Misadventures of a Neopian Times Reporter XII
Persistence and Yooyuballs
I walked into Buzz's office, wondering what was up. I was supposed to be leaving for Altador to cover the pre-game preparations for the Altador Cup. I couldn't wait to see Team Meridell again. We were on first name basis now, given that I was a staunch supporter. They gave me the best interviews every year.
"Good morning, sir," I said cheerily, determined to keep my good mood. "Got some other assignment for me?"
"Just some additional points for you to cover in your coverage of the pre-game preparations," he said, handing me a piece of paper.
I surveyed it, they were nothing major. I tucked in into my purse and smiled. "Got it, sir."
"One more thing, Kimmy," he said as I started to turn.
"Yes?" I asked, turning back to him.
"Kep Bonnefie is notoriously under documented usually. I want you to get an interview with her," Buzz said, his grin dark.
I could feel all my positive emotions draining away.
"Oh, come on, Buzz!" I wailed. "You know that woman doesn't talk to the press! She's got a thing about that. The Darigan guys are scary. If I bug her they'll probably smush me like a Smug Bug."
"That's a risk you'll have to take. I'm counting on you, Kimmy." Buzz's tone was ominous, and I wondered who I should be more afraid of, him or Team Darigan.
"Yes, sir," I said wearily.
I trudged out of his office and off to the harbor to catch my ship to Altador. When we got to Altador, I booked myself into my hotel and dumped my luggage on the bed. My spirits had risen considerably, seeing all the excitement for the games around me, though having to try to get an interview from Kep still weighed on me.
I hurried down to the Colosseum, where I knew the teams would be running through practice drills and playing practice matches against the practice teams. I showed my press pass and was admitted into the Colosseum. I went up into the stands to get a good view and started snapping pictures of the teams practicing on the field below me.
"Great sport, isn't it?" a chillingly familiar voice said conversationally.
I whirled around. Sitting on one of the benches was a Meepit. He grinned sarcastically at me.
"What, not happy to see me, Kristy, old pal?" Slorgie teased.
"Slorgie?" I gasped. "What in Fyora's magical name are you doing in Altador? In the Colosseum?"
"Eh, just bugging Roo Island's locker room, the VIP booth for Roo Island dignitaries, and their hotel rooms. The Feepits have a pretty strong hold in Roo Island since Broo's alliance with them. You never know what interesting things they might let slip, even here. Don't worry, you're not here on a double mission, we're all done. I just figured I'd hang around to see you," Slorgie told me. "Hear things are going well, you're getting on pretty well at the Weekly World. Buzz treating you okay?"
"What is your definition of 'okay'?" I asked.
"Has he had to toss you out a window yet?" he asked.
"Things are going really well at the Weekly World. Buzz treats me great," I replied.
"Great! Things are going well for my favorite minion. I feel like proud father or something," Slorgie said, his high pitched voice dripped so much sarcasm I could have filled a cup with it.
"Shove a Slorg in it," I replied.
"Ouch," he laughed good-naturedly. "Now, open up your bag."
"What? Why? I thought you said you didn't need me."
"I don't need you for a mission, but I could certainly use the laughs that your attempts to get an interview with Kep will surely provide," he said.
"How do you even know about that?" I demanded.
"Love, you have no secrets from us. Just remember that next time you catch yourself drooling over Kanrik merch," Slorgie chuckled.
I could feel the blood rushing to my face. I opened my purse and held it out to him. He hopped in and I could hear him pushing my stuff around to settle in more comfortably.
"Onward, girl. Let's go find Kep," Slorgie cried enthusiastically, poking his head out of my bag.
"Yes, sir," I sighed.
The training fields it were charged with a frenetic energy as the players practiced, the pre-game excitement giving extra force to their actions. I took more pictures as I wandered through, not sure who to start with. They all seemed very busy.
As I passed Team Brightvale, Reb Weemelott looked over at me and stopped what he was doing.
"Hey, ain't I seen you on a wanted poster?" he asked. "The Meridellian who bugs the king?"
"If I am, the jurisdiction for that arrest is only in Brightvale. You can't collect on any rewards without hauling me in, but if you try to take me from here, it is technically kidnapping." You had to know the laws pretty well when you were technically a wanted criminal in one kingdom.
Reb chucked. "Ain't gonna bring ya in, sweetheart. Anyone who can make fun o' the King to 'is face eighty-six times and still get away is good in my book. Ya must be a good runner. Too bad ya don't play on a team."
"Eh, I can't run worth anything except when I'm being chased by mobs or guards or something. Mortal peril does a lot for one's coordination," I laughed. "Can I get a shot of you lobbing the Yooyu?"
He obliged and I promised to stop by in the coming days to get full interviews with all of them. As I walked off Slorgie poked his head out of my purse.
"I know that you're wanted in Brightvale, but I never bothered to read the reasons why. Is Hagan really petty enough to have you jailed for making fun of him repeatedly?"
I shrugged. "I dunno, maybe. That's not why I'm wanted. I redesigned too many windows and statues and snuck into the palace to prank the wise old king one too many times. I regret nothing. Plus, there is a great costume place where you can rent costumes from in Neopia Central. I still go to Brightvale sometimes to do just that. Old habits die hard."
"Why?" Slorgie asked.
"Why not?" I asked.
"Why Hagan?" he asked.
"Because he's not Skarl?" I said. "I dunno, maybe it just seemed like fun. Maybe I don't like him. Maybe, I like that you don't know everything after all."
Slorgie gave me a sour look. "I'm sure there is a file on exactly why you do it back at HQ."
"Well, you'll just have to consult that, then," I said gleefully.
Slorgie glared at me and disappeared back into my bag. I wondered if Slorgie was petty enough to chew on my pens and chapstick. I really hoped he wasn't. I couldn't just dump him out of my bag, I was his minion, and I don't think the Overlord would take too kindly to me mistreating one of his people.
The next team we came across was Team Darigan. I could feel all the blood draining out of my face as I thought about what I had to do.
"They all look so busy," I said under my breath. "I should come back later."
Slorgie poked his head out of my bag. "Kep is sitting on the bench resting. Perfect time for it."
He disappeared back into my bag and I wished I could feed him to Florg. I started to wonder if Buzz had bribed him to stay with me to keep me honest. I took a deep breath and started forward, towards Kep. Kep looked up as I stopped in front of her. She smiled for half a second, then her face fell into a frown. I realized she had noticed my press pass.
"Hello there, Ms. Bonnefie. I'm Kristykimmy from the Weekly World, the second largest paper in Neopia Central. Could I get your statements on a few questions?" I asked, trying to keep my voice level and professional, in spite of my inner turmoil.
She simply took a sip of her water and looked out over the field, where her teammates were practicing.
"Ms. Bonnefie?" I asked, hoping she'd at least tell me to get lost so I could say I tried.
She continued to ignore me. However, her teammates noticed. Layton Vickles stopped what he was doing to look over at us.
"Hey, look, guys! Some tenacious reporter is bugging Kep," he called.
I could feel my already bloodless face turning ghostly. This was just what I had been afraid of.
"Hey, reporter, catch!" Tormo Frein called.
I looked up to see something sailing at me. It landed at my feet and I looked down. A Darigan Yooyu uncoiled itself and jumped at me. I sprang backwards with a cry of alarm.
"You know what, I've got to go. I'll catch you later!" I cried as I all but ran off.
I could hear them laughing at me as I went, but I didn't care about my pride at that moment. Once out of sight of the team, I dropped down against a wall and tried to get my heart to slow down. Slorgie crawled out of my bag and sat on my knee, he was laughing at me.
"I should I have thrown you right back at him," I panted out.
"You should have. But, you didn't, so I think we're all happier," Slorgie chuckled. "This is going to be a fun week, I think."
"What?" I asked, dreading what I thought he meant.
"I don't have any pending missions. I can hang out with my favorite minion all week," Slorgie said. "This is going to be such great bonding time, don't you think?"
"I think I should have let Buzz toss me out the window instead."
Four days later I was a bit of a mental mess. I had gotten interviews with all the players but Kep. Team Darigan had ribbed me mercilessly about that the day before, when I had done their interviews. While they were currently good humored about it, I figured there was only so long this would stay a good joke for them. Whether or not I managed to crack Kep's vow of silence before then was the key thing.
I was lying in bed, trying to snatch a few more minutes of sleep, knowing that I really should get up and on with the business of the day. I was supposed to be interviewing the Techo Fanatic and the Slushie Shop Waitress that day.
A tiny finger poked my forehead. "Come on, Kristy, up and at 'em. We don't pay you to sleep in. Besides, I'm hungry. Feeeeeeeeeeeeeeed meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"
Drawn out in his high pitched voice, those two words were more effective than any alarm clock could ever be. I quickly opened my eyes and sat up. Slorgie crawled up onto my knee and grinned at me.
"You're a good obedient minion, Kristy," he told me, patting my knee.
"Thank you, Slorgie," I said sarcastically. I picked him up and set him on bedside table, opening the breakfast menu. "Pick what you want and then we'll Neomail room service. I'm going to get dressed."
I came back and listened to Slorgie's order, feeling glad the Weekly World was footing the bill for my time in Altador. For a creature who only stands six inches tall, Slorgie could pack away the food. I added my order to his and sent off the Neomail. I sat down at the desk in the room and looked over my day plan and consulted the weather, another beautiful day.
The waitress brought up my order, a different one than the other four days. She looked me over critically as I took the trays, probably noticing my petite stature and wondering how I could pack all that food away. It had been embarrassing the first day or two, but I got used to things like that fairly quickly. I had to, working for the Meepits.
It was about two in the afternoon and the day had gone well. I had finished my interviews and it was a slow day in the Colosseum. I was thinking of calling it a day and going up to the hills above the city to take pictures of the harbor for Molly, when I noticed Kep standing nearby. She was in regular clothes and admiring a fountain. None of her teammates were to be seen.
I seized the opportunity and hurried over. She saw me coming and fled, flying off much faster than I could run. I stopped, dejected. Slorgie poked his head out of my bag and looked up at me.
"Cheer up, you've still got a few days. After all, there is only so many times you can annoy her before she feeds you to her Jetsam colleague," Slorgie consoled me.
"Just remember, he might eat me in one bite, purse and all. But, I'm sure you'll make good company during the journey through his digestive system," I snarked back.
"Don't worry, I'm fast. I'll jump out before then."
I decided to call it a day and go up by the harbor after all. I hiked up into the hills and found an old watchtower. It seemed unused, so I went up and took pictures from the lookout. Slorgie ran along the railing, pointing out things I should take pictures of, acting more like an awe-struck child than a maniacal agent of a group bent on taking over Neopia.
When I was done taking pictures we left the tower and sat against one of the outer walls, in the high grass, and watched the activity below. I heard a buzzing sound to the left and turned to look. To my surprise, Kep turned the corner. She stopped dead when she saw me.
I expected her to run like usual, but instead she started to yell at me. "Oh, come on! What is with you people? I can't go anywhere without you following me."
"Actually, Ms. Bonnefie, I'm just up here relaxing and taking pictures for my kids. I didn't know you were up here too," I said.
"Oh," she said, sounding at a loss. "You have kids?"
"Yeah, eight of them. One of them is from Altador. She loves it when I bring her back pictures from the harbor, she was born down there."
Kep smiled. "I've got a kid brother. I always bring him back pictures, too. He likes towers, so I came up here to take a picture for him."
There passed a moment of silence between us.
"Are you going to ask for an interview again?" Kep asked.
"Ms. Bonnefie, all you have to do is tell me to bug off and that's that. But, you haven't actually, so I've had to keep asking. I don't want to bug you, but I do have a job to do, and I was specifically told by my boss to try to get an interview with you. So, tell me you're not talking and that's it," I said. "Though, I'd appreciate an interview, and your fans probably would, too."
"You reporters always twist everything," Kep said bitterly.
"Kep, the Weekly World isn't a tabloid. We're the second biggest paper in Neopia Central with wide readership throughout Neopia. We don't need to put a twist on anything to increase readership. In fact, the shareholders would be really mad if we attracted bad attention to the paper by printing unfounded rumors or distorted stories. I'm trouble enough because I tend to get into a lot of weird situations; I don't need to add to that. Sure, having your statements would be good for us, but we won't hurt if we don't get it. We just want to hear your opinions on your team, your experiences, and your expectations for this year," I said. "Ask the other teams, they know we don't distort their statements."
Kep looked thoughtful. "I suppose that sounds okay. All right, I'll answer some questions, but if you print anything that makes me or Team Darigan look bad through my statements, I'll find you and you'll wind up being goalie for the entire practice season."
I laughed nervously, the image of the angry Buzz slinging Yooyus at me relentlessly rising before my eyes. I pulled my notepad and pen out of my purse and flipped it open.
We talked until the sun had sunk below the horizon, Kep telling me about her childhood and how she got interested in Yooyuball, made her first team, and was eventually selected to become a member of Team Darigan. We talked about her teammates, the previous years, and her expectations for this tournament. I thanked her profusely when we were done and she actually smiled as she shook my hand.
When she was gone, Slorgie crawled out of my bag and sat on my knee.
"Well, Slorgie, I did it. I'll bet Buzz didn't think I could, but I did," I cheered.
"Of course he did, why else would be assign you the work if he didn't think you could do it?" Slorgie said.
"What do you mean? I figured he just wanted to torment me, and if I actually managed it, it would be a plus," I said.
Slorgie climbed up my arm and onto my shoulder. "You know why you're the top journalist at the Weekly World, in spite of your various disasters?"
"Because I'm the only journalist there who is a minion and it is part of my cover?" I guessed.
Slorgie pinched my cheek. "No, it is because you still look like a helpless thirteen-year-old, and that's endearing. It is the same reason you make a good minion. You look so clueless and helpless, and you often prove that you are, so people naturally feel a bit bad for you and are willing to trust you and open up to you like they wouldn't to someone who actually manages to pull off professional."
"Wow, you made that sound like such a bad thing," I said.
"You are what you are, minion," Slorgie replied.
I just chuckled as I put my stuff away. I looked out over the ocean, smiling to myself.
"Hey, Kristy," Slorgie said. "I'm hungry. Feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"