If a fight was about to break out between my Neopets and
the Skeith medics, it was mercifully nipped in the bud by the blast of a shrill
whistle screaming through the air. The blue Kacheek referee was obviously a no-nonsense
kind of guy. He was also very intimidating for someone whose head was level with
the top of my lucky green boots.
"Sir," the Kacheek said in a loud, firm tone,
"I must insist that you leave the arena at once! You are not authorized to be
"I can't," I replied in a voice that seemed
embarrassingly whiny. "I'm kinda stuck here."
I shuffled forward about two inches to demonstrate
my problem. That was as far as I could go with a yellow blob of fluff wrapped
around my legs like a Meerca menace belt. The Kacheek scowled and stepped forward.
I could see that his intention was to pull the Meerca off of me, but Stonewolf3x
didn't see it that way. A blur of flame-colored fur streaked between me and
"Perhaps you didn't hear me," Wolf snarled.
"I said NOBODY touches my human."
The Kacheek didn't even bat an eyelash. I had
to admit that I was extremely impressed. I had never seen anyone so small stare
down my Lupe before.
"Sir," the referee replied cooly, "If you don't
return to the control panel, you will forfeit the game and receive zero Neopoints."
The scalp on Wolf's head slid backwards at least
"What???" he sputtered. "You can't do that!"
"I have a stripy shirt and a little silver whistle
that says I can," the Kacheek replied with what almost looked like a wry smile.
The Skeiths behind him were filled with a sudden
surge of confidence and puffed out their chests. My Lupe turned on me faster
than die-hard Battledomers switched sides in the Darigan-Meridell War.
"Will you stop playing with that fuzzy clinging
ring vine so we can get out of here?" he hissed at me. "I have better things
to do than stand around here all day arguing with inferior species."
The Kacheek didn't seem to like that. He folded
his arms across his chest and glowered at my Lupe. I must confess I wasn't too
happy myself. Given a choice between protecting me and collecting his Neopoints,
my Lupe opted for the cash.
"Fine. Whatever," I said, shaking my head in
I reached down behind my leg and felt for the
Meerca's back. I fully expected an epic struggle to pry him loose. What I got
instead was a mass as heavy as a bowling ball of pain suddenly weighing
down my arm. When I pulled my arm back, the Meerca was attached to it. He peered
up at me with big, trusting eyes. That freaked me out so much that I started
flapping my arm as fast as I could to shake him loose. An instant later he was
airborne so I figured I had achieved my goal. Unfortunately, he flew in the
direction of my face. I saw the astonished looks of everyone around me before
I felt the blood-draining squeeze on my neck.
"Urrgggg..." I wheezed.
I felt my face start to bloat from the suddenly
non-circulating blood. I couldn't see myself, but I sure felt as swollen and
as light-headed as a helium-filled balloon. It's hard to imagine how such short
stubby arms could have completely encircled my neck. Of course, maybe that's
why I was choking and on the verge of blacking out. I dunno. Just a wild guess.
My first instinct was one of survival. My hands
flew up and reached for the Meerca hanging off of my neck like some sort of
shaggy medallion. I had every intention of yanking him off of me. But the moment
my fingers connected with him, I realized that he was even more tense than I
realized. His fur was so rigid it felt like I was grabbing a porcupine. My head
was about to pop from too much blood and too little oxygen, so I wasn't really
thinking very clearly. So I did what any guy would have done under the same
circumstances. I just stood there stupidly like a plastic Chia model.
The Kacheek seemed to be the first one to recover
his senses because he said in a very authoritative tone, "Meerca! You must return
to the holding pen NOW!"
The Meerca simply responded by squeezing me
even tighter, which seemed surrealistically impossible at the time. The Kacheek
must have seen my eyes bulge out of my sockets because he then took a gentler
"Nothing is going to happen to you, Meerca.
This is not your fault. I simply need you to return to the holding pen until
we can sort this mess out."
The vise-grip on my throat relaxed. I felt my
entire head deflate faster than a tire with a nail in it. The Meerca unburied
his face from my neck and swiveled his head just enough for just one eye to
focus on the Kacheek.
"I'm not in trouble?" the Meerca asked with
a mix of doubt and hope.
"Please release the human and come down," the
referee replied flatly.
"I... I... I... don't know..." the Meerca stammered.
"I'm really confused..."
"You heard him!" one Skeith medic suddenly piped
The other joined in, adding in annoyance, "Do
what he says!"
The Meerca buried his face back into my neck
and began to tremble again.
The Kacheek shot the Skeiths a glare so hotly
fierce it could have withered every flower in Uni Meadows in the middle of a
"I'll let you know when I need your help," he
A wave of awkward pity washed over me and I
began to stroke the Meerca's back soothingly.
"It's okay, little guy. I won't let anyone hurt
you," I said softly.
"You won't?" the Meerca asked eagerly.
Two tiny black eyes filled with an almost adoring
awe connected with mine. As I looked back into those eyes I realized something.
That was an incredibly bone-headed thing for me to say. I had just committed
myself to being his protector. I cast a helpless glance at my Lupe. He just
snorted and shook his head in exasperation. I sure wasn't going to get any help
from that corner.
"Yeah... sure... of course not..." I replied
as I shifted uncomfortably.
"No one is going to hurt you," the Kacheek said
firmly. "But we need you to come down NOW."
The Meerca hesitated. And that was my downfall.
That split-second lull was enough time for me to shove the foot I had already
put in my mouth all the way in to the heel.
"Aww, come on. Give him a break. Can't you see
he's scared out of his wits?"
"I guess that explains why he has zero wits,"
Wolf said, aiming a wink at his bodyguard. Krawk broke into a grin.
The Kacheek ignored the comment and leveled
a steel-eyed, unblinking gaze at me.
"Sir, there are pets waiting to play Meerca
Chase and he is holding up the game. I do not wish to take the Meerca by force,
but I will do what is necessary."
My Lupe snickered and arched one eyebrow.
"What are you going to do? Call the fire department
to send over a hook and ladder so you can climb up there?"
"Arrr, but that be a good one, Cap'n!" Krawk
chuckled, slapping his knee.
The look on the Kacheek's face alarmed me. He
looked like he would actually do it. The thought of a miniature fire truck,
with its siren screaming, screeching into the arena and a bunch of Jubjubs jumping
out to place a ladder against me was both funny and terrifying. So I tried prying
the Meerca's fingers off on my throat as gently as possible.
"Ummm... maybe you should get down now..." I
said, casting an uneasy look at the Kacheek who was beginning to foam slightly
at the mouth like a rabid Gelert. After a moment of silence and a nervous scan
of the faces around him, the Meerca relented.
"Okay..." he said hesitantly.
He suddenly went completely limp like a floppy
Poogle toy. I was completely unprepared for that and he slipped down almost
to my waist before I caught him in my cupped hands. I eased him down to the
ground and released him at my feet. Sighs of relief blasted through the arena
like a thunderous echo. Startled, I looked up. I had forgotten about the pets
in the stands watching. They had gone silent in the tension of the mini-melodrama
unfolding in my little corner of the ring. Now that it seemed to be resolved,
a babble of excited voices filled the air.
The Meerca toddled towards the Kacheek. The
referee grabbed his paw and began leading him away. The Skeith medics watched
the Kacheek for a moment in indecision and then trotted off after their leader.
They had gone only a few feet when the Meerca turned and waved goodbye to me.
I smiled weakly and waved back at him. He whisked his tail up under his body
and bounced up on it. As the Kacheek tugged him away, the Meerca continued springing
up and down. It almost looked like the referee was dribbling a fuzzy yellow
basketball down a court. The Meerca then waved at the crowd with the same infectious
grin that he flashed when he first came into the ring. It was weird how quickly
the little guy went from horrified to happy. Cheers and applause mixed with
groans and boos drifted down from the stands.
Wolf suddenly seemed to snap out of some sort
of temporary trance.
"Hey!" he yelled out to the referee. "What about
The Kacheek turned briefly and gave him a sly
"What Neopoints? You forfeited any Neopoints
you made when your human jumped into the ring. Section 3, paragraph 9 of the
Official Meerca Chase Rules Handbook clearly states that the game is
automatically erased if any Neopet or his owner attempts to change the outcome
of the game by interfering with the Meerca in any way. Rules are rules, you
Wolf shot an evil glare at me. Stonefox stuck
his tongue out at me. Krawk scowled at me. Stonecrow hissed at me. I've had
days when Stonewolf3x wasn't very happy with me, but now that he had a fan club
I got slammed with his displeasure in quadruplicate. I winced and shrugged Babaa-ishly.
The referee's moment of triumph was short-lived
though. The instant the spectators saw the scoreboard reset to zero, a shower
of insults and raspberry Neocola cans rained down on the game official. The
Kacheek lifted his whistle to his lips and then changed his mind about blowing
it. He ducked the flying extra gherkin hot dogs and chilli deluxe pizza slices
in an impressive commando-type-battlefield-move zigzag pattern. The Skeiths
weren't so agile and got pasted with all types of concession stand foods. Of
course, they actually seemed to like it because they lumbered slowly after the
referee with their mouths wide open and grins on their faces. I guess they were
happy that the matinee performance had apparently included both dinner and a
It was now our leader's turn to leave
the arena and we all followed him out-- two petpets, a bodyguard and one extremely
foolish-looking human. The pandemonium that exploded all around us as we stepped
out of the Meerca Chase pit was so loud that it actually made my ears feel like
they were stuffed with cotton. It was so deafening, it was quiet. I know that
doesn't make any sense, but not much of what had happened to me in that past
hour had made any sense, so the sensation felt almost... normal. I scanned the
crowd in awe. Almost everyone was smiling and giving us a thumbs-up. Those that
had thumbs anyway. It may have been a bad afternoon for me, but I seemed to
have livened up everyone else's day.
When we stepped out into the bright sunshine
of Central Neopia, it was time for me to finally let out a sigh of relief of
my own. I couldn't help but be glad that the whole ordeal was over. Little did
I know that the ordeal was far from being over. In fact, it was only just warming
To be continued...