The blue Zafara didn't consider himself particularly special
or unique in any way. There was nothing notable about him. He was just an average
blue Zafara, short and stocky with the royal blue fur and floppy ears of his kind.
Terran was his name, and he had no deep secrets, mysterious past, or mystical
powers. All he had was a ring and how he made use of it.
When he was younger he had lived on Mystery
Island for several years. Eventually he found reason to leave and returned to
the mainland of Neopia, settling down in the most congested part of Neopia Central
possible. He found himself a small apartment that rested just above a storefront,
which he also rented for his own. Terran's Original Oil Paintings, in which
he sold his artwork for modest prices. It was a decent life, a simple one where
he sat around in the store during the day with his pots arrayed around his feet
and the drying canvases up on the walls for any who would care to peruse his
wares. Sometimes people would ask him about them, and sometimes they'd nose
a bit further and inquire about the ring that he wore on a long silver chain
around his neck. He'd tell them it was just a heirloom and they'd leave it at
that - a small golden thing with a green stone and minute wings sprouting off
the band - interesting, but nothing special.
Terran did not consider himself brave or anything
of the sorts. Yet it seemed he'd have to do something, as things could not continue
in the way they were. Three shops had been broken into that week alone and now,
finally, he had an idea of where the thieves were hiding out. It was a simple
matter, he'd heard them talking while gallivanting around on the rooftops the
previous night. He loved this neighborhood, loved the people in it, and although
he wasn't a hero or anything of the sorts, he had at least the means to act.
In a locked drawer of the counter was his green
sticky hand. He didn't use it to battle, no, he had his powerful hind legs and
athletic abilities for that. The sticky hand served an entirely different purpose
He locked his shop up behind him, jiggling the
handle a couple times to make sure it was properly fastened. Then, hunching
his shoulders, he slipped around the brick building into the alleyway. It was
dank in there, littered with some flyers that the wind had torn away and deposited
in the lingering puddles from yesterday's rain. Terran lifted his head to stare
up the steep wall, up past the brick to the narrow strip of sky that showed
the vague stars and the silver glow of the moon. Slowly, he exhaled, reminded
himself that this was nothing different from other nights and that even heroes
start as normal people, and slipped the ring off the chain. For a moment he
rolled it in his palm until finally he slipped it over the finger of his right
hand. Then, carefully sliding his feet instead of walking, he sidled up against
the wall and placed his fingertips on it.
He jumped. It was like he was flying, his hands
and feet simply propelling him up the wall. He could have just been walking
on all fours, for all the effect that gravity had on him. The bricks flew under
his fingers and then he cleared the wall, sailing up into the sky, defying all
the laws of gravity. Acceleration is 9.8 meters per second squared, but that
only applies to a creature that has mass. And at the moment, with the ring on
his finger, he had no weight and therefore no force. He twisted, flinging the
green sticky hand towards the rooftop where it hit with a satisfying splat.
A jerk, and his momentum was reversed, pulling him towards the roof where he
landed on his knees. The ring came off his finger and he stayed put, his weight
returned to him and keeping him solidly on the ground.
He had found the ring in Mystery Island and
it was one of the reasons he returned to Neopia Central. After all, a ring of
this power should surely attract attention, especially in the land where it
was known. Here, no one knew of it and even if they did, surely it didn't belong
to the quiet painter in that small shop near the corner.
The warehouse was just a couple blocks down.
He easily traversed the city, having done so many nights before, leaping from
rooftop to rooftop, slipping on the ring to rid himself of his weight as needed.
In no time he stood on the roof of the warehouse itself, crouched at the very
edge of the corrugated metal, the wind blowing his ears behind him. A heroic
scene, if anyone was watching.
Below him was an open window, the only one propped
open to the night air in a long row of them, just below the roof. Surely no
one could slip through there, not at the angle it was at, and surely no one
could manage the fall afterwards to the barren concrete floor of the warehouse.
Terran smiled and flipped over the edge of the roof, sliding the ring on once
more and gripping the windowsill to hover there, his feet resting on thin air.
The slight wind attempted to tear him away but his muscles were used to holding
him still while weightless. He just needed an anchor, or his sticky hand.
Below him were three pets, standing in a circle
and talking in muted voices. They wore dark clothing that blended with the shadows
of the streets. A single lantern cast harsh light on the trio, revealing them
to be a Scorchio, a Kacheek, and a Grarrl. Terran took a deep breath and steeled
himself, readying the sticky hand in his left paw. He'd have to be fast and
use this ring for all it was worth. All this time of practicing with it for
the sheer joy of the freedom it allowed had better help him now. Otherwise,
he wouldn't stand a chance.
Like anyone else, Terran was not without fear.
There was always hesitation when about to do something drastic and dangerous.
Like jumping off a cliff into the water, Terran's mind found a dozen reasons
on why he should back out, how it would be prudent to do so. But he remembered
his neighbor crying after discovering the break-in earlier this week and he
realized he couldn't hesitate a second longer. If he did, he'd back away and
nothing would be resolved, aside from his cowardice. Time to step over the edge.
He flung himself into the room, snapping his
hind legs out to push off the ledge and propel him downwards towards the thieves,
who never heard him coming. He hit the Scorchio and the momentum of his leap
threw them both to the ground. Terran flew back up, rebounding in his weightlessness,
and he snapped out the sticky hand. It wrapped around the neck of the Grarrl
and he pulled, toppling the pet forwards and crashing them both together. Terran
was ready though, his hind legs up and as the two fell into each other, he kicked,
catching the Grarrl squarely in the throat. Then he twirled to face the third
pet as he flew back again, only to feel claws close around his tail.
"Mighty fancy there," the Scorchio growled,
having picked himself up from the ground. "Nifty levitation tricks. Too bad
you don't weigh a thing now."
Terran let out a cry of fear as the Scorchio
spun, swinging him like a sack with his tail. Then, with all his strength, the
Scorchio brought Terran up over his head and onto the ground. The Zafara knew
physics, he had studied them closely upon finding the ring. And although he
didn't have any weight himself, the momentum and force added by the Scorchio's
movements was more then enough to make up for that.
There was a sickening snap and pain flooded
through Terran's chest, blinding him and sending him careening on the verge
of fainting, red filling his vision. He was dimly aware of being held to the
ground, the added pressure of a clawed foot increasing the pain in his chest,
hands pulling his wrists behind his back and holding them there. His ribs. They
had to be broken. He gagged and desperately tried to clear his mind of the haze
as voices floated in and out of his mind above him.
"…another wanna-be hero," one of them laughed,
"Don't think he'll ever try this again. Want a hit on him as revenge?"
"Sure, stand him up for me. Bet I can break
more than just a couple ribs."
He was pulled to his feet and everything fell
into focus, sharp and clear in his mind as his reflexes took the opportunity
that had been given. The Kacheek standing off to the side watching. The Scorchio
pining his arms behind his back. And the Grarrl's fist headed for his face.
But they were used to fighting pets that had mass, had something more than just
utter weightlessness to them. And the Scorchio had pulled just a bit too hard,
given the correct amount of strength necessary for getting a normal pet to their
feet. Terran was a bit different though.
He shoved with his hind legs, tips just brushing
the ground but it was enough. The Scorchio realized his mistake, but it was
far too late, for Terran had twisted his arms using the Scorchio's grasp as
an anchor, and flipped himself up over the pet's head. There was a look of supreme
shock on both their faces as the Grarrl's fist found itself unable to halt in
mid-motion. It hit the Scorchio on the jaw and the pet crumpled to the ground.
Gasping for breath through his injured ribs
Terran floated a couple feet above the ground, drifting slowly away from them.
He smiled and beckoned at the two who glanced at their fallen comrade, then
back at him.
"I'm not a hero," he chided, "Just a normal
pet with a bit of an advantage. And you're just ordinary thieves."
They charged him and he flung out the sticky
hand, catching it on a spot just between the two. As he flew past them, he turned
sideways and kicked, sending the Kacheek flying to the side and altering his
own path to bodily collide him with the Grarrl. The two fell to the ground and
Terran drew back his fist for a solid punch to the Grarrl's head. It smashed
back against the ground and the pet was still.
One left. Terran turned, on all fours and barely
staying on the ground, facing the Kacheek which was groggily picking himself
up. Skittering along the ground, repeating his maneuver with the vertical wall
from earlier, Terran propelled himself at this last combatant, tumbling them
both head over heels until the Zafara flipped him away and into the wall. The
Kacheek hit and slid to a crumpled heap at the bottom. Then, Terran slipped
the ring off his finger and his weight returned, sliding him along the ground
to rest on his side.
He didn't move for the longest time. The pain
in his chest had returned full-force now that the adrenaline was wearing down
in his system. As he rolled onto his back, a groan escaped his lips. Two, maybe
three ribs broken or cracked. He'd have to get them looked at by someone. His
knuckles hurt from where he had punched the Grarrl and his tail ached from when
the Scorchio had grabbed him. At the moment he didn't feel very heroic, not
even with the unconscious bodies of the robbers around him. Heroes would get
up and dust themselves off, ready for another battle. But Terran had always
admitted that he wasn't anything special. Maybe a bit braver or graceful than
average, but not by much. And so he had no trouble with just laying there, letting
the pain slowly dim to bearable levels, let his breathing slow to normal and
his mind recover from the shock of what had just happened.
The next day, he was at his easel as he always
was, a brush in his hand and his ring around his neck. There were bandages wrapped
about his chest, tightly binding his movements so that his ribs would heal correctly.
The doctor hadn't even asked how he had been injured. As the bell on the door
jangled, Terran peered around his latest painting to greet the visitor. It was
someone who knew him, an Aisha, and she shot him a curious glance.
"Fell down the stairs," he said with a shrug,
and she nodded and made her way over to study his work in progress.
"Looks nice," she commented, and then returned
her attention back to the other paintings.
Yes, it would be a nice painting. Poised at
just the right moment, a Zafara leaping off the edge of a cliff in wild abandon,
the water far below his paws. Just the right snapshot in time - that point of
no return where things changed far beyond the control of the person taking the
jump. Terran set his brush down and stared at the painting, one hand unconsciously
rising to the ring that hung on its chain, fingers brushing the bandages in
the process. Surely things would change now that he had taken that first dive,
just a little. Just enough to keep things interesting, if he kept his courage
strong. A smile spread across his chest and he sighed, wincing as the movement
reminded him of his injury. But it didn't stop the smile, and it didn't stop
the brush from returning to his hand for another pattern of strokes on the canvas.
Just Terran - just the Zafara painter and owner of the Ring of Weightlessness.