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The Elite


by walfstreet

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      Lights beeped and buzzed all across the arcade. Neopets young and old gathered around one of the machines, watching with an interest. One korbat even got up on his hind legs and began to fly up slightly, attempting to get a better look at the spectacle that fell upon the Neopians eyes.

      A Zafara, rather short in stature with a blue tint to her fur was seamlessly pushing at buttons and pulling knobs on the arcade machine, as if she were a grand wizard controlling it to her will. The eyes of many sparkled; they had not seen such masterwork with the arcade machines since Aristotle A Avinroo. It was clear she was very skilled in her craft, and she had spent many a day practicing in the arcade.

      Come to think of it, the Zafara couldn't think of a time when she wasn't playing in the arcade. Ever since she was young, she remembers her mother taking her for the first time. She marveled at the glorious display in front of her. The cha ching! of the coins popping into the slots, the array of pixelated noises accompanied by the simple graphics on the screen, She loved the faint aroma of snacks munched on by the arcade's denizens, the clicks of the buttons, the genius that went into strategizing for a particular game, and who could blame her? It was love at first sight, and she loved it all.

      As the final level of her game was reached, she turned around and smiled at the small crowd that gathered around her. They looked at her with bright faces, and began clapping for her feats.

      "Wow! That was amazing! I haven't seen anyone beat Ice Cream Machine like that in ages! How'd you do it?" the young excitable korbat that had struggled to see her presentation earlier asked with an eager gaze.

      "I just practiced--that's really all there is to it. Maybe one day you'll be as good as I was." she laughed, patting the korbat on his head as he looked up and gave her a smile.

      "Okay! I'm going to come back and practice every day! And someday I'll be just like you Miss--?" he paused, trying to remember if he had heard the Zafara's name anywhere.

      The Zafara leaned back in the seat of the arcade machine, giving the young korbat a friendly gaze, "It's Zoey"

      "Miss Zoey!" The korbat repeated, and ran off, probably back to wherever his parents were.

      Zoey looked around, as the crowd began dispersing itself. Another game completed, and it was the same each time. A swarm of people would show up, they would watch for the duration of the time she was playing, look impressed, and then leave again. For most, it would seem like a melancholy position to be in, considering nobody really cared about who Zoey really was unless it involved her video games, but she found satisfaction from it, and that was all that mattered to her. She was very humble about it, and didn't take too much pride in the recognition she was given.

      And sure, there were many people better than her at her craft, she knew that. But as far as the local arcade was concerned, she was a hero to those who wanted to be like her, and that made her feel special. Video games was the only thing she was good at, and she was proud she could even attract an audience.

      As she looked around the arcade, she heard a slight click at the front door. She stumbled a bit, and couldn't believe what she saw walking through the arcade.

      A Krawk, tall and muscular walked into the arcade and sneered. He peered around, carefully hunting for something. Zoey quickly made herself scarce, for she had seen this krawk once before. The memories she had of him were not at all fond, and frankly she did not want to relive them.

      "Hey kid," the krawk said, looking down at the young korbat. "Have you seen a blue zafara around here, kind of short, plays really well?" he asked, with a slight sneer.

      The innocent little korbat, of course, looked back up at the krawk and gave him an equally innocent smile, "Oh yeah! I saw her over there by the Ice Cream Machine game! She's really good at playing, and I want to be like her when I--" the korbat continued, but was immediately stopped by the krawk.

      "Yeah yeah, I just want to know where she is." he began walking towards where the korbat directed her, and was given a look of confusion by the tot that had just aided him in his search.

      "Zoey! I know you're here! I want a rematch!" he bellowed, his voice echoing throughout the arcade. Zoey was hiding behind a popcorn machine in a different faction of the building. She was too afraid to face the menacing krawk face to face.

      She remembered it like it was yesterday. When she was younger, and her mom took her to the arcade, there was a young boy that went by the name of Lysandre in the arcade. He received a similar praise as she did now, gaining an audience as he played his fingers across the board of the machine like a piano. The only difference was Lysandre was not at all humble about his accomplishments--he relished them, and did so greatly. He loved the attention, the awe that he gained from his viewers. He only wanted more of it, so he would continue playing and try to maintain the audience as he gained it, and would continue to grow his fanbase. It wasn't video games he was interested in, it was the fame that came from it. There was no sincerity, no honesty or humility within the way he played. He wanted recognition, and he wanted it now.

      Zoey walked up to him and tugged his tail, as he looked down at her and gave her an uninterested gaze.

      "Can I play?" she asked him, looking at him with sparkled eyes.

      The krawk laughed at her pitiful question. "Look, why don't you let the 'big kids' play, there's no way a squirt like you is going to beat my highscore on Turmac Roll."

      "I can try." she simply said, trying to push him away. The krawk grunted a bit, and granted a young Zoey's wish. She sat there, and began flashing her fingers in a similar way that he did. The meticulous nature was almost copied, and at the same time perfected with the days she spent in the arcade. Despite being a young age, she had learned how to master the patterns and techniques of most the games in the arcade. It was almost second nature to her.

      Lysandre just looked at her, his jaw agape as he saw his score slowly be matched by a little girl. Everyone else in the arcade had gathered to marvel at this as well. They were interested in seeing if this prodigy would dethrone the great Lysandre, and indeed she did. After a few minutes of playing, his score was toppled by hers, to his dismay.

      Lysandre did not speak a word, the krawk simply walked out of the store, silent and defeated. He had not been seen again. Most assume he had ended his career in playing arcade games, others assumed the worst. But today, he was back to reclaim his seat of power.

      Zoey took a deep breath, and decided she had to face her past. It was now or never.

      She slowly walked out from her hiding place and let out a slight sigh.

      "Lysandre?" she called out softly. The krawk turned around fast and saw the girl from his past standing in front of him.

      "Well well, look who it is." he grinned, with the confidence that he was about to put the zafara back in her place. "Are you up for a rematch? I won't go easy on you."

      She looked to the side, but then locked her eyes on him. "Go right ahead, I'll let you pick" she said with a sudden confidence, giving off a curt smile.

      The krawk began to pace through the arcade slowly, examining each console as Zoey anxiously awaited his decision.

      He stopped in front of one of the machines, pressing his arm against the edge of it and grinned.

      "We'll play this." he confirmed, as Zoey quickly looked at the art. Her eyes widened a bit as she began to feel a sudden dread.

      Lysandre had decided to play Meerca Chase, one of the games even Zoey always had trouble with.

      The krawk sat himself down, and began pressing buttons rapidly, as if something else was going on his head apart from the game he was playing. He had some sort of formula set up to effectively play a game that solely relied on skill and luck, his tactics rivaling Zoey's. She bit her lip slowly, as the krawk began crushing her previous high score.

      After his feat, the audience that had surrounded started clapping at his abilities, but Zoey let out a short huff. She cracked her knuckles, and approached the machine, trying not to let her nerves get to her.

      she told herself, as she let out one final breath, and began her run.

      All in an instant, her mind rushed with thoughts of her past. She thought about her mother, first taking her to the arcade and showing her the blips and beeps of automated sounds. She thought about the rich smell of snacks from the outside, and the cheerful gazes of Neopians. They didn't really care whether their games were won or lost, they just enjoyed the time they had spent at the arcade with good friends, and maybe rivals. Zoey let out a heavy sigh, and relaxed as she played. For what did she to fear? In the end, this was just another game, and if she lost, she lost.

      Suddenly, she found herself doing better than she had in the past. Her mind raced with excitement as she slowly began breaking away from her stress, and remembering that her score didn't really matter in the end. It was just numbers on a screen.

      Finally, her endeavor was led to a stop when the final scores displayed on the machine.

      Lysander had scored with a 567, Zoey won with a 601.

      Sounds of gratitude and cheerful clapping could be heard throughout the arcade, but Lysandre only crossed his arms and looked at the zafara with an unimpressed gaze.

      Zoey's gaze relaxed, as he looked over at the krawk. She got up from her seat, and walked over to him, her tail twitching a bit. Looking up at him, she held out her hand, and he gave her a quizzical glance.

      "What? You won, what do you want?" he said, rather quickly.

      Zoey hesitated, but grabbed his hand, and slowly shook it, smiling.

      "Good game."

      Without looking back, the zafara left the arcade, and Lysandre could only stare back at her as she left.

      Whether she would ever compete with him again or not was uncertain, but she knew one thing was true. She would return to the arcade the next day, and the day after that, and the next after that. Not because she was bent on competition, but she was focused on making memories and friends at the place she had come to know as home.

     

      The End.

 
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