only tiny little Sand Cats scampering around.

I glanced over at Goddard: Will you do the honors for me, boy?

Goddard barked and, with a swift motion, scooped the mini sand cats up into his mouth and swallowed hard. A robotic burp followed quickly after.

Libby and I cheered and Sheen hugged his Ultralord action figure tight to his chest; the threat of being attacked by oversized desert felines had been destroyed.

Carl’s pudgy hands were still covering his eyes as he trembled and ducked behind me: I…is…is it over yet?

I patted his back: Uncover your eyes, Carl! There’s nothing to be afraid of anymore!

Slowly but surely, Carl removed his hands from his eyes and glanced around cautiously.

His eyes searched in every direction: Where are they?

Sheen pounded Goddard’s metal back; inside we could hear tiny, high-pitched sand cat growls resound: In Goddard’s stomach!

Carl grinned, threw his arms up into the air and shrieked: I’M ALIVE! I’m safe! I’m…(a great sneeze erupted from Carl’s nostrils)…allergic to cats.

Libby giggled: At least you’re not allergic to sand. Now THAT would be a problem!

Sheen and I shot quick glances at each other and began to laugh.

Carl explained with one finger held high as if he were teaching: Actually, I am allergic to sand. I’m just on special medication so the sand granules don’t creep up into my nostrils and get caught in my noise hairs to irritate my…

Libby gagged: Okay…that was WAY too much info…

Sheen began to hop around excitedly: You have nose hairs?! Let me see! Let me see!

Carl covered his nose: No way, Sheen…

Sheen pouted then began to ramble: My DAD has nose hairs! And I see him plucking them in the bathroom sometimes and he leaves them in the sink…

Libby and I both became nauseas at this: TOO MUCH INFORMATION!

Sheen acted as if nothing were wrong: What?

Taking a few steps forward, I changed the subject: Should we move on, guys? I’d like to arrive at the tomb before nightfall.

Libby asked, confused: The tomb? I thought we were trying to rescue Cindy first!

Carl whined: You’re not going to leave her are you? (He began to panic) Would you ever leave ME?!?!?!

Sheen yelled: No, of course not! (He then whispered in my ear loudly) Yes…

Carl put his hands on his hips: Hey!!!

I quieted them: I’m pretty sure Professor Calamitous is going to head right for the tomb…where else would he go in the middle of a lifeless desert?

Libby pondered: That’s true…well, at least we don’t have any more ’a those sand cats to deal with!

Carl wiped his forehead as the sun beat down on him: Yeah, we’re finally safe.

If only we would’ve known how wrong we all were. Just when we thought we were out of harm’s way, just when we thought nothing else could go wrong…I spotted something across the horizon, something that would threaten all of our lives…and oh, how unprepared we were…

 

CHAPTER TWENTY

Assistant Vortex

 

Cindy shook her head rapidly, struggling violently, attempting to break free from her roped bondage but no movement she made could liberate her.

Professor Calamitous smiled wryly: Now hold still! (He chuckled) This won’t hurt a bit…

Cindy’s eyes grew wide with fear as the shining silver helmet reflected off the tears in her horror-filled eyes.

Professor Calamitous’s black-gloved hands forcefully pushed the mind-control helmet down onto Cindy’s head. As soon as the helmet slid across her blonde hair, Cindy’s eyelids fell across her eyes and her head nodded off to one side as if she’d suddenly fallen asleep.

Professor Calamitous laughed: Haha! Now for the adjustments…

Calamitous reached out his spindly arms and began to tinker with the buttons on the helmet, pressing a green button twice, then a blue, pulling a red lever, and twisting a yellow knob to the right until all the lights lit up and produced an electric shock which zapped into Cindy’s mind and shocked each cell of her brain.

Professor Calamitous grinned and clapped his hands together: It’s working! It’s working!

All at once, the electricity subsided, the helmet’s lights flickered off, and Cindy’s eyes snapped open.

Professor Calamitous quickly untaped Cindy’s mouth, untied her arms and legs and tested her: Good evening, Assistant Vortex!

Cindy rose to her feet as if ready to run…but she simply lifted a hand to her forehead in a salute and, with clipped words, replied: Good evening, Master Calamitous!

Calamitous giggled and twiddled his fingers with glee as he repeated the word: Hehe, “Master”!

Cindy carefully lowered her hand and stared at the Professor: What can I do for you, Master Calamitous?

Professor Calamitous ordered: Get this robot off cruise control and find a place to take shelter for the night!

Cindy replied: Yes, sir!

Cindy marched without hesitation over to the control panel, took the robot off cruise control and flew it straight ahead, her eyes darting back and forth in search of an area to land and stay for the night.

Professor Calamitous clapped his hands instructively and a large leather recliner popped up from the metal floor boards. He hopped up into it, leaned back and closed his eyes.

Professor Calamitous sighed: Ahhh…this is the life.

A half hour or so elapsed; and the sun began to crouch beneath the dunes. Professor Calamitous remained in an undisturbed sleep until Cindy’s voice reached his ears: Master Calamitous! I believe I’ve found a suitable area!

Professor Calamitous rubbed his eyes, plopped down from his chair and followed Cindy’s pointing finger downward towards an enormous cave.

Cindy’s head turned robotically in his direction and she questioned: Is this cave to your liking, Master Calamitous?

The Professor looked around and saw nothing else: I suppose this will have to do. Good work, Assistant Vortex. Now land the robot!!!

Cindy answered once again: Yes sir!

In a matter of moments, Cindy landed the robot safely on the ground and she and Professor Calamitous climbed carefully down the ladder and out into the desert air. The sun hung groggily in the sky, soon to surrender its place to the moon.

Cindy inquired: Master Calamitous, how will we fit the robot into this cave?

Professor Calamitous chuckled: Ah, my dear…watch this!

Calamitous pulled a tiny black remote from his left lab coat pocket and pushed a turquoise button; all of a sudden, the gigantic robot began to fold into itself. Both legs folded into a compartment in the chest, the legs were sucked up into the lower body and the head popped into the shoulders. Now the robot was but a large metal block.

Cindy tilted her head: I believe it is still too large to fit into the cave, Master Calamitous.

Professor Calamitous pressed another button: Never fear…

The large metal block of a robot, as soon as the Professor’s finger pressed down on the next button, shrunk extraordinarily into a metal block the size of its remote and, with a swift motion, Professor Calamitous scooped it up into his hand and shoved both the robot and the remote into his lab coat pockets.

Cindy’s face split into an artificial grin that only Professor Calamitous could program the mind-control helmet to produce: That was amazing, Master Calamitous!

Professor Calamitous swelled with pride: Why thank you, Assistant Vortex. Now lead the way into the cave!

Cindy replied yet again: Yes sir!

Professor Calamitous added with a cackle: Oh…and destroy anything in your way…

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

It’s a Cloud! It’s a Puppy! No, it’s a Life-Threatening Sandstorm!

 

Carl lifted one hand to shade his eyes from the sun and gazed across the distance, then used the other to point one plump pink finger directly ahead of the group: Jimmy, what is that?

Libby spotted the foreign substance: Oh, it’s just a cloud!

Sheen argued: No it’s not!

Carl turned to him: Oh yeah? Then what is it? A…a…(Carl attempted to be funny)…a puppy? Hehe…

Libby glared at him with eyes that communicated that he was not now nor would he ever be funny. At once he stopped laughing.

Sheen answered, rolling his eyes: No, it’s not a puppy! What kind of a ridiculous idea is that? It is OBVIOUSLY Selena the sand goddess of the Dustopian Galaxy in cloud form from Ultralord episode #656 when Selena swirls Ultralord up into her sand whirlwind and…

Carl placed his hands on his round hips and interjected: Nuh uh! It looks more like a puppy than…Salsa the sand castle of the Dustbunny Gardens or whatever you said!

Sheen yelled back: It’s SELENA the SAND GODDESS of the DUSTOPIAN GALAXY…she’s not some nacho topping!

Sheen and Carl began to fight amongst themselves until Libby stepped between them: Boys, boys, boys…we all know what it really is!

Carl and Sheen asked at the same time: What?

Libby repeated her idea, screaming at the top of her lungs: IT’S JUST A CLOUD!!!

Sheen’s eyes twinkled: She’s so beautiful when’s she’s angry…

Hearing his remark, Libby slapped him and began to feud along with them, arguing her case as strongly as they did theirs.

I stood a few feet from this pathetic brawl, Goddard by my side, not making any movements or saying a word. I stared straight ahead, mouth agape. Pretty soon Carl, Libby and Sheen noticed that I wasn’t trying to halt their fighting and glanced over at me, only to see me in a dazed state of shock.

Libby walked in front of me and waved her hand: Earth to Jimmy, Earth to Jimmy…Jimmy?!?!

Sheen shrieked: JIMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I didn’t move.

Carl tilted his head: What’s wrong with Jimmy? It looks like he just saw a…a…(Carl turned and caught sight of what I was staring at)…AHHHHHHH!!!

Sheen plugged his ears: Carl! What is wrong with you? I don’t see any scorpions!

Sheen laughed and whirled around to face the direction we were looking in and pointed: AHHHH! SERENA!!!

Libby sighed: For the last time, Sheen…Serena is not real! It’s just a…a…

Libby shook her head and allowed her eyes to pinpoint the center of our gazes.

Libby’s eyes opened wide and she trembled: What…is that?!?!

At last I spoke: That…is the most dangerous looking sandstorm I have ever seen.

Sheen screamed: Aha! A sandstorm! You see, Carl? It’s not a puppy!

Carl was still shrieking, ignoring everything we were saying and screeching at the top of his lungs until Sheen slapped him hard across the face.

Carl gasped for breath: Is it gone yet?!?! (He looked ahead once more and witnessed the storm rousing up…he opened his mouth to scream again)

Sheen slapped Carl’s jaw up and held it there so no shrieks could emerge: NO SCREAMING!!!

Carl broke free from Sheen’s hold: Hey! You just screamed!

Sheen defended himself: I was screaming for you not to scream!

Carl shouted: It’s still screaming!

Libby quieted them! GUYS!!! Stop fighting; you are NOT helping!

I concurred: She’s right, Carl…Sheen. We’ve got to think of a way to evade this storm or find a way through it.

Libby inquired: Is there any safe way to pass through a sand storm without… well…dying?

Carl stated smartly: Yeah, won’t the sand granules creep up into my nose hairs and irritate…

I stopped him mid-explanation: No, Carl…it’s much worse than that.

Sheen considered Carl’s nose hair story: What could be worse than that?
I answered them truthfully, fear causing my voice to waver as I gulped: Being suffocated by massive amounts of sand granules…and never coming out.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

Chiroptophobia

 

Lighting the lantern Professor Calamitous handed her, Cindy held the lone light high and marched into the cave, speaking robotically: How far back should we go, Master Calamitous?

Professor Calamitous shivered as a bat screeched over his head: Let’s go somewhere, uh, um…

Cindy finished his sentence: Safe?

Calamitous nodded: Yes, safe. Safe and sound without the… (He covered his balding head with his black gloved hands, ducking down and dodging another flock of shrieking bats)…bats!!!

Cindy observed a few bats hanging from the ceiling of the cave: Do the bats bother you, Master Calamitous?

Professor Calamitous nodded and answered: Quite frankly, I’m terrified of them. But don’t tell anyone I said that!

A fake grin plastered itself on Cindy’s face again: Your secret is safe with me, Master Calamitous.

As these words escaped her lips, a mammoth bat, eyes glowing a fierce scarlet red, awoke from the ceiling and began to fly towards Professor Calamitous with increasing speed.

Professor Calamitous screamed like a five-year-old girl as he ordered: EEEK! MAKE IT STOP!!!!!

Cindy stood completely still until the bat came around five feet from them and then sprung into action. She executed a  flawless round off back handspring towards the bat, landed on her feet then whacked the bat with a powerful high kick and sent it careening back into the cave with a shrill cry of pain. Cindy wiped her hands together, completing a job well done and walked back towards Professor Calamitous.

The Professor stood, mouth agape, eyes open wide and spoke: Well done, Assistant Vortex! That was spectacular!

Cindy nodded and answered: Thank you, Master Calamitous. Shall we proceed?

Professor Calamitous replied with a nod: Of course; I see I have nothing to fear with you leading the way. Now carry on, Assistant Vortex! There must be some nook or cranny in this cave NOT infested with bats.

So Cindy continued on into the cave, taking out any bat that came the Professor’s way and scouring the cave for some area to rest for the night. But while they were searching, the Professor spotted something in the distance.

Calamitous squinted his tiny eyes and strained to see: What is that up there?

Cindy answered: I’m not sure, Master Calamitous. Would you like me to find out?

Professor Calamitous gasped and cowered behind Cindy: I don’t think that will be necessary…

Just then, what the Professor had caught a glimpse of entered the light…blazing red eyes and fierce snarls drenched their senses and even Cindy, brain washed as she was, felt her heart coming up in her throat.

Professor Calamitous trembled and, with a gasping breath ordered: Destroy them!!!

At first resistance gripped Cindy’s body, but the command of her “master” forced her into action and she edged closer and closer to the rabid beasts: Yes, sir!

 

Meanwhile, where we five stood, the sand storm swirled in the distance, the intense wind and sand from it beginning to whip around us. I was completely out of ideas. No inventions in my utility belt could prevent this storm from enclosing around us and sweeping us away…there was nothing I could do.

Libby stared fearfully at the enormous cloud of whirling sand: So this is it…

Carl cried: I don’t want to drown in the sand!

Sheen objected: You can’t drown in sand!

I shook my head and corrected them: It’s more like suffocating, guys…feeling the pressure of the sand weigh down on every inch of your body and then slowly running out of useable air…

Libby plugged her ears: Isn’t it going to be bad enough when it happens? Do I really need to hear a whole lecture on it???

I inhaled a deep breath and glanced around urgently when suddenly…a smile swept my face.

Sheen glared at me: What are you smiling about? We’re about to be suffocated by the wrath of Selena!

Carl mumbled: Selena’s not real…

Sheen yelped: I heard that!!!!!

I finally spoke, surprisingly happy: We’re not going to die guys! We’re not going to suffocate!

Libby sighed: Okay, Jimmy…you stay in your little fantasy world but you’ve got to face reality…

I yelled excitedly: No! Follow me, everyone! There may be a way out of this storm yet!

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

Saved By the Hole

 

Carl scratched his head: So we’re not going to die???

I exclaimed: No, Carl! I think I just found us a way out of this mess!

I sprinted a few feet from where all were and pointed down towards the ground.

Carl, Libby and Sheen walked up behind me and stared down at the sand in confusion.

Sheen breathed: It’s a hole.

Libby pointed out: It’s a very dirty, sandy hole.

Carl added: It’s a SMALL hole that could make me very claustrophobic…

I told them with joy: It’s not JUST a dirty, small hole…it’s a hole that’s going to save our lives!

Sheen explained: The only time a hole ever saved anyone’s life was in Ultralord episode #348 when a raging swarm of plasmatic killer bees (Sheen began to buzz about, imitating the bees) from planet Grygor was chasing after Ultralord and just before they reached him, he fell into a large, Grygorian craterous hole and…

Libby angrily grabbed Sheen by the collar and pulled him close to her face: Would you PLEASE lay off the Ultralord stories for, like, five seconds?!?!

As Libby set him back down, Sheen smiled wryly: If I don’t, will you do that again?

Libby placed her hands on her hips: YES!!!

Sheen, with one finger up, smiled: In that case…Ultralord was then sucked into a portal where…

Libby caught onto his scheme and yelled: If you don’t stop, I’ll make…Carl body slam you!

This reached Sheen’s ears and all at once he stopped talking and pretended to zip up his lips and throw the key away.

Libby turned her attention back to the hole situation: So…how is the hole going to save our lives again?

Carl tilted his head and commented: Yeah, it just looks like a…(His uncreative mind produced nothing )…hole.

I repeated: But it’s not just any old hole…it’s a fennec fox hole!

Carl, Libby and Sheen stared at me blankly and all replied at the same time: So…???

I went on to explain: So…fennec foxes are known for digging long holes that lead into dens and come up in other places such as caves or oases or other places we can take shelter from the storm in!

Carl cried: How are we going to fit in that tiny little hole?

Sheen agreed: Yeah…Carl’s never going to fit in there!

Carl crossed his arms across his barreled chest as Libby glanced up at the storm and screamed: The storm is getting’ bigger than Jimmy’s head!

Ignoring that quip, I urged them: Guys, we have no other choice! It’s either suffocate in the sand storm or take our chances in this foxhole! Make your decision!

Sheen’s brain seemed fried as he stood with a finger stroking his chin as if pondering: What was that third option again? 

Libby shook her head and, with a sigh, began to climb into the hole: Are you guys comin’ or what?

Sheen saw that Libby was going and, without hesitation began to crawl into the hole behind her.

Goddard clinked into the hole as Carl wavered in indecision.

Carl still seemed skeptical: I don’t know, Jimmy…it’s very…small…and I’m very…not small…

I felt the sand whipping incessantly against my face and shrieked: Carl, just get in there!!!

Carl began to crawl slower than molasses into the hole; Urgently, I pushed him with all the strength I could conjure up, but his round body became lodged in the tight space. Inside the hole, Sheen and Libby were tugging at Carl’s arms, attempting to pull him into the hole.

My eyes grew wide as the storm rushed faster and faster towards us: I sure hope this works…

With those words, I backed up and, with a running start, rammed into Carl’s backside, shoving him into the hole (screaming all the way) and at the last possible second, I crawled in behind him and took shelter in the hole.

As soon as we’d all arrived safely inside, the sand storm raged over us; ear-pounding whooshing sounds, booming and scraping sounds resounded in our ears.

Sheen commended me: Great idea, Jimmy! Now we can just crawl right back out once the storm passes!

As soon as those words escaped his lips, a large pile of sand flooded the end of the hole, caging us into the dark foxhole with no other way out but what lay ahead of us.

Libby shook her head with fear: Wrong again…

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

Follow the Pitch-Black Foxhole

 

Carl shrieked at the top of his lungs, pushing at the walls around him and trying to escape: THERE’S NO WAY OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I attempted to hold Carl’s flailing arms down: Carl, no! Doing that will just cause the hole to collapse on us!

Sheen, doing the same thing, quickly hid his hands behind his back and hypocritically scolded Carl: Yeah, Carl! What were you thinking?!?

Libby cried, afraid: What are we gonna’ do now?!?!

I pondered and directed: I suppose we’ll just have to follow this foxhole to wherever it leads. Mostly all fennec foxholes have another opening somewhere.

Sheen asked with exaggerated expressions: What if it leads to a gigantic mutated dragon’s lair?

Carl trembled: D…d…dragon?!?!?!?!

Libby calmed him with a sigh: Don’t worry, Carl; dragons aren’t real.

I, in the back of the group, yelled: Can we just start moving in (I nodded ahead, though no one could see me) that direction so we can get out of this hole as soon possible?

Libby nodded: It sounds like a plan to me…let’s go guys!

Sheen called out: Right behind you, Libbs!

Trying to ignore the nickname and leading the way, Libby crawled on all fours deeper into the fox hole, Carl, Goddard, Sheen and I following right behind her.

All of a sudden Carl stopped ahead of me and I collided with his rear end.

I rolled my eyes: What’s wrong NOW, Carl?

Carl curled up into a ball: It’s kind of dark in here…

I tried to comfort him: Well, Libby and Sheen are right ahead of you so if anything scary comes, it will get them first!

Sheen and Libby yelled angrily: HEY!!!!!

I laughed and pushed him forward: Come on, Carl. The sooner you start going again the sooner we get out of this…dark…foxhole.

Carl agreed and wobbled forward, catching up to the other two with me pushing him further and further in. Thick darkness shrouded us as we continued, growing deeper and murkier the further we scurried into the hole. No sign of light or another opening appeared for what seemed like lifetimes. My knees began to burn from crawling and scrapes were etched across my hands from all the stones and sticks on the ground.

Libby breathed tiredly: When are we going to get there?

Sheen agreed: Yeah, it’s been like three hours!

Carl wiped his sweating forehead: More like twenty!!!

I urged them: Keep going, guys; I have a feeling it’s coming up soon.

And, as usual, I was right. A couple minutes later, we began to see a faint light glimmered from what we assumed was the end of the tunneling hole.

Carl yelled frantically: Oh no! I AM dying!!! I can see the bright light at the end of the tunnel…I’m going towards the bright light…

I grinned excitedly: That IS the end of the tunnel but you’re not dying! We’re almost out of here!

Carl, Libby, Sheen and I all cheered and Goddard barked excitedly; we would at last be out of this shadow-enveloped, confining hole. And yet I still wondered where on earth this hole could lead to. The light ahead flickered as if from an artificial light…I had no clue what could possibly lay ahead.

Libby all of a sudden halted mid-crawl: I don’t think I want to go first. If anyone’s gonna’ get eaten by a mutant dragon, it’s gonna’ be one of you three…NOT me!

Sheen and Carl looked at each other then glanced back at me: JIMMY!!!!!

I sighed and began to work my way up to the front: You guys, there’s nothing to be afraid of up here.

I began to crawl once again, leading the pack until we were mere inches from the shining light ahead.

I could hear a familiar female voice agree: Yes, sir, Master Calamitous!

Libby contemplated: Oh my gosh…that sounded like…

My heart began to beat a thousand miles an hour as I whispered: It couldn’t be…

I reluctantly but urgently climbed up a bit and raised myself out of the hole only to be confronted by something that made me wish I had never escaped from the hole…

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

Falsely Fearless

 

As I exited the hole, several confusing things surrounded me; to my right snarled three beast-like animals, small but vicious looking enough to make me believe they could take me out in the blink of an eye. They seemed to be fennec foxes, only rabid and a great deal fiercer. To my left stood Professor Calamitous, cowering behind none other than Cindy Vortex who was holding a lantern and proceeding straight into the crowd of angry foxes.

I screamed: Cindy, what are you doing?!?!

Libby yelled out of the darkness from behind me: Cindy?!?! See? I knew Cindy was up there!!!!!

Libby forcefully pushed me out of the hole and clambered up right after me to see Cindy but was stunned silent by the ravaging fennec foxes. Soon after, Goddard tinkered up out of the hole and stood by my side.

I could hear Sheen tell Carl back in the tunnel: If Libby’s going up there, then so am I!

Carl whined: Don’t leave me!

So moments later, Sheen and Carl popped up out of the hole and joined our small huddle, staring with mouths agape at the foxes and at Cindy who was fearlessly approaching them.

Libby stepped in front of Cindy: Girl, what are you doing? Those things will eat you alive!

Cindy pushed Libby with impressive force out of her way and continued on.

Sheen rushed to Libby’s side as she lay strewn across the hard rocks, rubbing her head.

Sheen placed one hand on his heart and offered one to her: Dearest lady, taketh my hand and lifteth thyself from the stony ground…

Libby faintly smiled, then glared angrily at Sheen: Sheen, I appreciate your help but…GO HELP CINDY!!!!

Sheen glanced over at Cindy then nodded: Of course, my lady…I shall go forth into the unknown….

Libby shouted: GO!!!!!

Sheen raced over to where Carl and I were standing: What’s wrong with her?!

Carl pointed out: Yeah, she’s all robot like and not freaking out (he ducked down and trembled)...like I am…

Professor Calamitous ordered: Destroy the foxes, Assistant Vortex!!!

I turned to Calamitous and shrieked: What have you done to her?!?

Professor Calamitous giggled then explained his deed: I simply placed her under mind control and now…she does whatever I say.

Carl, Libby, and I gasped. 

Sheen grinned: COOL!!!!! (He sprinted over to Professor Calamitous and began to shake him with a request) Tell her to dance, tell her to dance!

The Professor sighed: Oh, all right. Dance, Assistant Vortex!

Without hesitation, Cindy began to dance about, busting out disco moves and shuffling her feet, eyes fixed on the wall with no emotion behind her movement whatsoever.

Sheen and Professor Calamitous began to laugh hysterically and I stared at Sheen.

I yelled, livid: Sheen! Whose side are you on?!?!

Sheen’s eyes shifted then he said: Oh…right. (He slapped Professor Calamitous, still suppressing a laugh) Make her stop…that’s not funny!!!

Professor Calamitous commanded: Assistant Vortex, stop dancing and destroy the foxes!

Immediately Cindy ceased dancing and started at the foxes again while agreeing: Yes, sir, Master Calamitous!

Before I could stop her, Cindy started a brawl with the first fox; with gnarling teeth it pounced at her, but her right leg flew up in a perfect kick and knocked the fox against the wall where it soon lay motionless.

Libby bit her nails off to the side as she watched: Cindy, be careful!!!

Not hearing or caring about Libby’s warning, Cindy moved on to the second fox; it leapt forward to attack her leg and sink its sharp claws into her calf but, doing a round off back hand spring over it, she grabbed the fox by the tail and flung it deep into the cave. A loud “thud” resounded.

Carl covered his eyes with his chubby fingers and cried: I can’t watch!

Now it was time for Cindy to confront the third fox. Now this fennec fox was larger than the other two, more ferocious and obviously stronger. Its teeth seemed twice as long, claws three times as sharp. Cindy, without a hint of fear in her eyes, sprung towards the fox and, just when she looked like she was ready to attack, she sat down on the ground beside it.

Professor Calamitous slapped his gloved hands to his face irately: What are you doing?!?!

Just when the fox was about to devour her, Cindy pulled the fox in with her feet, wrapped her legs around it, twisted then pushed her legs forward, sending the fox flying and wailing, colliding with a large boulder yards away.

She picked herself up off the ground then turned around to face Professor Calamitous: Was that to your approval, Master Calamitous?

Professor Calamitous smiled: Yes, Assistant Vortex. Good job!

A fake smile swept across Cindy’s face but it was then that I noticed it…that last fennec fox’s crimson eyes snapped suddenly open and it was bounding mercilessly back towards her…

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

Smally Big-Big or Sheen?

 

I could barely even breathe as I tried to decide what to do. Was I supposed to save Cindy and risk my own life or let the fox attack her? I thought maybe it would serve her some good. Then I would feel the revenge I’d longed for ever so deeply since she became my rival. It would be pay back for all of the horrible things she’d done to me in the past. But it was just then that I had a series of flashbacks:

I saw Cindy saving my life on that show we were forced into: Win, Lose and Kaboom, I saw her in my lab that day the love potion made me fall in love with her, looking at me with green eyes full of care and compassion instead of the usual hatred and anger, I saw her once again pleading with me to stay on the island with her when we were stranded and I remembered how her hand felt in mine…and I knew I could never let anything happen to her.

A wave of bravery and confidence swept my body and I knew then what I had to do.

Sheen noticed that I looked as if I was about to do something crazy: Jimmy…what are you doing???

Carl tried to hold me back: Jimmy, don’t go!!!

I coached to myself out loud: I have no other choice.

The vicious fox pounded towards Cindy and crouched down, preparing to pounce. Without hesitation I jolted forward, leapt onto its back and began to fight against it in any way I could. I sunk my fists into the hairy flesh, yanking out handfuls of sand-filled fur and whammed my feet into its sides.

Cindy all of a sudden whirled around to face the fox’s and my brawl, dust clouds emerging from beneath us and howls of pain escaping from both of us. She started towards me as if ready to help and for a mere moment in her eyes I caught a glimpse of fear and concern as she bit her lower lip until…

Professor Calamitous commanded: Stay put, Assistant Vortex! Do not assist him!

Then all of a sudden all those emotions in her eyes faded to gray and she just stood there watching carelessly.

Carl began to cry: I don’t want to look! (He turned away) I want my mommy!

Professor Calamitous rubbed his hands together and schemed with a menacing laugh: Haha, this is a much better way to be rid of Jimmy Neutron! And I have a front row seat!

Libby glanced at Sheen and Carl: There must be some way we can help!

Sheen made the motion of rolling up his sleeves and, with a deep voice, nodded bravely: I’m going in.

Sheen marched over to the fox and me and hopped into the scrap; he began to grasp at chunks of the fox’s fur, keeping it occupied while I held it down and tried to hit it into submission. All of a sudden, in the striving struggle, I felt the fox collapse beneath my weight and cease its fight. At last we had defeated it.

Professor Calamitous squeaked disappointedly: NOOOO!!!!!

Carl turned halfway around and whined: Is it over yet?

Sheen and I rose up off the animal, dusting ourselves off. I noticed Sheen cradling his arm, wincing.

I asked him frightfully: Sheen, what happened to your arm?!?!

Sheen removed his hand from his arm and revealed several deep gouges from the fox’s claws on his right bicep.

Libby gasped and shuffled speedily over to him, taking him by the other arm and sitting him down against a large rock. She pulled a pink jeweled handkerchief  with a picture of a rapper on it from her pocket and gazed at it.

Libby sighed to herself: My favorite Smally Big Big hanky…

But nonetheless, Libby took the handkerchief and wrapped it around Sheen’s arm, tying it tightly to stop the bleeding.

Sheen winced and screamed at the pain: AHHH! Ouch, that hurts!

Libby rested her hand on Sheen’s shoulder and gazed comfortingly into his eyes: Don’t worry, Sheen; this’ll help.

Carl glanced over and noticed the red stain on the handkerchief around Sheen’s arm: Is that…blood???

All of a sudden Carl’s eyes rolled upwards and he fell over, fainting.

Professor Calamitous glared at me angrily: You think that fox was the last of your worries? Well think again! (He turned to order Cindy) Assistant Vortex (He lifted a bony finger and pointed at me)…destroy Jimmy Neutron!!!

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

Mortal Enemy Showdown

 

My breath caught in my throat with fear as I watched Cindy march robotically around to face me with heartless eyes. There was no way I could defeat her…especially since Professor Calamitous had seized control of her mind which meant she had no care as to what damage she could do to me.

Cindy began to charge at me ruthlessly, ready to do just as Professor Calamitous commanded, destroy me, and I knew she could do it too.

Libby screamed, gnawing away at her nails: Cindy, stop!!!

Sheen’s eyes fluttered open from resting: It won’t help…she’s under evil mind control like when Captain Corruptive of Planet Zurgor put Ultralord under mind control in Episode #616...

Libby placed a finger on Sheen’s lips to quiet him; she watched in horror as Cindy advanced toward the trembling boy genius who stood breathless without a plan.

Professor Calamitous giggled with satisfaction as his eyes soaked in the sight of Cindy sprinting towards me, her eyes flashing with forced anger and her limbs ready for action. Just witnessing her impressive battle with the foxes mere minutes ago, I knew I had no chance against her.

I didn’t know what to do; was I supposed to fight Cindy and risk hurting her or let her win and annihilate me? While pondering this thought, I caught sight of Cindy’s fist, flying straight towards my head…but in an almost involuntary motion I lifted my arm and blocked her punch. Pulling back abruptly, I could tell she was surprised at my sudden action, so she tried again. She attempted a karate chop at my neck but I quickly ducked and evaded the shot and bobbed up again.

Professor Calamitous yelled with dismay: You can’t do that! You’re supposed to let her destroy you!!!

I laughed and answered: Not in this lifetime, Calamitous!!!

As I turned to speak these words to him, I got distracted and at last Cindy grabbed hold of me; she clutched me by my the collar of my shirt, raising me off the ground and growling with fierce anger. My eyes lit up with fear; she was ready to tear me to pieces.

Professor Calamitous shouted from the sidelines: Finish him off!!!

Carl, Libby and Sheen all shrieked at the same time: NO!!!!!

Libby cried: Cindy, don’t!!!

Sheen shouted: Put my friend down!!!

Carl whined: This isn’t how it’s supposed to end!!!

No one’s shouts could make her stop; she ignored every word. Cindy’s cold eyes reflected  the fierce sting of the ice her heart was now made of. Her fist tightened into a grip that would suffocate my shirt if it were a living being. And so I, in one last effort to save my own life and restore Cindy, began to plead with her.

I breathed calmly, trying to change her evilly controlled mind: Please, Cindy…don’t. Don’t you remember me? Jimmy Neutron…I know we hated each other for a long time but things have changed …don’t you remember when our brains switched places, or when we had to work on that science project together, or when I saved you from the giant snake on that island? Please try to remember…please…

Cindy seemed unyielding for a moment, but then it was as if my words soaked in and her emotionless eyes glazed with compassionate tears; taking a deep breath, she slowly lowered me back onto the ground.

Professor Calamitous tossed his hands into the air: What are you doing?!?! Destroy him!!!!

I gazed into Cindy’s emerald green eyes and waited to see if she would listen to my words or Professor Calamitous’s…

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

Fading Away

 

Cindy’s eyes seemed to glaze over with a distant, lost look as her hands fell back down to her sides. She just stared into nothingness.

I tilted my head and tried to get a glimpse of what she was thinking: Cindy…?

Professor Calamitous commanded from afar: Assistant Vortex! Come here this instant!!!

She made no movement that hinted what she was going to do; she only stood motionless in front of me.

Libby asked with concern: What’s wrong with her?

Carl commented with a chuckle: Yeah, she looks like she just saw a ghost (he cowered)…ahhhhhh!!!! Are there ghosts in here?!?!

Carl began to hop around, his eyes bolting around in all directions and making sure no ghost would jump out of no where at him. As he was searching behind a stalagmite, Sheen popped out from behind it and screamed “BOO!” into Carl’s terrified ears.

Carl shrieked: AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Libby turned to face them angrily with her hands on her hips: Will you guys turn it down a few decibels? Can’t you see we have a situation here?!?!

I didn’t even notice Carl and Sheen’s little charade behind me; I couldn’t concentrate on anything but that far-away, spaced out look in Cindy’s eyes.

Professor Calamitous yelled: Assistant Vortex!!!

Nothing happened. Then all of a sudden her hands fly upwards to her head as if holding it in immense pain and then her eyes seemed to fade away, roll upwards and then I watched her begin to fall towards me as if fainting. Without even thinking about it twice, my hands shot out immediately and I caught her in my arms.

Libby cried and ran to her side: CINDY!!!

Professor Calamitous shouted: What have you done to her???

I observed Cindy’s head with fear: No, what have YOU done to her? (I brushed her hair away from the area of her head she was cradling with pain) That mind control helmet must’ve done some serious damage to her brain…

Libby panicked and questioned: So what does that mean?

I looked over at Libby: You see this state she’s in right now? Like she’s asleep…

Libby nodded her head and urged me to continue.

I sighed with a sickness knotting in my stomach: She might never come out of it…

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

 

Carl overheard part of our conversation and came waddling over: She’s gonna’ wake up, right?

I glanced over at Carl with glazed eyes and said nothing.

Carl asked again: Right?

Sheen marched up: Bah! She’s just sleeping!

He slapped her across the face in an attempt to wake her but her head only moved in the direction of the slap and fell back down onto my arm where it had been.

I caught his hand in mid air as he was about to slap again: Sheen, no! Don’t make it any worse!

Professor Calamitous shrugged his shoulders and squeaked: Well, she’s no use to me now. She was going to end up like that in the end anyhow.

Libby glared back at him, fury burning on her face.

I shook my head, baffled by his lack of compassion as I glanced down at the motionless blonde girl in my arms: How could you say that?

Professor Calamitous ignored my question, pulled the robot block from his pocket and pressed the button on it; it unfolded and grew huge again, breaking open the ceiling of the cave and leaving a gaping hole that exposed the night sky, studded with stars that seemed ugly in light of all that was occurring beneath them.

Professor Calamitous climbed up into his robot: Later, kiddies! I have a tomb to find!

Sheen shook his head with a yawn: Gee, doesn’t that guy ever sleep?

Carl commented: Can we just take a (He curled up on the ground and yawned) little nap?

Libby inquired: But won’t he get to the stones first?

I sighed and lowered Cindy gently down onto the ground: We really have no other choice but to stay here for the night, Libby. We can’t outrun that robot, especially when we’re sleep deprived. Plus, maybe a night’s rest will do Cindy some good…carrying her around all night in the cold air won’t do her any good.

Libby glanced over at Sheen and Carl who had fallen fast asleep, all curled up together: So I should just sleep?

I nodded: If you can.

Libby questioned: What about you?

I told her: Since the storm has apparently passed, I’m going out to try to find this plant…the ocotillo plant. It only blooms after a storm. Ancient Egyptians used to eat its flower petals to restore memory and reduce head pain after a concussion. I’m thinking, if I find it in time, it might help Cindy.

Libby yawned: Sounds like a good plan to me…(She pointed to Sheen and Carl)…I’ll be here with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

Libby laid herself down on the ground close to Cindy; Goddard clunked down beside her.

With a quick nod I began to traverse out towards the entrance of the cave to find the  plant that would hopefully save Cindy. But just as I drew close to the mouth of the cave, I caught sight of something swooping towards my head….

 

CHAPTER THIRTY

Just A Nightmare or Foreshadowing of Things to Come?

 

I gasped as the shadow dove down towards my head then pulled back up and screeched above me; it was just a bat. I squinted my eyes and looked ahead, catching sight of hundreds of perched on stalagmites, hanging from the ceiling and crawling on the walls ahead of me. Their violent ruby eyes threatened me and I began to think twice about passing through that way.

I whispered to myself: Maybe I’ll just get it in the morning…

Turning back slowly so as not to disturb any bats, I crept back down through the cave, at last reaching the area where Carl, Cindy, Goddard, Libby and Sheen were.

Libby still lay awake, holding up Cindy’s head in her lap when I returned.

She asked quietly: Did you get the plant?

I shook my head and answered: The entrance is blocked by bats…I don’t think there will be any plants nearby anyways.

Libby glanced down the cave and watched a bat flutter by; cringing she said: I don’t blame you.

I kneeled down beside her: So, how’s she doing?

Libby sighed: She hasn’t moved yet…

I breathed deeply and glanced up out of the hole Professor Calamitous’s robot had created and gazed at the glistening moon: I guess only time will tell. For now, you should get some rest. (I yawned and leaned back) In fact…we should all get some rest.

Libby lowered herself down onto the ground again: I agree. ‘Night Jimmy, see ya in the mornin’.

I nodded: Goodnight…

Sleep claimed with quickly, with the sound of the desert coyotes howling at the moon and the gentle rushing of sandy wind outside the cave lulling me to sleep. But after a few hours of peaceful sleep, I found myself encompassed in a dreadful nightmare…

 

I was in a hospital, sitting in the waiting room when a doctor came out with a depressing look on his face.

I heard myself inquire of the doctor: How is she?

The doctor shook his head: She’s…she’s not waking up.

I yelled: WHAT?!?! You have to do something!

The doctor calmly explained: I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do…

Before I could argue, the doctor turned his back on me and shuffled out of the waiting room, leaving me behind, answerless.

 

I woke up in a cold sweat, on the verge of screaming my lungs out. As I lay there on the firm, rocky ground thinking over the dream and glancing over at Cindy’s breathless body, I began to imagine life without her…no competition at the science fair, no one always there across the street, no one to help me turn things around when my inventions would go wrong…and as I pondered all of this, I felt tears coming to my eyes.

I inhaled a deep breath and did my best to contain the teardrops that pushed endlessly at my resistant eyes. My tired eyes traveled up to that gaping opening in the ceiling once more and I found myself gazing off into the moon…the same moon that shone over Retroville. I wondered if Cindy would ever get to see this moon from Retroville ever again…and if I would ever view it with her again. I swallowed hard but the lump in my throat would not retreat. I forced my eyes to close and forced myself to try to forget the girl who rested just feet away from me…the girl whose fragile life lay in my hands.

The rest of the night was all a blur to me; after that I dozed off every once in a while but woke up every five or ten minutes, and before I knew it I had spent nearly a whole night sleepless as I watched the hot sun climb into the sky above me. That day was a brand new day, a day that held more adventure than I had ever bargained for…if only I had known…

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

Life Left Unlived

 

As soon as the sun tucked the moon in for the day and rose to prominence in the morning sky, I sprung up from the ground to check on Cindy. It looked as if she hadn’t moved all night, and I’d never seen her looking so lifeless. The excitement of hoping she’d be awake drained from my body and was quickly replaced by doubt filled fears. I began to wonder if that horrific nightmare I’d experienced would actually come true and I turned my back to her motionless body, holding back emotions I had no desire to deal with. Just as I shifted I heard something stir and with hope I whirled myself around…only to find Libby who’d just awoken and was only seeing if her best friend was all right. Once again my happiness dissolved and I took a deep, sorrowful breath.

Libby brushed Cindy’s golden hair back from her face and shook her head: Still nothin’. 

I nodded, stoic: I know…I’m going to try to find that plant…can you wake up Sheen and Carl for me?

Libby glanced over at them; Carl’s arms were around Sheen, Sheen’s legs were all curled up in Carl’s, and they were fast asleep.

Libby giggled: I wish Cindy was awake to see this…

As I exited the cave I began to think again; Cindy wasn’t awake to see the hilarious scene that Carl and Sheen had just provided; what else would she miss? She would miss the science fair, Christmas, her sweet 16th birthday party, going to college, getting married…she’d only had a short time to live her life and to cut it off now, I thought, would be a crime. She would never get to experience all the wonderful aspects of life that I would if she never awakened…and it was then that I began to feel guilty.

I began to ponder in my brain how I could’ve saved her; if I would’ve gone into that false tomb first or with her, she would’ve never gotten captured. As I contemplated all this I began to convince myself that it was my fault, and a shock of disappointment in myself swept my entire body as I moped out of the cave.

 

Libby spoke softly: Sheen…wake up…

Sheen’s eyes fluttered open a bit but closed before he caught sight of Carl and, hearing Libby’s voice, he thought that he was next to Libby and whispered: Good morning, Libbs; can I have a good morning kiss?

Sheen puckered up and as he did, Libby kicked Carl in the backside, arousing him from his sleep, and his eyes snapped open.

Carl screamed at the sight of Sheen’s lips coming towards him: AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Sheen opened his eyes again and saw that it was Carl he was leaning in for: AHHHHH! BLECK!!!!

Quickly untangling themselves, the boys shot up from their positions on the ground, Carl making a futile attempt to brush himself off and Sheen wiping his lips on his arm as if they were contaminated.

Carl shrieked as he went spastic trying to clean himself off: AHHH! Now I’ve got Sheen cooties all over me!

Sheen yelled at Carl: Cooties?!?! That’s nothing! I almost lip wrestled with you! (He wiped his lips once again) For the love of Ultralord, that is just WRONG!!!

While all this was going on, Libby stood by laughing hysterically, enjoying their surprising waking moments while I safely made my way out of the cave and off to find the plant. Oh, how I prayed that plant would awaken her…

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

Lifeless Desert…Lifeless Girl

 

As I wandered out of the cave, my eyes drank in the destruction from the storm that had occurred the previous night; cactuses were ripped up by the roots and strewn across the wind-chiseled sand dunes along with a few other plants uprooted and torn to pieces by the sandstorm. I was taking this all in when all of a sudden I heard something creeping up behind me and…

Sheen screamed in my ear: Jimmy!!!!

I jumped five feet into the air with a shriek, my heart racing rapidly; I hadn’t nearly expected Sheen to be there behind me.

I turned around only to see that Carl, Goddard, Libby and Sheen were all behind me, Libby holding a limp Cindy in her arms.

I screamed at Sheen, regaining my breath: SHEEN!!! Don’t do that!!!

Sheen chuckled and, with an upturned palm, told Carl: See! I told you I could scare him!

Carl reluctantly reached into his pocket, retrieved a quarter and pressed it into Sheen’s eager hand which quickly received the quarter and shoved it into his own pocket.

I shook my head: You had a bet going…and you bet a quarter. Just a quarter?

Carl yelled defensively: Just a quarter?!? That’s the entirety of my weekly gumball fund!

Sheen rolled his eyes: How stupid is that? A gumball fund?!?!

Libby asked Sheen, targeting his weakness: Well I bet you’ve got an Ultralord fund…

Sheen opened his mouth to object but abruptly closed it again when he realized he couldn’t object.

I found myself laughing for the first time since Cindy had been captured but immediately stopped myself as I stared at her still, helpless body hanging from Libby’s arms.

I breathed, desperate: I’ve got to find that plant, guys…it’s her only hope right now…

Carl raised one hand to his forehead to shade his eyes from the intense sun and gazed across the horizon: How are you gonna’ find it, Jim? It looks like all the plants here are dead…

I sighed, scanning the lifeless desert that surrounded us: You seem to be right, Carl.

Libby shifted Cindy in her arms and inquired: Isn’t there another part of the desert that didn’t get all ripped up by the storm that we could check out?

I scratched my head: We might just have to do that…(I walked over to where Libby was standing and gently felt Cindy’s head, listened for a heart beat, then checked her breathing)…but I don’t know how much longer she has…
Just then I heard Carl’s voice; it seemed to waver as he whined: Or how much longer WE have…

I asked as I turned slowly around: Carl, what are you talking about?…

At the end of my sentence, my jaw dropped and I gasped at the towering shadow before me…

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

Medjayuan Warning

 

I stared up at a merciless looking man, his clothing made up of black, sand-worn fabrics loosely draped from his body, his skin dark and tough like leather, his face chiseled from the desert winds and intense heat. He sat atop a dusty colored camel with long, shaggy hair that nearly covered its eyes, clumps of dirt ensnared in it, firm in its stance and covered in bags and weaponry. It seemed to me that the camel had a fierce air about it, its eyes reflecting red against the sunlight and grunting every so often as if impatient.

I finally sputtered a few words, gazing up at the sight before me: I can’t believe it…

Libby gazed at an enormous sword that glimmered from underneath a cloth strapped on the camels back: What? That a sword could be that big?

Sheen commented: No, that a camel could be that ugly.

Carl disagreed with both of them: No…that he’s not riding a llama!

I glared back at Carl and turned around quickly to face the man; words trembled from my lips: S…s…sir? Is there anything we can…do for you?

The man spoke clearly, clipped and forcefully: Yes. Leave this place and never return.

Libby blurted obliviously: Yeah right! We’ve gotta…

Jolting back to where she was standing, I slapped my hand across her mouth…an opening that could speedily get us into deeper trouble than I was ready for.

I watched as his stern expression ignited into anger; I corrected her: Uh, what she means is…thanks for the warning…what’s the occasion?

He glanced back and forth slowly then replied: You need no occasion to leave this desert. Surely you will die if you remain here. (He nodded at Cindy’s lifeless body dangling in Libby’s arms). I see this accursed place has already claimed one of yours.

A hurt and defensive expression swept my face as I tried to convince him and even myself: She’s not dead!!!!!

He shook his head slowly, turned his eyes downward, then gazed back at me: If she is not now, then she will be. (He nodded at Carl, Libby and Sheen) Along with the rest of you.

I tried to assure him: We’ll leave…as soon as we finish something…do you know where a tomb might be?

His eyes opened wide and he glared into my blue eyes: DO NOT enter the tomb. There are evils within beyond comprehension…it is not worth risking your lives. Many have entered, few have returned. You are young, your lives are still ahead of you. Turn around and return to the place of whence you came…it is best that way for all of your sakes. Especially for the blonde one there (He turned his attention to Cindy). If you enter that tomb, she will undoubtedly pass before you can save her.

I gazed back at Cindy then back at the man atop the camel. My heartbeat raced inside me.

The man uttered a few last words: Heed my warnings…save yourselves.

Quickly he turned his camel around and trotted speedily into the desert wilderness, disappearing quickly into the sea of sand, his silhouette melting in the waves of heat.

I shook my head in disbelief and stared out into the direction the man had departed in.

Sheen waved a hand in front of my face: Earth to Jimmy, Earth to Jimmy…(When I didn’t respond he looked back at the others)…Houston, we have a problem!

Carl trembled with fear: Jimmy…what’s wrong?

Libby added: Yeah, why did you say “I can’t believe it” before?

I tuned back into reality and answered them slowly: That was a Medjayuan warrior…a warrior from the eastern deserts of Nubia…

Sheen’s brain seemed fried: So?

I whirled around to face them: Medjayuan warriors were last seen in 2200 B.C. …

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

Guardian Angel

 

Libby repeated, surprised: 2200 B.C.?!?!

Sheen commented: So? That’s only, like…(He counted on his fingers)…twenty years ago!

I looked at Sheen: Sheen, that was over 4,000 years ago.

Libby reasoned: How is it possible for someone to stay alive 4,000 years?

I told her: It’s not…it’s not scientifically possible or mathematically correct…but it’s possible that their clan has hidden somewhere in the desert for several millennia. The legend of their kind is that they only appeared when a life-altering event was about to occur. They were kind of like guardian angels, warning people of things to come. But that’s just a myth, of course.

Carl whined: Well shouldn’t we listen to him anyways? I don’t wanna’ die yet! There’s lots of things I still wanna’ do…

Sheen jeered: Let me guess…pet a llama, ride a llama and own a llama.

Carl held his finger up in the air, mouth open, as if to add another activity to the list until Sheen jutted in once more.

Sheen concluded: Oh…and BE a llama.

It looked like the wind got knocked out of Carl as he lowered his finger, closed his mouth and began to shyly kick the sand around his feet: Yes…

Libby glanced down at Cindy’s body lying limply in her arms: We can’t go to the tomb, Jimmy.

I exclaimed, urgent: Libby, we have to! Otherwise Professor Calamitous is going to initiate world domination!

Libby cried: But if we do, Cindy’s not gonna’ make it…

I took a deep breath, absorbed her words and, attempting to push away any personal feelings, spoke logically: If we don’t then EVERYONE suffers…not just Cindy. Turning back now is not an option.

Sheen slid closer to Libby, his injured arm facing her: I agree with Libbs  …let’s get out of this place! There’s no water, it’s hot, and worst of all…

Carl tried to fill in the blank as his stomach rumbled: There’s no food?!?!

Sheen excused his answer with a wave of his hand: Psh, no. There’s no T.V. to watch Ultralord!!!

Libby rolled her eyes and commented sarcastically: No Ultralord! Oh no…we’re ALL doomed now…

I told them: Guys, I have a good feeling about the plant…if we can just find it, then I’m hoping and praying it will wake Cindy from this coma she seems to be in. If not…

Libby’s eyes glazed with tears: If not…what?

I finished the sentence abruptly, glancing down at the ground and trying to avoid eye contact with Libby: Then I’m afraid there’s nothing else we can do.

Those words resurrected a flashback of the dream I’d received the night before back into my mind and I bit my lip, holding back a wave of struggling emotions. We HAD to find that plant.

I urged them: Okay guys, we’ve got to find it…NOW…

Carl’s eyes darted back and forth: But everything is dead!

I yelled, frenzied: Then look for it on the way there!

Sheen picked up a rock: Is this it?

I shook my head: No, Sheen.

Libby adjusted Cindy’s weight in her arms: Then what does it look like?

I explained: Another name for it is the “vine cactus”…its appearance looks like that of an arrangement of dead sticks but up close you will see tiny red buds on the ends and small ovate green leaves jutting from all over the branches. It can grow to be a height of around 10 cm high and is found…

Sheen stopped me: Okay, okay I get the picture! Can we just start looking for it instead of listening to you lecture us about it?!?!

I impatiently answered: Good idea, Sheen. (I glanced at all of them) Everyone…(I pointed out into the desert in the direction the Direction Doctor 3000 located the tomb)…move out!!!

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

Is This It?

 

We trudged through the endless sea of sand for hours, not spotting the plant anywhere. I was certain that we were headed in the right direction, but what I was not certain of was how long it would take to arrive at the tomb or how long it would be until we came upon the ocotillo plant. The merciless, scorching sun only caused us to drag our feet slower, and at last it was mid afternoon. I knew that as soon as the sun went down, I would collapse into a deep sleep.

Carl’s heavy body staggered through the sand, on the verge of passing out: Are we there YET?

Sheen added: We’ve been walking for a million bazillion hours!

Libby glanced over at a frizzy braid of her jet black hair and gasped: Do you have any idea how much the sun is damaging my hair?!?!

I held the Direction Doctor 3000 out in front of me, my arm wavering from weakness: Only a few more…dozen miles…

Carl shrieked: Miles?!? (He began to scratch himself) Long distances give me rashes!

Sheen agreed: Yeah, this is ridcu…riculud…(he tried to pronounce “ridiculous” but gave up)…lame!

I tried to encourage him: Come on, Sheen…what would Ultralord do?

Sheen pondered this a moment then told me: Ultralord would turn on his cybertronic Ritridian jetpacks and FLY to the tomb!

I sighed, surrendering and continued to shuffle forward.

Libby whined: My arms are getting tired!

Sheen popped his head over her shoulder: Want a massage?

Libby retorted with disgust: Ugh, never! What I want is someone else to carry Cindy! She’s my girl and all but toting her through endless miles of sand in 105 degree weather for six hours is enough! (Her arms began to sag underneath Cindy’s weight) Who wants her?

Sheen answered quickly: Not me! My arms have to stay open just in case you change your mind about that massage. (He waggled his eyebrows)

Libby rolled her eyes and turned to Carl: How about you?

Carl flexed his bony arms; the lack of muscles drooped: I guess I could…since I’ve been working out…

Libby passed Cindy into Carl’s arms which in turn sunk immediately to the ground. He grunted and tried with all his strength to lift her off the sand but alas failed.

Libby scooped Cindy’s motionless body up off the ground and commented sarcastically: Working out, huh?

Libby then turned to me.

I gazed at Cindy, her body so fragile, her face once full of life and happiness now drained and pale. If we didn’t find the plant, I concluded, I could at least be there, close to her, in her last hours. Emotions surged through me but, like many times before, I chose to ignore them.

At last I involuntarily offered: I’ll take her.

Libby carefully lowered Cindy into my arms; I gently pulled her in, adjusted her weight and held her gently up then started to walk again.

We continued on for another hour or so, Sheen picking up everything he saw from rocks to sticks to scorpions and asking, “Is this it?” Repeatedly I answered with a no…every item he showed me seemed to get farther and farther from what the plant would look like and pretty soon he was weighing on my last nerve.

Sheen grabbed a beetle from the sand: Is this it?!?!

Carl, Libby and I all shouted simultaneously: NO!!!

I yelled, irritated: NOW STOP ASKING!!!

Sheen crossed his arms across his Ultralord T-shirt and held his head high: Fine, if you don’t want my help…

Carl, Libby and I immediately answered again: WE DON’T!!!

Goddard agreed: Bark BARK!!!

I shook my head with frustration and glanced down at Cindy’s unresponsive body in my arms; staring into her expressionless face was frighteningly nerve wracking. I kept expecting her to wake up and with a smile exclaim, “Haha, I got you Neutron!” I used to hate it when she called me by my last name; it even provoked me to further argue with her when she gave me those nicknames. But now watching her, silent and emotionless, I realized that I would give anything in the world just to hear her speak again.

Suddenly my thought bubble was burst by a crunching noise; it sounded like Sheen stepped on something like a scorpion then picked it up. I heard Sheen’s repetitive voice: Is this it???

No one even bothered to look back at him.

I yelled angrily, losing hope: NO Sheen!!!

Sheen sighed, shrugged his shoulders, then carelessly threw behind him…the ocotillo plant…

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

Accidental Miracle

 

By the time the golden sun was setting over the silent sand dunes, my arms were nearly numb from supporting Cindy's weight and my legs cramped and nearly collapsed beneath my weary body. We had marched on for hour after endless hour without even catching a glimpse of a living plant, let alone the ocotillo plant.

Sheen slowly turned his head to face me: Jimmy, if I make it out of here alive, remind me to never EVER go with you on another one of your adventures.

Carl nodded: I'm in for that deal too.

Libby told me in an exhausted yet panicky voice: Jimmy, in that robot, Professor Calamitous is gonna' get to that tomb before us! We'll never beat him to it anyways!

I assured her: Oh yes we will.

Libby glared at me: Okay, I know you're a genius and all, but the heat must be gettin' to your big head. Cuz there is no way that we could go faster on foot than a huge robot that flies...even I know that!

Sheen agreed: YEAH! Even she knows that!

Carl all of a sudden tuned in: Who knows what? (He grasped his head) I'M SO CONFUSED!

Libby asked, skeptical: And how can you be so sure that we'll get there first again?

I explained: When a robotic devise is confined into a small area for any period of time like it was when Professor Calamitous had it in his pocket, the robot must fully recharge itself for 24 hours or else it will break down and then recharge.

Sheen began to entertain himself with a beetle that landed on his shirt: So...

I concluded: So...Professor Calamitous is most likely stranded out in the middle of no where right now waiting for his robot to recharge...there's a pretty good chance that we will get to the tomb around the same time that he does, if not before.

Carl interrupted: So can we PLEASE stop walking now and SLEEP!?!?

I sighed, my body desperately crying out for rest but my mind and heart begging my body to continue until we found the plant.

Libby straightened her shirt: Yeah, that sounds like a plan to me...I need my beauty sleep!

Sheen fluttered his eyelashes and grabbed Libby's hand: Like you need it...

Libby's hand quickly snapped back; repulsed, she retorted: Maybe I don't but...you could sure use some...

I stopped the conversation before it progressed any more and reluctantly surrendered to my weak body: Alright, let's stop for the night.

As soon as the last word escaped my lips, Carl, Libby and Sheen sunk to the sand; Goddard let out a tired whimper and crumpled to the ground. Soon after, I found myself flop onto the sand as well, right after gently setting Cindy beside me.

We all sprawled out there quietly for another hour or so until the sun retired for the night; Carl and Sheen dozed off a few times, Libby seemed to have drifted to sleep and I...I lay awake, staring at Cindy's unanimated body as if I didn't need the slumber my eyes were pleading for.

After a while, Libby sat up slowly and wandered over to Cindy and I; she placed her hand on Cindy's forehead and glanced over at me: Do you know how much longer she has?

I sighed and admitted the truth: Not long…not long at all.

Libby inquired: And if we don't find the plant by...when...?

I unveiled the truth that I had been denying all along: If we don't find the ocotillo plant tonight...she might be gone by morning.

Libby cried: WHAT?!? There's no chance that we'll find it now that it's dark and there aren't any plants anywhere...

I nodded my head and closed my eyes, retaining the tears that crowded behind my eyelids. We sat in heartrending silence.

Sheen all of a sudden woke from his sleep and crawled over to our spot on the sand: Jimmy, I think I broke my foot.

My eyes flickered open and I stared at Sheen who was twisting his foot in all different directions: Sheen, if  your foot was broken then you wouldn't be able to move it.

Libby rolled her eyes and Sheen wrenched his foot back around: Oh...then why does it hurt like it got blasted by a morphonic laser ray from Ultralord episode #913?

I sighed, not wanting to deal with such a trivial matter at the moment with a vital life coming to an end behind me: Take off your shoe, Sheen...let me have a look at it.

Sheen abruptly removed his shoe, an awful odor rising from the newly revealed foot. Libby and I tried not to gag.

Libby glanced back at Cindy's lifeless body: Girl, you are lucky that you're not conscious right now.

I blocked my nostrils and grabbed Sheen's foot; observing it, I saw nothing to be wrong: Sheen, it's completely normal.

Libby coughed: You call THAT smell normal?!

At once, urgent to get the shoe back on Sheen's foot, I clasped the shoe in my hand and almost handed it to him when something red caught in the bottom stole my gaze...

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

Waiting For A Response

 

I clutched Sheen’s shoe in my hand and stared amazed into the sole: SHEEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At this excruciatingly loud outburst, Carl’s sleep-filled eyes snapped open and he flung himself upwards out of his slumber and released an ear-piercing shriek.

Sheen clapped his hands to his ears: AHH!!! Why is everyone screaming?!?!

I couldn’t even form words out of my overjoyed mouth as I shook the shoe in the air excitedly and pointed to the red substance in the bottom of it.

Libby squinted her eyes to see then jumped back, repulsed: EWWWWWW! A dead scorpion!!!

I glanced down at the shoe and noticed it: No, no, no…not that!

I quickly removed the scorpion from his shoe and motioned towards the other caught object.

Carl came up behind Sheen and popped in: Jim, it’s just a dead plant. You woke me up for a plant?!?!

A grin swept my face as I explained: Oh, it IS a plant, Carl; in that you are correct. But it’s not just a plant…it’s the ocotillo plant!!!

Carl clapped his hands together, producing barely any sound from the cushion of his pudgy hands: YAY!

Sheen stared at me blankly: The oco…what?

I shook my head and turned to Libby as the realization hit her.

Libby squealed with joy: So…so Cindy’s gonna’ make it?!?!?!

I gazed over at her motionless body…how I longed to see it bubbling with life again: I sure hope so…

Libby gripped my arm and shook me rapidly: GIVE IT TO HER NOW!!!

I carefully pried the ocotillo blossoms from the bottom of Sheen’s shoe and held the branch of them delicately in my hands…tiny red miracles.

Sheen opposed: Hey! Why are you stealing from my shoe?!?!

I told him: Sheen, you had the ocotillo plant trapped in the sole of your shoe…we can cure Cindy!

Sheen observed the plant I was holding: THAT? Psh, I asked you if that was it AGES ago, and you said no…actually it was more like (His calm voice evolved into a shout as he imitated) “NO!!!!”

I slapped my hand to my head: I’m sorry Sheen…I was just so frustrated and didn’t even bother to look back at you…

Carl interjected: But you were getting just (He motioned with his pink fingers) a tad on the annoying side…

Just before Sheen shot an insult back at Carl, Libby stepped in and once again contained the madness.

Libby restrained them from each other and looked over at me: Can we PLEASE just get this over with?!?!

I nodded and rushed to Cindy’s side: Yeah, we better do this quickly…there’s not much time…

Carl, Libby and Sheen crowded around Cindy’s lifeless body as I knelt down beside her, cradling her head gently in my hands. I slowly ground the ocotillo plant blossoms to a light pulp in my palms and with great care opened Cindy’s mouth and lowered the powder in. But it wasn’t going down…

My eyes sprinted from one person to another with panic: I need someone’s water bottle!

Carl removed his tiny water bottle from his shoulder and hesitantly handed it to me: That’s my last sip…

I smiled with admiration at my friend: Thanks Carl; you’re doing a good thing.

At this Carl blushed as he watched my attempt to save the life of his fellow classmate and best friend’s first rival…or first…

My thoughts were interrupted as Libby commanded with urgency: POUR THE WATER IN ALREADY!!!

I shook the thought from my mind and slowly poured the trickling water into Cindy’s mouth, flushing the blossom pulp into her system…and then came the hardest part: waiting for a response…

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

Realization…Just A Little Too Late

 

We four sat in ominous silence, only the evening desert wind resounding in our ears as we waited and waited and waited. 

At last an hour crept by with no results; Carl and Sheen had already drifted off to sleep and Libby and I crouched over Cindy’s body with frail hope and anticipation.

Libby clasped Cindy’s cold hand in hers and turned to me, her voice wavering with tears: Nothing’s happening…

I swallowed the lump in my throat and observed the signs; she still had not moved an inch, her skin was frigid and pale, her heartbeat barely existent. I had to face the facts…I was going to lose her.

I shook my head and uttered abruptly: I need to take a walk.

Libby answered: But…Cindy…what if she wakes up?

My mind told me: She won’t…

But I answered her: Call me if she does.

Libby nodded and I, cradling my head in my hands, stumbled off behind a sand dune and collapsed; my lungs felt as if they could absorb no more air, my head throbbed from my combating thoughts and my heart ached for more reasons than I dared to admit to myself.

I whispered: I’m never going to see her again.

I told myself this in a futile attempt to shove the concept into my mind. It astounded me how throughout all my years I had compiled an enormous quantity of data and information into my brain with no trouble at all, but this tiny sentence…my mind refused to comprehend and accept as fact.

I repeated it: I am never going to see Cindy Vortex again.

As the words began to seep in and dissolve in my mind, my heart sank like the Titanic and I felt a foggy gloom looming over me. Along with the idea of never seeing her again came many other thoughts. I would never gaze into her emerald eyes again…those eyes that told me everything I needed to know about her…I would never hear her laugh again, even if it was directed at me…I would never see that expression that swept her face whenever I talked to Betty Quinlin, like she didn’t want me to talk to Betty and as if she actually desired my attention for herself…

As this realization came to me, I exclaimed quietly: Wait a minute!

I had never noticed that before, that seeming jealousy she possessed whenever I paid attention to Betty…but what was that supposed to mean?

As I allowed this view to invade my mind, it resurrected the memory of Cindy’s jealousy at my house party when I was dancing with Betty. Then I remembered Cindy siding with Nick on the whole Phantom of Retroland argument and the memory revived exactly how I felt that day. I was livid, furious and envious…I recognized exactly what it was that I had never felt before…I was jealous!!!

I rubbed my immense head and questioned myself: What in the name of Newton’s Third Law of Motion is this supposed to mean?

What were these feelings? Could it be that I actually…

I shook the idea from my mind. Whatever it was, I knew I would never get the chance to figure it out. Once Cindy had passed, these emotions would evaporate and life would resume it’s revolution…but I could hardly imagine living life without her there every day.

I felt tears form behind my eyes and this time I knew better than to contain them. Gentle sobs shook my body and once controlled tears spilled down my cheeks. I couldn’t remember the last time I gave in to crying; this time there was no halting it. I had never felt this way previously, as if I was about to lose the most important thing in my life…and I didn’t even realize she was the most important thing until it was too late.

My voice trembled as I glimpsed up at the glimmering stars in the benighted sky and wished: If I could just have one more chance, I would tell her…

My eyelids drifted shut in a moment of painful stillness, and all of a sudden the silence was broken. Something reached my ears that sounded like beautiful, miraculous music; in the distance, I heard Cindy’s voice…

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

Sleeping Beauty…Waking Beast

 

My heart leapt with joy; did this mean Cindy was…alive? I didn’t even take the time to ponder the possibilities…I only shot off running faster than I knew my legs could carry me back over to where we had laid down to rest so I could witness this beautiful miracle.

Even in the midst of the dense twilight blackness, I could see the illumination from the stars reflecting in those emerald green eyes in the distance. I was struck silent for a moment, standing breathless and stagnant on the peak of the dune; I watched the moonlight dance across her golden hair and observed her animated movements. I could scarcely believe this astounding occurrence…Cindy was alive!!!

Libby snatched Cindy up in her arms and embraced her, holding her close as if she would never let her out of her sight again…and I knew if Libby ever did let her out of her sight again, I never would. Cindy’s head jerked this way and that as if looking for something or someone, then she caught sight of me, positioned her hands on her hips and glared in my direction.

I grinned with sparkling eyes: She must want me to come down there.

Without any further hesitation, I bolted down the dune towards her, so excited to see her just breathing that I nearly tripped over my own feet on the way down.

I screamed, my heart pounding in my ears: CINDY!!!

I dashed right up to her, yet when I came inches away from wrapping my arms around her, she held her pale hand out and halted my sprint. My heart sank, the exuberance draining, and I took a deep breath, wondering what was next.

Straining my eyes, I gazed intently at her; I expected her expression to be overflowing with happiness and excitement. Instead, I viewed only blazing anger and a furious, frantic glow in her eyes.

I immediately blurted: What’s wrong?

I heard her voice speaking directly to me for the first time in a much longer interval of time than I cared to relive.

She shook her head, steaming: I cannot believe you, Neutron!

I took a stride back, my hand clutching my chest as if I’d just suffered a rending blow: What did I do???

She repeated the question: What did you do?! You weren’t here when I woke up…where were you?

I nodded back at the sand dune: I was over there behind that sand dune.

She rolled her eyes with skepticism: Oh, yeah right. Doing what?

I dared not tell her what I was actually doing…she would mock me mercilessly: I was… (I invented a quick excuse)…trying to find food.

She glanced at my empty hands: So where is it?

I held out my open palms and examined them, biting my lip: Um…a fox took it?

Cindy squinted her eyes suspiciously and commented sarcastically: Oh, THAT’S a likely story…I know what you were REALLY doing.

Had Libby spied on me and found out? I winced nervously: You…you do?

She threw her arms up into the air and slapped them back down to her sides: Of course I do! You realized that while I was asleep, you could make your big break! If you ran away, then I would be out of your life…you’d have no one to compete with you or tease you…

As she verbalized these words, I couldn’t help but realize that this list she was rattling off was much like the one I had contemplated several times before. If she was gone then I wouldn’t  have anyone to compete with me at the science fair, in school or to laugh at me…but the real and honest truth was that I didn’t care about any of those things anymore. If Cindy was in my life, that’s all that really mattered…but how on earth could I let her know that now?

Instead of telling her exactly how I felt, I accused her angrily: How could you even think that’s true?

She held her head high: I don’t think it’s true…I KNOW it’s true!

My jaw dropped and I gaped at her, imitating her phrase: I cannot believe YOU!!!

Our ear-splitting argument roused Carl and Sheen from their sleep and they hopped to their feet, their eyes darting around hysterically.

Carl whined, rubbing his eyes with balled-up fists: Why is everyone screaming?

Sheen pointed and exclaimed: CINDY’S ALIVE! Ultralord must’ve resurrected her from the dead!

Libby ignored Sheen: She’s been awake for five minutes and they’re already fighting!

Carl scratched his head: Jimmy, aren’t you happy that your cure worked and Cindy’s awake? I mean you were all worried and depressed and not sleeping and…

I interrupted him so he would not continue the embarrassing list, my cheeks blazing red with fury as I snapped and stormed away: I was happier when she was asleep!!!

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FORTY

In Her Dreams…

 

Carl cried out after me: Where are you going?

I shouted back, stomping angrily into the night: I’m going to the tomb!

Libby rubbed her tired eyes: Right now?!?!

I grumbled, ignoring the shards of my broken heart that pierced my skin with every step I took: There’s no use in wasting time; I just want to get this over with.

Cindy shrieked: Well NORMAL people need sleep, Neutron!

I snapped back at her: Well I guess YOU wouldn’t know then!

Sheen pointed a finger at Cindy and retorted: Why would you care about sleep anyways? You’ve been sleeping forever…

Libby slapped Sheen’s arm: How dare you take his side!

Sheen blushed and quickly adjusted his answer: Yeah, Jimmy, we need sleep!

Carl collapsed back onto the sand wearily, sinking immediately into snore-filled sleep.

I grunted, steaming: Fine! If even my best friends are turning against me then we’ll stay for the night.

Cindy held her head high and nodded with a winning grin, smirking at me.

I added, noticing Cindy’s self-righteous expression: But we are leaving first thing in the morning!

I marched, steaming, back towards the group to lay down, thought twice about it, then decided to sleep a few yards away from their group. I would have nothing to do with that Cindy Vortex…not tonight.

Another restless night drifted by, nearly sleepless and utterly painful. Horrifying thoughts scraped at my mind and nerve wracking dreams haunted my sleep. Anger, pity, then depression seized me numerous times and I could not shake my former feelings for Cindy from my mind. The wish I had made and the miracle that occurred…then the nightmarish fight that followed. My massive brain could not even decipher what on earth was going on.

When the sun at last settled into the dawn-painted sky, I was relieved and eager to finish this mission.

I crept up beside Sheen and yelled into his ear: Wake up, Sheen!

Sheen shouted, obviously just exiting a dream: You’ll never take UltraSheen alive you demon llamas!!!

He leapt from his spot on the ground, senses alert as the order dissolved in his ears.

Chuckling, I padded over to Carl, bent down and lightly slapped his face a few times: Get up, Carl!

Carl, still asleep, grabbed my hand, kissed it and sweet-talked: Good morning, Mrs. Neutron…

I snatched my hand from his lips, repulsed, and slapped him hard: GET UP CARL!!!

He strained his eyes as they opened.

I inquired: Carl, why did you kiss my hand and call me Mrs. Neutron?

Carl began to tremble nervously, his eyes sprinting back and forth, then made a sad attempt at distracting me by pointing behind me: Look, a cactus!

I rolled my eyes and whispered to Sheen: Sheen, you wake Libby up.

Sheen grinned: It will be my pleasure!

Sheen crawled over to Libby: My lady, thy space knight in shining galactic armor doth arrived to awaken thee!

Libby, eyes still closed, subconsciously reached out and Sheen smiled, thinking she was reaching for him until she spoke: Smally Big Big? Is that you?

Sheen’s jaw hung in place: Smally Big Big? It’s me, SHEEN! (He held a fist to his chest) Your man!!!

Libby’s face scrunched up: Sheen?

Her eyes snapped open and with a shriek, she speedily picked herself up off the ground and glared at Sheen: How dare you impersonate Smally Big Big!

Sheen crossed his arms and stomped away: Ultralord could kick Smally Big Big’s hiney any day…

I shook my head and silently approached Cindy, watching her as she slept. She seemed so peaceful, her eyelids softly covering her green eyes, stomach rising and falling gently. No cruel words were escaping her lips, just graceful sleep-filled breaths. Was that why I felt the way I did when she was unconscious? Did I only have feelings for her when she wasn’t awake and insulting me? But of course, where would those feelings I had for her when she was awake come from? My head ached miserably…I began to feel as if I would never know all the answers.

I hesitated as I reached out to wake Cindy; as I shook her shoulder lightly, her dream was also voiced.

Cindy breathed in her sleep: I would…love to go back…to the island…with you…

I removed my hand from her shoulder, listening intently.

She continued: I…I love you, Ji…

Suddenly, Cindy’s eyelids flicked open and she noticed I was there.

Uneasily rubbing her arm, she hesitantly finished her sentence: I love you…Ji…Ji…Jill!

I inquired, eyebrow arched: Jill?

She shot back at me: Yes! She was my…golden retriever…that died when I was…three! Not that you care!

Cindy rose quickly and stomped away, frantic; I stared after her in disbelief.

Rubbing my head, I questioned myself: Did she almost say what I think she did???

 

CHAPTER FORTY-ONE

Home Sweet Tomb

 

Trudging through the scorching desert, we five pressed on. The sun blared down upon us mercilessly, devouring our strength and causing us to drag our feet ever so slowly. Cindy and I uttered not a word to one another, but once I caught her gazing at me with pity and something that seemed like compassion until I stared back into her green eyes and they filled once again with blazing anger. Her face twisted into a bitter fixture and I, in despair, stared back down at the Direction Doctor 3000 which I grasped in my sweaty palm.

Sheen asked with a gasp: How much longer? I’m tired and my feet feel like cinder blocks!

Cindy snapped back: Kind of like the one in your head?

Libby and Cindy exploded into laughter and Carl sighed with impatience.

I shook my head and retorted: You GIRLS aren’t helping the situation! We’ll be there soon but you being irritating is not going to get us there any sooner!

Cindy finally spoke to me, cruelly of course: Well, it’s been two days and we still aren’t to this tomb yet! Ever think you might’ve messed up in your calculations…(She leaned over to whisper to Libby)…again?

They giggled and I glared at her, livid.

I shot right back at her: Well, if YOU  wouldn’t have traipsed into that false tomb and gotten yourself captured and rendered unconscious, we would’ve been there and back by now!

Her mouth hung open at the accusation: That is ridiculous! It’s YOUR fault for dragging us out here in the first place! And YOU didn’t realize it was a fake either, Captain Cranium!

I crossed my arms across my red shirt: I’m not even going to sink to your level and respond to that!

A smug expression washed Cindy’s face: That’s because you don’t even have a good comeback! Finally, I win a debate against Brain Boy!

I was on the verge of arguing until glint of sunshine reflecting off a distant structure captured my attention.

I burst into exclamation: The tomb!!!

Sheen dismissed my excitement with a wave of his hand, winked at Libby, and in an attempt to sound intelligent in Libby’s presence, scolded: Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy…when are you going to emerge from your little fantasy world and face reality? You are obviously just seeing a mirage which is…(He struggled to recall the definition) …something you see but you don’t see!

His face split into an enormous grin as he glanced at Libby in hopes of approval. She rolled her eyes with a sigh as did Cindy and quickly he backed off the subject.

Carl pointed his pink finger in the forward direction: I see it too! Does this mean I’m seeing a…a…mirror too, Jim?

I chuckled and corrected him: It’s a mirage, Carl…and neither of us are seeing one. The Direction Doctor 3000 confirms…that IS the tomb!

Cindy stubbornly held a hand to her brow, shading her emerald eyes from the fierce sun: I don’t see anything, Neutron!

Suddenly, the sunlight exploded into an aura of illumination and the tomb melted into her view. With realization, a sheepish look came over her.

I poked my tongue through my lips in Cindy’s direction and immaturely whined: I told you so!!!

Ignoring my comment, she cleared her throat and all at once her eyes began to dart away from me and far into the distance.

She blurted: Did you see that?!?!

Libby flashed her eyes in all directions, desperately attempting to view whatever it was her friend had discovered: See what?

She motioned to her far right and yelled: THAT!!!

It was then that I caught sight of it as well. A tiny, shadowy figure was bolting towards the tomb at quite an impressive speed for something its size.

I gasped: Professor Calamitous! How did he get here before we did?

Biting my lip, I gazed back at the group. We would be forced to race with all our lives to even clutch the hope of beating him there…

 

CHAPTER FORTY-TWO

The Amazingly Tiring Race

 

I sighed deeply and told Carl, Cindy, Goddard, Libby and Sheen: We’ve got to make a run for it.

Carl whined: We’ll never get there before he does! He’s too fast!

Sheen agreed: Yeah! He’s almost as fast as Ultralord was in Episode #480 when he acquired his first cybertronic light speed jetpack and soared away to save his neighbor planet of Slygorgia from his evil nemesis…

All four of us screamed to silence him: SHEEN!!!

He glanced around, oblivious: What?

I commanded: Start running!!!

Without hesitation, we raced in the direction of the tomb, our feet sinking miserably into the sand which restrained our speed. The only one who wasn’t affected by the feet-devouring sand was Goddard, who zipped through the air above us.

Cindy pushed herself extensively in an attempt to outrun me; of course she accomplished this because she always did. That was proven a little while back in gym class…even the shoes I’d manufactured to cause me to run quicker did not halt her from humiliating me.

With concern I voiced: Cindy, don’t run so hard! You’re still recovering; moving too quickly could cause you to…

Cindy shook her head abruptly and gasped for breath as she jolted: You just want me to slow down so it doesn’t look like I’m faster than you…which I am!

Anger overwhelmed my senses. Even when I just wanted to help her, she continued to treat me like scum.

I grunted back: Fine! Go back into a coma again…see if I care!

Though I knew deep inside that I would never desire anything of the sort, I noticed the words stung her for a moment; yet in her strength she cast them aside and pounded off even faster.

Libby panted as she glanced down at her feet: This is gonna’ kill my pedicure!

Carl shrieked: Jimmy…can we slow down…just a little?! (He clutched his back in agony) Ahhhhh!!!!! My scapula!!!

Sheen reached out with both hands and nudged Carl forward: For the love of Ultralord, who cares about your scapula?!?!

Carl answered: My chiropractor!

Professor Calamitous still sprung, his speed unhindered, through the wavy sand towards the tomb, much farther ahead than we.

I exclaimed: Faster, guys!!!

With moans of pain escaping from everyone, Cindy encouraged: Come on, everyone! Just a little longer!

Admiring her persistence, I observed her; she was panting heavily with gasping breaths that revealed the fire I knew this pace had ignited in her lungs. I knew she was suffering but also knew better than to tell Cindy Vortex what she was or wasn’t feeling. So I held my jaw shut, kept a good eye on her and continued my sprint.

Just a few yards from our weary bodies, the tomb towered and basked in the flourishing sunlight. Her face erupting into a smile, Cindy glanced back at Carl, Libby, Sheen and I; the sunshine danced in the emerald flecks of her eyes and I sensed a feeling of accomplishment radiating from her. We were all ecstatic to, after all this time, reach our destination.

Yet something suddenly shattered our hopes; Professor Calamitous jolted ahead of us, now only a short distance from our standing as he chuckled: Mwah, ha ha…I’m going to get there…uh…um…

Cindy shot at him: LAST !!!

Professor Calamitous glared angrily at her and bounded towards the tomb more speedily.

I taunted him: So, where’s your big scary robot, Calamitous?

He patted his trousers: In my pocket, recharging!

I yelled with a laugh: Well, not even that could help you now!

With a sudden burst of energized adrenaline, I surged forward, passing Cindy and leaving her in the dust…er…sand. I then found myself neck-in-neck with Professor Calamitous.

Attempting to suck in air, I gulped: How…did you…get so…fast?

Retrieving what seemed to be an energy bar from his lab coat pouch, he nibbled off a small portion.

I strained my eyes to view the energy bar; it illuminated a reddish glow as if its energy originated from some advanced chemical source.

Pointing an accusing finger I shouted: Cheater!!!

He cackled: I never play by the rules!

With another mouthful of the glowing energy bar, he rushed ahead and soon vanished in the heat waves that rippled my vision. The weight of a doomed world crushed my shoulders, for at this rate, we would never be able to rescue the stones in time…

 

CHAPTER FORTY-THREE

Trap Floor

 

Disappearing into the tomb, Professor Calamitous laughed menacingly and his silhouette dissolved into the darkness. All five of us shuffled to a halt, Goddard gently landed on the sand, and we all stared blankly.

Libby stated the obvious: He beat us!!!

Sheen yelled: Duh!!!

Slapping his head as a motion to his exclamation, a hollow echo from within resounded.

Cindy threw her hands into the air and surrendered: We’ll never find those stones before he does! We don’t even know where they are!

Carl collapsed to his bony knees and cried out dramatically to the desert sky: We’re doomed!!!

Sheen took a cautious step away from Carl and added another scream to the skies: Ultralord, why have you forsaken us?!?!

Cindy snapped: Ultralord didn’t forsake us, you idiot! (She pointed an accusing finger at me) UltraBRAIN did!

I defended myself: Well, I didn’t see YOU running as fast as I was!

Cindy grunted and replied: I was saving my energy like YOU told me to!

I rolled my eyes: Oh, so NOW you start listening to my advice!

Libby clapped her hands to her throbbing ears: Would you two please STOP FIGHTING?!?!?! That’s not gonna’ get us those stones any faster!!!

Sheen scratched his head: Then what in the name of the fifth dimension are we waiting for?

I stared at him out of the corner of my eye: Sheen, there is no fifth dimension.

Sheen corrected himself: Fine… then what in the name of the sixth dimension are we waiting for??

Opening my mouth to fix his mistake again, Cindy shot me a hateful glare and I abruptly clenched my jaw once more.

Carl wiped the sweat from his brow: Can we just get this over with? My mom’s gonna’ wonder why I’m not home yet to watch Lord of the Llamas!

Cindy jutted in with her opinion, disregarding the llama portion of Carl’s statement: I agree…let’s go now before our clothes go as out of style as Nerdtron’s.

My face crumpled with anger but I decided to ignore it.

And with that demand, we initiated movement towards the tomb once more.

In a few long minutes, we stood staring at the foot of the tomb, its gargantuan structure soaring above our heads. Soaked in wonder, we stared up at its majesty.

Seemingly not amused, Cindy urged: Can we just GO IN now?

She began to make her way inside but I hurriedly grabbed her arm and pulled her back towards me: I don’t think so…not this time. I’M going in first.

Snatching her arm away from my grip, she grunted with a sarcastic salute: Fine, Major Ego.

Libby gazed away, delicately placing her hands on her hips: As long as I don’t have to go in first…

At the sound of this, Sheen slapped a clenched fist to his heart and valiantly proceeded towards the tomb entrance. As his foot slipped into the darkness, an eerie echo of wind flooded his senses. Quickly pulling back, he pushed Carl forward.

Sheen shivered: Here, Carl…there’s, uh, llamas in there!

Clapping his hands excitedly, he rushed inside, Cindy, Goddard, Libby, Sheen and I close on his heels.

I called out into the dense darkness: Goddard, flame please!

An extending metal arm clasping a lit torch sprung forth from Goddard’s back compartment. Suddenly, an enlightening illumination drenched the chamber we had entered, its walls glittering with gold and masterfully painted hieroglyphics. Mere sand splattered the ground we stood upon, revealing a few odd patches of etched stone underneath. Torch holders jutted symmetrically from the walls, their bases hand carved with Egyptian figures dancing across the tarnished surface.

Carl cried, his head jerking back and forth with panic: Where are the llamas?!?!

Laughing Carl’s horror away, I padded over to one of the torches, Goddard trotting beside me, and observed the holders placed peculiarly around the chamber.

With a grin I told Goddard: Light this torch, please, boy.

As soon as the flame touched the ancient torch, every torch surrounding the chamber exploded into flames.

Cindy in astonishment wandered forwards: This is amazing! I don’t remember it being anything like this…

I nodded an agreement: I believe we came into an alternate entrance…

Cindy rolled her eyes and kicked some sand away from the ground on which she stood. Her face lit up and she waved Libby to her side: Libby, you’ve got to see this!

Sheen raced ahead: She’s not going anywhere without me!

Carl frantically waddled over: Don’t forget me!

Once all together, we stared in amazement at the floor. Beautiful, intricate designs posed beneath our feet, and I noticed a tiny rock protruding awkwardly from the center of one of the twirling masterpieces. Attempting to remove it, I kicked it and surprisingly it sunk beneath my feet…along with the rest of the floor around us. Suddenly we found ourselves flailing about, free-falling helplessly downwards into the unknown…

 

CHAPTER FORTY-FOUR

Descent

 

As we plunged downward, darkness seeped through my eyelids and I groped about for anything solid to grasp onto, but nothing stretched out to me. I could only hear the resounding echo of Carl’s high-pitched shriek and Libby’s cries. Sheen, I assumed, was trying to reach Libby, but…where was Cindy? I strained my eyes to view her in the dense gloom but neither blonde hair nor green eyes appeared to me. Then suddenly I felt a body collide with mine, arms wrapping around my neck and gripping me as if holding on for dear life. Squinting, I watched a gleam of emerald reflect in the eyes of the person from the torch above; none other than Cindy Vortex clung tightly to me…and I could scarcely believe it. She buried her face in my chest and I cocooned her trembling body in my arms, attempting to comfort her by not acting as terrified as I truly was. Here I was again, holding Cindy mere moments before our final end…and there came those feelings again…

Unexpectedly, a reverberating thud entered my eardrums and soon after I found myself pounding into the ground as well; luckily I landed on my back, rescuing Cindy from the impact. 

Quickly and without much movement I switched the light on my watch on so a soft illumination encircled us.

Rolling gently away, Cindy gasped and kneeled over me: …Are you okay?

Rubbing my stomach, I told her: Yeah, I’m…(I tried to lift myself from the ground but a knot twisted in my stomach and I immediately fell backwards again)…aahhh!

A sea of compassion drenched Cindy’s eyes as a concerned look swept her face; all of a sudden she reached out her tiny hand and laid it on my stomach. For some reason I instantly felt more at ease.

She felt around to locate the pain: Where does it hurt?

Without even thinking about it, I grabbed her hand to place it on the spot it felt most agonizing. Realizing what I had done after I’d completed the action, I just froze, holding her hand in mid air for a moment. She gazed into my eyes softly and just when I thought she would become infuriated and snatch her hand away, she smiled a smile like I had never witnessed before. It was filled with genuine care and contentment and…something so beautiful I couldn’t even define…and I found my own lips imitating such a smile.

She whispered, still allowing her hand to be held in mine as she pulled me up: Are you sure you’re all right?

With a nod I replied, stunned: I’m…perfect.

Then, without warning, a flood of untamable rage seized her; she yanked her hand away furiously and retorted: Well, good…now I can KILL you for suffocating me!!!

With mouth agape, all I could utter was: WHAT?!?!

She rolled her eyes and bitterly explained: When we were plummeting down here, you latched onto me so tight I couldn’t breathe! You’re such a baby…you couldn’t even handle the fall all by your little genius self…

Still shocked I exclaimed: YOU latched onto ME!

Cindy laughed cruelly: Oh, please! Like I couldn’t handle falling that tiny little distance…

I butted in: It was an immensely dangerous decline…had I not been underneath you, some serious fractures could have occurred…

She barked: Nerdtron, what in the WORLD are you babbling about?!?!

I heaved my arms into the air: More like what are YOU talking about? Just a minute ago you were all innocent and…you were acting like…well…like…

Before I could even finish my sentence, Libby intruded on our argument: For Queen Howsaboutislapya’s sake, can you two PLEASE stop your bickering?!?! It is giving me a headache and it ain’t getting’ us outta here!

Carl panicked: PLEASE STOP FIGHTING! (I could hear him bustling about with panic in horror)…I’M AFRAID OF THE DARK!!!

I slapped myself in the head: Oh, right.

Quickly switching the light on my watch to HIGH, luminosity drowned the space in which we were imprisoned.  It was then that I watched the radiance reflect off the three-foot long, golden spikes protruding from the walls surrounding; they speedily began to close in on us, squeezing the air and hope from my body…my eyes zipped from wall to wall; there was no escape, and as far as my genius mind could comprehend, we were all doomed…

 

CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE

Saving the Stubborn

 

Instinctively, I commanded: Goddard, fly us out of here!

My eyes shot over to my robotic dog; horror struck me as I realized a spike had already punctured his metal shell, sending his systems plunging into malfunctions. All too soon, his illumination was extinguished and his steel body clattered to the ground, dysfunctional.

Cindy crossed her arms with fury: Oh, that’s REAL great, Nerdtron. NOW what?!?!

Carl spun around in endless circles: We’re doomed, we’re doomed…WE’RE ALL DOOMED!

Sheen slapped his hand across Carl’s gaping mouth and shrieked: We are not all doomed! We’re just going to die a slow and painful death as we become impaled on extremely pointy spikes is all…

Libby covered Carl’s ears: SHEEN! NOT helping!!!

Cindy remarked as she glared in my direction: Well, that makes two things in here that aren’t helping!

Rage gripped me and I screamed back: Well, I don’t see you coming up with any ideas either!

She snapped back: Well, who’s the one who calls himself a genius?

Quickly manufacturing a comeback, I shot at her: Well at least I have the RIGHT to call myself a genius!

Cindy raised an eyebrow: Well at least I can actually come up with good comebacks!

Sheen hollered: For the love of Ultra…

Libby clapped a hand to his mouth: Don’t you dare say Ultralord…

Sheen corrected himself: For the love of all that is good in this world…(He whispered to Carl)…which is Ultralord …STOP FIGHTING!!!

Carl’s fear-filled eyes zoomed from spike to spike: I’m too young to die! I never even got to see Jimmy’s mom’s smiling face…

Cindy, Libby, Sheen and I stared awkwardly at him.

Carl stuttered nervously, wringing his hands and added: Jimmy’s mom’s smiling face…uh…cookies! Her smiling face cookies! You know those sugar cookies that she draws the smiley faces on with icing…

Libby silenced him and commented sarcastically: Riiiight…so how are we gettin’ outta here, Jimmy?

Glancing upwards in silence, I estimated the distance between each spike and attempted to calculate it all together, contriving a plan that I could only pray would save our lives.

Realizing that I was speaking no answer, Sheen concluded: We’re all doomed. (He then cried out dramatically) Ahh, why must the good die young?!?!

I hushed him: We are NOT all doomed! I know a way we can get out of here!

Cindy rolled her eyes: Oh, please. YOU came up with a way we can get out of here alive?

I happily nodded my head.

She then remarked: I agree with Sheen; we’re all doomed.

Libby stood up for me: Cindy, come on…give him a chance! We don’t have any other choice!

Without waiting for an answer from Cindy, I began to explain: All we have to do is crawl up on these spikes one by one until we reach the top; they’re somewhat laid out in the pattern of a ladder but we’ve got to be quick. We don’t have much time.

Carl shuddered: I don’t know…it’d be like a very, very, very…HIGH ladder and you know heights make me nauseas …

I reasoned: Would you rather climb a high ladder or get crushed by hundreds of sharp spikes?

Carl pondered this a moment then uttered: Let’s do it!

Tucking Goddard’s lifeless metal shell beneath my arm, I climbed up onto the first spike on the right side and Sheen crawled up onto a spike on the opposite wall. He grabbed Libby’s hands and pulled her up beside him and they began to press forward. Carl stood trembling below me as I held out my hand to him for support.

Cautiously, he reached out and took hold of my hand and I, with much effort, yanked his body up. Taking Goddard from my hands, he quickly scrambled up the spikes higher and higher. Now only Cindy was left at the bottom.

I offered her my hand: Cindy, take my hand.

Stubbornness washed her face and she turned her back to me: No.

I yelled, frustrated: What do you mean, no? You’re going to die if you don’t come with me!

She snorted and retorted: So? Why would you care ?

I furrowed my brow and told her one last time: Cindy, take my hand!

She whirled around to face me and screamed: I said NO!!!

I hopped down from the spike and, without any hesitation whatsoever, lifted her up into my arms. She was so shocked that she uttered no retaliation and I held her tight while telling her: As a matter of fact, I WOULD care if you died and, as long as I’m still alive, I’ll never let that happen to you.

With these words, I hopped up onto the first spike and began the long ascent up to freedom…or so I could only hope…

 

CHAPTER FORTY-SIX

Hop to the Top

 

Spike by spike, inch by inch we climbed up the massive wall towards the ground floor. Heaving, exhausted breaths escaped my lips continually as I held Cindy up in my arms while attempting to make it to the next spike. The walls were moving in fast, for Sheen and Libby, once several yards away from Carl, Cindy and I on the opposite wall, were now mere feet away. I glanced upward; we still had several spikes to crawl up on…and although I could calculate the exact distance and time of our journey aloft, I truthfully did not know if we would be able to make it.

Carl trembled as he grasped another spike and pulled himself up: Are…are we almost there?

My eyes lifted and I watched Carl shuddering with horror: Carl, we’re almost all the way up! Just don’t look down!

Carl unthinkingly gawked down at me to hear the words I spoke and instead looked past me, down into the depths of the pit we had just come from: Oh no…I’m looking down! Ahhh!!!!!!!

Carl began to panic, his eyes wide as bowling balls as he clung for dear life onto the spike on which he stood.

Cindy encouraged: Just keep going, Carl! You’re almost there! (She gazed down at me) You know, I can climb these by myself now…if you want.

For the first time in I don’t know how long, maybe forever, her words didn’t seem to be a grueling demand; she was offering to climb by herself, not commanding me to let her down. I know it really would have been an extreme amount of help to me and my weary arms to set her down and allow her to crawl up for herself, but for some strange reason, I honestly didn’t want to let her go.

I shifted her weight in my arms and sincerely told her: No, that’s all right. I don’t want you slipping on one of these spikes and falling without me being able to catch you. I think you’re safer right where you are.

With a blush she nodded and I hauled the both of us up another spike.

Sheen spouted off another tale as he climbed: You know, this reminds me of Ultralord episode #983 when Ultralord’s nemesis, Sorcerer Galactico, threw him into the spiked cell of doom and he had to use his invisibility ray on himself so the spikes would think he wasn’t really there…

Libby retorted: I think Ultralord used his invisibility ray on your brain!

Sheen clasped his hands and held them to his cheek: Ah, that would be a greater honor than I could ever dream…

Libby snapped back: Boy, you better stop dreaming and start climbing or your life’s gonna’ be invisible too!

Carl pointed sheepishly: I don’t get it…

I yelled impatiently, trying to get up on the spike Carl was still clinging to: You don’t have to get it, Carl, just MOVE!!!

Cringing and moving upwards, he whined: Fine…

Quickly, I lugged myself and Cindy up one more spike and watched Carl frightfully grab the next one.

Cindy’s eyes widened at the sight of the spikes closing in and with terror in her voice and tears clouding her emerald eyes she asked: Are we gonna’ make it?

Inside I was truly uncertain, but I answered her confidently: Of course we’ll make it.

She beamed back at me and with a newfound energy from her smile I sprung up to the next spike.

I shouted words of support: Just a few more, guys!

Before I knew it, we were two spikes from the top, the walls were pushing in closer and closer and excitement to escape this pit overwhelmed me.

Carl struggled to lift himself onto the ground from the final spike: HELP!!!

Scrambling up to the last spike, I pushed Carl’s chubby body with my head and shoulders, still sustaining Cindy, and at last heaved him up onto the ground floor.

I gazed momentarily into Cindy’s eyes, then carefully elevated her upwards, laying her gently on the ground. She then clasped my hands in her own and helped me to crawl up; Sheen and Libby remained on the last spike.

Sheen boosted up Libby: Here, you go first, my lady…

Libby quivered at the “my lady” comment: No…you go. Then you can help me up.

Sheen nodded an agreement, thrust himself up and reached for Libby. But suddenly, the spikes began to close in faster, and a tremendous spike was heading right for Libby’s side quicker than Sheen could pull her up…

 

CHAPTER FORTY-SEVEN

Ultralord’s Last Stand

 

Sheen’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets; Libby was about to die before his very eyes and even in his sugar and cartoon infected brain, he knew full well that he would never be able to tow her up in time.

I held my breath and Cindy slapped her hands to her quivering mouth in sheer horror as she watched her best friend in what would be her final moments.

Cindy cried: Sheen, DO SOMETHING!!!

Sheen panicked: I…I can’t! Even Ultralord couldn’t get out of this mess! Hey…wait a minute…

Sheen patted his pants pocket and felt his favorite Ultralord action figure; whipping it out of his pocket, he glanced at it lovingly, then gazed down at Libby, tears flooding her chestnut eyes and he made the decision of a lifetime. Without any more hesitation, Sheen shot his hand out, wedged his Ultralord figure in between the two spikes about to bore into Libby’s sides and with a great wave of strength, he hauled her up in just enough time. As soon as her feet touched the ground floor, the spikes crashed together with an ear-splitting explosion of clashing metal and twisting, crushing plastic.

Sheen collapsed to his knees and mourned: Ultralord!!!

But his wail was interrupted by a heart-melting peck on the cheek from Libby who, with admiration smiled: You saved my life…

With this, Sheen immediately forgot about his departed Ultralord action figure and turned to Libby, puffing out his chest with attempted masculinity: I know baby; anything for you…

Libby giggled and threw her arms around Sheen’s neck, giving him a hug and Sheen, over Libby’s shoulder, slicked his hair back coolly and winked at me.

Carl began to gag: Ahhh! Personal displays of affection make me nauseous...

Sheen pulled away from Libby and remarked: You’re just jealous!

Carl retorted: Am not!

Sheen snapped: Are too!

Carl yelled with boyish intensity: AM NOT!!!

Sheen combated: Are too!!!

Libby smacked her hand over Sheen’s mouth and told him: If you keep doing that, I’m gonna’ have to take that kiss on the cheek back…

Sheen clapped a hand to the cheek that was kissed: By Ultralord, NEVER!!!

Libby positioned her hands upon her hips: That’s what I thought. Now can we get those stones and get outta’ here now?

I answered: Most certainly. I’m just as eager as you are to be done with this whole exploit.

Sheen nodded: Me too! (He whispered to himself) If only I knew what an exploit was…

Cindy raised her hand with affirmation: Me three.

Carl popped in: Me one!!!

Cindy, Libby, Sheen and I gave Carl a strange glance.

I told them: I just need to fix up Goddard here real quick then we can head off.

I pulled some tools from my utility belt and some extra circuits and began to work away at Goddard, repairing the crack in his metal shell and patching up the damage. In a matter of minutes, he was fully repaired.

I smiled and reported: He’s good as new.

I glanced up at Cindy and a look of admiring astonishment flitted across her face until she realized I was looking at her, then she rolled her eyes and began to tap her foot.

I sighed: Let’s go

With the echo of my words, we started off and began to venture into another chamber.

As we walked, Cindy questioned: Where do you think these stones will be anyways?

Libby commented, considering Professor Calamitous: Some place obvious, I’ll bet…

Sheen added with a comedic laugh: Yeah, that guy’s one plasma bullet short of a special edition Ultralord plasmatic ray gun if you know what I’m saying…

Carl, Cindy, Libby and I all responded dryly: …No.

Sheen frowned: Wow, tough crowd. (He then screamed) HEY!!!

Carl, surprised by the sudden outburst, cried: AHHHH! What?!?! What’s going on?!?!

Sheen pointed to a wall: I recognize that! Hey, didn’t Carl teleport behind that wall last time we were here?

All eyes turned to the wall Sheen directed our sights to; a vast, gaping hole in the bricks, crumbling and decaying, lay before our eyes.

I recalled the event: Carl didn’t teleport behind it, Sheen! It was a trap door…and I used some ancient spices to ignite my torch and blow a hole in the wall!

Cindy crossed her arms and snorted: By all means, toot your own horn, Neutron.

My face scrunched up and I did my best to ignore the confusing Cindy Vortex.

Led then by my torch, we made our way through the hole and into what I knew would be the Queen’s burial chamber. Light overflowed the corner that we would need to round to reach the chamber. And as we approached it, my heart caught in my throat as a shadowy figure leapt out in front of us with a blood curdling scream…

 

CHAPTER FORTY-EIGHT

Death of the Butterflies

 

A fiendish cackle resounded from the shadow until at last the light from my torch illuminated the silhouette.

I yelled accusingly: Professor Calamitous!!!

Carl, who had turned around facing the opposite direction screamed, his eyes dashing around: Where? WHERE?!?!

Sheen, without expression, grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him around to face Professor Calamitous.

Carl calmly recognized him: Oh. (His voice morphed to a scream) AHHH!!!!!!

Professor Calamitous giggled menacingly: Yes, fear me you…uh…um…

Sheen raised his hand, leaping up and down: Oh, pick me! Pick me! I know this one!

Professor Calamitous rolled his eyes and discontinued his sentence; Sheen disappointedly slapped his hand down to his side.

Libby glared at him: So, did you find your stupid lil’ rocks yet?

Professor Calamitous retorted: They are not stupid!!! They are vital in my plot to take over the world! (He scratched his head, frustrated) If only I could remember where I put them…

Cindy shook her head: Well, it doesn’t matter where you put them…

Without thinking, I finished her sentence: …because we’re going to find them first!

Cindy gazed quickly over at me, her eyes flashed and color rose to her faintly smiling cheeks.

Professor Calamitous snapped back: Oh no you won’t! I bet they’re…(He glanced about the room)…in this very chamber!

We all proceeded into the Queen’s burial chamber and were filled yet again with awe. Extravagant hieroglyphics danced across the walls, coffins halted against them with exposed mummies resting eternally within and the marvelous coffin of the Queen lay in the center of the hand-laid stone floor of the chamber.

Carl shrunk down with a squeal: Iiiick…dead things…

Sheen chuckled: Psh, yeah…be glad they’re dead!

Libby shot me a glare as she, Carl and Sheen walked several steps ahead of Cindy and I: Yes, and let’s keep it that way this time!

I assured them: I’m sure that ElectroLife is LONG gone by now…the snakes and lizards  and rats probably ate it down in that pit. No fear of any mummies coming back to life THIS time. 

Cindy rolled her eyes sarcastically: Riiight…

For the first time in my life, I took no offense to her comment. I simply laughed and gently elbowed her teasingly: Hey! I heard that!

She waved it off and stated quietly: I’m just kidding, Jimmy. I trust you.

I stopped dead in my tracks, mouth agape: You…you TRUST me?

An innocent smile swept her face and she brushed lightly up against me while merely saying: Of course.

I couldn’t help but ask: But why?

I could tell I had taken her off guard a little by my question; she fixed her eyes on the ground and answered: You saved my life…several times. You brought me back from a coma by searching days for some random plant that only grows in one place in a huge desert. So I guess you could say that I trust you with my life. (She paused and gazed back up into my eyes) And I do.

Her gaze quickly shifted away; beaming, I could only try to force myself to believe that I had actually heard the words Cindy had just spoken. Butterflies filled my stomach for a moment…until an ear-splitting, shrill cry echoed from Libby’s terror-filled lips. There in the doorway to the chamber stood Professor Calamitous, my ElectroLife glowing in his hand. A threatening, evil grin was plastered on his face as he gripped my invention. The butterflies in my stomach suddenly were captured in a net of fear and choked to death.

Professor Calamitous began to fiddle with the ElectroLife: Well, well, well…what does this do?

I heard Cindy’s breath catch in her throat as I yelled: Professor Calamitous, NO! You don’t know what that’s capable of!

But he did not heed my warning; I watched his finger slide towards the button that would activate the invention and suddenly I found myself sprinting towards him…but I knew there was no possible way that I could ever stop him in time…

 

CHAPTER FORTY-NINE

I DON’T Want My Mummy!

 

Mere feet away from Professor Calamitous, I jolted onwards hopelessly; my heart was beating at an immeasurable rate, my lungs feeling as if they would burst and collapse. So many scattered thoughts scurried through my mind at that moment that I could not even decipher one.

As I shut my eyes tight and thrust myself forward with increasing speed, I already knew it was too late. A vivid, intense blue blaze of electricity shattered the dense darkness of my sealed eyelids and I immediately sunk to the floor.

Before I even looked around to see the result once the illumination faded, I picked myself up off the ground, and my eyes opened and targeted Professor Calamitous who stood, mouth agape, loosely clutching the ElectroLife. I sprinted towards him with all my might and snatched my long lost invention from his black-gloved hand. Surprisingly, he put up no resistance. It was then that I noticed why.

Whirling around at the sound of Carl’s terrified squeal, I watched all my friends begin to huddle in the center of the chamber, trembling with fear. I joined them and glanced around as they did, waiting for some form of life to emerge. After a minute or so of complete silence, I broke out with a laugh.

I waved a hand in the air: It didn’t even do anything!

Libby began to stand up from her cowering position behind Sheen: Are…are you sure?

I assured all of them: That thing’s probably so rusted and overheated from being here so long that the circuitry has malfunctioned! Like I said earlier, we have nothing to worry about.

Slowly but surely, everyone began to erase the expressions of fear from their faces. Libby let out a giggle, this caused Sheen to chuckle, then soon Carl, Cindy and I were laughing as well at our foolish anxiety over absolutely nothing.

With a chuckling grin, I sauntered over to one of the mummies. Carl, Cindy, Libby and Sheen followed close behind, smirks on their faces. I playfully poked at the mummy’s bandaged leg; there was no response, of course, just as I suspected.

Sarcastically, I added: Ooh…I’m SCARED now!!!

Giggles resounded from the group behind me and I gazed back and noticed Professor Calamitous rummaging around the room, still in search of the stones.

Carl timidly edged his way forward: Can…can I poke it too?

I stepped out of the way: Go ahead, Carl. It’s perfectly safe.

Carl hesitantly pushed his finger into the wrapped mummy leg, then once he discovered that it was safe, he began to do it continuously.

Proudly, he turned his head around and boasted boyishly in a sing-song voice: I’m poking a mummy! I’m poking a…

But suddenly, in the middle of his tone-deaf melody, his song was cut off; the mummy’s eyes snapped open, its arm swung forward, and its bandaged fingers locked Carl’s poking finger in a death grip.

Carl hesitantly and shaking, turned back around and caught sight of the mummy’s hand grasping his finger.

Carl released a scream that shook the very walls of the chamber: AHHHHHHH!!!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!

With all the power he had in his spindly arms, Carl jerked his finger away from the mummy and began to sprint for his life.

Sheen yelled: Here we go again…

All of us, including Professor Calamitous, let out one booming shriek and we began to jolt from the chamber.

While running, attempting to catch her breath, Cindy turned to me and sarcastically yelled: So what exactly was the definition of “perfectly” when you said perfectly safe  ?!?!?!

I shot back: There’s no time for arguing now! (I glimpsed behind us at the seven mummies hobbling ever faster after us) RUN FASTER!!!

Once again, we found ourselves in the Queen’s throne room, the gigantic statue of Queen Howsaboutislapya on her throne towering above us. Then we noticed it; we were at another dead end. And before we knew it, all six of us were cornered, the mummies closing in on us speedily, their crimson eyes boring into us with every step further they took toward us. My eyes darted this way and that but found no relief; we were completely trapped. My heart began to race as I watched the blood-thirsty mummies raise their slimy arms to take care of us once and for all…

 

CHAPTER FIFTY

Queen Wannabe

 

We all stood trembling in horror as the mummies crept toward us, their fang-like, decomposing teeth mangled in snarls beneath the bandages.

Libby sunk down behind Sheen and Carl melted into a cower against the wall. Professor Calamitous was already bawling like a little girl on the floor in fear.

Cindy cried: Well…I guess this is goodbye…

I could hear her voice shaking, wavering with swallowed tears and I felt myself take her tiny, quivering hand in mine.

Slowly, with crystal tears glazing her eyes, Cindy lay her forehead on my shoulder and allowed the tears to plummet to the ground, her body shaking with sobs. I knew I had to do something, but what? My eyes flitted about, searching for anything that could rescue us from this disarray I’d forced us all into.

Then, all of a sudden, as my eyes rummaged for a redeemer, a fleck of glimmering gold stole my attention. I squinted, focusing my vision until a clear picture of the object came into view.

A relieved, excited grin arced my face: THAT’S IT!!!

Sheen stroked his chin a moment then motioned with his fingers: By “it” do you mean…(His voice morphed into a shout)…our immanent doom?!?!

I yelled happily: NO! We’re not doomed!

I grabbed the object and, letting go of Cindy’s hand, I grasped Libby’s.

Cindy’s eyes became drenched in what seemed like jealousy: Hey!

Noticing that what I’d just done seemed like something it wasn’t, I jammed the object in my pocket, took Cindy’s hand once more and planted a gentle kiss on her hand..

I told her: Don’t worry.

As I turned back, Cindy retorted, her eyes shifty: Worry? Psh, worry about what?

But, out of the corner of my eye, I watched her cradle the hand I kissed in her other hand delicately as if it were a fragile, irreplaceable item and a rosy blush washed her beaming cheeks.

Blushing myself, I tried to shake the feeling and returned my attention to Libby once more: Libby, I need you to do something for me.

Sheen squeezed between us: I don’t think so!!! That’s MY woman you’re talking to!

I pushed Sheen away: Sheen, if you don’t let me tell her this then there will be no Libby to be your woman!

Sheen quickly stepped away.

Abruptly, I revealed the object from my pocket; a glistening, golden crown sparkled in the torchlight.

Libby rolled her eyes: Jimmy, I see you know me well but this is no time for bling!

I slapped a hand to my sweating forehead: NO! Put it on! Act like the Queen like you did last time!

Libby, quickly comprehending, snatched the crown from my hands and placed it neatly atop her braids.

Taking a deep, drawn-in breath, Libby sighed: I sure hope this works…

Holding my own breath, I watched Libby step forward, her mouth slowly opening to release a command that would either save our lives or seal our fate of final doom. I could feel my nervous heart beating rapidly out of my chest.

The words poured from Libby’s lips: I command ya’ll to COOL IT!!!

It was as if the mummies hobbled right into a wall, for they all halted immediately before our very eyes and collapsed at Libby’s feet, worshipping her like the Queen they believed she was.

An alleviated expression bloomed on all our faces; we were saved once more.

I exhaled the deep, anxious breath I had inhaled just moments before and crouched down a bit, recollecting my breaths and allowing my heart to maintain its regular beat once more. But as I bent down, Professor Calamitous was sliding merrily backwards and he and I collided violently. Toppling over onto the ground, I watched helplessly as my improved Hypnotism Ray slipped from my utility belt and clattered to the ground, causing an intense red aura to soak the chamber. I knew that meant only one thing: the world around me was about to change drastically according to what each person was thinking. And as I glanced around me at Libby pretending she was the Queen, Carl leaping like a llama, and Sheen darting back and forth as Ultralord in combat, I could only imagine what consequences my foolishness would cost us…

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-ONE

We’re the Only Sane Ones

 

My head swirled with tormenting thoughts and I could barely focus after the scarlet illumination faded from sight. Gathering all the broken pieces of my invention in my arms and tucking them back into my utility belt, I quickly sealed my eyes tight for fear of what I might see if I opened them.

Finally, I decided to face reality and my eyes flicked open to observe the damage.

Sheen pounded a fist valiantly on his chest and spoke in a deep voice: Ahh! The mangled mummies of Montania have returned from episode #397! I must fly and drop plasma bombs on them from above!

Sheen stretched out his arms as if he really believed wings would emerge from his sides and stared up at the ceiling, awaiting his liftoff.

After a few moments of nothing, he smacked his sides and retorted: They must be…stuck…

Cindy, oblivious to the whole situation, mocked Sheen: Oh, please, Sheen…in your dreams. When are you gonna’ learn that you will never be Ultralord?!?!

Sheen stared at her awkwardly: Sheen? Who is this Sheen you speak of? I AM Ultralord!

Cindy turned to me and laughed: Okay, Sheen’s officially lost it.

I rubbed my neck nervously: Well, that’s one way of putting it…

Cindy chuckled, pointing at Carl: And what’s up with him?

Carl was prancing about on all fours, llama noises protruding from his lips.

Cindy elbowed me jokingly: Haha, it looks like we’re the only sane ones!

My eyes shifted and I again uttered a vague response: You could say that…

Cindy, completely unaware, gazed at me and asked: Are you okay? You’re acting…apprehensive.

After a few moments with no reply from me, Cindy turned to Libby and giggled as she observed her lounging on the golden throne, the decrepit mummies bowing down all around her.

She snickered a bit, placed her hands on her hips and spoke: You can cut the act now! Just tell the mummies to sleep like you did last time! Then you can get your rear in gear and find those stones!

Looking utterly shocked, Libby glared Cindy down like a ravaging wolf would stare down its doomed prey.

I stepped beside Cindy and whispered: Cindy, I don’t think that’s such a good idea…

Cindy questioned with a shrug: Why not? (She noticed the death stare she was receiving from her best friend)…Why is she looking at me like that?

Libby’s mouth opened and with a royal tone she yelled: No one tells ME what to do!

Cindy waved it off and shook her head with a light laugh: Very funny. Libby, we’ve been best friends forever and it never bothered you before!

Libby arose from her throne with a stomping of feet and her face tensed: How dare you address me by my first name! (She stuck her nose up and cringed) And I would never befriend the likes of you!

Hurt, Cindy cocked her head and looked at Libby: What is wrong with you?

I carefully grabbed Cindy’s arm: Cindy, no…

Libby’s hands fell to her hips and her fiery gaze met Cindy’s eyes: Nothing is wrong with me!!! I am flawless…the exact opposite of you! (She clapped her delicate hands twice) Servants…take them away!!!

Cindy shrieked, tears filming her pained eyes and I glimpsed at her, stricken with guilt. As I watched the first tear trickle down her cheek and plummet to the ground, I felt my heart split in two.

As the mummies entangled Carl, Cindy, Goddard, Professor Calamitous, Sheen and I in their unbreakable grips, I felt the weight of unforgivable guilt weighing heavily on my elementary shoulders.

Before I could even think up a plan to escape, the mummies dragged us down a dark, eerie, and musty hallway and down a winding stone staircase, beyond what I had charted of this tomb.

Sheen attempted to fight off the mummy who held him: Do you not know who I am? I am Ultralord! You mangled mummies of Montania shall never take me alive!!!

Carl kicked his hind legs like a llama at the mummy whose slimy hands clasped his arms, but his attempt was ignored.

Professor Calamitous flailed about, screaming in his nasally voice but his mummy detained his tiny frame with ease.

Cindy had ceased her kicking and retaliation; all hope faded from her eyes and she hung loosely from the mummy’s arms, being lugged away like a useless sack of flesh. And it was all my fault.

We continued to be heaved down more passages, turning hallways, and enormous chambers into the unknown…and we could’ve never predicted what lay ahead…

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-TWO

Accepting the Blame…and the Hatred

 

All my eyes absorbed was musty darkness as my feet dragged down the rigid stone hallways to our unknown destination. I had given up fighting; the grip of the mummy’s bandaged hands was so intense that I believed nothing but a chainsaw could break me free…and sadly, I was one chainsaw short of the one I needed.

After a few minutes of seemingly endless dimness and gloom, a flicker of fire at the end of a tunnel burst into view and soon enough we all were hurled into a barred, cage-like chamber which held one single torch. We were locked away tight. The mangled mummies hobbled back down the hallway and we were left alone in the murkiness of this death chamber.

Sheen clenched his fists around the bars and shook them violently: You cannot confine Ultralord to this dungeon! I will make my great escape…you’ll see! (Everyone else in the chamber stared at him blankly) YOU’LL ALL SEE!!!!!

Carl began to nibble at the bars like a llama would attempt had it been caged, but his human teeth did no damage to the stone and brick bars.

Cindy sunk down against the wall and onto the floor; she wiped a tear from underneath her sullen eye: What on earth is going on? My best friend hates me and is acting like a totally different person, Carl thinks he’s some kind of animal and Sheen…well Sheen is still Sheen. But Libby…I’ve never seen her look at me that way.

I trotted over to Cindy and slid down beside her. I exhaled: I have some explaining to do.

She slowly turned her head to face me and tilted her chin, asking with inquisitive eyes the question her mouth did not.

I allowed the truth to escape in one breath: It’s my fault.

Cindy’s brow furrowed: What?

I took a deep breath and explained: I made this invention for the science fair and had it in my utility belt and when Professor Calamitous rammed into me…

Professor Calamitous squeaked from the background: That was your fault, Jimmy Neutron! I did not…(He continued to ramble on but I tuned him out)

I continued: When Professor Calamitous and I collided, my invention fell out and once it broke into pieces on the floor, it detonated and…

Cindy, wearing a repulsed look on her face, slid quickly away from me and asked: What did you do?

Feeling my heart sink, I attempted to tell her: The invention made everyone believe that what they were thinking at that moment was true. So Sheen thinks he’s Ultralord, Carl thinks he’s a llama and Libby…Libby believes she’s Queen Howsaboutislapya and that she rules this tomb as her palace.

Cindy’s innocent face bent into a viciously angry expression and she recoiled from me: How could you? How could you mess up like this AGAIN?!?!

I tried to explain again: Please, Cindy; I’m so sorry…I never meant it to be this way…

She viciously pulled away and stood up, glaring down at me with abhorrence in her eyes like I had never seen: You just ruined my life. I lost my best friend and now we’re going to die in this dungeon all because of you! I hate you…I hate you, Jimmy Neutron!!!

As she turned her back on me, my heart plunged to the ground and shattered into helpless pieces on the cold stone. I’d really blown it this time. Right when Cindy was beginning to trust me and maybe even enjoy my presence, I ripped it to shreds and threw it away. Glancing down at the broken pieces of my improved Hypnotism Ray in my utility belt, I knew there was no way I could gather the supplies to repair the invention. I could never reverse the effects, never get Libby back to normal, never free us from this cage, never make Cindy stop hating me, and worst of all, never put an end to this empty, lonely feeling that ate away at me in the pit of my hopeless heart. 

I buried my face in my hands and thought: Why does it have to be this way?

Allowing my eyes to glimpse downwards as I held my face in my trembling hands, I caught sight once again of my wrecked invention and suddenly an idea came to mind…one that could rescue us…one that could restore Cindy and Libby’s relationship…one that could revive my relationship with Cindy…and one that could save our entire world…

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-THREE

Kicking Walls and Ancient Ritual Mating Stares

 

There it was, right before my very eyes; the answer to this whole mess. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it before!

I leapt from my sulking spot on the floor: I’ve got it!

Cindy sniffed up her tears and replied smartly: You’ve got what? Issues? Well we already knew that!

Glaring, I answered: NO! Something that will make everyone go back to normal!

A bit interested, Cindy turned around but then crossed her arms across her chest and retorted: Yeah right! It will probably blow us all to smithereens!

Professor Calamitous clapped his hands together excitedly: Ooh…do it, do it! I want to see!

I rolled my eyes and ignored their comments: There is something in this very chamber that can fix my invention! You see, these bricks are composed of mud and straw and other various materials that could neutralize the ionic convulsion this invention has conveyed…

Cindy yelled: English please!!!

I attempted to compact my explanation into simpler terms: If we can break off a piece of the brick from this wall, the ingredients in it will fix my invention.

Professor Calamitous tossed his enormous black-gloved hands into the air: Why didn’t you just say that?

Sighing, I began to pound on one of the bricks, hoping a tiny piece might come loose.

Cindy giggled: Oh, please, Nerdtron. Like your wimpy little lack-of-muscle arms will do any damage!

Sheen piped up from behind us: My plasmatic ray gun will blast the brick to bits! STAND BACK!!!

I shook my head and, humoring him, stepped away. Sheen patted his pants pockets, searched behind his ear…and to his surprise, the ray gun was no where to be found.

Sheen stomped a foot angrily: Foiled again! The Zorgiligan aliens from planet Zorgil must have abducted all my weaponry! I will have my revenge!!!

Cindy told me: You’d better fix this quick; he’s even more annoying than usual.

I muttered under my breath: So are you…

Cindy grunted: I heard that! And stop trying to break that wall! You’re too puny…you’ll hurt yourself!

I halted abruptly and turned to her: And what would make you care?

Color rose to Cindy’s cheeks and she searched for an answer: Um…well…I don’t want to be stuck here forever! If you hurt yourself then you can’t fix your stupid invention!

My hopes sunk a bit: Oh…(Anger welled up inside of me again) Well let’s see you do better!

Taking note of the tone of my voice, Cindy snapped: Fine! Stand back, Neutron, and watch a professional work!

I crossed my arms, expecting Cindy to fail miserably: Oh please…

In one swift motion, Cindy’s leg flung upwards in a flawless kick and hammered the wall, sending an excruciatingly ear-splitting “boom” resounding down the hallways; portions of brick tumbled to the ground, clattering onto the stone as a veil of dust exploded and sunk to our feet.

I stood, mouth hanging agape in sheer amazement as I watched Cindy direct her leg back to the ground and glimpse at the morsels of brick with satisfaction. Carefully and with grace, she bent over, lifted a piece from the ground into her fingers and presented it to me.

Smugly, Cindy asked: How’s that for you, genius?

A foolish grin split my face: Perfect.

For a moment we hung in a beautiful pause, just gazing at each other until Professor Calamitous erupted.

Professor Calamitous squealed: Just fix the invention for goodness sakes!!! I don’t know why you two have to waste time staring at each other…

I shook myself out of it and concocted an excuse: I was NOT staring at her! I was…examining the brick to see if it had the proper components to repair my invention!

Cindy nodded her head nervously: Me too! That’s what I was doing too!

Sheen began to digress: It looked to me as if you were engaged in the ancient ritual mating stare of planet Secrove…

Cindy smiled at me for a moment until we both broke out in expressions of disgust: EWWWWW!!!!!!

I quickly brushed the thought aside: Now let’s get to fixing this invention…

Gently pulling the pieces of my improved Hypnotism Ray from my utility belt and laying them on the ground, I began my ingenious work to save us all. We could only hope that this time, it would actually work…

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-FOUR

Back to Work

 

Half an hour passed and I was still intent on my work on the Hypnotism Ray. Professor Calamitous sat in a corner, twiddling his thumbs, Sheen was still searching for his Plasmatic Ray Gun, Carl attempted to scratch the spot behind his ear with his leg and Cindy tapped her foot impatiently as she stood, staring over my shoulder.

Cindy sighed: Are you done YET?

I gave the same answer I had stated 50 times previously: Not yet.

Cindy yelled: WHY NOT?!

I tried to explain: Well, I still have to attach the temporal fuser to the covalent bond valve and add the brick to neutralize the…

Cindy halted my lengthy explanation: Yeah, yeah. Just hurry up, would ya?

Without response, I continued my work for a few minutes until Cindy grew intolerant of standing and waiting and plunked down on the floor beside me.

I turned to her smartly: Yes?

Cindy rubbed her neck: Well…I had a question to ask.

The look in my eyes urged her to continue.

She replied: I was wondering…why didn’t you and I and Professor Calamitous change into anything crazy?

I hadn’t considered this before. I pondered out loud: I’m…I’m not sure. (I whirled my head around to face Professor Calamitous) Hey! Calamitous! What were you thinking when my invention went off?

Professor Calamitous glanced up at me: I was thinking about how great it is to be an evil scientist…

I chuckled a bit, observing his mannerisms; he had remained the same: So I suppose you were thinking something that didn’t affect your personality. We must have been too! Cindy, do you remember what you were thinking?

Cindy scratched her head and contemplated: Um…

I watched Cindy’s eyes flash; she bit her lip and an answer that did not match her previous expression echoed: I was thinking…“gosh, Neutron is such a mess up.”

A downcast expression swept my face and I turned directly back down to my work for fear Cindy might catch the pained look I adorned.

Cindy continued with her insults as she rose to her feet: So what were you thinking, Neutron? “I’m a big headed dork?” That would make sense because you’re not acting any different!

Malicious laughter erupted from Cindy’s lungs and stabbed my heart like a thousand razor-sharp needles.

Concealing the pain she caused me and the true thought that came to my mind that moment my invention initiated, I shot another offense at her: I was ACTUALLY thinking… “Wow, Cindy Vortex is a bossy witch!”

Cindy’s eyes opened wide, she fell back a step and her eyes glazed with a stinging sadness. She said nothing as she turned her back on me and stumbled away, sliding down into a corner.

I whispered to myself, the sorrow in her eyes radiating to me: Good going, genius.

Slowly, sulking, I began to repair my invention once again, allowing my work to do what it always did: shut out the rest of the world. Whenever I was upset or trying to fight some emotion off, I resorted to inventions in my lab. It’s probably why most of my inventions turned out so horribly: they were all constructed because of my anger or self-pity. I used my inventions as something to hide behind when I felt vulnerable and didn’t want the rest of the world to see what I was really feeling. But I never admitted that to anyone, especially not Cindy. Because, in fact, Cindy was the reason why I had such emotions most of the time. And right now, I was returning to my old habits by trying to mask my feelings for her by laboring over my invention…I only wished that it actually worked.

Professor Calamitous made his way to me, teetering over then kneeling down beside me.

I snapped: What do you want?

Professor Calamitous suggested, placing his hand on my shoulder with false sincerity: I just wanted to ask that, since you and this Vortex girl don’t seem to get along too well, maybe I could take her to be my assistant again? Obviously you don’t want her…

I grasped his hand with such intensity that he pulled away with a wince: You’re not taking her anywhere…

Professor Calamitous shrugged his shoulders and grunted: Fine! But I don’t see why not…

I took a deep breath and stared down at the Hypnotism Ray; as he walked away I whispered to myself: Because I do want her…

As I spoke the words to myself, I glimpsed back at Cindy; she was slouched in the corner, cradling her head in her hands. I nearly arose to go talk to her, to tell her…but I remembered the insults she’d struck me with and clenched my teeth bitterly. My heart hardened and I went right back to my work…like I always did.

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-FIVE

Heartless Genius

 

A grin of satisfaction swept my face as I held my fully repaired invention in the air with pride: It is complete!

Sheen’s face exploded into excitement: You mean the war on the Slygorgians from sector 9 is finally over?!?!?!

My smile faded and I shook my head: …No.

Sheen’s grin melted into disappointment and he breathed: Oh.

I continued, ecstatic: My invention’s repair is complete!

Professor Calamitous rolled his eyes with a devious grin: Finally!

Cindy sarcastically added: Woohoo. Now how do we get out of this CAGE, Captain Cranium?

My heart sunk. I hadn’t thought about that. Now all that work on my invention would be in vain…I couldn’t use it on Libby unless we escaped the cage first. Searching my mind for ideas, I came up blank and slapped a hand to my head, scolding myself.

Professor Calamitous whined: Don’t tell me you didn’t devise a plan to get out of here first!

I fiddled with the invention in my hands: Um…well…

Cindy, raging, stood up and stomped over to me, grabbing me by my shirt and yelling into my face: You IDIOT!!!

A few moments later, Cindy was still clasped onto my shirt, staring into my face when she finally dropped me, turned red and cleared her throat.

Shaking her head rapidly, she returned to the subject with anger: You’d better get me out of here in the next 5 seconds or…

I fiercely shot back: Or what? You’ll go have another pity party all by your little old self? Ooh…I’m SO scared!

Stunned, she stuttered: I was not having a pity party!

I shot back: Well you were pouting in the corner like a two-year old after a tantrum that didn’t result in getting what she wanted!

She attempted to produce an excuse: I was just…trying to think of a way to fix your stupid invention!
I crossed my arms smugly: Riiight…

She pointed an accusing finger into my chest and allowed herself to speak the words I realized she had been holding back for so long: You know what your problem is, Jimmy Neutron? You have a big brain and a huge IQ and you think you’re all that…but you’re not! At least I can be sad; at least I can FEEL! You have no emotions and no heart …there’s no room for any of that in your enormous head! You are a heartless, careless, selfish, cold and arrogant jerk…and I can’t believe I ever called you my friend!!!

Cindy once again retired to a corner and I stood helpless in the center of the floor. I felt my heart crack, smashing onto the ground and splintering into hopeless pieces. She finally admitted her true feelings about me…and they were nothing like I had imagined. She hated me…and I hated myself.

I glanced over at her helpless silhouette, staring off into nothingness. I couldn’t read the thoughts behind her eyes for the first time in my life. The emerald gleam that was normally there when she was happy…gone. That fierceness that blazed like untamable flames she used to glare at me with when she was angry…disappeared. Even the glazed tears she adorned when she was sad…faded away. All I could see in those eyes of hers were dim shades of gray; no emotion, no readable quality lay in her, not even her usual green-eyed glow…just the faintness of disappointment and guilt. And for once in my 5th grade life, when I actually wanted to, I had no idea how to help her.

Gazing at her seemingly emotionless face, I swallowed the lump in my throat. Glimpsing into her eyes, my own filled with tears.

Sheen trotted over to me and set his hand on my shoulder: I believe you have disturbed the lady. Possibly you should perform ritual #76 of the Weglons from Planet Weglozzia…

I sighed, exchanging my anger for submission: And what would that be, Sh…I mean, Ultralord?

Sheen stood up straight, glanced back at Cindy then looked into my eyes once more: That would be…the apology.

I, the super genius, couldn’t even compose that idea and Sheen, the delusional straight D- student was giving me the advice I needed to hear.

I whispered to myself, shaking my head with disappointment: What is the world coming to?

Yet I knew Sheen was right. That’s what I had to do…apologize.

Inhaling a deep, nervous breath, I closed my eyes and considered what I was going to say, then conjured up the guts to approach her…and then I began the seemingly endless walk over to where Cindy sat in solitude to perform the very first apology I had ever spoken to Cindy Vortex…

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-SIX

Physical Liberation=Heart’s Confinement

 

It seemed like ages before I reached the spot where Cindy crouched in eerie solitude. Her eyes remained cold and emotionless and it pained me to observe her lifeless expression. I recalled seeing her truly lifeless mere hours before, lying helpless in my arms and depending on me to resurrect her motionless figure. And now the duty was mine once more; it was again my responsibility to restore Cindy to life. And I would accomplish this by first apologizing, and second…telling her. Telling her everything about my feelings when she was submerged in a coma, my tears, nightmares, sleepless nights and about every emotion I’d ever tried to express to her. And I would speak the words I’d been dying to allow to escape my lips ever since the day I first caught sight of Cindy Vortex. And then, together, we would devise a plan to break free of this cage.

I started, slouching down beside the frail, golden-haired girl who’d been my rival for so many years: Cindy…

I hesitated to speak more, awaiting some kind of response or sign that she even realized I existed, but her expression did not change.

I continued: I wanted to come over here to…to…(I struggled to allow that word to emerge)…apologize.

Slowly, Cindy’s head eased over to face me and her gray, emotionless eyes stared intently into mine. Still no words came forth.

Suddenly, everything poured out of me: I was stupid for dragging you out here in the first place. I should’ve gone with you into that false tomb and protected you from being captured. I’m sorry that I wasn’t there when you woke up and I’m sorry for making Libby hate you and for calling you all those nasty things. I’m sorry for fighting with you all the time and I’m sorry that things didn’t turn out better between us. I’m just really, really sorry…and I hope you’ll forgive me.

After rattling off my list of apologies, I inhaled a deep breath and anxiously awaited a response. My heart pounded rapidly, and I sat frightful of the possible rejection I might face. I could hardly breathe.

Biting my lip, I watched Cindy’s dull, expressionless eyes flare back to a gleaming emerald, a wry smile tugging at the corners of her lips.

Abruptly, her face split into a coy little smile and before I knew it, she threw her arms around my neck, embracing me warmly.

She whispered into my ear: I forgive you, Jimmy.

A smile swept my own face at the moment those blessed words reached my ears.

I arose from the ground carefully, helping Cindy to her feet as well. As she rose to stand in front of me, our eyes met once more and I knew that this was the time to tell her.

I began, taking a step closer to her: Cindy…there’s something else I needed to tell you.

Tilting her head, Cindy inquired sweetly: What?

I stuttered: I…I…

But before I could even finish my sentence, an ear-piercing explosion erupted into my eardrums.

Both our heads jerked over and then our eyes drank in a most amazing sight: the bars which confined us were broken, crumbling to bits and exposing an enormous opening.

I asked Professor Calamitous, who was standing beside the site of the explosion wearing a grin: How did you do that?!?!

Professor Calamitous nodded towards Goddard: It was that robotic mutt of yours. It used the spices from some jars in the corner and ignited them with fire to…well…(He glimpsed at the dust and pieces of the bars settling to the ground around the opening)…to do that.

I laughed and patted Goddard’s head: You remembered what I did last time! Good job, boy!

Goddard yipped: Bark, bark!

I turned back to Cindy to speak the words I wished so deeply to say but she shrieked before the words could escape: We’re free!!!

Her face beaming, Cindy jolted out the opening, pulling me along with her in excitement.

Stepping outside the cage, I took a deep breath and glanced behind me at the horrific dungeon chamber. At last we were liberated. But the feelings I locked away in my heart and those words I was so eager to confess…were still hopelessly trapped…

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-SEVEN

All Is How It Should Be…Right?

 

Ecstatic to be freed, all of us exited the chamber gladly, all displaying actions that proved who and where each of us truly wanted to be; Carl galloped from the cage like a jolly llama, Sheen marched out valiantly spouting Ultralord phrases, Professor Calamitous hopped out grinning deviously, ready to take over the world once the stones were found, and then there was Cindy and me. Grins adorning our faces, we stood together, ready to take on the world. And then I knew that all was how it should be…besides the whole Carl thinking he’s a llama, Sheen thinking he’s Ultralord and Libby thinking she’s the Queen thing. That was still on my “to do” list.

My smile faded as I glanced over only to see Sheen attempting to mount Carl’s back like a steed.

Sheen slapped Carl’s back: Since my Stratatomic spaceship has obviously been abducted along with my weaponry, I suppose you’ll have to do for transportation. Giddy up!

Carl began to gallop but abruptly kicked his back legs out, sending Sheen careening off his back and thumping to the floor.

Professor Calamitous stared at the two delusional boys awkwardly: Um…can we use your Hypnotism Ray to change these nitwits back, please?

I shook my head: I can’t run the risk of using it only on these two. It could possibly break down after one usage because of the ancient brick and materials in its composition. We need to get all three together.

Cindy nodded then glanced up into my eyes: I agree.

Wow, I thought. That was a first. I couldn’t even recall one time in the past when Cindy had ever agreed with me…ever. A smile danced across my face.
Cindy beamed: So, shall we proceed?

I chuckled: We shall.

Professor Calamitous crossed his arms across his ashen lab coat and shifted his weight to one leg: What are you two so happy about?

Sheen jolted in: Yeah, there’s still a manic Queen wannabe who’s not going to be excited about the fact that we’ve escaped! You’ll both skip up there with glee (He demonstrated with light, fake daintiness)…then it will be off with our heads!!!!

Cindy shuddered at the thought.

Noticing her trembling, I glimpsed over and reassured her: Don’t worry. I won’t let that happen.

Cindy smiled: I know.

Professor Calamitous popped up: Okay, now that you’ve had your little ‘moment’ can we go back to the throne chamber?

Color rose to my cheeks as I attempted to ignore the statement: Uh…does anyone remember how we got here?

All fell silent and I sighed with grief…another obstacle.

But all of a sudden, Cindy piped up with a suggestion: Why don’t you check your watch? Maybe it programmed a map of the hallways we were led down to get here like it did last time we were here.

My head whirled around to face her: That’s a…great idea! I can’t believe I didn’t think of it!

Cindy’s shining eyes voiced her “you’re welcome.”

Quickly I began trying to locate any map that might have been recorded recently in my watch. At last I selected an untitled file under “maps” and discovered a chart of the winding hallways of the tomb.

I exclaimed with enthusiasm: It worked! It’s all here…

Professor Calamitous tapped his foot impatiently: So can we LEAVE now?

I spoke curtly: Most certainly. We’re good to go!

So, following my watch’s direction, we strolled down the hallways, finding our way back to the chamber where our next action would take place…the changing back of our friends. I could hardly wait to have everything back to normal again, but I could have never imagined how difficult our next task would be. And as we ventured down those darkened hallways, I wish I would’ve known what danger stretched out before us…

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-EIGHT

Off to Restore Reality

 

Finally, we arrived at the chamber and, standing just outside of it, we huddled behind the brick wall for fear of being spotted. Carefully I peered around the corner to catch a glimpse of what could be occurring inside.

Libby lounged in her exquisite golden throne, decrepit mummies heaving themselves at her feet in reverence and allowing bellowing groans to escape their bandaged mouths. One was filing her nails, another fanning her with some type of desert leaf. I spied no other mummies except those around her and decided that it was the opportune time to enter…the coast was clear.

I turned around to face Carl, Cindy, Professor Calamitous and Sheen. They all stared at me with anxiety, eyes glued open wide, ready to make the next move.

I whispered, just barely audible: Okay, the coast is clear. Now we need to sneak in there real quietly, then we need to get Sheen and Carl by Libby to successfully change them back to normal. Got it?

Cindy and Professor Calamitous nodded silently, Carl and Sheen stared blankly but I paid no mind to their reaction; the only part they played in this scheme was standing next to Libby at the correct time. Easy enough for a wannabe Ultralord and a disillusioned llama.

Softly speaking once again, I added: On the count of three we tiptoe in…one…two…three…

As soon as the last number emerged from my mouth, we five snuck cautiously towards the doorway, being careful not to disrupt any rocks or vases or anything that could move and cause noise to erupt.

Soon we approached the doorway, passing through silently until suddenly, something seized my arms. Bony fingers clasped around my arms and dug extensive fingernails into my skin. I released a yelp of pain and glanced around only to see the same situation occurring with Carl, Cindy, Goddard, Sheen and Professor Calamitous.

I glimpsed up at my captors only to catch sight of yet more mummies.

Ashamed thoughts raced through my mind: How could I not have noticed? How could I not have assumed there would be guards stationed at the doorway? How could I have led my friends into yet another hopeless trap?

Professor Calamitous managed to force out beneath the mummy’s grip: You…idiot!

I breathed: I’m sorry…I didn’t know…

Sheen struggled against his mummy: Let me go you mangled monstrosity! You have no idea who you’re dealing with!

A booming, authoritative voice echoed throughout the chamber resounding from Libby’s slender figure: You thought you could escape my dungeon chamber, then sneak back in here to seek revenge upon me and actually get away with it?!?! I think NOT! Who do you think you are?

Cindy, attempting to resurrect the Libby within, exclaimed: I thought I was your best friend!

Libby examined her sparkling nails and rolled her eyes with disgust: You could only wish!

A fiery anger arose in Cindy’s eyes and she glared over at me in a manner I thought, or at least hoped, I would never be forced to witness again: Nice going, Nerdtron! We’ll never get her back to normal now!!! How could you be so stupid? I can’t believe I ever considered forgiving you!

My hopes immediately sunk and my heart panged with such an intensity that I could scarcely breathe. Just when everything was going right, when matters I had been confused about for years were seeming to fall into place, when I believed life was about to revert back to its regular spin, I had to mess things up again.

A deep sigh gushed from my lips and I shut my eyes tight.. I had no clue how we would escape this. Every solution seemed impossible and I assumed nothing could possibly get worse…until I heard Libby’s next announcement.

She yelled commandingly: Guards!!!

The mummies confining our helpless frames nodded and turned their attention to their “Queen” with ghoulish grumbles.

Libby finished her ruthless order: Execute them!!!

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-NINE

Taking It To The Grave

 

Our eyes swelled with horror-filled shock at this command. Execute us?!?!

I stole a fleeting glance at Cindy whose eyes were drenched with fear, an expression of utter distress painted across her sullen face. I could only imagine the thoughts spiraling through her mind at that moment. Her own best friend was sentencing her to death; now all the odds were against her. She’d lost her best friend, was enraged with me and had no where and no one to turn to. I wish she knew then that she could always run to me, always fall back on me, but it was far too late to tell her now. Soon our fate would be sealed and it wouldn’t matter anymore. It was the end for all of us, dictated by the hand of one of our best friends.

Before we could even conjure up a resistance, thick, irritating ropes were knotted  intensely around our arms and legs, the rope which bound us gnawing mercilessly into our skin.

Cindy cried, wondering with anxiety what our cruel fate would be: What are you going to do with us?

The mummies uttered no reply but Libby proudly proclaimed her malicious means of torture: To the snake pit with them!!!

Sheen laughed, unaffected: Hah! Snakes are no match for Ultralord! What are they? Five harmless little garter snakes?

Sheen clutched his stomach with chuckles bubbling from his mouth at the thought of tiny, pathetic snakes attempting to finish us off.

Libby snorted: Quite the contrary. There are five hundred deathly poisonous saw-scaled vipers full of venom in the snake pit. Hardly what I’d call harmless.

My heartbeat halted dead in its tracks. I swallowed hard. Saw-scaled vipers held the distinction of having killed more people than any other snake. Surely, we were doomed. The horrific thought of highly venomous snakes devouring me and my friends invaded my mind and I couldn’t help but blame myself. My head hung in disappointment and shame as a mummy lifted me in its dilapidated arms, withered and clammy, to carry me away to the outcome of my foolish mistakes.

With not another word spoken, we were lugged away like innocent sheep to the slaughter house, all stricken silent with fear. The only sound that penetrated my deep, ashamed thoughts was that of Libby’s torturous cackle reverberating off the brick walls of the lonely chamber.

After being dragged through numerous hallways, we entered an enormous empty room. Ahead lay an immense square hole in the middle of the cold stone floor: the jaws of death, unfastening themselves to engulf the entirety of my world in their despicable terror.

I glimpsed at my other imprisoned friends; Carl was flailing about frantically, attempting to kick his “hooves” into the mummy but the ties which confined him would not allow such movement.

Professor Calamitous was trying to talk his way out of his sentence. He reasoned to the mummy smoothly: You know, if you let me go then I will give you a place of prominence once I dominate the world!

The mummy seemed to comprehend his offer; it pondered the preposition then growled, barely understandable: Long live Queen Libby!

Professor Calamitous slapped a frustrated hand to his head. Negotiating was not about to save his life.

Goddard was wrapped securely in rope twelve times over to ensure no escape; he barked manically but there was nothing I could do to rescue him.

Sheen attempted to force his “wings” to emerge so he could soar away from his doom but, since the wings were not surfacing, he assumed the ropes were detaining them and submitted to his fate.

And then there was Cindy. She hung limply in the arms of the mummy, dread pouring from her eyes and disappointment in me radiating from every hopeless sigh she uttered. Though I did fear for myself, the honest truth was that I longed desperately to surrender my own life just to save her, to keep her smiling, to allow her to live a full and joyful life, even if it wasn’t with me. I would sacrifice anything to take her place. And yet we were both condemned to die, both destined to vanish from earth. And my true feelings would fade from existence with me. She would never know of the tears I shed when I believed she was gone forever, the restless nights I spent dreaming of her, the words I desired so desperately to confess to that blonde-haired girl who had taken residence in my heart ever since the first day her gleaming emerald eyes met with mine. She would never know…

 

CHAPTER SIXTY

Preparing For the Leap of Death

 

The mummies wobbled over to the hole, we five in decrepit hand, and reached inside the opening with drooping arms, towing ropes from inside up to the floor where we stood. And then I realized just what it was they were doing and it was far worse than I’d imagined. We weren’t going to just be thrown into the pit to end the suffering immediately, we were being forced to dangle from ropes above the vipers until some force unraveled or shredded the rope so we would slowly be plunged into agony.

As we neared the merciless opening, the horrific sound of hissing and scales chafing against each other threatened my eardrums. I could nearly feel their slick bodies slithering, sliding across my goose-bumped skin when I closed my eyes and absorbed the sound of their motion. Terrified, I cringed.

Professor Calamitous yelled accusingly toward me: You big brained moron! Your stupid invention is going to get us all killed! Can’t you do anything right?

Defensively, I snapped: May I remind you that it was YOU who ran into ME in the first place!!! This is all YOUR fault!

Professor Calamitous shouted: Well if YOU wouldn’t have had that lousy contraption of yours out where it could be detonated, we wouldn’t be in this predicament!

I retorted: Well, if you would’ve looked before you backed into me…

Sheen interrupted the madness: Would you two cease your quarreling? Fighting was what threw the Animonic Aliens from Sector 21 into their first civil war!

Professor Calamitous shrugged: I’ve never heard of them.

Sheen exclaimed: Exactly! That’s because they all killed each other in battle!

I gasped; for once, Sheen was right. Arguing with each other wasn’t going to solve anything and neither was casting the blame. Although I didn’t believe anything could solve our problem at that moment anyways, I knew fighting would only make matters worse, if that was possible.

Abruptly, the ropes retrieved from within the pit were secured around each one of us then knotted tightly with harsh intensity. There was no escaping these woven confinements.

The mummies carefully stood us up on our feet. We all looked like stone soldiers, frozen, rigid characters; our arms and legs were fastened to the remainder of our bodies and we were stricken motionless with fear.

Goddard and I were tied to one edge of the hole, Sheen and Professor Calamitous to the one beside me, Carl to the other beside me and Cindy to the side across from me.

I glanced over at Carl; he was attempting to gnaw through his ropes with his teeth but since his mouth wasn’t truly equipped with llama teeth, he had no affect on the bulky twine. We were trapped and that was that. No weapons of Ultralord or hooves of a llama could liberate us from our cruel punishment…the punishment we received for merely trying to help.

I stared across the vast opening, the pit that held our condemned fate, into the sad eyes of Cindy Vortex. Fear and dread sent an earthquake of trembles throughout her body, the vision of hundreds of deadly snakes reflecting in the shimmering tears which glazed her eyes. And I could do nothing to help her.

I watched her eyes slowly flutter closed, a teardrop rolling off her eyelashes and slipping down her cheek. All I wanted to do was be there beside her, wipe her tears away, tell her everything was going to be all right. But that would be a lie. Everything wasn’t going to be all right. I would never again see the wistful smile of Cindy Vortex, never again steal glances at her during class when I thought she wasn’t looking, never hold her hand in mine again. How could that be right? That was anything but right; it was pure cruelty. Our short lives were now going to be sliced even shorter, depriving us of so many experiences never explored.

And suddenly, as I stared into the twisted face of death, nothing that formerly seemed so important mattered anymore. Now winning the science fair, being the smartest kid in class and creating more gadgets than any other inventor seemed plain trivial. All that mattered was my friends, Cindy, and all the precious words I was never given the chance to speak. And I prayed that in my last moments, I would be able to tell them everything I ever longed to confess, even if it be with my last gasping breath…

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-ONE

The Last Time

 

My heart raced as I peered over the edge of the hole, knots of vipers forming a twisted picture of horror before my shock-filled eyes. I glanced over at Goddard who whimpered and hung his robotic head low, his eyes raking over the horrendous hissing mass below. I knew exactly how he felt.

The mummies soon assembled themselves behind each one of us, their bandage-draped arms reaching out for our backs. I shut my eyes and clenched my bound fists, preparing myself for the fatal plunge I was about to undergo. But minutes ticked sluggishly by and nothing happened. So with a great heave, I slouched into comfort again, supposing I had a few more moments before I was launched into the depths of demise. Then as soon as I relaxed, I felt the sickening touch of the mummies’ putrefying hands against my back  and before I knew it, a forceful shove caused me to lunge into the pit, my stomach leaping to my throat as I free-fell through the thick must of the air. Then suddenly, it felt as if I’d struck a wall then bounced upwards, only to tumble back down to the spot where my fall was halted; I had reached the extent of my ropes. I dangled helplessly from my confinements mere feet above the viciously ravenous vipers. My eyes flitted about and I watched as Carl, Cindy, Goddard, Professor Calamitous and Sheen plummeted downwards also, rebounded as I did then came to a halt, suspended in mid-air by their ropes in the manner I did mere moments ago.

I watched as Carl’s plump body quivered with animal-like fear over the vipers. He hung across from Sheen who was staring intensely at the vipers, willing his “heat vision” to scorch them to ashes. Beside Sheen hung Professor Calamitous, who was mumbling under his breath, fuming about how idiotic I was and how he never would’ve allowed such a “preposterous” event to occur if we hadn’t obscured his master plan. Next to me, Goddard’s head simply drooped in distress, his steel frame rigid and lifeless. Across from Goddard and I, Cindy dangled with an expression of pure terror dripping from her eyes, brimming with dread. She bit her lip nervously as she observed the vipers glaring up at her with eyes like flame-engulfed infernos, blazing unrestrained. Witnessing her fear only caused my own to incline and it felt as if that nightmarish anxiety had wrapped its toxic fingers around my stomach and was wrenching it in a thousand different directions at once. The only other occasion that I experienced this torturous anguish was when I believed that I had lost Cindy forever. Never again did I fathom that I could suffer such severe torment once again, but there I was…suffering.

Sheen shattered my contemplations as he hammered a fist to his head with a command: Jimmy, we must do something! My heat vision is temporarily dysfunctional! We must concoct a plan to escape the confines of this pit of doom!

Professor Calamitous sneered: HIM?!? Why are you asking HIM? He’s the one who got us into this chaos! We wouldn’t be dangling without a prayer above venomous vipers if this nimrod hadn’t gone and tried to be the genius he clearly is NOT!!!

I was near ready to retort when Cindy’s fragile voice surfaced, calm and timid: This…is the last time. I always knew this would happen, that one day Neutron wouldn’t have the solution to the problem he made. And now…(She gritted her teeth, eyes simmering with fury but still retaining a soft tone)…we’re all going to suffer for it.

I felt my guilty heart plummet into a coma, depression and disappointment in myself stomping its pain-coated cleats into my unconscious heart.

Dejected, I breathed: You’re both right. This is all my fault. Maybe I’m not a genius, I’m just a stupid kid who’s obsessed with science and neglects to tell people what is really going on inside his…absent, lack of genius mind.

Cindy’s jaw dropped a bit and she gaped at me; I suppose she wasn’t expecting me to agree with her insults, but shoot back an arrogant remark and begin the bickering process all over again. But her words stung my heart so agonizingly that all I could do was concur…and decide to tell everyone dangling powerlessly around me the words meant for each one of them that I had secured inside myself as long as I could remember; they had to know before we were exterminated from the planet, before our lives and memories dissolved into the forgetful and merciless fate which was now ours to endure, before it was too late…

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-TWO

Confessions and a…Brain Blast!

 

At the sudden sound of crackling, my eyes dashed upwards and settled upon a most horrific sight; savage rats were released and they began to gnaw upon the ropes which served as our fragile lifeline. The only thing restraining we five and Goddard from the doom we could not avoid was receding fast and soon we would plunge into the deadly pool of vipers.

Cindy snapped viciously, her former “this is the last time” theory fading fast at the thought of actually being in danger: Neutron, are you gonna’ get us out of this or what?!?!

Professor Calamitous added: I concur; isn’t it about time for one of your ridiculous “brain blasts” or whatever you call those?!
My head dangled sadly as I pouted: Only geniuses have brain blasts…there’s no hope.

Sheen gallantly proclaimed: There is always hope!

Carl grunted his agreement.

Cindy shrieked: NO HOPE ?!?! You’d better get me out of here soon or so help me…

I shook my head and negatively responded: No one can help you. Not even me. We’re doomed and there’s nothing else to do about it.

Cindy’s anger-filled face flashed sullen as the realization struck her: You’re serious…we’re actually not surviving this time. But…but…there are so many things I’ve never done! I never learned how to drive, never went on a date or got married or won the science fair or told you…

Suddenly, Cindy’s lips closed and her eyes shifted uneasily as color painted her cheeks.

My eyelids lifted a bit and I stared at her curiously: Told me what?

Cindy shot back rapidly: Nothing.

My excitement to hear her response died and it was then that I decided that this very moment was the time to tell everyone the words they desperately needed to hear before I was unable to speak them anymore. The ropes were quickly fraying, and all too soon, time would be up.

With a lengthy breath, I turned to Goddard first: Goddard, I just wanted to let you know that you’ve been my best companion ever since I built you. You’re my best and favorite invention and I don’t know what I’d do without you, boy.

Goddard barked back appreciatively, sadness still echoing from inside.

I glanced at Professor Calamitous: Calamitous, I know we’ve been arch enemies forever, but you have given me many exciting adventures in my life.

Professor Calamitous blushed a bit: Yeah, yeah…

Next, I twirled to face Carl. I knew he wouldn’t be able to comprehend what I was saying but I found it necessary to let him know: Carl, you’ve been my best friend for as long as I can remember. No matter how afraid you were, you were always willing to be my test experiment for all my crazy inventions, and I’m eternally grateful for that. You are my best and closest friend and I will never forget you.

Carl merely snorted.

Cindy shook her head, confused: What are you doing, Neutron? All this touchy feely stuff is making me WANT to fall into those vipers!!!

Ignoring her comment, I whirled around to meet eye to eye with Sheen: Sheen…

Sheen interrupted: Sheen?!?!

I corrected myself: Ultralord…thank you for being my friend for all these years. You’ve kept me entertained, made me laugh hysterically and always been there to cheer me up when times seemed impossible…thank you so much for that.

Sheen’s eyebrow raised and he answered: Why, thank you, but I don’t recall doing any of those things for you.

Depression swept me for a moment; I was pouring out everything to my friends and they couldn’t even remember all the unforgettable memories I was trying to thank them for. But I could do nothing to change that now; all I could do was confess all my heart had kept hidden…and Cindy was up next.

This was the confession I’d been dreading; I had so much to tell her, so many words I had feared to allow to escape my lips that my entire body trembled as I opened my mouth to let her know the way I really felt about our fighting, about competing with her in science fairs and grades and school, and the way I truly felt about her.

I inhaled deeply and stared intently into her eyes. I began: Cindy…

Cindy tilted her head innocently, obviously expecting something profound from me. I found myself lowering my gaze, not able to look into her eyes while I spoke such words. But as my eyes were wandering, I caught sight of Goddard’s back compartment and suddenly…BRAIN BLAST!!!

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-THREE

Sand Cats To the Rescue

 

My eyes widened and a mosaic of colors melted into pictures in my mind. At last I could clearly make out a vision; I saw the sand cats we encountered, Goddard swallowing them once I shrunk them, and an image of the vipers beneath us…and I had it.

I shouted enthusiastically: BRAIN BLAST!!! I’ve got a plan!

Cindy slouched into a relieved heap: It’s about time!

Professor Calamitous sighed: Tell me about it…

Sheen questioned curiously: Is this a master plan you speak of?

I asked: Cindy, did Libby tell you about the sand cats that came after us in the desert while you were gone?

Cindy nodded, waiting for me to finish.

I continued: Well, one of the saw-scaled viper’s natural predators is the sand cat!

Cindy’s eyebrow raised: So…

Professor Calamitous added with an impatient tone: And where do you suppose we’re going to get a sand cat right now, genius?

Ignoring his comment, I inquired once again: But do you remember what happened to those sand cats?

Slowly, the realization began to dawn on Cindy: They’re inside of Goddard! (She exclaimed this excitedly, then a frown slid across her face) But Libby told me that you shrunk them…they’ll never be big enough to eat ALL these snakes!

Recognizing this as a flaw in my plan, a downcast expression swept my face. But as I glimpsed downwards and my eyes settled on something wonderful, a smile split my cheeks and I began to chuckle with delight.

Cindy glared at me with fiery eyes as if I’d lost my mind and yelled: Hey Captain Cranium, come back down to earth! This is NOT a laughing matter!

Still maintaining a laugh, I motioned with a head nod towards my waist and pointed out: The mummies didn’t take my utility belt away…I still have my shrink ray!

Cindy’s face lit up with joy as she realized the reason for my laughter. But suddenly, a jerking motion seized her and she plummeted downwards another inch or so closer to the snakes, and her breath choked in her throat. Her eyes traveled upwards; catching sight of the fraying rope being gnawed away by the rats, fright drenched her eyes.

Professor Calamitous noticed this also: We don’t have much time! Hurry up, genius, and get us out of this mess you got us into in the first place!

I attempted to shake off his negative demand.

Cindy’s voice wavered with fear as she asked with concern: But how will you reach your shrink ray? Your hands are tied!

I pondered this a moment, then smiled at Goddard and asked him: Goddard, can you use your heat vision to break the ropes on my hands, boy?

Goddard barked with affirmation and as I held my hands out as much as possible, a steaming hot, ruby-red ray shot from Goddard’s eyes and seared through my binding ropes, liberating my hands. I watched the ropes tumble down and vanish into the swarming, devouring vastness of vipers and, remembering that that could be me if I didn’t hurry, I urgently continued my business.

I commanded: Goddard! Sand cats, please!

Goddard’s metal jaws inched open and, with a clanging mechanical burp, three tiny sand cats bounded forth from Goddard’s steel mouth and rested upon his tongue. Squinting one eye, I pointed the shrink ray at the sand cats and felt my thumb inch towards the button that would detonate my invention…and I awaited what could be our great path to escape, or our ultimate downfall…

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-FOUR

Dinnertime

 

Suddenly, before my anxiety-drenched eyes, an iridescent red beam burst from the shrink ray, enveloping the miniscule sand cats in its shimmering rays. Then abruptly the sand cats began to swell enormously into their original sizes, paws thickening and fangs elongating.

Before I could even blink twice, gigantic sand cats towered before me, snarling with a ferocious intensity that brought an earthquake of chatters to my teeth.

But their blood-curdling growls were quickly redirected from myself to the vipers below which sunk their venom-soaked fangs into the tender, fur-blanketed feet of the sand cats.

With yelps and fierce cries, the sand cats began to maliciously attack the vipers, tearing them with razor-sharp claws and devouring them as if they had been famished for ages.

Professor Calamitous attempted to recoil at the sight of one of the horrendous beasts that stood before him: What is THAT?!

A wry smile tugged at my lips: THAT, Calamitous, is what’s going to save our lives.

All of us watched with eyes glued open, too ecstatic that the plan was succeeding to be disgusted by the grotesque sight of the sand cats consuming the vipers.

Cindy’s eyes illuminated with a shining, hope-filled glow that reminded me of the golden sun rising over a glassy turquoise sea after a storm: It’s actually working!

Sheen reminisced: This reminds me of the Battle of Skihns when the aliens from Furzikia battled the reptilian aliens from Vipenken in the Pitatomic Galaxy when Borelord of Neptilia became ruler of…

Cindy yelled, irritated: Would you put a sock in it ?!?! If I WANTED to be tortured, I would’ve just thrown myself into those vipers! (She began to mutter under her breath) At least it would’ve spared me from the extreme boredom…

Sheen interjected with a defensive scowl: The Battle of Skihns is NOT a boring topic! In fact, it’s featured in episode #898, which is an immensely popular episode by the way, when I had to fly to the Pitatomic Galaxy to purchase…

Cindy burst in, finishing his sentence with a chuckle: A NEW BRAIN?!?!

Sheen’s face scrunched up: I’ll have you know that I had my brain upgraded only two weeks ago, unlike you who’s had the same old outdated version since…

I interrupted the bickering: Would you two STOP fighting?!?! Cindy, once we get out of here and change everyone back to normal, Sheen won’t…(I thought about what I was about to say, then altered the end of my sentence)…no, he’ll still talk about Ultralord episodes all the time.

Cindy sighed with a joking smile: Then you were right. There really IS no hope.

A laugh resounded from Cindy’s lips and an elegant smile danced across her cheeks. I gazed into her gleaming eyes and found myself mimicking the very same grin. She had confidence in me; she saw that my plan was working and was beginning to trust me again. And it was then that I knew everything was going to be all right…or so I thought.

Professor Calamitous inquired as he observed the combat below: So…when these freakishly large beasts are done, what do we do with them?

My answer arrived quickly: We just shrink them back down and have Goddard swallow them again!

Sheen shrugged: Sounds easy enough.

Cindy nodded her agreement, her faith in me washing over me like that first rain in spring that drenches the ground and causes all the flowers to finally emerge from their refuge and blossom beautifully.

Below, the war between the sand cats and the saw-scaled vipers was racing to its conclusion. Only a dozen or so vipers still slithered about, evading the slicing claws of the sand cats and hissing with shrill cries of S.O.S.

In a matter of rapid minutes, the entirety of the vipers had been engulfed and swallowed and all that remained were three enormous sand cats licking their chops with swelled stomachs and satisfied looks spread across their faces.

Cindy took one look at them and demanded urgently: Now shrink them back, QUICK!!!

I spoke with prideful ease: No worries…I’ve got it all under control. There’s no rush here; all I have to do is take out the shrink ray (I pulled the invention from my utility belt), aim it at the sand cats (I did so) and…(I slid my thumb onto the detonation button)…press the button!

I pushed down hard on the button, shutting my eyes to shield them from the blinding light that was sure to follow. But as my eyes eased open once more, the sand cats were not tiny again. Nothing had happened. And all three were roaring at me, their fierce red eyes locked upon me, ready to pounce…

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-FIVE

Blackout

 

My heart plunged out of my chest, beating like a speed-crazed train running on only one track, near collapsing but still pressing on relentlessly. Fear-forced sweat trickled down my forehead and my brain throbbed to seek out an answer to this new problem that could cost me and my friends our very lives.

Professor Calamitous watched in horror as the beasts approached me: Well don’t just hang there, you imbecile…shrink them!

I cried out: It’s NOT working!

A fit of rage seized Cindy: Of COURSE it isn’t working! In order for the invention to work, the inventor’s brain has to work…and obviously it DOESN’T!!!

Her words struck me, slicing apart my hopes and stomping my courage to shattered, hopeless shards. I almost surrendered to the creatures that wished to make me dinner, but it was then that I remembered that doing so would not only be sacrificing my own life, but that of my friends…and Cindy. And with that thought I became determined to save us from this impending doom…the fate that I had brought upon us all.

I abruptly glanced down at the shrink ray in my hand, analyzing it and urgently attempting to concoct a plan to repair it quickly. My thoughts were scattered and I fiddled desperately with the shrink ray but couldn’t seem to discover the source of its break down. And suddenly, as the stress and pressure of the moment seeped through my brain, everything began to blur; undeniable fright wrapped its icy fingers around me and wrung my sight to pitch black.

All my senses could now absorb were the sounds that enveloped my confused form in the pit around me.

Cindy noticed my silhouette sinking into dark unconsciousness and shouted: Neutron?? Neutron?! NEUTRON!!

I heard her voice but my lips refused to utter a response. And, noticing that I was not soon to emerge from this state, she took charge in a brave, leader-like way I had never witnessed before, except maybe the time at the science fair when she gave Carl, Libby and Sheen directions on how to stop my “I can’t believe it’s not oil” machine. But that’s beside the point. I heard it was astonishing the courageous way she took over…I wish I would’ve been awake to see it.

Suddenly she commanded: Professor Calamitous! Distract the sand cats!

Professor Calamitous whimpered: Me?!

His cowardly demeanor proved to her that he couldn’t carry out the task asked of him. Quickly she recruited another.

She asked forcefully: Sheen…I mean, Ultralord! Can you distract them?

Sheen gazed up proudly: It would be a great honor to serve in this manner and to…

She hurried him, avoiding a speech they had no time for: Yeah, yeah…just make with the distracting (She watched the sand cats approaching me speedily)…and QUICK!

Sheen yelled with haste: Hey! Over here, you overgrown balls of dryer lint!

Almost robotically, the sand cats’ heads craned in Sheen’s direction and their attention was diverted. They began to proceed toward Sheen, growls adhered to their blood-thirsty lips.

Cindy demanded: Goddard! Fetch the shrink ray from Jimmy’s hand!

Goddard’s neck immediately extended and, clenching the ray tightly but carefully between his steel teeth, he delivered the ray into Cindy’s grasp.

She began to tinker with the invention, inspecting it for the cause of its malfunction. Suddenly, her eyes lit up with realization and she excitedly exclaimed: THAT’S IT!!!

Professor Calamitous leapt in shock: What’s it? It’s what? WHAT?!

Cindy grinned: I know how to fix this thing! I’ll just need a source of toxic…

Cindy’s grin stretched even wider than before as she stared at a dead snake sprawled across the floor.

She shrieked again: THAT’S IT!!!

Professor Calamitous shook his head: Would you STOP screaming that?!

Without explaining, she asked Goddard: Goddard! Could you give me that snake?

Sheen cried from the other side as he moved about, confusing the cats: Could you hurry…just a little?!?!

Cindy shouted frantically: I’m on it!

Goddard retrieved the snake and reluctantly, Cindy took the slimy creature into her hands; she drilled its fangs into a chip in the shrink ray and squeezed hard to inject the venom into it. Quickly discarding the snake, she began to fidget with a few wires, then she constructed it once more and held it out proudly.

She proclaimed valiantly: IT’S FINISHED!!!

Professor Calamitous and Sheen smiled widely at this accomplishment, Carl grunted approvingly and I…still hung in unconscious darkness.

Cindy breathed heavily: Now to see if this thing works…

Carefully, she stretched out her hand and prepared to shrink the sand cats back to bite size…and only hoped that her master plan would not fail…

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-SIX

Cindy Vortex, Girl Genius

 

Through the dense foggy darkness that clouded my eyesight, a flashing scarlet mist seeped through and awakened my pupils. My eyelids snapped open just in time to absorb the sight of the crimson luminosity engulfing the sand cats and shrinking them down to miniscule tufts of fur, scurrying about the abandoned battlefield of a floor. Quickly, Goddard scooped them up into his mouth and swallowed with a resounding metallic belch.

Cindy smiled with satisfaction; then, noticing that I had awoken, she glared at me: Well, look who decided to wake up just in the knick of time!

Shrugging off her comment, I exclaimed excitedly: You did it!!! But how?

She explained proudly: It was quite simple really. I merely injected the venom from one of the vipers into the quarktric chip which created a toxic chemical reaction that in turn…

I finished her sentence: …sent the electric pulses through the ionic balanced wires to activate the detonation of the invention! That’s GENIUS!

A rosy color swept her cheeks: It was nothing really 

I marveled: Nothing?!?! I don’t even know if I could’ve thought up something like that!

We both gasped as those words clung to my throat like sticky peanut butter on a hot day. Had I just admitted that Cindy did something that I couldn’t do?

Smugness drenched Cindy’s face and superiority radiated from her merciless gaze; my pride began to bubble up within me like an unstoppable spring of hatred gushing from a tortured soul that concealed the truth I never let escape.

And before I could snatch the words back into my throat to swallow them forever, I heard myself spewing them: I don’t know if I could’ve thought up something that RIDICULOUS! You OBVIOUSLY could’ve just connected the atriatic wire to the chip and it would’ve saved you all that valuable time! Psh, I can’t believe you were EVER the smartest kid in school!

I watched miserably as Cindy’s smile dissolved into an expression that shredded my heart. Pain-induced tears twinkled in her eyes but, in her infallible strength, she restrained them, swallowed hard and stared coldly with icy eyes into mine.

I had to lower my gaze; I could no longer stare into those intense eyes that set my blood on fire.

Her words punctured my heart as she sharply spoke them: I can’t believe you were EVER my friend. 

A searing shot of anguish devoured my happiness as her words bored into my mind. Why did I always let my mouth control me? I knew that wasn’t really the way I felt. Honestly, I really DID think it was incredible that she thought that up so quickly. I was proud of her and happy for her and the last thing I ever wanted to do was lose her friendship. But of course my arrogance choked my real emotions down and let loose its fury through my mouth…the way it always did.

Professor Calamitous jutted in: Alright, now that that little cat fight is over, can you GET US OUT OF HERE?!?!

Sheen and Carl nodded and, absorbed in their concerns, I pushed Cindy’s and my problem to the backburner…to boil over and intolerably scorch my heart.

I turned to Goddard: Hey boy, can you use your laser to break through everyone’s ropes for me?

Goddard barked his affirmation. He abruptly sent his laser blazing through our binding confinements and at last we were freed.

As soon as Carl hit the ground, he began to gallop about merrily as Sheen performed a Sector 9 ritual freedom dance.

Professor Calamitous rubbed his gloved hands together deviously as if plotting some twisted plan that he would probably never finish carrying out.

But Cindy, drained of all positive emotion, stood with her arms crossed and stared sadly  down at the floor. But I could do nothing to help her, or at least my pride wouldn’t allow me to.

I commanded dryly: Start climbing the wall so we can get out of here.

We five began to scale the brick walls, heading up towards liberation. It started the journey to repair what I had jumbled; all we had to do was restore our friends back to normal…if only it were that simple…

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-SEVEN

Helpless Eyes and Puppy Pink Nail Polish

 

We climbed as quickly as possible up to the surface, all ready to complete this mission, leave this sweltering desert and be free from all the lingering dangers that seemed to stalk us relentlessly. While also containing this desire, I attempted to ignore the ache that infested itself in my heart, drowning out any joy that could ensue in a wave of concealed emotions.

I glanced back down the wall a ways and spotted Cindy who seemed to be having some trouble with scaling this barrier; her breathing was hard and labored and she had to stop to rest often. Yet my stubbornness restrained me from doing what I longed so desperately to do at that very moment: just take her up in my arms and carry her to the top…to be her hero…to keep my big arrogant mouth shut for five minutes and feel like I was actually worth something to her. But when she caught sight of me staring at her, she glared back fiercely and worked even harder to climb faster than I did; I soon found myself competing aggressively against her again, my head swelled with foolish pride that could cost me everything I ever wanted, everything that was worth living for, something more important than life itself…and I was too blind to see it.

My eyes traveled downwards once more, only this time to see Goddard struggling to lift Carl and fly up to the surface with him since Carl still believed he had hooves which would be impossible to climb with. Cindy still raced behind them, sweat glistening from her concentrated forehead, labored breaths heaving from her lips. Her dedication was so astounding that I lost myself in the moment for a few seconds, then realized what I was doing and rapidly began to climb again.

Finally, my hands clasped the top of the pit and I yanked myself to the surface, flinging my body onto the ground to be sure I would not plummet into that pit ever again. I abruptly rose to my feet only to watch Goddard toss Carl onto the floor then collapse himself into an exhausted heap, followed by Sheen and Professor Calamitous, and then Cindy. I watched as her fingers, adorned with fingernails once painted in a glimmering “Puppy Pink” nail polish, grasped the edge of the pit weakly. I stepped a little closer to the edge and peered down, only to view her painfully laboring to pull herself up, her grip on the stone loosening by the second.

Urgently, I offered my hand: Cindy, take my hand!

She cried: Yeah right! You’ll probably drop me!

Hurt, I defended: I would never do that! Just give me your hand or you WILL fall!

She shrieked defiantly: Never!!!

My heart began to thump anxiously with such an intensity that I believed it would explode or leap from its ribbed prison. Her fingers began to slip, and her eyes, once full of independence, brimmed with a haze of fear and helplessness; and before I knew it, I had gone against her will, grabbed her by the hands and hauled her up onto the ground and into my arms…where I knew she’d be safe.

I could feel her heart beating vigorously as she leaned against me, and for a split second she allowed herself to stay close to me, to find refuge there in my arms. But reality clenched her entire body, squeezing all trust in me from her, and she immediately pulled away, seemingly repulsed.

My arms felt a haunting void where Cindy should have been as they lowered back to my sides and I let her walk away from me. I could not shake this feeling…I could not remove the pang in my heart or the butterflies in my stomach or the ache in my head where two different emotions battled eternally. All I could do was mask it with anger and pride and pretend those feelings never existed, as if Cindy never entered my life and turned my world upside down…as she truly had.

So I mumbled: I should’ve just let you fall…

Cindy’s head jerked around and her face evolved into one of fury: I could’ve made it up here without you and your big head, Captain Cranium, and I would’ve pushed YOU into that pit!

I growled back: I would’ve liked to see you try…

She made a “rolling up of sleeves” motion and began to move towards me: Try me…

But just then, the resounding sound of booming footsteps echoed throughout the chamber, coming from some unknown location in the distance, along with an ear-piercing voice that ceased our argument immediately. We had yet to discover the horrifying source…

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-EIGHT

When the Mummies Get Cindy, Cindy Gets the Mummies

 

The piercing sounds grew ever more intense, causing our eardrums to burn incessantly and our eyes to water with anxiety. Danger had discovered us once again.

Carl trotted in place for a moment, then set himself to sniffing around the chamber curiously while we stood stagnant like frozen figurines in fear of what terror lay before us.

Then suddenly, six furious mummies stomped into the chamber and stared us down ferociously. My eyes darted to and fro but alas, there was no escape but down the pit…a place I dared not be ensnared in again.

As the mummies began to approach us, I immediately heard some kind of sinister, echoing clacking noise. But just as I was about to panic in fear of what this sound could be, I noticed it was just Professor Calamitous’s tiny knees knocking together in trembling fright.

This added a bit of humor to the situation, but a laugh never emerged from my lips, for my horror and shock strangled it down and cackled as it perished in my throat.

Abruptly, the mummies grasped our arms and held us in captivity once again, while the one free-handed mummy peered over the edge of the pit to discover how we managed to escape. When it noticed there was a lack of vipers in the pit, it communicated this fact to the others and their grips grew stronger on us, digging rotting fingernails into our quivering bodies. Their lividness engulfed their bodies and spilled over into ours through their suffocating hold on us. And before we knew it, we were being dragged away…again.

I glanced over at my fellow captives just in time to catch Cindy’s “this is all your fault” glare. I sighed, knowing full well that she was right once again, and lowered my gaze, watching the ground as it rumbled beneath my feet.

We were hauled mercilessly back out to the throne room, where the shrill voice was heard once more, resonating from the mouth of none other than Libby, or as she thought she was, Queen Howsaboutislapya. She fiercely ordered her servant mummies around as they willingly submitted to her endless demands, catering to her every whim.

As I registered in my mind the exact steps we’d have to take to un-hypnotize our friends, I realized just how difficult a task this was going to be. Escaping from the mummies’ grasp would not be easy, nor getting Carl and Sheen close enough to Libby to do the job all at once. Why did I always tangle myself up in such messy predicaments?

Finally, we were toted before the “Queen’s” throne and deposited in front of it, the mummies taking their stances behind us as guards for fear we would try to escape again.

Libby spoke forcefully to her bandaged slaves: WHY aren’t these prisoners vanquished? Did I not command you to throw them into the snake pit?!?!

Knowing better than to correct or refute the queen, the mummies hung their battered heads in shame and unworthiness.

Libby demanded: Now I command you to finish them off…once and for all!!!

A resounding collective gasp was uttered from we five, all of us horrendously terrified of the way in which they would go about “finishing us off.”

The mummy that captured Goddard brought him to Libby; she took Goddard and held him tight beneath her arm so he could not aid us.

We all inhaled deep breaths as the mummies proceeded to carry out their duty to their Queen; but just as the mummy behind Cindy was about to wrap its snarled fingers around her neck, her back leg shot out like a rubber band and flung powerfully through the mummy’s legs, knocking it to the ground instantly, flailing about with a yelp of pained surprise.

My jaw dropped in pure astonishment as she rose to her feet, grabbed the mummy by its bandaged shoulders and hurled it intensely against the wall, causing it to stay down for good.

The other mummies remained standing, frozen, watching helplessly as their fellow undead brother was taken down so easily. And before he knew it, the mummy behind Sheen was quickly flung to the ground by Cindy as well, then sent flying into a heap beside the other one. The rest of the mummies began to panic as Cindy’s eyes went up in flames of fury as she came at them.

Libby screamed irately: DESTROY HER!!!

With this command, the mummies shook off their fear and began to pound towards Cindy, poised to battle and ready to rip her limb from limb. My heart began to race; although I knew she was tough, I couldn’t help but wonder…could she take on four mummies at once? We were about to find out…

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-NINE

Battle Buddy

 

My heart halted mid-beat, my eyes glued open with sick anxiety of what was to be the fate of Cindy Vortex…blonde haired, emerald green-eyed Cindy Vortex. The girl who was so much smarter than I ever let on; I could even call her a genius, though I’d never admit it. The girl who was my battling competition, my supreme rival. The girl who was constantly my ultimate source of frustration, anger, bewilderment…and heartache. She was the girl who made my life worthwhile…and the girl who would never even know.

All these thoughts twirled and seeped through my mind, weaving a complex confusion throughout my brain and twisting my heart and stomach into excruciating tangled knots. I inhaled greatly and retained my breath as I watched the girl who sent my heart and pride into beautiful disastrous combat stroll straight into the hands of fatal danger…and there was nothing I could do.

As she pounded forwards, the mummies proceeded towards her, blood-curdling snarls echoing from their sour bandaged mouths. Their malicious crimson eyes glared with a fierce intensity that I knew any sane human but Cindy would melt beneath, but, with determined eyes set afire, she did not lose one step.

My admiration for her skyrocketed in that valiant moment, and the only negative feeling I still held against her was jealousy….wishing I possessed her never-ending courage.

The first mummy’s decrepit arm shot out rapidly as it approached Cindy, binding her arm in its decomposing fingers’ grasp. Looking ready to sink its teeth into her shoulder, the mummy growled fiercely, but no scream came from Cindy’s mouth. She merely seized the mummy’s arm, flung her leg through the mummy’s legs and with one flick of her wrist, flipped the mummy onto the ground with a resounding thud. I couldn’t help but grin at the way she expertly battled these undead creatures.

Sheen turned to me and boomed: We should help her!!!

I glanced at Sheen and sighed: That’s a great idea, Sh…Ultralord, but what can we do?

Sheen yelled valiantly: We can use my ultra laser to disintegrate the mummies; I’m sure it’s…(He searched his clothing, patting at his pockets and looking down his shirt as if the laser would actually be there. Giving up, he shrugged) I must’ve left it in my other pants.

I shook my head and humored him: Yeah, that must be it. How about we just distract them?

Sheen grinned like the cheesy superhero he thought he was: Good plan….battle buddy!!!

Remembering that tiring nickname that I had heard thousands of times while playing in Sheen’s Ultralord videogame a while ago, I couldn’t help but chuckle.

I repeated humorously: Let’s go, battle buddy.

I shouted and flailed about: Hey you! Yeah, you, the ugly sack of flesh wrapped in toilet paper! Come get ME!

One mummy spun around ferociously and angrily began to bound towards me. My heart began to thump insanely as I thought: What do I do NOW?

I began to panic, too flustered to think up a way to fight the mummy. But just as it was about to pounce upon me, Carl galloped right in front of me and the mummy tripped treacherously over him, flying head over heels into a tangled heap on the ground.

I grinned gratefully at Carl and said: I always knew there was a good reason why I picked you as my best friend.

Carl made a rumbling noise and kicked out his back legs; I took it as a strange but meaningful sign of gratefulness.

Then suddenly, I heard a muffled sound echo from my wrist, and I glimpsed down at my watch only to see the face of Professor Beesworth flash onto the screen.

Professor Beesworth apologized: Sorry I haven’t been in contact, Mr. Neutron. It seems that Professor Calamitous left us a present before he left; he shut down our electrical and technical systems and I couldn’t get a hold of you. Thank goodness you’re still alive. Do you have the stones?

I made sure Cindy was all right and in no need of help before answering: Not yet. We’ve had a little mishap with my hypnotism ray but hopefully we’ll fix that soon and beat Calamitous to the stones. I’ll contact you if anything else happens.

Professor Beesworth nodded: Please do. And remember…the world is depending on you.

With that, the screen blacked out and left me with a murky cloud of responsibility hanging heavily over my head…but could I live up to the expectations made for me? Could we rescue this world in time? Could we even make it past these mummies? I would discover the answer to all my questions sooner than I expected…

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY

Tenglochita

 

Horror bled through my expression as I watched Cindy battling the four mummies left; she looked worn and exhausted but nonetheless continued to fight full force against them. Hard work induced sweat trickled from her golden hair and her eyes scrunched into a look of clashing anger and preparation for combat. I prayed she’d have enough strength remaining within her to survive this vital battle.

One mummy increased in speed and pounded, wobbling, towards Cindy before all the others. Its ambition would however be its downfall because in one blink, Cindy had effortlessly wrapped her arm around the mummy’s elbow and smashed it into the ground.

Libby’s jaw dropped and she whispered incredulously as another of her mummy servants met the hard ground: Impossible…

Sheen commented: She’s like Tenglochita, the warrior goddess from planet Onipuculim I once battled in…

Suddenly, Carl sent a leg flying into Sheen’s gut which knocked the wind, and the useless story, right out of him.

I grinned appreciatively: Thanks, Carl.

My attention returned to Cindy, who was on her way to teaching a lesson or two to yet another mummy.

Then suddenly, right when I thought she would spring into the mummy and knock it mercilessly to the ground as she had all the others, she just stopped all motion and stood still. She glanced around as if she’d never been in the tomb before, looking totally oblivious to the mummy who was quickly approaching her.

A devious, satisfied grin painted itself across Libby’s face as she watched, seemingly sure that this mummy could get rid of this little blonde menace.

I watched helplessly and wondered what on earth she was doing. I whispered almost silently while gripping fear etched itself on my heart: Cindy, no…

Sheen observed Cindy’s actions and remarked: Can I take back what I said about her being like Tenglochita?

I waved off his comment with my silence and bit my lip as the mummy drew closer. What was going through her mind?

My eyes slammed shut as the mummy came within inches of Cindy. I could not bare to watch. I felt my heart stop, my breath choking me within my throat, and fright raking its evils through my mind.

Then just when I was expecting to hear a scream or some cry for help from Cindy, I heard a resonant thud and then an ear-splitting pounding noise. I prayed hard that it was not that of Cindy’s body hitting the ground.

I allowed my eyelids to elevate to see what the source of this sound was…only to find Cindy standing tall and every last mummy heaped into one snarled mound against the wall.

Libby’s face exploded with fury and aggravation, while Sheen stood gaping in astonishment, obviously erasing that take-back of his warrior goddess comment.

My eyes inflated with amazement and wonder: Wha…what happened?!?!

Sheen explained: Well Tenglochita here…I mean, Cindy…lured the mummy in by looking as if she was not prepared for battle. Then as soon as the mummy came within her combat diameter, she kicked it directly in the stomach and sent it flying into all the other bandaged creeps which in turn sent all of them into the wall…and now there they are.

I could scarcely believe it. The mummy fell right into her exquisite trap…and she had been clever enough to kick in the exact place that would send that mummy into all the others. Genius…pure genius.

I stared at her with such pride and admiration that it nearly brought tears to my eyes: Cindy, that was…

Libby’s authoritative voice boomed in before I could finish: IMPOSSIBLE!!! There is something wrong with this girl! She is not human!

Cindy obviously didn’t know if she should take that as an insult or a compliment, for her expression flipped between anger and pride simultaneously. 

Libby shook it off: Oh well, no matter. I always have a backup plan.

My heart sunk: Backup plan???

Libby’s eyes narrowed as her elbow quickly pushed in a square stone on her throne.

Abruptly, an immense grumbling noise reached our ears. Our trembling eyes were directed to an area beside Libby’s throne…and all of a sudden, an enormous stone wall lifted, revealing the most alarming sight I could ever witness…

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-ONE

Goliath of the Undead

 

My lungs felt as if they’d collapsed and been marched on by stampeding elephants to wring every last molecule of oxygen from their shriveled, helpless frames. My heart and hopes crumpled like a thin sheet of paper being squeezed by the angry fingers of a mighty giant into useless pulp. And my eyes, my quivering, tear-stained eyes…wished desperately and hopelessly that they had never lived to witness such a sight.

Cindy’s jaw dropped and she managed to utter through trembling lips: Oh…my…

Sheen shouted: Holy galactic lasers of Ultralord!!!

Carl’s eyes grew immense with fright and shaking horror; he collapsed onto the ground in a heap and covered his fear-saturated eyes with his quaking “hooves.”

From the gaping opening that had just surfaced in the wall, an unbelievably enormous, brawny, twelve-foot tall, vicious mummy emerged with brutal violence spread across its evil face. It was like the Goliath of the undead…a colossal beast that could easily squash all four of us into pancakes beneath one bandaged foot. And no slingshot and stone was taking this Goliath down.

Now don’t get me wrong; I had faith in Cindy. But, regardless of her nimble movements, intelligent plans and amazing attack strategies, for us to come out of this one alive…would be a sheer miracle.

Sheen breathed: What in the accursed name of Robofiend…

I gulped: We’re doomed.

I quickly stole a glance over at Cindy and observed her expression. She looked frightened into shock with her eyes open wide as bowling balls, standing still like a rigid stone statue. But as I stared deeper into her flashing emerald eyes, I saw a faint flicker of unfailing hope equipped with immeasurable strength that could only be contained within this girl…within Cindy Vortex and no one else. And as I admired her one-of-a-kind courage and faith, I prayed that that flicker of hope would evolve into a blazing flame that would save us all.

Once I tore my eyes away from Cindy, I glimpsed over at Libby. She lounged with satisfaction atop her throne, looking pleased at the horror-filled expressions we wore. Our dismay was her joy, our fear her amusement. The Libby we once knew so well was trapped inside an evil mind-warped body that she would be confined in for all eternity if she was to destroy us as she planned. And with the look of that gigantic mummy lurking before us, her eternal confinement in said body seemed definite.

Then as I was watching her, she suddenly sat up straight and glared into our terrified eyes. A sick menacing grin swept her face and her eyes shifted over to the gargantuan mummy.

She ordered with ferocious intensity: DESTROY THEM!!!

My heart choked in my throat…but I knew I had to be strong…for my friends, for myself…for Cindy. So I swallowed my panic and inhaled a deep breath to prepare myself for the dreadful events that were sure to take place.

As soon as the mummy heard Libby’s command, its eyes erupted into orbs of untamable flames that glowed as severe as a fatal nuclear explosion. I had to look away; I felt my skin being seared and my body being engulfed in those merciless blazing flames every time I glimpsed into the face of that horrendous creature.

The mummy began to pound towards us, the whole floor quaking beneath its mighty feet. Vicious growls exploded from the mouth of the monster, equipped with rotting, jagged teeth that I was sure could bite straight through stainless steel.

Cindy stared at the mummy approaching closer and closer, then turned her head to look at me with distressed, pleading eyes.

Her voice wavered as she asked me dreadfully: What do we do?

I gazed into her eyes and knew so deep down that it hurt that it took a lot for Cindy to ask ME for help…to ask ME what to do. At this, I felt an overwhelming sense of pity and pain for her because I knew that for her to ask for help must’ve meant that her hope was fading fast and she had no where else to turn. But I was glad that I was finally the one she turned to, and I felt honored. And as I searched her green eyes with my own, I knew I had to pull us out of this. I knew it was my turn to stand up, to save the lives of my friends and of hers…because the last thing I ever wanted to do was let her down.

With that thought, I breathed deeply, sorted the ideas out in my mind and told her boldly: I have a plan…

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-TWO

Framed as a Hero

 

With all my quivering heart I prayed that my plan would work. I prayed that we would all live to see another day…crazy as days in our lives would be. I prayed that Libby would live to hear another Smally Big-Big Concert…that Sheen would live to watch another Ultralord episode…that Carl would live to see another llama…that Professor Calamitous would live to be behind bars again. I prayed that Cindy would live to win a science fair, to attend another dance, to adorn that beautiful smile again…and I prayed that I would live another day to see Cindy one more time, to look into her eyes and have her smile at me genuinely, and to tell her all the hidden secrets I’d discovered that I had to confess to her…the ones that ate away at me night and day every time I caught her emerald eyes gazing back into mine.

I called everyone together and I quickly whispered my plan of action to the group. Once each person understood their part in my master plan, we decided to move into action. Or rather we were forced to move into action because the gargantuan mummy was heading right for us.

I commanded the start: Alright team…GO!!!

Carl galloped in front of the mummy, Sheen and Professor Calamitous bolted to the mummy’s side and Cindy and I sprinted around to the back of the mummy. The beast’s eyes shifted rapidly from person to person as if confused beyond all reason. Since Carl was directly in front of it, the mummy bent over to pick up and annihilate him first.

Suddenly, a bulky rock flew through the air and pelted the mummy right upside the head. The mummy’s head abruptly jerked in the direction of the projectile’s path.

Sheen teased loudly: Hey! I’ve got to use the restroom…can I borrow some of your toilet paper?

Sheen and Professor Calamitous erupted into roaring laughter.

Professor Calamitous added: Yes, is that heavy duty or two-ply?

They once again were absorbed in mocking chuckles. Fury plastered itself on the mummy’s face and it quickly released Carl and began to stomp towards Sheen and Professor Calamitous. It growled some kind of infuriated grumble and positioned itself over the two, ready to reach down and mash their tiny bodies into paste.

Libby cackled deviously from her comfortable position on her throne: I’ve got you now…

Sheen overheard her overconfident comment and replied: I think not!!!

Just as the mummy was about to clasp its rotting fingers around the two, Sheen and Professor Calamitous darted between the mummy’s legs and escaped its grasp.

The mummy swiftly swung around to catch the escapees who were skipping away giggling like two schoolgirls who had just beat the bratty, most popular girl in school at hopscotch.

My strategy was going just as planned…everything was perfect so far. Wow, that was a first. And the next part would soon fall into play.

As the mummy turned and began to follow after Sheen and Professor Calamitous, Carl raced in front of the mummy’s right foot. As soon as its foot came in contact with Carl’s body, it lost its balance and began to plummet speedily towards the ground.

Sheen and Professor Calamitous were clear of the mummy’s path but as I quickly glimpsed over to where the mummy would land, I noticed Cindy standing there, frozen with terror.

I cried: Cindy!!!

I dashed over to her and at the very last moment grabbed her and pulled her from danger. Then the resonating THUD from the impact filled the room. I glanced down at the shivering girl in my arms, clutching my shoulders and heaving breaths from her trembling body.

I smoothed her hair back with my hand and whispered: It’s okay now…

She slowly pulled away from me and I expected her to look back into my eyes, thank me and give me the most genuine smile I’d ever seen. But, as usual, I expected wrong. Her eyes blazed wrathfully and she pushed me away from her as if repulsed.

She shrieked: I can fight my own battles, Neutron! I don’t need you interfering with my life! You told me to stand there in the first place! You just put my life on the line so YOU could look heroic! Well that’s just SICK, Nerdtron! Just like YOU!!!

The warmth I felt in my heart merely one minute ago from holding Cindy safely in my arms suddenly froze over into the most intolerable, frigid glacier of a heart I had ever weathered. And like ice it quickly shattered into helpless, piercing shards.

I tried to encourage myself: At least the mummy is taken care of…

But I’d spoken to soon. As soon as the thought raced through my brain, I heard the ground rumble and whirled around only to see the mummy towering before me, more ferocious than ever…and it was staring maliciously right at me…

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-THREE

Cindy on the Shoulder

 

I gulped as fear-induced sweat trickled down my forehead. I had to think of a new plan…quick.

Cindy glared intensely at me as if trying to mentally force me to concoct some way out of this. And soon Carl, Sheen and Professor Calamitous did the same. I could nearly feel their pressure-soaked eyes boring into my brain. I tried to make my thoughts come together. Sometimes I really hated being a genius.

The mummy’s loud, disturbing grumbling jolted my brain into overload.

Cindy yelled, exasperated: Could you just get on with the brain blast?!?!

I inhaled a deep breath, clenched my fists, closed my eyes and forced my brain into thought.

I breathed: Think…think…

My brain cells pulsed as images raced through my mind, swirling rapidly and attempting to focus.

A picture of the gargantuan mummy zoomed past, then a memory of health class randomly came into view. I focused in on the chalkboard and caught sight of a diagram of the human body…and a label pointing to the portion where the shoulder and neck connect read that it was a sensitive pressure point.

Once this memory fluttered away, one last image arrived in my brain…this one of Shangri Llama, when Cindy appeared from no where and performed her expertly performed flips right into my arms.

My eyes flicked open abruptly and I shouted: BRAIN BLAST!!!

Professor Calamitous sighed with relief: Phew…

I stared Sheen and Professor Calamitous in the eyes and directed: You guys need to distract the mummy and lure it away from here…and take Carl with you.

Sheen nodded: Good plan, battle buddy!

I quickly sent the three to the other side of the chamber to draw the mummy’s attention away from Cindy and me. They dashed to their appointed spot and began making absurd noises, doing their best to attract the enormous beast.

Luckily, the mummy’s head craned in their direction and pounded right past us to investigate the annoying sounds resounding from the tiny bodies mere yards away.

I grabbed Cindy’s hand and began to run behind the mummy: Cindy, come with me!

She resisted: What are you doing?!?! I am fully capable of following you without you handcuffing my hand with your bony fingers!

I just rolled my eyes and continued to drag her behind me until the mummy stopped to glare down at the three guys. It observed them, seemingly amused.

I turned to Cindy and gazed right into her eyes. I had to fight myself not to get distracted and lost in those pools of emerald beauty…

I shook my head and whispered to myself: Snap out of it!

Her brow furrowed and she asked: Excuse me?

I waved it off: Never mind. Now when the mummy bends down to pick up one of the guys… I need you to do something for me. Do you remember how to do your triple axel betsy flip or whatever that was you had to do for that dancing competition?

She crossed her arms and rolled her eyes: Of course I remember! Why?

I explained: Well, when the mummy bends over, I need you to step into my hands. Then when I lift you up, you need to perform that flip to land on the mummy’s shoulder.

Stunned with reluctant disbelief, she shrieked: WHAT?!?!

I tried to calm her down: Cindy, I know it sounds difficult, but I believe in you. And it’s our only way out of this. All of our lives depend on it. Your friends need you…(I stared into her eyes and took a step closer to her)…I need you. Please…

She gave in: Alright…but what do I do when I’m up there?

The mummy began to bend down to pick up Sheen.

I spoke hurriedly: No time!!! I’ll tell you when you get up there!!!

I abruptly got down on my knees and linked my fingers together to create a step for Cindy.

I yelled: NOW!!

And in the blink of an eye, Cindy sprinted towards me, stepped up on my hands, and as soon as I lifted her foot she flew into the air with the grace of a dove. Her body rolled nimbly through the air and perfectly flipped directly onto the mummy’s shoulder.

I grinned with wonder as she balanced herself on the monster’s shoulder after completing a flawless maneuver.

She glanced down at me: Now what?

But before I could tell her, the mummy noticed her on its shoulder and violently dropped Sheen right back onto the ground. And I watched helplessly as the mummy’s gigantic, vicious hand crossed over and began to head for Cindy’s fragile body…looking ready to strangle the green-eyed, blonde-haired beauty who made my life worth living…and there I stood powerless…

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-FOUR

Point of Pressure

 

All of a sudden, I began to panic. The more I tried to think of a way to save Cindy, the more my brain blanked and twisted in agonizing, anxious pain. The overwhelming fear of losing this girl who made my emotions go haywire caused my genius to completely fail me. So I stood speechless and helpless as I witnessed both the biggest source of pain and joy in my life about to come to a horrible end.

How could I be so thoughtless? I put her fragile life in mortal danger and now I was going to lose her because of it. Me, a genius? More like a fool. If I really were a genius, I would have told Cindy so many things before this moment. And now she would leave this world without ever knowing what I truly felt for her…without ever unveiling the hidden chamber of my heart meant for only her to discover. And now it would remain forever concealed…a forgotten chapter from a tragic story left untold.

Those moments crept by ever so slowly as if doing so to carefully engrain each detail into my brain to haunt and torture my conscience for an eternity after. It took all the strength inside me not to shut my eyes tight and block out whatever sight was about to reach my terrified eyes. But I kept them glued open.

And just when the beastly mummy’s wrapped, binding fingers were about to ensnare Cindy in a death grip, I witnessed a miraculous sight that made my crumbled heart leap with thrilled joy. The mummy’s fingers were inches from Cindy’s delicate frame when her body hurled into motion. She executed a flawless double back flip onto the top of the mummy’s hand and stuck the landing like an Olympic gold medallist.

The mummy’s head whirled around in angry disbelief to glare at its more than worthy opponent. Cindy showed no sign of fear or intimidation as she stared with blazing eyes  back into the eyes of the livid mummy.

She amazed me. She simply amazed me.

Libby was becoming furious at this point. Her “backup plan” was failing miserably…or so we hoped. She drummed her fingers impatiently on the armrest of her bejeweled throne and stared with furious eyes at the disappointing scene before her.

I glimpsed back over at Cindy and noticed that the mummy was attempting to fight back. It lifted its other hand to try to grab her again but Cindy quickly evaded its attack by springing into the air, front flipping and landing firmly atop the mummy’s tightly bandaged head.

She turned to me quickly and asked calmly: What did you want me to do again?

While waiting for my answer, she nimbly dodged the mummy’s hands over and over again, leaping over its swiping fingers and karate chopping its hands into submission.

I grinned at her with stunned pride and awe for a moment, then remembered I was supposed to answer her and managed to yell out: I need you to get over onto its shoulder and somehow kick that pressure point right where…

Cindy rolled her eyes and yelled: I know where it is!!!

Cindy somersaulted under another grasping hand and flipped down onto the mummy’s other shoulder.

My heart pounded rapidly. I longed so desperately to be up there with her…helping her…keeping her safe. But I knew if I was, she wouldn’t allow me to give her any assistance. Mixed emotions flooded my body. I cared about her in more ways than I ever let on and yet I was so frustrated and upset with her for being so testy. I hated when she got upset with me for no reason and shoved me away when all I wanted was just to be with her…to hang in her world.

I quickly shook the tangled knot of confusion from my mind. I had a mission to see through.

The mummy continued to try to seize Cindy with its mangled fingers and repeatedly Cindy found some way to dodge and dash around each attack. At last, the mummy dropped its arms down to its sides to rest. I shook my head in disbelief; that beautiful strong-willed girl tired out a beast one hundred times her size.

It was the opportune moment and I could tell that Cindy knew it too. Her eyes narrowed and focused in on the mummy’s shoulder with intense concentration. And suddenly she leapt into action. She soared into the air, slicing the atmosphere with her precise movements and positioning herself faultlessly in mid-air. Then immediately her leg shot out, her foot pointed downwards like a threatening dagger and she slammed roughly into the mummy’s neck.

A gasp escaped from my lips. I hoped deeply that the blow would render the mummy powerless. But when would we know? I held my breath. All that was left to do was wait…wait and pray… 

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-FIVE

Mummy’s Going Down

 

Seconds dragged by that seemed like hours, minutes like lifetimes. Cindy stood atop the mummy’s shoulder doing her best to be patient. The mummy didn’t wobble or fall or make any movement at all; it just stood silent, motionless…like a brick wall. At least it wasn’t attacking any of us or Cindy…that was my thought. But I didn’t want to fall for some trick where we thought we were safe, then in our vulnerable moment, we were caught off guard and crushed to pulp.

Then all of a sudden, the mummy’s whole entire body began to shake and quiver, tipping from one side to the other. Cindy looked seasick attempting to keep her balance perched on the tipsy shoulder of the enormous monster.

I whispered, satisfied: It’s going down…

Then I thought about the consequences of this and who was on the shoulder of the mummy that was going down.

I breathed: Cindy!

I glimpsed back up at her, falling off balance with fear and panic raining from her eyes. She teetered this way and that, unable to stabilize herself.

I jolted up to the mummy and looked up at Cindy: Cindy! Jump into my arms!

Her lips parted to form a protest, and her eyes were scorched with pride. But then the mummy began to fall. And suddenly, her lips shut, her eyes closed and she leapt blindly from the mummy’s shoulder into the air, putting full trust in me. I swallowed hard as I watched her descend towards the ground, plummeting towards me with intense speed. My mind was rattled with questions: Will you catch her? Are you in the right place? Are you going to drop her? Can your arms hold her up?

And as all these issues raced through my brain, I stared upwards, held my arms out as far and strong as I could, and prayed for the best. And before I could even think about what I was doing, Cindy’s body dropped…and landed safely in my arms.

A gigantic sigh of relief escaped my mouth as I glanced down at the delicate blonde girl in my arms…thankfully all in one piece. She was breathing excessively hard, her heart beating rapidly and her eyes glued shut.

I leaned in and whispered to her: You can open your eyes now.

Reluctantly, Cindy’s eyes flicked open, just in time to witness her handiwork. Just yards away, the mummy was flailing about, teetering and trying to regain balance. But it was useless…Cindy had hit in just the right place and the mummy had no choice but to go down. So, as I held Cindy in my arms, we watched the mummy collapse with a resonating thud, never to rise up again.

My eyes shifted around; Carl and Sheen and even Professor Calamitous were smiling with joy. It was one more obstacle out of our way…a GIANT obstacle, I might add. Then my eyes lowered downwards to meet Cindy’s, and she beamed with a grin I will not soon forget. Then suddenly we both realized that she was still in my arms…and she’d allowed herself to be there. Our cheeks hastily flushed with color and I carefully let her down; I looked away quickly so she wouldn’t notice the heated blush sweeping my face or hear my heart beating at a thousand miles an hour and shaking my body off the Richter scale.

Trying to shake off the rush, my eyes traveled back over to Queen Howsaboutislapya’s throne. Libby’s rigid figure stiffened and her face crumpled with ferocity and rage as she arose from her throne, allowed Goddard to clink back over to us, and pounded over to where her defeated mummy lay…where we stood in victory.

She planted her feet right in front of Cindy and I and shrieked: What have you done  ?!?!?!

And then it hit me.

I turned my head quickly and called to Sheen and Carl: Carl! Ultralord! Come over here!

Carl galloped over to where I stood and Sheen heroically sauntered over as well. Libby continued her angry rant as the two made their way to me.

I whispered to them: Stand beside Libby.

A smile spread across Cindy’s cheeks as she realized what I was doing.

Carl and Sheen stood on both of Libby’s sides…her expression turned to that of repulsion.

She demanded: Away from me, scum! You are not worthy to grace my sides!

But before she could carry out her demands, I whipped the hypnotism ray from my utility belt, aimed it at the three and initiated the transformation. A crimson aura flooded the chamber…and I hoped desperately that this would bring my friends back to me. Only time would tell…

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-SIX

Long Live the Queen

 

The burst of scarlet illumination splattered the chamber and hazed our eyes with a blinding red film. A tense air of anxiety intermingled with the flash, and I knew full well that every soul in the room was thinking the same thing: “I sure hope this works.” I knew it was a long shot, but miraculous things seemed to be happening quite often these past few days. Those days added up to be quite an adventure but I was ready to go home and get everything back to normal…well, as normal as life in Retroville could get.

Finally, the light erupted and then retreated back into the Hypnotism Ray; my eyes squinted and strained to focus as they blinked out the glare from the surge of luminosity. Soon the colors and shapes of the chamber around me melted back into clear view and I stared into the blank faces of Carl, Libby and Sheen. They looked as if their brains had just evaporated, staring into space with vacant expressions. 

My eyes traveled over to Cindy; she stood there biting her lip, anxiously awaiting the hopeful return of her best friend. Truth be told, I wanted my best friends back too. I’d had enough of Ultralord’s cheesy superhero voice and never hearing Carl’s voice was surprisingly depressing. His thoughtless input cheered me up, I decided, and I missed that.

I called out to them: Carl…Libby…Sheen? Are you guys alive over there?

Sheen spoke first in a deep heroic  voice: Of course! Ultralord never dies!

I gasped; the ray hadn’t worked. Sheen still thought he was Ultralord! A cloud of disappointment hung over my head and I sighed deeply, scolding myself internally and preparing myself for the anger I was sure Cindy would unleash on me.

Then Sheen added in his own voice: That’s what Ultralord said in episode #359 when…

As soon as Sheen’s natural voice reached my ears, before he could even finish his rant, I ran up to him and squeezed him with a strangling hug.

I yelled: Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Sheen grinned: It’s about time you started appreciating my Ultralord stories!

I chuckled and excitedly jolted over to Carl.

I shook his shoulders: Carl! Carl?

Carl shook his head as if waking up from a dream and answered: Yeah, Jim? Hey, I just had this crazy dream that I was a llama and Sheen was Ultralord and we battled this huge mummy and…

In mid-sentence, Carl noticed the gigantic mummy sprawled motionless across the floor…and fainted.

Cindy giggled: Yep, Carl’s back to normal!

I smiled at her laughter and asked: Do you want to check Libby?

She nodded silently and strolled over to where her friend stood.

She called out her name repeatedly: Libby! Libby?! Libby???

But nothing happened.

She turned to me with sad eyes and asked: What’s wrong with her?

I tried: Libby!!! LIBBY!!!!!!

Still she remained a petrified statue with cold eyes and a lost expression.

Cindy’s eyes brimmed with tears: I’m never going to see my best friend again! We’ll never talk again or hang out again or go to the mall…

As soon as the words “go to the mall” escaped Cindy’s lips, Libby’s face split with a grin.

Excitement flooded Libby’s expression as she woke from her hypnotism: Did you say the mall? Girl, I’m so there.

Cindy’s tears of misery turned into tears of joy as she wrapped her arms around the best friend she’d been missing terribly. I couldn’t help but beam at the reunion of the girls; Cindy had been so troubled by the way Libby was treating her while under hypnotism. It was unbelievably relieving to see Libby back to normal and treating Cindy like a friend again. And in turn it was also refreshing to witness the genuine smile that adorned Cindy’s face now that she was in the company of her best friend.

After we all chatted a bit about everything that had occurred while the three were hypnotized, I looked around myself and felt there was something missing. I saw Carl, Cindy, Goddard, Libby and Sheen…

I blurted: Professor Calamitous!

My eyes darted around in every direction…where was he?

Libby pointed to an adjacent chamber: There he is!!!

I followed the direction of her finger and caught sight of Calamitous bustling about, opening boxes and rooting through piles of artifacts.

Cindy stated: He’s looking for the stones! Ugh…I forgot all about those!

Carl popped up from the ground and asked: What if he gets them first???

Sheen proclaimed: We’ve gotta stop him!

I nodded my head in agreement. I’d just seen all my friends restored to normal and brought into safety. I wasn’t about to give up now and let Professor Calamitous take over the world and take them from me. Never again. But where would the stones be? There were so many chambers, nooks and crannies to search. I looked around desperately and prayed that we would find them first…we HAD to find them first…but where were they  ???…

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-SEVEN

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Trap

 

I voiced a plan: We’ve got to split up if we want to find the stones before Professor Calamitous. We can cover more ground if we split into groups.
Libby grabbed Sheen’s arm: I’ll take this one…
She glanced at Carl, then at Cindy and I and a faint smile appeared on her face.
She added: …And I’ll take Goddard and Carl too…(She concocted some excuse)…I’m sure Sheen needs a guy friend…and dog is man’s best friend…
A little flustered and frantic, I directed: Alright, you three search this chamber and the two beside it on the right and Cindy and I will search the chambers on the left. Now go!
Quickly, we set out to comb the tomb for these stones, urgently searching every place we knew of. I could hear Sheen rambling about in the chambers opposite us, breaking whatever he could find. The shattering of ancient artifacts pierced my ears with unbearable intensity but I knew there was a more important situation at hand.
Cindy cried, exasperated as she tossed aside another beautifully detailed box: This is pointless! We’ll never find them!
I sighed: Well, we have to try…where there’s a will there’s a way.
Cindy and I bustled about one chamber, checking under stone tables and raking through aged vases and boxes and urns but there was nothing but sand to be found.
I told her: Let’s go to the next chamber.
Cindy nodded her agreement and we continued on to the adjoining chamber.
Meanwhile, Carl, Goddard Libby and Sheen were having the same luck as Cindy and I.
Libby whined: We’ve looked through every nasty ol’ pile of junk in this place and still we got nothin’! And ew! I have dirt in my fingernails…
Sheen commented: And I’ve broken everything I can…(He harshly gripped Carl’s bicep)…except Carl’s arm!
Carl yanked his arm away from Sheen and rubbed it as he bounced away crying.
Libby peered through some cracks in the stone-brick walls: Sheen, breakin’ stuff obviously ain’t workin’. Go check behind the throne or somethin’.
Still, Cindy and I had no luck. We had searched two chambers already and nothing turned up except dust and two scorpions that I had to exterminate before Cindy would agree to continue. I had no idea where Professor Calamitous had run off to but I hoped and prayed that he wasn’t closer to the stones than we were.
Cindy trotted over to a mass of pottery and containers huddled in a corner, and since they were the only pieces of artifacts in this entire chamber, I decided to aid her in her search through the pots to make better use of what little time we had.
I suppose while we were searching, we both noticed the same vase to be conspicuous…and as she and I both reached out for it, I found that I hadn’t grabbed the vase at all, but Cindy’s hand. Our eyes met and locked in a stare for a moment, neither of us letting go of each other’s hands. I could almost see a smile surfacing on her gentle expression. But finally, we broke eye contact and released hands, our cheeks burning fiery red. As soon as we did, we both simultaneously slumped up against the wall with awkward defeat. And suddenly, before I knew it, everything faded to black and the sensation of spinning overwhelmed our bodies…

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-EIGHT

Three’s Company

 

My surroundings swirled into a dizzy blur and I felt Cindy gripping my arm for dear life, nearly cutting off all circulation. Abruptly, we came to a halt and as I squinted, my view began to dissolve back into clarity. We had been transported into some small, shadowy chamber with a low, eerie ceiling. The stench inside was like nothing I could describe…musty and peculiar…and apparently not to Cindy’s liking.
She grabbed her nose and shrieked: Ick! What died in here?
I let out a nervous laugh. Once my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, I scanned the room for any signs of the stones or an escape…or rather the source of that awful smell.
I spotted a stone chair in one corner with some boxes scattered around it but there seemed to be nothing of importance in that vicinity. A few other odds and ends of various artifacts lay scattered across the floor but no exit was visible anywhere.
Cindy pointed a finger in the direction of another corner and asked: What’s that?
I could see her squinting and straining to focus; my eyes followed the path of her finger and rested upon some strange shape in this corner.
I took a step closer and whispered: I don’t know…
Slowly and cautiously we both approached the silhouette, attempting to make out the definite shape of it. And then I heard Cindy scream a bloodcurdling scream that raked down my spine like jagged nails on a dusty chalkboard. Whipping around to see what on earth was the matter, I watched her hands slap across her mouth and her terrified eyes attempting to blink out whatever image she’d just witnessed.
I advanced a step in her direction and reached out to touch her arm: What is it?
All she could do was point a shaky finger behind me and I was gripped with fear just imagining turning around.
But eventually my body began to rotate and I caught sight of the dreaded object. In the corner sat a horrifyingly disconcerting skeleton covered in scorpions, with a tarantula creeping out of the eye socket.
Repulsed, I took a few quick steps backwards and stood at Cindy’s side, just gaping at the hideous human remains.
I finally breathed: This must’ve been some sort of trap…that apparently someone never got out of…
Cindy cried with panic: Oh that’s just great! The last person stuck in here never made it out! That’s VERY encouraging!
My heart throbbed with fear but I did my best to comfort her: No, no…we’ll find a way out of this, I promise you.
A shiver seemed to sweep her body but she allowed a deep breath to escape and quietly turned her head away.
I clasped her arm: Hey, come here; I have an idea. If we both push up against this wall just like we did on the other side, maybe it will turn us back around into the other chamber.
She nodded: Good idea.
So we proceeded towards the back wall and, pushing all our weight up against it, we exerted our best efforts into attempting to free ourselves from this trap. But nothing budged.
Beads of sweat began to appear on my forehead…I knew there was no way this wall was going anywhere.
Cindy’s fatigued body began to slide down the wall and she found herself slumped helplessly up against it, exhausted.
I edged my way down the wall to rest beside her.

With a sigh, I admitted the truth: Looks like we’re going to be here for a while…

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-NINE

The Dark Side of the Moon

 

Cindy remarked smartly: Well, that was a good idea, Neutron. That genius plan of yours is getting us out of here REAL fast!
I sighed: Psh…like you had any better ideas.
She crossed her arms and bit her lip, and we sat in quiet stillness for a few moments until Cindy’s voice shattered the silence.
Cindy yelped frantically: What are we gonna do now?!
I breathed: I’m not quite sure.
She screamed with exasperation: Fabulous…YOU are supposed to be the “genius” and you don’t know what to do?!?!
Defensively, I yelled: Well, news flash, Vortex…I don’t always have ALL the answers!!!
She shot back: Obviously!!! Otherwise, we wouldn’t be in this mess!!!
With livid steam exploding from my every motion, I hurriedly rose to my feet and stomped across the room.
I shouted, furiously confused: What is your problem, Vortex? What did I EVER do to you?!?!?!
No response came from the fragile blonde girl crumpled against the wall. Her face merely crunched into an expression of untamable fury, like a merciless tsunami about to crash over my head and drown me in its inescapable depths.
I turned from her and leaned my head against the opposite wall, trying to compose some kind of solution to these tragedies occurring all at once. Frustrated, I slammed my fist against the stone wall and exhaled a perturbed breath.
I was a genius; I understood quantum physics and polyhedrons and Trigonometry. I understood the exact angles and formulas to use to deduct a factual conclusion to situations in everyday life. I understood math, I understood science, and I understood everything that no one else I knew could even hope to grasp. But I could not understand Cindy Vortex. She was like the dark side of the moon, mysterious and unknown. You never saw the truth of her being but you always knew it was there...hidden somewhere beneath the shadows. She was shrouded in darkness so no one could ever figure out what was on her mind or in her heart. She was terrain that no one dared to venture into and that intimidated every passer by. No one knew what could lie within her depths and not many cared to find out. But something about her intrigued me…something inexplicable and mystifying…something unlike I had ever experienced. And I had to know that other side…to understand it…to embrace it. But did I have the guts to travel to the dark side of the moon?
I inhaled a deep breath and turned around, ready to face the enraged expression sure to be still plastered on Cindy’s face. But instead of malice scraped across her hardened face, I turned to greet tears rolling down delicate cheeks and emerald eyes filled with grief and helplessness. She sat hugging her knees to her chest, her breathing labored between sobs and her whole body shaking.
And suddenly, she looked up. Her tear-glazed eyes met with mine and I could feel her every aching pain searing through my skin. She attempted to stifle her cries when she noticed my presence but this proved to be no good. And just as quickly as our eyes locked, her eyelids fell and she stared down at the floor as a hot tear glided gently down her cheek and splashed onto the cold stone floor.
And suddenly I found myself striding towards her and towards a new journey…to the dark side of the moon…

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY

Time to Jump

 

Terrified as the very first astronauts to ever set foot on the moon, I slowly approached that mystery of a girl sitting helplessly on the floor. I had no idea what I was going to say; I could only pray that the words would come as I went along.
As I came within inches of Cindy, I couldn’t tell anymore if my heart had stopped or if it was racing so rapidly that it might as well have stopped. And as my mouth opened to speak to her, my lips numbed and no sound could be uttered. What was wrong with me?
All I could do was fall to her side and stare at my hands, willing them to stop shaking and wishing my vocal chords would open and release some sort of sound to shatter this unbearable silence.
I heard myself speak pointless words: I’m sorry my plan didn’t work.
Mentally, I was kicking myself. My plan didn’t work? Who cares! I knew there was something else that was wrong with her. Some genius I was, probably only making the situation worse!
And suddenly from the sobs she burst into an anguishing question: Why do we always do this?
At this, my heart halted mid-beat. I didn’t know the answer to that question. My mind flicked back through scenes of arguments and fights and pathetic disputes. Why did we always fight? Was it just that we didn’t get along…or was there a deeper meaning?
I voiced my fluttering thoughts: Well…I just don’t know.
She choked: I’m so…sick of it. I’m sick of always crying over this.
A lightning bolt of guilt struck my heart and seared its wicked heat throughout my entire body.
I stuttered out with disbelief: You’ve…cried over this?
Cindy slowly glanced downwards and bit her lip as if she’d just allowed a secret to carelessly slip out. A tear attempted to slide down her cheek but her hand quickly swept the drop away.
Cindy’s voice started delicately as if confessing something unknown by all but herself: Well, it’s just…(Slowly her words faded away; moments later, she came back in with her voice hardened, a stubborn frown planted on her cheeks)…this is just frustrating.
I sighed and agreed as I rose to my feet and stood in front of her: Yeah, I know. It gets kind of old. All the arguments and insults…all leading to…what?
Her eyes gently lifted upwards and met with mine. Her gaze was unlike any I’d ever set eyes on. Like a lock with the key turned all the way around…ready to be opened but for some reason still withheld. Ready to reveal what’s inside but still reluctant enough to keep the lock in tact. I wondered if she could see that I was looking back at her the very same way. Now could be the perfect time, I thought. I could tell her everything in this very moment…pour out every secret that had been eating away at my soul and wrenching my stomach into knots and mercilessly mangling my exhausted heart. Right here…right now.
A faint sound escaped her lips: What if…hypothetically speaking…you had the answers to all these questions but…you were afraid to say them because you might get hurt?
I swallowed hard and stared firmly into her eyes: Well, hypothetically speaking…what if two people had the same exact answers but were both afraid to say them because they were afraid…and neither of them ever heard the truth?
It almost seemed like she’d stopped breathing. Or maybe that was because I really did.
Cindy looked uneasy; the expression on her face reminded me of someone peering over the edge of a cliff…mere inches away from leaping off, but with feet still in contact with the ground.
Was I really going to do this? Was it truly worth it? What if our answers weren’t the same? An earthquake of trembles seized my body. As I contemplated the right words to say, my eyes caught sight of the skeleton slumped in the corner. I took a deep breath; it was time to jump.
Kneeling down in front of her, I glimpsed into Cindy’s eyes, diverted my sight to the skeleton, then gazed back into her emerald eyes: Well, if by chance we are destined to end up like that…then there’s something you have to know…

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY-ONE

If the Tooth Fits…

 

My lungs refused to invite any air in. I could’ve sworn the blood flow to my heart had completely ceased. I wanted to slowly but surely let the truth come out but it felt like an avalanche of confession was about to tumble from my lips without warning. Either way it had to come out. If we were to be trapped inside this chamber until we joined our skeleton friend in the corner, she had to know what I felt for her. This wasn’t a burden I was prepared to take to my grave. I had born it long enough.
I didn’t realize that I’d just left Cindy hanging there…and stopped talking completely.
Cindy craned her head forward: What…? What do I have to know?
I shook my head, thrusting my mind back into reality. I took a deep breath and lifted myself to my feet. There was no way I’d be able to sit still during this, so I began to unknowingly pace the room.
I started with an introduction…of some sort: Well…it’s something I’ve kept from you for a long time. It’s not that I didn’t want you to know, I just couldn’t tell you because I didn’t know what you’d think or say or do…
She nodded her head as if urging me to continue.
I carried on: …And I suppose I should’ve told you sooner but I could never find the right time and every time I tried to tell you, something happened that interrupted me…
She still seemed to be listening intently: Uh huh…
I stopped my pacing to lean up against the wall. I tried to make eye contact with her but every time our eyes met it felt like my heart was being engulfed in unbearably scorching flames. This raging fire forced me to stare down at the ground.
I struggled for the right words: Well I just, I guess I’ve always…secretly…kind of…maybe in a way…
Impatient, she spoke, her eyes widening with anticipation: Yes…
I glanced down at the skeleton: …And if our lives are going to end in here…like this…then you should know that I…I…
Right when that too long restrained secret was about to make its great escape, something caught my eye that I couldn’t ignore.
I finished my sentence in a completely different way than I’d originally intended: I…think you should see this!
Cindy shook her head as if she hadn’t heard me right.
She asked, confused: Wait…what?
I motioned for her to come over to where I was standing: Come see this!
She rose from her spot on the floor and shuffled over to me. Quietly, I knelt down in front of the skeleton and Cindy quickly got down on her knees beside me.
I inquired: Do you see anything missing from this skeleton?
She smirked: Besides skin?
I chuckled and added: Something missing from the skull.
Her eyes searched the skull of the skeleton before her, her pupils scanning the features of the face thoroughly.
She suggested: Well…he’s missing a tooth…
A grin swept my face; I had too long underestimated her intelligence: Exactly!
Cindy squinted: So…
I told her: Look in his hand!
Her eyes fell upon the bony fingers of the skeleton, and lo and behold…there was the missing tooth clasped in his fingers.
She questioned me: So…what do you think that means? Should we try to put it back in? There’s got to be a reason for it…
I nodded my head in silent agreement.
With a deep breath, I pried the tooth from the skeleton’s fingers. Before I relocated it, I glanced over into Cindy’s expectant eyes and had to smile…then carefully placed the tooth back in place, and…

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY-TWO

With Liberty and Freaky Hallways For All

 

The tooth fit snugly into place beneath my grasp and I carefully lowered my hand back down to my side. Glancing over at Cindy’s anxious expression, I prayed that this would lead to our liberation.

After a few moments of silent stillness, Cindy uttered: Did it do anything?

I sighed with disappointment: I guess not…

I could almost hear Cindy’s downcast eyes crying silently out in misery. I hated knowing that I had disappointed her.

Then suddenly, I felt the world around me tremble violently, the artifacts and boxes on the floor leaping from their positions and clattering back down to earth repeatedly. Cindy’s tiny fingers shot out and sunk into my arm.

She held on tight as her screaming voice wavered: What’s going on?!?!

I tightly held her arm with my other hand as my eyes darted around to see what on earth was going on. Finally, my blurred vision melted into focus once again as the earth ceased to shake beneath us.

A relieved grin stretched across my face and I glimpsed over at Cindy to see if she was smiling too. But I turned only to greet a trembling girl with eyes glued shut. 

I gently shook her arm: Cindy…look!

Hesitantly, her eyelids lifted and she allowed her eyes to drink in the sight before her.

Her eyes lit up like the brightest sunrise reflecting off a mine of emeralds and her cheeks split with a smile.

The entire wall beside the skeleton was now an open doorway, an obscure hallway leading to our emancipation.

Cindy’s tiny body leapt from the floor with joy and soon mine shot up right beside hers. She threw her arms around my neck and pulled me close with the warmest embrace I could ever imagine. My stomach did a cartwheel as I felt her pride in me flow from her body to mine and I knew I had never felt more content than I did in that very moment…with Cindy Vortex in my arms.

When we let go, she pulled away quickly and her eyes shifted downward as a rosy pink splashed her nervously smiling cheeks. I could feel my cheeks set ablaze as well and I avoided eye contact with this breathtaking girl until the embers died.

Finally, her eyes darted over to observe the new exit and she laughed with pure delight: You did it! I can’t believe it…

I gently corrected her: You mean WE did it. You were the one who suggested placing the tooth back in. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Her eyes glided down to her feet then back up to meet with mine. A quiet word escaped her lips: Thanks.

For a few moments we just stood in blissful silence until I remembered the urgent situation at hand.

I jerked my head in the direction of the hallway: Let’s get out of here.

I took off down the hall and with a grin, Cindy soon sprinted after me. Only fate knew what lay ahead…

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY-THREE

Better Off Alone

 

We took off into the obscure path that lay before us, anxiety building within. We knew neither where it would take us nor how it would take us there…but we knew there was no turning back; anywhere would be better than the death chamber we’d just emerged from.

As we pressed on, the darkness ahead seemed to intensify; it became denser, blacker, growing more terrifying and mysterious with every step. The light from the chamber behind us faded from illumination to a dull glow in the distance, a deceitful radiance now beyond our grasp.

Cindy’s voice quivered: It’s getting really dark…

A little nervous myself but afraid to admit it, I encouraged her: Don’t worry…I’m here…

Sarcastically she added: Oh, that’s comforting.

Cindy Vortex made no sense to me. One minute she was hurling herself into my arms and the next she was carelessly mocking me. What was going on inside that mind of hers? All I wanted to do was take her fragile hand and lead her through the frightening obscurity into freedom. But it seemed like all she wanted to do was joke around and make me feel like an idiot. I wished I could brush off my feelings as easily as she did hers…or were there feelings there at all? I wondered if I’d ever know.

In my tangled emotions of confusion and anger, I lashed out: Well excuse me for just trying to help!

She shot back: Oh yeah! Like bragging about how great you are is really helping!

I shouted, offended: I was not bragging about how great I am! I was just letting you know that you weren’t alone!

She shook her head and bit her lip: Well here’s some news for you, Nerdtron; I’m better off alone.

My heart stung like a thousand needles piercing every ounce of hope I’d ever held. She couldn’t have been telling the truth. Could she?

I could think of nothing to reply to that. My mouth opened but my jaw merely hung there dumbly as we walked on. Anything I could say might reveal what I truly felt for Cindy…and this was definitely not the moment for any of that to come out. In fact, I was seriously considering never telling her what I felt. What was the point if she wanted to be alone anyways? The only problem was…I didn’t want to be alone…especially if being alone meant being without her.

I cleared my throat in an attempt to choke back the pain I felt creeping up my throat, trying to push words of truth out of my lips. With a hard swallow, I suppressed my unwanted emotions and stared into the cold black tunnel. It felt like my heart…dark, lonely, empty, and seemingly leading me nowhere. Just as these thoughts consumed my mind, I heard a blood-curdling shriek followed by a loud thud.

Involuntarily, I cried out: Cindy!!!

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY-FOUR

Ego-Trip

 

I strained my eyes to locate Cindy in the darkness until I finally caught a glimpse of the shining streaks of gold in her hair. She was lying on the ground, tightly grasping her right ankle with her hands and writhing in pain.

I fell to my knees beside her: Are you okay?

A glimmering tear slipped from the corner of her eye and slid down her cheek. She gritted her teeth and tried to conceal her tears by acting tough: I’m fine.

Her voice grew faint and she winced: I tripped over…(She cried out a little, breathing deeply)…something. Something might be wrong with my ankle.

I took a deep breath; I could tell from the tone in her voice that she was in an immense amount of pain but would never admit it. I wished this had happened to me instead of her…seeing her hurting was more painful for me than anything.

I blindly reached out to find her ankle, hoping to be able to find the source of her agony. But instead of grabbing her ankle, I grabbed her hand which was tightly clasped around her ankle. For a moment she allowed her hand to rest beneath mine, but in an instant she snatched it away from me and my hand fell atop her swollen ankle.

She shrieked: Ouch!!! Neutron, be careful!!!

I snapped: Well, it’s not like I can see or anything!

She calmed down: So…what’s wrong with it?

I sighed as my fingers traced the jagged lines beneath her skin: I think it might be broken…

A scream exploded from her mouth: BROKEN?!?! That’s just PERFECT!!! Now we’re never going to find the stones which means we’re never going to get out of here which means we’re going to DIE!

I tried to remain calm, though I was just as alarmed as she was: Relax…we’ll find a way out of this. What was it you tripped over anyways?

She grunted in disgust: My ankle might be broken and all you care about is what I tripped over?

A little angry at her assumptions, I thought about telling her how much I really did care right then and there. But fear gripped me and I held my mouth shut. Crawling along the ground, I patted the dirt beneath me to find some kind of direction towards whatever caused Cindy to tumble to the ground.

Cindy stated matter-of-factly: You know…you could just use the light on your watch.

I stopped mid-crawl and stared stupidly into the darkness. Why hadn’t I thought of that? Embarrassed, I flipped a switch on my watch and a wide beam of light filled the tunnel. Cindy came into full view and I watched her frantically wipe the tears from her eyes so I wouldn’t know she’d been crying. I caught sight of her ankle and gasped; it looked even worse than it previously felt. It was purple and red and looked like an awful nasty break. I tried not to look anxious but in all honesty I was absorbed with worrying about her.

Then I remembered I was supposed to be finding whatever Cindy tripped over. And as I looked to my left, I noticed what looked to be some kind of square brick jutting randomly from the middle of the path.

I stared at it, my head tilted to one side: That’s odd…

I placed my hand on top of the awkward little square and felt it give a little beneath my touch. Curious, I forced my weight upon it and suddenly it sunk beneath me and I heard a faint rumbling in the wall behind me…

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY-FIVE

Rainbows in the Night

 

Both my and Cindy’s eyes snapped over to the source of the noise. It was low and mysterious, rumbling like thunder shaking the earth miles away. We watched the bricks in the walls begin to shift, their vibrating frames trembling into an unstable blur. One small section composed of four bricks began to push outwards towards us and soon enough it had freed itself from the wall and tumbled with a resounding clack to the ground.

Cindy forgot for a moment that her ankle was injured and attempted to rise from the dust but the sharp pain shooting up her leg from her ankle soon reminded her. My eyes fell upon her.

I cautioned her: Don’t move it, Cindy! Be careful!

She rolled her eyes and laid back down on the ground: Yes, MOM. (Frustrated, she added) I want to see what it is…

I couldn’t tell what lay in the obscurity of the small compartment…and I would feel guilty looking inside without Cindy since she seemed so intrigued by whatever was hidden there. So I did the only thing I could do. Without another word, I scooped her up into my arms and carried her over to the wall.

She made no objection; she only smiled: Thanks.

As I toted her helpless frame over to the wall, a glimmer stretched out and teased my eyes.

Cindy strained her eyes to gaze into the hole: What is that?

We stepped a little closer and the objects inside melted into view.

I cried out with unhindered joy: The precious stones!

Cindy gasped and reached into the opening, retrieving five shimmering stones, reflecting back the light of my watch and painting breathtaking patterns of rainbow light across the walls.

A gorgeous smile swiped her cheeks as she examined the stones: Beautiful…

I gazed into her beautiful glowing emerald eyes and whispered to myself: That’s just what I was thinking…

Cindy replied: Hm?

I stuttered, terrified that she might’ve heard what I’d said: Um…I was thinking that those stones were…uh…beautiful…too. Yes…they’re very fine specimens.

A disappointed sigh filled her lungs and escaped her lips: Would you like me to keep these or do you have a safer place for them? 

I answered with a chuckle, adjusting her a little in my arms: Well, since I don’t have a free hand right now…why don’t you just hang on to them for me?

She giggled a little and tucked them away into her khaki capris: Alright. So now what?

I glimpsed down the shadowy tunnel and replied: I guess we just keep following this hallway. What other choice do we have?

I thought back to the horrific chamber we’d just escaped from and shivers raced up and down my spine. Continuing down the hall was definitely the best choice.

So I began to press forward, Cindy still positioned in my arms, with my watch light leading the way. I caught sight of the brick Cindy had tripped over and cautiously over-exaggerated the act of stepping over it.

I smiled wryly: We wouldn’t want two broken ankles…

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY-SIX

Llamas and Heat-Seeking Missiles

 

While Cindy and I were traipsing through the darkness, Carl, Goddard, Libby and Sheen were still scouring the tomb for the stones.

Carl had collapsed onto the floor and was drawing pictures of llamas in the dust that lay strewn across the floor. He whined: We’re never gonna find those rock thingies…let’s just wait for Jimmy and Cindy to get back. HE’s the genius…

Libby turned over another ancient pot: I wonder what those two are doing? They’ve been gone forever…

Sheen waggled his bushy eyebrows: I bet I know what they’re doing…what you and me should be doing, Libbs…

He swung her in his arms like a tango dancer and smiled. Libby involuntarily giggled, then when she noticed Carl’s repulsed expression, she pushed Sheen off of her and regained composure.

Libby scolded him, with a gentleness in her voice: How many times have I told you not to call me Libbs?

Sheen’s eyes turned downward and he glanced away while Libby stole an affectionate glance at him.

Carl gagged: You two are making me sick! My parents would disapprove of me being dejected to this!

Libby corrected him: It’s SUBjected, Carl.

He chimed in matter-of-factly: You say tomato, I say potato…

Libby rolled her eyes and sighed, positioning her hands on her hips.

Sheen’s boredom and A.D.D. encouraged an attempt to spin an artifact on his finger; but in a matter of seconds, the piercing sound of shattering glass echoed throughout the chamber and the vase was no more than shards of glass in the dust.

Just as Sheen was about to pick up another priceless vase, Professor Calamitous squabbled behind them, flinging items all over the place, still trying to find the stones.

Libby saw him as no threat at this point since they’d thoroughly searched this chamber twofold.

Libby asked mockingly: I thought you said you knew where the stones were.

He answered, perturbed: Well, aren’t you just little miss thang! (He attempted to bob his head with attitude but it looked like someone’s dad trying to practice “hip lingo”) It so happens that I DO remember where the stones are…or…I did. I just sort of…kind of…um…

Sheen piped in: Wanted to play hide and seek?!?

Carl, Libby and Professor Calamitous all asked in unison, confused: What?!

Sheen simply grinned back, his eye twitching.

Libby finished his sentence: You forgot.

Professor Calamitous argued defensively: I didn’t forget!!! I just don’t remember…

He plopped down on the ground beside Carl and began to draw in the dust as well; he drew himself sitting in a maniacal machine, shooting missiles at all of Carl’s llamas. Carl gasped and quickly drew shields on all of his llamas. So Calamitous drew heat seeking missiles coming up from behind. And so the dust-drawing battle continued while they waited for the return of Cindy and me.

A look of worry swept Libby’s face. She had no idea where we were; we could’ve been eaten alive by more mummies or trapped inside a hidden chamber for all she knew. She had no idea what exciting news we had to deliver.

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY-SEVEN

Just Plane Ready To Go Home

 

As we were traveling along, the realization finally hit me that we had completed our mission. We had retrieved the stones before Calamitous…and could finally go home! No more endless deserts or mummies or arguing. But how would we get home? The hover car was locked up in the middle of nowhere. I wondered if I could contact Professor Beesworth for transportation.

I gently explained to the delicate blonde girl in my arms: I need to contact Professor Beesworth to see if he can find us some way out of here. But I’m going to have to put you down to reach my watch.

I hated the thought of having to release Cindy out of my arms, but I hated the idea of having to trudge through the desert all the way back to a broken hover car more. She made a little pouty face that she didn’t think I noticed and I couldn’t help but smile.

I mocked a flight attendant’s voice: Prepare for landing…

She forced a laugh, obviously trying to ignore her throbbing ankle, as I gently lowered her body onto the ground.

I punched a few buttons on my watch and, abruptly, Professor Beesworth’s face fuzzed onto the screen.

Professor Beesworth questioned: Yes, Mr. Neutron?

I delivered the news with excitement: We’ve retrieved the stones, Professor! We just need some form of transportation to get us home.

Professor Beesworth answered: When should I send the plane over?

I explained: Well, we haven’t met up with the rest of the group yet. It’s just Cindy and me at the moment. Which reminds me…have some paramedics on board when you come to pick us up. I think she might have broken her ankle. It’s a pretty serious fracture…

I glimpsed over at Cindy who was wincing in immense pain as she leaned against the wall.

Professor Beesworth told me: It shall be done. I’ll just have to track your watch signal to find out where you are…and the plane should be there in a little less than an hour. Does that give you enough time to find the rest of your “posse”?

I laughed at his modern term: Yes. Thank you, sir.

Professor Beesworth smiled: No, Mr. Neutron…you have saved the world once again. Thank you.

His face blinked off the screen.

I turned to Cindy with compassionate eyes and asked tenderly: How is your ankle, by the way?

A runaway tear sprinted down her cheek.

I knelt down beside her and took a look at the swelling. I didn’t dare tell her, but it looked like the worst break I’d ever seen. I was terrified for her.

She gritted her teeth: I sure hope this hour goes by fast…

I carefully lifted her back into my arms, minding her ankle, and continued to amble down the murky hallway.

I encouraged her: I’ll try to make it as painless as possible.

But we had no idea that, as we pressed on into the shadows, Cindy’s fractured ankle was the least of our problems.

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY-EIGHT

Light At the End of the Tunnel

 

After ten or so more minutes of trotting down the gloomy hallway, a faint illumination pierced the darkness.

Cindy yelped with joy through her agony: I see a light! We’re almost out!!!

I caught her contagious excitement and picked up my pace. I too was eager to find our friends and get back to Retroville and back to sanity.

Soon after, we arrived at the source of the light, and sure enough it was an opening leading out into an open chamber; I nearly sprinted through the doorway. As we finally exited the dense darkness of the tunnel and arrived in a lightened chamber, I tried my best to recognize our surroundings.

Before I could figure it out, Cindy piped up: We’re in the throne room! Behind the giant statue of Queen Howsaboutislapya!

Sure enough, Cindy was right. As we rounded the giant mass of marble, we were there in the throne room in the presence of the gigantic statue.

I called out: Hello? Libby? Carl? Sheen? Goddard?

An echo arose from an adjoined chamber: Jimmy?!?!

In a matter of seconds, Carl, Libby, Goddard and Sheen bounded into the throne room, looks of thrill dancing across their faces.

Libby’s eyebrow rose as she examined Cindy laying in my arms: What’s going on with you two?!

Sheen elbowed her: I told you…

My cheeks flushed and I quickly defended myself while setting Cindy down on the ground: Nothing’s going on! Cindy broke her ankle…

Libby’s eyes fell to the swollen ankle: What the…?!?! I know you two fight but did ya have to go an’ break her ankle?!?!

She leapt up to where we were to see if her best friend was all right.

Cindy speedily explained the situation before Libby sentenced me to death: I tripped over something and fell on it wrong, Libby, that’s all. Don’t blame Jim…Neutron.

Libby cocked her head a little at Cindy’s response with a knowing smirk.

Noticing that her friend suspected something, Cindy added: You CAN blame him for not catching me though! (She glared at me) It probably wouldn’t have been so bad if you wouldn’t have let me fall so hard! You could’ve grabbed me before I hit the ground, Nerdtron!

What in the world just happened to the sweet Cindy I just held in my arms? What monster had just devoured her?

I snapped back: Yeah right! I couldn’t even SEE you!!!

Sheen stepped in before the argument advanced: What were you guys doing all this time anyways?

Cindy rushed to tell the story in a manner that insulted me: Well SPEWtron here got us trapped in some death chamber forever and finally I  found a way out of it!

Libby nodded, proud of her friend: You go, girl!

Cindy added, her head held high: And you want to know what else I found?

She sunk her hand deep into her pocket to retrieve the precious stones we discovered in a hidden hole in the wall.

Her eyes turned frantic and she began to check all her pockets.

She shrieked: Where are they?!?!

Libby asked, worried: What?

My heart skipped a beat and I answered, knowingly: The stones…

Cindy breathed: They’re gone…

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY-NINE

 Anubis Caught Red Handed

 

In a rage of frustrated fury I lashed out: How could you lose them?!?!

Cindy snapped back: I didn’t lose them! They were right here just a second ago…

Carl attempted to butt in: Um…guys…

We ignored him.

I scolded Cindy: I went through all that trouble…

Cindy interrupted: YOU went through all that trouble? We all went through all that trouble!!!!

Libby popped in: I think you’re both out of your minds!
Carl tried to say something: I think you guys should…

Sheen stepped into the argument before Carl could finish.

Sheen shouted: I bet you never had the stones at all! They were probably just holograms like the holographic TermiteLord in Ultralord episode…

Carl finally screamed above the chaos: PROFESSOR CALAMITOUS HAS THEM!!!!!!!!

The entire room fell to silence. Carl’s heavy breathing was the only sound that pierced the air.

Cindy’s head jerked back and forth: Where is he? Where is he?!?!

I grabbed Carl by the shoulders and shook him urgently: Where is he?!

Carl began to panic and shake: I…I…I DON’T KNOW!!!

Libby scooped up Cindy and she and Sheen began to scurry about the chamber in search of Calamitous.

I commanded: Goddard! Tracking device!

A screen popped up on Goddard’s metallic chest revealing six red dots in the immediate area. There was a cluster of five and one random one lingering a few chambers off.

I pointed towards the doorway that would hopefully lead us to Professor Calamitous: That way!

We five and Goddard pounded into the next chamber as soon as the words escaped my lips. My eyes scanned the chamber as we arrived; they soaked in nothing but dust and ancient ash.

Libby breathed: Is he here?

Determined to find Calamitous, Cindy suggested: Let’s move to the next chamber…

I nodded: Good idea.

We sprinted into the adjacent chamber which was filled with statues of various Egyptian gods that lined the walls. Their eerie stone figures towered over us; they radiated the feeling of being surrounded and helplessly trapped. All that erased the sensation of  captivity was one wall at the far end of the chamber that had no sculptures resting against it…a plain stone wall with Egyptian writing etched neatly into it.

I glanced over at the image on Goddard’s screen: He’s got to be in here somewhere.

The group dispersed and we all crept off in different directions in search of the tiny professor.

As I inched closer to an enormous statue of Anubis, a jittering shadow caught my eye. I advanced a few steps closer to the moving silhouette when all of a sudden something grabbed my hand…

 

CHAPTER NINETY

Getting the Goods

 

I released a yelp, convinced that somehow the statue of Anubis had come to life just like the mummies and was about to mummify me. So I violently yanked my hand away, doing anything in my power to release my fingers from the creature’s suffocating grip. But instead of pulling my hand away from its grasp, I accidentally pulled it forcefully towards me. Without warning and with a great crash, the grand statue of Anubis hit the floor and smashed into a mosaic of stone shards…and all that was left clutching my hand was a tiny man in a white lab coat.

I finally ripped my hand away from his grasp and yelled: Professor Calamitous!

Professor Calamitous’s eyes popped open wide; fear of being captured washed over his expression and he took off towards the chamber exit with as much speed as his tiny body could put forth.

But before Calamitous could get away, he stumbled to a halt…Carl, Libby, Sheen, Goddard, and Cindy stood firm in front of the exit…well, Cindy laid on the floor in front of them…but laid firm all the same.

Libby crossed her arms and planted her feet: I don’t think so, Finbar.

Flustered, he yelped: It’s Professor Calamitous to you, missy!

He attempted to maneuver around the wall of kids but found no suitable way to make his great escape. And when he started to back up to try to find a way out the opposite way…he ran into me.

I scolded him like a child: Come on, Professor Calamitous…you know you took some things that don’t belong to you. Now hand them over…

He snapped like a kid who’d just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar: They don’t belong to you either!

I mimicked his childlike tone: Finders keepers…

Then, without warning, Sheen leapt out and tackled Professor Calamitous to the ground, pinning him easily.

Sheen yelled with a gangster accent: Jimmy, I’ll hold him down; you get the goods!

Professor Calamitous cackled back, trying to wriggle free: You’ll never find the stones! I’ve hidden them in a secret place that you’ll never find!!! Mwah ha ha!

I reached my hand into the pocket of his lab coat and pulled out five glimmering stones.

I raised an eyebrow: Your pocket?

Professor Calamitous shrugged: So maybe it’s not so secret…

I shook my head and carefully placed the stones into a secure pocket on my utility belt. As soon as Sheen was sure the stones were safe, he released his grip on Professor Calamitous and allowed him to pop back up.

Professor Calamitous pretended the defeat meant nothing to him: I don’t even care…I never finished building that machine to take over the world anyways…

I could hear the joy resonating in Cindy’s voice as she asked: Does this mean we get to go home now?

I took a deep breath and felt relief sweep over me: Yes…we get to go home.

Everyone cheered and clapped…except for Sheen, whose hands were clasped around Professor Calamitous’s hands to keep him from escaping again.

I pulled two pairs of remote control lock handcuffs that I invented from my utility belt and threw them to Sheen to secure Calamitous’s wrists and ankles with.

I smiled with satisfaction at Professor Calamitous: That should hold him.

Calamitous scowled at me as the handcuffs tightened securely around his wrists and ankles. All seemed well…but little did we know all that could happen during the 30 minute wait for the plane…

 

CHAPTER NINETY-ONE

One Last Argument

 

Impatience filled Cindy’s voice as she asked: I thought you said the plane was coming, Neutron!

Libby added: Yeah, shouldn’t it have been here by now?

I tried to be calm as I answered: I said it would be here in an hour when Professor Beesworth contacted me…it’s only been half an hour.

Cindy crossed her arms and rolled her eyes: Well, that’s stupid; it can’t possibly take that long to get here.

Annoyance rose in my voice as I shot back: Well, we could walk all the way back to the broken hovercraft if that would be more convenient for you, Vortex!

Cindy glared intensely at me: Or you could just try to make a run for it again like you did when I was unconscious…

I shook my head angrily: Are you kidding? You know I never tried to do that!

Cindy let out a sick laugh: Yeah right, Neutron! You only care about yourself!

I took a few steps closer to her, built up frustration pouring out: You don’t know anything about who I care about!

She stared up at me from her position on the floor: Oh yeah? And who else could you possibly care about?

I shouted with unrestrained emotion, not even thinking: You!!!

A gasp from all in the room resounded, and then a hush fell over the group. Cindy looked perplexed as I realized what I had just proclaimed to the world. I quickly added to my outburst to try to camouflage what I’d just exclaimed.

I stuttered: You…wouldn’t even know!!!

Cindy released a sigh that held what sounded like either relief or disappointment, but which one I couldn’t tell. Her head fell as if giving up the argument…and before I knew it she let out a great heaving breath and her entire body collapsed flat onto the floor.

I cried out: Cindy!!!

Libby rushed to her side and fell to her knees next to her friend: What did you do to her?!?!

I breathed, panicked: I…I didn’t do anything! At least I don’t think so…

I touched my fingers to her neck and felt for a pulse…it was barely traceable. What on earth was going on?

I called to Goddard: Goddard, scan Cindy to see if there are any problems in her body!

Goddard barked and quickly scanned the fragile body before him.

His screen flashed “Broken Ankle.”

I breathed deeply and asked my robotic dog: Is that all, boy?

Goddard scanned her body again and “No More Problems Located” popped up on the screen.

Libby yelled: Well there’s gotta be some problems or she wouldn’t be unconscious on the floor!

Carl screamed: We’re all gonna DIE!!!!

Sheen turned to Carl and shook his head: Carl, don’t be so dramatic! We’re probably just all gonna turn into desert zombies and roam the desert in search of human flesh to eat like in Ultralord episode #259: Attack of the Desert Zombies that Roam the Desert in Search of Human Flesh to Eat…

Libby shouted to end the distraction: Sheen!!!

I touched Cindy’s pale cheek with the back of my hand and could scarcely believe how close I was to losing her again. There had to be something I could do…but what?

 

CHAPTER NINETY-TWO

Prophesied Confession

 

Libby inquired frantically: Do you have something in that belt of yours that could help her?

I pondered a moment then shook my head sadly: No.

Sheen, too A.D.D. to remember the situation at hand, stood behind us trying to read the Egyptian writing scrawled across the wall.

Sheen spoke gibberish as he followed the symbols with his finger: And the guacamole told the emu…ugh I can’t read this! Jimmy, what does this say?

Trying to keep Sheen busy while attempting to figure out a way to restore Cindy, I chucked my watch at him and told him: Press the blue button!

Panic seized me in uncontrollable waves and I couldn’t think straight for anything. All my studying and experimenting was swirling down the drain fast.

I could hear my watch flick on and scan the wall then beep the words into the screen.

Sheen read the words out loud:

 

You should be warned

If you make a promise to the stars

You must fulfill your vow

No matter where you are.

Once you make a vow

Know this to be true:

If you break your promise

Your heart will be broken too.

 

Sheen’s face scrunched up and he asked, annoyed: What the hay is that supposed to mean? I think this thing is broken…

He was about to hit my watch when I grabbed his hand. His words resurrected a memory and a flashback burst into my mind…

 

I was behind a sand dune, yards away from an unconscious Cindy when I realized what I really felt for the beautiful blonde girl…

My voice trembled as I glimpsed up at the glimmering stars in the benighted sky and wished: If I could just have one more chance, I would tell her…

 

I snapped back to reality and it was then that it hit me. I knew what I had to do.

Butterflies rose in my stomach…tell her…I had to tell her! As nerve wracking as it was, I was willing to risk anything to have Cindy back.

I glanced at Libby both excited and terrified and told her: I know what to do.

She exclaimed excitedly: You do?! Well do it…now!

There was no way I could have all my friends in the room when I told her. I was nervous enough as it was…and I wanted my confession to be heard by her and only her.

I told them frantically: Um…you guys…need to leave

Libby shook her head, confused: But why? I thought you said you know…

I yelled urgently: You have to go for me to do it! Please…just…go wait outside the tomb for the plane! Please!

Libby searched my eyes and knew that I was serious: Alright, I trust you Jimmy. Just get me my best friend back soon, ‘kay?

I nodded and watched as Libby dragged Sheen, Carl, Goddard, and Professor Calamitous out of the chamber and down to the exit.

I took a deep breath, looked at Cindy and knew that what I was about to do would be far more difficult than beating Einstein’s invention record or getting straight A’s or saving the world…more difficult than anything I’d ever done. But I also knew that it was the most important thing I’d ever do, because what I was about to do would save the girl who meant more to me than life itself. But how would I tell her that?

 

CHAPTER NINETY-THREE

Tell Her Or Lose Her

 

It didn’t matter that she was unconscious. It didn’t even matter that she probably couldn’t hear me. I was scared to death. I had to admit my feelings to Cindy…and to myself…for the first time. My fear kept trying to talk me out of it but my heart reminded me that it was either tell her or lose her. And I knew I’d rather proclaim my feelings to the entire world than lose this breathtaking girl before me.

I took her fragile hand in mine and gazed at her angelic face as I started: Cindy…this is really hard for me right now…I can hardly believe I’m about to say this…I just wanted to tell you…no…I thought you should know that…well, I want you to know…

I shook my head with disappointment…I couldn’t get the words out right. What was wrong with me?

Finally, I released an agitated breath and with passion I blurted out the words I had so long restrained: I can’t stop thinking about you….I haven’t stopped thinking about you since the first time I saw you. I’ve tried everything scientifically and humanly possible to try to get you out of my head but nothing works. You’re always there. But everything and everyone around keeps telling me that you shouldn’t be there…that we’re destined to hate each other the rest of our lives. We’ve been obsessed with beating each other at the science fair and getting the best grades and making the best school projects. But I realized how foolish all that is…how much it doesn’t even matter. See, when you were unconscious out there in the desert, I thought I was going to lose you forever. And then I got to thinking about life without you and instead of feeling relief that I’d be the best at everything, I just felt sick. I couldn’t imagine a world without your laughter…even if it meant you would just be laughing at me. And honestly I’d be willing to lose every science fair, fail every project and get the worst grades in the class as long as I could still have you in my life. All those things are hollow victories without you by my side. And to tell you the absolute truth, I would’ve given anything to stay with you on that island when we were stranded. Those few days we spent together were the best days of my life and there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I haven’t wished we would’ve stayed there together. There’s just something about you, Cindy Vortex…I always want to be around you and look into those eyes of yours. Everyone thinks I can’t stand you but that’s so far from the truth…the truth is, I can’t stand to be away from you. I know we fight all the time and I never try to stop the arguments, but it’s only because I’m afraid to let everyone else…and you…know the way I really feel about you. But I’m tired of holding it in…I’m tired of lying to myself and to you and to everyone about how I feel about you. I live a lie every day of my life when I act like I want you to leave me alone and pretend like I hate you. Because the truth is that I never want you to leave me alone…I never want to let you out of my sight…

I sighed and pushed a stray strand of golden hair from Cindy’s closed eyes: And I know you probably can’t even hear this, but it’s something you have to know…especially if I’m going to lose you soon…

I felt tears welling up in my eyes that I couldn’t contain; one teardrop raced down my cheek as I leaned in close to the girl I had cared deeply for since the day we met and whispered: Cindy…I love you.

I pulled hesitantly away and waited for something…anything to show me she was going to be all right. But she made no movement; her eyes remained closed and her breathing slowed to a complete halt. It hadn’t worked. She was gone.

My head fell into my hands and uncontainable tears streamed down my cheeks. How could I have let this happen? The only girl I ever cared for…I’d lost her forever…

But then, emerging from the sound of my pounding heart, I heard the heavenly sound of breathing.

Immediately, my head jerked up and my crumbling heart filled with hope…could it possibly be? Was Cindy…alive?

 

CHAPTER NINETY-FOUR

Beautiful Awakening

 

My heart skipped a beat as I watched Cindy’s emerald eyes gently flicker open. Incomparable joy washed over me as I viewed the beautiful miracle that just unfolded before me…an unmistakable, glorious miracle. But before I could ask her about the confession I’d just made, Carl, Libby, Goddard, Professor Calamitous and Sheen bounded into the chamber.

Libby, formerly dragging Calamitous into the chamber, dropped him on the ground and cried out with delight: CINDY!!!

She sprinted up to Cindy, dropped to her knees on the floor and surrounded her best friend with a hug. I took the opportunity to quickly dry my eyes.

Carl bumbled over and asked curiously: Hey Jim…what’d ya do to wake her up?

Sheen waggled his eyebrows: Did you give her CPR?

Sheen winked at me and I glared back: No I did not give her CPR!

Libby glanced over at me and almost asked me again what I’d done to awaken her, but she read the desperate look in my eyes and averted the subject: Who cares what he did? Cindy’s alive and that’s all that matters!

Cindy mumbled out a few words as she fully awakened: Wha….What just happened? What’s going on?

Sheen suppressed laughter: Oh, nothing... You were just placed under an Egyptian spell and you slept for fifteen years while mummies cut your feet off…

Cindy’s eyes jumped down to her feet: WHAT?!?!

Libby scolded Sheen: Shut your mouth, Sheen! Hasn’t she been through enough already?

I calmly explained to her what happened: Well, Cindy, you were just sitting there on the floor and all of a sudden you collapsed and fell into unconsciousness. We had no idea what was wrong with you.

She inquired: So…how long was I unconscious? Did anything happen?

I leaned in closer to her and searched her expression: So you don’t remember anything that happened while you were unconscious?

She looked at me as if I were an idiot: If I wasn’t conscious…how would I know what was going on?

Color rose in my cheeks and I felt a strange wave of relief crash over me. She hadn’t heard any of my confession so I didn’t have to worry about talking to her about it later and possibly having her reject me. But that meant I’d still have to tell her someday…I’d have to go through the whole nerve wracking nightmare all over again. But right now it wasn’t important…I had Cindy back. That’s all that mattered.

Libby laughed as she told Cindy: Girl, you have a knack for getting knocked out!

Carl jutted in: My mom says I have a knack for getting this rash where all these oozy bumps appear on my…

Cindy, Libby, Sheen, Professor Calamitous and I all yelled: WHOA!!!

Sheen pretended to gag: Too much info, dude.

Carl swayed back and forth: My doctor says it’s nothing to be ashamed of…

Libby changed the subject: So…Jimmy…when’s that plane getting here?

I glanced at my watch and told her: Any minute now. Thanks to Cindy’s little episode, the time went pretty quickly!

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a faint smile appear on Cindy’s face as she stole a glance at me. I bit my lip and tried to steady the crazy fast pace of my heart; I was beginning to wish that she had heard those words I’d said…

 

 

CHAPTER NINETY-FIVE

Something’s Getting To You

 

Cindy rubbed her ankle and asked me sweetly: Jimmy, do you think my ankle is going to be okay?

I answered her, just enjoying the sound of her voice: Once we get a cast put on it I think it should be…

Everyone else in the room asked Cindy with shock: Did you just call him Jimmy?!?!

Cindy’s cheeks set on fire as she searched for an excuse: It…it must be all this unconsciousness…it’s getting to me…

Libby mumbled with a smile: Something’s getting to ya, girl but it ain’t the unconsciousness…

I pretended to keenly observe Cindy’s ankle and tried to duck my head down low enough so she couldn’t see the smile that danced across my lips. Whenever she called me Jimmy I got these tingles that dashed up and down my spine…and I never wanted them to leave.

Professor Calamitous grumbled from his position strewn across the floor: Well this has all been so magical…but I’m waiting for the part where you all disappear!!!

He laughed manically, complete with snorting, at his own joke.

Carl snickered and whispered to Sheen: Psh…what a dork...

Libby bobbed her head with attitude and gave Calamitous a pitiful look: Calamitous, you’re just all ticked off cuz we foiled your stupid plan…again. What would you even do if you dominated the world anyways?

Professor Calamitous’s face crumpled up into one of intense contemplation: You know…I never really thought that far ahead before. Perhaps make the entire world my laboratory where all people are slaves to a factory where they make new white lab coats for me every day…

Sheen’s eyes opened wide: Add Ultralord to that deal and I’m in!!!

Libby glared at Sheen: Sheen…have I ever told ya that you are outta yo’ mind?

Sheen batted his eyelashes and smiled at Libby: Libby…have I ever told you you’re the most beautifulest girl I’ve ever seen in this galaxy?

Libby blushed a little and reflected his grin: I don’t know if beautifulest is a word but it does sound like a good one to describe me, don’t it?

Carl looked around and sighed: Why am I always the fifth wheelbarrow?

I shook my head and whispered to myself with a chuckle: Definitely fifth wheel, Carl…

Carl turned to face the wall and dug something out his shirt. Seconds later, he came up with a picture of my mom in a pink flowery heart-shaped frame.

He stared lovingly at the photo: Oh, Judy…if only you were here to share this moment with me…

Sheen peeked his head over Carl’s shoulder: Carl…why do you keep that in your shirt?

Carl got all jittery as he shoved the portrait back into his clothing: I…um…I keep it with me so Jimmy doesn’t get homesick…

His eyes shifted back and forth nervously as Sheen stared him down.

Carl yelled: I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM!!!

Sheen mumbled to himself as he walked away: Not a problem…try a million…

Cindy tried to rise from the floor but she quickly slumped back to the ground when the pain from her ankle clawed through her leg.

I cautioned her: Careful, Cindy…

Her eyes focused on her swollen ankle and she muttered, frustrated: Why’d I have to go and break my stupid ankle?

I raised my eyebrows and grinned menacingly: Now wait a minute…I thought you said that was my fault…

She laughed and narrowed her eyes: So you admit it!

I told her sarcastically: Oh yes…I purposefully put a brick in the middle of that tunnel and just waited for you to throw yourself over it! It’s the whole reason we came to this tomb!

Cindy playfully slapped my arm and shook her head with a giggle.

Then, from behind the melodious sound of Cindy’s laughter, I heard an ear-piercingly loud noise from outside the tomb…

 

CHAPTER NINETY-SIX

Swept Off Her Feet

 

Carl shielded his ears against the screeching sound, began to run around in circles, and yelped: The aliens are coming for me!!!!!

Sheen pushed Carl angrily: Yeah, right! If the aliens are coming for anyone they’re coming for ME!

Libby rolled her eyes and crossed her arms: That’s for sure.

Cindy asked me, concern glazing her eyes: You don’t think something’s attacking the tomb do you?

Before I could answer, a perturbed Professor Calamitous yelled at us: You imbeciles! It’s just the plane landing!

I hit myself in the forehead: The plane. Of course!

Libby asked cautiously with excitement leaking through her words: We get to go home?

Sheen sighed: Finally! (He grabbed my arm and studied my watch) I’ve already missed 13.57 episodes of Ultralord!

Libby raised an eyebrow with surprise: Sheen…did you just do math? …In your head?

Sheen stared at her: Well, yeah…this is important!

Libby shook her head with a smile.

I glanced down at Cindy and inquired: So…you ready to go home?

She answered with a chuckle: Been ready since I set foot in this desert.

Carl placed a hand on his hip and attempted to bob his head from side to side with “ghetto” attitude: You tell it, girlfriend!

She rolled her eyes and stared up into my eyes sweetly: So…do I get some help getting to the plane?

I answered her coldly: Yeah right! You’re walking yourself to the plane…

I turned on my heel swiftly and began to walk hurriedly away.

Cindy yelled out: Hey!!!

Quickly I turned back around with a huge kidding grin on my face and swept her delicate body up into my arms.

I smiled down at her: You didn’t really think I’d leave you there, did you?

Her pale cheeks melted into red and she glanced away: Maybe…

Sheen glimpsed over at Cindy and I and shouted: Hey! I want to try!

Without looking, he picked up who he thought was Libby.

He closed his eyes and spoke smoothly: You’ll never have to walk again, baby…

Yet as soon as he opened his eyes again, he caught an eye-full of Carl’s face.

Carl shrieked like a girl and began to flail about like a cat held over a tub of water.

Sheen cocked his head and looked at Carl: Libby…you’ve gained weight…and your skin seems to have…

Then, from the other side of Sheen, Libby told him: Sheen…I’m over here.

Sheen’s head twirled around to look at her, then back at Carl: Oh.

Immediately, he dropped Carl onto the ground and he smacked against the stone with a resonating thud.

Carl yelped: AHHH! My scapula!!!

Sheen slipped his arms underneath Libby’s waist and legs and lifted her from the ground into his arms.

Sheen sported a cheesy grin: Now that’s more like it.

Libby giggled and told Sheen: I kinda like that idea of never having to walk again…

Cindy and I and Libby and Sheen exited the chamber, leaving Carl and Professor Calamitous in the chamber alone.

Professor Calamitous batted his eyelashes and mocked a girl’s voice: Are you going to sweep me off my feet too?

Carl yelled back: No! I only sweep Judy…Judicial Courts off their feet!

Professor Calamitous stared at Carl: What?

Carl snapped: Nothing!

Carl abruptly grabbed the collar of Professor Calamitous’s lab coat and began to drag him out of the tomb toward the vessel that would finally deliver us home with no more surprises…at least we hoped…

 

CHAPTER NINETY-SEVEN

Destiny’s Crime

 

As soon as the blazing sunlight hit our faces, we caught full sight of the enormous silver plane that glimmered in the late afternoon sun. Like a light at the end of a tunnel or a footstep over the finish line…this plane signified that our journey had come to its grand finale at last.

My eyes traveled downwards to steal a glimpse of the stunning blonde girl in my arms. This also meant that we’d be returning home from yet another adventure and Cindy still wouldn’t know how I felt about her. We’d go back to our normal lives of fighting and bickering…and now that I’d admitted my feelings to myself…it would be torture. I never wanted to step onto that plane. I wanted life to stay just like this, with Cindy in my arms, and great friends surrounding me. Setting foot on that plane would be leaving behind everything that had happened on this crazy misadventure. And as painful and frustrating and terrifying as it all was…I would’ve rather gone back and done it all again than have to return home and pretend like I wasn’t in love with the girl I now held close to me…for only a few more precious moments.

My mind was overwhelmed with these thoughts as we felt the Egyptian breeze on our faces for the last time. Apparently, others’ thoughts weren’t quite so deep.

Sheen looked disappointed as he inched closer to the plane: Aww man…I thought it’d be a UFO!

Libby shook her head: Sheen, you’re a UFI: Unidentified Freaky Idiot.

Sheen grinned: Well, you’re a UFA…UltraSheen’s Perfect Lady!

Libby stared at him, confused: Sheen…that’d be a UPL.

Sheen looked as if his brain had overloaded: Details, details…Who cares? You are UltraSheen’s perfect lady.

Libby pondered this a moment: Does that mean I have to wear one of those crazy tight battle suits?

Sheen’s eyes shifted with a grin: You wouldn’t hear me complain!

As we approached the plane, two muscular police officers bounded out and sprinted up to Carl and Professor Calamitous.

One officer declared: We’ll take him off your hands, sir.

Immediately, the officers grabbed Carl by the wrists and began to drag him away.

Carl tried to politely get their attention: Um…excuse me…sirs…I think you have the wrong…(They paid no attention to him. Finally, he shrieked) OFFICERS!!!!!

They stopped in their tracks to look at Carl.

Carl told them with an obvious expression as he pointed at Calamitous: The one in the handcuffs!

They glanced down at Carl then back at Calamitous: Oh…sorry sir.

They released Carl, bolted up to Calamitous and hauled him off into the plane, kicking and screaming.

As much as I hated to board that plane and leave this adventure behind, I knew I had to get in there and find the paramedics to treat Cindy’s ankle. I didn’t want to get on the plane because of her, yet I had to get on the plane for her. I could tell life was going to be more interesting from here on out.

I told her gently: Okay, Cindy…let’s get you in there.

Cautiously, I began to trudge up the entry ramp toward the entrance of the plane. I took one last glance back at the tomb where I had confessed my feelings to the only girl I’d ever cared for, and the confessions of my heart fell upon deaf ears. Perhaps she was never meant to hear those words. I had attempted to defeat destiny by uttering my feeling to Cindy, but destiny stole the confession from her ears. It was never meant to be. I then looked away, mentally erasing the memories of that place and leaving all the emotions and cares for her in those desolate chambers. We would never again return to that tomb. I would never allow those fate-forsaken feelings to return to my heart. And she would never know….

 

CHAPTER NINETY-EIGHT

To Reset the Break

 

Soon the sun’s fiery stare turned away as the cool shade of the plane washed over us. I’d almost forgotten what air conditioning felt like…but now that I remembered I was determined to never go without again.

Cindy released a sigh of relief as the wave of cold air splashed her: Ahh…I feel ten times better already!

Immediately, Colonel Sparky Miner appeared in the doorway.

He reached out his hand: I’ll take those stones off your hands now, Mr. Neutron.

Cindy dug into my utility belt, retrieved the five stones, and placed them into the Colonel’s palm.

He thanked me: Thank you, Mr. Neutron, for delivering the world from Professor Calamitous’s hand. We are forever in your debt.

I smiled quickly as he left, but as soon as he did, my eyes darted around and I searched for a paramedic of some kind to bind Cindy’s ankle: Are there any doctors on board? Got a girl with a broken ankle here…

Immediately, three men dressed in mint green scrubs wearing white gloves rushed to her aid.

I informed them: She tripped over a brick in the tomb there; it looks like she’s got a pretty serious fracture.

One paramedic scooped Cindy up in his arms…I felt as if a handful of precious jewels had just turned to dust and slipped through my fingers.

Another nodded: We can handle it from here, sir.

My mind told me to just agree and walk carelessly away, but my heart began to ache so relentlessly that I feared I would be the one needing the paramedics.

I blurted out: Can’t I stay with her?

I bit my lip once the words had spilled out, afraid of her reaction.

But instead of an expression of hatred and annoyance, a gentle glow encircled her face and she just smiled.

The paramedic shuffled his feet a bit: It’s kind of against our policy…

He lifted his eyes and caught mine…the pleading I felt in my heart must’ve radiated from my expression.

He continued:…But I supposed it’d be all right just this time.

The paramedic turned and was soon followed by the other two while I kept in step close behind. We began to traverse to the back of the plane where they had hung huge pink plastic curtains to represent an operating room and assembled various instruments and equipment for placing Cindy’s ankle in a cast.

As we shuffled into the draped-off section, we arrived at a small clearing where a plastic-draped table and a high-tech x-ray machine were set up. Several medical tools were strewn across an operating table nearby. After x-raying Cindy’s ankle to determine the degree of the fracture, the paramedic gently lowered Cindy onto the plastic-covered table, mindful of her ankle.

One paramedic approached her with a needle in one hand and a steel tool in the other and warned her: We have to reset your ankle to get it into the cast.

Cindy breathed heavily: Is it gonna hurt?

He looked at her with sympathy and told her truthfully: I’d love to say no but I can’t lie…it’s going to hurt quite a bit.

Cindy inhaled deeply and nodded her head, bracing herself for the pain that was sure to ensue.

I felt a bit woozy as the paramedic began his work; the excruciating pain was scraping across Cindy’s pale face. Watching the agonizing torture being inflicted on her made my heart feel as if it were being squeezed in a vice, suffocated and then ground to pulp. I longed to do something, anything, to ease the pain, if only for a few moments.

My eyes darted around as I searched for something I could do to help. I glanced down at her hand, gripping on to the slippery plastic for dear life and crushing it in her palm; it seemed to provide no comfort. So, without hesitation, I ripped the plastic from her fingers and replaced it with my hand. I grasped her tiny hand firmly and placed my other hand on top of hers, holding on as she clenched her trembling fist in my palms.

Her grip grew tighter and my breathing grew harder. I anxiously prayed that they could repair her quickly and that the torment would soon subside. Seeing the strongest girl I’d ever known suffering helplessly destroyed my soul…I wanted to do anything so that she wouldn’t have to suffer. And for a moment, as I glanced into the green eyes of this girl, shimmering with tears, the feelings from the tomb swept over me. But I abruptly shoved them out of my mind and convinced myself they were just feelings of pity…and that’s all they’d ever be.

 

CHAPTER NINETY-NINE:

Home is Where the Heart Is. Or Is It?

 

After an agonizing hour that dragged on for what seemed like lifetimes, Cindy’s ankle was reset and bound in a cast. With a paramedic on one side and me on the other, she grabbed onto our shoulders and gently lowered herself down from the table into a one-footed standing position.

Another paramedic grabbed a pair of crutches and handed them to Cindy: You’re going to need these.

With a smile, she propped them up under her arms: Thank you.

A random thought crept into my mind as Cindy and I exited the walls of curtains: Where’s Professor Calamitous?

A paramedic popped his head out of the drapes and informed me: We’re keeping him in a prison cell at the very back of the plane.

I laughed a little at the idea of a prison cell built into a plane.

As we made our way to our seats, Cindy chuckled: You know, the thought of sleeping on a plane never sounded so good to me.

I nodded my head in agreement: No kidding. Compared to the rock-hard ground we’ve had to sleep on, a plane seat will feel like heaven.

At last we arrived at the seating area where Carl, Libby, Sheen, and even Goddard all had two seats to themselves. Two more two-seat rows beckoned us to relax in them. Cindy approached the pair of seats opposite from Libby and began an attempt at sitting herself on them.

I observed her, concerned: Do you need some help?

Stubbornly, she informed me: I think I’ll be just fine by my…

Before she could finish her sentence, one of her crutches slipped out from under her and her body started to uncontrollably fly backwards.

Fear clenched its fingers around me and I immediately reached my arms out around her and caught her mid-air.

Her tiny body heaved with relieved breaths and she quickly swiped the golden strands that had flopped forward off of her face.

I restored her shaky frame to stability: That was a close one.

She nodded, still attempting to catch her breath.

I told her, refusing to allow that scenario to play out once more: Here, let me help you.

Holding her up as she leaned her crutches against the outer seat, I helped her lower herself onto the seats. Reaching across her, I lifted the arm rest between the two and grabbed some pillows and a blanket from the overhead compartment.

Placing the pillows behind her head, I suggested: Here, lean back.

Cindy swiveled her body around and carefully laid down, resting her head on the pillows.

Finally, I spread the blanket across her and smiled: Sweet dreams.

A slight smiled spread across her cheeks; she murmured: Thanks.

Once sure she was settled, I traversed to the of seats directly in front of Cindy, but not without receiving a knowing little smile from Libby.

I retrieved a pillow from my overhead compartment and made myself comfortable leaning up against the window, staring out across the vast deserts that would seem unappealing to all but me. I willed my feelings to be buried by those dunes, swept away by the sand storms and suffocated beneath the grains. The overwhelming emotion flooding me for the girl mere feet away was more than I could bear and more than I could try to forget.

They say home is where the heart is. But if going home meant pretending that none of this had ever happened, returning to a life of bickering with an angry, heartless Cindy, and ignoring the feelings I discovered…then home was not where my heart was. My heart remained in that hollow chamber inside the ghost of the Cindy that treated me as an equal…the Cindy that began to unveil the façade of teasing and hatred…the Cindy that I fell in love with. Whether or not I would ever see her again once this adventure came to a close…I might never know.

 

CHAPTER ONE-HUNDRED

Like There’s No Tomorrow

 

Resting my head against the tiny window, I stared blankly down at the world below. The humming of the air sliding past the plane numbed my mind and allowed me to shut out all the feelings I longed desperately to toss to the wind and be done with. Glancing over at the opposite aisle, I noticed Libby and Sheen sitting together, Libby leaning against Sheen, sleeping on his shoulder. I tried to tune out the loneliness that consumed me and turned my attention back to the drone of the wind. But suddenly, the soothing noise was interrupted by a stirring behind me. Soon enough, Cindy Vortex appeared in the aisle, rested her crutches against the seat, and silently slid into the seat next to me.

I took a deep breath, suppressing the butterflies that began to rise in my stomach. Slowly, I allowed my eyes to glide over and look into hers.

I asked: Yes?

She seemed uneasy as she bit her lip and attempted to make eye contact with me.

She breathed: I…have something to tell you.

I ignored my heart as it skipped a beat: What’s that?

Her eyes flashed; I could tell she was struggling to say it: Well…you know when I was unconscious…

The severity of her tone was beginning to scare me. I asked: Which time?

She swallowed hard: The most recent one.

A bit nervous, I urged her to continue: Yeah…

She went on: Well, I wasn’t exactly unconscious the whole time.

Realization gripped me and my breath caught in my throat: So you’re saying…

She nodded: I heard everything.

It felt like she’d just snatched my heart right out of my chest, stomped on it, then kicked it across the floor. I searched her expression for any indication of how my confession had affected her, but all I read was a blank stare, waiting for my response. She obviously was embarrassed by my feelings and didn’t know how to reject me correctly. My heart panged immensely but there was only one thing I could do…deny it.

I quickly stammered: Well…I…I didn’t mean any of it!

She looked taken aback, her eyes scanning mine for truth: Really?

I confirmed my false answer, attempting to concoct some ridiculous excuse along with it: Yes, really. I knew I had to do something to wake you up…and in all those fairytales the prince always has to tell the girl that mushy stuff to get her to wake up…so…that’s what I did.

A wave of hurt seemed to crash over her as my answer dissolved in her ears. And all of a sudden, her eyes went up in flames and she burst into rage.

In a whisper, so as not to disturb our sleeping friends, she screamed: What is wrong with you?!?!

I moved closer to her, fury in my voice: Nothing is wrong with me! I saved your life; you should be happy!!!

She came closer and shouted intensely: I should be happy that you lied to me?!?!

I angrily slid another inch towards her, restraining the urge to tell her that I wasn’t lying: Do you want to be told the truth or do you want to be alive?!?!

She scooted closer and yelled, livid: At least I know what I want! You don’t even know what you want!!!

At those accusing words, all the emotions I buried in the Egyptian sands resurrected and rushed back to me. I remembered every teardrop that fell from the fear of losing her, every precious moment I held her in my arms, every argument that only made me want her more, and every little thing about this girl that made me so in love with her.

I leaned in towards her until our faces were mere inches apart: Do you want to know what I want?!

I stared into her green eyes and decided to answer my own question. Without any further hesitation, I pressed my lips against hers, kissing her deeply like I had dreamed of ever since the day I first laid eyes on her. I kissed her like there was no tomorrow, because for all I knew, there very well might not have been one.

When we finally pulled away, Cindy’s cheeks were flooded with color and a glow encircled her face.

She glanced shyly downwards and spoke softly: So…you did mean it, huh?

I slid my finger under her chin and lifted her face up so her emerald eyes met with mine and answered genuinely: Every single word.

I gently allowed my lips to meet with hers again, giving her a kiss that told her how glad I was that she was there beside me…whether she hated me or otherwise I didn’t care. I could never have been more thankful just for her presence.

Our lips parted and a pure smile graced her lips.

She gazed deeply into my eyes, penetrating my very soul and whispered: I love you.

A flood of contentment washed over me and overflowed my heart with such joy that I could scarcely breathe. We hung in beautiful silence for a few minutes, our fingers intertwined, soaking in everything that had just happened.

She let out a chuckle and leaned up against me: So does this mean I can’t call you Nerdtron anymore?

I added: Or that we can’t fight anymore?

She looked up at me: People are going to get suspicious.

I glanced over at all our friends fast asleep, wrapped my arms around her, and smiled: They don’t have to know…

She giggled: Alright, then we should have some kind of code. When I call you Nerdtron or Spewtron or Captain Cranium or…

I chuckled and halted her montage of reminiscent insults: Okay, that’s enough..

She laughed and continued: Well, when I call you those things, they’re just affectionate ways of calling you Jimmy. Well…most of them.

She shot me a wink and went on: And when we argue, it’s because we care about each other. And when I insist that I’m right, it’s because I am. (She laughed in a teasing kind of way) And when we say “I hate you,” it really means “I love you.”

I rested my chin on her golden hair: Sounds like a pretty good plan to me.

As I tightened my arms around Cindy, I could hardly believe what a miracle this adventure had turned out to be. We’d survived the harsh Egyptian desert with all its sandstorms and wild beasts and intense heat. Cindy had been captured and brain-washed by a psycho scientist bent on dominating the world and we’d rescued her and miraculously restored her. Three of our friends had gone completely out of their minds, one even tried to have us killed by a gargantuan mummy, and we still pulled through. We scoured every chamber in a deserted tomb for five stones, found them, and delivered them into safe hands with no trouble at all…well, almost no trouble. And who would have thought that at the end of this whole adventure, I’d end up in love with my mortal enemy?

I gazed out the window to the wavy sand dunes that melted into the rolling ocean below. I had saved the world…we had saved the world…and as I glanced down at the precious blonde girl asleep against my chest, I realized that I now held the whole world in my arms…and nothing, not even saving the entire universe, could ever be better than that.

 

 

 
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