I turned my head just in time to see the yellow Meerca making
a final dash for the rainbow negg near the corner of the far wall of the Meerca
Chase pit. I glanced over at the Acara at the control panel. Her jaw was set in
scowling determination. Beads of sweat trickled down her forehead in glossy streams.
The crowd went wild with boisterous anticipation of the Meerca snatching up a
negg worth 20 points.
I don't know what happened next. I don't know
if the Acara simply didn't signal the Meerca to turn fast enough, or if the
Meerca simply didn't react to the beep on his collar fast enough. All I know
is that the Meerca slammed into the wall with a sickening thud. He toppled over
backwards and lay sprawled on the ground on his back. All of the neggs that
had been attached to his tail vanished into thin air faster than Dr. Sloth could
zap a Darigan paint brush into a pile of sludge.
Two burly Skeith medics in white jackets lumbered
out into the arena carrying a stretcher. They didn't seem to be in any particular
hurry. In fact, the one in front stopped momentarily to graze on some nachos
that someone had accidentally dropped into the ring. My gaze shifted to the
Acara at the control panel. She didn't appear too upset either. She had punched
the "collect Neopoints" button and was smiling as she scooped up a hefty wad
of Neopoints in her paws. She waved briefly in appreciation to the crowd who
applauded her as she stepped down from the podium.
My eyes darted back to the Meerca lying on the
ground. He sat up groggily and grinned weakly at the crowd. The spectators in
general seemed fairly disinterested by this, although there were a few polite
claps scattered throughout the bleachers. One of the Skeiths snatched the Meerca
up and plopped him roughly onto the stretcher. The two Skeiths then lifted him
up and ambled back towards the gate they had come in from.
I guess the Meerca was still woozy, because
he tottered wildly back and forth on the canvas bed for a moment before rolling
off. He hit the dirt face down. The Skeith in the rear snorted in disgust and
grunted to the other one to stop. He scooped up the Meerca once more and dumped
on the stretcher. The Meerca seemed even more dazed than before, if such a thing
was possible. But the Meerca once again broke into a blank smile. This time
the Skeiths stopped long enough to grudgingly fasten the restraining straps
around their patient before plodding off.
A fairly loud chorus of oooh's and aaah's from
a pack of eye-batting, giggling she-Lupes erupted from across the arena. I followed
their adoring gazes to the platform. My fire Lupe stood flexing his biceps and
wiggling the fingers of his huge paws. He smiled smugly as he did it, so it
was obvious that he liked the reaction to his limbering-up exercises. I sighed.
It was bad enough that he had his own entourage. Now he had the head-swelling
bonus of wolf-whistling females as well. And trust me, no one wolf-whistles
louder than a wolf-whistling wolf.
Another Meerca appeared in the entrance directly
below where I was sitting. I ordinarily wouldn't have been able to see him because
of the high wall, but he began to bounce on his tail in nervous, eager anticipation.
His whole body launched upwards every few seconds and every time he appeared
over the wall, he waved at the crowd. No one else in the stands even seemed
to notice him, which I thought was rather strange. I mean, here was this butterball
of fuzz grinning like he had just won the Neopian Lottery and springing straight
up into the air. How could you NOT notice? I was kind of startled the first
couple of times, so it wasn't until the third time that the Meerca did it that
I waved back. He broke into the biggest grin I had ever seen and waved at me
even more enthusiastically.
"Hi!" he chirped happily.
"Hi," I replied with a smile. Gosh, he was so
Stonewolf3x had apparently had enough admiration
to satisfy him, because he positioned himself in front of the control panel
and hit the start button with a dramatic flair. Like a bright yellow fireball
launched from a Kacheek fire cannon, the Meerca exploded into action. He streaked
out into the ring just as a negg materialized. In the blink of an eye, a yellow
negg was dangling off of the Meerca's tail. I found myself applauding him.
"Way to go, Meerca!" I shouted.
Krawk shot me an odd look. Wolf shot me an odd
look. I'm pretty sure the entire stadium shot me an odd look.
After a moment of awkward silence, Krawk yelled,
"Arr! Way to go, Cap'n!"
I have to confess that I had to keep silently
reminding myself that I was supposed to be rooting for my Lupe. But it
sure wasn't easy. As the chain of neggs grew longer behind the Meerca, he slowed
down considerably. This meant he had more time to look around the pit as he
ran. So every time he ran past me, he looked up at me, smiled, and waved with
utterly adorable simple-mindedness. I tried not to. I honestly tried as hard
as I could. But I couldn't help myself. I waved back.
The trail of neggs behind the Meerca grew to
an impressive length. I glanced over at Stonewolf3x. He arched and rolled his
neck for a moment and then massaged his stiffening neck muscles with his paw.
But I was beginning to feel sorry for the Meerca. In order to avoid crossing
the negg-chain and exploding, Wolf had him zigzagging all over the place. I
could tell that the poor little guy was getting worn out from towing all those
Krawk nudged me with his elbow. "Arr, but the
Cap'n looks to be ready to leave now."
I looked over at the large fire Lupe at the
control panel. He looked incredibly bored. This was not a good sign.
"Ummm... so will he just punch some sort of
stop button?" I asked with what I now know was extreme cluelessness.
"Arrr, but ye be funny, Man!" Krawk snort-chuckled.
"These Meercas be brained-washed to never stop running until all the neggs be
gone-- and there always be a new negg popping up!"
"Well, how do you stop the game when you've
had enough?" I asked, an uneasy feeling crawling up my back like a Spyder with
suction cups on his feet.
"There only be one way to stop one o' these
Meercas," my pirate Krawk replied with a smirk. "Blow 'em up or knock 'em out."
"What???" I gasped in disbelief.
Krawk didn't answer. He nodded towards the figure
at the podium. I followed his gaze to the fire Lupe standing there. Wolf had
stepped back from the control panel. He folded his arms across his chest and
looked up towards the ceiling.
"What's he doing?" I asked nervously as I glanced
back towards the pit.
"Arrr, but my guess be that the Cap'n is ready
to go try his hand at Poogle Solitaire. Them Poogles should be back from the
races by now."
The Meerca was heading straight towards the
wall where I was sitting. I shot a look at Wolf, but he was now examining the
claws on his paw with a complete lack of interest in what was happening in the
Meerca pit. A wave of alarm not only washed over me, it used a scrub brush.
I leapt to my feet.
"Wolf!" I screeched. "Turn the Meerca! He's
going to crash into the wall!"
Even from where I was, I could see Wolf's eyebrows
arch as he looked over at me. He simply shrugged.
I swear that I was as surprised by what happened
next as everyone else in the Meerca Chase stadium that day. I jumped into the
pit. My brain was racing faster than a Gelert chasing a Cybunny. I didn't have
time to really plan out what I was going to do, but I had a vague notion that
if I placed myself between the Meerca and the wall, at least it would soften
I really expected the little guy to plow into
me, so I squatted slightly, stretched out my arms and prepared for the jolt.
The Meerca's eyes got as big as blackened watermelons. He leaned backwards in
a vain attempt to actually stop. He toppled over and skidded towards me feet
first, like a baseball player sliding into home plate. Neggs scattered and rolled
in all directions before poofing into a vapor of nothingness.
The Meerca's mouth hung open in stunned amazement.
I guess he was surprised to find me standing there in front of him in the pit.
My mouth hung open in amazement too. But I was surprised for a different reason.
I was surprised that I had somehow escaped being rammed headfirst by a speeding
Meerca locomotive, complete with a negg caboose. I instinctively lunged forward,
grabbed his stubby front paws and hoisted him to his feet.
Dusting him off with my hands, I exclaimed,
"Are you okay?"
He nodded weakly, but he wasn't looking at me.
The Meerca's eyes were darting all around the arena. He scooped up his tail
in his paws and began twisting it nervously like he was wringing out a wet handkerchief.
In my whole life I had never seen anyone look so totally lost and bewildered.
Except maybe for the first time that Wolf played "Feed Florg" and he found out
that the mutant Chia was supposed to eat the petpets, and that he was NOT allowed
to eat the mutant Chia.
I suddenly became aware that the spectators
were going bonkers. All around us, owners and pets had leapt to their feet.
Some were shaking their fists and snarling boos and hisses at us. Other were
practically dancing with glee on the benches and cheering wildly. My guess is
that the happy ones had bet that Wolf wouldn't get a very high score and were
about to collect a pile of Neopoints from the angry ones.
I was afraid to check out the reaction on my
Lupe's face, but sheer dumb curiosity got the better of me. I glanced over at
him. He was still behind the control panel. His nose was jutted upwards and
he stood there with cool, regal detachment. He had absolutely no expression
on his face whatsoever. I knew he was really ticked off at me then.
The two brawny Skeith medics trotted out into
the center of the Meerca pit carrying a stretcher and stopped dead in their
tracks. They looked at the completely unharmed yellow Meerca standing in front
of me and did a synchronized double-take. They exchanged glances that seemed
to be a cross between confusion and annoyance. If they had planned on doing
anything other than that, their plan was cut short by the appearance of a blue
Kacheek blowing a whistle with a long shrill blast. I had a sneaking suspicion
that he was the referee. I may not be Sherlock Neoholmes, but the fact that
he was wearing a shirt with black and white vertical stripes on it was a definite
A loud voice boomed over the loudspeaker and
echoed through the place like a five year-old brother repeating back everything
"Please please please remain remain remain seated
seated seated... this this this game game game is is is under under under official
official official review review review..."
The Kacheek made a Buzz-line towards me with
a scowl on his face that could have melted glass roses. The Skeiths dropped
the stretcher and waddled behind him at a speed that seemed unnaturally fast
for Skeiths. The Meerca was obviously petrified by the approaching mini-mob
because he darted behind me and clung to the back of my legs.
My relative size didn't faze the Kacheek referee
one bit because he snarled into my kneecaps, "You will have to leave the arena
at once, sir! You are not authorized to be here!"
I didn't move a muscle. I tried to move a muscle,
but it didn't work. I couldn't move because I had a yellow fuzzball locked
around my calves. The poor guy was trembling so hard that he was making me vibrate.
It was like being hugged by a washing machine. The Skeiths must have thought
I was being defiant, because they moved towards me, with claws outstretched.
If they had planned to remove me by force, that was another plan of theirs that
I don't know how Wolf got down from the platform
and into the Meerca pit that fast, but I suspect he used his "Lupe lunge" Battledome
ability. One instant I was standing there alone, well... except for the Meerca
death-locked onto my lucky green boots, and the next moment a very large and
intimidating fire Lupe was standing next to me with bared fangs and an extremely
displeased expression on his face.
"Don't even think about touching my human,"
he growled in a tone so scary that it made the hairs on MY neck stand up.
The blast of cheers, whoops, claps and stomps
that had erupted from the stands with Wolf's arrival was deafening. The Skeiths
were momentarily stunned, but they exchanged glances and nodded to each other.
I guess they figured there were two of them against one Lupe, so the odds were
in their favor. But Stonewolf3x simply smirked at them with a wry confident
smile. The Skeiths stepped forward again in unison. They hadn't moved more than
one step when they were stopped by the sound of an extremely gravelly voice
using a clichéd pirate accent.
"Arrr! Belay that mateys! Or I be laying ye
six feet under the ground!"
The medics spun around only to come face to
face with a polka-dot bandana-wearing Krawk tapping a jagged Krawk blade against
a very sharp and pointy hook. The instant they saw him, the spikes on their
backs went dagger-rigid. The Skeiths then did something completely opposite
to each other that seemed weirdly like they were doing the same thing. One of
the Skeiths glanced at the fire Lupe. The other Skeith glanced at the pirate
Krawk. Then they glanced at each other. I clamped my eyes shut. I did NOT want
to see what was going to happen next.
To be continued...