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Cracker Wars


by silent_snow

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Mr. Fluffikens leaned against the glass tower, breathing heavily. The sense of danger danced through the air around him so much that even now, at a moment of rest, he could barely keep from feeling as tense as a piece of wood-

     "You're mine now, Fluffikens!"

     Mr. Fluffikens growled, his tail waving about stiffly. The smart thing to do would be to run, but that had never been a suitable option for him. Now the Lupe glanced over to the right, past the glass tower, where a long, ominous shadow was approaching. He knew exactly who that shadow belonged to.

     "It's no good, Dr. Crumblebum," he called over to the shadow. "You'll never take me alive!"

     "Is that so," a high-pitched, whining voice replied. "Well then, I'll just have to take you... milk-ified!"

     "Milk-ified? You sure you're old enough for that kind of stuff, sis?"

     Neega looked up with a wide grin, letting the two crackers she had been holding drop back onto the table. The kitchen she was sitting in looked strange when compared with the battlefield she had previously been describing, but the Neopet-shaped crackers had nothing on the sight of her older Lupe brother, Connor.

     "Of course I am, big bro!" Neega stood up on her back legs so that she could see properly over the table, and watched Connor as he opened their purple fridge and examined its contents. "I'm not a baby, after all."

     Connor didn't turn around, but she knew that he was smiling. "That's funny- last time I checked, that's just what you were!"

     Neega giggled, like she always did when they shared their joke. He was right, of course. She was a baby Gnorbu, and probably too young for the horrors of cracker-based battles. But playing with her crackers had always been more fun than eating them, and the fun shapes they came in were really too wonderful to resist.

     "Connor," Neega said excitedly, "can we play with your action figures once I'm done with lunch? You said we would yesterday!"

     Now Connor turned around with a guilty expression on his face, a look which always seemed somewhat odd on his heroic Tyrannian face. He took a bite out of the meaty Chia treat he was holding, not meeting Neega's eyes. "Aw, sis, I know I promised, but-"

     Neega sighed and slumped back in her chair, examining her crackers sadly. "I was gonna be Princess Fernypoo this time, though."

     Connor chucked the rest of his Chia treat down his throat and closed the refrigerator door behind him, scratching the back of his head as he swallowed. "I really would like to, Neega, but I promised the guys that I'd meet them all at the Battledome today. We could play tonight..."

     Neega looked up at her brother and half-smiled, shrugging her shoulders. "S'okay, Connor. Tonight would be fine." But as he grinned back and ruffled her clump of hair, she muttered under her breath, "you always go to the Battledome..."

     Connor, oblivious as usual, grabbed his Gallion while running out the door and started galloping out to the Stone Battledome.

     Dr. Crumblebum jumped around the white glass tower, a wide and slightly malicious smile on her face. To her surprise, however, everything was not perfectly in place as she had previously planned it. Her victim had disappeared.

     "Up here, little girl!" taunted a voice from above. Dr. Crumblebum looked up, of course, holding an arm before her face stiffly in defense. Mr. Fluffikens was now perched on the edge of the tower, a triumphant grin on his face.

     Dr. Crumblebum wiggled her four ears impatiently as she lowered her arm. "Running away again, I see," she whined up at the Lupe. "Well, I couldn't expect anything less of you, brainless as you are."

     "I'm not brainless!" Mr. Fluffikens roared furiously, his tail lashing back and forth so hard that he almost lost his balance. He gripped the tower's rim even harder in his paws, breathing quickly. "Wait... I see what you're doing, Crumblebum! I won't let you make me fall!"

     "Oh, really," Dr. Crumblebum drawled, smirking. "So you're just going to wait up there all day? Who do you think will save you?"

     "That might be me," a new voice rang out. Both Mr. Fluffikens and Dr. Crumblebum stiffened. "Oh, now, don't look so taut- I wouldn't want you to get crushed!"

     "'Morning."

     A new, crisp voice emerged from the bottom of the staircase that led into the kitchen. Neega spun around in her chair, her crackers once again dismissed to fall, lonely, onto the table.

     "Is it a good one?" she asked eagerly, her eyes shining as she watched the Neopet who had just emerged from upstairs. Maybe Connor had left relatively early, but this sibling was sure to stay and talk.

     "No morning is ever good, Neega. You know that." The disco Aisha who was speaking strode purposefully into the kitchen, the large variety of scarves that she wore around her neck fluttering behind her. "Can we keep the chit-chat to a minimum? I'm busy today."

     "But Melanie," Neega whined, "you're always busy! Can't we play today? Pleeease?"

     Melanie sniffed as she examined the variety of foods contained in the refrigerator. "No. I don't have time for your silly games, not when my new 9-icon item is simply begging to be used. I spent a good two months making it, so today I shall demonstrate its many glorious uses!"

     Neega sank back down to a sitting position and bit her lower lip. "Um. Does that mean you're going to the Battledome? 'Cause Conner-"

     Neega slammed the fridge door shut, squeezing the berries she had just selected tightly in her paw. "I don't want to hear anything from you about that 'wonderful' brother of yours," she growled, all four ears twitching.

     Neega slumped, letting her eyes drop to the table. "Yes, Mel." After all, you'll just ignore me if I remind you that he's your brother, too, she thought to herself.

     Melanie sighed dramatically and plopped into the seat across from Neega. "I keep telling you, sis, you have to give up on that creature. He never 'remembers' to keep his promises. Trust me- I know from experience." She scowled down at her handful of berries before popping them all into her mouth at once.

     "He doesn't mean it, Mel. He's just really busy, and-"

     Neega glanced up and found that Melanie had already gotten up from the table, and was currently in the process of scooping up both her Tapira and a strange, bulky bag that apparently contained her item. "Sorry, sis, but I have to run," Melanie said primly. "Tell that owner of ours that I'm at the Stone Battledome, will you?"

     Melanie strode out of the house with her head held high, an evil grin on her face.

     A third figure entered the scene, her aura of frigid indifference as wide as the spread of her Eyrie wings. This Neopet observed the others stonily, her face neutral.

     "Madam Munch," Dr. Crumblebum stammered, "this doesn't involve you. Let me terrorize my victim in peace!"

     "Really, Ma'am," Mr. Fluffikens said, his voice as boastful as it always was, "I can handle this one on my own."

     Madam Munch narrowed her eyes as she sauntered over to where Dr. Crumblebum was standing. Her wings she held spread out, as stiff as if they had been frozen in place. "Well, I didn't say that I'd help you," she told Mr. Fluffikens in a teasing voice, "I said that I might. It depends on what the foolish situation you've gotten yourself into is this time."

     "It isn't foolish- why, I arranged it!" Dr. Crumblebum hissed. The Aisha's ears were laid back, and her paws were trembling uncontrollably.

     "That makes it twice as ridiculous as I previously thought it would be," Madam Munch told her frostily. "So my course of action is clear, then. I'll have to thwart both of you."

     "You're talking to yourself, again. You should've quit that ridiculous behavior a while ago."

     Neega let her forsaken crackers slide back onto the table as she turned to smile widely at the Neopet who had just appeared at the front door. "Grizzy! You're home for lunch today!"

     The tall snow Eyrie walked into the kitchen and glanced down at her youngest sister. "It's Griselda, Neega. Don't give me that foolish nickname. And no, I'm not home for lunch, as I already ate. I simply needed to pick up a few books." With that statement out of the way, she walked over to the refrigerator, opened it, and commenced emptying it of half of its contents.

     "I'm glad you're home," Neega continued, nonplussed, "'cause almost everyone else is gone. Connor and Mel are at the Battledome, an'-"

     "What's this? The two of them are actually going to occupy the same public vicinity?" Griselda smiled sarcastically, her eyes reflecting no emotion. "That ought to be entertaining."

     "Not entertaining, exactly," Neega said with a frown. "They'll probably start yelling at each other."

     Griselda nodded absently as she piled all of the food she had selected onto her plate. "Yes, and that's the best part. Maybe I'll pay them a visit, to see if I can speed the arguments up."

     Neega shook her head sadly. "I wish you wouldn't agitate them all the time, big sister. It confuses them."

     "Good for them," Griselda growled, and then began wolfing down all of her food. Neega watched her silently, but left her own milk and crackers alone.

     In record time the plate had been all but licked clean, and Griselda was at the door again. She paused for a second before turning around to eye Neega. "Tell Joseph that I might not come home tonight. Arguments might be fun, but I'd rather not be around when Connor starts to throw things." With that, she disappeared through the door.

     "You forgot your books!" Neega called after her.

     Both Mr. Fluffikens and Dr. Crumblebum stood completely still at the Eyrie's statement, each eyeing her with surprise.

     "You can't do that, Madam Munch," Mr. Fluffikens argued. "It's one side or the other. You have to pick."

     "No," Madam Munch responded, "I won't. It's much more fun to leave the two of you in suspense."

     "But that's ridiculous!" Dr. Crumblebum ground her teeth in agitation. "Good or evil, light or dark, you must choose a side. It's your identity, after all."

     "And I refuse to be defined." Madam Munch smiled thinly.

     With that statement, there was nothing else left to say. Mr. Fluffikens leapt down from the tower, Dr. Crumblebum drew out her hidden weapon, and the Neopets began their three-sided war.

     Neega thought as she made her crackers bash into each other repeatedly, trying to decide what needed to be said next. In the midst of a battle, dialogue wasn't important, but the description of the fighting had to be done just right.

     "Neega, I thought I told you to eat those crackers, not to play with them."

     Neega sighed, not even bothering to look over her shoulder for the source of the voice. "Hi, Joseph. How was the trading post today?"

     "Terrible." A gangly teenage human sat down across from her at the table and blew his bangs away from his eyes. "I had ridiculous offers coming at me from all four sides, and yet not a single one of my items got sold. Where are the others?"

     "Out," Neega replied vaguely. The cracker Lupe dove under her napkin to escape a shot from the Aisha's milk laser.

     "Out?" Joseph questioned. "Come on, Neega, tell me straight- have they all run off to the Battledome again?"

     "Uh-huh," Neega muttered, gently setting the crackers down on the table so that she could look at her owner. He appeared to be as rushed, irritated, and exhausted as he always was.

     "Figures," Joseph mumbled. With a groan, he got to his feet again. "If I'm not home by seven, neomail the Pizzaroo. Order something with fruits on it this time, will you? Maybe the Starberry pizza."

     The human stalked off to the doorway and went outside, slamming the door behind him. As reverberations from the slam hit the table Neega was sitting at, it shook, causing her glass of milk to topple over. Pieces of glass flew all over the tabletop as milk flowed over the crackers which had been peacefully lying there. Neega watched in shock as the milk slowly spread out, leaving behind three lumpy, unidentifiable messes.

     Without a word, she stood up and walked away, heading up the stairs, towards her bedroom, where she could think- and cry- in peace.

     "It- it just exploded, just like that. Everyone knew that the tower was dangerous, but no one expected... "

     The voice echoed through the Gnorbu's head, ringing relentlessly in her brain. It was not her voice, for she had not yet spoken since she heard the news. An image came to her mind, that of the poor little Shoyru who had witnessed the catastrophe. It was his voice she heard, his voice, not that of the others.

     "They didn't even see it at first, but when they did, well, I never saw anyone look so terrified. It was the scariest thing I ever saw... "

     The Gnorbu stood on the lifeless ground, looking over the battlefield. A dark strip of land showed where the catastrophe had happened, and when she tried to see where it ended, she realized that it reached out much further then her small eyes could see.

     "The wave swept them up, all three. I flew down to see if I could grab one of them, help them out, even though I knew it was probably already too late. But the milk... it runs fast. They had been carried away before I could get down low enough. I'm sorry."

     The Gnorbu noticed something shiny lying at her feet. Picking it up, she realized that it was made of the same clear material that the tower had been made of. The milk tower, they had all called it. The container of the most deadly fluid known to cracker-kind.

     "So I got some of my friends to help me try and find them later down on the milk's path, but we couldn't see them anywhere. I don't think we'll ever be able to find them, even if we keep searching."

     The Gnorbu looked down, letting the piece of glass fall back onto the ground.

     "You're their sister, aren't you? So this must hit you the hardest... if there's anything we can do... "

     The cracker Gnorbu shook her head, both to clear it of the voice and to answer the question. Unbidden, a tear dropped down from her face.

     "It was supposed to be a game," she whispered. Her voice echoed across the empty wasteland. "Just for fun. This was never supposed to happen..."

     As her voice failed her, the Gnorbu, known by many crackers as Lady Neega- the storyteller- turned away and closed her eyes in remorse.

The End

Author's note: This story was inspired by the TCG card "Broken Crackers".

 
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