Leon's Journal

By Quinlan


Art by MAL

Chapter 1

Day ???

There is not any word I know right now that can summarize the events which I have gone through the past few months. I can now write legibly, I tore out the prior few pages which I practiced my writing on so this would be a full-fledged journal. I suppose it was kind of a waste of paper, but I still have over a hundred left. How much longer can this go on?

My name is Leon. I can't really say much about myself, I'm about 15 months old, that's about...Let's see... about 15 or 16 in human years given what I know, which is much more than the average rat. I can't really explain this sudden jump in knowledge and learning. If I hadn't come here, I never would have learned to read and write. I think it's the shot I get every other day that does this. Whatever the scientists give us, it's not the best feeling thing in the world, I usually have a stabbing pain in my stomach for about an hour or so after the shot.

You're probably wondering where I am. Well, I'm in the same place I've been for the past few months. In a small cage in a place the humans call NIMH. I don't really know any words to describe this place either. I think I heard an intern say that working here was hell. I'm still not sure what that means, but if I read his actions correctly, than hell means bad. Therefore, being a subject in a cage at NIMH can be described as hell, I suppose.

I guess you're probably wondering about how I came about this journal since I've been locked up for so long. That's a long story, but since I'm going to be here for a while, and the lights don't go out until the clock has the short hand on 6 and the long hand is on 12. Right now the short hand is on the 5 and the long hand is on the 4. So I still have some time.

On the day before I was caught, a human dropped a small address book on the ground right next to the grate where we all live. We (My family and about 10 other different families) lived near some sort of farmer's market. We all lived off of the food dropped by the vendors and such who sold their food there.

We usually stay inside the sewers until it got dark outside and everybody was gone, but I felt more than compelled to grab that book on the ground. I ran from the grate, grabbed the book, and ran back. Scaring a lot people half to death.

As soon as I got inside I opened up my prize to see some strange scribbling. It was writing, but at that moment I couldn’t discern words to the symbols of English, so I ripped the pages out. My mom had picked up a fallen pencil (it was customary for rats to take whatever they saw) and had given it to me when she saw I had the book. She bit off the wood and gave me the lead. Just as well, it's much easier to write with it.

I couldn't read or write when I first had the book, so I resorted to scribbing pictures. I was the envy of the family for about a day, that is, until I was captured. I remember it clearly, I was drawing a picture of one of the food tents. A crude square with four lines jutting off of it, when my brother, Daniel, came rushing in, babbling about a "Huge pile of food right in the middle of the market."

Being quite hungry, I dashed outside. I am so glad I held onto my sketchbook when I went out there. As I left the grate, I could see a huge pile of food. It looked almost artifical, but I ran stupidly towards it.

Then the lights came on. Huge spotlights, right in front of us.

I was petrified, but Daniel had already started running backwards, "LEON, RUN!!" He grabbed my arm and I loosened up and bolted towards the grate, then the nets fell on top of us. I struggled to break free, but the ropes were too strong. Biting wouldn't break them. I didn't have much of a chance of escaping, but if I'd known I was coming HERE, then I would've tried harder.

After about a half-minute, we were picked up and thrown into a truck. I relaxed a little, knowing that we weren't going to be getting away, however, many others in the net were still clawing and biting. I crawled around a little, trying to see who else was in with me. My best friend, Steve, was there, along with my brother Daniel. Steve's dad, Jenner was there too. My parents were not there, but one of my sisters, Manon, was there. I asked her where we going, but she didn't know. Nobody knew.

Well, that was that. I managed to hang onto the journal and pencil since the scientists just picked me up and threw me into a cage. I spun around to see the door slam shut in my face. That was the last time I'd ever see my friend Stephen and my brother, Daniel again. I’m pretty sure that they were both put in the Control group. I overheard Dr. Schultz, (He bosses around the staff here, so I think he's the boss) say that the whole control group had died during the past month.

I don't know too many other unfortunates here with me. The cage to my left houses a rat named Nicodemus. He's pretty smart and is taking part in some "other" experiment along with the regular shots we get. How he puts up with it I don't know. He was the first to be able to read the signs at the other end of the room on the bulletin board and find out the name of this place is called NIMH. The notes on the bulletin board are changed frequently so it provides some extra reading material for us. That, and the cue cards the scientists give us. I wanted to tell the scientist that they were really easy, words like CAT and RAT and DOG. Ridiculous. Justin and Nicodemus told me to keep my mouth shut, because if they knew we were smarter than they thought, we'd have a much harder time getting away.

Oh, yes, to my right is Justin. He is really courageous. He likes to jump out of the scientist's hands and, from what I first discerned, run amuck causing trouble. It wasn't until last week that I realized that he was actually trying to find a way to get out of here.

Justin and Nicodemus speak to each other a lot. That requires me, since I am the one in the middle. I have to pass the messages from Justin to Nicodemus and vice-versa. I really don't mind, as it gives me something to do during the dull hours.

Oh, great, the lights are going out. I hope that the scientists forget to give me my shot tomorrow, they always give me stomach aches...

Day ???

I spent all of today trying to find my brother, Daniel. I can see some of the different animal cages on the other side of the room, but Daniel isn’t there. I’ve asked Nicodemus and Justin to spread the word left and right down the cages to try and find him, but it’s been several hours, and not one positive response.

Wherever he is, I’ll bet he isn’t as scared as me.

Day ???

I can't believe what's going on here! Okay, well, it seems that during the night, Justin wanted to speak to Nicodemus about something. He woke me up, (Which he does frequently) and told me that he thinks the ventilation system is the best bet for getting away.

"Getting away?" I whispered, "Are you crazy!?"

Justin shushed me, "Dammit, Leon, tell Nicodemus! We could be out of here in a week if we all know about it!"

I paused, then turned and walked the five paces to the other side of the cage. I woke up Nicodemus and told him what Justin had told me. "Good, good. Ask him if he knows what kind of air the vents are giving off." I walked back and asked Justin. He said, "Hmm...It was cold air."

Back to Nicodemus, who told me that if it was giving off cold air, that meant that it was cooling down the building, which meant it was hot outside, which meant we could get away and not freeze to death. I told Justin and he told me to tell Nicodemus to spread the word to the left, and he would spread word to the right. To be ready in four days.

I, of course, had my doubts when I told Nicodemus this. After giving me his usual, "Good, good." I asked, "Just how do you expect to get out of our cages?"

I could hear Nicodemus laughing, "Leon, my boy, look at the cage door. Read the words..."

I did this, and saw the words on the side, "TO OPEN DOOR, LIFT LATCH".

Of course!

I went to sleep with hope. I would be out of here in four days...

I woke up the next morning to a big syringe in my stomach. Of course, I screamed, loudly. It almost made the scientist drop the needle, but she kept pumping me full of liquid. I almost swore at her (I’d picked up a few things from the interns and security guards), but I held back at the last minute. I couldn't talk. I could scream, but not talk.

She threw me back into the cage and slammed the door shut, Damn needle! I was keeling over from the pain, my knees folding under me. You'd think I would be used to it by now, well, I wasn't. It still hurt like hell. But this time, my stomach hurt more. So much more, that I passed out, actually.

Waking up, I realized that I had been out the whole day. I woke up to darkness. I heard Justin's voice calling me, "Leon, Leon, you okay? You awake?"

I staggered over to his side of the cage, "Justin, what...what happened?"

I could hear relief in Justin's voice, "Oh, thank God, you're alright. That damn nurse gave you a… an, uh…" Silence for a moment, then I heard his voice again, " an OD."

"A what?" I asked.

"An Over Dose. Too much of the serum. She was fired on the spot after you passed out. Schultz went beserk and was waving the bottle of the stuff around screaming at her, talking about how much it would affect his work on us. We thought for a bit that he might have been worried about you, but he was just worried about the waste of the serum. Apparently it’s worth more than us." There was a brief pause, then I could hear him again with a bigger hint of relief in his voice, "You're very lucky to be alive, kiddo."

I clutched my stomach, "It still hurts..."

Justin sympathized, "I'm sure it will for a while. Just try to be better in three days. We're getting out of here for good."

I asked something that I had been meaning to ask him since the night before last, "Justin, aren't the vents going to be like a maze? Won't we get lost?"

Justin said, "No, for the past few nights, me and a couple others have been using a spool of string to find a way out. I stayed here tonight so I could see how you were doing. The others are in the vent as we speak. Hey, Leon, you should get to sleep, you'll need your rest. I think Schultz may take a bit of blood from you for testing, but that should be all tomorrow, you get to sleep now, right?"

I agreed, "Thanks, Justin."

Then I went to sleep. The light from the hall went out, so I need to stop writing for now.

Day - May 14, 2000

I finally got the date when I overheard one of the scientists, but that is all I can write today, my stomach is hurting so much and Nicodemus is telling me to rest right now so I guess I should. Only a few more days...I hope I feel better by then.

Day - May 15, 2000

My stomach's getting better. It only starts to hurt when I move around too much. Dr. Schultz has been giving the shots himself lately since the overdose. I haven't gotten a shot in two days, and Justin was right about the blood test. Needles really are frightening, even for me, who's been recieving shots every other day for the last few months. Justin and Nicodemus told me they finally found a safe way outside throught the vent system, but a huge fan came on every few minutes, so we'd need to hang on or we would get blown away and sucked into the fan. I grimace at the thought and my stomach has started to hurt again. Will I make it? I'll try not to worry about it too much.

Day - May 16, 2000

Well, tonight's the night we get out of here. I am so overjoyed that we actually have a chance of never seeing this place again. I still have to wait for another few hours for the lights to go off.

I got another shot today, so I guess Schultz isn't worried about me dying, so I guess I shouldn't be worried. When the small hand on the clock reached the three, I felt a quick, stabbing pain in my gut. I was paralyzed for about a minute. What would happen to me if that happened when the fan came on? I'd probably be dead... Well, I have another few hours to stew on that thought.

Day - May 16, 2000 (Night)

I can't see too well right now because it's very dark in here. Nicodemus woke me up and told me that we were leaving. I reached my arm out of the cage and felt around for the latch. After my paw found it, I clenched it and lifted it, as the directions told. Nothing happened. Still holding onto the latch, I leaned over to Nicodemus' side of the cage, "Nicodemus! My cage isn't opening!"

I could hear his door open, he was out and was carefully walking along the ridge that separated the cages and the four foot drop to the floor. He was in front of my cage examining my paw, "Leon, you have to pull the latch to the right then let go."

I felt stupid, "Oh, right, thanks."

I did as he said and I pushed my door open. I almost forgot about the drop to the floor and Nicodemus had to stop me from plummeting to the ground.

Nicodemus led me to the end of the line of cages and said, "Leon, the cages are made of wiring. We have to climb down them to get to the floor. Whatever you do, don't let go until you feel the floor beneath your feet."

I nodded and started my descent, my jounal still in my hands. It was a difficult task, but I managed to make it to the floor in a minute or two. Nicodemus followed suit. When I got to the bottom, I noticed Justin was waiting for me. He said nothing and led me to the ventilation shaft. The grill had been removed and pushed to the side. The duct looked like a monster's mouth, waiting to devour anything that entered, but that didn't seem to stop Justin, who was already walking in.

We were almost all inside the duct when we heard a small voice coming from the other side of the room, "Hey! Hey you guys! Over here!"

Justin motioned for Nicodemus to go into the duct and wait for him there. Justin went towards the voice, and I followed him.

It seemed that the voice was coming from the mice's cages. They had been given the same serum we had been given, and they asked if they could join them in their escape. Justin ran back to Nicodemus and the others to ask them.

I chatted with the mice for a while, one of which was very polite to me. His name is Jonathan, he's about the mouse equivalent of Justin, which is fine by me.

After about five minutes, Justin returned and said, "You can come with us, but if you slow us down..."

I could hear Jonathan say, "We will not slow you down, we want freedom as much as you. We promise to keep up with you if you can get us out of here."

Justin nodded and told me to open the cage latch, which was too far down the cage door for the mice to reach. I lifted and pushed the latch, and about eleven mice came jumping out.

Well, I'd better get to the shaft so I can get out of here!

Day - May 17, 2000

I'm just guessing the date. It could still be the 16th, but I really don't know. For now, I'll say it's the 17th. We're all outside now, taking a brief rest in a ditch by the side of the road. We've been running down this road for about an hour now, hoping that we will be far enough away from NIMH when the scientists realize we're gone. I must say, though, that our escape wasn't exactly perfect. I hurt my right foot in the duct and almost was killed... I guess I'll start after I left off:

We were in the duct, there were about twenty rats and eleven mice as I said before, and we were following a long red string that had been placed on the floor of the duct. We finally made it to the grate at the end of the shaft, but then the fan came on. I grabbed the string, trying to keep myself from being sucked down the shaft, but my grip wasn't too good, and the string slipped out of my hand. I flew about three feet down the shaft, then my foot slammed itself into the wall. I took advantage of the slowdown (Me hitting the wall) and grabbed the rope again, this time bringing my hand around it so even if I let go, I would still be safe.

After I secured my grip, I noticed that all of the mice, (Who had gotten ahead and were near the front) were flying past me, getting sucked down the shaft. I watched two or three fly by, then I started to try and catch them. My first two attempts failed, (I'll never forgive myself) but on the third try, I caught one. About a half minute later, the fan stopped. The mouse I had caught had named himself Mr. Ages. He didn't have a name when he was caught, so his friends in the cage suggested that he make one up of his own. Unfortunately, all of his friends were sucked into the fan.

After the fan died down, Justin pleaded with the others to let him go in search of them. Jenner, (I can't believe he's still here! He must be really crushed about Stephen.) said that we shouldn't as it would take time and we didn't really know how far they went. They could have been sucked to the other end of the building for all we knew. Justin reluctantly agreed and we all walked to the end of the shaft.

There, I found out, that only two mice had survived. Jonathan and Mr. Ages. Nicodemus had grabbed Jonathan's paw just before the fan went up to full blast. That was good, because we were faced with a big problem: The vent cover was blocking our way out and the wiring was too small for any of us to fit through. All except for Jonathan that is. He managed to squeeze through the bars and unscrew the screws that held the cover on. After about ten or so minutes, the cover came crashing down and we all ran outside. FREE at last.

Anyway, I should probably put this journal back into the pack that Jenner gave me. He said he FOUND it while snooping about the desk in the corner of the room one night. He gave it to me, saying, "Well, seeing as you're the only one with possessions, I suppose you should use this."

Well, down to all fours, I'll cover more ground that way.

May 21, 2000

I haven't written in a few days because we've been traveling nonstop. No rest or sleep. I'm so tired I feel I'll fall asleep running! We've managed to get into a few gas station markets along the main road and steal some food and water. God, how can the humans eat that stuff? It tasted like...Well, I'm not too sure, but it was terrible food. I ate what I could, I drank what I could, then I started to walk or run again. Justin, Jenner and Nicodemus seem to be running the show here. I really don't care, I like all of them a lot. I haven't spoken to Jenner since the day we were caught, and apparently he was in the cage right below mine. I was as surpised as him, but I couldn't compare surprise to when I told him about Stephen. He moaned a little, and didn't cry at all. He's really strong in the head.

I bawled after I found out about Daniel. We were basically best friends in every sense of the words. Still, for some reason, I don’t feel as bad as I think I should… Maybe I haven’t really seen the last of him? Maybe he escaped before us, or maybe after us? Maybe he was kept in a different room? He’s smart, so he might escape.

We haven't had any time to stop and see each other just yet. I only know of the three leaders. Oh well, I can still hope.

May 22, 2000

A complete stroke of luck! We all stopped after traveling through the woods for a couple of miles to find a huge mansion towering above us. It looked completely deserted, so Justin and Jenner went to investigate. They came back an hour later explaining that the house would be abandoned for another year or so because the owner was visiting some foreign country. They had found a detailed letter to the mansion's gardener inside explaining what the home-owner wanted to be done. None of it involved indoor work, so we could live there for the whole year!

In the hour Justin and Jenner were gone, we all went around and introduced ourselves.

There was another there, Cid, who had lost his whole family to the Control Groups. He was the only one left in his family. I sympathized for him, as he did for me. We're getting to be good friends.

I suppose I'll have to befriend everybody in the group. I talked a little with Jonathan, Mr. Ages, and Nicodemus for a while. We were still all confused and worried about what would happen to us and where we would go if the mansion was occupied.

Even now, as I sit in the mansion's elaborate library (More reading material! YES!) with an open copy of "Great Expectations" on the armrest, I wonder what will happen in the following years. Where will we go after the owner comes back? What will happen if we get caught again? I don't even want to think about it. Unfortunately, it is the truth and once the truth is realized, there is no erasing it. I guess I'll read more.

Chapter 2

Day - June 1, 2000

I found a little calendar in the desk, and I stuck it in the inside cover of this journal. I can’t think of any reason why I might forget the date, but it’s better to have it and not use it then to not have it at all.

We've all managed to find bits of cloth and other materials and made ourselves articles of clothing. I must say, it felt actually comfortable. I had never dreamed of doing something so human-like, but now...Well, I guess we're more human than rat. The mere thought sends shivers down my spine.

Still, we need these clothes - we don't know how to make it any warmer in this house for the winter months, so I guess clothing will keep us warm as well.

Right now, we're using the cloth to make what Nicodemus calls "tunics". Basically a vest, shirt, and belt for all. I got a black vest with a white shirt. Not exactly fashionable, but I really don't care. I really don't care about much anymore, just as long as we don't get caught again.

Day - June 2, 2000

I was speaking to Justin earlier this morning, but it was cut short when the gardener came over. We all had to hide upstairs while the gardener checked all the windows for sign of forced entry and such. We all climbed in through a broken window in the back, so we had not been discovered.

Anyway, I was talking to Justin about what would happen to us after the year was up. I mean, the last week has flown by as if it was only a second or two. Justin shook his head and said, "Leon, I just don't know. I was thinking that, well, since it's Summer, we should send out groups of rats to search for a new home every few weeks. I haven't really given it much thought."

I told Nicodemus this and he suddenly realized what a problem it was. He called together everybody and asked what we should do.

As I had expected, Justin came forth with his idea. It was decided on by a vote of hands, and everybody voted yes. We decided to start searching for a map of the area, or make one of our own, then send groups of four in all directions to search for...Well, we're not too sure yet, but I think Jenner mentioned to me that a cave would be nice; underground, no humans would ever find us, we could be safe and build our own society. Seemed perfect.

Ohmygosh! What about our old homes! Maybe...? I've got to tell Justin, I'll be back later!

Day - June 5, 2000

Alright, here's what's been happening:

Justin remembered our old homes, but said that they were probably under at least a LITTLE watch by the scientists. I almost forgot, we were like fugitives now. Later, I ran into him in the upstairs hallway. I begged him to let me visit my parents, maybe, but Justin just sighed and shook his head, "Leon, if my brothers and sisters died of old age, your parents and all of your relatives must be dead too."

Of course, after a quick glance at my body, I shook my head, "Justin, they must have quickened time, or...God, I dunno. But, I mean, LOOK at me! And you! We look exactly the same as we did when we got the injections! If we're still alive, then-"

Then it hit me

The injections had somehow slowed the aging process. I look exactly the same now as I did about a year ago. As a matter of fact, if I had not been given the injections, I'd be dead. Justin, too, and everybody here. Justin nodded when I cut myself off and put a paw on my shoulder, "I thought you'd have realized it by now. I can't believe it either, but we've got other things to worry about right now. Jenner mentioned to me that a cave would be nice for our colony, but I'm still not sure... We'll see what turns up during the travels. Jonathan found a map of the area, and we've got one destination in each direction, plus something a little farther than what we can travel, but if we can't find anything around here, than I guess we have no choice."

I asked, "And that would be?"

"Thorn Mountain National Park." Justin continued, "It's preservation land, so nobody can fly over at certain heights, land helicopters, set up equipment, etcetra. It'd be a real struggle, though. We won't have enough time to set up a good living area and we don't have enough rats to help build it. Plus, we'd have to live off the land. I'm still not sure about that, for now, as much as it pains me to say it, we'll have to steal everything we need to stay alive."

I shrugged and changed the subject, "So, who're the groups going to travel in the four directions?"

Justin smiled, "Don't get your hopes up, kiddo. You're staying here."

Surprisingly, I felt happy. I didn't want to go running again, I felt I'd be better off staying here.

"Fine." I said simply.

Justin gave me a funny look, "Fine? You don’t sound too enthusiastic. You want to come?"

I shook my head, "No, not really. And how am I supposed to act when I’ve just found out that I can’t go home ever again?

Justin nodded slowly, realizing just how important the issue was to me, "I…I’m sorry, Leon." Then he turned and jogged back down the hall to the stairs.

I slowly walked after him, and went down the stairs to the library.

Day - June 8, 2000

It was raining when I awoke from my usual perch on the chair in the library. I hadn't seen or heard rain since God knows when, so I climbed to the windowsill in the kitchen and just listened to the rain pitter patter against the window. One of the more relaxing things that has happened lately.

Now that I think about it, I wished the rain had waited another few days. The four groups left yesterday. There was so much going on yesterday that I couldn't break even for a single sentence in this journal; we were all too busy preparing supplies for the groups. I had to help prepare the food. I can't prepare food too well, (Actually, nobody could) so we just winged it with the non-perishables and created some strange trail mix material. I hope it's edible...

Now there are only four of us here in the mansion. Why I was kept here is a mystery to me. Now it's me, Mr. Ages, and two others named David and Gabriel. They keep to themselves quite a bit. Ages too. I've only got the library, the rain, and my journal. Such a shame.

Day - June 9, 2000

Ages can't stop reading the medical journals in the library, he's always mumbling under his breath about this and that. He's starting to freak me out; he's becoming more anti-social every day. It becomes a chore to even say "Hello" to him... I think I'll try to start some conversation with him.

Well, that didn't work at all, "Leave me to my reading, Leon. We can talk later if it's important."

I've got very little to do here.

Surprisingly, it's still raining outside. I went outside for a little bit so I could feel the rain. It felt so good actually walking around outside with no worries at all, for that one moment...

Oh, who am I kidding? I'm still in as much danger as I was when I escaped. My leg doesn't hurt any more than it did yesterday, or the day before. It's getting around two ‘o clock. I finally learned to tell time, that's a big improvement. I'm starving, I think some of that canned clam chowder would taste great for lunch...

Day - June 9, 2000 (Night)

I saw a NIMH van go by a few minutes ago. I was scared half to death. Fortunately, the lights were all out and Ages and everyone were sleeping in the library. I woke up Gabriel and told him the news. He shot up and bolted to the window, staying to the side and peering out. He said that the vans had stopped and were right outside. We remained frozen for another few minutes as the van sat in the road. After the few minutes, the van started to move again.

Gabriel exhaled a large breath and slumped to the ground, "God, that was close. Do you think they-?"

I shook my head, "If they knew we were here, they would have come inside, or at least looked inside. They can't break in, the gardener would have them arrested..."

Gabriel looked out the window again, "They're a government firm, I think they can bend the laws. We should clean up a bit and head elsewhere until everyone gets back."

I agreed. We got Mr. Ages and David up and got everyone to the basement. So, here we are now. Fortunately, the basement is rather elaborate, it's carpeted and has couches and the television. We have been watching the news, even though we know we shouldn't, but the room doesn't have any windows and the door is shut, so we don't worry too much.

There is no news of our escape on the news, fortunately. That means that only NIMH and other higher ups would be told of it, and only a few people or groups of people would be looking for us. Hopefully...

Day - June 15, 2000

Nothing important happened all the last week or so, so I didn't write at all. The first of the four groups came back today. We told them about the vans and how were are trying to stay in the basement until we get everybody back and can work out a plan. We herded everyone to the basement. Now it's me, Ages, David, Gabriel, Marla, Alan, Jack, and Brutus.

Brutus never ceased to scare the complete bejeezus out of me. He towers over everybody here and never speaks to anyone. I think he can't speak at all, I don't think anybody could go as long as him without speaking. He's pretty sneaky too. You won't know he's behind you until he slams his paw on your shoulder, which he did to me once (complete with a "boo!") and I nearly passed out! I see trouble in the near future...

Oh, by the way, the first group didn't find any caves or living areas suitable for us. One down, three to go.

Day - June 20, 2000

I'm starting to write less and less. I worry about it. I should start to pick up again, but then again, I don't want to waste paper and nothing important has been happening lately. No groups have come back yet, just the first one. We're starting to worry about them and are watching for them upstairs every day. I hope Jonathan, Nicodemus, Justin, and Jenner are okay. I can't bear the thought that they got lost or something...

Day - June 22, 2000

Group two came back today. They said they might have found a large cave-like opening under a rosebush near a farmhouse about half week's journey to the south. We now all have high hopes, perhaps we will be able to live without fear of being caught.

They said that there's a cat there that the humans call Dragon. He's a relentless mouser and almost caught them as they were leaving the cave. Living there would be risky, but if the last two groups don't turn anything up, then we have no choice. Still, it sounds better than moving to Thorn Mounatin National Park and living like pioneers! We were told that we could perhaps tap into the farmhouse's electricity, since the cave is so close to the house. That would be so great, I can't wait to see what the last two groups come up with.

I don't know anybody from the second group, so I went around and introduced myself. There's a girl named Alyssa. She's pretty nice. She admires how I write everthing down. Maybe someday future generations will use it as a history book!

There's this short rat named Sullivan. He's pretty nice, but gets a little egotistical sometimes, which I find annoying. We don't need egos, we need to help each other, right?

The last two are sister-brother. Their names are Ben and Sandra. They both treat me with respect and somewhat authority. That strikes me as odd, seeing as they're much older than I am.

I hope Jonathan and the rest make it back soon... I'm losing my nerve...

Day - July 1, 2000

The other two groups came back today. I was overjoyed to see them all, but my joy was cut short when I found out that Jonathan had been seriously wounded. He had been walking with Justin, Jenner, and Nicodemus, then a hawk came out of nowwhere. Jonathan had immediately started running, then stopped in his tracks, then turned around, hoping to outsmart the hawk. The hawk had apparently missed him by mere inches and Jonathan had ran into a tangle of tree roots and took cover.

The hawk, according to Jenner, had stuck it's talons into the tree root and had scraped a large gash into Jonathan's side. During the whole thing, Justin, Nicodemus, and Jenner had been finding things to scare the hawk away, although you can't do that if the hawk is hungry enough. Fortunately, the hawk apparently wasn't too hungry and flew off after realizing that Jonathan wouldn't come out. The hawk never saw the other three. I found that a little unbelievable, but at least Jonathan was alive and in one piece. Well, actually, Jonathan is unconscious now, but he's still breathing, so that's a good sign.

I'm sitting next to him now. We're all in the basement talking about what the groups found. Alyssa was proud to say that she had single handedly discovered the cave under the rosebush. She said that it was a long passage that eventually led to a big pool of water, and that below the pool was a longer maze of caverns. The air pressure kept the place dry and there were several places where air came out of. Still, they mentioned that it was very dark, very smelly, and that it would take lots of work to make it a good colonization. Everyone but me seemed to like the idea. I'm not greedy or anything, I just....I don't really know WHAT I want anymore. My head's been spinning lately because of Jonathan. If he dies, I don't know what I'll do...

Day - July 1, 2000 (Night)

Jonathan woke up screaming a few minutes ago. I couldn't make much sense of his ramblings, but I caught the word NIMH in there a few times. Things like, "Don't take me back!" and "Let me out!" scared everybody. Justin and Marla helped calm him down and David fetched him some water from the kitchen. After a little bit, Jonathan did eventually calm down. He was actually awake for the first time since he got back, so I sat down next to him and started talking to him about what had happened while he was unconscious. I told him about the Second group finding the rosebush cave, the NIMH vans, (He almost fell unconscious again when I told him that) and how Justin had carried him back all by himself. (That he did) Jonathan smiled over at Justin,(who was speaking with Sullivan about the cave some more) and asked me if he could get some shut-eye. I said "Sure." and headed back to the rug.

Day - July 3, 2000

Justin convinced everybody that we should go see the rosebush cave. I am once again not going, and I am once again quite happy. I have to stay here with Mr. Ages and Jack to watch over Jonathan.

It seems that Mr. Ages learned a few things from those medical books he read. He was able to change Jonathan's bandages and use the medicinal herbs from the kitchen to make some sort of tea. Ages calls it "Super-Tea". That is unfortunately the funniest thing I've ever heard come out of his mouth. Jonathan drank the tea down, but when I had it, I almost spit it all out! It must be a mouse thing, because Jack hates it too. Fortunately, Nicodemus found out about the tea making before he left, and forbade Ages to make anymore, since the herbs were in small quantities and we couldn’t risk him using them all up.

There go the groups now. I'm sitting on the windowsill of the guestroom on the second floor. We have not seen a NIMH van since the first time we saw them, so we are getting a little less cautious about what we do in the house. We still have a few rules, though:

1.) We are not to go outside for any reason at all unless it is for exploration purposes. (Hence the groups that are leaving)

2.) We can't use bare flame. We used to use matches to keep the basement lit because climbing up to the switch was laborous and dangerous, but we now know that if we drop a match, we risk burning the whole house down. So we're now constructing a temporary platform out of books and a stool that we can use to climb up and switch the light on and off without using matches.

3.) No television until 8:00 pm, and even then, it's only for watching the news and weather.

I can't say that I like the going outside rule, but I suppose I'll get used to it. At least the mansion (Gabriel started calling it the Boniface Estate, something he found on a piece of paper in the study) is big. I've been here for more than a month and I still haven't seen the west wing of the house. I guess I'll check that out later on in the week. Maybe I'll do that right now.

The group is out of sight now.

Well, I hope that the cave proves a nice home, because if it doesn't then... How would Justin put it?

"We're screwed" is probably what he would say in that situation.

Day - July 4, 2000

Today is the human's Independance Day. It signifies the signing of the Declaration of Independance.

Strange, if we were given the opportunity to talk to one another at NIMH, we might have been able to make our own Declaration of Independance. Well, actually, now that I think about it, it probably wouldn't really be taken seriously. We would probably be laughed at, then thrown back into our cages.

I need to think about something else, I guess I'll go explore west wing on the first floor.

Day - July 4, 2000 (Night)

I spent the whole day in the West Wing. There's this huge indoor garden/greenhouse...I just loved it. I spent about three hours walking up and down the rows of flowers, then I walked out into the hall and spun right down the corridor, opening every door along the way. There was an odd room with another bookcase on the side encased in glass. I couldn't get it open at first, so I looked at the book spines. The first thing I noticed that I couldn't understand the titles. Was my English not as good as I had expected? At that moment I realized that there were more languages in the world than English. I found out that the books were written in "Latin". I like the word Latin. It sounds so odd on my tongue...Latin. Hmm...

I went back to the library to find a dictionary or something to that end that might help me translate the books, but to no avail. It did look like the books had been moved a bit, though. Had somebody gone rooting through them before me?

I also looked a bit for the key to the bookcase, and found it quickly in the desk in the corner of the room. I was hoping that perhaps the rest of the book was in English, but it wasn't. None of them were. I nabbed a small one that was tucked away in the corner of the bookcase and closed the glass case. Someday I'll find the translation to that book. It looks so...INTERESTING... I'll put it down for now. I guess I'll go down to the basement and see how Jonathan, Ages and Jack are doing. I haven't seen or heard from them all day.

I wonder what the rosebush is like...?

Chapter 3

Day - July 20, 2000

Jonathan was up and about earlier this morning. He insisted on getting out of bed and had me and Jack help him up on his feet. He took a couple of steps, stopped, then took some more steps. He's healing very quickly. I remember seeing him in Justin's arms when they got back and he was looking terrible. Now, though, he seems to be doing fine.

I can't help but wonder what the rosebush is like. If it's good enough for Jenner, Nicodemus and Justin, I suppose we'll be moving there. We'll be moving from an elaborate mansion to a hole in the ground. Yay. I can't express my utter disappointment in this whole thing. I suppose that it would be better for us in the end, considering that we can only stay here in the mansion for another nine or ten months at most. Still, I'm actually starting to enjoy myself here now. We have the whole building to walk around in, and I've started taking daily walks around the greenhouse area.

It's starting to cloud up again outside, I hope the rain holds off until they all get back from the rosebush. I'd hate to see them catch pnumonia or something and die...

I have to get these pessimistic thoughts out of my head....

Well, I can't really think of much else good other than Jonathan walking today. I guess I'll stop writing until something good happens.

Day - July 24, 2000

Today was indeed a frightening day. The NIMH vans came back today, this time around, though, they came into the house. I was in the west wing, and Jonathan, Ages, and Jack were in the basement. Fortunately the house had been cleaned of our presence and the scientists didn't find us.

Some scientists came into the greenhouse area while I was in there. You can't possibly imagine the pure terror that overcame me. I leapt blindly to my right and found myself surrounded by plant vegetation. I was safely hidden from the scientists in my spot, and they left after a quick look around. I was paralyzed with fear for another few minutes, then I slowly regained my composure and left my hiding spot. I crept out the door, down the hall, through the main entryway, and down into the basement where I found an empty room.

I thought for a moment that perhaps they had been caught by the scientists, but I heard a voice coming from behind me. It was Jonathan, and he was inside the closet near the far wall and was calling to me. I dashed inside the closet to find myself among Ages, Jonathan and Jack. They had heard the vans pull up and had made it into the closet just in time to see the door swing open and the scientists pour in. They were all glad I was all right, as I was with them, but the scientists were still in the mansion, so we couldn't rest just yet.

The scientists stayed at the mansion for another few hours searching every room. They even came down to the basement a couple more times. Eventually, they left. As soon as they did, the rain started to come down. I volunteered to watch out for when the scientists left by creeping up to the library and looking out the window. I could see all of the scientists getting into the vans, then, just as they were about to leave, one of them turned and looked at the ground near the road. He yelled to his friends, who ran over, to "Come take a look at this".

"This" was apparently a collective of footprints that the rosebush group had made when they left. I went outside to take a look at it after the scientists left.

From what I overheard, the scientists believed that we had already left the mansion and were still moving. They took out a compass and map and marked the general direction the footprints were heading, then loaded up the van and drove away.

When the rains started, I hurried outside and covered up the footprints with mud so that the scientists wouldn't find them again, should they return. It was a bit short-sighted of me, seeing as how they taken pictures of them. Every little bit helps, I suppose.

So much for writing something happy.

We weren't caught, though. That's good.

I hope that the group gets back soon, I'm starting to fear that they might have been caught by now since the scientists found out the direction they were headed...

Please get back safely.

Day – July 26, 2000

How wonderful the rain is. It’s been raining nonstop since yesterday when the vans were here, and it looks like it’s going to continue for a while, according to the weather. Jonathan was walking again today, this time with barely any support from Jack. He’s healing at a fantastic rate for having his insides practically ripped out.

The rain is so soothing. It’s almost like it’s cleaning off the sidewalks of life. I haven’t seen a sidewalk since I was captured, but I still remember them well. They’re just long slabs of concrete that surrounded our home, yet why do I miss them so? My parents and siblings are dead for sure, but perhaps my future siblings and relatives are alive? They wouldn’t recognize me, though, perhaps because they’ve never seen me before... I’m in a hopeless situation. I have no family except for my friends, all of whom I didn’t know before I was captured. I’m in the hands of strangers, all because some human wanted a pin-cushion for his little experiments...I’ll make that Schultz pay for ruining my life. If it’s the last thing I do.

Day – August 2, 2000

The rosebush group came back today. They were all quite happy with the potential of the cave underneath the rosebush, so they all agreed to move there at the end of this week. I was, as you would assume, quite angry with them. Why wasn’t I part of the voting part? Why the HELL didn’t I go anyway? It is, after all, going to be my new home and I won’t be able to leave the rosebush because the farmer’s children might see me or I might get mutilated by the devil of the cat they have...What kind of life is that to live? What good could POSSIBLY come out of this? Justin’s coming, he must have noticed my attitude earlier when they announced the news and wants to "Have a word with me" as he would put it.

Justin has a point, even though I don’t like it. He reminded me that with hard work, we could shape the rosebush any way we pleased and we could actually enjoy ourselves. He told me that he himself doesn’t like this life that’s been thrown upon him, so I guess I’m not going crazy or anything like that.

Justin asked me if he could read my journal after we spoke for a little bit. I refused almost involuntarily. I’m still not exactly sure why I refused, perhaps it was humiliation? Perhaps I thought I think differently than everybody else? Perhaps he wouldn’t understand me? Or even in worst case scenario, he would stop liking me for my views... It sounds ridiculous, but he is one of the best friends I have and I wouldn’t want to lose him for something so...Insignificant. He laughed a bit and patted me on the back and said "I understand", then he left. How could he possibly understand what I’m thinking? I’m still trying to figure out what he means by such a thing. Was he kidding? I’m losing my mind, I’m thinking too hard. I need to do something that will take my mind off all of this. I think I’ll go for a walk in the greenhouse.

Day – August 4, 2000

We’re starting to prepare for the move we’re going to make. Everybody was told by Jenner that they could take one book from the library for personal use and entertainment. Justin and Nicodemus didn’t like this idea, but they reluctantly agreed when Jenner reminded them that NIMH already knew they were there and from the looks of the books, they hadn’t been read in ages. Not to mention the fact that boredom decreased work abilities. This policy angered Mr. Ages, who continually asked if he could take the medicinal herbs from the kitchen to make more tea. Nicodemus stressed that they shouldn’t, since it would make us look smarter. It takes a certain amount of intelligence to escape through a ventilation shaft, but it takes more intelligence to read a medical journal, distinguish medicinal herbs, and make a drink that improves your bodily functions.

Cid took a book by this guy called Stephen King entitled "The Running Man", Justin took a book called "The Hunt for Red October", Nicodemus took a book called "To Kill a Mockingbird", Jenner also took a book, but apparently it was one of the books from the strange bookcase I discovered with all of the books in a different language. He kept it hidden, and changed the subject whenever questioned about it. I took a book entitled "The Martial Artforms of Asia". It explains in detail how to teach yourself basic martial artforms, which is some sort of self-defense. I didn’t take the book because it tells you how to beat things up, it’s due to the fact that when I tried it, I felt good. REAL good. I liked how I could just take all of my troubles out on an artificial being, it was good venting, and Justin even asked me to show him a thing or two when I learned a bit more. What a compliment...It’s almost as if he’d forgotten I refused to show him my journal. He acts like he doesn’t even care...Does he?

Day – August 4, 2000 (Night)

I almost fell asleep tonight when I suddenly realized that I had forgotten to return the book I had taken from the strange bookcase a few weeks ago. I picked it up from it’s hiding spot in the room upstairs and crept down the hall to the study. Where it came from.

The light was on in the study and somebody was inside.

At first I thought it may have been a burgler, but upon a slight peek around the corner, I saw that it wasn’t a burgler, but Jenner. He stood on the table top quickly reading through all of the books as if he understood the words to them. They were in another language though, weren’t they? The next question was harder: Should I hang around and wait, or should I go and confront him? The look on Jenner’s face was one I’ll not forget soon. It was full of some sort of hatred, like the whole world was against him and the only thing he had left were those books. What did Jenner find in those books? I guess I’ll never know. I left the book inside the doorway and crept back to the basement for an uneasy sleep. I have to admit, it feels good to return something that you have stolen, but I can’t get over the fact that Jenner was reading those queer books.

It’s been over an hour since I saw Jenner, I even saw him come back downstairs and go to sleep... But why can’t I?

A yawn... I’d better stop...

Day – August 5, 2000

Another day another problem. Or so I’ve learned from what’s happened here. Actually, nothing really bad HAS happened, except for the fact we are leaving for the rosebush tomorrow. It’s been many years since I’ve had to deal with cats, and I’m afraid I won’t do what I’m supposed to if I see one: RUN.

Justin insists I’m being silly and that once we get inside the rosebush, we’ll be safe for the time being.

Justin won’t know what to do either...Why is he so happy-go-lucky about the whole thing? We’ve just been put through the most unimaginable tortures, we’d been getting shots every other day for the pas-

Day – August 5, 2000 (Night)

I really made a mess of things. Or, as Nicodemus put it, they’ve really made a mess out of me. During my last entry I keeled over with the most unimaginable pains in my stomach. Mr. Ages said that they were stomach cramps induced by my past. Nicodemus agreed completely, he told me the overdose that I had received was one that was going to stay in my body. It had disrupted something in my stomach and head, and memories, especially painful ones, of the shots I received would induce another set of cramps.

Jenner seemed interested in this and seems to insist that the human scientists that did it should be "punished" as he put it. Justin gave him a funny look and he shut up, but I can understand were he’s coming from, he lost his family to NIMH as did I. But he’s older so I can see why it affected him so. Jenner’s still as cynical as I remember, it’s just that now, he’s getting more and more violent thinking by the day, especially towards humans. I’d stay out of his way if I were a human...

Gabriel’s right, I need some rest. I’ll still be going tomorrow, we shouldn’t stay here any longer – NIMH could return any day now and do a more rigorous search, so I’ll just need to take it easy as I walk.

Chapter 4

Day – August 6, 2000

Well, this is it. Today’s the day we leave our luxuries behind and move to a big, smelly hole in the ground near a farm where a big, sadistic cat lives. Jonathan is walking normally, his incident now only a memory. The pains in my stomach are gone, but I fear that they will come back at the worst time.

Jenner and Nicodemus rounded everybody up in the main hall. They told us that we would spend the morning cleaning the house of our presence, then we would leave in the afternoon. The rain was still coming down hard, but it might stop by the afternoon, so that was our plan. I somehow managed to get stuck with cleaning the upstairs hallway. Cleaning merely means to make it look like we were never there. Any footprints in the settled dust had to be removed, any open doors had to be shut, any blinds that were shut when we came had to be shut again, and many other things as well. I’d better get back to work, the quicker we finish the faster we get out of here and get this over with.

Day – August 6, 2000 (Evening)

A break. Finally. We left the mansion about six hours ago and have been running in the rain non-stop since then. My lungs feel like they’re about to explode, I haven’t felt this worked since we escaped from NIMH all those months ago. We’re all huddled together in the basement of some sort of store that has been closed down for the day. I’m guessing that today is a Sunday, because I learned from the many books I read in the library at the mansion that businesses close early on Sundays.

According to Alyssa, we still have a long way to go. We’re not even halfway there she says. The rain is still coming down hard, and we got really wet out there. Our fur is like a sponge for the water to seep into and stay there, slowly freezing our bodies. Nobody’s caught a cold or anything, but Jenner doesn’t seem to think we can risk going out again without some protection other than our clothes, or we might catch pneumonia or something along the lines of that.

We found a plastic tarp and a big retractable knife that we could use to cut up what Gabriel calls "Ponchos", which is some kind of raincoat. There’s a lot of tarp, and we have a lot of time, but Nicodemus insists that we hurry or we may have "unwanted visitors". I don’t know what he means, and he won’t tell me.

Day – August 10, 2000

I almost got run over by a big truck today. I felt so silly, I was running faster than anyone else in the group. I felt the rain (Yes, it’s still raining) pattering against my face and snout, then I felt a paw nab the neck of my poncho and yank me back hard. I was confused for about a second, then I saw a wall of black rubber not inches in front of me. The wall was a tire of a big truck, which would have run me flat had Gabriel not grabbed me. I was thankful to him, greatly in fact, but he insists that it was no big deal and I should watch myself in a world of dangers like that.

Well, that was earlier this morning. Right now, we’re waiting in a dry area of a smelly sewer. It’s the only grate we’ve managed to find in a while, so that means we’re getting pretty far from civilization, which is good.

This place smells more rancid than anything I’ve ever smelled before. I can hardly wonder what kind of wastes could have combined to make this putrid stench. Justin’s always got a hand over his nose, and Nicodemus’ head is poking outside. Jenner is nowhere to be seen, so I can only assume he’ll be back.

I hope we’re not spending the night here. I’d rather run my lungs raw than sleep in a pool of waste. I can’t even believe that we used to do that. I curse my previous life. I curse myself for letting myself used to live like this. Well, that really doesn’t make any sense, but then again, none of this does. Rats being made as smart as humans? Nicodemus doesn’t seem to find the situation very odd at all. I went up to him and asked him what he thought about the entire situation, about us, about the rats that could act like humans. He was silent for a moment, taken by surprise. After a minute, he waved a paw at me, "My boy, the question is: what do you make of it?"

I shook my head, "It’s just like a bedtime story told to little humans. Just a cartoon movie with a swordfight and a happy ending. Just a fairy tale."

Nicodemus sighed, "Then you’d best pay more respect to fairy tales, Leon. This is the here and now. This is real, and we cannot stop and look back, or else we may lose our path." I nodded (even though I wasn’t sure what he meant) and walked away.

The humans want us to die, but we’re not giving up so easily. I’m not giving up so easily. Now that I think about it... I’m going to ask Nicodemus if we can leave now and get to our new home.

Day – August 11, 2000

Today was indeed an interesting day. We found what appeared to be a truck filled with an assortment of gadgets and tools. The truck simply read "The Toy Tinker". The owner of the truck was laying peacefully against a tree, and upon closer inspection, we found out he was dead. Heart attack most likely, Mr. Ages thinks. We covered the body with sticks and leaves, why I wasn’t too sure, and took a majority of the tools. Of which, include screwdrivers, hammers, small little things like that; but most important were the motors. With them, Jenner says, we’ll be able to have electric machines just like we did at the mansion. Nicodemus insisted we use them only for what we needed and save luxeries for later, and everyone agreed. Despite the fact we haven’t even arrived at the rosebush yet, I feel that we already live there... Or that I’ve been there before. What did that book in the library call it... "Deja something?" Dunno.

Day – August 12, 2000

We’re almost there. Another day or so and we’ll be at the rosebush. Alyssa said we made pretty good time despite the constant downpour we had to trudge through.

I’m starting to feel a little differently towards the move. Now, instead of seeing it as moving from an elaborate mansion to a hole in the ground, I see it as us moving away from using things that are not ours, to using things that are. In a way.

We’ll be constructing our own colony, but we will still have to steal our food until we find some way to make our own food. Jenner just laughs it off, but Justin and Nicodemus are quite serious about it.

There’s not much else I can say now, except that we are in the middle of a great forest, and that we will need to find protective shelter for the upcoming nightfall or we will be walking pieces of food for the owls.

Day – August 13, 2000 (Night)

Nicodemus had been gone most of the day. When he came back, he said that he had been off speaking to an owl that was revered as a sort of oracle/problem solver by the local wildlife. I know very little of what happened, but I do know that after telling the owl our story, the owl gave Nicodemus some sort of stone as a "Welcome gift" as he called it. The stone is a dull brownish red. It looks a little like copper, but I’m not too good at identifying metals. Or rocks for that matter.

The owl had told Nicodemus to be watchful of the farmer’s cat, Dragon. Nicodemus had learned that there are natural plants here that, when mixed, can create a sort of sleeping powder. Mr. Ages took an extreme interest in this and wrote it all down for later use.

We’re all to go see the owl in the morning to hear what he has to say. The owl didn’t come from NIMH, so how can he be so smart?

Maybe I’ll ask him...

Day – August 14, 2000

The owl had told me that I should write everything down, and that I should put my talents to good use. What excellent advice! (Note the sarcasm)

First of all, talents. The only talent I can think of at the moment is my handwriting. Which is sloppy at best. The owl had told me that I have a clever mind and it showed in my writing. If there’s one thing I didn’t like about talking to the owl, it was that I felt obligated to read him my journal. He seemed horrified at the events I had gone through along with my friends, but I insisted that we had put it behind us.

In actuallity, I haven’t. I still wake up with the stabbing pain in my stomach from...No. I can’t think about that too much. The last thing I’d want to do is have cramps again.

Well, that’s what the owl told me.

Oh yes, and according to the owl, we are either Norway rats, or Black rats. I’m not too sure about that, considering that not too many of us are black furred, but Nicodemus told me not to be rude, so I didn’t say anything when he told me.

We’ll be at the rosebush tomorrow, and I’m kind of jumpy, so I guess I’ll stop writing for now and do something proactive.

Day – September 9, 2000

Been a long while_____ Paw hurting ____ Can’t write too much. Horrible accident____ Abby’s legs____ Broken horribly____ My arms____My back____My tail_____ Hurt so much____ Elevator fell____ Alyssa dead___ Cat_____ New home is good_____ Been working hard___ Paw hurts____ No more writing_____

Day – October 5, 2000

Much has happened in the past few months. I almost died, Abigail’s legs have been smashed, Alyssa has been killed, and Jonathan’s found new love.

I guess I’ll start from the beginning. The rosebush wasn’t too much to look at. At least when we first got here. A big series of caverns running approximately three or four feet underground. I hadn’t been able to write for weeks because we needed to collect provisions from the farmer’s barns and house, clear the caverns of leaves and trash left by previous owners, and we also needed to get materials for constructing multiple things. Ladders and stairs being the most important. There are several places where it is completely inacessable for us to venture.

There is a very long drop, then a pool of water, then an airpocketed area which leads to ANOTHER series of caverns. Arthur, the one with the most technical expertise , suggested that we either build a tunnel around it, which would be hard due to the length of the tunnel, or we build an airtight elevator and create a series of airlocks with a welding torch that Arthur could easily steal from the farmer’s garage with a few rats helping. Both of the options hard. One of them had to be chosen. Jenner insisted on the elevator and said he would find the right elevator for us to use. A week and a half later, he dragged in the farmer’s outside light (The glass framing) with the help of about a dozen rats.

As you would expect, Justin and Nicodemus were furious at him. Such a big thing being stolen would be immediately noticed. Jenner just waved a paw and said they could buy a new one, they had money. Return of the glass frame would be impossible and dangerous, so we have to keep it now.

After the elevator/submersible and the airlocks were constructed, we were able to venture farther down into the rosebush. The first thing I noticed was that the cavern wasn’t too air tight. Water was slowly seeping in and Arthur and his friends raced to patch any holes where the water was coming in from.

Another drop welcomed us. An elevator, constructed of a few planks of wood, brought us down to the other levels of the caverns.

That same elevator smashed Abiail’s legs and broke almost every bone in my body. Not much to say about that incident.

I was bringing up the welding torch with Abigail and the rope snapped. The elevator plummeted downwards and smashed against the floor. A stone slab landed directly on Abigail’s legs, crushing them instantly, and I had fallen off the elevator and landed on a collective of stone used for setting the floor a ways inside.

I remember laying there on the stones. I knew I had broken some bones, but I wasn’t sure of which ones I had broken. I remained perfectly still and moved one bone at a time. My paws wouldn’t move at all, so I assumed they were broken, My tail hurt like crazy when I moved it too much, and my neck refused to move as well.

When I tilted my eyes to the right of me, I could see the wreckage and Abigail’s prone body. Despite the fact that I had nothing to do with the wreck, I felt guilty of what had happened. I tried to get up to help Abigail, but my limbs refused to operate. Pain engulfed my body as I tried to move. I was helpless.

The others came and found us and brought us to our infirmary, which was one of the first places we had built on the lower floor. I lay in bed recovering for about two months. It was supposed to have been longer, as I had fractured almost every bone in my body, but the injections supposedly speeded up healing rate. Unfortunately, Mr. Ages said that Abigail’s legs were beyond help. The bones had completely shattered and she will not be able to use her legs for a few years. Abigail now has to use crutches to get around, applying a little pressure to her feet for her next step. Just watching her walk around grieves me, as it makes me remember being unable to help her.

As I mentioned before, Alyssa has been killed. She was experimenting the drug we had made for Dragon so we could carry on our business at night by placing it outside on the porch of the Fitzgibbon’s house. After she placed it, Dragon, the cat, dashed outside and caught her completely off guard. I didn’t see much, as I was quite a ways away, but I could hear her scream as Dragon dragged her inside. We were all in a quiet shock for about ten minutes. When we finally came to grips with what had just happened, some of us (me included) cried a bit. Justin, Jenner and Nicodemus did not, however. Jenner got many threats thrown at him when he said after a short while, "She placed the drug. She didn’t die in vain."

Nicodemus approached him and put a paw on his shoulder, "My friend, I think we should go back inside."

I stepped in front of the two of them, Justin stepping beside me, "What do we do about her body?" I asked. "She deserves a proper burial."

There was a pause, then Jenner shrugged, "If you want to go in there and take it from the cat, be my guest."

Nicodemus frowned, "Jenner, that was uncalled for. Come." Nicodemus then eyed me and Justin, "I would highly advise against retrieving her body. We cannot afford any more losses. I am as grieved as you are, but Alyssa would not want you throwing your life away after she has lost hers. She did what she did because she wanted to help us survive, and getting yourself killed would not please her. Do you understand?" I shied back – Nicodemus had a way with words. Justin, however, stepped forward, "Nicodemus, if we just waited until later on, when Dragon was asleep from the drugs-"

Nicodemus held up a paw, "I know I am not the only leader here, but I have said my piece." He turned back to Jenner, "Let us return to my chambers. We can discuss this further in there."

Slowly, the rats began filing back into the rosebush. Justin and I were left standing on the little stone wheel that kept the rosebush somewhat elevated. Justin sighed, "There was nothing we could have done, Leon. At least..." he stopped and shook his head, "We’ll have to reevaluate our strategy. Dragon probably won’t even eat the drugs out there on the porch, even if we put some catfood on them."

I nodded solemnly, "Alyssa won’t have died in vain... Perhaps we could put the food in the cat’s dinner bowl?"

Justin shrugged, looking tired, "Perhaps, Leon. There’s nothing more we can do here tonight."

I stepped in front of him, blocking his reentry into the rosebush, "What about her body?"

He looked down at the ground, "Leon, Dragon didn’t get the drugs. If we were to go in there, he would get us, too."

Reluctantly, we returned underground.

A lost friend. Alyssa had found the colony and we had a sort of memorial service in her honor. She had died for the colony, and she would be greatly remembered for that.

Lastly, (I’m rushing because Ages has left the room and doesn’t like me writing while I should be resting) Jonathan found love in a fieldmouse named Elizabeth. She lives by the woods in the garden, where I’m not sure. Jonathan said he had been getting a drink of water from the nearby creek when she had come over and taken a drink as well. Jonathan says he completely knocked her off her feet with the charm and now they’re an item. I’ve seen her once, from what I recall, she was light-brown furred and was actually quite attractive. For a field mouse at least. I’d better not go into too much detail, if Jonathan reads this, he might think I’ve got my eye on her, which I certainly do not. Jonathan, if you read this, hear me now: ELIZABETH IS YOURS.

That was kind of pointless, but now it’s out of my system. Mr. Ages has also been thinking of moving out on his own near the other end of the field. He said there was an old threshing machine that was completely devoid of life and incapable of operation, so he could live inside it peacefully.

Ages is coming back, so I’d better rest for now. My paw is actually starting to hurt, so I guess I’ll put my journal down now.

Chapter 5

Day – November 20, 2000

Backbreaking work all day long. First rest I've had in a while.

I'm pretty much all healed, and Abigail's gotten used to her crutches already. We talk quite a bit, and I actually think she likes me. I couldn't care less, really. There's not enough time to get into a serious relationship here. But Jonathan... Hoo BOY! He's really hitting it off with that Elizabeth fieldmouse he met about a month or so ago. He's really happy about the relationship, and word is he's planning to propose to her on a full moonlit night. What a charmer! (I'm smiling here)

Basically, all I've been doing lately is lying in bed, and when I'm not lying in bed, I'm carrying wooden planks used for the building of the interior of the colony. Justin's actually been checking in with me everyday to see how I'm doing. Nice guy, that Justin is.

Nicodemus has been getting more and more reclusive since the building of his office. He just sits in a chair all day and comes to the meetings we have every week or so. He's constructing something of tremendous magnitudes in his office, and word is, Nicodemus has a journal now too, just like me. Strange, but true. The project of tremendous magnitude is elusive in the meetings. When word of diminished supplies in the area of metallics comes in, somebody will shout "What about wood? Or stone? Those are more important!"

At least he's got SOME people's support. I wish I new what it was before I got involved and took a side...

If it seems like I'm rushing, I am, merely because I have more work to do now, then we retire for the night. I need as much sleep as I can get, because tomorrow we're setting to work on the meeting hall. I saw the blueprints, and the hall is HUGE. It looks more like a sports arena than a meeting hall. The floor is going to be the hardest, as we need to polish and grind the stone down until it's perfectly smooth and then create the design of Jenner's liking on it. Why Jenner? Dunno.

It's so cold here. I'm freezing my tail off. Literally.

Day – November 25, 2000

Still working on the meeting hall. We’ve finished the balcony, but the floor is still made up of dirt and even has a patch of mud that’s about waist deep near the center of the huge room. Gabriel fell into it yesterday only to find himself the subject of ridicule for the next few days.

I have just been told to go rest after my tail starting stinging and the pain wouldn’t stop. Justin pointed me to the infirmary and that is where I am now. This place has changed since the last time I was here, a few days ago. Mr. Ages hasn’t done much to furnish it, but Jack has taken the throttle and moved forward with building and elaboration of the room. It is pretty much dark, except for three lamps that hang around. One of them is in the style of the bunson burner, and I can turn it off if I wish to rest.

Justin has made note to me that when the colony is finished it may be the envy of the farm, so unwanted visitors are bound to come in, and some sort of defense would be necessary. He began talking to Nicodemus about officially setting up a guards profession, where those who joined would run watching shifts and have to protect the colony at all costs. Maybe I should join?

Day – December 1, 2000

Weekly expeditions around the farm and woods. That’s what we’re doing now. Not much else to write, but I know for certain that I’m not going.

Day – December 3, 2000

Jonathan’s married! He proposed to that mouse Elizabeth last night and she agreed immediately. Jonathan isn’t, however, going to tell of his past. I find that a bit difficult. How will he explain his smarts? Or the fact we don’t get older? Will the abililities he has spread through any children they may have? If any, of course... I don’t know... I just don’t know.

Day – December 5, 2000

I’ve got a cough. What fun this month is going to be. To make it worse, Mr. Ages insists I drink his tea. I really hate it, but I have to drink it anyways because he says it will sooth my throat and I won’t cough as much.

The meeting hall is near completion, and I must say it looks rather intimidating from the entrance, a big polished floor with a funny looking star (Is that what Jenner chose as the shape? How odd?) take up the whole of your vision until you look up. Form there it looks like a colossium, made for the acoustic abilites of the room. It goes upward in a somewhat funnel shape. I can’t possibly imagine why the meeting hall would be so important, I mean, it’s already taken all this work, PLUS the work on the rest of the colony. I haven’t seen the storage rooms, the bedrooms, or any other of the finished rooms yet, I've just seen the meeting hall a few times. Such a shame. I'd better rest, or Mr. Ages will confiscate my journal and make me go to sleep.

Day – December 8, 2000

My bones have healed completely, Mr. Ages says, but I still have the cough. That means I am free to leave the infirmary, but that also means I’m still on his terrible, bitter, scalding hot tea. I can’t honestly see how it’s making me feel better, it numbs up my tongue and burns the insides of my mouth, and I still cough up a storm when I get a tickle in my throat. Mr. Ages tells me to give it time to work. To be quite honest, I’m starting to wonder if he even knows what he’s doing... He might be making my cough worse for all I know. Maybe I should stop taking it? We’ll see what happens soon enough...

Shouting from out in the hall? What’s going on, I wonder? I’d better go check...

Poor Justin, got attacked and almost killed by a big nasty spider near the entrance. He was helping out carve some dirt away from the thorns near the entrance and all of a sudden a head popped out of the thorns and bit down on Justin’s tunic around his neck area. The spider then tried to drag him into the nest of thorns, which he wouldn’t have survived in the least, but Arthur had a pipe and showed that spider not to mess with the rats of NIMH... Rats of NIMH. Now there’s a neat title.

Anyways, the spider died, and Justin had gotten away with only a few scratches. Jack had examined the spider and mentioned that it was extremely poisonous, and a single bite to a small animal would kill quickly. Justin decided to rest in the infimary for a while, as his quarters are shared with the rest of the rats for now...

That’s right, we’re all crammed up in a big room no bigger than the meeting hall, but hopefully not for long, as a whole new area has been discovered that could easily provide us with individual living quarters. It’s right off the meeting hall circle... Well, you don’t really know where that is... Well, after getting down the elevator after the water elevator, you come to a hallway which is where our storage rooms are located. After that, you would find yourself at the meeting hall circle. The meeting hall is in front of you, and to your left and right are the facilities here. Starting from the left is:

A storage room, our tech department (Where Arthur is starting to build random things at his liking), the recreational room (Which is just a big empty room at the moment), the Infirmary, the Library (Where we’ve placed all of the books we took from the mansion so we all could read each other’s books), then there’s a little bridge over a tiny stream, then you’re at the living quarters. Nicodemus’ office is first there. A big door shuts it off from most people, except for Justin and Jenner mostly. Sometimes Arthur or Mr. Ages will ask his advice on something here. I think they’re asking his advice because of the two things that determine leadership here... Fear and Wonder. Fear and Wonder of what exactly he’s constructing in that office of his, Fear and Wonder of why his eyes appear to glow a soft yellow at some points, Fear and Wonder of how when Nicodemus gets irritated things have a tendancy to move by themselves... I think Nicodemus has some sort of power or ability he hasn’t told us of yet... Why doesn’t he trust us? Probably for the same reason I wouldn’t let Justin read my journal back at the mansion. Fear of what others would think of him. I must demand to have him explain this, and I intend to do that when I finish writing.

Ah, yes, and after Nicodemus’ office are the beds for the rest of us. Makeshift mattresses lie about. We often switch them, merely because some are more comfortable than others and we don’t people getting upset at others because they have a better sleep than they do.

Alright, now I’m going to go talk with Nicodemus and see what he’s up t-

It’s Justin... And Justin says Nicodemus wants to see me....

Day – December 8, 2000 (Night)

Nicodemus does have some sort of power... But how he got it I might not have known if he hadn’t told me.

Nicodemus knew what I was writing. He said he could SEE what I wrote in a type of spinning mirror, that he simply referred to as "the mirror." Using his newfound powers he said he could wish to see me and I would appear to him in the spnning mirror, then he could ask to see my journal, and it would appear in the middle of the device. Apparently it was this thing that had been the cause of all our missing metals. I asked him how he worked this machine, and where he had gotten his powers, and he sat me down in his chair (More of a throne than a chair) and walked over to a large table and withdrew a book. He walked over to me and handed me the book, a bookmark near the beginning. I turned to the marked page and low and behold, it was today’s date. It was a journal, just like the one I write in now. He had been keeping it since we got here, and in it were all of the events that had happened here since then. The most recent bearing Justin’s name and his misfortune with the spider.

Nicodemus smiled warmly to me and said to turn to the page before the marked one. I did so, and found an entry for yesterday. It read, and I quote:

"The powers I have found I have I finally know of their origin. The yellow liquid from NIMH, combined with the clear liquid from the additional experiment, had apparently allowed me to begin using an unused side of my newly enhanced brain. My brain had developed so quickly, that I have reason to believe the clear liquid could have very easily started some sort of neurological reaction with my physical brain waves and my thoughts. When I think of something, it very slowly begins to happen. If I think of my door opening, I can see the doorknob slowly turn, but that is all that happens. If I think of seeing somebody, I close my eyes and see them. There are no mirrors here, but Justin insists that my eyes are starting to look like they glow. Do they? For I feel no different than before.

My MIRROR is complete. Because if it’s metal construction, I can channel my powers into it, make the device spin at incredible speeds. This, as I have discovered, increases the magnitude of my power. Finally I can use it, but another thing on my mind is the owl’s stone. Why does it appear to have a reaction with my powers? It remained red for several hours after I held it, then returned to it’s brown color. Was it charged by my power? I think I’ll go right now and see if that’s what caused it."

Nicodemus then showed me the amulet - opening a gold-colored ornamental box to reveal a bright red stone. The stone looked different, though... When I first saw it in the forest, it looked like a big hunk of brown rock. Now it looked like a small red disk (obviously cut down to size) inside a round, gold-colored frame. He smiled and handed it to me. The backside was blank, just smooth metal. It tingled in my hand a bit. Nicodemus was not surprised at this - he said that Justin had felt a light tingle in his paws when he held the stone. When I asked him about Jenner, Nicodemus frowned and waved a paw at me, "Don’t mind him, my boy. Tell me what you feel."

I shook my head and held the amulet up. Oddly enough, the red stone seemed to be getting brighter by the moment.

Here’s where it gets weird.

The stone seemed to be getting warmer and warmer, almost burning. I slammed my eyes shut so I wouldn’t feel the pain as much, and, strange as it may seem, the pain did go away. When I opened my eyes, I saw the whole room bathed in blood red. Nicodemus was coming towards me, but his movements seemed to be in slow-motion. I felt like I was ten feet off the ground, but when I looked down, I saw my feet firmly planted in reality. The rest of my body, however, was in a completely different place. I could see everything, and, with a thought, could manipulate it in any way I wanted. The table pivoted about 90 degrees with a simple thought, Nicodemus’ throne of a chair tipped over when it ran through my head in an instant. I looked at Nicodemus and he was still coming towards me... He seemed to be stuck in one spot and wasn’t moving at all. It irritated me in a way, and I moved out a paw to move him, but upon my touch, he flew back against the wall, in slow-motion of course. I was terrified then. This power was phenomenally uncontrollable and I was the chariot for this dangerous ability. I threw down the stone and shut my eyes tight. When I opened them everything was normal again... Despite the fact that the room was a mess and Nicodemus was pressed up against the wall in a near panic. I tried to go to him to ease his panic, but my eyes shut and I fell asleep in midstep and tumbled to the floor.

When I awoke, I was still on the floor, but Mr. Ages wasn’t attending to me as I’d expected. Instead it was only Justin, Jonathan, and Nicodemus. Justin handed me a glass of water and Nicodemus was giving me a confused look. He told me that when he saw the stone after I had fallen asleep, it had returned to it’s brown color. He thinks the power may have been channeled through me and came out as the power than overturned his whole office. But, Nicodemus also thinks that a small amount of energy might still be residing in my head. I didn’t want to believe it, that this dangerous power is inside me waiting to come out, but it may be true. Nicodemus said he wasn’t going to charge the stone anymore because somebody else might mistakingly unleash that power. He says there also might be some energy left in the stone, but nothing significant enough to cause damage. I’ll just have to trust him with that, I guess.

Justin was as surprised and confused as I was. When I woke up his confused face hovered above me, just waiting to ask "What the heck happened here?"

Poor Justin, being carried into all of this madness. Hey, wait... I already said "Poor Justin". I guess I really feel that way about him.

Anyways, Nicodemus sent me off to bed in the infirmary... AGAIN. Although I really don’t mind too much, as I’m too tired to____even____ write_____

Chapter 6

Day – December 13, 2000

Today, while I was sleeping in the infirmary (I decided to stay a bit longer than overnight as you can guess, I just faked a headache and I got to sleep in these warm, comfortable beds all day long while the cold December winds blow outside) a big weasel tried to enter our colony from the front entrance in the rosebush. It attacked Cid, who was guarding the entrance, and it bit him up good. But Brutus, who was with Cid, helped attack the weasel with a stray thorn and it ran away. Justin stressed at a meeting yesterday that he wants a group organized that will defend the colony, by any means necessary. He mentioned that using all the scrap metal we have we should make swords for defensive weaponry. The motion passed, and Justin has aptly named it "The Guard". He has selected me as a sort of right hand man because he assumes I’ve been reading a lot of the martial arts book I took from the library at the mansion. I have been reading it, and I am honored that Justin, now entitled "The Captain of the Guard", has chosen me as a kind of lieutenant to him. He is in the process of getting a sword made for me, and he brought me a piece of paper asking me to draw for him what I wanted my sword to look like. At the moment, it simply has a gold colored handle, a steel blade, and an engraving on the sword that bears my name, LEON. It’ll look neat, I’m sure.

I’m starting to think Mr. Ages and Jack know I’m lying to them about my constant headaches, so I think I’d better make them go away and leave here before they get too suspicious. Oh well, it was warm while it lasted.

Day – December 14, 2000

I just saw Jenner a few moments ago. He looks a lot different than he did before we came. He now wears a cape and is wearing a different tunic than before. He now sports a red and black tunic instead of his blue one. I guess I should go see if I can get a new one made, as my black and white one is starting to wear thin and tear a little. Since I’m on the Guard I’ve got to wear the elected uniform. I believe Justin made it a white shirt and a green tunic… Maybe blue? I don’t know. Perhaps I should ask before I go and waste our cloth.

Also, Jonathan stressed to us he didn’t want us EVER going near his wife, nor her home, which is a big cinderblock near the garden patch. He told us that he didn’t want her to know about us, or the injection’s effects on our aging. He said that he didn’t want to risk telling his new spouse anything that she might take incorrectly. He specifically told us that she was the kind of individual who would think him a freak of sorts if he told her, and Jonathan loves her dearly. But… Wouldn’t it just hurt Elizabeth (THAT’S her name) more if she was going to die of old age and find out that her husband and probably any children they ever had would live many years longer? It’d sure hurt me… Jonathan seems to know what he’s doing, though, so I don’t worry too much about him.

Day – December 17, 2000

My sword is finished, and boy does it look neat! They couldn’t engrave my name onto it, but it looks just about the same I drew it before. Justin’s sword was finished about three hours ago and he told us to all meet in the recreational area once we got our weapons. I suppose I shouldn’t dilly-dally and hang around my bed, I’ll write a bit tonight.

Day – December 17, 2000 (Night)

The first training of the Guards went by smoothly. Justin went over how to hold the sword and step with the sword. That basically took up the whole two hours we were there for. Justin wants me to practice my CQC, close quarters combat, for the next class. We decided to hold meetings and training sessions every other day for two hours. That would be plenty of time for us to hone skills, and also maintain another job.

We’ve started pulling things together here, Arthur’s found a series of cables we believe might be electrical. If they are, we might be able to tap into it and get all the electricity we’d ever need. To think, we would have lightbulbs and running motors!

Oh, I guess that kinda changed the subject a bit. For my other job, I’m going to be helping out as a strategist for our plans of theft. Brought about by Jenner at the last meeting, he suggested that there was no way we’d ever be able to survive the winter without "borrowing" a few things from the farmer. Jenner’s spiel with the lampost frame made Nicodemus and Justin worried about what exactly that meant, and Jenner assured them that anything stolen would be small and barely even noticeable. Nicodemus and Justin agreed and Jenner approached me as the official. First thing he said we needed was some power cord and wiring for tapping the electrical lines.

I suppose, since it’s my job, I should find some way to get our paws on some wires then.

Day – December 25, 2000

I woke up this morning to the sound of silence. The snow outside was muffling any noise from seeping under my covers, and all the rats had gone to do their work. I get to sleep in late, as my job doesn’t really demand any time commitment, just as long as I get the supplies eventually. I found our wiring in the workshop at the back of the house, and got the confiscation team to do the dirty work. I didn’t really feel right about us taking the stuff, but the idea of heat made me order the group to go get the wires. I can only imagine what Jenner has in store for me next.

I have to read a bit on my martial arts before the training session tonight. I want to be in a perfect state of mind when I teach the class. I’d better put down this book and pick up my other one.

Day – December 27, 2000

The exercise went fine, but something else more important happened. Today we dissolved rule by simply Jenner, Justin, and Nicodemus. Nicodemus brought forth the idea that we elected officials to be a kind of council and they made all of the decisions. That sounds very nice, it’d be easier for the lot of us, and we’d have to attend less meetings, especially when some stupid disagreement is brought up between two rats and they want to get everybody together to discuss it. Everybody elected Jenner, Cid, and some rats I actually don’t even know about. Cid looks kind of rediculous now. He’s the "Bigwig" of the council (I coined that phrase). He wears a fake-looking white wig like the old Americans did in the 1700’s I believe the time was. He has a gavel and brings the council to order whenever things get too crazy, like when Justin pokes fun at Jenner’s oddball stories of Nicodemus being a wizard and not telling anybody, then everybody starts laughing.

Nicodemus isn’t a wizard, though… He’s just like us, except he got that weird shot that lets him do things, strange things, with his mind. I held that stone, I know what his power is capable of, and I really don’t like it. Nicodemus is just starting to try and talk to me about what happened all that while ago. He knows that there is still some power left in me, just waiting for a chance to come out. He told me the stone was now a permanent red because I "stretched" the stone’s powers. Whoops.

He said that there was also an infinate amount of energy in the stone, but it would need a jumpstart with the most powerful of emotions, love.

Love, I thought? Rediculous.

It’s not. Unfortunately.

Day – January 6, 2000

It’s been a few days since I’ve last written because Jenner’s kept me on my toes with my job. First, he wanted me to coordinate us taking some of the Fitzgibbon’s oddly colored lights from the windows of their house. Alright, no problem there. Then he wanted me to find an extension cord so we could connect the lights we found to a makeshift outlet that Arthur’s made. I couldn’t find one anywhere in the shed, so I needed to have a look around inside the actual house. Mr. Ages, who’s finally perfected his sleeping powder formula the owl gave him, told me to put that he would have to run into the kitchen himself and put it in Dragon’s food dish. I asked him how he would do it without being seen. It seems that for a while, the building team has cleared out a small area of soft dirt under the Fitzgibbon’s porch. The small hole that was cut in the floor came out right under a cupboard in the kitchen, thus allowing unseen entrance and exit from the house. I was hesitant, remembering Alyssa’s incident, but he insisted he knew what he was doing. He told me to crawl through the hole about 5 minutes after he left the rosebush to enter the house. Mr. Ages said that by then Dragon would be done eating and be sleeping soundly on the floor.

After Mr. Ages left that night, I waited 5 minutes, as directed, and then started walking out the long, cold, icy path outside. It was deathly quiet, and only a few moon beams managed to weave their way in through the pricks and thorns of the rosebush. It was rather dark, but my eyes adjusted quickly and I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. By the time I got past the guard’s post, about three minutes had already gone by. I could see the watcing alcove off to the side, where Brutus was standing at attention. He was always alert, but this time he relaxed and gave me a polite nod as I walked past him. I returned the nod and continued down the narrow path to the main entrance.

As I began to feel the cold chill of the outdoors, I could see Mr. Ages returning. He smiled at me and told me that he was successful in drugging the bowl, and by the time he had crawled back through the hole, Dragon was already looking woozy. That’s good. I thanked Mr. Ages and continued outside.

The night was quiet. The silence was even more deafening than the one in the rosebush. Some lights still were hung, up on the high windows of the Fitzgibbon’s home, but they weren’t lit anymore. As I trotted slowly down the snowy path, (If I were to go quickly, I might have sunk into the snow, and that wouldn’t be good. I’d either freeze to death, or be cat food in the morning) I could see that the only lights on were the lights upstairs. That meant nobody was downstairs at the moment, and that made my job easier.

I crawled through the porch and quickly saw the hole in the floor. I cautiously poked my head through and looked around. I could see the square tiled floor, and on it lay Dragon, now sleeping his drugged, peaceful sleep. I crawled up some more, then considered whether or not I should wear all the layers I had on, as they may hinder my movement in a critical situation. I took off the cape and blanket I wore, but left my Guard’s tunic on. I sure wasn’t going to be running around in my fur, especially in freezing cold conditions. I hung the clothes up on a piece of jutting wood, making sure to bring my sword along, and slowly crawled out of the hole and under the cabinet.

Dragon didn’t move at all. He was really conked out from the drug. I could only hope it lasted until I was done.

The first thing I did was look around the kitchen. I noticed that there were two exits. One was a small hallway that also housed the stairs to the second floor, and the front door. I couldn’t go out through the door, so I crept silently through the hallway. I looked around a bit more, and saw that at the end of the hall, there was a door that had been left carelessly ajar. I looked inside, and low and behold, a small sqaure device was plugged in with an extension cord. I gave it a quick look over, then turned to leave.

As I did, I accidentally tripped over the cord, making a small ruckus.

I stayed pefectly still for a few moments, but as I got up, I looked out the open door.

Moonlit shadows caked the walls under the stairwell, created twisted, gnarled images. One of them looked a LOT like a moving cat. And the shape was moving towards the room. I was petrified. Was I going to die here? At the paws of some cat?

I shook my head and looked around quickly, then I dashed behind the small square object. I could hear the cat in the room, the matted paws making a small noise on the rug. I eased my way around the square object, which was unusually hot, (it was some sort of heater) to keep as much distance from Dragon as I could.

I soon found myself on the opposite side I started out at. Dragon was actually CIRCLING the heater. I went around two more times before I found out Dragon knew I was there… And I wouldn’t be able to get away without confrontation.

Thinking quickly, I counted my options as I crept along the heater. I had a limited amount of directions I could move in. I could keep going, and risk Dragon finding me, I could go the opposite direction and end this quickly, I couldn’t go to the door, or Dragon would catch me, or… I could go… UP.

I looked up and saw that the exhaust openings created a kind of ladder I could climb up. Of course, it would take a moment for me to climb the whole way. Once I was up there, I would be safe until Dragon left, or he figured out where I was. Either way, it bought me time.

My heart was in my throat, threatening to jump out and run away any moment. Some butterflies had also found their way into my stomach as well. I was extremely nervous.

The next time I circled around, I went a little faster, and actually caught a glimpse of Dragon’s tail disappearing around the corner. I knew I didn’t have much time.

I leapt upwards as high as I could and grabbed at the openings. I caught one, then pulled myself up until I could stick my hind paws into the openings as well. I scrambled up the heater in a few seconds after that. As I rolled onto the top, I looked cautiously over the rim and saw Dragon right underneath me, but he kept moving, being ever so silent.

He didn’t see me go up. I was safe for that moment…

After a few more times of circling the heater, he started changing his rhythm, moving forwards, then backwards, then stopping, then running. I never would have made it if I hadn’t gotten on top. I waited nervously, watching Dragon go by for another dozen times or so, then he finally stopped and turned to the door. He walked about halfway, then stopped and turned around. I hugged myself as close to the top of the heater as I could, and thankfully Dragon didn’t see me.

When I looked up next, Dragon was gone. His shadow showing him lying down in his previous spot in the kitchen.

My heart slid back down into my chest and the butterflies succumbed, but they didn’t completely go away until I snuck underneath the cabinet and was safely out of the kitchen. I put my things back on, and hurried out to the rosebush.

I need to have a word with Mr. Ages about his "perfection" of the powder.

Dragon chasing Leon
Artwork by MAL

Chapter 7

Day – January 7, 2000

As I expected, Mr. Ages told me that his powder had worked during preliminary tests, but somehow he had slipped up in the mixture of the one he used last night. He only shrugged and said "No hard feelings, Leon." I was a little irate, but then again, how is Mr. Ages supposed to know when the powder’s perfect or not? He’s only one mouse, and he really doesn’t have too many supplies at his disposal, so I guess I HAVE to cut him a break.

Nicodemus was worried about Dragon, and everyone knows he poses a threat to us, but we don’t know exactly know what to do about him. Jenner suggested we simply kill him and then we would have free reign over the farmyard. Jonathan opposed this greatly. He said that if his wife could survive here all this time, so could they, and that we didn’t have to resort to murdering a farm cat to do our things. Jenner debated and debated during the council meeting, even managing at poking fun at Jonathan for falling in love with an ordinary, stupid feral mouse. (Note, that’s what Jenner said, I still have yet to meet her) Jonathan just kept getting angrier and angrier, but he made several excellent points about how difficult and time consuming it would be to kill Dragon, the moral issues around it, how dangerous it would be, and how suspicious the Fitzgibbons would get over the death of their cat. Jenner knew he was going to lose the debate, but he pressed on anyways. Near the end, it was more than noticeable that sides were going to be taken with either Jenner or Jonathan, and confrontation and grudges would follow. Justin and Nicodemus saw this and immediately intervened. They gave Jenner a polite smile and told him that he would like to see him in Nicodemus’ office after the meeting. After that, Jenner cooled down a bit.

Why on Earth would Jenner act this way? I haven’t the slightest clue of what’s going on in his head, but I know that SOMETHING is starting to brew there, and it’s not good. Also, Jenner made note to me after I got back from my incident at the farmhouse last night that he had his eye on Victoria. Victoria is a member of the council here, and she seems to like listening to Jenner’s babble. She also leers at Justin whenever he criticizes Jenner in front of the council. I know she hates Justin, and that’s a shame, because they’re both very nice people, they just can’t get along. Jenner told me he was going to try to make the moves on Victoria to see if she liked Jenner as well.

All I can say about this is that if they DO get together, I can’t WAIT to see what kind of kid they have.

Day – January 9, 2000 (Night)

I had a horrible nightmare a few moments ago... I woke up and made such a big scene that Justin needed to come and calm me down. I must have looked rather childish, but if they’d had the nightmare, they would have woke up screaming as well.

I was alone, in a cage at laboratory I recognized as NIMH. I was sitting in the corner of my cage, and could hear something coming from outside my cage. I stood up and walked over to the wire door, and could see my brother, Daniel, shrieking and screaming as the scientists (Three of them) proceeded to inject a yellowish liquid into him. He looked up to me and reached an arm out, but it was restrained by the scientist as he looked at me with desperate eyes, pleading eyes, dead eyes. Yes, they were dead eyes. Like they were looking at everything and seeing nothing.

I screamed and tried to help him, I reached my own arm out, but a scientist saw me and attempted to grab it. I jerked it back in, and the scientist went back to my brother.

I watched helplessly as they injected my brother, needle after needle, than one of the scientists pulled out a scalpel and held it over Daniel. I could hear his muffled scream as it came down, but I had shut my eyes by then.

When I opened my eyes, I was in a room. I could see two rats in the center, one looked like my brother Daniel when he was younger, and the other was me... When I was younger. I was standing in the corner, locked in place, as if I was cemented to the spot. As I watched, I could see my younger form begin to wrestle with my younger brother, Daniel, just as we had always done before we were caught... Slowly, but surely, Daniel got on top and won, just like he always did. But then something happened. He leered at my younger form and his eyes turned a devilish shade of red. I could hear a murmer come from him "The mitochondria have changed. Desperate situations. Let’s see his organs." Then he leaned downward and opened his maw, showing rows and rows of razor sharp teeth. My younger form screamed in terror and tried to fight my brother, but Daniel had already gotten around my younger form’s neck and as the jaws closed and my younger form’s pleas faded, I found myself in a small, narrow corridor.

I held a torch in my right paw, and couldn’t see too far ahead of me. I walked forward and looked to my left and right, all I could see were dead rats, some electrically shocked to death, some cut open and left alone, some died of old age, some from chemical overdosage or poisoning...All of them. All of the rats used in the human’s experiments were lying around on the outskirts of the narrow path I was walking on. I strode further down the path and saw blood caking the ground. I went further and saw a wall, stretching up to eternity. And who was hovering against the wall? My brother Daniel. He reached down for me and pulled me up to him. He smiled to me and said "Leon, why are you running from your own mind? You saw what they did to me. You know I’m still out there, and they know we’re brothers. I will come for you Leon, but be wary of me, for they changed the mitochondria..."

His face fell away, revealing bone and blood. A smile came out across the deformed maw. He lunged for my neck and bit down hard. And as I gasped for air, I woke up screaming.

What did I see? Did I really see the scientists operate on my brother? Did they REALLY give him the same serum as us?

I guess the nightmare could’ve just been fiction... But it was so real...

I love... loved... Daniel so much. He was the one who always cheered me up when times were rough...When I was alone... He was a better friend than anybody else was... And now he’s dead.

I will have my revenge...Someday.

I will do myself a favor and not dwell on it any longer.


Day – January 10, 2000

This journal is almost out of pages. I’ll need to get a new book somehow.

What’s this? Screaming from the halls? I wonder what’s going on...

Poor Jonathan, got beat up by Jenner. I’m very confused right now...

Basically, how they explained to Justin and Nicodemus was this:

Jenner had starting casually insulting Jonathan’s wife, calling her a useless feral animal with no brains or intelligence. Jonathan reacted the way any good husband would... I suppose. He turned around and starting telling Jenner just what he thought about his insults. Jonathan told us, with a smile, that he had told Jenner that just because he was jealous a woman didn’t like him, nonetheless love him, he shouldn’t be poking fun at other people’s brides. Jenner had proceeded, (With very little warning, according to Jonathan) to pick Jonathan up by the neck and slam him into a wall, choking him.

Then Justin and I came in and broke them up.

Why would Jenner DO such a thing? What’s going on inside of his head that’s making him do this? He was normal a little while ago...

As of right now, Jenner is suspended from his council duties until further notice. He’s pretty upset, that’s for sure.

Day – January 16, 2000

I’m on the last page. I have only a little room left...

Nothing much new has happened, Jenner’s back on the council, he’s acting much better now. I’m going to need to find another book to act as my journal... I’m sure I’ll find one sooner or later. The Fitzgibbons MUST have a blank book lying around somewhere!

Well, I’m out of room... Until later, I guess I’m without a journal, and am forced to only read my adventures instead of write them. (I’m smiling).

Justin’s looking over my shoulder. He just noted how small I’m writing. Now he noted how I just mentioned him. Now he’s laughing.

I’m laughing too.

I haven’t laughed in a while. It feels kinda...nice.

Chapter 8

Day – June 11

It took me about two years, but I finally found the spare time to root around through the Fitzgibbon's home to find a new book to act as a journal. It's been a long time, and many things have changed for The Rats of NIMH in the past few years. First of all, the rosebush is becoming more and more dangerous to live in. Combined with the almost infinite number of animals that try breaking in every week, Dragon's unceasing appetite, and the Fitzgibbon's themselves, Justin and Nicodemus both agree we need to start working on some sort of backup plan. A place that we could go if we lost the rosebush.

Jenner opposes this plan greatly. He says he's put too much time into the colony to start making a new one. Jenner's become more and more dangerous over the past few years. He's getting violent if he doesn't get his way with the council, and I've had to pin him against a wall a couple of times myself to keep him from socking me in the maw. Jonathan and Nicodemus seem to be the root of all his hatred, and, coincidentally, they're the ones who are activily working on this plan.

Nicodemus seems convinced that Thorn Valley National Park would be perfect for us to move to if NIMH ever got too close. It's all preservation land, and no airial photographs are allowed, as helicopters are not permitted to fly over the park. I don't really like the idea, but we really don't have a choice. Not if NIMH were to be on our trail.

I suppose I'll sum up the past few years and where I managed to get this book from.

Mr. Ages doesn't live with us anymore. He openly told us he "Didn't like the smell" of the rosebush. Actually he just feels uncomfortable living with a whole colony of rats. He moved into an old, abandoned threshing machine after having a few Guards clear it out for him and move his equipment there. A nice reward for making all that sleeping powder for us to use on Dragon. Jack is in charge of our infirmary now, but Mr. Ages took most of the medicinal tools, so if we need medicine, one of us will have to hike up to the thresher and get it.

Jonathan doesn't live here anymore, either. He now lives with Elizabeth (Jonathan told us to refer to her as "Mrs. Brisby" so I suppose I will) in her cinderblock home on the farm. The cinderblock is placed yearly by the Fitzgibbons to help separate certain plants from spreading out of their designated area. It gets mutilated every year by the farmer plowing his fields, but Jonathan and the Mrs. go to another home for the Summer, then come back for Fall, Winter, and stay until moving day, when all of the frost is off of the ground. Intricate little thing she had going before Jonathan came in. Every year they've built their house in the cinderblock and it doesn't look like it'll change anytime soon. Jonathan told us lately he wants a family. It would be a shame, though, as Jonathan is still nervous about revealing his past to his wife and we wouldn't get to meet any of his children... If he has any. Jonathan says Mrs. Brisby (I can't believe he forced me to write it like this...) is nervous about having a family because her life was hectic enough caring for simply herself, she couldn't imagine having to care for any others...

Well, not much more I can say on that.

I met a very nice rat in the Guard about four months ago. Her name is Jessica, she is a Second Generation Rat of NIMH (Proper wording, but we usually refer to them as Second gens). Her parents are Alan and Marla, both much older than me when they got the injections, therefore making Jessica stop her aging about where mine stopped. It all evens out I guess. For better or for worse.

She wasn't the first female Guard we've had, another Second gen named Ashley was the first female Guard. More followed. Jessica is a rookie Guard, and I help teach her. She really likes me, and I like her, too. I don't have time to get into any more details, so I'll proceed with other news.

Justin started calling me "Kid" and even once dared to call me "Tiger"; it’s as if he thinks I’m some sort of subordinate of his. Well, I’ve been in the Guards as long as he has, so there is really no reason for it. When I mentioned it to him he changed the subject quickly. Why would he single me out like that? I think it’s REALLY unfair. I’ve certainly received a certain level of critisism, especially from Jenner. He comes and watched the practices and training sessions sometimes, and even practices swordsmanship with Justin.

Jenner is unusually good at it. Uh oh..

Well, the past few years work-wise have quite full. It seems every other day we’ve got another feral attempting to break into the rosebush, or we’ve got a giant spider found spinning it’s web in the storage areas, or a centipede was found near the stream, EVERY silly little thing like that calls for the Guards.

The most exciting thing that happened to me since my last entry was when a big weasel managed to knock down the sentry and squeeze in. It took nearly a dozen Guards to bring the thing down. Then, when we went to drag it out the back way, (By a blueberry patch near the forest) the weasel got right up and smacked me clear across the hallway. The weasel left on it’s own by rampaging through the back entrance, and I was left a bleeding and gibbering wreck against the far wall.

When the elevator collapsed under me, that was one thing. I was so broken up I couldn’t feel anything. This time, I’d been slashed across the chest and was bleeding horribly. I most certainly felt that.

Anyways, I’m fine now. That all happened about three weeks after my last entry. Since then, I’ve been rather busy with the Guards, and with my other job, finding certain proposed items around the farm and farmhouse, then calling in the pickup team to go retrieve it. I found this book during one of my escapades inside the farmhouse. I’d write it down now, but Ashely’s calling me... Time for practice!

Day – June 12

As you’ve noticed, I’ve stopped writing the dates. I really didn’t like them. When I went to put in the date for the first entry of this book, I saw just how much time had flown by, how many things I had forgotten or omitted from the past two years, every little thing that had changed me in the past two years had been summarized into not even three pages of this book... And the pages in this book are very small. I didn’t want to put in the date because it restricted this book to mere history, not things that had happened to me, or changed me, or not even my own thoughts. When others read this... Eigth, ninth, maybe even tenth generation rats would only see the dates and put the words on the date. Without the date, they put the words to pictures. And that’s what counts. Being able to reenact the events of my life, so they know what it was like to live here and now.

Well, enough rambling, you’re probably interested in how I got my paws on this next book.

Well, it was strange how it happened. I was sent in by the council to find a mirror. The catch? It needed to be small enough to go in through the main entrance, since the larger side entrance had recently caved in. (DARN! We can’t even fix it it’s that bad!) So it was suggested I try to find a toy mirror, or look in the antique birdcage in the kitchen, where one of the retrieval teams had mentioned seeing one.

Not wanting to risk falling down from the birdcage and paralyzing myself in a place where Dragon could make mincemeat out of me, I decided I would look at the dollhouse first. The dollhouse was always something that confused me, seeing as how the Fitzgibbons only have two boys. I thought it might be for guests, but then I realized that it might be a collectible of some kind. A whatchamacallit... An antique. It didn’t really matter to me either way, all I needed to know was where a mirror would be located that could be brought in through the front entrance.

Before setting off, I went to Jack and got my allotment of sleeping powder for Dragon. I always add a pawful more to the envelope, just in case it’s not enough. Ever since my confrontation with Dragon, I figured I could never be too careful. I gave the powder to Jonathan (It was his turn that day) and he ran into the kitchen, dumped it in Dragon’s bowl, and ran back. Without a hitch as always. He’s even started making a joke out of it. He’d stop and pretend to tie his shoe like a human would, while I (Or whoever was with him) would go crazy motioning for him to come back before Dragon got to him. Jonathan honestly scares me sometimes.

After Jonathan went back to Mrs. Brisby (Yes, I still have to call her that. I’m under oath by Jonathan) and the cinderblock, I waited until Dragon was fast asleep, took off my tunic and hung it neatly, then entered the farmhouse from the hole in the floor.

The farmhouse interior was, as usual, very dark and spooky. I knew exactly where to start. The same room Dragon had trapped me in. It contained the dollhouse and, hopefully, the mirror I was looking for.

I walked straight into the kitchen, not even giving Dragon a passing glance, and turned down the dark hallway. The plants’ reflections due to the moonlight cast eerie illuminations on the walls of the hall. As usual, I stayed glued to the wall, so I wouldn’t be seen by anyone coming downstairs. I crept into the playroom (As I suppose it should be called) and examined the dollhouse.

To a human, the dollhouse would be rather small. Maybe about knee height to a grown human. To a rat like me, though, it towered above me. I was about the size of one of the play-people inside, so I could walk up the stairs, sit in the chairs, do just about anything I wanted to. First of all, I decided to take some creative liberty and walk through the front door. Then I walked up the stairs to the second floor, where I knew the play-bathroom was. It had only been a few days ago that I had been asked to find a relatively small amount of porcelain. So I directed the retrieval team to the sink in the dollhouse bathroom and they had whisked it away. Hanging over where the sink would’ve been was, thank goodness, a small oval mirror. My reflection was cast hazily into the smooth glass by the moonlight, which was coming in through a window directly behind me. I decided I’d save the retrieval team some time and nabbed the mirror myself. After all, it was only about three inches across. I tucked it under my arm and turned to leave, but as I walked out of the bathroom, I noticed something. On the far wall, in the play-bedroom, there was a plastic bookcase. I’d never noticed it before, but the books in the bookcase were real. I jogged over out of curiosity and took a book off of the shelves. The first book had no inside, it was just a plastic frame. The second one had pages that were glued together. But the third one was perfect! It was the largest book in the case, and it had lots of blank paper inside. So I grabbed the book, too, then leapt off of the second floor of the playhouse to the actual farmhouse floor. Rats can fall a great distance and not get hurt, I’ve even heard that some rats can fall up to fifty feet and not get hurt. They can also jump very high, too, but I’ve never been able to get the right amount of spring into my legs.

Well, now I’ve got my journal, and that makes me rather happy.

Day – June 15

Nicodemus has spent the last few days finishing up on his spinning mirror thing with the help of our chief engineer, Arthur. Nicodemus has taken a special interest in the stone that he has. He told be about how he used it after I had had my little mishap with it.

Basically, he told me that the power he used originated from a specific injection he got at NIMH. The scientists called it Nylcon, and it increased interior and exterior brain wave patterns signifigantly. Nicodemus told me that Doctor Schultz had added Nylcon to every rat in the experiment group. Some rats received more of it than others, and some rats could use it more effectivily than others. He congratulated me on being able to use my own abilities with only a small jump start. The jump start, Nicodemus told me, was caused by his own power. Nicodemus was injected with the most Nylcon than any other rat. He was injected with so much, in fact, that it had become a permanent resident in his body and blood. He told me he could use the power it gave him whenever he wanted, but it would deteriorate his physical form eventually.

Nicodemus told me that over the past few years, ever since I destroyed his office, that he had been trying to control the power that the Nyclon gave him. He said that at first, he needed the stone as a kind of medium. He would have a type of "Psychic overload" and his brain patterns would slow down until Nicodemus either got rid of it somehow, or died from massive brain tumors due to the extraordinary powers. Nicodemus had been using the stone to channel all of his excess power so he didn’t ever have a psychic short. Now, though, he says he doesn’t need the stone anymore because his power is now under control. Despite this, the stone is filled with raw energy, which can only be unlocked by somebody with the powers caused by Nylcon. When I held the stone, the Nylcon in my body started reacting and caused a chain reaction, using the energy in the stone as a kind of ignition, the Nyclon took over. I privately think that this Nylcon wouldn’t work in every creature. Perhaps it has something to do with the other injections NIMH gave us? Maybe not...

Nicodemus thinks that there were mice that were injected with the Nylcon, too. Specifically, he thinks Jonathan was injected with it the most. Not as much as Nicodemus was, but close to it.

I did have a question for Nicodemus, though: "Would the powers be present in any children or even perhaps a mate?"

His answer: "Most likely." His reason: "The Nylcon flows freely through the body and everything in it, this would include the genes and DNA patterns that would be transferred to a mate eventually." Specifically, he mentioned Mrs. Brisby. He knew that she would inherit the power Jonathan has, and maybe even more so. Maybe it would act differently inside her body? Maybe the stimulus to trigger it would be different? Maybe she would need the stone like I did?

I hurts my head to think about all the possibilities right now. It’s late, and I’m tuckered out. I’ve got my own room now. Well, not exactly my own. It’s split in half by a partition. I share it with a rat named Tallor. He’s really nice and we think along the same plane. He even plays chess with me! We’re really good friends, mainly because great minds think alike, and we most certainly do.

Tallor works under Arthur. He’s very handy with electric machinery and has even told me he is working under rule of Jenner to build a projectile weapon for the Guards, a crossbow. Jenner’s not a member of the Guards, so I have my suspicions, but Tallor insists Jenner’s only doing it to surprise Justin. I sure hope it’s just a friendly present... I wouldn’t doubt for a minute that Jenner was planning to hurt Justin, maybe even kill him. Nicodemus is very close to Justin. He acts almost like a father to him. Justin has named his new family, Nicodemus his father, me as his little brother (I resent the term but I’m touched all the same), and a Marla as a mother. Marla is a sweet rat, her daughter Jessica is a very good friend of mine (Alright, alright, we’re boyfriend/girlfriend!!) and she has obviously been raised well. Justin is a kind rat, but he is so lonely all the time. His jokes are occasionally empty and muddled, mainly because he can’t test them on a family first. I feel so sorry for him, he and I are becoming best of friends now and I hate seeing him so down in the dumps. Maybe it was high time I did something nice for him? Maybe it is. I’ll need to think about that. Tomorrow.

It’s very late, and Tallor is moaning for me to turn off my light (electric of course) so he can get some sleep. Alright, I think that’s enough writing for tonight.

Chapter 9

Day – July 18

Excuse the long lapse of time between my last entry, I’ve been very busy. Things are just getting stranger and stranger... And Jenner is starting to scare me. He broke Justin’s arm in a sword-spar of theirs yesterday. I was there to witness the whole thing.

Every Tuesday, Justin and Jenner get together for some training. This Tuesday, however, Justin needed to postpone it because the Guards had their training. So Jenner waited patiently by the door of the gym/recreational room until training was over. Then he walked up to Justin (Who’s back was turned) and pushed him jokingly. Justin, being about half the size of Jenner, pitched forward but fortunately caught his balance. As he turned around, he saw Jenner’s smiling form draw his sword and shout "C’mon you coward, hit me if you can!"

Justin’s eyes were lit up in half fear-half childish revenge and he unsheathed his own sword.

Training had just finished before Jenner challenged Justin, and I was the last one to leave. Before I left I turned to witness the two fighting their deadly ballet. Jenner struck first, as he always did. Right then, I knew Justin would lose. Justin’s wrist was down too low and his sword would be knocked away in no time at all. Justin, being a better swordsman than myself, caught his mistake, but did not have enough time to correct it before Jenner pummeled Justin’s arm with a balled fist and Justin’s sword flew harmlessly against the dirt packed wall.

I could see Justin smiling as he breathed a sigh of defeat and turned to face Jenner. Jenner, however, had other plans. I could hear him whisper "You lost, Justin. Losers DIE." Justin’s gaze snapped up at this statement, but Jenner was already on top of him. He pushed Justin down with all of his might, sending the poor rat tumbling to the floor. Justin looked up in shock and horror and Jenner bent down at grabbed him by the collar of his tunic "Dear Justin..." He said smiling "You always lose to me. You impudent fool. When will you learn you just can’t beat me? Now... let me show you something..."

Jenner lifted Justin up, then twisted his arm around into a rather painful looking arm lock. It was at this time when I realized Jenner wasn’t playing around. As I quickly considered my options, I could hear Justin’s screams of pain and agony, then I heard a lout, wet SNAP. Justin’s screams turned into bawls of torment, then his cries were cut off completely as Jenner then proceeded to put Justin in a choke hold. Jenner was actually going to kill Justin! I looked nervously down at my sword, trying to decide whether I could get it out of the sheath without alerting Jenner. If he heard me and twitched his arm the slightest bit... Justin could die.

I grit my teeth in indecision and I turned towards Jenner, who was whispering in Justin’s ear, "If I had it my way, Justin, I’d be three feet tall with huge claws, so I could crush your pathetic little head in!" I grimaced, then I looked down at my own paws. Of course! What the heck had I been teaching myself all these years? I balled up my paw into a fist, retracted my arm sideways behind my left shoulder, and brought the downward punch squarely on Jenner’s neck. Ages would go on to say that I’d temporarily damaged his upper PSIS: some bone-ligament thing. I didn’t really care what I’d just hit. All I heard a loud thump, then a moan, then Jenner’s arm unsnaked itself from around Justin’s neck and fell to the floor along with the rest of his body.

Justin choked and gasped for air, but as he took deep breaths the pain in his arm came back quickly. Justin’s throat was too damaged to say anything, so I told him to lie down and try to relax while I got Jack and Gabriel (Gabriel is now a kind of assistant to Jack). Justin only half nodded, then blacked out completely from the pain in his arm and the loss of oxygen from the chokehold. I also checked to make sure Jenner was still alive, which he was.

After Justin was safe in the infirmary and Jenner was in a holding room, I tried to piece together why Jenner would do such a thing. He’s aggressive, yes... but attempted murder? It was not like him at ALL. Justin came out of his blackout a few minutes after he was put into his infirmary bed. He could talk as well, albeit a little hoarse. He was stunned to find out Jenner had done such a thing, as was the entire community. The only person who is vouching for Jenner is Sullivan. Sullivan, being the stupid egotistical rat he is, said that Jenner was most likely having a bad day. For ATTEMPTED MURDER??? Yeah, right.

Well, here comes Jessica, she must have some news on what Jenner had to say. Jenner was being "interrogated" by Brutus. Jenner fears Brutus. As a matter of fact, Brutus is the only rat in the valley that scares Jenner. I think it’s mainly his size and power that look intimidating. In actuality, Brutus is a kind guy who simply LOVES to play blackjack with me in the dining area...

Better stop writing, Jessica looks impatient as she’s waiting for me to finish writing.

Day – July 18 (Night)

I just got through talking with Jenner. Apparently he feels incredible remorse for what he had done... And he most certainly wasn’t acting it. Jenner and crying don’t go together too well. Jenner said that when he was at the gym, waiting for the Guards to finish, he felt something very strange: He described it as a burning sensation in his chest, then it floated through his body and limbs, and he said it made him feel powerful. Very powerful indeed. So powerful, he decided to show it by breaking some limbs and ending some lives. Alright, that’s not how he put it, but he did say he felt compelled to hurt Justin physically. Perhaps even kill him right there in the recreational room. Jenner then cupped his paws over his muzzle and cried muttering things like "Oh God, I’m so sorry" and "Justin, will you ever forgive me...?".

I wanted to get to the bottom of this. Why hadn’t Nicodemus showed up for any of Jenner’s interrogations? Jenner’s description of the burning greatly resembled the time I held the amulet in my paws... Did Nicodemus have something to do with this? I’m going to find out now before I go to sleep.

Nicodemus wasn’t answering his door, so I took the liberty of walking in without invite. The room is completely devoid of life, nay me. I can see his throne, his journal... His journal? Maybe that will provide to insight...

No... the last journal entry is dated yesterday and it’s talking mainly about the PLAN. If Nicodemus hasn’t written in his journal today, that means Nicodemus must be out somewhere right now. Could he be seeing Jenner now? It’s so late, though...

Nicodemus’ private quarters are empty, too. He’s never left his office like this... Never...

Back out in the main room, the only thing that fully catches my attention is Nicodemus’ spinning mirror device. I wonder how he uses it? He said something about just giving it a little power and it will magnify it until... Well... Until whatever was supposed to happen, happened, I guess.

Nicodemus DID say I had some power left in me from when I held the amulet... Should I try it out? Would Nicodemus mind? Yes... That’s a dumb question.

I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try it out.

Day - June 1

Itsfivedays somethingaboutfivedays. FIVE DAYS. jenner heisallbadinside.

Friday, June 13 (No year per Leon’s request)

Unfortunately, Leon is unable to write this entry into his own journal. I, Justin, will be writing what Leon tells me to write.

Leon wants me to write down everything that has happened during the last few days.

First, Leon used Nicodemus’ spinning mirror thingie that he had Arthur build for him when he shouldn’t have. I have yet to know why he did it, why he tried to use it.

When we found him, he was laying unconscious on the floor of Nicodemus’ office, his journal beside him with a few lines scribbled into it, and he was not breathing. We rushed him to the infirmary where Jack applied CPR and got him breathing again, but he didn’t wake up.

Leon slept for exactly one week, then he began to mumble things. He’d start screaming at all hours of the night about some kind of accident that would kill Nicodemus in the near future. I think it’s somewhat delusional, and Nicodemus fully agrees with me. When Leon awakened a few days ago, Nicodemus had a closed-door session with him here at the infirmary. What happened during it was for Leon’s ears only.

Leon claims several different things throughout his almost subconscious ranting and raving. He claims he knows how NIMH made us the way we are, he says his brother, Daniel, is on the hunt for him and will attempt to kill him, he says Nicodemus will be murdered in the future, which I doubt. Nobody here would want to kill him. He also said that Jenner was going to try and steal the stone for his own personal purposes after the community sees it’s true power. This I don’t understand one bit. Jenner wouldn’t need the stone. Bastard may have busted up my arm and attempted to kill me, but he had some kind of nervous breakdown. The loss of his son must be harder on him than we all thought.

Out of respect for Leon, I just want him to know I didn’t read anything in this journal prior to this incident in question.

Don’t worry, Leon, I still remember how troubled you were at the mansion about letting me see this book. All your most personal thoughts and opinions in here... I can only trust you haven’t insulted me. Darn... He fainted again.

Sleep well, Leon. Hopefully your energy will return soon and you can write some more in this journal.


Recorded by -

JUSTIN – Captain of the Guards

(Sorry Leon, I couldn’t resist the title)

Day – July 28

It has been a very long while since I have had the interest to write in this journal.

As Justin wrote in the last entry, I have not exactly had the greatest of months. The things I saw while my soul (Yes, my soul!) was inside the stone... It was unbelievable. Well, to an extent I suppose. I believe that the things I saw were true. So, what did I see? I saw the future and the past at once, it all whizzed by me, but I caught everything. I tried to tell Justin but he won’t believe me. In his heart, Justin still doesn’t feel any anger towards Jenner. Maybe he does PHYSICALLY for breaking his arm, but Justin can’t ever hate Jenner, Jenner was a good friend of his before NIMH, and even after they’ve been getting along (Not talking politics and about the plan, of course.).

I saw Jenner smiling over a dead body, and the body was Nicodemus’. I saw it all right as it happened... Nicodemus was in the sky, his eyes trained on something ahead of him, and then I heard the sound of rats screaming and metal against metal, then Nicodemus was dead. I think Jenner will try to kill Nicodemus... But why? Is he really that crazy? He DID try to kill Justin...

I also saw Jenner alone in his apartment (He shares one by himself) crying and mumbling "Steven... Oh God Steven... Please don’t leave me... I shouldn’t have told you to come..."

And as I watched, I saw a red flash, and then Jenner had Nicodemus’ stone in his paws, and the area behind Jenner lit up into flames. Destruction and mayhem ensued. I do vaguely remember something he said. It sounded like "Bleak looks in the future and sees me. When it does, five days." Of course, it was extremely faint (or extremely loud, I can’t even remember) so I couldn’t catch the whole thing. The word "Bleak" was important for some reason. Bleak... Bleak...

Lastly... I figured out something quite interesting to Mr. Ages, Jack, and Gabriel. I think I might know how NIMH made us how we are. And also how we (Well, some of us) have special abilities.

Well, instead of describing the dream (Which inplanted this information in my head) I will describe the facts:

All creatures on Earth have mitochondria in them. Mitochondria is a valuable part of the cell of a living organism. They create ATP, which stands for Adenosine Triphosphate. Apparently, mitochondria have a different DNA pattern than the rest of the body does. It’s almost as if it’s a completely different organism. By reading some of Ages’ medical journals, I figured out that some scientists think that mitochondria was a cellular parasite that entered some of the earliest organisms. The mitochondral parasite worked together with the rest of the cell in the organism and eventually perfected a form of symbiosis through several thousand years. The mitochondria was still there, though. It was in the cell and was technically "dormant". Mitochondria cause aging and, when in the right conditions, can alter one’s mental capacity and learning rate, albeit rare.

Evidently, the scientists at NIMH were studying the possible techniques of "Awakening" the mitochondria to see what it’s original purpose was on Earth. The best way to do it was to catch some rats and mice (Which use a lot of ATP in mitochondria) and inject them continuously with stimulants that would help slowly awaken the mitochondria.

When the mitochondria awakened in each one of us, it realized that a younger host would be a better host, so they halted aging. They apparently did this by having ADP, GTP, CTP, and something else ( I forgot...) replace the tasks that ATP would normally cover. The ATP was stored away in the cells. Apparently, ATP generates something near 200,000 volts per cubic centimeter, so that’s a lot of energy.

Aging, I think, is caused by degenrating DNA. The ADP, GTP, CTP, and the other one are the main ingrediants in DNA and it’s counterpart RNA, so that means that if they were used for energy instead of DNA, the organism would stop againg. But the rats here are having children, so that means there is still DNA being made somewhere somehow.

The energy inside us that allows us to move things with our mind and even make things warmer (To the point of burning) is caused by the 200,000 volts pcc in mitochondria. That energy is stored away in the mitochondria and whenever it is used, the mitochondria die off. More are made, but they are less powerful. They rebuild themselves every now and then, though.

Since Nicodemus was given the most Nylcon (The scientific term for the serum that does this mitochondrial transformation) he will be the most powerful "subject", but his mitochondria will also use up more energy which will in turn, make him appear older than his actual biological age. Actually, biological age doesn’t count anymore. I should have been dead a few years ago.

Well, it’s late, and I need to get to sleep before Tallor starts complaining.

Day – August 1

I’ve not been writing as much as I want too, but I need to set my priorities straight. Nicodemus was very cross with me before, but now he seems interested in what I saw while I was supposedly "inside" the stone thanks to the mirror. Nicodemus is not too emphatical about my forseen future about his death, but more of the one involving me and brother. He thinks that it might very well be true. He says that late one night at NIMH, he saw a doctor take Daniel out of his cage below ours and take him to a table, where a quick and hopefully painless operation occurred. Nicodemus told me he saw the doctor inject my brother with an extremely large dose of Nylcon, then he placed something metallic inside him, then placed him back into his cage.

I was quite skeptical about this story at first. I asked him

"Why didn’t you tell me about it?" He said "Because I did not know he was your brother. When we spoke later on, after our escape, I realized then that the description you gave me matched the rat I saw."

Then I asked "Why didn’t you tell me then, then?" He simply sighed and shook his head and replied "Because I knew his chances of living through that dose were slim to none. He had already gotten knocked out by the time he was being put back into his cage. I assumed that he died, but now I am not too sure. I didn’t tell you because you of all people needed some hope. You’d lost your whole family, and I know how that can hurt, but you were one of the youngest, if not, the youngest, one of us all. I caught some emotions from you at the mansion and even here that just solidifed my reasons for not telling you about your brother. Will you forgive me?"

I nodded solemnly. It was then, for a quick flash, I realized I didn’t want to be a rat. I would have rather been a human. I wouldn’t have had to do all this running, I wouldn’t have had to be caged up for months upon months... Being a human would have been easier in the end. Nicodemus agreed with me, but he also reminded me that with hard work and determination, we would pull through being happy.

Nicodemus smiled at me and said "Leon, five years from now, when we’re all in Thorn Valley together, we’ll look back on this conversation and smile. We will be so happy to have what we have when we’re not stealing our lives anymore."

I smiled and nodded, then I remembered something, "Nicodemus, when Jenner attacked Justin... I mean, after he attacked Justin... He told me that he felt some warm, tingling feeling in his chest that made him feel powerful..." I hadn’t completed the question (it wasn’t even a question at that point) but Nicodemus already knew where I was going with it. He narrowed his eyes a little bit and leaned inwards, "You suspect that the stone has something to do with this, do you not?"

I was a little surprised, "Uh... Maybe. I’m just guessing."

Nicodemus leaned back and his eyes returned to their normal state (if glowing eyes are your standard fare), "Leon, I am going to be quite frank with you: Jenner held the stone..." He paused, then looked at me again, "But nothing of relative importance came out of it. Understood?"

I nodded slowly, not liking this side of Nicodemus, "Whatever you say..."

He smiled, "Good, good. I will be seeing you soon, then."

And I went to my apartment.

As much as I miss Daniel, I don’t think I could stand seeing him again after all this time... I loved my brother, but him here might not be good.

I’m getting my hopes up. I need to go to Guards practice now. Justin’s arm is fully healed, by the way, and he and Jenner have made up. Jenner is now back on the council and activily opposing the Plan, but he’s still as cheery as ever. Well, Jessica’s waiting for me. No denying it, I need to go to practice. If I don’t practice, I’ll lose my edge.

Chapter 10

Day – June 10

My days are finally beginning to include long stretches of monotony. I like that quite a bit. Well, my every day schedule includes the following activities in the order they’re written:

Wake up. Fall back asleep under the notion I don’t have anything important to do that day. Wake up a few minutes later. Get out of bed and not wake up Tallor (If I do wake him up, he’s grumpy for the rest of the day). Get dressed in my Guards tunic (My only pair of good clothes now) and go to the cafeteria area to get some breakfast (The cafeteria is the newest portion of the complex. It lies near the storage areas and is basically a big room with a few rats dishing out some rations for the rest of us), which usually consists of some type of grain, or, if we’re lucky, a vegetable, like corn. After breakfast, I go back to my apartment and play a game with Tallor. We just finished a two day long game of chess, so we moved to something else: checkers. We tried Mah Jong one day, but I didn’t find it too much fun. After our game, it’s usually some time around 11:00 AM. I take the time from there to lunch and about an hour afterwards to do stuff with Jessica. Her secondary job besides being a Guard is helping Arthur with his dirty work. An unlikely profession for someone like her, but she’s tough and I shouldn’t barge in like that. When she finishes up, we usually find ourselves going for walks in the forest, taking the back entrance outside, and talking about our pasts and childhoods (Jessica’s is rather short, considering she was born at the rosebush), what happened during the day, and plan for the next day’s activities. When we discuss childhood, I find myself omitting a lot of stuff. Everything about my brother, Daniel, is gone. I don’t like to talk about him...

After we get back from our walk, we get some lunch (Which is usually the same thing as breakfast) and go back to our respective jobs. Jessica works most of the day, starting really early and finishing up relativily early in the night, around five or six PM. My job, on the other paw, starts after lunch and takes me occassionally into the next day. My last "mission" was to find six flathead screws and the screws had to be a certain size. I can’t recall the size, exactly, but it was something really ludicrious. I spent the whole night and a few hours of the next day (twilight hours, of course) rumaging around the Fitzgibbon’s garage before I found the right screws and got them all back to the rosebush safe and sound.

Arthur is working on another entrance/exit from the rosebush. He mentioned at the last council meeting that he noticed a peculiar colored root growing near the waterfall by the mill, and the same colored root could be found running along the bottom of the stream that goes through the rosebush. Arthur said that he might be able to dig through the levels and create a service entrance to lug things in and out. The council agreed to it and Arthur (And Jessica) is digging away at the rocks and dirt in the sub-sub basement levels.

Anyways, after I get back from work I go straight to bed. I am beginning to have nightmares about Daniel regularly now. His face used to be one I loved and cared for... But now it has become something I fear. I see him trudging around the forests at night in my dreams, hunting for me... I don’t want to know whether or not he’s really out there, but if he is, I’m not ready for him. I never will be. Daniel... Please... Leave me alone...

Day – June 14

Mr. Ages triumphantly told me that the medical books I had stolen for him on one of my "Missions," combined with his prior knowledge from the mansion were all helping him tremendously with his research on a better sleeping powder. Something to do with boiling the contents with something? I don’t know, and I honestly couldn’t care less. As long as Dragon doesn’t kill me.

Jonathan has elected to do all of the running to Dragon’s bowl. Fine by me. He’s a lot faster than I am and doesn’t seem to care about how he risks his life every time he does it. He will jokingly pretend he’s in slow motion sometimes, or will even go so far as to run the long way around Dragon’s bowl. He’s scaring me some, and if his wife knew about it, she’d probably have a heart attack. I wonder if Jonathan told her about his past yet... I doubt it.

Day – June 23

I’m sorry I haven’t written in this journal for a few weeks, but nothing had been going on. Not until today, that is. Jessica told me what happened...

While Arthur and his crew was working on the tunnel to the mill, one of the rats had mistakingly knocked over a support beam and the ceiling collapsed on a rat named Rion. Arthur and the rest of the group worked frantically to dig him out, but when they finally did, he had already stopped breathing. Arthur had told his group to stay put and he went to fetch Jack and Nicodemus. Ages was out of the rosebush, so he couldn’t have helped too much.

Jack tried everything, he tried CPR, mouth to mouth, all he knew... But it was too late. Then Nicodemus gently moved Jack aside and produced something from his cloak. It was the stone. Nicodemus had brought the stone with him, but why? What good would it do?

Jessica then told me that Nicodemus closed his eyes and held the stone away from him, then he and Rion were bathed in a bright red glow, then Rion choked in air. He was alive! Jessica said that she, and the rest of the group, was in pure disbelief. Nicodemus spoke to them all, reminding them not to let the incident regarding the stone be told to anyone else. Nicodemus had never told me that the stone could bring people back from the dead! I almost fell out of my chair when I heard that. I MUST speak with Nicodemus later...

Jessica told me, though, because she knew I had had my own share of troubles with the stone before, but she also told me something afterwards. She told me that she saw some rats running up the ramp to the first level from the sub-sub basement where the incident took place. Those rats looked like Jenner and some female she couldn’t identify.

Had Jenner seen the stone bring Rion back from the dead?!? If he did... What would he use it for?

WAIT!! This is just like my vision!!! When Jenner sees the true power of the stone he will try to use it for personal purposes... WHAT DOES IT MEAN??

I think I need to speak with Nicodemus now.

Day - June 23 (Night)

Nicodemus thinks I’m right. Finally. I told him what Jessica had told me, and Nicodemus promised not to be upset at her for blabbing to me. Nicodemus told me he knew she would, actually. I thought he was lying, just to sound all mystical, but now I’m not too sure. He told me that when he used his mirror, he could see Jenner talking to somebody while he was alone in his room... Someone named Steven. His son.

Is Jenner going mad? He seems fine when I see him in the halls and at council meetings, but what Nicodemus showed me just completely disturbed me. Jenner was sitting on the floor of his apartment, rocking back and forth. He was crying, tears streaming down his face, and he was moaning "Steven... Can I bring you back, my son? You were all I ever had... You were my light... And now..." Then a new batch of tears would show up. Then I heard a knock at Jenner’s door, and Victoria’s voice could be heard "Jenner, are you in there? Are you okay?"

Jenner immediately stopped crying, wiped his tears away, and opened the door to let Victoria inside. He didn’t look a single bit sad or angry. As a matter of fact, Jenner looked emotionless. Victoria must like that because they’re spending a lot of time with each other now, her and Jenner.

I hope Jenner’s not going mad...

Since my prediction about Jenner came true, Nicodemus is worried about my others... Like about Daniel and about about Nicodemus’ death. Nicodemus thinks that Daniel’s appearance is more important than my prediction of his death because Daniel is more prominent in my mind. He inhabits my dreams and my fears.

Nicodemus thinks that if I face Daniel, my nightmares will stop, but I’m not sure about one thing:

Who or what is Daniel representing? Is Daniel merely a metaphor for my past? Should I forget Daniel and therefore my past? Or in Daniel really out there to kill me. I think it’s just a metaphor for me to forget my past.

I don’t write about it, but I still get those stomach cramps when I think about the needles and shots from NIMH, and especially my overdose of that drug. Ages and Nicodemus think that my mitochondria don’t like the feeling they get when I think about the shots, so they cause a chain of reactions to give me a stomach cramp and forget about it. It’s weird having microscopic organisms be ruling my life and even my thoughts. Oh well... It’s not like I MISS thinking about NIMH... It’s just always there, and it’s not going to be easy to forget. For now at least.

Time for some sleep. I’m dog-tired and Tallor’s angry at me for not turning out the light half an hour ago. Well, tomorrow’s another day of practice, council meetings, and late nights.

Fun fun fun.

Day – June 26

I ran into Jenner and Victoria today near the meeting hall. It was one of the most awkward moments I can remember in recent times. I was walking past the grain storage vaults and then I saw Jenner and Victoria coming around the bend, and we met in front of the hall doors. He forced a smile and looked quickly at Victoria, "My dear, I don’t believe you and Leon have had a proper introduction."

She was a big rat, especially for a female. They don’t get to her size naturally.

Victoria had a grey coat of fur with a white splash across her lower jaw. Hints of black fur were also noticeable near her right eye, like she was wearing a small eyepatch.

She smiled broadly, revealing her sharp teeth, "No, love, I haven’t." She held out a paw for a handshake. Weird human custom.

I took her paw in mine and she clasped it shut, squeezing unaturally hard, "I am Victoria, Leon. I work with Jenner’s politics, and I also know a thing or two about medicine. Though it’s not a common hobby of mine."

I was biting my tongue so I wouldn’t scream – The bones in my paw were close to breaking, "Well, that’s wonderful. I’m a lieutenant in th-" She cut me off, prolonging the conversation on purpose. She was taking some perverse glee in crushing my paw, "The Guards, yes I know. Jenner told me all about you. A pleasure to finally meet you." She released my paw with a quick jerk and I drew it back instantaneously, "Pleasure’s mine... Victoria." I managed, "That’s quite a grip you’ve got there."

She smiled wider. I noticed that Jenner was holding back a laugh, "She does, doesn’t she? So many people are declining handshakes now. It’s a shame, really."

I blinked in confusion, not moving, "Uh... Quite."

Victoria cleared her throat, "Well, Leon, we’ll let you get back to whatever it is you were doing. Important Guards business, I’m sure."

I grinned, not letting her blatant sarcasm get to me, "Are you?" Her smile dropped a notch. Jenner’s eyes flashed with anger for a second. The last thing I wanted was these two getting ticked at me, so I quickly followed it up, "I’m not on duty for a few more hours. I was just heading to meet with Justin."

Jenner forced another smile – a habit he was good at, "Oh, well, that IS important, so we’ll be off. Good day, Leon."

Victoria smiled, "Yes, good day. And a pleasure to meet you." She stuck her paw out again for another handshake. She must have thought I was an idiot. Or a human.

I grinned, "Nothing personal, Victoria. I might have to use this paw later on." Jenner chuckled, "What, Victoria’s grip too strong for you?"

Before I could come up with a witty comeback, Jenner and Victoria had walked past me, heading for the elevator.

When I stepped into Justin’s small office near the living quarters, I told him about what happened. He just laughed, "You shook her paw? Nobody’s told you how she almost breaks everybody else’s paw? I mean, c’mon, you couldn’t figure out that she might be strong just by looking at her?" I rolled my eyes, "She stuck her paw out. I shook it. Big deal."

Justin shook his head, the chuckles dying away, "Who knows... Might be."

I raised an eyebrow, "Hmm?"

He shrugged and sat down at his small desk, "Might be a big deal later. It’s worth asking Nicodemus sometime. Victoria doesn’t seem like the most savory of individuals."

I agreed. Victoria would probably be as big of an issue as Jenner. Maybe more.

Don’t fear the snake – Fear the fangs that do the work: Victoria might just be those fangs for Jenner’s work. I’ll have to try and keep an eye on her.

Day – July 1

Well, today’s another day. And to make it better, I don’t have a job tonight. Jenner told me specifically last night that he wouldn’t need me tonight, so I have the night off. Guards practice is today, though, but that’s not until later on in the afternoon. The incident that happened a few days ago with me and Victoria was apparently forgotten. After all, Jenner gave me the night off, right?

In practice, we’re focusing more on sword fighting than close quarters combat stuff. Justin, as the Captain, told me he still wants me to work on my moves so I can teach the class later on. Justin and I are what you may call best friends. You can tell by how we argue with eachother. At practice, when I’m doing something wrong, like my grip is the wrong way or something, Justin will come over and correct it, then my grip will get messed up again. Justin will come over and shoot me an exasperated look, then fix it again. Sure enough, after a few more minutes my grip will be wrong again. That’s the point where Justin comes over to me and brings me to one side to spar with him. If my grip was wrong, Justin would be able to knock away my sword. He’d smile at me and shake his head, never taking his eyes off me, (After his ordeal with Jenner he’s developed a habit of never looking away from his opponent, even after he wins or loses) then he’d come over to me and say something like, "Okay, Leon, you know what you need to fix now?" I’d say "Yes, Justin, no problem." And be back in the ranks before you knew it. That’s just one example. Justin tends to treat me better than the others, always taking me aside and showing me specifically how to do things, like he purposely wants me to be ahead of them.

When I asked Justin, he just nodded and told me not to worry about it. He said that everyone is perfectly capable of getting where I am with enough practice.

Okay, well, case closed.

Anyways, I need to go get something to eat, or my stomach will start controlling my actions.

Day – July 1 (Night)

I beat Tallor in chess! Finally! Ha ha ha!!

Day – July 2

I don’t think Daniel is just a metaphor for my past anymore... Brutus said he saw what looked like a rat sizing up the entrance of the rosebush, then running away. In my dream, I saw Daniel as usual... But this time he had a rose in his paw. Was the rose representing the rosebush? It’s too obvious now. I need to go find my brother and finish this. Tonight I will go and find him.

I really wish I didn’t have to do this, but I need to know. I need to know what happened to him, why he’s doing this.

Day – July 8

I regret not writing last night when I should have... The events that took place last week just hurt me too much. Daniel is dead. By my own paws.

I went out at about 8:00 pm. Jessica had convinced me to let her come, too. In case something should happen, she could help me or run back to the rosebush to get some help.

I didn’t want to know what might happen to me, but it turned out to be far worse than I imagined.

Jessica and I walked straight into the forest, not saying a word to one another. After trudging for about half an hour (And watching for owls, which took plenty of time by itself), we came to a small clearing. I recognized it immediately... It was where I’d seen Daniel holding the rose in my dream. Jessica and I stood silently for a few minutes. I looked around the clearing, trying to find a sign that Daniel was here. I could feel his presence, though. It was almost intoxicating. Some weird energy that made me feel like I was choking on the inside. I felt pure, raw, anger.

It was this energy that pulled me back. Jessica turned to me, looking rather confused. Couldn’t she feel it, too!? It was too powerful. Something that felt like waves of heat kept pushing me back. When Jessica turned to follow me, I heard a loud SNAP and a CRACK and then Jessica was on the ground, pinned by a large tree sapling. The sapling hadn’t just fallen over though, it had been cut down. I stood my ground at that point, knowing I couldn’t run away. I had to face the culprit. I was hoping it wouldn’t be Daniel... But it was.

He came staggering out from the foliage, a large serrated blade in his paws. More than likely stolen from the Fitzgibbon’s kitchen. I gasped almost too quickly. The air seemed to be choking me...

Daniel didn’t look anything like he used to. Well, he did... he had the same form, the same body as my brother, but my brother Daniel was dead already. What stood before me was something artificial. Something that wasn’t a rat at all.

Daniel’s voice came in raspy, quick sentences. He didn’t even talk like my brother. His fur was muddy and unkempt, his eyes were glowing red, and his teeth were bared. They looked like pieces of jagged broken glass.

He said, "Brother... How nice of you to finally show up. I almost had to knock on your door before you noticed I was here." He smiled. It made me feel sick.

I tried to stay calm, like Justin had told me to be in practice, but I could feel the terror building up inside of me. "I knew you were here all along..." I replied, "But I was hoping it didn’t have to come down to this." I pointed to Jessica, who was nearing a state of shock from being pinned on the ground by the heavy sapling. Daniel’s hollow shell laughed. It was a disgusting sound that resembled the farmer trying to start his automobile. Daniel smiled again at me, "It seems your friend has fallen into the trap I’d planned for you. No matter... What I really want to do is make you feel..."

He stopped and twisted the blade in his paws.

"Feel what?" I asked, fearing an answer.

Daniel growled, "PAIN! You LEFT me in NIMH! Look at me now! LOOK AT ME!!" His composure had cracked. He looked absolutely pitiful. His body was slightly deformed, his shoulders were hunched a little bit.

I frowned, trying to keep as much of my own composure as I could, "What happened to you?"

Daniel clenched his paw around the serrated blade as he looked up at me "They gave me that serum... It almost killed me. BUT I’M BACK!!" He laughed triumphantly, "I’M BACK AND THEY DIDN’T KNOW!!"

I blinked, "What... What do you mean?"

Daniel’s grip on the blade tightened. I could see droplets of blood coming from his paws. "They thought I was dead." He answered, "They almost put me in the freezer, but I woke up right before they did! They experimented on me... Just like they did with you... But I had no chances of getting away! After you all got away they put locks on the cages! I was TRAPPED, brother! I was TRAPPED in NIMH and I couldn’t get away!"

I remained silent. Daniel smiled at me, this time his smile was wider. "I got so much of that serum... That now I can control the world with my MIND! They didn’t think I could survive it, but I did! And I used it AGAINST them, too! I broke out of NIMH! And I used my abilities to find YOU." He narrowed his eyes "I would LOVE to watch your heart explode in your chest..." He frowned "But I can’t."

I broke in "Daniel!" I shouted, "Why do you want to kill me!? We all thought you were DEAD! There was no way we could’ve saved you... I thought you were dead... Nicodemus thought you were dead!! EVERYBODY thought you were dead!"

Daniel’s face was emotionally vacant, "Nicodemus knew I was alive... I told him the night before you all left... I told him with MY MIND!!" He screamed and flung his blade at me. I dodged it a moment too late and it pierced my left arm. I howled in pain as Daniel stood his ground, using the power of his mind to bring the knife back to his paws, "Brother... Nicodemus lied to you. He knew I was alive, but he didn’t want me to escape with you." I looked up, confused. The pain in my arm temporarily forgotten, "WHAT!?" I screamed.

Daniel nodded solemnly, "Nicodemus didn’t want me to escape with you all because my power was stronger than HIS! He didn’t want to be in second place when it came to this POWER!!" He floated upwards into the sky, hovering about a foot off the ground.

Nicodemus had LIED to me?? No.. He wouldn’t. He COULDN’T!

I staggered to my feet and fell to the ground, the pain in my arm was just too much to stand. I looked up at Daniel, tears in my eyes, "NO! Nicodemus wouldn’t lie to me!! He knew you were dead!! He TOLD ME!!!"

Daniel clenched his paws around the knife again. The blood began flowing freely down his arms, "LEON!! HE LIED TO YOU!!" He stopped at that moment, and floated to the ground, walking over to Jessica. He looked over at me, then looked back at Jessica, "She and you will make Nicodemus PAY for what he’s done..." He looked up at me and smiled, "You and her... She and you... Nicodemus will always know it was HIS fault that you two died. Then, when he least expects it... I’ll get HIM TOO!!"

Daniel opened his paws from around the knife blade. His paws were bleeding profusely, but the power of pure anger drove him on. He grabbed a lock of Jessica’s headfur and raised the knife into the air, intending to slash her throat.

I was paralyzed by fear and pain. I couldn’t move... At least not until I heard Jessica’s voice, "LEON! HELP ME!"

Her scream woke me up. I was on my feet already, running. My sword was already drawn. Daniel’s paw was already coming down to Jessica’s throat.

I screamed at the top of my lungs as I kicked the knife away from Daniel. "BROTHER!!!"

I brought my sword down over Daniel’s hunched back... And he went limp almost immediately.

I heard a whisper come from him, though, as he breathed his last. He choked, "Leon... You left me..."

And he died.

I stood motionless for a very long time. Jessica was crying.

I felt like crying, too, but I didn’t. I didn’t know why then, but I know now. I knew that wasn’t my brother. My brother was loving, caring, and kind. Always willing to help. This... creature that NIMH created just had my brother’s body. He didn’t mean anything to me. My brother did die at NIMH. Nicodemus didn’t lie to me at all. My brother Daniel was killed at NIMH from an overdose of the NIMH serum. The rat that gave Nicodemus the telepathic message and almost killed me and Jessica wasn’t my brother. It was something else. Something that fed on, and lived on, anger.

After I got Jessica out from under the tree, I passed out. The blood loss from my arm was just too much.

I was lucky Jessica was there... Without her, I probably would’ve bled to death.

Well, since she was in the Guards she knew a thing or two about first aid. She managed to patch up my wound with a piece of cloth, then helped me back to the rosebush even though I was half-conscious. I owe Jessica my life... And she says the same about me.

I spent the rest of the week in the infirmary. Justin, Nicodemus, and even Jonathan made regular visits to see me. I’d never seen Nicodemus be sad before, but I did then.

I told him what Daniel told me. Nicodemus sighed and shook his head, "Leon... I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you... He would’ve endangered all of us. His powers were uncontrollable... As was his anger towards NIMH. Worse than Jenner’s. I could tell by what he said to me in his message."

I didn’t want to know what Daniel had told him, so I didn’t ask.

Justin isn’t being too personal with me about Daniel. He knows it hurts me to talk about him. He was just happy that I got back alright and that my fears were finally put to rest. He also brings me my meals like I did when he broke his arm! After all, what are friends for? He jokingly told me that my arm wound could be referred to as a "red badge of courage". Wasn’t that a book? Maybe Justin’s read it?

Jonathan’s face is one I haven’t seen too often (Besides when he does the running for my expeditions through the Fitzgibbon’s house). I didn’t realize just how much he respected me until he came to see me the day after the incident.

He told me that he was proud of what I did, and how if he had been faced with one of his brothers (They died years ago, they weren’t caught by NIMH) he wouldn’t have been able to save himself, much less anyone else there.

Jonathan’s not a coward, he’s actually about as brave as they come. He was just telling the truth.

When I asked him about Elizabeth, er, Mrs. Brisby, he winked at me and told me the children were on the way. Wonderful! He said he and Elizabeth had names for both boys and girls depending on which came first. Jonathan told me that he was hoping for at least a couple of children. The names he has picked for the first are: If it’s a male, Martin. If it’s a female, Teresa. They each picked one name. How cute.

I think I’ve been in the infirmary more than the average NIMH rat. Ah well... I’m tired, I need more rest.

Goodbye Daniel.

Chapter 11

Day – August 1

I haven’t written in a while because... Well... I just didn’t feel like it. I don’t know whether it’s just my long days and my omitted rest, the Guards, Jessica... I just don’t know.

Something odd has happened, though. Something that has the whole community shaken up and scared.

Against my wishes, Justin had a team of Guards bring Daniel’s body back here to the rosebush. I found out later that it was Nicodemus who ordered it. At first I was outraged and wouldn’t speak to either Justin or Nicodemus, then Jenner pulled me aside during a council meeting and told me something horrific.

Jack had been doing an examination of Daniel’s body and he found a peculiar piece of metal behind one of Daniel’s ears. At first, we didn’t know what to think about it. We actually didn’t think much about it at all, until we accidentally received a radio broadcast on it. Nicodemus ordered that Daniel’s body and the piece of metal be disposed of far away from the rosebush. He thinks the metal device was a tracking device, placed inside all of the animals that were capable of breaking out of NIMH after we did. Nicodemus also thinks that when Daniel was alive, his mitochondria had stopped the radio from transmitting by jamming it with electrical charges. But now that Daniel is dead... The tracker was free to transmit signals.

At the last council meeting, a motion was passed: Send a group to Thorn Valley to find adequate living quarters. It may already be too late for us here at the rosebush.

I am lucky that Justin veered the blame off of me during the meeting. After all, that was technically my brother who followed us here. If NIMH knows we’re here, they won’t waste any time at all in tearing down the farm to find us.

We can only hope that Farmer Fitzgibbons knows how to handle these things and can keep NIMH at bay until we get out of here.

Day – August 22

I overheard the most frightening conversation this afternoon. I was doing a watch by the main entrance, keeping an eye out for Dragon and just minding my own business.

Mrs. Fitzgibbons was hanging laundry with the radio blaring beside her. I was never a fan of the hard-rock and roll stuff that Billy plays upstairs, but Mrs. Fitzgibbons enjoys classical music, like me. I guess I’m refined. Or maybe I’m just the rat-equivalent of a geek?

Anyway, as I was sitting there, I heard the phone ring inside the house. Mr. Fitzgibbons picked it up after a few rings and there was silence for a few moments. Then I heard him from inside, "Honey! I think you should hear this! Switch the radio station to 98.6 FM!"

Mrs. Fitzgibbons put her clothes pins down and looked inside, "Is something wrong, dear?"

Mr. Fitzgibbons’ voice again, "Just turn it on!"

She switched the station and waited with her arms on her hips. I listened intently as well – this had piqued my interest.

There was some radio interview on the air, and the Fitzgibbons had turned on their radio right in the middle of it:

--"Twelve rats you said?" said one voice.

"No, no, twenty rats." Said an unfamiliar voice. At those words, my heart leapt into my throat.

"Wow!" said the interviewer, "Those’re a lot of rodents! What seems to be the big deal with them?"

The guest paused for a moment, then said, "They were being tested at FDA labs with different viruses, so we could test new antibiotics on them."

The interviewer spoke again, "And now these rats have escaped, you say?"

"Yes," said the guest, "A group of twenty rats. And maybe some mice– they seem to be quite resourceful little buggers, but we’ll catch them."

The interviewer cleared his throat, "And that is why you are here, Dr. Dettlebach, to tell these people what to look for, and who to call if they find it."

Dr. D. spoke again, "Yes, exactly. These rats are extremely violent and brutal. They will attack most creatures on sight. It is advised that if you live within fifty miles of the FDA laboratory that you keep your children and pets monitered, and that you purchase some heavy-duty rat traps for your home-"

The interviewer interrupted him, "This sounds serious, doctor. Should the public be worried?"

Dr. D. laughed, "Worried? No. These rats may be violent, but they also are somewhat afraid of humans. After all, we were their doctors."

The interviewer got a bit cold, "That sounds awfully cruel, sir, if you don’t mind my saying."

Dettlebach chuckled, "Animal rights activist, are you? Well, without these test subjects, the human race would not be in a position to create antibiotics to deadly diseases. Why, look at the advances we’ve made from rodents in laboratories! We may have a cure for Parkinson’s someday thanks to them! But that is not why I am here and we have wasted precious time. If you have seen signs of large rat activity in or near your home, please call the following number..."

I ran a paw through my headfur, "Oh crap..." I muttered to myself, "They were talking about US. But... We weren’t at the FDA – We were at NIMH! Why can’t they...?"

I stopped muttering when I saw Mrs. Fitzgibbons switch off the radio. Mr. Fitzgibbons approached the open kitchen window with the phone in his hand, "This is NIMH on the phone."

Mrs. Fitzgibbons looked confused, "NIMH? What does that have to do with the FDA?"

Mr. Fitzgibbons looked a bit uneasy, "I think you should talk to them, dear. These people are quite insistent."

She took the phone and I heard some snippits of her conversation:

"Yes? NIMH? Oh... Yes, the National Institute of Mental Health. But, I heard on the radio... Oh my God... I see..."

She then looked at the rosebush, almost seeing me. I quickly leapt back into a small alcove to stay out of sight. I waited, then I heard talking again:

"We’ve been setting traps regularly, this is a farm, after all.... What’s that? They avoid traps? Wh-... "

I slid back towards the opening and resumed my eavesdropping, "Oh really? A new disease? That’s awful! Is it harmful to hu... It is? Oh dear... Just a moment." She looked up at Mr. Fitzgibbons, "Did you hear that? A new brain disease! They said it could be deadly if we got bitten by one of them!"

The farmer nodded, "Yes, they told me. Still..." he whispered, "I don’t think it’s right for them to go around saying they’re the FDA. Why not just come out and say they’re NIMH?"

She nodded firmly and held the phone back up to her head, "Just why were you calling yourselves the FDA earlier on the radio?" Silence. Then, "Oh.... I see. Well, when you put it that way, yes. No... Well, how could you say that? Of course I don’t want mass hysteria!" Silence for a moment, then she looked up at the farmer again, "There are rats in the rosebush, right? That’s where Dragon’s been sniffing around?"

The farmer nodded, "Yeah. And he’s been sleeping near it, too. Could just be mice, though."

Mrs. Fitzgibbons returned to the phone, "Well, we have a rosebush in our front yard. Our cat hangs around there all the t... Bulldoze it and gas it!? Wait, what makes you even think that the rats here aren’t normal ones? We’ve had rats before, and none of them were disease carrying death-machines like you’ve mentioned... Just to be sure? I’m sorry, not interested." She gave the phone back to Mr. Fitzgibbons and he hung it up in the kitchen. Mr. Fitzgibbons returned to the window and smiled, "I had the same idea. What’re the chances of those rats coming here?"

Mrs. Fitzgibbons eyed the rosebush, "Not much, that’s for sure. Those rats would have to travel a very long way from NIMH to get here. It’s, what? Thirty... Forty miles?"

The farmer nodded, "Easily. No way they could make it that far. And they’re probably not smart enough to stay hidden for long."

He turned, and Mrs. Fitzgibbons began walking into the house, "Speaking of which, have you heard that Billy wants a pet mouse?"

I heard the farmer laugh.

I wasn’t laughing.

Nicodemus silenced me when I began to panic in his office. He was quiet for about a minute, then he gazed at me sternly, "Leon, NIMH knows we are here. Your brother made certain of that. However, human society has human laws, and they prevent NIMH from destroying the rosebush until the farmer believes that we are actually here. If what you tell me is correct, the Fitzgibbons still have their doubts."

I nodded and was silent. Nicodemus didn’t move, "Leon, don’t go causing panic because of this. We will be more cautious from now on, but we are still quite safe."

Day – August 3

The group left early today. The incident yesterday was only mentioned to Justin and Jenner. Justin was worried and stood firm in his belief that it meant we should work faster on the Plan. Jenner, however, just shooed the whole thing, saying that the farmers would never let NIMH destroy their propety.

The group as a whole was composed of Justin, Jenner, Gabriel, Arthur, and Jack. At an emergency council meeting yesterday(before the incident, mind you), Rion (Who fortunately can’t remember the incident with the stone) plotted out that the journey from the farm to Thorn Valley would take about a week if the group only stopped for food and rest. After that, the group was chosen out of necessity. Justin and Jenner to lead, Arthur to find adequate support for a new community (Like whether it should be made of wood, stone, underground, etc), Gabriel to find out about us finding our own food and drink (Like what might need to be dammed up), and Jack for medical emergencies.

We expect the group back in no more than 2 and a half weeks. If they don’t come back, there’s really nothing we can do. I hope that nothing bad happens to any of them. They’re all good friends of mine. I’d go so far to say that I don’t want anything bad to happen to Jenner, even if he did go nuts on Justin...

Day – August 4

The Guards just isn’t the same without Justin leading us. He put me in charge of the Unarmed Combat and he put a rat named Constelle in charge of the Sword Fighting. Constelle is an interesting rat... He can’t fight Unarmed very well and I can’t fight with a sword very well. I suppose we’re on the same curb, just on different sides of the street.

We don’t argue too often, which is a good thing, but when we do the sparks fly. Constelle is just a very stubborn rat. He always thinks he’s right when it comes to sword dueling. At least I can confess when I’m wrong about something during practice. If it sounds like I don’t like him, that’s not right. We’re pretty good friends, we just need some more work, that’s all.

Speaking of my Unarmed Combat, I just finished a new grab and take-down. I think it might be a new style that I’m working on. Wouldn’t that be neat! Leon-fu!? Ah, I don’t think so. But the move is very neat! When I have the opponent in a forward lock, I pick up their right or left leg and fall over it, then I use the intertia to fling the opponent in the direction I fall in. I call it: The Knee Twister, mainly because it twists their knee up and makes it difficult to stand back up again. If Justin were here, he’d probably pat me on the back and saw "Awesome job, Leo! Keep it up!" But Constelle just shrugs and says, "Eh, that’s neat, Leon. What else do you want me to say? It’ll work, yeah, but it’s not too thrilling to watch." Constelle’s not a jerk, he’s just very truthful. Maybe a little TOO truthful. Jonathan tells the truth a lot, but he occasionally lies to make someone feel better, which is often better than the truth.

Speaking of Jonathan telling the truth, I wonder if he fessed up to Mrs. Brisby yet.

If he hasn’t, he should be forced to. This can’t go on much longer. If it does, Jonathan risks a life full of misery after Elizabeth dies.

Well... Unless the mitochondria react in her differently to Jonathan’s mitochondria. There’s nothing else we can do but sit and wait, then.

Day – August 20

I LOST my journal, can you believe that? I come back from practice and it’s not on my bed where I’d left it. Just today I came back from lunch with Jessica and there it was, right back on my bed. Something’s fishy about this. Was someone reading my journal? I hope not...

From now on, I’ll be keeping my journal hidden. Can’t have people reading through my mind now, can I?

Day – September 1

The group came back today. Justin came in and told us all that the group had found a very tall, very hollow rockface that could be dug into with some work. The council meeting afterwards voted almost unanimously to sending Arthur and his crew to go start digging in the rockface. That group includes Jessica.

I can’t believe she’ll be leaving! I won’t see her for months... Maybe even YEARS!! I’m going to be out with Jessica a lot until she leaves. I want to spend as much time as possible with her before she leaves me. God, will I miss her...

Day – September 5

Arthur and his group left immediately after completing the back-back exit through the underground portions of the mill. It’s completely flooded in, so use of a boat is necessary. It’s not all that great, though. The mill is actually rotting and pieces of it fall into the water, occasionally knocking the boats over. This is very dangerous, as the water is inhabited by some rather unsavory animals, such as snakes. The water itself is disgusting.

Well, anyways, Jessica had to leave, too. She is working for Arthur and therefore they had to leave to start building the Thorn Valley community. On the night before she left, Jessica drew me a wonderful picture of the two of us sitting by the edge of the pond. I didn’t know she was such a good artist!

The picture is on the back inside cover of this journal, so I can always look at it when I miss her.

And I do. A lot.

Day – September 8

I had to go back into the Fitzgibbon’s house to find some wood. I turned once again to the dollhouse and while I was there, I nabbed another blank book from the plastic bookshelf in case I run out of pages in this book. It resides in my one drawer. Tallor and I share a single closet. Inside the closet are two drawers. One for me, and one for Tallor. Since I really don’t have any valuables besides this journal and some winter shawls, my drawer is not that full. Plenty of space. I’ve had a small compartment dug out under my bed. That’s where I keep my last journal. The one from NIMH and the mansion. I treat it like a holy book, keeping it properly stored and tucked away. When I read it, I don’t do anything that might hinder it’s use later on, like rip the pages or smudge the writing.

I’m just babbling right now. I honestly have nothing really to do. I think I’ll go find Jonathan and ask him what he plans to do about Elizabeth.

Day – September 8 (Night)

Jonathan asked me to write down this conversation, so I am. I only hope he doesn’t get mad if I forget his exact words.

Okay, I found him by the cinderblock house he lives in, and I waited for him to come out so I could speak with him. A little misfortune, though, as when Jonathan came out of his home, a shrew went up to him and started speaking with him about rats. About US! The shrew told Jonathan to be wary of us and to never trust us, as we are no-good pilfers who don’t do any real work. Huh! Yeah, right. I’d like to see her do MY jobs!

Anyway, I could see Jonathan’s expression represented one of frustration as he just nodded and agreed with the shrew and then hurriedly left for the stream.

I followed him and waited for him to see me. When he did, he almost jumped out of his fur and quickly dashed over to me.

"Leon!" He whispered "Didn’t you remember how I asked you NEVER to come around here? What if Aunt Shrew sees me talking to you? Or... Or... Elizabeth sees me talking to you? What would I do?"

I shrugged "Perhaps you could tell the truth. Which is why I came by here. I want to know how long you intend to lie to your wife, Jonathan."

Jonathan grimaced and sank back "Leon... Don’t phrase it like that. I’m not lying to her... I’m merely... Evading the truth. I haven’t told her about NIMH yet... But I’m not sure I really want to. She’ll know she’s going to die before all of us. It will hurt her! I don’t want to hurt my love!"

I tilted my head a bit, "You really think she is that stupid?"

Jonathan’s voice took on a hint of anger "What are you talking about?"

I nodded "You think she’s that dumb? She’ll be in her deathbed and she’ll know you lied to her. You’ll look EXACTLY the same as you do now. Her last words to you will be full of sorrow and pain, and living with that for the rest of your life will be much worse than the alternative."

Jonathan looked at the stream, trying to collect his thoughts "Yes... You’re right... But the children are already on their way! What if she boots me out of her home? She can’t handle all of the children BY HERSELF!! I need to be there with her, always. It’s better if I wait until the children are grown up and there’s no harm done if she kicks me out."

I merely shook my head "Jonathan... Please listen to me. You’re making a HUGE mistake. She will be more angry with you later than now. I’ve seen how you two get along, you love eachother very much. Don’t let this hurt your relationship when it really counts, when she’s nearing her end. Tell her the truth, Jonathan. You’re no liar. Tell her the whole story. Take my old journal to back it up if you must, but tell her. Please."

Jonathan frowned "Leon, stay out of my life. What I do is my business and I don’t need you or anyone else to tell me otherwise. Elizabeth is my one true love, and I will preserve this relationship and marriage for as long as I can. If I have to avoid telling her about NIMH to keep the marriage strong, I will. I’m not lying to her because I’m a liar... I’m lying to her because I love her. I don’t want her to think anything bad about me, and telling her about NIMH is just too risky."

He sighed and shook his head "Leon... Go away. I don’t want to talk to you anymore right now."

I nodded and turned around. My parting words were "If you love her like you say you do, you’d tell her. If she loves you the way you tell us she does, she won’t mind. Goodbye, Jonathan."

And so I left. I took the long way back to the rosebush, stopping only long enough to make sure that it was Dragon-safe and there were no other predators around.

I was free for the whole day. No Guards practice today and no job in the evening. In other words, I was one bored rat.

I could’ve done something time filling, like go for a swim in the pond, (The weather is still very warm) but I decided against it. I don’t even know how to swim very well.

I could’ve paid Mr. Ages a visit, but that wouldn’t have served a purpose and talking with Ages bears a striking resemblance to talking to a brick wall, except the brick wall can insult you for no reason at all.

Ages is cranky a lot, but he’s actually very nice. At least, that’s what I’m led to believe.

Tallor didn’t have to go on the Thorn Valley expedition because he doesn’t know squat about engineering. His main forte is in prototype building and what I call "Professional Goofing Off," where he gets to spend days and days just making random things. Arthur, however, was the resident engineering expert, so he went to the Valley while Tallor got to stay

I would’ve tried to do something with Tallor, but he was busy in the workshop. Remember that crossbow he said he was building? Well, he’s finally got the workshop all to himself and he’s working like crazy on a prototype. I looked at the sketches and schematics he had piled up on his desk, and it looked pretty simple except for one thing: The arrow magazine.

We read in the mansion about old crossbows; they had to be reloaded each time an arrow was shot. A very manual machine. Tallor wanted to change that. He told me one night before we went to bed that if he coiled the springs just right, the user of the crossbow would only have to pull the string that shoots the arrow back, and the next arrow would pop into place. An interesting idea, but Tallor isn’t quite there yet. He is right now in the process of finding the right frame for the crossbow. I won’t go into that, though, because physics and mathematics (which is what he uses to determine the correct frame) make me tired. Numbers make me tired.

Later in the evening, about an hour ago, Jonathan came to the rosebush and went straight to my apartment. I was here, thankfully, reading "The Red Badge of Courage" on my bed (I KNEW Justin had read it! He suggested it to me!). The first thing out of Jonathan’s mouth was "I’m sorry, Leon... I shouldn’t have gotten angry at you today. I don’t know what I was thinking..." He shook his head and ran a paw through his headfur "You were right about what you said. I don’t like lying to her at all... It’s just that... Well... " He suddenly snapped his gaze up at me, his eyes desperate "Leon, am I a coward? Am I just nothing but a meaningless coward!?" He placed his face into his paws and shook his head again "Leon... I don’t know what to do! If I tell the truth... I risk getting thrown out! If I don’t tell the truth, she’ll hate me in her later years... Both are terrible... I don’t know what to do!"

I sighed, "Jonathan, which one has a chance of you coming out all right?"

Jonathan nodded slowly "I know... I may ask you for your journal soon... To help make the story easier to tell." He smiled "Hey, Leon... Did you know she’s learning to read? She couldn’t before, but now she’s doing quite well! I can’t really explain it."

But I could. The mitochondria inside Elizabeth were changing. It was slowly beginning to change her. I decided not to tell Jonathan about it, though.

I just smiled "That’s great!"

Jonathan nodded and cleared his throat "And uh... Nicodemus sent for me earlier. He wanted me to take something from him."

I blinked "Oh? What might that be?" Jonathan smirked "The stone."

I shot up in my bed "WHAT!? He’s giving you the stone!? WHY!??"

Jonathan put his pointer finger up to his maw, signalling for me to shut my mouth "Nicodemus wants to get rid of it. Elizabeth won’t affect it’s powers, so he’s letting me give it to her."

I nodded. It was a short-sighted plan, but it just might work, granted Elizabeth’s mitochondria don’t change that much. And I’d almost forgotten that Nicodemus locked the main power in the stone with an emotion.

Jonathan took a torn piece of paper out from his tunic pouch. He’d gotten it from a poem book in the mansion. He’d secretly told me that he’d taken two books from the mansion when we left. One of them had been a book of poetry. He handed me the torn piece of paper and I noticed that he had a line circled in a dark oval:

"You can unlock any door if you only have the key"

How inspirational.

I handed the poem line back to Jonathan and he left, asking me to write all this down in my journal, which I just did.

On a side note:

Jonathan’s tunic wasn’t made by our sewing department. It was made by his wife.

When he walked back to the rosebush after putting it on, we were stunned. It was very well made. It was a green tunic with a simple black belt. It resembled our tunics, except it just... Well... Had more character. I can’t explain it, really, but the put it bluntly, Elizabeth Brisby is a good seamstress.

Well, time to go to bed. I’m up to a good point in "The Red Badge of Courage" and that usually means it’s time to stop reading. Whenever something interesting happens in a book, I put it down and save it for later. Like in the "Running Man" when Ben Richards hijacks the airplane, I just bookmarked it and saved it for later. Good thing I did, too. It single-handedly saved me from prolonged boredom on more than one occasion. That was, of course, before I met Jessica and we got involved.

Oops, I talked about Jessica. I keep going down flashback falls without a barrel when I think about her. I think I’ll just stop now and go to bed.

Yes, that’s a great idea.

Chapter 12

Day – September 10

Some new people joined the guards recently. Some second gens I didn’t really know – Isa and Ash. Isa is a very nice but occasionally spacey girl. She is almost naturally good with a spear, but is a little weak when it comes to using a sword. She has a light grey fur all over her body, and her headfur is a silky white. She’s actually quite striking. Since she’s a guard now, I’ll only see her in her blue and white guard tunic, but on her off days she has a pretty eye-grabbing blood red vest and a white shirt underneath. It attracts more eyes than... well, I’m not too good at analogies. To sum it up, though, she’s quite pretty and quite nice. Why, if I wasn’t so involved with Jessica I might... No, wait a second... What the heck am I writing? Why am I even writing this? If Jessica saw it... Cripes.

Right – Ash. Not surprisingly, Ash is ash colored. His whole body is covered with a darkish grey fur. No variations anywhere. Kind of boring compared to Isa. Cripes! There I go again...

Ash Ash Ash... Ash isn’t that good at weapons or hand-to-hand, but he’s fast. VERY FAST. His reflexes are second to none – even better than mine. And Justin’s. And Isa’s.

Cripes! I’d better stop writing before I lose my mind!

Day – September 11

Today, Jenner was a lot happier than usual. Normally, he is extremely grumpy and not fun to be around because of how his ideas are now almost always turned down in the council meetings (I mean, duh, he’s against the Plan for crying out loud!) and he is made fun of during the meetings to add insult to his injury. I find this behavior awfully strange, but then again, maybe today Jenner proved himself right over something? I wouldn’t know, as I haven’t been to a council meeting in a little while. They’ve kept me busy with lookout. Brutus has been sent to Thorn Valley to help build the colony (Seeing as he IS the strongest out of all of us) so somebody else would need to replace him as Guard for the main entrance. That would be me.

Fortunately, I get plenty of visits from Justin and Tallor. Justin is back as Captain of the Guards, which I took the time to celebrate, and Constelle is no longer majorly in charge. Justin has been mainly focusing on setting certain traps and attacks on larger animals. He told us that at Thorn Valley there would be larger creatures than us who might think a colony of rats would make a fine meal one night, so we would need to always be prepared.

Tallor has finally finished his Crossbow prototype with the help of some wiring and springs that I nabbed from the Fitzgibbon’s house on one of my "missions". He showed it to Jenner (Who was the one to order Tallor to make it in the first place), and he told Tallor to make ten of them, complete with arrow clips. I don’t know what Jenner has planned for those ten crossbows, but whatever it is I don’t believe it’s good for a single moment.

Hmm, a knock on my door. Nicodemus wants to see me.

Day – September 11 (Night)

Nicodemus showed me his spinning mirror again. This image was different than the rest I’ve seen on it. Nicodemus looked at me when it started up and told me to think about Jenner’s being and presence. I did so, and saw something that gave me the chills. I saw Jenner and Sullivan, together, plotting something. They were both in the pouring rain, with swords drawn. An obvious look of fear and hesitance was on Sullivan’s face while Jenner’s sported a huge maniacal grin. I could hear their voices, too. They were garbled at best, but I heard this: Jenner was looking off at something in the distance, "When that block reaches midway, you cut the line!" He said something else, but I dind’t catch it. Then Sullivan backed off and stuttered what sounded like an objection, "Jenner!" Then Jenner moved over to Sullivan, holding his blade to his neck, "Don’t get any ideas, my friend. You’re in this up to your NECK!"

Then the scene slowly faded away and the spherical mirror screeched to a halt. It needed to be oiled sometime.

The image was rather unsettling for two reasons: One – It might prove that Jenner and Sullivan were up to no good. Two – I’d just seen Jenner this morning and he was acting extremely pleased with himself. Any correlation there, I wonder?

I looked curiously at Nicodemus, "What do you suppose it means? It looks like they were planning something evil... That look on Jenner’s face is one I’ve never seen before in my life. Even when he’s personally angry at somebody, like Jonathan, I’ve never seen that face before in their arguments. That... Must have been the future." I noted.

Nicodemus nodded, "A POSSIBLE future. I am not sure what he meant when he referrered to cutting a block. I honestly think that this might not be the exact future, but a metaphorical statement on what the real future holds. Getting something this vivid that takes place so far from now seems a little odd, don’t you think? No, it makes more sense for us to look at the scene in a metaphorical light for the time being – It makes much more sense."

I shrugged, "Well, Nicodemus, it looks like a real conversation, and I can’t think of anything the block might represent, unless it represented the Plan. And he intends to do something stupid like cut it when it’s halfway finished."

Nicodemus nodded again, "It is likely. But I also know what you really think it is. You think that this is real. You think that this is a real possible future for us. For Jenner, and for Sullivan. We all know Sullivan is feeble-minded... He might be tempted by Jenner’s wishes for power and will allow himself to be manipulated by him."

I ran a paw through my headfur, "Isn’t there a way we can keep an eye on the both of them?"

Nicodemus smiled, "My boy, would you like the honor?"

I frowned, a little worried, "Honor of what?"

Nicodemus chuckled, "Would you like the honor of watching over Jenner and Sullivan for a bit? To see what they might be discussing in private?"

I grimaced, "Nicodemus... I’m not a spy... I don’t want to have to watch over the two of them, I’d be intruding on their personal lives." (It was a lame attempt to get out of doing the deed I’d suggested)

Nicodemus frowned at me, "Leon, if the mirror is true, and you know it has been so far, those two could be up to something drastic. Sullivan will be attempting to join the lower floor of the council in a few weeks time and the vote will be coming up soon between upper council members such as Cid and Jenner."

I knew all this, so I nodded in agreement, "No problems there. And right now there’s no reason for any form of alarm."

Nicodemus nodded solemnly, "Yes... But soon there will be. I know it."

I blinked in mild confusion, "I beg your pardon, Nicodemus?" He looked away to the corner of his office where he kept his private journal, then he looked back at me, "Leon... Soon, in this very community, there will be a great unrest. Soon the colony will be split into two different groups, each grasping a specific ideal... This is another possible future I have seen. I saw many dead in Jenner’s wake... Myself... Justin... Jonathan..." He shook his head, "And his wife and four children."

I shook my head in disbelief, "That’s rediculous! Jenner has no quarrel with Jonathan’s wife and..." I paused, "FOUR kids? They haven’t even had their first!" Nicodemus chuckled and pointed out the door, "Actually..." he said, "... Their first was born a few minutes ago."

I spun around and looked at the doorway, wondering whether I should go see if Nicodemus was right or not, but something inside me told me Nicodemus was telling the truth.

(It turned out that he was right. Jonathan and the Mrs. now have a son and they named him Martin, after Jonathan’s own father.)

So I slowly turned around and clenched my paws into fists, "Nicodemus, I know Jenner would never resort to murder. EVER. He may be on the crazy side because he lost his son... But I-"

Nicodemus began to walk over to his favorite chair as he spoke to me, "Leon," He started, "From what I’ve determined in those images... Jenner was extremely reliant on his son. He would help Jenner determine seriously right from seriously wrong... You see, Jenner cannot determine what is right and wrong on his own. He is often blinded his own twisted ambitions. He knows this, and he might be trying to bring his son back somehow." He sat down in his chair and pointed to a chair of equal height a few inches away. I sat in it and listened as Nicodemus continued, "It might seem like a fairy tale, being able to bring the dead back to life... But after the incident with Rion you and I know it’s not. Unfortunately, Jenner knows about that incident, too. I don’t know why he and Victoria were at the scene when it happened, but what matters is that he saw the event occur, and now I am quite sure that he plans on attempting to bring his son back from the dead."

I shook my head, "That’s a little unbelieveable... Jenner’s smart, he knows he can’t bring him back. He doesn’t even know how to use the stone."

Nicodemus nodded, "Exactly my point! Jenner isn’t looking at a long term picture, all he sees is that he can bring his son back, perhaps. This is not good. I have seen several dead in his wake in the future. There are two different futures, actually, depending on certain events that transpire in the near future."

I raised an eyebrow, "Two futures?"

Nicodemus nodded and slowly took in a breath, then released it in a sigh, "At the very least. In the first future I saw, you were killed by an innocent soul." My stomach sank, but I managed a joke, "Not so innocent after killing me, was it?"

Nicodemus frowned, but continued, "After you was Mrs. Brisby, then Justin. They were all put through the most unimaginable pain and suffering before they were finally killed. It was terrible."

I shivered, "Nicodemus, I’m not sure I like this future very much."

He nodded, "And it does not stop there. One by one, the rats of NIMH die off from hunger and starvation, their years of surviving lost to a few rats’ greed and ambition."

I nodded, "Nicodemus, I’m sure I don’t like this future very much."

Nicodemus smiled, "I do not like it any more than you, my boy. However, there is another future I saw."

I crossed my arms, "I hope it’s a little better than the last one."

His smiled faded and he leaned back in his chair, "In the other future, I was killed in the near future. Then Rion was murdered by the traitor, but not really murdered by the traitor. The same goes for Tallor. Once he is killed... You and Mrs. Brisby follow... I think... It got hazy at the end, like it was so far into the future that things here in the present were not up to the correct point yet."

I frowned, "What? What’s that mean?"

He sighed, "I... don’t know. Perhaps I am not thinking in the correct frame of mind. Either way, Leon... Dark times will be coming. And who lives and who dies may very well rest on decisions made in the next few days."

My eyes widened a bit, "Well, thanks for the good advice. I’ll keep that in mind the next time I’m facing a life-threatening... er... threat."

Nicodemus smiled, how he managed I have no idea, "Leon, you cannot change the past or the future, merely the present. At this time, I believe that the future remains locked into those two paths. Keep that in mind."

I shook my head, "Nicodemus, there must be some mistake... I don’t think anybody would resort to murder here. Even Jenner."

Nicodemus’ eyes glazed a bit, "Do you deny your very eyes?"

I stopped and inched backwards, "Nicodemus? What are you saying?"

He shook his head and cleared his throat, "Nothing. Nothing. The only thing we must worry about is the present. Jonathan will be giving Elizabeth that stone. It still has the excess power in it, and Jenner could misuse it very easily."

I gulped, "Nicodemus... does Jenner know she will be receiving it?"

There was a brief pause, then Nicodemus stared off into space for a minute, then he looked at me and smiled, "Yes, Leon... Jonathan hasn’t given it to her yet, but Jenner does know that Jonathan is giving it to her. Jonathan told Jenner himself. Leon, go to Jonathan and tell him that we need the stone back immediately. We can finish this conversation later."

I nodded and left Nicodemus’ office.

Two futures... Crap. No matter which one you choose, important people die. And the icing on the proverbial cake is that they both involve me getting horribly killed.

Well, it’s in the future, and Nicodemus had been wrong before (at least... I think). All we need to do is play our cards right at the right moments and we’ll be okay.

I hope.

I dashed outside and took the short way to the cinderblock in the garden patch where the Brisby’s lived. Fortunately Dragon didn’t bother me. As a matter of fact, I didn’t see Dragon outside at all. Lucky day for me.

When I arrived at the cinderblock, I crept to the entrance and poked my head inside. I dind’t see anything, but I could hear voices (And a newborn’s crying) coming from a faraway room. I couldn’t go in to get Jonathan or Elizabeth would see me. The last thing Jonathan needed on this great day would be to be kicked out of his home for being an experimental freak (sigh).

I frowned and looked around the entrance a little. The cinderblock was very well furnished, for a field mouse’s home, that is. A set of stairs led down to a small table (Two chairs set up around it and two baby chairs tucked in the corner) and a small fireplace from which a metal tea kettle hung neatly. There were some makeshift rugs on the floor and the whole of the cinderblock was nicely lit with candles and such. I looked at the candle closest to me and let out a big grin and thinking that a little diversion might help get Jonathan out here.

I took the candle out of it’s holder and let it drop to the floor. Nothing happened.

I frowned and thought, "Of course, Leon, his wife just had the first kid, a small candle being knocked over won’t get him out."

I sighed and left the entrance, laying down in a small patch of shrubbery so I could watch the front entrance of the block but still be hidden from predetors.

I don’t know what happened after that because I must have nodded off.

I know, it’s unprofessional. I didn’t even think I was that tired. I suppose when my body wants to sleep, it sleeps. Fortunately, it’s never forced me asleep in the midst of danger. At least so far.

When I woke up, it was pitch black.

I staggered to my feet and took a good whiff of the air. It was pretty muggy that night and the air was humid, blocking most scents. I caught some mouse scent from the cinderblock. I couldn’t go in there, or Jonathan would be quite angry at me (he’d probably caught my scent already, so he’d get ticked at me later), so I needed to get back to the rosebush somehow.

I turned around, hoping to get a scent of the rosebush or one of the rats, but that was to no avail. I starting walking forward, one step at a time. Being out in the open like this was dangerous enough, but at night when owls and cats could be hunting you in the dark it was near suicide.

By the time I reached the farmhouse, (Which is always well lit from the children’s windows) my heart was already doing acrobatic flips and my ears were ringing like a philharmonic orchestra. The silence was simply unbearable; I could hardly stand it.

I looked at the pools of light coming from the windows of the house and then stopped right before stepping into one. I caught a whiff of something different.


He was right there, on the porch of the house. He was wide awake and was looking directly at me. I froze in terror. What was I going to do? Was I going to be ripped to shreds right here? Right now?

Dragon was ready to pounce now... I could see it all right then. There was Jessica, just returned from Thorn Valley to find out I’d been killed by Dragon. Justin would be there, and Nicodemus...

"Oh God..." I thought, "Please not now... Please please please not now..."

Dragon leapt into the air, his forepaws out, ready to pin me down so he could make the deadly bite to my neck. His two yellow eyes glared down at me from above. I couldn’t move – I was paralyzed with the fear... Escaping from NIMH, all the running, all the surviving, everything... It was all useless then. Pure instict couldn’t have even saved me.

Then I caught a whiff of something real quickly. It had a spicy smell that tingled in my nose. I couldn’t quite put a finger on it, and I didn’t really care to, seeing as how Dragon was practically on top of me.

Just as Dragon was coming down upon me, I heard a sound like somebody snapping a rubber band. Dragon screeched and swerved off course from me, landing a few inches to my side. Cats usually land on their feet, but Dragon didn’t this time. Dragon stumbled onto all fours and hissed at me. He had an arrow protruding from his left eye.

An arrow? But who?

I turned and saw Jenner, who was screaming at me to get back into the rosebush. He had a crossbow in his paws and the arrow in the chamber was missing. He’d shot Dragon and saved me...

I dashed into the rosebush and he followed suit. We got back to the main area (Right in front of the meeting hall) and Jenner gave me a cold look, "Leon, what the hell were you doing out that late at night? You almost got yourself killed!!"

I nodded, and was about to tell the truth, then I remembered why I’d gone out in the first place. To get the stone from Jonathan so Jenner couldn’t get it.

I stuttered for a few moments then I shook my head, "I... I don’t know... I went out to see Jonathan and he was busy, so I went for a little walk, then I laid down... And I must have fallen asleep."

Jenner frowned, "Leon... I’m giving you the night off because of what happened... You are very lucky I got there in time. If I hadn’t..." He trailed off and I nodded, knowing what he meant to say. He turned and walked away towards his apartment.

I trailed far behind him and slid into Nicodemus’ office. Nicodemus was standing by his spinning mirror. When I came in and shut the door, he jerked around and looked at me sharply, "Leon! What happened out there? I saw Dragon and Jenner in the mirror! Where on Earth have you been? "

I was about to speak, then I noticed Nicodemus’ eyes...

"Nicodemus..." I started, "Your... eyes..." Nicodemus nodded, "Yes, yes, they’re glowing, I know that. Now, what happened outside?"

I told him everything that had happened. He frowned deeply and put his paws over his face, "Jonathan is being incredibly stubborn about all of this... He knows he must tell Elizabeth sometime. She’ll get suspicious if she starts getting older and Jonathan and her children don’t."

I nodded, "I completely agree... But he won’t listen to me, or anyone else for that matter. "

Nicodemus sighed, "The fact that Jonathan still has the stone is another problem. Our main one. Every second Jonathan has that stone and Jenner knows about it, he, his wife, and his child are all at risk. We are also at risk. If Jenner uses that stone, there’s no telling what will happen to us all! He could blow up the whole world for all we know!"

I shuddered, then sniffed, then pondered for a moment, "Nicodemus..." I asked.

"What is it, my son?" He replied

"What was Jenner doing out this late at night with a loaded crossbow and that weird smelling stuff in his pack?"

Nicodemus was quiet for a moment, then he sighed, "Leon, that was catfood in his pack. And his crossbow wasn’t meant for Dragon."

I blinked, "What... What do you mean it wasn’t meant for Dragon?"

Nicodemus leaned forward in his chair and peered at me, "Leon, Jenner was on his way to the Brisby’s home to get the stone by force. If they didn’t give it to them, he would’ve killed them all, then use the catfood to lure Dragon over to take care of the bodies."

I stepped back in shock, "No..." I said quietly at first, "No... Jenner would never do that. He saved me..."

Nicodemus sighed again, "Leon... Jenner is losing his mind. He wants that stone and will do anything to get it."

I looked down at the floor, "He just saved me... You mean to tell me that if I hadn’t been there...?"

Nicodemus got off his chair and came over to comfort me. He stood by me and patted me on the shoulder, "Leon... Please don’t be upset. Jenner never had any hope. He was a lost cause. The best thing you can do for him now is to help us keep the stone out of his paws."

I collected myself and stood up, some tears welling up in my eyes, "Nicodemus," I said, "First thing tomorrow morning, I will get that stone for you and only Jonathan will know."

Nicodemus smiled at me, "Good. Be sure that you tell Jonathan not to tell Jenner. There’s also the chance Jenner might still try to get it from Jonathan... If he doesn’t have it... Jenner might think Jonathan’s lying."

I frowned, "And then Jenner would get mad. He might kill them anyway."

Nicodemus nodded, "Yes..." There was a pause, then Nicodemus smiled weakly, "It’s late, Leon. Go get some rest."

I nodded and headed back to my apartment.

Tallor was already asleep, so I crept to my bed and decided to leave my tunic on tonight. Taking it off would be too noisy.

Time to go to sleep. It’s been a busy and frightful day, and tomorrow won’t be a cakewalk either, I’m sure.

Chapter 13

Day - September 12

Good God was the morning hectic... I might as well start from the very beginning:

I woke up earlier than usual, sometime around six AM. I crept out the door (no need to change because I already had my tunic on from the night before) and began the journey outside. I went through the empty main hallway, past the grain storage areas, up the elevators, and down the flower path. I hooked to the left and decided to go out the side entrance, which would put me closer to the garden ( A quick note on that, for some odd reason, the thorns in the side exit grow much MUCH quicker than anywhere else in the rosebush. Nicodemus thinks it might be the "awakened" mitochondria somehow taking shape in the plant’s cells. We don’t worry too much about those thorns, though. Nothing serious has happened involving them). I met Isa and Brutus at the exit – Isa was doing her thing and watching out for intruders. Brutus was asleep. Probably at Isa’s insistence.

Isa grabbed my arm as I walked quietly past Brutus, trying not to wake him, "Hey, Leon, where are you going this early in the morning?"

I cleared my throat softly, "Out. I need to speak with Jonathan."

She nodded and returned to her corner, leaning on that spear of hers, "Oh, alright. Be careful, though. I saw Dragon lurking around the garden about twenty minutes ago. He’s looking hungry."

I grinned, "Of course he is. It’s breakfast time. Speaking of which, when are you eating?"

I couldn’t believe I’d just said that.

She raised an eyebrow and shook her long headfur out of her eyes, "Care to repeat that, Leon?"

I blinked in shock and licked my lips, "Eh... Uh, no. Slip of the tongue."

Isa chuckled, "Ah. For a second there, I thought you were asking me to breakfast." She looked up at the ceiling, looking thoughtful, "Not that it would be that romantic anyways, since all we eat are grain and oats and the occassional egg meal."

I shook my head and held up my paws – I forced them down when I realized I was doing Justin’s trademark expression for when he screwed something up, "Look, I’m really sorry Isa, it was a mistake."

Isa smiled broadly, "A mistake?"

Another screw up, "Well, uh... Not that I’d mind taking you to breakfast... But, uh..." She crossed her arms and kept the smile, "Well?"

I stepped back, "Well, y’know... I’m involved with Jessica."

She nodded, "That’s right." She looked over at Brutus, "You’re very lucky he’s asleep. If he heard what you said you’d never hear the end of it."

I shrugged, "Was it really that bad?"

Isa slowly smiled, "It depends. Don’t you have business with Jonathan?"

There was a pause as she waited for me to respond. I was still trying to figure out what she meant by "it depends," but I then I got the last part of the sentence. I began to back up out the door, "Right. Yes, I’m going... now." I pointed out the exit and Isa nodded and chuckled a bit more, "Will you get going? You’ll wake Brutus up, and then he’ll be grumpy all day. Not that it would change anything from the norm..."

I grinned and waved quickly, "Right, then. G’bye!" She waved back, "Be careful out there!"

I hurriedly dashed across the farmyard, stopping only to catch my breath in some grassy areas where I could stop and not be threatened by bigger animals. As I was making the final dash to the garden, a big black object thunked down in front of me. Thanks to the Guards, I managed to get out of the way quickly to see what it was without getting crushed by it when it rolled over.

The object looked like a bird of some kind, with big black feathers and a yellow beak. It shakily stood up on it’s long legs and gave me an apologetic look, "Oh jeez... Excuse me, pardon me... I’m kinda new to this flying stuff, you know what I’m sayin’?"

I frowned a little, but I still tried to stay somewhat polite, unlike Brutus or Jenner would, by then shaking my head and saying, "Well, honestly, no. I don’t know what you’re saying. I can’t fly. You’ll notice that I am without wings."

I held out my arms to the side as a visual aid. The young black bird smiled and chuckled a little, "No wings? Now THAT’S just plain weird! Do ya hafta WALK everywhere?"

I nodded, "Yeah, that’s pretty much what we land mammals have to do to get around."

The bird blinked, "Land mamols? What is that?"

I ran a paw through my headfur, trying to come up with a plausible explanation. Being smarter than every other animal here really stunk. Holding a conversation would be more difficult than I imagined.

"Well..." I started, "A... Land mammal is an animal that lives on the land... But has warm blood."

The bird stepped back, a little frightened, "Oh...? How would you know they have warm blood? Do... Do you eat them?"

I grimaced and tried to look as disgusted as I could, "EAT them? Goodness, No! That’s awful! I could never bring myself to kill and eat another animal. I read that in a book. A book is a big collection of papers with neat stuff written on the inside."

The bird shook his head, "Yer confusing me, little animal... Let’s change the subject... Aw jeez!" He smacked his forehead with a wing "I haven’t even introduced myself properly yet... Momma always tells me to be nice to everyone. My name is Jeremy. Soon I’m gonna be able to fly!"

I smiled and nodded, "Nice to meet you Jeremy. A little young to be flying around, wouldn’t you say?" In the back of my mind I wanted to get out of there, but also I wanted to make this acquaintance, seeing as all my other friends were rodents.

The bird shook his head, "No, sir! My Momma says that all crows start flying around my age! She told me that I need to learn to fly or I’ll be a waste."

I grinned and nodded, "Well, we wouldn’t want that now, would we?"

Jeremy shook his head, "No we wouldn’t! What’s your name, little animal?"

I chuckled, "My name is Leon. I’m a rat and I live here in the farmyard."

Jeremy’s eyes blew up to about the size of dinner plates, "A RAT!? Like the ones that like under that rosebush?"

My insides at this point were panicking, but my outside remained cool and calm, "Now wherever did you hear anything about that, Jeremy?" I asked, probably sounding really cold and impersonal.

Jeremy didn’t seem to notice, "Well, all my brothers and sisters tell me that the rats that live under the rosebush are mean and they have magical powers! I don’t go near the rosebush because I’m scared they’ll turn me into a cat! I’m allergic to cats!"

I couldn’t help but laugh a little. It wasn’t that I knew the farm animals had suspicions about us, I knew that since the first weasel broke in, but simply Jeremy’s personal reason for not going near the rosebush.

Jeremy looked a little put off by this and he frowned, "Gosh, Leon, what’s so funny?"

I looked up at him and smiled, thinking up a quick lie, "Well, the idea of rats with magical powers is quite ludicrious. I happen to live with the rats under the rosebush and there’s no magic going on there. And all the rats are really nice."

Jeremy’s eyes practically bugged out of their sockets, "YOU’RE from the rosebush!?"

I nodded and held a finger to my maw, signaling for him to be quiet, "Yes, yes I am. The other animals are suspicious of us because we don’t come out too often. We just like the comfort of our home, it’s very cozy."

Jeremy nodded, his awe slipping, "What’s with that cloth you’ve got on you?"

I looked down at myself and noticed I was wearing my tunic. "Well, Jeremy, I found it near the sandbox in the backyard and nobody had taken it, so I decided to take it. It’s pretty neat, isn’t it?" Jeremy nodded and then looked up into the sky. Another crow, a bigger one, was circling overhead. I could hear a squawk come from it, obviously directed towards Jeremy. Jeremy looked down at me with a sigh, "Aw, that’s my momma... She’s gonna be angry that I’m not flying. Well, it was nice to meet you Mr. Leon rat sir."

I smiled and waved, and then on a whim, stepped up close to him, "Jeremy..." I said, trying to piece together some good reason for saying what I was going to say, "Jeremy, can you try to keep a lid on us? The rats, I mean. We’ve had some nasty animals try to get into our home and we’ve almost lost it. It’s the last place on Earth we have to call home. Can you keep us a secret from now on?"

Jeremy nodded, "Yeah, sure thing! See you around!"

And he left, flying awkwardly into the air to meet up with his mother.

I stood there for a little bit, trying to consider what I should have exactly said that might’ve been better than what I actually did say. I had to lie about the magic, it was just too risky to tell... And the bit about us not having another home... Well, it’s all for the good of the colony.

I shook my head, trying to dismiss Jeremy’s intrusion on my activities as I dashed to the Brisby home.

Elizabeth and Jonathan would both be here, I was sure of it. I poked my head into the front entrance again and almost screamed. Elizabeth was standing near the fireplace, gazing idly into the fire that was blazing in it. If she had turned around, she definitely would have seen me. I slowly slid out of the doorway when I heard a familiar voice (Jonathan’s) coming from one of the side rooms, "Elizabeth? Are you still in here?"

Elizabeth turned from the fireplace as if she had just woken up from a good dream, "What? Oh.. Yes. I was just thinking..."

Jonathan stepped out from the side door and gave her an exasperated look, "Elizabeth... You’ve been in this cinderblock for a whole week, you need some fresh air."

Elizabeth shook her head, "Jonathan... You know I can’t leave Martin alone..."

Jonathan smiled and took her paws, "Lizzy, I’M here. I can look after him while you go for a walk. You need to get out and see the sun for once."

Elizabeth smiled, "Ooh, I love it whe you call me Lizzy. It sounds so... So..." She looked away from Jonathan, "Oh, you taught me a word for this kind of situation... Don’t worry, I’ll get it..." She shook her head and then smiled at Jonathan, "It sounds so... so familiar..."

Jonathan nodded, "That will do... But you need to go take a walk."

Elizabeth nodded as well, "Yes... I know. I will after you go get some water for the tea kettle. I should make some tea for you and me."

Jonathan smiled and headed for the door. By this time, I was already mostly out of the doorway, crouching low by the side of the exit. When I heard Jonathan grab a bucket from the top of the stairs, I booked it to the shrubs on the far side of the mound the cinderblock lay on.

I could see Jonathan exit and head down to the stream. This was it!

I crept along the shrubs and strode onto the back of the stream where Jonathan was filling his bucket with water. I stood and waited for him to turn but he’d already noticed I was there, probably by scent. Without turning his head, he smiled and said, "Hello, Leon... I told Nicodemus I wasn’t doing the running anymore. I need time to spend with my beautiful wife and equally beautiful son. I wish I could show him to you... He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. He made me realize completely that I couldn’t run anymore. Elizabeth helped me realize that I was still mortal... My God, I love them so..." He looked up at me, placing his now filled bucket on the ground, "Sorry, I tend to go off on those tangents whenever I talk about life in general. What did you need?"

I smiled and cleared my throat, "Jonathan, we need that stone back. The one Nicodemus gave to you. It seems to be more powerful than we could imagine."

Jonathan frowned, "Aw... You need it back? I’d just finished engraving the message. Took me long enough, eh?"

I nodded, "Sorry, Jonathan... But Nicodemus had a vision with his spinning mirror machine thing. A certain someone close to you and me is at this very moment plotting to steal it from you and use it for evil purposes."

Jonathan frowned even deeper and whispered, "You mean Jenner?"

I nodded

Jonathan shivered, "I smelled the lout creeping around my house a few nights back. He thinks I can’t smell him... Well he’s wrong." He eyed my suspisciously, "And I thought I smelled you hanging around here, too. When Martin was born."

I rubbed my maw (nervous habit), "I’d come to get the stone from you then. Bad timing."

Jonathan nodded, looking sarcastic, "No, really? What’s so special about this stone anyway?"

I shrugged, "It contains a large amount of excess energy from Nicodemus’ mitochondral powers. If it’s unleashed, it will destroy anything in its path."

Jonathan blinked and then picked up the bucket and briskly began to walk back to his home, motioning for me to follow with his head.

When we got to the front entrance, Jonathan whispered to me, "Wait in the alcove between the stone and the cinderblock until Elizabeth leaves and is out of sight, then come in."

I nodded and hid in the specified spot. A minute after crouching into a hiding spot, Elizabeth came walking out of the block, wrapping a nice red cape around her body. She looked into the sky and began to walk towards the stream, keeping an ear out for predators and always sniffing the air. I hoped she didn’t catch my scent. If she did, then she sure didn’t do anything about it. She walked straight down to the stream without once stopping and turning back.

After she disappeared over a small knoll, I slid into the entrance to the cinderblock house.

Jonathan was waiting for me. He was sitting at the table in the kitchen looking right up at me with a half smile, half frown. He stood up from his chair and held a paw up, "Leon," he whispered, "be very quiet. If Martin hears you he’ll wake up and have a tantrum. Elizabeth would be able to hear something like that from a mile away.

I nodded and didn’t say anything. Jonathan proceeded to his room (The one he shares with his wife and newborn) and pushed back the curtain in front of the entrance. He motioned for me to stay put as he walked to the other side of the room and very slowly opened a small drawer next to Martin’s makeshift crib. I was surprised he was able to open it, pick up the stone, and close the drawer without waking Martin. Jonathan almost seemed to be making Martin sleep so he could carry on. Those few moments were very strange to me for reasons I cannot exactly make sense of right now.

Anyways, Jonathan padded softly back to the doorway, placed the stone into my paws, and nodded to the exit, "Leon, Elizabeth might be back any second. You’d better get going."

I nodded and climbed up the stairs. As I had one foot out the hole, I turned back for a moment, "Jonathan, when are you going to tell her?"

Jonathan frowned and looked into the fireplace, "Soon."

I shook my head sternly, "Jonathan Brisby, if you don’t tell that poor mouse soon, I swear to God I’ll tell her myself. You’re hurting her every second you don’t tell."

Jonathan looked shocked, "L...Leon, c’mon..."

I shook my head again, "Thank you for returning the stone. I’ll talk to you later then, bye."

And I hurried out of the cinderblock.

I’m not mean. I know this because I know what doing the right thing would consist of. What I mean is: Jonathan is only hurting himself by not telling Elizabeth his secret because I, he, and everyone here knows that at some point or another, he will have to tell her. It will, if nothing is done, more than likely be on Elizabeth’s deathbed. Elizabeth would be downright mad at him for not telling him sooner, and her last words to him might not be good ones. I’m only trying to be a good friend. That’s all I want to be to Jonathan. I don’t want us to become bitter anytime soon, which is why I am trying to make Jonathan stand up to his own fears; fears that cannot be faced tonight, so I will stop writing. After all, it’s been a long day.

Day - September 13

Last night I gave Nicodemus the stone and he put it in it’s gold ornamental box. I’m not going to say where he hid it, just in case a certain someone plans on taking it and knows which journal to read. It’s merely too risky.

This morning, Nicodemus told Jenner to let me be off work today and tonight. Jenner thinks that I have a sprained ankle. If he knows to read this journal for his own purposes, then he might as well know my feelings. And my lies.

When I woke up from a deep slumber, Tallor was gone (I think he left for the workshop at around seven o’clock in the morning), and I was alone. It was sometime around twelve thirty in the afternoon when I finally dragged myself out of bed. There was a note posted on my bedside dresser in Tallor’s handwriting just itching to be looked over by my eyes. It read:

"Leon: Nicodemus told me that he wants to see you when you wake up. I’ll be in the shop late so be sure not to barracade the door or anything."

Well, considering I've never barricaded the door before, I found this note written in haste, which is something Tallor relies on in his work. He's what you might call a procrastinator.

I decided to go to the cafeteria first, since I had not eaten anything since the previous morning. The breakfast was, as I had miraculously guessed, grains and oats.

I ate the usual tasteless meal, seeing as how I've had it so many times I can convince my stomach it tastes like something more tasty (Like the clam chowder from the mansion... Mm-Mmm).

After breakfast, I followed the note's instructions and went to Nicodemus' office. It was unusually quiet that day and the soft patter above my head and the occasional drop of water hinted that perhaps it was raining outdoors.

As I entered Nicodemus' office, I could see a faint glow coming from the corner, where his journal is always kept. I would've probably gone to investigate it if I hadn't seen Nicodemus looking directly at me from his throne.

"Leon, you made it. I was afraid you would have slept all the way through the day and then I wouldn't have gotten the chance to talk to you."

I frowned, "Why couldn't I speak to you tonight?"

Nicodemus sighed, "Leon, tonight is the first set of council meetings regarding a new group of councilmen. You remember that Sullivan is intending on joining, correct?"

I nodded. I couldn't believe I'd forgotten the meetings. I'd even promised Nicodemus I'd try to get some info on Jenner and Sullivan before he went on the floor the first time.

Nicodemus read my puzzled expression, "Leon, you didn't forget your promise, did you? It is imperative that we find out if Jenner is going to get Sullivan on the panel through... Unsavory means."

I nodded, this time in comprehension, "I know. I won't let you down, either."

Nicodemus smiled and nodded, "Good... Because I know Jenner is going to get him onto the panel without a test."

I frowned deeply, "What do you mean?"

Nicodemus sighed, "Leon, Jenner has lost his mind. He needs something or someone to blame it on."

I nodded slowly, trying to guess where the conversation was going

Nicodemus continued, "Jenner is slowly setting up pieces. Like it were a game of chess. Jenner's the king, and right now, Sullivan is his pawn. Victoria is like his queen."

I was silent. Victoria and Jenner had been almost like boyfriend/girlfriend for about a year now. I don't know if Jenner's planning on proposing to her or not. I think he might be too hurt over the loss of his first family.

Nicodemus' eyes glowed a light yellow, "Leon, what I'm going to tell you is meant for your ears, plus two other sets."

I was puzzled after this, but then Nicodemus sent me to get Justin and Jonathan. Justin wasn't too busy so he could make it to Nicodemus' office and wait there for me so I could go get Jonathan.

Jonathan was alone in the house, sitting at the kitchen table. When I poked my head in, he bolted up the stairs and looked really angry, "Leon! Get OUT of here! Elizabeth just took Martin to go see Mr. Ages in the thresher for a quick checkup. He's got a small cough. So go!"

I shook my head, "I can't, Jonathan... Nicodemus has something extremely important to tell you, me and Justin.

Jonathan clenched his paws into fists and gritted his teeth, "Fine, I'll go... But I'm not running again, got it?"

I nodded, "We're not going to make you run, Jonathan, just relax."

So we headed back to the office. Nicodemus was having a conversation with Justin about some sort of new electric blade when Jonathan and I walked in.

Nicodemus waved Justin off the seat he was in and motioned for all of us to come a little closer to him. Justin looked a little like he was anticipating a huge shock; obviously Nicodemus had told him something before telling Jon and me.

"You three all know of the vision I had with the mirror? About the great unrest in the future?" Nicodemus started.

We all nodded in agreement.

Nicodemus nodded as well, "Good... Unfortunately, it seems I was both right and wrong about this prophecy. There will not be one great unrest in the near future, but two."

We all looked at each other in a dumbed down version of dread.

Nicodemus continued, "The first unrest is a short time from now... I saw it occuring sometime next year... This unrest will be stopped by your wife, Jonathan." He nodded to Jonathan, who shrank back and looked at Nicodemus in pure doubt, "You must be kidding! She's only a feral, she doesn't know about any of you, how could she save us all?"

Nicodemus frowned, "Jonathan, you will either tell her, or someone here will. You are being childish and selfish in not telling her."

Jonathan lost most self control at that point, "How DARE you say that! It's none of your business how I live my life! I can tell her when I damn well please, so just back off! I don't want anything to do with you anymore! I just want to live a peaceful life with my son and my wife!"

Justin gave me a look that said, "Whoa, he's pissed" and then looked back at Nicodemus, who had just sat still through the whole bashing. "Jonathan," Nicodemus said, "you can pretend all you want that you're an ordinary mouse like you were before NIMH. You have an excellent imagination, so you've been able to drag it out this far, but you're living in a lie. No matter HOW much you don't want to be a NIMH mouse, you are. We're all connected here, Jonathan, like one big family. We've all endured the same treatment and injections..." As he continued, I could feel my stomach cramps surfacing. I waved a paw to Nicodemus, who quickly changed the subject, "... Jonathan," He said again, "you must stop this childish behavior. You are like a brother to me." He smiled a little, "You have been extremely fortunate in finding a wonderful mate. Jonathan, I know that you will not believe me, but your wife will not leave you if you tell her the truth."

Jonathan was silent and nodded, "So... What's this about Lizzy stopping the unrest?"

Nicodemus cleared his throat, "Well, she will stop it, she will thwart it somehow... But that is not where the true danger lies. What we need to be able to anticipate is when the second unrest will come. I found out when it will happen."

We waited a little bit as Nicodemus pondered a little to find the right words, "In the future, in years to come, when we are at Thorn Valley, Justin," He looked at Justin, "you will have a wife and a son in Thorn Valley."

At the mention of this, Justin looked a little shocked and staggered back a step before finding a pillar of stone to hold on to. Justin looked at the ground for a moment, then looked up at Nicodemus with silent eyes that were becoming tear filled. Nicodemus continued, "Your son will be a savior of us all, because there will be somebody there who will be trying to continue an evil legacy that supposedly ends the same time your wife comes to save us." He looked at Jonathan, " A descendant of yours will play an important part in Justin’s son’s life. A son of your own. I don't know of his name yet, but Jonathan, he will come. He will be a counterpart and friend to Justin’s son. Do you understand?" Jonathan sighed a little and shook his head in confusion. "I think so... But I don't know why I should believe you..."

Nicodemus chuckled, "Jonathan, you don't think I know these sorts of things?"

Jonathan nodded slowly, "So you've got a big spinning mirror, so WHAT?"

Nicodemus smiled, "So what? Why is your wife going to see Mr. Ages?"

Jonathan looked nervously at me, than back to Nicodemus, "My son... he's got a cough."

Nicodemus shook his head, "No, he doesn't. Your wife is pregnant again."

Justin and I looked at Jonathan in complete and utter surprise. We both asked, "WHAT??" at almost the same time.

Jonathan's face turned beet-red under his grey fur and I'd swear he came close to passing out on the floor.

Nicodemus finally looked at me while Jonathan was collecting himself, "Leon, while Jonathan's second son will be a friend of Justin’s son, I do not think Jonathan will be there to act as a mentor for him. And I see Justin holding a very time-demanding profession in the future...

The path that Justin’s son will take will be a long and hard one, filled with adversity and danger. His life will be placed on the line, and yours will be as well. You are to teach him to be a Guard, teach him the martial arts you know, and aid him in stopping the future unrest. He will have a great gift, and in a short while you will receive the gift, too. I do not know what it is, but it is the only way you will overcome the second unrest. Both of these instances will culminate to just three people’s decisions."

Justin tilted his head, still recovering from the pre-news about his wife and son,, "What do you mean ‘three people’s decisions?’"

Nicodemus nodded slowly and held up a paw, "Easy, Justin, I was about to explain that. You see, these two trials will come to heads, and for each instance the fate of the colony will be placed on the shoulders of three individuals. The first three I saw were Jonathan’s wife, Justin and Sullivan."

Justin and I grunted, "Sullivan? What’s he got to do with anything?" I asked.

Nicodemus shrugged, "Honestly, I cannot tell. He shows no obvious signs of courage or being able to handle such a large feat – saving the colony."

Jonathan quickly cleared his throat, "What about the second unrest?"

Nicodemus smiled lightly, "I have not quite determined that, yet. I will work hard to, though. I will be writing all of my visions down from here, so I will be able to remember exact details. Things like the names of rats whisp around the spinning mirror so quickly I can forget them in no time at all. There was one thing, though. Something about the second unrest coming in five days after some event. Does that sound familiar, Leon?"

I shivered and put a paw to my temple, "Five days...? That sounds awfully familiar. I can’t pin it."

Nicodemus sighed, "That is fine, Leon. Do you understand everything else I’ve said?"

I nodded quickly, trying to file away all my future objectives in a place in my head where I wouldn't get bogged down all at once. It was a lot to digest, and I dind't want to fall to the floor in shock.

Jonathan looked a little confused, "Nicodemus, why did you say that you think I won't be able to be there for my second son?"

Nicodemus bowed his head solemnly, "When I saw the future, I didn't see you there. Your name was spoken as if it were a memory - etched in a thousand texts and into a thousand minds in schooling. Jonathan, what I see is only a possible future, but I think that the decisions you make in the next few days will impact how long you survive, and if you are there for your children. And your wife. You must do the right thing."

Jonathan nodded, "I need some time to think, Nicodemus... Please give me some time..."

Nicodemus nodded to Jonathan, then to me and Justin, "I know what I've told you is hard to believe. It may not even be true, but please do remember my words in case something shall ever happen...."

I don't know what to think at the current moment. I'm sitting on my bed, writing now. Tallor's still not back, meaning his note was accurate.

A hero to be born in Thorn Valley? Justin's son? Jonathan Brisby's second son to be his best friend? Me to be his mentor? Elizabeth preganant with the second child? It seems so... Strange... Everything's happening so fast...

I need some sleep, the words are getting fuzzy. And there's a yawn. I'm putting the pencil down now.

Leon, Nicodemus, Jonathan & Justin
Artwork by MAL

Chapter 14

Day – October 14

I’m sorry I haven’t written in a while, a lot of weird things have been happening here lately that have required my immediate attention. Action is starting to pick up here in the rosebush, and I fear that quite soon our activities will be soon focused primarily on the Plan...

Okay, so, here’s what’s been happening:

  1. Sullivan is going to be admitted to try and join the lower council floor sometime this week. If what Nicodemus says is true, Jenner will try and slide the votes of the upper floor of the council in Sullivan’s favor. I need to try and find out what Jenner’s plans are, and how he is planning on tilting the vote.
  2. Tallor’s been out late almost every night for the past month working on a new heavy-duty Guard’s weapon. From what he’s told me (Whenever I had the guts to stay up and wait for him to return in a half-sleeping trance), the weapon uses some kind of tiny electrical transformer to channel our mitochondria into a weapon and make it electric. The only obvious downside was that it would only work sometimes, when the mitochondria feels like coming out. I can’t wait to see who gets to carry THIS weapon around on patrols.
  3. A messenger (A rat named Vyse) came from the Thorn Valley area with letters from each individual working on the new colony. Jessica sent me one. It said, and I quote:

"Dear Leon:

Hi, love! I miss you SO much! Working here at the Valley is very hard work, but I’m sure it will be worth it in the near future. I’ve begun to discover the joys of nature out here in the wilderness. When we first got here, we all needed to sleep together in a small, cramped cave. I hated it, mainly because Arthur has terrible breath and he’d always sleep right near me. YUCK!

Once the actual building got underway, I’ve found myself doing nothing much besides working, eating, and sleeping. Social life is contained within work. We all had to work together to get the main sections done, which they are, and now we feel quite accomplished. You’ve no idea how much I argued with Arthur about him letting me be the messenger, but he insisted that I stay here and help build some more storage wells. Storage wells!? We’ve already got TEN of them, how many more could be possibly need??

Whatever the case, I’m so sorry that I could not see you... I miss your face dreadfully. Do you still have that picture I drew for you the night before I left? I knew you did! You’re great!

The Valley is practically finished. We’ve got a Guardhouse (Which I know you will be interested in!), a meeting hall, a cafeteria, hundreds upon hundreds of empty rooms for apartments (Not enough for one, but enough to share with someone else, like you and your great friend, Tallor), and of course, more storage rooms than you can count on four paws. It’s enough to make your head spin. My work will probably be done by the time you’re reading this letter, so I will be coming back "home" very soon. Once we builders are done, then the carpenters come in and make all the furniture, then everyone drags the food out here and we put it in the storage wells and rooms. I’m sorry to say that by the time we move, you will be doing manual labor. I know you despise it, but it’s the only way to get everything here. Stop pouting, because I know you are! Just kidding. Well, I’ll see you in about a month. Then we can get all the work done on the valley and everything will be fine. Don’t bother sending a letter back with Vyse, I’ll already be on my way back by the time he gets here.

Take good care of yourself, and I love you.

Jessica "

Well, that’s the love of my life. And Justin’s calling me, so it’s time for Guards practice.

Day – October 14 (Night)

After the Guards practice, I was walking back to my apartment when I heard some voices coming from the storage room near Nicodemus’ office. They were actually quite loud so I could plainly hear them from the main hallway.

As I approached the source of the two voices, I recognized them as Jenner and Cid. Jenner’s voice was low and gruff, it actually sounded like Jenner was making a threat. Cid’s voice sounded unsure and fearful. I stood by the door to the storage room and waited. After about ten minutes, Cid emerged and was so distraught that he didn’t even see I was standing there. His eyes showed fear.

I pivoted around and stood in the doorway and I found myself looking right at Jenner. He frowned and narrowed his eyes at me, "Leon, what a pleasant surprise... What are YOU doing here?"

I shrugged, "I happened to be passing by here on my back from topside and I hear you threatening Cid about something. Could it perhaps, have something to do with Cid’s profession?"

Jenner scowled, "I don’t know what you’re talking about. You can go get Cid if you want, he’s going to say I didn’t do anything to him."

I nodded, "Yeah, because if he tells the truth then you’ll pulverize him and leave him to Dragon."

Jenner gritted his teeth, "That’s a lie. I wasn’t arguing with Cid in there, we were talking about grain shortages. He seems to think that there will be plentiful grain harvests at the Valley. I think he’s a fool, along with anyone else who suggests it. The Rosebush is where we belong."

I shook my head, not wanting to get into a debate with Jenner. If Justin, Jonathan, AND Nicodemus couldn’t silence him, then there was no way that I could.

I looked up at Jenner with a small smirk, "By the time the vote comes for Sullivan’s entrance to the lower floor, I’ll find out what you were "Discussing" with Cid."

Jenner smirked too, "Sullivan’s vote? What’s this got to do with that?"

I shrugged and began to walk away.

As I turned the corner, I could see Jenner in my peripheral vision. He was crunching grains in his paws to tightly that I could see pain on Jenner’s face.

I guess I must have hit the nail on the head, then.

Day – October 16

A few hours ago we had a big problem near the side entrance. Apparently, those moving thorn vines have somehow managed to injure a Guard’s arm. The rat was Terry. He had been on Guard and had fallen asleep (As most people do when their shifts are more than three hours). While he was asleep, one of the vines had wrapped itself around his arm, cutting deep into him with it’s thorns.

Terry is okay now, but when he woke up and saw the vine and the blood, he panicked and started screaming for help. By the time somebody heard his cries and got Jack, he had already passed out from blood loss. He’ll need to take some time off so his arm can heal properly. Nicodemus addressed the situation and, for the first time since I can remember, Jenner didn’t interrupt him.

Nicodemus told every rat in the colony not to go near the side entrance EVER, unless they were topside and needed a quick way in. Only the Guards could go near the side entrance to keep out intruders.

Besides that incident, not much has happened here lately. Vyse left yesterday to head back to Thorn Valley, and I told him to tell Jessica, if he saw her, to say "Hello" for me. It was the least I could do. Sure, she told me not to write a letter to her, but I can still try to pass messages along by word of mouth.

Day – October 20

I met up with Cid in the hall a few moments ago. I asked him about what had happened in the storage room that day with Jenner. Cid suddenly got all jumpy and nervous, then he tried to change the subject, asking me about Tallor’s new project. I frowned and peered him in the eyes, "Cid, you’re not telling me something. I thought we were friends, Cid. Friends TELL eachother these things."

Cid bit his lower lip and looked around, trying to see if anyone was there, then he looked back at me, "Leon, I just can’t... I’m not at liberty to say..."

I shook my head, "Sure you are. You have a voice box, don’t you? You know English? Good, so do I." I snipped sarcastically. "Cid, if Jenner is trying to rig the vote, tell me now."

Cid ‘s eyes bulged as if he meant to say, "How did you...?" and then he looked around again to see if anyone might have been coming, then he snuck in close to me, "Alright, Leon, Jenner is planning to rig the vote... He said if I voted down Sullivan he’d KILL me!"

I blinked in shock, "Kill you?" He must have been pretty desperate to threaten Cid’s life... But WHY?

I nodded and patted Cid on the back, "Thanks. Don’t worry, I’ll try to get some help. Don’t worry, I won’t tell you told."

Cid nodded slowly, as if he somehow doubted my words, then he walked into his apartment, which a few doors down from mine. Alright, good, I’ve got proof that Jenner was trying to rig the vote. I’m heading to Nicodemus’ now.

Day – October 20 (Night)

When I told Nicodemus that Jenner was rigging the vote, Nicodemus just nodded and frowned a little, "I knew it... But to threaten Cid with death? I saw Jenner arguing with Cid through the mirror, but their voices were not there. I just..." he sighed and shook his head, "Leon, we need to let Sullivan join. Go around to the council members and tell them about this incident. We need to know what Jenner is up to, and... It pains me to say it, but this is the only way."

I nodded and left. Tomorrow would be a big day indeed.

Day – October 21

I spent the entire morning working on my martial arts techniques. Especially take downs and self defense. I’ve seen Jenner’s physical abilities and if I dug too deep today, he might get a little medievil on my tail, which is something I’d like to avoid for the most part.

After spending about three hours doing countless ippons with some of the other training Guards, I headed to the cafeteria to get something to eat. Oh, by the way, an ippon is a short spar that lets me see how my moves turn out in real life.

I ate my fill of oats and grains, not exactly caring at the moment where the next meal was coming from (The storage is getting low: Some rats are already taking our grains and moving them to Thorn Valley) and then went back to my apartment to fetch my sword, which I’d left in it’s usual place under my bed.

Once I retrieved my trusty blade, I sat down on my bed of down and cotton balls to try and determine what I was going to do. Who should I spy on? Jenner? Sullivan? Or should I question the other high council members?

It was then that I remembered I needed to convince the council members to vote in Sullivan’s favor. That would be easy, I was sure.

So off I went, making small stops at the councilmember’s apartments and discussing the matter thoroughly with them.

A councilmember named Darche made a very good point: Jenner hadn’t threatened all of the councilmembers, he’d weeded out the weaker-minded ones (and it has nothing to do with their integrity, just their neural makeup I suppose) and had manipulated them to his extent. If I were to tell all the council members to vote for Sullivan, it might come off a little fishy. Nicodemus wanted Jenner to not suspect anything so we could find out what his real plans and motives were.

Darche told me who hadn’t been threatened (Councilmembers DO socialize... That’s odd. I thought they slept in coffins all day and just came out at night and for meetings.) and that he wouldn’t say anything else about the matter. Not that there was really anything else to be said at that point.

The morning quickly melted into the afternoon, and I had carefully found out who was voting for Sullivan and who had been threatened and forced to. Jenner had only managed to get to a few councilmembers before we found out of Jenner’s manipulations. Cid, the head councilman, was one of those threatened. Jenner was on his way to secure the vote, but Nicodemus had told me to help him along. We’d play his little game just until we found out what he was up to.

I went back to Nicodemus’ to report my findings. He was less than pleased to discover just how desperate Jenner was at getting Sullivan on the council.

Nicodemus talked to me for a little while, then actually ordered me to go rest for the remainder of the day.

Considering that I always have to be moving (I’m one of those who bobs their knee up and down while sitting. I simply can’t hold still.), I headed back to the gym for a pleasant surprise. Justin was sword sparring AND doing paw to paw with Constelle. As I’d figured, Constelle was doing quite poorly. His hand to hand was simply horrible. Whenever Justin threw a jab, Constelle would have to step back, allowing Justin room to thrust his sword.

After watching for about a minute, Constelle lost and Justin just grinned and invited me over for a quick spar. I was more than happy to oblige. Now was the time to see how my practice had paid off.

Justin tossed me Constelle’s sword with a grin, "Hey, Leon, you ready?"

I tightened my grip on the sword and slowly dropped into a fighting position, "As ready as I’ll ever be. C’mon, let’s fight!"

Justin obliged by dashing in with a quick downward swing. I hopped to my left and readied myself again. Justin wasn’t too quick, but he had a lot of stamina and strength, and he also had the rare ability to anticipate his opponent’s attacks. At least while swordfighting.

Justin came in again, this time slashing his sword horizontally. I dropped as low as I could and I could hear the whistle of the blade pass over my head (At least these swords were padded...). I dropped my sword and used the same paw (My right) to grab Justin’s sword swinging arm (His right). Justin made a fatal mistake and tried to jerk his paw back, leaving me time to figure out what move I was going to do. I also was able to look around and notice that everyone in the gym was watching us with extreme interest. Maybe about fifteen rats, including Constelle, gazed at us.

I turned quickly back to Justin and threw a sturdy punch to his right side, still crouching low. The punch was weak, but Justin felt it. He yelped a little bit as I took a step forward, twisting his arm as I went, then I slammed my right leg into his legs and flipped him completely over onto his back.

I smiled down at Justin and he grimaced at me, "Cripes, Leon, you almost broke my arm!"

I shrugged, "Sorry, Justin. It’s not my fault that you didn’t remember how to get out of paw-lock like that. You tried to pull away when you could’ve stepped in and taken me down with a sweep of your leg."

Justin shook his head and chuckled a little and I helped him up, "I gotta hand it to you, Leo..." He grinned at me, "You sure know what you’re talking about."

I nodded and picked up my sword from where I had dropped it, "Well, it’s just practice. Constelle needs some more practice, too. I was watching you two. He’s kind of flakey."

Justin laughed out loud as he heard this and looked over to Constelle, who had overheard me and was trying to think of something witty to say. Knowing him, he’d probably knock on my door in a few hours with a carefully constructed comeback that I would be able to counter in a matter of seconds. I feel sorry for the guy sometimes, honestly.

I sighed as I returned the padded sword to the weapon’s rack. Practice was the best time to approach Justin with a question and I had a quick one on my mind at the time, "Justin," I asked, "by your estimate, how long do you think it will take to get the supplies to Thorn Valley?"

Justin shrugged, "I don’t know... Perhaps four months, give or take. We need to move the rest of the grain stores there, plus the plows and seeds, and the tools."

I nodded and frowned, then left the gym and went back to my apartment, which is where I am now.

The moving starts tomorrow. I’ll be seeing Jessica again in a few days, but I will be unable to write about it. I will need to pack this journal away, along with Tallor’s stuff so it can be moved to Thorn Valley.

The thing that bugs me so much is that I’m not moving to Thorn Valley until we absolutely need to. I pleaded with Cid to let me keep my journal, but he was being a jerk and told me I needed to pack it. So I will.

Fortunately, unbeknowst to everyone, I still have that extra book that I picked up when I got this book. I will use that from tomorrow on.

It’s just as well, I only have about twenty pages in this book anyway. I’ll use them to sketch and draw... Or let Jessica sketch and draw, which is better seeing as how she’s a much better artist than me.

I will write as soon as possible. If Justin is correct about the time it will take to move, I might not be able to write again until I’m back here in the rosebush in three months! I will try to write, but it will be hard.

I’m up to the challenge.

But the challenge I’m not sure I’m up to is the one Nicodemus fortold... About a dark event happening in the near future, and how deaths will be tolled at that time.

I try not to think about it, but it’s there. The knowledge that someday, when I least expect it, an evil will appear and threaten all our lives... And Jonathan’s feral wife will be the only one who can save us...

And the second time...? What will Justin’s son be like? Will he be nice? Mean? Like me?

I don’t know anything now... And the best thing I can do is stop writing for now, and get some good rest before tomorrow.

Chapter 15

Day - March 28

I feel like I've almost forgotten how to write. It's been so long since I've last written that the things on just the previous page are hazy memories to me now. Reading over the stuff I last wrote makes me just want to spill out all the things that have recently happened, so I will start from as far back as I can possible remember.

I couldn't write in the other book that I had "borrowed" from the Fitzgibbon's dollhouse. Apparently the glue holding the binding together was very old and the second I opened the book, all of the pages fell out! I murmered and grumbled and had a fit about not being able to write, but I soon got over it, as I quickly discovered how busy I was going to be moving all the stuff here to Thorn Valley.

I didn't see Jessica for about another week after my last entry. When we did meet, it was really nothing spectacular. Hugs and kisses were exchanged, along with a slew of information about eachother's going-ons, but other than that we just said "Hello, I missed you." Then started working again.

It's too bad that all this work is called for first. Jessica and I were really looking forward to spending some quality time together. After having about five minutes alone, Justin slammed on my apartment door and told us to get out and help the others with the move.

I know I risk being harassed by my counterparts, but all I can say about that is "Rats!"

So we started moving stuff around, using the new, improved, freight elevator. I was first assigned to help move our almost endless supply of grain. Once that was done, I needed to help bring all the plows (twenty in all) to the surface storage rooms. Fortunately, Brutus was there to help me, so it was relativily easy. Of course, when I thought I was going to get a break, we needed to move all the tools up to the topside storage rooms, too. Sure, I pulled a couple of muscles, but in the end, it was all worth it.

I'd say the hardest thing that we needed to do, though, was keep Dragon constantly drugged so we could carry the stuff outside and into the woods. There are only two here that can do the running: Mr. Ages, and Jonathan. We all thought that Jonathan was going to go nuts when we asked him to run again. Sure, were all great friends, but asking Jonathan to do the running was like slapping a bad sunburn. Fortunately, when we asked him, Jonathan had seemingly returned to his normal self. He simply smiled and nodded, "Sure, I'll do it." And he's been doing the running since. He and Mr. Ages take turns.

I'm not exactly sure why he agreed to run again. On several occasions he had displayed his most sincere disagreement to ever do it again. When we went to go ask him, he came up to us with a frown, but then it turned into a smile when we asked him to do the running. It was very unlike him, seeing as how he had always frowned at us because he was afraid we'd ask him to do the drugging. So the question that bothered us all later was: What was Jonathan frowning about before we asked him?

We're not exactly sure.

Anyways, after doing the moving, we were technically free to go on with business. It may sound easy, but in actuality, it took us four and half months to finish it all.

Jessica and I are doing fine, and so is Justin. Sullivan was, as you may know, elected onto the lower floor and also, as you may assume, began despising the plan and agreeing with Jenner. Nicodemus is doing alright, I suppose. He's getting more and more frail as each day passes. And guess what? Jonathan's got four (That's right, FOUR) kids now. Martin, Teresa, Cynthia, and Timothy. Just recently, Timothy had some sort of ordeal with a nasty spider and it bit him. According to Jonathan, he got really sick. He was actually paralyzed from the bite. Fortunately, Jonathan had been quite close and managed to scare the spider away with a twig, then brought Timothy to Mr. Ages' for medicine. He's doing fine now, according to Mr. Ages and Jonathan, but he has to be very careful about getting sick, as he is most susceptible to getting sick after being poisoned like that.

Looking back on my journal, it seems that Nicodemus was right about Jonathan's son, Timothy. If he was 100% correct, than Timothy should grow up to be the best friend of Justin’s son.

Moving right along, Jenner's been drawing back more and more from society. Even more so than Nicodemus. He won't even see anybody in his apartment. Well... All except for Sullivan and Victoria. I wonder what they all have planned? They're all being very secretive.

Jenner is still also fully aginst the Plan. He refused to help with the move and instead locked himself in his apartment, coming out only for food. And if anybody made a friendly gesture, he'd send them a look that made the good samaritan shrink back in terror. I literally haven't spoken to Jenner since the day I confronted him with rigging Sullivan's vote way back when.

When I asked Nicodemus what Jenner was doing in his apartment, we looked into the spinning mirror and saw something extremely peculiar: He was rocking back and forth, moaning about his son, Daniel. What made it even MORE mind-boggling was that it was the exact same position, view, and tone of voice as it was when we had last looked at it all those months ago. Nicodemus gave me a confused look and told me to be extremely wary, as Jenner was up to something of no good intention. Personally, I don't know what to think. I doubt that Jenner would be contemplating his son's death for this long... It just seems so weird.

And that's basically all that's happened since my last entry. Surprisingly, nobody's gotten hurt or injured in any way during the move. No predetors, no humans, and no NIMH on our trail kept our spirits high as we ventured to Thorn Valley with the equipment. And NO, I didn't see the actual colony itself. I only went halfway to drop the stuff off to another group of rats who would finish the journey. At least the woods were pretty...

Day - April 2 (Night)

I SWEAR to GOD that I will kill that damn cat, Dragon! Last night, as Jonathan was doing the drugging, Dragon batted him across the chest as he leapt under the cabinet! Thank God, though, that Justin was watching him, or else Dragon would have finished him off! Justin pulled Jonathan under the porch and ran to the rosebush, where Jack quickly gave him emergency first aid and brought him to the infirmary.

Jonathan isn't doing too well right now. He's worse than when he got attacked by that hawk in the mansion. His sheets are constantly stained with blood, even WITH the bandages. I'm afraid his life is at serious stake here... An emergency meeting was called by Justin (Who's starting to seriously spazz out) and he addressed the problem with Dragon in a most serious manner. As the meeting went on, Jenner's face started to reveal a look of triumph. In a moment of silence, halfway through the meeting, he stood up from his seat and shouted

"Look at what you've all done to yourselves! I once proposed an END to Dragon's meaningless existence, but you all rejected my ideas, and now look at the terrible consequences! If I only get one thing to you all, let it be this! If I am right about this, imagine what might happen if I'm right about the folly of an idea that is your Plan!"

I expected everyone to get up and pummel Jenner for being so inconsiderate and cold in this moment of remorse, but instead, everybody just sat there doing nothing.

Justin and Nicodemus were the only ones to look at Jenner in shock. Justin stepped towards Jenner, preparing one of his usual vollies that protected the plan, but Nicodemus placed a paw on his shoulder, "Relax, Justin... Jonathan wouldn't want that."

Justin nodded and stormed out of the meeting hall. Jenner smiled triumphantly and sat back down, looking quite ready to defend his outburst.

I quickly got up and left and went to the infirmary to see Jonathan.

He was unconscious from the blood loss and it seemed that Jack had managed to get the bleeding under control, seeing as Jonathan’s sheets weren't stained red anymore. His breathing was shallow and raspy. It didn't sound too good at all. Jack was in the room, but he was busy preparing some more medicines in the next room. I figured that then would be the best time to say anything if anything was going to be said at all.

I simply wished him through his ordeal, and I remembered him that he still had a secret to tell his wife and children (No, he hasn't admitted his past yet.). If he dies now, she may never know why her children become so smart and stop growing after a certain age... I'll say it one more time for luck: Please make it through this, Jonathan...

Day - April 3

Jack says that Jonathan is in critical condition. Mr. Ages must have been summoned late last night because when I went to go check on Jonathan, Ages was in the infirmary mixing up some powders for him. He merely gave me a sad look and continued making the powder.

Jonathan is looking terrible. He's starting to get incredibly pale under his fur and his forehead is burning hot. According to both Jack and Mr. Ages, the swipe from the claw seriously pierced one of his lungs. Jonathan's breathing is becoming worse and worse.

I left Jonathan in the infirmary and tried to decide what I was going to do. I wasn't going to go to the gym and practice, I wasn't in the mood at all. Maybe I'll go see what Tallor's doing. A game of chess might help take my mind off this...

Day - April 3 (Night)

May God welcome you to your new home, Jonathan.

I'm sorry you had to leave us so soon. We were like brothers, weren't we? Jonathan... Just give me the word, anytime, anyplace, and I'll go tell your wife about everything. Please don't be angry, but also don't be upset. I don't exactly know why you never told her, but knowing you, you probably were just a little worried about her reaction. I know you loved her and your children very much. But Jonathan, wherever you may be, please listen to me... They have a right to know. Your children will want to know about their father, and more so, about themselves and why they don't grow older with time... Jonathan, please be there to comfort your wife and children. They will be expecting you to come home soon, and you will not come. Please, for all of us, your friends, be happy in your new life...

Goodbye, Jonathan Brisby. You were a good friend.

Day - April 10

As you may have noticed, I haven't written since Jonathan died. I still have trouble believing it. Everybody here in the rosebush mourned his death and we gave him a proper burial in the woods (Far enough out of territory so Dragon won't find him).

Everyone in the community seemed extremely upset with Jonathan's death except for Jenner and Victoria. Yes, even Sullivan showed sympathy for Jonathan's terrible death, but Jenner and Victoria never even shed a tear, said a prayer, and didn't even wish good luck to his widow, Elizabeth.

It even makes one suspicious if Jenner or Victoria had something to do with Jonathan dying.

I went to Nicodemus' office about an hour ago to see what he had to say. He was saddened by the loss, but more sad for the family he left behind. When I asked him how we were going to let her know about Jonathan's death, he just sighed and shook his head, "We can't, Leon... I'm sorry, but we just can't let her know all this information... I'm not sure what to do..."

I frowned and chimed in sarcastically, "Well, maybe we should go on ahead and spill the beans before his wife goes crazy?"

Nicodemus shook his head, "NO, Leon. We simply cannot. But do not worry too much over the matter. I'm sure it will work itself out on it's own."

I shook my head and left the room, "Yeah, right." I muttered loudly.

Day - April 11

As one can guess, nothing interesting has happened. Nobody is doing anything at all because Jonathan died. It'd be a lot better if Jessica was here, but she had to go back to the valley to put the finishing touches on the water pumping system. I won't see her again for another month or so, when we all move to Thorn Valley. My room is almost completely bare right now. My bed frame was disassembled and used for scrap wood (We can always make new frames) so right now I'm sleeping on a few cotton balls. It's not very comfortable, but it's still better than nothing at all. I've got nothing new to report, really, so I guess I'd better find something else to do in my spare time. I know what I can do, I can go ahead and plan the "lending" of one of the Fitzgibbons' extension cords. Jenner left a note for me under my door (I haven't seen him in person since the emergency meeting) telling me to find an extension cord in the house. Fortunately, I already knew where one was, so I didn't need to risk any problems regarding Dragon. I wouldn't mind not ever having to see that cat again. I'm afraid if I DO see him, I'll grab a crossbow and shoot out his other eye, then push him off the mill roof onto the rocks. Even then, it would only be a seminal relief for what he did to Jonathan...

Anyways, I've got the info that Jenner's "Recovery" team needed, so I can sit back and sleep for the rest of the day.

Day - April 12

While trying to drug Dragon for the venture into the farmhouse to get the extension cord, Mr. Ages fell through the hole in the floor during his escape and broke his leg. It was kind of ironic, considering that Mr. Ages is a stickler for safety. I guess Jonathan's death made him extra sure to beat a hasty retreat from the kitchen after the drug was placed. Not much more to report, I'm afraid. Although now I'm not sure how we're going to drug Dragon again if we'll ever need to. Jonathan’s death has taken so much away from us that it’s almost unfathomable.

Day - April 13 (Night)

Today has been a full day indeed! The unspeakable and unthinkable has occured - Mrs. Brisby actually came HERE! To the rosebush! I only got to meet with her for a few minutes, but I learned all I'd ever need to know about her: She was kind, very timid, and had better manners than all of us combined. A real charmer, even though she probably doesn't mean to be.

Brutus got into a LOT of trouble this morning because of her coming. Apparently, Mrs. Brisby had discovered the thorn entrance (The one that's closed off) and tried to waltz right into the rosebush. Brutus was guarding the problematic entrance that day and had mistaken Mrs. Brisby for a feral animal. He insists that he might have gone "A little over the edge" in forcing her out with his electrified poleaxe (Common issue weapon to Guards at the entrances). Mrs. Brisby just told us that everything was fine and Brutus needn't worry about what happened, which leads me to the conclusion that he went absolutely insane.

According to Mrs. Brisby and Mr. Ages, Mrs. Brisby had escaped from Brutus and ran back towards the exit. When she got halfway there, she found Mr. Ages, who had gone through the side entrance because he thought Mrs. Fitzgibbons would see him if he went through the main one. Mr. Ages had said that Mrs. Brisby was lucky to be alive after A: Encountering Brutus' raw anger, and B: Escaping the thorns.

He said that when he tried to get through the thorny entrance, he found it completely blocked off. Ash, the Guard that had gone to fetch him so he could attend one of the debates, had told Mr. Ages to go around the thorns (Before we knew that the thorns moved so quickly, we tried to dig passage ways around them.). He could barely fit through them himself, so Ash needed to head outside and go through the emergency exit/entrance by the blackberry bramble in the woods, still not wanting to go to the main entrance for fear of being spotted.

So Mrs. Brisby was brought down by Mr. Ages (And later Justin, who Mr. Ages complained about later on - "What in blazes was he doing in the hallway!? He nearly gave me a heart attack!") to ask the council about helping Mrs. Brisby move her house. Oddly enough, it seems that her son, Timothy has developed quite the bad case of pneumonia and cannot be moved out of the house. And what would you know? It seems that Farmer Fitzgibbons is going to be plowing his fields... And the Brisby home. If it were up to me, I'd move the house without any reserve. We still have enough pulleys and ropes to move a cinderblock complete with it's furnishings to somewhere safe.

What was strange (And it's flooding back to me quite quickly) was that Jenner at first rejected the idea (He was on the floor, so he had open say to anything that was brought up at the time), but very quickly laid on the charm in a sickeningly thick and disgusting coat, casually saying that he would love to aid "Jonathan's widow in any way". VERY fishy. I think it's time I saw just what Jenner was up to.

I was able to speak with Mrs. Brisby after she got consent from the council first, and she was on her way to see Nicodemus. Mr. Ages and Justin had made her wait in the Library while he checked to see that she could be seen. As I entered the library, Justin threw me a smile and nodded to Mrs. Brisby. An obvious gesture of his that means "Introduce yourself".

As I slowly approached her, she just sat on a vacant chair (In a vacant library as well), and shook her head looking very confused. I played the good samaritin and walked over to her with a big smile

"Why, hello there. You must be Mrs. Brisby."

She looked up, a little frightened and then slowly nodded, "Wh.. Why yes... And you are?"

I smiled wider, "Leon. Second in Command of the Guards here in the rosebush."

Her eyes widened a tad and her voice dropped a notch, "Are the Guards here always so aggressive?"

I shook my head, "Just Brutus. He tends to... overreact sometimes. I hope he didn't scare you too much. I know how he can be."

She cleared her throat and then she shook her own head, "No... I'm alright."

I sighed a bit and looked up at Justin. I mouthed, "Jonathan" to him and pointed to Mrs. Brisby (as she gandered at the library), asking him if she knew about her husband yet. Justin’s eyes nearly bugged out and he shook his head quickly. Mrs. Brisby looked up at the both of us with a confused look, "Is something wrong?"

I quickly looked down at her, "Absolutely not, M’lady. Just... Uh...Well..." I looked up at Justin, hoping that he’d bail me out. Justin smiled his usual charmer smile at Mrs. Brisby and chuckled, "Leon’s just a little nervous, that’s all. He’s scared of mice."

I laughed and shook my head, "Justin, you liar!" I saw that Justin was laughing a bit as well. Mrs. Brisby smiled and put her paw over her muzzle, probably to contain her own laugh. Talk about manners!

When the laughing died down, Justin nodded to the exit of the library. I turned and saw Mr. Ages walking in. I looked back to Mrs. Brisby and smiled, "Well, I hope you enjoy your stay."

She smiled, "Yes, I will be sure to. And thank you all for moving my home... Although I would like to know how my husband knows all of you..."

Mr. Ages walked right in between me and Mrs. Brisby, "And know you shall, if we can get a move on?" He said, and he quickly led her out of the room.

After that, I just went back to my apartment and rested for a little bit, and that gave me time to write the day's happenings. Right now I'm going to head off and see what Jenner is up to. I'm worried about his attitude at the meeting.

Day - April 13 (Mid-Afternoon)

I can't believe this! Jenner's planning to kill Nicodemus and Justin! Nicodemus and Justin seem to have gone somewhere, though, and I can't find out where they might be! I will just have to wait until they get back tonight and prepare for the move of the Brisby home.

Day - April 15

As if Jonathan's death wasn't enough... Now Nicodemus and Jenner have left us, too... I should start at the beginning.. Where I left off... My head's spinning around in circles and I need to write this mess down...

As I said two days ago, Jenner was plotting to kill Nicodemus and Justin so he could gain control of the valley, and of the stone amulet. But Nicodemus was wrong about the whole thing... Jenner wasn't after the stone to ressurrect his dead son. He was after it for a completely different (And bizarre) reason...

When I left to try and find Nicodemus, I decided to check his office again. When I ran in, I found Jenner looking through all of his belongings, which was indeed against our rules. When I approached him, he turned around with a drawn sword in his paw! He sneered at me viciously.

"Leon, you backstabber! You've been spying on me, haven't you?"

I blinked, a little surprised by this, "N.. No, Jenner... Now please put your sword down or I'll have to detain you..."

Jenner laughed hysterically, "You still talk like a Guard, even when you're unarmed and you've got a sword to your throat! You must really be brainwashed by Justin's dribble!"

I shook my head, managing not to come into contact with Jenner's blade, "No. I'm maintaining my calm in a rather alarming situation. Something YOU emphasized whenever I went into the farmhouse on your little missions."

Jenner hissed, "You're starting to tick me off, boy. I wouldn't tempt an angry rat with a sharp blade."

I frowned as I gazed down to his vacant paw, which was holding Nicodemus' journal, "I see the library hasn't offered the right reading material for you... So now you've stooped to stealing other people's books?"

Jenner grinned and held the book in front of my face, "This is EXCELLENT reading material, Leon! Did you know that I'm one of the main characters? I'm in here a LOT!" He randomly flipped open the book, still keeping his blade uncomfortably close to my neck. He began to read aloud, "Decemeber 7th... Jenner is still descending into his madness and I am unable to stop him. I fear his very life and soul might be at stake. HA!" He yelled as his slapped the book shut, "The doddering old fool thought he could STOP me!" He laughed again, but doing so only made the sword move closer to my neck. I clenched my paws into fists and growled at him, "We didn’t even know what you had planned, but we knew it needed stopping all the same. This sword at my throat proves that."

Jenner smiled and tossed Nicodemus' journal to the floor, "You really think so? Perhaps you never knew about me because I didn’t write every stupid little thing down in a book for everyone to read. I’d read a little bit of YOUR journal, reading up on your little conversations with Nicodemus, though your chickenscratch handwriting made me sick to my stomach after a short while and I had to stop reading!" He laughed, "And you just said you hadn't been spying on me, when just a few short minutes ago I was reading about your little endeavors with Nicodemus regarding the spying with the mirror! I KNEW you'd be trying that out sooner or later! It's a good thing I always prepare for those little things that nobody else thinks of!"

I narrowed my eyes, "What are you talking about?"

Jenner grinned at me, revealing his unnaturally sharp teeth, "I knew you'd spy on me with that machine, so I set a little trap. A looping image surrounding me. On a completely different mental plane, of course!"

I gulped silently, "A looping image...?"

Jenner nodded slowly, still grinning at me, "Of course! You know, Leon, you and Nicodemus aren't the only ones with these... powers."

I gasped out loud, "Wha-..? Are you saying you can...-"

Jenner cut me off before I could finish my sentence, "My power is the ability to make others bend to my will. I can ask politely and they can see it as a death threat and not know why! Once I figured out that the stone had a special harnessing power, I figured it wouldn't hurt to have access to some other kinds of abilities... Like yours, for example. Pyrokenesis, Telekenesis... Your mitochondria really let you do the fun stuff. Maybe they’ll let me do it, too."

I shook my head, "You're wasting your time. I can't do that stuff on my own. I need the stone to do it."

Jenner smiled, "You're a real sharp one, Leon. But you're wrong this time. You can do it whenever you want, you've just been too scared to use it!"

I tried to shake my head but once my neck hit Jenner's blade, I recoiled, "No! I can't do it!"

Jenner hissed, "YES, you can. But that's not the matter anyway."

I growled in my throat, "So why? Why did you fool us? If your son's death meant that much to you, why didn't you let us help you?"

Jenner bawled out in laughter after I said that. He took me completely by surprise. What caught me by surprise even moreso was how quickly he managed to recouperate. He stopped laughing at once, and then grinned at me, "My son's death doesn't mean anything to me. He was having a bad day and decided to run left instead of right. He ran right into the scientist's hand for the control groups. I don't raise stupid sons, I raise smart sons. If he made a mistake like that, I can't feel remorse for him."

I hissed, "You... You..." I didn’t know a word horrible enough to describe him.

He smiled, "Yes, I’m a horrible person and all that."

My paws were clenched so tightly that they began to hurt, so I loosened them up a little bit, "So what are your real motives, then?"

Jenner smiled, "Now, you see, Leon, I'm not sure whether or not I want to tell them to anyone yet."

I grunted, "Yeah, right. I'm guessing you didn't tell Sullivan or Victoria about them either?"

Jenner shrugged, "I told Victoria my plans... But not Sullivan. Not yet."

I narrowed my eyes again, this time saying nothing. Jenner grinned, "At a loss for words now, Leon? I always knew you as one to keep talking until the other's ears fell off. Need something to talk about?"

He paused, "Fine, then, how's this: (To whomever reads this: do not consider Jenner’s insane ramblings to be true. This note is to remind you of who you are listening to. Justin told me that the following is completely false. But, here is what Jenner said) :

Did you know that there are actually two planet Earths? One exists on a plane called Inetris, and the other, ours, on a plane called Stark. Once, these two dimensions were one. But the creatures that lived on it became overwhelmed with the amount of power they had... You see, back then, both magic AND science were used. But the creatures had too much power, so the Balance of Life became uneven and the only way to maintain life as we know it would be to separate the two planets. This great separation became the most important event in existence's history. Half of the population was sent to live in Inetris, and the other half in Stark. The beings in Inetris thrived, but the creatures in Stark didn't know how to go about their business without magic to aid them in their science. They needed to be ever-resourceful in creating heat, housing, and transportation. It was during this time that we, the rats, became known as thieves. We were not always reliant on others. In Inetris today, the rats are exactly like us. The same goes for the Old World. Rats were intelligent, kind, we could speak English, and we were among the human's best friends.

But in Stark, we were forced to steal from the humans to survive. They cast us away, and English wasn't needed to communicate anymore. We quickly de-evolved from our status and became the most hated creatures on the planet. But one thing from Inetris that stayed with us... The ONLY thing that stayed with us, was our mitochondria. It's a magical creature, you know? The Balance of Life secured it inside the first humans when the dimensions were one. They were unable to remove it, because if they did, then there would be no way for creatures to survive here. They're the only remaining link to us and the Inetrisians."

Throughout this whole thing, I'd just stood there saying nothing, trying to digest this very wierd and outlandish information. "Oookay.." I said, "And you can prove this HOW?" Jenner growled at me, "Is my word not proof enough?"

I shook my head, "Of course not. You talk about these outrageous things and yet nobody's known about them EVER..."

Jenner sighed, "Alright. I saw it in my dreams. And I also read about it briefly in the occult books in the mansion."

I blinked in mild confusion, "You mean... The books in Latin?"

Jenner nodded, "Yes, those."

I shook my head, "But... You don't KNOW any Latin!"

Jenner smiled triumphantly, "Of course I do! I nabbed the Latin to English dictionary from the library on the first day we were in the mansion!"

I clenched my fists again... I had searched for that very same dictionary, but I had been too late. I looked away, "Jenner... How come the mansion had those books?"

Jenner's smile widened, "Oh? You didn't know? The benefactor of the NIMH project itself! He was the government bonehead who gave the scientists the money to experiment on us! Why do you think he lived so close to the labs? While we were escaping, he was off on a well earned vacation after closing a deal with NIMH. The deal was to use us, the product of this project, as a government weapon. Magic doesn't exist here, so we'd be able to cripple any of the country's enemies."

I shook this out of my head quickly. Using us as weapons of war? I couldn't even manage to think about it.

Jenner's smile faded, "In the books I found an interesting little passage about how to cross between these worlds. It was very vague at the time, but now I know how it can be done. I took down the passage in English and hid it from everybody so I might be able to use it later."

I frowned, "Hang on a second... What about what you said before? About Stark people not being able to mingle with Inetris people?"

Jenner smirked, "I'm no fool, I'm not going to do that. I wasn't planning on crossing anyways. My plan was to get revenge."

I shook my head, "Revenge? On who? The scientists?"

Jenner chuckled, "Definitely not. Schultz was a pencil pusher, he didn't know what he was getting himself into. No, I'm going for the one who started this whole mess."

I could see where this was heading, "Your ‘Balance of Life’? You really are crazier than I thought. Those books were probably just old fiction."

Jenner chuckled and moved his sword in closer to my neck, "Crazy. You think I’m crazy. You don’t know anything about anything, Leon. Just think about it: The Balance screwed the whole thing up by leaving the mitochondria inside us! It was just WAITING for a chance to reawaken and turn us into Inetrisians! It WANTED us to suffer!"

I gasped for air as Jenner’s blade threatened to pierce my neck, "Jenner! How do you intend to wage a war against a being with the power to create and take away life!?"

Jenner smiled, "Very easily. I just open the rift between the worlds, with the help of the amulet's power and my power, then I go up instead of through. It's like a hallway, Leon, I've seen it in my dreams. At the top is the Balance. To the front is Inetris, and where you stand is Stark. To the left and right is darkness. A pure blackness. Endless space that was caused by the great separation between the dimensions."

I shook my head, "Sounds like you’ve got your work cut out for you. On non-existent paper. You really are a psycho."

I tried to move away, but Jenner’s sword followed me and I had no choice but to be Jenner’s prisoner again. He grabbed my headfur and pulled me into a head lock. Jenner was strong, but if he wasn’t thinking, I’d be able to break free. I just needed to wait.

Jenner once again smiled, "With the balance gone, my dear Leon, Inetris and Stark can become one again! We will no longer have to live as hated rats, but as best friends with humans! You wanted that at the mansion, didn't you? Do you still want it? Or do you want to spend the rest eternity running away?!"

I was silent. I wouldn’t be able to convince Jenner that this whole two worlds thing was lunacy, so I’d have to make as if I believed in it while I worked on getting out of the situation with all of my limbs intact. Sure, it was a convincing argument for a weak-minded fool... But that was just like Jenner. "You're planning on killing Nicodemus and Justin, too! What does that have to do with your quest to destroy the Balance?"

Jenner shrugged, "With them out of the way, I can take over this place and lead the rest of the rats in the battle against the Balance. Nicodemus' powers are not powerful at all. The stone exceeds his power by a hundred percent. He will be useless in the battle. And Justin has no interest in my affairs. He'd rather see me dead and run for the rest of his life than to stand and fight the power."

I gritted my teeth, realization setting in, "And what about Jonathan?" Jenner looked at me with a sympathetic expression, "Coincidence, I swear. I had nothing to do with that."

I was silent, but Jenner continued talking, "A terrible loss, for sure. He was against my ideas, but if I'd told him about Inetris, he'd probably lose it and run back home to his family with his tail between his legs."

I growled, "Jonathan was a great mouse... His courage exceeded yours by far."

Jenner grinned, "Of course it did, and that's what got him killed, correct? He decided to continue with the drugging of Dragon."

My eyes widened, Jenner’s point hit home, "You... YOU made him start the running again!"

Jenner smiled and nodded, "You catch on quickly. Like I said, I had nothing to do with his death. The events leading to it, though, I'm more than guilty. I'm fully responsible. Nobody attacks me in a meeting. Nobody goes against my ideals. I have the council members say what I want them to say. I would make them bring up arguments that I could easily clear up. It made me look like a leader. Jonathan could not be controlled, though. Especially not in the meeting hall... It took me a whole month's worth of saved power to make him start running again. I had to spend a week in bed recouperating from the energy useage. I only wish that I’d had the stone when he died, so I could use his powers..."

I shook my head, "You... bastard. I won't let you get away with this.. I've got two words for you. You're crazy."

Jenner laughed, "I thought you were educated! "You're crazy" is actually three words! And also, you can't stop me from destroying the Balance, Leon. It ruined all our lives... I'm actually HELPING all of us!"

I struggled under Jenner’s strength, trying to break free, "The road to Hell is always paved with good intentions."

Jenner growled, "I... HATE that quote. It's not even true! Just look at you! You're trying to stop me from saving us all, and that's hindering my ability to successfully go about tonight's activities."

I frowned, "Jenner... Stop this, please... You’re going to kill the rat that set you free, the rat that’s helped you for all these years..."

Jenner shrugged, "It shouldn't matter to you."

I narrowed my eyes, "And why is that?"

His grip loosened a bit and I took quick advantage of the situation. I swiftly darted out from the headlock and spun around to face him, grabbing my own sword and holding it out, "End of the line, Jenner! Drop your sword!"

He was pretty pissed that I got away from him, "Leon, if you don’t drop your own sword, I’ll cut your innards out over this floor, understand?"

I grit my teeth, "I’m tired of this, Jenner. I’m tired of you filling everyone’s head with these mad ideas... I’m tired of your murder. I need to do the Rats of NIMH a favor and get rid of you. Drop your sword now and I won’t kill you."

Jenner growled and charged me with a slash of his wavy sword. I stepped back and he missed me by a few inches. I tried to cut his arm but Jenner pivoted away and elbowed me in the ribs. I staggered back and barely blocked Jenner’s next swing, which he followed up with a punch to my face. I yelped and leapt to my side, hearing the whistle of the blade cut through the air a few inches away.

Suddenly I could feel a hard blow to the back of my head. The floor of the office got bigger and bigger until my face met with it.

As I began to black out from the pain, Jenner leaned in and stared me in the face, "That was a naughty thing to do, Leon. I can’t trust you anymore – You’ve spurned the hand of friendship that I was about the extend to you. I’m afraid that you won’t be telling anybody about our little meeting here tonight, though. Just be glad that it’s a little of your blood on the floor and not your innards. Good night." He smiled as I dropped completely out of consciousness.

I came to again for a quick moment. I was being dragged down the empty corridors of the rosebush complex. Where was everybody? They must have all been topside preparing the ropes and pullies for the house move. I tried to move, knowing that Nicodemus' and Justin's lives were in my hands, but in that brief moment, those couple of seconds, a couple years of memories flooded my mind. Abigail's legs being crushed and me being unable to help her and Jessica being trapped by my brother came up dominantly. And then, as I was being dragged across the floor, I suddenly found myself repeating history. I was unable to move and help those I cared for and loved... Powerless to stop a horrible Evil.

What could I do? It didn't matter, because I blacked out completely after only those couple of seconds.

Jenner threatens Leon with his sword
Artwork by MAL

Chapter 16

Day - ----

When I woke up from my rather abruptly enforced sleep, I found myself in one of the now empty grain storage rooms on the lower level. I was lying on my back, my head facing the door (Obviously, since I’d been dragged in by the legs). When I tried to stand up, my head started pounding, screaming at me to lay down and give it a rest. Of course, I attempted to avoid this natural call of senses, but it was not to be. The pain was so great that I blacked out again, this time banging my arm on one of the support shelves that flanked the main door of the storage room.

When I woke up (It must have been about 30 minutes later), my head didn’t hurt so much, but my left arm did. I felt around the upper bit for a few seconds looking for a break. When I couldn’t find one, I knew that I was in the clear.

I examined the main door, the only exit in and out of the room. It was, of course, locked tight from the other side. The room wasn’t air-tight, which I was glad to know, but without food or water, I’d need to get out soon. Normally, I wouldn’t have any problems, but the doors to the grain stores are so thick that even if I had a cannon and shot it off in there nobody would be able to hear the noise from the other end. What made matters worse is that nobody would be checking the room, since all the grain was already hauled off to the valley.

Naturally, I panicked. I screamed and hollered and beat the door with both my paws until I bruised the bones inside them, but it was still no good. I really thought I was done for. Nobody was coming for me, Nicodemus and Justin were as good as dead, and Jenner and Sullivan were going to leave me there to rot away.

After sobbing a great deal, I finally managed to get a hold of myself and I looked around a little. The room was very large, about the size of the meeting hall. It had a packed dirt floor, walls, and ceiling. A few pieces of grain lay about and I went to pick them up so I’d have something to eat later on if I got hungry. A small leak in what seemed like the room’s piping also provided me with some fresh water. A very tiny amount, but just barely enough to survive.

After finding these emergency provisions, I took the time to slowly pace around the room, searching for a weak wall or perhaps a crack I could squeeze through. I did find something interesting; where the water was coming from, there was a tiny hole in the ceiling. If I sucked in my stomach (Not too hard to do, considering that I’m about as skinny as a lima bean), I could fit into it and maybe get out of the room.

I munched on a piece of grain and drank some water before scheming my escape. After all, I have a hard time thinking on an empty stomach. The hole in the ceiling was –very- high. Give or take three and a half feet high. There was nothing in the room that could provide as a ladder, so I schemed some more and came to the quick realization that the room ITSELF could make a fine stepladder! I dug away at the dirt packed walls with my bare paws (Actually my rat paws, but who cares now?) until I had a huge mound of dirt under the hole. It took a good hour before I had enough dirt to make it possible the jump into the hole.

I packed the dirt tightly into a small mountainous structure, making sure not to get the base wet, then slowly worked my way upwards. When I reached the top, I realized that the jump to the hole above was quite a bit higher than I originally suspected. I shook my head and sighed deeply: If I didn’t make it now, I’d just have to keep trying again and again until I DID get it; I didn’t really have a choice.

I took a deep breath, crouched down low, then sprung up into the air, extending my arms as far as they would go. I felt a little bit of the packed dirt of the ceiling in my palms, and I quickly tightened my paws. I was hanging about four feet off the ground, now.

I looked up and got a drop of water in my eyes. Not a very pleasant experience to say the least. After almost losing my grip, I gritted my teeth and hoisted myself up into the hole. My arm strength isn’t that great. It’s not really great in any rodents at all.

Even with a seemingly magical formula that makes our mitochondria come alive and grant us weird abilities, I still can’t do a single stupid pull-up. I suppose that’s why it took me so long to climb into the hole in the store room ceiling. When I finally did get my foot into the hole and pull myself into it completely, I realized that the water wasn’t coming from a leaky pipe, but from outside. It must have been pouring pretty hard to come this far down into the rosebush.

I looked around for a minute or two to assess the situation: I was standing on the ceiling of the storeroom. It wasn’t very visitor-friendly, as nobody was meant to ever be here. The thorns of the rosebush were above me and the ceiling stretched out over the main hallway. I didn’t feel like slicing open every part of my body to escape the rosebush, so I opted not to climb through the thorns. Instead, I walked over to the other part of the ceiling, the part over the main hallway, and jumped.

The ceiling didn’t collapse. It was supposed to be sturdy. Fine Rat of NIMH craftsmanship. I cursed Arthur’s fantastic talents and tried jumping again. On the eighteenth jump, the floor cracked.

A wisp of a thought zoomed through my head "Uh, Leon? You’re standing on a collapsing ceiling. Maybe you should MOVE!!??"

I leapt to the left, further down the main hallway, but I noticed that the crack wasn’t just staying at where I had jumped, it was snaking its way along the whole ceiling.

"Uh oh." I thought, as I barrelled down the hallway ceiling with the crack in the floor... Er.. Ceiling... Whatever, chasing me.

By the time I reached a dead end, I was completely out of breath. Nice timing, I guessed. I turned just in time to see my feet fall out from under me.

When I woke up, I was covered in debris and dirt. I struggled to climb out, but it was just too heavy. I screamed for help. Maybe someone was around here?

A horrible thought struck me "What if the ceiling crushed them?"

I struggled some more, putting all of my remaining strength into kicking my way out, but the debris was just too heavy. I fainted under the intense weight and everything went black.

I woke up from the fainting spell in stages. Stage number 1 was when my eyes popped open and I screamed louder than before for someone to help me. Nobody came, and I went limp and fainted again. Stage 2 was when I began dreaming: A sign that I was still alive. I dreamed that I was flying over a field, with a big staff in my right paw that could let me do anything I wanted. A simple dream that I might have had before I even got the NIMH injections. I guess instinct decided to get weird on me and piece together that dream. Anyway, Stage 3 was when I snapped out of my dream, but I couldn’t open my eyes. I could feel my body being lifted up and down, like I was riding some kind of camel. I could feel drops of water hitting my face and felt a pair of paws keeping me elevated. One rat was lifting me up and walking at the same time. Stage 4 was when I finally was able to open my eyes. What I saw was incredible: All of the rats from the rosebush were walking in a line. Not single file, but a pretty well developed straight line. They were slowly walking through a field, torches out in front of them to guide their paths. The rain had stopped by then, and I looked up to see who was carrying me. It was none other than Brutus. He smiled down at me and said in a rather gruff voice, "You’s been troo a lot, Leo. Rest."

Pretty good advice. I did.

After waking up again, I found that we were resting in an old abandoned barn on the edge of the Fitzgibbon’s property. It was a sight to behold: All of the Rats of NIMH together in one place at one time.

Justin sat down next to me on the soft grass floor of the barn. His left shirt sleeve was missing, in its place was a bloody bandage. I immediately knew what had happened.

"Jenner...?" I asked.

Justin nodded and looked at the ground, "Jenner."

We were silent for a long time, then I asked, "Is he alive?"

Justin shook his head, "No. Nobody could survive that."

Silence again. Justin rubbed his mouth with his right paw, "What was he after, Leon? Why did he go after you?"

I tried to laugh, but my chest hurt too much, "Jenner was insane. He thought he could use the stone to bring together two worlds or something like that."

Justin frowned, "I’ll ask you to explain that to me later."

I looked at him questioningly, "How did you find me? I thought I was a goner."

Justin smiled and ruffled my headfur, "Hey, I’d never leave one of my best friends to die in a rosebush."

I shook my head, "But... Jenner and Sullivan..."

Justin put his pointer digit to his muzzle, quieting me, "Sullivan told us that Jenner had locked you up in the storage room after he came to. I was glad to see you didn’t stick around to wait for us, though. Although I didn’t really enjoy climbing through your explosive makeover of the storage area."

I frowned, "What do you mean "When Sullivan came to"?"

Justin shrugged, "He turned on Jenner at the last minute."

I almost jumped up, "Wait! What about Nicodemus!?"

Silence again. Justin looked to the ground and for a minute I thought he was going to cry. Instead, though, he just looked up at me with a solemn expression, "That part of Jenner’s plan... Was executed without flaw."

I was stunned. No, I was horrified. I felt like a movie character who had just lost their best friend and the camera goes above them and begins to spin upwards as the character curses the Heavens. My saviour, the rat who had freed me, helped me through some of my toughest moments, and taught me to live in this hell of a world was gone. Nicodemus was dead.

I looked at the ground as Justin had, but I didn’t cry either. Now was not the time for it.

Justin smiled weakly, "It was... painless I’m sure. But... When it happened... We didn’t know what had happened. We thought it was a fluke, a mistake."

I was silent, but Justin continued, knowing that I was more than interested in hearing what happened.

"After I found Nicodemus, Mrs. Brisby came back from the Fitzgibbon’s house."

I looked up, "What was she doing there?"

Justin shook his head, "Geez you were out of it for a long time... Mrs. Brisby volunteered to drug Dragon so we could move her house."

I smiled and thought to myself, "Her husband died doing it, but she does it anyway to save her family... What a great mouse. Seems that she learned a thing or two from Jonathan."

Justin continued, "She got caught by one of those Fitzgibbon boys, and she was put in the birdcage to be kept as a pet. She escaped though. She climbed out through the water dish and used some string to climb down."

I smiled again, "Incredible."

Justin nodded, "Oh yeah. She also managed to find out that NIMH was coming to the rosebush in the morning."

I raised an eyebrow, "NIMH? To the rosebush?"

Justin nodded, "They knew, Leon. It was your brother’s tracking chip thing inside of him. They knew that we were there."

I gritted my teeth, "It was all my fault then."

Justin shook his head, "No, it wasn’t. Don’t talk like that. Anyway, she escaped and came running back after Jenner had cut the line and... killed Nicodemus. She told everyone what she heard about NIMH and we panicked. Jenner went berserk, though. He knocked her across the mud and drew his sword on her!"

My eyes widened, "He attacked a poor defenseless mouse?"

Justin nodded, "Insane... I didn’t see it at first. I was in shock, because of Nicodemus. He was... Like my father..." He stopped and rubbed his eyes with his paws before continuing.

"Sullivan got my attention and when I approached Jenner, he saw the amulet and went completely nuts. He was swinging at me and I didn’t even have a sword. Just a piece of debris I’d found. He cut my arm up..."

He showed me his arm and bandage, but I’d already seen them. I looked up at him, "You killed him?"

Justin shook his head, "No, I didn’t."

I narrowed my eyes, "Then who...?"

Justin smiled a bit, then sighed, "Sullivan. I couldn’t bring myself to kill Jenner, we’d been through so much together. Anyway, I’d stabbed him in the belly. That would have constituted a month or two of healing, but he readied another attack and I didn’t even know it. He climbed the stone and was about to slice me in two, then Sullivan threw a dagger and it hit Jenner square in the back. He was dead when we checked his vital signs..."

I smiled a little, "Sullivan saved the day? Pretty good for a coward."

Justin nodded, "I know. But as much as I hate to say it, I owe him my life. Jenner swiped him pretty badly back there. He passed out from bloodloss, but I think he’ll be okay once he gets some proper attention. You, on the other hand, are quite beyond our medical help."

I looked down at my body and realized I could not move many parts of my anatomy. My hands could be moved, but my legs were numb, and it hurt pretty badly when I breathed in too deep.

I looked anxiously at Justin, who just smiled back, "Don’t worry about it. You’re a NIMH rat. And you’ve gotten more banged up than anybody here. You’ve been through worse. You’ll make it."

I nodded, then looked at Justin sternly, "You guys DID move the Brisby home, right?"

Justin was silent for a long time. I feared the worst. However, what he said surprised me, "Leon, remember when you trashed Nicodemus’ office with the stone?"

I nodded, "Yeah..."

Justin sighed, "Well... Mrs. Brisby was able to use that same power to move her home. It even had the same effects on her as it did you: She got tired and passed out afterwards."

I blinked, mostly from tiredness, "You mean... She has Nylcon running through her and she can use it?"

Justin nodded slowly, "I haven’t completely figured it out, but it seems that way."

I smiled, "She’s great, isn’t she?"

Justin smiled and stared off into space, "Yeah, she is."

I tilted my head a bit, "Will we ever see her again?"

Justin was silent, then ruffled my headfur again, "Of course. She can’t get enough of us. Jeremy, will convey message back and forth. Great idea, eh?"

I blinked, "Jeremy the crow?" Could it be the same crow I met in the barnyard all those years ago? I read my transciption and the conversation feels like I had it yesterday.

Justin grinned, "Hey, yeah! How’d you know? I thought I’d have to explain everything to you."

I smiled, "I think I might have met him when he was younger."

Justin nodded and put a paw on my shoulder, "You’ve got some resting to do, now, Leo. Get some sleep, okay? Don’t worry about the legs, Brutus said he’d carry you the whole way."

I smiled, "That’s a favor I won’t ever be able to repay."

Justin held up his paw, "I wouldn’t be too sure about that. I’m sure Brutus will find something for you to do."

I sighed, "Like what? Clean his poleaxe every day for the rest of my life?"

Justin just laughed and walked over to some other rats who couldn’t sleep, trying to calm them down some. It then struck me: Justin was our new leader. Our fate rested on his shoulders. His extremely capable shoulders.

Day – May 7 (Night)

Thorn Valley (Our nickname for Thorn Mountain National Park) is much different than I expected. I expected a hole in the ground, similar to what our rosebush looked like, but instead... Well... It was like a paradise. Arthur’s team (And Jessica) had worked incredibly hard to make Thorn Valley great, and boy, is it great.

I wasn’t awake when we first arrived. Brutus laid me down in the infirmary (I’ll always be remembered as the first "official" patient here) and I’ve been sleeping in this comfy bed for the past two days. I haven’t been able to see the rest of the valley, but Tallor came in to show me the dumbed down schematics so I’d know where to go when I got better. After a hideously stereotypical male reunion (Wow, long time no see. Yeah. How’s things? Fine. Great. What’s up? Nothing. Neat. Yeah. - Sheesh, talk about impersonal!) he showed me the blueprints.

Anyways, the Thorn Valley community is carved into the rockface of a mountainside. It is made up of two floors with the third and fourth being worked on as I write this. Each floor is essentially a long hallway with stairs leading to other floors on each end. Each hallway has rooms appearing at intervals on the left and right. On the first floor there is the infirmary, the mess hall (Which Tallor tells me has to be seen to be believed), the main gate (Which leads out to the Guard House), some other working areas, and several apartment-style rooms. The second floor is all apartment rooms, as is the third floor. The fourth floor will serve as extra space.

Justin called together a huge meeting for all the Rats of NIMH this afternoon. It was important for me to be there, so Tallor helped me out of bed (My healing’s coming along at an exponential rate, by the way) into the meeting hall. I oogled at the hallways. They were so BRIGHT! At the rosebush we had never been able to use windows to let in light, and now that there was a window in every room, I would finally be woken up by a natural phenomena instead of Tallor snoring or something along those lines.

The meeting hall was incredible. Almost an exact replica of the one from the rosebush, it towered above me and intimidated me.

Probably at Justin’s request, a statue was being carved by the council’s panel. It had barely begun, but I knew the statue would bear Nicodemus’ image.

Tallor set me down into one of the seats and I relaxed.

Justin was sitting at the councilhead’s seat dressed in his Guard tunic. It wasn’t formal attire, that was for sure, but it was probably more comfortable than the robes the council members wore at the rosebush. I noticed that Justin’s bandage on his arm was smaller and not soaked with blood.

Justin slammed the gavel into the stone podium and shouted for silence.

"Friends..." Justin started, "Today the Rats of NIMH begin a new life. You are all present here today, and for that I am grateful." Some acknowledments were heard from the audience, but it died down quickly when Justin cleared his throat. "We have been through much during the past two weeks. I must offically congratulate you, first of all, for doing such a spectacular clean up job with the rosebush. Those scientists won’t know where we went or how smart we actually are now. Thanks to all of you.

Now... There are some matters we need to make known. First and foremost... A memorial service for those lost at the rosebush will be held tomorrow morning. I personally feel that there is something we all need to say to those departed."

He cleared his throat and looked at the podium, "And also, as much as these things bore us, I believe it will be necessary for us to compose a collection of laws at one of these meetings. We are no longer fugitives hiding under a bush. Now we are our own civilization, our own community. Communities have rules, so we should figure out what is important here."

Justin stopped and looked around the room, "You are all so brave... I know that for me, these past few weeks have been some of the most trying times I’ve ever come up against." He smiled weakly, "But I’ve pulled through. And so have you. We will survive here at Thorn Valley. Our purpose is now clear: We are to live and prosper here. And live and prosper we shall. And so, my dear friends, enjoy your new home, and help us make it the best it can be."

With that, Justin stepped down from the podium and walked into the crowd. Everyone loved his speech and openly told him that. Even Victoria was happy with it, and Victoria hates Justin. Probably even more so for fighting Jenner.

After the speech, Tallor dragged me back to the infirmary and then left to do some work. I was alone for a little bit until Justin waltzed in, probably feeling pretty good about delivering such a nice speech.

I waved to him as he came in, and he did the same. "Hey, Leon. I see you can move your arms by yourself again."

I nodded, "Yep. Those, plus my tail. And Jack says my ribs, which were broken before, are almost completely healed up now."

Justin smiled, "That’s great. What about your legs?"

I shrugged, "Jack told me that they’re coming along. Another few days and I’ll be out of here."

Justin’s eyes suddenly got big, "Hey, I’ve got GREAT news, Leon! Remember Abigail?"

My eyes went vacant for a moment. Of course I knew her. I still remembered the day her legs were crushed in all my nightmares. I’d actually been injured worse than she had, but for some reason my body healed everything up in record time. Abigail’s legs were to be out of commission for a very long time. Or so I thought.

Justin grinned, "Well, when Mrs. Brisby used the stone to lift her home, it must have created some kind of healing aura. After Mrs. Brisby fell asleep, Abigail could walk again!"

I remember bursting into tears at that moment. It was such an awkward feeling. Everything came up at once: Abigail’s legs were healed when Mrs. Brisby used the stone to move her house becuase Jenner had cut the ropes, killing Nicodemus. Nicodemus wanted to move to Thorn Valley to stop stealing and because the rosebush may not be safe because Daniel had come. I killed Daniel to save Jessica, but NIMH still destroyed the rosebush. The good and the bad took sides and my emotions started flying. I just couldn’t hold anything in anymore. My vision blurred with the tears and I just wailed and moaned.

I felt sorry for Justin, who just sat there for a moment, confused at why I would have such a reaction to the news. After a moment, he leaned over and put a paw on my shoulder, "Hey, Leo, it’s okay, she’s feeling great."

Justin’s tone would have helped calm me down under normal circumstances, but right then it added more fuel to my outburst.

I cried for about five minutes before getting a hold of myself. Justin gave me a puzzled, sad look. "Alright, Leon... Now, what was that about?"

I took a deep breath, trying to make sure my voice didn’t crack in midsentence.

"I was just thinking about how... So many good and terrible things have happened to us. Nicodemus, Jenner, Daniel and Jonathan dying... But then Mrs. Brisby moves her home and saves her family and Abigail’s legs are finally healed... It was just too much for some reason."

Justin nodded slowly, partially understanding what I’d said, "Okay. Do you need to rest, Leon? Do you want me to go for a bit?"

I shook my head, "No. Let’s talk now. What else did you want to talk about?"

Justin’s face took on a more serious tone, "It’s Jenner. Can you talk about what happened the last time you saw him?"

I sniffed and nodded. This wouldn’t be hard. I didn’t really have feelings for the guy. After all, he –was- a lunatic who killed two of my best friends and intended on killing more.

"Well," I started, "I went looking for you and Nicodemus to ask you something. I went into Nicodemus’ office and I saw Jenner there, rooting through all of his stuff."

Justin nodded and motioned for me to continue.

"Jenner got the jump on me somehow and he started talking about his power: The ability to control weak minds."

Justin’s raised his eyebrows, "Excuse me?"

I shook my head, "It’s true. What he said made sense. He said that he was able to talk normally to people and they would be so intimidated that they would swerve to his ideals instantly."

Justin nodded, "Okay, but his ideas were so unpopular. Why couldn’t he swerve everybody?"

I shrugged, "Dunno. Maybe he thought he could get away with just getting the council members on his side. He did mention how using his power consumed his energy..."

Justin nodded again, "Gotcha."

I looked downwards, "And then there was Jonathan."

Justin slowly stood up from his seat, "Jonathan? What did Jenner say about Jonathan?"

I swallowed hard, "Jenner said that it took him a long time to save up enough energy to penetrate Jonthan’s mind. He told me that he’d rested for the next week or so."

Justin looked away for a moment. I continued.

"Jenner made Jonathan start running again. Jenner knew that Jonathan would die. He KNEW."

Justin’s mouth opened a bit, like he was going to gasp, but no sound came out. Justin stood up and went out into the hallway for a few minutes, then came back into the room, his paws balled into fists, "That BASTARD! If I’d known that, I WOULD’VE killed him!"

I closed my eyes and waited for Justin to cool off. He’d waited for me to stop crying, so I’d wait and let him lose the anger.

By the time Justin sat back down, I’d almost fallen asleep from having my eyes closed and being in the comfy infirmary bed.

I opened up my eyes when I heard the chair scrape against the floor and looked at Justin. His eyes were red and tired. I knew that if he lost it, he’d burst out into tears like I had. His limit was reached on bad news. I wasn’t sure what his reaction would be to what I said next.

"You ready for me to continue?" I asked as calmly as I could.

Justin nodded and cleared his throat, "Yeah. Sorry."

I cleared my own throat and summarized what happened next.

"Well, Jenner was showing signs of obvious insanity. I mean, he just went off the deep end. He started talking about..." I looked back in my journal to read what I had written about the event, "He started talking about two worlds called Inetris and Stark."

Justin raised an eyebrow, "Excuse me?" I shrugged, "I don’t believe a word of it, but Jenner said that the world used to use both magic and science. NIMH rats are practically carbon-copies of rats from that old world. Then Jenner talked about how there was an imbalance and the world was separated into two. The magic one was Inetris, and this world was Stark. Jenner said that NIMH rats are essentially the rats found in Inetris today."

Justin looked at me quizzically, "Where did he get THAT theory? It’s so... Outlandish."

"Well," I said, "I’ve been thinking about that. I think that... that everyone needs to believe in something."

Justin smirked a little, "Don’t play the psychologist, Leon, you were never any good at it." I returned the smirk, but then shook my head a little, "C’mon, Justin, hear me out. The idea that Jenner wasn’t an abomination, that there were others with powers like his, appealed to him. The Latin texts in the mansion, combined with his dreams, gave him the base of the idea. He just... added in some things of his own to create his ultimate fantasy: A world where he could be accepted. In the end, though, it was a mere excuse for him to continue acting the way he did. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that those books at the mansion were probably just ancient fiction."

Justin’s face went blank for a moment, then he leaned back in his chair and bit the inside of his cheek, "Those books..."

I can’t describe the look on Justin’s face after I told him the information about the books. It was a cross between horror, surprise, and a prolonged perverse fascination in what I had said. After failing at placing Justin’s emotion, I leaned forward and tapped him on the leg, "Hey, Earth to Justin."

He snapped back into reality and looked at me quite seriously, "Nicodemus told me those books were trouble. He made it known to everyone that reading them was strictly prohibited."

I widened my eyes, "But... How come I don’t remember hearing that?"

Justin sighed, "YOU had an excuse, you were on one of your walks around the greenhouse, I think."

I nodded. After all, that would make pefect sense. I went on walks a lot in the mansion.

Justin continued, "Nicodemus told me that he had a dream the first night about the books coming to life and killing us all. He knew that those books were trouble..."

He looked at me and then leaned onto his paws, his elbows on his knees, "So... What was Jenner’s plan?"

I grinned, "Get this: He wanted to wage a war against the Balance of Life."

Justin chuckled and nodded, "Yeah, gotcha. No, seriously, what was his plan?"

I said nothing.

Justin’s eyes grew wider by the second, "You mean to tell me that Jenner was so whacked out that he thought he could win a battle against God?"

I held up a paw, "No, not God. He specifically said "Balance of Life."

Justin threw up his arms, "Whatever! It doesn’t matter. He was a lunatic and that’s the end of it! I can’t believe he killed so many people for some delusional purpose!"

Justin was going to lose it, I knew it. Then, the strangest thing happened:

My bedside table scooted across the floor by itself. It bumped into the far wall, coming to a stop with a loud "clank". I watched it in awe, not quite realizing what had just happened. I looked up to see what Justin thought about it, and he was still looking away. He hadn’t even seen it yet!

"Justin!" I yelled.

Justin turned and sighed, "What, Leon?"

I nodded to the vacant spot where the bedside table should have been. Justin didn’t notice its move at first, "Hey, where’d your table go? It was there a minute ago..." He then saw it against the wall. He slowly turned back to me, "Leon...? What just happened?" I smiled a bit, "I think... I think that you’ve got a power, too."

Justin held his paws out in front of him, "A power? Like... Like yours and Nicodemus’?"

I nodded slowly, "I would guess so. How else do you explain the sudden movement of furniture?"

Justin turned his paws over and over, looking like he expected some kind of lighting blast to emanate from them. After a minute or so, he looked back at me

"Leon... Why would this... Why do you think this is happening?"

I shook my head, "I don’t know. It might have something to do with you getting upset just now. I think Nicodemus once told me that singular emotion activated the Nylcon-altered mitochondria."

Justin grinned a little bit, "You’ve got that whole scientific perspective memorized perfectly, don’t you?"

I grinned, too, "Of course. After all, it is MY body that this stuff is running around in. And I wouldn’t be too worried about the table moving. If you can move things only when you get really angry, I don’t think we need to worry about it happening too often."

Justin raised an eyebrow, "You saying I don’t get mad often?"

I nodded.

Justin chuckled a little, then he was back to his serious state, "Leon, we’re dodging the point here... Jenner’s plan was seriously to wage this battle against this Balance of Life?"

I sighed and looked out the window for a minute, "He told me that he wanted rats to be loved by humans again. He was tired of running away."

Justin frowned, "He couldn’t handle the constant pressures of being a Rat of NIMH."

I nodded, "But that wasn’t the only thing. I used to think he wanted revenge on the NIMH scientists for killing his son."

Justin nodded, "Of course. Jenner was really upset about that."

I shook my head, "No, he wasn’t. It was a façade. He used that as a kind of alibi to hide his real angers. He told me he didn’t care about his son at all. He said he didn’t raise stupid sons, and if he ran the wrong way, it was his own problem."

Justin gritted his teeth, trying to contain his ever rising anger, "Sick..."

I nodded and continued, "Then he said he wanted to use the stone not just to get back at that Balance thing, he also wanted all of our powers. He especially wanted mine."

Justin held up a paw, "I never quite figured out what you could do with that stone. Do you know now?"

I shrugged, "He said I had telekinesis and pyrokenesis."

Justin leaned back in his chair, "The abilities to move things with your mind and the ability to cause fires with your mind? I remember the first, but not the second."

I nodded, "Neither do I. I never set anything on fire with my mind. Perhaps he was mistaken?"

Justin shrugged, "Doesn’t matter now."

I raised a brow, "Oh?"

He nodded, "Yep. You need your rest. Jack says you’ll be out of here in a day or two, so rest up. You’ve got a lot of the valley to see."

I really didn’t know the half of it.

Chapter 17

Day – May 9

Thorn Valley is the greatest. That is the best summary of this place that I can come up with. Sure, a few things went wrong in the first day, and one thing has yet to be solved... I guess I’ll start at the beginning:

I was officially discharged from the Infirmary at about seven this morning. My legs felt a little wobbly, but once I started walking, things got easier.

Jack gave me a small map of the complex and pointed me in the general direction of the dining hall, which was where everyone would be at that time. I guess seven o’clock is kind of like the official breakfast time here.

Anyways, I walked down the corridor slowly, taking in the sights and sounds of this new place. The ground was a finely sanded stone. The whole corridor was carved from stone, as a matter of fact, being carpeted at intervals for no reason other than comfort. The windows line the hallway to the left (When you’re walking down to the dining hall, that is), giving off a nice breeze and presenting the fine sounds of the wind and birds chirping. I pondered standing by the window and listening to these sounds for a short while, then I decided against it. If I missed everybody at the dining hall, I’d miss out on breakfast. That wasn’t an option for me at the moment. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

I carried on down the hallway, taking note of the many doors on my right. Each door was made of polished wood and carried a placard that explained the room’s purpose. I noticed that most of the rooms on the first floor were not apartments. Instead, they were the professions that would keep us alive day to day. The Infirmary and School apparently had their own wings (i.e. a connecting hall with rooms on the left and right). I, not being too comfortable with the Valley’s corridors right then, decided to stay clear of these wings for the moment and kept walking down the long hallway.

After about two minutes, I came to a large archway with no door.

From where I was in the hall, I could see a large collection of tables and chairs spread out across the huge dining hall. Each table was filled with rats eating their breakfasts. The feast today looked like... Grain. The drink was apparently fresh water from the stream.

I stood in the archway for a moment, looking around at the huge hall. It was about twenty feet by twenty feet, with a second floor under construction. The second floor seemed a bit unnecessary right then, as there was a lot of space available on the first floor already.

The food was being served from a cafeteria-style line across the dining hall in front of me. As I walked across the room, I looked to my left and saw the most magnificent thing: Where there should have been a wall of rock, there was an immensely huge window. The window consumed the whole area of the wall from floor to ceiling. The view was incredible.

The sun was already over the mountains and was streaming its yellow glow over the treetops and hillsides. The window’s view captured the whole of Thorn Valley’s magnificence. The beauty was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

A paw slapped down on my shoulder. I spun around to find myself at chest level with Brutus. He laughed as I stepped back and looked up at him.

"Hey, hey, look who’s decided to get up!"

I grinned and nodded to the breakfast line, motioning for him to follow me, "Well, of course. You know when I get hungry I can do magical things."

Brutus cast a suspicious eyes on me, "What’s that mean?"

I blinked in mild confusion, then remembered that magic was probably taken a bit more seriously now, since Mrs. Brisby lifted the cinderblock and Abigail’s legs were healed.

I shook my head and smiled, "Nothing. Nothing at all. Where do we eat?"

Brutus held his paws out to his sides and waved them around the whole dining hall, "Anywhere! But the Guards usually sit over there." He pointed to a table near the window. I noticed that Constelle was sitting alone munching on some grain.

Brutus led me through the line and I got my meal. On a good note, it seems that the menu might change significantly in the next few days. There are many fruit-bearing trees near the complex and many types of small fish in the nearby stream. Perhaps I’d be able to eat more than grain? The thought sends shivers down my spine.

I followed Brutus to the table and was given a hearty greeting by Constelle, who rose to meet me

"Leon! Hey! How’re you feeling?"

I grinned as I sat down across the table from him. "Fine. Legs are all better and everything. How about you? Haven’t seen you in weeks!"

Brutus sat down next to me. His bulk required him to move the chair next to him away so he could move down more. Constelle took a bite of his grain bit

"I’ve been alright. A little shaken up about the farmhouse incidents. Jenner, Nicodemus... Those things."

I nodded, "Yeah, I know."

There was a moment of silence. It was broken when Rion came up from behind me and patted me on the shoulder, "Hey, Leon! Doing okay?"

I turned in my chair to look at him. He had a bandage stretching across his forehead that was spotted red with blood. The sight caught me off guard and I jumped back slightly in my chair, "Geez, Rion, what happened to you? Are you alright"

Rion touched his bandage, "Oh this? I got this at the farmhouse. When Jenner cut the rope, one of the hooks snapped off the pulley and slashed my head. Jack said I’m lucky to be alive. One more centimeter and it would have cracked my skull. I’m doing okay now, though. It’ll leave a nasty scar if my mitochondria don’t help me out." He smiled and winked at me, "But it’s nothing compared to your injuries. I’m surprised to see you up and about already. What, with you breaking every bone in your body!"

I laughed a little, "Every bone? I doubt it. Maybe when the elevator broke way back when in the rosebush, but certainly not this last time."

Rion nodded, "Oh. Well, you know how Jack can make the silliest things sound serious."

I nodded slowly, not fully agreeing, "Yeah, I suppose I do."

Rion nodded again and headed off to the meal line. I watched him for a moment, then looked back at Brutus and Constelle, "That Jack... Telling everyone I broke every bone in my body. That’s impossible. I’d still be in bed. Heck, I’d be paralyzed right now."

Constelle gave me a blank, solemn look, then looked over at Brutus. When I leaned over to see what his reaction was, I found he had the same expression as Constelle.

I leaned back in my chair, "Jack WAS kidding, right?"

Constelle shrugged, "Well... I suppose you could say that."

I blinked, "Huh?"

Brutus put a paw on my shoulder, "Jack said that yous bones had already begun to heal as you was in that pile."

I nodded slowly, "Uh huh..."

Brutus continued, "Jack had to operate on you because your bones were healing the wrong way."

I narrowed my eyes, "What? When and where did he do that?"

Constelle broke in, "Right in the hallway after we found you."

I shook my head, "Impossible! I’d have felt it, or have a scar of some kind!"

Brutus shook his head and bit a piece of grain in half, "I was dere. I saw him do it."

I felt around my torso quickly, feeling for a scar. I didn’t find any.

"So where’s my scar? Wait... Just tell me what happened."

Constelle cleared his throat and was about to begin, but then Rion sat down next to Constelle, his eyes ablaze with curiosity, "Hey, guys! Whatcha talking about?" Constelle looked at me, almost asking for approval. I nodded and mouthed, "It’s fine" to him. He continued.

"I was about to inform Leon of his emergency operation."

Rion grimaced, "Oh yeah. YUCK!" He looked over at me, "Remind me never to hang around near Jack again. It was so GROSS when he cut you open!"

I grimaced myself. The concept of being sliced open, someone tinkering around with my insides and then not being told until I was completely better was an unsettling thought.

Brutus shot Rion a look from across the table telling him to can it. I swear, when Brutus puts on one of his "angry" faces, not even flies dare to fly.

Rion promptly shut up and Constelle continued.

"Brutus pulled you out of the wreckage. You were pretty bad, all twisted this way and that. I think you might have already been dead by the time we found you."

I frowned, "Wonderful."

Constelle grinned, "But, as you can see, there are no worries about that now."

I shrugged, "So what happened?"

Constelle drank a bit of water, "Well, Jack took a look at you and said something along the lines of, "Oh Shit" and he made his professional assessment. That was that your bones were beginning to heal, but that wasn’t a good thing because your bones were uh..." He paused and cleared his throat, "Your bones were... In all the wrong places."

I grimaced again. This was turning out to be a bit too graphic, "Wrong places?" Constelle nodded slowly, "Yeah... Is this too much for you?"

I nodded, "Of course it is. But I also need to know what happened. It IS my body after all."

Constelle nodded and continued. Brutus got up to return his tray and returned quickly, "Well," Constelle started again, "Jack said that your bones had been forced into different sections of your body. His only choice was to go in there and move them himself."

I blinked and slowly gave my body a once-over. Had I really been operated on?

Constelle looked at his tray, "When Jack finished and he was figuring out how to stop the bleeding, you just... Got better."

I raised an eyebrow, "Got better? You get better from colds and coughs, not internal dismemberment."

Constelle nodded, "I agree with you. I think it might have been the stone. After all, it DID heal Abigail..."

I smiled lightly, "The stone? So that would mean I owe both Jack and Mrs. Brisby my life."

Constelle smiled and stood up to return his tray, "Sure looks that way. Honestly put, Leon, you’re the luckiest rat I know. I think you’ve been sliced up more than any of us here, but you haven’t got a scar on you."

I nodded in automatic agreement, but then quickly realized that he was completely right. My mitochondria were preventing me from becoming hurt. It was almost as if they were prolonging my life for some future purpose.

That was too much thought for the morning and I decided to move on, "So, what happened after I got better?"

Constelle shrugged, "Well, the blood stopped, your body fixed itself up, and you started taking in all these deep breaths."

I rubbed my mouth with my paw, "I see."

Constelle looked at Brutus, then to Rion, then to me, "And that was that. Brutus took you up and we all left the rosebush then."

I nodded, "All right..."

Constelle started to get up, "Well, I’ve got to go sign in at the guardhouse. My shift starts in about half an hour." He grinned at me, "Have you see the guardhouse yet?"

I blinked and suddenly remembered that Tallor had told me about that, "Oh, uh... No, I guess not."

Constelle grinned even wider, "Well, I think our new Captain of the Guard should be able to see it now that he’s all better."

My eyes bulged, "What!? Me? Captain!?"

Brutus chuckled and shook his head at Constelle, "See? I told yas that he’d flip."

I laughed and looked at the three of the them, "Was it Justin’s decision?" Rion shook his head, "Nope, no way. Justin left it up to the Guards themselves."

I felt like crying with joy and pride, but that wasn’t the right time for it. "You guys... Chose me?"

They all nodded. I looked at the table, "Why?" Brutus spoke up, "’Cuz we wanted someone strong..."

Constelle burst in, "Not exactly in the sense of physical strong... More in the sense of mentally strong."

Brutus continued, "We’s needed someone who was fair and who everybody got along with..."

Rion nodded but was silent. Constelle finished with, "And we needed someone we all respected as a leader."

I nodded slowly, "I... I see..."

Brutus and Rion looked at eachother as Constelle looked at me and spoke again, "Leon, the fact of the matter is, we’d all like to be Captain of the Guards. The main thing is that we all knew you’d be better at it than us."

I tried to think of instances that may prove me to be a leader, but I couldn’t find any right off the bat, so I left the matter as it was. I basked in the glow of praise and let it carry me out of the morning-daze and into the guardroom.

The main entrance to the complex was not too elaborate. It was a long tunnel about two feet high and three feet wide that led out into a field. Right before the exit to the tunnel, there was a door to the right that was marked "Guard House." I was with Constelle and Rion now. Brutus had left to help with the building of the third floor. Even though he wasn’t a builder by profession, his size and strength occasionally made it necessary for him to do some manual labor.

Constelle and Rion flanked me as I opened the door slowly.

The guard house was quite basic, which pleased me to some extent. There were two desks in the far right corner, no doubt one of them was for me. Next to the desks on the wall was a weapons rack. Spears and swords made their homes there, waiting for a chance to be used in practice. Or elsewhere.

There was a collective of dummies and punching bags thrown off to the side, but a series of chains and hooks hanging from the ceiling hinted at the fact that they could be hung up for a practice when needed.

I smiled widely upon first sight of the guard house. This was made just for the Guards. Back at the rosebush, there had been no guild, no meeting spot. There was just the gym. Now we had something to call our own.

Rion waved a paw, "All this is yours, Captain."

I looked back at him and grinned slyly, "On the contrary, soldier. All of this is ours."

Constelle nodded, "Yeah, Leon’s got a point. After all we did at the rosebush, they OWED us our own place. I mean, a whole wing would’ve been nice..."

I grinned and began to walk over to the desks, "I think this one room will suit just fine. So, who are the desks for?"

Constelle cleared his throat, "Well, the one on the left away from the wall is yours. It’s bigger than the other one, see?"

I did. Constelle continued, "I think that girlfriend of yours, Jessica, was the one who made it."

I slapped my forehead, "Jessica! I haven’t seen her in weeks!"

Constelle and Rion laughed, "We know! She was always visiting you when you were conked out, but when you suddenly became awake, she got so backed up in work that she hasn’t been able to see you!"

I sighed, "Is she still building?"

Rion shook his head, "No, she’s writing up the school curriculum."

I raised an eyebrow, "School...?" Constelle nodded, "Yep. She’s going to be a teacher here."

I nodded, "Oh! That’s great! I’ll have to go see her today."

Rion and Constelle nodded together. I shook my head, "Sorry. Anyway, who is the second desk for?"

Constelle shrugged, "Who do you think? Your second in command, of course."

I frowned lightly, "A second in command? That’s a new one."

Constelle nodded, "Yeah. Justin figured you may want someone else to help with the captain position. After all, Thorn Valley is a LOT bigger than the rosebush."

I nodded, "I’ll have to think about it for a while."

Constelle nodded and Rion cleared his throat. Constelle looked over at Rion, who then said, "Your shift?"

Constelle nodded and grinned, "Oh yeah, it’s my shift." He turned around and proceeded to the door. On the back of it was a small clipboard with a sheet of paper on it. It was filled with squares and lines, obviously a kind of table used to determine which Guards were on shift and where they were at any given time. With a nod, Constelle ducked out of the guard house, leaving me alone with Rion.

There was a moment of silence in the room as I took a minute to examine my desk. It was nice and big and made of polished wood. The chair was also made of polished wood. I ran a paw over the top of the desk and looked over at Rion, who was gazing at the weapons rack. As I walked over to the punching bags, I noticed that Rion had broken his gaze and he was approaching me. I turned to face him, "What’s up?" I asked.

Rion shrugged, "Eh, the usual, you know."

I shook my head, "Not really. So tell me, how’s Justin holding up as Leader?"

Rion grinned, "He’s got big shoes to fill, but he’s managing. I don’t think he likes it as much as Captain of the Guards."

I nodded, "I’ll take that as a sign to start enjoying my position more." I blinked, "Not that I really could right now..."

Rion grinned and started to turn back to the weapons rack, when the door burst open and a rat named Dante stumbled in. Dante was an indoor guard back at the rosebush, but from the looks of the dirt on his fur, he had been outside today.

Rion and I spun around to face him. He was out of breath and was bleeding a bit at the shoulder. "Giant... Snake... Surrounding... Farmers..." Rion turned and grabbed a poleaxe from the weapons rack. He grabbed a spear and tossed it to me. I looked down at Dante, who had knelt down in the doorway due to loss of breath, "Where are they, Dante?"

He looked up at me and nodded with his head to the field outside, "Straight through... the field..."

Rion ran past me and leapt over Dante, "It’s okay, Leon, I know where they are! C’mon!"

I looked down at Dante, who had passed out. I looked at his wound quickly and saw two holes in his tunic.

Shit... He’s been bitten!

I ran out into the hall and thankfully saw Isa walking towards the guardhouse.

"Hey!" I shouted, "Don’t go outside! It’s dangerous! Get Jack! We’ve got a snakebite victim in the Guardhouse!"

Isa nodded and ran off. I headed in the opposite direction, trying to catch up with Rion.

My introduction to the surrounding fields wasn’t too great as you can probably imagine. I took a few milliseconds here and there to enjoy my surroundings. I have to admit that I liked the forest and fields more than the farmhouse.

Rion plowed through the tall grass with me in close pursuit. We came out in a small clearing. The farm equipment was abandoned here, and for good reason. A big snake was sliding along the ground, circling a group of six rats. They were quite petrified and looked quite helpless. I looked around quickly to see if there were any more Guards there. There weren’t.

Rion was rotating the poleaxe in his paws. I crept up next to him and whispered in his ear, "Looks like we’ve got handle this one ourselves."

He nodded and we began to inch towards the snake.

When we were about a foot from the serpent, it stopped circling the rats and focused its attention on us more. Rion and I stopped in our tracks.

I leaned slowly over to Rion, "Can you identify the snake?"

He shook his head, "No.. I don’t know what kind it is."

I frowned, "It must be poisonous... Dante passed out. Be sure to stay away from the front of it and if you get bitten, high tail it back to the complex. If Dante made it, we can."

Rion nodded and then looked at me with a glance of confusion, "What about the farmers?"

I looked up at the farmers to assess the situation. The snake wasn’t looking at them. It was looking at Rion and myself. I leaned over to Rion, "Get the snake’s attention for a minute. Nothing that would invoke attack, just something small. Clear your throat loudly or something."

Rion nodded again and cleared his throat loudly. The snake’s eyes focused on Rion completely while I nodded to the farmers with my head, then pointed to the complex while mouthing "Run".

They started to run, the paralyzing fear gone from their legs.

The snake wasn’t stupid by any means. It turned and started to slither after the group. I screamed, "C’mon Rion! Get it!"

We ran after the snake, managing to keep it within our field of view.

When we got in range, the snake quickly turned around and hissed. I stopped surprise and Rion bumped into me from behind, throwing me closer to the snake.

I quickly tried to get up, knowing that the snake would bite me, but to my surprise, the snake was moving past me and approaching Rion.

Rion wasn’t a newbie at fighting, but it’s been told (and proven here) that fear can envelop the senses no matter how trained you are. Rion was frozen, unmoving. It would have been simple to swing his poleaxe, but he didn’t. The snake was closing in and things looked pretty grim.

I shook my head and needed to think of something...Anything.

"Hey! Hey you big lug! Over here!" I stood up and began to wave my arms, "You want to eat something!? How’s this?" I dropped my spear, "That good enough for you?" The snake began to turn away from Rion and slither towards me. It suddenly occurred to me that asking a snake to eat you isn’t a good idea.

I began to back up slowly, but the snake was gaining ground. I looked up at Rion, who was just starting to move again, he had blinked a coupled of times.

"Rion! Attack it!" I shouted.

He shook his head slowly, "I...C-Can’t...Move!" I growled and stopped moving back. This was a dumb idea, but I didn’t have time to go for my sword and I’d probably never stand a chance at running away. I glared at the snake,

"Hey, why’d you have to come here today, huh? I just got better this morning and now you want to kill me? Oh, for the record, I’ve been crushed, slashed, knocked unconscious, cut open, and most likely even killed. What makes you think I’m about to give up to a snake?"

The snake stopped, its eyes full of fire. Mind you, that’s not a metaphorical fire, it’s a real fire. The snake’s eyes burst into flames, as did the rest of its body. I screamed and fell backwards, and when I did, the fire ceased. The snake was still twitching in its death throes when I began to sit up. I looked at the snake, then I looked up at Rion. He was still frozen in his spot. If it was fear that was keeping him bolted to the ground, then this spectacle no doubt tightened the bolt.

I slowly got up, trying to figure our what happened. Suddenly, Jenner popped into my mind "Telekinesis... Pyrokinesis..."

Pyrokinesis... The ability to make fire using the power of your mind.

Brought up with the singular emotion of anger...

I looked at the snake, "Bastard." I muttered. Fresh flames spat up within the body and crackled up to about a half foot in height. I blinked, "What the..."

I looked around to see if Rion was handling this well.

He was nowhere to be seen.

At that moment, Brutus and about fifteen other guards came barreling through the tall grass. Brutus looked at the spectacle and then looked at me, "What... What happened?"

I shook my head, "We killed the snake. But where’s Rion?"

Brutus looked around, "Dunno." He turned to the group of guards, "Okay, spread out! We’s looking for Rion!"

Day – May 11

It’s been two days and we still haven’t found Rion. I don’t know where he could be. Nobody knows, really.

After Brutus and his group started their search, I was told to go back to the complex and check in with Justin who was at the infirmary.

Upon my arrival to the main door, Justin walked out and shut it behind him, putting a paw up to his mouth, "Sssh, Dante’s asleep."

I nodded and we walked to the room across the hall. It was a waiting room of some sort, though that is a crude term for it. It was merely a small room with five chairs randomly scattered about.

Justin sat down and pulled up another chair. He pointed to it, "Plant it right there."

I sat down and waited. It was then when I noticed that Justin had new clothes on. Instead of a tunic, he wore a robe. The colors remained the same as with the Guard tunic. I guess he couldn’t let go of the color scheme he’d been wearing for the past couple of years.

Justin cleared his throat, "Dante will be alright. Jack administered his anti-venom the second he got his paws on him."

I nodded. This was good news.

Justin continued, "Did you manage the kill the snake?" I nodded slowly, "Yeah, but I think that the word "kill" is too loose a term."

Justin raised an eyebrow, "What do you mean?"

I shrugged, "Well, you see... The snake..."

Justin nodded, "Yeah...?"

I leaned back in my chair, "The snake burst into flames."

Justin rubbed a paw through his headfur, "I... see..."

I continued quickly, "I think it might have been the pyrokenisis. You know, the thing that Jenner was talking about."

Justin frowned, "Eh, maybe. That’s really strange, Leon. REALLY strange. Let’s keep this to ourselves, okay? I wouldn’t want to scare the kids..."

I nodded, "Oh, absolutely."

Justin nodded, too, "Okay. Anything else?"

I cleared my throat, "Rion’s missing."

Justin stood up quickly, "He’s WHAT?" I stood up, too, "He’s missing. But it couldn’t have been the snake. He must have run off when he saw the snake burst into flames. He’ll probably be found by Brutus’ squad."

We left it at that.

Day – May 12

We found Rion, though not exactly in the condition we’d hoped.

Brutus’ squad turned up nothing on days one and two, but on day three, they found Rion gravely wounded near the river. He was soaked with water and blood.

Apparently he had been thrown into the river after being stabbed by something.

Jack told us not expect anything with Rion, since he was so bruised and cut up that death might seem like a reasonable consideration.

As Captain of the Guard, I had a formal meeting with Justin this morning (No hospital waiting room this time, I’m afraid. It was in the much less comfortable confines of the small meeting room at the back of the meeting hall).

Justin and I sat down at the long table, him at the end of the table and me to his left sitting along the side. He gave me a grave look,

"Leon... We’ve only been here for a short while and we’ve already got enough problems on our paws to fill a textbook."

I shook my head and put a paw on his shoulder, "Don’t blame yourself, Justin. Problems are enevitable in a new civilization. We’ll get through this."

Justin held up a paw, "Well, let’s see... We’ve got the snake problem," he raised a digit on his paw, "Rion," he raised another digit, "and a whole lot of engineering problems that you don’t even know about." He raised another digit.

"How am I supposed to relax knowing that all this is going on?"

I shook my head again, "You’re not supposed to relax until all the problems are gone. You’re the leader, people look up to you for morale, hope, and suggestions."

Justin nodded slowly, "Okay. Here’s the deal, Leon. What I’m about to tell you doesn’t leave your mouth. Tell it only to your second in command, got it?"

I nodded. I didn’t even have a second in command yet.

Justin spread his paws out over the table, "Jack told me an hour ago that the wounds inflicted to Rion were made by a blade."

I nodded, then froze, "Wait... Feral animals don’t HAVE blades."

Justin rolled his eyes, "Of course they don’t! Leon, someone HERE in the colony did it." Butterflies were flying around in my stomach.

Justin continued, "Whoever did it meant to kill Rion. They stabbed him around the chest and then threw him into the river. Somehow, don’t ask me how, Rion made it to shore."

I nodded, "This means that whoever tried to kill him might want to... you know... Finish the job, right?"

Justin nodded, "Yes. Get some people you can trust to keep watch over Rion 24/7. When he wakes up, he may be able to identify the assailant. It’ll save us a lot of trouble."

I rubbed my eyes, "This is gonna suck."

Justin grinned lightly, "Yeah, it is. Just be sure to catch the lunatic who did it." He lost the grin, "I can’t believe someone here did it... I won’t be able to rest easy knowing that there’s a psycho on the loose."

Justin stood up, and I followed his lead, "So," he asked, "Where are you going to start?"

I shrugged, "I’ll put Constelle and Brutus on Guard for Rion. I know both of them better than any other Guard here. Except maybe for you."

Justin grinned lightly again, "You’ve got to forget the whole, "Guard" thing now, Leon. I’m the LEADER. YOU’RE the Captain of the Guard."

I smiled and nodded, "Yeah. I still have a hard time fathoming the whole thing."

Justin left with a smile and a nod and I left after him. I was surprised to find him waiting for me out in the hall. To his side was a rat I knew back from the rosebush, a second generation named Isa. She was a guard at the rosebush and I guessed she was now a guard at the Valley, too. She had a bad habit of beating her superiors (Me included) in different forms of combat. Her specialty was a spear, strange enough. Strange because nobody had ever formally taught it. She taught herself.

Isa was fairly attractive, but I’d never paid her much mind because I was so involved with Jessica.

I’m getting déjà vu... I think I’ve written this before.

She has medium gray fur all over her body except for her headfur, which is a brilliant white. She didn’t have a formal Guard tunic on, instead she was wearing her trademark red vest and white shirt. She had made the tunic herself, but it was quite baggy on her frame and therefore didn’t look custom made.

Cripes – I just looked back in a prior journal and saw my entry about Isa... September tenth, back at the rosebush, back when she first became a guard.

Talk about a waste of paper. Then again... Is it really?

She tilted her head a bit and looked at Justin, who then grinned at me, "Isa wanted to know who your second in command was going to be."

I blinked, "Uh... I haven’t given it much thought. I mean, with all the events going on and everything..."

Isa grinned a bit, "A second in command is very important, sir. Thorn Valley is a big place. I don’t know how long we could hold out with just one decision maker."

I grinned as well, "Are you telling me you’d like to be making decisions instead of making your rounds?"

Isa nodded, "Absolutely. It wouldn’t give me greater pleasure."

Justin grinned at us both, "Well, I’ve got to get going. Leo, good luck."

He walked away and I shook my head after he turned a corner

"I hate it when he calls me that." I muttered

Isa tilted her head, "Why’s that?"

I shrugged, "It’s not my name."

Isa grinned, "Yes it is. They both mean the same thing."

I raised an eyebrow, "What do you mean?"

She scratched her head, "Well, Leon and Leo both mean "Lion". I don’t think it should make a difference."

I raised my other eyebrow in mild surprise, "Now why would you know what my name means? Have you been researching me?" Isa laughed, "Of course not! Don’t be absurd! I spent a lot of free time at the rosebush reading. One of the books I read was a book on names and what they mean. Surely you’ve read it?" I shrugged. I might have, but I certainly didn’t remember any of it.

Isa nodded, "Well, I have to get back to my rounds."

I sighed and pointed at her bright red tunic, "Without the right clothes?"

Isa grinned, "With all due respect, sir, I believe that those Guard tunics were made with males in mind."

Before I could protest (and it probably wouldn’t have helped any), Isa continued, "If you don’t mind, sir, I’d like to wear this. I can still do the actions of any other Guard, if not, moreso."

I sighed, "If I let you do it, I might have to let everybody do it."

She chuckled lightly to herself, "Is that the best you can do?"

There was a brief pause, then I shrugged, "Yeah. Go on ahead then. But don’t look at me if your authority is questioned by somebody. You know the way it is – No badge or identification, just the tunic."

Isa scratched her ear, "Yeah, I know. The thing is, nobody questions my authority anyway. Everybody here already knows I’m a Guard." I agreed, "No contest there. So, see you at practice, then." I waited, then added, "In your uniform."

She nodded, smiled, and walked away.

I turned the opposite direction.

I had work to do.

Chapter 18

Day – May 14

I spent the last day or so trying to figure out who my second in command should be. I still don’t know who it should be, and I think that the Guards are getting anxious. One one paw, I know Brutus better than any other Guard, but he’s not too good with reading and writing. On the other paw, I know Contstelle a little bit, but then again, he craves power. Nothing "Lord of the Flies"-ish, but he tends to play monarch more often than not. Then there are other Guards that I know about but I’ve never mentioned in this journal. Isa for one. She’s an exceptional Guard and quite polite. Her only flaw is her occasional spacey attitude, like her mind is elsewhere. A habit of mine, too, but that’s no reason to pity her. All she is right now is another option. Then there’s Rion who is quite into the books and good at reading and writing. His big problem is his youthful appearance and I fear that he may not be taken seriously. Of course, this is assuming he doesn’t die first... He’s in some kind of coma at the moment. He lost a LOT of blood.

Then there’s Dante. He was a good guard back at the rosebush, and he’d broken up many a small scuffle. He was strong in the head and body, but his problem is that he’s an introvert and wouldn’t actively go out to solve problems. He’d rather let the problems come to him, and I can’t allow that.

Well, enough of this. I should save my pondering for my official books. No use repeating everything from here again.

I went to see Jessica yesterday. She was quite glad to see me, but she seemed somewhat distant. No doubt from the amount of work she’s been doing.

I managed to make my way into the school wing and I found her with little trouble. After all, there are so very few teachers here as of right now. I opened up one of the many doors and I found her at a desk buried in stacks of papers (Not literally, of course, but they were quite high). She looked up and smiled


I smiled back and entered the room, "Jessica! How have you been?"

She cleared her throat, "Me? How about you? And Rion! I just heard a short while ago that he’s in pretty bad shape..."

I nodded, "Yeah, whatever got him roughed him up pretty well."

She shivered, "Was it some kind of wild animal?" I’d swear my eye twitched, "More so than you think."

She raised a brow but let it fall back into its normal place after a moment, "And yourself?"

I grinned, glad that the subject was off Rion, "I’m doing okay. Bones are all healed and everything."

She sighed, "Miraculous."

I nodded in agreement, "Yeah..." I looked around her office, "So... A teacher." I looked at her, "Last thing I’d expect from a top notch Guard like yourself."

She smiled, "Well, I thought about it for a while. I knew that there would be a bigger need for Guards now that we’re in a bigger place, but then again, we’re also going to be having children in need of learning. I couldn’t help but fill the need."

I nodded slowly, "Uh huh..."

She shook her head quickly, "It’s not because of you, or anybody else! It’s just that I figured that.. You know, if I taught the things I know, it would be better for the community. And we DO want the best for Thorn Valley."

I nodded. No argument with that.

She smiled again, "I’m sure that you’ll be too busy to even notice I’m not there. What, with you being Captain and all."

I shook my head and smiled, "I’d never forget about you."

There was an awkward pause. I hate those.

I looked at Jessica, whose eyes had begun to wander away from me. I figured it was time to move the conversation onward.

"How’s the whole "School" thing working out for you, then?"

She moaned in disgust, her attention back on the conversation, "Miserably! This curriculum stuff is terribly boring. I need something to teach for weeks 12 through 18 in the student’s first year."

I raised a brow, "How many years of schooling are the children getting here?"

She grinned, "We think that three should be plenty. We’re not raising mathematical scholars here. Most of the children will learn everything they need to know through apprenticeships and the like. Should a child wish to pursue more math or science, they should do so by consulting someone like... Jack, for example."

I nodded, "Sounds like you’ve got everything covered." She sighed, "Well, there’s still this big gap. It’s between seasons, you know? It starts in fall and goes into winter. That means that we’ll probably miss some days because they’ll need to help clear out paths or help their parents with their jobs if they’re affected by the weather... I just don’t know."

I hmmed, "What are you going to teach before and after the gap?"

She clicked her tongue and rooted through a stack of papers on her left. Unsatisfied with her findings, she moved to the stack on her right. She pulled out a sheet of paper,

"My checklist says we’ll be working on social studies before at the beginning of the year, and then we’ll be going into weather sciences afterwards."

I sat down across from Jessica on a vacant chair, "So... How did you learn about all this curriculum? I don’t recall these books in the library at the rosebush..."

She giggled, "Because we didn’t bring them to the library. I asked the retrieval teams to get some books from the Fitzgibbons on several occasions. They were right out in the open, so it didn’t require any of your trademark snooping. Once we got the books, we copied them onto paper and then returned the books."

I whistled, "Wow. That must have taken weeks for each book."

She nodded, "It took a while. That, combined with the Guards practice and Arthur needing me to help build, made me quite busy. I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep in weeks."

I frowned, "That’s terrible. You know, you CAN take a day off to recuperate. It’s unhealthy not to sleep fully."

She sighed, "I know, but I can’t figure out what to do here in this seven week period."

I shrugged, "Why don’t you assign them a book or something?" I paused, "Oh wait... I’m sorry. We don’t have enough books..." I felt kind of stupid.

Jessica just kind of blinked at me in shock, "L..Leon.."

I sighed, anticipating an accost of some kind, "What is it?"

Her look of shock grew into a big smile, "Leon! That’s a great idea!"

It was my turn to blink in shock, "It is?" She nodded, "Yes! We can learn about our history through books!"

I nodded, "Great idea. But we don’t have many rat books."

She shook her head, "No, Leon, I mean the journals and diaries some of the rats have been keeping! Like yours!"

I gulped, "My... Journal?"

She smiled, "It’ll be great! Now, it’s not like I’ll be quoting it verbatim, but I’ll be able to read to them of your exploits at NIMH, the Boniface Estate, and the Rosebush!"

I looked at the floor. This was going to be a tough decision.

Jessica was still smiling when I looked back up, "I.. I really don’t know."

She was too excited to let the opportunity slip her by, "What do you mean? You wouldn’t want to donate your journal to the school for those few weeks?"

I nodded, "It’s one of a kind. Maybe I’ll copy it for you?"

She smiled and nodded, "That’d be great!

We chatted for a little bit longer about each of our current going-ons, then I left her to her work. I needed to talk with Justin about the Second in Command problem.

Day – May 14 (Night)

I spoke to Justin about an hour ago. His idea about my Second in Command wasn’t too shocking. After all, I’d already considered his Guard of Choice.

I met Justin halfway to his office on the first level. After a quick greeting, he invited me into his personal quarters to speak with him. I was expecting the meeting room again, but I guessed that he’d be a bit looser inside his own room than in a boring office room.

Justin’s quarters were... interesting to say the least. I pictured a sparse room containing a small bed, a window, and a table for work. No such luck. As I had yet to discover, each room was elegantly crafted. Well, maybe not elegantly... But certainly better than a hole in the ground.

Justin’s room was lit by a large candle lamp in the middle of the room on a big circular stone table, carved right up from the floor. The room had the opportunity of being spacious, but stacks and stacks of papers littered every possible space on the floor and furniture. To my right as I walked in was the window, which overlooked the stream (Where, my wandering mind told me, Rion was found) and, as luck would have it, a nearly full moon.

Justin’s bed underneath the window wasn’t a work of art. Thankfully it looked quite plain. I still have trouble picturing Justin as anything besides Captain of the Guards.

Besides the bed and table, there was a small conversation area between them with a sofa (complete with cushioning) and two chairs, completely covered in papers, of course.

Justin led me in and pushed a mountain of papers off of his sofa and sat down, sinking into the huge cushions. His eyes shut from comfort.

The last think I wanted him to do was fall asleep, so I cleared my throat loudly and his eyes popped open, "Oh, excuse me..." He waved a paw at the chair across from the sofa, "Just... Push those papers off. They’re not organized anyways."

I did so and sat down, "What’s with all the papers? Surely this much business couldn’t have come up in less than a week?"

He nodded, "Yeah. No, it’s not business. Most of it is Nicodemus’ stuff." He paused and stared off into space. Right before I was about to say something, his eyes returned to me, "I need to sort through it eventually. Until then, it’s a larger version of dust in my eyes."

An odd statement. Surely he cared about this stuff more than dust.

I shrugged, "So, I needed to talk to you about my Second in Command..." He nodded and sat up straight, still sinking into the sofa’s cushions and looking a little silly, "Of course..." He looked at the sofa and pushed the cushion down with his paw, "Geez, there’s no support with this thing..." He looked back up to me, "Sorry. Anyway, I think that’s a good thing to talk about. It’s been a few days and you need one ASAP."

I nodded, "Yeah. I wanted to get your input on who may be best fit for the job. After all, you WERE the Captain. You may know them better than me."

He nodded as well, "A fair judgment. Only thing is... Aw cripes, hang on." He stood up and looked at the sofa, "Sorry, Leon, I need to get a chair... This thing is like sitting on water."

I nodded and waved a paw, "Go ahead."

He walked over to the other chair and pushed all of the papers off of it to the floor. They cascaded with a swoosh and Justin sat down, "Ah, good.. It’s nice and uncomfortable." He looked up at me, now only about a foot away from me. "That’s better. So, you wanted my opinion..." He rubbed his chin with a paw and loudly hummed, "Tough choice... I guess I’d go with..."

He looked up and me and nodded, "Isa."

I leaned back in my chair, "You really think so?"

He nodded again, "Absolutely. Why? You don’t think she’d be a good Second in Command?"

I shrugged, "Dunno... I just never thought about it before. She didn’t really do anything worthy of attention..."

He smiled, "Which is why she deserves attention. She’s not exceptional at just one thing, but she’s pretty great at everything. Brutus is good at fighting, but he lacks the book smarts. Constelle is a good leader, but he’s a little too self-centered. Isa’s pretty good at lots of things. Not exceptional, but pretty good." I shrugged, "I’d forgotten about her, to tell you the truth."

Justin laughed, "Why? ‘Cuz she wasn’t in that journal of yours?" I nodded slowly, "Well... Yeah, I guess so."

Justin stopped laughing and just grinned at me, "She’ll be good. In my opinion."

He grinned wider, "Don’t tell me that you came here so I could make the decision for you."

I blinked. Had that been why I went to talk with Justin? Perhaps... But I couldn’t let him know that. "Nah, just wanted your feedback. It’s good feedback."

He shook his head, "Too good. I shouldn’t have told you. If this gets out, Brutus may cut me in half with his poleaxe."

I sighed, "You know I wouldn’t tell anyone. Besides, he wouldn’t do that, Justin. You know him."

He nodded, "Yeah. Yeah I do."

I stood up, "Well, thanks for the help."

He stood up, too and showed me the door, "No problem. Come back if you need any help. Just not tonight. I’m going to sleep. G’night."

"G’night." Was all I could get out before I was cut off by Justin’s huge yawn and the door shutting.

Well, one thing down. Time to go back to my apartment.

Which reminds me that I haven’t described it yet!

Well, there’s not much to say. I still share the room with Tallor, but he doesn’t bother me with his snoring anymore. It’s probably due to the fresh air out here.

Our room is almost twice as large as the one we had at the rosebush. It’s too bad, because I don’t know what to do with all of the extra space. Something to think about when I’m not busy with other work. The room is rectangular, with the window on the far end of the room. The two beds for me and Tallor are on the left and right walls of the room, facing towards the middle. The headboard is set against the wall, which gives good support for writing in bed while sitting up.

Besides that, we don’t have much else. We have a wooden table and two wooden chairs. Tallor couldn’t bring our old chess set with us, so he’s making us one in his spare time. How nice of him!

Well, time to go to bed. I’ll be sure to keep constant updates on Rion’s assaulter and the like... So far, unfortunately, there have been no clues that bring us to a conclusion on who it may have been. Rion is not getting any better, but he won’t get any worse according to Jack. Not that whoever did it wouldn’t mind helping Rion get worse. Fortunately, Brutus and Constelle are on a rotation shift until further notice. Nobody will get past them without proper permission.

Well, that’s a good note to end on for tonight.

Day – May 16

We finally have a chance on finding out who roughed up Rion. Me and my new Second in Command, Isa, were witness to Rion coming out of his coma with a start. It was about eleven or so in the morning when Isa and I decided to drop by the hospital and check up on Rion. Constelle was on guard then and he waved us inside.

Jack was sitting in the corner of the relatively small hospital room taking some notes. His eyes were laced with crimson rings, probably from lack of sleep. The notion of having to sleep one room away from the target of a lunatic was probably unsettling to him.

Jack’s room is right off of the hospital room and is not even separated by a door. A thin curtain partition ensures that every patient’s needs can be heard. However, it probably won’t keep intruders out. Jack apparently has been checking in with whoever is on guard duty outside the hospital to see if anybody had tried to get in without permission. So far, we’d had no such luck.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Rion’s little spasm this morning.

Isa and I had dropped into the hospital and sat down on either side of Rion, trying to coax him out of the coma. It wasn’t working at all, but then, when we stopped doing it for about five minutes, Rion sat up in bed, his eyes wildly racing around the room. His limbs spasmed and shook like he had just woken up from a night terror. His pupils were dilated and his voice shook with fear. He looked directly at Isa and screamed, "You! It was you!"

Isa looked positively distressed at this and she looked at me quickly. Her fears were short-lived however (and I had not had proper time to react accordingly) as Rion looked over at me and screamed, "You’re just mad at Justin, aren’t you! Killed your boyfriend, right!? Well, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not Justin!" He fell back into bed and into a deep sleep, with Jack rushing by his side to perhaps pamper him back into the world of consciousness.

Isa and I exchanged confused looks. After a moment, Isa finally managed a grin and said shakily, "So... You’re Jenner’s girlfriend?"

I managed to grin, too, "And you almost killed Rion? I had no idea..."

We stood up and left the hospital, telling Jack to head to the Guardhouse should Rion wake up fully.

We were silent until the door of the Guardhouse slammed shut. I sat down at my desk and Isa paced around the credenza. Her toe claws made distinct "clicks" on the hard stone surface and were perfectly audible in the silence. She looked up at me after maybe a minute, "Who was Jenner’s girlfriend? Wasn’t it Victoria?"

I leaned back in my chair and kicked my feet up onto the desk, "Yup."

She shrugged, "Then she did it."

I nodded slowly, "It’s possible."

She shook her head exasperatedly, "Possible? The victim just identified the assailant!"

I nodded again, "But he’s been in a coma and might have been delusional."

She shook her head in exasperation, "I don’t think so, sir-" I cut her off and let my feet drop back to the floor, "Call me Leon, please. Maybe a fourth gen can call me sir, but not my second in command."

She nodded and rolled her eyes, "Fine fine, LEON, I think we should go question Victoria now!"

I shook my head (This conversation so far could have been carried out without words... Just head nodding and shaking), "I know Victoria. I know her very well. She’s like the female version of Jenner. She wouldn’t confess to something like that."

Isa grunted, "Wonderful. And we don’t have tape recorders to catch her with."

I grinned and held up a paw, "We don’t need tape recorders. If we can both be around when she says something pertaining to it, we can hold her accountable and lock her up until Rion wakes up."

Isa frowned, "And if Rion dies?"

I shook my head, "Not an option for him. A dead Guard is a waste, don’t you think?" Isa grinned, but then it fall back into a frown, "There’s no way to be sure that Rion will live. We need to be prepared for that..."

I nodded, "And we will be. Let’s go check up on our good friend, Victoria, right now. Let’s see what she’s up to."

Isa grinned and was already halfway out the door by the time I got up from my chair.

Day – May 16 (Night)

That was probably the longest afternoon of my life. Allow me to extrapolate:

Isa and I walked over to Victoria’s apartment after we left the Guardhouse. Isa seemed to know exactly where to go, so I merely tailed her tail as she briskly walked down the main hallway of Thorn Valley. She stopped in front of one of the doors and looked at me, "Here we are. Now what?"

I put my pointer digit up to my maw, "Sssh, now we’re quiet and we listen in."

And listen we did. For a whole hour we just waited quietly. When somebody approached, we dashed for the nearest bench (Set periodically into the walls of the hall) and made small talk. After about half an hour, we started hearing noises from inside Victoria’s apartment. Not talking, but sounds that resembled heavy objects scraping against the floor. I exchanged several confused looks with Isa regarding the prolonged dragging noises, but nothing came of it. The noises stopped when we heard Victoria gasp at something and apparently fall into a piece of furniture. I looked at Isa again, who got close to me ear and whispered, "What’s going on?" in as low a voice as possible. I shook my head and mouthed, "I have no idea".

We waited for another ten or so minutes, then we heard Victoria talking to someone. Who, I wasn’t sure.

"Yes, yes... He’s almost dead."

I widened my eyes and looked at Isa, who was sharing the same expression. We listened more intently.

"What do you mean he’s getting better?" This came after a long bit of silence. Isa and I exchanged our confused look again. Nobody knew about Rion. Couldn’t have known. Jack wouldn’t have told anybody.

"Well then I have to finish the job. You can’t expect to do anything like that, can you?"

More silence. Then...

"That’s absurd. You may be able to do that, but you can’t take a life away. You’re weak. You always were."

More silence.

"Yes, and I apologize, but that is not the point. If that punk Guard wakes up, he’ll be able to identify me. If he’s getting better, he might have already... Who knows.. The Guards might be on their way right now."

More silence. Then came a shocker, "Outside my apartment right now!? Can they..."

Silence again.


I looked at Isa and we both nodded at the same time. I rapped on the door as hard and loud as I could. "Victoria? Leon. Open up."

There was some scurrying behind the door, then the deadbolt was released. Victoria looked as intimidating as ever. She was quite tall and muscular for a female NIMH rat. By ordinary rat standards, she was enormous. Unless you count those mutated New York sewer rats I keep reading about.

Victoria loomed over me and Isa, but we kept our ground. Isa stepped up right next to me and we were shoulder to shoulder. I think we might have looked intimidating as a team.

I cleared my throat, "Victoria, we need you to answer some questions."

"Oh? About what?" She smiled sweetly. About as sweet as a fresh apple you pick yourself, then you look down and see you’re sinking in quicksand under the tree. I ignored the smile. I knew what I’d heard.

"Rion’s assault." Isa said, her voice sounding quite authoritative and assertive.

Victoria’s smile disappeared, "What about it?" I shook my head, "We heard your conversation with..." I looked into the small apartment behind Victoria, expecting to find an accomplice with her. There was none, just a chilling feeling in my gut that told me that there was more to this than I thought. I looked up Victoria quickly, "Who were you talking to?"

Victoria wasn’t going to run, but I’d swear I saw her muscles twinge in a natural reflex. She was most likely considering fleeing as an option.

The tall rat in the doorway snarled, "NOBODY!"

I frowned, "Victoria, come with us, please."

She nodded curtly, "Fine."

I was confused by this. No attempt to get away, no denials... What was going on here?

Isa didn’t seem too bothered by it. She took up the front and I took up the rear as she led us back to the Guardhouse. We passed by Ash on the way and we waved him along with us. The more the merrier.

We reached the Guardhouse after maybe two minutes. I shut the door and locked it tight. Victoria wasn’t going anywhere. I directed her to the back and had her sit down in my chair. We didn’t have any interrogation room that I knew of, so this would have to do.

Victoria sat in my chair and just looked blankly at me and Isa. Isa almost began her pacing route around the room, but stopped just as she was about to start. She walked up next to me and took a small step back, hanging in my shadow. I’m sure she looked somewhat menacing. Ash stood in the corner, leaning against his poleaxe. He was here for support, more or less. If things got out of hand, he’d be there for us.

I waited until there was silence, then I began.

"Alright, Victoria..." I started, "Why did you do it?"

She smiled again. Just as sweet. She didn’t mean an ounce of energy she put into it. A Jenner trait. "Do what, SIR?" The SIR rolled on her tongue about as comfortably as a hot pepper. I frowned, "Attack Rion?"

She shrugged, "I don’t know what you are talking about."

I grinned, "That so? I know what I’m talking about perfectly. We’ll be here until you understand what I’m talking about, got it?"

She shook her head, "Whatever you say, SIR." That damn SIR thing, again.

Isa spoke from my shadow, probably looking more like a shoulder devil than a second in command, "We heard you from outside, Victoria. You were talking to someone. Since there was nobody there, maybe you were talking to yourself."

Victoria shrugged, "And that is why I am here? There is nothing wrong with talking to yourself."

I nodded, "When you’re confessing a crime to yourself and others hear it, yeah, that’s a problem."

Isa nodded as well, "We heard you talking about Rion. How you were going to finish the job. How subtle." She grinned, her pearly white teeth shining oddly in my shadow, "Not too smart of you to confess it right out like that."

Victoria snarled again. Her teeth were somewhat yellowed in comparison to Isa’s.

"You have no proof!"

I grinned, "When two people hear it and can say exactly the same story, then yeah, it’s proof enough."

Victoria’s eye twitched a little bit. If she had any mitochondrial powers, I hoped she didn’t get angry enough for them to spring to life and maybe incinerate me where I stood.

I tried to regain my composure, "Why’d you do it, Victoria?"

She grinned suddenly, losing the snarl. Another Jenner trait. "That I cannot tell you. However, I can tell you that I am extremely upset about the whole thing..."

Isa scoffed, "You’re just upset that your plans for destruction were found out. Our citizens and council members know that you’re crazy, Victoria. Following Jenner around like a loyal puppy. Everyone knew Jenner wouldn’t amount to anything but trouble, and now we can confirm our same doubts about you! Our civilization does not tolerate acts of violence and you will pay for this!"

I put a paw on her shoulder, "Isa, calm down"

She shivered lightly and shut up.

Victoria smiled sweetly, "I beg your pardon, but I think you mean YOUR colony does not tolerate acts of violence. MY colony doesn’t care about things like that if they amount to a better end. The ends justify the means in MY colony. MY colony is growing day by day, and there’s nothing you can do stop it. MY colony looks up to me, they do what I do, go where I go."

This was too much. Was Victoria telling the truth? It was most likely a bluff. "Then maybe they’ll all follow you into jail and save us the trouble of rooting them all out." I said.

Ash had said nothing and his expression showed he wasn’t intending on doing so. He merely remained in the corner, leaning on his weapon.

Victoria snarled again, "I am only a pawn, Leon. Jenner told you about his plans and he hasn’t stopped them! He’ll keep going no matter what!"

I froze, my eye probably twitched, "Excuse me?"

Victoria’s face suddenly looked like it was smashed in with a frying pan, "Oh no... I did it..." She looked around frightfully, "No..No..."

I looked around, trying to follow her eyes, but there was nothing to see.

Isa wasn’t having it, "Cram it, you loon. What are you saying?" I pushed Isa lightly, "Quiet a second..." I looked at Victoria, "What was that you said about Jenner? How did you know about what he said to me? You weren’t there. What do you mean, "He’ll keep going"? What are you talking about?"

Victoria looked at me with frightened eyes, "I didn’t say anything!"

I shook my head, "Bullshit! I heard what you said! Tell me what you meant by it!"

Victoria slowly regained her composure, then lost the frightening look at gazed coldly at me and Isa, "I’ve said all I’ll say. Now you’ll have to arrest me."

I frowned. Isa rolled her eyes, "With pleasure."

I shook my head and turned around, "Ash, Isa, get her somewhere where she can’t have unwelcome visitors. I need to go see how Rion’s doing." I looked at Victoria with a stare, "I’ll talk with you in full later."

She smiled again, laying on the charm in thick coats. Another Jenner trait, "I would be HONORED to assist the Guards in apprehending those who wish to destroy Thorn Valley’s infrastructure and kill off the leaders. Why, if that happened, there would be anarchy. However, some miscreants like anarchy, or so I’ve heard." She looked at Isa, "Aren’t you going to put wrist bands on me now, dearest?"

I mumbled something and left. This was going to be a long day.

I walked aimlessly through the first level corridor, not sure where I was going to go. My journey ended at Justin’s apartment. Strange, I’d spoken to Justin more in the past week than in the months preceding it.

I knocked loudly on the apartment door and waited. Nothing.

I tried again a minute later and heard the satisfactory sound of papers being disturbed on the floor. Justin was apparently shuffling through them. The door’s deadbolt was slowly opened and I was greeted by Justin’s half awake persona. His headfur was sticking up a little and he was wearing a dark green bathrobe. His eyes were half open and he yawned before greeting me verbally, "Leon... What a pleasant surprise."

I grinned lightly, "Sorry if I woke you."

He sighed, "Wake me? Naw..."

I rubbed my mouth with my left paw, "We found out who attacked Rion."

Justin’s eyes shot open, "What!?" He looked out into the hallway to see if anybody was there. When he saw nobody in the immediate vicinity (A few rats were coming down the hall from the cafeteria) he pulled me into his apartment.

He walked briskly to the window and looked out, making sure that nobody was in earshot. He turned to me quickly, "Who was it? How did you find out?"

I was a little put off by Justin’s secretive attitude. He looked wild-eyed and obsessed. Maybe Justin just isn’t much of a morning person.

I took a deep breath, "We went to the hospital, Isa and I..."

Justin smiled, the wildness from his eyes disappeared as quickly as it had appeared, "Took my advice I see?"

I nodded, "Yeah. Anyway, Isa and I went to the hospital to check up on Rion. While we were there, he snapped out of his coma for a moment. Just a moment. He said something about Jenner’s girlfriend. Said "So, you’re upset about your boyfriend" or something like that. We went to Victoria’s apartment and listened in for a little bit. Heard some weird things. Eventually, she started talking... Not to anyone, but to herself."

Justin raised a brow, "That’s one of the first signs of insanity."

I nodded, "I know. She said that she needed to finish the job because he was getting better. Obviously in relation to Rion."

Justin mused, "Obviously."

I nodded, "Isa and I both heard it plain as day. We apprehended Victoria and took her to the Guardhouse for questioning. When she got there, she said all sorts of things about "Her colony" and how she was only a pawn in a bigger game. She also said something really disturbing. Something about how Jenner will "keep going with his plans no matter what".

Justin stared into space for a moment after I said that last bit, then he looked at me for a second afterwards. He then walked to his chair and sat down, burying his face into his paws. He sighed deeply and was quiet for a few minutes. I sat down on the other chair and waited patiently. As Leader, Justin may have had an idea on what to do.

He looked up at me slowly, "This is wonderful. The guy’s only been dead for a month and he’s already got a following of lunatics... We’re so few and people already want to kill each other." He shook his head and looked at the floor, "Maybe we really ARE doomed creatures..." He shot up, "No... That’s not me speaking. Sorry, Leon."

I nodded, "I understand... It’s a little... Overwhelming. But we can’t rule out that it might be a bluff. A scare tactic to disorient us. We’d be just as scared if she said that NIMH was coming here, but we know that’s not possible." Justin nodded, "I know. Victoria was Jenner’s accomplice, so it’s easy to assume that she is like another version of Jenner."

I shrugged, "We thought that of Sullivan, too."

Justin shook his head, "No... We knew Sullivan wouldn’t ever be as cunning or ruthless as Jenner. Victoria, however, is a completely different story. Where is she now?" I shrugged, "No clue. I asked Ash and Isa to take her somewhere where she couldn’t have any unwelcome visitors."

Justin hummed, "We don’t exactly have a detention center. We have a lot of rooms that don’t have windows and have only one exit. We didn’t really expect a criminal so early here."

I stood up, "I’ll go find out."

Justin nodded and stood up as well, "I’ll join you. Just let me get changed first."

I nodded and left the room. In a minute, Justin joined me (Putting on his old Guard tunic, the sleeves shortened to hide the fact that one of them had been sliced off by Jenner) and we walked side by side down to the Guardhouse.

Constelle was there, waiting for us. He saluted me as I walked in, "Sir."

I nodded and returned the salute, "Yeah?"

Constelle nodded to Justin, "Sir, Ash and Isa have taken Victoria to the third level. She’s being guarded by Ash right now. It’s the third room on the Eastern side. No windows and only one door. Isa thought it would be perfect."

We all nodded. I looked at Justin, "Care to join me up there?"

Justin grinned, "I didn’t leave the comfort of my apartment for nothing."

I held the door open for Justin and looked back at Constelle, "Ash won’t be enough for Victoria if she tries to escape. Send another Guard up. Who’s coming off shift soon?"

Constelle gazed at a paper on the wall (Moved from the back of the door, so I noticed), "Well," He started, "looks like Cole is due to come back any second now."

I pondered. Cole was young, but he could fight pretty well with a sword and shouldn’t have any problems taking down a rat twice his size with Ash’s help, "Alright," I said, "send him up when he checks in."

Constelle nodded in agreement and I left the Guardhouse. More talk with Victoria was soon to follow. Wonderful.

Justin and I walked down the third floor hall side by side, like we’d walked down the main hall not minutes before. The first thing I noticed was that the third floor wasn’t quite finished. The walls were extremely jagged in most areas and most of the rooms didn’t even have doors on them. The windows were at larger intervals. Justin told me that this was due to the mountainside’s sloping and how the water comes down the rockface or some hooey like that.

I could see Isa standing outside the holding room from the staircase as Justin and I headed towards it. She was almost perfectly still. A little creepy.

She noticed us as we walked down the hall and gave Justin and me a little salute, "G’afternoon, sir." She smiled at me, "No sir for you, per your request."

I grinned a little, "Thanks. So, Victoria didn’t give you any trouble?"

Isa rolled her eyes and ran a paw through her silky white headfur, "You’d think so, wouldn’t you? She ASKED us to arrest her, but as soon as we put her in the room, she started banging on the door, yelling for us to open it up because there was someone in there with her. When we checked, it was just her."

Justin shook his head a little and gazed at the door, "Is Ash in there?"

Isa nodded, "She wouldn’t go back in without someone there. Ash wasn’t too keen on the idea, but I promised him he’d only be there until someone could interrogate her. I figured it’d either be you or Leon." She winked at me, "Although I don’t blame Leon for passing the torch to you."

Justin half grinned and nodded to Isa, "I’d like to speak with her now. Just her and me."

Isa obliged without hesitation, but I grabbed Justin’s arm, "Hey, Justin..."

He turned, "What?"

I took my sword belt off and gave it to him, "Just in case."

He paused for a moment, then took it and attached it to his belt, "Thanks. I’ll give this back to you when I’m done in there."

I nodded and sat down on the floor across from the room, my back against the hard rock. Isa opened the door and motioned for Ash to come back out into the hallway. Once he was out, Justin went in and the door shut silently behind him.

I waited for five minutes, then I heard a knock at the door. Isa had never left the doorway and she was the first to open it. It was Justin, thank goodness, asking to be let out. Isa opened the door and Justin stepped out back into the hall. Before Isa shut the door, Justin looked back into the room and shook his head, "Crazy.."

He unbuckled my swordbelt and tossed it across the hall to me, "Didn’t need it. Felt like using it on her a couple of times, though."

He muttered and he motioned for me and Isa to follow him. I looked back at Ash, "Nobody goes in or out of there, got it? Not you or anyone else, just keep guard. Cole’s coming up in a few minutes to help." Ash just nodded and relaxed on his poleaxe again.

Justin led us into a second floor meeting room. It was similar in design to the meeting room on the first floor, except for the fact that the door didn’t lead to the meeting hall, it led back out into the hallway.

Justin sat down at the head of the rectangular table while Isa and I flanked him on the ends of the longer sides.

"Alright, here’s the deal..." Justin said, "Victoria’s apparently lost her mind. She seems to think that she is capable of communicating with the late Jenner."

Isa moaned and leaned back in her chair while I just sat there in mild shock. Justin continued, "She thinks she can actually see him living with her and she won’t accept his death. She told me that Jenner had collected an army of followers that would soon be capable of overtaking Thorn Valley and eventually utilizing its capabilities to fulfill Jenner’s maniacal scheme, which Victoria tells me wasn’t accurate to what Jenner told you at the rosebush, Leon."

I grunted, "It doesn’t matter. I’m sure they’re both crazy."

Justin nodded, "No argument with you there. The ideas and the people responsible for them are crazy, no doubt about it. Victoria said that Jenner’s quest to destroy this, "Balance" you spoke of wasn’t about just getting back at the Balance, but Victoria said that Jenner thought honestly that he knew how to get to where it lived: This, "new" dimension.

I looked at Justin with a less than serious gaze, "You expect me to believe that?"

Justin cleared his throat and rubbed behind one of his ears, "Not really. I’m not buying it. It’s like Jenner tried to shove as many weird things as he could into this "Master plan" of his."

Isa shook her head, "I don’t get this whole "Balance" thing... What’s going on?"

I looked at Justin, who gestured with his head towards Isa. The kind of gesture than said "Well? Tell her."

So I did. It took me ten minutes.

Everything about Inetris and Stark and the Balance and Jenner’s plan. When I finished, Isa was on the other side of the room, not having been able to sit through the whole thing. Her back was to me when I finished. When I wrapped it up, "And that’s what Victoria was talking about..." she turned back to be with a solemn look on her face, "Jenner... You mean to tell me that Jenner killed Jonathan Brisby and Nicodemus because he thought that he could take over the universe?" I nodded slowly, "Yeah... Basically..."

Isa slammed her fist into the wall. If she had hurt her hand in doing so (and I’m sure she did) her face didn’t show it. Justin jumped back in his chair, "Whoa!"

I gasped and stood up, rushing to Isa’s side. She looked at me with a tear in her eye, "That bastard... Nicodemus lost his life for that?"

I nodded but remained silent.

Justin stood up and walked over to Isa and me. He lightly grabbed her right hand, the one she had slammed into the rock wall, "Here, let me see that..."

She held it out as Justin and I looked at it quickly. No broken bones that we could see, just bruises visible under the thin coat of fur. Justin frowned at Isa and headed for the door, "Don’t let your emotions get you carried away, Isa. Next time you just might break a bone in your hand. Jenner was crazy, we know that. He won’t be bothering us again. And neither will Victoria."

I put my arm around Isa’s neck and began to lead her out. Her face had contorted in an effort to block a squall of tears. It didn’t work too well. She burst out into tears halfway to the door. I looked at Justin with an icy glare, "What is going to happen to Victoria?"

Justin took a deep breath before replying, "She will be detained until further notice. She’s in no position to rejoin society. And I think that we should take her claims of the group that follows Jenner’s beliefs seriously."

The sentence was quirky, so I decided to sum it up for his approval, "You mean you want me to be on the lookout for Jenner followers?"

He nodded, "Yes. If there are... Find them and detain them. I’ll have Arthur engineer some areas that we can use for holding cells."

I grinned lightly, "Too bad it wasn’t just a some animal that attacked Rion, huh?"

Justin frowned and walked back to his chair, "No, Leon. Whatever the thing was that attacked Rion... It was definitely an animal."

I said nothing and led Isa out.

I found his words ironic. Technically, WE’RE animals, even though we can rationalize like the humans can. Victoria was..IS an animal, just like Jenner was. I can’t let it go on.

Like I said... What? eight, nine pages ago, this afternoon has been the longest and most horrible afternoon I’ve had to go through so far, I think.

Time for bed, I’d think. The afternoon was long since gone when I started writing this, and if I don’t stop writing soon, either Tallor will kill me (Joke... Joke...) or I’ll look up and see that it’s sometime in the afternoon again. THE NEXT DAY.

Well, I’ll be sure to keep updates.

Until then.

Chapter 19

Day – May 20

Rion’s awake now. Not talking or able to move, but he’s awake. His eyes are open and he looks around the room, but I’m not sure what he may be seeing. After his little delusional spell a few days ago, I’m not sure if he’ll be 100% all right when he completely comes out of this thing.

Jack was talking about how Rion might "act differently due to the trauma" or "not be his usual self" afterwards. I can’t be mad at anyone but myself for letting Rion out of my sight that day in the woods with the snake. If only I’d kept him in my sight, Victoria wouldn’t have gotten him.

Speaking of which, Victoria tried to escape her holding room last night. She was yelling about ghosts and demons trying to get her. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the same demons that had plagued Jenner’s mind for all those years. At least Victoria’s being vocal about them and not suppressing it. I guess she wizened up after she saw her boyfriend get killed because of it.

In the HAPPY world, Justin’s got a nice girlfriend. Her name is Kat. Short for Katrina, naturally. Kind of ironic, a rat named Kat. Heh.. It rhymes, too.

She’s not exactly up there when it comes to politics – she works in the sewing department. Justin doesn’t seem to mind, though. She’s a little shy, but she loves Justin quite a bit. I guess she considers herself lucky. After all, back at the rosebush all the girls were always saying, "Ooh, Justin! I wonder if I’ve got a chance with him!" Kat didn’t think like that, though. She likes Justin because he’s a funny guy and they have a lot in common. What that stuff is I have no clue.

She’s a first generation, if I remember correctly. You’d think I would know something like that, but the truth is my memory isn’t too great from that long ago. I remember things perfectly if they’re in this journal, but things that aren’t... Well... They don’t stick.

I probably should have done myself a favor and not mentioned my stomach cramps in the earlier sections. I stopped writing about them for a long while, trying to forget about them. But then I realized... I can’t just forget about what happened. The cramps will always come when I think about those damn needles...

There... Another one. I hate them. I wish they’d just go away...

But they won’t. They’ll always be there. They’re the one thing keeping NIMH in my mind, not letting me forget. You’d think I’d consider myself in debt to NIMH for giving me intelligence. The truth? I don’t want it.

If NIMH was going to make me smart, they should’ve made me human, too. What’s the point of being smart if you can only use it to make survival seem like a chore? With intelligence, we had aspirations for peace, equality and acceptance. Jenner had aspirations to take over the universe.

Without intelligence, we just worried about where our food was going to come from, aimlessly wandering about like robots. I’d rather be a robot than... whatever I am now. Not a rat, that’s for damn sure.

I remember when Nicodemus told me something right when we were about the leave the sewer all those years ago when we were on our way to the rosebush. I haven’t forgotten it, which is strange. I haven’t written it down yet.

He said, "Leon... You said we wouldn’t get a fairy tale ending yesterday. You know, you’re absolutely correct. However, you can’t let that knowledge ruin your life. You have to use your knowledge as a tool to a greater good. You will see, Leon. You will see how good it can be to know what is going on and to not be so ignorant to the facts as we always were."

He said I shouldn’t let the knowledge ruin my life. How can I not? Now that I’m no longer an ignorant street rat, I have bigger things to worry about than food and play.

Finding this journal was the beginning of a greater story. It was the start of my change. I began changing before NIMH, right when I found this journal. The journal was the only thing that mattered. After only having it for a few hours, it became the most important thing in my whole life. It wasn’t food (at NIMH, food was always given to me when I needed it) that was important anymore... It was writing and learning. NIMH forced me to learn, and this journal was a stepping stone of some kind.

I remember my first entry so vividly. I was young and scared, I was still rather ignorant. I had the information, but I didn’t have the necessary strings to tie everything together. I knew that the curves and lines were letters, but I didn’t know that they were kept in huge tomes known as "books". I thought my journal was the first one in existence. I didn’t know. I didn’t know ANYTHING.

And I liked it. Now look at me. Sure, I can do math and I know how to write, but what good is it doing me? Maybe for a greater good in a hundred years. Who knows? Maybe the NIMH rats will create their own state and serve with the humans. It’s all ridiculous, isn’t it? But then again, so is this whole situation. I’m starting to upset myself... I need to rest.

I need to go talk with Isa about work. Yeah... That’s not harmful information...

Day – May 23 (Early morning)


I had a nightmare. I haven’t had one since the whole Daniel thing...

I was walking through the halls of the fourth floor (I haven’t even been there yet, but I knew they were the fourth floor’s hallways). I was kinda gliding on the floor, drifting this way and that. It was like I was sliding on ice, or I was on roller-skates. I could hear a disembodied voice, "Viiictoriaaaaa...." It said.

Suddenly, I was inside Victoria’s holding cell. She was asleep. At least.. She LOOKED asleep. Suddenly, I saw a flash of red, and Victoria was up. Her eyes were glowing red and her teeth were sharper than usual. Her back was arched in a familiar way. She looked almost like... Jenner!

Victoria then grabbed Jenner’s wavy sword from thin air and bared her teeth at me, "Care to join me in HELL, Leon??" She screamed and swung the sword at me head. If it were real, I’d be missing my head. Fortunately, it wasn’t.

I woke up with a scream. Tallor was in a deep sleep and I fortunately didn’t wake him. My internal clock (which is usually no more than an hour off) said it was some time around 1 or 2 in the morning.

"Wonderful.." I mumbled. I tried to get back to sleep, but for some reason, I was too hot and I couldn’t get comfortable. I tried to get back to sleep for another half hour before I moaned and rubbed my eyes.

"Wonderful..." I repeated again. I sat up in bed, leaning against the headboard. I gazed out the window and just zoned out for a few minutes. I was hoping that maybe if I just shut down my conscious thought, I’d fall back asleep.

No such luck. I only got into a half sleep before I got really hot again. I sighed and threw the covers off, laying in bed still. This wasn’t working at all.

I moaned and got up out of bed, grabbing my vest but not my shirt. No need for me to go through buttoning the thing when all I wanted to do is get some fresh air.

I quietly opened up the big wooden door leading to the hallway and crept out. Moonlight was streaming in through the windows a little further down the hall. It was strangely chilly in the main hallway. I looked back at the door to my room and considered simply opening a window, but I decided against it. Tallor wasn’t too keen on letting insects fly around our room. Maybe when we get some screens I’ll be able to open the window at night...

Anyway, I threw on my vest and walked slowly down the hallway, trying to keep the tips of my feet from making contact with the floor. Rat claws can be pretty loud when you don’t want them to be, as I’d figured out with Dragon back in the farmhouse.

I didn’t make it too far when I began to get the feeling that I was being watched. I quickly spun around and saw nobody. The stone hallway seemed to stretch on for eternity, the moonlight dotting it with small pockets of knowledge that lets you actually know if there’s something in the hallway. The pockets of ignorance, or should I say the darkness, were much more present in the hallway than the knowledge. I guess I wished it was the other way around. A bit hypocritical of me, I guess, considering in my last entry I was going on and on about not wanting to be smart.

I quickly turned around, expecting to find a horrific face an inch away from me. But yet again, as I returned to my original course, I saw nothing but.. well.. nothing. I quickened my pace down the hall, trying to recall what direction I might have been going in. After a minute or so, I thought I heard a scrape behind me. I turned around and saw nothing. I focused my eyes a bit and a form began to take shape in the ignorance. My heart leapt into my throat and I stepped back a bit, "Who’s.. Who’s there?"

I was expecting a lot of things. I didn’t expect this.

"I am." Said Rion.

I gasped, "Rion!? Y... You’re all right?"

He walked into the moonlit area I was standing in. His aura had changed a bit from before. He seemed more down to Earth now. Poor guy.

Rion shook his head, "No. Not entirely. Jack says I still need more time to rest. Actually, he doesn’t even know I’m up. He doesn’t even know I can talk."

I frowned lightly, "How long have you been... You know...?"

Rion nodded a little. I might have mistaken it for a small spasm or even a swallow. It was hard to tell in the dark, "I just got up an hour ago and felt fine. I felt good enough to walk, so I did."

I nodded and then raised a brow, "You doing all right, then?"

He nodded, "I feel all right. A little groggy, but I’m sure it’ll pass." He looked me over, "What’s wrong with you? Half dressed and disheveled like this... You ARE the Captain, aren’t you?" He grinned a bit.

I grinned as well, "Even a Captain gets to have his off days. Or mornings. Or whatever it may be now."

I sat down at the closest bench. It was directly in the middle of a ray of moonlight that was streaming in from the window across the hall. Rion sat down, too.

He looked at me, "How long have I been out? A few days?"

I frowned. This was going to be tough...

"Er.. Try a month."

His eyes shot open, "What!?" He looked around quickly, realizing that others were still sleeping, "A MONTH!? What’s happened since then?"

I shrugged, "A bit. First thing’s first. Who knocked you out?"

Rion blinked and then look directly into my eyes, "I remember Victoria dragging me away from the snake, then I remember waking up a few minutes ago. You mean to tell me that a whole month has passed in that short millisecond of nothing I experienced?"

I nodded, "About that. The ninth of May. It’s the 22nd or 23rd now."

He nodded slowly and then looked around nervously, "Where’s Victoria now?"

"She’s locked up on the third floor." I replied.

Rion looked at me, puzzled, "Huh? How’d you know?"

I shrugged, "You told us. You came out of your coma for a few seconds and you said something about, "Jenner’s girlfriend" being upset at Justin and wanting to get back at him." Rion nodded, then he put a paw to his forehead, "Hey... Yeah... I... I think I’m starting to remember..."

I waited silently for him to continue. Rion gazed off into space as he spoke:

"I was watching you... You set that snake on fire. Don’t tell me how, it’ll be too weird. After what happened at the rosebush, I don’t need any explanations. But I was watching you, then I felt a hand clap over my mouth and I was pulled behind a tree, where Victoria was. It wasn’t just her, though. There was somebody else. Someone with a gruff, disembodied voice. I can’t remember who it was. I didn’t actually see him. Victoria had grabbed me and she must have hit me over the head with something hard. It knocked me out. I woke up on the sand by the river. I was all tied up, head to toe. Victoria was sitting near me with a sword. JENNER’S sword. You know... The wavy one?"

Of course I knew it. I’d just had a nightmare about it.

Rion continued, "She told me about how Jenner wasn’t finished. How he hated Justin for cutting his plans short. Victoria smiled at me and traced all these weird lines into the sand, saying how I should pay special mind to them. I think I still remember them. I’ll have to write them down sometime... But she looked at me and said, "You may not be Justin, but I think you’ll make a fine substitute for now. Once you’re gone, Jenner will be pleased for the time being. When he wants more, I’ll find someone else to please him. And then the feral will come back, too. She’ll make a fine trophy. And once the Brisbys are gone, I’ll keep killing citizens until Justin is in my grasp." And then she grabbed her sword and.... and... and..."

He stopped and his eyes got really big, "Oh God! She started slashing and stabbing and... Oh God! The PAIN!!" He screamed and began to shake. I shook his shoulders, "Rion! Snap out of it!"

He didn’t snap out of it. He was in some kind of shock. "The PAIN!! The PAIN!! MAKE IT STOP!!"

Heads began to poke out of doors. Isa was coming down the stairs from the second floor where her apartment is. She blinked in surprise when she saw the culprit of the screams, "Leon? Why’s Rion out of bed? Why’s he screaming so loudly..?" Her questions were based completely in shop and profession and didn’t reflect her personal wants to know what the hell was going on. I shook my head and put Rion’s arm around the back of my neck, "He’s going BACK to bed, but I heard something from him that Justin needs to hear."

Justin was less than pleased to be woken up at three in the morning. When I knocked on his door (now fully dressed, along with Isa), I’m pretty sure he kept quiet in hopes that I might go away. Unfortunately, Justin wasn’t so lucky this particular night.

"Justin?" I said loudly, "Justin, wake up. Something important’s come up."

There was some shuffling around inside the apartment, the sound of papers falling to the ground in a whoosh, and then the clicking of the door being opened. Justin half opened the door, eyeing Isa and me. He was wearing his white long-sleeved undershirt. Strange, that Justin would wear something that guaranteed excessive heat.

Justin gave me a sour look, half concealed by the wooden door, "I hope this is good. You’re going to have to do some fast talking to convince me that what you have to say is better than the dream I was just having."

I thought about grinning, but decided against it.

"Well..." I started uneasily, "Rion’s up and about. Well... He WAS up and about."

Justin sighed, "What do you mean? Has he injured himself?"

Isa shook her head, "No, sir. He’s in some kind of shock."

Justin frowned, "Shock? Whatever for?" I rolled my eyes, "You’re forgetting he was violently assaulted and he almost drowned in a river."

Justin shook his head and looked a little sheepish, "No... It’s just been so long with him getting better..." He trailed off.

Isa shrugged, "Whatever, sir. Leon’s got some information on Victoria, though."

Justin raised a brow, "Leon? That true?"

I nodded and told him what Rion told me.

When I was done, Justin shook his head and walked slowly back into his apartment, leaving the door open for us to enter through, "Victoria... Why are you so crazy?" he asked nobody.

He lay down onto (more like INTO) the sofa and gazed up at me and Isa, "If you want to question Victoria again, be my guest. I don’t think you’ll get anything new out of her, though. Instead, try to focus your efforts on finding-"

I interrupted, "The disembodied voice, yes I know."

Justin nodded and stuck his index finger at me, like a gun, "Of course you do. You’re Leon."

I nodded and we both laughed a little. Isa just grinned a little, not being fully in on the joke. If she’d known me as long as I knew Justin, she would have laughed, too.

Justin finally looked up and saw that Isa was in the dark about the joke and he decided to press onward, "I don’t know anybody here with a gruff voice except for Brutus and..." He paused, not exactly wanting to continue. I already knew who he was going to say, though. Apparently, Isa did as well.

"Sullivan!" Isa looked at me with a grin, "It MUST be him! He’s been in league with Jenner since day one!"

I frowned, "Isa... Quiet for a second." I looked down at Justin, who looked like he was on the verge of saying something profound. I beat him to the punch, "What’s Sullivan’s physical state right now?"

Justin shook his head, "He’s still healing. His whole gut was slashed open. You don’t heal from things like that overnight." He looked at me and rasied his brow, realizing who he was talking to, "Alright... Maybe you do. But he doesn’t."

I nodded, a small grin on my face, "Yeah. What’s he doing now?" Justin shrugged, "Odd jobs. He works in the kitchen, the sewing department... Y’know, Kat might know something about him. Suspicious behavior... That sort of thing."

Isa nodded, "Sounds good. Where is she now?"

I frowned and shook my head at Justin, who returned the gesture. I looked over at her, "Isa, this may be urgent, but we can’t go waking up everyone at three in the morning to ask them questions. Not only is it rude, but do you honestly think that anybody’s mental capacity will be full this early in the morning?"

Isa nodded, then looked at the ground like a child that had been caught with a hand in the cookie jar, "Oh yeah...Kinda foolish of me."

I nodded, "Justin here can help us out."

Justin sat up and shrugged, "Yeah, I know her well enough."

I grinned, "I think you know her more than well enough."

Justin smirked, "You’re just jealous, CAPTAIN."

I sighed, "No, sir, just want to get to the bottom of this." Justin grinned and leaned closer, "Is the captain jealous?"

I shook my head, "No, Justin, the captain is not jealous."

He grinned, shook his head, and looked back at me, "Sorry."

Isa bowed her head a little, apparently unfazed by Justin’s little bit of wierdness, "Goodnight, sir. Sorry to wake you."

Justin sighed, "I think I see why Leon asked you to stop calling him 'sir.' It’s driving me nuts."

Isa’s eyes widened a little, "Am... I doing it wrong?" Justing grinned widely, "No, you’re doing it all too well. Just... Just call me Justin from now on, okay? We’re friends."

She nodded and headed for the door. Before I could get there, Justin called out to me, "Leon?"

I turned, "Yeah?"

His gaze was serious, "Victoria said something about the Brisbys. Get to the bottom of it tomorrow. I want to know what they plan to do to that poor family. They’ve had to put up with us for too long. I don’t want them in danger because of us."

I nodded and left. When I returned to my room, it wasn’t so hot in there anymore.

Day – May 25

What a day! As usual, I need to start from the beginning! Well, on with it, then.

Yesterday was another surreal day of questioning Victoria. I decided to take a short break halfway through my fifth hour of asking, "What do you intend to do with the Brisby family" and go outside for a walk. As I trudged out of Victoria’s holding cell, I nodded to Isa who was waiting patiently outside the door, "Try another approach." I informed her, "She’s in some kind of daze where she refuses to be the least bit cooperative."

Isa nodded "Sure thing. Where’ll you be?"

I shrugged and gazed down the hall, wondering why I wasn’t down there already, "I’m going to stop by the dining hall, then I’m going to go for a walk. Maybe I’ll head over to the fields or check out the new running track."

Isa nodded again and defiantly looked at the door to Victoria’s holding cell. "Well, here goes nothing..." and she went in.

I grinned a little bit to myself at Isa’s determination, then walked to the dining hall.

The food is monumentally better now than a few weeks ago. Besides the apples and berries we get to eat, we also have fish! Fresh FISH! Some of the engineering rats (like Tallor) crafted a net that can catch relatively small fish for our consumption. There seem to be a limitless supply of fish in the streams and lake, but we still need to monitor how much we eat.

I sat down at the Guards’ table, thankful that there was nobody there. I looked around the dining hall to see who was there and found nobody. I looked out the window at the sun, it must have been around three or four in the afternoon.

I sighed and muttered, then I stood up to get a cup of water. There was only one cook on duty right then, and I didn’t recognize him. He was light brown-furred, like me, but he had a black face and bright blue eyes. A strange combination.

I leaned over the countertop where we usually get our food and whistled, "Excuse me?"

He turned and flashed a smile, "Ah, Captain, how nice of you to drop by."

I looked away for a split second. This guy knew who I was and I didn’t know him. Big problem...

I grinned back at him, "Yeah, well, the holding cells were getting kinda lonely."

The cook chuckled a bit and turned back to what he was doing, which was hidden from my view by a partition, "They seem lonely from the outside. Sure wouldn’t want to see them from the inside. So, why’re you coming around here at such a strange hour?"

I tapped my paw on the countertop, "Well, just dropping by for a drink of water."

The cook nodded, "Ah, good. If you’d wanted food, you would’ve had to fix it yourself. I’m kinda busy at the moment."

I nodded and waited. The cook had immediately gone back to whatever it was he was doing. I cleared my throat loudly and the cook looked up at me, a glint of irritation in his eyes, "Yes?"

I waved a paw at the rack of cups next to him. He laughed and grabbed one for me, "Oh yeah! Sorry."

I took the cup from him, went to a nearby basin and filled it up, then I walked back to the counter, casually leaning against it, "So, why are YOU here at such an odd hour?"

The cook looked up at me again, "Well, I need to prepare everything for the other cooks who come in here at around five. They make the meals, I just get everything ready for them."

I pondered for a moment, then said, "Is Sullivan one of those cooks...?" I held up a paw in a familiar gesture that asked "Your name is...?"

The cook cleared his throat, "Chauncy. Everyone here calls me Chance. I hate Chauncy."

I chuckled and nodded, "Uh huh. Nice to meet you, Chance."

The cook looked back to his work for a moment, though he didn’t make a move towards it, "Likewise."

I grinned lightly, "I was under the impression that you knew me."

Chance shrugged, "Well, when I hear our new Captain of the Guard looks a lot like me except he’s a tad thinner and doesn’t have a black face, I get the general idea of what he looks like."

I nodded again, "Gotcha. So, what about Sullivan?"

Chance went back to his work, "He’s a lunch cook. Pansy’s way out if you ask me. You don’t cook salads and berries. I think he’s just going for the easy work."

I leaned up against the countertop again, "So you think he’s able-bodied enough for a tough job like cooking dinner for all the rats here?"

Chance nodded, "Oh yeah, if he can toss a salad and swing a sword, he can cook dinner."

I ingested this information, then my eyes subconsciously bulged. I need to work on that habit. "Wait, you said he can swing a sword?"

Chance nodded, "Yeah. Not too well, but he told me one day that he’s been working on his defense. I wouldn’t trust the guy with a spatula, but, you know... He’s got a right."

I frowned, "He might not for long... Did he say anything about Rion?"

Chance paused for a moment, most likely wondering about what I meant by "not for long", then continued by shaking his head, "Nope, nothing about him... Well," he looked up at me, pausing from his work, "there were a coupl’a times after the incident where he’d get all nervous and say things like, "Ooh, I hope he gets better" or, "I’d feel horrible if he didn’t make it" or something like that. We all thought it mighta meant something, but we didn’t follow up on it or report it."

I took a sip of water, "Why?"

Chance went back to his work, "Sullivan couldn’t hurt a fly. He used to at least have the talk, y’know? He’d boast about something but not go through with it. Now... He doesn’t have the talk or the walk."

I paused, trying to interpret the human jargon, "So his ego’s taken a hit after Moving Day?"

Chance nodded and looked at me grimly, "That’s an understatement."

I nodded and opened my mouth for effect, "Aaah, gotcha." I knew that Sullivan needed to be questioned by now.

First thing’s first when it comes to interrogation: Get someone who’s intimidating. Brutus was my best bet, of course.

I went to the Guardhouse and found out that Brutus was working on the Third Level. Construction, apparently.

Taking my time, I strolled through the hallways, up the ramps and finally smelled the all-too-familiar smell of the rock powder and dust from the construction.

A few rats were busy carting rocks away down the ramps in wheelbarrows as I walked up, so I stopped them quickly and asked them where Brutus was. One of the rats nodded idly, "Yeah, he’s over near the western end. We’d be working on the east end but you guys said not to..."

I cut him off, "Because Victoria’s there – right. When we find a better place to put her, you can restart construction over there."

The worker shrugged, "Just get the rest of those followers quickly, would ya?"

With a sigh, I started walking up the ramp again, "I’m doing the best I can."

Brutus was, not surprisingly, doing more work than any three rats combined. He was carrying a huge load of rock deposit that would need to be tossed outside.

He grinned a bit when he saw me and he put his bag down, "Leo! To what’s do ah owe ‘de pleasure?" I returned the grin (who couldn’t?) and jerked a thumb behind me, "Something’s come up. We need to have a little chat with Sullivan."

Brutus nodded slowly, "Sullivan?" His gaze darkened suddenly, "Why’s ‘dat?" I shook my head quickly, "He’s not a suspect yet, Brutus. Just some gossip I want cleared up before anybody jumps to conclusions."

He saluted, "’Den ahm yer man, sah!"

It took me a short moment to interpret the speech, but I insinctively returned the salute, "Great. Where’s Arthur?" I felt a tap on my shoulder and I quickly spun around to find myself face-to-face with the Chief Engineer himself. He gazed at me, then Brutus, "Leon, what’re you doing taking away our best worker?"

I chuckled a bit, "Beyond my control, Arthur. He needs to turn back into a Guard for a few minutes."

Brutus grinned but Arthur shrugged, looking a little put off, "Whatever, Leon. Just remember, Brutus here’s important in the construction." He leveled a finger at the huge Guard, "You make sure you get back here as soon as possible, okay?"

Brutus nodded, "Absolutely!"

The two of us sped through the Thorn Valley halls and wound up in the cafeteria. Chance was there still, and he was less than surprised to see me again, "Captain, hello again. Brutus." He nodded to the Guard and he nodded back. I cleared my throat, "Uh, Chance, we need to find Sullivan. You know where he is?"

Chance looked up at the ceiling, "Ooh, lemme see..."

A second passed.

Two. Three.

"Ah! I remember!" He grinned, feeling proud of his accomplishment, "He’ll be at the gym now!"

We quickly left Chance and went to the gym. It was completely empty. Except for Sullivan.

The short rat was doing sit-ups near the far corner of the gym. He seemed obsessed with fitness now for some reason. It wasn’t helping with his physique... Not much anyway. He looked quite similar to the loudmouthed coward from the rosebush, but we knew that up in his head, a lot more was going on than in previous years.

He saw us almost immediately and stood to greet us. He stuck out his paw for a handshake. I looked at his paw with a light grin, "No offense, Sullivan, but the last time I shook a paw, I almost lost mine."

He grinned as well, "Victoria? At the rosebush? Yeah. I rem.." He stopped when the present caught up to him.

Victoria was taboo. Victoria was a criminal. Victoria was crazy now.

Sullivan retracted his paw and nodded to me and Brutus. Brutus crossed his arms and grunted. Still not quite the social type.

Sullivan started looking nervous, "So, um, what brings you here?"

I crossed my arms as well, "I have some questions for you."

He nodded, "Before you start, I just want you to know that I had nothing to do with Victoria and what she did."

I was silent. Brutus was being himself. That is to say, silent as well.

Sullivan forced a laugh, "Leon, you’ve got to believe me, I’ve been trying to live a normal life ever since what happened. Ever since Moving Day. You’ve got to believe me..."

I shrugged, "We’ll see. I hear you’ve been feeling guilty about what happened to Rion. Why would someone with no connection to the crime feel guilt?"

He looked away and shook his head, "Victoria was Jenner’s creation. He molded her into a near perfect likeness of himself... She’s a lot like he used to be. And now that I see her do these things, I realize just how crazy Jenner himself was. And how I followed him to the end. It’s not guilt, Leon... It’s foolishness."

I nodded slowly, "Understood. What about the swords?"

Sullivan grew visibly uncomfortable, "What... What swords?"

I shook my head, "You know what I’m talking about. I hear you’ve been playing around with swords. Relearning old habits, Sullivan?"

He gasped, "No! Never! I don’t know what you’re talking about!"

I grit my teeth, "Sullivan, tell me."

The pudgy rat was silent, then shook his head, "I can’t..."

I cut him off, "Brutus?"

Brutus moved forward, not grabbing him, but merely advancing on him. Sullivan yelped and started to retreat back. He quickly bumped into the wall, "Leon! Stop him!" I shrugged, "I don’t know how."

Brutus was about a foot from Sullivan when he finally cracked, "Okay, okay! I’ve been getting some written threats from the followers about my safety, I was learning the sword for my own defense! I didn’t report the letters because there’s no way you can track them – Whoever wrote them did it messily, disguised their handwriting or something - Leon, stop him!"

Brutus stopped on his own, moving back behind me. I nodded to Sullivan, who was peeling himself off of the wall, "Thank you for telling us. If the followers bother you again, let us know, okay?"

He nodded slowly, "Y... Okay."

Brutus and I turned and left the gym. Brutus went back to the Third Level, and I decided to take a short break outside to get some fresh air.

I stopped as Brutus and I parted company. Sullivan’s interrogation didn’t really turn much up. The followers had harrassed him, but not badly enough for him to tell a Guard. Other than that, the guy was pretty clean. So much for that lead.

I moaned. I was back in square one. Again. The fresh air would DEFINITELY feel good right about now, I thought.

On my way out, I stopped into the Guardhouse to see who was on duty. As usual, Isa and I were assigned to Victoria’s holding cell, along with Ash, who monitored all of the going ons around there. Constelle was positioned on the second floor and Brutus was signed up for construction all day.

I walked over to my chair and sat down, trying to decide if a walk was really necessary. I mean, my chair was comfortable enough.

I sighed and shook my head, "I need to go look around the outdoor portions of the community.." I said to myself, like I was some kind of narrator, commanding where I needed to go next.

I stood up reluctantly and headed outside again.

This time, the fields were more pleasant. No snake this time, no sir. The tall grass kept getting in my face at my slow pace, so I quickened it somewhat, taking a couple of short turns every now and then. In my directional bliss, I almost ran into a marshy pond. Actually, I DID run into a marshy pond, but not completely. My feet were soaked, but I was otherwise unscathed. I looked around to get a feel for the surroundings. This was new... Nobody had told me about this place. I backed up onto completely dry land and sat down, looking around. The swamp’s waters were quite low, practically hidden by the long grass. A small clearing in and around the immediate area of the swamp made it easy to spot trees a short distance away. The swamp was obviously a side-track of the main river, but I couldn’t spot any water-runs. I stood up and paced around the whole swamp, curiously looking for a little river where the swamp may have been born from. There was nothing.

I paused and looked up at the sky. Perhaps it was just a swamp from rainfall. That was an accurate enough guess. At the very moment I finished that thought, I saw a flash of red over my eyes.

I started to feel dizzy and weak – The swamp began to spin around me like I had vertigo, then I fell to the ground and all went dark.

When I awoke, I was in some kind of cave. The wall wasn’t cave-like, though. It was smoothed to a mirror surface. I could see my reflection from about four of five yards away. I looked around quickly, then tried to stand up. I was a bit more than surprised to find that I couldn’t stand up. I wasn’t tied to my seat (which, I deducted, was a seat coming up from the floor and made from the same mirror-like rock), but I certainly couldn’t vacate it. I could turn in my seat, but it seemed that whenever I thought about leaving the seat, I found myself stuck on it.

There was nobody in the room. At least, that’s what I THOUGHT.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and I screamed, "Who’s there!?" I whipped around expecting a demon with flaming eyes to be right in my face. Instead, I saw the smiling face of Jonathan Brisby.

He laughed a bit and then stepped back, revealing the slightly transparent forms of Nicodemus, Daniel, and Alyssa, the first victim to Dragon’s appetite. Jonathan’s smile faded into a serious gaze and he looked at Nicodemus before speaking, "Leon... Um... Hello again."

I blinked, "...Uh hello to you, too..." There was a long awkward pause. I was absolutely certain that I was hallucinating or dreaming.

Jonathan gulped, "It’s been a long while. I haven’t seen you in months..."

I nodded and considered what I’d do for fun in this little lucid dream of mine, "Dying’ll do that to you."

Jonathan looked at the ground, "Yeah, I know..." He looked up at me, "If I’d known about Jenner..." He stopped and got visibly upset. He stepped back and Nicodemus came forward, "Leon, in case you did not observe, Jenner is not with us."

I nodded slowly, "Yeah, but I’m not wondering about him right now. I’m wondering about YOU, and everyone else."

Nicodemus smiled, "We’re dead, Leon. We now only exist in the deepest recesses of the mind. As Jenner would say, a kind of "New Dimension."’

I nodded slowly. I DID remember Victoria saying something about that. "So, when you die, you go this new dimension? Is that what you’re saying?"

Nicodemus shook his head, "No, Leon, no... This dimension is like a... Ooh, what can I relate it to..." He looked around, looking for inspiration. Daniel stepped forward, "It’s like we’re using a bullhorn, but only certain people can hear it."

Hearing Daniel’s voice brought a tear to my eye, but I was still sure I was hallucinating or dreaming. I sighed and played along, "And I’m one of those people?"

They all nodded, "Not just you, though. A few others. Most of them need the stone to channel the energy, though." Jonathan said.

Nicodemus cleared his throat, "Jenner, as I said, is not with us. His presence is... Less than savory. His appearance in this Dimension is not one of character, but one of force. Yes, he is more of a force now than a rat."

I frowned and looked around, "Where is he now?"

Alyssa stepped near me, "He is communicating with Victoria. He tells her things. Horrible things, about what he’ll do to everyone when he comes back."

I moaned, "But he CAN’T come back!"

Jonathan nodded, "That’s right, he can’t. Not by himself."

They all nodded. Jonathan continued, "Jenner is actually quite weak right now. His skill of speaking threateningly to those who are weak-minded or fearful is still with him. Why, even Rion heard him speaking. That’s the gruff voice you’re looking for." Nicodemus smiled.

I chewed the inside of my mouth, surprised I was taking this so well. Perhaps it was because I KNEW I was dreaming. Or, at least I THOUGHT I knew, "So why am I here?"

They were silent, then Nicodemus came forward, closer to me than before. Seeing his face up close again reminded me of all those meetings I’d had with him at the rosebush. It was a surreal instant when I realized with a jolt that he had been dead for a few months.

The aged rat’s eyes (glowing even in death, which I found as odd) were leveled at my own, and he began to speak, "Leon, there is something that I have been meaning to give to you."

I shrugged, "Okay..."

He produced a small hunk of rock from the folds of his robes. It looked familiar. Suddenly, it hit me, "Nicodemus... That looks like a piece of the stone that the Great Owl gave you."

He nodded, "Yes, my boy, it is. This piece was the one I first held in my paws – The piece that awakened my powers."

I shook my head slowly, "You just... Had your powers when you held it?"

Nicodemus looked at the dull rock, "Not exactly. It was almost as if my powers went into it, and came out more powerful. Like it is some kind of conductor."

I was pretty sure that I knew where this was going, "Ah, I see. So this is like the raw stone before it was cut into the amulet, and that’s why it’s so powerful?"

Nicodemus smiled, "Something like that, yes. I believe that if you held it your powers would be released as well."

I chuckled, "Wouldn’t I need the stone to use them? And wouldn’t it make me older?"

The old rat laughed a little, "No, your powers have manifested themselves on their own over time without any kind of conductor. If you held this, I believe that your mitochondria’s energy would be under your full control."

I raised a brow, "Full control?"

He nodded.

Jonathan rolled his eyes "Nicodemus, you make it sound so surreal." He looked at me "You won’t need the stone, Leon, and you won’t get old like our friend, Nicodemus here, either."

I shrugged, "If you and Nicodemus are right, then I’ll just end up a regular David Copperfield, won’t I? Minus the aging, of course."

Nicodemus grinned at me "You don’t think any of this is real, do you?"

I nodded and chuckled "I KNOW it’s not real. You’re all dead."

Jonathan laughed first, then the rest followed. I had a frown on the whole time. Daniel looked at me closely "After you wake up from this dream, you’ll have powers you’ve only dreamed of. You’ll need to use them for a greater good."

Nicodemus nodded "Yes, a greater good. There are many things you need to do in this life, Leon. However, the one thing you need to worry about right now is protecting Justin’s son."

I rolled my eyes "All this mumbo-jumbo about Justin’s son and the unrests... What’s he do that’s so important!"

Another long pause. For such a theoretically huge moment in my life, you’d think more talking would have been going on.

Jonathan scratched his head and looked up at Nicodemus, Daniel and Alyssa, "I’ll tell him." He said.

They all nodded and Jonathan stepped forward. Funny, I’m sure they wouldn’t have been so agreeing in real life. Jonathan slowly bobbed his head, as if he was thinking of what to say. After a moment, he started, "Jenner... as Victoria.... is amassing a small group of sympathizers to Jenner’s cause. You won’t know them, but they’ll be around. They’ll try to kill anybody who could stop Victoria."

I shrugged matter-of-factly, "Why don’t I just keep Victoria locked up forever?" Jonathan grinned "Besides the fact that it’s too EASY is the fact that you’ve got no proof, and as of right now she is completely innocent."

I frowned, "Innocent? She sliced up Rion! Almost killed him!"

Daniel nodded and responded, "But while Jenner had taken control! Victoria’s not to blame! It’s Jenner! He’s trying to destroy everything!"

I shook my head, "Would you mind explaining why he’s so evil? Nicodemus, you know him from the rosebush... Jonathan, you went on expeditions together at the mansion... Surely you know what happened to him!?"

There was another long pause. Finally, Nicodemus spoke in a slow, calm, quiet voice, "At NIMH, Jenner’s mitochondria were partially awakened, along with all of ours, correct?"

I nodded. He continued, "As you found out, Leon, the mitochondria are actually living organisms that can choose how their hosts behave. Almost all of the partially awakened mitochondria in the rats decided to keep their hosts alive and well by not making them hostile to one another. Jenner’s mitochondria were part of another experiment. While MY mitochondria were fully awakened over time, Jenner’s fully malfunctioned over time."

I nodded in half-comprehension.

Nicodemus continued to elaborate, "By the time my mitochondria had fully woken, Jenner’s had lost all sense of morality. They began to crave animal-like reinforcements, like food and power. Remember how many of Jenner’s arguments against the Plan were based on grain or food shortage?"

I nodded, this time I understood completely, "So," I started, "you’re saying that Jenner’s mitochondria were altered and tampered with so that they would... go insane?"

Nicodemus nodded, "And Jenner knew this. That is why he hated the humans so much. Especially NIMH. He knew his time was running out, and when he latched onto the Inetris and Stark theory, he thought he could get back at NIMH."

I blinked in confusion, "But Jenner told me he wasn’t going after NIMH. He said he wanted to go after the Balance."

Nicodemus nodded, "True, true. He wasn’t lying to you, Leon. He was going to go try and destroy the Balance. Jenner wanted to destroy the Balance, become all powerful, and make the NIMH scientists, like Schultz, suffer for all eternity."

I gulped, "Sick bastard. I may fantasize about killing Schultz, but I don’t think I’d have the guts to go against a force that can be compared to God." I raised a brow, "So, was Jenner right about the Balance, Stark and Inetris? It seems too strange to be true..."

Jonathan smiled, shook his head and sighed, "There was never an Inetris or a Stark. As sad as it sounds, we’re just lab rats and mice with a gift to end all gifts. The mitochondria are Earth-bound, as strange as that may be for you to fathom."

I shrugged, "Not really... I kinda doubted the whole thing anyway. I guess it WOULD have been kinda neat to know that a whole world of people like you existed. It helps put a damper on the loneliness."

Daniel smiled, "You’ve gotten along just fine without us, Leon. You’ve got Justin, Isa, all the Guards look up to you! Loneliness may have been an issue at Boniface, but not here."

I nodded slowly. Another long pause. Where had this whole thing started?

I looked up slowly, "Does Jenner know about Stark and Inetris being fake?"

Alyssa sighed, "Yes. But you know Jenner... He’ll keep at it even if it IS futile."

Daniel nodded, "He is a dangerous one. He shouldn’t be able to bother you in his present state, but Victoria can be dangerous when Jenner assumes her form."

I frowned, "Assumes her form?"

Daniel rolled his eyes, "All right, all right, he possesses her. There, I said it. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but it’s the truth. Victoria really wouldn’t do anything bad. At least, I don’t THINK she would..." he looked at Nicodemus, "Would she?" Nicodemus nodded, "Of course she would. Victoria is a bad seed. She will flower into a thorn bush that you can prick yourself on. You must be careful."

I nodded again. Nicodemus held up a paw and pointed behind me, "Now you must go back."

I looked at all of them, the dream concept slipping away ever-so-quickly. A question popped into my head, the one I’d forgotten to ask before the conversation turned all Jenner, "Justin’s son! How does Justin’s son fit into this?"

Jonathan looked down at the floor, "He’s already been conceived. While we were talking. Just wait a bit and he’ll be born. Remember to watch him closely. He grows up into a great person. He’ll save the valley. He’ll have a great gift, similar to yours. That’s why you need to teach him, Leon. Justin may be his father, but Justin’s knowledge stops where yours continues. We will be paying Justin a visit in due time." He stopped and got noticeably tense, "Watch him, Leon. And... my wife... My... wife and kids..." He suddenly burst into tears and fell to his knees. I considered going to help him, but Nicodemus, Daniel, and Alyssa were already there. Jonathan calmed down after a minute or two. Dream or not, I felt horrible knowing that Jonathan never told his wife his secret of NIMH. Jonathan sniffled a little and then he continued, "Timothy will be his friend, remember? And my wife will be a great asset to the Valley. Martin, Teresa and Cynthia will do their parts, too." He smiled, "Don’t let me down, Leon."

I nodded, "I won’t. But why would she want to come to Thorn Valley? She’s already got a home."

Jonathan sighed and gazed off into space, "She’s lonely. I can feel it all the time. She won’t grow old, you know. Something about my DNA inside her from the kids... All that worrying for nothing, eh?" He gave me a weak smile and continued, "Elizabeth has nothing but the kids. She wants more to life than that. After seeing all of you, she knows she can be more than just an average mouse. You know?" I shrugged, "I guess. We’ll be ready to greet her when she comes."

Jonathan nodded, "Thata boy."

Nicodemus smiled at me, then, "Goodbye, Leon. And good luck."

Alyssa smiled, "Yes, good luck."

Daniel stepped forward, up close to me, "Good luck, brother." He embraced me and I could help but cry a little. After a moment of silence, I looked him in the eyes, "I didn’t want to kill you... I still try to think about ways I could have avoided it..."

Daniel shed a tear, "No, Leon... I forgot to thank you. Living the way I was... It was maddening. Always craving revenge, thirsting for blood. I camped out under a convenience store one night when I was following you to the rosebush, and some big ordinary rats attacked me.. I KILLED them all! I didn’t leave a single one alive... And I didn’t even think about it. I just said "Unwanted Visitors..." and I went through with it. I was a machine, Leon... You freed me. Thank you." He didn’t hug me again, but instead he returned to the others. They all smiled at me, "Good luck, Leon."

And I felt a warmness and I saw a flash of red...

And I woke up back in the swamp. It must have been around 7 or 8 at night, considering that it was beginning to get dark.

I wondered idly if Isa had had any success with Victoria? I stumbled onto my feet and looked around. Being stuck out at night in a strange place isn’t a very good situation to be in. Especially for a rodent.

I took several whiffs of the air to see if there were any predators about. From what I could smell, nothing had come this way for hours. One of the things I was keeping a look out for were owls. I sighed when I didn’t smell any. That usually means they’re up in a tree, watching you, ready to dive down and...

I grimaced. The thought of those claws and that beak gave me the chills. I considered just sleeping near the swamp, but if I rolled over, I’d drown. Not a good choice. Staying awake all night wasn’t too good an idea, either. If I’d just had a hallucination, there might be more of them to come. I paused and tried to think about what had just happened...

Was it all a hallucination? It was so vivid, and I was pretty much an active participant in it, so it must have been a lucid dream of some sort.

I rubbed my eyes. I was getting pretty tired. The tall grass was a little stamped from where I’d come in, so I decided to try and guess my way back to the colony. If I came out of the tall grass and the colony wasn’t there, I’d just go back another way. Owls were probably out hunting, so I’d need to be extra careful. No cats. Thank goodness.

I walked for about five or six minutes before sleep really started taking footholds. I moaned, "C’mon..." I said to myself, "I just passed out for a couple of hours and now you want MORE sleep?" I shook my head, "I should go find some caffeine so I can stay up a whole night just to tick you off!"

At that point, I stumbled into a clearing, the main entrance only a couple of yards away. Brutus was on night duty tonight and he was more than surprised to find me coming in so late. He threw up his poleaxe in an attack position and growled at me. When the only thing he got was a tired grin from me, he began to relax, "Leon! What’re yous doin’ out dere ‘dis late!??"

I sighed and stumbled past him, "I... Fell asleep outside."

Brutus gaped in confusion, "Excuse me? Am I’s ta believe ‘dat ‘da Captain can’t control when he falls asleep and whens he don’t?"

I blinked and took a moment to translate the banter, "You only need to believe it tonight. It won’t happen again, I’m sure of it. It’s a one time thing."

Brutus nodded, "Gotcha. Well, g’night Cap."

I nodded and did a halfhearted salute, "G’night Brutus. Remember to get some sleep when you’re done with your shift."

Brutus nodded and went back on alert.

I stumbled into my room and fell into bed, not caring about undressing or even waking up Tallor. It had been a strange day. And as I was to find out, the days were only going to get stranger.

Day – May 26

What a strange (what’d I tell you?) morning. Allow me to extrapolate.

When I woke up this morning, I found a note on my bedside table from Tallor, who wasn’t in the room, I noticed. It read:


What the hell happened last night? I tried finding you to show you some stuff I’ve been working on, but what did I hear? "Oh, Leon? He went for a walk." A WALK? You of all people had to go on a walk, all day for that matter!! I kept thinking you’d get eaten or die some other horrible death before I got to show you what I did with some of the spare metal. In any case, you’re here now. Well, you’re still conked out, of course. Don’t know what got into you. Well, talk to you soon. Remember to drop by the tech area before you do anything!


I crumpled up the letter and moaned, "Yeah, good morning to you, too, Tallor."

Suddenly I felt something weird down by my waist inside my belt on my left side. I squirmed a bit and felt something small and hard wedged between my tunic and the belt.

I reached in and pulled out a small hunk of rock that I’d swear wasn’t there the night before.

I stared at it for a minute, then remembered from the night before... Nicodemus gave me a rock...

I couldn’t remember what the rock had looked like the night before, but this thing I held in my paw looked pretty familiar. I shook my head slowly, "A dream... It must have been." I put the rock in my drawer, a slight tingling sensation jolting my paw as I let it drop into the drawer. I shook it off and sat down on the edge of the bed.

The time slowly slipped by as I just sat on the edge of my bed, trying to think things through about the night before. Jonathan, Daniel, Nicodemus, and Alyssa. They were all there... They said something about my powers being fully unlocked...

I grinned, "Well, no better time than the present." I held up a paw and aimed my claws at my journal, which was only a foot away. I smiled and jokingly said, "Come to me, my little journal... You will come to me!"

And the journal proceeded to follow my paw movements. I gasped in shock when I saw the journal slide left and right in accordance to where my paw was moving. I fell (in surprise and shock) back over the bed, landing between the frame and the wall. I lay there for several minutes, "What... just... happened??" I asked myself over and over again...

I peeked over the edge of the bed. The journal was still on the desk, but it was where it had been after I fell off the bed. It had really moved.

I slowly got up and walked around the bed, stopping in front of the table. I held my paws out in front of my face. What powers were inside of them?

I held my paw out in front of me and scooped it up, like I was conducting an orchestra to ready their instruments. The journal lifted up about a half a foot into the air and hovered there, shaking about as much as I was. I clenched my paw and the journal dropped back onto the table. I looked at it curiously for a moment, then I picked it up and skimmed through the pages. Ehh, Thorn Valley Day 1, Isa, Captain of the Guards, Brutus, Constelle, Justin’s sofa, Victoria... It was all normal. No trick here.

I frowned and tried lifting it up again with my paw. Not my physical paw, the apparently MYSTICAL paw of the mind. The... super-paw or whatever it was. I didn’t even have a name for it. I moaned. I sounded like an idiot.

When I moved my paw upward, the book hovered into the air in due accordance with my paw. I shook my head, "Impossible..."

I clenched my paw and the book dropped.

Justin needed to hear about this, I concluded.

I went to Justin’s apartment, but nobody answered my knock. Maybe Justin was asleep? I knocked louder. Nothing.

I sighed and reluctantly tried the handle. The door didn’t open and was apparently locked from the other side. Justin did bolt his door regularly, but he couldn’t bolt the door if he wasn’t in his apartment. I knocked loudly again. This time I heard some papers falling from inside the apartment. "Justin!?" I shouted, "Justin, I know you’re awake! C’mon, open the door!"


"Justin?" I leaned my ear against the door and listened, "Justin, are you in there?"

Still nothing. Suddenly my memory blared over my retinas, the memory of Jonathan and Nicodemus looking deep into my eyes, telling me about Jenner sympathizers... About a group that would break off and form another colony inside our own, one that lives and breathes revenge.

And Justin wasn’t answering his door.

I grimaced and stepped back, probably in a state of half-delirium, "Don’t worry, Justin!"

I leaned back and kicked the door as hard as I could. The catch in the door flew across the room, the bolt unaffected, since it was still in its cradle. I unfortunately didn’t catch that. The door swung open and rebounded off the wall. I caught it in time before it hit me in the nose. I looked quickly around the room, "Justin? Justin are you in here?"

Nobody. The room was completely empty.

Then from behind me, outside the apartment from the hallway, I heard a familiar voice, "Leon!?? What are you doing!?"

I turned around and saw a very mad Justin standing in the doorway, "Leon, WHAT’S GOING ON!?"

I looked around again quickly. The window was wide open. The breeze had knocked over the papers that I heard. It was here when I saw that the bolt hadn’t been drawn. The door catch had apparently gotten stuck. Oops.

I had goofed up, big time.

I had to say SOMETHING... I searched for an excuse. ANY excuse.

"I, uh... fixed your door." Justin glared at me. I cleared my throat, "It was sticking."

Justin was seething, "Fixed!? You destroyed it! What would make you think that I was in so much trouble that you had to kick the door down??"

I gulped, "I heard that Victoria is amassing a group of Jenner sympathizers..."

Justin glowered, "And from WHOM did you hear THAT? Certainly not Victoria."

I shrugged, "An insider, let’s say. Nobody dangerous. Some people just... Want to help."

Justin crossed his arms. His glare was back, "Who?"

I sighed and held up my paws, "I... don’t think... Not now, Justin... Please? Just trust me?"

Justin’s glare slowly disappeared and he began to soften noticeably, "Okay... I trust you. As long as you’re on the right track in getting this whole mess figured out." He looked down at the latch that had flown across the room when I kicked the door, "Did the door jam on you, and you thought it was locked?"

I nodded slowly, "I... guess so."

Justin shook his head and went to go pick up the latch, "In the future, Leo, if the door sticks, ask a carpenter to fix it. You may be good at some things, Leo, but I don’t think I’d want you to fix the window if it got stuck." He grinned. Was he insinuating I’d break his windows? He’s gotten a little rusty at the comedy lately.

I nodded and grinned to show that I understood his "joke," though I really didn’t, "Yeah... Sorry about that. Really. I’ll help fix it."

Justin nodded, "I know that, Leon. Even if you didn’t want to help, you’d have to."

I shrugged, "Then it all works out. Now, about the problem..."

Justin nodded, "Oh, right. Sorry that I wasn’t around to receive that report."

I was about to ask, "What report?", then I suddenly remembered, I should have filed a report. I figured I should play along, "Uh, why’s that, Justin?"

His eyes kinda trailed away and his mouth curled into a grin, "I was... busy last night. DISCUSSING Sullivan’s character with Kat."

I almost gasped audibly, "Oh... I see. I hope you didn’t get carried away..."

Justin shot me a horrible, horrible look, "What do you mean?"

I shied away from my true motives, "I mean, I hope you didn’t force any questions on her..."

Justin sighed in relief, nodded, and then gave me a small grin, "Well... Maybe one."

I nodded immediately in return, "Oh."

Then it hit me suddenly. My eyes widen a bit, "OH!"

Justin laughed and put his paw over my mouth, "No telling. Now, you were talking about something that’s going to ruin my perfect morning? Something about Jenner sympathizers?"

I looked away, "Uh, actually... Yeah. Sorry."

Justin sighed, "Okay. Forgive me if I’m not entirely clued in. I’m still a little tired, you see. I had a long night last night."

I nodded, "You and me both."

Justin held up his paws in a defensive gesture, like he’d been forced to apologize for one of his pranks back at the rosebush, "No, no, I don’t think your night can compare to mine." He smiled.

I shook my head, "Wanna bet?"

He grinned, "Sure. You’ll have to go first, though."

I nodded and looked over at Justin’s bed. I held out a paw and scooped upwards like I had with the journal. Justin’s pillow raised itself into the air. I moved my paw and the pillow quickly shot towards Justin and smacked him in the face.

He grabbed the pillow and yanked it out in front of him, his face twisted into a look of fear and astonishment. He was staring at the pillow in his paws. The look most likely mirrored his first realization that Nicodemus could move things with his mind. I suppose in the big picture I shouldn’t have shown him my powers yet – he was just getting over Nicodemus and that night at the rosebush.

"L... Leon!" He slowly managed to break his gaze from the pillow and his eyes immediately fixated on me, "Leon! Did you just..." He nodded at the pillow, "Did you..?" I nodded, "Yes. I did."

Justin wouldn’t break his gaze with me, probably fearing that I’d disappear if he moved his eyes around, "But... How..?" I looked out the window, "I’m... Not exactly sure... Something to do with what I saw last night."

Justin was still in a semi-shock state, "Wha-? What happened last night?"

I swallowed, "Uhm... It... Uh..." I frowned and muttered, "Cripes... Some people came and told me that my powers were..." I fumbled around for the right word, "... they were ‘unlocked’, okay?"

Justin raised a brow, forcing a small half grin, "Leon... Just tell me what happened. Please."

I was silent. How would I say this? Justin was frozen in his spot, waiting for me to make a decision. "All right," I started, "Justin, you may want to sit down for this..."

The story didn’t take too long to tell. Justin took it surprisingly well. Perhaps too well, as I feared that when I finished he’d take me for a nice long walk to Jack’s infirmary where I’d go through all sorts of psychological tests to see if I was sane. When I finished, I waited until Justin had noticeably ingested all of the information. He looked up at me after a moment of silence, a serious gaze on his muzzle, "Leon... Back at the rosebush I probably wouldn’t have believed a word you just said... But I must confess... Your words are a little frightening to me because they must be true."

I tilted my head, "Why’s that?" He looked down at the floor and slowly kicked at the air with one of his feet, like a child, "Well... You know... Kat and me..."

I nodded and held up a paw, "You don’t need to go any further. That’s none of my business. All I’m interested in is this group of sympathizers that Nicodemus spoke of."

Justin wasn’t paying attention though. He looked off into space, "It’s going to be a boy, they said?"

I nodded, "Yeah." He gave a half grin to whatever he was looking at, "I forgot about what Nicodemus said at the rosebush. I guess I kinda forced it out of my head."

He looked up at me with a mellow expression, "If Nicodemus could predict all this, why the hell couldn’t he have predicted his own death?"

I was silent. I was the one who had predicted his death, when I first looked into his spinning mirror. Nobody believed me. I felt sick on the inside for a moment. I thought it might have been my fault.

I merely shrugged in response, "I... don’t know."

Justin shook his head, "Yeah... Neither do I. It’s strange... Knowing that this morning was destined to happen all those months ago... Nicodemus knew we’d be standing here..."

I sighed, "I suppose he did."

Justin was silent for a moment again. I waited. After a few minutes, he looked back up at me, "I feel so strange... No matter what I did, this morning was destined to happen."

I shook my head, "No... You could’ve lost to Jenner at the rosebush."

Justin grimaced and shut his eyes. I finished, "You’d be dead. And everyone else along with you. Jenner would have kept us there. I’d certainly be dead. Still buried in that rubble pile."

Justin smiled a bit. The compliments were putting him into a better mood, "Thanks."

I nodded, "Yeah. You need some time?" He looked at me and ran a paw over his head, "Just a little bit if you don’t mind. This is... A lot of info... Should I tell Kat?" I mused, "Well... Maybe not. She doesn’t strike me as the type who would believe that." He shrugged, "She’s very resilient..."

I laughed, "You’d need to be as resiliant as a rubber band to take this kind of news in stride! I mean, just TRY to imagine that you’re her. You are told that you’re pregnant, and that the ghosts of Nicodemus, Jonathan Brisby, Alyssa, and my brother insist that the child will be the savior of us all! I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty freaked out."

Justin nodded and grinned at my word choice, "Yeah... I guess you’re right..."

I stood up from the chair I’d been sitting in since I told Justin about the night before, "I’m going to meet up with Tallor. He had some stuff he wanted to show me."

Justin grimaced, "Ooh, not the art..." I raised a brow, "Huh?"

Justin held up a paw, his mind momentarily off his emotional burden, "His art. He’s using the spare metals to make art sculptures. They look AWFUL. Try talking some sense into him, okay?" I nodded, "Sure. I’m not a big fan of sculpture, anyway." I made my move for the door. I stopped in the doorway and turned, "You need anything, I’ll be with Tallor." He nodded and spread out on the sofa, about as deep in thought as he was deep in the cushions, "Thanks."

I walked over to the tech room in about two minutes flat. I must have passed three rats on my way there. Not a very busy day I figured.

When I entered the room, Tallor was hunched over a large table, big sparks coming from in front of him. (Either he was welding something together, or we were dealing with some very sub-code wiring. Not that we have codes, but safety first, right? Right? C’mon, agree with me!)

He stood up and turned to face me. He must’ve seen my reflection in the huge array of metals that consumed the desktop. He stood to the side and pointed to a sculpture on the desk, "Well, Leon... What do you think?"

I frowned and took a step towards the thing on the table, "Aren’t you not supposed to think when you look at art?"

Tallor rolled his eyes, "Well, yeah, but WHAT DO YOU THINK?"

The thing on the desk resembled a dog of some kind. It had a cylindrical body and four sticks that might have been legs. The head was a funnel, and two pieces of cloth suggested ears. It was... How do you say... Tasteless.

I merely shrugged, "It looks like a... dog or something."

Tallor smiled and nodded, "Yeah, that’s right! It’s a dog, but I couldn’t find anything for a head. I used a funnel.

I laughed and jibed, "Hey, I had a dog with a funnel for a head when I was a kid!"

Tallor cleared his throat loudly, "Hey, I don’t need to go for realism. Art is art."

I raised a brow, "And... WHY did you feel compelled to make this... thing?"

He shrugged, "I can’t really explain it. It was an inspiration. I HAD to do this, I just thought it and I had to make it real."

I nodded slowly, "Ah... I see. So... When you get inspiration... You make this?"

He chuckled, "I don’t spend my free time holed up in a room making things that have no purpose." He reached over and picked up one of his newer crossbow prototypes and handed it to me, "When I’m not making puppy dogs with funnel heads, I’m working on keeping us well protected." He pointed to a large jut in the crossbow’s design, "That’s where the extra bolts are. They’re spring loaded on a nitch-based clip. The clip takes about 15 seconds to reload, and the clip can hold a maximum of 5 bolts. The trade-off in the prolonged time it takes to reload and the small clip size comes with accuracy. The sights on the top are accurate to about 25 feet. It took me a lot of field work to get them perfect on every model. Each one has different specs. I can’t mass produce them."

I held the crossbow in my paws and aimed it at the dog sculpture on the table, "What did you mean when you said it had a ‘niche-based’ clip?" Tallor produced an empty crossbow clip and gave it to me. He stuck his finger inside the bolt slit at the top, "Run a finger along the edge and tell me what you feel."

I nodded and did so. The inside had little pieces of thin wood coming out of the sides, spring loaded. I looked up at Tallor quizzically, "How are you supposed to get the bolts in, then?" He grinned and held up a spare bolt, "Watch."

He took the clip and stuck the thin piece of wood in the side of the clip. There were little slits in the side that I hadn’t even seen before. "The ammo goes in any of these slits," he said, "and they go up one slit every time you pull back on these strings here." He proceeded to pull back the strings and I could hear the bolt click one slit up in the clip. Tallor ran a paw along the strings, "It’s like a rat’s revolver. A little less sightly and it won’t pick up beautiful women, but it’s going to work. It’ll replace the swords for the scouts and watchmen. And a few of these to go around as... emergency options should be feasible, too. In other words, this is the real deal."

I frowned, "Jenner’s true vision, in other words?" Tallor gulped and he put a paw to his chest, "Leon, that hurts. Forget Jenner, he may have had the idea and meant it to be used for evil, but we can use his design for our own benefit! There’s really nothing that can go wrong."

I nodded, "Right. Famous last words. How easy is it to learn to fire this thing?"

Tallor pointed to a hole-filled targeting board in the far corner of the room, "Try it yourself."

I gave the crossbow a quick once-over and quickly realized that the only bolt in the clip was still a click away from getting into firing position in front of the strings. I pulled back on the strings and it popped into place. Cool.

The strings were tight, the bolt was in place, and my finger was over the trigger. I looked over at the board and held up the crossbow, looking through the sights. I leveled it, and fired. By the time I pulled my eyes away from the sight to see what had happened, the bolt had buried itself at the dead center of the bullseye target.

Tallor smirked, "See? A baby could use it." I frowned and gave the crossbow back to him, "But they won’t. I think you should make it a little harder to use, so that only with training someone can use it, like a Guard or a trusted adult."

Tallor’s eyes widened, "What!? You want me to mess up my picture-perfect sights? I spent so mu-"

I cut him off, "Tallor, something’s going to happen here in Thorn Valley very soon. Something bad. I’m not playing devil’s advocate, but having deadly marksman weapons lying around that require no training to use is dangerous. If a kid ever got one..."

Tallor moaned, "Yes, SIR." The SIR rolled off his tongue about as easy as a bowling ball. He sullenly put the crossbow down on the table and picked up his dog sculpture, "You don’t like my crossbow or my dog. I just can’t get it right today, can I?" I grinned with half of my mouth, "It’s not your fault. I just don’t like sculpture too much. It’s too blunt."

"I know you don’t like it, I know you hate sculpture." Tallor said, "Would you prefer to see this metal go to waste? I could trash this fine piece of art right now."

I couldn’t help but grin, "You could try to kill it, but I don’t think it would die."

Tallor shook his head and lifted up the dog sculpture, "Like all bad artwork?"

I shrugged, "Like all artwork, period."

Tallor raised an eyebrow, "You don’t like any form of artwork?"

I held up a paw, "I didn’t say that. I said art doesn’t die."

He nodded and shrugged, "It’s certainly better than writing. A picture is worth a thousand words."

He’d gone a bit too far. Writing was one of my life’s little perks, "You ever try reading a picture to someone?"

I had him there. He gave me a long pause for a response and then said quietly, "...No."

I threw up my paws, "Well, there we go. Writing is more universal than art."

Tallor sighed and put the dog back on the table, "Art is a form of expression. Some people don’t get it like others do. I have to say that I don’t fully agree with you..."

I laughed and patted Tallor on the back, "Hey, what’re friends for, eh?"

He laughed, too, "Hey, were you joking the whole time?"

I shrugged, "Eeeh, I wouldn’t go that far. Your dog is pretty bad, I hate to say."

Tallor shrugged, "I’m making it from scraps. It’s not going to be a Kandinsky or anything."

I nodded. Kandinsky was an artist who painted on both sides of a canvas. Chaos on one side, control on the other. Impossible for them to live in harmony. I sighed, "Two colonies.. One thrives on chaos... One thrives on control..."

Tallor grunted, "You feeling okay?"

I nodded, "It’s been a hectic morning."

Tallor nodded, "Gotcha."

Speaking of which, I’ve got the rest of the day ahead of me. Time to get moving.

Day – June 1

Well, the time’s come. This is the last page of my journal. Now I’m really stuck in a rut. I can’t steal another book, so I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to continue writing. I’ll think of something, though. It will take some time, I’m sure.

It’s hard to believe how long this journal lasted. It survived the move from the rosebush, which is a feat that deserves more merit than I can give. Give to a book, at least.

Perhaps it’s anticlimactic, but I’ve got a shift at the main entrance in five minutes. I think that it's time to put this journal down and get to work. Hey, maybe Justin’s got a spare book in that room full of papers? Only time (and proper time to let him forgive me for kicking down his door) will tell.

Until then!

Chapter 20

Day – December 13

Summer, autumn, winter. The days have been getting colder and more miserable, and the same can be said about life at Thorn Valley. These past few months have been very trying for all of us. One of us has died...and the rest of us have had brushes with death recently. So much has happened in the past months that I think some time-jumping will be necessary to make the events sensible. I guess I’ll just write down when I’m going ahead or back...

The birth of Justin and Kat’s son was about as eventful as a NIMH birth can be. Kat was a little reluctant on the name, but agreed after some convincing by Justin. It’s actually a good name: Blake. Looks like "bleak", which describes life here now.

The group of Jenner followers have made themselves known through the death of Rion. They apparently decided to finish what they’d started.

Victoria was released for a week, then thrown back into the holding cell when Rion turned up dead in his room. He’d been worked over with Jenner’s wavy sword, like at the stream. We can only hope that he meets up with Daniel, Nicodemus, and the rest of the gang wherever he goes. Rion was a great rat, a fine example of stick-to-it-iveness... He defied death to reveal the assailant, but he has ultimately paid the price. He was so young... So bright...

I almost wept when I crossed his name off the shift chart in the guardhouse.

After Victoria was thrown in jail, her little group of followers sprung her out and helped her escape into the forest, where she is now. Isa was injured quite a bit in that escape. A single Guard, no matter how good, doesn’t stand a chance against a mob of ten rats. She’s lucky they thought she was dead. She ended up with a fractured wrist, a bruised collarbone, a large bump on the head, not to mention a nice little collection of cuts. She was out of the infirmary in a week, but her cast lasted an extra week.

Isa was able to point out a number of rats from the group, all of whom were immediately locked away. They’re not giving us much information, which makes my job a lot harder.

The snow is late this year – Probably has something to do with the humans and their constant pollution.

No matter how long the snow stays away, though, it’s only adding a few grains of sand to Victoria’s hourglass. She knows nothing of survival in the winter, so if the weather is on our side, she won’t last long.

Since the weather’s gotten colder, we’ve had to make additions to our wardrobes. In addition to my usual vest and tunic, I’ve been given a nice-looking green wool cape complete with wooden buttons (the wool and wood were from our rosebush reserves), and a big black scarf to wear under the cape’s collar. In other words, I’m near impenetrable to the weather. Well... Maybe not.

Anyways, Jessica’s become completely involved in her new teaching job, and has no time for anything (or anybody) anymore. A simple "hello" means having to sit in her office saying "excuse me" a million times before she even realizes you’re there.

I think about her and sigh... We’d gotten so close. She told me one day a month or two ago that we would always be the best of friends, and that she still thought she owed me her life from the Daniel incident. She wished that she could be with me more, but her job denied her that privilage. She told me not to forget her in my ventures, and I promised that I wouldn’t. Ever.

Isa, on the other paw (yeah, you knew it was coming...) is turning out to be a great Second in Command. She’s talented but not cocksure, which is a great attribute. She’s taken a liking to Blake (not in THAT way, if that’s what you’re thinking) and been very kind to the Brisby’s, who I’ll get into in a little bit.

Blake... He’s about the human equivalent of a young adult now. Something like sixteen or seventeen. And he’s smart. Real smart. He ACTS his age, but his questions and comments express an understanding of my equivalence, even though I’m much older than he is.

He grew up quickly, reaching near full height in only a month and a half. He’s about a head smaller than me, with ash grey fur, black feet (like me and Justin), black hands (it looks like he’s wearing gloves all the time), an equally black tail, and a big black blotch of fur that surrounds his right eye. In other words, you put him in a shadow and you won’t know he’s there.

His dark appearance doesn’t really do him justice, however. He’s usually a very bright, kind, and open kid. This is why everyone in the valley loves him so much – He’s like a mini version of the old Justin.

Speaking of which, Justin’s been doing quite alright these few months. Rion’s murder had him jittered for a few weeks, but now he’s on "revenge" fuel and is trying desperately to find Victoria and any of Jenner’s followers.

Outside of work, Justin’s attitude hasn’t totally changed. He DID go a little nuts one day back in August when he burst into my room at four in the morning rambling on and on about how Jonathan, Nicodemus, my brother and Alyssa had told him about Jenner, Blake, and the impending darkness.

I just grinned at him and used my power to slowly push him out the door and then shut it. The next morning, I went into Justin’s apartment to find him in tears in the cradle of Mrs. Brisby’s arms (so much to write about...). The poor guy had just spoken to Nicodemus, his only father-figure, for the first time since his death.

In writing, that looks really bizarre.

Anyways, YES, Blake’s training!

I discovered that Blake had powers similar to mine when he was only a few weeks old. Things would move by themselves for no reason, and he would seem to be moving them with his paws. We literally had to bolt his furniture down until he could control his powers. That was where I came in.

In the weeks and months after I discovered my powers, I had been working to find out their extent, how they work, and anything else I could discover about them.

Going back in time a little bit...

Mr. Ages heard about my powers from the crow network and hurriedly traveled here to give me a look. I wasn’t about to allow myself to become his guinea pig again (the sleeping powder incident back at the farmhouse disillusioned me about his infallability as a doctor), so I left him a small blood sample in Jack’s office (I even risked spazzing out because of the needle, can you believe my dedication??) before he came and I tried to avoid him. I didn’t last too long, though.

I was eating breakfast by myself a day after he arrived, and all of a sudden, I looked to my left and saw him standing on the seat next to me, giving me an upset look. I yelped in surprise and almost fell back in my chair. He scowled at me, "Leon! I simply cannot believe that you have been attempting to ignoreme! When will you learn that we old-timers deserve constant and nonstop attention?" He paused, probably for effect, then smiled put a paw on my shoulder, "And how are you doing, boy?"

I shrugged and took a bite of a piece of celery, "I’m fine. I know why you’re here, though. That sample I left you wasn’t enough, eh?" He laughed, "That small thing? Certainly not! If I was going to do bloodwork, I would need to get many more samples from you. Lots and lots of them. Mountains of them."

He smiled sadistically. I shrank back in my chair a bit, "Uh huh... But... You’re not going to do that, are you?"

He shook his head, "No. Although the sight of you filled with tubes and hoses would be mildly interesting to me as a doctor, I have other tests planned." I raised an eyebrow, "Goodness, Mr. Ages... Was that... Dare I say... A "funny"? It would seem that you’ve gotten substantially more interesting since we left the rosebush."

He nodded and planted a serious gaze on his face, "Without you blasted rats hogging all of my free time, I have been able to enjoy myself."

I nodded, "I see. And how are the Brisbys doing?"

He grinned a bit, "Ask them yourself."

I nodded again, "Very funny, Mr. Ages, but I’m the Captain now. I can’t go on a vacation until this mess with the Jenner followers is cleared up. I have a job to do."

Mr. Ages rolled his eyes, "No, Leon, I mean that the Brisbys are HERE in the valley. In Justin’s apartment, as a matter of fact. They followed me here. Eli- I mean, Mrs. Brisby is quite interested in this power of yours, as am I. You will recall her having a similar incident on Moving Day?"

I nodded slowly, "I heard from Justin. Do you mean to tell me that the Brisbys are all here, right now, as I speak?"

He nodded. I moaned and quickly stood up, "Then they’re all in danger. With this Jenner group walking around, who knows what they would do to the one who single-handedly ruined his plans? I need to get going. Look me up at the Guardhouse later on, okay?"

I didn’t wait for a response, because I was already running towards Justin’s apartment.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by a rather jovial Justin. Before he could invite me in, I whispered my concerns into his ear. He laughed a bit and whispered back, "Leon, nobody can harm them while I’m around them ((this was prior to Rion’s death)), and we’ve got Guards posted all over the floor. We’re fine, they won’t be alone at any time, okay?" I nodded reluctantly, "Uh...Okay." I timidly peeked into the apartment, "So, how are they doing?"

Justin grabbed me by the arm and pulled me in, "Let’s find out, shall we?"

I suddenly found myself looking at a room full of mice. Well, just the Brisbys. Martin and Teresa were sitting in the two chairs, and Elizabeth was on the couch (her light weight meant that she wouldn’t sink into it, as Justin always had) with Timothy and Cynthia to her right. Kat was sitting next to Elizabeth, on her left, casually chatting. A seat next to Kat was vacant, meaning that was Justin’s seat. Kat was already noticeably pregnant with Blake.

All the chatter going on in the room stopped when I was brought in. Kat and Elizabeth stopped in midsentence and looked up at me with a smile. Martin and Teresa looked up at me with curiosity (I doubt they’d ever seen more than one or two rats in their whole life, so being surrounded by them now was probably a little strange for them), Cynthia apparently was dozing, and Timothy waved thoughtfully, "Hello!"

I grinned back, "Hello, there."

I looked over at Justin, who was returning to his seat. As he sat down, Elizabeth’s eyes suddenly got wide, "Excuse me, but are you Leon?"

I nodded, "Yes, ma’am."

She blinked, those big blue eyes reflecting the room’s image, "The second in command I met at the rosebush?"

I grinned, "Well, Captain of the Guards now, but yes, I was second in command at the rosebush."

She smiled broadly, "I KNEW I remembered you! When Mr. Ages told me that he was coming here to examine a rat named Leon, I thought I remembered that name."

I shrugged, "It’s not as easy to remember as, say, Justin." I winked at him, he shrugged in response. Elizabeth’s smile slowly disappeared, and I noticed that she her children were eyeing me suspiciously. The children had probably heard of Justin, but they didn’t know that their mother knew me also. They also probably knew that I was the reason they came here. I held the key to some of their most burning questions.

I was a little intimidated.

Elizabeth looked at Justin, who smiled back at her, "Leon was the one who tried to warn us of Jenner’s plans before you did. He was a little... Unfortunate. To say the least."

Kat piped in, keeping an eye on me in case I objected to her telling my story, "Almost died. Got locked in an underground storage room. He climbed out the ceiling, if I remember correctly..." She looked at me. I nodded

She nodded, too, "Right. He tried to get back into the main area, but the ceiling collapsed." I walked around the back of the sofa to where Elizabeth was sitting. "They keep telling me that I died in that rubble pile. Or at least came close to it. You saved my life with the stone... I don’t really know what to say, other than thank you.." She smiled and timidly looked at Justin, and then to me, "Well... If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to talk with you, Leon, about just what happened that night. Justin tells me that you would know about that more than anybody else..."

I nodded immediately, "Of course, I’d be glad to."

She smiled and clasped her paws together, "Oh, that’s wonderful!"

Martin had leapt off of the chair and was next to me. He pulled on my tunic and I looked down at him, "Hi there, Martin is it?"

He nodded, "Yes, sir."

I knelt down so I was closer to eye level with him, "You enjoying yourself here in Thorn Valley?" He shrugged, "Well, there are a lot of rats in those long vests like you’ve got on, all carrying weapons."

I nodded, "And you’re curious about why security is so beefed up here?" He shook his head, "No, I want to know how to get in on it!" Elizabeth looked over at us, "Martin!"

He looked up at her bashfully, "Sorry, mom."

I grinned, "Maybe when you’re older, Martin, but right now we’re going through a bit of a crisis." Martin raised a brow, "A crisis? Like the danger kind?"

I nodded, "Yeah." I looked up and saw Justin desperately running a finger along his throat, telling me to cut it out. I stood up and smiled down at him, "It’s not that bad, though. We Guards can handle it just fine."

He nodded slowly and leapt back up onto his chair. It was Teresa’s turn now. She looked at me with a somewhat sarcastic expression, "Mom says you can move things with your mind, like she did on Moving Day." I grinned and looked over at Teresa, "Yes, I can move objects with my mind like your mother did on Moving Day."

Martin’s eyes bugged out, "Whoa! Cool! Show us, please!" Elizabeth shooed him, "Martin, please!"

Suddenly, Mr. Ages made his presence known (I guess he crept in through the door while I was preoccupied with the Brisby kids.), "Leon! You told me that you were going to check on their safety and then ask them how they were doing, and you evaded me yet again! But when I come here, I find you talking about yourself! I leave you for five minutes and look what happens!"

Elizabeth was suddenly alarmed, "Our safety? Are... Is something wrong with us being here?" Justin quickly stood up and held out his paws, "No, no, of course not. Leon will tell you all of that unsavory news himself. Later." Elizabeth nodded slowly, "Oh... Okay... As long as it’s no trouble." Kat smiled, "It’s never trouble to host good friends."

I looked at Elizabeth, "We can talk in the library after dinner." Justin nodded to Elizabeth, "Yes, Leon will show you there himself." He looked over at me, "We would be honored to have you join us at our table tonight as we welcome the Brisbys, Leon."

I chuckled. I’d sat down with Justin’s group many a time. His group usually either consisted of a few council bigwigs, or of merely himself. He wasn’t a loner, he just doesn’t like to be bothered while he’s eating sometimes. It’s like his "crash" time.

I nodded quickly, "Sure, I’d be glad to join you."

He nodded, "Good. Now, Mr. Ages, was there something you needed?" He grabbed me by the wrist and began to lead me out, "Yes! This rascal is coming with me so we can begin our tests!" Justin began to laugh. I moaned and Ages led me out of the room. Before I was completely dragged out, I smiled at the Brisbys, "Make yourselves at home!"

And then Ages pulled me out into the hall.

Ages kept me in the examination room for what seemed like days. I later found out that I was only there for half an hour.

The first thing Mr. Ages had me do was recall the night at the swamp when I suddenly had my powers. I tried at first to shy away from the whole, "visitation by the dead" bit, but it soon became inevitable. Ages gave me several confused looks as I told the story, and eventually put his notebook down in disgust,

"This is getting us nowhere! You mean to tell me that you just suddenly HAD your powers?"

I nodded, "That’s what I said. I just had my powers after I held that stone."

Ages frowned, "And I checked that stone quite carefully. There is nothing odd or abnormal about it at all." He shook his head and placed his pencil on top of the notebook, "Alright, let’s see what you can do. Lift up the pencil please."

It was pretty easy – I just imagine that I’m picking up the pencil, like I’m actually seeing myself pick it up, and it begins to levitate. Ages was incredibly amused and interested in this phenomenon, mainly because it went against all the current rules of science that he knew.

After taking some notes, Ages gave me a selection of objects, each with a progressively heavier weight, to lift up with my powers. First a candle, then his notebook, then a lamp, then, finally, Ages himself. Well, Ages wasn’t really expecting it... While Ages was looking for something heavy, I decided to try lifting up the old codger. I thought it was pretty funny, but Ages was not amused. He shouted at me to let him down, and when I did, he went straight for his notebook to write in his exact experience.


As Ages was writing, he put a paw up, "Leon, you are dismissed. I’ll have more testing later, to see how these powers affect your health."

I wasn’t really paying attention, as I was already halfway out the door by the time he said the second bit.

As I walked out of the hospital wing, I gazed idly out the window to see where the sun was in the sky. Arthur keeps talking about building a sundial on the main terrace outside the entrance (which now makes the entrance look less like a cave and more like a colony) but he’s procrastinating and spending all of his extra time trying to figure out how to get us running water and better ventilation.

As luck would have it, the sky was completely clouded over and the grey air could tell me nothing about the time. It must have been sometime around eleven in the morning: I always eat breakfast at ten AM every day, then I saw the Brisbys, then Ages spent about a half hour testing me. An hour, easily. Busy morning.

I know you’re probably very interested in Blake’s training, and I’ve gone on a tangent long enough – Okay, I’ll talk about Blake’s training, then the dinner and conversation afterwards.

Going ahead in time by a few months...

I started Blake’s training when he was about nine or ten in human years – So he was old enough to know what responsibility and honor were. My one worry was that Blake might grow up to be some kind of juvenile delinquent and he would wreak havoc using his powers or he would be lured to the Jenner-followers and spell doom for us all.

The training started with me telling him the story of Jenner, the Brisbys, and his own father, Justin – Always ending with the swordfight on top of the stone and Jenner dying. This rather dumbed down version left out a lot of things: Where I was at the time, what happened afterwards with Elizabeth, and what happened to Jenner after he "died". Blake was very interested in the whole story-telling thing, but then when he found out that I was a swordsman, he became interested in self-defense.

I always tried to stress the fact that, with training, he wouldn’t ever even need a sword. Still, he demanded that he learn the blade. Since that time, we’ve started every training period (every day at 4:00 PM in a small grove near the terrace, rain or shine) with a sword-spar. After a couple of months of training, he got to be pretty good, but I’m not too excited about his swordplay developments, as his powers far exceed their importance. His powers are now at the point where he can disarm five opponents up to ten feet away with his mind – I’ll say it a lot from here on in: he’s near my level of expertise.

The first time I asked Blake to test his powers, he almost gauged my eyes out – I asked him to pick up a tiny stick with his powers. When he did, the stick flew through the air aimed directly at my face! I leapt out of the way and the stick buried itself into a tree. The stick didn’t break, it literally stuck out of the tree like a knife.

Blake was about ten, then. Since then, he’s honed his powers about as well as I have. The tests and practices are all quite different, and they’re something I’m very proud of – In one test, I’ll have a deck of cards lying in a pile on the floor, and I’ll ask Blake to pull out a specific card. He started out by using his powers to flip the deck over and spill the cards over the floor, then he’d just look around until he found the right one. Now, though, he can lift the deck up and shuffle them in front of his eyes with blazing speed, stopping the shuffling just long enough for him to mentally extract the right card. He’s come a long way.

Now we work together, lifting huge rocks and balancing them onto tree limbs fifty feet up, then catching both the rock and the branch as they fall. Sound stupid?

Yeah, I know.

Still, it’s good practice and it’s gotten me quite close to Blake. Although I have kept a lot of things from him, like how Nicodemus played into his powers and, moreso, how I got my powers and how Blake obviously got his: They were gifts. My "gift" was given to me at NIMH, but never fully realized until that night at the swamp. Blake had had his powers his whole life, although he didn’t quite remember the havoc he caused due to its uncontrollable nature. I decided early on not to tell him about his future, his power’s origins, or of my power’s origins until he was fully ready and mature.

A week and a half ago, the cat leapt out of the bag.

We were sitting in the library. He was reading my second journal, the one that chronicled a lot of the rosebush, as I watched and waited for his questions, and suddenly he stopped and looked up at me curiously, "You were close to Nicodemus?"

I nodded, "Yeah."

He raised a brow, "More than my dad was?"

I chuckled a little, "No... Your dad loved Nicodemus like a father."

Blake nodded a little and pointed to the journal, "You seemed awfully close to him here."

I sighed and leaned back in my seat, "Those were hard times. We had to stick together. He taught me many small, important things that I remember to this day – How to write properly, for example." Blake laughed, returning the journal, "Sure didn’t help you in some places. There are some parts here I can’t even understand."

I blushed, "That burns, Blake. What can’t you understand?"

He pointed at a line in the text, "This one, where you say you could tell you and my dad were best friends because you argued with each other at practice. That does a good job of not making the slightest bit of sense."

I laughed, "You’re reading it out of context! You could tell we were good friends because of HOW we argued at practice. We didn’t beat eachother up, it was a playful kind of arguing."

Blake nodded slowly, then hit me with a scorcher completely off-subject, "Do you remember your brother?"

I made an inaudible gasp and put my paws together, "W... Where’d that come from, Blake?"

He shrugged, "Dunno. Just thought about it all of a sudden."

I nodded firmly, "I will ALWAYS remember my brother."

Blake drummed his fingers on the table, a bad habit he got from me, "Even if he tried to kill you and Jessica?" I nodded again, "Of course. Remember, that wasn’t the REAL Daniel that day."

He shrugged, "So what was it, again?"

"It was a setup created by NIMH," I said, "so they could find out where we were hiding. They hid a radio tracking device in his ear and then they turned him loose."

Blake frowned, "But wouldn’t he try to warn you? What happened to him?"

I looked at the table, "Those scientists... They gave him too much of the drug. It was like he died, but then they reanimated him as an evil monster... It was terrible."

Blake nodded and was silent for a bit. When I went to go find a good book to read, I returned to see Blake in deep thought, the journal closed on the table in front of him. I sat down and looked him in the eyes, "Something on your mind?"

He nodded, "Yeah... You could say that."

"What is it?" I asked.

Blake sighed and looked at me squarely, "Why me?"

I tried to evade the question. Unsuccessfully. "What do you mean?"

He smirked, "Don’t try to pretend I’m not different than everybody else, Leon. You and me are the only ones that can use this power without the stone. Why me? Why us?"

I grinned, "You and I, Blake. You and I are the only ones with these powers."

He rolled his eyes and threw up his paws, "Okay, okay, FINE – You and I are the only ones with these powers, now why me?"

I shrugged and casually looked away, "Because that’s the way things work."

Blake shook his head, "Oh no, it’s got to be more than that. All my life you’ve explained in great detail to me that if I thought something was one way, I was usually right."

I sighed and nodded, but didn’t quite give up yet, "You’re right. I have always told you that you’re usually right about these things. It’s your power."

He grit his teeth, "I don’t even know what these powers are doing to me! How can I just accept them?

I acknowledged him, but didn’t look up at him, "You can’t."

He leaned inward, putting his paws flat on the table, "Then tell me. You know. You told Mrs. Brisby about the powers that night she was here, so I think you can tell me." I shook my head, "Still yoo young."

He fell back into his seat, "Me?" he threw up a paw, "What about you? When did YOU get your powers?" Good – I’d been hoping for this. I folded my paws together, "I got them when we were here in Thorn Valley, so that means I got them when I was a full grown, mature adult."

He grinned, "Mature? I’M more mature than you!" "Can it, Blake." I muttered, "I can’t – WON’T tell you now."

He shook his head in disgust, "Why the HELL not??"

I perked up quickly, "Blake, watch your language! We’re in a public place here. If you’ve got an issue, we can talk in private, got it?" He stood up and slammed a paw down on the table. He was getting emotional, which was never a good sign. Even with his many months of training, an emotional outburst could let loose some of his powers. When Justin grounded him for the first time, his furniture ended up outside the colony in a tree. You don’t need to ask me how it got there.

Blake was nearing tears, "It’s easy for you to keep it from me because you’ve always known! You told Mrs. Brisby because she couldn’t control it! You won’t tell me because I can’t handle it?"

I stood up, too, trying not to lose control, "Look at yourself! You’re about to bawl like a pup! You call that maturity!"

Blake stepped back, towards the door, "I’m acting like this because it’s MY LIFE you’re toying with! According to you, this is my PURPOSE! You’re just keeping me in the shadows until it’s most convenient for YOU, but it’s MY LIFE you’re ruining! How can I SLEEP at night, not knowing what’s going on up here?" he slammed a paw against his forehead, "You may think you’re doing the right thing, but rest assured, it’s NOT! You’re ruining someone’s LIFE, here!" he stormed out of the room, and a couple of books flew off of their shelves. I was left standing there like an idiot at our vacant table, being looked at by a couple of bookworms in the corners.

All I can say is: the argument ended up with me finally sitting him down and telling him about what Nicodemus had prophesized. He took it better than I had anticipated, but he still got upset about his inevitable future. Now he knows, and he’s been training harder than ever. I’ve even had to devise new, harder tests.

What are these new tests? Standoffs with our powers. When you fight one against the other, time seems to slow down all around you, except for your opponent. They’re moving around at the same speed as you. While in this "state", anything is possible. Blake lifted me up (with his mind) and threw me against a tree (stopping me right before impact, I don’t think about what would’ve happened if he’d slipped up) as I summoned my sword and threw it at him like a dart. I could’ve stopped it before it got to him, but Blake got to it first, stopping it in midair and tossing it back to me.

Our duels can last for hours – The key to victory isn’t stamina or skill, but pure luck. Like in chess, when you’ve only got your king and a pawn left, but you manage to win anyway. That’s not skill, that’s avoiding everything that comes your way until your opponent does something stupid out of their own free will, like...

To try and lift a tree from the ground and throw it at you, akin to a caber toss. Blake’s powers were strong, but not THAT strong. As he fumbled around with the tree, I walked over and tapped his shoulder, "Um, Blake? What are you DOING?"

He stopped and relaxed, coming out of his trance, "I was, uh... Trying to... lift up that tree there." He pointed and then realized how idiotic his plan was. He grinned slightly, "So much for that idea."

It wouldn’t be right to say he was embarassed – He was more than ebarassed. Considering that a few people were watching, he was humiliated. Now he doesn’t do anything stupid like that.

Okay, that’s it for training. Now the Brisbys...

Cripes... I need to go assess the Guards. Be back in a bit.

Day – December 13 (night)

Okay, back. Right, where was I? Ah, the dinner.

Going back in time a bit, back to the near beginning of this... VERY long entry, I was sitting with Justin and the Brisbys in the cafeteria. I was a little on edge with good reason – I’d been warned of the Jenner group, and Rion had made special note that the Brisbys ranked high on their list of "targets". I told Brutus to station Guards at every doorway, window (three for the wall-sized one in the cafeteria) and air-vent in the room to make sure Mrs. Brisby didn’t suddenly have an arrow in her chest while she was enjoying her meal.

There were also more Guards than usual watching the valley complex – There wasn’t a single person off duty on this night. The Guards do a pretty good job of blending in and not being intimidating, but that’s only until you really notice them standing there. That’s when they can look menacing.

Anyways, I was sitting across from Justin at the rectangular table. To Justin’s right was Kat, and across from Kat was Mrs. Brisby. Mrs. Brisby’s children were all sitting next to her on her left, filling up the rest of the places. Of course, the Brisbys needed risers for their chairs.

The meal was fish. COOKED, HOT fish. By far the most delicious meal I’ve had since the clam chowder at the Boniface Estate. The dinner was filled with smalltalk, which I was thankful for. The last thing I wanted was us talking about Nicodemus or Jenner when it was obvious that nobody wanted to talk about them.

To avoid any unpleasant conversational terms, I spoke mainly with Justin about the Guards’ drills and training, while Kat talked with Mrs. Brisby about sewing and child care (Kat was still pregnant with Blake at this time, mind you).

At several intervals throughout the dinner, rats would come up and thank Mrs. Brisby. Ever so modest, Mrs. Brisby would just offer a timid "Thank you" and the people would leave. Everyone in the valley knew about Mrs. Brisby and her acts of heroism on Moving Day. She had become something of a hero in the eyes of all of Thorn Valley, especially those who were not known for their bravery, in which case they were almost perfectly related to Mrs. Brisby’s tale.

When dinner finished, we talked a bit more and then, finally, the Brisby kids started getting tired.

Cynthia was the first, "Mom, I’m gettin’ tired."

Then Timothy chimed in, "Yeah, me, too."

Then Teresa, "I’m getting a little sleepy, too, Mom."

Then... Well, not Martin, "I’m not tired at all! I wanna stay up and help the Guards!"

Mrs. Brisby collected her children and we all got up from our seats. Mrs. Brisby smiled at Justin, "My children are getting tired, I need to put them to bed."

Justin looked over at Kat, then to me, making sure that we were all ready to go, "Sure thing. We’ll accompany you."

Mrs. Brisby nodded and took a quick look around the cafeteria, perhaps to savior the moment, before looking back at us, "Oh, alright."

We walked back to Justin’s apartment, saying practically nothing on the way. When we finally got to the apartment door, it felt like an eternity had passed by. I was half-expecting a band of murderers to leap out of the shadows and massacre us.

Guess we’re the lucky types, because we didn’t come across anybody.

Justin told me to wait outside while everyone else went in, so I shrugged and leaned against the wall while I waited. The valley was awfully quiet that evening. I can’t recall exactly what it felt like, but it seemed that the unseen things in the dark were trying to be quiet, just to make the situation seem more surreal. Even the crickets had stopped chirping, which was a strange instance all by itself. I became nervous all of a sudden, and wished I had brought my sword to dinner. Of course, that probably wouldn’t have been well received.

About two minutes later, Mrs. Brisby came out the door, but Justin was nowhere to be seen. Elizabeth looked up at me and smiled shakily, "My children are all asleep now. Justin and Kat said they would watch them while we talked. Could we perhaps go to the library?"

I nodded, "Sure. Even Martin’s asleep?" She laughed a little, "Yes, even Martin."

She didn’t move until I started walking, and she kept up pace really well. We made small talk for a little bit until we finally reached the library.

The place was closed, obviously, so I needed to knock loudly on the door and wait patiently for the head librarian, a rat named Poe, to wake up, as his living quarters are right behind the library. Poe is an interesting character – His name came from his

parents - His parents not knowing what to name him, that is. As the parents were thinking, the nameless infant reached for a book on Jack’s countertop in the infirmary. The book was a collection of Edgar Allen Poe’s horror stories. The parents saw this and named their son Poe. I guess it was this name that led him to his love of books.

He always jokes that he’s glad his parents didn’t name him Edgar Allen.

Poe had just returned from the dinner, so we didn’t have to wait too long for him to open up the door. He ushered us inside and shut the door behind us, "Good evening, Leon." He looked down suddenly, as if he’d forgotten that I was entertaining a guest that was twice as small as everybody else in the community, "Oh! Good evening to you as well, Mrs. Brisby. I trust that you’re enjoying your stay?"

She smiled, "Oh yes, everybody here is so nice."

He grinned, "Well, I hope that Leon picks up a few pointers from you, because he can be downright mean sometimes."

I rolled my eyes, "C’mon, Poe, give it a rest." I looked down at Mrs. Brisby with a grin, "Poe said that I didn’t return a book one day. I didn’t even have the book!"

Poe held up a finger, "Now, Leon, that’s not true – I SAW you with that book!" I sighed, "Here we go again... Look," I put my paws on his shoulders, "we can argue later. Right now, I’ve promised Mrs. Brisby a nice, long catching-up conversation, okay?"

He raised a brow, "A whos-a-whatsit?"

I shook my head, "Never mind. Can we have some privacy?" He reluctantly nodded and started to walk back towards his room, "Remember to let me know when you’re done, so I can lock up the library."

I nodded and he went back into his quarters.

Mrs. Brisby laughed a little, "Everybody here is proving to be very interesting."

I chuckled and pulled up a chair to one of the tables and got a children’s stool for Mrs. Brisby.

Now was the time to let her know what was going on...

"Okay, Mrs. Brisby, you can ask your questions, and I’ll answer them to the best of my ability. Take as much time as you need, okay?"

She nodded slowly, "Right... Um... First, do you know if those powers I used can be harmful to me?"

I sighed and shook my head, "I don’t know, sorry. I know that they can fatigue you if you use the stone as a medium, but I think that’s it. Nicodemus used the stone for a very long time, and it showed – He looked older than all of us combined."

She smiled, then frowned when she remembered that Nicodemus was dead.

"Other than that, though," I said, "I don’t think you have anything to worry about."

Mrs. Brisby nodded and looked down at the table, "Did Jonathan have those powers, too?"

I cleared my throat, "Well, I think he might have. If he didn’t have them, then he was definitely one gifted mouse."

She nodded and I could tell that she was on the verge of tears, "Yes... Yes that’s what he was."

I cleared my throat again, "He did have the stone for a short period of time, and when he had it he became more agitated than I’d ever seen him before, as if something was eating away at his brain. Figurativily speaking, of course." Mrs. Brisby nodded and was silent for a moment, then she asked, "How did the power work?"

I grinned, glad the subject was off Jonathan, "Well, that’s a little complicated. I’ll try to simplify it a bit." She nodded and folded her paws together, waiting for me to explain.

"Well," I started, "inside every living thing, there’s blood. And blood is made from little things called ‘blood cells.’ Blood cells are made up of many different things, and one of the microscopic things inside of a blood cell is a little thing called mitochondria. You with me so far?"

She nodded, "Yes, I think so."

I nodded as well, "Okay, so mitochondria. These little things give the blood cell energy, which the blood cell uses to keep us alive and well. The thing is, these mitochondria generate a lot of energy. If we were to take this energy and use it outside the body, you could do things that you normally could not do."

Mrs. Brisby nodded and began to smile – she knew where I was going with this. If she wasn’t so polite, she probably would have stopped me right there.

I continued my explanation, "The scientists at NIMH were experimenting on ways to make the mitochondria in a living body think for itself. All of us were affected by this – Our mitochondria control aging and strength, so they made us stay young and made us stronger than usual. They also gave us the capacity to learn anything we wanted. We had become intelligent because our mitochondria wanted us to."

She nodded, slower this time. I was probably losing her.

"So you see," I continued, "we had all this extra energy from the mitochondria, but no real way to let it out, until we found the stone."

She nodded quickly with a grin, and I knew I had her understanding again. I smiled a bit and continued yet again, "Nicodemus’ powers manifested themselves through the stone, but the repeated use of the powers used up his mitochondria’s powers, and he began to age again. Eventually, his powers became second nature to him, and he didn’t need the stone anymore."

Mrs. Brisby looked into my eyes, "Do you use the stone?" I shook my head, "No, I’ll get to that in a bit."

She nodded, "I’m sorry." I waved my paw, "Don’t worry about it. This is a pretty complicated story. Anyways, one day Nicodemus let me touch the stone. It sucked up some of my powers, which I had never used so it was pretty intense, and trapped them inside the stone. Nicodemus knew that the powers were dangerous, so he locked the powers into the stone. Nobody could use the powers without first expressing a strong emotion."

Mrs. Brisby smiled broadly, knowing that pertained to her.

I finished, "So, you just unlocked the power that was trapped in the stone. Your mitochondria also played a role in it, I’m sure. When you and Jonathan...You know..." the tips of her ears turned red, "some of his mitochindria went inside you and met up with your mitochondria. That explains why you and your children aren’t aging as quickly." She nodded, "Okay, I understand all that. Thank you. So, how did you learn to use your power without using the stone?"

I bit my lower lip, "Well... Um... It’s... Complicated."

She laughed, "It can’t be more complicated than what you just told me!"

And of course she was right. I’d just have to be to the point.

"Alright..." I started, "Mrs. Brisby, do you believe in ghosts?"

She raised a brow, "Ghosts? But what do-"

I interrupted, "More than you might think. Do you believe in them?"

She shrugged, "I’ve never given it any thought. Why?"

This was it, "Well... One day I was taking a walk when all of a sudden I fell into a deep sleep near this swamp."

She couldn’t help but smile, "I hope that isn’t a habit of yours."

I laughed, "No, at least not in this particular instance. Anyway, I fell asleep and woke up in some kind of... cave."

"A cave?" She asked.

I nodded, "Yeah, but I don’t think it was anywhere around he-..." I stopped. Suddenly I realized that this story would make no sense if I didn’t tell Mrs. Brisby about Jenner’s madness, his "quest" to find the bridge between his two imaginary worlds, Alyssa and just about everything that I’d been doing for the past couple year.

Mrs. Brisby tilted her head a bit when I stopped, "Is everything... Alright, Leon?"

I shook my head, "Not quite. Suddenly, this got much more difficult..."

About forty five minutes later, I had filled her in on everything. Jenner, Jenner’s powers, Jonathan, Alyssa, Nicodemus, and pretty much everything. By the end of the hour, I was wrapping up with the post-mortem visitation bit where I’d left off.

There was no telling what kind of reaction I would get from my story from Mrs. Brisby. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she cried, or even if she had gotten upset at me. Of all the things I was expecting, she had to go and pick the one thing that I wasn’t expecting:

She laughed.

Chapter 21

Day – December 14

By now, it was definitely past midnight, and therefore it became the 14th. Mrs. Brisby hadn’t meant to laugh at the story and she immediately apologized and blushed a shade so red that somebody might have thought she was set on fire.

When she had collected herself, she looked at me with an extremely apologetic look, "I... I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me just then."

I grinned, "You don’t believe me?"

She shook her head quickly, "No, no, of course I believe you! It’s just that... Jonathan has been gone for so long and to hear his words again reminds me of some... very funny instances."

I scratched my head, "Oh. Okay."

She smiled, "Yes... I really am sorry. I mean, if you had known Jonathan like I did, I’m almost positive you would have laughed, too."

I began to smirk, "Oh really?"

Mrs. Brisby nodded, "Absolutely." The humorous air died down when she didn’t elaborate, and to prevent the conversation from getting too depressing, I piped in after a moment, "So, uh... Did I answer your questions, then?"

She nodded again, "Yes, yes that was it. Thank you so much, Leon."

I shrugged, "Nothing to it."

She smiled and looked down at the table, "This is all so strange... " She looked up at me suddenly, "What do you think will happen?"

I raised a brow, "Hm?"

She repeated, this time with a bit more emphasis, "What do you think will happen?" Then she realized that it probably wasn’t descriptive enough so she added, "What do you think will happen in the future? What about the humans?"

That was a topic none of us liked to think about. As much as we would like to think that we were perfectly safe in the valley, everybody knew that all it would take for us to be discovered was a few miles of reservation land. While we had begun work to divert hiking trails as far away from us as possible, a human might stumble upon the valley. What next? There’s no way we could kill the human, since that would eliminate all chances of sympathy to our cause from human society. We couldn’t capture the human, no matter how good our constraints were, the human would most likely still escape. Or would we let the human go? Then what? Leave our whole society’s chances of survival in some random human’s grubby hands?

I frowned and looked at my paws, "Mrs. Brisby, just feel comforted knowing that you will always have a home, and you will always fit in where you live."

She shook her head and put a paw on my arm, "Leon, why would you say such things? You fit in just fine."

I half-grinned, "That’s not the problem. The problem is that even if I tried to live with my kind again, I wouldn’t feel right about it at all. I’ve changed considerably from what I was."

She frowned, "You mean who you were, right?"

I shook my head, "No."

At that moment, the door burst open and Justin rushed in, with two other guards behind him. He rushed up to me and Mrs. Brisby and took a split second to catch his breath. Wherever he had come from, he had run all the way from there to here.

"Oh thank God you’re both alright..."

Mrs. Brisby looked around nervously, "Why? What’s happened?"

Justin looked warily at me, "Leon... Something’s happened to Rion."

My breathing caught and I choked for a moment, "What... do you mean?"

Justin shook his head, "Victoria..." I shook my head slowly, "No... It can’t be!" I broke into a sprint and dashed out of the library right to the infirmary. It was late and the halls were vacant, but I could hear the chatter of a large group of people as I made it to the infirmary. I just hoped that Rion was capable of healing again no matter what had happened to him this time.

Guards had swarmed on the place and the hall was too crowded to get anywhere. I shouted loudly and angrily at the Guards to move away so I could get in. I wasn’t in the mood for niceties.

I pushed and shoved and eventually made it into the infirmary, and what I saw wasn’t a pretty sight. I put a paw to my mouth and chocked back a deluge of tears: Rion had been killed, but that was an understatement. Jenner was killed, Nicodemus was killed, even Jonathan, who had been eaten by the cat, was killed. When compared to those three, Rion hadn’t been killed, he had been mutilated.

I would later learn that Rion wasn’t conscious for any of it, which helped ease a bit of the pain, but until whoever did this atrocious act was caught, I wouldn’t rest easy.

Fortunately, easy rest was in sight: Victoria, who hadn’t learned to contain her violent, Jenner-like urges, had been released earlier that week for good behavior. In other words, she wasn’t shouting about demons and ghostly apparitions keeping her awake.

She was supposed to be under close surveillance, but she had apparently slipped out of a window on the first floor and re-entered through an open window on the other side of the colony. This could not be done without outside help. As we quickly discovered, Victoria had more than enough of that.

Victoria was caught in her apartment with blood stains on her clothes and Jenner’s sword in her possession. Apparently she had recovered the blade from near Jenner’s corpse on Moving Day and had kept it with her in secret.

She was thrown back into her jail cell, but then all hell broke loose.

Isa, who had volunteered to guard the cell, accounted that sometime during the night, she was attacked by a group of about ten rats. While two rats held Isa, the others grabbed the keys and freed Victoria.

In the dim light, Isa couldn’t make out every face, but she got a few. Most of them were second gens who had probably met with Jenner personally.

As Victoria walked out of her cell, she smiled at Isa and puched her in the stomach. Isa, completely off guard, folded over like a deuce before a royal flush. Then the mob began to kick her and slash at her with their feet. Isa took a swift kick to the head and she was knocked out after a few seconds. The mob continued with their merciless beating until they thought that they had killed her. One of the attackers bent down to check Isa’s pulse, apparently felt nothing, and assumed that they had killed her. Once this was done, they left with Victoria.

From what we’ve established, the mob helped Victoria get outside the complex (they apparently climbed down from a second floor window to the ground), where they then gave Victoria provisions of sorts, then watched as she escaped into the forest.

At this point, the group waited outside for the night Guard to switch to the morning Guard, and they re-entered the valley complex.

They didn’t get away with their "genius" plan because Isa had been able to point out six of the ten or so rats in the group. That left about four die-hard Jenner sympathizers in our midst.

Isa was found the following morning by Constelle, who was supposed to take over Isa’s post. He immediately admitted her into the infirmary, where a relieved Jack informed us that she would be just fine. The last thing we needed was another death in the valley.

Mrs. Brisby was Isa’s top visitor besides me and Justin, which puzzled me somewhat.

She barely knew Isa, but for some reason she became attached to her. Perhaps Isa in bed brought back memories of a bed-ridden Timothy?

Speaking of which, the Brisby children are now under twenty four-hour supervision – Kidnapping them for a ransom would be all too easy for the Jenner group if it were otherwise.

And that can lead me, at least for the moment, into the present: Mrs. Brisby decided to stay in the valley once the Jenner followers we caught said that their plans never involved killing anybody, just aiding Victoria in her quest to live out Jenner’s evil wishes.

Well, that’s great: A group of devotees helping a crackpot loony devotee kill innocent individuals.

With winter coming, Mrs. Brisby also figured that it would be better to stay in the heated valley then to go back and risk another winter at the farmhouse, where survival is never guaranteed.

So it was settled. There was a vote on the Brisby’s staying with us, as was policy, but nobody really expected anything but a unanimous vote in support of her and her children staying. We had more than enough food for the winter, and Tallor had already made some mouse-sized furniture for them, so everything worked out perfectly.

The only thing that bothered me was Victoria. Why would she want to escape into the wilderness this late in the season? If the weather got too cold, which is common during these months, she would surely freeze to death. Perhaps she learned a thing or two about survival? Then again... Victoria was a street rat, meaning that she probably lived in a heated building or something during winter before the NIMH injections. If that’s the case, then how did she think she would survive the winter?

Questions like these plagued my mind when I had nothing to do, so I tried to busy myself throughout the colony. I had a multitude of different things to do: I practice with the Guards four times a week now, and that keeps me occupied. I also have daily meetings with Justin about our progress in finding Victoria in the forest and weaseling out new information from the Jenner sympathizers we caught. I check in with the Brisby’s at least once a day to make sure everything is alright (I used to be worried about rats making fun of or harassing the Brisby’s, but there hasn’t been anything like that at all), then I’ll stop by Arthur’s workshop to see how he’s doing. Once I’ve caught up with him, I’ll head next door to Tallor’s private working area where he works tirelessly on his crossbow prototypes. He says he’ll have twenty ready to use in a month. I think he’s dreaming.

And once all that is done, I’ve got yet more options at my disposal:

I could head back to the Guardhouse to relax a bit and catch up on some paperwork (there isn’t much of it, but I do have some), or I could go to my apartment and crash for a few hours and write new things down in this journal.

Another option available to me is a trip outside. I short trip to Rion’s grave, perhaps, where I let him know that we’re going to find Victoria and make her pay for killing him. My God, Rion was just a kid. Victoria IS an animal...

Day – December 25

I know it’s really not December 25, and I’m writing about the past, but there are some events before Blake’s birth and growing up that need to be told. Actually, these entries are from scraps of paper that I found that I decided to write on until I got this new journal. Guess that shows my desperation to write. Doesn’t that sound pathetic? I’ll be sure to write in when I skip ahead to the present, as all these events are potentially confusing.

--It’s the humans’ Christmas celebration, and we all got a nice surprise of our own: Snow. Lots of the white stuff fell last night. Well-bundled up children got to miss school to go play outside while the clean-up crews worked tirelessly through the night to stay ahead of the storm, shoveling small paths in shifts while the snow was still low to make sure we didn’t get snowed in. Arthur and his crew were also working tirelessly to ensure that the heating system was working as well. Electric heating – Using supplies that I probably stole from the Fitzgibbons. So far, my tail hasn’t frozen off, so I guess the heat is still working.

This snow is excellent news for us – It means that Victoria will be faced with a choice: Come back here, or stay out there. Should she stay out there, she would definitely die from the cold, and with the Guards looking for her nonstop, there are only so many places where she can hide.

A problem that I didn’t see until a few days ago: What happens if Victoria sneaks back in? What if she sneaks in the way she snuck out and kills a few more innocents? Well, she’d probably get caught, but I don’t even want to think about who she might kill... The Brisby’s... Justin... me... Heck, ISA, even?

Horrible. We’ll find her. And we’ll punish her.

On Christmas morning, I stood by the entrance, just watching the children run around enjoying themselves. I pondered helping the shovellers, but then decided against it. I wasn’t in the mood for manual labor. If I wanted to work hard, I could just start thinking about what to do about Victoria.

Naturally, I didn’t want to think about such things, so I stood my ground and watched the children again.

After maybe ten minutes, Jessica joined me. She was wearing a skirt and cape, but didn’t have a scarf. It made me wonder later on if she even knew how cold snow could be.

Anyways, Jessica’s entrance was less than normal - She smiled a bit and yanked on my scarf and cape, throwing me off balance and catching me by surprise. It’s a good thing I hadn’t been thinking about Victoria then, or else I might have pulled out my sword and made a scene.

She laughed when I shot straight up and jumped back, "AH! Back off!"

When I saw it was Jessica, I sighed deeply and collapsed against the wall of the entrance, "Jeez, Jessica!"

She shook her head with a grin, "Are we a little uptight, Captain?"

I pushed myself off the wall and brushed some snow powder off of my tunic, "Who wouldn’t be?"

She nodded and smartly decided to change the subject, "So, how have things been?"

I chuckled, "You mean for me, the Guards or for the Valley in general?" She smirked, "I mean you, Leon. If I wanted to know about the Valley I could ask anybody. And there are plenty of Guards inside-"

I held up my paws, "Okay, okay, I’m doing alright, I guess."

Jessica crossed her arms and leaned up against the wall, "Alright, you GUESS? That doesn’t sound so sincere."

I shrugged, "Well, things have been a bit rough, as I’m sure you know."

She nodded, "Yeah. All too well."

Silence. After a minute, Jessica spoke while looking up into the sky, "Look at the clouds... They’re getting dark. They’re almost... Foreboding. Like there might be dark times coming."

I sighed, "I’ve got some news for you... Those dark times are already here."

Then more silence. We leaned up against the wall and watched the children playing. Finally, she looked over at me, "Leon, I want to ask you a favor and I want you to be fully honest with me."

I blinked in surprise, "Uh... Sure, okay."

She cleared her throat, then looked back at the children, "Leon, those are my students out there playing in the snow. They’re the greatest kids in the world and I love being a part of their lives."

I nodded, "Okay..."

She continued, "I know that things haven’t been too smooth in the Valley, but I want you to promise me something. I want you to promise me that we’ll be safe, Leon. If something happened to my students or their families..." She trailed off.

I internally moaned. How dare she put me on the spot like that! I was definitely stuck in a lose-lose situation.

I thought for a bit about it, then tried to think of a clever answer to get out of making a promise I couldn’t keep, but I couldn’t find any.

I licked my lips and shakily looked over towards her, "Um... Jessica..."

She waited

"Jessica...I can’t."

She frowned, "Can’t what?"

I shook my head, "I can’t promise you that. All I can promise you is that I’ll do my best, and hope that’s enough."

She was silent, then looked down at the ground again, "Leon...?"

I sighed, interrupting her, "Jessica, I’d love to say that I’ll protect everyone in this colony, but it’d be an empty promise. Rion was killed in his bed in a public place and Victoria got away! How can I possibly expect to protect everybody here if I couldn’t even protect one person!?"

She put a paw on my shoulder, "Leon... Thank you."

I stopped and cautiously looked at her, waiting for the other shoe to drop, "Thank you?"

She nodded, "For not making an empty promise."

I froze and blinked for a moment, "Oh... You’re welcome."

She smiled, "You’re no superhero, Leon, and we all know that. Just do your best, okay?"

I nodded dumbly, "Of course." At that moment, I felt a tug on my tunic. I looked down to see a young child hopping around like he was on hot coals, "Mr. Leon Captain! Wanna have a snowball fight with us?"

I chuckled, "You want me to play with you guys?" I smiled wryly at Jessica, "Only if Jessica here can play, too."

The kid gave me a confused look, "Well, she was playing before. She stopped a bit ‘cuz she said she needed to give you somethin’."

I raised a brow, "Jessica? You have something to give me?"

Her back was to me when I turned to look at her. When she was facing me, a hand was behind her back. She smirked, "Oh yeah, I forgot to give you this– "

And she stuffed a snowball into my face.

Day – December 29

This was an amazing day! But in typical fashion, I must go through it step by step.

First, I met with Justin a little while ago to discuss current (and past) events.

The meeting began like any other inside Justin’s still messy apartment. Arthur had gone so far as to label it an official fire hazard due to the large amount of paperwork lying around, but Justin hadn’t taken the warning seriously. So far, Justin’s room hasn’t caught on fire, so he still hasn’t learned his lesson. With the cold weather and everything now, Justin repeatedly mentions how his room is the warmest in the complex since the papers consume space and thus allow his room to heat quicker. I think he’s nuts, really.

Anyway, I sat down in one of the chairs and Justin sprawled over the sofa, now getting rather accustomed to the ridiculously unsupportive cushions. Isa was strangely absent. I’d heard from Constelle that she was about to go with a search party into the forest, but I hadn’t had time to look at the postings so I didn’t really know where she was.

Justin yawned and waved a paw at me, "Well, Cap’n, what’s on your mind?"

I returned the yawn and shook my head, "Besides the obvious, nothing."

Justin frowned and scratched his head, "Leon, I know it’s been rough..."

I held up a paw, "Stop right there – I can handle my own problems."

Justin sat up and shook his head, "But Leon, it isn’t your problem! It’s everybody’s problem. We need to work together, remember?" he held his paws out, to act as a visual aid.

I didn’t say anything in reply, I merely half shrugged, then half nodded, then changed the subject, "How’s Kat?" Justin, a little miffed about the subject change, was visibly considering whether or not to ignore my question and continue asking about my issues with the current going-ons. His face finally softened and he decided it wasn’t worth it to keep the subject on myself.

"She’s doing alright. She was frightened about Rion in the infirmary, but now that Jack’s locked it up and the guards have been making regular changes, she’s been okay."

I raised a brow, "She’s in the infirmary already?"

He nodded, "Yeah. A little silly if you ask me, but she said that she wouldn’t want to have to walk all the way over there to have the baby."

I leaned back in the chair and shook my head. Justin leaned in, "Leon, don’t blame yourself for what happened to Rion. There was nothing any of us could have done."

I shook my head, "How can you say that? There were plenty of things I could’ve done! I should’ve put more than one guard at the entrance! I should’ve had more people guarding Victoria!" Justin shouted, "LEON!" His authoritative voice boomed in the room. I shut up.

He slowly lifted a finger, "There was nothing you could have done. Think about it, Leon: If you had put more guards at the entrance, or at Victoria’s cell, do you think that would have stopped those guys?"

I shook my head, "...No." He nodded, "So stop blaming yourself."

I sighed again.

Then, I felt a pounding sensation in my head, like a migraine or something. I moaned and grabbed my head in pain.

Justin was quickly on his feet, "Leon? Leon!? Are you okay? What’s wrong?"

There was a loud voice in my head, "HOW DARE YOU GET IN MY WAY, BOY!!"

I screamed and fell to my knees – this pain was horrible, like something was in my brain and was trying to crawl out while at the same time ripping through everything it could. I hit my head, "Stop!!" Justin looked at me, confused, "Leon, who are you talking to? Who’s here? Do you need me to take you to the infirmary?" I was starting to fold over, the pain was getting too great, "Stop SHOUTING!!" I wailed, and I fell onto the floor. Then, suddenly, I was surrounded by an army of transparent Jenners – They all had the wavy swords and they all had that maniacal grin, "LEON! WE’LL FIND YOU, AND WE’LL KILL YOU! AND WE’LL BRING YOU HERE WITH US SO WE CAN BRING YOU BACK TO LIFE AND KILL YOU EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY, FOR ALL ETERNITY!!"

I screamed, "NOOOO!!! Leave me alone!!" I shut my eyes and moaned, "Just go away!"

Suddenly – the pain was gone.

I was silent, and I heard the same in return. Nothing.

I looked cautiously around the room from where I was lying. I saw Justin’s feet a few inches away, and he knelt down and looked me over, "Leon? Leon are you okay?"

My eyes darted around to where I saw the Jenners, but they were gone. No more voices were in my head and my pain was gone, but I had broken into a cold shiver, "J-J-J-Jenner!"

Justin snapped his head around the room and I could tell he expected Jenner to be in the room behind him, but he saw nothing, "Leon, what’d you see?"

I repeated, "It w-w-was J-Jenner!"

Justin nodded slowly and put my arm around his shoulder, "C’mon, let’s get you to the infirmary."

I quickly stood up and shook my head, "No, no I’m fine."

Justin raised a brow, "Fine? You were just hallucinating and you fell over. You were screaming at something, Leon. Jack needs to look you over."

I shook my head and righted my chair, which had fallen over along with me a minute ago, "Justin, I’m serious... I’m alright." Justin was silent for a moment, then nodded, "Okay. But tell me what just happened."

I nodded, "Fine." I sat down and composed myself, "I thought I just saw Jenner a second ago..." Justin looked around the room again slowly, "But he’s not here."

I moaned, "No, Justin, remember what I told you, what Nicodemus tol-" Justin cut me off, "Oh, yeah, yeah that’s right..." he looked gravely up at me, "What’d he say?"

I shrugged, my head was swimming and I couldn’t remember everything right then, "Something about... About me getting in his way."

Justin grinned, "That’s good. When he’s ticked at you, it means we’re getting someplace."

I sighed, "But I haven’t been doing anything different lately... I’ve got no leads, the followers aren’t giving me anything to work with."

Justin was about to say something, but suddenly there was an urgent knock on the door. Isa’s voice could be heard on the other side. There was a hint of urgency in her voice that matched the tone of the knock, "Leon! Justin, is Leon in there?!"

"Yeah, hang on." I replied. Before I could stand up, Isa had torn open the door and half walked, half ran over to me, "Leon, I think you should come with me. We found something..." She had a stony look on her face that only appeared when she was totally absorbed in her work. She had been searching for something, and she had found it. Perhaps it was Victoria? But then, why wouldn’t she tell me right out?

I quickly stood up, "Justin I-"

He waved a paw and stood up himself, "I understand. May I join you?"

I shook my head and was about to object, but Isa cut me off, "Yes, Justin, I think you should."

I gave Isa a look, but she continued to keep her stone-face. Something was terribly wrong.

She led us to the main entrance, where Constelle and Brutus were waiting. They each had a poleaxe in their paws and swords sheathed at their sides. Constelle saluted and I saluted back, "What’s going on?" I asked.

He shook his head, "Damned if I know. We found something out there and we’re not sure what to make of it."

I looked at Brutus, "What’d you find?" He shook his head, "I’s ‘tink you might want ‘ta sees fo’ yo’self."

I gulped and threw my scarf around my neck, "Alright, then, let’s go."

The snow had partially melted, due to a strange wave of heat that moved through the valley right after the snow settled. We had about a foot of snow on the 25th, then a half foot on the 27th, and now just a little layer of crust that you can see the grass through at some points. It’s still a bit cold on my feet, but you get used to it, I suppose.

Isa led us past the field, through some frozen tall grass, past some trees, and into the thick of the forest. We walked for about ten minutes when we finally all caught a wiff of something horrid and rotting.

My heart leapt into my throat when I thought it might have been Victoria, but I quickly found out it wasn’t.

I was looking at a sliced up crow carcass, and wrapped around its neck was a piece of red string.

Justin clasped his paw over his muzzle, "Oh no... Jeremy?"

I stood there, trying to get a good look at the crow’s corpse. Something wasn’t right about this...

Isa shook her head, "Who would have done this to an innocent being?"

I smiled for a moment, then wiped it off and merely cleared my throat after assuming Isa’s trademark expressionless face, "Victoria and her followers, but this isn’t Jeremy."

The party looked at me with a slightly dazed look. "What do you mean?" Justin asked.

I nodded, "This can’t be Jeremy. Look how decomposed this body is. It would have had to be out here a few days in warm weather. Bodies can’t decompose like that when it’s cold and snowy out. Jeremy’s last message was delivered yesterday, so this can’t be him."

Justin sighed a bit, having known Jeremy a bit more than the rest of us, and Isa nodded in understanding, "Then that means..."

Constelle nodded as well, "Whoever did this did it before the snow!"

Brutus looked at the carcass again, "Who’d wanna kill a crow?"

Justin frowned, "This isn’t any ordinary crow, Brutus... This is a messenger crow from the farm."

I nodded, "It’s not Jeremy or his mate... I hadn’t met this one before." Constelle shrugged, "Then what’s it matter?"

Justin nodded quickly and held up his paws, "Everything matters, Constelle!"

I nodded in agreement, "Constelle, Justin’s right. This was definitely done by NIMH rats. Look at all the slashes..." I pointed, "Whoever did this was trying to keep the crow from delivering messages and information again..." I blinked, "Messages... Information... and..." I shook my head, " and passengers..."

Justin gasped, "Oh no... Oh DAMN!" He growled, "You mean to tell me that Victoria got away, Leon!?"

I stepped back in surprise, Justin wasn’t taking this too well, "Well, we don’t know that yet. We can’t jump to conclusions, this could be another trick to focus our attention elsewhere!"

Brutus nodded, "Justin, calm’s down dere’s. Leo’s doin’ ‘da best he can."

I smiled a bit, then looked back at Justin to find him glaring at me. He spoke with his stern, leader voice that made it sound like I was listening to a god, "Leon, tell me what you’re thinking."

Isa was interested, too, "Yeah, Leon, what do you think is the case here?" I shrugged, "What makes you think I know? I just guessed.." Justin frowned, "Humor me, Leon."

I nodded slowly, "Um... Okay... Maybe Victoria had a summons with a crow from the farm. Maybe she sent a message with Jeremy to send a crow that nobody knew too well or something like that. Victoria escapes on the crow and the crow returns to the valley per Victoria’s requst. She might not have wanted Jeremy seeing this crow and giving her away. So Victoria gives her little group of followers the order to kill the crow upon re-arrival so that Victoria’s tracks are covered. That means that the followers weren’t just waiting until dawn to come inside, they were waiting until dawn for the crow to return from the farm."

Justin nodded, "Plausible." Constelle shrugged, "Possible, but not exactly probable."

I yawned, "The only way for us to find out is to ask Jeremy next time he comes through if he delivered a letter or if he knew this crow."

Justin frowned and put his right paw to his muzzle, and crossed his left arm over his chest in a pensive position. We all looked at him and waited for him to say what he had on his mind. Justin looked up at us for a moment, then put his paws behind his back, "Okay, here’s what we’ll do." He started to walk back to the colony and he motioned for us to follow him. We talked while we walked and Justin spoke to us without looking us in the eye, "Leon, I want you to get somebody to head to the farm to keep an eye out for Victoria. Whoever you send should be capable of... " He paused for a moment and bowed his head in what appeared to be sorrow or sentiment. He quickly recovered and looked ahead again, "...eliminating her." He nodded in self-approval, "She’s guilty and we all know it."

I nodded in return and looked up ahead to see how close we were to the complex. Not too far, I realized, "Who’d you have in mind?" I asked. Justin shook his head but still didn’t look at me, "Not Isa. She’s an extension of your arm, and we can’t have you working alone here."

Isa was silent, but I could see her nod a little.

Justin continued, "Brutus is needed here for construction, so not him. Constelle is a possibility. But then again, there are many Guards that would be ideal for this."

I nodded and looked at Constelle, "What do you think?" Constelle shrugged and frowned, postponing his response until after he had stepped around a puddle of slush and rejoined the line we were all walking in, "I don’t work too well solo, Leon, you know that. I’m not the covert, sneak up and take out type."

I grinned lightly and then shook my head, "I’ll have to think this one over a bit, Justin." Justin nodded, "Absolutely. Don’t let me down."

Isa stepped in front of Justin, walking backwards so she could face him, "What if Victoria isn’t at the farm? She could be anywhere."

Justin and I shook our heads at the same time. I saw Justin shake his head, so I clammed up to let him explain, "Victoria lived at the farm for the whole time we were there. She knows it like the back of her paw, and there are probably thousands of little living spaces there. The Brisby’s cinderblock home is a possibility, since they’re living here now with us."

Isa nodded and turned just in time to dodge the wall off to the side of the entrance. She stopped, regained her composure, and followed us into the Guardhouse.

Brutus and Constelle hung their poleaxes on the rack, but kept their swords. Smart idea.

Isa always had her spear, but she never had a sword. She keeps telling me it’s because she likes to lean against it. I think she’s just lazy and doesn’t like supporting her own weight, as little as it may be.

I sat down at my desk and Justin sat down across from me, with Isa pulling up her chair and Brutus and Constelle flanking Justin. I folded my paws together and leaned forward, "So, who do we send? This could be a dangerous, long mission."

Justin nodded, "I agree. I still think Constelle’s the best for it."

Constelle frowned, "You’ve got to be joking! Whatever gave you that idea?"

Justin shrugged, "You’ve been working with Leon since day one at the rosebush – You’re a versatile fighter and you can think on your feet."

Constelle rolled his eyes and looked away, "Justin, I don’t think I could last very long with nobody to talk to-"

Justin interrupted, "Constelle, these are confusing, difficult times, you understand?"

He nodded, "Yeah, of course, but-" Justin cut him off again, "So sometimes we need to stretch ourselves out and do the impossible, because the events we have to get through are impossible too, got it?"

He nodded again, "Absolutely, sir, but I-"

Justin grabbed the words in midair again, "So, Constelle, you should be begging me to go, because you want to get Victoria as soon as possible!"

Constelle was silent, and eventually nodded and sullenly muttered, "Yes, sir."

Justin nodded, "Yeah, right." He looked back at me, "Others you might want to consider are Juste, Hector, Samantha, Kaya and maybe even Garret. They’re all known for their lone-wolf nature, and they’re all pretty efficient." I pondered this. I knew all of the Guards he’d just rattled off quite well, since I see them pretty much every day. Kaya and Garret were probably the best possibilities, since they worked well together and they were also pretty good at working solo and in a team. This struck another idea, "Justin, what if we sent two Guards?" He shrugged, "It’s your call, Leon. I suggested one because it’d be easy for one rat to get in there and take her out." I nodded, "Yeah, but Victoria can hold her own in a fight. A Guard would be an even match. If Victoria were to kill whoever we send to the farm, we’d be in big trouble."

Justin sighed and looked over at Isa, "What do you think?" She was leaning on her spear, and becoming the focus of everyone’s attention threw her off balance for a second. She looked at Justin, then to me, then to Brutus and Constelle, then back to Justin, "Well... Leon does have a point. One Guard would be risky not just because of Victoria, but Dragon might still be there, along with any other predetors that the Guards here aren’t taught to deal with."

Justin didn’t move, "Yes... Yes, two Guards sounds like a possibility."

I nodded, "Then it’s done. Kaya and Garret are my choices. Let’s get them in here and tell them what they’re going to be doing for the next few months."

Kaya and Garret were... less than thrilled to be heading out into the wilderness so late in the year. I had sent Justin and Isa to the meeting hall on the first floor to wait for me while I went to go get them from Guards’ practice. I’d be missing my own lesson, but this was a little more pressing.

I walked into the gymnasium and saw all fifty or so Guards practicing in groups. Kaya and Garret were hard to spot, but I found them eventually.

Kaya had joined the Guards about five months ago. As a second gen, she knew all about me, Justin, Jenner, Nicodemus and the lot, and she had vowed at an early age to take it upon herself to never allow anything like that to happen again. She took the whole thing personally, for some reason. Kaya might have been cursed with a petite frame, but what she lacks in strength, she makes up for in agility. I’ve seen her blindside Brutus once or twice at practice – she can move awfully fast in battle. She is great with a sword, but has expressed much interest in the crossbow design. Tallor gave me the one crossbow he hadn’t messed up yet (so they couldn’t be used by anyone who didn’t have proper training), and I quickly taught Kaya how to use it. I also packed a hundred bolts into a side-bag for her. Kaya’s appearance isn’t too striking, but she has quite the persona. She is completely covered in dark brown fur except for her right arm, which is a shade lighter. It catches your attention – I should know because I remember feeling like an idiot when I first met her and I couldn’t stop glancing back at her arm.

It’s amazing that Kaya and Garret are so close, seeing as how Kaya is a very personable, yet independent Guard, and how Garret is as anti-social as Mr. Ages, if not worse.

Garret was one of the last second gens we’ve had here in the community. His mother died during his birth from complications (that was an isolated incident, it doesn’t happen often here), and his father, Arthur, is extremely busy as the chief engineer here in the valley. Garret originally didn’t express much interest in the Guards, but something must have happened at home with Arthur that prompted him to join. Well, that’s what Garret tells me, but I think the real reason is that Rion was killed and Garret knew him pretty well as a friend. Garret’s dark personality is matched by his black fur that covers him head to toe. He specializes in polearms, but always keeps a dagger ready for battles that are "up close and personal" as he puts it.

He doesn’t work together with many people, but for some reason, he’ll work with Kaya.

This was, of course, perfect for me.

I walked around the gym until I found the two of them practicing with wooden swords near the back. I stood near them, my arms behind my back, waiting for them to finish, but they saw me before they could and approached me with a salute.

"Sir!" Kaya said, and presented a salute. Garret followed the same actions and I nodded to them, "You two can relax. We need to talk."

They looked at each other, "Is... something wrong?" Kaya questioned.

I shook my head and waved a paw at them, telling them to follow me, "You could say that. We’ve got a nasty situation that requires some good Guards to solve."

Garret mumbled something, then said, "In other words, there’s a mess we need to clean up?"

I grinned lightly, "Yes and no, Garret. I’ll tell you when we get to the meeting hall."

There was silence until we reached the first floor meeting area. Justin and Isa were already seated at a large circular table that was used for debates. They had left a space in between them for me. How thoughtful.

I stopped Kaya and Garret inside the doorway, "Take your seats."

They did so, but slowly and cautiously. Justin, Isa and myself were three of some of the top individual power-holders in Thorn Valley, so obviously there’s some intimidation.

Justin began, "Kaya, Garret, thank you for coming."

Garret snickered, "Not like we had a choice, sir."

Justin frowned and shook his head, "Not now, Garret. This is serious."

He shrugged, and folded his paws onto the tabletop, "Sorry."

Justin continued, "Anyway, thanks for coming. As both of you know, there’s a pretty big situation developing over Victoria’s escape."

I could see Garret and Kaya’s eyes sweep over Isa for a moment – It didn’t surprise me. Despite the fact that she didn’t stand a chance of beating a mob of ten rats in a narrow hallway in the poor light, most Guards still blamed Isa a bit for what happened. I try to remind everybody of how futile the situation was, and how nobody, not even myself (my powers might have been strong, but not that strong yet) could defeat them all. Isa blames herself enough, so others doing it is overkill.

Justin cleared his throat and had the two Guards looking back at him in a split second. He continued, "We have reason to believe that Victoria might not be in the Valley anymore." Kaya cracked a smile, but I quickly spoke up, "Save the smile, Kaya, this isn’t good news." She lost the smile and was back looking at Justin, who continued once again, "We think she might have summoned a lesser-known crow from the farm to come here and pick her up. Then she made it to the farm and instructed the crow to return to Thorn Valley, where the followers killed it."

Garret clicked his tongue and slowly shook his head, but didn’t say anything. Kaya said nothing as well, only letting out a small sigh. Isa looked over to Justin, as if she was asking him to finish. "So –" Justin said, "Leon’s going to tell you what you’re going to do to help."

My ears perked up at this, and I quickly cleared my throat and sat up straight in my chair, holding my paws out over the table, "Okay you two, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to wait a few days for Jeremy to come back to the valley so we can ask him about the crow that we found. If he knows the crow, or has seen Victoria at the farm, I’m going to send you two to the Fitzgibbons farm to find her and...uh..." I nervously looked over at Justin, who motioned with his paw for me to continue. I sighed, "Find her and kill her. She’s guilty, and she’s fled. We need to get rid of her because she’s a toxin to our community."

Garret and Kaya looked at each other, then to me. Garret leaned forward, "So, we just go to the farm, kill her, and come back here?"

His bluntness caught me off guard, "Well, uh, yeah."

Kaya shook her head, "What about Dragon? What about the farmer? What about the weather?"

I shrugged, "We’re rats, and while we may be on the bottom of the food and survival chain normally, we NIMH rats are different. We can adapt quickly, and we also can use tools to benefit us."

Garret raised a brow, "What kinds of tools?" Kaya nodded, "Yeah, what did you have in mind."

Isa held up Tallor’s crossbow model and slid it across the table to the two of them, "This will help with Dragon. If he bothers you, put his other eye out."

As Kaya examined the crossbow, Isa pulled out a sidebag and also slid it across the table, "Some extra bolts for you."

Kaya picked up the bag with a nod.

Garret frowned, "Okay, we’ve got Dragon. One out of three."

Justin smiled a bit, "Mrs. Brisby lived on the farm for a few years, and all those times she lived on the farm through the cold months. During warm months she would travel out to a different area of the property, but her cinderblock home should still be in the Fitzgibbons’ garden in –"

Garret cut him off, "The lee of the stone, yeah yeah, I’ve heard the stories."

Justin nodded slowly, the memories of the battle atop the stone probably invaded his head, but he didn’t show it. Instead, he looked over to me and grinned a bit, "Okay, Leon, now what do we do about the farmer and his family?"

I grinned as well and looked over at Kaya and Garret, who were waiting intently for my answer, "It’s simple, really. You just... Avoid them.."

Isa chuckled a bit, "As if we didn’t see that one coming!"

Kaya covered her muzzle to conceal a chuckle, but Garret just mumbled something under his breath. Justin smiled broadly and then spoke up, "You two have some preparing to do. Isa will get you all squared away. Any questions?"

Garret raised his paw into the air, "One, sir. How long do we stay at the farm if we don’t find Victoria there?"

Justin looked down at the table, thinking up an answer. I beat him to the punch, "You’ll stay at the farm until we find her, or you do."

Garret nodded, "Another question, then, sir. How many people know about this... Assassination job?"

Justin and I looked at each other, and Isa was looking at me with a worried look. We didn’t want this labeled as an assassination, but try as we might, it sounded like nothing other. I sighed, "Nobody but us will know."

Garret looked at Isa, "And how are you going to explain our disappearance?"

Isa smiled, "Nobody knows about the crow we found, so we can say that you’re going to be scouting out for possible dangers, such as nearby hiking trails, predator dens, etcetera."

Kaya grinned, "You expect the people here to believe that?" Justin nodded, "It’s more than feasible."

Garret shrugged, "One more question, then. What happens if, God forbid, Victoria is here and she wreaks havoc. How will we know when to return?" Justin scowled, "That’s not a very optimistic outlook, Garret."

Garret returned to scowl, "I just want to get Victoria, sir. She’s done horrible things to this community."

I nodded, "We know that. The chances of her killing all of us is pretty slim, you have to admit."

He shrugged, "Just checking every possibility." Kaya put a paw on his shoulder, "Garret, you worry too much."

Garret looked up suddenly, "Wait, I have one last question."

Justin sighed and leaned forward, "Yes?" he said, half-exasperated.

The black-furred Guard narrowed his eyes a bit, "What happens if we’re injured out there? We don’t know medicine too well." Justin looked at me and I shrugged, "I dunno... Send Ages back with ‘em."

Isa said nothing, but ran a paw through the mop of white fur on her head instead. She was at a loss for words.

There was a long moment of silence, then Justin nodded, "Very well. Mr. Ages shall return with you."

Garret and Kaya nodded. Justin looked at the two of them, "Any more questions? None from you, Kaya?" She pondered for a moment, then shook her head, "None, sir."

Justin smiled a bit and stood up, "Alright, then. Isa’s going to help you get prepared. You two could be out there for a very long time, so I think you both should talk to Mrs. Brisby and take some notes on what to eat and how to live in the wild for all four seasons. She’s an expert on it."

Kaya sighed, "We all were, once."

Isa looked down at the table while Justin and I, the only two first-gens, looked at each other for a moment, then we looked back at the two Guards. I grinned a little at Kaya, "You can say that again. Good luck, you two. Remember to send some progress reports via crow, as well. We’ll be there to see you two off in a few days. In the meantime, start spreading word about the "imperative" year-long camping expedition."

They nodded and Kaya grinned again, still believing the story we’d come up with was completely ridiculous.

They left me, Justin and Isa standing there alone in the room. Our plan was in motion, but how well it worked out depended almost completely on luck and powers completely beyond our control.

"Like everything else in the world," I mused to myself.

Chapter 22

Day – February 13

It’s been a few months since my last entry. I didn’t want to write anything without first knowing if Kaya and Garret found Victoria. We got our first message from the two of them today through Jeremy. It read:

Justin, Leon and Isa,

Things aren’t going as well as we’d hoped. The dirt around the cinderblock has caved in and frozen enough so that we cannot dig into it, leaving us without a home for the time being. Ages said he’d let us sleep in the thresher, but only until we found a good place to lay low.

There are signs of Victoria everywhere – From the rat prints in the snow leading from the hole in the farmhouse kitchen, to the farmer himself talking about a "huge rat" that NIMH must have missed. If Victoria keeps this up, NIMH may come back here and do another gassing!

The old colony is a shadow of its former self. Pockets of cyanide gas prevent us from going further than two feet down, and we don’t dare sleep in the safe areas for fear of any escaping gas. Kaya suggested holding our breath and making a run for the elevator until I reminded her that there IS no elevator anymore. You guys sank it and pulled it deep underground, right?

Anyway, we’re getting the hang of living out here in the wild. These cloaks and scarves are keeping us warm, but we’re not too worried about the cold – we’re worried about Victoria. One day while we were investigating the cinderblock, Kaya thought she saw something fly past her head. It looked like a crossbow bolt. Not one of hers obviously, but another’s.

Did you give anybody else a crossbow? We could very well be mistaken. Kaya only saw it for a second. We don’t know if it was her imagination or not because we couldn’t find the bolt afterwards.

What we do know is that Victoria is probably here, but in very good hiding.

We’ll send word once things develop some.

Wish us luck – We’ll need it.

Kaya / Garret

Justin crumpled up the letter and scowled at me, "Victoria might have a crossbow... That would put both Garret and Kaya in grave danger. Who gave the order for another crossbow to be distributed?"

Isa shrugged and kept her paws up, in the usual "Don’t look at me" way.

I shook my head and tried to focus a little, "Tallor had the crossbows... I should talk with him."

Justin didn’t move for a moment, then looked down at the letter crumpled in his right paw, "If she’s there... They’ll get her. I know it."

I looked at Isa and motioned for her to come with me, "Justin, we’re going to Tallor’s workshop. I doubt that Tal-" I froze...

Tallor...? A traitor? How could he? I’ve known him since practically day one... I was his roommate for all those years...

I rubbed my eyes, "Crap..."

Justin looked up, "What is it?" Isa spoke for me, I couldn’t get the words out, "We’re a little... Surprised to see that Tallor did something like that."

Justin frowned, "Leon... These are difficult times, you know that. I trust that Tallor didn’t do anything stupid. Go find out."

I nodded and left.

Tallor’s workshop appeared to be empty at first. The knock was met with no response, so I tried the handle to find it unlocked. The room was poorly lit, the only illumination coming from a single light bulb coming out of the wall (it was probably hooked directly up to the power supply for Arthur’s workshop). I took a quick look around and the let out a sigh and turned to Isa, who was standing behind me, "Tallor isn’t here. He must have gone out."

Isa pondered for a moment, her eyes looking pensive. Finally, she grinned lightly and looked over at the door next to Tallor’s workshop, "It is possible that he’s in Arthur’s section of the work area, Leon. Maybe he’s getting supplies or something."

I looked over at the door and nodded to myself, "Yeah. Let’s check it out, then."

I tried the door and it was locked.

I frowned and looked out the window across the hallway – It was no later than one o’clock. Arthur had lunch at eleven o’clock and always worked straight until four every day. His workshop was never locked.

I tried the door again after a moment, having a hard time believing that it was actually locked. Was something wrong inside?

I heard a bump come from inside the room, and then what sounded like a constrained scream... Or was it?

I looked anxiously over at Isa, who looked a bit nervous herself, "What’s going on?" she asked.

I shook my head and looked at the door, "This is a problem, Isa... The last time I knocked down a door, I ended up looking like a complete idiot. AND I had to help put it back together... I don’t want that to happen again, I don’t want to overreact." I looked squarely at Isa, "You need to listen and determine what to do."

She blinked in mild shock, then nodded, "Okay, then. Move aside."

Gracefully, she swept in front of me and put her ear against the heavy wooden door. She squinted a bit, as if it would help her hear better, then her eyes opened wide and she drew back from the door, "Leon, we need to get in there now!"

I nodded and put a paw on my sword, "Your call, Isa. If this is a mistake, you can help put the door back together! On the count of two, we charge! One... TWO!!"

We charged at the door and the door gave way almost without any resistance. Isa and I toppled into the workshop and found ourselves in the middle of a less than savory meeting.

Five rats, all pretty big, were surrounding Tallor and Arthur, who were tied to chairs with gags stuffed into their mouths. Tallor looked pretty beat up and was teetering on the edge of consciousness. Arthur was unconscious, but practically unharmed.

Isa and I took a second to assess our surroundings. The work area had not changed much since the last time I’d been in there: the large room was filled with work benches, chairs, and building materials. Arthur was usually busy working on some new project to help ease the lives of the rats living in the valley, but now it seemed his many contributions had been forgotten by the rats holding him and Tallor hostage. The five rats (I recognized only one of them, Thomas, an assistant working for Arthur) had been so surprised by our unorthodox entrance that they were stunned long enough for us to see what was going on and draw our weapons.

I held my sword out in front of me, and Isa did the same with her spear. Four of the rats drew swords, but one of them had no weapons, so he picked up a big piece of wood and held it like a baseball bat. The biggest one of the group looked at us and grinned, "Well, now, what have we here? Looks like the Captain and his faithful terrier are here to save the day!" He bared his teeth and swung his sword in front of him menacingly, "Nobody interrupts Jenner’s plans! Anybody who does, DIES!" He ran at me, and I had just enough time to pivot away as the rat skidded past me. He turned around and swung his sword horizontally as he did so. I blocked the blow, and returned it with a swing of my own, aimed at his right side. The attack was blocked, and I could hear another rat coming at me from behind.

I quickly crouched and leapt backwards at an angle, tripping over a loose wire and falling onto my back. The rat that had been running at me plowed into the leader and the two went down over a workbench. They’d be back up in a second, I thought.

As I got up, I could see Isa taking on two of the rats at once, both of them at her left and right sides. She was managing quite well. Then I realized with a hint of panic that one rat was missing. I looked up suddenly to see a block of wood coming down onto my face – I tried to move out of the way, but the piece of hard wood smashed into my left shoulder.

I screamed in pain and kicked the wood-wielding rat’s feet out from under him. He smacked his head onto a chair on the way down and went out cold.

I stood up shakily and turned to see the two rats that had been knocked down earlier beginning to get their bearings again.

I tried to hold my sword in front of me with both hands, but my left arm just wouldn’t work. That damn rat had probably broken it.

The two rats wouldn’t let me walk away because I’d gotten hurt a bit, so I just thanked heavens for a second that I hadn’t lost my right arm (since I’m right handed) and held my sword out with just one paw.

The two rats were both up, but it was obvious that the one who plowed into the leader was completely unable to continue fighting. He was bleeding from a head wound and was beginning to look groggy. The leader saw this and pushed him aside, "Take a seat, James, I’ll take care of him!"

The leader squeezed his paws together, but his display of power that was supposed to intimidate me was cut short when I heard a dull "thump" from behind me. I turned quickly to see that Isa had just delivered a thrust with the blunt end of her spear to one of the rats’ heads. Down he went. Now it was one on one for both of us.

The leader frowned, "You two are pretty good... But let’s see how you fight with a sword in your chest!" He leapt over the mess he’d made when he went down over the workbench and was only a few inches from me when he landed. He didn’t waste any time swinging his sword vertically onto my head. I realized that there was no way I could block his powerful two-handed blows with just one hand...I needed to be quick.

He smiled as I slid to my left, trying to ward off the blow, "Getting a little tired are we? Not so powerful without both paws, are you?" He swung vertically again, this time following it up with a kick to my stomach. My breath escaped me and I fell over backwards onto a chair. I could see the leader quickly leveling his sword for another blow, "This one’s for Jenner. Justin’ll know not to get in his way after he loses his Captain and his Second in Command to him!" As he raised his sword, I looked down and saw that my feet were under the chair I’d just fallen over! What luck!

With all my might, I kicked the chair up into the leader’s legs. He fell off balance and tumbled backwards, giving me plenty of time to get up and level my own sword. The leader growled at me, "You’re proving tough, Cap’n! But this is it!!" With a scream, he charged again, swinging his sword wildly. There was no way to avoid it – I couldn’t duck under it, I couldn’t go left or right, and I couldn’t go backwards since I was blocked by a partition. I waited until his sword was out of the way for a split second, and I ran him through with my own sword, pivoting around him and quickly pulling the sword out so I could help Isa finish off the final foe, Thomas. I hadn’t killed the leader, just hurt him. Like Justin did to Jenner.

This leader wasn’t like Jenner – He really deserved a second chance. He had been deceived by Jenner and Victoria and I wasn’t about to kill him because of that.

The second I got to Isa and Thomas, Thomas let loose a barrage of attacks that rendered Isa defenseless as her spear flew across the room. Isa was petrified and looked quickly around for something to use as a weapon. Thomas laughed a bit and began to approach her, "The great Isa, Second in Command of the Guards, finally defeated? I think I’m going to faint!"

I growled, "Fine by me!" Thomas yelped and tried to turn around, but my sword handle met with his head and prevented any further fighting on his part.

Five down. Isa let out a sigh and quickly retrieved her spear, "Leon... What happened? Why were they here?" I shook my head and shrugged with my one available shoulder, "Don’t know..."

I walked over to Tallor and Arthur and examined them. After a moment of catching my breath (both Isa and I were a bit tired from the fight) I looked at Isa and said, "Tallor’s been beaten up pretty badly. Arthur doesn’t have a scratch on him, but he’s passed out."

Isa was still catching her breath, but her mind was already working on possible explanations for what had happened, "Maybe he just fainted? It seems that these rats didn’t want Arthur at all. Maybe he was in the wrong place at the wrong time?"

I nodded and looked at Tallor again with a grimace, "It’s a possibility. We need to get Jack in here to look at the both of them." I tried to reach my left arm out to undo the ropes, but the pain to my shoulder was sharp and unbearable. With a yelp I withdrew my arm and felt around my shoulder for a break. Isa gasped, "Leon! Your arm!" She was immediately by my side and looking it over, "How did this..?"

I tried to turn my head to face her, but I hit my muzzle against her head. I just looked at her with my peripheral vision and sighed, "One of those lugs worked it over with a piece of wood. I’m just lucky that he didn’t have a sword."

Isa nodded, her eyes wider than usual, "Of course..." She cleared her throat and looked over the chaos we had just created in the workshop, "We need some Guards to clean up this mess." She then looked at me, "We need to get you to Jack, too. I’ll wait here in case any of these five get up. Do you think you can make it to the infirmary and get some Guards over here?"

I grinned lightly and began to walk out the door, "I think I could run a marathon, Isa. Just don’t let any of those rats get away."

Jack was less than surprised to find out that I’d injured myself again. Justin, however, was absolutely livid about what had happened in the workshop. Not at me and Isa, mind you, but about the five rats taking Tallor and Arthur hostage. I mean, who wouldn’t be? Guess that was a dumb thing to write.

Anyway, I hobbled in the direction of the infirmary (somewhere in the fight, I guess one of the times I fell onto the ground, I think I sprained my ankle), but I passed a group of rats who were on their way outside and they helped me get there quicker.

Before I went inside, I told the group to get as many Guards as they could and to quickly get to the workshop before Isa had her paws full again.

The group was on their way around the corner as I stumbled into the infirmary.

I’ll be fine – I just need to wear an arm sling for a few weeks (or less, depending on how long my mitochondria feels I should have a broken shoulder) and not to do much physical activity.

The five rats were imprisoned (the one I’d stabbed would be alright in a few days) and questioned mercilessly by Brutus, Justin and Isa.

Tallor and Arthur came out of their unconscious states shortly after I’d left to go see Jack. I questioned Tallor the very second I next saw him. I was walking down the hall to go see Blake (who has been hanging around with Timothy lately) and I saw him walking the same direction as me. I jogged up to him, careful not to disturb my arm sling that much, and stepped in front of him. He froze and his eyes widened to about the size of dinner plates, "L... Leon! Hello there... What can I do for you?"

I grit my teeth, "Care to tell me why Jenner’s followers would suddenly have a special liking for you?"

He smiled shakily, "I... I have no idea. They just showed up and beat me unconscious for no reason. They were mad... Delusional!"

I wasn’t having it, "You’re lying. It would be in your best interest to tell me what they wanted with you."

Tallor grunted a bit, his smile faltering, "W... Why’s that?"

I narrowed my eyes to slits and clenched my right paw into a fist, "Because I’ve had it with Jenner and his cronies."

He nodded quickly, "Me, too! And believe me, if there was something I knew..."

I growled, "Which you do. Tell me. Now." I could feel my anger rising. I don’t think I’d ever been so mad at Tallor in all these years that I’ve known him.

Once again, Tallor denied, "Look, Leon... I’m really busy. Can we talk later?" He started to walk again, but I stepped in front of him, "Tallor, tell me everything you know. I hate having to make people scream."

That did it. I don’t think I’ve ever threatened anyone like that before (or threatened a bluff – I can’t think of any time where I made somebody scream)– and it definitely did the trick on Tallor. He looked around the hallway nervously and, seeing as how there was nobody there, sat down across from one of the windows. The same bench, I noticed with a chill, that Rion and I had sat on all those months ago.

Tallor shook his head apologetically, "Leon, I didn’t mean for any of this to happen to you, really I didn’t! It just... Things just... went awry."

I frowned, "What are you saying?"

He swallowed with some difficulty, "Victoria has one of my crossbow designs... I was foolish!" I grabbed him by the collar with my right paw and slammed him into the wall, "You’re damn right you were foolish! Are you with Victoria and Jenner!? ANSWER ME!"

Tallor yelped and shook his head quickly, "No, NO!! I’m not one of them, really! Please let me go!"

I waited for a moment, then slowly released my grip on his collar, "You’d better start talking."

He nodded, "Right... Well... I was working alone in my shop a little while back... It was the night that Victoria... You know..." I nodded, and he continued, " I was working on the crossbows. By that time I had changed the views on all of them so that they would miss their target without proper training. I heard the door open and these five rats were standing there, ordering that I give them one of the crossbows. I hesitated at first, but then I saw Victoria and I was petrified. I tried to grab one of my crossbows to defend myself, but the rats were already too close and they grabbed me and dragged me over to Victoria. I didn’t want to die, Leon... She told me that she’d already killed Isa and she would kill me, too, if I didn’t give her a crossbow and a sack of bolts." He was shivering lightly, but I urged him to continue. He managed to do so without much difficulty, actually, "So I just grabbed a crossbow and gave it to her. I, uh... Forgot to mention that the sights had been altered."

He looked around again and saw a pair of rats walking down the hall. They stopped for a second to ask me about my arm and how I was doing, then they left. Tallor continued when they were well out of earshot, "When I gave the new ones to the guards, I told them about the altered sights. The word spread fast, and the five rats came knocking on my door when I was getting some things from Arthur’s shop. They were more than a little upset that I’d given Victoria a faulty crossbow. She’d probably miss her first few targets by a few inches. If I’d been alone in my own shop instead of with Arthur... I’d be..."

I nodded, "Dead." He gulped and looked down at the floor. I frowned at him again, "Why didn’t you tell anybody about that, Tallor? You..." I was about to tell him about Kaya and Garret, but I hesitated. Tallor might have been a great friend, but he didn’t tell me about this incident. I couldn’t trust him that much.

I tried to finish the sentence, "You could have put a lot of innocent people in danger."

Tallor shrugged and couldn’t meet my eyes, "I didn’t want to die, Leon... I was foolish." He finally managed to look at me, "Leon... I’m so sorry about what happened. You should’ve just left me there to die. They would’ve killed me, y’know. And maybe Arthur, too..." I nodded, "I know. They tried to kill me and Isa, too, remember?"

He was shying away again, "I heard about it. Isa said I was unconscious for the whole thing." I sighed and looked at my arm sling, "See this, Tallor? This is what I got from your mistake. You’re lucky that it was me for two reasons. One, I heal faster than anybody here. Except maybe Blake. Two, I’m your friend and roommate, and even if you do something stupid and vain like this, I’ll stay by you, got it?"

He agreed with a teary-eyed face, "Yeah, Leon... I got it. Were you serious before? About making me scream?"

I stood up, "If I’d had to make you scream to tell me, then yes. You should get back to whatever it was you were doing. I’ve held you long enough."

Day – February 20

I spent most of the day with Blake – not practicing, just hanging out and talking. Justin’s happy to see Blake hanging out with me. Blake calls me "Uncle Leon" now, since I spend so much time with him, and Timothy Brisby is like a brother to him. Tim may be older, but they act the same age.

I didn’t expect Blake and Tim to like each other so much, but they hit it off the second they met. Timothy Brisby is essentially the only reason that we ever came to acquaint ourselves with the Brisby’s. If Jonathan were still alive, I’ll bet anything he’d still be living with Elizabeth at the farm, still living his lie.

Blake and I were in the lounge yesterday – he was asking me about the past (a subject which, thanks to these journals, I’ve managed to stay an expert in). Those conversations are nice. I remember back at the rosebush when the only questions I’d get were like: "Leon, what will happen if NIMH finds us?" or maybe if I was lucky: "Hey Leon, what will you do if Dragon corners you tonight in the farmhouse?" Actually, Tallor was the one who asked most of those questions.

It’s a lot more refreshing when the toughest question I’m asked now is, "Uncle Leon, what was your favorite food at the rosebush?" I’d tell Blake and he’d pretend to be interested, just to make me feel better (a trick he got from his father, I noticed).

Anyway, we don’t talk much about our "gifts." We know we have them and we know when we’ll be practicing them. Blake is quite uncomfortable with his gifts, worried that they will set him apart from most youngsters. Tim Brisby, however, was all over him... Figurativily speaking, of course.... When he learned about Blake’s abilities. The two of them are like sponges: They suck in all the knowledge they can. The only difference is that you can wring out a sponge – You can’t wring Blake or Tim. That’s not "kosher."

Tim and Blake first met a few months ago. Blake was leaving his family’s apartment to go to lunch and he ran into the Brisby family. Mrs. Brisby noticed him right away and introduced the family to him and offered Blake a seat at their table. Blake agreed and Tim sat next to him. End of story – They were throwing snowballs at each other in a matter of minutes.

Timothy Brisby is an interesting character. Perhaps it’s the NIMH serum playing with his internal makeup, or maybe it’s just his innate sense of curiosity, but Timothy Brisby is one smart mouse. He learns something and he never forgets it. Ever. This want to learn seperated Tim from his siblings – Martin hates learning and wanted to join the Guards. He’s still a tad too small to partake in normal routine, so Isa made Martin her temporary assistant until we can figure out what to do with him. He helps her with paperwork and also does mine occassionally. Can’t say that I don’t like that. Teresa’s a decent student, but she gets lost too easily in details. She was actually quite unsure of what to do as a profession to help out here in the colony, so she took a job with Poe in the Library. Cynthia is trying to stay in school, but works almost full-time in the infirmary with Jack. She may not have school smarts, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out the difference between some of those chemicals.

Timothy is different than his siblings because he did exceptionally well in school (acing most of his exams and being one of the top students to ever finish our school system) and he still wants more. He finished up school when Blake still had a few years to go. Having Tim as a study partner is like having Albert Einstein help you with your physics homework.

Blake and Tim go do their own thing when I’m busy with my rounds or if I’ve got work to do, but Blake tells me that it’s not much different than when we talk together. I guess Blake’s really into talking – perhaps he thinks he can learn more that way? A good example of his almost uncanny ability to start a conversation from nothing occurred when we were talking today:

As we sat in the lounge area, Blake grinned at me and said, completely out of nowhere, "You’re swallowing a lot. You didn’t eat lunch?" I returned the grin, a little surprised by Blake’s sudden (and bizarre) statement of observation, "Nope. Didn’t eat lunch. Too busy." Blake looked over to a group of rats playing a game of Othello, but still addressed me, "That’s not healthy, y’know. It can lead to malnutrition." I nodded, though I felt stupid because I knew he wasn’t looking at me, "I know, Blake. But this was a tad more pressing. Somebody filed a complaint and I had to look at it as if it were a Jenner follower who caused the problem." He frowned and looked back at me, "Why would you jump to a conclusion like that right away? That’s not very fair."

I shook my head, "I don’t like doing it either, Blake, but I have to do it because the followers are our biggest problem right now. We’re doing it to be safe."

He nodded and leaned back in his chair, "Oh. Gotcha. What was the problem?"

I looked up at the ceiling, trying to recall, "I think... Yeah, it was something small. Chance, that rat at the cafeteria, filed a complaint that somebody’s been messing with the lock on the door of the food storage rooms. I assumed the worst and got Jack in there to do some tests. He said there was nothing wrong, there were no poisons or anything, and that whoever was trying to get in probably ran off when they broke the lock. It made perfect sense, of course – Why tamper with the food when you know that the guards’ll find the problem? Unfortunately, that also means that the culprit might try and poison something else."

Blake sighed, "Unc, you worry too much."

He’s right, y’know. I do.

Day - February 23

My arm’s better now. It’s only been, what? Ten days? Ridiculous. I think decapitation might be the only way to kill me now. Knock on wood. Omens and premonitions don’t come to me very often, but Blake’s had a few.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget Blake’s first real premonition. We were playing chess in the library, and he suddenly shot up out of his seat and ran over to Poe, who was sitting at his desk. Blake pushed Poe out of the way like he was trying to dodge a bullet, but nothing happened. For about an hour. At Blake’s insistence, Poe didn’t return to his desk. Good thing, too.

An hour after Blake pushed Poe out of the way, a bookcase lost balance and fell directly onto the desk.

Poe was less than surprised, "With you and Leon together, Blake, weird things like this happen all the time." He looked at me with a stern gaze, "And you’d better not be encouraging him to do pranks with his gift! It’s bad for us."

I knew all this, so I just waved a paw, "Thanks for the concern, Poe, but we’ve got the whole thing covered."

Blake was a little upset that his premonition’s timing had been all off. He wanted to know how to hone it down to a second or two of lapse between what he saw, and what really happened. Then, today, he said something to me that was quite unnerving. I didn’t know WHAT to do, so I went to his father.

Mrs. Brisby was visiting with Justin when I entered his apartment. The Brisby children were no doubt in school at this time.

A while ago, when Blake started school, he was partially exempt when he felt his power "surges" coming on. When he gets one, there’s no telling WHAT could happen.

We tried keeping him in school, but two accounts prevented teachers from wanting to deal with him. On the first account, Blake somehow got all the students in the classroom to hover a few inches above the floor. The second account was when Blake had to focus on a test. He focused so hard that the test sheet erupted into flames and caused a panic in the room.

Now we just keep him out of the classroom and I tutor him with Jessica and Mrs. Brisby every now and then.

When I entered Justin’s office, he was sitting on his sofa with Kat and Mrs. Brisby. They were making smalltalk until Mrs. Brisby caught my eye, "Leon! What a pleasant surprise! Won’t you join us?"

Justin smiled and waved a paw at one of the chairs facing the sofa. I sat down and everyone was back making smalltalk again. Kat looked over at me quizzically, "So, how is Blake? I haven’t seen him since breakfast." I shrugged, "He’s fine. I actually came here to talk to Justin about him."

Justin’s ears perked up and he quickly faced me, "Is something wrong?"

I shook my head and tried to force a little smile, "No. Nothing’s wrong."

Justin and Kat breathed a sigh of relief and then Kat stood up, "Well then, Justin, we’ll leave you and Leon to discuss your business."

Mrs. Brisby stood up and joined Kat at the door, turning to give a small wave, "Have a good evening, you two."

Then we were alone.

Justin sighed again and shook his head, "Sometimes, Leon... I just don’t know what to make of it."

I leaned in, "Make of what?"

He looked over at me and spread his arms out in dismay, "Smalltalk! It drives me nuts! No purpose at all. Almost as bad as gossip." He paused, "Or are they the same thing?" He chuckled to himself, probably thinking he was a riot, "So, what brings you here? Blake, right?"

I nodded with a grin, "Yeah, Blake. Not just that, though." The smile disappeared from my face, "Something else that’s been frightening me all afternoon."

Justin tilted his head a bit, "What’s wrong, Leon? You told me before that nothing was wrong." I shrugged, "Yes, I know. I had to lie to get Kat and Mrs. Brisby out of the room without suspicions."

Justin frowned, but didn’t miss a beat, "So what’s the problem? Is Blake alright?"

I looked at the floor, "Yeah, but I don’t know for how long."

Justin’s frown deepened, "What... What do you mean?"

I leaned back in my chair, "Today we were in the gym, practicing levitation, when all of a sudden, Blake passed out."

Justin jumped, "What!? Where is he now!?" I stood up quickly so he didn’t run out of the room and make a scene, "He’s in your family apartment, Justin, calm down."

Justin nodded and put a paw to his forehead, "Geez... Sorry..."

I sat back down, "Anyway, when Blake was unconscious, he started talking."

Justin sat back down onto the sofa and raised a brow, "Talking? Like mumbling?"

I shook my head, "No... Plain as day talking."

Justin took an audible breath and slowly exhaled it, "What did he say?" There was silence... Then I cleared my throat, "Well... He kept saying, ‘Five days... Five days... Five days...’"

Justin’s back stiffened, like he’d been shot, "No..."

I leaned forward, "What? What does that mean?"

Justin shook his head quickly and suddenly he shot forward and grabbed my shoulders, "Don’t you remember, Leon? Nicodemus’ prophecy!"

I tried to move my head back – Justin was acting a bit odd, "No... Besides that Blake would end the dark times, I’d be his mentor and Timothy would be his best friend."

Justin moaned, "No, no, no, Leon! The OTHER prophecy!"

I shook my head, "Justin, I don’t remember any prophecy about "five days." Perhaps you’d care to enlighten me?"

He stood up and looked quickly around the room. After a quick sweep of the room, Justin practically jumped over the sofa and briskly walked over to a sliding cabinet near the window. He slid the wooden panel open and pulled out a large, ornamental book. Nicodemus’ journal. The spine was still cracked from when Jenner had waved it violently around on Moving Day.

Justin walked back to the sofa, spun around the arm and plunked down right in front of me, slamming the book onto the small table in the middle of the conversation area. He opened the book from the back and then flipped a few pages, then stopped. He turned the book around so I could see it right side up. It was an entry that had been written the day he was killed:

----April 13th

The Five Days-----

When I saw the name of the entry, I looked cautiously up at Justin, then looked back down.

Something terrible is going to happen here tonight, but what it might be I have no inkling of an idea. Jenner’s involved in it somehow – I saw him in the mirror, but this time there was no "rocking back and forth, crying and moaning." This time I really saw what he has been up to. He thinks that he can join two nonexistent worlds together – Stark and Inetris, then he can become an all-powerful god using the power of the stone. He would use this power to destroy the forces of humanity that oppressed us at NIMH. This idea... This twisted idea... Came from him ignoring my warnings. Leon was smart – He did not read the book he found. If he had somehow managed to translate those words, he might have fallen to Jenner’s arguments here in the rosebush, and we would have lost a valuable ally.

Jenner held the stone once... Before Leon inserted his surprisingly strong innate powers into it. Jenner’s innate powers were as great, if not greater than Leon’s. Perhaps even greater than my powers. He saw things – His mind fooled him, his body betrayed him, and he will now do anything to live out his mind and body’s commands. If only I had not given him that stone... I should have known better.

But where did Jenner receive this power that he put into the stone? I think it must have been a side effect of his other experiment – The degradation of the mitochondria. The experiment to see what would happen if somebody’s insides told them to do horrible things, no matter how ridiculous the concepts were.

Jenner was the victim of a twisted man, Dr. Schultz. He suffered even more than myself, or Brutus, or Leon, or Justin. Every day that poor soul would have to cave into his body’s will – A body that Jenner’s mind did not agree with.

"The superego and the id, always struggling for dominance. However, society severely hampers the id; on an unfair playing field, we cannot discern which is superior. Temptation and abstinence; good and evil, if you like. Only by embrancing the truly stonger aspect of our minds can we hope to be elevated to a higher plane of thinking. Freud would want to be here to see this."

Schultz said that one night, when I was kept awake by my own side-experiment. The exact opposite of Jenner’s – To have mitochondria that followed the mind’s every wish.

Schultz wanted Jenner to be elevated to a form of the mind – But if Jenner dies now, craving the stone – His mind and perhaps even his soul will likely be lost to it, and Jenner will enter some kind of living force limbo. I am unsure how that will affect us, the living, but I fear that Jenner may learn to adapt to wherever he ends up, and eventually return to this plane of existence through the stone’s power – Now doubled since Leon held it.

I cannot begin to comprehend just what attributes the stone has or what it is truly capable of. I know this much regarding the stone, however – Our powers are a part of us now. They exist in our very DNA and this stone literally "eats" that power. If there is such a thing as a soul, I fear that those who use the stone too much may be trapped inside of it. It seems perfectly clear to me, now that I think about it. As we die, the powers leave our body and are trapped by the stone, increasing its powers and abilities. Perhaps Jenner knows this? Jenner knows I have been using the stone for years, but how would he know of this recent hypothesis of mine?

It does not matter... My death would mean the power of the stone increasing ten fold. If Leon were to die, as I predicted all those months ago, his soul might be lost to the stone as well, increasing its power even moreso. And Jenner... I do not know what to think about him now. In any case, this is a serious matter.

Another thing... I know who the three will be who face the second unrest... The last major turmoil of the Rats of NIMH... It will be Justin, the future leader of the Rats of NIMH, who will battle the "present" threat. Leon, the future Captain of the Guards, who will have the gift of control and will use it to battle the "creator" of the threat. Lastly, Justin’s son, Blake, will be the third. The "wildcard" if you will – He will use his powers to finish off the "present" threat and its "creator," driving them from this world and also ending any threats to the Rats of NIMH.

I do not know when this event will occur... Only something about it happening FIVE DAYS from its prediction. Though, I am unsure of who predicts it and how. What I do know is this – This second unrest will be much worse than the first. Much more will be at stake than the lives of the Rats of NIMH.

I saw this major conflict occurring after a single death and an attempted one. Strange – Neither of my two visions of the future involved an attempted death."

I looked up at Justin quickly, breaking away from the book, "He must mean Rion’s death! And when those followers tried to kill Tallor! It fits perfectly – I remember now... that in Nicodemus’ second vision, he predicted thatRion would die, then Tallor, then me, then Mrs. Brisby. But we stopped Tallor from getting killed, so Nicodemus’ vision is moot! I’m not going to die a horrible death!"

Justin frowned, "Just you and Mrs. Brisby, Leon. Nothing about the rest of the Rats of NIMH."

I shook my head, "Justin, you have no idea what it’s like to have your death predicted. It, quite simply, sucks."

He smiled, "Gotcha. I wish you’d told me about those visions."

I grunted, "Wait... What about this book? Haven’t you read this entry before?" Justin shook his head and let out a sigh, "I read the first line and I started to..." he strained a bit, looking embarassed," I started to cry. Nicodemus was too close to me, Leon. I just couldn’t bring myself to read this..."

I frowned, "It could have saved Rion’s life, Justin."

There was a long pause. Justin sighed again but didn’t say anything. After a moment, I sighed, "Forget about it. That was dumb of me to say."

He shrugged, "No... you’re right. I deserve it. I’m too soft."

I shook my head with dismay, "Don’t say that. I understand what you felt. But we can’t let that deter us from what’s going on."

Justin nodded firmly and stood up suddenly, "You’re right. Whatever’s going to happen, we’ve got five days before it gets here. We should be prepared." He walked to the door and opened it, "Leon, what are you going to do?"

I pondered it for a moment, "I think I’m going to get Blake prepared. If Nicodemus is right, his powers’ll be a big factor in the outcome."

Justin nodded and began to walk out into the hall. I followed him and shut his door behind me, "What are you going to do, Justin?" I asked.

He didn’t look at me, but instead tried to stay focused on the hall ahead of him. His eyes were moving about as quickly as his heart was beating – He was getting the jitters. Premonitions of horrible events can do that to you, "I’m going to call an emergency meeting for tonight." he said, "Everybody needs to be prepared. Nicodemus said that whatever happens in five days will be worse than what happened at Moving Day. We can’t risk anything." He stopped and looked out a window quickly, "Not a cloud in the sky. What if NIMH comes here? What if they surround us?" He shook his head and stepped away from the window, "No, no that’s insanity. What would Nicodemus do in a situation like this?"

I tried to catch up with him, but he was moving too quickly, "He’d probably relax and take it one step at a time." Justin stopped and leaned up against the wall with his right arm, "Geez, Leon... I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my whole life."

I walked up next to him and jokingly said, "What? You’ve been scared before?" He looked at me with wide eyes, "Uh, yeah! Why’d you say that?" A pause. I noticed that there had been a lot of those lately. Maybe the Rats of NIMH were losing their conversational edge? "Well... Whenever I’ve been scared the most, you were there to tell me that nothing was wrong. When we were at the mansion, when Alyssa died, when I broke all my bones, when the ceiling collapsed on me... And those are the big ones. All those little things you’ve done, y’know... I guess I don’t like to think that you get scared, too."

Justin couldn’t help but grin, "When you put it that way, Leon, it makes me sound like Superman and it makes you sound pathetic."

I grinned, too, but I sighed and began to walk again, "Justin... Whatever happens in five days, we’ll be able to stop it. You, me and Blake. We just need to be cautious."

Justin nodded, "That’s obvious. You go find Kat, Blake and the Brisby’s. Tell them the situation. Get Isa, too if you want to."

He looked sternly at me, "We don’t have much time to prepare."

As he walked away, I yelled after him, "Justin, wait!"

He stopped and turned, "What?"

I took in a deep breath and hoped that maybe I was wrong in my guessing, but, "Justin! Where is the stone?"

He stiffened, "Why?"

I shrugged, "Because Jenner wants it. Victoria might want it, too!"

Justin ran back over to me, "I haven’t taken it out since I found out how it got its powers! It did lose a bit of its luster when you started levitating things all over the place..." His eyes twitched, "Oh no... Oh crap!" He ran past me and back into his office. I waited for the scream – I knew that Victoria had taken the stone. A premonition of my own.

The scream came, Justin’s rarely heard vocal belt of extreme dissatisfaction. He burst through the doorway again, looking at me with wild eyes, "What does this mean, Leon? What’s Victoria going to do with it?"

I crossed my arms and looked out the window, "It means she went to the farm to use the stone on Jenner’s body."

Justin grimaced, "I didn’t need to hear that! So what’s that mean? We’re going to have a decomposed Jenner gallivanting around here killing people?"

I shook my head and gulped, "Remember Nicodemus’ entry. If Jenner got his hands on the stone with his mind and body being so corrupted, it might turn him into... something else. I remember when Nicodemus, Daniel and the others came to me and gave me the gift... They said that Jenner wasn’t with them because he was not a rat anymore – He wasn’t a living being anymore – He was merely a force. Schultz wanted evil, and I think he’s got it now." My eyes fell to the floor as I realized what I said could very well have been true

Justin shivered, "And that’s what’s coming here in five days?" I shook my head again, "I don’t know. Not at all."

Justin was silent, but he began to briskly walk towards the Guardroom, where he would tell the guards to spread the message: Emergency meeting tonight. Attendance is mandatory.

Chapter 23

Day – February 27

Tomorrow is the last day. The past four days have been spent preparing for... Well, we don’t know what. We don’t know where the threat could come from – The forest, the sky, the ground, the interior of the community... We have all been quite anxious about what lays ahead for us.

The meeting four days ago went over as well as any meeting of that sort could.

The community members filed into the public meeting hall, taking their seats and looking a bit nervous already, despite the fact that nothing had been told to them yet.

Justin was at the front near the small riser where the speakers stood. He was leaning on a side table with both paws, his head bowed in what looked like extreme concentration. I could feel his insecurity beaming from where I stood.

I was on the right side of the meeting hall about halfway from the door and the podium. I leaned against the wall with my arms crossed, trying not to look too nervous myself. Isa was standing by the door, making sure that everybody was accounted for. I had told her of Blake’s premonition, so she was looking a bit nervous, which was completely understandable. Constelle was on the other side of the door helping Isa, while Brutus was with the rest of the guards sitting near the back. Probably set up that way so that Brutus wouldn’t block anybody’s view.

Kat and Mrs. Brisby, I noticed, were sitting up front. Mrs. Brisby kept looking at Justin and trying to get up to see what was wrong, but Kat continually had to keep her sitting down. I think everybody in the room was wondering the same thing: What the heck is going on here?

Before the meeting started, Blake slowly walked into the meeting hall. A few heads turned (which was common with him – It’s not every day that you meet a rat that sets test papers on fire with his mind), but nothing serious. They didn’t know about his premonition, so naturally they wouldn’t be worried about him. Isa noticed him, though. Immediately she signaled to me, but I had already seen him. I waved Isa off and beckoned for Blake. He slowly walked over and leaned up against the wall next to me, "What’s going on?"

I looked at Justin again to make sure he wasn’t about to start, so I could talk with Blake for a bit. Justin was still thinking about what he was going to say, so I responded to Blake, "Justin’s going to tell them about the premonition."

Blake’s eyes widened and his stomach probably sank, too, "What? Why?"

I met his eyes, "Because that little premonition of yours just made one of Nicodemus’ prophecies true." Blake looked confused, so I continued, "Nicodemus predicted a lot of things. Even his own death." He nodded, this was old news. I continued again, "He predicted that there would be another conflict after Moving Day, a second unrest as he called it, and it would take place five days after it was first predicted. Guess what, Blake - you just predicted it."

He shook his head slowly, "Wha..? But... That’s..."

I put a paw on his shoulder and noticed that Justin was moving towards the podium, "Blake," I said, "Let’s give your dad a chance to explain it."

He just nodded and sat down on the floor, his back to the wall, a dumbfounded expression on his face.

Justin walked up to the podium and at once everybody was quiet. The feeling in that room was so ominous that the children went quiet all by themselves.

After a brief pause, Justin cleared his throat and leaned against the podium with both of his paws – A nervous habit of his. Strange – He used to love public speaking. At the rosebush he would crack jokes and deliver sermons on the Plan to the entire council. Now he had trouble mustering up enough strength to get a prepared statement started.

Another pause. Justin cleared his throat again and looked up at the crowd, "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming. A crisis will soon befall our colony." He stopped and murmurs began sweeping across the crowd like wind through a wheat field. After a few seconds, Justin cleared his throat yet again, and the crowd went silent, "As many of you know... Nicodemus had a gift. A gift that allowed him to do things that many of us could not." He stopped and tried not to get caught on himself for mentioning Nicodemus – a topic that he still had a hard time talking about, "One of Nicodemus’ abilities was the ability to predict events that have not yet occurred." It was a well known fact in the colony that Nicodemus had these powers and Blake only solidified those facts. Justin did not need to elaborate, "One such event that Nicodemus predicted was a second unrest in our community." More murmurs, but he had gotten the crowd’s rapt attention so he didn’t need to make any noises or gestures to quiet the crowd this time, "Moving Day was our first unrest. Nicodemus predicted that."

Suddenly, Sullivan’s voice could be heard from his seat near the middle of the room, "What!? Another crisis like Moving Day?"

Justin held up his paws, "Please, please... Quiet. Nicodemus spoke of an unrest that was... Worse than Moving Day."

The murmurs were becoming more urgent now. Justin spoke over them and continued, "He said that after the unrest’s prediction, there would be a period of five days before the actual event occurred. This afternoon, that very premonition occurred."

Sullivan’s voice again, "Well? Who predicted it?"

Justin was silent. Then I looked down to the floor and saw that Blake was gone. I looked up at Justin again and Blake was walking towards him. The crowd was talking again, but Blake’s voice broke through, "I did! Don’t ask me how or why... It just happened. And it doesn’t matter, either! If we want to be prepared, we need to listen to my dad."

Justin smiled down at him, not only flattered but also looking a bit more confidant. Justin ruffled his son’s headfur and looked back out at the crowd, "Blake’s right. We have five days before whatever happens, happens."

Jessica spoke out, "What is that supposed to mean? Don’t we have any idea what it will be?"

A first gen named Marla spoke out, "I’ll bet I know what happens! Victoria comes in and starts killing everybody! She got away from us before, and she’ll find a way to get back in!" I was about to say something but Isa cut me off, "Don’t worry, Marla," she said, "we’ve got everything under control." Marla wasn’t pleased, "Oh really? Then explain to me, dear, how she managed to get past you and into the forest unseen after killing Rion?" More public outcry. I heard one rat near the front, "And what about the Jenner followers? There could be some in here as we speak! I’ll bet in five days they rebel! We don’t even know how many there are!"

More outcry. Things were getting out of hand. Justin was shouting for everyone to calm down, but his voice was drowned out in the confusion and chaos. Isa was drawing back towards me. When she got to me, she had to yell so I could hear her, "This is nuts! We’ve got to find a way to calm these guys down!" I looked over at Blake, who nodded (I don’t know why, but I think he knew I had some idea planned) and ran back over to me and Isa. I yelled into Blake’s ear, "Let me take care of this!"

I closed my eyes and held up my arms, feeling a surge of power running through them. From somewhere inside my eardrums, I could hear a faint hum – That was the sound that proved my power was working. A light repeating hum – I remember hearing it a lot in Nicodemus’ office at the rosebush.

Anyway, the hum came, and when I opened my eyes, the meeting room was bathed in blood red. I knew that my eyes had probably assumed the same color from those who were looking at them from the outside. When the room was red, there was no end to the possibilities. Example – What I did to stop the public dismay (and what could have easily turned into some sort of a panic riot)

I floated about half a foot into the air and flew to the front of the room. I didn’t wait for the crowd to recognize me, instead I held my arms up high and cloaked myself in flame – Probably looking quite menacing. Then I let the power within speak for me, "Citizens of Thorn Valley, you must stop this trivial arguing! The true threat does not lie with us here, at this moment. The prophecy gives five days, therefore we have five days to prepare ourselves. Should we squander our five days of preparation with paranoia, anger and hatred, we shall all certainly perish. So, good people, give your leader your ears and stop this bickering – For he has a plan that may save you all much grief."

I don’t know where those words came from, but they worked.

I let the power subside and, feeling a little beat, let Isa and Blake help me into a chair to rest. I tilted my head around to see that those who weren’t still standing in shock over what I had just done were retaking their seats. Even Marla and Sullivan were awaiting Justin’s words.

I moved my head towards the front and saw Justin looking a little surprised, but he recovered quickly and began to speak to the crowd, "Leon is right – We need to efficiently use our five days to build our defenses and offenses for whatever comes our way. Everything wrong that might spell disaster for the Rats of NIMH will be carefully monitored in the next few days. Heating failures, explosions, food poisoning, outside parties coming in, inside parties coming out, weakened structures, sabotage and many other possibilities will be considered. The Guards will be doing everything in their power to prevent anything from happening that can be prevented. When this meeting is adjourned, I expect all of you to spend the next few days being extremely careful of your actions. Nobody is allowed to go outside except the engineers and the Guards. The outdoor play areas and exercise areas will be disassembled in case humans are to stumble upon our colony. I don’t know what is going to happen, but unless you are ordered otherwise, I suggest that on the fifth day you stay in your apartments and lock the doors. This meeting is adjourned. Good luck, everybody." He shook his head in quiet dismay and looked sadly around the meeting hall as the citizens filed out hastily. Mrs. Brisby went up to Justin afterwards and hugged him tightly, telling him that she believed in him and that he would be able to stop whatever was coming. I couldn’t help but smile a little, and Justin knelt down and gave her a hug as well. Blake was by his father’s side, giving him all of the support he could give. Kat was with him as well, with a paw on the back of Justin’s neck, trying to relax him. I merely kept my arms crossed and watched Justin get bombarded with his love and care. He needed it.

I heard Isa’s voice coming from behind me, "That’s so sweet... I really feel sorry for him, though. This whole thing must really be taking its toll on him."

I shook my head, "Wait until you see him on day four."

Day four is here, and the last few days have been anything but squandered. Justin checked with every department head about safety and any problems that might have occurred. Nothing. Not a single problem has happened in the past four days, which doesn’t surprise me: I figured that Victoria would be the cause of the unrest, and she’s not back from the Fitzgibbons’ farm yet, so it’s impossible for her to start any problems here.

The laws of physics prevent her from doing so, since she isn’t here. Sorry for the redundancy, but I need some funny stuff to keep my mind off of tomorrow.

Nicodemus’ prophecy of my horrific death may not have been 100% accurate, but I’m almost positive that his last prophecy was. Me, Justin and Blake will need to fight for the existence of the Rats of NIMH, and death might be the result of it.

I don’t want to die, but if I must to ensure that our way of life is preserved... Then I have no choice.

Day – February 28-29 (Midnight)

This is Justin, writing in place of Leon, who is not with us at this time. I know, though, that he would want me to write this down. Today was a day nobody will soon forget, and the actions of Leon, my son and the citizens of this colony will not be forgotten either.

The day began normally. I couldn’t get any sleep, and Leon had the same problem, so we just talked together in the lounge for most of the night, then we fell asleep out of pure need.

We woke up at about ten o’clock in the morning. Leon shot straight up and went to go check the guards and their positions around the colony. I went to get my son – He and his gift would be needed today. I told Kat to wait in our apartment, to lock the door and close the curtains, and to just wait. Once today was over, our fates would be decided.

The hallways were desolate, the entire population of Thorn Valley having shut themselves in their rooms. It was spooky – Like walking through the halls at night. I wasn’t that afraid, though. I was more afraid of what lay beyond the hallways than what lay IN them.

Blake said nothing the whole way to the entrance. I think he was just as frightened as I was. When we got closer to the main entrance of the valley, quite a few guards ran past us, on their way to wherever Leon decided to send them. Probably to guard the interior of the colony to ensure that nothing went wrong. I might have considered asking the guards where they were off to, but I trusted Leon’s good judgment – he’s the Captain now, so he makes those kinds of decisions. As much as I miss being Captain, I have to let Leon do his job.

The main entrance of the colony was a sight to see. Twenty guards stood in a slightly curved line defending the entryway. Every other guard had a crossbow, and the rest of the guards had either an electrified poleax or a sword. Brutus was standing near the center of the line, his bulk making him look intimidating even from a distance.

Isa was standing ahead of the line, behind Leon, who had taken position in front of the line, facing the forest. He probably knew that whatever this unrest was, it was going to be coming from the forest.

I walked up to Leon and stood beside him, Blake standing between him and me. There we were – The three supposed heroes standing in a line at the front of the colony, a metaphorical wall that protected the many innocents lying in wait inside their homes. While we were at the front of a formidable guard, we were the colony’s only hope.

Leon didn’t move his head when I approached him. I could see his eyes move towards me, then slide back to the default view of the forest, "It’s going to be here soon, Justin." He said to me, "This is it. I don’t know what it is, but I doubt it’ll be pretty."

I nodded and Blake pulled on my shirt sleeve, "Dad..." He moaned a bit, "I’m kinda scared..." He quickly looked at Leon, "I know you taught me not to be scared, Uncle Leon, but this is different."

Leon was silent for a moment, then forced a smile that looked so genuine that Blake couldn’t even determine its validity, "It’s okay, Blake. I’m scared, too. We all are. We never had to fight for our freedom and our lives, we just had to run and maybe think. But now... Something’s coming our way that wants to harm us... Kill us. We must fight, and we must win."

Brutus grunted behind us, "I’s second that!"

The guards approved Leon’s words, then went back to their vigilant state.


Deafening silence for about ten minutes (or twenty minutes, or a half hour. Heck, it could’ve been five hours and I still wouldn’t know). After a while, we heard a crow caw. Everybody’s ears perked up at once and the guards readied their weapons.

Silence again, then Leon shook his head, "Relax, everyone, it’s not a threat."

Everyone was slightly confused until Garret stumbled out of the forest, carrying Kaya in his arms. We all went over to them immediately, though I was the first to ask what happened, "Garret! Is Kaya all right? What’s going on?" Garret knelt down and laid Kaya on the ground, "She was hurt... Victoria got away and we tried to follow her on Jeremy, but Victoria had the stone and she knew how to use it! She shot some fireball or lightning or whatever at us and it hit Kaya. She’s still breathing, but she’s unconscious." He shut his eyes and stood up and Leon knelt down to check her as well. Garret looked down at him, "Jack can take care of her." He looked up and eyed the crowd, "What’s going on here? Did Victoria strike already?"

Leon shook his head, "No, but we anticipated it." He snorted, "Lucky guess, then. Victoria’s got the stone, and Kaya and I caught a glimpse of something bad that was with her."

Blake gulped, "Bad?" Garret nodded, "Bad. Very bad. I think it had something to do with Jenner."

Leon and I exchanged worried looks. Garret saw this and crossed his arms, "Is there something I don’t know about here?"

At that moment, Jeremy flew over the small clearing that surrounded the colony entrance and landed near us, a wild expression on his face, "Hey guys! What the heck’s going on here? I start flying and I nearly get blown out of the sky by a bolt of lightning! Then Garret here tells me about some rat that went insane! Will somebody PLEASE fill me in, here?"

Leon stood and held up his paws, "Jeremy, would you please shut up for a second! This is a little more important."

Jeremy was taken aback by Leon’s sudden outburst, but he said nothing else. He looked into the sky and waited as Leon paced around, eyeing the forest. Isa put a paw on his shoulder, "Leon? What is it?"

He stopped and I could see him tightening his grip on his sword, "Coming..."

He said it quietly, almost detached from reality it seemed, then suddenly he turned at the guards, in a wild panic – He began to shout, "IT’S COMING!! GET READY!!"

The line of guards held up their weapons, the crossbows all aimed at the forest.

Leon quickly moved back a few steps and held up his sword, "On my mark, you shoot into the forest!" He motioned with his head for Isa to move back into the line, and he looked at me and Blake, "Justin! Get behind the line! It’s coming!" Blake shouted back, "What’s coming!?" Then it came out.

Leon spun around in time to face it, but didn’t have enough time to drop his sword and order fire. The hulking beast came out of the forest, with Victoria behind him, riding on a crow with red eyes – No doubt under her control.

The hulking beast had once been Jenner. It stood about three and a half feet tall, it had two legs, two arms, a head, slightly grey fur and a tail, but the relationships between this thing and Jenner stopped there. Muscles of absurd size bulged out from beneath the skin, the eyes were emblazoned in red. Jenner’s huge claws looked razor-sharp, and his feet (which looked more like talons now) dug into the grass.

Jenner had become a pure monster. If I had not known the rat as well as I did before, I would have never been able to see any resemblance. He stood on his legs slightly hunched, like he was just waiting to attack and tear us to pieces. The stone had corrupted him, just as Nicodemus said it would, and the powers it held were not meant to be misused like this.

Jenner smiled at Leon, letting out a monstrous, canine-like growl and revealing his sharpened teeth, which looked like knives.

Jenner grabbed Leon, picking him up with only one hand, and threw him violently against a nearby tree. Leon struggled to stand back up, trying to support himself on his sword, but Victoria had leapt off of her crow and kicked the sword out from under him. The other guards suddenly fired their arrows at the beast and Victoria, but none of them made it – They all stopped in midair as Victoria turned and held up a single paw. Her eyes began to glow red, and the arrows froze. A red glow could be seen from inside her shirt, and the gold chain was plainly visible. She had taken the stone... Leon was right.

With a snap of her paw, the arrows turned back at the guards and moved a little ways back, like they were in an invisible bow. She looked right at the guards and Jenner’s eyes followed, too, "Rats of NIMH, hear me!" she shouted, "You don’t need to die here tonight! Go back inside your colony and let us do our business!"

Leon struggled to his knees, his maw dripping with blood, "And what business is that!? Killing innocent-" Victoria cut him off with a growl and kicked him in the face, sending him sprawling back against the tree. He coughed and his eyes rolled around a bit, but he was still conscious.

Jenner suddenly noticed me behind the lines. Victoria turned and saw me as well, almost as if the two of them shared the same set of eyes, "So, Justin! You cower behind your guards! They cannot protect you!" With another flick of her wrist, the arrows released. Many guards had anticipated this and ducked, but a few weren’t so lucky. Nobody was seriously injured, but Brutus was hit in the arm – Ash in the shoulder, almost hitting his lung.

Victoria scoffed and began to laugh. Leon was up again, and Victoria saw it, "You impudent fool – You just won’t die will you?" She held up her arms like she was getting an orchestra ready to play, and Leon was lifted into the air and thrown towards the entrance of the colony. He missed the rocks and landed on the ground, rolling against the colony wall. Isa was instantly at his side. Victoria began to laugh again, "Your captain had to take a short leave of absence, but we won’t be needing him anymore. We’re here because we need to settle a score."

Blake swallowed hard and I knew what Victoria would say next. She pointed at me, "Justin, you killed Jenner when he tried to take the stone from that pathetic mouse! You killed my one love and I simply WOULD NOT HAVE IT!! Now he’s back! And he’s got his own little score to settle with you!" Victoria lovingly patted Jenner’s deformed body. He snarled at me and balled his fists so tightly that blood began to seep out.

Victoria began to coo at him like a human would to a kitten, "Ooh, what are you gonna do to him? Slash his face off? Tear him in half? Smash him into a rock?"

With every brutal suggestion, Jenner’s smile began to grow. His gaze pierced into my mind and I thought I could hear his voice in my head, "I’ll let you pick when the time comes, Justin. If you can’t make up your mind, I’ll just do all of them, one after the other!!"

I shook the voice from my head in time to see Victoria look at Leon, "You! Captain of the Guards! You tried to stop Jenner from carrying out his plans! Not only did you try to kill him in the rosebush, but you spied on him! And to think... I thought you couldn’t have gotten any worse than you already were! There’s a penalty for invasion of privacy, Leon. Jenner’s got it all figured out."

Leon snapped his gaze up towards Jenner. Was he hearing the voice, too?

Victoria merely smiled, "You may not be dead now, my boy, but trust me, death isn’t my aim. When you’re down on your knees trying to keep your insides on the inside, then my job will be done! The more painful the death, the more power we get when you get sucked into the stone!"

Leon squirmed a bit at this, but he wasn’t really expecting any less of a threat from a madwoman like Victoria anyway.

Suddenly, Victoria began to laugh maniacally, "And Sullivan, who dealt the killer blow! Jenner has a little unfinished business with that backstabber! And of course, dear Mrs. Brisby, who was the sole reason Jenner was killed!" She smiled at me, and Jenner did as well, "She will pay most dearly for what she has done. Death is much too good for her."

Jenner’s voice was back in my head, "I know you’ve got feelings for her, kid. That’s why I’m going to try and make sure that you’re still alive when I find her, so I can kill her in front of you, then watch you die. But knowing you, Justin, you’ll probably fight me to the death anyway. You surely can’t blame me for dreaming, can you?"

I screamed and swatted the air with a balled fist, "Shut the hell up!!"

I stopped and saw Victoria smiling. Jenner was laughing.

Suddenly, Blake’s voice was in my mind and Jenner’s was washed away, "Dad, don’t let them get to you. We’ve got a job to do, remember?"

I nodded in response to his voice and I turned to see how Leon was doing. My resilient Captain was on his feet, though looking a bit shaky. Isa had wiped the blood from his face and was helping him stand by putting his arm over her neck. Leon looked at me, then motioned for Isa to help him over.

Victoria didn’t see this and she continued to speak, "At the rosebush, my dear Jenner had a plan to connect two worlds together! He continues to want to bring this plan into reality!"

Jenner growled and eyed our defenses. Victoria cleared her throat and held up her arms, "Citizens of Thorn Valley, our plan has commenced. You stand no chance. Lay down your weapons and I will assure you that death will be short and relatively painless. Though I can make no guarantees. My love isn’t quite consistent when it comes to mass execution."

Jenner let out a horrible roar and began to move towards the colony. Some guards who had approached Jenner were beaten away like gnats in a matter of seconds. Victoria chuckled lightly to herself and stood by the forest edge, just watching the spectacle.

Leon was by my side as Jenner started his advance on the colony. He leaned in as close to my ear as he could, "Justin... Victoria’s the real threat here. Jenner’s under her control because she’s using the stone."

I looked over at Leon quickly, flexing my grip on my sword, "So what are you saying?"

He took in a small gasp of air, "I’ve got to follow Victoria and finish her off, then get the stone. Then you can kill Jenner."

I looked over to see where Jenner was – He had already swatted a few guards aside and Brutus was about to face him. That would buy us some time, then. He was about ten yards away.

Leon began clarifying himself, "Jenner’s under control by Victoria. Victoria’s got the stone. I’ve got to kill Victoria, you’ve got to keep Jenner busy until I do. You’re the main one he wants because you caused him the most trouble. I’ll get the stone, then use my powers to send it back here right away. I’m the only one who can kill Victoria – The stone is too powerful for a child to fight it. Even if the child is as gifted as Blake." He tried grinning at my son, but it hurt his face to do so. I looked back at the tumult behind us.

Brutus had tried to swing his massive poleax through Jenner, but the hulking beast was too fast. The powers of the stone gave him a ridiculous advantage. Jenner quickly stepped towards Brutus and swiped him across the face with a howl of anger. Brutus screamed and stumbled back to the colony entrance, his face bleeding from the claw wounds. I grimaced when I saw the seriousness of the wound – Even from far away I could tell that he had probably been blinded in his left eye.

I looked at Leon nervously, "He’s so fast and strong... How am I supposed to kill him?"

Leon thought for a second, "You can use the stone! You and Blake together!" He looked down at Blake, who had snapped his focus to me and Leon, so he wouldn’t have to look at Jenner’s hideous form, "What do you mean, Leon?"

He nodded to himself, as if he was quickly rethinking his strategy to make sure it would work, "Yeah... Yeah, I’ll get the stone and send it back here. Justin, you grab it. Blake, you pour as much energy as you can into that thing. Then, Justin, you release it against Jenner! That’ll freeze him in his tracks long enough for you to kill him!"

I nodded but then looked Leon over, "How do you expect to fight Victoria like that?"

He grinned, this time actually making a smile and holding it, "You forget, Justin, I heal pretty quickly. I think I might be able to fight her."

Blake suddenly ran forward and wrapped his arms around him, "Uncle Leon, don’t die! She’ll do horrible things to you, like with Rion!" I could see a look of terror sweep over Leon’s face, but he quickly recovered and shook it off, "I don’t intend to die out there, and neither should you two. Good luck, and remember what I told you! We only get one shot at this!"

He looked past Jenner and saw... nothing. Victoria was gone, though her crow was still waiting and watching the battle. Jenner was less than three yards from us. Leon suddenly turned and saw that the entranceway was completely unguarded – its protection having left their posts to fight Jenner. Victoria was inside the colony.

"No!!" Leon yelled, and stumbled into the colony after her.

Jenner was approaching us quickly. I leaned over to Blake, "Go over to the side and wait for the stone." I thought for a second, "And if Jenner gets a hold of me... Shut your eyes and run. Don’t look back."

He nodded and a tear ran down his cheek, "Be careful, dad."

I nodded and waved my paw towards an outcropping of rocks, "Go and hide! Now!" and then I turned to see Jenner’s immense claw coming down on top of me. Fortunately, my reflexes were anything but dull and I managed to pivot out of the way just in time. Jenner didn’t miss a beat, though. He swung his arms at me from the side and connected with my stomach. I tumbled backwards and landed on my side, the wind knocked out of me. My sword was, thankfully, still in my paw. I quickly rolled to the side and saw Jenner’s talons smash the ground where I was just laying. I stumbled quickly to my feet and held out my sword, "Jenner, stop this!" I realized with a chill that those were the same words I had yelled out to him on Moving Day. As one would expect, those words didn’t exactly have the effect I’d hoped for.

Jenner froze, then after a second he let out a horrible roar and charged me. I could hear Blake scream as he saw what was going on. I didn’t let that occupy my mind, though, and I ducked and rolled at an angle to my left. I could feel Jenner’s claw slash against the cloth of my tunic. When I stood up again, I realized with a sudden jolt of pain that he had struck me by my right shoulder. I was still standing, though, so I didn’t worry too much about it. Jenner was advancing again. It must have been from the west because his bulk was almost blocking the setting sun. He growled and swiped the air. I ducked under it and swung my sword. Jenner somehow dodged it by a good six inches and then swiped again with his claws, trying to get closer and closer to me. I kept having to move back, but soon I would be up against the rock face of the colony entrance wall, and I’d be finished. I would need to get on his other side to survive this battle any longer.

The next time Jenner tried to slash me, I cut up with my sword, aiming at his arm as I pivoted behind him. The blow missed as Jenner drew back his arm with a no doubt painful force. I was behind Jenner, and his plan of attack had failed. Perhaps the rat had lost his smarts after being dead so long. That was so close to being funny.

Jenner howled in dismay as I backed up, increasing the ground between us. I tried to reason with him again, "Jenner, you must stop this! What are you going to get out of this, huh? Revenge!? You don’t need to kill like this Jenner, and neither does Victoria! You died once, and we were all so confused about why you would give your life away and take so many! Don’t let this madness take over your mind!"

Jenner stopped yelling, and gave me a horrible look, like the fire in his eyes would reach into my body and pluck up my soul, chew it up and spit it out. His mouth opened and he began to speak. This voice of his was somewhat similar to his original, though it was a lot more gravelly, "Anything, Justin... Anything to get back at the scientists that destroyed my life. Anything to get back at those who mocked me and hated me, even though I could not help it!" I screamed at him, "Even if you know it’s not real?!" He narrowed his red eyes and squeezed his monstrous claws together, "At least I will die with a purpose other than just living from day to day – Fearing what might happen should NIMH return and find us!" I shook my head, "No, Jenner... No, that’s not right! We DO have a purpose! We need to survive and live and establish ourselves! We can make it!"

He growled, "NO! No, you won’t!" Jenner softened a bit. I think. He began to lean forward, his eyes not as full of hatred and rage as they had been a moment ago, "Justin, you have no goals for life. I do. You just want to run your whole life. I want to remedy every wrong that’s been given to us!" A could hear a faint hum coming from somewhere inside the colony. Leon and Victoria were probably fighting against each other with their powers.

Jenner was advancing again now. Talking to him was hopeless, but I tried one very last time, "Jenner! I don’t want to kill you! I didn’t the first time!" Jenner stopped and burst into laughter. The gasping sound combined with the contortion of his face muscles made me sick to my stomach. His eyes filled with the rage again, he bared his teeth at me, "I know you didn’t want to kill me! Oh, how I know! Not only are you weak, Justin, but you’re a coward as well!" I growled and grit my teeth, but before I could say anything, he cut me off, "Unlike you, Justin, I DID want to kill that night! I wanted to kill YOU, and I’ll finish now what I should have finished that night! You first, then Leon, then Jonny’s lovely wife. You’ll all make fine trophies."

I held up my sword and lowered my center of gravity, ready to evade Jenner’s next attack, "Where you’re going, you won’t be needing trophies, you bastard!"

Jenner frowned and suddenly dashed forward with such a burst of energy that I couldn’t move in time. He plowed into me, knocking me to the ground – My sword landing a good two feet from where I lay. Blake screamed. I looked up in a panic to see Jenner slowly walking towards me, his claws gleaming in the setting sunlight. I remember what I thought... I remember thinking, "Jenner won... Oh my God he won... Now I’ll die and everyone will die and it’s all my fault because I couldn’t dodge a stupid-" then my train of thought was cut off when the field was suddenly bathed in a blood-red light. Jenner stopped and slowly turned towards the colony entrance, "No... NO!" He shouted and he turned back towards me, "Leon will PAY FOR THAT!! I’ll rip him in half!" He began to run to the colony entrance, but he was blown back by something – He looked almost as if he had been struck by a train. He was thrown back, over my head, and landed a short distance away. The crow that Victoria had ridden to Thorn Valley suddenly flew away. I smiled a little... Victoria was dead. I just knew it. Leon had done it.

I looked at the colony entrance and lo and behold, the red light became more intense, and finally the stone became visible. It was floating in midair, staying about seven or eight inches off of the ground while making steady progress towards me. I stood up shakily and admired it for a moment. I hadn’t looked upon it for a long time and I realized then just how beautiful this thing was. I remembered when Nicodemus first got it from the Great Owl how it had been just an ordinary rock. Then the powers were put into it, and it changed. Everything changes with this power, and it always seems to be for the worse. Jenner was a prime example.

I turned to see Jenner getting to his feet – His massive size making it a little more difficult. I turned and the stone was still hanging there, not two inches from my nose. I knew what I had to do. "Blake!" I shouted, "NOW!"

Blake, who had been hiding a few yards away, was ready. He closed his eyes and I could see him moving his paws as if he were playing some obscure musical instrument down by his sides. The stone began to hum, the bright red interior beginning to move around as if it contained storm clouds.

Blake’s eyes popped open and he collapsed instantly. The stone was a greedy thing – It sucked in more power than you gave it (at least, I was told that later) and left you drained completely. I knew Blake’s strength would return, so I quickly picked up my sword and readied myself.

I could hear Jenner approaching from behind. This was it...

I took a deep breath, then I reached out with my left paw and firmly grabbed the stone out of the air. Flames erupted from my paw and the stone, and my body screamed at me to let it go. I refused – If I lost it now, I wouldn’t be alive long enough to pick it up again. The flames seared through my fur and skin, but I simply could not release the stone. I had to hold onto it, for all that was good and just. Then the pain went away.

I spun around and, not quite sure what to do, turned the red jewel outwards and held it up in Jenner’s direction, "Stay back!" To my surprise, Jenner screamed and his claws flew up to his face in pain. This was working!

But after only a second, Jenner was fine again. He narrowed his eyes to slits and bared his teeth at me, "Dirty trick, Justin. But perhaps you would be so kind as to give me that stone, so I can show you how you really use it!" I bared my own teeth, "You mean to help with your bloodlust? Spare me the dramatics!" I held up the stone again, "Back off!" Jenner screamed again and stumbled back a step. I moved in one step closer, not actually gaining ground, but getting Jenner closer to the pile of rocks that Blake had been hiding behind. Now Blake was near the colony entrance, watching the fight with a mix of fascination and utter horror.

Jenner’s attention had been diverted and the guards were lined up again, watching us battle, knowing that their lives were dependant on my own. I wasn’t really in the mood to disappoint them.

Jenner raised his claw for another strike, but I held the stone up to his face again and Jenner stumbled back a step. He repeated this twice more and then he tried to dash around me, but I just held the stone out in front of me and he was powerless.

I noticed that the closer the stone was to him, the more damage it did – Perhaps I’d need to get in closer? Then again, what good would that do? Jenner was near-invunerable. There was only one spot I could think of that might be weaker than the rest. His back: where Sullivan had stabbed him. But that was a problem – Jenner was still quite fast and getting behind him long enough to stab him would be quite difficult. I would need to get –very- close to him with the stone if I was going to incapacitate him long enough.

Jenner waited about two feet from me, waiting for me to drop my guard so he could move in and knock the stone from my paw. I was relentless, though – I stood half crouched with my sword in my right paw and the stone in my left paw, never taking my eyes off of Jenner except for those quarter-seconds it takes to blink.

I stepped forward, and Jenner stepped backwards. Two more steps and he would bump into the rocks. At his height, the killer wound would be about two feet above the ground. I’m not two feet tall – so I needed to make sure that wherever Jenner was when I struck, that I could hit him in the right spot. The rocks would help me get to that height, but only if I had enough time to get there.

Jenner growled at me, apparently annoyed that I was taking so long in making a decision on what to do. I stepped inwards and Jenner moved back. He was one step away from the rocks. If he bumped into them, what would he do? Go around them, perhaps? Or maybe he would go in another direction? No... Too risky. This was a one shot opportunity.

"And..." I thought to myself, "a long shot option."

I knew what I had to do. Jenner may have been quick to dodge a poleax or a sword, but to dodge the stone was another story. I only hoped that it would maintain its powers after it left my paws. If Jenner got a hold of it without hurting himself, my life and the lives of everyone here were finished.

I mumbled to myself, "Please let this work..."

I threw the stone directly at Jenner’s face and sprinted towards him, slashing with my sword at his face. He dodged the sword, but as a result the stone hit him in the face and he screamed in agony, stumbling back into the rock pile. I ran past Jenner and leapt up on top of the rock pile. Without hesitation I drove my sword into Jenner’s back, where Sullivan’s dagger had killed him on Moving Day.

Jenner let out a howl that resembled the death throes of a hundred wild dogs. It was loud, piercing and as un-rodentine as a scream could be. Had the NIMH scientists seen and heard this monstrosity, they obviously would have stopped their experiments over fear – Fear that something like this may eventually escape and wreak its private hatred out on the world.

Jenner, however, wasn’t dead yet. He turned sharply, taking my sword with him. He shot out a claw and grabbed me by the head, pulling me off of the rocks and holding me in midair, "JUSTIN! YOU BASTARD!" He roared, "I’ll rip you apart for that!!" He began to squeeze my head – I tried to scream but his claw was too tight for me to even breathe. I began to kick my legs, writhe and wriggle – Anything to escape, but nothing was helping. Another few seconds and my skull would be crushed in. Then, just as I began to fade out of consciousness, Jenner’s grip began to fade as well. He dropped me to the ground and then stumbled to the ground himself, falling onto his backside, the sword driving itself through his body. He lay unmoving, but I could hear his voice barely penetrating the air, "Jussstin..."

I couldn’t move – My head hurt too much, "What?" It barely was a whisper. Jenner laughed a little, "To think it would come to this, Justin..." he said, "To think I would have to die twice..." He coughed up some blood and I could hear him choking for a few seconds, but then he began to talk again, "Nicodemus... He must have told you about what NIMH did to me..." I snorted in disapproval, but my image blurred when I did so, "No... He wrote about it. If you hadn’t killed him, he might have told us." Jenner was silent. Then he convulsed for a second, then I said, "Jenner, because of what NIMH did to you, we understand why you did what you did... But it doesn’t make us like you any more."

Jenner was silent again, but then I saw his eyes glaze over a bit, "At least... You understand, my friend..." All was still for many minutes. I was slowly blacking out. Whatever damage Jenner had done to my skull was beginning to take effect. I slowly slumped down against the rockface where I had been leaning and closed my eyes. All went dark.

I woke up in the infirmary with some of the guards surrounding me, but Jack was in front of all of them, bandaging my head. When I stirred, I could hear Jack’s voice, "Now, don’t bother him! Loud noises might still be a bad idea – He’s had severe head trauma!"

I forced a grin, "Jack... Jack, you old goat – Don’t try to pretend that you know what’s best for me!"

The guards cheered, Constelle’s voice ringing out more than any other’s "You killed him, Justin! You did it!" The loud shouting and cheering did hurt my head, in fact, but I wasn’t about to admit that. I looked at the crowd and then at Jack nervously, "Jack... Where’s my son? And where is Leon?"

Jack looked away and the guards were silent. I repeated myself, "Jack, answer me. Where are Blake and Leon?"

Jack turned to the group of guards and waved a paw at them, telling them to leave us alone. My stomach sank, and my heart became as heavy as lead, "Jack..."

He turned to me once the guards were out and he shook his head, "Leon’s heart stopped beating after his fight with Victoria. I got it beating again, but Leon’s unconscious and he’s not waking up... He doesn’t look too good. His injuries have surpassed any he’s had before."

My jaw opened slowly, but Jack was quick to continue, "It’s not like he’s lost any limbs or anything, but his... his future isn’t looking too bright. And Blake is with him now. When I told him that you would be okay, he went right to Leon. He spent most of the night with you."

I closed my eyes, "Leon... Might not make it?" Jack’s voice was sympathetic, "He might, he might not. It’s up in the air right now."

I fell back asleep with those words circling in my head. I had the worst nightmares imaginable – None of which I think I’ll write about here.

Jenner might be dead, but it’s come with one hell of a price. Jenner’s death grip on my head has, at least temporarily, given me a limp in my right leg. Apparently the loss of oxygen messed me up in some major ways, and I’m lucky that a little limp was the worst that happened. If I’m anything like Leon, though, it’ll be gone in a month.

And Leon... Well, he’s still unconscious. It’s been over two days and still not so much as a stir. When I look at him, I can’t stop thinking about Jonathan – How everything looked alright since he was in the infirmary bed, but then he passed away, taking a piece of us with him. If Leon were to die... I don’t know what I would do.

He was like my younger brother... I can’t remember any of my old brothers and sisters from my pre-NIMH days – I wasn’t that close with them, but I was close with Leon. We could talk like brothers at any time – We trusted each other like family, and we both respected one another.

Leon can’t die now – Not after all we’ve been through.

There’s nothing I can do now but sit and wait. And write.

Day - March 2

Leon’s not waking up... Jack’s been giving him a bit of water every now and then and also managed to give him a small bit of food, but he’s not coming out.

A few days ago I was officially discharged from the infirmary, my only instructions being to walk with a cane to support my limp. Instead of leaving the infirmary, however, I stayed to watch over Leon and meet with a few of the Guards who had been wounded during the battle. Our only deaths were Victoria and Jenner, and I’m hesitant and putting Jenner down since he was dead beforehand.

Whatever battle Victoria and Leon had, it completely decimated a good portion of the lower levels. There was a gaping hole in the floor in the first floor hallway, which Victoria must have created to escape from Leon. The two fought down in the machinery rooms, and Victoria was killed. She had been knocked into a pool of electrified water. Leon had been knocked unconscious by a force that Jack cannot explain. It’s that power – Leon was attacked by it. It’s how the two of them fought.

I don’t know how we can save Leon. Nobody does... But everybody wants to help.

Isa has been here for the last few days, parting from Leon’s side only for food and drink. She stays in her bedside chair, waiting, hoping. She cries so much I wonder if I should send her to her apartment sometimes, as all this crying can’t be doing her any good.

Blake stays by his side as well, almost as often as Isa and myself. Jessica stops in sometimes, too. As do the Guards and other community members. Tallor is here quite a bit, too. And Sullivan. Everybody worries for him – Everybody cares.

This is Leon’s family. We are his family and his friends.

Leon was angry once when I told him we could never go back home. Now, I think he has learned enough to know that he doesn’t need to go back. Heck, I don’t think he’d even want to go back now if he had the chance.

Leon knows that he has a family now. He knows he’s got a life to live now. And he knows that he is loved. If he didn’t before, he needs to see everybody that’s come to see him.

Now that the unrest is over, Leon should come back to us. I don’t know where he might be now, but I don’t think he’s ready to join his brother. No, not yet.

Please... Bring him back. It’s not his time, yet.

Day – March 4

I’m finally back. I didn’t mean to worry everyone, and you know it. Well, of course you do – You’re a journal. You’re me. And I’m wasting paper.

The events of the last few days have been incredible. Jack tells me that I’ve been in some kind of coma... In reality, I’ve been at NIMH, talking to the scientists. Sounds weird, right? Well, it is! As for Victoria... Geez, I still need to explain what happened, don’t I? I’ll just take it from when I ran into the valley complex, ‘cuz that’s where Justin and I parted ways:

I ran into the hallways after Victoria (well, both of my legs weren’t working correctly, so it was more like "I pathetically limped after Victoria"), catching only a glimpse of her turning a corner about ten feet away. She saw me as she turned and didn’t hesitate for one second – She turned towards me and a bright ball of light shot out of her outstretched paws. The ball didn’t look it was moving at first, but I noticed it’s reflection on the walls coming closer to me, and I flattened myself against the wall just in time. I could feel the extreme heat against my face as it whizzed by and plowed through the wall at the other end of the hallway.

Victoria cursed and threw another heat ball at me not two seconds after the first one missed. I pushed away from the wall and fell to the floor, the ball smashing into the wall where I was just a second ago. The blast exposed a section of electrical wiring, which fell out onto the floor not three inches from my nose. I forced myself back up and stumbled away from the live wires in time to see Victoria readying another ball of deadly light. I moved back, and found myself against the damaged wall that Victoria created with her first blast. Crap.

She had the amulet, so she could create these balls of energy (and probably a lot worse) in the blink of an eye with little to no concentration of powers. She was using the stone as a weapon, and it had plenty of ammunition from me, Nicodemus and apparently Jenner as well. That meant that what took her two seconds to do would take me at least twice as long to conjure up.

I squeezed my paws together and felt the energy brewing inside of me. Victoria could see me preparing a volley of my own, and she decided to not release her ball yet, instead just waiting and building up the energy. If that thing so much as touched my person, there wouldn’t be anything left of me to bury.

My focusing was complete – My energy ball would kill Victoria if it hit her. I growled at Victoria, and she growled at me. She half-crouched and drew her paws back, like she was about to throw a baseball, "Here’s where we part, Leon!" She screamed at me, "Remember, those who face Jenner-"

A sardonic grin crept across my maw, "They die. Right, right. Do you have any idea how ridiculous that sounds? I’m sure in your head it sounds spooky and intimidating, but I realized when some of Jenner’s thugs tried to kill Tallor that the phrase sounds sort of silly when you say it out loud."

Victoria snorted, a small smile appearing on her face, "Even when death is so close, you jest. It shows your idiocy, Captain. I’ll enjoy snuffing out your pathetic life!"

With a yell, she threw her energy ball. I could see the air around it bend from the extreme heat. Thinking quickly, I dove forward, trying to keep as low to the floor as possible. In the middle of my dive, I threw my ball at Victoria. She wasn’t expecting such an unorthodox move on my part and she fell to her back just in time. I’m sure the ball singed some of the fur on her face, though.

As for me, I could feel the heat against my back as I dove under the giant energy ball, but it didn’t touch me. I could hear a loud crash from behind me, but the crash turned into a loud groan, and then the floor began to shake. I turned quickly as I got up and saw a huge crack snaking along the corridor. It swept right between my legs, and I followed its path of movement all the way to Victoria, who was still trying to regain her wind after falling on her back. She saw the crack and she froze, her eyes fixed on me. I stayed still as well, knowing that the slightest movement could break the floor open. So I stood, and Victoria sat – we were just looking at each other with the most utter hatred in our eyes.

Suddenly she began to smile, then she began to laugh. I was confused for a moment, until I saw a ball of light emanating from behind her – From her hidden paw. With a yell, she twisted her body around and threw her energy blast at me. I wasn’t expecting it at all, but I tried to dodge it as best as I could. It missed me by about half an inch. The whiskers on the left side of my face were singed.

As I hugged the wall, I could hear more groaning from the floor. Arthur’s engineering skills were no match for the power that Victoria and I were tossing at each other. The floor suddenly gave way and began to fall down to the basement level. I hadn’t anticipated on the floor collapsing so quickly, though, and I didn’t have enough time to use my power to levitate myself so I wouldn’t fall. As my feet fell out from under me, I grabbed wildly with my paws and found a little jutting piece of the first floor that was still attached to the first floor. I looked down and saw the ground was about a foot or so below me. As I looked up, I could see Victoria gently floating down to the rubble, readying another volley of attacks. I yelped and let go just in time to see the ledge I’d been holding melt away under the energy ball’s extreme heat. I landed on a piece of stone and quickly examined my surroundings: Arthur’s water pump was leaking, spewing water all over the floor. Also, to make the situation worse, some of the electrical conduits had snapped and were submerged in the water. Touching the water would result in a toasty rodent. Not very appeasing to think about that.

I looked up and saw Victoria throwing another ball. This was getting serious – I didn’t have enough time to ready any attacks, since the stone gave Victoria an offensive edge. I couldn’t hit her with any of my attacks, as she would be able to dodge them with ease. I mean, if I could dodge her attacks every few seconds, then she could definitely dodge mine. That was not good.

I jumped to my left and landed on another jutting piece of stone that had fallen from the first floor. Some loose rubble was still falling from above and presented a hazard, so aside from keeping an eye on Victoria, I’d need to watch for falling rubble. And of course the elctrified pool that was forming near Arthur’s pump about two feet away.

Suddenly I became panicky. Was Justin still fighting Jenner? Had Jenner already killed Justin? My stomach sank and I barely managed to avoid another attack from Victoria, and I lay on the ground out of breath. She began to laugh, "What, getting tired, Leon? I only kicked you in the face and tossed you around out there, that’s not so bad." She threw another ball of light at me. I didn’t even have enough time to get up, so I quickly rolled over and the ball smashed through the rubble next to me. I quickly stumbled up and saw exactly what I wanted to see – Victoria was so busy trying to tire me out that she was not watching where she was floating around. She was directly above the pool of water, next to the pump.

I began to draw my own energy – Trying to make as efficient a blast in as little time as possible. Victoria wasn’t so nice this time as she had been before. She threw a lightning ball at me the second she saw me start to make one of my own. I had anticipated that, however. I jumped to my left, keeping my body facing her, and I threw my energy ball with all my might. It went right past Victoria – and into the water pump.

The pump exploded and knocked Victoria out of the air. She landed feet first in the electrified pool, as if she was landing on regular ground. She instantly began to scream wildly. She tried to stumble out of the pool, but she quickly fell to her knees, and then after a short moment, she fell face first into the pool, a few air bubbles signifying the last breath of the infamous Victoria. I relished in the silence for a short moment, then I realized that Justin was still fighting outside (that is, if he hadn’t been killed yet). Using my powers, I lifted Victoria up, setting her aside the pool, and I quickly slipped the amulet off her neck. The stone had lost some of its luster from its prolonged use, but it still shone a rather bright shade of red. I closed my eyes and lifted the stone up into the first floor corridor, then out the main entrance, and then to Justin.

But it wasn’t over yet.

I felt Justin take the stone and I released my grip on it. As I opened my eyes, I was greeted by the image of Victoria’s badly burnt body trying to get up from beside the pool. I was so surprised by this that I froze in terror – She was most certainly dead a moment ago. Now, though, I realize that it was the last of her powers escaping from her body – Her mitochondria wished her to do one last thing before she died, and that was to kill me.

While her body wasn’t working correctly at all, she managed to throw one last ball of energy at me before falling back into the pool. The energy ball struck me squarely in the chest and I went down. The blast, however, was not nearly as powerful as the ones she had created with the stone, and it didn’t kill me. Instead, it blew me back and broke almost every bone in my body.

When I woke up, I was hovering outside of my body. I grimaced when I saw just how beat up I was. I don’t even think rats are SUPPOSED to bend the way I was bent.

Then I looked up and saw a huge field – The destroyed basement was no more, and my body was no longer there. Instead, I saw a huge field that looked awfully familiar. As I flew across the field, I could make out a road. A highway. Cars drove all over the place. I remembered it now – This was the road that we ran along as we escaped from...

NIMH. I saw it, then – The huge white building that had started this whole thing. Why was I here? Was this a dream?

I thought I was going to fly right into the wall, but instead I passed through it and found myself looking at desks, chairs, scientists and finally the cages that we had been kept in. My stomach began to throb – A pain that I had worked so hard to get rid of... And it was back. What the hell was I doing here?

The question was answered immediately. A man was standing in the doorway of the animal testing room. It wasn’t Schultz, but another man. This was the leader of NIMH. He was the boss – the one who oversaw all of the experiments.

But, as I read this man’s thoughts, I came to the realization that he was unaware of the depth of Schultz’s experiments. Apparently this man, the administrator, had no idea what the Rats of NIMH were all about.

I helped sum up the events for him.

I entered his mind and told him everything. I made him listen – I made him remember – I made him believe me. I told him all about the true nature of Schultz’s tests, of our escape, of our progressive intelligence, of our civilization... Then I told him about Jenner’s experiment – Of how it almost destroyed our civilization. Of how, with the combined powers of the stone and Jenner’s own hate of Dr. Schultz, Jenner would have tried to kill him and all the humans responsible for his transformation.

I smiled when I heard the administrator’s response to this, "This... will not do."

Then he got angry.

I watched in glee as he stormed into Schultz’s office three days later with government officials and confiscated all of his paperwork, then I cheered as Schultz was fired the next day, then sentenced to a prison term for jeopardizing national security by experimenting with unstable organisms that would soon be compared to atomic bombs. He and his experiments were through. A law was later passed that would ban mitochondral testing.

And perhaps the greatest achievement of them all was when a law was later passed that banned any kind of human interference in the Thorn Valley region. Whether the humans know about us or not doesn’t matter – what does matter is that we will not be bothered by the likes of NIMH ever again.

And that is what I was doing while I was supposedly in the coma. When I awoke, I found myself surrounded by Justin, Isa, Blake, Kat, Jessica and of course, Jack. After word got around that I was awake again, the Guards filed in, along with a slew of citizens who wanted to thank me personally for stopping Victoria. Arthur was a little ticked at me for destroying his water pump and decimating the first floor, but he quickly got over it.

While I lay in the infirmary bed on the second night I was awake, Justin told me about the past few days’ events:

Jeremy had flown back to the farm after the battle, to tell Mr. Ages what had happened. Ages came back with Jeremy, and he had some news of his own: He had been gathering roots for some medicines when he heard the radio. He approached the farmhouse and saw the farmer and his wife listening to it on the porch. The news? It was all about Dr. Schultz’s experiments. His REAL experiments, mind you. He had been using government money to fund his own experiments. Using NIMH facilities and staff, he attempted to prove that mitochondria governed all growth in an organism and could be "awakened" to produce immense power. The human govenment all opposed his research and would not fund his project, even for military purposes. But Schultz’s theory was far from finished – He was a very smart man, and he overestimated his budget for every experimentation he ever had to do at NIMH, purchasing supplies and funding staff for his own little endeavors into the realm of sub-cellular research. He only took on projects where large amounts of animals were needed, so the rodent presence in his experiment could be explained. He didn’t have that many rodents – 40 rats and 22 mice to start out with for such a big project was near to nothing as I’ve come to understand it. Still, he did his experiments, and we were created.

The radio spoke about the creation of the rats of NIMH, and how we were apparently all killed off after Schultz was fired as a matter of human safety. However, this was followed by the ban on human interference in Thorn Valley straight from the President of the United States (cleverly disguised as a no-trespassing law put into effect due to poaching), so I’m pretty sure that at least SOME humans know we’re out here. At least those humans are out to protect us. Who knows? Maybe someday in the future we’ll be living side by side humans?

Yeah... It does sound a little silly.

Anyway, when Ages told us, there was an immense cheer from the whole of the colony, especially from the first generations, like myself and Justin.

When I told Justin about what I had done at NIMH, he was ecstatic beyond belief. He jumped up to embrace me, but held back when he remembered I didn’t have many working bones. He just laughed a bit and pumped his arms once, "Leon! I can’t believe it! I had dreams about Schultz being fired and NIMH never bothering us again while you were in your coma, but I never thought they were true!"

I grinned, a little surprised (after all, this was very unlike Justin to show he was this happy) and let out a sigh, "Yeah, they were all true. This is definitely an occasion to celebrate, Justin."

He nodded sharply, "That’s right. It means..." He paused and looked around the room, "It means we don’t have to run anymore, or be afraid of being caught."

He smiled at me, "We did it, Leon. We’re really free now."

I sighed again, realizing the impact of his words, "Yeah... We’re free."

Day – August 2

It’s been a few months, and I’m finally out of the infirmary. I didn’t write a single entry since my first long-winded one because I spent a lot of time recouperating from a major loss of energy. A few days after I woke up, I lost most of my powers. I can still lift a few things and do a little miracle every now and then, but it drains me so to do it now. Maybe that blast of Victoria’s did more to me than I thought. The same happened with Blake – He’s having a lot of trouble doing things that he used to do normally. No more battles of the mind, I’m afraid. When I told him that, he just smiled a bit, "Good. I hated doing that."

You know, I just realized that I’m almost out of pages in this journal. Maybe I’ll pick up another journal, and maybe I won’t. I’m beginning to think that maybe I don’t need to write in a journal anymore. Since the incident, I’m sure lots of rats are keeping journals, keeping track of their daily lives. And honestly, who can sum up every important thing in their life in a few measly pages? I tried.

My life is going to get more hectic as time goes on – I proposed to Isa yesterday in the Guardhouse. A classic Leon-esque example of smoothness: She was sitting in her desk, about ready to leave for the day, when I plopped a huge amount of papers in front of her and said, "All these things were moved to top priority while I was in the infirmary. There’s one thing in here I want you to consider very carefully."

She moaned and smiled a bit as she started to rummage through the papers, "I can’t believe you, Leon. You get out of the infirmary and right away you’re giving... me..." Her voice trailed off as she found the ring I had Tallor make for me while I was recouperating. She picked it up and blinked in shock, "...giving me a... a..."

I smiled at her, "A proposal. Isa, will you marry me?"

She swallowed loudly and looked over the ring, then she looked up at me with a smile that stretched to both ears. She accepted.

We’re hoping for children in the near future. And with children, a career as the Captain of the Guards and community activity up the wazoo (I’m a "guest speaker" in Jessica’s class now a few times every week), I doubt I’ll be able to write in a journal very often at all. But who knows... maybe I’ll pick another one sometime or another.

I look back on these journals and I realize just how much I’ve grown since I was caught. I mean, of course I’m smarter than your average rodent – I’ve lived about three lifetimes’ worth, but I just find it surprising how I have evolved over the years. This life of mine... I don’t get it sometimes. Like all this stuff happens to you but you don’t know why it does.

Perhaps I was thinking that writing in a journal would help me simplify my life in a time when it needed to be simple. When I didn’t want to worry about anything.

I guess the opposite happened. All these horrible things have happened, and all of these great things have happened, and I really don’t know what to make of them all sometimes. I know one thing, though – My life has definitely not been "simple."

If I don’t write ever again, I think that this journal needs some semblance of closure, don’t you think? Justin, Kat and Blake are living peacefully together – Justin’s managed to equally balance family and work, and he’s become a model father here. Blake’s training has ceased but we still meet every now and then. Isa and I are common guests at Justin’s family apartment and we sit together at dinner. Along with the Brisby’s, naturally.

Mrs. Brisby has settled nicely in here, helping out with different tasks and proving herself as a real jack-of-all-trades. She hasn’t aged a day since I first saw her. Well, she has a grey hair or two. We’ve all got some on top of our heads after the battle. Even Blake – It dots his head and face like he’s sneezed into an old fireplace.

The grey doesn’t really clash with my light brown fur, though, and I’m thankful for that. We don’t have fur dyes for use right now.

Where was I?

Oh yeah – The Brisby kids: Tim, Martin, Cynthia and Teresa have all completed school and are doing their respective jobs. They’ve all managed to become an integral part in Thorn Valley life.

Jessica is still a teacher, and she’ll probably stay a teacher for the rest of her life – She loves it that much. I remember when she came in to visit me when I was in the infirmary, she kissed her paw and then put it on my forehead and said, "Thank you. Now we don’t have to worry anymore."

And she was right. We don’t.

And the stone... That red rock that the owl gave us has caused more harm than good. Justin took it far out into the forest one day by himself, also taking the hunk of rock that I had gotten from Nicodemus, and buried them both deep underground. When he returned, he merely smiled and said, "Well, that’s one less thing for us to worry about."

He still wears the gold-colored necklace, though. He said that while the stone reminded him of bad things, the string that it was attached to did not, so he kept it on.

It’s worth noting that no major problems have occurred since we buried the stones.

Well, this is it – The last page. So much time has passed and I’ve written down so little of what has actually happened. I wrote down the important things, sure, but so much has gone unsaid.

But hey, nobody’s perfect. I know for a fact that I’m far from perfect, but it doesn’t stop me from trying. And that’s what we’ve been doing all these years: trying.

And we finally succeeded – Our trials and tribulations are over, and now we can live our lives not as runaway rats, but as the rats of NIMH.

If these journals have done one thing, I hope that it was showing you, the reader, how we have struggled, how we have survived, and how we intend to live our lives as we have wanted to since we first set foot outside NIMH labs.

Our story continues, but, for now, this journal ends.

Leon using magic
Artwork by MAL