The Card House Falls: Part Three
"So, who shall play umpire?" asked Khargana softly, looking
around the main lobby. It was still crowded with tables, chairs, and the bar where
a certain giant Red Kougra tossed out Oysteritas to 00Hog wanabes and the like.
Except now nearly half the tables and chairs had been broken in some way or other,
and over 60 filthy gangsters can quite destroy a sophisticated atmosphere.
"I'm comfortable in the idea 'to each his own,'"
announced Sahara Princess. "We shall each be our own umpire and fight by our
"Which means, we judge for ourselves individually
where to draw the line?" asked the green Wocky, straightening her jacket and
scanning the room.
"I'd say," smirked Yellow Flare, "it means anything
"Fine by me!" growled 10C, not liking the Yellow
Scorchio's tone of voice.
Khargana slipped off the shades and her hat,
for obvious reasons if she intended to be doing any flips. She laid them on
the long bar table up against the back wall before sauntering to the center
of the room with easily as much cat-like grace as the Desert Aisha herself.
Then she slowly turned to face the Desert Aisha eye-to-eye. The 10 of Clubs
positioned himself at the Wocky's side.
Sahara Princess snapped and her minions assembled
themselves in a huge circle, keeping the green Wocky and the red Kougra out
of reach of the doors, windows, and even any other rooms. Neither of the seasoned
Card House fighters batted an eyelid.
The elegant Desert Aisha pulled out a wand, well,
that's what it looked like until you noticed the star on the end. The Queen
of Spades blinked several times, as if trying to wake up from some bad dream.
The Ten of Clubs just allowed his mouth to drop slightly open.
"You didn't say anything about weapons!" he gasped.
"Whatsa matter?" goaded Yellow Flare, pulling
out his lightening gun and setting it to a lower frequency, for pain instead
of unconsciousness. "Never seen a Wand of Ultranova before?"
The Green Wocky gritted her teeth, before turning
and nodding at 10C. They leaped at their adversaries and the battle began.
I'd like to say Khargana and 10C had an easy
upper hand, but the fact is it's very hard to fight seasoned grade-A class aimers
unarmed. They had their hands full dodging shots, and whenever they tried to
sneak in around the Aisha's or the Scorchio's guard, someone's foot shot out
and nearly tripped them. Even then, the twosome managed to keep the fight running
for at least a good hour, trying desperately to tire their opponents but only
succeeding in the opposite. They got a few good punches in, but always a myriad
of paws and whatnot shoved them aside before they could really brawl.
It was cheating. Of course it was, and Khargana
had known it would happen. Sahara Princess was having her minions defend herself
and her current second-in-command instead of fighting her own battle.
The Desert Aisha finally managed to give 10C
a blast straight on the chest, knocking him to the ground. Khargana slipped
up in that she took her eyes off Yellow Flare and Sahara Princess for a split
second to check 10C and the Scorchio zapped her right back paw with enough voltage
for her to collapse forwards.
"And I win," calmly announced Sahara Princess.
She gestured to Yellow Flare, and he kneeled on 10C's chest and placed the lightening
gun at his neck. The giant Red Kougra just closed his eyes hopelessly. Khargana
slowly heaved herself up with her arms, then seemed to give up and collapsed
back down. Both Card Housers were exhausted and breathing heavily.
"Not bad, I nearly worked up a sweat!" laughed
the Desert Aisha, sauntering to stand above her fallen opponent. "And my aiming
arm is rather tired, good job."
"You're … both…" gasped 10C. The weapon pressed
heavily against his throat. "Rotten… cheaters!" he finished, ignoring his predicament
and glaring up at the Scorchio.
"What do I do with the big guy?" asked Yellow
Flare, glaring right back at the giant Red Kougra.
"Hmm, he's a good fighter-I'll grant him that.
But he wasn't specifically in the bargain, and as so likely won't work for me.
He's too loyal to Black Jack anyway. You'll recall that's why we targeted him
first? Get rid of him. I don't care how, though I must point out some rogue
scientists on the dark side of Kreludor have been looking for Neopians to experiment
on." She allowed herself a smile.
"Done. Get to your paws, you ugly piece of Kougra
scrap," he said, removing the gun from 10C's neck and prodding the collapsed
bartender with his clawed foot.
Khargana lifted her head weakly, her eyes narrowed
to angry slits.
Sahara Princess kneeled to meet Khargana's eyes.
"What do you have to say to that, oh Queen of Spades?" she whispered with malicious
"One thing…" said the green Wocky, huffing for
breath. "At the risk of being cliché," she suddenly swung upright and pointed
the Wand of Ultranova at the gang leader's head, "is this yours?"
In the same instant, 10C lunged upright and tackled
the Yellow Scorchio to the ground, wrestling for the lightening gun. Khargana
ignored them; she had confidence in her buddy to come out on top.
Not a minion moved. They seemed to be awaiting
Khargana's mocking eyes stayed glued to the Aisha's.
"No tricks. I may be unstable, and you wouldn't want to risk me shooting. You're
already kneeling, so what's say you lie facedown on the floor and order all
your minions to do likewise. Especially the yellow dude."
Sahara Princess was absolutely shocked. She'd
obviously never been in this type of situation before. Her eyes met the coldness
in Khargana's, and she pleaded. "D-d-don't hurt m-me! Y-you wouldn't h-hurt
an in-innocent girl! J-just-" she stuttered.
"I recommend you do as the nice lady suggests,
Miss Sahara Princess," said an unexpected deep voice. A huge Starry Lupe in
an NCA uniform stood in the doorway, leveling a level-3 access police blaster
at the Aisha.
The Desert Aisha whimpered cowardly and did so.
Chief Kerowski motioned and nearly 50 uniformed NCA officers rushed in. They
quickly and efficiently paw-cuffed all the gangsters and tranquilized them for
easy transport. Black Jack slipped in after the worst was over. The handsome
brown Wocky was Sahara Princess's last sight before the tranquilizer took effect.
She would eternally hate him for causing her downfall-him over even the Green
Wocky and the red Kougra.
The suave brown Wocky ignored the NCA officers
and now unconscious gangsters, instead looking at the chaos his beautiful Card
House had been reduced to overnight and sighed. "This'll take a small fortune
to repair. Thankfully I'm filthy rich from profits." Even so, nearly all of
the tables had been broken, a couple bar machines would need substantial repairs,
and the less said about the flooring, walls, and chairs, the better.
Khargana had retrieved her shades and hat, limping
slightly from the blast to her rear paw. Maybe Kerowski knew her secret identity
now, but no reason for any other NCA officers to get suspicions about certain
Green Wockies resembling detectives. 10C waited her for to complete her outfit,
then came up behind her and scooped her up in a bear hug.
"I knew ya could do it, Queenie!" he cheered.
"You're like the li'l sis I never had! Tough as nails an' harder than Tyrannian
rock furniture! Smarter than the Bookie-faerie herself! Quicker than Chet Flash
an' twice the fighter of-"
"Oh-kay," grunted the green Wocky as the air
was knocked out of her lungs and she was swung around in the air. "10C, buddy,
He let her down, still smiling happily, and rubbed
his stiff shoulders. "I'll jus' go let the others out," he chuckled, and left
in the direction of the cellar to free the rest of the confined card-housers.
He winked at Black Jack as he passed the Brown Wocky.
Black Jack approached Khargana with a proud,
yet slightly humble, smile. "Thanks again, Queenie. I knew you could do it.
You always seem to be saving my tail, and consider your membership infinite."
She shook her head. "That's fine and all, B.J.,
but it would've worked out alright if the cops and you arrived without that
exhausting fight and took this ruffian gang by surprise. 'Cept, of course, they
might have spotted you coming and sounded an all-points attack. I was afraid
you wouldn't follow my instructions-you know how you are about the NCA."
"It's a good thing I did! Though I wish that
chief didn't make it a point to blame me for this entire mess."
Khargana chuckled, "Yep, that's Chief Kerowski,
and I wouldn't have him any other way!" She looked around at the still crowded
room and lowered her hat brim. "Hope you don't mind, but I'd rather not
get my name in the NT tomorrow, which will certainly happen if some dim-bulb
fingerprints me for a report. See ya 'round, B.J. I'll drop in tomorrow to see
how things are going."
Showing off slightly, she slipped into the crowd
of NCA officers, sticking to the shadows and just below eye-level. She was gone
in seconds. Black Jack watched the performance with a quiet smile.
10C, again wearing his bartender's apron, came
up behind Black Jack and tapped his boss's shoulder. The Wocky realized he had
been staring off into space for a few seconds and brought himself back down
"She's pretty cool, eh Black Jack? Kept ever'one
calm, kept saying you'd be comin' back ta get us out. An' then that last scene-whoo-ee!"
The Card House owner allowed himself a small
smile and dusted off his suit. It was his standard way of collecting his thoughts,
though his suit had never actually been dirty before. "Yes, we must make it
up to her someday. Now, 10C, how long until we're up and running again?"
10C looked around at the room, then at the card
housers entering and approaching. "Oh, I wouldn' say very long!"
In actuality, it took a good week of hard work
to restore the Card House. Don't let Black Jack hear, but several regulars have
commented that it looks a ton better with the newer wooden furniture, patched
and painted walls, and wooden flooring. The game tables were replaced, the Borovan
machines were repaired, and every square inch had been scrubbed of the filth
of the gang. Khargana stopped in whenever she could to pitch in. (She and 10C
never admitted it, but a few broken tables were from their own brawl and they
felt a little guilty.)
If you ever happen to visit, you'll probably
be greeted cordially by a slick black-suited Brown Wocky at the door. Likely
you'll also meet a giant red Kougra bartender, busy wiping the bar, serving
out drinks, and occasionally tossing a rowdy ruffian out the front door on his
tail. And maybe, just maybe you'll spot a green Wocky sitting at the bar, sipping
a Cherry Neocola with the brim of her hat pulled low to shadow her face.
I hope you all enjoyed my introduction story for the Card House! I intend
to have it in many more Khargana mysteries, and if you think I should too, let
me know! Thanks for all the support and neomails, and see ya next time!