Infinity: Part Twelve
"So... Now what?" Flicker asked.
"Whatever you want to do. It's your life, so it's your call," Wingen replied.
Flicker's face tightened as he mulled it over. He stared at the ground for a long time, uncertainty steadily building up in him. Frankly, he had never thought about it before. He never thought about what he'd do if he had the freedom to control his life. He spend so many years unable to make decisions for himself. Flicker didn't have even the slightest bit of a plan and failed to produce an answer for Wingen.
Wingen sighed. "I guess it wasn't fair to ask you to make such a big decision right off the bat..." The Wocky thought it over a little, eventually coming up with a suggestion, "Well... Do you want to take Dimitri up on his offer?"
Even though Flicker was no longer under any obligation to take orders, he did realize that listening to Wingen's ideas was the best course of action for the time being. He wouldn't know what to do otherwise. Plus, bringing up Dimitri reminded him of Central Cavern and how interesting it sounded to Flicker. "Sure! Let's go find him!"
Wingen nodded. He then clenched his fists and held them up to his chest, declaring, "I'll go with you! And if I see my mentors in Central Cavern again, I'll tell them the truth! I'm..." Wingen hesitated a little, but he shook his head in defiance of his doubts. "I'm not gonna be scared anymore! If they don't like the way I am, then tough!"
With both of them having resolve in their hearts, Flicker and Wingen headed down the tunnel to Central Cavern and to find Dimitri. Wingen told Flicker that since Dimitri left only a few hours ago, so he should still be in the tunnel. But he also said that they probably wouldn't be able to catch up to him and that they wouldn't have any other choice but to find him in Central Cavern.
Flicker thought otherwise, though.
* * *
Once Dimitri caught his breath, he sat up from the rock he used as a seat and went back to his cart. Pushing the heavy cart around took a lot out of him, and he found that he needed to take several breaks on his trip back home.
Dimitri didn't get very far before he stopped again, however. His large ears picked up a lot of noise coming from behind him. When he turned around, he saw a glowing green light speeding right in his direction. As the light got closer, Dimitri was able to make out its features. It was Flicker, running faster than Dimitri thought was even possible, with Wingen clinging tightly onto his shoulders.
"There he is!" Wingen yelled, pointing at Dimitri.
Flicker then dug his bare feet into the ground, dragging himself along the gravel before he stopped just inches away from Dimitri. Dimitri never knew what to think about Flicker. He was nice enough, but he had to admit that there was so much about him that was just plain... odd.
Flicker didn't appear to think much of tearing across the tunnels of Moltara, though. Instead, he had a joyful look on his face, much happier than how he looked the last time Dimitri saw him. For someone that had the appearance of a thug that would punch another Neopet's face in for kicks, seeing him so happy was a strange sight.
"I found you!" Flicker cheerfully announced to Dimitri. He then gave a quick glance at Wingen, who had just jumped off his shoulders. "See? I told you that we'd catch... that we'd catch..."
All of a sudden Flicker began to wobble in place as his breathing became heavy. His posture began to look more unsteady with each passing second. Eventually, his sense of balance disappeared completely and he fell to the ground.
Both Dimitri and Wingen rushed over to Flicker. He was still conscious, as he cooperated with Dimitri's and Wingen's attempt to sit him up. Flicker was still short of breath and looked absolutely exhausted. But Wingen didn't look too worried. Instead, he just shook his head at Flicker and sighed, "I told you eating two green gems in a row like that would do this..."
Dimitri didn't know what Wingen meant by, "gems," but he was soon able to put the pieces together. Magic. Magic wasn't uncommon on the surface, so he wasn't terribly blown away to see it used. But was still somewhat surprised Dimitri that Flicker and Wingen –who came from a place where magic was extremely rare- to be using it.
"Are you alright?" Dimitri asked Flicker. Even if it was just a case of using too much magic, Dimitri still wanted to make sure nothing was seriously wrong. Flicker didn't say anything, but instead gave him a thumbs-up as an answer.
With that off his mind, Dimitri looked at Wingen to address another question he had. "What's the rush? What's going on?"
Wingen chuckled. "We kinda had a change of heart."
* * *
Once Flicker was able to stand on his feet again, Dimitri happily agreed to bring him and Wingen to Central Cavern. He seemed glad to hear that they had changed their minds about living in Obsidian Quarry. Dimitri promised them that he'd do what he could to make their lives in Central Cavern much better.
They strolled at a steady, but slow pace to Central Cavern. After exhausting himself like that, Flicker wouldn't be able to handle going much faster for a little while. Not to mention his feet burned from grinding them on ground when he stopped to meet Dimitri. He thought the whole thing was a good idea at the time.
Even though Dimitri said that it wasn't much longer to Central Cavern, it still took some time. Wingen decided to use that as an opportunity to find out about how things had changed since he was last in Central Cavern. "I've been to Central Cavern before. Is the Core Stabilizer done yet?"
Dimitri laughed. "They finished building that years ago! Geez, you must've been really little the last time you've been to the city, huh?"
Wingen laughed back, albeit nervously. "Ahaha... Yeah..."
Flicker tilted his head. "'Core Stabilizer?'"
"Mm-hm. It's the reason why we came to Moltara," Dimitri began to explain as he walked. "See, several years ago there had been an outbreak of natural disasters. Earthquakes, tidal waves, eruptions, things like that. Over the years, they had started to become more frequent and severe. So before they got any worse, a team of some of the greatest minds on the surface formed and traveled all over the world looking for answers. They found out that the problem was coming from Neopia's unstable core and the unusually rapid movements of the planet's crust. Then they came down here and built a machine that would stabilize the core and return the plate tectonics back to their normal speed. The machine still isn't perfect and it malfunctions all the time. So we chose to stay in Moltara and perform maintenance on it to keep it from breaking down so that the core doesn't start trouble again."
Dimitri's explanation didn't do Flicker any good. There was a vacant look in his eyes and his face was completely blank. Flicker enjoyed learning about the world, but that mass of information that he thought was too complicated flew right over his head.
Seeing that going into too much detail was a lost cause on Flicker, Dimitri turned his attention back to Wingen. "I wasn't part of the original team, though. But I had connections to someone that was. And I've always been interested in machinery, so I got the chance to move here three years ago. And there was no way I'd turn down the opportunity to learn from the best mechanics in the world! I really consider myself lucky to be here, especially considering that we're pretty hush-hush about Moltara's existence to the rest of Neopia."
Wingen looked a little confused with what Dimitri said. To Flicker, it looked like Wingen was expecting Dimitri to mention something else and was bewildered when he didn't.
But before Wingen had a chance to ask about it, the tunnel opened up before them. Dimitri held his hand out to the tunnel's exit in a welcoming manner and said, "Well, here we are."
Every other cave in Moltara was put to shame by what stood in front of the three Neopets. They had to lift their heads as high as they could to see the ceiling and the back of the cave was far beyond their sight. But it was what was located within Central Cavern that truly awed them, especially Flicker.
The city was far bigger than any that Flicker had ever seen before. It didn't quite fill up the interior of Central Cavern, but with the construction sites dotted around the outskirts, it seemed like it would within a few decades or so. Even from a distance Flicker could hear the hum of clockwork machines running from within the city. As he, Wingen, and Dimitri entered the city, they could see that the entire place was filled with motion; with all the pendulums and gears surrounding them, Flicker felt like he was standing within one giant machine.
On the way to the city, Flicker could see small Moltaran villages in the surrounding area. Dimitri told Flicker and Wingen that many of the villages had chosen to merge with the surface-dweller's settlement and the city's size was largely owed to that. As they walked through the streets and passed by many different styles of buildings, it quickly became easy for Flicker to believe.
"It's even bigger than what I remember!" Wingen commented, gazing at all the buildings as they stood in the open circle in the middle of the city.
Dimitri replied, "I'll bet that a lot of things have changed around here if it's really been that long since you were last here, th-"
Dimitri was cut off when a shrill ringing suddenly erupted in the city. Not knowing what it was, Flicker clenched his fists and was ready to strike while Wingen shielded himself with his arms. Dimitri, however, was more annoyed at the sound than anything and tried to calm Flicker and Wingen down. "Hey, it's nothing to be scared of! The Stabilizer's just acting up again!"
It was barely any time after that did a crowd of Neopets rush past towards a tunnel not far from the circle. Watching them hurt Flicker's eyes a little as he saw so many different colors -many of them bright- run by.
Dimitri grabbed a few tools from his belt and was about to join them. He stopped himself for just a moment, quickly pointing up and yelling over the crowd, "See that store up over there? My apartment is in the same building! Wait there and I'll help you guys out later!" Dimitri was already running by the time he finished his sentence and was soon out of Flicker and Wingen's sight.
Once the crowd had left the city, Flicker looked to where Dimitri had pointed. It was a very big structure that was sticking out of the cave wall. The bottom part of it didn't seem to be a house or store of any sort and instead had a large vault door sitting under an archway. Above that was an entirely different building sitting on top of the larger one. A small lantern hanging near the door caught Flicker's eye and told him that was where they needed to go.
But Flicker wasn't about to go there just yet. Flicker spun in circles, moving his head up and down and left and right as looked all over the city. He gave a small whistle as he struggled to see the tops of the buildings that were even larger than Mine Headquarters back in Obsidian Quarry. Central Cavern was more than he expected. As he scanned his surroundings, his curiosity was emerging and became eager to explore it all.
Wingen immediately saw the excitement in his smile and the indecisiveness in his eyes over where to check out first. But as much as he knew that Flicker was thrilled to find out more about the city, Wingen had to stop him. "C'mon, we can explore any old time. Let's go up to that store and wait for Dimitri for right now."
Flicker stood right in place. The vastness of the city intrigued him so much. He wasn't going to move without some convincing. "Only if you promise to show me around later, alright?"
"Flicker, you gotta remember that it's been almost twelve years since I've been here! I don't think I'll be much help as far as showing you things go," Wingen told him with a laugh. "But yeah, I promise."
That satisfied Flicker for the time being. Still, he did feel quite anxious. Not anxious in the fearful kind of sense, but anxious that he could hardly wait to explore his new home. In a way, Flicker felt like he was starting his life over from scratch. Sure, he didn't know what direction he was going to take, but he figured that he'll be just fine making those decisions as they come along. He thought that once he got to really checking Central Cavern out, something would almost certainly inspire him to decide his path in life.
Flicker took Wingen and flew up to the entrance of the store. Flicker saw a small sign above the door that said, "Lights" and another one on the door itself that said, "Open." Neither Flicker nor Wingen knew how long it would take before Dimitri would return, so they decided to kill time and take a look in the shop.
Once they walked in, they were immediately greeted with all sorts of lights hanging from the ceiling. Lights of many different colors and sizes sparkled in the large room, which didn't seem to have much else in it. The lights held Flicker's interest for a few moments, but his attention soon diverted. He looked around for somebody that worked in the shop for a couple seconds before growing impatient and yelling, "HEY! ANYONE IN HERE?!"
"Flicker! Don't be so loud!" Wingen –whose voice was considerably quieter- scolded Flicker. He sank a little in place, expecting to have to apologize for Flicker's outburst.
Instead, a voice came from a room down back, "I'll be with you in a moment," The voice was calm, seemingly unfazed by Flicker's lack of manners.
About a minute later Flicker saw movement from behind the lights, eventually coming into full view. The White Buzz still seemed to be mentally preoccupied with his work, as he didn't even look directly at Flicker and Wingen at first. "I'm sorry about that. Anyways, how can I h-"
Once the eyes of the White Buzz lifted up, he suddenly silenced himself. His eyes were fixated on Flicker, staring at him for the longest time. It made Flicker feel a little uneasy having a stranger look at him like that. But judging from the nervousness in the other Buzz's face, he didn't find Flicker to be so unfamiliar. "Your name... What's your name?"
The White Buzz could not have turned any paler in the face. As he trembled in place, it almost appeared that his knees were about to buckle beneath him just from that simple answer alone. "...Flicker! You're alive!"
But instead of collapsing to the ground, the White Buzz took a few unsteady steps forward. Flicker saw that tears were starting to well up in his eyes, but he also saw what appeared to be a great deal of relief run through him. Before Flicker had the chance to ask him what the matter was, the White Buzz broke out into a short sprint towards Flicker. He wrapped his arms around Flicker and pulled him close.
"I thought I'd never see you again..." The White Buzz sobbed.
* * *
"Stop! You're going to hurt yourself!"
Granite paid the pleas of the foremen no heed. It didn't take him long after waking up to realize what had happened and he no intentions of just laying around.
He stood outside Mine Headquarters, going as far as his aching body would allow him. All the while he scanned the area for Flicker and Wingen, ready to push himself into overdrive if that meant getting at those two. But when he realized that they had probably gotten away by that point, Granite began to fume with rage.
Gabbro rushed over to him, trying to talk some sense into Granite, "Boss! You're still hurt! If you try to chase after them, you're just going to make things worse!"
"And what do you suggest?!" Granite snapped. "Do you really think I'm going to let those idiots embarrass me like that and let them get away scot free?! If the runt and that stupid Firefly think that they're done with me, then they've got another thing coming!"
Granite felt like putting his fist through whatever was nearest to him, regardless whether it was alive or not. Gabbro sensed this and backed away from Granite, giving the Meerca plenty of space to himself.
For a while, Granite was left to stew in his anger without anyone daring to get near him. But once someone did, he was quick to notice. He was about to take his frustrations out on whatever unfortunate soul had approached him. But once he looked at the Red Acara that was standing before him, he was snapped out of his fury and instead broke out into a cold sweat.
"You say you lost a Firefly? What a coincidence," the Engineer said, smiling. "I'm missing a Firefly too."
Thanks for reading! There are definitely sequels on the way, so keep an eye out for the next installment!