Okay I am sooooooooooo very, very, very, VERY sorry about not updating this sooner! I got soooo bust with my Graduation and finals that I had no time to write this...plus I had a Brain Fart. MAJOR ONE! And I also like to thank Forestwater for betaing this chapter or it would have suck. just being blunt.
Anyway here you go!!
Jojo tried to place a wide, toothy smile on his face, but — seeing as a dozen pairs of eyes were staring angrily down at him — his nerves made him look like he was trying to sneeze. He stole a glance a Dr. LaRue, who didn't look quite as nervous as him, though her bottom lip quivered slightly.
He couldn't blame her from being uncomfortable either. It's not every day that the Mayor's wife and the chair-board of Who-ville gang up in your lab, staring at you accusingly.
The doctor coughed into her hand and smiled politely at the group though her voice sounded a little irritated. "It seems news travels fast around here."
"That," Sally agreed, looking directly at her son, "and the fact that the screaming form of my husband was shot into the sky from this building."
Jojo cringed. Oh yeah, she was definitely mad.
The Chairman crossed his arms. "I must ask you, LaRue, exactly what in the all of Who would possess you to test one of your inventions on the clumsiest Who in Who-ville!!"
"Ned is not clumsy!" Sally snarled, glaring at the green Who. "He just doesn't pay attention to his surroundings, that's all." He merely huffed arrogantly at her.
"Where exactly is the Mayor?" The shortest of the Council asked, actually concerned about the well-being of the lighthearted Who.
Sally clearly wondered the same thing, looking at Jojo with a mixture of fear and concern. "Jojo?"
The teenage Who and LaRue shared a sideways glance, silently deciding who should tell them. Though they knew that what they'd done for the Mayor was really for the best, and, as Jojo had said, he desperately needed to have a break, the two Whos knew that it would be a bit harder for the group in front of them to understand.
After a moment or two of intense staring, Jojo finally gave in with a defeated sigh, rubbing the back of his neck nervously.
"Dad's…" he tried not to meet his mother's wide eyes. " Dad's kind of not in… our world anymore."
The silence that filled the room was unbearable. The young Who looked at his mother, her face frozen in a shocked horror. The Chairman stared from the boy to the brainy Who, confused.
"What do you mean he's not in our world?" The green Who asked, his voice rising with irritation. He did not have time for this. He needed to be working on the huge celebration that was scheduled for tomorrow, not playing hide-and-seek with the boob of a mayor.
Dr. LaRue decided to answer this time, feeling that it deserved a more specific detail. "You see Mrs. McDodd, Mr. Chairman; with mine and Jojo's newly completed invention, the Who-porter 956, we have sent our beloved mayor out of our atmosphere and into the world of our savior Horton the elephant."
Every single one of the mouths dropped open, staring at the two in utter shock. Jojo hid his face in his hands.
"Couldn't you have worded that a little better?" he grumbled fiercely at LaRue.
She laughed nervously, pulling at the collar of her lab coat. "Probably. Though it's a little too late to change that, I'm afraid."
Sally was the first to recover her ability to speak, her words feeling heavy and suffocating as she said them out loud. "You mean to tell me that you two sent Ned, my husband, the Mayor, who hurts himself by opening a door, into an unknown world that tried to destroy us?!"
"Yes," Both Who's said, stomachs equally going hollow. As Jojo saw the anger start to build in his mother's usually bright eyes, he was wondering — half-hoping, actually — if his father was having more luck than he and Dr. LaRue were having right now.
Horton ran as fast as he could through The Jungle of Nool, trying to put as much distance between the group and the crazy jungle cats they had just escaped from moments ago. The children clung to each other on his back, desperately trying not to fall off as he sped across the jungle floor. He would glance back every few moments for any signs of the jaguars, hoping that they weren't following.
The Mayor held on as tight as he could to Horton's nose, hoping that he wouldn't fall or get sick from rocking back and forth. The Who tried to open his eyes, but seeing the bright colors of the jungle blur as they ran past made him feel slightly nauseous.
"Hey Mayor," Horton asked concerned, seeing the Who's cheeks turn a light shade of green. "Are you okay down there?"
"I'm slightly terrified, but other than that, just peachy!" he said, his body lurching foreword as Horton took a sharp turn around a small group of trees. Ned's cheeks darkened. "Oh, I think I'm going to be sick."
Morton, also holding onto Horton's nose, frowned at him. "Throw up on me fur-ball and you'll regret it."
"Now Morton," Horton said glancing once again backwards, "what did I say about threatening other-"
"Horton! Watch out!!"
Sadie's warning came too late.
Horton's foot caught the fallen log in the path and the elephant tumbled to the ground, the others following after him. Rudy fell off first and into a purple bush with a soft thud. Tommy and Jessica followed, bumping heads as they met the ground. Katie landed safely, only to have Sadie fall on top of her afterwards.
Ned flew out of Horton's grasp and rolled away from the group, a tree acting as a brake as it connected with his face. "Why does this keep happening to me?" he groaned, slumping back to the ground, lying there spread-eagled.
Horton lifted his head groggily and studied the damage that he'd caused around him. He smiled sheepishly.
"Oopsy! Sorry about that." Everyone let out an annoyed moan in response.
"Everyone okay?" Horton asked, slowly standing from his current position. He was a little scratched up on his tummy, but he'd had far worse.
"I'm okay," Rudy sighed, rubbing his backside.
Tommy held his head in his hand. "Been better." Jessica nodded in agreement.
"Well I'm fine," Sadie said then looked down in concern, "but I might have flattened Katie by accident."
"Ow," was all the little fur-ball said, shimmying herself out from underneath Sadie. Her fur popped back in place, causing her usual wide grin to form on her face. Sadie gave the creature an uncomfortable look.
Horton looked over at the Mayor's still form. "You okay over there Ned?"
"Yeah, the spinning stopped." Ned sat up and shook his head, his neck flaring up in pain. "Oh, I'm going to be sore in the morning."
Ned felt something wriggle violently from underneath him. Frowning he stood up and looked down to see what he had fallen on. His eyebrows shot up when he saw the flattened form of Morton glaring up at him coldly.
"Oh! Sorry about that!" Ned said peeling the mouse off the ground by his tail. "Didn't mean to squish you, pal."
Morton frowned. "You are on my list fur-ball."
Ned smiled nervously. He assumed that that wasn't a good thing.
"Do you think they're still following us?" Jessica asked in a low squeaky voice. Everyone stopped what they were doing to look at her, then Horton. The elephant returned their worried gaze and squinted down the path they had just come down. He perked up his ears and listened closely. After a long moment his ears fell back down and he let out a loud, relieved sigh.
"Nope…they aren't following us anymore." His words broke the fearful tension in the air, everyone letting out the breaths they were holding.
"I guess they didn't have the guts to cross the boundary line after all," Morton laughed crossing his arms over his chest upside-down. He looked at Ned. "You could put me down anytime now."
"Oh. Sorry." Ned let got of the mouse, who zipped away and onto Horton's head.
"I don't get it Horton," Ned said, crossing his arms in deep thought and bit his lower lip, confused. "Why didn't those things try to follow us? Furthermore, why would they want to eat you? Aren't you a little big for them?"
"Hey!" Horton huffed, offended. "I'll have you know that I've lost a bunch of weight since the last time we spoke, thank you every much!"
Morton rolled his eyes at the two and crossed his arms, plopping down in the middle of the elephant's head. "Those things that were chasing us are called jaguars, and they wouldn't hesitate to rip you to shreds and devour you in a second."
"Well that's a pretty image," Ned said to himself, copying the mouse and sitting down as well. "But why are they here? I always took it that Nool was a really peaceful place."
"It was…until a few months ago," Rudy said sadly, crossing his legs and taking a seat by the Who. The others joined them, forming a small circle. Katie plopped right down on The Mayor's lap, letting out a small, slightly creepy sigh.
Horton smiled. "Looks like you've made a friend there, Ned."
"Hooray," Ned said not looking very thrilled. He looked up at the elephant and mouse with a serious expression. "So what happened a few months ago?"
"Those stupid cats came here that's what," Morton said his voice grumpier than usual. "They used to live in the Forest of Jewel, a place far, far, far away from here. Apparently the forest was suffering from a dry spell, and all the plants and rivers were drying out. Not that they ate any of the plants, but with no plants the other animals all left in search for another home. And with no meat to feed on, the cats had to hightail it out of there too."
The Mayor of Who-ville frowned, resting his hand on Katie's head. "That's weird. Why travel all the way here? Wouldn't have been a lot easier for them to go somewhere closer?"
"Yeah, and they probably would have if their boss wasn't so keen on coming here."
Ned glanced at Horton, watching the elephant's eyes flicker with what looked like fear before he looked back up at the mouse. "Boss? They have a leader?"
Morton nodded. "His name's Zabal." The Mayor noticed the kids going still at the name; Katie's body tensed under his hand as well. "He's the meanest, slimiest, snakiest guy you'll ever meet. He makes Vlad look like a sweet canary."
"He was the bird that was chasing us," Horton informed the Who, noticing the blank glance his way.
Ned shivered. Oh yeah, he remembered the bird.
"So this Zabal guy made the jaguars come here? Why?"
"Because he used to live in the jungle too," Rudy said in a low voice studied the ground. "Mom wouldn't tell me much, but she just said that he used to live in the jungle when she was a joey. She told me that he was kicked out of the jungle because he didn't follow the rules." The kangaroo shrugged, looking up at the others. "Guess it was pretty bad."
Horton and Morton shared a solemn glance, which Ned didn't miss. He wondered, with a slow sick feeling rising in his stomach, exactly what this Zabal guy did. The Who was pulled out of his thoughts as Morton began to talk again.
"Anyway, Zabal and the demon cats all showed up one evening during our annual monthly meetings. He claimed that his home was not fit for living in any more and that he and his companions needed somewhere to live and asked if they could stay here."
"Well that doesn't sound too bad," Ned thought out loud, watching Katie as her eyes followed the small red bug that was hovering above her head.
"Of course it doesn't. Because you didn't hear how he said it. He wasn't giving us a choice. If we didn't say yes, he would have sent his pack of cats after us." The mouse sighed, looking very tired as he replayed the memories in his head. "The Wickershams tried to frighten them off, but it didn't go very well. If it wasn't for Kangaroo finally giving in, we'd have one less monkey in our jungle."
Something cold settled in Ned's stomach as Morton said that, his shoulders tensing together. He looked over the group, seeing that their expressions matched his.
"That's why we have a boundary line," Horton said, his voice devoid of any happiness. It was amazing how empty Ned felt not being able to hear the usual happy-go-luckiness that was always with Horton. "After a long private talk between the two, Kangaroo and Zabal made an agreement to half the jungle. One side was ours, the other was theirs. That way we could all live together in peace. At least that's what we thought."
Morton took over again. "It was hard for all of us to live just on one side. Sometimes an animal would wonder onto the other side by accident, and then you'd never see them again. And like today, the jaguars don't like to follow the rules. They come over here anyway to search for food. The Wickershams try really hard to watch out for all of us, patrolling the boundary, but it doesn't always work."
"Zabal denies everything, but we all know the truth." The blue mouse sighed, scrubbing a hand across his face. "It won't be long before the boundary is taken away permanently. Then we'll all be doomed."
Ned stood in silence, taking in everything that the mouse had told him. His eyes met Horton's and he realized just how worried his usually carefree friend was. He knew how he felt too. How helpless you feel when your home is in mortal danger and yet there's nothing for you to do but sit back and pray that some force from above will save you. Ned was lucky, though, he'd had someone to save his home. Horton didn't. At least, not until now.
Ned clenched his hands into fists together in determination, feeling courage well up inside him as he stood up, curling Katie in his arm. "I'll do it."
Everyone looked up from their vacant stares and gave him a strange look.
"Uh….do what?" Horton asked, the others glancing back from him to the Mayor.
The Who smiled at his new friends. "You risked your life to save my home and family, Horton. Now it's my turn to return the favor."
Horton and the others' eyes widened in shock. The elephant let a smile play on his lips, his shock turning into disbelief. "You mean that?"
"Of course!" The Who said with a wide grin. "I never say — HEY don't eat that! —" he swatted the little red bug away from Katie's long tongue, the yellow puffball looking at him with a pout, "— what I don't mean."
Morton was on Ned's shoulder in an instant, causing the Who to jump. "And how exactly do you plan to help, fur-ball? No offense or anything, but you're not exactly … threatening-looking."
"Well, I might not be very strong but I know a little something about running things. I'm sure I can figure out something."
"Yeah!" Jessica chirped, latching onto his leg with a hug. "I bet the Mayor can help us!"
"Definitely!" Tommy and Rudy both said, their spirits rising. Ned smiled down at the kids, blushing slightly, before looking back up at Horton, who was grinning wildly.
"Thanks Ned," The elephant said. The Who nodded.
"Don't mention it."
The sound of loud jingling bells echoed around them, making the group shoot up in surprise. The kids' eyes darted around the area, looking freaked out at the strange noise.
"What the heck is that?!" Horton demanded, the ringing hurting his delicate ears.
"Whatever it is it better shut up! Man that's annoying!!"
"You think that fly colony's coming back for revenge?" Horton whispered frantically to Morton. The mouse slapped his forehead.
Rudy noticed that the Mayor's pocket was lighting up. "Hey, Mr. Mayor, I think you're the one who's ringing!"
Ned's looked down in surprise and pulled the object out of his pocket. His eyebrows shot up with delight. It was the communicator that his son and doctor LaRue had given him. He had totally forgotten about it!
Recalling the brainy Who's directions, he pushed the blue button, the screen fizzing out and showing the face of relieved yet nervous Dr. LaRue. "Hey there Dr.-"
"NED!!" The Who and the others jumped back with fright at the loud scream, the Mayor fumbling not to drop the communicator or Katie. He looked at the screen and felt his face get hot as his wife now stared at him, looking furious. He forgot that he and his son didn't tell her about his little trip today.
"Oh…" He gulped, pulling at his tie and trying to give her a big smile. "Hey, Sally….you look really pretty today…"
"Zip it, mister!" Oh yeah, she was mad. But Ned could see the look of relief in her eyes as she lectured him, so he wasn't in complete trouble. "Where are you?! Are you okay? You are in so much trouble! How could you just leave without a word to anyone and zip up into the sky?! Do you realize how dangerous, stupid, ridiculous —"
"Man she sure can talk." Morton said, still perched on Ned's shoulder and looking down at the screen curiously. Sally heard the voice and stared in utter shock at the small creature with her husband.
"Ned…what…" She blinked slowly. "What is that on your shoulder?"
"This is Morton. Morton, this is my lovely wife Sally."
Morton gave a half salute. "Charmed."
"That's Sally?!" Horton beamed, skidding over to where his Who friend was and grinning down at the little machine in his hand. "HI SALLY! Remember me? It's Horton!"
"Horton, your big head is blocking the screen!" Morton said, pushing at his best friend's head.
"But I want to see Sally! Ned, tell him to stop being a jerk!"
"Are you kidding?" Ned laughed. "I'm on this guy's … list, whatever that means. You're on your own."
"Wise move, furry." Morton grinned triumphantly. Horton pouted and Ned tried not laugh out loud, though the children's giggles were making it very difficult.
Sally's mouth fell open slightly, looking at the elephant with a mixture of shock and happiness. All her anger and worry melted at that moment as she stole a glance a Jojo, who was watching her with a small smile.
"You…knew that he..." Sally was unable to say anything coherent, looking back to the screen and at her husband's happy face.
Jojo shrugged, knowing what she meant. "He needed this. I just wanted to help."
His mother smiled at him. "I'm sorry for yelling," she whispered ruffling his hair.
The teen's white cheeks flushed pink as he cast his eyes downward. "No problem."
"Enough of this Idiocy!!" The Chairman yelled, taking Sally's place in front of the screen. Once again Ned and the others jumped at the loud voice. The device flew into the air, causing the group to stumble over each other trying to catch it. As it came close to the ground Tommy caught it, pumping his fist into the air before returning it to the Mayor.
"He-hello Mr. Chairman," Ned said, feeling his stomach churn. He really didn't want to talk to this guy. At least Sally was genuinely worried about him, unlike the Who before him.
"Why am I not surprised that you decide to ditch the celebration to go 'find yourself'?" The green Who put the last part in air quotes, rolling his eyes at the Mayor.
Sally glared venomously at the Chairman but bit her lip, knowing very well that any confrontation would just come back to hurt Ned. It still didn't stop her, though, from thinking about it.
"Mr. Chairman, I'm sorry about all of this. I just sorta got dragged into it." Ned felt himself shrink under his superior's intense glare. "I'm sure you can still do the celebration without me."
"I'm sure you would just love that, wouldn't you!?" the green Who snarled, making Ned flinch. "It is your job to be here, not mine! And good lord, what do you have in your hands?"
Ned looked down, realizing he was still clinging to the little yellow puff ball tightly. "This is…Katie. Cute, isn't it? I mean, she?" he answered, seeing that the Chairman was clearly not amused. Katie cocked her at the communicator, sticking her abnormally long tongue out and slowly licking it. "Ahhhh…"
Ned's skin paled.
"Okay, time to put you down!" Ned dropped her, the puffy creature still nestled by his leg. Why did the weird one have to like him so much?
Looking back at the screen, the chairmen's face had gone red, his patience leaving him. "No more of this boobish behavior! You are coming back to Who-ville this instant and doing your so-called job! Dr. LaRue!" He looked over at LaRue. "Get. Him. Back. Now!"
"I cannot do that, Mr. Chairman," she said, crossing her arms. Everyone's mouth, including Ned's, fell open in shock. Before the Chairman could get in an word, she began to type on the keyboard furiously, explaining why. "You see, for me to be able to get our Mayor back to Who-ville, we need him to be close to the perimeter around our world." She turned the computer screen towards them, showing them a green background with two dots far apart from each other. "As you can see, the Mayor is too far away for transport."
The Chairman ground his teeth together. "Fine!" He looked up at Ned. "Get to the flower ASAP! I don't care how you do it, but do it! Now!"
"That could be a slight problem." Horton coughed looking down at Ned and the Chairmen with dread.
Ned met his friend's gaze, sensing something very wrong. "What's wrong?"
Horton took a breath. "Well you see, Mount Nool is on the other side of the jungle….across the boundary line."
Ned felt his stomach go extremely cold. "Oh, no."
"Ned honey?" he heard Sally say, as she and Jojo appeared by the Chairman. "What's going on? Can you not come back?"
The Mayor gulped down his fear and answered, "Not until I sort a couple of things out here first."
"What do you mean sort things out? You're needed here!" The Chairman barked.
"Sally, I love you. And tell the girls I'll be home soon!"
Sally hesitated, worry visible in her eyes. She finally nodded. "Be careful."
"What are you talking about? You are coming back now or so help me you'll have no Mayoral position to come back to!"
"Make sure you keep us updated!" Jojo said with a smile. His father returned it with dorky thumbs-up.
"MCDODD! If you hang up-"
"Sorry -crrr- I can't hear -crrr- you anymore!" Ned said faking static as he went to press the green disconnect button. "You're -crrr- Breaking up-crrr-!" He pressed it and the screen went black, leaving the Chairman's furious yell unheard by those in Nool.
"Oh, he's going to regret that." the Chairman said.
"Oh, I'm going to regret that." Ned said, rubbing his hand across his face.
"Well that was interesting," Morton said as the Who put the strange device back in his pocket. "Are all Whos that cranky?"
Ned sighed. "Nope. Just him, and usually only around me."
"Is the Chairman still giving you a hard time?" Horton asked.
He shrugged. "Not really. I mean, yeah, he's still cranky and calls me boob every now and then, but he listens to me more. So there's an upside."
Morton scratched his ear thoughtfully. "He reminds me of someone…" He looked down at Rudy and met his eyes. "I wonder…"
The little kangaroo's eyes widened as he realized something. "OH NO! The annual meeting is tonight! If we're not all there Mom's going to kill us!"
The mouse snapped his fingers. "That's who he reminds me off. Wait. What?"
"Oh yeah, the meeting. I forgot about that!" Horton's smile widened. "Now everyone can meet the Mayor!"
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Ned asked, suddenly feeling self conscious.
"Don't be nervous. They'll love you!" Horton reassured him, all of the kids piling onto his back. The elephant looked at Katie, who was still nestled down by the Who's feet. "I guess Katie really likes you."
The Mayor looked down and met the creature's eyes, her grin widening. "Up."
He frowned. "Huh?"
"I think she wants you to carry her," Morton said, taking his usual place on Horton's head. Ned sighed, feeling a smile tug at his lips nonetheless as he picked up the fur-ball.
"ALL RIGHT EVERYONE!" Horton yelled loudly, his body tensing and his trunk pointing straight forward. "Onward to the meeting!!"
"Hey genius," Morton said, pulling at his best friend's ear, "the meeting's that way."
The elephant paused. "Oh. Onward to the meeting!" he repeated, turning around and pointing his trunk in the right direction. Ned smiled as he saw the mouse roll his eyes.
The Who followed behind them, lost deep in thought. His home was on the other side of the boundary line, with the jaguars. And Zabal. Ned shivered again. For some reason that name gave him a very bad feeling. Maybe Morton's story was getting to him slightly.
"You okay?" Katie asked, startling Ned out of his thoughts. He smiled down at the strange girl and patted her head.
"Yeah, yeah I'm okay," he answered, quickening his pace so that he was now walking beside his friend. Everything would be okay, he told himself. He would find a way to help Horton, save the jungle, and get back home. I mean, how hard could it really be? he asked himself.
To be honest, though, Ned had no idea.
Kangaroo glared daggers at the figure before her, trying desperately to hide the fear creeping up on her. "You're not supposed to be at tonight's meeting! Now go before I get the Wickershams to make you!"
"Oh like you did last time?" He smiled wickedly at her, making her fur stand on end. "Trust me, Kangaroo, I wouldn't be here unless I thought it was absolutely necessary."
Her eyes narrowed. "And what exactly is so pressing that you have to be here, Zabal?"
Zabal's eyes turned a brighter yellow. "It's seems to me that some one from your side of the jungle trespassed on our side and injured two of my companions."
Kangaroo's stomach felt hollow. "Well, I'm sorry, but I know nothing about that."
"Oh I didn't expect you to. But never fret, my men were able to tell me who they were, and I'm sure you know who them as well. It was a large, gray elephant…"