Enter the Snowflake's lair... Circulation: 135,120,757 Issue: 269 | 8th day of Celebrating, Y8
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In-4-Motif Tours for Newbies


by tambourine_chimp

--------

The Coffee Shop in the Catacombs of Neopia Central was exceptionally busy, the distinctly scented fumes so thick on the day that Clarice, the waitress on duty then, could've bottled it up and sold it in condensed form as an entirely new brand of coffee itself.

     The only ones not savouring the molten delights were a rather sullen looking pair seated at the far end of the shop's counter. One, a blue Grundo with his head in his hands, was staring blankly down the length of the tabletop, trying his hardest to ignore the inane mumblings of his red Blumaroo companion.

     "We got money problems, we have... haven't we, Skitter?"

     "And just what problems might they be, Joey?" yawned the alien, focusing his sights on the empty coffee-ring before him. What I wouldn't give for a great steaming mug of mocha to be covering that up, he thought morosely.

     "Well, we don't have any for a start."

     "That would be true... and just what do you suggest we do about that?"

     "Uhm, I don't know, Skitter." Old Joey wasn't the brightest Baby Fireball in the Petpet shop. "Get some, make some?"

     "Genius, but how?"

     At that moment, as if a gift from the skies themselves, a wide-eyed Neopian boy stumbled through the front door of the shop, his face slowly taking a deep shade of red. Skitter then found out that this was solely down to the fact that the kid was constantly gasping.

     "Hey, breathe out once in a while, kid," Clarice muttered in exasperation. "It does wonders for the body... namely, an absence of falling into unconsciousness."

     "Sorry," wheezed the poor lad, bent over double. "It's just that it's all so new to me..."

     "NEWBIES!"

     CRASH!

     "Uh... Skitter?" Joey asked hesitantly after a brief pause of embarrassed silence throughout the store, his eyes hidden behind his large ears as everyone stared in their general direction. "Why'd you just shout 'Newbies' and then fall off your seat like that?"

     "Newbies need help getting around, right?" The Grundo got up off the floor, righting his stool and sitting back on it as if nothing had happened. Soon enough everyone in the Coffee shop lost interest and went back to their own drinks and papers.

     "I guess so... So?"

     "So we guide them around Neopia Central!" Skitter grinned the grin of a businessman who felt he was on to a millionaire-making scheme, and it was almost Joey who fell off his stool this time as he recoiled in shock at the sudden transformation.

     Skitter was the kind of Neopet who was always on the lookout for more and more unconventional ways to earn money without actually doing much work; strictly speaking, if it didn't involve running a failing shop day and night, it was worth a shot in his eyes.

     He was also rumoured to have a mind so sharp that he would cut his fingers every time he scratched his head, but this had never been proven.

     ~**~

     Within minutes, In-4-Motif was up and running. That is to say Skitter had had Joey hurriedly paint a signboard with the words 'In-4-Motif: Newbie Tours of Neopia Central - only 500 NP, includes food and FREE GIFT!' daubed messily on it with still-wet red paint. Neither of them seemed to care that they were outside, or that there were simply two of them, or even the fact that no actual motif was being used.

     But hold up a match and the lost little moths will soon fly over, and new Neopians were not indifferent to a tour, no matter how costly. Before Skitter had even managed to come up with a slogan to cry out into the busy afternoon throng he was surrounded by nearly a dozen young Neopians, each with a distinctly dazed look on their face.

     "What's that?" one asked the others in hushed tones of awe.

     "I think it's a Lupe..."

     "Nonsense! It's alien, so it's got to be Grundo, right?"

     "Ahh... is that why it's not talking? Wow, they must be really dumb -"

     "Hey, watch it, missy!" Skitter bristled, stepping up onto an empty fruit crate he'd brought along with him as the surprised kids fell backward with stifled yells. "Right! Can I have everyone's attention, please? Have you all given your fee to the Blumaroo? The red creature with a nose like a sock, yes... no, not the JubJub! Does he even look like he has a sock-like nose? No. And he's purple. Fyora help me... just give it to me, the blue alien talking to you with ears like bamboo stalks... that's five hundred Neopoints each! Thank you!"

     "What's the currency again?" one of the new Neopians asked aloud.

     "Fifty Neopoints make a Dubloon, and ten Dubloons make a Nerkmid," another answered proudly.

     Once he had made sure everyone had paid and paid correctly (not that he hastened to correct anyone if they offered him a Dubloon or Nerkmid of any denomination), Skitter hopped down from the crate and sorted the newcomers into an orderly line, ready to start the tour.

     "First off," he began with a deep breath, "let's make with the pleasantries; welcome to Neopia! I was never quite sure just how you lot ever arrived on our world; maybe you all used spaceships, perhaps you came down in a meteor, or maybe you were the meteors, and you all seem to land on your heads... but I digress! This is Neopia, just to verify that and reassure those of you who may be thinking you took a wrong turn somewhere off the Grazzle Belt T-junction, or whatever it is you fly spaceships down... our world features many various and luxurious locations: Faerieland, Mystery Island, Meridell and the Lost Desert to name but a few...

     "But you're all here today to learn how to get around this delightful town of Neopia Central, aren't you? Well, you better be, because those five hundred Neopoints are non-refundable, so just shush up and go with the flow."

     Taking a pause to look around and catch his breath, Skitter the Grundo caught sight of one of his personal favourite spots. "Joey," he announced flatly. "Fetch me the saw."

     ~**~

     Five minutes later...

     "Ladies and gentlemen, here you see the ever-helpful Money Tree! Although it is mainly a place for the kind-hearted folks to leave behind the things they no longer require, you'll probably all find yourselves using it to get freebies when you're in need - which will be all the time," Skitter added matter-of-factly. "Now, usually this can be an extremely difficult challenge, and in fact some look upon it as a professional sport - but it needn't be so hard! Observe..."

     Strolling up to the Tree in question, hands behind his back, Skitter stood for a while as he waited for the animated, overgrown plant to finish serving a saddened baby Meerca.

     "...I don't care if he was your 'bestest bud in the whole wide world,' I don't have your Ghostkerchief! Maybe when the ghosts stole it they intended to bring it here, but they just found it too darn cute and adopted it themselves; what can you do? Anyways, I'm a donation point, not a Lost and Found (or, in your case, a Lost and Gone). Now scram!"

     As the poor little infant went tearing off with a howl, the Tree shifted its trunk round to face the Grundo. "Can I help you?" it growled, its voice laden with boredom.

     "Yes, I pretty much think you can," replied Skitter curtly, a sinister smile playing across his lips. "You can start off by giving each of these newbies a present."

     "I'm sorry," laughed the Money Tree with faked jollity, "but the ghosts have stolen all the donations! Try again soon, though," it added, petting the Grundo sarcastically, "and I'll see what I can do!"

     "You know, I thought you might just say that." The Tree's eyes widened as the Grundo revealed the saw with a flourish. "My, but you look like you're in dire need of some pruning, too..."

     "Gifts for everyone!" yelled the Tree with a nervous laugh, hastily, raising its branches into its leafy top to pull out enough items for the entire tour group.

     "I got a bottled Faerie!" one Neopian exclaimed.

     "Me too!"

     "I got a Ghostkerchief!"

     ~**~

     "Next up we have the Food Shop," Skitter went on after the little Neopians had stored away their 'gifts'. "Now, don't panic if you can't afford its ridiculous prices for simple food... what should they do instead, Joey?"

     Joey, had had been making sure none of the tour members wandered off in distracted awe all this time, scratched his head in thought. "Uhm... go to the Soup Kitchen?"

     "That... or eat the shop itself! Yes, look - it's actually made from a giant burger! An everlasting burger, too! Give it a try, folks."

     As one the tour group rushed forward to chomp and gnaw at the burger-shaped building.

     "Ugh, this burger tastes of clay!"

     "No," answered Skitter quickly, "your clay just smells of burgers."

     "But it's coming off in rocky chunks!"

     "Need plenty of solids in your diet." The alien grinned.

     "My favourite number is purple!"

     "Okay, that one doesn't even make any sense... you haven't been licking the paint off the lettuce, have you?"

     "Stop! Stop! What are you doing?!" the shopkeeper of the Food Shop came rushing out of the building, arms flailing madly. "What's going on here?" he demanded of the blue Grundo.

     "I just don't know, Sir," sighed Skitter, feigning reluctance. "I was giving them a tour of Neopia Central when we reached your shop. 'Now,' says I, 'now then, this here shop may look like a large, juicy, succulent cheeseburger, but it is by no means edible!' But would they listen? Huh, do they ever?"

     "But... but what am I to do?" the shopkeeper wailed in despair as he watched helplessly, the tour group unrelenting in their feasting. "You!" he barked, rounding on Skitter. "You're leading their tour, they'll listen to you! So move them along before they eat me out of house and shop!"

     "You live there?"

     "It never closes, so I have little choice - but that is not important! Please, do something! I'll give you anything!"

     "Anything...?"

     ~**~

     "Has everyone got something to eat, then?" It was several minutes later, and the group were sat around the Rainbow Pool, munching away at real cheeseburgers, which they all agreed tasted much better. "Good... well, that concludes the free gift and food part of the tour! All that's left now is Question Time! So, hit me..."

     "How do I make Neopoints?"

     "You don't, because that is called forging money and you'll get into a lot of trouble for it," Skitter answered sharply. "Next!"

     "Can you make a lot of money on the Stock Market?"

     "Depends on what the demand for torture devices is at the time... Next!"

     "How far into the Haunted Woods is it safe to go?"

     "Halfway, because after that you're coming out, which is much safer... Next!"

     "Any tips?"

     "What are you, a waiter? Oh! Yeah, right, tips... well." Skitter crossed his arms and thought quickly. "My best advice is to just live life to your fullest and enjoy yourselves, okay? Neopia's meant to be a fun, carefree place without troubles and only you guys can keep it that way - except when there's a war going on or some nutcase is threatening to take over the world, in which case I expect you to do your best and fight for Neopia," he added hurriedly. Last thing I want is to be to blame for a bunch of lazy battle-shirkers, he thought. "Yes, only you can keep Neopia free!"

     "Me?!" A half eaten burger fell from a surprised girl's hands.

     "Well, I was speaking generally, but sure, knock yourself out... anyway, what I'm trying to say is this - don't let things get on top of you, but get on top of things, you hear? Just ask the Snowager, he knows how to get on - oh, never mind, you'll discover him for yourselves...

     "The thing is, if you let your problems get you down, you'll stop enjoying the fun of our world. Take me, for example! I was so focused on climbing out of poverty that I'd decided to take a bunch of unsuspecting newcomers for a ride at five hundred a head. But I've learnt my lesson, and I know there must be something more enjoyable for me to do out there that will pay just as well."

     "Can we have our money back, then?"

     "Nice try, kid..."

     Once the group had dispersed in their own little groups of newly made friendships and Joey and Skitter were alone, the pair exchanged glances.

     "You really gonna do something else, Skitter?"

     "What, you kidding me? At five hundred NP a head?! I'd be insane! We've just made over five thousand Neopoints for just fifteen minutes work!"

     "But then what..."

     "What, that little thing back there? Ah, that was just a wishy-washy pep talk to send them away in high spirits... poor suckers. Yep, Neopia's expecting a new generation with kids like them - and we'll take them for every penny they've got."

     "Next tour, Skitter?"

     "You read my mind, buddy..."

The End

Author's Note: All views expressed by Skitter are entirely his own. Seriously. He just jumped up, pushed me aside and wrote all his words himself. So, if anyone's to get the hate-mail, make sure it's him, and not me.

 
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