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Collected Rings: Under the Ice

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The tundra was freezing, the wind and ice feeling like it was biting through his many layers of clothes. Chris didn’t understand why he was here, he knew his parents were here for a public relations campaign and the penguins were cute, but he didn’t really see the reason he was here for. He smiled at one of the cute creatures as it nuzzled at his gloves hands for more treats, he stroke the penguin’s head, “Sorry Lil’Guy, I’m all out.” He said and got a mournful look from the artic bird.

 

The penguin had taken to following him around the camp since he had fed him during one of the photo shoots his parents were taking and the crew had taken to calling it, Lil’Guy. He smiled a bit sadly, he had been happy when they said they would all be together on this trip. It was true, they were together, but they were as always spending more time in front of camera than with him. “Though I guess I should just be grateful they wanted me to be here…What do you think, Lil’Guy?” He smiled as the penguin chattered at him and wiggled his flippers at the human in a ‘pick me up’ gesture.

 

The red head smiled brighter and picked up his little friend, “Least I got you, Granpa, Ella and Tanaka here. Let’s go find you some more fish.” Lil’Guy cheered at his words then squawked in fear as a camera flash when off, Chris yelping as well as one of the many photographers snapped photos of him carrying Lil’Guy, “Hey stop, you’re scaring him!”

 

“Aw come kid, just work like your parents do, this is gold!” The photographer chuckled and continued to snap pictures then scowled as the boy turned away, “Hey! I need both you and the bird in the shot!” He shouted as Chris ran away. The boy huffed and puffed as he escaped the man, he hated photographers and photo shoots, everyone just viewed him as a prop to be used to make his parents look better on magazine covers.

 

“Sorry, Lil’Guy, the fish will have to wait.” He apologized and snuck into his tent where it was warmer and set Lil’guy on the floor. He giggled as the penguin flapped his flippers and investigated his surroundings. He knew he might get in trouble for letting Lil’Guy into his tent, but he would just peck at the door till he let the penguin in anyway. Lil’Guy wandered around till he found a shoe lace and brought it to Chris, pound of his catch. “Thank you.” Chris giggled, taking the offered lace and placed the penguin on his bed, who immediately snuggled up to his side.

 

Chris laid down with a tired sigh, hoping to take a nap, but his tent opened and his designer clothed mother bustled in and slipped her goggles off. He could tell by the look on her face that she wasn’t happy. “Chris darling, you were very rude to my photographer. In fact your attitude has been very sour this whole trip, Mama and Papa wanted to spend time with you and you just hide in you tent.” She lectured with her hands on her hips. “And for goodness’ sake put that animal outside, it’s one thing to take picture with one-”

 

“It’s not ‘spending time’ if you just used me as a prop.” He interrupted Lindsey softly, at her shocked look he continued, “You say you and Papa want to spent time, but you always cancel on me or you just use me as PR.” He sat back up and put back on all the layers he took off earlier. “I love you and Papa but I’m not your Chihuahua in a handbag, to bark and for people to coo at to make the two of you look better. Sorry, Mama.” Picking up Lil’Guy, he left his mother sputtering behind in his tent.

 

He made break for the mess tent, hoping the cook would give him some fish for Lil’Guy and hopefully a sanctuary to hide in until the next photo session.

 

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If he hadn’t mentioned it before he really hated the photo sessions. His plastered-on smile made his face hurt with the effort to keep it just right, not too fake and not too much like a grimace. Both of his parents’ hands weighed heavily on his shoulders. They hadn’t the chance to scold him properly, but he had caught the looks in their eyes. He knew he shouldn’t have back talked to his mother like that, but he couldn’t help the word that poured out of his mouth at the time.

 

Finally the photographers called for a break to set up for the next round and luckily both parents were distracted by interviewers for the magazines they were posing for. He slipped away, hoping to talk to some of the researchers that had come along with them. He smiled seeing one of them tapping away at a computer with Lil’Guy playfully trying to steal their shoelaces. “Hello, Ms. Topaz, thank you for looking after Lil’Guy.” He greeted the woman politely with a smile.

 

Topaz returned the smile as the penguin waddled towards him and demanded to be picked up, “Hello Chris, it’s no trouble, I’ve never seen a penguin so friendly. He doesn’t seem to fear humans at all.” She grinned at the penguin snuggling into the boy’s arms, “Did the tourists finally give you a break?” She asked, using the researchers’ favorite name for people like his parents and photographers.

 

“Yeah, good thing too…my face was really starting to hurt.” He rub his jaw and wrinkled his nose for emphasis, drawing a chuckle from the woman. “Well then since you’re free for now would you like to help me out?” Chris beamed and nodded, excited to be doing something interesting, “Oh yes, Ma’am, I’d love too!”

 

Topaz opened a small case and pulled out some small glass tubes and pointed to the large icy out cropping they were taking photos at. “I need to take mineral samples around the area, so take these vials and this.” She handed him a small pick and a pack of vials, “Since I’d rather not invoke you’re parents’ wrath; just stay within the inner area close to camp, I’m going to do the outer perimeter.” She explained to him how to get the samples then before sending him off, she gave him a GSP for ‘just in case’.

 

Chris slipped it into his pocket and headed to the large glacier, putting Lil’Guy down when they got there. The penguin made an unhappy sound as he was put back on the ground. “Oh don’t be mad, I’ll carry you when we head back, I promise.” Chris smiled sweetly and it seemed to placate the small bird while Chris began chipping away at the ice and into the rock below. He was startled when Lil’Guy began a loud squawking and turn to see his little friend standing next to a hole in the side of the glacier.

 

“A-ah! Be careful, you could fall!” He said, concerned for his friend and moved closer to pick him up, “Come here, Lil’Guy, I don’t want you to get hurt or lost-” Chris yelped as the penguin suddenly dived down the hole and leaped after him.

 

“H-hey wait up!” Chris called to his penguin, following him into the tiny ice cave, he could barely fit through the entrance with all his thermal gear. Wiggling back and forth, he slipped into the passage, too concerned about his friend to notice the GPS falling out of his pocket and down a deep crack in the ice. He squirmed till he finally fell out onto the floor of a larger cave system, he squinted into the darkness till he found his flashlight and flicked it on. As his surroundings were illuminated, he marveled at the large ice cave, the smooth walls glittering as his light passed over them.

 

“Pretty…” He murmured, then heard a familiar chattering from the passage behind him. “Lil’Guy? Here boy, come here!” He clicked his tongue, hoping to see the bird waddle around the corner, but only the sounds continued. Chris bit his lip, warring with himself, before deciding to continue on, heading down the path Lil’Guy’s chattering came from. As the path curved and split, Chris tried keeping note of which paths he took but soon realized he was going in circles.

 

Suddenly he remembered his GPS and fished for his pocket for it, growing more and more frantic as it soon became clear that it was no longer on his person. “Oh no…” he murmured, taking off his thick jacket to rummage through the pockets, before shaking it upside down, desperately hoping to find the missing piece of technology. He flopped onto the ground with a low moan, how could he have been so stupid to have lost something so important? He couldn’t find his way out and nobody would be able to find him without it, he lamented, curling his knees to his chest, shivering from the cold starting to set into his body.

 

He pulled his coat back on and curled up tight trying to keep in as much warmth as possible, resting his head on his knees he closed his eyes and without meaning to slipped off into a sleep. And he dreamed…

 

There was screaming. There was fire. Laughter, dark and deep, steeping evil delight, echoed around him. An explosion of sound, of color and suddenly he stood on a battlefield covered in metal, blood and fire. He looked around frantically, not understanding what he was seeing and stepped back, only for his foot to catch on something, falling back onto the ground.

 

He feels his blood run cold when he catches sight of what he tripped on, a black and charred remains of a body, fear wells up in him and he flees. More and more carnage awaits him as he runs blindly through the battlefield, he can’t even comprehend the horrors that he sees. So he keeping running, tears freezing to his cheeks as he ran till he tripped and collapsed on a set of stone stairs.

 

He stayed there on the steps, trying to catch his breath, his chest aching and feeling frozen, his breathing coming out in short pained puffs. The ground shook under him and he looked up to see a bright light shining from the top. It was oddly warm and soothing as if his body was moving on its own he climbed the stairs. The sight at the top froze him in place…

 

There was the biggest jewel he’d ever seen, nothing his parents ever gave one another compared to this massive green gem, but it was the figure in front of the gem that rooted him to the ground. It was a strange golden creature, the like he’d never seen before, standing next to the gem, a hand resting on the gem’s glowing surface. It turned and stared at him with a steel-like gaze, he felt like those deep red eyes were staring straight into his soul.

 

Under that gaze he felt like an oppressive strength was weighing down on him, the gaze felt dangerous and he felt the overwhelming feeling that he wasn’t welcome. He felt trapped in that gaze as the creature turn to face him fully. The shaking gradually intensified and those red eyes changed, they weren’t staring at him anymore; they were focused on something behind him. He felt a short breeze before something wrapped around his waist and suddenly he was flying in the air far above the platform. Cold metal tightened around his waist, drawing a painful cry from his mouth, his eyes screwed shut wondering what was going on, his mind in a whirl as the wind whipped around him.

 

A crack of electricity arched through the air, causing all his hair to stand on end and the metal around his waist went slack. He was sure he would fall as the metal slipped away, waiting to feel the rush of gravity pulling him towards the ground, but all he felt was an odd warmth. He hesitantly opened his eyes and saw only gold creature. It loomed over him, its fist buried into the metal innards behind him, slowly it pulled back and those red eyes met his again. He stared into those eyes, so close to his own, entranced by how deep they were.

 

He barely took note of the fact they were floating in midair, a strange calm in the atmosphere surrounding them. The creature’s mouth opened, as if to speak to him and the calm was shattered by an explosion. Chris was flung through the air, the world spinning around him and the ground rushing to him, he tried to scream, but his throat refused to work. As the torn battlegrounds became closer, he turned his vision heavenward and shock washed over him as a gold form rushed to him with an outstretched hand. He reached out as well, a voice in his head saying that it was is only hope of surviving.

 

The creature was faster than anything he’s ever seen and soon he could see those red eyes clearly again. When their palms met, he briefly felt a hint of warmth before the all-encompassing feeling of ice seeped through his glove and the world shattered around him.

 

He was in the ice caves again, his hand passed again a solid surface of ice. He fell back to the ground with a short strangle cry, holding his head, his heart pounding, body trembling from both fear and cold. A small peck to his arm made him jump away from the source; a familiar little penguin. “…L….L-lil’Guy?” He stuttered, his breath coming out in fast pants as he stared at the small bird. Lil’Guy chattered to him and wiggled into the boy’s lap, nuzzling him till he calmed down.

 

“Was that a nightmare?” Chris asked out loud, partially to himself and to Lil’Guy, then looked at his surroundings, “And where am I? This wasn’t where I was before…and I doubt you dragged me here.” He said looking down at the penguin, who just gave his nose an affectionate bop with his beak. Chris put the penguin down and felt for his flashlight, sighing relieved when he found it next to him. He stood shining the light around the large ice cavern he found himself in and felt his heart drop, seeing no entrance or exit along the walls.

 

He cast his light upwards and finally found a single hole in the surface of the ice, but it was far too high for him to climb. “…don‘t tell me that’s how we got here…” He looks to Lil’Guy, the penguin only flapped his little flippers causing the boy to sigh, and continue to shine his light around.

 

The light glinted off of one of the walls and Chris frowned, approaching it, it looked like there was something there...something gold. He froze staring at the wall, this is where he woke up from his dream, wasn’t it? Chris let out a shaky breath, it couldn’t have be real he thought, his feet moving him forward automatically, a golden form was illuminated with in the ice, too familiar to ignore. “It’s not possible…” The boy said, slowly pressing his hand to the ice, feeling warmth underneath it, “You were a dream…”

 

Red eyes slowly opened, meeting his own blue again then the world shook violently, the cavern shaking and breaking apart around him, jewel-like shards of ice raining down on him.

 

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